Fantabulous Meatless Meat

If there was ever a right time for this oxymoron, this is it. At the time of the pandemic, while humanity has been cornered defenseless, there is a lot of rumination about factory farming and exotic meats.

I must confess that I have made seitan (wheat gluten) Greek gyro and I prefer the wheat version over the original! Is it just me ? Here, I use the much touted Beyond-Beef (primarily plant proteins), that are easily available in the grocery stores, in spite of shortages in the other aisles. It really lives up to the hype. And, this protein-on-protein, with a touch of topping greens, is unbelievably sumptuous!


SPECIAL TOOLS:

None.

INGREDIENTS

  • Meatless-meat layer
    • 1 lb meatless meat, ground form
    • Aromatics: 1 tbsp oil + 1 small onion diced + 2 garlic cloves minced + 1/2 inch ginger grated
    • Dry spices: 1 tbsp cumin powder + 1 tsp ground sumac + 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
    • Sauce: 2 tbsp tamarind paste+ 2 tbsp tomato paste + 1 tbsp lemon juice + 1/3 cup vegetable stock or water
  • Base: garbanzo purée (can use hummus or see recipe below)
  • Topping: 3 tbsp toasted pine nuts + microgreens (sunflower)

METHOD

In a thick bottom skillet, brown the ground meat till thoroughly cooked. This takes 12-15 minutes. Take the meat off the pan. Add the aromatics and cook till fragrant (about 5 min), then add the meat back. Mix in the powdered spices. Stir for a few minutes and then add the sauce and blend in and heat thoroughly. Taste for seasonings,

Serve by placing a generous 1/3 cup of garbanzo purée at bottom; a generous layer of meatless meat and finish off with the toppings.

NOTES, HINTS, TIPS:

  1. I call this protein-on-protein, since the base is garbanzo and the next layer is again (plant) protein. You can use real meat, if that is your choice.
  2. I love the citrusy sumac! This recipe is inspired from Adeena Sussman’s Sababa on Israeli food.
  3. Contrary to expectations, I like this even better when lightly warmed (in microwave). Reminiscent of the Palestinian Sinaya.
  4. Garbanzo purée: Soak 1 cup garbanzo beans overnight in plenty of water. Simmer in plenty of water till soft (about 15-30 minutes). Let cool slightly.
    In a processor: softened beans + 4 tbsp sunflower butter + 1/4 cup lemon juice + 1/4 tsp garlic powder + 1/4 cup EVOO + 1 tbsp red miso (optional) + salt to taste.
  5. Sunflower microgreens was used here. You could use any other microgreen or cilantro or parsley.

Flavorwalla Braised Chicken

One of the many New Yorkers we lost after Covid19 diagnosis is Chef Floyd Cardoz. I knew him through Tabla: his Mumbai origin and training was never lost on me.

While sheltering-in-place, I pay tribute to him by adapting one of his creations from his book Flavorwalla (the title cracks me up and it’s so apt for his talents). I further simplify his simple dish and turn into a balanced, one-pot dish. The result is absolutely delicious– hence this post. I thought I was taking a risk by adding apple, pear and dijon mustard to the protein– but the tangy, mustardy stew will steal your heart. Enjoy fresh and refrigerate the left-over!

SPECIAL TOOLS:

Dutch oven (Le Cruset).

INGREDIENTS

  • 4 skin-less, bone-in chicken thighs, marinaded in a ziplock bag for 2 hrs, in 1 tbsp ginger-garlic paste + 1 tbsp coriander powder + 1 tbsp Rosemary leaves + 1/4 cup EVOO
  • Aromatics: 1 medium onion, diced + 2 pods garlic, crushed
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • Vegetables, cut into large 1.5 inch chunks: 1 large potato + 2 carrots + 1/2 fennel bulb
  • Greens: Napa cabbage cut into large pieces + 2 cups of spinach leaves
  • Fruits, cut into 1 inch chunks: 1 green apple cored + 1 pear cored
  • 2nd Flavor layer: 2 tbsp Dijon mustard + crushed chilli flakes
  • Grain: 1 cup quinoa

METHOD

Heat the dutch oven with the chicken and its marinade. When heated through and lightly browned on all sides, add the aromatic ingredients and cook till fragrant (2 minutes). Then add the vegetables, salt-to-taste and cook covered in oven at 375 F for 20 minutes.

Heat the chicken stock (in a microwave). Add to the dutch oven along with Napa cabbage, fruits, 2nd layer flavor ingredients, grains and salt to taste. Mix well, cover and cook at reduced heat (350 F) for 20 minutes. Take off the heat. Fold in the spinach leaves.

NOTES, HINTS, TIPS:

  1. Since we are adding vegetables in layers, the oven is a better option than a pressure cooker. Also, if you decide to cook on the stove-top instead of the oven, you must use a heavy bottomed pan, particularly for the first half of the cookin.
  2. The chicken is tender enough to be pulled off the bones.
  3. You can also use parsnips, turnips etc.
  4. Same for greens- escarole, kale, chard.
  5. Same for grains- couscous, fonio (adjust the cooking time).
  6. The dots in the photograph are the multi-colored quinoa and the specks of dijon mustard.

