Spaghetti with Tomato Crudo

Spaghetti and Tomato Crudo

Spaghetti and Tomato Crudo

Every cuisine around the world has its comfort food. To my limited knowledge almost all of Italian food feels like comfort food. It tastes great, is simple to make, is unpretentious and hits all the right spots. This recipe is a classic example of what, to me, defines comfort food.

Crudo in Italian means “Raw”. Traditional Crudo dishes tend to involve dead animals. For instance, you have Sea Bass Crudo and Salmon Crudo. However, we discovered to our delight that there is also a Pomodoro Crudo. This dish is a hearty sauce made with fresh tomatoes, garlic and basil and served with Spaghetti.  The “raw” in this dish comes from using fresh tomatoes. The last time we had Pomodoro Crudo was at Rathskeller in Fredricksburg in the Texas Hill Country over the New Year and I had been itching to make it since then.

Even though Rathskeller calls the dish Crudo, they did not use fresh tomatoes. Since we are in the middle of winter, I decided to use canned tomatoes as well –  I started with my trusted favorite – Red Gold Diced Tomatoes. A little plug for Red Gold here. For Italian cooking, they are a great option to the more expensive Italian imported tomatoes. They are not available everywhere, but if you can find them, do give them a try. And, I just discovered, they have a tie up with Huy Fong (the Rooster sauce people) and make a Sriracha Ketchup as a joint initiative – Red Gold, which was already a favorite with me, has gone up several more notches in my book. Bravo!

The recipe itself is very basic but it makes for a very hearty meal. Here goes.

INGREDIENTS (for 4 people)

Good quality extra virgin Olive Oil – use generously – 3-4 Tbps

Chili Flakes – about 1/4 to 1/2 tsp – to taste

3-4 cloves of garlic

1 14.5 oz can of no-salt added diced tomatoes

Sea Salt – to taste

Some fresh ground black pepper – to taste

Some torn fresh basil (if you have it. I didn’t) or Dry Basil

Spaghetti – cooked al dente – as per instructions on the packet

Parmigiano Reggiano

STEPS

  1. Heat the Olive Oil in a saucepan
  2. Add the chili flakes and garlic cloves and cook till the cloves are just starting to change color
  3. Add the tomatoes and cook till they are heated through and soft – about 8 mins
  4. Add salt and pepper to taste
  5. Add the cooked spaghetti and cook till it is hot. Add torn Basil (or dry Basil if you like)
  6. Serve hot and grate some Parmigiano Reggiano on top if you feel like it.
  7. Finish eat and then repeat from Step 1.

 

 

 

 

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Instant Pickle for Banh Mi

Instant Pickle for Banh Mi

Instant Pickle for Banh Mi

I am a huge fan of Banh Mi and make a pretty decent vegetarian version of it (recipe here). The wife was feeling like a Banh MI recently and I was feeling adventurous so I decided to make a Paneer Banh Mi instead of the usual Tofu version. It was good but not great. Recipe will follow soon. It makes for a nice change. However in my quest for finding a Paneer Banh Mi recipe ( I found one that didn’t look that great), I stumbled upon a Vegetarian Banh Mi recipe that called for making your own pickle, imagine that! Anyway, I didn’t need much more motivation and never being the one to follow recipes I made my own. It was a revelation. It was better than fantastic and I am never going back to store bought pickles for Banh Mi again. In fact the pickle is so good, you can use it on any type of sandwich. The recipe is simplicity itself.

INGREDIENTS (for a decent batch of pickle – enough for over a dozen sandwiches)

Two medium carrots – peeled and sliced into thick slices

6-8 small radishes – sliced into thick slices

1 large Jalapeno – sliced into thick slices

1/4 cup Rice Vinegar

1/4 cup White Vinegar

1/2 tsp Sugar

1/2 tsp Salt (add more if you like, the pickle should be salty but not over-salty)

STEPS

  1. Mix it all in a jar
  2. Let it sit for at least a couple of hours
  3. Use as you like

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A couple of tips for Veggie Chili

Black Bean Chili with Butternut Squash

Black Bean Chili with Butternut Squash

While we cook a lot at home, there clearly was a repetitiousness that had crept into our menus. So a few months back we started using Green Chef every other week for a few meals. For those of you who don’t know, Green Chef is a meal prep service where they ship you the recipe and ingredients for making a meal with the appropriate portions apportioned out and you do the assembly and cooking. It has been good to have these meals for a change.  While not every meal has been to our liking, there have been a few that have absolutely stood out. One of these was the Black Bean Chili with Butternut Squash.

