Back in March when I started this blog, I had no idea what I was doing. I still don’t. But one of the fun things about blogging has been reading other blogs whether food related or not. I’ve learned new things, added new foods to my repertoire and improved my culinary skills. Who knew it would turn out to be so much fun? One of the blogs I fell in love with has been Tasha’s Foodashion’s blog. I saw her post on artichokes and the gorgeous pictures and I was hooked. I finally made a variation of her original recipe and I gotta tell you it was delicious. Mine was not nearly as visually stunning as Tasha’s but we ate them up in record time!
Gorgonzola and Camembert Stuffed Artichokes
4 Fresh Artichokes
1/4 cup Gorgonzola cheese
1/4 cup Camembert cheese
1 cup panko bread crumbs
1/2 cup chopped flat leafed parsley
2 fresh garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 onion, minced
2 tbsp olive oil
1 lemon, zested and juiced
4-5 kalamata olives, finely chopped
Wash and trim the artichokes with kitchen shears. Smash them down a little on your counter or cutting board (leafy side down) so they open up a bit like a flower and place them in a pan with water and lemon juice, (save the zest of the lemon in a separate bowl)and cook covered for about 25-30 minutes until tender. Meanwhile assemble the stuffing. Heat olive oil and saute the onion and the garlic together, add in kalamata olives and take off the heat. Mix the cheeses with lemon zest, parsley and add to the onion mixture in a small bowl. When artichokes are cool enough to handle take out the middle part and clean out the “choke” with a spoon. Divide the stuffing between all four artichokes making sure to stuff between leaves as well. Bake at 425° for about 20-25 minutes. Cool slightly and dive into the gooey goodness!
This is a hearty and creamy main dish kind of daal. Almost like a chili. It is made with black lentils or Urad daal. I used the split Urad daal which cooks a tad bit faster than the whole urad daal. Most people who make this dish use a pressure cooker. I don’t happen to own a pressure cooker because they scare me. When I was about 12 years old we lived in Yemen. My mom, unused to the altitude of San’aa (capital of Yemen) would often use a pressure cooker to make most of our meals to save time. She did not understand the mechanics of the release valve and one day when the pressure cooker release valve broke, being a thrifty housewife, she decided to make a make-shift one out of flour and water paste. This created a miniature steam fueled bomb in the kitchen. I was just coming home from school when the giant explosion sent me running into the kitchen area. I found my mom among the carnage of raw goat meat, broken windows and dishes. She looked at me with dazed eyes and said, “did we get bombed?” She only suffered minor injuries but I have been scared of pressure cookers and certain types of goats ever since. Even the sound is ominous like a large snake getting ready to strike….
Save yourself and make this daal in a plain old pan, just keep an eye on it and check the water level to make sure it doesn’t dry out.
The nutrient contents of the black lentils and kidney beans are tremendous. Both are high in protein and the flavors can’t be beat. It is fantastic served with fresh, hot chappatis. There is nothing quite like the combination. You won’t miss the meat or the pressure cooker, I promise.
Wash the kidney beans and daal. Soak in about 5-6 cups of water overnight. Soaked daal will almost triple in volume. In a large heavy bottomed pan add Urad daal, kidney beans, onions, salt, turmeric and ginger. Add about 5 cups of water bring to boil. After mixture has come to a boil, turn heat to low and cover. Simmer for 30-40 minutes on a back burner, checking occasionally for water level and to stir so it doesn’t stick to the bottom. When the daal and the beans are soft and tender, lightly mash it with a potato masher, you don’t want to use an immersion blender since the texture doesn’t need to be a puree, just slightly mashed. Add a little more water if needed and cook an additional 5-6 minutes. Add garam masala, dry mango powder and half and half and cook another 10 minutes on low heat. Take daal off the heat and in a separate, small pan heat the ghee. When ghee is nicely heated, add the dry red chilies, cumin seeds and red chili powder. Stir quickly and pour the hot, aromatic ghee over the daal. Stir to incorporate and serve with hot chappatis.
