Ottolenghi’s Brussel Sprouts with Grapes & Chestnut

The pandemic Thanksgiving needs to be special; hence the miniature cruciferous veggie gets an Ottolenghi treatment. The sweetness of lightly cooked grapes pop in your mouth and is very refreshing. And, chestnuts never disappoint! This is a multi-thread recipe and takes some prepping and planning with a multitude of ingredients, but ends up stealing the show. Enjoy.

Special tools:

None.

Ingredients

  • Thread 1: 4 cups Brussel sprouts (trimmed & halved) + salt + EVOO
  • Thread 2: 7 tbsp oil + 5 peeled garlic pod, whole + 5 medium shallots peeled and halved
    + 1 tbsp maple syrup + 6 tbsp rice wine (Shaoxing) + 5 bay leaves
    + 2 cups cooked chestnuts + 2 cups seedless grapes
  • Thread 3 (topping) : 2 jalapeno peppers, finely sliced + 2 tbsp rice wine vinegar + 1 tsp sugar + 1/2 tsp salt.
  • Garnish: parsley leaves

Method

The three threads can be done in parallel. Thread 1: Roast the Brussel sprouts at 450 F for 20 mins or until cooked. Thread 2: Mix all the ingredients, except grapes, in a thick bottomed pot. Cover and cook on very low heat for 20 mins. Then mix in the grapes and cook for another 5 mins and turn off the heat. Thread 3: Mix all ingredients and let pickle for the duration of the roasting of Thread 1.

Mix all the results of Thread 1 and 2 and let the flavors develop for 30 minutes or more. Serve at room temperature topped with Thread 3 and garnish.

Notes, hints, tips:
  1. Ottolenghi’s recipes are elaborate but always turn out fantastic! I am a big fan. I adapted his recipe here splitting it into thread 1 and 2 and doing them in parallel.
  2. You can add Rice wine (1-2 tbsp) and soy sauce (1-2 tbsp) to the final mix.
  3. Chestnut is versatile. In Clermont-Ferrand (France) I was introduced to chestnut ice cream. The stores even sell chestnut cream in a tube (ala Italian tomato paste). But here it gets a savory application.
    There are many ways to prepare fresh chestnuts, but store bought prepared chestnuts work equally well in recipes.
    • Prepping: In every method, slit each chestnut on the flat side, with the tip of a sharf knife.
    • Boiling: Slit and soak the chestnuts overnight in plenty of water. Next day, simmer in plenty of water for 30-40 mins until cooked through. Drain and cool.
    • Steam-Toasting: I discovered this method that toasts the shells to give the heady aroma, redolent of the Holidays, while the steam softens the shells.
      1. Slit and soak the chestnuts overnight in plenty of water, to get a head start on the shell softening. But if you are in a rush, a few hours to none is OK– you may just need more iterations in Step 3 below.
      2. Heat a heavy bottomed iron skillet on medium-high. Add the nuts to the hot pan with 2 oz water.
      3. Every 10 mins, remove cover and splash 2 oz water and cover immediately. It sizzles and steams up. Iterate this 3-4 times (30-40 mins) until done. Use your timer in 10-min repeat mode for convenience.
    • Shelling: Press the nut vertically, between your thumb and forefinger until the shell cracks and gently retrieve the whole flesh.

Halloween Cassava Pumpkin Waffles

Halloween is upon us, pandemic or not. It will be a quiet one this year. But a nail-biting election on its heels. Good luck to the contestants and may the planet win!

Back to small things. Pumpkin on the menu. Cassava flour was a serendipitous discovery in the pantry but it went so well with the pumpkin that I was compelled to blog. Enjoy!

Special tools:

Waffle maker; silicone brush

Ingredients

Makes 5 large waffles

  • Dry ingredients: 2 cups cassava flour + 1 tsp baking powder +1/2 tbsp cooking soda + 2 tbsp Maca powder (optional) + 1 tsp pumpkin spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, grated fresh ginger) + dash of salt
  • Wet ingredients: 2 cups pumpkin (a 15oz can) + 1 cup yogurt + 2 eggs + 2 tbsp oil

Method

Mix the dry and wet ingredients separately with a wire whisk. When well mixed, pour the wet into the dry. The leavening ingredients make the batter light.

You will not be able to pour the batter. Instead, using a measuring cup, place 1 cup of the thick batter at a time in the waffle maker (follow manufacturer’s instructions). Brush a little oil at each use with the silicone brush.

Serve warm with maple syrup.

