Indian for dinner

An Invitation to Indian Cooking, by Madhur Jaffrey is my go-to cookbook for Indian food. I’ve had my paperback copy for quite a while and it’s yellow pages are stained from the number of times I’ve used it. That’s a true sign of a good cookbook in my kitchen. Yes, I’ve had one of those mostly useless plexiglass cookbook holders and it long ago got donated to a thrift store. I write in my cookbooks too. For some reason I was held back from doing this for many, many years. Who knows why? They are my books after all. Mostly you’ll find index entries, because almost every cookbook is lacking in that regard. Even the esteemed Thomas Keller’s $50 cookbooks don’t escape my index entries. I added “profiteroles” to one just the other day. I digress.

As much as I love making Madhur Jaffrey’s full version of Tandoori Chicken, I also love the connivence of doing something easier. Using tandoori paste that I get at the Indian grocery along with yogurt to marinate the chicken does speed things along. If I have less time, I use more paste to the amount yogurt. It was this route I chose last night. It’s on the grill above.

I made two side dishes from the book though: Cauliflower with Onions and Tomatoes, and Lentils P1050478 (dal). I make the cauliflower recipe quite often, even for non Indian dinners, as it’s just stunningly delicious. Even people who profess to not like cauliflower will like this recipe. I haven’t made the dal in quite a while and tasting it last night I now know why: it’s good, but there’s not a wow factor like in the cauliflower dish. It is however, homey and comforting. We will be having it again, as the recipe makes quite a lot and it freezes well. P1050479

Thanks to Madhur Jaffrey for making me not just like, but love cauliflower!


If you read many food blogs, you’ve probably already heard of the year of curing meat that is called by it’s Twitter Hashtag #Charcutepalooza. Co-creators Mrs. Wheelbarrow and The Yummy Mummy are inspiring the masses, 85 bloggers at last count, to do a monthly project of meat curing from Michael Ruhlman’s Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking, and Curing. My copy of the book is on it’s way, but I wanted to make the deadline so I followed a recipe I had from before on how to make Duck Proscuitto(hams really).

The breasts have been salted and kept overnight in the fridge. They now are wrapped in swaddling clothes and hanging in the garage. More to come when they’re ready.

Those other strings you see in the picture are my hoshigaki drying. They’re Japanese style dried persimmons. That reminds me, I need to go massage them….

OMG Christmas Dinner

Last year I went completely nuts and cooked a six course Christmas dinner solely from Thomas Keller cookbooks, mostly The French Laundry Cookbook. I worked for days and days in the kitchen and pulled it off pretty well. There were minor glitches, but mostly everything was delicious.IMG_0072

This year I thought I’d take it easy on myself and cook mostly recipes I’ve very familiar with and some easily prepared the day before. So, last Friday I spent seven hours in the kitchen doing all kinds of prep work and assembling some dishes. For the most part everything worked out, but as always it was a frenzy to get each dish out on time. I had the brilliant idea to use my pizza stones, hot from the oven to keep the food warm. I leave them in the oven all the time and this worked out great.

We had gone to our CSA’s farm in November and picked out our turkey. It had been in the freezer since. Our December share was mostly made up of a goose. They were both small, so I cooked them both; the goose stuffed, the turkey “spatchcocked.” The later just means the backbone cut out and the turkey splayed out. It roasted in just an hour and fifteen minutes and was terrifically juicy. It turned out to be one of the best turkeys I’ve ever made and it has to be the easiest. I used Tyler Florence’s recipe that he did on the Today Show.

IMG_0068Side dishes included Creamed Onions, Butternut Squash & Cream Spinach Gratin, Indian Stir-Fried Green Beans with Coconut, & Potato Cloverleaf Rolls from Joy of Cooking.

Dessert was an assortment of cookies, Caramel Pumpkin Pie & Pecan Pie. However, not much dessert was eaten as everyone was so full.

IMG_0067I was very happy with how everything turned out but found it almost as stressful as last year. It’s harder to get a bunch of dishes out at the same time than to do six courses, each in their time.

