Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Most Delightful Corn Chowder

It has been hectic here these last couple of months. We decided to move to the southwest US, to a house half the size we are currently living in. Lots and lots and lots of donations, donations, donations and garbage. Oh heavens, the junk we accumulate. In the middle of this chaos, sorting, throwing out and such, while I continue to cook, trying new things all the time, just because that's how I roll, still I haven't had much time at all to focus on this blog. It seems I get a newsletter published, and then it's about all I can manage to get one other post out through the month. After the newsletter in the beginning of May, I will be taking a hiatus, until we finalize the move, then get settled enough in the new place to be able to think again - of anything other than packing or unpacking. 
Roasted Corn & Poblano Chowder
Roasted Corn & Poblano Chowder

Meanwhile, I just absolutely had to share this wonderful soup recipe. I call it a chowder because it is slightly creamy but with lots of chunky things in it for all the goodness it provides. Originally I found the recipe in an America's Test Kitchen's special edition magazine. The thing I like about either America's Test Kitchens or Cooks Illustrated is the great flavors the recipes have. The thing I dislike about either America's Test Kitchens or Cooks Illustrated recipes is that it seems they require every - single - extraneous - step - possible, to accomplish the recipe.


So I looked through the recipe. I skipped a few steps. I eliminated some ingredients. I added other ingredients. But basically, it is based on their recipe, somewhere in the beginning of all of it. And it is one stellar, hearty soup with divine flavors. 

The recipe does call for cutting the corn off of 6 fresh ears, tossing them with salt, pepper and oil, then broiling them. I thought, "Why not just grill the whole ears, and THEN cut the kernels off?" And normally, this is what I would do, but it just happened that the day I decided to make the chowder was a chilly, rainy day, and so - I did cut off the kernels first, toss them with oil, salt and pepper and broil. Ah, well...

Roasted Corn and Poblano Chowder 

Roasted Corn & Poblano Chowder
Roasted Corn & Poblano Chowder
Serves 6 to 8

2 Poblano chilies
6 fresh ears of corn
2 teaspoons oil
salt and pepper
2 thick slices bacon, cut in ¼-inch bits
1 medium onion, chopped
4 - 6 fresh cloves garlic, minced
7 cups chicken broth
1 large sweet potato, about 1 pound, peeled, cut into ½-inch cubes
¼ cup corn masa flour, or two corn tortillas
½ cup fresh cilantro, chopped
14-ounces andouille or other spicy smoked sausage
Queso Fresco, for serving

Preheat the broiler and set the rack at about 6-inches from the broiler element. Set the poblano peppers on a rimmed baking sheet lined with foil and sprayed with cooking spray. Set under the broiler and let the peppers blacken and blister, turning with tongs as needed to blacken evenly. Remove the peppers to a plastic bag and seal, allowing them to steam and cool enough to handle.

Cut the corn kernels from the cobs and place them into a mixing bowl with the oil and a sprinkling of salt and pepper. Toss to coat evenly, then pour the kernels onto the same foil lined baking sheet in an even layer. Set under the broiler and cook until slightly browned in spots, stirring the corn once about halfway through. Place the corn back into the bowl and set aside.

Peel the Poblano peppers, then remove the stems and seeds. Cut the peppers into small pieces. Add these to the corn.

Fry the bacon pieces until crisp in a large Dutch oven or other soup pot. Remove the bacon to paper toweling, then saute the onion in the bacon fat until softened. Add in the garlic and cook for another three minutes, or until fragrant. Add in the broth, the sweet potato chunks, the corn and Poblanos and bring to boil, then reduce to a simmer for about 20 minutes, covered, until the sweet potatoes are tender.

Remove two cups of the chowder mixture to a blender container and puree, adding in the corn tortilla masa (or the two corn tortillas) to blend until smooth. Return the puree to the pot. Add in the bacon and the andouille sausage, sliced into ¼-inch slices and check for seasoning, adding in another ½-teaspoon of salt, if needed. Cook on low for another 10 minutes, then stir in the cilantro and serve. Crumble some queso fresco over each bowl of chowder.

