ASPARAGUS WITH GUNPOWDER MASALA

Impossible to ignore the Indian vibes in our kitchen lately. Of all cuisines, I believe that is the one bringing the most out of veggies. This recipe will blow your mind, and I am certain of it. The gunpowder masala is nutty, with the perfect level of heat and complex mixture of flavors. As my friend Joanne said in her blog post, it will be good on pretty much anything. I urge you to make it, even if finding curry leaves could be a bit tricky.

BLISTERED ASPARAGUS WITH GUNPOWDER MASALA
(from Joanne’s blog Eats well with Others)

for the Masala:
100 g raw cashews
35 g raw pepitas
30 g dried red chilies de arbol (or to taste)
20-25 fresh curry leaves (I used 10 dried leaves)
2 tbsp white or black sesame seeds (I used a mixture)
½ tsp asafetida

for the asparagus:
4 tbsp olive oil
1 lb asparagus, woody ends trimmed
1 tbsp fresh lime juice
sea salt flakes
1-2 tbsp gunpowder masala (or to taste)

Make the masala: Heat a small skillet over medium heat. Once it is hot, add the cashews, pepitas, dried chilies, curry leaves, and sesame seeds. Toast them, stirring occasionally, until the seeds are starting to brown. Transfer to a bowl and cool to room temperature. Once cool, grind in a food processor or blender along with the asafetida to a coarse powder. Pour into an airtight container and store in the refrigerator.

Make the asparagus: Heat a cast iron skillet or grill pan over medium-high heat. In a large bowl or on a sheet pan, toss the asparagus with 1 tbsp of the olive oil. Add the asparagus to the pan and cook for 5-6 minutes, turning occasionally, until blistered on at least 2 sides. Transfer the cooked asparagus to a serving platter. Drizzle with the remaining olive oil and lime juice. Sprinkle with the salt flakes and gunpowder masala. Serve immediately, and swoon!

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: The other day I was part of a conversation about food blogging and how tiring it is the over-use of certain adjectives to describe a dish. Life-changing, fantastic, mind-blowing (guilty as charged)… So let’s stop going there. This is a great masala that I can see being paired with many veggies and even animal protein. I envision a beautiful piece of salmon, grilled to perfection and topped with this crunchy concoction, with a nice squeeze of lemon juice. It does need a bit of moisture to shine, so that final drizzle of oil and citric juice is a must.

If you cannot find curry leaves, I’d say make it without. It does have enough going on, and it will still be mighty tasty. The recipe makes more than you’ll need, so keep it in the fridge and find new uses for it. Just yesterday I paired it with sweet potatoes and garbanzo beans, drizzled with a tahini-yogurt sauce.

Joanne, thank you for yet another perfect recipe that will go into our regular rotation for sure!

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PORK VINDALOO

If you are not wild about spicy food, I must warn you that this recipe might not please you. However, you will have no issues enjoying the simple side dish I served with it, a fresh corn salad that beautifully tamed the fires of the Vindaloo. This version is considerably simplified from the traditional, but does not cut corners in the flavor department.

PORK VINDALOO
(adapted from several sources)

2 pounds boneless pork butt, cut in 1.5 inch pieces
2 onions, diced (or substitute 2 large stalks of celery + 2 carrots, minced)
4 garlic cloves, minced (omit or use garlic powder if you have digestive issues)
1.5 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
2 tablespoons grapeseed oil
2 tablespoons smoked paprika
2 teaspoons garam masala
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon Aleppo pepper
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon mustard seeds
1 teaspoon sugar
3 cups chicken broth
1 can (14.5 oz) diced fire-roasted tomatoes
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

Heat the oil in a Dutch oven or large pan. Add pork pieces, onions (or celery and carrots), garlic, salt and pepper. Cook, stirring every couple of minutes, until the meat gets golden brown, about 15 minutes.

Stir in the spices and garlic powder (if using), cook for a minute until fragrant, add the flour, cook while stirring for another minute, then add the chicken stock, canned tomatoes, mustard seeds, and sugar. Bring to a simmer. To finish the dish, you have several options:

Crockpot: add vinegar, transfer to a crockpot and cook on low for 5 to 7 hours.

