Thursday, May 14, 2009

Ice Cream with a Quick Twist

Weekday, not enough time to prepare a nice dessert, or make a run to Cake Love?
Don't Worry there are ways to make that scoop of grocery store ice cream more exciting. Here is what you need to do:
1. Take a frozen waffle and microwave it for 15-20 seconds (till it is soft) [Well, now if you don't even have frozen waffle, take a slice of bread, cut off the sides, sprinkle a few drops of water and then microwave it for 10 seconds]
2. Slather on some peanut butter and honey, or Nutella, or some fudge syrup (you can microwave for another 5-10 seconds if you want to soften up the peanut butter)
3. Add dollops of icecream on top. [If you don't have the ice cream, your life sucks! Why continue the misery?]

Ennnjoy! (And let those who have never taken a bite, not judge!)

Friday, May 11, 2007

Carrot Salad

This warm sald came about by accident...a rather propitious one at that. I wanted to make a Morrocan roasted beet salad from the May, 2007 issue of Gourmet. The same page also had the recipe for a braised carrot dish. I prepped all the ingredients for the beet salad and then realised that I had actually bought carrots instead of beets. But since I really wanted to make the Morrocan salad I just continued with the carrots. Come to think of it, carrots and beets are both sweetish root vegetables. I also substituted the plain vinegar for rice vinegar because I hate the harsh taste of plain vinegar and also because I am genetically programmed not to follow instructions. The end result, needless to say was quite blog worthy...hence this post.

So here's what I made:

Carrots - 5 to 6 large, sliced at an angle
Cumin - 1 tbsps, dry roasted
Olive Oil - 2 tbsps
Rice Vinegar - 3-4 tbsps
Brown Sugar - 1 tbsp
Salt - to taste
Black Pepper - 1 tbsp
Fresh Mint - a handful, finely chopped

1. Blanch your carrots to reduce the cooking time if your carrots are slightly tough. Powder the dry roasted cumin seeds in a mortar and pestle.
2. Heat oil in a skillet. Add the carrots and let them cook for 4-5 minutes. Sprinkle with brown sugar and wait for it to caramelize.
3. Add the rice vinegar and roasted cumin powder. Season with salt and pepper and let the carrots cook through. Finally add the mint and take it off from the heat.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Cinco De Mayo with Yucatean Garlic Spice Chicken

I have been going through two of books on Mexican cuisine by Rick Bayless. Mexican Everyday takes authentic Mexican dishes and gives it a little tweak here and there to make a quick, wholesome meal. Mexico One Plate at a Time is the companion book to his award winning series on PBS by the same name. The second book is little more detailed, with an emphasis on technique and ingredients. I had earmarked some recipes but had not found the time or the occasion to tackle even one till Cinco De Mayo came along this weekend. Instead of the tradional tequilla soaked revelry (on second thoughts that would have been fabulous too) we indulged in a quick, Mexican meal of Yucatean Garlic Spice Chicken skewers, fire roasted salsa, grilled peppers and garlic bread. We did not have any tortillas so we had to make do with garlic bread....which I have to admit was a rather nice substitute. Here's a really ugly picture of the spread.
The original chicken recipe (from Mexican Everyday)called for Mexican cinnamon, which is very different from cassia, its cheaper, stronger cousin. Most powdered cinnamon available in the market is actually cassia as once powdered the two are virtually indistiguishable. If you buy your cinnamon whole, then go ahead and use half a teaspoon of it. I used a teaspoon as I love the combined flavour of sweet cinnamon and the other more savoury ingredients in this marinade. I did not have Mexican oregano and used double the quantity of ordinary oregano instead. If you have the real thing, you could halve the quantity used.

Using thigh pieces instead of breast pieces resulted in a very moist and flavourful end product with a definitive garlicky bite. I doused my skewers with a liberal squeeze of lime juice for added tang. I will definitely make this again and next time around I might even add roasted jalapenos to the marinade for a wee bit more heat.

