Artichoke Focaccia Bread

My creative release is cooking:  exploring different spices,  pulses, vegetables, and combining the said ingredients into wonderful savory and sweet concoctions.  I’ve spent the last couple of years trying and recreating recipes from around the world and adding my own spin to them.  Travel provides the perfect vehicle to try the new and the exotic.

Travel and exploration need not have to entail an airline ticket and a pricey hotel booking.  Sometimes the most satisfying adventure can lie just a few miles down the road.  Last weekend Hubby dear and I decided to venture out to Half Moon Bay and travel down the coast along Highway 1 and take in the scenery.  We discovered this cute little town by the name of Pescadero, 18 miles south of Half Moon Bay.  The town is  really one country road anchored by the Duarte’s Tavern on one end, and the town’s church on the other.  In between, are small shops:  a coffee shop, a handmade furniture store, and a couple of country stores.  We wandered into the Pescadero Country Store and discovered piping hot loaves of bread – freshly made and emanating heat.  We soon found out they were loaves of artichoke bread!  The loaves started to disappear as soon as soon as the young man put a half dozen in the basket.  Being a slave to carbs, I had to pick one up (all the while eying the $6+ price tag from the corner of my eye).

 

IMG_4970Small garden nursery in Pescadero

 

Diets be damned!  Hubby dear and I tore into the warm soft bread and the wonderful chunks of artichoke pieces were just heavenly.   Initially we thought that the loaf would just have a few artichoke leaves or pieces but did not expect such large chunks nestled into the fluffy crevices of the loaf.  Not being able to get the taste of the delectable bread out of my mind, I gingerly proceeded in creating my own version of artichoke bread.  My version is a simple round focaccia loaf that has large pieces of artichoke throughout and topped off with the a generous slathering of oil and za’atar (Middle Eastern spice made of sumac, thyme, oregano, marjoram, and sesame seeds.  Available at your neighborhood Middle Eastern store or on Amazon.com:  Sadaf Za’atar).   The result is pretty darned good and close to the original, if I do say so myself!

I use the following recipe as the basis for my recipe: One Hour Skillet Focaccia and add a can of artichokes (drained, and roughly chopped. Trader Joe’s sells cans of “Artichoke Hearts” that are excellent) and a liberal brush of za’atar and extra virgin olive oil.  Bake for 25-30 minutes and allow to cool completely before cutting.

Artichoke Zataar Focaccia BreadArtichoke and za’atar focaccia bread

 

 

Sweets and Savories for Diwali Part II

The weather has finally turned and it’s starting to feel nippy.  As I write this post, I am watching the rain (or light showers) drizzle outside while curled up in a blanket.  Finally (finally!) fall and festive!  It just doesn’t quite feel like October when it’s perpetually summer, and the temperature doesn’t budge from the high 80s.  Don’t get me wrong, I love good weather as much as the next person, but without the contrast of inclement weather how can one appreciate bright and sunny days?  🙂

The last week has been a busy one with lots of cooking, baking, and experimentation, and I have enjoyed every minute of it.  Hubby’s gift of an ice cream/gelato maker finally arrived last week, and I made my first batch of ice cream.  It turned out to be the creamiest, most flavorful ice cream we have ever had.  I also made a tray full of Indian sweets, to pack as gifts to friends, and a pre-Diwali dinner of jeera rice and paneer tikka masala for me and hubby dear.  Phew!  It finally feels good to finally put my feet up for a bit!  (Of course, Diwali cleaning is still on the radar, but I am trying to put that off today!)

Below are links and helpful hints for some of the treats I made last week.

May you have a blessed and joyful Diwali!  Here’s to eating, drinking, and being merry!

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Jeera (or cumin) Rice Recipe:  Jeera Rice

*I made a simple version of jeera rice with just cumin seeds, a pinch of salt, olive oil, and basmati rice.  Since I was pairing this with the spice-laden paneer tikka masala, I wanted the rice to be on the plainer side.  But the recipe yields a very nice result as well and the methodology is spot on.

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Paneer Tikka Masala Recipe:  Paneer Tikka Masala

*Once again, a wonderful recipe from Veg Recipes of India.  I followed this recipe down to the last letter and it produced the creamiest and most sinful dish.  I would even say the leftovers taste better as the flavors have had a chance to seep into the paneer!  An award-winning dish!

