Saturday, September 5, 2020

Let's Have a Chat About Watermelon Chaat

 

While cooking and learning about Indian food for the last 30 years, I've made a variety of chaats. If you've never had a chaat, it's an Indian snack food. Chaats can contain a variety of ingredients, and most of the chaats I've made over the years have been for movie nights, big parties, any place one would serve popcorn, nuts, or my moms favorite the dreaded every-party-no-matter-what... Chex Mix. Believe me Chex Mix is a pale imitation of a good Indian chaat, even though it might contain some of the same ingredients.

Here's a sample of how it can be served and the recipe I used is  here 

This chaat recipe is one of the first, if not the first post I ever put up on this blog 11 years ago . This was back when I was cooking and holding the  camera in my teeth. The pictures certainly reflect that. Since then, Alan has taken over the photo duties and he really knows what he's doing as evidenced  above.

A chaat can even be turned into a salad, even the infamous Chick Sal...hold the sandwich part just make it a chaat instead. The recipe for this is here.

 But now it's Summer. We're in the middle of a heat alert, temperatures are expected to reach 107 tomorrow and that calls for something cool and refreshing, and NOT chicken. That's when I found out about Watermelon Chaat. It showed up in the NY Times cooking section and I have to admit I was intrigued, and I had to try it. I don't buy watermelon very frequently, but this had me out looking for one. A small one, seedless is just the right size, and believe me a small watermelon makes plenty of chaat.

So grab your watermelon and let's go chaat.

Watermelon Chaat


 Here's What You Need:

1 Watermelon (about 2 lbs)

3/4 tsp cumin seeds 

1/4 tsp sweet paprika

1/4 tsp finely ground black pepper

1/4 tsp amchur powder (dried green mango powder)

1 pinch of cayenne , I use Kashmiri chili powder

1/4 tsp fine sea salt, or kosher salt

1/3 cup of fresh squeezed orange, clementine or mandarin juice

3 or 4 fresh mint leaves

 

Here's What To Do:

Cut the watermelon into 1 inch cubes.

put them in a large baking dish, or serving dish. They should be spread in a single layer.


In a small pan dry roast the cumin seeds for a couple of minutes until they darken a bit and become fragrant.

When they've toasted, grind them with a mortar and pestle or a spice grinder. Don't grind them too fine, as you want that texture in the dish.

Put the ground cumin in a small bowl and add the other spices.

Juice the orange and add that to the bowl and stir it well.

Pour the mixture over the watermelon cubes.

Chop the mint leaves and sprinkle them over and mix them in.

Make sure the watermelon is coated with the seasoning, then cover the dish with plastic wrap...

...and pop it into the fridge to chill for 1 to 6 hours.

Serve well chilled and enjoy!!

 So that's what we're  planning on enjoying later this evening. Right now it's 105 so you know we're not playing. If you're doing any sort of grilling outside this Labor Day weekend you might want to check out  Tandoor Aloo, which is tandoor roasted potatoes on a skewer.....you can also make them on a regular BBQ grill but a Tandoor is so much more fun!

Coming up next, cooking for weather, no matter where you are I've got your shelf stable cooking right here. After I got done with covid back in May, I've taken back the cooking duties, and between us we haven't eaten anything in this house that we haven't cooked or baked ourselves since the end of February. So follow along on Twitter @kathygori

Thursday, September 3, 2020

Tandoor Aloo Potatoes With Spices Done With Fire!!!

It's been crazy up here in wine country. actually it's crazy everywhere but since this is where I am presently this is my crazy. We've been laying low since I recovered from covid. We were laying low before too. What that means is we haven't socialized, eaten out, (even contactless pickup) or gone anywhere (we are walking the dog) except to a hospital or doctor's office since this whole thing started. Meanwhile, my cooking muscle since I've been up and about again, is really getting a pandemic workout.

If that isn't enough, we've had lightning strike wildfires, rolling blackouts, and temperatures in the 100+ category. We're trying to get a script turned in and it's hard to work under those conditions. We've had our bags packed to run, and fortunately we didn't have to. We were also told to limit water / power use, and NO fires no way no how. So no outdoor cooking, not that anyone would want to stand in 103 degree temps over a fire pit. So far so good.

Last weekend we got a break, when more lightning was predicted, meaning the possibility of more fires, but the weather gods/goddesses decided to cut us a break, sent a a bit of rain and held the lightning. The fires are still burning but are much more contained, and people who had to flee their homes in the evacuation zones are being allowed to go back home. We're not out of the woods here yet, but hopefully the woods will not still be on fire.

