Mysore Spinach with Dill

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This recipe comes from A Taste of India by Madhur Jaffrey. Ms. Jaffrey is, along with Julie Sahni, one of the most prolific and accomplished chefs of food of the Indian subcontinent, IMO. Jaffrey was born in Dehli, then moved to London to study theater. She finally landed in New York. And, what an addition of chefs in America, I’d say! A Taste of India is out of print now; I snagged it on a remainder table. Amazon still has it and you should get it because it’s a wonderful cookbook that presents Indian food in all its regional deliciousness. Indian food suffers the same problem that Mexican food suffers: most of us have no idea of the breadth of its flavors because we are exposed to only one version of it. That is, whatever is the already known and popular. You know, tandoori chicken, lamb vindaloo, and saag paneer. Nothing wrong with any of those, mind you, but there is so, so much more to it.

This recipe is a lighter version of what we know as “saag.” Saag refers to any leafy green, not just spinach. My contribution is to use bagged frozen cut-leaf spinach. Yes, these days it’s simple to pick up a bag of perfect baby spinach. (I consider this one of the great advances in food processing/marketing of recent memory. I remember trying to clean fresh spinach – not fun.) You can stash a couple of bags of frozen spinach in the freezer just so you can make this delicious recipe any time you want. You say, but the dill? Oh, you buy a bunch and freeze that too and you’ll always have enough on hand.

Mysore, now called Mysuru, is in the state of Karnataka, in the southwest of India. It was the capital of a great empire from 1399-1947 and there is an opulent palace there. Vegetarian cooking rises of great heights here, according to Ms. Jaffrey. This spinach recipe is surely a delicious introduction to the cuisine.

Mysore Spinach with Dill (Soppu Pallya)
attributed to Rani Vijaya Devi
(serves 4-6)

1 1/2 pounds cut-leaf frozen or fresh spinach, chopped
1/2 cup fresh dill leaves, chopped
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 cup heavy cream
1 Tablespoon butter, ghee, or vegetable oil
1/4 teaspoon black mustard seeds
1/8 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
1 whole dried hot red chili

Put the spinach and dill in a large saucepan (about 4 quarts). Cover and cook over medium-low heat for about 20 minutes. Give it a stir to make sure everything gets cooked. Uncover. Add the salt and cream. Raise the heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid has evaporated.

Heat the butter/ghee/oil in a small skillet over medium heat. If you use butter, watch it carefully so it doesn’t burn. Add the mustard seeds. Cook for a minute. Then add the cumin seeds and chili. Cook for another minute. Scrape it all into the pot with the spinach. Taste for salt and serve.

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Sausage and Potato Breakfast Casserole

This is a great dish for a brunch. It’s like hash browns with sausage gravy.

Sausage and Potato Breakfast Casserole
(serves 6)

8 oz. chopped broccoli
1 lb. Bulk Breakfast Sausage
2 Tablespoon All Purpose Flour
¾ teaspoon garlic powder
1 Tablespoon dried onion
1 ½ cups Whole Milk
1 1- lb. Package Frozen Shredded Hash Brown Potatoes
1 ½ cups Grated Sharp Cheddar Cheese
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease 9″ x 9″ x 2″ glass baking dish.

If using fresh broccoli, steam or boil for 4 minutes. Rinse with cold water and drain well. If using frozen broccoli, thaw completely.

Cook sausage in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat until brown, breaking into small pieces with back of spoon. Mix in flour, garlic power, and dried onion. Stir in milk. Cook until mixture thickens and comes to boil, stirring to scrape up browned bits on the pan. Remove from heat.

Arrange potatoes in prepared dish. Top with broccoli. Sprinkle lightly with salt and  pepper. Cover with 1 cup cheese,  then the sausage mixture. 

Bake casserole for 50 minutes. Top with remaining ½ cup cheese. Return to the oven to melt cheese and finish cooking, about 10 minutes.

Whole Wheat Banana Bread

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I have made this recipe many, many times. Not so much lately because we don’t often have bananas in the house. I don’t like bananas. I don’t like the smell of them sitting on the counter. I don’t like the texture. My husband loves bananas but he hides them at work. Oddly enough, I love banana bread! Banana cake too. (I need to post my mom’s recipe for that. It’s a classic. But I digress.) I guess I need to buy a bunch of bananas and set some aside for this.

