Saturday, March 12, 2016

Home Made Peanut Butter Dog Treats: A whole new space for experimentation

It's been great to see the family getting used to the new
Tara scarfed down a couple of cookies
as soon as they cooled off a bit
addition in our family, our Beagle+, Tara.

She's inspired all kinds go great new behaviors. Lots of long walks in the park with dad, lots of cleaning up after her by the kids. I've been experimenting with dog food - Tara gets a version of the meal most days. I've been making a chicken, carrot and rice stew that she seems to love.

Today, as she stood gazing at the PBJ sandwiches I was slapping together as an mid-evening snack for the kids, and as my daughter baked a batch of cookies to welcome dad home from SXSW, I had a brain wave of sorts. The results were a batch of dog biscuits. You'll see from the pictures below, that Tara approved...

It's quite simple, and since Tara is a big fan of peanut butter, I was pretty much assured a grand reception. That may be the trick here - make sure you know what your dog's favorites are and then build the recipe around it. 
Tara's Cookie Jar
...but if your dog is anything like Tara, they'll be excited about pretty much anything edible (shoes and pajamas come to mind!)

I stuck to more traditional ingredients, though:
   One cup self raising flour
   One Egg
   3/4 cut peanut butter
   1/2 cup vegetable broth
   1 tbsp vegetable oil

Oil a baking sheet with vegetable oil

  • In a bowl, mix the flour and eggs.
  • Mix the peanut butter, broth and oil so it melds into a creamy mix.
  • Mix all the ingredients together and let stand for a minute. Then take a table-spoon full of the mix and pop it on a oiled baking sheet
  • Pre-heat the oven to 250, and bake for 25 minutes
  • I cut the cookies in two and baked an extra 5 minutes just to add to the crunchiness
Cool and watch them disappear!

Friday, August 15, 2014

A Rustic Tofu with a dash of Indian Spices

I was pulling together a small dinner party on Fire Island last night, and had chicken and shrimp on the menu. One of my guests asked what I'd be having, since I'm vegetarian, and when I shrugged, she suggested Tofu.

Since cooking on an island comes with some complexity (i.e., not all the ingredients I'd have at home), I improvised a dish and thought I'd share it with you.

2 blocks of firm tofu (140 gms each) cut into 12 blocks or so each
2 scallion greens, chopped
1 large onion, cut into chunks
10 medium sized white or button mushrooms, chopped into eighths
1.5 cups of corn sliced off cob or from a can
3 cloves of garlic, chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
Sea salt to taste (1 only add about 1 tsp.)

- 2 tbsp chili flakes
- 1 tbsp red chili powder
- 2 tbsp curry powder
- 1 tbsp turmeric powder
- 1 tbsp cumin powder

  • In a wok or large pan, heat the oil and toss in the condiments
  • Stir in the condiments into the oil, and then place the tofu cubes in the hot, spiced oil and fry them so that they get a little crust on all sides if possible
  • Take the tofu out of the pan and set aside
  • Fry the garlic and onion in the oil in the pan, and add in the mushrooms, scallion and corn
  • One the mushrooms take on a bit of a light brown/grey sheen, add the tofu back into the pan and let the whole mixture simmer for about 10 minutes on a low flame
Serve with rice or couscous


Sunday, August 3, 2014

Green Casserole with Kale, Cilantro and a hint of olives and cucumbers

Earlier this year, dad and kids decided that they would take over one meal each over the weekend. Dad tend to take on Saturday evening, and the kids Saturday lunch.

Yesterday the kids made Gazpacho, based on Mark Bittmann's superb recipes in the New York Times magazine. We packed some away, since each twin tried a different variety - the daughter chose the tomato-strawberry version, and the son went with the Kale-olive version.

Looking into the fridge this evening, I decided to try something new. Here's an idea for an aromatic new casserole that I'd be happy to recommend any time.

2 cups Kale Gazpacho, prepared as per this Bittmann recipe which makes about 6 cups
1/4 bunch of kale (about 10 large sprigs) or around a half pound
1 white onion
2 tbsp olive oil
5 eggs
3/4 cup self-raising flour
1 cup grated parmesan
Small handful cilantro - about 5 springs

  • Heat the oven to 375 F
  • Thinly slice the onion and sauté it in the olive oil heated lightly in a wok till they are a rich brown
  • Add the Kale and sweat them till they are a bright green, but retain some of their crunchiness
  • Add in a cup of gazpacho and allow to simmer and they will soak in the liquid. Add in the diced cilantro so it blends into the mixture 
  • Transfer to a small baking dish
  • In a bowl, combine the second cup of gazpacho, 5 eggs, parmesan and flour till smooth
  • Pour the batter over the kale-onion mixture and gently mix so that the batter seeps in, but maintain the rich kale-onion mix as the bottom layer of the casserole
  • Bake the casserole for 30 minites or until the top of is a crisp brown

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Achari Tofu: Spicy Baked Tofu

This morning, my daughter wanted me to make her favorite dish, which always reminds me of my granny. "Chor-parippu-nai", which is Malayalam for rice with lentils and ghee (clarified butter). I don't remember much about my maternal grandmother, since she passed away when I was very young. But one memory that sticks is how she would make little balls of rice/lentils/ghee and feed then to us as we sat around her and listed to her recount tales from the Indian scriptures, Ramayana and Mahabaratha. The aromatic rice along with the pappads, and her sweet voice laying out all kinds of fantastic episodes of victory snatched from the jaws of defeat, in the waning evening light - all made for such a soothing, sensory experience. It's a very special memory, and I love that my kids know something about that warm feeling from my telling them about my grandma as I feed them this dish. I'll share the simple recipe later on this blog.

Since I was making chicken cutlets for the carnivores as a side-dish to the rice, I decided to improvise a tofu dish for myself.

Becoming vegetarian worked well on my conscience, but was tough on my protein intake. I'm glad not to be vegan, since paneer (Indian cottage cheese) is a big favorite of mine. And there's the usual suspects - lentils, quinoa, etc. I have Indian recipes for quinoa on this blog. Now, here's an Indian twist on tofu, which makes it easier to integrate into an Indian meal.

