Rolled Cabbage Latke with Goat Cheese

When it comes to latke, don’t battle with nostalgia. Sometimes, one man’s greasy is another man’s gratifying!

Chaya egged me on to make a healthy Hanukkah posting. I experimented over two weekends during Hanukkah to finally produce the response to Chaya’s challenge. On the first weekend, I used root vegetables and on the second I used cabbage. Both the results were finger-licking good, as endorsed by my tasters, and off-the-meters on the health-o-meter: very little oil and chock-full of veggies. Believe me, a very very palatable way to consume your vegetables. Not sure how to interpret this but I was constantly hearing “can’t believe this is cabbage” ūüôā

I wanted a different presentation, so I went for this roll. It has many advantages. Firstly, you don’t need to make individual latke hovering over a hot plancha (like I did last year at a friend’s Hanukkah party).¬† Secondly, you can fold in goat cheese (or any other filling of your choice) right into the body.

Instead of eggs, I used besan (chickpea flour) as a binder.  It imparts an interesting taste, lends a light-crispy bind of the veggies and keeps the vegetarians in your guest mix even happier. Also, Chaya assures me that besan is kosher. Enjoy the oblong latke!

Special tools:

Parchment paper.

Ingredients

  • 2.5 cups shredded cabbage + 2 julienned turnips +¬† 1/2 sliced onion
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder + salt to taste + pepper
  • 1/3 cup besan
  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 1/2 cup goat cheese for filling
  • sour cream or drained homemade yogurt for serving

Mix all the ingredients well. The vegetables have a natural moisture that will wet the dry flour (besan). If that does not work for you, then add 1-2 tbsps of water and lightly mix. Line a baking tray with parchment. You need the parchment 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, make sure the edge is not very thin as it may cook much faster than the rest. 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.

Rest the baked vegetables for 10 mins or so till it is cool enough to handle but not complete cold.  Dot the top with little blobs of goat cheese. Then holding down the parchment sheet with one hand roll the vegetables (like you roll the mat for sushi rolls). The parchment paper will be completely on the outside. Tighten and shape the roll and let rest for a few minutes. Then remove the parchment and discard. Cut the cylinder diagonally with a sharp knife and serve with sour cream or yogurt.

Notes, hints, tips:
  1. Besan is available at Asian (Indian) groceries, or you can simply order over the internet.
  2. You want to create a loose mat of vegetables; so do not press down too hard, only lightly.
  3. You can use root vegetables (celeriac, sweet potatoes, turnip etc instead of or in addition to cabbage).
  4. You could also add shredded potatoes, then you don’t need to any further binder, since the starch in the potatoes will hold the mat together.
  5. Cutting the log diagonally gives more volume to each latke; but, feel free to cut them into round disks.¬† Use a sharp knife. I tried to first use a serrated bread knife, but found that a regular sharp chef’s knife was a better choice.

After-Diwali: Gajar Halwa Bread Pudding

If you didn’t already know, Indian sweets (mithai, mitha) are really, really sweet. And, at Diwali you are immersed in it for weeks. In this age of health-awareness you may still want to have your gajar halwa and eat it too!

I offer here an alternative to your pancake breakfast you can pull off in your microwave: a leftover halwa bread pudding. Or, simply a dessert.

Special tools:

Blender.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups loosely packed hand-torn cubes of¬† left-over bread (rye sourdough)
  • 1 1/2 cup almond milk + 2 eggs + pinch of salt + 1 tbsp EVOO
  • 4 pieces OR 1 cup, mashed¬†of (left-over) gajar halwa

Method

Place the bread in a microwave-proof pan. Blend the rest of the ingredients into a smooth liquid. Pour over the bread and let soak for 2 hours (if not overnight). Microwave with the lid on, for 4 mins; check and, if required, for another 2 mins. Let the pudding rest for 2 mins before serving warm.

Notes, hints, tips:
  1. Handcrafted at a local baker’s, the rye sour dough was my choice of bread. This Finnish contribution¬† to humankind has more personality than Shahrukh Khan!¬† But, you can use whatever bread you can lay your hands on.
  2. You can use carrot cake instead of the halwa; lest you are looking for ways to consume your left-over carrot cake.
  3. I used almond milk, but you can use any other milk. It plays the role of softening the bread, without actually watering it down.
  4. EVOO is used in cakes and desserts both in French and Italian cooking. And, I love that idea! So I threw this in here (instead of the usual butter).
  5. You can also serve this chilled.

Larb-inspired Salad with Baby Beet Greens & Macambo

 

I may alienate my Thai friends by designating Larb as Laotian. Indeed, many Thai restaurants in the US offer Larb on their menu. Irrespective of the origin (after all Laos and Thailand share a border and history), all will agree that the rest of humanity is grateful for this éclat of a salad from Southeast Asia.  Moreover, it can be simply put together in ten minutes in your kitchen!  But you need to stock your pantry with a trip to your South-East Asian grocery (lemongrass, fish sauce).

