Valentines, Vegetables, Indian Foods and Wine, Herb Gardens

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Recipes and information from Good Food, Saturdays at 11am on KCRW, 89.9fm

February 14, 2004

Yiddishkayt Los Angeles presents the First Kugl Kukh-Off:
Sunday, February 15, 1:30-5pm
Valley Cities Jewish Community Center
13164 Burbank Blvd
Sherman Oaks

This is a recipe from Neelam Batra, author of 1000 Indian Recipes, published by Wiley.

Farmer's Market Turnip Curry
Makes 4 to 6 servings

To make a smoother curry sauce, process or blend together the onion, ginger, and garlic and add them after the cumin seeds sizzle. Once the mixture browns, add the tomato and proceed with the recipe.

  • 2-3 Tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 Tablespoon peeled minced fresh ginger
  • 1 tsp minced fresh ginger
  • 1 fresh Serrano pepper, minced with seeds
  • 1 large tomato, finely chopped
  • 1 Tablespoon ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp salt, or to taste
  • 1 to 1 1/2 pounds baby turnips, whole with stems and roots trimmed or larger ones cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro, including soft stems
Heat the oil in a large nonstick pan over medium-high heat and add the cumin; they should sizzle upon contact with the hot oil. Quickly add the onion and cook, stirring, over medium heat until brown, about 7 minutes.

Add the ginger, garlic, and pepper, and stir about 1 minute. Then add the tomato and cook until all the juices evaporate, about 5 minutes. Add the coriander, turmeric and salt. Then add the turnips and cook, stirring, another 5 minutes.

Add the water, cover the pan, increase the heat to high, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer until the turnips are fork-tender and the sauce is medium-thick, 10 to 15 minutes. Transfer to a serving dish, mix in the cilantro and serve.

Evan Kleiman gave her Valentine's Day special, Red Beet Gnocchi.

Beet-Ricotta Dumplings
These "gnocchetti" are a revelation. The color is intense, the flavor earthy and sweet and the texture has that kind of disappearing cloud -in -the- mouth effect. The perfect recipe when you need to wow people, especially those who they hate beets. Boy will they change their minds!

  • 1 medium or two small red beets, washed
  • 1 pound ricotta, set in cheesecloth-lined colander and allowed to drain for a day 1 whole egg
  • 1 cup grated imported Parmesan cheese plus more for the table
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2/3 cups all-purpose flour plus more for dredging
  • 8 Tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • Fresh sage leaves
Wrap washed beets in aluminum foil and place on baking sheet. Bake in 450oF oven until tender, approximately 45 minutes. Remove from oven, open aluminum foil and let beets cool. Slip the skins off with your hands. Grate the beets into a mixing bowl on the large hole of a box grater. Add the ricotta, eggs, Parmesan cheese and salt and freshly ground black pepper to the beets. Mix well with a whisk or wooden spoon. Add 2/3 cup flour to the ricotta mixture and whisk together to mix. Set the mixture aside for a minimum of 2 hours in the refrigerator. Can be made up to two days ahead.

To form the gnochetti, roll a walnut-sized piece of beet mixture into a nice round. Drop it into the bowl of flour, carefully turning to coat all sides. Lay each dumpling on a parchment lined baking sheet lightly covered with flour. Continue forming the gnochetti until all the mixture is gone.

Just before you are ready to serve, melt the butter together with the sage leaves in a skillet. Let the butter lightly brown, the sage leaves should be nice and crispy. Set brown butter and sage aside while you cook the gnochetti.

Slip the gnocchetti into a pot of gently simmering salted water. Wait until they float to the surface of the water and continue to cook for an additional minute. Using a slotted spoon, remove them from the water as they are done and place them on a serving platter. When all gnochetti are on the platter, top with melted butter and crispy sage. Top with a liberal dusting of Parmesan cheese and serve.

Alice Medrich is the author of Bittersweet: Recipes and Tales from a Life in Chocolate, published by Artisan.

Intensely Bittersweet Souffles
Serves 8

This recipe is positively a showcase for the chocolate you make it with, so you must use a chocolate of distinction. Choose one that you adore eating, one with flavors that beg to be savored rather than masked with excess butter, sugar, or cream. Such a chocolate inspired the recipe in the first place, which, as it has evolved, reads more like mousse (no flour) than a classic souffl-. No matter, it produces a dessert that acts and tastes like a souffl-, and it is easier to make. I make these a day or so ahead and refrigerate them, unbaked, until shortly before I want to serve them. Preheat the oven toward the end of dinner, and bake the souffl-s while you clear the table and make the coffee. Expect big chocolate flavor and extravagant praise.

