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Thursday, March 31, 2011

Almond pesto with Penne

To me, the best sauce to go with Penne is Pesto. Maybe it’s the garlic or the parmesan cheese or the green color (which by now everybody might have known, is my favorite) that I prefer pesto over Marinara or Alfredo.

Store bought Pesto is definitely convenient but there is so much oil in it, I always get a bad throat later. So I decided to take matters into my own hands, literally and decided to make Pesto at home, and what a costly affair it was ! Do not let it dishearten you however; the fresh taste and flavor more than made up for the cost.

Fresh basil leaves – 2 cups
Garlic – 6 cloves
Almonds – quarter of a cup (peeled)
Olive oil – 6 tsp
Water – half a cup
Freshly grated parmesan cheese – half a cup
Salt and pepper
Broccoli florets – 1 cup
Orange bell pepper – 1 medium, roughly chopped
Thin sticks of Asparagus – 8 to 10
Butter – 2 tsp
Penne pasta
Water for pasta – as needed

Combine basil, garlic, almonds, cheese, water salt and pepper in a mixer. Grind it for a couple of minutes. Add the olive oil and again grind it to a fine paste. Your pesto sauce is ready.

Boil a big pan full of water (about 1.5 liters). Add salt, pepper and 1 tsp olive oil. Cook pasta in it al dente (firm but not hard) and then drain and keep aside. Save half a cup of the pasta water.

In a skillet heat the butter and sauté the vegetables stirring frequently. Continue for 5 minutes and then add the pasta water, salt and pepper to taste. Cook for 5 more minutes and add in the pasta. Mix well. Turn the heat off and add Pesto sauce as needed. If you prefer a dominant flavor go for all of it, or else reserve some for the next day!
Serving suggestions
·         Any Italian soup/bread

·         Pesto is originally made with roasted pine nuts.
·         You can use veggies like carrots, any color bell pepper or beans.
·      Grated parmesan cheese on top of the pasta before serving increases the taste and calories by 5 times !
·         If you want to store the pesto in the refrigerator for a week, use 1 cup of olive oil in the recipe.

  Interesting fact
·         Penne is one of the most popular pasta used for pasta salads.
·         Basil has often been regarded as the “King of Herbs”.
·         Basil is used in medicinal preparations mostly for stress, asthma and diabetes.

Monday, March 28, 2011

The Lighthouse

How many times have you read “Cooking is an Art”? Probably, a million. How about “Cooking is a Craft”? Probably not so much!

On a rainy afternoon, when I had exhausted all my reserves of entertaining a 5 year old, she decided to entertain me. (Did I mention earlier in my blog somewhere that she is an inspiration for quite a bit of the cooking I do?).  She asked me if we could make a light house at home and since there was no cardboard, we zeroed in on ice cream.

So, kindly forgive me for the format of this recipe, I have tried to go step by step, the way we created a tiny lighthouse out of ice cream and crackers. It is like I said before, a craft and not a recipe. For there is little to cook and more to arrange.

Step 1
Pick a tall glass or bowl which is freezer safe and keep it ready for stuff to go in. We want the top layer to go in first. Pick 4, 6 and 8 scoops of the ice creams of your choice and leave it at room temperature for half an hour or so to melt.

Step 2
I had two flavors handy, caramel and chocolate. I needed a third color so I crushed a handful of fresh strawberries in the mixer and added it to 2 scoops of caramel ice cream to give it a light pink color. We then proceeded to fill the bottom layer of the tall bowl with the melted pink ice cream. Back in the freezer it went for about one and a half hours.

Step 3
Next, we mixed some M&M candies with the soft chocolate ice cream and in went the second layer of the lighthouse on top of the frozen pink layer. The freezing time was about the same, one and a half hours. While the candies were not visible, we eventually tasted them when we dug into the lighthouse and it was kind of a crunchy invisible surprise.

