Indian Samosa Pie

I found this recipe in Vegetarian Times and wanted to try it because it uses ingredients I always have in my kitchen, and it is just so easy and tasty. It keeps well and even freezes! If you are able to make the pie crust, please do - otherwise the store-bought kind will be a fine substitute. You can also make the filling ahead of time, since the baking will heat the entire pie through.

I recommend serving with a bit of cucumber raita (a cucumber-yogurt-mint sauce that usually accompanies Indian food for the purpose of cooling it down; I've posted a recipe for it at the bottom of this post) and a side salad for a delicious meal.


Indian Samosa Pie
Serves 6-8, depending on slice size

Pie crust for a 2-crust pie (but omit the rosemary)
1 tbsp black or yellow mustard seeds
1 tsp curry powder
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp cumin
Dash of red pepper flakes (or more if you like the heat)
5 medium red potatoes, scrubbed and quartered (not necessary to peel them)
1 1/2 tsp olive oil or clarified butter
1 medium onion, diced
1 medium carrot, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup frozen peas
1 c low-sodium vegetable broth
2 tsp sugar

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Roll out 1/2 of prepared pie crust dough on a well-floured surface. Place rolled-out dough in pie pan and press it down into the pie pan to ensure the dough covers the pan and there are no air pockets. Using a knife, cut off the excess crust from around the edges.

Stir together mustard seeds, curry, ginger, cumin, and red pepper flakes (if using) in a small bowl and set aside.

Cook potatoes in salted, boiling water until tender. Drain, then return to pot and mash, being sure to leave small chunks.

Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add onion, carrot, and garlic; saute 5 minutes or until carrot is tender. Move the onion mixture to the side of the pan, and add the mustard seed mixture to the pot. Toast 30 seconds, then combine with onion mixture. Stir in peas and broth. Add onion mixture to potatoes and stir to combine. Stir in sugar. Season with salt and pepper (if desired; I usually find this recipe to need additional salt).

Spread filling into prepared bottom crust. Roll out remaining pie crust dough and drape over the pie pan. Going around the pan, tuck a little of the top dough underneath the bottom dough and pinch. Trim away excess dough with a knife, then go around the pan one more time and ensure the crust is sealed.

Bake for 40-50 minutes or until crust is golden. If you notice that the crust is getting too brown before the 40-minute mark, cover with foil for the remaining baking time. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

If you freeze the whole pie, bake at the same temperature, but cook for 70 to 90 minutes.

Cucumber Raita

1 large cucumber, ends cut off
1 tsp salt
1/2 c plain yogurt
2 tbsp fresh mint, chopped

Grate the cucumber on a box grater, then spread out on a plate. Sprinkle with salt and let stand for 5 minutes. Holding the plate over the sink, press on the cucumber to remove all excess liquid. Place cucumber in a small bowl; add yogurt and mint and stir to combine. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Note: the flowers in the photo were hand-made out of extra pie crust. Very easy to do, and a nice fancy touch if you have the time. If you do this, you'll want to be sure to keep an eye on the crust during baking, since embellishments like these tend to cook faster than the rest of the crust.

Adapted from "Freezer Pleasers" by Melynda Saldenais, p.30. Vegetarian Times, January 2010


Black Tea-Spiked Spring Rolls

Asian dishes incorporate such wonderful flavors: curry, Thai basil, sesame, chili, mirin, and so much more. I've been trying to make more Asian foods, to break out of my pad thai or coconut curry pattern and make something new. But quite frankly, patterns aren't entirely bad if you can try to bring something new into those recipes. I've been making potstickers for a few years now, making a large batch and freezing them. While peeking through a cookbook recently, I found a recipe for spring rolls that added black tea, both to bring an interesting twist to a traditional favorite and to incorporate the antioxidant properties of black tea. I blended this recipe with my usual potsticker recipe and came up with the recipe below. These spring rolls are baked, so you get the crispiness without the oiliness or fat of spring rolls you'd get at a Chinese restaurant (and there are so many other reasons why these are better than restaurant spring rolls). Enjoy dipped in a bottled sweet chili sauce or any other Asian dipping sauce you like; there are many recipes online to choose from.

If you want to freeze them, freeze individually on a wax paper-lined cookie sheet, than place in a bag or container. When ready to use, simply thaw and follow the normal baking instructions.


