Sunday, October 26, 2014

#299 Indian Fried Okra, By: V

Last week I posted a recipe for a quick keema that I made.  To accompany the keema and rotis, I made a fried okra dish.  I looked in my freezer after a long day of work and I spotted a bag of chopped okra.  Frozen vegetables are amazing for making a quick dish because you can throw them right from the frozen bag into a pan and it can really just defrost in there.  Yes, yes, sure you can thaw it with a few zaps in the microwave, but really that is all unnecessary.  Place the frozen veggies in a pan with a covered lid and let the magic happen.

Indian Fried Okra


12 oz cut okra
1 tbsp coconut oil
2 green chilis
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1/4 tsp turmeric
1 tsp grated ginger
1 tsp chopped garlic
1 tsp salt


1.  Place the coconut oil in a pan on high heat and let it melt down.  After the oil is melted and you can feel the heat rise off the pan, turn the heat down to medium heat.  Take the pan off the heat and add the cumin seeds, mustard seeds and green chilies.  Let them pop around for about 30 seconds.  BE CAREFUL! They tend to splurt and pop up, so watch your hands.  Put this back on the burner.

2.  Add in the ginger, garlic, and turmeric.  Let these cook into the seeds and chilies for another 30 seconds.  Turn the heat back to high and add the okra (yes, even frozen straight from the bag).

3.  Stir everything together, coating the okra in all of the spices.  Cover with a lid and continue letting it cook on high heat for about 10 minutes.  Then take the lid off, stir in the salt and continue to cook, uncovered, for another 20 minutes.

4.  When it's browned or green or blackened - however you like your okra - it's ready to eat!

As for this weekend, I spent my day yesterday checking out two wineries in Leesburg, Virginia:  Fabbioli Cellars and The Vineyards and Winery at Lost Creek.  Fabbioli Cellars pairs each tasting with a small tasting to bring out the flavors in the wine and to give customers an idea of what they could make to accompany their wines, if they choose to purchase.  The image downstairs is from Fabbioli Cellars.  While the wines were interesting (a pear based wine, an apple based wine), they were a bit too sweet for my pallette and I preferred the wines at Lost Creek.  At Lost Creek we purchased a bottle of their 2012 Chardonnay to drink and enjoy on their property since the weather was beautiful.  This was our way of enjoying the last few warm days of the year.

Later that night we went out to the U Street neighborhood of D.C. to the infamous Twins Jazz and heard a great sax performance by Anthony Nelson and had a pretty delicious cheesecake and coffee to end the night.  Great way to enjoy a beautiful Saturday!  And, now, back to the work week, but on a positive note :) 

Lost Creek Winery:
Fabbioli Cellars:

Monday, October 20, 2014

#298 Keema Lamb Curry, By: V

Americans have meatloaf and Indians have keema curry.  Haha that sounds like an odd comparison, but let me explain the connection.  Well, the connection is in the meat!  Ground meat forms the foundation of both cost-saving and time-saving dishes.

Keema curry is an Indian dish that is based off ground meat of your choosing, lamb and beef are the two most common, but healthier alternatives with ground turkey or chicken can be made as well.  Traditional keema has a bit of coconut milk in it, which tempers the spiciness of the dish.  The traditional version also has more curry (or gravy), but since I wanted to eat this with roti, I figured making it a little more dry would be a good idea.  I also made another non-traditional move by adding a bit of lemon zest at the end to brighten up the flavor, and I because I basically love citrus flavors in most dishes.

Growing up my mom made keema quite a bit.  While I haven't had it in some time, I had such a craving for it last week, so I set out to make it myself.  I paired it with a quick okra fry, so at least I could check off 'veggies' on my dinner menu, along with roti and plain yogurt.  A delicious and surprisingly easy meal for a weeknight.

On a side note, this week happens to be my mom's birthday AND Diwali, or Deepavali as we Malayalis like to call it.  So, an early HAPPY BIRTHDAY to my mom.  Her birthday is October 22, but yesterday we went to Bonefish Grill for an early birthday lunch.  When I asked her what she was in the mood for, she quickly said 'SEAFOOD!.'  I guess having just returned from visiting N in San Francisco, she had fish on the brain!  I'd also like to say an early HAPPY DEEPAVALI for everyone celebrating this Thursday, October 23.  It seems the holiday season has already begun!

Our waitress even personalized the complimentary piece of delicious coconut pie! :) 

Lamb Keema - Serves 4-5

2 tsps coconut oil
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
1/2 tsp grated ginger
1/2 tsp chopped garlic
1/2 red onion, chopped
1 tomato, diced
1 1/4 lbs ground lamb
4 tbsps garam masala
1/2 tbsp red chili powder
1 cup water
1/2 tsp lemon zest

  1. In a hot pan melt the coconut oil.  Lower the heat to medium and quickly add the cumin seeds, crushed red pepper, ginger and garlic.  This will all start spluttering, so be careful! Let it pop for about 30 seconds.  
  2. Add in the tomatoes and red onion.  Let this cook down until the onions are translucent.  
  3. Add the ground lamb and cook for about 5 minutes. 
  4. Then add the garam masala and red chili powder.  Stir so the spices coat the lamb.  Then add the water. 
  5. Let this simmer for about 20 minutes.  If you want more curry/gravy keep it covered.  If you'd rather have it more dry then keep uncovered.  
  6. Take the curry off the heat and add the lemon zest.  Stir thoroughly.  

