Thursday, December 31, 2009

Spicy chicken curry




This is the last recipe of 2009 and I wanted to make it memorable. Hence a post on chicken curry was fitting.

I find myself to be very contemplative on the last day of every year. It's almost like I think of everything that happened during the year and how all the memories fuse together. In my mind they end up kind of looking like this:


But this is actually the marinade for the spicy chicken curry! Growing up chicken curry was the Sunday lunch special at home so I have some fond memories associated with it. Over the years I have taken my Mum's recipe and modified it a tad bit with some additions of my own. The changes have mostly been in the marinade in which I add cilantro, little bit of onion, mint along with yogurt and all the usual suspects. I find the onion helps quite a bit in tenderizing the chicken even if its marinated only for an hour. The marinade is very fragrant and an enticing aroma envelopes your kitchen while the curry simmers. The last time I visited my parents in Mumbai, I made this curry for them and a couple of our neighbors were quite curious about the origins of this aroma!

Here is the recipe which will be my last entry for the Recipe Marathon on One Hot Stove. Being a novice blogger, I was quite intimidated by the prospect of blogging every day but I really enjoyed it. Nupur, thanks for coming up with this marathon!

Happy New Year everyone! I hope 2010 gives you everything you want and more!

Ingredients:
Whole spices:
3 cloves
1 bayleaf
7 peppercorns
half a cinammon stick

2 chicken breasts (Boned-in chicken can also be used)
1 and half large onion, chopped
2 large tomatoes, chopped

For the marinade:
3 tablespoons yogurt
1 1" piece of ginger
2 cloves garlic
handful of mint and cilantro
quarter of an onion
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon red chilli powder
1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 teaspoon garam masala powder

- Grind ginger, garlic, mint, cilantro and onion together with very little water.
- Combine with yogurt, lemon juice, salt and all the spices.
- Add chopped chicken breast and mix well.
- Marinade for atleast an hour or overnight if possible
- Heat oil and add all the whole spices. Saute till fragrant.
- Add chopped onion and cook till its golden brown.
- Add chopped tomatoes and cook for another 2-3 mins.
- Add marinated chicken and saute well.
- Add a cup of water and bring to a boil.
- Check seasonings and cook covered on a low flame till chicken is tender.
- Serve hot with chappatis/rice.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

A very simple vegetable soup



I also call this Mommy B soup, dedicated to my mum who came up with this recipe. It is the simplest soup to make and it has an instant wellness feeling associated with it. While growing up ,my mum made it for me and my sister when we were sick or we had an exam or any occasion which needed some amount of comforting. And it never failed. Today I made it for A, who is a bit under weather with a sore throat. I can't say it cured him completely but it did make me feel a lot better :)

While making this soup you can be creative and use whatever vegetables you have on hand. The recipe I have below has the combination I use most frequently. The nice part about this soup is its packed with everything thats good for you and is pretty much fat-free.

This is my entry no. 6 for the Recipe Marathon on One Hot Stove. I can't believe that this marathon ends tomorrow, I have had a lot of fun blogging every day and also reading what the other runners are cooking up.

Ingredients:
- 2 medium size beets
- 2 carrots
- 1 large tomato
- 2 small potatoes
- 2 garlic cloves
- 7 peppercorns
- 1 tablespoon yellow moong dal (optional)

- Peel beets, carrots and potatoes and chop them into chunks.
- Also chop the tomato into chunks.
- Combine all the vegetables with garlic, peppercorns and moong dal in a pressure cooker and cover with just enough water.
- Pressure cook till all the vegetables are soft.
- Blend into a puree and reheat with salt (to taste) and more pepper if required.
- Serve with some hot buttered toast.

Makes 4 side servings.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Paneer Bhurji




Bhurji (scramble) is one of my favorite things to make. It's quick to put together and it never disappoints. However, this past weekend I had a close call while making egg bhurji (Indianized version of scrambled eggs). One of my friends who is a health freak had only egg whites at his place. I think he was trying to compensate for all the other holiday indulgences by doing so :).

Anyway, we were trying to make egg bhurji with these egg whites and since we were a large group, we used two cartons of egg beaters whites. Normally bhurji is ready in a few minutes after you add the beaten eggs to the onion and tomato mixture, but this one showed no signs of getting there even after 20 mins or so. No matter how long we cooked it, there was still some watery residue left. So we gave up and just covered up the residue with what had actually scrambled which was not that bad.

