Friday, May 27, 2011

Aloo Mutter Butter Paneer (Potato, Peas and Cheese)

Note: this entry is linked to the Real Food Holidays Blog Carnival – Shavuot 2011 blog carnival. It's certainly not a traditional Jewish dish (unless you're one of my Jewish friends from India, in which case, this dish isn't breaking news), but it does highlight a different and tasty way to eat your Shavuot cheese outside of the more traditional European blintzes and cheesecake.

At the wedding of two very good friends of ours, we were treated to some very, very good Indian food. Our favourite dish was basically deep-fried cheese and potato balls in a very yummy sauce. I found the recipe quite quickly, however, balked on actually cooking it up because of the deep-frying involved.

Shortly after, I found some paneer at the local grocery store and it was sitting in the fridge for a few weeks - quietly waiting. The opportunity came up at the end of March and I decided to use it in a butter-chickeny-kinda sauce with some other vegetables.

I winged the recipe and it tasted great.

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Aloo Mutter Butter Paneer (Potato, Peas and Cheese)
A great alternative to butter chicken, this dish uses soft Indian cheese as the main protein source.
  • 2+2 tbsp butter
  • 2 onions, minced
  • dash salt (if butter is not salted)
  • 1 tbsp ginger, minced
  • 1 tbsp garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp fenugreek seeds, crushed
  • 1 tbsp garam masala
  • 1 28oz can tomatoes
  • 400g paneer, cut into 1/2" cubes
  • 2-3 potatoes, boiled and cut into 3/4" cubes
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas
  • 1/4 cup half-and-half cream
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
1. Melt butter in a dutch oven on medium and fry onions with salt until translucent.2. Add garlic and ginger and stir for another 1-2 minutes.3. Add fenugreek, garam masala and tomatoes, stir and bring to a boil.4. Reduce to medium-low, cover, and let simmer for 20 minutes.5. Puree mixture with an immersion blender and let simmer for another five minutes.6. Add paneer, potatoes and peas and let simmer for up to five minutes.7. Stir in remaining butter, cream and cilantro, and let simmer for 1-2 minutes until warm again.
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 6 servings
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Wednesday, May 25, 2011


It seems like Jacob's school dismisses early just about any time there's a holiday even remotely nearby, so when Purim rolled around, Meredith decided that the afternoon was a perfect opportunity to make Hamentashen with Jacob.

She found the cookie recipe from Second Helpings, Please!, the only Jewish cookbook with Jell-o recipes (although none of them involve suspended vegetables), and made up the filling recipe from scratch.

With Jacob's help rolling and cutting the dough before filling, they were about 90-minutes in before my mom arrived to relieve Meredith and continue on with Jacob finishing off the second two trays of cookies. It's the first time he participated in the full process and didn't lose interest. Meredith was very proud of him - and very exhausted.

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These chocolate-filled Hamentashen are the perfect Purim treat that can be enjoyed any time of the year.
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup oil
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 4 cups flour
  • for brushing milk
For chocolate filling
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp milk
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
1. Preheat oven to 350-degrees.2. Combine eggs, oil, sugar, baking powder, water, orange juice, salt and flour and mix until dough is soft and not sticky. Add additional flour if necessary.3. Let stand for 15 minutes and divide into 4 equal parts.4. On a floured board, roll to 1/4" thickness and cut into 4" circles.5. Place a spoonful of filling in the centre of each circle and form triangles by folding up the sides and pinching the corners.6. Brush with milk.7. Place on a lightly greased baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes.
For filling:

1. Melt the chocolate chips in the microwave on medium-low power watching carefully to not burn the chocolate (microwave times vary).
2. Mix in sugar, egg, butter, milk and vanilla until thoroughly combined.Note: the butter should melt from the heated chocoate. If it doesn't, put it back in the microwave for 10-20 seconds.
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 50-60 cookies
Dough recipe based on Second Helpings, Please!

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Friday, May 20, 2011

Tandoori Chicken

Another Friday, another chicken.

Still wanting to try more Indian dishes, I found a recipe for Tandoori chicken that looked interesting. This particular recipe used milk instead of yogurt, but in my opinion, could use more masala for the marinate, so I swapped out the dairy for yogurt and adjusted the amount of dry spices up to the amount of sauce.

