Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Smoked Salmon Fingerwiches

Of all the unexpected food items you might find in my luggage to Bombay, is smoked salmon. I worry this delicacy might not survive the trip across oceans and mountains, but I am pleasantly delighted! We bring the surprising to India with Pam in mind. Though much of these gourmet items are available at fancy food stores in India for a whopping rupee price. My ma in law does enjoys these delicacies, hence the effort.

Cream cheese and smoked salmon, one of the most enduring marriages, is not my first choice. Sadly, I have forgotten the the Philly cheese package. But I carry some Boursin. And this proves to be an unusual base for these bread fingers. The mix and match concept seems to work like a charm. The first package of salmon fingers disappear in a trice!!

Makes 12-14 

4-5 Brown Bread slices
1/4 cup Boursin or Cream Cheese
4-5 oz Smoked Salmon cut in thin slices

Bring Boursin or cream cheese and smoked salmon to room temperature. It makes spreading easier.

Cover each slice with a generous tablespoon of cheese. Use a thicker layer of cheese if you so desire. 

If you would like a daintier version of these fingers, trim crusts off slices before spreading the cheese.

Cut bread horizontally into three fingers.

Cover bread fingers with smoked salmon.

Garnish with cilantro.

Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate if not serving immediately.

These make great appetizers or a light lunch accompanied by a salad.

The second package too disappears in a thrice!! Neighbors and family enjoy some of Mum's spoils . It's all about spreading fingers of happiness. 

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Crab Cakes

When you have access to crab meat that has been delicately separated from shell and cartilage...make hay! Well...make crab cakes! They taste better than hay!!! A little of this crab meat comes my way. Enough for a few choice cakes. Crab cake are relished all over the US. I haven't come across too many in the subcontinent. 

Many chefs, including Floyd Cardoz, have come up with their hybrid versions. A little bit of spice changes the original flavors. My first taste of this type was at Tabla in NYC. The restaurant had just opened. And I was intrigued enough to order the Indian spiced crab appetizer, which came with avocado and a papad!!! Quite innovative and delicious!!! Tabla has closed its doors, but food memories linger on!

Mine is a simple simple crab cake.  My choice is canned crab today. Ideally I would use lump crab but I'm a beggar today. Lump meat is a bit of a splurge, but well worth it! A little boiled potato, some finely chopped onion, green chile and cilantro...all in small quantities so the crab shines through. Lightly breaded and shallow fried, they are ready to nibble on.

Serves 3-4

1 heaped cup fresh, frozen or canned Lump Crab Meat 
1 tablespoons finely minced Red Onion,  
1 boiled and grated small Yukon Gold Potato, 
1/2 teaspoon finely minced Green Chile
1 tablespoon finely minced Cilantro 
A large pinch of Kosher Salt 
2-3 tablespoons Breadcrumbs 
2-3 teaspoons Canola Oil 

If you use fresh crab meat, place it in a bowl and lightly separate meat with a fork. Frozen or canned crab meat should have the moisture lightly squeezed out. Take out as much as you can without compressing the meat. Place the crab meat in a bowl.

Add minced onion, grated potato, green chile, cilantro and salt in bowl. 

Mix gently.

Form crab into golf sized balls.

Use your palm to bring the balls together. Flatten them slightly.

Lightly bread them on both sides.

Heat a nonstick pan and dribble a little oil in the pan.

Add crab cakes and fry till brown on one side. Flip and brown the other side. Use oil as needed.

Serve them hot as appetizers with a sauce of your choice or along with a salad.


Lump crab meat makes the best crab cakes. But don't be discouraged if you have a lesser quality meat. The cakes will still taste good!

Accompanying sauces could be Tartar sauce, Remoulade, Sweet Chile Sauce or plain Tomato ketchup.

A little crab cake goes a long way. Smiles on our faces and deliciousness in our bellies tell me there are no crabby feelings at the table.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Eggplant Fry

When in India one should cook some Indian foods! The bhajiwala or vegetable vendor's stand is a vegetarians delight! My bag is soon filled with karela, gawaar and these small purple and white streaked small eggplants. So today's lunch is fish curry rice, papad, masala okra and an eggplant fry. Pam has enjoyed her 'Continental cuisine' as she calls it. So this make a tasty change. The fish curry is an adaptation of prawn kalvan. I use a delicious pomfret in place of the shrimp. Masala okra is easy to fry. But the last vegetable confounds me.

