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.

Edamame Hummus

edamame-hummus

This past month I joined a group called The Secret Recipe Club. Each month you secretly get somebody’s blog to try a recipe from…

…and someone secretly gets yours. I have been so anxious about who gets mine. What if they think taking pictures with a phone half the time is not charming but in fact lazy? What if they don’t think instructions like “a pinch,” “a handful,” and “an obscene amount” are valid measurements? What if they don’t like my cooking, or my recipe just doesn’t come out well? This is so much pressure!

(But enough about me, haha). MY experience this month was lovely. I was matched with Chris from The Café Sucré Farine – a collection of elegant and delicious-looking recipes. After scrolling through the mouthwatering list, I finally settled on the Edamame Hummus, something I’d been wanting to try. I made it for my sister’s baby shower, and I’m happy to say it did not disappoint!

It’s delightfully lemony, and the fresh green veggies and herbs make it perfect for spring. It was a hit at the party, getting snapped up with veggies and pita chips. Quote from my sister’s boyfriend’s mom: “I just love this hummus!”

Thank you so much Chris for your yummy recipe!

Edamame Hummus

From The Café Sucré Farine

1 pound frozen shelled edamame (soybeans)
1 pound frozen tiny peas
1 teaspoon sea salt
½ cup fresh lemon juice
lemon zest , from 1 lemon
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 teaspoon crushed or ground corriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
¾ cup tahini (can be found in many larger markets and in any Middle Eastern grocery)
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
½ cup chopped fresh cilantro plus more for garnish
sea salt and reshly ground black pepper, to taste

Cook edamame in a large pot of boiling salted water until tender, 3–5 minutes. Add peas and drain well. Transfer to a large bowl of ice water then drain well again.

Pulse edamame and peas in a food processor until a coarse purée forms, about 30 seconds. Add lemon juice and zest, garlic, cumin, coriander. tahini and olive oil. Add the cilantro and process for 2-3 minutes or until very smooth adding a bit more lemon juice if too thick. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle with fresh cilantro before serving

TO DO AHEAD: Can be made 2 days ahead. Cover and chill. Transfer to a serving bowl; drizzle with oil and garnish with more herbs.



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.

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!”

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.

Roasted Green Pepper Soup

green-pepper-soup

The notion often occurs to me that I could both be saving a lot of money as well as buying healthier food. It’s not that I make a lot of expensive purchases (well…sometimes for parties). I don’t eat out a lot, lentils are a staple, and I am definitely not spending a lot of money on processed, nutritionally devoid crap. On the less-healthy side of money-saving, produce is organic only if it’s from the farmer’s market or if aftershocks of various documentaries are rippling through my mind, same for meat, and I still buy regular eggs.

I think with a little planning I can save money and buy better. Although I do have a well-stocked pantry which allows me not to run to the store all the time, often I’m just dropping in to Harris Teeter (expensive!) out of convenience instead of going to the right shops for the right things. I have a Costco membership where I know I can be buying organic chicken and grass-fed meat, but I rarely make the trek over there. I continuously allow HT to gouge me for avocados, coconut milk, and Bustelo when I don’t feel like making an extra trip to the Indian/Arabic/Spanish grocery. I think if I’m planning ahead, shopping at the right places, I can not only save money but buy organic all the time.

I was talking about planning with my sister and she said “Oh that sounds so depressing!” Does it? I was thinking it sounded fun, but I’m a nerd. She’s right in a way though, I do love to feel gloriously extravagant and go where I want when I want and buy whatever I want. The dichotomy of wanting to save money yet feel rich was on my mind as I flipped through BrokeAss Gourmet, a site I love with lots of delicious recipes you can make to feel fun and festive while saving your hard-earned cash.

I liked the idea of this Roasted Green Pepper Soup which uses the cheaper yet oft neglected green pepper. As I am obsessed with coconut oil/milk and Indian spices, I took this idea and made my own version, pondering the delicate balance between time, money, health, and festivity as I stirred the pot.

