Savor The Earth

eat tastier, eat greener, eat cheaper

Regarding Ghee–Saveur Savors Clarified Butter January 3, 2010

Filed under: Saveur — Austin Frugal Foodie @ 4:05 pm

In the current issue of Saveur magazine (#126, Jan/Feb 2010), the editors don’t so much rank as review a top 100 gastronomicalities:  foods, cooks, restaurants, books, tools, events and even websites, cities and kitchen tips.  Unlike the previous 11 lists, in this issue the picks were plucked from over 1300 entries contributed by readers.

Texas foodways don’t dominate the cataloging this year, as in some past issues, but several Texans contributed to the inventory, including Rachel Tucker of Austin (no. 29, Malbec Wines).

Um...yeah, uh, that's all that's left.

One of my favorite finds in this “Annual Guide to the World’s Best Foods” is Spain’s Ines Rosales Tortas de Aceite (olive oil tortas, no.69), a sweet and crunchy tortilla-like/paratha-esque/cookie-ish pastry, available at Central Market, where the Deli also sells the Matiz Andaluz brand in sesame, sugared and sugared almond versions.  I love the anise scented rounds, but at $5.99 ($7.99 for Matiz) for a six-pack, I’ve been planning on formulating my own for a while now.  I’ll be sure to post my sustainable homemade version when I succeed.

I like no. 5, Sichuan Dipping Salt—see my Coconut Meatballs post for my version of this seasoning/condiment.  Contributor Stephen Hu adds five-spice powder to his concoction, which sounds fragrantly delicious.

No. 7, Clarified Butter, speaks to my soul and palate.  Although contributor Lauren Klatsky’s instructions fall a shade shy of traditional Indian ghee, you’ll find that cranking out a jar of this golden butter-oil (see my instructions at Ga Ga for Ghee) is simple indeed.

Austinites already appreciate the roasted gusto of Hatch Chiles, no. 20.  Local grocery stores and even our farmers markets get into the act in late summer, and transplanted New Mexicans continue to spread the sweet smoky word.

tricky pic for a two-bit photographer like me

Immersion Blender, a top tool at no. 37, reminds me to remind readers that yes you can buy useful, high quality kitchen implements at your local thrift stores–that’s where I got my Braun model.  Save a buck and save some labor.  While we’re on the subject, check out no. 72, Pyrex glass measuring cups.  You’ll find these at the resale shops as well, along with vintage Pyrex, Anchor Hocking, Fire King and Corning glass bakeware, and even stove-top vessels.  Pretty pieces, very functional.  Quality is so retro.

If no. 38, Banchan, is your thing, try Full Quiver Farm’s lacto-fermented kimchi.  Speaking of lacto-fermentation, allow me to jump ahead to no. 95, Sally Fallon‘s eye-opening cookbook, Nourishing Traditions, where I first read of the technique.  Good luck getting your hands on a volume at our city’s public libraries.  Of their ten copies, most are already checked out, two are missing.  Better luck to you at Half Price Books.

Get growin’ with no. 40, Herbes de Provence, Austin-style:  Thyme, sage, rosemary and savory, perennial herbs that can thrive beautifully in our area, plus Mexican mint marigold standing in aromatically for Europe’s tarragon.  Luckily lavender is optional, as we’re challenged in our yard to provide adequate drainage in the face of cyclically relentless rain.  Greener thumbs than mine should encounter less trouble, and of course you can purchase locally grown from such sources as Texas Lavender, at our local markets.

Wonton Wrappers, no. 45, offer adventurous cooks a short-cut to stuffed pastas.  See Saveur’s recipe for “Shrimp Ravioli with Spinach and Ginger” and keep it local with Gulf shrimp, farmers market carrot, fennel, eggs and tomatoes (Gundermann Farms keeps up your lycopene with their hothouse love apples), and Cora Lamar’s triple-washed spinach (still only $2.50 for a 10-ounce bag) and Texas leeks (Whew! Just in time!  Substantial local alliums have ’bout disappeared.) from Central Market.

local red rounds

Rascally radishes rank at no. 51 as “Foods that Inspire.”  Rolled in olive oil and roasted, the redolent roots were a revelation to contributor Donna Long’s husband, epiphanically sending him off on the foodie journey.  Radishes gloriously in season now in our parts, pluck a bunch and taste the magic for yourself.  Try my Ravishing Radishes for an Indian twist.

Bust out Austin’s own Tito’s handmade vodka to try your hand at any of the one dozen (!) Bloody Mary (no. 76) recipes.  Wake up on the bright side!

I’m afraid I’m partial to Texas’ sweet, sweet 1015 onions, and must take exception to no. 78, Washington’s Walla Walla onions.  Texas pride.  Gets me every time.

Cole Ruth’s tip in no. 79, Dried Lemon Zest, intrigues.  I store my citrus zest in the freezer, but I’ll have to try this trick next time I’m faced with rind.

Saving rendered animal fat is second nature around here, so no. 82, schmaltz, really speaks my language.  Chicken fat cracklin’d with some onion.  Mmmm.  After Alton Brown lost points with me when he deemed natural sausage casings “icky,” he won me back with his “schmaltz manié.”  Yes!

Don’t forget to save your Gulf crustacean shells (shrimp, blue crab) to brew shellfish stock as no. 94, Leftover Shellfish Shells, instructs.  Check out Saveur’s recipe for Shrimp Bisque to use up your shrimp shells.

I have to laugh about no. 99, Quail Eggs, which I refuse to eat raw, even at Uchi


Ga Ga for Ghee November 10, 2009

Filed under: easy,Indian,thrift,vegetarian — Austin Frugal Foodie @ 11:34 am

solidified ghee

Ghee is Indian style fully clarified butter.  Through cooking, the butter’s moisture is removed and the milk solids are browned, transforming it into a butterscotchy-smelling, shelf stable fat with a high smoke point (485º).

