Friday, September 28, 2007

Aubergine Raita

Last night I had vindaloo curry for dinner. I wanted to make a raita to go with it, so I did a quick search for raita recipes just to check the proportions. I was planning on making a cucumber raita, but my search resulted in several recipes for eggplant raita. And boy am I glad they did! The eggplant raita that I ended up making was good. Really good. As in
"I'll-make-this-for-dinner-again-tonight" good. It's very cool and creamy and flavourful, kind of like an Indian baba ghanoush.

As always with eggplant, make sure that the oil is really, really hot before you put the eggplant in. Otherwise it will absorb quite a lot of oil, making this dish not very healthy.

Also-- salting the eggplant is optional. I think it does make eggplant less bitter, but I know not everyone agrees with me on this account. So do as you see fit.

Don't use too much garam masala-- you really only want just a hint of it.

Eggplant Raita

1 medium eggplant
2 cups plain, unsweetened soy yoghurt
1 tsp sugar, preferably unrefined
3/4 tsp salt, or to taste
1/4 - 1/2 tsp garam masala
olive oil
1 tsp black mustard seeds
1 red chili, chopped
Cilantro leaves, for garnish

Slice the eggplant into 1/4" slices. Generously sprinkle both sides of the slices with salt, and let sit for half an hour. When this time is up, rinse the slices and press the water out.

Meanwhile, combine the yoghurt, sugar, salt, and garam masala in a bowl. Heat the oil-- enough to coat the bottom of the pan-- in a skillet over medium-high heat. When the oil is really, truly hot place the eggplant slices in the pan. Let them cook until they are golden, approximately 3
minutes, then flip and let the other side brown. Remove them from the pan and let them drain on a mesh rack or paper towels. Let them cool slightly.

Now make the tempering mixture. Pour out the excess oil, leaving about 1 tsp in the bottom of the pan. Put the mustard seeds in the pan and cover. When the seeds have stopped popping, add the chili and briefly saute until the chili is slightly softened, about 1 minutes. Remove from the heat.

Mix the eggplant with the yoghurt. Smooth the surface, then sprinkle the tempering mixture on top. Garnish with the coriander. Let chill before serving.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Devilishly Yummy Kabocha Pancakes

I hardly ever make pancakes, but I've wanted to try these ever since I saw them about six months ago on Ben's blog, A Decadent Conspiracy. I had half a squash in my refrigerator last weekend, so I finally got the chance to make them as a nice Saturday breakfast. They were so ...devilishly yummy!

I roasted the squash with a tiny bit of raw sugar and a drizzle of oil until it was soft and carmelized and then pureed it. I also topped the pancakes with candied pumpkin seeds-- they were caramel-y, salty and spicy and a great contrast to the soft, sweet pancakes. The recipe for the pumpkin seeds is from one of my favorite cookbooks, Sunday Suppers at Lucques. They would also be great on soup (which was what the cookbook intended them for) or just as a snack.
Of course, you don't have to be as complicated as I was. I think these would be great with canned pumpkin puree and a few chopped pecans on top. And then they would really only take 5 minutes to whip together!

I had to add a bit more soymilk than the original recipe called for. This made 9 pancakes, which would be a hearty breakfast for 2.

Salty-Sweet Candied Pumpkin Seeds

1/2 cup pumpkin seeds (or the seeds from one squash)
2 tsp margerine
1 tbsp turbinado sugar (or just use regular granulated)
1/4 tsp cumin
generous pinch each of ground cinnamon, paprika, and cayenne pepper
1 tsp honey (or agave)
Kosher salt

Melt the butter in a small pan over medium heat. Add the pumpkin seeds and sugar, then sprinkle the spices and a healthy pinch of salt over them. Toss the pumpkin seeds to coat them well and cook a few minutes, until just after they begin to pop and color slightly.

Turn off the heat, and wait 30 seconds. Add the honey, tossing well to coat the seeds. Spread on a plate and let them cool.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Plum Cake

Sometimes, even though it’s summer, it’s chilly and rains. So you compromise by having a big, summery salad for dinner and an autumnal plum cake for desert.

