Friday, September 2, 2011

Naan-Style Bread

Flour, about 4 ½ to 5 cups, including 1 - 2 cups of whole wheat flour if desired
1 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
5 tsp yoghurt
2 tsp sugar
3 T milk
1 cup water
2 T cooking oil
Fennel seeds (optional)
In a bowl, sieve or mix together 2 cups of the flour, the baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
In a separate, small bowl, whisk the yoghurt. Whisk in the sugar and milk.
Make a well in the center of the flour mixture. Add the yoghurt mixture and the 1 cup water. Mix well, ideally with a wooden spoon. Stir in the whole wheat flour. Stir in as much of the remaining flour as you can. Turn the dough out onto a clean work surface. Knead in as much of the remaining flour as you can.
Cover the dough with a moist cloth and let it rest for 10 minutes. Then, knead in the two tablespoons of cooking oil until the dough absorbs the oil. Cover the dough with a moist cloth again and let it rise. Ideally it should rise for two hours, though if you make naan with it before then, the naan will still be pretty good.
Grease one or more cookie sheets. Make the dough into golf-ball-sized balls and place them on the cookie sheets. Flatten the balls slightly and sprinkle with fennel seeds, if desired. Then, roll and flatten each dough ball between your palms. Stretch the dough to one side to give the naan an elongated shape.
Bake 10 – 13 minutes in a 375 F oven. Immediately after the naan comes out, transfer it to a serving dish and butter it. Serve with additional butter.

My naan recipe is by no means authentic. It is adapted for an American kitchen. The original recipe calls for doing the whole thing, from the sieving through the kneading, in a kneading trough. I don’t own one, though it sounds like it would be terribly convenient. By the way, it also doesn’t mention the additional flour. Only the first two cups of flour are mentioned. I had to figure out the rest by myself.
The original also calls for groundnut oil (i.e. peanut oil) instead of plain cooking oil, and melon seeds to sprinkle on top (though the picture shows little black seeds like mustard seeds, not the cantaloupe seeds I would have guessed). I tried putting on fennel seeds instead, and love their sweet, licoricy taste.
The original recipe also called for a total of 6 dough balls to be made from this recipe. The resulting naan must be enormous! I get ten or more little balls, but I like it that way. I don't think my naan looks or tastes much like the naan I've seen elsewhere. Possibly because I am baking it in an American oven instead of in a hot tandoor for just 3 minutes! But it's still good and goes fillingly well with the daal recipe below.

Friday, August 19, 2011

The Best Lunch

This is tastiest, most filling, quickest-to-prepare, vegetarian lunch you will ever eat. Make a big batch of the lentil soup. Keep it on hand in the fridge, along with your leftover naan bread (recipe to follow) in the freezer. At lunchtime, heat up the lentil soup and naan in the micro, butter the naan, and enjoy them both with a big glass of milk. The combo will keep you full for hours.

Indian-Style Lentils (Daal Bukhara, heavily adapted)
This recipe can be done on the stovetop or in the slow cooker.

1 cup lentils
4 tsp garlic puree*
4 tsp ginger puree or finely grated ginger root
1 tsp chile powder
¼ tsp salt
1 can tomato sauce or ½ can tomato paste
½ cup butter
2/3 cup cream, half and half, or milk

Boil the lentils in 6 cups of water until tender, about 1 hour. Or, if using the slow cooker, cook on high heat for an hour and then low heat for about five more hours.
Skim off some of the extra liquid, if necessary. Add the garlic paste, ginger paste, chili powder, salt, and tomato sauce or tomato paste. Stir well to make sure these ingredients dissolve. Simmer for another hour till the mixture is thick. This can be done on the stovetop or in the slow cooker.
Chop the butter and stir it into the lentils, allowing it to melt. You can reduce the butter to ¼ cup, but do not go below that or you will lose the richness of the soup. Add the cream or milk. Stir for about 15 minutes or until the fat is incorporated into the lentil mixture.

Serve with Naan bread and fresh veggies on the side. This soup can be garnished with additional butter.
This recipe is adapted from The Indian Menu Planner, Lustre Press/Roli Books. The original recipe is called “Daal Bukhara.” I cannot call my recipe that, because D.B. calls for black lentils. I have been unable to find black lentils, so I use brown lentils and they seem to work just fine. I like lentils because they cook so quickly.

