Thursday, December 22, 2011

Asian Rice Salad w/ Sweet Peas and Braised Baby Bok Choy

  • 2 cups cooked long grain rice
  • 1/4 cup seasoned rice vinegar
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • bok choy
  • beet greens/stems (optional)
  • salt
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • fresh cracked pepper
  • 1/2 cup cooked sweet peas

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Neighborhood Love

I love my Sunday ritual of going to the Brentwood farmer's market. It's always an adventure, whether I'm having a me-day or meeting up with friends. Living in Los Angeles can feel isolating at times, and walking through my local market reminds me that I'm part of a community. More often than not, there's a familiar face in the crowd -if you happen to see me next time, say hello!

Colorful flowers for the apartment, some fresh fruits and vegetables...

Ending the visit with some live music.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Saffron ("kesar") Milk

Though not up everyone's palate, I have always loved the taste of saffron. Saffron has been said to have several health benefits -from its antioxidant-like qualities to aiding insomnia. For cold nights, a cup of hot kesar milk is a delicious alternative to hot chocolate. Add 1 cup milk to pot and bring to a boil. Add 1 tsp saffron threads, and allow to simmer for several minutes. You can skip this last step, but it really brings out the saffron flavor and color. Pour into your favorite cup/mug. If serving to guests, I like to add a couple of threads on top to make it look a little brighter.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Quinoa Avocado Salad with Ponzu Vinaigrette

Quinoa with big chunks of avocado, slices of red onion and radish.
Vinaigrette - ponzu, lemon juice, olive oil, soy sauce, black pepper.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Food for the Body, Food for the Soul

“You give but little when you give of your possessions. It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.”- Khalil Gibran

This Thanksgiving I had the opportunity to serve with two amazing organizations, Be the Cause* and the UCO Drop In Center in Long Beach. Run by Brad Lara-Gagne and his team of tireless staff and volunteers, the center is open 47 Sundays throughout the year to feed the homeless. I had the pleasure of speaking to him the previous night and his dedication to the Center is apparent.  Over the years, he and the center have developed an amazing network in the community, the organizations helping one another out whenever they can. When one has a surplus of food, it makes sure to pass it along to another who can use it, never allowing the goods to go to waste. Brad has also cultivated relationships with local establishments such as Panera, who donates their excess baked goods to the center every week. For the Thanksgiving dinner, there were originally only 6 large pies (baked by a generous donor) to distribute amongst all the guests - until Trader Joe’s showed up that morning with 60 more pies.

Sonali Fiske of Be The Cause organized a group of volunteers for this special Thanksgiving event at the center. On Thursday morning, we set to task –cutting pies, separating baked goods, organizing the clothing donation closet, etc. Before the guests arrived, Sonali gathered the volunteers together for introductions and a quick pep talk. “The whole idea is to treat each person as though they are a guest in your home…I know it sounds cheesy, but it’s all about love. There’s a lot of love in that food.” One of the volunteers admitted she was there because of her young daughter.  She had told her mom that instead of going to dinner, “I want to do something better. I want to go and feed the homeless.” What a wonderful reminder that children, too, have the ability to inspire action and kindness.

While I was greeting guests at the front door, I had the opportunity to witness the various interactions –the children smiling and having a great time at the arts and crafts table with Adnan and Norma; the diners conversing with the volunteers; the kitchen staff preparing and plating the meals; the dj spreading the joy of music; and all of the others in action. I noticed one of the volunteers sitting at the tables and speaking to several of the guests. Leny (who works with Corazon de Vida Foundation) came to the event with her husband and children. When asked what inspired her to spend Thanksgiving at the center, she responded, “It’s not only the food. It’s about spending time with them [the homeless]. Some people might assume bad things about them, but they don’t know how someone got there. Everyone has a different story.” For her, it was important that her children get in touch with their community. “You know, it is a beautiful experience for me, but especially for my kids. I don’t know what they will do when they are older but I want them to have this experience.”

I also had the opportunity to speak to a local reporter who was covering organizations in the area hosting Thanksgiving dinners for the homeless. This was her fourth stop and she seemed really impressed. I joked with her, “I bet we’re the only one with a DJ.” (DJ Sukh was generously spinning his music for the event.) She agreed that she hadn’t seen anything like it and that the music was a great addition. “Yeah, it’s great. ‘All the Single Ladies’ was a big hit in there,” she said. “Everyone was moving around in their chairs!” It hadn’t occurred to me that having music at such an event would be so appreciated but music is food for the soul after all, so it isn’t surprising that it brought smiles to so many faces.

As the diners exited, they thanked us, blessed us, and wished us a Happy Thanksgiving. There was one man in particular who had a profound affect on me. As he walked out of the dining hall, he looked at me and said, “thank you for feeding me.” My hand went to my heart and I was speechless. After a moment, all I could muster up was, “you’re so welcome.” I stood there for several minutes pondering the gravity of his words –“thank you for feeding me.” I thought about how the weather was getting colder and wondered if he would have a place to stay warm. I couldn’t help but feel a renewed sense of gratitude for the everyday things that we so often take for granted.

