I’m back to work and it’s so much fun as I get to taste a little bit of San Francisco everyday! Even if it is for a few minutes, I try to step out for lunch and explore the foodie hot spots in downtown area. There are such amazing places to eat around my office building and then my favorite place in the foodie city, the Ferry Building, is just a hop, skip and a jump away . On balmy SF afternoons, I get out and join in the hustle-bustle of the farmers’ market or go strolling inside the building, getting inspirations and relishing the flavors of the marketplace.
Life’s certainly busier than ever before and I just haven’t had time to write about my signature concoctions lately. But, that doesn’t mean I have stopped cooking and clicking! When I’m done with work, I look forward to coming home and getting me some “cooking therapy” . I guess it’s my passion for cooking that makes it such a relaxing and therapeutic activity for me to do at the end of the day. And it also gives me a great sense of satisfaction to have fed my family with fresh, home-cooked food everyday.
In the last few weeks, I have been making my go-to jhatpat subzis or some weeknight quickies, primarily staying in my comfort zone. And then there were the other days when my creative juices were overflowing and I made concoctions like pasta with shrimp, grape tomatoes and baby spinach in a light wine sauce, a hearty pasta dish with fresh, clean flavors or spicy lentils with steamed brown basmati rice, a traditional Maharashtrian dish packed with proteins and carbohydrates that will leave you feeling re-energized at the end of the day and finally, baked masala fish packets, a full and delicious meal that’s done in a little pouch, making the clean up easier that ever.
These dishes are a great way to treat yourself after long hours at work – weeknight wonders that are ready in minutes and completely satisfying! Try making one of these and enjoy the therapeutic experience of cooking.
Pasta with Shrimp, Grape Tomatoes and Baby Spinach in a light Wine Sauce
I feel pasta is one of the easiest things to make. With just a few ingredients, you can turn it into a hearty dinner. My pastas are very humble, usually with a little or no sauce and lot’sa fresh ingredients mixed in with the cooked pasta. One of my favorite and easiest way is to sauté a little bit of fresh garlic with red pepper flakes before tossing in a few succulent shrimp. A splash of white wine adds a citrusy accent and forms a light sauce in which the pasta, handful of baby spinach and juicy tomatoes – diced chunks, halved cherry or grape tomatoes – are added at the very last minute. And finally the best part – nutty parmesan cheese is grated over before serving in or directly on the plate.
This dish comes together within no time. It’s a salad and a pasta dish flavorfully combined together in a versatile wine sauce; you can play with the ingredients and throw in whatever you like…broccoli, roasted red peppers, arugula, salami, olives, sausages….the options are unlimited.
There’s always enough time to make an easy pasta dish like this one, isn’t it?! Give it a try and enjoy a quick and satisfying home cooked meal after a long busy day…
1-2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 large garlic clove, smashed, peeled and minced
a pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)
10-12 large shrimp, fresh or frozen (do not thaw), peeled and deveined
a splash of dry white wine, like Sauvignon Blanc
2 cups of uncooked pasta, your favorite kind
a handful of grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
a handful of baby spinach, roughly chopped
freshly ground black pepper
grated Parmesan cheese
Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Stir in generous amount of salt and add the pasta. Cook for about 8 to 10 mins, until tender but still firm to the bite.
Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the garlic along with red pepper flakes and stir fry for a minute or so. Toss in the shrimp (if using frozen, put them directly without thawing) and season with salt and pepper. Continue cooking for a couple more mins without stirring until the shrimp cook on that side and turn pink before you flip them over.
After the shrimp cook on the other side, about 2-3 mins, add a splash of white wine and cook until it starts bubbling, about a min or two. Drain pasta and add it into the pan. Also add the tomatoes and baby spinach and turn the heat off. Mix well and adjust the seasonings. Add a little bit of pasta water if needed.
Transfer to a plate and sprinkle the Parmesan cheese. Garnish with parsley and serve immediately or at room temperature.
