May 07, 2015

Finding green almonds to pickle in spring

Green almond pickle

Imagine my surprise while browsing through a middle eastern store at finding green almonds. I bought some just to test it out, what does it taste like, what can be done with it.

Aswin saw someone eat the whole thing - the green fuzzy outer hull and all - and almost shouted it out. I didn't believe till I tasted one. It's tart and crisp, and tasted I ate a couple before stopping.

Green almond pickle
Turns out they are very seasonal and I felt super thrilled to get my hands on them. As you can see the almonds inside the hull are very jelly like and not completely formed. It hardens as it ripens.

I decided to pickle them to preserve it to keep the fresh spring flavor last a little while longer. It did not disappoint.

1 cup fresh green almonds - chop them in long slices. I made about 3-4 for each almond hull and all.
6-7 cloves of garlic - chopped
1 cup white cooking vinegar
1 cup water
2 tbspoons sugar
2 dry red chillies - torn in pieces
1 tspoon coriander seeds
1/4 tspoon black pepper

Green almond pickle
Slice the green almonds and the garlic cloves.

Green almond pickle
Heat the vinegar and water combination. Add the sugar, coriander seeds, chillies and black pepper and let it come to a boil. 

Green almond pickle
Turn the heat off and add the almonds and garlic.

Let it sit for about 10 minutes.

Green almond pickle
Then pour it in clean bottles and close the lids. Let it sit for about 2 weeks atleast before taking it out. Serve it with burgers, or in salads.

April 17, 2015

Starting a new project

After nearly nine years of blogging, I am excited about launching a new food venture!

Every third Saturday of the month, I will be cooking some of my favorite recipes and bringing it to Durham's Tracklements in Kerrytown, Ann Arbor.

Please stop by. 

April 16, 2015

Spring with green chickpeas curry

Green chana curry

Last week we went to Detroit to see the Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo exhibit at Detroit Institute for the Arts. It was a beautiful, inspiring and amazing experience looking at all the painting and the two artists journey in 1930s Detroit. I saw a whole different city different yet similar to today's Detroit . I also loved the 3-minute silent films which captured the city, the artists and their work.

Here is what the New York Times wrote about the exhibit:
Diego Rivera, best known of the Mexican muralists, to Detroit in April 1932, accompanied by his much younger wife, Frida Kahlo, also an artist. Over the next 11 months, Rivera researched, designed and painted the frescoes that cover the four vaulting walls of the museum’s courtyard, now known as the Rivera Court. It features heroic scenes of muscular workers and even more idealized earth mothers grasping sheaths of wheat or armloads of fruit. All told, the “Detroit Industry” frescoes are probably as close as this country gets to the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.

Middle easter store visit
On the way back, we stopped by in different stores in Dearborn, eating and shopping. We had a wonderful lunch, some rose water ice-cream and picked up a whole lot of grocery at Middle Easter stores that I am going through slowly.

Green chana curry
I picked up some fresh green chickpeas. Nothing shouts spring like these chickpeas. Fresh, crunchy and faintly aromatic they transported me to my childhood where I would roam through my mother's vegetable garden picking them up and eating them. My mother would shout, "wait for a few more days" from the window.

So, of course after I had peeled them from their pods,  I called my parents asking them how to cook these little chickpeas.

A conversation ensued that went a little like:

"choto-choto kore aloo kat" (cut potatoes small)
"koto choto?" (how small)

You get the gist. :)

And soon a curry was bubbling away which made for a delicious weekend lunch.

(serves 2-3)
1 1/2 cups fresh chickpeas
1 1/2 potatoes chopped small in 1" cubes
1 medium onion - chopped thinly
1 tspoon grated ginger
1 big tomato - chopped thinly

1/2 tspoon turmeric powder
1/2 tspoon coriander powder
1/2 tspoon cumin seed powder
1/2 tspoon ghee
2 tbspoon oil
salt to taste
1 tbspoon fresh chopped cilantro (to garnish)


1/2 tspoon cumin seeds
2 bayleaves
1 pinch asafoetida
2 green chillies

Green chana curry
Put the shelled chickpeas in a pressure cooker with some salt and 1/4 tspoon turmeric and 2 cups of water and cook it for two whistles. Let it cool.

In another pan, heat oil and temper it with asafoetida, cumin seeds, bayleaves and green chillies.

Then add the grated ginger and onions and saute it on medium flame for about 3-4 minutes till they start to turn brown.

