Archive for February, 2006

Hello! I know I only update this on weekends. Seems I only really cook on the weekend. This makes me sad.

Friday I made a couple dozen pitas. That was actually pretty exhausting. I guess I forgot that when I made them the first time I halfed the recipe. Of course I didn’t remember this until all the dough was made and my phone started ringing about Friday night plans.

Saturday we were going to try saag paneer, but I found a recipe for an African dish, curried spinach & peanut butter, that intrigued me. As the recipe stood though, there wasn’t any real protein source except the scant peanut butter. I wanted to serve it with brown rice and naan (because that’s what I planned to serve the saag paneer with). *Shrug* so I just combined the saag paneer and curried spinach & peanut butter recipes.

This whole dinner was vegan, by the way! Instead of using paneer cheese, I rolled tofu in tumeric and fried it as a substitute. It was delicious!

1. Drain a package of extra-firm tofu. Press it out by wrapping it in paper towels and weighing it down for several hours (so the water *presses* out). I find tofu is less crumbly and easier to fry if you do this. It will soak up more of whatever marinade/spices/oils you’re basting it in also.

2. Drop one large tomato in boiling water for a minute or so. Peel and chop.

3. Chop an onion. Heat oil in a large (large, for real!) skillet and saute the onion, tomato, a generous pinch of salt and two teaspoons of curry paste or powder. I actually ended up adding extra curry powder toward the end because it wasn’t nearly spicy enough for us. I’m afraid the hot boyfriend and I may be develloping a curry addiction.

4. When the onions are nice and sauteed, lower the heat under the skillet a bit and add two pounds of frozen spinach. I thawed it in the sink in a colander and drained it of excess water the best I could first. Stir it up and cook it till it’s cooked! (until it’s hot. Shouldn’t take really long with frozen spinach. If you’re using fresh spinach, you need to cook it till it breaks down.)

5. Take your drained tofu and cut it into small cubes. Roll the cubes in tumeric and fry on each side for a few minutes in a well oiled pan. Take them out of the pan and set aside.

6. Combine a cup of coconut milk and just under 1/4 cup of peanut butter. Stir it up good and then pour over the curried spinach. Simmer for five minutes or so. Check to see if it’s spicy to your liking. If not, add more curry! MMMMMMmmm! When you’ve got it how you want it, toss in the fried tofu cubes.

7. Serve with rice and bread!

Curry Powder

We had some store-bought curry paste in the fridge that needed used up, but there wasn’t enough in the end to adequately spice the dish for us, so we made our own curry powder. Combine equal parts of ground coriander, cumin, tumeric, ginger and pepper. There are other kinds of curry powders you can make. I recommend the section on foodsubs.com for Indian spices.


Warm a cup of soymilk, add one package of dried yeast and 1/2 teaspoon of sugar. Set in a warm place for ten minutes or so (until it’s frothy).

Mix 4 cups of all-purpose flour with 1/2 teaspoon of salt, 1 1/2 teaspoon of sugar and 1 teaspoon of baking powder. Add 2 tablespoons of oil and 4 tablespoons of plain yogurt. Turn out on a floured surface and knead it until the dough is smooth and stretchy (about ten minutes).

Return the dough to the bowl, cover with oiled plastic wrap and leave to rise until it’s doubled in size (this took over an hour for me, but I was busy making the rest of the dinner in the meantime).

Preheat the broiler.

Punch it down and knead until it’s smooth. Cut into six pieces and roll them into ovals about 10″x4″. I put two ovals on a piece of tin foil because we have a gas-stove broiler. Put them on greased baking sheets if you have an electric broiler.

Cook under a hot broiler for a few minutes on each side. Naan is a yeast-rising flat bread and it will create air pockets that puff up when you cook them. Check on them frequently so you don’t burn them. They bake quickly!