Paneer and bell peppers coated in besan, spice, and yogurt mixture about to go in the oven.

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Jeera Rice & Paneer Tikka Masala

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Motichoor Laddoo Recipe:  Motichoor Laddoos

*This recipe is not for the faint of heart!  I had asked hubby dear to purchase a large sieve last year when he was in India, and I was finally able to put it to good use!  Making laddoos is a time consuming process, but the results are just lovely.  If you want to just make boondi laddoos, then there is no need to pulse the mixture, and you can simply form the balls.  I like the taste and texture of motichoor laddoos, so chose to follow the recipe exactly.  The only adjustment I made was to omit the artificial color as I don’t add any artificial ingredients in my cooking.  

Large sieve to make boondis for the laddoos.  Making boondi/motichoor laddoos is a painstaking process!

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Besan Barfi Recipe:  Besan Barfi

*I followed this recipe pretty closely and the barfis turned out wonderfully.  It does take about 1/2 hour of stirring the besan mixture for the raw taste of the besan to go away.  The only recommendation I have is to leave the mixture in a plate in the fridge for a few hours to solidify, then removing and letting sit for about an hour before cutting it into pieces.  This allows you to cut the barfis into lovely shapes, without too much effort.  They stay fresh for several weeks in an airtight container in the fridge.

I decorated a tray with several varieties of sweets (gulab jamunnan khatai) and mathri (mathri), then added a Diwali candle for a festive touch.  Lastly, I covered the tray with plastic wrap and finished it off with a ribbon bow for an ethnic and elegant presentation!

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Mango Ice Cream Recipe:  Easy Mango Ice Cream

*This recipe is very easy!  You can certainly make this ice cream even without an ice cream maker.  For my version and for an even mixture, I blended the following in the blender for a few minutes before putting in the ice cream maker for 50 minutes:  2 cups of Alphonso mango pulp (you can find this as a canned variety in your local Indian store.  I used the Verka brand), 2 cups of heavy whipping cream, and 1/2 cup of granulated sugar.  I didn’t use honey or vanilla (as per the recipe), and the ice cream tasted just fine.  This proportion gave the results in the pictures below.  The ice cream is creamy and not overly sweet.  I also let the ice cream firm up for twenty four hours in the fridge before serving.  Feel free to top it off with nuts before serving in an elegant dessert bowl!

Mango ice cream served up with chopped pistachios on top.

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Seriously Easy Deep Dish Pizza

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Hubby dear is a HUGE deep dish pizza fan.  Specifically, Chicago-style deep dish pizza.  I think his addiction started when he was a grad student in Chicago.  We had a chance to indulge in the real Chicago stuff a few years ago when we visited the Windy City, and the taste was pie heaven:  crisp and light buttery crusts, flavorful tomato sauce, and just the right amount of Mozzarella cheese.  But the secret of a good deep dish pizza is in the crust and get it wrong, and the pie is ruined.

Locally, we would frequent Pizza Chicago, which has really tasty vegetarian options.  Recently, I came across an article in the Taste section on Huffington Post which featured apple pie recipes.  I clicked on one of the recipes which was from The Minimalist Baker, and discovered several other recipes on that site – one of which was an easy breezy deep dish pizza recipe.  This recipe is a seriously a cinch to make and you can get creative with the fillings.  I made the dough from another recipe, which I have included below (which adds spice to the crust).  I filled the pie with sautéed Crimini mushrooms and red onions and a spicy pizza sauce I made from canned tomatoes.  I also used shredded Mozzarella sparingly, but you can add as much as you want.  After baking the pizza for approximately 25 minutes on the top shelf in the oven, the result was an amazing deep dish that can go head-to-head with any pizzeria made pizza!