I really, really enjoy the flavor of Thai Basil. It’s such a fresh tasting herb with a slight almost licorice kind of flavor to it. I try to grow it every summer along with a wide variety of other basil plants. Last year, I had a huge snail problem in my garden and they began to feast on my Thai Basil before I could. It made me so mad. I tried all kinds of tricks without having to use harsh chemicals. Like beer. Yes, beer. I heard that snails were attracted to beer. According to a friend of mine, if you put some beer in a shallow pan near plants you want snails to avoid, they climb into the beer and drown. So, I went to the store, bought some really cheap beer in several 6-packs because I wanted to really drown the suckers. I had pie pans all over my yard with beer in them. I found a few drunken snails but not the horde that I was expecting. My friend suggested that my beer was too cheap. Seriously? They were expecting micro brewed ale? I was not about to throw a Keg party for the snails. I tried “organic” snail bait and ground glass, didn’t work. This year, I’m planting basil in flower pots all over my patio. Maybe that will work. Snails are gross, but this recipe rocks. Hey, if you have any snail genocide ideas, please let me know. …
Thai Style Beef with Basil
1/2 pound beef, thinly sliced ( I used chuck roast)
2 tsp corn starch
2 tsp soy sauce
1 big bunch of Thai basil
2 tbsp sweet soy sauce
1 inch piece of ginger, minced
5 whole garlic cloves, minced
Red bell pepper, chopped
1/2 onion, chopped
1/3 cup coconut milk
3 tbsp oil
1 1/2 tsp sambal olek
2 tsp fish sauce
Vegetarian thin noodles or you can use glass noodles
Thinly slice some beef. Half frozen beef is great because then you can really slice it thin. Mix beef with soy sauce and corn starch and set aside. In a wok or large skillet heat the oil. Add garlic and ginger and then add the beef. Stir fry for 2 minutes or so until meat is no longer pink. Add bell pepper and onion and continue to stir fry for 2-3 minutes. Add in sambal olek, sweet soy sauce, fish sauce and 1/3 cup coconut milk. The sauce should be thickening up within a minute or two. Take off heat and add in Thai Basil. Stir to mix in and wilt all the basil. Serve over noodles or with some brown rice!
I remember when I first came to live in the United States. I was living with a wonderful American family on a farm in Idaho. A big, huge change. There were lots of fresh produce available of course, especially in the summer. That’s when I was introduced to salads. Don’t get me wrong, salads are eaten all over the world but usually not as a meal. It’s almost always eaten as part of a meal, like a side dish or even a palate cleanser or like a condiment. In North America the salad reigns as a meal. That was a strange thing for me. To eat an entire meal that was mostly raw. I remember telling my mom about having a salad for dinner and she exclaimed in dismay, “can’t those people cook?”. After I got over the initial shock, I grew to love salads. I love the textures, the freshness and the variety. They are never going to go over big in any part of South Asia as a meal but I’m winning people over, one at a time.
I had this just the other day. It was great and refreshing after a hard workout! Yes, Ma…I ate it as a meal.
Radish Cucumber and Mango Salad
4 fresh radishes, thinly sliced
1 English Cucumber, thinly sliced
1 Mango, cut into small bite sized pieces
3 tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped
1 tbsp honey
2 tsp spicy brown mustard
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp kosher salt
fresh cracked pepper
Thinly slice cucumber, radishes and mangoes and place in a medium sized bowl. Add chopped cilantro. In a separate bowl zest the lime and then juice the whole lime. Add the rest of the dressing ingredients and whisk until a thick emulsion is created. Pour over salad and toss. Chill and serve.
I’m well into the second week of P90X. I am beginning to walk like the hunchback (or is it hump back? I have a hunched hump) of Notre Dame when nobody is watching, dang that Tony Horton. I try to straighten up and look buff whenever I think I’ll encounter other people. I’m still laughing, joking and talking but it covers over some serious muscle pain. I don’t remember being THIS sore the last cycle of P90X. My daughter reminded me that was a few months ago and now I am OLDER. Thanks, Onjoli. My sister Rita is also doing P90X. We live hundreds of miles apart but found time to laugh on the phone together over how hard it was to even blow dry our hair after doing a bunch of pull-ups. I need something to look forward to at mealtimes while I get over the first few weeks of muscle pain (and misery). I want comfort food (or my mom to cook for me)! Comfort food that won’t destroy all the hard work of working out. Muttar Paneer has all the flavors of a richer meat dish, like a Rogan Josh curry (that’s an awesome beef or lamb curry) but is pretty low in fat while being high in protein. Since I make my own paneer using 2% milk, it’s a lower fat version than the ones available through my cheese monger or at the Indian grocer. The spices used are very similar to what is used in making a lamb curry, making the flavor profile much richer.
I know when you look at the long list of spices, it can seem daunting but there is another piece of good news. you can make the tomato and cashew based sauce ahead of time or in a bigger batch and freeze them in portioned freezer bags. When you’re ready to cook, you can take out a bag of sauce and add the garam masala and either lamb, beef or in this case the green peas and paneer to complete the rest of the currying process. I have done that in the past, I just didn’t have any sauce in my freezer this time!
