Saturday, August 30, 2008

Lemon Garlic Dal with Spinach

This is a really simple dal that my mom makes and that is one of my favorites. I request it every time I go home to visit. I have a strong feeling that this isn't how she makes it, but this is how I've attempted to make it a few times and it tastes pretty close.

The name of this dal is a bit misleading, as I found out after countless attempts to find lemon leaves at the Asian grocery stores. You need lime leaves to make this dish. If you ever find some, buy them! I was lucky enough to find lime leaves and fresh curry leaves one day at Harry's Farmers Market here in Atlanta and bought them, freezing whatever I didn't use immediately.

Lemon Garlic Dal with Spinach

1/2 cup masoor dal, rinsed
salt to taste
3 fresh lime leaves
1 clove garlic, minced
1 handful fresh spinach leaves

Place rinsed dal in a saucepan and add 1.5 cups water. Bring to a boil, then add lime leaves. Reduce heat to medium, cover, and let simmer for about 20-30 minutes. Add garlic, salt, and spinach. Add water if dal is not liquidy enough for you. Simmer another 10 minutes to let flavors mingle and to wilt the spinach.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Beef cooked with whole spices

Forgive the pun, but lately I've been working on "beefing" up my Indian cookbook collection. I'm in one of those gotta-have-it moods and this just happens to be the theme this time. So expect some more experiments when I get the time.

I've always regarded Madhur Jaffrey as THE Indian cookbook authority. It probably has to do with the fact that hers were among the first cookbooks I learned to read for pleasure. My mom had a copy of "An Invitation to Indian Cooking," and I used to read it like a novel. Jaffrey just has a lovely way with words and the way she describes little vignettes from her life intertwined with the recipes is just very engrossing.

Anyway, so even though I have quite a collection of Indian cookbooks, I have to admit whenever I want to try a new recipe, I tend to head straight to Jaffrey's books. I do dabble with and drool over other books, but whatever I've tried from her books have been reliable. Today's recipe is no exception, although I admit I had doubts at first.

I decided to try her recipe for Khare Masala ka Gosht because I was feeling very lazy today and didn't want the bother of slicing and browning onions, ginger, garlic, etc. This recipe is very simple, just calling for meat, oil, lots of aromatic whole spice, salt, and garam masala. When I first looked at the recipe, I was a bit concerned that even with the whole spices and salt it would be bland. I'm used to cooking my beef with lots of garlic, cumin, coriander, etc. But I decided I would try her recipe and try to keep the tweaking to a minimum. I did add a couple shakes of garlic powder and dried minced onion, but that's it! Oh and I had to add potatoes to the beef, nothing better than tender potatoes that have absorbed the essence of the dish. And don't do like I did and go upstairs to check email and forget to check on the beef so that when you do come downstairs you've almost burned the beef. Luckily I was just in time and didn't ruin it.

Khare Masala ka Gosht

Adapted from Madhur Jaffrey's "An Invitation to Indian Cooking."

2 tbsp. oil
1 2-inch piece of cinnamon
20 peppercorns
15 cloves
10 cardamom pods
2 bay leaves
1 whole dried red pepper (I used 2)
1.25 lb beef stew meat
1.5 tsp salt (or to taste)
1 tsp garam masala
2 small potatoes, cut into eighths
garlic powder (optional)
dried minced onions (optional)

Heat the oil over medium-high heat, then add the spices in the order listed. Stir for a few minutes, until the pepper darkens, then add beef, salt, and garam masala. Stir to brown all sides of beef, about 5 minutes. Add 1/2 cup water, cover, lower heat to low and cook for 1 hour, checking every so often to stir and add water as necessary so meat and spices don't burn. After an hour, add the potato pieces and add more water if necessary. Cook 30 more minutes until potatoes and beef are tender. There won't be much of a gravy, but if it's too thin, just cook the water down a bit or if you want a bit more of a sauce then add a little water. Taste for seasonings and adjust as necessary -- I added a bit more salt and garam masala.

Should serve about 4 people, but the hubby and I will more than likely eat most of this. :D

Serve with rice or bread, dal, and veggies.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Book Club Tea Time

This month I got to host our book club meeting and we decided to do a tea time theme. As usual we made too much food for just 3 people, but it was all yummy. We had spinach and artichoke dip served with mini pitas, curry chicken salad wraps, mini quiches, fruit salad, chocolate chip cookie bars, and of course, tea!

Recipe for the chocolate chip cookie bars follows below. I originally got these off the Weight Watchers message boards, which is ironic since these babies are quite fattening. On the boards they are known as chocolate chip crack and pervert bars. Take your pick as to which name you like!

Chocolate chip cookie bars

Adapted from WW message boards

2 tubes choc chip cookie dough
12 oz bag semi sweet morsels
14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk (fat-free)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Smoosh 1 tube of the cookie dough into the bottom of a 9 x 13 pan, making sure to get as even a layer as possible. I break off in chunks to make it easier.

In a large bowl, combine the chocolate chips and condensed milk. Microwave in 30 second intervals, stirring after each interval until chocolate chips are melted. It usually takes me 1 minute or less of cooking time.

Pour chocolate chip and milk mixture over raw cookie dough, trying to smooth out over pan.

Take remaining cookie dough and crumble over chocolate mixture. You can use the entire remaining tube of dough, I usually use half.

Put pan in oven and bake for 30 minutes or until top cookie layer is golden. Cool, then slice.

Note -- these are really really really rich. I can usually only handle 1 piece max.

As for the fruit salad, it's just cantaloupe and strawberries. Easy peasy.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Kicked-up Keema

Sorry about the cutesy title!

FYI for those not in the know, keema is just the South Asian name for ground meat.

Anyhow, although I don't cook beef that often, when I do it tends to be ground beef because it's quick and it's very hard to mess up. If I'm cooking it desi-style, I usually don't make it the same way twice, I just dump in whatever sounds good. Lately I've taken to poshing it up with frozen "southern-style" hash-browns because I'm too lazy to chop up potatoes as well as adding frozen peas and carrots for some color.

Tonight I added the veggies and then took the opportunity to use up some leftover Chicken Jalfrezi spice mix that had been hiding in my fridge. Weird notion to use chicken spice mix in ground beef, but all it contained was red chili powder, black pepper, salt, and turmeric and I was in a hurry tonight. I added some ground cumin, chili powder, and garlic powder and that was it.

Decided to jazz up the rice today by adding some Patak's curry paste to it before I added the water. Didn't add much flavor but it added some color.

Since we actually had leftovers and I haven't done a bento in forever, guess what I did? :)