Monday, February 28, 2011

Meal Plan Monday

Not all that exciting, really. I'm looking forward to lasagna which I haven't had since I gave up gluten. Definitely going to have that uttapam again--yum!

February 28-March 5

Sunday, February 27, 2011

It's funny how things work out.....

The other day I developed a serious craving for idli which I blame on Shoba Narayan, the author of Monsoon Diary, a book I just finished which is full of mouth watering descriptions of the meals she ate growing up in Chennai (then Madras), India.

I don't really mind idli from a mix but I've had homemade and they are truly delicious: stark white, spongy, slightly sour and the perfect thing to dip in a delicious chutney. Every time I think of making my own, however, I remember the soaking and grinding and fermenting and abandon the whole plan in the realization that I should have planned ahead.

Well, for once, I did (and I'm out of mix!). I put the rice and urad dal to soak Friday evening, ground it into batter Saturday morning and left it to ferment for 24 hours. This morning I carefully spooned it it into my oiled idli stand, and made some coconut chutney while the idli steamed.
Looking forward to fluffy white idlis, you can imagine my disappointment when I unlocked the pressure cooker and found the blobs looking not much different than when I placed them in the cooker. Worse than their appearance was their gummy, unappealing texture. Thinking my batter was too wet I thickened it with rice flour and added a bit of baking powder to help the batter rise. Round 2: still gummy and nasty. Clearly it wasn't my day for idli but I still needed something to eat and got to thinking......

I knew that idli batter could also be thinned and used to make dosa, those delightfully chewy-crispy crepe-like pancakes. But I didn't want to muck around making a filling so instead, I just tossed in some finely chopped onion, cilantro, and chile, ground in a bunch of black pepper, and recycled my failed idli batter into highly successful uttapam batter.

I love idli and dosa so much that when I get a chance to eat either at a South Indian restaurant I skip the uttapam so I was not really 100% sure what I was aiming for but what I got was delicious, a thick, savory pancake which I tore into bits and dipped happily into my coconut chutney (you also see coriander chutney in this photo but it did not taste right so I ended up tossing it).

This batter makes a dense pancake that sticks easily so I used a fair amount of coconut oil in my cast iron skillet and re-applied it before flipping. I also covered each pancake with a pot lid as I cooked the first side to trap some heat and help it cook more evenly.

Though these don't have the wonderful spongy texture of idli, they do still have the tangy fermented taste. And they get on the table a lot faster than idi and require no special equipment. Despite being gluten free they are filling and satisfying and quite nutritious. Clearly I need some help in the idli department but I think I could eat uttapam pretty regularly and be quite happy.

If you'd like to give this a try, the recipe for batter and chutney is here.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Pumpkin Chili




This is the tastiest chili I've made, possibly ever. So good, in fact, that there's no need to top a big, steaming bowl with cheese or sour cream because the flavor is rich and complex all on its own. Plus it's loaded with nutrients like protein and vitamins and minerals and fiber (but don't tell your kids).

I stumbled across this recipe and then had to fiddle with it to make it work for my crazy weekday schedule so in to the slow cooker it went. When I came home from work everyone else had eaten and declared the chili delicious. Should I tell them that it was pumpkin puree which added sweetness and complexity?

Maybe not.

You can make this delicious chili and then its up to you to decide how to present it.

One note: if you are a lover of spicy things, you may find this a little tiny bit bland. That's what sriracha sauce is for, people. I found about a half teaspoonful swirled in a bowl of pumpkin chili to be just about right.

The recipe is here. Go make it and tell me what you think.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Meal Plan...Tuesday?

Yikes! This time I wrote the menu plan but never posted it--silly me. Most interesting this week should be the parsnip-shallot soup made my by 17 year old son. I am looking forward to trying that, for sure. Also--last night's pumpkin chili? Major hit!

The meals are all here.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Pretty Darned Close

When I got my gluten free sentence I handled it pretty well and the only gluten I really panicked about giving up was Jewish gluten. How in the world would I manage without my weekly challah and matzoh at Passover and hamantaschen at Purim and....bagels? No bagels? Seriously?

My first scouting trip to New Cascadia was all about the bagels--would they suffice? Sadly, no. Maybe when I've been on this crazy diet for longer they will work for me but for now I am sorry to say I don't love them. I like a good, chewy bagel but theirs are too tough for me and they have this mysterious weird flavor I've tasted in everything I've tried there. I've tried Udi's "bagels" but apart from having a hole in the center there's nothing in common with bagels. Insulation maybe, but not my beloved bagels.

Part of me knows that, because I will always be disappointed by poor imitations, I should just give up on the bready quest. But the call of the bagel is powerful and yesterday I tried some Glutino sesame bagels and was very pleasantly surprised. They still have that weird flavor present in so many gf baked goods (what is that, anyway?) but they have the right texture and they toast up nicely. At over $6/bag I don't expect to eat them often but it's nice to know there's something out there that will satisfy my need for bagels when nothing else will do.