Sunday, April 25, 2010

Grilling in April

It was a pretty nice day here in Eugene. It started out chilly and ended up around 70. So we decided to fire up the grill for the first time this year. I had picked up some chicken sausages (two basil, two lemon) from the Market of Choice this morning - intending them for next weekend, but hey, no time like the present!

But what to have as a side?... We had some cauliflower leftover from last week's curry, and I walked over to the local market and picked up some broccoli too. I mixed these together with a little bit of lemon olive oil, salt and pepper and we were good to go.

We cooked the sausages a bit first, then moved them to the side and put the veggies in our little grilling pan to cook. They got brown pretty fast so I had to keep stirring them.

When it seemed like everything was done (so hard to tell on a grill!) we ate the sausages with mustard and homemade relish (canned in 2008) - no buns, and nice crunchy and slightly lemony broccoli and cauliflower. We also had a very nice Pinot Gris from Panther Creek.

By the time we ate (outside on the patio) we had to have on long sleeve shirts, but it was still wonderful out and a nice spring meal.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Indian feast

Our potluck had an Indian theme this week. This may have been my favorite theme yet, and not just because I chose it. Not only do I find Indian food delicious in general, but I was so impressed by how everyone went for it and tried making new and exciting things. On the plate above there is dhal, basmati rice, naan, saag paneer, cauliflower and pea curry, and a chickpea patty with raita. For dessert (not pictured), there was gulab jamun. All so good!

Hubby and I have had the fortunate experience of visiting India a few more than 10 years ago with our dear friend Jim. In addition to encouraging us to try all sorts of new foods while in India, Jim has also cooked us (and allowed us to help with) many an Indian meal at his home. So we're comfortable with this food. Not that we've ever been able to do justice to the dhal recipe he once gave us... But I have learned from him not to worry too much about making Indian food. Recipes are merely guidelines and it all turns out all right in the end.

One of the keys to Indian food, in my mind, are condiments. There should always be chutney, pickle, and yogurt around to complement the dishes on your plate. Yesterday, we put out some store-bought mango-peach chutney, some homemade pear chutney, and some mild mango pickle hubby got at the store. I'm not personally a fan of Indian pickle, but it's a nice condiment none the less. I'd say our crowd yesterday was split 50/50 in liking it.

I decided to make a vegetable curry for the potluck, and modified a recipe in the book "Curries without Worries" by Sudha Koul that a friend gave me many years ago and in which I've found many good recipes.

The basic setup for most Indian curries is the same: Add oil or ghee to big pot, fry a bunch of spices, garlic, onions and ginger, add veggies, cook till done. Here, I've prepped everything in advance (which I find to be the most efficient way of cooking just about everything) - including the cauliflower, peas, and potatoes.

The recipe calls for:
- 3/4 cup oil and/or ghee (clarified butter - which you can make yourself or buy)
- 1/2 tsp whole cumin seeds (I also added some whole mustard seeds)
- 1 or 2 onions, sliced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 Tblspns chopped fresh ginger
- 3 medium tomatoes, chopped (I used several small canned, including some of the juice)
- 1 tsp turmeric
- 2 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp ground cayenne
- salt to taste
- 1 medium cauliflower, cut into 3-inch florets, dry
- 2 1/2 cups frozen peas (I used fresh whole snow peas with delicious results!)
- (I also added 3 or 4 small potatoes, chopped)
- 1 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Heat the oil/ghee. Add the cumin and stir while it sizzles for a minute. Add onions, ginger, and garlic and fry until golden. Add tomatoes and fry until you have a nice pasty consistency. Add the rest of the spices until they are blended in. Add the potatoes (if using) as they take the longest. Fry for a few minutes. Add cauliflower and do the same. Stir to prevent sticking. Add the peas after 5 or 10 minutes. Turn the heat down a bit and cover. Stir occasionally until everything is done to where you want it. Before serving, stir in the cilantro.

The finished product was delicious with rice and chutney. The best thing about a recipe like this is that you can pretty much substitute any other veggies you like and it'll be just as good!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Spring Salad

I never think to order salad for dinner out - even though many restaurants have lovely salads. I should; they are good for me. But at home, I'm happy to have salad for dinner - especially when hubby's out of town.

This weekend we went to the Farmer's Market at Saturday Market and picked up some yummy things: like fresh greens and multi-colored radishes. I wanted to get some of the tasty-looking sweet carrots, but we already had carrots from the store at home. California strawberries are in stores already, so we picked up some of those, and some honey-sweetened chevre. This has been my dinner salad twice already this week. I also threw in some cilantro from my garden and topped it all with a little balsamic vinaigrette. Delicious and sweet!

I love cheese on salad - Chevre or blue cheese usually. Nuts are good too - almonds or hazelnuts. This makes it a little hardier.

Yum. I think I may have salad again tonight. It's spring!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Potato Leek Soup

Mmmm... Soup.
We went to the opening of the Eugene Farmer's Market yesterday and found some very tasty looking leeks and potatoes. (our own garden potatoes are long gone, though new ones are now coming up in the garden) The spring has also taken a nasty rainy turn, so my thoughts turned to soup.

I could make up a potato leek soup recipe, but I went in search of a recipe anyway. I found one, conveniently, in the latest (March-April 2010) Cook's Illustrated in an article called "Rethinking Creamy Leek-Potato Soup". While I find much of Cook's Illustrated (and the TV version, America's Test Kitchen) really interesting and helpful, some of it just seems overthought. I read this article with a grain of salt, and took some of its advice while also doing my own thing (i.e. ignoring some of their advice).

The soup I made was fantastic. We ate it with some fresh, local ciabatta bread, lightly broiled with olive oil and vinegar, and with a King Estate Pinot Gris (the 2007 Domaine, which we got a half case of last weekend. It's fantastic.). A lovely, light and warm dinner.

2 - 4 good sized leeks - whites and light green parts cut in half and then sliced. Dark greens chopped into big pieces.
2 cups chicken broth
2 cups water
4 Tblsp butter
1 medium onion - chopped
4 small-medium potatoes (I used german butterballs from the farmer's market, the recipe called for a smaller amount of russets) - chopped
1 bay leaf
1 sprig fresh thyme
salt and pepper
a bit of 1/2 and 1/2

Cut up the dark green tops of the leeks into 2-inch pieces and add to the broth and water in a big pot. Heat up and simmer for 20 minutes. Strain out the broth into a bowl, set aside. Discard the greens.

Melt butter in the same pot. Stir in whites/light greens of leeks and onion, plus a teaspoon of salt. Cook on medium-low for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently, until veggies are soft.

Turn up the heat, pour in the saved broth, and the potato, bay leaf and thyme. Turn down when it boils and simmer on low-ish heat for 10 minute until taters are tender.

Take out the bay leaf and thyme. Add half the soup to a blender and blend briefly (really - not too long). Pour into a bowl. Do the other half of the soup. Pour back into the pot with the first batch.

Heat back up, and add salt and pepper to taste. Also add in a tablespoon or so of 1/2 and 1/2.

I can't wait to have the leftovers soon...