Black Rice Risotto with Mushrooms and Caramelized Onions

Black Rice RisottoThis one’s going to be a short post today because it’s 10 pm now and the only reason my tired eyes are open is because I can’t wait to share this recipe with you: my Black Rice Mushroom Risotto with Caramelized Onions.

You know I am always looking for easy weeknight recipes to brown bag for lunch, and this one is one of my favorites so far. Black rice, if you’re not familiar with it, is a glutinous rice which makes it perfect for risottos. It cooks up purple rather than black and tastes nutty and quite delicious.

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Black Rice Risotto

It’s also a nutritional star — much healthier than white and even its brown counterparts. It’s packed with antioxidants and ounce for ounce it has more protein and more iron.

But forget about all that for a moment and think of this: isn’t it a little special eating something that — if you were born a few centuries ago– you could have only eaten if you happened to be the emperor of China? True story.

So I promised a short post and a short post it will be. Enjoy the recipe, all, and if you feel just a little blue blooded after eating this incredible dish….well, you could always go to London and look up the queen.

Ciao.

Black Rice Risotto

Black Rice Risotto with Mushrooms and Caramelized Onions
 
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Author:
Recipe type: Side
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 6
Ingredients
  • 1 cup black rice
  • 4-5 cups of hot water (vegetable stock is even better)
  • 3 tsp olive oil
  • 3 medium onion, one chopped and the other two thinly sliced
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • ¼ cup of white wine (optional)
  • 12 button mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • Salt and ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • ½ cup cashews
  • 2 tbsp white miso paste (optional)
Instructions
  1. Make the cashew cheese for the risotto by blending together the cashews and the miso with enough water to make a smooth paste. If you don’t have miso you could use 2 tbsp nutritional yeast, or leave it out altogether and just use the cashew paste.
  2. Heat 1 tsp of oil in a saucepan.
  3. Add the chopped onion, season with some salt, red pepper flakes and ground black pepper and saute until softened, about three to four minutes.
  4. Add the garlic, saute for a few seconds, then add the mushrooms and white wine.
  5. Turn up the flame to medium-high and cook until the wine has evaporated and the mushrooms have taken on a nice sheen.
  6. Add the black rice, season with more salt and pepper to taste, and saute for a minute. Now add ½ cup of water and let it cook until the water evaporates, stirring frequently. Just before the rice dries completely, add another ½ cup of water. Repeat, stirring the risotto frequently, until the rice is cooked but still has a bite to it. This process takes some time, so be patient.
  7. Now add the cashew cheese and mix well. The risotto should have a creamy, slightly soupy consistency when done. Add more salt if needed.
  8. Now heat the remaining 2 tsp of oil in another saucepan, add the sliced onions and sugar with a pinch of salt, and saute, stirring frequently, until the onions turn golden brown.
  9. Top the risotto with the caramelized onions and serve hot.
Nutrition Information
Calories: 246 Fat: 9.2 grams Sugar: 6 grams Fiber: 3.3 grams Protein: 7.7 grams

Black Rice Risotto

 

Whole Wheat Sweet Potato Squares with Peanut Butter Glaze

Sweet Potato Muffin SquaresSpring is finally here and if you need confirmation (which you might if you live here in the DC area where there’s still a bite in the air) you only have to look at the deep pink magnolia blossoms blanketing tree limbs that were bare only yesterday.

This is my favorite time of year, not just because everything’s so gorgeous after a long, bleak winter but because Spring is a reaffirmation of life and a reminder that the cold and the dreary and the dark always gives way to resplendent, perfect beauty.

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Very soon the cherry blossoms will be out on the Tidal Basin and if you’ve never been, you must. A  manmade reservoir that runs along the spectacular Jefferson Memorial, D.C.’s Tidal Basin is home to thousands of cherry trees — a gift of friendship from Japan a century ago. Early each Spring the trees flower, creating a profusion of pink and white blooms that turns an already beautiful landscape into something almost other-worldly.  It has to be seen to be believed.