My passion is teaching people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and passing along my love and joy of food, both simple or exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me also at A Harmony of Flavors on Facebook, and Pinterest and sign up for my Newsletter.

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Continuing on an Indian Theme

I guess there are likely many readers who do not have my interest in Indian cuisine, and if so, I apologize. I, however, believe I could exist happily on Indian foods. And so, I continue happily experimenting almost weekly.

For a long time, I had been reading about idli. Idli are little steamed dumplings that are made with (usually) rice and urad dal / black gram, skinned and split. They can be made including other things, such as millet and likely other things that I am not aware of. Yet. The rice should be a parboiled type of rice, preferably a short grain but other parboiled rice is fine. Additional rice often used are either "poha," a parboiled and flattened rice, or leftover cooked rice. The urad dal is often soaked with fenugreek seeds.
Idli - Coconut Chutney - Idli Podi
Idli - Coconut Chutney - Idli Podi

The process for making idli is a little complicated, due to the need for a long pre-soak of the dal and rice, then grinding them and mixing together to ferment overnight, then using this resultant batter to make the idli, which requires an idli steamer or at the very least some rounded small bowls and a rack for a skillet large enough to hold them with a lid on. This last is part of why I hadn't made them sooner. 

I was highly curious about these little dumplings, and intrigued about the flavor profile. Intrigued also about the fermentation process (which, to date, has not actually happened for me - more about that later). Curious about whether they would actually come out? And even with all that, I went years and years with idli on my "to-do" list, yet only first tried them last year. I was also intrigued by the fact that these are breakfast food in south India.

When I first tried to make idli, and after having read about them extensively, I set about the soaking, the grinding, and then waiting for the fermentation, which supposedly has the batter growing to about twice its volume. This last did not happen. In this case, I have read, one simply adds baking soda to the mixture before pouring into the steamer molds. But, why didn't my batter ferment? I thought maybe I needed better rice? Maybe I needed fresher dal? So I ordered both, and set about trying again. Still no fermentation. It has been very cold up here in the north, and cold can certainly inhibit fermentation. We are planning to move out to Arizona soon, and I will have to try once out there. It will certainly be warmer!

I had made Sambar (a soup-like dish consisting of a pureed lentil base with tamarind and vegetables) previously, to see what those flavors were all about, and absolutely love, love, loved it! Once I made the idli, despite the lack of fermentation, I truly loved eating them with the sambar. And, if you have batter left over, you can add a little water to it and use it to make Dosa, which are large crepes that are cooked golden on one side. These crepes can be eaten with the same things that idli are eaten with: any chutney of choice, but commonly coconut chutney, idli podi, sambar.

Often one sees photos online and in blogs of lovely white idli. Mine have so far been this light tan color, likely because of using red poha rice and possibly a higher than usual amount of fenugreek seeds. This in no way changes the flavor, though I might try making them with leftover rice some time, just to see how they come out. 



Makes about 24 small (3-inch) dumplings 

½ cup Poha rice or leftover cooked rice
1 cup parboiled rice or idli rice
⅓ cup urad dal
1½ teaspoons fenugreek seed
¾ teaspoon salt
(½ teaspoon baking soda, if needed)

Early in the day: In one mixing bowl, place the Poha or leftover cooked rice and short grain rice and cover with water by at least an inch. In a separate bowl, place the urad dal and fenugreek seeds and cover these with water by at least an inch. Set the bowls aside for at least 5 hours.

Drain the rice, reserving the water aside. Place rice into a blender container and blend, adding only the minimum amount of the soaking liquid needed to make a cake-batter-like texture. Pour this batter into a large bowl and set aside.

