Monthly Archives: May 2012

It’s Chicken Satay time!

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It’s Chicken Satay time!

I am doing a shout out to my former student “Nate”. He mentioned several times in class how much he loves to grill and I promised him some Indonesian/Thai inspired food…. so here it is Nate!! Not only are these Chicken Satays very quick and easy to do, they are high in flavor and low in fat.  Perfect accompaniment for our summer workouts.  (I should mention that we’re almost done with our first week of P90x and Insanity and I’ve lost 1 1/2 pounds so far….13 1/2 to go!).

I should mention that I always prefer to use chicken thighs over chicken breast because they have a lot more flavor and they are a lot cheaper too.  You can buy boneless, skinless chicken thighs or you can easily de-bone the chicken thighs at home.  All you need is a sharp knife and the ability to cut along the edges of the bone and you’re done!!

The secret to this dish of course is the sauce.  I love how this sauce turns out.  I could eat it by the spoonful but then I’d have to work out some more.  Please do use the Sweet Soy Sauce instead of the regular soy sauce.  If you must use regular soy sauce then choose the low sodium kind and use only 1/8 cup otherwise your sauce will be very salty.  This is great as an appetizer or a main dish served with Coconut Fried Rice and a fresh crunchy salad.  We also ate other veggies dipped in the sauce along with our chicken!

Place all the ingredients for the sauce directly into the pan and heat over medium heat

Divide the sauce, one for dipping and the other for basting!

Place chicken skewers on grill and cook for 6-8 minutes turning over once.

Baste during the grilling process with the sauce

Serve with the reserved sauce

Chicken Satay with peanut sauce

Chicken Satay

4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs cut into strips

1/2 cup natural peanut butter (or you can grind up some peanuts) – I like chunky

1/2 cup water

1/4 cup sweet soy sauce

3 tablespoons lemon juice

1 tablespoon honey

1 tablespoon firmly packed brown sugar

3/4 tsp ground ginger

1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

3 garlic cloves, minced

scallion, diced (for garnish)

In a saucepan place all ingredients except chicken and scallion.  Cook over medium heat until sauce is bubbly.  Take off heat and cool sauce.  Divide sauce into two parts.

Cut chicken into 1″ inch long strips and thread onto skewers.  If using bamboo skewers make sure you soak them before hand so they don’t burn and fall off.  Spray chicken with non-stick cooking spray and place on hot grill (about 300-350 degrees) cook for 6-10 minutes covered,  turning once.  Baste with half of the sauce (make sure the dipping portion is never in contact with the raw chicken) during the grilling process and serve with remaining sauce garnished with sliced scallions.   The sauce is also fantastic for dipping carrots, cucumbers and other fresh veggies as well.

10 Minute Tilapia Curry

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10 Minute Tilapia Curry

People in Bangladesh eat a LOT of fish.  Especially fresh water fish.  Fish are such a commonly eaten item, we even use it in colloquial language  - for instance if you’re inviting someone over for a casual meal you say, “come on over, we’re just having bhaat maach (fish and rice)” – it’s our equivalent of a backyard BBQ.  Because fish are available all year long, we have a lot of different ways of cooking them. Most of the fish usually enjoyed in Bangladesh are not available here, so I make do with whatever fresh water fish I can find.  Tilapia is just such a fish.  Tilapia is mild (no fishy taste here) and when filleted, it cooks very quickly.  I came up with a “Bosa Maach” recipe for Tilapia or Swai fillets.    “Bosa Maach” literally translated means “Sitting Fish”. All the spices are mixed with the fish in the pan then covered and cooked with no stirring, letting it “sit” in the resulting gravy.  This is especially helpful for Tilapia or Swai fillets since they are so tender, they tend to break easily if overly handled or stirred.  From start to finish, it literally takes 10 minutes to have this dish completed.  I made it last night before leaving the house in a hurry to teach a class.  I even had time to spare.  It was the perfect accompaniment to the Quinoa and Lentil salad.