Garlic - 1 head, about 12 cloves of the slightly larger size
Vegetable Oil - 1/3 cup
Vinegar - 6 tbsps
Cloves - 4 , ground
Black Pepper - 1 tsp, freshly ground
Cinnamon - 1 tsp, ground
Dried Oregano - 2 tsps
Sugar - 1/2 tsp
Salt - to taste

Chicken - 2 lbs, boneless, skinless thighs cut into inch pieces
Skewers - as many as needed

1. On a skillet toast the unpeeled garlic cloves till they develop spots. Let them cool and then simply peel the papery skins. In a blender/food processor, proccess with vegetable oil till smooth.
2. Add the remaining ingredients and process once more.
3. Add marinade to chicken and let the flavours develop for about an hour in the refridgerator.
4. Thread chicken onto presoaked skewers. Cook in preheat oven at 375 F till chicken is done. Alternatively the skewers could also be grilled if a grill is available.
5. Serve with lime wedges and fire roasted salsa.

*For the fire roasted salsa, just roast 4-5 unpeeled garlic cloves, one jalapeno pepper and 3-4 ripe plum tomatoes on a skillet till all develop black spots. Slip the papery skins of the garlic cloves, roughly chop the tomato and the jalapeno. Process these three in a blender till required consistency is reached. Finely chop half a white onion and wash in cold water a couple of times. Add onions to the proccesed tomatoes. Season with vinegar, salt, sugar and cilantro as per taste.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Swiss Chard with Pumpkin

Swiss Chard is one of our favourite greens. And cooked with pumpkin cubes and dry red chillies, it makes a really pretty dish....with all the greens and oranges and reds in it.

Pumpin/Calabaza - 3 cups, cubed
Swiss Chard - 2 bunches*
Onion - 1/2 cup, diced
Ginger - 1/2 inch knob, minced
Panch Phoron - 1 tsp
Dry Red Chillies - 2, broken
Coriander Seed/Dhaniya Powder - 1 tsp
Olive Oil - 1 tbsp
Salt - to taste

1. Wash Swiss Chard thoroughly. Remove tough stems and shred roughly. You could use a salad spinner to get rid of the excess water at this stage.**
2. Heat oil in pan. Add panch phoron and dry red chillies. Wait for the seasoning to sputter.
3. Now add the onions, saute till translucent and then add ginger and dhaniya powder. Cook till the raw smell dissipates.
4. Now add the diced pumpkin and salt. Cover the pan and let the pumpkin cook for 4-5 minutes until half way tender.
5. Finally add the Swiss Chard and cook until the pumpkin is tender and the chard well cooked. This should take another 4- 5 minutes. Check seasoning one last time.
6. Serve with piping hot massor dal, rice and lemon wedges.

* this gave me about 5 handfuls of chopped greens
** I usually wash and chop up my greens as soon as I get them from the store. I give them a couple of spins in my salad spinner and then use the salad spinner itself for storing them in the refridgerator.

Monday, April 30, 2007

Kali Dal

This is a quick dal for middle of the week dinners at our place.

Sabut Massor Daal - 1.5 cups
Tomato - 1 large, coarsely chopped
Coriander/Dhaniya Powder - 1 tsps
Red Chilli Powder - 1 tsps/to taste
Salt - to taste
Ginger - 2 inch piece juliened, reserve some for garnish

Ghee - 1.5 tbsps
Cloves - 6
Hing - a pinch
Garlic - 1 tsp, minced
Cumin Seeds/Jeera - 1 tsp

1. Pressure cook all the ingredients, except for those listed under tempering with three cups of water till creamy. If you have a pressure cooker then turn off the heat after two whistles and wait for the pressure to subside. Mash dal with back of spoon till creamy.
2. Heat ghee, add the tempering ingredients. Once the cumin seeds start sputtering add the tempered ghee to the cooked dal. Simmer for four to five minutes to let the flavors develop.
3. Adjust seasoning, garnish with resereved ginger julienes and chopped cilantro. Serve hot with bread of your choice.

PS: The taste of this dal actually improves over time, so make a little extra to savor on the next day.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Chanar Dalna

The secret to good cooking is good, fresh ingredients, everyone knows that. But with our hectic nine to five lifestyles it is not very easy to implement. Case in point being jeere-dhone-ada-bata which is a simple spice blend used in most Bengali cooking. Equal quantities of cumin seed, corainder seeds and fresh ginger are ground together into a paste and used for flavouring vegetable dishes as well as fish preparations. The seeds are first soaked in a little warm water for about fifteen minutes to soften them up before being ground with the ginger. But it takes both time and effort to make the fresh paste everytime so most home cooks improvise. Even my Mom makes do with powdered cumin and coriander seeds mixed in with ginger paste for every day cooking. She does make a batch of the fresh paste whenever she is cooking something a little special, because the aroma of freshly ground spices is totally worth the extra effort.

