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just another ‘ordinary’ breakfast in India

Last fall I introduced you to my friend Amit who grew up in Delhi, India. (See a wonderful rice and beans dish of his mother’s, Rajmah, that I posted at the time.) Amit, a man who loves all things associated with the kitchen, has inspired me in my own. Now borrowed from him are chai, rice and bean dishes, chutney, a couple salads and several curries that he brought to the US when he immigrated here. This is Amit’s father’s birthday month and in honor of that, I was asked if I could share a favorite dish of his Dad’s too. I told my good friend I’d be happy to.

Have you ever heard the expression that a person grows into the name he or she was given? It appears to be the case with Amit’s father, a gregarious man with a smile that lights up his entire face, and possibly the entire room. His name: Prakash Chandra Jain. Prakash means light, and Chandra – moon! Can you imagine being given such a name?! And then, having the privilege of growing into it?

Seen here with wife Anjana, at the wedding of their son Moni to his new bride, Richa.

~ ~ ~

Sri Prakash Chandra, since retired, had his career as an experimental physicist.  He’s always been an exacting man – both in his lab and in the kitchen where he loved to cook for his family. His interest in the culinary world was already well-evidenced by the time he was a young man in college where he took the lead in his dorm’s dining hall — purchasing the food, planning the recipes for the cooking staff and in general, managing the kitchen. Experimentation wasn’t restricted to his physics lab either – he’s been known to work and work on a recipe until he’s perfected it. And one of his favorite dishes is one that Amit and his family grew up eating on a typical (ever-delicious) Delhi morning.

Paranthas stuffed with cauliflower & spices

served with cumin raita and an out-of-this-world green chutney

Sounds complicated, no? Well, it’s not a bowl of instant oatmeal or a cereal bar grabbed on the way out the door (but who writes of that?)  It’s sit-down food, meant for moments to savor.

Cauliflower stuffing

  • 1 medium cauliflower, shredded (using a coarse grater)
  • Grated ginger root (using fine grater) – a piece about 1 x 1-inch
  • Cilantro: 2 to 3 Tablespoons, chopped (Amit’s family uses leaves only)
  • 2 teaspoon Garam masala
  • 2 teaspoon coriander powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 jalapeño pepper (optional, but we like) – minced

(NOTE: Amit has also made this stuffing with purple potatoes, cooked & chopped finely, then prepared as in the directions for this stuffing. How very pretty that would be.)

Heat oil in a pan. Add ginger and sauté until just slightly brown. Add the cauliflower and spices. Cook uncovered over low-medium heat, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes (or until tender).

Should you have any left over, this stuffing is delicious to eat as a side.

Green Chutney

fresh ginger – 1 inch x ½ inch piece

1 Tablespoon cumin seeds

15 – 20 leaves of fresh mint

2 whole bunches of fresh cilantro

2 cloves garlic

1½ salt  (Amit likes 2)

juice of 2 limes

1 jalapeño – ribs and seeds removed

¼ to ½ water (more like 3/8)

1 to 2 Tablespoons plain yogurt  (optional – I wanted to preserve the brilliant green color so didn’t add)

3 Tablespoons shredded unsweetened coconut

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things topsy turvy & a new feature at cooking-spree

In earlier posts I’ve alluded to “things about to happen” around our house, but I can explain further now. First there was the joyous birth of our little Drew baby! And even a bit before, and a lot since, we’ve been preparing for a good-sized remodel – two bathrooms and our kitchen.Once work begins on the kitchen, things will get especially interesting. We have a gas grill, and a portable induction burner that’ll hold one pot at a time. And we’ll have boxes full of herbs and spices and plates and forks and knives.

How do I prepare for what has been described to me variously as “completely disruptive”, “awful”, and “just plain hell” (really?!) ? I accept that things will be turned on their heads for a while, and I’ll be here to document it. I’ll photograph the destruction and mayhem.  I’ll play my part in this creative process, from demolition to gleaming completion. I know it’ll be challenging in ways I can’t yet know. But I’m thrilled! And I think I’m ready.

