Friday, October 7, 2016

The End of My Research. Gulab Jamun: Gluten Free and Baked Not Fried.

baked gulab jamun, gluten free gulab jamun
   It's been quite a while since I've made Gulab Jamun, not because I don't absolutely love this Bengali sweet, but because I'm not exactly crazy about all the frying involved with making them. Lately, I've also been involved with designing  gluten free desserts for the new CocoaPlanet  Tasting Room and Bistro opening here in Sonoma, so I haven't bothered doing many things that involve gluten. I've also been thinking, so many Indian dishes, can be made by substituting baking for frying...why not Gulab Jamun? So I decided to do some research and see if anyone has managed to do the baking thing with them.

   A quick look showed me that, yeah Gulab Jamun have been prepared in the oven instead of a kadhai filled with boiling oil. I perused a few recipes from various people and decided to start experimenting. After a few non-successful attempts where the Gulab Jamun just didn't color up properly....I finally found one that worked. It was my same formula, just different baking times and temps. Anudivya of the site And a Little Bit More had solved the baking not frying part about 5 years ago. I added to that my Gluten Free Gulab Jamun recipe and bingo! Success. Also, this recipe works exactly the same if you are not gluten free...just use regular flour.

Baked Gulab Jamun, Gluten Free or Not

Here's What You Need:
1/4 cup  gluten free flour or all purpose flour  ( I use my own special blend)
1/2 cup of powdered whole milk
a pinch of baking powder
1/4 cup of whipping cream
3/4 cup of sugar
1 cup of water
! tsp rose water
2 Tbs chopped pistachios
parchment paper

Here's What To Do:
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees
Mix together the flour and the powdered milk.

Add in the pinch of baking powder.

Add in 1/4 cup of cream.
Stir with a spoon until you have a nice soft dough. If you need to add a bit more whipping cream to get it where you want so.

Break the dough off into pieces. Roll the dough between your palms to form balls. This recipe will make about 7 of them.

Place the balls on a cookie sheet covered with parchment paper.

Place them into the preheated oven on a rack placed near the top and bake them for about 8  minutes.

Bake them until the tops of the balls start to turn golden...

...and the bottoms turn a light brown. If it takes a bit longer than 8 minutes don't worry about it. This is a recipe you have to eyeball.

You should be able to pick them up and handle them without them losing their shape. They should also have puffed up from their baking.
Take them out of the oven, and remove the parchment paper.
Put the balls back on the cookie sheet. Turn your oven to broil.
Here's the important part...Watch These Suckers Like A Hawk!!!!! They can easily burn!!!
The idea is to broil them until they turn a nice dark brown.
When they are done, remove them from the oven and set them aside.
Fill a pan or kadhai with 1 cup of water and 3/4 cup sugar.

Mix it together until the sugar is dissolved in the water and then bring the mixture to a boil.
Turn it down to a simmer, and add in 1 tsp of rose water
Add in your baked Gulab Jamuns and let them simmer for 2 minutes, then turn off the heat and let them soak in the syrup for at least 1/2 hour.

Place a couple of them in a small bowl , spoon the warm syrup over them and scatter some chopped pistachios on top and serve them up!!!

gulab jamun
   Gulab Jamuns, baked not fried. I made several batches of these yesterday, testing them and it works  the same whether you are using regular flour or gluten free. It's a fast and easy to make dessert and no gluten-free people ever need to skip Gulab Jamun again! Coming up next , I take on some quick snacks for Fall movie watching/couch surfing and Kheema Pav with a difference follow along on Twitter @kathygori

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Sweet and Spicy, Green Tomatoes and Golden Eggplants Rock a Simple Indian Lunch.

   It's been a hot, hot, hot week here in Sonoma. The Vintage Festival was last week and the town was booming, finishing up the harvest and getting ready for the coming Fall weather.  We've been working on the Bible for our TV pilot with the guys in LA, and I've also been working to develop more gluten free treats for the soon to open, CocoaPlanet tasting room and Bistro here in Sonoma, a totally certified gluten free establishment.
   Among the dishes I made for last weekends testing was this Apple Walnut tart with a fig glaze which contains a total of just under 1/3 cup of sugar for the entire thing.