A sincere thanks to everyone who took part in the event, and for allowing me to be a part of it - I continue to be inspired and humbled by all of you.

For more information on the organizations, go to:

*Founded in 2002 in response to the 9/11 attacks, Be the Cause’s mission is to create meaningful opportunities for service. Through the efforts of volunteers and donations, BTC has organized over 400 projects in numerous countries.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Leftover Turkey: Sriracha Sliders

I love having Thanksgiving leftovers, but by about day 3, I'm pretty much over having the same meal. At an annual potluck I have with some attorney friends of mine, one of the guests brought Hawaiian rolls instead of traditional rolls. Lucky for me, there were a few left for these delicious sliders. The slight sweetness in these rolls make the perfect offset to the spicy spread.

4 hawaiian rolls
1 cup cooked turkey
4 tbs sour cream*
sriracha -now here is where your personal preference/tolerance for heat comes into play. I would start off with a bit and add more to taste as you go along.

Split each rolls in half and toast them in toaster oven. Start with about 1/2 tsp sriracha and whisk it into the sour cream, adding more depending on your spice level. Spread sriracha sour cream on bottom half of roll, top with turkey and top half of roll. Repeat for the other three. Enjoy!

*You can use mayo and make a sriracha aioli instead, but I was feeling guilty after eating that huge Thanksgiving spread the night before!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Kitchen Tip: Leftover Wine

I know most of my friends will read this and say, "leftover wine? There's no such thing!" But even I have to admit there are times when I end up pouring perfectly good wine down the drain.  There have been other times when I'm craving just a glass but forgo it because I don't want the rest to go to waste. It was while I was cooking one day that I found the perfect solution.

I was making a roast and found that it needed a bit of wine for acidity.  I looked around and realized that the only bottles I had left were a couple of really nice wines I had bought from my last trip to Napa. Not wanting to use those, I ended up going to the store just to get a bottle for the 1/2 cup I needed. I never run into this problem anymore. Now, my freezer is always stocked with pre-measured portions of frozen* wine. It's perfect for when I just need a cup -or even a few tablespoons- of wine for cooking.

I freeze the wine in 1-cup plastic containers or in ice cube trays -then take out cubes and store in freezer ziplock bags, making sure to get as much air out as possible before sealing. I've even just poured the wine straight into the freezer bag and it's never been a problem. Just make sure to prop the bag up in a container or bowl for stability. Though some suggest thawing to room temperature for use, I've always just scooped out the needed amount and added it to the pot.

Note: this Tip is only for use in cooking. I wouldn't recommend drinking it!

*It doesn't actually freeze to a solid state, but is semi-slushy.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Eggs w/Sauteed Spinach and Tomatoes

Think you don't have time for a healthy breakfast? Saute some garlic in olive oil, add fresh chopped spinach, diced tomatoes, and a pinch of salt. Transfer to plate. In separate pan, cook two eggs over easy. Add fresh cracked pepper. Top spinach mixture with eggs, and voila, a healthy breakfast in about 15 minutes.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Easy Butternut Squash w/Roasted Cumin

This is a quick and simple twist on my mom's slightly more involved Indian-style pumpkin dish.

1 bag cubed, frozen butternut squash (defrosted)
1 medium red onion, sliced thinly
2 tbs cumin seeds
2 tbs olive oil
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

In saute pan, heat olive oil. Add cumin seeds, watching carefully so they don't burn. Add a pinch of turmeric and onions; saute for 3-4 minutes on medium heat. Add squash, salt and pepper. Cook for 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Serving suggestion: serve with rice or naan, and plain yogurt.

Cook's note: It was my first time using frozen cubes of butternut squash. They didn't hold their shape as I would have liked for certain dishes, so best used for pureed dishes or soups.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Cumin and Sea Salt (Baked) Tortilla Chips

1 12 oz package corn tortillas
olive oil in mister, or cooking spray
ground roasted cumin
sea salt

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. With kitchen scissors, cut each tortilla into 4 wedges. Arrange wedges on a cookie sheet, in a single layer. Spray surface of tortilla wedges with oil/cooking spray. Sprinkle with cumin and salt. Bake for about 7-8 minutes, watching closely so they don’t burn. Carefully flip chips over (they will be hot!) and continue baking for another 7-8 minutes.

I served these with a mixture of my mom’s roasted eggplant dish and plain yogurt, but they are great with guacamole, salsa, or any of your favorite dips.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Tomato-Zucchini Bake

Easy and healthy!

It was a gorgeous day yesterday and I guess I caught up in that good feeling and went a little crazy on my produce shopping. I came home with two full bags of veggies, including some type of squash I had never seen before. In fact I had to confirm with the guy at the stall that indeed it was a squash.

I went home, posted a picture of them on FB with the caption: "Picked them up at the farmers mkt yesterday- any suggestions on how to cook them? similar to zucchini?" It was of no help. Some guessed guava, while one guessed watermelon! Fortunately for handy dandy Google, I soon realized that they were just round zucchini.