Making your own ghee is simple and much cheaper than buying premade, even if you use organic butter.  I usually cook a whole pound of butter, which yields close to two cups of ghee.  I save the browned particles to use in Indian dal recipes for added flavor.  You can also add the solids to your rice or some of your breads.

GHEE yields varies

  • organic butter—Organic Valley regular unsalted butter is perfect.  Click for a promotional offer including $10 in coupons.  The current Whole Foods Whole Deal newsletter contains a coupon for $1 OFF OV one-pound butter.

Put the butter into a medium saucepan.  I prefer a pot with a light-colored interior.  My Chantal white-enameled pan (just a few bucks from the Gucci Goodwill on Lake Austin Blvd.) is perfect.  Slowly melt and cook the butter, swirling the pan occasionally for that “hands-on” feeling, until the milk solids at the bottom of the pot have browned.  The butter will gurgle and sputter to you in a chatty way as it renders, keeping you apprised of the water content.  When the butter waxes taciturn, you’ll know it’s time to monitor the imminent browning.

Butterscotchly-browned and scented, your ghee is ready for decanting.  I ladle the clear butterfat through a permanent coffee filter into a glass jar.  Try not to disturb the particulates.  After you’ve gleaned all the golden oil you can without stirring up the sediment (that is NOT a lovely word), seal your jar with an air-tight lid.  Scrape the solids into a separate container and freeze them if you won’t be using them soon.  You can store the brownings in the fridge for a week or two.

The finished, strained ghee solidifies at cool room temperature and will keep in your pantry for months.   That’s more months in the cool season and fewer moons in hot weather.  (Unless your lucky kitchen keeps its cool year-round—mine sure doesn’t!)


Pao de Queijo July 10, 2011

Filed under: bread — Austin Frugal Foodie @ 4:41 pm

Great Balls o' Cheese!

    Pao de Queijo
    makes about 21 or 22 little balls

    1/4 cup ghee
    1/4 cup water
    3/4 tsp. salt–I like Real Salt
    1/4 tsp. turmeric (optional)
    1 cup tapioca flour, lightly spooned
    1 local egg
    1/3 cup yogurt
    1/2 cup grated pecorino romano
    1/2 cup shredded mozzarella–I love Full Quiver Farms, available at Barton Creek Farmers Market and Central Market.

    Preheat oven to 450°.
    Combine first four ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Place flour in a bowl and pour in the boiled mixture. Stir briskly until mixed. Beat in the egg. Blend in the yogurt and then the cheeses. The batter may look a bit lumpy.
    Using a spring-loaded scoop or a measuring cup with a spout, fill a mini-muffin tin. I find that a nonstick pan encourages better browning and produces more attractively domed tops than a shiny aluminum pan, and requires no greasing. You’ll have enough batter for about 21 or 22 cavities, filled mostly full. Poor a little water into the empty cups to help ensure even baking.
    Place tin(s) in the oven and turn the heat down to 350°. Bake the balls for about 14 minutes, until lightly browned on the bottoms and gooey (but not liquid) on the insides.
    Eat ’em hot!


Potato Bake April 8, 2010

Filed under: easy,Indian,locavore,potatoes,spice blends,vegetables,vegetarian — Austin Frugal Foodie @ 3:19 pm

spinach 'n' taters

come 'n' git it casserole

If you didn’t get a chance to grab a bag of organic russets on sale recently at Newflower Market, Texas farmers have granted you a reprieve.  You can find Texas-grown new red potatoes right now at Central Market for $1.99 a pound.  No small potatoes for small potatoes, but sometimes you gotta have your spud fix.  Either way, boil up some ‘taters for this comforting casserole and store any extra boiled potatoes in the fridge for quick breakfasts.

This dish used up my leftover cottage cheese (from Mackin’ Cheese) and incorporates fresh Texas cool weather produce, still available for a little while longer.  Serve as is or gild with your favorite salsa or a tangy tamarind chutney.


  • 4 medium-sized cooked potatoes, or 9-10 new potatoes.  I boil up a few and keep ’em in the fridge for quick starching.
  • 1 good-sized Texas leek, trimmed, washed, quartered and sliced thin
  • 1 (or more) good-sized local green garlic bulb, or 1 (or more) clove  of organic or local garlic, minced
  • ¼ teaspoon paprika, smoked is good
  • 1½ teaspoons ground coriander
  • ¼ to ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala.  You can use your favorite recipe, or try this basic blend.  Or you can buy it ready made in bulk spice departments.
  • 4 Tablespoons plus ½ Tablespoon ghee or organic butter (click for a coupon on Organic Valley), plus more for greasing you baking dish.  Click for my instructions on making your own ghee.
  • 1/8 to ¼ teaspoon asafetida,  optional but yummy.
  • 1 10-ounce bag of Cora Lamar’s triple-washed Texas-grown spinach (ready to cook) or other local spinach, trimmed and cleaned.
  • ½ teaspoon plus ¾ teaspoon salt.  I use Real Salt.  Plus some kosher salt for the potatoes—I like Diamond Crystal.
  • 1 cup organic or local cottage cheese.  I used Organic ValleyFull Quiver Farm sometimes makes cottage cheese.  Ask at their booth the next time you’re shopping Austin Farmers Market or Barton Creek Farmers Market.
  • 1 local egg
  • a few sprigs of local cilantro

Combine the ground spices, paprika through the garam masala, and stir in 3 Tablespoons water.  Heat up a large saute pan with the 4 Tbls. ghee or butter.  Add the asafetida and give it a quick stir before stirring in the spice mixture.  Cook and stir over medium-high heat for a minute or two, until the spices begin to look dryish and separate from the butterfat.  Stir in the leeks to get them well covered with the spices and add about 3 Tablespoons more water.  Saute, stirring and adjusting the heat as necessary to prevent scorching, until the leeks have softened.  Stir in the garlic to release its fragrance.

