Saturday, March 13, 2010

quasi indian friday night dinner

Our lovely friend Emily came over for dinner on friday. We've had two small pumpkins sitting on the windowsill since Halloween, if you can believe it, so I decided earlier in the week to finally do something with them for friday dinner. I remembered a recipe our CSA farmers sent home in a newsletter late in the season last year - chunks of winter squash, roasted in the oven with butter and curry powder, with chunks of apple added later on in the cooking.

Sadly, though both little pumpkins LOOKED good still... their pretty outsides hid a dark secret - only about one quarter of one of them was still usable. Luckily the Hi-Lo sells chunks of some kind of giant squash, so I got a couple of those. We also had some collard greens in the house, so I thought I'd get some tofu and make a kind of fake saag paneer with them.

Some baked brown rice (I added toasted cumin and ground allspice to this batch), and some homemade naan seemed like good a way to round things out... plus Emily brought all the fixings for, and made, some cucumber raita.

The squash (wish I had a picture for right here):
I had probably 2 pounds of squash, cut into cubes, and
2 onions, cut into chunks
mixed up in a big bowl with oil, and a curry powder mix I had made a while back - the usual things like turmeric, coriander, cumin, allspice, cayenne, a little cardamom, and I think a little fennel and cinnamon (it was Sri Lankan style, sort of). I also added a lot of salt and pepper, and some garlic powder.
I poured it all on an oiled baking sheet, covered it with another baking sheet (didn't feel like wrangling a bunch of foil), and put it in the 375 degree oven where the brown rice was already baking. After about 25 minutes I took the top sheet off, and added 3 small apples I peeled and diced, and let it stay in there another 30 minutes or... more. It turned out really tender, and sweet but savory.

The greens (that is, the fake saag paneer):
I sort of made this up as I went along. I put a big chunk of ginger, rough chopped, and 6 or so cloves of garlic rough chopped, and some toasted cumin seeds in the food processor, till it was all ground up.
I added about half the collards (I had 2 pounds total) to the food processor, and let it go till it was ground way down - it looked like a rough pesto.
I fried the cubed tofu, seasoned with salt and pepper, in a good amount of oil in a big frying pan. After I took the tofu out of the pan I added in the ground-up ginger garlic and collards mixture and let it fry up, with some salt and pepper. Then I added a bunch of water, more than a cup, but just a little at a time - I just kept adding water until it looked like a sauce. Meanwhile I put the rest of the collards in a microwave safe bowl, poured in some water, covered with plastic wrap, and microwaved it for two minutes. Then I added it all into the chopped collards in the frying pan, put a lid on it, and let it all bubble together on low heat for a while.
When it was time to eat it, I added some salvadoran crema I got at the Hi-Lo (it's kind of like sour cream or creme fraiche, it turns out! Only, a little cheesier and very salty - Emily warned me it goes bad fast so I'll have to think up something to do with the rest soon), maybe a half a cup, or more, and stirred in the tofu. It turned out better than I expected - in fact I personally felt it was more delicious than the average saag paneer - the collards gave it a little dark-greeny-bitterness that I really liked, better than spinach. I think in the future I might grind all the greens down in the food processor instead of just half of them (then i could skip the separate microwave steaming step). Also next time, I might buy some of the queso para freir they sell at the Hi-Lo, seems like it would be a lot like paneer.

The Naan (this one turned out mitten shaped!):
I used this recipe for naan, sort of. The only thing is that I've been growing a sourdough starter, lately, and had some I had to discard (I'll explain when I post about the starter, some other time), so I had to fudge some of the details. We did use the cooking method (Emily and Jenean spearheaded the naan baking) - which is to roll balls of it out nice and thin and throw it on a very hot stove top grill pan (ours it cast iron, which gets really hot), and flip it when it gets bubbly to cook the other side. Once they were done we brushed them with melted butter which I had put some chopped garlic in. They turned out good - tender and chewy, and crispy on the edges.

The Raita:
Emily brought an english cucumber, toasted ground cumin, yogurt, fresh mint and a lemon. She grated about 2/3 of the cucumber and chopped the mint, and mixed it all up with the juice of half the lemon, some cumin, and salt and pepper. It was so fresh and perky.

what I did with some of the leftovers (indian calzone?):
Emily wisely shut down the naan baking operation when we had 8 of them made, since there were only 3 of us eating. That left me with a pretty big chunk of naan dough sitting in the fridge waiting to get baked. Over the last few days we've been eating all this stuff for meals, so there was just a little bit of the collards left. I rolled out a little piece of it into a thin circle, put last of the collards on (probably just a 1/2 cup), pinched the edges shut, put it on an oiled pie plate, drizzled with a little more olive oil, sprinkled with salt, poked a couple holes in the top, and baked it at 450 for about 15 minutes. It was seriously good.

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