Thursday, February 25, 2010

Basic Tomato Salsa

Salsa is a staple in our house. We have it with chips, wraps, fries and in many other ways. Ofcourse its consumption peaks during football season. Here is a recipe for simple salsa which is our favorite. This dish goes to PJ's No cook event.

Ingredients:

1 ripe tomato diced
1/2 cup crushed tomato
1-2 garlic cloves finely diced
1/4 medium onion chopped
1 spring onion with greens chopped
1-2 Jalapeno or Serrano peppers finely diced
1 tablespoon coriander/cilantro chopped
1 teaspoon lemon juice
2 teaspoons olive oil
Salt
Pepper

Mix all the ingredients and keep for about 2 hours for the flavors to mix. Serve with chips or any way you like. 

Serving / Cooking suggestions-
Add it grilled vegetable sandwiches for a spice kick
Add to Mexican rice for added flavor in place of tomato puree
Add one part sour cream to two parts salsa to make a creamy salsa dip

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Lemon Pancakes with Strawberry Compote

Today IHOP is celebrating National Pancake Day (you couldn't miss it with all the free pancake ads). It is usually Fat Tuesday, the day of Mardi Gras to finish up milk and eggs in the house before the start of Lent. And I had pancakes on my mind the whole day. By evening I was decided on what I was going to make for dinner - pancakes.
Last summer while visiting Boise I had lemon pancakes with huckleberry syrup at this delightful bistro. They were super delicious and like biting into a lemon sponge cake with sweet huckleberries. These were the inspiration for today's pancakes. The lemon bursts through the pancake and fills your senses. Its like a bright spring day in your mouth. The strawberry compote compliments the pancake beautifully. It is a surprising sweet to the lemon. 
Make these for breakfast or brunch and enjoy!

Ingredients:

Pancakes:

1 1/4 cup AP flour
3/4 cup buttermilk
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon melted butter
Zest of a lemon
Juice of a lemon
Butter for cooking
Pinch Salt
Few drops vanilla extract

Strawberry Compote:

1/2 tablespoon butter
12-15 Strawberries
5-6 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

For the compote, cut the strawberries into 4 pieces. Heat butter in a thick bottomed vessel and add the strawberries. Saute for a minute and add the sugar and vanilla. Cook for another 6-7 minutes till the strawberries are a little softened and the sugar makes a strawberry syrup.

For the pancake, mix all the dry ingredients together. Mix the buttermilk, butter, lemon and vanilla. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and mix gently till it is just combined. Do not over-beat as this will make flat pancakes. Heat a pan, coat with cooking spray or some butter. The pan should not be too hot. Pour a ladle full of batter into the pan. When bubbles start to form and you can easily lift the pancakes, flip them and cook till they are golden on the other side.

Serve with strawberry compote, on the side or poured on top. Enjoy them warm!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Spinach Manicotti

The manicotti shells in the pantry were calling me and my refrigerator stocked both spinach and ricotta. So Friday night dinner was spinach manicotti. I love the ricotta/spinach combination. The creamy and garlicky filling compliments the tangy marinara perfectly. It is a perfect bite.
My photo of baked pasta got horribly blurred so the photo above, before the marinara was poured and the pasta was baked is the best I have. I am sending this to Jyoti's Pasta Party.

Ingredients: 

7 manicotti shells
1 cup / 8 oz ricotta cheese
1 1/4 cup / 10 oz spinach frozen*
3-4 fresh basil leaves chopped
2 cloves garlic finely minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt 
Pepper
Water
2 1/2 cups marinara or pasta sauce
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan (or more if you like)

In a large vessel, boil water for pasta. When it comes to a rolling boil, add salt. Add pasta and cook according to package directions for al dente pasta. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. In a separate vessel, heat the olive oil and add the garlic. When the garlic starts to brown add the spinach and saute for a couple of minutes. Then add the ricotta, basil, salt and pepper and mix well. Let it cook for a minute. Fill this mixture into the manicotti shells with a spoon or pastry bag. It is easier to fill them from both ends than trying to fill them from one end only. Take a 9x9 or 9x13 baking dish and put about 1 cup of marinara on the bottom of the dish. Arrange the manicotti shells on the marinara and top with the rest of the marinara and sprinkle the Parmesan on top. Bake in the oven for about 15-20 minutes.