Tomato-Zucchini Bake
-3 roma tomatoes
-4 medium round zucchini
-olive oil
-one clove of garlic, finely chopped
-1/3 tsp sea salt
-1/2 tsp fresh black pepper
-1/2 tsp dried basil

Pre-heat oven to 350. Spray medium sized baking dish (I used a 9" square glass dish) with cooking spray or oil mister.

Trim ends of zucchini and discard. Slice the rest and put aside. Slice the tomatoes in rounds. Alternate tomato and zucchini slices in layers. See picture above. Scatter the chopped garlic over the layers of tomato/zucchini. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and dried basil. Drizzle a bit of olive oil over the vegetables. Bake 25-30 minutes, or until squash is tender.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Potato Salad w/Roasted Cumin and Horseradish Vinaigrette

Baby new red potatoes tossed in this vinaigrette offers a light variation to your everyday potato salad.


Every time I visit my parents, my mom insists that I take home some groceries when I leave. It's always something new -a couple of bananas, a ripe mango, a large filet of salmon. "I bought a large piece from Costco and divided it up for you kids." And by "kids," she means her three adult children. It's quite cute actually.

This time she packed up some new red potatoes, a couple of peaches, and a bunch of cilantro. I had forgotten about the potatoes until this morning, when I opened up the vegetable crisper in search of something and saw them rolling around. I decided to make a potato salad, but as I rarely have mayo on hand, I dressed it with a vinaigrette -olive oil, lemon juice, ground roasted cumin, salt, pepper and horseradish (yes, horseradish!).

6 small new red potatoes, boiled and quartered (skin on)
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
handful of cilantro, washed and chopped
1 tbs prepared horseradish
2 tbs olive oil
2 tbs lemon juice
1 tbs ground roasted cumin
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp fresh cracked pepper

Toss potatoes, onions and cilantro in bowl. Add salt and pepper. Whisk together olive oil, lemon juice, cumin and horseradish. Lightly toss into salad. Enjoy!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Parmesan-Crusted Frittata

I love fritattas because they're simple to make and you can use pretty much any combination of ingredients you like. It can be made ahead of time and served at room temperature, making it an easy dish for brunches, picnics, and dinners. This was my first time using parmesan in a frittata, but I happened to have some on hand and wanted to make the dish for a potluck I was going to. I think mozarella and pepperjack are still at the top of my choices for this dish, but the parmesan was a nice variation.

*8 eggs
*3 tbs milk
*1/3 cup fresh grated parmesan
*1/2 cup chopped cilantro
*1 small yellow or red bell pepper, diced
*6 small red potatoes, peeled and sliced
*1 small onion, peeled and sliced
*olive oil
*1/2 tsp salt
*1/2 tsp pepper

Preheat broiler. Heat 2tbs olive oil in skillet, cook potatoes for 5-7 minutes, until slightly tender. In separate pan, heat 2 tbs olive oil and saute onions and bell pepper, about 4 minutes. Meanwhile, whisk eggs, half of the parmesan, milk, salt, pepper and half of the cilantro. Once potatoes are semi-cooked, use spatula to arrange them flat in the pan. Top with remaining cilantro, and followed by the sauteed onions and bell peppers. Add egg mixture to skillet. Cook until almost set. Sprinkle remaining parmesan and broil until frittata is puffed and cheese begins to turn golden, about 3-5 minutes. Cut into wedges and serve.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Roasted Cumin Pork Chops w/Fresh Cherry Sauce and Brussel Sprouts with Red Pepper Flakes

I had never made pork chops before, but I wanted to make a nice dinner for my sister so I thought I'd experiment with something new. It actually didn't take that much time -as soon as I put the pork chops in the pan, I started on the sauce in one pan and the brussel sprouts in another. From start to finish, everything was done in under forty minutes.

Roasted Cumin Pork Chops:
2 tsp ground roasted cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp ginger powder
1 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 tsp salt
olive oil
2 pork chops

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. Combine first five ingredients and two tbs olive oil in small bowl, creating a paste. Pat pork chops dry and apply the rub to each side. Heat two tbs olive oil in a large stainless steel pan. Place pork chops in pan, cooking each side 3 minutes. Transfer to shallow baking dish and bake for 12-15 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand five minutes.

Brussel Sprouts
10-12 brussel sprouts
1 clove garlic, minced
olive oil
red pepper flakes

Cut ends off of the sprouts, and halve them. Blanch for 3 minutes and drain. In saute pan, heat 2 tbs olive oil and add garlic. Brown for a minute, then add the sprouts. Salt and red pepper flakes to taste. Saute for 5-7 minutes, then remove from heat.

Cherry Sauce
1/2 cup cherries
1/4 cup red wine
1 tbs brown sugar
1 tbs balsamic vinegar
2 tbs water
pinch ground cardamom

Pit cherries. You can do it like I did -by hand- and have cherry juice running down your fingers, or you can invest in a cherry pitter and make life a bit easier. Apparently you can get one of these handy gadgets at my favorite housewares store, Williams-Sonoma:

Combine all ingredients in sauce pan and bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 10-15 minutes, smashing the cherries after about ten minutes.

