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COOKING CLASS

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Summer stew with chicken and sweet corn

I love stews both in the summer and the winter. Winter stews tend to be heartier made with lamb and beef and root vegetables. Summer stews are usually made with chicken and fish and flavored with things like corn and facade beans.
Stews are one pot meals that are simple to make. There are always left overs and they just comfort me from inside out.

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Spicy Roadside Chickpeas


I love chickpeas – they are so versatile, high and protein and delicious.

Following is a simple recipe – have them with parathas, puris or rice.

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Spicy Chickpeas – Serves 6

2 16 ounce cans of chickpeas, drained and rinsed

4 tbs. vegetable oil

2 tsp. whole cumin seeds

¼ tsp. carom seeds

2 medium onions, diced

1 tsp. cayenne pepper

2 Tbs. ginger, minced

1 ½ cup diced tomatoes (can be canned)

Juice of 1 lemon

Salt to taste

Fresh Cilantro and Sliced Green Chilies for Garnish

 

Heat the oil in a heavy bottom pan over medium high heat.  Add the cumin and carom seeds and cook for about a minute until they sizzle and you can smell their aroma.  Add the onions and salt.  Stir and cook for 5 minutes until the onions are caramelized.  Add the ginger and stir.  Add the tomatoes and cayenne pepper and cook another 5 minutes.  Now add the chickpeas and stir.

 

Lower the heat to a simmer for about 15 minutes and stir occasionally crushing some of the chickpeas with the back of a large spoon to thicken the sauce.  Taste for seasoning – add the lemon juice and garnishes off the heat.  Serve hot.

 

Note:  This dish tastes better the next day and can be made ahead and refrigerated for several days.

Substitute chickpeas for other beans like kidney beans, black beans, etc.

I hope you try the recipe – you will love it.

Until I eat again!

Carrot Halwa

 

Carrot Halwa

Carrot Halwa is the perfect winter dessert.  Carrots are plentiful and healthful.  Use a grater or a food processor and you are on your way.

 

Put your friends to work – hand them a glass of wine and have them grate the carrots.  Look how happy this guy is.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Carrot Halwa

6 Medium Carrots, peeled and grated

2 Green Cardamom Pods

1 1/3 cups Whole Milk (or a combination of 2 percent milk and heavy cream)

2 Tbs. + 2 tsp. Unsalted Butter

2 Tbs. White or Brown Sugar (or to taste)

For Garnish:

¼ cup Blanched Almonds, coarsely chopped

¼ cup Raisins

Melt 2 tsp. of the butter in a heavy bottom pot.  Add the carrots and cardamom and stir over medium heat for 3 to 4 minutes.  Stir occasionally and then add the milk.  Stir and simmer over medium low heat for 15 to 20 minutes – or until the milk evaporates and the carrots are very soft.

Add the sugar and half the almonds, raisins and the rest of the butter.  Stir and cook for another 5 to 7 minutes.  The sugar should caramelize and darken the color of the carrots.  Taste for sweetness and add more sugar if needed.  The Halwa is done when all the liquid is evaporated the dish looks rich and creamy.

Serve hot topped with the remaining almonds and raisins.

Notes:  If you like a stronger flavor of cardamom – peel the out casings of the cardamom pods and crush the seeds in a spice grinder and add to the carrots.

Serve with ice cream

Until I eat again!

 

Mussels in Coconut Broth and Fresh Curry Leaves

When it is this hot outside, I want to be in the kitchen as little as possible.

Turning on the oven is out of the question!

What do I turn to for the easiest and most impressive way to please a crowd?

Mussels in Coconut Broth and Fresh Curry Leaves.

If you are afraid of cooking seafood, try making Mussels.  They are almost impossible to go wrong with.  (I said almost).

Mussels are also relatively inexpensive, which makes them even more attractive when cooking for a crowd.

Serve them when you are entertaining – a nice big, steaming bowlful of mussels with a crusty bread and salad.  There’s your menu!

When the weather is not this oppressive, I like to serve the Mussels with a big heap of French Fries and a rich garlicky aioli.

A couple of things to remember about mussels:

Make sure all the shells are closed and discard any that are open.

Prince Edward’s Island (PEI) are cultivated Mussels, and do not need to be de-bearded.  A quick rinse in cold water will do the trick of cleaning them.

What follows is one of the many ways to make mussels.

If you are planning on serving them as a main course, get a pound per person, less if it is the first course.

3lbs. Mussels

The Aromatics:

  • Fresh Ginger, cut in thin strips
  • 4 or 5  Garlic Cloves, sliced
  • 8 – 10 Curry Leaves, sliced
  • Green Chilies, thinly sliced (as many as you can stand)
  • 1 Tbs. Vegetable Oil or Peanut Oil
  • Sliced Leeks (only because I had some hanging around in the refrigerator)
  • – Use scallions if you like
  • 1 Can  unsweetened Coconut Milk (any brand that you like except Coco Lopez – leave that for the Continue reading

Stuffed Gobi (Cauliflower) Parathas

I am often asked what a typical Indian Sunday brunch is.  This is a difficult question for me to answer, because there is no such thing as a typical anything in India, as far as I am concerned.

