Wednesday, May 17, 2006
Monday, May 15, 2006
I do not even remember when my first association with ginger began. Probably when my mom used to recruit me to help her clean all the dirt off the ginger after she brought it home. Yes people, don't be surprised now, ginger used (still probably does) to come with dirt back in India. It was red, clay consistency mud ("erra matti" literally meaning red dirt) that the ginger had all over when it was first bought. I am not sure if the ginger actually grew in that type of dirt or if store owners just kept it in that dirt to "preserve" it. Any enlightenment on this topic will be appreciated. The "ginger cleaning" ritual became even more rigorous in the Summers. That is because that is when my grandmother and mother did their pickling (mango mainly) and we needed ginger in large quantities for that. There used be kilos and kilos of ginger that all of us kids (cousins, siblings) helped clean and scrape. I just loved the way ginger smelled, so I didn't mind that chore at all.
It seemed to me like my family put ginger in (what seemed like) almost everything savory. They put it in tea, curries, mainly non-vegetarian dishes (lamb, chicken, fish etc), fried vegetables, savory items (murukku etc). If you pay attention to my recipes, you will see that I carry the "ginger gene" in me too. I tend to put ginger in almost everything. The major culture shock to me with ginger was when I first took a bite of the ginger snap cookies almost 4 years ago. That was the first time I realized that ginger is used in sweet dishes too. Now, it doesn't really seem very wierd to me to put ginger in sweet stuff but if you had talked to me half a decade ago, I probably would have gagged at the idea ;).
Even though I got the short bread idea from the cookbook, I did not follow that recipe. I used a recipe from a friend from my previous work place. It is a very simple, "wake-me-up-in-the-middle-of-the-night-and-I-will-rattle-it-off" kind of recipe. Here's the recipe!
- 1 cup flour
- 1 heaping teaspoon corn starch
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 6 tbsp melted butter
- 1 tbsp ground fresh ginger
- 1 tbsp finely chopped fresh ginger
- One 9 inch cake pan
- One small mixing bowl
- Pre-heat the oven to 325 degrees.
- Cover the cake pan with aluminium foil for easy clean up. This step is of course optional.
- Mix all the ingredients under the software list and press the dough into the cake pan until it is evenly pressed.
- Poke holes all over the top with a fork.
- Bake in the oven for about 15 minutes. Pull it out of the oven and using a knife, score the cookie and cut into desired shapes.
- Put it back in the oven for another 15-20 minutes or until the cookie is lightly browned.
- Let it cool in the pan and break of the already scored cookie pieces.
- The first four ingredients in the list are the original shortbread recipe. I just added the ginger to it. This cookie was unbelievably delicious. When I bit into a piece that had the actual ginger in it, it was heavenly.
- I add a teaspoon of vanilla to the regular shortbread cookies if I am making them without the ginger.
Saturday, May 13, 2006
It was easy because it only took me a few minutes to throw this together. Breezy coz it is very windy outside today, but a very beautiful day neverthless! This is what we ate for our brunch this Saturday morning. I had idli, peanut chutney and mullangi pappu chaaru/sambhar in the freezer that I thawed and re-heated. I had made this last week and freezed some of it. While the food was in the microwave, I got busy cutting up some fresh fruit - cantaloupe and mango. Brunch was ready! See that is one of the pleasures of freezing food. It works for those days that are really crazy and hectic.
Thursday, May 11, 2006
It is hard to believe that this is my first non-vegetarian post on this blog. I do eat chicken, some fish and shrimp but I don't cook with them that often. That are a few reasons why that happens/has been happening lately. Whenever we go out to eat, almost 90 percent of the time I order non-vegetarian. So, when I cook at home, I feel like eating vegetables. The other thing that contributed to my sparse non-vegetarian eating habits is that, for the past 8 weeks, I was a part of a group "walking" program where we were supposed to walk and also count the fruits and veggies we eat each day. So, every time I thought of cooking something non-vegetarian, the thought that I couldn't count them came to my mind and I just refrained buying meat at the grocery store.