To get over this unfortunate bhurji experience quickly, I decided to make paneer bhurji. This is A's mom's recipe and is quite fail-proof. The spice which makes a difference in this bhurji from other recipes is the addition of kasuri methi (dried fenugreek leaves which can be found in any Indian grocery store). If you don't like this flavor or its hard to find, you can skip it.

This bhurji is great accompanied with some hot chappatis/naans. I have also used it as a filling for a vegetarian version of these puffs.

Here is the recipe. Its my fifth entry for the Recipe Marathon on One Hot Stove.

Ingredients:
1 cup paneer crumbles
1/2 chopped onion
1/2 teaspoon garlic
1 chopped tomato
1/2 teaspoon red chilli powder
1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
1/4 teaspoon garam masala
1/2 teaspoon salt
pinch of kasuri methi (optional)

- Heat oil and saute the onion
- When soft add ginger and garlic and saute for a little bit more.
- Add chopped tomato and all spices and salt.
- Add the paneer and mix well
- Cook for another min or two and then add some crushed kasuri methi.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Middle Eastern lentil soup



Lentils play a huge role in my cooking. They are the old faithfuls in the pantry and provide a dependable go to especially when I am out of fresh veggies. Of all the lentils I really like the quick cooking brown and reds which don't need much soaking and cook to perfection in a pressure cooker in 15 mins. This is exactly what I did for this Middle Eastern inspired lentil soup.

The inspiration for this soup comes from one of my favourite lunch places, Neomonde Deli and Bakery. If you like Mediterranean food, I think you will really like this place. They have a great selection of delicious hot and cold dishes along with fresh baked pita bread which they make themselves. I am kind of a boring eater when it comes to places I really like, which means I get the same thing every single time I go there. So here I always get the rice, eggplant stew, tzatziki and fruit salad. The person behind the counter might as well start putting these items together in a plate when they see me walk in. But recently Neomonde introduced a lentil soup which I absolutely fell in love with so now I have a tough time about which one of my regular selections I can substitute it with.

A Syrian friend of mine who also makes an equally good lentil soup hinted it has lemon, garlic and cumin powder as the main flavors, so I kind of ran with those. Here is my take on this soup, which will be my fourth entry for the Recipe Marathon on One Hot Stove.

Ingredients:
1/2 cup brown lentils
1/2 cup red lentils
1 yellow onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 small carrots, diced
1 tomato, chopped
1 and 1/2 teaspoon cumin powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon paprika
juice of half a lemon

- Wash the lentils together and soak in water till ready to use.
- In a pressure cooker, heat a tablespoon of olive oil.
- Add onions and garlic and saute for 3-4 mins.
- Add the diced carrots and salt and saute for another 2-3 mins.
- Add the tomatoes, paprika and cumin and mix well.
- After the tomatoes soften, add the lentils along with enough water to cover them.
- Put the pressure cooker lid on and cook for 10 mins or till lentils are completely cooked through.
- Blend half the soup and mix in with the rest.
- Serve hot with a liberal amount of lemon juice and some toasted pita bread.

Makes 4 servings.


Sunday, December 27, 2009

Potato, kale and pasta salad




After all the indulgence of the Christmas break I really felt the need to make a post about something lighter and healthier. And one thing that always makes any dish healthier for me is the addition of greens. I was also trying to work through cleaning out the pantry and found some pasta and a potato who was begging to be eaten soon. So I decided to use them all together into a carbalicious salad made a little healthy by addition of kale and dressed very simply with store bought pesto. Talking about pesto, I absolutely love the Genvoese pesto from Trader Joe's. I use that for pasta salad all the time with different combinations of veggies and nuts and its worked wonders every single time. It worked equally well this time with the unusual combination of kale, potatoes and pasta. If you like nuts, pistachios would be a great addition to this salad. I didn't have any on hand so skipped those and finished this salad off with a little bit of shaved parmesan. Here goes..

This is my third entry for the Recipe Marathon on One Hot Stove.

