Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Chunky Avocado Salad

Chunky Avocado Salad

If you love guacamole as much as I do, you'll enjoy this guac-inspired salad that's perfect for a light lunch or midday snack.

1 small Haas avocado, ripe but firm
10 grape tomatoes, halved
1/2 small cerrano pepper, chopped
1/3 small white onion, diced
1/2 tbs olive oil
2-3 tbs fresh lemon juice
dash of sea salt
fresh cracked pepper (to taste)

Slice avocado in half, discard seed. Scoop out each half into bowl and cut into small pieces. Add tomatoes, cerrano pepper, and onions. In separate bowl, whisk lemon juice, olive oil,  sea salt and cracked pepper. Drizzle over salad and toss lightly with fork.

Enjoy over a bed of arugula, with sliced up baguettes...or with these crispy Wheat Thins Tuscan Herb flatbreads I'm addicted to (pictured above).

Friday, August 24, 2012

Five-Minute Fig Spread

I love figs. I only started enjoying their deliciousness a couple of years ago, always shying away from the unusual looking fruit. What do you do with it -bite into it? eat the skin? Turns out, it's just a matter of personal preference. Some eat every part but the stem, while others prefer to stick to the sweet, fleshy insides. I had previously tried fig jams and compotes, but had left the fresh fruit untouched -until now. I love scoping out my little farmer's market and whenever figs are in season, they become a part of my weekly shopping repertoire. They pair so well with so many flavors; figs with cheese, figs with chocolate, and of course -figs with wine!

Most recipes for fig spreads will require a bit of cooking and cooling down time, but this is my simple version with no cooking involved:

10-12 figs*
1 tsp honey
1 tsp key lime

*I used Black Mission figs, which have dark purple/black skins with a light pink-colored flesh, but there are several types of figs you can choose from.

Fig Spread -pairs well with brie, gouda and blue cheeses.

Wash and dry figs, then slice into halves. With a small spoon, gently scoop the insides out into a small bowl (the skin is really delicate). Mash the pulp with a fork. Add honey and lime juice and whisk lightly with fork. This recipe is so simple, you can make it just before your guests arrive; for those who prefer to plan ahead, prepare spread and refrigerate for up to three days.

Serve up with some fresh sliced baguette or crackers and your favorite cheese, or enjoy a simple breakfast of fig spread on toast!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Chai Smoothie

I know it might not sound that appealing at first -I mean, who puts fruit in their chai? But as most of you know, most of my creations come from random combinations and aren't necessarily by the (cook)book. My experimentations in the kitchen have led to some delicious concoctions (and of course, a total flop once in a while!).

This morning, I had made too much chai and was about to pour a second cup when I saw the fruit staring at me saying, "eat me instead." It was definitely the healthier option for breakfast. I couldn't decide and I knew if I poured the tea, I would forgo the fruit once again...and then I remembered my handy immersion blender.

Voila, breakfast.

1/2 cup blackberries
1 medium mango, peeled and sliced
1/2 cup cardamom chai (unsweetened)
1/2 cup organic milk

Using immersion blender, blend for 1-2 minutes on slow. Pour into glass. Enjoy!

* you can replace the chai and/or milk with any of your favorites -almond milk, rice milk, etc.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Garlicky Cilantro Sour Cream

  • 16 oz. sour cream
  • two cerrano chilis
  • 6-7 cloves garlic
  • 1 cup chopped cilantro
  • juice of 1/2 small lemon
  • 1-2 tsp salt
  • olive oil
Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Place garlic cloves in foil. Drizzle with olive oil, then fold edges over to create a closed packet. In a separate piece of foil, wrap the (whole) cerrano chilis. (For a less spicy version, discard seeds prior to roasting.) Place both in a glass baking dish and place in oven for approx. 30 minutes.

Remove roasted garlic and chilis from oven and allow to cool. Once cooled, slice cerranos in half and discard seeds and stems.  Into food processor, add deseeded chilis, roasted garlic cloves, and remaining ingredients.

I served the spicy sour cream along side vegetarian enchiladas, but there are so many ways to enjoy it. Try it as a dip for veggies or crusty bread, toss into some cooked pasta, serve it up with grilled salmon, or top off your scrambled eggs for an extra kick -it pretty much tastes great with everything!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Take A Walk On The Sweet Side

Homemade jam and paneer toast.
This weekend, I had a couple of girlfriends and their families over for brunch. Instead of my usual brunch go-to's, I decided to change things up a bit. I strayed from the frittata and made an Indian-spiced egg scramble; instead of a savory strata, I tried my hand at a banana bread pudding; and in place of my planned masala toast, I made these little paneer-jam toasts.

I never would have thought to make a sweet dish from this ricotta-like cheese, but then remembered it's what my favorite dessert - ras malai - is made from, so why not?

Mix in some homemade jam (blueberry/ginger and peach/vanilla) and put the mixtures on lightly toasted sliced baguette for a perfect addition to your brunch menu. I can't take any credit for the delicious homemade jams, as they were provided by a friend, but for easy instructions on how to make the cheese, see my January post "Homemade Paneer."

