Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Eggplant Mango Soba Noodle Salad

After scouring the kitchen for soba noodles, I fear I am out of them. Fear, because I have my stomach set on this salad. Through the magic of the web I find a recipe for soba noodles. Reviews assure me of success. I hesitate as I measure buckwheat flour into the food processor. Doubts cross my mind, but nothing venture nothing gained right?? 

Buckwheat flour has this earthy taste. Some AP flour is mixed in. I pulse as I add splashes of hot water. The dough comes together as one smooth ball. I knead the dough on a lightly floured surface as it sticks a bit. Additional sprinkling of flour helps pull the dough together. The dough yields four portions. I roll out one bit into a long thin sheet. I try to fold it over like pasta sheets but the dough is soft and sticks. I cut the sheet in half. Using a chef's knife I cut long strands like fettuccine. These strands cook for a minute in boiling water and then are shocked in an ice cold bath. Some clump together. I have to separate them with my fingers. I taste one. Not quite like the original, but will do in a pinch. I will stick to store bought in future.  

Eggplant is fried. A mango is cut. Dressing is whisked. Noodles pool on the plate. Topped with eggplant, mango and a blizzard of herbs, the salad, clothed and dressed, is ready for a fork.

Serves 4

1/2 packet Soba Noodles(2 bundles)
1-2 teaspoons Canola Oil
2 Japanese Eggplant
2 Mangoes
1 small Red Onion
1/4 cup Basil leaves
1/2 cup Parsley
1/2 cup Cilantro

2 tablespoons Rice Vinegar
1 teaspoon Sugar
1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt
1 Green Chile 
2 Garlic cloves
2 teaspoons toasted Sesame oil
1 Lime

Start with the dressing. 

Heat rice vinegar, sugar and salt over a low flame for 20-30 seconds till sugar has dissolved.

Zest and juice lime. Add to rice vinegar.

Mince chile and garlic very fine and add to vinegar.

Stir in sesame oil. Whisk and keep dressing aside.

Boil 2 quarts water.

Drop noodles into boiling water and cook for 3-4 minutes. Drain. Rinse with cold water and drain well.

Heat oil in a pan.

Cut eggplant into 1 inch pieces and shallow fry till golden brown. Drain on paper towels.

Peel and chop mango into 1/2 inch chunks.

Thinly slice red onion.

Roughly chop herbs.

Assemble the salad by laying the noodles on a platter. 

Scatter eggplant, mango, red onion and herbs over noodles.

Whisk dressing and drizzle over salad.

The salad looks colorful and vibrant. Yellows, browns, purples and greens compose an eye-pleasing melange. A mouthful reveals earthy noodles, soft eggplant, sweet mango and the zing of green chiles,onions. the tang of lime and the smoky flavor of sesame. The noodles are a bit chewy, thicker than the usual soba. Not quite my preference. Sometimes it's best to go with the real thing and not necessarily inventiveness.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Pineapple Upside-Down Muffin Cakes

A friend sends us an enormous fruit basket. I put the contents to good use. First comes a luscious trifle made with oranges, apples, grapes and bananas. Then potent grilled pineapple margaritas, followed closely by a spicy black bean and pineapple salsa. I have two slices of pineapple left. Let me assure you there is no dilemma or dithering on what I should make. I happily whir and whisk the last bits into upside-down cakes. 

My mouth waters as I anticipate my childhood favorite. I modify an old cake recipe into this easily whipped up cakes. Since I only have two slices, I cannot possibly make the tried and tested pie plate version. A muffin pan lets me practice portion control. Or so I think. Each cup is filled with brown sugar, then topped with bits of pineapple. Heaping spoons of batter top the fruit. A hot oven lets them brown evenly.

Makes 12

2 slices fresh Pineapple or 1 cup tinned Pineapple tidbits, drained well 
12 generous teaspoons light or dark Brown Sugar (I used light)
1 stick Butter, at room temperature 
3/4 cup Sugar
1 cup Flour
1 teaspoon Baking Powder
2 Eggs

Butter a muffin pan well. Or use a nonstick spray.