Break each potato into two halves (unless they’re small) and smash each spud into coarse chunks with the heel of your hand.  Add the ‘taters to the cooking pan as you go.  Stir the mixture well to get all the potatoes covered with the seasonings, sprinkle them with a good pinch of kosher salt and let them sit and brown for a couple minutes.  Stir and salt again and let brown some more. Turn the potato mixture into a bowl.

Heat up the ½ Tablespoon ghee or butter in the same pan over high heat and wilt the spinach.  Place spinach on a plate to cool for a minute before chopping it up and pressing most of the liquid out.  You don’t have to squeeze it totally dry.  Mix the spinach into the potatoes.

Meanwhile, combine the cottage cheese, egg, ¾ teaspoon salt and cilantro in a small food processor bowl and process until smooth.   Stir the cottage cheese into the potato mixture.  Scrape into a large buttered casserole dish (I used my 3½ quart Le Creuset “buffet casserole”) and bake at 400° for about 20 minutes, until piping hot and steaming in the middle when stabbed with a butter knife.

It certainly wouldn’t hurt to serve this with some juicy grilled local sausages, such as Dai Due‘s fat and juicy spicy wild boar sausage.


Pepper in Your Pot: Dai Due Kielbasa and Rice with Cabbage February 19, 2010

Filed under: Dai Due,Indian,meat,rice,slow cooker,thrift — Austin Frugal Foodie @ 4:56 pm

sausage and rice is nice

The house smells great right now.  I’m brewin’ up some pepper broth (finally!) with the frozen bag of pepper trimmings that has rested undisturbed since the last local bell graced our kitchen—some weeks ago, at least.  Before a friend enlightened me about her family’s practice of distilling sweet peppers’ essence from the stems, seeds and ribs, I had always tossed the remains into the compost.  What a waste!  Now the pepper parts warrant their own freezer bag.  Augmented by the occasional onion end (not too many, please), the bag broths up savory and deeply aromatic, with nary a meat scrap or bay leaf.

Taking it easy on myself (somebody has to), I just dump the capsicum contents into the crock and slow cook ’em on HIGH for a couple hours or so.  The mouthwatering fragrance fills the air with a delectable scent that promises a delicious dish ahead:  Dai Due sausage and rice.  Again?  Yes.  Thankfully, again!  And an easy Indian-style cabbage side for a bonus.

You’ll be using 2 separate large skillets for this two-pot meal.  Remember you can purchase most spices in small amounts from your grocery store’s bulk department.  I bring in my own containers.

SAUSAGE AND RICE serves the family plus leftovers

  • 1 cup basmati rice, rinsed well (3 times!) soaked in water and/or pepper broth for 10 minutes, drained (save the soaking liquid) and rested for at least 10 minutes
  • 4 Tablespoons ghee.  I make my own ghee from Organic Valley butter.  Click for instructions.
  • 1 Tablespoon high smoke point oil, preferably organic.  I like Spectrum‘s oils.
  • 1 pound excellent local sausage links, such as Dai Due’s kielbasa (which blends seamlessly with these seasonings)
  • 1 local or organic onion, halved and thinly sliced pole to pole.  Hillside Farms, at the Sunset Valley Farmers Market, was still selling reds and yellows the last time I checked.
  • a couple of thin quarter-sized slices of organic ginger root.  I almost never peel fresh ginger.  Handle your own root as you please.
  • 1″ piece cinnamon stick
  • 4 cloves
  • ½ teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 2 black cardamom pods (or 3 or 4 green, but I prefer the large smoky pods of black cardamom for this dish.)
  • 1 bay leaf.  Get growin’!
  • 1 star anise
  • pinch of turbinado sugar.  I buy this in bulk at Central Market.

Heat 2 Tablespoons ghee in a large (12″) skillet over medium heat.  Add the onions and ¼ teaspoon salt (I like Real Salt) and stir and fry until the slices are well browned.  Remove pan from burner and replace with another large skillet (not nonstick here).  Heat it up on HIGH and add the tablespoon of oil followed quickly by the sausage linksBrown the sausages on both sides .  Place the links on a plate and set aside (they shouldn’t be cooked through).  Set the pan aside, as well.

Transfer the onions to a separate plate and put the onion pan back on the burner over medium heat.  Add the remaining 2 tablespoons ghee and the spices and toast them until they smell good and roasty to you.  Add back the onions plus the ginger slices and drained (and rested) rice and stir and saute until the rice grains glisten and separate.

Pour in the soaking liquid (use 1 2/3 cups) and sugar plus another ¼ teaspoon salt, turn the heat to HIGH and bring to a boil.  Place a tight-fitting lid on top, lower the heat to lowest and cook for 10 minutes.  Quickly remove the lid, slide the sausages on top of the rice and replace the lid.  Continue cooking for another 10 minutes.  Remove from the heat and let rest 10 minutes before fluffing the rice and removing the whole spices.  Serve with the cabbage.

This easy cabbage preparation, revelatory in its combination of caraway and cardamom, plays cross-cultural ambassador with the Indo-European flavors of the  kielbasa and rice.