Spicy Lentils with Steamed Brown Basmati Rice
Especially after a long day at work, I crave for a warm and comforting suppers. My secret weapon to a quick and easy weeknight dinner lies in the pantry – the daals and rice. I like to make it easy on me by letting the pot and pressure cooker do the work. Here’s a quick stew of lentils made by using the traditional “hirva masala“, served with steamed rice. It’s a deliciously simple dish, easy to make any time of the week!
Along with daals, I have always made the regular Indian basmati rice but since the discovery of brown basmati rice in the Indian stores, I have switched! I now make it more often than the regular one. Its very healthy and extremely easy to cook. Give it a shot and it’ll soon become one of your regulars, like it is in my home.
½ cup lentils or masoor daal
1½ cups water (See ratios and proportions)
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
2-3 tbsp oil (canola, sunflower, corn, vegetable)
½ tsp mustard seeds (rai/mori)
½ tsp cumin seeds (jeera)
1 tsp turmeric powder (haldi)
1-2 pinches asofoetida (hing)
1-2 dry red chillies (optional)
1 cup Hirva Masala
1 tbsp sugar/jaggery (See Concoctions 101)
3-4 petals or 1 tbsp liquid extract of kokum
salt, to taste
fresh cilantro/coriander, finely chopped for garnishing
Wash and drain the masoor daal in a pressure cooker vessel. Add the water and place it inside the pressure cooker. Cover the lid and bring the cooker to a full pressure, letting it whistle for 3-4 times, then reduce to low heat and simmer for 10 – 15 mins. Masoor daal needs more cooking time as its a little tougher as compared to other daals. When the cooker cools down, remove the vessel and roughly mash the cooked daal using the back of the ladle.
In a medium pot heat oil and add turmeric powder, cumin and mustard seeds along with asofoetida and dry red chillies (if using). When the seeds start to splutter, add the garlic and onion and fry till translucent. Add the “hirva masala”, season with salt and fry for 8-10 minutes, till oil seperates from the masala.
Pour in the mashed daal and stir gently to combine. Rinse the vessel in which daal was cooked and mashed with water and add this water (up to 2 cups) to the pot to dilute the mixture.
Season with salt, goda/kala masala, jaggery and kokum. Mix well and bring it to a boil over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally to make sure it doesn’t stick to the bottom.
Garnish with cilantro and serve hot over steamed rice.
Baked Masala Fish Packets
No matter how busy I get, I don’t like to settle for ordinary food. Here’s a delicious way to make an easy dinner and there aren’t too many pots and pans to wash! Just put a fillet of tilapia on a piece of foil and slather with this quick “masala” . Bake it in the oven for a few mins and you’ll have a perfectly moist tender fish. Serve it with rice and/or vegetables and you’re good to go. If you are looking for a quick and easy main course for a weeknight dinner, this should definitely be on your menu. Baked masala fish is a sophisticated and elegant way to end your weekday!
2 tilapia or any other firm, white fish fillets like cod, halibut, sea bass
1 generous handful of cilantro, roughly chopped along with the stems
2 large garlic cloved, smashed and peeled
½ tbsp paprika
½ tsp garam masala
1 lemon, ½ sliced and ½ juice squeezed
1 lemongrass stem, just the white part of the bulb, smashed and roughly chopped
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
Combine all the ingredients of the masala , except the lemon slices, in a food processor and grind to a smooth paste.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Place about a foot long sheet of aluminum foil or parchment paper on a work surface for each fillet of fish. Then place the fillets on top of the foil or paper and spread the masala over to cover the side. Turn the fish over and spread some more masala on the other side.
Lay a couple of lemon slices and cilantro leaves on top of the fish and seal up the foil packets, making sure it won’t leak during the baking process. You can let the fish marinate for 15-30 mins in the packets itself over the counter. Marination is recommended but not necessary.
Place the foil packets on a baking sheet. Bake for 12-15 mins depending on the thickness of the fish. Gently transfer the fish along with the masala over rice or on the side of vegetables and serve immediately.