Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The one in which...

...we are a little pressed for time and cannot offer you quality material but will direct you to someone that does. I have always been fond of learning about unique cooking techniques. Its an age old art and I'm amazed there is still room for creativity.

Couple of fascinating articles on truly inventive cooking methods.

The first is from Slate about a method of cooking that involves sealing food in vacuum and slow cooking it in its own juices. I can only imagine what a gastronomical delight it would be.
Sous-vide cooking by Sara Dickerman

The other link if from my favorite boredom busting site Listverse. I can spend several happy days browsing the archives. I'm a geek like that :)
Top 10 Unusual cooking concepts by JFrater.

So go ahead, click on the links. You know you want to :)

And just so I can justify this as a food blog, here is a yummy picture of veggies.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Right now...

...... I'm craving the food generally served at Maharashtrian Weddings. I was never a fan of this food when I was kid, begging my mom to take me out for a Pav-Bhaji instead whenever my sorry ass was dragged to a wedding.

(Long linktastic pointless post ahead. With the potential of being incomprehensible to Non-Maharashtrians. Do proceed with caution.)

But for the fact that I haven't 'attended' (they are always attended, never celebrated or enjoyed!) a proper Marathi wedding in years, I found myself craving the very same. Last night, I had a vivid dream about that thali. I drooled over the colors, could feel the flaky Puris and cold Bhajis* under my fingers. I looked down at my fingers squeezing a wedge of lemon over steaming hot rice and Sadhavaran* and could almost taste it. The dream was made more poignant by the fact that I haven't been able to visit Pune for some time and it doesn't look like I will anytime soon. The cousins and friends, in an ultimate act of revenge for me being annoying decided that the best season to get married was whatever season I'm not around. So I'm having me a pity party with visions of Basundi and Batatyachi Bhaji dancing in my head.

I miss...

The Pangat- Rows and rows of gleaming thalis, already glistening with a green chutney, pinch of salt, lemon quarters, bhajis, pickles, Koshimbir, broken pieces of Papad and snowy white Kurdayi*.

Fluffy puris, that release a cloud of steam on being poked.

Maharashtrian style Batata bhaji and Alu cha Rassa.

The Sadhavaran-Tup-Bhaat at the beginning of a Marathi meal. Sadhavaran is nothing but plain toor dal, unadorned by annoying tadka or masalas. Steaming white rice, shaped in Muud(mound) is slapped on to the thali, then some Sadhavaran is ladled out of a big bucket onto the mounds. Close on the heels comes a Ghee guy, guarding a small silver pot of tup/ghee, stingily doling out one teaspoon per person.

Usal- The only one qualified enough to make an appearance. Birdyachi Usal.

Mattha -Steel bowls of Mattha to wash everything down.

And to round off the meal...

Basundi-Thick, pale yellow, almost custardy Basundi, fragrant with cardamom and saffron, dotted with slivers of malai.

This is all I want from life. For now.

Bhaji- Pakoras
Sadhavaran- Plain yellow dal
Koshimbir- Salad, in this case it would usually be cucumber, chopped fine, mixed with curds, groundnut powder, and chillies.
Kurdai- Fried wheat snack, akin to papad

Things are happy in KisstheCook land...

...because I downloaded Picassa 3 which has better collage options than Picassa 2.
So obviously I went overboard and made a gaudy collage. Wouldn't you?
For a more restrained and completely adorable collage, click here.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Curry Puffs

I get manic periods of restless energy sometimes, which balance my procrastination nicely. Too bad the manic fits are few and far in between. So one such time when I had a huge backlog of utterly awful movies I wanted to watch... (Why do I watch awful movies, you ask? Because they are there.) I boiled a bushel of potatoes, defrosted 4 packs of puff pastry sheets and settled in for an afternoon of absolute suspension of disbelief.
At the end of the whole exercise, I has sore knuckles and a freezer full of curry puffs. Now all I have do every Sunday morning is to pull some out, pop them in a 350 degree oven for 45 minutes and we have fresh Curry Puffs for breakfast or as we like to call em in Pune...Pattice. And only the Hindustan Bakery ones qualify as Pattice, others are just poor imitations. Since mine are undoubtedly an imitation, I will keep calling them Curry Puffs. Pattice and leisurely cups of tea remain a time honoured Sunday tradition in most Pune homes and bringing just a little bit of that to my apartment in NJ transports me immediately to my moms home... lounging about in PJs with Chayageet, endless cups of steaming ginger tea, the idle chatter, the cooker whistle going off, sunlight streaming in through open windows, the much loved ritual of oiling and washing hair. It was a happy place.

Fresh out of the oven- crumbly, buttery curry puffs.

Fresh curry leaves
Fresh grated ginger
Mustard seeds
Cumin seeds
Chili powder
Coriander powder
Garam Masala
Chaat Masala
Boil, peel and dice the potatoes, temper some oil with mustard, cumin seeds and curry leaves. Add the turmeric, ginger and hing. Add potatoes, peas and toss with spiced and salt. Mix and stuff into defrosted puff pastry sheets. Bake at 350 degrees till golden brown and serve hot.
These are great for making ahead and storing since they keep forever in the freezer. Just make sure you freeze them on a tray before you put them a Ziploc bag so that they won't stick together. The process could not be simpler but it is a little time consuming.
Also I haven't given measurments for anything because the mixture is so versatile and everybody has a unique way of preparing it. These are not rules, merely a preference.
Seriously, it could not be simpler guys and biting into a warm curry puff on a wintery morning more then makes up for the sore knuckles. Well, almost! :)
These have to enjoyed with Masala chai.
For my masala chai, I boil the tea water with grated ginger, tiny peice of cinnamon, couple of cardommom pods, 1 whole black pepper, and 1 clove. Then add milk, sugar and strong Assam tea. Boil slightly shy of the nice, red color, take off the heat and cover and keep for a minute. Strain and enjoy.

Love is....

...when the hubby gets chocolaty desserts for no reason....just.