NORTHWEST INDIAN STYLE CABBAGE serves the family, with leftovers a possibility depending on their love of kohl

  • 2 or 3 Tablespoons ghee
  • 1 local or organic onion, halved and sliced pole to pole
  • ¼ teaspoon caraway seeds
  • 4 black peppercorns
  • heaping ¼ teaspoon cardamom seeds (from green cardamom pods).  You can buys these already popped out of the pods (decorticated) but I just crack the pods and pick them out myself.
  • heaping ¼ teaspoon ground coriander
  • ½ teaspoon ground turmeric
  • ¼ teaspoon paprika or cayenne—I have to keep this dish rated G for the young ‘uns
  • 1 cup organic canned whole tomatoes, crushed.  I use a potato masher for this.  If you didn’t stock up on Muir Glen when it was on special recently, you can find Whole Foods 365 brand and Central Market brand organic canned tomatoes at reasonable prices.
  • 1 clove organic domestic garlic, pressed or minced
  • half a 3-pound local cabbage, outermost leaves removed if tough, cored, quartered and sliced into shreds.  You’ll find plenty of affordable Texas-grown cabbage at our farmers markets and local grocery stores.
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon garam masala.  Click for a recipe.
  • several Tablespoons fresh chopped local cilantro, easy to find right now.  Try growing your own.  Tis the season, before it gets too hot.

Heat the ghee in the sausage skillet on medium heat.  Add the whole spices and fry until toasted to your taste.  Add the onion and saute until softened.  It’s quite alright (and deliciouser) for the onion to pick up some brown patches.  Dump in the ground spices (except garam masala), give ’em a stir and then add the tomatoes and garlic.  Cook and stir until thickened, then add the cabbage and salt.  The pan will be very full.  Continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the cabbage is wilted to your liking.  If the sauce sticks to the pan and browns a bit, that’s fine.  Just add a few tablespoons of water to deglaze.  The tomato fond will enrich the dish, deepening the flavors.

When your cabbage is cooked, remove the pan from the heat and stir in the cilantro.  Correct the salt if necessary and serve.


Glazed Veggies January 23, 2010

Filed under: easy,Indian,thrift,vegetables,vegetarian — Austin Frugal Foodie @ 4:56 pm

eat your veggies!

We’re gettin’ back to our roots around here.  Winter roots, that is, plus the ubiquitous broccoli stems (I confess I’d eat broccoli almost every day if it were available year-round locally).  Here’s a fantastic glazed veggie recipe, gleaned from that essential tome, Lord Krishna’s Cuisine,  The Art of Indian Vegetarian Cooking. Yamuna Devi‘s invaluable reference, this encyclopedic guide will learn you a thing or twenty about Vedic cuisine, including many south Indian and Bengali recipes and techniques.  Even dedicated carnivores can appreciate the wealth of dishes explained and the breadth of styles explored.  Devi, a warm and engaging woman (these Hindus must be on to something), sang back up for the Beatles(!) and has written several other cookbooks, but this text, her magnum opus, constitutes a culinary education.

I first cracked open Lord Krishna’s Cuisine, a treasured gift from a lost friend, almost two decades ago, and the experience, expertise and spirit of Devi (no, I’m not a Hindu) drew in this young foodie as if it were my own bildungsroman of cookery.  I grew as a cook, albeit a conscientiously meat-eating cook.  You could take away all my other cookbooks–that would be hundreds–and I would miss only cake (I don’t need formulas for frying bacon!).  But of course, I’ve been in love with the flavorful foods of the subcontinent for many years.

Though I do sometimes add onions and garlic to Devi’s allium-less recipes (an unfortunate Vedic principle), nearly every dish I’ve tried from her book is perfect.  So I respectfully present to you this very slightly modified version of  her “Gajar Sabji–Glazed Carrots.”


  • about one pound glazeable local vegetables such as carrots, radishes, turnips, kohlrabi or rutabagas, plus—you guessed it—very well peeled broccoli stems
  • 2 Tablespoons ghee or organic butter plus one Tablespoon butter  (divided use)—I make my own ghee out of Organic Valley butter.  Click to find out how.
  • 2 Tablespoons organic brown sugar, light or dark.  Central Market’s organic brand is usually the best buy.
  • ¼ teaspoon ground turmeric
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cardamom
  • ½ teaspoon ground coriander
  • 2 Tablespoons Texas orange juice—you’ll find Texas oranges, sweet and succulently juicy, at local grocery stores as well as our farmers markets right now.  Whole Foods is even offering bagged organic Texas oranges on special right now.
  • 2/3 cup water
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice from a local and/or organic lemon—ask your neighbor!
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • freshly cracked black pepper
  • chopped local cilantro

Chop your veggies into bite-sized chunks.  You can halve or quarter radishes and baby turnips depending on their size.  Combine your hardest veggies—carrots, mature turnips, kohlrabi, rutabaga and large daikon radishes–in a skillet or small straight-sided saute pan–I use a 2-quart saute pan.  Add the two tablespoons ghee or butter and the next seven ingredients.  Bring to a boil over high heat, cover, turn the heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes.  I like to use a glass lid so I can keep an eye on the process.  Not all cookware lines come equipped with handy see-through lids so check out your local thrift store to find assorted brands of glass lids for a buck or two.

After simmering for 10 minutes, add your tenderer vegetables like broccoli stems and baby turnips.  Continue to cook for about 6 minutes or so until the veggies are about done to your liking, then remove the lid and raise the heat to evaporate the cooking liquid, leaving your roots glossily glazed.  Stir in the remaining tablespoon of butter plus the lemon juice and nutmeg, an black pepper and cilantro to taste.

Do eat this hot, preferably at one meal.  I have a high tolerance for leftovers but I’ll confide that this dish is best when freshly prepared.


