Friday, October 23, 2009

Fennel and Penne Pasta (Serves 2)

A quick lunch recipe I prepared a few weeks ago. Nothing was going on, we were just too bored to cook up a full meal. I was having wonderful conversation with my brother and father-in-law.

I thought of cooking a simple pasta, and prepared penne with fennel and red chilli powder, to make it a little bit spicy. Here is the recipe.

1 large fennel root
3 cups cooked penne (al dente - just done right, not overcooked)
1 tsp fennel seeds crushed a bit to let the flavor out
1 tsp red chilli powder or cayenne powder
1 tsp store bought dry basil leaves
2 1/2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil for added flavor

Cut the fennel root into inch long slices, avoiding the center as it contains the stem. Set aside. To add more fennel flavor that gives a very fresh and different taste to the pasta, crush 1 tsp of fennel seeds. You can usually buy fennel seeds in any grocery store, if not get it at any Indian grocery store.

For the pasta, I think around 2 cups of uncooked penne should give you 3 cups of cooked penne. Cook the raw pasta in boiling water with some salt for roughly 10 - 15 minutes for ready to eat penne, or cook longer to your liking. Like always, taste the pasta to see if its cooked well enough to your liking.

As the pasta is getting cooked, on a medium hot pan add 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil and just as the oil is getting hot add the crushed fennel seeds, dried basil leaves, and the red chilli powder. Immediately after this add the cut fennel root, salt and a little pepper taste and saute all the ingredients together.

Cook the fennel until it is cooked but still crunchy, to the point where the root still has its raw freshness and sweetness, but is cooked. Add the cooked penne at this time, 1/2 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil and mix everything together well. Serve hot. This is a refreshingly different tasting meal especially due to the presence of the fennel seeds, and you will love it.

Health Rating: High

Ingredient Substitute/s: If you live in an area where you don't get fennel root, you can replace the fennel with large white onions (the sweeter and less pungent kind) and repeat the above process.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Stuffed Mushrooms (Serves 4-5)

- adapted from original recipe by Giada De Laurentiis

It was one Friday evening and raining continuously. We decided to get some wine. My wife wanted something to accompany the wine, and after digging through the refrigerator, came out with 9 mushrooms. Then she went to the Food Network website and got this recipe for stuffed mushroom by Giada De Lauretiis.

Since we didn’t have the ingredients the recipe called for, she modified the recipe accordingly. Here is the modified recipe as we had it. The outcome was fantastic.

Please note that the quantity of stuffing we prepared was for 28 mushrooms, but made only 9 of them. We put away the rest of the stuffing in the freezer for another day.

2 slices dried rye bread crumbs (large bread slices)

1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese

4 garlic cloves, peeled and minced

3 tablespoons chopped fresh coriander leaves

2 sprigs fresh rosemary leaves finely chopped

Salt and ground black pepper to taste

1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

28 large (2 1/2-inch-diameter) white mushrooms, stemmed

Before you start the following, set the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit (204.444 degrees Celsius).

Take 2 slices of rye bread and toast it till the bread is light brown. If you use regular white bread you would need 3 slices. Break down the bread into coarse crumbs. To this, add the cheese, garlic, finely chopped coriander leaves, rosemary leaves, salt and pepper to taste, and 3 tbsp olive oil and mix everything well in a bowl.

On a baking sheet, drizzle some olive oil to coat the sheet. Ready the mushrooms by removing the stems from each one of them. With a spoon, put the filling into the mushroom cavities and place them on the baking sheet, with the stuffing side facing up. In order to maintain moistness, pour the remaining oil over the filling on each mushroom and place the sheet in the oven.

We only put 9 mushrooms as that’s all we had at home. The original recipe calls for baking the 28 mushrooms for 25 minutes at 400 degrees F, till the mushrooms are tender and the filling is golden on top. We left the 9 mushrooms in there for 17 minutes until they achieved the golden color. I think it’s better to use that as a benchmark, but make sure the mushrooms don’t start looking dry. Balance it out properly.

At this point the mushrooms are ready. When we served ourselves (we had it with some Blackstone Chardonnay, nice white wine), on the spur of the moment, I put some fresh chopped red onions on top of the mushrooms and squeezed lime juice, and seasoned it with some salt to taste.

It was one hell of an appetizer, and I just loved it. Thanks Giada, and Anita for trying this recipe with modifications.

Health Rating: High

Ingredient Substitute/s: You can substitute the cheese with any cheese you may have that is kind of hard so it can be easily grated, like Parmesan cheese, even the powdered one made by Kraft, etc. Same goes for the bread.
If you are a vegan, you can easily substitute the cheese with 1/2 cup more of dried bread crumbs and not loose much of the taste in the process, as the ingredients are perfectly complementary to each other.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Fennel/Apple/Pear Salad (Serves 3)

1 macintosh apple
1 sweet pear
fennel root same quantity
salt and pepper to taste
juice from 1 lemon
2 medium green chillis
1 bunch fresh coriander leaves chopped fine

I have been wanting to try this for a long time and got the perfect opportunity last week, when we had had the regular salad with the usual veggies for a few days in a row and needed a change.

Thinking about it for a few minutes, I felt that the combination of apple, pear and fennel would be real good. I didn't want to use red onions (the only ones we have at home) due to the pungency, hence went with the fennel root because of its sweet, unique taste and crunchiness that complements the apple and the pear.

This is a very quick salad to prepare and perfect just on its own, or as a starter food.

Cut the apple, pear and fennel root in small, roughly equal size pieces and set in a bowl. Retain the skin on the apple and the pear. Also, make sure that you cut the apple last, so as to not give it much time to oxidize (turn dark in this case), and you can pour the lemon juice as soon as you are done with the cutting.

Add juice from 1 lemon to this , salt and ground pepper to taste, 2 medium green chilis finely chopped, and chopped fresh coriander leaves. Give it all a mix and its ready to go.

Very simple, yet very tasty and healthy. Make sure the fruits are fresh and crunchy.

Health Rating: High

Ingredient Substitute/s: I know that you cant get fennel root in all places. You can replace that with sweet onions (the ones that are less pungent and sweet) if you like, or hard semi ripe peach that would also be perfect.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Chocolate Vanilla Nut (Serves 1)

Thought I would come back on a sweet note :-).

Don't have time for dessert? Not to worry, as long as you have the following. I just put together this simple yet very tasty dessert instead of having a plain old cup of ice cream.

2 small scoops Vanilla Ice Cream
1 tsp chopped pistachios
1 tsp chopped cashews
1/4 tsp cocoa powder
1 bar (one wafer length) Kit Kat milk chocolate
1-2 mint leaves for garnishing

Put 2 scoops of Vanilla ice cream in a serving bowl. Sprinkle 1/4 tsp of cocoa powder on top, and then add the chopped pistachios and cashews. Crush the Kit Kat chocolate bar and sprinkle on top. Garnish with a few mint leaves on top.

Enjoy the yummy concoction. For the best taste, use the best vanilla ice cream and cocoa powder. In my case I used Haagen Dazs Vanilla Ice Cream, and Godiva Cocoa powder.

Health Rating: Medium

Ingredient Substitute/s: Don't even get me started for this one :-)

Friday, October 2, 2009

Sorry to be out of circuit for a while

Hi all,
I have been taking care of a pending health issue. But I am back home now and recovering well, and I have started cooking again :-) I will post some new recipes in a few days. Until then, ciao!