Saturday, September 6, 2014

Kuri Squash, mushroom, and kale tart with a rosemary crust

Kuri squash is my new find and new love as well. It has superceded kabocha squash which I was in love with till I found Kuri Squash. Sweet fleshed, not ultra dense, and delicately flavored is how I would describe it. Since it is not too dense, it cooks fairly quickly.
In this recipe, I use it as a base for the tart, which has rosemary incorporated in the dough. The woodsiness of the rosemary and the delicate earthiness of the kuri squash complement each other extremely well.
The portobello mushrooms add some meatiness and the mild bitterness of the Tuscan kale contrasts with the sweetness of the squash.
To finish the tart, I add freshly grated sharp Asiago, which melts lightly on the tart, allowing all the other elements of the tart to be visible.

Kuri squash, mushroom and kale tart with a rosemary crust

1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup + 2 tablespoons cake flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons olive oil plus extra for greasing the tart pan
3/4th cup water
Extra flour for dusting
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary leaves, finely minced

  1. Sift the flour, salt and baking powder into a mixing bowl.
  2. Transfer the flour mixture to the food processor with the metal blade inserted. With the motor running,  add the olive oil, then ¾ cup water. When the dough comes together in a ball, turn off the motor. Scrape the dough out of the food processor and knead very gently on a lightly floured board just until the dough is smooth. Do not over work or the dough will be tough.
  3. Divide the dough into two equal pieces and shape each piece into a ball. Press each ball into a disk, about 4 inches in diameter. Dust lightly with flour if the dough is sticky. Wrap the dough in plastic and let it rest for and hour or longer at room temperature.
  4. Sprinkle a small amount of unbleached flour over your work surface. Put the piece of dough on it, and lightly dust the top with more flour. Roll the dough from the center to the far edge, in one direction only, turning the dough, until it is quite thin, with a diameter of at least 12 inches. Keep dusting lightly with flour if the dough sticks.
  5. Spray a 9 inch tart pan with a removable bottom with olive oil. Gently fold the circle of dough in half and lift onto the pan, with the fold in the middle of the pan. Unfold the dough so that it covers the pan. Press gently into the pan. Using the rolling pin, roll over the tart pan to trim the edges. Save the trimmings to roll once again to make another 3 inch tart.
  6. Preheat the oven to 375 F. Place the tart pan on a baking sheet and bake on the middle rack in the preheated oven for 7 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool before adding the filling.
10 oz peeled, deseeded and cubed (1/2 inch each) kuri squash (If not available substitute with butternut squash)
1 small yellow onion, chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
4 leaves of tuscan kale, ribs discarded and the leaves cut into thin strips
1 large portobello mushroom, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 teaspoon minced garlic
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Kosher Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Dried chili flakes
3/4th cup - 1 cup grated Asiago cheese (depending on how cheesy you like it)

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 F.
  2. Toss the squash and onions with 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper and a pinch of dried chili flakes. Bake on the top rack of a preheated oven for 20 minutes to 25 minutes until the squash is soft and the onions are softened but not charred.
  3. In the meantime, saute the mushrooms with a tablespoon of olive oil and minced garlic for 4 to 5 minutes over medium high heat. After 3 minutes of cooking add a pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper. Remove to a bowl and set aside.
  4. In the same skillet, add one more tablespoon olive oil and add the chopped kale leaves with 1/8th teaspoon salt. Saute over medium heat for 2 to 3 minutes. Add a 1/4 cup water and turn the heat to medium low. Cover and cook till the leaves are completely wilted and the water has dried - about 15 minutes. Check every 5 minutes to ensure the water has not completely dried up.
  5. Reduce the oven temperature to 375 F, while you assemble the tart. Once the crust has cooled, spread the roasted squash and onions on the base. Use a fork to mash the squash so that it spreads out evenly. Arrange the sauteed mushrooms and sauteed kale such that they are not in clumps. Finally sprinkle the grated cheese and place the tart in the middle shelf and bake for 25 to 30 minutes till the crust looks golden brown at the edges and the cheese has softened (aged Asiago will not melt). 
  6. Cool for 5 minutes - cut into wedges and serve. Delicious!
Makes ONE 9 inch tart

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Steamed Gailan (Chinese Broccoli) with a tangy dressing

