Entertaining and Vegetable Bolognese

As has been usual in the past few weekends, we experimented with our new grill this weekend. Our neighbors must really think us crazy when they see us grilling as soon as the spring showers pause for a few minutes. Just to assure them, its probably just because we paid so much for a grill and because its a new thing for us and we should calm down in a few months, if not weeks 馃檪 .

Anyway, we had a few friends over yesterday and experimented with grilling pork loin. One thing I definitely learnt was there is a BIG difference between pork loin and pork tenderloin. Big, not only in terms of size, but also in terms of cooking.

Just in case, to avoid embarassment due to our experiment failing, I made a quick pasta recipe before we began grilling, adapted from one I had seen on Giada’s show Everyday Italian at the gym last week (Yeah, yeah, I know it defeats the purpose to watch Food Network in the gym, but I love it :-)). I have always wanted to聽try Bolognese sauce in my pasta, ever since my trip to Italy when I was 15, but could never try it because I do not eat beef. Hence, this version聽really appealed to me.

Here’s a link to the original.

聽Here’s my version.

Penne Rigate with Vegetable Bolognese

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 oz dried porcini mushrooms
  • 1 1/4 cup of hot water
  • 1/2 a small bag of baby carrots, roughly chopped
  • 1 white onion, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, seeded and roughly chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled, smashed and chopped
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • Salt, to taste
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 oz assorted mushrooms (I used shiitake, bella and oyster), stemmed and roughly chopped
  • 3 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 1 small container (8 oz) mascarpone cheese
  • 1 lb whole wheat penne rigate
  • 1/4 cup parmesan, shredded
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley,聽chopped

Steps:

1. Heat the 1 1/4 cups of water in the microwave. Put the dried porcini mushrooms in it and let them reconstitute for a few minutes.

2. Start boiling the pasta water and cook the pasta according to the directions on the box.

3. In the meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large pan. Add the carrots, bell peppers, onions and garlic and saute them for a few minutes over medium high heat.

4. When the onions change color, add thyme, oregano, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper. Cookuntil the聽vegetables are聽tender.

5. Drain the porcini mushrooms, but reserve the water they were soaked in.

6. Add the porcini and other types of mushrooms into the pan with the veggies.

7. Add the tomato paste and stir it to mix it in.

8. Add the mushroom water and the red wine and stir.

9. Let the liquids come to a boil and then let them simmer until the liquids have reduced by half.

10. Add the mascarpone cheese and mix it in.

11. Add the pasta and about a 1/4 cup of the reserved pasta liquid.

12. Mix it all and then聽top with parmesan and fresh parsley.

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The easiest recipe ever..after all I can make it :-)

Last weekend, I was planning to cook a Mexican feast, in honor of Cinco de Mayo. Thankfully, guilt over聽the聽lower number of visits to the gym in the previous week聽prevailed and I聽decided I should聽be eating聽more vegetables, instead. Hence, I decided to cook South Indian food including a sambar full of vegetables and green coriander-coconut chutney.聽After all, what could be healthier than that? Best of all, this obviously delighted my husband, who loves rava idlis and sambar.

Nevertheless, I always get scared cooking something for someone who might know that food very well and knows exactly how it should taste. In fact, when I invite Indian friends over, I try not to cook Indian food, so as to avoid any comparisons with their own cooking 馃檪

However, my guilt prevailed (I have been really irregular with the gym, and my brain is revolting, I guess:-)), and聽I made my version of sambar (with all kinds of veggies, the turnips which I had bought for Gogji razma the previous weekend, broccoli, shallots, french beans, etc.) These may not be traditional, but they sure do taste good in a sambar 馃檪

There isn’t much to blog about here as I followed the recipe on the back of the sambar powder pack and only used my creativity for the choice of veggies. I聽also made coriander-coconut chutney, which I had learnt on a trip to visit my cousin in Rhode Island. Thanks, cousin M and Congratulations on the baby! Finally, I made rava idlis from a ready mix. Sorry,聽all you die hard idli fans, I just don’t have the patience to make it from scratch. 馃檪

Here’s a pic.