I took advantage of pleasant temperatures and the ability to use my Homdoor Tandoor oven to do a little Indian cooking, and one of the dishes worked beautifully with the tandoor oven. It involves potatoes and is one of the simplest dishes  there is. Potatoes aka Aloo, simple boiling potatoes, basted with spices and then roasted on skewers in the tandoor till they are charred on the outside, spicy and soft on the inside. There are a lot of ways of doing this dish, this is how I do it.

Tandoor Aloo

Here's What You Need:

Several medium sized yukon gold or boiling potatoes

2 Tbs vegetable oil

2 tsp cumin seeds

1 serrano chili finely chopped, either seeded or unseeded (depends on how hot you want it)

2 tsp mashed coriander seeds

1 tsp red chili flakes

1/2 tsp turmeric

2 tsp amchur  (dried mango) powder

1/2 tsp cumin ppowder

2 tsp lemon juice

salt to taste

a handful of chopped fresh cilantro

 

Here's What To Do:

You can par boil/ partially cook the potatoes to soften them a bit before skewering them, just don't cook them all the way through.

After they are cooked, you can leave the peel on or not, as you wish. Set them aside.

What we do here is prepare a basting sauce that will be used on the potatoes as they cook and then the remains of it drizzled over the finished dish.

First, get your spices ready.

Dice the chili pepper.

Crush the coriander seed with a mortar and pestle.

In a skillet or kadhai heat 2 Tbs vegetable oil. When the oil is hot toss in the cumin seeds.

Let them toast. As soon as they get fragrant (less than a minute) toss in the  serrano chili, and crushed coriander seed.

Now add chili flakes, turmeric, dried mango powder (amchur), roasted cumin powder, and salt. Stir these around and cook them for a few seconds. This is your basting liquid. Set it aside

Rub the potatoes with oil and thread the potatoes on oiled skewers.

Fire up your Tandoor Oven. The potatoes cook at 400 degrees for about  5 minutes, if you are doing these on a grill the same applies.

Brush the potatoes with the spice marinade

Place the skewered potatoes in the tandoor or on your grill.

Let them roast for 5 minutes.

After 5 minutes take them out and brush them with the spice mixture again . Put them back in the tandoor for another 5 minutes.

When they are done, take them out and off the skewers.

Place them back in the kadhai with the marinade, coat them. 

 Drizzle them with lemon juice.

Sprinkle them with the chopped cilantro.

Ignore curious fans....

and serve them up!

Serve these spicy potatoes alongside any dish, meat or veg. Scoop the insides out of the charred skins and enjoy. 

I'm really enjoying the tandoor and especially enjoying cooking stuff fresh out of our garden in it. 

We're supposed to have more record breaking temperatures up here this Labor Day weekend.  Reports are of 102-104 degrees so I've got something cool planned. Watermelon Chaat. so stay tuned! Follow along on Twitter at @kathygori  

Saturday, August 8, 2020

This Is Your Brain On Crackers, Or How I learned to Stop Worrying And love my Sourdough Discard

 
   Ever since the pandemic started a LOT of people have been baking bread, some for the very first time. Flour is flying off the shelves of market. Yeast? Fuggedaboutit. That's sold out in a lot of places too, and don't get me started on hand soap, and TP. In the early days of the outbreak, my inner quartermaster kicked in. I'm a news junkie. I saw and read about what was happening, took the warnings to heart and so I stocked up on household goods. We had masks, gloves, wet wipes, tp, and hand sanitizer. I always have dals, (lentils) beans, flour, oatmeal, dry pasta, dried milk, non-dairy milk, all the basics. We don't eat meat, we do eat fish a couple of times a week. We also grow a lot of our own produce, vegetables and fruit. As writers we're used to holing up like hermits to finish a piece of work and we were in the midst of writing a TV pilot, so I figured we'd be all set. Business as usual. 
 
Then I got Covid.
 
All of a sudden everything stopped, work stopped, cooking stopped, I was in isolation and Alan was learning to cook from my blog. He showed me how clean the kitchen was being kept via Facetime. To be honest, sometimes I cared, sometimes I was just asleep. In fact, a lot of the time I was asleep. He took his favorite recipes from this blog, and some from the chef's book I'd done for the restaurant I had consulted for. If I was able to, I gave him some tips and walked him though the recipes. He learned to cook. In fact, he became a pretty good diner cook. I wasn't eating much. I couldn't for quite a while, but when I could manage to eat real food again, he cooked me sockeye salmon, and roasted vegetables for strength. 
      
