Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Out of the Bag: Bamba Adds Taste and Crunch to Tomato Soup, Indian Snack and Sundae Recipes

A bag of Bamba and Bamba Bombay Pockets
 I never know where inspiration for new recipes will come from. In the case of  the soup, snack and ice cream sundae recipes below it came from a little blue bag of Bamba, the ubiquitous Israeli children’s snack food. Bamba, a peanut-flavored corn puff, has a nice crunch and a pleasant peanut buttery taste. The combination of taste and texture got me thinking of ways to use it in my cooking.

When I started to develop these recipes everyone I spoke to (including the marketing representative from Osem, the company that manufactures and imports Bamba) was pretty much incredulous that one would try to use the puffs in any way than eating them straight out of the bag. But the snack food's flavor and crunch intrigued me, maybe because I didn't grow up with it and associate as a kid's food. (Note: the link to Osem is to the British branch. The USA branch is revising its website and the parent Israeli site is only in Hebrew at this time.)

The puffs are available at Bay area specialty stores, the kosher sections of several major supermarket chains and on line. So grab a bag of Bamba, but be careful not too eat too many, you’ll need them to try the recipes below.

Be sure to add the snack puffs to the pockets and sundae just before serving otherwise they will lose their crispness and crunch.

Spicy Tomato Soup with Bamba
Serves 4-6

Bamba adds a peanut punch to this soup, but the recipe works well without it. The soup itself is parve (neither meat nor milk) and vegan so if that is a concern for you skip the dairy topping or use a non-dairy yogurt instead.

2 Tbs. oil
1 cup chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. finely minced jalapeño pepper
1 tsp. minced fresh ginger
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
2 tsp. curry powder
1-28 oz. can crushed tomatoes in puree
3 cups light vegetable stock OR water
1/4 tsp. salt or to taste
1/2 tsp. sugar, optional
About 2 cups of Bamba
1/2 cup sour cream or plain yogurt

Heat oil in large pot over medium high heat. Add onion, sautéed until limp, add garlic sauté until light brown, add jalapeño, ginger, black pepper, and curry powder. Sauté for 1 minute. Add canned tomatoes with puree and stock. Stir well. Bring to a simmer, lower heat, cover and simmer for about 35 minutes, stirring occasionally. Taste and add salt to taste and sugar if desired. Serve in individual bowls. Add 4 Bamba to each bowl, stir and let dissolve. Top with a dollop of sour cream and pass additional Bamba as croutons.

Bamba Bombay Pockets
Serves about 6-8 as an appetizer

This recipe combines several different Indian snack concepts. It’s in no way authentic, but its mix of tastes, textures and tangy sauce is very appealing. If you prefer, replace the Bamba with a quarter cup of dry roasted peanuts and a half cup of puffed wheat or rice cereal.

Oil spray
3/4 cup 1/4” cubed baking potatoes (peeling optional)
3/4 cup of cooked chickpeas, drained
1/2 cup chopped red onion
1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro
1/4 cup minced fresh mint
1/2 tsp. salt
15 mini pitas (about 2 and 1/2” in diameter) OR 4 regular-size pitas
1/2 oz. Bamba, chopped into fourths (about 3/4 cup)
1 recipe sauce (see below)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 2 baking pans. Put potato cubes in single layer on one, spray potatoes. Place chickpeas on the other pan, spray. Place in oven and bake for about 30 minutes, turning occasionally until potatoes are cooked through and beginning to get crisp. Cool.

Mix potatoes and chickpeas in large bowl with onion, cilantro, mint and salt. Right before serving, heat pitas in oven or dry skillet until hot and puffed. Mix Bamba into potatoes and chickpeas. If using mini-pitas, snip off top and put about 1 and1/2 Tbs. of the Bamba mix into each. If using full-size pitas, cut in half and full each half with 1/3 to 1/2 cup of the mix. Drizzle with sauce immediately before serving.

Sauce: Mix 1 Tbs. tamarind paste with 1 tsp. date syrup and 2 tsp. water. An alternative is to mix 1 Tbs. plus 1 tsp. of molasses or pomegranate molasses with 1 tsp. lemon juice, 1/2 tsp. brown sugar and 1 tsp. water.

Bamba Ice Cream Sundae with Choco-Hazelnut Sauce
Makes 1 Sundae

Osem is introducing a new flavor of Bamba in the U.S. with a chocolate-hazelnut paste filling.  I haven't seen it in stores (although it is listed in the Amazon store), but it inspired this sundae and the luscious sauce which would work well wherever a chocolate sauce is needed. Chopped peanuts make a good substitute for the Bamba.

