Summer, this year, flew by so quickly! It’s starting to get a little “more” nippy in the evenings now by me in the Bay Area and the days are also slowly becoming shorter. While I just didn’t realize when the season came and went, it did leave me with some lovely memories like my first time strawberry picking…
…the Catalan cooking class I took in Barcelona…
and gorging myself with loads of mom-made food that was waiting for me after I got home from work!
As you can see, I didn’t didn’t spend much time in the kitchen over the summer but over the next few weeks as I slowly get back to blogging a bit more regularly, I will post a few concoctions I whipped over the summer. For now I’m kicking off the first post of my new season with something that’s a little sweet, a little tart and oh so good…my home-made strawberry jam!
Read on … »
As the sesame seeds were roasting, their delicate aroma hovered over the pan and soon filled up my entire kitchen. Simultaneously, golden brown sugar syrup was bubbling away in a saucepan, adding a subtle sweet fragrance around me that reminded me of my childhood days when mom made Til Gul especially for Sankrant.
The very first Indian festival of the year is here and for the very first time, I made the quintessential sweet for the festivities, Til Gul, at home. After all these years, I was almost craving to bite into one of those soft, nutty candies and I decided to make some right away! I pulled out my handbook of Marathi cuisine, “Ruchira” (see Evolving Tastes for the details and an extensive review of the book) and looked at the traditional recipe. Having all the ingredients on hand, I jumped right at it by roasting the sesame seeds and caramelizing the sugar. The simple combination of the sesame seeds with melted sugar is incredible on it’s own, but becomes even more amazing when mixed with ground cardamom and crushed roasted peanuts. This, to me, is the true essence of Sankrant!
Read on … »
And here we are at the finalé of yet another amazing season of signature concoctions! What an eventful year with my culinary journey mirroring real life; New York to San Francisco. It’s been three years since I started blogging about my cooking and clicking adventures. Unbelievable! Unbelievable, because I am now here with over 100 blog posts, more than 250 recipes, an average of 250 daily page views and thousands of readers all over the world. It started with, like, my mom hitting my site a number of times a day and me clicking pictures with a trusty old point and shoot.
This blog lets me share my love for food and record everything around it…the stories, some lovely memories and my ethnicity. Cliched as it may sound, it all comes down to, you, my readers. You visit week and week to read my posts, praise my photos and try my recipes; I am humbled and very thankful to you for the kind comments and words of encouragement that keep me going.
Enjoy the rest of your summer and see you in the fall. Signing off on a sweet note, with my decadent chocolate-orange ganache tart.
Read on … »
I’ve been popping cherries in my mouth all the time this week! Thanks to my friend Meghana, we went cherry picking last weekend and brought back a huge bag of gorgeous red and black cherries.
The cherry season was at its peak in Brentwood and it was the perfect time to go there and have some fun in the sun. During the couple of hours we spent at the ranch, we plucked a few pounds of their juicy, sweet cherries to bring back home and ate almost equal amounts the same time right from the trees!
After sharing a few bags with friends and family and snacking on those sweet-tart cherries all week long, there were a few more sitting in the refrigerator. To make the most of the cherry season in my house, I thought of opening my cooking school binder and make a cherrylicious dessert that I learnt to make in my very first class - a Cherry Clafoutis.
Read on … »
10 days of Ganesh Utsav are now over. In the state of Maharashtra, where I am from, it is the most popular festival and the celebrations are indeed grandiose! The highlight of the festivities is, without a doubt, Ganpati Bappa’s favorite – steamed modak! Everyone simply loves this Maharashtrian delicacy that’s made with the soft, white steamed outer covering and the delicately spiced jaggery and coconut filling inside! While I ate yummy mom-made modak, some of my friends dared to make their own, like my friend, Soni. Her perfectly shaped decadent modak look so tempting!
During the Ganesh festival, other than the “modak“, there are a few other Maharashtrian sweet dishes like Sheera (Cardamom-saffron Semolina with Almonds), Shrikhand (Cardamom-Saffron spiced Yogurt) and Basundi (Creamy Milk Pudding) that I made and offered to Ganpati Bappa.
Now, you don’t have to wait for Ganesh festival to come back next year! Give these recipes a try the next time you are in the mood for something sweet!
Coming up next in the series of things I learnt at school, are tarts. I love both kinds – savory & sweet. A savory tart filled with cheese and all kinds of meats and veggies is great as an elegant hors d’oeuvre, appetizer or light main course and a sweet tart for dessert, filled with fresh fruits, rich nuts, irresistible chocolate or smooth ‘n’ silky cream….sounds yum . They make an elegant impression, showing off their outer beauty by revealing the fillings that go inside the shell. I believe serving a narrow slice of tart or a little tartlet is a stylish way to add finesse to any occasion. (Alright…I think you got the point?!)
While, I have acquired the skill of making the pastry dough for the tart shell after going to culinary school, I have to say that it’s not that easy if you wanna try it, just for kicks. It’s also not something for the weak at heart or if you are obsessive compulsive about a clean kitchen . It will get dirty, it will be a royal mess and it will take time to clean up. Steel yourself!!! Just go to the store and grab frozen pastry dough or a few tart shells and fill’em up with the most amazing things!
Read on … »
It’s been 2 years since I started writing …
Life’s been busy happening and before I realized season 2 has ended! Nevertheless, in the past year, I sure had fun grilling, cooking and baking. Apart from the joys of sharing my stories and my signature recipes, my blog gives me something more – the motivation and the encouragement to strive for more! And that comes from you, it’s followers. It’s an integral part of my food blog since it has pushed me to make interesting dishes and take mouth-watering pictures. My blog was definitely the reason I went to culinary school this year… And now that I did it, I hope to use all the tricks in my bag to make this season more exciting. Of course, you’ll also get to taste a little bit of California along with NJ & NY in the upcoming concoctions of this season
So, sit back, relax and enjoy the first post of season 3 with a light and refreshing dessert.
Read on … »
Montclair has been our home for 6 years now. But all good things must come to an end…..so long Montclair!
It was a great run and I will always cherish all the wonderful memories we have made living in Montclair. I still remember us driving into Montclair’s little downtown several years ago while we were exploring towns closer to my new workplace. We were so taken up by the cozy clutter of eclectic restaurants and antique shops, the hilly, windy roads, pretty parks set against dueling Franco and Anglo architecture from when it was smaller villages called Cranetown, Speertown and Watchung.
I have seen Montclair grow in leaps and bounds during the real estate boom but thankfully it hasn’t crashed and burned like some other neighborhoods. Now, more than six years later, it is time for me to move on and away from Montclair! In the last few weeks, I’ve been busy packing up boxes, keeping the pantry lean and refrigerator clean as we prep for our big move. And today, I’m sharing a few recipes that were inspired by my pantry and refrigerator clean up. The strangest bedfellows can make for some signature concoctions!
Read on … »
“I am 3!” said my daughter, Nia, as she raised her little fingers and counted upto three. Yes, my babygirl just turned three! I don’t know where the last three years have gone and it’s hard to believe that she’s grown up into a girlie girl who loves getting dressed, going shopping, talking incessantly all the time and even cooking tirelessly in her own little kitchen spinning out delicacies for mommy, daddy and anyone who comes over. (I secretly pray she becomes a cooking show host one day!)
