Dec 26, 2010

Holiday spirit-desserts that has a 'spice' to it. Tomato chutney

All good things must come to an end and so must this  Bengali holiday meal :) series.
But in Bengal...we make the end not just sweet...but spicy too. Aha! a dessert that has a bite to it. Makes the parting rather naughty and sweet :)

Ever wonder if you can make a chutney spicy?

The above is just that. Tomato chutney with some cayenne and allspice. My grandmother used to make this and told guests that once they had a dollop of this chutney, their age  would gets stuck right there. That's the spicy, a bit sticky and sweet dessert from the heart of Bengali cuisine
 your chance to stay forever whatever ...

Spicy tomato chutney

3 big tomatoes cut in chunks
1/3rd cup of sugar.
1/2 tsp pf finely sliced ginger
1/2 tsp of whole all spice
A big pinch of cayenne pepper
A bit of salt for seasoning
2 tbsf oil
1 cup of water.
 A handful of raisins
A few dates slices up, seed removed. Optional

In a pot, heat the oil and pop the all spice and ginger. Saute for a few secs and add the tomato pieces. add the sugar, raisins and dates. saute till the tomatoes soften and sugar dissolves. 3-4 mins. Add the cayenne pepper and water and bring to a boil. Season with salt. Lower heat and simmer till you get a consistency that is a little gooey and a bit sticky :).  Usually about 10 mins. Add the dates.

Serve at room temperature. Never cold. Never ever hot. Just warm enough to keep the memories from fading and spice to take the sting away from farewell :)

Happy new year!

Dec 25, 2010

Merry christmas!! with prawn mlaikari-- third course!

Merry Christams!!

And with that I bring to you the penultimate course in the Bengali holiday meal :) series

Prawn 'malaikari'. A personal favorite right from my grandmom's kitchen. A delicate entree of prawns stewed in a subtle blend of cardamom-bayleaf-clove-cinnamon spiced coconut milk. An eternal delicacy in any Bengali kitchen. To be served with some sort of a sweet raisin pilaf


1/2 lb of prawns. De veined and shell removed 
1 tbsf of olive oil
Whole garam masala-- 2 cloves, 2 cardamom, 1/3rd stick of cinnamon
1 bayleaf
2 dried red chilli
1/2 tsp of grated ginger
2 tsp of sugar
1/2 cup of yogurt or 1/2 cup of cubed tomatoes.
1/2 cup of coconut milk. Alternatively, you can use a mixture of 1/2 cup of coconut flakes mixed with 1/3rd cup of milk.  
1/2 cup of hot water
Salt to season
A pinch of store bought garam masala powder for garnish
Do it ..will ya ?
In a pot heat oil and pop the whole garam masala, bayleaf and dried red chilli. saute for sometime till the spices turn a deeper shade. About 30 secs. Lower heat and add grated ginger, yoghurt/tomato and sugar (the lower heat is prevents burning of the spices). Saute for a couple of minutes and then add the prawns. Add half a cup of water. Bring to a boil. Add the coconut milk mixture/coconut milk and simmer for 5-7 mins. Season with salt. It should taste sweet :) Garnish with a pinch of garam masala.

Serve with a cherry or raisin pilaf. Now that is fancy smancy in under 10 mins. You guessed?

Merry christmas!

Dec 24, 2010

Holiday spirit---second course with Fish 'chops' (or Croquettes) and sweet lentil soup!

Continuing with celebrating the holiday spirit with Bengali holiday meal :)

The second course took some time to arrive. The affair is simple--- only deceptively so. But I guess you were having your fill of the first course to notice the little delay :)

A typical Bengali dinner would have to feature a form of lentil soup. The varieties are endless, each giving the other a fair share of competition. One very common way of making yellow lentils in Bengal is with sweet vegetables and spices a wink of sugar. Although common in bengali food, this way of sweetening lentil soup is largely unknown in the rest of India In fact here is a bit of trivia. Bengali cuisine is about using sweet like no other Indian cuisine does. Lentil is one of the many the ingredients to get a sweet treatment. Another wild card is fish. Yes you heard right. Ground fish with sweet spices, raisins and ginger, wrapped in bread crumbs and pan fried. The combo is lethal. And sort of makes you head towards dessert, even though its still a few courses away. 

Sweet and Savory lentil soup with 'Fish chops'-- much like croquettes

Enjoy :)

Fish chops adapted from Bong mom's cookbook

Ingredients: (for 12 big ones)
Fish fillet- I suggest 1/2 lb of Tilapia or catfish. 
2 big potatoes. Peeled.
1 cup of chopped onion
2 tsp of minced garlic
1 tsp of minced ginger
1 tbsf lime juice
1 tsp of Garam Masala
1/2 tsp of Paprika (or Red Chili Powder if you want it hot)
2 tsp of Coriander powder
salt to taste
A big  handful of  raisins: Soaked and plumped in hot water for 15 mins.
1 tsp of  sugar
 Salt and pepper for seasoning
oil: 2 for frying onion etc and 3 tbsf for a batch of four. So you are looking at 11-12 tbsf of oil.
Cook the fillet of fish in the microwave for 5-6 minutes. I would suggest do it in intervals of 3 minutes each.

  • Cook one potato whole in the microwave. Prick the potato with a fork mercilessly and then wrap in a plastic cling wrap. about 4-5 minutes per potato.

  • In a big mixing bowl put the cooked fish, breaking and crumbling it. Add 1 tsp of lime juice.
  • Once the potato has cooled, peel and mash it. With your hand mix the fish and potatoes to make a smooth mix
  • Heat about 2 tsp of oil in a frying pan. Add 1 clove of garlic minced. When fragrant, fry about 1 cup of onion till it is soft and browns on the edges. Add 1 tsp of Garlic paste, 1 tsp of Ginger paste, 4 green chili chopped fine and fry for couple more minutes.

  • Add the above to the fish + potato mix
  • Next add the following Garam Masala, Paprika (or Red Chili Powder), Coriander, raisins sugar and salt. Really mix well in the frying pan. Take it off the stove and let it cool 
  • Fashion your chop either like flat discs or make oblong shapes

  • Now prepare for frying and set up the following
  • 1.Egg Wash (break 1 egg and add 2-3 tbsf of water. Mix well.
  • 2.A flat platter with  Bread Crumbs seasoned with salt and pepper
  • 3.Hot Oil (3 tbsf for a batch of 4) for shallow frying 

  • Dip the chop/croquette in egg wash --> roll in bread crumbs --> shallow fry in batches of 4-6 till golden brown on both sides

Excellent with a lentil soup especially a sweet one :)

Happy holidays!!

