Fresh Herbs

A fresh and fun recipe catalog by a girl who likes to play in the kitchen the "from scratch" way.

|THE SAAGA CONTINUES: PANEER PART DEUX| 02/15/2012

Filed under: cheese,CILANTRO,CORIANDER,GARLIC,Savory — |FreshHerbs| @ 7:45 pm

So I cubed up my paneer and fried it (2 min per side, just two sides) in a combo of sesame oil and canola oil. Why sesame? Because I had it (and it was suffering from a severe case of pantry fatigue)…I also like the way it smells, it’s great for frying, it’s a traditional oil used in South Indian cookery (I’ve always wanted to use the word ‘cookery’), and it’s actually brimming with anti-oxidants and good fats.

Paneer can be frozen after it's been fried.

This amount of paneer will fry up in two batches in a large frying pan. I drained it on a paper towel and let it cool completely. Then, having none of the ingredients for Saag Paneer on hand, I added my fried cheese {swoon} to a freezer zip lock bag, as per instructions from my friend Shubh, and froze it. Apparently, freezing fresh paneer is a bad idea, but freezing fried paneer is ok. I would suspect that, as with any frozen cheese, the consistency changes slightly after freezing so that frying would be difficult. Hence, fry then freeze.

Fast forward about a week and I was able to procure the necessary ingredients to make Saag Paneer (or Palak Paneer). Hubs loves chicken saag. Neither of us have had paneer before, so I thought this would be a good introduction for us. The key ingredient here is garam masala, a traditional Indian spice blend. The blend typically includes a variety of spices like pepper, cardamom, coriander, nutmeg, cinnamon, and cumin. I prefer natural and organic spices and I chose a garam masala made by Frontier. Different brands will have a different combination of spices so look around and choose one that has the spices you like. The recipe below makes A LOT OF SAAG. Next time around, I’ll make this in a half batch. I also made the mistake of using the entire batch of paneer- unnecessary. The recipe below reflects this adjustment. It’s also very important to salt the dish. The original recipe I based mine on called for salting after the paneer has been added, but at that point it’s hard to stir without breaking up the paneer, so salt first, then add the paneer.

 

Saag Paneer (Palak Paneer)

It's not from Little India, but it's pretty good for my first attempt at Indian cuisine.

Probably 8 servings; 1/2 recipe for smaller portion

Handy equipment: immersion blender

1 large onion
6 cloves of fresh garlic
1 oz fresh ginger
fresh cilantro, to taste
2 10oz packages of frozen chopped spinach, thawed
1 cup plain greek yogurt
4oz buttermilk
pinch red chili powder (adjust for spiciness desired)
1 Tb garam masala
1 C heavy cream
salt to taste
3 oz homemade paneer (defrosted if previously frozen)

Grind the onion, garlic, cilantro, and ginger into a fine paste. I used my immersion blender for this step and it was the perfect tool.

In a medium saucepan, combine the paste, spinach, yogurt, buttermilk, chili powder, and garam masala. Simmer at medium heat for 20 to 30 minutes. Use your immersion blender again to cream the mixture to desired consistency (you could also use a potato masher). Add the cream and simmer until the mixture has a creamy consistency, 10 to 15 minutes. Season with salt to taste. Add the cheese, simmer 5 minutes.

Serve with basmati rice (I flavor mine with a bay leaf, a few cloves, a cinnamon stick and a cardamom pod) and hot naan bread (homemade or store-bought).

The verdict? Well, it’s not Little India saag, but for my first attempt at Indian cuisine I was pretty pleased and I learned some valuable lessons for next time. The flavor seemed pretty authentic and I really liked the consistency of this dish. The yogurt makes it thick, so I may try to omit that next time for a creamier consistency. Like I said above, this made A LOT of food. Way too much for 2 people (we have a limit to the number of times we’ll consume leftovers before our eyes roll into out heads), so I’d certainly suggest halving this recipe and with the ratios above that’s very easy to do.

|Cook often and Eat Well!|

 

|PONDERING PANEER| 01/26/2012

Filed under: cheese,Savory — |FreshHerbs| @ 7:40 pm

So I can’t quite fathom how I purchased a gallon of whole milk (with the intent to make mozzarella) and let it expire by A WHOLE WEEK! Yes, it got shoved to the back of the fridge, but I knew it was in there and had the best of intentions. How did the mistress of “Don’t waste that!” let dairy, of all things, languish in the fridge? I know, work! I’ve been on the run with some work travel that threw me off my game plan. So when I did FINALLY have a night to myself (because hubs has been working like gangbusters too and I haven’t seen him in weeks!) I decided that it was time to pour that milk down the drain…or make cheese.

