Thursday, December 27, 2012

Black bean fajitas

We just got back from our holiday in Mexico and got addicted to the wonderful cuisine with its various salsas. We were adding it to almost anything we ate there, starting from eggs to just smearing soft bread rolls with it.

We ate our fair share of tacos, fajitas, enchiladas and more. The typical vegetarian fajita filling was sauteed vegetables, and there was a trio of sauces - guacamole, chopped tomato and onion salsa and a lovely vibrant green tomatillo and serrano chili salsa. But my favorite remains the black bean filling topped with sauteed onions and peppers cooked al dente. The crunch in the vegetables complements the soft tortillas. These tortillas are finally garnished with shredded iceberg lettuce for freshness and some more crunch. I would have liked to make a salsa, but didn't want to do the work. If you like, there are many salsa recipes on the web which would work well.

Black bean fajitas

One pack small soft flour tortillas (I like the Mission brand tortillas)
One large red bell pepper, thinly sliced
One large white onion, peeled and thinly sliced
1 tablespoon canola oil
1/2 teaspoon Mexican oregano (optional)
Kosher salt to taste
Freshly ground black pepper
2 cups shredded iceberg lettuce
Black bean filling (recipe below)

  1. Heat a large saute pan with 1 tablespoon canola oil. Add the onions and a pinch of salt and cook for a  few minutes over medium high heat till the onions are just beginning to get translucent.
  2. Add the bell peppers, and the oregano if using and cook for about 3 to 4 minutes till the onions and bell peppers are cooked but still retain their crunch. Add the freshly ground black pepper and cook for 1 more minute. Transfer immediately to a serving bowl to stop the cooking.
  3. Warm the tortillas for 20 seconds in the microwave or wrap in aluminum foil and warm in a 350 F oven for 10 minutes.
  4. Take a tortilla, spread with a tablespoon and a half of the black bean filling, a tablespoon of the onion and pepper mixture and some shredded lettuce and enjoy!
Serves 4

Black bean filling

1 14 oz can of organic black beans
1 cup chopped yellow onion
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
4 teaspoons canola oil
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 ½ teaspoon taco seasoning (I used Trader Joes) or you can make your own. Click here for recipe.
7 oz San Marzano crushed or pureed tomatoes (½ a small can)

1. Heat a 3 qt saucepan over medium low heat with canola oil. When the oil starts to warm up, add the chopped onions, garlic and ¼ teaspoon salt. Cook over low heat covered for 10 to 12 minutes stirring occasionally till the mixture is soft and mushy.
2. Drain the can of beans and add it to the onion and garlic mixture. Add 1 ½ teaspoons of taco seasoning, half a can of the crushed tomatoes and the remaining ¼ teaspoon salt and cook covered over medium low heat for another 10 minutes. By this time, the beans would have been well seasoned and the tomato will be absorbed by the beans. Stir halfway through to ensure that the beans don’t stick to the pan. (I used a non-stick pan but it might still stick since the mixture is not very wet).
3. Allow to cool and serve.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Mushroom Ragu over polenta

This is a great main course for vegetarians for Christmas dinner. The ragu can be made in advance and the quick cooking polenta always come to the rescue. My meat eating friends love this dish as well - so plan to make extra.
A mixture of mushrooms works best for this dish. The variety of flavors adds to the complexity of the dish and also contributes to providing some textural contrast. One of my meat eating friends told me that the mushrooms coated with this gorgeous silky brown sauce reminded them of steak bits in gravy.  Of course vegetarians who love mushrooms will find this recipe delicious.

I found this recipe in David Tanis's cookbook Heart of the Artichoke and other kitchen journeys. This is a slight riff of the original recipe.

Mushroom Ragu over Polenta

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 medium Spanish onion, finely diced
Salt and pepper to taste
2 lbs mushrooms, cleaned and sliced (I used a mix of cremini, Portobello, button and shiitake)
3 garlic cloves, put through a press
1 teaspoon finely chopped thyme
2 teaspoons finely chopped sage leaves
½ teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
2 cups Porcini Mushroom Broth (recipe follows), hot, or as needed *****
2 tablespoon chopped parsley

1. To prepare the ragu, in a very large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil over high heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring well, until it begins to brown. Lower the heat to medium, season the onion with salt and pepper, and continue stirring until nicely caramelized, about 5 minutes. Remove the onion to a small bowl. Return the pan to the heat, add the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil, and turn the heat to high. Add the mushrooms, stirring well to coat with oil. Keep the heat high and sauté the mushrooms until they brown lightly. If juices accumulate in the pan, pour them off and reserve.
2. Season the mushrooms with salt and pepper, add the garlic, thyme, sage, and pepper flakes, and stir well. Reduce the heat to medium, add the caramelized onion and the tomato paste, and stir well to coat the mushrooms and to dry the mixture slightly. Cook for another 2 minutes, stirring.
3. Sprinkle the flour over the mixture and stir it in. Ladle in 1 cup of the hot mushroom broth, stirring well as the mixture thickens. Add another cup of hot broth and let the ragu cook for another 5 minutes. If it’s too thin, cook it a bit longer; if too thick, add a bit more broth. Taste for seasoning. (The ragu can be made a few hours ahead and reheated.) The pan juices can be added instead of broth to fortify the mushroom flavor.
4. Serve over polenta. Sprinkle parsley before serving.

Serves 4 to 6

****** I used a Porcini mushrooms stock cube which I bought at the local Italian grocery store. In the UK it is available very easily, but if you cannot get, it then you can used David Tanis’s recipe below for making Porcini Mushroom Broth.

Porcini Mushroom Broth
1. Put 3 cups water in a saucepan and add a bay leaf, a few slices of dried porcini mushrooms or 2 teaspoons dry porcini powder (see below), half a small onion, 1 small celery stalk, and a small carrot, peeled and chopped. Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer and cook for 20 to 30 minutes; strain.
2. {Variation} Dry Porcini Powder
3. Porcini powder is available at specialty shops, but it’s easy to make your own, to add intensity to the mushroom ragout or many other sauces or dishes. Dried porcini can sometimes be sandy. So, to get rid of any grit, soak a handful of them briefly in warm water, then blot them very well in a towel, put them on a baking sheet, and let them air-dry completely. When the mushrooms are dry, grind them up in a spice grinder and keep the powder in a jar in the freezer.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Roasted Broccoli Rabe with Lemon and Parmesan

Of all the bitter greens out there, broccoli rabe is my favorite bitter green. I have had it sauteed, made into a pesto, used it as a pizza topping and baked it with pasta. But never had it roasted until now - it was perfect. A quick blanch and then roasted in a very hot oven with thinly sliced garlic, crisps the leaves a tiny bit and topped with parmesan and a squirt of lemon makes these greens divine. I like to add some dried chili flakes for kick, but you can omit them if spice is not your thing.

