May 25, 2010

Arugula and Goat Cheese Soufflé

Filed under: Egg Dishes — by Carla



Farmer’s markets often sell the tastiest vegetables and fruits, but fresh, local food isn’t the only reason to seek them out. Lovely outdoor environments and knowledgeable, friendly people with colorful stories about the food they grow and sell are perks you definitely don’t get at the A&P. So, even though the growing season here in Northeast Ohio is just getting started, I look forward to getting back to my local farmer’s market. Last week there was arugula, spinach, chard, mushrooms, honey, maple syrup, cheese and lots of eggs. Definitely enough  to stir my imagination.  Thanks to spring’s unexpected largesse, my thoughts turned to making a fluffy goat cheese and arugula soufflé for dinner. Dense and rich in flavor yet airy and light at the same time, a soufflé is the oxymoron of the food world. Paired with a crispy baguette and a light salad, who could want for more?


There is no reason to be faint of heart at the thought of making a soufflé. They are really pretty easy to make and so delicious and exciting to eat. It’s fun to watch a soufflé rise in the oven and it’s absolute theatre to set one dramatically, yet gently down on the dining room table for all to dig in. I have a thing for bitter arugula and the tangy prize winning goat cheese from local Mackenzie Creamery. But, let’s face it, the star of any soufflé is the eggs and on this lucky day I scored the most beautiful eggs in the world…from Arucana chickens. The intensely flavored yolks are a rich, bright orange, but good taste is only half their appeal. They are so gorgeous to look at in restful shades of beige, brown, blue and green that it’s kind  of a shame to break them. When I asked the Egg Lady why those particular chickens laid such colorful eggs she replied that chickens lay eggs with shells the same color as their ears. Have you ever thought of chicken ears? Of course they must have ears somewhere under all those feathers, right? Thinking about chickens with enormous blue, green and brown elf ears, I bought 2 dozen on the spot.

So there you have it, straight from Egg Lady’s lips, the most colorful and by far the best farmer’s market story of the day which I am now passing along to you with a recipe for a yummy, cheesy soufflé. Buk, buk, buk, bukaaaa. You’re welcome.

Kitchen Counter Point: Since time seems to be the enemy in the kitchen these days, I thought I’d give some tips on how to make a soufflé quickly and easily.
1) Start with room temperature eggs. The whites always beat up better warm rather than cold. Lay them out on the counter 30 minutes before you start the soufflé. Or, if you’re in a hurry and the eggs are cold from the fridge, just place them in hottish water for a few minutes to warm them up.
2) Make the base ahead of time. The base is just a basic white sauce, egg yolks and the flavoring. You can make it earlier in the day or even the night before and keep it refrigerated until about 40 minutes before you’re ready to eat. Warm the base up to room temperature, whip up the egg whites and fold them together, bake, eat, yum.
3) Don’t over beat the whites. When they are over beaten, the air bubbles are more likely to burst when folding them into the yolks. Just beat them with a hand mixer or stand mixer until soft peaks form, and then whip another 20 seconds or so. You know they are firm when you remove one of the beaters and the whites form a stiff pointy peak on the end of the beater.
4) Fold gently with your widest spatula and not overmuch. Folding is a technique used to mix airy, foamy ingredients. Using a large spatula, scoop the mixture up and over onto itself until blended. It is important not to over mix so that most of the air bubbles in the mixture remain to puff the soufflé when heated in the oven. It isn’t necessary to completely fold the whites into the yolks with each addition. Some streaks are ok.
5) Assemble the soufflé 1 hour ahead of time. It will keep on the kitchen counter with a bowl inverted over it for up to 1 hour. Then just pop it in the preheated oven. It really works!

 Serves 4 to 6

5 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened, divided
1/3 cup finely grated Parmesan-Reggiano cheese, divided
4 large handfuls arugula, tough stems removed
1 shallot, minced
5 tablespoons all purpose flour
1 1/4 cups whole milk, heated
1/2 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Pinch of nutmeg
Pinch of cayenne pepper
6 large egg yolks
8 ounces goat cheese, crumbled
1/3 cup Gruyere, grated
8 large egg whites, room temperature
Pinch of salt

Preheat an oven to 400 degrees F.

