Thursday, December 24, 2009
Monday, December 21, 2009
Thursday, December 17, 2009
I wanted to turn around something quickly to go along with dried fenugreek leaves dal (yellow lentils) I had already prepared, as I was heading out to see a movie.
I ended up making some baked brussels sprouts from one of my old recipes, and also baked cauliflower mainly in the hope that my daughter will finally eat cauliflower. My daughter does not touch cauliflower made the regular Indian way.
This was ready in no time, and with no hard work at all.
1 medium cauliflower
salt and pepper to taste
3 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp grated pecorino romano cheese
Pre heat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Cut off the leaves and the stem from the cauliflower, and clean it thoroughly. Break the cauliflower into small 1 inch pieces by hand, lay the pieces on a baking tray, sprinkle salt and pepper to taste and drizzle olive oil on top. With a spoon or your hands, just mix it all together to make sure the cauliflower is well coated with the oil and seasonings.
Bake the cauliflower for around 15-20 minutes or so turning it over once, until it starts getting roasted.
Take it out of the oven, transfer to a platter, and sprinkle with grated cheese on top. Serve hot.
My daughter actually did eat some of it, and I was an extremely happy father.
Health Rating: High
Ingredient Substitute/s: You can add any cheese you prefer, or none at all. Also adding red pepper flakes will add some great flavor to this.
Monday, December 14, 2009
After roaming around the neighborhood for a while and building up an appetite, it was time to eat. We turned around Arthur Ave and came across this simple and nice little restaurant called GianTina's. We were lucky in that this place turned out to be really good food-wise, although I would expect a little more effort from a service point of view.
My wife and I ate like pigs and ordered a lot of good wine and great food, making sure we had some to take back home :-). My wife had a kind of spiral pasta with pesto and cheese, and I had chicken with vegetables and sausages cooked in a wine sauce, both of which were great.
What caught my eye while going through the menu was one of the appetizers, Broccoli Rabe with Portabella Mushrooms and I ordered that. It was one of the best tasting appetizers I have ever had, very simple in preparation which I found out by asking our waitress, but rich in taste due to the fresh vegetables and especially the extra virgin olive oil. The flavor of this dish stood out due to the bold tasting oil which took the taste up several levels.
Since then I have been cooking up this appetizer dish at home very regularly, which I want to share with you all here.
1 whole bunch fresh broccoli rabe leaves (store bought)
3 tbsp good quality extra virgin olive oil
5 cloves garlic crushed with knife and chopped
salt and pepper to taste
Chop the portabella mushroom into 1 inch long pieces and keep aside. Crush the garlic cloves with a knife and chop them.
Clean the broccoli rabe leaves well and cut the end portions out so you are left with the leaves and a little part of the stem. Chop the leaves up after this. If you would like to take some of the bitterness out of the rabe, put the leaves in boiling water for a few minutes, take it off the flame, drain the water and run cold water through it to stop the cooking process.
In a pan, heat the extra virgin olive oil, add the garlic and saute for a couple of minutes. Add the mushrooms, some salt and pepper and continue sauteing. Add the leaves at this point, season it with the salt and pepper according to your taste and cook just until the broccoli rabe leaves are done. That's it! Serve hot as a side dish to your pasta and sauce.
Oh, and by the way, after lunch we visited the Teitel Brothers store and I was like a kid in a candy store, wanting everything I saw. Law of the 'wife' was established immediately and I was brought to my senses :-). But I still got a stock of great extra virgin olive oil (Edda), oil cured olives, sun-dried tomatoes, and fresh and aged cheese.
Health Rating: High
Ingredient Substitute/s: You can replace the rabe with spinach leaves, or the portabella mushrooms with regular mushrooms but the taste isn't the same as with portabella mushrooms. Ingredients are really what your imagination can come up with as long as they complement each other well.
Thursday, December 3, 2009
Spotting Dole plantains while shopping at the local Asian grocery store reminded me of my childhood days when my parents used to make this wonderful plantain dish. I immediately picked up a couple to revive those memories by making them at home, and also in the hope that I can pass on the tradition to my daughter, as she used to loved roasted bananas.
