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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.

Zucchini and Egg Hash on Brioche Toast

6 Sep

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It is a commonly heard joke that, come the end of summer, you can’t safely answer the knocking at your door without running the risk of being met with an enormous bag of zucchini that someone is trying to trust upon you. If you see a neighbor crossing the street and attempting to flag you down while clutching a suspicious bulge of something or other in the hem of his or her shirt, your gut instinct is to run in the other direction. There is zucchini in that shirt! Run away, before you are made to accept it out of sheer politeness! Except if you are me, of course, in which case you will meet your neighbor halfway across the street, arms outstretched in anticipation of getting your hands on more garden fresh zucchini. Zucchini fritters, zucchini spears with Parmesan, grilled zucchini, zucchini in pakoras, and, of course, all varieties of zucchini bread—I wait all year to have enough zucchini at my disposal that I can cook with it nearly every day.

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We always grow zucchini in our garden, but this summer, what with all of the traveling we were going to be doing, we planted a very small, modest, and manageable garden. This garden consisted of a few tomatoes, a pot or two of herbs, and absolutely no zucchini. When we got back from traveling, I fully anticipated at least one person to begin unloading their garden zucchini spoils on us—in fact, I was very much looking forward to it—but it never happened. I briefly considered turning the tables on my neighbors, knocking on their doors and politely inquiring on the status of their zucchini population, but because I did not want my neighbors to begin thinking of me as, how to put this gently, completely nuts, I quickly abandoned the idea. Thus far, the only zucchini I’ve been gifted has come from my in-laws, two people who know how to grow a great garden.

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My in-laws are also avid cooks, so we often take the opportunity to discuss how we like to experiment with different foods and ingredients. My husband’s mother was telling me about a great way to cook zucchini as a sort of hash, shredded, sautéed, then lightly seasoned. I was immediately interested. I can’t remember who brought up the idea of putting an egg on top of the hash, but I do remember that I was the person responsible for immediately wanting to place the concoction on top of a piece of lightly toasted bread. It only took until the next day before I brought all of the ideas for this dish together: shredded, lightly crisped zucchini with a soft-cooked egg nestled within, placed on a piece of thick-cut brioche, and sprinkled with a generous serving of chopped garden tomatoes. Just in time for the end of summer, it’s the perfect way to celebrate your garden’s crop of delightful excess.

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Last Year: Fruit Crisp Made on the Grill, Grill-Roasted Lemon Rosemary Potatoes, and Pane Coi Sante, Bread of Saints

Zucchini and Egg Hash Over Brioche Toast

2 cups shredded zucchini (from 1 large or 2 small zucchini)

¼ cup thinly sliced onion

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

2 or 3 eggs (2 if your eggs are large, 3 if your eggs are rather small)

2 slices of thick-cut brioche, lightly toasted

1 medium tomato, coarsely chopped

Place zucchini in a clean dishtowel, and squeeze tightly until a great deal of the zucchini’s juice is released. Alternately, you can just grab small handfuls of the zucchini in your hands and squeeze until the juice runs out, but some people may find this method a bit too barbaric (but not me—you have my full permission to proceed as you wish).

Heat olive oil in a medium pan set over medium-high heat. Add sliced onions, and sauté briefly, about 30 seconds, while stirring. When the onions have just started to lose some of their stiffness, add the zucchini, and stir to combine. Reduce the heat to medium, and sauté zucchini and onion, stirring occasionally, until dry and slightly browned, anywhere from 5 to 8 minutes. Sprinkle on some salt and pepper, and stir to incorporate. Form two (or three) small nests within the zucchini, then crack an egg into each nest. Cover the pan, reduce heat to low, and allow the eggs to cook until they reach your desired doneness.

Place a piece of brioche toast on a plate, top with half of the zucchini hash (making sure to include an egg, of course), sprinkle over a bit of chopped tomato, and add a touch more salt and pepper.

Serves 2.

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