Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Pickled pearl onions

This recipe is for those who love onions...raw! Sliced raw onions seasoned with salt and lemon juice are a common accompaniment with Indian food. This is a spiced up version of that salad and goes very well with biryani or even plain rice and lentils. While I was preparing it I realized how much I love red chili powder and salt. Sprinkle it on sliced raw mangoes, guavas, star fruits, gooseberries (amla), or rub it on roasted corn along along with some lemon juice to bring the flavors out.

10-12 pearl onion or any small onion
2 tbsp salt
1tbsp red chili powder
1tsp asafoetida powder
2 tsp roasted cumin powder
1 tbsp granulated sugar
1 tbsp sesame or peanut oil
juiice of 2 lemons


Peel the onion and make two slits in them. Mix all the dry spices. Fill the prepared spice mix in the onions. Sprinkle the rest over it. You can adjust the spices according to your taste.  Pour the juice of lemon and oil over it. Enjoy with you favorite food!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Open faced grilled cheese sandwich with roasted corn, plum and green chilies

Blogging for me is one of keeping in touch with loved ones back home in India. It is nice to share visually what I have been cooking here. I was recently asked by one such loved one why have I not posted any sandwich recipes! So here it is :)

 It all worked out perfectly. I walked into Whole foods to get some groceries and on my way to the check out counter I stopped to taste a cube of cheese that was laid out for sampling. It was Parrano cheese. It was absolutely delicious...a little salty, nutty and creamy. That gave me an idea for the sandwich.  I added a freshly baked multi grain baguette and a block or Parrano cheese to my shopping cart for the sandwich that I had already made in my mind after tasting the cheese. Here is the recipe.


A loaf of your favorite bread (I used a multi grain baguette)
2 cups grated Parrano cheese or any other cheese
3 plums chopped
2 green chilies (finely chopped)
1 cup roasted corn kernels
1/4 cup chopped red sweet peppers or bell peppers
Black pepper for taste
2 tbsp butter

Slit the baguette into two halves. Butter the insides well. Combine the grated cheese, roasted corn, chopped plum, green chilies and sweet red peppers. Add some black pepper for taste. Mix well and  stack it on top of the sliced bread. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F and bake till the cheese melts. Serve with some potato chips on the side.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Paneer tikka biryani

I started the day by not wanting to cook anything. I had to finish a lot of other work and cooking usually means washing, chopping, stirring and then worst of all for me at least cleaning up the kitchen. I do not like to leave the kitchen messed up and that means not just loading the dishwasher but mopping the floor, washing the counter tops, cleaning the stove top etc. This may seem like a usual everyday chore and maybe not like a lot of work but today, it seemed like a drill. I was feeling lazy and wanted to find something in the freezer that I could quickly put in the microwave and the lunch would be ready. I opened the freezer and looking straight at me was a block of fresh paneer.

I do not know why I picked it up and thought maybe a quick stir-fry is not too bad, I already had some left over parathas. It would still be quick. Stir-fry tastes good with some onions and maybe peppers. I knew I had some sweet peppers.  I took them all out and set those aside. It would just take a few minutes to put it all together and I thought I would make it just before we sit down for lunch. 


Suddenly I remember that I have a sizzler plate that I have not used in a long time and maybe serving a simple meal on a sizzler plate will make it interesting. That was it! It was a mistake to bring that thought in my mind. Now it was there and when the food is interesting, I have to share it on my blog. One thing led to another and I was preparing a full-fledged meal. Paneer tikka maybe paneer kadhai or maybe paneer and rice served on the sizzler plate...finally it was a combination of all of these. The sizzler plate that started it all went back into its shelf, or maybe the paneer started it all. I am not so sure now. What I know for sure is that I spent the morning cooking and then cleaning not to forget taking pictures and then downloading it to put it on the blog. That is a lot of work to do on a lazy day!

For the rice
1 cup rice
21/2 cups water 
1 tsp cumin seeds, 1-2 bay leaves, a piece of cinnamon, a few cloves and small cardamom, 1tbsp raisins
Oil or ghee

For the sauce
1 large onion
1" piece of ginger
1 green chili
2 plump tomatoes
7-8 cashews soaked in water
3-4 black cardamom, 1 bayleaf
1 tsp turmeric, 1tsp red chili powder, 2 tbsp coriander powder
1 tsp kasoori methi
1-2 tsp garam masla or any tikka masala
1tbsp honey or a teaspoon of sugar
salt to taste
1/2 tbsp cream (optional)
Oil as required for cooking

 For Paneer tikka marinade

1 cup fresh paneer cubed
1/4 cup thick or strained yogurt/dahi
1 tbsp roasted gram flour/besan
1 tbsp ginger, garlic, green chilli paste
1-2 tsp juice of lemon
1-2 tsp red chili powder
1tsp cumin powder
1tsp turmeric powder
1 tbsp finely chopped mint leaves
black salt and chaat masala for taste
1 tsp tikka masala
1 tbsp oil

Vegetables for adding in later
1 cup cubed  sweet peppers or bell peppers (red, yellow and green)
1 medium sized onion cubed
Cilantro for garnishing

Mix all the ingredients for the marinade and add the paneer cubes to it. Keep aside for half and hour.

Prepare the rice
Take a little oil in a pan and add the cumin seeds, cinnamon, bay leaf, cardamon. Once the seeds splutter add the raisins, give it a quick stir and add the rice. Fry the rice for a few minutes before adding the water. Cook till done.


