Curry Puffs

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I was sort of obsessed with eating all the things when I visited Singapore a few years ago. I mean, it’s the best food city on earth (don’t @ me). When it was time to leave, I realized I hadn’t yet tried one of the most Singaporean of snacks, curry puffs! Think curried chicken and potatoes in a deep-fried pastry shell. Yeah. I hurriedly bought one at Changi Airport right as we were boarding and savored the carby, meaty, buttery goodness right before saying goodbye.

I can’t find curry puffs in the Bay Area, but I can make them with relative ease at home. I take a shortcut with puff pastry and I oven bake them so they’re a bit healthier, but they’re just as delicious.

Curry puffs

Ingredients:

1 small potato, boiled, peeled, and cut into cubes
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 teaspoons minced ginger
1/2 onion, chopped
2 green onions, sliced
1/2 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast, chopped
2 tablespoons curry powder (I used a blend of Madras curry powder and homemade Jaffna curry powder)
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 egg yolk mixed with 1 tablespoon water
1 sheet puff pastry, thawed

1. Place a wok over high heat until hot. Add oil, then add ginger, onion, and green onions, and stir-fry for 5 minutes, until onion begins to brown. Add chicken and stir-fry for another 2 minutes. Stir in potato, curry powder, and soy sauce. Remove from heat and let cool. Transfer mixture to a large bowl and lightly mash with a potato ricer.

2. Preheat oven to 375F degrees. In the meantime, on a floured board, roll out puff pastry to a thickness of about 1/4 inch; cut into 4-inch circles. Place 1 tablespoon filling on each circle. Brush edges with egg wash, fold dough to make half-moons, and press edges to seal.

3. Place on a lightly oiled baking sheet. Brush tops with remaining egg wash. Bake until golden brown, about 25 minutes. Serve warm.

Steamed Tofu with Black Bean Sauce

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This dish is elegant, this dish is healthy, and best of all, this dish is extremely simple to make. Just make sure to use soft tofu in this recipe, because it’s all about the silky texture here.

Steamed tofu with black bean sauce

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon black bean sauce
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon sugar
1 16-ounce package soft tofu, drained
1 green onion, thinly sliced

1. To make the sauce, combine the black bean sauce, soy sauce, sesame oil, and sugar in a small bowl.

2. Cut the tofu widthwise into 8 slices. Carefully transfer the tofu into a heatproof ceramic dish that will fit into your steamer.

3. Prepare a wok for steaming. Steam the tofu, covered, until heated through, about 3 minutes. Pour the sauce over the top and steam for 4 more minutes. Garnish with the green onion and serve warm.

Cheddar-Green Onion Biscuits

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I’ve generally shied away from making biscuits because, quite frankly, I suck at it. I over-knead the dough, I don’t add enough butter, and my final product is usually hard baked disks of crumbly flour.

Except for these biscuits. Flecked with bits of cheddar cheese and green onions, they’re a cinch to make, even for someone like me. Good luck eating just one.

Cheddar-green onion biscuits

Ingredients:

2 cups flour, plus more for dusting
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup cold unsalted butter, cubed, plus 1 tablespoon melted
1/2 cup thinly sliced green onions
3 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, grated (about 3/4 cup)
1 cup buttermilk, divided

1. Preheat oven to 425F degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, pepper, and salt in a large bowl until combined. Using your fingers, work cold butter into flour mixture until butter is in small, flattened pieces and mixture is crumbly. Stir in green onions and cheese. Add 3/4 cup buttermilk, and stir just until dough comes together, adding up to 1/4 cup additional buttermilk, 1 tablespoon at a time, if needed. (Dough should be neither sticky nor crumbly.)

2. Transfer dough to a lightly floured surface, and knead 3 to 4 times just to bring dough together. Pat dough into an 8- x 6-inch rectangle; fold 1 short side a third of the way over toward center. Fold opposite short side over folded end (business letter fold). Rotate dough clockwise 90 degrees; pat out dough into a 8×6-inch rectangle, and repeat folding procedure. Pat dough out into an 8×6-inch rectangle (3/4 to 1 inch thick); cut dough into 8 rectangular biscuits.

3. Place each biscuit rectangle on baking sheet. Brush tops with melted butter. Bake biscuits in oven until golden brown, about 15 minutes.

Ash-e Reshteh (Iranian Noodle Soup)

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Norooz, or Iranian New Year, means a few things: joyous gatherings with family, spring cleaning, and the celebration of the vernal equinox. Norooz is also about food: fresh fish, rice pilafs and frittatas redolent with herbs and spring greens to celebrate renewal and rebirth, desserts to ring in a sweet new year, and my favorite: ash-e reshteh.

