Wednesday, October 1, 2008

New Series: Aarti Cooks!

There are a lot of great things about Wednesdays. You're halfway through the week. The horror of Monday morning is a distant memory, whilst the joy of Friday evening beckons like the smell of salt in the air as you get closer and closer to the beach.

(Tangent alert: Did you know that "Wednesday" comes from the Anglo-Saxon god, Woden? He was associated with Mercury, to whom the Romance language folks dedicated their Fourth Day too: "mercredi", "miercole" etc. In Hindi, Wednesday is Buddhavar, derived for the Vedic name for Mercury, Buddha. And no, I didn't know all this; I stole it from Wiki.)

There are some sobering things associated with Wednesdays too: Wednesday's child is full of woe. Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent. And sometimes Wednesday means you wasted time on Monday and Tuesday, so now you don't have enough time to finish everything before the weekend. (Woops, that was a bit of my life peeking through there!)

But anyway. The reason I love Wednesdays is... the Food Section. That hallowed newspaper section printed on Mercury Day by most newspapers across the country. Ah Wednesday: the promise of a chef's secret recipe uncovered, a new trend to criticize snootily, a review of a new restaurant whose owner is waiting with baited breath to read... There's something quaint and sunny about it, isn't there?

Well, from now on, you can add me to your Wednesday Food Section browsing. As a challenge to myself, I am going to publish an original Aarti recipe every Wednesday in a series I'm calling Aarti Cooks!

(I know, it's all I could come up with. I just couldn't put my name and "Hump Day" into a title. It's just so... un-ladylike. If you have a better one, I'm open to it.)

This is the recipe book I've been keeping since I was 11, full of recipes I had copied down because I liked. Now I'm adding ones I've made up.

So here's my first one -- it's a great recipe for autumn, both because of the flavours and because you can heat up the house by using your oven for 45 minutes. Your house will smell like Thankgiving.

The dish is also completely vegetarian! Vegan even! Whee!

A few notes about the ingredients:
- Quinoa is an ancient grain (linked to the Incas somehow), that has a slightly crunchy and nutty flavor. It is the only grain that is a complete protein -- all the amino acids are intact so it's great for vegetarians and vegans. It's not a substitute for meat - the protein strands may be complete, but a chicken breast has more protein as a whole. Anyway. Let me take my food geek hat off. You can find it at Trader Joes and at Whole Foods, or order it online. It comes in red or white -- they both taste the same.
Update: Thanks Mandi for pointing out the missing pronouncer here. Quinoa is pronounced KEEN-wah.

- Delicata (deh-lee-CAA-ta) squash looks like this:

I chose this squash because you don't have to peel it! Yippee! The peel is thin enough that once roasted, it's slightly crunchy. Good roughage as my Mum would say. Of course, you can substitute whatever squash you can find. If it has a thick peel though, you should peel it. I find Delicata squash in the farmers markets these days.

Garam Masala, an Indian spice concoction, is popping up in regular supermarkets these days! Otherwise, go without and add just a touch more cinnamon. (Alternatively, grind up some cinnamon and some cloves in your coffee grinder; you'll have my mum's garam masala mix. Mum, do you use equal portions of cinnamon and cloves? Omit the cinnamon called for in the recipe and just use this garam masala if you decide to make it.) By the way, it's pronounced GUH-rumm, not GAY-rumm as I've heard some people say it.

Asfoetida Powder is also knows as Hing in Hindi. You don't need to add this, as it does little for the flavour, but I added it because I remember Mum telling me something about it helping relieve beans' gassier qualities. Ahem.
UPDATE: Yet again, forgot to tell you how it's pronounced! Ummm. Let's try ASS-foh-TEE-dah. Yeah that'll work

Without further ado:


For the squash:
3 lbs delicata squash, unpeeled, seeded and diced into 1/2" cubes
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
4 tsp chopped sage
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp cinammon
1/2 tsp garam masala

For the quinoa:
1 cup quinoa
3 cups water
1 onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp garam masala
1/4 tsp asfoetida powder/hing (optional)
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 15oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
2 tsp sherry vinegar (or more depending on how tangy you like it!)
Handful of parsley, chopped

1) preheat oven to 375 degrees fahrenheit/190 degrees celsius
2) grab a big baking sheet and line with foil so you don't have much washing up to do. throw the squash on your baking sheet, and toss with the salt, pepper, sage, olive oil, cinnamon and garam masala.
3) roast for 45 minutes, or until tender, and slightly caramelized.
4) meanwhile, bring water to a boil in a saucepan. wash the quinoa, then add to the boiling water. (I don't salt the water; seems to keep the quinoa tender). Cook 13 minutes, or until white spiraly germ is prominent and the grains are tender. Store off heat with lid on.
4) warm 1 tbsp olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. saute onions and garlic, along with spices until softened and slightly browned.
5) Add cooked quinoa, beans and squash. Stir lightly until combined. Sprinkle with sherry vinegar. Taste for seasoning. Garnish with parsley and serve.

