Tuesday, October 22, 2013

A Rick Bayless Imitation--Tortilla soup




It's the nip in the air that propels me into the soup zone. A chilly night and a bowl of hot soup goes hand in glove in our house. And my unending supply of tomatoes need to put to use too! So into the blender go the tomatoes. And the rest is a mish mash of so many tortilla soup recipes I've tried over the years. 

I had the real thing in Chicago at Rick Bayless' Frontera Fresco one cool October afternoon a few years ago. The sun streamed brighly through the skylights on to the cavernous dining space. I sat in a pool of fall sunshine with a steaming bowl of deep chile-red soup in front of me. The white shirt I was wearing promptly developed a speckled front. But I did not care! This huge bowl of soupy goodness topped with a large heap of fried tortilla strips, was manna from heaven. And along with the soup I had a green chile and cheese tamale. Both dishes were enough for me to eat in silent reverence afforded to great food. For a little while the hubbub of the world disappeared. I remember making a phone call to Geets describing in rapturous delight what I had eaten and why she wasnt there to share it with me. ( We do this very often....wishing each other there to revel in the flavors! )  And then I went back the next day and partook all over again! Bayless does a mean soup but I am in a hurry so I do not follow his instructions implicitly. I go around, below and above and come out pleasantly surprised with the end result. 


Tortilla Soup
Serves 4


4 plum Tomatoes
2 tablespoons Olive oil
1 Onion
2 cloves Garlic
1 cup Chicken stock
1 1/2 tablespoons Ancho chile powder
1 teaspoon Cumin powder 
1/2 teaspoon Chile powder
1 teaspoon Mexican Oregano or regular Oregano
1 teaspoon Kosher salt 
2 tablespoons Lime Juice
1 Flour or Corn Tortilla
1/2 cup Canola oil

Garnishes
Monterey Jack cheese, grated
Cilantro, cut fine
Avocado slices
Sour cream
Limes,quartered

Cut tomatoes into quarters.


Purée tomatoes in blender.


Peel and chop onion into small dice.

Do the same for the garlic.

Heat oil in a saucepan.

Add onion and garlic to hot oil and saute for 5 minutes till onion is translucent.

Pour puréed tomatoes into the saucepan.

Add in stock, ancho chile powder, cumin powder, chile powder, oregano and salt.


Let the soup come to boil, lower the flame and simmer for 15 minutes.

Cut tortilla into thin strips.


Heat oil in a wok or deep saucepan.

Fry in hot oil till brown and crisp. It should take a minute.


Drain on a paper towel and keep aside.


Add lime juice to soup and serve with all the garnishes.
 


NOTES

A can of fire-roasted tomatoes make the best soup. An an easier and faster way too. A can of diced tomatoes would be an adequate substitute too.

I make Ancho chile powder by grinding the chiles in a coffee grinder. It keeps well for a month.

Regular chile powder could be used in place of Ancho chile powder.

Roasted or boiled chicken could be added.




My bowl is filled. Golden brown tortilla strips sit mile high and then gradually sink to the bottom, acquiring a chewy texture. Some grated cheese, sliced avocado, cilantro and a generous squeeze of lime finish the soup. Extra fried tortillas are quickly demolished.  No sour cream... That's for the slim folks at my table!

Friday, October 18, 2013

Meaty Requests--Spice Rubbed Skirt Steak



Me thinks the family wants to bite into a chunk of grilled meat. Rehan hints about the longetivity of the many steaks in the freezer. Glenn says he would like something toothsome. That's code for ' I want to eat a big piece of red meat,' one that is generally charred to perfection and eaten with carbs and veggies. They are not too particular about the latter! As long as they appear on the plate alongside that chunk of meat!

It's been a while since we had skirt steak. Among the various cuts, this is one I love the most. More than rib eye, more than the cowboy, more than flank. It's thin. It cooks super fast. It cuts like butter when done. I've been buying them for years at the Mexican grocery I frequent. It used to be cheap, cheap, cheap. Then some chef popularized it and noe there is no skirting round the price issue! Now it's a hot ticket item. 