Broccoli Rabe with Lemon and Parmesan

1 Bunch Broccoli Rabe
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive
2 large cloves of fresh garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
½ teaspoon kosher salt
Zest of one lemon
Juice of ½ lemon
A healthy dose of grated parmesan
¼ teaspoon dried chili flakes (or less if you don't like it spicy)

1. Preheat the oven to 450°F.
2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil – a 4 quart pot works well. In the meantime, prepare the broccoli rabe. Separate the stems from the leafy parts and set aside. Wash the leaves and florets. Trim and peel the stems to remove the fibrous parts. Now the rabe is ready to be blanched.
3. Once the water comes to a steady boil, add the leaves and the stems and cook for 2 minutes. Remove and drain.
4. Toss the blanched rabe with extra virgin olive oil, salt, garlic and chili flakes if using. Lay it out in a single layer on a large baking sheet. Roast in the middle rack for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and mix the lemon zest and sprinkle the grated parmesan over the rabe. Put the baking sheet back in the oven for another 2 minutes, till the parmesan is just melted.
5. Serve warm with a alio oglio pasta, roasted meats or fish.

Serves 3

Monday, November 26, 2012

Black bean and brown rice burger

This recipe was the result of left over brown rice and left over black beans from tacos that I had made another night. The black beans on its own are extremely flavorful. The brown rice adds some toothy texture to the burger and the cilantro and scallions provide the freshness. I served it with a corn salad.

These burgers are great even by themselves without the bun with a nice salad on the side. Since they don't have too much binding them they are a little delicate to handle, but the flax seed paste provides some glue. If you like you can try it by increasing the flax seed paste or adding an egg, if it helps to bind better.

Black bean and brown rice burgers

½ cup short grain brown rice
½ cup packed finely chopped cilantro leaves and soft stems
2 cups cooked black beans (Recipe below)
4 thin scallions, finely chopped, both white and green parts
1 tablespoon flax seeds (ground into a fine powder) (OR 1 egg)
3 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons canola oil + 1 teaspoon canola oil
Shredded Mexican cheese or any cheese that you like
4 sesame seed burger buns
  1. Cook the brown rice as per package instructions. Typically it is 2 cups water to 1 cup rice and it requires about 45 minutes to cook. It is best if you have left over brown rice - then it is a quick assembly.
  2. Cook the black beans as per the recipe below and cool. 
  3. Add the chopped scallions and the cilantro leaves to the rice and beans and mix lightly.
  4. Finally add the water to the flax seed powder and stir to create a thick paste. Add the paste to the burger mixture. 
  5. Heat a large heavy bottomed non-stick skillet with 2 tablespoons canola oil.
  6. In the meantime, oil your palms with 1 teaspoon canola oil and form four to five patties with this mixture. Add the patties to the oil as you make them, to avoid sticking. Cook over medium low heat for about 3 minutes a side.
  7. Serve over burger buns with shredded cheese.
Makes 4 to 5 patties.

Cooked Black beans
1 14oz can of organic black beans
1 cup chopped yellow onion
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
4 teaspoons canola oil
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 ½ teaspoon taco seasoning (I used Trader Joes) or you can make your own. Click here for recipe.
7 oz San Marzano crushed or pureed tomatoes (½ a small can)

1. Heat a 3 qt saucepan over medium low heat with canola oil. When the oil starts to warm up, add the chopped onions, garlic and ¼ teaspoon salt. Cook over low heat covered for 10 to 12 minutes stirring occasionally till the mixture is soft and mushy.
2. Drain the can of beans and add it to the onion and garlic mixture. Add 1 ½ teaspoons of taco seasoning, half a can of the crushed tomatoes and the remaining ¼ teaspoon salt and cook covered over medium low heat for another 10 minutes. By this time, the beans would have been well seasoned and the tomato will be absorbed by the beans. Stir halfway through to ensure that the beans don’t stick to the pan. (I used a non-stick pan but it might still stick since the mixture is not very wet).
3. Allow to cool and serve.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Gajar Halwa (Carrot pudding)

Next week is Diwali, the Indian festival of lights. Along with the lights comes the lighting of fire crackers and eating home made sweets. Gajar halwa is one of those sweets that my mom made during Diwali and I wanted to carry on the tradition with a tiny difference - hence made a batch of halwa.

Indian sweets in general are cloyingly sweet for most other palates and I prefer my desserts to be subtly sweet. So, in this version of gajar halwa the sugar content is less than the traditional fare, but the taste is as good. If you like your desserts very sweet, then you can increase the quantity of sugar to suit your taste.

It is an easy recipe, which just requires some patience. Shredded carrots are sauteed in clarified butter and cooked down with milk, cream, half and half (either or a mix of them) and flavored with cardamom seeds and garnished with dried fruits and nuts. The result is delicious. The halwa will last for at least a week refrigerated, but it is best served warm. [The microwave works best for that - just 10 seconds.]

Gajar Halwa

2 lbs organic carrots, peeled and shredded
3 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon ghee** or clarified butter
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
6 green cardamoms - seeds only
2 cups half and half
1 cup 2% milk
1/2 cup slivered almonds
1/2 cup raisins
  1. Heat a large heavy bottomed skillet or dutch oven with 3 tablespoons ghee. Add the shredded carrots and cook over medium heat stirring every couple of minutes for about 10 minutes till the carrots have light brown edges and the raw smell of the carrot disappears.
  2. Add 2 cups and half and half and 1 cup of milk to the carrots and continue to cook till you are left with a wet mixture, but not soupy. This should take about 18 minutes. Please stir the mixture often to ensure that the carrots do not burn at the the bottom of the pan.
  3. Add sugar and the cardamom seeds and cook for another 15 minutes till the mixture is almost dry but not too dry as it will dry up further while it cools.
  4. In the meantime, in a small saute pan, dry roast the almonds over medium heat for about 5 minutes till they are golden, but not burnt. Remove and set aside to cool. Heat 1 teaspoon ghee in the same pan and saute the raisins for  a minute or two.
  5. Finally add the sauteed raisins and the toasted almonds and mix.
  6. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Makes 8 to 10 medium sized  servings

** ghee is available in all Indian grocery stores, on-line link as above or you could make your own. Click here for Recipe.

Turkish okra stew

While okra originated in Africa, it is also very popular in Indian, Southern American, Caribbean and Middle Eastern cuisine.  In India, okra is cooked with lentils and loads of spices in the form of a stew. Caribbean cuisine also has its own version of okra stew and it is an important ingredient of jambalaya a southern american stew. This version of Okra stew is from Turkey. Whole okra is slowly simmered in  a tomato based sauce and finished with lemon juice to give it that tart fresh taste.
I serve it with buttered basmati rice and a yogurt raita.

Turkish Okra Stew

1 lb small or medium sized fresh okra
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 medium Spanish onion, chopped (a little more than a cup)
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 cup chopped tomatoes
1 tablespoon tomato paste
3/4 to 1 cup water
3/4 to 1 teaspoon kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar
2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

  1. Wash and dry the okra well. Trim the okra stem. Heat a heavy bottom 3 quart dutch oven with 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat. Add the trimmed okra and cook over medium high heat till the okra gets brown spots all over. Remove from the pot and set aside.
  2. Put the dutch oven back on the stove and add 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil. Add the onion and fry gently until transparent over medium low heat. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute.
  3. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, 3/4 cup water, sugar, pepper and salt to taste. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes.
  4. Add the fried okra and the chopped parsley and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes covered till the okra is tender but not mushy.
  5. Pour the lemon juice over the cooked okra and serve warm with buttered rice.

