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Saturday, August 26, 2017

Where to use Pesto

If you can't answer that, just rub it all over yourself and have someone lick it off you..

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Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Methi & Chard Gotas with Kadhi

I was finally able to recreate one of my favorite Gujarati recipes after growing my own fenugreek leaves from seeds.
They are actually quite easy to grow, very low maintenance, and quick yield.  They'll grow indoors if it's cold in the winter and replenish the outside soil with nitrogen, so it's nice to grow them in several places one after the other to prepare the soil for something more needy afterwards.
I got garden side-tracked.
I've had these growing up, had them in India, and most recently had them in New Jersey every day for breakfast...which I really looked forward to each morning.
Instead of making me tired of it, it actually sparked my desire to make them myself.
Of course, sourcing the methi (fresh fenugreek leaves) is the hardest part.  You can't just go to the store and buy a "bunch" of methi like you would buy a bunch of cilantro or parsley.  Even cilantro is not always guaranteed here (I just grow that too).
My methi leaves are still a bit too small, but I felt I needed to make this right away because I wanted them RIGHT NOW.
So, I added some finely chopped swiss chard greens (also from the garden).  I have a different thinner Kadhi recipe here as well.  This Kadhi is thick like a dipping sauce.
Serves 2 as a meal, 4 as an appetizer

For Gotas:
1/2 cups packed methi leaves, finely chopped
1/4 cup packed chard leaves, finely chopped
1 green chile, coarsely chopped (add more if you like it extra spicy)
1/2 inch ginger, grated
1 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp garam masala
pinch hing (asafoetida)
juice from 1/2 lime
1/4 tsp salt or to taste
1 1/2 cups besan (chickpea flour)
3/4 cups water
1/4 tsp baking soda
Vegetable oil for frying

For Thick Kadhi:
1 1/2 cups buttermilk (half yogurt, half milk)
1 cup water
1/4 cup besan (chickpea flour)
pinch turmeric
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
pinch hing (asafoetida)
1 slit green chile
1 sprig curry leaves
pinch of salt
cilantro to garnish
2 Tbsp vegetable oil

For Gotas:
1.  Mix all the ingredients together gently until it forms a thick mixture.  It shouldn't be liquidy, but shouldn't be dry either.  You should be able to spoon it and have it slowly drip off.
2.  Heat the oil.  You dont need a deep fryer but you need a deep enough layer so the gotis can be submerged.
3.  Carefully spoon 1 heaping tsp of mixture into the oil at a time, frying until it turns golden, then removing with a slotted spoon onto a paper towel.

For Kadhi:
1.  Heat the oil in a wok or tadka or deep sautée pan.
2.  Add the seeds and cook until they crackle, then add the turmeric and hing.  They should fizz.
3.  Add the slit chile and curry leaves and fry for about 1 minute.
4.  Add the besan and buttermilk and cook, whisking until it thickens.  The buttermilk might separate but it's ok.
5.  Add water until the mixture reaches desired thickness.  Add salt to taste and garnish with cilantro.

For eating:
Either pour the kadhi all over the gotas and eat them one by one on your own plate...
keep it communal and use the kadhi as a dip..
Either way, enjoy and wish you had made more..