I served it with some stir-fried Chinese broccoli (my new favorite! yum yum!).

Let me know what you think!



mandi said...

this looks delicious! It's gotten very chilly in chicago so I'm looking for hardy yummy dishes. I find it amusing that you put the pronounciation for delicata but not quinoa or whatever that hing stuff is also called. ;) Oh and a tip for anyone whose never cooked with quinoa: rinse well before cooking. Quinoa has a bitter saponified coating that needs to rinsed off. Definitely a bigger deal if you buy in bulk. Hooray for wednesday!

aartilla the fun said...

hahahahaaha thankyou mandi!

saponified is the kind of word that i knew you would know. hahahahaaa. thankyou for the heads-up. i'm going to update the recipe to say that too.

and yes, pronunciation is important! i will add those too!



elizabeth said...

this is great! I just got a delicata in my CSA this week! Will try this recipe straight away!

Patte said...

That looks so yummy! Scott doesn't like quinoa & he doesn't like squash either. I like both of `em. I just told my cousin that while I'm in Boston without Scott I need to eat all the things that he hates & I love ... like peas, squash, lamb & veal ...

I never rinsed my quinoa before cooking. I'm going to try that! Even though I haven't a clue what saponified means & even after I looked it up I cannot understand what it means.

What's chinese broccoli?

mandi said...

to patte (and anyone else who's curious): when I heard about rinsing quinoa, I was really curious as to why. I had to do a lot of sleuthing to find out! Basically, quinoa is amazingly nutritionally complete. To protect itself from being completely devoured by every bird and animal around it, it coated itself in a bitter substance which we have to rinse off. It's rinsed when processed so probably you can get away without rinsing, but I've read that bulk quinoa usually isn't rinsed as well as the stuff you find in smaller packages. The trade off is that it's much cheaper! I love quinoa, they remind me of little saturns!

aartilla the fun said...

ah! little saturns is PERFECT!

Patte said...

Thanks, Mandi! I don't buy in bulk since Scott doesn't like it ... but if I ever do, I will rinse the little Saturns : )

elizabeth said...

Made it tonight (okay, with quite a few substitutions, as thomas had the car so I had to make it with what I had on hand) and it was TASTY! Can't wait for next Wednesday! (Thomas might like to request a little meat or cheese in the next one:)

aartilla the fun said...


what did you substitute?

i will deffo include something carnivorous next week. i'm testing it on sunday!


Rosesq said...

Hey Aarti,

Sorry I did not respond to your garam masala query. I went for an Intercessory Prayer Meeting yesterday. We prayed for all the persecuted Christians in India, for the Missionary's working in dangerous circumstances, for the mental, physical and emotional healing of those who went through all the horrible experiences at the hand of the fanatics and also in atonement for the desecration of the holy sanctuaries and the Eucharist. We heard that they actually took the Blessed Sacrament out and stamped on it!!.

Anyway about the garam masala equal proportion of cinnamon and cloves is OK, but I tend to use slightly less cinnamon, as it is quite strong. Also if I need to add garam masala for a meat or chicken dish, I may add some cardamom and caraway seeds for a more aromatic taste.

Unfortunately we don't get quinoa in India as yet, but the dish looks yummy-luscious. Looking forward to your next posting. I hope someday, you have a cooking column in a famous magazine:)


elizabeth said...

Let's see... I made it based ONLY on what I had in the house, so here's how changed it: I didn't have enough squash, so I added in some fairytale eggplant (knowing it would cook much faster, I made the pieces much larger). I wouldn't do that again. It was okay, but the textures were all wrong (knew they would be, but needed to use up the eggplant!). Rubbed sage instead of chopped sage, and slightly less than called for, as I ran out. More sage would have been even better, but the taste came through. Red wine vinegar instead of sherry vinegar (worked fine, I think). No parsley, no black beans, no asfoetida. And I cooked the quinoa in our rice cooker. I might use slightly more garam masala and slightly less cinnamon next time, just due to our preferences. All in all, it was TASTY and definitely got me out of my garlic, lemon, pepper rut.

aartilla the fun said...

oooh! great! thanks eli!

interesting about the garam masala, because i like more in there too, but i reduced the amount in the written recipe because i didn't want it to overpower the whole thing. so maybe i will change it back.

thanks for trying it!


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