Friday, May 11, 2007

Carrot Salad

This warm sald came about by accident...a rather propitious one at that. I wanted to make a Morrocan roasted beet salad from the May, 2007 issue of Gourmet. The same page also had the recipe for a braised carrot dish. I prepped all the ingredients for the beet salad and then realised that I had actually bought carrots instead of beets. But since I really wanted to make the Morrocan salad I just continued with the carrots. Come to think of it, carrots and beets are both sweetish root vegetables. I also substituted the plain vinegar for rice vinegar because I hate the harsh taste of plain vinegar and also because I am genetically programmed not to follow instructions. The end result, needless to say was quite blog worthy...hence this post.

So here's what I made:

Ingredients:
Carrots - 5 to 6 large, sliced at an angle
Cumin - 1 tbsps, dry roasted
Olive Oil - 2 tbsps
Rice Vinegar - 3-4 tbsps
Brown Sugar - 1 tbsp
Salt - to taste
Black Pepper - 1 tbsp
Fresh Mint - a handful, finely chopped

Method:
1. Blanch your carrots to reduce the cooking time if your carrots are slightly tough. Powder the dry roasted cumin seeds in a mortar and pestle.
2. Heat oil in a skillet. Add the carrots and let them cook for 4-5 minutes. Sprinkle with brown sugar and wait for it to caramelize.
3. Add the rice vinegar and roasted cumin powder. Season with salt and pepper and let the carrots cook through. Finally add the mint and take it off from the heat.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Cinco De Mayo with Yucatean Garlic Spice Chicken

I have been going through two of books on Mexican cuisine by Rick Bayless. Mexican Everyday takes authentic Mexican dishes and gives it a little tweak here and there to make a quick, wholesome meal. Mexico One Plate at a Time is the companion book to his award winning series on PBS by the same name. The second book is little more detailed, with an emphasis on technique and ingredients. I had earmarked some recipes but had not found the time or the occasion to tackle even one till Cinco De Mayo came along this weekend. Instead of the tradional tequilla soaked revelry (on second thoughts that would have been fabulous too) we indulged in a quick, Mexican meal of Yucatean Garlic Spice Chicken skewers, fire roasted salsa, grilled peppers and garlic bread. We did not have any tortillas so we had to make do with garlic bread....which I have to admit was a rather nice substitute. Here's a really ugly picture of the spread.
The original chicken recipe (from Mexican Everyday)called for Mexican cinnamon, which is very different from cassia, its cheaper, stronger cousin. Most powdered cinnamon available in the market is actually cassia as once powdered the two are virtually indistiguishable. If you buy your cinnamon whole, then go ahead and use half a teaspoon of it. I used a teaspoon as I love the combined flavour of sweet cinnamon and the other more savoury ingredients in this marinade. I did not have Mexican oregano and used double the quantity of ordinary oregano instead. If you have the real thing, you could halve the quantity used.

Using thigh pieces instead of breast pieces resulted in a very moist and flavourful end product with a definitive garlicky bite. I doused my skewers with a liberal squeeze of lime juice for added tang. I will definitely make this again and next time around I might even add roasted jalapenos to the marinade for a wee bit more heat.

Ingredients:
Garlic - 1 head, about 12 cloves of the slightly larger size
Vegetable Oil - 1/3 cup
Vinegar - 6 tbsps
Cloves - 4 , ground
Black Pepper - 1 tsp, freshly ground
Cinnamon - 1 tsp, ground
Dried Oregano - 2 tsps
Sugar - 1/2 tsp
Salt - to taste

Chicken - 2 lbs, boneless, skinless thighs cut into inch pieces
Skewers - as many as needed

Method:
1. On a skillet toast the unpeeled garlic cloves till they develop spots. Let them cool and then simply peel the papery skins. In a blender/food processor, proccess with vegetable oil till smooth.
2. Add the remaining ingredients and process once more.
3. Add marinade to chicken and let the flavours develop for about an hour in the refridgerator.
4. Thread chicken onto presoaked skewers. Cook in preheat oven at 375 F till chicken is done. Alternatively the skewers could also be grilled if a grill is available.
5. Serve with lime wedges and fire roasted salsa.

*For the fire roasted salsa, just roast 4-5 unpeeled garlic cloves, one jalapeno pepper and 3-4 ripe plum tomatoes on a skillet till all develop black spots. Slip the papery skins of the garlic cloves, roughly chop the tomato and the jalapeno. Process these three in a blender till required consistency is reached. Finely chop half a white onion and wash in cold water a couple of times. Add onions to the proccesed tomatoes. Season with vinegar, salt, sugar and cilantro as per taste.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Swiss Chard with Pumpkin

Swiss Chard is one of our favourite greens. And cooked with pumpkin cubes and dry red chillies, it makes a really pretty dish....with all the greens and oranges and reds in it.

Ingredients:
Pumpin/Calabaza - 3 cups, cubed
Swiss Chard - 2 bunches*
Onion - 1/2 cup, diced
Ginger - 1/2 inch knob, minced
Panch Phoron - 1 tsp
Dry Red Chillies - 2, broken
Coriander Seed/Dhaniya Powder - 1 tsp
Olive Oil - 1 tbsp
Salt - to taste

Method:
1. Wash Swiss Chard thoroughly. Remove tough stems and shred roughly. You could use a salad spinner to get rid of the excess water at this stage.**
2. Heat oil in pan. Add panch phoron and dry red chillies. Wait for the seasoning to sputter.
3. Now add the onions, saute till translucent and then add ginger and dhaniya powder. Cook till the raw smell dissipates.
4. Now add the diced pumpkin and salt. Cover the pan and let the pumpkin cook for 4-5 minutes until half way tender.
5. Finally add the Swiss Chard and cook until the pumpkin is tender and the chard well cooked. This should take another 4- 5 minutes. Check seasoning one last time.
6. Serve with piping hot massor dal, rice and lemon wedges.

* this gave me about 5 handfuls of chopped greens
** I usually wash and chop up my greens as soon as I get them from the store. I give them a couple of spins in my salad spinner and then use the salad spinner itself for storing them in the refridgerator.