Growing up, my mom never cooked shrimp at home. I think she just didn't like the taste and smell of shrimp! Although, my dad was a "shrimp eater", he always had to eat it outside since he couldn't make it on his own :). For some reason, since my mom never made it at home, I wouldn't eat it anywhere else too. My mom did cook other sea food though. The fish pickle that she makes is just out of this world. YUM! For that matter all the non-vegetarian pickles she makes are really good - the mutton pickle, the chicken pickle, just thinking about them makes my mouth water! For a person who doesn't "eat" non-veg she is an amazing non-veg cook! Yeah, that is right, my mom doesn't eat non-vegetarian but she does cook it for the family and guests! We have seperate utensils at home that she cooks non-veg in :). Yeah, is pretty funny to watch her cook non-vegetarian trying to avoid touching everything else and only managing with the few utensils set out for this particular task :)).
Back to shrimp, I never ate shrimp until I came to the U.S few years ago. I don't remember the first time I ate it either. It must have been at a friends house when I was studying here. I really did not like the way it tasted, so never cooked with it. But all that changed when I went to Chilis/Carlos O Kellys (don't remember which one) couple of years ago and I ordered a dish and the waitress said that for a couple of bucks extra, I could get an order of grilled shrimp that will be placed on top of the dish. I thought I would try it and told her that I would like a side of it not mixed in with my actual meal. The shrimp that she brought was so yummy! It was grilled, sprinkled with some lemon juice and that totally changed my view on shrimp.
Now that you know my entire association with shrimp, back to this post. This shrimp curry is a spicy, yet tasty concoction. It goes really well with jeera rice or even plain basmati rice. The spices in this recipe can toned down (or up) to your liking.
First a few kitchen notes
- I skip the marination part if I am really in a hurry. Instead of the 30 minutes I specify, I sometimes do it for about 10-15 minutes, the time it takes me to chop all the other veggies/spices up.
- The cumin + caradamom + cloves powder can be substitued with regular garam masala but the taste will definitely be different. I usually grind this masala up and store in the refrigerator for a month or so to use in different dishes.
For the marination
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 pinch red chili powder
- 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
- 1 tbsp fresh lemon/lime juice
- 1 pound raw, shelled and deveined large shrimp (about 50-60 shrimps)
- 1 large onion, chopped fine
- 2 Indian green chilis, slit length wise
- 2 tbsp garlic chopped fine
- 2 tbsp ginger, chopped fine
- 1 tsp turmeric powder
- 1 large tomato, chopped fine
- gooseberry sized tamarind, soaked in hot water, juice extracted
- 2 tbsp freshly grated coconut
- 1 heaping tbsp cinnamon + caradamom + cloves powder
- 1 tbsp coriander powder
- 1 tbsp chili powder (I think I added more than that, so this can adjusted to your liking)
- salt, to taste
- 2-3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- One sauce pan
- small bowl for marination
- Toss the ingredients for the marination for together with the shrimp. Set aside in the refrigerator for about 30-45 minutes.
- Put the sauce pan on medium high heat, add the oil.
- After the oil heats up add the onions and fry for about 3 minutes.
- Add the garlic and ginger, fry until onions are translucent.
- Add the turmeric powder, stir.
- Add the tomatoes and fry until they are mushy.
- Add all the masalas, the caradamom + cloves + cinnamon powder, the coriander powder, the chili powder, salt, coconut and stir.
- After a minute or so add the tamarind juice, another cup of water and bring to a rolling boil.
- Add the shrimp, add more water if necessary, the gravy should be too watery. Cook the shrimp until they are done (which is very quick, about 5-6 minutes), take off the heat.
- Add the mint and the coriander leaves.
Wednesday, May 10, 2006
Mango Pudding / Payasam
Santhi's recipe entirely for the mango pudding except that - I boiled the milk in a microwavable container until it came to a boil so I didn't have to keep stirring it on the stove top. I do this trick everytime I need to boil milk and it works perfectly. I also added about 4 tbsp of sweetened condensed milk at the very end and fried up some cashews and raisins in a tablespoon of ghee/clarfied butter and added it to the pudding at the very end.
