Thursday, August 29, 2013

An Ode to Eggs--Fried Eggs with Truffle Salt

Dinner time comes around
To the fridge I go to scrounge
For some leftovers from days past
But I'm to be disappointed very fast
Like old Mother Hubbard 
Who had a desolate cupboard
My fridge takes on 
The appearance of destitution
The shelves are bare
Of  food in Tupperware 
In panic I glance at the clock
It's nine pm as I look in shock
I better get a move on with dinner
Some kind of meat will be a winner
Since the hour is so late 
Inspiration becomes eggs on a plate
Ingredients are retrieved from the fridge
They sit on the counter for a smidge
Butter sizzles in the saucepan
Eggs are broken as carefully as I can
Sunny side up bottoms crusty and brown
I try not to break the yolk with a frown
Slices of  bread pop in to toast
Before you know it we are ready to coast
A hefty pinch of truffle salt
Cracked pepper to a fault
Earthy smell of truffle assaults my senses
I hustle for utensils
Truffled eggs buttered toast and a glass of wine 
I feel so ooh-la-la at dinner time 
My way is to dip white in yellow
With a crusty piece of toast to make my mood very mellow
Breakfast for dinner is often done
In our house food is always fun!

Fried Eggs with Truffle Salt
Makes 1 serving

1 Egg
A small pat of Butter
A generous pinch of Truffle Salt

Heat a saucepan and add the pat of butter.

Let the butter melt and sizzle.

Break the egg into the pan and fry till the edges are crusty.

Sprinkle truffle salt over fried egg and eat with toast.


Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Chicken Tenders Stuffed with Goat Cheese

It has begun! My kitchen is officially ready to entertain. I plan lunches, brunches, breakfasts and dinners. Shauna interjects. Her friends want to see the new and improved home. I accommodate her. We plan the menu. Recipes fly back and forth. One friend is a vegetarian, one does not eat spicy food and all love dessert. A refreshing salad of fennel, oranges and beets sit atop spring mix. Greens are a must, so she roasts pencil thin asparagus spears and smothers them with lemon zest. She volunteers to make arancini. I allow her the privilege of making the most complicated item. We settle on chicken tenders, a childhood throwback, with a grown-up twist. I flatten tenders, stuff them with a herb goat cheese and finish them with marinara sauce.

The kids loved chicken tenders when they were young. Mine were never as good as the fast food mavens. Chicken nuggets and ketchup were treats after exams, painful doctors' visits and for times when Mum was "too tired to cook." As adults, they relish the grown-up version much much more. The stuffing adds a piquancy to bland  meat. I shy away from breast meat, preferring to use tenders instead. Shauna and I dance our way through prep work.

She sets the table. French knives, wine glasses and plates make up a formal table. Emo music plays. Appetizers sit in the living room. The oven hisses, warming trays laden with chicken, arancini and asparagus. Her friends arrive, oohing and aahing over new furnishings and appliances. Hunger pangs prevail. Wine is uncorked. Dinner is served.

Chicken Tenders Stuffed with Goat Cheese
Makes 12

12 Chicken Tenders
1 teaspoon  Kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground Black pepper
3/4 cup Goat Cheese
1 teaspoon fresh Thyme leaves
1 tablespoon finely cut Parsley leaves 
1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt
A few grinds Black pepper
1 Egg
1 cup Breadcrumbs.. or more if you need
Canola oil to shallow fry

Wash and trim chicken tenders. Pat them dry.

Using a sharp knife, butterfly the chicken.  

Season with Kosher salt and pepper.

Mix goat cheese, thyme, parsley, Kosher salt and pepper.

Spoon up a marble-sized ball of goat cheese. Roll it into an ovoid shape.

Stuff a ball into the pocket of the chicken tender, pulling the flap to close the seam. Place the chicken seam side down.

Refrigerate the tenders for 15 minutes so the pieces firm up. It makes breading easier.

Break an egg in a shallow bowl and whisk well.

Keep breadcrumbs in a bowl too.

Heat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Brush both sides of the chicken tender with egg wash.

Coat with breadcrumbs, patting well for crumbs to adhere.

Repeat with all tenders using more breadcrumbs if necessary.