So that's the Chocolate Praline cake, Chocolate Caramel Dome, Tiramisu and a Raspberry torte that was scarfed down before pictures could be taken. These were from Financier Patisserie, a place that I have passed often and drooled at. I would highly recommend..well, everything. :)

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

A BIG blogging break, awards and a heartfelt Thank You!

I started the blog when I was feeling particularly friendless and lonely. I was looking for work and not having a lot of luck with the process and feeling utterly directionless. I envied the easy camaraderie dedicated bloggers had with each other, the comfort they shared in knowing each other's virtual identities, being a part of their virtual worlds. I read about the Arusavai Friendship Chain on several blogs and was truly astounded at how we are all unified in just craving just a bit of human company...with people who 'get' us, who share our passions, our hopes, revel in something as simple as a cake well baked. I miss talking food...simply because I don't have a lot of people in my immediate circle who would obsess for hours on the perfect recipe for bread. Starting the blog gave me a chance to do just that.

I felt like I walked into a roomful of my besties...a total warm and fuzzy place! Thanks to Divya, Sudeshna, Priti, Laavanya, Sheetal, Madhavi and others.

Then as I got a little busy, I ignored the blog, my baby. Tomorrow, I will update the blog, I would tell myself. Wake up at odd hours to try and write, and then give it up to surf (It's truly pathetic, my addiction to surfing, I tell ya!)

Like some angsty teenager, I convinced myself 'nobody cares'...till Priti jolted me out of my slumber...Sudeshna bestowed a couple of awards. The blog begged to be updated, the awards wanted to visit other blogs and I just wanted my warm fuzzies again.

So now I make a solemn vow that this the longest break the blog will ever get, may the keys of keyboard grow weary with strain, may the clackity-clack annoy the husband into sleeping on the couch, may years of archives build up, may lazy fingers never stop typing or cooking(like I have choice with the latter!)...long live the bloggers!

So the point of the post, Thank You for all those who read and cared. Much appreciated. Really.

The awards...

Passing on the baton to Sheetal, Madhavi, Laavanya, Divya, Kitchen Flavors, Priti and Tee.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Sizzlin' chicken

There was, probably is, a place called Zamu's in Pune which introduced me to the absolute goodness of Sizzlers. A cast iron plate, overflowing with tender chicken pieces, mounds of gooey mashed potatoes, sauteed sweet peas, and other assorted veggies came to the table magician a cloud of smoke, making the beautiful sizzling sound butter makes when it hits a hot pan (I guess, hence the name). Zamu's quickly became my favorite haunt for a Dhansak meal (Sundays only) their famous drunken chicken sizzlers, the tree shaded courtyard, friendly service and the memory of my first wine cooler with a friend.
I love the idea of cooking with alcohol, sometimes I even put it in my food! (Stolen from a fridge magnet, lets not say stolen, lets say inspired!)
So this Sunday, I decided to recreate Zamu ishtyle Drunken Chicken Sizzler. All my searches for drunken chicken yielded a gross looking recipe that involved sticking a can of beer up a chicken's ass or something and while I'm sure the result, judging from the enthusiastic words about it, must have been pretty good, lets just say I wanted to eat what I cooked.
Warning, the process is a little labour intensive. Well, you are chopping something up or sauteing or skewering something, preferably of the food variety. But it can be cut down to the bare minimum...chicken, some type of noodle or rice and whatever veggies you can handle.
Since I couldn't find any recipes for the sizzler I wanted, I just made something on my own. The result was nowhere close to the bone sucking quality of Zamu's but it wasn't bad. There, that's my sales pitch for you. It wasn't bad. :)
I marinated the chicken for about 4 hours in a combination of beer and vodka along with some ginger-garlic paste and jalapeno sauce and served it with oven fried potatoes, peas, corn, spinach, sugar snap peas, mushrooms, onions and peppers. Oh, and I made tomatoes a new way, oven baked them with garlic and that recipe is a winner. Beautiful in its simplicity, the juicy tomato and the almost sweet garlic made a great addition to the plate.

So here goes my Zamu inspired chicken sizzler.

2 boneless chicken breasts or thighs, cut into big cubes

2 teaspoons garlic paste
2 teaspoons ginger paste
2-3 teaspoons jalapeno sauce
3 tsp cumin powder
1/2 cup mixed beer and vodka
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1/4 cup olive oil
salt-pepper to taste

2-3 plum tomatoes, cut into halves
4-6 garlic pods
2 potatoes cut into wedges
1/2 cup peas and corn
1/2 cup baby spinach leaves
1 medium onion, cut into large pieces
1 medium bell pepper, cut into large pieces
4-5 large mushrooms
1/2 cup olive oil
salt, pepper to taste
Italian seasoning
chili flakes

1/2 cup chicken broth
2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp grated ginger
1 garlic pod smashed
1/2 tsp cornflour
1/2 cup parsley, chopped fine

Chop the chicken in big cubes and rub in the marinade given above. Cover and keep in the fridge for 4-5 hours. When done marinating, put on skewers and cook in the oven or a grill. Since potatoes take the second place for longest to cook, chop up the potatoes next, mix with some of the olive oil, Italian seasoning, salt-pepper and cook in an oven on 350 till done. Turn them over once while cooking.
I found this way for cooking tomatoes in my new cookbook and it absolutely rocks! Just halve the tomatoes, take the garlic pods, stick them in the tomatoes, brush with olive oil, sprinkle salt-pepper and cook in the oven.
Next chop the mushrooms, onions, bell pepper, brush with olive oil, seasoning and put that on skewers in the oven. Cook the peas and corn with a little bit of salt and add little butter to it(optional).
Saute the spinach with more garlic, if you are not on a date :). Saute the sugar snap peas very quickly too.
Boil everything for the sauce together and add parsley right before pulling off the flame.
Now take your cast iron plate. Heat it properly and pile on your chicken and veggies. Pour on the sauce for the sizzle and smoke. You can put any dipping sauce over it, or just put some butter or vinegar.
Appear magically in a cloud of smoke and serve immediately to delighted customers.

