Archive | April 2011

Two Tamarind Dips

Sometimes I just don’t know how we aren’t all crawling around bruised and vulnerable, changed by every face we take in, every body we bump into, every passing breeze. Or maybe it’s just me–a peeled banana, a soft-shelled crab, mostly exposed belly. This has nothing to do with food. I’m just amazed that our amorphous collection of cells congeals into something like a discrete identity, and we forget how fluid and vulnerable we actually are as beings.

Maybe it does have to do with food, in that food is ultimately a social thing. The means of exchange, the way we bump into each other. Meet for drinks, a burger. Make a connection.

I flew to Seattle over the weekend, and, at the airport, spent my time fascinated by faces–completely distanced, taking them in as if they were an alien species. Then, spent time with dear friends and felt the opposite–so connected. They fed me and the sun was shining. It looked like this:

Chicago hasn’t gotten there yet. It’s still gray and cold and the wind likes to blow rain in my face and turn my umbrella inside out. Chicago keeps toying with my emotions: a sunny day, then crushing brutality. This waiting for spring has been awful.

Lest I ramble any longer and not get to the recipe, I present you with these tamarind dips: tangy, bright, springlike. Bring them to a party with crudites or bread or crackers. Socialize, get out of the rain.

Tamarind-Chickpea Dip

5 cloves of garlic, peeled
1 c. dried chickpeas
2–3 curry leaves (ok to omit if not available)
2–3 bay leaves
1 preserved lemon, rinsed (or zest of one lemon)
1/2 c. cilantro
2 tbsp. Greek yogurt
2 tbsp. silken tofu
2 tsp. curry powder
1 tsp. tamarind
salt and pepper
olive oil (about 1 c.)

Rinse the chickpeas and pick out any that seem discolored. Cover with water in a large pot. Soak for 8 hours or overnight.

Rinse the chickpeas, and then return to pot. Cover amply with water, at least by several inches. Add 3 cloves of garlic, bay leaves, and curry leaves, and bring to a boil. Boil for an hour or two, until they are cooked through. Drain and let cool. Of course, you can just use canned chickpeas if you prefer.

In a food processor, combine chickpeas with all the other ingredients. Drizzle in olive oil as you pulse until it becomes smooth. Adjust salt and pepper to taste.

Tamarind-Peanut Dip

1 clove of garlic, peeled
1 small cube of fresh ginger, peeled (about the same size as the garlic)
1/2 c. cilantro
3/4 c. peanut butter
1 1/2 tbsp. tamarind
1 red chili pepper
4 tbsp. silken tofu
2 scallions, white part only

Combine all in a food processor until smooth. Adjust salt to taste.

Bourbon-Pecan Oatmeal Cookies

Sometimes I feel like an audience member for Emeril Live: when a recipe calls for liquor or gahlic, I can’t help but cheer wildly.

Which is why I chose this recipe: bourbon. Gorgeous, warm, coat-your-bones bourbon. Firey intestines. Front porch, rocking chair. Sunny afternoons. I feel the same way about sunshine as I do about bourbon; that is, I approve of them both mightily. And today was a doozy of a sunny day. Naomi and I took an after-lunch walk to Washington Park, found a pond, and tried to identify the delicate-blue pelt covering the new green grass (bluebells). The sun is still a bit crisp, but generous.

Combined with the roasted pecans and the bourbon vanilla I used, these cookies have a lovely front-porch, sunny-day flair.

Bourbon Pecan Oatmeal Cookies
from Bakewise by Shirley O. Corriher

2 c. pecans
1/2 c. plus 2 tbsp. unsalted butter, divided
1 tsp. salt
2 c. old-fashioned or quick-cooking oats
1/4 c. shortening
1 c. light brown sugar, packed
1 tbsp. pure vanilla extract
2 tbsp. bourbon (the best part)
2 tbsp. heavy cream
1 large egg
1 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
nonstick cooking spray
parchment paper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Spread the pecans on a baking sheet and roast for 10 minutes. While they are hot, transfer to a bowl and stir in 2 tbsp. of butter and sprinkle with 1/4 tsp. of salt. When cool, coarsely chop and set aside.

Process the oats in a food processor with the steel blade for about 10 seconds.

With a mixer, beat the remaining 1/2 c. butter, shortening, and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the vanilla, bourbon, and cream. Add the egg and beat just to blend.

In a mixing bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda, 3/4 tsp. salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. On the lowest speed, add flour mixture into butter mixture in several portions. Stir in the oats and pecans by hand.

Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper sprayed with nonstick cooking spray. Drop by heaping tablespoons onto the baking sheet. Bake one sheet at a time for about 10 minutes, until puffy and lightly browned on the edges. Move to a cooling rack.

Orange Marmalade

Sunshine, my best friend, you’re back! Peggy Lee says it best:

Thanks to Kelly & our conversation at dinner the other night, I’m completely in a Peggy Lee mood today. She is so fantastic. Sassy, sultry, sardonic. Funny. Billie Holiday (whom I also adore), can sing the same song (like “My Man,” for instance), and it wrenches your guts with sadness. When Peggy Lee sings it, you feel like she’s the one getting the last laugh. And today, I’m in the mood for Peggy’s version of the story. Peggy Lee reminds me of LA a little bit, perhaps they share the same sensibility–that sort of midcentury ebullience. She could fit easily in a Raymond Chandler novel, sauntering in the detective’s office with a wild tale about a missing lover. How can I not miss LA on a sunny day like this with this soundtrack? Especially when thinking about orange marmalade, when so much of the city was once covered in orange groves?

I’m going out to enjoy the sunshine. And you should too. So maybe make the Orange Marmalade manana.

Orange Marmalade

6 oranges
2 1/2 c. water
1/8 tsp. baking soda
5 1/2 c. sugar
1 package of pectin

Wash your jars and their lids.

Bring a tea kettle of water to a boil.

Bring a large pot, half-full with water, to a simmer. Add the clean jars, and pour the water from the tea kettle over them and turn off the heat. Let them sit in the hot water until you’re ready to use them (drain before using them).

Remove the colored part of the oranges with a vegetable peeler and chop finely. I used a food processor to get them pretty fine. Cut off the white part (this is bitter), and then chop the fruit itself into fine chunks, and reserve the fruit.

Place peels, water, and baking soda in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add fruit and juice, simmer 10 minutes.

Add the pectin to the saucepan. Bring mixture to a full rolling boil on high heat. The pectin box describes this as a boil that doesn’t stop bubbling when you stir it.

Add the sugar and return to a full rolling boil. Boil for exactly one minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat, and skim off any foam.

Ladle quickly into the prepared jars, leaving about 1/8-inch space at the top. Wipe jar rims and cover with lids. Screw bands tightly and place bars back in the large pot full of water. Make sure the water covers jars by an inch or two. Cover and bring back to a boil for 10 minutes. Remove and place upright on a towel to cool. Once they’ve cooled, check seals by pressing middle of lid with finger. If lid springs back, lid is not sealed and refrigeration is necessary.

Let stand at room temperature for at least 24 hours.

You can store the jam for about a year in the cupboard, or, once opened, about 3 weeks in the fridge.

Apple-Onion Tart

All I want to do lately is make. I feel more pull toward cozying up at home these days and making things than I did even in winter. Maybe it’s a last push of hibernating impulse before Chicago gets warm and lovely and I am too busy with barbecues and street festivals to do such things as make bread. Or to even turn my oven on for that matter. But for now, I have this great desire to reduce everything to its essential elements and start from scratch.

There’s one notoriously time-consuming item, however, that I’m happy to buy from the store: puff pastry. Apparently, when making it, you must be in a temperature-controlled room so that the layers of (mmmm) butter don’t melt and run while you’re rolling the dough. And the dough must rest in between layers. That’s the beauty of this concoction: layer upon layer of buttery dough with strata of butter in between.

Truly, what can go wrong when puff pastry is involved? You can throw old tires on it and it’ll still probably come out tasting great. Flakey and gorgeous–like making pies out of croissants. Really, puff pastry is never a bad idea.

Here is a very lovely visual demonstration for making puff pastry from scratch. If you’re up for that kind of thing.

Apple-Onion Tart
2 tablespoons olive oil
medium onions, sliced
red apples (such as Braeburn or Gala), cut into small pieces
kosher salt and black pepper
2 sheets frozen puff pastry (from a 17.3-ounce package), thawed
1/2 cup creme fraiche or sour cream
about 1/2 c. blue cheese, crumbled

Heat oven to 400º F. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes. Stir in the apples, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper and cook until just tender, 2 minutes.

Place each sheet of pastry on a parchment-lined baking sheet and prick all over with a fork. Spread with the crème fraîche, leaving a ½-inch border. Top with the onion mixture and sprinkle blue cheese on top. Bake until the pastry is crisp and browned, 30 to 35 minutes. Cut into pieces before serving.