You know how, when you have something in your backyard, you get blase about it. I haven’t been to see the cherry blossoms in years now, and this year I am putting it on my list of Things I Absolutely Must Do This Spring. That, and keeping my eye open for great yard sales. And giving my brown thumb another workout in the vegetable garden.

What are your plans this Spring?

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Sweet Potato Muffin SquaresI have for you today this delicious — and healthy — recipe for my Whole Wheat Sweet Potato Squares with a Peanut Butter Glaze, which are just about the most perfect breakfast food ever invented. Honest.

I used a muffin batter to make these squares partly because I was too lazy to scoop out individual muffins (yes, I am just THAT lazy sometimes) and partly because I thought the squares would look rather cute.  The squares are all whole wheat and low fat and they are yummy without being cloyingly sweet.

I love sweet potatoes because they put a healthy halo around just about any food.  They are particularly perfect for breakfast and a great way to sneak some nutrition into a kid-friendly snack. The peanut butter glaze complements the sweet potato flavor and adds some more sweetness and crunch to the cakey squares.

Here’s the recipe. Happy Spring, all, and may yours be filled with all the beauty in the world.

Sweet Potato Muffin Squares

Whole Wheat Sweet Potato Squares with Peanut Butter Glaze
 
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Author:
Recipe type: Breakfast
Serves: 16
Ingredients
  • For the squares:
  • 2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1 cup applesauce
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • ½ cup cooked sweet potato, well mashed (about 1 small sweet potato)
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil
  • 1½ cups non-dairy milk (I used soy. Almond milk would be great too)
  • 2 tsp chai spices (I used a combination of cinnamon, cloves, green cardamom and nutmeg. You can go with just cinnamon if you’d rather)
  • For the peanut butter glaze:
  • ¼ cup crunchy peanut butter
  • ¼ cup water
  • A few drops of vanilla extract
  • 6 tsp powdered sugar
Instructions
  1. In a large bowl, mix the flour, baking soda, baking powder, spices and salt.
  2. In a smaller bowl, whisk together the applesauce, oil, vanilla extract, sweet potato and non-dairy milk until well mixed.
  3. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix just until you have a smooth batter.
  4. Grease a 9-inch square cake pan or, for easier removal, line the bottom of the pan with parchment or foil and oil the surface.
  5. Pour the batter into the pan and with a spatula or ladle spread evenly and smooth out the top.
  6. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Bake in the oven 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  7. Make the glaze by whisking together the peanut butter, water, vanilla and powdered sugar until you have a smooth mixture.
  8. Let the muffin “cake” cool for 10 minutes. Unmold the cake, place on a rack, then pour the glaze over with a spoon, ensuring you spread it evenly.
  9. Cool thoroughly before serving.
Nutrition Information
Calories: 139 Fat: 6.1 grams Sugar: 4.2 grams Fiber: 2.4 grams Protein: 3.4 grams

 

 

 

Mango Curry

Mango CurryThis silky mango curry is a delicious memory of growing up in India’s sultry summers.

Each year, when May rolls around, Indian markets are overwhelmed with a flood of mangoes, lovingly referred to here as the “king of fruits”. Mountains of mangoes in every shape and size add brilliant orange color to an already colorful mileu and their heady fragrance hangs thick in the air. No matter how much of this delicious fruit you eat, it seems you can never have enough.

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Mango CurryBut mangoes are not just eaten as a fruit in India. Raw mangoes are pickled or curried and ripe mangoes are often cooked up into sweet — and more rarely savory– dishes.  It’s one such savory dish I have for you today: a mango curry that goes, in my native tongue Konkani, by the name “Ambya Sasam.”

 My mom would cook up Ambya Sasam several times each summer, and we couldn’t wait to devour it.  She would always use a certain kind of mango, round, with a softer flesh than your average mango, for this curry. I made it with champagne mangoes, which are often the only kind I can find here in the United States, but it was still delicious.

