Sunday, January 29, 2017

Roasted Cauliflower Dressed in Garlic and Parsley

A surfeit of cauliflower thrills me. This fan favorite morphs into a myriad recipes. Today's appearance is in the roasted form. Roasting changes the taste, letting cruciferous flavors caramelize. Those slightly charred edges give a mild vegetable a robust quality.  So how can I amplify these mild tones? By tossing the florets in a power packed roasted garlic dressing.

Start by cutting the cauliflower into medium sized florets. Roast them in a hot oven till they are dotted with dark brown flecks. Shave the top off a pod of garlic and roast it alongside. A two for one strategy gives you the main and dressing base in a short bake. 

Serves 4

4 cups Cauliflower florets
1 Garlic pod
2 + 3 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil (or more if needed)
1/2 + 1/2 teaspoons Kosher Salt 
1/2 + 1/2 teaspoon ground Black Pepper 
1/2 cup chopped Parsley 

Heat oven to 425F.

Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.

Scatter florets on baking sheet.

Drizzle with 2 tablespoons olive oil.

Season with 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt and 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper. 

Mix with your hands so florets are evenly coated with oil and seasonings.

Slice the top 1/3 of the garlic pod so cloves are exposed.

Drizzle with a little olive oil.

Nestle garlic pod among florets. 

Bake florets and garlic for 20-25 minutes till tops are flecked with dark brown spots. 

Remove from oven.

Carefully squeeze garlic cloves into a small bowl.

Mash with a fork till pulpy.

Add remaining olive oil, salt and pepper to garlic. Whisk. Add more olive if needed to make the dressing a little runny.

Add chopped parsley to dressing.

Scrape cauliflower into a bowl. Add dressing. Toss florets and arrange on a platter.

The meal consists of roast pork and Swiss chard. And in place of the omnipresent potato, cauliflower slides in. Needless to say, the starch is not missed by anyone at the table.

Thursday, January 26, 2017


A picture tells a thousand words. The one above shouts about a colorful appetizing platter. Tartines are a beloved lunch companion to soup or a salad. I may say lunchtime food, but you could pick up a slice whenever you feel hunger pangs.

These are easy to assemble. I make two fish and two veg variations. The smoked salmon and Boursin is one I have made in the past. No smoked salmon, use prosciutto or roast beef. Salmon rillettes come from Dorie Greenspan.  Avocado toast is sourdough bread, softened goat cheese and sliced avocado, sprinkled with sea salt. Sorry, but there is no substitute for avocado! Thinly sliced radishes and parsley make a fresh tasting topping for Boursin. No radish, use cucumber slices. You could use cream cheese, but what draws me to Boursin is it's soft texture and added seasonings. No Boursin, add garlic, scallions and herbs to cream cheese. Bread brings these toppings together. I almost always reach for Trader Joe's bread, which make a sturdy base. Their seven grain batard and sourdough breads are my preferred choice. Be a bread snob and look for artisanal kinds. You will be amply rewarded when you take that first bite.

In reality, your fridge, not the world, is your oyster. Reach in, take a chance, mix and match your finds. Then sit back and enjoy the repast.

Smoked Salmon, Salmon Rilletes, Radish and Avocado Tartines 
Makes 24-27 pieces

3-4 Seven Grain Wheat Bread slices
2-3 Sourdough slices
1 package Boursin or flavored Cream Cheese at room temperature 
4 Smoked Salmon slices
Dill sprigs
1/2 cup Salmon Rilletes (recipe below)
1/4 cup Goat Cheese at room temperature 
1 ripe Avocado 
Sea Salt
3 red Radishes

Salmon Rilletes
4 oz Salmon fillet
1/2 cup White Wine
1 teaspoon Fish Sauce
1 Lemongrass
I green Chile
2 Scallions
1 Shallot
1/4 cup Smoked Salmon chunks
3 tablespoons Mayonnaise 
1 teaspoon Sriracha 
1 teaspoon Gochuchang
1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salad
Several grinds fresh Black Pepper 
1/4 cup Cilantro 

Trim lemongrass and cut into 2 inch pieces. 
Trim and cut scallions and green chile into small pieces.
Place salmon, white wine, fish sauce, lemongrass, scallions and green chile in a nonreactive saucepan. Place over medium heat and poach salmon for 15 minutes till cooked. Take salmon out of liquid and flake gently into small chunks. 
Mince shallot and place in a bowl. 
Add mayonnaise, Sriracha and gochuchang along with salt and pepper. Mix till smooth.
Add flaked salmon and smoked salmon chunks to bowl.
Roughly chop cilantro and add to salmon. 
Mix gently so salmon holds its shape. 
Refrigerate for a couple of hours to let the spices infuse.

Assemble tartines just before you plan to serve them.


Spread Boursin thickly on 2-3 wheat bread slices.