Deep Dish Pizza Recipe:  Simple Deep Dish Pizza

Dough Recipe:  Pizza Crust Recipe

Ready to go in the oven:

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Kanjak Pooja or Poori/Chana/Halwa Day

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Kanjak Pooja is celebrated on the eighth day of Navratri.  Kanjaks, or girls eight years old and younger, are said to be divine manifestations of the feminine power (or Devi).  On this day in many parts of India, little girls are invited to households and their feet are washed, and worshippers seek their blessings before feeding them plates of poori, chana, and halwa.  Afterwards, they are gifted with treats, toys, and money, and then everyone else is allowed to enjoy prashad (or holy food) of poori, chana, and halwa.  Little girls look forward to Kanjak Pooja as much as children in the West look forward to Halloween.  (After all, who doesn’t love treats and presents?)  Nowadays, with the grueling demands of modern life, it is difficult to uphold this tradition, particularly outside of India.  Therefore, many just offer prashad to a shrine at the local Hindu temple. Hubby dear and I have been eating pretty clean and healthy the past couple of months, and we were eagerly awaiting this day to finally indulge in some ghee and fried food 🙂  I guess a lot of people were eagerly awaiting this day; a quick search of #kanjak on Instagram yielded some pretty cute pictures of little kanjaks dressed in adorable outfits, and plates and plates of ghee-laden halwa, crispy pooris, and yummy chana! The poori/halwa/chana recipes that I made for Kanjak Pooja this year, are from Veg Recipes of India, and I have included the links and some helpful hints below.  The recipes from this site are always spot to make simple, delicious vegetarian dishes.

The Spread

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Fluffy Pooris

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Recipe:  Pooris

*Great, easy recipe to make fluffy pooris. A few years ago, I had picked up a chapati press at a local Indian store.  Well, it never quite worked to flatten out rotis to the right consistency and shape, but worked like a charm to flatten pooris.  I wrapped the top and the bottom halves with plastic wrap, for easy removal of the pooris and easy clean up.  Making pooris is now easier than ever and I faithfully use this device once-a-year 🙂 

Curried Kala (or black) Chana:

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Recipe:  Dry Kala Chana

*This was my maiden effort in making kala chana and not only was it super tasty, but easy to make as well.   I plan to make this dish more often as it has a lot of protein and is filling.  It goes well with rotis, bread, or rice.  You can also put it on top of a bed of lettuce for a tasty salad.   The only adjustment I made to this recipe was pressure cooking the beans first, then draining the water into a bowl, and then I incorporated the oil/salt/masala step.  (Because this version was for pooja (or holy food), I did not add onion.  The only masala I used was garam masala, turmeric, a bit of red chili powder, amchur (or dried mango powder), and rock black salt, all to taste.  I also incorporated the ginger strips and the chopped green chills.)  I pressure cooked this mixture with a half cup of water, for one whistle, to incorporate the masala with the beans and to cook the strips of ginger, thoroughly.  The water is absorbed by the beans and the result is a wonderful tangy masala creation.  After the chana had cooled down, I garnished it with chopped cilantro.

Halwa

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Recipe:  Saffron Sooji Halwa

*I made this recipe exactly as written and the results were outstanding.  Soft, fluffy, and mildly sweet halwa.  I pressed the cooled halwa on a pie plate and decorated the top with slivered almonds.

Homemade Paneer Tikka Wraps

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A local spot called Chaat Cafe is one of my favorite places to go to for their paneer wraps and side potato salad.  It’s a delicious and filling treat.  The nearest location for us, is half an hour away (without traffic).  So when the craving for a paneer wrap creeps up, I want to satisfy the urge without schlepping the distance.   I created my version of their famous wrap that gets pretty close to the real deal.  With a bit of planning, these can make a great casual lunch for company or even a fall picnic.

Paneer, or Indian cottage cheese, is a great source of vegetarian protein.  One wrap will keep you full for hours!

There are a few things you can make in advance and refrigerate.

Paneer Tikka Wraps Recipe

I’ve broken the recipe down by the main ingredients that go into the wrap:  the cilantro chutney and the paneer tikka masala.  The rest of the ingredients, are completely based on preference and taste.  Experiment and see what works for you!

