Christmas Murukku

A giant murukku is fun to serve at a cozy gathering, as a communal snack. This unusual size takes a little dexterity to pull off but worth the effort. Enjoy!

Special tools:

Murukku (extrusion) mould; Silicone silpat or wire rack with the baking tray.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup rice flour + 1 cup besan
  • 1 tbsp ajwain (carom) + 1 tbsp white sesame seed + 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper + 1 tbsp EVOO + salt to taste

Make a hard dough using a little cold water (about 3 oz). Divide the dough into two equal halves and shape each into a cylinder to fit the mould. I used one half to make a gigantic swirl and the other half to make about a dozen small ones (see picture). Gently place the swirls using spatula on a wire rack or a silicone silpat.

Bake at 275 F for 30-45 mins till crisp (and oak colored). Cool and serve or store in airtight container.

Notes, hints, tips:
  1. Note the traditional murukku is deep fried.
  2. Use rice flour from Indian grocery stores, not SouthEast Asian stores. The latter is usually not preprocessed and is glutinous– this will not work for this recipe.
  3. If the dough is soft, it will not retain the tiny spikes (from the star-shaped hole in the disc of the mould) while extrusion, so make sure the dough is pliable but on the hard side.
  4. Lie the mould flat on the edge of the counter and use the lever handle (as you would a pasta roller). This technique is unorthodox but effective.

Kimchi Potato Galette

Hannukkah brings potatoes to the forefront with its iconic latke. But here is an apostatic version, without the frying oil but bursting with flavor from kimchi, scallions, sesame seeds… Enjoy!!

Special tools:

Parchment paper or silicone silpat; Food processor or grater.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup kimich + 1 tbsp gochujang (if kimichi is not already too hot), finely diced in processor
  • 1 lb potato (if organic, no need to peel), coarsely grated
  • 4 scallions + 1/2 small yellow onion, finely diced
  • 1/3 cup besan + 2 tbsp oil + salt to taste + pepper
  • Filling: 1/2 cup goat cheese + 2 tbsp sesame seeds
  • Garnish: microgreens

Mix all the first four ingredients well. Line a baking tray with parchment or silpat: you need this to help you roll.  Make a mat of the mix on the parchment, about 1 cm in thickness. Loosely pat it down and level off the edges. Bake in the middle rack, at 400 F for 25 mins.  Check on it for the last 10 minutes, to rotate the sheet or pull it out of the oven if already done.

Dot with goat cheese and sesame seeds. To serve either just cut into squares, or, roll and slice. Sprinkle with microgreens and serve with sour cream or yogurt.

Notes, hints, tips:
  1. The combination of kimchi and potatoes is inspired from The Week’s latke recipe by Evan Bloom. I am not sure if fermented kimchi is kosher, but nevertheless.
  2. Besan is chickpea flour and is available at Asian (Indian) groceries, or you can simply order over the internet.
  3. You can use eggs instead of besan.
  4. I simply use the processor bowl as the mixing bowl by first using the blade to process the kimchi; then the coarse grater to grate the potatoes. For the classical latke, one laboriously squeezes out the water from the potatoes– here I don’t and I simply use besan to absorb the excess liquid while providing an additional layer of flavor.

Wrapped Chicken in Lemon Pickle Broth

This weekend morning was greeted with an intriguing and uplifting posting by a dear friend on Indigenous Food entering the restaurant scene in India. The steaming of leaves-wrapped food inspired me to put this together with this week’s CSA greens- broccoli leaves. The result was delicious!! The lemon pickle here is ala Moroccan Preserved Lemons– the soft lemon skin is part of the game (not just a flavor inducer). The broccoli leaves have more personality than spinach and the brightness of the pickled lemon in the light broth will blow you away. Enjoy!

Special tools:

Pressure cooker, steaming basket

Ingredients

  • 1 cup light lemon pickle (see Notes below for a quick homemade recipe)
  • 4 chicken thighs skinless, on the bone, wiped dry with paper towel
  • 8 large broccoli leaves (or collard), made pliable by wrapping in moist paper towel and microwaving for 1 minute
  • about 1 tsp turmeric (for color)
  • I large parchment sheet for en papillote steaming

Method

Marinade the chicken and lemon pickle in a ziplock bag for 4-6 hours. Wrap each thigh with a piece of preserved lemon, a sprinkling of turmeric and salt, in a pair of leaves. Place the four wraps, seam side down, on parchment, sprinkle the leftover marinade and make a single pouch. Place the pouch in steaming basket and pressure cook on high for 15 minutes.

Serve warm with knife and fork (for chicken, preserved lemon, broccoli leaves) and spoon (for the broth).

Notes, hints, tips:
  1. Lemon Pickle: (Adapted from Archana Mundhe’s recipe). Pressure cook the following for 5 minutes under high pressure
    • (sour) 4 medium sized lemons, quartered and deseeded (as much as possible)
    • (sweet) 1/2 cup sugar + 1 tsp salt
    • (spices) 1/2 tsp chilli powder + 1 tsp cumin powder + 1 tsp coriander powder
  2. 1 cup is about half the above recipe. You can refrigerate the remainder in a mason jar.
  3. You could make the pickle a day in advance and marinade the chicken overnight. You can add more sugar, if you prefer. In fact, while the pickle is still warm, you can fold in additional sugar if that is to your taste.
  4. When blanched (microwaved) the leaves are a bright green, but with further steaming, it turns dull (not even with the acidity in the medium!!). Alas. But no compromise on taste- it tastes great!
    I did not remove the veins of the Broccoli leaves- it softens with the pressure cooking. But if using collard greens, you may want to remove the thick veins.

