Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Scallion Ginger Tofu (Serves 2)

There is a Chinese restaurant near my work place. More often than not, I order Basil Chicken which for me is one of their best dishes. On one of my visits, scanning through the menu list I came across this dish called Scallion Ginger Chicken. It looked very promising. But when they served it, it was very evident that they had destroyed it with an overdose of oil and soy bean sauce. I think it was due to the large crowd and they were trying to rush out the dishes.

I knew I could modify this dish at home and get a great result since the ingredient combinations looked so good. The only modifications I made were that I replaced the chicken with tofu since my wife is vegetarian, and I just used soy sauce since I don't know to make black bean sauce yet :-).

So let’s move on to the recipe. There is a little amount of pre-prep for this dish. Once that is done, the dish is ready in 5 minutes. 

14oz (397gms) extra firm tofu
6 whole dry red chilies
1 ½ medium size onions
2 inch long fresh ginger root
2 bunches of fresh scallion roots (5 in a bunch)
4 tbsp oil
5 cloves fresh garlic
⅛ cup low sodium soy sauce
⅛ cup warm water
½ tsp whole wheat flour
¼ tsp salt
⅛ tsp ginger powder

  • Cut the tofu into chunks (1/2 inch thickness) and boil for 5-10 minutes in water. Drain the water and set aside. This boiling process makes the tofu firmer.
  • Slice the onion into thin long slices.
  • Peel the skin off the ginger root and cut the ginger root into really thin long pieces.
  • Take only the green leaf part of the scallions and chop them into 1 inch long pieces. Discard the white onion part of the scallions. We don’t need that.
  • Chop the garlic into round pieces, not too thin.
  • In a small cup with warm water, add the whole wheat flour and mix well.

Take a large wok or a deep frying pan. Keep the flame on low to medium heat, and add the oil. When the oil starts to get hot, of the 6 red chilies crush two of them completely and add to the hot oil. Add the other 4 red chilies whole. Stir for a few minutes till the oil attains the flavor of the chilies.

Increase the flame to medium to high heat, and add the ginger, garlic, and onions. Keep stirring making sure that you don’t burn anything. After a few minutes add the scallions and keep stirring.

Now add the tofu and salt and mix everything well for a few minutes. Add the soy sauce, ginger powder and the water and flour mixture, and mix well till everything gets incorporated, at the most a couple of minutes more.

Serve hot with rice. Certified yummy!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Sauteed Turnips (Serves 6-8)

My wife bought this huge turnip when she went grocery shopping. Mind you, it was an impulse buy! Well, this huge root had been sitting there for a while.

We invited  some friends over for Diwali at the last moment. We kept the cooking simple for the potluck. I decided to try and cook the turnip.

I had never eaten or cooked turnip before. I have to describe the different flavors of this lovely root. I peeled the turnip with a peeler and diced it into small cubes. When raw the turnip has a sweet flavor. I have to keep this is mind for a salad.

I wanted to experiment with this dish by combining fresh rosemary and fennel seeds, two outstanding flavors that raise the bar of food taste wise when added to complementary vegetables. Then I combined these flavors with the common Indian ingredients we all are very familiar with - garlic, ginger and plain yogurt as I wanted to add a nice base to the dish. On to the recipe then.

960 gm diced turnips (after peeling and dicing)
5 cloves garlic
2 inch ginger root
1 tsp fresh minced rosemary leaves
6 tbsp low fat plain yogurt
3 tsp cayenne pepper
2 tsp fennel seeds
4 tbsp oil
1 ¾ tsp salt
1 tbsp browned butter
2 cups water

Peel the skin off the turnip, and dice it into small cubes (1/4 inch size). This is the most laborious part of making this dish. After this, it is a stroll in the park. Well, not literally:-)

Grate the ginger and garlic and set aside.

In a large frying pan on medium heat, add the oil. When the oil is starting to get hot, add the fennel seeds and stir a bit. Add the ginger, garlic and ½ tsp fresh minced rosemary leaves, and  continue stirring.

Now add the cayenne pepper and just as it starts to release its aroma, add the plain yogurt. Mix everything well. Turn the flame to high and keep stirring as the water from yogurt evaporates and the oil eventually starts to rise. Throw in the turnips, add salt and mix well.

