Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Parsi Food: Part Two

6" knob of ginger.
5 cinnamon sticks and a small cannister of cassia bark.
9 Thai bird chiles.
2 roasted sweet potatoes.
1 cup of moong dal.
3 cups of rice (first two came to me with bugs).
6 pieces of 'kitchen twine' made from cheesecloth with holes too big to make panir.
1 mushy banana.

These are just some of the ingredients that went into two days of Parsi cooking.

Above are several steps of Taro Rolls, with chard substituted for taro leaf. A paste of spices and chickpea flour and banana was pureed and then spread onto chard leaves. These were tied and steamed, and then cooled until firm enough to cut, at which point they were fried in an inch of oil and sprinkled with salt and a squirt of lime (and later, some of the Seared Ginger Raita). I served them with an Everyday Dal, Caramelized Rice (a bit burnt, but not in a yummy tadik type way), and a seafood dish with sweet potato instead of fish.

The only challenge? I haven't used those three spice mixtures yet.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Parsi Food: Part 1

Do this four more times. Don't ask why. Just do it. It's magic.

By the time I got to this line in a panir recipe, I was in love with My Bombay Kitchen by Niloufer Ichcaporia King.

The panir never looked like a cloudy sky breaking up, leading me to believe I just don't know how to coax curds from milk. Nonetheless, I packaged up the cheese cloth, pressed it with a can of coconut milk, and enjoyed it spread across hot chapatis with turmeric/ginger pickle and yogurt cheese.

I spent yesterday grinding spices and ginger for two of the triumvirate of Parsi spices: Parsi garam masala and dhana jiru (a garam masala of 17 spices). I tied a scarf around my nose while I ground then pressed the toasted spices through a strainer (see the dhana jiru above).

I then processed 3 oz each of garlic and ginger to make a paste that was the beginning of wafer par ida (aka eggs on potato chips) - King assures me that Bombay is filled with potato-chips works (Liam wasn't convinced).

Consider it Parsi breakfast food for dinner. The chapatis with cheese and pickle to build our immune systems (and my yellow, yellow hands) and eggs steamed on top of potato chips fried with ghee, onion, chiles, and coriander.

Next time I'll heed the advice of King's acquaintance who tells her "next time, try it with a little bit of cream poured over the chips before the eggs go on."

Monday, December 29, 2008

Le Sel (and the Holidays)

I was into the salt before Paris, but in Paris I truly fell in love with the thick, wet, gray fleur de sel from brittany. the salt man at the bastille market had tremendous patience for my terrible french and would give me free bags of 4-spiced salt and free caramels and i bought more salt than i ever had previously.

So I made fleur de sel toffee from Martha Stewart and the now-yearly salted chocolate caramels.

I tried world peace cookies again, and again, I failed.

The bits of chocolate alongside the sea salt are tasty, but crumby dough was not the vision that Dorie or Pierre had in mind when they came together to create this war-ender.

tea mix. I've packed away spoon cookies and wrapped up lemon bread and measured out baggies of chai. I've peeled and simmered applies for applesauce and fried up latkes to accompany.

I've gone through a 5lb bag of sugar and just over 2 lbs of butter.

Last Sunday it was 6 months since we were married and soon after, 6 months since I left Paris.

For every morning these days that I miss a slow cup of needle-thin green tea, I build relationships with another family grateful for the opportunity to have this school for their child. For every evening that I work too late to come home and roast sweet potatoes until they caramelize, I have a conversation with a child that moves them that much closer to meeting our behavioral expectations.

We have already seen more snow in a month than we've seen in 10 years. We have a favorite local restaurant for a weekly date and a market nearby (although I'm hesitant to reveal to you the price of butter). We are thrilled to be back in the US with some of our oldest, and newest friends. We are glad to to be blocks away from Prospect Park and to both have cell phones.

We continue to gorge on jalapenos and nachos and Annie's mac and cheese.

And on the shortest day of the year, when Susan Sandburg came onto weekend edition to talk about the longest day of 2008 at le fete de la music in Paris, we smiled knowing we made the right, toughest, decisions this year, and with a little more patience we know 2009 will be even better. My school will have a location, a name, a staff, a student body. Liam will have gigs and a new album.

We'll have had at least 6 months physically together since married.

(you might even say we've had a lot going on)

And if you were here, I'd invite you over for some sweets. Straight outta my Brooklyn kitchen with a salty detour in Paris.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Jamoncillo de Nuevas

I am newly obsessed with jamoncillo de nuevas.

Two weeks ago in the depths of a Brooklyn chill, friends trooped across several boroughs to join us for huevos rancheros, spoon bread with various home made salsas and farm-made relishes, and beans and rice galore.

The inspiration for the Mexican theme was a recent issue of Saveur which featured sweets from Pueblo mainly focused on sweet potato, sugar, milk, some more sugar, and gorgeous crystallized fruits. In this sea of glowing pink hearts etched with Pueblo in white sugar and piles of tart-like sweet potato cookies there were flat expanses of jamoncillo. Milk fudge. With nuts and candied fruit.

I'm not one for candied fruit, so I stuck with just pecans and hoped for the best with the fudge. The milk and sugar took the full 35 minutes to caramelize and I doubted my candy thermometer most of the way until it began to smell like burning and I pulled it off before it hit 240 degrees.

5 minutes after waiting for the glossiness to subside, I stirred carefully with a wooden spoon and the hope that I had waited long enough to end up with fudge and not sauce.

I poured the searing liquid into the brownie pan and within minutes, I watched it harden. Shortly after, I picked out a corner and swooned - the canela was subtle enough to enhance the milk but not overpower with a cinnamon taste. The nuts were toasty and the fudge melted creamily.

The jamoncillo was a hit the next day. More so than the pepita brittle and polvorones (which were tougher than usual). As I think about my holiday baking, I'm tempted to bring these back for a second showing. Might go well with a box of salted chocolate caramels and spoon cookies.

Eating Out

We ate out differently in Paris than we do here. We lived in a tourist trap of 18 euro bagels with lox and mediocre menus for 34 euros. We had falafel. Tea. Croissants. Hot Chocolate.

We've realized we eat differently in New York. Our friend left her menus in this apartment so we could get take out. Each week we determine how to best eat out - Wednesday luxury or weekend date? Then we find ourselves out of town and Wednesday takes us to Franny's for homemade celery soda and a white pizza that I will write about twice because we adore it that much.

Last week we attempted to branch out to another local eatery, Flatbush Farm, that we'd eaten at previously. Relaxing and romantic with frisee salad and Bonnie Prince Billy playing and out of nowhere good, a fat roach crawling on Liam's still-on-the-table napkin. Two days later, a friend goes there only to see two.

I don't like to write about unappetizing things, but when they chose not to comp us, I chose to tell everyone how disgusted I was. And then I was cranky, "this is what we get for eating out," I grumbled at Liam and pledged to return to Morningstar Farm Chik Patties and haricorts verts the next night with Cheerios the next day for breakfast.

Or just go back to Franny's (pizza above), which has never failed us.

If only we could get into ordering in, we'll have fully made the transition to being (or at least seeming to look like) New Yorkers.