Monthly Archives: July 2012

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Indian Spiced Hummus

I’ve never really been a huge fan of hummus.  In fact, I’ve bought it multiple times throughout the years, tried a tiny bit, and tossed the whole container in the garbage.  I wanted to like it, but I didn’t.   It just wasn’t my thing.

But, now it is!  

Once I made the commitment to myself to eat less meat (I still indulge once in awhile), I discovered just how good hummus could be.  It all started when I ordered a vegetarian pita wrap at our local Greek restaurant.

It looked like it was just a Greek salad stuffed in a pita; but once I bit into it, I tasted something smooth, nutty, and spectacular!

There was a giant glob of homemade hummus under that salad, and it tasted nothing like any hummus I’ve ever bought at the grocery store!  I was hooked.

I figured the only way I was going to get hummus that tasted like that was to make it myself.

I dug through all of my cookbooks, and finally found inspiration in “The Best Ever Vegetarian Cookbook” by Linda Fraser.  She had a recipe for Pan Fried Zucchini and Hummus.  It looked like such a weird combination, but it sounded amazing!

My version of zucchini with hummus

I didn’t follow her recipes at all.  I knew I wanted to make an Indian spiced hummus and zucchini with ghee, turmeric and cumin.  I read which ingredients she used to make hummus, and I got to work experimenting.

Hummus, in it’s most basic form, is simply made with garbanzo beans (chickpeas), tahini (sesame seed paste), lemon juice and olive oil.    Simple!

Because I wanted mine to be a little more than basic, I dry roasted a bunch of Indian spices in a pan and added in a little garlic towards the end of the roasting process (I think it makes the garlic taste a little more complex than just tossing in raw garlic).

I tossed the spices, along with the chickpeas, into the bowl of my food processor and blended everything until it was a smooth consistency.

I added the tahini, lemon juice and a little water to the mixture, and let it process again.  I tasted it; and added salt, black pepper and a little more lemon juice.  I tossed in some chopped coriander (cilantro).

I started the food processor back up (on low) and drizzled a little olive oil into the hummus–until it reached a perfectly smooth consistency.

Easy Spiced Hummus

For those that are interested, hummus has around 100 calories for a 2 tbsp. serving.

I garnished my hummus with some chopped cilantro, sliced red chilies (for Piyush) and a little bit of feta cheese.

I served it along with wedges of pita bread and zucchini.

Zucchini cooked in ghee, turmeric and cumin

The zucchini was really simple to prepare.  I put a little ghee (if you’re vegan, skip the ghee and increase the olive oil) mixed with a small amount of olive oil into a heavy-bottomed pan. I turned the flame to medium and tossed in a good teaspoon of cumin seeds.

Once the cumin began to pop and sizzle I added 1/2 tsp. ground turmeric and 1 tsp. ground cumin.  I also added a few curry leaves (these can be omitted).

Once the spices no longer smelled raw (this is especially important for turmeric, in my personal opinion), I added about 3 (maybe 4) cups of diced zucchini to the pot, along with a little water (maybe a couple tablespoons).

I let this cook, uncovered, on medium heat for about 15 minutes.  I then seasoned with a little salt and pepper.

Cooking zucchini this way is so easy, and so flavorful!  Because it’s now zucchini season here, in Minnesota, Piyush and I eat this quite a lot!  In fact, Piyush loves it mixed with a little potato and served over some basmati rice.

Sometimes, I’ll even cook some dal (lentils) with the rice, and serve a sort of “dried” khichadi (the ULTIMATE Indian comfort food).

My delicious dinner. Doesn’t look like a lot, but it was incredibly filling!

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Spice Spotlight: Cumin (Jeera)

I use a lot of spices here on My Fancy Pantry, so I reckon it’s about time I talk a little about them.  I decided to feature different spices in a new series called “Spice Spotlight.”  I hope you enjoy!



Today, I want to introduce you to cumin!

You see those tiny little seeds?  They don’t really look all that special; In fact, they look a lot like caraway seeds.

But trust me.  These little cumin seeds (known as Jeera in India) are quite extraordinary!

Flavor and Benefits:

The flavor that cumin seeds add to a dish is so unique, I’d even go so far as to say that it’s irreplaceable!

