Vegetables Every Day

Vegetables Every Day
Carrot Tarator with Beets

Friday, April 25, 2008

The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri … and lentil recipe

The only criteria for my next book is that it will have nothing to do with New York.  The Namesake is this month’s book club book, it’s a story about a family starting as young adults in Calcutta, migrating to the US, having children, and ultimately about the son (who goes to New York).   As several at book group pointed out, we seem to be on a roll of immigrant stories.   The story told in The Namesake is very believable, in part because it seems very ordinary, compared to last month’s book, Middlesex which was quite extraordinary (and much less believable). It does get a bit slow in the  middle, but it’s an enjoyable read.  The writing is quite nice, exploring relationships and inner struggles.

And no matter how good (or not) the book is, book group is always a fun.   Often, when the book has a reference to food, we try to tie that into the get together.  This month, Vy had good intentions of getting some Indian food, but things didn't work exactly as planned, so I volunteered to bring one of my favorite Indian dishes (which was not a big sacrifice because its easy to make). This is good as part of an Indian meal, but is also great on its own as a simple dinner or as a side with some grilled meat.  I brought a double batch (minus a bowl for Roy) to the party, but I cut back on the chilies since the ones I had were pretty hot and I didn't know how spice tolerant everyone was.

Lentils with Spinach and Ginger (Dal)
I like to use “grown up” spinach for this dish, it seems a bit sturdier and more flavorful than baby spinach, but its necessary to really do a good cleaning job.  But its really ok to use any greens, so I use what ever is good at the farmers market, and you can’t beat bags of baby spinach for convenience.   Adjust the hot peppers to taste.

1 cup lentils, washed and drained
2 ½ cups water
1 tablespoon vegetable (or olive) oil
1 - 2 fresh, hot green chilies, finely diced (or less to taste)
1 teaspoon finely grated ginger
8-10 ozs baby spinach, or 1 bunch regular spinach, chopped
½ cup chopped cilantro
½ to 1 teaspoon salt (to taste)
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons lemon juice

Put lentils and water into pot. Bring to a boil, turn to low and simmer for about 45 minutes.
When the lentils are done, start the spinach.  Put another pot on stove and heat over medium. Add oil, put in the chilies and ginger.  Stir and cook for about 10 seconds, add spinach and cilantro.  Stir and cook until the spinach has wilted.  Add the cooked lentils and salt.  Cover and cook at a gentle simmer for another 15 minutes.  Add black pepper and lemon juice, check taste and add more salt if needed. 

Monday, April 21, 2008

Strawberries and Springtime

Spring is my favorite season, I just love to see whole trees in bloom.  And this weekend, we are just starting to see the baby quail following Mama and Daddy around.  Another sign of spring are strawberries, and we are starting to get some nice ones from California in the stores. 

Somewhere along the way, I put the little sponge-cake things you buy at the store into the “nasty” category (they seem to be in the Twinkie food group), but I still like the concept of something cakey combined with strawberries.  But fear not, I have found a replacement...  a chocolately replacement.  These come together very quick, and are actually quite good to just eat on their own.  Technically I think they fall into the category of a biscuit, instead of butter or shortening, whipped cream is the fat of choice (which I guess is just butter in a more airy form). 

Serve the shortcake with strawberries that have been rinsed, trimmed and cut in half (or smaller if they are huge).  Any of this would be good with ice cream too.

Chocolate Shortcakes

1 ¼ cups flour
½ cup cocoa powder
½ cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup chilled whipping cream
½ teaspoon vanilla extract

Oven: 400F.   Line baking sheet with parchment paper.

Whisk dry ingredients in a large bowl.  Using electric mixer, beat cream and vanilla in a medium bowl until firm peaks form.  Stir cream into flour mixture until most clumps form. Transfer mixture to lightly floured surface and knead gently until dough forms ball, about 10 turns. Pat dough out to ¾-inch thickness.  Using 2 ½ to 3 inch cutter, cut out biscuits. Gather dough, pat out again, and cut a total of 6-8 biscuits.  Place on prepared baking sheet.  Bake until toothpick comes out clean, about 15 minutes.  Cool on rack.   Good served with strawberries (slightly sweetened, with some Grand Marnier added) and crème fresh or plain yogurt with a bit of honey added.