This birthday was certainly different than her previous birthdays. She actually understood that the day was something special and that it was all about her. So we decided to have two parties! One at school and one at home and she had a blast at both. With all the gifts that she received, she was one very happy birthday girl! To make it even more special Mommy decided to bake her birthday cake. While I usually try to put as much distance myself and the oven, since my bake-a-thon this past holiday, I have been growing more and more confident.
So what’s more challenging (and incredibly stressful) than making your own daughter’s birthday cake?! - making her a birthday cupcake
Read on … »
Every season brings out the nature’s select fruits and/or vegetables, like Pumpkins for Fall, Asparagus for Spring and the Mango for Summer!
In it’s various shapes and colors – green, yellow and orange, mango attracts foodshoppers all over the world… and me too! It usually jumps into my cart during the months of May-September, when it’s in its best form.
The supermarkets around me usually have a few North American mango varieties – Tommy Atkins, Keitt, Haden from Florida or the Ataulfo mangoes from Mexico and Central South America. My husband and daughter love to eat those, but I am a little bit of a picky eater in this case. For me, its gotto be the “Ratnagiri Alphonso” from my homeland, Maharashtra!
This year, we finally got hold of a dozen of the indigenous fruit at a local Indian market and enjoyed it’s out-of-the-world taste after many years of missing the season back home!
Summer’s long gone but the “mango madness” in my house just got over! It all started in June this year with the green mango, followed by a variety of sweet and savory concoctions using the sweet, succulent ripe fruit of the season – the ‘real’ Mango. Of course, we ate most of the fruit straight up, biting in to the vibrant, golden flesh underneath the multi-colored skins and the pulp running down our fingers and hands. But I managed to save some for my kitchen experiements
So join me and experience the mango madness yourself!
Cool, sweet jalepeño-infused guacamole is one of the most delicious and refreshing Mexican dips thats perfect for snack or appetizer… And then if you add some mango to it, it takes it to a whole new level!
To make mango guacamole, simply mix in some mango chunks to my basic recipe. Try making this simple and colorful guacamole and enjoy it’s melt-in-the-mouth taste with tortilla chips.
Chipotle Chicken Panini with Avocado and Mango
Sweet-tart mango and cool-creamy avocado should be perfect to balance the spicy heat of chipotle chilies?! This was my thought process behind creating this delicious panini for lunch one weekend. My Southwestern-style panini is made by grilling two slices of bread with shredded chicken and chipotle chillies in adobo sauce along with mango and avocado slices in between. In just 5 mins on each side, the panini is off the screaming hot grill pan and on to your plate. Ready for lunch?!
Makes 4 paninis
1 tbsp oil
½ yellow onion, sliced
1 small garlic clove, minced
½ can of Chipotle Chillies in Adobo Sauce (use the sauce and dice the chillies)
1 cup shredded cooked chicken (store-bought Rotisserie or oven-roasted at home)
1 baguette, cut into 8-10 slices of ½ inch thickness (or individual panini rolls)
butter or olive oil
1 ripe mango, sliced, pitted and skin removed
1 ripe avocado, sliced, pitted and skin removed
½ lime (to prevent avocado from darkening)
freshly ground black pepper
Heat oil in a small frying pan and add the onions and garlic. Season with salt and sauté for a couple of mins, making them sweat a little. Stir in the chipotle chillies with the adobo sauce and mix well.
Continue heating the sauce for another min or so and then remove from heat. Mix in the shredded chicken and set aside.
Preheat the grill pan on medium-high heat.
For each panini sandwich: Spread a thin layer of mayonnaise inside the bottom slice of bread. Spread the chipotle chilli sauce with chicken and then lay 1-2 slices of mango and avocado and close the sandwich with the other slice of bread. Brush olive oil or spread butter on to the top outer side of the sandwich. Grill the sandwich with the buttered side down for 4-5 minutes. While the bottom side grills, butter the other side of the panini and flip over for 4-5 mins on this side so that both the sides of the bread are toasted with nice golden grill marks.
Serve immediately and enjoy!
Our obsession with tropical fruit continued through the end of the Summer, almost going into Fall. I decided to put an end to the madness by making a luscious creamy mousse with the last batch of mangoes I had picked up at the supermarket.
Mangoes process well into smooth, creamy filling for desserts like this incredibly soft and fluffy mango mousse. This is a basic recipe, made with mango puree folded into whipped cream with a bit of gelatin. The top layer is simple mango jello that holds the berries in place and prevents the mousse from falling inside. The dessert sets up over a few hours in the refrigerator and has a soft and silky texture that melts in your mouth!
Makes 4 individual servings of mango mousse, about ¾ cup each
2 cups of mango slices (about 4 mangoes)
¼ cup simple syrup
¼ cup heavy cream (for mango purée)
scant ¼ cup Triple Sec (or any other Orange liqueur)
½ tbsp (½ pkt) unflavored gelatin powder (Knox)
½ cup heavy cream (for whipping and folding into the mousse)
Mango Jello Topping (optional)
½ cup clear mango juice (such as Frooti or Mazaa)
½ tbsp (½ pkt) unflavored gelatin powder (Knox)
you choice of berries, about 4-6 per dessert cup
Alternatively, use mango flavored gelatin
Purée the mango slices, simple syrup and heavy cream together in a food processor. Strain and keep aside.
Sprinkle gelatin over the orange liqueur in a heat proof glass bowl and let it soften for about 10 mins. In the meantime, take about ½ cup water in a small saucepan and bring it to a gentle simmer. Place the bowl on top of the simmering water and stir continuously till the gelatin dissolves completely. Let it cool down and then mix it well with the mango purée.
Whip the ½ cup of heavy cream till it forms soft peaks (kinda like meringue). Add it to the mango-gelatin mixture and gently fold the whipped cream.
Pour into dessert cups and set it in the fridge for 3-4 hours.
Mango Jello Topping (optional)
Sprinkle the gelatin on to the mango juice in in a heat-proof bowl and often for ten minutes. Place it over a small saucepan with simmering water. and stir continuously so that the gelatin dissolves completely. As soon as the gelatin melts, the solution will become clear. Let it cool down to room temperature.
Remove the mousse from the fridge and top it with the berries. Pour the mango jello over the mousse and berries and return to referigerator for a couple more hours. Serve chilled.
“Ganpati Bappa Morya, Pudhchya Varshi Lavkar Ya” … and Ganpati Bappa is back!
For Maharashtrians living out of the country, these words virtually take them back home, from where ever in the world they may be! The most popular festival of Maharashtra is presently being celebrated with lot of enthusiasm and excitement. Ganesh Utsav is special to me too; it brings back many wonderful memories from my childhood.
And today, I relive those memories and keep the spirit of the festival alive by making Ganpati Bappa’s favorite - steamed Modak!
(Steamed Dumplings with sweet and spiced Coconut Filling)
If I were to give an exact definition of a ”modak“, I would say that they are a traditional Maharashtrian steamed rice-flour dumplings with a sweet filling made with grated coconut, jaggery (palm sugar) or sugar and some spices. The dumpling dough made out of rice flour is not sweet but in fact is slightly salty and compliments very well the saccharine filling inside. As delicious as it sounds, making the dough for outer covering from scratch seemed a little tough for me, given the time I had to spend in the kitchen on Ganesh Chaturthi, this past Sunday. So, I came up with a semi-homemade shortcut and put my own spin on this very traditional sweet dish. I used some “wonton wrappers” and stuffed them with the classic coconut filling ;)
To my surprise, my “dim-sum” modaks turned out great – very similar to the authentic ones Try my recipe and I guarantee, you won’t be disappointed!