I didn’t have the energy to make even 30-minute mozzarella (which is ridiculously yummy and easy) so I opted for a cheese recipe that I’d been dying to try that literally uses just two ingredients: milk and lemon juice. I have a friend who is Indian so after some recipe searching, Facebook Q&A with Shubh, and a consult with my cheese book from Stephanie I embarked on what would either be a sour milk disaster or absolutely delicious. [spoiler alert…this story is going to be continued]

First, I learned that milk doesn’t necessarily go sour if it sits unopened in the back of the fridge and passes its expiration date. Now, I wouldn’t go chugging a glass of it, but it was whole milk and I wouldn’t have done that anyway because I prefer 1%. Since cheese is made with boiled milk, I figured that anything sketchy would be boiled away and the acidity of the lemon would do the rest. I was right.

Paneer

1 gallon of whole milk (not ultrapasturized)
2 fresh lemons, juiced (about 6Tb)

In a large pot, bring milk to a boil. I scorched the bottom a bit so you might want to stir to avoid that. When the milk comes to a boil it will foam and rise quite rapidly so move off the heat quickly and stir in your fresh squeezed lemon juice (which I also strained to avoid any seed bits) for about 2-3 minutes until whey is clear. (I started with 2Tb and had to add 4Tb to get a clear whey.) Then, leave it be for about 10 minutes so curds form.

Cheese cloth... the magical kitchen tool. Like my new faucet?

Pour curds and whey into a colander lined with a double layer of cheese cloth. Then bring the corners of the cheese cloth together and tie it around your faucet to drip dry for at least 2 hours. Make sure you squeeze out the paneer as much as you can by twisting the cheesecloth before you hang it. It will be pretty hot so I’ve found that a cheapo pair of clean “cheese making only” dish gloves is a good barrier so you don’t burn yourself. If you have asbestos hands, don’t worry about the gloves.

After the curds have drip dried, you essentially have paneer. Some recipes say leave it in a bowl, still wrapped, with a weight on top for 2 hours, some say overnight. I left mine overnight, but in the morning didn’t have any residual moisture, so the drip dry is very effective. I tasted it last night and this morning (there was no difference in flavor) and it tastes like a very bland ricotta or cottage cheese. I can see why it would be the perfect canvas for Indian flavors.

If you just wanted to eat it plain, I hear that the best way to enjoy it is fried so it’s lightly browned. If you don’t want to use it right away, it’ll keep for about a keep (I unwrapped mine and put it in a plastic bag). If you want to freeze it, make sure you fry it first then freeze it.

Me? I’m going to attempt saag paneer – that lovely Indian spinach dish. Hubs usually gets chicken saag from our favorite Indian restaurant and I’ve never been bold enough to try an Indian dish from scratch – talk about a complex array of |fresh herbs| and spices – so I think it’s time I tackle my fear…

{I must just pause here for a moment to record what’s happening in front of my house. It’s snowing, and the plows are finally out and about. Well, the guy driving the one that keeps passing my house broke his plow. I keep hearing a loud BOOM when he drops his plow…a BEEP BEEP BEEP when he backs up to see what happened…and lots of man-type GUFAW as the plow operators try to figure out what’s causing the BOOM. They’ve finally given up and driven off}

…anyway. So yes, I’m going to attempt saag with homemade paneer as soon as my jar of garam masala arrives in the mail. This post will have a follow up so stay tuned!

[Cook often and eat well!]

 

|BUFFALO GAL| 01/10/2012

Filed under: cheese,Salad — |FreshHerbs| @ 8:04 pm

I love anything buffalo. I’m a sucker for it…and I thought of this vinaigrette tonight while I was on the bike at spin class. I knew I should have a salad for dinner…but I really wanted buffalo chicken. No pictures for this one (because I ate it too fast)… but I wanted to remember how I created it.

