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Posts tagged ‘spices’

on sweet eats

Only once as a child was I made to strongly urged to eat my dessert. Our family of five,  plus my uncle and his new wife were gathered around our maple dining table. Each of our wintry faces was warmed and brightened by the candle’s winking light. Mom, in her fancy apron, her hair pulled back in a thick high ponytail, was beaming. She’d worked hard on this dessert.

Christmas pudding.

Sounds innocuous enough. To some it might even sound a tad romantic.  A dessert of a time past when people cooked in black pots placed on grates in large fireplaces, when people wiped their mouths with their sleeves or aprons, and hunting dogs curled around the legs of the table and caught the scraps that fell.  Everyone basked in the glow of candlelight back then. Christmas pudding….

Ahhh! Lovely, dear!

At first whiff I knew this was going to be nasty. I declined as politely as I could by pushing it away and making a face. “You haven’t even tried it.”   “But I don’t need to, I know I won’t like it!”   “Well, you’re going to try it.”   “See, I told you I wouldn’t like it!”   “Maybe you just need another bite to be sure.”

The story doesn’t end well. I had several bites that night, and then lost a good portion of the dinner I had liked. I had a very weak stomach back then, a nose that could sniff green pepper or alcohol a room away, and a very – discerning – palate for a seven-year-old.

(Don’t think a single dark thought about our Mom. She’s a sweetheart and a mighty fine cook, and I’ve got plenty of stories and recipes to prove it!)

Why are we here then, you ask. Certainly not to share in Mom’s recipe for Christmas Pudding!? (No, our smarter-than-average Mom never made that ghastly thing again.)

 I’m here (once more) to strongly urge you to eat your vegetables – AS your dessert this time! Fortune smiles!

AND you ‘re going to love it – at first bite! (So will seven-year-olds.)

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CarrotParsnipZucchiniBread-4

WHY will you love it? (Good of you to ask.) It’s aromatic, tender, light, flavorful, not-dry (I know some people despise the word moist), it’s soft in the mouth, sweet on the tongue – and what? good for you! Warmed for breakfast, packed in a kid’s lunch, a little pick-me-up in the afternoon, a light bit of sweet after dinner. This makes 2 loaves, and you only add ½ cup of sugar – yet it’s delicately sweet. (It does have some fruit butter which has a bit of its own sugar, but we’re not going to hold that against it.) We do like this – ever so much – around our house!

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Carrot-Parsnip-Zucchini Bread

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1½ cups all-purpose flour

½ cup whole wheat flour (the white variety of whole wheat works best for tender baked goods like this but any will do)

2 Tablespoons hulled Hemp Seeds (Optional – but so packed nutritionally and with a delicious nutty flavor)

½ cup sugar

1½ teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon ground nutmeg

½ teaspoon ground  cloves

1 medium carrot shredded

1 medium parsnip, shredded

1 small zucchini, shredded

3 large eggs

¾ cup apple butter or pumpkin butter (I’ve only made this with pumpkin butter, but either would be equally good)

3 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 Tablespoon vanilla extract (yes, that much)

2 Tablespoons pumpkins seeds for the top

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Preheat the oven to 375°F (180°C) Either oil two 8½ x 4½ inch loaf pans with olive oil or line with parchment paper. (Loaves will lift right out of the pan, cleanly, with parchment paper.)

Wash, peel and grate your vegetables.

CarrotParsnipZucchiniBread-1

about 2-1/2 cups total shredded vegetables will be perfect

In a large bowl, combine the flours, hemp seed, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. Stir to combine well. Add the shredded carrots, zucchini and parsnip. Stir to coat the shreds evenly.

In another bowl, whisk together the eggs, fruit butter of your choice, the olive oil and vanilla extract.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix until well combined, but be careful not to over-mix which would toughen the loaves.

CarrotParsnipZucchiniBread-2

so liberating to make a mess – as any seven-year-old knows – and it comes easier with practice

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curried cauliflower soup

Here’s a soup to warm the cockles of your heart.  No idea what I mean by “cockles”, but by soup I mean silky and warm, subtly complex, aromatic spoonfuls. If you think you’re not a fan of cauliflower, but are feeling up for a small culinary adventure, I think you’ll be surprised – the cauliflower just lends itself to the overall  creaminess of this soup and never brags about its starring role (which I respect in a vegetable.)  When we seek a warm refuge from winter’s chill, it’s nice to know we’ve got…..

