Saturday, 9 June 2012

The Last of the Winter Vegetables (Sarson Sabzi and Extras)

So today I finally got around to pulling up the last of my winter veggies. I'll be putting in my summer crop late this afternoon. All of this lot was grown from seed, but in the summer, I buy seedlings. The exception will be my eggplants, which I started this winter. I hope they make it. So the mustard greens are on the far left, then my not-so-very-big-turnips, some last radishes, baby carrots, and up on top some totally evil arugula. More on that later.

Anyway, as I mentioned in an earlier post, mustard greens make for excellent eating and lend themselves well to Indian preparations. As you can see, though, by the time I got around to harvesting them, I didn't have much mustard green left. No, no. So I decided to combine mustard greens with their turnip and radish green cousins and threw in the carrot greens for good measure. I also decided to do something with the turnips and carrots. And I think the radishes I'll use in a salad later...
So, yes, as I was saying, I decided to combine all the winter greens together, so this isn't a true sarson sabzi.  But, you'd do everything the same way if you were using all mustard greens. Here are the lovely greens before they went into the food processor:

Once the food processor chopped them down, I had about 3 cups of loosely packed greens. But before I get too far ahead of myself, though, I want to talk about this:
This is no ordinary arugula. It means to kill me. I know it does. I can hear it whispering to the other plants in the garden at night. I bought the original seeds for this plant at Cenral Grocery in New Orleans one New Year's Eve. My husband and I were out with my boss, a dean at my college, and my dean is Italian. I noticed that Central Grocery had a selection of Italian seeds, and I asked my boss what he thought would grow well in Southern California and what I'd enjoy eating. An evil but fleeting look stole over his face as he asked me if I liked strong flavors. "This grows like a weed," he said, as he put the pack of Rucola Sylvatica Extra seeds in my hands. He wasn't kidding. It's infiltrated my entire garden, growing where I certainly didn't plant it, and choking other little seedlings out. It may work for the mob. And "strong flavor"? It's like crunchy wasabi! Super-strong chrunchy wasabi. I mean, it's good, yes, but not in the quantities that its prodigious growing patterns would force one to eat it in. I wonder what I did to upset my boss.  I packed this away and put in in my fridge. If it wilts before I can use it all, I won't be crying over it.

Anyway, onto happier topics, I chopped down the greens, put them aside and turned my attention here:

I chopped the turnips in half and threw them straight into the steamer. I had forgotten that turnips take their precious time to steam. I'm not sure how long they were in there, but I think it was easily over thirty minutes. When they came out I mashed them with 1 teaspoon olive oil, 1/4 teaspoon turmeric, and salt and pepper (to taste). I decided I would roast the carrots, so I put them into a small caserole, drizzled them with olive oil (maybe 1 and 1/2 teaspoons) and ground some salt and pepper over them.

They were done after about twenty minutes in the oven at 400 degrees.

With turnips in the steamer and the carrots in the oven, it was time to turn my attention back to the greens. I chopped up 1 onion, three cloves of garlic and two inches of ginger.

Then I started heating two tablespoons of canola oil in a large pan on medium heat, I threw in a teaspoon of cumin seeds, and then added the onion, the garlic and half of the ginger (the other half gets added later). To that I added one teaspoon of salt, one teaspoon of turmeric, a half teaspoon of red pepper and a half teaspoon of cumin powder, and I sauted everything until the onions became quite transluscent. Then I added in the greens and two generous teaspoons of coriander powder and let the greens cook down until they looked like this:
To this, you're going to add a 14 oz can of pureed tomatoes. I puree mine with remaining ginger. I add the tomatoes, about a 1/4 cup of water, stir, and let the whole mixture simmer for at least ten minutes. Check for salt, and then season with garam masala (I used about a half teaspoon).

And here it is, the whole meal, much of it straight from the garden:

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Kachumber (Indian Cucumber Salad)

This is a recipe for an Indian cucumber salad. It's a great summer salad because the cucumber gives it a really refreshing quality. This is my mother in-law's recipe with a few modifications of my own, which I am making optional. The ingredients are very straightforward:

2 cucumbers, peeled
2 roma tomatoes
1 T vinegar
1/2 T sugar
1/2 t salt (or to taste)
Ground roasted peanuts (to garnish--about 1/3rd of a cup)
1/2 t cumin (optional)
1/2 t red pepper (optional)
1/2 t amchur powder (optional)

The trick to making good kachumber is in the slicing of the cucumbers. The first time I tried to make it, I sliced the cucumber and then diced it. Sarita, one of the ladies who works in my mother in-law's house, looked at me pityingly. I think my mother in-law may have outright laughed at me. They showed me how to score the cucumber first and then slice it. This makes much smaller pieces (which, according to my husband, is the key to a good kachumber) and the chopping goes much more quickly.