Add the chopped tomatoes, rest of the turmeric powder, cumin and coriander seed powder and saute it together. Close the lid and cook for a couple of minutes. Mix all the ingredients well and then add the potatoes and salt.

Let it cook for another 3-4 minutes. Then add the chickpeas and 1 cup water from the pressure cooker. Let it cook for 7-8 minutes till the chickpeas and potatoes are cooked and the gravy starts to thicken.

Add the ghee and take it off the heat.

Green chana curry
Garnish with chopped cilantro and serve warm. It goes well with rice and also with naan, roti and paratha.

March 25, 2015

Chicken with almonds, yogurt and rosewater

Persian yogurt chicken

How amazing it is to see the weather warm up, the ice and snow melt and hear the birds start chirping again.

We were on our way to drop Lil A to his pre-school last week when he shouted "grass, grass". We could see grass peeping through the snow and ice and he was as amazed as we were to see it. What does spring in your part look like?

I have two Ottolenghi books - Jersualem and Plenty - and almost everything that we have made from it has been a hit. Recently I made this chicken which is cooked with yogurt, almonds and rosewater for some friends for dinner. Made some changes to the recipe, added some bay leaves to the spices,  added some fresh herbs and fried garlic at the end and was pleased with the result.

Recipe modified from Ottolenghi's recipe
(serves 5-6)

7-8 chicken thighs, unskinned and on the bone
2-3 tbspoon oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 tspoon ginger paste
1 strip of lemon skin
2 dried chillies
4 whole cloves
2 small cinnamon sticks
5 cardamom pods
3 cloves garlic - 2 grated, 1 sliced thinly
3 tbspoons of almonds, blanched and  peeled
1/2 cup greek yoghurt
1/4 cup cream
1 tspoon rosewater
handful of parsley chopped thinly
salt to taste

Persian yogurt chicken
Salt and pepper the thighs and brown them for 2-3 minutes on each side. Take them out.
Persian yogurt chicken

Then in the same oil add the onions, ginger, lemon, cinnamon, cloves and cardamom, salt and the garlic. Saute for 2-3 minutes. Then add the chicken back in and let it cook on low medium heat, covered for 15-20 minutes.

Take about 5 almonds out and then grind the rest of the almonds to a fine powder, then to this add yogurt, cream and rosewater. Once it's all mixed together, take a little bit of the chicken sauce and mix it with the cream sauce. Slowly, add the sauce in the chicken. Let it cook on low for 5-10 minutes.

Heat a teaspoon of oil and add the garlic slices when the oil is hot. Let it cook for a minute as it browns and take it off the heat.

Persian yogurt chicken
After you plate the chicken, add the garlic slices, sliced almonds and the herbs. Serve with rice, parathas, naan or rotis, or even pasta.

March 06, 2015

Playdate #6 with sweet potato gnocchi

I started writing this post last week and finished today. Happy Holi everyone. 

Playdates are a lot of fun for Nicole and me. It has become a ritual since we began in 2011. Yes, it has been a year since the last one. But we had an ambitious plan for this one, to make sweet potato gnocchi.

Sweet potato gnocchi
The other fun part of these cooking sessions is seeing the kids together. Lil A and Lil N are beginning to play together and they had a lot of fun dressing up as superheroes and ninja turtles.

To make things easier, we made some sides beforehand and then got together to make the sweet potato gnocchi together.

The dinner menu was:
Sweet potato gnocchi
Roasted chicken
Barley salad
Strawberry and chocolate mini cheesecake

We chose the recipe from epicurious and followed it except for reducing some of the butter, cheese, sage and taking out the nutmeg.

February 18, 2015

Saffron broccoli and cauliflower

Saffron cauliflower

It has been so cold here, that the brain has been in freeze mode. For once, I'm glad that the kids are off their preschool for mid winter break. We and they are spared of the endless layers to be put on and then removed.

I know, I know, I live in the Mid West and shouldn't be complaining but when it's so cold (tomorrow the high is 4 and low -14deg F) then all bets are off.

In the middle of all this cold, I have been making mostly comfort food, but have tried some new recipes as well.

During the holidays, I got Jerusalem by Yottam Ottolenghi and I have been meaning to try recipes from there.

I finally got a chance to try the saffron cauliflower last week when some friends were over. The base of the recipe is so good, that all I had to do was spice it up a little bit, mix some broccoli with cauliflower and it was ready. It went really well with the rest of the meal.

It's perfect to serve with some chicken or even a mixed pulao/rice as well.

The heady mix of saffron and olives with some onions and 1 garlic and then topped with some parsley made the cauliflower and broccoli shine.


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