Friday, October 29, 2010

#15 Vegetable Quiche

In 2004 we took a trip to Paris and spend about 10 days there. One afternoon we walked down Rue de Grenelle all the way to the Eiffel tower and the river Seine. It was the most beautiful feeling to be near this amazing structure. In reality the construction is larger than life and better than all the pictures that I have ever seen of the Eiffel tower. We walked around Port de Paris - a small shipping port where all the sight-seeing and private boats are docked on the river Seine. On the way to the Tower, passing several small cafes, boulangeries and patisseries filled with delicious pastries, breads, cakes and goodies- intricate displays in all the windows. Without a doubt, I am drawn into the shop to taste a bit of sweet heaven!! Even the small shops have foot long sandwiches made from “baguettes” -- mostly tuna, cured salmon, salami and ham.
We took a short side trip to Brugge in Belgium --a small town that has waterways and reminds you of Venice when you float along them in boats. Anyhow, in Paris we took several boat rides on the Seine river to see the beautiful sights and architectural bridges. We spent an entire day exploring the Cathedral of Notre Dame. The peace and beauty of the building structure, gardens and surrounding area was very gratifying to me.  It is said that the Notre Dame de Paris (Our Lady of Paris)was among the first buildings to be built with a flying buttress- associated with Gothic Church architecture. A massive masonry block on the outside of the building like a wing...the gargoyles on the tower look terrifying, and  are supposed to scare off evil and protect the Cathedral from evil spirits. 

We quietly watched the light filtering through the stained glass windows --it was rather spectacular early in the morning. The Opera House with its pastel colors reminded me of a well frosted cake. There are a ton of crepe stands on Blvd Montparnasse. Some have a stack of ready-made crepes that vendors will fill to order, fold them into a wedge and put them in a parchment so you can eat them as you walk along. R and I had our favorties from fillings like banana/nutella, ham and cheese, egg and two cheeses, lemon and sugar or spinach.
The glamorous Galeries Lafayette,  a Paris fashion institution with designer collections for the young and old. It also houses a gourmet food market where we grabbed a Quiche Lorraine and salad. This recipe is my version of a Veggie Quiche that I made in my own kitchen....
On weekends, along Rue de Grenelle they had the best Farmers Markets I have ever seen.... the special cheeses and freshly baked goodies are as attractive to the eye as they are to eat. I love going into one of the cafes and picking up a small pastry, sandwich and coffee. Since we were at a hotel and not an apartment I was not able to dish up something new from the lovely produce sold at the FM. I  remember having dinner one day at the Oui Pouvrier a cafĂ© that served Fois Gras and smoked Duck on bread over a large salad and pear sorbet. 

Frozen pre-prepared Pie crust for 9 inch pies
Whole Milk or cream- 1 cup
Thyme- 1/2 tsp
Nutmeg powder- 1/4 tsp
Worcestershire sauce- 1tblspn
Salt and pepper to taste
Grated Gruyere cheese- 1 cup
Garlic-3-4 cloves
Any Vegetables of your choice like
Zuchini, frozen chopped Kale, Carrots, Onions, Sweet Bell Pepper, Garlic, Tomatoes and Mushrooms
My breakfast slice of home-made veggie quiche............

1. Take a Oven safe Pie Plate. Roll out the Frozen/pre-prepared Pie crust to about 1/4 " thin round. Heat Oven to 350 degrees.
2. Lift the round crust over a rolling pin and spread it on the Pie Plate. Using your index finger and thumb press down on the edges of the plate to fit the lining. Press or pinch aroung the edge of the plate to your desired shape. If desired you can use a fork to create edging. Keep aside.
3. In a mixing bowl break the eggs and whole milk and beat well with salt, pepper, thyme, nutmeg and worcestershire. Beat in your processor or whisk until light.
4. Place a skillet on fire and lightly saute the onions and garlic. Remove from fire when they turn translucent.
5. Squeeze out all the water from the frozen kale. Add to the egg mixture, the onions, zuchini, red pepper and the drained kale. Mix well.

6. Pour the mixture into the prepared Pie Plate, decorate with saved mushroom and zuchini slices and place in the pre-heated oven. Bake for about 30-45 minutes or longer until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

#16 General Tso's Chicken

My family and I are always venturing out to try new international cuisine. The Metro area is a melting pot of all cultures and offers us so many options - Greek, French, Chinese, Italian, Lebanese, Ethiopian and anything else new......
I love asian and even though my east asian friends have given me fair warning of monosodium glutamate and deep fried foods used to enhance the taste of Asian food, I am still a frequent visitor of Asian restaurants for lunch. So last month, I tried to make this General Tso's chicken and it turned out to be a much lighter version. The versatility of the Wok makes it so universally popular in most Asian kitchens, and this recipe calls for fried boneless chicken served with whole dried red peppers in a sweet-spicy sauce. This is not an authentic Chinese dish, however it is considered one of the popular dishes in Chinese Restaurants. It is
said to have been discovered by Taiwanese immigrants who came to the US in the 1970s and named the dish after General Zou Zong-Tang-- a general of the Qing Dynasty of China.