Buttered Rice

1 cup long grain Basmati rice
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 cups boiling water

  1. Wash and soak the rice in cool water for 30 minutes to 1 hour. Drain the water and set aside.
  2. Heat a heavy bottomed 3 quart dutch oven with unsalted butter. Add the drained rice and saute for a few minutes till the butter is absorbed by the rice and the rice gets a pale golden color.
  3. Add salt and 2 cups of boiling water to the rice. Reduce the heat to simmer. Cover and cook for 15 minutes till all the water is absorbed. Turn off the flame and let the rice sit for 10 minutes. Remove the lid and fluff with a fork.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Beluga lentil salad with beets and Feta

Beluga lentils are the perfect lentils to use in a salad since they hold their shape after cooking. Once cooked they glisten, which makes them look like caviar. Combined with sweet beetroots and salty feta with some pomegranate for that crunch and burst of sweet-tart goodness, this salad not only looks stunning but also tastes fantastic. And whats more, it even tastes great a couple of days after. The final addition of parsley gives the color contrast and some freshness.

Beluga lentil salad with beets and Feta

1 cup beluga lentils
2 small red beets
4 oz Greek Feta cheese
2 small cloves of garlic, peeled
1 small shallot, peeled and cut into two
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
½ - ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/8 teaspoon chili flakes
¼ cup finely chopped parsley leaves
¼ cup shelled pomegranate

1. Cook the beluga lentils with enough water, ½ teaspoon salt, one small clove of garlic, and the shallot for about 20 minutes over medium heat till they are soft but hold their shape.
2. While the lentils are cooking or prior, cut the feta into ¼ inch cubes and marinate them with olive oil, one clove of minced garlic and chili flakes for at least 1 hour.
3. Drain the lentils and transfer to a mixing bowl. Add the red wine vinegar and allow the lentils to cool.
4. In the meantime, boil the beetroots for 15 to 20 minutes till they are soft. Cool, peel and cut into ¼ inch cubes. Add to the lentils and toss.
5. When the lentils and beets have cooled completely, add the feta cubes along with the marinade and ¼ teaspoon salt or to taste and mix well.
6. Refrigerate, till you are ready to serve. Just before serving, add the pomegranates and the chopped parsley.

Serves 4 to 6

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Stir fried Baby corn, Broccoli and Water Chestnuts

Baby corn is very rarely available fresh in New York City. Having lived in Singapore for many years, this is one vegetable that we miss. So, a few months back I decided to give in and buy a can of baby corn and a can of water chestnuts. The baby corn was for an Indo-Chinese dish called Baby corn manchurian and the water chestnuts for dumplings. Neither of these dishes materialized and combined with the fact that I had very few fresh vegetables in the refrigerator, this dish was born in a matter of minutes.

I had a head of broccoli and some brown beech mushrooms (aka 'hon shimeji') {see pic below}and I added the canned corn and chestnuts - it was a great combination of textures. These mushrooms grow in bunches of tiny and delicate white stems 1 to 2 inches high, topped with small light brown or cream-colored caps. They are crisp with a juicy crunch and have a mild, slightly nutty flavor. In New York I buy them at the local Japanese grocery store. Of course you could substitute these with shiitake or cremini mushrooms as well (4 oz would be enough).

I flavored the oil with sliced ginger and dry red chilies and sauteed the onion and garlic in the flavored oil. Then I added all the vegetables and the sauce. The secret ingredient in this sauce is kecap manis. The description as per the Gourmet Sleuth website is " [KEH-chuhp MAH-nees] An Indonesian sauce similar to a sweet soy sauce flavored with garlic and/or star anise. Kecap manis is sweetened with palm sugar and is used as a condiment. The sauce is thick and not at all salty and has a very rich caramely flavor." This sauce is available in Asian grocery stores or online at Asian supermarket. It balances the spice of the dry red chilies and the saltiness of the soy sauce. Served over short grain brown rice with some pan-fried frozen vegetable dumplings, it was a quick weeknight meal.

Stir fried Baby Corn, Broccoli and Water Chestnuts
Brown Beech Mushrooms

1 15 oz can of sweet baby corn
1 8 oz can peeled sliced water chestnuts
1 medium head of broccoli, florets separated
1 head brown beech mushrooms, base trimmed and separated into small clumps
1 medium yellow onion, peeled and chopped into ¼ inch pieces
3 thin slices of fresh ginger
2 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
2 spring onions, trimmed and cut into ½ inch pieces
2 whole dry red chilies
2 tablespoons shao-xing rice wine
2 tablespoons light soy sauce
1 tablespoon sweet soy sauce (kecap manis)
2 tablespoons canola oil

1. Drain and rinse the sweet baby corn and the water chestnuts with cold water and set aside. Slice the baby corn down the middle – if they are thick spears, cut into four strips.
2. Heat a wok or a large heavy bottomed skillet with canola oil over medium heat and add the ginger slices and dry red chilies (break the chilies if you want to increase the spice quotient of the dish). Once the chilies start to brown and the ginger sizzles, add the onions and garlic and cook over medium heat stirring often. Cook for about 3 minutes till the onions get light brown edges.
3. Now add the broccoli stems and the rice wine and cook covered for 3 to 4 minutes till the broccoli is al dente.
4. Add the rest of the vegetables, light soy sauce and the kecap manis and stir fry over medium high heat for a couple of minutes. Add about quarter cup water and continue to cook till the broccoli is cooked.
5. Finally add the chopped spring onions and give it a final toss.
6. Serve with brown rice.

Serves 3

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Eggplant in a yogurt sauce

This eggplant dish is inspired by the yogurt based dishes from the northern state of Kashmir in India. Along with yogurt, which provides richness to dishes, Kashmiri cuisine is also known for its use of ginger and fennel. While Kashmiri food is very meat centric, this eggplant dish is a great representation of an almost authentic preparation.

I have used baby eggplants, which are available in India and in Indian stores in the US. But you could use the long Japanese eggplants or Italian eggplants, both of which have less seeds, cut into one and a half inch pieces.Typically the eggplants would be deep-fried and then cooked in the yogurt sauce, but I am one of those people who is averse to deep fried foods. Hence, I saute them in a little oil and finish the cooking in the sauce.

This dish is best eaten fresh and with jeera pulao (recipe below) or steamed rice.

Eggplant in a yogurt sauce

Baby eggplants

1 lb small eggplant
2 tablespoons canola oil
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon peeled, minced fresh ginger
1 teaspoon minced fresh garlic cloves
1 teaspoon ground fennel seeds
½ teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
½ teaspoon ground dried ginger
¼ teaspoon ground turmeric
1/8 teaspoon ground asafetida (hing)
1 cup low fat yogurt
½- 1 cup water
¾ cup chopped cilantro

1. Heat a large heavy bottomed non-stick skillet (large enough to fit all the eggplant in one layer) with 1 ½ tablespoons canola oil.
2. Add the eggplant and cook over medium heat for 4 to 5 minutes till the eggplants are blistered.
3. Add the remaining ½ tablespoons canola oil and the ginger and garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Now add the ground fennel, ground ginger, red pepper flakes, turmeric and asafetida and cook for 30 more seconds.
4. In the meantime, blend the yogurt with the cilantro and add to the eggplants. Cook covered over low heat till the eggplants are soft and have absorbed the flavor from the yogurt and cilantro sauce. Add water ¼ cup at a time if necessary, depending on how much sauce you desire.