  • About 2 Tablespoons sugar for the ramekins
  • 8 oz bittersweet 70% chocolate, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup milk
For the topping:
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 Tablespoon sugar
  • Powdered sugar for dusting (optional)
  • 3 large eggs, separated, at room temperature
Special Equipment:
  • 1 large egg white, at room temperature
  • 1/8 tsp cream of tartar
  • Eight 6-oz ramekins
  • 1/3 cup sugar
If you are baking the souffl-s right away, position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 375-F. Butter the ramekins and sprinkle with sugar.

Place the chocolate, butter, and milk in a large heatproof bowl in a large skillet of barely simmering water. Stir until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth. Remove the bowl from the water bath and whisk in the egg yolks. (Don't worry if the mixture stiffens slightly or is less than perfectly smooth at this point.) Set aside.

In a medium, dry bowl, beat the egg whites and cream of tartar with an electric mixer on medium speed until soft peaks form when the beaters are lifted. Gradually sprinkle in the 1/3 cup sugar and beat at high speed until the whites are stiff but not dry. Fold one-quarter of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture to lighten it, and then fold in the remaining egg whites.

Divide the mixture evenly among the prepared ramekins, filling each three- quarters full. (The souffl-s can be prepared to this point, covered, and refrigerated for up to 2 days. Bake directly from the refrigerator.)

Place the souffl-s on a cookie sheet. Bake until they rise and crack on top and a wooden skewer plunged into the center emerges very moist and gooey (but the centers should not be completely liquid), 14 to 16 minutes, perhaps a minute or so longer if the souffl-s have been refrigerated.

Meanwhile, make the topping:
Beat the cream with the vanilla and sugar until it holds a soft shape (or stiffer, if you like it that way). Transfer to a serving bowl and refrigerate until ready to serve.

When they are done, remove the souffl-s from the oven, and serve immediately, with a little powdered sugar sifted over the top, if you'd like. Pass the whipped top- ping separately.

Bittersweet Chocolate Souffles With Cocoa Bean Cream
Sometimes I top the souffl-s with lightly sweetened Cocoa Bean Cream instead of plain whipped cream. The effect is sensual and subtle, as opposed to the sharp dramatic contrast with whipped cream. It's hard to choose which is better; you will have to try both.

Chocolate note:
This is a remarkably versatile recipe. You can substitute a lower- percentage bittersweet or semisweet chocolate if you prefer a sweeter, less intense chocolate flavor; or reduce the sugar to 1/4 cup to partially compensate for the sweeter chocolate, if desired. There is no need to make other changes in the recipe.

Cocoa Nib Panna Cotta
Serves 6

This dreamy, delicately set dessert is flavored with an infusion of roasted cocoa beans. The taste is exotic, the texture positively sensual. But you must measure the gelatin like a miser...or risk turning an exquisite confection into a dish of Jell-o.

  • 1/2 cup cocoa nibs, coarsely chopped into smaller bits
  • 3 1/4 cups heavy cream
  • 2 3/4 tsps unflavored gelatin
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 Tablespoons fresh blackberries or blackberry puree, well sugared
  • Pinch of salt
  • Fresh blackberries or blackberry puree, well sugared
Special Equipment:
  • Instant-read thermometer
  • 6 wide margarita glasses (or six 6-ounce ramekins)
Bring the nibs and cream to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Remove from the heat, cover, and let steep for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, sprinkle the gelatin over the cold milk in a small bowl and set aside to let the gelatin soften.

Strain the cream, pressing lightly on the nibs to extract all the liquid. Discard the nibs. Return the cream to the saucepan, add the sugar, and bring to a simmer. Pour into a heatproof bowl. Gradually stir in the milk, then the salt. Set the bowl in a larger bowl of ice cubes and water and stir frequently until the mixture thickens and registers 50-F on an instant-read thermometer.

Divide evenly among the margarita glasses (or ramekins). Cover with plastic wrap and chill overnight.

