Tuesday feast: Veggie Kadai, shahi paneer, tomato rassam, samosa, bnut pakora and papdi chaat

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The impetus for all of this was interest in the butternut pakoras. They were initially planned pared with just the tomato rassam, but at the time, the proprietor at the near source for tamarind looked back with peculiarity on inquiry. That is, they apparently no longer stock any tamarind, so – a dal was substituted in the plans but not with any enthusiasm.
The squash consequently languished for several weeks, until the no-longer-little-guy was invited to a party not far from our favorite South-Asian grocer. Any visit more or less mandates some papri, or, papdi chaat – so, yogurt, too, and chutneys. And paneer managed to finagle its way into the cart, which, everyone agrees is best matched with spinach – but that is so redundant. Chilli paneer seemed like a great alternative but was deep-sixed by those with tender palates, and instead, the shahi paneer got the nod.
20160802_181110The gravy for the shahi paneer is a slightly sweet and quite rich. It is delicious, but not a great match with the rassam – they should be kept apart and eaten consecutively. A softer paneer would also be best.
20160803_184749The pakoras were as good as anticipated and the recipe is extremely simple: Shred the squash and mix everything together. The entirety of a good-sized squash is needed to offset the amount of flour in this recipe; the spices could be increased significantly.
20160802_183314The veggie kadai was a last minute addition as we decided to invite others over, as the meal grew. This is unquestionably a new favorite – right up there with that palak paneer and the irresistible lauki kofta. It, too, was a bit rich, but not excessively, and the flavors were outstanding.
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The tomato rassam was not as good as hoped. Pepper rassam is a personal favorite, but the pungency and spice turn off most others; it was hoped this would be similar to those shared in restaurants, which were not disliked. They likely tone down the tamarind further and probably add more sugar. With a little, ahem, tamarind chutney it went down reasonably well, though the tempering was largely lost outside of a few random chompings on a cumin seed.  The concept of a lemon sized piece of tamarind also may be lost on me, as this is far darker than the drink in pictures at the source.

The butternut-lentil of Edward’s court

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An interesting soup of flavors, that was pretty good, then pulled together completely with the addition of the sautéed mushrooms.  There is a very narrow balance between this not being very good and being very good, that lies in the proportions of wine, lemon and sweetness.  If the b-nut is sweet, then there is likely no need to add any honey at all.  On the other hand, with the butternuts grown a bit long in the tooth, the soup fell a little flat; the flavor rounded out quite nicely with the honey.
Unfortunate exuberance at that discovery lent a dollop more, which seemed to make it, then, too sweet.  It was then, once again fortunately returned near to its former salience with a pinch of salt, a bit more wine and drops of lemon, and the mushrooms – always part of the intention – developed thoughts of slightly higher sentience.
In the end, it turned out to be a brilliant moment of conscience and evolved a throw-away effort toward much higher-level insight.  The mushrooms provided delicious little, flavorful morsels, in nice contribution with cool, sour cream, and crunch from a pocketful of croutons, tossed on top.
With the gingelly dry for a later lunch, the mushrooms took a dash through sriracha, with the soy and smoke – and that was also quite good.  On reinvention, perhaps stick with the original, but also top each bowl with a swirl of sriracha, too.
Butternut lentil soup
  • 1 Butternut squash, peeled and chopped
  • 1 leek, sliced
  • 6c broth
  • 1.5c white wine
  • 2t salt
  • 1.5t tarragon
  • 1t cumin
  • 2t lemon juice
  • cayenne to taste
  • honey as needed
  • red lentils
  • mushrooms, diced
  • 2T soy sauce
  • 1/2t liquid smoke
  • 1tsesame oil

mix soy, smoke and sesame oil, toss mushrooms in and marinate.  Saute leek and squash until softened.  Add everything up to the mushrooms and simmer for 20.  Cook up lentils, al dente.  Blend the squash into a slurry, add lentils.

Serve and top with a swirl of sriracha, sour cream, croutons and the mushrooms.

Camaroonian peanut soup

IMG_1462  This is a very easy stew to make:  Put ingredients in pot – and cook!  There aren’t many dishes much easier than that – especially so for such an absolutely outstanding stew:  Very rich and satisfying, creamy with a nice balance of sweet and savory and spice — indulgent, really, like slurping down a bowl of slightly less concentrated and veggie diluted Thai peanut sauce.

Green pepper was omitted, a butternut and ginger were added.  Many recipes call for the addition of shredded greens which would give the otherwise very smooth soup a little texture and greens deliciousness.  Sometimes also served with rice or fufu — not manioc:  Never, never use cassava/manioc.

This was largely pulled from diningforwomen.org, and the coconut rice and skewers were tried, too.  The rice was interesting, but didn’t quite cook through even after an hour – probably not a re-doer, but maybe under the right circumstances…  The marinade on the skewers was very tasty and would also go nicely on grilled fruit or as the backbone of a sauce.  DFW_June2013_RecipesCuisine

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Thar be seitan — the boys had steak and seemed unimpressed

Three cheese, mushroom and kale casserole with butternut squash sauce

I know few truths – the closest I’ve found is that claims to a simple truth are a fool’s, and even those with the widest eyes see only a small fraction of a vast reality. ~Ferrar

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A layered noodle dish that was still more of a feeling than a fully developed idea by the time it was conspired, understandably near exiling it to leek soufle status as it languished in the thoughts over numerous weeks.

