Saturday was my friend Leslie’s baby shower. Leslie is a seasoned mom, with four girls literally under her belt. She is hoping this one is a boy since her husband, Pandu, has declared it an imperative that there be one. Pandu is named after the great Indian patriarch who was the father to five sons. History tends to repeats itself, but often with a twist. Five daughters? We’ll have to wait and see.
The shower was pot luck , which generally I am vehemently opposed to. Saturday’s spread was actually enjoyable, high in carbs and protein, as potlucks tend to be, but palatable nonetheless.
I cooked up kitchri with fresh paneer and spinach, barbecue seitan and an exclusive for the mom who is and will be again–a stash of Harriet’s Thumbprint cookies made with Sabjimata Rose Petal Jam and Sabjimata Grape Jelly. Here are the recipes for the barbecue and the cookies. Enjoy!
Barbecue Seitan, Gluten, Satan
Okay, so you thought I was going to give you a recipe. Well, yes and no. For the seitan, don’t even think about using store bought. Yuck! Why would you when you can easily make your own? (That’ a rhetorical question, please, put your list away.) Throw a few cups of gluten flour in a bowl (this stuff goes a long way) and season if you like with salt, hing, pepper, curry powder, whatever. Add cold water and plenty of it, moving your hand in a swirling motion in order to mix it up. The final texture of your seitan depands on how much water you add; too little and your seitan will be tough like jerky. Knead it together, cut it into large sections and then boil in a pot of water for one hour (I said it would be easy, not quick). When you are done boiling, drain and cool. Cut seitan into bite size pieces for baking in a pan or large strip-like chunks for kebab-ing. Pan or deep fry and set aside.
For the sauce, I don’t really have a recipe with exact measurements, but I will try to make one up right now for you. You may want to experiment with the proportions to see what suits your taste buds. Basically, think of whatever you do at home as a variation on a theme. The end result is a sweet and salty sauce that unfortunately makes you want to eat too much, will surely throw your doshas out of balance and will have your swearing off the stuff a week later when you can’t get the bathroom scale to cut you a break. As you will see, the ingredients are very simple. My philosophy with tomato based sauces is less is definitely more.
Combine 32 oz. Sabjimata Crushed Tomato (see, this is really a commercial, ahem, excuse me, infomercial), ½ cup Bragg Liquid Amino (or good quality soy sauce), ½ cup molasses, ½ cup sucanat and one teaspoon hing (available in Indian groceries or Wegman’s, Whole Foods, etc.). Cook until thick and dark. Combine with seitan in a baking tray. Bake, uncovered, at 400 degrees for approx. 45 minutes or until sticky and tasty looking. If you would like to make kebobs, after frying cook seitan in boiling sauce for 15 minutes, skewer, and bake in 400 degree oven for 10-15 minutes.
Harriet’s Thumbprint Cookies are a kosher favorite. Actually, I originally found the recipe online on a kosher cooking site. I have saved you the trouble of substituting butter for margarine (what was Harriet thinking? Parve, that’s what!). This is a simple eggless cookie recipe and benefits greatly from the use of quality ingredients. Swanny Organic White Flour is the most flavorful brand to use if you can get it. Expensive walnuts, the kind not preserved with BHT, will up the flavor factor immensely. If you cannot afford to spring for good nuts, try subbing in sunflower seeds. Organic raw sunflower seeds are terrifically cheap and work well in cookies, salad dressings and pesto sauces. The flavor is a little different, but why go chemical with your food when you can get organic raw for less then the price of Diamond brand walnuts at Sam’s Club?
Depending on the cookie experience you are going for, white, wheat and spelt all work well with Harriet. If using wheat, you may want to cut it with some white or add a smidge more butter. Spelt requires either slightly less butter or more flour. No need to mess with the sugar. More sugar will just make your cookies hard and this recipe really doesn’t need it. Although the dough is only mildly sweet, the jam and the sprinkle of confectioner sugar at the end more than makes up for it.
Preheat your oven to 300. Measure out 1 ½ cups of walnuts and grind. Combine (either by hand or in a food processor) 1 cup of butter, ½ cup cane sugar, 2 ½ cups flour, 1 tablespoon vanilla extract and the walnuts. Roll into small balls, flatten and put your thumbprint on it. Fill indentation with your choice of Sabjimata Jam, Jelly or Conserve. Bake for 20 minutes. When cooled, sprinkle with confectioner sugar.
Ground cardamom is a simply lovely substitute when you are all out of vanilla or can be added along with the vanilla to put some subcontinental swing in your jhumkas. These cookies are great for Shabbat dinner, or at least Harriet thinks so!
Om Shalom! (wink wink)