Monday, June 29, 2020

Spicy Tofu Noodles

I am not a big fan of tofu. It isn't the first thing I would order when eating Asian. Then I discover tofu noodles. Thick, slippery strands of tofu that look like fettuccine. And then  just like that I am a fan! It is still tofu, but I can treat it in so many different ways. The strips are thrown into soup, smothered in pasta sauce, I find a plethora of ideas that result in these spicy wobbly noodles.

The tofu I found comes in a small liquid filled plastic bag. This might be a good option for veganites and gluten allergy sufferers. Tofu is rinsed and quickly boiled. Drain them well as you don't want water in the sauce.  Dried red chiles, onions, scallions, lots of fresh ginger and garlic, kecap manis, light and dark soy sauce  and pepper give the sauce a spicy slant. Sesame seeds, mint and Thai basil are the garnish finish.. We dig in!

Serves 4

2 8oz packages Tofu Shirataki Fettuccine
1 Red Onion
1 teaspoon minced Garlic
1 teaspoon minced Ginger
3 Scallions
1 tablespoon Canola Oil
3-4 dried Red Chiles
2 teaspoons Kecap Manis
1 teaspoon Dark Soy Sauce 
1 teaspoon Light Soy Sauce (Use Tamari or a GF option)
1/2 cup Chicken Stock
1 teaspoon Sugar
1 teaspoon ground Black Pepper
1 tablespoon Cornflour
Toasted Sesame Seeds
Mint leaves
Thai Basil leaves

Mince red onion.

Slice scallions thinly, white and green parts.

Heat oil in a wok.

When it shimmers add red chiles. 

Wait 10 seconds, then add onions. Saute till translucent.

Add ginger, garlic and scallions. Saute for a minute till garlic is fragrant.

Add kecap manis, soy sauces, chicken stock, sugar and pepper.

Bring the sauce to a simmer.

Stir 1 teaspoon water into the corn flour. Add to the sauce, raise the temperature and thicken the sauce. 

Heat 4 cups of water in a saucepan. 

Rinse the tofu noodles under cold water. 

When water boils, add the noodles and boil for 2 minutes. 

Drain tofu, rinse under cold water.   Lay them on a towel and pat dry. MAKE SURE THE NOODLES ARE DRY or they will leach water into the sauce.

Heat the noodles and sauce for a few minutes.

Top with sesame seeds, mint and Thai basil leaves and serve.

These slippery little strands are exactly like fettuccine. Slurp them, twirl them any which way.... they are delicious!

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Pan Fried Fish with A Lemon Butter Sauce

Pan frying fish for dinner is a one-two-three affair. Besides being easy to drum up, the benefits stack up as well. Fish is food that's good for you. Relatively inexpensive, fish  doesn't need much prep other than a good scrub and a simple touch.

Use a flat fish fillet like flounder, sole or tilapia. They pan fry and crisp up better than thicker cuts. Fillets are washed well, patted dry and seasoned with salt and pepper. Making the sauce is literally whisking melted butter, lemon juice and fresh thyme leaves. Fish is dusted with flour, flash- fried in a hot pan and drizzled with the sauce. I did say it was a quick dinner...easy as well.

Serves 4

4 Tilapia Fillets 
3/4 teaspoon Kosher Salt 
Fresh ground Black Pepper
2 tablespoons all purpose Flour
5 tablespoons Butter
1/2 Lemon
1 teaspoon Thyme leaves
2-3 tablespoons Canola Oil
Parsley leaves

Cut tilapia vertically in half along the middle. 

Wash well and pat fillets dry. 

Dust with salt and pepper on both sides. Let fillets sit while you make the sauce.

Melt butter over low heat for 3-5 minutes till it gives off a nutty aroma. Do not let it brown. 

Whisk juice of half a lemon into butter. 

Drop thyme leaves in and let butter bubble gently for a minute more.

Heat canola oil in a nonstick saucepan. 

Coat fillets in flour. Tap off excess flour. 

Place fillets in the saucepan. Try not to crowd them. Fry them in two batches.

Fry till the underside is golden and crisp. Flip and do the same for the other side.

Place fillets on a plate. 

Heat butter sauce till warm.

Drizzle sauce over fillets.

Garnish with a little parsley. 

Serve the fish piping hot.

Fillets disappear one-two-three. This light meal delights the palate, our senses and our whetted appetites.

