This 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.
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.
Black Rice Risotto with Mushrooms and Caramelized Onions
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)
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.
Heat 1 tsp of oil in a saucepan.
Add the chopped onion, season with some salt, red pepper flakes and ground black pepper and saute until softened, about three to four minutes.
Add the garlic, saute for a few seconds, then add the mushrooms and white wine.
Turn up the flame to medium-high and cook until the wine has evaporated and the mushrooms have taken on a nice sheen.
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.
Now add the cashew cheese and mix well. The risotto should have a creamy, slightly soupy consistency when done. Add more salt if needed.
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.
Top the risotto with the caramelized onions and serve hot.
A bhurji, in India’s culinary lexicon, is a messy scramble of any sort. There’s anda bhurji, or egg bhurji, a spiced-up version of scrambled eggs that blazed a path from India’s street food stalls to become a popular breakfast staple in every home kitchen. And then there’s paneer bhurji, a popular restaurant dish made with the creamy Indian cottage cheese paneer, that’s spicier, more lavish, and — dare I say it — more delicious.
In recent weeks, I was hit by a deep craving for Paneer Bhurji. Maybe it was the neat slabs of paneer I saw in the refrigerator at the Indian grocery store that did it, or maybe it is this stubborn cold weather that refuses to shake off (it’s snowing here in DC today), making me crave warm, spicy, rich food. Either way, I wanted nothing more the other night than to scoop up some Paneer Bhurji with a puffy naan and stuff my face.
There was nothing to stop me. In my refrigerator were some firm tofu, green peppers and red onions — perfect ingredients for a marvelous vegan Paneer Bhurji. And a healthy one, because while paneer is packed with fat and cholesterol, tofu isn’t. But there was one thing. While the tofu would make a perfect stand-in for the paneer, texture-wise, it would not have that very important richness that the cheese would bring to the dish. And that’s when it hit me: cashew cream, an ingredient I have often used as a cream substitute in Indian dishes. A little bit would go a long way in making my Tofu Paneer Bhurji taste as luxurious as the original dish.
So Tofu Paneer Bhurji it was that night, and it was quite perfect. In fact, it didn’t last around here for more than a few minutes. Which is not to say that I ate it all up. Erm…let’s not get into that now, ok?
1 14-oz pack firm tofu. Place the tofu in a colander and cover with a paper napkin. Place a heavy weight on top and leave it alone for 15 minutes to drain out any excess water from the tofu. Don’t worry if the tofu crumbles a bit– you are going to crumble it anyway.
12 cashew nuts, soaked in ½ cup of water for 30 minutes, then blitzed into a smooth paste
1 medium red onion, minced
1 green bell pepper, minced
1 tsp garlic, minced or crushed
1 tsp ginger, grated
1 cup tomato puree
2 tsp coriander powder
1 tsp cumin powder
¼ tsp turmeric
1 tsp paprika
¼ cup chopped coriander leaves
2 tsp vegetable oil
Juice of ½ lemon
Salt to taste
Heat the oil in a saucepan. Add the onions and saute until they start to brown.
Add the garlic and ginger. Saute for a minute, then add the green peppers, coriander powder, cumin powder, turmeric and paprika. Stir to mix and add the tomato puree.
Cook, stirring frequently, until the tomato puree is thick and a few shades darker.
Crumble the tofu and add it to the saucepan. Stir well to mix,
Cook the mixture on medium heat for about five minutes, stirring frequently.
Add the cashew cream and salt to taste. Turn off heat.
Stir in the coriander leaves and lemon juice. Serve hot with naan.
Get a delicious start to Spring with my Beet Burger with Chipotle Cashew Hummus.
This burger is simplicity itself: instead of making a patty with grated beet and other ingredients, I take a thick, juicy slice of roasted beetroot, saute it with some seasonings to add more flavor, then sandwich it between layers of caramelized onions, hummus flavored with chipotle chili, and crisp, clean greens. All of this goodness goes on my whole wheat burger bun. Yum.
This is the perfect recipe for the grill: you could marinate the slices of roasted beet in the seasonings and then saute them in a grill wok, adding yet another layer of smoky flavor.
The hummus recipe, which I’ll also share with you, is a simple variation on the traditional recipe. I love adding chipotle chilies to various sauces (remember my Pasta with Chipotle Cashew Cream?) and this time, instead of tahini, I decided to use roasted cashews in the hummus. The experiment really worked– I know I’ll be making this amazing hummus again and again.
I won’t chatter on too long today because I can’t wait to share the recipe with you. It involves a few steps, but none of them is hard. If you try this once, I guarantee you will be making it again. And again. I know I will.
2 cups cooked chickpeas. If using canned, drain thoroughly.
1 chipotle chili in adobo sauce, minced
12 roasted cashew nuts
6 cloves of garlic
Salt to taste
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil (optional)
For Caramelized Onions:
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
2 tsp olive oil
1 tsp sugar
½ tsp salt
½ tsp ground black pepper
Leafy greens like baby spinach, baby chard or baby kale. A mix of spring greens would be great here also.
For the buns, follow my Whole Wheat Burger Buns recipe but shape into 12 buns instead of 6. Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for 23 minutes.
Make the beet patties:
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
Place a large piece of aluminum foil on a baking sheet, spray with oil, place the beets inside in a single row, and fold the foil over to cover completely. Crimp the edges of the foil to seal.
