Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Stir fried shrimp with pepper and celery in a hoisin sauce

Shrimps are my favorite seafood and when I have a last minute guest to entertain, this is my go to non-vegetarian protein. They are easy to defrost and cook very quickly too. In this traditional Chinese recipe, I have combined them with fragrant and ever so slightly spicy green peppers and some celery for crunch. The sauce is a mixture of soy sauce with a heavy hand of hoisin sauce. The shrimps are marinated with Chinese rice wine and cornflour which gives it that beautiful glossy appearance. Then they are lightly sauteed with ginger and garlic and finished with the hoisin sauce mixture. Great served with plain white or brown rice.

Stir fried shrimp with pepper and celery in a hoisin sauce

1/2 lb shrimps, peeled and de-veined (about 30 shrimps per lb)
1 small green pepper, cut into 3/4th inch squares
1 stick of celery, thinly sliced
2 1/2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons rice wine + 1 tablespoon rice wine
1 1/2  teaspoons corn flour
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, peeled and finely minced
1 tablespoon garlic, peeled and finely minced
1/2 teaspoon dried red chili flakes
1 tablespoon canola oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  1. In a small bowl combine 1 1/2 teaspoons rice wine, corn flour and 1 tablespoon water. Coat the shrimps in this mixture and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  2. Heat a 10 inch non-stick saute pan over medium heat. Add the canola oil, minced ginger and garlic and saute for 30 seconds. Add the chili flakes, chopped pepper and chopped celery and saute for 1 minute. Now add the shrimps and salt and cook till the shrimps turn pink about 2 to 3 mintues. Add the hoisin sauce, soy sauce, 1 tablespoon rice wine and 1 tablespoon water and cook for about 2 minutes till the shrimps are glossy.
Serves 2 as part of a composed meal

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Mushroom,sugar snap peas and edamame salad in an Asian dressing

Delicious and fresh are the two words I would use to describe this salad. Summer is coming to an end, but this salad pairs well with any Asian meal which needs a fresh component. I served it last night with egg fried rice, black bean tofu and shrimps in hoisin sauce. The main ingredient in the salad is mushroom and you need the freshest button mushrooms you can find since they are not going to be cooked. The sugar snap peas adds sweetness and the edamame is a great vegetarian protein. You could make this salad with snow peas and celery as well instead of sugar snap peas and edamame.

Mushroom, sugar snap peas and edamame salad in a Asian dressing
10 oz white button mushrooms
10 oz sugar snap peas
1 cup frozen shelled edamame
1/2 cup cilantro, finely chopped
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice

2 tablespoons canola oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon lemon zest
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper powder
Salt and pepper to taste
  1. Clean the mushrooms with a damp kitchen towel and cut them into thin slices. Place them in the serving bowl 
  2. Trim the sugar snap peas to remove the fibrous string. Hold a paring knife in one hand and the sugar snap in the other, with the inside curve of the pod facing you, trim the top of the pea keeping it intact on one side and pull off the tough string that runs along the length of the pod.  
  3. Place the trimmed sugar snap peas and the frozen edamame in a small sauce covered with water and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt and cook on high for 5 minutes. Drain the water and transfer the peas and edamame to a bowl of ice cold water. This will stop them from further cooking and retain their vibrant green color. Drain them after 5 minutes and set aside.
  4. Mix all the ingredients for the dressing and toss the mushrooms in it with the cilantro. Refrigerate for 30 minutes. If you refrigerate for longer, the mushrooms will lose their crispness and become really soggy. 
  5. Remove from the refrigerator and mix in the sugar snap peas and edamame with the toasted sesame oil and another tablespoon of lemon juice. Taste for seasoning and adjust accordingly.
Serves 4

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Stir fried eggplants - South Indian style

This is a South Indian version of a stir fried eggplant dish. the farmers markets in summer are filled with various kinds of eggplants. I used fairytale eggplants, which are 3 to 4 inches long and slender and not bitter either. They are easily available in farmers markets during the summer months. These small eggplants are combined with red onions and a fragrant mixture of spices and lentils and perked up with a healthy dose of dried red chili to produce this mouth watering dish. Serve with steam rice and a soupy lentil dish like sambar or rasam.