These wonderful photos are courtesy of Howard’s nephew Josh. The full compliment of the day’s pictures can be found here.

On my Egg High Horse Again

OK, now that I’ve got 6 of you reading my blog, I thought it time to get on my high horse again about eggs. If I can convince just one of you to buy better eggs I’ll be happy. I’ll be to the moon ecstatic, if one of you got hens.

The New York Times had a nice 2/3 of a page dedicated to a hen’s space to roost back in August. It says that 97% of the eggs produced in the country are from hens kept in battery cages. This gives them and area of 8 inches by 8 inches to live in. They cannot spread their wings to stretch as I see my hens do. These birds have a portion of their beaks removed to prevent cannibalism. This practice is known as beaking. These conditions are absolutely cruel.

Another 2% of hens are “cage-free.” I used to think that was pretty good. In reality this only gives the hens a space of 10.5 by 10.5 inches. The are in massive barns in massive numbers. These birds are often beaked too. This is only necessary when birds are over crowded.

One percent of hens are “free-range.” OK, yes this is better, but the term free-range only means they have access to the outside. Often the doors are too small or only open for limited times. Generally too there’s not much of interest outside, just a fenced in dirt area.

So, with such depressing facts, what do you do? If you want to buy the best eggs possible try your localUnknown farmer’s market first. But, beware factory farms frequent these places too. Ask questions and make sure the hens are humanely treated and are truly able to forage around outside. You can also use the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) website Eat Humane to find the best choices available in your grocery store. If the eggs have either logo shown on the right, you’re in good shape.

Now if you’re brave and have the space, you can get backyard hens. They really don’t take a lot of time to take care of: a few minutes each day and then 30 minutes to an hour once a week to clean the coop. They’re odd, funny quirky Unknownpets, but I do enjoy their antics. When I go outside they come running to me, begging for treats. The eggs do taste better though, if only for the freshness. Compost their manure and you’ve got gold for your garden too. Just factor in the cost of fencing to keep them out of any area you don’t want them in.

Blog article about Whole Food’s Eggs
Judy’s Farm
KQED Quest for a Kind Egg

Starting in on the Xmas Cookies

For years and years I’ve baked Xmas cookies to give away. I usually start early in December and make several kinds that freeze well. Pictured above is the first recipe I usually tackle: Christmas Rocks. I made them today and they’re cooling. I’ve already eaten two. I cannot resists these. Even if you don’t like fruitcake you’ll like these. Try them.

I also made the dough for the temperamental Cookie Grandma’s Sugar Cookies. This year I sought out Leaf Lard to use in the recipe. I got impatient finding it and got some Fatback Lard from Café Rouge on Fourth Street in Berkeley. They swear it’s as good if not better than leaf lard. I hope to pick up some leaf lard tomorrow in San Francisco and may make another batch to see if there is a difference. If not, I’ll use it for pie crust, which is supposedly much better with leaf lard.

I haven’t baked any yet this years so here’s last year’s Cookie Grandma’s Sugar Cookies

Harvesting Turkeys in Marysville

For several months now we’ve belonged to the Godfrey Family Farm CSA*. Once a month we meet in the parking lot of the Home Depot in Emeryville on a Saturday at 9:00 am. Brian &/or Rose are there with one or more of their children to hand out shares of meat & eggs grown on their farm in Marysville, CA. We have been very satisfied with the quality of everything we get. The Godfrey’s started their CSA just about a year ago and many of the members were anxious to see the farm. So, we were invited to go up to Marysville for a farm tour, pick out our turkey and help, as much or as little as we wanted, get it ready to take home.

