Sunday, July 29, 2012

#222 Spiced Spinach and Mustard Green Puree

Saag as it is commonly known is merely a bunch of greens sauteed with spices, onions and tomatoes and then pureed. You either love or hate Saag because of the pureed nature of the dish. I am an ardent lover of all greens and saag is the best way to eat greens -Indian style. A saag may also include potatoes, chickpeas, paneer, chicken or lamb immersed in it but is perfectly paired with warm Naan or rotis. Today, I'm making saag with Fresh Mustard greens and Spinach.

2 bunches of fresh spinach
1 bunch of Mustard greens
2 Onions chopped very fine
2 tomatoes chopped
1 Tbpsln Ginger paste
1 Tspn Garlic paste
2 green chillies
1/2 tspn Turmeric powder
1 Tblspn of Besan or chick pea flour
Olive oil, salt as needed
Garam masala- 1/2 tspn

1. Wash, drain and dry the greens. I usually leave them in cold water until the soil settles to the bottom before washing, draining the water and chopping them.
2. Place a wok on a medium fire, add enough olive oil to saute the onions until they are translucent.
3. Slowly add the tomatoes and saute until smooth and thick. Add garlic, ginger and chopped chillies.
4. When all the gravy comes together, add the greens all together wil salt and turmeric powder.
5. Add 1/2 cup water and mix well. Cover and slow cook over low fire until cooked down well.
6. Add the garam masala and besan and simmer until thickened. Turn off the fire and cool.
7. When cool, use a hand blender to puree lightly. At this point you may puree the green very smooth if you prefer. My family likes it a little lumpy so I puree the greens partially.
Serve with fresh homemade Pitas or Naans

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

#221 Cilantro Chili Stuffed Flatbread

I've been entertaining guests from out of town for the past few weeks so you'll have to excuse me for my silence, social alienation and time away from my blog.
Today, I am eager to share with you something that I served my guests.... flatbread baked in the traditional oven. A Middle eastern or Indian leavened flat-bread is generally baked inside of a hot tandoori oven. Although sometimes it is lovingly called 'Tandoori Naan', there are countless varieties of other flatbread that you can bake from this lovely dough. The elasticity and smoothness of the dough makes it easy. You can roll them as thin or as thick as you'd like. In the modern urban household a tandoori oven is not commonly found so Naan is usually baked right in a tradional oven. Flat bread is just as easy to bake as the simple Naan, dinner rolls or 'rotis', and this one is so versatile that you could just eat it without dunking into a dip or curry. All because they're  absolutely fresh, delicious and healthy with onion-cilantro flavors.

After a good night's sleep, last Sunday morning I woke up with a boost of energy and zest to try something I've never got my hands into...... baking fresh flatbreads instead of rotis for my guests!!
It was quite an adventure, but I had a beaming smile on my face (almost like the new chef at a Kabab place) when the stuffed bread came out of the oven looking gorgeous and smelling divine. Most importantly everyone simply loved the soft texture and flavor when I placed the platter on the table. I would say these were more 'Naan'-like than 'Pita'-like since I stuffed them with onions.
Place the onion sutffing on one circle and cover with the second flatbread.
1 package active dry yeast
2 Tblspns Sugar
3/4 cup warm water
3 cups all purpose flour
1 tspn salt
1/4 cup ghee or butter
3 Tblspn yogurt

For Filling: Chop together the following very fine-1 onion, 2 green chillies, 1/2 bunch cilantro.

