Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Roasted Cauliflower with Cilantro Paste (Serves 2)

A couple of weeks ago we had invited my wife's friend and her family over for lunch. We hadn't seen them in a while, it was a great opportunity to catch up with them and for my daughter to play with her two kids who are around the same age.

I whipped up a few dishes that day, all turning out well, and this was one of them. Instead of just roasting the cauliflower in the oven with olive oil, salt and pepper, and topping with cheese like I normally do when kids are around, I decided to play around a little bit since I had prepared something else for the kids.

This dish is very basic and easy to prepare, and the cilantro adds great taste to the final product.

1 medium cauliflower
2 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper for seasoning
1 clove garlic
handful cilantro leaves chopped
1 medium green chili
2 tbsp water
1/2 red onion

Pre heat the oven to 400 degrees. Clean the cauliflower, and cut into small pieces. Toss the cauliflower with 1 1/2 tbsp olive oil, salt and pepper for seasoning and transfer to a baking tray, laying them out flat. Bake for 15-20 minutes until the cauliflower is cooked, and nice and brown at the edges.

In the meantime roast the whole garlic on a pan for a couple of minutes with a drop of oil in order to just take away the rawness a bit.

In a small blender, take the cilantro (coriander) leaves, green chili, the roasted garlic, and water and blend into a paste.

Cut the onion into thin long strips. On a pan, pour 1/2 tbsp of oil, add the onions and roast them at low to medium heat until caramelized.

Once the cauliflower is done, in a serving bowl mix it well with the cilantro paste, and garnish on top with the caramelized roasted onion.

Serve hot as a side dish.

Health Rating: High

Monday, January 25, 2010

Fennel Butternut Squash Soup (Serves 2)

Hey there, been a little while since I posted. I had become somewhat lazy and complacent, knowing that I had a recipe bank of around 10 recipes waiting to be written and posted. But then things aren't that easy as we all know.

What with spending time with my daughter and wife during the weekends, coupled with other social outings, I didn't find the appropriate time to post a recipe. Right now I am writing this post squeezing it in before the Saints-Vikings game. What a game that Jets-Colts turned out to be. Lot of fun, always, the NFL playoffs.

Anyway, back to the subject matter. Some weeks ago I had purchased butternut squash thinking I would make a chicken dish with it. Never ended up doing that, and instead made a simple soup combining the squash with fennel producing a soup bursting with flavor.

1 cup chopped fennel root
1 butternut squash medium size (8" length)
1 1/2 tbsp olive oil
1/4 tsp cumin seeds
1/4 tsp fennel seeds
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
black pepper for seasoning
small bunch of fresh coriander leaves chopped fine
small bunch of fresh parsley leaves chopped fine
1 tsp browned butter (ghee)

First, slice both the ends off the butternut squash so it can stand up. This way, cutting the squash vertically in one half becomes easy. After cutting the squash and scooping out the seeds, take a baking tray and drizzle some olive oil on it. Lay the squash inside out and bake it at 350 degrees for around 45 minutes or until nicely roasted and cooked. You can also boil the squash in water and cook it faster, but it won't taste as good as when it is roasted.

Scoop out the cooked squash from its skin and mash it with a hand blender or with your hands until it is a smooth puree. Set aside. In a wok or a pan, on medium heat, add the olive oil. When the oil is a little hot, add the cumin and fennel seeds. After 10 seconds or so add the cut fennel root, and saute until the fennel is golden brown. Sprinkle in salt and black pepper for seasoning, and add the cayenne pepper as well. Saute for a couple minutes more and add the squash puree. Add 1/2 cup of warm water, mix everything well and heat it on low to medium flame for 5 minutes. Garnish with the coriander and parsley leaves on top with a little drizzle of browned butter and you are done.

Serve this delicious soup hot in a bowl with a side of toasted bread, buttered up if you want to indulge.