Stir fried eggplants - South Indian style
1 lb fairy eggplant
1 1/2 cups sliced red onions
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 - 1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
1 tablespoon urad dal
1 tablespoon chana dal
1 teaspoon dried red chili flakes
  1. Trim the tops of the eggplants and quarter them vertically or halve them depending on the thickness of the eggplant.
  2. Dry roast the coriander seeds, urad dal and chana dal separately for about two minutes each over medium low heat. Make sure they do not burn. Once cool, grind the coriander coarsely in a coffee grinder. Set aside. Then grind the two roasted dals into a fine powder. Mix the three powders in a bowl to be added at the end.
  3. Heat a large heavy bottomed skillet with olive oil over medium heat and add the mustard seeds. when the seeds begin to pop, add the sliced onions and cook over medium heat for 4 minutes stirring once or twice.
  4. Add the eggplants to the onion mixture and the turmeric powder. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt and mix well. Cook covered over medium low heat for 8 to 10 minutes till the eggplants are soft. Toss after every 3 minutes.
  5. Once the eggplants are soft, add the spice powder and the dried chili flakes. Mix well and cook for another 5 minutes over medium low heat. Taste for seasoning and adjust the salt accordingly.
Serves 4 as part of a composed meal

Monday, August 31, 2015

Chinese five spice roasted cauliflower in a "manchurian" sauce

This is my riff on a cauliflower manchurian, a popular dish at Indian Chinese restaurants. In the traditional version, the cauliflower florets are dipped into a batter and deep fried. Then the fried cauliflower is tossed in a spicy sauce. I decided to stay away from deep frying and roasted the cauliflower instead. I used Chinese five spice to flavor the cauliflower which is a mixture of spices. Most commonly used spices are star anise, cloves and cinnamon with the bite of Szechwan pepper, all married together with ground fennel seeds. The roasted cauliflower tastes great on its own, but I wanted to make a "manchurian gravy". On its own the roasted cauliflower makes for great finger food.
Chinese Five Spice Roasted cauliflower in a "manchurian" sauce

1.5 lb cauliflower, cut into medium sized pieces (large florets cut into quarters and the smaller ones into two)
1 teaspoon Chinese Five spice powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon white pepper powder
3/4th teaspoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons canola oil
1 medium red onion, chopped
2 large cloves of garlic, sliced

For the sauce
3 tablespoons tomato puree
1 tablespoon tamari sauce
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1 heaped teaspoon black bean chili sauce

  1. Preheat a large baking sheet at 425 F. Toss the cauliflower with the five spice powder, garlic powder, white pepper powder, salt and 2 tablespoons canola oil. Mix till all the florets are well coated. Then lay them on the baking sheet in a single layer and cook for 25 minutes.
  2. Towards the last few minutes of cooking, heat a large saute pan over medium heat and add 1 tablespoon canola oil. Add the chopped onion and the sliced garlic and a tiny pinch of salt and cook for about 3 minutes - at this point the onion will start to pink at the edges. Add the roasted cauliflower to the onion mixture and the ingredients for the sauce and mix well. Cook for a couple of minutes and remove from the fire. Serve hot.
Serves 3 with an egg fried rice or 4 as part of a multi-course meal

Friday, August 21, 2015

Chinese sweet corn soup

This is not a fancy soup but some version of which you will get at every Chinese restaurant. I have been having this soup since my childhood and this is my take on it. Loved by my daughter who enjoys corn in any form and not really liked by my husband who is trying to avoid starchy vegetables. I combine fresh corn with canned creamy style corn. Thickened with some corn starch and subtly spiced with white pepper with swirls of a beaten egg with some sesame oil, it is quite delicious!

Chinese sweet corn soup
1 fresh corn on the cob
1 can of cream style sweet corn (8.25 oz can = 1 cup)
1/2 cup finely chopped yellow onion
1 clove of garlic, peeled and finely minced
2 teaspoons canola oil
2 teaspoons rice wine
1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper  or to taste
Kosher salt to taste
1 tablespoon corn starch
1/2 teaspoon chili sesame oil
1 large organic egg
1 scallion, green parts only finely sliced for garnish
  1. Remove the husk from the corn and shave off the kernels into a bowl.
  2. Heat a sauce pan with canola oil and add the chopped onion and minced garlic with a pinch of kosher salt. Saute on medium heat for 3 minutes till the onion has softened.
  3. Add the corn kernels and 1 cup water and cook for 10 minutes uncovered on medium heat till the kernels are cooked and the water is almost completely absorbed.
  4. Add the cream style corn and one and a half cups water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and add the rice, wine, white pepper, and salt and mix well. Cook for a couple of minutes.
  5. Create the corn slurry by mixing the corn starch with  1 tablespoon cold water. Add it to the soup and bring to a boil. In the meantime beat the egg with 1/8th teaspoon kosher salt and the sesame chili oil. When the soup starts to thicken, reduce the heat and add the egg slowly stirring constantly to form threads. If you like egg to be in flowers, then stir slowly to allow the egg flowers to form. 
  6. Garnish with the chopped scallions and serve.
Serves 3

Friday, August 7, 2015

Roasted mushroom, chickpeas and baby spinach salad

Baby spinach topped with warm roasted mushrooms and toasted spiced chickpeas dressed in a tangy yogurt dressing is a wonderful salad any time of the year. Had friends for lunch today and they thoroughly enjoyed it. In fact it is a great vegetarian main course salad with the addition of the chickpeas. The yogurt dressing is lightly spiced with cumin and sweetened with a touch of maple syrup.