Serve the panna cotta in their glasses or ramekins. Or, wrap each ramekin in a hot wrung-out wet towel and unmold onto dessert plates. Accompany with well- sugared berries or berry puree.

Classic Ganache Truffles
Makes about 48 truffles

The key to absolute perfection in these classic truffles is to form a complete and perfect emulsion of the chocolate and cream by mixing thoroughly and taking the time to let the ganache cool, undisturbed, at room temperature, preferably over- night. I always begin at least one day ahead.

  • 10 ozs (11 ounces if using brandy) bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 2 to 3 Tablespoons brandy or liquor or liqueur of choice (optional)
  • 1 1/4 pounds bittersweet, semisweet, milk or white chocolate for dipping
Special Equipment:
  • Shallow baking pan (such as a brownie pan) or plastic storage container
  • Miniature ice cream scoop (about 1 inch in diameter) or melon bailer
  • Portable fan (optional)
Line the shallow baking pan with plastic wrap, overlapping two or more sheets as necessary and leaving a generous overhang on two sides (enough to cover the ganache once it is in the pan).

Place the 10 ounces chocolate in a medium heatproof bowl in a wide skillet of barely simmering water and stir frequently until most of the chocolate is melted. Remove from the heat and stir until completely melted and smooth. Set aside.

In a small saucepan, bring the cream to a boil. Remove from the heat and let it stand for 3 minutes to cool slightly. Pour the hot cream, and the brandy, if using, over the chocolate and whisk briskly, using a circular motion, keeping the whisk in contact with the bottom or the sides of the bowl to minimize splashing (which causes air bubbles), and alternately whisking in the center and around the sides of the bowl, until the cream is thoroughly mixed with the chocolate. Whisk only until the mixture appears completely homogeneous: smooth, glossy, and thickened slightly, like pudding. Stop instantly when the ganache looks completely emulsified. Immediately scrape the ganache into the plastic wrap-lined pan and let cool at room temperature, without stirring or disturbing it.

Once the ganache is cool, fold the plastic wrap over it and let set at room temperature for at least several hours, preferably overnight, until firm enough to scoop or pipe. If you are in a hurry, you can refrigerate it to hasten the set, but the texture of the truffles will not be quite as silken. When the ganache has set, however, chilling won't hurt it; you can refrigerate it for a day or two (or freeze it for up to 2 months), until needed. Then let soften at room temperature until pliable enough to scoop or pipe. If piping, you may have to squeeze or knead the plastic-wrapped ganache gently until it is pliable enough.

To shape the truffles, use the miniature ice cream scoop or melon baIler to form 3/4" to 1" balls of ganache. If necessary, smooth the surface with your thumb, or the heel of your hand, before releasing the ganache from the scoop. (If it is difficult to release, between scoops, warm the back of the scoop gently with a hair dryer, or warm it by dipping it in hot water, wiping it dry each time.) Place the centers slightly apart on a tray lined with parchment or wax paper. Alternatively, scrape the ganache into a large pastry bag fitted with a 1/2-inch plain tip and pipe rounded mounds on the lined tray. Let stand at room temperature, uncovered, until the surface is dry and slightly crusted, at least 2 hours, preferably longer. Be sure that the centers are at a warmish room temperature before dipping them.

Melt and temper the dipping chocolate. Dip the centers by hand or with a dipping fork, then finish as desired. Let set at room temperature, ideally in front of a portable fan. Store the truffles in a covered container at cool room temperature for up to 10 days, or refrigerate for up to a month. They can also be frozen for up to 3 months.

Chocolate notes:
You can use standard bittersweet or semisweet chocolate (without a percentage on the label), or any marked 50% to 62%. To use chocolate marked 64% to 66% instead of standard bittersweet: Increase the cream by 2 tablespoons.

Russ Parsons is a food writer for the Los Angeles Times and the author of How to Read a French Fry: And Other Stories of Intriguing Kitchen Science, published by Houghton Mifflin.

Sweet Potato Gratin
Total time: 1 hour, 20 minutes
Servings: 6 to 8

  • 3 lbs (about 3 large) dark orange sweet potatoes
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 2 Tablespoons creme fraiche
  • 1/2 cup grated Gruyere cheese
  • 1 Tablespoon butter, cut into small pieces
1. Select potatoes that are as similar in size and as evenly cylindrical as possible. Put them on a baking sheet in a cold oven and turn the oven to 400 degrees. Bake until tender but not soft, about 50 to 55 minutes. The potatoes should be easy to penetrate with a knife, but not mushy.

