Saturday, July 30, 2011

Pasta salad with a Moroccan twist

Pasta salad sounds very humdrum, but this one is a little bit different. It has a combination of  raw vegetables, cooked vegetables, chickpeas and cheese. Still sounds very mundane till you add the Moroccan twist with the Boyajian Moroccan Blend dipping oil instead of the usual extra virgin olive oil that is used for dressing a pasta salad. This oil blend contains oregano, chilies, fennel, and cumin which gives the pasta a really delicious spicy flavor without adding heat

I also slow cook the canned chickpeas with onions, garlic and toasted cumin powder to give it an extra oomph. And finally I add a sprinkle of some more toasted cumin powder and grated feta cheese to finish the salad.

Pasta salad with a Moroccan twist 

2 cups mini farfalle (I find small shapes work the best for salad)
1 head of Broccoli, florets only
1/2 Red bell pepper, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
One vine ripened, firm tomato, seeds removed and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
3 scallions, finely sliced, both white and green parts
One 14 oz can of organic garbonzo beans, drained and rinsed under cold water
1/2 medium sized red onion, chopped into 1/2 inch pieces (about 1/2 cup)
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
1 teaspoon toasted cumin powder
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons Moroccan oil blend
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup grated Feta cheese (use a large cheese grater)

1. Heat a medium saute pan with extra virgin olive oil. Add the chopped onions and the chopped garlic. Cook on a low heat till the onions are just beginning to soften. Add the drained chickpeas, 1/2 teaspoon toasted cumin powder and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt. Cook over low heat till the onions are soft and the chickpeas has a light golden color. Set aside to cool.

2. Heat a large pot of salted boiling water. Add the pasta and cook for 7 minutes. For the last 3 minutes, add the broccoli florets to the pasta so that they can be cooked as well. Drain the pasta and broccoli and run under cold water to facilitate cooling.

3. In a large salad bowl, add the bell pepper, tomatoes, chopped scallions, cooked chickpeas, pasta and broccoli. Drizzle in the Moroccan oil and toss well. Add the remaining 1/2 teaspoon cumin powder and freshly ground black pepper and give it one more toss. Grate the feta at the last minute over the salad and lightly mix before serving.

Serves 2 to 3.

Note: The Moroccan blend dipping oil is available at

Pea shoots and beets salad

Pea shoots are the tender shoots of the green pea plant. There are two kinds available - the ones with the tendrils and some tender leaves and these which I am using which are about 4 inches in length and have just sprouted with tiny leaves. The ones with the tendrils and leaves are great stir fried but these are best eaten in a salad or a sandwich. Additionally they are a good source of Vitamin C. In the US Trader Joes sells a 4 oz box of organic pea shoots which is good enough to serve 4 people.

Pea shoots have a fresh crisp taste. Paired with something sweet like beets or corn and a salty Asian dressing makes a satisfying salad. The key is to make sure that the beets are sweet. If they are not, then the salad will not be balanced.

Pea shoots and beets salad with soy vinaigrette
4 oz organic pea shoots
3 small beets, a combination of regular purple and candy stripe

2 tablespoon rice vinegar
2 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
2 teaspoons black sesame seeds, lightly toasted
1 1/2 tablespoon firmly packed light brown sugar
4 teaspoons soy sauce

1. Wash and spin dry the pea shoots and place them in the serving bowl.

2. Peels the beets, thinly slice them and cut them into matchsticks. Top the pea shoots with the beets.

3. Mix all the dressing ingredients and stir till the sugar is well incorporated into the dressing. Pour the dressing over the beets and pea shoots and toss well. Sprinkle the sesame seeds on top and serve.

Serves 4

Home Fries with Cumin

Home fries are basically, potatoes fried in some kind of fat in a heavy skillet. In the United States, home fries are popular as a breakfast dish and are sometimes served in place of hash browns. They are served with eggs and bacon with ketchup or maple syrup. I prefer my home fries served with eggs and ketchup. 