3-4 Tbs. Choco-Hazelnut Sauce (see below), divided
2 scoops of vanilla ice cream
1 Tbs. crushed Bamba

Spoon a tablespoon or two of the sauce on the sides and bottom of sundae dish. Add ice cream, top with remaining sauce and sprinkle with crushed Bamba.

Choco-Hazelnut Sauce: Heat 1 cup of heavy whipping cream over medium-low heat until simmering, stirring often. Add 2 oz. chopped bittersweet chocolate, stirring until completely melted. Add 1/2 cup of chocolate-hazelnut spread (such as Nutella, which is what I used), stirring until completely incorporated. Let sauce cool to room temperature (it will thicken as it cools.) Store in refrigerator. Allow to return to room temperature before using. Makes 1 and 1/2 cups.

Note: a version of this post appeared in the j. weekly.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

All the Colors of the Rainbow - Gay Pride at the San Francisco Ferry Plaza and Farmers' Market

The Saturday of Gay Pride Weekend I visited the San Franciso Ferry Plaza stores and farmers' markets and was struck by all the colors of the rainbow.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Summer Fun with Recipes for Hot Dog Toppings, Grill Treats, Cold Soups and More

The skies have gone from overcast to blue, the air is soft and warm and my kid is home from college, it must be summer here in Blog Appetit-ville (Oakland CA).  So here is a wrap up of some of the recipes and posts from Blog Appetit that help celebrate the summer here or anywhere. 
Get Your Red Hots! -- What's summer without hot dogs (or sausages) with all the trimmings.  So grab your weiner (except you Rep. Andrew) and try some one or all of these toppings:  Vegetarian Chili, Tomato Onions and Homemade Relish.   Use a tofu dog and the vegetarian chili and you have a vegan treat.

From The Grill  -- Everyone needs a good barbecue chicken recipe, here's mine. No extra charge for the recipe using the leftovers in a hearty bbq chicken and greens salad. Or try these chicken kabobs with pomengranate molasses barbecue sauce (the best thing I've ever smeared on chicken.). Here's my son's red wine marinade for flank steak (a family favorite).  Try these grilled vegetable kabobs with miso marinade as a main course or side dish. Grilled limincello tuna is served atop a couscous salad.

It's Still Strawberry Season -- Try my roasted strawberry strudel, cold strawberry soup or (vegan) strawberry coconut ice cream.  All are berry, berry good. Or try  my berry sorbet with or without the "berried treasure" and sauce.  Pack leftover sorbet into ice pop molds for the best popsicles or fruit paletas you've ever had.

The Soup that Went into the Cold -- Soup is good for you but not so hot when it's hot. So try a cold soup.  Here's recipes for my beet borscht which is delicious served cold, and my raw, cold mint soup which requires no cooking at all but a bit of the wait for the garlic infused stock to come together.

Make Mine a Cold One -- Try making your own ginger ale or sip an egg cream (did you know there is no egg and no cream in an egg cream) to help combat your own personal heat wave. Or try this simple strawberry licuado-style shake. Or maybe a frozen sweet tea.

Other Summer Food Ideas -- My Cold Peanut Noodle Salad works well as an appetizer or main course. My husband and I serve Vietnamese Spring Rolls (aka Salad Rolls or Summer Rolls) with a variety of filling options at parties, where he custom rolls each diner's selection of goodies in rice paper or lettuce.  Looking for something more formal?  This sliced zucchini appetizer from Chocolate and Zucchini makes a nice summer starter. A friend's mother introduced me to this grilled salad, which is easy and delicious.

Do you have a summer recipe on your blog/website you'd like to share?  Please leave a link in the comments section.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Blog Appetit To Go

Just a heads up. I've enabled Blogger's mobile template for all you smart phone users.  Please let me know how you like it and if you have any problems using it.


Friday, June 03, 2011

Of Fresh Ricotta, Blintzes and Making Whey (Plus Chipolte Potato-Corn Chowder)

Homemade Ricotta Cheese

I think sometimes I just end up putting up a post that's basically all recipe because it's so hard to find the time to pin down and write the story behind it.  I was very tempted to that with this post, mostly because there are so many stories behind the recipes for ricotta cheese, blintzes and chipolte potato-corn chowder that I don't know where to begin.  In the end I just decided to give a brief synopsis of all the different stories.

Story 1 -- The Jewish Connection -- The evening of June 7th is the start of Shavuot, a holiday commemorating the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai and associated with eating dairy foods.  Last year, I wrote about making my own ricotta cheese for the holiday.  This year a group of Jewish friends asked me to teach them how to make their own ricotta cheese and decided we'd turn our fresh curds into blintzes (kind of a Jewish/Eastern European crepe burrito filled with soft cheese).

