Thursday, July 15, 2010

Summer vegetable sandwich

I know it has been really quiet here. For that I offer my apologies and propose to mend my errant ways. This summer is turning out way busier than expected and is keeping me away from what I should be doing, like blogging.

Now without further ado, I shall proceed to describe this summery vegetable sandwich. We are neck deep in summer squash through the CSA right now. Not that I am complaining. The summer squash can be super versatile, chopped into chunks that can be used in soups or pastas, grilled as a nice accompaniment or as in this recipe, grated into a vegetable medley. Along with the squash, I used other vegetables available at that moment, carrots, green peppers and a little bit of onion. The great thing about this recipe is you could add in whatever veggies you have on hand. It goes something like this: you grate up a bunch of veggies, you saute them with some garlic, add desired seasonings, then add a binder (boiled potatoes or breadcrumbs). You can then either shape these into patties and shallow-fry them or you can stuff the mixture between two slices of bread and convert it to a grilled sandwich. 

These grilled sandwiches are inspired by the ever popular Bombay chutney sandwich. This is the panini's Indian cousin, where thin sliced veggies (potatoes, cucumbers, tomatoes) are layered on to thin slices of bread slathered with a spicy mint and cilantro chutney, then slapped on with butter and pressed into an individual sandwich press which is heated on an open flame. Heaven! My summer squash vegetable sandwich is tasty but not a patch on the original! It is going places though, it is my first entry to Weekend Herb Blogging hosted at this wonderful blog, The Well-Seasoned Cook.

2 summer squashes, peeled
2 medium sized carrots
1 green bell pepper
1/4 onion
1 cup corn
2 small potatoes, peeled and boiled
1/2 teaspoon garlic
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon chaat masala (optional)
1 tablespoon oil
- Grate all vegetables from squash through onion in a food processor or by hand. 
- In a pan heat the oil, when hot add the grated vegetables along with garlic and saute for a couple of minutes.
- Add the corn and saute for a few more minutes till vegetables are soft. 
- Mash the boiled potatoes and add to the vegetable mixture.
- Add the salt, black pepper and chaat masala if using.
- Butter slices of bread and add the vegetable mixture, cover with another bread slice and grill!

- Makes 3 cups of vegetable filling.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Cauliflower and Potato soup

This post has been way overdue and the reasons are too many to elaborate. My sister was visiting from India, work was crazy, was trying to run too much, etc etc. All of which translated to me not cooking a whole lot and blogging even lesser. I missed both so I am trying my best to get back in the groove. 

We have been getting a lot of great produce from our summer CSA, which we have been cooking in the fastest possible way by sauteing it in some olive oil and keeping the spices to the bare minimum. This has been very tasty and efficient however I would like to be more creative and come up with some interesting ideas. That being said, simple meals are currently the norm in our kitchen. The cauliflower and potato soup which I am blogging today is one such recipe. This was actually inspired by my sister who made a great potato soup when she was here. My sister was not much of a cook when we lived together. But now that she has married a pastry chef, the tables have turned, much to our delight! I absolutely loved her soup and decided to changed it only a wee bit to include cauliflower. The result is delicious, creamy and velvetty.

It is also super easy to put together. The main flavor ingredient here is the browned garlic so be careful not to burn it (especially if you are prone to burning things like me). Here goes then, thanks to my lovely sister who I wish was here longer.

1 teaspoon butter
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 large potato, peeled and chopped into chunks
1/2 medium sized cauliflower (florets separated)
2 garlic cloves, sliced
1/2 onion, chopped into chunks
1/2 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
- Heat the butter and olive oil in a stockpot.
- Add the garlic cloves and saute till light brown.
- Add the onion chunks and also saute till soft and light brown.
- While the onion is browning, cook the potato and cauliflower till soft (I cooked them in the pressure cooker).
- Add the potatoes, cauliflower and onion garlic mixture into a food processor along with some cooking liquid from the boiled vegetables.
- Blend till smooth and return to the stockpot.
- Add milk, more water if required (depending on the consistency), salt and pepper.
- Bring to a simmer and serve hot with some extra cracked pepper on top.