I halve small eggplants without a recipe in mind. Once they are cut, I am seized with indecision. My options are limited so I start with a hastily put together paste of turmeric, chile powder, cumin and coriander powders. A little water and oil allows the paste to adhere to the eggplants easily. It also helps that I cut a cross hatch pattern with the tip of my knife into the surface of each eggplant, so the paste seeps in. Curry leaves, garlic and mustard seeds go into the pan. The veggies go into the pan cut side down. A little water is poured into the pan and a lid goes on. Steaming side by side with the fish a the most inviting aroma emanates. Pam calls these small lemon sized veggies brinjals. We watch a Brit food show on aubergines. A vegetable by any other name........

Serves 3-4

6-8 small Eggplants
1/2 teaspoon Turmeric
1-2 teaspoon Chile powder
1 teaspoon Cumin powder 
1 teaspoon Coriander powder
3-4 tablespoons Water
1 teaspoon + 2 teaspoons Canola Oil 
1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt 
1/2 teaspoon Mustard seeds
3 Garlic cloves
6-7 Curry leaves
1/4 teaspoon Kosher Salt 

Wash and cut each eggplant in half, keeping the stems intact. 

Mix turmeric, chile, cumin and coriander powders in a bowl. 

Add water and 1 teaspoon oil to powders and mix to form a thick paste.

Score the surface of the eggplants with the tip of a knife, in a cross hatch pattern.

Spread the paste on the cut surfaces of eggplants.

Heat remaining oil in a saucepan, big enough to fit eggplants in one layer.

When hot splutter mustard seeds, garlic cloves and curry leaves.

Place the eggplants cut side down in the pan.

Add 1/2 cup water to pan along with the salt. Bring to a boil, cover and cook for 15 minutes. 

Remove the lid and let water dry.

Fry eggplants for a few minutes to get a little color and serve.

There's nothing like a good fish curry rice papad and a frosted glass of beer. The okra and eggplant augment meal. Lunch segues into afternoon naps. Eggplant by any name is delicious all the same!

Monday, November 14, 2016

Spicy Pork Stir Fry

Finding the right ingredients in Bombay is an uphill task. So I go to the best sister Prasanna Gokhale. She takes me to stores in Pune carrying leeks, exotic mushrooms  and kaffir lime leaves. She reveals and then empties the contents of her freezer into my cooler bag. So I come to Bombay well prepared to cook for my ma in law Pam.

Today's strategy is to make meat. No beef with the stringent beef ban in Maharashtra. What are my alternatives? Pork. I plan a simple marinated tenderloin. Compared to its American counterparts, this tenderloin is a baby. I adjust the recipe accordingly. The meat slices like butter, reminiscent of the missing beef. I whizz a bunch of greenery and add soy to make the marinade. Pork sits undisturbed in the fridge for a few days. And then it's on to a quick stir fry, tossed with noodles and plated.

Serves 3-4

1 Pork Tenderloin
5-6 Spring Onions/ Scallions
1 tablespoon roasted Sesame seeds
2 Green Chiles
5 Garlic cloves
3 Ginger coins
3/4 cup Cilantro 
2 tablespoons Soy sauce 
3 tablespoons Canola Oil 
1/2 pound cooked Noodles

Cut tenderloin on a bias into 1/5 inch slices. They should be thin enough to be flash fried in a wok or saucepan.

Trim spring onions, cutting off the root. Leave most of the greens intact. Cut into 1 inch chunks.

Place the spring onions, sesame seeds, green chiles, garlic, ginger, cilantro and soy in a blender or processor and whizz till you have a fairly smooth paste. 

Add paste to pork slices, mix well and marinate for at least 6 hours. An overnight marinade adds more flavor. The pork in this recipe was marinated for 3 days, developing an intense flavor.