Boneless chicken breast-1 cut into cubes
Soy sauce-2 tspn
vinegar- 2 tspn
Hoisin sauce-1 tblspn
Cornstarch- 1 Tblspn
Sesame Oil- 1 tspn
Dried red chillies-2-3
Orange peel -4 thinly sliced pieces
Ginger- 2 inch piece sliced very thin(fry a tspn and use as garnish)
Garlic- 4 cloves sliced thin
Sriracha or any chilli sauce- 1 tspn
Salt, black pepper, sugar for taste and Oil for pan frying.
Scallions- 1stalk

1. Prepare marinade using 1 tspn vinegar, 1/2 tspn soy sauce, salt, black pepper, cornstarch and egg.
2. Marinate the chicken overnight in the fridge.
3. When ready to eat, keep a skillet on stove and add 1/2 cup of  Corn Oil and heat.
4. Very carefully add the marinated chicken pieces to the skillet and pan fry all the pieces until cooked.
5. Remove and drain the chicken. Remove the skillet from fire.
6. Place a wok on the fire and add 2 Tblspn of the oil from the skillet.
7. Add the Dried red chillies and when they let out aroma add the Orange Peel, ginger, garlic. Stir for one minute and turn off the fire.
8. Now, add the rest of the soy sauce, vinegar, sugar, sesame oil, Hoisin sauce and the chilli sauce and mix very well. Now add the chiken and serve immediately with any type of sauted greens and steamed rice. Garnich with fried julienned ginger and scallions.

Always be a first-rate version of yourself, instead of a second-rate version of somebody else.  ~Judy Garland

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

#17 Oats Upma

I read in one of the Preventive magazines about "oats" being an option with those folks who may be headed in the direction of diabetes!!Wow--now I do feel old.  I occassionally cook up concoctions that may not be so "diet savvy". This one is familiar to many Indian households....yet it is healthy:)

Onions- 1/2 large onion chopped fine
Green chillies-2 chopped into cross sections
Quick cooking or Old Fashioned Oats- 1 cup
Ginger chopped- 1/2 tsp
Curry leaves- a few
Dry red chillies-1
Mustard seeds and Chana dal- 1/4 tspn
Cumin seeds(jeera)- 1/4 tspn
Olive Oil- 1 Tblspn
1 cup water and salt to taste
1. In a small skillet, roast the oats until it just develops a brown tinge. Remove and set aside in a bowl.
2. Heat oil in the same skillet and add the mustard seeds, Cumin seeds, chana dal, curry leaves and the red chilli and wait until the spluttering of the seasonings.
3. Add chopped onions, ginger and green chillies and saute until the onions are translucent.
4. Add water(the measurement for water is different if you are using Old Fashioned oats since it takes longer to cook) and salt and remove from fire. I used Old fashioned oats. If using quick cooking oats use half the water.
5. Place the mixture with water in a microwave safe dish. Add oats and cook in microwave for one minute.
6. I noticed that cooking n the microwave adds to the fluffiness of the upma. Fluff with fork and serve.

#18 Kerala Spiced Fish Fry

A word of warning-- the name of this recipe may sound spicy but it is not anything fiery.
I would say it is just an awesome combination of spices that you can rub on any kind of fish and get the same excellent taste. The combination of the spices and shallots enhance the flavor and marinate the fish so well that it reminds me of being in Kerala. I used smelt this time especially since they remind me of a tiny fish that is local to Kerala called "netholi".  Sometimes, I may decide to omit the black pepper and shallots for a quick King fish fry instead.

Smelts- 1 lb washed and cleaned.
Chilli powder- 1 Tblspn
Corainder Powder- 1 tspn
Shallots- 2 cut in half
Black Pepper powder-1/4 tspn
Lemon juice- 1 tspn
Curry leaves - 1 sprig
Salt to taste
Flour- 3 Tblspn
Oil for pan frying

1. In a blender or food processor,  blend shallots, Chilli, black pepper and coriander powder in lemon juice until smooth.
Do not add any water. If it needs water, add a tspn.
2. Rub the paste along with salt into and all over the fish. Leave this overnight in the refrigerator.
3. When ready to eat, heat oil in a shallow skillet. When the oil is piping hot, reduce the flame to medium.
4. Take the marinated fish and toss very lightly in the flour to coat and fry it up in the hot oil.
5. Turn the fish only after the first side is brown and remove when both sides are the same color. Drain the fish and toss with curry leaves.
6. Serve with sliced onions and lemon wedges if desired.

