Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Spring Lunch--Potato Smoked Salmon and Dill Frittatta



Frittata is the perfect finger food for any occasion! And easy as pie to make too. I need to bring a room temperature appetizer for a docent lunch. The lunch, initially was to be a breakfast/brunch. Sorrowfully snow cancelled original plans. The next scheduled date was snowed out too. So I cross my fingers and toes as the weatherman predicts snow for the third intended day!!%#. I will the weather to be snow free. 

I go ahead and plan for this much delayed lunch. Since I have to be present at an ungodly hour I really want to make a dish that will come to room temperature as it sits. I see Ina Garten putting together a really simple frittata. What draws me to this version is that she bakes it in a sheet pan, then cools and cuts it into large squares. Mini squares will be more to my liking. I haven't tried out this recipe before but I like the sound of it. Though, I would like to oomph it up a bit. Not too many bold flavors but nuances of decadence. And for me smoked salmon says 'big punch' I use Ina's recipe but add some of my inspiration, mainly smoked salmon and dill. The egg mixture is poured and smoothed over crusty potatoes and into the oven the sheet pan goes. 'How easy is that' as Ina always says!


SMOKED SALMON, POTATO AND DILL FRITTATA
Makes 70 to 80 1 inch squares


12 Eggs
2 1/2 cups Ricotta Cheese
2 cups Gruyere Cheese
8 tablespoons unsalted Butter, melted
1/2 cup Flour
1 teaspoon Baking powder
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground Black pepper
4 large Yukon Gold Potatoes
1 cup Smoked Salmon
3 tablespoons Dill
2 tablespoons Olive oil
Butter, softened, for sheetpan


Boil potatoes. Peel and cut into small dice.

Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a pan, add potatoes and brown them till crusty. Kept aside.

Break eggs into large bowl and whisk well to blend.

Add ricotta cheese, gruyere, melted butter, flour, baking powder and seasonings. Stir to mix.

Chop smoked salmon into bite size pieces.

Roughly chop dill.

Add smoked salmon and dill to eggs. Mix gently to incorporate.



Prepare a 18 x 12 inch sheet pan by buttering the bottom and sides well.

Heat oven to 350F.

Scatter potatoes all over the pan.

Spread the egg mixture over potatoes, taking care to cover them. Use a spatula or spoon to make sure the mix goes all the way to the edges of the pan.

Bake for 45 minutes. Poke with a toothpick or skewer to see if the eggs have set. The center might look a jiggly but it should be done if the skewer comes out clean.

Let the pan cool for 20 to 30 minutes.

Cut into small or large squares. You could make 2 inch squares for a small party or 1 inch squares for a larger crowd.

Serve them at room temperature. They also taste delicious when slightly warmed.

The brunch morning dawns bright and sunny. Not a puffy cloud in the sky. the snow gods show some mercy, allowing our twice delayed brunch to happen. Some squares disappear before my very eyes, as I arrange the pieces on a platter. sunlight streams into the room, spring colors festoon the tables, laden with goodies. And my lemon yellow eggy squares are a perfect complement to the impending season and our current musuem exhibit Garden Party! 

Thursday, March 20, 2014

A Classic reworked--Eggplant Lasagna




Eggplant parmesan has been on my mind lately. And what transpires in the mind usually makes its way onto our table. But a soon as the eggplant emerges from its bin I shudder. It has taken on an odd dark brown tone. Forgotten for Too many days in the fridge will do that to you. Out it goes and of course in comes a brand new one. Did you think I am going to let a craving go by the wayside? It's not a case of abracadabra, but a quick drive to the grocery store that enables me to continue my quest.

As I thinly slice eggplant, I ponder over my choices for sauce. Should I use the traditional marinara or venture down another path with bolognese?  We've eaten the tried and tested marinara version many times. So I go down the path never taken! Turkey bolognese it is. 

