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Wednesday, May 19, 2010


With apologies for the horrible picture above—I've found it very difficult to take a good picture of a chat. Anyway, continuing with the room-temperature theme . . .

This is a chat/chaat, an Indian snack, in this case probably what would be called something like sev puri/poori, although I have to admit I have a mind block when it comes to the names of different chats and what goes into and on top of each. I was trying to make a dish like the sev puri chat I had at Bombay Chaat House, the street cart in Portland, a couple months ago. It wasn't quite the same—that one was soupier—but I think what I came up with was pretty good. Here's what I did, and if anyone has any other good chat recipes lay 'em on me!

For the crunchy stuff on top I used "bikaneri sev" (so it was labeled), made with lentil and chickpea flours and spices. You can find this in Indian grocery stores (at Taj Mahal here in Athens it's in a green bag in the snack aisle), or you could use any similar crunchy puffy snack. I've even used lightly crushed corn Chex—the flavor is different, of course, but the crisp crunch is just right.

I can now report that this makes a fine breakfast, especially if you put a little more super-spicy mint chutney on it, though obviously the sev doesn't stay quite as fresh after a night in the fridge (or—oops—on the counter).
Random Chat
Serves 2 heartily.

These amounts are pretty approximate. I was tasting and adding stuff as I went along, and I encourage you to do the same! The whole thing should be tart, a tiny bit sweet (just from the dates and onion), spicy, a little creamy, and of course crunchy.

About 4 medium red potatoes, peeled and diced
1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas
About 14 pitted dates
2 tablespoons tamarind concentrate
2 teaspoons sweet Hungarian paprika
1 teaspoon ground cumin
About 1 1/2 cups plain yogurt
Mint chutney (I used store-bought, but you could chop and puree a bunch of cilantro, mint, green chiles, ginger, maybe some lime juice and a bit of water)
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 sweet onion, diced
About 1 cup bikaneri sev or similar crunchy stuff

Cook the potatoes in well-salted water to cover until just tender; drain in a colander, dump in the chickpeas, and rinse under cold running water until cool; set aside to drain.

While the potatoes are cooking, roughly chop the dates and put them in a small saucepan with the tamarind concentrate and enough water to cover them. Simmer until the dates are very soft (about as long as it takes the potatoes to cook), then puree the date mixture in a mini food processor or blender until very smooth, adding water if necessary to make a thick but pourable sauce. Season with a couple pinches of salt.

Put the potatoes and chickpeas in a medium bowl and drizzle in half of the tamarind sauce. Add most of the paprika and cumin, along with 1/2 cup of the yogurt. Toss to combine. Fold in a little water to loosen the mixture if it seems too thick. Put in a serving dish or spread on a shallow platter. Put big spoonfuls of yogurt on top, then drizzle the whole thing with the remaining tamarind sauce. Spoon some of the mint chutney over the top. Layer the onion and cilantro over the top, then sprinkle with the remaining paprika and cumin. Cover the whole thing with the sev and serve.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Thai Beef Salad and Raw Yu Choy

It's not even that hot here in Georgia yet, and I keep making salads. This week I made two variations on the theme of grape tomato + cucumber + protein (of sorts). One was a kind of larb, which is one of my favorite foods ever:

Thai Beef Salad
Serves 2 to 4.

We had this with a plate of raw Chinese greens (yu choy, I think it was called) covered with crushed ice, like D. and I had at Pok Pok, where they served them with the boar collar meat salad. Before that I'd never thought to eat this stuff raw, but it's delicious! Crisp, cold, and very refreshing alongside the spicy, super-tangy salad. T. liked putting a few pinches of ice in a leaf and eating it like an ice-and-greens taco.

This is the best way I can think of to use up leftover grilled steak, but it's well worth cooking the steak just for this purpose.

Juice of 3 limes
1/4 cup Thai fish sauce (nam pla)
1 teaspoon sambal oelek (chile paste), or lots more to taste
1 teaspoon brown sugar or palm sugar
About 3/4 pound flank steak, grilled or boiled, then thinly sliced across the grain (or any leftover steak)
2 small shallots, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon raw rice
1/2 cucumber, peeled, halved lengthwise, seeded, and sliced 1/4 inch thick
Handfuls of fresh cilantro, Thai basil, and mint, torn
1 1/2 cups grape tomatoes, halved

In a large bowl, whisk together the lime juice, fish sauce, sambal oelek, and brown sugar. Add the steak and shallots and toss to coat. Set aside.

In a small skillet over medium heat, toast the rice until golden brown. Grind finely with a mortar and pestle and add the rice to the steak, along with all the remaining ingredients. Toss to combine, taste, and add more sambal if necessary. Serve or let sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes to marinate before serving.
I also made a nice cold quinoa salad very loosely based on a recipe in Tal Ronnen's The Conscious Cook, a collection of pretty upscale vegan dishes. So loosely, in fact, that a description of it will have to do here: cooked and chilled quinoa, tossed with a quick red wine vinaigrette, a segmented orange (and its juice), tomatoes and cucumber, and thinly sliced shallot:

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Turkey Picadillo Tacos and Black Beans

This is a pretty simplified version of a Rick Bayless recipe for smoky, slightly sweet picadillo I've made and loved many times. Among other adaptations, I use ground turkey instead of braised and shredded pork, canned tomatoes instead of fresh, and I don't precook the sauce. Also below is a stripped-down pot of basic black beans—no soaking, no pork, no epazote, so don't let the lack of time or extra ingredients stop you from making them!

Turkey Picadillo Tacos
Serves 4.

1 (14.5-ounce) can whole plum tomatoes
1 to 2 chipotle chiles in adobo (2 will make it pretty spicy)
1/4 cup raisins
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 1/2 pounds ground turkey
1/2 large onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup pine nuts or slivered almonds, toasted
Corn tortillas
Lots of fresh cilantro, some crumbly cheese (this time I used feta), and lime wedges

In a mini food processor or similar, puree the tomatoes (with their juices) and chipotle(s). Transfer to a bowl and add the raisins and cinnamon. Set the sauce aside.

In a medium skillet or sauté pan, heat the oil over high heat. Add the turkey and cook, breaking it up with a spatula, until no longer pink. Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring, until tender and the turkey is just starting to brown and become dry in the pan. Add the sauce, stirring to loosen any browned bits, and lower the heat to maintain a simmer. Simmer until thick, about 10 minutes. Season with salt to taste, then stir in the pine nuts.

Meanwhile, heat the tortillas one or two at a time in a heavy skillet and wrap them in a clean cloth to keep them soft and warm. Serve the picadillo with the tortillas, cilantro, cheese, and lime wedges.

Basic Black Beans
Serves 8.

1 pound dried black beans (the more recently bought the better; old beans will take much longer to cook)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 large onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced

Rinse the beans well and set aside to drain in a sieve or colander.

In a medium pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring, until translucent. Add the beans and cold water to cover them by at least 1 inch. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer, partially covered, until the beans are soft but still hold their shape (try not to let the pot boil, which I think can toughen the skins, and don't add salt yet), about 1 1/2 hours, adding more water if necessary to keep the beans covered. Season with plenty of salt, then, if you'd like, use an immersion blender to puree some of the beans in the pot. Serve.

Also, T. and I made some hula hoops. Yep, we're Athenians.