Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Pasta e ceci

So I have soaked-then-boiled chickpeas at hand, and thinking about a quick meal for lunch box tomorrow and I thought 'Ive never tried any pasta with chickpeas..I wonder if there is one..' and lo-and-behold..there is ..and one with such a pretty name too..'Pasta e ceci' i.e Pasta with chickpea beans...and strictly speaking its more a soup..but I thought I could make it a pasta dish instead...
I quickly skimmed thru the recipes nd came up with a combination of my own .. or the convenient ,quick,easy and nutritious one I would say..

Cooks for 2 :

1 tbsp evoo
1 small onion, chopped fine
2-3 garlic cloves, last skin unremoved
1 stick celery, chopped fine
2-3 whole sprigs rosemary , and another couple of sprigs finely cut
1 medium tomato, chopped fine or 10 grape tomatoes , halved

1 cup vegetable stock
1.5 cups chickpeas , soaked-and-boiled , or canned
1/2 pkt medium pasta, cooked as directed..I had farfalle at hand..
1 red pepper, cut in slits (any other veg of choice i.e brocolli etc)

Heat olive oil , add onion,rosemary,garlic,celery and tomatoes and saute at low-medium heat for about 10 mins.
Add a cup of chickpeas and the stock and let it simmer for another 10 mins. Remove the garlic and rosemary sprig.Let it cool and then puree the mix.

Heat another tbsp of evoo and add the pepper and remaining finely cut rosemary for about 5 mins. Add remaining chickpeas, the puree and pasta and let it blend. Season with salt and pepper.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Friday evening healthy cooking..

As Friday evening approaches our household , all the healthy eating of the week seem to fly out of the windows..the chips..the dips :)
Im trying to find a healthy balance here and so I thought I would make a nice hearty soup for the evening...upon raiding my pantry I found some green split peas lying since a while..I have no idea what to make of it...and then I remembered that I was browsing through Fatfree Vegan Kitchen and found this split-pea soup recipe and I got a nice , thick, healthy soup for my friday evening !
And thats my entry for the Tried and Tasted hosted at Holy Cow ! ..
I also want to mention that Im a big follower of Susan's blog , its on my feeds and I love her recipes and photographs..I look forward to doing some more trial from her blog :)

Orange cake and more baking..

The Orange Cake I saw the other day on Holy Cow ! was soo droolworthy , I had to try it at the earliest , and fortunately I had all the ingredients on hand too...or so I thought..

Ive never had an orange-y cake before...and though I love Oranges Ive never ventured out much in trying orange-y flavors..icecreams etc...maybe I will...soon..

Neway, so equipped by the cointreau called for by Vaishali's recipe and the basic egg-less cake recipe that I have which works to a T every time and garners praises every time (im not kidding) I baked this simple cake which turned out quite great with a distinct orange flavor :

2 cup white flour
1 cup sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp soda

2-3 tbsp Cointreau liqueur
1 cup orange juice
1tbsp vinegar(which I didnt have nd I made w/o, but think will add next time to balance the orange flavor)

Mix the dry ingredients, then add the liquid and mix the batter thoroughly. Grease a cake pan and add the cake batter. Bake for 40 mins in a pre-heated oven at 350F or till knife comes out clear. 
Enjoy !

I also tried this basic whole wheat bread recipe and 1st time I killed my yeast ! and learnt an important lesson about proofing - checking if your yeast is active or not - do not overheat the water ! You want the water to be 100F ..just a bit warmer than your body temperature (which is 96F ) ..
Take 2-3 tbsp of water and add some sugar and the yeast...it should bubble up within 10 mins if it is alive..
So I re-added the yeast and the flour rose the 1st and the 2nd time too..but it subsided again on baking...It was good too taste but a bit flaky ( I have no idea why ) and dense (cause of whole wheat flour, but I did use the whole wheat pastry flour) .. maybe I will try again...maybe I wont...