Frying eggplant takes time and oil. In the past I baked the slices with not much luck. This time it isn't so bad. A nonstick pan and thin slices make crisp slices. Turkey browns slowly and gets a bath in crushed tomatoes and Italian spices. I layer eggplant and bolognese lasagna style. As it bakes and bubbles, a heavenly aroma fills the kitchen. Soon hungry folk will line up for hearty portions. 


EGGPLANT LASAGNA
Serves 4

1 large Eggplant
1 Egg
Italian Breadcrumbs as needed
Canola oil as needed
1 cup Ricotta cheese
1/2 cup grated Mozzerella cheese
1/2 cup Fontina cheese 
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese

Turkey Bolognese
1 pound ground Turkey
2 tablespoons Olive oil
1 28oz can crushed Tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon chile flakes
1 teaspoon dried Oregano
2 teaspoons Tomato paste
1/2 teaspoon Sugar
1 teaspoon Kosher salt 
1/2 teaspoon ground Black pepper
1/2 cup fresh Basil


For the bolognese, heat olive oil in a saucepan.

Add turkey to hot oil and sauté well, breaking up the meat.

Let meat brown.

Once the meat had browned add crushed tomatoes, spices, seasonings and basil. Bring to boil. Lower heat and simmer for 20 minutes.



Slice eggplants into thin slices, 1/5 inch in thickness. Slice only what will fit in the frying pan. You can start the next batch while the first one is frying.

Break the egg into a bowl and whisk.

Spoon 3 tablespoons of breadcrumbs onto a cutting board.



Dip eggplant in egg, let the extra egg drip off, then lay it on the breadcrumbs. Sprinkle some breadcrumbs over the slice. Pat the crumbs down. Turn the slice over and pat again. Keep aside. Do 5-6 slices before you fry.

Heat 3 tablespoons of canola oil in a nonstick saucepan. Add slices and fry till golden brown. Turn thhem over and fry on the other side for a few minutes. Remove from pan and keep aside. Fry all the eggplant slices this way. 




Mix Mozzerella, fontina and Parmesan cheeses together.

Start assembling the lasagna in a 8x8 oven proof dish. Line the bottom of the dish with a few spoons of bolognese. 

Place 4 eggplant slices over sauce. 

Spread a heaping teaspoon of ricotta cheese over each slice.


Top eggplants with more sauce so the slices are covered. 

Scatter mixed cheeses over slices.



Finish building the lasagna in the above fashion ending with mixed cheeses.



Heat oven to 350F.

Cover lasagna with foil and bake for 30 minutes.

Remove foil and bake for another 10 minutes. 

Serve hot with garlic bread and a green salad.



NOTES

I do not specify breadcrumb and oil amounts. If I were to be exact, it would be about 2 to 3 cups breadcrumbs and 1/2 to 3/4 cup canola oil. 

Any cheese can be used in place of Mozzerella, fontina and Parmesan. These are guidelines.

Turkey is a good choice for bolognese but you can easily substitute ground beef or pork.





wafting aromas entice everyone into the kitchen. There's something to be said about Italian food warming in the oven that worms it's way into your heart. The flavors wake up all your taste buds and beg for that fork and plate. This is an unusual combination. I wonder as I portion out hefty squares. A fork full of breaded eggplant, piquant sauce and stringy cheese is a revelation. A new take on an old classic. Nods and approval all around. But then I've always said that my kids must be Italian born!
And when we are done, there's but one square left.  And that has my name on it for lunch the next day! Chef's prerogative!! 









Sunday, March 16, 2014

Hot Pockets Indian Style--Chicken Masala Buns



Shauna's home again and that calls for yet another elaborate meal! This time I try a different mutton curry, an old version of potatoes and chicken buns. I haven't made these buns in ages. Primarily because they take a devilishly long time to come together. But everyone loves them so I will knead, roll and bake. 