Makes 4 side servings.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Goat cheese, pesto and swiss chard pasta

Hope everyone had a great Memorial day weekend. Mine was great, at the beach with friends, great food, a lot of sand and water. I really did not want it to end. It did end though only to make me realize this was only the beginning, the beginning of summer, my most favorite time of the year! Having grown up in Bombay, heat is only second nature to me and I don't mind it in the very least. In fact I quite love it. 

Also another thing I love about summer is the fresh produce. This year we signed up for the summer CSA with Coon Rock Farms, which started a few weeks back. Coon Rock is a local farm an hour away from Raleigh, NC. Theirs is a great story which started with the owners walking away from highly successful careers to work on a farm. For the six years that this farm has been in existence, its grown into a completely self sustained farm which produces the best tasting vegetables, eggs and meat.To more read about their amazing story, check this great write-up NY Times did on them.  When you do what you like best, it makes a huge difference. With Coon Rock, it shows in the excellent produce. 

The CSA box is a true indication of the seasons. For the last weeks, it has been mostly cooler weather greens and lettuces. It has also consistently featured one of my favorite vegetables, chard. Either swiss or rainbow varieties. I have been putting the chard to good use and now have enough recipes for a chard 1-2-3, which I am about to embark on! The first recipe in this series is a pasta in a pesto and goat cheese based sauce enveloping some sauteed chard. I also added some pistachios for a little crunch and also because I think anything can be made better by adding pistachios! The creamy pesto sauce works perfectly with the pistachios and chard to make a healthy, tasty and quick one dish meal. I am going to send this recipe to Presto Pasta Nights which is being hosted by Ruth of Once Upon a Feast.


2 cups whole wheat penne pasta
1/4 cup or more goat cheese
3 tablespoons pesto
half a bunch of chard, swiss or rainbow, cut into ribbons
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons white wine (optional)
1/4 cup pistachios, toasted
1/4 teaspoon salt
pepper to taste
2 tablespoons shredded parmesan 

- Boil pasta according to directions till cooked, drain and set aside. Reserve some of the pasta cooking water.
- In a bowl, mix together the goat cheese and pesto. Add in a couple of tablespoons of the hot pasta cooking water to make a sauce. Add salt/pepper to taste.
- In a separate pan saute chard with olive oil, salt and pepper. Cook covered with a little water till tender. Season with white wine if using.
- Combine pasta and chard with the pesto sauce, adding pistachios and topping with some shredded parmesan. Serve warm.

Makes 4 main servings.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Spize Cafe and a Thai Cooking class!

Last Thursday Aditya and I attended a cooking class at our favorite pan-Asian restaurant, Spize Cafe in downtown Raleigh. Their super talented chef and owner Meechai showed us how to make lemongrass pork rolls, tom kha soup and tilapia in a panang curry. All of which, though I must admit I am a little too partial towards the tilapia, were amazing.

I had been meaning to write about restaurants in the Triangle (Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill) area that I really like but never got around to doing so. This cooking class gave me the perfect opportunity to change this and no better place than to start this off than Spize!

Spize serves mostly pan-Asian flavors concentrating on Thai, reflecting chef Meechai's roots. Other than the delectable fare what attracts me to this place are the very hospitable owners, Meechai and his lovely wife Jacq. Meechai is a software engineer by day and chef by night and if that in itself is not commendable, then its definitely his passion for perfection. We learnt at the class that everything from the spice powders to the stocks to the bread is made from scratch. The difference this attention to detail makes is evident in the taste. His commitment also extends to being environmentally friendly, the marble tabletops are from reclaimed material and the tableware is from corn by-products.

Coming back to the cooking class, we learnt how to make the marinade for the succulent and delicately flavored lemongrass pork for the rice rolls, how to stuff the rolls and how to handle them delicately. We learnt how to make a mean Tom-kha soup, how to make the penang spice paste from scratch and how to wrap it around a crispy tilapia filet. We also learnt some valuable tips like store lemongrass (in a ziplock bag in the freezer), how to make your own chilli paste (soak the chillies, deseed and then grind) and how to treat your rice paper rolls (like a lady :)). And then we got to eat it all!

