Monday, September 28, 2009

Red Indian Stew for Just a Few

This dish can be as mild or spicy as you like--and if you prefer more spicy than someone you'll be eating it with, kick the spice up some and serve the stew with a dollop of yogurt, which can be mixed in to cut the heat for those people with more sensitive tongues.

One of the great things about this stew is that it is rather forgiving. If you don't have the exact ingredients listed below, substitute--especially when it comes to your choice of protein. I've used chickpeas, Quorn, TVP crumbles, lentils, navy beans, shrimp, squid, and kidney beans in this in the past. This particular incarnation calls for lentils, because that's what I had on hand, and the end of this summer's zuchinni.

Dad came up the original vegetarian version of this stew--it originally used chicken--and then modified it to suit our tastes.

Red Indian Stew for Just a Few
2 teaspoons Garam Masala
+/- ½ tablespoon crushed red pepper
1/2 teaspoon tres ochos pepper (optional, for additional heat)
1/2 tablespoon paprika
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
3/4 cup chopped onions
Freshly ground black pepper
1 large zuchinni, chopped
2 medium potatoes, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
2 ounces dried brown lentils
1 clove chopped garlic
1 cup canned tomatoes, chopped or diced
1 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
3 cups vegetable stock
1 cup chopped cabbage
Yogurt, optional

In a small bowl, combine the Garam Masala, crushed red pepper, and paprika. Mix well. Set aside.

Heat oil in a medium saute pan, over medium heat, When the oil is hot, add the onions to the pan, saut̩ until golden brown and season with salt and pepper. Add the zuchinni, potatoes, and carrot. Saute 3-5 minutes. Add the lentils, garlic, tomatoes and ginger. Continue to saut̩ for 1 Р3 minutes.

Add the stock and bring the liquid to a boil. Cover, reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for about 15 minutes or until the potatoes and lentils tender. Add the cabbage and cook another 3-4 minutes, until the cabbage has just started to cook. Remove from the heat and serve with rice or naan, and a dollop of yogurt (optional). Serves 3-4, depending on your appetite!

Peanut Butter Oreos

Every fall, my graduate department hosts a "Welcome Back" party of some sort--held at a local park and potluck style. Although attendants are encouraged to bring something homemade, frequently we wind up with people who stop at the store on their way over and bring some sort of chips and dip, or something sweet. This year, more than last, these functions seem to see more of the name brand (or generic, sometimes) packaged goods, rather than the items made in store.

I find this unfortunate on many levels. The stores here are all small chains or employee owned. The bakeries are of varying quality, as are the delis, but in my mind, any of these stores will offer a higher quality product than something meant to be shelf stable for months, get the picture.

Anyway, at this year's picnic, someone brought peanut butter oreos. Why not? I thought to myself. I would never purposely buy them--I only buy regular oreos when I plan to make oreo bon-bons--and they are one of the dozens of flavors of traditional-style oreos Nabisco has produced. We won't talk about the "cakesters" aside from my comment that someone finally figured out how to market "whoopie pies" mixed with stale oreos.

I grabbed a couple at the end of the picnic and gave them a try. The peanut butter cream is less creamy than a traditional oreo and for a "Double Stuf," they don't have all that much filling. In fact, the peanut butter doesn't even taste particularly peanut-buttery. It's got a hint of peanut and a hint of grittyness like a certain off-brand of Oreo, but it by no means screams "peanut butter!"

Okay, so the dilemna. I had more than one oreo--but not enough to really incorporate into a real recipe. What to do with them? I'm a grad student so I make an effort not to throw anything away as far as food goes--if I can salvage it, that is. So, I crumbled my remaining Oreos and tossed them in the DQ Blizzard I'd gotten for almost free, thanks to a coupon. Fortuntaely, my Blizzard had both Reeses and chocolate fudge in it, making up for the lacking quality of the Oreos. Given an option again, I'd pass.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Squashes with Onions and Brown Sugar

I was eating dinner with a couple of friends last night: poached salmon was the star dish, accompanied by feta-roasted bell pepper muffins (to die for!), watermelon and grapes tossed together in the same bowl, and some squash.

The friend hosting dinner had been given several squash by her well-meaning parents, but wasn't sure what to do with them. She had zucchini and yellow squash, plus some dumpling squash and a beautiful spaghetti squsah. When I admired them, she told me if I could use them, to go ahead. So I did--at least with the summer squashes (the zucchini and yellow squash). Our other friend, who said she'd never had squash she liked took two very large servings! The key is to get the onions only golden before adding the squash and then to only cook the squash long enough for the flavors to blend.

Squashes with Onions and Brown Sugar

3 medium summer squash (zucchini and yellow squash, if you can), quartered and then sliced into 1/2" nuggets
1/2 medium purple onion, chopped
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon parsley, chopped
Olive oil

Prepare the squash before you begin to cook. This makes life much easier. Saute the onions in 1-2 teaspoons of olive oil (enough to coat bottom of pan) over medium heat for 2-3 minutes or until the onion begins to turn golden. Add in the squash and turn the heat up to medium-high. Saute another 2-3 minutes and then add the salt and sugar. Stir and then allow the squash to sit and carmelize 2 minutes before stirring again. Let the squash cook for another 1-2 minutes with disturbing it, stir again, and if all the squash is lightly cooked, remove from heat, toss with parsley, and serve.