Serves 4 as a Main course

Jeera Pulao
1 1/4 cup basmati rice rinsed and drained
2 1/2 cups water
1 tablespoons ghee or canola oil
1 teaspoon cumin seeds

  1. Heat a sauce pan with the ghee or canola oil. Add the cumin seeds and 1/4 teaspoon salt.
  2. When the seeds begin to pop, add the rice with 2 cups water. Bring to a boil. Once boiled, reduce the heat to low and cook covered for 15 minutes, without lifting the lid at all.
  3. Once done, turn off the heat and let the rice remain covered for 10 minutes. Now remove the lid and fluff the rice with a fork.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Warm roasted vegetables salad

Of late we have had some beautiful fall weather here in New York. And I thought it would be perfect to make a warm salad after all the citrus salads that we ate over the summer.
Sweet corn, the remnant of summer and my favorite vegetables - mushrooms and potatoes roasted with a basil dressing over a bed of baby greens was a wonderful accompaniment to a simple pasta dinner. The sweetness of the corn pairs very well with the earthiness of the mushrooms and the waxy yukon gold baby potatoes. And the tangy basil and garlic dressing brings the salad together.

Warm roasted vegetable salad

½ lb cremini mushrooms, cut into quarters
½ lb baby Yukon gold potatoes, boiled with skin
1 corn on the cob
3 to 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/8 – ¼  teaspoon dried red chili flakes
2 handfuls of baby romaine leaves

¼ cup basil leaves
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
3 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
1 small clove of garlic, peeled and chopped

1. Preheat the oven to 400°F.
2. Toss the quartered mushrooms with olive oil, salt to taste and a few grinds of black pepper. Place them in a single layer on a sheet pan and bake for 20 minutes in the middle rack of the oven. Remove and place in a bowl.
3. Remove the husk from the corn and roast over an open flame till the kernels just about start to pop. Once done, stand the cob in a deep wide bowl and shave down the kernels with a paring knife. Transfer the kernels to the bowl with the roasted mushrooms.
4. Cut the boiled potatoes into quarters and toss with olive oil, salt and chili flakes. Lay them out in a single layer on another baking sheet and roast in the center rack of the oven for 20 minutes at 400°F.
5. In the meantime, blend all the ingredients for the dressing. Pour over the roasted vegetables and toss well.
6. Before serving, lay a small handful of baby romaine leaves on the plate and place the dressed vegetables over them.

Serves 3

Friday, September 21, 2012

Cauliflower with chickpea flour (zunka)

Zunka is a spicy dish from the Indian state of Maharashtra. It is a combination of onions and chickpea flour and lots of spices. I have kept the basic premise of Zunka but added cauliflower to make it a more substantial dish as well as to give the cauliflower some oomph.

The spicy chickpea mixture coats the cauliflower and absorbs the moisture from the cauliflower to form a nice brown crust. It is important to use a large skillet to make this dish, since we want the cauliflower to develop a crust as it cooks, instead of being steamed. Also, don't skimp on the oil as chickpea flour needs that oil to help coat the cauliflower. This dish is a great accompaniment for a simple lentil or yogurt curry and some steamed rice.

Cauliflower Zunka

1 lb cauliflower, chopped into tiny florets
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1/8 teaspoon hing (asafetida)
1 cup chopped red onion
¾ teaspoon kosher salt
4 tablespoons chickpea flour
1 teaspoon mild chili powder (kashmiri chili powder)
¼ teaspoon turmeric powder
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro for garnish

1. Heat a 12 inch heavy bottomed non-stick skillet with canola oil. Add the mustard seeds and the asafetida. Let it pop and then add the red onion and cook over medium heat till the onions develop a nice golden brown color about 3 minutes.
2. Add the chopped cauliflower florets, toss well and cook for another 3 minutes.
3. In the meantime, mix the chickpea flour with the chili powder and turmeric and salt and set aside.
4. After the cauliflower has mixed well with the onions, add the chickpea flour mixture and coat the cauliflower with it.
5. Cook over medium heat for 15 to 18 minutes stirring occasionally till the cauliflower is completely cooked.
6. Garnish with chopped cilantro.

Serves 3 - 4

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Portobello mushrooms and Tuscan kale

Kale is my new favorite in the greens family. In this simple saute of mushrooms and kale, I have used Tuscan kale, since I find it more hearty than the curly kale and it pairs well with the meaty portobello mushrooms. It is also sweeter and more tender than curly kale - hence it cooks much quicker.

This is a perfect combination for a bruschetta topping with some grated parmesan or crumbled goat cheese. And it can also be tossed with pasta to make a meal. I have also used it as a topping for polenta squares and baked them with some cheese just enough to melt the cheese and get the topping to adhere to the polenta squares.

Sauteed Portobello mushrooms with Tuscan kale
1 bunch organic Tuscan kale, ribs removed and thinly sliced into ribbons
2 large portobello mushrooms, cleaned and thinly sliced
3 cloves of garlic, finely minced
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
3 - 4 tablespoons water
2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  1. Heat a large heavy bottomed non-stick skillet with olive oil. Add the garlic and chili flakes and cook for 30 seconds. Add the sliced portobello mushroom and continue to cook over medium high heat till the mushrooms are golden brown, about 3 to 4 minutes.
  2. Add the kale and salt  and toss well till it is well coated with the mushroom mixture. Add 2 tablespoons of water and cover and cook over medium heat till the kale has wilted. If it is getting dry add one more tablespoon of water. The kale should be glossy and fully cooked.
  3. Serve warm
Serves 3.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Silken Tofu with Black Bean Sauce

Tofu in black bean sauce is one of my favorite ways of preparing tofu. Chinese fermented black beans form the back bone of the sauce. They are called dou chi in Mandarin and dul see in Cantonese and are a staple of Southern Chinese cooking. These beans are packed in salt and fermented for a long time, which gives it that umami and that does wonders for tofu. Uncooked the beans smell musty, but don’t let that deter you from trying them – coz once cooked they are delicious. I like soaking them in some warm water to cut out the excess salt. But some chefs don’t do that.

This black bean sauce is a superior alternative to the bottle variety which lacks depth and distinction of flavors. You could use this sauce to cook fish and meats as well. If you like your food spicy, then a ¼ teaspoon of chili flakes would give it an additional kick especially when added to meat dishes.