Cilantro Chutney

Ingredients:

  • 1 bunch organic cilantro bunch
  • A handful of organic mint leaves (5-10 is plenty)
  • 1 Medium-size garlic clove
  • 1 Serrano pepper or to taste (you can use Jalapeños for less spiciness)
  • A small quarter or a lemon or lime, to taste
  • Salt, to taste

1.  Chop off the ends of the cilantro bunch and wash well

2.  Pick mint leaves off stem and wash well

3.  Peel garlic clove

4.  Wash pepper

5.  Combine everything into a blender and add 1/2 teaspoon of water and blend well.  If the mixture looks dry and is not mixing well, add a bit more water.  Be careful not to add too much, otherwise chutney will become runny

6.  Pour mixture into a dish and add squeeze 1/2 lemon or 1 lime (to taste)

7.  Add salt to taste

8.  Cover and refrigerate.  Chutney should last a week in the fridge

Paneer Tikka Masala

Ingredients:

  • 4 oz of store-bought good quality paneer (available at any Indian store)
  • 1 medium tomato
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/2 inch ginger
  • 1 Serrano pepper (or 1 Jalapeño for less spice)
  • 1/4 teaspoon asafetida powder (available at any Indian store)
  • 1 teaspoon fenugreek leaves (available at any Indian store)
  • 1 teaspoon powdered turmeric (available at any Indian store)
  • 1 teaspoon red chilli powder (available at any Indian store)
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala (I use MDH Garam Masala, available at any Indian store)
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

1.  Cut the paneer into long strips, about 1/4 inch thick and an inch long (roughly).  Cover this until ready to use, so the paneer does not dry out.  Store the balance of the paneer in an airtight container and place in the fridge.  The balance of the packet should be good for another week.

2.  Chop the tomato, set aside

3.  Grate the garlic and ginger, set aside

4.  Heat oil in a pan on medium(cast iron works well; the paneer tends to stick to stainless steel, so I would avoid using this type of pan)

5.  Add 1/4 asafoetida powder and let this sizzle a bit and then add the chopped tomato, the ginger garlic paste, and the serrano pepper

6.  Cook this on medium low to medium until the tomato is cooked and no longer firm (it should look “saucy”)

7.  Add the garam masala, red chili powder, turmeric and mix well

8.  After about a minute, add the paneer, and mix.  Be mindful not to mix too hard as the paneer strips will break

9.  Reduce the heat to low, and add the heavy cream and let simmer

10.  Sprinkle the fenugreek leaves last, and remove from stove and let cool

Paneer Tikka Masala – ready to go in the wrap:

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Assembling the Wrap

Assembling the wrap is pretty much like assembling a burrito.  Below is just my preference, but feel free to use your technique.

Ingredients:

  • Store-bought flour tortillas (I use Trader Joe’s Flour Tortillas that are 10″ in diameter) or feel free to use any type of tortilla or roti/naan
  • 1 large romaine lettuce leaf, washed and dried.  Feel free to use chopped lettuce instead
  • 1/4 sliced red onion
  • 1 teaspoon of the cilantro chutney mixed in with 1 tablespoon of sour cream
  • paneer tikka masala

1.  Microwave the flour tortilla for 10 seconds

2.  Smear the chutney/sour cream mix on the tortilla

3.  Put lettuce on tortilla

4.  Lay paneer strips on lettuce

5.  Put sliced onions on top (see picture below)

6.  Add more chutney/sour cream mix on top

6.  Roll up the wrap and enjoy!

Wrap, ready for assembly.  Large-leaf lettuce (i.e. romaine), sliced onions, chopped cilantro, paneer tikka, cilantro/mint chutney mixed in with sour cream

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Wrap assembled:

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Wrapped Up, Plated, with Spicy Potato Side Salad:

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Jackfruit (Kathal) Biryani: Spicy, Hearty, and Vegetarian

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A few years ago, I had jackfruit biryani at a family friend’s house and was blown away by the spiciness, texture, and taste of this delicacy.  (Origins of biryani:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biryani).  I was also impressed that jackfruit has almost a meat-like consistency and absorbed the spices so well.  For vegetarians, it offers a nice and filling option for biryani, that is surprisingly light at the same time.

Over the years, I have tried a few variations of this recipe, but I think the following one is pretty close to an authentic biryani taste.  I’ve noted a version I made on this recipe, which is slightly less heavy on the spice.

Like lasagna, the rice continues to absorb the flavors over time, so leftovers taste even better than the first serving!

