29 September 2011

Two New Recipes, Bishkek Style

In my opinion, it's best to use local food and local food sources when you're living overseas.  It's not cheap to cook American food in the US; it's either too expensive to impossible to do so in the rest of the world.  There are a few ethnic ingredients I can't get here (fish sauce, tamarind paste, curry paste, and coconut milk) and a few American ingredients I bring or beg relatives to send (cocoa, good chocolate chips, and vanilla), but everything else is local.

Bishkek has been nice because there is so much more available here than there was five years ago, or in Tokmok now.  I don't know of any stores that stock American brands; Beta Stores is the closest thing to a regular American grocery, but since it's Turkish, it has a lot more tahina than Jif (actually, it seems like I could find things like brown sugar and maple syrup and peanut butter there in 2005, but I can't now).   

So now there's more room for creativity (actually I could have made both of these in Tokmok).  The first recipe is very loosely based on a Greek recipe for potatoes cooked in tomato sauce and topped with feta, but I've always thought it was a little boring and since my paneer is cheaper than feta, it's Indian now.  The second recipe uses sparzhe differently than they do here (it's usually cold in salads), although it's not so different from some parts of the world.

Potatoes with tomatoes and paneer

About 8 potatoes (not baking, if possible), peeled and cut into wedges like an apple
1 cup water
1 cup tomato sauce
Salt and pepper to taste

Simmer the above till the potatoes are just barely tender.  While it's simmering, heat some oil in a wok (yes, I have a wok! and a qazan!) and add some spices that make you happy.  I did cumin, coriander, mustard seed, cayenne, turmeric, and nigella.  Add a chopped onion and as much garlic as you like (I did 4-5 cloves) and fry till the onions are soft.  While that's cooking, heat oil in another frying pan and fry 1/2 pound of sliced paneer till it's crispy and golden.  Or you can skip the frying; the cheese will be quite soft if you don't fry it first, although it won't melt.  Add the fried-or-not paneer to the onions and cook for a couple more minutes.  Season to taste and dump into the potatoes just before they're ready and cook a minute or two more.  If you have a picky child like I do, leave the onion and cheese out and use it for a topping.

Sparzhe (tofu sticks) and Peppers

Soak a package of tofu sticks in boiling water for about 30 minutes till soft, then cut into 2-inch pieces.  Drain well.  Meanwhile, slice 5-6 peppers and 5-6 cloves of garlic.  Heat oil in a wok and add the tofu and fry, moving it quickly around to prevent too much sticking.  I like tofu sticks to not be so very soft, so I fry accordingly.  Add the peppers and garlic after a few minutes and continue to stir-fry till the peppers are soft and you like the way the tofu is.  While it's cooking, add soy sauce or fish sauce to taste, sesame oil, cayenne, and sesame seeds.  It's good with rice.

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