This is a very simple and healthy affair (if you leave out the butter, that is) and can be made almost anytime at a moment's notice. There are some common ways of making roasted plantains but I prefer making them the way it was done at home years ago.
2 Dole plantains
1/4 cup jaggery
1/8 cup water
1 1/2 tbsp unsalted butter
Preserve the plantains until they are ripe, with the skin turning black.
Peel the skin off and cut the plantains into 1 1/2 inches slices. Put it in a small container, scatter jaggery all over them, and add water. Steam cook for around 10-15 minutes until the plantains are well cooked in the jaggery water. Once the pressure cooker has let all of the steam off, transfer the cooked plantains into a bowl and mix them well together so as to incorporate the jaggery flavor.
In a small pan on high flame add 1 1/2 tbsp of butter and then immediately take the pan out of the flame, as the butter melts and browns immediately. Add the plantains to this and return to the fire at low to medium heat, and let the plantains roast, turning them around every now and then till they turn golden and crisp on all sides. Sprinkle some sugar on top and serve hot.
The combination of the nutty flavor from the browned butter, jaggery and the plantains in my mouth just brought back all those days gone by. And as for my daughter, she still has to buy into our tradition :-).
This dish is right on for vegans as well if the butter is left out.
Health Rating: Medium (High if butter is avoided)
Saturday, November 28, 2009
Last night for a potluck party at my very close friend Sriram’s place, we were to bring ice cream for dessert. I had bought Breyers vanilla ice cream. The plan was to do something different to the ice cream and my wife suggested why not do something with rose.
This is what I quickly came up with, a simple and refreshing ice cream bursting with flavor. For the rose ingredient I used Rooh Afza, a very famous rose syrup made in India. It's usually had with cold water or milk, and also added to desserts such as ice cream or milk shake. You can pick it up from any Indian grocery store.
1 1/2 quart Breyers Natural Vanilla Ice Cream
1 1/2 tbsp 'Rooh Afza' rose syrup
1/2 tsp cardamom powder
1 pinch of saffron in 2 tbsp of warm milk
1/4 cup of pistachio nuts (optional)
Add a pinch of saffron to 2 tbsp warm milk in a small cup and set aside for 15 minutes. Take the ice cream out of the freezer and set it at room temperature for around 10-15 minutes as well, until it is a little soft.
In a medium bowl transfer the ice cream and add the rose syrup, cardamom powder, saffron with milk, and 1/4 cup pistachios. The other nuts which go well with this ice cream are cashews and almonds. Mix the ingredients to the ice cream till it combines very well with them, smooth in texture and pink in color.
Scoop the ice cream back into its container and refreeze until ready to eat. Serve this ice cream for dessert to your guests next time you host a party and wow them!
If you want to enhance the flavor more, before adding them to the ice cream toast the nuts in an oven at 350 degrees for 5-10 minutes until they are slightly brown.
Health Rating: Medium
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
- adapted from recipe by Gourmet magazine found in Epicurious.com
On Sunday we had gone to visit my wife's cousin and his family in Connecticut. While we were there, we had coffee and some home made shortbread cookies. On a previous occasion I had the opportunity to taste almond barfi her cousin's wife Suneeta had prepared and it was very sumptuous.
The shortbread cookies are egg-less and really easy to make. Suneeta had also added coarsely ground almonds to the cookies which is optional. I have to say that they were one of the better shortbreads I have eaten, with the right amount of crispiness. Here is the recipe.
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, soft
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup sugar + 4 tsp sugar
1/8 tsp salt
1/4 cup toasted almonds coarsely ground (exclude this if you have kids with allergies to nuts)
Preheat oven to 375°F. Blend the butter, sugar, vanilla, and salt in a medium size bowl with a fork until everything combines well. Add the flour and almonds into this mixture and keep mixing with fork or hands until the mixture forms into a soft dough.
Transfer the dough to a large baking sheet (ungreased) and pat into a rectangle (1/2 inch thick). Imprint the edges decoratively with a fork and prick the dough all over with the fork. Bake the shortbread in middle of oven until edges are golden, which takes about 15 minutes.