Top with smoked salmon pieces. 

Scatter dill fronds on salmon.


Spread salmon rilletes on 2 lightly toasted sourdough slices.


Toast 2 sourdough slices.

Spread goat cheese over slices.

Peel and cut avocado. Arrange over goat cheese.

Sprinkle sea salt and black pepper over avocado toast.


Slice radishes thinly.

Spread Boursin thinly over wheat bread.

Top with radish slices.

Season with sea salt.

Garnish with parsley leaves.

Cut tartines into halves or thirds if desired.

A crisp white wine, some hot soup and this sandwich smorgasbord transforms my kitchen into a French bistro. Don't miss the chef peeking out from under the bread!  

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Lomo Saltado

My new year resolution has been not to eat too many potatoes. Mainly, not to fry them. Then I visit a Peruvian restaurant and I am won over by sliced beef over fried potatoes. Do I stop myself from recreating this marvel in my kitchen?? Not a chance, I say, to the sound of crumbling intentions!!! 

Thanks to Priya, my first encounter with Peruvian cuisine is replete with large  plates of seafood ceviche, boiled potatoes draped in a yellow Aji amarillo sauce, grilled octopus with spicy salsa and the mainstay entree...lomo saltado. This a big mess of a dish, beef slices over fried potatoes and a little mound of rice. Soy sauce and vinegar give the sauce body and flavor, an odd, but effective combination. Peruvian food is a heady mix of Hispanic and Chinese ingredients. Culture and cuisine is forever linked. 

I boil and fry a bunch of Russets. Sirloin is thickly sliced. Onions, garlic and tomatoes are slivered. Beef is quickly seared in a hot pan. It then simmers with onions, garlic and tomatoes. Soy sauce and vinegar add a boost, along with beer. Braised for a bit, the stew releases a pleasant aroma. 

Serves 3-4

1 pound Sirloin
1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt 
1/2 teaspoon ground Black Pepper 
3 tablespoons Olive Oil 
1 large Onion
3 Garlic cloves
2 Tomatoes (I used 1/4 cup Cherry Tomatoes)
3 tablespoons Red Wine Vinegar 
2 tablespoons Soy sauce 
1/2 bottle Beer
5 Potatoes 
3-5 tablespoons Canola Oil 
Parsley, chopped

Boil potatoes. Peel and cut into thin wedges.

Cut sirloin into 1/4 inch thick strips.

Heat olive oil in a saucepan over high heat.

Add sirloin. Season with salt and pepper. Stir.

Let sirloin brown, letting all liquid dry up.

Cut onion into thick slices.

Mince garlic finely.

Cut tomatoes into small pieces.

Once it has browned add onion and garlic and fry for a few minutes.

Add tomatoes, vinegar, soy sauce and beer to beef. Stir well to mix.

Cover pan, lower the flame and braise for 15 minutes till beef is cooked.

In a separate pan heat some canola oil and shallow fry potatoes wedges till golden brown.

Place fried potatoes on a platter.

Spoon beef over potatoes and serve garnished with chopped parsley.

Crisp wedges soak up the meaty sauce. A mouthful of beef and potatoes has tang from the vinegar, a deep earthy quality from the soy, making each bite a celebration. Meat and potatoes always taste good, but lomo saltado  promises much more. In all honesty, a salad for lunch is me making good on my new year's promise. By dinner, fried potatoes and succulent beef allow resolutions to fall by the wayside.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Labneh with Pita Chips


My friend Geets and I relish talking about what we cook and eat. Conversations are almost always interspersed with talk of the where, what and hows of food. She and I have shared  recipes and kitchens through the years, and the labneh is one of those red letter gems. She made this for me last year, then generously shared the recipe. This reliable and dressed up staple graces the appetizer table often. 

Labneh is a thick, tangy, yogurt. It's Middle Eastern ethnicity lets it adapt to bright flavors. Greek yogurt could be used if you can't find labneh.  Swirled thickly on a plate, then dressed up with lemon zest, parsley, pistachio and pomegranate, a drizzle of olive oil sends it over the top. Toasted pitas lifts it to the next level!

Serves 6

1 1/2 cups Labneh or thick Greek Yogurt 
2 teaspoons Lemon zest
2 teaspoons Parsley, chopped fine
1 tablespoon Pistachios, roughly chopped 
1 heaped tablespoon Pomegranate seeds
2-3 pinches Sumac
1 pinch Kosher Salt 
1 tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil 
4-5 Pita
Olive Oil Spray

Heat oven to 350F.

Tear pitas into 1 or 2 inch pieces by hand.

Scatter pita shreds on a baking sheet.

Spray chips with olive oil and bake for 10 minutes till light brown.

Take pitas out of the oven, cool and put in a resealable plastic bag.