Last Saturday the farm’s second tour day started for us a little after 9:00 when we arrived and were greeted with hot cinnamon rolls fresh from the oven. They very much reminded me of my grandmother’s cinnamon rolls she’d make on bread baking days. Oh so good. It was a rainy day, but early on it was just a light rain as one of the kids took us around the farm. I think it was Sofia that lead the tour. It was great to see all the animals around in their different fenced off areas of the farm. The pigs were named Bacon, Ham, Pork Chop, etc. There’s definitely a sense of humor around this farm.Brian teaches

After our tour Brian started to teach the process that we’d use on the turkeys with some old hens. They would become our take home bonus to be used for stock or as Rose suggested, chicken and dumplings. He sharpened his knives and put three hens into the inverted killing cones. He showed how to place the knife so that one doesn’t cut into the feathers which can make for a messy kill. A bucket below collected the draining blood. The hens were next dipped in 140°F soapy water for about 30 seconds to loosen the feathers. Their next stop was the homemade plucking machine, which does a pretty good job.

Practice on stewing hens Practice on stewing hens (1)

Back on the tables they had set up under tents Brian & Rose showed how to loosen the bird’s crop and talked about the importance of not having it burst open. There’s usually grass in it and that’s hard to pick out of the body. Next they showed how to make an incision that the rear end and reach in to carefully pull out the innards. The instruction was to feel for the heart, put it between two fingers and pull gently. This pulls the crop through the next into the cavity. A final cut to the back end and basically you’re done.

P1050266Fairly soon we were off to pick out our turkeys. In reality I just said we’d take a smaller one and Brian caught one for us and two others for other CSA members. They went into the larger killing cones and were dispatched quickly by Brian and other braver CSA members. We just watched.

Within a few minutes it was our turn to dunk and pluck. Rose handled the dunking as I wasn’t quite ready to get messy. After the 30 second dunk and swirl I pulled out the tail feathers which don’t come out in the plucker very well and we cut off the feet, which also clog up the plucker.



The bird whirled around as water was sprayed from a hose. It didn’t take long at all until the bird was pretty clean. We plucked the remaining little feathers in a few minutes and Rose set about cleaning it. I watched the technique several times and finally later in the day cut into a turkey, loosened it’s crop and opened up the cavity. I reached in and found the heart and started gently pulling. I got out some of the innards, but I couldn’t get the crop to come through. Not wanting to ruin someone else’s turkey I asked for help. Rose finished up pulling the crop through and cutting off the guts. She then cut open the gizzard and showed us the rocks and half ground up/digested food. Really interesting. I didn’t get a picture of that. When all done the birds went into a coolers filled with ice water.


The Godfreys fed us a nice hearty lunch. The day kind of slipped away and suddenly it was after 2:00pm when we started to pack up for the trip home. We weighed our turkey in the house and it was just under 9 pounds. Rose filled out our monthly CSA share with bacon, pork chops and a dozen of their excellent eggs.

They day was terrific even though it was cold and rainy. The whole family was warm and welcoming and happy to show off what they do for us. The process was way less gross and traumatic than I expected. I can see how you could get used to it and have it be no big deal. I’m glad to know that most of the meat we eat comes from a place where the animals are cared for well all the way up to that “One bad day” as Brian likes to quip. Thank you Brian, Rose and family!

*Community Supported Agriculture

Frugal Hash

Most likely it’s a combination of growing up in the mid-west and having parents that lived through the Great Depression that has made me frugal. Food waste* is so appalling to me. So, don’t live with me if you don’t like the occasional leftover. With me home Howard’s lucky, as I eat up leftovers for lunch frequently. I usually enjoy them too.

Friday I had roasted some sliced sweet potatoes that were spiced with Old Bay. They were really good, and that particular tuber was super sweet. So my mind had been working on the problem of what to do with the leftover slices. Somehow hash bubbled up to the top. Thinking about what I had in the freezer, I remembered I had some kalua pork from Lilian’s first birthday and bell peppers are always in there.

I diced up the sweet potatoes and peppers, and threw in a big handful the theP1050191 kalua pork. I got out the Joy of Cooking to figure out how it all gets bound together. It says to just mash it down in the pan with some sauteed onions. So, that’s exactly what I did. I cooked it all on one side as the recipe noted and then served poached backyard eggs on top. It was good, but could have used a little something to counter balance all P1050193the sweetness of the sweet potatoes. All in all a pretty good improvisation and I got rid of some leftovers.

