Mangoland Cooks


Dear friends,

In response to feedback, surveys, focus groups, and market analysis, Mangoland Cooks is going to serve one final cooking class this year (based on the same Everyone Invited concept, economy of the gift….), next Tuesday.

The theme of the class will “Deconstructing a Curry” and will look at many different incarnations of one dish, to get at exactly which flavor combinations and spice technique do and do-not work for you. Which are essential and which are only if you have all day? Which spices must be whole and which can you get ground?

I will try to prepare other dishes in advance, so we don’t have too terribly simple a meal, since we will likely be focusing all of our attention on one or two curries. And, also  in response to popular demand, one of the curries WILL HAVE NO ONIONS.

As always, I’m very excited to share a final meal this calendar year, and look forward to a couple of classes in the New Year before I take off for Brazil, Mexico, India, and beyond…

Anyhow: Tuesday at 4. Feel free to email me for directions, or if you can only come later. That’s no problem either, we’ll work it out (it’s the holidays!)

curry not worry,

ankurbhai

dear friends and cooks

happy thanksgiving. no cooking class this week as im sure we’re all playing hard enough in our friends’ kitchens! we should be having our next class on

December 2nd, at 4pm.

We will return to the Indian supercontinent for some new dishes, techniques for currying winter greens to keep warm, a special paneer-based dessert, and more practice with seasoned flatbreads. In Indian cooking, not just the vegetables but also the techniques and spices vary seasonally, and now is the time to eat “hotter” foods, to provide energy for the winter.

Call 360 683 5398 or email me to register. Since the “leave your money in a crystal ball” technique worked well last time, we can just do that again.

ALSO!

I would like to share that the book I have been working on for the last two years is almost ready, and I’m now experimenting with different investment options for those who would like to support its publications. Click here for details!

thanks, giving, and lot of love

ankurbhai

good mornings.

it’s technically the afternoon and i’m focused on non-recipe parts of my reality today. which means, for you, the following:

1. there are photos of some of the courses from last night’s feast available at http://somethingconstructive.net/photos/squash/

2. the final menu opened with vietnamese-style salad rolls, filled with lightly sauteed red kuri squash and freshly grated golden beets, nash’s best carrots, asian pear, and mizuna. george concocted a parsley-mizuna pesto (with a sunflower seed base) for dipping alongside. scott managed bickering pots of lemoned whey, gingered coconut milk, softly sauteed red scallions, and baked lower salmon river squash to a smooth and delicious soup. the main course of carnival squash gnocchi floated to the top and was sauced with curried red chard and freshly pressed and curdled paneer*. for dessert, jess filled delicata squash dinghys with a paste of butter, medjool dates, and cardamon. four squashes as promised, silencing dissent and opposition that it could not be done.

3. for next week, since i anticipate enough prandial joy in the second fortnight of this month, i invite you all to come for a cooking-less cooking class and a dinner-less party. that is to say, and evening of meditation and giving thanks, regardless of your tradition or accent. we can sit in silence for a time, and then share a little of what we are all thankful for.

Tuesday, November 18th.

6-7:30pm in silence (you don’t have to be there the whole time)

7:30pm for thanks and snacking

I hope you can make it. Let me know and I’ll send you the secret location. Of course, there will be food provided — i won’t be able to help myself — but the focus will be on the thanks and the giving, so you have the actual holiday to dedicate to the glory of the food…

together,

ankurbhai

Just a reminder for next’s week cooking class.

Armistice Day. November 11th. 4pm.

We have some spots left, for the Squash Theme Dinner. I think there should be at least 4 squash courses (soup, salad, main, dessert) with an added Paneer dish (what’s panner?) for variance. The paneer was really, really good.

Current thoughts are a sqaush bisque, vietnamese-style salad rolls with light-sauteed grated squash, squash gnocchis, and baked sqaush boats (perhaps with ice cream…)

Get ready to lean on (the dull side) of your knives.

Also, dear friends, keep in mind the new (old) pricing strategy:

smile as you enter, put whatever monies you want in an old pumpkin (naturally), smile as you leave.

love,

ankur

May I take this moment on the background intercom to announce a Day of the Dead dinner party and fundraiser I will be helping to cook for, this Saturday at 5:30. Details are here.