Roasted mushrooms, chickpeas and spinach salad

10 oz white button mushrooms, cut into quarters
10 sprigs of thyme (leaves only)
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 15 oz container of organic chickpeas
1/3 cup chopped red onion
1 tablespoon chopped fresh garlic (not minced - they will burn)
1/2 teaspoon cumin powder
1/8 tsp cayenne powder
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
olive oil
5 oz baby spinach, washed and dried

3 tablespoons 0% fat Greek yogurt (Fage brand)
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon maple syrup
1/8th teaspoon toasted cumin powder
1/8th teaspoon kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 F. 
  2. While the oven preheats, toss the mushrooms with 1 tablespoon olive oil, garlic powder, thyme leaves and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Lay them out in a single layer on a baking sheet.
  3. Drain the chickpeas and give them a quick rinse with cold water. Toss the chickpeas, chopped onion, and chopped garlic with 1 tablespoon olive oil, cumin powder, cayenne powder and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Lay them out on another baking sheet in a single layer.
  4. After oven is heated, place the mushrooms in the bottom third of the oven and the chickpeas in the top third of the oven. Cook for 15 minutes. Toss the mushrooms and the chickpeas to ensure even cooking and place them back for another 10 - 15 minutes in the oven. The mushrooms should be completely cooked but not dried out and the chickpeas will be roasted and the onions and garlic would have softened with a little color. 
  5. Remove the trays from the oven and transfer the hot contents to the serving bowl with the spinach. The heat of the mushrooms and chickpeas will slightly wilt the spinach.
  6. For the dressing, whisk all the ingredients and add a couple of tablespoons of water to make the dressing have a pouring consistency. Taste for seasoning. If you like the dressing to be a little more sweet, add more maple syrup. The idea is to lightly coat the salad.
  7. Toss the dressing with the salad and serve immediately.
Serves 4 

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Corn, serrano chili and cheddar muffins

This is my slight adaptation of David Tanis' recipe of Corn and Jalapeno muffins. The original recipe is here. Light and fluffy they make a great side for a summer barbecue, with soup or chili or just a snack for the kids. The mini size is perfect for popping into the mouth as you are walking around. It makes a quick breakfast as well. I like my corn muffins to really have corn in every bite - hence I doubled the quantity of corn and we like them cheesy. So I doubled the cheese as well. Extra sharp cheddar gives it that extra saltiness.
You can also add finely minced scallions and fresh cilantro for an extra herbaceous flavor.

Corn, serrano chili and cheddar muffins
3 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup corn kernels from 1 large corn on the cob
2 - 3 teaspoons finely chopped serrano pepper (adjust according to spice tolerance)
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
 Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
3/4th teaspoons baking powder
3/4th teaspoons baking soda
1 large organic egg, beaten
3/4th cup buttermilk
3 ounces grated extra sharp Cheddar cheese
2 mini muffin tins (12 cups each)

  1. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Put 1 1/2 tablespoons butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add corn kernels and minced pepper and cook gently for 2 minutes. Season with 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/8th teaspoon freshly ground black pepper and set aside. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in the microwave.
  2. Mix together flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt. Beat in eggs and buttermilk to make a thick batter. Add the cooked corn kernels, as well as the melted butter and then stir in grated cheese.
  3. Spray the mini muffin tins with olive oil spray or cooking spray and fill with enough batter so that the level of the batter is just below the top. Bake for 10 minutes, until golden.

Makes 24 mini muffins

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Stir fried rice cakes with black bean sauce

I discovered rice cakes when we had gone to Hangawi, a Korean vegetarian restaurant in New York. They had a dish on their menu of spicy rice cakes and I really enjoyed its springy consistency, a bit like tapioca. These rice cakes are sold in Asian grocery stores - either frozen or fresh. The frozen ones may come pre-sliced or in sticks. I had bought the one sold in frozen sticks. They are cooked just like you would cook noodles. I have used  Lee Kum Kee Guizhou Black Bean Chili sauce for the spicy kick. It is more savory than spicy and gives the dish that additional layer of flavor which you will not get from a regular black bean chili sauce. This dish has the perfect balance of salt, spice and sweet. I have used a combination of crunchy and soft vegetables. You can make it with any vegetable of your choice.

