Category: Vegetarian

Chai Tea, Simplicity and Substance in a Cup

chaiChai is the name for a spiced Indian tea that is generally served milky and sweet. I particularly like chai in the winter, as it is hearty and warming, but I find it quite satisfying as iced chai tea in the summer as well.

As with most food, there is no rule with chai, it is all about personal preference. Find the flavors you like. Experiment with them. Add more, add less of others. In India, chai, like curry, is no one mix. Different regions use different flavors, and even one particular family may make their curry or chai in a completely different manner than the family next door. Basically, find the flavors you like and play with them until you find your preferred taste.

What I do is simple, I take a black tea that I like (it can be a malty Assam, or a lighter Ceylon, or any thing in between. Using a tea bag from the store will work well too since a lot of flavor comes from the spices that steep with the tea, so heck, go ahead and use that bag that came with your Chinese food last night.

My chai ingredients:
Black tea
Green cardamom (crack the pods open)
Black peppercorns
Cinnamon (whole or small pieces, powdered will work, but won’t filter out easily)
Cloves
Ginger
Vanilla Extract (just a few drops)
Milk
Sugar

Directions:
Steep the mix in hot water for about 3 minutes. Add milk and sugar to your taste, it’s really that simple.

I find the best way to make chai is with an infuser basket. Place your selected ingredients in the basket in your cup, and remove when done. You could always toss all the items in a pot and pour the tea through a strainer, whatever is easiest for you.

Roasted Garlic – The Garlic Lovers Treat

roasted garlicRoasted garlic is one of the easiest things to make and is not only great when included into other recipes, but it is magnificent on its own, squeezed out onto a crust of bread. Garlic is a lucky little bulb; like all nubs in the Allium family, it has a high concentration of both flavor and sugar. When roasted, the Maillard reaction changes those sugars into a garlic caramel, which coincidentally are two of my favorite flavors.

Roasted garlic bulbs make for a simple snack to have around, and while it may take some time to roast, it’s pretty much fire and forget as you pop them into the oven for a while, wait, and they are ready to eat. Roast, let them cool a bit, snip off the top and squeeze onto a toasted baguette and you have license to ignore the kids.

One tip, though. Most recipes you find suggest you cut off the top of the bulbs with the head intact and then roast. That’s fine if your goal is to peel the bulbs, but I find it much easier to pull the bulbs apart without cutting them, roast, and squeeze the garlic out. Peeling roasted garlic is a hassle I’ll leave to the celebrity chefs who dump that work on their assistants.

Ingredients:
1 head of garlic

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 400 F.

2. Pull the garlic bulbs apart from the head and place in a sheet of aluminum foil.

3. Fold up the foil to create a pouch, leaving some air space.

4. Place foil pouch in the oven for 45 minutes.

5. Let the garlic cool a bit before attacking it. Just snip the top off a bulb and squeeze out the sweet, garlicky goodness.

Easy Chocolate Covered Strawberries

Chocolate covered strawberries

Chocolate covered strawberries

This simple dessert (or snack) looks like it takes a lot of work, but perfect chocolate covered strawberries can actually be a quick and easy treat. I’d say it took me about 5 minutes or less to make these, and then you should hide them if you will need them later, they are too easy to polish off immediately. The key to saving time is using milk chocolate chips and melting them in a microwave rather than a fancy double boiler.

Ingredients:
strawberries
chocolate chips (milk chocolate is my preference, but use what you like)

Directions:
1. Wash and dry the strawberries. Make sure they are dry as the chocolate will not stick well to them if they are wet.

2. Place the chocolate chips in a microwave safe bowl and heat for 15-30 seconds at a time. In between each cycle, stir with a fork to ensure an even consistency.

3. When the chocolate has melted, hold the strawberries by the leaves and dip in the melted chocolate and slowly rotate. Stirring them around will result in a lumpy chocolate coating, but slowly rotating them once and lifting them out straight up will leave a nice, smooth coating on the strawberries.

4. Place each strawberry on wax paper (or aluminum foil, or a plate that has been greased with butter) to set. The best place for the strawberries to set is in your refrigerator.

5. When the chocolate coating is set, take them somewhere safe and eat them all yourself.

Classic Tomato Salsa

Salsa

Salsa

Per a request, this is my basic salsa recipe (enjoy this one, Tom). The great thing about salsa is that you can tweak it left and right to make the kind of salsa that suits your taste. Do you like cilantro, add an entire bunch (I do, it’s one of my favorite flavors). Hot or mild, play with the jalapeno to taste. Add a few chipotle peppers if you like it smokey. There are endless ways you can modify this recipe to make something incredible. I’m a huge fan of green salsa made with tomatillos, and I’ve even made salsa with spirits and odd spices. My point is that this is a great basic recipe and I challenge you to make it your own. Your taste buds will thank me.

Ingredients:
3 large tomatoes
3 cloves garlic
1/4 cup red onion
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon green jalapeno chilies
2 to 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1/2 teaspoon salt

Directions:
The easiest way to make this is to place all the ingredients in a food processor and pulse slowly until all ingredients are chopped but not pureed. I like a thick salsa, so I often add the garlic, lime juice and salt first, pulse (to get the garlic chopped well) then add the remaining ingredients and roughly process.

If you don’t have a food processor, or prefer to not use one, just chop up all the ingredients and mix together in a bowl. It is that easy. Sprinkle with a little dried cilantro, or even thyme or Mexican oregano for garnish.

Kale and Purple Potatoes (with sage and garlic)

Kale and Purple Potato

Kale and Purple Potato

I love earthy greens, and kale has a hearty chew that makes me feel as though I’m really eating something substantial.  The kale was subject to a rigorous yet thick chiffonading (if that’s a word, if not, it is now) as that is not only my favorite cut, but it shows off the nook ‘n cranny-y (another new word) nature of this great leafy vegetable. Kale looks particularly nice as a chiffonade. This is a really textureful (I did it again) dish, and sage and potatoes go together like tall glasses and water, so this simple combination of vegetables makes a great meal or side dish.

Ingredients:
1 bunch kale
1 lb purple potatoes (or any waxy potato), chopped into 1/2 inch cubes
2 garlic cloves, chopped
8 fresh sage leaves (or a teaspoon of dried, if fresh is not available)
2 tablespoons olive oil

Potato, Kale and Sage

Potato, Kale and Sage

Directions:
1. Wash, dry, and cut the kale into any size pieces that you prefer.

2. Heat a pan, add the oil and garlic and when the oil is hot, add the potatoes.

3. Add the potato and cook until soft, 10-2 minutes.

4. Add the kale and saute until soft. The kale will become softer the longer it is cooked. I prefer a little chewiness so I cook it about 8-10 minutes, but if you prefer a softer result, cook as long as you want.

5. Add the sage and mix into the kale and potato thoroughly and cook about 1 minute.

6. Plate and eat!