Ingredients:
1 cup fusilli pasta
1/2 cup boiled and chopped potato
1 cup kale, shredded into ribbons
1 tablespoon pesto
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon grated parmesan

- Cook pasta according to directions till soft.
- Heat a teaspoon of olive oil and cook the kale with a little bit of salt and pepper till tender.
- Combine the pasta, boiled potato and kale and add the pesto. Mix well.
- Add more salt, pepper if required and top off with the parmesan.

Makes 4 side servings.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Vegetable Biryani


This is my second entry for the Recipe Marathon on the One Hot Stove blog. I made this the day before for our Christmas dinner and its an adaptation of the meat biryani recipe from this great blog, Sailu's Kitchen. I have tried making this with Chicken as well as vegetables and both times the results have been delicious! The thing that I like the best about this recipe is that even though its a biryani, you cook the rice and meat/vegetables all together. The original recipe called for pressure cooking everything together. Since I was using vegetables I just cooked it covered without pressure. Also reduced the amount of ghee/oil and the ginger/garlic paste. The results were quite good :)

Here is the recipe:
Ingredients:
2 cups Basmati rice
3 cups, mixed vegetables (I used carrots, green beans, red potatoes and green bell pepper)
1 cup thick buttermilk
3 cups water
2 cloves, 1 elachi, 1/2″ cinnamon stick
1-2 bay leaves
2 onions, finely sliced
1 large tomato finely chopped
1 tsp red chilli pwd (adjust)
1/4 tsp turmeric pwd
1 tsp coriander pwd
very small pinch of nutmeg pwd
little less than 1/4 cup chopped coriander leaves
1/4 cup pudina leaves
salt to taste
1 teaspoon ghee + 1 teaspoon oil

Biryani masala, make powder:

3 cloves

1″ cinnamon stick

1 elaichi

pinch of shah jeera

pinch of jeera/cumin seeds

small piece of japathri/mace

1/2 anaasa puvvu/star anise

For marinade:

juice of half lemon

1 1/2 tbsps curd

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp ginger garlic paste

1/4 tsp red chilli pwd

1/2 tsp coriander pwd

few mint leaves

1 Marinate the vegetables with the ingredients called for ‘marinade’. Keep aside for 20 mts. While this is marinating, work on the rest of the preparation.

1. Wash Basmati rice. No need to soak in water
2. Slice onions
3. Chop tomato
4. Pick pudina leaves and chop the coriander leaves
5. Prepare biryani masala pwd
6. Beat curd to form thick buttermilk

2 Heat 1 tbsp oil + 2 tbsps ghee in a pressure cooker vessel, add the bay leaves, cloves, cinnamon, marathi mogga, elaichi and saute for a few secs. Add sliced onions, saute for 7-8 mts. Add the ginger garlic paste and coriander-pudina leaves and saute further for another 5 mts.
2
Add turmeric pwd and red chilli pwd, saute for another 2 mts. Add the chopped tomatoes and saute for 3-4 mts. Add the marinated veggies along with 1 cup of water and bring to a boil. Cook covered. Turn off heat and cool. Remove lid and you will find that it will appear like a thick gravy. If the gravy appears very watery, cook further without lid till it forms a thick gravy.
3
Turn on the heat again, add 3 cups of water and 1 cup of thick buttermilk. Add the biryani masala and nutmeg powder followed by salt. Add the drained basmati rice and combine. Wait for the gravy to boil once and adjust seasoning. Cook covered till rice is soft. Serve hot with raita.



Friday, December 25, 2009

Snowy White Coconut cake



Its a white Christmas here in Washington DC! We are here to celebrate the holidays with our friends and this cake is a reflection of our snowy white environ! Though the cake has a wintry appearance, its inspiration is quite tropical. Its inspired by one of my favorite cocktails, the Pina Colada. So it has coconut, pineapple and rum!

Back in the summer I had tried this delicious
raspberry and buttermilk cake recipe from Gourmet. I used this recipe as the base for the coconut cake, substituting the buttermilk with coconut milk and the raspberries with pineapple. I also drizzled the cake with a liberal dose of rum, slathered it with a cream cheese frosting and topped it with some sweetened coconut flakes. Its a fittingly decadent treat for Christmas :).