The meal fed five people and then some. Between the curried spinach, six pieces of bread and rice (I made two cups of brown rice), Aaron, Satya, Rachel and Joe and I ate until we were sore from eating. We mostly sat around afterwards to let the saag settle. It was so tasty. I didn’t get any pictures because it was gobbled up before I could grab the camera, but the contrast between the greens and the tumeric-rolled tofu (it was a pretty yellow color) was beautiful!


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Brown soda bread

My plans for Saturday’s cooking didn’t turn out exactly as planned. I didn’t get a hold of any honey for the pitas or raw milk for the paneer until late in the afternoon (after I had been busy all day anyway), so we did not attempt either. Devin did come over and together we finished probably six pounds of hummus! We used roasted red pepper and he used jalapeno’s (I used serrano chiles. Yum!). His batch was more red peppery than mine. Satya was splitting mine with me and she had me tone down the chiles. It still turned out very yummy. I promise to get a recipe down at some point. I’ve just gotten in the habit of adding everything “to taste”.

Since there wasn’t much to do while the chickpeas were cooking, and I had a bunch of plain yogurt in the fridge that needed to be used up, I tried some new bread recipes and yesterday’s baking spoils included brown soda bread and a cinnamon yogurt bread. Here’s the recipe for the soda bread because I want to work on the yogurt bread some more.

Mix 6 cups of wheat-flour with 3 cups of all-purpose flour and one heaping teaspoon of baking soda. Salt generously.

Measure 2½ cups of plain yogurt and then add enough water to it to make it thick and milky (but not runny!). Beat two eggs into the yogurt/water mixture.

Make a well in the dry ingredients and slowly pour in the wet. Don’t knead the dough too much, just mix it with your hands until it is soft. Dough should be dry and want to pull apart easily. Wet dough will make heavy gross bread.

Form two rounds on a lightly floured surface. Score a deep cross in the center of each round with a knife. The cross helps keep away evil spirits!

Bake in a preheated oven at 375 for ten minutes and then turn the oven down to 350. I baked mine on parchment paper on a cookie sheet. Check the bread after 25 minutes. It’s done when the bottom sounds hollow when you knock on it.

The wheat flour makes this more hearty than white soda breads. The crust is crusty but the insides will be lighter. It’s a good hummus bread! Enjoy!

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Valentine’s Day fortune cookies

I frequently find myself telling people that I am a fortune cookie for a living. I’ve never before made them until today. I wrote out little messages to my hot boyfriend on scraps of paper (about 3 inches by 1/4 an inch at the most). Recipe yields about 16-18 cookies.

1 egg
1/3 cup water
2 Tbsp canola oil
1/4 cup cornstarch (I also added an extra tablespoon of cornstarch in a few teaspoons of water because I couldn’t get the consistency of the batter quite right)
1/4 tsp vanilla

Mix the water and cornstarch. Beat the egg with the sugar and vanilla till fluffy but not quite stiff. Add the oil to the sugar and stir. Stir in the cornstarch + water. Keep the batter whipped up before you spoon it out. It’ll be runny and fluffy.

I rubbed a skillet with oil and preheated over medium heat while I was making the batter.

Drop a tablespoon of batter on the hot skillet and use the back of the spoon to spread it out in a circle (by moving it outwards in a circular motion). It’ll bubble up if it’s thin enough and if the skillet is hot enough. It’ll burn if the skillet is too hot.

Use a thin metal spatula to lift the edge and then with your fingers, gently pull up the little pancake. Flip over and let it brown on the other side until the batter is dry and doesn’t stick when you pull it away.

Use the spatula to lift the edge and your fingers to pull it from the skillet. Work quickly while it’s still hot — place the fortune in the center (I folded them in half) and bring two sides together, pressing them to form a seam. Then fold in half the other way so it makes the fortune cookie shape. Hold it a few seconds and prop it up to cool and harden (you could put them in a cupcake pan so they don’t come apart while cooling).

