Sunday, September 18, 2011

Moroccan Dinner Party!

jacket image for Mourad: New Moroccan
In August I got an email from the marketing whiz at Workman Publishing asking if I’d be willing to try out their big fall cookbook, Mourad New Moroccan, by hosting a dinner party for my friends.  How could I say no?  I love cookbooks, I love feeding my friends and I love trying new recipes! 

A few days later, I’d received the book, and I was immediately swooning over delicious-sounding dishes like roasted chickens with preserved lemons and prawn-kumquat skewers.  I had never eaten a kumquat and had no idea what they would taste like, but they’re adorable, and therefore they must be tasty, right? Before I went to bed that night I’d come up with half a dozen dishes that sounded reasonably doable and tasty.  I could hardly wait to get my hands on a finished  copy to see the color photos, and I loved the stories that start each chapter.  The author writes in a friendly voice that expresses a fondness for his native land and an passion for the food he grew up with.  I felt like he would be looking over my shoulder with friendly advice as I attempted his recipes. 

A whole chapter of the book is titled “Dude. Preserved Lemons,” so I started a batch right away.  They would have to hibernate for a month in a cool dark spot, and I wanted them to be ready for whatever I came up with to do with them.  I packed them with loads of kosher salt, cramming as many lemons as I could into the jar, then filled the rest of the jar with lemon juice.  

sleep, little lemons!
I haven’t done much preserving, and I was afraid I’d screwed it up, so I peeked at them about once a week, nervous that something might be wrong with them.  They would be ready a few weeks before I needed them; I figured if something went wrong I could always just change my plans.  At the time I hadn’t finalized the menu, so it wouldn’t be a disaster if the Swamp Thing took up residence in the jar.  It was really quite simple, and I didn't have any reason to be nervous.  I'm just the type of cook who looks through the oven window sixteen times while baking a batch of cookies.  I was pretty excited when I sampled the lemon rind after a month and it hadn’t spoiled. 

spices for ras el hanout

I also got a jump on things by toasting and grinding spices for ras el hanout and harissa powder.  If you’ve never toasted your own spices, you’re really missing out, especially if you’re inclined to torture your neighbors with delicious smells.  The process is quick, easy, and well worth the effort.  All you need is a wide skillet and a clean coffee grinder (I have a separate one for spices, so my coffee won’t taste funny).

mustard seeds & dried rosebuds

The next day I was eager to make something with the spice blends, so I made a batch of Spiced Almonds, which were rapidly devoured.  The heat was just right for my taste.  Each time I ate one, a few seconds went by and I had to eat another. And another. And another.

smoky, sweet spiced almonds
About two weeks before the party, I wrote down all of the ingredients I’d need for the 7 recipes I hoped to try.  Most of the dishes I’d chosen could be made several days in advance, so I wouldn’t have to spend all day in the kitchen.  I could spread my mess-making out over the course of a week, making one dish each evening after work.  This would also leave some wiggle room in case anything went awry.

I scheduled my dinner party for a Sunday night, and I started cooking on the Tuesday before, planning on making one or two dishes each day.  I made the Spiced Almonds again, starting a refrain of “No, James, you may not eat those, they are for the party,” that would be repeated all week.  That same night I made cookie dough for Chocolate Gingersnaps, which I planned to bake on Friday or Saturday.  The dough has to be refrigerated before baking, so it was an easy choice for making ahead.

I made cheese!