Silken Tofu with Black bean sauce

12 oz tofu (Extra firm silken tofu works best - I use Mori-Nu)

1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 ½ tablespoon rice wine or sherry
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
2 teaspoon cornflour

2 ½ tablespoon fermented black beans
1 tablespoon fresh peeled ginger minced
1 ½ tablespoon garlic minced
1 ½ - 2 tablespoons spring onions chopped (both white and green parts separated - 1 spring onion)
2 tbsp shallots minced
1 tablespoon canola oil

150 ml water i.e. 3/4th cup
  1. Drain and cut the tofu into 1 inch pieces. Mix all the ingredients for the tofu and pour over it. Mix it gently so as not to break the tofu pieces.
  2. Soak the black beans in warm water for 10 minutes. Drain and chop them coarsely.
  3. Heat a heavy bottomed non-stick skillet with 1 tablespoon canola oil.  Add the ginger, garlic, spring onions (white parts only), and shallots. Stir fry over high for a minute. Add the chopped black beans and continue to stir fry over medium heat for 30 seconds - the black beans should not burn. 
  4. Add the tofu with the marinade and stir fry over high heat till the mixture is sticky - another minute or so. Add the water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer till the sauce is thick. Sprinkle the green parts of the spring onion and serve with steamed rice.
Serves 3

Monday, August 6, 2012

Summer squash with panch phoron (five spices)

These days every farmers market in New York is full of different kinds of squash. I picked marrow squash, yellow zucchini and green zucchini to make this light and slightly soupy summer dish. It is very versatile and tastes good at room temperature - great make ahead dish.

I cook the squash with softened onions, a mix of whole spices and large wedges of juicy vine ripened tomatoes. The squash releases some liquid while cooking and combined with the juice of the tomatoes creates a light sauce to mop with bread or pour over a runny polenta. The final touch is a little bit of sugar which balances all the other flavors in the dish.

Summer squash with panch phoron

Melange of Summer squash

1 ½ lb mixed summer squash
Scant 1/8 teaspoon of each of the following spices:
nigella seeds
fennel seeds
cumin seeds
mustard seeds
fenugreek seeds

1 ½ cups chopped yellow onion
2 medium vine ripened tomatoes, each cut into 8 wedges
1 jalapeno pepper, split down the middle and - deseeded
¼ teaspoon granulated sugar
¾ teaspoon kosher salt
1 ¼ tablespoon canola oil

1. Heat a large heavy bottomed non-stick skillet with canola oil. Add the whole spices and the onions and ¼ teaspoon salt and cook the onions over low heat till the onions are beginning to soften about 4 to 5 minutes.
2. Ad the deseeded jalapeno pepper and the squash pieces and cook for 2 minutes tossing well.
3. Add the tomatoes and ½ teaspoon salt and cover and cook for 10 minutes.
4. By this time the tomatoes would have broken down completely and the zucchini would be soft. Add sugar and mix well. Taste to make sure the flavors are well balanced. Adjust the seasoning if necessary.
5. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Serves 3

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Red lentil soup

Red lentil soup is found in many cuisines ranging from India to Africa to the Mediterranean. Most of them contain onions, tomatoes and some spices and are great. But this one is light and easy for the summer - tastes great at room temperature or warm. The lentils are cooked and then stirred with softened garlic slices and some red pepper flavored oil. I like to make my soup 'soupy' in the summertime - hence you can adjust the water based on how thick you like your soups.

Red lentil Soup

⅔ cup red lentils
½ teaspoon kosher salt
2 small cloves of garlic
⅓ teaspoon red chili flakes
⅛ teaspoon turmeric for color(optional)
1 tablespoon canola oil or 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
Lemon juice to taste
1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley or cilantro leaves

1. Wash the red lentils and cook in a pot over medium heat with 2 cups water and salt till the lentils are completely cooked (around 20 minutes). [I like my lentils to have some texture and not become like glue.]
2. In a small pan, add the canola oil or butter and the sliced garlic and cook over low heat for 7 minutes till the garlic begins to soften. Now add the red chili flakes and the turmeric and cook for another 2 minutes to flavor the oil or butter with the chili flakes.
3. Add the garlic and chili mixture to the cooked lentils.
4. Sprinkle with chopped parsley or cilantro before serving and add lemon juice to taste.

Serves 2 with bread as a light lunch

Friday, August 3, 2012

Cauliflower with garlic, coconut and sesame chutney

Dry garlic chutney is a condiment used in western India in the state of Maharashtra with idli's (rice and lentil steamed dumplings)  and dosa's (rice and lentil crepes) .  I have taken the chutney one step further by adding coconut and sesame seeds, which gives it more body and a rich complex flavor.
Cauliflower takes well to most seasonings since it is very bland on its own, and this is the perfect accompaniment to elevate the mundane to exotic. The coconut and sesame seeds give off a heady aroma while this dish is cooking and the net result is simply wonderful.

Cauliflower with garlic, coconut and sesame chutney

2 tablespoons white sesame seeds

2 tablespoons dessicated shredded coconut

2 small cloves or 1 large clove of garlic, peeled and chopped

1 small dry red chili

3 cups cauliflower florets - chopped into small pieces

1 teaspoon mustard seeds

2 tablespoons canola oil

salt to taste
  1. Lightly toast the sesame seeds for a few minutes in a small skillet - they should not turn brown. Combine the dessicated coconut, toasted sesame seeds, chopped garlic and the dry red chili in a spice grinder or mortar and pestle. Grind till it forms a crumble. A few pulses should do the job.
  2. Heat a large heavy non-stick skillet with 2 tablespoons canola oil over medium high heat. Add the mustard seeds and let them pop (about 10 to 20 seconds), add the cauliflower florets, the crumbled mixture and salt to taste. Cook over medium heat for 15 to 20 minutes.
  3. The cauliflower is ready when it is fully cooked and the garlic has lost its raw taste. Serve warm as a side with roasted chicken or grilled fish or as part of a vegetarian meal.
Serves 3

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Stir fried okra and potatoes

As I had mentioned in one of my earlier posts, ajwain is a seed which smells like thyme and I like to pair it with vegetables like cauliflower, okra, potatoes etc. In this quick side dish, I combine okra and potatoes and yes, the okra is not slimy anymore once we are done with this dish. The potatoes start raw even though it takes longer to cook, but that helps to form a nice crust with the spices.
This is a great way to incorporate okra in your diet without worrying about the sliminess of a typical okra stew. You can purchase ajwain seeds in any Indian grocery store or online at Penzeys.

Stir fried okra with potatoes

8 oz red bliss or any other waxy potatoes, peeled and chopped into ¼ inch pieces
1 ½ lb okra, topped and cut into ½ inch slices
2 tablespoon canola oil
½ teaspoon ajwain seeds
¼ teaspoon cayenne powder
½ teaspoon turmeric powder
1 teaspoon coriander powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt

1. Heat a large sauté pan with canola oil. Add the ajwain seeds and cook for 30 seconds. Add the chopped potatoes and cook over medium high heat for 8 minutes.
2. Now add the cayenne, turmeric and coriander powder and sauté for 10 seconds. Add the salt and the okra and toss well. Cook uncovered for 4 minutes.
3. The okra and potatoes are well covered with the spices and they need to be cooked covered over medium heat for 15 - 18 minutes till the slime disappears from the okra.
4. Serve with a lentil curry and rice or any kind of bread (roti, paratha, naan, or pita).