Before I sign off with the recipe, I wanted to point out that I have signed up for a
recipe marathon on one of my favorite blogs, One Hot Stove. So this is the first of my seven posts starting from the 25th to the 31st of this month! I have never blogged daily before and I am quite excited.

Merry Christmas to you all, I will be back tomorrow with another recipe from our Christmas dinner!

Ingredients for the cake:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4
teaspoon salt
1/2
stick unsalted butter, softened
2/3
cup sugar
1/2
teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1
large egg
1/2
cup well-shaken coconut milk (I used the lite and unsweetened version)
1
cup canned/fresh pineapple (about 5 oz)
2 tablespoons of rum (or more as desired)

For the frosting:
1 cup reduced fat cream cheese
4 tablespoons coconut milk
3 tablespoons powdered sugar (more if you prefer it sweeter)
1 cup sweetened coconut flakes

- Preheat oven to 400°F with rack in middle. Butter and flour a 9-inch round cake pan.
- Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
- Beat butter and 2/3 cup sugar with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes, then beat in vanilla. Add egg and beat well.
- At low speed, mix in flour mixture in 3 batches, alternating with buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour, and mixing until just combined.
- Spoon batter into cake pan, smoothing top. Scatter pineapple chunks evenly over top.
- Bake until cake is golden and a wooden pick inserted into center comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool in pan 10 minutes, then turn out onto a rack and cool to warm, 10 to 15 minutes more. Invert onto a plate and flip .
- Drizzle with a liberal amount of rum and cool completely.
- For the frosting beat cream cheese, coconut milk and powdered sugar till combined and fluffy.
- Slather it onto the cake top and sides and top off with sweetened coconut flakes.
- Enjoy :)

I am sending this as an entry to the Jingle Event hosted by the lovely Priyanka at her blog.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Dal & kale



Dal & kale came about by substituting the spinach from Dal & palak (spinach). Dal is one of my favorite comfort foods and the weather here is shouting out for comfort food right now. Its cold and grey most of the week and if that wasnt enough it rains almost every day. And I dont like rain. So some hot dal with rice was the perfect meal to curl up on the sofa with.

We also had a lot of kale from our CSA which happened to be a perfect (if not better) substitute for spinach in the Dal palak recipe. And this was extremely easy to put together. I cooked the dal and kale in a pressure cooker, seasoned it with spices and topped it off with some fried garlic. The end result was very satisfying with a bowl of white rice.

Ingredients:
1 cup tur dal
1 bunch of kale, chopped
1/2 onion, chopped

1 chopped tomato
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 teaspoon chilli powder
1/2 teaspoon garam masala powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon tamarind pulp

2-3 garlic cloves, sliced thin

- Cook the dal, kale and onion with enough water in the pressure cooker.
- Once cooked, add another cup of water or more if required to thin out the dal.
- Add all ingredients from tomato through the tamarind pulp.
- Mix well and boil for 3-4 mins. Taste and adjust spices/salt as required.
- Heat a teaspoon of oil and fry the garlic slices, add to the dal and serve hot!

Makes 4 main servings with rice.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Happy Cookies come to life!

Ever since I first came across the Drop In and Decorate idea on Lydia's blog, I was really excited about baking and decorating all these cookies. I had set a goal of something between 150 and 200 cookies and at no point in time did I ever think of it as an impossible number. ...Till this Friday night when I actually started baking the cookies. I had never baked sugar cookies or any cookies for that matter from scratch. So when I saw all the ingredients laid out in front of me and the number I had to reach I was quite intimidated. But thanks to my wonderful husband and equally wonderful Kitchen Aid mixer, I ended up baking a whopping 170 cookies! And also made some icing for decorating the cookies.

For both the cookies and the icing I used Lydia's recipes from the Drop In & Decorate website.

For the colors I chose a 4-pack of pastels which seemed like a really good choice till we started decorating the cookies and they looked a lot like they were being made for a baby shower :) Oh well. I did have some red sparkling gel and sprinkles to add some holiday cheer! For the decorations I had some very enthusiastic friends over who did a wonderful job decorating all these cookies! Thank you ladies :)



We left the cookies to dry overnight and took them over to the Ronald McDonald House in Durham today who were very happy to receive them. It was a kind of dreary day here and it definitely brightened up when we carried these cheerful cookies there!