CurriedCauliflowerSoup-3_____

Curried Cauliflower Soup

(makes about 2 quarts)

3 Tablespoons coconut oil (see NOTE)

1 large yellow onion

2 teaspoon sugar

2 to 3 teaspoon green curry paste

 2 teaspoons (or more) garam masala (see NOTE 2)

¼ teaspoon cayenne

1 teaspoon cumin powder (or 1¼ t. seeds, dry roasted & ground)

Sea Salt as you go

1 medium cauliflower, cut into florets 

2 medium Yukon Gold potatoes, cubed

5 cups low sodium chicken or vegetable stock or broth

1 medium green apple, peeled, pared and chopped

1 can coconut milk

1 fresh lime

 Garnish: ¼ cup plain whole milk yogurt + 3 Tbl. chopped cilantro (+ lime wedges)

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Preheat the oven to 400°F (205°C) Wash the cauliflower and cut into florets. Melt 1 Tablespoon coconut oil, and drop into a medium-sized bowl along with the cauliflower and a good sprinkle of sea salt. Tumble onto a baking sheet or a roasting pan, sprinkle with a few pinches of the  garam masala and roast until tender and lightly browned.CurriedCauliflowerSoup-5

While the cauliflower is roasting, gently sauté the onion in 2 Tablespoons coconut oil until translucent. Add 2 teaspoons of green curry paste to start. Later you can add another teaspoon if you decide you like the warmth and want more. (I use 3 and don’t find it overly spicy at all.) Add the sugar, 1 teaspoon of salt, and the remaining spices and continue sauteing for one minute. Add the cubed potatoes and chopped apple and stir over the heat for another couple minutes.

Add the broth and bring the pot to a boil. Reduce the heat to maintain a low simmer. After 15 minutes, add the roasted cauliflower and continue cooking until the vegetables are very tender.

Remove the pan’s contents in several batches and puree in a blender until completely smooth. (Be careful not to overfill the blender, and put a folded towel on the top to ensure hot contents don’t sputter up.) Return pureed soup to the pot . Check for salt and add to taste. Stir in a can of coconut milk and reheat the soup.  Again check for salt. Squeeze in the juice of one-half lime, and cut the remainder in wedges for serving.

Mix together the yogurt and chopped cilantro. Ladle soup into bowls, put a dollop of the yogurt/cilantro mixture on top, a little sprinkle of cilantro bits for extra color and serve with lime.

{ to print the recipe, click }

CurriedCauliflowerSoup-1

NOTE:  Coconut oil comes in a jar, usually in the vegetable oil section at your market. It’s solid at room temperature. It comes in either refined or unrefined form….the unrefined has  more of a coconut aroma and a somewhat lower smoking point than the refined. If you do the research, you’ll find that coconut oil and coconut milk have a variety of healthful properties  I keep both on hand, but like the unrefined for this and most dishes. Read more

plum crazy

You have no idea how much I’ve missed you, but I’ve missed you like crazy. These 14 weeks of dust and rubble, hammer and nail, paint and stone have drug along their path like a tired old tortoise at times. Forced to slow down and follow the tortoise – I was to learn there was no passing lane – I tried to cultivate patience and grow extra gratitude for the many kindnesses and the pretty views along the way. I had ample opportunity to practice releasing expectations of what my days might bring, and yet at times I would forget, and fail, and feel myself a disappointment. I thought I could post more along the way, but simply put, I couldn’t. I thought I could at least follow fellow-bloggers who I’ve grown so fond of. But not even that. Once or twice my forehead met the brick wall. But over and over again I was taught, let go, be gentle.

I know Life isn’t through with lessons on this score because, when all is said and done, I barely got a passing grade, and that only because my teacher kind of liked me.  {smile}

I’m back, for real this time. We have one new kitchen and two new bathrooms. Even the repairs to our little cabin ~ where we had a flood (of sorts) and a fair share of damage ~ is nearly done. The dust is swept, the windows are washed. The workmen and women have all gone on to other jobs, leaving behind a grateful (and humbled) heart.

I’ll be resuming my trips to Farmers’ Markets and will post the subsequent vegetable and fruit recipes on Wednesdays. I have new Spreenkles to share. Several new takes on pizzas. A chutney, a jam. A soup . a cake . a drink.  And at last I can catch up on some reading! For the next several weeks there will be a fairly steady stream here at Spree, and so far I see no lumbering tortoises on the horizon.

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We have a plum tree growing out back. The bugs love the leaves and make lace of them, and yet still a crop of plump plums is left for us late summer. Our dogs are plum crazy and love to forage for the fallen ones, though this makes them rather difficult to live with (if you catch my drift) so we always try to beat them to the punch.

