Saturday, April 23, 2016

Chicken Makhanwala

I am about to make Rehan's all time favorite. Makhanwala in restaurants is thickened with cashewnut paste, something my kids are deathly allergic to. As he cannot eat restaurant Makhanwala, I have been recreating this recipe often, fine tuning several versions over the years. This version is the most popular. His D&D buddies come over for a session. They make noise and I make dinner.

Chicken thighs marinate in tandoori masala, yogurt,  ginger, garlic and lime overnight. The overnight marinade imbibes essential flavor. My pet peeve is that chicken in the US is bland and tasteless. I have discovered that the longer you marinate the meat, the better it tastes. I sometimes grill the chicken, but for the most part it roasts in the oven. The sauce comes together easily. It is makhanwala so you have to begin with a a few dabs of butter or makhan. I sweat chopped onions, green chiles, garlic and then add tomato sauce, cream and spices. As it gently simmers, I add the cooked, shredded chicken. Looking pleasing to the eye, a mellow pinkish red, flecked with green,  I deliver an aromatic alternative to a curry house staple.

Serves 6

8 Chicken Thighs
1/2 cup Yogurt 
2 tablespoons store bought Tandoori Masala 
1 teaspoon Garlic Paste
1 teaspoon Ginger Paste
1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt 
Juice of 1/2 Lime
2 tablespoons Butter
1 tablespoon Canola Oil 
1 large Onion
1/2 teaspoon Garlic Paste
2 Green Chiles
1/4 cup Tomato Sauce
1/4 cup Cilantro
1/2 teaspoon Sugar
1/2 teaspoon Chile Powder
1/2 teaspoon Roasted Cumin Powder 
1/2 teaspoon Garam Masala
1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt 
1/2-3/4 cup Cream
1/2 teaspoon Kasuri Methi (optional)

Marinate the chicken overnight for best result. Remove skin and fat from chicken thighs. Wash, dry and place in a nonreactive bowl.

Make marinade by mixing yogurt, garlic paste, ginger paste, tandoori masala, salt and lime juice. 

Use a knife to make small slits in chicken thighs. Pour marinade over chicken. Massage marinade into meat. Cover and refrigerate overnight. If you are short on time, marinate meat for 4-6 hours.

Heat oven to 375F.

Place chicken on a foil lined sheetpan. Bake for 35-40 minutes. Check occasionally to see if chicken is done. Cooking time depends on the size of chicken thighs.

As chicken bakes, start the sauce.

Chop onions into small dice.

Slice green chiles into thin slivers.

Chop cilantro.

Heat butter and oil in a large saucepan.

Add onions and let them sweat for a few minutes till soft.

Drop chiles and garlic paste into onions. Saute for a few minutes.

Add tomato sauce.

Let sauce come to a simmer and then add cream. Start with 1/2 cup and add more if the sauce thickens too much. Stir slowly to mix cream in. 

Add cilantro, sugar, chile powder, cumin powder, Garam masala and salt to sauce. Stir slowly so powders dissolve into sauce.

Bring sauce to a simmer over low heat. Cook for 10 minutes and keep aside till its time to add the chicken.

Once chicken is done, take it out of the oven. Shred chicken into bite size pieces while it is warm.

Place sauce on a low flame and add chicken to sauce.  Let chicken hang out in sauce for 5-7 minutes for tandoori flavors to seep in.

If you are adding Kasuri methi, this would be the time to crumble it in. 

Serve chicken hot with naan or rice.

Rehan's friends enjoy the unadulterated flavors of the North Indian meal. Paneer, cauliflower, samosas, maa ki daal, rice and rotis round out the meal. My son thanks me effusively as their D&D meals usually consist of pizza and tacos. The next day I'm told that one friend is in tears because he wants to eat some more! Compliments come in many forms!

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Swiss Chard and Wheatberry Rolls

A few weeks ago I eat a delicious wheatberry and edamame salad. And I love the chew, the nutty taste, such a lovely mouth feel. So I go in search of wheatberries. Not an easy task as they are hard to find! Happily, my search is fruitful and soon I am boiling a pot of wheat berries. They take a long time to cook, forty five minutes long, during which I contemplate a few recipes. The berries cook up puffy, fluffy and brown I turn half into a salad. And I use the other half to stuff Swiss chard. My first attempt is with rainbow chard. The leaves turn an unpleasing dark brown. So I settle with regular green Swiss chard. 