The perfect bite. I'm a big fan of the perfect bite -one where all the flavors compliment each other and create a buzz of joy in your mouth. Here, the spices from the spicy, succulent pork, the sweet cherry and the peppery, crisp sprouts all came together for a great flavor combination.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Missin' My Kitchen

I've been out of commission for almost a month now, due to an old back injury that's acted up. It's amazing how much physical pain can affect you psychologically; I just haven't been feeling like myself. Today, I decided I needed to pull myself out of the pity party. I went for a short walk and started a mental list of all the things I'm grateful for. The list was pretty long, and soon I was smiling. I realized that "life as I know it" isn't over. It's just on pause for a bit while my body heals.

This evening, I was looking through some old pictures and came across this one. It was taken back in November, a pre-Thanksgiving Day dinner at my home with some friends I used to work with. My immediate thought was, "damn, I miss my kitchen." I haven't cooked in almost a month now, and I miss it. I miss the slicing, the dicing, the planning, the cooking, the rummaging through the refrigerator trying to figure out what my latest creation will be. As these thoughts went through my mind, I felt a slight shift in perspective -from one of hopelessness to one of hopefulness. I look forward to being pain free again so I can wander my farmer's market on Sundays, a ritual I have come to look forward to every week. I'm inspired to get well soon so I can get back to doing what I love doing. It helps to look at the smile on my face in the picture and remember that joy.

So... here's to good friends, good food and good health. Salud!

Monday, August 8, 2011

I Heart Eric

"Life is a journey. Some people snap photos along the way. Others write stories. Some sketch. I cook. That’s the best way I know to experience what life has to offer at every turn..." -Chef Eric Rupert

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Karma Kitchen -Paying it Forward

A week ago today, I spent an afternoon in the lovely town of Berkeley, working with an inspiring group called Karma Kitchen. It all began a few weeks ago, when a friend posted a picture on Facebook from his day at KK. (Thank you, Sateen.) I went to their website and learned that it is a volunteer-based group that takes over a restaurant for lunch service every Sunday. The volunteers run the whole show –seating, serving, bussing, plating, washing, setup, cleanup… everything except the cooking, which is done by the restaurant’s chef. Even more intriguing was the fact that KK is completely donation-based, where patrons are given a check at the end of the meal with a zero tab. Patrons are told that their meal was paid for by those who came before them and are invited to continue the chain of paying it forward. Their website further explains, “In a gift economy, goods and services are given without any strings attached… a shift from consumption to contribution, transaction to trust, scarcity to abundance, and isolation to community.”

I knew it wasn’t a coincidence that I happened upon his post; I had been feeling a lack of service in my life lately and had been researching various organizations in Los Angeles. Something about KK spoke to me and I decided then and there I wanted to volunteer with them on my next trip to the bay area. It was only a day’s commitment, but it was a step in the right direction; I decided to go to San Francisco for the 4th of July weekend. I was staying with my friend Reena and when I told her about KK, she decided it would be a fun experience to do together and signed up as well.

On a gorgeous Sunday morning, we headed down to Berkeley, my first visit to the town in years. We had no idea what we were in for, but were excited and ready for whatever came our way. There was a brief orientation, where we met the rest of the volunteers, were told a bit more about KK and the day ahead, and were given our job assignments. I had told myself that even if I were assigned to dishwashing, I would do it blissfully. After all, I had been inspired to serve; how I served would be unimportant that day.

As it turned out, three of us were chosen as servers (and bus-girls, it turned out, since we were short of volunteers that day). The rest of our team of nine served as maitre’d, cashier and check runner, dishwasher, drinks and dessert filler, platers, and pretty much everything in between. Most of us had never worked a day in a restaurant. I have hosted countless brunches and dinner parties, but nothing thus far had prepared me for the next few hours. It was constant motion: welcoming diners; explaining the concept of KK to those who had never been; taking orders; wiping down tables; yelling out forgotten drinks or extra naan orders; turning two-tops into four-tops into six-tops (I learned a bit of restaurant lingo); back and forth (and back and forth) through the swinging door hoping not to have one of those movie-scene moments where you run into the person on the other side, a tray of mango lassis crashing to the floor. It felt like a non-stop stream of Top Chef’s quick fire challenges and restaurant wars rolled into one.

Here are a few snapshots of the most memorable moments.