Roasted Green Pepper Soup

3 green bell peppers
1 heaping tsp cumin seeds
1 heaping tsp coriander seeds
1 tbsp coconut oil
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
salt & pepper
1/2 c coconut milk
1 1/2 c chicken or vegetable broth
sriracha

Roast the green peppers exactly as you would red (I do mine at 450° right on the grate, turning occasionally, until they are blistered). Put in a glass bowl and cover with saran wrap, this will make them really easy to peel.

In a dry pan, gently toast cumin and coriander seeds until they are fragrant. Grind to a powder with a mortar and pestle (it’s ok if you don’t completely pulverize it).

Heat coconut oil and cook onions, garlic, salt, pepper, and spices until soft. Transfer to a blender, along with peeled, seeded, and sliced green peppers. Blend, adding a little broth if necessary.

If you are feeling fancy you can put this through a sieve before returning to the pot (but if you were feeling fancy, wouldn’t you have used red peppers?). Add coconut milk and chicken or vegetable broth, adjust seasoning if necessary, and heat through. Serve drizzled with sriracha.

This soup was the perfect balance of sweet to salty to spicy, and although hot it felt fresh and summery. As a red pepper worshiper, I did like the use of green peppers, and I really want to say I’m a green pepper believer, but…I couldn’t help but wonder how this would be with red peppers. Choose as you will.

Coconutty Chana Dal

chana-dal

I’ve always made lentils fairly frequently, but lately it seems we are never without a pot in the fridge. This is partly out of laziness, because I can make them with my eyes closed with pantry ingredients that don’t require the foresight of a trip to the store, and they make for days of lunches and side dishes. Usually I whip up the split red lentils that cook in a snap – as in my Weeknight Lentils – but since it was the weekend I decided to get a little crazy and make chana dal.

A weekend warning, apart from the longer cooking time: “lentils” may sound like rabbit food, but with creamy coconut milk and a pat of butter, these are pretty decadent.

Chana dal take longer to cook and than red lentils and they hold their shape instead of dissolving into a starchy mush. They have a very nice nutty flavor. I like just a little sweetness in my lentils (I usually put a drop of honey in my French black lentils) which I got here from carrots. It’s just enough sweetness for me without Shan accusing me of adding sugar. Also, I’ve been getting into cooking with coconut oil lately. I already love the nutty note it gives a dish, and though it’s a saturated fat, I’ve been reading more about its health benefits. So multipurpose, I like to oil my hair with it too.

Dinner was a collaborative effort; we had friends over and enjoyed this with basmati rice, a lovely cucumber raita made by our friend, and my husband’s famous Lahori tilapia.

Coconutty Chana Dal

2 tbsp coconut oil

whole spices:
2 cloves
2 cardamom pods (cracked)
1 cinnamon stick

1 onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 inch ginger, grated

ground spices:
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp tumeric
1/2 tsp cayenne
black pepper

2 tbsp tomato paste
zest of 1 lemon
2 carrots, finely chopped in food processor
1 1/2 c chana dal
several cups water
1/2 c coconut milk
1 tbsp butter
salt

Heat oil in a good-sized, heavy-bottomed pot, and add whole spices. When they smell fragrant, add the onion, stirring until it begins to turn translucent, then add garlic, ginger, and whole spices. Cook, stirring, a few minutes, then add tomato paste, lemon, carrots, dal, and water to cover by an inch or so. Reduce heat to a high simmer, and cover. Cook, stirring fairly frequently so it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pot. The dal will begin to absorb the water so add more as necessary. The final consistency should be wet but not watery.

I’m not in the habit of timing things, I just cook them until they’re done. I will say the cooking time is a little lengthy, enough to do the dishes, make the rice, give Zoeya a bath and put her to bed (Shan babysat the pot while I was upstairs so it didn’t burn). Cook until the dal is soft. Stir in coconut milk, butter, and salt to taste.

Pretty when garnished with cilantro, but mine wilted in the thousand degree heat.

Greek Pizza with Lamb Meatballs

thumb_greek-pizza

Pizza is a surefire hit at our house. Zoeya is absolutely gleeful when I tell her we’re having pizza for dinner and Shan, although more subdued, usually ends up eating more than his fair share. I love to make pizza at home because it feels like a treat but it’s actually pretty healthy.