Makes 21 mini “dim-sum” modaks
21 round dumpling/wonton wrappers (you should find these at any Asian stores or the speciality section of a regular supermarket)
some cold water in a bowl and basting brush
1½ cups grated coconut (thawed if using frozen)
¾ cup powdered jaggery (i.e. palm sugar) or brown sugar (dark or light)
¼ cup light cream or half ‘n’ half (or even whole milk)
1 tbsp white poppy seeds (khus khus)
1-2 tbsp Everest Milk Masala (alternatively you can coarsely grind together- 4-5 green cardamom pod seeds, 1-2 saffron strands, couple pinches of ground nutmeg, 4-5 pistachios, 4-5 cashews and 4-5 almonds)
Traditional Indian Modak / Idli Steamer or a Chinese bamboo steamer
Making the Filling
In a small saucepan, combine all the ingredients and place it on the medium low heat. Cook covered for 15-20 mins till the jaggery is completely dissolved, milk is absorbed and the coconut is cooked through. Stir occassionally to make sure it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan.
Assembling the Dumpling
Place a wonton wrapper on a clean flat wooden board or surface. Dip a brush in cold water and tap it on the side of the bowl to remove excess water from the bristles. Lightly brush the wonton wrapper with water and then drop about a tablespoon of the filling onto the center of a wrapper.
Lift the the edges of the wrapper up, gather them around the filling and twist the top with your fingers to seal. The sides will naturally pleat, leaving the top part of the wrapper and the filling inside. Tap the dumpling on the table so the bottom is flat and it stands upright. Repeat with the remaining wrappers and filling.
Cooking the Dumplings
Lightly oil the plate of the steamer you are using and stand the dumplings in the steamer in a single layer and don’t let them touch. Bring 1 to 2 inches of water to a boil in a steamer pot. Set the steamer plates inside the pot, then cover it with the lid. Steam for 10 to 12 minutes.
We often have fiesta dinners at home. This past weekend, we had one for Cinco de Mayo!
May 5th, a.k.a. Cinco de Mayo, is an important milestone in Mexican history, and people here, in the US are more than happy to celebrate the historic day and the Mexican culture with authentic menus and festive cocktails (even if they often don’t know the real story behind it!). But to be fair, I’ve been told that, despite the growing Cinco de Mayo festivities in the US, it apparently isn’t a big deal in Mexico.
For us, it’s just another excuse to enjoy our favorite Mexican food! Here are some simply delicioso Mexican recipes I created especially for Cinco de Mayo….
Melon Ball Sangria
(Wine Drink with Melons)
Sangria is a traditional wine punch that turns a jug of robust wine and fresh seasonal fruits into a festive drink. You can use a variety of fruits such as apples, pears, different types of berries and all kinds of citrus fruits. I made my signature sangria with cantaloupe or melon! For a festive look, I carved little balls out of the melon using a melon baller.
The result is a pleasant full-bodied drink, with a rich and mellow character. The alcohol brings out the flavors of the wine and the fruit and makes it more of a deep authentic sangria. The melon balls, being soft and porus, drink up a lot of the wine as they float in it and offer a pleasant surprise as you pop them in your mouth!
Here’s to Cinco de Mayo!
Makes 4-6 glasses
1 bottle of red wine, like Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon or Pinot Noir
1/4 cup simple syrup
1/4 cup brandy
1/4 cup Limoncello or lemon juice
1/4 cup cups orange liqueur, such as Cointreau or Triple Sec
1 cantaloupe, halved and seeds removed
1 lemon, zested
Combine the red wine with simple syrup, brandy and the liqueur in a glass pitcher.
Using a melon baller, scoop out balls of cantaloupe and add to the wine mixture. (If you don’t have a melon baller, just cut the melon into 1 inch cubes)
Add the lemon zest to the wine mixture and stir gently. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or upto 3 days. Divide between wine glasses and serve chilled.
*Try honey dew or even watermelon in place of or along with cantaloupe.
Caliente Shrimp Tacos with Tomato & Avocado Salsa
(Soft Tacos with Spicy Grilled Shrimp and Salsa)
Here’s a refreshing change of pace from the usual beef, chicken or fish tacos. They are super easy to make and offer a light, fresh combination of flavors and textures. I like to marinate the shrimp in a hot and spicy marinade for just a little bit before grilling them. The tomato and avocado salsa is simply a chunkier version of the regular guacomole. It adds a nice, cool contrast to the heat from the shrimp.
Try making my shrimp tacos tonite. It’s a simple and tasty way to spice up your Mexican night!
Makes 8-10 tacos
½ lb large shrimp (size 30-40 count), peeled and deveined, tail removed
1 pack (8-10) flour tortillas
iceberg lettuce, shredded
shredded cheese, preferably with taco seasonings like Sargento
1 jalepeno pepper, roughly chopped, seeds optional (I used the seeds, but discard seeds of you don’t like it to be too spicy)
1 large or 2 small garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
1 tbsp paprika
1 tsp red chilli powder/chipotle chilli powder/cayenne pepper
fresh ground black pepper
½ lime, zested and juiced
2-3 tablespoon olive oil
Tomato & Avocado Salsa
1/2 small onion, finely chopped
1 jalapeno, finely chopped, seeds optional
1 small garlic clove, minced
1 avocado, peeled, seeded, and cut into chunks
1 medium tomato, diced
fresh ground black pepper
¼ cup loosely packed fresh cilantro leaves, coarsely chopped
½ lime, juiced
For the marinade, combine all the ingredients in a food processor or blender and process until smooth. Transfer into a bowl and add the shrimp. Toss to coat and marinate the shrimp for 15 mins to an hour.
In the meantime prepare the salsa by combining all the ingredients for it together, except the lime juice and gently mixing them so that the flavors blend in. Finally squeeze the lime juice evenly over the salsa and chill in the refrigerator.
Heat a non-stick pan or skillet over medium-high heat. Grill the shrimp until translucent, about 2-3 mins on each side. Remove and chop the shrimp into chunks.
Warm tortillas on another flat pan about 20 seconds per side or in the microwave for 15 secs each, Lay the shredded lettuce, Spoon the salsa on it, then top with the chopped shrimp and sprinkle some shredded cheese on top.
Mango Crema Catlana
Flan or caramel custard, is one of the most traditional sweet dish that dominates desserts in Hispanic cuisines— from Spain and Portugal to Cuba and Puerto Rico, all the way to Mexico and South America. It’s a delicate, sweet milk-egg custard, balanced by the nutty bitter-sweet caramel on the bottom. To give this dessert an extra special Mexican twist, I added purée of fresh mangoes that are in season now.
Satisfy your sweet tooth this Cinco de Mayo with a delightful, creamy mango flan!