Cumin has a slightly nutty flavor with a mild citrus undertone.  It can also be described as somewhat “spicy” or “peppery,” which makes it fantastic for adding to curries, fajitas, soups and stews.  Cumin’s peppery taste is due to a certain chemical it contains which is similar to capsaicin–the active component in chili peppers.

Interesting.  I guess that explains why my mom thinks everything I make is spicy–even when I add no chili.   I thought it was all in her head…

Although cumin is primarily used as a flavor enhancer, it also has some added health benefits.  Cumin is an excellent source of iron, offers relief from acidity, and is even thought to aid in digestion.

Usage:

Cumin is used both as whole seeds and as a ground powder.

Sometimes a recipe might even call for cumin seeds to be added first, and cumin powder to be added later; so I always have both forms on hand.

It is a popular ingredient in Indian, Mexican, Latin-American and Middle Eastern cuisine, and is often used to flavor meat or bean dishes (I’m guessing this has something to do with it’s digestive properties?!…).

To get the most flavor out of your cumin seeds, I always recommend giving them a quick toast in a dry skillet; or letting them cook in oil before the dish is finished.  Not only will this help prevent tummy-aches, but both the aroma and the flavor will also be drawn out of the spice–making your food taste better!

How to toast cumin seeds:

  • Place the raw seeds in an ungreased skillet (I prefer cast iron).  Turn the flame to medium-high and heat until the seeds become fragrant and start to change their color.
  • Keep moving the seeds around, so they toast evenly.
  • Remove from heat at this point, and use in your recipe (or store in a jar).

Purchasing and Storing:

I purchase my cumin seeds whole from a local Indian market.  They’re sold in different sized bags and they’re quite inexpensive.  

If there isn’t an Indian market or other ethnic market nearby, purchase them online or at a c0-op.  You’ll get a much better deal (and probably fresher spices) than buying from your local supermarket.  

Once I get the seeds home, I put some of the whole cumin seeds into a glass mason jar and store them in the cupboard, as is.  They can last a long time there–indefinitely, maybe?

I also take about 1/2 cup of the seeds and toast them in a dry pan (see directions above).  Once they’re warm, lightly browned and incredibly fragrant, I place them in a coffee grinder–which is never used for coffee–and grind them to a fine powder.

Once the seeds are ground, I put the powder into a glass mason jar and it joins my other spices in the cupboard.

Freshly ground cumin will retain it’s flavor for at least 6 months–but if you’re anything like me, it’ll never last that long!



I hope you all learned a little something about this fabulous spice!  I’m definitely not an expert, so if you notice I got anything wrong, please let me know.

I’d also love to hear how you use cumin in your home?  What is your favorite dish using this spice?  

Meatless Monday: Indian Chole Masala (Chickpea Curry)

Happy “Meatless Monday!”

Indian Chole Masala

Chickpeas are one of my favorite ingredients.  There are so many things you can do with this humble (and cheap!) ingredient, that I always have a stash on hand.

As I’m still not feeling all that well, I’m going to keep this post short. Continue reading

Cantaloupe, Arugula and Mint Salad with Chevre

Cantaloupe, Arugula and Mint Salad

I haven’t felt so good the past week.

In fact, I’ve felt completely crumby for the past week and a half.

4 days ago I noticed a few little red “bug bites” near my left eye.  I figured I got bit when I was out tending to my (struggling) garden, so I didn’t really think much of it.  I scrubbed my face with cleanser and put a bunch of hydrocortisone cream on the bites, but they only got itchier.

The next day, I had a headache and was incredibly tired.  Man, was I tired!  Actually, I’m still tired!

I did a whole lot of nothing, thinking my body just needed some rest.  Then, I noticed the side of my face hurt.  Like, really hurt.  I also  had a giant, swollen lump in front of my ear.  I knew it was my lymph node; so I figured those bug bites were maybe a spider bite and my body was trying to fight off infection–or something.

I didn’t want to think about a spider crawling on my face (that gives me the heebie jeebies!)…so I didn’t.  Instead, I took ibuprofen and went to bed.

When I finally crawled out of bed the next day, my eye felt funny.  It was really swollen and itchy; and my lymph node was huge (as big as an egg!).  I decided I better see the doc.

