Rati, is a good old friend and one of my college roomies at Rutgers. When she moved in with me and my other roommates, Rati put a new spin on our dorm-room cooking with gourmet cooking skills. Honestly, I remember looking forward to Rati’s cooking turn in the week :) . I love her spicy Rajasthani Kadhi, Rasam, Indian-Italian fusion dinners, Malaysian curries and those warm comforting khichadis! (mmmm…slurp slurp :P ) If you love hot and spicy food, this is it…you’ll be sweating and crying but truly loving her tasty dishes. They are simply divine!

Vas and I were roommates in school; I remember us cooking together at times and recall the simplicity and flavor of her recipes.  What follows are a couple of my recent favorites!

- Rati

Hara-bhara Orecchiette (Orachiettay)

It’s only recently that I have started experimenting with this ear shaped pasta, it seems to be a popular spring and summer time pasta and it works well with vegetables and/or chunky sauces. This dish is a mix of Italian and Indian elements, the pasta is Italian, but the spice levels are Indian! Hence the name. We use a variety of green vegetables, each cooked to a slightly different degree from the others. This gives the dish layers of texture and taste.

Hara-bhara Orecchiette

Serves 4

1 pound Orecchiette pasta

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1 big white onion chopped

1 medium sized zucchini chopped

1 cup sweet peas

1 cup asparagus diced

1/2 cup basil leaves

1/4 cup fresh coriander leaves

1 cup cherry tomatoes, cut in halves

3-4 hot peppers

2-3 green chillies

2-3 cloves

1 teaspoon pine nuts

4 bulbs of finely chopped garlic

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

3-4 bay leaves

1/2 teaspoon salt

freshly ground black pepper for garnishing

Bring water in a medium sized vessel to boil, add salt, and Orecchiette pasta, keep stirring to avoid the pasta getting stuck to each other. Remove once al dante.

Grind basil, coriander leaves, 1 garlic clove, pine nuts and the green chillies to a paste with 1 teaspoon of olive oil.

Heat olive oil in a flat pan. Add Bay leaves, chopped garlic, cloves and hot peppers. Saute until the garlic turns slightly brown.

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Add zucchini and white onions. Saute for 2-3 minutes, add asparagus and sweet peas. Saute for another 2-3 minutes and then add cherry tomatoes and let it cook for about 5 minutes. Add the basil paste to the vegetables and a little salt  and saute for another 3-4 minutes.

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Add the Orecchiette pasta and stir occasionally. Add grated Parmesan cheese.

Let the pasta sit for at least 20-30 minutes before serving for it to absorb the flavors.

Garnish with chopped coriander and freshly ground pepper.

Gazpacho Soup

Gazpacho is often described as “a light, cool, refreshing soup from Spain”. I first tasted this soup at a Bed and Breakfast and the inn keepers were kind to share their secret ingredient with me (Tabasco sauce). It’s easy to make and plenty of flavor.

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Serves 2

2 large tomatoes, finely chopped

1 large cucumber, peeled and finely chopped

1 green bell pepper seeded, and finely chopped

1/2 medium red onion, minced

1 small can of peeled tomatoes

2 tablespoon red wine vinegar

3 teaspoons of extra virgin olive oil

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons of Tabasco sauce

1 clove garlic minced

1/4 cup fresh coriander leaves

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Grind tomatoes, cucumber, green pepper, onion, canned tomatoes, vinegar, olive oil, garlic and coriander together.

Put the mixture in a bowl add salt and Tabasco sauce.

Garnish with fresh coriander. Serve chilled (preferably 2-3 hours).

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