It always needs a marinade. Something garlicky and granular. A thin coat of spice before I grill. And I love Rick Bayless's Mexican marinades. This marinade is an amalgam of a few of his recipes.

Spice-rubbed Skirt Steak 
Serves 4


2 pounds Skirt steak
1 teaspoon Garlic paste
1/2 teaspoon Onion powder
1 tablespoon Cumin powder
1 teaspoon Chile powder
1 tablespoon Kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground Black pepper


Cut the steak into three inch wide pieces.

Combine the other ingredients and apply to steak. Rub well to coat the meat.

Cover meat, refrigerate and marinate meat for 6 to 8 hours or overnight.


Bring meat to room temperature before you cook it.

If you are grilling outdoors, start the grill and let it heat up. See Note

If you are grilling indoors, place the grill pan on a high flame.  

Lightly oil the grill pan and place steaks on to pan.

Leave the steaks be. Do not move them. This is the best way to get those hatch marks.


After 2 minutes turn the steaks 30 degress and leave for a minute.

Then flip them over and cook for another 2 minutes without moving them. Turn 30 degrees again and leave for a minute. The steaks will be medium rare at this point. It really is the best way to have skirt steak. If you like your steak medium well go ahead and sear them for an additional 2 minutes on each side.


Remove from the grill and place on a platter. 

Cover loosely with aluminum foil. Let the steaks sit for 4 to 5 minutes.


Get your sides ready!

Slice the steaks against the grain to get the best cut and texture.

Enjoy!



Notes


The above recipe uses an indoor grill pan. I have a cast iron one as well as a nonstick pan. I used the cast iron as it gives the steak a better char.

If you plan on grilling outdoor, start the gas or charcoal grill. Gas grills are faster than their charcoal counterparts for obvious reasons.

Any cut of meat could be used in place of skirt steak.

My sides are corn with creme fraiche and chives, caramelized sweet potato spears and avocados.





















Smoke from the grill fills the kitchen. An Indian summer lets us throw open windows and doors. We ruminate over the meal and the day. Juices flow verbally and organically. Steak makes for a gratifying evening.









Meaty Requests--Spice Rubbed Skirt Steak



Me thinks the family wants to bite into a chunk of grilled meat. Rehan hints about the longetivity of the many steaks in the freezer. Glenn says he would like something toothsome. That's code for ' I want to eat a big piece of red meat,' one that is generally charred to perfection and eaten with carbs and veggies. They are not too particular about the latter! As long as they appear on the plate alongside that chunk of meat!

It's been a while since we had skirt steak. Among the various cuts, this is one I love the most. More than rib eye, more than the cowboy, more than flank. It's thin. It cooks super fast. It cuts like butter when done. I've been buying them for years at the Mexican grocery I frequent. It used to be cheap, cheap, cheap. Then some chef popularized it and noe there is no skirting round the price issue! Now it's a hot ticket item. 

It always needs a marinade. Something garlicky and granular. A thin coat of spice before I grill. And I love Rick Bayless's Mexican marinades. This marinade is an amalgam of a few of his recipes.

Spice-rubbed Skirt Steak 
Serves 4


2 pounds Skirt steak
1 teaspoon Garlic paste
1/2 teaspoon Onion powder
1 tablespoon Cumin powder
1 teaspoon Chile powder
1 tablespoon Kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground Black pepper


Cut the steak into three inch wide pieces.

Combine the other ingredients and apply to steak. Rub well to coat the meat.

Cover meat, refrigerate and marinate meat for 6 to 8 hours or overnight.


Bring meat to room temperature before you cook it.

If you are grilling outdoors, start the grill and let it heat up. See Note

If you are grilling indoors, place the grill pan on a high flame.  

Lightly oil the grill pan and place steaks on to pan.

Leave the steaks be. Do not move them. This is the best way to get those hatch marks.


After 2 minutes turn the steaks 30 degress and leave for a minute.