How to make the Flatbread:
1. Pour the warm water in  ameasuring cup, add the sugar and yeast and let stand a few minutes for it to bloom, Mix weel before letting stand for 10 mins. It will froth and bloom.
2. Stir together flour, salt, yogurt and butter to combine and knead for about 10 mins until a smooth dough is formed.
3. Place this dough in a well oiled bowl and cover the bowl with a wet towel. Let rise in a warm area for about an hour or until the dough has risen to double its size.
4. Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees. Divide the dough into 23-24 pieces and roll out into circles
on a floured surface about 1/2 cm thick.(you could make it thinner if you plan on making sandwiches inside the pita halves)
5. Place half of the circles on a greased cookie sheet without touching one another. Spread 1 tspn of the onion mixture over each circle and spread around to the edges.
6. Now place a second circle over the first covering the onion mixture and making a sandwich of the onion mixture. Pinch the edges together to seal well. Using a fork make marks over the top of the sandwiched circle.
7. Brush the tops with oil and cook in the oven until they are lightly browned and slightly puffed up.
8. Remove from the oven and serve warm.
Suggested side dishes with Flatbread are Salmon Tikka Masala                               
or my next dish Spiced Spinach and Mustard Greens

Thursday, July 19, 2012

#220 Salmon Tikka Masala a twist to a National Dish

The Americans have claimed Apple Pie as their national dish and Paella is the national dish of Spain, what do you think the British have claimed as one of their national dishes? While there are the best tasting custards, Yorshire pudding, fish and chips and the best bangers and mash served up all over the country, does it surprise you if I said that the simple Indian Chicken Tikka Masala became a national dish in the British Isles because it is widely popular in restaurants?

Chicken Tikka Masala originated in the region of Punjab in India, and slowly got around the world. The Punjabis have a unique style of slow cooking so the gravies are absolutely lovely and smooth. One such dish  is the Tikka Masala. I absolutely love gravies and I've used of Salmon instead of Chicken.

Salmon- 1/2 pound filets cubed.
Spice for rubbing:
1 pinch clove powder
1 pinch cinnamon powder
1 pinch chili and coriander powder
1 pinch turmeric
lemon juice- 1 Tblpsn
salt and pepper to taste
1 Tblspn yogurt
1/2 tspn ginger and garlic paste

Method for grilling:
1. Mix together all the ingredients for spices above and mix well with yogurt.
2. Rub it over the salmon chunks. Marinate for about 5 hrs.
3. Grill or pan fry gently without breaking. Keep aside.

For the Tikka Masala gravy:
2 medium size ripe tomatoes.
First make a small criss-cross on the bottom of each tomato and boil in hot water for about 5 minutes until the skin is ready to peel off. When cool, drain water, remove the skin and beat into a smooth puree. Keep aside.
1 Onion chopped fine
1 tspn garlic paste
1 tspn ginger paste
1 Tbslpn Sriracha
2 Tblspn Tomato Sauce
1 Tblspn Butter
1/4 tspn garam masala
1 cup heavy cream
salt to taste
red color  and chopped mint(optional)

1. Saute the onions in the butter until they have turned to a light brown color. Add the garlic and ginger paste and saute until the raw smell is completely cooked down.
2. Add the Tomato puree, tomato sauce, garam masala and salt and cook until the gravy is thick.
3. Gently add the grilled salmon chunks and finally turn off the fire.
4. While warm, add the heavy cream and chopped mint if necessary.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

#219 VegFest Lasagna & hosting a Bridal Shower

My home made cupcakes
My younger daughter-V's best friend from kindergarden and elementary school-'K' is getting married this September. I remember 'K' as a quiet little girl who got along with 'V' so well that they were spending weekends together and they loved unicorns and princesses just like most little girls. V went away to college and so did K and they hadn't met for a while but after graduating they met up again and the friendship was back again.  K declared that she wanted V to be the 'Maid-of-honor' at her wedding. V had a Bridal Shower at our home last week for K. I was more than happy because after 2 decades of knowing 'K' and her family she has become a big part of my own family. It was a great pleasure to host it and 'K' being a vegetarian I made this especially for her. Congratulations K and Chris!!!
Today, I'm sharing with you a Grilled Veggie Lasagna I served at the shower. When you've finished reading this, you may have a different approach on grilling and lasagna. The lasagna comes together quite well with natural organic vegetables. Just make sure not to overcook them. Since we are 'quick' grilling everything, for starters place all vegetables in a glass bowl and drizzle them with olive oil, salt and a dash of pepper. Now comes the fun part, get your grill pan out over the fire and crank up the heat until it is hot ,hot hot. gently and carefully(watch your fingers) lay the tough vegetables on it first. Peppers and onions first since they take longer to cook. While these are hot enough but not cooked through, lay on the eggplant, potato slices,zuchinni and mushrooms. Slowly turn the potatoes and onions over with a pair of tongs of course. Drizzle a little more oil and remove the vegetables in the same order as you placed them on the grill. Make sure they have nice grill marks but are not cooked all they way through---since they will go back with the pasta layers into the oven a second time.

