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Coriander Potatoes

18 Oct

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I am very sorry to have to tell you this, but I have been holding out on you. For a few months now, I have been in possession of the simplest, most delicious side dish known to all of humankind, and I have not, as yet, shared it with you. There is no excuse for this, particularly when this recipe takes under 20 minutes to prepare, contains only a few simple ingredients, and is, I have delightfully discovered, so popular with those pickiest of eaters—children—that is disappears almost as quickly as a slice of chocolate cake. Almost. Not quite. This is a potato dish, mind you, not a plate of miracles.

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Inspired by my son’s favorite side dish at a nearby Lebanese restaurant, the potatoes are perfectly warm with coriander, spiked with a bit of fresh chiles, and tinged with just enough garlic to make them interesting, but not dangerous. I can’t recommend enough that you make this side dish a last-minute staple at your house, as it has become at ours.

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Last Year: Cheddar, Apple, and Poppy Seed Scones and Black Bean and Sweet Potato Soup

Coriander Potatoes

1 ½ pounds potatoes (I use Russet, but I imagine a waxier potato would work just fine here as well), peeled and diced into ½-inch chunks

¼ cup olive oil, or a mixture of 2 tablespoons of olive oil mixed with 2 tablespoons of ghee

1 tablespoon ground coriander

2 large cloves of garlic, finely minced

1 small chile (a Serrano works well here), sliced into thin strips or rings (seeds and ribs removed if you desire less heat)

salt to taste

sprinkling of chopped fresh Italian parsley

Heat olive oil (or olive oil and ghee mixture) in a large pan set over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add the coriander and allow it to sizzle and brown for 10 seconds. Add the potatoes, stir to combine with coriander and oil, then cover, lower heat to medium, and allow to cook for 3 to 4 minutes, until potatoes have just begun to soften. Add the minced garlic on top of the potatoes, but don’t stir to combine. Place lid back over potatoes, and cook for another 3 minutes. Add sliced chile, stir to combine, and cook for an additional 1 minute, stirring frequently. Add salt to taste, then sprinkle with parsley.

Serves 6 to 8 people as a generous side dish.

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Green Tomato Pakoras

30 Sep

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Well, it happened. I’ve been wearing boots for the past week—a very rainy week, I might add—which can only signal that summer is officially over, and it’s time to buckle down and prepare our nests for the long, grey days of autumn and winter. And spring. And part of summer. But who’s counting?

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In anticipation of our summer plans that would keep us away from home for most of July and August, we planted a rather modest vegetable garden this year. Our main garden component was tomatoes, and we were able to harvest a really nice crop after our return, which made for a lovely welcome back home. The tomato plants were still going strong as of about a week and a half ago, but with the cold weather sitting on top of us, it is obvious that the plump green tomatoes holding onto each vine have absolutely no chance of ever ripening. This, of course, is not a bad thing, particularly if you are as big of a fan of green tomatoes as I am.

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I wanted to experiment with more ways to enjoy green tomatoes (aside from the ubiquitous—and delicious—fried green tomatoes), so, as I am wont to do when faced with a challenge, I turned to my Indian roots in the name of experimentation. It took me about five seconds to realize that my crop of green tomatoes was practically begging to be drenched in a spicy besan batter and pan fried into golden and crisp green tomato pakoras. I’ve made a few types of pakoras over the years, and I have to admit, I think these right here are my hands down favorites. In addition to using besan (chickpea flour) in the pakora batter, I added a bit of rice flour for an added lightness and crispness, and, in the interest of pumping up the mild flavor of the green tomatoes, I added a finely diced chile to the batter. The end result is nothing short of dreamy. With a stash of green tomatoes to keep me company, it almost makes me not so sad that summer has come to a close.

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Last Year: Homemade Multigrain CrackersCheddar Apple Cornmeal Bread, and Apple and Toasted Oat Cookies with Penuche Frosting –is anyone else noticing that all of these recipes practically scream “AUTUMN!”?

Green Tomato Pakoras

¾ cup besan (garbanzo bean flour, also called gram flour)

½ cup rice flour

1 tablespoon ground coriander

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 small chile, finely minced, seeds removed if you are concerned about spiciness

3 tablespoons minced cilantro leaves

½ teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger

¾ to 1 cup water

3 to 4 large to medium-sized green tomatoes, sliced into rounds

vegetable oil

ghee (optional)

In a medium bowl, whisk together besan, rice flour, dried spices, chile, cilantro, and salt. Stir the grated ginger into ¾ of a cup of water, then slowly whisk the water into the besan mixture. You want your pakora batter to be thicker than pancake batter, but not so stiff that it clumps over the tomato slices. If your batter seems to thick, slowly whisk in the remaining ¼ cup of water until the batter lightens up a bit.

