I’ve mentioned a number of times since the summer that we had some difficulty keeping up with the large amounts of tomatoes, eggplants and peppers we got from my community garden plot this year. That is, however, a problem we have every fall with a completely different vegetable: squash. Our CSA gives us a lot of squash in the early fall and by the time the last pickup happens in the second half of October our countertops are groaning under the weight of several weeks’ worth of squash of various types. And then the last share pickup is always a double share, sending another 8 lbs or so of squash home. Thanksgiving helps use some of it up as I always make a roasted squash soup. But with our smaller than usual gathering this year I needed to use up more of it even before we got to the last week of November. I made it in some of our favourite ways (including this one) and I also improvised this particular recipe over the base of one of Suvir Saran’s recipes, which I first encountered on a food forum 18 years ago and which is also in his first cookbook. His recipe has far fewer spices and is very good indeed. I immodestly think this is too. Try it and see. Continue reading
Many years ago the top Sichuan restaurant in Los Angeles—which is to say in the San Gabriel Valley, which is to say in the US—was Chung King in Monterey Park. In the early 2000s we ate there almost as often as we now do at Grand Szechuan here in the Twin Cities metro. Indeed, when we left Los Angeles for Boulder in 2003 there was a period when if one of us had to go back to L.A for a few days they were tasked with picking up an order of our favourite dishes the evening before their return, freezing it and bringing it back in their suitcase. We’re not as insane anymore—and, of course, Chung King’s heyday faded long ago, as they moved, lost their chef and closed; and as newer and, let’s face it, even better Sichuan restaurants opened in the SGV (your Chengdu Tastes and your Szechuan Impressions). Why am I going on about Chung King? Well, because on one occasion we saw a special come out of the kitchen and head to another table: it looked like a kabocha squash stuffed with meat. We managed to order one too and it did indeed turn out to be kabocha stuffed with highly spiced ground pork and cooked together. The only other thing I remember clearly is that it was dynamite and that we never had any luck finding it again. Continue reading
My mother sent me this recipe almost exactly 17 years ago, at a time when in my early-mid 30s I’d finally begun to eat a wider variety of vegetables. I must have asked her for recipes for pumpkin for the subject line of her email reads “kumro” (Bengali for pumpkin) and the body contains two recipes along with the headnote, “this is your father’s favourite vegetable”. The second recipe is one I’ve posted a version of before; that one I remember my mother making when I was young. This one, on the other hand, I have no memory of seeing on our dining table; but memory is unreliable and in any case I barely ate any vegetables when I was a kid. It is, however, an excellent recipe and a very simple one as long as you have a food processor with a grater attachment. In case you’re tempted to say that the texture of pumpkin grated with a food processor is inferior to that of pumpkin grated by hand, this is also a reminder that recipes like this can only originate in locations/times where kitchen labour is either cheap (via underpaid servants) or free (via women’s unpaid domestic labour). Kitchen gadgets may free some of us from these associations but it’s important to resist romanticizing traditional cooking practices or letting technology obscure their less savoury origins. Continue reading
I have for you today a recipe for a homely but essential dish from the Bengali repertoire: panch mishali torkari. “Panch” means five, “mishali” more or less means mixed, and this is by definition a dish that involves five vegetables cooked together (except when it involves four or six). It is a highly flexible dish. Classically, I suppose, you are most likely to see potatoes and radish and eggplant and snow peas/broad beans and pumpkin in it but really you can make it with whatever mix of vegetables you have at hand. This version, for example, uses asparagus, which you are rarely likely to see used in Bengali kitchens in a dish like this. The dish is a concept not a fixed list of ingredients—I make versions with zucchini and bell peppers as well. No matter what combination of vegetables you use, it is a good idea to have a mix of textures. The flavour of the dish is really carried by the ingredient that more than any other ties the Bengali kitchen together: panch phoron, the mix of five seeds that goes in almost every Bengali vegetable and fish dish. When I first came to the US panch phoron was not easily found but these days you can purchase it easily in any decent South Asian grocery store. and if you live somewhere without a decent South Asian grocery store at hand you can even buy it on Amazon. Get some and get cooking (and while you’re at it, get some mustard oil too). Continue reading