Serves 3 to 4

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Roasted Corn Salad with Soy dressing

With my Asian background, I am always trying to see what I can make with all the fresh sweet corn in the farmers market, with an Asian twist. This salad with roasted corn and a soy based dressing is a result of just that. A little bit of green chili balances the sweetness of the corn with a kick of heat and cilantro gives a pop of color and freshness to the dish. I use toasted sesame oil for its fragrant aroma and complex flavor to finish the salad. The final notes are sweet, salty, tangy with a kick.

Roasted Corn Salad with Soy dressing

2 ears of fresh sweet corn
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
1 small green chili finely chopped (about 1 tablespoon)
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro (leaves and soft stems only)

  1. Remove the husk from the corn and roast it over an open flame. Shave the kernels placing the corn with its nose in a large bowl with a paring knife. 
  2. Whisk the soy sauce and rice wine vinegar with 1 tablespoon sesame oil. Toss the roasted corn with the dressing. Mix in the chopped chilis and cilantro and finish with 1 teaspoon of the toasted sesame oil.
  3. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Serves 2 to 3

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Swiss chard, currants and pine nut pinwheels

I love puff pastry pinwheels for appetizers - they look really elegant and taste great too. These pinwheels are more of a main course pinwheels if you eat more than two. With a nice fresh lemony green salad it is fit for company as well. I cook the Swiss chard and mix it with some sweet currants, soft and tangy goat cheese and crunchy pine nuts to form the filling for the pin wheels. Then it is just a matter of spreading the mixture on the thawed pastry and rolling it tightly to form nice spirals when you cut them.

Of course the possibilities for stuffing ideas are limitless and if you have puff pastry in your freezer, these can be made any night of the week.

Swiss chard, currants and pine nut pin wheels

Picture 2
1 bunch chard – 4 very large leaves
1 cup chopped red onion2 cloves of garlic, finely minced
½ cup currants soaked in warm water for 15 minutes
¼ cup toasted pine nuts
2 oz goat cheese
1 cup grated parmesan
2 tablespoon olive oil
1 sheet of Pepperidge farm frozen puff pastry
Salt to taste

  1. Follow the instructions for defrosting the puff pastry from the box and plan accordingly.
  2. Separate the chard leaves from the stems. Chop the stems into small pieces and the leaves into ribbons. The easiest way is to pile them on top of each other, roll and cut into slices.
  3. Heat a large saute pan with olive oil and cook the chopped onions over medium high heat for three minutes till they are soft and brown at the edges.
  4. Add the chopped stems and cook for another 5 minutes.
  5. Add the chopped leaves and cook for 4 more minutes. At this point cover the pan and cook for an additional 8 minutes. Now toss in the drained currants and remove from the heat. The mixture should be dry.
  6. Add salt to taste - I didn't add any since the goat cheese is salty and tangy.
  7. Lightly flour a board and carefully unfold the sheet of puff pastry. Roll the pastry lightly with a rolling pin until it's 13 inches by 13 inches. 
  8. Spread the sheet of puff pastry with the chard mixture and sprinkle the pine nuts evenly. Then sprinkle the parmesan and the goat cheese. 
  9. Working from one side,  fold the pastry into a roll. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least 45 minutes. This will help the cheese to chill and will make the roll easier to cut.
  10. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  11. Cut the prepared roll of puff pastry in 1/2 inch thick slices as in picture 2 and place them face up 2 inches apart on baking sheets lined with silicon or parchment paper. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until golden brown. Serve warm.
Makes about 16 

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Vermicelli pudding with raisins

Vermicelli payasam is a very popular dessert in Indian homes. Vermicelli used in this dessert are short sticks made of wheat flour and looks like broken spaghetti. In the absence of vermicelli you could also use Barilla's cut spaghetti. The vermicelli is slightly roasted in clarified butter to give a golden brown color and then it is cooked in milk and topped with crushed green cardamom, saffron and raisins. Then it is chilled before being served. It is a very light dessert and makes a good finish to a not so light meal. Unlike most Indian desserts, this pudding is not overly sweet. (Of course you could make it sweeter if you like.) It will last for at least 4 days refrigerated, but in my house it doesn't last that long.

Vermicelli Pudding with raisins

¾ cup vermicelli
4 cups low fat 2% milk (This makes the dessert light - but you could substitute whole milk)
1/3 cup + 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 green cardamoms (seeds only)
2 teaspoons clarified butter or ghee
a pinch of saffron (optional)
½ cup raisins

1.   Heat 1 teaspoon ghee in a 3 quart heavy bottomed saucepan. Add the vermicelli to the pan and fry on medium heat for 3 to 5 minutes till the vermicelli is a light golden brown – (it should not be dark brown).
2.   Add the milk and bring to a boil stirring occasionally so that the milk does not stick to the bottom of the pan. Once the milk starts to boil, reduce the heat to medium and add the roasted vermicelli. Continue to boil till the vermicelli is almost cooked.
3.   Add the sugar at this point and continue to cook till the vermicelli is completely cooked. About 6 minutes.
4.   While the vermicelli is cooking, heat 1 more teaspoon of clarified butter or ghee in a small skillet and add the raisins. Fry the raisins till they are light brown.
5.   Crush the cardamom seeds using a mortar and pestle. Add the powder to the milk mixture along with the fried raisins and saffron if using. Stir and remove from the heat.
6.   Cool and refrigerate before serving.

Serves 4

Roasted corn and mango salad

Mangoes and corn are abundant in the summer and they work really well together. Roasting the corn gives it an additional complexity which balances the sweetness. Paired with the sweet and tangy Mexican mangoes, and slightly spicy bell peppers it is a great salad to make in the summer. Works as an accompaniment for tacos or quesadillas. I also like it with grilled fish or chicken with a spicy marinade.

Roasted corn and mango salad

1 cup frozen roasted corn or 1 corn on the cob, roasted and kernels removed ****
1 small red bell pepper, cut into ½ inch squares
1 Mexican mango, peeled and cut into ½ inch squares
1 small orange bell pepper, cut into ½ inch squares
½ cup chopped tomato seeds removed
¼ cup chopped red onion
2 scallions finely sliced, both green and white parts
¼ cup finely chopped cilantro leaves
¼ teaspoon dry red chili flakes
½ - ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
2 – 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice

Mix all the ingredients together and toss well. Let it sit for 15 minutes before serving to allow all the flavors to meld.

Serves 4

*** The easiest way to remove the kernels is to stand the corn on its thinner side in a large bowl and shave it down with a paring knife as close to the cob as possible. All the kernels will be collected in the bowl instead of being all over your work station.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Spring Panzanella

There is no better way to celebrate the bounty of spring - this salad is truly spring on a plate. Bite size croutons tossed with tender pencil asparagus, sweet english peas, crisp French radish and dressed with a combination of mild oniony chives, fresh mint, and herby parsley and a lemony dressing. Every bite is fresh and light and completely delicious.