Butter the bottom and up the sides of an 8-cup soufflé mold with 1 tablespoon of the butter and coat the inside of the mold with a few tablespoons of the Parmesan cheese.

Bring a 2-quart saucepan of salted water to a simmer. Add the arugula and when wilted, about 20 seconds, drain and rinse under cold running water. Squeeze dry and chop finely by hand. Set aside.

In a medium saucepan, melt the remaining butter over medium heat. Add the shallot and sauté for 2 minutes or until translucent. Add the flour and cook over medium heat stirring until the butter foams, about 2 minutes. Quickly pour in the hot milk, whisking until blended. Add the salt, pepper, nutmeg and cayenne and boil for 1 minute. The sauce will be thick. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl and cool for 3 minutes. Whisk in the yolks, one at a time and then stir in the arugula, goat cheese and Gruyere. It’s ok if the cheese remains lumpy but it will probably melt. Reserve. (The soufflé base can be made up to this point a day ahead, kept covered and refrigerated. Let come back to room temperature before resuming the recipe.)


Beat the egg whites and a pinch of salt in a stand mixer with the whisk, using a hand held mixer or by hand using a balloon whisk (a big one)  until the whites are stiff. Fold 1/4 of the whites into the soufflé base to lighten it then fold in half the whites, leaving streaks, then add the rest of the whites folding carefully but completely.

Turn the soufflé into the prepared mold and smooth the top. Sprinkle the remaining Parmesan cheese over the top.

Quickly place the soufflé in the lower third of the oven. Turn the heat down to 375 degrees F. and bake for 30 to 35 minutes without opening the oven door to check on it. It is done when puffed and the center is no longer runny. To test, plunge a wooden skewer down the center of the soufflé. If it comes up dry, the soufflé is done. If wet with uncooked egg, bake for another 5 minutes and check again. Serve immediately.

May 13, 2010

Pakora with Cilantro Chutney and Tamarind Sauce

Filed under: Appetizers — by Carla


Like most people, I crave something fried and spicy every now and then. So, yesterday I decided to make up a batch of one of my favorite foods, pakora…tasty little chick pea fritters flavored with Indian spices, grated potato and onion. There are times when firing up a pot of hot oil is exactly what you need to do in order to taste something truly amazing, especially if you are  often disappointed by the greasy over or under cooked fried dishes served in restaurants.  When made at home, they are truly one of the best fried things you’ll ever put in your mouth, especially  dipped into tart cilantro chutney and sweet and sour tamarind sauce. Kind of what I’d imagine Indian carnival food would taste like, the tender, fluffy spiced insides and crispy, crunchy outsides of these fritters dipped in tangy sauces just explode with eastern flavors.

I’m a sucker for both sauces, but if you’re only going to make one, the coriander chutney comes together pretty quickly. Leftovers can be used to top off  grilled chicken or pork, in tuna fish salad, coleslaw. You get the idea. I’m not going to gloss over the fact that you might have to find an Indian or Hispanic grocery in order to get the block of tamarind paste for the tamarind sauce, but believe me when I say that the search is worth every minute. Tamarind wakes up the flavor of everything it’s partnered with and it also makes a great glaze to baste over grilled lamb, beef or poultry shish kabobs, so you’ll get multiple uses out of it.  

This is definitely one of those projects that lends itself to a group effort, so plan on making a double batch (no need to double the sauces) so that there will be plenty of bites for everyone. I’ve often made these as a starter to a simpler meal of easily reheated Indian dishes such as korma or vindaloo. I can’t guarantee that pakora will change your life, but a new standard will be set for the taste of freshly ground spices and perfectly fried food which is a good day in the kitchen any way you measure it.

