Friday, May 31, 2013

#282 Eastern Europe to Asia- Cabbage Rolls with Balsamic Glaze

Eastern Europe can go between Belarus, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Moldova, Poland, Romania, Russia, Slovakia, and Ukraine, and there is bound to be some version of "Stuffed Cabbage" in every part of Eastern Europe. To name a few-- the Lithuanians call it "holubki", Polish
call them "Golabki", for Serbs it is "Sarma" and it so on and on.....In Middle Eastern, Greek, Asian and Italian cuisine it is very common to stuff all kinds of vegetables with ground meat.

When my husband and I go Chinese somedays, there's one thing on the menu that I must have and that's pot stickers. It always amazes me how these tiny packages are filled with finely chopped shrimp or veggies and crimped to perfect bites. I've made a similar steamed package only instead of dough I've used cabbage. My cabbage rolls are stuffed with Asian spiced veggies and eggs and steamed. I stumbled upon the idea of combining the European cabbage filled packages tweaking it to a pot sticker filling. A kick of ginger, a sweet Balsamic dip and eliminating the dough in the traditional pot sticker. There's no harm in adding a bit of ground pork or chicken if you so wish just like the original. My stuffing is a light fried rice version  with crisp waterchestnuts, ginger and soft bamboo shoots very savory and a bit spicy with firm texture. Last but not least, the sweet Balsamic reduction cuts into the cabbage layers with a zesty sweet flavor.

1 Tablespoon cooked brown rice
chopped scallions-1/4 cup
chopped bamboo shoots- 5 oz can chopped fine
chopped water chestnuts-8 oz can chopped
Cabbage- 1 medium
ginger chopped- 1 tspn
garlic chopped- 1/2 tspn
soy sauce- 1 Tblspn
Mirin/rice wine-1/2 tspn
Chili flakes- 1/2 tspn
Olive oil
Balsamic Reduction....Reduce 1 cup Balsamic vinegar down to 1/4 cup

1. Into a medium hot Wok, add the olive oil.
2. Add ginger, garlic, chili flakes and saute adding one veggie
at a time until all of them are slightly cooked yet crisp.
3. Now add the soy sauce, wine and beaten eggs and finally the
 rice mix the ingredients vigorously in the Wok until the
eggs are just cooked and holds the rice together with the veggies.
remove and cool.
4. Remove about 10 leaves from the cabbage and steam lightly in
hot water until just cooked and pliable.
5. Place the cabbage leaf on a flat surface and add a scoop of the
fried rice mixture in the center. Roll the cabbage just like you
would roll a springroll to encase the rice mixture completely.
6. Place a vegetable steamer with water at the bottom ready.
7. When you are done with making rolls with the cabbage leaves and
there is no filling remaining, place the rolls in the steamer
above the water and steam until done for about 10 mins.
8. Make a Balsamic vinegar reduction. Serve as a dipping sauce.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Girls Weekend out on Memorial Day 2013

Once again, it’s time to kick my heels and cares away and enjoy another one of our “ladies weekend out” trips.  This Memorial Day weekend was one of the best Ladies Night Out parties I’ve enjoyed in a long time!! This time it was food related and that too in NY City with a character of its own!!

While we took the Amtrak up there we planned a “Food Tour”, visits to NBC studios and Ground zero. We had tickets to the Food on foot tour before boarding the train. This was the first time any of us had gone on such a tour but after the experience I must recommend all of you to take it at least once because it was admirable how much we learnt about culture while enjoying different cuisine all in just three short hours.

A Food tour of New York City exposed us to one special neighborhood of this great city-Greenwich Village and its local food.  A tour guide met up with us at John’s Pizzeria on Beecker Street on a cold windy day and an ugly drizzle with little visibility.
Risotto balls
We were just beginning to think if it was a good idea after all- since the weather was not cooperating and the tour was on foot,  when we were joined by Cindy the tour guide. The bright little tour guide turned up on time and cheered us up so well as if the sun was shining down bright and warm. Her positive attitude made the entire trip unbelievably fun!! Her stories about the food, culture and the history at each of our stops, the tasting sessions of bottomless food made it so lively and generous that we were disappointed when the 3 hour trip ended.
The legendary Joe's Pizza visited by celebrities!!

Gelato on a stick- my favorite is dark chocolate dipped in hazelnuts

Weather worries were forgotten in between culture stories and tastes of heavenly food.   I would like to share a few pics with you on the sample food we ate on the tour…………….