Dal Duo December 29, 2009

Filed under: beans,easy,fast,Indian,pressure cooker,vegetables,vegetarian — Austin Frugal Foodie @ 5:17 pm

dueling dals---mung dal left, urad dal right

All dalled up and nowhere to go.  Nowhere I need to go right now anyway, and that’s great ’cause it’s cold and wet out and holidays—and rhinovirus round-robin– have done done me in.  Here are two different Indian-style dals to warm your hearth and belly.  The first, a mung dal based creamy chowder chunked with plenty of radishes (softened to mellowness), comes together straightforwardly.  Urad dal provides the base for the second soup, the small skinned and split beans swimming swimmingly with diced kohlrabi, caressed by silky slips of spinach.  Though requiring multiple steps, the assembly is not tricky, and the process yields a flavor and texture quite distinct from the mung dal potage, despite the a similar brassical and leafy constituency.

All that and dal is a cheap source of good nutrition, too.  I usually buy mine at Fiesta because I don’t make it up to MGM as often as I’d like.  The pressure cooker makes quick work of a pot of legumes, but you can simmer these soups the old-fashioned way if you’re not pressure-equipped.  Boil the dals 20 to 30 minutes before adding your vegetables, then continue to simmer until the base is cooked before finishing the recipe.

If you’ve got basmati rice on hand, enjoy it with these dals.  I always have a cooked pot of Texas-grown Lowell Farms organic jasmine rice in the fridge, so that’s my usual dal dais.

mung dal and rice


  • ¾ cup mung dal, picked through for pebbles and the like, well-rinsed and drained
  • 6 cups water
  • 1 to several cloves organic garlic
  • 1 bay leaf.  Grow your own if you can.  Bay needs little care.
  • heaping ½ teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 ½ teaspoons salt.  I like Real Salt.
  • 1 Tablespoon ghee or butter, plus 2 Tablespoons ghee (not butter).  See my simple instructions for making ghee.
  • 1 or 2 bunches of local radishes, sliced about 1/6 ” thick.  If the greens look sprightly, chop ’em up, too.
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 dried red chile.  Crush it up for some heat or leave it whole to accommodate the kids.
  • ¼ teaspoon asafetida powder.    This stinky spice, with its natural antiviral compounds, shows promise as an H1N1 fighter.
  • ½ to a whole local onion, quartered and slice thin
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • chopped fresh local cilantro to taste.  A cool weather treasure around here.

Combine the mung dal, water, garlic, bay leaf, turmeric, salt and 1 Tablespoon butter in a 6-quart pressure cooker.  Bring up to high pressure on high heat, lower the heat to maintain the pressure and cook for 5 minutes.  Remove from the heat and let the pressure drop for 10 minutes before releasing the pressure with the quick-release mechanism.  Carefully remove the lid (watch out for the steam!), and add the radishes and greens, if using.  Replace the lid and bring to high pressure again over high heat.  Cook at high pressure for another 5 minutes, remove from heat and let the pressure drop for 10 minutes before releasing the pressure and removing the lid—be careful!

While the dal rests, heat the ghee and cumin seeds in a medium skillet over medium-high heat.  If your stove top is electric, you can use the same burner to save energy.  Add the chile.  When the cumin smells as toasty as you like, add the asafetida, followed quickly by the onion slices.  Add the salt and stir it all around.  Continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the onion is well-browned.  When fully browned, stir the onion mixture into the dal, put the lid on the pot and let the dal sit for a couple minutes to infuse.

Stir in the cilantro and serve, ladled over rice if you wish, with a squeeze of lemon if desired.

This soup is seasoned with a wet masala .  (Masala means spice mixture.)  The technique is easy and results in a more mellow rendering of the spices’ essence.


  • ¾ cup urad dal, picked through for pebbles and such, well-rinsed and drained
  • 6 cups water
  • 1 to several cloves organic garlic
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon salt.  I like Real Salt.
  • heaping ½ teaspoon turmeric
  • dab of ghee or butter, plus 3 or 4 Tablespoons ghee (not butter).  See my simple instructions for making ghee.
  • 3 medium-sized local kohlrabi, trimmed and very well peeled, diced
  • 1 bag Cora Lamar’s Texas-grown savoy spinach (10 ounces).  Triple washed and ready to cook, you needn’t prep it further.  Available at Central Market, today it’s on sale for $2.50 a bag.
  • 1 local onion, quartered and sliced thin
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • ½ teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 6 black peppercorns
  • medium pecan shell-sized lobe of ginger root, minced
  • ¼ teaspoon asafetida powder
  • 1 medium-sized mild whole green chile, if available, halved, seeded and sliced.  You probably won’t be finding any more local peppers at our markets right now.  If you’ve got one leftover, use it.  If not, just leave it out.

Combine dal, water, garlic, bay leaf, salt, turmeric and dab of ghee in a 6-quart pressure cooker.  Bring up to high pressure over high heat, lower the heat to maintain the pressure and cook for 5 minutes.  Remove from the heat and let the pressure drop for 10 minutes before releasing the pressure with the quick-release mechanism.  Carefully remove the lid (watch out for the steam!), and add the kohlrabi and spinach.  Replace the lid and bring to high pressure again over high heat.  Cook at high pressure for another 5 minutes, remove from the heat and let the pressure drop for 10 minutes before releasing the pressure and removing the lid, carefully!

While the dal is cooking, heat up a couple tablespoons of ghee with the onion slices and ¼ teaspoon salt in a small to medium skillet.  Stir and cook, regulating the heat as necessary to thoroughly brown the onion.  This will take a while, don’t try to rush it.  Meanwhile, grind the whole spices (cumin through peppercorns) in a spice grinder.  Combine with the ginger and a few tablespoons of water.