After looking at all the mango thokku recipes, I mostly followed Kitchen Mate's recipe, except for the methi seeds and the gingelly oil. Instead of the methi seed powder, I added the powder (chana dal, urad dal, coriander seeds, methi seeds, jeera, red chilis) I had prepared for the spinach chutney.
- 1 cup peeled,grated raw mango
- 1 red chili broken into pieces
- 1 tbsp mustard seeds
- 1 tsp turmeric powder
- 1 tbsp - 1 tsp chili powder
- 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- hing, a pinch
- 1 tbsp of the afore mentioned spice mixture
- salt to taste
- one small sauce pan
- Put the sauce pan on medium heat. Add one tbsp of oil, add the mustard seeds and the red chili pieces. After the mustard seeds splutter, add the hing and the grated mango, stir for a couple of minutes.
- Add the turmeric powder, cook for another 5-10 minutes until the raw smell goes away. Add the chili powder, spice mixture, salt and stir for another few minutes.
- Add in the other 2 tbsp of oil and stir and turn off the heat.
Tuesday, May 09, 2006
chocolate-chip banana-nut muffins, chocolate cupcake, and baby bananas
First off, I will try to explain the picture above as the picture may not be worth 1000 words in this case. I don't want any of my blog readers thinking I burnt the muffins :).
The regular light brown looking things are the chocolate-chip banana nut muffins. The dark chocolate cupcake you see above is what I made from my leftover chocolate cupcake batter from last Sunday. I had put the extra in the refrigerator, tightly covered in a container. Before I baked it, I put it in the microwave defrost cycle for a couple of minutes until it regained its consistency. I added some white chocolate chips on top of the cupcakes. On to the bananas. I think this variety of bananas are called baby-bananas. These are NOT the bananas I used in the recipe. They are the smaller version bananas and I bought from the Oriental store last week. These bananas are slender and only about 4-5 inches in length. The skin of these bananas is very thin compared to the thick flesh of the regular bananas. I also feel that these bananas taste a LOT sweeter than the regular bananas. In Telugu, my native language, these are called "chekkara keli" (chekkara meaning sugar, keli meaning banana originated from the Hindi word "kela" meaning banana).
Now on to my post, I try to participate in Cate's ARF/5-a-day that happens every Tuesday as much as I can. My previous entries to this event were Kiwi jam, Quesadillas and Guacamole, Yu Choy dal/lentils, Spinach chutney with chapathi chips, Penne with creamy veggie sauce.
This week though, Cate put a twist to the whole thing. She asked us bloggers to find ARF/5-a-day worthy recipes from other food bloggers site. As soon as I saw that, I thought to myself, "that is going to be easy" but alas as you will read below, it wasn't easy choosing what to make.
On Sunday afternoon I set the laptop on the dining table and started blog hopping. After a few minutes, I was over whelmed with a plethora of choices to choose from. A realization sunk in that I need to do something else than just blog hopping to figure this out. I made up a condition for myself to make this easier. I decided that I would have to come up with something that uses ingredients that I already had on hand.
I got up, glanced at the raw materials in the refrigerator, peeked in the cabinets to see what I had on hand. Now, once again I started blog hopping. Few more minutes later, I was even more confused on what I was going to make. Then my eyes fell on the bananas that were on the banana holder on the table on the counter. I noticed that they were I had 3 bananas that were a little on the ripe side, and one overly ripe banana (very squishy to touch) kind. I knew exactly what I was going to make - Banana nut muffins. I have made these muffins a lot of times before but have never ever used the same recipe. That was mostly because, I would forget where I got the recipe from. I then remembered that Saffron Hut had made some banana nut muffins and they looked really good. I looked up the recipe, bookmarked it and went about my day!
I did make modifications to the recipe i.e. made it a little more unhealthy (which is very unlike me :)). I usually try to add healthy ingredients, reduce the unhealthy ingredients when I am baking but today, I did the opposite. Being a chocoholic that I am, I had to add chocolate to this :). Hence they became Banana nut - chocolate chip muffins.
The modifications I made to this recipe are that I added 1/4 cup of brown sugar and 1/2 cup of regular sugar instead of the 3/4 regular sugar. Being a spiceaholic that I am, I threw in some nutmeg and cinnamom. I added some good vanilla. As I said above, I added about 1/2 cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips to the party!