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Friday, August 4, 2017

Ahi and Avocado Poke Bowl on Arugula

My first memory of eating Poke was on the beach in Hawaii.. bought at the market and separated into plastic cups for the family.
I had never eaten anything as intriguing and it wasn't a big thing.
Then I had it several times at Roy's, a Hawaiian restaurant, and finally, a homemade version from my Father.
Since then, no poke for me.
Also since then, it seems like Poke has become the new fresh fast food.  There are little poke shops EVERYWHERE!
When you only come back to the US every couple of years, these types of changes really stand out.  It went from "what is poke and how to you pronounce it?" to "omg you don't know what poke is?"
Although it's trendy and delicious, which is a rare combination, I do hope that the fishing regulations will take notice of the diminishing tuna populations in the ocean.  These babies need a break to be able to reproduce in sufficient quantities.
Everyone loves to be able to eat it now but it would be even nicer to be able to eat it in the future.
With that said, when it is available and not too expensive, I'm guilty of indulging on that rare occasion.  When I do, this is how I prepare it:
Serves 4
900g (2lbs) fresh Ahi Tuna, cut into cubes
2 small avocados, cubed
1/2 firm cucumber, diced
1 very ripe tomato, diced
1 jalapeno, diced 
2 tsp dried seaweed, rehydrated (use hijiki or wakame)
1 handful chopped cilantro
1 handful chopped chives
1 green onion, chopped
as much arugula as you want as a bed
some black and white sesame seeds for garnish
2 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp grated ginger
1 Tbsp sesame oïl
1 Tbsp rice vinegar
freshly cracked black pepper
1/2 tsp white sesame seeds
1/2 tsp black sesame seeds
1.  Whisk the vinaigrette ingredients together.
2.  Toss with all the rest.
3.  Serve over a bed of arugula
4.  Ask yourself if you are worthy of eating such a heavenly thing

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Wednesday, August 2, 2017

From Yard to Table

Can you feel the joy in my heart?
Sometimes the most simple meals are the ones you create while you're daydreaming and are back to real life once you look at your plate.
Sourcing every single thing on this plate from my yard or the neighbor's yard makes for such a gratifying meal.
We have:
Fresh eggs, zucchini, heirloom tomatoes, chives, and cilantro.
The drizzle of olive oil is not from my yard, but brought to me by my brother:  Queen Creek Olive Mill in Arizona.. Mexican Lime Olive Oil.
For this moment.. I could ask for nothing better..

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Monday, July 10, 2017

Fish Tacos on Homemade Tortillas

Fish Tacos.
This made up 75% of my intake in college.  I could eat them everyday and not get sick of them.  I craved them when I was too sick to eat them and will seek out every single fish taco joint in California just to get a sneak peak of the chef's heart.
There are no words...
This being my favorite food for such a large part of my life, the only 2 reasons I had not made them before this year are:
1.  Before living here, I had easy access to them, so never a need to make them
2.  After living here, I had NO access to valid corn tortillas, or masa harina.
  What has changed?
I thought of buying masa on one of my trips back home and decided to try to make tortillas myself.
Major Breakthrough of the Year here!
So, making corn tortillas is actually not so difficult.  You just need to know the ziplock trick.  It's probably even easier with a tortilla press, but hey, it's not a requirement.

Yield 20 6 inch corn tortillas
2 cups masa harina (do not sub corn flour)
1 1/2 cups warm water
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1.  Mix everything together into a warm ball.
2.  Let rest for 30 minutes, covered with a kitchen towel.  During this time, the masa will absorb more moisture.
3.  Divide the mixture into 20 balls.. or wing it and make small balls that fit into the palm of your hand (I have small hands)
4.  Cut a large ziplock bag so you can open it like a magazine.  Place each ball in between the plastic and press into a tortilla.  Use a rolling pin to help, pressing from the inside toward the outside.
5.  Cook on a flat slightly oiled surface, flipping once.  I don't quite know about the cooking time.. just don't burn them or they will break when you use them as a vessel for your fish tacos.
6.  Place them in a tortilla warmer until ready to use.  If you don't have one, keep them wrapped in a clean kitchen towel.

Sooo easy!
I'll get to my fish taco recipe soon.. with that spicy Chipotle sauce and Guacamole.. mmMMmmMmm!!

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Sunday, March 19, 2017

Single Layer Carrot Cake with Olive Oil

It took me 3 rounds of baking this cake before I actually got a chance to snap a shot of a slice, let alone post the recipe.
That's how fast it goes.
The last time I made it was for my Mother in Law, who had never had carrot cake before, and thought the idea was interesting.  As I grated my carrots and prepared the olive oil, I could literally see the question marks above my in-law's heads as I told them I was making a cake for dessert.  They really thought I was pulling their legs and I was making some sort of appetizer.

