Sunday, December 18, 2016

Garlic and Cheese Biscuits

Tis the time of the year to give. And it's usually something homemade. Cookies are the rule of the thumb, but savory goodies make delicious gifts too. I settle on biscuits, laden with garlic and cheese. I do love a biscuit, hot from the oven, flaky and layered, crusty tops with soft insides.

The recipe is a mish mash of many biscuits. There is one have to use butter! Butter is rubbed into flour and leavening agents. Garlic powder and a blend of asiago, fontina, parmesan and provolone are mixed into the dough. These cheeses add mild flavor without overpowering the biscuit itself. I start with a food processor to cut the butter into the flour, but I finish the dough by hand. Squooshing the butter with my fingertips gives me much more control over the dough. The finished dough is then patted by hand, on a floured surface. A fluted biscuit cutter gives the biscuits delicately edged rounds. They sit in the fridge for an hour, which  lets them develop signature layers and that buttery taste when baked!

Makes 16-18 

4 cups all purpose Flour
1 tablespoon Baking Powder
1 teaspoon Baking Soda
1 teaspoon Kosher Salt 
1 heaping teaspoon Garlic Powder
1 1/2 cups grated Cheese (Cheddar, Asiago, Fontina, Provolone or Parmesan-- alone or in any combination)
8 tablespoons cold Butter
1 1/2 cups + 2 tablespoons Buttermilk

Put flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse a few times to aerate the flour.

Sprinkle garlic powder over flour and pulse to mix.

Scatter cheese over flour and pulse a few times to mix.

Cut butter into 1/4 inch squares.

Add to flour and pulse 10-15 times.

Pour flour and butter into a large bowl. 

Use your fingers to smoosh the butter into the flour. This takes patience and time, though you have a head start with the processor. The flour should resemble fat peas.

Make a well in the center of the flour mix.

Pour buttermilk into the well. Use a fork to gently combine buttermilk and flour. The dough should come together as a shaggy mass. It should hold together when clumped. Try not to overwork the dough.

Dust a surface with flour.

Scrape dough into flour. Pull dough together to form a disc.

Pat the dough into a circle that is 1 inch thick. The surface will not be completely smooth and that is okay.

Use a 2 inch biscuit cutter to punch biscuits. Try to stay as close as possible to the stamped out impressions. This way you can maximize most of the patted circle. Gather up remaining dough and once again pat into a circle. Repeat with biscuit cutter until all the dough is used. 

Lay biscuits two inches apart on a parchment or silpat lined baking sheet. Use two baking sheets.

Refrigerate baking sheets for 1 hour. Dont skip this step as this allows the dough to rest.

Heat oven to 450F.

Bake one baking sheet at a time, keeping the other refrigerated.

Brush the tops of biscuits with remaining 2 tablespoons of buttermilk.

Bake for 17-20 minutes. 

Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack.

Repeat baking with second sheet.

Enjoy biscuits warm. They maybe reheated in a 300F oven for 10 minutes.


If you are not using a device, put flour, baking powder and soda and salt in a large bowl. Whisk to aerate the flour. Scatter garlic powder and cheese over flour and whisk again till mixed well. Cut butter into 1/4 inch squares. Add to flour and smoosh with your fingers until flour resembles fat peas. Add buttermilk as directed by the recipe.

I used a mix of Asiago, Fontina, Parmesan and Provolone cheese.

The house smells divine. I peek into the oven to watch the biscuits grow. They acquire leaning tower sensibilities. Hot ones are quickly devoured. I have to admonish family as these are meant to be edible gifts!! After all, it is the season. And seasoned gifts are the best kind!

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Herb and Garlic Roast Chicken

Have you had a day when it's 6 pm and dinner is the last thing on your mind? Most people would order takeout. As that thought occurs to me, the Food section of the NYT beckons. The year's standout recipes tempt me, especially the Middle Eastern chicken. With boneless chicken thighs on the counter, I am compelled to make the chicken.