I wish I had better pictures to share but we were too busy enjoying ourselves. To see more pictures from the cooking class please see this link. I will not be sharing any recipes here because I really want you to go there, taste first and then attend their class if possible. If you do, I would highly recommend the open-faced Vietnamese sandwiches with spicy eggplant or thinly sliced, cumin chicken on the crusty baguettes and of course the spicy panang tilapia curry infused with kafir lime leaves. They also have an excellent hot-pot, a Thai fondue in which you can dip vegetables, tofu or meat, accompanied with some chile sauce and rice. These are my favorites but I am sure you will find yours. 

p.s. Recipes to follow once we try these on our own!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Mujadara and Tatziki

We always tend to draw analogies with what we are familiar with. Since Indian food is what I grew up eating the most, I find myself drawing many analogies to it. Like in this case. Mujadara is Middle Eastern comfort food. It has basic ingredients, is simple to make and to me it is very similar to the Indian khichdi. It has rice and brown lentils cooked with some aromatic spices and mixed with a generous helping of caramelized onions. Tatziki is a creamy yogurt and cucumber sauce that to me is very similar to the Indian raita. It is made with cucumber, mint and garlic all mixed in thick Greek yogurt and served cold. It is a great side for the mujadara or as a dip for pita bread or a topping on some Middle eastern spied burgers. Both are extremely popular in the Middle East so much so that the origins of each is a topic, hotly debated!

Mujadara and Tatziki, together make one of my most favorite meals, especially on hot summer days. The coolness of the cucumber and yogurt is a perfect balance to the wholesome rice and lentil mixture. As the temperature rises I find myself craving for this, especially at lunch. Neomonde deli and bakery which is one of my favorite lunch places in the Triangle area does a great job at satisfying these cravings. In their version of Tatziki dried mint is used. If you have any on hand, feel free to use that for a more authentic taste. I didn't have any so I used fresh mint instead. The result was just as good. 

This meal is satisfying, delicious and did you notice? Meatless! Going meatless even once a week can do a huge amount of good for us and our planet. Many restaurants, chefs and food bloggers have been participating in this worldwide movement by going meatless on Monday. I have decided to follow suit and I will be sending this as my first entry for Meatless Mondays.

1 cup brown or white rice (preferably long grained)
1 cup brown lentils
2 cups water or vegetable stock
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion sliced
1/2 teaspoon cumin powder
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1 cinnamon stick
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar

- In a stock pot, cover the lentils with water. Add half of the cinnamon stick and cook till tender. Be careful as to not overcook these. Once the lentils are cooked, add salt, paprika and cumin powder and mix well.
- While the lentils are cooking, in a separate wide bottomed pan, heat the olive oil and spread the onions evenly. Let them sit for a couple of minutes without stirring so as to get the bottom layer brown. Then stir to mix the top layer with the bottom and sprinkle with a teaspoon of the sugar. Stir till all the onions are evenly brown. Remove and set aside on a paper towel.
- In the same pan, cook the rice with 2 cups of water or vegetable stock and the remaining half of the cinnamon stick.
- Mix the rice, lentils and three fourth of the caramelized onions together. 
- Serve topped with the rest of the caramelized onions.

1 cup greek yogurt
1 medium sized cucumber
1 small garlic clove
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon mint, finely chopped

- Peel the cumber, slit lengthwise and remove all the seeds. Chop evenly.
- Grate the garlic into the yogurt, add in salt and mint. Mix in the cumber and serve chilled. 

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Strawberry shortcake

Strawberry season is in full swing. If you were at any of the local farmers markets I mentioned in my earlier post, you would find them in copious amounts. We have been getting tons from the North Hills farmers market and overdosing on them. We have been diligently heading the advice that its best to eat them fresh and on the same day as they are bought so very few make it to the day after! Its like eating a potato chip, you cannot stop at one. By the way, did you know that eating only one serving of strawberries (about 8) provides more Vitamin C than an orange?

After blending them into smoothies and eating quite a few in their natural state, I couldn't wait to cast them as the star ingredient in a dessert. At the same time though, I did want to maintain their natural flavor as much as possible. The solution? This strawberry short cake inspired by a recipe from Nigella Lawson's cookbook, How to be a domestic goodess: baking and the art of comfort food, which by the way, is a great book with lots of doable and delicious recipes. The strawberry shortcake picture in the cookbook really caught my eye, a flaky shortcake halved and stuffed with strawberries, topped with a dollop of cream. It looked so pretty that I had to give it a try and it was delicious! The original recipe called for whipping cream which I substituted with Greek yogurt for a healthier and lighter version. If you haven't used Greek yogurt before you must give it a try. Its basically a really thick version of regular yogurt which you can get if you hang it overnight to remove excess water. It is a great substitute for sour cream or heavy cream. Here I whisked it with some honey and vanilla extract to top the strawberries with. Trust me, the result was just as good and the heavy cream was not missed! For a more decadent version, vanilla ice-cream cream would work really well in place of the yogurt. If you like chocolate and berries together, drizzling some chocolate syrup would be a nice idea too. Either way do give this a try!