I made it just under the fence for Sri's Chicken Event of Me and My kitchen, who was nice enough to remind me about it. Do people already know about my procrastinating habits?

Sunday, September 21, 2008


Plain cupcakes with lemon frosting, vanilla frosting and sprinkles,
chocolate frosting, red velvet with cream cheese frosting.

Sheetal's beautiful red delights kicked off an acute cupcake craving in me. So ofcourse, I had to send the hubby out for some. It ain't easy living with food obsessed people, I tell ya!
There's a mall across the street that houses a small cupcake kiosk. Its run by the sweetest woman, who bakes her cupcakes at home daily and simply closes shop when she runs out of them. We love her cupcakes and always make sure to go early in the day to make sure we get the most popular ones. If not, then we will take whatever is available. The cupcakes are consistently moist, just sweet enough with the perfect icing to cake ratio. If you are ever in Jersey City, you can get them at the Newport Mall.
So here is a platter of some deliciously calorific sweets.
My favorites? Despite the food coloring, or maybe because of it, the Red Velvet Cupcakes with cream cheese frosting.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Spinach and Mushroom Lasagna

There was a familiar argument in my house on weekends, well, there were plenty of arguments but for now lets just talk about this one. My mom would tell my dad to get groceries and he would head out with a cloth bag to the biggest market in Pune. Like all men, he is pretty clueless about what goes on in the kitchen and would end up buying half the market if not more. He would come home with bags bulging with shiny purple eggplants, long string beans, bunches of corainder, fenugreek, spinach, red and green chilies among other stuff. He would stand around with a proud smile on his face while my long suffering mom berated him. His only explanation? 'Everything was so fresh and green!I couldn't resist.'

Then I would be roped in to separate the chilies from the string beans and try to store them in our tiny fridge. It was a familiar Saturday morning scene at home and memories of it provide much amusement to our family. Anyway, I'm nothing if not my Dad's girl and managing my own home bring out all those eccentricities in full force. Every time I'm allowed near a farmer's market or a nice grocery store, I need to be reigned in or I end up with a fridge full of mushroom and spinach like I did the other day. Hence the post. And you were wondering if this rambling had a point??
So I had more mushroom than I could count and more baby spinach than I would want to.
I used up some mushrooms in a soup, ate salad for 3 days and I was nowhere close to making a dint in the reserves. Then I thought about making something that I could freeze for an easy meal on weekdays. I like making batches of pasta and freezing it in single serve containers so I can get a quick lunch or just something to eat in between meals. Since I had a ton of lasagna sheets waiting to be used up I made mushroom and spinach lasagna. I made Heidi's Five Minute tomato sauce, a cheesy white sauce and mushroom-spinach filling and the whole thing didn't take more than 20 mins.
I really wanted to try Chez Pim's sauce. It looks gorgeous and seems like the perfect way to end summer. But I didn't have the heart to put something so fresh, so delicate in something baked.


2 cups mushrooms, sliced
3 cups spinach leaves
3-4 garlic pods, minced
1/2 tsp butter
1tsp dried Italian herbs
2 tablespoon milk
1 cup ricotta cheese
1 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp nutmeg

Ingredient list for Heidi's Tomato Sauce
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
3 medium cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 28-ounce can crushed red tomatoes
zest of one lemon

Pour a glug of olive oil in a pan and add the minced garlic pods and heat slowly. Don't let the garlic burn. Then add the sliced mushrooms, I used cremini, and let it brown for a while. Then add the spinach and let that cook down. Add some salt and pepper and the dried herbs and take it off the fire. Oh, I did add some shredded carrots to bump up the nutritional content but that's entirely optional. Well, so is this recipe for that matter :)
In another pan melt the butter, add the milk and heat it for a while. Then mix in the ricotta cheese and sprinkle the nutmeg. Take it off the heat and whisk in the beaten egg. Take care not to scramble your egg. Add some salt and pepper and let it cool a little.
Cook your lasagna noodles till al dente and drain.

Start layering your lasagna by putting a ladle of tomato sauce at the bottom of the pan. Then add the noodles in a single layer. Top it with more tomato sauce, mushroom-spinach mixture and white sauce. Sprinkle mozzarella over the entire thing before moving on the next layer. Keep layering till you finish the noodles, sauces and the stuffing. I was so generous with my stuffing that I could complete only 2 layers. Finish with more tomato sauce and cheese. Add some Parmesan if you have it and bake until the cheese is brown and bubbly.

If you want nice, clean pieces take the pan out of the oven and let it rest for 5-10 mins in a warm place before cutting into it. I could not take any pictures after it was done because I ate most and froze the rest. Hence a pic from the preparation process.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Pineapple, bean sprout, peanut salad

Like I mentioned in the earlier post, I got a new cookbook. And I predict that you will be hearing a lot of it in the coming posts. Its a vegetarian cookbook by Carla Bardi. At the first glance actually thought it was Carla Bruni, then I thought 'Why should she write a cookbook?', then I thought 'Why would I buy a cookbook written by a former model? I bet there won't be a pat of butter to be seen anywhere in the book. I don't want recipes for wheatgrass juice.' then curiosity got the better of me and I picked it up to skim it and read the name carefully. These, ladies and gentlemen, are the thoughts that go through an exceedingly empty mind in a span of about 2 secs. :)

Anyway, its a beautiful book, simple recipes, fantastic food porn and a stress on fresh produce. Needless to say, I can't wait to try out all the recipes. When I saw the announcement for WYF: Salad/Starter/Soup event I knew I it was time to put the book to test. I tried the luscious pineapple, bean sprout and peanut salad.