*According the the LA Times, 40% of America’s food production is wasted. The article is very interesting: Save the planet by not wasting food.

Seafood Stew

When the weather is cool I love a good bowl of warmth. I’ve tried several kinds of seafood stew, but this one has to be one of the easiest and frugal. It starts out as a squid stew and you can eat it as it is or use it as a base to add more seafood to at the end. Today rather than simmer for two hours I put it into the pressure cooker and cooked it on high pressure for 15 minutes. The long simmer or pressure cooking makes the calamari very tender, the wine makes them crimson colored too. Using the calamari also gives this a more robust seafood/fish flavor. If you like a more gentle flavor try, my Quick Cioppino for Two.

The recipe says it serves four, but you can easily extend it with more wine, seafood stock or clam juice, another can or so of tomatoes and end up with enough for 8. Add some other fish and it will easily feed more.

I separated enough for our dinner, adding some shrimp and cod. Then I simmered for just a few minutes garnishing with parsley. I’ll pressure can the rest tomorrow. Then I can have a really quick meal on the table!

Severed Fingers

Back in 2000 when Martha Stewart made them on her show they called them Severed Fingers. I guess they deemed that name too gruesome and now call them Lady’s Fingers. They’re actually a pretty tasty cookie and look so cute.

Follow the link above for the recipe, it’s pretty easy. The dough gets put together like any cookie dough and put into the refrigerator. Then, paint up the blanched almonds with red food coloring. I found that you need a light touch or the color doesn’t come through. I made mine too dark and had to wash off some of the food coloring.

Then I took a package of Joe-Joe’s, which is Trader Joe’s version of Oreos, and scraped out the creamy center. Then I whirled it up in the food processor, leaving some larger bits so that it looks like soil. This part isn’t in Martha’s recipe, but it kind of shows in her presentation.
After the dough is chilled, you roll out pieces, squeeze them to make knuckles and then with the back of a knife make ridges on the knuckles. Brush with the egg white and press in the red almond fingernails. They get baked at 350°F for 12 – 14 minutes until lightly golden brown. If it’s humid like today you want to get a little more browning, so they’re more sturdy.

Find a nice pot for your presentation and fill in a false bottom. I used an old cream cheese container turned upside down, supplemented with newspaper. Then put in a liner of plastic wrap. Pour in your cookie crumb dirt. Make holes with your finger and gently push the finger cookies down into the dirt. Super cute, no?

A day in the Kitchen

For some reason I got really domestic today and made a few things and got started on others in the kitchen.

Yesterday, passing by the olives in the olive bar at the Berkeley Bowl West they seemed to call out to me. Todd English’s Olive’s Olives popped into my mind right away. For a while they were always in the house, but that was years ago. A quart container of mixed olives ended up being $11. Eek. P1050073They’re so good marinated though and the leftover oil is super for dipping bread. I made the full recipe of the marinade but only used half the olives. I’ve done that before and it works out fine.

I roasted some beets given to us by a friend from their garden. I also made cookie dough for some cookies we’re taking to a Halloween party on Saturday. I will post about that separately.

Dinner, pictured above, is from the current issue of Everyday Food. A broccolini and feta galette. The dough is made with olive oil and so it turned out very crunchy, but a bit tough. Howard wasn’t as big a fan of the dish as I was. Doubt I’ll make it again.

I was at Safeway today and found pork tenderloins for a steal. They’re not from our CSA so I feel a little guilty. My Ohio frugality won out. Oh well, time to go take the silver skin off of them so I can start Jacques Pepin’s Pork Tenderloin Saucisson.

