Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Five-green saag paneer

8/3/10 update - new photo (not a good one though, ha!)

This is based off of a traditional saag paneer recipe from Dance of the Spices by Laxmi Hiremath. "Paneer" is Indian style white cheese, and it's about the most basic cheese you can make. It's really pretty easy, just requires a little planning. It's similar to cottage or ricotta cheese, except that you press out water until it's rather solid, and then cut it into chunks for use in recipes. "Saag" refers to the spinach sauce that the paneer is in. I've made this so many times I feel like it's kind of taken on a life of its own, especially with the CSA coming in strong in the greens category. Saag paneer is basically my catch-all dish to use up any kind of greens, from lettuce to kale, even the radish and beet tops that you might be tempted to just toss (yes! you can eat them!).

A few specifics on the ingredients called for - I'm pretty sure almost any combo of greens would work. So really you should use the ends of whatever you have! Heck, you could even throw in some broccoli or cauliflower probably. But I do like keeping spinach the predominant one just to keep tradition somewhere in the mix. This is a good use of the outer lettuce leaves that are a bit tougher, especially on a head of Romaine. For the paneer, steps 6 and 7 have ** next to them, because I've done very different times for those steps, and it's always worked. I've let it drain in the sink over night, I've pressed it for only 1 hour... last time I made this I skipped the draining over the sink part, only pressed it for maybe 1.5 hours, and it was ready for dinner that night, no foresight required. So bottom line, make the cheese fit your schedule and it'll be fine.

1/2 gallon whole milk
4 c. (1 quart) 2% milk
3 c. buttermilk

1. In a very large saucepan, bring the milk to a simmer over medium heat. This will take a while. Stir occasionally.
2. When it just gets to a simmer, add the buttermilk and reduce heat to medium-low. Stir constantly until the curds have separated from the whey. The whey should be pretty clear when this process is done. It will only take a few minutes. This is when it's easiest for the curds to burn, so make sure you are stirring.
3. Turn off the heat, let sit for about 15 minutes.
4. Line a large colander with a double thickness of cheesecloth, with enough excess so that you'll be able to gather the corners after straining. Pour the mixture slowly through the cheesecloth.
5. Gather the corners of the cheesecloth, and twist/tie up with kitchen twine. Use the twine to suspend the cheese bundle from a faucet.
**6. Let the cheese drain into the sink for 3 hours.
**7. Place an upside down small saucer or salad plate on top of a dinner plate or bowl. Place the bundle on the inverted plate. Put something heavy on top of the bundle. You may need to arrange other random heavy things around this setup so the first heavy thing does not fall down. I usually put my cast iron dutch oven atop the cheese, push the setup into a corner and then balance the dutch oven with two heavy canisters. This is probably the hardest part of the process. Let it stand like this for 2-3 hours.
8. Unwrap and slice for immediate use or store in the fridge. I like my slices about 2" by 1" by 0.5".

About 6 c. packed greens - I probably used about 0.5 c. radish greens, 1 c. ugly Romaine lettuce, 1 c. beet greens, 1 c. kale, and 3 c. spinach.
1 inch piece fresh ginger, peeled
8 cloves garlic, crushed and peeled
3-5 serrano chilis, de-seeded and cut into a few chunks.
about 1 c. water
2-4 T. butter
1 small-medium onion, grated (grate this in the food processor first, before starting the saag)
1 t. ground cumin
1/2 t. turmeric
black pepper
1 t. salt
1-2 t. sugar (optional)
about 1/2 c. heavy cream (optional)
paneer (recipe above, sliced)
shelled pistachios or pine nuts (optional)

