Marinara Sauce – An Italian Essential

Marinara Sauce is a basic Italian ingredient that can be used in many recipes.  My  marinara sauce has no added sugar.  Ground up fennel seeds are used to give the illusion of sweetness.  This is actually an Indian cooking tip that I learned from my great grandmother.  TIPUse fennel powder to impart the illusion of sweetness without using any sugar or sugar substitute.  

Marinara Sauce Feature

When I was 12, my family moved to America.  We settled in Queens, New York.  We lived in a very Italian neighborhood.  Most of the Italian families were related to each other, and everyone had vegetable and herb gardens in their backyard.  I had never even heard of Italian food, much less tasted it.  The Italians I met were full of joy and very generous.  They loved to feed me whenever I visited.  This was my introduction to Italian food, where I learned how to make marinara sauce from one of the Italian grandmothers (nonnas.) They always seemed to have jars of homemade marinara in their cupboards.

I learned from the nonnas, the great TIP of having marinara sauce on hand because it can be used to make so many dishes.  I have already created and photographed two recipes using my homemade marinara.  They will post on July 11th and July 18th.  For the 4th of July, I have planned a very special red, white and blue Italian dessert that is low carb and keto friendly.  I named the dessert Berries & Fennel Scented Zabaglione.

INGREDIENTS:

Marinara Sauce Ingredients

  • 8 large ripe tomatoes ( these beauties came from my neighbor’s garden.  I have the best neighbors 😃)
  • a large handful of basil ( the basil in the photo was grown by me.  I grow herbs in pots in the sun room just outside my kitchen.  This way I can get fresh herbs when I need them.  I feel truly blessed to be able to have the luxury to do this.)
  • 1 large white onion (this one was grown by my neighbor.  He brings us vegetables and we give him eggs from our chickens and ducks.)
  • 3 Tbsp of the best extra virgin olive oil you are able to find (the can of extra virgin olive oil in the photo, was picked up in Tuscany while I was taking a pasta making class.)
  • 1 bell pepper and 1 Serrano pepper (optional.  I like adding the peppers for an extra kick.)
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 tsp of dried oregano
  • 1 tsp of red chili flakes (leave these out if you want to make the dish less spicy)
  • 2 tsp of fennel seeds ( grind these to a powder in a spice grinder)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 Parmesan cheese rind.  TIP: Keep leftover cheese rinds in the freezer and use them to add flavor when making marinara sauce.
  • 1 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 cup of red wine
  • sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

PREPPING THE TOMATOES:

  • Score an “X” mark in the skin at the base of each tomato
  • Boil a large pot of water
  • Get an ice bath ready
  • Blanch each tomato in the boiling water for 30 seconds
  • Immediately place the blanched tomato in the ice bath to stop the cooking process
  • Once the tomatoes are cooled, peel off the skin starting at the scored “X” mark.  It should peel off easily.
  • Dice the peeled tomatoes and place them in a crock pot

TIP: Use a crock pot to make the sauce so you don’t have to spend hours stirring the sauce like the Italian nonnas, who taught me to make the sauce did.  

Its a good time saver.  If you want to make it like the nonnas, feel free to make it the traditional way in a large sauce pot.

PREPPING THE OTHER INGREDIENTS:

Marinara Sauce Prep

  • Add the bay leaf and cheese rind to the tomatoes in the crock pot
  • Turn the crock pot to high, and put the lid on while you prep the other ingredients.
  • Dice the onion and bell pepper
  • Mince the garlic and Serrano pepper
  • Tear the basil into small bits

COOKING THE AROMATIC BASE (SOFRITO):

  • Coat a stainless steel pan with the extra virgin olive oil and place on medium heat
  • Add the onion, garlic, peppers, basil, red chili flakes, oregano and fennel powder
  • Saute until lightly brown
  • Add the tomato paste, stir it in and cook for another minute
  • Add the cooked sofrito to the crock pot that already has the tomatoes in it

COOKING THE SAUCE:

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  • Add 1 cup of red wine
  • Turn the crock pot to low and cook for about 4 hours.  At this point the sauce should have turned a deep red color.
  • Now add salt and pepper to taste
  • Turn the crock pot to warm and let it sit for 30 minutes to let all the flavors marry

I wait until the end to add salt and pepper because it allows me to balance the flavors once everything has already blended and come together.