Spring Panzanella

3 cups croutons or 1/2 baguette cut into 1/2 inch cubes
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon lemon pepper (optional)
Two, 3 inch long pink radish, cut into julienne
1/2 lb Fresh green peas - 1 cup shelled
1/2 lb thin asparagus - cut into 3/4 inch pieces
4 tablespoons finely chopped chives
1 cup loosely packed mint leaves, finely shredded
1/2 cup Italian parsley, finely minced

Juice of 1 medium lemon
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
Lots of freshly ground black pepper

  1. Preheat the oven to 450 F. If you are using a baguette, toss the cubes with 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil and lemon pepper if using. Spread out onto a baking sheet in a single layer and cook for 6 minutes. Remove when cool and place into the salad bowl.
  2. Blanch the peas for 3 to 5 minutes depending on the size of the peas in salted boiling water and shock in ice  cold water. The peas should be tender but crisp.
  3. Blanch the asparagus in salted boiling water as well till tender about 3 minutes. Drain and shock in iced water.
  4. Make the dressing and set aside.
  5. To the croutons, add the blanched vegetables, radish and the herbs. Toss with the lemony dressing. Set aside for an hour before serving.
Serves 4

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Stir fried Chayote (Chow Chow - Poriyal)

Chayote is known by many names in different parts of the world - christophene or christophine, cho-cho, mirliton or merleton, pear squash, vegetable pear, chouchoute, choko. It is an edible plant belonging to the gourd family. It has a mildly sweet taste and can be eaten raw in a salad or cooked. When I first came to the US I could find them only in ethnic grocery stores, but now seven years later, the main stream grocery stores carry them as well.

This method of cooking chayote is characteristic of Southern Indian cuisine, where the vegetables are lightly spiced with mustard seeds and urad dal (little white lentils, which turn brown when sauteed). I use a mandoline with a julienne attachment to cut the chayote into thin strips. This helps to cook the chayote without overcooking it.

Stir fried Chayote - Chow Chow Poriyal

Raw chayote

2 chayote
½ teaspoon mustard seeds
2 teaspoons urad dal
1/8 teaspoon asafetida (optional)
1 dry red chili (optional)
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon canola oil
  1. Peel the chayote and cut them into thin strips. It is best to use a mandoline to get them thin and even. 
  2. Heat a large heavy bottomed non-stick skillet with canola oil. Add the mustard seeds and urad dal and cook over medium heat for 30 seconds till the dal turns light brown and the mustard seeds pop. Add the dry red chili and the asafetida and cook for 20 seconds. 
  3. Add the chopped chayote and salt and cook over medium heat for 10 to 12 minutes till the chayote wilts but still retains its texture.
  4. Serve with steamed white rice and a lentil soup.
Serves 3 - 4 as part of a shared meal

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Caramel Tofu

Proteins cooked in a caramel sauce is a classic Vietnamese preparation. Typically the meat is lightly browned and then cooked in this sweet, spicy, salty and tangy sauce till it gets a sticky coating becomes sticky. In this vegetarian version, the tofu pieces are cooked till they get a gently crust and then combined with the onions and the caramel sauce. I have made this caramel sauce with chili flakes and with pepper. Both impart a different kind of heat to the dish. You may like to try it with both.
It is a super tasty tofu dish, one that you will want to make again and again. I combine it with the Steamed asparagus and steamed rice for a complete meal any night of the week.

Caramel Tofu

One 14 oz container Lite Firm tofu, drained and cut into 1 inch cubes (I used Nasoya brand)
1 large yellow onion thinly sliced (more than a cup)
2 large cloves of garlic, minced
1 teaspoon peeled and grated fresh ginger
4 tablespoons granulated sugar
4 tablespoons rice vinegar
4 tablespoons soy sauce (I used Yamasa soy sauce)
½ teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon dried chili flakes or freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon + 1 tablespoon canola oil
  1. In a small bowl, mix the sugar, rice vinegar, soy sauce, and salt and set aside.
  2. Heat a large heavy bottomed non-stick skillet or a wok with 1 tablespoon canola oil. Place the tofu in a single layer so that it develops a light crust. Cook on each side for 2 minutes. 
  3. Add 1 more tablespoon canola oil, the sliced onion, garlic, ginger and chili flakes or black pepper and cook for 2 minutes over medium heat. Add the sauce and continue to cook for about 8 minutes over medium heat till the caramel begins to form. [It will not be a thick caramel since I like to have some gravy for the rice].
  4. Serve with steamed rice.
Serves 3 to 4 as part of a multi-course meal.

Roasted green beans with Hoisin Sauce

These beans are reminiscent of the "dry-fried Szechuan green beans" - a cooking technique that makes them extra tender. I like to steam the beans first and then roast them in the oven to achieve the same texture as the "dry frying" which calls for a lot of oil. Soft and blistered coated in a sticky sauce of hoisin, soy and garlic these are very addictive. One pound is just enough for two green bean lovers, so please feel free to double this recipe if your family loves beans. I paired them up with Kung Pao tofu and steamed spinach for a wonderful weeknight dinner.

Roasted green beans with Hoisin Sauce

1lb green beans
1 1/2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon dried red chili flakes
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon canola oil
  1. Trim the beans and steam them for about 7 minutes till they have lost their crunch but are still al-dente.
  2. Mix the hoisin sauce, soy sauce, minced garlic, salt and canola oil to make a sauce and toss the beans evenly in the sauce. 
  3. Spread out the beans on a baking sheet and roast at 400 F for 30 minutes till the sauce caramelizes and the beans look blistered and shriveled.
  4. Serve as a side with steamed rice and a tofu dish.
Serves 2 - 3

Friday, May 25, 2012

Potato salad with olive tapenade

Boiled potatoes are great at absorbing flavors when dressed while warm. New potatoes steamed in their jackets, chopped and dressed with a tangy dressing of olive tapenade, sherry vinegar and olive oil is a refreshing change from the usual mayonnaise based potato salad. A little crunch from the sweet vidalia onions and some added freshness from the last minute addition of parsley makes a perfect potato salad just in time for the Memorial Day barbecue.

Potato salad with Olive tapenade

10 small baby potatoes, any color will do
2 tablespoon finely chopped Vidalia onions
2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley leaves

3 teaspoons olive tapenade
2 teaspoons sherry vinegar
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

  1. Boil the potatoes in the their jackets for about 15 minutes till fork tender. Drain and set them aside till cool enough to handle. (They should be warm - otherwise they will not absorb the dressing as well).
  2. Chop the boiled potatoes into quarters and place in a mixing bowl along with the chopped onions.
  3. Make a dressing with the tapenade, sherry vinegar, olive oil and salt. Pour over the potatoes and mix the dressing so that the potatoes are coated evenly. Let the potatoes absorb all the flavors for about an hour. Transfer to a serving bowl and mix in the chopped parsley.
  4. Serve at room temperature.
Serves 2 to 3

Note: Another potato salad that you might like : Grilled potatoes with basil vinaigrette

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Beetroot avocado and edamame salad

Yotam Ottolenghi is a London based chef who writes a column in the Guardian newspaper called the New vegetarian. I discovered his recipes a few years ago while browsing through the newspaper and fell in love with his creative vegetarian cuisine. He has an amazing knack of combining ingredients which you would not normally think of putting together. This colorful salad is an example of just that. I have adjusted the seasoning elements to suit our palate, but the essence of the recipe is the same.

Crunchy and slightly sweet beetroots, combined with sweet and sour pickled onions, creamy avocado and tender edamame are a great combination of flavors and textures. The herbs cut into the richness of the avocado and the lemon juice gives the salad an extra bit of freshness.