This particular pizza made me nervous until the end. I made a whole wheat dough when I usually make white, so I was anxious to see how that would come out. The components themselves weren’t perfect: the meatballs a little in need of salt, the sauce WAY too salty (must remember that happens when you reduce reduce reduce), the salad on top a little too lemony, but when put together a little miracle happened and the flavors melded just right.

Small disclaimer: As much as I love to spend a good chunk of my weekends in the kitchen, making pizza dough from scratch, pizza sauce from scratch, meatballs from scratch, none of them particularly difficult in themselves, was altogether more time-consuming than I would have liked. Luckily, all three of these things are easy to make double and freeze. If I ever get better at planning ahead, that’s going to be my strategy.

To save a little time, instead of making meatballs, you could just saute the ground lamb with the garlic, herbs and spices and top your pizza with the mixture, but I made meatballs so I could have some leftover. We ate them the next night as wraps with yogurt and cucumber. They’d also be great just by themselves with a side of lentils.

So with no further ado:

Greek Pizza with Lamb Meatballs

For the dough:
I used the pizza dough recipe from Vegan with a Vengeance which I wrote about here, substituting a cup of whole wheat flour for a cup of the white flour. I can report that this turned out wholesome and yummy and is my new recipe.

For the pizza sauce:
olive oil
2 garlic cloves, chopped
seasoning (you can adjust accordingly for the type of pizza) – 1/2 tsp garam masala, 1 tsp paprika, 1 tsp dried oregano
4 good-sized tomatoes (and can I just say that ugly farmer’s market tomatoes brilliantly outshine the perfect-looking yet tasteless grocery store tomatoes), peeled and chopped
salt

Heat olive oil and add garlic, garam masala, paprika, and oregano. Cook, stirring, for a few minutes, then add tomatoes, salt (be conservative! This is going to reduce down quite a bit) and a cup of water. Simmer, stirring occasionally so that it doesn’t burn, until tomatoes are completely broken down and sauce is nice and thick. If the sauce thickens before your tomatoes break down, add more water and repeat. Makes enough for a thin layer on 2 pizzas.

For the meatballs:
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tsp garam masala
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp cumin
salt & pepper
zest of 1 lemon
small handful mint, finely chopped
small handful basil, finely chopped
scant 1/2 c bread crumbs
1 egg
1 lb ground lamb
olive oil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Stir well everything through the egg in a glass bowl, then add lamb and mix until everything is just combined. Heat olive oil in Dutch oven or oven-safe pot. Roll medium sized meatballs (about 1 1/2 tbsp) and place in pot. Brown on one side, then turn with spoons to brown on the other. Cover and finish cooking through in oven.

For the pizza
Pizza dough, pizza sauce and meatballs from above (you’ll have leftover meatballs)
Red onion, thinly sliced
Feta, crumbled
Spring lettuce dressed in olive oil and lemon juice

Heat oven to 500 degrees (hot!). Divide dough in half and roll out, toss, etc., then place onto 2 round stones or baking sheets greased with olive oil (or do one by one). Cover with a layer of pizza sauce and sprinkle with quartered meatballs, red onion, and feta (just a good sprinkle, you’re not trying to cover the whole thing like you would with motz). Bake for 12-16 minutes. Remove from oven and top with dressed greens, which will wilt prettily from the heat.

Slice and serve. Opa!

Note: garam masala is obviously not Greek, but I throw it in because it’s always in my kitchen and contains a lot of the same spices used in Greek cooking. You don’t need to run out and buy it if you don’t have it, just use cinnamon, cumin and black pepper, or whatever combination you like.

Paki Tacos

thumb_paki-taco

I absolutely love Latin culture. I love the language, the food, the music, the dancing. When I met Shan, I was pretty much immersed. I was going salsa dancing every weekend, and I was eating arroz con gandules instead of biryani. After we got married, I started cooking mostly Pakistani and Indian food, but I will never stop cooking Latin food; it’s such a nice reminder of that time in my life and the people that are still dear friends, even though we don’t see each other as much anymore.

Tonight I made a dish that’s a fusion of the foods that Shan and I both love. This dish is my past and my future on one plate.

Instead of pulled pork (we don’t eat pork!) this is made with pulled chicken thighs, with a spicy tomato sauce flavored with both South Asian spices and smoky chipotle pepper, and just a little brown sugar. With gingery basmati rice, a fresh, sweet corn relish, and delicate pickled shallots (I put pickled shallots on everything), this is a delightful mix of flavors and textures.