For the sauce, grind the onion, ginger and cashews. Heat oil in a pan and add the black cardamom and bay leaf and then the onion and ginger paste. Add salt and cook on medium heat till the raw smell goes away. Grind the tomatoes till then and add to the onion paste along with all the dry spices. Cook well till oil separates. Add the honey and cream if desired. Keep aside.

 For tikkas heat some oil or ghee in a tava and cook the pieces turning sides. Add all the chopped vegetables to it and season with more chaat masala. I like to keep the vegetables on the crunchy side but they can be added earlier with the paneer for softer vegetables.
Now for final assembly layer the rice with a little bit of sauce topped with paneer tikka and vegetables. Serve garnished with cilantro and a side of cool cucumber raita.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Baked pasta with cheese, pineapple and edamame beans

I am sure that everyone has memories of a dish you have eaten somewhere and the taste stays with you and you have always wanted to eat that again. I have several of those. Along with those memories I also remember having to face Ma who could have easily been a foods and nutrition police officer( had that profession existed). She used to be so strict about eating healthy and that meant no processed food, or gravies made with khoya or cream, maggi noodles (yes! since it has palm oil and made with white flour) or rasna (artificial flavors). The list is long and although I used to feel deprived at times, I am glad now that she did what she did. I am not as stringent as her but it has made me very conscious of what I eat or feed other people and I am definitely grateful for that. I always check labels before I buy foods and try to avoid refined flour or saturated fat from out diets. But occasional binging is okay for me. I love food so much that it would become difficult for me to stay away from trying something that looks tempting. I believe the key is portion control and I try to do that if I feel tempted to eat something that I know is not good for my health.

So that brings me to today's dish. This is one of those dishes that I had eaten once long time ago (in India) and had loved it so much that I kept dreaming of it. It has cheese, butter, refined flour, spaghetti (more refined flour and fat), pineapple, salt, sugar. Nothing in the list could have ever been approved by our health and nutrition officer at home!! With all the grease and salt and refined flour!! I had to forget about it! But I could not and it has taken me more than 15 years to try to recreate it. So I did.
The recipe is from what I remember of the tastes and I still cannot get away with the guilt factor so I added some vegetables to give it health benefits. It turned out quite nice even with the addition of the healhty stuff.  And Ma you should try this I think you will like it!

2 cups cooked pasta (any kind, I used shells but spaghetti tastes good too)
1/2 cup shelled edamame beans
1/2 cup mixed carrots and peas (frozen)
1 cup cubed pineapple
1/2 cup or more grated cheese ( I used amul cheese but cheddar or gruyere would be good too)

For the white sauce
2 tbsp butter
2 1/2 cups milk (warm)
2 tbsp flour
salt and pepper to taste
11/2 tsp sugar

Prepare the pasta according to package instructions then take the vegetables (edamame, carrots and peas) and mix it with the pasta.Keep this aside and prepare the white sauce.  Take a pan and melt the 2 tbsp butter in it. Add the flour and stir continuously till the flour is well coated with butter and starts to turn light golden and the raw smell goes. Now take the pan off heat and add a little milk and whisk it to make a paste. Put it back on heat and gradually add the milk stirring all the time so that no lumps are formed. Add the salt, pepper and sugar. Continue to cook till the mixture starts boiling and becomes thick. Remove from heat and add 1/4 cup cheese in it and mix well.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. 
Pour the sauce over the pasta and vegetables and mix well. Top the pasta with the remained cheese. Put it in the oven and bake for 15 minutes or until the cheese is golden and bubbling.
Remove from the oven and let it rest for a few minutes. 

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Beetroot and carrot pulao

I just realized that this is my 51st post of the year. I had not imagined that I would reach this far but I am quite enjoying doing this and look forward to many more.

This is a wholesome and nutritious meal. I made this pulao  as I had to use some beetroots and carrots sitting in the refrigerator for a while. It turned out quite nice. I made it on the spicier side but that can be adjusted according to taste. Since I added a good amount of vegetables to the rice it was on the softer and mushier side (which I like sometimes). But it can be made more like a biryani by adding less water and vegetables or frying the vegetables before adding the rice in the pot.

1cup grated beetroot
1/2 cup grated carrots
1 onion sliced
2 tbsp ginger garlic and green chillies paste
1 tbsp heaped biryani masala (I like the Shaan brand)
Dry spices (1tsp turmeric, 1tbsp coriander-cumin powder, 1tsp red chilli powder)
a few dal vadi (shallow fried in oil till golden brown)
Whole spices (black cardamom,cinnamon, bay leaf, cloves)
1 cup rice washed and soaked for 1 hour
Salt to taste

Heat some oil in a pot and add whole spices (black cardamom, cinnamon, bay leaf, cloves) and sliced onions. Fry till golden brown, then add the ginger garlic paste and stir well till the raw smell goes away. Mix all the dry spices including the biryani masala in a bowl and add water to form a thick paste. Now add this paste to the pot and mix well. Drain all the water from the soaked rice and add it to the pot along with fried vadi and stir well till the rice is well coated with all the spices and add salt according to taste. Now add the grated beetroot and carrots along with 21/2 cups of water and bring it to a rolling boil. Reduce the heat and cover the pot and cook till the water is all soaked up and beetroot has softened. I squeezed some lemon juice on the pulao just before serving and paired it with cool cucumber raita