The leaves are quickly blanched. I cut out center ribs to make it easier to roll. The stuffing comprises of red peppers, goat cheese and loads of fresh parsley. A heaped spoon of stuffing sits in the middle of the leaf. The lowers ends are tucked  in tightly and the rolling begins. Stuffed rolls are steamed for 10 minutes. I make a quick garlicky tomato sauce to spoon over these rolls. Soon we will be dining on little parcels of health!!!

Makes 8-10 rolls

1 bunch Swiss Chard
1 cup cooked Wheatberries (follow instructions on package)
1/2 cup Goat Cheese
1 Red Pepper, cut into thin slivers
1/2 cup minced Parsley 
1/2 teaspoon Balsamic Vinegar
1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt 
1/2 teaspoon ground Black Pepper 
1 tablespoon Olive Oil 
2 Garlic cloves 
1 1/2 cup Tomato Sauce 
1/4 teaspoon Kosher Salt 
Server all grinds Black Pepper 

Heat water in a saucepan. 

Separate chard leaves. Once the water has boiled, drop a few leaves at a time into the water and blanch for 30 seconds. Take leaves out and drain on a sheet pan.  Finish blanching all leaves.

Blot leaves dry. Cut the center rib at the lower part of the leaf. This will make it easier to roll. Do this for all the leaves.

Mix wheatberries, goat cheese, red pepper slivers, parsley, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper. 

Spread one leaf on a flat surface. 

Mound a heaping tablespoon of wheatberries in the center.  Bring the lower folds of the leaf over the stuffing and tuck them in tightly under stuffing. Fold the right and left parts of the leaf over the tuck. Then push the stuffing forward to form a tight roll. Repeat with leaves till wheatberries are used up.

Lay rolls on a basket steamer. 

Heat 3 cups of water in a saucepan that will hold the steamer. 

Lay steamer in the pan, cover and steam rolls for 10 minutes.

Make sauce while rolls steam. 

Cut garlic into thin slices.

Heat olive oil in a saucepan. 

Add garlic, tomato sauce, salt and pepper and simmer for 10 minutes. 

Serve the rolls warm with a ladleful of tomato sauce.

These rolls prove to delightful bites of goodness. A forkful of green and grain is not only good looking but also an appetite pleaser.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Roasted Salmon with Chile and Sichuan Peppercorns

How many meals can I make for my house guests??? I bake, saute, braise and boil a host of entrees and sides. My excitement knows no bounds as I plan and execute a plethora of good eats. This is the pre-game buzz. Geets, Suju, Padma and Vini have plentiful choices at meals. Out of the many seafood concoctions, the salmon hits a home run. 

My inspiration is Lizzie Mabbot's Chinatown Kitchen. Her recipes are different, diverse and delightful riffs on Asian favorites. This recipe is my riff on her steamed tofu. The sauce is a blistering mouthful of chile and sichuan peppercorns. Tofu is not my protein of choice. So I figure this intriguing sauce should blanket fish....much more to my taste. Salmon slices are quickly pan fried and then roasted in a hot oven. I assemble the sauce while salmon cooks. Sauce is drizzled onto hot salmon, garnished with scallions and herbs and we dine on a marriage made in Asian heaven. 

Serves 4-6

1 - 1/2 Lbs Salmon
1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt 
1 teaspoon ground Black Pepper 
1 + 1 tablespoon Olive Oil 
3 Garlic cloves
2 tablespoons Soy Sauce
1/2 teaspoon Dark Soy Sauce
1 teaspoon Chinese Black Vinegar 
1 teaspoon Sugar
2 tablespoons Oyster Sauce 
1/2 teaspoon Chile Flakes
2 tablespoons Water 
1 teaspoon Sichuan Peppercorns 
2 Scallions 
Fresh Cilantro
Mint leaves
Thai Basil leaves

Heat oven to 350F.

Cut salmon into 2 inch wide slices. You should have 8-10 pieces. 

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a nonstick saucepan on a high flame.

Season salmon with salt and pepper.

