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Apr 2010 13

Many Indian recipes call for a highly flavourful spice mixture (masala) known as garam masala. Garam masalas vary from region to region and from chef to chef. There is no single standard formula, but the general idea is that all of the spices blend together evenly and harmoniously – no single spice stands out as a prominent flavour.

The following is my father’s garam masala recipe, and can be used in any dish calling for garam masala. Ideally, you would use whole spices and grind them up together in a small coffee grinder. But, since we don’t live in an ideal world, it’s fine to use pre-ground spices and just mix them together. (Let’s not be too hard on ourselves.) And, of course, I’ll show you how you can use your masala (after the recipe).

You will need:

2 tbsp black pepper
2 tbsp cumin
2 tbsp ground coriander
2 tsp cayenne pepper
2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp ground cardamom
1 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp anise seed (if available)

Mix and/or grind spices together and store in an airtight container or a ziplock bag.

Makes about 8 tbsp of masala

Now, what to do with your freshly prepared garam masala, you ask? Why, make a curry, of course! I suggest you try a cauliflower curry using the method and recipe in a brief introduction to curries. Just use fresh, cut-up cauliflower florets in place of the chickpeas, and cover the pot to steam the cauliflower when you add it to the spices. I like to tear up pieces of whole wheat tortillas (a fab stand-in for chapati) and use it to scoop up the curry. (In this case, I will gleefully eat with my hands.)

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Mar 2010 22

It’s that time of year again! The harried quest for a delicious, kosher-for-Passover menu is on. Luckily, one of my favourite desserts (which, hooray, is pareve!) just happens to be great for Pesach, and it’s easy and exotic to boot. I love the way the ginger in this ice cream offers a sharp, slightly spicy balance to the rich sweetness of the mango. This would be perfect as a light and refreshing dessert, just when you need that little pick-me-up before bentching at the end of a long, heavy seder.

You will need:

12 eggs, cleanly separated
1 c sugar, divided
1 c + 1 tbsp vegetable oil (not olive!)
2 ripe mangoes, peeled & diced – you want a heaping cup of diced fruit
scant 1 tsp fresh ginger, finely grated
pinch salt

Start by throwing the egg yolks and half a cup of the sugar into a blender or food processor, along with the oil, mangoes, ginger, and salt. Blend the mixture until the mango has been thoroughly pureed and everything is smooth.

In a mixer with the whisk attachment, or in a very large bowl with a hand mixer, whip the egg whites until they are thick and foamy. Add the remaining half cup of sugar and continue to whip until stiff peaks form.

Carefully fold the mango mixture into the egg white mixture with a whisk until it is more or less incorporated. Pour this into two 9 x 13 baking pans (I use the disposable aluminum ones for Passover) and cover tightly with aluminum foil. Place immediately into the coldest part of your freezer, and allow the ice cream to set, about 6 hours.

To serve, just scoop the ice cream right out of the pan. Bejewel your dessert with a few bright red pomegranate seeds or simply dust the tops with a little shredded coconut.

Makes 10-12 servings

Have a Chag Kosher v’Sameach!

 

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Mar 2010 09

I have to be honest about the provenance of this salad, as I cannot claim it to be authentically Tunisian; rather, it is a modified, modernized variation on a simple Tunisian salad comprising thinly sliced fennel marinated in lemon juice. If you’ve never tried fennel, the flavour is somewhat surprising: it looks like celery but tastes like anise (liquorice), and is crisp and refreshing. You can make this salad as is, or you can toss it with a mixture of salad greens (frisee, mache and arugula, for instance) if you’re into “leafy” salads – just add a little more dressing. It is important that the apple you use here is tart – so don’t settle for anything less than the green (granny smith) variety. This salad is also perfect for Rosh Hashana – pomegranate adds colour and crunch, its plentiful seeds reminding us to increase our mitzvot for the coming year.

You will need:

2 bulbs fennel
1 pomegranate
2 granny smith apples
1 lemon
2-3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Begin by trimming and discarding the tough green stalks, as well as the root ends, of the fennel. Cut the bulbs in half lengthwise and wash the sections, then slice the fennel as thinly as you possibly can. Core the apples and cut them in half, leaving the bright green skins intact. Slice the apples thinly and add them to a bowl with the fennel.

Cut open the pomegranate and separate the seeds from the membranes. You can use whatever method you like, but I find the easiest (and most fun) way is to first cut the pomegranate in half crosswise (i.e., so that you end up with the stem end on one half and the flower end on the other). Then, holding one half cut-side down over a large bowl, whack the top of the fruit repeatedly with something heavy – a soup ladle or a rolling pin should do the trick. Be patient, and you’ll find that eventually, the seeds will rain down into the bowl while the membranes will miraculously remain in the shell.

Add the pomegranate seeds to the fennel and the apple. Add the juice of a lemon, then add the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Toss the salad to coat, then allow it to marinate in the fridge for several hours before serving.

Makes 4-6 servings

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Mar 2010 04

This is the chicken version of lamb tagine, a decadently rich Moroccan stew that is traditionally served on a bed of fresh couscous. I will always prefer lamb, but substituting chicken helps lighten the dish (in both calories and cost), while still retaining the slightly spicy, honeyed sweetness of the original. Don’t be put off by the idea of prunes – when simmered long enough, they practically melt in your mouth, and give the sauce body and richness. Try to use prunes with pits, if you can find them, as the pits keep the prunes moist and tender. The honey in this dish also makes it perfect for Rosh Hashana.