What will it mean here, on these bloggy pages? We’ll discover together. Smoothies? Salads? One pot wonders? Grilled seafood? We won’t go hungry, I promise!

One thing that will make this process less disruptive to food-lovers like us is that Spring is upon us and Summer is coming, and about now Farmer’s Markets are springing up all over the city and in the ‘burbs! Wooden stalls lined with fresh and gorgeous produce, bulging in bright ripeness! The choices we have are exquisitely exhaustive! So, one thing I can predict for the coming months is this: I’ll be carrying my basket to farmers markets, visiting with the growers, photographing fresh-from-the-farm fruits and vegetables and bringing a few choice picks home. Once a week I’ll share my trips with you. We’ll explore old favorites, never-liked and never-tried’s. Most of what will result will be simple, beautiful,  and delicious. And since life around our house will be turned on its head for the next little while, it seemed only fitting to name this weekly feature something like

Wegetable Vednesdays!

and so I have.

(but don’t be surprised to see a few vruits too)

It will be a veritable celebration of things with stems & seeds & roots!

Why not begin with a couple old standby’s and treat them freshly? It doesn’t get more basic than peas and carrots, right?

Well, it could…

~ ~ ~

R a i n b o w    c a r r o t ,  p e a   &   p e a   s h o o t   s a l a d

(about 6 servings)

1½ pounds rainbow carrots (various lengths makes it even prettier)

4 ounces pea shoots (see NOTE)

2 cups sugar snap peas

1 cup snow peas (optional)

¼ cup Meyer lemon juice

1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 large clove garlic, minced

½ teaspoon kosher salt

¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1 cup crumbled sheep or goat milk feta cheese

¾ cup mint leaves, cut into slivers

For protein, add either

3 cups cooked chicken, shredded

2 cups grilled or poached firm fish, in pieces

1 cup cooked & shelled edamame (fresh soy beans)

NOTE on pea shoots – One market I go to stocks them regularly. You may find them at Farmers Markets or Asian markets too. 

~ ~ ~

 Scrub the carrots gently in order to retain most of their bright outer color. With a mandolin or vegetable peeler, cut thin lengthwise ribbons to make about 4 cups. Discard ends or any tough cores. (What worked best for me was to lay the carrot on the cutting board, holding the thin end of the carrot in one hand and with the other, using a vegetable peeler and a bit more pressure than normal, peel from the small end to the large. I discarded both the first and last strip of each carrot since that was mostly peel.) 

Put dark and light carrot ribbons in separate bowls of ice water and soak about 15 minutes to crisp them up. Drain in a colander and roll in kitchen towels. (or line a salad spinner with towel and spin.) 

Go through the pea shoots, discarding thick or tough stems and tearing sprigs into 4- or 5-inch pieces.

Pull the strings from the straight sides of snap peas (& snow peas if using) and then thinly slice lengthwise.

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rhubarb apple tart & tulips on the table

we all bring something to the table. what are our gifts? what of ourselves do we decide to grow and then share? what love language do we speak? do we learn to speak another’s? how well do we listen?

my husband learned years ago that i love flowers. in the beginning he would order elaborate flower arrangements (full to overflowing) and have them delivered to the door. then, somewhere along the line, he learned i like simple, and all of one thing. and now, he brings me bundles wrapped in paper, wound with string, carried in his own man arms. and sometimes, after days away, blooms are there, welcoming me home again.

if you’ve been with me awhile, you’ve heard of my fear of pie. (more truly, it was fear of a colossal-y failed crust.) i’ve done truly brave things in my life (i’ll even cop to a “reckless” act or two) but pie crust? why and how this fear (irrational to begin with) grew to be such a beast, you might guess. but for years i steered clear of the rolling pin. then, only fairly recently, i decided to stand toe to toe with that tiger, stare unflinching into his golden eyes.

that tiger walks beside me now, purring like a kitten. and finally (and this is reason enough to take on a tiger) i can make my love his apple pie.