Dec 20, 2010

Holiday spirit---first course with shukto :)

Continuing with the holiday spirit theme 

Its all about a way to celebrate holidays with gourmet Bengali holiday food
The first course-- bitter vegetable stew called 'shukto'

Bengali food is all about sedate flavors. It teases the palate very slowly and seductively. Meaning that the build up  to the main couses is a very important part of the tango. And it all starts with food that cleanses the taste bud. Bitter taste has been known to be palate cleanser.  Celery used to be served-- and i think it still is served in many Italian dinner tables in between courses to cleanse the palate and taste bud. But in Bengal, when we say bitter..we mean bitter. Really. Much like 99% cacao chocolate. There is this vegetable called ucche that imparts this super bitter tatste. Much like very old and bitter Kale. Here is how it looks. 

And if that thought is scaring you off from starters,  let me tell you that its is paired with savory lentil scones and tons of root and leaf vegetables. Such that the bitter taste cleanses the palate but all you feel is a fresh savory and sweet taste in your mouth. Quite incredible and  I don't think I have seen the likes of this dish in any part of the world. 

There is a fun folklore associated to it too and me thinks its a good time tow share. After all what is food without a tale to tell :)  Back in the days when a girl came to meet the future (often very intimidating) mother-in law, the one quiz she could expect was ' what are the spices you put in shukto? And if the petrified girl could answer that question, that was a winner all the way :) 

Apparently, and I can vouch for that as well, he dish has spcices which you can't identify at all...the combination gives off a flavor very different from the spices themselves. And I think, it has to do with the presence of tiny amount of  the super bitter vegetable. 

Much later..when I started making this vegetable stew (that's really what it is) I could not understand the great mystery surrounding shukto. And why would someone really think highly of a person who could make it...To me its as easy as it gets and a sure way to start a meal and wow the guest!

But maybe its just me? :) So here is how you start your gourmet Bengali food marathon--- with a touch of bitter

 Any number of hearty veggies-- 
1 medium eggplant- chopped up
1 potato-  coarsely sliced up
1 Plantain- peeled and coarsely chopped
A handful of green beans- coarsely chopped
1 carrot- coarsely chopped
1 stalk of kale. Take the leaves off the stalk and run your knife through it. This is for the bitter taste.

1.5 tbsf mustard powder
1 tsp of ginger
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp of whole cumin
1 tsp of whole mustard
4 tbsf regular oil
2 cups of tepid water or veg stock at room temperature.
1/2 cup of milk
3/4th  cup pf unsweetened coconut
Salt and 1/2 tsp of garam masala powder (optional) to season

Take a big pot and start!!

Roast all the veggies (except kale) with 3 tbsf oil at 420F for 10 min. Take a deep and big skillet. You will need one which will hold all the veggies.  Heat  1 tbsf oil in it and pop the whole cumin and the whole mustard. Once it releases aroma (~ 5-10 secs), drop all the roasted veggies. Lower heat and saute and cover.  Keep an eye out on the  veggies and stir them to prevent sticking to the bottom.  Do this for ~ 5 minutes. Add the mustard powder, ginger and sugar and water/ stock. and milk.Give things one big stir and let cook through on low heat for ~ 10- 15 minutes. When things look cooked, add  the kale and the coconut. The kale will give a slightly bitter taste to the veggies and that is what will make it excellent as a starter dish. Season with salt. Wait a beat. Take it off the fire and sprinkle the garam masala powder (optional)
Serve it over warm rice or even good to be had by itself, in place of a soup. After all there is nothing to beat a warm cup of vegetable stew there?

Happy eating and healthy living!

Dec 10, 2010

Holiday spirit from across the ocean, of time and space :)

We are here..we are finally here. In the final and the best phase of food. The holiday season food marathon. I guess they mean it when they say, the best for the last.

And talking of marathons I love nothing more than a traditional Bengali food marathon. And somehow I feel its one of those marathons from which you can emerge feeling full and satiated..but not over weight :) But I may be biased. I said may :) :) :)

I love the holiday season. And even for a party shy person like me, I always manage to go to all the holiday parties I can. Its such a lovely feeling, even though at most of these parties, I don't even know everybody or sometimes even anybody! But the sight of happy faces lit even more by the warm candle lights, the aroma of good food, the sound of laughter and clinking wine glasses--reminds me so much of the festive season back home-- in west Bengal-- the part of India where I grew up. The rush to go home a couple of days before the real holiday, making and having good food with friends and is all so similar. Human spirit I guess is what science may call it. To me however, it is the joy that is so universal. And hence my love for holiday parties and seasons. 

Its home away from home  

It matters not what the specific ceremony is. Its the spirit and joy and feeling of sharing that I adore.

So this holiday season I am gonna do a bit of sharing of the festive spirit as it goes on in West Bengal. Around the beginning of fall. Also goes by the name Durga puja. But lets not talk of things that make similar occasions sound alien. Whatever the name is all about food, family, happiness and festivities. And as a foodie to another foodie, my interest lies in that F word we all love. :) Yes the food. In that part of India where I grew up, festivities come with food that is gorgeous, gourmet and yet flavorful and surprisingly, undecadant. And here is what a typical bengali festive dinner may look like.

And here is the plan...the next five posts leading up to christmas is gonna be one recipe from this marathon dinner. A course in every post. And by the time the bells chime and the snowman is ready and its christmas morning, I will have shared with you a very festive dinner, very far from here--oceans and rivers and mountains across- but reflecting feeling and emotions that are oh so similar :)

I hope to see you all the table..its gonna be fun I tell ya :)

Happy eating and healthy living..yes even if its the holiday season!!

Dec 2, 2010

Okra Chicken Casserole-- A clssic from the Ottoman Empire

'The Sun never sets in the British empire'
Or so went the adage....
When I was little my grandmother told me this. She came from a time when The Bristish were in their withdrawal stages from south east Asia  and there fascinating stories she told me about that time. Amazing, I still remember. Anyways that's food for another post :)
I guess the reason I brought it up was more to do with copyright violation: I was going to write 'Wonder never ceases in the Ottoman fooddom'-- only to realize that this cheeky one liner is a copy from more than a generation behind. But then if you re going to write about Turkish casseroles, its only imperative that you would need to travel back in time.Peel off the layers of modernity and sort of sit back to enjoy food cooked slowly and to be savored slowly as well...

A classic Ottoman casserole-- of Okars (of all things) and chicken. Adapted from 'Classic Turkish cooking' by Ghile Bassan

2 lb of chicken. Bone in and some skin is good.
1/2 lb of okra. Or ladies finger if you will :)
2 tbsf vinegar
1 large onion. chopped
2 medium tomatoes. Chopped
4 cloves of garlic. Crushed
half a lemon.
1 tsp of coriander powder.Make a paste with 1 tsp of warm water. Prevents burning of the spice when put in contact with heat.
1/2 tsf of cayenne pepper
1 tsp of paprika. You can use smoked sweet
The mixture of cayenne pepper and paprika is called 'kirmizi biber'. A spice used all the time in Turkish cuisine
1 tsp of dried oregano
3 tbsf of olive oil
1 cup pf warm water. Or you can use chicken stock at room temperature.
salt and pepper for seasoning.

