Sunday, September 30, 2012

Walnut Apple Crisp

Walnut Apple Crisp with Ice Cream Garnish in Bowl with Napkin and Spoon

This Flavor-Enhanced Fall Classic Will Tickle Your Tongue

Here in the US, we’re now a week into autumn.  And I’ve been noticing some seasonal changes.  The weather is starting to turn cool.  Apples (many locally grown) are piling up in neighborhood produce departments.  And the abundant harvest is fueling an urge to make (and eat!) baked goods.

Mrs Kitchen Riffs has been spending lots of time in the kitchen lately — flour dotting the tip of her nose — baking up one scrumptious treat after another.  This week, she’s making good use of all the apples we’ve been buying.  And why not?  They’re fresh, tasty, and nutritious.  And there are so many things you can make with them.  Like this Walnut Apple Crisp, a jazzier version of the traditional dish we all know and love.

It makes a great dessert, one you’ll want to serve to company.  And the leftovers (as if you’ll have any) would be terrific for a weekend breakfast.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Leek and Potato Soup

Leek and Potato Soup in Bowl on Black Background, Overhead View

This Classic Is Wonderful as a First Course, Hearty Enough for a Main

Leek and Potato Soup is flavorful and easy to make, and everyone who tastes it enjoys it.  It’s also versatile.  You can prepare a simple vegan version, or fancy it up with cream or stock for vegetarian and carnivorous variations.

So why has it been so long since you’ve made it? 

It’s probably that leek thing.  Leeks often carry some dirt, so they take a few minutes to clean.  Although every supermarket stocks them, they’re usually expensive compared to onions.  And onions are almost the same thing, right?

Well, no.  Similar, but leeks have more depth of flavor, and are a bit less in-your-face than onions.  As you’ll discover when you taste this soup.  Once you do, you’ll be wondering where leeks have been all your life.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Black-Eyed Pea and Cabbage Soup

Black-Eyed Pea and Cabbage Soup in Bowl, with napking and spoons

Soup’s On!  And My First Guest Post

Autumn has officially started for us northern hemisphere dwellers.  And cooler weather makes many of us crave hearty soups.  So this is soup week on Kitchen Riffs!

I’ll be presenting two new soups this week.  Today’s is Black-Eyed Pea and Cabbage Soup.  Later this week, we’ll do Leek and Potato Soup, a classic favorite.  In today’s post I also provide a round-up of all the hearty soups I’ve written about, in case you missed them.

To see today’s soup, you’ll have to travel to Café Terra, where you’ll find the recipe in my first-ever guest post. Thanks to Terra for generously inviting me to do this. I had a lot of fun writing the post, and I hope you’ll enjoy reading it. Oh, you want the direct link? Read on.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Spicy Potatoes with Ginger and Garlic

Spicy Potatoes with Ginger and Garlic in White Ramekin, Overhead View on Black Background

The Deep Flavor of this Vegan Indian Dish Will Make Your Tongue Smile

Of all the world’s cuisines, India’s may have the most numerous and flavorful recipes for potatoes.  Today’s dish is a good example:  It’s rich with ginger, garlic, and spices. 

Although these potatoes go well in a traditional Indian meal, they are equally at home when nestled up to a roast.  They have just enough spice and flavor to make you sit up and take notice, but not so much that they’ll dominate the entire meal.

They may dominate the dinnertime conversation, though, as your guests exclaim over their terrific flavor.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Easy Tandoori Chicken

Tandoori Chicken on Plate with Spicy Potatoes and Summer Squash in Tomato Curry Sauce

There’s a Quick Way to Get Restaurant Quality at Home

One of my favorite main-course Indian eats is Tandoori Chicken, a bright red dish with succulent, rich flavor. Traditionally it’s cooked in a tandoor, a cylindrical clay oven that reaches temperatures approaching 900 degrees F. This high heat sears the surface of meat to seal in tasty juices, then quickly cooks everything to tender perfection.

But who has a tandoor at home? And how can you possibly make this dish without a specialized oven?

Well, it’s actually quite easy. You can use an outdoor grill, if you have one. Otherwise, just cook the chicken under your oven’s broiler. True, these methods don’t generate the heat of a tandoor, so it will take a bit longer to cook the chicken. But the flavor of home-cooked is still remarkably good. Maybe not quite tandoor quality, but awfully close.

