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.