*If you are using fresh spinach, blanch the spinach and squeeze out the water to make 1 1/4 cups. You will also need to cook the spinach a little longer.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Grilled Vegetable and Cheese Sandwiches

This is a very basic grilled vegetable sandwich recipe. I use tomato and onion for the filling; green peppers can be added as well. I make it in a toaster sandwich maker but you can make it in a pan over heat as well. I have been making it for a long time now and is my go-to recipe for grilled sandwich. This along with a cold coffee has been a holiday breakfast many a times. The portion below is for 2 sandwiches. This recipe goes to Divya's Sunday Snacks: Healthy Snacks (that is why there is all that fruit there :)).

Ingredients: 

4 slices bread
8 slices tomato
4 slices onion, cut into half
2 slices pepper jack cheese
Butter (optional)
Salt and pepper
Take a slice of bread, layer four onion halves, then four tomato slices, sprinkle salt and pepper and  top with a cheese slice. Place a second bread slice to close the sandwich. Butter the top bread and place it face down on the toaster. Now butter the other side as well. Toast till golden. Serve with ketchup or chutney. Add a side of fruits or chips. 

Variations:
Add a layer of coriander chutney before placing the vegetables
Use pico de gallo in place of vegetable slices
Add some salsa inside the sandwich for a little spice

Friday, February 19, 2010

Guacamole

I go through phases with some foods. When I first had guacamole I loved it and then ate so much of it that I grew tired of it. Then two weeks ago I made guacamole and remembered the old feeling again. I hope this time it be for a long time...
I am sending this recipe to Siri's Healing Foods: Avocado event and to PJ's No cook event.

Ingredients:

1 ripe Haas avocado
1/2 medium onion diced
1 tomato diced
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 clove garlic minced
1 Serrano chili minced 
1 tablespoon chopped coriander
Salt and pepper

To skin and deseed the avocado, run a knife vertically through the flesh with the knife edge touching the seed. Pull the two halves apart. The seed will be in one of the halves, tap a knife into it and pull it out. Scoop the flesh from the skin with the help of a spoon. Chop it into a rough dice and pour the lemon juice over it to prevent browning while you prep the other vegetables. Add the other ingredients and mix well. Add to a layer dip or scoop with chips or add to nachos.

Potato Cutlets

Potato is one of my favorites and cutlets happen to be one of my favorite ways to enjoy them. I also needed some good Indian appetizers for my V Day Dinner. These are easy to make and very tasty. The old school way to make them is to make them with potatoes and coat them in semolina and deep fry them. I make them a little different, adding breadcrumbs to the mix (come to think of it, even my grandmother does it) and shallow frying them. I put them in a heart shaped mold for V day. I am sending these to Priya's Hearts for Valentine's Day event and to Think Spice- Think Amchoor guest hosted by Bhagyashri of Taste Buds, an event by Sunita, Think Spice.

Ingredients:

4 large potatoes, boiled and peeled
3/4 cup bread crumbs
1/2 medium onion chopped
1 green chili very finely minced
3/4 inch ginger very finely minced
1 teaspoon garam masala
1/2 teaspoon chili powder (or more if you like spicy)
1/2 teaspoon amchur powder (mango powder)
2 tablespoons coriander finely chopped
Dash of sugar
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Salt

Mash the potatoes. Add everything to the potatoes except the oil. Mix well. Taste the mixture for spice and salt and adjust accordingly. Press into mold or shape by hand. Be sure to pack well else the cutlet will fall apart while frying. Heat about 1 tablespoon of oil in a non stick pan for frying 3 cutlets at a time. When one side is golden to reddish in color flip to cook other side. Put a few more drops of oil for this side. Serve with tamarind chutney or green coriander chutney. 