I make them with red bliss potatoes, whole as well as ground cumin, and coriander seeds which provides a nice lemony flavor. Home fries are very versatile - my version makes a good filling for quesadillas, in a panini with cheese and sauteed onions, in a wrap with some pickled onion and humus, as well as a side for grilled meat or fish and of course just by itself. Normally, the diner version is very generous with the fat - and fat is flavor for most of the time, but this version is with very little fat and a lot of taste. (The key is to use a heavy bottomed non-stick skillet which will prevent the potatoes from sticking to the pan).

Home fries with cumin

4 cups boiled, peeled and cubed potatoes
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon roasted cumin seeds, ground coarsely
1 teaspoon roasted coriander seeds, ground coarsely
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon granulated sugar (helps to round out all the flavors)
1 tablespoon canola oil

1. Heat a large non-stick skillet with canola oil. Add the cumin seeds and saute for 30 seconds till they pop.

2. Add the cubed potatoes in a single layer to ensure that all the potatoes develop a golden brown crust. Add the salt, ground cumin and ground coriander and mix well. Let the potatoes cook till they are brown on one side. Add the ground black pepper and sugar and toss them around to brown the other side.

3. Remove from the heat and serve.

Serves 2 - 3 .

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Zucchini fritters

In summer I use a lot of zucchini in different ways. Thin slices grilled being my most favorite. Fritters is a very common used of zucchini. I have tried to make it healthy by baking them instead of pan frying. You could pan fry them as well (as we know fat adds flavor). I have also added some fresh thyme and pine nuts for a more lemony flavor and some crunch.

In Turkey zucchini is used in a frittata and served with a garlicky yogurt sauce. I have borrowed their idea and added feta to the basic yogurt sauce.

Zucchini fritters with a yogurt feta sauce

1 1/2 lb zucchini (I used half yellow and half green)
2 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, finely minced
4 scallions finely minced (both white and green parts)
2 large cloves of garlic finely minced
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 tablespoon of olive oil
2 teaspoon kosher salt
3 - 4 tablespoon rice flour or plain flour
1/4 cup pine nuts

1. Preheat the oven to 425 F. Preheat a 9 x 13 inch baking sheet as well.

2. Grate the zucchini using a food processor or through the large holes of the box grater. Place in a colander with a container below to catch the liquid released by the zucchini. Add 1 teaspoon kosher salt to the grated zucchini which will help to leach out the excess moisture from the zucchini. Keep aside for an hour.

3. When the oven is ready and the baking sheet is heated, squeeze the water out of the zucchini by placing the grated zucchini in a cheesecloth or clean kitchen towel and twisting the same. Remove from the cheesecloth and place in a mixing bowl. Add the minced thyme, minced garlic, and black pepper. Add the rice flour a tablespoon at a time and mix till the mixture reaches a consistency that allows you to make patties. Taste the mixture and adjust the seasoning and finally add the baking powder. Make the patties immediately, otherwise the zucchini will start to release more moisture. You should be able to make about  9 to 10, 2 inch patties with this mixture.

4. Use a small ice-cream scoop to measure out the mixture so that you get evenly sized patties. Flatten them slightly and place on the preheated baking sheet. (Before you place the patties, add 1 tablespoon olive oil to the baking sheet). Place the baking sheet in the middle rack of the oven and bake for 15 minutes. The first side should be brown - flip to the other side. Add one more tablespoon of olive oil and continue to cook for 15 more minutes till both sides are golden brown. Serve hot with the yogurt feta sauce.

Makes 10 fritters

Yogurt Feta sauce
2 tablespoon Greek feta cheese, crumbled
3 tablespoon low fat Greek yogurt
2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 - 2 tablespoon lemon juice (depending on how tangy you want the sauce to be)
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon minced garlic
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Blend all of the above ingredients to form a sauce.

Red Quinoa salad with corn and asparagus

Quinoa has become a very popular food among health food enthusiasts. It has been a staple food of the Inca civilization, and is a plant food that provides complete protein. It is related to beets and chard and is not a grain. Quinoa on its own does not have much flavor. Hence it is a blank canvas, on which you can paint your own mark. Vegetables, nuts, dried fruits, and a dressing is what you need to make it your own. It should be treated like you would treat a lentil.