But I had to get back to Indian food because our garden planted for the express purpose of fueling Indian meals is full to bursting. One thing that has been plentiful this year are the tomatoes, and of course when one plants 4 varieties of eggplants one can expect a whole LOT of eggplants (what I've got) and there's the rub. How to fix them and not repeat too many recipes so that people don't run when they see me coming with a bowl of eggplant.

   The answer was combining the eggplants with something else. Potatoes? Nah. Tomatoes? Maybe. Green tomatoes? Now I was interested. It seems that green tomatoes are a thing that I missed growing up in  an Italian American family in San Francisco. My family originally came to California from New Orleans back in the days before it was part of the USA and I have a lot of relatives still living in the South, as our branch seems to be the only ones that went West. That must be why I missed the Green Tomatoes.

   For some reason I always thought green tomatoes would make a person sick (no I never saw the movie) so it actually took me this long to get around to eating green tomatoes. Now I'm not counting tomatillos which I've cooked with and eaten plenty of, but regular old southern fried green tomatoes. Turns out that in India, green tomatoes are a thing too. There are all sorts of curries that use them, so I decided to make a green tomato sabzi, and since I was out picking some of my green tomatoes I thought why not toss in some of my golden Thai eggplants. Now it's a party!

   The dish I was making is called Tomato, Eggplant Sabzi . A sabzi is simply a vegetable curry cooked in a sauce. This particular sabzi is a dry curry thick with toasted coconut and peanut powder. It's also super fast which is why I'm including it here. If you want something that pumps in a lot of vegetables and tastes great with a minimum of effort and a maximum of flavor this is it.

 Green Tomatoes and Golden Eggplant Sabzi

Here's What You Need:
6 green tomatoes
4  Thai  eggplants
1/4 cup of  toasted dried unsweetened coconut
1/4 cup of toasted peanut powder
1 and 1/2 Tbs of jaggery or dark brown sugar
2 Tbs of vegetable oil, I use coconut oil
2 green serrano chilies finely chopped
6 curry leaves (if you can't find them omit them as there is no substitute)
2 tsps kosher salt
1/2 tsp brown mustard seeds
1/4 tsp turmeric
3 Tbs chopped fresh cilantro

Here's What To Do:
Rinse and dry your eggplants and tomatoes.
Take the eggplants and quarter them.

Put them in a bowl of salted water to sit for about 20 minutes, then rinse them and set them aside.
Cut the green tomatoes into quarters...

...and set them aside.
Mince the serrano chilies and set aside.

Toast the dried coconut for a few minutes in a small pan on the stove top. When it starts to turn a golden brown, take it off the heat and set it aside.
Make your peanut powder. I use pre-toasted unsalted peanuts from Whole Foods and put them in my grinder.

Voila! Peanut powder!
In a pan or kadhai heat 2 Tbs of vegetable  oil or coconut oil. I use Sonoma Harvest virgin coconut oil.

When the oil has heated toss in the mustard seeds.
As soon as they start to pop add in the chopped serrano chilies, 1/4 tsp turmeric powder, and the curry leaves if you have them.
Stir everything around well, and then add in the tomatoes and eggplants.

Cook them on a medium heat until the tomatoes and eggplants are about half way cooked. This may take about 10 minutes or so. Make sure nothing  sticks or burns so stir every now and then.

When the tomatoes and eggplants are about halfway cooked through, add 1 and 1/2 Tbs of jaggery or dark brown sugar...

...and 2 tsp of salt.
Give everything a good stir and continue to cook until the eggplants and tomatoes have softened.
When everything is cooked through add in the toasted coconut, ground peanuts, and 3 Tbs of chopped fresh cilantro.

Cook everything for another couple of minutes, check for seasoning and serve it up!

   Spicy, hot and sweet this dish goes great with any Indian meal. Serve it plain with rice and some chapattis, or as a great side for a western style meat entree. I'm shocked I just discovered Green Tomatoes, and if you have tomatoes in your garden and you're worried about getting rid of them all once they've ripened...don't wait! They're fine just the way they are.