Kathal Biryani

http://www.sailusfood.com/2013/04/26/jackfruit-biryani-recipe-kathal-panasa/

Helpful Hints – Jackfruit Preparation

*I purchased 2 cans of brined jackfruit from my local Ranch 99 store.  2 cans is an adequate amount for 4 cups of rice.

*For the marinade, I coarsely grind 2 bay leaves, approximately 7 peppercorns, 3 cloves, 4 cardamoms (covers removed), and approximately 7 coriander seeds and add it to 4 cups of yogurt (I use Trader Joe’s full fat European yogurt.  I think full fat Greek yogurt would work as well).

*To the marinade, I add 2 teaspoons of cinnamon powder and 2 teaspoons of cumin powder (I just grind cumin seeds into powder in a mortar and pestle).

*Add about a tablespoon of ginger/garlic paste (I usually create my own) and 2 teaspoons of finely minced serrano peppers (or to taste).

*Add salt to taste.

*Marinate the jackfruit mixture for 24 hours in the fridge.

*Remove the jackfruit mixture the next day, and sauté the pieces and in the marinade for about 10 minutes and let cool.  This helps the jackfruit absorb all of the masala.  This step is optional, as you can just allow the jackfruit mixture to cook in the oven along with the rice.  It’s purely a preference thing.

Jackfruit after overnight marination:

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Helpful Hints – Rice Preparation

*Wash 4 cups of basmati rice until the water runs clear and let the rice soak in clean water for about 30 minutes.  This helps to remove the starch and allows each strand of rice to not stick together.

*After 30 minutes, drain the rice and set aside.  

* Heat a large vessel with a few tablespoons of oil olive and add 2 small bay leaves, 2 cloves, 3-4 cardamon pods (the whole pods), 2 black cardamon pods, and 1 cinnamon stick (you can break this up as well) and gently pan fry

*Add the drained rice and stir fry with the whole spices for a minute or two.

*Add water that covers the rice and about an inch above the rice.

*Add salt to taste (a sprinkle will do) and half cook the rice until a slight boil and then remove from heat.

*Drain the rice and let cool.

Helpful Hints – Toppings

*Cut 1 medium size red onion into long lengthwise strips.

*Caramelize onions and set aside.

*Soak 3-4 strands of saffron in a tablespoon of milk for a few minutes.

Helpful Hints – Assembly and Baking

*Take a rectangular Pyrex dish and grease all sides on the inside and layer the semi-cooked jackfruit on the bottom.  Pour any marinade all over the jackfruit.  Layering the jackfruit on the bottom protects the rice from getting singed.

*Layer rice with spices next, covering all of the jackfruit at the bottom.

*Sprinkle saffron mixture sporadically over the rice.

*Sprinkle mint leaves sporadically over the rice (this adds a great fresh flavor and punch to the biryani).

*Sporadically put 1/2 of the caramelized onion mixture on this layer.

*Layer the balance of rice and again, sporadically sprinkle the saffron mixture over the rice.

*Top it off with the balance of the caramelized onion mixture and a few pieces of chopped cilantro leaves.

*Optional step:  sprinkle sea salt over the top.

*Cover the dish tightly with heavy-weight aluminum foil and place a heavy dish on top (i.e. a cast iron skillet works well).  This creates a vacuum effect and allows the flavors to steam and mix in the biryani while baking.

*Bake for 30-45 minutes.

*Remove carefully from the oven and let sit for 5 minutes and then remove foil.  Cut into the biryani and mix it up so the jackfruit is mixed into the rice.

*Serve immediately with a side of yogurt or raita!

Layer the jackfruit first, on a well-greased rectangular Pyrex dish:

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The fully layered biryani before going into the oven.

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Easy Meals: Frittatas

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I had my first frittata a few years ago, when hubby dear and I stayed at a B&B.  It was served for breakfast and the taste and texture were just out of this world.  Frittatas are great meals that are healthy, filling, and full of protein and vegetables.

This is a great easy frittata recipe that combines vegetables and goat cheese, which adds a great tart kick.  This dish is a wonderful item to bring to potlucks or to serve to out-of-town guests.  You can serve this with a side of arugula salad.