Health Rating: High

Ingredient Substitute/s: If you are a vegan, just omit the browned butter addition at the garnishing stage. Fennel can be replaced with onions, and the butternut squash can be replaced with yam or pumpkin or vegetables in the same family.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Sweet and Spicy Portabella Mushrooms (Serves 2)

This was one of those days where I just fell into a groove and everything I tried worked. I just wanted to roast some portabella mushroom as an appetizer to go along with the wine my wife and I were drinking. I really wasn't inclined to cook and hence was thinking what do to even as I added oil to the skillet. What turned out eventually was inspiring and very delicious for the palate indeed.

The ingredient list went on increasing as the ideas kept popping in my mind. After preparing the dish, I couldn't wait to jot down on a piece of paper what all I had used lest I forget, approximating the measurements very close to the what fingers were measuring.

I ended up both roasting and baking the mushroom with a variety of ingredients. The aroma from the roasted mushrooms, herbs and cheese was very enticing, and we really enjoyed it with the red wine. Hope you like it as well.

1 large portabella mushroom
1 tsp rosemary leaves
1 1/2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/4 tsp dried oregano leaves
salt and pepper to taste
3/8 tsp cayenne pepper
2 tbsp Panko bread crumbs or regular bread crumbs
1 tsp honey
3 tbsp grated store bought mozzarella cheese
1 tsp sweetened dried cranberries

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F.

Cut the portabella mushroom lengthwise with thickness of just around 1/2 an inch. On a skillet on medium heat, add the extra virgin olive oil, and then the rosemary, oregano, cayenne pepper and just as they start to heat add the mushroom as well. After sauteing for a couple of minutes, sprinkle some salt on the mushroom and add the bread crumbs. Cook on medium for a few minutes as the herbs, spices and bread crumbs mix well with the mushroom. Turn the fire off.

On a baking sheet lay the mushroom pieces along with all the herbs and crumbs from the skillet. Gently rub honey on top of the mushroom pieces so that each of the pieces get some coating of the honey. Bake for 3-4 minutes, at which point you add the grated cheese on top of the mushroom and bake for another 2 minutes or so until the cheese is melted on top.

Take it out of the oven and place it on a serving plate. Garnish with dried sweetened cranberries and serve hot. Chewing on the mushroom, you will be greeted by the hot taste of the cayenne pepper followed by the sweetness from the honey and berries, and then the flavor of the mushroom with the herbs and cheese takes over. Made my wife happy, which is priceless!

Health Rating: Medium

Monday, January 11, 2010

Crispy Brussels Sprouts (Serves 1)

A while ago I had seen the recipe for baked crispy kale leaves by Jaden Hair at, where she had baked the kale leaves until they get crispy like chips. It sounded very interesting to me. Anything to replace potato chips, right? :-)

I thought I would try the same at home, but with brussels sprouts instead. I had tried to bake spinach in the same manner but it wasn't quite the success like Jaden had with the kale leaves. I think that is due to the texture and water content of the spinach leaves.

I baked the brussels sprouts until they were somewhat brown and roasted as I like them that way. They ended up being quite tasty indeed, very flavorful due to the spices and with a crispy and crunchy texture.

10z (285g) pack of brussels sprouts
1 tbsp olive oil
1/8 tsp garlic powder
pinch of salt & pepper
1/8 - 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

Pre heat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Peel off the leaves from the brussels sprouts. Clean them in water and, using a salad spinner spin the brussels sprouts leaves a few times to get rid of most of the water. You can also pat the leaves dry in a paper towel or a cloth. The idea is to keep the leaves as dry as possible when they go into the oven or they won't get crispy. Set aside in a bowl.

Add the olive oil to the brussels sprouts and toss to mix the oil well with the leaves.