Notes, hints, tips:
  1. Cassava flour is the same as yuca flour– just make sure the bag is not labeled starch. This flour is a good substitute to wheat flour, but without the baggage. And, doubles the calorie and a truck-load of nutrients. But, you can indulge in it just for its delicious appeal.
  2. Pumpkin can threaten the waffle to be softer- but cassava is a good crisping complement.
  3. Sweet potato can be used in place of pumpkin: steam 3-4 medium sized ones in the microwave in their jackets (wrapped in moist kitchen towel) for a few minutes. Cool, peel and mash.
  4. Sans cassava: Another fantastic version with the flour mix: 1/4 cup flour each of oat, black rye, almond and coconut.
  5. Sans pumpkin: Here are a few flour mixes that turn out equally marvelous even without the pumpkin.
    Makes 3-4 large waffles or about 8 pancakes on a griddle
    • Dry ingredients 1 1/3 cup flour (one of the mixes from below) + 1 tbsp baking powder + dash of salt
      • 1 cup brown rice flour + 1/3 cup coconut flour OR
      • 1/3 cup oat flour + 1/3 cup black rye flour + 1/3 cup brown rice flour + 1/3 cup coconut flour OR
      • 1 cup brown rice flour + 1/6 cup coffee flour; 1/6 cup coconut flour OR
      • 1/3 cup regular white flour + 1/3 cup brown teff flour + 1/3 cup buckwheat flour + 1/3 cup millet flour
    • Wet ingredients: 1 ½ cups buttermilk + 2eggs +2 tbsp oil
  6. Date syrup is another pleasant accompaniment to the waffles/pancakes.

Adai: Pancake To Dai For

The Indian subcontinent offers a cornucopia of grains and lentils pancakes: dosa, chakuli pitha, uttapam, pesarattu, adai, chitau… Here is a simple, unfermented one inspired by adai. Not your mother’s adai. If you can believe it, this is even better!

It takes a little planning (prepping overnight) but made even simpler with the use of a no-fuss waffle maker. The waffle provides larger browned surface area and even little pockets to trap the accompanying sauces. Enjoy!

Special tools:

Food processor; waffle maker; silicone brush

Ingredients

Makes 4 waffles (8 portions)

  • Soak separately overnight or until  bite-test  (few hours) in plenty of cold water: 1 1/4 cup grains + 1 cup lentils
  • Flavor base I: Saute in a little sesame oil : 1 tsp skinned white (urad) lentils + 3 stalks of curry leaves + ¼  cup desiccated coconut + 1 red dry chili
  • Flavor base II: 1/4 cup chopped cilantro + 1/2 cup diced onions + 1/4 tsp heeng + 1/4 tsp turmeric powder + 1/2 inch ginger, microplaned + salt to taste
  • 1/8 cup oil for the waffle maker

Method

Drain the grains and lentils and process in a food processor with the Flavor Base I till smooth. Don’t worry if the batter continues to be a wee bit gritty– the soaking has hydrated it and it will steam during the cooking. Mix in the Flavor Base II ingredients. The batter will be thick.

Use about 1 cup of the thick batter at a time in the waffle maker (follow manufacturer’s instructions). Use a little oil with each use. It takes about 4 minutes for each.

Serve warm  with Indian chutney or sambar.   

Notes, hints, tips:
  1. The grain/cereal used here is oats (steel-cut). The lentils used here is of 4 kinds, equal in volume: toor, masoor (with skin); black urad (with skin), black eyed peas. The use of lentils with skin adds fibre and nutrients, with no compromise on taste.
  2. The traditional way to make it is crepe-style in a pan/skillet (see picture below): this takes a lot of patience, care and skill.
  3. To my delight, I discovered that the waffle maker works remarkably well, and, makes an even better presentation!
    The batter has no leavening agent and no fermentation– then how come the waffle making works? The staple ingredients –grains, lentils– are well hydrated (passed the  bite-test ). The trapped moisture steams with heat making the interior deliciously fluffy without being pasty. And, the outer layer is invitingly crisp.

A Fistful Of Grains

Muthia means a fistful and you may have seen it in Indian Delis (or Freezer sections). The one here however is even more interesting. And, if the title triggers flashes of Clint Eastwood, it is intentional 😉

But back to delicious, conscientious eating. A more assertive substitute for plain white rice is a mixture of whole grains that Asian grocery stores are already stocking. There is always leftover rice and here is how you transform les restes to je ne sais quoi irresistible morsels. Enjoy!


SPECIAL TOOLS:

None.