Kitchen Counter Point: If you want to taste the real deal spice-wise, the extra step of toasting the whole spices, cooling and then grinding them up is the way to go. I’ve given you a simple recipe for garam masala, a spice blend that once made, will find its way into gilled meats, vegetables, sauces and marinades. It’s warm and kind of sweet with the flavors of coriander, cinnamon, clove, cumin and pepper. Just pick up a coffee mill at the discount store and dedicate it solely to grinding up your spices fresh. You won’t believe the amount of flavor in toasted and freshly ground spice. It’s kind of like the difference between freshly ground coffee and coffee that’s been ground up and sitting in a warehouse for 6 months. It’s alive and vibrant… a big difference. But you’ll never know unless you try it!

Makes about 12 medium sized pakora

3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
A few grinds of black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons garam masala, recipe follows
1 cup chick pea flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup water
1 small onion, thinly sliced
1/2 sweet potato, peeled and grated
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, minced
2 cups vegetable oil for frying
Cilantro Chutney, recipe follows
Tamarind Sauce, recipe follows

Combine the salt, cayenne, black pepper, garam masala, chick pea flour and baking soda in a large bowl. Add the water, onion, potato and cilantro and mix well. You should have a lumpy batter.

Heat the vegetable oil (enough to come up 3-inches) in a heavy pan or skillet to 360ºF (It really helps to have a deep fry thermometer for this. Pick one up at the grocery store.). Drop the batter by heaping 2 tablespoons into the hot oil (about 3 or 4 at a time) and cook the pakora for 1 1/2 minutes. Keep an eye on the thermometer as the temperature of the oil will plunge as you add cold batter. Adjust the heat accordingly. Turn the pakora and cook on the second side for another 1 minute. Remove the pakora from the oil with a slotted spoon and transfer them to a paper towel lined sheet pan. Continue to cook the remaining batter in the same manner. You can keep the pakora hot by placing them as they are fried into a 200ºF oven.

Serve the pakora hot as an appetizer or a snack with cilantro chutney and tamarind sauce on the side.

Garam Masala

1 cinnamon stick, broken into small pieces
1 tablespoon cardamom seeds
2 tablespoons whole cloves
2 tablespoons coriander
2 tablespoons peppercorns
2 tablespoons whole cumin seeds

Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add the spices and stir until fragrant, 3 or 4 minutes. Continue to stir and watch the spices carefully so that they don’t burn.. Remove the spices to cool.

Grind the garam masala in a spice or coffee mill dedicated to that purpose. For the best flavor, store the spice at room temperature in an airtight container for up to 3 months.

Fresh Cilantro Chutney

Makes about 1 cup

2 cups cilantro leaves, lightly packed
1 fresh serrano chili, seeded (taste the chili and use more or less to suit your taste)
One 2-inch knob of ginger root, peeled and chopped
1/4 cup sweetened coconut
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (about 2 lemons), plus more if needed
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Combine all the ingredients in a food processor until finely chopped. Refrigerate, covered, for up to 2 days. If the chutney looks dry, add more lemon juice or a splash of water. There should be a little bright green liquid surrounding the solids.

Tamarind Sauce


Tamarind can be found in a few different forms. It can be a compressed block, with the fibrous seeds and connective fibers that must be soaked and strained. It can come in a wet, seedless block. Or, it can come in a jar as tamarind concentrate. My favorite is the wet seedless block, though it still may contain seeds and should be handled using the soaking method below.  If you have the concentrate, just use about 1/2 cup of the liquid and omit the soaking and straining directions. You won’t have the volume and the sauce won’t be as thick, but it will still taste great.

1/2 cup tamarind paste, chopped into pieces
1-1/2 cups boiling water, divided
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup molasses
1/3 cup golden raisins
2 teaspoons finely minced ginger root
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon garam masala
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Place the tamarind paste in a large bowl and cover with 1 cup of the boiling water. Let the paste soak until the water is cool enough so that you can break apart the tamarind with your fingers. Add the remaining 1/2 cup of boiling water and let stand again until just warm. Strain the mixture into a medium bowl, discarding the fibrous pulp.

To the tamarind liquid, add the sugar, molasses, raisins, ginger root, salt, garam masala and cayenne. Taste for seasoning and let the sauce sit for at least 1 hour at room temperature or overnight in the refrigerator. Let come back to room temperature before serving. Can be kept up to 1 week, refrigerated.