Thanks and many kudos to Lydia for coming up with this great idea. Also special thanks for the fail proof recipe for the sugar cookies and icing. They were so easy to follow especially for a novice baker like me!

Here is all of us.



Sunday, December 6, 2009

Ten Minute Tacos


I would like to make a recommendation before embarking on my ten minute taco recipe. If you like tacos and you are around the Triangle area, you must try the Taqueria La Vaquita in Durham. Its a cute little shack with a huge plastic cow on the roof. There's very limited outside seating but the food is fresh, simple and really good! Their tacos have handmade tortillas, flavorful fillings and come topped with radishes, onions and cilantro. Very good!



Image above is from http://lavaquitanc.com

But with all the rain and cold weather we have here now, outdoor seating is a thing of the past and the Taqueria is currently out of reach. So I tried to satisfy taco cravings at home with this super fast black bean salad taco. I made the salad by combining all the taco filling ingredients together and dressing them with some lime juice and spices. I had some radishes and lettuce from our CSA this week which made a great addition to this salad. I didn't have any cilantro or jalapenos on hand but they would definitely be super in this too. For the taco shells, I used corn tortillas from Trade Joe's. Incidentally A found that microwaving these with a damp paper napkin makes them seem almost as fresh as the tacos at at La Vaquita. Almost :)

Ingredients:

1 14oz can of black beans, rinsed well and drained
1 avocado
1 tomato
1/4 onion
2 small radishes
1 cup, chopped lettuce
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon cumin powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
juice of 1/2 lime

8 corn tortillas

- Chop the avocado, tomato, onions and radishes and combine with the black beans.
- Add the lime juice, salt and all the spices. Mix well, adjusting spices as per preference.
- Microwave the corn tortillas, covered with a moist paper napkin.
- Spoon the black bean salad filling on the taco shells and serve!

Makes 8 tacos.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Sweet potato and turnip soup


This post has been way overdue. I made this soup a few weeks earlier but then there was a busy Thanksgiving weekend and then an even busier week, which kept me away from blogging. In the week before last, we got these gorgeous turnips and fingerling sweet potatoes from Coon Rock Farms. I don't have much experience cooking either of these so wasn't too sure of what to make out of them. So I decided to take a page out of my Mum's recipe book. She makes this soup which we call the Mommy B soup (that has to be another post). It involves cooking any combination of vegetables with garlic and peppercorns in the pressure cooker and then pureeing them. It can't get any simpler! This is exactly what I did with these turnips and sweet potatoes. Except I was feeling a bit adventurous and decided to garnish it with some sweet and spicy walnuts. Here goes!

Ingredients:
1 large turnip, peeled and chopped into chunks
4-6 fingerling sweet potatoes or 1 large, also peeled and chopped
1/2 onion, halved
1 large garlic clove
7 peppercorns
1 teaspoon maple syrup or sugar

- Combine all the vegetables along with garlic and peppercorns in a pressure cooker.
- Cover with just enough water and pressure cook for 10 mins.
- After the mixture is cool enough, blend into a puree.
- Put back on heat and add salt and maple syrup or sugar (this is only to counter the slight bitterness of the turnip).
- Top with some walnuts if desired and serve hot!

Sweet and Spicy Walnuts:

Handful walnuts
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon cayenne powder

- Heat a pan and add walnuts.
- When walnuts are heated through, add the salt, sugar and cayenne.
- Get the pan off the heat and mix well. (At this point its important to turn the heat off, if not there will be spicy cayenne smoke. I write from experience :))

Monday, November 30, 2009

Kheema Puffs


We had a really fun Thanksgiving weekend. Lots of great food and great company. I really wanted to make a post last week about all the great food but it got so busy that we simply forgot to take pictures and before we knew it there was none of it left! However, A did manage to get a picture of these Kheema (ground meat) puffs before they were gone :).

The inspiration for this enticing appetizer comes from my Mum who makes delicious Kheema patties. This involves a delicious mixture (ground goat with lots of spice) in a mashed potato cover which is then shallow fried. Sinful but totally worth it. It is also quite labor intensive, especially the part of stuffing the mince into the potato covers. I took an easier route by using puff pastry sheets, filling little pockets of these with the kheema mixture and baking them. The result was quite good :).




