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Aloo Gobi Parathas

13 Jun

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As I may have mentioned before, my son does not like Indian food. Because of this, every Indian item I make tends to be focused on an effort to get my kid to at least taste it, and, in hope, want to eat more. Futile? Perhaps. But, believe it or not, when it comes to introducing my kid to the food of my ancestors, Indian food is the safer road to travel, being as though I am half Indian and half Scottish, and it seems much kinder to introduce parathas to an innocent child rather than force upon him the culinary horror that is haggis. Sheep’s lungs and liver boiled inside its own stomach, or flatbreads filled with potatoes and cauliflower? Parathas it is!

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The interesting conundrum about making Indian food for a child lies in the fact that Indian food is generally rich with spices and very particular flavors, and many children are instinctively put off by this. While it is not as though my kid will only eat pasta and baby carrots, he is definitely hesitant when it comes to the fragrant spices of an Indian dish. My only course of action in this situation is to tone down the spice quotient in recipes while also testing out ways to make them more appealing to the eating desires of a first grader. Because naan is always such a hit with children, it seemed only natural that parathas were next in line to be tested.

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The dough for these parathas could not be simpler. A mixture of whole wheat flour, all-purpose flour, salt, and water, the dough requires little more than mixing, kneading, and resting, which leaves you a nice window of time to cook up the potato and cauliflower filling. I may be alone in feeling this way, but the next step—the rolling, folding, and rolling again—is one of my favorites.

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The rhythm of constructing each paratha while one simultaneously cooks on the stove is almost soothing to me, and there is nothing quite so satisfying as fortifying the work with a snack of fresh, hot paratha, working in bites in between rolling, turning, and cooking. Gently spiced cauliflower and potatoes folded into crisp flatbread is almost impossible not to love. Almost. Unless you are my son, in which case you will take a single bite of a paratha then turn away briskly, robotically intoning, “Don’t like it.” Alas, what one rejects, another embraces. None for him, but more for me. It’s not an entirely bad situation in which to be.

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Last Year: Multigrain Sandwich Bread and Chocolate Coconut Marble Cake

So many more Indian dishes can be found in the archives!

Aloo Gobi Parathas (Indian Flatbreads Stuffed with Potatoes and Cauliflower)

Dough:

1 cup whole wheat flour

1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling out the dough

1 teaspoon salt

¾ to 1 cup water

Filling:

1 medium potato (about 8 ounces)

½ a head of medium-sized cauliflower, cut into florets (about 8 ounces)

2 tablespoons vegetable oil, plus more for cooking parathas

½ teaspoon mustard seeds

½ teaspoon turmeric

2 teaspoons minced garlic

1 cup finely chopped onion

1 small jalapeno or other chile, finely minced (remove seeds and ribs before mincing to tone down the heat)

½ teaspoon salt

In a large bowl, or in the bowl of a stand mixer, combine flours with salt. Stir the flour mixture while slowly pouring in the water. The dough should need not quite the full cup of water in order to come together as a cohesive dough. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface, and knead for around five minutes, until smooth and supple. If you are using a stand mixer, mix the dough together with the dough hook, then, when the dough comes together, knead for an additional 4 to 5 minutes, until the dough is quite smooth. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and allow to rest for at least 1 hour.

While the dough is resting, make the filling.

Boil the potato, still in its jacket, until it can be easily pierced through with the tip of a knife. Set aside to cool. Steam the cauliflower florets until soft, about 8 to 10 minutes. Set aside to cool.

In a large skillet or wok set over high heat, add the vegetable oil and swirl it around until it covers the pan. Add the mustard seeds and cook for about 20 seconds, until they begin to pop and sputter. Lower the heat a tad, add the turmeric and garlic, and stir until the garlic is fragrant, about 20 seconds. Add the chopped onion and cook, stirring frequently, until the onion is soft and just beginning to brown, about 8 to 10 minutes.

While the onion is cooking, peel the skin off of the boiled potato, and add it, along with the slightly cooled cauliflower, to a large bowl. Mash the cauliflower and potato together using a potato masher or, if you have strong forearms, a fork.

When the onions have become soft and slightly browned, add the chile and stir to combine. Add the mashed potato and cauliflower mixture, sprinkle with salt, and continue to stir and cook until the mixture is completely combined. The filling should be quite soft, and only slightly tinged with brown in places. Remove the filling to the bowl in which you mashed the potato and cauliflower. Allow the mixture to cool to room temperature.

