Monday, December 26, 2011

an easy, make-ahead squash dish

roast squash

I went to potlucks two days in a row recently, with no time to cook for the second one ( it was a work party so  my food had to be all ready when I left the house at 6:20 in the morning), so I needed a recipe which could be made well ahead of time and served at room temp but still be festive and delicious. Luckily for me, the always reliable Yotam Ottolenghi had a suitable looking recipe in the Guardian. I tripled it and took two-thirds to an event peopled by a bunch of squash-haters--so I'll have nice leftovers for my upcoming work lunches--and the rest of it to my work the next day where it was a triumphant success!

It really was quick and easy; the only part that took any real time was peeling and cutting up the squash. I used a kuri, because I like them better than butternuts, but if you used a butternut even that would be quick and easy.

I took the above picture before I remembered to add the za'atar, so in real life it was a little more brown. Za'atar is the only ingredient in this which might be hard to find. In Seattle you can get it at PFI or The Souk; otherwise, Penzey's has it.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

dried pineapple

pineapple, fresh and dried

If you find yourself in possession of a pineapple or two and don't feel like making pineapple salad or pineapple crud (really quick and yummy!), you could always make dried pineapple. I like the kind I make better than the kind you get from the store, mainly because of its texture; I don't dry it as long, because I expect to eat it up within a few weeks, so it turns out much more tender. I also like to sprinkle a little herb salt over the pineapple pieces before they go in the dehydrator. You should end up with about a quart of dried pineapple per whole fruit (the jar pictured above has two pineapple's worth in it).

Dried Pineapple
a pineapple, peeled and cut up into fairly thin pieces--a little less than a centimeter, maybe
a small amount of Yamuna's herb salt
    3T dried cilantro 
    2T dried basil
    1T dried dill 
    2t dried marjoram 
    1t dried oregano 
    1/2t dried cayenne 
    4T coarse sea salt 
    Grind everything together in a blender, then store in a little jar.

 Spread the pineapple pieces out on your dehydrator trays, then sprinkle lightly with herb salt. Dry at 118° till dry but still  tender and pliable. The time required will vary according to the thickness of your pineapple slices, but should be somewhere between 8 and 24 hours. Just keep checking every once in a while!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Rachael's birthday pineapple salad

lowfi pineapple salad

I guess pineapple's really in season in the spring, but they've been on sale in all the stores here lately so I've been eating lots of them. I took a pineapple salad to a potluck last week--not my usual Indian one, but a Vietnamesish version I used to make for Rachael's birthday dinners. This salad's not as universally popular as the Indian one--only one person asked me for the recipe--but I like it equally well. A key ingredient is tuong cu-da, a soybean sauce which has a stinkiness similar to that of fish sauce.

SE Asian Pineapple Salad
A nice, ripe pineapple, peeled and cut up
a red bell pepper, cut into short strips
a couple of firm but ripe tomatoes, if there are good ones available to you, halved and cut into thin semicircles
a generous handful of peanuts, toasted in a pan on the stove and then roughly chopped
a shallot, minced
a chile, minced
herbs (coriander, Thai basil, mint--whatever you think will be good)
juice of a lime
tuong cu-da, the same amount as the lime juice
a clove of garlic, crushed
sugar (palm sugar if you have some), optional, depending on how sweet the pineapple is

Mix the salad ingredients together in a big bowl, and the dressing  in a smaller bowl.  Taste the dressing for balance of flavors before tossing it into the salad.

sauce ii

This sauce can be hard to find--when Annie and I were looking for it at the Viet Wah, where I'd bought it previously, a helpful employee directed us to the thick, cloudy fish sauces as they have a similar taste. When we said we wanted a fish-free sauce, she found a man who told us that they didn't carry it any more but that we could get it at nearby Minh Tam. If you can't find it and you don't care if your salad is vegetarian, fish sauce would be a good substitute; otherwise, try some regular soy sauce.

Monday, December 5, 2011

yet another post about kale chips....

kale chips

It seems like every blog in the world has posted about kale chips and how delicious and easy to make they are, but I thought I'd better add one of my own in case any of my followers haven't gotten the message. You should make them! They're so easy and good! And if you can't help but eat a whole batch at one sitting, well, it's better than if you'd eaten a bag of potato chips.

I think it's easiest of all to make them in a food dehydrator, as you just leave them in till they're dry and don't have to worry about overdoing them, but if you don't have one you can bake them in your oven. I've read various recommendations for temperatures and baking times--from 30 minutes at 250° to 5 minutes at 450°--but the key to success when using an oven is frequent stirring and checking so they don't get too dried out and brittle.

You can use any flavors you like--make them fancy and cheesy like these, or add lime and chile if you'd like them zippy.  I usually make them like this:

Kale Chips
1 bunch of kale, minus the stems, torn into chip-sized pieces
 a couple of cloves of garlic, crushed
a couple of sprigs of thyme, roughly chopped
a big pinch of salt
a smaller pinch of Aleppo pepper
1 T nutritional yeast
1T olive oil

Mix everything together in a big bowl, and kind of massage the seasonings into the leaves till they're really well coated.  Spread out on a Silpat-lined cookie sheet if you're using your oven (be sure not to crowd the leaves; you may have to do a couple of batches) or on your dehydrator racks. If you're dehydrating, it should take about six hours at 115°.