I called this dish "Achari", since the combination of tomato paste and spices evokes the spicy side-dishes called Achars or Indian Pickles - explosive flavor bombs that accompany Indian meals and can be found sitting on most Indian dining tables at every meal. See my recipe for ginger pickle here. If you have a more evocative or creative name, do suggest it to me in the comments below....


250 grams extra firm Tofu
2 tbsp. tomato paste (if you don't have a simple tomato puree, feel free to substitute ketchup)
1 tbsp. course sea salt
1/4 tsp. pepper powder
1/4 tsp. turmeric powder
1/4 tsp. cumin powder
1/4 tsp. coriander powder
1/4 tsp. red chili powder (ignore this if you don't want it to be too fiery)

  • Combine the tomato paste, salt and spice powders into an even paste
  • Cube the tofu, ideally into 15 to 20 pieces, then mix it into the spice paste 
  • Make sure the tofu pieces are not too big, so that you can cover all sides of the tofu with the paste
  • Oil a baking sheet, tray or, better yet, a baking tray covered in foil 
  • Heat your oven to 350 degrees, and place the tofu broad-side down on and bake for 10 minutes
  • Turn over an bake for another 10 minutes
  • The course sea salt adds a crunchy texture to the dish 
  • Serve as an appetizer with mint chutney or as part of a broader meal with rice or roti

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Crowdsourcing What to Serve

In our informal dinner parties, I tend to whip up some dishes. But inevitably, I get asked why I didn't serve a dish I've blogged about. Of course, each person has their personal favorite, but I'd love to hear from you. Which of the following do you think I should make at my next dinner party? Click on the poll to the right - choose up to two dishes.

Here are the links to the dishes I'm referring to in the poll:
  • Uppumma: Made famous by our friend Chef Floyd Cardoz when he won the Top Chef Masters, this is my version of a South Indian favorite not usually available in any restaurants. 
  • Easy Peasy Garbanzo Curry: You'll see this described as Channa Masala in restaurant menus, and I've found that it's a staple in our home for those easy weekend dinners when you'd like to dawdle over the food and conversation.
  • Chicken Biriyani: An aromatic rice and chicken dish that can serve as an elegant centerpiece to a stylish meal or hardy complete meal for a family on the run.
  • Cutlets, Indian-style: Chicken or turkey patties, spiced just right. I'll make them the low-fat way.
  • Vegetable Korma: A savory medley of vegetables in a rich sauce, with a rather royal heritage since the dish was first served in royal dining rooms
Thanks for being part of my party planning, folks!

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Ginger Achar (Indian Pickle): What to do with leftover gari (Japanese pickled ginger)

Last weekend, we invited a few friends over for a Japanese meal, and while the sushi was all gone, we were left with a rather large bowl of gari, the accompanying sliced ginger. 

My husband, Sree Sreenivasan, asked his Facebook and Twitter friends what we should do with it, and received 38 suggestions on FB and a few via tweets. These included recommendations to: freeze it, put it in salads, spice Bloody Mary drinks, add to tea, snack as is, turn into a flu remedy, candy it, make into a chutney, use as sandwich spread, spice soba noodles, drop it in smoothies, make injikari (a traditional Kerala dish), to puree and turn into ice cubes. 

All great suggestions, and I really liked the last idea of frozen spices to use as needed in the future. However, I went with the advice from Aarti Virani, Shakthi Girish and Nivedita Chandrappa, to make the ginger into an oorga or achar or Indian pickle since I know how much Sree loves Indian pickles. My kids are starting to like the piquant side-dish as well, so that made the achar a natural choice. My mom and my father-in-law are both pickle fanatics, but I doubt this batch will still be around for their next visits over the summer.

2 cups of Japanese gari or sliced vinegared ginger
3/4 cup of coconut oil
6 cloves of garlic
3 tablespoon mustard seeds
1 tablespoon fennel seeds
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
1/4 inch of compounded asafetida (roughly one tablespoon of powdered asafetida)
1/4 cup of red chilli powder
3 tablespoons turmeric
2 tablespoons coriander powder
3 tablespoons salt
  • Mix all the dry powders - salt, chilli powder, turmeric and coriander - in a bowl and set aside
  • Soak the asafetida in hot water and mix it around till it becomes a smooth paste
  • Start by heating the oil in a shallow frying pan, on a medium flame
  • Test the heat of the oil with a mustard seed or two. When they pop, toss in the rest of the mustard seeds
  • When a large proportion of the mustard seeds are done popping, pour in the fennel and coriander seeds and also the garlic cloves. They should get nicely browned
  • Once they are done, lower the flame, gently lower the ginger into the pan. Be careful, since the liquid in the ginger will sizzle, and can cause the fire to leap up and grab hold of the oil in the pan - hence the lowered flame
  • Once the ginger is generally coated with the oil and seeds, add in the asafetida paste, and then sprinkle the salt and spice powder mix, folding it all into the cooking ginger until it's all uniformly mixed in
  • Let the achar simmer on a low flame for about 20 minutes, stirring periodically
  • Cool and put into an airtight container or jar. Ideally, you should set this aside for a week or so, since that will allow the spices to seep into the ginger and mature a little
The orginal leftovers
Serving suggestions: 
  • While achars go with pretty much any Indian entree, a great little summertime meal is yogurt-rice (thayir saadam) served with a side of achar and paapads
  • Also, try this in a sandwich made with focaccia bread and mild brie. Very interesting combo!

Friday, August 10, 2012

Astoundingly Easy Home-Made Chicken Nuggets (Baked)

It was one of those rainy, messy days in NYC today, and I guessed that the kids would be thrilled to have some simple fare like Chicken Nuggets and fries (Baked Yam "Fries" in this case.) The prep time is less than ten minutes, and overall, you can have a meal ready in less than a half hour from start to finish if you're looking at some salad and pasta to go with this meal.