Now to the exact recipe!
- 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 4 ripe bananas (I had 3 medium ripe and 1 overly ripe banana), mashed thoroughly
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
- 1/3 cup melted butter (unsalted)
- 1 tbsp vanilla
- 1/3 cup walnuts, chopped coarsely
- 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
- about 30-36 chocolate chips
- one small mixing bowl
- one large mixing bowl
- one muffin tin
- paper muffin cups (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Sift together all the dry ingredients (flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, nutmeg and cinnamon) into the large mixing bowl.
- Mix all the wet ingredients (melted butter, mashed bananas, granulated sugar, brown sugar, vanilla) in the small mixing bowl (and yes, the sugar is considered a "wet ingredient", atleast according to Alton Brown).
Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix with a fork or spoon so all the ingredients are well incorporated. (or just put on some food safe gloves and mix it up with your hands).
- Set aside 2-3 tbsp of walnuts. Add the rest of the walnuts and the 1/2 cup of chocolate chips into the batter and mix well.
- Put the paper muffin cups in the muffin pan, fill the cups until they are a little more than 3/4 full.
Add about 2-3 chocolate chips and a few walnuts on top of the 3/4th filled muffin cups.
- Bake them for about 15-20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted comes out clean and the muffins are brown on top.
Friday, May 05, 2006
Last week,came home from work one day, very tired with no energy to cook anything that would take a lot of time. I immediately thought of egg bhurgi with just onions. When I was in school here, I made this quite often when I was pressed on time. On one of those ocasions, I was in the process of making egg bhurji and one of my roomates asked me if I could try NOT to scramble the eggs. She asked me if I could try leaving them on the skillet on low heat so they cook all the way through without the need to scrambling them. She said her mom did it that way. I used to leave the eggs undisturbed on low heat for a while until they were set and flip it carefully if the top looked like it needed some cooking.
I started with the intention of making what I usually make but this time as I started chopping my onions, gathering other ingredients when I thought I would take this one step further by making a desi frittata out of it. I was only using 3 eggs, and I did not have a small enough oven-safe skillet. I then remembered Rachael Ray saying one time that her mom never distinguished between an oven safe skillet and a regular one. She went on to say that her mom always put aluminium foil on the handles and put the skillet in the oven. I decided to do it this way too and it turned out perfect. I wrapped the plastic handle of my skillet atleast 5-6 times with heavy duty aluminium foil before putting it in the oven!
I put grated carrots in this recipe, because I had only one lonely carrot in the refrigerator all by itself and I just decided remedy it of its lonlieness by pairing it up with some eggs and onions :). I really loved the crunch the carrot imparted to the bhurji. It is going to be my intentional addition from now on.
I know the ingredients list seems long for the title but believe me, it doesn't get easier than this :).
Now on to the recipie:
- 1/2 small onion, finely diced
- 1 garlic, finely sliced
- one big carrot, grated
- 1 small roma tomatoes
- 3 eggs, slightly beaten
- 1 Indian green chili, chopped fine
- 1 tsp coriander powder
- 1 pinch cumin powder
- 1/2 tsp chili powder (optional)
- 3-4 tbsp crumbled paneer
- 1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
- 4 tbsp chopped cilantro and chopped mint
- salt to taste
- one small oven safe skillet or do what I did at your own risk :)
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- Heat the skillet on medium heat, add the onions, chilis and the garlic. Fry for a minute.
- Add the grated carrots, tomatoes fry for another 1-2 minutes. Add the salt, cumin, coriander powder, chili powder an stir.
- Add the eggs and cook for a minute or so. I usually make a slit with a flat wooden spoon in the middle and get the uncooked egg to flow in to the crack, eventually making it to the bottom of the pan.
- Put the crumbled paneer, mint and cilantro and after the mixture is about half set, put the pan in the oven for about 10-15 minutes until the frittata is golden brown.
Serving Suggestion: We ate this up with some frozen store bought rotis and it was yum! But this could be served by itself on a brunch or for breakfast.