Apple Rhubarb Tart

I’ve shared my recipe for a tart shell in an earlier post. (see French Lemon Tart if you want to be tempted!) I’ll include the crust recipe here too, at the end of the post. I’d like to be humble about this, but after years of being humble, to finally be proud seems like something worthy of sharing. So here’s the un-softened, un-humble truth. This crust is   a.w.e.s.o.m.e.

A word about the filling: I grew up eating and loving rhubarb. To me, it’s a thing of spring. So as a base for this pie is a thick rhubarb “compote” of sorts – the liquid cooked out of it and nothing but the essence of the fruit remaining, lightly sweetened, imbued with the scented seeds from a vanilla pod and touched with a hint of cardamon. Apples, rolled in melted butter and brown sugar twirl across the top. Serve as is, warm from the oven, with or without ice-cream or crème fraîche. Or serve it chilled. It’s not too sweet for brunch or tea.

the Fillings

the rhubarb

  • 1 pound rhubarb stalks
  • 2/3 cup dark brown sugar or muscavado
  • 1/3 vanilla bean
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom

the apple

  • 2 apples – Granny Smith or Pink Lady are good (or any other apple that will hold its shape while cooking)
  • 2 Tablespoons butter
  • 2 Tablespoons dark brown sugar or muscavado

Wash the rhubarb stalks. Split in half lengthwise, then cut into pieces about 1/2-inch or smaller. Put in a medium-size heavy pot. Split the piece of vanilla bean in half lengthwise and scrape out the seeds, adding both the pod and seeds to the pot. Drop in the brown sugar and cardamom.

Place the lid on the pot and cook over low heat for 15 minutes or until saucy. (No water in this compote – the low heat will encourage the rhubarb to release its own moisture.)

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home again home & whole fruit margaritas

Here is what I know:

These 9 days away have been some of  the most

  indescribably JOYOUS, smile and laugh and love til you split wide open of days!

~ and ~

I’ve missed the man I love! I’ll soon be home! And waiting will be:

he

fish tacos

& whole fruit margaritas

Whole-Fruit Margaritas

¼ cup water

1 whole succulent navel orange, peel removed

1 ripe & extremely tart lemon, rind removed

1 juicy lime, peel-less

¼ cup sugar

6 ounces tequila

2 ounces Grand Marnier

6 cups ice cubes

Place all ingredients in a high-speed blender and process until margarita-ish.

Moisten the rim of 2 glasses with fresh lime.

Dip in salt.

Fill nearly to the brim with margarita!

kiss!

xo

the littlest “little” comes home


Meet Andrew Justice…

the littlest of our little ones…

Not far from where he started…

Drew and his family…

with Mama and sister Emi…

Emi with her newest little brother…

Luke and little Drew…

~

Daddy & Drew…

Emi, Luke & Drew…

the family celebrates…

What a joyous place to spend my days!!

Happy I could share a bit of it with you.

with Love & Joy,

spree

Easter morning

And whether or not you celebrate Easter, may this Sunday morning be full of light, warmth & good cheer,

and may there be love on, and all around, your table! 

love, spree

beholding

when you opened the eyes of your heart today,

what or whom did you see?


a braided bread for special occasions – made easy with a food processor

This bread has been a favorite around our house for years. There’s hardly ANY time at all in the actual preparation. No muscles required, no sporty (red or otherwise) stand mixer to pull out of its cupboard. Just a food processor and a couple simple ingredients and you’re in the bakin’ business. Of course, like all yeasted breads, there’s time spent loitering around. You design what form your loitering will take, but here’s how to make the bread – so easy, you might confuse it with play. First, I’ll give of all the instructions for the basic braided loaf (in the style of Challah, a Jewish egg bread.) Then I’ll show you how to adapt it so as to end up with a Greek-style festive Easter bread.