Heat canola oil in a non-stick pan and fry tenders on high heat.

Let chicken brown 2 to 5 minutes on each side.

The goat cheese might ooze out a little at this time. Thats ok.

Place them in an oven-proof dish, loosely cover with foil and finish cooking oven for 20 minutes.

At this point you could serve them with marinara sauce. Or if dinner is at a later time, chicken could be reheated in a low oven at 200 degrees F for 10 minutes.


Whole chicken breasts could be used in the same manner. You have to adjust the stuffing for size. You could also use pre-cut thinly sliced chicken breasts.

The tenders could be breaded ahead of time, covered and kept in the fridge for 3 to 4 hours.

You could also finish frying the tenders in the pan stovetop. I do this when we dont have large portions to fry. It takes longer, at least 6 to 8 minutes per side on a medium flame.

Animated chatter at the table overshadows the clink of cutlery and glass. I hear compliments and contentment as dinner progresses. It pleases me that the food brings so much joy to her friends. Much to my amazement, empty serving platters return to the kitchen. I expect leftovers like many such previous dinners. But no leftovers is a testament to their more sophisticated palates and to more space in the fridge!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Meatballs in Masala--Kofta Curry

It's great balls of fire!! Actually not so fiery. We don't do too well with a heavy hand of chile powder. In fact the last batch of chile powder I bought at the Indian grocery has been "aag baboola" or as we say in English, hotter than hell. I've had a few mishaps resulting in sweaty noses and mouths aflame. So I learn to temper, to sprinkle and finally to taste. Some people enjoy tasting as they cook. Not me. I like to put my face into the saucepan, inhaling spicy, sour, sweet bouquet. This is what gives me sense of seasoning. I recognize the heavenly fragrance of a completed dish. It just smells right.  

Back to the balls. Meatballs are a universal favorite. Kofta, kifta, kofte...whats in a name?Masala meat balls are a perennial hit. And I make them with green masala, with crisp fried onions and with a cream sauce. Sometimes koftas are an appetizer. Other times they are sides to a pullao and dal. Then I discovered this recipe in a treasure trove written by my Mum. With a lot of encouragement fronher children, she started writing recipes as way to pass time after Dad passed away. The kofta curry she claimed was one she used to make them when we were young. I claim no memory of this delicious dish. And I would've remembered something so good! Oh well...with age memories kind of blur ... So that's my only claim. But now I do make it often. The koftas are spice laden. The gravy gets its creaminess from coconut milk. Everyone likes it. What more can I say. 

 Makes 4 servings

1 pound Ground beef
1 small Onion
1/2 teaspoon Garlic paste
1/2 cup Cilantro 
2 green Chillies
1/2 teaspoon Chile powder
A pinch of Turmeric
1 teaspoon Garam masala
1 Egg
1 slice Bread
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
2 tablespoons Canola oil

Curry Masala
2 tablespoons Canola oil
2 large Onions
1 teaspoon Garlic paste
4 slices of Ginger
2 Tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon Chile powder
1/2 teaspoon Turmeric
1/2 teaspoon Garam masala
1 14oz can Coconut Milk
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
Cilantro to garnish 

Start with the koftas. 

Peel and finely chop the onion.

Chop cilantro finely.

Slit and slice the green chillies

Soak the slice of bread in water for 1 minute and then squeeze out the water.

Place ground beef, chopped onion, cilantro and green chillies, all the powder masalas, garlic paste, egg, soaked bread and seasonings in a bowl. Using your hands squish and mix well, making sure all ingredients come together evenly.

Take a tablespoon of meat mixture in your hand and roll into a ball. Do the same with the rest of the mixture. 

Heat canola oil in a nonstick saucepan. 

Add the koftas to hot oil and brown evenly on all sides, drain onto a paper towel and keep aside while you make the gravy.

Do the following for the curry.

Peel and chop onions into small dice.

Slice tomatoes thinly.

Heat oil in a saucepan.

Add onions to hot oil and sauté till golden brown.

Add garlic paste, ginger slices and tomatoes.

Add the spices too.

Sauté well till the tomatoes become pulpy and you can see oil oozing on the sides of the saucepan.