Plum cake (Pflaumen Kuchen) is really popular in Germany, and no wonder: you can get really good plums here. Use small, dark purple, Italian plums here.

This cake is yet another variation of the batter I used in the rhubarb muffins—this is rapidly becoming one of my favorite recipes because it’s so adaptable and it is always really high and light.

Plum Cake

3 cups all purpose flour
Scant 1 cup sugar
1 ¼ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp ground ginger
3 ¾ tsp baking powder
1 ¼ tsp baking soda
¾ tsp salt
1 2/3 cups plain soy yoghurt (preferably the unsweetened kind)
¼ cup oil
¾ cup unsweetened apple sauce
10-12 Italian plums

Crumb toping:
2 tbsp soy “butter”
½ cup flour
½ cup sugar
¼ tsp cinnamon

Wash the plums, cut them in half, and set aside. Pre-heat the oven to 400 F. Cut the butter into the flour and sugar for the crumb toping, then set aside. Lightly grease a 9”x13” pan. Mix the dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Combine the wet ingredients in another bowl. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and using a rubber spatula, fold the wet ingredients in with a few swift strokes. Spread the batter in the prepared pan. Arrange the plum half, cut side down, in rows over the top of cake. Sprinkle with the crumb topping. Bake for 40-45 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Golden Spaghetti

A few days ago someone gave me a big bag of home-grown chilies. Now, don’t get me wrong: I love chilies and spicy food in general. But there’s probably 40 chilies in that bag, which is a little bit much for one person! So I’m going to be eating a lot of spicy food this week. I don’t even know the names of a lot of these peppers. The big red ones are mildly spicy and have a strong pepper flavor. The golden ones are spicier, like a mild jalapeno but still have really good flavor. The small red ones are Thai bird chilies, and they are very, very hot.

Anyway, tonight I used up a few in a really tasty pasta sauce. I know pasta is supposed to be a student staple, but I hardly ever make it—maybe once a month at most. But I enjoy it when I do make it.

I used the golden peppers in the sauce, but really, any chili would do. Those round cherry peppers or even red jalapenos would make a nice substitute, I think. I like my food really spicy, so feel free to use less peppers if you would like!

So, 3 chilies down, 37 to go. Let me know if you have any suggestions on how I might use them, please!

Golden Chili-Tomato Spaghetti (serves 2)

Olive oil
2 cloves garlic
3 yellow chilies
12-15 cherry tomatoes, or 3 regular sized tomatoes
½ tsp salt
6-10 basil leaves, cut in a chiffonade
¼ cup soy Greek yoghurt, tofutti sour cream, tofutti cream cheese, or other creamy, non-sweet substance
Spaghetti or capellini, enough for 2 people

Peel the garlic cloves and cut them in half. Cut the chilies vertically in half. Remove the seeds and membranes. Slice the chilies fairly thinly. Heat the olive oil in a small sauce pan over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add the chilies and garlic and sauté for a few minutes.

Start the water for the pasta. Meanwhile, cut the tomatoes: if you are using cherry tomatoes (that was what I had on hand at the time) cut them into quarters; if you are using regular ones cut them into eighths. Add the tomatoes and salt to the chilies, turn the heat down to medium low, and cover the pot.

When the pasta water boils, add the spaghetti and cook according to the package directions. A few minutes before the pasta is done, the tomatoes should have broken down to a saucy mixture. When this happens, take the sauce off the heat. Stir in most of the basil and the yoghurt/cream cheese. Drain the pasta and mix with the sauce. Serve garnished with the remaining basil.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Summer is Ending

The weather in Heidelberg hasn’t been that great. It’s been cold, damp, grey, and has rained every single day. Heidelberg is in a valley with a river running through it, so I’ve been told that this weather is, unfortunately, typical. But yesterday the sun deicded to poke through the clouds, and it looks like we’ll be having a sunny weekend. So instead of making yet another soup, I happily decided to make a dinner highlighting two of my favorite summer fruits and veggies that won’t be around much longer: tomatoes and peaches.