              Kathi rolls -the favorite Indian snack savory fillings inside a flour roti with mint chutney
 Winner of the cupcake wars--- a taste of the Red Velvet cake from Molly's cupcakes.
The dramatic end of the tour with mini Canoli's -Of course!!
What a great way to end the meal with a decadent canoli with chocolate chips, pistachio and powdered sugar....................Mmmmmmmmm!!!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

#281 Spring Cleaning --Green in a Glass

I'm on my weekly shopping spree and the Giant store logo "5 a day" blinks back at me in bright semi-circles. I rush in and out picking up groceries and a few snacks I don't need on my brisk walk down the isles of the supermarket.

Many of us bump health and dietery concerns beyond our priority list since we are always on the run.
Sometimes I am so tired I skip breakfast or dinner and then feel the lack of energy. Do you think of ways to boost your energy like I do? Not by drinking Redbull or any of those energy 'boosting' drinks that are available but with something nutritious and quick. How often do you have time to make fresh juices for breakfast or make an egg sandwich before you leave for work? 

Green shakes and juices were never attractive to me until now. But, recently my daughter "N" the natural food lover was cleaning up her apartment and in the process she moved her  fruit juicer to my pantry. What better way to put it to good use than juicing everything from the fridge!! Boost your
energy and detoxify with this awesome green juice-and while doing so you can invest in a juice extractor!!
--it certainly made me energetic!!

There are a few combinations I've always wanted to juice and I was not disappointed with the results of this one. If you hate green drinks, you will certainly change your mind after one sip of this smooth drink......

3 green apple
1 bunch celery stalks
2 cucumbers
1 inch ginger
1/2 lime

Wash, clean and dry veggies. If you have a juicer there's not much to do but cut up the veggies into cubes and pass it through the machine. Out comes the wonderfully nutritious Green Juice.

Friday, May 17, 2013

#280 No Frills Vegetable Vermicelli Biryani

We spent Mother's day evening roaming parts of a little Town Center. The weather was pleasant, although it seemed like the sun was hesitant to come out most of the day. Walking right past upscale stores we stopped at Yogi berri for frozen yo. I was thrilled with the Taro and Thai Tea ice cream they allowed us to taste--- who knew they could come up with a decent amount of unique ice-cream flavors. We got ourselves a moderate to large amount of oreo soft serve with many toppings and settled down in front of the fountain. It once used to be the center of the ice-skating ring, but now, its
been converted to a play ground. Here, children rode their strider bikes and Moms with babies on strollers slowly paced up and down.

The fountain draws attention of many kinds.... there were daughters taking pictures with Moms, some hungrily chomping down on Panera sandwiches and others just talking in loud voices. A young lady stopped by me and wanted to know where I got my ice cream ....and I pointed out the little store tucked in between the burger joint and Clydes to her.  But, it wasn't visible from where we sat so I offered to walk down with her --- her little boy running to catch up with us.  I went back to join R and enjoy the rest of the day. It has been lighter in the evenings for the past few weeks so the sun did not set until 8 o'clock. We drifted back into conversation until it was time to walk all the way over and around a couple of buildings to the garage where our car was located.

Last night dinner was something Amma made quite often....

A light and healthy main dish my Mother used to dish up in her kitchen. In fact, she made it one day even while I was visiting her last December. This is one of her favorites too.  Although my version here is a simple 'bare bones', 'no frills' kind of Biryani without fancy garnishes, you could choose to add shrimp or an egg omelette, chaews and raisins to take it to another level!

Carrot- 1 large cut into long sticks
Beans- 1/2 cup
Cabbage-1/2 cup
green peas- 1/4 cup
onions-2 chopped
green chilis-2
ginger-garlic paste- 1 Tblspn
Whole raw spices 2 each- cloves, cardamoms, cinammon, pepper and bay leaves.
Ghee or butter- 4 Tblspns
Cashews or raisins (optional)
Cilantro chopped- 1/2 cup
Vermicelli- 3 cups

1. Place a saucepan over medium fire and roast the vermicelli until it is light brown. Remove set aside.
2. Place the saucepan back on the fire and add the ghee, whole spices and roast for a minute.
3. Toss in the chopped onions and green chilies and saute until the onions are golden brown. add the beans and carrot.
4. Saute until soft and then add green peas and cabbage. Season with salt and pepper. Saute another minute.
5. Add the ginger garlic paste and when it is cooked, add the vermicelli, season with salt and about 3 cups water.
(Be careful with the water. If the vermicelli is very fine, add 1/2 the measure of water and if it is thicker then add 3 cups)
Any excess water will make the biryani mushy. So add less water at first and then as the noodles cook, you can add a little more if needed.
6. Slowly let it cook without stirring. When the water has evaporated, slowly let it cool before fluffing it with a fork.
7. Garnish with Cilantro, cashews, raisins or any dry fruits and serve.