However, to me,聽a south indian meal is incomplete without my Mom’s Aloo Pyaaz sabzi, especially since聽I like eating the sambar聽less with idlis or dosas,聽and more聽with plain steamed rice.聽In fact, this has been one of my favorite recipes for a long time and聽was one of the recipes I carried over the oceans with me, not on the Mayflower 馃檪 , but on Air India’s flight from Bombay to Newark, when I first moved to the US. Best of all, my Mom probably thought the level of complexity involved in this dish was probably just right for my level of incompetence in the kitchen 馃檪

Anyway, here’s聽an easy South Indian聽recipe from a North Indian girl 馃檪

ALOO PYAAZ

Ingredients:

  • 4 medium yukon gold or red potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 1 red onion, sliced
  • 3/4 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1/2 tsp red chilli powder
  • Salt, to taste
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped (optional)

Steps:

  1. Cover the potatoes with enough water in a saucepan and boil until the potatoes can be easily pierced with a fork.
  2. Drain and set aside.
  3. In the meantime, slice the onion (cry as much as you need to :-)) and heat some oil in聽a large skillet.
  4. Saute the onion until golden.

聽聽聽 5. Add mustard seeds, turmeric, red chilli powder and salt. Stir to mix.

聽聽聽 6. Let everything cook for a minute and then add the drained potatoes.

聽聽聽聽7. Cook聽until the tasty masala sticking to the edges of the pan turns brown (or so my notes from when聽I watched my Mom make this recipe say :-))

聽聽聽 8. Turn off the heat and cover.

聽聽聽 9. Serve after a few minutes, garnished with fresh cilantro, if needed.

A quick recipe

Last聽weekend, I was planning to make some Gogji Razma聽from Jugalbandi, but we finished with all the patio furniture shopping pretty late, and I also saw the black eyed peas (lobia), that I had bought a few weeks back on a whim, lurking in my pantry.

Hence, I abandoned plans to try an exotic recipe and went with something that seemed easy and extremely quick. I looked in the Madhur Jaffrey book that I own, An invitation to Indian cooking, and found this recipe.

Of course, I didn’t read it in as much detail as would have been聽necessary to deter me from trying it, namely the extensive simmering required. Hence, when I got to that portion, I used all the quick cooking techniques that I have learned over the past few months of reading Mallika’s blog聽and made this dish super fast. Thanks, Mallika!

Here’s my version.

Black Eyed Peas with Tamarind

(Serves 6)

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp oil
  • A pinch of asafetida
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 medium red onion, chopped
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp coriander powder
  • 1/2 tsp red chili powder
  • 2 cans of black eyed peas, drained
  • 1 smallest size can of tomato sauce
  • 1 tbsp tamarind paste
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro

聽Steps:

  1. Heat the oil in saucepan.
  2. Add the asafetida and the cumin seeds. Wait for it to sizzle.
  3. Add the onions and fry them till they are golden.
  4. Add the turmeric, coriander and red chilli powder and stir to mix and cook.
  5. Add the drained black eyed peas and the tomato sauce.
  6. Mix and cook everything till it comes to a boil.

聽聽聽 7. Add the tamarind paste and stir to mix.

聽聽聽 8. Cook on high for 5 minutes or until some of the sauce evaporates.

聽聽聽聽9. Garnish with chopped cilantro and serve.

This was pretty good on Day 1, but was even better on Day 2, as the sauce thickened overnight in the refrigerator. Best of all, it was super easy and fast.聽

Finally, some furniture…

Even if it is outside our house 馃檪 We finally bought some patio furniture last night and made 4 trips to the store to get it聽馃檪 Here’s a pic from a proud blogger.

Anyway, in celebration of having finally bought our patio furniture, I decided to make some fun food. No, that’s not true. I was planning to try a recipe from my favorite magazine in the whole wide world, Good Housekeeping, and just made the patio furniture an excuse 馃檪

Anyway, Good Housekeeping has been my favorite magazine for many many years. I grew up reading the British version from the British Council library, where my Dad was a member and where I became a member when I turned 18. I remember it would always be a rush to get the best magazines聽before anybody else聽every Saturday. I loved the “A Look for a Lifestyle” feature and I loved reading the recipes, never mind that I had absolutely no intention of actually trying them.

When I moved to the US, it was no surprise to anyone in my family, when I immediately started subscribing to the US version. And when I started cooking, Good Housekeeping was one of my first sources for tried and tested (triple tested!!), interesting recipes from the GHI kitchen.

Getting back to the topic at hand, this weekend I tried their Spanish Tortilla with Chorizo and Peppers recipe from the聽May issue. Of course, as usual I made a few modifications based on what was available to me at home.

Unlike the name, this dish actually does not involve any tortillas in the way that we usually think of them. Instead, a tortilla聽is a traditional Spanish dish and is a聽thick omelet of potato, onions, and egg.