#19 Cornish Hens in Spicy Gravy

The Malayali in me is always looking for new recipes or versions of older recipes using simple ingredients right here in the US. Many years ago, I found these fresh young Cornish hens at the grocery chains here, and the taste reminded me of the fresh natural chicken curry my grandmother cooked up when I used to visit her on my summer vacations. I try to incorporate most of my experiences of Kerala into my children's world, and here is a version of one of the curries I served my girls when they were growing up. The hens are first marinated to preserve their juiciness and flavor and then the spices add a real kick.

Cornish Hens-  2 small birds, cut up into large chunks
Onions- 2 sliced
Ginger - 1/2 inch piece
Garlic - 5 cloves
Haldi powder- 1/2 tspn
Chilli powder- 1/2 tspn
Chicken masala powder- 1 1/2 Tblspn
Green chillies- 3
Lemon juice- 1 Tblspn
Olive Oil- 2-4 Tblspns
Tomato puree- 1 cup
Salt to taste
Lots of Curry leaves- 2-4 sprigs
Tempering- mustard seeds, red chillies, fenugreek seeds (a pinch), curry leaves(2 sprigs)

1. Marinate the meat in lemon juice, chilli powder and salt overnight.
2. Crush together the ginger, garlic and green chillies and keep aside.
3. Heat Oil in a deep skillet and add onions and stir for a while until golden brown.
4. Add the crushed raw masala and saute for a minute before adding the meat.
5. Add 1 cup water, haldi, chicken masala powder and additional salt as needed.
6. Add more water until the meat is just about submerged in the gravy.
7. Let cook on slow fire until the cornish hens are well cooked and gravy is now very thick. remove from fire.
8. Heat a small pan, add oil and temper the mustard seeds, red chillies and fenugreek seeds.
When the mustard seeds splutter add curry leaves and pour over the curry. Mix well. Garnish with curry leaves.

#20 Kerala Quick Chicken Breast Curry

I am always looking to  find new ways of cooking chicken since R loves chicken cooked any way. This is a curry I make at times when I am not inspired to look up recipe books and measure out the ingredients. This is a spontaneous recipe and most of the time I just throw in the spices on my own adding less or more depending on my mood. My spice roots go back to the food grown in "God's own country" and I have used whole spices instead of garam masala or curry powder. One such dish that brings out the real spices of Kerala and my favorite...

Chicken breast- 1 boneless cut up
Ginger paste-1 tspn
Garlic paste- 1/2 tspn
Onions cut up fine- 2 onions
Tomatoes- 1 large chopped
Corainder Powder- 1 tspn
Chilli powder- 1/2 tspn to 3/4 tspn
Haldi(turmeric powder) -1/4 tspn
Fennel seeds, mustard seeds,
Cinnamon- 1 stick
Cardamom- 2
1 dried red pepper and 1 sprig curry leaves
salt to taste
crushed black pepper
Olive Oil- 2 Tblspn
Yogurt- 1 tspn

1. Marinate the Chicken breast in the yogurt, ginger, garlic paste, salt and chilli powder for about an hour.
2. Heat oil in a pan, add the fennel seeds, mustard seeds, split red chilli and curry leaves until the mustard seeds splutter.
3. Add chopped onions and saute real well until they turn light brown then add tomatoes and stir well until pulpy.
4. Add coriander powder, crushed black pepper and saute until the raw smell is gone(a minute).
5. Add the Marinated chicken, cinnamon,cloves and cardamom and 1/2 cup of water.
6. Let cook covered on a low flame until the chicken pieces are well done and taste to make sure the gravy is well seasoned. Add salt if needed.
7. Remove from fire and serve with rice, rotis or parathas.

Monday, October 25, 2010

#21 Stuffed Aloo or Bharwan Aloo

I love North Indian dishes as much as South Indian ones. Being raised in Maharashtra I have grown to love Paneer-matar, Rajma and Aloo-Gobi, and many more favorites. R loves to eat rotis, parathas and naan with any type of protein curry so that give me many opportunities to cook up out NI favorites. Sometimes, I try out innovative sides for rotis and end up 'customizing' to suit our taste.
I tried to make this recipe "Benarasi Bharwan Aloo" by Sanjeev Kapoor using Cream Cheese instead of the Paneer that the great Chef used to stuff the potatoes.  That is how I ended up with this one. We enjoyed this dish but you can make it your own...

