Squash and Dumplings

Vegetarians often substitute beans, tofu, or seitan for meat in comfort food recipes, but these can often strike the wrong note.  When I recall my mother’s chicken and dumplings, I remember a light broth with a simple stew and a shredded texture.  Summer squash gives the texture and light flavor to this version.

Ingredients for the soup:
2 tsp Olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
16 oz summer squash (any kind, frozen or fresh is fine)
3 cups broth (veggie or clear chicken)
1 carrot, chopped
2 bay leaves
1 tsp marjoram, thyme, or sage (to your taste preference — any savory herb would do)

Ingredients for the dumplings:
2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp fresh herbs (pick something accompany the herb that you chose for the soup)
scant 2 cups milk

1) Heat a tablespoon or two of olive oil in a pot over medium heat.  When it is hot add a chopped onion and 16 ounces of summer squash (I used frozen).

2) Let the vegetables saute until they have browned slightly.  Part of the point of this stage is to break down the squash.  The more it browns, the sweeter it gets.

3) Add about three cups light vegetable broth or chicken broth along with a chopped carrot (if you like).

4) Then add 2 bay leaves and some chopped herbs.  I added a tablespoon of fresh marjoram, but thyme or sage would also work.  Let this simmer to break down the squash further and get it to shred … 20 to 30 minutes on medium to medium low heat.

5) As that simmers, mix 2 cups of all-purpose flour, 1/2 teaspoon baking powder, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1 teaspoon herbs (I used thyme).

6) Add 1 and ¾ to scant 2 cups milk.  The batter should be thick like a drop biscuit.

7) Drop the dumplings by spoonfuls into simmering stew.

8) Cover and simmer about 15-20 minutes.

9) Serve with chopped parsley, salt and pepper.

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Chana Dal Dumplings In Tamarind Sauce

I often accumulate ingredients with no real plan for how i’ll use them.  Tamarind paste — sure, why not!

Perhaps because Tamarind paste looks like the evil alien oil from The X-Files.

But then after the jar of tamarind paste had sat in the fridge for a few weeks, i came across this recipe:  Lentil Dumplings Simmered in a Sweet Tamarind Sauce, and decided i would make it.  I mean, dumplings made from lentils?  How could that not be awesome.

Now, one thing about that blog, which i do love, is that they make everything from scratch.  And i mean everything.  The recipe includes an ingredient list and instructions on how to make Sambar powder, a South Indian curry powder.  Fortunately for me, there is a Patel Brothers grocery store just up the street.  I could follow the recipe and make a 2 cup batch of Sambar powder (of which the recipe requires only 1.5 tsp!) or i could spend $3 and buy a big bag of it conveniently made for me by MTR Foods Pvt., LTD. of Bangalore, India.  I went with store bought.

And at Patel Brothers i was able to find chana dal, which my local farmer’s market did not have.  Chana dal were cheap — a 4 pound bag for $2.99.  Wait, did i just say that i bought four pounds of beans for this recipe?  Actually, yes.  However, this recipe does not use 4 pounds of beans, so look for more recipes involving chana dal to be posted here in the coming months.

There are quite a few steps to this recipe, but no one step was really difficult.  

Ingredients for the dumplings:
1 cup channa dal, rinsed
1 1/2 tablespoons urad dal, rinsed (the urad dal at my farmers market were soaked in oil, not all of which rinsed off)
2 dried whole red chillies
2 fresh red or green chilies, seeded and chopped (i used red jalapenos)
1-1/2 inch piece fresh ginger, chopped
generous handful of dried curry leaves
2 1/2 tablespoons rice flour
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon asafetida
3 tablespoons oil

Directions for the dumplings:
1.  After rinsing the dal, put them in a container and cover with water.  Allow them to sit overnight.

2.  Drain the dal, and add them, the dried chillies, ginger, and fresh chillies to a food processor.  Grind until “smooth”.  This is a very subjective term, and i ground until there were not full beans left.  The mix was dry and kept climbing the walls of my processor, so i had to stop several times and push it back down with a spatula.  All, told, i think i ground them for maybe 2 minutes.

Do you think that is “smooth? I think it’s smooth.

3.  Scoop it all into a bowl and add the curry leaves, salt, asafoetida, and rice flour.  I threw it all together, and decided that the curry leaves might need to be broken up a bit.  I am not sure if that was correct.  I think they looked a little odd in their mostly whole state.  Mix all of this stuff together.

4.  Heat the oil in a pan and add the mixture.  Stir fry until things start to look dried out.

5.  Transfer it back into the bowl and allow it to cool for 15 minutes or so.  Use this time to start working on the sauce (part 2).  I think i actually left this to cool for a half hour or so, as the sauce is a lot of steps to set up.

Fried and dried.

