Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Comfort of Kasha - Kasha Varnishkes with Frizzled Onions

Kasha Varnishkes

It's time to get out your old world tablecloth for one of the
ultimate Jewish/Eastern European "grandma loves you"
recipes, a homey bowl of bow ties and buckwheat groats.

Kasha (Buckwheat Groats)

Kasha (from the Russian), coarse granulation. Though
botanically a seed, it is largely processed and
prepared as a grain, ideal for gluten-free diets.

Kasha Varnishkes - Slightly adapted from the Birkett Mills recipe


1 cup medium or coarse kasha
2 cups water
2 jumbo vegetable bouillon cubes
1 egg, slightly beaten
3 cups sliced mushrooms, sweated then browned with a teaspoon of butter or oil
1/2 pound bow-tie pasta, boiled until al dente then drained
1 half onion, sliced into thin rings
1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup oil for frying


In a small saucepan, heat the water and bouillon cubes to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer. Meantime, in a large saucepan or skillet on medium heat, toast the kasha, stirring frequently until it is fragrant. Add beaten egg and stir constantly until it dries as it coats all the kasha grains. Discard any occasional clumps of egg white. The grains will bulk in size. Carefully pour the simmering stock into the hot kasha, averting your face from the steam. Reduce heat to low and cover the saucepan. Simmer for ten minutes, stirring occasionally, until most of the stock is absorbed. Turn off heat. Fluff up kasha with a fork and transfer to a large serving bowl. Stir in pasta and mushrooms, taking care not to break the pasta.

Heat the frying oil in a large skillet until thinned but not smoking (about 20 seconds). Lightly dredge the onion rings in flour, then arrange carefully in the hot oil without touching each other.

Fry the onion rings until browned and very crispy on each side, watching that they do not burn. Turn off the heat and remove the rings to a paper towel to drain. Sprinkle them with salt. Arrange the rings on the kasha mixture. Serve immediately while onions are still hot and crunchy. Serves 2-3.

Kasha Varnishkes

This post is being sent to Suganya of Tasty Palettes, hosting JFI - Whole Grains for Indira of Mahanandi, the creator of the monthly JFI.

This post is also for Ulrike of Küchenlatein, hosting Presto Pasta Nights #83 for Ruth of Once Upon a Feast, the creator of this weekly event.

Been There, Done That ~
Buckwheat Breton Oven Pancake
Brown Rice, Chickpeas and Broccoli Rabe

Other People's Eats ~

Sweet Potato and Kasha Burgers
Mixed Herb Kasha Salad
Shiitake Buckwheat Breakfast Pilaf

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Doing the Zen Thing - Agedofu (Fried Japanese Tofu) with Dipping Sauce


It is a refuge like no other, a special stillness that belies the screeching and scolding of the world you left behind, just on the other side of the door. If you are lucky, the sound of delicate waters trickling over grey rock trickles into your ear to tell you things only imagined in your sweetest dreams. If you are very lucky, the precise, fragile and ethereal tones of the koto and shakuhachi* hover in a resonating cocoon over every inch of you for the next two hours.

As you slide into the hushed and clean pale woods of minimalist seating, you are given a hot and steamy washcloth to chase the soot and tension from your fingers. A cup of mellow, nutty genmaicha is offered for cradling in your born-again hands.

The menu, filled with nary a hibachi-grilled anything, beckons you to luxuriate in the gentle art of contemplative selection. Your stomach pangs give over to a higher power, now, a quiet patience, while your meal is prepared to order. You contemplate eternity in a tea cup, a shade of taupe on the wall, or the sensual curve of a sake bottle gleaming in the shadows.

These are the treasured succors of a traditional Japanese restaurant. Not all recipes are easy to replicate in the home kitchen, but once you commit to undertaking the culinary rituals involved, even the most instant gratification at a fast food joint will feel a disservice to you. With Japanese cuisine, eating is a journey before it is a destination.


