Thursday, February 26, 2009

Foodie Friday Week 2 - Some Like It Hot: Phool Gobhi aur Tamatar

My husband loves Asian cuisine, especially when it's highly spiced. He likes it so much, that sometimes I strongly suspect that one of the reasons he married me was because I owned a wok! Several woks and thirty odd years later, I'm still making Asian dishes, usually 3 or 4 times per week, and I really don't mind one bit. It's a healthy way to eat when you stay away from the deep (fried) end of things.

Recently, we shared a Vietnamese style dish, Scallops with Asian Noodle Salad,
It made a nice Sunday night supper.
We always enjoy Spicy Chicken with Fresh Orange. It definitely has Szechwan roots, and is simple to prepare.
It's a perfect meal for a busy weekday. (We like it served over lettuce. This keeps the calories down, and the cold lettuce is a nice contrast to the spiciness.)
A few weeks ago, we added a new Indian dish to the ever expanding repertoire.
Phool Gobhi aur Tamatar, (cauliflower and tomatoes), is an extraordinary way to brighten up a very ordinary head of cauliflower.
Served with Tilapia that was sprinkled with salt and pepper, lightly dusted with flour and pan seared, it made a tasty and satisfying dinner that was very low in calories yet high in flavor.
Like most Asian recipes, there's quite a bit of prep work, but then the cooking is quick.
Ingredients: 1 T. safflower oil 1 T. fresh ginger root, minced
1/2 C. onion, finely chopped 2 large cloves, garlic, minced
1/2 t. mustard seeds or 1/4 t. dry mustard
1/4 t. turmeric
1-2 t. garam marsala or 1/3 t. each ground cumin, ground coriander and black pepper
1-2 fresh or dried chili peppers, seeded and chopped
***Important note here: I stopped using chili peppers years ago and substitute Vietnamese chili garlic sauce. It's easy to use, lasts forever in the fridge, and provides a nice even heat in spicy dishes. In this recipe I used about a teaspoon. Use more or less to suit your taste.
More ingredients: One small head of cauliflower, divided in to small florets
One large ripe tomato, coarsely chopped
1-2 T. fresh lemon juice
Fresh chopped cilantro for garnish
Now we're ready to cook! Heat the oil in a large nonstick wok or fry pan, and saute the onion, garlic and ginger until soft.
Add the spices and peppers and cook for 3 or 4 minutes, stirring constantly.
Add the cauliflower florets and toss until they are evenly coated with the onion mixture. (Now I know why my wooden spoons have singed handles!)
Stir in the tomato, reduce heat, and cook for 3-5 minutes until the cauliflower is tender but not mushy. (I had to add more chopped tomato and a bit of water to keep the mixture cooking.)
Add lemon juice. And garnish with the cilantro.
I forgot the cilantro garnish and put the camera away. I was too intoxicated by the aromas swirling through the kitchen and sat down to eat, but you've all seen cilantro so I thought you wouldn't mind.

BTW: There is a downside to this dish. If you cook with wooden spoons, they will turn a lovely shade of greenish yellow.
After a few washings, your spoon will return to it's normal color, but your tastebuds may never be the same!
For many more epicurean delights please visit Designs by Gollum and see the full list of bloggers participating in Foodie Friday.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Books + Food = Books Appetit!

There are usually several very important things hanging on the bulletin board in my office, but yesterday, nothing was more important than this:
In what could only be considered a stroke of genius, the annual "Books Appetit" benefit at our local library was scheduled for Fat Tuesday this year! Be still my heart! Sumptuous food,(don't let the 'light refreshment' tag on the ticket fool you), was going to be consumed in my favorite place, on a day whose sole purpose on God's green earth is to over indulge? Surely, this was my admission ticket to heaven!
When we arrived at the library, we were given Mardi Gras beads.
Then, the ticket ladies took our tickets.
Other ladies sold us more tickets...
so we had a chance to win one or more of these gift baskets.
The circulation desk was converted into a very decent bar, and wine, beer, soda and water were liberally dispensed. Hey, that's my sweetie in the dark gray blazer getting me a drink! He's going to be surprised that he's on my blog. Thanks dear.
I just noticed that the computers are missing! Smart move to tuck them out of the way with the libations flowing so freely, and isn't that a lovely ice bucket?
Now experience is the best teacher, and we've been to this event before, so our next stop was the food area. Good food disappears fast here!
The pizza table was cleared and reset several times. I noticed that most of the men headed there first.
My personal philosophy is, why bother with pizza, (even though it came from excellent pizzerias), when you could head for the table with the gourmet delights???
I tried to get pictures of the glorious food array on this table, but a swarm of locusts, err...I mean patrons, were in my way. If you can't beat them you have to join them, so I grabbed a plate and got in line. I'll just list what I sampled:
-Heavenly crab cakes with a piquant tartar sauce
-Delicate, perfectly seasoned, stuffed mushrooms
-Ravioli with a sweetened ricotta filling that was gently kissed with nutmeg and cinnamon, then bathed in a light bechamel sauce studded with raisins
-Chicken tenders and spinach in a divine Parmesan cream sauce
-Potato/cheese pirogi, gently sauteed with onions in butter
-Feather light miniature rolls, generously filled with your choice of shaved ham or roast beef
There were other items on the menu, but I was pacing myself for dessert. There were tables that looked like this...
and then there was my favorite table. A local chocolatier was offering the most ethereal creations.

