Monday, September 27, 2010

Garam Masala

I made curry this weekend and the recipe called for garam masala.

Penzey's will sell it to you, but you can make it yourself, if you have the inkling.

From The Spice Box: A Vegetarian Indian Cookbook 
by Manju Shivraj Singh:

Garam Masala, Powdered
1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns 
16 whole cloves
6 whole cardomom seeds (green)
1 inch piece of cinnamon stick
1 teaspoon whole black, small cumin seeds
2 bay leaves
2 teaspoons whole cumin seeds

The directions say to grind all of the above in a coffee grinder or pepper mill, but I went old school and used my mortar and pestle. (Also: I don't have a coffee grinder.) 

Took a few minutes, but I was pleased with the results (though my arm was too tired to take any more photos). 

According to the cookbook, households in northern India insist upon grinding garam masala fresh daily.  If I had to do that... I would probably invest in a coffee grinder. ;-)

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Pumpkin Seeds

Last year I tried to roast pumpkin seeds. The charred, inedible remains of that attempt were in my mind today when I had the guts of a pumpkin spread out before me.

Could I carry on alone? 

No. I needed professional help. 

I looked through four or five different cookbooks before I found directions for roasting the seeds. (I believe most cookbook authors have written recipes based on the premise that their readers can figure out basic one or two ingredient recipes--as in, pumpkin seeds and salt--on their own. They apparently didn't know I'd be one of their readers.)

I was grateful to find Didi Emmons didn't overestimate my cooking abilities. Her Vegetarian Planet includes directions for roasting pumpkin seeds. And if you're like me and lack all culinary skill, perhaps you'll appreciate this as much as I: 

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds
To prepare the seeds, put them with the attached strings into a colander, and separate the strings from the seeds under cold running water. Spread the seeds on a baking sheet, and bake them at 325 degrees for 20 minutes. Stir in 1 tablespoon olive oil, some ground black pepper, and salt. Bake the seeds 40 minutes more, stirring from time to time.

My oven tends to run hot, so my seeds were a bit scorched when I checked on them at the 20 minute mark. I turned the dial down to 300 and only cooked them for 20 more minutes.

Not just edible, totally delicious!

Monday, September 20, 2010

I Cooked Borscht!!!

That's right, I actually got myself into the kitchen and cooked something from one of my cookbooks! I think it was the scent of woodburning stoves permeating the neighborhood this morning; just seemed like a day when one should be in the kitchen, making something warm and nourishing.

I chose to make borscht, since we have a garden full of beets and onions and received even more beets and onion--not to mention tons of raw garlic--in our CSA this weekend.

What I like about this recipe is that it uses the entire beet--root with peel and leaves and stems--not just a peeled root. Waste not, want not!

From The New Laurel's Kitchen

Whole Beet Borscht

  • 1 small onion [I used two]
  • 1 clove garlic [I used three!]
  • 2 tsp oil [I used extra virgin olive oil]
  • 2 Tbls flour
  • 5 cups stock or water [I used some of the frozen stock we still have saved from this spring]
  • 1 bunch beets and their greens (3 large or 6 small) [I tossed in a few extra]
  • 1 potato
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 stalk celery
  • 1/2 small cabbage
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 2 Tbls tomato past or 2 fresh tomatoes, chopped [I used the fresh option, since I had them on hand]

Chop onion and saute with garlic clove in oil. Mash garlic clove when onion is translucent and browning. Stir in flour and cook gently for a minute. Add stock or water and bring to a boil.
Meantime, trim roots of beets, saving the good leaves and stems. Grate beets, potato, and carrot, or slice them thin. Slice celery thin. Add these and simmer 10 minutes while you shred the cabbage and chop the beet leaves and stems small. Add these and bay leaf, salt, pepper, honey and tomato to the vegetable mixture. Simmer until all vegetables are tender. Remove bay leaf.
Makes 10 cups.

Mmmm. Nothing quite like beets. You either love 'em or you hate 'em. You've probably already figured-out which side of that fence my family and I are on...

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Post In Which I Discuss Frugalness & Cranberries

I actually thought my cookbook buying days were ending. No longer can I pop into Saint Vincent de Paul's and find books for $1.00. No, they've increased their prices to a bloated $3.00-$4.00 a cookbook. And I cannot abide it.

I've held in my hand several Frugal Gourmet cookbooks these past months, nearly talking myself into a splurge. But I've always finally held off, not convinced that my fanatical need for cookbooks is at the stage where I pay more than $2.00 a pop. Especially for a cookbook which contains "Frugal" in its title.

Today, my patient tightwadedness feels triumphant. I can still find cookbooks for less than a buck here in Madison:  at my local library's book sale. I arrived in time for their "we'll sell you anything you can fit into this bag for $3" clearance. And did I ever manage to pack my paper bag full. I believe even a professional grocery store bagger would have been impressed. Final total: sixty-three books, five of which were cookbooks. My haul included Jeff Smith's The Frugal Gourmet Cooks American, which I well remember from my younger days (having read many of Jeff Smith's books and spending hours watching his show on PBS). So HAH, Saint Vincent's! I just bought a cookbook for less than $0.10 and I more than ever convinced that your new $4.00 prices are rip-offs.

Don't be scared-off by the odd Boy Scouts/granny/turkey photo on the front cover. This is a good book!

So, you ask, upon my initial review of the book, what have I discovered? Let me tell you. The chapter on cranberries. It's nearly cranberry season, and I literally had no idea the amazing options we'll soon have. Oh yes, it's beyond sauce. Far beyond. There's going to be:

  • Cranberry Fool (sweetened cranberries, almond extract, orange peel & whipping cream)
  • Cranberry Cheddar Sandwiches (buttered bread spread with cranberry sauce and cheddar, broiled)
  • Cranberry Pie (berry pie! using cranberries!)
  • Cranberry Dumplings (Mr. Smith warns that these are addictive)
  • Sweet Potatoes with Cranberries (fresh cranberries added to a sweet potato souffle)

That's right. I'm actually vowing to begin cooking again soon. Within the month. Exclusively with cranberries.