Friday, April 29, 2011

Pasta, Asparagus and Tomato Mozzarella Salad (Serves 2-3)

This is was one of our Friday dinner menus, a while ago now. We were in a celebratory mood but wanted to keep things simple at the same time.

As my wife was setting up the candle and the red wine, I quickly went into action and made some pasta, sautéed asparagus and tomato mozzarella salad, and some fresh Italian bread to go with it.

The dinner ended up being fantastic. Sometimes such quick turnaround preparations can turn out to be so delicious. So let’s go straight to the recipe.

For the Pasta:
2 cups uncooked penne pasta
½ tbsp extra virgin oil
1 sprig sweet basil
5 cups water for cooking pasta

For the Asparagus:
1 lb fresh asparagus
4 cloves garlic
Salt & Pepper to taste
2 ½ tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 ½ tsp dry garlic chutney powder (optional)

For the Tomato & Mozzarella Salad:
½ lb fresh mozzarella cheese
2 red & juicy large fresh plum tomatoes
5-6 sweet basil leaves
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic
Salt & Pepper to taste

Preparation -

Asparagus -

1. Clean the asparagus, and cut off the hard part, around 1 inch from the end. Cut the remaining asparagus into 1 ½ inch length pieces. Set aside. Cut the garlic horizontally into thin slices.

2. In a wok or a frying pan, add oil and keep the flame on medium heat. Add the garlic and stir until the garlic starts to turn golden brown. Add the asparagus, salt and pepper to taste and mix everything together.

3. Asparagus cooks very quickly. Turn off the fire the moment the asparagus is crunchy and juicy, but cooked. Transfer the asparagus to a serving dish. Sprinkle dry garlic chutney powder on top if you like a blast of spice and garlic. You can buy this chutney powder from any Indian store. It is totally optional.

Tomato & Mozzarella Salad

1. Fresh mozzarella is usually sold in the shape of a ball. Cut the mozzarella into 1/8 inch thick slices. Do the same with the plum tomatoes.

2. You can mince the garlic. Or, you can grate the garlic. Slice the basil leaves into thin slices lengthwise.

3. Set the mozzarella and tomatoes on a serving plate, one slice on top of another. Grate the garlic on top of the cheese and tomato, and garnish with the basil leaves. Drizzle the olive oil on top of this, and sprinkle salt and pepper to taste.

Pasta -
1. In a large soup bowl or something similar, bring 5 cups of water to boil. When the water is boiling, add the penne pasta to it, and throw in some salt.

2. Boil for around 8-10 minutes, and turn off the flame when the penne is cooked al dente or just ready to eat. It will be a little crunchy, hence if you prefer a well done pasta, boil until it is cooked to the consistency you like.

3. Drain off the water completely, shaking off any excess. Add the cooked pasta to a plate, drizzle ½ tbsp of extra virgin olive oil, and garnish with basil leaves.

You can serve the penne with the asparagus (tossing them together) of if you prefer to add sauce to it, you can do that as well. Serve with a nice red wine.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Green Pepper Pickle (Serves a number of people)

Sorry to have been out of action for such a long while. Didn’t mean to, just happened. Anyway no excuses, but glad to be back.

I do have a lot of recipes written down based on what I prepared for the last several months. But I wanted to get back in the kitchen and into cooking. Having been in the mood for eating spicy food lately, hence whatever I cooked in the last couple of days have been that.

I would like to start off with what I made yesterday, an Indian style pickle made with green pepper. Green pepper was chosen just because by mistake we ended up picking 7 of them during our regular grocery round, which for 2 people is quite a lot.

I borrowed on the basic pickle recipe that goes really well with mangoes and other vegetables, but just gave a a little variation by using black salt instead of regular white salt. Black salt has its own bursting flavor and unique taste that goes along well with chaat masala, and as part of seasonings. I bought some recently, and its going to feature in quite a lot of the dishes that I will be preparing over the next few months.

3 green peppers diced into small pieces (roughly 400g)
1/16 tsp asafoetida
¼ tsp turmeric powder
1 ½ tbsp red chili powder
4 tbsp oil
1 tsp black salt
¾ tsp cumin powder
¾ tsp coriander powde

Dice the green pepper into small pieces, after removing the seeds and stem.

On a non stick pan on medium heat, add the oil. As the oil heats up, add the red chili powder, asafoetida, cumin and coriander powder. Stir everything a bit in the oil as the ingredients get cooked and impart their flavor into the oil.

The moment you get a nice aroma of the spices in the hot oil, immediately add the green pepper to it and stir well. We have to make sure that the powders do not burn in the oil. Hence the timing is important.

Add the turmeric powder and black salt, and mix everything well.

Keep cooking on medium flame until most of the water from the green pepper evaporates, it loses its bitterness, and most importantly you see all the oil start separating from the green peppers. Taste the final product to make sure the peppers are cooked well, and shut the flame off.

Store it, and serve as a accompaniment to rice and dal, or stuff it between buttered bread and have a go at it. Enjoy!