This is a party report. Get ready. Yesterday, without the help of neither lubricating spirits nor menu planning, a ragtag Mangoland Cooks! reunion group put together a versatile dinner, including but not limited to:

Massaged Red Savoy Cabbage Taco Shells

Curried chickpeas in a tomato-leek base

North Indian Sweet Potato Fries

Fresh shaken yogurt salad with bobbing tomato, asian cucumber, and pomegranate

Stir-fried Baby Bok Choi and Burdock with hints of Fennel in a Sweet and Sour sauce

Pineapple-Pomegranate Fruit Salad with Gratuitous Apple Slices in a Toasted Walnut-Coconut Snowfall

As in, “you should have been there”. Of the many revelatory moments that evening, we came to mutual awareness of

1) Tuna Dan sells great fresh fish at affordable prices from the back of his car (tunadan@centurytel.net)

2) You can get pieces of Medjool Dates (to make date sugar or use in baked goods) by calling 760-572-0439 and asking for “damaged dates”. It’s $30 dollars for 15 pounds.

3) We are having our next class in two weeks, on the 11th of November, up at the Lost Mountain Observatory (South of Sequim; email for directions). The theme is (breathe in, breathe out, breathe in once again) Squash. That’s right Squash. A vegetable for all courses.

As always, feel free to email with questions, comments, or recipes. And remember, friends:

Everything you ever thought was a yam is really a sweet potato. Go figure.

~ Ankurbhai

This Saturday I will be assisting in the preparation of a veritable (though immobile) feast in honor of Dia de los Muertos and the globalocal charity organization “Mujeres de Maiz Opportunity Foundation”. More information below, never fear, but the quick and culinary is

Pumpkin-filled Enmoladas (with sundry accoutrements)

5:30pm

Sequim Prarie Grange (Washington State, USA, North and Western hemispheres, if you hit the big rings you’ve just gone too far)

Now, if you’re into it, took the Mexican cooking class, and want to spend a couple of hours deveining chiles and sharing stories of our ancestors, you can email me on the side. Application basis of course. We can’t have just anybody in kitchen, you know. Or wait. Maybe we can. Maybe that’s just the point…

*

Mujeres de Maiz Opportunity Foundation

proudly presents the third annual Dia de Muertos celebration, dinner and auction (the best yet!) on Saturday, November 1st at 5:30 at Sequim Prairie Grange on MacLeay Road (new location).

Dinner designed and prepared by Ankur Shah, author of Cooking com Bigode and Molly Rivard of Olympic Cellars, one of our directors.

No food lines this year!!  We have servers so that you may sit down and your dinner will be brought to you!

Our silent and live auctions include a huge selection  of clothing, jewelry, ornaments, gifts for the house, art and weavings.

Our program will give you a glimpse of  the women in the cooperative and life in Chiapas.

A $15 donation is requested. No one will be turned away for lack of funds.

We look forward to seeing you!  Mark your calendar! For further information,
please call 683-8979 (Judith) or email : mujeres@olypen.com

Judith, Linda, Pat, Martha, Molly and Carol

PS.  If you have symphony tickets the same evening, come have dinner with us, bid on auction items, and then head out to the symphony at about 6:45.  This allows time for the drive to Pt. Angeles and parking.

hello friends

funny thing that heat and pressure, according my sixth grade science teacher or whatever, were the two main forces responsible for the creation of the earth’s underground pretroleum reserve. and now that the global casinos are tanking in the same direction, that’s a lot of what we seem to be feeling as well. heat and pressure.

well, we’ve taken a two week intermission to watch the leaves and numbers pale and twirl in the autumn light, and now i think it’s time to get back on track. i want to have a class next week, a reunion of sorts. anyone is always welcome, of course, but committed students will be given priority. it will be a free event. send me an email to “register” and i will give you the Secret Location. the time will be the same

4-7pm next tuesday, october 28th.