Note: The recipe below is my modified version from the original recipe from the cookbook. The original recipe called for unsalted butter and half teaspoon salt. I also used yogurt in place of light cream for the shortcakes and heavy cream for the topping.

2 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
5 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup butter, frozen (I used Smart Balance)
1 large egg
1/2 cup non-fat Greek yogurt or plain yogurt hung overnight

For the filling:
1 and 1/2 cups strawberries
1 tablespoon sugar
few drops of balsamic vinegar (optional)
1 cup non-fat Greek yogurt or plain yogurt hung overnight
2 teaspoons honey

- Line a baking sheet with parchment or wax paper and preheat the oven to 425F.
- Mix flour, salt (if using), baking powder and 4 tablespoons sugar in a bowl.
- Grate the butter into these dry ingredients and use your fingerprints to finish crumbling the butter into the flour.
- Whisk the egg into the yogurt and pour into the flour mixture while kneading into a dough. You may not need all the egg-yogurt mixture to make the dough come together so use cautiously.
- Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and roll gently to a thickness of about 3/4 inch.
- Dip a 2 1/2 inch round cookie cutter into flour and cut out as many rounds as you can. Work the scraps back into a dough, re-roll and finish cutting out, you should get 8 in all.
- Place the shortcakes about 1 inch apart on the baking sheet, sprinkle with the remaining sugar and bake for about 10-15 minutes or till they are golden brown.
- Let them cool on a wire rack for around 5-10 minutes.
- For the filing, crush half of the strawberries with the spoonful of sugar and the few drops of balsamic vinegar if using and halve or quarter the remaining strawberries depending on their size.
- Whisk the yogurt with vanilla extract and honey.
- To assemble the shortcakes, split each one across the middle and cover with a spoonful of the crushed strawberry mixture, a few halved or quartered strawberries, then dollop some yogurt or whipped cream on top and set the top back on.

Makes 8.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Carrot, ginger and peanut soup

Summer is without doubt my most favorite time of the year and I know that even though its still spring here in North Carolina, its been feeling kind of like summer already. Other than the warm weather, there is much to love here. Open air farmers markets, tons of fresh produce, outdoor meals and drinks on the patio. All in all it just makes me feel like good times are in store.

Summer is also a great time to start being more of a 'locavore'. There is an abundance of fresh produce in the various farmers markets around the area and they provide a great opportunity to try stuff you might have never tried before. Eating locally and eating seasonally will almost always guarantee that you are eating well.  If you are in the Triangle area and are looking for a farmers market close to you, here is a list that might help.

- State Farmers Market
- North Raleigh Farmers market
- Midtown Farmers Market at North Hills
- Five Points Community Farmers Market
- Durham Farmers Market
- Cary Farmers Market

Summer here though does get quite hot so my focus this season will be on recipes that require none or very little "on the stove" time. I am also hoping to experiment with some cold soup recipes, mainly because I like soups way too much to relegate them only for cold weather. This recipe here is one step in that direction though it does taste just as good when served hot. This recipe like quite a few here was inspired by a recipe for carrot and ginger soup that I saw in the latest issue of the Bon Appetit magazine. The original recipe was served with a chile butter and topped with peanuts. I omitted the chile butter and gave it a little bit of an Asian twist by adding some peanut butter, mixed with honey and red chili flakes. If you are not a big peanut fan, I think using almond butter would work just as well. The result is a smooth and velvetty textured soup with just a hint of sweetness and spice. Topped with some fresh cilantro and accompanied with toast and salad, it makes the perfect summer meal.