Quinoa is available in multiple colors - white, black and red. I have used both white and red and they taste almost the same. The red is prettier. Today I have combined quinoa with asparagus and corn with a simple balsamic dressing to make a very nutritious dish. Before you start cooking quinoa, you need to wash it thoroughly to remove the bitter coating called saponin, which acts as a natural insect repellent. Since grains are tiny, you need to use a fine mesh strainer to wash the quinoa. Most quinoa sold today does not require much washing, but in case you end up with one that does, wash till the water runs clear.

Red Quinoa salad with corn and asparagus

1/3 cup red quinoa, washed
1/2 cup asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 fresh corn on the cob, kernels removed
1 cube of veggie stock - any brand that you like ( I use Rapunzel salt free stock cubes)
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar (use a good quality vinegar)
1 clove of garlic, pressed through a garlic press or mashed with a knife
1 1/2 tablespoon good quality extra virgin olive oil (I used unfiltered for salad dressings)

1. Cook the quinoa as per the instructions on the box. Typically you need 2 cups of liquid for 1 cup of quinoa. In this case, add the stock cube to the water or if you are using liquid stock, omit the stock cube. When the quinoa is cooked, let it cool and fluff with a fork.

2. Blanch the asparagus and corn for 2 minutes and shock in cold water. Drain and mix with the cooled quinoa.

3. Make a dressing with the garlic, balsamic vinegar and olive oil and mix into the quinoa. Serve at room temperature.

Serves 3.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Corn and cheese croustades

Mundane white bread can also be transformed into something fancy. These little baked appetizer shells are made with plain old pepperidge farm white bread. All you need is a 2 inch cookie cutter, a rolling pin
and a mini muffin tin.

For the filling I used corn and cheese, but the possibilities are limited to your imagination. The only thing to remember is the mixture cannot be wet, otherwise the cups will become soggy. Just to get the ball rolling, here are some suggestions:-
Mushrooms and onions
Asparagus in white sauce
Curried potatoes
Make much more than you think you need, since they disappear really quick. Budget at least 6 per person.

Corn and Cheese croustades

Baked bread cups

Filled up muffin cups

12 slices "Very Thin" Pepperidge Farm white bread
1 fresh corn on the cob, husked, kernels removed ****
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme
2 scallions, chopped fine (keep white parts and green parts separate)
1/2 cup of grated cheese (I used a mix of Asiago and Gruyere, since I wanted to finish the ends of those)
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon melted butter
Pastry brush

1. Preheat the oven to 400 F.

2. Using a pastry brush or your hands, grease a mini muffin pan with the melted butter.

3. Using a 2 inch cookie cutter, cut two disks from one slice of bread. Thin out the disks with a rolling pin. Then fit them into the greased muffin pan. Bake in the middle rack of the oven for 6 minutes until light brown at the edges. Remove and cool on a rack. Reduce the oven temperature to 350 F.

4. In the meantime, heat a small skillet with olive oil. Add the chopped scallions (white part only) and saute for a few minutes till softened. Add the corn kernels, minced thyme leaves and salt and cook over medium heat till the corn is cooked but not mushy. (Fresh corn in summer can be eaten with minimal cooking). Season with black pepper and set aside.

5. When the bread shells have cooled, place them back into the muffin tin. Fill it with 1 teaspoon of the corn mixture. Top with about a teaspoon of cheese and sprinkle some chopped scallion greens. Bake in the oven for 5 minutes till the cheese melts.

Makes 24.

Crusty new potatoes

As you will see from previous posts in my blog that I love new potatoes. This is another recipe where new potatoes get a tangy coating of yogurt and spices. They make a good snack on a toothpick especially if they are tiny potatoes (the kind you get in Trader Joes) or as a side dish.

The potatoes are boiled and cracked to make sure that they soak up as much flavor as possible. Cooked with the yogurt the potatoes develop a nice thin crust.