Step 4
The last layer to go on the frozen pink and brown ice cream was the caramel ice cream mixed with some crumbled mini Oreo cookies. An hour and a half more we had the structure of the light house ready. Since four and a half hours had already passed we decided to take a break and continue the next day. Can you imagine, 4.5 hours gone without any kind of actual cooking!!

Step 5
The 3 layers looked quite pretty inside the plastic and we were keeping our fingers crossed for getting them outside on a plate intact. I ran the sealed bowl under hot water for a minute and then gently slid a long knife in circles around the ice cream. Praying hard, we turned the bowl upside down on a plate. The lighthouse came out with a couple of rough edges, but looking beautiful nevertheless. The decoration was a breeze.  Some Oreo cookies, couple of pink animal crackers and four brown crackers made up the roof of the lighthouse. And my daughter insisted we do the bottom of lighthouse pink as well (since it was a girl’s lighthouse) so I scattered a couple of pink animal crackers at the bottom too.  

To make it easy on the reader, I have listed the ingredients for the lighthouse below:

Caramel ice cream – 4 scoops plus 8 scoops
Crushed strawberries – 4 tsp
Chocolate ice cream – 6 scoops
M & M candies – 6 -8
Mini Oreo cookies – 10
Wheat crackers – 4 medium
Pink animal crackers – 6 – 8 small

The light house looked worthy of being the center piece at an ice cream party, which is just what we had that evening.

This Food Craft is going to :

Rumana Rawat's Treat to Eyes : Series 2 -


Celebrate Sweets - "Ice-Cream" @ Rasoi 

Thursday, March 24, 2011


A Couple of years back my exposure to “Saag” was limited to eating it at restaurants. Sarson ka Saag,  Saag Aloo, Saag Paneer were a family favorite but it never occurred to me to cook them at home. For one thing I didn’t know where I would find “Sarson” in the U.S. and more importantly I had accepted defeat before trying. It seemed to me like an typical North Indian Dish and I wasn’t going to get it, so I thought.

My friend Monika Singhi Celly of Vegetarian Surprises one day enlightened me that Mustard greens were “Sarson” and “Saag” was one of the easiest dishes to cook.

Taking a cue from her recipe, I cooked Saag at home and it still remains a family favorite. I guess I can take it as a compliment!

Mustard Greens – 1 bunch
Chopped Spinach – 1 cup
Broccoli florets - 1 cup
Ginger – a big piece
Green chilies – 4 medium
Finely chopped onion – 1 medium
Water – 2 cups
Cumin seeds – half tsp
Asafetida – a pinch
Salt and pepper
Oil – 1 tsp

Wash all the greens thoroughly. Chop the mustard greens roughly. Combine them with spinach, broccoli, ginger, green chilies and water in a pressure cooker. Turn the heat on and let everything cook together. Turn the heat off after two whistles. Alternatively cook it on the gas stove in a covered pan till the greens are done. Let the greens cool and then puree them in a mixture to form a thick paste. In a pan heat the oil and add cumin seeds. Let them crackle before adding asafetida and onions. Cook the onions for 3 minutes till they turn soft and gently stir in the green paste. Salt and pepper to taste, Saag is ready to eat.

Serving suggestions
·         Best with Makki (maize flour) Roti
·         Plain Roti/Paratha


·         You can go ahead and make this dish with only mustard greens.
·         Use of Onions is also optional, traditionally only leftover Saag is seasoned with Onions the next day.
·         Add Cooked Potatoes/Paneer to make Saag Aloo/Saag Paneer

  Interesting fact
·         One of the biggest health benefits of Mustard Greens is cancer prevention.
·         Mustard Greens are a good source of Vitamin K

Monday, March 21, 2011

Roadside Pulav

We are no strangers to street food. Specially, growing up in India, it is hard not to relish the tasty fare served on the streets, paani-puri, pav bhaji, dosa, ragda pattice, sandwich, to name a few. There is something insanely joyful about savoring roadside food with friends, chatting away and eating.

My first memories of Pulav, a common accomplice to Pav bhaji, take me to Juhu Beach, Mumbai. So much so that I still associate these foods with the smell of sand and the sound of the crashing waves.