Root Cakes: Three Ways

Want to take your mind off the pandemic for a few hours ? The produce sections of the groceries are still bursting. Perhaps not the canned and frozen sections, but we don’t much care about those, do we ? Here is something good for your body, that is even better to your palate! These root vegetable cakes are so delicious that you will forget you are sheltering-in-place.

There are enough cakes to even feed your neighbors. But at this time of physical distancing you can only wave to them; so simply freeze the excess.

SPECIAL TOOLS:

Food processor, waffle maker (optional).

INGREDIENTS

  • Peel and shred in the coarse blade of your food processor:
    1/2 celeriac root + 1 large beet + 1/2 fennel bulb + 1 sweet potato
  • Aromatics and seasonings: 2 medium onions sliced + 1 large jalapeno thinly sliced + 1/4 cup ponzu sauce + 1 tbsp garlic salt
  • Tignum (to hold together): 1/4 cup oil + 1 cup besan

METHOD

You may have to cut each into chunks that your processor can ingest. Add all ingredients and combine gently till the mixture holds together lightly. Taste and adjust seasonings. This results in roughly 8 cups of mixture which gives about 20 patties. Here are 3 different ways to cook the patties.

On skillet in medium heat: Lightly oil the the skillet and heat. Make 3 large lemon sized balls and place on the skillet. After about 1 minute, gently flatten the balls with a spatula (till they take the shape of crab cakes). After about 3 minutes –when bottom is browned– flip and cook on the other side for about 2 minutes or so.

At 375 F in oven: Line a baking tray with silicone mat. Place lemon sized balls, well-space, on the mat. Then gently flatten them and tuck in the shreds that stick out. Bake for 15-20 mins. Flip each and bake for another 5 mins.

Waffle maker: Follow instructions on your waffle maker. Use about 3/4 cup in the center of the waffle plate.

NOTES, HINTS, TIPS:

  1. You can use a melange of your favorite vegetables (such as turnips, parsnips, carrots, kohlrabi and such). For cabbage, check out the cabbage rolls.
  2. You can use a mixture of soy sauce and lime/lemon juice instead of Ponzu sauce. Just soy sauce is fine too.
  3. Needless to specify, garlic salt can be substituted with 1 tsp garlic powder and salt to taste.
  4. Make sure that it binds lightly with the besan and doesn’t get too doughy.

Perfumed Lamb Stew with fennel, peppadew

I bet you never expected to see “perfumed” and “lamb” together. This stew is amazingly fragrant from the mixed notes of fennel and grapefruit zest. Enjoy!

SPECIAL TOOLS:

Dutch oven (Le Cruset).

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 lb boneless butterflied leg-of-lamb cut into large 2 inch chunks, after removing the fat layers + salt and pepper
  • Aromatics: 1 medium onion, diced + 2 pods garlic, crushed + 2 anchovy fillets + 1 medium-sized carrot, cut into thin discs
  • 1 cup red wine
  • Vegetables: 1/2 fennel, thinly sliced cross-wise + 10 shiitake mushrooms, thinly sliced + 1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives
  • Topping: 1 medium grape-fruit, zested and juiced + 1/8 cup pitted kalamata olives + 5-6 small pickled hot peppers (Peppadew), with 2 tbsp pickling liquid (optional: dash of Pernod)

METHOD

Mix the lamb with the aromatics in a thick bottomed pot (Le Cruset). Note that you do not have to add any liquid. Cover and cook at 325 F for 1 hour. Stir and continue to cook covered for another hour. Note that the meat will be neatly browned by now.

After 2 hrs (or less, depending on your oven, size of your pot etc), deglaze with red wine and mix in the vegetable ingredients and cook uncovered for another 45 mins to 1 hr till fork tender. Remove from the oven and mix in the toppings and keep covered for 5 minutes. Serve hot with rice.

NOTES, HINTS, TIPS:

  1. I love the no-fuss browning technique. Two sources of browning here. The usual hot surface of the pot (hence don’t stir) and the second is the browning of the exposed surface from the heat in the oven when the lid is removed.
  2. I had stumbled upon the browning technique of above out of sheer minimalism or laziness for elaborate procedures (like coating with flour, browning individually etc).
  3. If your pot has a larger surface area, you may lose the juices faster than if all is crammed into smaller space. So, make your adjustments accordingly and adding a little water if required.
  4. Adapted from the French, à la Gardiane.

Rice Vermicelli Salad

I never paid much attention to the ubiquitous pink pickled onions dotting the tables of many Indian restaurants in the west. I was taken aback once when I was asked about this “iconic” condiment by an eager gourmand. Embarrassed by my bias, I was determined to bring it center-stage.

Flash pickled onions in white balsamic is what puts this otherwise plain salad over the top. The white truffle oil only gilds the lily. You will be surprised by how well the simple ingredients come together in this tangy-sweet, sharp, bright salad. Enjoy!