Use a colored platter or plate for the labneh. Something that offsets the white of the yogurt.

Spoon labneh onto plate and smooth it with the back of a spoon.

Sprinkle lemon zest over labneh.

Scatter parsley, sumac and salt over lemon zest.

Top with pistachios and pomegranates.

Drizzle olive oil and refrigerate till you serve.

Serve labneh with pita chips.

Needless to say, this appetizer is demolished  every time it makes an appearance. It was love at first sight when Geets made it for me. And it's the same feeling that washes over me when I make labneh. Thank you Geets....your friendship is a gift that keeps recipe at a time.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Faux Bouillabaisse aka Fish and Fennel Soup


Soft snow covers the ground. A wintry wind whistles through the trees. And I find myself making soup again. Something different, something piquant...outside the usual regurgitated standards. I rummage in the vegetable drawer and find fennel. Then I find some fish in the freezer along with a bag of my summer tomatoes. Ideas float until I am inspired to make an aromatic bouillabaisse-like concoction. 

Here we go... Some chopped onion, lots of garlic, thin slices of fennel, boiled potatoes, lemon, lots of pulpy tomatoes, paprika, saffron and a whole red chile...the last one is the Indian in me!! Throw all these items together and along with some fish..voila...soup's done. 

Serves 4-6

1 large Onion
4 Garlic cloves
3 tablespoons Olive Oil
1 Fennel bulb
4 Lemon slices
1 cup cooked Potatoes
4 large Tomatoes or 1 14oz can of Tomatoes
3 cups Chicken Stock
1 1/2 teaspoons Paprika
1 large pinch Saffron
3/4 teaspoon Kosher Salt 
1/2 teaspoon ground Black Pepper 
1/4 cup Parsley plus additional parsley for garnishing
1 red or green Chile
2 tablespoons Galliano or Pernod (optional)
1 tablespoon Fennel seeds
1/2 pound Fish fillets (tilapia, cod, sea bass)

Peel and cut onion and garlic into thin slices.

Trim fennel and cut into 1/4 inch thick slices.

Heat olive oil in a deep saucepan.

Add onions and garlic and saute till they are pale brown.

Add fennel and lemon slices and saute for 3-4 minutes.

Pour stock into veggies and bring to a boil. 

Add potatoes to stock.

Simmer soup for 5 minutes.

Blanch fresh tomatoes to remove skin and roughly chop. If you are using canned tomatoes, cut then up into large chunks.

Add tomatoes to fennel along with paprika, saffron, salt and pepper to soup.

Chop parsley and add to soup. 

Cut the stem off the chile and drop it into the soup.

Let soup simmer for another 10 minutes for flavors to blend.

Grind fennel seeds to a powder. 

Wash fish and cut into bite size pieces and add to the soup. Or lay fillets on top of simmering soup and let the fish cook in the soup. Fish will cook and flake as the soup simmers. It should take about 5 minutes.

If you are using Pernod or Galliano, add it to soup.

Add fennel powder to soup. Stir well.

Fish the chile and lemon slices out of the broth.

Garnish with some parsley and serve hot.


Make this soup into a seafood broth by adding shrimp and/or clams and mussels. Feel free to improvise. 

You could add raw potatoes to the broth. It will take a tad longer. Add chopped potatoes and cook them before you add lemon slices. 

Mediterranean spices add much needed boldness to the soup. Our taste buds revel in this vibrant broth. A double dose of fennel gives it a zesty tang. This soup is just a warm bowl of winsome charm!  Just right faux me!

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Hot and Sour Soup

Shauna gives me a Chinese cooking tome for Christmas. As I turn the pages, I  mentally bookmark several intriguing versions of foods I love. One being soup. Especially the hot and sour category, which I plan on making since I have quarts of turkey stock, some leftover cooked beef and a small can of bamboo shoots. And with that I try my vision of hot and sour. 

The recipe calls for a few items not in my pantry. So I go with what I find. What's new!!! I want my soup to have a robust chile flavor. I add a whopping tablespoon of chile garlic paste, lots of black pepper and my secret ingredient..dark soy sauce.

Serves 4

2 cups Chicken Stock
1/4 cup Bamboo Shoots 
1/2 cup Shimeji Mushrooms 
1/2 cup cooked Meat ( roast beef, cooked chicken, boiled shrimp)
3 tablespoons Cornstarch 
2 teaspoons Water
1 Egg
1 tablespoon Dark Soy Sauce 
1 heaped teaspoon Chile Garlic Paste
3 tablespoons Red Wine Vinegar 
2 teaspoon ground Black Pepper 
1/4 teaspoon Kosher Salt 
2 tablespoons Cilantro 

Heat chicken stock in a deep saucepan till it boils gently.

Cut bamboo shoots into thin strips and add to stock.

Clean mushrooms.  Add to hot stock. 