Place all ingredients in a 10-12″ skillet

Mix everything together, cover and cook over medium heat for 6 minutes

After 6 minutes of cooking, gently flip the fish over and add water. Cover and cook another 3 minutes

Tilapia curry

10 Minute Tilapia Curry

4 Tilapia Fillets, cut in halves

1 small bunch cilantro leaves, chopped

1/2 can diced tomatoes

1 tsp cumin seeds

1/2 tsp red chili powder

2 tsp garlic and ginger paste (I keep a 1:1 ratio of garlic and ginger blended in the fridge in a mason jar)

1 tbsp mustard oil

3 tbsp canola oil

1/2 tsp turmeric

1/2 tsp cumin powder

1/4 to 1/2 cup water

Wash the fish fillets and cut them in half lengthwise.  In a 12″ skillet, place the fish and all the other ingredients and mix together gently with your hands.  Cover and place over medium heat for 6 minutes.  Uncover and gently flip fish over and add 1/4 to 1/2 cup water depending on how much gravy you desire.  Cover and cook another 3 minutes.  Serve with curried quinoa and lentil salad or plain white rice.

“Curried” Quinoa and Lentil Salad

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“Curried” Quinoa and Lentil Salad

I need (and want) to lose 15 pounds by the end of June.  These 15 pounds have crept up on me like evil terrorists bent on a sneak attack.  My new policy is not to negotiate with terrorists!  I’m currently on my third round of P90X and my daughter Onjoli and her friend Katie are doing Insanity, both intense beachbody workouts.  I have promised to cook more innovative, high protein, low fat and tasty foods throughout the summer.  It’s a mother-daughter epic bonding extravaganza.  My husband, frightened by the prospect of eating salads and yogurt mentioned that he’d like to vote for food that is hearty and not “chick food”.  I have a lot of people to please, including myself.  I came up with this salad in my quest for “buffness” to go with my 10 minute Tilapia curry.  It was a wonderful dinner full of flavors, textures and a ton of lean protein.  I’m saving the leftovers for lunch!

Lentils and Quinoa

The herb lineup: Mint, Cilantro and Chives

Whisk together the dressing ingredients

Chop all the ingredients and add them to the quinoa and lentil mixture, along with the chopped herbs.

Curried Quinoa and Lentil Salad

Curried Quinoa and Lentil Salad

1 cup quinoa, uncooked

1 cup brown lentils, uncooked

2 tsp salt

1 ripe avocado, diced

1 red bell pepper, chopped

1/4 cup golden raisins

1/4 cup toasted cashews

2 mangoes, diced

1 english cucumber, diced

2 tbsp chopped cilantro

2 tbsp chopped mint

1 tsp chives, chopped

Dressing:

1/3 cup olive oil

1 lemon, zest and juice

1/4 tsp red chili powder (you can add a bit more since the quinoa and lentils soak up extra heat)

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 inch fresh ginger, grated

salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste

1 1/2 tsp garam masala

1 tsp cumin

1/2 tsp turmeric

2 tbsp honey

Wash Quinoa and lentils and soak in some water for about 1 hour.  Drain and add 4 cups of water and salt. Bring to boil in a medium saucepan, reduce heat and cover.  Cook about 15-20 minutes until water is absorbed and quinoa and lentils are tender, rinse with cold water and place in a large bowl.  Add vegetables and  mangoes to the quinoa and lentils.  Whisk together all the dressing ingredients and pour over salad.  Toss together and chill before serving with 10 minute Tilapia Curry or enjoy it by itself as a great salad!

Pizzas on the grill

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Pizzas on the grill

It’s (almost) summer time and that means lots of cooking on the grill.  I really enjoy using the grill to cook during the warmer weather because it keeps the house cooler and I love how everything tastes when they are grilled.  I decided to make pizzas on the grill.  It’s one of my fast go-to grill dishes because everything can be cooked outside without any prep in the “house” kitchen.  All you need is a grill basket for vegetables so smaller pieces don’t fall through and you’re good to go.

I have been using the no-knead artisan bread for my pizza crusts because they turn out beautifully and this bread dough is a dream.  You mix the thing up with a wooden spoon and stick it in your fridge, it’s sooooo easy! I usually have some in my fridge ready to go (each batch can keep in the fridge for almost 2 weeks).  The toppings for these pizzas are as varied as the person making them.  I hope you try some out and go crazy with the toppings.  When my basil is full-grown, I plan to make  home made mozzarella and have Margherita pizzas on the grill.  What’s not to love?

Place all the veggies on the grill basket on the grill to cook

Place pizza dough with a little olive oil on both sides directly on the grill and cook covered for 3 minutes

Flip crust over, top with veggies and chicken (or shrimp) if desired and a little mozzarella and parmesan cheese, cover and cook another 3-4 minutes. Enjoy!