Feel free to mix it up by adding your own vegetable and meat combinations for a healthy and filling breakfast, lunch, or dinner meal!

http://blog.blueapron.com/a-recipe-for-the-classic-breakfast-frittata/

*I omitted the meat in this recipe, and used leftover vegetables from the crisper (mushrooms, green and red peppers, caramelized onions, yellow crookneck squash).  I also added a few fresh rosemary sprigs and  fresh pepper and sea salt to taste, right before baking.  I used about 3 to 3 1/2 tablespoons of honey chèvre in this recipe.  The honey chèvre gives the frittata a nice sweet and tart flavor.  My skillet pan is 10 inches, which was just the right size.  I baked at 375 degrees in the oven for 20 minutes.

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Indian Fusion: Deep Dish Chaat Pizza

There’s a great hole-in-the-wall pizza joint in Fremont called “Pizza and Curry” and they have a pretty phenomenal Mango Chaat Pizza that we indulge in, a couple of times a year.  I bet you are thinking:  chaat and pizza?  Oh yes and how.  This pizza combines the best of chaat, with it’s complex spices and tartness, with the sacred pizza.  The result is an epicurean love child.  The only hitch is that the pizza can be hit or miss, in terms of spiciness.  Now, I love me some spice, and lately, the mango chaat pizza has been a bit bland for my tastes.  I did a quick Bing search and found a fabulous recipe that replicates the famous pizza, pretty darn well.

I’ve made this pizza, with a few tweaks now twice, and the second time I decided to make a deep dish version in…you guessed it…a cast iron skillet!  The best part about this pizza is that you can prep a day in advance (i.e. make the dough and refrigerate it, chop up the vegetables, and make the sauce), and final assembly and baking takes maybe half an hour.  It is so worth it to make your own pizza dough and I have been using a standard recipe that I found on Food.com.  I follow this recipe, with the addition of spices to the dough.

http://www.food.com/recipe/beths-pizza-crust-13546

*To add some flavor and spice to the dough, I add the following spices (to taste):  dried oregano, dried basil, Italian seasoning, and crushed red pepper.  For a standard 10-inch cast iron pan, you can easily divide the dough into 2 parts, and save the second, for use later.  A 10-inch pan yields 4 pieces (enough for 2).

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I follow the Mango Chaat Pizza recipe exactly as it’s noted below,and the results are simply to.die.for.

http://food52.com/recipes/18169-mango-chaat-pizza

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Celebrations big and small

Carrying through with New Year’s resolutions has always been a challenge.  But when I remember my resolutions, I try and carry through, if only for the day.  To find the joy of each and every day, is one resolution that I have been conscientiously trying to do as often as possible.   After all, isn’t that what it’s all about?  The big joys are fleeting, few, and far in-between.  The little joys – sunshine or rain, a scrumptious pastry, a forgotten song – just make your day.

As I was driving around today, it struck me how beautiful the scenery outside was.  A dreary day otherwise but the contrast between the impending storm and the blooming cherry blossoms made it more than bearable.  It was pouring rain, but the colors were just so vibrant and worthy of at least a few photographs.

On the subject of cooking, I haven’t been as prolific of late.  Call it the winter doldrums.  Last weekend, Hubby Dear and I were enjoying a Saturday night at home and the topic of dinner came up.  We were both feeling lethargic, and not feeling up to anything too extravagant.  The thought of spending an hour in the kitchen sounded exhausting.  The default choice in this situation is usually a take out burrito from High Tech Burrito, but we had already done that earlier in the week.  After debating for a few minutes, we had divine inspiration – khichdi! Rice and daal porridge on a cold winter’s eve was exactly what we needed to warm us up from the inside out.  With the accoutrements of yogurt, chauka (mashed potatoes) and paapad (wafer made of lentils, lightly toasted on a gas burner), a fast and easy meal was set.  My version of khichdi is more of pulao/pilaf than porridge.  The recipe below serves 4 easily (or 2 with leftovers for a few days).  If you feel inclined to, you can add vegetables such as chopped carrots, cauliflower, or squash to the rice/daal mixture when you pressure cook it.  It’s khichdi – you can’t go wrong.