Thus, the strata were lain quite possibly, sub-optimally – the band of mushroom likely best suited, centrally.

It was initially imagined as a proxy, for tomato in straight-forward substitution on lasagna, then morphed further with thoughts of bean curd replacements – except those are not remembered favorably.

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Thoughts for substituting ricotta eventually fell to consideration for items that might reduce the slippage of the the noodles — thoughts to the sort of things that would hold up well under heat and retain some texture.

Kale has been lurking around, a lot, and seemed like a decent match for the criteria, and mushrooms seemed like a nice match with the sauce — though, sauteed dry, of course.

And cheese…

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It turned out really nicely.

The sauce and mushrooms were done ahead of time, or this would probably be too much hassle for an evening meal:  Many squash were roasted and ideas for use led to pureeing some down for a sauce.

A very simple sauce:  The squash, salt, a pinch of cumin,, shake cayenne, sage, and some water to thin it out a bit.

Shrooms were done in advance, though with the intention of putting it together that night:  Chopped mushrooms, olive oil, balsamic and garlic — sauteed down until reasonably dry.

Cheeses used:  Havarti and smoked gouda — both shredded and combined — and slices of fresh mozzzerella.

The noodle was a basic noodle:  Semolina, egg, water, oil, salt.  Rolled to 7 and cut around the base of the casserole to form a circle (like, 2/3’s of a circle from one cut, an the rest from a second part of the noodle).

Assembled in the dish, as so:

  • sauce
  • noodle
  • shredded havarti/smoked gouda
  • noodle
  • sauce + all of the mushrooms
  • noodle
  • sauce, mozzarella & chopped kale
  • noodle
  • Sauce, mozzarella & chopped kale
  • noodle
  • Sauce & a lot of chopped kale
  • noodle
  • Sauce, kale, topped with the rest of the havarti & smoked gouda.

baked at  350 for 40.

mixed meta forks

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Dad, begrudgingly, is allowing a bit of fussing and assistance as he makes recovery from hip surgery, surrendering his preference for lack of interference and coordination.  It’s given strange perspective for us all, i think.  He has always loomed large and daunting both physically and intellectually, bemused by those – myself, especially – that would offer ideas as novel or useful, irritated by offer of assistance or underestimation of capability.  He is obviously irritated to find himself at least somewhat and not-admittedly demobilized, and mom – additionally stressed with helping the unwilling and hectoring the same to do as has been instructed by his doctor.  Sharing meals has been hopefully helpful in at least reducing mom’s fatigue, and so far, dad hasn’t demanded it stop.  Mom has said he especially likes the Indian curries and dals and he hasn’t refuted it when she has, though I always get the feeling he expects anything I make to be terrible — or, terribly weird, anyway: We have mixed in a few Botswani things…

One, shared, were these butternut squash cannelloni — in butternut squash sauce!  Mom was working on their meal for the evening at arrival, and dad rolled over, irritably using the walker — jabbing it around like dad does with things that irritate him.  He’s since reverted to just a cane, which i think he actually doesn’t mind — gives an austere air, eh?  As we talked, he worked his way around, back to the dining table and asked, “Are the beans green?”

This was a funny comment:  There are — i guess they could be called memes, these days — that percolate continually through our family conversations.  For example, every family gathering requires the re-telling of the time I hit my sister with a coffee can when I was not yet one.   There are the tales of how I used to like to play with fire (used to?!?).  And of course, everyone is always surprised that I eat tomatoes..  The bean question immediately reduced me to a pathetic little boy, shivering on a chair at the dinner table, next to the open patio door in the middle of winter.

We all, more or less, like our green beans the same way — essentially blanched.  Dad will rail against the hypothetical gray and inedible beans produced by over-cooking, which, may have happened once or twice — but it was rare.  We all like our beans the same way:  Bright green and crunchy.  In youth, I was accused of taking it to the extreme, and not really cooking them at all.  I do like raw beans…  If I was cooking them, dad would joke that, “They should at least be warm!” Or, “Did you even put these in a pot?”

Mom was, of course, “Yes, John, they’re nice and bright green.”  Dad:  Did you make sure you cooked them?  Mom — changed the subject.

But sitting at that cold table of memory brought back another, a thing I never really understood that made my parents quite mad — maybe just dad, but it was certainly taboo — and that was mixing salad dressings.  For whatever reason, it was considered terribly inappropriate — but i absolutely loved the taste of ranch and vinaigrette dressings, mixed.  So, I sneaked them together — sometimes dropping ranch on the salad plate before putting salad on, then adding the vinaigrette, sometimes just trying to be sneaky — occasionally rebuked.

There were lots of those cannelloni — there still are, as a matter of fact.  One ensuing night of leftovers we served them with beans.  My bright green beans, there, barely cooked and not even warm — and in the bowl is my salad:  Of greens dressed both in ranch and vinaigrette.  I rarely eat ranch, anymore, but it sure tasted sweet, and next time they’re over for dinner we’re gonna have some raw green beans with tomatoes and everybody’s gettin’ cracked in the head with a coffee can, while we watch stuff burn.  “Throw more in the fire bowl, kids — throw more!”