Then flip them over and cook for another 2 minutes without moving them. Turn 30 degrees again and leave for a minute. The steaks will be medium rare at this point. It really is the best way to have skirt steak. If you like your steak medium well go ahead and sear them for an additional 2 minutes on each side.


Remove from the grill and place on a platter. 

Cover loosely with aluminum foil. Let the steaks sit for 4 to 5 minutes.


Get your sides ready!

Slice the steaks against the grain to get the best cut and texture.

Enjoy!



Notes


The above recipe uses an indoor grill pan. I have a cast iron one as well as a nonstick pan. I used the cast iron as it gives the steak a better char.

If you plan on grilling outdoor, start the gas or charcoal grill. Gas grills are faster than their charcoal counterparts for obvious reasons.

Any cut of meat could be used in place of skirt steak.

My sides are corn with creme fraiche and chives, caramelized sweet potato spears and avocados.





















Smoke from the grill fills the kitchen. An Indian summer lets us throw open windows and doors. We ruminate over the meal and the day. Juices flow verbally and organically. Steak makes for a gratifying evening.









Tuesday, October 15, 2013

An Abundance of Friends-- Suju's Sabudana Khichdi



It's just as well I'm not holding a pen as my fingers are weary to the bone! It's a good weary. A happy tired as the last few days are spent in a time capsule from the 80's. Remembering the glory days of carefree fun. Retelling stories of our ribald past, of boozy weekends at the beach, of unwanted advances and hilarious incidents resurrected from faded memories. Three friends from my Elphinstone college days come to visit. Come to see the seating arrangement they generously contributed to. In those black days, it was their words of encouragement and prayers that helped healed the wounds. And so I pay it forward. A trip onward in friendship and backwards down memory lane! 

I clean, I paint, I dust and the house is ready. I cook up a storm. Oh yes, requests are honored. Some recipes from this blog that whipped up a frenzy of interest. Some from my Mum's table. And some new additions. I make potato crusted lamb chops, in spite of being admonished over the high cost of lamb chops! A roasted mutton curry that the girls enjoyed in my Bombay home. And a new favorite, fish biriyani.


Dinner is done but breakfast is another matter. We all love a hearty beginning. Another request comes in.....for sabudana khichdi. And I oblige. Because after twenty years of making and eating lumpy, greasy, frog spawn- like messes I can finally make the real thing!!! And I have a reluctant chef to thank for it!!!

The culprit is Suju! Albeit a good friend and great cook, reluctance is by far her stance when it comes to cooking!!! But when she does, it is a meal to be savored, relished and remembered. For you may not eat it again for a while! Don't blame her. Everyone isn't the enthusiast in the kitchen! She has made sabudana khichdi for us many times, carrying her trusted cookbook on our many travels! It is a beloved and treasured recipe that gives pleasure to so many. After watching her assiduously, making notes and following her recipe, mine isn't quite like hers but a close second. It's a two day process so plan ahead. And you will be delighted.             


Suju's Sabudana Khichdi 
Serves 4 to 5

1 1/2 cups Sabudana to Tapioca pearls
1/2 cup Peanuts, roasted
3 tablespoons Canola oil
1/2 teaspoon Cumin seeds
2 dried Red Chiles
10 Curry leaves
2 finely cut Green chilies
1 tablespoon Minced Ginger
1/2 teaspoon Turmeric powder
1 cup boiled and cubed Potato
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon Sugar
1 large Lime
1/2 cup finely minced Cilantro


The evening before you plan to make the khichdi, wash the sabudana thoroughly. Rinse and wash till the water runs clear. That should be three or four times. Add enough fresh water to cover the sabudana, about 6 to 8 cups. The sabudana will sit in this water overnight and soak up a lot of it. 



Drain the sabudana in the morning.

Place a double layer of paper towels on a sheet pan. Spread the drained sabudana on the paper towels. The excess moisture gets soaked up. 

In a large nonstick pan with a lid, heat the canola oil over a medium flame.