Everything was settled once they had a slice and made 2 break through discoveries:  
1.  Carrots can be used in dessert!
2.  The French are not the only ones who can do dessert!

Come on now, everyone who has eaten at my table several times has had carrot or beetroot halwa before.. this really shouldn't be a surprise to anyone!

So I now present to you the most requested dessert (and easiest one to make) in my house, 
the Single Layer Carrot Cake with Olive Oil.

Serves 10-12
170g (6oz) brown sugar
180 mL (3/4 cup) Olive Oil
60g (1/4 cup) plain yogurt
3 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract or 1 packet vanilla sugar
250g (2 cups) flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp freshly ground java pepper (or quality black pepper)
Fold in:
260-280g (2 cups) grated carrots (approximately 6 medium)
1 inch freshly grated ginger
60g (1/2 cup) raisins or 3/4 cup chopped pecans
100g (3.5oz) room temperature cream cheese
50g (1.76oz) softened butter
50g (1.76oz) icing sugar (powdered sugar)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 Tbsp plain yogurt
1 tsp freshly grated ginger
pinch freshly ground java pepper

1.  Combine the dry ingredients and set aside.
2.  Beat the brown sugar, olive oil, and yogurt together for at least 1 minute.
3.  Add the eggs in one at a time, beating them in, then add the vanilla.
4.  Add the dry ingredients into the wet and stir until just combined.  This means not to mix it too much, but enough so the pockets of flour have disappeared.
5.  Fold in the grated carrots, ginger, and raisins very gently.
6.  I don't have one of those cake pans where the bottom drops out, and I don't believe I really need one, so I used a 20 x 25cm (8 x 10in) rectangular pan lined with parchment paper.  The parchment paper makes it easy to remove the cake from the pan and cut it nicely at the end.  Pour your batter into this and distribute it evenly.
7.  Bake at 180°C 350°F for 32-38 minutes.  Check for doneness by poking a toothpick into the center.  It is done when it comes out almost clean.  If it is totally clean, the cake will be less moist.
Each oven is different, so it's hard to give an exact time.  In my oven, it is perfect at 33-34 minutes.
8.  Remove from the oven and let cool to room temperature before frosting it.
9.  Make the frosting.   Beat the butter and cream cheese together, then incorporate the sugar, vanilla, ginger, and pepper.  It should be rather stiff.  To make it easier to spread, add the yogurt.  It should not be runny!  Don't screw this up!
10.  Apply the frosting with the back of a spoon or a frosting spatula so there is a nice thick even layer covering the entire top of the cake.  I'm not usually a frosting person, but trust me, this is necessary.  Don't think to hard about it.. just do it.
Cut the cake the way you like, into sizes you like, and serve at room temperature or cold.
You can add chopped pecans or raisins to each slice to make it pretty, instead of just plopping it onto the table, parchment paper and all the way I usually do.
The result is so moist and decadent, not too sweet, but just enough with a touch of zesty happiness.
No, you can't taste the olive oil.  No, it doesn't taste like a salad.
It actually gets better the next day...
and the next..
and the next after that..

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Sunday, December 11, 2016

Tandoorified Cauliflower "Steak"

