Saturday, August 30, 2014

Grilled Pita Burgers

Grilling is the Labor Day norm. But since there is a dead bird lying next to the grill I am weirded out!!! Sadly, I take to the indoor grill. I'm sure the meal will taste just fine inside the house. After all I am going to use a gas range ...just like my outdoor gas grill. As an Indian would say"same to same."

Than last time I made these grilled pitas I used ground lamb. I don't think I spiced the mixture enough. This time I use a 50/50 mixture of beef and lamb. I prefer the taste of both together vs just lamb or beef. Though we do love lamb in this house very much. The lamb/beef mixture is heavily infused with cumin, coriander, parsley and chockful of green chilies. I let the meat hang out in the fridge for a couple of days. This way the meat gets well seasoned and oozes spice. 

I use mini pitas as they hold the meat better. And are easier to grill. Faster too. Honestly...I haven't used the larger pitas as I will have to incorporate a huge amount of meat filling. Not a big fan of that! Trader Joes mini pitas make perfectly portioned quite the alliterative way!

Makes 8

1 pound Ground Beef
1 pound Ground Lamb
1 teaspoon ground Cumin powder
2 teaspoons ground Coriander powder
3 green Chilies
1/2 cup Parsley
1/2 teaspoon ground Black Pepper
2 tablespoons Soy sauce
8 mini Pita Breads

Mix beef and lamb in a bowl.

Slice chilies into very fine slivers.

Chop parsley finely.

Add cumin powder, coriander powder, slivered chiles, parsley, black pepper and soy sauce to meat and mix well using your hands.

Cover and refrigerate overnight for best flavor. If you are pressed for time, marinate meat for a couple of hours.

Let meat come to room temperature before cooking. 

Heat an indoor grill plate on high flame.

Use a sharp knife to cut along the edges of the pita in a half circle, to open it partially. Do this carefully because you do not want to make a tear in the pita. 

Divide the meat filling into 8 portions.

Take the filling and spread it inside the pita. 

Press down to close opening and seal pita.

Fill the remaining pitas in the same fashion.

Place the pitas on the grill rack or pan. 

Grill on one side for 3-4 minutes and then flip over and grill for an additional 2-3 minutes. The pitas get golden brown and have hatch marks when done. 

Serve them piping hot as an appetizer or along with a salad as an entree.


The pitas could be cooked on an outside gas or charcoal grill too. Use the same method but cook via low heat. 

There is no need for any oil. Yay!

The pitas look and smell overwhelmingly good!! A crisp exterior holds a succulent, spicy mouthful of ground beef/lamb. I love the contrasting taste of soft and crunchy in each bite. And so convenient to hold! The other hand holds a tall frosted beer, my beverage of choice. Something hot, something cool on a sunny afternoon. These bite size burgers disappear fast. Now that the meal is over I hope to press the men into pest removal mode! 

Monday, August 25, 2014

A Sunburst of Flavor--Cherry Tomato Frittata

Sometimes inspiration comes from a conversation. Other times it is a book, or just plain necessity. Mine starts when I show my sister Prassy, my burgeoning vegetable patch. She takes one look at the mound of Sun Golds and launches into a description of a frittata she has eaten. As she recites the ingredients, even before she comes to the execution, I know I will make it for lunch. I have all the fixings. Onions, garlic, mushrooms and of course the cherry tomatoes. But I add something extra to the lineup.

A morning expedition to the farmers market results in bunches of verdant green beet and carrot tops. I am loathe to throw them out. I chop a handful of each to add into the frittata. I love the slightly spicy taste of beet greens. Roughly chopped into a stir fry or added to a pullao or pilaf, they give the dish a complex umami taste. Slightly bitter, a liitle pungent and very tasty!! I plan to stir fry them later as an accompaniment to steak and potatoes. BUT I have never cooked with carrot tops before!!! So here goes. I think they will impart a mild carrot flavor to the dish... At least I hope. The lady at the farmers market said she makes a pesto out of carrot tops. Not doing that today! 

Since the contents of the fritatta are at hand, I make short shrift of prep work. It helps to have peeled, halved onions in the fridge. Garlic that's sits on the countertop becomes papery and really easy to peel...I don't know the how of it but it works!!! I usually have a pod that sits at arms length from the knife and cutting board! Cremini mushrooms give the dish that earthy flavor. And of course the beet and carrot tops. I also chop up fresh basil, parsley and mint. Prassy advises me to use goat cheese.... so I do.  In for penny, in for a pound. I reap the fruits of my labor, a huge basket of orange Sun Gold cherry tomatoes. This year I decide to plant just one cherry plant. In spite of  that cautionary measure, the mound piles high every morning.  The mainstay of a frittata goes in...wholesome eggs!!! It's almost lunchtime... I have to get cracking!!!


