Sunday, August 5, 2012

One day in Brooklyn!

Hello everyone! It's been a really long time since I have made a post, but I am happy to announce that I now have a new blog in collaboration with Aditya. The new blog is called One day in Brooklyn, inspired by our move from NC to Brooklyn over a year ago.

I hope you all get a chance to check out the new blog, and enjoy it as much as you did Soup and Dessert, and as much as we are enjoying writing it.

Here is the new site:

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.