Makes 6 ramekins
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup water
1 ½ cups whole, reduced or low fat milk
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup fresh mango puree (1 small mango, peeled, pitted, and puréed in a food processor)
To make the caramel bottom, combine the sugar and water in a heavy-bottomed pot or a saucepan. Place over medium-high heat and cook until the sugar begins to melt. Swirl the pan over the heat until the syrup darkens to a medium amber color, about 10 minutes; don’t stir with a spoon.
Meanwhile, set 6 ramekins or shallow 1 cup sized bowls nearby. When the caramel is cooked, quickly pour about 1/4 cup caramel into each ramekin and swirl to coat the sides. Set aside to cool.
Preheat the oven to 300 deg F. Bring a kettle of water to a boil for the water bath and keep it hot.
In another saucepan, bring the milk with vanilla extract to a brief simmer, stirring occasionally. Take care not to let it come to a full boil to prevent it from spilling over.
Meanwhile, in a large bowl, cream together the whole eggs with the sugar. Whisk until the mixture is pale yellow and thick. Temper the egg mixture by gradually whisking in the hot milk mixture in batches; don’t add it too quickly or the eggs will cook. Finally whisk in the mango purée until smooth. Pass the mixture through a strainer to ensure that the flan will be perfectly smooth.
Pour the custard into the caramel-lined ramekins and arrange in a hot water bath. To create the water bath: pour the hot water into a roasting pan to come halfway up the side of the mold; be careful not get water into the custard.
Bake in the center of the oven until the custard is dry and is set in the center, 60 to 65 minutes. Remove from the oven and let the flan cool in the water bath, then refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight and upto 24 hours.
When you are ready to serve, run a knife around the inside of the mold to loosen the flan. Place a dessert plate on top of the ramekin and invert to pop out the flan.
*A special thanks to my friend, Fatema, for reminding me about the holiday and suggesting a post about it on Signature Concoctions!
Come Spring, designers of the fashion world send their glamorous models down the runways showcasing the season’s most chic and trendy styles. So, I decided to drape my food up in the season’s hottest designs…
… Check out my Spring ’09 Collection!
I just love the idea of mixing two of my passions – food and fashion! Spring fashion focuses on a clean look with pretty floral patterns and bright bold colors. I have created a spread of fascinating foods to showcase the fresh flavors of this rejuvenating season. With the advent of Spring, the markets are filling up with the freshest produce of the season. Tender asparagus, delicate spring onions, cool cucumbers, crunchy radishes, refreshing citrus lemons - all of these have inspired me to create a line of contemporary foods that look beautiful and taste delicious.
This is “Foodé Couture” – my first ever creation of fashionable foods!
The Elegant - Phyllo Cups with Asparagus, Spring Onions and Scrambled Eggs
The Colorful – Cucumber and Raddish bites with Smoked Salmon, Dill and Caper Cream Cheese
The Dazzling - Lemon Panna Cotta
Join me for a behind-the-scenes coverage, exclusively on Signature Concoctions.
Phyllo Cups with Asparagus, Spring Onions and Scambled Eggs
With their lush green color and mild delicate flavor, asparagus and spring onions are natural spring-time vegetables. These are the first among my “food models” to enter the green room backstage. I used some pre-baked ready-to-eat mini phyllo cups and filled them up with scrambled eggs, spring onions and asparagus, for breakfast one weekend morning.
With the bright green contrasting the sunny yellow, these decked-up munchies are the showstoppers of my Spring Show!
Makes 15 phyllo cups
1 pack of Athens Mini Fillo Shells (contains 15 shells), thawed at room temperature or slightly warmed up in the oven as per the directions on the box
1 spring onion stem, white and the green parts chopped
3-4 asparagus stems, trimmed and sliced diagonally into 1 inch pieces
1 tbsp butter
2 jumbo eggs (3 if using large or extra large)
4 tbsp whole milk, cream or half ‘n’ half
freshly ground black pepper
chives, cut into about 2 inch pieces (for garnishing)
paprika (for garnishing)
Heat a medium non-stick frying pan or skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and asparagus and sauté for about 3-4 mins. Season with salt and black pepper.
In the mean time, in a prep bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, salt, and pepper. Pour the eggs mixture into the pan with the spring onions and asparagus and cook them over medium low heat, folding them over continuously with a spatula, until the desired doneness. Take off the heat and check for seasonings.
Spoon sufficient amount of scrambled eggs mixture into the phyllo shells and garnish with a couple of chives. Sprinkle paprika for some added color and flavor and serve immediately or at room temperature.
Cucumber and Radish Bites with Smoked Salmon, Dill and Caper Cream Cheese
Next in line …. some cucumbers and radishes. I have created a low fat, heart healthy snack that brings out the season’s best colors, textures and flavors.
Silky cream cheese and smoked salmon get an added crunch when served on radish and cucumber slices. Dill goes very well with smoked salmon and it adds a subtle flavor to the overall taste.
Dressed in pretty pinks and cool greens, these bite-size beauties hit the ramp looking absolutely stunning!
Makes about 20-22 snack bites
1 kirby (pickling) cucumber (or about ½ of regular cucumber), sliced into ¼th inch thick slices
3-4 radishes, sliced into ¼th inch thick slices
¼ cream cheese, plain or flavored like garlic ‘n’ herb or chives (I used Philadelphia Whipped Garlic ‘n’ Herb)
1 tsp capers, drained
4-6 slices (about 1 packet) of smoked salmon, ½ chopped and ½ rolled and cut into 1 inch pieces forming pinwheels
dill, chopped and some sprigs, for garnishing
Combine the capers and the cream cheese. Mix well and keep aside.
Lay the cucumber slices on a serving plate, top it with chopped smoked salmon and a dollop of cream cheese. Garnish with chopped dill.
Lay the radish slices on a serving plate. Spoon a dollop of cream cheese and place the cut up smoked salmon roll on top of it. Tuck in a sprig of dill in the smoked salmon for garnish.
Lemon Panna Cotta
Lemons, for me, usher in the taste of Spring! Their contrasting sweet – tart citrusy zing is perfect to perk up the flavor of any dish, even a sweet one! Here’s how I use them to make a luscious dessert that is a great Spring dessert – Lemon Panna Cotta.
This delicate dessert uses the acidic taste from the lemons to accentuate the velvety cream. And I accessorize each dessert cup with some mint leaves and lemon swirls.
Mouth watering and irresistibly attractive, these petite sweeties dazzle on the ramp at this Spring show!
Makes 3 mini desserts -1/3 cup each
1 cup half ‘n’ half (alternatively use ½ cup whole milk and ½ cup heavy cream)
2 tbsp granulated sugar
1-2 drops of pure vanilla extract
½ tbsp lemon zest (about 1 lemon zested)
scant ½ tbsp gelatin powder
1 tbsp water
In a sauce pan gently warm the half ‘n’ half over low heat. Add the sugar along with a couple of drops of pure vanilla extract and once dissolved add the grated lemon zest.
Mix the gelatin powder into water and add it to the cream mixture. Bring it to a light simmer, stirring continuously to make sure the gelatin dissolves completely and the citrus flavor infuses the cream mixture, for about 4-5 mins. (The half ‘n’ half should be heated only till it forms tiny bubbles around the edge of the pan and steam starts to rise. It should not be boiled.)
Remove from heat and pour the cream through a fine-meshed sieve to seperate the lemon zest and any undissolved gelatin from it. Then pour into the dessert moulds, dividing equally.