*In the major city where I live, my local Kroger’s carries garlic and ginger purees, made by Gourmet Garden, in their salad section.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Just A Picture

Red Lentil Soup with plain yoghurt and a lemon wedge for garnish

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Chocolate Pinon Cheesecake

This recipe was inspired by the people in my last post. I took a basic cheesecake recipe of my mother’s, and added chocolate, cinnamon, chile powder, and pinon nuts. All but cinnamon are native to the New World.
The pinon nuts in this picture were bought from a man selling them out of his van at the side of the road. He showed us a pinecone and explained, “El pinon esta aqui en el dentro.” We understood from him that pinon nuts are harvested once every five years, which explains why the generous cup’s worth we bought cost $20. However they are very rich and their piney taste stays with you.
Actually, this recipe is just a first draft. It came out very rich and chocolately, and tasting a little bit complex, but we could not actually taste the chile powder. In future recipes, I (or you) might try cutting the amount of chocolate in half (or cutting the sugar further), increasing the chile powder or substituting cayenne pepper instead, or adding a little cinnamon to the crust.

¾ cup all-purpose flour + ¼ cup whole wheat flour
2 T sugar
½ t baking powder
¼ t salt
1/3 cup butter or margarine
2 – 3 T milk
1 - 2 T butter
1 12-oz pckg semisweet chocolate chips (2 cups)
1 lb (2 8-oz packages) cream cheese or Neufchatel cheese
1 cup sugar
1 t chile powder
½ t cinnamon
5 eggs
¼ cup pinon nuts

Thaw the cream or Neufchatel cheese an hour or two before beginning the process.
Preheat oven 350 F.
Put 1 – 2 T butter and the semisweet chocolate chips in a saucepan on the lowest heat possible. While you are doing the rest of the recipe, stir occasionally and add splashes of milk as needed to melt the chocolate chips without allowing them to burn.
For crust, mix together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Cut in the butter using a pastry cutter. Then add a little milk at a time, tossing with a fork each time, until the mixture is just moist. I added 1 or 2 tablespoons too much milk, so my crust dough was sticky and hard to handle. Form the dough into a mass, place it in the bottom of a springform cheesecake baking pan, and pat it out until it makes a crust that covers the bottom and an inch or two up the sides, more or less evenly. My crust was far from perfect, but the cake still came out OK. Cover the pan and chill the crust until you are ready to add the filling.
For the filling, beat together the cream cheese (I find it helpful to cube it first), the sugar, the chile powder and the cinnamon until the mixture is light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating thoroughly after each addition. Add the melted chocolate, a little at a time, beating until it is thoroughly mixed. Fold in the pinon nuts. Pour the filling mixture into the crust and smooth to make it even. I poured it into the crust first, then sprinkled on the pinon nuts and lightly folded them in. But this was difficult to do without disturbing the bottom of the crust.
Bake at 350 F for 55 minutes or until the center is just firm to the touch. Cool to room temperature, then chill the cake before serving. If desired, garnish with additional pinon nuts or even with chile peppers!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Native American Gourmet

Even though economics makes it unlikely that I will ever eat food catered by Red Mesa Cuisine, I love, love, love what they are doing. According to their web site, the two chefs, Lois Ellen Frank and Walter Whitewater, both of Native American descent, strive "to bring Native American Cuisine into the contemporary Southwest kitchens and to help sustain traditional foods, traditional agricultural food practices, as well as keep alive culinary techniques from a variety of Native communities." In other words, "Chefs Frank & Whitewater cook contemporary American Indian foods using ancient techniques and ingredients all with a modern twist." Whenever possible, they buy their ingredients from tribes in their area.
I found out about this when our local paper ran an article about Lois Ellen Frank, one that included some recipes. I think my birthday wish list is going to include her book, Foods of the Southwest Indian Nations.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Tractor Cake for A Three-Year-Old

You can find much better-looking tractor cakes if you Google it, but this is my version. We used two loaf pans, two small Pyrex bowls, and two cupcake cups to get the desired shapes. A lot of toothpicks holding it together. My little bro built the foil-covered cardboard platform on which we raised the cake. A great use of his architectural training to serve others. The grill and the headlights are licorice candy. The steering wheel is a peppermint patty.
The three-year-old immediately recognized it as a tractor cake and was very pleased.