While the filling is cooling, prepare the paratha dough. Cut the dough in half, then into 8 pieces. Use your hands to flatten each piece into a disc. Coat each disc with a light dusting of flour. On a floured surface, use a rolling pin to gently roll each disc into a rough 8-inch round, setting aside and covering each circle as you roll it out. Do not turn dough over while rolling.

Spread 2 to 3 tablespoons of filling over one half of a dough round. Fold the bare half of the dough round over the filling, then fold in half to make a quarter-round wedge shape. Lightly pat the wedge flat, then gently roll it into a rough 8-inch round. Do not turn rounds over while rolling. Some filling will most likely sneak out the sides, but that is all right. Repeat with remaining dough rounds.

To cook the parathas, have ready a small bowl of vegetable oil of melted ghee. Heat a heavy cast iron skillet over high heat. When the skillet is hot, add a tablespoon of vegetable oil or ghee, and tip the skillet to coat it as much as possible. Lower the heat under the pan to medium-high, and place a paratha, top down, in the skillet. Cook for almost a minute, then turn the paratha over. Brush the surface of the paratha with a bit of vegetable oil of melted ghee, and cook for another minute and a half. Turn paratha over once more, and continue to cook for an additional 30 seconds, until the paratha is well spotted with brown patches on both sides. Remove to a plate, and cover to keep warm. Cook the remaining parathas in the same manner, adding another tablespoon or so of oil or ghee to the skillet in between each paratha.

Makes 8 parathas.

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Cauliflower and Herb Spread

3 May

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It’s picnic season! I knock on wood as I say this, but Portland has really been delivering some fine spring weather this year, and I can’t wait to keep our outdoor time at its maximum level. Playing outdoors, eating outdoors, sleeping outdoors—it’s all in our future.

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My love of picnics is no secret, but I do sometimes wonder how I can shake up our picnic spreads without diverting too much from what makes a picnic meal so enjoyable for me. Picnics are casual affairs for us, without a reliance on silverware or fussy presentations. While we do sometimes pack a picnic that includes a salad or two thrown into a lidded container, it seems almost antithetical to the very spirit of a picnic to make your food fork or spoon-required. This means our picnics tend to include a lot of cheese selections to pair with bread, a good amount of fruit and vegetables in their most casual form, and, of course, a treat or two…or threeoh, fine to round out the meal. It’s a lovely way to eat, but, tough as it may be to imagine, even I, at times, get a bit overloaded by cheese and sweets.

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Last week, when thinking of ways to diversify our picnics, I started dreaming of my favorite white bean spread. It’s a nearly perfect item to slather over a hunk of crusty bread, and, with silky pureed cauliflower swapped in for the creamy white beans, I began to imagine a new picnic food to audition this year. As it turns out, this combination of sweetly sautéed onions, fresh herbs, and smooth cauliflower is even better than I thought it would be. It’s even better, dare I say it, than cheese. For your friends who are allergic to legumes, it makes a great alternative to hummus or other bean spreads. For your vegetarian friends, it’s a super flavorful topping for bread that needs no meat to make it shine. For your vegan friends, try swapping the butter for ¼ cup of good olive oil, and sauté the onions and garlic slowly, until they begin to really melt. For everyone, make a batch of this right now, grab yourself a picnic blanket and a baguette, and head outside.

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Last Year: Crisp Baked Vegetable Wontons and Spinach, Fennel, and Pear Salad with Brown Butter Hazelnuts

Cauliflower and Herb Spread

1 medium head of cauliflower

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 medium onion, finely diced

2 tablespoons fresh garlic, finely chopped

1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, finely chopped

2 tablespoons Italian parsley, finely chopped

2 pinches red chile flakes

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

Trim cauliflower of leaves and tough inner stem. Cut cauliflower into small florets, then place in a steamer basket. Over a pot of boiling water, cover and steam cauliflower florets for 10 to 12 minutes, until the florets are tender. Remove steamer basket from pot, and allow cauliflower to cool a bit while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.

In separate saucepan, melt butter over medium low heat, then add onions, garlic, herbs, and chile flakes. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is translucent about 7 to 10 minutes. Add steamed cauliflower. Mash or puree with a food processor or stick blender until smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste. Remove to a dish or bowl, drizzle with olive oil, and serve with crusty bread.

