Punjabi Kadhi

kadhi

kadhi

These pakoras look a little sad – I was running out of besan so they didn’t get quite the batter they needed. Yummy nonetheless.

I was feeling very smug during our last trip to Pakistan as my husband told my mother-in-law that I had been cooking a lot of Pakistani food at home…much less smug after the very first thing she asked me was if I had made was kadhi. Which I had not.

Immediately upon our return I made an attempt to close the gaping hole in my repertoire. The concept of “yogurt stew” was unfamiliar, so more than usual with my homemade Pakistani food experiments I was chasing poor Shan around the house with spoonfuls, demanding “I think this tastes good, but is it authentic?”

Now I make it pretty frequently, and it’s come to taste just as comforting and homey as everyone claims it does. I tried a few different recipes (including my sister-in-law’s), but our household favorite and the one that I follow almost exactly is the Kadhi from Veg Recipes of India (a site I cook from fairly often – the recipe is very detailed with pics of each step).

A few things I learned or found helpful:

  1. This is Punjabi kadhi. Gujarati kadhi is thinner and I am not making that because no one will be impressed.
  2. From my vast internet research, there seem to be different variations, for example with tomatoes or other vegetables, or without pakoras or eaten as a soup without rice. However, hubs said the only way his family ever ate it was with the pakoras and rice.
  3. Curry leaves look like bay leaves but they are not. I had actually never used them before this, because although I had seen them in recipes I’d wanted to try, I didn’t know where to find them (my regular desi market only has dried spices). Then I trekked to an Indian grocer with a fresh produce section, where I found them with the refrigerated greens, veggies and herbs. Curry leaves have a distinct, lovely fragrance, and now I love using them.
  4. My sister-in-law instructs letting the kadhi simmer for at least 5 hours to make it sufficiently sour. I don’t often have 5 hours to babysit a simmering pot, so the sourness is much more easily achieved by leaving your yogurt out in the morning to sour a bit before you cook it in the evening (ideal) or cheating with a little amchoor powder (less ideal, but not beneath me). Then you only have to simmer 15 minutes.
  5. All the recipes I saw instruct you to mix the besan with a little water and make sure you get out all the lumps before you mix it with the yogurt. My original and ingenious technique is to instead sift the besan over the yogurt then whip it in with a whisk.
  6. This recipe calls for yogurt from a half liter of milk (which she elsewhere says is equal to a large bowl…?). So translation for us lazy grocery store yogurt procurers: 1.5 to 2 cups
  7. She also calls for 4 red onions for the pakoras, but I must have atomic onions because two was plenty.
  8. Kadhi tastes better the next day, so get ready for happy desk lunches.

Kadhi

Recipe from Veg Recipes of India with just couple adjustments

For the onion pakoras
2 cups besan
1 cup water
2 medium sized red onions, sliced
1 tsp ajwain seeds
1 tsp red chili powder
½ tsp garam masala powder
a pinch of asafoetida

Mix besan in a bowl with carom seeds, red chili powder, garam masala powder and salt.
Add sliced onions to the bowl and pour a little water. Don’t add too much water as the onions will release water later.
Mix well and set aside for 0-30 minutes.

The onions will release enough water to make the batter liquidy. If the batter still feels dry, add some water to it. check the seasoning. Heat oil for deep or shallow frying. Fry on both sides until crisp and brown, drain and set aside.

For the kadhi
curd made from half a litre of milk (1.5 – 2 cups)
1 cup besan
4 cups water
2 tsp red chili powder
1 and half teaspoon turmeric powder
1 tsp garam masala powder
salt to taste

In a big bowl, whip the yogurt until it is smooth. Using a strainer or flour sift, sift besan over the yogurt and add turmeric, red chili, garam masala and salt. Whip until very smooth, make sure there are no lumps. Add water and mix well.

For the tempering
A couple tablespoons mustard oil
1 medium sized onion, finely chopped (optional – I skipped this time)
1 and half tbsp garlic ginger paste
1 tsp cumin seeds
¼ tsp methi/fenugreek seeds
2 small sprigs curry leaves
2 green chili
1 or 2 dry red chilies (optional, but recommended as are very pretty floating in the yellow kadhi)
3 tbsp mustard oil or ghee or any vegetable oil
a pinch or two of asafoetida
 

Heat mustard oil on high until smoking (to remove the raw taste). Cool a bit, then add cumin seeds and let them sizzle. Add garlic ginger paste and green chili, cook for a few minutes, then add curry leaves and dry red chilies.