I made this squash “bisque” with Indian spices for a dinner party recently and it turned out quite well. I put bisque in quotes because traditionally a bisque has shellfish or shellfish stock in it and this doesn’t. I was planning to deploy dried shrimp for that purpose but it turned out we were out. The Korean corner of the pantry, however, had some dried anchovies and so I used that instead. It came out very well. The picture here has mussels in it because when I heated up the leftovers a few days later, I brought it to a boil and threw in a pound of mussels. That made it even better. But it’s pretty good without the mussels (and would be very good with shrimp too) and, indeed, the recipe can be very easily adapted to make it vegetarian or even vegan (see below). Continue reading
I’m a little fuzzy on where the line between soup and stew is or on what basis it is drawn. I do know that it’s hard to go wrong cooking pork and beans together. Here they are joined by sweet cubes of butternut squash and only a few other ingredients to create a hearty and heartwarming bowl that’s perfect for cold Minnesota winters or pretty much any other day of the year, anywhere. In terms of flavours I would say that it’s Mexican-inspired and I’d hazard that if you were served this in a contemporary Mexican restaurant you wouldn’t think it was out of place.
As with all my bean cooking, this employs my friend Steve Sando’s Rancho Gordo beans. I made this with Alubia Blanca, a small white bean from his Xoxoc Project, a very worthy endeavour. I think the white beans give the dish a nice range of colours but you can make it with any other bean with similar texture: for example, Yellow Indian Woman. Continue reading
As mentioned earlier, I am doing an Indian Thanksgiving this year (please construct your own ironic, historical joke). I’ve already posted the recipe I improvised for spicy cranberry chutney; in place of the roast turkey I’m going to do braised turkey drumsticks in the style of a Kerala “roast” (I’m going to do a dry run with a couple of drumsticks tomorrow, and if it turns out well I’ll post that recipe on Tuesday); I’m also making a Bengali-style sweet pulao in place of stuffing; and I’m making two dishes with roasted squash: one a spicy and sour soup with tamarind and coconut milk, and the other this mash with ghee and garam masala. I made a test batch today and it came out quite well. I might tweak it a bit for the main event but so that I remember what I did here’s the base recipe. Continue reading
For the first two entries of this edition of Indian Home Cooking Week I’ve posted two fairly traditional parts of a Bengali meal. This third entry is neither traditional nor Bengali. It is my take on non-Indian roasted squash soups with Indian flavours and techniques. It is very easy to make and I think you will like it a lot—it’s a great winter soup. You can serve it as part of a multi-course meal (Indian or otherwise) or just have a big bowl of it as a standalone meal. It could even probably work as a sauce for fish along with rice. The possibilities are endless. By which I mean that there are at least three possibilities.
Indian Home Cooking Week kicked off yesterday with a recipe for chholar dal; here today is a recipe for a vegetable dish to eat with it: mishti kumro. “Mishti” means sweet in Bengali, and for those of you know Bengali food it may seem redundant for a Bengali dish to be qualified thus. My people have a renowned sweet tooth (though we can’t compare to most Gujaratis) and often add a bit of sugar to a lot of savoury dishes as well. The “mishti” in the name of this dish, however, is a qualifier of the second word “kumro”, which means pumpkin, and means only that the dish features sweet pumpkin—the dish itself is not particularly sweet. I’m not really sure which of the bewildering multiplicity of pumpkins and squashes available in the US is closest to the Bengali pumpkin. If I had to guess, I’d go with buttercup, but really I use whatever I have at hand: butternut, buttercup, kabocha, delicata, or in this case ambercup. Continue reading