I use the Mediterranean capers to deepen the citrus accent and Amazonian macambo nuts for texture (& ‘superfood’ factor). These nuts are somewhat large and I compare that to the size of a quarter in the photograph (do NOT use the coin in your recipe!).¬† All the ingredients are easily accessible (over the internet) or have simple substitutes. But the result is incroyable, as they say. Do give it a try.

Special tools:

None.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb ground meat (lamb or chicken or turkey)
  • Greens: 2 cups of lightly packed baby beet greens + 1 cup lightly packed mint leaves, coarsely chopped
  • 3-4 pods of garlic crushed and cooked lightly in 2 tbsp oil, till fragrant
  • Seasoning liquid:¬† juice of 1 lime +¬† 2 tbsp fish sauce
  • 1 large shallot thinly sliced + 4-5 scallions finely sliced + 2-3 serrano chilies + white part of 1 lemon-grass stalk very finely minced¬† + 1 tbsp capers OR¬†zest of one lime
  • 1/2 cup Macambo nuts lightly toasted and coarsely crushed

Method

Heat a thick bottomed pan. Add the oil from the crushed garlic mix, add the minced meat and saute, breaking up the lumps, till granular and cooked. This takes about five minutes. Mix the rest of the ingredients, except the greens, till well mixed.  Taste and adjust seasoning.  Then fold in the greens.

Notes, hints, tips:
  1. You can use any other light greens, including cilantro leaves.
  2. Instead of greens folded into the salad, you can serve it with butter lettuce leaves (in the Korean way) or cabbage leaves, cut into wedges.
  3. The lemon grass is very hard and you may need to use a processor if your knife is unable to handle it.
  4. You can use any nuts: peanuts is traditional. But feel free to use your favorite.

Japanese-inspired Chicken Paillard

I had a fun contest with my friend this weekend when he made an Indian-inspired Fish and I created this Japanese-inspired Chicken. Well, he is as Indian as I am Japanese. A tough contest since Indian recipes have a riot of spices seducing your palate; but the gentle Washoku flavors  produced a winner! It was so good, that I dare to post it.

If you were wondering about paillard:  it is an eponymous term for a quick saute of pounded meat.  A very easy process, and, a simple combination with common Japanese pantry ingredients gives stunning results.  Do give it a try!

[Postscript: This met with approval from a foodie and a tough-critic, Takahiko, who even likened this to mizoreni. I immediately put it on my to-try list.]

washokuChickenPaillard
Chicken Paillard
Special tools:

None.

Ingredients

  • 1.5¬† lb chicken breasts; butterflied and pounded lightly
  • Sauce:¬† 100 ml mirin + 90 ml soy sauce + 60 ml sake
  • 2 tbsp (neutral) cooking oil
  • 1 leek, sliced and thoroughly washed,¬†in plenty of cold water, to remove any grit

Method

In a ziplock place the sauce ingredients and the chicken. Marinade for 15 minutes. In a large flat-bottomed saute pan, heat oil on medium heat. [Optionally, coat the chicken lightly with oatmeal.] Loosely arrange the chicken pieces on the oil. When the chicken is lightly browned on one side (about 2 mins); flip the chicken pieces. Let brown for two minutes on the other side. Then pour the left-over marinading liquid.  Bring to a light simmer.  Arrange the leek on top. Cover with lid and simmer for 5 minutes.

Serve with hot rice topped with furikake seasonings.

Notes, hints, tips:
  1. For measuring out the different liquids of small quantities, as in this recipe, I find that a bartender’s measure (or a jigger) is quite convenient to use.
  2. To pound the chicken:¬† I placed one piece at a time in a ziplock bag and lightly rolled a¬† Ros√© bottle (to the horror of the guests; but rest assured no wine was harmed in the process). This is adequate; you don’t need a fancy pounder.
  3. When you coat the chicken in some flour, before sauteing, it is technically a scaloppini.  But why would you care what is is called.
  4. You can use scallions instead of leek.
  5. Alternative toppings: sesame seeds, nori, wasabi, sansyo pepper.
  6. Western wisdom is to discard the marinading chicken liquid (out of abundance of caution). But since you are simmering the sauce for 5 minutes, it is quite safe. But if you have concerns, then discard the marinading liquid and make another fresh batch for the sauce.

A genetic story: Honeynut Mousse

 

This posting is a meeting of two genetic stories.  Legend has it that the intensely sweet and  small butternut squash (named the honeynut) was the result of a challenge thrown by the Chef of Blue Hill to a plant geneticist at Cornell.  Row 7 seed company is evidence of their success story.  Incidentally, I have dabbled in the genetics of food sources (TED) and so I appreciate the challenge of concentrated-flavor phenotype.