Anyway, after two months and change, March, April and a bit of May I was well again. I had lost a LOT of weight, and still was pretty weak but I was looking forward to being able to be in the kitchen cooking again, and back in the office working on the script. Some of the supplies I laid in were depleted, especially after I started eating real food again. One of the first things I did was start to bake bread since Alan told me that was one of the things that sometimes was hard to find. I had ordered a 50 pound sack of organic artisinal flour from our local mill over in Petaluma  back in February and if I ever thought that was going to last me a while... boy was I wrong. Once I was on my feet again and started baking in May, I went though that sucker pretty damn fast. I'm now on my second 50 pound sack so you see where this is going. 
     
I figured since I was baking bread, why not be a good 5th generation San Franciscan follow my ancestors' wisdom, and bake sourdough. I cruised around on line and found out how to make  my own sourdough starter. The bread turned out beautifully.
I bake a loaf a couple of times a week, sometimes more, but the trick of sourdough baking is treating that starter right. It has to be fed twice a day. I don't even feed the dog that much. He gets a big meal midday, and a dental  bone in the evening and he's pretty damn happy. The starter however is demanding and twice a day it is fed. Sounds simple. Feed it, keep it in a warm spot  then later feed it again. The one thing one must do every time it's fed however, is DISCARD.  Yep, I had to toss part of my starter every time it got a new meal. I could not stand the waste! I didn't want to toss something that could be eaten, but what to do with the discard? Well a lot of people have a lot of answers for that. There are a ton of sourdough discard recipes out there, and now I make,  sourdough biscuits  (I keep a box pre-made in the freezer which I take out and bake as needed) and Sourdough waffles, which also are stored in the freezer, heat and eat. Sourdough discard oatmeal cookies and crackers.
      
Yes, crackers. Crispy, home-baked, sprinkled with Maldon salt flakes, no weird unpronouncable ingredients. Crackers. This recipe comes from Rebecca Firkser and I have now memorized it. It's so easy. Also one can add anything to these crackers. make them sweet, make them savory. Got Zaatar?  Why yes I do as a matter of fact. Well, use some of that. Chop up some rosemary, these are you do you boo crackers. Whatever you'd like, they're down for it. So, here's the recipe. Just a note. I use a scale set to grams when baking as I like to be precise so I'll give you both readings.
      

Sourdough Crackers

Here's What You Need:

 

1/2 cup  (60 grams) plus 2 Tbs all purpose flour 
1/2 cup (60 grams) whole wheat flour
one large pinch of kosher salt
1/4 cup of olive oil plus extra for brushing
1 cup  ( 227 grams) of sourdough discard  
Maldon salt flakes for topping  or whatever you desire

Here's What To Do:


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees
In a large bowl mix together the kosher salt and the two types of flour.
Pour in the sourdough starter...
...and add in the olive oil.
Mix everything together. 
 See, told you this was easy.
Knead the mixture in the bowl.
 Break your dough into three pieces.
 Lay a piece of parchment paper on your work surface.
 Take one of the balls of dough and roll it out as thinly as you can get it
Thinner than that, but don't tear it.
Take the piece of parchment paper with the dough on it and lay it on a baking sheet. Brush it with olive oil to keep it moist
Sprinkle whatever topping you'd like on top...
 ...and bake.
I use three baking sheets and just bake the whole batch at the same time.
Bake for about 20 minutes or until they're golden and crispy .
 Break (or cut) them into pieces. I break them by hand because I like a rustic effect, also I am lazy and don't want to be cutting all the time.
My assistant was hoping for a taste. He got a dog cookie instead.
Place them in an airtight container, and there you go. These things go fast around here, I'm told they're great with cheese, or wine, or whatever. We've just had them plain but as soon as the plague is gone I'll be serving this to friends for cheese and wine parties.
     
So there you have it. Simple crackers from your sourdough starter discard. I know you have sourdough starter, nearly everyone does nowadays as I've discovered. I make a box of these about twice a week they're so easy that it quickly fits into my work schedule and I hate hate hate, taking perfectly good sourdough starter and just.....discarding it.
      
Coming up next,  my doctor is sending me for antibody tests at the hospital on Monday, we'll see if I have any left. Then come some fast Indian desserts from a mix, an Indian watermelon salad, and I'm getting ready to fire up the Tandoor oven again. Eggplant  is calling!
Follow along on Twitter @kathygori  and always remember.... 
  
 Mask Up!
 

Saturday, July 18, 2020

Pots &Co, Delicious Little Desserts In What Else....Pots!

