Wednesday, February 27, 2008


I am not sure when I became aware of this smaller, tender reddish-brown bean from the Far East. It was either when I was studying and working in the Bay Area or it could have been during my stint in Tokyo. Regardless, this slightly sweet and nutty bean has become a staple member in my pantry. It is the bean used when you have eaten Red Bean ice Cream or if you may have had it cooked in coconut milk. It makes an interesting choice when making Red Bean and Rice. I however, marry it with sweet potatoes for one of my favorite concoctions.

I am in the habit of buying most of my beans dried which then gives me an unlimited time period to go through my purchase. It is standard for me to soak any dried bean in three times its volume of water for about an eight-hour period, and then I drain the soaking liquid. I subsequently cook the bean in three times its volume in fresh water until softened. It is also customary for me to throw into the cooking beans a 1 to 2 inch piece of fresh ginger root – sometime in my history I was informed that the ginger helps the beans breakdown therefore making them less conversational a few hours after consuming. When I drain the cooked beans I just discard the ginger for it has done its job.

Adzuki Beans and Roasted Sweet Potatoes - yields 8 servings

1/2" long piece Ginger - peeled and diced
1/4 cup Rice Wine Vinegar
2 cups Adzuki Beans - soaked overnight
2 large Sweet Potatoes (approx. 1 pound) - peeled and diced into 1/4” cubes
3 Tablespoons Sesame Seed Oil
3 Celery Stalks - small diced
1 Red Onion - peeled and diced
1/2 cup Cilantro - chopped
1/4 cup Ketcap Manis
Salt and freshly ground Black Pepper to taste

Toss the vinegar and ginger together, and let it marinate for a half hour.

In a 4-quart pot bring two quarts of water to a boil over a high heat. Add the beans, and low the heat to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes or until the beans are soft to the bite. Drain, and hold.

Pre heat he oven to 350 degrees.

Toss the sweet potatoes in the sesame seed oil, and lay on a baking tray. Roast the potatoes for 20 to 25 minutes until they are soft and browned. For the last five minutes of the roasting sprinkle the onions over the potatoes. When done, toss the potatoes, and the other ingredients together in a large bowl.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Taking a stand

I am so glad the first few weeks of February are behind us. Everywhere you looked there was chocolate this and chocolate that. Every cooking show played with this South American native that has mesmerized the majority of mouths around the globe. I must at this point stand up and declare I don’t like chocolates. I don’t get that emotional rush when I pop a bon-bon into my mouth rather I find myself obsessing on the bitter components of chocolate rather than the lushness that so many enjoy rolling in. I will admit I cannot see myself making my mole or beef tenderloin rub without the dark density of chocolate – but as a sweet, I’ll pass, thank you. Now, I will loudly and proudly proclaim that the un-chocolate is my thing. White chocolate delivers to me the richness of the cocoa butter, and the smile of the addition of vanilla and sugar. All that bitterness is gone and what remains is what makes chocolate wonderful to me – and I know I am not alone out there it is just that us non-chocoaholics are a beaten-down, silent sub-culture. If we rally perhaps next February we will start to find heart-shaped boxes filled with white rounded confections.

White Chocolate Treats
1 pound white chocolate – chopped up
2 cups puffed millet or rice
8 ounces slivered almonds or chopped macadamia nuts

Melt the white chocolate in a large work bowl over simmering water. Once the chocolate has completely melted stir in the millet and the almonds.

Line a baking tray with plastic wrap or lay a slipat down on the tray. Pour out the chocolate mixture, and gently spread it out until it is about 3/4 of an inch thick. Though do try to keep the mixture as compact as possible so it will hold together as it cools. Place the tray in the refrigerator for 1 hour. After an hour cut the chocolate into 1-inch squares, Store the white chocolate treats in the refrigerator.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Memories can come alive

Since returning from my expedition through the southern portion of India where I ate a pork stew I have been thinking –how will I replicate that dish. I wish I were in the kitchen when the cook was putting it together for then I would have taken copious notes as a souvenir. Alas, I was not, instead I was touring around nibbling on fresh peppercorns, cardamom pods and ripening coffee berries, or perhaps it is the afternoon I went out trying to spot wild elephants. Fortunately, I know what the kitchen pantry contained and felt confident enough with my ability to extract the flavors in the dish.

The memory of the stew is still alive on my palate, and the time has arrived to release from its imaginary recipe card file and put it in permanent ink. So, on this long President’s weekend I set out to re-visit that moment.

Coorg Inspired Pork Stew – yields 6 servings

3 pounds pork shoulder – trimmed of excess fat and cubed
2 onions (approx. 1-1/4 ponds)
6 garlic cloves
2-inch piece ginger – peeled
10 to 14 curry leaves
1-teaspoon fenugreek seed
2-teaspoons coriander seed
2-teaspons whole black pepper
1 bunch cilantro (leaves and stems)
3 whole cloves
1-teaspoon turmeric
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
1-tablespoon canola oil
1-1/2 cups water

Pre heat the onion to 375 degrees.
Place the onions on a roasting pan, and cook the whole, unpeeled onion for about 45 minutes. It will be softened, and caramelized when done. Allow the onion to cool completely then peeled away the skin.