Heat oil in a wok or saucepan. 

Add pork to hot oil and saute till done. This depends on the quality and thickness of the slices. It could take 10-20 minutes.

When pork is done, add noodles to pan and toss so they are well coated.  Let them heat up a few minutes and then plate and serve.


The pork can be easily interchanged with beef, lamb or fish. Marination varies for each. Beef and lamb marination times are the same as the pork. Fish should only be marinated up to 24 hours for best results.

The serving platter pleases my ma in law tremendously. Accompanied by a creamy mushroom soup, pork and noodles make for a light dinner for her. Homemade Alphonso ice cream, thoughtfully frozen for us by my sis, is the cherry on top. Prassy... Thanks for the food, the considerate gestures and above all.....all your love.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Shrimp and Mushroom Crepes

Lunch is a simple meal for Pam and us. Leek and potato soup, followed by deviled eggs and crepes filled with sauteed shrimp and mushrooms. 

This recipe is a one-two-three task. One is making the batter.  I start with a big handicap, crepes made by my sister, Prassy. Two is making the shrimp filling. All I need to do is saute onions, garlic and button mushrooms with cilantro. Three is making the white sauce sauce, which adds a twofold element to the filling as well as being poured over the rolled crepes. The wow factor in the end is splatters of sherry on the sauce. Instead of adding sherry to the filling, I decide to let it's undiluted flavor pepper the sauce. 

Makes 6-7 crepes

Crepe Batter
1/2 cup Flour
1/2 cup Milk
1/4 cup lukewarm Water
2 Eggs
2 tablespoons melted Butter
A pinch of Kosher Salt

Shrimp and Mushroom Filling.
1 cup peeled and deveined Shrimp
2 cups Mushrooms
1 Onion
3 Garlic cloves
2 tablespoons Canola Oil 
2 tablespoons chopped Cilantro 
1/4 teaspoon Kosher Salt 
Several grinds of Black Pepper 

White Sauce
2 tablespoons Butter
2 tablespoons Flour
1 1/2 cups Milk
A pinch of Kosher Salt 
A pinch of ground Black Pepper 
A pinch of Nutmeg
1 tablespoon Sherry

Start with the crepes. Place all the crepe ingredients in a blender and whiz till you have a smooth batter. Put into a bowl and let batter sit for an hour.

The filling starts slicing the onion into thin pieces.

Mince garlic finely.

Slice mushrooms.

Heat oil in a saucepan. When hot add garlic and let it turn golden brown. 

Drop onions into oil and saute till translucent.

Add mushrooms and stir fry till light brown.

Add shrimp to pan and saute till cooked.

Season with salt, pepper a tablespoon of cilantro and keep aside.

The white sauce starts with butter melted in a saucepan.

Add flour to the butter and stir constantly on a low flame for a few minutes.

Add milk into butter-flour mixture stirring to mix, so you have a smooth sauce.

Heat sauce, stirring constantly till it thickens.

Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg.

Start crepes by heating a nonstick pan over medium heat.

Melt a small pat of butter in pan.

Pour a ladleful of batter into pan, swirling the pan to spread the batter. Fill holes with extra batter. Cook on one side, flip and cook on other. Repeat process till you have 7-8 crepes. Pile up crepes on a plate as you cook them. Use the remaining batter for another recipe.

Assemble by placing some shrimp and mushrooms in the middle of one crepe.

Dribble a few tablespoons of white sauce over filling.

Roll crepes and place on a serving platter. 

Repeat till filling is over. You should have 6-7 crepes.

Pour the rest of the white sauce over crepes.

Scatter remaining cilantro over sauce.

Drizzle sherry over the sauce and serve.

Pam enjoys her simple repast. Especially since shrimp and mushrooms are a perennial favorite. We end with delicious trifle filled with guavas and mosambi. My satisfaction is the delight on Pam's face!

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Creamy Asparagus Soup

Asparagus makes it way across the seven seas from the US to Bombay. A visit to the sub-continent results in food laden luggage. Pam, my ma-in-law loves asparagus. I transport some with her in mind. Her favorite is a creamy asparagus soup. 