One pound Chicken Breast (about 3 breast pieces organic free-range chicken, in this case)
One Egg
One cup panko breadcrumbs
Lemon juice
Salt or some Salt-Free Seasoning such as Mrs. Dash's seasoning
  •  Pre-heat the oven to 450 degrees C
  • Cube the chicken and season - the kids like tossing in the teaspoon of salt, and three tablespoons of lemon juice, quarter teaspoon turmeric and the dash of pepper (careful on that last one - it's always dicey!)
  • I usually put the chicken in a leak-proof tupperware box so the kids can enjoy shaking it about to coat the chicken
  • Beat one egg - another kid-friendly exercise
  • In a bowl, take about a cup of panko bread crumbs and season with about two teaspoons of Mrs. Dash or Salt, and some pepper (optional)
  • Line a baking dish with foil and spread a half teaspoon of olive oil on it
  • Dip the chicken pieces in the egg, then coat with the seasoned panko
  • Place them on the baking dish, with a little space to breath. Bake at 450 for 15 to 20 minutes, turning over mid-way to ensure they nuggets are uniformly cooked and browned
These were positively reviewed by the kids, even in comparison with some of those crazily addictive fast food joints...and no deep fryer came within a mile of these nuggets!!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Fairytale Eggplants: Baked Panko-Stuffed Eggplant

One of my new finds during a morning walk last week was the Columbia Green-Market, on Broadway right outside the Columbia University gates at 116th Street. It's a rare gem of a Green Market - with local farmers, many of them organic farmers, bringing in their wares and displaying them on make-shift stalls. In the case of some of the more unusual produce, they helpfully have instructions for cooking some of their rare produce.

I just had to grab a bunch of these little eggplants - the name itself made it irresistible: Fairytale eggplants. These finger-length eggplants set my creative juices flowing, and below is a recipe that I pulled together from "stuff in the pantry." It's also a quick and easy recipe - tool about 15 minutes from start to finish.

12 to 15 Fairytale Eggplabts
One cup Panko Breadcrumbs - in this case I had some whole wheat style Panko by Ian's
One egg
One and half tsp Ginger powder
One and half tsp Garlic power
One tsp turmeric
Quarter tsp pepper
Two tsp salt
Olive oil

The ingredients came together when K, my son, basically raided the kitchen cupboard and said..."on, let's try this, and this...." OK, I may have vetoed some of the suggestions!
  • Start by getting the oven or toaster over heated to 450° C
  • In a bowl, mix the panko, ginger powder, garlic powder and salt together
    The kids loved the tactile experience of having to be gentle enough not to crush the crumbs, but also through enough to make sure all the ingredients mixed together
  • Beat the egg, turmeric and pepper together
    Another kid-friendly activity!
  • Prepare the eggplants: Rinse and pat dry. Then chop off the green calyx, and gently cut the eggplant from the bottom (the rounded end) crosswise up to about a few millimeter from the end. Think a four-petaled flower - once cut, you should have each eggplant looking like a small stem-less flower
  • Dip each eggplant in the egg mix, letting the mix get into the cut seams or the heart of the eggplant. Then roll the eggplant in the Panko mix, using your fingers or a small spoon to also get the mix into the heart of the eggplant
    Kids enjoy this - they can be extremely thorough, and yes, their little fingers can get a lot of Panko into the seams!
  • Dribble a teaspoon of olive oil onto a lined baking sheet and spread for a uniform coating, then place the panko crusted and stuffed eggplants an inch apart and bake for 10 minutes
  • Serve hot and crunchy!

Honey and other goodies at Health Nuts store

One of my fave stores on the UWS is the understated Heath Nuts store on 98th and Broadway. I remember being ecstatic to have them around when we discovered the multitude of allergies my daughter had. It's a cornucopia of gluten-free, corn-free and soy-free foods - the perfect antidote to Big Food! One of the big hits at home was the Raw Honey from Pennsylvania Apiaries that D&I picked up there recently.

I'd always been challenged with the kiddies on the honey front. They didn't enjoy the processed ones I'd buy at the grocery. This Alfalfa Honey, on the other hand, is officially a "disappearing food", i.e., I look away for a second and it's gone. With more texture than store-bought honey and a gentle sweet taste, I use the honey in my morning coffee...yes, it's amazing...and the kids plaster their pancakes in it. See more about the Apiary here at their Facebook page- they don't seem to have an easily discoverable website. Better yet, swing by Health Nuts and snag a few bottles for yourself. I'm thinking of a honey basted lamb later...more on that soon!

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Uppuma: A savory breakfast with Vermicelli

I had one of those stumble out of bed to figure out if an early morning trip to the store was needed to feed the family. Having rustled through the cupboard, I found the bag of Vermicelli I bought a week ago to make Payasam/Kheer and decided to make a childhood favorite of mine, Vermicelli Uppuma.

I'd usually use onions in this recipe (and will tell you how to use it here) but it turned out not to have any at hand. I did, however, decide to add a dash of vegetables that adds to the taste and nutritional value of this meal.

One and a half cup Vermicelli
One large garlic clove
(A quarter section of a medium sized white onion if you have it)
6 to 10 string beans
6 cherry tomatoes
1 teaspoon ghee (indian clarified butter) if you have it, if not, use unsalted butter
One and a half cup water

  • In a large pan, roast the vermicelli till most of the vermicelli threads are golden brown
  • Set the Vermicelli aside
  • Chop the garlic into chunky pieces, dice the green beans and halve the cherry tomatoes
  • Heat the ghee in the pan, and sauté the garlic till they are deep brown
  • (If you're using onions, dice a quarter section of a white onion, and fry it with the garlic till deep brown as well)
  • Toss in the green beans and tomatoes and fry for five minutes
  • Bring water to boil in a kettle and pour it in the vegetables
  • One its bubbling, mix in the vermicelli and let cook for about 5 minutes. Mix thoroughly but gently so that the vermicelli doesn't break up, but to makes sure that you don't have clumps
  • Taste to make sure that the vermicelli is cooked (a little al dente) and you're ready to go

Monday, June 4, 2012

Cooking with a priest

Pandit Gadadhara Dasa is the Hindu chaplain of Columbia University. He's been a guest at my raucous Diwali parties, which hubby and I host each year to celebrate the symbolic victory of good over evil. Traditionally, it's a time for lights, fireworks, time spent with family, good food and some libations. We manage without the fireworks...and pack around 500 friends into our New York apartment in a steady stream from mid-morning to the wee hours!