Pizza on the grill

Pizza crust – No knead artisan bread

3 tbsp olive oil

1 tsp dried basil

1/2 cup shredded mozzarella or fresh mozarella

1/4 cup parmesan cheese

Fresh cracked pepper

kosher salt

Cherry tomatoes cut in half (about 1 cup)

Assorted vegetables: red onion, bell peppers, zucchini, eggplants etc.

If using chicken breasts, cut into strips and marinate in a little olive oil, balsamic vinegar,salt, garlic and thyme and throw it on the grill to cook.

Cut vegetables into strips and the cherry tomatoes into halves.  Toss with salt, fresh cracked pepper, basil and olive oil and place in grill pan on the grill and let it cook.

Take a small portion of the dough and roll it out fairly thin (about 1/4 inch thick) and pat it lightly with olive oil on both sides.  I like to make it personal size – so about 6-8 inches “circles” or whatever shape they turn out to be. When vegetables are cooked, place  pizza directly on the grill and close the lid for 3 minutes (grill should be on high heat, 600 degrees or so).  Flip the dough over so the cooked side is on top and place some of the grilled cherry tomatoes on the dough along with other veggies and chicken (if using).  Sprinkle a little cheese (go easy)  less is better.  Close the lid and cook for another 3-4 minutes.  Pizza should be done with the cheese melted and the crust wonderfully crunchy and smoky.

Samosas – the quick and dirty version

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Samosas – the quick and dirty version

Growing up, having Singharas and Samosas as “tea time” snacks were really common.  Because of the British influence, having “tea” at around 6:00 p.m. everyday was the norm and then dinner would follow about 8:30 – 9:00 p.m.  Tea time would usually include all manner of foods, including seasonal fruits, home made snacks, biscuits (cookies), Nimkis (savory home made chips), Singharas or Samosas and tea, of course.  Here’s the main difference between a Singhara and a Samosa.  Singharas are usually eaten in Bangladesh and in the West Bengal area of India. They have a crispy shell and although they are triangular in shape, they can “sit” upright.  Samosas also have a crispy shell but are flat and triangular.  The fillings can be as varied as the region and depends on the cook.  Some samosas sold street side as snacks have vegetarian fillings, some are beef or chicken while others are tiny and filled with caramelized onions.  Most samosas and singharas are served with a chutney or dip of some sort.  Usually a Cilantro Chutney or a Tamarind Chutney.

I used to try to avoid making samosas because they are time-consuming. They sure are delicious though and great to have as a treat.  I figured out a quick and dirty version of making samosas.  Most of the time is taken up in making the dough, rolling it out and shaping them since the filling is pretty fast to cook.  I started using tortillas as the shell and really liked how they turned out but they had a little difficulty staying together.  Then I discovered the uncooked tortillas.  They are sold at any Costco or even in Walmart (and several other grocery stores).  Uncooked tortillas are fantastic to use as the dough for samosas, empanadas and a myriad of other dishes.  By the way, I usually make a large batch and freeze them in ziplock bags.  That way all the up front work is done and when I have guests or need a quick appetizer, I can fry up a batch while they are still frozen and serve fresh and hot with some chutney.  Just add a couple of extra minutes when frying frozen samosas.   Here’s my quick and dirty version.

Saute onions, green chilies, cumin seeds and salt

Add turmeric and coriander powder before adding potatoes and green peas

Cook a few minutes until flavors are blended and peas are tender, add chopped cilantro at the very end

Use uncooked tortillas as the samosa dough

Cut 15 tortillas in half and make a paste out of flour and water

Place the cut tortilla on a cutting board with the round side facing you. Put some filling in the top right hand corner

Fold the right corner over the filling

Put some flour “paste” in a reverse v-shape on the dough

Fold the left side over to form a triangle (pressing down over the flour paste)

Flip the samosa over and push the filling up towards the top and place some more flour paste on the bottom of the triangle

Press the bottom flap into the body of the triangle and press firmly

Completed samosas (they can be frozen at this time or cooked immediately)

Shallow fry in oil and serve hot with Tamarind chutney

Samosas – The quick and dirty version

4 medium-sized potatoes, cooked and cubed

1/2 onion, chopped

2 green chillies, split in half

1/2 tsp cumin seeds

1/2 tsp coriander powder

1/2 tsp turmeric

1/2 tsp salt

1 cup frozen green peas

4 tbsp oil

15 uncooked tortillas

additional oil for frying

To make the paste:

1/2 cup flour

1/4- 1/8 cup water

In a medium skillet or frying pan, heat oil and saute onions, cumin seeds and chilies together until the cumin seeds begin to pop.  Add coriander powder, turmeric and salt and stir fry for a few minutes.  Add the potatoes and the green peas and cook about 4-5 minutes until peas are tender and everything well blended together.  Set aside.