Our plums aren’t quite ripe for the eating yet, but I’ve found many varieties at the market that are. Black-skinned, dusty iris or nearly magenta, insides pure gold to deep blushing pink. Have you tasted plucots, (or pluots) that hybrid between a plum and an apricot? You should. The produce man, with honey juices dripping from his knife,  sliced off a piece of his favorite for me. My basket soon was brimming with the colors of Monet’s garden, on their way to becoming jam, fragrant with ginger and warm spices.

Plum Plucot Jam with Ginger & Spices

fills approximately 2 pint jars – possibly 2½ – or 5 half-pint jars

  • a total of 4 pounds ripe plums & plucots* – pitted and diced
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons strained fresh lime juice
  • 2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger
  • ¾ teaspoon cardamom
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon allspice

* Or use all plums if you like – a mix of varieties is nice, but a majority of black plums with deep scarlet flesh will make for the most beautifully colored jam

NOTE: If you prefer to make a freezer jam, you can ignore the canning steps and simply fill your jars with cooked jam, allow to cool, and then place in the freezer.

Sterilize the jars and keep them hot in the canning pot.  Place a small plate in the freezer (to be used for testing readiness of the cooked jam later.) Put the flat lids of the jars in a heatproof bowl and set aside.

Place the diced plums and plucots, along with sugar, in a wide 6- to 8-quart pot. Bring to a simmer, stirring frequently, then continue to cook for another 5 minutes. Pour the contents of the pot into a colander set over a large bowl and stir the fruit gently to release the juices into the bowl.

Pour the juices back into the pot and bring to a boil over high heat. Stirring frequently, boil until the syrup is reduced and thick, 10 minutes or so more.

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Indian red bean curry – rajmah

Installment 2 in the series – we can feed another… 

My very good friend Amit was born and raised in Delhi, India. He tells me  how much time he would spend outdoors as a boy, running long distances, playing hard with his friends and his brothers, from morning until the hot sun was nearly down. Here he is, on the left, with his mother Anjana and his middle brother Moni, resting in a field of nasturiums at the end of a long day of play.

But something else was happening while Amit was growing up a boy in India. He was paying close attention to what his mother was doing in the kitchen. I know, because to eat at Amit’s house today is a treat, a sumptuous, sensuous, exotic and deeply satisfying treat! Even the simplest of meals feels like a feast at Amit’s house. He moves around his kitchen with ease and a deep but relaxed concentration, spooning spices from their metal tin, peeling and finely slicing ginger, roasting seeds in a pan on the stove. It takes but a few minutes of watching him at work in the kitchen and smelling the aromas rising before you know that the meal you’re about to be served is well on its way towards being amazing.

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I told Amit that spree was doing a series on beans and rice dishes and the reasons why. (See rice & beans.) I asked if he’d share something his mother had cooked while he was growing up – something he’d loved then and brought with him when he moved to the States. He readily volunteered today’s recipe.

As often happens, we pick up the recipes of our parents and adapt them to our changing tastes and ideas about food and what we expect from it. Amit has made a couple changes to the recipe below, but we have first his mother Anjana to thank. This was a dish she was eating growing up a girl in India (seen here with her brother) –  long  before it came to be one of Amit’s very favorite dishes.

pressure cooker was used for this recipe. It makes very short work of cooking with dried beans, and cooking your own dried beans from scratch is always a more flavorful alternative to canned.

No Pressure Cooker?  – it can also be made using a simple soup pot,  though it will take somewhat longer…or, if you’re in need of getting dinner on the table a bit faster, canned beans (likely pinto) would be a good option. Keep in mind though that cooking the beans with these wonderful spices really is the secret behind a fabulous dish of beans!

See bottom of post for serving suggestions, which include rice and raita (an Indian yogurt sauce)

Red Bean Curry – Rajmah

  • 2 cups dried light red beans, preferably soaked overnight in water that covers by 3 inches (See NOTE on variety of beans to use) – if using canned beans, 3 cans should do
  • 3 to 4 large ripe tomatoes, diced
  • 1 Tablespoon peanut oil (or grapeseed oil – any oil with higher smoking point)
  • fresh ginger root    (3 thin slices 1-inch x 2-inch each, then cut into narrow strips)
  • 2 teaspoons cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 Tablespoon garam masala (a wonderful Indian spice blend)
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 jalapeño pepper coarsely chopped (if you prefer a spicier dish, finely dice it)
  • 6 – 8 whole cloves
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons tamarind paste – I like 2 (find in Asian section of the market – see photo at bottom – if you absolutely can’t find, add fresh lime juice to taste)
  • salt – to taste
  • cilantro ½ to 1 whole bunch, washed well and chopped, stems included
  • 6 to 8 green onions, sliced

NOTE:  You can use a variety of red beans for this recipe: pinto, Anasazi, Borlotti or any other of the “cranberry” beans. You could also use kidney, but they are a bit less “creamy” than others just named, and a bit gummier too.