She walked in the room, looked at my face, and said “I think it’s shingles.”

What?!  Shingles?!  But…I’m only 27!

I’m young.  I’m healthy.  I shouldn’t have shingles!

Unfortunately, I do.  Apparently they are becoming more common among younger people; and they’re often related to stress.

Stress about what?  I have no idea.  I don’t feel stressed. There is absolutely no reason why I should be stressed; but I guess I am.  Hmphf.

The worst part about having shingles is that I can’t wear my contacts and have to wear my glasses (does that make me vain?).  …Also, I can’t be around my niece, my nephew, or my grandparents.  I’ve been told I can’t go to work either (sorry co-workers!).

Having shingles is unattractive, inconvenient, unpleasant, and BORING! I’m going stir-crazy being stuck in the house!  You’d think I’d have a good time…you know, maybe get caught up on blogging and do some experimental cooking.  But the truth is, I just now opened the computer (4 days into this ordeal)…and haven’t had the energy (or motivation) to cook.

I couldn’t stomach the thought that I’d have to eat takeout for another day.  I’m sick of takeout.  So this afternoon I rummaged through the refrigerator and found a bunch of random ingredients.  I had arugula,  lots of mint and a bunch of chopped shallots hanging out in my produce drawer.  I also had some cut up cantaloupe.

Salad, it was!

Cantaloupe, Arugula and Mint Salad with Chevre

I had no idea how this salad would taste, or if my husband would even eat it, but it turned out to be a success!  The arugula added a little bitterness to what would otherwise be a very sweet salad.  It balanced really nicely.

I think it would make an incredibly beautiful fruit salad as well.  I can imagine less arugula and more cantaloupe, honeydew and watermelon.  Maybe add a little more mint and a smidgen of honey drizzled over everything.  Yum!

 

As for a recipe, I simply tossed my greens (I used baby arugula), chopped mint, and chunks of cantaloupe together.  I then drizzled with a little homemade dressing, and garnished with some chevre.

The dressing was quite simple, and used things I had on hand.  If you decide to try this recipe, feel free to substitute whatever you think would taste good.  You could even make a simple balsamic vinaigrette with some olive oil, salt, pepper and balsamic vinegar.

In fact, a flavored olive oil or balsamic vinegar would really enhance the dressing.  I didn’t have any flavored oil or vinegar that would work, so I used a mixture of olive oil and vegetable oil.  I also used apple cider vinegar–for a little flavor.

Cantaloupe, Arugula and Mint Salad Dressing

This recipe makes quite a bit of dressing.  I only use about 2 tbsp to dress my salad, so I’d say this makes enough for 6-10  salads (depending how much dressing you use).

  • 1/4 c. apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 c. olive oil
  • 1/4 c. vegetable oil (use all olive oil, if you prefer)
  • Honey, to taste (I used a few tbsp.)
  • 3 tbsp. mustard (I used Blueberry mustard, but any Dijon or dark mustard would be great–steer clear of the yellow stuff in the Heinz bottle).
  • 2 medium-large shallots, diced
  • salt-to taste
  • pepper- to taste

I toss all the ingredients in a mason jar (the medium sized one) and shake it until everything is mixed really well.  Drizzle it over the salads, and store the remainder in the jar.  It’ll stay good for a week (even longer…) if kept in the fridge.

Fresh salad of Cantaloupe, Arugula and Mint

Hopefully I’ll get back to blogging more regularly soon!  In the mean time, I hope you enjoy this salad!

 

 

Kala

Gulab Jamuns and Kala Jamuns: Indian Sweet Success!

Whoa! I haven’t blogged for over a week! I had quite a few posts started, but I just couldn’t find the motivation (or the time!) to complete them.

But really, if I’m being honest, it’s probably mostly because I just wanted a break from the computer…and the kitchen.

Indian Sweet Kala Jumun

If you’re a regular reader of my blog, then you may remember my first attempt to make gulab jamuns.  If you’re new to my blog, Namaste and thank you for visiting! You can read all about this tasty little sweet HERE.

Although gulab jamuns are quite tasty, kala jamuns are definitely far superior in taste (in my not-so humble opinion).  Kala jumuns are simply blackened gulab jamuns.  A scant teaspoon (more or less, depending on your recipe) of sugar is added to the dough.