To finish:
Poor the yogurt mixture over the tempering, bring to a boil then simmer for 8-10 minutes. Add the pakoras (that will fit, there will be more on the side) to the top of the kadhi, cover and close the pan so they can soak in for a few minutes.

Garnish with cilantro and serve with basmati rice.

Almost Banh Mi

almost-banh-mi

I guess you could call this a banh mi – especially since I got adventurous and made homemade Vietnamese baguettes and carrot quickie pickle! Instead of mayo though I used fruity mango and ginger chutney, and topped the whole thing with a handful of crunchy chopped peanuts.


Yes I forgot to rotate my baguettes – how can you tell?

For the baguettes, I used this recipe from My Food Affair, and I thought they came out pretty good (though I probably could have rolled them a little thinner). I am a collector of various flours and beans so it was nice to actually use one of them – rice flour! – vs just hoarding.

For the pickled carrots, I used the much laughed about carrot massage technique (see banh mi episode of Spilled Milk). I didn’t pickle the cucumber, I kept it fresh.

Almost Banh Mi

Vietnamese baguettes, homemade or storebought, sliced in half and then lengthwise

For pickled carrots
4 tbsp rice vinegar
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp sea salt
4 carrots, sliced in half and then in thin strips
1 shallot, thinly sliced

Combine rice vinegar, sugar and salt. Toss carrots and shallots in the mixture, and massage for several minutes. Cover and let marinate at room temperature a couple of hours.

For the spread
2 tbsp mango ginger chutney (or similar)
2 tbsp olive oil

Mix well.

For the sandwich
Sliced cucumbers
Chopped peanuts
Baby spinach

Spread bread, assemble with goodies, and enjoy.

Of course I couldn’t have made such a tasty sandwich without the help of my adorable kitchen imp – she is very good at measuring, stirring, and keeping up kitchen morale.

I chose this as my best recipe in April :)

Moros y Cristianos (Black Beans and Rice)

moros-y-cristianos


Moros y cristianos: the most delicious dish with the most racist name! Make a cute little tower of arrogance by filling a tiny bowl with rice and overturning it sand-castle style.

I know I sound like a broken record, but a big pot of beans or legumes (snobby voice) is the way to go in weeknight meal prep, paving the way for days of remixed meals at a time in our lives where my biggest complaint is that I have a scant two hour window each evening to come home, cook, play with my angel, feed her, bathe her, read her stories, and tuck her in bed (perhaps two or three times if she’s feeling mischievous) – and depending on the day, she may be tired and crabby and uncooperative during this process, making it all the more grueling. That sentence was very long, but as you can see I am very busy and have little time for full stops.

I know this is one of the most magical times in Zoeya’s little life and I don’t want to miss it by spending all my time over the stove. Pot of beans is easy and reheats well for tasty leftovers (no-cook evenings). Plus it’s vegetarian. Plus it’s cheap!

This lost a couple authenticity points for extra spices (you don’t expect me to cook with my recently refreshed dabba chilling right beside me and not touch it, do you?) and a little extra veg (love veg!), and canned beans (disorganized and pressed for time), but that still puts it at about 87% authentic Cuban.

Moros y Cristianos (Black Beans and Rice)

For black beans
2 tbsp olive oil
Semi-finely chopped: 1 red onion, 4 cloves garlic, 1/2 red pepper, 1 stalk celery, 1 carrot
Ground spices: 1 tsp ground annatto, big heaping tsp cumin, 1 tsp coriander, 1/2 tsp garam masala
1 tsp oregano
2 bay leaves
salt & pepper
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 can black beans, rinsed
water
spritz lemon or lime juice

Heat olive oil on medium high. Add all chopped veggies, spices, oregano, bay leaves, and a generous sprinkle salt and pepper – this is your sofrito. Cook, stirring, until veggies are soft and wilty (the carrots might still be a little crunchy, they will cook in the water). Add tomato paste and cook, stirring, for a minute, then add can of black beans and one can water. Bring to a boil and lower to a simmer and cook, covered, stirring occasionally, until veggies are very soft and falling apart. You may need to add more water if the mixture becomes too dry or starts to burn. Adjust seasoning (more salt perhaps?) and finish it with a spritz of lemon or lime juice.

