Category Archives: Meatless
I hate negativity, I’d much rather spend my time in the Lab doing what I love best, running my experiments, taking measurements, analyzing & visually recording the results. Or, in blogger-speak, create a recipe, clear my kitchen counters, prepare the dish, take photographs & then tuck into my creation. I’d rather not have written up my last post, my response to Martha Stewart, but there was something so smug about her tone in the interview, non verbal, that my pre-frontal cortex just had to sit back and support my lower brain in lashing out. It was not easy, for every 2 sentences I put down, I had to erase one. It was a learning experience, one that made me determined to never let my self imposed guard down when it came to to the quality of the recipes I post and never be stingy on listing references & inspiration, however insignificant or indirect.
Today’s recipe was both an example of something hurriedly cobbled together into a one pot dish that had a healthy proportion of carbohydrates, protein & vegetables, as well as a dish inspired by someone else’s recipe. The combination of herbs was the brainchild of Liz Larkin, a.k.a The scone lady. and it was for a recipe of Pan fried Fragrant Cauliflowers that I discovered on Food52.
The flavoring from this ‘masala paste’ left such an imprint that it begged to be tried again, despite the obvious lack of a resident cauliflower, in fact, the lack of any other convenient vegetable, except for a bag of bunny food,viz carrots. Combined with some lentils (I have 1/2 a dozen varieties sitting in my pantry, neatly labeled) & cooked Basmati, The two dishes, compared side by side, have no relation to each other, and yet, the root flavoring is the same.
Since I had hurriedly cobbled up the first batch and the family polished off every morsel of it, I went back & recreated the dish before the combination of spices & tastes slipped out my my brain & food memory. The results were identical the second time around as well. the combination of lentils & rice is reminiscent of the Middle Eastern dish Mujaddara, accompaniment of choice for Mujaddara is yogurt, and the same works perfectly for the ‘carrotty’ version as well.
Garlicky Herbed Lentil & Carrot Pilaf:
2 cups Basmati rice
4 cups boiling water
1/2 cup whole lentils (I used the green French Puy lentils)
2 large carrots, cut into sticks
2 – 3 tablespoons olive oil
4 tablespoons ghee
1 teaspoon nigella seeds
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
2 dried bay leaves,
Salt to taste.
For the paste:
2 heaped tablespoons minced or chopped ginger.
2 serrano chiles, chopped
2 cloves garlic
1/3 cup chopped cilantro, plus extra for garnishing
Rinse the lentils in plenty of water. add to a saucepan along with 2 cups of water, bring to a boil and allow the lentils to cook until soft, retaining their shapes and not mushy. Drain and set aside.
Rinse the Basmati rice until the water runs clear. In a heavy bottom pan, add 2 tablespoons of ghee, and ‘toast’ the rice until the grains begin to turn opaque. Add 1/2 teaspoon of salt along with 4 cups of boiling water. Stir to dislodge all the grains sticking to the bottom of the pan, cover and lower the heat to the lowest setting. allow the rice to cook until all the water is absorbed. Uncover, allow to cool slightly & fluff with a fork to separate the grains.
Combine the cilantro, serrano chile, garlic and ginger and blend to a paste. I used a Mexican mortar & Pestle, the molcajete, just so that I could have some irregular texture in my blend. (plus there’s something so relaxing in using manual tools, just builds a connection to your food.)
Slice the carrots into thick ‘coins’ at a diagonal angle. Then stack up 3-4 of these coins and cut into little ‘sticks.
Heat the remaining ghee and the oil in a large skillet once the oil/ghee mix gets hot, add the nigella and fennel seeds along with the bay leaves. (No particular reason for adding these spices, Mrs. Larkins recipe doesn’t use ANY spices for the cauliflower. I just happen to love the nigella fennel combination). Add the cilantro/chile/ /ginger/garlic paste to the tempering and fry until the paste begins emitting a divine aroma. Add the carrots and saute until the carrot softens slightly (they should still retain a ‘crunch’) and then toss in the cooked lentils.
Season with salt (remember the Basmati already is salted, so adjust accordingly), allow any remaining moisture to dry up.
Add the lentil mixture to the rice and fold in until the carrots and lentils are evenly dispersed. Garnish with the remaining cilantro and serve warm.
with a side of yogurt, Raita or Tzaziki.