As some of you know, I have been making Chili for a while and have posted some recipes (click here, here and here) on this blog. The chili usually turns out well and is pretty easy to make. However, there were a few things that the Green Chef recipe did, that took this particular recipe to a different level.

  1. Adding more body – The recipe used peeled, shredded butternut squash in the body. It made for a slightly sweeter chili but it was thicker.
  2. The Chile in the Chili – A paste of tomato and chipotle was added to add some flavorful heat. I suspect Chipotle in Adobo sauce will do nicely (it is available in most Mexican stores)
  3. Baked Tortilla Strips – The recipe called for tossing corn tortilla strips in Olive Oil, Salt and Pepper. They were awesome and made a great alternative to fried tortilla chips (or strips) usually used. They were so good, that my younger daughter couldn’t stop eating them and wanting me to make an entire batch for her to eat with Salsa and Guacamole.

I will definitely post another Chili recipe incorporating these ideas into my recipe. But since I have been a slacker at posts lately, I thought I’d post some ideas for you guys to try instead of waiting to have a full blown recipe.

 

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Spiced Almonds

Spiced Almonds

Spiced Almonds

It is almost the end of the year. Another year down the tube. It was a good year for me, hope you had an excellent one too. With the many parties in the holiday season I thought I’d post this recipe for Spiced Almonds. They are easy to make, taste really good and you can have them throughout the year.

Faced with the prospect of serving nuts at a party we threw earlier in the month, I searched the web but could not find a recipe to my liking. I did find something on Food Network that looked interesting (see here). So I took that as a start and promptly ignored the directions, adding spices I thought would work. And guess what, they did. So here is the foodydoody take on Spiced Almonds.

INGREDIENTS

2 cups almonds

1 Tbsp Olive Oil

1 tsp roasted ground cumin

1 tsp Kitchen King Masala (available at Indian Stores)

1/2 tsp salt (or too taste)

1 tsp Chat Masala (available at Indian Stores)

STEPS

  1. Dry roast the almonds till they are just starting to brown. Set aside.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a saucepan and add the cumin, Kitchen King and salt. Cook for a minute or so.
  3. Toss in the almonds and mix well.
  4. Remove from heat and add the Chat Masala. Toss well.
  5. Cool and consume.

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What the #*^% is Rutabaga?

Roasted Winter Vegetables

Roasted Winter Vegetables

Walking past the produce aisle at the grocery store, I saw a vegetable I had only heard of, never seen. Entranced, I inched closer. Nestled between carrots and beets, it was nothing spectacular. Its misshapen, bulbous visage was covered in dirt and the roots on one end gave away its subterranean origin. But it was something new and so, of course, it had to be tried. So I bought some along with some Golden Beets with no idea of what I was going to do with them.

First a word about Rutabaga (pronounced Root-a-bay-ga) – considered a cross between a turnip and cabbage, it is a root vegetable. Very popular in the Scandinavian countries, it is considered a food of last resort in Germany and France. In the latter two countries, it is associated with food shortages during the World Wars where sometimes boiled Rutabaga was the only nourishment to be had.

The first thought was do do some kind of a slaw of winter veggies with Beets, Rutabaga and Carrots but that idea was ditched in favor of something simpler. I decided to roast the Beets and Rutabaga along with some carrots and serve the Vegetables with Polenta on the side.

The roasting itself was simple – the Beets and Rutabaga were peeled and cut into thick slices. The carrots were peeled and sliced thick. All the veggies were then tossed with some Olive Oil, Salt and Pepper, and some Apple Cider Vinegar. The veggies were then roasted in the oven at 450F for 50 minutes (they were turned once, half way through). When done, the veggies were served with some Polenta.

The verdict? It was mixed. I liked it but the wife did not think much of Rutabaga. Daughter #1(the picky one) liked it. The Rutabaga had the crunch of a Turnip but with a slightly bitter aftertaste. As a side it works, but it would probably not be my first choice of veggies.