Does that mean you can make thick slices of cauliflower that don't fall apart and grill them?
I cannot believe how much diversity you can find in vegetables!  This is one of my many gifts this week.  But this one, I procured for myself.
(The other ones were indoor skydiving, a dinner cruise, and the new Steve n Seagulls album).
So, the only downside is that you can only make 2 "steaks" out of 1 cauliflower head.  The rest are just florets.. but I'll tell you what to do with those.. it's actually not really a problem.
Serves 2 steaks + 2 servings of florets
1 head cauliflower (mine was green cauliflower)
2 tsp tandoori spices
2 Tbsp olive oil
juice from 1/2 lime
chopped cilantro for garnish
1.  Make the slices.  Remove the outer leaves of the cauliflower head without cutting the stem.  Place it upside down on the cutting board, stem up (like a head stand) and slice right down the center of the stem to have 2 halves.. like a human brain.  Then slice each half once more, making a 1.5 to 2cm steak with each half.  The rest will break off as florets.  Keep those aside.
2.  In a saucer, stir the tandoori spices and olive oil together.  Brush this mixture generously all over the steaks.  Toss the rest of the mixture with the florets.
3. Take care of the florets.  Preheat the oven to 400°F 200°C.  Squeeze just a touch of lime juice over the florets, place them in an oven proof dish or sheet pan, making sure they are well separated, and bake for about 25 minutes.
4.  Now for the steaks.  Heat up your grill, plancha, or griddle pan to high heat.  Grill the steaks for about 2-3 minutes on each side, until they start to get grill marks.  Drizzle a touch of lime juice will this is happening.
5.  Remove from the grill/plancha/griddle and place in the oven.  I griddled on a cast iron skillet and just transferred the skillet to the oven.  Cook for about 15 minutes.  This will have the outside crispy and charge and the inside tender enough without being mushy.
This is perfection.
6.  Serve the steaks drizzled with lime juice and chopped cilantro.  The florets can be served the same way, but without the "steak" look.
I served mine with some Toor Dal, basmati rice, and some sauteed spinach.

Let me tell you about that spinach real quickly.
I took some nigella seeds (also known as black onion seeds) and threw them into some hot olive oil, then added some sliced garlic, and then threw in the spinach and cooked until it wilted.  Then I seasoned with a bit of fleur de sel and added 1 Tbsp dried pomegranate seeds for crunch.
I don't know where that idea came from, but it was a great idea and nicely complemented the rest.

So about those steaks.. there is something ultimately satisfying about tandoorifying vegetables.  The char marks from the grill give the veggies that superior dimension and tandoori spices complement that texture perfectly.
The result is eye-candy.. we rarely see the cross-section of cauliflower heads, nature is truly beautiful.

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Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Roasted Delica Morreti and Feta Quiche

Keep the skins on.
That's the secret.
The best squash varieties are by far Ms. Butternut and Ms. Delica, pictured blow.
Both can be held in one hand, do not need to be peeled if roasted, do not become mush when cooked, and have a distinct sweet flavor that is not watery or pumpkiny.
In 3rd and 4th place come Mrs. Bernettine and Mrs. Sucrine du Berry, pictured below. 
 They are both larger versions of the first two with the same qualities, but need to be held with 2 hands.  They are perfect for pie or larger families.
Ms. Red Kuri (Potimarron) is all the rage in France, and it is very tasty, but on my list, it comes 5th, pictured below.
Although it can be held in 1 hand, there is not much flesh and once cooked, it doesn't stay as firm as the others.  The distinct full flavor is less present as well.
I love my life.

So with this in mind, my full bodied Delica was cubed, skin on, brushed with olive oil and a pinch of fleur de sel, and roasted on a sheet pan with parchment paper for about 30 minutes at 400°F 200°C.
The rest is just a quiche with a garlic panko almond crust.
3 Tbsp panko (use something else if GF)
1 clove garlic, grated
pinch fleur de sel
few shakes red pepper flakes
few cracks black pepper
3 Tbsp ground almonds
1 Tbsp olive oil
the works:
1 cubed oven roasted Delica or something of the sort
1 onion, sliced into moons (preferably roasted with the squash)
100g feta, cubed
3 eggs well beaten
3/4 cup milk
3/4 cup yogurt or cream
1/2 tsp dried thyme
pinch fleur de sel
pinch nutmeg
few cracks black pepper
1.  Make the crust directly in the baking dish by mixing everything but the olive oil together.  Then pour in the olive oil and spread out the mixture evenly in the bottom of the dish.
Pre-toast the crust by placing it in the oven at 400°F 200°C for about 10 minutes.  Remove the dish and get ready for the next step.
2.  Place the works into the dish, making sure to arrange everything to your liking.  The feta should be evenly distributed and not all clumped on one side.  Apply yourself.  This is easy.
3.  Make the appareil by beating everything together until foamy.  Pour this into the dish with all the other people waiting.
4.  Cook at 350°F 180°C for about 40-50 minutes.
5.  Remove and let cool.  This is important.  At least 15 minutes.  This is also the hardest part.  During this excruciating time, make a salad or something.