   And if you want to make this dish or any other Indian dish easily, but wonder where do I get the spices? Visit The Chaunk, get one of our Indian Spice Kits and start exploring the universe of Indian Cuisine. Coming up next, a kheema pav  and a vada pav which I've been dreaming of for quite a while. Mumbais' answer to White Castle. Follow along on Twitter @kathygori

Monday, September 12, 2016

Eggplant Does Sweet and Sour, A Great Meatless Anyday Treat

   Every year we plant about four varieties of eggplant and every year we are swamped with eggplant. I grew up eating this vegetable which is a staple in every Italian kitchen, and then when I started cooking Indian food 26 years ago, the transition to eating a lot of eggplant was very easy. Same vegetable, different spices and actually some more efficient and healthier ways of cooking it rather that bathing it in olive oil Italian style.

   Whenever I go out to harvest eggplant I'm always torn as to what sort, what color, what shape to use. This dish actually works with any variety as I used both a Classic Italian style eggplant and a  Japanese eggplant in this dish. So, for convenience sake... grab what's handy it's all good. I also like this dish as it's pretty straightforward and easy to make. This is good for me right now as we've been busy with director and producers notes on our TV pilot, and also most of the cooking I've been doing for my collaboration with the new CocaPlanet, factory and tasting room opening here in Sonoma.

My cooking for them has involved classic French bistro dishes and lots and lots of gluten free and vegan desserts such as this Fig frangipane tart...

...Pear and almond tart...

...Chilled Vegan carrot soup...

...Terrine of pork, chicken and veal with Cognac prunes...


...Apple walnut tart...

...gluten free vegan s'mores...


...Vegan Pavlovas...

   You get the picture....after writing during the week...this is what my weekends are about. So, with that in mind I look for simple Indian dishes to serve at home during the week and this is a traditional eggplant dish, that may very well make your eggplant haters change their minds.

Sweet and Sour Eggplant

Here's What You Need:
3 Tbs oil, I use coconut oil
1 Tbs tamarind paste
1 cinnamon stick
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 onion finely chopped
1 shallot finely chopped
anywhere from 1 to 3 serrano chilies minced...I used 2 in this dish
about 1 and 1/4 lbs of eggplant...any variety
1 Tbs ground coriander
1/2 tsp ground cumin
salt to taste
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 Tbs jaggery  aka gur....(Indian palm sugar)..or brown sugar light or dark
1/4 tsp garam masala

Here's What To Do:
Wash dry and chop the eggplants diagonally into relatively thin slices, by this I mean a bit less than 1/2 inch thick.

Get your ingredients ready.

Heat the oil in a kadhai or skillet.
When the oil is hot add in the cinnamon stick and cumin seeds.

When they start to sizzle (pretty dang fast) add the chopped onion and shallot.

Cook this until it starts to turn golden and translucent.
After that toss in your minced serranos.
Stir it all around for about 1 minute then remove everything from the pan (onions ,spices, etc) and set them aside in a small bowl.

Add your eggplants to the pan.

Turn the heat up to high or medium high, and cook the eggplant pieces until they're warm then turn down the heat and put a cover on the pan and  cook until the eggplants are soft. This takes about 10 minutes. Check it every now and then, stir and you can add a bit more oil if you need to so that things do not stick.

When the eggplant pieces are soft add the  onion, shallot and spice mixture back in, and stir everything together well...

...then add in the ground coriander, cumin, and salt.

Cover it again, and cook for another 10 minutes.
Finally add in your tamarind paste, and jaggery or brown sugar.

Stir that into the eggplants mixing it together and finally toss in the chopped cilantro.

Cook it all together for another couple of minutes then sprinkle the whole dish with the garam masla and serve it up!

   This goes great with a nice Basmati rice, some lentils or beans if you's also great as a side dish with any American meal. Basically, we had lunch ready in under an hour.

   I love eating from the garden this time of year...I'll be moving on to beets and some of the other things we grow so as not to be ALL EGGPLANTS!  ALL THE TIME! and of course desserts..plenty of those.  Next up, I hit up an old favorite Indian street food dish Kheema and Vada Pav...both the meat and the vegetarian versions coming soon! Follow along on Twitter @kathygori

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

The One Where You Deliberately Burn The Food. Eggplant and Peas Char.