You can use the marinara immediately for many recipes, or you can put it in mason jars and keep in the frig for up to 2 weeks.  It will keep in the freezer for 6 months.

On a final note, I want to credit Ceramiche d’Arte Carmela, in Ravello, Italy for making the beautiful bowl and plate that I used to present my Marinara Sauce.

Marinara Sauce Feature

I visited their shop when I was in Ravello and fell in love with their ceramics.  I ended up ordering a whole set.  I use it frequently and remember Italy fondly.  I get no compensation for mentioning Carmela’s lovely art work here, but I like giving credit where credit is due.

Please use the comments section to let me know what you think if this recipe.  I always love hearing from you.

Ciao for now.  🖐😃

 

 

Collard Greens & Chickpea Stew

Collard Greens & Chickpea Stew, is the fifth in a series of six recipes inspired by Vegetables From Down The Road. Collard Greens & Chickpea Stew

In India this dish is usually made with spinach and/or mustard greens.  The gorgeous collard greens, in my farm fresh vegetable basket, inspired me to put in a Southern American twist.  I had never seen collard greens in India, but they are widely available here in Texas.  People in Texas love collard greens.

INGREDIENTS:Collard Greens & Chickpea Stew Ingredients

  • 15 large collard leaves
  • 1 1/2 cup of dry chickpeas
  • 3 inches of ginger root
  • 2 inches of fresh turmeric (if you can’t find this use 1 tsp of turmeric powder)
  • 1 medium sized red onion
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 3 peppers (use whatever variety you have on hand.  Here I used, 1 fiery Scotch Bonnet and 2 mild orange baby bells.) Mixing up the type of peppers lets you control the heat level and results in a more complex flavor.
  • 2 red hot Indian chilies for garnish (optional.) My husband eats the garnish.
  •  1 Tbsp of tomato paste
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp black mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 2 tsp garam masala
  • 3 Tbsp grape seed oil
  • 1 bay leaf
  • salt and pepper to taste

PREPPING THE CHICK PEAS:

  • Soak the chick peas overnight.  They will double in size.
  • Drain the soaking water
  • Place in a crock pot along with a bay leaf and cover with water
  • Turn crock pot to high and cook until tender
  • Add salt to taste towards the end of the cooking process

PREPPING THE OTHER INGREDIENTS:Collard Greens & Chickpea Stew Prep

  • Remove the collard green leaves from their stems (Don’t throw the stems away.  Chop them up and use them in recipes in place of celery.)
  • Dice the red onion
  • Mince the ginger, garlic and peppers

COOK:

  • Coat a heavy duty stainless steel skillet with grape seed oil, place it on medium heat.
  • Add the onion, ginger, garlic and peppers.  Saute until translucent, about 4 minutes.
  • Add the cumin and black mustard seeds.  Cook until the seeds start crackling.
  • Grate in the fresh turmeric.  If you are using turmeric powder, add it later in the recipe with the other powdered spices.
  • Saute until golden brown
  • Make a hot spot in the center of the pan by pushing aside the veggies
  • Add tomato paste to the hot spot and let it cook for about a minute
  • Stir the cooked tomato paste into the veggies
  • Add the collard greens
  • Saute them for about 5 minutes
  • Add the smoked paprika, garam masala, and the turmeric if you are using the powdered form.
  • Saute for another 5 minutes to let the powdered spices cook and blendCollard Greens Cook 10 add chickpeas

Drain the cooked chick peas and add them to the pan.  If you don’t want to cook the chick peas from scratch, use two 12 ounce cans of cooked chickpeas.  Please drain and rinse the canned chick peas well.