Monday, October 13, 2014

#297 Mini Oreo Cheesecakes, By: V

Baking has always seemed such a daunting endeavor.  Watching bakers and pastry chefs make their creations, they use such precision with measurements, and what can I say, I'm more of a "fly by the seat of your pants" kind of cook.  But, recently I've decided to try my hand at desserts.  While I don't have much of a sweet tooth (except when it comes to ice cream), I think having a sweet treat or two under my belt would certainly be a good idea.  Not just because we should all challenge ourselves in the kitchen, but because desserts tend to make a great host/hostess gift! And with a friend's invitation to a game night, it seemed like I found the perfect opportunity to make a sweet treat.

I immediately thought, cheesecake!  Who doesn't like cheesecake?  Well, actually, I don't, BUT most people do, so I figured cheesecake would be a good option.When I found a recipe on Kraft's website for mini oreo cheesecakes I knew I found a delicious option, and I have to say an easy one too!  For someone who isn't a cheesecake fan, I surprisingly made these, pensively tried one out, and fell in love.  I have to say it may be the Oreos (another sweet treat I like). I promise I don't have THAT big of a sweet tooth.

With an entire Oreo cookie as the base of these mini cheesecakes, and a creamy filling, these were a hit at the game night, right along with Cards Against Humanity.  If you haven't played this game before, try it out, it definitely gives a good laugh or two and will make for a good night, just like these mini Oreo try them out too!

Mini Oreo Cheesecakes - Makes 18

18 Oreos
8 Oreos chopped up (to top the cheesecakes)
1 1/2 packages (8 oz. each) cream cheese
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup sour cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs
18 cupcake liners

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Place cupcake liners in muffin tin.  I used two muffin tin trays to make 18 mini cheesecakes.  Place 1 cookie in each cupcake liner.

Beat cream cheese and sugar in large bowl with mixer until blended.  Lightly beat egg in a bowl and add to the cream cheese and sugar mixture.  Blend together.  Then add salt, vanilla and sour cream.  Beat together.

Spoon mixture on top of each oreo in each cupcake liner about 2/3 of the way up the cupcake liner.  Bake for 20 minutes or until centers are almost set.  Cool and refrigerate for at least 3 hours.

Once cooled remove the cupcake liners and place on a serving dish.

Recipe adapted from Kraft Recipes OREO Upside-Down Mini Cheesecakes recipe.  

Sunday, October 5, 2014

#296 Turkey Kabobs (By: V)

Every so often I head to a local kabob restaurant for lamb or chicken kabobs.  Ravi Kabob is one of my favorites.  N introduced me to Ravi Kabob's chicken and fish kabobs, and I've been hooked ever since.

Kabobs are fairly easy to make.  Using a dry spice rub and a stove top or oven to cook them, they are one of those easy flavorful items that can be transformed into protein for a hearty salad or a pita sandwich.  This recipe pairs well with a lightly dressed salad or rosemary garlic roasted potatoes.  This time around I made the kabobs with a side of long grain brown rice filled with peas, carrots and broccoli.

The recipe can be modified to use ground beef or lamb, as you desire.  Regardless of the type of meat you choose to use, this kabob recipe is layered with flavor.  I use the word 'layered' because of the variety of flavors in this recipe.  The lemon zest has oils that diffuse the sharp spicy flavor that garam masala brings with it.  If you don't have a lemon try adding a capful of red wine or regular vinegar, or even a tablespoon of ketchup to get a similar counter balance to the heavy spicy flavor of garam masala.  Don't worry you'll still get all the spicy goodness, I wouldn't want to take that away!

After I made the kabobs I thought of variations to the recipe that would add elements of flavor.  These might be worth a try:  add 1 teaspoon of orange zest or 2 chopped green chilis or chopped green or black olives.  If you decide to use green olives, cut back on the salt as green olives tend to be saltier in flavor than black olives.  As you can see, the recipe below is just the foundation for what can become a variety of delicious kabob recipes.

Turkey Kabobs - Serves 2 to 3, Makes 6 to 7 kabobs
1 lb of ground turkey
2 tbsps grated ginger
3 tbsps garam masala
2 tbsps Mexican spice mix (or cumin)
1 tbsp red chili powder
1 tsp lemon zest
2 tsps lemon juice
1/2 a chopped red onion
1 tbsp crushed garlic
salt & pepper to taste
1 tbsp coconut oil

In a large bowl place the ground turkey.  Chop half a red onion and add this to the bowl.  Then add the ginger, garam masala, Mexican spice mix, red chili powder, lemon zest, lemon juice and garlic to the bowl.  Add salt and pepper as you see fit.  I would say 1/2 tbsp of salt and a dash of pepper.

Once the mixture is fully incorporated start turning them into patties.  Place the coconut oil in a skillet and let it melt down.  Once fully melted add the patties.  The entire mixture of ground turkey should make about 6 to 7 patties.  Cook these in two batches on high heat.  Place on one side for 1 minute and flip over to the other side for 1 minute.  Cover the skillet with a lid to allow the kabobs to cook through, about 3 minutes.  They should be ready to eat, but check the middle to make sure there's no pink!

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