Now I am using steps for this one

  • Cut stalk of the okras. Wash and sprinkle vinegar and 1 tbsf of salt. Mix well. Leave for an hour. Rinse thoroughly to get rid off the vinegar and pat dry. Preserve for use. This is a good method for taking off the sliminess from the okra.
  • Heat oil in a pot. Brown chicken all over. About 6-7 minutes. Remove from heat and preserve
  • Add coriander paste and onion to the oil and fry for 3-4 minutes
  • Add the paprika, cayenne pepper and tsp of warm water. Fry for a minute
  • Add the oregano  followed by the tomato. Fry for another minute.
  • Add water and bring the paste to a boil
  • Add the chicken pieces. Mix well and season with salt and pepper.
  • Cover and cook for 10-12 minutes.
  • Meanwhile preheat oven to 410F.
  • Transfer the chicken and sauce to an oven friendly casserole.
  • Lay the okras on top and sprinkle the juice of half a lemon on top. Season again, carefully (you have already seasoned your chicken) with salt and pepper
  • Bake for 30 minutes. The okras should be crunchy and green. But cooked through
A perfect mixture of the unmixables-- and yet a classic. From the Ottoman empires no less

    Nov 26, 2010

    Relax with some Mahi Mahi baked with Tomato-spinach and a hint of anise :)

     The smell of turkey is still heavy in the air. And the refrigerator is full of leftovers. And yet the tummy is craving light and simple. Here is a remedy for that. Fish baked with tomato and herbs...with a hint of fennel/anise. Fresh and new. And your pallatte is cleared. I tell ya...this one is a goodie. For those days after a holiday meal :)


    1/2 lb of fish fillet. You can use Mahi Mahi, or any hearty fish.
    1 tbsf of anise.
    3 tomatoes. Coarsely cubed.
    1/3 cup of dry white vine
    salt and pepper for seasoning

    Start by preheating your oven to 400F. 10 minutes
    While the oven heats, heat oil in a skillet. Pop the anise. 1 minute. Add the tomatoes.Cook for 3-4 minutes. Till the tomatoes resemble a sauce like thing. Add the wine. Let the wine cook off for 3-4 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

    Place the fish in an oven friendly tray. Make some criss cross on both surfaces of the fish. Season both sides with salt and pepper. Pour the sauce all over and around the fish. Place the tray in the oven for 20 minutes.
    Drizzle with lemon juice and serve with spinach sauteed with garlic.

    Feel fresh everytime :)


    Nov 22, 2010

    Squash curry with garam masala

    A round of thanks is due. And here is a way of making it moist and yummy.

    Tut tut..not the turkey. Not the turkey. Not the gravy. None of that.

    Its a wild card entry this year. Its Squash or Pumpkin. As the harvesting season ends and the last of the seasons squashes hit the market stands, here is a good way of making use of the remnants of fall. After all we ain't gonna get it till almost a year :) Better make it spicy and sweet but not too bland :)

    Squash cooked with onions on low heat and spiced with Garam Masala and chille pepper. The onion is made moist and sugary and soft and caramelized in olive oil for about half an hour and the squash is added after that. All you do is chop and drop.

    Here is bidding adieu to fall

    Garam masala squash curry

    2 squash. Remove the seeds. You can use a medium pumpkin too. But I like squash. you can use two medium eggplants. Skinned. Chop the veggie into bite size cubes.
    2 medium onions
    1.5 tsp of garam masala
    3-4 large whole red chillies. YOu can also use 1/2 tsp of red chili flakes
    1/2 tsp of sugar ( if you are using eggplants)
    2 tbsf olive oil
    salt and pepper for seasoning

    Take your time

    In a non stick skillet, put the onions and the oil. Cover and place on the lowest heat setting of your stove. Let it sit for 20-30 minutes. The onion will be brown, and caramelized and moist and delish.
    Next put the veggies, garam masala and red chili in that pot. Mix together. Cover and let it do its own thing. Another 30 mins. Check every 10 minutes or so to give the thing a stir. Prevents scorching
    When done, season with salt and pepper.

    You got a deal on your hands for no effort at all :)

    Happy eating and healthy living!

    Nov 19, 2010

    Corsican stew- hearty food for nippy days

    Cambridge, Mass always feels good. Even in the thick of the winter, with river frozen all over, it still feels good.  Why! the pubs are open and the chowder tastes great. But there is something about fall in Cambridge that makes me go weak in the knees. 

    Its only been a couple of days and I gotta tell you its been pretty warm compared to business-as usual. And as the gusty winds blow off the fallen leaves and strip the remnants of  fall from the trees, there is a smell in the air that cries out...holidays and bells and tinkers and candies and all things good. Life is not great. But sometimes it whiffs a little aroma and you feel, even for a tiny little moment , that life sure is great. And those moments are what makes life beautiful :)

    A bit of a circular logic there. But feelings aren't mathematical. They come in all shapes and sizes and yet, it all works just the same way :) Slightly illogical :)

    And on such gusty nippy days, one just can't do without a hearty stew. If the stew is from Corsica then there is a heartiness that accompanies the stew, the goes beyond eating. Its about heartfelt, rustic goodness. A feeling to be shared on a nippy fall day. Fall does not always end have to end a bump. It can float you down ...and I guarantee that with this Mediterranean stew right from the place where sheep are still herded on green mountains bordering the bright blue Mediterranean

    A Corsican chicken stew...

    2 lbs of chicken. With bone and some skin. You can use lamb or goat as well.
    1.5 medium onion. Or two small ones. Or 1 large :)
    2 medium tomatoes. Chopped
    1 large potato. Chopped into bite size peices
    3-4 large cloves of garlic. Crushed
    1 tbsf of flour
    1/2 of ground sage.
    1/2 tsp of dries thyme
    1/2 tsp pf dried rosemary
    1 tsp of dried parsley.

    I used dry herbs as fresh herbs are becoming more expensive, now that cold season has set in. But by all means feel free to use fresh ones. They are always better. Use double the amount.
    2 tsp of olive oil
    1/2 cup of red wine. I used Cabernet Sauvignion. Any bold red will do.
    Salt and pepper for seasoning

    Stew away!

    In a skillet (or oven proof dutch oven) heat the oil. Brown the meat. About 7-8 minutes. Add the onion and fry for another 3-4 minutes. Add the garlic, herbs and fry for another minute or so. Add the flour and cook for another 2-3 minutes. Add the tomatoes, followed by the wine. Season with salt and pepper. Lower heat and stew for about 30 minutes (for chicken) or 2 hours for red meet
    Alternatively you can transfer the stew in a oven proof casserole and bake at 420 for 30-40 minutes for chicken or 1-2 hours for red meat. Should be really tender.

    Warm and cozy. Friendly and rustic. For cold and nippy days...:)

    Happy eating and healthy living!

    Nov 16, 2010

    Chicken Biriyani-- inflight food! Flying just got a little better!

    Airport waiting sure sucks. Inflight food, even worse. A late afternoon flight across the country, absolute nightmare. And even bad? reaching a cold city at the dead of the night. Life does look bad.