For rice
1 coffee cup jasmine rice
2 coffee cups water
generous pinch salt
dash olive oil

Bring water and rice to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook, covered, for about 20 min. Fluff with a fork.

Serve with the rice in a pile and the beans all around it. I also made some pickled shallots which I love and eat at every opportunity.

Leftovers – for lunch Zoeya is taking the rice and beans mixed together and wrapped in a tortilla. I am topping mine with sliced avocado.

Spaghetti with Spinach and Walnut Sauce

spaghetti-walnut-spinach

So Zoeya, like a three year old does, has rebelled against the lentils she used to love. It's really messing up my Monday night dinners. Of course I still give them to her, but tonight I wanted to make something I didn't have to coax her to eat. Also something that I would love, something pretty decadent for a Monday...almost as decadent as eating most of a box of Girl Scout cookies (what?).

This is simple but delicious.

Spaghetti with Spinach and Walnut Sauce

1/2 lb spaghetti, preferably whole wheat although I had semolina from somewhere.
Cook to al dente in water salty like the sea

olive oil
1 onion, chopped
6 cloves garlic, chopped
salt & pepper
3/4 cup walnuts
juice of half a lemon
2 tbsp tahini
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 c warm water
1 bunch spinach, chopped

Heat olive oil in a large pan. Saute onion and garlic until very soft. Meanwhile, in a food processor, blitz walnuts and lemon juice. Add onion and garlic (don’t wash the pan it was in), with tahini, olive oil, and water, and a generous sprinkle of salt and pepper. and puree to a sauce (if very thick, add a little more water, and adjust seasoning if necessary). Toss spinach in the pan with a sprinkle of salt, and as it starts to wilt add the walnut mixture to heat back through.

Add pasta to pan and toss to coat. Serve.

Zoeya loved it (after she ascertained it wasn’t made with red sauce which she also arbitrarily decided she dislikes), but since there is a kid in her class with a nut allergy I get the yummy lunch leftovers all to my self.

Prelude to Valentine’s Day with Red Food: Harissa; and Quinoa Salad with Fennel and Pomegranate

quinoa-fennel-pomegranate-salad

This Saturday, the weekend before the much loved/dreaded Valentine’s Day, my sister had a potluck with her work friends. As she is aware of my enthusiasm for potlucks, she invited Zoeya and me. The theme was Red Food. (Sidenote: this was not my first Red Food potluck). She made a delicious baked spaghetti and one of her friends brought an amazing red velvet, white chocolate and raspberry trifle – no beef, we asked. My contribution was a harissa-esque dip served over hummus, and a quinoa salad.


I tried to shape the harissa into a heart!

Here’s something spicy you can make for your lovah: harissa. I use the term “harissa” loosely – this was more of a dip than a sauce or paste, and I made it not-too-spicy lest there be wimpy tongues at the party, but honestly the heat could have been to be turned up a notch (next time!). The other silly thing I did was that after I blitzed it the first time I decided that in color it wasn’t red enough for a red food party so I added some tandoori masala thinking that spices were spices. Mistake! Although it still tasted good, it starting smelling distinctly Indian instead of a North African…so next time, paprika.

This is very versatile! Use as a dip, condiment on salads or sandwiches, or as a wet rub or part of a marinade. I served it over hummus.

Red Pepper and Sun-dried Tomato Harissa

3 red peppers
heaping tsp each cumin and coriander seeds
seeds from 2 cardamom pods
5 cloves
1 jar sun-dried tomatoes (minus the several I ate)
heaping tsp paprika
salt & pepper
1/2 – 2 tbsp red pepper flakes, depending on how hot you want it (maybe a little less for a dip and more for a condiment or wet rub)
1 tbsp olive oil

Heat oven to 450° Roast the red peppers by placing them directly on the oven rack and roast until blacked, turning once. Remove to a glass bowl and cover to sweat them (so it will be easier to take the skins off). Once cool, remove stems, seeds, and skins.

