Saturday, May 27, 2017

Fried Fish with Soy and Chile Glaze

The Rodrigues' are visiting so I attempt to put my best culinary foot forward. It is a joy to cook for them as they truly relish whatever comes out of my kitchen. The theme is Asian. A vibrant soba noodle salad, replete with yellow and orange peppers, red radishes, slivers of green mango and a fistful of herbs from Geets' garden. A bowl of blistered Shishito peppers. A tentative stab at shrimp pajeon with a gochujang sauce. And a main course of tilapia with a dark soy glaze.

Tilapia filets are seasoned with salt and pepper and then dusted with arrowroot. Flash fried in a pan and finished in the oven, the filets are then drizzled with an aromatic soy sauce. Start with butter and olive oil. Add finely minced onions, ginger, garlic and green chiles. Saute till the air is perfumed with a heavenly aroma. Then add kecap manis, light soy, dark soy, sugar and pepper powder. The sauce is similar to another recipe I use with chicken. As the sauce sits, it intensifies in flavor. This deep brown glaze gets its character from dark soy sauce. Leave it out and you have a second tier glaze. Good, but not great.

Serve 4

8 Tilapia filets 
1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt 
1/2 teaspoon ground Black Pepper 
1-2 tablespoons Arrowroot or Cornstarch 
2 tablespoons Olive Oil 
3 tablespoons Butter
1 small Onion
1 tablespoon finely minced Ginger
1 tablespoon finely minced Garlic
2 tablespoons finely minced Green Chile
2 tablespoons Kecap Manis
1 tablespoon light or regular Soy Sauce 
2 tablespoons Dark Soy Sauce 
1 teaspoons Sugar
2-3 tablespoons Black Pepper powder 
Cilantro for garnishing

Wash and pat dry tilapia filets.

Heat oven to 300F.

Season filets with salt and pepper on both sides.

Dust with arrowroot lightly on both sides.

Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a nonstick saucepan.

Fry the filets for 2-3 minutes on each side till slightly colored. Place them in an ovenproof plate.

Bake filets for 10 minutes.

Make the sauce while filets bake.

Heat remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil and butter in a small pan.

When butter has melted, add onion, ginger, garlic and green chiles. Saute for 2-3 minutes till onion is translucent.

Add kecap manis, light and dark soy sauces and sugar. Bring sauce to simmer and let it bubble for 3-5 minutes stirring often.

Add pepper powder and take it off the flame. You could make the sauce earlier as the flavor intensifies as it sits.

Take filets out of the oven and arrange on a serving platter.

Drizzle glaze generously over filets.

Garnish with cilantro and enjoy!


Any fish filets could be used. Boneless fish works the best.

The sauce could be made up to 6 hours earlier. Reheat till warm before drizzling over fish.

There is no substitute for dark soy sauce. It has a strong flavor that cannot be recreated or substituted.

It has been a while since the four of us have sat down to dinner. Everything feels right. The wine, the food, but most of all our friendship. Thirty two years has a treasure trove of memories. Though we do not live a couple of towns away anymore, the distance apart brings us closer together. And for that we are blessed.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Alu Methi Subji-- Potatoes with Fenugreek Leaves


How does an Indian meal come together? The carnivores consume a meat, a vegetable side, some lentils and Indian bread or rice. The herbivores do much of the same with the exception of meat. The common factor?? The veggies of course. The rest of the meal as well, but the crux of the matter is the veggie. I can't imagine a meal without some form of veggies. 

I make ground sausage with spices. To round out the popular meat and potatoes theme, I settle on baby Yukon gold potatoes, with fresh fenugreek leaves or methi. The former tastes buttery and the latter slightly bitter. Methi leaves are good for your body, blood and well being. No lecture here on nutrient values, just a nudge to use them frequently. They are sold in bunches at Indian grocers. Pick healthy looking leaves, discarding inedible stems. Rinse leaves under running water to remove all grit and sand, their growing medium.  Chop leaves roughly and add to dal, ground meat, fritters or veggies. I'm doing just that. I drop a bunch of finely chopped leaves to cooked potatoes. And wait for them to wilt slightly before we eat.

Serves 4

1 pound small Potatoes 
4 Garlic cloves 
2 cups Methi or Fenugreek leaves, stems discarded
1-2 green Chiles
1 tablespoon Ghee
1/2 teaspoon Cumin seeds
6-8 Curry leaves 
3/4 teaspoon Kosher Salt 
Cilantro for garnishing 

Wash and dry potatoes. Cut then into thin slices.

Slice garlic, chile and curry leaves thinly.

Wash methi well as it is sometimes sandy and gritty. Squeeze out water and chop roughly.

Heat ghee in a nonstick skillet.