During this long weekend especially with all the cooking and eating, I couldn't help thinking about this article I read a couple of weeks back in The New Yorker. It's a story about this amazing woman (The Good Cook) in North Korea who survived the famine in the 1990s by cooking anything edible, including grass and weeds she collected. Its a story of unimaginable hardship for something as simple as a basic meal. It made me feel eternally grateful for everything we have.

Ingredients:

Marinade:
2 big garlic cloves, grated/minced
1" piece of ginger, grated/minced
3 tablespoons yogurt
1 and 1/2 teaspoons red chili powder
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 and 1/2 teaspoons garam masala
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 kilo mince goat/lamb meat (kheema)

3 cloves
7 peppercorns
1 bayleaf
1/2 cinnamon stick

2 medium sized onions, chopped
2 tomatoes, chopped
juice of half lemon

2 puff pastry sheets

- Combine all the ingredients for the marinade together with the ground meat and marinate atleast for an hour or preferably overnight.
- Heat a tablespoon of oil and add all the spices from cloves through cinnamon and fry for a minute or till fragrant.
- Add chopped onion and fry till golden brown.
- Add chopped tomatoes and fry for another 2-3 minutes.
- Add the marinated ground meat mixture and mix well, stirring for another 2 minutes.
- Add a cup of water (add more if more gravy needed, for the puffs its preferable to have no gravy) and bring to a boil.
- Pressure cook till the meat is well cooked (10-15 minutes).
- Cook for another 5 minutes uncovered till the water dries up.
- Add salt if required and lemon juice.
- Let mixture cool down completely.

For making the puffs:
- Roll the puff pastry sheets to thin them out a bit.
- Cut into squares and spoon the filling onto them.
- Bake in a 350F oven for 20 minutes or till golden brown.

2 Puff pastry sheets make around 24 puffs. If there is leftover kheema, I am sure you will find a way to use it up :)

Monday, November 23, 2009

Rainbow chard and lentil pasta


A couple of weeks ago, a couple of our friends told us about Coon Rock CSA. CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) offers city dwellers an opportunity to get fresh produce from nearby farms. It's not only a great way to eat fresh seasonal organic vegetables and meat but also a great way to support local farms. The idea of getting a box of vegetables every week seemed a bit daunting at first but Coon Rock Farms makes it even more convenient and flexible. Instead of signing up for a weekly supply of vegetables, you can also create custom orders. Its really simple: join their mailing list, get a weekly list of the produce, mail them back with what you need and pick up from a location nearby!


We picked up our first custom CSA order last Thursday and we are quite excited! We have fingerling sweet potatoes, purple top turnips, rainbow swiss chard and some chorizo sausage. I have been trying to figure out ways and means of putting these to good use over the last couple of days and have come up with this pasta so far.


This pasta with chard and lentils is inspired from two different pasta dishes we had over the last couple of weeks. One was made by our friends who cooked us a wonderful Middle Eastern dinner last weekend. The pasta dish they made is a Damascus specialty and is somewhat like a pasta casserole with lentils. The second pasta dish was made by another of our friends for dinner this weekend and had swiss chard with fettuccine and walnuts. I loved both and decided to combine the lentils and chard into one dish. I tried to refrain from using any strong herbs/spices in this dish so that the fresh chard would be the star.

Ingredients

One medium onion, chopped
3-4 garlic cloves, chopped
Bunch of swiss/rainbow chard
1 cup cooked lentils
2 cups of fusilli/penne pasta
juice and lemon zest of half a lemon
lots of fresh ground pepper
2 tablespoons parmesan cheese

- Heat a tablespoon of olive oil and add chopped garlic.
- Stir garlic for a couple of minutes and then add the chopped onion.
- When the onion is soft, add the chopped chard and saute well.
- Once the chard wilts, add the cooked lentils (I boiled them in water)
- Add lemon juice, zest, salt and pepper.
- Add the cooked pasta and mix well. Cook for a couple of minutes to get all the flavors mixed in.
- Sprinkle with parmesan cheese and serve.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Corn toast



Over the last few days, things have been really busy. I have been dreaming about cookies and work has also been quite crazy! So this easy dish with ingredients right from the pantry worked out great for a quick weeknight dinner. This is A's aunts invention and a great one at that.

