Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Indian Feast Night

On Saturday I cooked a bunch of Indian food and had some friends over for dinner. The picture above shows what we had; kheema (spicy ground meat with peas), potato bhaji, chana masala, bhindi (recipe from Jan 25th on this blog), dahl (basically yellow split pea soup) and of course basmati rice. Today I'm going to give you the dahl recipe. I'll add on some of the other recipes later.

Makes about 8 servings

1 lb bag of yellow split peas
2 cans of chopped tomatoes drained (petite diced is best)
Juice of one lemon
3/4 tsp mustard seeds
1/4 tsp of cumin seeds
3 or 4 red chilli's (more or less depending on heat level)
6 cloves of garlic thinly sliced
1/2 tsp turmeric
2 tbsp of canola oil

Prepare the split peas by rinsing them a few times and looking for any impurities. Yes, sometimes there is a little stone amongst the split peas. If a stone ends up in your bowl, it can create a very painful experience. After you have completed the cleaning process, fill your pot with water (about a three to one ratio of water to split peas). Bring to a boil. It will be necessary to skim the top where impurities will show up in the form of white foam. Simmer for approximately an hour, stirring occasionally, until you can mash up the split peas. If the consistency is too thick add water, and if it's too thin boil some of the liquid off.

Once the split peas are cooked and at a consistency you like, you can start the next part of the cooking process. In a separate pan, heat up the oil; add mustard seeds, chilli's, cumin seeds and turmeric. Once the mustard seeds start to pop and sizzle, add the garlic and stir. If the oil is getting too hot, remove from heat and saute the garlic for a minute off the heat. Once the garlic has just started to brown, add the tomatoes, and stir again. Now pour a few spoonfuls of the cooked split peas into the pot, and then transfer the whole mixture into the big pot of split peas. Stir, add lemon juice and salt to taste and simmer for a few minutes.

The step with the oil is the most difficult because if you get the oil too hot it's easy to burn everything. If you burn your seeds/chilli's and/or garlic, start from scratch. If you don't, your entire pot of soup will be ruined.

Eat over rice or like soup; the choice is yours!

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Bhindi (Okra)

This recipe is one of my all-time favorites; something my Dad has been making for as long as I can remember. I'm not sure if it's a classic Indian dish, because I've never had okra prepared quite the same way. For those of you who are "okra-phobic" try this recipe! Okra sure can be nasty in other dishes, where it remains gooey and sticky. In this recipe however it loses that slimy feeling completely. Even people that despise all vegetables seem to like this dish!

A funny side note, I bought all the okra in my local grocery store and they have not replaced it in the last year; now when I buy okra I am sure to leave at least one package still in the case!

Bhindi my Papa's way!
Feeds about two people as a meal accompaniment

1 lb package of frozen chopped okra (or fresh if you can find it! make sure you pick tender pieces; big pieces are usually tough and hard to chew)
2 tbsp canola or olive oil
3 dried red chilli's, broken in half (more or less depending on the heat of the chilli's you have)
1tsp of cumin seeds
1/2 tsp of the following: ground cumin, coriander powder, turmeric powder
1 to 2 heaping tbsp of low fat plain yogurt
Salt to taste
For this recipe, a nonstick pan works very well!

Heat up the oil in pan, then add in the chilli's, cumin seeds and all the spices. Shake the pan until they are all spread out in the oil, then add frozen okra. Next add the yogurt. Make sure the mixture is stirred well. Cook on a medium flame until liquid evaporates. The picture below shows what it will look like for a while, until all the liquid is gone. Add salt to taste. Don't get frustrated; it takes a while for all the liquid to disappear!

Once the liquid has evaporated, be more careful and stir every couple of minutes because it will stick a bit (turn down the flame if you want to stir less often). It's nice to get the okra a little bit brown around the edges; for some reason it seems to improve the taste dramatically.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Steak and Cheese My Way

Here's my personal steak and cheese recipe:

3 patties of Steak-eze (more or less depending on how much meat you like)
1 tbsp of olive oil or canola oil
One large red onion, cut in half and then sliced
2 cloves of garlic sliced thinly, or a teaspoon of garlic powder
Red pepper flakes
Provolone cheese
Loaf of italian bread

Steak-eze is not the leanest meat, so I cook it and then drain the fat off by placing it on some paper towels. Next I heat up some oil in a pan, and put the onions, garlic, some salt, black pepper and red pepper flakes. Cook until somewhat soft and slightly brown on the edges. Then add the meat, and a little more salt and pepper to taste. In the meantime slice your bread in half, and put a few slices of provolone cheese on top of one half (or both if you really like cheese!). Put it under your broiler (be sure to watch out so you don't burn it!) until the cheese is melted. Then plate up and put the beef mixture on the top. I ate mine as an open faced sandwich.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Quick and Simple Pasta with Spinach

Living in New York City, working and trying to make it to the gym every night are not conducive to making elaborate dinners. Last night I was craving well,Italian style carbs; I wanted pizza or pasta.

I keep some staples in my apartment such as olive oil, garlic, Parmesan cheese and whole wheat pasta. So I decided to send my roommate an email, see if she wanted to have dinner with me and asked her to pick up some baby spinach on the way home.

