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