You do want a really sweet mango for this dish– don’t get tempted into throwing in a half-ripe fruit. It’s the chemistry of the sweet mango with the spices that makes this curry so special.

I followed Meera’s recipe — which is very authentic and looks amazing (head over to her blog, Enjoy Indian Food, to take a look) –to make this curry, but I made some small changes. My mom would put in the whole, peeled mango, seed and all, and we would have a great time slurping the flesh off the seed as we ate the curry.  Since not everyone wants to do that — I knew Desi wouldn’t, the little snob– I removed the seed. I also used coconut milk instead of fresh coconut to add a little more sophistication (and make my life easier).

Here’s the recipe, then, and trust me, it’s fabulous. Better still, it comes together in no more than 20 minutes which, in my book, makes it an all-round winner. Serve it up with some bitter gourd subzi and rice for a delightful dance of flavors. Thanks, Meera.

Mango Curry

Mango Curry (Ambyache Sasam)
 
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Author:
Recipe type: Curry
Cuisine: Indian
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 3 ripe champagne mangoes. Make two clean cuts on either side of the seed. Make criss-cross cuts in each slice of mango, the way you would to dice an avocado, and slide them off the skin with the help of a spoon, again just like you would an avocado.
  • 1 cup canned coconut milk (the thick part). If you’re using fresh coconut milk, use two cups of the first extraction and skip adding any water.
  • 2 dry red chillies, like arbol or Kashmiri chillies.
  • 1½ tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp vegetable oil
  • A generous pinch of asafetida or hing (optional)
  • ¼ tsp turmeric
  • 1 sprig of curry leaves
  • 2 tsp grated jaggery or sugar
Instructions
  1. Grind together the coconut milk, ½ cup of the mango flesh, chillies and ½ tsp mustard seeds. Set aside.
  2. Heat the oil and add the remaining mustard seeds. When they sputter, add the curry leaves, turmeric and asafetida, if using.
  3. Add the mangoes and the ground coconut milk paste. Add a cup of water and stir the jaggery or sugar. Add salt to taste.
  4. Heat through until the coconut milk barely simmers. Turn off the heat and serve hot or warm with rice.

 

 

Asparagus Potato Pizza with Kale Pesto

Asparagus Pizza
This past weekend was pretty much a washout here in the Washington area. It rained in the morning, it rained in the afternoon, it rained in the evening and it rained all night. It rained on Saturday and it rained on Sunday. In fact, it even snowed for a couple of hours. Imagine.

Opie, who will not give up his walks for hail or high water, put his best face on the weather. On Sunday morning he went to his favorite trail, got soaked in the rain, sniffed around three other intrepid (and equally soaked dogs) who were also braving the weather, sat around on the slush-covered grass, and came home smelling like… wet dog. It took Desi the best part of an hour and multiple towels to dry him out.

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Asparagus PizzaWith Opie’s walk out of the way and not much else to do, it was time to get cooking. Something warm and comforting, like sunshine for the belly. And what’s sunnier than a slice of crispy, crusty pizza?

I have been dreaming of an asparagus pizza for months now, and I’d been dreaming of a potato pizza for even longer. Why not combine the two, I thought. I love the idea of potatoes on pizza — in fact, there isn’t a better substitute for cheese, in my mind. Potatoes are just as satisfying as cheese, most people love them, and icing on the cake, they are far healthier with no cholesterol or fat to worry about. Yes, they do have carbs but you are not eating so much potato here that you have to worry about that. In fact, there are just about four super-thin potato slices in each slice of pizza.

Besides, you have all that great healthfulness from the kale pesto that also goes on this pizza, making it super delicious and super good for you. In fact, this kale pesto is perfect not just for this pizza but for pastas as well. Try it and you’ll never stop making it.

Gotta run now, but here’s the recipe. Enjoy, all!