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Tandoori Chicken
This Tandoori dish is easy to prepare and easily marinates.
  • 1 tbsp ground corriander
  • 1 tbsp ground cumin
  • 1 tbsp turmeric
  • 1-1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 3 tbsp garam masala
  • 5 tbsp sweet paprika
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 kilo chicken legs and/or thighs
  • 1/2 cup whole-milk yogurt
  • 6 tbsp lemon juice
  • 6 tbsp canola oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tbsp ginger, minced
1. Combine masala spices (coriander, cumin, turmeric, cayenne pepper, garam masala, sweet paprika and salt. Divide mixture into two separate containers.2. Sprinkle the first container of masala on the chicken, covering all sides.3. Place chicken in a large ziplock bag and set aside.4. In a small bowl, whisk together milk, lemon juice, canola oil, garlic and ginger.5. Pour liquid mixture into the ziplock bag, remove air and seal. Shake contents to evenly distribute mixture and refrigerate for one to eight hours.
Baking the chicken:
1. preheat oven to 400-degrees.
2. Place chicken on a baking rack with a foil-lined baking pan underneath.3. Sprinkle the remaining masala on the chicken (both sides).
Note: I had some leftover masala.
4. Bake for 30-40 minutes or until chicken is tender and skin is crispy.
Grilling the chicken:
1. Preheat the grill to medium-high.
2. Sprinkle the remaining masala on the chicken (both sides).
Note: I had some leftover masala.
3. Grill until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 160 degrees, rotating the chicken every four minutes.
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 3-4 servings
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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Review: On a Stick

I was sent a second cookbook by Quirk Books - On a Stick: 80 Party-Perfect Recipes by Matt Armendariz.

It's an excellent idea, great for parties any time of the year. Especially parties with people walking around. A great way to serve all sorts of different treats to guests without the trouble of extra plates everywhere.

Once I opened it up I was surprised to find so many recipes required deep-frying. The half-dozen people I showed the book to had the same comment.

But don't let that dissuade you. From the classic corn dogs, breakfast sausages dipped in pancake batter, deep-fried ravioli, chicken tenders in waffle batter, to the deep-fried mac 'n' cheese and spaghetti and meatballs (the list goes on), they all look super-appetizing; just nothing I'd dare make myself (I'm not much of a deep-fryer). Most of them wouldn't be out of place at an upscale gallery opening.

But the offers do go beyond the deep-fried into fresh cheeses, vegetables, grilled offerings, and crazy-good desserts. Some of the ones that stand out include Spam and pineapple skewers, grilled sweet potato wedges, mojito melon skewers, frozen Elvis (chocolate covered bananas with nuts and bacon), cake pops (an upcoming trend at your nearest Starbucks), cheesecake, and even margarita Jell-O shots. Meredith was so excited to see them and immediately started choosing which ones would be made for backyard parties. Needless to say, I now have quite an inventory of sticks and skewers sitting in a drawer!

The last few weeks have been very busy (and cold), so the frozen desserts on a stick will need to wait. But our eldest son knew exactly what he wanted - pizza on a stick. It was quite a simple recipe - make a 12x12 square sheet of pizza dough, top it with sauce and cheese, and roll it. Slice the roll and bake on a sheet. Meredith got a little over-excited and skewered them before baking (instead of after). They were a perfect special treat for lunch.
Meredith's pizza on a stick.
The pizza on a stick in the book looked much prettier, but we'll attribute that to a different style of dough. This dough recipe was a quick no-yeast recipe and we were starving, so we didn't give it any time to rise. Still, it tasted great and we'll definitely be making it again.

Overall, On a Stick is a great book for anyone who frequently needs ideas for parties, and it's also a great conversation piece. I'm glad that it now occupies a place on my cookbook shelf.

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Monday, May 16, 2011

Terrible article: 5 Ways To Throw a Party Without Blowing Your Budget

This week, I encountered the most ridiculous article I've ever read on budgeting for a dinner party. 5 Ways To Throw a Party Without Blowing Your Budget, from The Kitchen was a lazy attempt to write about doing dinner on the cheap.