1 cup fresh pineapple
2 cups bean sprouts
1/2 cup cucumber, sliced thin
1/2 cup carrot, shredded
1/2 cup toasted peanuts
Salt-pepper to taste

The book recommended a peanut butter, soy sauce dressing and I was out of peanut butter so I just tossed the salad with a little bit of salt-pepper and lemon juice and drizzled it with a little honey. It was delicious and refreshing. The juicy pineapple teamed up very well with the crunchy bean sprouts and peanuts.

So this heads over to Simple Indian Food for the yummy event. Its a pretty cool blog and its cheekily calls it 'comments' section 'expert views'!

Juicy grapes

Just look at the color of these grapes I got yesterday! I laid them along normal red grapes and some green ones to bring out the deep, rich, almost black color of the plump ones. And these babies are seedless, so off in the blender they go to have a party with some crushed ice!
Random fact-Foods that are deeper in color eg: spinach, tomatoes, pomegranates are higher in anti-oxidant properties. So these things must be loaded, eh?

Spicy Eggs

Debu and I love this place in Manhattan! Its called Hummus and serves up (you guessed it!) hummus and the freshest pita bread. The menu has a total of 5 things on it, 3 of which are hummus with different toppings. And then there is Shakshuka, a heavenly blend of tomatoes, garlic, peppers and egg. Its piping hot, spicy and dunkable making it perfect food after a workout or while nursing a hangover.

The original version

Its a drive away, not a long one but a drive anyway, and there are days when I'm too lazy to look for the car keys, who I should mention, have a mind of their own and prefer hiding in tiny places to staying on a key hook. So I found an easier recipe in a cookbook I got recently. Its not perfect coz I hear the authentic version takes time to cook up and I need breakfast on the table like an hour ago! Its a hearty dish and a different take on a breakfast staple.

My version- bigger and badder. It can kick your version's ass to Russia!


1 shallot, sliced
2 garlic pods. peeled and chopped fine
1 tomato, diced
2 chili peppers
olive oil
basil leaves
salt and pepper to taste

Saute the shallots in the olive oil lightly. Throw in the garlic pods and chili peppers and saute for another minute. Put in the diced tomatoes. and cook a little bit. Add salt, pepper and any dried or fresh herbs you have on hand. Add a little bit of water, just 1 teaspoon or so. Don't make it too watery. If the tomatoes give off enough liquid to cook the eggs, don't bother adding water. Let the mixture cook. Crack two eggs in bowl and slide them one by one into the skillet. Don't stir it. Sprinkle some salt and pepper onto the egg yolks. Scatter the basil leaves on top. At this point if you have an oven proof skillet, slide it into a pre-heated oven and cook till egg whites are firm. If you don't have an oven just cover with a lid and cook on a really low flame till the whites are set and the yolks are slightly runny. I didn't have pasteurized eggs this time so I cooked the eggs completely through. Serve hot in the skillet with some crusty bread.

Carbs are so pretty...sigh!

Serving suggestion: Serve with a glass of freshly brewed mint iced tea.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Hyderabadi food and my first food event(s)!

Think Hyderabadi cuisine and its hard to go beyond the Biryani. And its for a good reason too. The spicy meat and rice dish cooked Dum style deserved every single bit of its stellar reputation. I remember staying in Hyderabad for 3 months and every day was pretty much a kebab and biryani day. Of course we had to drink copious amounts of beer to wash it all down. I can only thank God that I was there only for 3 months because by the end of it I could hardly walk my pudgy self to the nearest restaurant.

I have such great memories of the city, romantic dinner at the Waterfront restaurant overlooking the beautiful Hussain Sagar, sweating through the Paradise Special Biryani in the non AC section, the best punjabi food ever in Angeethi, the unlimited-beer-chinese buffet in Mainland China, and the best were the countless small places serving everything from puri-subzi to one memorable kebab of chicken leg stuffed with mutton kheema! I spent endless days traipsing through the local markets, simply to look at the lustrous pearls. And when I say 'look', I mean buy! By the end of it I could bargain like a local and keep a straight face through it too. I loved the peculiar Hindi the locals spoke, the Nizami hauteur of not waking before the sun blazes in the afternoon sky, the effortless mix of small town charm with big city comfort, the winding roads of Banajara Hills, the rocking boats on the way to the Giant Buddha...the list is endless. I loved my time there and would definitely visit again.

When I saw an announcement for RCI Hyderabad, I thought it would be a good time to revisit my memories there. So reading up about hyderabadi cuisine on Wiki, I came across Lukhmi, a savory patty filled with minced meat. It sounded easy enough and definitely something I haven't tasted before. I read up on it and got an idea of the recipe. Keema, dough, deep do you go wrong with that? I used boneless chicken thigh meat in all my recipes since I didn't have mutton.

Whatever I read on the net was enough to give me an idea about making the keema. So I just followed my own recipe and eye balled most of the spices. It turned out pretty good, very very hot with addition of green chillies and chili powder.


Lukhmi was not really difficult to make so while waiting for the keema to cook, I thought I had the time to cook something else too. So I searched a little more and found this fantastic looking recipe of Karen Anand's. It was little labour intensive but completely worth it. The spicy chicken mixed with the delicate yogurt, poppy seed and cashew nut paste, folded around a sharp chilli-coriander-onion chutney was one yummy dish. The end product was so subtle and sophisticated, it was hard to believe that it originated from my kitchen. You can find the complete recipe here.

Shikampur Kebabs

Since I still had some energy and a little bit of minced meat left, I made the easy-peasy Sheekh Kebabs, Debu's favorite. Here's the recipe I used.

1 cup of minced meat
1 medium onion
1/2 inch piece of ginger
2 cloves of garlic
2-3 green chillies

a sprig of fresh coriander leaves
1 egg
a palmful bread crumbs
salt to taste

Dry Spices
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
2-3 cloves
2-3 green cardamom pods
1/2 inch of mace
1/2 inch piece cinnamon

Grind the dry spices together and mix with the minced meat. Chop the onion very fine or you could grate it and add that to the mixture. Grate the ginger, garlic and chop the coriander leaves finely and add. Quickly knead everything together, try not to overwork the meat. Oil your palms and form patties. The traditional method is to put them on a skewer and form a cylindrical shape. My mixture was a little loose and it refused to form anything kind of shape on a skewer, so I shaped it into round patties and baked them in an oven on 350 degrees for about 40-45 mins. I turned them over after 45 mins and baked for another 5-10 mins.