The theme, “reunion”, does not imply any kind of examination. I encourage everyone to bring a vegetable they’ve never cooked (or seen) before. We’ll play together and teach other. It’ll be fun. Maybe I’ll even find a guitar.

After that, we’ll probably start doing classes every other week. The first will be on armistice day (November 11th). The theme is not yet decided — make a suggestion!

and (back to lowercase, you will agree), i’ve posted the recipes (finally) from the last class (Cooking with Mom) so, I think, recipes from all five classes should be online, waiting to splatter upon your kitchen counter.

ankur,

with love

p.s. buy a cookbook. it’s good for the economy

October 7th: Cooking with Mom

(there’s a downloadable word document here)

Mid-October and a few days late on the uptake but what can I say – the days were bright for scything and pressing, and computers will always be there, a digital Penelope forevermore. Or at least as long as the electricity lasts.

When my mom came to class two weeks ago, we put together a Gujarati feast:

mung dal (curried mung beans, split and hulled)
pulow (long grain basmati rice with ghee and spices)
shak (curried French beans)
mutia (steamed cabbage and wheat dumplings, sautéed with spices)
curdy (thickened yogurt soup)

and sweet chai for dessert.

mung dal

There are lots of legumes. Some legumes are beans. Some are lentils. Some are eaten fresh. Some dry. Dried legumes are usually available whole, split and hulled, or split and not-hulled. You know there’s a sneaky hull involved when the round side and the flat side are different colors (they never clash). For this dish, my mom chose mung beans, sometimes called “green gram” in English but generally known in stores as “mung”. In Ayurveda (India’s traditional science of health and medicine), they are considered to be the easiest to digest.

1 cup split hulled mung beans (yellow)

As you check back with the recipe, the beans have been soaked overnight, perhaps rinsed once or twice, and are cooking. You don’t generally need a pressure cooker with split lentils. If you want a soupy dal, you had 3 cups of water and cook the lentils past liberty, eternity, and fraternity, all the way down that slippery slope to puree. If you want more consistency – ie, you don’t want to wash bowls – use one a half cups of water and take care to lower the heat to simmer when the pot boils. You can always drain (or drink, or use for stock, or water your plants with) extra water when the lentils are sufficiently tender.

Now, to the vagar. Vagar is the concept of adding life to the food. Of transforming carbohydrates into elixir. It’s shading. Texture. Flair. Perspective. In stereo.

2 tablespoons of oil
1 teaspoon whole black mustard seeds
a pinch of hing (asafetida)
2 whole dried red chiles
salt
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
¼ teaspoon turmeric

Heat the oil in a pot. If you only have one pot or burner available (I’ve been watching the stock market too), evacuate the cooked lentils into a bowl, clean and dry the pot, and put it back onto the waiting fire.

When the oil is hot, add the seeds. If the mustard seeds sink and are covered by the oil, they will pop within the oil. If there are, by some twist of fate, uncovered, they will pop all over your kitchen and you should be armed with a ready lid. When they start to finish their popping (read it twice), add the red chiles and the hing. Brown briefly and add the cooked beans. If you are aiming for the soupy dal, stir a lot, creaming everything together. If not, use more of a angelfoodcake folding mentality. Add the remaining spices to the pot. Let everything cook together for a few minutes.

It’s nice to garnish with cilantro or add some lemon juice at the end. Some Gujaratis add a teaspoon of sugar at the end and bear the brunt of jokes all over India for it. But it does taste good. You know.

Pulow

This is a simple and impressive rice variation. Like most simple and impressive culinary treats, it needs butter. Actually ghee, which, if you remember from class, is more butter than butter itself.

1 cup of long-grained rice
1 tablespoon of gira (whole cumin seeds)
2 tablespoons (or more) of raw unsalted cashews
ghee

The amount of ghee depends on how respected your guests are. You want enough to give a little coat to the pan, and some extra to get all into the rice after the spices have fried. But each has their own path, and I can’t put a number on this one.

Sautee the cumin seeds in the melted ghee until they darken and let off their intoxicating earthy aroma. Add the cashew and stir or shake the pan until they too are brown and buttery. Now we can add the rice, stirring to coat and absorb the remaining ghee. Add salt and water. Generally two cups. You can use different stocks if you have them hanging around back burners as well. Old white wine works great too.