Pour the coconut milk in and mix thoroughly. Let the gravy come to a simmer.

Drop the koftas in and let the gravy come to a gentle boil. 

Let koftas cook for 10 minutes. 

Garnish with cilantro and serve with chapattis or rice.


I have used low fat coconut milk. The end result is not so creamy.

Turkey, lamb or pork can easily be substituted in place of beef.

The kofta curry reheats very tastefully the next day.

A spicy perfume fills the kitchen. It permeates the house and like a pied piper, draws occupants to the dinner table. Soft, creamy koftas are pierced with fingers and eaten with chapattis. I take a generous portion of rice and pour kofta curry onto the center and in true Indian style, set to it with curry covered fingers. I think of Mum. I think of the joy she gives me every time I make one of her recipes. I miss her so much. Then again the kofta curry reminds me she is always by my side. 

Saturday, August 17, 2013

A Blasphemous Roast--Mexican Spice Pork Roast

Pork seems to be the dominant meat this week. I'm cooking parcel food. My turn to send food parcels to needy folk. Actually one hungry soul. She is too busy to make dinner so I oblige with a cooler bag of delights.  I make pullao, lamb curry, a paneer subji, and package some leftovers. And her favorite ..roast pork tenderloin and salsa verde. She does love a hearty roast with potatoes and salsa. But this time I make roasted asparagus in place of potatoes so she will have grin and eat it!

It's a hot humid day. The garlic paste jar sweats profusely. So does the fridge. And me too. Salt clumps. And veggies acquire a beady sheen. On a day like this I should be sitting in frigid temperatures with an equally frigid beer in hand. With these frosty visions of the immediate future I start prepping. I borrow this recipe from Rick Bayliss. He is my go-to chef when I want to cook Southwestern cuisine. Pork needs an overnite marinade. Ancho chili powder, garlic, oregano and some brown sugar is massaged into the pork before it rests.  And having done the necessary yesterday it's ready to go. I heat a cast iron pan till it is smoking hot. A film of oil coats the bottom. I love to hear the sizzle of meat in a hot pan. You can almost hear the pork beginning to brown. Having watch a gazillion shows on Food Network I know not to touch the meat. To let it brown undisturbed. I stand with tongs in hand waiting for that crust to form. Patience is not my virtue, so I peek. The pork caramelizes and glistens. Time to turn it over and I see a perfectly formed golden brown slightly charred bottom. A few more minutes and it is ready for the oven. I almost always barbecued the tenderloin on the grill. And then I discovered the brown-n-roast way. It's easier on the legs in summer.... No bug bites. Winter chilly feet!!

And the meat smells savory and aromatic. We like our pork done medium well... A little pink in the middle. Though it is hard to do that in the oven. The hot blast gives it a well done appearance. Some pan sautéed asparagus and salsa verde and dinner is done.

Ancho Chili Pork Roast
Serves 4

1 Pork tenderloin
2 tablespoons Ancho chile powder
2 teaspoons Garlic paste
1 teaspoon Mexican Oregano
1 teaspoon Chile powder
1 tablespoon light Brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground Black Pepper
1 teaspoon Canola oil

Make a paste of ancho chile powder, garlic paste, oregano, chile powder, sugar, salt and pepper.

Rub the paste all over pork tenderloin. Let the pork marinate for at least an hour or up to a day, in the fridge. If you keep it overnight in the fridge, you will see some liquid in the container. Just drain it off and discard it.

Heat the oven to 350F.

Place a cast iron skillet on a high flame and let the skillet get really hot.

Add the canola oil to hot skillet and place the tenderloin in the oil. 

Let the tenderloin sit undisturbed for 5 to 7 minutes until it caramelizes and turns a deep brown color.

Turn it over and let the other side brown for a few minutes.

Place the skillet in the oven and roast uncovered for 20 minutes.

ALTERNATELY.. You can grill the tenderloin for 20 minutes on an outdoor grill.

Remove the skillet from the oven or grill and place the tenderloin on a wooden board to rest for a few minutes.

Slice and serve!


I like to to serve the pork with southwestern sides...corn, sweet potatoes, rice and salsa verde.

Tenderloins are sometimes thick and other times skinny. The above marinade works for all. Remove the skinny ones a few minutes earlier from the oven.