Any kind of average sized or baby potatoes-7(Russet potatoes may not work well as they are too big)
Cream Cheese-4 ounces(1/2 the Philadelphia cheese pack)
Fennel seeds- 1 tspn
Oil to pan fry- 1/2 cup + 2 Tblspn
Fresh Cilantro chopped 2 Tblspn
green chillies chopped- 4
Raisins- 12
Cashewnuts chopped- 10
Asafoetida- 1 pinch
cumin seeds-1 tspn
ginger grated- 1/2 tspn
Tomato puree- 2 cups(canned puree may be used)
Turmeric powder-1/2 tspn
Red Chilli powder- 1/2 tspn
Jaggery/Brown sugar- 1/4 cup
Fresh sour cream- 2 Tblspn

1. Boil to cook the potatoes with skin. Peel and halve potatoes. Wipe dry. Pan fry the potato halves in as much oil as needed to brown all sides. Scoop out the middle of each half potato.
2. Chop the scooped out portion of the potatoes. Add cream cheese, cilantro, green chillies, raisins, cashewnuts and salt. Mix well together.
3. Stuff the scooped out potato halves with this filling.
4. Heat the 2 Tblspn of oil in a Pan. Add asofoetida, roasted fennel seeds, cumin seeds, ginger and saute. Add tomato puree and mix well.
5. Add turmeric and chilli powder and 1/2 cup water cooking for four minutes.
6. Add jaggery and salt to taste. Add the stuffed potatoes to the hot gravy and cook on low heat for anther four to five minutes. Reduce gravy until thick.
7. Add sour cream and serve hot.

#22 Rabri or Palkatti

This is one of those simple sweets that bring back nostalgic memories of childhood. My mother always made this when there was too much left over milk in the fridge. She cooked it down with sugar for a really long time and the house smelled so good...............mmmmmmmmm

1 litre whole milk
1 tspn ghee
1/2 can condensed milk
1/4 cup sliced almonds, cachewnuts or pistachios

1. Heat the ghee(clarified butter) in a non stick pan and swirl to coat the entire bottom.
2. Add the milk, keep stirring the milk occasionally on a slow fire until it is reduced to half the quantity you started with.
3. Add the condensed milk and cook, stirring constantly(this time) to avoid burn/sticking to the bottom of the pan.
4. Scrape the sides of the pan from time to time to get the malai back into the milk. When it solidifies into half the quantity remove from heat, add nuts, spread on a flat platter and allow to cool.
5. Cut up as desired --delicious if stirred longer and converted to burfi-like yumminess!!

#23 Quinoa "Fried Rice"

We all know that Quinoa is a grain-like seed from South America quite commonly used all over the world. It's high nutritional value makes it a staple in my pantry. I wake up from an afternoon siesta on a quiet Saturday and decide I would like to eat some fried rice for dinner. Since I am trying to go "low-carb" I have to compensate the rice with something that has more protein so here's what I do--- I find a small pack of Quinoa in my pantry, and I whisk up this quick dish.  It turns out to be very similar to Chinese Fried rice, except that instead of "rice" I have used the cooked Quinoa. It has a nutty and delicious taste, but I had to cook it for at least 15 minutes.

3/4 cups quinoa, rinsed
1/2 tsp salt
1 Tblspn corn oil
1 carrot chopped
1 red bell pepper,cored and chopped
1/2 cup frozen green peas
1/2 cup snow peas
1 stalk green onions cut up
2 tsp grated ginger
2 cloves grated garlic
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 egg beaten
1 green chile
1 chicken breast, chopped fine
1/2 cup cilantro and mint chopped
1 Tblspn soy sauce

1. Place quinoa in a small saucepan with 3/4 cup water and 1/4 tspn salt. Bring to boil, reduce heat to low. Cover and cook for about 15 mins until cooked dry.
2. Remove from fire and fluff with fork, keep aside.
3. Heat the oil in a large wok over medium heat and cook the carrots until softened. Add bell pepper, green peas, snow peas ginger, garlic and chile stir fry for about 2 mins adding salt and pepper. Remove veggies from wok to a plate.
4. To the hot wok, add chicken with 1 Tblsn oil and stir fry until cooked. Add quinoa along with beaten egg and stir constantly until egg is cooked evenly.
5. Add vegetables, green onions/scallions, cilantro and soy sauce cook for a minute or two. Remove from fire and enjoy.

The life of every man is a diary in which he means to write one story, and writes another.  ~James Matthew Barrie

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