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.