Stir fried rice cakes with black bean chili sauce

1 lb frozen or fresh rice cakes
1 cup asparagus, chopped into 1 inch pieces
1 cup sugar snap peas, trimmed
1 cup thinly sliced bell pepper (orange, red or yellow)
7 large cremini mushrooms thinly sliced
1/2 lb fresh bean sprouts
2 tablespoons chopped garlic
2 teaspoons Lee Kum Kee Guizhou Black Bean Chili
1 tablespoon rice wine
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 1/2 tablespoons canola oil
1/4 teaspoon granulated sugar
  1. If the rice cakes are frozen, soak them in cool water for 30 minutes. Then drain and slice then 1/4 inch thick. If they are fresh, there is no need to soak them.
  2. Heat a large wok with canola oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and the mushrooms, Saute for 3 minutes over medium high heat.
  3. Now add the asparagus and the sugar snap peas and saute for another 3 minutes.
  4. Add the rice cakes, rice wine, chili bean paste and soy sauce and toss well. Cook for 5 minutes over medium high heat. At this point the rice cake will soften and absorb some flavor from the sauces.
  5. Add the bean sprouts and peppers and cook for another 2-3 minutes. Add sugar - mix and cook for 30 seconds.
  6. Serve hot
Serves 3 as a meal

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Barley risotto with corn, asparagus, leeks and basil

Barley has a lovely chewy texture which both my daughter and me love. And barley has amazing nutritional properties which I only discovered recently. Rich in fiber, protein and iron it is a healthy and delicious alternative to arborio rice. This risotto celebrates spring with the addition of fresh corn, asparagus and basil. A small quantity of goat cheese is added at the end for a luscious creamy finish.

Barley risotto with corn, asparagus, leeks and basil
3/4th cup organic pearl barley
1 fresh corn on the cob, kernels removed
1 cup asparagus chopped into one inch pieces
1 cup chopped leeks, white parts only
1 clove of garlic, finely minced
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups vegetable stock
Salt to taste
Healthy dose of freshly ground black pepper
2 oz soft goat cheese
3 tablespoon finely julienned fresh basil leaves

  1. Soak the barley for 2 hours at room temperature. This will ensure it cooks in 30 minutes.
  2. Heat a 3 quart dutch oven with 1 tablespoon butter at medium heat. When the butter melts, add the chopped leeks and the minced garlic. Saute for 3 to 5 minutes with a pinch of salt till the leeks begin to soften. Drain the barley and add to the leek mixture and continue to cook for 5 minutes till the leeks have softened completely.
  3. While the leeks are cooking, keep a stock pot with warm stock to be added to the barley while cooking.
  4. Once the leeks are softened add a few ladles of the stock till the stock covers the barley. Stir often and continue to cook till the liquid dries up. Add some more stock and do the same until the barley is almost cooked - about 10 minutes. Now add the asparagus and another round of stock and cook for another 5 minutes. Finally add the fresh corn kernels and cook till the asparagus is done but crisp. 
  5. Taste for seasoning and add the salt and pepper accordingly. This will depend on the salt content of the stock that you are using. Take the pan off the heat and stir in the goat cheese and basil leaves. Serve immediately.
Serves 3 as a main course

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Lentil and Arborio rice soup

This is a great soup to make when you don't really have any fresh vegetables and need to work with pantry staples. French green lentils do not require to be soaked in advance - hence making them a perfect lentil for last minute cooking. I used the farmers market yellow carrot - hence you see the yellow pieces - it is not a bad camera! I also used Arborio rice since I like the short grain starchy rice for my soups.

French green lentils and Arborio rice soup

1/4 cup French green lentils rinsed and drained
1/4 cup Arborio rice
1 large carrot
1 small onion chopped
1 garlic peeled and minced
1 cup chopped tomato (skin removed)
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
3 cups water or vegetable stock
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
  1. Heat a 3 quart stock pot or dutch oven with 1 tablespoon canola oil. Add the chopped onion and garlic and saute over medium heat with a pinch of salt for about 3 minutes till the onions have softened.
  2. Add the carrot, lentils and rice and saute for another 3 to 5 minutes till the rice and lentils are well coated with the onion mixture.
  3. Now add the chopped tomato and the thyme leaves and cook for another couple of minutes. Add the stock and bring the mixture to a boil Reduce the heat and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes till the rice and lentils are cooked. Check for seasoning and add the salt and pepper as per your taste.
Serve with warm bread and a salad - makes a lovely lunch or supper.