Regular oven: add vinegar, place in a 325F oven for 3 hours, covered.

Pressure cooker: add vinegar, bring to full-pressure and cook for 35 minutes. Release pressure manually and simmer down to reduce the sauce, if necessary.

Right before serving, add minced fresh cilantro leaves.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: Pork Vindaloo has its origins in Portuguese cooking, a fiery concoction known in Portugal as “vinha d’alhos.” Garlic and onion are important components, but due to food sensitivities I make our vindaloo with no onions and just used some garlic powder (1/2 teaspoon to be precise). The heat of the dish mellowed down next day, but we did not find it excessive even right after cooking. The use of smoked paprika is not authentic, but I like the different flavor it adds to the sauce.

Of all methods of cooking, I favor the pressure cooker because I like the resulting texture and how quickly it all comes together, but the two other methods I listed will work perfectly well.

The side dish: pretty much a non-recipe… Shave kernels from 3 corn cobs, add grape tomatoes cut in half, black kalamata olives, pitted, and English cucumbers, sliced. Mix 1 tablespoon of white vinegar with a little salt and pepper, drizzle 1/4 cup olive oil, whisking constantly to emulsify. Add the dressing to the veggies, place in the fridge for a couple of hours, then enjoy with your fiery Vindaloo, or with any other main dish of your choice. It is refreshing and satisfying.

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CLAY POT MASALA CHICKEN THIGHS

No clay pot? No problem, the recipe works in a regular oven, so stick around. We loved the flavors so much I’ve used this marinade in whole chicken, and also Cornish hens. The unusual twist is the incorporation of ground almonds in the mix. If you are intrigued, I totally understand because I was also. It adds a little texture and more “staying power” on the meat. I hope you’ll try it, I think it might become a favorite in your home.

CLAY POT MASALA CHICKEN THIGHS
(adapted from Made in India)

6 chicken thighs, bone-in, with skin
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
5 cloves
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
¼ cup ground almonds
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/4 cup whole-milk yogurt
1 + 1/2 teaspoons salt

Put the cumin seeds and coriander seeds into a dry non-stick frying pan over high heat until they get fragrant, don’t let them burn. Put the toasted seeds into a spice grinder, along with the cloves and peppercorns, and grind together. Put them into a big bowl and add the ground almonds, cinnamon, turmeric, yogurt, and salt. Rub this marinade all over the chicken thighs, making sure to stick some underneath the skin. Cover and let marinating int the fridge for 1 to 12 hours, the longer the better.

If cooking in a regular oven, heat it to 400F, place the chicken thighs in a baking dish, cover with aluminum foil and roast for 45 minutes, remove the foil and roast until the skin is golden brosn.

If using the clay pot, soak it in cold water for a couple of hours. Drain the water, place the chicken pieces inside, close the lid and place the pot in a cold oven, turn it to 450F. Cook for 1 hour, remove the lid and roast for another 15 to 20 minutes, until the skin is nicely brown.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: You can use almonds that you grind yourself, but I opted for almond meal, as I always have it around due to my macaron-baking addiction. It gives a subtle nutty flavor the the meat, and definitely allows the marinade to speak louder in the final dish. Originally I saw this marinade used in a whole chicken. The recipe called for cutting some slits on the skin over the breast to rub the marinade underneath. However, during roasting the skin teared apart too much and although it was still delicious, I did not care for the way it looked. So I will stick to using it for chicken thighs. Full disclosure: I already made it three times…

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FARARI BATETA

If that title did not call your attention, nothing will. Brazilians might suspect the dish involves potatoes, since the word for them in Portuguese is “batata.” And they would be right. This recipe, aka Ferrari Potatoes, is enjoyed by Hindus on days they must fast. I would not mind fasting with a nice bowl of these in front of me…

FERRARI POTATOES
(adapted from this blog post)

12 oz small new potatoes, yellow and red cut in quarters
1/3 cup peanuts unsalted, raw
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp black pepper, freshly ground
3 tablespoons canola oil
1 small Jalapeno pepper, very finely minced
1 piece of ginger, peeled and grated (about 1/2 inch in size)
3/4 teaspoon salt
fresh cilantro, chopped
juice of half a lemon

Coarsely grind the peanuts using a mini-food processor and set aside.