Lay the leaves on a baking tray with parchment paper. Bake until the sprouts turn nice and roasted brown at the edges, around 18 to 20 minutes or so. Remove from the oven, and sprinkle salt and pepper, and the garlic powder and cayenne pepper. Enjoy this healthy snack with chilled beer :-)

Health Rating: High

Monday, January 4, 2010

Beetroot Feta Salad (Serves 2)

There were a few beetroots lying around in the refrigerator for a while now, and my wife has been reminding me about them repeatedly. Thankfully I wasn't at a loss as to what to make, and ended up preparing a very simple beetroot feta salad as a side dish for lunch yesterday. We ate up most of the salad as soon as it was prepared.

3 medium beetroots
2 tbsp crumbled feta cheese
2 tsp lemon juice
1 1/3 tbsp olive oil (4 tsp)
1 1/2 tbsp freshly chopped rosemary leaves
salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

Peel the skin off the beetroots, using a peeler. Wash the roots and boil them in water for 10 - 15 minutes until they are just cooked. Let them cool down.

Dice the beetroots into 1/4 inch size pieces and put them in a bowl. Add the feta cheese (crumbled), lemon juice, olive oil, parsley, and salt and pepper for seasoning. Toss well together. Salad is ready.

This is a very refreshing salad with the sweetness from the beetroots, saltiness from the feta and the citric flavor of the lemon juice complementing each other really well, overseen by the freshness of the parsley. Serve cold or at room temperature.

Health Rating: High

Note: Beetroots are strictly a no no for diabetics (being one myself), as they shoot your blood sugar levels up rather quickly. Although the portion size here is very small, please tread carefully if you are a diabetic.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Chicken Masala (Serves 6)

Happy New Year everyone! Hope all of you had a wonderful holiday. I am glad to have put last year behind me and am looking forward to 2010 from a health point of view after the issues I went through last year.

We had a get together for the kids on Christmas day and a potluck dinner to go along with it. I made a quick chicken masala based on a recipe that was passed on to me from a friend of mine years ago. I have maintained the recipe for the most part while making fine adjustments here and there over time. It is a very simple affair and is sure to be a popular hit among your guests.

The recipe calls for a whole chicken including the bones, but without the skin. The natural juices of the chicken just give a fantastic flavor to this dish. I opted instead for chicken breasts only, losing a little bit of the flavor but staying on the healthier side of things. Let's get to the recipe then.

6 large chicken breasts (or 1 whole chicken cut up without skin)
4 tbsp oil
3 medium onions diced into 1/2 inch pieces
5 cloves garlic finely grated
1 inch piece of ginger finely grated
3 large tomatoes diced
1 tsp turmeric powder
1 1/2 tbsp red chili powder
1 1/2 tbsp chicken moghal powder or meat masala powder
one large bunch fresh coriander leaves finely chopped
juice from 1/2 a large lemon

Cut the chicken pieces into cubes and set aside, along with its juices. In a large heavy bottomed skillet, add the oil and as the oil is getting hot add the onions. Cook the onions on medium heat until they turn golden to dark brown, making sure you don't burn the onions.

At this point, add the grated ginger and garlic, turmeric powder, red chili powder, and the chicken moghal spice powder. If you can't find this specific powder you can use any meat masala powder, since the spice ingredients in most of the brands that make meat masala are common anyway (good brands are Everest or Badshah procured from any Indian grocery store). Stir well to mix the spices and the onions for a few minutes.

Now add the tomatoes and stir well. Cook on medium to low flame until the oil slowly starts separating from the vegetables. The chicken is added at this stage along with its juices, and then cooked on low flame until well done. You can add few tablespoons of water now and then to make sure the dish does not dry out while cooking.

After the chicken is done, turn off the fire and add the lemon juice. Garnish with fresh coriander leaves and serve hot with rice or chapati. The dish in this form is dry and is great as an appetizer with alcoholic drinks. You can also add some water and heat it up and then eat it as a gravy with rice. Enjoy!

Health Rating: High

Note: If the chicken masala is too spicy for your taste, you can go easy on the red chili powder and meat masala powder by reducing them by 1/2 a tbsp each.