The star ingredient here is sweet corn cream style, which also happens to be extremely popular in India especially with the sweet corn chicken/veg soup found in Indian-Chinese restaurants. I think Indian Chinese really started off with Chinese food being spiced for the Indian palette. Then came dishes which you can find only in Indo-Chinese restaurants such as Chicken Manchurian and American Chopsuey. American Chopsuey always threw me off with the name though. Especially when I moved to the United States, went to a Chinese restaurant and didn't find it on the menu. Oh well. Here goes....

Ingredients
1 can Sweet cream style corn
6 slices of bread
1/2 onion, chopped
2-3 green chillies, chopped
2 tablespoons cheese, (I used 2% mozzarella though cheddar would be quite nice too)
1/2 teaspoon salt

- Heat a teaspoon of oil and saute the green chillies and onion.
- When the onion softens, add the corn, along with salt.
- Add cheese and mix well. Remove from heat.
- Butter the bread slices and top with corn mixture.
- Put the bread under the Broiler for a couple of mins or till toasty.
- Tomato ketchup is a good idea.

Makes 6 toasts.

PS: For those in the Raleigh-Durham area, Paolim is a great place for some good Indo-Chinese.



Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Happy Cookies!


Cookies make me happy. Actually cookies make everyone happy! That's exactly what must have prompted Lydia Walshin (who writes the wonderful blog, The Perfect Pantry) to start the Drop In & Decorate event.

As Lydia says its a simple idea in a complicated world and something anyone can do. You bake some cookies, get a group of people to decorate them and then donate them to a local nonprofit. Its such a nice way of giving back to your community. Check out the Photos here for some of the prettiest and most colorful cookies that Lydia and her friends have made over the years. What a great way to spread cheer!

I was so enthused by the pictures of the happy cookies that I decided to host my own Drop In and Decorate party! So if you are in Raleigh and reading this, please drop in to decorate some cookies on Saturday, December 12th. These cookies will be going to the Ronald McDonald House in Durham, NC. I am hoping we can make as many cookies as possible for the families and staff here so we could do with as many hands as possible!

This year, Pillsbury is donating 50 VIP coupons, worth $3.00 each off any Pillsbury product to be distributed (first come, first served while supply lasts) to anyone who plans to host a Drop In & Decorate event. And Lydia has kindly agreed to send us some. She has also been very helpful with recommendations on finding an agency, how many cookies to bake etc. Thank you, Lydia!

So if you would like to get together and make some happy cookies, let me know. I do hope to see you!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Butternut Squash Soup with Cheese toast


I have never been a big fan of the squash family. In fact I quite disliked them while growing up. My Mum who was well aware of this dislike made me eat squash saying it will make me smarter. I am not really sure if this worked since I believed her every single time and I still think there is some connection between squash and brain cells.

Anyways I have always liked Butternut Squash soup but I hadn't found a recipe which I liked. Some were too sweet, some were too much like baby food. After some trial and error I got to this one. Its quite simple and makes a ton of golden orange colored soup. The perfect meal for any Fall day.

Butternut squash soup:
1 tablespoon
4 cups of butternut squash chopped into cubes
2 large/4 baby carrots chopped
1 yellow onion chopped
3 cups low sodium vegetable broth
1 cinnamon stick
7 peppercorns
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 cup milk (I used 2%)

- Heat butter in a heavy bottomed stockpot
- Add the chopped onion and cook for 2-3 mins
- Add the chopped carrots and cook for another 2 mins
- Add the cubed butternut squash and saute for another minute
- Add the vegetable broth, peppercorns and cinnamon stick
- Bring to a boil and cook covered till the vegetables are tender
- Remove cinnamon stick, blend soup (after it cools down a bit)
- Add the milk, followed by salt and cook for a few more minutes
- Serve with extra crushed pepper and cheese toasts

Cheese toasts:
2-4 Baguette slices
1 teaspoon Butter
1 Garlic clove split into half
2 tablespoons grated mozzarella or parmesan cheese

- Rub garlic on the slices and butter them
- Sprinkle cheese followed by pepper
- Broil in a 350F oven for 2-3 mins

Makes 4 main size servings.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Rice and Beans: Khichdi and Usal


Wet, wet, wet. That sums up the weather in Raleigh right now. The beautiful fall weather from my previous post has given way to lots of cold rain. I actually like rain but its the getting wet part that I dont like. And unfortunately I seem to be rather poor at avoiding getting wet. No matter how grey the skies look and however threatening the forecasts are, I always seem to forget carrying an umbrella around. And if I do carry an umbrella, I leave it in the car boot. Then I reason with myself that there is no point in retrieving it from the boot if its already raining so I dont bother. And the cycle continues. Anyways the end result is when it rains, I am always wet and cold.