Best yet, if you use commercial tandoori marinade — a product used in many Indian restaurants — preparation time for this recipe is under 5 minutes. Yet the Tandoori Chicken will be so flavorful, your guests will think you slaved all day over the recipe. I won’t tell if you won’t.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Summer Squash in Tomato Curry Sauce

Summer Squash in Tomato Curry Sauce in White Ramekin on Black Background, Overhead View

This Vegan Indian Dish Showcases the Great Flavors of Zucchini and Yellow Squash

Good-quality zucchini and yellow squash are available in markets year round, but we can buy extra-flavorful locally grown varieties during the warm weather months.  I’m still seeing high-quality specimens at my markets in St Louis.  And even though I’ve used both types of squash in various recipes at least a dozen times this spring and summer, I can never get enough of them. 

But I’m ready for a new flavor twist. 

Like this easy and tasty creation.  It would make a great side dish for any Indian meal.  But because it isn’t over-spiced, you can also serve it alongside roast or grilled fish, chicken, or meat. 

It’s simple to prepare.  Or you can make it ahead and reheat when you’re ready to serve. 

What a great way to eat your vegetables!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Aromatic Yellow Rice

Aromatic Indian Yellow Rice with Cilantro Garnish in White Ramekin, Overhead View with Black Background

Turmeric, Cinnamon, and Cloves Spice Up this Vegan Indian Specialty

Indians have developed a dazzling array of rice dishes.  Like today’s recipe:  Aromatic Yellow Rice.  Simple to prepare, yet appealing to both eye and palate. It owes its vibrant color to turmeric, its tantalizing spicy aroma to cinnamon and cloves. 

Aromatic Yellow Rice naturally goes well with most Indian meals, but it’s equally at home with roast or grilled chicken, meat, or fish.  The flavor is not particularly assertive, but it doesn’t get lost on the plate. 

Easy, colorful, tasty — you’ll find a lot to like in this dish.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Pink Dal with Swiss Chard

Dal with Swiss Chard and Cilantro Garnish in White Ramekin, Overhead View with Black Background

This Pleasantly Spicy Vegan Indian Dish is Healthy and Frugal

Lentils don’t get much love.  Which always surprises me, because they’re versatile, inexpensive, and highly tasty.  Especially in dal — an Indian dish that can be made from dried lentils, peas, or beans (pulses). Dal is a typical side dish at Indian meals, usually served with rice or bread. And there are scores of different dal recipes — today’s post is just one example.

Because dal is high in protein (about 25% by weight, comparable to meat), it’s an important nutritional source in India, where over a third of the population are vegetarians.  And since dried lentils and beans are relatively inexpensive and go a long way, dals are an exceptionally thrifty dish.

Bottom line?  Healthy, chock full of flavor, and budget friendly.  It’s (d)all good.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The Last Word Cocktail

Last Word Cocktail with Lime Garnish, Black Background

This “Lost” Drink Is a Favorite with Aficionados

The Last Word Cocktail has had an erratic history — which is fitting, I suppose, for drink that was born (surreptitiously) during Prohibition.

It was created sometime in the 1920s at the Detroit Athletic Club — by a vaudeville performer, not a bartender — but didn’t become particularly popular (maybe because of that bathtub gin they used?) The drink was all but forgotten until 1951, when Ted Saucier described it in a book about cocktails called Bottoms Up, reintroducing this cocktail to a whole new audience. But most of his readers promptly forgot about it, and the drink was lost again.

It was rediscovered about 8 years ago, when Murray Stenson (of Seattle’s Zig Zag Café) saw the recipe while flipping through Saucier’s Bottoms Up. He put it on the cocktail menu at Zig Zag, where it became an instant hit. After its successful (re)launch in the Pacific Northwest, The Last Word made its way to New York — and then to cocktail glasses around the globe. It’s still not widely known to the general public, but it’s a drink that cocktail aficionados cherish for its pungent, rich flavor.

The Last Word is a refreshing drink with a bit of a bite — pleasant in warm weather, but with enough substance to stand up to crisp fall evenings. And because it helps sharpen the palate, it’s one of the best pre-dinner drinks I know.

Give it a try, and I promise it won’t be the last one you have — you’ll return to it again and again.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Peanut Butter Cookies

Peanut Butter Cookies and Glass of Milk on Black Acrylic

Great for School Lunches and Afternoon Snacks

In the US, tomorrow is Labor Day — which means the school year has arrived.  So it’s time to start planning lunches and thinking about after-school treats.

Most kids love peanut butter (although a few are allergic; see Notes for more info).  And because PB has so much flavor on its own, this is one cookie you don’t have to over-sweeten.  So, while peanut butter cookies can’t claim to be a health food, they are actually one of the more nutritious treats you can provide.  And homemade is tons better than anything you can buy in a store.

How about the adults in your household?  Well, let’s just say that peanut butter cookies bring out the kid in them.