Cut pineapple into small tidbits.

Put a teaspoon of brown sugar into each muffin bottom.

Arrange pineapple tidbits over brown sugar.

Heat oven to 350F.

Place butter and sugar in a bowl of a mixer and beat on high speed till light and fluffy.

Add flour, baking powder and eggs and continue beating for 2-3 minutes. Batter should be thick, pale and creamy.

Divide batter between muffin cups.

Bake cakes for 25-28 minutes till tops are golden brown.

Take cakes out of the oven and cool on a rack for 5 minutes.

Run a knife around the edges of each cake.

Flip muffin pan onto a baking tray.

Take a bite of warm cake.  

Heavenly aromas mingle with summer breezes. My fingers are messy with syrup as I flip muffin cakes onto a baking sheet. Brown sugar glazed pineapple glisten on top of a crusty, moist cake. No plate required for me, as G asks for a fork. My cake disappears in seconds. And then it's time for seconds. Portion control be damned.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Tandoori Chicken Pizza

After mistakenly celebrating  Father's Day last week, the real day dawns with no inspiration for a feast. Cooking block, if there is such a thing. Stuck in a rut. I know I have to make something special again. The weather gods forecast showers for FD. One strike against grilled food. Father does not want to eat from his native land, so another strike against Indian food. My grey cells are tapped out. Later, I watch a Rick Bayliss show. He makes beer dough pizza. Intriguing and convenient, as it is to be baked in the oven.  

Just before bedtime I form this easy dough. It sits overnight on the counter. Next morning I peer at an airy, but raggedy dough. Pleased, I punch the dough and begin rolling. I have been thinking about toppings. Bayliss does a tomatillo base with chorizo. I have neither product. The gems in my fridge are but few. Leftover roasted chicken gives me an idea. I shred and saute it with tandoori masala and garlic. My base is BBQ sauce. A mixture of Gouda and goat cheese rounds off the pizza. 

As I prepare lunch, my prayers are answered as sunlight streams through windows. I preheat the grill for a half hour with the pizza stone on it. Son and I come up with a grilled pineapple margarita. Fresh pineapple slices get grilled for a few minutes. Pureed, they are added to a simple syrup, lime juice, tequila and Cointreau. It's a delightful mouthful!!! Another keeper. The grill calls for pizza. I do my jerk-the-peel as the pizza slides easily off and onto the pizza stone. I close the top and and gulp my grilled pineapple margarita.

Makes 2 medium ovals

Pizza Dough
2 cups Flour
3/4 teaspoon rapid-rise Yeast
1 teaspoon Kosher Salt
1/2 cup room temperature Water
3/4 cup Beer

2 cups cooked Chicken, shredded
1 teaspoon Olive Oil
2 teaspoons Tandoori Masala powder
1 teaspoon Garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon Kosher Salt
4 tablespoons Barbecue Sauce
1/2 cup Gouda, grated
1/4 cup Goat cheese, crumbled
1/2 cup Red Onion, thinly slivered
Semolina for pizza peel

Mix flour, yeast, salt water and beer in a glass bowl. Make sure it comes together in a rough ball. Cover with Saran Wrap and leave bowl on the counter overnight for 8-10 hours to rise. You should see air pockets in the dough by morning.

About 40 minutes before serving start gas grill and place the pizza stone on rack. Let the stone heat for 20-30 minutes in the closed grill.

Begin with the chicken topping.  Heat olive oil in a pan.

Add shredded chicken to oil and saute for a few minutes.

Sprinkle tandoori masala, garlic powder and salt over chicken. Stir for a few minutes so masala coats all the chicken. Keep aside to cool.

Dust surface with a little flour and drop risen dough on to surface. Cut dough into two portions.

Roll one portion to a 4-5 inch disc. Spread dough using your knuckles on the underside of dough. Or just use a rolling pin. You could use fingers to pull the dough into a thin free form disc too. be careful not to pull too hard as dough will tear. Pinch it together if it does. 

Dust the pizza peel or a wooden board with a handful of semolina.

