Thursday, June 15, 2017

Leek and Cheese Frittata

Liquid sunshine pours through the patio umbrella. The late morning light and soft breeze impels me towards an outdoor lunch. Something simple, a light meal, letting me bask in this glorious sunlight. A quick vegetable soup materializes with odd pieces from the the larder. A little bit of bacon, a potato, two carrots and a few cherry tomatoes can make a hearty soup. If I add a light frittata to the meal, all will be pleased.

I break and whisk eggs lightly. A fat leek is sliced and sauteed in butter. Yes butter...sauteed leeks in butter taste heavenly! Eggs are poured over lightly browned leeks. I drop bits of Boursin into eggs. Use any soft cheese. Boursin adds enough tang to enhance the eggs. Thyme and basil are scattered over as well. Covered, the frittata cooks quickly. Once the eggs firm up in the center, we are ready for another al fresco meal.

Serves 2-3

6 Eggs
1 large Leek
1 tablespoon Butter
1/4 cup Boursin or any soft cheese (Goat, flavored Cream Cheese)
1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt
1/4 teaspoon ground Black Pepper 
2 sprigs Thyme
4-5 Basil leaves

Crack eggs into a bowl. Whisk well.

Trim green ends of leeks. Cut vertically in half. Wash well under running water to remove all grit. Pat dry.

Chop leeks into thin slices. 

Heat butter in a 6-7 inch nonstick saucepan.

Add leeks to melted butter and saute till light brown.

Season eggs with salt. Whisk to mix.

Pour eggs over leeks.

Dot eggs with small dabs of cheese.

Season with black pepper.

Take thyme leaves off stems and scatter over fritatta.

Sliver basil and scatter over frittata as well.

Cover and cook over a medium flame for 8-10 minutes till the center is cooked and not runny and the edges are firm. The bottom will be golden brown.

Slide fritatta onto a plate.

slice into wedges and serve.

Pair frittata with a green salad or some soup.

As al fresco lunches go, this one lives up to the hype! Each time we do so, it feels like we have captured a bit of the day on our plate. The frittata is just that. We cut the round into portions. Triangles of mellow yellow grace our plates... or should I say wedges of sunshine!

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Sausage Stuffed Peppers

I have just realized that sausage meat makes for a very tasty stuffing. For the first time I use a packaged sausage mix. Dubious at first, I cook the meat as I would ground beef. A little onion, garlic, a few choice spices, and the meat emanates a fragrant aroma. It also helps that the sausage is already flavored. We eat some with rice. Leftovers could be used in so many ways. This time they will be stuffing for peppers.

Grocery stores have been carrying bags of small colorful mini peppers for a few years now. They make a crunchy addition to salad, a delicious side sauteed with onions and now they are a vessel for my leftover sausage. It is a bit tricky to stuff them. I read an Ottolenghi recipe that tells me to first make a vee shaped cut. Then lift the flap and fill the pepper. The first one is experimental, but usable. I get better with each pepper I work on! Filled peppers roast in a hot oven and out they come looking mouthwatering.... temptation personified. 

Serves 4

12-15 small Peppers
8oz  ground Sausage meat (I used Jimmy Dean)
2 tablespoons Canola Oil 
1 small Onion
1/2 teaspoon Garlic paste
1/2 teaspoon Garam masala
2 tablespoons Yogurt 
2 tablespoons chopped Cilantro 
1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt 
Olive oil

Make the stuffing by chopping onion finely.

Heat canola oil in a saucepan.

Add chopped onion to hot oil and saute till golden brown.

Scatter chunks of sausage over onions. Break up chunks with a spoon. You should have very small pieces of sausage. Saute sausage till it changes color, a few minutes.

Add garlic paste, garam masala, yogurt, cilantro and salt to sausage. Stir vigorously to incorporate. Saute for a few minutes.

Add 1/2 cup water to sausage. Cover pan and cook for 10-15 minutes over a medium flame. Uncover pan and let all moisture dry up. Let meat cool for a short while before stuffing peppers.

Place a pepper on a cutting board. Using a sharp knife make a cut starting on the right side near the stem, going down about 3/4 of the pepper towards the narrow end. Make another cut starting on the left side. This cut should meet the right handed cut in a vee shape. With your knife lift the flap. The pepper is ready to be stuffed. Cut the peppers prior to stuffing for easier prep.

Stuff each pepper with about 2 tablespoons of meat. 

Heat oven to 375F.

Cover the bottom of an ovenproof dish with a little olive oil.

Lay stuffed peppers in the dish. 

Sprinkle a little kosher salt over peppers.

Bake uncovered for 18-25 minutes.

Take peppers out of the oven. 

Serve them with a salad or as part of the meal.

The peppers have roasted up soft and wrinkly. These little bites look so elegant and delicious. And as lunch progresses, the fact that they are, is depicted by the empty platter before me. 