In a small bowl make a paste out of the flour and water.  It should be thick and the consistency of a thick glue.  Cut tortillas in half.  Place the round side of the cut tortillas towards your body and place about 2 tbsp filling on the top right hand corner.  Fold right corner down and place flour paste in an inverted “v” on the dough.  Flip the left side of the dough over to form a triangle and press down over the paste to adhere.  Flip the triangle around and using your thumbs push in the filling towards the top tip of the triangle.  At the bottom of the triangle place some flour paste on the dough and fold it over and press to adhere.  Press your fingers along all the seams to make sure everything held together.  Place on a pan or platter.  When all the Samosas are done they can be frozen in a large zip lock bag for later use or fried immediately.  To fry, place oil in a medium size frying pan and heat to about 350 degrees.  Fry until golden brown and serve hot with Cilantro or Tamarind Chutney.  Makes 30 samosas

Fresh Fruit Tart

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Fresh Fruit Tart

There’s nothing more delicious and delectable than a good fresh fruit tart.  Sometimes, I’d rather eat that over chocolate (gasp!).  The key to a great tasting tart is the crust of course but also a great pastry creme.  We had friends coming over for dinner, what better way to top of a great meal than with a wonderful, fruity dessert?  The only real “tool” you need is a tart pan with a removable bottom.  I have little ones and a couple of big ones (9 inch).  They are under $10 at any baking store.  They are great for making savory quiches and tarts as well sweet desserts. It also makes you look like you spend a lot of time and effort (my kind of food!).

The Pate Sucree or sweet pastry crust recipe is from here.  But I shall re-write it for you, for your convenience.

Pat the crust in the tart pan and freeze before baking

Cool tart shell before taking it out of the pan!

Heat milk with vanilla bean

Mix flour and cornstarch mixture with egg and sugar

Scrape vanilla bean and place in milk and egg mixture

Cook milk and egg mixture until it comes to a boil and begins to thicken

Cover pastry creme with plastic wrap directly on the surface to prevent skin from forming

Assemble tart and enjoy

Sweet Pastry Crust

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1/8 tsp salt

1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature

1/4 cup sugar

1 large egg, lightly beaten

Mix flour and salt together and set aside.  Place butter in mixing bowl and beat until softened and smooth (use stand mixer or electric hand mixer).  Add sugar and beat until light and fluffy.  Gradually add in the beaten egg until just incorporated.  Add the flour mixture all at once and mix until it just forms a ball.  Flatten into a disk and cover with plastic wrap.  Refrigerate for 15-30 minutes.  Lightly spray with cooking spray a 8-9 inch tart pan with removable bottom.  Pat the chilled pastry dough into the pan going up too the sides of the pan evenly.  Wrap with plastic wrap and freeze for 15 minutes.  In the meantime, pre-heat oven to 400°F and place rack in center of oven.  Lightly prick bottom of tart shell with a fork as this will keep it from puffing up.  Place tart on a large cookie sheet and bake for 5 minutes at 400° then reduce temperature to 350°F and bake for an additional 15 mintes or until crust is dry and lightly golden brown.  Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool.  You can seal the crust with an egg white glaze or apricot glaze.  Can be covered and stored for a few days.

Pastry Creme

1 1/2 cups 2% milk

1/2 vanilla bean split lengthwise or a tsp of vanilla extract

3 large egg yolks

1/4 cup sugar

2 tbsp flour

2 tbsp corn starch

1/2 tbsp grand marnier or Brandy

In a heat proof bowl mix sugar and egg yolks together until creamy.  Sift the flour and cornstarch together and add it to the egg mixture until you get a smooth paste.  Set aside.