Once you have the cucumbers sliced, put them in a bowl and slice the tomatoes. I find this works best if I slice the tomatoes in half lengthwise, cut thin, julienne strips, and then dice them. The trick is to make sure the tomato pieces are about the same size as the cucumber pieces.
Then I put the tomatoes in the bowl with the cucumbers and toss them together. Once you've done that, you're ready to add the spices. My mother in-law uses only vinegar, salt and sugar in her kachumber, but I like to add cumin, red pepper and amchur powder. You could add some or all of those spices. Add all the dry ingredients you're using before adding the vinegar.

Once you have added in the the salt, sugar and dry spices (if you are using them), sprinkle the vinegar on and give everything a good toss. To keep the peanuts from getting soggy I add them as a garnish right before I serve the kachumber. 

Friday, 1 June 2012

Mini Cinnamon Rolls

I know, I know. I have got to get back on the Indian food. I made a huge Indian dinner this weekend for some friends, (cashew) malai kofta, theplas, red dal and coriander chutney, and I got so busy cooking that I didn't have time to take pictures. Also, my camera stinks. My husband has a better camera (a much better camera), but his macro lens is in India, and wide-angle lenses are just no good for food photography. Anyway, I want to share my coriander chutney recipe in particular because anyone whose ever had it has loved it, my mother in-law included, and her green chutney is legendary.

Another thing adding to my busy-ness is a faculty institute I've helped to moderate over the last few days. It's been fun and I've learned a lot, but I've also been crazy busy (and grades from spring semester were due yesterday). I did make a great sarson (mustard greens) sabzi with greens from my garden on Wednesday--but again, no pictures. One thing I noticed about that was that it was waayyy better the second day. I have one last batch of greens to harvest, so I'm going to make it again (and blog about it), and maybe I'll figure out why the sabzi was so much better on day 2.

Anyway, the faculty institute. There is a tradition of bringing food to share at my campus for this event. I went straight from our graduation to Vons to pick up ingredients for my definitely-not-vegan chocolate chip cookies that I had been asked/told to bring for the institute the next morning. Total hit. As one of my colleagues said, "Really, all of the other ingredients in this cookie are just a vehicle for the butter." Bingo.

My parents also came up for the long weekend and bought us (among other things) a huge flat of yummy-but-so-ripe-they-had-to-be-eaten-immediately strawberries. Some of them went into the strawberry basil sorbet (recipe from my brother) at our dinner party. Mega-hit. Others of them went straight to the tummy, and many of them ended up in the gigantic carafe of strawberry lemonade my husband made. Even after all of that, Monday morning we still had a large basket of strawberries left. I decided, "What the heck? I love baking, I have an audience in the faculty at the institute, I will make my grandma's legendary coffee cake (also so not vegan), and instead of cinnamon and sugar baked in layers, I'll do strawberries."

That went amazingly well. But no pictures.

The next day I was spent, so I brought flowers from the garden.

But the next day I made a vegan almond and banana layercake which was truly inspiring and deserved pictures, but didn't get any. I will make it again. It was beautiful. Low sugar, whole wheat flour, just amazing. My own recipe...but no pictures. Must make it again...after I get the better camera, that is.

So last night I made mini cinnamon rolls, vegan, whole wheat mini cinammon rolls. My husband says making them mini interferes with the fluffy texture he loves, but I was feeding five dozen people. Sacrifices must be made. I started with my favorite roll recipe, doubled and slightly modified to include more sugar:

4 cups of whole wheat flour plus about 1 extra cup for kneading
4 packets of yeast
1/4 cup of sugar
2 teaspoons of salt
two cups of warm almond milk (I microwave it for a minute)
2 T warm water
2/3rds cup of canola oil (I use olive for dinner rolls, but canola for this kind of baking)

Mix the dry ingredients except the extra cup of flour and pour the wet ingredients on top, then with an electric mixer blend everything together.

Then, using the extra cup of flour, knead the dough for about eight minutes and let it rise for at least an hour.

Okay, divide the dough into four parts, and then take one of the parts and roll it long and fairly absolute widest, six inches.

You are going to spread a mixture of softened vegan spread (like Earth Balance), sugar and cinnamon on it. Try 1/3 cup spread, 3/4 cups sugar, and 1 1/2 T of cinnamon:

Then you are going to roll it up from the top to to the bottom so you have a very long, narrow tube, cut little sections (about 3/4rts of an inch thick) and place them very close together in a 9x13).

You'll repeat this process with the other three sections of dough. This should fill one 9x13 and one 9x9.

They will come out of the oven (preheated to 350) after about fifteen minutes (they don't take long), looking like this:

I like to put glaze on them, so I use about three tablespoons of earth balance, two teaspoons of almond milk, 1 teaspoon of vanilla, and a ton of powdered sugar. (I never measure, but it would be upwards of a cup and a half.)

So yummy!