In the meantime, in a dry skillet toast cumin seeds, coriander seeds, cardamom seeds and cloves. Grind to a powder with a mortar and pestle or spice grinder.

Combine all ingredients in a food processor and process to a thick paste. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.

I also made:

I had my Persephone Salad in mind, but was in the mood to make something with quinoa. I found this recipe for Quinoa, Fennel, and Pomegranate Salad online, which looked delicious, but I still wanted to make pomegranate vinaigrette so I combined the two!

Quinoa Salad with Fennel and Pomegranate

For the quinoa
1 1/2 cups quinoa, rinsed (red if possible! I couldn’t find it so used tricolored)
olive oil
2 bulbs fennel, sliced (reserve fronds)
4 cloves garlic
tsp cumin seeds
tsp chili powder
handful fennel fronds (removed from stalk), chopped
handful cilantro, chopped
handful mint, chopped
1 head red leaf lettuce, chopped

Bring 5 cups of water to a boil. Add quinoa, reduce to a simmer, and cook covered until quinoa is tender, about 15 minutes. Drain.

In the meantime, heat olive oil to medium high and saute fennel and garlic with salt & pepper until fennel is very tender. Add cumin seeds and chili powder and saute for another minute.

Toss warm quinoa with fennel, herbs, and lettuce (I just love tossing warm things with lettuce because it makes it super green and wilts it just slightly).

For the vinaigrette
3 tbsp pomegranate molasses
3 tbsp sherry vinegar
1 tbsp honey
salt & pepper
6 tbsp olive oil

Whisk all together.

Toss quinoa and vinaigrette together, and top the whole thing with 1/4 cup or so pomegranate seeds

Someone enjoyed dinner (although she was more a fan of the spaghetti than the salad).


Zoeya’s favorite thing to say to me nowadays is “I am waiting patiently, but you are taking TOO LONG!”

Black Beans and Rice with Roasted Tomato Salsa

beans-tomatoes

The beans didn’t finish cooking in time for dinner, so Zoeya and I took them for lunch!

Two things threatened to ruin this meal, but I am happy to report that I persevered, and it all worked out ok.

The first was that when I bothered to read the label of the chipotles in adobo sauce that I love so much (in things like chili and the eggs I used to eat), I found out they have HFCS in them. Mother expletive! I yelled – in my head of course – in the middle of the grocery store aisle. So obviously I didn’t buy them. I made my own smokey chili flavor with dried California chiles and molasses.

The second was that these beans took forever (forever!) to cook. I mean, I knew they’d take a long time, but this was multiple evenings, including overnight crockpot.

I did not soak them beforehand and I did add salt at the beginning, because Spilled Milk told me it was a myth that these things would make them take longer…but now I’m not so sure, I may have been led astray. As you can see, I am not as expert in dried beans as I am in dried lentils. Next time I’ll do this on a weekend and maybe freeze some to save myself a headache. Or just use a can.

The roasted tomato salsa/tarka came together gorgeously and without hassle, and was so delicious I think it could saved just about anything.

Black Beans and Rice with Roasted Tomato Salsa

For the beans:
1 cup dried black beans – mine were pretty big, it probably wouldn’t have taken as long with the tiny black beans. You can also use canned beans, just don’t cook as long.
2 dried California chiles, stems removed (these are smokey, not spicy)
2 tbsp molasses
4 carrots, diced
juice of half a lime
salt

Add everything to a large pot with water to cover by several inches, and boil, adding water when needed, until the beans are soft. This will take several years hours. You can also do this in a crock pot. Reduce liquid to a stoup. (Oh yes I said it!) Adjust seasoning, beans take a lot of salt.

For the roasted tomato salsa:
1 pint cherry tomatoes
salt & pepper
olive oil
6 garlic cloves, chopped
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp chili powder
small handful cilantro, chopped
juice of half a lime

Toss tomatoes with generous sprinkle of salt, pepper, and a little olive oil, and roast at 400° until blistered. Meanwhile, heat a couple tbsp olive oil and sauté garlic cloves, cumin, and chili powder. Remove from heat and toss together with tomatoes, cilantro, and lime juice.