The Pandit is always a smiling presence at these chaotic parties, and I had to check in with him post our last party to make he still counted me among the faithful! He did, and even invited me to teach with him at one of his weekly sessions at the University as part of his Bhakti Club vegetarian cooking classes. Bhakti can be loosely translated as faith - the Pandit's reverence around how he creates his meals makes them a truly pious offering to the Gods. Read more about his philosophy around the act of conscious cooking as part of a religious lifestyle in this Huffington Post article

Teaching a group of about 40 young students how to cook Indian meals without overwhelming them is an interesting endeavor. It helped me see just how much I took for granted the multi-tasking I'd learned by osmosis, watching mom, grandma and multiple aunts and cooks at kitchens in various homes in South India. While in one large pot, I brought the milk to boil, squeezed in lemons and strained the paneer, I also got a paalak panner (spinach and cottage cheese curry) going on the electric wok.

See the recipes here:
Making Panir or Paneer: Indian cottage cheese
Panner curry - in this case made with peas, but you can replace the peas with spinach or choose to use both for a nice twist

The Pandit doesn't use onions or garlic in his cooking, dictated by his deep Hindu beliefs. I was surprised to see how easily the meal came together without these embellishments, and I've cut down on the use of onions at home. The garlic is harder to let go of!

You'll see the students crowding around the table here - they loved the warm smell of the paneer coming together. Feeding a roomful of hungry students, priceless!

See Pandit here, giving a talk as part of the TEDx series:

Mango tasting: The Altaufo wins!

We have a lovely family who sells fruit at the corner fruit stand outside our apartment building. We've watched them grow as a family - the older couple brought their son in to help about five summers ago. He brought his young bride along, they then took over the stand. This year, the young lady is showing, and the baby is expected in July.

This is the family that introduced my babies to all kinds of lovely fruit - kiwi fruits were their favorite fruit as babies, they then evolved to wolfing down blackberries and strawberries. Just this past year, fresh lychees have taken on a fascination of their own.

As we walked to school this morning, the kids remarked on the multiple boxes of mangoes - each box sporting mangoes of slightly different hues and shapes. So, this evening, I staged a tasting of sorts.

The hubby, kids and I each got to opine.

  • The Altaufo (pictured on the left) won hands down: flavorful, sweet and a perfect blend of flavor, bite and sweetness
  • The one in the middle - I think it's the Kent - came second: Very sweet, almost like it was sugar-infused. It lost out because of the stringy consistency - the kids are not looking forward to tonight's flossing
  • The Tommy Atkins (on the right of this picture) scored last on all counts: it just sat there. Just enough flavor to tell you it's a mango, not enough to move you to a sigh, let alone tears of joy.

I miss the Alfonsos of my childhood!!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Food education - it starts at home

Last week, I had a discussion about proteins with my daughter, who was making a principled stand on becoming vegetarian. She wants to be a vegetarian like mummy - and when I explained she needs proteins, she told me that lentils and quinoa have proteins. Not bad for a lil' girl.

That makes this infographic from the informative site (@visually on twitter) all the more that while I believe food education needs to come back, I also think it starts at home. If you've followed my blog, you'll see that the kids have been informed consumers since very young. It takes a village, I tell ya!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Indian Food For the Condiment-Challenged

We spent the weekend being spoiled with all kinds of sports and activities organized by hubby's mentor and friend DF and his lovely wife RF. Not the kind of thing you can say a simple thank you for.

So I decided to cook them up a meal. A slight complication: DF has been "condiment-free since '63!"

I started reeling off options and DF said "myeh" a few times. Then a light at the end of the tunnel - "I really like that Indian rice pudding thing." We were ready to roll.

RF was sweet enough to grab supplies from the local grocery, and I proceeded to cook up the mildest meal I've ever cooked:
  • Vegetable rice
  • Chicken saag curry (chicken with spinach)
  • Puris (fried bread)
  • Aloo curry (potato curry)
  • Payasam or kheer (rice pudding)
The Indian, low-condiment meal was declared a success, which was gratifying. But here's the clincher - the series of emails that followed:

Email 1, that Monday
Subject: Foodie Monday
"Lunch: leftover roopa lite.
Dinner: barbequed marinated roopa chicken...ever have that? Deelish!"

(There had been about a pound of chicken left over, so I marinaded it with lime juice, sesame oil, paprika, turmeric and salt, with instructions to bake at 350 for 20 minutes another day.)

Email 2: Tuesday
Subject: 3rd meal from Roopa
"lunch today. newsroom was drooling."

Email 3: Wednesday
Subject: Day 4 of Roopa food
"rice pudding snack 11am wednesday."

Success. DF will now need to say "Kinda condiment-free since '63."

Friday, April 6, 2012

Pineapple Upside Down Cake...with a cottage cheese twist

There are some innovations in this recipe. Like many innovations, mine sprang from necessity - in this case, finding only self-raising flour in the cabinet, and having tons of cottage cheese in the fridge. Conventional recipes tend to use all purpose flour and salt, and sour cream. Having experimented due to necessity the first time, the warm reception of the cake at a dinner party convinced me and I've stuck to my recipe since. But feel free to swap the self-raising flour with all purpose flour, and the cottage cheese with sour cream - my cake tends to have a more caramel feel and taste to it.


1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick)
1 1/2 cup brown sugar
1 can pineapple slices
Maraschino cherries