Add cumin seeds and let them brown.

Add curry leaves, red chiles, finely cut green chiles, ginger, turmeric powder and cubed potatoes. Fry well till potatoes are crusty and brown.



Add sabudana and sauté.



Season with salt and sugar.

Cut the lime in half and squeeze the juice over sabudana.

Lower the flame, place lid on saucepan and let the sabudana cook for 2 to 3 minutes.

Mix in the freshly cut cilantro and serve it hot.





The conversations don't just flow, they continue in an unending loop. We make the rounds of museums, memorials and many restaurants  We reminisce, remember, recollect events long forgotten. The collective memory of four is much better than one! The collective voices of four is another story! We usually meet once a year. Always talking about the past. Looking at the same old photographs and laughing at ourselves. This time it's about being thankful for friendships forged over boyfriends and beer. It's about keeping them alive over forty years. It's about living in the past and in the moment. And always being there for each other. Thanks for being there for me Madeleine, Christine and Tuki!






Saturday, October 5, 2013

Sticky Fingers--Chicken Wings Asian Style





I'm not talking about the Rolling Stones album but a surefire way to reach for a napkin! Hey its the universal bar food favorite, chicken wings. Though my wings probably belong in a bar with a Asian overtones. I have been making these Chinese-style wings for years. Discovered in a Better Homes and Garden book on Chinese cooking, these wings have taken on a life of their own. The basics are soy sauce and hoisin. Other flavorings have steadily crept in. Sriracha, chili garlic paste, sweet chili sauce and even kecap manis. It all depends on the mood of the day. Then again doesn't all meal inspiration stem from the kind of day you are having???? Especially if you are the chief cook and bottle washer!

I tasted wings for the first time almost thirty years ago when my husband made me eat his then favorite Atomic Wings in New York City. I wasn't impressed but politely ate a few to please him. Newly married, I didn't want to rain on his enthusiasm. Back then I wasn't much of a chicken eater.  But by now the family and maybe you have figured that I am not even a big wing fan. And there is a valid reason for that. Twenty five years ago Geets and I ventured into catering territory, when we had a huge order for chicken makhanwala. The two of us along with John and Glenn helping us, sat up till the wee hours of the morning, cleaning 40 pounds of legs and thighs. Lady Macbeth would've had an easier time washing off that smell! And so a minor aversion to chicken was born for the both of us. Our spouses escaped unscathed!! Redoubtedly we both still endeavor to cook the bird and it's many parts




Perennially a favorite, I try to make wings a little heart-healthy by roasting them! If eating wings is considered that! The popular way is deep fried buffalo style wings. I'm a little shy of doing that. So I grill or roast. This one is a great make-ahead dish. It reheats beautifully and as always disappears as fast as I make it.


Chicken Wings Asian Style
Makes 24

12 Chicken Wings
2 teaspoons Hoisin sauce
2 teaspoons Soy sauce
2 teaspoons Chili Garlic paste
4 Garlic cloves
3 slices of Ginger
1 teaspoon Toasted Sesame oil
3 tablespoons Tomato ketchup
1/2 teaspoon Sugar
Toasted Sesame seeds


Using a sharp knife cleave the chicken wings in two parts. You could leave the wing tip on if you prefer to. 

Wash and pat dry the wings. Place them in a bowl.


Mince the garlic very fine and add to wings.

Lightly smash the ginger slices to release flavor.

Mix in all the other ingredients and give the wings a good stir.

Let them sit in this marinade for 30 minutes.




Heat your oven to 350F.

Line a sheet pan with non-stick foil.

Arrange wings on sheet pan and bake for 15 minutes.



After 15 minutes flip the wings on to the other side and continue baking for another 15 minutes.

Take the wings out of the oven and place on a platter.



Garnish with sesame seeds and serve hot.



NOTES

Non-stick foil is a lifesaver in this recipe. The wings tend to get really caramelized and do stick to foil. But with the magic of non-stick foil, getting them off the pan is a breeze!