Stir the chick peas in and cover with the lid.  Turn off the heat and let the flavors marry for about 15 minutes.  In Hindi, we call this process of letting the flavors marry, “DHUM”.

Transfer to a beautiful platter and garnish with the red hot Indian chilies.Collard Greens & Chickpea Stew

This is a great vegan dish to make for a party.  It can be made in advance because it actually tastes better the next day.

Serve this stew as a side dish with your choice of protein, or it can be served as a vegan main dish with some pilaf.  I like serving this to my vegan guests with Buckwheat Pilaf.

I hope you are enjoying this series of recipes.  I am having a lot of fun creating them.  Next Saturday, I will post the last in this series of six recipes inspired by Vegetables From Down The Road.

Please leave your feedback in the comment section.  I always love to hear from you. 😊

 

 

Sweet Potato & Kale Tikkis (cutlets)

Hello everyone.😊  Hope you are all doing as well as possible during this global pandemic crisis.  I find myself temporarily unemployed for the very first time in my life.  I am using the time to catch up on all the things that I have left on the back burner.  I am now finally catching up with my blog posts.  I have created and photographed so many recipes that I have not had time to post.

Sweet Potato & Kale Tikkis, is the second in a series of six recipes inspired by  Vegetables From Down The Road.Sweet Potato & Kale Tikkis

Classic tikkis are usually made with regular potatoes and peas.  The bundle of vegetables that I received from Fruitful Hill Farm, included sweet potatoes and kale, so I was inspired to create a new version.  Not only is this version more healthful, but the sweet heat combination makes it taste even better.  Great with a cup of Masala Chai.

INGREDIENTS:Sweet Potato & Kale Tikkis Ingredients

  • 2 lbs of sweet potatoes
  • 1 large bunch of kale
  • 4 peppers (use whatever variety you have on hand.  Here I used 2  fiery Serranos, a medium – heat Fresno and a sweet orange baby bell.) Mixing up the type of peppers lets you control the heat level and results in a more complex flavor.
  • 1 medium sized yellow onion
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 2 inches of ginger root
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp black mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp chili flakes (optional if you want to make the dish more spicy.)
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp turmeric powder
  • 2 tsp garam masala (I make my own, but you can purchase it at an Indian grocery store or a spice market.)
  • 3 Tbsp grape seed oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

PREPPING THE SWEET POTATOES:

  • Some of the sweet potatoes were small and some were large.  I cut the large ones in half, so that all the pieces were of a similar size.  This way they will cook evenly.  Coat each sweet potato with a little oil.
  • Roast them in a 400 F oven until they are fork tender.
  • Let them cool so they can be handled without burning your hands.
  • Peel the sweet potatoes.
  • Mash then with a pastry cutter.  Add a dash of salt and pepper.

PREPPING THE OTHER INGREDIENTS:Sweet Potato & Kale Tikkis Prep

  • Separate the kale leaves from the stems.
  • Don’t throw the stems away.  Instead chop them up into little pieces to use in the cooking process.
  • Chop the onion.
  • Mince the peppers, ginger and garlic.

COOKING THE KALE:

  • Add the chopped up kale stems, the onion, peppers, ginger and garlic to a heavy duty stainless steel pan on medium heat.
  • Add the cumin and black mustard seeds.
  • Add the grape seed oil and saute till golden brown.
  • Then add the powdered turmeric, smoked paprika and garam masala.  Saute for another minute or two until the powdered spices are incorporated.
  • Add the kale
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Let the kale wilt down.  This should take about 5 to 10 minutes.

Once the kale is ready, fold it into the mashed sweet potatoes.  Roasted Sweet Potatoes & Kale Base Combined into a Hash

Let the mixture cool to room temperature before you start making the tikkis.

MAKING THE TIKKIS:

  • Take a heaping tablespoon of the sweet potato kale mixture and form into flattened discs.
  • Coat a non-stick skillet with grape seed oil.  Place on medium heat.  When the oil is shimmering add the tikkis.  Do not over crowd the pan.  Cook for about 3 minutes on each side to get a brown crispy crust.