1lb new potatoes
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, peeled and cut into thin strips
1/4 teaspoon asafoetida
3/4 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon garam masala
2 teaspooon coriander powder
1 - 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
 1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
1/2 - 1 teaspoon chopped jalapeno peppers (depends on your spice tolerance)

1/2 cup plain whole milk yogurt 
1 tablespoon clarified butter
1 tablespoon cilantro leaves, chopped for garnish

1. Cook the potatoes in a large pot of salted boiling water till they are fork tender. (The potatoes should not become mushy). Drain and crack the potatoes using a potato masher. Make a spice mix of garam masala, coriander powder, turmeric powder, and salt and mix it with the potatoes. Set aside for let them cool.

2. Heat the clarified butter in a large heavy skillet. Add the cumin seeds and asafetida and cook for 30 seconds. Add ginger and sauté till they are light brown at the edges. Add the chopped green chili and saute for another 30 seconds.

3. Reduce the heat and add yogurt a little at a time stirring till it is well blended. (the yogurt should not curdles). Add the cracked potatoes coated in the spice mix to the pan and mix well with the yogurt mixture. 

4. Saute for a few minutes till the potatoes are a little brown. Then reduce the heat and add a cup of water. Cook till the mixture is dry and the potatoes have a nice crust about 10 to 12 minutes.

5. Serve hot, garnished with chopped cilantro.  
Serves 6 as an appetizer or 3 as a side dish.

Stir fried rice noodles with stir fried chicken and broccoli

I love eating all kinds of noodles. My favorite is Hokkien noodles, which I used to eat in Singapore. The Prima Taste brand is the best and is available online in the US. But this time I cooked rice noodles since they are really quick to cook (actually they require no cooking) and lighter to eat during the summer months. Combined with loads of vegetables and a medley of sauces, it is great to feed a crowd. Also makes for good picnic fare. The recipe below uses different sauces and oils to balance the sweet, salty and umami flavors of the dish.

A large wok and high heat are key to making a good stir fry. Another important tip to remember is to evenly cut the vegetables into thin pieces to allow for quick cooking as well as for the vegetable to retain their crisp texture . You can use any combination of soft and hard vegetables in a stir fry. If you use only hard vegetables, the dish will be dry since the vegetables will not release much moisture. However, it can be done by compensating with more oil and sauces.

Stir fry recipes look intimidating at first due to the long list of ingredients, but then again we are cooking for a crowd - once you have everything prepped, cooking is a breeze. Hence it is a great dish for entertaining, which can be prepared while your guests are chatting.

Stir fried rice noodles
12 oz rice noodle sticks (also known as rice vermicelli)
3 large cloves of garlic, finely minced
1 1/2 cup finely chopped red onions
8 oz sliced button mushrooms
2 cup broccoli florets cut lengthwise into half or thirds depending on the size of the florets
2 carrots cut into thin long strips or shredded
8 oz pencil asparagus, woody ends removed and cut into 1 inch pieces
One large green bell pepper, cut into thin long strips
1 teaspoon red chili flakes (optional)
4 tablespoon canola oil
2 teaspoon kosher salt

3 tablespoon Chinese rice wine (easily available in a chinese grocery store or use dry sherry)
1 tablespoon hoisin sauce
2 tablespoon low sodium tamari sauce (substitute with low sodium soy sauce if necessary)
1 tablespoon regular soy sauce
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon chili oil

1. Soak the rice noodles in boiling hot water for 3 to 5 minutes - each brand may have a different time. Drain and set aside. Cut the noodles into 3 inch lengths with kitchen shears - this will make it easier toss as well as eat.

2. Heat a large wok over high heat with canola oil. Add the onion and then the garlic and saute till the onion is light brown around the edges. Add the chili flakes if using and saute for another 20 seconds.

3. While the onions are being sauteed, blanch the broccoli and asparagus is salted boiling water for 3 to 4 minutes to retain their color as well as hasten the stir frying process.

4. Add the sliced mushrooms and continue to cook over high heat till they have a golden brown color. Now add the blanched asparagus and broccoli and toss with the mushroom mixture. Add 1 teaspoon salt and rice wine and cook over medium heat till the wine evaporates.

