Sep 28, 2011

The story of the Red Cabbage and the WaterCress

Talking of food made at home being cheaper, I agree with Mr. Bittman (I do encourage all of you to actually go and click that link, since it has a wealth of relevant information and also a lot of cool sites to visit).

Take a look at the above photograph. That costs less than 2$. And for a single diner, can last 2 days. For a family, definitely a day. Takes? less than 10 min (prep included). I am confused, how does anyone claim that come cooked food is expensive and/ or time consuming? I have to say, it is just a notion. One that can quickly go down the drain. But yes, we need those drains in place. I am happy to put my 5$ into it. Are you?

Talking of simple food that are delicious and colorful, I think the red cabbage is a bit unappreciated. There is something about the color, me thinks, that get cooks and eaters wary of it. I was too. So, I understand, if you feel that way. But when I go grocery shopping, I never end up buying any of the relevant stuff that I think I need. Instead I end up bringing home all kinds of stuff that happened to catch my fancy that day.

That is how I ended up with a head of red cabbage. And it stared it me every time I opened the refrigerator door. That went on for five days. On the sixth day, I decided to chop a good portion of it. And as the knife shredded the--rather tough, I would argue--layers of the cabbage, a simple recipe started formulating in my mind. All it needed was some green. To the refrigerator I go and the only green to be there was a bunch of watercress. Watercress and Red Cabbage  .

If you think, that is the surest road to perdition (in other words, a disaster in the kitchen), try this recipe. Not only will you enjoy the walk down that road, you surely will want to go down that road quite a few times. To end the story of the red cabbage and the water cress, the next three days, I picked up these very two from the grocery (and these time I  made sure to stay focused) and made the same recipe for dinner. On four consecutive days.

Now, if that does not at least make you willing to try this recipe, I am sure reading the recipe will do:)

Red Cabbage and Watercress Stir Fried Salad


One smallish head of red cabbage. A green cabbage would work as well. But try the color.
1 small onion. Sliced
Half a bunch of watercress. You can easily use some Arugula, Spinach.
1/2 tsp of whole mustard. This is really the key ingredient. You must try and find it.
4-5 curry leaves. You can substitute with some dill or even Thyme.
2-3 cloves of garlic. You can use ground and dried garlic powder too
1/4 tsp of sliced ginger. No substitutions, here
A heavy hand of red chilli flakes
2 tbsf olive oil. + 1/2 tsp of extra virgin olive oil for drizzling later on
Half a lime
Salt and pepper. I like freshly ground black pepper. But any would work
Some parsley or cilantro or coriander for garnish. You pick your herb. I like em' all.

In a skillet (that would hold all ingredients), heat the olive oil. When hot enough, add the mustard. Wait for a second and let the mustard sputter (that is when the mustard releases their intense flavors). Lower heat and add the onion, ginger, garlic and curry (or whatever you are using as a substitute). Adding herbs at this point infuses the recipe from 'within' and is a very Indian way of making quick stir fries. Saute for a couple of minutes. Add the coarsely sliced cabbage. Keep sauteing for additional 3-4 minutes. You can use higher heat setting if you feel the need. Add the chilli flakes and the greens. Mix around and wait for the greens to just wilt down. Season with salt and pepper. Whatever you do, leave the crunch alive. That is the second high point of the recipe (the first was the use of whole mustard).

Plate the dish, add a dash of lemon juice and a bit of extra virgin olive oil. To make it non vegetarian, you can add a couple of poached eggs on top. But the try the recipe without the egg. It is legit and worth it. Top off with parsley/cilantro.

A warm stir fried--South Indian inspired, even-- cabbage and watercress salad. Summer summer...

Happy eating and healthy living!

Sep 16, 2011

Japanese style baked Tofu with Saffron and chili flakes

'Tofu is not a food'

I was once told so by a dear blogger friend of mine. I of course disagreed. Today I thank my lucky stars that I did not agree with that. In fact, I like the fact that Tofu is like a blank canvas , but with a texture. You know, blank canvases have often inspired great art. All good art started off from one. And when it comes to food, I find no reason to disagree.