Pressure-steaming wrapped chicken:

Shishito Eggplant

Lightly blistered with a sprinkling of sea salt, Shishito has rapidly become a popular finger food. At this time of summer, the weekly CSA (Community Shared Agriculture) supply always has a generous bag of these Japanese peppers. Here I change the shishito playbook by using it with CSA Japanese eggplant, for an equally simple and delightful result. Enjoy!

Special tools:

Wok.

Ingredients

  • 4-5 Japanese long eggplants, chopped into chunks, soaked in plenty of water
  • 8-10 shishito peppers, destemmed (use kitchen scissors)
  • 2-3 garlic pods, chopped very fine
  • 2 tbsp EVOO
  • salt to taste

Method

Heat the oil with the finely chopped garlic. Drain and sdd the eggplants and salt. Mix well and then cover to let it cook in steam for 5-7 minutes, under medium heat. Mix in the shsishito and stir-fry for 2-3 minutes.

Notes, hints, tips:
  1. I use the Japanese chopping technique of chopping the eggplant into irregularly shaped chunks, by chopping at an angle.
  2. The kitchen scissors is very convenient for the peppers, to slit and remove the internal seeds.

An even easier microwave version: Mix all the ingredients well and place in a microwave-proof bowl and covered with moist kitchen paper towel. Nuke for 6 mins+3 mins (check and adjust appropriately).

Desert Cuisine: Rajasthani Ker Sangri

At the July 4th Barbecue, I was tasked with a vegetarian side-dish. Taking a gamble, I turned to Rajasthan, a state in India’s northwest that almost completely encompasses Thar desert (also called the Great Indian Desert). My wager paid off. With timely tips from my Udaipur friend Pankaj, Ker Sangri was a resounding hit !!

A few weeks ago I had ordered panchkutta— a mix of five kinds of dried vegetables– for this iconic Rajasthani dish. The shipping fee was ungodly, but so was my enthusiasm. The package arrived all the way from Jodhpur, to my complete amazement (I thought there would be a local NJ supplier 🙂 )

Regional Indian Cuisines never fail to amaze me. Truely. The five classic tree ingredients of this dish are ker, sangri, koomatiya, goonda, and mango. Koomatiya in particular caught my attention- it is the berry of a variety of mimosa native to Sudan! So with a fascinating backdrop of food anthropology, hyper-traditional-meets-modern-accessibility, ker sangri came together for a finger-licking finale. Enjoy!

Special tools:

None.

Ingredients

  • Tree ingredients: Soak in water for 2-3 hrs (or, till bite-test) 1/2 cup sangri + 1/4 cup each of ker, koomatiya, gunda
  • Sour: 2-3 dried mango pieces soaked in 1/2 cup water (while you soak the above)
  • Sweet: 2 tbsp raisins soaked in 1/4 cup water
  • Spices: 1/8 tsp turmeric + 1/2 tsp red chilli powder + 1/4 tsp coriander powder + a pinch heeng
  • Tempering: 1/4 tsp ajwain + 2 bay leaves + 2 whole dried red chilies
  • 1 tbsp neutral oil

Method

Drain the hydrated tree ingredients. Heat oil. Add all the tempering ingredients. When the seeds pop lightly (about 1 minute) add the spices and quickly mix (without burning) for 10 seconds or so. Add all the hydrated tree ingredients and fold in. Next add the sour and sweet ingredients along with their soaking water. Cover and let meld together for 8-10 minutes. Taste for seasonings and adjust to your taste. Serve hot.

Notes, hints, tips:
  1. I ordered the ingredients from Spice Platter.
  2. If you have a scale, then use 100 gm of sangri to 50 of gm each of ker, gunda, kumatiya.
  3. My version was light both in oil and spices, contrary to recommendations. Feel free to adjust to your taste. I found that I did not even have to salt it. Wonder why.
  4. Here are some interesting sources that you may like to read and view.

Photo: Tree ingredients pre-soaked; Hydrated, drained ingredients; Sautéed vegetables.

Father’s Day: Sprouting Cauliflower Pulihora

A Sprouting Cauliflower showed up in the CSA (Community Shared Agriculture) bag this week for Father’s Day. With a quick internet scan I learn that it is also called Chinese Cauliflower in Asian markets, though its genesis is attributed to a Japanese breeder.

Don’t be distracted by its disheveled, shaggy looks. In fact it is a sweeter version of the regular old cauliflower. I take inspiration from my friend’s Mom who makes the best Andhra-style pulihora (tamarind rice) in town. I do a half-and-half. Curry leaf infused, mild rice –to elicit all the sweetness of the sprouting cauliflower– paired with hot, naughty pulihora. This will knock your socks off. Enjoy!

Special tools:

Processor; microwave.

Ingredients

  • In Processor: 1 Sprouting Cauliflower + 3-4 stalks of curry leaves
  • 1 tsp puliogare powder (or any other spice mix of your choice)
  • 1 tsp oil
  • salt to taste

Method

Pulse in the processor till coarsely riced. Cover with damp paper towel and microwave for 4-5 minutes, till al dente but not mushy. Mix in salt to taste. Divide into two equal portions. Heat oil in a pan and very lightly toast the spice powder and mix in one half of the riced cauliflower.

Notes, hints, tips:
  1. Ricing the cauliflower is also a good use of the stem portion of the head. If you can handle heat, then also pulse in half a green chilli.
  2. I use a store bought puliogare powder, perhaps to the horror of my friend’s Mom. It works out fine, although nothing beats a homemade mix.
  3. If too hot, serve with yogurt.