After the Lukhmi and Shikampur kebabs, these were not so impressive but but still nice in a familiar kind of way. The onion, ginger and garlic kept the meat really moist and fork tender.

Sheekh Kebab

All of this heads over to Mona for her RCI:Authentic Hyderabadi Cuisine. I'm pretty excited to participating in my first event and I do hope this happens more often.

And to Here I cook for the Non-Veggie Recipe Event.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Happy Birthday to Ganapati Bappa!

Puja thali- Curried potato and cauliflower, capsicum subji with chickpea flour, cucumber- tomato salad, dal, puri, peas pulao.

It was my favorite birthday of the year. I have a deal with the elephant headed God, I study only the night before my exams and he takes care of the passing grade. This system has worked smoothly most of my high school. Now the stakes are higher and bribes need to be too. And who could resist modak!

And these are 'Ambyachya ukdiche modak'. For the uninitiated, making ukdiche modak is a daunting task in itself, undertaken only when you have earned your spurs under the watchful eyes of a mother-in-law. Making ambyachya ukdiche modak was sheer madness. But I did it and lived to tell the tale, thanks to Suniti, without whose infinite patience and sunny optimism, this would have never happened. These mango scented, steamed dumpling were totally worth it and how! When we made our first batch, the entire house was redolent with the smell of mango, coconut and ghee. We broke into the first one tentatively, and were soon sighing in contentment. The mango pulp gave the modak a beautiful yellow-orange color and simply took the already heavenly offering to another level. Needless to say, this one will be a yearly delight in my home.
I pretty much followed the traditional recipe and added 2 cups of mango pulp to water. I boiled the mixture and then slowly added in the rice flour.

Filmy Breakfast

Every time I hear 'Mooli ke parathe', I simply cannot resist saying it again and again in a Nirupa Roy voice. I simply have to go 'Beta, maine tumhare liye, tumhari pasand ke mooli ke parathe/gajar ka halwa banaya hai'...with a couple of wheezes and some dry, hacking cough for effect. This goes on for some time to much annoyance on Debu's part :). My funny bone was seriously tickled when I realized that I had some Gajar Halwa in the fridge to go with my Parathas! Yeah, it doesn't take a lot to amuse me. Between doing those voices and actually eating this filmy breakfast, I don't know what was more fun!

Mooli ke parathe

For the filling
1/2 grated radish/daikon
1/2 teaspoon ajwain(carom seeds)
1/4 teaspoon fresh ginger, grated
2-3 green chillies, chopped
a pinch of turmeric
a pinch of hing (asafoetida)
salt to taste

For the dough

2 cups of whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon oil
radish water

Add some salt to the grated radish and keep aside for some time. Squeeze the radish and collect the water in a cup. Use it for kneading the dough. Use more water in needed and cover with a soft, damp cloth. Heat some oil in a pan, add the turmeric, hing and grated radish. Saute quickly till the mixture is dry. Cool it, add the chillies, ginger and follow the usual procedure to make a paratha.
White radish is quite an acquired taste. If you want a milder paratha, leave out the radish juice and make your dough with plain water. If you get hold of the leaves then chop them up and use them in the paratha too.

For the Gajar Halwa, check out Vishakha's recipe here.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Raspberry Limeade

What do you when you have tart, luscious, flaming red raspberries, but you cannot take a picture to save your life?

You trawl through other blogs, better blogs, people who are more than just monkeys with cameras and you look at nice recipes.

You feel inspired and decide to forget the non existent photography skills and focus on something where your failure rate is not that spectacular.

As a reward for your trouble you get a nice, refreshing drink in the middle of the afternoon.

Recipe courtesy
The only deviation I did (other than using raspberries in place of blackberries) was puree and strain the raspberry instead of juicing it through a cheesecloth because...
a. I did not have one and...
b. just seemed easier.
Highly recommended for lifting spirits after hopes and dreams as the next Annie Leibovitz have been crashed.

Comfort food for Sunday dinner

The hubby had been a little under the weather so I wanted to cook him some special comfort food. I live in the eternal hope that the next time I'm under the weather or pretending to be, the favor will be returned :). So anyway, I made him a simple dinner of Palak Dal, Roast chicken and rice and it was gratifying to see him eat like food was going out of style. Palak dal has a special significance in our house. I use it as a 'make-up-after-fight' tool, a 'sorry-your-day-was-so-bad' support and 'I'm-feeling-too-lazy-to-cook-anything-else' comfort. The first time I ever made a halfway decent meal, Palak dal was on the menu. Since then it has evolved, as food often does, into a taste memory. We reminisce about the time I cooked so bad, batches of food had to thrown out, the first time I got it right, how I made it three days in a row because I was too scared to cook anything else... Sounds like too much talking about what is essentialy a staple in most households, right? But then the staples are what give us the comfort factor.

Palak Dal

1 onion, chopped fine
1 tomato, diced
1 teaspoon ginger paste
1 teaspoong garlic paste
1 cup toovar dal
1 cup of chopped spinach
juice of 1 lemon

For tempering
a pinch of mustard seeds
a pinch of jeera
a pinch of onion seeds
turmeric, hing, dried red chillies

Cook the toovar dal till its soft but not too mushy. Keep aside. Heat the oil and add all the ingredients for tempering. Add the onions and saute till pink. Add ginger-garlic and fry for another minute. Then add the tomato. When the tomato is cooked down, add the chopped spinach and cook till it wilts. Then put in the cooked toovar dal and mix. Add salt to taste and the juice of 1 lemon after you pull it off the heat.