The small steel pans were Grandma's
 Story 2 -- The Grandmother Tale -- I can still see my grandmother, an apron tied around her waist, with beads of perspiration dotting her face, in her small kitchen making her blintzes.  Grandma made a relatively few dishes over and over again, many of them not very exceptional (ketchup was her choice of sauce for pasta).  However, her stuffed cabbage, brisket (only when she burned the onions) and blintzes were exceptional.  Unfortunately no one in the family wrote down her blintz recipe and I've been searching through the years for something that matched my taste memory of her tender crepes and creamy, satisfying cheese filling.  I did inherit her two small steel blintz pans, though.

Story 3 -- The Cheese Stands Alone -- There's a look people get on their face when you tell them you made your own cheese.  It's somewhere between disbelief, awe and envy. No matter that you tell them how easy ricotta is to make, they still envision something complicated and impossible.  The envy part comes from them imagining how wonderful, ethereally perfect your homemade cheese must taste.  In that they are correct.  The chowder recipe comes out of the cheesemaking. I just couldn't bring myself to throw away the whey.

With all the back stories now in front, here's the recipes for fresh ricotta, blintzes and chipolte potato-corn chowder.

Ricotta Cheese
Makes 2 cups (A bit more than a pound, drained)

This cheese is light and fluffy. It can be kept a few days but will become denser. Eat fresh sprinkled with salt, pepper and chopped herbs or with berries and honey. Use it to make fillings for blintzes (see below) or other good things.  The recipe will generate about a quart and a half of whey (liquid) in addition to the cheese.

2 quarts whole milk
1 cup heavy whipping cream
2-6 Tbs. fresh lemon juice

Size of curds when ready to drain
 Combine the milk and cream in a pan. Cook over a medium-low heat stirring occasionally until the milk begins to simmer (about 185 to 190 degrees on an instant read thermometer). Add a tablespoon of lemon juice. Stir and watch for the mixture to separate into tiny curds about half the size of a small grain of rice. Repeat until curds appear. Save the rest of the juice for another use. Pour the curdled milk into a colander lined with a dampened, double layer of cheesecloth. Drain over a deep bowl for an hour or until very thick. Discard the liquid, or whey, or use to make soup or bread. (See chipolte potato-corn chowder recipe below.) Store airtight in the refrigerator.

Makes about 10-12

As long as you are making blintzes, you might as well make a lot of them, so you might want to double or triple the recipe depending on how many blintz eaters you have.  Everyone always ends up eating "just one more."  Extras freeze well. Serve with sour cream or yogurt and fresh fruit or jam.

The Crepes

Blintz crepes differ from traditional crepes in that they are cooked on only one side (so no flipping them over).  Recipes for the crepes vary from lots of flour and very little egg to just the opposite.  Below is one I recently used adapted from Arthur Schwartz's Jewish Home Cooking: Yiddish Recipes Revisited.  His version is based on his memories of his grandmother making blintzes, so I related to it. They also came out perfect, easy to make and handle.  If you have made the ricotta cheese, try substituting the fresh whey for the milk and water.

1cup flour
1 cup milk
1/2 cup cold water
1/4 tsp. salt
2 eggs
2 Tbs. melted butter plus additional melted butter for frying

Place all ingredients in a blender. Process until well combined, stopping to scrape down sides of blender as needed.  Batter should be "very smooth and the consistency of very heavy cream).

Heat a 6-to-8" omelet, fry or crepe pan over medium  heat. Once hot, brush pan with melted butter.  When butter sizzles, lift pan up, pour in 3-4 Tbs. of batter (amount will vary depending on size of pan. Avoid making the crepe too thick), swirl pan to cover bottom evenly with batter and return to heat, cooking for about 1 minute or until bottom of crepe is light brown or has light brown spots and the inside has set.  Turn out on clean dishcloth and repeat until the batter is used up, reapplying melted butter to pan as needed.

(To make as Schwartz does, use 4 Tbs. of melted butter to fry the crepes and after they brown on one side, carefully flip over and fry for about 15 seconds on the other side.)

Blintz Filling

This version uses freshly made ricotta cheese.  If you don't have that available use the freshest artisan ricotta or farmer's cheese you can find in the market. If those are not available, use regular commercial ricotta cheese or mix the commercial ricotta half and half with drained cottage cheese.

2 cups homemade ricotta cheese (1 recipe - see above)
1 egg, beaten
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. grated lemon zest (optional)

Combine and mix well.

Assembling and Frying

Butter for frying

Have a blintz crepe in front of you, brown (fried) side down.  Place about 2 Tbs. of filling in the middle, leaving about an inch margin at top and bottom of crepe.  Fold top over filling. Fold bottom over filling. Fold one side then the other over.  Heat large fry pan over medium high heat. Add butter. When melted, fry blintzes in batches, flipping to get golden brown on all sides.