dum aloo

dum aloo - Pan Seared Baby Potaotes in a Spicy Indian Tomato Yogurt Gravy | A Brown Table

Comfort food means different things to everyone, I get a little baffled when people ask me to name my favorite. For one, I have a favorite comfort food for each meal of the day, my choices also vary by season and my favorites will vary and if that isn't crazy enough, sometimes I want to pick my favorite comfort food by geography. But despite this overwhelming web of complexity that I create for myself, it would be easier for me to pick my favorite comfort ingredients. In that list, without a doubt I'd definitely include potatoes!

dum aloo - Pan Seared Baby Potaotes in a Spicy Indian Tomato Yogurt Gravy | A Brown Table

One of my favorite ways to prepare potatoes is in this spicy, tangy and creamy sauce that hails from the North of India known dum aloo. Dum is a cooking technique where vegetables or meats are allowed to cook in their own steam and the vapors of a small amount of fat. We ate this dish often as kids and I'm sure my father still makes this dish whenever possible, as this is one of his favorites.

Traditionally, baby potatoes are deep-fried and then folded into a simmering pot of a rich cream and yogurt based sauce. This version is a little different, for one, I decided to brighten the colors a little by using a bag of mixed colored baby potatoes. Fingerlings would also work great here! I skipped the deep-frying part and instead decided to sear the potatoes in their jackets ,a little and cook them until they were lightly crisp and browned on each side. Instead of heavy cream, I scaled up the amount of plain yogurt and got a thicker and richer flavor using the Greek kind. 

dum aloo - Pan Seared Baby Potaotes in a Spicy Indian Tomato Yogurt Gravy | A Brown Table

You can use ghee (the more traditional choice) or olive oil here, it's up to you. Fresh tomatoes and aromatics make the base of this delicious sauce that is flavored with a delicious mixture of spices. Serve this dum aloo fresh and hot with a side of India flatbread such as roti or naan or even plain rice and a side of chilled plain yogurt and a salad.  

dum aloo - Pan Seared Baby Potaotes in a Spicy Indian Tomato Yogurt Gravy | A Brown Table

dum aloo

yields: 4 servings

ingredients 

2 lbs baby potatoes (colored)/ fingerlings

3 tablespoons ghee/olive oil 

2 cups tomatoes, diced

1 cup red onion, diced 

1 thai chili pepper 

1 garlic clove

1 inch piece ginger root, peeled and chopped

2 cloves

1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds 

1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds

1 teaspoon turmeric 

1 1/2 teaspoon kosher sea salt 

3/4  cup plain greek yogurt, lightly whipped

a little fresh cilantro for garnish

1.  Rinse the potatoes under cold tap water, wipe them dry and slice the potatoes in half across their length.   Prick the potatoes twice with the prongs of a fork. Heat a cast-iron or non-stick skillet with a lid on a medium-low flame. Add 1 tablespoon of the ghee/oil and heat for 30 seconds. Once the oil is hot, add the potatoes, cover the saucepan with a lid and cook them on each side until they are lightly browned and get light brown blisters on each side. This should take about 6-8 minutes. Remove the potatoes and sprinkle them with 1/2 teaspoon of the salt. The potatoes should be almost tender but not completely cooked.

2. Grind all the ingredients from the tomatoes to the turmeric in a blender until smooth. Keep aside. (You can also grind the tomato-chili-ginger-garlic and dry spices separately and then mix them together but I find this to a better way as it uses less equipment and the cleanup is less)

3. Heat the rest of the oil in a wok or saucepan with a lid on medium-high. Add the pureed tomato spice mixture from step 2. Cook this sauce for about 3-4 minutes with occasional stirring. Reduce the flame immediately to a gentle simmer, add the rest of the salt and fold in the potatoes. Cover with the wok with its lid and allow to cook untii the potatoes are completely tender but not mushy. This should take about 15 minutes. Once the potatoes are cooked, fold in the yogurt. Cook with constant stirring (to prevent burning) for about 2 minutes and remove from stove. The sauce should be thick in consistency. Taste the sauce to make sure the amount of salt is enough. Garnish with freshly chopped cilantro leaves and serve hot with rice, roti or naan. 

concord grape tart with almond crust

concord grape tart with almond crust | A Brown Table

What started off as a pie ended up as a tart! Honestly, sometimes, it can be hard to predict where things can end up, even in the kitchen. I had intentions of making one big jammy grape pie, that would be full of sweet sticking juices overflowing from the sides after it had bubbled in the oven. But, at one last moment when I sneaked in a taste of the fresh concord grape juice, I changed my mind. 

concord grape tart with almond crust | A Brown Table

Of all the grapes, I think the Concord variety has a robust and unique flavor that makes it stand out. The only thing, I wish it would have or rather not have is the seeds. I once went as a guest to a dinner where they served concord grapes as part of a fresh fruit dessert but having to get rid of the seeds proved to be much more of an arduous task than I'd like to have undertaken. And thank goodness for dark lighting and napkins!

To prepare this tart filling, I blended all the grapes together with the skins and the seeds. You can use a ricer, if you have one but I used a blender and I loved the taste of the fresh grape juice. 

concord grape tart with almond crust | A Brown Tableconcord grape tart with almond crust | A Brown Table

This pie has very little sugar added to it, the filling has none because concord grapes are rather sweet to begin with but if you feel the filling isn't sweet enough, then add about a teaspoon more, just taste and get a feel for things. The almond crust has a little sugar added to it to balance out the flavor of the almonds. So you can feel better about eating this tart! 

