Another spinach and artichoke pasta

The large bag of prewashed babyspinach was a revelation when I moved to the USA- spinach without the dirt, the bugs, the need to remove large veins- it was wonderful. Despite my environmental concerns- it’s been a grocery staple ever since. The Monterey farms grilled artichoke hearts are not always available, but when they are, I always buy extra and freeze them. They are fantastic. I’m all for shortcuts that taste as good as the real thing

For this pasta- prep work involves crushing and peeling 3-4 cloves of garlic and opening up packets. My favorite sauces cook in the time required to boil water and cook the pasta. This makes it a perfect lunch or weeknight dinner pasta.

First – boil some water for the pasta and in another pan, heat about a tbsp of butter – add the 3-4 crushed garlic cloves as the butter heats up. No need to peel them. Dump the entire large bag of spinach in the hot butter and wilt those leaves. Next blend the spinach, the garlic cloves with a cup of vegetable stock (I used better than bouillon- my current base of choice).

In the same pan, add another tbp of butter and brown the chopped grilled artichoke hearts. Add a glug of wine to deglaze the pan and then pour the spinach mixture back. Add the pasta to the now boiling water. Simmer the sauce for the 10-12 minutes it takes to cook the pasta. Finish the sauce with some cream and some more butter if you are feeling decadent. Taste for salt and pepper.

This tastes delicious with parmesan but I served it today topped with some dollops of ricotta, olive oil, salt and pepper.

The easiest Palak Paneer

There is a common misconception that Indian food is involved and takes a lot of prep time. Here is my recipe for a weekday palak paneer. Comforting, garlicky and delicious. I use vegetable stock and a tbsp of nooch (nutritional yeast) to give this a huge unmami boost. It tastes like you’ve slaved on the stove for hours.

Prep: Peel 2-4 cloves of garlic, chop a block of paneer into inch sized pieces (that is it!)

Cook: In 1 tbsp of oil, start a jeera tadka (1 tsp of cumin till it sputters, a pinch of asafetida, 1/2 tsp of turmeric, 1-2 dried red chillies broken into fragment). Wilt one pack of washed spinach (5 oz) and 2-3 cloves of garlic on high heat(1-3 minutes). Blend the spinach and garlic mix with 1 cup of vegetable stock (I use better than bouillon), 1 tbsp of nooch, 1/2tsp of coriander powder and 1/2 tsp of cumin powder.

While that is blending away, in the same pan, add one more tbsp of oil and lightly brown the paneer cubes. Add the gravy back- cook for 10 minutes on a simmer, add a dash of heavy cream, taste for salt and you are done

Serve with rice or roti or tortillas. Also good as a soup if you increase the liquid to 2 cups of vegetable stock.

Kolache pohe

The Indian region of Konkan in the west has a rich tradition of coconut based dishes similar to many other coastal regions. This is a supremely easy and extremely satisfying recipe :sour from the tamarind, creamy from the cocounut milk, sweet from the jaggery and savory from the phodni; the flavors are complex and delicious. Recipe credit to Sharmila, my cousin who sent me the recipe on whatsapp. My grandmother (also from Konkan) loved pohe with dahi, doodh, sakhar ani meeth (yogurt, milk, sugar and salt). Coconut milk was a treat because it had to be manually extracted. This recipe reminded me of her.

Poha is flattened beaten rice (easily available in the Indian store and on amazon). I used thick red poha for this recipe. Other essentials for this recipe are tamarind pulp (I boil tamarind with water and strain it to make my own pulp which I then freeze but there are plenty of pulps available commercially) and cumin seeds, asafetida and curry leaves (Indian store).

In a colander, rinse 2 cups of thick poha till soaked through and drain. The poha will soak through while you prep the rest of the dish.

Make the Kol- the coconut milk mixture: To one 14 oz can of light coconut milk, add 2 tbsp of jaggery (or brown sugar), 1 tsp or so of salt, 2-3 tbsp of finely chopped cilantro and 2 tbsp of so of tamarind pulp. Tamarind pulp varies in it’s sourness. Taste the kol, would it you it to be saltier, more sour, sweeter- adjust the flavorings till the coconut milk is delicious.

Make the tadka/phodni: To 2 tbsp of ghee or butter, add 1 tsp of jeera, wait for it to sputter, then add 1 pinch asafetida, 3-4 torn curry leaves and 2-3 dried red chillies.

Mix all 3 together and serve with fried papad or potato chips or not. Village food made easy using modern technology.

Dutch Baby Pancake

A Dutch Baby pancake is a yorkshire pudding by another name. An enormous puffed up layer of deliciousness with chewy bits under the crust. My modification to the recipe is to brown the butter before the batter gets added it and adding bread flour. The butter has to be hot, the pan has to be hot and remember never to open the oven to check on your Dutch Baby till 20 minutes are done. The recipe is modified from this Florence Fabricant NYT recipe.

Heat oven to 450F with a 10 inch cast iron skillet.

Blend 3 eggs, 1/2 cup of bread flour (or all purpose flour), 1/2 cup of milk, 1 tbsp of sugar and 1tsp of flavor (for eg vanilla, orange zest, orange essence, lemon zest, cardamom). Blend for about a minute till all the flour gets incorporated into the batter.

Add 4 tbsp of butter to the hot cast iron in the oven (or on the stove). Heat for 1-4 minutes till the milk solids start browning. This burns very fast- be careful (or skip this step and heat till the butter starts to bubble). Add batter and return to the oven for 20 minutes. Shut off the oven after 20 minutes and cook for another 5 minutes.

Serve with home-made pineapple jam and that maple syrup sampler from the Vermont trip that you never opened and found during pandemic pantry cleaning.

Paneer Ghee Roast (Kerala Style)

I love South indian preparations- in both dry and curry form. But the techniques are so tedious- scrape cocount, grind to paste, dry paste- so on and on and on. This is my version of a much quicker dry roast. The masala will not be as smooth as a blender-ground masala but the flavor is spot on and this dish will be ready in 30 minutes.

Prep:

Chop: 1/2 a large onion diced (about 1 cup), 4-6 cloves of garlic, 3-5 kadipatta leaves (chopped fine)

Masala: mix together 2 tsp of  ground red pepper  (I used the Korean Gochugaru but Kashmiri red chillies  will work), 1 tsp ground cumin, 1 tbsp ground coriander, 1/2 tsp of turmeric, 1 tsp ground fennel seeds and 1/8 tsp ground methi(fenugreek) seeds. ( I used a mortar and pestle to grind the fennel and methi  to add to the powders)

Other flavorings: 2 tbsp tamarind paste (which I always have frozen) and 1 tbsp ground jaggery

Cook:

Cube 1/2 lb of paneer and roast in 1 tbsp of ghee on a low flame till lightly browned. Remove to a plate.

In the same pan, add another 1 tbsp of ghee, add curry leaves and onion. Cook till onion starts turning translucent.

Add masalas and roast till fragrant (around 1-2 minutes) without burning any of the ingredients.

Add tamarind, jaggery, 2 tbsp of yogurt and 1/4 cup of water. Cook for a minute and add paneer.

Cover and cook on low heat for 10-15 mintues.

Serve with dosa or rice or appam.