When the dough balls are fried, the sugar begins to caramelize, creating a dark colored shell.

Frying the dough balls

After a few minutes…

Kala Jamuns: Black Gulab Jamuns

I’m not really that good at frying things–remember when I melted the plastic spoon (what was I thinking?!) trying to deep fry samosas?–so some lessons I’ve learned when deep/shallow frying are:

  1.  Do not use plastic utensils.  This should be pretty self explanatory, but apparently it isn’t.  Either that, or I have no common sense.
  2. Don’t keep the heat turned to HIGH, you’ll end up burning your food–and yourself.
  3. Don’t put too many things in the oil at once.  The temperature will lower significantly and the food might be oily/mushy.
  4. Don’t use the wok.  I’m not sure why this didn’t work for me, because it seems like it’d be a great pan to fry stuff in.  But my oil got way too hot, way too fast…and wouldn’t cool down.  My food was burned on the outside and raw on the inside.  Maybe there’s some frying-with-a-wok secret that I’m not aware of?  Care to enlighten me?
  5. While frying stuff–especially things that cook relatively quickly–you’ve got to pay attention.  This isn’t the time to organize your spice cabinet, or unload the dishwasher.  Trust me.

Aside from frying the dough-balls, they also have to be rolled properly.  If your dough balls have cracks all over them, they will probably break apart in the oil.

They might also become hard in the centers…and no one enjoys hard gulab jamuns!  There are a few simple ways to avoid the cracking of your gulab jamun dough.

First, you’ll want to be sure the dough isn’t too dry.  You might need to add a little additional liquid–only a tiny bit at a time.  The ideal gulab jamun dough should be pretty soft, and not crumbly.  It also shouldn’t be sticky or overly wet.  You’re aiming to find a happy balance between wet and dry ingredients.

If your dough seems fine, then maybe you need to re-think your rolling technique.  What i do is pinch a piece of dough and roll a ball between my two hands.  The ball will usually have a few cracks.  Then, I simply flatten it in my hands and re-roll the ball.

The photo on the top is what my dough looked like after I just rolled it into a ball with my hands.  This is what that same piece of dough looked like after I flattened it and re-rolled it:

You can see it’s a pretty huge difference!

Now, since we’ve talked a little about technique, let’s get to the recipe!  This recipe is quite good–perfect, even.  It took quite a few trials, and a lot of failures;

FAIL! The dough was too wet and I used too much baking soda. The dough looked perfect, but as soon as it hit the oil it swelled huge…and then collapsed.  The oil also was not hot enough.

but I’ve finally figured out how to make this extremely popular Indian sweet at home!

After my first trial, I got quite a bit of feedback from blog readers (thank you!) and my in-laws.  In fact, Maa (my mother-in-law) was so determined to help me, she attempted to make a batch so she could give me some pointers (and a great recipe!).

Maa’s looked so pretty, so perfect;

Maa’s beautiful gulab jamuns

but sadly we don’t get fresh khoya (thickened milk “dough”) here in America.  And I definitely didn’t have time to sit over a stove and stir all day.  So I did a little searching and found a bunch of things I could use in replacement of the fresh khoya.

Luckily, I was able to find something called “mawa milk powder” at my local Indian market.  Mawa powder is probably the next best thing to actual fresh khoya.  It’s similar to milk powder–but it’s thicker.  It is basically a dried version of khoya (you can learn about the differences between regular milk powder and mawa powder HERE, if you’re interested).

So now that I had the mawa powder, I had to figure out how to turn it into khoya.  I did a lot of research online, and couldn’t really find a definite answer.  I found one recipe that said to use 2 cups mawa powder and 1 cup of liquid.  So I tried it.  I kept adding milk/mawa until I got the amount of khoya Maa told me I’d need.

The dough looked promising, but it just didn’t work.  The gulab jamuns fell apart in the oil and became quite flat.  After a lot of experimenting, I finally stumbled across the magic and mysterious ratio of mawa powder to liquid!

Kala Jamuns with a candied raspberry, pistachios and rose petals

The sugar syrup is quite easy.  Just toss 3 cups of sugar along with about 2 1/2 cups of water in a heavy bottomed pan over medium-high heat.  I added a few spices–cardamom and rosewater (I never really measure)–and let it cook for a good 20 minutes, until it thickened and became quite sticky.