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Roasted Beets w/Soy-Ginger Vinaigrette

Anyone who knows me, or follows my blog, knows I have pretty much been obsessed with beets this past year. I love buying them, roasting them, concocting new dishes with them -perhaps because it's one of those vegetables I missed out on growing up in a pretty traditional Indian home. I'll also add asparagus, artichokes, and brussel sprouts to the list of vegetables I find myself drawn to over and over again, like I'm making up for lost time.

Roasted Beets w/Soy-Ginger Vinaigrette

  • 4-5 small to medium size red beets w/greens 
  • 4-5 small to medium size golden beets w/greens 
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely sliced
  • 3 tbs soy sauce
  • 1/2 inch ginger root, peeled and finely chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 3 tbs soy sauce
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbs rice wine vinegar

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. With paring knife, remove the tops and the greens (saving the greens) and wash beets thoroughly, leaving the skin on. Dry beets and place them in 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 quarter. 

In sauté pan, heat 2 tbs olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic and cook for one minute. Add beet greens and a pinch of salt, cooking until they are wilted and tender. Transfer to serving plate. Add beets on top and drizzle with soy-ginger vinaigrette.

Vinaigrette: In small bowl, combine 2 tbs extra virgin olive oil, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar and ginger. Add salt and freshly ground pepper. Whisk lightly. 

Note: this dish can be served warm or cold. I served this alongside various asian small plates and this asian rice salad:

Friday, March 16, 2012

Lemon Pesto Pasta

Last Sunday morning, I woke up completely having forgotten about the time change. I had a baby shower to attend and still had to make a pasta dish for the gathering. It wasn't until I got to the farmer's market that I realized I'd lost an hour and was now running way behind schedule. I sprinted through the market, grabbing herbs, lemons and fresh vegetables. I got home with only half an hour to prepare the dish, so I set my kitchen timer and got to it. If Rachel Ray can whip up a meal in "30 minutes or less," so can I!

Pot of water for pasta. Check.  Sauté pan for peppers. Check. 
Food processor for pesto. Check. 

  • Main Ingredients:
  • 1 (16 oz.) package rotini
  • 2 medium red bell peppers, cored and sliced
    2 medium orange bell peppers, cored and sliced
    small bunch asparagus spears (I used the spears/top halves for this dish, saving the rest for a soup later)
    1/3 package extra firm tofu, drained and cubed
    olive oil 
    pinch of salt

In large pot, bring water to boil. Blanch* the asparagus, saving the water for the pasta. After removing the asparagus, add the rotini to the water and allow to boil for 7-9 minutes, until cooked al dente. In the meantime, heat olive oil in saute pan. Add sliced bell peppers and pinch of salt, cook over medium to high heat for several minutes, stirring so they don't burn. Turn heat off and allow to cool. Once rotini is done, drain in colander and run cold water through it. Transfer to serving bowl. 

*To blanch, prepare a bowl of ice water. Place asparagus in boiling water for 3-5 minutes (depending on width of stems), or until they turn a bright green. Remove from water and transfer to ice water. This method of "shocking" it in cold water allows for your asparagus to retain its texture without getting mushy.

No time to roast peppers? Saute them in olive oil on medium to high heat instead.
It's not quite the same, but will do when you're short on time!

Lemon Pesto:
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • juice of one small lemon
  • 1 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
  • 2 cups fresh parsley leaves, packed
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1- 1 1/2 cups olive oil
  • [I didn't have any pine nuts or parmesan on hand, but if you don't have any allergies, I would add those as well.]

  • Add all ingredients to food processor and blend until it reaches a smooth consistency. Start off with one cup of olive oil and add more as needed. Add pesto into rotini and mix well. Fold in sautéed peppers, asparagus and cubed tofu into the pasta, and voila.


Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Spinach Salad w/Feta, Avocado +Bacon w/Lemon-Mustard Vinaigrette

Salad Ingredients:
two cups chopped spinach
corn off of 2 cobs
1 roma tomato, diced
1 avocado, sliced
¼ cup crumbled feta
2 slices uncooked bacon

Toss first four ingredients in medium size salad bowl. Cut up bacon. Heat small frying pan, add bacon and cook 2-3 minutes, until bacon crisps. Remove pan from heat and transfer bacon to a paper towel-lined plate to remove excess grease. Top salad with feta and bacon. Drizzle with lemon-mustard vinaigrette (see below) and serve.

Lemon-Mustard Vinaigrette
2 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 small garlic clove, crushed and finely chopped
1/3 cup olive oil, half light and half extra virgin
cracked black pepper to taste

Put all ingredients in a glass jar, seal with a lid, and shake until ingredients are thoroughly mixed. Refrigerate leftovers.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Simple Roasted Vegetables

  • 7-8 brussel sprouts, tips cut off and halved
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and sliced
  • 1/2 green bell pepper, seeded and sliced
  • 1 squash, sliced
  •  salt, pepper
  • 1-2 tbs olive oil

This is a really simple way to cook up some vegetables -either for a light dinner or a side dish. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Once vegetables are washed and cut, place them all in a bowl. Using your hands, coat them with a bit of olive oil, sea salt, and cracked pepper. Place in 8"x8" glass baking dish; cover with foil. Bake for 45 minutes at 375 degrees.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Homemade Paneer

Lately, I've been embarking on new culinary adventures. I'm entering a zone that I've avoided for years -cooking Indian food. I love my parents' cooking and they live a mere 20 miles away. You can see how that's led to my having neither reason nor motivation to make the effort...until now. 