Chill until set, about 4- 6 hours and up to 2 days.
When ready to serve, garnish with a lemon swirl and a sprig of mint.
toothpicks, broken into halves
mint leaves, with a little part of stem
Make a cut from the center to the edge of a slice and then twist it to create a lemon swirl.
Hold the swirl between your fingers and try to squeeze as much juice as possible.
Tuck the two ends using a half broken toothpick to hold it in place.
Insert the stem of the mint leaves and then place the lemon swirl on the side by inserting the toothpick. Try to hide the tooth pick as much as possible!
I miss those days when we went out on dates all the time
Dinners at datesy restaurants, cocktail nights at upscale lounges, crazy clubbing and bar hopping, romantic weekend getaways; we did it all! We went out a lot before we had the baby. Life’s changed now and we spend a lot of time at home, with our little girl. Going out on dates is certainly a bit of a challenge now, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have a date nights anymore. When the baby’s off to bed, it’s a date night at home!
Here’s a simple but stunning menu that sets the mood right!
A Wine Just-for-Two
Moscato D’Oro from the Robert Mondavi Winery in Napa Valley CA, is a fresh, floral and beautifully balanced white wine with a crisp, clean finish and a bit of spritz. Lightly sweet and refreshing as a tropical breeze, lush with honeysuckle aromas and sweet-citrusy flavors, this wine is great for sipping after dinner as a dessert wine or for casual drinking in any season.
With its seductive fruity-floral character and perfect serving for two, this wine is a perfect way to start or end your date night!
Go over to A Meal without Wine for more wine tasting notes.
Grilled Shrimp with Pasta in Alfredo Sauce
There’s something special about shrimp! My date night dinner was indeed a special one and there had to be shrimp on the menu.
I didn’t want to order take-out or spend too much time in the kitchen making dinner. So, to keep it quick and simple yet elegant, I decided to grill some garlic-herb marinated shrimp and serve them along side of pasta tossed in a quick alfredo sauce and crispy garlic toasts. The shrimp absorb all the flavors of the garlic and herbs and are wonderfully succulent when grilled to perfection. The crunchy garlic toasts and the creamy alfredo pasta add a neutral flavor and a different combination of textures. They are a great accompaniment, but certainly don’t steal the show away from the shrimp!
This main dish has three different components, but trust me – it’ll all come together in no time. Be sure to read and understand the steps below thoroughly, if you decide to give it a shot. If you gather the ingredients and stick to my method, you should be done with all the three components within 30 mins (40 tops!). This is kitchen multi-tasking at its best!
Garlic -Herb Shrimp
10-12 large shrimp (size: 31-40 count), peeled and deveined
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsbp (about 1/2 spring) rosemary leaves, finely chopped
1 tbsp (about 1 sprig) oregano leaves, finely chopped
½ lemon, zested and juiced
freshly ground black pepper
3-4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
wooden/bamboo skewers (optional for easy grilling)
½ lb pasta (rotini, penne, bowtie, etc)
1 cup light (or heavy) cream
¼ cup (½ stick) unsalted light (or regular) butter, softened (I used Smart Balance)
1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (or Parmesan cheese)
Freshly ground black pepper
Chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, for garnish
1-2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
4-6 (1-inch thick) slices French baguette
freshly ground black pepper
2 garlic cloves
Combine the garlic and herbs along with the lemon zest and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper and stir in the olive oil. Mix well and let the shrimp marinate in this mixture for about a half hour till you prepare the toasts, pasta and alfredo sauce.
Preheat the oven to 400 deg F for making the garlic toasts.
Bring a medium pot of water to a boil over high heat.
Till the water comes to a boil, cut the baguette into 1 inch slices and peel garlic. Arrange the bread on an aluminium foil lined baking sheet. Drizzle the olive oil over the bread slices. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Set them aside.
Add a generous quantity of salt to the boling water and throw in the pasta. Cook until al dente (tender but still firm to the bite), stirring occasionally, about 10 mins.
While the pasta cooks, prepare the sauce. Heat the cream over low-medium heat in a deep sauté pan. Add butter and whisk gently to melt. Sprinkle in cheese and stir to incorporate. Season with freshly ground black pepper. Drain the pasta, reserving some of the pasta water. Add the pasta to the saute pan, gently toss it to coat in the alfredo. Continue simmering on very low heat.
While the alfredo sauce thickens, preheat the grill pan to medium-high. Remove the shrimp from the marinade and skewer 5 per stick and place the shrimp on the grill pan. Grill on each side until they turn pink, about 4-5 mins, basting with the remaining marinade as they cook.
As soon as you place the shrimp on the grill pan, pop the baking sheet with the bread slices into the oven. You will then be free to turn the shrimp and gently toss the pasta again while the bread bakes for about 5-6 mins and becomes crisp and golden. Remove from the oven and immediately rub the garlic cloves over the hot toasts.
Transfer pasta to a warm serving bowl. Top with more grated cheese and chopped parsley. Season with more freshly ground black pepper.
Plate the shrimp skewers, pasta and a couple of toasts together and serve warm.
Vanilla Custard with Raspberry Coulis
A date night dinner should end on a romantic note, right? Here’s a perfect dessert that marries the two individuals that were destined to be together- a creamy vanilla custard and ravishing red raspberries.
It’s a simple vanilla custard made by baking milk and eggs together, just like a traditional flan! I love the flan, but I wanted to get creative with the topping (or should I say “bottom”) and make something else instead of the usual caramel. Mmmm, how about a light raspberry sauce?!
Raspberries give this dessert a sexy twist! The deep red raspberry sauce forms a pool of “love” in which the custard sits and soaks. The soft ‘n’silky custard melts in your mouth followed by the raspberries that explode as you bite them leaving a sweet-tart lingering taste behind.
Try my lovely dessert and feel the “love” on your date night!
Makes about 4 ramekins
¼ cup sugar (or more to suit your taste)
1 cup whole/reduced fat or low fat milk
¼ tsp pure vanilla extract
Light Raspberry Sauce
a handful of fresh or frozen raspberries
2 tbsp water
½ tsp sugar (or more to suit your taste)
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.
In the meantime, add the vanilla extract to the milk in a saucepan and bring it to a boil over medium heat. Immediately turn off the heat and set aside.
While the milk cools, whisk together the eggs and the sugar in a bowl till the sugar seems to have dissolved completely. Then add about half of the hot milk into the egg-sugar mixture and continue to whisk. Finally whisk the remaining hot milk into the egg mixture.
Pour the milk-eggs-sugar mixture into ramekins and arrange in a hot water bath. Bake in the center of the oven until dry and set in the center, 60 to 65 minutes.
Remove from the water bath and let cool. Tightly cover each ramekin with plastic wrap. Refrigerate at least 2 hours, or refrigerate until ready to serve, up to 24 hours.
Just before serving make the raspberry sauce. In a small pan or saucepan, dissolve the sugar in water, then add raspberries. Simmer for about 3 min then stop the heat and let the raspberries cool down in the syrup.
Top it with the raspberries sauce and some fresh raspberries. Garnish with fresh mint leaves.
Every other Chrismas holiday, we go to India. This year we enjoyed Nia’s first Christmas here, in America.