Ash-e reshteh is traditionally served on the new year, with the noodles symbolizing good fortune. My mom’s ash-e reshteh is my favorite and this year, I finally learned how to cook it. Chock-full of reshteh (special Iranian noodles), kashk (a fermented dairy product similar to whey), loads of herbs like parsley, spinach, and green onions, legumes, dried mint, and garlic, there’s no substituting here. Get thee to an Iranian grocery and make this delicious, meal-in-a-bowl soup to celebrate the coming of warmer weather and new beginnings.

Ash-e Reshteh (Iranian Noodle Soup)

Ingredients:

6 tablespoons olive oil
4 onions, peeled and thinly sliced
6 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 cup dried chickpeas, soaked overnight, cooked, and cooled
10-12 cups water
1 cup lentils, cooked and cooled
1 pound Iranian noodles (reshteh)
1 tablespoon flour
2 bunches chopped green onions
2 bunches chopped parsley
2 pounds chopped spinach
1 1/2 cups liquid kashk
4 tablespoons dried mint, crushed

1. Heat 4 tablespoons oil in a large pot and sautee the onions and garlic over medium heat. Add salt, pepper, and turmeric. Once golden, set aside 1/3 of onion mixture for garnish. Leave the remaining onion mixture in the pot and add lentils and chickpeas; saute for a few minutes. In the meantime, heat remaining 2 tablespoons oil in a separate small saucepan and once hot, add the dried mint and quickly saute for 1 minute, being careful not to let it burn. Remove from heat and set aside for garnish.

2. Pour in 10 cups of water and bring to a boil, then add all of the greens, bring to a boil again, reduce the heat, and cook on low, covered, for about half an hour, stirring occasionally.

3. Add the noodles to the pot and cook for about 15 minutes, covered, on low heat, stirring occasionally. At this stage, add one teaspoon of the reserved dried mint oil garnish to the pot.

4. In the meantime, mix 1 cup cold water and the flour in a small bowl and drizzle the mixture into the pot of soup, stirring. Cook for 20 minutes, covered, on low heat, stirring occasionally.

5. Stir in the kaskh, setting aside a dollop or two for the garnish. Mix the kaskh in the pot well.

6. To serve, pour the hot soup into a serving bowl and garnish with the reserved onion and garlic mixture, reserved dried mint mixture, and reserved kashk.

Salted Chocolate Halva

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You say halva, I say halvardeh. The crumbly, sticky sesame-based confection that’s called halva in the Levant (and the West) is called halvardeh in Iran and that’s because what’s called halva in Persian refers to a related confection made from wheat flour, butter, and with rosewater. But for the purposes of this recipe, let’s just call the crumbly sesame-based version halva.

Semantics aside, I can’t get enough of this stuff. One of my favorite breakfasts is halva simply wrapped up in lavash with a side of strong black tea. I also, uh, love halva straight out of the box. And I am equally parts delighted and terrified to learn that I can make halva from scratch, at home, with relative ease. Adapted from a Bon Appetit recipe, this bittersweet chocolate-glazed version is much tastier than store-bought. Once cooled, cut this up into tiny squares for a decadent teatime treat.

Salted chocolate halva

Ingredients:

Nonstick oil spray
1 1/2 cups tahini
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons sesame seeds, divided
1 1/2 cups sugar
4 ounces dark bittersweet chocolate
Sea salt, for sprinkling

1.Lightly coat an 8 1/2″ x 4 1/2″ loaf pan with nonstick spray and line with parchment paper, leaving a 2″ overhang on both of the long sides. Mix tahini, salt, and 2 tablespoons sesame seeds in a large bowl to combine; set tahini mixture aside.

2. Cook sugar and 1/2 cup water in a small saucepan over low heat, stirring with a heatproof rubber spatula, until sugar is dissolved, about 4 minutes. Increase heat to medium-high. Cook syrup, brushing down sides as needed to dissolve any crystals that form, about 7–10 minutes. Immediately remove syrup from heat and gradually stream into reserved tahini, mixing constantly with spatula. Continue to mix just until halva comes together in a smooth mass and starts to pull away from the sides of bowl (less than a minute). Be careful not to overmix or halva will crumble. Working quickly, scrape into prepared pan and let cool.

3. Melt chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water (do not let bowl touch water), stirring often. Remove from heat. Invert halva onto a wire rack set inside a parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet; peel away and discard parchment. Pour chocolate over halva and sprinkle top with sea salt and remaining 2 tablespoons sesame seeds. Let sit until chocolate is set before serving, about 1 hour.