Glaze

1 large egg

½teaspoon salt

Bread:

 1 scant Tablespoon dry Yeast (1 pkg)

3 Tablespoons Sugar  

2/3 cup Water (105° to 115º F) —See NOTE 

Bread Flour – 3 cups (15 ounces, 425 g) or more

¼ cup Safflower or other neutral-tasting oil — See NOTE on Ingredients

2 large Eggs

1 teaspoon Salt

Poppy or Sesame seeds (optional)

________

NOTE: Milk brought to temperature may be substituted for the water. Melted butter may be used in place of the oil. Both of these substitutions will result in a richer loaf.

Braided Bread

(makes 2 loaves)

In the bowl of the processor, whir the egg and salt together, then pour into a small cup and reserve. No need to wash the work bowl.

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Easter bread – a Greek tradition

This is the bread traditionally made for Greek Easter, and much like the one our Yaya would bring to the table.

Yaya’s kitchen had a converted wood oven, marbled-linoleum floors, tall ceilings covered in tin tiles, and smelled like nothing you’ve likely ever breathed — but should have! I remember, as a young girl, standing in her kitchen, watching in utter fascination as she – wearing an apron over one of her always-black dresses –  would gently wrestle huge batches of dough, her stocky arms covered in flour, her hair wound in blonde-white braids around her head, her face serene. Four boys in that family, and they ate a lot of bread. And we did too, whenever we visited our Yaya and Papou.

I don’t have my yaya’s recipe for bread. But Yaya didn’t have or use recipes. How to make bread was in her body somewhere. She didn’t think it or measure carefully. She poured from glass bottles, scooped with bare hands, smelled and felt and knew when things were right.

This isn’t Yaya’s recipe, but it’s as close as I could come. It’s a brioche-type loaf – tender-crumbed, buttery, with a hint of anise and orange, absolutely delicious. The red egg is optional of course, but quite pretty nestled in its sesame-strewn, braided nest. If you decide to use one in yours, insert it between the twisted or braided ropes after it’s risen but before the egg-wash and sesame seeds have been added. You can insert the egg either uncooked or hard-boiled, but it’s typically not eaten after its baked with the bread.

In a separate post to follow tomorrow, I’ll be sharing a recipe for a – quick & easy – alternative to this loaf.  It’s a Challah that I’ve made for years using the food processor, but with slight variations for this occasion.) 

Easter Sweet Bread – Tsoureki

the recipe can be doubled for 2 Tsourekia

  • ½ cup warm water
  • the zest from 1/2 large orange
  • 1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ cup warm milk
  • ½ cup unbleached white flour
  • 1 Tablespoon sugar
  •  1 Tablespoon active dry yeast
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cube unsalted butter (1/4 cup) – melted
  • ¼ cup plus 2 Tablespoons sugar
  • 1 extra large egg, well-beaten
  • ½ t. anise extract
  • 2½ to 3 cups unbleached white flour
  •  1 egg white, well beaten
  • sesame seeds for the top
  • 1 red-dyed Easter egg (optional)

Using a microplane zester if you have one, remove only the zest of ½ orange.  Finely chop the zest and add it to the warm water and olive oil in the bowl of your mixer. Add the warm milk and combine well with a whisk. (It’s important that the zest be very fine here so as to fully infuse the bread with delicate flavor, but no chunks of peel. If you don’t have a microplane, I recommend you put the first three ingredients in a blender first, then add them, along with warm milk, to the bowl of your mixer.)

In a separate bowl, combine the ½ cup flour,  1 T. sugar, the yeast and salt. Add slowly to the wet mixture of the previous step, whisking as you go, until all is well-combined. Set in a warm draft-free place to proof for 20 minutes.