Wednesday night I made my first-ever foray into cheesemaking. I'd always known that making fresh cheese was easy, but I had never been motivated to try it.   I took great pride in squooshing the cheese into ring molds to drain, then wrapping each little piece and having them actually hold their shapes!  The recipe made four 3-inch rounds, and I planned to treat each one differently.  One would get smothered in the fresh fig jam I’d made the week before, another would be marinated in olive oil and black pepper, the third would be rolled in crushed almonds and diced dried apricots, and the last one would be left in its naked state. 
yoghurt-herb spread, before mixing 

Thursday night I went to my favorite grocery store to pick up the last of the ingredients I would need.  There were no kumquats to be had, so the prawn-kumquat skewers would not happen this time.  Oh well.   I set up my Greek yogurt to drain in a cheesecloth overnight for the Yoghurt-Herb Spread and took the rest of the night off. 

juiceless cucumber!
Friday morning I put the drained yogurt in a bowl and peeled, seeded, and grated a cucumber, which I then squeezed in the cheesecloth to remove as much liquid as possible.  It was strange to look at what was left of this watery vegetable once all its juices had been dispatched.  With the addition of a few herbs & spices, the Yoghurt-Herb Spread was ready to go, and I stowed it in the fridge and moved on to the next recipe. 

The Sesame Parfait was the most labor-intensive of the dishes I made, but it was worth the effort.  It involves toasting sesame seeds and steeping them in hot cream for an hour, then making a sugar syrup, adding the syrup to beaten egg yolks and softened gelatin.  I overheated the syrup while beating the yolks, and it started to solidify as I carefully poured it down the side of the bowl.  There was some cursing, but the solid sugary chunks stayed at the bottom of the bowl when I poured the mixture into serving dishes.  It all seemed to be going fine, but I was a little concerned that there would be grainy bits in my nice creamy dessert.  It took all of my willpower not to try one later that night.  I figured that if it turned out bad, at least there would be plenty of chocolate gingersnaps.  Note the lack of photos taken during this rather harried process.

Piquillo-Almond Spread
Next I made the Piquillo-Almond Spread, only I cheated and used roasted red bell peppers instead of piquillos, which were $10 for a teensy jar.  I’m sure the fancy imported Spanish peppers would have been better, but no one seemed to mind the substitution.  This was by far the fastest and easiest dish I made – everything just went in the food processor.  Whiz-bang.

brine for the chickens
Saturday morning, after proper fueling with coffee, I made the brine for the chickens I planned to roast.  The birds would need to brine for 8-12 hours before roasting, so I would refrigerate the brine overnight, then add the chickens to it Sunday morning before I went to work.   I forgot to buy olives, so I left them out.  I don’t like olives anyway.  Yeah, I know, blasphemy.  Whatever.  You can have my pickles too.  Ick.

chocolate gingersnaps
Next I baked the Chocolate Gingersnaps.  The recipe includes two options, one for thin crispy cookies that only includes half an egg, and the other for soft, thicker cookies that takes a whole egg.  I went for the soft version, which are rolled in turbinado sugar before baking.  They were delightfully soft, with a pleasant crunch on the outside.  I had to restrain myself; I could have eaten a dozen of these pillowy little guys right out of the oven.  James thought I was being particularly cruel because he only managed to eat two before I stashed them away.

I chopped the root veggies (carrots, turnips, rutabagas, and parsnips) that would roast under the chickens, and I was down to one more task.  I only had to peel the zest from about fifteen little lemons for the double batch of Couscous with Lemon and Parsley that I would make at the last minute.  I took the lemons, bowl, and peeler out onto my deck and sat in the beautiful sunshine to peel.  

fresh cheese with olive oil & black pepper

I got home form work around 5:30 on Sunday, and the first of my guests would arrive around seven.  I removed the flesh from three of my preserved lemons and stuffed the rind under the skins of the chickens with fresh thyme from the plants on my deck.  I filled the roasting pan with the cut up root vegetables, then put the chickens on the rack. The birds went into the oven just before my first guest arrived with a bottle of Moroccan wine.   I set out the spreads, cheeses, and almonds with triangles of toasted pita, and we munched as people started to arrive.

The Yoghurt Herb Spread had a perfect balance of nutmeg and dill, and the Piquillo-Almond Spread made a great counterpart, with its smoky flavor and nutty texture.  The cheese was wonderful, fresh and creamy.

The Couscous with Lemon & Parsley was simple and delicious.  I was skeptical when I read the recipe and saw how much lemon peel went into the dish, but everyone loved it.  The sweetened, cooked zest added just the right amount of tangy sweetness to keep it from being a ho-hum starchy background.  It made us sit up and take notice! 