Drain the urad dal mixture, again reserving the soaking water. Place the soaked dal into the blender container and blend, only adding in enough of the soaking water needed to make a cake-batter-like consistency, then pour this into the bowl with the rice batter. Cover the bowl lightly and let set on the counter to ferment overnight (to date, my batter has not risen), or at least 8 hours.

If the batter has not risen, add in ½ teaspoon baking soda before making the idli. Stir in the salt, mixing well to combine.

Grease 3½-inch idli molds lightly. Spoon in the mixture just barely filling the molds. Stack the molds and set the rack into a pot large enough to accommodate the idli rack with simmering water that does not reach to the bottom of the lowest idli. Cover and steam the idli for about 8 or 9 minutes, or until they are puffed and spring back when pressed. Or, check as for cake, inserting a toothpick in the center; they are done when the toothpick comes out clean.


In all the restaurants I have been to try Indian foods, coconut chutney is always there. To date, it has not impressed me at all. Still, it is so often mentioned as an accompaniment to idli, dosae and so many other Indian foods, I had to try it. Still, fresh coconut is not always available this far north, so I did use desiccated coconut shreds. Coconut is called Nariyal, in Hindi and has lots of other names in the many other Indian languages and dialects. I made my own version of coconut chutney and it tastes good. Not great, at least to me - though I truly love coconut. I have been eating it, and enjoying it with idli, dosa and with another pancake-like bread called Adai, recipe coming soon. It is very nice. But I just can't get truly excited with it. It has been the same, no matter where I have tasted it, so it isn't just my recipe. I thought, all things considered, that my recipe was really good, in comparison to some I have tasted in restaurants.

My coconut chutney was green-tinged, due to using a fresh green jalapeno pepper in the mixture. This can be avoided by adding a thinner skinned hot pepper such as Thai chilies or Serrano peppers.  

Coconut Chutney - Nariyal Chatni
Coconut Chutney or Nariyal Chatni
Coconut Chutney or Nariyal Chatni

Made 1¾ cups

1 cup desiccated, unsweetened coconut
½ cup water for soaking
1 teaspoon coconut oil
2 teaspoons channa dal / desi chickpeas
2 thin slices fresh ginger
1 green hot chili, more optional
¾ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon tamarind paste

1 tablespoon coconut oil
1 dried red chili
8 - 10 curry leaves, lightly chopped
1 teaspoon brown mustard seeds
1 pinch asafetida

Soak the desiccated coconut in the half-cup of water in the blender container while assembling the remaining ingredients. Heat a skillet to medium and add the 1 teaspoon coconut oil, then the channa dal. Stir constantly until the dal has turned a deep golden color. Add this to the blender container, along with the slices of ginger, the green chili (remove seeds for less heat), salt and tamarind paste. Blend finely and check for liquid. It should be slightly runny. Pour into a bowl. (For a whiter chutney, skip the green chili and add another 1 or two red chilies to the tempering mixture below.)

"Tempering" is nothing more than frying together some ingredients that will add lots of flavor, then pouring them into the dish. Heat a skillet and add in the tablespoon of coconut oil. Add in the asafetida, dried chili, curry leaves and mustard seeds and cook, stirring until the seeds begin to pop, then immediately pour this over the chutney in the bowl and serve.


Another accompaniment for idli is called Idli Podi ("podi" meaning powder, as far as I can ascertain). It is also called Milagai Podi ("milagai" means red chilies), if adding plenty of red chilies to the mixture. This powdered spice is used with oil. dipping the idli or other kind of bread-like item into the oil, then the powder and this acts as a replacement for a liquid chutney, especially if using these for lunch boxes. Or the powder can be used alongside other chutneys and condiments. It is quite delicious and really jazzes up the idli dumplings. 

Making this powder requires toasting a lot of different seeds, lentils and other items to a nice toasty color. The amount of chili to add is completely up to the individual making it.  