  • Finding myself peeling potatoes with Vishnu the Nepalese cook while waiting for the morning orientation; the joy on his face when I tell him I speak Hindi, creating our own special bond throughout the day.
  • The elderly lady who I was told was a pain and sat herself in my station, only to turn out to be one of my sweetest customers. She was more demanding than the others, but when she asked for something with an “I know you’re really busy but,” I responded with “never too busy for you” and a smile. If she were my grandmother, I would have wanted someone else to do the same for her.
  • The five year old who was overjoyed when the bowl of rice came out with peas arranged in a smiley face. When I told him they made it especially for him, he beamed up at his parents and said, “See, I got my own surprise!”
  • Patrons who gladly got up to help when we were backed up and at our busiest.
  • My cohorts showing me that we were all a team – a smile, an unexpected hug, an icy drink, a calm reminder to take a deep breath, stepping in to serve someone else’s table when things got backed up, and on and on.

At the end of the day, we sat down for a community meal, most of us too exhausted to think about eating. It was a beautiful way to end the day, to go around and share each person’s experience. I was filled with gratitude to be a part of the KK experience and to have met such a passionate group of people, all who came together to give their time and heart to those who came to the restaurant. Someone asked me if the experience had met my expectations, having driven up from L.A. and I responded:

It was a tough day, not any more than I expected, but it was tough…but in a good way, like going on a hike that you don’t think you can do, but somehow you keep on going, finally reaching to the top and looking down at the amazing view. You forget moments of doubt, the ache in your legs, the tightness in your back; you feel nothing but the rush of adrenaline and the joy in your soul.

For more information or to volunteer:

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Orzo w/Roasted Beets, Toasted Walnuts and Blue Cheese (with Orange Thyme Dressing)

Getting Over the Blues

I don't know if it was a psychological block to a "moldy cheese," or the much-too pungent taste of the varieties I had tried in the past, but blue cheese is the one that has been neglected over the years by this cheese lover... until now. I don't know what came over me the other day, but I found myself in the cheese section of Trader Joe's eyeing the blues (and to be honest, actually craving it). I wanted to make something for a going away party I was attending that evening and was inspired by the leftover roasted beets that I had made for dinner the night before. The wheels started turning -the mild flavor of roasted beets would pair well with the blue cheese, toasted walnuts would add some texture, and an orange-based dressing would play perfectly to offset the potent flavor of the blue cheese.

Orzo Salad:

1 16 oz. box orzo
2 medium roasted beets*, peeled and sliced.
1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese
1/2 cup toasted walnuts
Orange thyme dressing (see below)

Cook one 16 oz. box of orzo, according to package. Rinse, drain and allow to cool. To toast walnuts, add them to a heated dry skillet and cook at medium-high for about 3-5 minutes, stirring them frequently so they don't burn. Allow to cool.

In serving dish, mix in about 1/2 cup of the dressing with the cooked orzo. Stir in 1/4 cup blue cheese and 1/4 cup toasted walnuts. Lightly fold in the sliced beets. Note: Your orzo will likely turn pink - I rinsed and dried my roasted beets, but it still turned my salad into a dish fit for Valentine's Day. Top with remaining blue cheese and walnuts. Drizzle with another 1/4 cup of the dressing. Serve chilled or at room temperature.

Orange Thyme Dressing:

1/3 cup orange juice
1/3 cup white balsamic vinegar
1/3 cup olive oil
3 tbs fresh lemon juice
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves, dried and crushed
1/2 tsp fresh mint, dried and crushed
salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients and whisk together. Note: you might not need all of the dressing for the salad; store remaining dressing in refrigerator for up to 3-4 days.

*If you don't have roasted beets on hand: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Remove greens and wash beets thoroughly, leaving the skins on. Dry beets and place them in small baking dish. Cover with foil and bake for 45 to 60 minutes, or until a knife can slide easily through the beets. Allow to cool, then peel and slice.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Brussel Sprouts with Balsamic and Shaved Parmesan

I love my weekly farmer's market ritual because it continues to inspire me, to push me into unknown arenas. I grew up in a traditional Indian home, and certain foods were a mystery to me until I entered the world of college. Sure, I would hear about brussel sprouts, artichokes, asparagus, etc., but I had no idea what they tasted like, let alone how to cook them. It's amazing to me to look back at what I grew up eating and see the contrast with the wide breadth of foods I now enjoy.

This dish was inspired by a trip to the cafe Lemonade in Brentwood; I still haven't eaten there, but the array of colorful dishes in the display case looked delicious!

1 lb brussel sprouts
3 tbs extra-virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, smashed
1 tsp crushed red pepper
balsamic vinegar
shaved parmesan
salt to taste

Boil brussel sprouts in salted water for 2-3 minutes. Drain and pat dry. Cut brussel sprouts in half. Heat oil in skillet and add garlic and brussel sprouts. Cook over high heat for 1 minute. Add crushed red pepper, 2 tbs balsamic vinegar, salt to taste. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally until browned and tender. Transfer to bowl.

Let cool for a few minutes, then toss with 1 tbs balsamic and shaved parmesan. Serve while still warm.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Frittata Al Fresco

Dinner ready. Lounge playlist set. A perfect Friday evening.