1 tablespoon olive oil
4 carrots, peeled and chopped into 1/4 inch thick rounds
1/2 onion, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh minced ginger
1 potato, diced
2 cups low sodium vegetable broth
2 cups water
2 teaspoons peanut butter
1/2 teaspoon honey
1/4 teaspoon red chili flakes
1/2 teaspoon salt (or lesser depending on the salt in the vegetable broth)

- In a heavy bottom stock pot, heat olive oil. Add chopped onion, minced ginger, diced potatoes and carrots. 
- Sprinkle the vegetables with salt and saute for about ten minutes or until they are slightly softened but not browned.
- Add the broth and water, bring to a boil and cook covered for about 20 minutes or till the vegetables are cooked through.
- Cool slightly, then puree in batches. Return blended soup to the stock pot.
-  Whisk peanut butter and honey with the red pepper flakes. Add to the soup and stir well, avoiding any lumps to form with the peanut butter.
- Bring to a simmer and get off the heat. Serve warm or cold topped with chopped cilanto and toasted peanuts.

Makes 6 side servings.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Swiss chard and potato quesadilla

I continue my exploration of cuisine de Mexico with this Swiss chard and potato quesadilla. Am I too stuck in time with my trip to Mexico that I cannot seek inspiration elsewhere? Well, that is not exactly true you see. Barely a week after getting back, I had to get a wisdom tooth extracted. For those of you who have gone through this, you may know that after this process, your culinary options are, well, how shall I put it? Limited. 

Hence I am sure you will excuse me for another Mexico-inspired entry. Its quite good too and unintentionally vegan. It features thinly sliced potatoes sauteed with some cumin and paprika along with some thinly sliced swiss chard sauteed with onion and garlic. Swiss chard and potatoes make strange bedfellows but not in a quesadilla. They worked great together even without the cheese. If you think a quesadilla cannot be a quesadilla without cheese, feel free to add in some monterrey jack or cheddar. I used the habanero-lime tortillas from Trader Joes which I so love but any tasty tortilla would work well here. The next time I might bake the potatoes to get them a little more crispy. There is not a lot of spice in these so a spicy tomatillo or adobo chile sauce would be on the great. With my current dental condition, I avoided the spice and stuck with a mellow avocado yogurt sauce

On a different note, with some enforced down time, I found two excellent reads over these last few days. One was the much enjoyable murder mystery, The Case of the Missing Servant by Tarquin Hall. It was recommended by one of my favorite bloggers, Nupur from One Hot Stove and I couldn't wait to read this book after she wrote about it here! And I loved it. It was the perfect mix of mystery and humor set in urban Delhi and what I especially liked was the Hinglish (Hindi English).

The second was Espresso Tales, by one of my favorite authors, Alexander McCall Smith. It is the second volume of his Scotland Street series and is the perfect book to spend a lazy Sunday afternoon with. I do like my fair share of books which search your soul and move your heart, but sometimes you just need a book which is going to make you feel that everything is going to be all right with this world after all. Especially after a wisdom tooth extraction.

Here is the recipe.

4 large tortillas
1 bunch swisss chard, sliced thin
1/2 yellow onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
2 Yukon gold potatoes, thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon cumin powder
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon salt

- Heat olive oil in a heavy bottomed pan and add the thinly sliced potatoes.
- Saute them till cooked, adding salt, paprika and cumin, mixing well to coat.
- While the potatoes cook, in another pan, heat some olive oil and add chopped onion and minced garlic.
- When the onion and garlic softens, add the chard and saute with some salt.
- Add couple of tablespoons of water and cook covered till tender.
- Heat the tortilla, line with potato and chard and fold over. 

Makes 4 quesadillas

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Banana Marmalade from Isla Mujeres

Isla Mujeres, Mexico is where we spent the better part of the week before last. A small island, only five miles long with the bluest water and whitest sands that I have ever seen. Only a fifteen minute ferry ride separates it from Cancun but it feels like a world apart. Colorful streets, open air bars and restaurants and the beautiful waters symbolize true island living. We spent most of our time around the North Beach (Playa del Norte) area which has the calmest waters on the island and is the perfect spot for lazing around, getting your feet wet, or eating some of the best grilled fish. We did all that and more. 

After the first three days on the island we ventured into the mainland to see the Mayan ruins at Coba and Tulum. Both were easy day trips and well worth the effort. We also found some really good eats on the way. 