In a large, heavy skillet (cast iron works very well here) set over medium high heat, pour in about ¼ inch of vegetable oil, or a mixture of vegetable oil and ghee. Heat the oil until a pinch of batter dropped into it immediately begins to sizzle.

Using your fingers (seriously, don’t even bother with tongs or a fork here—fingers just work so much better), coat three or four tomato slices at a time in the besan batter. Gently place the tomato slices in the hot oil. They should sizzle and bubble immediately. Cook the tomato pakoras for about 3 minutes on each side, give or take, until the batter is deep golden brown and quite crisp. Remove tomato pakoras to a wire rack lined with a double layer of paper towels.

Serve pakoras warm or hot, with chutney or raita.

Serves 4 to 6 people as an appetizer.

Fennel and Tomato Pasta Salad with Balsamic Dressing

12 Jul

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Last year I admitted to you all that I am no fan of pasta salads. The gloppy, the soggy, the mayonnaise-laden bowls of unappetizing sadness. Man, I’m really coming down hard on pasta salad, aren’t I? It’s almost as though I have forgotten how there are good pasta salads out there, but, sadly, not enough people seem to know about them. I am to change that, which is why I come to you today, armed with this utterly tasty and crisp, fresh and flavorful pasta salad.

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Found long ago on Epicurious, I’ve been making a version of this pasta salad for a few years now. Though I don’t follow the ingredient list to the letter, one element of the salad that remains unchanged is the dressing. With a perfect balance of flavors, this is a pasta salad dressing to keep on file for the duration of your life, and preferably the lives of your offspring as well. Never again shall you be steered towards the unsavory land of bland, droopy pasta salad dressings, for this dressing will make you demand a change for the better.

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It’s not dressing alone that makes this dish a stand out, however. Folded together with piles of fresh, crisp vegetables, the measure of pasta to not-pasta is spot on. The original recipe called for tomatoes and thinly sliced fennel to adorn the salad, but I love adding in whatever I have on hand to make the flavors and textures a bit different each time. Sometimes I throw in roughly chopped spinach leaves, thinly sliced ribs of red and yellow bell pepper, or a couple of cups of baby arugula. One thing I never leave out, however, is the fennel. It’s a must-have in this dish, adding a crunch and flavor that is impossible to replicate with anything else. Add this pasta salad to your summer repertoire, and I think you’ll agree.

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Last Year: Grilled Pineapple and Jalapeño Salsa and Lime Pecan Bars

Fennel and Tomato Pasta Salad with Balsamic Dressing

Adapted from Epicurious

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling

2 tablespoons tomato paste

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

2 medium garlic cloves, finely minced

3 cups diced, seeded plum tomatoes

2 cups thinly sliced fresh fennel (from about 1 large bulb)

1 cup chopped fresh basil

½ cup chopped fresh Italian parsley

6 green onions, white part only, chopped

½ cup coarsely chopped Kalamata olives

juice from 1 large lemon

salt and pepper to taste

1 pound pasta (penne or farfalle work well here)

optional: Instead of 3 cups of tomatoes, use 1 cup of tomatoes, 1 cup of sliced bell peppers, and 2 cups of chopped spinach leaves

also optional: ½ cup crumbled feta cheese

Whisk olive oil, tomato paste, vinegar, and garlic in a small bowl. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Combine tomatoes (if you’re using a combination of vegetables here, leave out the spinach leaves until you toss everything together with the pasta right before serving), fennel, basil, parsley, green onions, and olives in a large bowl. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, toss to combine, and allow vegetable mixture to stand at least 20 minutes, or up to 2 hours, tossing occasionally.

Cook pasta in a large pot of salted water. Drain, drizzle with a bit of olive oil, then toss and set aside to cool a bit. Toss every few minutes to keep pasta from sticking together, and to help it cool.

When cooled, transfer pasta to a large bowl. Squeeze over lemon juice, and toss to combine. Pour dressing over the pasta, and toss to combine. Add vegetable mixture, and toss once more. If using, toss in crumbled feta. Taste for seasoning. Add more salt and pepper if desired.

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