Monday, September 28, 2009

The September Garden

We have had so much rain here in the last couple of months, my garden has suddenly awakened and is showing signs of life again. This Japanese eggplant is loaded for the third time this season. This one plant has been so good to me.
I grew beans earlier this summer, but then decided not too long ago to try a late summer bean crop. All I did was pop a few bean seeds into the dirt. The bean plants shot right up. It seem like just yesterday I planted them, and now every day this week I have picked a handful of green beans.

Just enough for a dinner for two. Nothing cheers me up more than a meal made of fresh vegetables grown right in my own backyard.

The basil is thriving too. It looks better now than it has all summer. I love herbs from the garden. They give foods a delicious burst of fresh flavor.
Look at this! A little baby cucumber. I grew cucumbers for the first time this year and had tons of cucumbers earlier in the summer. Then the plants stopped producing and looked quite pathetic, so I pulled all the plants up except for one, which showed signs of hope with a few young bright green leaves. The garden is now rewarding me by flowering and showing some promising signs of delicious fresh vegetables in the weeks to come. I'm thinking pickles.

I also tried growing okra this year. I only have a few plants that my mom gave me, and they are doing great. Okra rewards you every day at the end of summer. It is quite easy to grow, tolerates the heat, and I haven't seen any pests. I could pickle some okra too...since I don't have much growing. I love pickled okra. A bloody mary just isn't complete without pickled okra.

Growing vegetables makes me happy.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Indian Dosas

I recently joined an online cooking community, The Daring Kitchen. Each month members cook the same recipe and then share their results. It is a great way to challenge yourself in the kitchen by stepping outside of your comfort zone and cooking something you wouldn't normally cook; be it the type of cuisine, techniques used, or ingredients.

This is my first Daring Cooks challenge, and this month's challenge was hosted by Debyi of The Healthy Vegan Kitchen. She chose Indian Dosas from the refreshing cookbook by Ruth Tal for this months challenge.
They were easy to make...just a little time consuming. I had never eaten Indian food before, but I really enjoyed the dish. It was similar to an enchilada, but with completely different flavors. The chickpea filling was a little too spicy for me even though I love spicy foods. The curry sauce was delicious. I stayed with the recipe provided since I'm not familiar with Indian cuisine, but I would definitely like to try dosas again with different flavor combinations.
This recipe was definitely a challenge for me since it was completely vegan. I used soy milk instead of cow's milk. Hmm....what should I do with the rest of the carton? I love meatless meals, but I have never gone completely animal free before. It was a very hearty vegetarian meal and delicious!

Indian Dosas

The recipe is three parts: the dosa or pancake, the filling, and the curry sauce.

Serves 4

Equipment needed:

large bowl
griddle or skillet
ladle (or large spoon)
vegetable peeler &/or knife
large saucepan
food processor or bean masher

Dosa Pancakes

1 cup (120gm/8oz) spelt flour (or all-purpose, gluten free flour)
½ tsp (2½ gm) salt
½ tsp (2½ gm) baking powder
½ tsp (2½ gm) curry powder
½ cup (125ml/4oz) almond milk (or soy, or rice, etc.)
¾ cup (175ml/6oz) water
cooking spray, if needed

1.Combine the dry ingredients in a bowl, slowly adding the almond milk and water, whisking until smooth.
2.Heat a nonstick skillet over medium heat. Spray your pan with a thin layer of cooking spray, if needed.
3.Ladle 2 tablespoons of batter into the center of your pan in a circular motion until it is a thin, round pancake. When bubbles appear on the surface and it no longer looks wet, flip it over and cook for a few seconds. Remove from heat and repeat with remaining batter. Makes 8 pancakes.

Curried Garbanzo Filling

5 cloves garlic
1 onion, peeled and finely diced
1 carrot, peeled and finely diced
1 green pepper, finely diced (red, yellow or orange are fine too)
2 medium hot banana chilies, minced
2 TBSP (16gm) cumin, ground
1 TBSP (8gm) oregano
1 TBSP (8gm) sea salt (coarse)
1 TBSP (8gm) turmeric
4 cups (850gm/30oz) cooked or canned chick peas (about 2 cans)
½ cup (125gm/4oz) tomato paste

1.Heat a large saucepan over medium to low heat. Add the garlic, veggies, and spices, cooking until soft, stirring occasionally.
2.Mash the chickpeas by hand, or in a food processor. Add the chickpeas and tomato paste to the saucepan, stirring until heated through.

