Category Archives: Main Dish

Thai style beef with basil and death to snails…

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Thai style beef with basil and death to snails…

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. …

Add soy sauce and corn starch to beef and mix well

Had to share the directions on the back of the noodle package. LOVE IT!

Thai Basil

Stir fry beef with garlic and ginger

When meat is no longer pink, add in onion, red pepper, sweet soy sauce, fish sauce, sambal olek and coconut milk

Add Thai Basil after heat is turned off

Thai style beef with basil!

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!

Radish Cucumber and Mango Salad with honey lime dressing

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Radish Cucumber and Mango Salad with honey lime dressing

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.

Thinly sliced radishes, english cucumbers and some mangoes

Added the vinaigrette

Toss, chill and serve

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

Dressing

1 lime

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.

Muttar Paneer and Tony Horton

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Muttar Paneer and Tony Horton

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.

Saute cashews first in a little oil

Add onions, turmeric, garlic, ginger and salt and saute for 2-3 minutes

Add tomatoes and cook another 2-3 minutes

Blend the cooked tomato mixture in a food processor until smooth – you can make a big batch of this and freeze it if you like for future use.

Saute whole garam masala and cumin seeds in 2 tbsp oil until the cumin seeds are popping and everything is fragrant

Add tomato puree to the garam masala and simmer for about 10 minutes

Add green chilis, methi and green peas and cook another 5 minutes over low heat

Add cilantro, paneer and milk (or cream) and cook another 3 minutes before serving

Muttar Paneer with coconut rice

Muttar Paneer

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 “Sausage” Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms

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Grilled “Sausage” Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms

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.

Mix together the ingredients for the “sausage”

Saute the meat mixture until everything is cooked

Add all the other ingredients to the home made sausage before filling the mushroom caps

Grill covered for 12-15 minutes

Wonderful served with fresh fruit and a salad

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.

Indonesian style chicken

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Indonesian style chicken

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!

Spices at a glance

Saute the onions with coriander, chili powder, ginger and garlic for about 5-7 minutes before adding lemongrass, lime leaves and cinnamon sticks

Add chicken and cook (for 8-10 minutes)

Add coconut milk and water and cook an additional 20-25 minutes, covered.

Let cool for 15 minutes before serving

Indonesian style chicken curry

Indonesian style chicken curry

2 tsp coriander powder

1/2 tsp red chili powder

3 garlic cloves, chopped

1 medium onion, chopped

3 thai chilis, kept whole

1 piece fresh ginger – 1 inch, peeled and thinly sliced

4 tbsp vegetable oil

5 kaffir lime leaves

4-6 sticks cinnamon

1 stalk lemon grass

5 boneless chicken thighs cut into chunks

3/4 tsp salt

2 cups coconut milk

1 1/4 cup water

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.

Coconut Fried Rice – Delicious anytime!

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Coconut Fried Rice – Delicious anytime!

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 to make my “Caribbean style rice bowl” (recipe to follow soon).  Hope you like it!

Split Black lentils (Urad daal), yellow lentils (Bangla Chana daal)

Saute chilies, lentils, mustard and cumin seeds in hot oil for a few minutes

Add cashews and desiccated coconut and stir fry until coconut is toasted and light brown in color

Add rice toss and serve

Coconut Rice

4 cups cooked rice (I used Basmati rice, any long grain rice will work)

2 cups desiccated unsweetened coconut (finely shredded)

4 dried red chilis

1 tablespoon split Urad daal (black lentils)

1 tablespoon Bangla Chana daal (yellow lentils)

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp black mustard seeds

1 tsp cumin seeds

1/3 cup raw peanuts or cashews

3 tbs oil

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.

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.

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.

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.