Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Roasted cauliflower with dukkah

I have a lot of cauliflower recipes on my blog and we continue to cook it in even more different ways. This time I roasted them with my favorite Egyptian spice mix - dukkah. Dukkah is an Egyptian, nut and spice mix, which is fantastic with almost anything. It is most commonly used as a dip for bread with olive oil, sprinkled on steamed vegetables, as a crust for poultry or seafood, and I like to sprinkle it liberally on vegetables before roasting.

Dukkah is available in gourmet grocery stores, or online at amazon, but it is very simple to make. It contains one or more variety of nuts and a combination of spices combined with sesame seeds. I like the version at 101 cookbooks which contains dried mint and does not include chili flakes. It is one of my accompaniments for my bread and cheese platter when I am entertaining. Paired with some kalamata olives and a fruity olive oil, it is a great addition to an appetizer plate.

Roasted cauliflower with Dukkah

Cauliflower - about 2 lbs including the stems and greens
Dukkah - 2 tablespoons or more
Olive oil - a liberal drizzle (about 2 to 3 tablespoons)
Salt - 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  1. Preheat the oven to 450 F.
  2. Cut the cauliflower into medium florets. 
  3. Toss with the olive oil and dukkah and mix evenly.
  4. Lay the cauliflower on a baking sheet in a single layer and place the tray in the center rack of the oven.  Roast for 20 to 25 minutes till the cauliflower is cooked and has brown spots. A paring knife inserted into the stem should go through easily, otherwise put them back in the oven for 5 more minutes.
  5. Remove to a serving platter and serve with the lentil and rice pilaf.
Serves 3 to 4

Note: This works as a great side dish with the Lentil and Rice Pilaf

Lentil and Rice Pilaf

Lentil and rice pilaf is a meal in itself when paired with a salad or a raita. Brown lentils are great in this preparation since they hold their shape while cooking and can be cooked along with the rice. The addition  of a few aromatics and a topping of fried onions makes it good enough for company.

Lentil and Rice Pilaf
1/2 cup brown lentils, rinsed and sorted
1 cup long grain basmati rice
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 tablespoon clarified butter or ghee
1 clove garlic, thinly sliced
1 inch piece of cinnamon
1 clove
1 green cardamom
1/2 teaspoon black peppers
1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon dried red chili flakes
3 cups hot water
1 cup fried onions (store bought or home made); I used French's Fried onions

1. Soak the rice and lentils in separate containers for 1 hour with cold water. Drain and set aside.

2. Heat a 3 quart saucepan over medium heat with canola oil and clarified butter. Add the cinnamon, clove and cardamom and cook for 30 seconds. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds longer. Now add the drained rice and saute for 3 to 4 minutes, till the rice is toasted and acquires a glossy finish. Add the drained lentils and the dried chili flakes and cook for 3 to 4 more minutes. Add the black peppers, salt  and 3 cups hot water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer, cover and cook for 15 minutes. At the end of the 15 minutes, the water will be absorbed and the lentil will be cooked but will still be firm tender.

3. Let the pilaf remain covered for another ten minutes. After 10 minutes, remove the cover and fluff the rice with a fork. Add half the onions and mix lightly with the pilaf. Sprinkle the balance as a garnish.

Serves 4

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Toasted quinoa with grilled zucchini and toasted chickpeas

For the last couple of weeks, I have been on a low carb kick and trying to avoid eating rice. Quinoa serves as a nice substitute for rice without all the calories and it is protein rich. Toasting the quinoa before cooking gives it a complex flavor which I prefer to cooking them without toasting.

I flavor the quinoa with some shallots and garlic, add cooked chick peas with a punch from the jalapneo and some grilled zucchini. This is pretty much a meal in itself. If you are eating this for dinner, a hearty greek salad with olives and feta cheese makes a wonderful accompaniment.