The second genetic story is that of me: I am genetically disposed to dentist visits. But my dentist does not get it- he constantly rebukes me for unhealthy habits like soda and sugar, though I entertain no such inclinations.¬† Nevertheless, after one such dental procedure, I was resigned to soft bland food. After a day of mashed potatoes and yogurt, the honeynuts came to my rescue.¬† Not a soup, a mousse:¬† a high temperature roast intensifies the flavor even more.¬† I call it a mousse but it is not a dessert, unless you want it to be one. In any case, the result was so delicious that my Pavlovian-self¬† now even looks forward to the dentists’ eeky interventions!

A final note: yes, I am a “genetic” activist.¬† I believe that indeed a large portion of many a phenotype-of-the-living is explainable by its genetics.

Special tools:

Blender.

Ingredients

  • 3 honeynut squashes halved lengthwise and the internal pulp and seeds removed
  • 3-4 pods of garlic
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tbsp EVOO
  • 1-2 tbsp maple syrup (optional)
  • liquid: 1/2 can of coconut milk + 1 cup almond milk
  • Topping: blue cheese of your choice

Method

Place the halved honeynut squash with the cut side up on a baking tray. Brush with EVOO. Add salt and pepper and the whole pods of garlic. Roast at 425 F for 30 mins.

With a pair of kitchen shears cut the squash into small pieces (with the skin on; but not the stem! ) directly into the blender. Peel the garlic by simply pressing gently to get the interior pulp out. To accentuate the sweetness, you can add the maple syrup.  Add the liquid and run the blender till it turns into smooth thick paste. Serve with the cheese topping.

Notes, hints, tips:
  1. If  the squash is hard to cut, microwave for 2 minutes or so till it just softens enough for the knife to run through.
  2. The immersion blender will not work here since I keep it very thick (albeit with the skin on) and a minimal amount of liquid. The shattered skin in the mousse gives an appealing texture.
  3. I believe the magical mainstay of this recipe is squash, coconut milk and blue cheese.
  4. To melt the cheese, you can place each serving bowl in the microwave for 20-25 secs.
  5. I used a Stilton style artisanal blue cheese (with Roquefort mold).

Sardine Croquette

In my recent trip to Portugal, my memory of the Indian version of croquette (widely called “cutlet”¬† or the Bengalee¬† “chop”) was rekindled.¬† I remember the laborious long drawn-out process of¬† braising, sauteing, breading and deep-frying in my mother’s kitchen.¬† They were primarily with vegetables or even garbanzo and the results always addictive.

Embarrassingly, the moment I returned, I unpacked the cans of fish (cod, sardine, ..) purchased at the Lisbon airport and whipped up my version of the croquettes with pantry ingredients.  Using cod, I baked the croquettes instead of deep-frying.  A delightful way to fight your jet-lag.

But I share here a recipe that uses sardines. My friend assured me that sardines could never be converted into delectable croquettes. Here is my proof of contradiction. Yes, he conceded. But you can try them for yourselves. Neither will you miss the deep-frying nor will the sardines throw you off-balance.

Special tools:

Baking tray lined with parchment paper.

Ingredients

  • 1 can of sardines in olive oil (120 gm)
  • I large potato, cooked in its jacket, peeled and mashed
  • Seasoning: salt to taste + 1/4 tsp smoked paprika
  • Flavoring layer:
  • 1 tbsp extra light olive oil (ELOO)
  • 1 cubanelle or frying pepper, finely diced
  • 2 pods of garlic, skinned and crushed
  • 1/2 tsp curry powder
  • Breading:
  • egg wash: 1 egg + 1/2 cup water, mixed
  • about 1 cup (Italian) bread crumbs
  • Serving: arugula

Method

Mash the potato while it is still warm; add the sardines along with the oil and the seasoning ingredients.

Flavoring layer: Heat ELOO. Saute the diced pepper till soft and fragrant (about 2-3 minutes). Add the crushed garlic and saute till softened (about 30 seconds). Add the curry powder and stir till fragrant (about 30 secs).   Add to the potato-fish mix.

Breading: Pinch off  the mix into 16 (small lime sized) pieces and shape into cylinders.  Place breadcrumbs in a flat platter as a thin layer.  With your right hand dip the cylinder in the egg wash; shake off excess. Then using your left (dry) hand roll the croquette in the breadcrumbs. Repeat this process again (i.e., two layers of breading) and then place each croquette on the parchment lined baking tray.

Bake at 400 F for 15 minutes.  Flip each croquette. Then bake for another 10 mins.

Serve in a bed of arugula.

Notes, hints, tips:
  1. Sources of very good quality canned fish exist over the internet, such as Matiz Espana, King Oscar and such.
  2. The frying-pepper is thinner than regular pepper and works well in the recipe. But you can also use onion (half a medium sized) instead of the frying-pepper.
  3. The amount of curry powder used here is enough for a subtle je-ne-sais-quoi but if you prefer a strong curry flavor,  then use 1 to 2 tsps of curry powder.
  4. You can also add very finely chopped cilantro leaves or other greens to the mix
  5. While most of the steps can be done in a jiffy, the breading needs a little bit of patience– factor in 15-20 minutes for this meditative process.