Once this is done, sprinkle some sugar on top of the shortbread, and cool the shortbread on the baking sheet on a rack for 10 minutes. Cut the shortbread into the desired number of slices while still warm with a knife. Transfer the slices with a spatula to rack to cool completely. Shortbreads are good to go.
Health Rating: Medium
Bio on Suneeta: Suneeta lives in Connecticut with her husband and two children. She is very fond of baking, and tries to balance this passion with her work life and family life. Suneeta holds a senior position at an insurance company. She is still not ready for the attention her photograph might generate :-), and hence declined the offer to load her photo here.
Ingredient Substitute/s: Avoid the nuts if you have young kids who may be allergic to nuts. If you are fine with nuts, original recipe calls for adding pecans or hazelnuts other than almonds. You can add other extracts other than vanilla, chocolate bits, etc.
Sunday, November 22, 2009
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
Friday, November 13, 2009
I had a handful of portabella mushrooms in stock. What I like about portabella mushrooms apart from their unique taste is the relatively harder texture compared to the other kinds of mushrooms. They also absorb the spices and oil flavor well.
One of my favorite dishes is portabella mushroom and broccoli rabe cooked in really good extra virgin olive oil and garlic. But I wanted to try something different with the mushrooms this time around, and was a little stumped looking inside the refrigerator for a while trying to find something out of the ordinary that would complement them. I finally ended up with a large bunch of fresh store bought fenugreek leaves, and with a little help from Mr. cayenne pepper, we have a knockout dish people! :-)
4 Portabella Mushrooms (1 lb)
1 whole bunch of fresh fenugreek leaves (sold at the Indian or specialty grocery stores)
1/2 tsp cumin powder
1/2 tsp coriander powder
1 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper powder
3 tbsp olive oil
salt to taste
Wash the mushrooms and fenugreek leaves well. Cut the mushrooms into 1/2 inch pieces. You can even cut them lengthwise into thin long strips. Strip the fenugreek leaves off their stems, cut them fine and set aside.
In a wok or something similar, add 3 tbsp of olive oil, coriander and cumin powder, and fenugreek leaves. Sauté for a couple of minutes and then add the mushrooms. Sauté the mushrooms as well for a few minutes.
At this point when the frying pan is hot, start adding the cayenne pepper powder to the dry sides of the wok, above where the food is actually cooking. As soon as you put the pepper there, due to the heat of the wok, it will start smoking and will release fumes. Immediately mix the powder from the side of the wok with the vegetables. Do this a few times until all the 1 1/2 tsp of cayenne pepper powder has been used up.
This semi burning process with the cayenne pepper powder that I just experimented on a whim imparted a smoky hot and spicy taste, and added great flavor to the vegetables. Hope you enjoy it. Serve with chapatti/tortilla or mix it with plain rice for flavorful 'fried rice'.
I did want to mention that I found cayenne pepper rather different than the usual Indian red chilis, in that the heat from the pepper hits your tongue initially like a blast and then quickly subsides down unlike the red chilis where your mouth burns, eyes start watering and you are running around for some cold water.
Health Rating: High
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
Based on the amount of radish we had yesterday (thanks to my innovative grocery buying) I quickly turned it into a yogurt salad (raita in Indian).
Most people must be familiar with white radish. Make sure you buy it fresh and clean. Its very crispy and juicy if picked up fresh.
In a bowl, add the radish, onions, yogurt, salt, coriander leaves, and JalJira. Mix them well together, and refrigerate it for 20 minutes or so.
Serve cold along with Chapati/tortilla, as a side dish with a meat or vegetarian dish, or just eat it as is which I do a lot of time.
Health Rating: High
Ingredient Substitute/s: Since this is a yogurt based salad, you really can add all the vegetables that one has in a salad, BUT you have to be careful as they may not jell well enough with the JalJira. Also, yogurt can accommodate a lot of different spices and herbs, and it is always encouraging to play around with spices and see what one likes.
PS: JalJira is a spice mixture that is sold as a digestive aid. Usually its mixed with water and ice as a drink. It is made of salt, cumin, black pepper, mint leaves, dry ginger, chili, black salt, asafoetida, and citric acid (ingredient list right of the box that I bought).