    But if you have packed lunch that is called chicken biriyani, then, it ain't so bad...right? :):)

    Well..I am at the airport waiting to board the flight that will hopefully take me into Boston sometime late tonight. And the only thing ..well I should actually say the only two things..that is making this potential trip look less daunting is free wifi and a lunchbox full of good quality homemade chicken Biriyani!.

    You heard right. Biriyani for inflight food. I had made this whole big bowlful for R and now I am carrying a tiny savory part of it. Thanks R for making me carry it!

    And so that you know how it looks like

    This recipe is adapted from Sheba. A fantastic cook. Sheba makes biriyani and several other traditional Indian gourmet food with ease that is almost makes you feel guilty thinking of the toil for those who does it otherwise. You can look up her recipes on Youtube. I can guarantee that traditional food with Sheba becomes simple and healthy too. I have previously reported on my disastrous trip down the Biriyani Lane. But with Sheba, I have taken and retaken this journey. And never faltered. Comes out perfect every time. So, if you fear traditional Indian cooking like I do, a good time is now to check Sheba's recipes out. 

    Besides you can always carry it for your inflight food. An aromatic chicken Biriyani.

    Happy eating and healthy living..even if its on a flight!

    Nov 12, 2010

    'Sorry..I am really late'. Appologies with jar of goat cheese dipped in olive oil, herbs and garlic


    that kind of guilty hello you say after you come to dinner after a stroll that was supposed to last for no more than a few hours, but you got delayed? well...that onetime, when you went for a stroll and returned after an year. And your excuse? A small random something had caught your curiosity on a momemt when you felt uber curious and you went off to hunt that lead? Well of course nothing had come of that little sojourn...just that you are now delayed at the dinner table by an year :) And everybody is really upset :(

    That kind of small guilty hello from me to food dom. I thought I would write tomorrow and the tomorrows went on to become a week. And here is my little gift from that little vacation what was supposed to be a great adventure but turned out no more than a random week of nothings and small things. 
    So here you are...a small jar of goat cheese that I turned extra nice by adding some herbs and garlic...stuff that I picked up on the way :)


    1 4oz pack of goat cheese. Cubed into small bite sized pieces
    1/4 th cup of extra virgin olive oil
    1/2 tsp of Sage
    1/2 tsp of Thyme
    1/2 tsp of Rosemary
    1 large clove of garlic. Grated
    Salt and pepper to taste

    Put all ingredients in a airtight jar. Mix lightly. Close the lid tightly and refrigerate for 3-4 days. Serve with warm bread.

    A  gift that will charm your hosts in case you got delayed :)

    Happy eating and healthy living

    Nov 5, 2010

    The grandmother said 'let there be light' and there was Deepawali. The festival of lights :)

    Lights, camera and Action!

    No..No ..No..I am not talking about any trip to a Hollywood studio. I am talking about my favorite festival of  all times. It is the festival of lights! Well, lights feature in all festivals. What is a festival without light. Right? But a festival about lights?? That is my kind of festival. 

    It is Deepawali. The festival of lights..lights and only lights. And action centered around lights. Firecrackers, indoor lightnings, out door lighting and what not. The skies light up, the roof tops brighten, the patio is flooded and the indoor is warm and glowy. The heart...well it only warms up and glows, with that much warmth going around, it radiates all that heat and light and warmth..making it the best best best festival in the whole wide world.

    And it all started with a grandmother and her little a village far far from here..

    '....And a long  long time ago, in a small village lived a old woman. She lived alone on top of a small hill in a big mansion. The old woman would have been very lonely, if it wasn't for a little girl who came everyday to play with her in the garden. Her grand daughter. The little girls' parents lived somewhere away from the mansion, but she hung around the old place. The old lady and the little girl spent many a morning talking and playing little games but the old lady, much as she tried ,could not get the kid to come inside the mansion. The kid was fond of lights. But the mansion looked dark and gloomy. 

    The old lady understood this. So one day, late autumn when the air was nippy and the Sun was going down and the little kid was about to leave, the old lady gave her some candies and asked her to wait while she made her favorite dinner. The little girl wanted to leave. But the candies and the promise of her favorite dinner was too much for her five year head to wrestle against. So she waited and waited and waited....

    It seemed a long time that she was waiting. She wondered if her grandma was sick. Worried she walked to the door and with all the courage  she could summon, she opened the door. The aroma of dinner wafted out and the girl could not resist walking inside. And as soon as she walked inside, she saw her grandma with a candle. Starting to light little mud lamps on the sills of the large windows. She rushed to her grandma in excitement and together they slowly lit the whole house-- all three floors-- with the little candles. And when they reached the roof top...they lit the sky. And as the warmth in their hearts grew, it radiated so much heat that all the people of the land flocked around the mansion to see how the lights have lit up the sky and the rooftops and the windows and the ceiling and they all cracked up fires in all possible ways....and that's how the festival of lights was celebrated forever and ever.

    But remember it all started with the dinner and candies. And here's the recipe for thae aroma that brought the little girl into that dark mansion in the first place :)

    Chicken Chowmein!!


    1 chicken breast. Cut in small pieces
    A handful of  small shrimp
    Half a onion. Sliced
    1 bell pepper. Sliced.
    1 chiili pepper; Sliced
    3-4 stalks of green onion. Chopped

    1 pack of chowmein.
    4-5 tsbf soy sauce
    2 tbsf oyster sauce
    1 tbsf garlic. Grated
    1 tbsf ginger. Grated
    3 tbsf of oil

    Salt and pepper for seasoning

    Saute and eat!
    Boil the chowmein according to directions with 1 tbsf oil and salt. The oil keeps the strands separated. Drain and preserve.
    In 1 tbsf oil, saute the chicken till done. Season with salt and pepper. About 3-4 mins. Dish up and set aside. Do the same thing with the shrimps.
    Add a tbsf of oil and saute the ginger, chili pepper and garlic. For 1 min. Add the chowmein, with the soy sauce and oyster sauce for about 3 min. Add the veggies, fried chicken and shrimp and mix well together. Another 2 minutes. Add the green onion. Season with salt and pepper.

    You have a dish that weakens even the boldest at heart :)

    Happy Diwali. Don't let the lights go out!

    Nov 1, 2010

    Sweet November! with a breakfast from France :)

    Hello is November and that translates to--- Autumn in my sphere and Spring on those  of you on the other sphere. But whichever sphere you are in, November is the most wonderful month of the year! The ghosts of last year are starting to fade away (now that Halloween is over) and we are all getting ready to welcome the new! feasts, travel, friends, family, dinners and outings are around the corner.

    And the only way I could think of celebrating the beginning of Autumn is by making the very first meal of November combining flavors that are both fresh and comforting. Things that will be with us for the remainder of this year and flavors that will catapult us into the next year. And who better to trust than the French with the task of  combining simple and fresh ingredients into a feast for all five senses, not least of which is the  eye :) 'You eat with your eyes first'-- this must have originated in France :)

    So here is a French breakfast that combines heart with all five senses.