Idea number one was the obvious standby "throw a potluck," but it went downhill from there.

Bring your own booze (BYOB) (idea #3) can be a given depending on the demographic, and many guests show up with a bottle of wine anyway.

But the slippery slope just continued. Unless you're a starving college student, never ask guests to bring their own meat, china or flatware. What a lazy attempt at advice.

To make things worse, the site requires a login to comment, so I decided to use a different outlet to vent my frustration. I now present my own 5 ways to throw a (dinner) party without blowing your budget.

1. Avoid packaged foods. 
Pickle tray with hummus,
herring, pickled eggs and pickled beets,
and pickles
Yes, it's much easier to throw three dozen puff pastries from the freezer into the oven for 20 minutes for an appetizer, but they cost more. E.g., a home-made hummus with freshly-cut vegetables for dipping can be made from scratch for a fraction of the cost.

2. Use in-season fruits and vegetables.
That fancied-up fruit salad with strawberries and blueberries for dessert is going to cost much more in February than it will at the end of the summer.

3. Consider a vegetarian entrée.
Channa masala, a great vegetarian
choice for a large party.
An easy way to avoid paying for the boneless-skinless chicken breasts for 12 is to not serve them at all. There are lots of tasty vegetarian meals that can easily be prepared. Protein can always be found in other sources such as eggs, beans and tofu.

4. Consider a one-pot main dish.
Many one-pot main dishes (including some casseroles) combine your protein with other vegetables so the meat can go farther per-serving if you choose.

5. Include an inexpensive starch.
Chicken tajine with honeyed tomatoes
and chickpeas
 served on a
bed of couscous.
Offer potatoes, rice or noodles as the base for your meal to sit on. Whether it's Pad Thai, a stir fry, a curry, or a pasta dish, it's also an easy way to eliminate a side-dish.

What are your money-saving tips for throwing a dinner party?

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Friday, May 13, 2011

Creamy Indian Cabbage Casserole

When I was home on parental leave, I had lots of time to cook Friday dinners. I had been wanting to try some of Kathy Gori's recipes from the Colors of Indian Cooking (with my own adaptations, of course), but many of them look intimidating or more time consuming than I was willing to commit to (I still had to take care of a baby, after all!).

One particular recipe caught my eye - a cabbage dish. It was the first time I'd seen cabbage in an Indian dish and her original post was specifically about bags of pre-sliced cabbage.

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Creamy Indian Cabbage Casserole
This creamy cabbage dish is a tasty side dish to any dinner.
  • 4 cups shredded cabbage
  • 2 medium onions, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened grated coconut
  • 1/4 cup chickpea flour
  • 1 tsp ginger, minced
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tbsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/3 cup canola oil
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tbsp sesame seeds

1. Preheat oven to 350-degrees.2. In a large bowl, combine cabbage, onion, coconut, flour, ginger, chilies, corriander and salt. Stir until evenly distributed.3. Add vegetable oil and water. Stir again and pour into an ungreased 8x12 pan.4. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and bake for 30-45 minutes, until the top is lightly browned.
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 8-10 servings Inspired by the Colors of Indian Cooking A creamy cabbage dish with no dairy.

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Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Potato Leek Soup

Anyway, after Robbie Burns day, I decided I should also feature a Welsh dish.

I feel a little guilty. The Welsh have been neglected at the Haggis and the Herring. You'd think they'd put up a bigger stink, but they'd rather just sing a song about it. If Meredith's grandma was still here with us, she certainly would've said something - so this one's for you, Morfydd (a.k.a., Grandma Taffy). Happy Mother's day.

For a second, I contemplated Welsh Cakes (basically pan-fried cookies) since it was more cooking than baking, but they're cookies, so I bailed. I had to go with the quintessential Welsh vegetable - leeks were on the menu.

After some research, I cobbled together a nice potato-leek soup recipe and it was incredible. Butter and cream tends to do that!