1 cup butter
1 1/2 cup brown sugar
4 eggs
2 cups self-raising flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup cottage cheese
  • Prepare the caramel topping by melting the butter in a saucepan over a medium flame
  • As the butter melts, mix in the sugar so it melts and bring it to a consistent bubbling mix
  • Take it off the flame before it burns and pour it into your baking dish - preferably either an 8 in. or 10 in. round pan
  • Take the pineapple slices out of the can, and arrange them as below over the caramel mix, packing as many as you can in a layer
  • I suspect you could put the cherries in the middle of the pineapple hollows, but I've tended to put them on after the cake is done 
  • Bring the oven to 325 degrees
  • In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar to a smooth consistency - if your kids are older then 8, as mine are, they'll love being in charge of the beating and mixing! Stand by, of course, since you want to watch the little fingers and all the high speed splatters this can engender!
  • One by one, crack the eggs into the mix, and beat thoroughly
  • Mix the self raising flour and baking powder (sifting together is best, but I'm challenged to find my sift every time, and find that being thorough in mixing meets my needs)
  • Fold in the flour and beat to a smooth consistency, then fold in the vanilla and finally fold in the cottage cheese
  • Carefully pour the cake mix over the layers of caramel and pineapple
  • Bake for 1 hour and test at the end of that period. If baking with kids, they'll like to have their toothpicks to test the center of the cake, and you can each see if you get a clean toothpick out which is the sign of a perfectly done cake
  • Let it cool and gently tip it out so the pineapple topping is undisturbed - I tend to place a plate right on top of the cake in the baking pan, hold the dish and plate securely then flip over, then gently pull up the baking pan
  • The kids will also enjoy popping the cherries into the centers of the pineapple hollows
  • Slice and enjoy!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Two Salmon Dishes: Teriyaki and Tomato Baked Salmon and Panko-Crusted Salmon Patties (Indian-Style Fish Cutlets)

While I'm a vegetarian, I do cook fish and meats for the family. The research conducted over the past decades on the impact of over-fishing was part of my journey to vegetarianism, so I tend to only buy fish that's farm-raised. I do realize there are farms that have different standards of environmental impacts, but buying from a ethical grocer or grocery can help you minimize your environmental footprint, and see if you can make sure the fish are bred in recirculating systems.

In my last blog post, I mentioned the rather wild and crazy menu I cooked up for my last dinner party, and shared a few of the recipes. Today, I'll share the recipe for the Teriyaki and Tomato Baked Salmon and the recipe for what I did to the leftovers the next day - Panko Encrusted Salmon Patties, or what we'd call Cutlets in India

Teriyaki and Tomato Baked Salmon


3 lb. fillet farm-raised Atlantic salmon

For the marinade:
2 oz. or a quarter cup Yamasa Traditional Teriyaki Marinade & Sauce
20 oz or two and a half cups Organic Chunky Style Crushed Tomatoes in Puree (Can)
4 Onions
6 Garlic cloves

Preparing the marinade
  •  I take my marinades seriously! So, I tend to cook them in advance to make sure the spices have time to emerge and permeate the whole mix
  • Start by finely chopping the garlic cloves and the onions 
  • In a large saucepan heat 3 tbsp. of oil, and fry the garlic. Then add the onions and fry till brown
  • Pour 20 oz. of the chopped tomatoes into the mix and flavor with 2 oz. of the Teriyaki sauce 
  • Add a dash of pepper, and let simmer on a medium flame for 20 min. or till the marinade takes on a nice thick consistency 
  • Let the marinade cool completely so that when you coat the fish, it doesn't start cooking
 Preparing the fish
  •  Place the fish in a dish that you can bake in, and preferably can serve in as well.I tend to use a large non-embellished Pyrex dish, since that ensures that you are not disturbing the fish when you re-plate and that the focus is on the food rather than the platter
  • Lightly spray the dish with olive oil spray, then place the salmon filet skin side down- you might choose to cut the skin out I am agnostic
  • Spread over the whole over the filet so that there is a thick uniform coating over the whole filet
  • Let it sit for at least an hour - I tend to prep the dish at lest two to three hours before baking. If you are in a hurry, go ahead and bake after you've  layered on the marinade
  • Heat the oven to 350 degrees
  • Bake the fish for 40 minutes and you're ready to go!
Panko Encrusted Salmon Patties

1 oz Salmon (as above) OR if you're starting from scratch, see the first step in the recipe below
4 Medium Sized Potatoes
2 Eggs
Sushi Chef Panko (Japanese Bread Flakes) 
  •   I cooked the patties with the leftover baked salmon, but if you're cooking this up from scratch start with the following ingredients: 1 oz salmon, 1-2 garlic cloves sliced fine, one chopped onion, one cup chopped and pureed tomato, and about 6 tablespoons of Teriyali saice
  • Fry the garlic, then the onions till they are brown, then add the tomatoes and teriyaki sauce. Once the sauce has thickened to a non-watery consistency, put the salmon slab in so the mix coats it and cook on a medium fire for about 20 minutes or till the fish is flaky. Let cool and proceed to the next step
  • Prepare the potatoes: You need them to be have a thicker version of mashed potatoes. While you may choose to boil the potatoes, I microwave them. Pierce the potatoes in 3 to 4 spots with a fork, wrap each in a paper towel and microwave on high for 5 minutes, turn over and microwave for another 2 minutes. Skin the potatoes and cut them into eight pieces each
  • Beat two eggs, add a pinch of salt, turmeric and pepper so that there is a shot of flavor in the coating of the patties
  • Keep a plate of Panko crumbs (or regular breadcrumbs) ready by the sove
  • Take the cooled baked salmon or the salmon cooked as above, and use a fork to mash it into a flaky mix
  • Mash the potatoes into the fish, and roll the mix into small patties that are about a half inch thick and 2 inches across. I tend to make them about the size of my palm
  • Coat the patties with egg, then place them on the panko so that there is a uniform coating of crumbs on each patty
  • Spray a nonstick pan with oil, and roast each patty. Since all the ingredients are cooked, don't over-fry the patties
  • Once browned, plate the patties and serve
  • You don't really need a sauce, see the mini-video of D here to attest to that!
Note: Since I can't taste any non-vegetarian dishes I make, I have an elaborate system of tasters - see my daughter's commentary, and a note I had my son take in to my husband who was on a call. That's sonny boy's writing!
D: "This is really delicious...and it's not usual for me to like salmon."
K's handwriting on the Q&A "form" and husband S's response "Fabulous."


Friday, March 23, 2012

When In Doubt...I Make the Whole Lot! Today's recipes: Proscuitto-wrapped Dates, Sauteed Broccoli Raab and Panko-Encrusted Pork

I had fun writing a "Foodie Friday" blog contribution for Deborah Mitchell's fun and varied blog this week. When she invited me, I had, handily, a plethora of new experiences to draw from, including a class I taught, a weekend dessert experiment, and a crazy dinner party - crazy because of my out-of-control menu!