Fit the stand mixer with paddle attachment and return the bowl to the mixer. Turn on low speed, and slowly add the flour. (Yaya knew the amount of flour is always variable in a bread recipe. It’s going to depend on how you measure both wet and dry ingredients, the humidity, the size of your eggs, etc. Last time I made this, it took nearly 3 cups, but if you add too much, your bread will be lacking in tenderness, which would be such a shame!  Add the final ½ cup gradually, as needed. You’ll want to add enough flour so that the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl and starts to rise up on your beaters.The final dough should have the feel of a baby’s soft bottom. If that helps??  It’s really not tricky!)

Increase the speed of your mixer slightly and knead for 4 minutes until the dough becomes silky.  (If you don’t have a stand mixer you can do all of this by hand. Because there’s no whole-grain in this recipe, this is not a difficult one to knead – and there are times when kneading just feels so right!)  Take the dough and all its little bits from the bowl, form into a nice ball and return it back to the bowl to rise. Cover  and set in a warm place to double – about 40 minutes. (One nice environment is in your oven – no heat! – just fill another bowl with hot water and put it inside the oven along with your bowl of dough. Or you can rest it on a sunny ledge – if you live in one of those places where the sun shines!)

Turn the dough out onto a very lightly floured board. (Or if you like, you can lightly grease it instead.) Roll into a long rope with your hands. Pick up the two ends of  your ropes and set them down close to you. Now, just draw one end of the rope over the other, then under, then up over again. (All you’re really doing is making two complete twists.) Gently squeeze the ends together.

The halfway mark where you first folded the rope is where the egg will eventually nestle. But not yet. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Cover and set in a warm place to double in size, another 40 minutes to an hour approximately.

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the story of the Scarlet Egg

It is told, that in a time long ago, among the rock-strewn hills of Greece, a young woman was seen walking to market, carrying a basket of eggs she’d collected. The hems of her skirts were dusty. Her shoulders were stooped, her step was slow and heavy. Her face bore a great sadness. A group of men passing by stopped to ask, with concern, “Why so sad, lady?”

“Have you not heard?” she answered, surprised at their ignorance. “Christ our Lord has died and been buried!”

“Have YOU not heard?!” they asked, amazed.”Christ was buried, but He has risen!”

“Risen? from death? This can’t be! If you speak the truth, may these eggs I carry turn red!”  And before her very eyes, they did. Her basket of pearl white eggs had suddenly turned brilliant scarlet. And she, now believing the news she’d been given, exclaimed, “He has risen!  Indeed, He has risen!”  And she ran home to tell the news.

“Χριστοσ Ανεστο!”  (Christos anesti!)

Our father grew up, and married our mother, in the Greek Orthodox Church. Up until the time they married, Easter at our house was overseen by the big Bunny, who, along with whichever of his assistants he called upon, hid the eggs and filled our baskets with jelly beans, chocolates and crayons. We loved it – of course. But when our Dad entered our lives, carrying with him his wonderful Greek traditions and the stories to explain them, suddenly, Easter had a meaning. In Greek culture, traditions around Easter are especially rich.  As our Yaya would say to Mom, “Is not so big Jesus was born, Ruth. Is big He rose!” Of all the Saints’ Days and all the other religious holidays they celebrate, without question, Easter is supreme. There’s no holiday more festive, more family-oriented, nor is there one in which the people feast as long, as much and as happily as they do on Greek Easter.

Easter in the Greek Orthodox Church frequently falls on a date different than the one on most calendars, so our family celebrated twice!

Only some of the traditions made their way into our lives, but those traditions have stuck, now into the fourth generation since Yaya.  And the Scarlet Egg from the story plays a starring role.

First, let me begin by saying, it’s no small feat to turn a white egg scarlet. You may get a lovely shade of bright pink, but honestly, are we impressed? In a photo below, you’ll see the packet of dye I used this year. I picked it up at the local Greek deli (Foti’s in Portland) where our Dad used to buy the feta and olive oil, and where my brother and I sometimes have lunch. When I left the shop with the packet of dye in hand, the owner wished me good luck! And I knew what he meant. As important as it is that the eggs be red, the real challenge is yet to come!

 

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