Fermented Black Garlic Beet Greens

The star of the show is fermented black garlic that can pass off as a sweet, fruity grape. The caramel-colored sauce is tremendous in this cobbler of a side dish- but could steal the stage from the best centerpiece. Enjoy!


SPECIAL TOOLS:.

Pressure cooker.

Ingredients

  • 4-5 Beet Green Stems: leaves separated from stems, chopped, and stems diced
  • 5-6 fermented black garlic, halved
  • Flavoring agents: 1 tbsp EVOO + 1 whole red chilli crushed + salt to taste
  • Sweet-sour agent: 2 tbsp pomegranate juice
  • Finishing sauce: 1/2 can coconut milk + 1 tbsp sesame paste, whisked together

Method

Heat oil and saute the diced stems for 3-4 minutes. Add the red chillies and continue to saute for 15 secs and 1 cup water with the pomegranate juice. Add the black garlic and salt. Cook under medium pressure for 10 minutes.

Whisk in the finishing sauce and warm to serve.

NOTES, HINTS, TIPS:
  1. Any greens can be used. In fact, a mixture of kohlrabi and beets works as well. So does, collard greens or kale.
  2. The fermentation is a complicated process, and it turns the garlic black. It plumps up in the cooking absorbing liquid and turns surprisingly fruity.

Chilled Mango Zoodles

Memorial Day and it’s the season of mangoes! Ripe yellow mangoes have many sweet renditions (kulfi, pie, lassi, …), but here is a savory one.

This is inspired from Kerala’s Mambhayzha-Moru-Kootan (mango-buttermilk-cooked) that a gourmand shared with me very recently. Back in the days, I remember his home always redolent with what I called South Indian deliciousness. His Mom was a terrific cook.

With summer upon us, I adopt a page from gazpacho– uncooked and chilled. The smoothness of sweet mango and sour yogurt contrasted with the texture of crunchy zucchini noodles will keep your palate engaged. Not to mention the aroma of curry leaves and delicate heat of tempered spices. Enjoy!


SPECIAL TOOLS:.

Blender, Spiralizer.

Ingredients

  • Cold soup: 1 cup yogurt + 1 large mango peeled, stoned + 1/2 can coconut milk (200 ml or 7 oz)
    + 2 large sprigs of curry leaves + 1 tsp cumin powder + 1 tbsp grated ginger + chilli powder and salt to taste
  • Zoodles: 1 zucchini, spiralized
  • Tempering: 2 tbsp EVOO + 1 sprig of curry leaves + 1 tsp whole mustard + 1/4 tsp methi (fenugreek) seeds + 2 whole red chillies + 1/8 tsp heeng (asafoetida)

Method

Blend the soup ingredients till smooth. Fold the zoodles in.

Heat the tempering oil in a little saucepan, add the rest of the tempering whole spices and let sputter for 10-15 seconds. Turn off heat and add the heeng and let sizzle in residual heat for 3-4 seconds. Pour the hot spiced oil over the soup. Serve chilled.

NOTES, HINTS, TIPS:
  1. Gazpacho or Laksa ? You decide. But this mango-coconut-yogurt soup will become your summer go-to.
  2. Unleash your kitchen toys on this one. I use a very powerful blender– so even though the mango was a little fibrous, it was no challenge. I also directly add in the curry leaves, but the result is still smooth.
    The spiralizer produces the zucchini noodles in minutes. Even zucchini haters (I used to be one) will love this.
  3. Tempering is optional. But If you like that inimitable Indian flavor, do temper.
  4. You may add toppings like avocado and microgreens to round it out even further.

Grilled Stuffed Paneer

How do you take paneer (homemade chena) up a notch? By grilling it with a surprise accent!

This one explodes with flavor at every bite, from a secret filling: spicy Indian-pickle brine. Make the pressed chena as here. To stuff: slit the cheese block into two flat halves and brush with Indian pickle brine on the two insides surfaces as shown in picture. Press the two halves back together into whole. Brush the outside surface lightly with EVOO and grill for 3-4 minutes on each side. Enjoy!

NOTES, HINTS, TIPS:

  1. The pressed homemade cheese is perfect for this.
  2. Store bought Indian mango pickle was used here. You could marinade for a few hours or refrigerate overnight in a ziplock bag.
  3. Since the grilling is light, a stove top grill also works out well.

Sour Beet Clear Soup

Recently when I saw the news of a drive to get Unesco recognition of borscht, I was reminded on my trips to Wrocław and Warszawa. I was particularly smitten by their sour soups.

Here is my version of the Polish barszcz. Although many suggest to simply use lemon juice or vinegar for the sourness, I just simply could not not sour the beets (kwas). I found the beet fermentation is not as daunting as one might think. Moreover, kwas is a refreshing drink as well, with all the goodness of fermentation.

The clear ruby soup is not just an eye candy but also a delectable delight. Enjoy!


SPECIAL TOOLS:

Fermentation Crock, pressure cooker.