Toasted quinoa with grilled zucchini and toasted chickpeas
1 1/2  cups quinoa (washed and rinsed)
1 14oz can - unsalted chickpeas
2 medium zucchini, sliced 1/4 inch thick
Extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon finely minced jalapeƱo
1 large shallot finely minced, about 1 cup
2 cloves of garlic finely minced
2 tablespoon lemon juice (optional)
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
  1. In a 3 quart saucepan, over medium heat toast the washed quinoa till it is dry and starts to pop about 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.
  2. In the same saucepan, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil and add the minced shallots and garlic and cook over medium heat for about 2 to 3 minutes till the shallot have become light brown. Add the toasted quinoa and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Mix well. Add 2 1/2 cups hot water and bring the quinoa to a boil. Reduce the heat to simmer - cover and let it cook for 15 minutes till the quinoa absorbs all the water.
  3. While the quinoa is simmering, drain the chickpeas from the can and keep it in a colander to dry. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a 8 inch saute pan,  add the minced jalapeno and cook over low heat to flavor the oil for 2 minutes. Then add the drained chickpeas and 1/4 teaspoon salt and raise the heat to medium high. Cook the chickpea mixture till they are brown and toasted about 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from the pan and add to the cooked quinoa. 
  4. In the meantime, toss the sliced zucchini with some olive oil and a light sprinkle of salt and grill for 3 minutes a side on a pre-heated grill pan. I like to use the ones with the double burner - this way I get the zucchini grilled much faster in bigger batches. 
  5. Prepare a serving platter with a layer of grilled zucchini at the bottom, covered with the quinoa and chickpea mixture. Arrange the rest of the zucchini on top as per your liking. Drizzle with lemon juice if using.
Serves 4 with a salad

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Egg fried rice with crispy garlic and scallions

Egg fried rice is a very commonplace dish available in some form or the other in every Chinese restaurant all over the world. The key to a good fried rice is left over rice which has not been overcooked. The cooked grains of rice should not stick to each other. I find basmati rice the best for making fried rice and unlike the traditional way of cooking rice using the 1 cup rice to 2 cups of water method, I like to boil the rice with extra water till the rice is almost cooked. Then I drain the rice through a fine mesh sieve and spread of a plate to cool, before I use it for fried rice. Ofcourse the best is to have left over rice.
This way of cooking egg fried rice is somewhat borrowed from Jean Georges crispy garlic and ginger rice with leeks and topped with a fried egg. I crisp the garlic in canola oil and use the same oil to cook the rice and the eggs. This gives the fried rice a subtle garlic flavor and the crispy garlic bits add a wonderful texture to the fried rice. There is no soy sauce in the recipe - hence it cannot be called a Chinese egg fried rice, but it is extremely flavorful.

             Egg fried rice with crispy garlic and scallions

1 cup basmati rice (uncooked), about 3 cups cooked rice
3 eggs
5 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
2 tablespoons fresh, peeled and minced ginger
7 thin stalks scallions, whites and greens separated, finely sliced
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons canola oil

  1. Cook the rice as per your usual cooking method. Make sure the rice is completely cooled before starting to make the fried rice.
  2. Heat a small saucepan with 3 tablespoons canola oil over medium low heat and add the minced garlic. Cook the garlic till they turn crisp but not burnt. This process needs to be watched very carefully because if the garlic is burnt it will become bitter. Depending on the the heat, it could take about 2 to 3 minutes to crisp the garlic. Once brown,  turn off the heat and remove the garlic with a slotted spoon. 
  3. Whisk the three eggs with 1/4 teaspoon salt and use some of the garlic oil to make thin omelets. Roll the omelets and cut them into strips and set aside.
  4. Transfer 1 tablespoon garlic oil to a 10 inch skillet to cook the fried rice. Over medium heat, add the minced ginger and the whites of the scallions to the oil and cook for 2 minutes till the ginger begins to turn pink. Add the cooled rice and 1/4 teaspoon salt and mix well. Add the green parts of the scallions and mix well. Finally add the omelet strips and warm through.
Serves 2 to 3 as part of a multi-course meal.