Idli Podi or Milagai Podi

Makes about ¾ cup

Idli Podi or Milagai Podi
Idli Podi or Milagai Podi
¼ cup urad/urid dal
¼ cup channa dal/bengal gram
¼ cup dried, unsweetened coconut
¼ cup packed curry leaves
2 tablespoons white sesame seeds
2 tablespoons coriander seeds  
2 - 10 dried red chilies, to taste
½ teaspoon asafetida
1 - 1½ teaspoons salt, to taste
2 teaspoons palm sugar, optional

Heat a dry skillet over medium to medium low heat. Add in the urad dal and roast them, stirring constantly, until they are a deep golden color. Turn out onto a plate to cool. Repeat this same process with the channa dal and roast until golden brown; this may take a little longer. Turn out to cool with the urad dal. Repeat the process with the coconut, stirring constantly till golden, not burnt (this will happen quickly - be alert), then turn out to cool. Add the curry leaves and stir until they are crisp, then turn out to cool. Add in the sesame seeds and cook, stirring until lightly golden. Add to the plate of cooling spices. Repeat with the coriander seeds until very fragrant and add these to the plate to cool. If you want the extra heat, keep the seeds with the chili peppers, otherwise, crack them open and discard seeds. Toast the chilies until they start to change color, then turn out to cool. Briefly toast the asafetida until it smells of onions, then add to the plate.

Place the spices and dals by batches, as needed, into a spice grinder and grind to preference, from quite coarse to very fine, then add in the salt and sugar and mix well. 

My passion is teaching people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and passing along my love and joy of food, both simple or exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me also at A Harmony of Flavors on Facebook, and Pinterest and sign up for my Newsletter.

Monday, April 1, 2019

Please Enjoy my April Newsletter

Springtime, flowers
Enjoy Spring, Friend

Last month, despite (what I thought was) careful editing, I totally missed the heading change in this section, with it still wishing everyone a "Happy Valentine's Day," at the beginning of March! I apologize for the oversight.

In the meantime, Mother Nature has decided we will have spring after all. The temperatures have been above freezing. At least two feet or more of our mountains of snow have melted. Flowers like hardy crocus or snowdrops may just stand a chance of peeking through the snow. There is hope.

Easter this year comes a bit later than usual, but maybe by then we will have most of the snow gone and lots of flowers peeking out. Easter brings traditions to many of us; foods we enjoy with family. I have gone over Easter traditions in past years of newsletters, so this month I am concentrating on Spring vegetables and things to do with Easter's leftover ham bone.

Please check "
A Harmony of Flavors" website and "A Harmony of Flavors" blog site, continually being updated with new recipes. There is a lot to choose from!
asparagus, peas, snap peas
Springtime and Green Vegetables

Nowadays we can find asparagus and peas in the grocery all year. Still, when one can find or grow fresh vegetables in the season they are meant to grow and be eaten, it is an amazing treat. Peas and asparagus are some springtime vegetables that are so wonderful when fresh. Still, even if you do not have access to them fresh, there is still the grocery. And the food is still tasty.

Clockwise from top left:
  • Fettuccine Alfredo with Sausage, Chicken and Asparagus (or Snap Peas). This is one truly hearty meal in one. Serve with a side salad to lighten it up a bit. Use fresh asparagus, grilled and then cut into lengths. Or use sugar snap peas or just young, petite peas and steam them to perfection. Either way, this is tasty and most excellent for dinner.
  • Asparagus with Feta, Pistachios and Zahtar. Reading the recipe, you will find that the asparagus is steamed for this dish, but if you have the chance, grill the whole spears and then cut them if desired for this dish. And, do look for the very best Feta cheese you can find. Zahtar is an excellent flavor combination and truly brings this dish together.
  • Peas Sauteed with Shallot and Prosciutto. Tender peas are a must for this dish. If you are using fresh peas, they will need to be steamed first, then added in at last moment. If using tender frozen peas, it takes no time to heat them through. This is a gourmet dish in just a few minutes.
  • Simply Grilled Asparagus. One of my most favorite ways to eat asparagus, these simply grilled spears and amazing alongside any dinner. I never liked asparagus until I made them this way.