Gailan, also called kailan is a Cantonese green vegetable with juicy stems like broccolini and thick leaves which are slightly bitter. These days it is also available in large grocery stores other than Chinatown. If you cannot find it, you could do the same with broccolini. It is great steamed with a light dressing or stir fried. I like it steamed as it retains the bright green color of the vegetable.
Widely eaten in China, the steamed greens are served with oyster sauce, but my vegetarian family can taste the oyster sauce even if I try to camouflage it. Hence, I serve it with a soy based dressing, enhanced with some crispy garlic bits and rice vinegar for tang.
It is a great addition to a meat course or a tofu dish like the pan fried tofu with lemon soy glaze, or kung pao tofu.

Steamed gailan with a tangy dressing
1 bunch gailan

2 large cloves of garlic, peeled and minced
3/4 tablespoon canola oil
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1 teaspoon sesame chili oil
1 1/2 teaspoon rice vinegar
1 tablespoon good quality light soy sauce

  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, while you prepare the gailan.
  2. Separate the stems from the leaves of the gailan. Cut the stems into 2 inch pieces. If they are thick then cut them vertically down the middle as well. Keep the leaves whole if they are small, otherwise cut into 2 inch pieces as well.
  3. When the water comes to a boil, add the stems and let it cook for 2 minutes before adding the leaves. Allow the leaves to cook for a minute. Remove the leaves and the stems from the boiling water and keep in a colander to drain. Once drained, transfer to a serving platter.
  4. Heat a small skillet with canola oil and add the garlic. Cook over medium heat till the garlic is crisp but not burnt. Garlic burns very quickly - hence you need to watch for it.
  5. Make a dressing with the sesame oil, chili oil, vinegar and soy sauce and pour over the gailan. Sprinkle the fried garlic bits and serve.
Serves 2 to 3

Black eyed peas (Lobia) salad with peanuts and chaat masala

Black eyed peas in my opinion are the easiest beans to digest in the family of whole beans along with black beans. This salad is inspired by laziness to cook on a summer day and the need to feed my family something nutritious and tasty. Black eyed peas do not need to be soaked overnight, but you can if you have planned early. A few hours of soaking in boiling hot water does the trick. Chaat masala and black salt are Indian spices which make this salad different. The addition of roasted peanuts gives it a wonderful crunch and body.  I use scallions instead of onions, since scallions are less pungent. You could substitute finely minced onions, if you don't have scallions on hand.You can serve this salad as a meal in itself with some warmed pita bread and plain yogurt.

Black eyed peas salad with peanuts and chaat masala

1 cup black eyed peas
1 small potato, boiled, peeled and cut into 1/4 inch cubes
1/2 English cucumber, peeled and cut into 1/4 inch cubes
2 red radish, chopped finely
1 cup chopped tomato
2 scallions, finely sliced
2 teaspoon finely minced jalapeno pepper
2 tablespoons fresh ginger, peeled and cut into thin strips
1 tablespoon canola oil
1/2 teaspoon toasted cumin powder
1 teaspoon chaat masala
1/2 teaspoon black salt
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons lime juice
1/4 cup roasted salted peanuts
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
  1. Soak the black eyed peas overnight or at least 8 hours with warm water.
  2. Drain and transfer the plumped peas to a sauce pan and cover with enough water so that it is at least 2 inches above the beans. Add 1/4 teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil and then simmer uncovered for 20 to 30 minutes or even longer depending on how soft you want the beans. The cooking time will also depend on how long the beans have been soaked.
  3. While the black eyed peas are being cooked, chop the potato, radish, tomato, scallions and jalapeno and place in the salad bowl. 
  4. Heat the smallest skillet with 1 tablespoon canola oil to fry the ginger strips. If you don't have a small skillet and are unable to fry, you could saute the ginger strips till they turn crisp. Once cool, add the ginger along with the oil to the salad. 
  5. Once the beans are cooked to the desired doneness (I like mine to have shape and not mushy), drain and cool before adding it to the rest of the salad.
  6. Finally add the cumin powder, chaat masala, black salt, lime juice and salt to taste. Toss well and check seasoning. Adjust if necessary and lightly fold in  the chopped cilantro and peanuts.
  7. Serve at room temperature.
Serves 3 as a main course salad