Agedofu with Dipping Sauce – My own recipe, with technical frying assistance from the Black Moon abura-age recipe


2 blocks firm tofu (water extracted by wrapping in paper towels and weighing down for at least 1 hour under a heavy skillet; discard water or use it toward making mushroom stock. If choosing later method, strain water first.)
Cornstarch or flour
Flavorless oil for frying, enough to fill a depth of halfway up the side of your skillet
1 large bowl boiling water (used to drop the fried tofu into to set the crust. Discard this water after use.)
¼ cup black sesame seeds (toasted in a skillet for a few minutes, then spread on a large plate.)
Sea salt
Chopped shiitake mushrooms, for garnish (from the broth below)


Dipping Sauce


¼ cup shiitake mushroom stock (made by simmering 2 cups of sliced mushrooms in 3 cups of water until ¼ cup water remains)
4 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons mirin
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 scallion stalk, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, grated
A few drops sesame oil
A few strips of nori
1 teaspoon ponzu sauce (optional) or
A pinch hot pepper flakes (optional)
(Quantities for soy sauce, mirin, vinegar, garlic and ginger can be fine tuned for your particular taste.)


Prepare sauce. In a small bowl, mix all ingredients together except the nori.

Blot tofu with additional paper towels, then cut each block in half, then cut each half into four equal cubes. Dredge in cornstarch or flour. Heat water in a kettle, keeping it simmering while you fry the tofu. Heat oil in a large, heavy skillet until it thins, but before it smokes (about 20 seconds). Add enough tofu cubes without crowding and fry until golden brown and blistered on the bottom (check by lifting with metal tongs). Turn over to fry the opposite side. Check periodically for browning. As soon as the tofu is sufficiently fried, turn off the heat under the oil, as well as the water. Pour the boiling water in a bowl. Lift each tofu cube with tongs from the skillet and immediately release into the boiling water bowl. Transfer each cube to the sesame seeds, pressing top side until well covered with seeds. Work in batches, refreshing the boiling water as needed.


Divide tofu cubes into bowls, leaving space between them. Spoon just enough sauce around the cubes to create a very shallow pool. Float nori strips in the sauce. Garnish cubes with chopped shiitake mushrooms and a few grains of sea salt. Serve immediately while hot. Serves 2 as main course or 4 as a starter. --


This post is for Lucy, hosting My Legume Love Affair - Third Helping. Today, September 28, is the last date for submissions. Stay tuned with Lucy for her round-up, coming very soon.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Blame it on the Rain - Chocolate Cream Puffs with Marshmallow Meringue Filling

Chocolate Cream Puff

In a world where more and more lands are experiencing catastrophic drought conditions, it is nearly impossible to envision a place suffering under the weight of water as it strafes down from a merciless firmament, flooding the air even before it floods the terrain. It is a rain that threatens to wear out and drown the most determined who stand in its way. There are no umbrellas nor headgear designed to protect against this kind of rain, with a magnitude and ferocity so powerful that no one can recall a time when it wasn’t pelting the planet, when the forecast wasn't wet every ticking second through infinity. It is a bleak and horrifying scenario that sounds like something out of science fiction. And it is. It is Venus through the mind of Ray Bradbury.

The Long Rain, published in 1951, is among a collection of short stories arranged under the title of The Illustrated Man. The Illustrated Man is doomed to wear the torments of eighteen different tattoos, inked under his skin by a malicious witch. Each picture illuminates and animates a particular, prophesizing, yet cautionary tale. Would that the lieutenant and his crew had seen what was in store for them before they set out in their space craft, before the fiendish electrical storm, as blue and tentacled as a Portuguese man-of-war, smote them down into the spongy bogs of Venus and forced their trek without a compass to elusive shelter.

They are Earthmen, four of six who have survived the crash. They do not know how long they have been circling the jungles, where vegetation and fungus instantaneously grow, decay and die on anything or anyone. They only know that the key to their survival lies in the discovery of a Sun Dome, one of several way stations equipped with a synthetic, glowing heat source; dry uniforms; and the welcoming comfort of marshmallows bobbing in hot chocolate, pans of cinnamon buns, and urns of steaming coffee. It is not only the physical punishment of the rain lashing at them, but the reality that their food rations are almost as exhausted as they are that drives them closer to despair, madness and violence. Only one of them will survive the ordeal, a testament to the finer qualities of the human spirit, where one’s worst enemies lie within.