    *Recipe adapted from Trish Dessine*

    This one I hear, is strictly about boiled ot uncooked things layed out to gether. I tried to do a vegetarian version. But you can take it to different levels as you feel is fit for the day. I used mushroom, but you can use some bacon/ham/chicken breast/ fish. Your day. Your wish :)

    1 box of small mushroom: Sauted with 1 tbsf oil for 3-4 mins till browned all over
    2 small potatoes. Skin retained and boiled
    2 hard boiled eggs. halved
    A few black olives. I am sure your green olives are just as fine
    Half a bell pepper. optional
    3 tomatoes. Halved or quartered
    A block of hard cheese of your choice. I like smoked gouda.

    Lay all of the ingredients on the cutting board in parallal rows. Sprinkle some salt and pepper.

    Toast up some sliced bread. I like wheat. And instead of butter, make the following 'Bechamal sauce'

    Bechamal sauce:
    2 tbsf butter
    1 tbsf flour
    1/3 cup of milk
    a few grates of nutmeg
    Salt and pepper for seasoning
    Heat butte in a skillet. Add the flour and cook for 2 min. Add the milk. Reduce to half its volume. Season with nutmeg, salt and pepper. 
    Use as spread on your toast.
    Have it with some rich, dark coffee.

    Welcome autumn. And welcome November

    Happy eating and healthy living

    Oct 29, 2010

    Dare to be cute: Butter ball cookies for Halloween! Trick or treat?

    Now, Halloween does not always have to be scary. It can be daring too. What do ya' think? 

    That's me pumpkin this year. And its bright on my patio. And dare you walk may find yourself just in time for some cute butterball cookies that are just fresh out of theoven. But hurry up, becos I saw a goblin walkin' down the street and he was eye'n my patio, rather mischievously. And I hear he has a big big appetite..especially for something sweet and naughty :) So if you want some trick or treating, come on over before Mr Goblin gets here...

    Butterball cookies * Recipe from Joy Of Baking

    heads up : They taste sugary, savory, buttery and when you bite down..there is little jelly inside! Talk of teasing :)

    Happy Halloween!

    Oct 26, 2010

    The Call of the Wild in Harissa Chicken Casserole

    I first had a taste of this red and wild spice rub, Harissa, in a french creperie at a farmer's market in southern California. 

    That is a long haul from Tunisia, with a stopover at several European ports, London and Paris being a couple of the big ones.  No wonder Harissa, that I 'discovered' in  a french creperie in southern California, is a far cry from the bottle of hot peppers dipped in olive oil that is a condiment with any meal in Tunisia. Now, of course, it is used as a sauce on pizza, spread on a sub and all things of our world far removed from wilderness. A wilderness from where we all emerged a very long time back and a call of that wild still remains in all of us. Burried. But not gone. And sometimes there is food that teases out that instinct. 

    Harissa is one such. Red peppers, oil, and raw spices all mixed together in a wonderful sensual way that tease your palette till you give.

    Yes, Harissa has seen modification. It has accommodated many versions of change. But what is wonderful about Harissa is that, no matter where you buy it from--the villages of Tunisia or the flea market in morocco or from some Parisian spice market or the international isle in London supermarkets..or from right here in Trader's Joe or the world market--they all will remind you of drum beats, red dusts, festive flags and piercing eyes that look at you straight through the wonderfully dangerous looking masks.  And you instinctively know 'Yes its from Africa'. And you get a feel of that raw pull of spices and meat stewed over open heat that is to be had with friends and family dodging spirits that are frightening and yet irresistible in their antiquity

    Harissa...from the land where leopards still roam in the nights and festive drums sometime beat. You don't want to miss that :)

    1-1.5 lbs of chicken. Bone in with some skin is best. You can also probably get away with the dark meat of the thigh and drumsticks
    1 tbsf cumin
    2 tbsf of coriander
    1 tbsf of fennel or Methi powder
    You can either simply use powdered versions. I did so. But for awesome flavor you can roast the whole spices and grind it in a coffee grinder
    1 tsp of  Aniseed.
    4 big dried red chillis
     3-4 cloves of garlic
    1/4 th cup of good quality tomato paste
    3 tbsf olive oil
    Salt and pepper to taste

    The simplicity of it rocks!
    Puree everything together in a food processor. Place chicken in an oven friendly bowl and marinate chicken in this mixture for some time. 30 min is good. But longer you marinate the better it is of course. Now you have three possible course of actions

    1. You can grill the chicken. Awesome flavors develop
    2. You can cook the whole thing slowly in a pot stirring gently from time to time. About 40 mins.
    3. This is the easiest and the best way:  Preheat oven to 420 F. Takes about 15 mins. Cover the bowl 
    (used a casserole) and bake for 40 min at 415-420 F. This helps the chicken become tender and mix with the marinade well. uncover and cook at 450F for another 15-20 min. For extra grill flavor, follow by broiling at high for 2 mins.

    As simple, as compelling as that. A feast for the eyes and every other sense :)

    Happy eating and healthy living!

    Oct 21, 2010

    Potato Casserole from ancient trade capital of the world. Istanbul!

    Did I ever say that my workplace was right by the ocean. And to think ,it is the biggest ocean of the world. The Pacific ocean

    Every day I come to my lab/office. I get out of the shuttle. And the shuttle stop is right by ocean.Right there. And everyday I notice the tides. How big or small the waves are. Is it a low tide or a high tide. The surfers on the waves. The seaweeds on the beach. Now that its fall, the strollers and walkers on the beach. And I remark, without fail, on the color and hues of the ocean. But seldom do I look beyond the waves and the tides and the beaches and the strollers. But on some few days, very rare and one like today, my eyes seek out the far horizon. And the one beyond that. And for a split second I contemplate how vast this ocean is. How bountiful it is and how immensely important it is to the very existence of life. 

    And in the distance I see a ship passing by. And I think of all the ships, that so long ago, used to traverse the length and breadth of this very endless ocean. Ferrying merchandise. Spices, ivory, gold silver, silk and porcelain. The wooden boats that on stormy nights were washed away without a trace of a plank remaining. The ocean, that looks calm and serene now, nurtures dark secrets in its bosom. Like treasure house whose lock has been lost forever. No wonder that some of the most richest, most vibrant and oldest cities are the port cities. These cities have traditionally been home to  swarthy people who challenged the vast unknown housing a million secrets,  on vessels which were really just wooden planks. 

    Guess that is why such old trade centers of the world has food that can feed the daring.  Food that has the ability to withstand  the onslaught of all cultures and yet remain hearty and comforting.Reminds me of cuisines from Kabul, Malaga,Venice, Istanbul. To name just a few. Talking of Istanbul, I have to come back to my post. It was nice in the ocean while it lasted :)  Today's post is about a Turkish potato Casserole. I hear it is a popular one is Istanbul and really only the Turks could turn a potato salad into something so gourmet. 

    A vegetarian food for the bold hearted, shall we say?