I prefer to serve and eat this tart chilled. The crust is similar to that of a shortbread cookie and crumbles easily

concord grape tart with almond crust | A Brown Table

concord grape tart with almond crust

yields: 1 rectangular tart (14 inch X 5 inch)

concord grape tart filing

1 lb concord grapes or 2 cups concord grape juice, fresh

3 tablespoons cornstarch

3 tablespoons water, at room temperature

2 tablespoons lemon juice, freshly squeezed

1. Pick the grapes and discard any stalks, place the grapes a blender and blend until completely smooth. At this point you can choose to strain the liquid via a sieve lined with moistened cheese/muslin cloth or use it directly (I used it directly). Alternatively, you can also use a ricer to get the juices out of the grapes.

2.  Take 2 cups of this grape juice and place it in a large thick bottomed saucepan. Heat on a medium-high flame and bring to a rolling boil. In the meantime, whisk the cornstarch and water in a small bowl to form a slurry. 

3. Whisk the cornstarch into the boiling grape juice until it is completely combined. Cook for 2 minutes with constant stirring on medium-high heat. It should coat the back of a silicone spatula or spoon. Strain the liquid through a sieve to remove any clumps. Stir in the lemon juice and pour the hot liquid into the tart shell as directed below in step 5 of the almond crust tart shell. 

almond crust tart shell

0.5lbs almond flour

3 tablespoons cornstarch

2 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature + extra butter for greasing the tart pan

1/4 teaspoon kosher sea salt

3 tablespoons brown sugar

zest of one lemon, fresh

1. In a large mixing bowl, mixing all the ingredients together by hand. The mixture will coming together and resemble a cookie crumb like texture.

2. Line a rectangular tart shell with parchment paper at the base and grease the sides lightly with a little butter. 

3. Place the almond flour mixture in the tart pan and using your fingers/or using the bottom flat surface of a measuring cup press the dough up the bottom and sides of the pan to form a layer of even thickness. Cover the crust with cling film and refrigerate for 30 mins. 

4. Place a wire rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350F.

5. Prick the surface of the chilled crust a few times with the prongs of a fork. Line the top surface of the pastry with parchment paper and place some pie beads or dried beans over it. This will prevent uneven rising during the baking process. Bake the pastry for 30 minutes in the center rack of the oven (this is also called blind baking). The edges will be slightly golden brown at this point. Carefully remove the pie beads along with the parchment sheet paper on the top surface.

4. Once the crust is cooked, remove from oven and allow to cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Remove the parchment paper with the pie beads. Allow the tart shell to cool for another 10 minutes.

5. Pour the hot concord grape filling into the tart shell and allow to cool to room temperature. Wrap the tart in the pan with cling film and refrigerate for at least two hours before slicing. Unwrap the cling film and remove the tart from the pan and garnish with a little lemon zest before serving. 

 

fig and ginger compote

Fig and Ginger Compote|A Brown Table

For the past few week, I've been feeling a bit reminiscent. Part of me misses my old life in DC, the familiar spots and friends that I spent so much time with. After seven wonderful years in a great city, where I worked my first job out of grad school, went back to grad school, made friends that I consider family, met the love of my life, got married and had many other special moments, this would obviously be a hard change. I'm extremely thankful that we were able to make the move to California and it was definitely time for a change that we both needed.

The past three months in our new home have been great, exploring new places and meeting new people but I miss the part where I could talk with my friends at any time of the day and have conversations that ranged from sensible to absolute nonsense. Not that this still doesn't happen but the three hour time difference between the two coasts makes it a little hard and requires a bit of extra planning. But, at the end of the day, I remind myself that life is full of changes and each one of those changes, planned or unplanned are important because it helps mold my way of thinking, the dual combination of the nervousness and joy of experiencing the unfamiliar that is exciting and what makes change and life fun. 

Fig and Ginger Compote|A Brown Table

I recently made this fig compote to use a bunch of figs that I picked up at the market. As much as I love figs, there is one thing about them that annoys me the most, they grow mold rather quickly if they are too overripe. This compote was my way of immediately using up those figs and making them last for a few weeks (I hate, hate, losing figs to mold, it's really aggravating because I usually can't blame anyone else but me)! 

Fig and Ginger Compote|A Brown Table

Bubbling red wine with vanilla beans is one of the most comforting fragrances that can come out of your kitchen. Fruity and floral aromas are the best when it comes to feeling relaxed. There are quite a few fall flavors in this compote, ginger and balsamic really give this a nice bump and all the flavors come together in one little jar of goodness that you can serve over cheeses or with charcuterie or pretty much anything else. 

Note: Since fresh figs can vary in sweetness, I recommend adding less sugar and then tasting the compote towards the end to see if you need more sugar. 

Fig and Ginger Compote|A Brown Table

fig and ginger compote 

yields: about 1 generous cup

ingredients

1 lb fresh figs (I used mission figs)

1 cup red wine ( used a sangiovese)

2-4 tablespoons brown sugar (you might need less)

1 vanilla bean, sliced in half

1/2 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground

1/4 cup crystallized ginger bits

4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar (to make this compote extra fruity, you can also use a fruit/berry flavored balsamic vinegar here, I've tried blackberry and pineapple version and they all did really well)

1. Rinse the figs under running tap water and and trim the stalks off. Slice the figs in half and place them in a medium saucepan.

2. Add the red wine and 2 tablespoons of the sugar to the figs. Bring the contents to boil on a medium-high flame, this should take about 5-6 minutes. Remove from the stove and blend with an immersion blender until smooth.

3. Scrape the seeds of the vanilla bean with a sharp knife and add the seeds and the bean along with the black pepper and ginger to the fig mixture and return to the stove. Cook on medium-low with occasionally stirring until the mixture thickens and reduces in volume to about half its original. This will take about 35-40 minutes. Once this is done, taste to see if it is sweet enough, the sweetness depends on how sweet the figs are so add extra sugar if needed. Stir in the balsamic vinegar and remove from stove. Cool and store in an airtight container.