While the dal pot enjoys its second 10 minute rest, use the hot burner to heat up another couple of tablespoons or so of ghee in a medium skillet (you can use a small one if you’re out of peppers).  When the ghee is hot, dump in the asafetida, followed quickly by the chile slices.  Saute the peppers until they pick up some brown spots, then add the wet ground spice mixture.  Stir and fry until the masala dries but hasn’t scorched.  Stir the spices and onions into the cooked dal and let the soup rest for a couple minutes before correcting the salt, if needed, and serving with rice, if desired.


The Green Greenie—(don’t) Throwaway Puree December 25, 2009

Filed under: Indian,pressure cooker,thrift,vegetables,vegetarian — Austin Frugal Foodie @ 4:16 pm

sak it to me!

About the only food I won’t reuse around here is a dead guppy (What’s up with that, Santa?).  Actually the kindergartner is saving the carcass to take to the Austin Nature and Science Center‘s trade counter.  I hope he doesn’t forget, cause I’m not cookin’ it!

Come to think of it, I don’t make a salad out of banana peels either (like they do in Laos).  And I eat far too much citrus to freeze or candy all that zest and peel.  But I will not throwaway greens unless unfortunate circumstances have allowed them to languish beyond flaccidity.  Smoothly combined with the ever-versatile broccoli stems I accumulate, assorted winter vegetable tops yield a nutritious and nummy Indian-spiced puree to stir into rice or scoop at with pappadams, tortilla chips (we love El Milagro unsalted) or crostini.

Get out your 6-quart pressure cooker for this dish.  Pressurized steaming produces a more evenly cooked potful more quickly than conventional steaming.


  • lots of assorted greens.  My last batch included the tops of kohlrabi, carrots, beets and turnipsWash them very well (nobody likes gritty greens) and trim the leaves off the stemsYou need enough to nearly pack up your pressure cooker (with a steamer insert).
  • 2 large or 3 or 4 smaller broccoli stems, peeled ruthlessly and diced
  • a couple small to medium potatoes, organic and/or local (very hard to find local right now, but you might get lucky), diced.  I don’t peel spuds for this dish (or almost any other).
  • a couple of thin slices—“coins” as Barbara Tropp would say—fresh ginger root.  I almost never peel ginger.  You decide.  If you’re out of the fresh stuff (it happens), you can use a ½ teaspoon or so of dried ground ginger.
  • a couple cloves of garlic, peeled
  • heaping ½ teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt.  I like Diamond Crystal.
  • 2 or 3 Tablespoons ghee.  See my simple instructions.
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • onion slices from ½ or more of a medium or larger local onion—still available at our farmers markets!
  • local hot chiles, 1 to 4, to taste, whole or chopped, as desired
  • 1 teapsoon garam masala.  Click for a recipe.
  • 3 Tablespoons organic or local (Promised Land) heavy cream.  Organic Valley is great.  Click for a coupon.
  • lemon wedges—local backyard lemons are readily available at the farmers markets, and maybe even your own neighborhood, right now.

Pour about ½ cup water into your cooker and place a steamer basket inside.  Pack in the greens, leaving some room for the broccoli and potato.  On top of that lay your ginger slices and garlic, then sprinkle with the ground spices and salt.  Bring to high pressure over high heat, then lower the heat to just maintain the pressure and cook for 10 minutes.  Remove from the heat and let the pressure go down for 10 minutes before releasing the quick-release pressure mechanism before lifting off the lid.  Stand back from the steam!

In 2 batches, puree the greens in a food processor with the cooking water.

Heat up your ghee in a large (12″) skillet and add the cumin seeds.  Toast the cumin to your taste, then toss in the onion slices and whole chiles.  Stir and cook until the onion is well-browned, adding chopped chiles about halfway through, if using, then add the pureed greens.  Stir and cook, scraping the pan frequently, until the puree thickens and dries to the point of pulling away from the sides of the pan.  Stir in the garam masala and cream, correct the salt if necessary, and serve.  Squeeze a little lemon juice over your helping if you wanna.



  • 6 ounces paneer, cubed.  You can also use extra-firm tofu–not the least bit traditional in India, but increasing in popularity there as elsewhere.

Brown the paneer or tofu cubes on all sides in ghee.  Cook the pureed sak just enough to heat through before blending in the garam masala and cream—you want a little looser texture.  Gently fold your cubes into the Sak and adjust the salt.


Windy Pies—Coffee Cake December 23, 2009

Filed under: cake,dessert,easy,pizza — Austin Frugal Foodie @ 11:31 am

pizza version of Chicago-style pizza recipe

Windy City coffee "pie"

all drizzled up and someplace to go!

spreading the butter

rolling up the dough

flattening the roll

dividing the dough

balling up the dough

smoothing ball

dough in the pan

applying the filling

laying on the topping

cooling off before glazing

The current issue (January 2010) of Cook’s Illustrated magazine offers a couple of terrific recipes to get you bakin’.  I started with “Chicago-Style Deep Dish Pizza,” which CI tells us consists of a buttery,cornmeal enhanced flaky and biscuit-like crust supporting a cheese-first, tomato sauce topped filling.  Having cut my pizza teeth on Conan’s (what kind of Cook County native am I?), I wasn’t aware that the Windy City’s famous crust sported buttery layers (I was only 8 when I left for the south.)  But I’m not at all surprised to learn that the Midwestern take on Italy’s precious pie boasts butter and lamination.  Now that’s cooking from the Heartland.