Black Tea-Spiked Spring Rolls
Makes about 12 rolls

2 tbsp sesame oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 of a large onion, sliced thin
1/4 lb shiitake mushrooms, washed and chopped (stems included)
1/2 of a large savoy cabbage, sliced into ribbons and any core pieces removed
1 large carrot, shredded
3 tbsp tamari (soy) sauce
1 tbsp black tea, ground (a mortar and pestle works well for this)
Salt & pepper to taste
Drizzle of chili oil (optional)
1 package wonton wrappers

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add garlic and onion, saute until soft, about 3-4 minutes. Add mushrooms, cabbage, and carrot and saute until cabbage wilts and softens, about 5-6 minutes. Stir in tamari and black tea and cook for one minute. Remove from heat. Taste and add salt and pepper if needed. Add chili oil if you like. Let mixture cool to room temperature.

Take out a wonton wrapper and place it on a clean counter with one corner facing you. Place a spoonful of the mixture about 2 inches from the corner. Fold the wrapper over the mixture, then fold in the two side corners and finish rolling (like rolling a burrito), using a small dab of water on the top corner to seal it. Repeat with all wrappers until the mixture is gone.

Brush with a small bit of melted butter and bake on a baking sheet lined with a non-stick baking mat (foil works fine too) for 10-15 minutes, until golden and crispy.


Moroccan Chard Wraps with Apricot and Chickpeas

I love dark greens: chard, kale, collards, you name it. I love them for their surprising versatility, unique flavor and, as an added bonus, their nutritional value. Dark greens are by far some of the best vegetables you can consume. In fact, I once read that kale is one of the most nutritionally complete vegetables you can buy. If you're a bit weirded out by dark greens, I encourage you to try them. Find a recipe that sounds good (like the one below) and see what you think; I think you'll be surprised!

I was quite spoiled in California, as most dark greens were available all year round at my local market. My local co-op just began getting organic kale and rainbow chard, so I was really excited to integrate them back into my cooking. I found a similar version of the recipe below in a publication that my co-op carries (though the name escapes me), and made a few modifications. I love this recipe because it channels my love of Moroccan flavors and integrates it with my love of chard. The combination of spices like white pepper, turmeric, and cinnamon melded with dried fruit, chickpeas, and peanuts is exceptional. Therefore, be sure to let the filling set long enough so that all of these flavors have the opportunity to permeate the whole mixture.

This recipe is a great one for a busy week, since you can make the mixture ahead of time and just steam the chard leaves and heat the filling when you are ready to eat it.


Moroccan Chard Wraps with Apricot and Chickpeas
Serves 4-6

4-6 whole chard leaves (about 1 bunch), stems separated and chopped
2 tbs olive oil
1 small yellow onion, diced
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/8 tsp white pepper*
1 1/2 c chickpeas (garbanzo beans)**
1/2 c dried apricots, chopped
1 handful golden raisins
Sprinkle of currants
1/2 c chopped peanuts
1 c cooked whole-wheat couscous (short-grain brown rice is a fine substitute)
Salt to taste

Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Saute onion and chopped chard stems for 4-6 minutes, until they are just tender. Stir in cinnamon, ginger, turmeric, cumin, and white pepper and cook 1 minute longer. Stir in chickpeas, apricots, golden raisins, currants, and couscous. Taste and add salt if necessary for your taste. Remove from heat, cover, and let sit to allow flavors to coalesce.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Drop chard leaves in the water and cook for 1 minute. Remove leaves from water with tongs and drop into ice water to halt cooking. Drain leaves and thoroughly pat dry.

Place 1 chard leaf on a flat surface. Heap 1/2 c of chickpea-couscous mixture onto lower third of the leaf. Fold bottom edge of leaf over mixture, breaking rib if necessary to ease folding. Fold sides to cover mixture. Starting at the bottom edge, roll leaf lightly to encase filling completely (think like rolling a burrito). Arrange seam side down on a plate for serving. Keep in a warm oven so they are hot upon serving.

*White pepper has a different flavor than black pepper, so do not assume these ingredients are interchangeable. White pepper tends to be a bit more mellow than fresh-cracked black pepper, which can have a bite to it.
**I cook my own beans, but this amount is equivalent to a 15-oz can of chickpeas. If you do use canned, be sure to rinse and drain thoroughly prior to cooking.