In a sauce pan heat milk and vanilla bean to just boiling.  Remove from heat and add a little bit to the egg mixture and whisk (this tempers the egg so it doesn’t turn into scrambled eggs).  Slowly add the rest of the milk, whisking the whole time.  Take out the vanilla bean and take a knife and scrape all the little seeds and add it to the milk/egg mixture.  Return everything to the sauce pan and cook until mixture begins to thicken, stirring constantly.  When mixture begins to boil and it’s thickened remove from heat and immediately whisk in liquer.  Stir in vanilla extract if using this instead of the bean.  Pour into a clean bowl and immediately cover the surface with plastic wrap to prevent a crust from forming.  Cool to room temperature then refrigerate until needed (keeps up to 3 days in fridge).  Beat or whisk before using to get rid of any lumps that may have formed.

Do not discard the vanilla bean, wash it gently and pat it dry and place in some sugar to make wonderful “vanilla” sugar.

Fruit Tart Assembly:

Spread pastry cream evenly in pastry crust and top with fresh fruit.  I like to work my way from the outside in so it looks pretty or you can just dump all your fruit in…it’s a personal choice.  To give the fruit a nice shiny top, you can heat up a little apricot jam with a tsp of water in the microwave for about 30 seconds or so and brush it over the fruit.

Resources:  The Joy of baking

Jerk seasoned roasted chicken

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Jerk seasoned roasted chicken

Being married to a Bajan (slang for someone from Barbados) I’m usually alternating between cooking Caribbean style food and South Asian food among other flavors we usually try out.  Jerk seasoning originated in Jamaica but it’s used throughout the Caribbean islands. I usually grind up my version of Jerk seasoning and use it for marinating a variety of meats.  I love using Jerk seasoning when baking whole chicken because the flavors are so fantastic.  The left over bones make an incredible stock as well.  This weekend I was incredibly busy.  I was making food for three different events, attending a wedding, working and my baby girl came home from college for the summer (YAY).  I didn’t have a chance to take my usual detailed pictures.  But I do hope you make up some Jerk seasoning to have on hand.  It’s wonderful to have it ready for the BBQing season!!

Ingredients for jerk seasoning: cumin seeds, peppercorn, light brown sugar, whole cloves, allspice (powder or whole), star anise, nutmegs, chili peppers and cinnamon

Mix Jerk seasoning with 3 tablespoon olive oil and garlic and ginger paste and chopped onions

Rub whole chicken with spices and roast for 1 1/2 hours at 350 degrees. Carve and serve 

Jerk Seasoning

1 tablespoon all spice powder – if using whole allspice the use 2 1/2 tbsp

1 tsp whole peppercorn

5-6 whole star anise

3 cinnamon sticks

1/2 tsp cumin seeds

8 whole cloves

1/4 of a whole nutmeg

4 dried whole red chilies

1/4 cup light brown sugar (I use raw sugar)

Toast everything  (except the sugar) together in a dry pan until flavors are released, approximately 2-3 minutes.  Grind in a coffee or spice grinder until smooth.  Store in an airtight container.

Jerk Seasoned Roasted Chicken

5 tablespoons Jerk seasoning

2 tablespoon garlic and ginger paste (1:1 ratio)

1/2 onion finely chopped

5 tablespoons olive oil

2 tsp kosher salt

Mix everything together and rub chicken inside the cavity and all over the skin.  Roast uncovered at 350°F for 1 1/2 hours or until done.  Let it rest before carving.

Saag (Palak) Paneer

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Saag (Palak) Paneer

I know, I know…it seems like I’ve been making a lot of Bengali/Indian food lately and LOTS of things with paneer.  What can I say?  I’m going through a phase.  I’m switching to Mediterranean or Caribbean food this weekend.  Most of you will recognize this dish, especially if you’ve ever been through a lunch buffet at any Indian restaurant.  Saag or Palak Paneer (which basically means spinach and fresh cheese) is an extremely popular Indian restaurant staple.  Usually it’s been sitting in a serving pan over a steamer for a few hours getting overcooked.  I’ve never been attracted to the globs of  moss-green colored spinach with a few pieces of paneer peeking out.  Make no mistake.  I love eating Saag Paneer, just not the restaurant version.  If you want to enjoy the dish in its full, delicious glory, you have to make it at home.  It’s sooooo good.  I can eat a whole bowl of this with a little rice.  It’s pretty low in fat, high in nutrients, full of flavor and a vegetarian and gluten-free dish to boot.   Just make a batch of paneer and you’re good to go.  I usually use frozen, chopped spinach because it saves lots of time and there is no taste difference.  Fresh baby spinach can definitely be used for this dish, just needs a few extra minutes of cooking time.  I also use whole Garam Masala.  Garam Masala usually consists of Cardamom, cloves, cinnamon and bay leaves.  They are toasted and then ground up to create the powdered version of Garam Masala.  A lot of commercial Garam Masala leave out the Cardamom because it’s an expensive spice.  Anytime spices are ground, they lose a lot of the flavor quickly.  For instance, Coriander seeds are fantastic when toasted and then ground but it tends to turn into a flavorless brown powder after a week.  I picked up an inexpensive coffee grinder and use it exclusively for my spice grinding needs since my husband, who is an ubér coffee snob would freak out if his coffee beans smelled like Garam Masala and I would not enjoy spices that smelled like coffee.  This way we’re both happy.