I had never cooked a rutabaga, and I don’t think any of my guests had ever eaten one either.   I was a little leery of telling them what the veggies were, as turnips and parsnips don’t usually rise to the top of peoples’ lists of favorite foods, but my friends were all good sports, and I think we were all surprised at how tasty those humble tubers turned out to be.  The preserved lemon flavor was noticeable but not overwhelming and blended nicely with the chicken pan juices.

best roast chicken ever!

And oh, the Roast Chicken!  Wow!  Lucious, moist, and beautifully golden brown, this was by far the juiciest roast chicken I have ever tasted.  You should start a batch of preserved lemons now, so you will be able to make a chicken this way. Seriously.  So good. 

The sesame parfait had a light and creamy texture and a wonderful nutty flavor, almost like peanut butter ice cream, but not as heavy.  It was a perfect dessert for a summer evening, cool and refreshing. 

Overall, the party was a smashing success.  The weather cooperated, and we dined on the deck just after sunset.  As we all lingered, nibbling on a few almonds and finishing our drinks, though, I kept hearing, "Are  there any more of those Chocolate Gingersnaps left?" 

Friday, July 22, 2011

Summer Beverage Perfection

How to Make Strawberry-Infused Vodka

From start to finish this takes about 2 weeks.

Here’s what you will need:

6 pints ripe, fresh strawberries (a half-flat, or roughly 6 pounds, will leave you with some leftovers for sampling or other uses) It's worth looking for the best, ripest berries you can find. The quality of the berries is directly related to the flavor of the finished product. If you can get locally grown berries, they will be sweeter & riper than those grown for shipment. Every year I look forward to getting super-sweet and tiny Skagit Valley berries at the farmers’ market.  Better yet, get out there and pick your own.  Sunshine is good for you, and the finished product will taste better for the effort.  (Don’t forget the sunscreen.)

1.75 liters good quality vodka Use unflavored vodka. I've been using 360 brand, which comes in a reseal-able bottle with a metal clasp thingy (like the old Grolsch beer bottles), but any decent brand will do. I just bought Svenska for my latest experiment with pears. I've never tried this brand, but it was on sale and lives on the top shelf at the liquor store, so I figure it will be good.

a big glass jar with a lid that seals well  Mine has a rubber seal & metal clasp, but anything with a tight-fitting lid will do. A wide mouth makes it easier get the berries in & out. I think mine is about a gallon.

You will also need a strainer of some kind (colander with small holes will work, but I use a fine mesh stainless steel strainer), a big bowl or pot (preferably stainless steel) that your strainer fits over, a cheesecloth for squeezing out the last of the goodness from the berries (I put this in a separate container - it ends up kind of syrupy and is tasty over ice... or maybe ice cream! hmmm...), and a small-neck funnel for putting the booze back in its bottles.

Especially during the bottling process, an apron (or clothes you don’t care about) is a good idea, unless you’re into the pink-polka-dots look.

The instructions:

1.  Rinse the berries.

2.  Cut off the leaves and stems, the cut each berry in half.  Sample a few, just to make sure they’re okay.  Quality control is important!  Discard any berries that are under-ripe, moldy, or overly squishy.  A few bumps & bruises are fine – cosmetics are not important, and ripe berries tend to be easily dented.  If you wouldn’t eat it, don’t use it.

3.  Put all of the prepared berries in your big glass jar.

4.  Pour vodka over the berries until they are all covered. Save the empty bottles for storing the finished product.

5.  Seal the jar and put it in a cool, dark place.

6.  Wait 2 weeks.

7.  Set the strainer over a bowl that’s big enough to hold the contents of the whole jar.  The strawberries will shrink and give up their tasty juices, so you will have about double the liquid than you started with.