Cook it like rice – don’t check too often or stir too often and it will come out perfect. I like to turn the pot off when it’s still a little moist and let it finish by purely steaming. The rice on the top ends up standing on it’s end, like a forest of snowy trees.

We garnished with finely chopped bell peppers.

Shak

Shak just means “vegetables”. There’s always a few different vegetables curries at every meal (generally from one to three). Each vegetable earns access to different spice portfolios depending on it’s qualities, taste, and season. We used tender green beans from Nash’s farm in Dungeness.

A little oil
1 pound of green beans
1 teaspoon ajmo (oregano seed)
a few cloves of garlic
a few green chiles (jalapenos or serranos)
salt
turmeric

Here we’ll take the same technique we used in the dal (above) and invert it: instead of cooking the lentils, already prepared, to the spice mix, we will mix the spices first and allow the beans to cook through with the spices present.

Once again we heat the pan, heat the oil, and place a spicy seed in the hot oil. For beans we will often use ajmo, a seed of a plant in the oregano family. It is a digestive aid: Indians are very concerned about digestion, especially with beans. They’re looking out for you.

After the ajmo has popped, add the combination of finely chopped garlic and green chile. Brown them well before adding the beans. Cover. The beans will take time and attention to cook without burning on the high heat. When they have begun to release some water, add salt and turmeric. We don’t want to expose the turmeric to the really hot heat of the initial vagar, which would damage some of its medicinal properties. Teach sensitivity.

Once again, after the beans have softened appropriately, you can add a little lemon and sugar as you take the pan off the hat. Cilantro makes a fine garnish, finely chopped and sprinkled above it all.

Mutia

Mutia is the peasant version of what the restaurants call “kofta”, a ball of combined vegetables, grains, or pulses that is steamed or fried and the served in a rich sauce. The word itself comes from the word for “hand”, as the imprints of the cook’s fingers form the shape of the dumpling.

Mix together

2 tablespoon of oil
2 cups cream of wheat
2 cups shredded cabbage
an inch of shredded ginger
an equal amount of minced garlic
½ cup of finely chopped cilantro
a little hing (for digestion, naturally)

Mix everything together. Add a little baking soda if you don’t have the time to wait a couple of hours before cooking. Slowly add water until it forms a dough you can handle, gathering everything into a slightly stick ball.

The fun part is tearing off chunks of the dough with one hand and using the force of the palm to form a small log, like we did in class. The action mimics stroking your lower palm with the fingers of the same hand. If that makes any sense.

When you have the mutia formed, place them in a steamer to cook. If you have a flat steamer (i.e. not a basket steamer) it’s better. If not, it’s what is. Cook them for 10-15 minutes, until (cake-style) the proverbial knife comes out clean. At that point, they are steamed, tasty, healthy, and suitable for human consumption in any other culture.

Now of course, is the time of the vagar. This time, use:

oil
mustard seeds
sesame seeds
dry shredded coconut
finely chopped green onion

After the mustard seeds pop, add everything else and the cooked mutia, cut into slices as thick as a pencil. Toss carefully in the spices, carefully not to end up with a crumbly mess. Take off the heat, serve, and sprinkle with lemon juice.

Curdy

The yogurt soup is another quick meal. Coming home hungry and late from work, you could have dinner of rice and soup (a common evening combination) ready in twenty minutes. Easily.

2 cups of yogurt
2 cups of water
½ cup of chickpea flour (besun)
½ teaspoon of turmeric
¾ inch of grated ginger
2 cloves of garlic
1 green chile
1 tablespoon raw sugar (gor)

Blend or whisk all of the above until smooth. Heat some ghee in a pan (you know the story from above) and toast whole cumin and whole fenugreek seeds. Watch for the darkening of the color – just slight – and add the mixture before any burning or bitterness takes place.

If you can find fresh curry leaves (from the sweet neem plant), add them. The soup is named after them and they are unmistakably wonderful in flavor. If you can’t find them, give up your desires and move on.