If you cannot find Mexican oregano, regular oregano is a perfectly acceptable substitute.

Dinner is done and I keep leftovers in foil alongside the rest of the goodies. Morning comes in a rush. I scramble to put it all together. The cooler bag is lovingly packed, food snuggled together, bound by sheets of ice. It is picked up by an enthusiastic friend. I heave a sigh of relief. The morning passes by. Lunchtime takes me to the fridge and as I open doors I spot the leftover pork!!!@#*#!!! My memory is going to the dogs!

Friday, August 9, 2013

Another Bowl of Noodles--Spicy Pork Noodles

Noodles are a no-brainer. Especially the pork-infused kind. I have a penchant for the spicy, tangy, saucy, slurpy kind. I look up sauces. I can't make pad thai for lack of several essential requirements. I look into Chinese style noodles but soy and oyster sauces have kind of played out in my kitchen. So I mix and mess with a short list of Asian ingredients. As I hold the fridge open, I spy Sambal oelek. Some Sriracha. And one of my most favored sauces-Kecap Manis. This sweet soy sauce has magical qualities that bring out that umami taste in almost any dish it graces. Some mint, cilantro and Thai basil from the garden bring out that fresh herbal taste. 

Comfort food has many so compartments. Noodles are part of so many cuisines. And every country has some variations. Wheat, rice, buckwheat are a few of my favorites. In fact the noodle drawer does need rearranging. Yes! I have a dedicated noodle shelf. Filled with all sizes and shapes. Cellophane noodles in small packages, always lost under larger packets of rice vermicelli. And then there are the usual suspects, randomly opened packets of pasta, generally escaping from their rubber band confines. Soba noodles are the neat freaks, always wrapped in beautiful paper holders. At one time pastina, alphabet noodles and elbows reigned supreme. Now we have graduated to the more sophisticated orecchiette, rigatoni and radiatore. So you see I get much satisfaction out of this coveted space. Let me not forget the freezer, where I store shanghai noodles, lo mein and udon

Spicy Pork Noodles
Serves 4 as an entree or 6 as a side

1 pound ground Pork
3 tablespoons Canola oil
1 Onion
5 cloves Garlic
5 slices Ginger
1 tablespoon Sambal oelek or chili paste
1 tablespoon light Soy sauce
3 tablespoons Kecap Manis
A squirt of Sriracha 
4 Scallions
6 Mint leaves
2 sprigs Cilantro
10 Thai Basil leaves
1 pound any chinese style Noodles 

Peel and slice onion and garlic.

Heat oil in a nonstick saucepan.

Wait till the oil is hot, then add the onions and sauté till they are golden brown.

Add the sliced garlic and ginger to onions and stir.

The pork goes in next. Use a spatula to break all the lumps so the pork is evenly broken up. Stir fry on a high flame till the pork loses all its pinkish color and accquires a reddish brown appearance. This might take anywhere from 8 to 15 minutes depending on your flame. The idea is to have cooked caramelized bits of pork.

The Sambal oelek, soy sauce, Kecap manis and Sriracha goes in. Keep stir frying on a low flame.

Heat 5 cups of water in a pot. When it boils add the noodles and let them cook for 5 minutes. Drain and add them to pork sauce. 

Thinly slice the scallions, using both green and white parts.

Roughly shred the mint leaves, cilantro and Thai basil.

Let the noodles and sauce sauté.

Sprinkle scallions and herbs over the noodle and serve.


Any form of  noodles or pasta can be used. 

Feel free to add any veggies of your choice.

I usually snip the cooked noodles with scissors to make them manageable. It's an old habit that I haven't grown out of. I snipped pasta for the kids whenever they had fettuccini or spaghetti. I still like those shorter strands. It is a  personal preference that you could completely disregard. 

Kecap Manis and sambal oelek is available at most Asian grocery stores or on Amazon.

If you like your sauce really spicy, add several squirts of Sriracha.