8.  Put the strainer over another bowl or a plate to catch any drips.

9.  Put the funnel in the neck of the vodka bottle and carefully pour the lovely red liquid back into the bottles.  It might help to have someone hold the bottle & funnel while you pour.

10. Drape the cheesecloth over the bowl you just emptied. Put about 1/3 of the berries in the middle of the cloth. 

11.  This is the messy part.  Gather the ends of the cheesecloth together and squeeze out as much juice as you can, taking care not to let any pulp leak out.  If some pulp escapes, you can always strain it through the cheesecloth again, but it’s less work if you can keep it out in the first place. 

12.  Once you’ve squeezed out as much juice as you’re willing to squeeze, throw away the berry pulp and repeat step 11 with the remaining berries.

13.  Pour the berry-squeezin’s into a separate bottle or jar, seal, and refrigerate.  It's tasty over ice, or you can use it the same way you'd use the finished vodka.  Next time I make a batch I will try this over ice cream, or maybe soaked into a pound cake.

14.  Make yourself a drink.  Fill a glass with ice, then add 1 part strawberry vodka to 3 parts lemonade.  I like Simply Lemonade for this. 

15.  Call your friends and tell them to come over and try this ridiculously tasty concoction.  Tell them to bring more berries & vodka so you can start another batch, since this one will be gone before you know it.

16.  If your friends drove over, make sure they don’t get saucy and drive home.  Trust me, it’s easy to overindulge in this stuff.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

New Neighbors

Black-capped Chickadee?

Yesterday was, if not the first day to hit 70 degrees, one of very few.  After walking home from the pool in shorts & a tank top (woohoo!) and running a bunch of errands, I decided to take advantage of the lovely day and clean up the deck. I rearranged all the plants and swept up a whole winter's worth of dirt & debris. When I had nearly finished cleaning, I paused to answer the phone. I stood leaning on the railing, and suddenly a bright green Anna's hummingbird was hovering about a foot in front of me, right at eye level.  I looked up and realized that there was a chaos of bird activity going on all around me.  I didn't get any good shots of the hummers, but I did get decent pictures of a few of the common visitors to my neighbor's feeders.
I've assumed that the bird in the first picture here was a Black-capped Chickadee, but on closer inspection, all of my bird guides show them with black bills.  Hmmm.  When I leaned over the railing to watch a hummingbird, I noticed this little guy coming out of a hole in the corner of my deck railing.  Later I saw his mate come out of the hole to take food from him.  Whne they were both away, I saw a tiny white egg in the bottom of the hole.  Later I looked down and saw his mate sitting on the nest.  The white stripe in the hole in the second picture is a chickadee!

This little guy looks like a sparrow, but it's got a lemony yellow breast, which doesn't match any of my bird book photos either. Hmm.  It's got a bright white stripe right down the middle of his head and behind each eye.

I'm guessing that the other birds below are either House Finches or Purple Finches.

I also spotted but did not photograph a Golden-Crowned Sparrow.

Hooray for spring!


Pair of finches

House finch, or maybe a Purple Finch?

Friday, May 13, 2011

A Little Tour de Kitsap

A bit belated, but nonetheless...

Surf Scoter
Inspired by a sunny Saturday bike ride the weekend before, I decided a few Fridays ago to have a little bike adventure.  James & I had planned on heading across the Sound to visit friends anyway, and I had the day off, so I decided to load up my pannier bags and hit the road.  I managed to get everything I needed for the overnight trip in my bags: a light jacket, a change of clothes, a few snacks, running shoes (just in case I felt really energetic), toiletries, keys, wallet, phone, etc.
It was all downhill to the ferry terminal, where I had 20 minutes to watch the water birds and peer over the railing into the crystal clear water.  Crabs scuttled around between the clusters of acquatic plants on the pebbly bottom that was littered with  fragments of their less fortunate brethren.

I spent a few minutes chatting with one of the ferry workers, a woman who had just transferred up to Edmonds after many years working at one of the downtown Seattle terminals.  It was only her third day there, and she hoped that she could hold on to the good feelings about her new position.  I imagine that Edmonds would be much more peaceful than downtown Seattle, and the difference in the level of daily exhaust exposure for employees would be vast.  