5.  Add the bell pepper and carrots and cook for a couple of minutes. Add the hoisin sauce, tamari, soy sauce, sesame oil, chili oil and the drained noodles. Toss well and cook for 5 to 7 minutes to allow all the flavors to attach to the noodles. Taste for seasoning and determine whether the second teaspoon of salt is required. Serve hot.

Serves 4 - 6

I had some leftover noodles from the night before - not enough for one person and some steamed rice as well. I made a chicken and broccoli stir fry to add to the noodles and rice for a quick lunch. It was really tasty.

Stir fried chicken with broccoli
3 organic chicken tenders, dried and thinly sliced
Marinade for chicken
2 teaspoon low sodium soy sauce
1 teaspoon sesame chili oil
2 teaspoon rice wine
Marinate the chicken for atleast one hour in the refrigerator

1 1/2 tablespoon canola oil
3 scallions chopped, white and light green parts only
1/2 tablespoon, peeled and grated fresh ginger

1 cup broccoli florets
2 teaspoon rice wine

Sauce ingredients
3/4 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon corn starch
1/3 cup water

1. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a 10 inch saute pan. Add the chicken pieces in a single layer. Do not flip till the first side gets a good sear - they should be a light brown. Flip and let the other side cook for a couple of minutes. Remove and set aside.

2. In the meantime, blanch the broccoli florets in salted boiling water till they are crisp tender. Drain and set aside. Mix the ingredients for the sauce in a small bowl and set aside as well. Stir before adding to the pan.

3. In the same skillet as you cooked the chicken, add 1/2 tablespoon oil and saute the scallions and grated ginger for a couple of minutes. Add the broccoli and rice wine and saute for 2 more minutes. Add the chicken and the reserved sauce and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer till the sauce has thickened to the desired consistency. If you are eating it with rice, you may like to leave a little more sauce than if you were eating it with noodles.

Serves 1

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Stir fried eggplant with spinach

Eggplants and spinach - who would have thought they marry well together, other than in an Italian dish - a lasagna maybe. I grew up eating this simple dish as a first course with rice and some clarified butter. Its simplicity is its greatest virtue. I introduced it to my nine year old - an eggplant averse eater and she loves it as well.

Seedless eggplants work best. In summer the eggplants are great and this is not an issue, but at other times of the year, I use the long Chinese eggplants or the baby Italian eggplants which have less or no seeds. Also, if you can, use organic spinach - they don't leave a metallic aftertaste.

Pan roasted eggplant with spinach

1 1/2 cups cubed eggplant (cut into 1 inch cubes)
1 bunch organic spinach, washed, dried and chopped into ribbons
1/2 teaspoon nigella seeds
1 dried red chili
1 1/2 tablespoon canola oil
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar

1. Heat a large non-stick skillet with 1 tablespoon canola oil over medium high heat. (Eggplants absorb oil like  a sponge - hence if you use a regular skillet you will need much more oil, otherwise the eggplant will stick to the skillet). Add the eggplant and let it cook for about 3 minutes till it is brown on one side. Flip around to brown the other side for another few minutes. Don't let them burn. Once browned on both sides, lower the heat to medium low, sprinkled half a teaspoon of salt and cover. Cook till the eggplant is soft. Remove to the serving bowl and set aside.

2. In the same skillet, heat another 1/2 tablespoon canola oil. Add the nigella seeds and the dried red chili. When the chili is light brown - about 30 seconds, add the chopped spinach and toss well. Cook till the spinach has just wilted. Add the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and the sugar and mix. Add the cooked eggplant to the spinach mixture and mix well. Saute till the eggplant and spinach mixture is dry and shiny (like the picture).

Serves 2  - 3

Saturday, July 9, 2011

4th of July entertaining

On the 4th of July, we had some very dear friends, over for lunch and for once everyone was vegetarian. I wanted to plan a menu which I could cook for 10 people given the constraint on the size of pots and pans in a Manhattan kitchen and one that didn't require too much of a la minute cooking.

So, the final menu was a roasted cauliflower with curry oil,  lemon pappardelle with roasted potatoes, peas and pesto, chickpea and butternut squash stew (not very summery, but good for company) and  couscous.

