Thursday, June 15, 2017

Leek and Cheese Frittata

Liquid sunshine pours through the patio umbrella. The late morning light and soft breeze impels me towards an outdoor lunch. Something simple, a light meal, letting me bask in this glorious sunlight. A quick vegetable soup materializes with odd pieces from the the larder. A little bit of bacon, a potato, two carrots and a few cherry tomatoes can make a hearty soup. If I add a light frittata to the meal, all will be pleased.

I break and whisk eggs lightly. A fat leek is sliced and sauteed in butter. Yes butter...sauteed leeks in butter taste heavenly! Eggs are poured over lightly browned leeks. I drop bits of Boursin into eggs. Use any soft cheese. Boursin adds enough tang to enhance the eggs. Thyme and basil are scattered over as well. Covered, the frittata cooks quickly. Once the eggs firm up in the center, we are ready for another al fresco meal.

Serves 2-3

6 Eggs
1 large Leek
1 tablespoon Butter
1/4 cup Boursin or any soft cheese (Goat, flavored Cream Cheese)
1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt
1/4 teaspoon ground Black Pepper 
2 sprigs Thyme
4-5 Basil leaves

Crack eggs into a bowl. Whisk well.

Trim green ends of leeks. Cut vertically in half. Wash well under running water to remove all grit. Pat dry.

Chop leeks into thin slices. 

Heat butter in a 6-7 inch nonstick saucepan.

Add leeks to melted butter and saute till light brown.

Season eggs with salt. Whisk to mix.

Pour eggs over leeks.

Dot eggs with small dabs of cheese.

Season with black pepper.

Take thyme leaves off stems and scatter over fritatta.

Sliver basil and scatter over frittata as well.

Cover and cook over a medium flame for 8-10 minutes till the center is cooked and not runny and the edges are firm. The bottom will be golden brown.

Slide fritatta onto a plate.

slice into wedges and serve.

Pair frittata with a green salad or some soup.

As al fresco lunches go, this one lives up to the hype! Each time we do so, it feels like we have captured a bit of the day on our plate. The frittata is just that. We cut the round into portions. Triangles of mellow yellow grace our plates... or should I say wedges of sunshine!

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Sausage Stuffed Peppers

I have just realized that sausage meat makes for a very tasty stuffing. For the first time I use a packaged sausage mix. Dubious at first, I cook the meat as I would ground beef. A little onion, garlic, a few choice spices, and the meat emanates a fragrant aroma. It also helps that the sausage is already flavored. We eat some with rice. Leftovers could be used in so many ways. This time they will be stuffing for peppers.

Grocery stores have been carrying bags of small colorful mini peppers for a few years now. They make a crunchy addition to salad, a delicious side sauteed with onions and now they are a vessel for my leftover sausage. It is a bit tricky to stuff them. I read an Ottolenghi recipe that tells me to first make a vee shaped cut. Then lift the flap and fill the pepper. The first one is experimental, but usable. I get better with each pepper I work on! Filled peppers roast in a hot oven and out they come looking mouthwatering.... temptation personified. 

Serves 4

12-15 small Peppers
8oz  ground Sausage meat (I used Jimmy Dean)
2 tablespoons Canola Oil 
1 small Onion
1/2 teaspoon Garlic paste
1/2 teaspoon Garam masala
2 tablespoons Yogurt 
2 tablespoons chopped Cilantro 
1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt 
Olive oil

Make the stuffing by chopping onion finely.

Heat canola oil in a saucepan.

Add chopped onion to hot oil and saute till golden brown.

Scatter chunks of sausage over onions. Break up chunks with a spoon. You should have very small pieces of sausage. Saute sausage till it changes color, a few minutes.

Add garlic paste, garam masala, yogurt, cilantro and salt to sausage. Stir vigorously to incorporate. Saute for a few minutes.

Add 1/2 cup water to sausage. Cover pan and cook for 10-15 minutes over a medium flame. Uncover pan and let all moisture dry up. Let meat cool for a short while before stuffing peppers.

Place a pepper on a cutting board. Using a sharp knife make a cut starting on the right side near the stem, going down about 3/4 of the pepper towards the narrow end. Make another cut starting on the left side. This cut should meet the right handed cut in a vee shape. With your knife lift the flap. The pepper is ready to be stuffed. Cut the peppers prior to stuffing for easier prep.

