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

Bah!

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 :)

Ingredients

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.

Ingredients:

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

Directions:
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?

Ingredients

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!

Sep 14, 2010

Apple cinnamon bars--Fall whenever wherver



What is fall without cinnamon, apples, colors and smells?

Now in sunny California, I still like to recreate the fall. Southern California does not have a 'fall'. It has the sun, the coast, the beaches, the bikinis and the runners. It has the Rockies and the deserts and the canyons. But it does not have a sense of the fall :) When crisp breeze, morning chill, falling leaves and changing colors herald the warm pretty sweaters. And coffee tastes extra good and you yarn for coco every evening and the quilt becomes the new definition of cozy.

And it ain't fall...if you ain't smellin the cinnamon, and you ain't waiting for Halloween and you ain't looking at the fireplace and yearning for colder weather. Of course it is a different matter that once winter sets in, you would not believe that at some insane moment when everything was perfect and pretty, you did in fact yarn for the cold to set in. And when you blame your insanity for seeking the cold, think of these apple cinnamon bars that made you forget the future and the cold and let you only think of how perfect fall was and how nothing you could desire on this day would have any consequences other than perfect :) :)

Apple cinnamon bars that makes fall happen and last whenever and wherever

Courtesy Paula Deen's recipe :)

Ingredients

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar, plus more for dusting
  • Pinch salt
  • 1.5 sticks butter, at room temperature
  • 3 medium apples cored and chopped
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tbsf fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 package unflavored gelatin
  • 1/2 tbsf cold apple juice. Or you can use any juice you have on hand. Works just as fine. Water will do good too

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees . Lightly grease a 9 by 9 inch pan.
Make the crust by combining flour, confectioners' sugar, and salt in a large bowl.
Cut in 2 sticks of butter to make a crumbly mixture.
(Add water 2 tbsf at a time if the dough is too dry)
Press the mixture into the prepared pan.
(You may need to dip your fingers into a little flour or confectioners' sugar to keep the dough from sticking to your fingers).
Bake for 15 to 20 minutes.
In a large skillet, melt the remaining stick of butter over medium heat.
Add the apples, and cook for 3 minutes.
Stir in 1/2 cup sugar, 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, and lemon juice; cook for 3 minutes.
In a small bowl, soften the gelatin in cold apple juice, then add it to apples, and cook for 15 minutes. Spoon the mixture evenly over the prepared crust and bake for 10 to 15 minutes. Let cool, then cut into squares.

Serve with vanilla ice cream and preserve fall forever :)


Happy eating and bit of indulgence ain't that bad :)




Sep 10, 2010

Orzo salad--- back to the basics :)


Its good to get back to the basics.

Maths. Clothing. Lifestyle. Shoes. Food....you name it and the mantra applies. After days of cooking, eating, writing and thinking about new recipes and old ones together, the brain just shuts down. It can't think anymore. And no point forcing it along. Cos it just won't go baby :) So time to pause, and get back to the basics. And one more good things about basics. There ain't much to gab about. 

So here is my new concoction. One I have been carrying as lunch, eating for dinner and just feeling good about the goodies and the basic ways of eating and living  it entails

So check out the colors, and simplicity and versatility of the salad, and my new casserole :)

Orzo salad. But make it rice, pasta any salad as you want to. 

Ingredients

1/2 lb of orzo. The small rice shaped pasta. You can also use any short cut pasta or even rice.
Go to the market and grab as many colors are you like.  Whatever floats your boat. I used the following
Carrots, tomatoes, cucumbers, red and green bell peppers, 1/2 a big onion, one big beet, some spinach and tons of parsley (you can use cilantro too) . You can of course throw in your grilled veggies ( I sometimes grill all the veggies with 2-3 cloves of garlic and 2 tbsf ol olive oil at 450 F in the oven for 20 mins) or sauted chicken ( seasoned with salt and pepper) and roasted potatoes (with paprika and garlic at 475F for 20 mins), some toasted nuts and crumbly cheese and make it uber gourmet too. But me kept it very basic.

Tons of lemon juice ( 1 lime), salt and black pepper and a 1/4th cup of balsamic vinegar for dressing.  Balsamic vinegar is optional. You can't get more simple than that :)

Well all you do is 'nothing'

Okay, boil water and add some salt. Add the orzo and cook till al dente. 6-8 minutes. Meanwhile chop your veggies and layer em in the the salad bin (I used my new casserole and you want something huge to toss all those veggies). Drain the pasta well and add it to the veggies. Add in tons of lemon juice and toss. Season with salt pepper and balsamic vinegar. 

Take it out, eat it in front of your TV or carry it for lunch. Whisk it as you move into new apartments or just feel like veggie time :)  Feels perfect and fresh anywhere and everywhere :)



Happy eating and healthy living


Sep 6, 2010

Paprikash-- its different!


Never think that your 'simple' routine dish is boring. It can be different to someone.  And different is a very good flavor :)

That was a long long week of no posts.  But there is a reason. And I wish I could sing ' And the reason is you' :) But as life would have it, I was in a paleoceanography conference. Aha...that was a big word! But simply means studies about learning what the oceans were like much before...and mucher beforer :)

That's a new word there and I coined it just now!

Conference means, of course, good food. Not necessarily rich or exotic or expensive or even super tasty. But good, in the sense that it is different from the signatures of youself in a dish. I think different is a taste by itself. And that brings me to a favorite dish of mine. I first had it at Maria's place--my Hungarian friend Maria who is one of the best cooks, I know. Its called Paprikash. I was told that paprikash was the most common dish in Hungary and its something you made when you weren't in the mood for cooking. Maria made it because I was a close friend and she correctly assumed that she could make it without feeling like she was not being a good host :) But was Maria wrong or what!

Paprikash struck me as really different.  I was not used to the idea of so many types of paprika going into a dish. And the effect was crazy. In fact turned out that I fell in love...so much..with this dish that now it has become not only my to-go chicken dish. But also I make it to entertain people. And invariably everyone loves it.

So you see...'different' is a very important taste. So here is paprikash and trust me ' It is different' :)

Ingredients:

1 lbs of chicken. Preferably with bone in and some skin on. I use drumsticks.6-8 in number. Feeds 2-4 people. 
1 and half big onion. Finely sliced. The fine slicing sort of makes it good candidate for the sauce.
2 big tomatoes. Chopped
1/4th cup of red wine

1 tbsf of sweet paprika
1 tbsf hot paprika. You can substitute with a mixture of 1/2 tbsf of regular paprika and 1/2 tbsf of cayenne pepper.
2-3 cups of hot water. You can use chicken stock too.
2-3 tbsf of olive oil.
Salt and pepper to taste

All you do is heat stuff 

In a deep pot, heat oil. When oil is hot, put the onion in and saute for 4-5 minutes till they are well done. Add the salt and pepper. Add the chicken and cook for another 3-4 minutes till chicken is somewhat done. Add the paprika and saute no more than a few secs ( you don't want the paprika to burn) and then add the water, wine and tomatoes. Mix well togteher and cover and cook on medium heat for at least 20 minutes.  
If you have time, lower down the heat and keep heating for 40-50 mins. It takes on the slow heating flavors. But 20 minutes is good too. Just stir things now and then and check to see if  anything is sticking at the bottom. Add water accordingly. You can never over do the water in this dish! Remember its a stew like thing :) When you feel you have reached the desired level of chicken cooking and there is still more water than you would like in a stew turn up the heat and evaporate the extra water! 

Its very different. Very good and very very Hungarian. Serve it with pasta/rice and some yogurt or sour cream :) Wine of course is very important here :)



Happy eating and healthy living.