Pan fry salmon, placing the side with no skin in the oil. Cook for a minute or two till salmon is light brown, then flip and cook on skin side for 1 minute more. 

Place salmon on a sheetpan and bake for 6-8 minutes.

Start the sauce by heating remaining oil in a pan.

Mince garlic and add to oil and let it turn light brown. Take it off the flame.

Add both soy sauces, black vinegar, sugar, oyster sauce, chile flakes and water to garlic oil.

Crush Sichuan peppercorns lightly and add to sauce.

Cut scallions into thin slices.

Take salmon out of the oven.

Drizzle sauce over salmon.

Garnish with scallions, cilantro, mint and Thai basil and serve. 

The chile sauce gives buttery salmon a spicy kick. Everyone enjoys the simplicity of sauce and salmon. Herbs add fresh flavor. I have so much more fun cooking for friends than cooking with them. The fridge is brimming with foods they love. Each meal is an overindulgence of appetites, an excess of laughter and a visit full of indelible memories. Just the way we friends like it. 

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Filipino Coconut Bibinca

Watching friends ooh and aah over dessert always gives me a warm feeling. Geets and Suju come to visit. We have an annual gathering of old friends. Words fly thick and fast over wine and appetizers. We sit down to dinner recreated from this blog with soba noodles, potatoes, bok choy, pork meatballs and a soon too be posted salmon. Dessert is at Geets request...Filipino bibinca or as we affectionately call it, coconut sport.

My recipe box is filled with hand written gems from the days of yore....days before Apple generated instant gratification, when recipes we found were painstakingly penned in ink. I met Marie Dizon in Shauna's preschool many many moons ago. Eating Filipino bibinca at her house, it was love at first bite. The taste reminds me of the thick gelatinous halvas my grandmother made. Her recipe asked for a few but strange ingredients. I went through hoops searching for them. Having never heard of grated cassava, cream of coconut or tender coconut, I was determined to recreate this unusual yet familiar taste. Marie directed me to the right store and a favorite was born. Slow-baked twenty five years ago, sport keeps popping up every half decade. The once strange cassava and macapuno are now pantry staples. Easy to put together, coconut sport is a rare gem, a mouthful of familiar, reminding me of grandmother's kitchen, swaying palms, hot breezes...precious memories reaching out from the past to giving me an all encompassing hug.

Serves 10-15 

2 1 lb packets of frozen grated Cassava
2 cans Coconut Milk
1 can Cream Of Coconut (Coco Lopez brand-used for pina coladas)
4 tablespoons melted Butter
2 Eggs
1 2/3 cup Sugar
Pinch of Kosher Salt 
1 12 oz jar Macapuno or Tender Coconut in syrup 

Defrost cassava. Scrape into a large bowl.

Heat oven to 300F.

Add coconut milk, cream of coconut, melted butter, eggs, sugar and salt to cassava. Mix well so batter is smooth and creamy.

Pour into a 12x10 inch ovenproof dish. 

Bake for 1 1/2 to 2 hours till sport has set. The center should be jelly like. The edges should be tinged brown.

Remove from oven and cool on rack for 5 minutes.

Spread the contents of the jar over the coconut. Use a spatula to spread tender coconut all over.

Enjoy the bibinca at room temperature. 

DO NOT REFRIGERATE. It keeps on the counter for a few days if it isn't readily consumed by all.

I bring the bibinca to the the table. Twelve ladies make repeated forays into dessert. I am astonished and immensely pleased with the enthusiastic response. We reminisce and recall food memories from our youth. The next day we make further inroads, extolling the virtues of coconut sport. I still cannot recall which childhood dessert it reminds me off. So I am content with the knowledge that it pleases many and my puzzlement over the taste is a laughing matter for good friends.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Masala Mini Idlis

Can you say no to these spicy tidbits?  Not me. Not the first taste in Bombay. Not when I make a batch to snack on. As you know by idlis are irresistible to me. Pop one into your mouth, a few chews and you reach for another. And another. One friend has eaten an entire batch in one sitting. You know who you are!!! And I'm making it for her again!! This time she has to share!! 

If you have access to an Indian grocery, you could easily pick up some ready-made idli batter or a packaged idli mix. If you live in India you know the neighborhood store will carry a fresh batch. If ready-made batter is not an option you have to take the rocky road. Make your own. It's tedious a two day involves soaking and grinding of rice and urad dal. Last resort...get someone else to make idlis for you! 