I had first eaten these stuffed buns in Bombay many years ago and loved them. an improbable like as I'm not a chicken fan. But the masala chicken filling was incredibly tasty. And so I became a bread and chicken convert. The kids loved Hot Pockets through their school years and grew very fond of these buns. Since that first bite I have set out to make many versions for that chicken. Sometimes it is a spicy Goan chicken. Other times I try an onion and garam masala infused curry. Today I make chicken with dhansak masala. Dhansak is a Parsi meat and lentil curry that's a meal on its own. It starts with dal or lentils cooked with an assortment of vegetables, to which cooked meat or chicken is added. I love the distinct flavor of the special dhansak masala which comes prepackaged. It's available at most Indian grocery stores. If you cannot find the masala, feel free to use garam masala.

Fair warning to all. These buns take anywhere from 3 to 5 hours. In their defense I can only say, the wait is worth it!


Chicken Masala Buns
Makes 20-24


Buns
1 package  or 2 1/4 teaspoons Yeast
A pinch of Sugar
3 tablespoons Warm Water
1 cup Milk
5 tablespoons Butter, cut into 5 slices
1 Egg
3 tablespoons Sugar
1 teaspoon Salt
3 1/2 cups Flour
1 teaspoon Olive oil
1/4 cup Milk for glazing buns


Chicken Filling
1 pound Chicken Thighs and Legs
3 tablespoons Canola oil
2 large Onions
1 teaspoon Garlic paste
1 teaspoon Ginger paste
2 large Tomatoes
1/4 teaspoon Turmeric
1/2 to 1 teaspoon Chile powder (your call)
1 heaped tablespoon Dhansak masala
1 teaspoon Kosher salt


Start with the buns. Mix yeast, a pinch of sugar and warm water. Cover bowl and let yeast ferment for 5 minutes. The water should be warm 105 degrees. If the water is too hot the yeast will not rise. If it's not warm enough, the yeast will not ferment.  

Heat milk till warm and small bubbles appear at the edges. Do not boil. Remove from heat.

Add sugar and butter to milk and stir so the butter melts.

Once the butter melts add egg and stir vigorously to incorporate the egg into milk.

Add in salt.

Put the yeast mixture and milk into the bowl of a stand mixer. 

Using a dough hook stir liquids to mix.

Add flour 1/2 cup at a time, keeping the mixer on low speed. If the dough looks sticky add more flour 1 tablespoon at a time till it looks smooth. Once you have added all the flour let the dough hook do its job, letting the mixer do the kneading for 4 to 5 minutes.

Remove the dough and place it in a large glass bowl. Drizzle olive oil over the dough. Turn the dough so the entire ball is coated with oil. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and keep in a warm place for 1- 1/2 hours for the dough to rise. It should double in size with visible pockets of air.



While the dough rises, start on the chicken. Skin, trim and rinse chicken pieces.

Peel and finely chop onions.

Cut tomatoes into small chunks.

Heat canola oil and fry onions till golden brown.

Add garlic and ginger pastes as well as tomatoes and sauté for 5 minutes.



Chicken pieces go in next. Sauté well.



Sprinkle turmeric, chile powder, dhansak masala and salt over chicken. Stir well to mix.

Add enough water to cover chicken, bring to a boil, lower flame to medium heat and cook chicken for 20 minutes. 

Removes chicken from gravy and debone into bite sized pieces. Add the deboned chicken back into the gravy. 



Place saucepan on low heat and simmer till gravy has thickened. 

Keep aside to cool. 

Once the dough has doubled take it out of the container and place on a lightly floured surface. 

Divide the dough into 24 portions.

Take one portion and flatten the ball. Using your fingers press the dough out into a 4 inch circle.



Place a heaping tablespoon of chicken filling in the center of the circle.


Gather the circle starting from one end and pinch the edges together to close at the top.






Place the bun pinched side down on a parchment or silicone lined sheet pan.


Do the same with the remaining balls. You can fit 12 buns on one tray. You will need 2 trays.

Cover the buns with a cloth towel or napkin and place in a warm place for 1 hour to rise. If the room is excessively warm, this rise could take anywhere between 1/2 - 3/4  hour.