With Rutabaga under my belt, I am now off to explore Kohlrabi. Another one of the “only-heard-of-but-never-eaten” vegetables. Stay tuned for a report on that.

 

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Paneer Pizza with Tandoori Masala

Paneer Pizza with Tandoori Masala

Paneer Pizza with Tandoori Masala

Indians know their food. Restaurants with mediocre (read that as not finger smackingly good) fare tend not to last very long. While there is a slew of trendier places that have opened up in the last couple of decades, where people go to see and be seen, food is still front and center and places simply can’t survive on the glitz. And so it is in this mix, that Mickey D’s, Pizza Hut, Domino’s and their ilk have decided to test their mettle. Without exception, ALL of them have had to come up with a different, some might call tastier, menu for India. And the menu is good, in fact as fast food goes, it is great. Our family looks forward to it every time we visit India. After all, where else would you find dishes like McAloo Tikki Burger (a Potato based patty Burger), Kathitto (a Kathi Roll sold by Taco Bell) and Rawalpindi Chana Paneer Pizza.

While I have been able to replicate, or come close to, getting my Burger and Kathi Roll fix in the US, making a good Indian-style Paneer Pizza has eluded me. I have tried and failed in the past (click here).  So this time around I kept it simple. I started out making a standard Margherita (see here). I started with some cold fermented dough and some homemade Tomato-Basil Sauce. Then I added some minced garlic, some chopped tomatoes, Paneer, and Fresh Mozzarella. Sprinkled the whole thing liberally with some Tandoori Masala powder(available in Indian grocery stores) and baked it on my Baking Steel.

When it was done, some more Tandoori Masala powder, freshly ground sea salt and a topping with chopped Basil completed the Pizza. It was a beautiful thing.

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Butternut Squash in Fresh Green Curry

Butternut Squash with Fresh Green Curry

Butternut Squash with Fresh Green Curry

Given our love for spicy food, Thai cuisine is a big hit in our house. It is, however, somewhat hard to find truly vegetarian Thai food since most restaurants use either fish or oyster sauce. So we have taken the DIY route and cook what we crave. The excellent “Real Vegetarian Thai” by Nancie McDermott was a serendipitous find and has been our go-to resource for many years. I have yet to find a bad recipe in that book.

So this year, when we decided to go the Thai route for Thanksgiving, “Real Vegetarian Thai” was eagerly sought out and consulted. The menu after much debate was – Lettuce Bites as an appetizer, Tom Yum soup as a first course, Butternut Squash Curry and Red  Curry Vegetable Stir Fry as the main, served with boiled rice. The first two were dishes we had made before, the latter two, we hadn’t. Everything turned out really well.

It was quite a feast and there was much singing and dancing by the fire that night.

The one dish that was exceptional for me was the Butternut Squash curry. It was surprisingly simple to make and full of flavor. Something that one can whip up in a jiffy on a cold night. With the onset of winter I thought I’d post it. Here goes.

INGREDIENTS (for 4-6)

1 small butternut squash – about 1.5 pounds

2 Tbsp coarsely chopped shallots or yellow onion

1 Tbsp coarsely chopped garlic

1 tsp peeled and coarsely chopped ginger

2 fresh green jalapeno

3 Tbsp + 1/2 cup water

3/4 cup coarsely chopped cilantro leaves

1 can unsweetened coconut milk

1 sp sugar

1 tsp salt

1/4 cup fresh basil leaves

STEPS

  1. Trim the top and bottom of the butternut squash. Peel the thick skin. Scoop out the seeds and cut into 1 inch cubes. Set aside.
  2. In a blender – combine shallots, garlic, ginger, chilies, 3 Tbsp water and cilantro – blend till you have a smooth paste. Add additional water if needed.
  3. In a saucepan, add about half the coconut milk and bring to a gentle boil over medium heat, cook until it releases its sweet fragrance – about 3 minutes.
  4. Add the curry paste (from step 2) and cook for 2 minutes, mashing and scraping into the coconut milk.
  5. Add the remaining coconut milk, 1/2 cup water, sugar, salt and butternut squash.
  6. Raise to high heat and bring to a rolling boil. Reduce heat to maintain a gentle boil and cook till the butternut squash is cooked – about 15 minutes.
  7. Serve with boiled white rice.

 

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