Place on a platter and serve with chutney.  They are so yummy.

Sweet Potato & Kale Tikkis, cooked

Traditionally, tikkis are served with a mint and coriander chutney.  Since my vegetable basket had fresh carrots with absolutely lovely carrots tops, I made a carrot tops and coriander chutney to serve with the tikkis.  It turned out so well.  I do my best to use every part of every vegetable so that we don’t have waste.  It leads me to make some very creative recipes.  What we don’t eat, gets fed to the goats or the ducks and chickens.  Nothing goes to waste around here.  Deliciously, doing our part to be in harmony with the planet and Mother Nature.

In the feature photo, you can see the Carrot Tops and Coriander Chutney, served with the tikkis.  The chutney recipe will be posted next Saturday, as the third in the series of six recipes inspired by Vegetables From Down The Road.

These tikkis are very versatile.  Serve them as a snack with tea, as a fancy Hors d’oeuvre at a cocktail party, or an appetizer at a dinner party.  They are always a hit.  You can also make them the day before, and then warm them up in the toaster oven just before serving.  The toaster oven lets the crust stay nice and crispy.  If you have any left over mixture it make a great hash, topped off with eggs, for breakfast.Sweet Potato & Kale Hash topped with Poached EggsI really enjoyed creating this recipe and sharing it with you.  Let me know what you think of it in the comment section.

I always, appreciate your support and feedback.

P.S.: Today my husband decided that I needed an outing because I haven’t left the house in a week.  He drove me in his MG convertible, so I could enjoy the sunny day, down the road to Fruitful Hill Farm.  I picked up another beautiful bundle of vegetables.Vegetables From Down The Road 15 May 2020

More inspiration to come up with some creative dishes !!! 😃

Results of My Second Cooking Class/Pop Up Supper Club in Support of the Bastrop County Emergency Food Pantry

My second cooking class/pop supper club was a lot of fun.  The students were eager to learn how to make Indian food.  Everyone enjoyed the food, wine pairing and the camaraderie generated by the community getting together to help a good cause.

Buffet Line

I. Enjoying Kachumber
Photo by Gabby Silva

I am very thankful to my guests for their goodwill and donations to the Bastrop County Emergency Food Pantry.  We were able to raise $775 to help our community.

Here is the Indian Menu that my students and I prepared.  Just like the last event, it was delicious, gluten free and Keto friendly.  Vegan, vegetarian and pescatarian options were available to include a wide variety of dietary preferences.

Cooking Class 2 Menu

THE APPETIZER

F. Plated Kachri
photo by Gabby Silva

AUBERGINE KACHRI is my dad’s favorite appetizer.  My mom used to make it for him frequently.  It consists of spicy slices of sauteed eggplant served with a yogurt mint sauce.  For the full recipe, please click on the link above.

Indian cooking takes some advance preparation.  Some of the students joined me the Friday before the event to help me with the prep and learn some extra tips.

The eggplant has to be sliced and salted overnight to draw out excess moisture.  Drawing out the moisture allows the eggplant to cook evenly and not absorb excess oil.  This is a tip I learned from my mom.  Below is Rose, one of my students, showing the eggplant we sliced and salted.

A'. Prepping Kachri

The cooking class began on Saturday at noon.  The first thing we did is dry the eggplant slices and season them with my Indian Spice Mix.

We let the seasoned eggplant slices sit in the frig for a couple of hours, to let all the spices marry, before pan sauteing them.

C. Sauteing Kachri

The cooked eggplant slices were topped off with a dollop of yogurt mint sauce made with My Mom’s Yogurt.  A fresh mint leaf was added to each slice for a finishing touch.

THE SALAD

G. Plated Kachumber

KACHUMBER is chopped salad made with cucumber, tomato, onion, mint, cilantro, lime juice and Indian spices.  In the above photo, you see it plated with a small papad.  Papad is a thin, cracker-like crisp made with lentils.  It serves as the Keto friendly crouton element.

