Summer Squash Salad with Roasted Tomatillo Vinaigrette

squash-salad

After Ramadan (during which time I did not fast, but did eat pakoras for almost 30 days straight) and my sister’s wedding week (during which time I drank lots of wine and ate delicacies such as burgers and cheese fries – it was a classy wedding, I swear), my body was screaming at me to put something green in it. Anything.

So I made this enormous, gorgeous rainbow salad with sweet summer squash, pretty purple cabbage, crisp radishes, juicy tomatoes, creamy queso fresco, toasty pumpkin seeds, the ubiquitous avocado, and this awesome experiment of a roasted tomatillo vinaigrette that came out even better than I had hoped – nailed it! After weeks of crap this salad is a rainbow in my heart.

Summer Squash Salad with Roasted Tomatillo Vinaigrette

  • 2 small or 1 large summer squash, thinly sliced into half or quarter moons
  • 2 small or 1 large tomatillo, thinly sliced
  • olive oil and sea salt for roasting
  • 1 small head green leaf lettuce, thickly shredded
  • 1/4 head purple cabbage, shredded
  • 3 red radishes, thinly sliced
  • 2 roma tomatoes, sliced into half moons
  • 5 oz queso fresco, crumbled
  • 1/3 cup pumpkin seeds, toasted
  • 1 avocado
  • 1 clove garlic, grated
  • several sprigs cilantro, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp honey
  • zest and juice of 1 lime
  • 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • sea salt & pepper
  • 1/3 cup olive oil

Heat oven to 400° F.

Coat squash and tomatillos with a little olive oil and sea salt. Spread squash on one foil-lined baking sheet and tomatillos on another, making sure they are all in one layer. Roast approximately 15 minutes for the squash (until soft, no or little color) and 20 minutes for the tomatoes (until they are just getting starting to get caramelized).

For the vinaigrette: finely chop the roasted tomatillo and mix with garlic, cilantro, honey, lime juice and zest, and red wine vinegar, and season generously with salt and pepper. Drizzle in olive oil while stirring.

Toss together lettuce, cabbage, radishes, tomatoes, queso fresco and pumpkin seeds. Slice or scoop in avocado right before you lightly dress the salad with the vinaigrette (you can serve extra on the side).

Empanadas and Quinoa Beet Salad

empanadas1

I’ve been bugging my friend for awhile to teach me how to make her famous empanadas (or pastelitos, whichever). She is Ecuadorian and therefore knows what she’s doing. Unfortunately this weekend our plans fell through, but another always adventurous friend, my sister, my husband and I decided to forge ahead anyway and try our hand at it. The results were delicious, and we had a lot of fun muddling through!

empanadas1

One thing we learned is that we need to seal them a little better (and be careful not to let the filling split out the back…oops). This made for splattery oil that threatened to disfigure my sister, and the emapanadas weren’t quite as pretty. But they were still just as delicious, I probably ate the weight of my unborn child in them. Thank goodness for stretchy maternity pants.

We made three kinds – beef, potato, and some little mini guava ones for dessert. ¡Deliciosos!

Empanada Dough

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup masa harina
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 stick butter, melted
3/4 cups water

Mix dry ingredients, stir in butter, and add water to form a dough. Combine well, roll into a ball, and wrap with plastic to refrigerate for one hour.

Divide into 4-8 sections (however much your counter space will allow), and roll as thin as possible. Use a cookie cutter to cut into circles (various sizes, Mariela makes hers big, ours were medium with little bitty baby ones for dessert), and they are ready for filling.

This dough can be baked or fried. We fried – decadent Saturday night! We stuck them in the freezer for a few minutes, then fried them in an inch of oil on medium heat for a few minutes on each side until deep golden brown before removing to paper-towel lined plates.

empanadas3

Suggested Empanada Fillings

We took my friend’s authentic recipe as a base and kind of ran with it. So no guarantees on authenticity, but the fillings turned out really really yummy:

Beef and Pea

Ground beef, sauteed garlic and onions, peas, tomato paste, olives, raisins, boiled egg, lemon, cumin, paprika, salt & pepper, ranchero sauce.