1 large eggplant, sliced thin
2 Yellow squash sliced thin
2 Green Peppers sliced
1 large potato, sliced thin
1 box of Barilla Oven Ready Lasagna
2 cups Mushroom and Garlic Pasta Sauce(storebought)
1/8 tspn Nutmeg powder
2 Tblspoon Butter + 1 tspn Olive Oil
1/3 cup Flour
1 egg
12 Ounces Fontina Cheese grated.
1 cup Cheddar cheese grated
1/2 cup Parmesan grated
Steaming hot and just out of the Oven!!

Grill vegetables on any grill of your choice making sure to have grill marks but not cook the vegetables through.
Meanwhile, grate the cheeses and keep them seperate now your veggies are cool enough to handle.
It's time to make a creamy thick and delicious white sauce.
Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add flour, salt and nutmeg.Stir for 1 min. Gradually stir in milk. Cook until the sauce thickens and bubbles, stirring constantly. Continue cooking for 1 min. set aside. Add the egg stirring briskly so that it does not form lumps, then add nutmeg and drained mushrooms. stir well. Season with salt and pepper.

Take a 9X13 baking pan and spread 1/4 cup Pasta sauce at the bottom, top with 4 Lasagna sheets and layer grilled vegetables on top making sure to mix and match eggplant, pepper, potatoes and zuchinni. Then pour the white sauce over the veggies. Add grated fontina and cheddar cheeses about 1 cup. Keep layering with 4 sheets of Lasagna and repeat until all the sauces, cheese and vegetables are used and then top with Pasta sauce and Parmesan cheese.

Cover with foil and bake for about 45 minutes. Remove from oven, let stand for 15 mins before slicing.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

#218 The Goddess is back!!

If you've stopped by recently, you may remember the Green Goddess Dressing I whipped up for a Wedge salad.  Thick, creamy basil flavor loaded in a lovely dressing- as good over a salad as it is drowned in some chicken or fish and grilled to perfection!!

Tonight I was completely out of ideas for dinner and perplexed at what would make an enjoyable meal.  To my delight, I found a bit of my Green Goddess Dressing in fridge and pulled out the bottle. I was surprised that was fresh and the basil aroma was lovely.   A salmon filet was soon drenched in the 'heavenly' dressing from the gods (I can see why someone called it "green goddess" for sure) and  an hour later I sliced into serving portions.  V(my younger daughter) got the George Foreman grill out to grill the salmon, Indian style corn with lime, chili and salt rubbed all over and some fresh grilled carrots with honey-dill all over.  R even asked me for extra dressing on the salmon. Wow having a little home-made dressing in the fridge always helps !!

Grill Salmon on the George Foremen Grill turning once over until just cooked.

My recipe for Green Goddess Dressing
How to make Honey-Dill Carrots:
1. Clean and slice 4 carrots into oblique slices and season with salt and pepper.
2. Mix together  a pinch of dill and 1 tspn honey and mix well.
3. Heat the grill placing the carrot slices on the hot grill until grill marks are formed.
4. Remove from the grill when all the carrots are cooked the same way and
toss with honey-dill mixture. Serve with Salmon.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

