Girl + Fire = Food



Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Gallo Pinto

I grew tired of pizza. That's an utter lie, but I'm trying to make myself believe it because my trainer had me cut all those delicious unncessary white flour foods out of my diet. So, now what?

Instead, I'm concentrating on my upcoming jaunt to Costa Rica! I haven't been out of the country in several years, and this trip came up at just the right time. I've been suffering from wanderlust, and now I get to feed it!

And my belly. Because there are plenty of flourless foods that are still delicious (like scotch...and cheese!). But what better way to prep for international delights than to sample the cuisine? I know nothing of Costa Rican food, so I figured I'd try my hand at some simple dishes before leaving, and see how closely I came to approximating them once I get to eat the real thing.

To start, I Googled Costa Rican Food. Immediately you get 80 million hits for something called gallo pinto. Gallo in Spanish (pronounced ga-yo) is a rooster, so you might have assumed this was some combination of chicken and pinto beans. But knowing that pico de gallo in Mexico is a salad of chopped fruits and veggies (not the tomato/onion mixture we know it as here), I imagined there was more than meets the eye here.

Turns out there are neither fowl nor pinto beans in this dish. Pinto means painted, and when this dish of cooked rice and black beans comes together, the rice takes on a little color from the beans (I cheated a bit by using brown rice since I didn't have white rice). A full understanding of the use of the phrase would require a broader understanding of Latin American culture, but Wikipedia gives one explanation.

There are 80 million variations of this dish, based solely on the Google results. This one had cumin and coriander in it, two spices I'm quite familiar with. But also some powdered ginger. That was a new spice combo to me. I love ginger, but have never had it with the other two.

I served this to my family (since I'm technically not supposed to have rice either...). My dad wanted more spice in it, but he can't eat anything without dousing it with some sort of pique (aka, hot sauce). The ladies liked it, though we all admitted that adding green salsa on top really was delicious (dad's bad influence!). My nephew, at the tender age of four, has become quite accustomed to the way Puerto Ricans eat beans (a post for another time), and asked for those beans instead.

I'm sure when I finally get to eat the real thing, it'll be something completely different from what I'm expecting. And that will be awesome.

The Gallo Pinto recipe I followed can be found here.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Palak Paneer Pizza

I know it's been a little while, but we were talking pizzas for some time and guess what? We still are!

That ball of dough ended up yielding 4 separate personal pizzas. Four very different pizzas: one veggie-laden with roasted mushroom & cauliflower (the only way I'll eat cauliflower now), another with leftover BBQ chicken and my accidentally delicious harissa caramel sauce, a sweet and savory pizza with maraschino cherries, mango and brie, and now an Indian-inspired spinach and paneer pizza.

If you've read about my previous adventures with the deceivingly difficult-to-master Indian dish, you know the spice ratio is never quite right for my taste buds. This time, since I was making one very small pizza, I didn't quite know what was going to come of it.

Palak paneer is a North Indian curry made of a blend of onions, tomatoes and spinach, a few peppers for heat, spices, cream and topped with fried paneer (an Indian cheese similar in texture to firm tofu). The basic recipe has the vegetables sautéed with the spices, blended to a smooth consistency, and cream is added to temper the heat. The paneer is cubed then fried in ghee, and added as the topping. Sounds pretty easy, right? Don't be fooled!

Up to this point the spice ratio has never tasted right. I can't tell you what the "correct" amount of each is, and there are as many variations as there are people on this planet. I figure I'll keep futzing with it until the day my taste buds agree. And because this was going to top a pizza, I left the vegetables whole. Otherwise it would've become a pizza with a lot of sauce and little texture. Instead of sautéing the tomatoes, I used my fridge staple roasted grape tomatoes. And because I'm a bad Mexican without fresh peppers in the house, I substituted chile flakes (maybe a few too many...). It was an interesting flavor combo on top of a pizza.

But it tasted good. A bit spicy, but what's life without a little spice? The nice thing is that you can add more sour cream on top of the pizza if breathing fire like a dragon isn't on your to-do list today.

print recipe

Palak Paneer Pizza
Indian food on a pizza? Yes!
  • 1 package personal size pizza dough or 2 ounces of a dough ball
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 cup onion, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon (more for heat) chile flakes
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 cup sour cream (more if the heat is too much) 
  • 2 handfuls baby spinach
  • 1/2 cup roasted grape tomatoes
  • 4 ounces paneer cheese or tofu, cubed
1. Follow the directions for resting the pizza dough and preheating the oven.2. While the dough is resting, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a saucepan and sauté the onion until browned. Add the garlic in the last minute to avoid burning.3. Mix in the spices and chile flakes and add the tomatoes and spinach. Cook until the spinach begins to turn a darker color (this happens quickly, don't let it get too wilted). 4. Add the sour cream and remove from heat. Mix so all the ingredients are thoroughly coated (the residual heat in the pan will melt the cream).5. Brush the dough with a bit of olive oil to keep the dough from absorbing too much liquid from the ingredients.Top the dough with the mixture from the pan. 6. Wipe the pan clean and add the remaining olive oil. Fry the cubed cheese until brown. Add to the pizza.7. Put the pizza in the oven and bake until the dough is browned, about 10-15 minutes.
Prep time: 5-20 minutes (depending on dough's resting time)Cook time: 15-20 minutesTotal time: 20-40 minutesYield: 1 personal size pizza