Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Baked Ziti & Indian Food, or why I should just give up on Tofu Saag

Recently, due to the heat wave and other weird psychosomatic stuff, I have had a crazy craving for Indian food. I'm admittedly not the greatest Indian chef...I tend to burn my spices, be heavy handed with the pepper and then sort of sob through my meal. I have been on the road to getting my balances right (don't get me started on the great onion puree debacle of '04) and feel like I'm starting to get there, especially with my favorite dish of all time: Channa Masala.

My Channa Masala recipe is pretty simple:
~ 1 1/2 cups dried chick peas, soaked overnight, then boiled 1 hour in salt water, dump water, simmer another 2-3 hours in new water.
1/4 c curry powder from indian store (get the kind that has turmeric and coriander towards the top of the ingredients. I am not a fan of garam masala, I find it to be too clove and cardamom heavy).
1/4 c cilantro
1 yellow onion, diced
3-4 cloves garlic, diced fine
1 1/2 tsp minced ginger
3-4 Tbsp tomato paste
1-2 fresh vine ripe tomatoes
olive oil
salt and pepper

Get your chickpeas going in advance. Without the soak, you'll just have to cook them longer (and vegan rumor has it they cause more gas), but leave at least 4-5 hours to get them tender as you want them. Ghee is not in my vocabularly, so I start off with olive oil. Into the olive oil, toss your onion and get it going. When it is just starting to turn translucent, add the garlic and ginger. About a minute after, get the curry powder in to toast a little. Quickly add the tomato paste when the powder starts to change color. Chickpeas and enough water to thin out the sauce so it can really get around the chickpeas. Over the next 20 minutes, cook the sauce down over a simmer until the sauce is once again thicker. Add cilantro and fresh chopped tomato just before serving, so they have time to heat to the temperature of the dish but not actually cook through. I pulled out the Channa masala twice, once for my dear friend Jeremy's going away dinner (at which he brought me some fantastic Russian Vodka) and again the next week for my friends the Machete Archive, who hung out.

The tofu saag I attempted was lousy. Used a garlic/onion/curry base, then added tofu sour cream the first time (nope!), cream chz the second (nope!) and diced tofu both times (not bad but still, not there. Any suggestions on the Saag situation, appreciated.

Let's end this post on a happy note: I attempted this baked ziti recipe, subbing ziti for penne, ricotta cheese for my tofu ricotta (viewable in my mega thanksgiving post) and mozzarella for daiya. And parmesan for more mozzarella, which was a bad call, since it was a little too much daiya at the top. It is possible. The ziti came out looking fantastic and getting destroyed by roommates and me in a manner of about 36 hours.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Pineapple Cake, Butternut Squash again and Lime & Basil

I haven't got much to say about my attempt to make this
cake, except that I used fresh pineapple. It came out pretty good. I guess my number one wish regarding this cake was that the cake itself was a little more pineapple-y. I also wished for a moister cake. Th
is had more the consistency of coffee cake, which is probably apparent from the photograph of the crumbled piece of cake I cut off.

I also returned to Butternut Squash in Chapel Hill with Dork. We ordered the fried tofu to start with, which was tasty. She got a club sandwich and I got a the hemp burger. I was not overly impressed with either sandwich, particularly the burger which was like, three inches in diameter and absolutely drowning in the bread and the amount of mustard on that bun. I think stir fry is the way to go there. We got a chocolate cake for dessert and it was pretty but I've reached a point where I'm off chocolate for good, I think.

Across the street from the shopping center that holds Butternut Squash is probably my favorite Chapel Hill restaurant at the moment: Lime & Basil.
LnB is a vietnamese/pan asian restaurant with a focus on the awesome. I usually just order starters (one or two) and can make a whole meal out of them. This most recent trip, I was with my parents who encouraged me to just order a whole bunch of things I'd hoped to try. Pictured are the fried veggie spring rolls, tofu summer rolls, tofu curry and the edge of my coconut juice. Not pictured is the tofu summer salad. The food is always pretty good, filling and light. I was not particularly taken with the curry, but I'm not a fan of potato in curry in general. Overall I'd recommend the place for a casual lunch or dinner. It's by no means fancy but definitely well priced and accommodating.