I served mine with a salad.
The skin?  Ha!
It makes it crispy and utterly enjoyable without clearly being identified as skin.
I shall never remove skin from any of the smaller squashes again!

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Sunday, November 27, 2016

Panko Crusted Coalfish Burger with Tartar Sauce

As I drift from the traditional all beef patty, pre-seasoned and char-grilled to perfection, I'm opening up to things I may never have tested before, as long as my OG burger was available.
It is unfortunate to cling to ideas of "The Perfect Burger" because you completely pass by opportunities to taste exceptional things such as Black Bean & Beet Burgers.. or my new best friend, this crusty Coalfish Burger!
So here's the thing with me and fish.  When it's whole, it's either on the BBQ/Plancha or in the oven.. whole.  That is the tastiest way in my opinion.  If I'm going to be cooking it in a pan.. there is no other way for me than crusted.
The crust is where it is all concentrated.  If you can get that right, you can make it any style you want, and be worshipped.  Indian style with curry leaves, mustard seeds, and coconut rice.  American style in a hamburger bun with tartar sauce.
Oh yes.
This crust is perfection in a bun.
Let me explain.

Serves 2
1 thick cut of fish (mine was coal fish, about 350g - 12 oz), cut in half
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp butter

3 Tbsp ground almond
1/4 cup panko
2 cloves garlic, grated
1/2 tsp fleur de sel
1/2 tsp freshly grated black pepper
3 Tbsp finely chopped parsley
1 tsp dill
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
3 Tbsp grated parmesan

Tartar sauce:
1 plain yogurt
2 Tbsp dill
1 cloves garlic, grated
juice from 1/2 lime
pinch fleur de sel
1/2 tsp freshly cracked black pepper
1 shallot, diced
4 baby cornichon (tiny French pickles) diced
1 tsp cider vinegar

1.  Make sure your fish does not have any bones.  Remove them with tweezers if needed.  This is important.  You lose the "fun" of the burger if you don't do this.  Pat dry.
2.  Prepare the crust by mixing all the crust ingredients together.  Make sure to stir well so there are no clumps.  Put this on a small plate.
3.  Press the fish into the crust.  Make sure there is crust all over each piece of fish.  Press with your fingers if you must.
4.  Make the tartar sauce by stirring all the ingredients together.
5.  Cook the fish.  Heat the oil and butter in a stainless steel pan.  Place each piece of fish into this.  Do this on high heat.  Cook for about 2 minutes, then carefully flip, reduce heat, and cook for another 2 minutes.  Remove from heat and cover for about 1 minute (the inside will steam while you get all your burger things ready).  The cooking time will vary depending on the thickness of your fish.  The thinner it is, the quicker it will cook (and possible fall apart so get a thick piece).
Serve by slathering tartar sauce on each side of your toasted burger buns.  I put tomato, lettuce, and a roasted green chile in mine and served with some oven roasted fries.

This was perfection.  Crusty on the outside and tender on the inside.  The tartar sauce was tangy with some fresh crunch.
Look no further, we have found each other...
Welcome to my table, crusty fish burger!

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Saturday, November 26, 2016

Juicy Vegetarian Potstickers with Lotus Root Stir Fry

I've made Vegetarian Jiaozi Potstickers before, and I preferred them to the standard meat-filled ones.  I've noticed this on several occasions.. the vegetarian ones are always more surprising.  No two veg jiaozi recipes will yield the same flavor, and that's the beauty of it... there are endless variations possible for equally delicious outcomes.
Since I've been in a cabbage mood this week, when I stumbled upon a cabbage mushroom filling, just the thought of that savory umami madness made me salivate, and off to work I was..