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Soak beans overnight in enough water to cover by 3 inches. Discard the soaking water.

Cut long thin (longitudinal) strips from the ginger. Add peanut oil to the pressure cooker (or soup pot) on medium or medium-low heat. Add cumin seeds. Amit says to fry until they “chit-chit”  which is the sound they’ll make as they approach doneness and are dancing around the bottom of the pan. Turns out, that’s a pretty good guide!  Once the cumin has begun to chit-chit, add the julienned ginger and fry until it’s turned a light brown.

Add the diced tomatoes. (I’ve only had this recipe a very short time, and already I’m making my own little changes. I almost always like to add to a dish that has cooked tomatoes, some freshly-cut ones towards the end so that their beautiful color and brightness is present. Therefore, I reserved a 4th medium tomato for that purpose here, cooking for only 2 minutes or less when the dish was nearly ready to serve.) Add the spices – turmeric, garam masala and coriander. Saute for 3 to 5 minutes.

(You will not believe the aromas filling your kitchen! Exquisite I tell you!)

Add very coarsely chopped jalapeño. (If you want the dish more spicy, finely chop the pepper. Want it less spicy? Add it later in the cooking process.)

Add the beans along with 2½ cups of water. (This will create a stew-like consistency. If you’d prefer something a bit soupier, you can add 3 cups of water instead. Turns out that I needed 3.) Add also the whole cloves at this time. Bring the pressure cooker to full pressure and then cook for 15 minutes.

(OK, here’s where a bean dish can go terribly wrong. : ) I cooked for 15 minutes and sampled a couple beans at that time. Not exactly rock-like. Back to the stove. Cooked an additional 7 minutes, figuring they needed at least half again as much time as they were originally given. In the end, my beans required a full 25 – 27 minutes in the pressure cooker. I’ve included a note at the bottom of the post that helps explain. I’d advise that you not take it for granted that your beans will be finished in 15 minutes – though they COULD be!)

Cool down the pressure cooker – then put it back on the burner on medium heat. Add the tamarind paste and stir to mix thoroughly. Add salt to taste.  (Be sure NOT to add salt to un-cooked beans! Their tough little skins will never soften if you do!)  Heat thoroughly, then remove from the burner and allow it to sit with the lid on while you prepare the rice. (Or keep warm on the lowest possible setting on your stove.)

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Serving:

This bean dish goes beautifully atop or alongside white or brown basmati rice or your favorite pilaf. Garnish with torn cilantro and sliced green onions.

Also very delicious served with Raita – in fact I consider it a must. It’s just the right amount of cool and fresh to balance the deep aromas and warmth.

Quick how-to: Thin yogurt with a tiny bit of water. Dry-roast cumin seeds in a pan. Grind coarsely. Add to yogurt along with salt. (Especially Himalayan Pink Salt, naturally.)

Amit also suggests a salad of kale, pomegranate seeds and apple slices, tossed in a dressing of olive oil, fresh lime juice and salt. Allow the kale to sit for a while in the dressing in order to soften and for the various flavors to marry.

A few notes on beans:

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Moroccan roasted chicken and buttery couscous

With Ras el Hanout, the blend of Moroccan spices in yesterday’s post, we’re only a few easy steps away from a succulent chicken dinner that will make a Moroccan daydream that much more real.  This is so simple! With the first 9 ingredients you make a paste in your blender. You rub it on your chicken. You put whole or cut lemons and garlic in the cavity. You pop it in the oven. An hour later, you dine like Bogey and Bacall in Casablanca.

Moroccan Roasted Chicken

Put the following ingredients into a blender and puree.

The rub:

  • 3 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 Tablespoons Hungarian sweet paprika
  • 1 Tablespoon ras el hanout (see NOTE on where  you can purchase)
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh mint, chopped
  • 1 Tablespoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled
The chicken:
  • 4 to 4.5 pound free-range chicken
  • 2 small lemons, pierced all over with a fork – or 1 larger lemon, cut into wedges
  • 6 cloves garlic, un-peeled, barely crushed with the back of a knife

(In yesterday’s post I specified a chicken 4.5 to 5 pounds. I find that the smaller ones are more tender, but you can make that determination for yourself.)

NOTE on where to buy ras el hanout if you decide not to make your own: If you don’t already have most of the spices called for to make your own, it would be less expensive to buy ready-made. One good source on line is at The Spice House –  http://www.thespicehouse.com/spices/ras-el-hanout $6.00 for a standard 2 oz. bottle.

