An Evening at Baluchi’s FRESH

by Anne Maxfield on October 6, 2014

Accidental Locavore Chicken and Tofu TikkaDid you know that the staple of India restaurants – chicken tikka masala – isn’t even Indian? This was one of the many interesting things the Accidental Locavore learned over a fun tasting dinner at Baluchi’s FRESH, a new fast-casual Indian restaurant.

Accidental Locavore Baluchi's Fresh InteriorAccording to Rohan, Baluchi’s president, it’s a British interpretation of butter chicken and is actually the national dish of Britain (wouldn’t have been my first guess – you?). That doesn’t stop them from having two fine versions, one of which is actually tofu tikka masala. Since the curries come two to a plate with basmati rice and naan, you can try both versions, or switch it up with classics like lamb rogan josh or saag paneer.

Accidental Locavore Subz MiloniBesides sourcing as much as they can locally, Baluchi’s is offering specials a bit more off the beaten path. When we were there, there was a terrific dish, subz muloni, made from a variety of peppers in a peanut sauce – a bit spicy and quickly devoured!

Accidental Locavore Lamb RoomaliIn addition to the curries, there is a selection of roomali rolls, an Indian version of a wrap, but using a much thinner “handkerchief” bread which is enough to hold in a variety of fillings (we had a nicely spicy lamb one) without being overly bready (my issue with wraps – nothing but bread at the ends). A mango lassi was great for cooling off the heat from the lamb.

Accidental Locavore Bhel PuriMy favorite dishes were what they call “Extras.” In my opinion, these should be renamed “Essentials,” as you’d be crazy to walk out of there without trying the best dish we had, the bhel puri. It’s a cold dish of crisped rice, tomatoes, onions, cilantro, mint chutney (made fresh daily), tamarind and the spice mix known as chaat masala – fabulous! The other surprise was the aloo paapri. Also cold, it had a base of potatoes and chickpeas covered with yogurt, tamarind sauce and cilantro chutney. You can’t go wrong with either one of them and at $4.95 each, a steal in midtown Manhattan!

Accidental Locavore Aloo PaapriBaluchi’s FRESH is open for lunch and dinner. Seating is at rough-hewn picnic tables in a spotless dining area, or you can take a picnic to nearby Bryant Park. Prices are extremely reasonable, the most expensive item being the curry combo at $9.95 and delivery is available. Rohan wants you to try some of the lesser-known dishes as well as the seasonal items they’ll be cooking up (pumpkin is rumored to be making an appearance shortly), so the staff is happy to give you tastes. Go for the real Indian food, you’ll be glad you did; I know I was!

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Duck Fat Smashed Potatoes

by Anne Maxfield on October 2, 2014

Accidental Locavore Mixed Smashed PotatoesOne of the joys of doing a slow-roasted (or any kind of) duck, is the added pleasure of all that duck fat! If, like the Accidental Locavore, you happen to have some residing in your fridge, potatoes are wonderful sautéed or fried in duck fat. Added bonus, it’s better for you than butter! So sautée away.  Serves 4 if you’re not too greedy!

  • 1-1/2 lb. small potatoes (such as fingerlings)
  • Kosher salt
  • 6 tablespoons duck fat
  • Kosher salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 200°. In a medium saucepan add the potatoes, salt and water to cover. Bring to a boil and cook until just tender, about 15 minutes. Drain and transfer to a cutting board. With a spatula, meat pounder, or the bottom of a small skillet, press on each potato until the skin cracks and the potato is flattened to about ½” thick.

Accidental Locavore Potatoes in Duck FatHeat 4 tablespoons of the duck fat in a large skillet, over medium-high heat until hot. Add half of the potatoes and cook, flipping once, until golden brown, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a baking sheet and keep warm in the oven. Repeat with the remaining 2 tablespoons of duck fat and the rest of the potatoes. Season the potatoes with salt and pepper, serve and enjoy!

 

My verdict: OK, I’m prejudiced towards potatoes and duck fat, so you know these were good! A little garlic warmed with the duck fat might have been nice, as would a little chopped rosemary when they were done. I did them in a big frying pan, so skipped the oven step. If you do that, just be sure not to crowd the pan, or they won’t brown.

When you cook potatoes, you always want to start with cool water and let the potatoes and water heat together. It ensures that the potatoes cook through evenly. If you’re still wondering what to do with duck fat, spinach is great sautéed in it!