One popular weekend brunch is Cauliflower filled Parathas (flat breads).  Parathas can also be filled with other things  like potatoes (my favorite), daikon, keema (minced meat) or  paneer (home made cheese).

Following is how you make them.

My recipes are simply suggestions.  Follow the basic rules and then go to town with it.  The fillings are limitless – let me know what you made and what you liked most.

To make the dough

Parathas (flat skillet breads) – makes about 8

3 cups chapatti flour (available in Indian stores) – if unavailable, use equal parts whole what and unbleached white flour

1 tsp. salt

¼ cup melted butter or vegetable oil

about 3/4 – 1 cup water

½ tsp. ajowain seeds (carom) – optional

extra flour for rolling out dough

extra melted butter or oil for brushing on bread

Mix flour and salt in a medium bowl, or the bowl of a food processor.  Add ¼ cup butter or oil.  Pulse the food processor a few times until the mixture looks like coarse crumbs.  With the machine running, gradually pour in the water, until dough leaves the sides of the bowl and starts to form a ball.  The dough should not be too sticky or dry.

On a lightly floured surface, knead the dough for about 2 minutes or until dough becomes smooth.  Place the dough in a clean bowl; brush with some oil and cover with plastic.  Set aside for 30 minutes.

(If not using right away, at this point, the dough can be covered and refrigerated for 2-3 days.  Let the dough return to room temperature before rolling).

For the Filling:

1/2 head of cauliflower, grated

2 TBS. grated or finely chopped fresh ginger

1 or 2 green chillies finely minced (put more or less based on your tolerance for heat)

Salt to taste

Set aside.

Now to making the Parathas:

Divide the dough into 8 balls.

Working with 2 pieces at a time, roll the dough into a 6-inch circles on a lightly floured surface.

Place one circle on the board and put 2 heaping tablespoons of the cauliflower mixture on the dough.

Place another disc on top and pinch the two discs together by pressing down.

Start rolling out the stuffed package.  Add more flour if needed, to prevent sticking.

Sometimes the cauliflower will ooze out – don’t worry about it – it adds to the flavor of the paratha, when the cauliflower will caramelize on cooking.  Roll the paratha as thin as you can, about 1/8 of an inch.  Make sure that the thickness is even throughout so that it cooks evenly.

If you have a tawa (Indian flat iron skillet), start to heat it on medium heat.  If you don’t have one, use a non stick pan or another well seasoned iron skillet.

When the pan is hot, place the paratha on it.  Let cook for a couple of minutes.  (leave it alone!  No need to fiddle).

Flip it in a couple of minutes, and then brush oil or melted butter.  Let the other side cook – flip and brush that side.

You will have to flip the paratha back and forth a few times and press down to make sure that the dough is cooked through.  The time that it will take will vary – just make sure that it looks like the following on both sides.

Make all the parathas and put in a piece of foil to keep warm or serve your guests as each one is ready (that’s the old fashioned Indian way – but I am not a fan of this way.  I like everyone to be able to sit on the table together and eat).

After they are all made, you are ready to enjoy one of the many Indian Brunches.

(I know you know, but I have to say this.  You can eat these parathas, anytime – day or night).

In this case, I accompanied the parathas with Indian style scrambled eggs (we’ll talk about that in another post), radish salad and some plain yogurt.  Other popular accompaniments are a pat of butter put in the middle of the hot paratha (think pancakes), or any of your favorite Indian pickles and chutneys.

I know this was a long post – but it had to be done.

To recap – make these cauliflower parathas, or fill them with a filling of your choice.  Just make sure that the filling is cooked before hand because you won’t have enough time on the skillet to cook things through.  Since cauliflower can be eaten raw – we don’t cook it first.  If you use potatoes or meat – make sure they are cooked.

If you make these parathas, please tell me what you made, how you fared.  I live for comments from you.  Such is the state of my life.

Now get in the kitchen and cook something!

A Pinch of Salt

There has been much talk in the press about salt lately.

As a chef instructor (and an avid home cook), I have often found myself saying that salt is very important in cooking.  It brings out the flavor of everything, and I mean everything.  A pinch of salt can bring things to life.  A little salt can make a tomato taste more like a tomato; a piece of meat will lack depth of flavor without salt.

I am talking about the salt we ourselves add to our foods (always kosher salt in my case) – not the salt in processed foods.

This morning I learned that there is a quarter of a day’s recommended salt requirement in a serving of low-fat cottage cheese.  That is absolutely insane!  Who knew?  Did you know?  I didn’t know!

I don’t know how to offer a solution to all this salt intake except to say that this is yet another reason to cook most of our meals from scratch.  I am no scientist, but I can almost guarantee that if you cook your meals from scratch – you can add salt with abandon, and probably not get as much salt as you might – if you opened ONE can of what you might think is a good for you’ soup.

Jamie Oliver said, and I paraphrase very badly here – “Americans eat like we are hiding in a fallout shelter somewhere – opening cans of this and cryovak-ed bags of that.”

Cook your own meals – will you, please!

The New York Times article that will now cause angst even when I eat something as benign as cottage cheese.

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/25/weekinreview/25marsh.html?ref=todayspaper

Agree with me?  Disagree with me?

Have tips about reducing salt intake?

Let me know.