Dosa Toppings

1 batch Coconut Curry Sauce (see below), heated
¼ cup (125gm) grated coconut
¼ cucumber, sliced

Coconut Curry Sauce

1 onion, peeled and chopped
2 cloves garlic
½ (2½ gm) tsp cumin, ground
¾ (3¾ gm) tsp sea salt (coarse)
3 TBSP (30gm) curry powder
3 TBSP (30gm) spelt flour (or all-purpose GF flour)
3 cups (750ml/24oz) vegetable broth
2 cups (500ml/24oz) coconut milk
3 large tomatoes, diced

1.Heat a saucepan over medium heat, add the onion and garlic, cooking for 5 minutes, or until soft.
2.Add the spices, cooking for 1 minutes more. Add the flour and cook for 1 additional minute.
3.Gradually stir in the vegetable broth to prevent lumps. Once the flour has been incorporated, add the coconut milk and tomatoes, stirring occasionally.
4.Let it simmer for half an hour.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Beer Can Chicken and the New Grill

We have been wanting a new grill for quite some time. Our old grill has been great. It's a small portable grill with the small propane tank, which usually runs out in the middle of grilling.

Kevin bought this grill back in his bachelor days. He used to call me up and entice me over to his house with pork chops or steak, and we would sit on his front porch and he would grill dinner for us. That's when I knew...I wanted to spend my life eating meat with this man.
We've taken our little Weber grill to Mardi Gras, football games, and Panic shows. It has seen many parking lots. It's been very good to us...this little grill. Many memories. However, its time has past.

So, last week end we looked at grills. The fond memories of our old, little grill drew us to the Webers once again. We left the store to think about it, and the next day Kevin came home with the Weber Spirit in this big box.

He spent an hour or so assembling the grill. I assisted where needed and made sure we had pictures of the whole thing. This new baby is going to change our lives. We can grill large pieces of meat such as whole chickens, ribs, and roasts on this thing. We haven't been able to do this until now.
So, I've been reading up on grilling because I want to get the most out of our new grill. I will become the GRILL MASTER. I know....usually the grill is the man's job,but Kevin just lets me take over... because I'm so bossy when it comes to food. He's okay with that. I'm passing on all that I learn to him.

I have this great cookbook by Steven Raichlen called How to Grill: The Complete Illustrated Book of Barbecue Techniques. Until now I have just drooled over the photos and used some of the marinades. Now I will finally get the most out of this book. It will help me reach my grilling potential...not just recipes...but the techniques as well. Last night I flipped through the pages of How to Grill and stopped at the beer can chicken. I thought a whole chicken would be quite the test for our new grill. That would be quite a change from the leathery chicken breast that I normally grill. Very unsatisfying....I've become quite bored with chicken.

How hard could it be? Beer can chicken. Yum!!! The first test for our new Weber Spirit.

You need:

1 chicken
1 can of beer
6 tsp of barbecue rub (or any seasoning rub you bought or homemade)

Open the beer and pour off half the beer. I used the poured off beer to soak wood chips, or you can drink it. Poke additional holes into the top of the can and add 2 tsp. of barbecue rub to the beer.

Remove the giblets from inside the chicken. Rinse the chicken inside and out under cold water. Dry with a paper towel.

Rub 2 tsp. of rub inside the cavity of the chicken. Rub the outside of the chicken with the remaining 2 tsp. of seasoning. Rub on the skin and under it.

Carefully lower the chicken onto the can so that the can is inside of the chicken. Use the can and the chickens legs for support so the bird remains upright.

Meanwhile, preheat the grill. We decided to try smoking some wood chips to add a smoky flavor to the chicken. So we began by soaking some hickory wood chips in water and the beer we poured off. Once the chips have soaked for ten minutes, place them on a sheet of aluminum foil. Fold up the foil to make a packet and then poke holes into the top of the packet to allow steam to escape. Pop the packet right onto the grill and preheat on high. The grill is ready when the chips begin to smoke.

Once the grill is ready place the chicken on the grill, close the lid, and reduce the temperature to medium. As the chicken cooks the beer and the seasoning will infuse the chicken with flavor and moisture.

Grill the chicken over indirect heat on medium for 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours or until a meat thermometer registers at 180 F. The skin on the chicken will be golden and crispy...not too crispy. I can't believe how easy this was or how perfect the chicken looked.

This new grill is amazing. A week ago I wouldn't have thought I would be grilling whole chickens. Man! This is the way to cook chicken. So juicy. The texture is not what I usually get from chicken. It was so moist and tender.

I was getting a little bored with chicken. Now we're rediscovering each other. I've been wanting to spatchcock a chicken.

And now to think I can have grilled spatchcocked chicken. The in-laws are coming this weekend...spatchcocked chicken on the grill...sounds perfect. Spatchcocked.....

Coming soon: Spatchcocked Chicken