The salad was the last thing we made so that we could serve it super fresh.  In the photo below, you will see the components of the main course staying warm in crockpots, while we prep the Kachumber Salad.

A. Prepping Kachumber

I also made a yogurt dressing, with toasted cumin and other spices, to add a creamy element to the Kachumber Salad.  I will post the full recipe as soon as I get a chance.

THE MAIN COURSE was a Trio of  Indian Curries

I want to clarify what a curry is.  Curry just means something cooked in a sauce.  In India, every region has its own variety of curries.  Indian cooks do not use curry powder.  Curry powder is a British invention.  Each curry is made from scratch with its own blend of base aromatics and a layering of spices throughout the cooking process.

I decided to make three unique curries, both to accommodate a variety of dietary needs and to show my students different ways of making curries.

Indian Cooking Class Feature
Photo by Gabby Silva

Starting from left to right, the photo above shows:

  • Riced Cauliflower Pilaf, made with freshly grated turmeric
  • Extra Kachri Slices, in case anyone wanted an additional appetizer
  • Vegan Curry, with chickpeas for protein
  • Monkfish Curry, with a coconut lime base, for the pescatarians
  • Oxtail Curry, my unique signature dish

Diners had a choice of enjoying the curries with a Brown Basmati Rice Pilaf (sitting in the pot on the back burner) or a Keto friendly, Riced Cauliflower Pilaf.  Click on the link for Buckwheat Pilaf to see the basic recipe to make any kind of pilaf.

I am a pescatarian, who leads a Keto Lifestyle, so I served myself a plate of riced cauliflower pilaf and topped it with monkfish curry.

Trio of Indian Curries
photo by Gabby Silva

It was really delicious, if I do say so myself.  Monkfish is considered to be poor man’s lobster. It tasted like a decadent lobster curry with a great depth of flavor, and was the first one to be finished.  I will definitely make it again and post the recipe.

THE DESSERT

Zb. Ras Malai Plated
photo by Gabby Silva

SAFFRON PISTACHIO RASMALAI is a classic Indian dessert, and my husband’s favorite.  Each round ball is a cheesecake bite sitting in a creamy, flavorful sauce.

Indian desserts tend to be very sweet, so my challenge was to figure out a way to make is Keto friendly.  As I was mulling over how to make a low carb version, I recalled a memory from when I was 10 years old.

I was visiting my great grandmother and I watched her make Rasmalai from scratch.  She used just a little bit of honey in place of sugar.  She told me that my great grandfather had sugar problems, so she made desserts with very little sugar, but a lot of flavor.

I did my best to recreate her recipe.  I am going to show you how I did it.  The trick is to use very high quality ingredients and lots of spices that will give the illusion of sweetness.  The spices I used in this case are saffron, fennel powder and cardamom.

MAKING THE RAS GULLAS (cheese balls)

My friend Kathy, came over on prep day to learn how to make Paneer.

  • Once the Paneer is ready, break it up with a fork, add the spices and ground up pistachios.
  • Mix everything together and gently knead it into a ball.
  • Cut the ball into 2 inch pieces, and shape into discs.

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  • Make a pistachio honey syrup scented with saffron and rose water.  I used only one tablespoon of raw local honey in the entire pan of syrup.
  • The syrup is used to cook the cheese balls and infuse them with flavor.  They are simmered for 10 minutes with the lid on.  During the cooking process the cheese balls will double in size.
  • The cooked cheese balls are cooled and firmed up in an ice bath.

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  • While the cheese balls are cooling, make the cream sauce.  The sauce consists of cream, half &half, one tablespoon of honey, pistachio powder, saffron and rose water.

W. making the cream (malai) for the ras gullas

  • Place the firmed up cheese balls in the cream sauce.  We made these on prep day so that the cheese balls could become saturated with the cream sauce overnight.

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Just before serving, I plated the RasMalai by spooning two tablespoons of Malai (cream sauce) into a small bowl.  Then I placed two RasGullas (cheese balls) in each bowl and topped them off with pistachios and goji berries for a little color.

