Thursday, December 24, 2009

Dried Fenugreek Leaves Dal (lentils) (Serves 4)

A quick and refreshing dal (also known as Dal Methi) that can be had as a soup, or served with rice or chapati/tortilla.

3 tbsp dried fenugreek leaves
2 cups cooked yellow tuvar dal (look under the alphabet 't' in this link)
1 small onion finely chopped
2 tsp cayenne pepper (or red chili powder)
1 1/2 tbsp oil
1 tsp cumin seeds
1/8 tsp turmeric powder
1/2 tsp salt (or according to taste)
1 1/2 cups of hot water

Pressure cook the tuvar dal and keep ready. As an alternative you can use store bought canned cooked yellow split peas or cooked green split peas.

Pour oil in a hot deep skillet. As the oil gets hot, add the cumin seeds, turmeric powder, 2 tsp cayenne pepper, onion, salt and 2 tbsp of dried fenugreek leaves (crush it before you add it). Reduce the flame to medium/low and cook until the onions are done and just starting to turn slightly brown. Make sure that the fenugreek leaves don't turn black.

Add the dal, and 1 1/2 cup of hot water. Cook until the dal comes to a boil. Reduce to a low flame and add 1 tsp of cayenne pepper, and 1 tbsp dried crushed fenugreek leaves. Mix well together and let it simmer for 5 more minutes. Serve hot.

Add 1 tsp of brown butter (ghee, optional) on top if you would like to enhance the flavor.

Health Rating: High

Monday, December 21, 2009

Baked Asparagus with Rosemary and Walnuts (Serves 3)

My wife and I love asparagus. We usually put it on a skillet with olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper and roast it till it's nice and slightly brown, and have it with pasta and sauce as a side dish. This time around I decided to bake it in the oven instead, and made some additions to the ingredients to make it more interesting.

It came out terrific, full of flavor and was devoured in no time at all, with the pasta playing catch up. Very simple to prepare, and extremely easy to eat it all up :-)

1 bunch of asparagus (2.25 lbs)
salt and pepper to taste
5 cloves of garlic
3 1/2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
cayenne pepper to taste
2 tbsp walnuts chopped fine
1 1/2 tbsp fresh rosemary leaves chopped

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F.

Wash the asparagus and cut off the hard end part of the stem which is very light in color, usually around 1 to 2 inches from the bottom. Smash the garlic cloves, chop into small pieces and set aside.

In a baking tray, lay the asparagus, covering the entire baking tray. Add the garlic, extra virgin olive oil, some cayenne pepper (based on your 'heat' index), walnuts, fresh rosemary leaves, and salt and pepper for seasoning. With your hands toss and turn until everything mixes well. Put the tray in the oven and bake until the asparagus is slightly brown, a little crunchy.

Serve warm with some great pasta and sauce, or just eat it as is. Although I didn't, you may sprinkle some dry grated cheese in the end to add more flavor if you would like.

Health Rating: High

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Baked Cauliflower (Serves 2)

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

Portabella Mushroom & Broccoli Rabe (Serves 3)

My wife works close to the Bronx's little Italy (Arthur Ave.) in NYC. Since we had never been there, we decided to go check the neighborhood out, and have lunch at one of the local Italian restaurants there. Another big incentive for me was that Teitel Brothers, the biggest wholesaler and retailer of Italian grocery in Bronx is also situated there, and I wanted to stock up!

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 portabella mushroom
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

Roasted Plantains (Serves 2)

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)