Monday, June 22, 2020

Cornish Game Hens with A Smoked Paprika Rub

Chicken in the US is very blah. Breasts need marinations, thighs too. But Cornish game hens tell another story. These small birds are packed with flavor. Close your eyes and think of the taste of an Indian desi chicken. Game hens come pretty close. Inspite of the similarities, I plan on a marinade. That's just me. 

The hens benefit from a twenty-four hour salt rub. I had the time, but an overnight stay in the fridge would suffice. The rub comprises of smoked paprika, onion powder, garlic powder, oregano, chipotle chile powder, chile flakes and loads of pepper. Hens sit on a bed of sliced onions, garlic, lemon and thyme sprigs. Olive oil is drizzled over the birds before they sizzle and roast in a hot oven. 

Serves 4

2 Cornish Game Hens
2 teaspoons Kosher Salt
3 teaspoons Smoked Paprika
1 tablespoon Paprika
1/2 teaspoon Onion Powder
1 teaspoon  Garlic Powder
1/2 teaspoon Oregano
1 teaspoon Chipotle Chile Powder
1/2 teaspoon Chile Flakes
1 teaspoon Kosher Salt
1 teaspoon ground Black Pepper
2 large Onions 
6 Garlic cloves
1 Lemon
4-5 Thyme Sprigs
2-3 tablespoons Olive Oil

Unwrap hens and remove the innards. You could make stock by boiling the innard with peppercorns, onion and carrot. Strain and use at a later time. Or discard the innards.

Hold the hens vertically to let the liquids drip out. 

Place hens in a shallow container and pat dry. 

Rub 1 teaspoon of salt each, all over the birds. 

Refrigerate the hens for 12-24 hours, depending on your time factor. Do not cover the hens.

Take the hens out of the fridge an hour before you roast them.

Make the rub by combining all the powders. 

Heat oven to 425F/230C.

Peel and slice onions in half. Cut the halves into 1/2 inch thick slices. 

Peel garlic cloves.

Slice lemons thinly.

Scatter onions, garlic, thyme sprigs and half the lemons in the bottom of an ovenproof dish. Season lightly with salt.

Massage the hens with the rub. Make sure to add rub to the insides of the hens as well.

Place the hens on top of the onions. Drizzle olive oil over hens. 

Roast hens.

After 30 minutes, arrange the remaining lemons on top of the hens.

 Continue roasting for another 20-25 minutes. 

Take them out of the oven. 

Use a sharp knife to carve each hen into half, slicing through the top.

Serve each half, accompanied ideally with mashed potatoes. Or any veggie of your choice.

This is a feel good meal. Spice-laden chicken, roasted onions and garlic and hefty portion of mashed potatoes makes a transformative dinner.

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Strawberry Shortcakes

Obsessing about dessert is a full time occupation. I dream in technicolor, the hankering  to be assuaged by some ethereal concoction. Most often it is a pipe dream. But sometimes, dreams materialize into sweet satisfaction. The excuse is making dessert for friends were are meeting after months of isolation!

I bake buttermilk biscuits. Ripe strawberries are cored and quartered. Cream and sugar are whipped.  Game, set, match! 

Makes 20 

2 cups all purpose Flour
4 teaspoons Baking Powder
1/4 teaspoon Baking Soda
1 teaspoon Kosher Salt
1 teaspoon Sugar
2 tablespoons cold Butter
2 tablespoons cold Crisco or any Vegetable Shortening (use more Butter if you haven't any Crisco)
3/4 cup full fat Buttermilk 
Melted Butter

2 cups cored and quartered Strawberries
1/2 cup Cream
2 teaspoons Sugar
Icing Sugar

Place flour, baking powder and soda, salt and sugar in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse a few times to mix. 

Cut butter and Crisco into 1 inch cubes. Add to flour and pulse 10-15 times till mix resembles small peas.

Pour buttermilk in while pulsing the flour. 

Once dough comes together, scrape it onto a floured surface.

Heat oven to 425F/220C.

Pat or roll the dough into a circle that is 1/2 inch thick. 

Use a 2 inch round biscuit cutter and punch shortcakes. 

Place them on a a baking sheet. 

Gather up remaining dough, roll out again and cut out more cakes. You should get about 20 pieces. 

Place biscuits close to each other on the baking sheet. 

Bake for 15 minutes till the tops are light brown. 

Whip cream and sugar till stiff. Keep in the fridge till you are ready to assemble the shortcakes.

Take them out of the oven and brush tops with melted butter.

Assemble the cakes by cutting the biscuits in half horizontally. 

Mound strawberries on the bottom half of biscuit. 

Spoon a blob of whipped cream over the berries. 

Top with other half. 