We invite Elsa, Pam's sister for a meal. Lunch will start with the soup. Followed by smoked salmon and Boursin on wheat bread and a crisp iceberg lettuce salad. The next course is Salisbury steaks. Lemon tarts and chocolate tarts satisfy the sweet tooth.

I go in search of cream. Unlike the fresh cream back home, I buy a tetrapak version, with much reservation. Onions and asparagus are sauteed in plenty of Amul butter. The latter is a bright yellow and very tasty. Soon the kitchen is filled with the enticing aromas of sizzling butter and onions. Chicken stock covers the vegetables. A lid is placed on the saucepan as the asparagus cooks. Once done, I let the broth cool before pureeing it. Pouring in the cream with a little trepidation, I reheat the soup. And await the declaration.

Serves 4

1 pound Asparagus 
1 small Onion
2 tablespoons Butter 
2 cups Chicken Stock 
1/4 teaspoon Kosher Salt 
1/4 teaspoon Black Pepper 
1 cup Cream

Trim the woody ends of the asparagus. 

Keep 10 spears aside. Cut the top 2 inches of the spears and boil in water for 2-3 minutes. Drain and cool. Cut tops into 1/2 inch pieces, keeping the spear tips intact.

Cut the remaining asparagus spears into 1/4 inch pieces.

Chop onion finely.

Heat butter in a saucepan.

Add onion and saute till translucent.

Add asparagus to onions and saute till coated with butter.

Pour chicken stock into asparagus and bring to a boil.

Season with salt and pepper.

Lower flame and cover pan with a lid. Simmer for 20 minutes till veggies are cooked.

Cool asparagus. 

Puree cooled soup. 

Pour pureed soup back into the saucepan and add cream. Mix to blend. 

Heat soup. 

Ladle soup into bowls. 

Garnish soup with reserved chopped asparagus and serve.

The soup is a big hit. So is the rest of the meal.  Tarts are quartered and shared. The sisters enjoy this different cuisine immensely. Carrying foodstuff across continents turns out to be a good thing.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Prawn Kalvan

Rangoli heralds the pathway to my home. Light blaze through the house. Prayers are intoned. We are dressed in Divali finery. And company comes to dine with us. The Festival of Lights holds cherished memories, a link to firecrackers and feasting, an indulgence of new clothes and ancient rituals and washing away the old by the welcoming of a new year.

I make host of dishes. Roasted mutton, ghada, eggplant and my childhood favorite... prawn kalvan or curry. The base consists of grated coconut, chiles, cilantro, ginger, garlic, curry leaves, black pepper  and rice. Unusual but effective! All you need is coconut milk and some spices and the curry comes together in no time at all.

Serves 4

1 pound Prawns or Shrimp
1 tablespoon Rice
10 Black Peppercorns 
1/2 cup grated fresh Coconut 
3-4 green Chiles
12 Curry leaves 
4 Garlic cloves
2 Ginger slices
1 cup Cilantro
2 tablespoons Canola Oil 
5 Garlic cloves
10 Curry leaves 
3 Cloves
1/2 to 3/4 cup Coconut Milk
1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt 
2 tablespoons Lime juice

Wash, peel and devein prawns.

Soak rice and peppercorns in water for 15 minutes.

Grind soaked rice and peppercorns with fresh coconut, chiles, 12 curry leaves, 4 garlic cloves, ginger and cilantro till you have a thick paste.

Heat canola oil in a deep saucepan.

Drop 5 garlic cloves into hot oil and let them turn light brown.

Add cloves and curry leaves and let them splutter for a few seconds.

Carefully pour ground paste into pan. 

Lower flame and saute for 3-5 minutes.

Add coconut milk and bring to a low simmer. Cook sauce for 5 minutes.

Drop prawns into the simmering sauce. Cook for a few minutes till prawns turn pink.

Mix in salt and lime juice and stir well. 

Serve hot with rice and papad.

As the curry cooks, a sense of well being fills my soul. Col and Keith come to the door and it is time to wish Happy Divali to all! 