To serve:

Serve over rice (I used leftover basmati, but if I were making it fresh I’d use a medium grain), make a layer of beans, and top with tomatoes, sliced avocado, and a spritz of lime juice and hot sauce.

Ga Kho Xa (Lemongrass Caramel Chicken)

lemongrass-caramel-chicken

Less than a week into the New Year and my excitement has transformed, but in a way, I am even more motivated – disappointment, frustration and spite are pretty motivating. I’m putting together a plan of attack. A plan of attack!

I was listening to The Nerdist podcast, an interview with Emma Caulfield (who I love! Admittedly for Buffy but also for doing all this other creative stuff and embracing web culture), and she said she is really busy and frustrated which is how I feel sometimes. The host Chris Hardwick throws out some sage wisdom, ideas like “controlfreakism” and “make your third reaction your first reaction.” Hmm.

But enough reflection. She says she turns off the internal chatter by running, I do it by cooking (obviously). This week I made ga kho xa, which is Vietnamese lemongrass caramel chicken – my friend Gloria sent me several recipes for what to do with my lemongrass. Small triumph, I managed to turn my frustrations into something sweet and salty and delicious.

Ga Kho Xa (Lemongrass Caramel Chicken)

Adapted for convenience from Gloria’s recipe

1 lb chicken thighs or drumsticks – leave on skin and bones for more flavor
2 tbsp + 1 tsp brown sugar (I actually misread this and there should be more sugar in the sauce, but I’ll just tell you what I did and it was still yummy)
2 tbsp + 1 tsp fish sauce
2 tbsp rice vinegar
2 tbsp water
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 lemongrass stalk, chopped in half and smashed with a rolling pin
1 onion, sliced
2 red chiles, thinly sliced (I left this out per usual for Zoeya, served with chili sauce for me and Shan)

In large bowl, marinate chicken with 1 tsp fish sauce and 1 tsp brown sugar.
In separate bowl, combine remaining ingredients and set aside.

In large deep pan, sear chicken skin-side down with some oil until browned.  Add a little bit of sauce to the pan to coat bottom of pan.  Allow sauce and chicken to caramelize.  Flip chicken and add in the remaining sauce cooking over medium heat until sauce thickens and chicken is fully cooked. Remove lemongrass stalks.

Serve with rice. I served with brown rice and sauteed kale.

My plate looks like My Plate. Also, Zoeya is so silly.

Frenchy Lentils and Roasty Beets

frenchy-lentils

Cute little French lentils have an earthy flavor – perfect for fall! – and take nicely to flavors both sharp (dijon mustard, balsamic vinegar) and sweet (carrots, molasses). They go really nicely with roasted beets, which I just love, mostly because they turn everything they touch an obscene magenta. I learned an ingenious method to cook them, which is just to trim the stalks and roast them whole with a little olive oil. After they cool, the skins will slip right off, and you can avoid staining your fingertips and cutting board.

Frenchy Lentils and Roasty Beets

For lentils:
olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic
salt & pepper
1 tsp paprika
2 tbsp tomato paste
2 tsp dijon mustard
1 tsp molasses
2 carrots, diced
1 1/2 c French lentils
water
dash balsamic vinegar

Heat olive oil in a heavy-bottomed pan. Cook onion, garlic, salt and pepper, stirring, until the onion is translucent. Add paprika, stirring for a minute, then tomato paste. Add dijon, molasses, carrots, lentils, and about 3 cups water. Bring to a boil, then lower heat to medium low and cook, stirring occasionally and adding more water if necessary, until lentils are softened. Adjust seasoning (you’ll probably need more salt), and finish with a dash of balsamic vinegar (and maybe another little drizzle of olive oil).

For beets:
1 bunch beets, trimmed
olive oil

Heat oven to 450°. Arrange beets in a pan lined with foil and drizzle with olive oil. Roast until a fork easily goes through the beet. Allow to cool, remove skins, and slice.

Pumpkin Quesadillas

pumpkin-quesadillas

The veil is thin, the pumpkins are spicy, and Witchy Kitchen is two years old!