Just a side note about using whole spices….Bengalis, Indians, Pakistanis.  We eat food with our hands.  Many times food is served with whole chilis, cloves, bay leaves etc. and the diner knows to remove them before eating, mostly because we’re encountering them with our hands before we put it in our mouth. The western style of eating with a fork usually prevents that little step.  A lot of the whole spices have been ground into powder because of this reason.  I just count the number of bay leaves or cloves or pods I put in and do my best to fish it out.  The flavor in cooking with whole spices cannot be beat.  In certain recipes it is essential.  I guess you have two choices…wash your hands and dive in or spend a minute or two and fish out the whole spices after the dish is cooked.  Please do try cooking with whole spices though…you will really enjoy the flavors!

Ingredients at a glance

Whole spices that make up “Garam Masala” – the flavor is more intense when these whole spices are used instead of the ground version

Dried fenugreek leaves (I know it looks like a controlled substance, but it has great flavor!)

Saute the bay leaves, cardamom, cloves, cinnamon sticks, cumin seeds and dried whole chilies in oil until it’s fragrant

Add all the other spices (except for the fenugreek leaves) and saute another 2 minutes or so

Add tomatoes to the caramelized onion mixture

Add spinach and water and cook about 6-8 minutes until spinach is tender

Add paneer and methi leaves and mix into the sauce

Add half and half and simmer for 2-3 minutes

Serve hot with plain rice or rice pilaf

Saag (Palak) Paneer

10 oz package of frozen, chopped spinach

3 tbsp oil

1/2 onion, chopped

2 roma tomatoes, chopped

1/2 tsp cumin seeds

5 cardamom pods

2 bay leaves

1-2 cinnamon sticks

4-5 whole cloves

1 tsp salt (or to taste)

1/2 tsp red chili powder

3 dried red chilies

1 tsp cumin powder

1 tsp coriander powder

1/2 tsp turmeric

2 tbsp garlic and ginger paste (I usually blend the two together in a processor in a 1:1 ratio and keep in the fridge)

1 1/2 tsp dried fenugreek leaves (Kasuri Methi)

12 ounces (or one batch) paneer cut into cubes

1/4 cup half and half

1 3/4 cups water

In a wok or large skillet, heat oil and saute cumin seeds, cardamom pods, bay leaves, cinnamon sticks, whole cloves and whole dried red chilies.  When spices are fragrant and cumin seeds are popping add in the onion and salt and continue to cook a couple of minutes until the onions are tender and carmelized.  Add in all remaining spices, except fenugreek leaves and continue to stir fry for about a minute and a half before adding in the tomatoes.  Tomatoes should cook down and begin separating from the oil before spinach is added along with about a cup and a half of water.  Cook uncovered (this keeps the spinach from turning a mossy green color) for about 5-6 minutes until spinach is tender and all the spices are incorporated.  Add in Methi leaves (fenugreek leaves) and the paneer and gently stir in.  Add the half and half and look another couple of minutes.  Turn off heat and serve with some plain white rice or a pilaf.

Misti Kumro Daal ~ Kabocha squash and red lentil daal

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Misti Kumro Daal ~ Kabocha squash and red lentil daal

What Bengalis like to call Misti Kumro (translation:  sweet pumpkin) is actually a squash.  Kabocha squash.  If you’ve never tried this variety of squash, its delicious.  I love it because you can eat the WHOLE THING.  The skin, the flesh and even roast the seeds and eat them for a snack.  Talk about a sustainable food.  It’s chock full of nutrients like beta carotene, iron, vitamin C and potassium. Long before this squash was available in the U.S. they were grown in parts of South Asia.  Because it is such a sweet squash you can add more chili in the cooking process and get a wonderful sweet/hot dish.  I enjoy making this daal because when you add the lentils the nutrient content skyrockets even more and you can eat it as a soup or with rice (I’m Asian, I eat most things with rice).