The boat arrived on time, and I enjoyed boarding ahead of all the motorcycles & cars, riding all alone through the big empty belly of the ferry.   I tied my bike to a railing with a makeshift knot, wishing once again that I could tie a proper bowline on the spot.  No matter how many times I learn that knot, it just doesn't stick, and I have to look it up again.  Perhaps I should start tying knots in things unecessarily until it sticks.

As I mapped out my route the might before, I knew that Kitsap County had its share of hills.  I have driven a lot of the roads between Kingston and Sliverdale, but I  never paid much attention to details that would matter on a bike, like shoulder width, speed limits, traffic volume, and hills.  I just thought, "Well, it will be half uphill, half downhill. Not so bad, right?"   I failed to factor in that going up a hill might take 5 to 10 minutes, but going back down the other side would only take 30 seconds.  So I spent most of my ride sweating up steep hills, spinning in low gear, and the rest flying back down, getting goosebumps from the combination of sweat and wind.  

The route I chose could have been better.  The first few miles out of Kingston had bike lanes (hooray!), but after that I turned onto a winding 2-lane road with a 45-mph speed limit with rolling hills.  Fortunately it was early afternoon, so there wasn't too much traffic, and most of the drivers who passed me gave me plenty of room.  Another 2 miles and I turned right onto a similarly narrow road that seemed to go straight up.  The cars that made the turn up that hill were all downshifting too, and as I rounded a bend I realized that this was going to take a while.  I stopped at the top to switch into my fingerless gloves, stow my jacket, and drink some water.  I looked at my computer and saw that the hill was less than half a mile.   It sure felt longer than that.
A few miles outside Poulsbo, I turned onto a more heavily trafficked road, but the wider shoulder made me much more comfortable. 

I considered stopping in for a break at Liberty Bay Books, but I had chosen to bypass downtown Poulsbo.  When I realized my mistake, I looked in the direction I would need to turn.  It was uphill.  I decided that I still had plenty of hills ahead of me - maybe next time.  I stopped on the sidewalk in town and had a Gu and some water, then continued on my way.  I took the main road most of the way to Silverdale, then turned off into a neighborhood in hopes of riding downhill to my destination. 

I made it!
 Unfortunately the road I chose was a single lane in each direction, spearated by a median but lacking a shoulder. Not very bike friendly, but the speed limit was only 35, so I didn't fear for my life. Next time I'll stick to the highway.  My plan worked, though: I coasted downhill to my friends' house, and as I pulled into their driveway, the sun came out.  I had a snack on the front porch, stowed my bike, and walked into town to meet friends for happy hour. Success!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Lavaman Cookie Recipe

Emily’s Lavaman Thank You Cookies

1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
2 eggs
3 cups oats
2 cups all-purpose flour
½ cup slivered almonds, toasted & cooled
½ cup sweetened dried cherries
½ cup chocolate chips

Heat oven to 375F. Mix first group of ingredients.  Stir in remaining ingredients.  Drop by rounded tablespoons onto ungreased cookie sheet about 2 inches apart.  Bake until edges are light brown but centers still look a soft, about 10 minutes.  Immediately remove from cookie sheet to a cooling rack.  Cookies will be very soft.  Cool at least 5 minutes.  Devour.  Makes 4-5 dozen.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011


After two weeks of sickness and sloth, I'm back in the exercise groove.  Monday night I tried my first Masters swim workout, and last night I went on a ""beer run" with a new group, prompted by a Lavamate. We met up outside the Brave Horse Tavern  in the shiny new South Lake Union neighborhood, then ran about 3 miles before returning to the bar for some food & beverage.  It felt great to need my sunglasses, and I could have left my jacket in the car.  I think it was about 50 degrees, which seemed balmy compared to the past few weeks. 