I have used whole spices in my Garam Masala again. I beg you to use whole spices whenever you can, the taste is so much better, I promise. I hope you try this out. You’ll really enjoy the mini explosion of flavors in every bite and keep eating it and eating it….Oh, BTW, it goes great with Chappatis.
4 tbsp oil
1 onion, chopped
1 cup frozen green peas
2 Roma tomatoes, chopped
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp coriander powder
5-6 raw cashews
5 garlic cloves, chopped
1 inch piece of ginger, grated
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1-2 fresh green chilies
2 tsp Kasuri Methi (dried Fenugreek leaves)
handful of cilantro, chopped
1/4 cup milk with 1/2 tsp flour mixed in or you can use 1/4 cup heavy cream
Whole Garam Masala:
5 green cardamom pods
1 stick cinnamon
2 bay leaves
5 whole cloves
salt to taste
Heat 2 tbsp oil and saute cashews, add in onion, salt, turmeric ginger and garlic and stir fry for about 2-3 minutes. Add chopped tomatoes and cook another 2-3 minutes. Blend this mixture in a blender or processor until smooth. (Note: if you wanted to make extra sauce for future use, you could easily make a double or quadruple batch and freeze them in portioned freezer bags). In the same pan used earlier, add the remaining oil and the whole garam masala spices and cumin seeds and stir fry until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the tomato mixture and simmer covered on low heat for about 8-10 minutes until all the flavors are well blended. You can adjust with a little water. Into the sauce add the peas, green chilies and the dried fenugreek leaves (fresh would be great if you can get it, not as pungent) cook for about 2 minutes until peas are tender then add the paneer, milk and flour mixture or cream and cilantro. Heat all the way through, should take another 2 minutes or so and serve hot with plain brown basmati rice or chappatis.
Grilled Portobello mushrooms are a wonderful delight. They are smokey, meaty and juicy. Almost like a burger. They are stupendous when stuffed with other delicious things. I wanted to have a tasty and filling meal without a lot of fat and plenty of proteins. I had some extra lean ground beef on hand but you can easily use ground turkey or chicken. I added caraway and sage to make it taste like sausage then added some low-fat goat cheese and fat-free feta cheese to the mix. I also added fresh baby spinach leaves which was great as a “filler”. These turned out wonderful. They were cheesy, melty and bursting with flavor. We felt like we were treated to a restaurant quality meal and we even had left overs for lunch the next day.
Grilled “Sausage” Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms
4 Portobello mushroom caps
1/2 pound extra lean ground beef or turkey
3 scallions, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, finely minced
1/2 tsp caraway seeds
1 tbsp chopped fresh sage
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup fat-free feta cheese
1/4 cup goat cheese
1 cup chopped fresh baby spinach
1 tsp dried basil
Wipe the mushroom caps with a damp paper towel and salt and pepper them on both sides, set them aside on a cookie sheet. In a small bowl mix together the ground beef/turkey, caraway seeds, sage, garlic, salt, scallions. Mix well together and cook over medium high heat until meat is nicely browned and all the flavors are “married”, about 2-3 minutes. Mix to the cooked “sausage” mixture the feta and goat cheese, basil and baby spinach. Top each of the four mushroom caps equally and place on a heated grill, covered, for about 12-15 minutes. Serve as a main dish along with some fruit or a nice crunchy salad.
Chappatis are a traditional Indian flat bread made out of whole wheat flour. Whole wheat flour is known as “Atta”. Atta is different than whole wheat flour commonly found in U.S. groceries. The protein content is higher and the grind of the flour is finer in “Atta”. This makes the chapatis softer, pliable and delicious tasting. If you get a chance to make chapatis with Atta from the Indian store, you have to try it. Regular whole wheat flour also works, I usually use whole wheat pastry flour to compensate. There’s nothing like fresh hot chappatis with a tiny bit of ghee added to it for flavor. You really don’t even need anything else!
Ghee or clarified butter is a big part of South Asian cuisine. It has such amazing flavor that a little goes a long way. I’ve tried making ghee at home but it never seems to taste or smell like the amazing stuff we get back home (meaning the “homeland” of course). In Bangladesh, there is a famous brand called “Baghabari Ghee” with a picture of a Royal Bengal Tiger on the label. It’s famous flavor is renowned . Every time I went home for a visit I would try to sneak a few jars of the stuff back with me. I even tried to bribe my relatives who were going home to get me some ghee. They would look at me in disbelief. Really of all the things I could request someone bring back on a long journey and it’s ghee? That’s a foodie for you. I’m well-known for trying to schlep food in luggage. One time I had curried Hilsa fish in my carry-on luggage (this was before the TSA liquid restrictions) and it exploded all over everything. The WHOLE plane smelled like Bengali Hilsa Fish. I tried to look innocent and blend, which is hard to do on a flight from Los Angeles to Boise, Idaho because I was the only brown person on the plane. Flight attendants were walking back and forth sniffing the air and saying things like, “do you smell that?” or “what is that smell?”