What keeps me going on such days is the thought of a comforting, piping hot dinner. And there can't be anything more comforting than Khichdi and Usal. Khichdi is basically rice and lentils cooked together. Usal is sprouts cooked with onions and spices. Both are extremely easy to put together. Usal is normally eaten with rotis but trust me the last thing you want to do after a long day of being cold and wet is to make rotis. And this combination works pretty well too. Depending on which part of India you grew up in, both of these can have several different variations. This one is partly from my Mum's kitchen in Bombay and partly my own adaptation. Enjoy and stay dry.

Khichdi:
1/4 cup yellow lentils (tur or moong dal)
3/4 cup rice
7 peppercorns
1/4 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/4 teaspoon ghee/clarified butter
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon salt

- Wash the rice and dal together
- Heat ghee in a thick-bottomed pan
- Add cumin seeds and peppercorns
- When they splutter, add the rice and dal
- Add turmeric and salt and mix well
- Add 2 & 1/2 cups of water to the rice and stir well
- Bring to a boil and then cook covered on a low flame till rice is soft

Usal:
2 cups sprouts
1 red onion, chopped
1/4 teaspoon mustard seeds
1/4 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 - 1 teaspoon red chilli powder (depending on your prefernce for heat)
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
2 teaspoons dhania-jeera (coriander-cumin) powder
1 teaspoon sugar
juice of half a lemon

- Heat oil in a pan, add mustard and cumin seeds
- When they splutter add chopped onion
- Cook onion till soft and all the spice powders along with salt and sugar
- Then add the sprouts and mix well
- Add 2 cups of water, bring to a boil.
- Cook covered on a low-med flame till sprouts are cooked

For the sprouts here, you can either make your own sprouts soaking mung/matki beans overnight. Or you can buy readymade sprouts near the salad section of any grocery store.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Vegetarian Tortilla Soup


I have a special inclination towards spice. Almost every single time I have to pick a dinner place, I suggest spicy Asian. Or spicy Mexican. Spicy soup is option no. 3. This vegetarian tortilla soup falls into this category. And its very convenient. Its a meal in itself which lends to a lot of customization. I have used beans and corn here but you can use greens or squash too.

Btw there are no tall claims about the authenticity of this soup. I call it so because it has everything I imagine a Mexican styled soup topped with tortillas would have. Almost all tortilla soups have quite a bit of cheese, I choose to skip that in mine but you can always add in as per your preference.

Ingredients:
1 yellow onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1 14oz can diced tomatoes
1 can red kidney beans/ black beans
2 ears of corn or 2 cups of canned/fresh corn
3 cups veg stock
3 cups water

1/2 - 3/4 teaspooon of cayenne
3/4 teaspoon of paprika
1/8th teaspoon ground cinammon
3/4 teaspoon of cumin powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

8-10 corn tortillas
1 avocado, sliced
juice of 1 lime

For the tortilla garnish:
- Heat oven to 350F
- Cut the tortillas into thin strips
- Toss in a foil lined pan with a dash of olive oil and salt
- Bake for around 35-40 mins

For the soup:
- Heat oil in a large stockpot
- Add minced garlic and saute for a min or two
- Add chopped onion and cook till soft
- Add diced tomatoes and the spices (cayenne through cumin) and salt. Adjust salt amount as per the salt in diced tomatoes and stock. Cook for a couple of minutes.
- Add the beans and corn and mix well.
- Add stock and water and bring to a boil. Taste and adjust spice/salt.
- Cook covered till beans and corn is soft.
- Add lime juice.

Serve hot topped with the tortillas and avocado slices.

Makes 4-6 main size servings.