On the West Coast --Vancouver, British Columbia

Did you know that Vancouver was named the world's most livable city? I can see perfectly well why it was named so. Our trip to Vancouver was absolutely fantastic and the weather cooperated with a 65-70 degree temperature all week. We stayed at the Coal harbor Marina in Vancouver. British Columbia has a brilliantly scenic location or so I've heard but I never expected anything so breathtakingly beautiful. The Waterfront east of Burrard Street and West of Stanley park which is one of the historical parks of Vancouver were walkable distance from where we were, so we did not deter from adorning a light jacket and setting off on foot. They say the best way to tour around Vancouver is on a rental by cycle but instead we took public transportation as our second way of seeing the far off places. Starting off with a breakfast at this beautiful Robson Street place called Cafe Crepe express we enjoyed a delightful crepe with honey along with eggs, bacon, sausage and hashbrowns. A frothy warm cafe latte  woke us up on the journey around Vancouver's spectacular metropolitan city surrounded by dynamic scenery and snow topped mountains.

The trip took us to Granville Island where the Public Market got our taste buds tingling again. Freshly baked goodies, fruit, vegetables, Italian spreads, olives, cheese and freshly sliced deli meats beyond imagination. This calls for a picnic lunch on the bay with freshly baked whole wheat bread topped with sunflower seeds, artichoke pate and green olives from 'La Baguette & L' echalote'

The Public Market at Granville Island

The Banana Leaf Malaysian Restaurant on Denman Street is a highly recommended South Asian restaurant in Vancouver, so R and I being food freaks we were determined to find out what this little place had in store for us. The nearest one to Coal bay was on Denman Street . It was challenging to order off the menu since one of us is lactose intolerant and the other a vegetarian. The service was excellent and with  a little coaxing from our friendly waiter we agreed on the $56 'tasting menu' for two. We were very impressed. It came out with a fresh salad of greens, tomatoes, papaya and mango tossed in a sweet lime dressing, followed by chicken satay and roti canai(although the dipping sauce was not as good as I expected). Also part of the appetizers was the mussel in coconut sauce a substantial portion of shellfish.

We were famished after the long walk along the Bay so the entree's brought out by the Chef himself was like a bountiful treat for the eyes and palate. The seafood curry with okra and coconut sauce, the slow cooked beef rendang with meat falling part in the brown gravy, the pan fried halibut medallions and I especially enjoyed the green beans with shrimp sambal. The nine course dinner had a side of turmeric rice and finished off with deep fried banana and ice cream. I will have to give it 5 stars for pretty much every criteria of fine dining. Taste, service and presentation!! The room was not too large or high end but just elegant enough to thoroughly enjoy a clean and comforting meal.
Fillo pastry at Acacia Fillo Bar
Now for my first experience tasting Bulgarian food at the Acacia Fillo Bar on Denman Street, Vancouver. I read about this little 'hidden gem' on 'urbanspoon'and it just grabbed my attention. The Spinach-mushroom feta Fillo with roasted yams and potatoes accompanied by a salad was worth every penny. The fillo is definitely home-made, buttery and fresh and I was truly glad I found this place. Although I was tempted to taste one of their 'bird's nest' desserts I was too stuffed after my meal and could not eat one more bite. So I looked through the glass shelf and asked the young girl at the counter about it. I was told that it was made from strips of phillo baked and topped with nuts, cream and fruit. Awesome!!

Besides food, the other highlights of our trip was a ride up to the ski slopes on Whistler Mountain, Shannon falls and Brandywine Falls. At the Tsawwassen Ferry Terminal we enjoyed a 90 minute cruise aboard the BC Ferry back and forth to Victoria Island the capital of Vancouver. The day was spent enjoying the glory of The Empress hotel, the capital building and wandering the little town shopping for souvenirs and enjoying ice-cream at a chain called 'Cow'. The sun sets late at around 9:30 pm, so if your day has been too long you can wind down by watching them make their own waffle cones fresh at the store.
Shannon Falls

Looking down from the sky car from my ride up the slopes of Whistler.