For years, my attempts at making ghee seemed a waste of time since I couldn’t tell the difference between the ghee or just regular butter. Why bother if the flavor is not improved? The whole idea behind a good ghee is to remove the milk protein from the butter leaving behind a nutty unclouded liquid. My problem was that I was not heating it long enough at a low enough temperature. The trick here is to use a heavy bottomed pan like a cast iron dutch oven or something similar and heat the butter for 20-30 minutes and to add curry leaves halfway through the process. It’s also important NOT to stir the melted butter but to let it simmer unaided. This helps to separate the milk proteins properly. The curry leaves add a depth of flavor that I was missing all these years. I have to say that this ghee smells and tastes even better than the famous “Baghabari Ghee”. That’s one less thing that I have to hide in my luggage.
How to make Ghee
1 pound unsalted butter
4-5 curry leaves
In a heavy bottomed pan melt the butter and let it simmer over very low heat. Do not stir but keep an eye on the butter, when small brown chunks begin to appear on the bottom of the pan and the top part of the butter looks pretty clear (about 10-15 minutes) add curry leaves and continue to simmer for another 15 minutes. When the top layer of butter looks light brown and very clear, take out the curry leaves and strain ghee through a fine mesh strainer into a mason jar. Don’t throw away the brown protein bits. Save them to make Ghee Laddoos, a sweet treat made with the leftover protein (we don’t like to throw anything away).
1/4 cup chickpea flour (besan)
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
In the same pan the ghee was made, heat the browned leftover milk protein with 1/4 cup chickpea flour (Besan) and 1/4 cup of All-Purpose flour and 1/4 cup sugar. Cook over medium heat until everything is a nutty brown color and the sugar has incorporated well. Roll into small balls and enjoy.
Bollywood movies are always these epic musicals with really good looking people who play the lead. They are three hours of unreality with usually 6 song and dance numbers. I was riveted to a recent one because it was dubbed over in Mandarin. An incredibly unlikely combination. The high-pitched Mandarin speaking voices did not match any of the actors or actresses and added a crazy dimension to the already melodramatic movie. The mix reminded me of Indonesian food (I always think about food). What I love about Malaysian, Singaporian and Indonesian cuisine is that it is a fantastic fusion of South Asian flavors traditionally seen in India, Bangladesh or Pakistan with more East Asian influences. The results I think are phenomenal. The movie….not so much!
In a large saucepan heat oil and saute onions coriander, chili, garlic and ginger over low heat. Cook, stirring frequently for 5-7 minutes. Add lime leaves, cinnamon, whole chilis and lemongrass. Cook stirring occasionally for about 2 more minutes until all the flavors are released. Increase the heat to medium and add the chicken and cook turning once until golden brown about 8 minutes. Stir in one cup of coconut milk and 1 1/4 cup water and salt. Simmer, stirring occasionally until chicken is tender about 20-25 minutes. Add remaining coconut milk and cook for 2 minutes. Let cool for about 15 minutes before serving with plain rice or Coconut Fried Rice.
This Coconut Rice is super tasty and originates from the Southern part of India. Most places that grow coconut has some kind of a coconut rice recipe. Jamaicans have a coconut rice recipe where the coconut milk is used directly with the rice and it’s a rich, sweet rice. Marshall Islanders make shredded coconut and white rice balls that are very popular and eaten with savory foods even though the rice balls are quite sweet tasting. The tastes, styles and flavors are as varied as the locales coconuts are grown in. I really enjoy this South Indian version because it has a wonderful crunch not only from the nuts but from the lentils that are stir fried . The toasted coconut adds depth, texture and tastes heavenly. This rice is very versatile. I’ve paired it with Indonesian style chicken or with Chicken satay or with the 10 minute Tilapia curry.
4 cups cooked rice, Brown rice is great here (I used Basmati rice, any long grain rice will work)
In a wok or large skillet heat the oil and add the lentils, mustard, cumin seeds, salt. Stir fry for a few minutes until flavors are released. Add the nuts and stir fry another minute or so then add coconut and cook about 2 minutes. Coconut will start becoming toasted and start smelling wonderful. Add the rice and stir fry gently to incorporate. Serve warm. Great as a leftover by itself or with other dishes.