Friday nights used to be a big going out night for me, but now I usually prefer to wind down the week with a mellow evening. I decided to call a friend I hadn't spoken to in a while, and the timing was perfect. Her kids were napping and she had some time for an undivided attention catch up session. It was a warm evening so I decided to open up a chilled bottle of white. My friend and I had our own virtual happy hour, and it was just what I needed. Our phone date ended when her boys woke up, so I turned my attention to what I would have for dinner.

I didn't want anything too complicated, but I also wanted to use up some of the vegetables hanging out in my refrigerator, begging to be eaten. My eyes roamed the shelves and found orange and yellow bell peppers, scallions, some fresh spinach, roma tomatoes, eggs, a bunch of cilantro, pepper jack cheese, and two lonely red potatoes. A frittata it would be then.

*6 eggs
*1/4 cup milk
*1/2 cup pepper jack cheese
*1 small yellow or red bell pepper, sliced
*2 tablespoons olive oil
*6 small red potatoes, sliced
*1 cup torn fresh spinach
*2 tablespoons sliced green onions
*1 teaspoon crushed garlic
*salt and pepper to taste

Heat olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Place potatoes in the skillet, cover, and cook about 10 minutes, until tender but firm. Mix in spinach, green onions, and bell peppers. Season with salt and pepper. Continue cooking 1 to 2 minutes, until spinach is wilted.

In a medium bowl, beat together eggs, milk and half of the cheese. Pour into the skillet over the vegetables. Reduce heat to low, cover, and cook 5 to 7 minutes, or until eggs start to set. Sprinkle rest of cheese on top; transfer to broiler and cook for 3-4 minutes, until melted.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Slow Cookin' II - Chicken Adobo

I woke up this morning craving my college roommate's chicken adobo. The last time I had it was in September when I was visiting her back east. I had followed her around the kitchen with my pen and notepad in hand, writing down everything she did -even having her measure when she ordinarily wouldn't have. I have that recipe around here...somewhere. I tried to recall how she made it, but I could only remember bits and pieces. One thing I clearly knew, was that I'd be in the kitchen for a while. Today wasn't one of those Sundays. Sure, I had the craving, but I wasn't quite inspired to try my first hand at it the old fashioned way. Today was going to be a lazy Sunday, I could already tell.

I decided to look up some slow cooker recipes and tweak them a bit, like adding carrots and mushrooms. I know it's not traditional adobo, but hey, I like it. I was sure it wouldn't be the same as sauteing onions and browning the chicken, but I was hoping to get close enough to satiate my craving.

I put the ingredients in the slow cooker, set it to high, and let it go. In the meantime, I was left free to do the dishes, take out the trash, and sort through two weeks of mail. I even had time to get a little writing done and relax with a cup of tea while catching up with an old friend over the phone. Oh, yeah, and I had time to make a few paper cranes. Yes, I said paper cranes. (I'm helping a friend make some for a wedding.)

Put the following in slow cooker and cook on high for approx. 4 hours. I've come to realize that not all crockpots cook at the same level so I tried to check on doneness after about three hours, making any adjustments to salt, acidity, etc.

1 lb chicken pieces, no skin
3/4 cup low sodium soy sauce
1/2 cup vinegar
1/2 cup water
3 large cloves garlic, crushed with the flat of a knife, and chopped
3-4 bay leaves, crushed
1 tsp cracked black pepper
1 tsp ginger paste
1 tsp brown sugar
7-8 carrots, peeled and cut in large pieces
3-4 medium sized potatoes, peeled and quartered
12 oz. package mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
1 large onion, chopped

After several views of a youtube video, I think I finally got it down right.

Results: definitely not as good as hers, but not bad for a first try!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Kale, Chickpea and Golden Beet Salad

I had to take something to a friend's potluck yesterday and couldn't for the life of me figure out what to make. I was in the mood to "make" and not just pick up something from the store. It was a beautiful Sunday and the sun was out. I could feel summer just around the corner. I put a bottle of lambrusco in to chill and headed out to the farmer's market. I thought the trip would help me figure out what I wanted to make; instead, I ended up with bags of vegetables all over my counter and too many ideas floating in my head. In the end I chose the kale as the main player and came up with this salad. (I also ended up making the Green Goddess Chicken Salad in the entry below.)

1 large bunch kale, rinsed thoroughly and coarsely chopped
6-7 golden beets, peeled
1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1/2 red onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
olive oil
ground roasted cumin

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. In bowl, add beets, some olive oil, salt and coarse black pepper, making sure beets are fully coated. Transfer to shallow baking dish and cover with foil. Cook for 30 minutes, or until a small knife easily slides through. When done, allow to cool, then cut into quarters. (Note: these can be roasted in advance.)

While beets are roasting, heat 3tbs olive oil in large pan and add garlic. (Don't let the oil get too hot or the garlic will burn.) Add kale and saute until it starts to wilt. Add a splash of balsamic vinegar and a splash of rice wine vinegar. This particular batch of kale was more bitter than usual, and I found the addition of the vinegars helped cut the bitterness of the kale. Once kale cools, transfer to a large bowl. Add chickpeas, onions, and roasted beets. Toss with juice of one medium lemon, salt, pepper and roasted cumin powder.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

The Goddess In You

Inspired by the cover of a Food and Wine issue from last year, today I made my version of a Green Goddess Chicken Salad. I took quite a few liberties with the ingredients, but tried to keep the integrity of the recipe -a creamy, herby, lemony dressing. Ordinarily, the creamy dressing is typically tossed with a green salad, but here it is added it to a chicken salad.