Stuff each pepper with about 2 tablespoons of meat. 

Heat oven to 375F.

Cover the bottom of an ovenproof dish with a little olive oil.

Lay stuffed peppers in the dish. 

Sprinkle a little kosher salt over peppers.

Bake uncovered for 18-25 minutes.

Take peppers out of the oven. 

Serve them with a salad or as part of the meal.

The peppers have roasted up soft and wrinkly. These little bites look so elegant and delicious. And as lunch progresses, the fact that they are, is depicted by the empty platter before me. 

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Chicken Burrah Kabab

My son graduates so we throw him a small backyard affair for his friends. The table is laden with foods that are Rehan's favorites. From childhood to present times, this child has remained faithful to certain meat-centric dishes, which he eats with gusto. Beef frankies have top billing. Kheema dogs are next, vying with chicken kababs for second place. The first two are easy to put together. Kababs are a longer story.

Having made these heavily spiced kababs before, I know it takes two marinades to develop that distinct taste. Shauna painstakingly cleans and cubes an enormous amount of boneless skinless chicken thighs. Thighs work best as they roast well, staying juicy and moist. Breasts tend to turn dry as they cook. Not my choice, but they might be yours, so go ahead. They are first coated with garlic and ginger paste, chile powder, lime juice, salt and mustard oil. They sit in the fridge for about an hour before I add more chile and cumin powder, garam masala, yogurt, dried fenugreek and more mustard oil. Two additions of mustard oil you might ask? Nothing else will suffice, as this oil has a taste all of its own. The first marinade allows the chicken to absorb the strong flavors and the second marinade stays long enough to impart flavor to the outer coating. Thoroughly mixed, I let the chicken sit in the fridge overnight. The longer it marinates, the more flavorful the kababs will be.

The morning of the lunch I soak a bunch of skewers in water. Metal skewers are the best choice as they hold up well on the grill. But we haven't enough, hence the wooden ones. Then comes the laborious task of skewering. Red onion and green peppers are cut into small chunks. The skewer begins with onion or green pepper, followed by chicken, pepper, chicken and ending with onion. I like to begin and end with the veggies. It's a personal choice. Do what suits you. There is no wrong way. The grill is fired up. Skewers are lightly sprayed with oil and laid on the grill. Cook them over a medium heat. Chicken takes a while to cook so take your time. Slow and low allows the kababs to develop an even char. Once they are done, squeeze some lime on them and partake of your labors.

Serves 4-6 or makes 8-10 skewers

2 pounds boneless skinless Chicken Thighs
3 teaspoons Garlic paste
3 teaspoons Ginger paste
1 teaspoon Chile powder
2 tablespoons Lime juice
3 tablespoons Mustard Oil
4 tablespoons Garam masala
1 teaspoon Cumin powder 
1/2-1 teaspoon Chile powder
1/2 cup whole or 2% Yogurt 
2 teaspoons Dried Fenugreek or Kasuri Methi
2 teaspoon Kosher Salt 
2 teaspoons Mustard Oil 
1 large Red Onion
2 Green Peppers 
Wooden or Metal Skewers
Lime slices

Chop thighs into 2 x 2 inch pieces. Wash and pat dry. Place thighs in a glass bowl.

Add garlic and ginger paste, chile powder, lime juice and 3 tablespoons of mustard oil to chicken. Rub spices into chicken. Cover and refrigerate for an hour.

Take thighs out of the fridge and add chile powder, garam masala, cumin powder, yogurt, kasuri methi, salt and additional mustard oil. Use your hands to massage spices into chicken. Or gloves.

Cover and return to the fridge. Let chicken sit overnight for best results.

Take chicken out of the fridge an hour before grilling so it comes to room temperature.

Soak wooden skewers for an hour in water. 

Chop onion and peppers into 2 inch chunks. Keep the chunks large as you want them to keep their shape as they grill.

Start by threading an onion chunk onto the skewer. Follow it up by two pieces of chicken, a green pepper piece, two pieces of chicken and end with onion. 

Heat a gas grill till it is about 500F. (See NOTES below for other ways to cook the chicken)

Spray skewers with oil before laying them spray side down on the grill. 