(Below: a very tasty lolo tester recipe: Squash, Apple, Cranberry Soup)

I won’t post a recipe for the stuffed tomatoes, as I followed a recipe from La Tartine Gourmande nearly exactly (a gorgeous and inspiring blog; I want to make nearly all of her recipes!). I didn’t have savory, so I used fresh basil instead.

And what better way to showcase fresh peaches than in a shortcake? (Actually, I wanted to make SusanV’s peach upside down cake, but I don’t have an oven proof skillet here.) But the shortcake was really good. The biscuits have an interesting texture due to some coarsely ground cornmeal. This recipe was adapted from a cookbook I’ve blogged about before, Sunday Suppers at Lucques.

I should point out that I do use honey, so this recipe calls for a little bit of honey. But you could easily substitute raw sugar or maple syrup or orange marmalade...

Cornmeal Shortcakes with Peaches and Honey Greek Yoghurt (serves 4)

2 8 oz containers plain soy yoghurt
2 tsp – 1 tbsp honey

Line a sieve or colander with cheesecloth or unbleached paper towels. Place it over a bowl. Pour the yoghurt into the sieve and let it drain for 4-5 hours, until it is thick. If it is really, really hot let it drain in the fridge. Otherwise it will be fine at room temperature. When the yoghurt is as thick as you would like, mix in the honey. Store it in the fridge if you won’t be serving it at once.

¾ cups all-purpose flour
¼ cup stone-ground cornmeal
2 tsp baking powder
Pinch salt
2 tbsp raw sugar
2 tbsp cold “butter”, in small cubes
¼-1/3 cup vanilla soy milk

Preheat the oven to 425 F

Combine the dry ingredients. Using your fingers, work the “butter” into the flour until it resembles coarse meal. There should still be small lumps of butter. Make a well in the center, and pour in the soy milk. (Start with ¼ cup and add a little more if you need to). Using just a FEW, swift strokes, fold the wet ingredients into the dry. Stop before it looks entirely mixed.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured cutting board. Shape it into a circle. Cut into quarters. Place the shorcakes on a parchement-lined baking sheet. Brush each one with a little soymilk and sprinkle with coarse sugar. Bake about 15 minutes, until light golden brown.

3 – 4 peaches
Pinch of sugar

Cut each peach into 8ths or 12ths, depending on size. Peel, and let macerate with a little sugar for at least 10 minutes, until the juices start to flow.

To serve slice each biscuit in half. Place the bottom half on the plate, spoon on the peaches with their juices, and top with a generous dollop of yoghurt. Put the top half of the biscuit on and serve.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Settling In

So I've been in Germany for a little over a week now. I'm not sure if I really like it yet-- I wish I had gone to Berlin, as Heidelberg is charming but after 2 days you've seen everything-- but hopefully things will improve when my classes start. That's not until the middle of October though. I'm taking a language course right now.

Anyway, unfortunately I can't upload any pictures (I don't have internet at home yet, and I can't upload from the library computer), but hopefully I'll have some soon.

I've done some important things like trying to decorate my room (which is in the very charming old town and quite large-- too bad that now that I have all this space, most of my things are in the US) and finding a cheap asian market. 500g of tofu for €0.75! I'm still looking for a Turkish grocery store. When I was in Berlin I lived off of cheap turkish olives and flat bread, mmmm....

Another interesting thing about Germany is that people here don't drink tap water at all, even though it's perfectly safe, just bottled sparking water. It's really cheap, 19 cents, but you also have to pay a deposit of 25 cents for every bottle, which you get back when you take the plastic bottle back to the store. This is clever because it forces people to recycle, but it's still a plastic bottle.

And it's definately autumn here. It's cold and grey and rains every day-- which definately isn't my favourite kind of weather. Now that I have to cook autumn foods, I only want summer ones!