Chicago’s version of pizza, like its Italian inspiration, is all about the crust, apparently.  But second city cooks really give the dough a 180.  I don’t mind a bit!  If I can find a way to put butter together with starch (we’ll get to sugar shortly), I’m gonna!

Of course I modified the dough some.  I enjoy whole grains so I worked in a little white whole wheat flour and that necessitates additional liquid.  Filled on the fly with an entire 10-ounce bag of Cora Lamar’s legendary Texas-grown spinach (Central Market, $2.99 a bag, triple-washed and ready to wilt), roasted piquillo peppers, black olives, basil, oregano and just enough organic canned tomato to qualify as a “sauce,” plus a half pound of organic cream cheese blended with a dollop of South River’s organic sweet white miso and plenty of black pepper (we were all out of Full Quiver Farm‘s melting mozzarella—but who am I to stick with tradition anyway?) and adorned with the requisite red onion (anointed with a touch of olive oil) and reggiano, these scrumptious pizzas reminded me of a more refined savory kuchen (see Tongue-in-kuchen).

And kuchen reminds me of butterkuchen, which brings us to this somewhat kringle-y (another Midwestern favorite) coffee cake.  I swapped the water for milk, doubled the sugar and added a touch more yeast to yield a cakier bread base.  Then I sweetened up my filling and drizzled the finished “pies” with an easy glaze.

WINDY PIES makes 2 9″ cakes

  • 3 Tablespoons organic butter, melted, plus 4 Tablespoons organic butter, softened to spreadability. I love Organic Valley and Whole Foods has it on sale right now for $4.99 a pound.  Get cakin’  and bakin’!
  • 262 grams organic all-purpose flour.  Whole Foods 365 brand in the 5# bag generally goes for the lowest price.
  • 192 grams organic white whole wheat flour.  I buy King Arthur brand in the 5# bag at WF.
  • ½ cup organic yellow cornmeal.  I usually use Arrowhead Mills.
  • 1 ½ teaspoons salt.  I like Real Salt.
  • 4 teaspoons turbinado sugar.  I buy this in bulk at Central Market. .I bring my own container and have the staff tare it for me.
  • 2 ½ teaspoons (1 packet or envelope) instant yeast (bread machine or rapid rise)—NOT active dry
  • 1 ½ cups local milk.  I use either Swede Farm Dairy or Wateroak Farm goat milk.
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 8 ounces local or organic cream cheese, softened.  Light “neufchâtel” style is fine.  Full Quiver Farm makes several sweet (as well as savory) flavors plus plain.  Organic Valley makes great organic cream cheese and now Central Market sells their own brand of organic cream cheese, regular full-fat style, for only $1.99 for a half-pound block.
  • 2 or 3 Tablespoons local honey.  I usually use Good Flow wildflower, available in bulk at CM. Don’t forget to bring your own container.
  • zest of 1 Texas tangelo, tangerine or orange (plus maybe a  touch of lemon), preferably organic
  • 4 ounces Texas pecans, about a heaping cupful
  • 154 grams (¾ cup) packed organic light brown sugar.  Wholesome Sweeteners brand is on sale right now at Newflower Market for only $1.99 for a 1½ pound bag.
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 4 Tablespoons cold organic butter, cut into 4 or 5 pieces
  • about a Tablespoon melted butter or ghee


  • 3 ounces (¾ cup) organic powdered sugar
  • 1 ½ Tablespoons local milk
  • scant ½ teaspoons vanilla extract

Combine dry ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer—this dough’s a little loose for hand-kneading—and whisk together.  Be sure the yeast and salt to do not come into direct contact.  Sans buffer, salt is toxic to bare yeast.  Using the dough hook, start the mixer and pour in first the melted butter (not hot) and then the water.  Get the ingredients combined, then raise the speed to nearly medium and let the machine knead the dough for about 5 minutes, until the dough amasses, looks smooth and feels slightly sticky.  Turn out into a buttered bowl, cover and let rise until almost doubled.  A cooler rise promotes more flavor development, so go ahead and put the bowl in the laundry room or garage while you go pick the kid(s) up from school—wait,  school’s out!

Press the dough down and turn out onto a flat surface for rolling out.  I prefer using a silpat or other rolling mat so I don’t have to incorporate any more flour into the dough.  Roll the dough into a 15″ X 12″ rectangle and spread the softened butter over the surface to within about ½ inch of the edges.  Starting at a short end, roll up the dough tightly, jellyroll-style.  Pat the roll out into about an 18″ by 4″ rectangle and divide this strip into 2 pieces (cut across the spiral, not lengthwise).  Take each strip and fold the ends towards the center, approximately folding into thirds, and smooth each piece into a ball, seam side down.  Place the balls back into your buttered bowl and refrigerate for about 50 minutes for the second rise.

For the filling, blend the cream cheese, honey and zest.  For the topping, combine the pecans and next 3 ingredients in a food processor and pulse to chop the pecans a bit.  Then pulse in the butter just until cut in.  Don’t overprocess the topping into a mass, keep it crumbly.

Pat each ball down and roll out (separately) into a 13″ circle.  Fit each circle into a well-buttered, parchment lined 9″ X 2″ round cake pan.  I recently bought a set of two such pans by Wilton at Michael’s craft store using their 50% OFF coupon.  Many cakers already know about Michael’s weekly 40% OFF and occasional 50 % OFF coupons and take advantage of the savings on decorating supplies.  But even if you don’t cake or decorate, if you bake, you can score some sweet deals on supplies such as pans, spatulas, whisks and cooling racks.  And you might find yourself inspired to embellish your creations on the cheap!  So be on the lookout for the Michael’s weekly flyer in your mail or check the Statesman (Sunday or Wednesday, typically) and save a buck.