The most laborious part is peeling and chopping garlic. I could use store bought garlic paste, but it lacks the punch fresh garlic has. Fresh herbs are the second component. Parsley, mint, thyme and marjoram sound lyrical and taste even better. Lemon, sesame seeds and sumac add more punch. As I chop and squeeze, I imagine a burnished roasted thigh. 

Adapted from the New York Times 
Serves 4

8 boneless skinless Chicken Thighs (about 2 pounds)
5 large Garlic cloves, minced fine
1 Lemon, zested and juiced
2 tablespoons Olive Oil 
2 tablespoons minced Parsley
2 tablespoons minced Mint leaves
1 tablespoon Thyme leaves
2 tablespoons minced Marjoram 
1 teaspoon Kosher Salt 
1 tablespoon Sesame Seeds
1/2 teaspoon Sumac
1 tablespoon Olive Oil 

Trim visible fat off chicken. Cut thighs in half and place in a nonreactive bowl.

Add minced garlic, lemon zest and juice, 2 tablespoons olive oil, minced herbs, salt, sesame seeds and sumac to chicken thighs. Mix well so thighs are coated with herbs and garlic. Keep aside for 2 hours or overnight.

Heat oven to 350F.

Heat a large cast iron pan over high heat. Or use a cast iron griddle.

Add remaining olive oil.

When it shimmers lay chicken in pan. Brown chicken on both sides.

If you are using a cast iron pan, put pan into oven and cook chicken for 15 minutes. If you have used a griddle, put chicken in an oven proof dish and bake for 15 minutes.

Serve chicken hot with some crusty bread or pita.


Cast iron gives the chicken a great sear. A good ovenproof nonstick pan works well too. I suggested a griddle as you get similar results as the cast iron. In the end these are just guides. Use what works best for you. 

Chicken comes to the table sizzling in cast iron. I see bits of browned garlic and herbs. Moist and lemon flavored, the thighs make a delicious dinner. We cast our vote for this bird.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Kabab Sliders

By some quirk of human nature we have three packages of ground beef defrosting in the fridge. It's a long story of I did, she did and I further clarification needed. One package turns into sloppy joes. One into kofta curry and the last one into kababs.

The kabab kheema or ground beef marinates for a few days. I use a recipe from a well thumbed paperback. With a surfeit of tikkas, kababs and other grilled meats, On the Kebab Trail fills my grill, saucepan and oven with tried and tested recipes. Dog-eared pages reveal trade secrets of tandoor masters. And I in turn use those tricks to my advantage. This kabab recipe is a first time try. As usual, I tweak and twist. The kababs are meant to be molded onto skewers and grilled. Time, the cold weather and a package of Pepperidge Farm sliders tells another tale.

Makes 8

1 pound Ground Beef
1 tablespoon Olive Oil 
3 Garlic cloves
1/2 cup Parsley 
1 teaspoon dried Mint
1/2 teaspoon dried Oregano 
1 teaspoon Cumin powder 
1/2 teaspoon Coriander powder 
1/2 teaspoon ground Black Pepper 
1 teaspoon Kosher Salt 
1 Egg
1-2 tablespoons Oil

Green Chutney Spread
2 tablespoons homemade or bottled Green Chile Chutney
2 teaspoons Yogurt 

Parsley leaves
Mint leaves
Red Onion, thinly sliced
8 Slider Buns, preferably warm ones

Place ground beef in a stainless steel or glass bowl.

Mince garlic and parsley finely and add to beef.

Add cumin and coriander powders, black pepper and salt to beef. Use your hand to mix the beef and spices.

Cover and refrigerate for up to three days.

Just before you are ready to fry kababs add the egg to beef. Squish the beef well with your fingers so the egg is mixed in.

Form beef into 2-3 inch patties.

Heat oil in a nonstick saucepan. Start with a little oil and use as necessary.

Fry patties in hot oil till brown and crusty.

Drain on paper towels.

Make the green chutney spread by mixing chutney and yogurt.

Warm buns. This could well be an optional step, but the sliders do taste good warm.

Place patties in buns.

Top with chutney spread and lots of parsley, mint and onion. 