Roast Chicken

2 legs of chicken
1/2 cup thick yogurt
2 teaspoons ginger paste
2 teaspoons garlic paste
2 teaspoons of chili powder
1 teaspoon coriander powder
1 teaspoon cumin powder
2 tablespoons of Tandoori chicken powder
2-3 teaspoons of lemon juice
1 tablespoon oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Mix everything in the marinade together to make a thick, smooth paste. Make some slits in the chicken and rub in the mixture with your fingertips. Ensure even coating and make sure you get the spices inside the slits. Cover and marinate in the fridge for at least two hours. Crank the oven to 450 or as high as it will go and roast for 30 mins. After 30 min, brush with some oil and roast at 350 for another 30 mins. Check for doneness by cutting a small part, if the flesh in no more pink and the juices run clear, its done. Serve hot with kachumar.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Crunchy French Toast and Triple Decker Sandwich

My niece came to our place for a sleep over this weekend and I wanted to solidify my place as the cool aunt. So we watched Dora way past her bedtime, had cookies and lemonade in bed and slept late into the Saturday. Sometime during 2 in the morning, she started missing her mom and woke up howling, so I had to stay up for an hour comforting her. Man, toddlers are tough customers , you simply can't reason with them. It took a lot of cajoling, pleading and threatening to get her back to bed. She finally fell asleep out of sheer exhaustion. And the hubby and I heaved a huge sigh of relief that we don't have kids....yet :)

And when she woke up in the morning, she was all giggles and sunshine as if none of this ever happened. Anyway, I wanted to cook her special breakfast and I ended up making these crunchy french toasts that I remembered reading about on FoodMayhem. I made the hubby a sandwich because he doesn't like sweet so early in the morning! Weird guy!

Crunchy French Toast

2-3 pieces of bread, preferably old
2 eggs
2-3 tablespoons heavy cream/ milk
2 teaspoons of light brown sugar
2 drops of vanilla essence
1 pinch of cinnamon powder
1 handful of assorted nuts and granola
1 tablespoon of honey and more brown sugar

Beat the eggs is shallow pan with the cream, brown sugar, vanilla and cinnamon powder. Soak the bread in the eggs for 15-20 mins. Lay flat on a baking sheet.
Mix the assorted nuts together. I used almonds, pecans and walnuts because that's usually what I have have at home. You can use whatever mixture you like. I bet cashews would taste fantastic with this! Roughly chop the nuts and the granola and toss with honey and brown sugar. Spoon the mixture on top of the soaked bread. Bake in an 350 degree oven till the bread firms up and the top becomes golden. I topped this with homemade blueberry sauce. I just boiled together blueberries with sugar and water till it thickened and resembled a jelly. The toast was perfectly soft on the inside and the nutty topping was crunchy and yummy. This is definitely decadent enough to be Sunday brunch.

Triple Decker Sandwich

3 pieces of bread
1 egg
1 teaspoon coriander chutney
1 teaspoon ketchup
1 teaspoon hot sauce
1 teaspoon pepper jelly
1 slice of cheese
1 scoop of spicy mashed potato

Beat the egg, season with salt and pepper and fry it on both sides and keep aside. Take one piece of bread, toast it lightly on both sides. This will be the middle part of the sandwich. Lay down a piece of bread, butter it, put a layer of pepper jelly, cheese and mashed potato. Top with hot sauce. Put the previously toasted bread slice on top. Then put some coriander chutney and fried egg. On the last slice smear some ketchup and hot sauce and lay on top of the egg. Toast it on both sides till you see the cheese melting. Press down slightly while toasting with the help on another pan. This is a ridiculously easy sandwich, almost everything you need is in the pantry and you can easily substitute whatever you don't have with other things. There are a lot of flavors and textures going on which makes it very filling.
The best part was the cooking time for both these things wasn't more than 20 mins, leaving me with plenty of time to watch more Dora with my niece. On the flipside though, I've become allergic to D..D..D..Dora song.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Apple-Cherry Pie for Navya

A dainty, frilly, latticework pie for little Navya, who amazes us by how 'not little' she is every time we see her.
A perfect pie for the girl with curls and a sweet pink bow in her curls.

Hopefully she will remember the pie with nostalgia tinted glasses and not keep in mind the shoddy latticework :) This and this was very helpful, it kept me from tearing my hair out in frustration.
For the dough
2 cups all purpose flour
2-3 tablespoons cold water
1 teaspoons salt
1 stick butter
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
For the filling
3-4 apples, sliced, depending on the size of the apples
1/2 cup sugar, adjust to liking and sweetness of the fruits
1 cup cherries, chopped
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon powder
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
3 teaspoons orange juice
1 tablespoon flour
Sift the dry ingredients for the dough just like you would for cake. The add the butter and mix together, it doesn't have to be smooth dough at this point. Then add the cold water and knead till it becomes smooth and pliable. Cover with cling wrap and keep in the fridge till you make the filling.
For the filling, mix everything except the flour. Cover and keep till juices start flowing (about 10-15 mins).
Divide the dough into two parts. Roll out the first part to the shape of your pie plate, a little bigger than that.
Add flour to the filling, toss once and pour into the pie crust.
Make the lattice(watch the video for instructions, its too much work to write) and seal the edges together. If your strips break, like mine did, just seal them together with water. Once its done, its hardly noticeable.
Brush with egg wash and bake for 30-40 mins in a 350 degree oven. I had to do the baking in two parts since I was taking it over to Navya's. So I baked it for 15 mins and then wrapped it in foil and baked it for 15-20 again at her house. So this is not an accurate measure of time. I just kept looking till the crust turned brown and I could smell the pie.
The above mentioned sources have way better tips. So if you have read this till this point, well, too bad for you! :)

Banana Nut Bread

Not the most appetising picture to put on a food blog,eh?

What do you do when you have overripe bananas? Make banana nut bread!

I made mine with this recipe. A little skittish due to my spectacular baking failures, I stuck to the recipe and it turned out great. The only changes were more nuts (can you ever have enough?) and raisins. It was more cakey than bread, but I loved it.