A paragraph of caution!! You cannot make mini idlis without a mini idli maker! Regular idlis are made in palm sized stainless steel molds. Mini idli molds are just At one time these stainless steel molds were only available in India. Try your local Indian grocery or Amazon. You get a three or four tired stand which goes into a special steel steamer. Its hard to make these without the right equipment. 

Bombay has numerous baniya stores that carry  these masala idlis. You buy them by the kilo. Eat them warm or at room temperature. Eat them with a fork or toothpick. Eat them plain or with chutney... any which way they are deliciousness personified!

Makes 70-80 

3 cups Idli batter
A large pinch of Kosher Salt 
Canola Oil Spray to coat idli molds
1 teaspoon Canola Oil 
1/2 teaspoon Mustard Seeds
10-12 Curry Leaves 
2 teaspoons Chile powder 
1/4 cup Water 
1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt 
Fresh Cilantro 

Fill one inch of water in the idli steamer. Place steamer over medium heat and let water come to a boil. 

Fill idli molds while water boils.

Separate tiers and spray with oil. This makes the idlis slide off when they are done.

Ladle a teaspoonful of batter into each mold. Batter should fill the mold.

Put the tiers together and place in steamer.

Cover and steam idlis on a medium flame for 10-12 minutes. The idli steamer lid is equipped with a steam vent that whistles when idlis are done. 

Carefully remove tiers from steamer. Let idlis cool for a few minutes.

Use a spoon to nudge idlis out of molds and onto a plate.

Repeat process till batter is finished and idlis are done.

Heat a teaspoon of canola oil in a saucepan. 

When it shimmers, add mustard seeds and curry leaves. Let mustard seeds pop.

Add chile powder and water to pan. Stir.

Slip idlis into saucepan.

Season with salt. 

Stir well to coat idlis. Saute for a few minutes so idlis absorb the chile water.

Garnish with cilantro, dig your fork in and enjoy!

I am tempted to make deep inroads. The fork hovers over the mound. I skewer a few and I am swiftly rewarded with a spicy kick. I am making them for the one who ate them all, when she visits. What's a few stolen idlis between friends. 

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Puff Pastry Croissants

Pinterest has a unending supply of inspiration. I had filed these babies away a long time ago. A recipe piques the imagination. Sometimes a thorough explanation comes with the picture, other times I'm left high and dry. The latter is the case with these croissant wannabes. I like them because they don't involve a convoluted butter dough. Puff pastry is unrolled and cut into dunce caps.... My bad.. I mean conical shapes. Aah, but before you cut, the pastry is smothered in sugar and cinnamon. The cones are rolled into tight cylinders. Placed on a parchment or silpat lined sheet pan and liberally dusted with more sugar, they bake golden brown, crisp and crunchy. 

Makes 14-16

2 sheets Puff Pastry
1/2 cup Sugar
1-2 teaspoons Cinnamon powder 

Defrost puff pastry in a cool place.

Heat oven to 375F.

Unroll one sheet on to a lightly floured surface.

Use a rolling pin to flatten the sheet.

Sprinkle sheet liberally with about 1/4 cup of sugar.

Top sugar with half of the cinnamon powder.

Cut sheet into conical triangles. Start a few inches away from the corners. A pizza cutter works the best when cutting pastry. You should be working in a zig zag fashion. You will get 7-8 cones from one sheet. 

Line 2 sheet pans with parchment paper. Or use a silpat sheet.

Start rolling the triangle from the larger end. Roll tightly towards the narrow tip. Place roll on sheet pan the short end facing down and finish the rest of the cones in the same way. 

Repeat process with sugar and cinnamon sprinkles on second sheet of pastry. Cut and roll tightly and place on second sheet pan.

Sprinkle all rolls with sugar and bake for 30-35 minutes, one sheet pan at a time. Keep the second pan in the fridge till you are ready to bake. 

Cool on a baking rack for 10 minutes and enjoy. 

These croissant wannabes taste scrumptious with a cup of PG tips. Not too sweet, a crumbly, flaky bite is just the ideal nibble at teatime.