Serves 3

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Baked vegan zucchini and potato fritters

Zucchini in the summer is really abundant and I love potatoes - here is a lovely marriage of the two. Both these vegetables are great at picking up flavors - thyme, garlic powder and green onions give it that extra kick. I recently went on a gluten free vegetarian diet - hence I used chickpea flour and flax seed powder as binders. You can use regular all purpose flour and an egg - start with the yolk and then if necessary add the egg white. The yolk gives a nice richness to the fritter. A pan fried version would be quicker and crisper but zucchini absorbs a lot of oil - so I decided to bake them even though they took forever.

Baked vegan zucchini and potato fritters
1 medium zucchini grated through the large holes of a box grater or food processor
1 medium gold potato, peeled and grated through the large holes of a box grater or food processor
1 tablespoon chopped green onions
1/8th teaspoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt + 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 tablespoon flax seed powder
1 1/2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons chickpea flour
About 3 tablespoons olive oil
  1. Preheat the oven to 425 F. Place a large baking sheet to preheat as well in the middle rack.
  2. Place the grated zucchini in a colander lined with cheesecloth. Sprinkle 1/2 teaspoon salt and mix well. Let it sit till you are ready to put the fritters in the oven. The longer it sits the more liquid will come out of the zucchini. When you are ready, squeeze the cheesecloth with the zucchini to remove the excess liquid. You should have about 2 cups of grated zucchini after it is squeezed.
  3. Do the same to the grated potatoes.
  4. Mix the flax seed powder with the water and let it sit for 10 minutes to become like glue.
  5. When the oven has preheated, in a large mixing bowl, add the squeezed zucchini, squeezed potato, 1/2 teaspoon salt, thyme leaves, green onions and garlic powder and mix well. Now add the chickpea flour mix once again.
  6. Lastly add the flax seed glue to the potato and zucchini mixture.
  7. Remove the preheated baking sheet and spread 2 tablespoons of olive oil  to cover the baking sheet.
  8. Take a small cookie scoop and place one scoop at a time on the baking sheet about an inch apart. You will get about 10 scoops from this mixture. Then flatten the vegetable mounds with the back of a spoon so that they cook evenly.
  9. Place the tray back in the middle rack for 20 minutes. Remove - add a few drops of oil on top of each fritter and flip to the other side.
  10. Put the tray back in the oven for another 10 to 15 minutes till both sides are golden brown.
  11. Remove and serve with greek yogurt or romesco sauce.
Makes 6 two inch fritters

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Chingri Malai Curry (Shrimp with Coconut Milk)

Chingri malai curry is a quintessential Bengali dish served for special occasions. The bigger the size of the shrimp the more valued your guests felt. This curry tastes the best if you use prawns with heads. The heads have an immense amount of flavor which gives the curry the richness along with the coconut milk. I have used light coconut milk, but for a richer dish, feel free to replace it with full fat coconut milk.

9 large shrimps with tails on
2 small yukon gold potatoes, peeled and quartered
1 teaspoon sliced green chili (jalapeno or serrano pepper)
7 oz unsweetened coconut milk
1/4 cup onion juice (Grate a medium red onion and squeeze the juice through a sieve)
1 tablespoon canola oil
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 green cardamom
1 bay leaf
2 cloves
1/8th teaspoon turmeric powder

  1. Shell the prawns and leave the tails on. The tails make a better presentation and the shells add additional flavor. Toss them with 1/4 teaspoon salt and set aside.
  2. Heat 2 teaspoons canola oil in a saute pan and  saute the potatoes over medium heat till they turn brown on all sides about 8 to 10 minutes. Remove the browned potatoes and keep aside. Add the remaining 1 teaspoon canola oil and add the cardamoms, bay leaf and cloves. Once they start sizzling, add back the potatoes and the onion juice and cook over medium heat till the juice is almost dry. Add the shrimps, turmeric and sliced green chili at this point and saute for a couple of minutes till the shrimps being to turn pink.
  3. Add the coconut milk and simmer till the potatoes are fully cooked, about 5 minutes.  
  4. Serve with steamed white rice.

Serves 3

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Green lentil, sweet potato, butternut squash and goat cheese salad

This is an extremely hearty main course vegetarian salad. Go carb free and eat just this for dinner. We had it with the cream of asparagus soup and garlic bread. The lentils and the salad leaves are dressed with red wine vinegar and olive oil - the tang of the red wine vinegar pairs well with the sweetness from the sweet potato and butternut squash. Placed on a bed of peppery arugula and topped with creamy goat cheese, this salad is very satisfying.