INGREDIENTS

Makes 4

  • Kwas: 2 lbs beet, peeled and sliced + 2 slices of rye bread
  • Soup:
    • Beet stock : 2 large beets + vegetables (1 medium celeriac root+ 1 large carrot + 1 large onion), peeled and sliced
    • 1 oz dehydrated mushroom (lion’s mane) soaked in a cup of water for few hours
    • Seasoning: 2 crushed garlic + 1 tbsp butter + salt & sugar to taste

METHOD

Kwas: Place the beet in the crock. Boil plenty of water and let cool till lukewarm. Then add to the beets, so that it is 1 inch above the beets. Add the bread slice. Cover with cheese cloth and a lid and let ferment for at least three days. Then remove the bread with a spatula. Using a strainer lined with cheese cloth, strain the liquid and store in mason jars.

Beet stock: Pressure cook all the vegetables in 8 cups of water (or about 1/2 inch above the level of vegetables) till tender. Strain to extract the clear stock.

Soup: Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 30 mins: 7 cups of stock + 3 cups kwas + 1/2 cup hydrating mushroom liquid + 2 cloves of garlic. Mix in 1 tbsp butter and turn off heat. Serve with sauteed mushrooms.

NOTES, HINTS, TIPS:

  1. I adapted from Fresh from Poland (by Michal Korkosz) and this online source.
  2. Kwas turned out to be a delicious drink, with a touch of sourness (think of it as a vegan chaas). If you don’t have a Fermentation Crock, you can use just a mason jar or a ceramic pot.
  3. You can use lemon juice (or vinegar) to taste, if you don’t want to go through the kwas fermenting process.
  4. You can also use parsnip, celery, leek etc. For the beet stock, as a rule of thumb use 2 lbs beet to 1 lb veggies.
  5. Instead of mushroom dumplings, I use simply sautéed mushrooms.
  6. The pressure cooker really softens the veggies, so the leftover pulp can be mashed with a masher. Mix with some chickpea flour (besan) to soak in the moisture + salt + spices (chilli powder, garlic powder and cumin) and press into a thin layer on a parchment lined tray. Score and bake for 25-30 mins. See picture below. Peel off the parchment and enjoy!

Kwas:

Soup:

Fruit in Root Dumpling

In my various trips to Eastern Europe, I had noted the fruit dumpling where a whole fruit forms the kernel of a tennis ball sized dumpling. Latvia to Croatia, each has its own unique take– sometimes served as a side dish and sometimes as a dessert.

Here is my take. You can slap this together without sweating- yet the taste is surprisingly decadent. Enjoy!


SPECIAL TOOLS:

Potato masher, steamer.

INGREDIENTS

Makes 4

  • 2 medium sized sweet potatoes, nuked in their jackets (4-5 mins) till soft
  • 3/4 cup almond flour + 1/2 tsp cinnamon powder + a dash of salt
  • 1 pluot, pitted and quartered and dusted with sugar to taste
  • To top: cinnamon sugar

METHOD

Mash the sweet potatoes with a potato masher and mix in the flavored flour and knead till very soft (1-2 mins). Let rest for 10 mins. Make four equal sized balls. Flatten the ball, place a quarter of fruit in the center and encase it in the flour mix and smoothen the ball. Steam for 7-8 minutes. Dust with cinnamon sugar.

NOTES, HINTS, TIPS:

  1. In fact, the balls can also be simply microwaved for 1-2 mins, instead of even steaming.
  2. You can use plums or any other fruit of your liking.
  3. Sweet potato sizes may vary– as a rule of thumb, use the same volume of flour as the mashed sweet potato.
  4. The traditional method is to poach the dumplings– but the casing usually has white flour, eggs etc which I am not using. Hence steaming or microwaving is a very effective, easy, and foolproof alternative.

Longan Truffle

Be your own chocolatier –for 5 minutes– and celebrate the confluence of Chinese New Year and Valentine’s Day this year. Dried longan, which already tastes like candy, gets a coat of your favorite dark chocolate. Using forgiving techniques that even a child can master, concoct this delicious truffle. You could pretty up the presentation, but who can wait. Enjoy!


SPECIAL TOOLS:

A pair of chopsticks; wire-rack for drying.

INGREDIENTS

  • 100gm dark chocolate bar (or your favorite chocolate bar)
  • 1 cup dried Longan berries

METHOD

Break the bar into pieces and microwave on low power for 2-3 mins (you may have to adjust based on your appliance). Stir vigorously with a pair of chopsticks till smooth and fold in the berries. While still warm, place each truffle on parchment on a wire rack. You can smooth out the balls using your hand, as it begins to cool. Let dry on wire rack till set.

NOTES, HINTS, TIPS:

  1. Dried Longan can be bought in a Chinese grocery store or online. Indeed, you can use any other berry of your liking.
  2. You could quickly fold in a tbsp of milk , if the chocolate is not too malleable.
  3. I simply use a Pyrex cup which is microwave proof and easy to handle.
  4. Here are some truffle-in-the-rough, without smoothing and using the littlest of coating (35 gm chocolate bar –1/3 of the whole bar– and approx 1 cup dried longan).