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Snow in Dallas and Valentine's day weekend

Last week was so much fun. It snowed in Dallas - about 8 inches. Now we hardly get snow here and when we do its about 1/2 inch so this was snowball fight / snow mans and endless snow pictures day. I especially love the trees, they look like they are swathed in Silver. Thanks to snow Friday was a day off and that set the theme for the weekend.
Thursday night, while watching the snow fall, I made cupcakes with a friend. Nothing makes me happier than the sight of freshly baked cupcakes (not to mention the pound of icing I ate while teaching her to ice). Here is a pic. These are pineapple cupcakes with simple vanilla buttercream. 
Now I am not big on Valentines day - not that I don't love the idea and love the 'love is in the air' feeling  - but because it sets up such high expectations for the day! My husband and I tend to buy gifts and do things year round but on V-day we run out of ideas. That being said, there are some things which you can make and eat guilt free only some days of the year. One of them is chocolates. I enrolled in a 'Chocolates for your Valentine' class for the 13th. I knew nothing would make me happier than 3 hours with chocolate so I made this his 'gift' to me :) It was a fun and informative class, not that I plan to make candy any time soon. Melting, tasting, stirring and dunking truffles in a 5 pound bowl of chocolate was pure bliss. We got a box to bring back home - here is a pic. There are white chocolate hazelnut truffles, white chocolate rochers, chocolate covered cherries, Gianduja chocolate truffles and chocolate covered soft caramels.
Sunday - the actual day we had invited friends over for dinner. I had some of my husbands favorites, a few of mine and I know my friend loves chocolate! Here is the spread. We started with mudslides, then cutlets for an appetizer. Main course was Paneer Makhanwala, Baby potatoes in tomato sauce, Chickpea salad, Cucumber raita, Mixed Vegetable Pulao and ready made garlic naans and onion kulchas. Dessert was Chocolate Mousse with whipped cream and raspberry puree. 
The spillover from V-day? These chocolate covered strawberries made with some dark Callebaut chocolate which I enjoyed till yesterday!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Bruschetta

I made this a few weeks ago for the first time and I really liked it. The sweet taste of tomatoes and basil. Crunchy bread slathered with olive oil. It is divine. And I say this because bruschetta wasn't the thing I ordered in a restaurant. It was mozzarella sticks or some other fried greasy thing. And now I am regretting all those times that I could have had this yummy dish. Well not any more. I will make it and have it lots of times. And I did, for the Superbowl. I didn't assemble it before hand but put the crostini and the tomato mixture separate so that the bread wouldn't get soggy. That is also a good tip to save you time and effort if you are planning a party. The guests can serve themselves as they go along the buffet. The recipe below is for 4 people for an appetizer portion.

Ingredients:

1 loaf french bread
4 medium tomatoes, vine ripe or roma (I like roma)
8-10 leaves fresh basil
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Salt 
Pepper

Slice the bread on a bias about 1/2 inch thick. We need about 10-12 slices. Take 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil and add salt and pepper (about 1/3 teaspoon each - as per taste). Brush this on both sides of the bread. Place these slices on a sheet pan and bake for about 3-4 minutes in a 400 degree preheated oven till golden brown. Once one side is done, turn over the crostini to the other side to crisp that as well. When the crostini are hot out the oven, rub a garlic clove on them. Chop the tomatoes. Chiffonade the basil and add to the tomatoes. Add salt, pepper, olive oil and balsamic vinegar and let it rest for a few minutes. Put a generous amount of tomato on the crostini and serve.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Ragda Patties

Mumbai chaat is an all time favorite and ragda patties even more so. Everytime we had chaat outside, I had to have some ragda patties and maybe split a pani puri or bhel with someone. Over the years I have eaten countless recipes and have loved them all. This is the version I like best. For a more exotic version try Sanjana's recipe here.

Ingredients: 

For the patties:

4 large potatoes
1 inch ginger very finely minced
1 green chili very finely minced and deseeded
2 tablespoons chopped coriander
1/2 teaspoon amchur powder
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
3/4 teaspoon garam masala
Salt
Oil for shallow frying

For the ragda:

2 cups dry green peas (or yellow peas)
3/4 inch ginger minced
1 green chili sliced in two
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon chili powder
8 curry leaves
Salt
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
Pinch asafoetida
1 tablespoon oil

For garnish:

Tamarind Chutney
Chopped onions
Coriander
Sev

Patties - Boil the potatoes, peel and mash them. Add all the ingredients and mix well. Taste the mixture and adjust the seasonings and salt as needed. Mould a patty about 1/2 inch thick and 1 & 1/2 inch in diameter. Make all the patties and set aside. In a non stick pan heat about 1 tablespoon of oil. Place a few patties at a time and allow them to get golden on one side. To test if the patty is ready to turn, try shaking the pan, the patties with crisp golden sides will slide on the pan. Remove from heat when both sides are done. Make remaining patties the same way.