1. Place the greens and 1/2 c. water in a very large saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high with a cover. Stir a few times until the greens are very wilted; 6-8 minutes.
2. While the greens are steaming, ready a big bowl of ice water. Transfer the greens to the ice water when they are done steaming. Let sit for at least 5 min.
3. While the greens are steaming and chilling, add the ginger, garlic, chilis, and about 1/2 c. of the ice water (try to avoid the ice cubes) to the work bowl of the food processor or blender. Blend until these ginger, garlic, and chilies are well-chopped.
4. Squeeze some of the excess water out of the greens and add them to the work bowl.
5. Process until everything is very smooth. You may need to add more cold water. It should have the consistency of a thick pancake batter... or maybe a thin hummus (having trouble making a better analogy here, sorry!).
6. Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium. Add the onion. Cook, stirring occasionally until the onion browns a bit.
7. Add cumin, turmeric, salt and pepper and stir for 1 minute.
8. Add the spinach mixture. Bring to a simmer. Add more water if necessary.
9. Add in the paneer and warm it up. This is a good time to add the cream, if desired (I like it a lot more with cream, personally wouldn't skip it). Stir it in, then taste and adjust the seasonings - add the optional sugar (I again always throw in just a small amount), and if you want, more salt and pepper.
10. Serve over jasmine, basmati, or (my favorite) brown basmati rice, with a sprinkling of pistachios or pine nuts on top and some Sriracha on the side.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Poached fish with Emerils lettuce sauce

8/3/10 update - pictures! First one is before I put on the sauce, the second, after.

I've been putting lettuce sauce on my lettuce. That's how much lettuce I have recently. I found this sauce recipe in a Serious Eats column, and it's based off of an Emeril Lagasse recipe. Again I'm kind of breaking my rule for only posting original recipes, but this was so good, and although the sauce recipe recommended serving it on poached fish, I experimented a little with that part of the recipe. The sauce really tastes like lettuce, which you might not think is good, but it's really a new (for me) thing! Turning a whole head of lettuce into a cup and a half of sauce - cool!

Lettuce sauce
- makes about 1.5 cups
1 egg yolk
1 small head of Boston Bibb lettuce, cleaned and roughly torn
1 t. capers, rinsed
juice of 1 lemon
up to 1 small handful parsley
2 green onions (whites and greens)
Optional: 1 small clove garlic
Optional: About 1-2 T. fresh basil or dill
0.5 t. dijon mustard (don't be tempted to add any more, or it'll overwhelm the sauce. less would be fine too, but we're taking advantage of the natural emulsifiers in the mustard, put at least a drop in)
1/2 cup olive oil
Salt and pepper

1. Combine everything EXCEPT the olive oil and S&P in the food processor. Process until smooth.
2. While the machine is still running, slowly pour the oil through the feed tube.
3. Season with S&P and chill. It's okay to use right away, but will thicken a little with some time in the fridge.

Poached potatoes, radishes, and cod

6 c. water
1/3 c. white wine
1.5 T. peppercorns
3 California bay leaves
2 t. salt
2-4 potatoes (I used 4 medium red potatoes)
1 bunch (6-10) radishes
3 shallots
1-1.5 lbs. cod fillets
lemon slices and parsley for garnish

1. Slice the potatoes, shallots, and radishes; I used the slicing blade on the food processor, so it was really quick!
2. Combine in a very large pan everything except the fish and the garnish, cover.
3. Bring to a boil.
4. Reduce heat to medium-low, and place the fish fillets on top of the vegetables, submerged in the cooking liquid (you may need to make a little room for the fish.)
5. Simmer for about 7 minutes with the lid on. My fillets were about an inch thick at the thickest, if yours are thinner, check on the fish after 5 minutes.

Make a plate with more lettuce on the side, the veggies, the fish on top of the veggies, a generous amount of lettuce sauce on everything, and lemon and parsey on top of that.

Variations: I think the sauce would also be great with some dill instead/in addition to the parsley. A number of root veggies could be used instead/in addition to what's listed: carrots, turnips, rutabaga, etc. Also I think cauliflower florets would be great in the poach. For the fish, cod works particularly well but I think tilapia, catfish, flounder, halibut would all be good.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Coconut carrot soup

A quick and easy soup that - just needs some bread and salad on the side, maybe a dollop of yogurt on top.