Chocolate Cream Puffs

Chocolate Cream Puffs - Slightly adapted from the Joy of Baking recipe


½ cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
2 tablespoons sugar
4 tablespoons butter
½ cup water
2 large eggs


Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Combine flour, cocoa powder and sugar in a small bowl. In a large saucepan, bring the water and butter to a boil. Remove from heat and quickly stir in the dry ingredients. Return saucepan over heat, stirring the mixture until it leaves the sides of the pan and forms a soft dough bowl. Turn out the dough into a large bowl and let rest for a few minutes until it cools down, but is still warm to the touch. With an electric mixer, beat in eggs, one at a time until well blended. Dough will be soft, elastic, thick and smooth.

Spoon or pipe the dough into golf-ball sized mounds onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or lightly greased foil. Gently flatten any peaks with a wet fingertip. Position baking sheet on middle rack of oven. Bake for approximately 35 minutes. The mounds will have at least doubled in size and be dry to the touch.

Remove from oven and allow to cool before splitting open to fill.

Marshmallow Meringue Filling (Seven Minute Frosting) – From the Epicurious recipe


1/3 cup and 2 teaspoons white granulated sugar
1 large egg white (or equivalent pasteurized egg white powder reconstituted with water, if you have any health concerns about the consumption of partially cooked egg)
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
2 tablespoons water
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract


In a large metal bowl fitted securely on top of a large pot of barely simmering water (do not let the bottom of the bowl touch the water), combine all ingredients except the extract. With a hand-held electric mixer, beat the ingredients on the slowest speed to froth, maintaining speed until the mixture begins to grow in volume. Incrementally raise the speed over two minutes, then beat on high speed for the next 5 minutes or until the filling has at least tripled in volume and forms stiff, shiny peaks when the beaters are pulled away from it. Carefully remove the hot bowl from the pot and secure it on a silicone mat. Beat in the vanilla extract and continue beating until the frosting cools, another few minutes.


Generously spoon or pipe filling into the bottom of the cream puffs. You will have more than enough filling. Arrange cream puff tops on the filling. Serve immediately. Makes approximately 12 cream puffs. --

This post is being sent to Simona of Briciole and Lisa of Champaign Taste, hosting the fifth edition of Novel Food, a quarterly event celebrating the foods we read about in the literature we love.

Been There, Done That ~

Green Tea Mascarpone Cream Puffs
Orange and Coriander Madeleines
Almond and Cherry Mini Tarts

Other People's Eats ~

Passion Fruit Cream Puff Ring
Peppermint Profiteroles
Chocolate Eclairs

Friday, September 12, 2008

Stovetop Eggplant Tagine & Five Favorite Photos

Eggplant Tagine
Flavored with ras el hanout, preserved lemon and
currants, a celebrated Middle Eastern specialty satisfies
spicy, salty and sweet cravings in the same dish.


Stovetop Eggplant Tagine (my own recipe)


3 generous cups unpeeled eggplant, cut into 1/2-inch cubes or 2-inch X 1/2-inch spears
1/3 cup olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons ras el hanout
1/3 cup pine nuts
1/3 cup dried currants or raisins
1/3 cup brine from a jar of preserved lemons or a 1/4 preserved lemon, finely chopped
2/3 cup water
A few cranks ground black pepper


If using large eggplant, prepare the cut pieces with a light coating of salt, then leave them to drain in a colander or on paper towels for 30 minutes. Rinse and pat dry. If using baby eggplant, proceed to cooking.

In a large, heavy skillet, preferably with a domed lid, toast the pine nuts over low heat until lightly browned. (Though I own a stovetop-safe tagine, a skillet works equally well. A domed lid enhances the capture of condensation before it slides back to the cooking surface.) Remove the pine nuts and reserve.

In the same skillet, adjust the heat to low. Add olive oil, gently heating it for 30 seconds or until it slightly thins. Add the eggplant pieces, turning them frequently to cover evenly with the oil. When the eggplant is lightly browned and well stained with oil, add the garlic and stir through. Let the garlic heat until fragrant but not browned. Sprinkle ras el hanout evenly over the eggplant, then stir. Add brine or preserved lemon, water, and currants. Stir through, adjust the heat to the lowest possible level, then cover skillet with lid. Simmer for 30 minutes, or until eggplant is tender but not mushy. Remove lid and continue simmering, stirring occasionally, until liquid reduces to a slightly thickened sauce that leaves none of the flavors behind. Remove from heat, add black pepper, top with the toasted pine nuts and serve either hot, warm or cold – especially good the next day after flavors meld and develop. Serves 2-3. --

Eggplant Tagine

This dish is on its way to the delightful Simona of Briciole, hosting Fresh Produce of the Month - Eggplant for Marta of An Italian in the U.S. , the creator of this monthly food blogging event.