I’m certainly a foodie, but even my inner foodie was on overdrive when I planned a dinner party for two couples who are great friends and mentors to the family. It was the four of them and the four of us…and they were outnumbered by the items on my menu. I’d say, don’t do it…except it was so much fun to see it all come together.

The overall menu is below. I’ll share a few of the recipes today, and if you like, will share more in future blog posts.

The three recipes I share today should be fine for a nice meal, and apart from marinating time takes less than an hour to prepare, if you can multitask. Start by prepping the prosciutto-covered dates (5 minutes), then bake them and the marinated pork (max of 30 minutes), Prep the onions and raab while the baking is done, and finish off with the pork and sauce (10 minutes.)

  1. Prosciutto Wrapped dates: Today's recipe
  2. Devilled Eggs with an eastern twist (with wasabi sauce, mayo and finely-sliced onions)
  3. Sausages Sauteed with Onions
  4. Baked White Stuffer Mushrooms with Goat Cheese (my preferred cheese being Cypress Grove Chèvre Psychedillic goat milk cheese)
Main course:
  1. Broccoli Raab Tossed with Onions: Today's recipe
  2. Panko-encrusted Pork with a Red Wine Wasabi Sauce: Today's recipe
  3. Teriyaki and Tomato Baked Salmon
  4. Vegetable Casserole
  5. Mushroom Risotto
Pineapple Upside Down Cake

Prosciutto-Wrapped Dates

4 oz proscuitto (should give you 8 to 10 slices)
Medjool dates, as many as the number of slices of prosciutto you have 
  • Wrap each date tightly with a prosciutto slice, making sure that one side has the date peeping out of it
  • Some people like to pack the date with goat cheese - I didn't since it would have worked against the simplicity and sophistication of the other two flavors you are working with
  • Arrange on a baking dish, making sure to spray lightly with oil
  • In an oven heated to 350 degrees, toast the dates for 10 minutes, turning half-way through the process
  • Serve warm!

Broccoli Raab tossed with Onions:

One bunch of broccoli raab, cleaned and cut so that the tops have about 2 inch stems on them
Two medium onions, sliced semi-thick
Salt to taste
Colander and a Basin of water with ice
  • Bring a quart of water to a boil
  • Prep to blanch your raab: The quick boil takes the bitterness out of the raab, but if you want to keep the crunch, you want to make sure it doesn't overcook. This means having the ice water handy to ensure you stop the cooking very quickly
  • Drop the raab into the boiling water and cook for 1 minute
  • Fish out the raab and place them in a colander dipped into the icy cold water
  • In a pan, fry the onions till they are a nice translucent brown
  • Pat dry the raab, then toss into the onions, and add about a teaspoon of salt to taste
  • Cook for about five minutes - you're done!
Panko-Crusted Pork:

2lb Berkshire Pork Medallion Roast
2 cups red wine, ideally with a fruity base 
1/2 cup hot wasabi Sauce ( I buy BookBinders' Hot Wasabi Sauce, but you should find a variety of options in your neighborhood grocery)
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups panko (again, available in the asian food isle of most groceries these days)
Two eggs
Olive oil spray and non stick pan

 Panko-Crusted Pork
  • Whip together 1 cup of red wine, and a quarter cup of wasabi sauce for a creamy mix
  • Marinade the whole roast in the wine-wasabi mix overnight - or as long as you can, but hopefully at least an hour
  • When you are ready to cook, start by heating the oven to 350 degrees
  • Roast the pork for half an hour, then take out to cook
  • There will be a small amount of juice that collects around the succulent roast- keep it aside for the sauce
  • Pat it dry, and slice into quarter-inch slices
  • Beat the eggs to act as a binding agent, and spread the panko on a plate
  • Coat the pork roast slices with egg, then cover with Panko flakes
  • Heat a non-stick pan over a medium flame, and use a light coat of olive oil spray
  • Toast the pork slices till the Panko is a light brown and plate to serve
The Sauce
  • The sauce is very much in keeping with the marinade
  • In a saucepan heat the red wine till it starts to bubble, then pour in the remaining wasabi sauce and whisk
  • As the mixture starts to boil, whisk in the sugar, mixing well to ensure no caramelizing happens
  • Finally dribble in the juice from the bake and you're all set with a piquant sauce to go with your panko pork.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Chocolate Chip Cupcakes with Brown Sugar

My daughter and I were cooking up a cauliflower casserole, and as I thought of a nicely warmed oven coming up to the 350 degree mark, I decided to use that energy to cook up some cupcakes for the kids' friends.

Rustling through the cabinets I found some organic brown sugar, chocolate chips from an earlier baking effort, vanilla, and we were off to the races.

3 cups of flour
3 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter
2 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/4 cup milk (we use lactaid)

  • In a bowl, mix or sift the salt, baking powder and flour together
  • Cream the sugar, vanilla extract and butter together with a hand-held mixer
  • Beat in the eggs as well. Once you have a creamy mix, fold in the flour mixture a little at a time. Then beat it to a consistent dough. D had a lovely time being in charge of all the mixing and folding in of the flour.
  • Once you have a smooth mixture, mix in the chocolate chips
  • Butter the cupcake tray, and pour in enough of the dough to take up about 3/4 of the cupcake sections
  • Bake at 350 degrees for 22 minutes
  • Pull out of the oven once the cupcakes have a pleasing brown tops, and test they are done by slowly pushing in a toothpick, and make sure there is no dough sticking to the toothpick. If there is, put them back in the over for 3 to 5 minutes
  • Let cool for 10 minutes and then serve. Ice at your discretion!
See a quick video below of the chaos that is our kitchen!

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Monday, February 27, 2012

Measurement converter

Saw this great measurement converter and felt I had to share - how often have you found one of your mom's recipes and fumbled through the conversions?!
It's part of Diana's Desserts: See the converter here.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Tamarind Chicken

So I felt I had to post this recipe, when I kept packing the chicken away, and my son kept opening the dish and pulling out more. As a vegetarian, I no longer taste any meat dishes that I cook, and sometimes worry that the family is being complimentary because they're sweet. However, the fourth helping felt like a pretty solid sign!