This banana marmalade was one of them and a delicious start to a lovely day in one of the local Isla Mujeres cafes. Marmalade for me always meant oranges till I encountered this one. This was unlike anything I had tasted before. In our broken Spanish we managed to decipher the ingredients from the friendly cafe owner. I am so glad we did because it was so simple to put together and yet so delicious. It was served with some warm oven baked rolls but back home we had it on some toasted English muffins and it was equally good. It would also be nice on pancakes or waffles. Its not really a recipe but more of an ingredients list with one step!

Banana Marmalade
(Best when served fresh, can be refrigerated for 2-3 days)

1 cup mashed banana
1 cup grated pineapple
2 tablespoons shredded coconut (fresh works best)
1/4 teaspoon honey
1/4 teaspoon lemon juice (to preserve the color of the bananas)

- Combine all ingredients together, mix well and serve.

Isla Mujeres highlights: Red chilli (aquillo pepper topped) grilled fish at Picus Cocteleria, the beach at Playa del Norte, grilled fish (tixin xic) at Playa Lancheros in Isla Mujeres South, walking around or golf carting around the island, Tacos at Medina Taqueira, Breakfast in Cafe Hidalgo (terrific coffee and crepes).

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Indianized roast chicken

I am back after another longish break from blogging but this time it wasn't work that got in the way. Something much more exciting, we were out on vacation. It was sun, sand, lots of great food and drink. I come back slightly darker than before (some may say sunburnt), recharged and refreshed and armed with lots of recipes that I can't wait to try. That will have to wait for another post though as today it will be back to Bombay for a recipe from my Mum's armoir.

This recipe was a favorite of ours while growing up. It could make a great Sunday lunch, a quick weeknight dinner or if we were really lucky a weekday lunch. It never failed to satisfy no matter when you ate it. This was also one of the first things I learnt to make when I started living by myself and its simplicity never ceased to amaze me. Don't let the name fool you, its no complicated roast chicken. In fact its not even roasted. I am not sure why my Mum called it roast chicken but it worked for her so I am not messing with the name. Anyway its just cooked on the tava (griddle) till it gets all browned up. Here is how it works, you marinate the chicken, put it in a pan and cook it till its done. Then you deglaze the pan, shred the chicken and throw it in the pan for an extra juicy, well integrated flavor. The possibilities are endless! 

Here is how I have tried it so far:
- On top of brown rice with some vegetables for a complete meal.
- Rolled up in a chapati/tortilla wrap with some onions, cilantro and lemon for a quick chicken kathi roll (as close as you can come to it)
- With couscous and a greek salad.

It would also be nice as:
- A very tasty sandwich filling 
- On top of a pizza for an Indianized chicken tikka pizza

If you do give this a try and come up with some more brilliant ways of putting this to use, let me know. Here is the recipe:

Note: Boned in chicken works best here.
4 big chicken pieces with bone 
1/2 cup yogurt (I used plain non-fat)
1/2 teaspoon ginger and garlic each
1 teaspoon red chilli powder
1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
1/2 teaspoon garam masala powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
Juice of half a lemon

- Combine all ingredients for the marinade together.
- Marinate the chicken for atleast 30 minutes (longer the chicken marinates, better the flavor). Marinating overnight works best.
- Heat a heavy bottomed pan and coat with oil.
- Add chicken pieces along with the marinade. Cook covered till the moisture disappears and chicken is browned and cooked, turning in between.
- Remove chicken pieces, add a little water to the pan to deglaze. Bring the sauce to a boil.
- Shred the chicken and add back to the sauce. Cook for another 2-3 minutes.

Serve with brown rice or wrapped in a chappati.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Chocolate cupcakes with vanilla buttercream

What does a cupcake say to you? To me, it says I'm all yours in my sweet and delectable goodness. Unlike any other dessert, which can be shared, a cupcake is unique in that it offers an individual sized treat meant for you and only you. I like that.