I was proud to make this dessert.  I felt like my great grandmother was there helping me. After my husband ate this RasMalai, he said he would never eat the store bought version again.  My great grandmother’s version turned out so sublime, with a profound but delicate flavor.  I will do a full recipe post when I make it again, but for now I have posted the above photos to give you an idea of how the RasMalai was made.

I want to thank my husband for his help and his expert wine pairing.

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I also want to thank my guests for their support, and Gabby Silva for taking such great photos.

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My next event will be in September for Hunger Action Month.  Tresha Silva, the director of the Bastrop County Emergency Food Pantry, and I are planning to hold the event at the Bastrop Convention & Exhibit Center.

I will keep you posted.  In the meantime, if you have any suggestions or comments please let me know in the comment section below.  I would love to hear from you.

 

Results of My First Cooking Class/Pop Up Supper Club in Support of the Bastrop County Emergency Food Pantry

My first cooking class/pop up supper club was a lot of fun and a big hit.  The students loved the cooking class.  Everyone enjoyed the food, wine pairing and the goodwill generated during the event.  The best compliment I got was that the food, wine and service were like a five star restaurant, but the camaraderie was the best thing of all.

I am thankful to my guests for their goodwill and donations to the Bastrop County Emergency Food Pantry.  We were able to raise $600 to help our community.  Not bad for a first trial run event.

OUR NEXT EVENT WILL BE ON SEPTEMBER 28th.  This time the menu will be Indian Cuisine.  I will post the menu by the first week of September.  The event will be open to 20 people and will be held in my cooking school house on my ranch.

Here is the Italian profile menu that was prepared and served for this event.  It was all delicious, gluten free and Keto friendly.  I was also able to provide vegan and vegetarian options.

BCEFP Event 2

 

THE AMUSE-BOUCHE

AUTUMN DAL–I served a sample of the soup that I made for the 2019 Bastrop County Empty Bowl Project.

 

THE APPETIZER

ROASTED CAULIFLOWER–topped with shaved Italian cheeses, pine nuts and a drizzle of homemade pesto.  I have not yet posted this recipe on my blog, but I will soon.

The cooking class students enjoyed making and eating this dish.  It was a class favorite.

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The pesto that topped the cauliflower was easy to make, fragrant and oh so yum!!!

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My friend, Melinda thought it smelled divine.

By the way,  Melinda has been very supportive of my cooking endeavors.  She made me promise that when I do my first cooking class, I have to call her so that the event can be scheduled at a time when she will be able to attend.  True to my promise, she was the first one to be invited.

A NO WASTE TIP–when we prepped the cauliflower, we saved all the stalks and leaves.  We used them as part of the base for the stuffing in our main course.  I wanted to show that no part of the vegetable has to go to waste. I always use it all one way or the other.  In this case I used it in the soffritto that makes up the stuffing for the Dover Sole.  The cauliflower stalks taste like a cross between celery and fennel, so they make an aromatic addition to the soffritto.

 

THE SALAD

MIXED GREENS–with house made balsamic vinaigrette.  I bought some organic greens at grocery store, but the ones you see me washing were grown by my hubby.

The main reason that I wanted to make a salad was to show my students how easy it is to make salad dressing.  It is basically 3 parts oil to 1 part vinegar, an emulsifying agent, salt, pepper, herbs and spices.  Here I used Tuscan Extra Virgin olive oil, White Balsamic vinegar from Modena, soy sauce as the emulsifying agent, thyme and my Italian Spice Mix.

I will write a detailed post on the basics of making salad dressings in the future.  I never buy commercial salad dressings because most of them have ingredients that are not good for you.  Also the home made dressings are easy to make and taste so much better.

 

THE MAIN COURSE

STUFFED DOVER SOLE–with artichoke hearts and onion, served on a bed of BUCKWHEAT PILAF surrounded by BLISTERED TOMATOES.  On the right you see the vegan option, where roasted cauliflower was substituted for the fish.

I picked this dish for my first cooking class because it was the first dish I posted when I started my blog.  I was so lucky to find wild fresh caught Dover Sole at the store.  For the full recipe please click on the links above.