Here’s my version of the recipe.

Spanish Tortilla with Chorizo and Peppers

(Makes 8 servings)

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb bag of small red potatoes (I always have these on hand due to my husband’s love for oven-roasted potatoes)
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 red onion, sliced
  • 1 green bell pepper, sliced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed and roughly chopped
  • 8 large eggs
  • 4 links of fully cooked chorizo sausage (I used D’Artagnan brand), casings taken off and diced into 1/4 inch pieces
  • 1/4 cups of聽parsley leaves, roughly chopped (I used some from my own plant..Yippee! It’s actually thriving quite well! Thanks Bee for inspiring me to start with a few herbs..My tomato plant is getting some flowers and my rosemary is doing pretty well too!!)
  • Black Pepper

Steps:

  1. In a saucepan, boil the potatoes with enough water to cover and salt to taste, until fork tender.
  2. Drain the potatoes.

3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

4. Heat 1/2 tbsp of olive oil in an oven safe non-stick skillet or any other non-stick skillet that you can make oven safe by wrapping the handle with a double coating of foil.

5. Add the onions and peppers and saute until the聽onions聽are golden and the peppers are soft.

6. Lightly beat the eggs in a large bowl. Mix in the chorizo, parsley, salt and black pepper.

7. Gently mix in the potatoes and the sauteed onions and peppers into the egg mixture.

8. Add 1/2 tbsp of olive oil in the skillet and return the egg mixture to the pan.

9. After cooking it on medium for about 30 seconds, place the聽pan in the oven for about 30 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean.

10. After removing this from the oven, invert the skillet over a circular baking dish or聽a plate.

11. Cut into wedges and serve.

True to my experience with Good Housekeeping, this was an awesome dish.聽It made for a聽very filling lunch when served with the Corn Chowder I聽made from scratch.

聽聽

Busy some more..

So my busy-ness is continuing and I have been going crazy trying to keep everything straight. I finally have a few seconds to myself and hence am posting as I was really getting desperate to write for a while now.

To move towards the recipe… I have always been a big fan of Madhur Jaffrey. She was immensely famous in my house, for who knows what reason. In fact, when I moved to Georgia as a student, her books were the first few cookbooks I actually read and photocopied. Since then, my cooking has evolved and although I still have a lot of respect for Madhur Jaffrey’s recipes, I do find that some of them tend to take a little too much time for my taste. However, there are many others which are very light, easy and remind me of my Mom’s UP-style cooking growing up.

One of these is the Green peas with coconut and cilantro recipe. After I made it, I realized that it was actually very similar to one my mother makes (just without the coconut).

And the best part about this recipe..if you skip the cilantro, there isn’t a single bit of chopping to do (especially no onions, which make me cry and cry for hours). I wish there were more recipes where chopping wasn’t needed, even if hubby dearest does do the chopping in the house 馃檪

I got this recipe off the internet using the first search result that came from “madhur jaffrey recipe”聽and adapted it a bit.

Green Peas with Coconut and Cilantro

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp oil
  • a pinch of asafetida (hing)
  • 1 1/4 tsp mustard seeds (rai)
  • 3/4 tsp cumin seeds (jeera)
  • 15 curry leaves (curry patta)
  • 3 cups frozen peas (about 1.5 of the medium bags)
  • 3聽small chillies from the Indian store (diced fine)
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
  • 3/4 tsp coriander powder
  • 1 cup frozen grated (or shredded) coconut (Its great if you have fresh, but this is fine too)
  • 4 tbsp cilantro (chopped)

Steps:

  1. Heat the oil and when it is hot, add the asafetida.
  2. When that sizzles, add the mustard seeds, cumin seeds and curry leaves.
  3. After a few seconds, add the peas, chillies, salt, sugar, turmeric and coriander powder.
  4. Let this cook for a couple of minutes.
  5. Add a 1/4 cup of water (I added too much and had to turn the heat up to high to evaporate it all) and let it come to a boil. Wait for the water to evaporate.

聽聽 6. Finally, add the coconut and the cilantro and mix it all together.

This dish was very pretty when done. It reminded me of how the combination of emeralds and diamonds or emeralds and pearls is my favorite combination in jewelry (hubby dearest, are you listening? :-))

聽聽

Busy busy busy

I don’t think I have ever been so busy in my entire life. Right now, all I am sustaining myself on is Thai Village and Salt Creek Grille on the office account.. not much home cooked food for me.