Family quirks result in a fine kabab...and a delicious slant on burgers. A mouthful of beef, onion, mint and parsley, slathered with chutney, leaves us all wanting more!  I like to think the book nudges me in the right direction. 

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Smoked Salmon Fingerwiches

Of all the unexpected food items you might find in my luggage to Bombay, is smoked salmon. I worry this delicacy might not survive the trip across oceans and mountains, but I am pleasantly delighted! We bring the surprising to India with Pam in mind. Though much of these gourmet items are available at fancy food stores in India for a whopping rupee price. My ma in law does enjoys these delicacies, hence the effort.

Cream cheese and smoked salmon, one of the most enduring marriages, is not my first choice. Sadly, I have forgotten the the Philly cheese package. But I carry some Boursin. And this proves to be an unusual base for these bread fingers. The mix and match concept seems to work like a charm. The first package of salmon fingers disappear in a trice!!

Makes 12-14 

4-5 Brown Bread slices
1/4 cup Boursin or Cream Cheese
4-5 oz Smoked Salmon cut in thin slices

Bring Boursin or cream cheese and smoked salmon to room temperature. It makes spreading easier.

Cover each slice with a generous tablespoon of cheese. Use a thicker layer of cheese if you so desire. 

If you would like a daintier version of these fingers, trim crusts off slices before spreading the cheese.

Cut bread horizontally into three fingers.

Cover bread fingers with smoked salmon.

Garnish with cilantro.

Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate if not serving immediately.

These make great appetizers or a light lunch accompanied by a salad.

The second package too disappears in a thrice!! Neighbors and family enjoy some of Mum's spoils . It's all about spreading fingers of happiness. 

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Crab Cakes

When you have access to crab meat that has been delicately separated from shell and cartilage...make hay! Well...make crab cakes! They taste better than hay!!! A little of this crab meat comes my way. Enough for a few choice cakes. Crab cake are relished all over the US. I haven't come across too many in the subcontinent. 

Many chefs, including Floyd Cardoz, have come up with their hybrid versions. A little bit of spice changes the original flavors. My first taste of this type was at Tabla in NYC. The restaurant had just opened. And I was intrigued enough to order the Indian spiced crab appetizer, which came with avocado and a papad!!! Quite innovative and delicious!!! Tabla has closed its doors, but food memories linger on!

Mine is a simple simple crab cake.  My choice is canned crab today. Ideally I would use lump crab but I'm a beggar today. Lump meat is a bit of a splurge, but well worth it! A little boiled potato, some finely chopped onion, green chile and cilantro...all in small quantities so the crab shines through. Lightly breaded and shallow fried, they are ready to nibble on.

Serves 3-4

1 heaped cup fresh, frozen or canned Lump Crab Meat 
1 tablespoons finely minced Red Onion,  
1 boiled and grated small Yukon Gold Potato, 
1/2 teaspoon finely minced Green Chile
1 tablespoon finely minced Cilantro 
A large pinch of Kosher Salt 
2-3 tablespoons Breadcrumbs 
2-3 teaspoons Canola Oil 

If you use fresh crab meat, place it in a bowl and lightly separate meat with a fork. Frozen or canned crab meat should have the moisture lightly squeezed out. Take out as much as you can without compressing the meat. Place the crab meat in a bowl.

Add minced onion, grated potato, green chile, cilantro and salt in bowl. 

Mix gently.

Form crab into golf sized balls.

Use your palm to bring the balls together. Flatten them slightly.

Lightly bread them on both sides.

Heat a nonstick pan and dribble a little oil in the pan.

Add crab cakes and fry till brown on one side. Flip and brown the other side. Use oil as needed.

Serve them hot as appetizers with a sauce of your choice or along with a salad.


Lump crab meat makes the best crab cakes. But don't be discouraged if you have a lesser quality meat. The cakes will still taste good!

Accompanying sauces could be Tartar sauce, Remoulade, Sweet Chile Sauce or plain Tomato ketchup.