When it’s the right consistency, remove from heat and cover with a lid to keep warm.

You can add cardamom, clove, cinnamon, maple syrup, lavender, rose water…the options are endless!  Just be sure to taste and add a little at a time so that the spices don’t become overwhelming  (especially important with cinnamon and rosewater!).

This makes quite a lot of syrup, more than you’ll ever eat with the gulab jamuns.  When the sweets are gone, I strain the syrup into a bottle and toss it in the fridge, labeled as “Gulab Jamun Syrup”.  It’s perfect on pancakes, in coffee, or to use in baking!

Gulab Jamun (Kala Jamun) Recipe:

Makes approximately 15 gulab jamuns–depending what size you make the dough balls

Ingredients:

  • 1 c. Mawa powder (available at Indian grocery stores, or online)
  • 1 tbsp. all purpose flour
  • 2 small pinches baking soda (approximately 1/8 tsp.)
  • 4 to 6 tbsp. half & half (start with 4, add more if needed)
  • spices- as desired (cardamom, clove, cinnamon…ect. Add whatever you like, just be sure not to add too much)
  • 1 tsp. sugar (only if making kala jamuns, leave out if making gulab jamuns).

Directions:

  • Heat a mixture of oil and ghee (I add about a tbsp. of ghee to whatever the amount of oil) in a heavy bottomed pan (I used a non-stick fry-pan).  You don’t need a ton of oil, maybe anywhere from 1/2 c. to 1 c. (this can be re-used a couple times).   Heat to approximately 300 degrees F.
  • While the oil is coming to temperature, toss all ingredients into a bowl and mix well.  Knead the mixture for a few minutes until it becomes smooth and soft.  Add additional liquid, as needed.
  • Roll the dough into crack-free balls, about the size of a large marble.  They will expand while cooking.
  • Once the oil comes to temperature, fry the dough balls in batches–about 4 at a time–until the outsides become brown or black (for kala jamuns) and the interior is cooked.  This should take about 4 minutes.  Be sure to flip the balls around so that all parts have equal color.
  • Remove from the oil and place on a paper towel for 30 seconds to a minute.  Toss into the syrup.
  • Let the gulab jamuns sit in the syrup for at least 20 minutes to an hour before serving–for best flavor!

Kala jamuns, unlike gulab jamuns, are not traditionally served in a bowl of sugar syrup.  Instead, they are usually left to soak the syrup, and then served “dry.”  But I say, do what you want! :)  Rules are made to be broken!

This recipe is absolutely perfect, and I think it’s the closest I could possibly get to recreating what I tasted in India!  Especially for the kala jamuns.  The outsides were sweet, black and oh so tasty!  The insides were moist and soft–not at all dry!

Piyush and I enjoyed these outside with a steaming glass of chai.  Indian sweets pair excellently with chai!

We also shared most of the sweets with friends and family (after all, I made about 5 batches…I was determined to make them perfect!), but they can also be frozen along with some syrup.

If you freeze them, pop them in the microwave for a minute–or so–to warm them up!

Raspberry Risotto with Herbes de Provence and Chevre

Raspberry Risotto with Herbes de Provence and Chevre

When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade.

When Driscoll’s Berries contacts you and asks if you’d like to try their raspberries, you tell them yes; and then make a risotto!

Raspberry Risotto with Herbes de Provence and Chevre

The truth is, I’ve been buying Driscoll’s berries for years.  Even when the berries aren’t in season, they’re usually pretty good.  But during the summer, when the raspberries are at their peak, they are out-of-this-world-amazing!

I was sent some coupons for $2.00 off a package of berries–which is a good deal, but I was sort of sad that I still had to pay a little over $2 out of pocket per package–especially when they’re in season.  Berries are expensive!

I brought the berries home and devoured a small handful!  They were plump and sweet.  Just how I like them! :)

I knew I had a really busy week ahead, and wouldn’t have a chance to get to the berries before they lost their freshness, so I decided to freeze them.  Freezing the fruit at it’s peak ripeness is a great way to enjoy the berries all winter long.

In my opinion, frozen berries picked in-season always trump fresh berries out-of-season.  Always.