Bring the flame back to medium heat, add water in ¼ to ½ cup increments and cook the turnips. I tasted the turnips when they were slightly cooked. They tasted bitter. Interesting!

When the water in the pan dries up, add some more water. Continue cooking until the turnips are cooked ,but half crunchy and half soft. At this point add the remaining water (around ¼ cup), and garnish with ½ fresh minced rosemary leaves and 1 tbsp of browned butter (ghee). Mix well and serve hot.

I like the crunchy and soft texture as it goes well with rice ,and with bread or chapati. The turnip now tasted a little lemony, with a hint of sweetness and minuscule amount of bitterness, similar to white radish.

Actually i liked it better the next day, when all the flavors had come together.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Karanji (makes around 40 - 50 karanjis)

Happy Diwali to everyone! Diwali, in simple terms is a festival of lights, the lights signifying the triumph of good over evil.

On this occasion we celebrate by wearing new clothes, burst firecrackers where permissible, prepare and share sweet and savory snacks with friends and family. I present one of my favorite Maharashtrian sweets, Karanjis.

Karanji is all purpose flour or wheat flour dough stuffed with a sweet filling and deep fried. Not that healthy, but who talks about health during festivities. And, as long as you eat in limited quantities you should be good (yeah right!).

The constant ingredient in the sweet filling is fresh grated coconut. People add to that their own concoction of complementary ingredients, under an admissible list. Examples of these are jaggery, sugar, semolina, different kinds of nuts, sesame, cardamom, nutmeg etc.

I got the recipe from a dear friend’s wife in India. They are Maharashtrians. I did a lot of modifications to the recipe, and prepared the karanjis based on the ingredients I had available at home.

Let me tell you, they turned out awesome! I apologize for not counting exactly how many karanjis I made, but a good guess would be 40 - 50 karanjis.

For the filling -
2 cups dried medium shredded coconut
1 cup Semolina
2 cups granulated white sugar
7 cardamom seed pods, skinned and seeds ground
1/4 cup finely chopped pistachio nuts
1/4 cup finely chopped cashew nuts
5 tbsp of browned butter (ghee)

For the dough -
3 cups all purpose flour
3 tbsp vegetable oil (warm)
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/3rd cups milk
6 tbsp water

Vegetable Oil for frying

Preparation of Dough
In a large bowl, sift the flour and salt. To this add warm oil and milk little by little and start kneading the flour and liquid to form dough. Continue adding the water and kneading when the milk is over.

The dough that is formed will be a little tough, not soft and moist like pizza dough. The reason is that we have to fry this dough, and if the liquid content in the dough is high it is going to suck in the oil. Put the dough in an air tight container and keep in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 hours.

Preparation of the sweet filling

While the dough is in the refrigerator, we can start preparing the sweet filling.

In a pan on low to medium heat, add 2 tbsp of browned butter and roast the semolina until you can smell the semolina aroma and can see some of the semolina just starting to turn slightly brown. Keep stirring the semolina with a spatula through the whole process. Remove from the stove and transfer to a dry vessel and set aside.

Now add 2 tbsp browned butter to the pan, and roast the shredded coconut on low to medium heat, until the coconut aroma starts to fill the room and the coconut is slightly toasted. Remove from the stove and transfer into another bowl and set aside.

Grind the sugar into powder form and keep it aside.

Chop the pistachio nuts and cashew nuts into fine pieces, and roast them in a pan with 1 tbsp browned butter until they are slightly toasted as well.

Mix the semolina, coconut, sugar, nuts, and cardamom powder. This is the filling for the karanji.


After 2-3 hours, take the dough out of the refrigerator. Make small balls of the dough, each one just around half the size of a golf ball. On a flat surface, with a rolling pin and with the help of some dry flour, roll out each of the dough balls into small thin tortillas, about the size of a compact disc.

To each tortilla, add 1 1/2 tbsp of sweet filling at the center (do not overfill, add enough filling according to the size of your tortilla). Then dip your finger into a bowl filled with water, and pat the edges of one half of the tortilla with your fingers to get the edges a little wet. Now fold the other half of the tortilla over the wet edges to form a dumpling that is a semi circle. With a fork press the edges together to seal the stuffing and add some design to the dough.

In a large deep frying pan, add enough oil, around 4 inches deep. As the oil is getting hot, throw in tiny bits of dough. If it goes down and comes up frying, the oil is ready. Don’t get the oil too hot.