2. Remove the potatoes and set them aside until they are cool enough to handle. Meanwhile, butter an 8-inch square earthenware, glass or enameled cast-iron baking dish.

3. Trim away the pointed ends of the potatoes and remove the peel, taking care to keep the flesh intact. Cut in roughly one-fourth-inch to one-third-inch slices and arrange the slices in a single, overlapping layer in the baking dish. Use the smallest slices in the back row (it will be mostly covered) and to fill in spaces. Season with salt and a generous amount of freshly ground black pepper.

4. Beat together the whipping cream and creme fraiche until smooth, about 45 seconds, and drizzle it evenly over the top of the potatoes. There should be enough cream to come halfway up the potatoes, but not so much that they're swimming in it. Scatter the Gruyere over the top and dot with butter.

5. Bake until the cheese is melted and the cream is bubbling and golden, 15 to 20 minutes. Serve immediately.

Belgian endive gratin
Total time: 1 hour, 15 minutes
Servings: 6

I learned the technique for this topping from Roger Verge's "Vegetables in the French Style." It will adapt nicely for other gratins.

  • 1 to 1 1/4 pounds Belgian endive (6 medium or 4 large)
  • 1/4 tsp sugar
  • 3/4 tsp salt, divided
  • 1/3 cup white wine
  • 2 Tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1/2 cup whipping cream
  • 1 egg yolk, lightly beaten
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 Tablespoons toasted chopped walnuts
1. Heat the oven to 400oF. Remove any discolored outer leaves and the brown bases from the endive heads. Cut the heads in half lengthwise or in quarters if they are very thick.

2. Generously butter an 11" x 7" baking dish. Arrange the endive in the baking dish in two overlapping layers. Sprinkle with sugar, season with one-half teaspoon salt, add the wine and dot with butter. Cover tightly with aluminum foil and bake until the endive is tender, about 30 minutes.

3. Remove the foil and return the baking dish to the oven. Bake until the liquid has mostly evaporated and the endive is beginning to brown, about 15 to 20 minutes.

4. In the meantime, whip the cream to soft peaks then stir in the egg yolk. Add one-fourth teaspoon salt. When the endive is browned, pour the whipping cream mixture over the top, distributing it evenly. Scatter one-fourth cup walnuts evenly over the top. Bake until the topping is puffed and golden, about 15 to 17 minutes.

5. To serve, sprinkle the remaining 2 tablespoons walnuts on top and serve immediately.

Gratin of Potatoes, Leeks and Mushrooms
Total time: 1 hour, 30 minutes
Serves 6

  • 1 Tablespoon butter
  • 2 to 3 leeks, white part only, chopped (about 3/4 cup)
  • 1 cup sliced mushrooms
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 3/4 tsp salt, divided
  • 1 1/2 pounds potatoes, peeled
  • 3/4 cup grated Gruyere cheese
  • 1 1/4 cups milk
  • 2/3 cup cream
1. Melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add the leeks and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms and shallot and reduce the heat to low. Cook until the mushrooms begin to darken and give off their moisture, another 5 minutes. Season with a half-teaspoon salt.

2. Heat the oven to 400oF. Generously butter a heavy 11" x 7" baking dish.

3. Slice the potatoes very thin and pat them dry with a kitchen towel. Arrange half of the potatoes in a rough layer in the baking dish, then distribute the leek and mushroom mixture over the top. Scatter half the grated cheese over that and season with one-fourth teaspoon salt. Top with the remaining potatoes in as solid a layer as possible. Scatter the remaining cheese on top.

4. Heat the milk just to a simmer in a small saucepan and pour it over the potatoes. You should just barely be able to see milk under the top layer. Pour the cream over the top and bake.

5. After 30 minutes, the cream-milk mixture should be puffed and bubbling and beginning to brown. The potatoes should be starting to become tender. Bake until the top is thoroughly browned, the milk bubbles have subsided and the gratin is a compact mass, another 30 - 35 minutes. Remove from the oven and serve at once.