Last night, I decided to make chanar dalna the way I remember Mom making it. I did not have her exact recipe so I tried to replicate what my tastebuds remember. Chanar dalna is your basic matar paneer but without ginger and in a much lighter gravy. It has always been a winter comfort food for me. But first I made myself a batch of jeere-dhone-ada-bata. For jeere-dhone-ada-bata:
Take one tablespoon of cumin and coriander seeds each and soak in enough warm water to cover the seeds. Chop a two inch piece of ginger into small pieces (to help the blender do its job). After fifteen minutes, blend the cumin and coriander seeds along with the ginger in a small blender or food processor. Add more water sparingly to get a paste like consistency. This keeps well in the refrigerator for about a week.

Paneer - 400gms or 1 package, cubed
Green Peas - 2 cups, frozen
Tomato- 1 medium sized, cubed
Tomato Paste - 2 tbsps
Jeere-dhone-ada paste - 2 tbsps
Onion - 1 medium, minced
Green Chillies - 3, deseeded and slit
Cloves - 2
Green Cardamom - 2
Cinnamon - 1, one inch peice
Turmeric Powder - 1 tsp
Salt - To taste
Peanut Oil - 2 tbsp+ for frying
Cilantro - 3 sprigs, chopped for garnish

1. Fry the paneer pieces in oil till golden brown and remove.
2. In the same oil (if remaining or else add more) add the cloves, cardamom and cinnamon. Once its fragrant add the onion and sautee till translucent.
3. Add the jeere-dhone-ada paste and fry till the raw smell is gone. Add the tomatoes and cook till mushy. At this stage add the turmeric powder, salt and tomato paste and continue to cook for a minute or two. Make sure the masala does not burn.
4. Add the peas and paneer cubes and mix with masala. Add two cups of water and the green chillies.
5. Turn down the heat and let it simmer for 5-6 minutes till the gravy thickens a little. Check seasoning and garnish with chopped cilantro. Serve warm with chappattis.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Roasted Red Pepper and Tomato Soup

The inspiration for this came to me during one of my many net trawling sessions. The original recipe can be found here. I added a red pepper and a few unpeeled garlic cloves in the roasting pan with the tomatoes. I did not have fresh basil so we had the soup without the basil, but it would certainly brighten the soup a lot more. So don't skimp out on the basil.

Israel Tomatoes - 2 lbs, halved
Red Bell Pepper - 1 whole
Garlic Cloves - 6, 3 minced and 3 unpeeled
Rosemary - 1 1/4 tsp, dried
Thyme - 1 1/4 tsp, dried
Crushed Red Pepper - 1 tsp
Lemon Zest - minced, from 1 large lemon
Coarse Sea Salt - 1 tbsp + to taste
Black Pepper - 1 tbsp, coarsely ground
Olive Oil - 4 tbsps
Vegetable Broth - 4 cups, or as required to thin the soup
Fresh Basil - 5 tbsps, chopped (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Place tomatoes (cut side up), one whole bell pepper and three unpeeled cloves of garlic in a large baking pan. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Drizzle veggies with 2 tablespoons olive oil. Roast until vegetables are brown, crinkly and tender, about 1 hour. Cool slightly.
2. Squeeze the roasted garlic cloves out of their skins. Remove the charred pepper skin and scrape away the seeds. Remove as much of the tomato skins as possible. Try to do all this in the baking pan so as to reserve all the juices. .
3. Heat 3 tablespoons oil in large pot over medium-high heat. Add minced garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Stir in the roasted vegetables, rosemary, thyme, lemon zest and dried crushed red pepper. Using a food processor or a immersion blender process until slightly smooth.
4. Add vegetable broth and bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered until soup thickens slightly, about 25 minutes.
5. Remove from heat. Stir in basil. Season to taste with salt and pepper


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