The ingredients I used for this dish were as follows:
2-4 tbsp of olive oil (the more you use the better it tastes!)
6 large cloves are garlic thinly sliced
1 large tomato roughly chopped (found this in the fridge and decided to use it)
1 tsp of freshly black ground pepper (more or less depending on preference)
1 heaping teaspoon of red pepper flakes (more or less depending on level of heat desired)
salt to taste
1 package of baby spinach
1 package of Ronzoni Healthy Harvest thin spaghetti
Parmesan cheese to garnish

First things first. Put the water on to boil for the pasta (no need to explain how to cook pasta I'm sure you already know!) You should have it cooked at the same time your sauce is finished) A dish like this that is so simple takes longer to cook the pasta than make the sauce.

Next I heated up the oil in the pan, then put in the garlic, pepper, red pepper flakes and some salt. Then I sauteed the garlic but was sure not to burn it. Once the garlic was soft I put in the tomatoes until they softened a bit. When the pasta was done I drained it, put the spinach on top of the sauce, and threw the pasta in on top of the spinach. The spinach will wilt almost immediately. Turn the stove off after you mix everything together so that your spinach does not get overcooked and brown looking.

All in all it probably takes about 20-25 minutes to make, the perfect quick dinner for someone without hours to cook. If you wanted to add some protein you could grill up a piece of chicken breast and put it in at the end. I served this pasta with a generous amount of Parmesan cheese, especially since it is a drier sauce.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Beef Barley Soup

This week has brought us the first really cold weather of the entire winter, which inspired me to make some comfort food. I decided to make beef barley soup, which I had never done before, and didn't have a recipe for either... luckily it came out good! For my soup I used:

1 tbsp olive oil or canola oil
4 carrots peeled
4 stalks of celery
2 medium sized red onions
5 cloves of garlic
1 small can of tomato sauce (1 small can of tomato paste would have been good but I didn't have any)
1/2 cup white wine (optional)
1 lb of lean ground beef
2 32fl oz cartons of Kitchen Basics Beef Stock
1 cup of barley rinsed well
1 can of navy beans drained and rinsed
red pepper flakes

I love my mini cuisinart, it makes life easy for chopping up a lot of veggies quickly. Start off by chopping up the carrots, celery, red onions and garlic (as roughly or as fine as you like them in soup). Heat the olive oil in a pot and add all of the veggies and garlic. Sweat them until they are soft. Add salt, pepper and red pepper flakes to taste. Deglaze with some white wine and wait until it's all evaporated. Then add tomato sauce, stirring to make sure it does not burn. Do this for about a minute, it takes out some of the acidity. Then add the ground beef and brown it. Finally dump the stock, navy beans and barley into the pot, bring up to a boil and then let simmer for about 30 minutes. Make sure you skim the top of the soup a few times, as all of the impurities and a lot of the fat move to the top. This soup produced about 8 servings of soup for me (and by serving I mean a nice big bowl).

A word about the Kitchen Basics stocks. They are amazing, and make cooking so much easier. So many recipes call for stock and this is the answer to not having made your own or having to use a bullion cube or broth which is full of chemicals. They are all natural and very flavorful.

This soup was great, a one pot meal if you drink a glass of milk to go with it!

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Oh how I miss having summer vacation...

During the summertime in college I managed to attend Le Cordon Bleu. I went to the London branch. It was rewarding but demanding; sometimes our days would last from 9am-9pm. I learned a lot about classic french techniques and a lot about food and cooking in general. I hope to go back and finish - I've got 6 months of class left to get the Grand Diploma in cuisine and pastry. I had a lot of laughs (as well as nasty cuts and burns!) while I was there. We made some pretty amazing food.

Making truffles was one of my favorite days; it was towards the end of the term. The boys decided it would be funny to smear dark chocolate all over my nice white chefs outfit, I got them back though! We worked in a group to make the delectable treats and I ended up taking home about a months supply which my parents, friends and I got to enjoy for quite some time!

Sunday, January 7, 2007

Korean Delight

It was my birthday on Jan 2nd, and last night some friends and I went out for Korean barbeque. It's a place here in Manhattan on 32nd Street between Madison and 5th ave, called Don Bogam. Our favorite dish of the night was something called Boolgogi, which was thinly sliced marinated beef, with glass noodles, straw mushrooms and onions cooked in a flavored broth. This picture does not do it ANY justice whatsoever but I thought i should post it anyway. There is also a picture of some of the side dishes (there were about 8 different things, everything from kimchi to mushrooms to spicy cucumbers and maybe one or two unidentifable objects as well!). I highly recommend Korean barbeque; it's very interactive because you get a grill in front of you and can flip the meat (or let them do it for you if you prefer).

Christmas 2006

This year we had our first Christmas in Florida. There were ten of us total; 5 of my cousins, my auntie and uncle, and my parents. My dad's side of the family is from India, and to say food is important to us is an understatement. We don't eat to live, we definitely live to eat! The picture in this post is of our Christmas dinner - fish patties (mix of fish and mashed potatoes, all seasoned and cooked and then bread crumbed and fried), mutton biriyani (the best I've EVER eaten in my life! Seriously, better than a restaurant! It's full of rice and meat and it was delicious), a spicy pea dish with onions and spices, raitha (yogurt with cucumber - helps to cool the palate), and a salad (indian style it's onions, tomatoes, cumcumber, a few spices and a lot of cilantro).

It was all delicious and we had a lot to eat over the entire holiday! (I don't think the rainy weather in Florida helped either!). It was nice to spend time with the family though and at least we got to enjoy tons of great food!

Thursday, January 4, 2007

First post!

Wow... my very own blog. I've been inspired by my good friend, Lauren Ulm, who created this blog. Her's is a very fancy blog, mine will probably not compare in quality. But hey, I'm going to give it a try!