Lower the heat to medium after the initial sizzle and watch the soup thicken. You can add more besun if you want more thick. In some parts of Maharastra they add so much it becomes more of a polenta than a soup.

As always, the future is up to you.

Greetings lovely Eaters,

I’ve done a little work with the computer as the weather has been kind to grace with with some rain and fog.

You can now find the lebanese recipes, the flatbread recipes, and the recipe for dear shirley’s cold pumpkin soup, all online. Hallelujah.

Tomorrow’s class involves a traditional Gujarati meal, including a yogurt soup, steamed vegetable dumpings (“mutia”), a traditional dal (split lentil soup), and a vegetable curry. There are still spot available, so make sure to email me or call 360 683 5398 to sign up.

As for the future, it looks like changing weather and economic patterns have put a dent in attendance, so we’ll have to decide (together) what the future will look like. And, my friends, that is not a metaphor…

love

ankurbhai

download stuffed flatbreads recipes here

Better late than never is what they taught me in middle school. So here are the recipes from last week’s stuffy class, ready to go for willy-nilly mix-and-matching, as we got down to at the crust of things.

Dough: for Parotha or Empanada
The standard dough I ad(a/o)pted for Empanadas has

1 kilogram of flour
100 grams of oil

And that may not mean much to you, or me, or anybody else. Visually, we want to mix the flour (with a little salt thrown in) with small amounts of oil at a time, until there is a slightly crumbly consistency. Something on your way to a pie-crust but not nearly that pea-like. If you don’t have enough oil in the dough, it will likely crack and not taste as good. And if there’s too much, you won’t like the taste either. So, like everything else in life, it’s a balance of

Do what feels right to You
Expand your You to mean Everybody

Once you’ve mastered that, you can begin adding water. Again, slowly, so the dough is not too wet. Pour a few ounces of water with one hand and knead with the other, until the dough is smooth and not sticky. You can pretend to play volleyball with it. After the dough has been formed, let it rest for half an hour or so, to further “become what it is”.

Meanwhile…

Tortilla Masa
The flour we use for tortillas is called masa harina, and is a corn product made by cooking whole corn kernels with wood ash or lime (calcium carbonate). There’s a mystical-scientific chemical reaction that takes place (we call it “nixtamalization”) which forms (reveals?) complete proteins in the corn. The corn is then rinsed thoroughly and then ground into a paste with water. This process, generally done everyday in villages around rural Mexico and Central America, has been industrialized for our benefit into a product called “Maseca” that you can buy at most supermarkets. The corn used is genetically modified white corn grown in Iowa. They use this “Maseca”, which includes many different chemicals and preservatives (for free!) all over tortillerias in Mexico as well. According to Shakespeare:

“Hell hath no fury like the commodity market’s scorn”

Since the dough is nothing more than mixing this “Maseca” with water, I’m only here to tell you to watch out: this is not wheat flour, and it is not easy. Keep palms and fingertips moist as you make the racquetballs out of the masa, and don’t be afraid to start from scratch. Professional Mexican ladies roll out their thin tortillas between two sheets of plastic and a metal press. In El Salvador they are done by hand (techniques demonstrated in class) and come out much thicker (think pizza pocket) and heartier. You, in Sequim, are free to do whatever you please.

Empanada Filling
The main commandment of the empanada filling is not to poke out of the dough. Within that textural limitation, whole realms of culinary delight open up to you. You can make Indian curries or applesauce or grated carrot salads or whatever strikes your fancy. In class, we cut

Zucchini
Tomato
Broccoli

into small pieces and sautéed them over medium-heat in olive oil. The correct order of insertion depends on hardness and density – I think we put in the zuke first because the broccoli was quite small, and the tomato much later, when the hard corners of the zukes had already been sanded down.

After taking the vegetables off the heat, somebody snuck in and added grated Trailhead cheese from the local Port Townsend creamery, and freshly minced Italian parsley.

Parotha Filling
These parothas are called aloo parothas (a-loooooooo), where aloo means potato.