This very Japanese style Tofu recipe is one which needed a blank canvas. With a bit of crunch from pickles, color from saffron, heat from chili flakes and flavor of soy sauce (or Tamari, if you will), a block of Tofu turned out miraculously comforting. I can almost say that it will go equally well with Paneer or baked cottage cheese. A side of jasmine rice topped with toasted sesame seeds, some wilted spinach drizzled with garlic salt and olive oil. Comfort could not have been any less colorful and healthy

Japanese style Tofu--with saffron, chili flakes and soy sauce
You will need

1/2 lb of extra firm tofu. You can use Paneer or cottage cheese. If you are using cottage cheese, drain the water to make it easier to work into squarish shape
3-4 big pickled green chili

For the marinade
a few strands of saffron, soaked in 3 tbsf of olive oil for 10-15 min
1 pinch of chili flakes
3-4 tbsf of good quality soy sauce
A pinch of sugar
Salt and pepper 

Mix all ingredients of the marinade together. Cut the tofu/paneer/cottage cheese in recatangular pieces. Lay them on a baking tray. Pour marinade all over. Add the whole pickles. Let stand for 10 mins. Bake at 420 for 40 mins and then at 450 for another 15-20 min. Alternatively, you can slow cook for 30 mins, followed by 5 min on high heat. You can even shallow stir fry (but I would recommend the slow cooking or baked.. There is something soothing about the recipe that way).
Serve warm with some wilted spinach topped with olive oil and garlic salt. Some jasmine rice on the side.

There was once a blank canvas. All we did was add color.

Happy eating and healthy living

Sep 11, 2011

Baked Whole Mackarel--- Greek-asian fusion

I know you may not like Mackerel. Or, do I know that?  
It seems to me that there are not many takers for this fish, which is full of flavor (a bit like blue fish, for all you east coasters), is meaty and oily, cheap and what's best?  Very low in mercury and dirt cheap (3$ per fish--big ones)

What stops us from eating it? 
Unfamiliarity does bad things to an excellent and flavorful source of vitamins, omega 3. But worst, it refrains us from eating something delectable and good for the earth too (not many things are, you must agree)

Of course, there are some of us who eat it, love it and would like the rest of you to join us. For the records, the Japanese eat it (salt cured Sushi), the Spanish eat it and so does a fair number of people in India. I have heard the French do it too. 

I have done it many ways. 
However, this one recipe was based on a combination of a vegetarian recipe and a Bitman recipe. I chanced upon fortuitously in Lynn Allley's 'Vegetarian slow cooker' (I know) and got started in the kitchen.  The recipe balances out the stronger flavors of the Mackarel (which some people don't like that much, but I adore), but enhances the subtle ones. 

All I can say, in words of Mark Bittman is ' don't knock it until you have tried it'

2 whole mackarel-- cleaned.

For the marinade
3 cloves of garlic--slivered
1/2 tsp of freshly grated ginger
3-4 tbsf of soy sauce
A pinch of sugar
A bit of chilli flakes

For filling
Some thyme stems
2-3 thing rings of lemon
Salt and pepper
2-3 tbsf olive oil

In a shallow pan, or a baking tray, place the whole clean fish. Generously rub salt and pepper on all sides including within. Stuff the fish with lemon slices and Thyme springs. Score the fish i.e. cut 2-3 slices on one side. In a bowl mix together oil and all ingredients of the marinade. Spread all over the fish. Wait ten minuted

Bake for 20 min at 420F 
Slow cook for 20 min  (the gas burnet/heater is at the minimum setting). Follow by 5 min of very high cooking

Fish should be opaque for done-ness. Serve warm or immediately with some mashed potatoes and garden salad. Oh a bit of champagne may go really well.

Happy eating and healthy living.

Sep 5, 2011

Simple and Simplistic. The Debate goes on over Ramen with Pimenton shrimp and veggies

When is it simple and when is it, simplistic?

I have drawn criticism for a few recipes (one example being this one) that are apparently simplistic. Asked to clarify, the offendant tells me that recipes (those she deems to be too simplistic) require a few ingredients, needs no expert to make but can please the crowds. 

Can there be any such delicious recipes that has too few ingredients and is too easy to make? Can there be any such recipe that is too simple?

But, I do think that there are recipes that are simplistic, indeed :) Those we make and take joy in eating. But do not usually entertain with. And I am guilty as charged. Just not with the ones, I have been charged guilty with. Till date, there was no corpse to show. Today I unveil one of the crimes that  I commit every weekend.  A 'type recipe' that is not simple, but simplistic. But always a soul pleaser. Can't do away with that now, can we?