Cook chicken on a medium setting for about 8-10 minutes on one side. Spray chicken and then flip skewers and cook for another 7-8 minutes. 

Heap skewers on a platter and serve with lime slices.

For an easier serving style, pull chicken off the skewers and mound on a platter. Arrange lime slices around chicken.



Chicken skewers could be cooked on a charcoal grill, a tandoor or the oven.  The timing is the same for a charcoal grill and tandoor. Cook chicken skewers in a 400F oven for 20 minutes. You could finish the skewers by broiling them for a few minutes to get the charred look.

Mustard oil has a very distinctive flavor and is essential to the kababs. You could use olive or canola oil in place if you cannot find it, but the flavor will be different. It is available at Indian or specialty grocery stores.

Dried fenugreek or kasuri methi is another ingredient that gives these kababs an authentic taste. Extremely aromatic, this strong dried spice is an essential component. Most Indian groceries carry both mustard oil and dried fenugreek. It definitely is worth seeking them out.

Rehan's friends come to lunch and stay till dinner!! Frankies, kheema dogs, chicken kababs, lemon pasta, roasted fingerling potatoes, watermelon feta salad and tomato basil mozzarella skewers fill the table. The chocolate ganache cake disappears fast. Food stays on the table as the kids nibble throughout the day. I can picture Rehan at his kindergarten graduation, a ceremony rife with hilarious moments. Cap and gown is now put away, replaced with gravitas, briefcase and suit! Time has a funny way of creeping up on you, just like the hug I get at the end of this special evening. 

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Fried Fish with Soy and Chile Glaze

The Rodrigues' are visiting so I attempt to put my best culinary foot forward. It is a joy to cook for them as they truly relish whatever comes out of my kitchen. The theme is Asian. A vibrant soba noodle salad, replete with yellow and orange peppers, red radishes, slivers of green mango and a fistful of herbs from Geets' garden. A bowl of blistered Shishito peppers. A tentative stab at shrimp pajeon with a gochujang sauce. And a main course of tilapia with a dark soy glaze.

Tilapia filets are seasoned with salt and pepper and then dusted with arrowroot. Flash fried in a pan and finished in the oven, the filets are then drizzled with an aromatic soy sauce. Start with butter and olive oil. Add finely minced onions, ginger, garlic and green chiles. Saute till the air is perfumed with a heavenly aroma. Then add kecap manis, light soy, dark soy, sugar and pepper powder. The sauce is similar to another recipe I use with chicken. As the sauce sits, it intensifies in flavor. This deep brown glaze gets its character from dark soy sauce. Leave it out and you have a second tier glaze. Good, but not great.

Serve 4

8 Tilapia filets 
1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt 
1/2 teaspoon ground Black Pepper 
1-2 tablespoons Arrowroot or Cornstarch 
2 tablespoons Olive Oil 
3 tablespoons Butter
1 small Onion
1 tablespoon finely minced Ginger
1 tablespoon finely minced Garlic
2 tablespoons finely minced Green Chile
2 tablespoons Kecap Manis
1 tablespoon light or regular Soy Sauce 
2 tablespoons Dark Soy Sauce 
1 teaspoons Sugar
2-3 tablespoons Black Pepper powder 
Cilantro for garnishing

Wash and pat dry tilapia filets.

Heat oven to 300F.

Season filets with salt and pepper on both sides.

Dust with arrowroot lightly on both sides.

Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a nonstick saucepan.

Fry the filets for 2-3 minutes on each side till slightly colored. Place them in an ovenproof plate.

Bake filets for 10 minutes.

Make the sauce while filets bake.

Heat remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil and butter in a small pan.

When butter has melted, add onion, ginger, garlic and green chiles. Saute for 2-3 minutes till onion is translucent.

Add kecap manis, light and dark soy sauces and sugar. Bring sauce to simmer and let it bubble for 3-5 minutes stirring often.

Add pepper powder and take it off the flame. You could make the sauce earlier as the flavor intensifies as it sits.

Take filets out of the oven and arrange on a serving platter.

Drizzle glaze generously over filets.

Garnish with cilantro and enjoy!


Any fish filets could be used. Boneless fish works the best.

The sauce could be made up to 6 hours earlier. Reheat till warm before drizzling over fish.

There is no substitute for dark soy sauce. It has a strong flavor that cannot be recreated or substituted.