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Spinach+Mint Rice, finally

In excitement of my culinary to-do list, up there on the right , I got a bunch of mints, a bunch of baby spinach ,and another one of indian spinach(bigger leaves) and then got totally confused as to what to make of it :)
So many dishes, one little cook...what to do..I didnt want to do what I usually do with these...either a spinach -mushroom fry for a lunch wrap, dal-palak - one of my fav and oft-cooked dish or aloo-palak...so I turned to google (isnt that what everyone does) ..
I came across this nice saag-paneer/tofu at NY Times food blog and thought that the tender baby spinach will work out good with this...and it did...cooking the spinach in half-and-half milk gave it a rich creamy taste and the fried tofu (crunchy on the out , and soft to the core) ..it was great...alas, so reduced a quantity that it was all gone before I could even snap a picture...but take, my word , its a keeper ..though I have a gripe about all these so-called greens..
[[Rant alert]]
You get them all fresh and vibrant, very carefully, taking care not to crush them...handle them every so tenderly..use them as soon as possible to get all its fresh goodness...and what happens ? It reduces to about 1/4 of its size ??? I love the fresh fenugreek bunches I get in the farmers market sometimes..and its so painstakingly harrowing job to pluck those leaves...but does it even give me one full portion of veggie ?? Nah !
I always have to add some volumizing stuff to it , like some dal , potatoes or the likes..and then the greens are really hard to find in there !! [[Sigh...]]
Neways, so with the saag-tofu out of the way, I tried my hand at mint pachadi as a base for my sammich lunch and though it turned out well, I was reluctant to put that as my entry ....it was totally adapted from the blog and I wanted to contribute something original, not that there is anything really 'original' any more ...maybe something more substantial..
So, I remembered this Spinach Rice that I had tried in a potluck , and always thought about trying but never really got around to it..so armed with the name , I checked with my best friend, I mean google again and it seems to give answers..but one too many...
One is the chopped spinach saute'ed with spices and rice which really sounds like pulav to me , again humdrum ..
Another suggested puree-ing the spinach and adding to rice , before cooking or after cooking ?
I wasnt sure how cooking the rice with the spinach puree in would result like..
So I thought I would make a nice spicy puree with Spinach AND Mint (2 birds in a shot, you see) and add onto the rice , I was sure the spinach , mint combination would be great...mint would offset that grittiness you see with spinach sometimes..so here I go..

1.5 cups rice, cooked as usual

1 onion coarsely chopped
1 bunch of indian spinach chopped (blanched in microwave for abt 5 mins)
1 cup of mint leaves
5 peppercorns
an inch of cinnamon stick
4-5 green chillies, cut in half
an inch of ginger

Bring some oil to heat, saute green chillies, black pepper, cinnamon stick and onion in it. Add ginger, stir and then add the spinach and saute for another 3 mins. Add mint leaves and turn off the heat. Let cool and puree the preparation.Its pretty simple actually..

Cool the cooked rice a bit, so it wont break on stirring and add the puree and stir thoroughly.Serve with cucumber-carrot raita and papad on the side !

Cucumber - carrot Raita :

2 small cucumbers , grated
1/2 cup of grated carrots
1 tsp crushed peanut
black pepper powder to taste
coriander leaves, chopped
3 tbsp yogurt
1/2 tsp sugar, if needed (to balance the sourness from yogurt)
salt, to taste

mix all the ingredients with some water and chill.

Note : I thought some corn in the spinah-mint rice would go very well, but since the frozen ones are bit too sweet and hubby dear doesnt likes sweet in spicy I left it out...but Im sure that wouldve been a great addition..
Also, we had some leftover aloo-gobi with that and would you know , the gobi tasted pretty awesome with the rice...thats another future addition .. ;)

This is my entry (first !! ) for JFI:Mint and Cooking with Greens and Monthly Mingle..

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Vegetable stew

From time to time I get frozen idi-appam from the Indian store and make a stew or theeyal to go with it.. This is a traditional south-indian, typically keralite combination , and I have come to like it by virtue of embracing the cuisine that is my husband's mother-cuisine..something like mother-tongue :)

This is very simple but delicious dish and goes well with rice/roti/dosa too..