Khichdi Recipe (drier version.  Serves 4)

Ingredients:

– 1 cup basmati rice, washed and drained

– 1 cup toor dal, washed and drained

– 1 teaspoon garam masala

– 1 teaspoon mirch powder

– 1/4 teaspoon haldi (turmeric)

– Salt, to taste

For tempering:

– Handful of peas

– 1 teaspoon jeera

– 1/2 medium onion, chopped

– 1 tablespoon ghee (clarified butter or regular butter is fine too)

Directions:

1.  Add rice and daal together in a pressure cooker with the garam masala, haldi, mirch powder, and salt

2.  Add 2 1/2 cups of water

3.  Pressure cook for 3 whistles (approximately)

4.  Remove from the burner, and allow the pressure to escape

5.  Place ghee in a shallow frying pan and once melted, add the jeera

6.  Once the jeera stars to pop and brown, add the onions and fry until translucent

7.  Add peas and fry until they are a little shriveled

8.  Pour the tempered mixture into the khichdi and mix thoroughly

9.  Add another teaspoon of ghee on top before serving for a more creamy texture

With Valentine’s Day this month, I knew I wanted to make Hubby Dear a special meal at home.  I pored over websites and watched endless Food Network shows to get inspiration but nothing seemed “just right.”  Then it came to me:  Hubby Dear and I love spicy chaat dishes and in particular, we love chole bhature (spicy chickpeas with fried bread).  So I made my Mother-in-Law’s chole and found an easy bhatura recipe online and it worked perfectly.  For dessert, I paired chocolate-dipped strawberries with Kir Royale for a dinner feast!

Chole (recipe serves 4)

Ingredients:

– 2 cups chickpeas

– 3-4 roma tomatoes, chopped into small cubes

– 1 serrano pepper, finely chopped

– 1 1/2 tablespoons jeera

– Pinch of asafoetida powder

– 1 teaspoon ginger, grated to form paste

Directions:

1.  Wash chickpeas thoroughly and soak in double the amount of water, overnight (water level should be 1 inch above chickpeas)

2.  Next day, add chickpeas, and a pinch of baking soda in a pressure cooker with the same water it was soaked in for 2-3 whistles

3.  Remove pressure cooker from the burner and allow to cool and pressure to escape

4.  Using a shallow frying pan or tava, add 1 and 3/4 tablespoons of jeera and roast until brown (the aroma of this is intoxicating)

5.  Remove from the frying pan once browned, and place seeds in a mortar and grind into a fine powder.  Keep aside

5.  In a wok or karahi, add 3 tablespoons of any vegetable or olive oil

6.  When the oil is hot, add asafoetida powder and it should start to brown immediately

7.  Add 1 teaspoon of jeera and let it brown and crackle

8.  Now add the chopped tomatoes and serrano peppers and sautee until the tomato becomes soft and forms a paste-like consistency

9.  Add garam masala and mirch powder and keep stirring

10.  Add the chickpeas (they should be pretty soft now) and mix thoroughly

11.  Add the roasted and ground jeera powder and amchur powder and salt to taste

12.  Add about 2 cups of water slowly and simmer

13.  You can mash a few of the chickpeas to make the gravy a little thicker

14.  Remove from burner and serve hot with bhature, rotis, bread, puris, or rice

Bhature Recipe

This is a great video from Showmethecurry.com that instructs viewers on two ways to make delicious bhature

Source:  http://showmethecurry.com/breads/bhatura-bhature.html

Chocolate Dipped Strawberries Recipe

Source:  http://allrecipes.com//Recipe/Chocolate-Strawberries/Detail.aspx

Kir Royale Recipe

Source:  http://www.france-property-and-information.com/kir-royal-recipe.htm

Breaking Bread

Over the last week, we have had the pleasure of hosting a dinner party and attending a few.  We had a ball breaking bread with friends new and old and loved ones.  The laughter and chatter just makes the meal taste better.  Dinner parties have been apart of my life since childhood.  Growing up, my parents and I would go to a dinner party almost every weekend and host at least a half dozen every year.  The parties gave parents a chance to connect with the Indian community in the Bay Area and the kids a chance to see friends and get into some mischief or the other.  These parties taught me the fundamentals of entertaining.  Over the years, under the auspices of Martha Stewart and Ina Garten, I have had the opportunity to experiment in decor and cuisine.  Each party becomes a theatrical event – the lighting, flowers, music, and most importantly the food.