Heat the oil into a wide-bottomed frying pan on a medium heat. When it’s hot, add the cumin seeds and as soon as they start to pop and release a nice smell add the potatoes and ground black pepper. The idea is to cover the whole surface of the pan with the potatoes, so adjust the amount of potatoes accordingly.

Stir-fry the potatoes for around 12 minutes, until they start to brown. When they are getting tender, add the jalapenos, ginger, and salt. Continue to cook until the potatoes are golden brown. Transfer to a bowl, add the ground peanuts on top, the cilantro leaves, and finally sprinkle with the lemon juice, mixing it all gently.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: I never thought of adding peanuts (particularly ground!) to a potato dish, but it turned out pretty awesome. This is a recipe full of flavor, perfect to go along a roast chicken, although that would compromise the fasting aspect even further. I will not hold it against you, in fact… that’s exactly how we enjoyed it, with a very juicy clay-pot roast chicken, which will be on the blog soon.

As I mentioned in the recipe, you’ll need to have the potatoes in a single layer so that they all brown nicely in the end. Depending on the size of your skillet, you can add a few more potatoes than I did. No need to adjust the other components, though. It is all going to have a very happy ending.

The peanuts end up looking like sesame seeds, and I bet those would work very well also, so in case you have peanut allergies, go for toasted sesame seeds when you serve it.

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CAULIFLOWER AND SWEET POTATOES IN YOGURT-CURRY SAUCE

At the risk of being repetitive, I must tell you this was a total winner and yes, it will go into our regular rotation. Other veggies can be used, like potatoes, green beans, butternut squash. The method won’t change. This side dish is rich and light at the same time. Contrary to most curries that rely on heavy cream or coconut milk, the yogurt offers just that amount of creaminess you might crave. Use full-fat yogurt to make sure the sauce won’t separate.

CAULIFLOWER AND SWEET POTATO CURRY
(inspired by Chetna’s Healthy Indian)

2 tablespoons grapeseed oil, divided
1 medium size cauliflower, florets cut in small pieces
2 to 3 small sweet potatoes, cut in 1/2 inch pieces
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and minced
1/3 cup tomato purée
1 tablespoon Sambal Oelek
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup water
3/4 cup full-fat yogurt

Heat 1 tablespoon of grapeseed oil in a pan, add the cauliflower florets and sweet potatoes, a little sprinkle of salt, and cook on a medium-to-high heat until they start to brown. Remove to a bowl.

Add one more tablespoon of oil to the pan, heat and add cumin and ginger. Saute for 30 seconds to 1 minute, just until fragrant. Immediately add the tomato pure, Sambal Oelek, coriander and salt. Stir and keep in medium-heat. Mix the yogurt with water in a small bowl, then add to the pan, together with the reserved veggies.

Cover the pan and and simmer for about 20 minutes. If the sauce is too liquid, remove the lid and reduce it a bit before serving. Taste and adjust seasoning.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: As I mentioned in the beginning, this recipe can be adapted to include many veggies. I would avoid zucchini because it would turn a bit too soft, although it could probably work if you roasted it and added in the very end.

The recipe was inspired by Chetna’s new book. Remember her from one of the greatest seasons of the Great British Bake Off? Chetna was often praised for her intuition with flavors. Her new book proves she is not only a great baker, but a fantastic cook. I got the idea of using yogurt as a base for the curry from one of her recipes. From her book I also recently made a delicious Tomato and Raisin Chutney.

It was my first time making chutney, and using this interesting ingredient called asafoetida. I loved it, and will definitely be making other chutneys in the future. Her book has quite a few options, all pretty unique.

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