Dust shortcakes with icing sugar. 

Hold them in your hand and take a big rewarding bite.

Summer and strawberries. Strawberries and biscuits. With a spoonful of cream. Dreams do come true...

Friday, June 12, 2020

Southwestern Salad

The weather dictates my kitchen.  A cold snap means soup and hearty oven bakes. Warm breezes command salads. In my book,  salad is usually an accompaniment. This one sits next to chorizo tacos. 

I blister poblano pepper chunks in a dry pan. Corn kernels get the same treatment. The dressing is simple. Fresh mint and cilantro blended with olive oil and lemon juice. A quick toss and salad is served.

Serves 4

1 large Poblano Pepper
3/4 cup Corn Kernels, fresh or frozen
1 cup cooked Black Beans
1/2 cup Cherry Tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup Mint Leaves
1/4 cup Cilantro leaves
2 tablespoons Olive Oil
3 tablespoons Lemon or Lime Juice
Kosher Salt

Cut poblano and remove the seeds and white pith. Chop into 1 inch chunks.

Heat a cast iron or nonstick pan over high flame.

Drop peppers into the pan and saute on high heat till skins start blistering. The peppers shouldn't go completely soft but should be firm. Remove from pan onto a plate. 

Drop the corn into pan and saute till corn had blistered as well. Remove from pan on to a plate.

Make the dressing by blending mint, cilantro, olive oil, lemon juice and a pinch of kosher salt till smooth. 

Pile beans, poblanos, corn and tomatoes in a bowl. 

Season with kosher salt.

Drench salad with all the dressing. 

Toss salad and serve at room temperature. 

Use any green pepper if you cannot find poblanos.

Mexican black beans are earthy and wholesome, though  any bean or rajma could be substituted.

This colorful melange packs a little bite and a lot of oomph. Leftovers are converted into a delicious pizza topping with a crumble of cotija. I am pleased as Punch!


Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Apple Rosettes

Many of us scroll through Pinterest for inspiration. We create boards, pinning with gay abandon. Some of us even go back and try out saved pins. I have a few boards, as I am a sporadic pinner. Going through old boards I find this recipe pin. The rosettes look ever so tempting so I feel compelled to make an attempt inspite of the complexities involved. The other instigation is a bunch of stale apples. The Pinterest products look beautiful. But will I get that effect, is the hundred dollar question!

One recipe calls for apple slices to be soaked in ginger ale. I have none. Another says to soak them in warm water. Cored and thinly sliced, I soak them in warm water with a squeeze of lemon juice. They remain stiff. Another recipe recommends microwaving them. They get zapped in several short bursts. Still not pliable. What the heck! Let me try drowning them in hot water. Et voila! Success! With a short soak they become pliant and soft. This will allow them to be rolled and wrapped, which is the next complicated step!

Shortcrust pastry is the base. Store bought pastry is a great option. I make my own. Rolled into a rectangle, the pastry is cut into one inch thick strips. Apple slices are drained and patted dry. The semi circles are arranged on the pastry strip, overlapping slightly. Dusted with sugar and cinnamon, the strip is gently rolled, then placed in a mini muffin pan. The baked rosettes are brushed with an apricot glaze and eagerly popped into my mouth! 

Adapted from Pinterest
Makes 12-16

1 1/4 cup all purpose Flour
1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt
1 tablespoon Sugar
4 tablespoons cold Butter
1/3 cup ice cold Water

2 small red Apples
Lemon Juice
Hot Water
Cinnamon Powder

2 tablespoons Apricot Jam
1 teaspoon Sugar
2 tablespoons Water

Make the pastry by whisking flour, salt and sugar.

Grate cold butter and add to flour. Use your fingers to rub butter into flour.

Add cold water gradually till the dough comes together as ball. 

Pat dough into a rectangle, place in a clean plastic bag and refrigerate for 15 minutes. 

The above steps can also be done in a food processor. Pulse the flour and butter till dough looks like small peas and comes together in your fingers. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and gather into a ball. Pat dough into a rectangle, place in a clean plastic bag and refrigerate for 15 minutes. 

Cut apples in half and core the centers. 

Place the apples cut side down and slice into 1/16 inches, that is very thin slices, but thick enough that you can see the red peel. This happens with trial and error. The slices need to be thin enough to soften and bend without breaking.  

Put the slices in a bowl. 

Heat 4 cups of water till almost boiling. Pour water over apples.

Squeeze a little lemon juice over the apples. 

Stir the apples and let them soak for 5 minutes.