Asparagus Pizza

Asparagus Potato Pizza with Kale Pesto
 
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Author:
Recipe type: Main
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 8
Ingredients
  • For the pizza dough:
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1 package (2¼ tsp) active dry yeast
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup or sugar
  • 2 cups bread flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • For the kale pesto:
  • 1 packed cup baby kale
  • ¼ cup walnuts, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 2 tbsp nutritional yeast (optional)
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • Salt and ground black pepper to taste
  • For the toppings:
  • 20 asparagus spears, woody ends trimmed
  • 4 red bliss or yukon gold potatoes, sliced very thin (1/8th of an inch). Place the sliced potatoes in a bowl of cold water and let them stand 30 minutes.
Instructions
  1. Make the pizza dough:
  2. Combine the yeast, warm water and sugar or maple syrup in a bowl and set aside to activate the yeast.
  3. After five minutes, add the whole wheat flour and a cup of the bread flour along with salt.
  4. Knead by hand or on low speed in a stand mixer until the dough comes together. If needed, add more flour a few tablespoons at a time. You want a smooth, slightly sticky dough. Continue to knead for another five minutes.
  5. Shape the dough into a smooth ball and place in an oiled bowl, turning over once to coat the top. Cover loosely with a plastic bag or kitchen towel and set aside to rise and double, about 2 hours.
  6. Make the kale pesto:
  7. Place all the ingredients in a food processor and process until they have broken down into a fairly smooth paste. Set aside.
  8. Prep the veggies:
  9. Heat a large pot of water and add some salt to it, like you would for cooking pasta. Blanch the asparagus and the sliced potatoes by adding them to the pot of boiling water. Let them be for three minutes, then turn off heat, strain the vegetables and rinse under cold water. Set aside.
  10. Assemble and bake the pizza:
  11. If you have a pizza stone, place it in the oven and preheat the oven to 500 degrees Fahrenheit.
  12. Remove the dough from the bowl, knead it slightly to deflate, then let it rest for 10 minutes, covered.
  13. Roll out the pizza dough as evenly as possible to a diameter of about 15 inches. If the dough is too resistant, let it rest for a few more minutes, then roll.
  14. Transfer the pizza dough to a baking sheet sprinkled with cornmeal or, if you have one, a pizza peel also sprinkled with cornmeal. Shape and stretch again with your fingers if the dough shrinks. Using your fingertips, make dimples in the surface of the pizza. This will keep the pizza from forming air pockets when it bakes.
  15. Slather the pesto on the pizza, then top with the blanched slices of potato and asparagus spears. Drizzle some extra virgin olive oil on top, if desired and sprinkle some salt and pepper.
  16. Place the pizza directly on top of a pizza stone in the preheated oven or leave it in the baking sheet if you don’t have a pizza stone. Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until the crust is all crispy and golden.
  17. Remove carefully, slice, and serve hot.
Nutrition Information
Calories: 320 Fat: 5 grams Sugar: 4.2 grams Fiber: 6.5 grams Protein: 10.8 grams

 Asparagus Potato Pizza***

More pizza recipes at Holy Cow!

Basil Pizza

 Caramelized Onion Tart with Olives

Pizza topped with Tandoori Tofu

Brinjal Pulippu Kootu

Eggplant Kootu I say brinjal, you say eggplant, and they say aubergine. Whatever. It’s delicious, it’s my favorite veggie, and today I have for you one of the most delicious ways you can cook it up and eat it: Brinjal Pulippu Kootu, a tangy dal you might never have eaten before unless you’re a native of Tamil Nadu.

When I first started cooking up Tamil food, I was a little amazed at how Desi’s vegetarian family managed to cook up the same basic ingredients — lentils, curry leaves, veggies, tamarind, and spices like coriander seeds, red chillies, mustard seeds and turmeric– into very different-tasting dishes every day of the week. These “dals” (as lentil-based dishes are known through the rest of India), went by different names too: sambar or kuzhambu, kootu, and masiyal. Befuddled, I’d ask Desi: “How can you tell which is which?”