I wanted to experiment this weekend with an idea of masala-paneer phyllo turnovers. What I love about paneer is that it's mild and takes on the flavors of whatever you add to it. In this case, I plan on mixing into it a basic "masala" of sauteed onions, chili, ginger and tomatoes. The problem with my plan was that I didn't know where to find paneer in its pre-block form (other than my mom's kitchen). I decided the closest substitution would be ricotta and I would just use that instead. 

I was running the idea by my mom when she suggested I just make it myself. "Mom, I don't know how to make paneer. And I don't want to spend hours doing it." She told me it was easy to do, but I didn't believe her until I actually tried it. Apparently, making paneer is a cinch. Well, the first step is at least. Turning the ricotta-like paneer into the cubes we're used to seeing in most dishes involves a few more steps -involving cheesecloth, weighing it down, and possible frying. All of that is left for another day's lesson. 

Most of you are probably used to paneer that comes in a big block from the grocery store, but it doesn't start off that way. For the purposes of my turnovers, I wanted the cheese in its pre-block form. 

1. Pour one gallon milk into a large heavy bottomed pot. I happened to use 2% milk, but you can also use whole milk.
2. Bring to a boil. Just as milk starts to boil, slowly add the lemon juice. You will immediately see the milk begin to curdle. Reduce the heat to medium.
3. Using a ladle, stir the milk gently. You will see the curd start to separate from the whey (an almost clear liquid)
4. Allow to cook for another minute or so, then turn off heat.
5. Using a small-holed colander, drain liquid from cheese. (In another post, I'll talk about saving the whey water and using it for other purposes, such as kneading it into dough.)
6. Now you have your cheese, ready to use.

I was truly amazed at how simple this was!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

A Method to My Madness

Roasted Beets w/Soy-Ginger Vinaigrette
One of my girlfriends and I were recently talking about our personal cooking habits -what inspires us, how we go about deciding what to make, the steps we take when making a meal. For dinner parties and other planned events, I'm pretty organized -lists of ingredients, several trips to the store, notebooks with menu ideas, etc. My day to day cooking, on the other hand, is completely different. It's the time I let my creativity flow, a time to experiment, to let my mind wander into unknown territories. Yet, as I thought more about my seemingly hodge-podge way of cooking, I realized there actually is a method to my madness. 
  1. Contemplate Flavors.  I generally start off by spending a few minutes thinking about what basic flavors I'm in the mood for. Think about what you're in the mood to eat --- spicy? sweet? savory? asian? italian?
  2. Scan Ingredients. Next I take a look through the refrigerator/pantry to see what ingredients I have on hand. Do I have spinach that's about to wilt? Cilantro that needs to get used? Cooking without a recipe becomes easy once you start regularly stocking fresh vegetables and herbs. I've made it a habit to shop for fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs over the weekend so I have them on hand for cooking during the week. I also like to keep certain standards in my pantry -like broth, tomato paste, pasta. Even though fresh is always best, there are certain shortcuts that just make life easier.
  3. Get Inspired. People think because I have a more free-style way of cooking, that I do it all on my own. I don't. I watch cooking shows. I love cookbooks and have subscriptions to food magazines. I spend hours flipping through the beautiful pictures and reading different recipes. I use them to inspire. Next time you want to make something, browse through different recipes; don't feel limited if you don't have all the ingredients. If you see a recipe that calls for cilantro, but only have fresh parsley -substitute it. It calls for chicken, but you only have fish. That's okay. You might just discover that what you end up creating is even better than the original. 
  4. Be daring! Think outside the box. Let go of the thought that you have to have a recipe to cook. I know some of you may think, "That's ridiculous. How can I cook without a list of ingredients?" That's just fear talking. Fear of being imperfect, of letting go of old habits, of allowing your inner creativity to flow. If I didn't allow myself to experiment, I probably wouldn't make most of what I cook.  Take beets, for example. I found myself preparing them the same way -plain, roasted with some olive oil -over and over. I never associated them with asian flavors, until one day when I just decided to try it out. I roasted them and topped them with a soy-ginger vinaigrette (above picture) and I ended up loving it. I do the same with leftovers, often combining ingredients I would never have thought would go together, ending up in a delicious fusion of flavors. (see below)
  5. Enjoy! Sit down, pour yourself a glass of wine, and ENJOY... it's tempting in this busy world of ours to just eat standing at the kitchen counter, but that's no way to enjoy a meal you've just poured your heart into. Sit down for a few minutes. Relax. Savor it. 

Leftover basmati rice and sauteed ginger asparagus. Add a fried egg and shredded parmesan...and voila, dinner.