Green lentil, sweet potato, butternut squash and goat cheese salad
1/2 cup french green lentils
2 cups water
1 clove of garlic peeled
a few sprigs of parsley
half a small onion
1 cup peeled and chopped sweet potato or jewel yam (1/2 inch pieces)
1 cup peeled, deseeded and chopped squash (kuri, kabocha or butternut) (1/2 inch pieces)
1 teaspoon dried red chili flakes
Three large handfuls of mixed salad greens (Arugula and kale are great for this salad)
4 oz soft goat cheese
Extra virgin olive oil
Red wine vinegar
Fresh lemon juice
Freshly ground black pepper
Kosher salt

  1. Preheat the oven to 450 F.
  2. Toss the chopped sweet potatoes and butternut squash with 2 tablespoons olive oil, dried chili flakes salt and pepper and lay them in a single layer on a baking sheet.
  3. Place the baking sheet in the center of the oven and cook for 15 minutes. Flip and cook for another 15 minutes till the vegetables are browned and beautifully caramelized. Remove from oven and set aside to cool.
  4. In the meantime, rinse the lentils and put them in a saucepan with plenty of lightly salted water, the onion, garlic and parsley. Bring to a boil, decrease the heat to a simmer, and cook for 25 to 30 minutes, until the lentils are tender; be careful not to overcook them. If there is any water left, drain the lentils. Add 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar and 2 tablespoon olive oil, and salt to taste. Mix carefully so as not to break up the lentils.
  5. Dress the greens with 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice and a tablespoon of olive oil and a pinch of salt. The greens do not need any more oil unlike a standard dressing of 1 part acid to 3 parts oil. There is enough oil in the lentils as well as the roasted vegetables.
  6. To assemble the salad, lay the greens on a serving platter, topped with the dressed lentils. Sprinkle the roasted vegetables on top of the lentils and top with the crumbled goat cheese. The salad is now ready to dig in!
Serves 3

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Quinoa, sweet potato and mushroom burger

My teenager's new favorite is quinoa. I have been giving her quinoa salads in her school lunch and she has enjoyed it. I thought these neat little burgers might be a good change with similar ingredients, both in a bun or without. Sweet potato provides a great binder and the burger does not need the help of bread crumbs or eggs or flax seeds. The mushrooms sauteed with shallots and garlic and spiked with chili flakes, complement the sweet potato and quinoa mixture and provide a little punch. Serve them in a bun with your fix-ins or like I serve them with a salad. This time I served them a arugula, fennel and parmesan salad dressed with a simple lemon, dijon vinaigrette.

Quinoa, sweet potato and mushroom burger

1/2 cup quinoa
1 large oriental sweet potato ( a little more than a lb) or small ones of the same weight
6 large cremini mushrooms (4 oz), minced
1 large clove of garlic, peeled and finely minced
2 shallots, peeled and finely minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
3/4th - 1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon dried red chili flakes
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 F. Place the sweet potato on a baking sheet and cook for 45 to 75 minutes depending on the size of the potato. Smaller ones will cook faster. Poke with a knife to check doneness after 45 minutes
  2. While the potato is cooking, cook the quinoa. In a small saucepan, add quinoa, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1 cup water and bring to a boil. Cover the pan and lower the heat to simmer. Cook for 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and let it sit for 5 minutes. Remove the cover and fluff with a fork and keep aside to cool.
  3. Heat a 10" saute pan over medium heat and add one tablespoon olive oil. Add the minced shallots and garlic with 1/4 teaspoon salt and cook for about 4 to 5 minutes till the shallots are translucent. Add the minced mushrooms and red chili flakes and continue to saute for about 4 more minutes.Keep aside to cool.
  4. Once the potatoes are cool enough to handle - scoop out the flesh and mash with the cooked and cooled quinoa and the mushroom shallot mixture. I like to use my hands for this process as it works the best (use disposable gloves if you are uncomfortable using your bare hands). Adjust the salt based on your taste.
  5. Preheat the oven to 350 F. 
  6. While the oven preheats, shape the dough into 2 1/2 inch round and 1/2 inch thick patties. Spray a baking sheet with olive oil and place the patties in a single layer. Now spray the patties. Place the tray in the middle rack of the preheated oven. Cook for 15 minutes and then flip to the other side. Cook for 15 more minutes. The patties should be golden brown and the outside should be crisp like in the picture. If not, please bake for a little longer to develop the crust.
  7. Serve within a bun with your favorite fix-ins or by themselves with a salad.
Makes 6 patties

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Lettuce wraps with tofu and water chestnuts a.k.a. P.F. Chang's lettuce wraps

P.F. Chang's lettuce wraps are famous all over the US. We love eating them whenever we chance upon a P.F. Chang during our travels. Since they don't have a branch in New York, I decided to make a version of those which are really good. The missing element is the fried bean thread noodles. I am not a big fan of frying - if you are, please make them - they add another level of crunch to the wraps. My lettuce wraps are filled with tofu, mushrooms and water chestnuts topped with a tangy chili sauce.