Shan approved; he ate four and gave them their name – Paki Tacos.

Paki Tacos

For pickled shallots
Combine 2 sliced shallots, 2 tbsp red wine vinegar, 2 tsp honey, and a couple pinches of salt in a coffee cup and let pickle while you cook the rest.

For chicken + tomato sauce
4 chicken thighs
salt & pepper
olive oil
1/3 c sherry (white wine, chicken broth, or water also fine)
1 tbsp butter
1 cinnamon stick
2 cloves
1 onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 tsp each: ground cumin, ground coriander, paprika, garam masala
1 can diced tomatoes
1 large carrot, chopped
2 chipotle peppers (and a tbsp or so of the adobo sauce)
1 tsp brown sugar

Heat olive oil on high while you salt and pepper chicken thighs. Brown chicken thighs on both sides, covered so they start to cook through. Check for doneness, you may need to add a splash of water and cover so they cook through the rest of the way. When they are cooked, let water evaporate and remove chicken to a plate to cool.

Deglaze pan with sherry, reduce by at least half, then add butter, cinnamon, and cloves and reduce heat to just above medium. Add onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until they are translucent. Add garlic and ground spices and cook, stirring, for several minutes. Add tomatoes, carrots, chipotle peppers, adobo sauce, and about a cup of water, cover and crank the heat back up. Cook for 10 minutes or so, uncover and reduce if it’s too liquidy (you want it not too dry, but thick), remove from heat, and stir in brown sugar.

While the sauce cools, shred chicken thighs with two forks. Transfer sauce to a food processor, puree, then combine chicken and sauce in the pot and gently warm through.

For corn relish
2 ears white corn
small handful cilantro
1 lime (zest of all, juice of half)
2 tbsp yogurt
salt & pepper

Boil corn in pot of generously salted water. Drain and cool. Finely chop cilantro and combine with lime zest, lime juice and yogurt. Cut the corn off the cob and gently stir with yogurt mixture.

For gingery basmati rice
Rinse and soak 1 c rice (15 min is fine). Boil and salt 2 c water, grating in 1/2 inch ginger. Add rice, cover, and reduce heat to low, cooking until done, about 15 to 20 minutes.

For tacos
Assemble all of the above in warm corn tortillas and enjoy.

Posole with Kale

I was introduced to posole, a Mexican soup made with hominy, years ago by my then roommate Denise. She had been previously married to a Mexican, and so knew how to cook all kinds of yummy things. Our posole adventure was a full day ordeal, ending in a feast for lots of people. We roasted a pork shoulder which we later broke up into the soup, and used two giant 24 ounce cans of posole. We cooked in a tamalero – an enormous pot, which most people use for steaming tamales but crazy ladies use for making copious amounts of soup. The pot spanned two eyes of the stove and needed to be washed in the bathtub.

I still make posole from time to time, in amounts meant for a family instead of the Mexican army. Posole is a fun and festive soup because you can serve the basic soup with lots of garnishes and everyone can dress theirs up as they like. The only constants needed are the hominy, onions, broth, and oregano – and the rest is up to your imagination. I love adding greens to soups (they look so pretty besides being really good for you), so this time I added kale. The result was a hearty and nourishing bowl.

Posole with Kale

olive oil
1 onion, sliced
salt/pepper
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 chicken breast, cut crossways then into thin strips
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp cumin
1 4 ounce can green chillis
1 12 ounce can white hominy
8-10 cups broth (and more water as needed)
juice of half a lime
1 bunch kale, washed, trimmed, stalks cut out then cut into strips
garnishes: sliced lime, chopped cilantro, hot sauce, tostadas, crumbled queso fresco, etc etc etc

Heat olive oil over medium high heat, then add onion, salt and pepper. Cook until onion begins to turn translucent, then add garlic, chicken, oregano, paprika and cumin. Cook for a few minutes until chicken is cooked, then add chillis, hominy, and broth. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer for 15-20 minutes. Squeeze in lime juice, and add kale, simmering for a couple more minutes. Serve with garnishes.