Chicken Salad with Buffalo Bleu Cheese Vinaigrette
Serves 2 (can be modified based on need)

1 cooked chicken breast, sliced
1 head Romaine lettuce, washed and chopped
Tomato (any size)
Bleu cheese crumbles
1/2 sprig scallions, finely chopped (white parts and a little green)
2 Tb Frank’s Red Hot
1 Tb ketchup
EVOO
salt
pepper

Pile washed and chopper romaine on a plate and divide the sliced chicken between two plates. Add tomato to your liking. In a small bowl, whisk together ketchup and Frank’s, add scallions. Slowly drizzle in EVOO while whisking to emulsify. Add a pinch of salt and pepper and about 1 Tb bleu cheese crumbles. Pour dressing on top of salad and add a few more bleu cheese crumbles.

Very easy to adjust to personal taste. I add ketchup to cut the heat of the Frank’s.

Like wings…but healthier!

[Cook often and eat well!]

 

|SMOOTHIE…FOR LIFE| 01/08/2012

Filed under: Breakfast,fruit,Smoothie — |FreshHerbs| @ 2:01 pm

Santa brought me a new “cook”book…Smoothies for Life! (ok, well actually it was my Brother and SIL). I say “cook” because there’s nothing you actually have to cook, but it’ll give your blender some great exercise. I love how the book is organized into recipes that support specific physical and emotional needs…like stress reduction, weight loss support, balance, energy, healing, etc. It also gives some great tips and tricks for creating your own smoothie combos and details the plethora of ingredients that are available to make your smoothie healthier and more nutritious. And while I don’t really to the new year’s resolution thing, it’s always a good idea to use the dawn of a new year to renew my commitment to trying to eat well and take care of myself. A smoothie is a great way to cover some nutritional ground and enjoy the process. I’m sold.

I’ve just started to work my way through the recipes, and I’ve already gone “off script.” Using some of the tips and a few other recipes in the book I came up with this delicious breakfast smoothie using what I had in my pantry. Its got unsweetened cocoa (for caffeine and antioxidants), wheat germ (for folic acid, fiber, and Vitamin E), flaxseed (for omega-3 and fiber), and stevia (for a little sweetness). Certainly not rocket science, but so easy that this one really should have already been in my breakfast recipe arsenal.

And speaking of having things in your arsenal…Hubs and I go through a lot of soy milk and I typically buy it cold in 3-packs so there’s always some in the fridge. But I’ve definitely been caught a few times fresh out of soy with a naked bowl of cereal (and sad hubs). Here’s a tip I learned from the authors of this fantastic book (that’s another no-brainer): Buy a box of rice, soy, or almond milk in aseptic packaging that’ll be stable unrefrigerated in your pantry. Duh! There’s something about keeping a box of milk in my pantry that doesn’t really sit well with me, but in a pinch it’s better than nothing and it’s certainly better than having to drive to the grocery store when you’ve just gotten out of bed! It’ll keep for up to a year unopened…and while we’re on the subject of pantry milk, I’ll make a note to extol the virtues of dry milk in an upcoming post. I’m learning to really love that stuff for baking and homemade cocoa mix.

A delicious, and healthy, way to start your day!

Chocolate Nanner Smoothie
Inspired by Smoothies for Life

Serves: 1 (can easily be doubled or tripled if your blender is big enough)

2 Tb unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 Tb wheat germ
1/2 Tb ground flax
1 packet stevia (.035 oz or 1g)
9-10 oz plain soy milk
1 frozen banana

I freeze my nanner in their skins, so in order to peel, I defrost in the microwave (on defrost setting) about a minute. Just enough to make the banana peelable without warming it. So, pop your nanner in the micro while you assemble the rest of your ingredients. If you haven’t frozen your banana, don’t let that stop you…just throw some ice cubes in the blender.

Start with your powered ingredients (cocoa, wheat germ, flax, and stevia) at the bottom of the blender pitcher so that they don’t splatter everywhere when you turn your blender on. To that, add your soy milk (rice or almond milk would work too if you don’t do soy). If your blender has a “stir” function, give it a quick pulse to get your powders incorporated into the liquid.

Peel your nanner and break it into about 1 in pieces as you add it to the liquid. Give it a good blend so that the nanner gets pulverized (chunky smoothies are gross).