6.  When it is cooled down, roll the mixture into balls about 1 inch in diameter.


Ingredients for the Sauce:
2 tablespoons tamarind paste
6 cups warm water
1 tablespoon ghee
1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
2 tablespoons urad dal, rinsed
generous handful of dried curry leaves
2 1/2 teaspoonssambar powder
1/2 teaspoon asafetida
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon cayenne, to taste
generous handful of fresh parsley or cilantro

Directions for the sauce:
1.  This is the first step in making any indian dish.  Get a small dish, like a soy sauce dish, and measure out the various spice blends so that you have them when you need them.  If you don’t do this, you will end of spilling powder everywhere as you rush.  So for this you need two spice bowls:
Spice Bowl 1:  mustard seeds, fenugreek seeds, cumin seeds
Spice Bowl 2:  sambar powder, asafetida, salt, turmeric, cayenne
Learn from my past mistakes and have these measured beforehand.

Seriously. Measure out all the spices beforehand.

2.  Dissolved the tamarind paste in the 6 cups of warm water.  This looks like a lot of broth, but much of it will boil off.

3.  Heat the ghee in a pan over medium heat.

4.  Add the mustard, fenugreek, and cumin (spice bowl number one) to the oil.  In about 20 seconds the mustard seeds will start to pop in the oil.

5.  Add the urad dal and stir fry for a minute until the start to change color.  They will really darken and, more alarmingly, they smelled like they are burning.

6. Panicking because you think the dal are burning, add the tamarind water.  Bring that to a boil.

7.  Add spice bowl number 2 and the dried curry leaves.

8.  Reduce to a simmer and let it boil off some of the liquid, about 15 minutes or so.

9.  Now you combine the two parts of the recipe by carefully placing the dumplings in the sauce.  I spooned a bit of sauce over the dumplings.  Now you just let them sit and steam.  I carefully rolled the dumplings around every few minutes.

The dumplings are kind of delicate, so place them, and move them around, gently.

10. By about 15 minutes the sauce was getting really thick, so i removed the pan from heat and covered it.  I let it sit about 10 minutes before serving.

The finished sauce looks a little “brown”, but it is tasty.

I served it over basmati, and sprinkled with fresh parsley.  We had naan bread and our designated adult beverages to accompany.

Verdict:  This was a lot of little steps, even considering that i did not make the Sambar powder from scratch.  Then again, that is how Indian food is — it is almost fussy, with all of the things you have to do to it.  However, the result is worth it.

The dumplings were moist and yummy, with a good flavor and not too much spiciness.

The sauce was fascinating — sour and salty and cinnamon-y, with a slight bit of heat.  It was like nothing i had ever really had before.  I don’t know why Lisa’s food blog called it a “sweet tamarind sauce”.  But maybe i had a different kind of tamarind paste.  Or maybe Lisa’s definition of “sweet” is different from mine.

Overall, I liked this a lot.

Garlic Pickle

I’m a salt person, and Halloween is a sugar holiday.  When trying to figure out things to take to an “appetizers and booze” party, it was a challenge to come up with something seasonal yet savory.  Then PostLibyan reminded me of vampires.  I tend to think that there’s nothing that couldn’t be made better by pickling it, and PostLibyan loves garlic raw, steamed, fried, etc.  Vampires are repelled by garlic, and vampires are classic Halloween monsters.  Ergo…

Take five bulbs of garlic and cut off the tops.

Put them in boiling water for 2-3 minutes.

After boiling, put the bulbs in cold/ice water.  This makes the garlic a bit easier to peel in whole cloves.  If you have a method you like better, use it.  Peel the cloves.

Put a bay leaf and several sprigs of thyme and rosemary in a jar (I used a pint jar…I had about ½ cup garlic cloves left over)..  Pack the garlic cloves is as tightly as possible.

Simmer ½ cup white wine, ½ cup white wine vinegar, ½ teaspoon peppercorns, 2 teaspoons sugar and ½ teaspoon salt.  Bring to a simmer, not a boil, and let it simmer for a minute.

Pour the liquid over the garlic and herbs and put on a lid.  Either process the jar in a hot water bath or put it in the refrigerator.  It should be ready in about 5 days.

We haven’t opened ours yet, but results will be posted.

An Introduction to The Pantry Key

Minos has a daughter with a prodigious appetite.  The panty must remain locked, or Rose will eat her out of house and home.

PostLibyan wanted to participate in The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap, and in order to do that you have to have a food blog.

Both Minos and PostLibyan love to cook.  Minos is an expert at pickling and Japanese food.  PostLibyan bakes (cookies and breads) and does Indian food.

Minos is a long-term vegetarian.  PostLibyan has hereditary heart issues that necessitate a meat-free lifestyle.

This blog explores cooking mostly vegetarian food, often with an emphasis on low-cholesterol.  But we will do other things, when the mood or need strikes us.

We try and keep it healthy, for the most part.

And although we missed the cookie swap deadline for 2012, we will be doing it next year.  So I guess this blog will explore cookie recipes as well.