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Potato Leek Soup
This creamy potato and leek soup uses Parmesan cheese to add extra flavour
3 tbsp butter3 leeks, thinly sliced1 onion, chopped4 cloves garlic, minced6 potatoes, scrubbed and thinly sliced3-4 cups chicken stock1 cup cream1 tbsp Parmesan cheeseto taste salt and pepper
1. In a dutch oven, melt butter on medium and add leeks and onions. Stir until onions are translucent and starting to brown.2. Add garlic and continue to stir for 2 minutes.3. Add potatoes and stir until evenly mixed.4. Pour stock over the mixture until vegetables are covered. cover and increase heat to maximum until boiling. Reduce to medium and let simmer until potatoes are tender.5. Reduce heat to medium-low and mash about half (or more) of the potatoes using a potato masher. 6. Add cream, parmesean, salt and pepper, stir and let simmer for another 15 mintues before serving. Stir frequently to prevent sticking.
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 6 small bowls
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Friday, May 6, 2011

No-fry Salmon Patties with Creamy Dill Sauce

Right before Passover, mom wanted us to stop by for supper. She found a recipe she thought we'd like - baked salmon patties. I helped out, documented things and took pictures.
These patties turned out fantastic. Crispy on the outside and super-tasty. I'll never want a pan-fried salmon patty again. Yes, these ones use a tub of cream cheese (if you include the sauce), but it's totally worth it.

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No-fry Salmon Patties with Creamy Dill Sauce
These salmon patties are a tasty alternative to pan-fried salmon patties.
250g dill-flavoured cream cheese, at room temperature1 egg1/4 cup sweet onion, minced2 tsp dried parsley1 tbsp lemon juicefrom 1 lemon, lemon zest2 cans salmon2 tbsp relish or minced dill pickles1/4 cup breadcrumbs1 cup panko breadcrumbs1/4 cup margarine or butter, melted3 tbsp milk
1. Preheat oven to 400-degrees.2. Line baking tray with parchment paper.3. Mix half of the cream cheese with the egg, green onion and parsley.4. Add half the lemon juice and zest, salmon relish and 1/4 cup breadcrumbs, and mix well.5. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.6. Combine panko bread-crumbs and butter.7. Roll 1 tbsp balls of salmon mixture and coat in butter-breadcrumb mix.8. Place balls 1” apart on baking sheet and flatten slightly with a fork.9. Bake for 10 minutes on each side - until browned.10. While baking, whisk remaining cheese, remaining lemon juice, zest and milk together for the sauce.
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 36 patties
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Thursday, May 5, 2011

Review: The Encyclopedia of Sandwiches

I was fortunate enough to get my hands on a review copy of The Encyclopedia of Sandwiches by Susan Russo (published by Quirk via Random House). As soon as I took it out of the package I knew it was going to be a good read. A smaller plate-sized book full of delicious photos (by Matt Armendariz) and stories about sandwiches - and recipes, of course!

Russo gives a detailed, but not long-winded overview of the history of the sandwich and pays homage to many of the standards, as well as some of the more obscure (yet historical) works not frequently seen in public. Dessert sandwiches, open-face and pita filled creations are included, as well as the common hamburger and frankfurter (both included since they fall within Russo's definition of sandwich). Yes, the standard Peanut Butter, Club, and Fried Bologna and Grilled Cheese sandwiches are there (including some trivia about the sandwiches themselves), but there's far more to it:
  • The Elvis, a sandwich fit for the King of Rock and Roll: peanut butter, butter, banana and bacon on white bread
  • Chip Butty, an English French-fry sandwich (did you know that 'butty' is 'sandwich' in Welsh?)
  • Toasted Chocolate Sandwich (possibly created by Hershey's to sell more chocolate)
  • Fluffernuffer, invented in 1913 by Emma Curtis of the Curtis Marshmallow Factory
  • Spamwich, made with SPAM, of course - a product that's as wildly popular in Hawaii as it is the butt of jokes in Canada.
There are also some fairly sophisticated sandwiches that once seen should make a regular appearance on your table:
  • Croque-Monsieur, more than a glorified grilled cheese with ham
  • Curried Chicken Salad sandwich, with roots in Buckingham Palace
  • Denver Sandwich, similar to a Western omelet, with possible roots in the Chinese dish Egg Foo Young
  • Felafel Sandwich, with a unique-looking felafel rolled in sesame seeds
  • Grilled Portobello Sandwich, a super-yummy looking balsamic marinated mushroom with roasted red pepper and mozarella on a ciabatta bun.
Okay, I think you're starting to get the picture.