A little crab cake goes a long way. Smiles on our faces and deliciousness in our bellies tell me there are no crabby feelings at the table.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Eggplant Fry

When in India one should cook some Indian foods! The bhajiwala or vegetable vendor's stand is a vegetarians delight! My bag is soon filled with karela, gawaar and these small purple and white streaked small eggplants. So today's lunch is fish curry rice, papad, masala okra and an eggplant fry. Pam has enjoyed her 'Continental cuisine' as she calls it. So this make a tasty change. The fish curry is an adaptation of prawn kalvan. I use a delicious pomfret in place of the shrimp. Masala okra is easy to fry. But the last vegetable confounds me.

I halve small eggplants without a recipe in mind. Once they are cut, I am seized with indecision. My options are limited so I start with a hastily put together paste of turmeric, chile powder, cumin and coriander powders. A little water and oil allows the paste to adhere to the eggplants easily. It also helps that I cut a cross hatch pattern with the tip of my knife into the surface of each eggplant, so the paste seeps in. Curry leaves, garlic and mustard seeds go into the pan. The veggies go into the pan cut side down. A little water is poured into the pan and a lid goes on. Steaming side by side with the fish a the most inviting aroma emanates. Pam calls these small lemon sized veggies brinjals. We watch a Brit food show on aubergines. A vegetable by any other name........

Serves 3-4

6-8 small Eggplants
1/2 teaspoon Turmeric
1-2 teaspoon Chile powder
1 teaspoon Cumin powder 
1 teaspoon Coriander powder
3-4 tablespoons Water
1 teaspoon + 2 teaspoons Canola Oil 
1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt 
1/2 teaspoon Mustard seeds
3 Garlic cloves
6-7 Curry leaves
1/4 teaspoon Kosher Salt 

Wash and cut each eggplant in half, keeping the stems intact. 

Mix turmeric, chile, cumin and coriander powders in a bowl. 

Add water and 1 teaspoon oil to powders and mix to form a thick paste.

Score the surface of the eggplants with the tip of a knife, in a cross hatch pattern.

Spread the paste on the cut surfaces of eggplants.

Heat remaining oil in a saucepan, big enough to fit eggplants in one layer.

When hot splutter mustard seeds, garlic cloves and curry leaves.

Place the eggplants cut side down in the pan.

Add 1/2 cup water to pan along with the salt. Bring to a boil, cover and cook for 15 minutes. 

Remove the lid and let water dry.

Fry eggplants for a few minutes to get a little color and serve.

There's nothing like a good fish curry rice papad and a frosted glass of beer. The okra and eggplant augment meal. Lunch segues into afternoon naps. Eggplant by any name is delicious all the same!

Monday, November 14, 2016

Spicy Pork Stir Fry

Finding the right ingredients in Bombay is an uphill task. So I go to the best sister Prasanna Gokhale. She takes me to stores in Pune carrying leeks, exotic mushrooms  and kaffir lime leaves. She reveals and then empties the contents of her freezer into my cooler bag. So I come to Bombay well prepared to cook for my ma in law Pam.

Today's strategy is to make meat. No beef with the stringent beef ban in Maharashtra. What are my alternatives? Pork. I plan a simple marinated tenderloin. Compared to its American counterparts, this tenderloin is a baby. I adjust the recipe accordingly. The meat slices like butter, reminiscent of the missing beef. I whizz a bunch of greenery and add soy to make the marinade. Pork sits undisturbed in the fridge for a few days. And then it's on to a quick stir fry, tossed with noodles and plated.

Serves 3-4

1 Pork Tenderloin
5-6 Spring Onions/ Scallions
1 tablespoon roasted Sesame seeds
2 Green Chiles
5 Garlic cloves
3 Ginger coins
3/4 cup Cilantro 
2 tablespoons Soy sauce 
3 tablespoons Canola Oil 
1/2 pound cooked Noodles

Cut tenderloin on a bias into 1/5 inch slices. They should be thin enough to be flash fried in a wok or saucepan.

Trim spring onions, cutting off the root. Leave most of the greens intact. Cut into 1 inch chunks.

Place the spring onions, sesame seeds, green chiles, garlic, ginger, cilantro and soy in a blender or processor and whizz till you have a fairly smooth paste. 