Almost 1 steamed potato per person (larger ones, maybe russets)
Equal quantities of garlic and green chile (finely chopped)
½ red onion, diced
A few morsels of clove, cinnamon, black peppercorns (ground together)

The potatoes should be cooked but firm. Tender. We want to grate them (once they’ve cooled) into a large bowl, then add the spices, some salt, the onion, ginger, and green chile. Mix together briefly, until uniform. My mother would probably add a little sugar and a little lemon juice (if the dough wasn’t too watery).

The most important part, as some of our students quickly figured out, is the tasting. If the potatoes aren’t good, the aloo parotha don’t have a chance. Taste, add salt, taste, add ginger, ad delirium…

Squash Filling
For the papusas, I took one butternut squash (it’s officially fall, isn’t it?), sliced it in half, and baked it faced down in the oven while waiting for the potatoes to steam.  We then scraped out the tender pulp (in the oven for 40 minutes at 400, perhaps?) and mixed it with

Salt
fromage blanc
freshly chopped Italian parsley.

Squash and fromage blanc is a combination worthy of alternation with mashed potatoes on your fall table. Hot and steamy and soft and squishy and sweet and – if you care to add some black pepper or jalapeños – even a bit spicy.

Assembly
To assembly the parothas and papusas, first roll out a golf ball’s worth of dough to a disc slightly larger than a Marvin Gaye compact disc. Groove. For the parothas, specialized rolling equipment helps, but you can use a normal rolling pin as well. For the papusas, it’s best to use your hands (as noted above).

For the parothas, have an assistant turn the potato mixture into racquetball-sized spheres. They will look too big for your dough. It’s okay – gluten stretches. Place the sphere on top of the disc and stretch up one edge of the circumference to the top of the sphere. Repeat in 5-7 places around the disc, pulling each point over the top of the sphere so there is no gap. When you have the wrapped ball, you can slightly gently flatten into a flying saucer shape, taking care not to puncture the dough. After 15 seconds of gentle squeezing and patting, you can put the fat disc back on your floured board, and roll out into another disc, as you did the first time. It’s now ready to hand to your assistant who is cooking. Ideally, if you don’t have assistants, it will take exactly as long to roll one as to cook one, so you’ll be moving right along.

For the papusas, it’s a little different. The ball of squash should be smaller than the original ball of masa harina, and you will not be able to pull the dough over the top, but rather, fold up the edges around the filling like a closing flower. Join the dough at the top and gently press the sphere back into a fat tortilla.

The parothas are cooked without oil, and drizzled with oil on top while the bottom is cooking. When they are flipped, the new bottom will have already been oiled.

The papusas are generally cooked with a little more oil. With both, keep in mind their thickness: the heat should be low enough that you can cook through without burning the outside.

As for the empanadas, they can be considerably simpler. Roll out the dough thinner than the parothas, to a similar Marvin Gaye-sized compact disc. Place a dollop of vegetable filling in the middle and top with extra cheese if we have it. Pull one side of the disc over the other side, folding into a bumpy half-moon. Now work around the edges, gently pressing the two sides together, until they are one. Once fused, you can try any of the variety of braids (“repulgadas”) we learned in class. The empanadas can be baked (about 10 minutes), pan-fried, or deep-fried. You can also brush them with a little big of egg so they have that nice sheen you see in bakery counters.

Salsa
Dipping sauces are very important. My book is full of them, in fact. One pattern that I really love experimenting with involves carrots (here we use Nash’s Best’s Carrot’s) and is variously called “carrot salsa”, “carrot hummus”, or “carrot mayonnaise.”

Steam some carrots and blend or mash them together with:

Toasted sesame seeds
Raw diced onion
Olive oil
Salt
Lemon juice or vinegar (very little)
Grated ginger

The proportions are the magic experimentation of it. Start with the carrots and slowly add other ingredients as you see fit. If you want it to be runnier, add more water or oil. If you want it to be thicker, act appropriately. It’s all under control: your control.

This time we had some extra fromage blanc from the empanada fillings, and added that for a creamier edge. It was delicious.

*

Thank you to everyone who came. Please send any questions to me at

ankurbhai@mangolandia.org

Ankur

SEPTEMBER 30TH, 2008

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