Sunday, July 25, 2010

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Cranberry Pistachio Pesto

Brussels sprouts? Uhhhhh...

Yup, I decided to try something with Brussels sprouts. I found this recipe on the Steamy Kitchen's blog. It's apparently made by Chef Todd at Checkers Restaurant in Downtown Los Angeles. Since I'd never really tried Brussels sprouts before I figured I'd give it a shot. (OK, I had a taste of one of my roommate's forays into the Brussels sprout arena and it was pretty good.) But I definitely hadn't made them before.

Add in the cranberry pistachio pesto recipe and, why yes, I'll take a serving or two. Finally, finally, finally, last weekend I got around to some much-needed taste-testing of this concoction. The verdict? Well, let me give you the recipe first...

Roasted Brussels Sprouts
  • 1 1/2 pounds Brussels sprouts
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup Cranberry Pistachio Pesto (see below)
1) Preheat oven to 400F degrees.

2) Cut off the stem end of the Brussels sprouts and pull off any loose or bruised outer leaves.

3) Cut the Brussels sprouts in half, lengthwise.

4) Toss with olive oil.
5) On a baking sheet, spread the Brussels sprouts evenly and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

6) Roast for 25 minutes or until you begin to see a bit of browning on the Brussels sprouts. The interior should be fork tender.

Cranberry Pistachio Pesto
slightly adapted from Chef Todd's recipe
  • 1 cup pistachios
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 cups olive oil
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1) Place the pistachios, cranberries, and garlic into a food processor and process until very finely chopped.

2) While the food processor is running, slowly drizzle in 2 tablespoons of the olive oil.

3) Spoon out the pesto into a bowl and stir in remaining olive oil.

4) Season with salt and black pepper to taste. The pesto will be sweet and salty.
5) Spoon over the Brussels sprouts. (You will have leftover pesto.)
First of all, let me talk about the Brussels sprouts. I'm really sad to say that I wasn't overwhelmed by them. I'm just not sure they're for me. Maybe I didn't roast them long enough? But no, my roommate really likes this dish. The sprouts reminded me of cabbage, which I do like. This is why I'm so confused as to why I'm not a fan. Although they were roasted, the sprouts still had crisp and tender leaves. And, not surprisingly, they tasted like cabbage as well. They were also very crunchy, which is probably due to the intact "core" of the sprouts. Perhaps this is what I have an aversion to...or maybe my palette is just not up to this yet. I'll have to try again in the future. I do want to like them more. [Sigh]

Let's move on to the pesto. Yum! I liked the pesto a lot more than the sprouts. When I was making it, I omitted the parsley because 1) I didn't have any parsley on hand and 2) I don't really like parsley anyway. I also didn't toast the pistachios or roast the garlic as the original recipe suggested. Why? Mostly because it was a lazy Saturday afternoon and the last thing I felt like doing was toasting pistachios and roasting garlic. Hey, you can make your own pesto any ways you like, but mine is going to be "no-fuss".

After I got to the last step of the original recipe, I realized that I may have put too much oil in the pesto. Yes, the original pesto called for 1/2 cup each of olive oil, cranberries, and pistachios, but after tasting it I thought the oil proportion was kind of excessive. So I processed another half cup each of cranberries and pistachios and added them to the mix. Much better in my opinion! You can try it both ways and see what tastes better to you. I really liked the salty-sweet combination of the cranberries and pistachios., which was much more pronounced when there was a higher cranberry/pistachio : oil ratio. The cranberries and pistachios also made the pesto a little chewy and a little crunchy at the same time. I like chewy and crunchy.

I have to say that I preferred the Brussels sprouts when they were drizzled with the cranberry pistachio pesto. I feel that it really dressed the sprouts well and gave them a "kicked-up" flavor. Keep in mind, these are just my opinions. Try this dish for yourself (especially if you love Brussels sprouts) and let me know how it goes!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Paneer Makhani

Recently, I was thinking about making my favorite Indian dish at home, Paneer Makhani. It's not very expensive to order Indian food here in Hoboken, but why not make it myself? I always welcome a challenge.

Little did I know that the most challenging part of making this dish would be finding the ingredients. Seriously, Hoboken, let's get an Indian grocery store here ASAP. After a few days of intense research, I finally found an Indian grocery store down the street from where I work in Pennsylvania.

I bought the basic ingredients for a Paneer Makhani dish. So, ingredients in hand, it was time to tie down a recipe. After some searching I found a relatively easy recipe online. And of course the picture that goes along with it was very appetizing. Yes, this selection process was very precise.

Paneer Makhani
(slightly adapted from Chef In You's Paneer Makhani recipe)

Serves 4-6 people
  • 2 generous cups Paneer cubes
  • 1/2 tsp oil or ghee
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2-3 green chiles, chopped
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 inch ginger, peeled and chopped
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 1/2 – 3/4 cups tomato puree
  • 1 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1/2 tsp cumin powder
  • 1/2 tsp coriander powder
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 1/2 tsp cardamom powder
  • 1/2 tsp crushed kasoori methi leaves (also called fenugreek leaves)
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1/4-1/2 cup heavy cream (as needed for consistency)
  • salt to taste
Something that was recommended was soaking the store-bought paneer in boiling water for 10-15 minutes prior to using them. "D", which is what the blogger calls herself (maybe she's shy) says the purpose of this step is to soften the paneer and remove any impurities. I don't really care so much about impurities, but I love melted cheese. Softened cheese is a close second, so why not?