Saturday, November 7, 2009
Bring the heavy cream to a boil, and take it off the fire. Break up the Cadbury's milk chocolate bar into pieces and add it to the heavy cream. With the help of a spatula, mix them together to help the chocolate melt and dissolve in the cream. Repeat the same for the bitter sweet Ghirardeli chocolates. Once the chocolates have melted completely and you have a smooth creamy mix, pour it into the pie crust. Break/crush the white KitKat chocolate wafers into very small pieces and just sprinkle them on top of the cream that is contained in the pie crust, taking care not to mix it.
Tuesday, November 3, 2009
Sunday, November 1, 2009
I used to eat this dish a lot when I used to live in India. I used to travel a lot to Pune, the second largest city in the state of Maharashtra, and very close to Mumbai.
There were a few specific Maharashtrian cuisine style restaurants that I used to frequent on every occasion in Pune. I just love the taste of Maharashtrian food, and Pune is a place that won’t disappoint you in that regard.
There is one dish that I still remember from my visits that I used to relish. This was an usal (gravy that is made predominantly with pulses) made with black eyed beans. I recreated this dish at home one night when I was really craving that taste. I have to say that it came out fantastic. I am sharing it here.
One of the main spices in this dish and in many Maharashtrian dishes is ‘goda masala’, a blend of several spices. There are several different variations to this masala or blend.
The list of spices that are used to make this masala include sesame, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, cloves, lichen, cardamom, bay leaves, black pepper, and lichen. Some add coconut to this, and some do not add all the ingredients mentioned above. All of these spices are then roasted in a little oil until they are dark brown in color and then put in a grinder to make a coarse to fine powder.
I usually buy readymade goda masala from a small Maharashtrian restaurant in Mumbai whose food I can’t talk enough about. I am getting the recipe from the owner that I will then provide here for everyone. One can also go to a big Indian grocery store and buy goda masala made by this company called ‘Everest’. I just stumbled upon it the other day when I was in New Jersey. I don’t know how good it tastes though.
Anyway, coming back to the black eyed beans usal recipe, here’s how that came about.
2 ½ cups cooked black eyed beans
2 cloves garlic peeled and smashed
1 large red onion chopped into small pieces
1/3 cup medium shredded dry coconut
1 tsp red chili powder
1 ½ tbsp goda masala powder
3 tbsp oil
Salt to taste
5 tomatoes cut into small pieces
2 ½ cups hot water
1 bunch fresh coriander leaves
You can either soak the beans in water for a couple of hours and then pressure cook it (till the steam is let out 2 times by the cooker), or soak it preferably overnight and then just cook it along with all the ingredients.
In a large pan add oil. Once the oil is medium hot, add the onions, garlic, goda masala, red chili powder, coconut, a little salt and let them all cook in the oil.
Once you just start seeing the oil separating and the coconut starts turning light brown, add the tomatoes and continue sautéing.
After a few minutes, add the beans and salt to taste, and 2 1/2 cups of hot water (or according to the consistency you want) and continue cooking on low to medium flame. If you really like the smoky flavor of the goda masala a lot, you can add another ½ tbsp of the same while the beans are cooking.
Once the beans are cooked and you can taste the flavor of the spices in the cooked beans, remove the dish from the fire and garnish with fresh coriander leaves finely chopped.
Serve hot with chapattis or tortillas, or with rice in which case you may want to add more water to the gravy.
Health rating: High
Ingredient Substitute/s: If you don’t have black eyed beans, you can add green moong dal, or brown lentils, or any pulse or beans you like. If you are adding kidney beans then adjust the spices and tomatoes etc. accordingly because of the thicker consistency of kidney beans compared to black eyed beans.
You can also go without the coconut but I feel that the taste factor goes way down when you do that.
If you don’t have goda masala or can’t procure it, you can easily add garam masala (1 tsp) along with some freshly ground (coriander/cumin/black pepper) (1 tbsp) and that should be fine, except that you really have to taste goda masala and its unique flavor along with the coconut to enjoy this dish at its best taste.