Preheat oven to 400°F. It’s best if you can start with a chicken at or near room temperature, so if you’re able to, remove the chicken from the refrigerator an hour or so before you begin. Rinse the chicken in cold water and dry with paper towels. Rub one-third of the spice rub inside the cavity. Insert the lemons and garlic, and tie the legs together. Smear the remaining rub over the chicken. Roast for approximately 45 minutes, or until the internal breast temperature at the thickest part registers 165°. (Alternately you can pierce the leg and make sure that the juices run clear.)  Remove from the oven and tent it with aluminum foil and allow to rest for 10 or 15 minutes. (This allows time for the juices to sink back into the meat and not flow out onto your cutting board as you carve it.) The lemons cooked inside will be soft and full of juice and are wonderful squeezed on top and served alongside. (We liked it too on our roasted beets.)

(You can begin the couscous about 15 minutes before you expect the chicken to be coming out of the oven.)

Buttery Couscous

A soft, buttery couscous is an ideal accompaniment to this roasted chicken. And again, so easy to prepare. Though I’ve made it plain here, you can add herbs, nuts, spices or dried fruits. Read more

a bowl of irony & a jar of sunlight

Spree’s been down with a stomach bug – blech! The doctor has called for bland. For the last several days, no appetite at all. My husband’s gone to the store (twice) to fill my wish list – and then, not meaning to be ungrateful – I turn my nose up. How in the world does spree do bland? What an irony!

Spree’s White Rice

  • 2 teaspoons clarified butter (or olive oil if you haven’t any)
  • 1/8 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1/8 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1/8 teaspoon coriander seed
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup white basmati rice
  • 2 cups water
  • chopped cilantro as garnish, optional, but just about perfect

Put clarified butter (Ghee, in India) into a heavy pot. Add cumin, fennel and coriander seeds and toast over medium-low heat until (as my friend from India says) “they go chit chit,” which is to say they crackle and get medium-toasty brown. Add the rice, salt and stir to coat with butter. Add your water and bring to boil. Stir once. Reduce heat to simmer for 18 minutes. (Don’t peek.) Turn heat off and allow rice to sit undisturbed for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork, and serve with something colorful and savory…if you can. (But even unaccompanied or unadored, it satisfies.) A sprinkling of chopped cilantro over top, nice!

A Jar of Sunlight – Clarified Butter

Butter is a combination of butter fat, milk solids and water. Clarifying removes the water and milk solids, leaving pure buttery goodness and elevating the smoking point. With clarified butter, you can now turn up the heat without risk of smoking up your kitchen or blackening your lovely meal plan. It has an absolutely wonderful aroma and delicately-toasty taste. It keeps well in the refrigerator for at least a month. (Some grocery stores will sell ghee in the refrigerated section.)

a jar of sunlight

  • 8 ounces unsalted butter
  • a heavy pot
  • a jar
  • a piece of dampened cheesecloth

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Rubbed Grilled Salmon

Once salmon season has finally arrived, this is one of our very favorite ways of enjoying it! It’s anything but ordinary, it’s easy, it’s memorable and it’s positively delicious. It all starts with the rub, a collection of whole spices dry-roasted, then ground. I know the list of ingredients may give the appearance of complicated and time-consuming – but the rub will take you about 15 minutes to prepare, and likely last you all summer and maybe months beyond. The rest of the dish is a snap!  You like salmon? You will love this! (You might want to keep the recipe handy – you’ll likely be getting plenty of requests for it.)

The Rub:

In a heavy hot skillet, toast the following ingredients for approximately 4 minutes. You want them to brown slightly and begin to release their aromas. But stop short of smoking!

  • 3 Tbl. coriander seeds
  • 3 Tbl. mustard seeds
  • 3 Tbl. cumin seeds
  • 3 Tbl. dry dill seeds
  • 6 Tbl. fennel seeds

Remove the seeds from the hot pan and allow to cool slightly. Grind in a spice grinder or using a mortar and pestle. My preference is to have a few whole seeds remaining, but you can grind them as finely as you like. Then add:

  • 6 Tbl. sugar
  • 3 Tbl. kosher salt or coarse sea salt
  • 1-1/2 tsp. finely ground pepper

Mix well. Stored in an air-tight jar, it will keep for months.

The Fish:

  • Enough salmon fillets to feed your crowd – steelhead fillets are a good substitute

Sprinkle a generous amount of spice rub over the flesh of the salmon and then pat it in place.  If you’re going to be using an oven, preheat it to 400°F. If using an outdoor gas grill, bring it up to the same temperature.

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