4 Eggs
2 tablespoons Olive oil
1 Onion
3 cloves Garlic
8 Cremini or any other Mushrooms
1 cup Beet Greens
1/2 cup Carrot Tops
2 tablespoons Parsley
8 Basil leaves 
6 Mint leaves
1/2 to 1 cup Cherry Tomatoes
1/2 cup Goat Cheese
1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground Black Pepper

Crack eggs into a bowl and whisk well.

Thinly slice onions, garlic and mushrooms.

Wash beet greens and carrot tops. Dry and roughly chop both greens.

Slice parsley, basil and mint leaves into thin ribbons.

Heat oven to 375F.

Place an oven-safe saucepan over high heat. A cast iron saucepan works really well.

Add olive oil. 

Wait 20 seconds, then add onions and garlic and saute till onions have dark brown edges. It should take a few minutes.

Add mushrooms and saute for a few minutes till light brown.

Dump the beet and carrot greens in and stir the mixture for a few minutes till green wilt.

Take the veggies off the heat. 

Stir in the sliced herbs, salt and pepper.

Whisk the eggs and add to the pan. Make sure eggs flow into all nooks and crannies and are spread all over the pan.

Nestle cherry tomatoes into eggs. 

Dot with knobs of goat cheese.

Place pan in the oven for 25-30 minutes.

Shake pan to see if eggs are runny. They should be firm, golden and slightly puffed up. 

Remove pan from the oven, slice and serve the frittata. 


If you do not have an oven safe saucepan you could first sauté the veggies in a pan. Then mix eggs and veggies and pour into a glass baking dish and bake for 25-30 minutes.

I love the texture of the frittata cooked in cast iron. The bottom and edges are golden brown and crusty. 

I only used 4 eggs as the recipe is for two helpings. You could easily add more, up to 8 for more substantial wedges.

The frittata emerges with golden brown edges, slightly puffed, oozing goat cheese and plump tomatoes. I hastily cut wedges as the aroma is mouthwatering. These bright yellow and green wedges are slender in weight. My deliberate attempt at cutting calories. But immensely satisfying. And so begins a pleasant lunch for two, on a picture perfect day. Prassy...this might be your inspiration but it is my perspiration!

Friday, August 22, 2014

Roast Chicken Mediterranean Style

I am making a much reviled protein again. Once again I acquiesce to hearty male appetites. They do love chicken and since I am in the minority, chicken usually makes an appearance at the dinner table at least once a week. I think I have mentioned a million times about my aversion to poultry. If I am to make a meal of it, it has to be marinated, saturated, brined, spiced. My chicken needs a twenty-four hour spice bath before I will deem it palatable. If not I usually give it a wide berth. 

An abundance of sumac in the kitchen cupboard reminds me of a roast I have made before. It was consumed enthusiastically as I remember. Yotam Ottolenghi provides the basis for this roast. I pick at his recipe, taking what I like. His call for pine nuts is a complete no-no. I use most of his suggestions, using sumac, roasted cumin powder and lots of lemons. In place of onions I use shallots.  Lots of olive oil and seasonings get added before it sits comfortably in the fridge overnight. Even as I divert from the Ottolenghi recipe, I feel a sense of unease. He really is a fabulous chef. His recipes are innovative, original and mainly vegetarian. The chicken recipe is an exception to his rule. 

I fashion a bed of bread. Chicken lays gently on this bed, dressed with the agents of marination. A generous pour of olive oil coats the chicken before it goes into a piping hot oven. Soon the kitchen is enveloped in the spicy aroma of a roasted bird. Pan seared wedges of sweet potato and a roasted corn zucchini orzo salad round out the meal. Wine is generously poured in anticipation of a hearty dinner.

Serves 4

8 pieces of skinless Chicken legs and thighs
2 Lemons
6 Garlic cloves
1 heaping teaspoon Sumac
1 teaspoon roasted Cumin powder
2 red Onions or 6 Shallots
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground Back Pepper
3 + 2 tablespoons Olive oil
thick slices Sourdough bread

Wash and dry chicken pieces.

Slice lemons, garlic cloves and red onions or shallots thinly.

Mix 3 tablespoons of olive oil with sumac, cumin powder, salt and pepper till well blended.

Place chicken in a glass bowl. 

Pour olive oil marinade over chicken and massage chicken well so it is well coated.

Scatter lemon slices, garlic and onions over chicken. Toss everything well.

Cover, refrigerate and marinate chicken overnight or for at least 6 hours.

Let chicken come to room temperature before roasting.

Heat oven to 350F.