The handmade chocolate cups were filled with a lighter than air mousse, and topped with whipped cream. Surely, this was food for the Gods. But wait...what were marbles doing on a table full of sweets? I had to ask. "They're truffles," came the reply.
Truffles??? "Those can't be edible," I exclaimed. "Surely they're works of art!" I immediately told them that I needed three in different colors, because I just had to photograph them! Alas, because of my weak will, only 2 1/2 made it into the photo. I must, however, state for the record that I have no regrets. They were exquisite.The evening's entertainment was about to begin, and everyone began to gather near the stage.
The choir from our middle school gave a stellar performance. Impressive? You bet! And this is coming from an ex-stage mother!
The evening started to wind down and there were many happy people.
There were happy patrons, because they had been wined, dined and entertained.
There were happy circulation clerks, because they weren't working and didn't have to search for one of the gazillion books that I've placed on hold.
There was a happy library director, who was in perpetual motion. (I took 5 photos of her and this is the least blurry!) Tomorrow she's probably going to be written up in the Journal of American Medicine for having survived the highest sugar rush ever recorded.
And there was one happy me, because these are the remains of my day, which I tried to hide in the children' s section.
Shortly after I took this last shot, I melted into a puddle of chocolate ecstasy in the reference stacks. My husband scooped me up and poured the molten me into the car. My food adventure had come to an end.
Today is Ash Wednesday, and we will fast. Bread and soup is all that's on the menu, but I do believe that it will be easy to cope with fasting after experiencing my first truly decadent Fat Tuesday.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The First Foodie Friday - A Tea For My Valentine
Many thanks to Michael at Designs by Gollum for hatching an idea that bloggers can 'sink their teeth into', and not gain an ounce! Can't wait to see what everyone has cooked up for their inaugural posts, but guess I'd better share my humble offering first..

On Valentine's Day, this was my gift to my husband. The poor dear loves tea, but had never experienced a proper afternoon repast. I thought it was time.
I polished the good sterling flat ware, (Damask Rose), and pulled some china, (Old Country Roses), out of the cabinets. I found the best lace in the linen closet, bought a lovely potted plant, and set the table.

Early Saturday morning, I made lemon curd, from a recipe that I had spotted on the Joy of Baking website. If you try it, I promise that you'll never buy another jar...
While the lemon curd set, I went on to make scones, using Alton Brown's recipe from the Food Network archives. There was a moment of panic when my biscuit cutter became unusable, but I rolled the dough a little thinner and used a deep cookie cutter. I was about to have a breakdown, when the scones didn't rise as high as I would have liked, but I did make them thinner, and a certain amount of twisting the cutter occurred because of using the wrong tool. (I really do know better than to twist the cutter when making rolled biscuits or scones, but I was under the gun and improvising. I will own a new set of cutters within the next few days.)

Despite my 'cutter problem', the scones were sinfully delicious, which is the hallmark of a superb recipe. I may have to go to confession. Yes...I ate that many, and they are that wonderful. Buttery, yet light, and filled with currants, they were the best scones that I have ever tasted. Thank you Alton, and God Bless! You have earned your place in heaven. PS: I do own your salt cellar, and I love it!

Next on my work list was to make short bread tarts to fill with the lemon curd. But wait...I didn't have that much time. Left with no alternative, I pulled out a half dozen of the mini puff pastry shells that were stashed in the freezer and threw them into the oven.

Once they cooled, I filled them with the lemon curd and topped them with fresh raspberries. Voila! Instant sweet treat.
Next stop...Savoryville! I needed tea sandwiches that surpassed the ordinary. What's a girl to do??? I had been disappointed by cucumber sandwiches in the past. Was a solution at hand? Yes, yes, yes! I merged several recipes to come up with a tasty alternative to the usual blah tea sandwich fare. I mixed mayonnaise with horseradish, chopped capers and minced scallion. Then, I sprinkled thinly sliced English cucumber with white vinegar and kosher salt and let them sit in a bowl to contemplate their existence for one hour. (Fortunately, they ultimately decided that they needed to become one with slices of bread and they continued on their journey to becoming the centerpiece of a sandwich.)

The cucumbers were drained, patted dry, then nestled between crust less slabs of thinly sliced bread that had been buttered and slathered with the mayonnaise mixture. The results were spectacular.

Next up, deviled egg triangles. Egg salad mixed with a touch of Grey Poupon made a delightful morsel.

Last, but certainly not least, were rye bread rounds smeared with scallion enhanced cream cheese and topped with smoked salmon and fresh dill. (Note to self: If you sneak a sandwich off of the pedestal, fix the one that's falling over. You can commit the perfect theft with a little forethought.)

I've always loved afternoon tea. As a child, my grandmother settled us down in the late afternoon with 'tea', (it was really just milk in a tea cup with a splash of tea), and cookies or a small slice of cake. Later, in high school on trips into NYC, I discovered the Charleston Garden Restaurant in Altman's department store. It was one of the hot spots in Manhattan where ladies from the suburbs "did" lunch or tea while they were in the city shopping. The room had a full replica of the facade of a southern style mansion on one wall. You really did feel like you were having tea in a garden. Our parents felt that it was a safe place for young girls to go when they were on their own in New York and encouraged us to go there. We didn't mind one bit. Decked out in our Sunday best, which included hats, gloves and dresses or suits, we would approach the maitre 'd as if we had done this all of our lives.

Then there were the mother/daughter teas at church, in high school and during my college orientation. This picture is from my Senior Tea. The Junior girls were obliged to serve the graduating class and their Moms every year.
Will my husband and I have another tea that's this elaborate in the near future? Probably not. There was enough butter on that table to clog thousands of miles of arteries! We will, however, make a pot of tea in the old Rockingham tea pot sometime in the afternoon. We'll cut up a lemon, break out the clover honey and toast life.