Placed the peeled onion, garlic, ginger, curry leaves, fenugreek seeds, coriander seeds, black pepper, cilantro, cloves, turmeric and salt in a blender or food processor, and mix to make a smooth paste. Make sure the spices have ground down.

Heat a 6-quart pot over a high flame and add the oil and about a quarter of the pork chunks. Brown the pork on all sides, and then transfer to a clean bowl to hold. Continue with the remaining pork till all of it is browned. Carefully, drain off the excess fat.

Return the pork to the pan along with the onion puree. Cook the mixture for a few minutes stirring constantly. Pour over the water, and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to a simmer and cover. Cook the pork for 2 to 3 hours. Check the stew every so often to make for it is not drying out, if so add some additional water, or sticking to the bottom of the pan. Correct seasoning and serve over rice.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

A Kiss to Build a Dream On.....

Red Stained Valentine
Blushing emotions reveal
Winter's gift to love

Love Potion 2.14 – yields approx. 31/2 cups

4 whole clove
2 tablespoons dried rose petals
2 tablespoons dried hibiscus flowers
1-teaspoon whole fennel seed
1-inch slice fresh ginger root
2 cups blood orange juice (from approximately 6)
1/4-cup pomegranate syrup
1-cup vodka

Place the clove, rose petals, hibiscus, fennel seed and ginger root in a 2-quart saucepan and pour over the blood orange juice, pomegranate syrup, and 1-cup water. Over a medium low heat warm the mixture for 20 minutes covered with a tight fitting lid. Remove from the heat and allow the mixture to steep for 15 minutes. Then pass the ingredients through a fine sieve. Cool the infused orange juice mixture completely.

Fill a martini shaker with ice and pour over 1 cup of the blood orange mixture and 1/4 cup of vodka. Place the lid on it and shake. Pour into martini glass and serve straight up.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Spicing it Up

All the talk this week about spicing up your life has made me think of the flavors I love, and not necessarily the man I love. I always have on hand a good selection of whole spices ready to add a bit of sass to a dish. Unlike a lover my spices wait, uncomplaining, never expressing jealousy for not being taken out. Though they do need to be treated well in order to release their full aromatic pleasure.

I buy my spices whole, and use an inexpensive coffee grinder to pulverize my notes to redolent heights when the occasion arises. The fragrant notes that is a spice, or an herb for that matter, is contained in the volatile oils within the seed, bark or root. Though theses oils are sensitive to heat and light so I store my spices in the freezer – a cool, dark place that aides in maintaining as much scent as possible. I was told an anecdote by a spice purveyor that when they open a tomb sealed during the time of the pharaohs they found a jar of cumin seeds. Upon opening the jar the seeds still contained the signature hit that is cumin. A curious tale, to be believed or not, but it does speak to keeping spices in a dark, cool place – though buried in the earth below a pyramid may be a bit extreme.

Fish Masala – yields 6 servings

For the marsala
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 tablespoons grated ginger
2 garlic cloves - chopped
2 tablespoons coriander seed
1 tablespoon cumin seed
1 tablespoon black peppercorn
3 whole cardamom seed
2 teaspoons fenugreek seeds
1 tablespoon turmeric
3 inch stick cinnamon
5 curry leaves
4 whole clove
1/2 teaspoon salt

6 talapia fillets
3 tablespoons canola oil

Place all the ingredients for the marsala in a blender and process until a smooth paste.
Rub the talapia fillets with the spice mixture, and allow them to sit in the refrigerator for 30 minutes or so.

Heat a 10-inch sauté pan over a high heat, and add half the oil. Sauté half the fish fillets for about 4 minutes a side, and transfer to a plate. Finish the remaining fillets using the other half the oil. Serve warm.

Monday, February 4, 2008

A Bowl-full

In the month of February I am plotting two things: a jaunt to warmer weather to thaw my chilled body, and when I am back in the deep freeze a bowl of soothing pleasure. There are days when I can put a pot on the stove at eight o’clock in the morning, and spend a lazy day watching movies, puttering around the house contemplating that closet that needs to be organized.

A house full of aromatic notes dancing to the rhythmic holler of a winter’s wind tempers my disdain for these cold months. But then there are days when I need a quick and easy dose of love, and tomato soup always takes me there. It must be the memories I have as a child having canned tomato soup with grilled cheese sandwiches that never failed to satisfy a deep internal need.

Now, as an adult and self-proclaimed food snob I cannot imagine opening that red and white labeled can to serve up that moment. Fortunately, tomato soup is a fast and easy cure, and given I have a freezer with bags of frozen summer ripeness my tomato soup takes on heights that only a day on the beach can surpass.

Tomato Soup – yields approx. 6 servings

4 pounds tomatoes – skins removed (or, 26 ounces canned tomatoes)
2 shallots – roughly chopped
3 garlic cloves – roughly chopped
6 to 8 curry leaves
1 inch piece ginger – peeled
1/4-cup quinoa
1 lime - juiced
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Place the tomatoes, shallots, garlic, curry leaves and ginger in a blender and process until very smooth.

Pour the pureed tomato mixture plus 1 cup of water into a 2-1/2 quart saucepan, and bring to a boil over a medium low flame. Simmer the soup for 30 minutes. Lower the heat to low, then stir in the quinoa, cover, and cook the soup for an additional twenty minutes. Season with limejuice, salt and pepper, and serve.