Friday, January 10, 2014

Kabocha korokke - Winter squash croquettes as adapted by an Indian palate

One of the great things about growing up in a foreign country is the inevitable widening of one's palate that occurs as a result.  Additionally, the amalgamation of one's own culinary culture with that of the foreign nation often results in the creation of a wonderful melange of tastes that sometimes surpasses the beauty of the original dish.  Perhaps this is why pizza is so much more delicious in the United States, where it is served in a variety of styles and with endless toppings, than it is in Italy.  (Yes, I said it, and I meant it: American pizza - especially of the type found in local pizza houses, not national chains - is way better than most Italian pizza.)

But, I digress.  The point I was trying to make is that the influence of a foreign palate's preferences on a local dish can sometimes result in the creation of something brand new.  A case in point is the subject of today's post and one my favorite Japanese foods, the humble kabocha korokke.  I have previously lamented about my limited exposure to Japanese food, despite having spent a sizable part of my childhood in Japan.  The largest limitation to my education in Japanese food was the fact that Japanese cuisine offers very little that suits my vegetarian tastebuds.  However, one of the dishes that I relished while growing up in Japan was the delightfully vegetarian kabocha korokke.

Korokke is simply a Japanese pronunciation of the french word 'croquette' and kabocha are Japanese winter squashes with a firm green exterior and a orange interior.  While recipes for these tasty little fried morsels can vary quite a bit, they always involve a filling of the nutty sweet flesh of the kabocha pumpkin coated in a crunchy brown exterior of panko (Japanese breadcrumbs).  Once I started cooking for myself, my own culinary preferences directed me to include a variety of spices and vegetables in my own recipe for kabocha korokke.

Although I sometimes curse my over-saturated Indian tastebuds for frequently wanting to modify foods to spicier versions, I do believe that my alterations to the kabocha korokke elevate this dish from a mere accompaniment to a cold beer to a worthy weeknight dinner...but I'll let you be the judge of that.

Kabocha Korokke - as adapted by an Indian palate
For patties:
1 medium kabocha, or butternut squash as a substitute, if you absolutely cannot find kabocha
2T olive oil
pinch of salt
1 medium red onion, diced finely
1 large green pepper, diced finely
2 medium potatoes, boiled and mashed
1 small bunch green onions, finely minced
1 T red chili flakes
2 tsp cumin powder
2 tsp coriander powder
1 tsp turmeric
2 T canola oil
Salt, to taste
For dredging patties:
2 eggs, whisked
1/4 C all-purpose flour with a pinch of salt and red chili powder
2 C panko bread crumbs
Canola oil for deep-frying

Prepare kabocha:
1.  Preheat oven to 400 F.
2.  Wash kabocha thoroughly and cut in half
3.  Oil kabocha with olive oil, drizzle cut sides with salt, and place cut side down in a roasting pan containing 1 inch of water
4.  Cover tightly with aluminum foil and roast for 30 minutes or until kabocha is fork tender.
5.  Cool kabocha, discard seeds, and transfer flesh to a large bowl
Prepare other veggies: 
6.  Sautee diced onion in oil until browned, add diced pepper, along with spices and salt, and cook until peppers are tender and spices taste cooked.
7.  Combine kabocha pulp, onion mixture, and mashed potatoes in bowl.  Taste for and adjust salt.
8.  Add minced green onions and combine.  Allow mixture to cool.

Prepare patties:
9.  Set up an assembly-line type work station to make your korokkes.  Place flour, whisked eggs, and panko in three sequential shallow dishes.  
10.  Make 2 inch wide flattish patties out of cooled kabocha mixture.  Dredge kabocha patties sequentially in flour, egg, and panko, making sure patties are completely coated in panko at the final stage.
Fry patties:
11.  Heat canola oil for deep-frying.  Choose a pan and oil amount that will allow your patties to be completely submerged whilst frying.  Test if oil is hot enough by tossing a tiny bit of panko into the oil.  If it sizzles and rises immediately, the oil is hot enough.  If oil starts smoking, it's too hot.  Adjust heat as needed.
12.  Slide panko encrusted patties into hot oil carefully and fry until golden brown on all sides.  Do not fry too many croquettes at once, so as to not allow oil to cool rapidly.  Your croquettes should take about 2 minutes to brown properly.  If patties are browning faster, reduce heat to avoid burnt korokkes
These can be served hot and crispy with some ketchup and/or spicy mayo.  Alternatively, serve with some minted rice for a hot and substantial dinner.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Carrot Feta Flatbread

There's nothing like some well-timed commercialism to help keep New Year's resolutions.  How else would one explain the slew of brand new hot pink tank tops that have suddenly cropped up at my gym, right after January 1st!  Well, I'm not immune to this trend either, and since one of my New Year's resolutions -- (come to think of it, my only New Year's resolution this year) -- was  to revive this blog after a long hiatus, I was convinced that a brand new camera was just the thing to get my creative juices flowing again.

The dough, before rising...