SPECIAL TOOLS:

None.

INGREDIENTS

  • Rice:
    • 1 cup brown basmati
    • 1/2 cup loosely packed broken vermicelli, dry pan-toasted till golden brown
    • cooking liquid: 1/2 cup champagne + 1 1/2 cup water
    • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Pickled onions: 2 cipollini onions, thinly sliced and soaked in 1/3 cup white balsamic vinegar + pinch salt, for 15 minutes
  • Dressing: 3 tbsp (white truffle) EVOO
  • Greens: 1 1/2 cup loosely packed baby red Russian kale
  • Nuts : 1/3 cup slivered almonds
  • Topping: micro greens (optional: shaved Dill Havarti)

METHOD

In a pot, place the rice and the cooking liquid. Simmer on low-medium for 15 minutes. Add the toasted vermicelli, mix and cook for another 15 minutes. Turn off heat and fluff the rice. [Adjust with the cooking time of the rice of your choice, by adding the vermicelli at the mid point]. Season with salt and pepper while the rice is still warm.

To wilt the greens, fold in while the rice is still warm.

Drain the shallots and reserve the liquid for the dressing. Make a light dressing with the reserved liquid and EVOO. Mix shallots and the nuts in the rice, when slightly cooled.

Dress the salad and serve (cold or at room temperature) with the topping. 

NOTES, HINTS, TIPS:

  1. Champagne can, of course, be replaced by your favorite dry white wine if you don’t want to exhaust your precious bubbly.
  2. Notice that there are two layers of greens in this: the wilted greens and the topping greens. This is deliberate to contrast the texture and sharpness of the two classes.
  3. The creaminess of Havarti contrasts well with the chewiness of brown rice.
  4. Shallots is a good substitute for cipollini. Even regular onions- just slice it very thin.
  5. Additional greens like baby spinach, arugula is also welcome.
  6. The combination of fragrant rice, nutty vermicelli and almonds is a Persian inspiration. Albeit, without the brown butter (ghee).

Caramelized Ragi Polenta

When I last visited India, I brought back a bag of whole red millet called nachni or ragi. Then I scoured the web for suggestions: all used the milled form. Yes, the powerful Vitamix can pulverize the grains in seconds, but I wanted to respect the granularity. I found that the whole grain indeed takes a long time to cook- perhaps the reason why it has escaped the interest of the internet foodies. But I am very patient. And, exploitative! I use the grains’ resilience for a despacito caramelization.

I present two forms: one sweet, for a breakfast porridge; the other savory, to accompany your entree. The al nero (black) in the latter comes from activated charcoal, a superfood.

Use a thick-bottomed pan to get deep caramelization. Keep an eye on it and cook with your nose. The results will blow your mind, as it did mine. Enjoy!

SPECIAL TOOLS:

Thick-bottomed pan, wooden spoon.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup whole red millet, soaked for about 8 hrs in plenty of water, then drained
  • dash of salt + 1/2 can of coconut milk (about 1 cup)
  • Sweet version:
    • Sweet flavorings: 10 prunes + 1/8 cup dehydrated Goji Berries + 1/8 cup dehydrated black cherries + dash of salt
    • Topping: dehydrated mulberries
  • Savory version:
    • Savory flavorings: 1 cup coarsely grated cheese (sharp Cheddar) + 1 tbsp olive tapenade + 1/2 tsp edible Charcoal powder
    • Topping: 1/4 cup coarsely grated cheese

METHOD

For the sweet version mix in the all the flavoring ingredients with the grains. Cook the grain in intervals of 30 minutes as follows.

Place the grains with about 1 cup of water (which should be only about 1/2 cm or so above the level of grains) in a thick-bottomed pan. Bring to a boil. Then simmer, covered, on medium-low for 30 minutes.

Do not worry if it sticks to the bottom – just don’t let it char too much. Then with a wooden-spoon, deglaze with a tbsp of water. Add another cup of water (the level should be just a little above the grain surface) and continue to cook covered for another 30 minutes.

Again, deglaze with 1 tbsp coconut milk. Add the coconut milk, cover and cook for the last 30 minutes. Turn off heat. For the savory version, fold in the flavorings. Let it rest for 10 minutes.

Serve hot with the toppings.

NOTES, HINTS, TIPS:
  1. Soaking the grain is optional. However, soaking in water activates the grains- this makes the enzymes lot more accessible to your body. It turns out to be a little grainier when not soaked, but still delicious.
  2. The activated black charcoal does not lend any perceptible flavor– just turns the polenta al nero black. The saltiness of the olive tapenade marries well with the richness of the cheese.
  3. Due to the dehydrated fruits in the sweet version, the kitchen is redolent with the intoxicating aroma of caramelization. Almost like molasses. This porridge will blow your mind! Try this out on a lazy Sunday morning – you can get a lot done while this cooks 🙂 Just use your timer to intervene at the right times; do not baby-sit this one.