A cupcake also says perfection. Perfection in baking and also in frosting. The cake has to be moist and the frosting, a perfect peak of goodness. This thought made me quite nervous as I embarked on my first ever attempt at making cupcakes. I have long been a cupcake fan but I wasn't brave enough to take it on. That changed this weekend. One of our friends was hosting a baby shower and I offered (a little hesitantly) to bring the cupcakes. I needed a tried and tested recipe for a chocolate cupcake and I knew exactly where I could find this. One of my favorite blogs, Canelle et Vanille offered a chocolate cupcake recipe which looked absolutely spectacular (all of her picutres look spectacular btw). It was a recipe originally from the Magnolia bakery in New York and after seeing Aran's pictures, I knew I had found what I was looking for.

The baking of the cupcakes went quite well, it was the frosting which had me in a bind. I had no experience with frosting before, so my first attempts at piping these onto the cupcakes weren't exactly pretty. I abandoned the piping and just slathered them on instead. And then for an extra cute as a button touch, I adorned them with a sugar candy. I was delighted with the results even though mine didn't look as pretty. 

Chocolate cupcakes (Original recipe from Magnolia Bakery can be found here.)

2 cups All-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar (I used dark brown instead since I only had that)
4 large eggs at room temperature
6 ounces unsweetened chocolate
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

- Preheat oven to 350F.
- Line 2 12-cup muffin pans with cupcake papers and set aside. ( I had only one pan so I baked these in two batches, reusing after cooling the first batch for 20 mins).
- Melt the chocolate. I melted mine in the microwave and let it cool for around 10 minutes.
- In a small bowl, sift the flour and baking soda. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, on the medium speed of an electric mixer, cream the butter until smooth. Add the sugars and beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
- Add the molten chocolate, mixing well until incorporated.
- Add the dry ingredients in three parts, alternating with the buttermilk and vanilla. With each addition, beat until the ingredients are well incorporated, but do not overbeat.
- Using a rubber spatula, scrape down the batter in the bowl to make sure the ingredients are well blended and the batter is smooth.
- Carefully spoon the batter into the cupcake liners, filling them about three-quarters full. Bake about 20-25 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the cupcake center comes out clean.
- Cool the cupcakes in the tins for about 15 minutes. Remove from the tins and cool completely on a wire rack before icing.
- Pipe or spread the icing on top of the cupcakes.

Vanilla Buttercream frosting (Recipe from Magnolia bakery can be found here, I halved it)

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
3-4 cups of confectioners sugar
1/4 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

- Place the butter in a large mixing bowl. Add 2 cups of the sugar, milk and vanilla.
- On the medium speed of an electric mixer, beat until smooth and creamy, about 3-5 minutes.
- Gradually add the remaining sugar, 1 cup at a time, beating well after each addition (about 2 minutes), until the icing is thick enough to be of spreadable consistency.
- I added a few drops of blue color to the icing.

Makes 24 cupcakes.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

A guest post!

Deepa from the lovely blog, Foodlyrics was kind enough to invite me to make my first guest post on her blog! I was quite excited about it and submitted a recipe for a lentil and vegetable burger. You can read this post here and make sure you go through Deepa's wonderful recipes while you are there. Thanks so much, Deepa!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Pasta and bean soup with pesto

Pasta, beans and pesto are three of my favorite foods. Last night I had a brainwave! Use all of these in a single soup. Why didn't I think of this earlier? The best part of this soup? It can be made start to finish using ingredients from the pantry or refrigerator. That is if you are a good grocery shopper and have pasta, beans, canned tomatoes, pesto and assorted spices in your fridge or pantry. I am not, so I did have to make a grocery store run but I thought I would mention it for the benefit of all of you good grocery shoppers.

The combination of pesto and tomatoes was inspired by this Spaghetti recipe on one of my favorite blogs, The Perfect Pantry. Actually, ever since I saw this recipe I couldn't wait to try out these two flavours together. The rest of the ingredients were only an excuse to bulk up the soup. I used Trader Joe's Genovese pesto (some of you know my obsession for this) but I think any store bought or fresh homemade pesto would work great, which reminds me that making pesto from scratch is high on my list this summer, when basil is in abundance. So if any of you have a good tried and tested pesto recipe, I would love to try it. I might even send you a container :).

Coming back to the soup, it was quite easy to put together. Other than pesto, I used oregano and crushed red pepper flakes for extra flavour. I was quite thrilled at the result, which had nice hints of pesto combined with the heat of red pepper and the tartness of tomatoes. Also the beans and pasta made it a satisfying one dish meal. It even tasted great cold! Now thats a winner.
Now that you are done reading the post, I would urge you to look around and ask yourself does the blog look different? We just redid the design and would love to hear your thoughts/suggestions.