Friday, October 7, 2016

Beef Fajitas

Oh to be in north Florida when a hurricane hits!!!! The windswept golf course takes on a luminous shades of green. Sheets of rain blow across the panoramic view. Swaying Georgia pines are shrouded in mist. Hurricane Matthews makes us change focus, drop what we do and gaze out the windows. Storm coverage dominates television for the best part of two days, screaming dire predictions. Even as the storm rages, we bake, we boil, we fry and drink copious amounts of vino.

Today's special is beef fajitas. I marinate thin strips of beef in oregano, garlic, sugar and chile powder. Sauteed along with onions, the beef cooks in little water, braising till it shreds easily. I give the beef a rough chop, making bite size pieces. Pico de gallo and some avocado adds piquancy. We are ready to lunch!!

Serves 4

1 pound Beef strips
1 tablespoon Mexican Oregano 
1 tablespoon Chile powder 
1 teaspoon Sugar
1 tablespoon Garlic powder 
1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt 
2 tablespoons Olive Oil 
1 Onion
1/2 to 1 cup Water
1 Avocado 
10-12 flour or corn Tortillas 

Pico De Gallo
1/4 cup diced Onion
1/2 cup diced Tomato
1 minced green Chile
2 tablespoons minced Cilantro
2 tablespoon Lime or Lemon juice

Mix all pico de gallo ingredients in a bowl.

Place strips in a bowl.

Sprinkle oregano, chile and garlic powders, sugar and salt. Mix well and let beef sit at room temperature for 1 hour.

Peel and slice onions into 1/4 inch thick half moons.

Heat oil in saucepan.

Add onions and saute till wilted.

Add beef to onions and saute on a high flame till brown. 

Pour water onto beef, cover, lower flame and braise till cooked. This might take 20 to 40 minutes depending on the thickness of the beef.

When cooked, chop beef into bite size chunks.

Cut avocado into small chunks.

Heat tortillas.

Heap  beef on tortilla. Top with pico de gallo and avocado. Roll and enjoy!

The moment of truth is upon us. Outside, winds pick up. Driving rain sweeps onto the patio. Tornado warnings are set off. Inside, beer, fajitas and family drown out the constant noise of wind and rain. 

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Vietnamese Pancake

I'm thrilled to walk through the new H-Mart in Hicksville, NY. This cavernous store is an Asian foodie wonderland. As I walk the aisles, I'm treated to samples of mung bean pancakes, bulgogi, fish cakes and more weird but delicious Korean food. The seafood and meat counters are brimming with fresh food. But the star of the show is the vegetable section. I am stunned with the mushroom display. My hand reaches in almost unconsciously to pick small round top Shimejis.  I love their flavor and texture. Normally I buy shitakes, but plentiful and cute Shimejis magically appear in my cart. I reach for bean sprouts. And as I put them in my basket I know what I will be making for dinner....pancakes Asian style.

I make one large pancake, the most effortless way. You could make individual portions but that means using a small pan, making one pancake at a time. The large pan is most convenient. You cut the finished pancake as you would a pie or pizza. Start by mixing rice flour, eggs and water, letting the batter rest for a short while. I saute mushrooms and scallions. Shredded carrots make a perfect addition. But I have roasted carrots in the fridge. You could add any vegetable of choice. Red peppers have eye appeal and taste. Bean sprouts are sauteed along with the veggies  Shrimp and ham add an optional meat component. The batter is then poured over the veggies. Covered, the pan is left on a low flame for 15-20 minutes. A blizzard of cilantro and basil finish the pancake. 

A salty spicy sauce comes together with soy, chiles, sugar and lime. 

Serves 2-4

2 Eggs
1/3 cup Rice Flour
1 teaspoon Sugar 
A pinch of Kosher Salt 
3/4 cup Water
2 Garlic cloves
5-6 Scallions
1 packet Shimeji Mushrooms or Shitake Mushrooms
1 cup shredded Carrots 
3/4 cup Bean Sprouts
1/2 cup cooked Shrimp (optional)
1/4 cup shredded Ham (optional)
2 tablespoons Canola Oil 
1/4 cup Thai or Italian Basil
2 tablespoons Cilantro 

Dipping Sauce
2 tablespoons Soy Sauce 
1/2 teaspoon Sugar
2-3 Green Chiles 
1 tablespoon Lime juice

Make the batter by whisking the eggs in a bowl.