Add 3-4 karanjis at a time and deep fry them until golden brown. Drain excess oil from the karanjis by placing them on a paper towel.

Serve when warm. You can store the karanjis in an air tight container for a week.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Chocolate Butterscotch Shortbread Cookies (makes around 80 cookies)

Finally got to cooking/baking after quite a while! It wasn't laziness on my part, rather a momentary lapse of creativity, a moment that lasted over a month. 

One fine gentleman from our community took it upon himself to arrange a Halloween parade for the kids in the community. It was mainly done so that the kids could have a wonderful time, and to also get the adults to mingle with each other.

A few of us chipped in to help him, and I volunteered to bake cookies. So it finally gave me a chance to get back into the flow of things cooking wise. 

I had planned to bake something with toffee candies but skipped the toffee since we had decided to go nut free for the event, with so many kids around. 

The cookies turned out crisp and nice, a very simple combination of ingredients with a pleasant taste. 

3.5 cups all purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
7 tbsp chopped butterscotch baking chips
7 tbsp chopped semi sweet chocolate baking chips (premium quality)
3 sticks of unsalted butter (341 gums), at room temperature
1.5 cups granulated white sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
8 oz semi sweet chocolate chips for coating on top

Sift the flour and salt in a bowl, and set aside the bowl.

In a large mixing bowl add the butter, vanilla extract, and sugar and mix them with a baking spatula just enough so that they get incorporated. Add the flour and salt mix to this, the butterscotch and semi chocolate chips. With your bare hands mix all together until the dough is just formed.

On a baking sheet, pat half of the dough with the palm of your hands into a flat shape as close to a rectangle as possible, with a thickness of 3/8 inch. Put the baking tray in the refrigerator.

Heat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. When the oven beeps at the 350 degree level, take the baking tray out of the refrigerator and set it in the oven. Bake for around 25 minutes until you see the sides just starting to turn brown. 

Take the baking tray out of the oven and let it cool to room temperature. While still warm, take a butter knife and cut the cookies in a criss cross fashion so that you end up with diamond shaped cookies. After 10 - 12 minutes shift the cookies to a cooling rack to completely cool down.

Repeat the above process with the other half of the dough. 

Once the cookies have cooled down, in a small bowl take around 8 oz or similar quantity of premium quality semi sweet chocolate chips. Micro wave the bowl for 1.5 minutes. Stir the chocolate with a spoon until you get smooth creamy melted chocolate. 

With a butter knife scoop out some chocolate and apply it to half of each cookie and the sides of that half. Set the cookies back on the cooling rack until the chocolate hardens again. 

Enjoy the crispy delicious cookies with a glass of milk or coffee. 

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Pesto Ice Cream (Serves 8)

I was going through my loose recipe sheets (I may have even lost a few) and came across my recipe for pesto ice cream that I had made when I celebrated the one year anniversary of this blog. Yes, I did say pesto ice cream :-)

I don’t know how this one got left behind. As fall approaches hopefully there is some time left to slide in one more ice cream recipe for sure, what say :-). Well people in the hotter regions of the world can always make this right now.

Quite different and pleasing in taste, this ice cream has a creamy fresh herb taste, complemented perfectly by the golden toasted pine nuts, the mild presence of the extra virgin olive oil and the sweet honey.

One thing I did leave out of this ice cream was the garlic which is a regular ingredient in pesto. I didn’t want to be that adventurous the first time I was making pesto ice cream.

1 1/2 quart Breyers Natural Vanilla Ice Cream
12 individual leaves of fresh sweet basil
8 individual leaves of fresh mint
4 tbsp pine nuts
1 1/2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
3/4 cup heavy cream
bottle of honey for drizzling

Get the ice cream out of the freezer and set it aside at room temperature to soften it a little for easy mixing.

On a pan on low to medium heat, dry roast the pine nuts until they are golden brown. You don’t need to add oil as the pine nuts are fatty nuts, and will release oil when they are hot. Keep aside.

Chop the fresh basil and mint leaves as fine as possible. In a spice grinder or any method you find easy (even a blender, although it might be tough), add the oil and the minced leaves and crush into a paste, as fine as possible.

In a bowl add the heavy cream and the ground paste of fresh basil, mint and oil and bring to a boil on medium heat. Immediately take it off the heat and let it cool.