On Saturday, I hosted a Bon Voyage party for my parents who are leaving for India tomorrow.  The menu consisted of two different food combinations: shredded daikon (mooli) parathas with a plain raita, and brown rice with egg curry.  As a light appetizer, I offered fresh spring rolls and for dessert, apple muffins and cranberry bread with lemon curd.  The best compliment I received was from my father, who said he had conserved his caloric intake all day to indulge in the evening’s dinner.  Now any hostess would love to hear that!

I’m including recipes for the egg curry, mooli paratha, and the spring rolls below.  Enjoy!

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Egg Curry

(Source:  http://indianfood.about.com/od/chickendishes/r/eggcurry.htm)

Ingredients:

  • 6 hard boiled eggs
  • 5 tbsps vegetable/ canola/ sunflower cooking oil
  • 2 medium sized onion cut into quarters
  • 3 medium sized tomatoes cut into quarters
  • 2 green chillies
  • 2 tsps garlic paste
  • 2 tsps ginger paste
  • 2 tsps coriander powder
  • 1 tsp cumin powder
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1/2 tsp red chilli powder
  • Salt to taste
  • Chopped fresh coriander leaves to garnish
  • 2 potatoes cut into 1″ cubes (optional)

Preparation:

  • Heat 2 tbsps of the cooking oil in a deep pan and when hot, add the onions. Fry till slightly golden. Turn off the fire. Use a slotted spoon to remove the onions from the pan and put them in a food processor. Grind the onions, tomatoes, green chillies into a smooth paste. Try not to add water while grinding, if possible.
  • Heat the remaining oil in the same pan and add the paste you just made to it when it is hot. Fry for 2-3 minutes.
  • Add the ginger and garlic pastes, all the dry spices, mix and fry till the oil begins to separate from the masala (onion-tomato-spice mix).
  • Now add 2 cups of warm water to this masala and bring to a boil on a medium flame.
  • If adding potatoes to the curry, add them now and cook till half done.
  • Half slit the boiled eggs vertically and add them gently to the gravy. Simmer the flame and cook for 10 minutes or till the gravy is thickened/ reduced to about 3/4 of the original quantity (when you added the water). If you have added potatoes they should ideally be cooked by now.
  • Turn off the fire and garnish with chopped coriander leaves. Serve hot with rice and a vegetable side dish.

Mooli Parathas

(Source:  http://www.indianfoodforever.com/punjabi/mooli-parantha.html)

For stuffing:
3 Mooli (Radish)
Salt To Taste
1/2 tsp Red chilli powder
1/2 tsp Corainder powder
2 Green chillies, chopped finely
2 tbsp Corainder leaves
For dough:
2 cups Wheat flour
Salt To taste
Water As needed
Oil for frying muli paranthas
Preparation:
  • Sieve the wheat flour and salt. Add water and knead to stiff dough. Cover and keep aside.
  • Peel and grate the radish. Squeeze and drain all the water.
  • Heat the pan and fry the radish to light brown. Add salt, red chilli powder, green chillies, corainder leaves and mix well. Allow it to cool.
  • Take some dough and roll into small puri, put 2tsp of stuffing and cover all the sides. Roll again into a thick, round parantha.
  • Heat a tava and fry the mooli ka paratha both sides to crispy and brown. Put some oil over the paratha.
  • Serve the mooli paratha hot with raita or curry.

Fresh Spring Rolls

(Source:  http://vegetarian.about.com/od/maindishentreerecipes/r/ThaiSpringRolls.htm)

  • Spring roll wrappers
  • 1/2 cup bean sprouts
  • 1/3 head of green cabbage, chopped
  • 5 green onions, chopped
  • 1 cup thin noodles, pre-cooked (use rice, Chinese or bean thread noodles)
  • 1/4 cup fresh herbs (use cilantro, basil or mint, your choice)
  • 1/4 cup carrots, grated or julienned
  • 1 tbsp lime juice
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1/2 tsp fresh ginger, grated (optional)

Preparation:

Toss together all ingredients together except wrappers in large bowl. Submerge spring roll wrappers in hot water until pliable, about 15 seconds. Place about 2 tablespoons of mix on wrapper andwrap your spring rolls. Serve with dipping sauce and enjoy!