Roasted Cauliflower with Pine Nuts and Lemon Brown Butter Breadcrumbs

19 Nov

You read that right. Lemon brown butter breadcrumbs. Can you think of any other possible word combinations that manage to sound even half as heavenly? I have been sitting here for the better part of ten minutes, trying to think of something clever to offer up as a possible contender, and my mind is totally blank. Lemon brown butter breadcrumbs have become my new best friend.

As it turns out, lemon brown butter breadcrumbs are incredibly friendly little fellows, because they just so happen to be the perfect companion for roasted cauliflower, one of my all-time favorite vegetable side dishes. The simplicity of roasted cauliflower is nearly perfect on its own, but when paired with a sprinkling of deeply flavorful, crunchy, and nutty breadcrumbs, cauliflower rises to a whole new level of distinction. It’s a good lesson for me, really. Just when I think that I know exactly how I like a certain food to be, something new appears that completely changes the way I look at a food. Roasted cauliflower by itself is wonderful, but baked in a gratin or dotted with crispy breadcrumbs, it’s even better.

It’s no mistake that I am publishing this recipe this week, when people all over the country are getting ready to fire up their stoves and partake in a day-long marathon of cooking, baking, basting, and then, thankfully, eating. I have long thought that the very best part of Thanksgiving dinner is not the plates of meat that sit proudly at the head of a table, but rather the small plates and bowls that surround said meat. Eating a holiday meal made almost entirely out of side dishes is the most special of meals, in my mind, almost like an American version of tapas. What? Too much of a stretch? Mashed potatoes and bread-based dressing a little too far away from Spain to make that connection? All right, I agree. To a point. But, still, sit down to a serving of this heavenly cauliflower, a scoop or two of something savory and oh-so-autumnal, and a glass of wine, and it’s tough to muster up any reason why a meal shouldn’t be centered around a dish as fine as this one.

Last Year: Pear and Chocolate Bread Pudding

Roasted Cauliflower with Pine Nuts and Lemon Brown Butter Breadcrumbs Recipe

The breadcrumbs that adorn this dish are almost the same as a sauce polonaise, save for the fact that this version swaps out crumbled hard boiled eggs for briefly toasted pine nuts. If you are looking to make this dish more of a one-meal affair, adding a chopped hard boiled egg or two would certainly up its protein quotient, making it stretch a bit further towards being a complete meal on its own.

1 large head of cauliflower, leaves and core removed, florets cut into roughly 2-inch long pieces.

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 tablespoon minced shallots

¼ cup panko breadcrumbs (or other dry, unseasoned breadcrumbs)

¼ cup pine nuts

salt and pepper to taste

2 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley

Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Toss cauliflower florets with 2 tablespoons of olive oil (I do this directly on the same heavy duty baking sheet I use to roast the cauliflower), then sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Arrange cauliflower on a heavy duty baking sheet, placing as many of the cut sides down as possible, then roast in the center of the oven for 20 to 25 minutes, until the cauliflower is deeply caramelized on the bottom and lightly golden on top.

While the cauliflower is roasting, melt the butter in a small skillet or pan over medium-low heat. When browning butter, it is always best to do so in a light-colored pan so you can closely gauge the changing of the butter’s color. Slowly cook the butter, swirling the pan around every few seconds so the butter cooks evenly. The butter will begin to foam, then spatter a bit, and then you’ll see the little dots of milk solids begin to turn brown at the bottom of the pan. This can take anywhere from 4 to 8 minutes, so be sure to watch the butter very carefully to keep it from burning.

When the dots of butter solids have turned a nice medium brown and the butter begins to emit a lovely nutty aroma, stir in the lemon juice. The mixture will spatter a bit, but that is to be expected. Immediately stir in the minced shallots, then cook, stirring frequently, until the shallots have softened (this should take 3 to 5 minutes). When the shallots have softened, stir in the breadcrumbs. Continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the breadcrumbs turn golden brown. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Remove breadcrumb mixture from pan. With the pan still set over medium-low heat, toast the pine nuts in the pan, stirring frequently, until they are golden brown all over, about 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat.

Arrange cauliflower on a serving platter. Spoon breadcrumb mixture over the cauliflower. Sprinkle over toasted pine nuts. Add chopped parsley. Serve as soon as possible.

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