Below is a button to connect with a really great Bonus Recipe for this month.
CLICK HERE for a Bonus Recipe
Spring, Flowers
Leftover Ham, or Ham Bone?

Whenever a holiday comes around, there will be hams. And ham, particularly on the bone, offers a lot of possibilities for meals after the fact. Just the bone, even with little meat left to it, makes an excellent soup, and if you like it hearty, then remember to leave yourself a pound worth of meat on the bone for later. Freeze the bone until you get the time, and when you do, set it to cook slowly over the day for an amazing supper meal.

Clockwise from top left:
  • Mom Rawstern's Famous Baked Beans. When I met my husband, he was very desirous that I learn to make his Mom's Baked Bean recipe. On a visit one time, she made her beans while I took notes. Nothing too difficult at all, yet these beans come out hearty enough to make a meal out of them, and they are delicious, to boot!
  • Split Pea, Vegetable & Ham Soup. I have made this soup now and again for many years, and the flavors are amazing. The use of the ham bone in the making of it, makes the flavors so wonderful. Adding in the vegetables and spinach just make it more nourishing.
  • Mom & Dad's Ham Bone Soup (or Bean Soup). Bean Soup. Ham Bone Soup, Whatever you call it, it is GOOD! Hearty and warming on a chilly day, yet good at any time of year for a filling, hot meal. Use the bone with meat left on and slow cook this soup to perfection.
  • Cheesy Scalloped Potatoes with Ham. I love scalloped potatoes. My husband prefers ham in them. Either way, these are a winner. Sometimes for a different spin, I alternate slices of potato with slices of butternut squash. Sweet potato slices would also make a great pairing with the ham. Have a side salad with it and it's a meal.
Give any or all of these a try for great supper ideas.
rhubarb, bar recipe
Rhubarb, Anyone?

When the first fresh rhubarb shows up, this recipe is an absolutely spectacular way to showcase its flavors. Paired with sweet blueberries, these bars are a delightful way to end a meal.
Spring, Flowers
Egyptian Spice, Middle East Spice

Dukkah is a spice and nut mixture from Egypt, as far as I can tell. At any rate it falls into the general category of Middle Eastern with that vague all-encompassing genre. The recipe I posted is one of my own devising, with the guidance of many recipes existing on the web. It is a great combination of flavors. Just using it to dip bread in oil and then in the Dukkah mixture is good enough to have this stuff on hand at all times. I took this a step further and sort of did a mash-up of cultures and marinated a pork tenderloin in Hoisin sauce, then rolled it in Dukkah before baking. What a wonderful outcome! Pork Medallions in Dukkah Seasoning, anyone?
Chris Rawstern, A Harmony of Flavors
Spring! It is making a valiant effort to be apparent. A lot of of snow has melted, but there's still a long way to go. Flowers are a way off yet. In the meantime, please visit my web- and blog-sites and try some new (or old) recipes, learn something new about an herb or spice or other subject, or maybe just daydream. However it is accomplished, I endeavor to provide articles of interest. Not everyone cooks these days, due to time constraints, though I did cook meals for my family back when I had 4 youngsters and worked 2 jobs, so I know it can be done. It does require advanced planning. Many of my newer, more complex recipes have been created now that I am retired and have extra time on my hands, yet many are easy and quick. Take a look through my suggestions here in this newsletter, as well as looking through past newsletters here, for more ideas. Both my website and blog site have indexes of my recipes, for many more options.
Please forward this newsletter to any friends who may find my stories, articles and recipes of interest. Subscribe to this Newsletter by hitting the Subscribe Button below. Follow me on Facebook, check out my A Harmony of Flavors website, and A Harmony of Flavors blog. Find all my food (and lots of other) photos on Pinterest at AHOFpin.
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