When we got back home, I decided to use the Pacific Salmon that I purchased from Vancouver to bring back memories of our gastronomic adventure. Our Sunday breakfast of eggs benedict made from Pacific Smoked salmon, english muffins, hollandaise sauce, perfectly poached eggs, scallions and slices of cucumber was so good that R did not push his plate away until he finished wiping the plate clean.
My eggs and smoked salmon Benedict!!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

#217 Rustic Caramel Pear Tarte Tatin

The Tarte Tatin is a French Style tart and essentially any fruit can be used. In this case I've used the bartlett pears enveloped in caramel and butter and the pastry shell baked over it. When I flip it over, the beautiful golden caramel mixed with the pear juices flow onto the shell and all over the pears. This tart is a mind-blowing dessert and must be eaten with vanilla ice cream before the caramel starts hardening. We love to scrape out the caramel from the pan with a knife to enjoy the fruity flavor. You could swap my Home made Puff Pastry with either phyllo or any store bought pastry  and it would be just as good.

2 tablespoons butter, divided
1/4 cup sugar, divided
1/4 cup brown sugar
3 ripe Bartlett pears, cored and sliced lengthwise
Frozen Puff Pastry dough, thawed
Vanilla Ice cream or crème fraîche

1. Preheat oven to 375°.
2. Coat a 10-inch cast-iron skillet with 1 1/2 tablespoons butter. Sprinkle 6 tablespoons sugar and 1/4 cup brown sugar into pan.  Cover skillet, and place over medium-low heat for 15 minutes or until sugar mixture is bubbly and caramelized. Arrange pear slices in a circle in pan and cook for 5 minutes without stirring. Add remaining butter dabs around.

3. Place a circular dish of rolled puff pastry over pears, pressing gently and folding and tucking the edges inside the skillet. brush with egg wash and sprinkle sugar over it. Bake at 375° for 30 minutes or until filling is bubbly and crust is browned. Remove from oven, and let stand for 5 minutes. Place a plate upside-down on top of pan; invert tart onto plate. Cut tart into 6 wedges. Top each wedge with a scoop of ice-cream or creme-fraische.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

#216 New Flavors---- Pink or Peach Lassi

Almost everyone is familiar with the common Indian drink "Lassi". Some version of it is served at almost all Indian, many Middle Eastern Restaurants and some health food stores too. So what is Lassi? This refreshing drink is a yogurt or buttermilk-based smoothie, not as thick as a smoothie but more like buttermilk in consistency and yet it can be served sweet or savory. The most common flavors are mango, rose and plain sweetened lassi. South Indians love the savory version made with a touch of green chili, ginger, lime, curry leaves and salt (Sambharam in Kerala). Shake yourself one today because it is best enjoyed on those hot, humid and muggy summer days when a cool drink is most welcome!! The twist here is that I have replaced mango with strawberries and mint. If you're in a savory mood see my carrot one below................... go ahead and use beets instead for a twist!!

Plain Non-fat yogurt- 1 cup
Coconut milk-1/4 cup
Mint leaves- 5
Ice cubes – ½ cup
Fresh Ripe Strawberries- 1 cup sliced
Sugar- ¼ cup
1. Place all ingredients in the glass container of the blender and blend until smooth. Add water to suite your most favored consistency.
2. You can use a hand-blender too and garnish with mint sprigs and strawberry

This is not complete without a savory version of lassi....the colors may look similar but the tastes are so varied and simply refreshing...

     CARROT LASSI(Sambharam)
    Carrots- 1 small cubed
    Buttermilk- 2 cups
    Ginger paste- 1/4 tspn
    lime juice- 1 tspn
    Salt  to taste and a pinch each of sugar and pepper
   Curry leaves - 4-5
   if you prefer you can use mint leaves instead of curry leaves

   1. Cook the carrots in 1/2 cup water adding ginger paste, salt and a pinch of pepper.
   2. When the carrots are soft, remove and cool.
   3. Add the lime juice, sugar and curry leaves
   4. Using a hand blender or food processor whip the carrot into a smooth puree.
   5. Add the buttermilk and whip until smooth. Serve cold.

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