Lettuce wraps with tofu and water chestnuts

One 14 ox box of firm organic tofu
One 8 oz can of water chestnuts, drained and finely chopped
6 large cremini mushrooms, wiped and chopped
1/2 cup finely minced red onion
2 large cloves of garlic, peeled and finely minced
1 tablespoon hoisin sauce
1 1/2 tablespoon soy sauce
1/2 tablespoon oyster sauce
1 1/2 tablespoon canola oil
Chopped peanuts or chopped cashew for topping
Fried bean thread noodles (optional)
One head of iceberg lettuce

1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoon light soy sauce
1 teaspoon Chinese chili garlic sauce

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 F.
  2. In the meantime, drain the liquid from the tofu and weight it down on a plate with a rim to extract as much liquid as possible.
  3. Chop the tofu into 1/4 inch cubes and spread in a single layer on a baking sheet.
  4. When the oven is hot, place the baking sheet in the middle rack. Let it cook for 15 minutes. Remove and flip the tofu pieces to get even color on both sides. Cook for another 15 minutes.
  5. During the last 15 minutes, heat a large non-stick skillet with canola oil. Add the minced garlic and onion and cook over medium heat for 2 minutes till the onion looks translucent. 
  6. Add the chopped mushrooms - mix and raise the heat to high. Cook the mixture for around 2 to 3 minutes till the mushrooms are starting to soften. Add the chopped water chestnuts and cook tossing occasionally till the mushroom is brown. Switch off the heat and wait for the tofu.
  7. Once the tofu is ready, add it to the mushroom and water chestnut mixture. Add the hoisin sauce, oyster sauce and the soy sauce and mix well. Cook on medium heat for 3 to 4 minutes till the tofu and vegetables absorb the sauce. Transfer to a serving dish.
  8. For the lettuce, cut off the bottom of the head of lettuce and carefully separate the leaves to keep them whole.
  9. For the sauce, mix the three ingredients to make this tangy chili sauce.
  10. Serve the lettuce wraps filled with a tablespoon or two of the filling depending on the size of the leaf, topped with chopped peanuts or cashew and a drizzle of the sauce. 
Serves 4 as an appetizer.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Quinoa with Swiss chard, chickpeas, and preserved lemons

This dish is a perfect vegetarian main course. Simple, earthy and down right tasty. The Swiss chard is sauteed with onions and chickpeas and then finished with the wonderfully tangy preserved lemon bits. Served on a bed of quinoa it needs no other accompaniment.

You can buy preserved lemon at most major grocery stores in the ethnic food section or make your own. For David Lebovitz's recipe to make your own click here.

Quinoa with Swiss chard, chickpeas and preserved lemons

1 bunch Swiss chard, cleaned and chopped
1 15 oz can organic chickpeas, drained
1 cup chopped Spanish onion
1 preserved lemon, seeds removed and finely minced
1 tablespoon garlic flavored olive oil or 1 tablespoon minced garlic and 1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin (freshly ground is the best)
About 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup water
1 cup quinoa [I used the tricolor quinoa]
  1. Wash the quinoa in a fine mesh strainer  to get rid of the bitterness. Add the quinoa to sauce pan with 2 cups water. Bring to a boil. Cover the saucepan with a tight fitting lid and simmer for 15 minutes. After the quinoa is cooked, leave the saucepan covered for another 5 minutes and then fluff with a fork.
  2. In the meantime, heat a large non-stick saute pan with garlic flavored olive oil. If using minced garlic, heat the oil and while the oil is heating, add the garlic to flavor the oil. Add the chopped onion and saute till the onion has softened. 
  3. Add the chopped Swiss chard stems, crushed red pepper, ground cumin, salt and the chickpeas and continue to saute till the chard stems are soft. Finally add the chard leaves and 1/4 cup water and cook till wilted. If the mixture seems dry, add another 1/4 cup water. The dish should have a little sauce to top the quinoa. When done, mix in the minced preserved lemon.
  4. To serve, place the quinoa at the bottom of the serving dish and top with the Swiss chard and chickpea mixture.
Serves 3

Monday, February 16, 2015

Blood orange madeleines

Madeleines are traditional small French sponge cakes with a distinctive shell like shape. I have been experimenting with them, but could never find a recipe for the perfect sponge. I love the madeleines that Cafe Boulud serves as part of their petit fours and I finally found Daniel Boulud's recipe on Bon Appetit. I have tweaked the recipe a tiny bit, but kept the method the same. I have substituted double acting baking powder for regular baking powder to give the madeleines the extra bump and used the zest of blood oranges instead of regular oranges. Also substituted orange blossom honey to carry through the orange theme. And finally I made  these heavenly little pillows. Note: You need special madeleine pans to make these.