If you have left over dough as I do, fashion them into rolls. Roll dough into a long rope. Tie the rope into a knot, tucking the outer edges under and pinch the ends together. Place on sheetpan pinched side down. Let rolls proof along with buns.

Heat the oven to 425F.

Brush buns and extra rolls with milk.

Bake each batch for 15 minutes.

Cool slightly and serve.





The buns are eaten as they emerge from the oven resulting in many a burnt tongue and mouth. A mound of spicy chicken encased in thin shell of bread delights us all. A big pile not be resisted. And the pile soon diminishes. These are the prequel to dinner!!!! But any thoughts of dinner being on the back burner are firmly squashed! 

And the extra rolls, airy and fluffy, are polished off with pats of butter melting into crevices. My bonus for all the hard work. The joy of munching on a piping hot Parker house roll, just out of the oven, slathered with butter, is my sinful indulgence! 





Thursday, March 13, 2014

Lunch Special--Chorizo Kale and Sweet Potato Soup



The days of eating a solitary lunch are over. Nowadays I have family to feed. A big plus, especially I like the present company!  But I have to constantly rack my brains for something substantial and sustaining. What could be better than soup. We all love most soups, the perfect food for cool, snowy days. A bowl of steaming goodness with a chunk of ciabatta or sourdough is heaven. No need for anything more. Well.. maybe some fruit. 

I forage in the fridge and come up with a forlorn half-consumed package of kale. I spy some chorizo. And a container of home made chicken stock. Wow! All the making for a caldo verde, of course made my way! 

This is spicy, deep orange broth with bit of cooked chorizo, kale slivers, sweet potato bits, onions and lots of garlic. It's not a hearty winter soup, more a light broth-like version, chock full of healthy greens not cooked to death. There's a nice interplay between spicy sausage and sweet starch. It's one nutritious mouthful. Everyone sings praises of kale and sweet potatoes. They are superfoods to be eaten in earnest doses. Well here it is, a bowl of slurpable good-for-you veggies, swimming in a spicy broth!


CHORIZO, KALE AND SWEET POTATO SOUP
Makes 4 servings


1 lb fresh Mexican Chorizo Sausage
1 teaspoon Canola oil
2 Sweet potatoes
1 large Onion
6 cloves Garlic
2 cups Kale
2 tablespoons Olive oil
A pinch of Chile flakes
5 cups Chicken stock
1 teaspoon Red wine Vinegar
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon cracked Black pepper


Heat 1 teaspoon of canola oil in a nonstick pan.

Slit the chorizo and remove sausage meat from casings.

Add sausage to pan and sauté, breaking up the sausage as it cooks. Cook till brown and crusty.



Keep aside to cool. 

Peel, halve lengthwise and slice sweet potatoes into thin slivers.

Peel onion. cut in half and slice into thin half moons.

Trim and peel garlic.

Wash and cut kale into thin shreds.




Heat olive oil in a deep saucepan over medium heat.

Drop garlic into oil and let them turn a light brown.

Add onions and sauté till onions start browning. 


Pour in the stock and let it come to a boil.

Add the shredded kale, sweet potatoes and chile flakes and let the veggies cook for 7 to 10 minutes.



Add vinegar, salt and pepper. Stir to mix.

Add 2 cups of chorizo. (Save the rest for another use. See NOTES below) 



Let soup simmer for 5 minutes and serve hot with some crusty bread.

NOTES

The chorizo can be browned ahead of time and kept in the fridge. 

If you cannot find chorizo, any sausage could be sauteed till brown.

Leftover chorizo can be used for quesadillas, in salad or in a taco filling.




We sit down to steaming bowls of soup. Toasty ciabatta rounds out lunch. Healthy food followed by some crunchy apples. Let me count the ways this soup pleases. It's fast, easy and immensely satisfying! And good for you too! 