The atmosphere was laid back, with 2 big shuffleboard tables and 3 dart boards, big wooden communal tables that seat 8-10, and an overall new-but-rustic feel. Our food came out quickly, and we didn't have too long a wait at the bar even though the place was busy (we stood in the back by the dart boards because there weren't enough open seats).  I had a small but tasty black bean burger with cheddar ($7), half of a big homemade pretzel ($5) and a Captain & Coke ($7).  I didn't realize that they had 2 ciders on tap that I'd never tried until after I'd ordered my drink, so will go back to try those at some point.

I gambled with the weather and rode my bike to work this morning, and my quads could definitely tell I hadn't run in a while.  Hopefully the rain (and maybe snow) will hold off until after I get home tonight!

Sunday, April 10, 2011


Sunrise over the transition area
After months of training and fundraising, I competed with my Team in Training team in the Lavaman triathlon last Sunday. My goal was to finish in under 3.5 hours, and I'm happy to report that I crossed the finish line in 3:08. I grinned through most of the race, feeling giddy to finally work out in warm weather after many rainy, cold Seattle workouts!

The team met up in front of the hotel at 5:30am on race day and rode carefully in the dark to the transition area, where we had plenty of time to set up our gear, get our race numbers stamped on our arms, pick up our timing chips, and goof around a little for the camera.  

running up the beach to the bike transition and trying not to fall on my face

The swim was beautiful. I'm told the water was 65 feet deep in some parts of the course, and I could see the bottom the whole time. In fact, several times I had to remind myself to quit watching the fish and swim. I had hoped to finish the swim in 40 minutes, but having never swum in open water before, I didn't have a realistic goal in mind. I came at 32 minutes, and I'm thrilled with that result.

The bike course covered a roughly 11-mile section of the Queen K Highway, comprised mostly of long gradual hills in both directions, surrounded by fields of lava rock covered in Hawaiian graffitti (white chunks of dead coral laid out on the dark rocks to spell out names and messages).  The only trees in sight were those planted in the resort areas.  Aside from landscaping, there were only small tufts of grass here and there, reminiscent of a high desert.  As soon as I turned onto the highway, I felt the headwind and was glad that I had to fight the wind in the first half and that it would be behind me on the way back. My goal was to finish the bike leg in 1:30 or less, and I did it in 1:28. Hooray!  Because the course was an out-and-back, I saw the faster people on my team heading back before I'd made it halfway to the turn-around point.  Nearly every TNT person who passed me on the bike leg said "Go Team" as they passed, and I did the same.  Whenever someone called me by name, I picked up a little burst of speed.  I started thinking about coming back and doing this race again next year before the end of the bike leg.

By the time I started the run portion of the race, the sun was high and hot. The first short section led us across a field of gravelly lava rock - tricky footing when you've just gotten off a bike and your leg muscles are still adjusting! By the time I reached the first mile marker, I was definitely ready for the water station awaiting me there. Miles 2 & 3 were the hardest, with a short hill that led to a long, flat section of blacktop without even a hint of a breeze.

rocky trail just beyond mile 4 of the run
Around the 3.5-mile mark, I went to grab a cup of ice at the aid station, and my left foot slid out from under me on the wet pavement and wham! Suddenly I was on the ground with a bloody elbow and a sore butt! I wasn't hurt badly, mostly just startled to be flat on the ground after a few hours of constant motion. I was up and running again within a few seconds, clutching my paper cup of ice and feeling tough having bled on the course.  In the 5th mile, the trail led past one of the swimming pools on the Hilton grounds, then down along the water's edge on a narrow rocky path.  I was really glad that I'd taken the time to walk that section the day before, taking the "nothing new on race day" mantra to heart.
approx mile 4.5 of the run

Back on the sandy stone path through the resort, I dodged a few unsuspecting guests near the pool and watched my footing, having slipped in my flipflops on just such a section the day before.  Coach Cathy had pointed out the last little uphill section on our course preview, and I was excited to pass that and round the bend to the final water station and the 5-mile marker.
approx mile 5 of the run