This has been a snowy winter overall and there was a snow storm a couple of days before the holiday, making it a perfect white Christmas for us. And when Nia was done playing outside in the snow, she was more than happy to help daddy decorate the “Kissmas Tee“.
While they were busy having fun, I was planning the dinner menu. My idea of a holiday dinner was something special but at the same time something stress free; something that could be made ahead of time so that I get to relax and enjoy it but definitely something traditional and something memorable.
Here’s a recap of our holiday dinner…..
Red Wine – Norton Reserva Malbec 2003
Norton Reserva Malbec 2003 is a smooth, medium-bodied red wine. Slightly fruity and earthy in nature, this rustic wine from Argentina is great for pairing with meat and stands up to the spicy Indian cuisine.
Herb Marinated Lamb Chops
I prepared the lamb chops using my own ‘signature‘ recipe presented earlier in one of my posts. They served to be an elegant first course and were a great accompaniment with the velvety, red Malbec.
(Layered Basmati Rice dish with Chicken and Vegetables)
Biryani is a definite party pleaser! Biryani for Indians is like Lasagna for Italians and is usually on the menu for special occassions. This rich and elaborate preparation is made by layering partially cooked basmati rice and vegetables/lamb/chicken/fish in a sauce that is flavored with exotic spices and . The vessel is then covered and sealed on with dough and everything is cooked together on a low flame for a long time.
I love biryanis – veggie, chicken, mutton, shrimp, all of them! I have made several attempts in the past to make biryani the traditional way using dum cooking method (process of slowly cooking partially cooked food in a tightly sealed vessel for a long time) but have failed time and again Sometimes the rice and/or meat would be undercooked and then there were some other times when the bottom layer would stick to the bottom of the pot and get badly charred. That would permeate the whole dish with an unpleasing burnt -like taste and smell. Undeterred in my will, I have now figured it all out, by sheer trial and error. The skinny on this is, to fully cook all the different layers seperately (in a single pot!) and assemble them together (in the same pot).
So making my chicken biryani for the holiday dinner was a perfect idea. I took me a little over an hour in the morning of Christmas Eve and all I had to do was to pop it in the oven and finish off just before dinner. That way, by dinner time, the biryani had been sitting for a few hours and all the different flavors mixed and mingled well with each other.
Don’t be intimidated by the long list of ingredients. Follow this easy recipe and see for yourself how to deconstruct and reconstruct the biryani into a one-pot delicious concoction!
1 lb chicken legs and thighs (this will be about 2 leg-thigh joint pieces that u will find in a packet at wholefoods)
1 cup yogurt
1 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp red chilli powder
1 tbsp Everest Chicken Masala (or garam masala)
1 tbsp ginger paste
1 tbsp garlic paste
3 cups of basmati rice, wash 2-3 times and soak for about 1/2 hour and drain the water
4.5 cups of water (proportion for this is 1:1.5 rice:water and not 1:2 as usual)
1 tsp oil
1 bay leaf
1-2 green cardamoms (elaichi), whole
1-2 cinnamon sticks
1/2 cup oil (canola, corn or vegetable)
1 medium onion, sliced
handful of cashews and raisins
1/4 cup milk
1 pinch saffron strands
ghee (clarified butter)
handful cilantro, finely chopped
1-2 bolied eggs, halved (optional)
2 large onions, finely chopped
1 cup canned tomato sauce (= 1 small 8 oz. can of sauce…NOT PASTE)
3-4 garlic cloves, minced (or 1 tbsp garlic paste)
1 inch ginger, grated (or 1 tbsp ginger paste)
(*I prefer to use the readymade pastes for the marinade and fresh ginger/garlic for the gravy/curry)
1 tsp turmeric powder
1/2 tsp cumin (jeera)
1/2 tsp red chilli powder
1 tbsp Everest Biryani Masala (or garam masala + 1-2 cloves, 1-2 cinnamon sticks,1-2 bayleaves, 4-5 peppercorns)
3-4 baby potatoes or 2 medium potatoes, quartered
handful fresh cilantro/coriander, coarsely chopped
Seperate the chicken legs and cut the thighs into smaller pieces. Make slits on them and mix them with all the ingredients for marinade and let it sit in the refrigerator overnight or atleast for 6-8 hours.
Warm milk and soak saffron in it. With a spoon, try to crush the saffron in the milk to give the milk a beautiful yellow color.
Combine all the ingredients for rice and cook the rice seperately in pressure cooker/stove top/microwave or rice cooker.
In the meantime heat the oil in a big non-stick pot (preferably with steel handles. Ultimately you have to put this pot inside the oven) and fry sliced onions for garnishing till brown. Drain on paper towel and set aside. Similarly, fry cashews till light brown and set aside. Lightly fry raisins in the same oil, for a min or so and set aside. Then fry raw potatoes till they get a light brown coating and set aside.
In the same hot oil, add onions, cumin, ginger and garlic and fry till onion is light brown. Add tomato sauce, turmeric, red chilli powder, salt, chopped cilantro and biryani masala. Mix well and saute till oil seperates out of the gravy. Add 1/4 cup water and continue cooking till oil seperates again.
Preheat oven to 350 deg F.
Add the fried potatoes and chicken, along with all the marinade, mix well, cover and cook till chicken is almost cooked, but not completely. Stir occassionally. If there’s a lot of liquid in the gravy, cook on medium high till the gravy is reduced.
Layer the rice over the cooking chicken. Sprinkle saffron milk and some ghee over the rice. Top it with brown onions, cilantro, cashews and raisins.
Cover with aluminium foil and finish cooking in the oven for 25-30 mins.
*If you are preparing biryani ahead of time, complete this last step of cooking it in the oven just before serving.
Mix gently and serve hot with the side of cool raita.
Cucumber, Tomato & Onion Raita
(Yogurt-based Cucumber, Tomato & Onion Salad)
Raita was born to be had with biryani ! This combination, made with cucumber, tomatoes, onions in yogurt, has a super cooling effect after a bite of the hot and spicy biryani. All the veggies are diced and combined with beaten yogurt and tossed with green chillies and cilantro. It is then seasoned with salt and a pinch of sugar. The sugar masks any sourness in the yogurt and the green chillies add a little zing.
Creamy and crunchy, chicken biryani is best enjoyed with this refreshing raita!
1 large or 2 small (Kirby or pickling) cucumbers, diced
1 medium tomato, diced
1 medium red onion, diced
2 cups beaten yogurt
fresh cilantro/coriander (dhania), finely chopped for garnishing
1-2 green chillies, finely chopped
1/2 tsp sugar
Toss together diced cucumbers, tomatoes, onions and yogurt. Add green chillies and fresh cilantro, season with salt and sugar and serve chilled.
*Have some carrots in your refrigerator? Go ahead and add shredded carrots to the raita!
(Cake Pudding with Instant Coffee and Walnuts)
Desserts usually get sidelined when I am cooking an elaborate meal. This time, however, I decided to take on the home stretch – my very own cake pudding.
This is a no-stress, no-bake cake pudding that can be whipped up in a matter of few minutes! It is my mom’s ‘signature’ recipe. All she does is pours cold coffee (instant coffee in cold milk) over crumbled cake and garnishes it with walnuts and heavy cream. After sitting in the refrigerator for a couple of hours, the cake soaks up all the coffee and turns into a soft, fluffy, creamy, bitter-sweet pudding. I have added my own twist to my mom’s original recipe by introducing chocolate and alcohol into the mix.