Place dough on peel. Make sure it moves when jerked.

Top dough with 2 tablespoons of BBQ sauce.

Scatter half the tandoori chicken over sauce. 

Divide grated Gouda in half and top chicken with one half.

Scatter half the goat cheese over Gouda.

Arrange a few slivers of onion over cheese.

Open grill and slide pizza onto stone by jerking the peel a couple of times. 

Close grill cover and let pizza cook for 7-10 minutes.  Watch the pizza towards the end so it doesn't burn.

Repeat process with the second ball of dough.

Don't drink too any margaritas or you will burn the pizza.....

Cut pizza into quarters, squares or rectangles and munch.

Pineapple margaritas and pizza are this father's delight! He scuttles around trying to help. We shoo him away. Grilled watermelon and arugula topped with truffle balsamic vinegar takes care of a healthy side. The pizza crust is puffy, crisp, all in all, one of the easiest doughs to work with. I am thrilled with the texture of the pies. We demolish pizzas, salad and drinks. Today it's all about G....grills, Gouda, goat cheese, good drinks and food...... Goodness gracious me......its siesta time for G!

Friday, June 19, 2015

Potato and Fenugreek Kofta Curry


Vegetables are dear to my heart. I make sure there will always be something in that vein at mealtimes. Mainly for my taste buds. I make these bite size koftas with very little effort. For my first attempt I follow the recipe and deep fry koftas. I wise up the next time. Shallow frying the koftas results in a lighter patty. This pleases me no end. Less fatty calories is always a plus. 

Potatoes are usually boiled in their skins. To shorten the cooking process, I peel, cube and boil them in half the time. They do need a good drain. Then they go back into the pan they were boiled in as the heated pan dries them out even more. I just love, love, love fenugreek leaves or methi, as it called in India. These green as slightly bitter tasting, but full of vitamins. You pick the leaves off the stems, which should not be eaten. Washed and rinsed, as they almost always are a little sandy, I mince them and add to the potatoes. After adding the cornstarch and seasonings, potatoes and methi is mashed roughly. Golf ball sized portions are slightly flattened and shallow fried. The sauce comes together as onions, ginger, garlic and tomatoes simmer away in a healthy dose of spice. Once it becomes a smooth paste, I add a little yogurt to loosen it up. Koftas slip into the gravy just before we eat. The dish bubbles gently for a few minutes as I get the rest of the dinner on the table.

Serves 4

4 medium sized Potatoes ( my favorites are Yukon Gold )
3/4 cup Fenugreek (Methi) leaves
1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt
1-2 green Chiles
1 heaping tablespoon Cornstarch 
2 + 3 teaspoons Canola Oil
2 large Onions
3-4 Garlic cloves
1/2 teaspoon grated Ginger
2 large Tomatoes
1/4 teaspoon Turmeric 
1/2-1 teaspoon Chile powder
1/2 teaspoon Garam masala 
1 teaspoon Kosher Salt
1/2 cup Yogurt
Cilantro to garnish

Peel, wash and cube potatoes. Place in a pot, cover with water and bring to boil. Cook till done, between 7-10 minutes. Drain well and return potatoes to warm pot so they dry out.

Wash methi leaves well as they tend to be a little sandy or gritty.

Slice finely and add to potatoes.

Mince green chiles very finely and add to veggies.

Season with salt and cornstarch. Use your hands and mix well. 

Form into golf ball sized portions. Flatten each portion slightly.

Heat a nonstick saucepan and drizzle a scant teaspoon of oil in pan.

Add patties to hot oil. Do not crowd the pan. You might have to fry the patties in batches.

Let them turn golden brown on one side , then flip and repeat on the other. Keep aside on a sheet pan when done.

Peel and chop onions finely.

Sliver garlic cloves.

Chop tomatoes into small pieces.

Heat 3 teaspoons oil in a large saucepan.

Add onions to hot oil and fry till golden brown.

Add slivered garlic and grated ginger and saute for 30 seconds.

Tomatoes go in next. Let them cook till soft and pulpy. Saute often while doing this.