Fresh Spaghetti with Clams

I knew Howard was going to have a hard day so I decided to make his favorite dish with the twist of making homemade spaghetti. I’ve had the KitchenAid pasta extrusion/meat grinder attachment for many years and used it to grind meat. A hairline crack had appeared in the housing and I didn’t think much of it about a year ago when I went to make fresh spaghetti. It wasn’t a pretty sight, plastic bits flying everywhere. Luckily, the internet provides lots of places to order parts and I replaced the housing. It wasn’t until today that I tried the extruded pasta again.

After reading many conflicting ideas about whether to use eggs or not, I P1040910forged ahead and made a basic egg dough, making sure it was on the dry side. After resting for a couple of hours I extruded it and hung it to dry. Labor intensive for sure, but I had the free time.

This dish is one I make without a recipe and my only change from the traditional recipe is adding chopped fresh tomatoes at the end. Basically I sauteed onions and garlic in a good amount of olive oil; add a little red pepper flakes; P1040912throw in clams; add white wine and a little clam juice from a bottle. Cook until the clams open. Toss in the tomatoes, some chopped parsley and the boiled spaghetti. Dress with a little olive oil and dig in.

Fresh spaghetti is more delicate and it was delicious, but I kind of missed that “toothiness” of the dry pasta. I must try this again with Carbonara!

Sous-vide Buffalo Tri-Tip

Sous-vide is a cooking technique that until a couple of years ago was only possible in a professional kitchen. It is simply cooking with vacuum sealed bags in a water bath kept at a constant temperature. One of my main concerns for the home cook though was food safety. This issue was addressed in a blog post that I stumbled upon. It finally convinced me to try the method. I’m quite happy I did.

The post talked about the author’s use of different controllers to turn a crockP1040890 pot or rice cooker on and off to maintain the constant temperature of the water bath that is required. I ended up ordering the Ranco Electric Temperature Control. A home vacuum sealer, in my case a Foodsaver, is the other necessary piece of equipment, which I’ve had for several years.
So, today I mixed up a marinate and sealed up a nice sized Buffalo Tri-Tip P1040889that came with this month’s meat C.S.A.* It went into the crock pot that was plugged into the Ranco ETC. The temperature probe is left in the water bath and I set the controller for 132°F, medium rare. I got this all going about 11:30 am this morning. I had meant to get it going earlier as I like to cook a tri-tip of this size 8 or so hours. The great thing about the method is that the meat will be medium rare no matter how long you cook it. The texture does transform though and too long of a bath will make for too soft of a texture. With a tough cut of meat like this 8 hours is about right.

P1040900It turned out perfectly. After removing it from the bag, I cut it in half to save part of it for the freezer and grilled the rest for just a few minutes. It was very tender, but still had great texture. The flavors of the marinate, which was miso, soy sauce, honey, garlic, onion and ginger powders, was distinct and tasty. A little salt at the table really brought out the flavors.

Roasted broccoli and fresh tomatoes from the garden rounded out the plate. My dinner plates are looking so similar in these posts! That will surely change when the tomato season ends.


Read about my fist sous-vide experience in my long dead Hawaii Blog here.

Tri-Tip Marinade
3 Tablespoons Soy Sauce, Reduced Sodium if possible
1 Tablespoon Red Miso
1 Tablespoon Honey
1 teaspoon each, garlic powder, ginger powder, onion powder


*C.S.A. – Community Supported Agriculture. I.e. buying directly from the farmer.

Sunday Night Dinner

I meant to take pictures and blog about the fried rabbit dinner I made for company last night, but alas I forgot to take pictures. The rabbit was good and most people wouldn’t have known it wasn’t chicken but for the odd shapes of the pieces. It was a big one, five plus pounds, and there were three pieces of saddle left over.

So, I thought I’d make two of my favorite Indian side dishes to go with it: Saag Paneer & Cauliflower with Onion & Tomato. I had some homemade paneer that I had made, frozen and thawed. As I cut it up for the recipe I tried a piece and boy had it “gone over.” Luckily, I had some firm tofu which is often used as a good substitute for paneer.

I spiced the tofu as the recipe says and fried it. The turmeric turns it a beautiful golden color.