Ragda - Soak the green peas in water overnight. Pressure cook for to two whistles in the soaking liquid. Take the peas in a large pot and add about 1/2-3/4 cup of the cooking liquid. Add the ginger, chili, turmeric, chili powder and bring to a boil. Crush some of the peas into the liquid to make a thicker gravy. In a seasoning vessel, heat the oil, add the asafoetida, cumin and mustard seeds. When they start crackling, add the curry leaves. Saute for 8-10 seconds and add to the peas. Add salt and cook for another 5 minutes. The water should cooked out to make a nice gravy with peas.
To assemble - Take two or three patties, pour hot ragda on top. Pour some tamarind chutney, then the onions, coriander and then the sev. Serve hot.

Seven Layer Dip

Superbowl Sunday is the annual seven layer dip day at our place. Throughput the year its salsa and queso but Superbowl means the layer dip. Its very simple to make but very flavorful and filling. This is an approximate quantity dish, you may use more or less of any ingredient as per your liking. Also the number the layers change depending upon the ingredients available but the name remains the same. I am posting the recipe as it should be. I didn't do the guacamole layer as I couldn't find a ripe avocado. You can add corn, olives or jalapenos layers if you like them. Also you can make the dip low fat by using black beans instead of refried, low fat or fat free sour cream and reduced fat cheese.This dish goes to PJ's No cook event and to Fun and Food cafe's Superbowl recipe carnival and Special Giveaway.

Ingredients:

1 16 oz can refried beans
1 tablespoon taco seasoning
1 16 oz jar salsa
1 1/2 cup sour cream
1 cup shredded lettuce
1 1/2 cups guacamole (I couldn't get ripe avacado so I skipped this)
1 cup pico de gallo or chopped tomato
3/4th cup shredded Mexican cheese

Have a serving dish ready. I used a 9x9 glass dish. Mix the refried beans and the taco seasoning. Make a uniform layer in the serving dish. Next layer the sour cream. Then comes the salsa layer followed by guacamole. This is followed by a generous layer of shredded lettuce. Next layer - pico de gallo or tomato. Finally sprinkle cheese. Serve with tortilla chips.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Superbowl Party

I have been very lazy past couple of days. I have cooked and photographed but have just been browsing blogs and not posting. So here is a post just to start. We had a Superbowl party and here is a picture to show the food. It was part potluck, part readymade and part made by moi. Shruti brought the delicious mini idlis which were as tasty as they looked cute. Leena brought some spice with her masala corn. I made seven layer dip, bruschetta and the mini blueberry muffins. The muffins were blueberry for the Colts and so were the cups and plates. But the Colts didnt win... The onion dip was made out of a packet and the muffins were made with a box mix.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Saddadiya Chola (Black eyed peas in yogurt gravy)

This dish is another favorite which reminds me of home. Easy to cook and one hot bowlful with steaming rice or fluffy rotis is a perfect meal on a cold evening. The peas - called chola in Gujarati and lobia in the north - are tangy because of the yogurt, spicy due to green chilies and with a hint of sugar to balance it all out.

Ingredients:

3 cups black eyed peas (chola)
3 tablespoons yogurt
5-6 green chilies
4 garlic cloves
1 inch stick ginger
Pinch asafoetida (hing)
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds (jeera)
1/4 teaspoon mustard seeds (rai)
1 tablespoon oil
1/2 teaspoon sugar or 1/2 inch cube jaggery
1/8 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon chili powder (optional)
1/2 cup water
1-2 tablespoons chopped coriander

Heat oil in a heavy bottomed vessel. When hot add the asafoetida, cumin and mustard seeds. When they start crackling, add the chilies, ginger and garlic. Saute for 2-3 minutes on medium heat just when the garlic starts browning. Next add the boiled peas to this and stir. Add sugar and spices along with the water and cook on low-medium heat for 10 minutes for the peas and spices to mesh together, stirring occasionally. When the peas and spices are cooked add the yogurt. If the curry becomes too thick, add some water to thin it out. Cook for couple of minutes till the yogurt is well incorporated and the gravy starts to bubble. Add the chopped coriander and serve hot.
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