1 onion, roughly chopped
5-6 large carrots, roughly chopped
1 t. salt
4 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1 inch piece of ginger, roughly chopped
2 t. garam masala or curry powder
1 t. turmeric
1 pinch cinnamon
1 qt. water
1 can coconut milk
2 handfuls of lettuce
1 handful cilantro
freshly ground black pepper
optional: cayenne pepper

1. Heat oil over medium-high
2. Add the onions, carrots, and salt. Cook until onions are soft and everything is browning a little (8-10 min.).
3. Add the spices and stir for another 2 min.
4. Add the water and coconut milk, bring to a simmer. Simmer for 5-10 min.
5. Add the lettuce, simmer for another 5 minutes.
6. Add the cilantro, blend with an immersion blender, or in batches in a blender. You can also leave it somewhat chunky, but I would suggest making the initial pieces smaller in that case.
7. Season to taste with more salt, black pepper, cayenne.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Grilled romaine salad two ways

It's certainly greens season at our CSA! We are getting lots and lots of lettuce, and last week, we started getting kale, green onions, beets, and kohlrabi (kohlrabi is a weird vegetable, I don't really love the taste of it raw or cooked, but I love it pickled, have made a few batches using this recipe) ... some other stuff I'm forgetting too.

But anyway, grilling lettuce is really a nice twist on your standard salad. It gets a little smokey flavor to it and wilts a little, but is still crunchy. This makes it even easier to eat large quantities of lettuce, which is kind of necessary right now since we got 4 heads in the this week's delivery (and that's not counting the kale). It also requires using a knife, which I think is a good thing (as I recently noted.) When I say "hearts" of romaine, I mean to take off the outside layer or two of leaves - they are a little tougher, and usually a bit bruised and not as crunchy and falling off the head.

So here's two recipes, made the first a few nights ago, and had it with a pasta dish with sardines similar to what I wrote about here, minus the fennel and raisins, plus some kale. Made the second tonight, had it with the same leftover pasta.

Grilled romaine salad "Mediterranean" style - serves 2
1 heart of romaine lettuce
Olive oil
About 6 canned or jarred artichoke heart quarters
About 8 olives (nice ones, preferably, standard Kalamata do the trick)
About 2 ozs. fresh mozzarella, cut into small bite-sized pieces
1 tomato, chopped
1 T. red wine vinegar
Fresh ground pepper

1. Pre-heat the grill to medium or medium high.
2. Prepare the lettuce as described in the commentary, then slice the head in half, length-wise. If there is a lot of excess in the root area, cut some off, but be sure to leave enough so the half-head stays intact.
3. Rinse the lettuce, make sure the water goes in between the leaves. Gently fan out the leaves to some degree to make sure you get rid of the grit. Gently dry with a clean towel. It's okay if it's a little wet.
4. Brush the cut sides of the half-heads with olive oil.
5. Place on the grill, cut sides down, and grill for about 5 minutes. They should get a little wilted, and have grill marks on them. If some of the outer leaves get burned, that's fine, you can just get rid of them.
6. In the meantime, combine the artichokes, olives, cheese cubes, tomato, and vinegar in a small bowl. Given the oil on the lettuce and that came with the artichokes, I didn't feel it needed much more, but hit it with some more olive oil if you wish!
7. When the lettuce is done, top with the mixture and some fresh ground pepper. I think this is best served warm-room-temperature-ish.

Grilled romaine salad with roasted beets and goat cheese - serves 2

A handful of baby beets, or one larger beet (you may just want to roast as many as you have though and save them for something else!)
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
1 heart of romaine lettuce
Goat cheese to taste
Optional: some toasted pine nuts or walnuts
Balsamic vinegar

1. Pre-heat the grill to medium or medium high.
2. Clean the beets and cut into bite sized pieces (slice in half if using baby beets).
3. Put the beets on a square of aluminum foil, and add olive oil, some salt and pepper. Fold the foil into a packet - not too tight, give the beets some room. Throw the packet on the grill. Cook for about 15-20 minutes, to whatever level of doneness you like.
4. When the beets are cool enough to handle, peel off the skins.
5. Prepare and grill the lettuce as described above.
6. Top the grilled lettuce with the beets, crumbles of goat cheese, and possibly some nuts or croutons. Splash on some balsamic vinegar right before serving, and some more olive oil if you desire.