Depending upon cultures, its interesting to see how people react to the advent of summer. In India, It was to confine yourself indoors for the fear of getting a dark tan, stepping out with an umbrella to shield oneself from the intense sun and a host of ‘cooling’ foods such as Yogurt rice, and chilled fruits. The very idea of grilling anything out in the blazing sun would send a shudder down the spine. Grilling over coals was confined to cooler months and the rainy season when vendors would stroll the streets with carts full of corn to be roasted in a ‘Sigri’ (a Coal oven made of sheet metal).
In sharp contrast, With the advent of Memorial Day in the US of A, there’s a scramble to get the grills and barbecues readied for cooking foods the way our cave men ancestors used to. Meat, Meat & more Meat, with a tiny footnote for grilling veggie burgers and marinaded vegetables.
Well, if you can’t beat ’em, Join ’em!
While that rallying cry is theoretically motivating, the practical limitations of not having an open outdoor set up manifest themselves once the Cast iron grilling pan is set on the biggest burner of the stove. (well , my kitchen isn’t exactly a designer one, more like the basic contractor set up), the hazy diffusion of smoke that filters out of the vent tends to make me reluctant to take to this method of cookin, but when I do grill, I tend to fully go all out. Lunch, a couple of weeks ago was a feast of grilled Quinoa & refried bean burgers redolent with a meaty aroma, with a creamy mint & roasted Jalapeno spread made with avocadoes. For an added shot of flavor, I layered it with slices of grilled Halloumi cheese.
But it was the leftovers that completely bowled me. Sounds rather corny to scarf down on appetizers after a hearty dish of the burger washed down with a Ginger Pineapple Mojito, but that is exactly what I did, (nudged ever so gently by the fact that I froze the extra burgers for the family and had some extra grilled Halloumi that I didn’t want to toss out.)
OXO had sent me a set of fruit tools to test and I’m having a blast using them. Along with the fabulous ratchet pineapple slicer that effortlessly cores and slices the fruit without a single cut to the tough outer peel, was a pair of fruit scoops that are meant to scoop out flesh from large fruits such as melons & smaller ones like Kiwi. Even before the scoop came face to face with a kiwifruit, it was the perfect implement to effortlessly scoop out avocadoes for the piquant, almost mayonnaise like herb and avocado spread that is the recipe du jour.
Grilled Halloumi with herby avocado spread and pineapple:
1 1/2 lb block of Halloumi cheese, sliced
1/2 cup olive oil (ideally, mint infused)
tiny diced pieces of pineapple and slivers of tomato.
Smoked Ancho chile powder for dusting
(for the spread)
1 ripe avocado
1 bunch Cilantro (Leaves and tender stems)
1 packed cup mint leaves
1 roasted jalapenos, deseeded)
1/2 cup sour cream or Labneh (kefir cheese)
juice of 1 lime
1.5 tablespoon honey
2 cloves garlic, crushed
salt to taste
Combine the Cilantro, garlic and mint in food processor and pulse about 6-8 times, until the leaves are coarsely minced. Add the Jalapeno, avocado, lime juice, honey, sour cream (in a pinch, use some plain greek yogurt).
Blend together and combine into a smooth spread with the consistency of mayonnaise
Cut the Halloumi cheese into 1/4 inch thick slices and drizzle liberally with the Olive oil. Heat a grill pan until smoking and gently place the cheese on the surface. Allow to grill until the char marks form (about 3 minutes) and then flip over carefully to grill the other side. Cut into small squares. Arrange on a platter, spoon a 1/4 teaspoon of the Avocado spread onto the cheese. Top off with a sliver of pineapple and tomato and a sprinkling of ancho chile powder.
You know you're passionate about something like blogging when missing out on one post for a week sends you into a spiral of guilt & blanked out grey matter. The confusion, nagging feeling of the high that invariably kicks in once you click on the orange 'Publish' button.
Hysteresis – is the dependence of a system not only on its current environment but also on its past environment.
Turns out that the term does apply outside of physics. I like to define it as the intense craving that exists as long as two weeks after sampling a dish. You crave it so much that you simply must have more. Deep inside the gyri that run though the cerebral cortex, are taste notes perfectly embedded and making connections to other memory cells to recreate the flavors & textures.