Pour it into a glass (or to-go cup), grab a straw, and start your day!

[Cook often and eat well!]

 

|FRENCH ONION FABULOUS| 01/02/2012

Filed under: Crockpot,GARLIC,Savory,Soups,THYME — |FreshHerbs| @ 7:32 pm

I love French Onion Soup. Love it. Of course I love the melted cheesy crouton on top (who doesn’t?)…but I love the savory flavor and sweet, soft onions too. A great cold weather dish…that is even easier in the crock pot. I’ve been wanting to try a crock pot version for a long time and I seized the opportunity today. Carpe diem for the new year!

Most FOS recipes call for beef broth which won’t fly with hubs so I modified the beef broth in the original recipe with chicken broth and worcestershire sauce. Combined with the tang of the balsamic vinegar, I didn’t miss the flavor of the beef broth at all. The finished soup was really rich and caramel colored.

4 thin-sliced onions (your eyes will water!)

Crockpot French Onion Soup
Makes a huge crock, probably 8 servings.

4 medium sweet onions, thinly sliced
3 garlic cloves, minced
4 Tb of butter
2 Tb balsamic vinegar
2 Tb brown sugar
1/2 tsp sea salt
3 Tb flour
8 oz of beer (I used Stella Artois because that’s what I had)
64 ounces of low-sodium chicken broth (I used Better Than Bouillon and made 8 cups of broth)
1 Tb Worcestershire sauce
1 Tb dried thyme
1/2 tsp black pepper

Garnish: baguette crostini or croutons + grated cheese (parm, cheddar, or swiss)

Set your crock pot on high and add the butter to melt, then add garlic, brown sugar, butter, salt and balsamic and mix until combined. Add onions and stir to coat the onions with the balsamic mixture.  Cover and let cook for 60 minutes, stirring occasionally, until onions are a bit caramely and brown on the edges.

Balsamic coated onion love.

While the onions are softening, make your broth (if not using cartons) and add the Worchestershire sauce to the broth and set aside until ready to add to your soup. When the onions have softened after an hour add in flour, stir thoroughly, and let sit for 5 minutes. Add in beer, broth mixture, thyme, and pepper, then you have two options:

Option #1: turn heat down to low, cover and cook for 6-8 hours.

Option #2: keep the heat on high, cover and cook for 4 hours.

You can totally drink the rest of that beer!

[I opted for #2 since I wanted to have this for dinner.]

To serve, turn your broiler on low and ladle your soup into oven-safe bowls. Float your crostini or croutons on top of your steaming soup and cover with sliced or grated cheese of your choice. Broil for a few minutes until cheese is brown and bubbly.

And the end result is a really flavorful, delicious FOS that is good enough to make it, well, here. Even hubs cleaned his bowl (and that’s a huge compliment!). This soup will leave you French Onion Fabulous in less than 6 hours (including prep) so it’s a great option for a weekend meal.

[Cook often, and eat well!]

 

|GUILTY PLEASURE|

Filed under: Sweet — |FreshHerbs| @ 2:25 pm

{Hanging head in shame} I know it’s been nearly 3 months since my last post. I have no really good excuse – and it’s not like I’ve not been in my kitchen – I guess I’ve just been … lazy. I have started a kitchen journal though. {methinks that may be what’s kept me from recording things in cyber space} It’s been just brilliant to record my little tweaks so that I can actually repeat things that turn out well and to have a record of the trial and tribulations of my culinary adventures.

One such adventure is thanks to this post that I found on Tastespotting one day…MARSHMALLOWS! So, with visions of  a sticky disaster foremost in my mind I decided to conquer my fear of boiling sugar. You will absolutely need a candy thermometer. No improvising (ie. using your meat thermometer). Period. End of story. They’re fairly inexpensive (think less than $10) and it’s one of those empowering kitchen gadgets that once you have it you think you’ll become a badass candy-making machine…fudge, taffy, the sky’s the limit.

But back to these amazingly delicious (EASY!) marshmallows. After searching a few marshmallow recipes I landed on the aforementioned because it seemed to land in the middle as far as length of preparation and quantity of ingredients. These aren’t so easy that you can whip them up any time you want them, but if you make enough (as this recipe did) you’ll have homemade marshmallows for at least 1-2 weeks.