Beetroot, Avocado and Edamame Salad

2 small raw beetroots
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus a little extra to finish
¼ teaspoon superfine or caster sugar
2 teaspoon Tabasco or Mexican Cholula hot sauce
½ teaspoon kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 large avocado, peeled and thinly sliced
2 tablespoon finely chopped cilantro
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint leaves
1 cup frozen edamame quickly blanched and refreshed in cold water

1.      Peel the beetroots and slice them very thinly, around 2-3mm thick. It is best to use a mandoline. [I have been using this set from Swissmar for the last 12 years and the blades have not worn out yet. Worth the investment if you do not have a mandoline].  Put the beetroot in a pot with plenty of boiling water and simmer for three to five minutes, until semi-cooked; it should still be crunchy. Drain and put in a large bowl.
2.      Add the red onion, vinegar, oil, sugar, chilli sauce, salt and pepper to the beetroot bowl and toss everything together gently with your hands are the best tool for this. [Use gloves since the beetroot will turn your hands pink.] Leave to one side for 10-15 minutes, then taste and see if you want to add more sugar, salt or vinegar – it needs to be sharp and sweetish.
3.      When you're ready to serve, spread half the beetroot mixture on a large platter or in a shallow bowl. Top with half the avocado. Drizzle one tablespoon of the lemon juice over the avocado. Sprinkle the  coriander, mint, and edamame over the avocado slices. Add the rest of the beetroot and arrange the remaining ingredients on top. Drizzle with the remaining lemon juice and a little oil and serve.

Serves 3 to 4

You might also like Beetroot salad with Greek Yogurt

Black eyed pea curry with yogurt and tomatoes

Black eyed peas are commonly eaten in India and Pakistan. However there are other parts of the world where they are eaten as well and have special significance. In the southeastern parts of the United States, Hoppin John made with black eyed peas is eaten on New Years day to bring good luck and prosperity for the rest of the year. This tradition is generally believed to date back to the Civil war . In Vietnam it is eaten in a dessert with coconut milk and sticky rice. Portugal, Greece and Africa have their specialties with black eyed peas as well.

I slow cook dried soaked beans instead of using canned beans, since it picks up a lot more flavor while it is cooking for a long time with the spices. Usually I add the cooked beans to a curry made with onions and tomatoes but today I made it a little more special and added some yogurt to the dish to give it another layer of flavor and the yogurt helps to create a silky sauce. The addition of cardamom and clove gives the curry a fragrant aroma. This curry freezes very well - hence feel free to double the quantity.

Black eyed pea curry with yogurt and tomatoes

1 cup dried black eyed peas (soaked overnight with 3 cups water)
½ inch piece of ginger grated
1 teaspoon coriander powder
½ teaspoon cumin powder
¼ teaspoon turmeric powder
½ teaspoon kosher salt
4 teaspoons canola oil
1 green cardamom
1 dry bay leaf
1 clove
1 cup finely chopped red onion
1 large clove of garlic, finely minced
1 medium plum tomato, finely chopped
½ cup plain yogurt
1 green chili, finely chopped

  1. In a 3 quart pot, add the soaked and drained beans, 2 cups water, grated ginger, coriander powder, cumin powder, turmeric powder and salt and cook over a medium heat for 30 minutes.
  2. In the meantime, heat a 8 inch skillet with canola oil and add the cardamom, clove and bay leaf. Sauté for 30 seconds and add the chopped onion and garlic. Cook the onion and garlic mixture over medium heat for about 5 minutes till the onions have softened and turned light brown.
  3. Add the chopped tomatoes and continue to cook for 5 more minutes till the tomatoes have broken down to mush.
  4. Add the chopped green chili (remove the seeds if you want to tone down the heat) and the yogurt a tablespoon at a time incorporating it into the tomato onion sauce. Continue to cook the yogurt sauce for about 6 minutes till the mixture is no longer white and the oil leaves the sides of the pan.
  5. After the beans have cooked for 30 minutes, add the tomato yogurt sauce to the beans and ½ cup water and continue to cook the beans for 10 more minutes at a medium low heat. Now add another ½ cup water as the mixture will begin to look dry and cook for another 10 minutes. Finally add ½ cup water and cook for the final 5 minutes. By now the beans should be soft but not mushy. Taste for seasoning. Serve with chapati, naan, or pita and a dry vegetable dish.
Serves 4

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Rocky Road Brownies

This brownie recipe is from Alice Medrich‘s Chewy GooeyCrispy Crunchy Melt-in-Your-Mouth Cookies book. These are airy light brownies with a delicate crumb. They are also gooey from the marshmallows and the melted chocolate chunks, and crispy and crunchy from the nuts. To sum it up in one word - it is DELICIOUS without being overtly sweet.  The double dose of chocolate from the chunks as well as the cocoa are a chocolate lovers dream. 

As you can see from picture 3, that I have left out the chocolate chunks from a third of the brownies and I personally preferred that part of the tray, but the chocoholics loved the rest. So, if you are in the chocoholic camp, add the chunks, otherwise leave them out and the brownie will still be DELICIOUS.

Rocky Road Brownies

Picture 2 - After baking

Picture 3 - Before baking

4 oz unsweetened chocolate
8 tablespoons unsalted butter
½ cup plus 2 tbsp (2.75 oz) unbleached all purpose flour
¼ teaspoon baking powder
3 large eggs
1 ¼ cups (8.75 oz) sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
12 marshmallows quartered
OR 4 oz chewy caramels, cut into ½ inch cubes (Werther’s is recommended)
OR a combination of 9 marshmallows and 3 oz caramels
3 oz bittersweet chocolate chopped into chunks
1 cup (3.5 oz) coarsely chopped walnut pieces

Note: I used the marshmallow caramel combination

Equipment: A 9 inch square metal baking pan, the bottom and all 4 sides lined with foil

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Position a rack in the lower third of the oven.
2. Melt the chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl set directly in a wide skillet of barely simmering water. Stir frequently until the chocolate is melted and smooth. Remove the bowl from the water and cool to lukewarm.
3. Combine the flour and baking powder in a bowl and mix together thoroughly with a whisk or fork.
4. In the bowl of a stand mixer or a regular mixing bowl (if using a handheld mixer), combine the eggs, sugar, and salt. Beat on high speed until the mixture is thick, pale yellow and about double in volume 9about 2 minutes in a heavy duty stand mixer or a bit longer with a handheld mixer). Scrape the warm chocolate over the eggs. Fold with a large rubber spatula until the chocolate is partially incorporated.
5. Sift the flour mixture over the top and fold just until the chocolate and the flour are blended into the batter. Scrape the batter into the lined pan and tilt the pan to level the batter.
6. Distribute the marshmallow and caramel pieces all over the brownies. Poke the marshmallow pieces into the batter, leaving the tips exposed. Sprinkle the chocolate and nuts around the marshmallow and caramels.
7. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until a toothpick inserted in a cakey part of the brownie comes out with a few moist crumbs.
8. Cool on rack. Lift the edges of the foil to transfer the brownies to a cutting board. Cut into squares. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Yield: sixteen 2 ¼ inch brownies