Whole Wheat Banana Bread
(makes 1 8″x 4″ loaf, serves 12)

1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3-4 mashed ripe bananas (2 cups)
1 large egg
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder (1 1/2 teaspoons at Boulder altitude, 5400 ft.)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup chopped dried apricots or dried pineapple
1/2 cup chopped pecans (or whatever nuts you prefer)

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease a 8″ x  4″ loaf pan.

In a large bowl, beat together the sugar, vanilla, bananas, egg, and lemon juice.

In a medium bowl stir together the whole wheat flour, all purpose flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, mixing to just combine. Stir in the dried fruit and nuts. Pour into the prepared pan. Gently thump the pan on the counter to settle any bubbles. Bake for about 1 hour, until a toothpick stuck into the center comes out clean.

Let cool on a rack for 10 minutes, remove from the pan, and finish cooling on a rack. Don’t try to slice it while warm; it will fall apart.

Store at room temperature for 2 days. After that, refrigerate or freeze. Because of the high moisture in quick breads, they grow mold within a few days.

My life in the pickling trenches

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Not my photo but this is exactly what my grapes look like when ripe, a lovely mix of green and pink.

Yes, friends, I have been away for a while because I have been canning, pickling, and fermenting my life away. When the garden delivers great bounty, you have to find a way to preserve it before it all rots. Or at least use a controlled form of rot to preserve it. (Coming soon: my experience with sauerkraut, an example of controlled rot.)

Here’s a quick little pickle that you can use on grapes. I have pounds and pounds of grapes from my vine this year (variety Canadice, a N. American hybrid originally from New York State). Last year, I got nothing. This year brought great fruit set and my electric fence held the raccoons at bay. Without that fence, I’d have nothing again. Evil bastards, those raccoons.

These grapes are a wonderful condiment with grilled meats or on a cheese plate.

Quick Pickled Grapes
(makes about 4 cups)

3 cups seedless grapes (a mix of red and green is nice)
8 fat cloves of garlic, halved
1 1/2 cups natural rice vinegar (see Note) or white vinegar
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
6 quarter-sized thick slices of fresh or frozen ginger
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon medium-hot red pepper flakes (Aleppo or Korean)

Wash and stem the grapes. Place the grapes and garlic in a medium non-reactive bowl.

Combine the vinegar, sugar, and salt in a saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar.

Remove from the heat and stir in the remaining ingredients. Pour over the grapes. Cover. Allow to pickle for at least 2 hours at room temperature. For longer storage, refrigerate in the brine for up to 2 weeks. Drain before serving.

Note: Natural rice vinegar has no sugar added. Many types of rice vinegar have sugar added because they are meant to make sushi rice. Since we are adding sugar, we don’t need the sugar in the vinegar.

Recipe from Nicole Routheir’s Fruit Cookbook by Nicole Routheir, Workman Publishing Company, 1996.

Photo credit: By Biberbaer (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Turkish Zucchini Stew

I only grow one “little” zucchini plant. It’s not little, of course. A zucchini plant is only little for a week then it takes over your garden, leaving a trail of zucchini throughout the neighborhood. [If you are not a gardener, I will let you in on the joke: gardeners end up with so much zucchini that they  start leaving it on all their neighbors’ doorsteps.]

My preferred zucchini variety is a cultivar called Ronde de Nice, a round light green zucchini from Nice (naturally). It’s been my favorite for years. It’s a little sweeter and less watery than classic dark green zucchini. Of course, it’s prolific and that means I need to find a lot of recipes for zucchini.

This recipe is adapted from the Moosewood Restaurant, one of the original hippie vegetarian restaurants. It’s located in Ithaca, New York, a little city by a beautiful lake. I went to a small college on the same lake but it wasn’t until my daughter went to that collage that I finally ate at the restaurant. I was not much of a veggie eater as a college student but I’ve come around.

You can make this recipe with canned chickpeas, like I did, but I think it would be delicious with 2 cups of cooked chicken or, my favorite red meat, leftover leg of lamb.