    Recipe adapted from ' Classic Turkish cooking' by Gille Basan

    1-2 lb of baby potatoes. Halved. Quarter the bigger ones. No need to peel those little guys
    2 medium onions. Thinly sliced
    5-6 olives. Smashed
    6 cloves of garlic. Crushed
    1 tsp of whole cumin
    1 tbsf of vinegar. Red wine will work best. But use any you have handy.
    1 tsp of sugar
    A pinch of  cayenne pepper
    1/2 tsp of paprika
    2 tsp of dried oregano.
    1 tbsf fresh parsley. Chopped. Optional
    2 tbsf nuts. Toasted for 10 min at 400F. optional
    2 tbsf olive oil
    1/6 th cup of hot water
    salt and pepper for seasoning

    Its pretty neat how you do it!
    Start by preheating your oven to 450F
    In a shallow pan, fry the potatoes and onions in the oil until they take a little color. 6-7 min. Stir in the crushed garlic and cumin seed and cook for a couple of minutes. Don't burn the garlic!  Stir in the vinegar, Olives and sugar. Add the tomatoes, paprika, cayenne pepper, oregano and parsley. Season with salt. Carefully transfer to a oven proof tray and sprinkle the nuts on top (if you are using them) and bake in the oven for about 30 mins. Till potatoes are tender and liquid is almost gone

    Serve hot or cold. Comfort is comfort. This casserole is one of the best potato casseroles I have ever, ever had and am sure you are gonna make this again and again :)

    A sturdy comfort  for the outlaws in you :)

    Happy eating and healthy living!

    Oct 13, 2010

    Cherry-Rasin Pilaf-- Micro(a)way. Techonology rocks or what?

    This post will look one out of 1970's. When microwave was an innovation :)

    Well I guess I am appreciating microwave's 'true value' forty years later. What can I say?  

    Anyone who has been reading my blog for any length of time will know that I am notorious with rice. Simply notorious. One of the reasons there are so few recipes I write about rice. Till recently I could not make rice at all. Rice got mushy/burnt...any number of things that should not happen to rice. Whether on the stove top or the microwave.  Till of course my good blogger friend Shab (of shab's cuisne) told me the magic ratio. 1:2 for Rice:water Ever since I have had good success with making rice in the microwave. Freinds and R have appllauded me on the good quality rice I was churning out :)

    proud proud me!

    However white rice is as far as I went. No pilafs, no paellas and no risottos. None of that fancy things.
    A couple of weeks I took rice cooking in a microwave to a level I am preening every time I am thinking about . Really. Its super clever.  I mean can you think? A Turkish pilaf in a microwave. Who ever could have thought of that? And you know the quality was great. All I did was fry the ingredients together in a skillet and then added water in that magic ratio and stuck in the microwave. Oh the simplicity and elegance of the technique will blow you. Wait till you try it. You will be addicted to it.
    So a  post saluting the microwave technology, forty years delayed ...but  comes with a Cherry (pilaf) on top

    Raisin-cherry Pilaf

    1 cup of long grained white rice. Soaked in water for 5 mins.
    1 cup of mixture of raisins, cherry and some cranberry. You can use all three, any one or any combination.
     1 big onion finely sliced
    1 tsp of sugar
    1 tsp of cumin
    2 tbsf olive oil
    1 4/5 th cup of water
    Salt for seasoning

    Micro away !

    Well heat oil in a skillet. Add the cumin and onions and fry till translucent. Add the rice and coat well in the oil (~ 2 mins). Add the sugar and cherry-raisin-cranberry mixture. Mix well together. Transfer to a microwave friendly bowl. Add the water. Some salt for seasoning. Stick in the microwave for 20 mins. Mine has a 'rice' mode. So I just hit that one. After the pilaf finishes cooking, fluff with a fork and redistribute your fruits which may accumulate in the center of your bowl
    Good old cherry Pilaf ready! I love technology :)

    Happy eating and healthy living!

    Oct 11, 2010

    Rosemary-garlic- lemon chicken: Feel gorgeous in your skin :)

    It does not feel great to be in workplace on a holiday. Oh of the many 'perks 'of living in California is that you gotta be in your workplace on Columbus day. Hmm...

    Also it does not feel good to have mad shuttle drivers ignoring speed breakers on a winding stretch of road. And it sure feels irritating to have trucks carrying gas cylinders barely missing you by a quarter of an inch. Finally it sucks when you spill coffee on the lovely new white T shirt. All this before 9 AM.

    Nope a holiday is not meant to be spent in a work place.

    But what if I told you that waking up, feeling gorgeous in your skin actually makes it all very bearable? It does. Okay..How many times do you get up in the morning feeling sexy and really fresh and in a spirit as light as the helium balloon you just passed on your way? Not many ....right? And add to it the fact that you feel great to slip on your jeans and come to work without even so much as a brush through that tousled hair?  Rare. Very rare :) Its a rare great feeling that beats every little irritation you may encounter and and its worth prolonging the feeling even as the morning wears off. Right? :)

    So how do you do it?  Clearly has to do with what you eat. So..what do you want to eat on a day like this. At dinner ? Surely something which is fragrant and earthy. I am assuming nothing to dressed. Its all about feeling gorgeous and great in your own skin. If you are looking for a recipe like is where you stop. I guarantee you that this roast chicken is so fragrant and earthy that  it will leave you feeling gorgeous and as light even after a whole big platter of it.

    Here is to food that keeps making you feel great, inside out :) Summer just got a day longer

    Rosemary- garlic- roasted chicken


    2 chicken breasts. Bone in and some skin on. You can also do 6 chicken wings or even drumsticks. Its got to be hearty. Not too dressed. Remember..we are letting our dressings down today
    1 lb of small new potatoes. Any color is good. A mixture looks even prettier. Halve them. Quarter the bigger ones.
    1 packet of mushroom. Clean with wet tissue. Do not clean with water. The mushroom becomes rubbery. Mushroom is optional

    1 tbsf fresh rosemary. Or use 2 tsp of dried rosemary
    3-4 big cloves of garlic. Crushed
    1 tsp of red chilli pepper flakes
    Freshly squeezed juice of 1 big lemon. Here is a tip. Heat the lemon in your microwave for 10 secs. The juices will give :) Reserve the lemon peices
    2-3 tbsf lite olive oil
    Salt and pepper for seasonings

    All you do is try not to disrupt the natural flavors. So no big maneuvers here. Keep it simple and easy :) 
    Heat oven to 420 F.
    Mix together the chili flakes, rosemary, garlic and lemon juice. Season the breasts with the marinade and let sit for 10-15 min. Meanwhile put your potatoes in a saucepan, fill up with cold water and boil for 5-8 mins. Drain well and reserve. In a skillet, I like iron skillet, heat oil. Add the chicken. And let it sit for 3-4 min. No touching. Let things caramelize. Flip on the other side. And again wait for 3-4 min. Add in the potatoes, mushroom and the squeezed out lemon. And toss. Stick the pan (make sure its oven proof or place everything in an oven safe bowl/try/casserole) into the oven for 20-25 mins to finish cooking through gently. Let the flavors marry and get entwined :)

    Slip into a big sweater and have it in your patio. The nip in the air will make things even more savory. With some heat where you need it :)
    Happy eating and healthy living!