Interesting factoid: The coined "Green Goddess" dressing - a mix of mayonnaise, sour cream, herbs, anchovies and lemon— was created at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco in the 1920s, as a tribute to an actor starring in a play called The Green Goddess. (This, according to Food and Wine.)

Salad Ingredients:
- two poached chicken breasts, pull meat apart into large pieces (the F&W recipe calls for rotisserie chicken, skin and bones discarded)
- 5 celery stalks, with leaves (the light-colored ones near the core of the bunch), thinly sliced
- 1/2 red onion, chopped

In food processor, pulse together the following: 1 cup chopped cilantro, 1 cup chopped parsley, 1/2 cup chopped mint, 1 clove garlic, lemon juice of one small lemon. In bowl, mix together 1 cup plain yogurt, 3 tbs mayonnaise*, and the lemon-herb mixture. Set aside in refrigerator to chill.

In separate bowl, toss together chicken, celery, and onions. Fold in half of the dressing, adding more until you have your desired amount. Salt and cracked pepper to taste.

*I'm not a big mayo fan, so I used a small amount and substituted the rest with yogurt. You could also use sour cream instead.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Spicy Indian Meatloaf

For Mother's Day this year, I wanted to make a multi-course dinner for the family. Our mom likes to eat different types of food, things she would never make herself, where our dad is more of a traditionalist -preferring his homecooked indian food to most other cuisines. I decided on a few dishes that were new to them, yet that would have a traditional flavor that he would enjoy. This was our main course, and I'm glad to say it was a hit with the "kids" - that would be us - and the parents alike.

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.

1 1/2 lb 15% ground beef
1 medium onion, finely diced
about 1 inch of ginger root, finely chopped
1/2 cup of chopped cilantro
one roma tomato, diced
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp ground black pepper
1 tbs garam masala
1 tbs turmeric
1 tbs ground coriander
1 tbs "curry powder" (the one I used is called Raja Masala)
1 cerrano chili, diced
2 eggs
1 cup plain bread crumbs

In small bowl, combine all ingredients except for ground beef and eggs. In a larger bowl, mix ground beef and eggs, folding the eggs into the beef with a fork. Then add ingredients from small ingredients until evenly mixed. Place in loaf pan, glaze top with the cumin ketchup*. Bake for 45 min to an hour.

Cumin Ketchup
1 cup ketchup with 1 tbs ground roasted cumin (the roasting really brings out the flavor of the cumin, but if you don't have roasted cumin powder, use regular ground cumin). Use as much as needed for the glaze, serve remainding ketchup on the side.

Pan-Seared Polenta w/Asparagus-Chutney Puree

pan-seared polenta w/roasted red peppers and asparagus-chutney puree

A friend of mine asked, "asparagus and chutney?" when he saw the caption. I could almost hear the "tsk, tsk" in his question. My response was that in my fusion-mind, you will find the most unexpected of flavor combinations, and hopefully they come together to create something new and delicious. The sauce for this particular dish came about when I found myself with some very-overcooked asparagus. The flavor was still there, but the texture was so beyond mushy that I couldn't get myself to eat it. I thought about throwing the batch out, but I've been trying really hard not to waste food. With a few ideas, some ingredients in my refrigerator, and my food processor, I ended up with the asparagus-chutney puree.

7-8 cooked (in this case, overcooked) asparagus stalks
1/2 cup fresh cilantro chutney (cilantro, lemon juice, salt, cerrano peppers, blended in a food processor)
1/2 cup plain yogurt

combine above in food processor and pulse till you get a smooth puree

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Mushroom-Arugula Omelette

Omelette stuffed with sauteed chopped arugula, green onions, and mushrooms.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Slow Cookin'

On the urging of several friends and my sister who've jumped onto the slow cooker bandwagon, I finally caved and bought a crockpot a couple of months ago. I took it out of the box, washed it, and it's been sitting on my counter since. I had a friend coming over for dinner tonight so I decided it was time.

I wasn't really sure what type of cut to buy but I was lucky enough to encounter one of the butchers while he was stocking the meats. He suggested I stay away from the leaner cuts if I was slow cooking, and suggested a cut called blade shoulder.

Hearty Beef Stew


2 lb. piece of blade shoulder beef
I cut it into three portions, where it was easy to cut, removing some of the fat. Made a rub with salt, pepper, paprika, cumin and applied to all surfaces of meat. Heated olive oil in skillet and seared meat on each side for about two minutes. Added it to crockpot.