Here are a few more photos from the cooking class.

 

THE DESSERT

CC 1 Zabaglione Whip
Photo by Gabby Silva

BERRIES AND FENNEL SCENTED ZABAGLIONE

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Zabaglione is an Italian custard made with egg yolks, sugar and sweet Marsala wine.  The eggs came form our own chickens, making this custard extra special.  I played around with the traditional zabaglione recipe to find a way to cut down the amount of sugar used.  The classic recipe calls for a table spoon of sugar for 2 egg yolks along with a table spoon of sweet Marsala.  I was able to cut the sugar down to 1 tea spoon by adding a pinch of fennel powder. In the future, I will write a post showing the recipe step by step.

THE TIP HERE IS THAT FENNEL POWDER ADDS THE ILLUSION OF SWEETNESS SO IT ALLOWS YOU TO DECREASE THE AMOUNT OF SUGAR.  The fennel powder also adds great flavor.  I use this same trick in my marinara sauce.  An Indian cooking trick carried over to Italian Cuisine.  I really like that.

I was a bit nervous because this was my first cooking class.  However, everything went smoothly.  All the food was timed correctly.  We started the class at 1:30 with 5 students.  The class ended right on time at 5:30.  The dinner guests arrived at 6 pm and my husband served everyone a cocktail.

Above you see him making his Pear Martini.  It is a very popular drink.  The pears come from our tree.  If you want to see the recipe please click on the link.

Each course was perfectly matched with a Texas wine from Messina Hof.

Thanks to everyone who helped to make it a great event!

CC 1 Group Photo
Photo by Gabby Silva

 

 

 

 

 

 

Curried Baby Turnips (tops & all)

Curried Baby Turnips, is the first in a series of six recipes inspired by Vegetables From Down The RoadCurried Baby Turnips (tops & all)The baby turnips from our neighboring farm were so fresh that I decided to use them tops and all.  This is a classic Indian dish which is usually made with cilantro.  Here I substituted the tender, fresh turnip tops for the cilantro.

INGREDIENTS:

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  • 2 bunches of baby turnips (each bunch had 5 turnips)
  • 3 peppers (use whatever variety you have on hand–here I used a Fresno, a sweet orange pepper and a fiery hot green scotch bonnet pepper.)  Mixing up the type of peppers results in a more complex flavor.
  • 2 inches of ginger root
  • 2 inches of turmeric root (if you cannot find fresh turmeric, use 1/2 tsp. of powder instead)
  • 8 ounces of frozen peas
  • 1 Tbsp. tomato paste
  • 1 tsp. cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp. black mustard seeds
  • 1/2 tsp. nigella seeds
  • 1 tsp. chili flakes (optional if you want to make the dish more spicy)
  • 1 tsp. smoked paprika
  • 2 tsp. garam masala (I make my own, but you can purchase it at an Indian grocery store or a spice market)
  • 2 Tbsp. grape seed oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

PREP:

Curried Baby Turnips Prep

  • Trim off the turnip bottoms and tops.  Leave the skins on.  Cut the turnips in half and then slice them into thin moon shapes.
  • Roughly chop the turnip tops.
  • Finely dice the chilies and ginger.

COOK:

  • Coat a large stainless steel skillet with grape seed oil and place on medium heat.
  • Add the turnips, chilies and ginger.
  • Add salt and pepper to taste.
  • Sprinkle on the cumin, black mustard and nigella seeds.  Add the optional chili flakes.
  • Using a micro plane or mini grater, grate the fresh turmeric at this point.  If you are using powdered turmeric, it will be added later in the recipe.  If you add it now, it will burn.
  • Saute the turnips until they are translucent and the added seeds begin to pop.  You will be able to hear them popping.
  • Turn the heat to medium-low.
  • Add the tomato paste and smoked paprika.  If you are using powdered turmeric, add it at this point.  Continue to saute for another 2 minutes.
  • Add the chopped turnip tops and saute until they wilt.  This should take 2 or 3 minutes.
  • Add the peas and sprinkle on the garam masala.
  • Add additional salt and pepper as needed.
  • Toss everything together.
  • Turn off the heat and cover with the lid.