    Oct 7, 2010

    A wink and nudge to pesto sauce-- your pasta just got healthier with 'chutney pesto'

    We all like Pasta. Or shagetti. Even the short cut ones. Right? And we like them in sauces. Rich, creamy sauces.

    My favorite is pesto sauce.  I love pesto. That garlicky-nutty-green-olive oil steeped sauce called pesto. Anything gets better with a spoon full of pesto. Except maybe our waistlines. I dread the calories in a tablespoon of that heaven-on-earth dip a la sauce. And with summer coming to an end (sniff sniff), we are all  soon gonna turn to comfort foods. That is code word for less of cooking, no grilling at all and sauces and potatoes and pastas will start to dominate our diners and lunches and possibly... even breakfasts!  

    'Friends, bloggers and is an idea that could make this carb frenzy actually figure friendly. Its a solution actually. See if you like it!'

    When I was still living with my parents, we usually had chutney as dessert. Tomatoes, know...the usual suspects. But my favorite was a 'chutney' which was really just a dip. My mom used to make it. With cilantro, garlic and green chili all mashed together.  I am not sure why she would call it a chutney, cos it wasn't sweet at all. But amazingly everyone in my family used to want so much more of that!  And not just family..but everyone who had the luck of having that 'green chutney' always asked her for that recipe. Turned out she learn't it from a Spanish friend of hers while she was studying language in Bonn.

    Isn't it we all like the same flavors all across the globe? 

    So that is what I do with my leftover greens. Not just cilantro. But I use any left over greens-- Spinach, Mint, parsley, Arugula even green onions. Process it with tons of garlic and a green pepper. Always is a stunner in any meal. But a couple of weeks ago I took this concept to a whole new level. 

    Listen up :)
    I had some leftover greens (Arugula and parsley) and I was craving this pesto thing. A bright idea popped up. I processed the greens with garlic and pepper-- just like the green chutney-- and added a tablespoon of olive oil, 1 tbsf mixed nuts and 2-3 tbsf water. I used that sauce for my pasta. Man it was an idea!! It tastes like pesto..only with calories which you can afford! 

    And ever since I have been doing this variant of pesto sauce, I call 'chutney pesto'. And I have never felt so good about pesto before. So anytime you have a garlicky- green-salty dip, use it  as your pasta sauce. I tell will like it and your waistline will like it too-- hail, storm, thunder or snow. 

    Today I am sharing two concepts of  'Chutney Pesto'

     One, by my friend Shab of shab's cuisine. Its a mint chutney  that I think will be terrific as a pesto substitution and two, my own version chutney pesto concept : A wink and nudge to pesto here :)


    2 cup of leftover greens. Any combination or alone would do. I used Arugula and Parsley. I would recomend spinach and cilantro as well
    1 green pepper. Spicy is good.
    4-5 cloves of garlic
    2 tbsf extra virgin oilve oil
    3-4 tbsf water
    1 tbsg nuts. Any is good
    2 tbsf lime juice.
    salt and pepper for seasoning.

    Mix in a food processor and use it as a pasta sauce. Drop hot pasta into the sauce and mix well.Let stand. Also you can saute your al dente pasta in one tablespoon of butter, redden it a little prior to mixing in with the sauce. Will add an extra goodness to it and touches all the flavors you want in a pesto, yet surprisingly summery and healthy!

    Happy eating and healthy living!!

    Oct 5, 2010

    The sheer decadance of chocolate in a pudding cake :)

    Everybody has a way to get out of their blues.

    Or so I have been told. For me there is just one thing. Chocolate, chocolate and more chocolate. What is good about chocolate? Okay here is that list

    1. Aroma.. of decadence
    2. Taste. Bitter Bitter and a lil sweet
    3. Flavor. That's how ebony tastes like
    4. The color. Of wood, earth, coco, rain forests and nuts and roast. That's the color of brazil

    And everything else that is chocolates. Its the only way to beat the blues right, left and center. 

    Yesterday was a particularly gray day with blue feelings. And I made a chocolate pudding cake. And would you believe it if I told you that the sun is up and the blues are gone. I knew it. So next time is there is any blue in the horizon...beat with ebony that tastes a little bitter but takes you right into decadent bliss. All you go to do is bake with chocolate :)

    Chocolate pudding cake. Adapted from Joy of Baking.

    Have a small helping!

    Happy eating and healthy living :)

    Sep 30, 2010

    Stuffed Aubergines the made the Imam weep.

    If there is one country on earth that knows how to use eggplants, it surely has to be Turkey.

    Legend has it that when the Imam was offered this dish, he wept with delight. A few hundred years have passed since that day.  And I had it yesterday for dinner. I could not weep with delight. But I had never tasted something so decadent, something so mushy and drippy, something that which melted in my mouth releasing a thousand different feelings that could escape my lips only in the form of a single


    A topping of tomato and onion on eggplants in a olive oil  bath cooked gently and slowly for an hour or so

    Stuffed Aubergines...or so they call an eggplant in Turkey. No wonder they achieve such brilliance from the vegetable :)


    One big eggplant. Cut into four flat pieces.
    1 big tomato
    1.5 medium onion
    1 tbsf of dried or fresh oregano
    2 tbsf of dried parsley. You can use half a cup of fresh ones too
    You can use any other combination of herbs here.
     1 tbsf sugar
    4 tbsf olive oil
    3/4 cup of water

    All you do is chop and bake!

    Preheat your oven to 400F.
    Place your aubergine-- I am going to stick to aubergine here simply because the name eggplant does not do justice to the dish-- in an oven proof dish. For best results use a cast iron skillet. Sprinkle a little salt on the aubergine pieces and leave it for 5 minutes. Make them 'weep'  i.e draw out the liquid from the flesh. This softens flesh of the aubergine and deeper infusion of flavor during the baking process which follows. Chop the tomatoes, onions and garlic as finely as possible. Mix with 1 tbsf olive oil, parsley, oregano. Season with salt and pepper. Carefully pile the mixture on the aubergine pieces so as to cover the entire surface of each piece. Mix the rest of the oil with the water and sugar. Pour it all over and around the eggplants in the dish. Seal the skillet carefully with Aluminum foil. 

    Place the dish in the oven and leave for 1 hour at 400F. After 1 hour, remove the seal. At this stage the eggplant is really mushy. Push the topping, now softened, into the aubergine pieces to flatten the top as much as possible. Put the dish back into the oven but without the cover. Heat at 400F for another 30-35 minutes. You can also do the entire thing on the stove at the lowest flame setting.

    Serve with Lemon wedges.  Baking never was this simple. And eggplants never tasted this good :) No wonder the Imam was beside himself!