Once cool, add the heavy cream mixture and toasted pine nuts to the ice cream in a large bowl and mix everything well.

Put the ice cream mix back into its original container, and with each layer of ice cream, drizzle an ample amount of honey as you fill up the container with the ice cream. Freeze the ice cream for a few hours until frozen. Drizzle with more honey when you serve.

So, surprise your friends and your palette by making this ice cream and leaving your guests guessing the ingredients ;-).

Health Rating: Low

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Mango Chutney (Serve 4)

Wooh! Glad to be back finally. The past one month has been really hectic with work schedules and personal commitments. I apologize for not posting any new recipes for more than a month. Thanks for being patient.

We had some of our friends over for dinner the other night. One of the dishes I wanted to make was mango pickle but the mango, which I had bought raw had started to ripen, since 2 weeks had passed from the time I bought it. So, change of plans. I decided to make mango chutney instead. I sat down with a paper and pen and wrote down the ingredients based on my thoughts of how I wanted it to taste. Thankfully turned out just the way I wanted it to.

I wanted to make sure that the chutney wasn't too greasy or too sweet, and wanted to achieve that balance.

It turned out darn good. You can have this chutney with sandwiches, puris, chapatis, or as is and enjoy it’s tarty, sweet and spicy flavor. And extremely easy to make.

1 1/3 cup grated semi sweet mango (a large mango should provide you this)
seeds from 1 cardamom
1 inch by 1/2 inch piece of cinnamon bark
3 cloves
1/16 tsp ginger powder
1/8 cup oil
1/4 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp fennel seeds
1/4 cup jaggery (concentrated product of cane juice without separating molasses and crystals)
3/8 cup water
1 1/2 tsp paprika
1 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp salt

Keep all the ingredients ready so that you don’t forget anything at the time of need.

With a peeler, remove the skin from the mango and grate it using the biggest holes in the grater. Set aside.

In a blender, add the cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, and ginger powder and grind the ingredients very fine.

In a large pan on medium heat, add the oil. When the oil starts getting hot, add the cumin and fennel seeds. When you start to smell the aroma of the seeds before they darken, add the chili powders.

Mix well and let the chili powder cook for a few seconds. Add the jaggery and 1/4 cup water. As the jaggery starts to melt a little add the grated mango, the ground spice, and salt.

With a spatula, turn everything so that all the contents in the pan are incorporated well. Cook on low to medium heat, until the mango is cooked and the water has melted away.

Add 1/8 cup water at this point and mix well, and cook just enough until you see the glaze on top.

Take off the fire. Serve at room temperature.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Ginger Ice Cream (Serves 2)

It's hot!!! and it is a good time for some ice cream, I say! This was an ice cream re-mix that I had prepared some time last year actually, while I was well on my way recovering from surgery.

I think eventually it will be time for me to buy an ice cream making machine, since I have a lot of flavors running in my mind, and these creations are quick fixes that I do with store bought ice cream. It would be more fruitful and frugal to make my own ice cream, and it would be my own creation.

So, all you ginger lovers out there, come enjoy some ginger ice cream. Forgive the photo, it was taken when I didn't know much better. I am improving though :-). Here is the recipe.

1 1/2 cups natural vanilla ice cream
3 inch size flat piece of sweet crystallized ginger (store bought)
1 1/2 tsp filtered pure raw ginger juice
1/8 cup heavy cream

Take the vanilla ice cream out from the freezer and keep it at normal temperature.

Cut 3 inches of flat crystallized ginger into very fine pieces and set them aside. 

Take approximately 2 inches of ginger root and crush it. Squeezing the crushed ginger with your fingers, filter the pure ginger juice through a strainer and set it aside. We need 1 1/2 tsp of ginger juice. 

In a small bowl take 1/8 cup of heavy cream, add the 1 1/2 tsp of ginger juice to it. Just about bring the heavy cream to a boil, so that the rawness of the ginger goes away. Let it cool for a few minutes. 

In a mixing bowl, put 1 1/2 cups of vanilla ice cream, and add the heavy cream ginger juice mix, and the cut crystallized ginger pieces. With a spoon mix everything well together till it forms a smooth texture. 

Pour the ice cream mix back into its original container, and refreeze it. 

Serve it cold as is, or add some more crumbs of crystallized ginger on top if you are the gingery kind :-). Enjoy!

