Today friends, instead of finding a song about casseroles, tians or bakes, I’m going to post this song that has been haunting me. It’s so beautiful and plaintive. When a song like this is an earworm, it’s like having a little ghost howling in your head! It’s Tommy Johnson’s I Want Someone to Love Me.
Isaac and I were making paneer. Here’s how it all went down…I felt a little bad that I hadn’t spent much time cooking with Isaac. It’s nice to have something special with Malcolm, but I was worried that Isaac might feel a bit left out. So I’ve been trying to think of something fun to make that Isaac likes. I noticed that whenever we get Indian food, Isaac goes crazy for paneer, the soft, white cheese. He’ll even eat spinach, if it has paneer in it. Paneer also happens to be quite fun and easy to make. So that’s how Isaac got his first job as sous chef. He made the sauce to cook the paneer in, as well. He chose all the spices, and the main ingredients, and described the taste and texture that it should have.
On the way home from school, Isaac said he couldn’t wait to get home and be sous chef. Malcolm said Isaac was the sous sous chef. Isaac said, “Mommy is the over chef.” Malcolm said, “She’s the ogre chef!” I can live with that title!
As you will no doubt remember, we just went to Patel’s Cash and Carry on our Super Bodega Traveling adventure, and I had some ingredients I wanted to try out! So we made a meal with lots of little dishes. Isaac’s sauce had peas and tomatoes and cashews. It was a warm, earthy sweet dish. To go with that, I made a light saucy dish with punjabi tinda (baby Indian pumpkin) and cauliflower; and a very green dal, with whole moong dal, bay leaves, curry leaves, jalapeno, cilantro, lime, and ginger. I added a little black salt to this one as well – it’s a volcanic, sulfur-y salt, that adds a very distinctive flavor! Everything went very nicely together. I tried to make dosa, too, with my new urad flour. Complete and utter failure. Curses and frustration! I’ll try again, sometime, once I’ve recovered.
My friend Chris is playing DJ for this post, and he suggested the perfect song (and video). As he said, it’s a saucy little number! It’s Asha Bhonsle singing a song from Jewel Thief, Baithe Hain Kya Uske Paas.
Back to pupusa – it’s a Salvadoran dish made with masa harina, and it’s stuffed with cheese or meat or refried beans. It’s cooked on a hot, ungreased griddle. I’m sure the version I made is not like the real deal, but it was so tasty! David said it’s like a combination of tacos and mashed potatoes – it’s got a very comforting quality, the taste and texture as well as the process of forming and cooking. You make it by taking a handful of dough, and turning and pressing, turning and pressing, trying to keep the edges neat. I love the idea that the pupusa will be the shape and size of the palms of the maker. You can fill it with anything you like. I chose pinto beans, spinach, and sharp cheddar. Just substantial enough not to be mushy, just soft enough to provide a comforting contrast to the crispy outside. This is one of my favorite things I’ve made in a while – to make and to eat.
It’s also gluten free, as far as I know! And it would be vegan if you left the cheese out.
This one will be quick, though. Just like the sauce. It’s very flavorful, very easy, and probably very good for you because spinach and nuts have protein and iron and… other things, that are good. You’re the boss, with this sauce. You can make it quite thin and creamy, and have it with pasta or rice. Or you can make it quite thick, and use it however you would use pesto. I made it spicy, because I still have a cold, but that’s adjustable as well. It’s a nice dipping sauce for croquettes or kofta, and it’s very good with roasted vegetables, such as winter squash or sweet potatoes. It would make a nice meal with boiled diced potatoes stirred in. It’s creamy, yet vegan. And that’s all I’m going to say about that!
They have three kinds of greens – chard, kale and spinach, they have very green olives, and they have pistachios, which are green nuts! They also have ricotta, mozzarella and lots of herbs. I’m especially pleased with the texture of these. You never know how it’s going to go with greens and ricotta. Will they be watery and runny? Or mushy? This was perfect, though. Juicy, almost, but not soggy. It occurred to me that these were like large, baked, crispy ravioli, and in that spirit, I added a little semolina flour to the dough. (If you don’t have semolina flour, just leave it out. Or add 1/4 cup regular flour to replace it. Either way. )I made a sauce to go with these with roasted red peppers, almonds, tomatoes, paprika and chipotle. It turned out very spicy!
Anyway, this was very easy to make, and very nice with some mashed potatoes and a crispy salad, and I think it might be even nicer with a flaky paté brisée in smaller empandas. Someday I’ll try that and let you know!
I’ve been reading up on foods that are considered lucky eating for New Year’s Eve. Seems that legumes and greens are consumed throughout the world in various guises. Fascinating! Green french lentils are deemed especially lucky in many countries. As it happens, french lentils and greens are among my favorite foods!! Fancy that! And round foods are also seen as fortuitous, for a variety of reasons. I happened to have a big box of large white mushrooms, so I decided to stuff them with a mixture of french lentils, greens, and cheese. And I made a sauce with the lentil-cooking broth and the leftover lentils. Yummy!
And here’s Grace Cathedral Hill, a beautiful song by the Decemberists. It’s about New Year’s Day, and it’s a lovely story of a day when nothing in particular happens, but everything feels significant. I love those days! And one of my favorite parts (of course it’s food-related) is when they’re both a little hungry so they go to buy a hot dog. It’s not the best meal you ever had, but you remember it, and it becomes important, and it fills you up when you need it.