Sexy, sinful, little cubes of awesome.

Homemade Vanilla Marshmallows
Adapted from The Galley Gourmet (link above)

(3) 1/4 oz. packets of unflavored gelatin
1 cup cold water (divided into two 1/2 cup portions)
1.5 cup granulated sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/2 Tb vanilla extract
powdered sugar for dusting and coating

Variation
For minty marshmallows, try adding 1/2 tsp of mint extract with the vanilla for just a hint of minty ness. Have fun with the flavoring- the sky’s the limit!

______________________________________________________________

In a stand mixer (with whisk attachment) dissolve the gelatin in 1/2 c of the cold water.

In a saucepan, cook the other 1/2 c of water, sugar, salt, and corn syrup on medium heat until the sugar dissolves (stir with whisk as needed). At this point, the mixture will be cloudy, but the sugar granules will be gone. With candy thermometer in place (clipped to side of pan), increase the heat and boil to 242 degrees (between soft ball and firm ball).

Slowly add the molten sugar to the gelatin with the mixer on low until incorporated. Increase the mixer to high and whisk until the mixture volume triples and becomes white, thick, and shiny (about 10 minutes). {Watch in awe as marshmallow is born} Decrease speed of mixer and pour in flavor extract(s). Mix until incorporated (about 2 minutes).

Into a GLASS 9×13 baking dish that has been LIBERALLY coated with a dusting of powdered sugar, scrape your marshmallow mixture and smooth with a spatula. Dust the top with powdered sugar and let the mixture stand, uncovered, approximately 12 hours (or overnight…I’ve let it sit up to 24 hours) to dry out.

When “dry” use a kitchen knife that’s been heated under hot tap water (and dried) to score around the edges and cut into strips then cut into cubes. This isn’t easy, as the marshmallow is inherently sticky. Parchment may make this easier, but I haven’t tried that and I do find that the stability of the baking dish does provide some much needed resistance to cut against. The trick is to periodically rinse the goo off the knife with hot water (and dry) while cutting. And, you’ll want to dust your cut pieces liberally with powdered sugar so they don’t stick together. Throw about a Tb of powdered sugar in the ziplock or container you plan to store these in and give it a good shake as you add pieces. The powdered sugar is key to prevent sticking.

These will rock your world…and you’ll never buy packaged marshmallows again!

[Cook often, and eat well!]

 

|EAT MORE VEGGIES| 10/09/2011

Filed under: Apps,DILL,PARSLEY,Savory — |FreshHerbs| @ 12:23 pm

I’m trying to eat more veggies (EMV)…but I’ve never really been a fan of crudite. I think that is partially due to the fact that I’m an event planner for a living, and crudite for an event is, well, rather expected and boring (though typically one of the healthier options on the menu). So really, it’s an entertaining staple. I started to think to myself that maybe crudite isn’t just for parties anymore. Why not keep some dip on hand in the fridge to help aid my EMV goal? Hubs L-O-V-E-S raw carrots. Everytime we run out of cut carrots I get a {sad face} from him so having veggies on hand isn’t the problem (me washing, peeling, and chopping them is). I, on the other hand, always have plain nonfat greek yogurt in the fridge (can’t remember the last time I purchased sour cream at the market). Not only is it healthier, but it’s easier to digest too. So I set out to find a dip using my greek yogurt as a base and found this tasty dip that I modified to my taste.

Veggie Dip
Makes 1 cup; can be doubled for a party

1/4 cup mayonnaise
3/4 cup plain nonfat greek yogurt
1/2 teaspoon Old Bay ™ seasoning
1/2 teaspoon dried dill weed
1/2 tablespoon dried parsley
1/2 tablespoon minced onion
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

Combine all ingredients and let sit in fridge for 2 hours (better overnight). Serve with crudite, potato chips (not part of the EMV goal!), and other favorite party dippers.

This makes me think of my SIL- she’s a Maryland girl and loves Old Bay. As the weather turns colder and I find myself reaching into my spice cabinet for dried, as opposed to |FreshHerbs| I’m reminded just how handy dried herbs can be. This dip has no salt (outside of what’s already in the Old Bay) yet it still packs a flavor punch that fancies up bland raw vegge. So who’s going to EMV? I’m going to try! Cook often and eat well!