Health Rating: Medium

Monday, July 12, 2010

Mast-O-Khiar (Persian Cucumber and Mint with Yogurt) (Serves 8)

How could I leave this dish that we had served as an accompaniment to biryani during the BBQ cookout we had a couple of months ago?

This is one of my favorite dishes and I always order this when I am at a middle eastern kebab place. I just love the flavor of the mint and the cucumber infused in the yogurt. I added a few additional ingredients as an experiment.

This is an absolutely tasty dish and very soothing for the body, especially during the hot summer months.

It is very similar in preparation to the Indian raita, but a few different ingredients make such a huge difference to the final taste!

3 cups strained yogurt (Greek)
1 garlic clove
1 small bunch Parsley leaves
14 fresh mint leaves
5 small to medium Persian cucumbers
Salt to taste

Skin the cucumbers with a peeler and grate them. Make sure the grater is not very fine. Squeeze and strain off the excess water from the cucumber in a small bowl. Set the grated cucumber aside.

Quickly blend the garlic, parsley leaves, mint leaves along with just enough cucumber juice to help blend the ingredients.

In a large bowl, add the yogurt, grated cucumber, the blended mixture, and salt to taste. Mix everything well until smooth.

Refrigerate and serve cold with pita, bread, as a side dish with rice and gravy, or as is.

Health Rating: High

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Spicy Chicken Vindalho (Serves 4)

I would like to apologize for not posting in a long while, as I have been trying to recover from an herniated disc which hasn’t let me in a position to cook. As a temporary solution I now sit on a chair and cook, as I can’t stay from cooking and don’t want to trouble my wife too much :-)

I got the recipe for this dish while looking on Google, and came upon this Goan food blog called http://www.goanfoodrecipes.com.

I used to have a lot of Goan food (very spicy and flavorful with common items being fish, coconut, rice) while in India, and this site appealed to me with its traditional Goan food recipes. So I was curios to take a recipe from here and try it out over the weekend. 
Vindalho or Vindaloo is usually made with pork and malt vinegar. But chicken can also substituted for the pork. I had to make some adjustments to the recipe in terms of the amount of vinegar, and also the oil needed. I also used rice vinegar instead of the malt vinegar. The result nevertheless was outstanding. 

The author was right when he mentioned that this dish reminds you of pickle. Yes, the vinegar and the simple spices make that happen. Let's go straight to the recipe. It is so simple, you can make it even if you are totally wasted! :-) well, almost.

2 lb mixed chicken breast and thighs (boneless)
2 big onions (2 medium sized onions if you are in the US)
2 tbsp paprika powder
1 tbsp cayenne pepper
1 tbsp red chilli powder
1/2 cup rice vinegar
1 inch piece ginger cut small
5 cloves garlic cut small
2 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
8-10 black peppercorns
4-5 cloves
2 inch piece of cinnamon bark
4 tbsp oil
salt to taste

Cut the chicken in to one inch chunky pieces and set aside in a large bowl. Add salt to the chicken and mix well.

In a small bowl add the different chilli powders, 3/8 cup vinegar and mix well. Pour this mixture in a blender. Add the ginger root and garlic (both cut into small pieces), cumin seeds, turmeric powder, and blend everything till it forms a fine paste.

Pour this paste into the chicken pieces and mix everything really well. Refrigerate this overnight preferably, or at least one hour like I did.

Cut the onions into chunks and blend them in the grinder as well. 

In a large pan on medium heat, add the oil. As the oil gets hot, add the chicken and the blended onions, mix well and cook for 5 minutes. Add 1/2 cup of water, 1/8 cup of vinegar, peppercorns, cloves and cinnamon, and let the chicken cook on a low flame for at least an hour until the it is well done. Add more water based on the consistency you need, although I would suggest to keep it on the drier side.

Store in the refrigerator overnight to let the all the flavors mingle together and let the meat absorb the spices. Serve hot with rice, or chapati/fresh Italian bread.


Health Rating: Medium

Substitute Ingredient/s: For vegetarians you can substitute the chicken with chunky starchy vegetables such as potatoes. Adding carrots and celery to the potatoes would give it the flavor of a nice stew.

Also note that you will get a fantastic red color if you use authentic red chillies from Kashmir that the original recipe calls for. They aren’t that spicy, by the way.