Arrange sourdough bread on the bottom of an ovenproof dish.

Place chicken pieces on top of bread. 

Scatter lemon, garlic and onion slices over chicken. 

Drizzle with remaining olive oil and roast chicken uncovered for 30 minutes or till done.

The chicken should be served piping hot.

Chicken comes out of the oven golden brown and crusty. Charred lemon slices emit a wonderful aroma. I spoon some chicken onto my plate. Then I take a crusty slice of sourdough, toasted brown, dripping with pan juices. This is my alternate take on chicken and stuffing. And it is delicious. A mouthful of chicken, toasted bread and roasted shallot makes my taste buds long for more. Did I just say this about chicken??? Well....I'll just have to eat my hat along with this tasty bird!

Sunday, August 3, 2014

One Pot Lamb Korma

This recipe is the labor less way to a lamb or mutton curry. Really. Just add all the components into a Dutch oven and let them bubble and toil by themselves. For a faster version, as I do, use a pressure cooker. The latter being a common place cooking device in most Indian kitchens, is a beast not too many people want to tackle. My first pressure cooker came as part of my trousseau, making the journey over the seven seas. The Indian versions manufactured by Prestige and Hawkins, whoosh, splutter and scare. But they are formidable. They get the job done very efficiently and don't cost an arm and a leg like Fagor. Dal cooks in 5 minutes vs 30 minutes on the stove top. Meat braises in 15 minutes, much faster than the 45 minutes in the oven. It's just a question of mustering the courage to master the bells and whistles. 

As a novice in the kitchen, I confess to many disasters involving pressure cookers. I once started the cooker, snapped on the lid and walked away without using the safety valve. Results included splattered dal on walls, ceilings and stove tops. A mistake I sadly replicated a few times. Very tough clean up. Then there was the time I left the pan on a low flame and drove to the airport. That night I had to start dinner all over again.  One time I decided to adapt a lamb recipe that called for the lamb braised in its own juices...foolishly doing the same in my PC. That resulted in scorched lamb and the rubber ring permanently fused to the lid. Today it's still stays firm...but usable all the same. I have been instructed to watch the rings, count the whistles. None of those techniques mean anything to me. I let it whoosh once, lower the flame and cook meat for 15-16 minutes. Meat turns out fork tender, succulent and cooks in a jiffy. This works everytime.

Over the years I have gone through a couple of PCs. The old ones were aluminum. The newer ones come in steel and nonstick versions. They come in many sizes too. I have a couple of small pressure pans I use for dal. The larger one makes a great curry.  An inverted PC converts into a makeshift tandoor. Trust me, it works. In India PCs are used to boil potatoes, cook rice, steam idlis. I could go on, but let me stop as I can't do any of those things. Let me stress on what I do best... Making a mean curry in the fastest time possible

Serves 2-4

2 pounds Lamb shoulder with bones
2 large Onions
2 tablespoons Garlic Paste
2 tablespoons grated Ginger
2 large Tomatoes
1/2 cup whole milk Yogurt
1 teaspoon Chile powder
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/2 cup Water
1 teaspoon roasted Cumin powder
1 teaspoon Garam masala
Cilantro to garnish

Wash lamb and cut into small pieces 1-1/2 inches wide. Leave some meat attached to bones. Remove as much fat as you can.

Peel and cut onion into rough chunks.

Chop tomatoes into small chunks.

Place lamb, onions, tomatoes, garlic paste, grated ginger, yogurt, chile powder and salt in a pressure cooker. Add water and mix well.

Place pressure cooker on a medium flame and bring to a vigorous boil. Affix the lid and cover the vent with safety valve. Wait till the whistle whooshes once, lower heat to the minimum and cook for 15 minutes. Let the pan cool before opening the lid. If you are in an extreme hurry, run cold water on the pan for 3-4 minutes. This works like a charm. 

ASSUMING you are not using a pressure cooker, then place all the ingredients in a Dutch oven, bring to boil, lower flame, cover with a tight fitting lid and braise stove top for 40-45 minutes or till lamb is fork tender. You will have to stir the lamb from time to time and add more water as the lamb braises.

Sprinkle cumin powder and Garam masala and let curry bubble for a few minutes.

Garnish with cilantro and serve with naan or rice.

I have dinner on the table in 20 minutes. Lamb flakes at the touch of a spoon. Onions, tomatoes and spices give the curry body and lots of flavor. I have taken the low road. Purists will scoff. I would love to indulge in a stove top braise if I had the time.  I hum and chant that time isn't on my side. I love my assorted cookers.   a confession---I am terrified of using other peoples devices. On that note I hope I haven't offended any one's PC sensibilities. I am trying to be PC!