 

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Eggplant Parmesan My Way

by Anne Maxfield on September 29, 2014

Accidental Locavore Striped EggplantsDo you ever wonder why there are so many recipes for great summer produce that involve cooking them forever, or for that matter cooking them at all? It’s always a bit of an issue for the Accidental Locavore, especially with cabbages and eggplants. Since we’ve got some cooler nights now, I took a few beautiful eggplants and made them into Eggplant Parmesan. It’s inspired from Mark Bitman’s How to Cook Everything and really good because the eggplant is dredged in flour, not heavily breaded. Serves about 4.

  • 3 medium eggplants, peeled and sliced into 1/4″ slices
  • 1 cup of flour (for dredging)
  • salt and pepper
  • olive oil
  • 1/2 pound mozzarella grated (about 2/3 of a fresh ball)
  • /2 cup grated Parmesan
  • about 30 basil leaves (or a mix of oregano and basil)
  • 2 cups tomato sauce

Pre-heat your oven to 350°. Heat about 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat. While the olive oil is heating, pour the flour, salt and pepper into a shallow bowl. Dredge the eggplant slices in the flour and shake off the excess. Saute the slices in the olive oil until golden brown. You’re going to need to do this in batches, and don’t crowd the pan! Let the cooked slices drain on paper towels while you saute the rest. You’ll need to keep adding olive oil to the pan, and it will seem like a lot; it is, but this is not a low-fat dinner.

Accidental Locavore Eggplant ParmWhen you’ve finished sauteing the eggplant, take a gratin pan, or several small ones, and lightly grease with olive oil. Start with a thin layer of tomato sauce, a layer of eggplant slices, a sprinkling of mozzarella, a sprinkling of Parmesan, and a few basil leaves. Keep repeating until you reach the end  of the eggplant. On top of your last layer of eggplant, more tomato sauce, the rest of the mozzarella, a good sprinkle of Parmesan, and your best looking basil leaves (style points). Bake for about 20 minutes until it’s warm all the way through and the cheese is melted. Serve and enjoy!

My verdict: Frank paid this the ultimate compliment last night, when he said I did for eggplant what Bill (the former chef at Rancho la Puerta) did for salmon. In other words, made him love something he’s not generally fond of. This recipe works well because the eggplant is thinly sliced and not heavily breaded. Since sautéing the eggplant, is what takes time I often do it ahead of time and just pull it out when I’m ready to bake it. We thought, last night, that some Italian sausage might be a nice addition to this, so maybe next time.

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Grilled Cabbage With a Thai Inspired Dressing

by Anne Maxfield on September 25, 2014

Accidental Locavore Grilling CabbageThe Accidental Locavore always wonders what to do with cabbage when it’s hot out. Earlier this summer one of the guys at the farm said he roasts his (which wasn’t really a solution to the cabbage in August dilemma); I’ve been thinking about roasting or grilling it. I came across a series of recipes for grilling cabbage on Serious Eats recently and gave it a try the other night at a friend’s house (larger audience of guinea pigs). I used a medium sized cabbage and this fed 6 as a side dish.

  • 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice, divided
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 3 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 3 medium cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes (more or less to taste)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint leaves
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro leaves and fine stems
  • 1 medium head of green cabbage, cut into 6 wedges with the core left intact
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Combine 2 tablespoons of the lime juice, fish sauce, sugar and garlic in a small microwaveable bowl (I used a glass measuring cup). Microwave until steaming hot, about 20-30 seconds. Add red pepper flakes. Stir until the sugar is dissolved. Cool in the refrigerator. When it’s cooled, add the mint, cilantro and remaining lime juice. Taste and add additional red pepper flakes and fish sauce if you’d like.

Accidental Locavore Grilled CabbagePreheat a gas or charcoal grill to high. Place the cabbage wedges directly on the grill and grill, covered, for about 3 minutes a side, for all three sides. Either lower the heat, or move the cabbage to a cooler spot on the grill and cook until the cabbage is tender, about another 4-5 minutes.

In a large bowl, put the olive oil, salt and pepper. Add the cooked cabbage and gently toss to coat. Drizzle the sauce over it, serve and enjoy!

My verdict: The sauce was great and would work well with broccoli, Brussels sprouts or even cauliflower. The guinea pigs all enjoyed it (or said they did). I kept it pretty mild as we were dining with friends and I wasn’t sure what their heat tolerance was. The issue was the cabbage. It got nicely browned on the grill, but got tossed off the grill to make room for other stuff and didn’t get the extra 5 minutes of cooking time, so it was pretty crunchy. Near the core, it was raw, so really tough and essentially inedible. A quick couple of minutes in the microwave before grilling would have helped, or more grill time. If you don’t have a grill, you could easily do this on a grill pan. If you use a grill pan, I would pre-cook the cabbage, unless you have a cover for the grill pan. I’m definitely going to try doing another cabbage this way, but will cook it until it’s tender.

 

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