Drain apples and pat dry. 

Use a mini muffin pan to make the rosettes. If it isn't nonstick, butter the bottom and sides of the muffin depressions. Regular muffin pans will result in the rosettes spreading  as they bake. If you dont have mini muffin pans, use the mini cupcake paper holders.  Place those in regular muffin pans. I havent tried this, but I think the principle is the same.

Take pastry out of the fridge. 

Lightly flour your counter. 

Dust pastry with a little flour and roll it into a 12x6 inch rectangle. The pastry should be 1/8 inch thick.

Use a ruler and pizza cutter to cut the pastry lenghtwise into 1 inch thin strips.  Divide and cut each strip into one that is 6 inches long. You should have 12 6-inch long strips. 

Start by placing 1 apple slice just under the top end of the strip, beginning on the left. The skin side should be facing towards you and the flat end on the pastry. Part of the slice will be on the pastry and part off the pastry. Place a second slice,  slightly overlapping the first. Continue with overlapping slices till you reach the end of the strip. You might use 6-7 slices depending on their size. 

Dust apples with sugar and cinnamon. 

Start rolling the strip from the left. Gently roll.  Place the roll apple side up in the muffin tin. 

Finish the other strips in the same manner.

Dust rosettes with a little sugar.

Once the rosettes are done refrigerate for 15 minutes.

Heat the oven to 400F/230C.

Bake rosettes for 30 minutes. 

While rosettes bake, make the glaze by combining apricot jam, sugar and water in a saucepan. Heat on low flame for 7-8 minutes. Strain glaze though a fine mesh. You will get a smooth thick liquid.

Take rosettes out of the oven. Cool for 5 minutes. Use a spatula to nudge the rosettes out of the muffin tins. Place them on a platter. 

Brush the glaze over the apple petals. 

They taste best warm. 

When the end result is like the inspiration, the sense of satisfaction is overwhelming... very Pinteresting!

Friday, June 5, 2020

Golden Garlic Rice

Our Thai take out comes with this garlic fried rice which delights us. It is slightly salty with hints of soy, a touch of crispy rice and a whole lot of golden fried garlic. We are enamored! I know I must make this for the smitten.

Jasmine rice is the optimal choice. That is not an option for me. Being housebound, we ate a lot of rice, almost exclusively the basmati kind.  Once that supply ran low, I made a foray to the Indian grocery, only to stand flabbergasted before depleted shelves.  I guess the lockdown has driven people to hoard rice! Completely discombobulated I stared at barren shelves, when my eyes spied a twenty pound gunny sack of basmati rice in a corner. My hands reached for the bag in triumph and joy! It was like finding that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow world was right again. But wait... the story hasn't ended. Back home, I ascertain I have a humongous bag of parboiled basmati!! Dismay and dejection prevails. I don't even know how to cook parboiled rice, except make idli and dosa batter, something I rarely endeavor.  What am I to do??? Basmati has disappeared off shelves everywhere! Amazon is rife with outrageously priced basmati, amounts I would pay for a nugget of gold! The local stores have none. So what are my options, but to cook it all? I offer my neighbor some. Her plight is similar to mine, so she takes some off my hands. I still have ten pounds to consume! 

So folks, today's rice is made not with jasmine, not basmati, but their fat chewy cousin. Not quite the best, just a good friend in need.

Serves 4

1 cup Jasmine, Basmati or any *%#*  rice you can find.
1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt
4 tablespoons Butter
8-10 Garlic cloves
1/4 cup Chicken Stock
2 tablespoons Shoyu or Tamari (or low-sodium Soy Sauce)
Scallions, sliced thin
Cilantro, chopped

Cook rice with salt. Use your method of choice.  Rinse rice well. Add double the quantity of water, bring it to a boil, cover the pan, turn the flame to low and cook it for 14 minutes.  OR if you have parboiled rice like me, just throw the rice into a large saucepan, rinse well  and boil the rice in plenty of water for 13-14 minutes. Drain rice in a colander and watch the starch drain away!  Cover rice to keep warm.

While the rice cooks, mince garlic finely. 

Melt butter in small pan.

Fry minced garlic on a low flame till golden brown. Keep aside. 

Mix chicken stock and soy sauce in small bowl.

Once the rice is cooked, spoon it onto a serving dish. 

Drizzle stock-soy mixture over rice. Rice should be gently stained brown.

Top rice with garlic, scallions and cilantro. 

Toss well and enjoy!

The moral of this episode should be buyer beware... the upside is watching the starch drain away....... its a lose/win situation!