These aren’t easy to make. I ruined the first dozen or so. I’m not entirely sure I’d want to make them again, but I was pleased with how they turned out. Some tips: wipe the crumbs out of the skillet each time and re-oil after a few cookies; keep the edge of the spatula clean and debris-free; don’t get angry and manhandle the skillet, you’ll only burn your hand. Yikes!

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This beer bread always turns out very good! I don’t know why I’m surprised I’d be good at beer bread…

Here’s the recipe:

3 cups self-rising flour (or 3 cups regular flour, 1½ tablespoons baking powder and 1½ teaspoons salt)
½ cup sugar
1 bottle cheap domestic beer (save the expensive imports for drinking!)

Bake at 400 degrees for 50 minutes. Brush with melted butter and pop back in the oven for another five.

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Self-rising flour

I don’t buy self-rising flour. I buy all-purpose unbleached flour and I generally keep wheat flour in stock. If a recipe calls for self-rising, mix four cups of all-purpose flour, 2 teaspoons of salt and two tablespoons of baking powder. This will yield one pound. It can keep for a bit if stored in an air-tight container.

I have lots of beer in the fridge, so I’m going to make beer bread. Back in the day I would have just drank the beer, but my tonsil is a bit infected, so I don’t feel like drinking beer. Ugggh! Poor Mel!

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Honey & Black Pepper Pita Bread

So since I started making my own hummus, I’ve gone through all sorts of pita bread. After figuring out how much carbs the boy and I consume on a regular basis, I’ve decided that we’re going to bake our own bread from now on, pitas included. So today I modified a pita recipe and voila! My first ever pita bread and it is sooooooooo good. I use a combination of white pepper and black pepper on the top. I used regular table salt, but my hot boyfriend and I both agree kosher or sea salt would be better. While they’re still warm, brush some of the remaining honey (warm the honey, of course) and sprinkle with pepper and salt. So good with hummus!
Makes 24 pitas

5 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
salt to taste
1 cup hot water
¼ cup honey
½ cup cold water
2/3 cup canola oil
fresh black pepper & sea salt

Combine flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

Combine hot water and half the honey. Mix with dry ingredients.

Combine cold water and oil. Mix into dough and knead for several minutes.

Divide into 24 portions, shape into balls and let rest for five minutes.

Flatten to 1/8 an inch thickness, dusting with flour if necessary. Saute on medium heat in an oiled pan or griddle– like you would use for pancakes– turning over several times, for about three minutes.

More photos can be found here!

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Serves 4-6

1 cup unbleached bread flour
2 eggs
pinch of salt
3 tablespoons chopped cilantro
sprigs of cilantro to garnish

4 garlic cloves in their skins
1 lb pumpkin, peeled and seeds removed
½ cup ricotta cheese (or 1 ounce grated Parmesan cheese mixed with 4 ounce cottage cheese. Serve with shavings of Parmesan)
4 sun dried tomatoes in olive oil, drained and finely chopped (reserve 2 tablespoons oil)
freshly ground black pepper

Place the flour, eggs, salt and cilantro in food processor. Pulse until combined. Knead the dough on lightly floured board until smooth. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and let rest in refrigerator for 20-30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400F. Place garlic cloves on sheet and bake for 10 minutes until softened.

Steam the pumpkin for 5-8 minutes, until tender, drain well.

Peel garlic cloves and mash into pumpkin together with cheese and tomatoes. Season with black pepper.

Divide pasta into four pieces and flatten slightly. Using a pasta machine on it’s thinnest setting, roll out each piece. Lay the sheets on parchment until slightly dried. Using a 3-inch crinkle-edged round cutter, stamp out 36 rounds. Top 18 of the rounds with a teaspoon of the pumpkin mixture. Brush the edges with water and place another pasta round on top. Press firmly around edges to seal. Bring large pan of water to boil, add ravioli and cook for 3-4 minutes. Drain well and toss with the reserved tomato oil. Add pepper and serve garnished with cilantro sprigs.

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