Ramen with Pimenton Shrimp and veggies. On a side note. This recipe is a method. You can very easily vary the spices and veggies to get awesome food (even healthy) from different flavored Ramen noodles they have in grocery. Try it. Occasionally :)

Ramen with Pimenton Shrimp and veggies

2 packets of Ramen. I like their new lemon shrimp. But the plain vanilla chicken or shrimp flavor will work just fine
2.5 cups of water or chicken broth.
A combination of crunch veggies. I half a pack of mushroom (sliced), a bell pepper (sliced), a medium onion (sliced). 
2 tomatoes cubed.
1 Serrano pepper (for heat)
A handful of shrimp. I like fresh
Cilantro for garnish.
1 tbsf garlic powder
1. 5 tbsf Pimenton. Pimenton is spanish Paprika. They come in all flavors. Smoked, sweet, hot. I like the smoked one for these
A tiny tiny pinch of chilli flakes
@ tbsf olive oil
Salt and pepper for seasoning

In a large pot, pour water, tomatoes and Serrano pepper. Bring to a boil. Boiling  broth (or water) with tomatoes and pepper adds flavor to the cooking medium for the Ramen, making them tasty from within. Add the seasonings that come with the Ramen. Stir. Add the Ramen. Lower heat and cook for 2-3 min till Ramen is soft but not mushy. Add the Pimenton, mix well. Add a bit of water if things get too dry. Season with a bit of pepper.
Dish up in two plate
While the Ramen is cooking, you may need some deftness at multi tasking. In a pan, heat 2 tsbf oilive oil. When screaming hot, add the veggies, mushroom. Stir fry for 2 mins. The crunch must be intact. I am using the word must here. So heed, fellow cookers. Add the garlic powder, salt and pepper. Mix well. Top each plate of Ramen with veggies.
Finally, after clearing off the veggies, add a bit of oil and add the shrimp. Season with a tiny amount of chili flake and salt. After 2 min, top off the Ramen-veggies with the shrimp. 
Garnish with Cilantro. And serve immediately. I mean right off the stove

All the work, the layering, the multi-tasking. Now that is not simple. But, this recipe does not call for nifty combination of ingredients that makes people go..hmmm. So ask me and I will tell ya, it is simplistic, to enjoy but not to be enjoyed with :)

Happy eating and healthy living.

Sep 1, 2011

Hello World...


hope, you have been blogging furiously. Some day (soon, I hope!), I will have the time to mule over lost contacts, and missed recipes--over a cup of tea. But for now, all I can say is  glad to be back.

As I was writing, the words, 'HelloWorld' I happen to remember my first class in programming. That seems from a few light years back. But truly, was about ten years, maybe? Right after high school, this was a summerof idling away time. But, when you idle away way too much, time gets boring. How amazing is that? Something is alluring, only when you chase it ? I delegate that feeling to crazy teenage years.

Back to what I was saying. So yes, this class...a 30 days workshop so to say to learn Java. I remember nothing of the course. I have never after used Java. I did not even develop the fondness for programming, that this workshop promised to do (that was their big agenda!). Interestingly, of all the conversations I had with instructors, new and old friends, of the work that i did (and did not), of the innumerable coffee and tea sessions, strangely I remember only two words


The first senetence we were taught to write in that Java course. And of course, wverything else that followed always started with HelloWorld.

Those are still the only two words, I can think of when anyone says programming :)

Now, why did I tell this anecdote? I have to say, I can't recall a bit. Just the word Hello, I would have to presume. Isn't it dismally wonderful how two universal words like hello and world reminds me of the one thing I care (understand) little about? :)

Someone said, a long time back, a word only means so much as the meaning that is conveyed between the speaker and the spoken. I believe it. I believe you all will know that I do mean I am wonderfully happy to be back. After a summer that has been full of swirls, mochas, ices and heats.

Starting with a wonderfully simple Rissotto, that has no cream, just a dollop of butter

A cup of arborio/ small grain Rice. You can use any. I did with Jasmine.
1 cup of lentil, soaked overnight. The cooking time of lentil is longer than rice, so the pre soak
2.5 cups of warm chicken or vegetable broth. You can use pure water too
2 biggish onion
3 tbsf butter
Salt and Pepper
Parsley  and shredded cheese ( I like Gouda) for garnish

In a pot, add the rice, lentil and broth/water. Put on low heat and cover. Cook for 10 min. Meanwhile, gently brown the onion in butter. Add the butter and onion mixture to the cooking rice. Cover and cook for another 15 min, on very low heat (if you are afraid of burning the rice, just put the whole thing in the oven--check for plastic handles!-- at 300 for 40 min). The Lentil maybe a little textured, and the rice a bit mushy. But that's all right. Season with salt and pepper. Turn of heat and leave covered till you are ready to serve.
Garnish with some shredded gouda/ any cheese will do. Some parsley and a dash of lime juice.

Have with some poached eggs, quiche (if you like). Wine if its past 10 AM :)

Happy eating and healthy living!