When ghee shimmers, add cumin seeds. Let them turn deep brown.

Drop garlic and curry leaves into ghee. Let garlic turn brown.

Add chopped green chile in. Saute for a few seconds.

Add potatoes and kosher salt. Stir well so potatoes are coated with ghee.

Cover skillet and cook over low heat till potatoes are soft, about 10-15 minutes.

Add chopped methi leaves to potatoes. Stir to mix. Cover and steam for 5 more minutes till methi leaves have wilted. The methi leaves retain their bright green color if you serve the veggies as soon as they are done. They turn a dark green if kept covered for another half hour. Their flavor remain the same.

Garnish with cilantro and serve.

The vegetable subji or side holds a distinctive taste. Buttery potatoes mixed with bitter methi  leaves accented by crisp garlic slices. The sausage kheema has an ideal companion!

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Roast Chicken in Poblano Cream

Dear friends come to visit from Pune, India. Dinner has to be special as Reena, Bona and Damini warrant those bells and whistles. I'm told they like soup. Done. Something non-Indian is preferred. Done. The chicken I've made last week should be appreciated. Pan- roasted thighs are finished in the oven, with sprigs of thyme. Charred poblano chiles are blended with cream, which is poured over the roasted chicken. Something so simple just tastes heavenly.  

These friends are stalwarts, the kind you want in your corner when the going gets tough. They deserve my best effort. We make celery soup with Gorgonzola. Grilled asparagus, Brussels sprouts and scallions are wok fried with garlic and snap peas. Steamed potatoes with garlic oil ooze flavor. Sides are done!

Chicken thighs are preferable, as they roast quickly. Boneless and skinless, they turn golden brown in a cast iron skillet. The skillet then goes into a very hot oven to roast uncovered for a short spell. Browning continues in the oven, along with some aromatic lemon thyme sprigs. Poblano peppers give the sauce a sharpness. Charring them over an open flame or on a grill adds a smoky quality to the sauce. Puree the charred poblano with cream. The resulting color and texture is delightful to the eye and palate. 

Serves 4

1 1/2 pounds boneless skinless Chicken Thighs
3/4 teaspoon Kosher Salt 
1 teaspoon ground Black Pepper 
2 tablespoons Olive Oil 
4-5 Thyme sprigs
2 Poblano Peppers 
3/4 cup Cream
A pinch of Kosher Salt 
Cilantro for garnishing

Trim visible fat off thighs. Cut each thigh in half. Wash and pat dry. 

Season thighs with salt and pepper.

Preheat oven to 400F.

Heat olive oil in a cast iron pan. If your saucepan is not oven proof, use a saucepan and follow the instructions below.

Saute chicken a few pieces at a time.  Let pieces saute till golden brown on one side. It takes 5-8 minutes. Turn chicken over and brown the other side as well. 

Do not crowd the pan. Saute chicken in two batches.

Return chicken to pan and add thyme sprigs to pan as well. Or if your saucepan is not oven proof, place chicken and thyme in a foil lined oven proof dish. 

Roast chicken uncovered for 15 minutes.

Char poblano peppers over a high flame or on a grill, blistering all sides.  Peel off as much outer skin as possible. Remove seeds and discard. Chop peppers roughly.

Puree peppers and cream in a food processor or use an immersion blender. I prefer these two devices versus a blender. They allows you to control the texture and color of the sauce, leaving bits of pepper visible and  adding to the visual appeal.

Take chicken out of the oven. 

Pour poblano sauce over chicken. If you pour the sauce into the oven proof dish, return dish to oven for another 10 minutes.

Place cast iron pan over a medium flame and cook the chicken for 5 minutes till sauce is bubbling.

Garnish with cilantro leaves.

 A simple strawberry cream cheese tart appeases our sweet tooth. Wine flows. Old Monk rum is a welcome drink. An evening of laughs and lengthy stories makes us long for Prassy's company. 

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Cauliflower in Pepper Garlic Sauce

A recent news report comments on the popularity of cauliflower. It is an aha moment for those who have not enjoyed the delights of this mild tasting veggie. And that must be why the prices of these heads have soared in the last few months. Nevertheless, I still buy them. Because it is one of the most requested vegetable by family. Because we love how cauliflower adapts and adopts the flavors it is cooked with, be it florets in masala, pureed into soup or plain pan fried. 

I'm making Asian tonight. Cauliflower goes well with the stir fried beef I am about to wok-fry. How many ways can you make this veggie in an Asian fashion? One way is Cauliflower Manchurian, a staple in the Indo-Chinese fusion repertoire. It starts with florets deep-fried in batter, then coated in a 3 alarm spicy soy based sauce. Having made the recipe a couple of times, I know the labor intensive steps it involves. I remember watching Suvir Saran cook a similar recipe, oven roasting mildly spiced cauliflower florets instead of deep-frying them. I am intrigued. It looks easier, less messy and more calorie conscious. 