Turkish Zucchini Stew
(serves 4-6)

1/4 cup olive oil
1 large onion, sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 medium zucchini, cut into cubes
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 can (14-16 oz.) chickpeas
1/2 cup coarsely chopped Kalamata olives
1 large pinch ground cumin
juice of 1 large lemon
salt and pepper
pinch of Aleppo or cayenne red pepper
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh or frozen dill
1 cup crumbled feta or goat cheese

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Saute until the onions start to brown. Add the garlic and cook another minute. Reduce heat to medium. Add the zucchini, oregano, a sprinkle of salt and black pepper. Cook for 10 minutes until the zucchini is tender but not soft. Add the chickpeas, olive, and cumin. Stir to combine, cover, and cook another 5 minutes. Remove from the heat. Stir in lemon juice, more salt and pepper, red pepper, and dill. Serve over rice or bulgur. Garnish with cheese.

Grilled Marinated “Tough” Steak

Still far too hot to cook inside here in Boulder. We’ve had family visiting  which means lots of grilling. London Broil was on sale, so that’s what I cooked to feed an army.

London Broil is not a single cut, but a bevy of tougher but very flavorful thick steaks. Cuts that would benefit from this type of marinade are sirloin tip, top round, flank steak, chuck steak, or skirt steak. All these steaks have tough muscle fibers that run in the same general direction. The trick to making them easier to chew is to always thinly slice the steak across these fibers. No, it won’t be filet mignon but it’s a very tasty bite of steak. If you slice it the other way, it will feel like you are chewing rubber bands.

Beer Marinated London Broil
(makes enough for 2 pounds of steak)

1 cup beer, anything from a lager to a red ale
1/2 cup beef broth
1/2 cup tomato sauce or tomato juice
1 big pinch of celery salt
1/8 teaspoon granulated or powdered garlic
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon hot sauce 2 bay leaves, broken in half
1 teaspoon dried Greek oregano, crushed in your palm
1 teaspoon dried thyme, crushed in your palm

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and mix to combine. Place the steak in a large plastic bag or a glass dish. Pour the marinade over the steak and turn to coat. Cover. Refrigerate for 4 to 24 hours. Remove from the marinade and dry well. Season well with salt and black pepper before grilling. Tougher steak cuts only get tougher if cooked beyond medium. They are best at medium-rare.

Based on a recipe in Marinades: The Secret to Great Grilling by Melanie Barnard, Harper Collins Publishers, 1997.

Blueberry Crumb Cake

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Summertime is about BBQ’s and casual potlucks. I like to bring simple cakes to them because people don’t bake as much as they used to. I’ve found few people who don’t love a treat like this. This cake is simple and delicious. Blueberries are in season now, and this is a yummy way to enjoy them: wrapped up in a butter cake and covered with a crumb topping.

Blueberry Crumb Cake
(makes 1 9″x9″ cake, serves 9)

butter or non-stick spray for greasing pan
flour for prepping pan

Cake batter:
2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder (use 2 teaspoons if making at sea level)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 stick (4 Tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup + 3 Tablespoons sugar (use 3/4 cup at sea level)
1 large egg
1/2 cup 2% or whole milk
1 pint fresh blueberries, rinsed and drained

Topping:
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 stick (4 Tablespoons) unsalted butter, cold and cut into bits

Preheat oven to 375°F with the rack set in the middle. Prepare a 9″x9″x3″ baking pan by buttering or spraying the bottom and sides. Add a couple Tablespoons flour and coat the bottom and sides well. Knock out the excess flour.

Sift together batter dry ingredients: flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside. Using an electric mixer, cream together butter and sugar. Beat in egg and milk. The batter may clump together; do not worry about it. Add the dry ingredients in 3 batches, stirring until just combined each time. Fold in the blueberries. Scoop into the prepared pan and spread out to level (the batter is thick).

In a medium bowl, mix together the sugar, flour, and cinnamon. Cut in the butter until the mixture looks like coarse meal. Sprinkle evenly over the cake batter.

Bake for 45 minutes, or until a tester comes out of the center clean. Cool in the pan. Can be served warm or at room temperature. Best the day baked but it will keep a couple of days stored at room temperature.

Adapted for baking at 5400 ft. from a recipe in Gourmet, May 1994.