Driscoll’s sweet red raspberries

I had all sorts of sweet ideas about how to use the raspberries.  Pies, tarts, jams, jellies, quick breads…and they would all be equally delicious; but I wanted something savory.  And I didn’t want a sauce.

I found this recipe on Driscoll’s website that looked pretty good, and I’m probably going to give it a try eventually (probably during the holidays…yum!):

But it wasn’t what I wanted tonight.

I did a lot of searching, and had a hard time finding inspiration.  There’s not really many savory raspberry recipes–aside from salads or sauces–that I’m aware of, and that’s quite unfortunate.

So I ventured a little outside of the box and decided to try the raspberries in a risotto.  I was pretty sure it’d taste good, but I was also pretty sure Piyush would hate it.

I was right; the risotto tasted amazing.  But I was also wrong.  Luckily, Piyush didn’t hate my risotto.  Quite the opposite, actually.

In fact, Piyush loved it; and that means something.  He’s such a food critic.

Raspberry Risotto with Herbes de Provence and Chevre

Serves 4

If you are bothered by the seeds in the raspberries or would like a pink colored risotto, you can puree the berries and run them through a fine sieve before adding to the risotto.

Ingredients:
  • 1 c. uncooked arborio rice
  • 5-6 c. veggie stock
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 large shallots – chopped
  • 3 large garlic cloves- smashed and chopped
  • 1 tbsp. + 1 tsp. herbes de provence
  • 3 tbsp. dry white wine (I used a dry Marsala)
  • zest of 1 small lemon
  • juice of 1 small lemon
  • 2 oz. chevre (goat cheese)
  • 1 c. frozen Driscoll’s raspberries
  • salt- to taste
  • cracked black pepper- to taste
Directions:
  • Bring Stock to a simmer in a small saucepan (do not boil). Keep warm over low heat.
  • Pour 2 tbsp. olive oil into a heavy bottomed pan (I used my dutch oven) and heat over medium-high flame.  Once the oil is hot, add the shallot and garlic–stirring constantly.  You don’t want the shallot to take on a brown color, but you want it to be cooked through and semi-translucent –approximately 3 to 4 minutes.
  • Once the shallot and garlic are cooked, add the Herbes de Provence.  Stir to combine.
  • Add the uncooked rice to the pot and cook (stirring constantly) for about a minute.  Add 3 tbsp. wine to deglaze. Keep stirring the rice until all the wine seems to be absorbed and the pan is looking dry.
  • Add one ladle of stock (approximately 1/2 c.) and stir until nearly all of it is absorbed by the rice.  Keep stirring and adding stock 1/2 c. at a time as the rice absorbs it.  I ended up using about 5 cups of stock, but it will really depend on how long your rice takes to cook (you want the rice to be al dente –it should have a little bite to it) and how creamy you like your risotto. This process will take anywhere from 20 to 30 minutes.
  • Add the goat cheese, lemon zest, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Keep cooking and stirring until the cheese is completely melted.  The risotto should have a nice thick, creamy consistency at this point. Fold in the frozen raspberries. Cook 1 or 2 minutes longer, until the raspberries are no longer frozen. Remove from heat.
  • Serve as soon as possible for best flavor.  Garnish with extra chevre.

Raspberry Risotto with Herbes de Provence and Goat Cheese

Herbes de Provence is a fantastic French dried-herb blend.  It usually includes herbs such as: lavender, rosemary, tarragon, basil and thyme.  Aside from this risotto, it’s also wonderful to use when roasting a chicken.  It smells so fragrant and floral!

Raspberry Risotto garnished with a sprig of lavender from my garden!

This was a perfect meal on a hot, summer day.  Nothing beats a bowl of risotto and a nice, chilled glass of wine!  :)

Well….almost nothing!  You see, I also made a batch of Kala Jamuns.  Kala Jumuns–blackened gulab jamuns– are amazing Indian sweets, and I finally recreated them perfectly (thanks Maa, Baba, and everyone else that helped with the sweet-making advice)!

Homemade Kala Jamun

You can read about kala jamuns and gulab jamuns HERE, and see my first attempt to master this sweet.  …and if you’re interested, check back.  I’ll have the basic recipe posted soon!