Chopsticks in hand I slurp noodles and pork. The notion of gratification from something long, toothsome and squiggly, seems like an alien concept. But I'm sure there are thousands who take pleasure in digging into like-minded bowlfuls of comfort. As for me, dinnertime is a happy place!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Maa Ki Daal

I am so excited to sample tandoor delights in Evansville. Visions of meat-laden skewers tantalize my palate. Bags are packed, loaded with clothes and an equal amount of carbs. 'Carbs! ' you question? Whenever I go visiting, there is almost always a requisite amount of food-related items in my luggage. Especially when I go to visit people dear to my heart. This time I get to ferry bagels and cream cheese, bhelpuri, choora and whole wheat bread. Favorites for favorite folk. What can I say. In my book, a gift consumed in pleasure is the best one. So I get to watch John slather his everything bagel and murmur in appreciation. I get to see Nikita saunter in to toast her plain bagel. And I get to see Geets judiciously eat one half of a poppy seed bagel. Other carbs are put away for 'staggered' consumption!

The latest addition to their household is a tandoor! And I am the happy recipient of chicken tikka and crusty puffed naans. So I figure maa ki daal would be the perfect accompaniment to a tandoori meal. The notion must be a throwback from all those dinners at Moti Mahal in Old Delhi. This decades old restaurant is the epitome of tandoor cooking. It used to be an airy inner courtyard, filled with rickety chairs and tables and equally creaky waiters. Oh but the food!! Chili-red succulent tandoori chicken, melt-in-your-mouth seekh kababs. But the dal is what I waited for. Served in small kadhais, I couldn't wait to dip my naan or kulcha into this soupy stew of slow cooked beans and rajma. A dark brown gravy, flecked with tomatoes, ginger and garlic with spices that exploded in your mouth. Creamy and masala-laden, it rounded off the meal perfectly. Flooded with those olfactory memories and the aroma of charcoal, I am all fired up to recreate this tasty dal.

Maa Ki Daal
Serves 6

2 cups Whole Urad Dal
3 coins/ slices Ginger
4 cups Water
3 tablespoons Canola oil
1 large Onion
3 coins/slices Ginger
1 teaspoon Garlic paste
2 big Tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon Chile powder
1 teaspoon Garam masala
I Green Chili
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/2 cup Cream

Wash and drain urad dal.

Place in a pressure cooker along with ginger slices and water.

Follow directions for pressure cooker and cook the dal for 15 minutes. 

Alternately you can cook the dal stovetop. 

Put dal, ginger slices and 6 cups water in a Dutch oven. Bring to a boil, cover and cook for 45 minutes to an hour. Stir often and check water levels. Add more water if you need to. The beans should smush in your fingers once they are done. 

Peel and thinly slice onions.

Thinly slice tomatoes into half moons.

Heat canola oil in a large saucepan.

Add onions to hot oil and sauté till they are golden brown.

Add ginger slices, garlic paste and tomatoes and sauté. Keep an eye on the mixture as you do not want it to 'catch' or burn. Catch is an Indian colloquial term for burnt food adhering to the bottom of the pan! Stir often  breaking up the tomato as it cooks. You want the mixture to become pulpy. And the oil should be visible on the outer edges.

Add the cooked dal, spices and salt.

Slit the green chili in half and add it to the dal.

Simmer dal for 10 minutes.

Pour in cream and stir to mix.

Serve dal hot with naan, kulcha and parathas


I have explained both pressure cooker and stovetop methods. The first works well when you are strapped for time. Both methods are excellent.

I did not use rajma as I didn't have any! Feel free to add 1/4 cup and cook along with the urad dal.

The dal tends to thicken as it sits. Add a little water to dilute it and adjust the seasonings.

In Punjab they top the dal with a pat of butter just before serving. The cream has enough fat content for me. 

This is a down home dal. One that is made almost everyday in households in North India. My Sikh neighbors in Bombay ate this dal and paratha for breakfast. I too did on many occasions. They were generous enough to have me over at the crack of dawn!

But in Evansville the sun is setting. The tandoor chef is hard at work expertly wielding
skewer and gaddi, the pillow by which the naan adheres to the tandoor.

He has mastered this tricky device adeptly. Chicken tikka, naans, potato crusted lamb chops, maa ki daal and salat make for a full plate. Dinner is a table full of 'hmmms'... A typical Indian mannerism expressing immense satisfaction!!!