Jeremy loves sandwiches even
though he's still not big
enough to eat one.
In terms of attention to detail for a book that includes recipes, what really caught my eye in this book is that the ingredient index is in the front of the book - very practical when you're staring into your fridge and spot what's left of the hummus, and are wondering what to do with it.

Instructions for building the sandwiches are very well written, with ingredients on the left and directions on the right, with notes at the bottom for any variations or extra tidbits of information.

If you love sandwiches or if you're someone who has trouble deciding what to do with the leftover turkey dinner, I recommend picking up The Encyclopedia of Sandwiches.

Deciding which sandwich to recreate was a challenge. Did I want to try a standard, something fancy-pants, or something more on the wacky side? I decided to go with sardine. Sardines aren't the first thing someone of my generation thinks of when you say "do you want a sandwich?" Maybe my parents. Certainly my grandparents generation.

Sardines, in my opinion, are an up-and-coming food. They're full of iron, calcium (from the bones), Omega-3s and they're low in mercury and other toxins since they're such a small fish.

Russo's sardine sandwich is on rye bread (as it should be) and uses sardines packed in oil, spicy mustard, lemon juice and red onion. The sandwich itself was initially brought to North America by Scandinavian immigrants and quickly made its way into New York delis. And Russo doesn't fail to mention the downside of the sardine sandwich - fragrant breath that might not appeal to the average person sitting nearby.

My sardine sandwich on a medium rye. I opted out of the
hard-boiled eggs, however, I couldn't say "no" to the mayo.
My sardine sandwich was on a medium rye bread, and it was excellent. The lemon removes some of the fishy taste you get with sardines (not that I mind it), and gives it a lighter taste.

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Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Potato, Cauliflower and Peas Curry

Late last year, I put two and two together when I clued in that an Indian take-out-slash-caterer a friend frequently spoke of is actually walking distance from our (now not so) new place.

Mistaan is a fairly big operation with a small store front that offers a take-out menu, some packaged foods and Indian movies. I started dropping by occasionally for samosas (3 for $1) and eventually started taking home vegetable parokas as well. It's becoming a problem, being so close.

Anyway, with some friends coming over for dinner, I had a few dishes prepared but I decided I needed something else. A quick trip to Mistaan resulted in samosas, parokas, a container of saag paneer (spinach and cheese - OMG so good), a bottle of mango chutney for the deep-fried goodies, and a bottle of lime pickle (limes packed with chili peppers) to add some zip to the meal.

The rest of the meal included my kofta curry, spiced rice and a variation of something new I saw at Niya's World, Aloo Gobi Mutter Ki Subzi (potato cauliflower and peas). It turned out way better than I thought it would. The recipe also called for Amchur powder (mango powder) that I had bought some time ago and had yet to use. Overall, we stuffed ourselves stupid and still had leftovers for the following evening (since our guests were leaving town and couldn't bring it with them).

That's what I call a Friday night dinner.

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Potato, Cauliflower and Peas Curry
This tasty vegetable curry uses mango powder and compliments any Indian-themed dinner.
1 tbsp water1 tsp chili powder1/2 tsp turmeric6-8 potatoes, cubed1 small cauliflower3 tbsp oil2 onions, thinly sliced1 cup peas1/2 tsp mango powder (amchur) 1 tsp garam masala1/4 tsp salt3 tbsp water1-2 tbsp cilantro, chopped
1. In a small glass, combine water, chili powder and turmeric, stir and set aside.2. Boil potatoes until soft.3. Cut flortes from cauliflower, discarding centre.4. In a deep pot, fry onions in oil over medium heat until translucent.5. Add water and spice mixture and continue to stir for 2-3 minutes.6. Add potatoes, cauliflower, peas, mango powder, garam masala and salt and stir for 2-3 minutes.7. Add 3 tbsp water, cover and cook for 10-12 minutes on low, until cauliflower is soft. Add additional water if necessary.8. Stir in cilantro before serving.
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 10 servings
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