Spread the the cream cheese filling over the dough and top with the pecan mixture.  Bake in a preheated 400º oven for 15 minutes, then reduce the heat to 350º, until browned and set in the center.  Let cool in the pans on a rack for 10 minutes before loosening sides with a metal spatula and unmolding.  Brush with the melted butter or ghee and continue to cool until warm, then whisk together the glaze ingredients and drizzle over the cakes.  Serve with hot chocolate on Christmas Day!


Tongue-in-Kuchen (broccoli, actually) December 14, 2009

Filed under: bread,easy — Austin Frugal Foodie @ 12:38 pm


Hey, good-lookin'---whatcha got kuchen?

You know how you go riflin’ through the freezer looking for white spelt flour and instead you find a cow tongue you bought way back when?  Yeah, it happens to me too.  What’s a flexitarian to do, faced with such flesh?  I found myself wishing meat maestro Jesse Griffith (Duke of Dai Due) could take this tongue off my hands and prepare it appropriately.

I got into beef tongue via “Tongue Loaf” while working in the deli.  Some select salamis aside (do visit Cochon Butcher the next time you’re passing through the Big Easy), this cooked and pressed, slightly jellied rendition, sliced paper-thin, might be my favorite lunch meat.  Boasting über-beefy flavor, as if tongue were tasked with telling the entirety of the animal’s taste to partakers, this muscle articulates in the mouth with a tenderly discernible texture that reminds your tongue that it’s eating a tongue.

Well, slow cooker to the rescue again.  Leisurely poached with garlic and bay,the serendipitous tongue released a phô-ish fragrance that had the whole family hankering for Kim Phung, and yielded a terrific broth for beaning.  As for the meat (Bandera Grassland grass-fed Longhorn, btw), well, it took me a while to get to it.  You might think trimming tongue is weird, and you’re right.  On tongue-tackling day I had at it, my first tongue.  Stirred into a batch of beans, seasoned with an amalgam inspired by Diana Kennedy‘s Lengua Estofada—ancho chile, homemade chili powder, toasted almonds, garlic, tomato and tortilla chip crumbs, the meat lent considerable savor to a less than picturesque taco filling.

Enough smoke and mirrors!  What’s really going on in this post is another recipe to use up your broccoli stems, or any other kohl.  Informed by German butterkuchen, and possibly the impossible pies of Bisquick renown, this baked meal will warm the kitchen, hopefully rousing chilly peasants like me out of their reverie of hibernation.

BROKKOLI KUCHEN serves several brunchers

  • good fat.  Organic or local (Texas Olive Ranch) olive oil (leftover from lubing pizza day), organic butter, or pig or poultry grease will all work.
  • chopped local onions, any color
  • chopped local peppers, any color
  • well-trimmed local broccoli stems, cut into small pieces.  Or substitute kohlrabi or shredded cabbage.
  • Da Becca or other sustainable ham, chopped.  I buy the bargain-priced “meat ends” from the deli at Central Market.  Or you can use any cooked meat such as bacon or Dai Due’s famous country style breakfast sausage.  One cup is plenty.
  • compatible herbs and spices.  Thyme is great and a little garam masala and turmeric lend mysterious warmth.
  • ¾ cup local milk.  I use either Swede Farm Dairy or Wateroak Farm.
  • 4 Tablespoons organic butter, cut into tablespoons.  I love Organic ValleyClick for a coupon.
  • ½ cup plus 2 Tablespoons water (not warm)
  • 1 packet (2 ¼ teaspoons) active dry yeast—NOT rapid-rise, bread machine or instant
  • 242 grams (2  cups) organic all-purpose flour.  Whole Foods 365 is usually the best buy.
  • 242 grams (barely scant 2 cups) organic white whole wheat flour.  WF generally has the lowest price on King Arthur brand in the 5# bag.
  • 1 teaspoon salt.  I like Real Salt.
  • 3 local eggs
  • 1 Tablespoon local honey.  My standard is Good Flow raw wildfllower.  I buy it in bulk at CM.  You can bring your own container—I like wide-mouthed glass jars—and the staff will tare the weight for you.
  • shredded or crumbled  local cheese, about 4 ounces. I love Full Quiver Farm‘s cheddar.

Line a 9″ X 13″ baking pan with aluminum foil.  I do this by flipping the pan upside down and forming the foil to the outside of the bottom.  Then it’s easy to fit the foil into the inside.  Butter the foil very well.  I use ghee.

Saute your veggies in a little good fat.  Add salt and some water, cover the pan, and steam the broccoli for about 6 minutes.  Add the ham (and green onions now, if using that color), raise the heat and let the ingredients pick up a touch of brown.  Stir in your seasonings before taking the pan off the heat.

Using the same hot burner (if your unlucky kitchen cooks electrically, like mine), scald the milk in a small to medium saucepan.  Remove from the heat, add the butter and swirl occasionally until melted.  Add the water, then sprinkle the yeast over the surface.  Combine your flours and salt in a large mixing bowl (for hand mixing) or the bowl of your stand mixer.  Stir the eggs and honey into the milk mixture, add to the flour and stir with a wooden spoon or mix with the paddle attachment until well blended.  This dough is a batter.  You don’t have to knead it and you’re not trying to form a ball with it.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan, using a flexible spatula to scrape out the bowl and spread the dough as evenly as you can.  Cover the pan and let the kuchen base rise for about an hour, until well-risen (nearly doubled) and puffy when poked.  When ready for bakin’, blanket the surface of the dough with the sauteed veggie/meat mixture and top with a respectable helping of cheese.  Bake in a preheated 350º oven for about 35 minutes, until the dough is cooked through and the topping is nicely browned.