1) Cube the paneer and place in a bowl of boiling water for 10-15 minutes. Drain the cubes and set aside for later use.

2) In a pot with 1/2 tsp ghee (or oil, if you don't have ghee), add the onion, chiles, garlic and ginger with a little salt. Saute until soft.

3) Transfer this mixture to the blender and add 1/4 cup water. Blend it into a paste.

4) In the same pot as before, add 3 tbsp of butter and add the onion paste. Allow the mixture to saute for 3-5 minutes. This will help to mellow out the flavor of the onion paste.
5) Add the tomato puree and all the spices. Stir well and cook for another 5-10 minutes.

6) Add sugar and cook for another 5 minutes. Add more salt if necessary.
7) Gently drop in the paneer and stir to coat the cheese cubes. Cook for another 2-3 minutes so the paneer can absorb the flavors.

8) Lower the heat to a simmer, then add the heavy cream. Mix well.
Here's a tip for making this dish: Make it in a pot. I know this is kind of strange, but the puree won't evaporate as quickly. If you want a drier dish(though I don't know why you would), feel free to use a skillet.

In case you haven't figured it out yet from the recipe, this Paneer Makhani is not a meal for the dieter or faint at heart. If you want to help reduce your caloric intake, you can simply use less cream. It won't taste as good, but carry on as you wish.

The chiles made this dish pretty spicy. I used 3 chiles the first time I made it, but I stuck to 2 chiles the second time. I like spice, but I enjoy being able to finish a serving more than anything. If major spice is the thing for you, then by all means go for it. The combination of the paneer and the heavy cream helps to balance out the heat of the dish and make it smooth and creamy. In addition, it helped to tone down the tang of the tomato puree. It's soooo good. The reason I had to make this recipe twice is because I ate most of it in the same day the first time I made it. Oops. You may have the same problem too, once you make this.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Zucchini & Caramelized Onion Galette

This recipe was once again inspired by a post on Deb's Smitten Kitchen blog. I seriously need to block this woman from my blog and twitter feeds, but it's really difficult! Besides, the results are so tasty, it would be impossible to deny myself for too long.

I initially saw the a Zucchini and Ricotta Galette recipe on the Smitten Kitchen blog which reminded me that, mmmmm, I heart zucchinis. They're one of my new favorite vegetables. I then proceeded to check out the rest of the Deb's galette recipes. Within 15 seconds, I stumbled across a post for a Butternut Squash and Caramelized Onion Galette. In case you don't know, I have a lovely obsession with onions. And Caramelized onions are a fave. Since I was drooling over both the zucchini and the caramelized onions, I decided to improvise and combine these vegetables into one galette.

As for the cheese, I decided against using ricotta cheese purely because I always have some left over and usually some pesky mold gets to the rest of it before I do. I really hate throwing away food. I thought feta would provide the galette with a nice tangy flavor. Since feta doesn't melt very well though, I supplemented it with some grated fontina cheese to provide creaminess.

Zucchini & Caramelized Onion Galette
  • 1 medium zucchini, sliced into rounds
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • 1-2 tbsp butter
  • pinch of sugar
  • 2 garlic scapes, finely diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • ~1 tsp olive oil
  • 9-inch Ready to Bake pie crust (I used a store-bought crust that I could just unroll, though you can make your own if you're motivated enough)
  • 1/4 cup feta cheese
  • 1 cup fontina cheese
  • Egg Yolk Wash: 1 egg yolk beaten with 1 teaspoon water
1) Spread the zucchini out over several layers of paper towels.

2) Sprinkle with a teaspoon of salt and let drain for ~30 minutes. Gently pat the zucchini dry with paper towels before using.

3) Meanwhile, melt butter in a heavy skillet and cook the onion over medium heat with 1/2 tsp of salt and a pinch of sugar. Stir occasionally until soft and lightly golden brown. The exact timing for this step will depend on the level of heat applied. It took about 30 minutes for my onions to be done, but it could take longer.

4) Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
5) Mix the caramelized onions, garlic scapes, garlic, and ~1 tsp olive oil in a bowl. Toss to combine the ingredients.
6) Assemble the galette:
- Unroll the pie dough onto parchment paper. (You'll thank me when the galette comes out of the oven.)
- Sprinkle half of the feta cheese and a third of the fontina cheese in the center of the dough, leaving about a 2-inch border all around.
- Layer half of the zucchini slices on top of the cheese.
- Add half of the caramelized onions mixture on top of the zucchini.
- Add the rest of the feta cheese and another third of the fontina cheese.
- Add the final layer of zucchini.
- Add the final layer of caramelized onions mixture.
- Top with the remaining fontina cheese.
7) Fold the edges of the pie dough up to "close" the galette.

8) Brush the crust with the egg yolk wash.

9) Bake the galette for 30-40 minutes, until the crust is golden brown and the cheese is melted.

10) Allow to cool. Serve warm or at room temperature.

I was so excited to finally taste this galette and let me tell you that I was not disappointed. Wow. The zucchini was still crisp when bitten into and it was accentuated by the soft, sweet caramelized onions. The fontina was creamy and helped to hold the entire galette together. The crumbled feta offered a salty and tangy bite when diving into each slice of the galette. Add the buttery, flaky pie crust to this combination and you will find yourself with the perfect appetizer or light meal.