Anyway, I worked from home this Monday to recover from the blisters. I don’t know why but whenever I work from home all day, I get inspired to bake.聽Also, I broke an egg while making myself breakfast earlier and wanted to use the two forlorn looking remainin聽eggs that had been hanging around for a few weeks. Hence, this Monday it was a simple chocolate cake to take care of my multiple needs.

Here’s my cheer up recipe..which was actually just an adaptation of the first search result that came up on Google for “easy chocolate cake recipe“.

EASY CHOCOLATE CAKE

Ingredients:

  • 1cup whole wheat flour + 1/4 cup all purpose flour (thought I’d make it a little healthier :-))
  • 2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder (I used Ghirardelli)
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 pinches salt
  • 1 cup sugar (I used 3/4 cup baking Splenda and 1/4 cup organic raw cane sugar)
  • 1 tbsp vanilla essence
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup vegetable or canola oil (any flavorless oil)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup walnuts

Steps:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

2. Grease a 9 inch round cake tin.

3. Mix the flours, cocoa powder, baking soda, salt and sugar.

4. Add the milk, oil and eggs slowly while beating at a slow speed with a hand mixer. You could also mix everything with a spatula.

5. Finally add the walnuts and mix them in lightly.

6. Pour the batter into the greased baking tin聽(top with more walnuts to make it look pretty) and bake until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes clean (about 35-45 minutes, depending on your oven).

7. The cake is ready to be sliced and served.

(By the way, I sliced the cake as I wanted to eat it聽before it cooled completely聽, and then remembered to photograph it. Also, it sadly cracked on top 馃槮 )

Now it’s blister time

So, we did go camping this weekend which was great fun and we had a blast, although sleeping in a tent would probably have been more fun if we had an airbed..the hard ground made me compare myself to the Princess and the Pea. 馃檪 and the excessive hiking I did because I was the “Josh machine” on day one led to bad and huge blisters. Oh well, at least I learned that fashion needs to take a back seat when hiking and skechers are not a substitute for sneakers. 馃檪

We got back on Sunday afternoon and of course I needed to cook for the week as well as dinner. I decided to make a quick garden fresh pasta with whatever I had on hand.

This is a recipe I often make when I have little time or creativity at hand and have no motivation to look up a new recipe to try. I also usually have all I need at hand, or if not, know clever substitutions. Eitherways, this is more a method than a recipe and can be adapted to whatever ingredients you have at hand.

Here it is鈥y first recipe with pictures! 馃檪

GARDEN FRESH PASTA

(Serves 6 or food for a week!!)

Ingredients:

1 box of penne rigate or any short pasta of your choice. I used Healthy Harvest Whole Wheat聽 Penne Rigate to up the health factor. I also like Penne rigate because I feel it holds up to sauce better than regular penne

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

4 cloves of garlic, smashed and minced

1 onion (any type) chopped fine

3 bell peppers (of different colors, if you like to up the pretty factor) (sliced)

1 head of broccoli, broken into florets

2 packs of sliced mushrooms (I used regular white and bella mushrooms)

Italian seasoning (1 tsp)

Salt (to taste)

Pepper (1 tsp freshly ground)

Red pepper flakes (1 tsp)

1 jar of any red pasta sauce you like. I used Classico Spicy Red Pepper pasta sauce

4 sundried tomatoes (soaked in hot water for 15 minutes and then chopped) (optional)

4 tomatoes (chopped) (optional)

Dried basil (optional)

Dried thyme (optional)

Garlic salt (optional)

Steps:

1.Boil water for the pasta following directions on the pack. Cover the pot to enable faster boiling (a trick I learnt from Rachael Ray! 馃檪).

2.Meanwhile start working on the sauce by saut茅ing the garlic and onions in the oil in a separate pan.

3.After a minute or two, add the bell peppers and mix in.

4.Once the onions change color, add the broccoli and the mushrooms and mix everything.

5.Add the sundried tomatoes and regular tomatoes, if using.

6.Then add the seasonings and stir to mix.

7.Next, add the pasta sauce and the water used to soak the sundried tomatoes (if applicable)

8.Mix everything, wait for the sauce to come up to a boil and don鈥檛 forget to cook the pasta in the boiling water in the other pot following the directions on the pack.

聽聽聽聽

9.聽Drain the pasta and add it to the sauce. Stir to mix and serve.

10.You could garnish with chopped fresh parley, if you have some, and parmesan cheese.

11.I served this with roasted green beans, oven 鈥渇ried鈥 baby potato wedges and roasted carrots.