Potato and Corn

Boiled potatoes, sauteed garlic and onions, corn, cilantro, olives, boiled egg, lime, sazón, ranchero sauce.

Guava and Cream Cheese

Cream cheese and guava paste.

Feel free to get creative; if the filling is tasty, you really can’t go wrong!

empanadas2

To accompany our empanadas I made a lovely quinoa and beet salad, which turned out the obscene magenta color I love and left me with leftovers for work lunches this week. Apologies for no exact measurements, I will probably revisit this one to make a proper recipe.

Quinoa and Beet Salad

Quinoa, roasted beets, and toasted walnuts dressed with lemon juice, olive oil and dijon mustard, tossed with arugula and topped with sliced avocado and pickled shallots.

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-roomate. Her ex husband was Mexican, and so she knew how to cook all kinds of yummy Mexican food. 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.

Murgh Makhani (Butter Chicken)

Our friend Karan used to make the most delicious Butter Chicken. We haven’t eaten it since he moved away, so, missing it, I decided to try my hand at it. I was really happy with how this turned out, especially the flavorful and delicate gravy.

The one thing I would do differently is to try to grind up the cashews a little finer, to a paste. I’ve been planning to get a mortar and pestle and that would probably do the trick. The other thing is, in this and in most of my curries I usually go pretty light on the cayenne and/or chillis so that Zoeya can enjoy it too and I just let Shan spice it up later. If you aren’t cooking for kids (or wimps), you can go a little heavier on the spice.

Don’t be overwhelmed by the crazy ingredient list, most of them are spices.

Murgh Makhani (Butter Chicken)

1 lb boneless chicken thighs
juice of 1 lime
1/2 tsp cayenne (more to taste)
salt, pepper
2 tbsp yogurt
olive oil
3 cloves
3 black peppercorns
1 inch stick cinnamon
2 green cardamoms, cracked
1 and 1/2 sliced white onions
3-4 cloves garlic, grated or finely chopped
1 inch ginger, grated or finely chopped
2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp tumeric
2-3 cups water
1 lb roma tomatoes diced
2 bay leaves
2 tbsp dried fenugreek leaves
small handful cashews
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp cream or half and half
Cilantro to garnish

Cut the chicken thighs into 1 inch chunks, and marinate for about an hour in the lime juice, salt, pepper, cayenne and yogurt.

Heat a little olive oil on high, brown the chicken and remove to a plate. Add a little oil if necessary, scraping up anything left by the chicken, lower heat to medium, and add whole spices (cloves, peppercorns, cinnamon, cardamoms). Cook for a couple of minutes, stirring occasionally, before adding your onions. Sprinkle onions with salt and stir occasionally until they are turning golden. Add ginger and garlic and cook for a minute, add powdered spices (coriander, cumin, turmeric) and cook for a minute.

Add water and deglaze, then add tomatoes, bay leaves and fenugreek leaves. Cover and simmer for 10-15 minutes, then uncover and cook to reduce liquid by about a third.

In a food processor or mortar and pestle, grind cashews to a paste. Remove the cinnamon stick and bay leaves from the sauce and transfer to food processor (be careful, it’s hot!) Puree and return to pot along with chicken. Stir butter and cream into the sauce. Serve with basmati rice, garnished with cilantro.

Notes where I stray from the authentic: where most Indian food is cooked in vegetable oil I usually prefer light olive oil; it doesn’t alter the flavor and it’s a little healthier. Also, most Indian recipes will have you cook your onions and then your meat, but sometimes I cook the meat first, remove to a plate, then add it back later to finish in the sauce, especially if I’m planning on pureeing the sauce. Also, I salt my onions to sweat them where most Indian recipes do not. Do as you will!