It has been a while since the four of us have sat down to dinner. Everything feels right. The wine, the food, but most of all our friendship. Thirty two years has a treasure trove of memories. Though we do not live a couple of towns away anymore, the distance apart brings us closer together. And for that we are blessed.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Alu Methi Subji-- Potatoes with Fenugreek Leaves


How does an Indian meal come together? The carnivores consume a meat, a vegetable side, some lentils and Indian bread or rice. The herbivores do much of the same with the exception of meat. The common factor?? The veggies of course. The rest of the meal as well, but the crux of the matter is the veggie. I can't imagine a meal without some form of veggies. 

I make ground sausage with spices. To round out the popular meat and potatoes theme, I settle on baby Yukon gold potatoes, with fresh fenugreek leaves or methi. The former tastes buttery and the latter slightly bitter. Methi leaves are good for your body, blood and well being. No lecture here on nutrient values, just a nudge to use them frequently. They are sold in bunches at Indian grocers. Pick healthy looking leaves, discarding inedible stems. Rinse leaves under running water to remove all grit and sand, their growing medium.  Chop leaves roughly and add to dal, ground meat, fritters or veggies. I'm doing just that. I drop a bunch of finely chopped leaves to cooked potatoes. And wait for them to wilt slightly before we eat.

Serves 4

1 pound small Potatoes 
4 Garlic cloves 
2 cups Methi or Fenugreek leaves, stems discarded
1-2 green Chiles
1 tablespoon Ghee
1/2 teaspoon Cumin seeds
6-8 Curry leaves 
3/4 teaspoon Kosher Salt 
Cilantro for garnishing 

Wash and dry potatoes. Cut then into thin slices.

Slice garlic, chile and curry leaves thinly.

Wash methi well as it is sometimes sandy and gritty. Squeeze out water and chop roughly.

Heat ghee in a nonstick skillet.

When ghee shimmers, add cumin seeds. Let them turn deep brown.

Drop garlic and curry leaves into ghee. Let garlic turn brown.

Add chopped green chile in. Saute for a few seconds.

Add potatoes and kosher salt. Stir well so potatoes are coated with ghee.

Cover skillet and cook over low heat till potatoes are soft, about 10-15 minutes.

Add chopped methi leaves to potatoes. Stir to mix. Cover and steam for 5 more minutes till methi leaves have wilted. The methi leaves retain their bright green color if you serve the veggies as soon as they are done. They turn a dark green if kept covered for another half hour. Their flavor remain the same.

Garnish with cilantro and serve.

The vegetable subji or side holds a distinctive taste. Buttery potatoes mixed with bitter methi  leaves accented by crisp garlic slices. The sausage kheema has an ideal companion!

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Roast Chicken in Poblano Cream

Dear friends come to visit from Pune, India. Dinner has to be special as Reena, Bona and Damini warrant those bells and whistles. I'm told they like soup. Done. Something non-Indian is preferred. Done. The chicken I've made last week should be appreciated. Pan- roasted thighs are finished in the oven, with sprigs of thyme. Charred poblano chiles are blended with cream, which is poured over the roasted chicken. Something so simple just tastes heavenly.  

These friends are stalwarts, the kind you want in your corner when the going gets tough. They deserve my best effort. We make celery soup with Gorgonzola. Grilled asparagus, Brussels sprouts and scallions are wok fried with garlic and snap peas. Steamed potatoes with garlic oil ooze flavor. Sides are done!

Chicken thighs are preferable, as they roast quickly. Boneless and skinless, they turn golden brown in a cast iron skillet. The skillet then goes into a very hot oven to roast uncovered for a short spell. Browning continues in the oven, along with some aromatic lemon thyme sprigs. Poblano peppers give the sauce a sharpness. Charring them over an open flame or on a grill adds a smoky quality to the sauce. Puree the charred poblano with cream. The resulting color and texture is delightful to the eye and palate. 

Serves 4

1 1/2 pounds boneless skinless Chicken Thighs
3/4 teaspoon Kosher Salt 
1 teaspoon ground Black Pepper 
2 tablespoons Olive Oil 
4-5 Thyme sprigs
2 Poblano Peppers 
3/4 cup Cream
A pinch of Kosher Salt 
Cilantro for garnishing

Trim visible fat off thighs. Cut each thigh in half. Wash and pat dry. 