Add rice flour, sugar, salt and water and whisk well. Let batter sit for 1/2 hour.

Mince garlic cloves finely.

Trim and thinly slice scallions, using both white and green parts.

If you are using Shimeji mushrooms, break them apart gently. If you are using shiitakes, remove the stems and cut into 1/4 inch slices.

Heat canola oil in a 8-9 inch nonstick saucepan.

Add garlic and saute for 20 seconds.

Add mushrooms and saute for 5 minutes till cooked.

Drop carrot into the pan and stir fry for 2-3 minutes.

Saute bean sprouts for 30 seconds.

Pour batter over veggies, making sure it coats the veggies.

Arrange shrimp and/or ham over batter if using them.

Cover and let the pancake cook over low heat for 15 minutes. 

Make dipping sauce. Mix soy and sugar.

Cut green chiles into thin slices and add to soy sauce.

Add lime juice and mix well.

Lift the edge of the pancake. The underside should have crisped up and be light brown in color.

Sprinkle basil  and cilantro over pancake.

Slide pancake onto a plate. Cut into wedges and serve with dipping sauce.

This pancake could well be an appetizer or a side. A few drizzles of the dipping sauce over a slice and you are in for a heavenly bite of soft pancake, crunchy veggies and that umami flavor.

Friday, September 23, 2016

So Good Chocolate Ice Cream

I'm told it is so good, hence the name. We have been on a roll, making chocolate ice cream at home. And what a revelation it has been for the fans. No more searching for chocolate fudge brownie at grocery stores. Or waiting for the two-for-one sales. This is a home run for the chocolate lovers and it takes minimal effort (cough cough)on my part.

Cousin Mario has given us his electric ice cream maker. The one given to his wife Cheryl, by their children. Sadly, she passed away last year. Knowing my predilection for all things home made, the ice cream maker travels with him, from the sub-continent to our home. The D'Souza family, Mario, Charmaine, Verne and Brent, spend a few days in our house and thoughtfully leave us this treasure.

I use the recipe off the Cuisinart manual.  A little planning is involved as you have to start a day before. The inner container needs to be chilled for 24 hour before use, for best results. Most good ice creams starts with milk, sugar and cream and of course chocolate. The best quality you can find. I have used milk as well as semi sweet chocolate. The popular vote goes to semi sweet. Both slabs or chips work, as they both have to be pulsed to a fine powder along with sugar. Warm milk is added and whizzed again. The food processor works best. This thick chocolate mix is then refrigerated for a couple hours. Then the fun begins.

Makes 4 cups

1 cup whole or 2% Milk
1/2 cup Sugar
8 oz semi-sweet Chocolate (bar or chips)
2 cups Cream
1 teaspoon Vanilla extract

Place the container from the ice cream machine in the freezer a day before you make the ice cream. Follow the manual for directions. Electric ice cream makers have precise instructions.

The next day start making ice cream by heating milk till you see small bubbles on the sides of the pan.

Place sugar and chocolate in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse till you have a fine powder.

Pour warm milk over chocolate and pulse a couple of times more to mix.

Put the chocolate mix in a bowl and cool. 

When it is cool add cream and vanilla to chocolate. Whisk well.

Place bowl in the fridge for 2 hours.

When you are ready to make the ice cream, remove the container from the freezer and place in ice cream maker.

Scrape chocolate mix into container, insert paddle and cover and start the ice maker.

  Let ice cream maker go on for 20-25 minutes.

At this point the ice cream will have a soft serve consistency.

Empty contents into a plastic or glass container and freeze till firm.


I have to admit making ice cream is a messy affair. Be prepared for drips and spills and many chocolate trails on counter tops. Once the whir of the machine stops, chocoholics cannot wait to dig into soft serve scoops without waiting for the big freeze. Mario...the electric ice cream machine has driven me to chocolate despair, and the rest of the house to chocolate heaven.