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 carrot, chopped
1 can of cannellini or white kidney beans
1 cup of any small pasta (I used shells)
1 can of diced tomatoes
1 and half tablespoons of pesto (fresh or store-bought)
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon red chili flakes

- Heat oil in a heavy bottom pan or stock pot.
- Add chopped onions, minced garlic and chopped carrots. Saute till soft.
- Add the pesto and saute for a couple of minutes.
- Add the diced tomatoes, followed by oregano and red chilli pepper. Add salt to taste (adjust the quantity as per the salt in the pesto and canned tomatoes).
- Add the beans and saute for a couple of more minutes.
- Add 3 cups of water and bring to a boil. Check seasonings.
- Add pasta and cook for 7-8 minutes till pasta is tender.

Makes 4 main servings.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Chicken Xacuti

Have you been to Goa? You must if you haven't. Its not just the tropical heaven or the beach paradise its made out to be. Goa has a certain oomph factor that can only be experienced but not described. Endless stretches of beautiful beaches and water, tall palm trees, quaint Portugese style churches, bustling markets and of course the famous 'sosegade' attitude which translates to why do something now, when you can do it later. Do you need any more reasons to go to place a like this? I would be ready to move there as soon as possible and I haven't even started on the food yet!

Goa was a Portugese colony when the rest of India was under the British rule and the food bears evidence to strong Portugese influence. Especially in sweet sounding dishes like xacuti, sorpotel and vindaloo. These unique dishes combine Indian spices with vinegar in some cases, palm sugar in others and olive oil in still others. Of course no description of Goan food would be complete without mentioning the seafood. Some of the best seafood I have ever had has been in Goa. But if I have to do it justice, then it has to be a different post.

I last visited Goa in December 2005 and had some of the most memorable meals there. One such meal was in a restaurant which was literally on the beach! The tables were on the sand and you sat facing the water. If you stayed long into the night, you had the warm sea water grazing your feet. And of course the food was amazing. Sigh, I didn't want to leave!

To recreate the Goan food experience minus the beach I was on the lookout for Goan cookbooks for a while. After extensive research my Dad sent me this one: The Essential Goa cookbook by Maria Teresa Menzes. I loved reading this book with its witty anecdotes on Goan lifestyle and great recipes and this weekend I finally got around to trying something out of it. This chicken xacuti recipe is a shorter version from this book.

Xacuti is a really spicy chicken curry. The book recipe called for grinding together three different sets of ingredients. By any standard this is quite a long process. I tried to shorten it a little bit by using the ready made garam masala instead of grinding it fresh. The only ingredient I thought would be missing from this masala powder was fennel which I ground fresh and used. This is definitely a recipe with some amount of effort but the end result is sure worth it. Even if you are not sitting on a beach while eating it.

Chicken xacuti:
1 kilo chicken, cut into pieces
1 and half large onion
1/2 cup grated coconut
3 green chillies
3 large garlic cloves
2" piece of ginger
handful of cilantro
1 tablespoon garam masala powder
1 teaspoon red chilli powder
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
1/2 tablespoon fennel powder
1 teaspoon tamarind pulp, dissolved in a couple of tablespoons of water
salt to taste

- Grind together the green chillies, ginger, garlic and cilantro to make a paste.
- Clean chicken and marinate with the paste above. Keep aside.
- Heat a tablespoon of oil and fry half the sliced onion till its golden brown. Add the grated coconut and also saute till brown.
- With a little water, grind the onion and coconut mixture into a smooth paste.
- In a heavy saucepan, heat oil and add the rest of the chopped onion.
- Cook till onion is golden brown. Add a teaspoon of sugar to caramalize the onions.
- Add all the spices, including garam masala, red chilli, turmeric and fennel powder. Also add salt and mix well cooking for another couple of minutes.
- Add the marinated chicken and saute for 2-3 minutes.
- Add the ground coconut and onion mixture and cook for another 2 minutes.
- Add 2 cups of water and bring to a boil.
- Add tamarind pulp dissolved in water and bring to a boil again. Cook covered till chicken is cooked tender.
- Add lemon juice before serving. Serve with rice or chappatis.