Char cooking, Bengali food, eggplant

   This year has been a record year for eggplant at out house. This Spring we put in 4 different varieties and all of them have been putting on quite the show since Summer kicked into gear. Japanese Eggplant, Classic Globes, Thai, and Indian finger eggplants; the garden is bursting. Fortunately, The Indian kitchen is filled with delicious methods of preparing them. One of the most interesting is Char.
   There are number of ways of cooking Indian vegetables. "Wet" vegetables, "dry" vegetables, "fried" vegetables, "stuffed" vegetables, but probably the most interesting is the "char" method;  the traditional name is Charcharis. This means deliberately letting your vegetables get a delicate burn, or char. This method of cooking comes from the region of Bengal and involves fairly minimal care since after all you're "burning" the stuff. The trick is not to go too far and set off the smoke alarms, or ruin your pots and pans. Actually had my mom ever been interested in Indian cooking she probably could have mastered this technique with one hand tied behind her back, since char was her go-to food preparation method.
  The idea behind char cooking is to let the vegetables simmer gently in their sauce undisturbed, and then let them form a crusty skin on the bottom of the pan, that is then scraped up and mixed with the dish before serving, adding a smoky, open fire flavor to the vegetable and the sauce.
 This is a great dish to cook when you're busy with other things on the stove as it requires minimum overseeing. Of course you can't neglect it too much unless you'd like to meet the fire person of your dreams.

   I started this dish in a clay pot then transferred everything to a Kadhai as I didn't want to risk having a problem with one of my favorite pots since things can really heat up at the end. My recommendation is use a skillet or kadahi to start. So here is a very simple dish, made with a good sized eggplant, a bag of frozen peas, and some simple spices. Now lets get all McGiver on that eggplant.

Eggplant and Peas Char

Here's What You Need:

1 good sized eggplant
2 cups of fresh peas (if you've got them) or One 10z bag of frozen peas defrosted
4 Tbs ghee or butter
1 tsp turmeric
1 and 1/4 tsp salt
1 Tbs crushed coriander seeds
1 and 1/2 tsp for crushed cumin seeds
1 to 3  whole serrano chilies (depending how hot you want to go)
4 stems of fresh cilantro
2 cups of water

Here's What To Do:

Wash your eggplant  and cut it into 1 inch cubes.

Place the eggplant cubes in a heavy skillet or kadhai.

If you have fresh peas put them in now. If you are using frozen ones just leave them out for now and let them defrost.
Crush your cumin and coriander seeds in a spice grinder or mortar and pestle.

 Cut the 4Tbs of unsalted butter or ghee into small pieces and scatter them across the vegetables.

Add all the other ingredients EXCEPT the cilantro and the frozen peas.

I actually started with one large  whole serrano and then added in another a few minutes later.

Then add the 2 cups of water.

Bring all of these ingredients to a boil on a medium heat and let them boil for about 4 minutes.
Turn the heat down to low after that, partially cover the pan with a lid, and let all of this stuff cook for about 30 minutes.
Shake the pan every once in a while to stir things up, and don't forget to check and make sure your water is not all dried up. You want to burn this stuff a bit, but not just yet! If you find the water is gone, add a bit more and you may need to turn the temp down a click.
When nearly all the water has been absorbed, add in the frozen peas.

Keep the heat on low (this is where I switched pans) and let stuff fry until you get a crust of the bottom of the vegetables and they start to burn on the bottom. Turn the heat off under the pan and  let things sit for a couple of minutes then take a spatula and take the burned crust and scrape it into the vegetables.

Toss in your cilantro and serve it up!

   The spices simmered in a sauce with the vegetables make for great flavor and the charred crust mixed into the whole thing at the end gives it a cookout flavor. This is a great dish for any Indian or American meal and perfect for a BBQ as a side dish.
Coming up next..some Labor Day End of Summer Party Treats and a special offer from The Chaunk for our newsletter subscribers...or sign up and get in on this. Follow along on Twitter @kathygori


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