Chop cooked meat into bite size pieces and add to chicken stock.

Mix cornstarch and water till smooth. 

Pout cornstarch in a thin stream slowly into the hot stock stirring constantly as you pour it in. Let soup boil and thicken for 3-5 minutes.

Break the egg into a bowl and whisk well.

Dribble beaten egg into hot soup slowly. Use a whisk to stir the egg into the soup. This lets the egg form ribbons as it sets. 

Add dark soy sauce, chile garlic paste, vinegar and salt to soup. Cook for another 5 minutes.

Chop cilantro and add to soup just before serving.

Nothing beats a bowl of hot soup on a cold blustery day. Steamy aromas  arise enticingly from my gift. Aaah..did I mention that a set of beautiful bowls came with the book? Shauna knows double the gift means double the pleasure!

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Peas Spinach and Fenugreek in Cream or Mutter Palak Methi Malai

It's a both languages.... a delicious simple mouthful eaten with rice or roti. I yearn for simple meals after the season of feasting. Fasting isn't quite on the books. Simplicity is a more conducive choice.

Frozen peas are more than adequate. But I do like to use fresh spinach. Frozen  spinach is great, an alternative second option. But fresh spinach wilts, keeps its shape, texture and toothsome quality. A little onion, garlic and ginger, a few green chiles and dried kasuri methi is all it takes. 

Serves 4

2 cups frozen Peas
2 cups fresh baby Spinach
2 tablespoons Canola Oil 
1 Onion
1/2 teaspoon Garlic paste
1/2 teaspoon Ginger paste 
1/4 cup Water
1 green Chile (more if you like it spicy)
1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt 
1 teaspoon Kasuri Methi
2 tablespoons heavy Cream

Wash spinach. Do not drain completely. The residual water lets the spinach steam in the pan. Roughly chop leaves.

Cut onion vertically into thin slices. 

Mince green chile finely.

Heat oil in a saucepan.

Add onion to hot oil and saute till light brown.

Drop garlic and ginger paste into onions and stir to mix.

Add spinach to onions and stir till spinach is almost wilted.

Scatter frozen peas and minced green chile over spinach.

Season with salt. Stir to mix.

Add water, bring to a boil, cover and cook for 10 minutes.

Take off the lid and increase the flame. Let the water cook down till the peas are almost dry.

Crumble kasuri methi into peas.

Pour cream into peas and saute for a few minutes before serving.

This side goes well with both rice and roti.

January starts with good intentions, along with a bunch of simple food. The best way to start the year is in my kitchen!

Monday, January 2, 2017

Asian Bolognese

Bolognese usually conjures up dinner tables of Italy, especially Milan, where bolognese is king. Italian versions are ground meat cooked in red wine, milk or stock. Tomato is pulped into most bolognese, but my invention veers through another continent. The Orient calls and I move past Italy, all the way to South East Asia. 

Chicken replaces ground beef. Kecap manis and soy sauce in place of milk or San Marzano tomatoes and chile garlic paste and tomato ketchup in place of pepperocini and passata. Lots of ginger and garlic add punch. The sauce is poured over HongKong noodles, a thin chewy pasta. Borrowing from Burmese and Thai cuisines, the noodles are sprinkled with crunchy fried onions and fresh cilantro.

Serves 4

1 pound ground Chicken 
2 tablespoons Olive Oil 
1 Onion
4 Garlic cloves 
1 inch piece of Ginger
4 tablespoons Kecap Manis
1/4 cup Tomato Ketchup 
1 teaspoon Soy Sauce 
2 teaspoons Chile Garlic paste
1/2 pound Hong Kong Noodles or Spaghetti 
Fried Onions

Cut onion into small dice.

Mince garlic cloves finely.

Peel ginger and mince finely.

Heat oil in a Dutch oven.

Add minced onions, garlic and ginger. Stir. Let the onion turn translucent. Let the ginger and garlic turn aromatic.

Add ground chicken and stir fry till chicken darkens and browns. 

Add kecap manis, tomato ketchup, soy sauce and chili garlic paste to chicken. Stir fry well so sauces are well blended.

Pour 1/2 to 3/4 cup water into chicken. Bring to a low boil, cover and cook chicken for 10-15 minutes.

Boil 4-5 cups water in a deep saucepan.

When boiling, add noodles or spaghetti and cook as per package instructions. Drain and rinse in cold water. 

To serve, heap about a cup of noodles in a bowl. Top with ladlefuls of chicken sauce.
Garnish with fried onions and fresh cilantro. Dig in and enjoy!


Keep in mind these are small portions, to be eaten as part of an Asian meal. Double up ingredients for a hearty one bowl meal.

We love the strong unexpected flavors. Accompanied by the clickety-clack of chopsticks, the meal travels through Asia at a fast pace!