Sunday, March 9, 2014

A Warming Trend--Short Rib Stew




The day after a hectic one is when I plan to do nothing. But as it happens on most occasions, life comes in the way. And when all the chores are done I get itchy feet. The warmth of the sun blazes through the windows. Makes me don on walking shoes and take a spin around the park along with a reluctant husband. The bracing air does both of us a world of good, dissipating mental cobwebs and other home bound ties. 

Energized, I weave my way back to ground zero. Defrosted short ribs are the meat of choice. Lenten observations make for cranky souls so I do oblige them. Short ribs take a long time to braise. I usually finish them in the oven. Today I try a fast alternative. I forgo the oven for the pressure cooker. A shortcut version and time saving too! And I get to indulge in more leisure pastimes. 


SHORT RIB STEW
Serves 3-4


8 pieces of Short Ribs
6 cloves Garlic
3 slices Ginger
1 Cinnamon stick
2 Star Anise
2 tablespoons Olive oil
2 tablespoons Soy sauce
1 teaspoon toasted Sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon ground Black pepper
Water 
3 tablespoons Flour
2 -4 tablespoons Water
2 Carrots


Peel and trim garlic.

Heat olive oil in a pressure cooker over medium heat.

Add the short ribs to hot oil and sear ribs on all sides till dark brown. This should take about 10 minutes.


Drop cinnamon, star anise, garlic, ginger and black pepper to ribs.


Add soy sauce, sesame oil and enough water to cover the ribs.

Bring the liquid to boil and put the lid on the pressure cooker.

After the first whistle, lower the flame to lowest point and let ribs cook for 30 minutes.

Let ribs cool before you open the cooker lid.

Bring the ribs and gravy to a vigorous simmer.

Alternatively you could use the oven too. Once the liquid is boiling cover tightly with aluminium foil and place in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for 2 hours. Remove from oven.

Mix the flour and water to make a slurry.

Peel and slice the carrots into thick coins.

Add carrots to ribs. 

Add the flour slurry to the ribs and let the gravy thicken and carrots cook. 

Check the carrots after 5 minutes. 

 Serve short ribs with mashed potatoes.




I make a quick stir fry of peas, pea shoots and tomatoes. Potatoes, butter and milk come together in creamy perfection. Of course there's wine. The ribs are fork tender, melt-n-your-mouth goodness. That umami taste packs a punch. Long on flavor, short on time. Dinner goes by in an easy flash. The easy comfort of gravy and mash pleases immensely.




Sunday, March 2, 2014

A Fryer's Remorse--Channa Batura



It must be the cold that makes me want to eat something fried. And I am not the only one who craves samosas, fritters, bhajias and papad. All requests made in that order. All these crisp brown tidbits do wonders for the mind but sadly not much else. This weekend I make fried fish, pork spring rolls and ardently start on Korean fried chicken wings. But a vestige of sense slithers into my brain and I decide to bake the wings instead. A much better option.. Healthier too!! And the wings taste just like the fried version according to Rehan!  And as Saturday winds down I put away the frying pan that has too much activity this week. 

Sunday morning brings ominous clouds, portentous signs of that dreaded white nemesis that has plagued us this winter. Shauna is loathe to leave a day earlier than she planned to. Safety versus snow isn't much of choice. So she sadly packs her bags. We are all disappointed, cheated out of twenty four hours with her. I quickly plan lunch. I know she wants channa bhatura, especially after seeing Nikita tucking into a plateful. It's not like she can walk into an Indian restaurant and order some, with her strong nut allergies and the inevitable cross contamination she has experienced on several occasions.  So like a good mother I aim to please.

I comb cupboards for a can of garbanzo beans with no luck. I have to settle for dried chickpeas that take an inordinately long time in spite of the efficient pressure cooker. Though that too-long interval allows me to put the bhatura dough together. The kitchen sings with spice. Chilies, cumin and dried mango flavor the chickpeas, along with one not-so-common ingredient. Bhaturas demand the frying pan, so out it comes from it's hiding place. I roll and Shauna fries big puffy pooris. Lunch pleases her!