Been There, Done That ~

Anise Turkish Delight
Baklava Figs
Ice in Heaven


The Ones That Got Away - Five Favorite Photos

Though the original meme calls for ten top picks from archived posts, I am posting five which never saw the light for a variety of reasons from low yield to recipe failure. Or maybe I just couldn't keep them out of my mouth.

Yellow Heirloom Tomatoes
Yellow Heirloom Tomatoes

Black Mission Fig
Black Mission Fig

White Donut Peaches
White Saturn Peaches


Red Raspberries
Red Raspberries

Special thanks to Wiffy of Noobcook for passing on the Beautiful Site Award. Wiffy's photos are first rate, skillfully exposed as well as composed. Stop by for a look. I'm sure you will linger.

Other People's Pix ~

A Life (Time) of Cooking
Rosa's Yummy Yums
Diet, Dessert and Dogs

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

My Legume Love Affair - The Host Lineup

Black-Eyed Peas
Black-Eyed Peas.

I'm speechless (almost). I asked, you rallied. No sooner was the PUBLISH button hit on a post calling for guest hosts of the now monthly bean event, My Legume Love Affair, than the emails and comments nearly short circuited my laptop. You'd think I was running a contest or something (well, I am: a monthly drawing for a nifty little cookbook or kitchen-y gizmo*, but still).

June - Apu - Annarasa

July - Harini - Tongue Ticklers

August - Susan - The Well-Seasoned Cook

September - Sia - Monsoon Spice

October - Jeanne - CookSister!

November - Sra - When My Soup Came Alive

December - Srivalli - Cooking for All Seasons


January - EC - Simple Indian Food

February - Rachel - The Crispy Cook

March - Super Chef - Mirch Masala

April - Sowjanya - Ruchikacooks

May - Susan - The Well-Seasoned Cook

June - Diana - Spain in Iowa

July - Siri - Siri's Corner

August - Simona - Briciole

September - Susan - The Well-Seasoned Cook

October - Divya - Dil Se

November - Lisa - Lisa's Kitchen

December - Priya - Mharo Rajasthan's Recipes


January - Simona - Briciole

February - Sandy - Sandhya's Kitchen

March - Dee - Ammalu's Kitchen

April - Jaya - Desi Soccer Mom

May - Smitha - Kannada Cuisine

June - Aqua - Served with Love

July - Susan - The Well-Seasoned Cook

August - Preeti - Relishing Recipes

September - Cathy - What Would Cathy Eat?

October - Suma - Veggie Platter

November - Simona of Briciole

December - Kiran - SUMADHURA


January - Claire - Chez Cayenne

February - Vanessa - Sweet Artichoke

March - Heather - Girlichef

April - Susan - The Well-Seasoned Cook

May - Priya -
Mharo Rajasthan's Recipes

June - Valerie - A Canadian Foodie

July - Simona - Briciole

August -
Susan - The Well-Seasoned Cook (UPDATED)

September -
Jaya - Desi Soccer Mom

October - Sra - When My Soup Came Alive

November - Simona - Briciole (UPDATED)

December - Sukanya - Saffron Streaks

2013 (Booking in progress)

January - Susan - The Well-Seasoned Cook

February - Lisa - Lisa's Vegetarian Kitchen

March - PJ - Seduce Your Taste Buds (Tentative)

April - Claire - Chez Cayenne

Please note that this list may be subject to changes.  Big thanks to everyone!

* The prize offered by me is both selected and paid for by me without commercial influence. Links to prizes provided by me are not to be interpreted as embedded advertisements on behalf of any commercial enterprise; links are included strictly for purposes of prize descriptions. Supplementary prize provided by Hurst Bean has been arranged through their initiative. I do not receive financial compensation from Hurst Bean, although I have received at my request (May 2010) two specific bean products from Hurst Bean which I am unable to find in my markets. This is the exception rather than the rule regarding my operating policies.