Five seeds in Panch Phoron are: Mustard, Cumin, Fennel, Fenugreek and Kalonji

Kabocha Squash or Misti Kumro

Saute onions and Panch Phoron together until the seeds begin popping

Add all the other spices to the onion and Panch Phoron mixture before adding the Kabocha squash and red lentils

Add 2 cups of water and let it simmer, covered for about 6-8 minutes

Add the light coconut milk at the end and cook an additional 2-3 minutes

Add chopped cilantro at the very end and enjoy the daal

Misti Kumro Daal

4 cups cubed Kabocha squash – leave the skin on

1 cup red lentils, washed thoroughly

1/2 red onion, chopped

1 tsp salt (or adjust to taste)

1 1/2 tsp red chili powder

1/2 tsp turmeric

1 tsp cumin

1/2 tsp Panch Phoron (Bengali Five Spice)

2 bay leaves

1 can lite coconut milk

2 cups water

3 tbsp oil

2 tbsp chopped cilantro

In a large heavy bottom pan saute the onion in oil along with Panch Phoron and salt. After seeds begin to pop, add in bay leaves, chili powder, turmeric and cumin.  Saute for about two minutes so the flavors can marry.  Add the squash and the lentils and stir to coat thoroughly.  Add the water.  Cover and simmer for about 6-8 minutes or until the lentils and the squash are tender.  Add in coconut milk and cook another 2-3 minutes uncovered.  Add chopped cilantro right before taking off the heat.  Serve with rice or eat as a soup.

Kalokand – A delicious dessert made with paneer

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Kalokand – A delicious dessert made with paneer

One of the reasons that I don’t usually make Bengali or Indian desserts very often is that they take a lot of time standing in front of a stove. It’s not like baking something where you pop it in the oven and then go away for a while. South Asian desserts require your attention for the full prep time. There is no “down” time.  On my recent quest to make Paneer at home, I made several batches of paneer with varying degrees of success.  The batch I made with whole milk and heavy cream mixture (4 cups whole milk and 4 cups heavy cream) was soft and had a smooth and creamy texture.  It failed as a paneer for savory cooking but was the perfect consistency for making a dessert that I’d enjoyed eating but have never made myself–Kalokand.  It’s a delicious, creamy and rich dessert that has no other flavor but the richness of milk. It’s one of those desserts better saved for those special occasions.

I’m not sure I’d have ever tried making Kalokand had I not had the great paneer making experiment.  I’m so glad that I did. I’m posting this so that my mom can see the pictures (if my sister will actually show her this post) and tell me what she thinks.  I want to make sure I did it right.  It sure tasted amazing and like I remembered it tasting.  It’s not as intimidating as I thought and it’s worth making on purpose.

Batch of Paneer made with whole milk and cream

Add paneer to reduced milk and cook for about 4-5 minutes before adding Pistachios

Add the brown sugar and continue cooking

When mixture resembles a soft dough take off heat

Pour into a greased plate or serving dish and garnish with pistachios

Cut into small squares when cooled

Here’s the recipe:

Kalokand 

One batch of Paneer made with 4 cups whole milk and 4 cups of heavy cream

4 cups of 2% or whole milk

1/2 cup dark brown sugar

1/4 cup chopped Pistachios

1 tablespoon chopped Pistachio for garnish

Make a batch of paneer using whole milk and heavy cream, don’t knead it.  In a heavy bottom pan heat 4 cups of milk and bring it to a gentle boil.  Stir often so it doesn’t burn.  Reduce the milk volume in half to about 2 cups (takes about 12 minutes).  Add the paneer into the reduced milk and continue cooking  until  the mixture begins to pull away from the sides of the pan (about 4-5 minutes).  Add the pistachios and the dark brown sugar and cook another 3-4 minutes until mixture begins to dry out some more and resembles a soft dough.  Pour into a greased  plate or small pan so that mixture is about 1/2 inch thick.  Smooth out the top and sprinkle the remaining Pistachios.  When cooled, cut into small squares.  Keep in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.