Florets are coated with olive oil, dusted with cumin, coriander, roasted in a hot oven till they are crunchy and brown. The sauce starts with olive oil. Lots of garlic and pepper provide the zing. Don't let the large amount of pepper stop you. It dissipates into the sauce. Ketchup gives the sauce a silky quality. As it simmers, the sauce darkens to an intense red color. A quick toss in the sauce and the florets are ready to eat.

Serves 4

4 cups Cauliflower florets
2 tablespoons Olive Oil 
1/2 teaspoon Cumin powder 
1/2 teaspoon Coriander powder 
1/4  teaspoon Kosher Salt 
10 Garlic cloves
2 teaspoons Black Pepper powder
1 tablespoon Olive Oil 
1 cup Ketchup
1/4 teaspoon Chile powder
Scallions, cut on a bias

Preheat oven to 400F.

Line a baking sheet with aluminium foil for easy clean up.

Put florets on a baking sheet.

Drizzle olive oil over florets.

Sprinkle cumin and coriander powders over florets. Season with salt.

Mix gently so florets are coated with oil and spices.

Roast on middle rack for 20-25 minutes till floret tips are dark brown. 

While cauliflower roasts, start the sauce.

Mince garlic finely.

Heat a tablespoon of oil in a deep sided saucepan.

When oil shimmers, add garlic and pepper powder. Stir.

When garlic is golden, add ketchup and chile powder.

Simmer over low fire for 15-20 minutes for sauce to thicken. It will darken as it simmers.

Take cauliflower out of the oven and add to sauce.

Toss florets so they are well coated.

Spoon onto a platter and garnish with chopped scallions and cilantro.

I am in love with oven roasted cauliflower. Each bite has some crunchy texture, some tang. Fork tender florets draped in silken tomato make for one zesty accompanying side.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Potato Soang

A simple meal is all I crave. After a day of strenuous yard work, I am starving. The prospect of too much chopping and cooking after hoeing and digging is a dismaying thought. What could be faster than boiled potatoes in gravy? It should go with rice as well as roti...everyone's pleased.

I plan to make a Manglorean style potato in thick gravy. My nearly bare cupboard has one Russet and one Yukon gold. Not sure how that will turn out. Peeled and chopped into large chunks, I let the potatoes boil till almost done. I soak some tamarind in hot water and pour off the thick sauce that ensues. Onions saute with chiles in oil. Thick tamarind pulp is added and the sauce bubbles for minutes. Boiled potatoes go into spice flecked oil. Water is added to make a soupy gravy. As they bubble, I can't wait to see how the two varieties will cook up. 

Serves 4

2 large Potatoes 
2 tablespoons Canola Oil
1 Onion
1 dried Red Chile
1/4 teaspoon Mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon Urad Dal or split black gram
1/2 teaspoon Chile powder
1/4 cup Tamarind pulp (see notes)
1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt 
A few Mint leaves

Peel potatoes and cut them into large chunks. Place them in a saucepan, cover with water and add a large pinch of kosher salt.

Place saucepan over heat and boil potatoes till almost cooked, 10-12 minutes. Drain and keep warm.

Peel and chop onion finely.

Heat canola oil in another deep saucepan.

Add dried red chile, mustard seeds and urad dal to hot oil. Let the spices sizzle for a few seconds.

Add onions and saute for 5 minutes till they are tinged brown.

Add chile powder to oil. Stir so chile powder doesn't burn.

Add tamarind pulp to onions.

Scatter potatoes over onions. Stir so potatoes are coated with masala.

Season with salt.

Add 1/2 cup water to potatoes. 

Bring potatoes to a simmer. Cook for 5-7 minutes on a low fire, stirring occasionally.

Garnish with mint leaves and eat with rice or roti.


Make tamarind pulp by soaking a golf ball sized portion of dried tamarind in 1 cup warm water for 10 minutes. You could also zap the tamarind and water for 10 seconds in the microwave to help it along. Squeeze the soft pulp with your fingers and extract as much pulp as you can. Add more water if needed. Discard the tamarind seeds and fibrous portion, keeping only the thick pulp.

You could buy a bottle of tamarind pulp. Dilute the pulp and use as needed.

I love the way the potatoes cook. Yukons hold up so well in the gravy, while the Russet melts ever so slightly giving the gravy a thick consistency. I may use this trick more often. The spicy sour taste complements bland white rice. The boys enjoy their potato and roti pairing as well. And thus ends another risky day in the kitchen.