   
Who doesn't like dessert???  The answer to that would be a big fat..NOBODY! Nothing's better after any sort of meal than a sweet treat, just to finish things off.  Now, in the days of quarantine, and sheltering in place we need those treats even more and with everything else that one has going on in a given day, work, home school, cleaning, cooking, and pet amusement, not a lot of thought gets put toward dessert. After all, we're all out there feeding our sourdough starter and  trying to perfect our bread baking skills. I know I have.

 
But no one lives by bread alone, or crackers, or waffles, or pancakes, or biscuits or the numerous other things I've been making with my sourdough discard. And I haven't had the time or the energy to get too busy on the sweets front which is where Pots& Co. come in.
  
Pots and Co. is an English Dessert Company that bakes delightful individual servings  of Chocolate Fudge Lava Cake, Sticky Toffee Cake, and a lot of other treats, each served in it's own individual ceramic pot, which after you have licked it clean, can be washed and used for other things. So, when the folks from Pots reached out and asked if I'd like to test sample some of their desserts, of course I answered YES!  As it turns out their desserts are available now in the USA, in fact they're likely found in a store right near you. Just check this handy MAP.
   
The magic of Pots is getting a fabulous dessert straight from the oven into your maw with a minimum of effort. As I mentioned a while back, I was sick for two months with what my doctors  think was likely covid. I haven't felt that bad in like.....ever? For two months and change I was hardly able to eat. I had no appetite, I was in isolation for a while communicating with the family via Facetime, and I felt like hammered dog meat. I wound up losing about 16 pounds which in my case was not a good thing. While I was in isolation most of the "dessert" I was enjoying was Pedialyte and Chocolate Ensure so when I was finally up and on my feet and well again I was jonesing for something tasty and then  Pots & Co arrived.
     
I rarely buy pre-made desserts as I made so many when I was consulting for CocoaPlanet, that dessert-making for a crowd is almost second nature by now. But, there are times I want dessert and just don't want to have to make it myself especially since I was recovering.  I'm also picky about my ingredients. We grow a lot of our own organic produce and nearly everything we eat is made from scratch, something I rarely find in off the shelf stuff.

As it turns out Pots and Co. is just as picky. Their desserts contain no additives, and no preservatives. Their ingredients include sustainable cocoa, and Cornish sea salt, which gets a big thumbs up from me. Plus, it's so easy. Each box of Pots contains four dessert servings. There's no need for any extra effort, they can be baked in a 350 degree oven for about 15 minutes, or  microwaved even more quickly. They come in cute little ceramic cups with lids.  This is the Sticky Toffee.


Remove the lid and it's ready for baking.

     
Place them on a baking sheet and you're good to go.


I baked my Pots because after all, as I said to the family, "we're not animals here, we can control ourselves for 15 minutes while chocolate lava cake is baking in the oven....can't we?"


Of course we can, since I was also whipping cream and making vanilla ice cream to go along with the Pots. We had to wait a bit.
   
Below,  is the Chocolate Fudge Lava Cake the first one we tried.  It's delicious dark chocolate with a fudgy interior that swims onto your spoon. Top it with a dollop of home made whipped cream. The strawberries in the background are sitting in an empty Pots pot, but they wound up on top of the cake too.

    
The other type of Pots and Co. dessert that I sampled was the Sticky Toffee Cake.  Now here I have to make a confession. I LOVE sticky toffee cake, yet I've never made one. Sticky Toffee Cake is sort of a birthday/anniversary tradition around here. Any special celebration usually involves dinner at the Glenn Ellen Star, our favorite celebratory dessert.... Sticky Toffee Cake with Ice Cream. Now, I'm used to getting this about once or twice a year and somehow I never dreamed I'd actually be able to have the sticky toffee experience in my own home... in fifteen minutes without going to all the trouble to do it from scratch myself. Pots and Co. has that covered.  Sticky Toffee Cake about to receive it's ice cream hat.


Vanilla ice cream and Sticky Toffee a match made in heaven.


Annnnnd bingo!  Amazing Sticky Toffee and it's not even anyone's anniversary or birthday!  Hell,you don't even have to put on pants to enjoy this, you know no one is coming over to your house now anyway. These are the perfect way to please all members of your corona  quarantine bubble.


Up until now these desserts were only available in the UK or on British Airways, but now we here in the US of A don't have to go anywhere (not that anyone's going anywhere anyway) to enjoy them. They're right in your local market and you don't have to take your shoes off or go through a body scanner, unless that's your jam. Pots &Co definitely ups your dessert game, because neither man nor woman lives by bread alone.  

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