Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Aarti Party in my kitchen

One of my favorite shows is Next Food Network Star - I feel like it's one of the few reality/competition shows that still focuses on what's important (um hello, the FOOD!) and mostly avoids mind-numbingly dumb drama. [SPOILER ALERT] I'm excited that Jeff won this year, I can't wait to try out some of his terrific Sandwich King recipes. I'm also a fan of last season's winner, Aarti Sequiera - she's so genuine and loveable, I'm really glad she won and is now sharing her love of Indian food with the masses.

Having recently scored a huge knob of fragrant, spicy ginger, I knew I wanted to use it in something with the classic Indian spices I already had. Although at some point I'd like to attempt Chicken Tikka Masala or Indian Butter Chicken, the ingredient lists and number of steps can be impossibly long - and last night, I wanted something a little simpler. Aarti's recipe for Kheema looked quick and straightforward and got great reviews, so I decided to go with it, swapping turkey for beef. Bonus - no trip to the grocery store needed!

It's kind of like an Indian-style shepard's pie (minus the pie part)

Kheema (Indian Ground Beef / Turkey with Peas)
adapted from Aarti Sequiera (original recipe here)

2 T olive oil

1 medium onion or 1/2 large onion, finely diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1-inch thumb fresh ginger, peeled and minced
2 t ground coriander
1 t paprika
1/2 t garam masala
1/2 t ground cumin
1/4 t cayenne
1 T tomato paste
1 pkg ground turkey (1-1 1/4 lbs)
1/2 large sweet potato (about 1 1/2 c), chopped into 1/2" pieces
1/3 c water
1 t kosher salt
1/4 t freshly ground black pepper
1/2 c frozen peas, thawed
2 t apple cider vinegar
1 t frozen chopped cilantro (if you have fresh, use about 1/4 c chopped)

In a large skillet, heat the oil on medium, then add the onions and cook until golden. Add the garlic and ginger, and saute for another minute. Stir in the spices (coriander, paprika, garam masala, cumin, cayenne) and cook for 2-3 minutes, until the spices have toasted and the onion/garlic/ginger mixture has taken on a deep color and fragrance. Add the tomato paste and really work it into the mixture, stirring and cooking for another 2 minutes.

Add the turkey, breaking up lumps with a spoon, and saute for about 5 minutes (meat will not be done yet). Add the sweet potatoes and stir to combine, then season with salt and pepper and cook another 2-3 minutes. Next, turn up the heat to medium-high and add the water, then simmer covered for about 3-5 minutes until potatoes are cooked through. Remove the cover and add the frozen peas, vinegar and cilantro. Stir to incorporate everything, allowing to cook for another minute (the peas will warm through in this time). 
For serving: I spooned this on top of oat groats I'd cooked overnight in the slow cooker earlier this week, but you can serve with rice, naan or even tortillas.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Fast, fresh Friday fiesta

When I think of fresh and simple summer cooking, Mexican-inspired food often comes to mind. Maybe it's the citrus (I LOVE LIME), or the fresh veggies, or the fact that it's so easy to vegetarianize...whatever it is, I love it! On Friday my friend came over to watch a movie, and we noshed on what I like to call Fiesta Bowls (not to be confused with the football game) beforehand.

We layered romaine lettuce, cilantro-lime brown rice, black beans with scallions and cumin, and this salsa (plus the addition of fresh-off-the-cob corn) in wide bowls and topped with some crunchy tortilla chips. With a crisp, cold Corona in hand, it's the perfect light and healthy summer supper.

Our bowl station ready to go - they're endlessly customizable!

With the chips, for a glamour shot.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Breaking the spell(t)

Okay folks - let's talk about SUMMER. I LOVE SUMMER. For months and months of gray dreariness in Chicago winter and spring, I wait longingly for the turning of the season...for sundresses, for ice cream, for reading in the park, for wearing sunglasses...

However, in case you're unaware, this summer Chicago has experienced a nearly unbearable and prolonged explosion of heat and humidity, so much so that I can barely sleep, and our oven hasn't been used in at least 2 months. Maybe it's like this every year, and we simply forget about it while huddled in our thermal blankets in February. Either way, I love summer, and despite its sometimes icky-stickyness, I'll embrace it just to counteract the other seasons.

Anyway, the point of this soliloquy: since it's been so hot, as I mentioned, I haven't wanted to use my oven. But, when Bob's Red Mill products were on sale at Dominick's a while back,  I couldn't resist picking up some spelt flour. And if there's one thing I know about flour, it's that you use baking. After some quick online searches, I found a great recipe, and it (along with the flour) has been sitting on my counter for weeks, waiting for a cool enough day to justify using the oven. 

Today was the day my non-baking spell(t) was broken - and I'm so glad it was.

Cranberry Orange Spelt Muffins
slightly adapted from King Arthur Whole Grain Baking - makes 6 muffins and 1 loaf, or 12 muffins

1 1/4 c dried cranberries
1/2 c orange juice
1 1/4 c whole spelt flour
1 c AP flour
1 T baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 c milk
1/4 c honey
2 large eggs
1 T olive oil
2 T fresh orange zest
1/2 c chopped walnuts
Notes: 2 medium-sized oranges will give you enough juice and zest for this recipe. You'll notice this recipe calls for an overnight rest; this is to allow the spelt flour enough time to absorb moisture from the other ingredients so it's not too dense. If overnight isn't doable, a 2-hour rest should do the job.

Microwave the orange juice on high in a heatproof bowl for about 30 seconds, then add the cranberries and cover with plastic wrap (the juice won't totally cover the cranberries; that's okay). In a large bowl, whisk together the spelt flour, AP flour, baking powder, and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together milk, honey, eggs, oil and orange zest. Add the wet ingredients to dry, mixing just until flour is incorporated. Fold in the walnuts and cranberries/orange juice until just combined. Cover bowl and refrigerate batter overnight.

3 T unsalted butter, softened
1/4 c brown sugar
2 T rolled oats
1/4 c chopped walnuts
Mix together all the above ingredients in a small bowl until crumbly.
When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 400 degrees and remove the batter from the  refrigerator. Scoop batter into a lightly greased muffin tin (or loaf pan) until almost full, and spoon about 1 t of the streusel on top of each muffin (or spread some over the loaf).

Bake at 400 F until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean - for my tray of 6 muffins in my toaster oven, this took about 18 minutes. For the loaf pan which I did after the muffins, it was about 25 minutes - but I covered it with foil after 15 minutes.