AMBER SEXTON New York City 917-207-2375

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Christmas parties are better than I remember them.

image by Amber Sexton
My dad and Andrewandrew

Posted by Amber Sexton on 12/23 at 06:45 AM
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Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Learning to make Tomato Pappu, or Toor Dal or Andhra Dal

Today I decided to look up toor dal recipes to try. I do a fair amount of Indian recipes at home and I have mostly used toor or tuvor beans to make sambar with. I’ve made sambar a few times and I’m getting better at it but it’s still not as good as I find it in a lot of restaurants I go to. Whereas when I make chana dal, or moong dal, or masoor dal it is more delicious made at home. Also when I make sambar, I often make it when making medu vada which are savory bean donuts that dip into it. Making both is very labor intensive and a big commitment. I wanted to just use up some of the beans, and my curry leaves which would go bad without needing to make two dishes that required a lot of utensils, pots and labor.

So I googled Toor dal. If you are not familiar with the different beans and pulses in Indian cuisine, I don’t blame you. I wasn’t really either and my first ever foray into making dal I used ordinary yellow split peas and a recipe from smitten kitchen here. That recipe is delicious, but even while eating I knew that it was not exactly what I was served in restaurants and so my delving into somewhat more authentic indian cooking began. Anyway Toor dal, unlike some of the other split beans that are used in Indian food may be more familar to you as pigeon peas or gandules. However the difference is that they are not whole, they are split with skins removed. When you look for them in a store that sells ingredients for indian cooking they may be labeled Toor, Tuwar, or Tuvor dal. They have a very specific taste that is mandatory in sambar, when cooked they have a honey-ish aroma, but still obviously a bean and skinless they cook up light yellow.

So what I found was a video on youtube which has audio instructions in Telugu, but written instructions in English, for Tomato Pappu. Then I poked around at other recipes, many of which included garlic and onion not in this recipe and also one or two included fresh ginger. Many indian recipes will omit onion and garlic, because certain Hindu castes do not consume it, and since I’m not in that number I often add them. Asafetida can be a substitute for onion or garlic in a recipe, but I always include a dash of it for it’s unique taste. I chose this original recipe as the base partially because I had the fenugreek seeds and black gram or urad dal which are used in the seasoning that is tempered while the dal is cooking. Urad dal is something I have around because it’s used to make medu vada mentioned above, and it’s intrigued me because just by soaking the split bean, you can grind it, mush it between two fingers, it’s kind of a unique bean that way. I believe it’s properly called a pulse and it is unique to Asia, and it’s often called black gram as in this recipe, because the skins are black, but like the toor dal, it’s mostly used in it’s split and skinned form as is the case here and the inside is white. Only a teaspoon and a half are used, toasted in the oil with fenugreek seeds as part of the seasoning so you could easily skip it you wish and not all recipes called for it at all. This recipe did not specify what type of oil to use. I have taken to using mustard oil in many of my indian dishes and it’s especially good in masoor dal, I’ve no idea if it’s authentic to use in this type of dal but it was delicious.

So I followed this recipe, pretty close, however I put the turmeric and chili powder in after the beans and tomatoes were cooked, the recipe didn’t say how much water to cook the beans in and I added two cups. I also only cooked it for 10 minutes rather than 15 at pressure. I reduced the red chili powder to just 1/4 teaspoon (btw this is mirch or cayenne powder not american chili powder, but you could use red pepper flakes also.) Most of the heat came from 4 dried red chilies that I added to the temper at the second step in seasoning part of the recipe. Some recipes I saw online called for this, and even fresh green chilies cooked with the beans and tomatoes, that would make for a much hotter dish. Anyway the chilies went in to the pan after the urad dal and fenugreek seeds were toasted, right when the cumin and black mustard seeds are added (it’s not specified that they are black mustard seeds but that’s really the only kind used whole in Indian cooking, you do need to get those when picking up your specialty dals at the indian food store.) After this I added 5 small cloves of grated garlic, about a teaspoon grated ginger and about a half a chopped onion, and the rest of the recipe I followed pretty much as indicated. It’s delicious and I will make it again and again, as it was quick and easy with my pressure cooker and I’ve a huge bag of dal to get through.

Posted by Amber Sexton on 12/18 at 10:52 AM
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Monday, December 10, 2012

I made a Jack Rose for the first time

So I’ve been trying out pre-depression era cocktails because they seem to gibe with my interest in from scratch cooking. Also the drinks are all about tasting the spirits, the liqueurs and vermouths with the notes of bitters. It’s not about making drinks into kool-aid so you can scarf down gallons of booze. I had recently read this recipe on how to make your own grenadine and made the grenadine and it was so delicious I immediately made a bunch of eggless, creamless pink ladies and pomegranate gin rickeys. And really it is delicious to the point where you do almost find it to be as drinkable as Hi-C. But then I wanted to do something more traditional with it, pre-depression drinks are not as dry as many modern ‘traditional’ cocktails anyway, which I still like. Anyway I decided to get some applejack and try a Jack Rose, and the proportions I used are a bit more modern because the older proportions are either much more sweet or much more sweet and sour. Also there’s a debate whether to use lemon or lime. Since I did a lot of lime drinks lately and I had to open a lemon for something I was cooking, I went with lemon. So I went with:
2 oz. Laird’s Applejack
1/2 oz lemon juice
1/2 oz grenadine that I had made as per the Jeffrey Morgenthaler recipe above.

Shaken over ice and served in a small stemmed cocktail glass that I just got for $3.

Posted by Amber Sexton on 12/10 at 08:02 AM
Cocktails • (1) CommentsPermalink
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