Monday, May 13, 2013

#279 Sloppy Lentil Joe Turnovers/Pies

While I'm graciously waiting for Summer and patiently bearing the cold weather, I've shed any desire for having salads or ice cream. I thoroughly enjoy a plethora of fresh salads this time last year, I want to change the pattern and take an adventurous route.  Instead of plain straightforward recipes or meals, I'm about to turn the vegetarian dinner table into a garden of earthly delights mixing and matching dishes, cuisines and getting ready to make something different in the next few posts. Don't be alarmed! I am not going to go wild and cook something totally weird!! I'm merely looking for some excitement with vegetarian food--  dishes that may include eggs and seafood. Possibly ideas to use leftovers or a combination of two everyday meals put together. I will start the series today by making Sloppy Joes and then turn it into a savory turnover or pie.  The idea was born from something I read from this one

Sloppy Joes with ground beef were a favorite with my children so when I read this recipe I was motivated to re-make it in my kitchen after all these years. Many years ago,  my little girls loved to bite into the buns and have the meaty sauce ooze out onto the plate. Then they cleaned the sauce off the plates with tidbits of bread. Another top-rated dish that they loved is the Pot Pie so why not combine their two favorites into an adult version. The saucey lentil and veggie mixture inside a crispy biscuit shell was quick enough to bake and the family was thrilled with the results.  The zip in the zesty sauce,  the creaminess of the lentils  and the goey cheese make even those with a carnivorous tooth unable to resist the tempation to reach out for a second pie.  If you have leftover pastry dough, phyllo or puff pastry that is ideal for the crust. I've used Buttermilk biscuit dough from a can!!

Sloppy Joe sauce

1/8th of a tspn of horseradish
1 Tblspn mustard
1 Tblspn sugar
1/2 cup ketchup
1 Tblspn vinegar
1/2 tspn Worcestershire sauce

Blend sauce together

1/4 cup whole brown lentils
1/2 cup each of chopped onions, carrots, celery and green pepper
1/8 tspn garlic
salt and pepper to taste.
grated mozarella cheese
Biscuit dough (preferably frozen in a can)

1. Cook 1/4 cup whole brown lentils. drain and keep aside.
2. Saute 1/2 cup of chopped onions, carrots, celery and green pepper in 2 Tblspn butter.
3. Turn off the fire, add salt and black pepper to taste and 1/2 tspn garlic paste.
4. Remove the biscuit dough from the can and taking each round of biscuit, using a
rolling pin spread the dough into a larger circle.
5. Place 1 Tablespoon of Sloppy mixture onto half of the circle.

6. Sprinkle cheese over the mixture. Gently fold the second half of the dough over the stuffing
7.Crimp the edges to make sure a crescent shaped pie is formed using a fork pressing down to bind the dough.
8. Make crescents in this way until all the biscuit dough and sloppy joe mixture is used up.
9. Place the crescents on a baking sheet about 2 inches apart.
10. Brush the top of each pie with melted butter. Bake in a pre-heated oven at 350 degrees to about 10-15 mins or until the top is lightly browned.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

#278 Fish Pickle from the land of Coconut Palms

It's almost here....Mother's Day and we haven't had time to talk about the one special lady in our lives who has been the epitome of patience  while raising us?

Mother--- she wears multiple hats switching from one to the other within minutes- tantrums, school activities and trips to the doctor to teary-eyed graduations. The one person in our life who acts as nurturer, friend, protector and is the ultimate example of extreme strength.  If you ask the mother in me I'd say 'when my children smile there's sunshine in my home'!!  Although we do much for Mom throughout the year, Mother's day is in her honor and we owe it to her to put aside everything else for this beautiful day. I'm making something extra special to let her know she is loved!!!

 Fish Pickle---Mmmm. For those of you who dislike fish you  are bound to be squeamish or queasy about fish in vinegar. Would you believe me if I told you that this pickle is nothing like that nor are they like "dill pickles"? It is incredibly  flavorful and nothing 'fishy' about the taste.  In fact, this is my favorite pickle and a recipe from my heart- my Mother's of course! 

