Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Paneer Butter Masala

I made paneer again. Actually, I also made ricotta at the same time :)
Anyway, as good as the Shahi Paneer is, we thought we should try it with something new. So I found this recipe and tried to simplify it and adjust it to the ingredients I had on hand. It came out really good, though not incredibly different from Shahi. It was nice to have the cashew crunch and the added bell pepper flavor, but it is a bit more complicated to make than Shahi, so it's good to have a choice.

Here's how I made it:
  • 1 T oil
  • 1 onion - grate with a grater or grind in a food processor
  • 1 t minced garlic
  • 1 t minced ginger
  • 1 t ground chili
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 T ground cashew (a handful of whole cashews will be good)
  • 2 tomatoes - grated, or peeled and pureed
  • 1/2 t garam masala
  • 1 t cumin
  • 1/2 t sugar
  • salt
Heat the oil on medium-high and cook the onion, the garlic and the ginger, until onion is transparent. Add chili, cook for another minute. Add milk, cook 2 minutes, add cashew, cook another 2 minutes, add tomatoes and cook for 10 minutes or so, after adding garam masala and cumin, salt and sugar. Add 1/2 c water and cook on low for another 10 minutes.

While this is simmering, prepare the following:
  • 1 T butter
  • 1/2 onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 bell pepper, jullienned
  • 2 hot peppers, cut to a size of your preference (if it's too hot, you can cut it to large pieces so that you can remove before eating)
Saute the onion in the butter over medium heat. When cooked, add peppers. Cook for 3-4 minutes. Add sauteed onion and pepper to the tomato masala.

Now all you need is to add the cubed paneer and let it all simmer for a couple of minutes. Serve with naan or whatever other bread you like.

  • Feel free to add more water or milk if it seems too thick to be absorbed in the paneer.
  • I found that grating the onion and tomato with a grater is a very easy way to get the same result as with a food processor, if you don't have such an appliance, or don't feel like cleaning it.
  • This dish comes out thicker than Shahi, so can be easily eaten with chapati, or other, non-absorbant bread.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

The Best Vegetarian Moussaka

I have ever made. True, it's the only one I've ever made. Still - it was pretty darn good!
It's kind of a lengthy process, though, requiring many dishes that later need to washed, so I wouldn't be making it every day. It's also not the best dish to make in the Phoenix summer - the oven was on for a little more than an hour! But the 99.99 cents only store had eggplants, and we've been wanting to make something with eggplants for a while now. Plus, we needed to use up the 10 lbs potato bag we have, so moussaka it was!

I kinda made up the recipe as I went, considering a bunch of recipes I found online, and adding ingredients I felt would be appropriate. I also tried to make the process as efficient as possible.
Here's what I used:

For the layers:
  • 2 eggplants
  • 6 small-medium potatoes
For the Tomato-Walnut filling:
  • 1-2 T olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 can (28oz) diced tomatoes
  • 1 T minced garlic
  • dried herbs and spices: oregano, thyme, sage, paprika, salt
  • 1 large handful of walnuts, coarsely chopped (Genius! How could anything with walnuts be possibly bad?)
For the Feta-Bechamel:
  • 1/2 c milk
  • 1 T butter
  • 1/4 c flour
  • 1 generous handful of feta (another spark of genius!)
The efficient cooking:
  • Preheat oven to 400F
  • Slice the eggplant about 1/4", spread them on a large cutting board and salt them. let them "sit" for 1/2 hour
  • Slice the potatoes to the same thickness and arrange on an oil-sprayed cookie sheet, salt and bake for about 20 minutes.
  • Start cooking the filling: Heat oil on medium, chop onion and saute until softened.
  • Add tomatoes, garlic, herbs.
  • This is the time to chop the walnuts and add them in. When it start bubbling, reduce the heat and simmer.
  • While the filling is simmering, rinse eggplant slices and arrange on another cookie sheet, and bake 15 minutes. Then reduce heat to 350F.
  • Now it's time to make the feta-bechamel: In a small sauce pan melt butter, add flour and stir till well-mixed, then add milk and keep whisking until smooth. Then add crumbled feta.
  • Lightly oil a casserole dish and sprinkle with breadcrumbs.
  • Arrange 1/2 of the potato slices in one layer over the breadcrumbs, cover with about 1/2 cup of filling, arrange about 1/2 the eggplant slices, and cover with another 1/2 cup of filling, then repeat with potatoes, filling, eggplant, filling. You shouldn't have too much of the filling left by now, but that's okay - just top it all with the feta-bechamel sauce and Bake for 30-40 minutes until top is golden-brown. Let cook for 10 minutes or so before serving.
  • To be even more efficient, wash the dishes while it's baking. You should still have time to rest before it's ready :)

Friday, May 8, 2009

Papas a la Huancaina

Took me ages to learn how to pronounce it! The first time I had it I couldn't believe it was really made of potatoes - it tasted completely different than anything else I have ever tasted. It was delicious. When my friend Gissella gave me the recipe, I couldn't believe I will ever be able to create something as good, but I was pleasantly surprised.

Here's what they say about it:

The history behind this dish goes back many years ago, during the construction of a railroad from the capital city Lima to the mountain area. This enormous work was in charge of a number of crews that worked at 2000 m.a.s.l. You can imagine how a project of this magnitude can wear down even the toughest worker.In consequence, people (especially women) from the Huancayan population would approach the crews with meals for lunch. Among these people, one woman stuck out because of the dish she brought: nice potatoes with a delicious cheese-based sauce and some hard-boiled egg pieces. The sauce consisted of crushed cheese mixed with minced "rocoto" (a sort of aji) and diluted with some milk. This particular dish was a hit and crews would expect this woman's arrival, calling out:

"A que hora llega la papa de la Huancaína" (What time does the Huancayan's potato arrive?)

With time, the recipe evolved. Rocoto was changed for ají and oil began to be included in the preparation. With the advance of technology, the ingredients began to be mixed with the aid of blenders, in contrast to the original mortars. However, one thing did not change, and that was the uniqueness of this dish.

Interesting, ha?
OK, here's how to make it, courtesy of my Peruvian friend:
  • 4 small potatoes
  • 3-4 oz queso fresco
  • 3-4 oz feta cheese
  • 1/2 c milk (or so)
  • 4 saltine crakers
  • 2 T salsa de aji (pepper paste) OR 2 banana peppers
  • salt & pepper
Cook the potatoes, slice and arrange them over some lettuce.
Blend the other ingredients in a blender and pour over potatoes.
Serve with hard boiled eggs and black olives.
Best to eat at room temperature.

*Note: blending in yellow aji paste will make it very yellow, I used fresh pepper here.