4 medium sized potatoes, square cuts
1 cup chopped cauliflower
1/2 cup chopped carrot
1/2 cup chopped green beans
4-5 nos black peppercorn
2-3 green chillies, slit in the middle
1/2 can coconut milk
salt to taste
black pepper to taste

1/2 tsp mustard seeds
8-10 curry leaves

In a wide pan, add potatoes , whole pepper corns, green chillies and saute for a minute...add some water and let cook for 5 mins..add beans , carrots, cauliflower one by one and let cook in water at medium heat. Add salt.
Once the vegetables are cooked al-dente, turn off the flame and add 1/2 can of coconut milk and stir. Add black pepper powder to taste.
Bring some oil to heat , add mustard seeds to splutter and curry leaves. Pour on the vegetable stew .

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Strawberry shortcake

Another in-season produce Im into this time is Strawberries!
Every saturday I bring about a quart of strawberries and have learnt that they are better used up in couple of days .. so strawberry milkshake, pancakes with strawberry and since they are bit sour and hubby dear is not into that and doesnt really likes 'fruits'..I thought it was about time I tried something Ive seen floating around..Strawberry shortcake !!

So, there I go :
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
2 tbsp shortening
2 tbsp sugar
Milk as required
Pinch of salt..

Mix the dry ingredients and pinch butter into it and mix with a fork or spoon until granular..
Add milk only to bind a bit, a little less than batter consistency..
Form about 2 inch diameter rounds and bake on 425 F for about 10-15 mins, until brown.

Meanwhile, cut strawberries into slices and add some sugar and let it seep in its juice. Add some wine/rum if possible.

Place the shortcake on a plate, top with whipped cream or icecream and strawberry slices and enjoy !!

The recipes often calls for AP flour , but I used whole wheat pastry flour instead. I think I shall try AP once, to know how its supposed to be .
It turned out well, but I couldnt really cut into half horizontally as called for as the shortcake rose from the middle and not the side. It tasted like a 'churma baati' in my regional cuisine...
All in all a good one, but may improve upon further tries..

A keeper Asparagus salad recipe !

I saw this while browsing and since its Asparagus season and Im into trying all things asparagus I thought this might be a nice variation...and it did turn out to be ..

5-6 medium sized potatoes, peeled and chopped in squares( I used new white potatoes since I didnt have any red)
1 tsp rosemary
1 tsp thyme
Olive oil to coat
1/2 bunch asparagus trimmed to 1.5-2 inches
Black pepper to taste
Salt to taste

In a baking pan, toss potatoes, olive oil, rosemary, thyme , salt and pepper and cover with foil and bake at 425 F for about 20 minutes...When potatoes are almost done , add asparagus , some more olive oil , toss and cover again and bake for another 8-10 minutes. After potatoes and asparagus are done, bake uncovered for about 5 mins to brown a bit..

This turned out to be very yummy and liked by hubby and me both so its a keeper !!

Healthy juices I want to try out

I have this email forward about healthy juices that I have saved in my account for long, but not done much with so Im going to record here for easier reference and update once I try each , maybe..

  • Carrot + Ginger + Apple - Boost your system
  • Apple + Cucumber + Celery - Prevent cancer, reduce cholesterol, and eliminate stomach upset and headache.
  • Tomato + Carrot + Apple - Improve skin complexion and eliminate bad breath.
  • Bitter gourd + Apple + Milk - Avoid bad breath and reduce internal body heat. 
  • Orange + Ginger + Cucumber - Improve Skin texture and moisture and reduce body heat. 
  • Pineapple + Apple + Watermelon - To dispel excess salts, nourishes the bladder and kidney
  • Apple + Cucumber + Kiwi - To improve skin complexion. 
  • Pear & Banana - regulates sugar content.
  • Carrot + Apple + Pear + Mango - Clear body heat, counteracts toxicity, decreased blood pressure and fight oxidization . 
  • Honeydew + Grape + Watermelon + Milk - Rich in vitamin C + Vitamin B2 that increase cell activity and str engthen body immunity. 
  • Papaya + Pineapple + Milk - Rich in vitamin C, E, Iron. Improve skin complexion and metabolism. 
  • Banana + Pineapple + Milk - Rich in vitamin with nutritious and prevent constipation

Any other tried and tasted combinations ??

Sunday breakfast !