  • One pound of chicken, cubed (most can be boneless, but it adds to the flavor to have a few pieces with bones)
  • 16 oz. Bottle of Deep Tamarind-Date Sweet and Sour sauce
  • 6 scallion sprigs
  • 6 large garlic cloves
  • One Tbsp Olive Oil
  • Two cardamom cloves, popped or peeled open lightly to free up the seeds a little
  • Five to Six whole coriander seeds
  • A dozen shopped baby carrots
  1. Dice the garlic and scallion (avoid the tips, the limp green sections of the scallion)
  2. On a medium flame, bring the oil to a high heat in a deep sauce pan
  3. Pop in the cardamom and coriander to flavor the oil for a minute or so
  4. Fry the garlic and scallions
  5. Once the garlic has browned, toss in the carrots and cook for a few minutes
  6. Next pop in the chicken and saute for a few minutes
  7. Pour in the tamarind sauce, and lower the flame so the dish can cook at a simmer for about twenty minutes. It's important to keep the flame low, so the sauce doesn't caramelize and separate
I used a bottled sauce, but shall share a recipe for a home-made version shortly. I happened to have some left-over from a small party we had a few days ago, hence the brain-wave for the dish! Deep Foods sauces can be found in most Indian Grocery Stores.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Fun Breakfast

I knew I wouldn't see the kids this morning, so I set up a fun breakfast...made even more fun by the little car-shaped egg-holders I bought last year when I was visiting England on work. Rayware seems to have some fun a funky tableware and cutlery - not sure where one gets them in the US though. Anyone know?

That's sliced Kiwi fruit, a boiled egg, a few rashers of low-fat Turkey bacon and milk.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Coconut Burfi, Made Easy

D brought home a lovely little cookbook called The Usborne Yummy Little Cookbook and we decided a fun recipe for coconut mice. It was loads of fun to try and make the mouse-shaped sweets, but the surprise was that this thoroughly cute recipe resulted in sweets that were identical to Coconut Burfi - the Indian sweet dish that traditionally takes loads of cooking, elbow grease and some prayer (since burfis can sometimes harden to the consistency of rocks!)

We were able to make some mice for D, and then bowls-ful of traditional burfi balls.

Three cups shredded coconut
One cup condensed milk
Two cups powdered sugar
Food coloring

Small confectioners stars to serve as the eyes for the mouse
Kenny's Watermelon Juicy Twist licorice for the tails
M&Ms for ears
One kid who is going to enjoy the process of messing around with sweet ingredients and constructing mice!

  • In a bowl, mix the coconut and sugar so that the mixture is evenly blended
  • Mix in the condensed milk - this will take quite a bit of elbow grease to make sure the mixture is evenly coated
  • Separate out the mixture into two or more batches, so you can have fun with colors
  • Mix in the colors - the original recipe suggested using a little red dye in one batch for pink mice, and a lot in the second batch for bright red mice. We made red, blue and yellow mice (very close to a patriotic show of red, white and blue!)
  • For mice:
    • Dip a tablespoon in water, then scoop some of the mixture and pat it flat. This is up-turned onto a dish or wax paper to server as the body of the mouse
    • Pinch the tapered tip of the resulting mouse "body" to create a nose
    • Pop on some confectioners stars for eyes, M&Ms behind them to serve as ears
    • Pop in a piece of licorice that can serve as the mouse's tail
  • For more conventional burfi balls, just make sure to moisten your hands and roll little spheres of the mixture to make round coconut burfi balls
  • Place in the fridge for an hour to ensure they stabilize and harden appropriately
In all, this whole procedure can take less than 15 minutes if you're in a hurry to whip something up for a quick dinner party...or can be drawn out interminably if you're looking to entertain the kids!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Denbies vineyard

With a couple of hours to spare in Surrey on a sunny Saturday morning, I took the locals' advice to visit England's largest vineyard, Denbies. With 265 acres of land planted with vines, the place is really pleasant and if it had been a tab warmer I would certainly have walked around a little more. However, their indoor tour packed a lot in, with a 360 degree movie experience that provided thorough review of the topography of the Weal ( the enormous stirrup of limestone based land that support the vines,) a indoor "train" tour through the workings of a winery, ending in a wine tasting experience.

The wine tasting option I chose was the sparkling wines, since Denbies sparkling wines have been known to have beaten French Champagnes in contests. While their Greenfield Cuvee is the award winner, I actually preferred their Whitedown. Much clearer and clean on the palate, and actually better than most champagnes I've drunk. Other tasting options included the classic still wine tour and one with a canape tasting (not too exciting for vegetarians...lots of salmon and meat....)

For those who plan to be in this part of the woods some time soon, I'd certainly suggest this as a nice day's excursion. Educational, fun and good exercise (if you can get out to walk around.) The gift store has some quintessentially English trinkets and foods (Clotted Cream fudge? Lime curd.) The indoor tour has a little train or peoplemover, that rather comically look like a string of old church pews trung togehter! The restaurant is pretty and the little cafe is warm and has a nice selection of foods. I can't be terribly enthusiastic about the leek and onion soup, though!

Dining in Dorking

I was out in UK, meeting with part of our European team, and found myself constantly gravitating to Indian food. I had decided to walk around the little town of Dorking on Friday night before deciding on where I would eat. I passed by Thai spots, pizza parlors, a rather high-end Nepali spot, the ubiquitous (fish and) chip shop...and retured to the Indian restaurant right across from the hotel I was staying at. Zafron was empty...I was early, but from 6pm through 7.30 pm, it was me reading my New Yorker and eating a perfectly prepared meal.

I enjoy the fact that even the simplest Indian spot in UK maintain such impeccable standards. The Pappodoms were perfectly fried (you think that's easy, but I jettison quite a few when I fry them), the tandoori mushroom masala was clearly made with real cashew nuts (though a little sweet for my taste) and the garlic naan was soft and nicely puffed. The one thing that disappointed was the house red - dreck!

More on the tandoori mushroom masalla when I am back home and give it a shot.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Pork chops, mac and veggies meal

So, you don't need to go to Subway to have a five-dollar meal. Actually, it was probably much less than that, since there was enough mac and veggie pie for the next day's lunch for the kids, and two grown up meals. We had to document this meal, since K declared "this is better than the Christmas lamp chops." Sorry, Vikas! One of our favorite parties, which we missed this year, is S and D's Christmas tree-trimming party, and Vikas's lamb chops are the highlight, culinarily speaking. A little "apples and oranges", but still....