CHANNA BHATURA
Serves 4

Channa

4 cups cooked Chickpeas or Garbanzo beans
3 tablespoons Canola oil
2 small Onions
1 teaspoon Garlic paste
1 teaspoon Ginger paste
2 tablespoon Tomato paste
1 Teabag
1/2 teaspoon Chile powder
1/4 teaspoon Turmeric
1/2 teaspoon Garam masala 
1/2 teaspoon Amchoor (dried Mango powder)
1/2 teaspoon roasted Cumin powder
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 cup Water or more if needed
1/2 Onion, sliced thin
Cilantro to garnish

Bhatura

3 1/2 cups all purpose Flour
1/4 teaspoon Baking Soda
1/2 teaspoon Baking Powder
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
2 tablespoons Yogurt
1 cup Water
2 tablespoons Sugar
2 teaspoons melted Ghee
3 cups Canola oil for frying 
Flour for rolling pooris


To make the channa, start by chopping the onions into fine dice.

Heat canola oil in a saucepan.

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

Add ginger and garlic pastes and sauté well.

Drop tomato paste into onion mixture and sauté to incorporate. Fry well for 3 to 4 minutes.


Open chickpea cans and rinse under cold water. 

Add chickpeas and teabag to onions.

Sprinkle chili powder, turmeric, Garam masala, amchoor, roasted cumin powder and salt. Stir well so the chickpeas get coated with masala.


Add water and let the beans come to a boil. Lower flame and let the beans simmer for 15 minutes. Stir occasionally.

Remove the teabag before you serve the channa.

Bhatura dough can be made in a food processor. Put flour, baking soda and powder and salt in the bowl of the processor. 

Whisk yogurt, water and sugar in a bowl.

Start the processor and add the liquid to flour, pulsing often till the dough comes together. 

Take dough out of bowl onto a floured surface. Knead till dough is smooth.

Alternately if you do not have a processor, place the dry ingredients in a bowl. Slowly add the liquid and gently gather the flour together into a cohesive dough. Knead till smooth.

Cover dough with a damp cloth.

Let the dough rest for 10 minutes.

Knead melted ghee into dough one teaspoon at a time.

The dough is ready to roll into pooris

Take a knob of dough the size of a walnut. 

Flatten the dough and roll into a 4 inch size poori. Use flour as needed.



Roll out pooris in batches of 10 if you are a solo performer.

Set the frying pan with canola oil on a medium high flame.

Drop a tiny piece of dough into hot oil. The dough should sizzle immediately. If it takes a while then give the oil a few more minutes to heat up.

Add bhatura to oil and carefully bathe with hot oil. The bhatura should puff up like a poori. Fry on one side for 2 minutes. Flip and fry on the other side for a minute more. It will not be brown like a poori but take on a light amber shade.



You should have 25 to 30 bhaturas.

Serve bhaturas, warm channa and the sliced onions together.

NOTES

I did not have any chickpea cans so I used dried ones. Cooking dry ones means soaking them overnight before cooking them. Since I didn't have that luxury, I used a pressure cooker. A pinch of baking soda along with dried beans, water and a long 30 minute cooking time was adequate.

Chickpeas soak up water so if the channa dries up just go ahead and add more water and adjust seasonings.

Amchoor is a dried mango powder available at most ethnic grocery stores. A large squirt of lime juice could suffice instead.




After all my recriminations, the return of the fryer causes much happiness. The bland, chewy bhatura is a perfect foil for the spicy channa. Cilantro and onion makes the perfect garnish, herbal and crispy. The heap of bhaturas is quickly demolished. Shauna loads her car. And the most important part of her baggage are two big freezer bags of leftovers!!!! I have happily emptied the contents of the fridge into those bags!! Before sheets of white coat the road, she is far away again. And the fryer goes into seclusion again.