Mira Advani is a local food and wine writer. These are some of her examples of wine pairings with Indian dishes:

  • 1. Coastal Seafood flavored with red chilies/curry leaves and some tropical curries - Gewurztraminer, Gruner Veltliner
  • 2. Southern Indian Vegetarian dishes - Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris
  • 3. Lamb Vindaloo - Zinfandel
  • 4. Chicken or lamb curries cooked with flavors of garam masala - Syrah and Rhone blends
  • 5. Spicy Goan curries - Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier
  • 6. Vegetarian curries, lentils - Sauvignon Blanc and other white blends
  • 7. Chicken/lamb Biryani and vegetarian curries - Riesling
  • 8. Tandoori and mild curry dishes - Pinot Noir
  • 9.Chicken Tikka Masala and other mild curries - Chardonnay
Since Asian foods include a symphony of flavors there is room to experiment with wines from the New World and the Old. So go ahead and take your palate on a journey.

Shirley Kerins, former curator at the herb garden at the Huntington Library is the author of A Celebration of Herbs, published by the Huntington Library.

Maria Blumberg's Pad Thai Pesto
Makes a scant cup

Thai basil, dried shrimp powder, red chili with garlic paste, and fish sauce are available in Asian food markets. An overwhelming favorite when we "tested" pestos.

  • 1 bunch (approximately 1 cup lightly packed) fresh Thai basil
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 Tablespoon dried shrimp powder
  • 2 tsps red chili with garlic paste, or to taste
  • 3 Tablespoons Thai fish sauce
  • 1 Tablespoon sugar
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 3 Tablespoons peanuts, roasted
  • 1/4 Tablespoon black pepper
  • 1/4 cup canola or peanut oil
Place basil, garlic, shrimp powder, red chili, fish sauce, sugar, lime juice, peanuts, pepper, and oil in a food processor. Pulse the processor a few times; then blend until mixture is relatively smooth. Use over any type of pasta or rice, as a stir fry sauce, or instead of the Pad Thai sauce with your Pad Thai recipe.

Tarragon Walnut Pesto
Serve this nutty pesto with fish, vegetables, pasta, or griIIed chicken.
Makes 1 generous cup

  • 1 cup fresh tarragon
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 Tablespoon green peppercorns, drained
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon juice I cup walnut halves
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup warm water
In a blender or food processor, combine the tarragon, garlic, and salt. Process into a fine paste, scraping down the sides of the bowl once or twice. Add the peppercorns, lemon juice, and walnuts; process until smooth. With the machine running, pour the oil through the feed tube in a slow, steady stream until the pesto is smooth and creamy. If the pesto is too thick, add water through the feed tube, I teaspoon at a time, until the desired thickness is reached. Transfer the pesto to a jar. Cover the surface with a film of olive oil. Seal the jar with a tight-fitting lid and refrigerate for up to 3 months, or freeze.

Tarragon Green Peppercorn Butter
A hearty butter that complements broiled steak or fish.
Makes about 1/8 cup

  • 1/2 cup (1/4 pound) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 4 tsps brandy
  • 1 Tablespoon minced fresh tarragon
  • 4 tsps green peppercorns
  • 1/2 tsp soy sauce
In a bowl, mix the butter, brandy, tarragon, peppercorns, and soy sauce. Refrigerate in a covered container for several hours, overnight, or until ready to serve. Bring to room temperature before serving.

Tomato Rosemary Butter
The tomato paste naturally tints the butter a pale salmon color.
Makes about 1/2 cup

  • 1/2 cup (1/4 pound) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 Tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp minced fresh rosemary
  • 1/8 tsp white pepper
In a bowl, mix the butter, tomato paste, lemon juice, rosemary, and white pepper. Refrigerate in a covered container for several hours, overnight, or until ready to serve. Bring to room temperature before serving.

Favorite Herb Butter
Spread on hambur8ers, sandwiches, steak,fish, green vegetables, or canapes, or use this butter when sauteing chicken or fish.
Makes about 1/8 cup

  • 1/2 cup (1/4 pound) butter, at room temperature
  • 1 Tablespoon minced fresh parsley
  • 2 tsps minced fresh chives
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon juice I clove garlic, pressed
  • 1 tsp crumbled dried tarragon
In a bowl, mix the butter, parsley, chives, lemon juice, garlic, and tarragon. Refrigerate in a covered container for several hours, overnight, or until ready to serve. Bring to room temperature before serving.