Simple and easy, this rustic pudding is my all time favorite homemade dessert!
2 store-bought or home-made plain pound cakes (or any other sponge or vanilla flavored cake).
If you are in the mood of baking , make your favorite vanilla/sponge/pound cake or even a box of your favorite plain cake mix. Allow cake to cool for 15 minutes before proceeding.
3 cups cold milk (your choice of whole/reduced/low fat/fat free)
6 tbsp instant coffee powder, like Nescafe
½ cup dark rum (Bacardi/ Old Monk)
1-1½ cup walnuts, coarsely chopped
1 cup heavy/light whipping cream
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
3.5 oz (100 g) dark chocolate like Ghirardelli Espresso Escape
Break the cakes into small pieces/crumbs by hand into a large bowl.
Add a little water to the instant coffee and mix it to form a thick paste. Add the paste to the cold milk along with the splash of dark rum and mix well making sure there are no coffee lumps in the milk. Pour the mixture over the cake crumbs into the large bowl. Add chopped walnuts and mix gently so that the cake is evenly moistened with the coffee-milk mixture and the walnuts are evenly spread throughout the mixture.
Lay the moist coffee-cake mixture into a deep glass dish or triffle glass bowl.
In another bowl, beat the cream with a hand mixer or electric whisk. When it starts to thicken, add the vanilla extract and sugar and continue to beat until firm, about 5 mins on high speed setting. Spread the whipped cream on top of the cake.
With a vegetable peeler, peel the chocolate bar to create chocolate shavings. Decorate the pudding with a generous layer of chocolate shavings on top.
Refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving.
Its that time of the year, when everyone in India is celebrating…..
Navratri & Dasara followed by Diwali, are the two festivals that evoke wonderful memories of the time I spent with family and friends back home. Its been almost eight years since I moved to America and I haven’t been able to time my travel so that I can join them in these festivities. However, the spirit of the season is very much alive in me and I do my best to enjoy the festivals with the same excitement and enthusiasm, at my home away from home.
I grew up in a family where a great emphasis is placed on the religious aspect of the festivals and everything is strictly done by the books. I didn’t get very much involved in all those rituals and customs then, but now looking back, I appreciate all the things my parents do, even today, to preserve and carry on the family traditions. Somehow, I never got those complex rules in my head. So when I left my parents’ cozy nest and took off to a land far far away, I redesigned some of those traditions and created some new ones to retrofit America. I do simple things like placing a jhendu phool on our altar (yes, we have a beautiful altar in our home where Jesus and Ganpati live in perfect harmony) during Navratri, may be a visit to the Indian temple on Dasara, lighting the whole house with diyas for Diwali and celebrating with family and friends here.
Of course, ’tis the season and there’s every reason to enjoy those festive delicacies! Here are a few of my favorite things….
Basundi for Dasara
(Creamy Milk Pudding)
During the Navaratri festival, my parents have the puja performed daily by offering fresh garland of the jhendu (marigold) flowers on each of the nine days followed by naivedya (food offering) before lunch. Mom prepares vegetarian food every morning including a sweet item on the naivedya menu for each of the nine days!
I am not a big fan of sweets and as a kid, I remember getting bored of eating those sweet dishes prepared everyday for nine days. I would only be waiting for Dasara, the tenth day, when dad would go over to the Chitale store in the morning and bring home a litre of their sweet, creamy “basundi “.
Basundi is a very simple sweet dish prepared by boiling milk. Sugar and some spices are then added and milk is simmered till it reduces to half the quantity. The reduced milk is then chilled for a couple of hours to make a thick and creamy milk pudding.
Try my basundi recipe, its as close as you can get to the Chitale store in Pune!
4 cups whole milk (You could use reduced fat milk but I wouldn’t recommend low fat or skim milk for this)
5-6 saffron strands
1 can sweetened condensed milk (Milkmaid, Nestle La Lechara or Carnation)
4-5 green cardamom pods (elaichi), seeds removed and powdered or 1/2 tsp cardamom powder
charoli or chironji, for garnishing (These are aparently dried and roasted melon seeds with almondish flavor. Here’s more details on Chef In You and Mahanandi)
In a medium pot over medium-high heat, bring the milk to a boil. Turn the heat down to a low simmer and add the saffron, sweetened condensed milk and cardamom powder. Mix well and continue to simmer for 25-30 mins, stirring continuously, making sure milk does not overflow or stick too much on the sides or bottom of the pot.
Remove the pot from heat, scrape the milk sticking to the sides or bottom and let it cool down to room temperature. Pop it into the refrigerator for atleast 2 hours before serving.
Garnish every bowl of basundi with 8-10 charolis and serve chilled.
Diwali Brunch with Brown Pohe
(Flattened Rice with Cumin and Peanut Powder)
Diwali is one reason to make all the special “faral” items. Back home, even today, my mom goes the whole nine yards and sincerely makes everything for the Diwali faral Laadoo, Chivda, Chakali, Shankarpali and what not! She has been making all that ever since I remember and we have always done justice to her efforts by enjoy all those goodies on all the days of Diwali.
In my family, we usually have the big ”faral” on Narak Chaturdashi. My parents host a morning brunch on this day and have relatives and friends over. Growing up I remember us kids bursting fire crackers outside while mom busy working in the kitchen preparing for the big brunch. Obviously the table would be set with all the faral items, but mom liked to make a couple of freshly prepared dishes to go with them. The most popular request for a freshly prepared dish used to be for the ”Brown Pohe“.
Brown Pohe are not the healthier brown version of regular pohe , like brown rice; nor are they made the usual way with turmeric or mustard or onions or any other ingredients. This pohe recipe is our family recipe that has been handed down through generations and I have never had it anywhere else but home. It’s simply made by stir frying pohe with cumin seeds, few green chillies for some heat and roasted peanut powder with salt and sugar seasoning. The peanut powder gives the white pohe a characteristic “brown” color and hence the name.
With it’s simple and earthy flavor, this elegant dish is a centerpiece of my Diwali spread!
2 handfuls (about 2 cups) thick pohe (flattened rice)
1 cup roasted peanut powder (general rule of thumb is to have 2:1 proportion of pohe:peanut powder)
2-3 tbsp oil
1 tsp cumin seeds (jeera)
1-2 green chillies, roughly chopped
1 tsp sugar
quartered lemon wedges
cilantro/coriander, finely chopped for garnishing
coconut, frozen thawed or freshly grated, for garnishing
Take the pohe in a colander or sieve and rinse thoroughly under running water, making sure all of it is completely soaked. Set aside to drain completely.
In the meantime, heat oil in a frying pan/wok/kadhai over medium heat and add cumin seeds. When they start to splutter in a min or two, add green chilies. Then gently fluff the wet pohe in the colander with your fingers to loosen them up and add them to the pan. Stir in the roasted peanut powder and season with salt and sugar.
Mix well, drizzle some lemon juice by squeezing 1-2 wedges and cook covered on low heat for about 5 mins stirring occassionally.
Garnish with cilantro and grated coconut and serve warm with a side of a lemon wedge.