The desserts were to die for - Ina Garten's chocolate orange mousse  - an excellent dessert for company, deliciously rich and luxurious (the orange flavor came from the generous addition of cointreau) and a dark carrot cake with walnuts, golden raisins and coconut, soaked with a citrus syrup of orange juice and lemon juice, without the quintessential cream cheese frosting.
You can check out the recipe for the mousse here :

Roasted cauliflower with curry oil
Roasted cauliflower with curry oil
 2 medium sized cauliflowers, cut into florets (large ones cut into two or three)
A few good glugs of extra virgin olive oil (enough to coat all the florets - don't be alarmed with the amount of oil - you are catering for 10 people)
3-4 teaspoon of kosher salt
30 sprigs of thyme, finely minced
6 cloves of garlic, finely minced
3 tablespoons curry powder

1.  Preheat the oven to 425 F.

2. Mix the cauliflower florets with the olive oil, salt, minced thyme, minced garlic and curry powder so that all the florets are evenly coated with the oil, spice and herb mixture.

3. Arrange them on a foil lined baking in a single layer. You will need two large baking sheets.

4. Roast for 20 minutes and toss the florets once so that they brown evenly. Roast for another 20 minutes till the cauliflower is light brown at the edges and cooked but not overcooked. I like my roasted vegetables are little al dente. If you want them to be soft, cook for a longer time.

5. Serve warm. You could make this in advance and keep it warm in a 200 F oven for a couple of hours.

Serves 10

 Chickpea and Butternut squash stew

Chickpea and Butternut Squash Stew

Two 14 oz cans of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 cups butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes
10 small new potatoes, cleaned and cut into two
4 oz cremini mushrooms cut into quarters
2 sticks of celery cut into 1/2 inch pieces
2 cups chopped white onions
4 large cloves of garlic, finely minced
One 2 inch piece of cinnamon
10 strands of saffron
2 teaspoons of cumin powder (freshly ground is best)
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 teaspoon dried chili flakes
3 + 1 teaspoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
1 28 oz can of crushed tomatoes
4 + 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoon finely chopped flat leaf parsley (optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 425 F. Preheat a baking sheet for roasting the potatoes.

2. Toss the chopped potatoes with 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, 1 teaspoon kosher salt and black pepper. Arrange them in a single layer cut side down on the pre-heated baking sheet.

3. Roast for 15 to 20 minutes till the cut side is light brown. Remove and set aside.

4. In a large dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and saute for a minute. Add the minced garlic and continue to saute for 8 to 10 minutes till the onions are light brown. Add the saffron, butternut squash, mushrooms, turmeric and 1 teaspoon salt and saute for 3 to 4 minutes. Add the celery, drained chickpeas,crushed tomatoes, cumin powder, chili flakes and another teaspoon salt and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to simmer and add the roasted potatoes and another teaspoon salt. Cook for 25 to 30 minutes till the butternut squash is soft but still holds its shape. Taste for seasoning and add sugar depending on the tartness of the tomatoes. You may need less or more than 1 tablespoon sugar.

5. Serve garnished with chopped parsley on a bed of couscous. Cook couscous as per the directions on the box. Typically it is 1 cup of couscous to 1 cup of water and generous pat of butter.

Serves at least 10

Lemon pappardelle with roasted potatoes, peas and pesto

Lemon pappardelle with roasted potatoes, peas and pesto
 2 1/2  bags of lemon pappardelle ( I used the one from Trader Joes - each one has 4 servings)
1 1/2 cups basil pesto ( I used store bought since it was a large quantity)
4 oz green peas, defrosted
5 large russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes
a couple of glugs of extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1. Preheat oven to 425 F. Preheat a large baking sheet or two small baking sheets. This will prevent the potatoes from sticking to the sheet. Toss the potatoes with olive oil, salt and pepper and arrange them in a single layer on the baking sheet. Check after 15 minutes - if the potatoes are brown on one side, flip to the other side and cook for another 8 to 10 minutes. The potatoes should be soft inside and crisp on the outside. Once done, remove and set aside. The potatoes can be roasted in advance, but put them back for 10 minutes in a 225 F oven before tossing them into the pasta.