Add paste to pork slices, mix well and marinate for at least 6 hours. An overnight marinade adds more flavor. The pork in this recipe was marinated for 3 days, developing an intense flavor.

Heat oil in a wok or saucepan. 

Add pork to hot oil and saute till done. This depends on the quality and thickness of the slices. It could take 10-20 minutes.

When pork is done, add noodles to pan and toss so they are well coated.  Let them heat up a few minutes and then plate and serve.


The pork can be easily interchanged with beef, lamb or fish. Marination varies for each. Beef and lamb marination times are the same as the pork. Fish should only be marinated up to 24 hours for best results.

The serving platter pleases my ma in law tremendously. Accompanied by a creamy mushroom soup, pork and noodles make for a light dinner for her. Homemade Alphonso ice cream, thoughtfully frozen for us by my sis, is the cherry on top. Prassy... Thanks for the food, the considerate gestures and above all.....all your love.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Shrimp and Mushroom Crepes

Lunch is a simple meal for Pam and us. Leek and potato soup, followed by deviled eggs and crepes filled with sauteed shrimp and mushrooms. 

This recipe is a one-two-three task. One is making the batter.  I start with a big handicap, crepes made by my sister, Prassy. Two is making the shrimp filling. All I need to do is saute onions, garlic and button mushrooms with cilantro. Three is making the white sauce sauce, which adds a twofold element to the filling as well as being poured over the rolled crepes. The wow factor in the end is splatters of sherry on the sauce. Instead of adding sherry to the filling, I decide to let it's undiluted flavor pepper the sauce. 

Makes 6-7 crepes

Crepe Batter
1/2 cup Flour
1/2 cup Milk
1/4 cup lukewarm Water
2 Eggs
2 tablespoons melted Butter
A pinch of Kosher Salt

Shrimp and Mushroom Filling.
1 cup peeled and deveined Shrimp
2 cups Mushrooms
1 Onion
3 Garlic cloves
2 tablespoons Canola Oil 
2 tablespoons chopped Cilantro 
1/4 teaspoon Kosher Salt 
Several grinds of Black Pepper 

White Sauce
2 tablespoons Butter
2 tablespoons Flour
1 1/2 cups Milk
A pinch of Kosher Salt 
A pinch of ground Black Pepper 
A pinch of Nutmeg
1 tablespoon Sherry

Start with the crepes. Place all the crepe ingredients in a blender and whiz till you have a smooth batter. Put into a bowl and let batter sit for an hour.

The filling starts slicing the onion into thin pieces.

Mince garlic finely.

Slice mushrooms.

Heat oil in a saucepan. When hot add garlic and let it turn golden brown. 

Drop onions into oil and saute till translucent.

Add mushrooms and stir fry till light brown.

Add shrimp to pan and saute till cooked.

Season with salt, pepper a tablespoon of cilantro and keep aside.

The white sauce starts with butter melted in a saucepan.

Add flour to the butter and stir constantly on a low flame for a few minutes.

Add milk into butter-flour mixture stirring to mix, so you have a smooth sauce.

Heat sauce, stirring constantly till it thickens.

Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg.

Start crepes by heating a nonstick pan over medium heat.

Melt a small pat of butter in pan.

Pour a ladleful of batter into pan, swirling the pan to spread the batter. Fill holes with extra batter. Cook on one side, flip and cook on other. Repeat process till you have 7-8 crepes. Pile up crepes on a plate as you cook them. Use the remaining batter for another recipe.

Assemble by placing some shrimp and mushrooms in the middle of one crepe.

Dribble a few tablespoons of white sauce over filling.

Roll crepes and place on a serving platter. 

Repeat till filling is over. You should have 6-7 crepes.

Pour the rest of the white sauce over crepes.

Scatter remaining cilantro over sauce.

Drizzle sherry over the sauce and serve.

Pam enjoys her simple repast. Especially since shrimp and mushrooms are a perennial favorite. We end with delicious trifle filled with guavas and mosambi. My satisfaction is the delight on Pam's face!