Place the baking sheet in the oven and roast for 45 minutes to an hour, or until a knife inserted in the thickest part of the beet goes through cleanly and without resistance.
Remove the baking sheet and let it cool for 15 minutes, then open the foil and let the beets cool until they can be handled.
Peel the beets by rubbing the skins off, then slice into ¼-inch-thick slices.
Heat the olive oil in a wok or large saute pan.
Add the garlic, sage and salt. Add the beets and salt and saute for about five minutes.
Sprinkle on the lemon juice and set aside.
Make the chipotle cashew hummus:
Place the garlic pods in a small piece of aluminum foil sprayed with oil, roll up the foil into a ball, and roast with the beets for 30 minutes. Once they are cool enough to handle, discard the skins and reserve the gooey, roasted garlic.
Place the chickpeas, cashew nuts, roasted garlic, chipotle chili and salt in a food processor. Add enough water to make a smooth paste that’s thick enough to smear on a burger bun. Blend into a really smooth paste. If you are using the extra virgin olive oil, pour it in through the feed tube as the hummus is blending.
Make the caramelized onions:
Heat the oil, add the caramelized onions and a pinch of salt. Saute for a minute, then add the ground black pepper and sugar.
Continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the onions become golden brown and soft. Turn off heat and remove to a bowl.
To build your burger, cut a whole wheat burger bun in half, smear some hummus on the base of the bun, layer on some greens, then a beet patty, and finally some caramelized onions. Smear some more hummus on the top half of the bun before capping off your burger.
It’s almost a given that you cannot go to a Tamil home without being invited to stay for a meal. Tamilians love to feed as much as they love to eat, and when we go to Chennai on our visits back to India it is not unusual for us to have two lunches, two dinners, and umpteen snacks, all in a single day, as we make the rounds of our relatives’ homes.
When we lived in Bombay, we were not above exploiting all this hospitality. The mother of one of our friends, Malathy, was a great cook. Luckily our home was not far from Malathy’s, and whenever we were craving a great homecooked Tamil meal Desi and I would just drop in for a visit, sure that we’d be well fed.
While almost any meal you’d eat in a Tamil home would be special, we were never happier than when we were served Vengaya Sambar or Onion Sambar, a delicious dal made with tiny red onions. This dish, one of Desi’s favorites, fast became one of my favorites too because it is just so delicious. It was also one of the first types of sambar I learned to cook when I started to putter around the kitchen.
Many years — and hundreds of sambars later– I want to share with you this classic dish beloved in every home kitchen in Chennai. My version is made with fresh ground sambar masala that takes just minutes to put together. The red pearl onions (chinna vengayam in Tamil) are key to this dish because of their unique flavor. If you can’t easily find them in your grocery store don’t be tempted to substitute with the more commonly available white pearl onions because you just won’t get the same flavor. Red pearl onions are sold both fresh or frozen at Indian grocery stores and buy the fresh ones if possible because while the frozen onions are lower on labor (you don’t have to peel them), they can sometimes be chewy. If you absolutely cannot find red pearl onions, I’d advise buying shallots instead and cutting them into small pieces.
Vengaya Sambar tastes best poured over some hot boiled rice with a side of crispy potato curry. And don’t forget to toast up some poppadums!
1 tbsp of tamarind extract mixed with 1 cup of water. Alternately, if you’re using tamarind pods, soak a 1-inch ball of the pods in warm water for 15 minutes, then extract the flavor by crushing the pods with your fingers. Discard the solids and reserve the liquid portion.
½ tsp turmeric
3 tsp vegetable oil
2 tbsp coriander seeds
2 dry red chillies
1 tbsp chana dal or bengal gram dal
¼ tsp dry fenugreek seeds (methi)
2 cups red pearl onions, ends trimmed and papery skins peeled. Tamil cooks sometimes soak the onions overnight which makes it easier to slip the skins off.
1 sprig of curry leaves (about 12 individual leaves)
1 tsp mustard seeds
A generous pinch of hing or asafetida
Salt to taste
Mix the lentils and turmeric, add water and cook until tender in a pressure cooker. Or cover the peas with an inch of water in a pot and bring to a boil, then slap on a lid, lower to simmer, and boil for 30-45 minutes or until the peas are tender enough to mash. Add more water if needed as they cook.
Prepare the ground masala by heating 1 tsp of oil. Add to it the coriander seeds, chana dal, fenugreek seeds and chillies and saute until the coriander seeds and dal turn a few shades darker and are lightly golden-brown. Remove to a blender, add enough water to keep the blades moving, and process to a smooth paste.
Heat 1 tsp of the oil, add the pearl onions and stir-fry until the start to turn golden. Add the tamarind extract and let the mixture cook about 8 minutes.
Add the ground masala and stir well to mix. Add the cooked tuvar dal and bring everything to a boil.
Lower the heat to a simmer, add salt to taste, and let the sambar cook for 10 minutes so all the flavors have a chance to meld together.
To temper the sambar– an important flavor-building step– heat the last teaspoon of oil in a small saucepan and add the mustard seeds. When they crackle, add the asafetida and curry leaves. Fry for a few seconds, turn off the heat, and pour over the sambar. Mix well.