Summer Salad

I don't know why I decided to call this Summer Salad. Maybe because it was zesty and peppy (can you describe a salad as peppy?). Because it lovely to have in summer, or maybe I'm unimaginative when it come to naming foods? I was having a lazy day, like I often do and wanted a no cook meal. So I mixed up whatever I had in the fridge. Well, normally that thought is what results in my kitchen disasters, but this salad turned out pretty decent. I had some fruits still a couple of days away from garbage bin so put them in the salad and added some honey and lemon to the vinagrette.

I really enjoyed how the tart and sweet mixed with the bitter greens and I got a mouthful of flavor in every bite.

I had a bag of mixed greens to start with. I added thinly sliced cucumbers, carrots, tomato, onion, red bell pepper, pear and blueberries. I mixed up a basic vinaigrette of red wine vinegar, lemon juice, honey, salt and pepper. There are no guidelines for proportion, I just kept tasting and adjusting till I liked it. To finish off, I added some shaved parmesan on top.
If I could have changed a couple of things, I would have used cherry tomatoes instead of roma and I think I would have put green apple instead of pear. I love a pear on its own, but here it was kind of soft and bland, stand up to the other flavors. I didn't take away from the salad though.
I still thought it was....pretty decent! And its so puurrty!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Mediterranean Pasta

I tasted a Mediterranean pasta somewhere and since then I've been dying to try it at home. It seemed really simple, a different take on pasta and the flavors really exploded. The restaurant where I first tasted it had a base of pesto and pasta tossed olive oil, artichoke hearts, sundried tomatoes, feta cheese and olives.
I skipped feta cheese and artichoke hearts since I didn't have any and added capers because I love them! I also had half a red bell pepper, so I roasted that and added it.
1/2 cup of pesto
4-5 sundried tomatoes cut up in slivers
4-5 olives, halved
4-5 capers, drained
1//2 bell pepper, roasted and chopped
a handful of pasta, any shape
2 tsp olive oil
To make pesto, grind together basil leaves, garlic, pine nuts, parmesan cheese and stream in olive oil till it forms a smooth paste. Add some salt for taste and keep 1/2 cup aside at room temperature. Cover the extra pesto with olive oil and it will keep in the fridge for atleast a week.
Cook the pasta in boiling, salted water and drain and toss it while hot with olive oil. In a bowl put a couple of table spoons of the starchy pasta water, pesto sauce and add hot pasta and rest if the ingredients. Toss again. Garnish with basil leaves, more parmesan cheese and serve.
I have to confess I was a little too generous with the salt. So with the salty parmesan, salty capers, salty olives and salty pasta water the end product was..yes-you-guessed-correct-and-no you-don't-get-a-prize...salty!
Nevertheless, I'm not giving up on this pasta. I hope I have a better sense of proportion the next time round though.
Update! I made it again, skipped the pasta water, adjusted my scary proportion of parmesan and it turned out just the way I wanted.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Mexican Salad

Hazy summer days gave way to sinister skies today. The day started out like any other, bright and full of promise but soon turned dark with grey clouds hovering and completely obscuring my view of Manhattan. It was depressing and gloomy in the apartment and I needed something to pep me up. Creamy avocado came to the rescue. Buttery avocado slices enveloped bright yellow corn kernels and sweet green peas. Vine tomatoes and freshly squeezed lemon juice gave the tang with some chaat masala to keep things interesting.

This is my favorite salad of all times because the I always have all the ingredients in my pantry.

1 can of black beans
1/2 cup frozen corn
1/2 cup frozen sweet peas
1 tomato, sliced
1/2 a ripe avocado
some cilantro leaves
2-3 tablespoons lemon juice
salt to taste
pepper to taste
chaat masala (optional)
Defrost the corn and peas. Mix together with rest of the salad ingredients. Add lemon juice, salt etc. At this point I put it a container with a tight lid and shake it vigorously. This breaks up the avocado and it coats everything in a buttery layer. You can add bell peppers if you have them. Chill slightly and enjoy. This is an absolute winner with kids since the flavors are simple and everything is bite sized.
Oh! And I think I have found the perfect way to choose ripe avocados, you just pop out the stem on the bottom and if it comes out cleanly, the avocado is ripe. I have a record of getting the perfect ones using this method so I'm sticking to it!
By the time I made this salad the sun had popped out again. But this is what Manhattan looked like.

A view of the storm from the cozy confines of my apartment.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Sweet, tangy, delightfully chilled- Mango Lassi

2 ripe golden mangoes, bursting with the scent of summer
1/2 cup thick, full cream yogurt
2 tablespoons milk
sugar to taste

Drop in a blender and whip it, whip it good! Serve chilled and enjoy with a creamy lassi mustache.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Mantra, Paramus review

Ever since I heard that there was an Indian place in New Jersey that was voted among the best 25 restaurants, I've been dying to go there. Finally it did happen, but not on a day that I was particularly hungry so I couldn't sample away to my heart's content. So I just wore my loose t-shirt, the one that can double as a circus tent and valiantly fought my way through two courses and dessert.
The first thing that struck me about the place was that it was in a strip mall. Don't get me wrong, some of the best Indian places I know have been in a strip mall, but this just didn't fit in with Mantra's image of an upmarket, fusion food, hotspot. The decor is nice though, not cluttered or overly kitchy. Just a few spots of bright orange color and clean white tables. Once I went inside, I noticed some explanation about bringing good cuisine to malls or something but I was whisked away to my table in minutes. Which brings me to my next point. The staff is absolutely wonderful. The place was full and not once did have to wait more than 5 mins for our server to show up. If she wasn't around, somebody else would be, asking us if we need anything else, filling up our glasses or just smiling and making us feel welcome. The service was attentive and yet non-intrusive, a total delight.
Now for the food, we started with some Sev-Puri type appetizer which was on the house. The Puri was soggy but the topping of kidney beans, tomato, onion, coriander,sev and a tangy tamarind sauce was fantastic. The ratio of tamarind sauce to the onion and sev was just perfect. I wanted to lick the sauce off my plate. The usual papad-chutney combo was replaced by a crispy fafda, generously studded with jeera and again the same tamarind sauce. I could drink that sauce by the gallon. The lobster chaat seemed like a different take on a roadside favorite and the succulent, slightly sweet lobster peices blended well with the spicy chaat masala. We also had the tandoor platter which was tandoori chicken , sheekh kabab and shrimp. I didn't taste the shrimp but take Debu's word on it that it was ok, not too great. The sheekh kabab on the other hand was rubbery. I had to literally wage a war on it. The meat was so tough and rubbery that I spent several painfully embarrassing moments trying to cut into it. The tandoori chicken was perfectly cooked though, juicy and tender with the spice reaching into every nook and cranny.

