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 in...you 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 a Harissa Chicken Casserole

I first had a taste of this red and wild spice rub (paste), Harissa, at a French creperie in a farmer's market in southern California. I was living in San Diego as a visiting graduate student at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography.
Now, San Diego is a long haul from Tunisia, and you can imagine the many stopovers that Harissa may have spent at European ports and cities before making its way across the pond, through street food stands of New York and neighborhood joints of Los Angeles, before I came across it in San Diego.
No wonder the Harissa that I 'discovered' in that French creperie in the farmer’s market in southern California, is a far cry from the bottle of hot peppers dipped in olive oil that is a primary condiment with any meal in Tunisia.
Here, of course, Harissa is used as a sauce on pizza, spread on a sub, and all things of our world far removed from staples of Tunisia and of Africa- a place we all emerged from a very long time ago; a call of that wild still remains in all of us. Buried. 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 wonderfully sensual way that teases your palette till you give.
Yes, it is true that 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 aisle in a London supermarket or from right here, in Trader's Joe or the World Market in Boulder--a dollop of Harissa will all will always 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 it is 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 continent, where cheetahs still roam and festive drums beat. You don't want to miss that during this festive time.


1.5-2 pounds of chicken. Bone in with some skin is best. You can also probably get away with the dark meat of the thigh and drumsticks. But do not rely on breast meet, please. Also, I highly recommend good quality farm raised chicken. Organic. The surest way to kill this recipe is by compromising on the chicken

Harissa: You can make some, and you may want some modifications. Just don’t kill the fiery spirit of this spice blend
1 tbsp whole cumin
2 tbsp of whole coriander
1 tbsp of whole fennel
Roast the whole spices for few minutes and grind together. You can also simply use powdered versions of the spices or even more simply, get some from your grocer. But for awesome flavor, you can roast the whole spices and grind it in a coffee grinder

3-4 cloves of garlic
1/4 cup of good quality tomato paste
3 tbsp of olive oil (I used Tunisian as well as Californian versions. They all go well here)

Salt and black pepper to taste

The simplicity of this recipe rocks!
Puree garlic, tomato paste and olive oil with the Harissa paste (that you hopefully made?) together in a food processor to make a marinade. Place chicken in an oven –friendly bowl; add the marinade; mix well and let it sit on the counter for 30 minutes or in the refrigerator for a couple of hours to overnight. The longer you marinate the better it is of course. Now you have three possible courses of actions
1. You can grill the chicken: Awesome flavors develop and serve it with pita and cucumbers. Perfect for early autumn dinner or the patio.
2. You can cook the slow cook on stove top: Place the chicken and every bit of marinade you can save and some water (half a cup) in a Dutch oven (or any stovetop safe pot really), turn up the stove to 6 (no high heat), do not cover, but stir gently from time to time. Let the heat work its magic for about 60-90 minutes  (depending on your stove and the meat it could take longer). This version renders a stew-like version. Great with some bread and wine.

3. This is the easiest and the best way Preheat oven to 420 F. Takes about 15 minutes. Cover the bowl (I used a casserole; you could use Aluminum foil) and bake for 60 min at 420 F (you may need to adjust the temperature). This process helps the chicken become tender and mix with the marinade well. Uncover and cook at 450 F for another 5 min. For extra grill flavor, follow by broiling at high for 2 minutes. Watch the broil. Serve with some couscous or brown rice and bask in all the glory of the compliments you recieve :) 

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

Happy eating and healthy living!

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 well...one 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 lunch..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 that...here 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 countrymen....here 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, mangoes..you 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 amazing..how 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 ya..you 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 :)