Leave the turnips on the stove without removing the lid for about 10-20 minutes or until you are ready to serve.  This process is called “DUM” in Hindi.  It allows all the flavors to marry and become one harmonious flavor. This is a very important step in traditional Indian cooking.

As a side note.  At the end of February 2019, I found out that I have high blood sugar.  For the past 4 months, I have been following a ketogenic lifestyle along with intermittent fasting.  I have been successful in controlling my blood sugar and I also lost 30 pounds.  I will write more about this in a separate post.  This recipe just happens to fit a keto lifestyle.  Turnips are a great substitute for potatoes on a keto program.  Try this recipe because it is delicious.  Let me know how it turns out in the comment section.

My First Event–helping to raise money for the Bastrop County Emergency Food Pantry (photo by Karen Kahan)

Every year the Bastrop County Emergency Food Pantry (BCEFP) hosts the EMPTY BOWL PROJECT to raise funds for our local food bank.  It is their biggest fundraiser for the year.  Local restaurants and caterers volunteer to make soup to be served at the event.  People in the community buy tickets to taste the soups and vote for their favorites.

In addition, local artists create ceramic bowls that are part of a silent auction.

All proceeds from the silent auction and the tickets go directly to our emergency food pantry.  The goal for this year was to raise $30,000.  I am very happy to report that we exceeded our goal.  700 people attended at $20 a ticket–so that was $14,000.  The rest came from the silent auction, donations, and business and individual sponsorships.  It was so much fun!!!  Thank you to everyone who contributed.

This year, I was asked if I would like to participate by serving my Autumn Dal (split mung beans with kale).  I have never made soup for 700 people, so I was a bit nervous if it would come out right.  But I went for it and said yes.  If you read my welcome page, you will see that I promised that there would be some community projects associated with this blog.  I have always wanted to give back to my community, so I was thrilled to have my first opportunity to help.  I will be doing more projects with the BCEFP.  I will blog about them as I do them.

The timing of the 2109 EMPTY BOWL PROJECT was very special to me.  It just so happened that my family was visiting me from Chicago during the week that the event was taking place.  The Empty Bowl Project turned into 4 generations of soup for me.

BCEBP DEDICATION The recipe started with my Nani-ji (grandmother), then my mom, then me and now I am passing it onto my niece, Leilani.  She wanted to help me make the soup and I was grateful for her help.  Leilani painstakingly spent two hours cutting up the greens.

BCEPB PREP LK

I really enjoyed making the soup with Leilani.  She was so eager to learn and help.

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My dad helped me serve the soup.

BCEBP DAD

It was a HEARTWARMING family and community experience.  I look forward to doing it again next year.

Vegetables From Down The Road

On Saturday, my husband went down the road and brought home these beautiful vegetables from our neighbors, Fruitful Hill Farm.  We a lucky to have such nice neighbors.

I was inspired to make 6 dishes.  I did a marathon cooking session which included creating, testing, cooking and photographing the 6 dishes.  I will be posting one dish per week for the next six weeks.

Here is a list of the dishes I created:

  1. CURRIED BABY TURNIPS–TOPS AND ALL
  2. SWEET POTATO & KALE TIKKIS (CUTLETS)
  3. CARROT TOPS & CORIANDER CHUTNEY
  4. CARROT TOPS & PARSLEY PESTO PASTA
  5. COLLARD GREENS & CHICKPEA STEW
  6. MUSTARD GREEN SAAG PANEER

Nothing went to waste.  I used every part of the vegetables.  I also made Roasted Carrots but I did not list it because it is a recipe I have already posted.

I had so much fun doing this marathon cooking session.  I am looking forward to sharing the dishes with you.  Please look out for them.  I hope you like them.

A big thanks to the folks at Fruitful Hill Farm for growing the vegetables!!!