Season with turmeric, chile powder, garam masala and salt. Saute so spices get mixed in with onions and tomatoes. The gravy should look smooth. Add 1/2 cup water to help it along. Cover saucepan and let flavors marry for a few minutes. 

Whisk yogurt so there are no lumps. Add a tablespoon at a time to the gravy, making sure to mix each spoonful well.

Slip koftas into warm gravy just before serving. Let koftas simmer for a few minutes. They pair well with chapattis or rice.

The koftas have absorbed spices from the gravy. I break a kofta, fork it along with rice, and my mouth revels in these homey tastes. This is not sophistication on a plate. Just a rustic version of an old favorite.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Hara Kababs

I hustle and bustle getting Father's Day lunch. Dessert is first...an enormous fruit laden English trifle. Chicken tikka is marinated North Indian style. I plan to grill and slather corn with chile and lime. I also want to make veggie kababs for the chef. This carefully planned repast is always a pleasure to plan and prepare. Father deserves the best.

Hara or green kababs are light, spicy and eye pleasing. I boil potatoes, mash them and mix them with greens. Greens like spinach, peas, fenugreek leaves, chiles and cilantro. Seasoned with chaat masala, they easily form into small discs. Frying these patties is a snap. 

I microwave corn for a few minutes before I put it on the grill. Chicken skewers take some time and assembly. The grill heats as I prep and fry.

Makes 8-10

3 medium Potatoes 
1 teaspoon Canola Oil
1/2 cup frozen Spinach
1/2 frozen Peas
1/2 cup fresh Fenugreek leaves
1-2 green Chiles
1 tablespoon Cilantro 
1/2 teaspoon Chaat Masala
1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt
1-2 teaspoon Canola Oil 

Peel and cube potatoes. Place potatoes in a pot, cover with water and boil till they are cooked. Drain.

Heat oil in a nonstick saucepan. 

Add spinach and peas to hot oil and saute till defrosted. 

Wash and slice fenugreek leaves and add to spinach. Continue to saute. And smoosh the peas as you cook.

Add potatoes and mash veggies. 

Slice green chiles and chop cilantro. Add to veggies.

Season with chaat masala and salt. 

Spoon veggies into bowl and cool.

When cool add cornstarch and mix well.

Take a golf ball sized lump of potato and shape into small disc. Do the same for rest of the potato mixture.

Wipe out the nonstick pan, return to medium heat and add 1 teaspoon oil to pan.

Slip potato patties gently into hot oil and cook till browned on one side. Flip patties  and brown the other side.

Eat them hot off the saucepan! Or reheat and serve them later.


You could use fresh spinach and peas. Sliver the spinach before you saute. Boil peas before adding them to the spinach.

Make small patties and serve them as appetizers. They reheat well in a saucepan or hot oven. 

Chicken skewers and corn goes on the grill. We celebrate by opening some brewskis. Then a check on the meat reveals an emptying propane tank! Oops!!! Father and son run out to fill the tank. I wish my brother, who succinctly tells me I am a week too early. It's oops for the second time!!! My inner clock tells me this must be the day but the calendar tells another story. Disbelief and laughter accompanies the faux feast. I love the not-so-hara kababs. Replete, I compose this post. Disaster strikes yet again. Its oops into three, as I lose the first version of this blogpost. It definately is not Mother's Day! And so ends with tale of three oops. 

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Masala Shakshuka

Eggs reign supreme in my kitchen. Akuri, creamy scrambled versions, masala omelets and myriads of eggy concoctions emerge to be readily and happily eaten. But I do not make this recipe often. The reason being you have to chop an enormous amount of onions. Not my favorite kitchen chore. Since Shauna has developed a distinct penchant for anything egg-related, I indulge her tastes. 

She visits this weekend. This results in some furious culinary machinations. Moussaka, mutton baffat, chorizo con papas, sweet corn chicken soup fill the fridge. Along with her soul-satisfying, requisite varan bhaat (dal and rice), she spies a mix of onions and tomatoes. "What is that" asks the enquiring mind. "Surprise" is what I say. She sees eggs and chopped cilantro, but doesn't quite make the connection. Peering over my shoulder, she watches avidly as I saute onions and tomatoes. Once I start cracking eggs, she figures out what the 'surprise' is!