I have been crazy about Halloween ever since I was a little girl, so much so my parents painted my room orange. I’ve always loved this spooky time of year, the stories, the ghosties, the ghoulies, but this year I am seeing it with new eyes.


Witchy Zoeya and her familiar, Quentin.

I took my little witchy Zoeya trick-or-treating for the first time tonight. She was stinky cute. At the first house she knocked on the door, and when they opened it she walked right in. After a couple of houses she got the hang of it. “I have a candy collection!” she exclaimed (at school they’ve been “collecting” leaves and acorns). “Let’s go to that house and collect some more candy!” We trick-or-treated all the way to the crazy creepy neighborhood haunted house that had every exposed inch of yard covered in gore, and then scurried home in the cold with our goodies. Zoeya savored a pack of grape Nerds one by one for 15 long minutes.


Ooh, I think I caught a couple of ghosts in this pic!

Two years ago today I started blogging, and I made Pumpkin Quesadillas. I made them again today, but with my own recipe. I must say they were pretty bewitching.

Pumpkin Quesadillas

1 1/2 cup colby jack, grated
1 cup pureed pumpkin
1 clove garlic, grated
heaping tsp garam masala
heaping tsp paprika
pinch salt
10 small corn tortillas

Combine cheese, pumpkin, garlic, garam masala, paprika, and salt. Heat a skillet and warm a tortilla. Spread with cheese mixture and top with another tortilla. Cook a few minutes, flipping once, until the cheese is melty and the tortilla is crunchy.

Served with my Go-To Chili.

Halloween – or Samhain, rather – is the witches’ New Year, and it’s also a new year for Witchy Kitchen. I have lots of ideas for this year: cooking from (fiction) books and movies, our family’s continual green transformations, more kitchen to bath recipes, making all kinds of things from scratch, goofing around in the kitchen with Zoeya, and of course lots more delicious recipes.


Sometimes a witch, sometimes a princess.

Harvest Wraps

harvest-wrap

Years ago when I was in school at College of Charleston, we had students from Johnson and Wales interning at our cafeteria at a salad and wrap station. There was one wrap in particular I remember that was turkey, mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce. I don’t remember if it was called the Thanksgiving wrap, but I’m pretty sure I was channeling it when I threw this together.

This cheesily named dinner came about from my needing to use up a bunch of produce that had been hanging out in the fridge, but I must say it came out nicer than I had imagined – the squash, beets and spinach were bright and colorful and cheery and the beef flavored with rosemary made it very satisfying. Zoeya will snarf up anything wrapped in a tortilla and Shan will tolerate plentiful veggies if they come with a side of beef, so I would call this a success.

Harvest Wrap

For roasted veggies:
one bunch (3-4) beets, peeled and cubed
one butternut squash, peeled, seeds cleaned and cubed
olive oil, salt & pepper

Toss veggies with olive oil, salt and pepper, and roast at 400° until tender. Roast separately – the squash will roast a lot faster than the beets.

For the beef:
one onion, diced
olive oil, salt & pepper
2 cloves garlic
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp cumin
1 lb ground beef
2 tbsp tomato paste
2 roma tomatoes, diced
2 sprigs rosemary, chopped

Saute onion in olive oil with salt and pepper. Add garlic, paprika and cumin and cook, stirring. Add ground beef and brown. Add tomato paste, tomatoes, and rosemary and simmer.

For the rice:
2 ears white corn, cut off the cob
2 cups jasmine rice, rinsed
4 cups water
olive oil, salt & pepper

Add everything to the pot, stir, and bring to a boil. Cover and lower heat to medium low, cooking until rice is done, 15-20 minutes.

For wraps:
Assemble everything in warm tortillas lined with spinach leaves, roll, cut in half, and enjoy!

Note: I know I went on about not cubing raw squash when you can just roast it in the skin, but what happens when you need cubes, like for butternut squash and shrimp curry (recipe coming soon!)? Somewhat hypocritically, I just learned a great trick for peeling butternut squash that makes it pretty painless. Just boil the whole squash in a big pot of water for five minutes, cool, and the skin will be soft enough to peel with a regular vegetable peeler.

This made a great lunch the next day, sans tortilla.