After hours of internet research, social media poll-taking, and shameless ambushing of unwitting photography enthusiasts, I finally upgraded my trusty point-and-shoot to a brand new ILC.  ILCs or interchangeable-lens cameras are cameras that, as their name implies, come with the option of changing out the lens. This feature, and their enormous sensor size make them similar to DSLRs.  DSLRs, or digital single lens reflex cameras are those professional-looking cameras that so many people carry around in dedicated backpacks these days.  Although I'm not sure what the picture quality differences are between a DSLR and an ILC, the ILCs were very attractive to me, as they come in at a fraction of the cost, size, and weight of a typical DSLR.  My longstanding hesitation with ditching my point-and-shoot for so many years had been that I did not envision myself lugging around a bulky and expensive piece of equipment during my travels.  So, the Sony Nex ILC offered me a great compromise in terms of delivering excellent picture quality in a much-more compact and wallet-friendly package.
...and after it is risen.

Okay, that's enough with the camera-tutorial - when did this turn into a gadget blog?  Anyhow, ever since I eagerly opened up my brand new camera a few days ago, I have been in relentless pursuit of new subjects to photograph.  In that spirit, I took it out for a spin in the kitchen, as I was making these carrot and feta stuffed flatbreads, and I have to say, it did not disappoint me at all.  With my point-and-shoot, I would have struggled for hours to try and get decent non-yellow pictures, while my husband sous-chef passed through the sequential stages of patiently helping to light up my food scene, then impatiently grabbing my camera to try and get the shots himself, to finally stomping off in hunger and irritation.   Contrast that with my Sony ILC, which worked beautifully at reproducing the color and light conditions as I was photographing.  The camera comes with a 16-50 mm kit lens, which is not ideal for food photography, as it does not allow me to get very close to try and capture texture.  However, using some of the smart-shooting tips that are built in to the Sony Nex, I was still able to get far better shots in low-light conditions than I'm accustomed to.  Thus, although I envision additional lenses in my future, I'm quite content with trying to master the lens that came with the camera.

So, without further ado, as I sign off, armed with visions of culinary delights and world travels that await me and my new Sony Nex3N, I leave you with a few pictures from my kitchen to tickle your visual senses and a recipe to delight  the tastebuds. Bon appetit!

P.S. Please excuse the messy surroundings, as I was too excited to try out my camera to bother setting the stage first.  I hope that my jazzy manicure makes up for what's otherwise lacking in my presentation.

A sphere of dough, ready to roll out
Carrot-feta flatbread

For dough:

~1 1\4 cups warm water
2 teaspoons yeast

3 cups whole-wheat pastry flour (can substitute with all-purpose flour for a lower fiber alternative.  Or, use 2 parts whole wheat flour to 1 part all-purpose flour, if whole-wheat pastry flour is not handy)
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 Tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons yeast
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons salt
Olive oil, for shallow-frying

For filling:

1 C crumbled feta
6 thai green chilis, finely minced
3 large carrots, thinly sliced or grated

To make the dough:

Mix the water and yeast and allow to sit for 5-10 minutes, while the yeast starts to form bubbles in the water.
Mix all other ingredients together in a large bowl.
Add yeast-water and knead to a soft pliable dough.
As you knead, if dough is too sticky, add a little more flour.  Conversely, if dough is too hard, add some more water.

Cover with a damp cloth and allow dough to rest for 1-2 hours or until doubled in size.

In the meantime, make the filling:
Microwave carrots and chilis for ~4 minutes, or until carrots are slightly softened.
Once cooled, add crumbled feta and mix to combine.

Once dough is risen, knead gently again and separate into 8 equal size balls.

Roll balls into a smooth sphere.

Sprinkle some flour on a clean surface, and using a roller, roll spheres into a 4-inch diameter circle.

Fill each circle with a heaping tablespoon of filling and pinch shut dough shut around filling.

Using flour to prevent sticking, roll out filled dough into a large 1/2 inch thick circle.  Don't worry if some of the filling oozes out at this point; those bits will be extra delicious once you cook your flatbread and will also lend an appealing rustic charm to your creation.

Heat up a skillet and add 1 tsp oil; slap on flatbread and cook on both sides until it is dappled with brown spots and the dough is fully cooked.

Serve with a hot soup such as lentil soup or enjoy with hot tea.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Monday, April 8, 2013

Tomato Pumpkin Soup - Microblog

A favorite recipe handed down to me from my mom, this soup combines tomatoes with Indian white pumpkin,  a great source of dietary fiber.  If pumpkin is hard to source, substitute with zucchini or summer squash. Additional variations can include peas, corn, or spinach.
Tomato Pumpkin Soup - the recipe

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Chocolate Mango Truffles - Micro-blog

The name pretty much says it all -- make sure to stick with the darkest chocolate that you enjoy -- I generally use equal parts 60% and 75% cocoa -- to maximize both taste, as well as nutritional benefits.

Chocolate Mango Truffles - recipe

Chocolate Mango Truffles.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Fresh Vegetable Spring Rolls - micro-blog

Here's the first of many 'micro-blogs' to be posted on Clean Platter. What is a 'micro-blog' you ask? Why, what a good question! Check out this recent post for more on the format: Micro-blog Format
As always, if you'd like a more complete recipe, please ask for it in the comments section below. Your feedback is always much appreciated, so I'd love to hear what you think of this new format.

The recipe can be found in the first picture, which can be enlarged for clarity. Enjoy!

The recipe - click to enlarge
More pictures...
Freshly shaved Napa cabbage

Spring rolls and ingredients