You will need:

2 lbs. chicken thighs (bone-in, with skin)
2 onions, sliced
1 tsp ground (powdered) ginger
1 tsp turmeric
1 tbsp olive oil
1 c chicken or vegetable stock (or, in a pinch, water)
large pinch saffron
3/4 c unsweetened prunes
1/4 c whole unsalted almonds
1/4 c sultana or golden raisins
1 tsp cinnamon
2 tbsp honey
1/4 tsp pepper
1/4 – 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
salt to taste
1 tbsp sesame seeds
1 tbsp chopped chives or cilantro (optional)

Heat the olive oil in a wok or heavy pot. (I often use a wok to prepare this dish, because it allows me to brown more meat at once. A regular heavy pot will do just fine, you just might have to brown the meat in batches.) On medium-high heat, sautee the onions until they are soft, then add the chicken. Sautee them together, sprinkling with the turmeric and ginger, until the meat is browned.

Add the broth, almonds, and prunes to the chicken. Rub the saffron strands between your fingertips to crush them, and add this to the chicken. Cover, reduce the heat to low and allow the chicken to simmer for about 30 minutes. (In the meantime, you can throw together a basic couscous.)

Stir the chicken around a bit, then add the raisins and simmer, covered, for another 20-25 minutes – the chicken should end up very tender. Transfer the meat to a casserole or serving dish and cover to keep warm. You should be left with a pool of sauce studded with fruit and nuts. To this, stir in the cinnamon, honey, salt, pepper and cayenne pepper. Simmer gently until fragrant and slightly thickened, about 2-4 minutes.

Spoon this sauce over the chicken, and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Garnish with an additional sprinkling of finely chopped chives (not green onion) or cilantro, if desired.

Makes 4 servings

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Mar 2010 04

Tandoori chicken is a classic Indian dish, and the perfect introduction for those new to Indian cuisine. The tandoor, for which the dish is named, is the traditional clay oven in which this crimson-coloured chicken is roasted – at home, a barbecue is the closest you can get to replicating the effects of the tandoor. In India, tandoori marinade is typically prepared with yogurt, which helps to tenderize the meat. My father’s kosher version uses pureed onion instead, creating a tremendously flavourful and pungent sauce. Don’t worry if you can’t handle “spicy” foods – the heat level can be adjusted to your taste, simply by adjusting the amount of cayenne pepper, as the tandoori spice itself, though fiery red, is not spicy.

You will need:

3 to 4 lbs skinless chicken thighs
1 large onion
4 cloves garlic, peeled
3 tsp minced fresh ginger
¼ -1 tsp cayenne pepper
2 tsp salt
2 tbsp tandoori spice*
4 tbsp lemon juice
½ c. vegetable oil (not olive)
lemon wedges, to garnish

Throw everything except for the chicken and the lemon wedges into a food processor and whiz until smooth. Taste the marinade – you may want to adjust the seasonings, adding a little more of this or of that, according to your taste. Marinate the chicken in this mixture at least 4 hours, but preferably overnight, in your refrigerator. (If you’re trying this with salmon, don’t let the fish sit longer than 4-5 hours in the marinade, as the acid in the lemon juice will “cook” the fish for you.)

Heat your grill, and oil it lightly. Shake the excess sauce off the chicken and grill on medium-high heat, about 10 minutes per side, or until juices run clear when pierced with a fork. Alternately, if you’d like to bake it, do so in a 400°F oven, sauce and all, for about 20 minutes, turning once. The sauce you’ll have left in the baking pan is insanely delicious over plain basmati rice. Either way, serve the chicken with basmati rice and, if you’d like to get fancy, with a wedge of lemon.

Serves 4

*The best Kosher Tandoori masala in the GTA can be obtained in Thornhill, at Bulk World. 1470 Centre Street Thornhill, Ontario 905-886-1300

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Feb 2010 05

What I love about this salad is that it’s potato, yes, but so light and refreshing and good for you that the potatoes themselves completely lose their bad-carb stigma. Chickpeas are full of protein and fibre, and their starchy plainness so well-matched to the potatoes as a blank canvas for the dressing, but don’t let that stop you from omitting them altogether on days when all you want is a potato salad – the lack of mayonnaise alone makes this “health food” in my book, chickpeas or not. If you’re not so into cilantro, feel free to substitute any combination of herbs you fancy. I’ve enjoyed this salad tremendously with tarragon, parsley, and basil, respectively. The only absolutes here are that you use Yukon Gold potatoes, and that the lemon juice you use is freshly squeezed: the bottled version from concentrate defies the whole point of this salad, which is the bright, sour flavour of the dressing and the grassy freshness of the herbs.

You will need:
3 large Yukon Gold (yellow-fleshed) potatoes
1 can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), rinsed and drained
¼ c. chopped fresh cilantro (coriander)
¼ c. chopped chives
Juice of ½ a lemon
¼ c. rice vinegar
3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Peel and dice the potatoes into 1cm cubes, roughly (you don’t have to be perfect).  Drop them into the boiling water and cook between 5-8 minutes, or just until done. Be careful not to overcook these, or they will end up mushy! Drain the potatoes in a colander and set them aside to cool.
Meanwhile, toss the chickpeas into a large bowl with the cilantro and chives. Only when the potatoes are cool may you add them to the chickpeas (otherwise their heat will effectively “cook” the herbs), then dress the whole thing with the lemon juice, rice vinegar and olive oil. Toss to coat evenly, and taste it before adding salt and pepper, as the potatoes will likely already be somewhat salty from the cooking water. Add salt and pepper accordingly, and give it another toss. This tastes great the next day, as the flavours really marinate well together in the fridge.
Serves 6 as part of a meal

© Shaby Heltay, 2009