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Chicken Burrah Kabab

My son graduates so we throw him a small backyard affair for his friends. The table is laden with foods that are Rehan's favorites. From childhood to present times, this child has remained faithful to certain meat-centric dishes, which he eats with gusto. Beef frankies have top billing. Kheema dogs are next, vying with chicken kababs for second place. The first two are easy to put together. Kababs are a longer story.

Having made these heavily spiced kababs before, I know it takes two marinades to develop that distinct taste. Shauna painstakingly cleans and cubes an enormous amount of boneless skinless chicken thighs. Thighs work best as they roast well, staying juicy and moist. Breasts tend to turn dry as they cook. Not my choice, but they might be yours, so go ahead. They are first coated with garlic and ginger paste, chile powder, lime juice, salt and mustard oil. They sit in the fridge for about an hour before I add more chile and cumin powder, garam masala, yogurt, dried fenugreek and more mustard oil. Two additions of mustard oil you might ask? Nothing else will suffice, as this oil has a taste all of its own. The first marinade allows the chicken to absorb the strong flavors and the second marinade stays long enough to impart flavor to the outer coating. Thoroughly mixed, I let the chicken sit in the fridge overnight. The longer it marinates, the more flavorful the kababs will be.

The morning of the lunch I soak a bunch of skewers in water. Metal skewers are the best choice as they hold up well on the grill. But we haven't enough, hence the wooden ones. Then comes the laborious task of skewering. Red onion and green peppers are cut into small chunks. The skewer begins with onion or green pepper, followed by chicken, pepper, chicken and ending with onion. I like to begin and end with the veggies. It's a personal choice. Do what suits you. There is no wrong way. The grill is fired up. Skewers are lightly sprayed with oil and laid on the grill. Cook them over a medium heat. Chicken takes a while to cook so take your time. Slow and low allows the kababs to develop an even char. Once they are done, squeeze some lime on them and partake of your labors.

Serves 4-6 or makes 8-10 skewers

2 pounds boneless skinless Chicken Thighs
3 teaspoons Garlic paste
3 teaspoons Ginger paste
1 teaspoon Chile powder
2 tablespoons Lime juice
3 tablespoons Mustard Oil
4 tablespoons Garam masala
1 teaspoon Cumin powder 
1/2-1 teaspoon Chile powder
1/2 cup whole or 2% Yogurt 
2 teaspoons Dried Fenugreek or Kasuri Methi
2 teaspoon Kosher Salt 
2 teaspoons Mustard Oil 
1 large Red Onion
2 Green Peppers 
Wooden or Metal Skewers
Lime slices

Chop thighs into 2 x 2 inch pieces. Wash and pat dry. Place thighs in a glass bowl.

Add garlic and ginger paste, chile powder, lime juice and 3 tablespoons of mustard oil to chicken. Rub spices into chicken. Cover and refrigerate for an hour.

Take thighs out of the fridge and add chile powder, garam masala, cumin powder, yogurt, kasuri methi, salt and additional mustard oil. Use your hands to massage spices into chicken. Or gloves.

Cover and return to the fridge. Let chicken sit overnight for best results.

Take chicken out of the fridge an hour before grilling so it comes to room temperature.

Soak wooden skewers for an hour in water. 

Chop onion and peppers into 2 inch chunks. Keep the chunks large as you want them to keep their shape as they grill.

Start by threading an onion chunk onto the skewer. Follow it up by two pieces of chicken, a green pepper piece, two pieces of chicken and end with onion. 

Heat a gas grill till it is about 500F. (See NOTES below for other ways to cook the chicken)

Spray skewers with oil before laying them spray side down on the grill. 

Cook chicken on a medium setting for about 8-10 minutes on one side. Spray chicken and then flip skewers and cook for another 7-8 minutes. 

Heap skewers on a platter and serve with lime slices.

For an easier serving style, pull chicken off the skewers and mound on a platter. Arrange lime slices around chicken.



Chicken skewers could be cooked on a charcoal grill, a tandoor or the oven.  The timing is the same for a charcoal grill and tandoor. Cook chicken skewers in a 400F oven for 20 minutes. You could finish the skewers by broiling them for a few minutes to get the charred look.

Mustard oil has a very distinctive flavor and is essential to the kababs. You could use olive or canola oil in place if you cannot find it, but the flavor will be different. It is available at Indian or specialty grocery stores.

Dried fenugreek or kasuri methi is another ingredient that gives these kababs an authentic taste. Extremely aromatic, this strong dried spice is an essential component. Most Indian groceries carry both mustard oil and dried fenugreek. It definitely is worth seeking them out.

Rehan's friends come to lunch and stay till dinner!! Frankies, kheema dogs, chicken kababs, lemon pasta, roasted fingerling potatoes, watermelon feta salad and tomato basil mozzarella skewers fill the table. The chocolate ganache cake disappears fast. Food stays on the table as the kids nibble throughout the day. I can picture Rehan at his kindergarten graduation, a ceremony rife with hilarious moments. Cap and gown is now put away, replaced with gravitas, briefcase and suit! Time has a funny way of creeping up on you, just like the hug I get at the end of this special evening.