INGREDIENTS

  • Macerate overnight: 1 1/2 cups cooked mixed grains + 1/4 cup yogurt + 1 shallot finely minced + 1/4 inch ginger finely grated + 1 finely chopped green chilli + salt to taste + (optional: oat flour)
  • For tempering: 1 tbsp oil, 1/tsp mustard seeds + 1 dozen fragrant curry leaves
  • Slices of heirloom tomatoes for serving
  • Topping: cottage cheese

METHOD

If the rice mixture is too runny, thicken with the oat flour. Steam the rice mixture for about 15 minutes. Let cool slightly and shape roughly into little balls (fistfuls).

Heat oil in a non-stick pan for tempering. Add the mustard seeds and curry leaves. When they begin to sputter, gently place the balls. Flip gently after a tw minutes and let lightly brown on the other side.

Serve warm with slices of Heirloom tomatoes and topped with a little cottage cheese.

NOTES, HINTS, TIPS:

  1. The mixed grain used here was from the Asian market. It has regular and hulled barley + rye berries + black rice + red rice + brown rice. Follow the instructions on the package.
  2. For steaming, I used a steaming basket lined with parchment. Since the steaming basket was that of a pressure cooker, I succumbed to temptation and pressure-steamed for 12 minutes, under medium pressure. This softened the grains a bit.
  3. Since the grain here are not as docile as plain white rice, in fact they provide a nice texture.

Squash Blossoms with Curry Leaves

The local farmer’s market yielded a carton of fresh squash blossoms this weekend (community is still under cautionary shelter-in-place). Baked Fiore di Zucchini stuffed with ricotta over tomato coulis, is one of my favorites in most Italian Bistros. The creaminess of the cheese with the sweetness of the tomatoes never fails to seduce me. I was tempted; but I dove into my childhood instead. My mother’s très fin squash blossoms.

I have adapted her formula. I mix in the South with the East (apropos India) for a bold, assertive version. Enjoy!

SPECIAL TOOLS:

Blender.

INGREDIENTS

  • 16 squash blossoms
  • Rice Batter:
    • 1 cup brown rice soaked in plenty of water for 1 hour
    • Flavoring: 1 Thai red chilli + 1 tsp whole cumin seeds + 1/2 cup loosely packed curry leaves (approx. 10-12 stems) + garlic salt to taste
  • oil for shallow frying

METHOD

In a blender, blend the soaked rice (with no water) and the flavoring ingredients till mixed into a non-grainy paste. Clean, wash and shake-dry the blossoms.

Heat oil in a skillet on medium heat. Generously, douse each blossom in the rice batter and place on the skillet. After 2-3 minutes, flip each blossom and cook for another 2-3 minutes. Serve hot.

NOTES, HINTS, TIPS:

  1. Most Indian grocery stores have curry leaves in the refrigerator section, in case you are not one of those lucky ones with a curry plant in your backyard 😉
  2. For an even more flavorful version, you may lightly saute the curry leaves in a little oil, to bring out the heady aroma of the leaves, before throwing into the blender.
  3. Curry leaves, the strongly aromatic greens, is the South-Indian component I mention. It also turns the batter an attractive tender green color.
  4. How long should the rice soak? Follow the bite-test.
  5. The blossoms went well with horseradish sauce, but feel free to use any sauce or chutney of your liking. A purist like me enjoys it without any!
  6. I used brown Jasmati rice, since that was the most accessible from the pantry. Any type of rice would work. This is a very forgiving recipe.
  7. Instead of using spices, I use garlic-salt (my mother may frown at this since garlic is not the traditional allium for the blossoms).

Latke with Leftover Rice Batter. Grate one large potato (no need to peel) and soak in plenty cold water. Squeeze excess water and mix with the rice batter. Adjust seasonings. Make latkes as usual. Unusual, but very delicious!

Baobab Kombucha

While fourth of July is best celebrated in the time of Covid-19 in responsible and measured isolation, here is an incredible summer bubbly to cheer you up! Homemade kombucha is used here, but farmers market or store bought is equally uplifting. Baobab debuted only recently, but is already heading towards becoming the queen of the pantry!


SPECIAL TOOLS:

None.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1/2 tsp Baobab powder
  • 1 cup kombucha (chilled)
  • 1 tsp honey (optional)

METHOD

Place the powder in a glass. Pour the kombucha over the powder, mix with wire whisk so the powder is blended (few seconds). Serve immediately.

NOTES, HINTS, TIPS:

  1. If using honey, first mix it well with the powder, using the wire whisk, before adding the kombucha.
  2. The Baobab powder adds a little citrus, but a lot of fizz!