Although fish is extremely healthy and good for you, it is a tricky protein to buy. I've noticed that the feel and aroma of fish suggests how fresh it is. "Stay away from those with cloudy, red eyes", my grandma used to say. The best way to test fish is to turn over the bony part over the gills. If they look bright red it's good to go and lastly it should never smell fishy, instead it should smell of the ocean-salty fresh-- all tips from the experts. But it's not always that simple and easy to test out the fish before you buy it right?

But this is a spicy, well-loved pickle in my family for many years so it gives me great pleasure in sharing the treasured recipe for Mother's day. In honor of my Grandma and Amma--- Happy Mother's Day!!

 Any firm fish like King fish, shrimp, tuna or salmon can be used.

A few things to remember when you are ready to pickle:
  • Sterilize the glass jars in which you want to store the pickle
  • Get the freshest fleshy fish from the market (no frozen fish please)
  • Since it involves vinegar I will suggest that you stay away from using any pans that may react to vinegar.
  • Lastly, after storing them never use wet spoons!!Always store in fridge and use it within 2-3 weeks.

The method may be a little time consuming and requires time and patience so to make it easier on myself I prepare everything and set it up, before I start frying the fish.
    Measure the following and line them up:

1 lb Salmon filet
2 cups vinegar (white)
10 red chillies
10-12 cloves garlic
1 Tablespoon Cumin seeds (jeera)
1 tspn mustard seeds
1 tspn turmeric powder
Salt and brown sugar to taste
1-2 cups oil for deep frying. (corn oil or vegetable oil)

So now, let's get to work:

1. Wash and remove the skin of the fish, Pat dry with a paper towel.
2. Cut the fish into 1/4 inch cubes carefully without breaking the pieces.
3. Marinate with the salt and turmeric.
4. Heat a deep wok with oil and when the oil is hot enough, drop the fish pieces gently
and fry until light brown in color and slightly crisp. Remove drain and keep aside.
5. Grind together the garlic, red chillies and roasted cumin into a very smooth paste using a little vinegar.
6. Heat Oil in  pan and when it is heated add mustard seeds and when they splutter,
add the chili paste and saute on low fire until the oil seperates out.
7. Add the rest of the ingredients except the fried fish.
8. Taste and season if needed, then bring to a quick boil and add fish peices,
remove from fire, stir and cool.
9. Allow the pickle to cool well before transferring to a sterlized glass jar/s.
10. Fresh prawns or Shrimp may be used instead of the fish too. In that case clean the shrimp and instead of deep frying them you may stir fry them before adding to the spice and vinegar.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

#277 Who invented these Ultimate semolina cakes? ---Fluffy Savory Rava Idli

My husband R and I absolutely love idlis. Idlis are steamed cakes made of pulses and rice and makes a wholesome meal served with chutney. But, what if we don't have idli batter in our fridge and we really want nothing but idlis for breakfast? Yes, we are picky when it comes to food!! Here's another quick way to make my version of the instant rava idli batter without the hassle of soaking, then grinding the pulse/rice mixture and waiting for it to rise ---the traditional way of making fluffy idlis. Sometimes the tummy needs to eat what the tastebuds crave and its not easy when you have time consuming dishes like that!! So here's the 'shortcut' version --I've added some extra zing by mixing in ginger, cilantro, onions and veggies to the batter and it requires no grinding or waiting.

2  cups Whole grain cream of wheat (lightly roasted)(or rawa/sooji)
4 cups buttermilk
3 tbsp  oil
salt to taste
1 tsp chana
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 pinch of asafoetida
chopped onions-2 Tbspn
2 green chillies , finely chopped
green peas and grated carrots- 1/2 cup
Swiss Chard chopped-1/4 cup
cilantro chopped-1 tblspn
extra olive oil for greasing the idli cups
soda-bicarb- 1 tspn

 1.Whisk together the rawa, buttermilk, 2 tbsp of oil and salt together in a bowl. To allow the rawa to soak the buttermilk
let this set for about 30mins.
2.Meanwhile, heat the remaining 1 tbsp of oil in a skillet and add the mustard seeds and chana.
3.When the seeds crackle add the asafoetida, curry leaves, onions, green chillies and sauté for a few seconds.
Then add the swiss chard, carrots, green peas and a bit of salt to just steam in their own juices.
4.When the vegetables are cooked, pour the tempering over the semolina batter and mix well.
5.Sprinkle a little water over the soda bicard in a cup, when the bubbles form mix it gently into the batter along
with the cilantro.
6.Pour spoonfuls of the batter into greased idli moulds and steam for 8 to 10 minutes.
7.Serve hot with onion/tomato chutney, pickle or sambhar.

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