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.