2. Place the peas and pesto in a large serving bowl and keep them at room temperature for an hour before serving the pasta.

3. Boil the pasta as per the packet instructions. Drain and add to the the peas and pesto mixture. Toss well to ensure the pesto coats all the strands. Add the potatoes and toss once. Serve immediately.

Serves 10.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Mushrooms, corn and spinach

Mushrooms, corn and spinach are three of my daughters favorite vegetables. Combined together makes her a very happy camper. When organic spinach is really good like right now, I puree it and freeze it in one cup measures. It is great with chicken, in a mac and cheese and combined with other vegetables like this combination.

Along with these three vegetables, I add the north Indian holy trinity of onions, garlic and ginger, some fresh tomato and a little bit of spice - the result is deliciousness. The textures in this dish are really great - the mushrooms are meaty, the corn provides the crunch and sweetness and the spinach forms the gravy for the dish.

Mushroom, corn and spinach curry

12 oz mushrooms - a mix of white button mushrooms and cremini mushrooms, cut into quarters
1/2 cup sweet corn, either fresh or frozen (if using frozen, defrost before adding)
1 cup pureed spinach
3/4 cup red onion, finely chopped
1/2 tablespoon ginger paste
1 tablespoon garlic paste
1 medium vine ripened tomato, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1/4 teaspoon garam masala
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt or to taste

1. Heat a heavy bottomed skillet with canola oil over medium high heat. Add the onions and saute for 2 minutes. Then add the ginger and garlic paste and cook till the onions are light brown at the edges.

2. Add the mushrooms and cook over high heat till the mushrooms are brown and glazed. Lower the heat and add the salt, cayenne, turmeric powder and chopped tomatoes and saute for 2 minutes till the tomatoes are starting to break down. Add the pureed spinach and the defrosted corn at this point. Bring the mixture to a boil and then simmer for 10 to 12 minutes till the tomatoes have completely broken down and mixed with the spinach. Add the garam masala and cook for another 30 seconds. Serve hot.

Serves 2 - 3

Serving suggestion:

1. Stuff into pita bread
2. As an alternate for creamed spinach as a side with grilled meat
3. Add to mac and cheese for a curried mac and cheese

Vegetable Medley (Niramish charchari)

This is a very simple vegetable dish that I make when I feel like detoxing. My mother used to make it a lot when were growing up. It has a combination of hard and soft vegetables and very mildly spiced. Combined with a lentil dish and steamed rice it is great for a summer lunch.

I used what I had on hand i.e. green beans, cauliflower, potatoes and baby spinach. You can add many other vegetables to it if you are cooking for a greater number of people. Any kind of squash, okra, eggplants, daikon, and broccoli will work well. The key is to ensure that the vegetables are cut the same size so that they cook evenly. Also, if you are using, zucchini or yellow squash, they need to be added halfway through cooking, since they cook quicker than the harder vegetables.

Sauteed Vegetable Medley

Cut vegetables for medley

 2 handfuls of baby spinach
one medium sized red potato, peeled and cut into sticks as per the first picture
3 large florets of cauliflower, cut into half or thirds depending on the size of the florets
1/2 lb green beans, trimmed and cut into 1 1/2 inch pieces
1/2 teaspoon nigella seeds
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 dry red chili (optional)
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 tablespoon canola oil

1. Heat a large saute pan over medium high heat with canola oil. Add the dry red chili (for more heat break the chili) and the nigella seeds. Saute for 30 seconds till the chili is toasted in the oil and the nigella seeds begin to pop.

2. Add the potatoes, beans and cauliflower, turmeric and 1/2 teaspoon salt and toss to coat well with the oil and spice mixture. Reduce the heat to medium and cook for 5 minutes. Then add another 1/2 teaspoon salt, sugar and a couple of tablespoons of water and cover and cook for another 5 minutes or till the vegetables are tender.

3. Lastly, add the baby spinach and mix till they are lightly wilted. Remove from the heat and serve warm.

Serves 3