I did use a similar recipe, using a yogurt and garam masala recipe. For the four pork chops, I used about a cup and a half of yogurt, 1 tbsp garam masala, 1 tbsp coriander, 1 tbsp salt, a pinch of pepper. If I was cooking for kids alone, I may have added in some red chilli powder as well. The marinating only takes about a half-hour. Lay out the chops in a pan that is greased lightly with olive oil.

The mac and veggies pie was made of one pack of Quinoa rotelle pasta, Classico Alfredo sauce, half a quarter cup of grated cheese and one cup of italian cut beans and half cup of peas. I cooked the pasta to al dente (6 minutes.) Use half the pasta as a layer in a buttered dish, then layer on the vegetables, pour on half the pasta sauce, one more layer of pasta, then comes the rest of the sauce. Top off with cheese.

Both dishes go into an oven pre-heated at 350 degrees, for 15 minutes, followed by ten minutes at 375 degrees. You can turn over the pork after the first 15 minutes. When you pop the dishes out, sear the pork quickly on high heat on a pan very quickly, for a quick browning of the chops.

Lunch came together really quickly, less than 30 minutes, with about 10 minutes of real work! The cauliflower in the photo uses a recipe that's exactly like Win's Aloo Gobi, without the alloo (potato.)

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Win's Aloo Gobi

This weekend, we survived one more of our marathon Diwali party - which we tend to style as day-long open houses. It's lovely hosting hundreds of friends, but let's just say that I'm a tad tired the rest of the week! Sree's friends are an amazing crew - one of them, Betty, has a great blog that you'll see here. Betty's personal revelations on Diwali reminded me about how much we take for granted in Indian festivals, hospitality and quirky expectations (of course, we expect 300 people to take off their shoes before coming into our home!) I've used one of Betty's luminous photo here.

S's friend Win stopped to chat on his way out and mentioned reading this blog. I urged him to send me his own favorite Indian recipe. Here it is.
Says Win:

"I like this because it uses my stove, oven & microwave to speed things along . . ..
I roast my cauliflower using the technique from Cook's Illustrated. (Oven preheated to 475; Cauliflower head into 8 equal wedges so that core and florets remain intact; season with oil, salt and pepper, bake for 20 minutes making sure to flip the peices mid-way to brown both sides.)

I put red bliss potatoes cut to be an inch or so in all directions in a loosely covered bowl with a little water in the microwave and push cook-potato.

I cut up an onion or two and cook it relatively slowly in butter and olive oil liberally dosed with curry (powder), maybe 1/4 cup, until soft.
I cut up the cauliflower in pieces about the same size as the potatoes or maybe a little bigger and mix everything together with plain yogurt to give it sauce.

I could imagine doing the recipe without the yogurt.

I also may add leftover cooked peas for color if I have them around.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Mushroom and Blue Cheese Hors d'œuvre

K's teachers invited me to come cook with the kids one day in November, and so the three of us (D, K and I) have been mulling over the options. K loves my ramekin creations, but the thought of little hands grabbing ceramic dishes out of the oven worried me. So we tried out a simple but fun recipe today, which I'm sure is part dredged-up memory of cocktail party appetizers, and part "staring into the fridge" inspiration. I wanted to make sure that this would be something that the kids could actually create along with me - it had to be safe, easy, tasty, and as messy as possible! I think the following meets all the criteria.

Button mushrooms, about 2 to 4 per person depending on the size of the mushrooms
Crumbled blue cheese: One table spoon per mushroom [I plan to substitute simple cheddar cheese for the school cooking experience]
Melted butter to prep the mushroom
  • Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees
  • Use a butter knife to pop the stem off the mushroom, then dice the stems. The kids needed some help with getting the stems out, but liked the dicing since it was pretty easy
  • Mix diced stems and cheese
  • Brush melted butter on the body of the mushroom, inside and out
  • Spoon the stem and cheese mix into the hollow of the mushroom. The kids just used their fingers to get the mix in
  • Line a baking sheet with wax paper, them place the mushrooms about an inch apart (since they tend to leach out some of the liquids and you don't want a soggy mess at the end)
  • Bake for 15 to 20 minutes
  • Serve hot or cool - works either way
  • I think I'd like to try this with more pepper, crushed chillies, coriander, etc. Maybe a variety tray of these mushroom pies, with one spice added in each.... I'll tell you how that works out. For now, the kids and I will go with the cheese version. D loved the blue cheese version, K voted that we go with cheddar for his friends. More on that after our school kitchen adventure!
Any suggestions for improvements or variations you've tried?

Monday, October 5, 2009

Quinoa with Mixed Vegetables Pilaf

Friend and fellow-vegetarian Ven sent me the following recipe for Quinoa. I have to admit that I haven't tried the recipe (indeed, was only vaguely familiar with the "pseudo cereal" as it's described), but I do plan on sharing updates when I do try this out.

Says Ven: "As a vegetarian, I always struggle to eat a balanced diet and since Quinoa has all the essential amino acids and several other nutrients it looked like a good option. Over the last year, I have been cooking this grain and like any recent convert, I am an ardent devotee. Quinoa is so easy to cook that it has become my staple replacing Thayir Sadham. I read somewhere that there are concerns about the high nitrate content in the grains because of fertilizer use but I am not sure if this is an issue with the Organic varieties that I buy from Costco and Whole Foods.

2 cups Quinoa
1 cup frozen mixed vegetables
1 thinly sliced Tomato
1/2 tablespoon Olive Oil
Curry leaves
1/2 tablespoon of sliced ginger
1/2 tablespoon of Turmeric
¾ tablespoon of Salt and a pinch of chilli powder and garam masala
Rinse Quinoa seeds 3-4 times until the water runs clear.
Add 4 cups of water and cook Quinoa for about 10 mts until you see a little white thread coming out.
Add mixed vegetables and sliced Tomato and cook for another five minutes.
Add salt, turmeric, chilli powder, masala, curry leaves and cook for a five more minutes.
Remove from heat and wait for at least ten minutes before serving. "