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Brinjal Kootu

Over time I learned. Here, if you are interested, are the most glaring differences: A sambar is tart with tamarind, whereas a masiyal is tarted up by souring agents other than tamarind, like green tomatoes or lemon or raw mangoes and may or may not include lentils except as a seasoning. Masiyals also typically use lentils other than tuvar dal or split pigeon peas, like moong dal. And then there is the kootu which is not tart at all-and is typically thicker than sambar. A kootu also often includes black pepper and coconut which makes it quite distinct and utterly delicious.

But exceptions, as you know, make up the rule, and today I have for you a recipe for the renegade Pulippu Kootu: the Kootu that’s tart like a sambar but is otherwise the spitting image of a kootu. Go figure.

If your head’s spinning by now, stop, get up, and go to the kitchen and cook up this kootu– that’s all you really need to do anyway, right? If you want to stick with tradition you should make this kootu with brinjal or eggplant, like I did, or with chow chow (available here in the United States as chayote squash). Or you can experiment with another veggie, although here’s a little tip: you really don’t want to stray from the deliciousness that eggplant brings to this dish.

TGIF, everyone, and hope you have a lovely weekend!

Eggplant Kootu

Brinjal Pulippu Kootu
 
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Author:
Recipe type: Curry
Cuisine: Indian
Serves: 8
Ingredients
  • ½ cup tuvar dal or split pigeon peas
  • 9 small round eggplants, cut into a ½-inch dice
  • 2 tbsp freshly grated coconut (you can use frozen, but thaw before use)
  • ½ tsp turmeric
  • A generous pinch of asafetida (hing)
  • 2 tsp mustard seeds
  • ¼ cup chopped coriander leaves
  • 1 tbsp tamarind extract. (or 1-inch ball of tamarind pods, soaked in ½ cup of water for 30 minutes. Extract the tamarind pulp by crushing with fingers and discard the dry solids)
  • For ground masala:
  • 1 tbsp coriander seeds
  • 1 tbsp udad dal or black gram dal
  • 1 tbsp chana dal or bengal gram dal
  • 2 tsp black peppercorns
  • 2 dry red chillies
  • ½ cup peanuts, covered with water and microwaved for five minutes. Or you can bring them to a boil on the stovetop, lower heat, and let them cook 10 minutes. Drain and set aside.
  • 2 sprigs curry leaves
  • ¼ cup freshly grated coconut. Again, you can use frozen but thaw first.
  • 2 tsp vegetable oil
Instructions
  1. Mix the lentils and turmeric, add water and cook until the lentils are really soft and mashable. Pressure-cooking works best here — and the fastest– but you can do this on the stovetop. Use enough water to cover the lentils by an inch, bring to a boil, lower heat to a simmer, cover the pot and cook the lentils until they are soft and mushy. You will need to check frequently to ensure the water hasn’t dried out.
  2. Make the ground masala. Heat 1 tsp of oil and add the masala ingredients. On medium heat, saute the ingredients, stirring frequently, until the coconut turns a few shades darker. Be watchful because coconut burns easily.
  3. Remove the masala ingredients to a blender, add enough water to make a paste, and blend to a smooth paste. Set aside.
  4. In a large saucepan, place the chopped eggplant, add the tamarind, some salt, and enough water to almost cover the vegetables. Bring the mixture to a boil, turn heat to low, cover and cook until the brinjals are thoroughly cooked. Don’t take shortcuts here because half-cooked brinjal is worse than no brinjal at all.
  5. Add the cooked lentils, peanuts, and ground masala paste. Stir well, add water if the mixture is too thick, bring to a boil, lower heat, and cook at a gentle simmer for about 10 minutes.
  6. In a small saucepan, add the remaining 1 tsp of oil and then add mustard seeds. When the mustard sputters, add the coconut and curry leaves.
  7. Saute the coconut and curry leaves until the coconut turns lightly golden.
  8. Add to the lentils and mix thoroughly. Stir in the coriander leaves.
  9. Serve hot with some boiled rice and potato curry.

Potato curry