Thursday, May 04, 2006
I went over there after work yesterday. I had actually forgotten about this market when I went grocery shopping over the weekend. Since I already had an over flowing refrigerator, I couldn't shop as much as I wanted to. But I did buy some fresh "spicy greens" for salad, some fresh radishes and half a dozen eggs.
So, I put together a salad for lunch tomorrow with the greens and radishes.
Here is how I did it:
I cleaned the greens and radishes, chopped up about two of the radishes, also chopped up about 3 baby carrots, added lightly toasted almonds and walnuts for crunch. For the dressing, I used Jamie Oliver's Thai Salad Dressing. I didn't have any basil on hand so I just used fresh mint instead. I also omitted the red chili and instead went with a teaspoon of the wasabi paste for the kick (And I know wasabi is not exactly Thai but it is good, isn't it?). I also omitted the garlic cloves since I did not want to eat uncooked garlic in the middle of the afternoon at work!
Have a good weekend everybody!
Wednesday, May 03, 2006
Well..the basket of cupcakes didn't stay as full for long. They were gone very quickly! This is what I made late Sunday night when a "something chocolate" craving hit us. I thought of making pudding first but I didn't have any cream on hand so settled for the cupcakes. And the thought of letting the pudding cool in the refrigerator before we can devour it did not appeal to me. As I said, it was kind of late at night!
These cupcakes are very easy to make and take only 15-20 minutes of prep time. The rest of the time is baking time. Unless I am baking cupcakes for a party/give away, I never frost my cupcakes so I can avoid the extra sugar and all the work. I just sprinkle them with some decorative sprinklers or just a dusting of powdered sugar will satisfy my "frosting" desire!
I got the basic recipe from Hershey's Website. They are called "Spring Surprise Chocolate Cupcakes". I have made "filling/surprise" cupcakes before where a "surprise filling" is put in the cupcake and baked. When someone bites into the cupcake, they may either bite into the filling or see the filling and get "surprised"! Get it? I have done a cream cheese and chocolate chip filling, fresh raspberry filling, any kind of fruit jelly/jam fillings etc. Basically the surprise filling can be anything you fancy, just that if you put something heavy, you may risk the filling dropping to the bottom of the cupcake which is not such a good thing. May be next time I bake cupcakes, I will put a surprise filling in so I can capture that on the camera!
As with every recipe, I make, I did modify this recipe quite a bit. I added in flax seed flour, some nuts, some more chocolate, in a typical Rachael Ray style added some nutmeg, added salt, reduced the sugar etc. Here goes my recipe!
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup flax seed flour
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup cocoa or dark cocoa
- 1 tsp freshly grated nutmeg powder
- 1 cup water
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil
- 1 egg
- 1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup of finely chopped walnuts
- 1 tbsp confectioners/powdered sugar
- one muffin pan
- one large mixing bowl
- one sifter
- one small sifter
- Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Sift together the flour, salt and the baking soda into the large mixing bowl. Add the flax seed flour, cocoa, sugar and mix well with a fork so all the dry ingredients get mixed thoroughly. At this point the dry mix looks like a pre-packaged chocolate mix package.
- Add in the water, oil, egg and the vanilla, beat at a medium speed using an electric mixer until the dry ingredients are well incorporated into the wet ones. Beat for 4-5 minutes until you see the bubbles on top. Mix in the nuts.
- Put the paper muffin cups in the muffin pan. Fill the muffins until they are a little more than 3/4 full. Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
- Cool on a wire rack.
- After the muffins are completely cool, take the powdered sugar in a small sifter and "sift" the sugar on top the muffins!
This makes about 15-18 cupcakes.
Serving Suggestion: Serve with a tall glass of soy milk! YUM!
PS: This is a totally non-food related paragraph! Does anyone watch LOST on ABC? If yes, did you watch tonight's episode? My jaw totally dropped after watching it. I CANNOT believe they did what they did! This is probably the best episode this season in my opinion. Sorry, I just HAD to talk about it as I cannot seem to stop thinking about the episode!
Monday, May 01, 2006
Thanks again, Santhi. I will be thinking of you everytime I make phulkas/rotis!