I got some whole wheat pastry flour from Fresh Market yesterday and thought I would try out pancakes. The couple of recipes I checked made it out to be very simple and indeed it is, and turned out not bad for a first try..

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 tsp baking powder
2 pinches baking soda
2 tbsp sugar
a pinch of salt
2 tsp custard powder
1 cup milk or till batter consistency (substitute with soy milk for vegan)
2 tbsp butter

Makes about 6 medium sized pancakes.

Mix all the dry ingredients thouroughly and add butter pieces and mix . Add milk and mix till a batter consistency.
Heat a griddle and drop a spoonful of batter and spread . Some bubbles should appear. Flip when browned.
Heat for another minute and serve with some maple syrup or fruit syrup, I had blueberry syrup on hand .
The pancake was nicely fluffy and some cake-y taste I think from the custard powder (which I got from an allrecipes tip).
I think there was a bit of after-taste from soda so Im going to be careful with that next time.

All in all , a delicious breakfast with nice fresh strawberry milk shake on the side !

Saturday, May 2, 2009

A summertime soup

I cooked up a nice , light soup today, which was taught in the Heidi Billotto cooking class 'All Vegeterian' that I had taken last month. It was my first cooking class and it was a nice learning experience and I so want to take the Peter Reinhart's bread making course at Johnson & Wales..its a bit expensive though and very infrequent so I will need to keep an eye out on that one..

So , anyway the soup :
4 cups of good stock (I used mushroom demi-glace) with a pinch of saffron
1/2 tsp red pepper
2 tsp crushed fennel
A handful of grape tomatoes , halved (I just had them fresh from market today morning!)
A bunch of russian kale (from the original recipe) or spinach
A cup of canellini beans (can substitute with orzo or rice)
A cup of edamame beans
salt to taste

Bring the stock to boil and add the tomatoes, fennel seeds and red pepper. Cook for another 15 mins and add spinach to wilt. Add canellini bean and edamame and salt to taste. Simmer for another 10 mins and the soup is ready !

Serve with some bread crostini , bread slices topped with goat cheese and toasted !
Yummy and nutritious to core !!

Friday, May 1, 2009

First cooking post !

My mom started teaching me to cook gradually since I was about 12-13 , since thats the thing a 'good girl' should know and I could very well cook a whole Indian meal soon...it was all traditional marwari food, with not much experimentation as we didnt even have onion and garlic in our homes..and many other restrictions..so I was what you could call a functional cook ..

My brother got married, bhabhi was around to help mom in the kitchen and I got busy with studies..I wanted to make sure food and kitchen wasnt going to be my life..we eat to live and not vice-versa..my 18 year old feminist self would say...

I finished my studies and arrived in the busy city Bombay to start a job and first time in my life I stayed in a hostel..gujarati kitchen..which wasnt so bad except for everything was a bit sweetish and I learnt to eat rice..cos its easy and could camouflage every bland taste with some help from yogurt...Also everything had potatoes in it presumably cos its cheap and filling..a common usage in communal and frugal eating Ive learnt..

So , busy with work, youth and all its possibilities food was still something to enjoy, fill and not thought about that much...
Even after moving to a shared apartment with some friends and a cousin nearby the culinary effort would extend to some comforting khichadi or lentil -rice with a nice potato gravy...those were good days...I didnt have much care in the world and Bombay is a great place to feed varied kind of food and at every budget...ohh...those satyam sandwiches with cheese oozing out and the strawberry thickshake !!

Neway, I got married and moved to Pune, bought a house and developed some consciousness towards outside food every day and since we both were working didnt have much time to cook but was lucky enough to hire a maid who could do it for us (I realize how lucky I was now)...she wasnt such a great cook but came early in the morning and made chapati and sabji for me and cut some salad too....we still had lot of options to eat outside at every corner ...and we had some good regular places we went to...designated for hungry-and-no-time-to-fuss and we-know-what-to-order right now Madhuban ..to the weekend brunch at Bombay Brasserie or Mayur thali..to midnight buffet at Le Meridien or Holiday Inn...aahh...those days !!

I realise that this has turned into a food history of my life and I still have to reach the point where I have a food blog and writing about what Im cooking these days...maybe next post...Au Revoir for now !