Blood orange madeleines
1 teaspoon double acting baking powder
½ teaspoon kosher salt

¾ cup all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
2 large organic eggs
⅓ cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
1 tablespoon orange blossom honey
2 teaspoons finely grated blood orange zest (from 2 blood oranges)
6 tablespoons (¾ stick) unsalted butter, melted, warm
Confectioners sugar

One 12-cake regular madeleine pan. I used a non-stick pan. If not using a non-stick pan, spray with a vegetable spray before using.

  1. Whisk baking powder, salt, and flour in a small bowl.
  2. Whisk eggs, granulated sugar, light brown sugar, honey, and blood orange zest in a medium bowl until smooth. Whisk in dry ingredients until just incorporated, then whisk in melted butter until smooth. Transfer batter to a pastry bag or resealable plastic bag and chill at least 1 hour. i used a freezer bag since it is thicker than a regular ziploc bag.
  3. Preheat oven to 400°. Lightly dust the madeleine pan with flour. Snip 1 corner of freezer bag and pipe batter into each mold, filling two-thirds full. You will have enough batter for 4 more!
  4. Bake madeleines until edges are golden brown and centers are puffed and lightly spring back when gently pressed, about 7 - 8 minutes.
  5. With a non-stick pan, the madeleines will literally slide off. Dust with powdered sugar and serve warm.

  6. Do Ahead: Batter can be made 1 day ahead. Keep chilled.
Makes 16 cakes

Monday, January 12, 2015

Quinoa with shrimp, sugar snap peas and edamame

New years has started with salads for lunch and this one I particularly like. Light, refreshing, savory and easy is how I would define this salad. Crunchy sugar snap peas, creamy edamame, succulent shrimps and the spicy cashews with the fresh mint laced through and a drizzle of lemon juice for that extra zing is truly delicious. I used Trader Joes Thai chili lime cashews. If you are unable to find these, any salted cashews would be good.

Quinoa salad with shrimp, sugar snap peas and edamame
1/2 cup quinoa (uncooked)
6 large shrimp, shelled and deveined
1/2 cup sugar snap peas, topped and tailed
1/2 cup shelled frozen edamame
1/4 cup Thai chili lime cashews, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons fresh mint leaves, rolled and cut into thin strips
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 large cloves of garlic, peeled and thinly sliced

  1. Cook the quinoa with 1 cup water and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Bring the quinoa and water to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Switch off the heat and leave covered for another 5 minutes, after which fluff with a fork and transfer to the serving dish.
  2. While the quinoa is cooking, in another pot, bring salted water to a boil. Add the sugar snap peas and the thawed edamame and cook for 3 minutes. Drain and immediately add  to the quinoa. 
  3. In another pan, heat the olive oil and add the sliced garlic and saute for 30 seconds. Then add the shrimp with 1/4 teaspoon salt and cook for another 30 seconds till the shrimp begins to turn pink. Add 3 tablespoons of water, reduce heat and cover and cook for another two to three minutes till the shrimp is fully cooked. Remove from the heat - chop into 3/4th inch pieces and add it to the quinoa with the sauce and garlic from the pan. Drizzle the lemon juice and toss well. 
  4. Finally add the mint leaves and chopped cashew and give it a final mix.
Serves 2

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Grapefruit salad with cranberries and pumpkin seeds

Pink grapefruit is absolutely delicious at this time of the year and it is great in a salad. The sweet dried cranberries add a nice chewy texture and salted toasted pumpkin seeds give the salad a light crunch. The dressing is the best part - I used pistachio oil and if you have toasted pistachios, it would make a great substitute for the pumpkin seeds as the flavors would be enhanced by the pistachio oil.

Grapefruit salad with cranberries and pumpkin seeds
1 large pink grapefruit
3 cups of organic mixed baby greens
1/4 cup dried cranberries
2 tablespoons toasted salted pumpkin seeds or  shelled, toasted and salted pistachios
1 1/2 tablespoons pistachio oil
1/2 tablespoon white balsamic vinegar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste

  1. Segment the grapefruit using the first method from Wikihow. It is fool proof and will yield you these beautiful segments. Break the segments into halves to make sure they are bite sized pieces. Place the grapefruit in the salad bowl. Add the dried cranberries to the bowl. 
  2. Wash and spin dry the mixed greens and keep aside.
  3. Make dressing with the balsamic vinegar and pistachio vinegar. Season to taste.
  4. Now add the greens to the salad bowl and drizzle the dressing on top. Toss lightly to combine. Sprinkle the pumpkin seeds or pistachios if using.
Serves 2