Season thighs with salt and pepper.

Preheat oven to 400F.

Heat olive oil in a cast iron pan. If your saucepan is not oven proof, use a saucepan and follow the instructions below.

Saute chicken a few pieces at a time.  Let pieces saute till golden brown on one side. It takes 5-8 minutes. Turn chicken over and brown the other side as well. 

Do not crowd the pan. Saute chicken in two batches.

Return chicken to pan and add thyme sprigs to pan as well. Or if your saucepan is not oven proof, place chicken and thyme in a foil lined oven proof dish. 

Roast chicken uncovered for 15 minutes.

Char poblano peppers over a high flame or on a grill, blistering all sides.  Peel off as much outer skin as possible. Remove seeds and discard. Chop peppers roughly.

Puree peppers and cream in a food processor or use an immersion blender. I prefer these two devices versus a blender. They allows you to control the texture and color of the sauce, leaving bits of pepper visible and  adding to the visual appeal.

Take chicken out of the oven. 

Pour poblano sauce over chicken. If you pour the sauce into the oven proof dish, return dish to oven for another 10 minutes.

Place cast iron pan over a medium flame and cook the chicken for 5 minutes till sauce is bubbling.

Garnish with cilantro leaves.

 A simple strawberry cream cheese tart appeases our sweet tooth. Wine flows. Old Monk rum is a welcome drink. An evening of laughs and lengthy stories makes us long for Prassy's company. 

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Cauliflower in Pepper Garlic Sauce

A recent news report comments on the popularity of cauliflower. It is an aha moment for those who have not enjoyed the delights of this mild tasting veggie. And that must be why the prices of these heads have soared in the last few months. Nevertheless, I still buy them. Because it is one of the most requested vegetable by family. Because we love how cauliflower adapts and adopts the flavors it is cooked with, be it florets in masala, pureed into soup or plain pan fried. 

I'm making Asian tonight. Cauliflower goes well with the stir fried beef I am about to wok-fry. How many ways can you make this veggie in an Asian fashion? One way is Cauliflower Manchurian, a staple in the Indo-Chinese fusion repertoire. It starts with florets deep-fried in batter, then coated in a 3 alarm spicy soy based sauce. Having made the recipe a couple of times, I know the labor intensive steps it involves. I remember watching Suvir Saran cook a similar recipe, oven roasting mildly spiced cauliflower florets instead of deep-frying them. I am intrigued. It looks easier, less messy and more calorie conscious. 

Florets are coated with olive oil, dusted with cumin, coriander, roasted in a hot oven till they are crunchy and brown. The sauce starts with olive oil. Lots of garlic and pepper provide the zing. Don't let the large amount of pepper stop you. It dissipates into the sauce. Ketchup gives the sauce a silky quality. As it simmers, the sauce darkens to an intense red color. A quick toss in the sauce and the florets are ready to eat.

Serves 4

4 cups Cauliflower florets
2 tablespoons Olive Oil 
1/2 teaspoon Cumin powder 
1/2 teaspoon Coriander powder 
1/4  teaspoon Kosher Salt 
10 Garlic cloves
2 teaspoons Black Pepper powder
1 tablespoon Olive Oil 
1 cup Ketchup
1/4 teaspoon Chile powder
Scallions, cut on a bias

Preheat oven to 400F.

Line a baking sheet with aluminium foil for easy clean up.

Put florets on a baking sheet.

Drizzle olive oil over florets.

Sprinkle cumin and coriander powders over florets. Season with salt.

Mix gently so florets are coated with oil and spices.

Roast on middle rack for 20-25 minutes till floret tips are dark brown. 

While cauliflower roasts, start the sauce.

Mince garlic finely.

Heat a tablespoon of oil in a deep sided saucepan.

When oil shimmers, add garlic and pepper powder. Stir.

When garlic is golden, add ketchup and chile powder.

Simmer over low fire for 15-20 minutes for sauce to thicken. It will darken as it simmers.

Take cauliflower out of the oven and add to sauce.

Toss florets so they are well coated.

Spoon onto a platter and garnish with chopped scallions and cilantro.

I am in love with oven roasted cauliflower. Each bite has some crunchy texture, some tang. Fork tender florets draped in silken tomato make for one zesty accompanying side.