Not having much appetite for the main course we decided to share the Rogan Josh and a basket of bread. I'll be honest here, I don't know what Rogan Josh tastes like, so I didn't know if this was the real thing. The curry, regardless of whether it was authentic, was wonderful. I had asked for reaaally spicy, knowing that I never get it as spicy as I want but this one was had a wonderful heat that build on after several bites. Its the kind of heat that don't get you at the first morsel, you think 'This isn't so bad, I can eat this' and then slowly builds up till your tongue is on fire. The goat in the curry was so tender that it was almost falling apart. It melted like butter in my mouth. The bread basket was just ok. The laccha paratha was again tough and leathery and even burnt in some parts. The onion kulcha was good, buttery and soft. The saving grace was the rice. Fragrant, tender but with a little bite to it, it was unarguably the best rice I've had in a while.

The dessert has mixed feedback. I opted for Gulab Jamun and while I thought that it was simply not sweet enough, Debu liked it for the same reason. I have heard that their Banana dessert is good but I simply did not have the appetite for it.

I can't tell you about the wine list because I don't know squat about wines, but the staff was helpful and seemed knowledgeable. The prices were reasonable but the portions were not too generous either. Dinner for two with drinks comes to around $120-150. Overall the food was good enough to look over a couple of bad dishes.

Spaghetti and Meatballs

I love the idea of spaghetti and meatballs. On hungry nights I dream about a plateful of spicy meatballs and fresh, steaming spaghetti plucked off the spaghetti tree. Unfortunately, the bland turkey meatballs I've had outside have always fallen short of my expectations. They literally taste like meat boiled in water. So I made my own chicken meatballs, flavored with tons of garlic paste(2 heaping tablespoons to be precise) and green chillies.
I bought boneless thighs and ground them up at home. It was easier than I thought and the thigh meat, although higher in fat was really juicy. Plus I made a big batch and froze them. So I will have a heat and serve meal on my hands when I need it. It was easier than waiting for a table at some Italian restaurent.

4-5 boneless chicken thighs

2 tablespoons fresh garlic paste

1 small onion, finely chopped

1/2 cup chopped parsley

2 teaspoons of dried Italian herbs

4 green chillies, finely chopped

1 egg, beaten

1 palmful seasoned breadcrumbs

salt to taste

Mince the meat and add all the ingredients to it. If the mixture is too soggy add more breadcrumbs. Oil your palms and make small balls and keep aside. Heat up enough oil in a pan so that the meatballs won't stick and fry them on all sides till golden brown. Drain all the oil out by laying them on paper. At this point the balls will not be cooked through. You can either cook them in pasta sauce or in the oven. I put them on a sheet pan in a 400 degree oven for 35 mins.

Meatballs frying in hot oil! Note to self, buy a splatter screen.

I cooked the spaghetti till al dente and tossed with some store bought arrabiata sauce, sugar snap peas and green peas for crunch and color. And ofcourse, top it with parmesan cheese.

The finished product, we fought savagely over the scraps.

Next, I'm planning to make an Italian sub with the frozen meatballs. I'm thinking of putting the meatballs on a focaccia bread with tomatoes, onions and slices of pepper jack cheese and then grilling it openface. Will put photos of that when I do it.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Aloo Paratha

Just the name conjures up a wintry morning in Punjab. Hot griddles sizzling with pats of homemade butter, the clang of metal spatula on the tawa, thick fluffy parathas with just the right amount of stuffing, served up with a side of full cream yogurt and a slice of tangy mango pickle. Its my favorite breakfast and the ultimate comfort food.

I tried my hand at these last weekend and was pretty satisfied with the result. The aloo stuffing is so versatile you can take it from a simple salt-chilli powder combo to a jazzed up version with finely diced onion and 15 masalas(I counted!)

I have never had much luck with paratha-roti-puri type things. A couple of months ago I got the hang of making rotis and from then on it was an easy transition to parathas. My mom makes these great parathas with a unique flavor combination of ginger and coriander. Its very basic, less than 8 ingredients and the simplicity of the preparation lets the flavors really stand out.

To me it tastes like childhood.

For the stuffing
2-3 medium sized potatoes, boiled and peeled
1/2 inch ginger
1/4 cup coriander leaves
2-3 green chillies
Salt to taste
Grind the ginger-coriander leaves-chillies together using very little oil. Mash the potatoes and add the ground mixture to it. Mix together thoroughly and adjust salt to taste.
For the paratha dough
3 cups whole wheat flour
1 tbsp oil
1/4 cup warm milk
a pinch of salt
Knead the dough with enough water to make it soft and pliable. Cover with a wet napkin and let it rest for half an hour.

Make two dough balls, roughly the same size. Roll them out to small thick circles.

Place a scoopful of the potato stuffing in one of the circles and put the other circle on top of it. Seal the sides together by crimping them slightly. Use a touch of water if necessary.

Dust with flour and roll out gently using equal pressure on all sides. Cook on a hot griddle and drizzle generously with ghee. I usually let one side cook without oil till it starts puffing up. Then I flip it over and add a tablespoon of ghee.

Serve with chutney, yogurt, pickles or just some plain butter.

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