Potstickers: Yield 3-4 dozen dumplings, recipe from TheWoksofLife
3-4 dozen dumpling wrappers (mine were store-bought)
3 Tbsp oil
1 Tbsp grated ginger
1 onion, chopped
1 green chile, diced
2 cups (250g) shiitake mushrooms, chopped
1/4 head or cabbage, shredded (1 1/2 cups)
2 medium carrots, grated (1 1/2 cups)
1 cup chopped garlic chives (or leeks or scallions)
1/2 tsp white pepper
2 tsp sesame oil
3 Tbsp shaping wine
2 Tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp sugar
1 egg or 2 Tbsp oil
Dipping sauce:
1 tsp sesame oil
1 small clove garlic, grated
1 tsp Doubanjiang (broadbean and chile paste)
1 Tbsp black vinegar
1 tsp rice vinegar
juice from 1/2 lime
2 Tbsp soy sauce
few pinches sesame seeds

Lotus Root Stir-Fry: Serves 4 as a side
2 Tbsp oil
1 clove garlic, grated
1 tsp ginger, grated
1 slit green chile
1 lb (apport 500g) lotus root, sliced into 1 cm pieces and placed in a bowl of water
1 large zucchini, halved lengthwise, then sliced into 1 cm pieces
1 tsp sesame oil
1 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp black vinegar
1 tsp sesame seeds
chopped cilantro for garnish

1.  Make the potsticker filling.  Heat the oil in a wok or heavy based pan and add green chile and grated ginger.  Cook until fragrant, then add the onion and cook until translucent.  Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring for about 10 minutes on medium heat, until the mushrooms have released their liquid and it has mostly evaporated.  Add the cabbage and carrots and cook, stirring until tender.  This should take about 5 more minutes.  Remove from heat, stir in the chives, pepper, sesame oil, shaking wine, soy sauce, and sugar.  Set aside and let cool.
2.  While the filling is cooling, make the dipping sauce.  Stir it all together and set aside.
3.  Go back to your filling.  You want it to be cool enough to handle.  Stir in the last Tbsp of oil.. or egg.  I used egg because I thought that was a bit too much oil.  I don't regret my choice.
4.  Get wrapping.  Dip your finger in some water and run it along one edge of the wrapper.  Place about 1 tsp of filling in the center of the wrapper, then fold in half and seal by making pleats or ruffles with the side of the wrapper your ran your wet finger on.
Ok, it's kind of hard to explain.  Here's a video that shows the movements.  I did the crescent moon one.  Place them on a floured surface while you finish doing the rest.
5.  Make your stir fry.  Drain the lotus root slices from the water.  Heat the oil in a wok and add the slit green chile, garlic, and ginger.  Cook until fragrant, then add the lotus root slices.  Cook, stirring for about 5 minutes, then add the zucchini slices.  Cook, stirring for another 5-10 minutes, depending on how crispy you like your veggies.  Deglaze with some soy sauce.  Remove from heat and stir in the sesame oil, black vinegar, and sesame seeds.
6.  Cook your potstickers.  In a large flat pan, brush a bit of oil.  Place the potstickers one by one in the pan, making sure they do not touch each other.  Do this in batches if needed.  Let fry for about 1 minute, then add 1/4 cup water, cover, and let steam until the water evaporates (about 2 minutes).  Set aside and repeat.
Now your "hard work" may be rewarded.
Serve as many potstickers per person as desired with a bit of dipping sauce and a serving of stir fry garnished with chopped cilantro.

I only had 25 wrappers, so I ended up with quite a bit of leftover filling.
This was not a problem.. I served it over rice the for leftovers but could have easily worked it into an omelet or stir-fried with rice noodles.
Each day is a new day..

Doesn't it feel good to have magic in your fingertips?

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