Sundays are kinda relaxed in my house. Its family time with a peaceful mornings watching cartoons with our little one, followed by a nice brunch, may be a trip to the supermarket or the mall, some errands here and there, a few chores in between and then its time for the Sunday dinner. With dishes like Herb Marinated Lamb Chops, Chicken Pulav with Creamy Carrot Raita and Berries with Choco-Rum Sauce on the menu, we make Sunday a “fun day” indeed!
Herb Marinated Lamb Chops
Lamb chops are my new found love! A few weeks ago, I tried lamb chops for the very first time at Casa Mono, a Spanish Tapas by Mario Batali in the Gramercy Park neighborhood of NYC. The lamb chops were grilled to perfection and when I took the first bite, it just melted in my mouth. This unforgettable experience was an inspiration to this recipe.
I marinate the lamb chops in a citrusy cilantro-mint marinade and sear them in a pan on high heat to lock in the juices and to form a dark brown crust. Then I finish them off by roasting them in the oven for a few minutes along with the remaining marinade. The roasting process cooks the meat and slightly warms up the marinade, which forms a complementary sauce for the chops. The sauce maintains its nice green color and its fresh flavor as it does not get a chance to fully cook and enhances the flavor of the juicy tender lollipops of meat.
Posing like ballet dancers in a beautiful formation, these chops are a little bites of heaven!
3 lamb chops (I picked up the pre-packaged New Zealand Lamb Chops at Wholefoods)
For the marinade:
1/4 cup fresh mint leaves (pudina), coarsely chopped
1/2 cup fresh cilantro/coriander leaves, coarsely chopped
1 large garlic clove, smashed
1/2 lemon, zested and juiced
fresh ground black pepper
3-4 tbsp EVOO (Extra Virgin Olive Oil)
Generously season the lamb chops with salt and fresh ground pepper and keep aside.
In a food processor, combine all the ingredients for the marinade and mix well pulse it several times. Pour all of the marinade over lamb chops and massage them a little making sure each chop is well coated with the marinade. Cover with a plastic wrap and let it sit in the refrigerator for about an hour.
Preheat oven to 400 deg F.
Heat a flat pan or an iron skillet on medium high heat. When the pan is sufficiently hot, shake and remove excess marinade and sear the chops on the pan for about 4 mins on each side, till a dark brown crust is formed. Place them on a baking sheet, pour the remaining marinade over the chops and finish cooking them in the oven for about 5 mins or until they are done to the desired level.
Chicken Pulav (Pulao/Pilaf)
(Rice with Chicken)
Pulav or Pilaf is a North Indian delicacy and is one of the most popular rice dishes made for everyday meals or for special occassions like parties or even banquets. Indians routinely make this dish with different vegetables like potatoes, peas, green beans or with chicken, mutton (lamb or goat) or even prawns (shrimps). As tasty as Biryani, which is layered rice and meat or vegetable dish, the Pulav, which is simply a seasoned rice dish, is much easier and quicker to make.
In my recipe, I start off by carmelizing onions along with some whole spices and herbs and then sauté the chicken and rice together with the onions to give the characteristic light brown color to this Pulav. I also use chicken stock instead of water which adds incredible flavor to this dish. Simmering on the hot stove, this one pot concoction slowly releases its wonderful aroma in the kitchen that soon permeates throughout the whole house!
2 cups basmati rice, soaked in water for about 1/2 hour (*1 cup of raw rice makes about 3 cups of cooked rice)
1/2 lb chicken thighs, skinless, boneless or bone in, cut into small pieces
2 medium red (or yellow) onions, peeled and sliced into 1/2 inch strips
2 medium garlic cloves, minced
1 inch ginger, minced
3-4 tbsp tbsp good oil (canola, sunflower, corn, vegetable) or ghee (clarified butter)
1 tsp cumin seeds (jeera)
1 tsp coriander seeds (dhana/dhania)
4-5 green cardamom pods, crushed lightly to break the skin
2 cinnamon sticks, about 1 inch each
4-5 whole black pepper corn
2 bay leaves
1 tsp garam masala
1/4 cup fresh mint leaves (pudina), finely chopped
1/4 cup fresh cilantro/coriander (dhania), finely chopped and some additional for garnishing
3-4 green chillies, finely chopped
4 cups, purchased chicken stock (you can also use water)
In a thick bottomed large pot with a lid over medium high heat, heat oil and add cumin seeds. When they start to splutter, add onion, ginger and garlic along with codiander seeds, green cardamom, cinnamin, cloves, pepper corns and bay leaves. Sauté for about 5 mins till the onions are translucent and light brown in color. Add the garam masala along with the chicken, fresh mint, cilantro and green chillies. Season with salt and cook covered for about 5 more mins stirring occassionally.
Drain the water from the rice and add the rice to the above mixture. Mix well and stir fry uncovered for a few more minutes. Add the chicken stock or water and simmer covered until all the liquid is absorbed and the chicken and rice are completely cooked. Stir occassionally to make sure it does not stick to the bottom of the pot too much.
Garnish with fresh cilantro and serve hot with cool Creamy Carrot Raita
Creamy Carrot Raita
(Carrot – Yogurt Salad)
Raita is a great accompaniment to any hot and spicy Indian dish. Made with or without yogurt (a lot of typical Maharashtrian raitas or koshimbirs are made without yogurt) they have a super cooling and refreshing effect on the palate.
In my version, shredded carrot and beaten yogurt are tossed with green chillies and cilantro and seasoned with salt and a little bit of sugar. The sugar brings out the sweetness of the carrots and masks any sourness in the yogurt. Simple and healthy, my creamy carrot raita pairs perfectly with the piping hot chicken pulav.
2 cups shredded carrots
2 cups beaten yogurt
fresh cilantro/coriander (dhania), finely chopped for garnishing
1-2 green chillies, finely chopped
1/2 tsp sugar
Toss together shredded carrots and yogurt. Add green chillies and fresh cilantro, season with salt and sugar and serve chilled.
Berries with Choco-Rum Sauce
I love berries, all kinds, blue, black, red (raspberries) and pink (strawberries). In summer when the stores have great deals on all types of berries, I go on a shopping spree. You will definitely find some or all of the berries in my refrigerator anytime during the summer months. Usually, I simply have them plain as a snack or serving of fruit after dinner, but sometimes I like to jazz them up.
Ice cold berries are generously drizzled with hot white chocolate-rum sauce. The white color of the chocolate sauce adds a wonderful silky backdrop to the colorful berries and the rum spikes it up. It’s a great way to enjoy the explosion of berries throughout the summer!
1/2 cup raspberries
1/2 cup blueberries
1/2 cup blackberries
1/2 cup strawberries
For the sauce:
1/2 cup white chocolate chunks or chips (If you have chocolate bar, just chop it coarsely)
2 tbsp heavy/light cream
1 tbsp white rum
3 dashes pure vanilla extract
Pop the berries in the freezer while you prepare the hot chocolate sauce, to get the ice cold effect for the dessert.
Place a heat proof bowl over a small pot of simmering water. Make sure the bowl does not touch the water below.
Combine all the ingredients for the sauce in this bowl and heat just until the chocolate melts, stirring continously, for about 5 – 7 mins.
Remove the berries from the freezer and serve with the hot chocolate -rum sauce drizzled on top.