I set the tofu aside and finished up the recipe, working on the cauliflower recipe at the same time. About half way I stuck the rabbit into the toaster oven to warm up.

The spinach, onion and spice mixture went into the blender and came out smoother than normal. I don’t know why.

With just a few minutes left I added some Trader Joe’s Naan to the toaster oven. We like the frozen one best.

It turned out to be a quite enjoyable dinner. Just hope that bite of bad paneer doesn’t take it’s toll.

P.S. The fried rabbit was based on this recipe for Crispy, Crunchy Fried Chicken.

Pie Again?

I don’t know what’s gotten into me, but I made pie for the third time in so many weeks. Pumpkin this time. It’s the first time I’ve ever baked my own pumpkin for the filling. I followed the recipe on the label attached to the sugar pie pumpkin from Trader Joe’s. I would love to dive into it now, except we’re having with our dinner guests tomorrow night.

Here’s the first pie in the trio, a blueberry one:


Dinner Tonight

I have been wanting to make Lidia Bastianich’s potato gnocchi since I made the dough for Gnocchi Ravioli with Spinach & Sausage. That recipe uses this easy to work with dough to make soft ravioli. I was anxious to use it for gnocchi. So, I boiled potatoes, put them through the ricer and was letting them dry when I dropped a pan on the lid of the glass flour canister. Glass shards everywhere, especially in the mound of potatoes.

It’s all Lidia’s fault. She has you dry the potatoes for a couple of hours. As luck would have it though I had some extra pumpkin that I had baked and ricotta cheese. I squeezed the pumpkin in a clean kitchen towel to remove excess moisture and dumped it into a large bowl. I added some ricotta, an egg and enough flour to make a soft dough. I rollled them out with plenty of flour and set them aside.


I boiled them for a couple of minutes and tossed them with melted butter, sage, parmesan, salt and pepper. They were delicious. Tomatoes from the garden and some grilled chicken thighs rounded out the plate.

Classic Apple Pie

We’re having house guests for the weekend and I guess that’s my excuse for making a pie today. I followed, as I usually do, Martha’s recipe for Classic Apple Pie. I used half Granny Smith and half California Fuji.

Here’s a picture of it as it goes into the oven.

Apple Pie
Pie before going into the oven

I picked up the item below in a severe discount bin somewhere. It makes a pattern in the top crust. After baking it doesn’t show up that great, really. I’m glad I didn’t pay much for it.

Pie Crust Tool
Pie crust tool


Indian Spiced Tomato Marmalade

Last year I had some extra tomatoes, but not enough to bother with canning them. I made a half recipe of this marmalade and it was terrific. It’s really good on hard cheese like Spanish Manchego. It’s a combination of savory and sweet. This year, again I don’t really have enough tomatoes to can. So I thought I’d try this recipe again and spice it up Indian style.

Indian Spiced Tomato Marmalade

8 cups peeled, cored, coarsely chopped tomatoes (about 5 pounds)
1 orange
1 lemon
1 Tbl. finely chopped ginger
1/2 cup cider vinegar
2 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. coriander
1 tsp. garam masala
t tsp. onion powder
1/4 tsp. cayenne (more or less to taste)
3 cups sugar

Place tomatoes in large non-reactive heavy bottomed pot. Wash orange and lemon. Peel the thin outer layer of the orange and lemon. Cut into thin strips and add to the pan. Cut away all pith from the remaining lemon and orange. Coarsely chop and add to the pan, along with any juices. Add the remaining ingredients.

Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Simmer until very thick and reduced to about 4 cups, about 2 hours, stirring very frequently to prevent scorching.

Ladle hot marmalade into hot, sterilized half-pint jars, leaving 1/4” headspace. Clean rims, top with sterilized lids and screw on bands. Process for 10 minutes in a water bath.

Or omit processing and ladle into freezer jars or other containers leaving ample headspace if freezing. Keeps one month one the refrigerator or one year in the freezer.

This recipe is loosely based on Sunset Home Canning’s Spicy Tomato Marmalade.