Add the following to the pot:

three small brown onions, sliced
10 carrots, peeled, cut into thirds
4 small red potatoes, whole, peeled
one cerrano, whole, sliced down the middle
several green onions, sliced
ginger paste
garlic paste
few tbs crushed tomatoes
rub -paprika, black pepper, salt, cumin
pinch cardamom powder
piece of cinnamon bark
1 cup red wine
1 cup water
couple tbs white vinegar

I threw all of it into the pot before going to bed, and voila! -it was all ready by the time I woke up in the morning. Okay, it was almost that simple. I did do a tasting and added a bit more salt and pepper to my liking.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Grapefruit and blackberry salad w/agave balsamic dressing

I (finally) found a way to eat grapefruit and enjoy it!

mixed greens, sectioned grapefruit, blackberries

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup agave nectar
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp fresh black pepper

Combine all ingredients and shake well.
(Optional: emulsify ingredients in blender.)

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Mom's Gobhi Paranthas

Okay, so technically I didn't make these. I did, however, stand over my mom's shoulder the entire time watching her prepare them. I had unexpectedly gone to my parents' home last weekend and my mother asked what I felt like eating. "Whatever is fine with me. Eggs?" She asked again, what I really wanted to eat. I normally don't ask her to make these because I feel like it's too much trouble, saving the request for special occasions... but she was insisting, so with a huge grin on my face, I asked, "do we have cauliflower?" She knew what I wanted. Gobhi paranthas -a type of stuffed, pan-fried flatbreads - are probably my favorite breakfast item.

Unlike the kinds you get at restaurants, mom hand cuts the cauliflower and other ingredients so you get big bites of flavor.

cauliflower, cilantro, ginger, cerranno peppers

A little patience is necessary for best results:

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Summer Salad

Even though it's pouring sheets of rain outside, this salad reminds me of summer. Fresh ingredients from the farmer's market -crisp romaine, luscious tomatoes and perfectly ripe avocado -topped with shaved parmesan and dressed with salt/lemon juice/olive oil.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Tricolore Orzo Salad w/Basil-Cilantro Pesto

orzo salad with basil-cilantro pesto, baby asparagus, grape tomatoes, and uncooked firm tofu

I bought several bunches of fresh herbs from the farmer's market the other day -basil, parsley, and cilantro. I keep hearing how easy pestos are to make, but I find a bit daunting any recipe that calls for me getting out my stepstool and reaching above the stove to get down the food processor. Sure, I could leave it on my counter, but its more often used sibling appliances have already taken residence on what little space I have. Silly, I know. I finally decided today was the day, and it was so easy!

1 cup fresh basil leaves
1/2 cup fresh parsley
1 cup cilantro
1 jalapeno, seeded and chopped
1/2 cup olive oil
3 cloves garlic
salt and fresh cracked pepper

Add herbs to food processor. Slowly add the olive oil in a constant stream while the food processor is on. Add garlic and jalapeno and pulse again until blended. Add salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste.

Orzo Salad: Blanch some baby asparagus and set aside. Cook one small box of orzo, according to package. Rinse and allow to cool. Add asparagus, grape tomatoes (sliced in half) and firm tofu (one package, drained and cubed). Dress with as much of the pesto as desired. Optional: add fresh shaved parmesan.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Move Over, Wahoo's!

Tilapia, marinated in lemon juice, salt and ground roasted cumin. Cooked on grill pan, on high heat 2-3 minutes each side (depending on thickness of filet). Cabbage salad -cabbage, shredded carrots, chopped tomatoes, one large clove garlic, paprika, roasted cumin powder, dried mint, sea salt, fresh cracked black pepper. A couple of tbs vinegar and fresh lemon juice. For a creamier salad, instead of mayo, I used two tbs firm yogurt and a tbs low fat sour cream. Arrange fish on corn tortilla, top with cabbage salad and sliced avocado.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Savory Oats

Like many people, when I think of oatmeal, I think of a bowl of mush that happens to be really good for you... made appetizing by the addition bananas, brown sugar, and maybe some blueberries and walnuts if I'm feeling adventurous. I haven't always been good about starting off the day with breakfast, usually resulting in me starving by noon. A friend suggested that I just make a pot of plain oatmeal so that I would have a convenient, healthy breakfast on hand in the mornings. The day before, I had some with honey. Yesterday, I added bananas and brown sugar (and really enjoyed it). By Day 3, I felt oatmealed out.

I realized that the problem is that I'm more of a savory-breakfast person. Don't get me wrong. I love warm blueberry pancakes or french toast with maple syrup, but I'd rather someone else at the table order it so I can have a few bites of theirs after I'm done with my omelet.

On Day 3 of my oats-for-breakfast kick, I decided I was done and that eggs were in order. As I rummaged through through the refrigerator for ingredients, it dawned on me that I could come up with a savory meal incorporating the oatmeal. I sliced up a small red onion, some mushrooms and several sprigs of cilantro, sauteed them in a bit of olive oil, added salt and fresh cracked pepper. Mixed in a cup of the cooked plain oatmeal into the pan and there I had it -savory oats for breakfast.

Optional: top with fried egg, over easy.