To leave the wing tip or not to... That question is a personal preference. Do what you will!



 I watch them inhale the wings and I mean that literally. Happiness floods through me as they make short shrift of the pile. Predictably heaps of bones materialize. Their lunch is done. As for me I'm happy with a plate of cabbage subji, daal and rice. 

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Thank You Lunch-- Orzo Salad with Roasted Vegetables





This month will be a year since the big wave. The house is 99. 9% done. Throughout the reconstruction I had promised the hard working crew a meal to commemorate the end. This past Sunday was when it came to pass. In those frigid early months of the year I used to bake cookies and brownies for the guys, promising them a meal but not knowing when I would be ready to entertain. Who knew it would take months to fulfill this comittment!!

We work hard to accommodate a crowd of thirty. The neighbors warrant an invite too. After all we were in the same boat or should I say 'float.' I write out the menu many times. Different times of the day make for different choices. I discuss it with the queen of entertaining, my chef-in-arms friend, Geets. Her valuable input is added in and some of mine crossed out. Shauna shuffles the menu around too. So does Glenn. My head is spinning. It's Friday and I'm still in a dither. Quite unlike me. So I start at the end..the sweet end.

Dessert is an easy decision. Tres Leche and mango fruit salad comes to mind. Lunch is another matter. I waffle between meats. It is to be chicken and meat balls. So they are dutifully marinated. Some pasta will grace the table as I discover sausage in the freezer. And under the sausage is a tried and tested smoked Texan brisket, perfect for sliders. Now that the meats taken care of, I gleefully plan the veggie portion. Garden tomatoes and fresh mozzarella artfully layered with basil, are drizzled with olive oil. Pears, blue cheese and cranberries garnish romaine dressed in lemon vinaigrette. An aromatic vegetable pilaf abuts coconut fish curry. Lastly, a healthy orzo salad, chockful of roasted yams, onions, peppers, parsley and cherry tomatoes is perfect late summer early fall recipe for Sunday lunch.


Orzo Salad with Roasted Vegetables
Serves 4 to 6


1 cup uncooked Orzo pasta
1 tablespoon Kosher salt
1 teaspoon 
1 Yam or Sweet Potato
1 large Red Onion
1 Green Pepper
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/2 cup Cherry Tomatoes
1/2 cup Parsley
1 plus 1 plus 1 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive oil
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground Black pepper


Fill a large pot with 4 to 5 cups water. 

Place pot on a high flame and bring to boil.

Add in the salt and pasta, stir well so the pasta doesn't get stuck to the bottom of the pan.

Cook for 10 minutes, drain and rinse with cold water.

Put pasta in a bowl and toss with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Keep aside.

Heat oven to 350F.

Pare yam, cut in half moons and place on a foil-lined baking sheet.

Peel onions, cut into 1/2 inch squares and place on the same baking sheet.

Cut peppers into 1/2 inch pieces and add to the baking sheet.

Toss the veggies in 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt. 

Roast in oven for 20 to 25 minutes.

Remove veggies from oven and add to orzo.

Chop parsley finely and mix into pasta.

Wash and dry tomatoes and add to salad.

Drizzle with remaining olive oil.

Season with salt and pepper.

Serve the salad cold or at room temperature


NOTES

You could add feta cheese morsels for a different take.

Use your choice of roasted and fresh veggies. Everything works!



The afternoon happens to be picture perfect. The crowd spills out onto lush green grass. Our resident bartender Rehan, handles drink orders. I hear the happy clink of beer bottles. The table looks inviting and I see a line for food. War stories abound, everyone wearing them like a badge of honor. Paul, my contractor, tells me of customers who offer to cook for them and never come through. Apparently this is a first for them! All their hard work deserves a small effort on my part, as my home is once again my castle.


Shauna happens to be home for the weekend, rendering invaluable and seamless help!!! It is sooo wonderful having her back in the kitchen with me. I miss my baby. She leaves with two cooler bags full of leftovers. Smug as a bug in a Toyota!!!!