Serves 4

4 Eggs
2-3 tablespoons Canola Oil
2 large Onions 
1 teaspoon minced Garlic 
1 teaspoon grated Ginger 
2 large Tomatoes
1/4 teaspoon Turmeric 
1/2 teaspoon Chile powder
1/2 teaspoon Cumin powder 
1/2 teaspoon Garam masala
1/2 teaspoon + a couple of pinches Kosher Salt
Ground Black Pepper 
Cilantro for garnishing

Bring eggs to room temperature.

Peel and chop onions into fine dice.

Chop tomatoes into small pieces.

Heat oil till it shimmers in a nonstick saucepan.

Saute onions in hot oil till golden brown.

Add ginger, garlic and chopped tomatoes and saute well till tomatoes becomes a homogeneous mix.

Scatter turmeric, chile powder, cumin powder, garam masala and 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt over onions. Mix well and stir for a few minutes. 

Turn flame to low. 

Use the back of a spoon to make four depressions in the onion mixture.

Crack an egg into each depression.

Season with a few pinches of kosher salt and black pepper.

Cover saucepan with a tight fitting lid. 

Raise the flame to medium and cook eggs for 3-4 minutes till whites have set. 

Garnish with cilantro and serve straight from the pan.

I open the lid of the saucepan with a tada....the heavenly aroma of fried eggs and masala emanates through the kitchen. Shauna helps herself to an egg. We follow suit. A forkful of egg and masala, drenched in runny yolk, transports me to Geets' kitchen in Mineola, to her table, tasting these masala eggs for the first time, relishing eggs, onions and tomatoes in one savory bite. Some twenty years later, the same flavors enliven memories and make for a very happy daughter.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Scallops Cajun Style

A week of eating steak and potatoes makes me yearn for seafood. A briny bite vs a meaty one prevails as we plan to dine with no carbs. My go-to seafood is scallops. These big fleshy cylindrical bites take on any seasoning effortlessly. They take just a few minutes to cook. I can sing plentiful praises, but dinner awaits.

I do not get the usual big fellows this shopping trip. Smaller ones have to work adequately. I let them sit on paper towels for an hour. This makes them much easier to saute as the towels absorb a lot of their liquid. A generous dusting of Cajun seasonings makes them looks oh so tempting. I saute broccollini. Onion and mushrooms  brown in another pan. My trusty cast iron skillet fires up till smoking hot. I drip a little olive oil into the pan. The spice coated scallops fit a little too snugly in the pan. They sizzle and spit as they crust and brown. The minute passes in a flash. Flipped once to crust the bottom, scallops emerge, golden brown, crusty, spicy.

Serve 2-3

15 Scallops 
1 teaspoon Onion powder
1 teaspoon Garlic Powder
1/2 teaspoon Thyme powder
1/2 teaspoon Chipotle Chili powder
1/2 teaspoon Italian seasonings
1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt
1/2 teaspoon ground Black Pepper
1/2 teaspoon Olive oil

Place scallops on paper towels for an hour. This method lets the scallops drain off excess water.

Mix onion powder, garlic powder, thyme, chipotle powder, Italian seasonings, salt and pepper in a bowl. Whisk to combine.

Dust both sides of the scallops liberally with spice mixture.

Heat a cast iron skillet or griddle over high heat till smoking hot. Alternately use a nonstick pan.

Dribble a little olive oil in the pan.

Quickly add scallops to hot skillet. Do not crowd them as they will steam. You might have to do them in two batches. Wipe the pan clean after the first batch is done.

Let the scallops cook on one side for a minute or two. The bottoms should be golden brown.

Flip scallops and brown the other side for another minute.

Plate them and serve immediately.

As the sizzle and spitting subsides, the table is laid. The simplicity of this meal pleases all. Broccollini and mushrooms pair well with these spicy scallops. My no knife dinner is a winner.