Mile 6 followed the shore along a path that varied from golfball-sized chunks of coral and rock to sand to gravel and roots, and again I was glad I'd walked this part the day before.  With less than half a mile to go, the trail crossed a short stretch of deep, dry sand, and I tried to stay on my toes and maintain my pace.  Then it was back onto a winding paved path, where beachgoers kindly jumped to the side of the trail when they saw runners approaching. 

start/finish area at upper left of this photo, from last 1/4 mile of run route

The last hundred yards or so took me back into the sand, and I tried my best to speed up.  However, I'm a poor sprinter at the best of times, so I didn't have much left in the tank to get me across sand after 3+ hours of intense activity!  My goal was to finish the run in less than an hour, and I did it in 1:02, which is close enough for me.  There's always next year...

Finishing in the middle of the pack among my teammates was an added bonus.  There were many friends there to congratulate me at the end, and I got to see plenty of my teammates cross the finish line as well.

We did it!

By far my favorite part of the whole Team in Training experience was having so many people on the team.  In addition to my group of 60+ from Seattle, more than 500 other TNT participants from around the country took part in the race, so every few seconds I looked to see if the purple-clad person passing by was one of my Seattle teammates, and even when it wasn't someone I knew, the face was friendly and encouraging.   It was a particularly good course for this, since there were several overlapping sections on the run course where I saw teammates who were a few minutes ahead of or behind me. 

Completing my first Olympic distance triathlon would have been amazing on its own, but doing it for a good cause with an amazing group of people was incredibly uplifting.  Our WA/AK Team raised over $315,000, and Team in Training Lavaman participants nationwide raised over $1,000,000 for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society leading up to this race.  It's not too late to donate and nudge that figure a little higher: 

Thanks to everyone who donated and to all the friends & family who listened to me ramble on about training and fundraising all winter.  I couldn't have done it without you!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Pure & Simple Homemade Indian Vegetarian Cuisine

As a bookseller, it can be a bit disconcerting when someone tells me that a relative has published a book.  Last week, I heard that my teammate's mother had written a cookbook, so with some trepidation, I looked it up: Pure & Simple Homemade Indian Vegetarian Cuisine by Vidhu Mittal.  Lo and behold, not only was it on the shelf in our cookbook section, it was mouthwateringly beautiful! Several pages at the beginning are comprised  of a glossary of spices, vegetables, legumes, and kitchen tools that are used in the book, each entry accompanied by a photo and a brief description. With multiple color photos of each recipe, this is the kind of cookbook that makes me hungry. By 10am I'd shown it to several coworkers, and I wanted to take the rest of the day off to go home and cook an Indian feast! 

Aloo Paratha

On Friday afternoon, after several hours of pie and cookie baking, I realized that James would soon be home from work with our friend Johnny in tow.  I'd mentioned that we should try something from the new cookbook, so I started trolling for recipes that looked quick & easy.  I settled on Aloo Paratha (Indian Bread Stuffed with Potatoes) and Sabz Pulao (Mixed Vegetable Pilaf).  The boys arrived around 6:30, and Johnny and I made a foray to the grocery store for ingredients.

Sabz Pulao
There weren't too many vegetables to chop, so prep time was minimal.  We put some potatoes on to boil for the flatbread and set the rice in a pot to soak.  I chopped cauliflower, cilantro, green chiles, and potatoes while Johnny mixed the dough for the bread.  When the potatoes were ready for mashing, the bread dough had finished resting and the rice had soaked long enough.  We assembled the pilaf ingredients quickly in a skillet, and left it to simmer until the rice & potatoes were cooked through.  This turned out to be just the right amount of time to cook the flatbreads - I rolled them out while Johnny cooked them one at a time.  While the process might seem intimidating, it's really quite simple. The dough is much more forgiving than others I've used.

Our total time in the kitchen came in around an hour.  I even had enough leftover pilaf & potatoes to make a tasty scramble with a few eggs the next morning.  I will definitely try more recipes from this lovely book!