    Happy eating and healthy living

    Sep 28, 2010

    Cool off with a hot and sweet summer salad :spinach-pear-salad with nuts, raisins and chili flakes

    Its very hot in southern California...and hence time for loose T shirts and simple dinners. 

    Yesterday, I came up with an impromptu simple salad that balances the heat with heat. Chili flakes in a summer salad. 

    Spinach-pear-scallion salad. With Chili flakes

    But fun is the dressing does not have ANY oil/vinegar in it. And me thinks that is what it made so ultra fresh. You know, if you haven't grown up with the concept of a dressed salad, * like me*, then the flavor of oil becomes almost redundant in some cases. So, here is a thought.

    Try salad dressings without the oil/ butter. Especially citrus, summery and veggie ones. I think there is something about the bright flavors that makes those salads ' only betah'.

    • Lay down a bed of baby lettuce. If you don't have some on hand, feel free to use Arugula or even chopped up regular lettuce.
    • Cut up pears coarsely and lay them over the bed of greens. You can also use any green fruits. I suggest honeydew or guava, if you are looking for something exotic
    • Chop up 3-4 stalks of green onions and sprinkle them on top.
    • Sprinkle in a half a palmful of raisins
    • Followed by little nuts. You know those available for topping cakes. Contains a great mixture for a low price. I got mine for 88 cents and its lasted me three dishes and still going :)
    • mix together the juice of 1/3rd fresh lime with 1/3 tsp of chili flakes. 
    • Drizzle on the salad
    • Season with tons of black pepper and little salt. You can use some balsamic vinegar too. Bet will be great
    • Toss and serve :)

    You are so ready to cool off..and have a trillion tons of it. It will only do you good and you will feel fresh and good. My promise :)

    Happy eating and healthy living

    Sep 26, 2010

    Tofu-- this time in peanut butter sauce. A guest post from CB

    Because of the overwhelming response to that guest post a couple of months back, CB-- my friend n' chef--agreed to do another guest post. This time with Tofu and peanut butter.  Did I just say peanut butter?

    Yum :) Here goes CB.

    Peanut butter and me” …the association goes pretty far back in time ... as far as I can remember the real appreciation started during the beginning years of my graduate student life …when every morning that 0.99$ peanut butter jelly sandwich at the food court convenient store was all I ate for breakfast. Although I still love to start my day with a peanut butter sandwich but I guess I have become more efficient to explore the other facets of this incredible ingredient. Here I present one such attempt to use peanut butter outside the usual realm of breakfast sandwich.


    1 box firm tofu
    2-3 cloves of garlic
    ½ medium size red onion
    1 tea-spoon of minced ginger
    2 table spoons soy sauce
    chopped scallions for garnishing (optional)
    1 table-spoon of canola oil
    2 table-spoons of peanut butter

    Cut the tofu block onto several equal size cubes (1/2 inch thickness). Preheat the oven for 10-15 mins at 500F. Apply some cooking spray on the tofu and let it sit in the preheated oven for 15-20 mins. The tofu triangles should be golden brown when done.In a non-stick skillet add the oil and set the stove to high heat.  Once the oil is hot enough (~1 minute) add the peanut butter to the hot oil but turn down the heat to medium and allow the peanut butter to melt slowly. Once the peanut butter has molten completely add the onion, garlic, and the ginger to it. Saute for 3-5 mins and be careful not to burn the garlic. Add the soy sauce and let it simmer for 2-3 mins and add a little bit of water if necessary. Add the baked tofu into the sauce and stir to mix. Add 1/3 cup of water and allow it to simmer for another 4-5 mins.

    Take it off the stove and garnish with chopped scallions"

     What better way to have healthy food without having to compromise on an age old taste?  I tell you this is keeper. Thanks CB!

    Happy eating and healthy living!

    Photograph: Courtesy Pinki Mondal.

    Sep 21, 2010

    South Indian Chicken -- an adaptation of chinese stir fry :)

    What happens when you infuse Indian ingredients with Chinese concepts? 

    Short answer to that question is better illustrated with a picture that is worth a thousand words :)


    But before I show you what's in that white casserole, I think I should tell you my journey into south Indian food. Now, for the uninitiated, there is nothing.-- I repeat *nothing*-- called Indian food. I mean we are talking of a million acres that houses a billion people with histories that go back thousands of years and more than a handful of sovereignties. Simple maths tells you that its impossible to have *a* Indian cuisine. It is as varied and as diverse as the land, its history and its people!

    Having said that, I have to tell you that food from Southern part of India tastes very different that else where in India. Its got a lot of lime, curd and heat. But what many of us and a lot of people in India don't know is that food from south India comes with an unflinching variety. Especially meat and chicken. The spice concoction is very unique and fragrant. My ignorance disapeared the day a very good freind of mine took me to a south Indian gourmet restruant in Kolkata... a very long time back. I forget the name of the place. But Boy did I forget the food.! It was some of the most aromatic chicken dishes I ever had. And hence started my lovestory with south Indian food.

    However I am not a heat loving person. In food I mean :) And I like crunchiness in my veggies. And there is comes my other love for Asian way of cooking. Stir fries with minimal heat. And taking it a step forward, stir frying with south Indian spices and ingredients. Many a dish has been borne from this idea. And here I unveil one of the most recent! 

    A south Indian stir fry! who ever heard of THAT?


    1 lb of chicken. You can use bone in thighs, drumsticks. 
    1/4 cup of yogurt. I prefer Greek ones because they are super creamy :)
    1/2 tsp of grated garlic
    1/2 tsp of grated ginger.
    A pinch of red/yellow food color. You can also simply use a pinch of turmeric and a pinch of cayenne pepper. I like mine mellow and colorful

    1 small onion
    1 big bell pepper. Green is good :)
    3 big cloves of garlic
    1/2 tsp of whole mustard. Optional
    2-3 dried red chilli. Optional
    5-6 Curry leaves chopped. You can also easily substitute with 1 sprig of Dill.
    1 Jalapeno. Sliced.

    1/3 tsp of corn startch. You can also use all pupose flour. Just any thickner you can think of
    1 cup of hot water.
    Salt  for seasoning
    2 tbsf regular oil
    A handful of Cilantro for garnish

    Marinade and cook!

    Mix together grated garlic, ginger, yogurt and food color and marinate chicken for 20 min-1 hour. The longer you can marinate, the better. The yogurt breaks down the chicken and allows for more creamy chicken that cooks in less time :). In a skillet, heat oil and pop the mustard ( if you are using them). 10 secs. And then add the chicken with the marinade. Lower heat .Move  the chicken around but not too much. You want the chicken to cook in the sauce. Takes about 20 mins. When the sauce starts to dry up, add the rest of the garlic, herbs, onion, bell peppers, Jalapeno and the dried red chillies (if you are using them). Mix around well. 2-3 mins. Mix the cornstarch with water and add and heat through. Season with salt and water. When the water dries up (or you can keep some water if you prefer your chicken with sauce), take it off the stove. Garnish with cilantro.

    And you have a south Indian stir fry...right up your alley...:)

    Happy eating and healthy living!