This recipe is a small tribute to the stalls on the street and the food cooked on them, thinking about which still makes my mouth water.


Basmati Rice – 2 cups
Water – 4 cups
Green peas – half a cup
Diced carrot – 1 cup
Green beans – 1 cup
Sliced potato – 1 medium
Diced tomatoes – 2 medium
Garlic chutney – 2 tsp
Finely chopped cilantro – 2 tsp
Red chili powder – 1 tsp
Bay leaf – 1 medium
Butter/oil – 3 tsp
Seasoning – 3 tsp
Salt and pepper

Garlic chutney – take 6 cloves of garlic, 2 tsp of red chili powder, a pinch of asafetida, half tsp dry coconut powder, salt and 1 tsp oil and grind it all together in a mixer. Use little water if needed. Garlic chutney is ready to use.

Seasoning – Heat a skillet and roast 1 tsp cumin seeds and a couple of dry red chillies. Turn the heat off and add half tsp cinnamon powder, pepper and amchur (dry mango powder) each. Mix well and grind it to a fine powder. Seasoning is ready to use.

Cook the rice in a pan using water, bay leaf and salt. Keep aside for a minimum of 2 hours. Be careful not to overcook the rice, if needed drain the extra water once rice is done.

Heat butter or oil in a pan and add all the vegetables except tomatoes. Add salt and pepper and cook them. Once they are done add red chili powder, seasoning, cilantro and tomatoes. Cook for 2 minutes. Add the rice and mix everything slowly so that the long grain rice does not break during the process. Serve warm.

This Pulav is on the spicier side as is evident from the list of ingredients, I am afraid there is no other way to truly enjoy it.

Serving suggestions
·         With Pav Bhaji /Raita /Plain yogurt/Papad

·         Use 3 cloves of finely chopped garlic if you do not have garlic chutney.
·         Green bell pepper can be a nice addition to this Pulav.
·         You can use the freshly made seasoning for any kind of rice recipe.

  Interesting fact
·         Basmati means “the fragrant one” and India is the largest cultivator and exporter of this kind of long grain rice.

* Sending this entry to "Flavors of Maharashtra"

Flavours of Maharastra ~ Event

And To:
Rumana Rawat's Treat to Eyes : Series 2 -

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Potato Soup

Comfort foods are back in fashion. We see celebrity chefs giving out recipes of comfort foods on their shows, food writers writing about them and well, we the ordinary people, never stopped cooking them! There can be a lot of reasons why they are back in the shows and celebrity kitchens. Maybe to keep “grandma’s” recipes alive, maybe to stress the importance of simple food in our life that keeps getting more and more complex day by day or maybe to remind us of the importance of home cooked meals.

Whatever is the reason, I am not complaining. Cooking comfort food gives me the same joy as cooking an intricate meal, but to be honest when it comes to eating I enjoy the former more. And that can be because I love eating what my kids eat!

Yellow onion – 1 large
Potatoes – 4 medium
Butter – 1 tsp
Milk – 1 cup
Water – 4 cups
Italian seasoning – 1 tsp
Red chili flakes (optional) – a pinch
Corn starch (optional) – half tsp
Cinnamon powder – quarter tsp
Grated cheese and dried parsley – for garnish
Salt and pepper

Chop onions and potatoes into big cubes separately and keep aside. In a deep pan, heat butter and add onions. Cook them till soft. Add potatoes and cook for 2 minutes. Add water, seasoning, chili flakes, salt, pepper and cinnamon powder. Mix well, cook covered for 20 minutes or till the potatoes are done. Cool and puree it in the mixer. Transfer it again to the pan and turn the heat on. Dissolve the corn starch in the milk and slowly add to the soup once it starts boiling. Stir well and cook for a minute before turning the heat on. Sprinkle more pepper if desired, garnish with grated cheese and parsley for better presentation. (Which is what I did, the soup itself is so scrumptious, doesn’t need any garnish at all).

Serving suggestions
·         With sourdough toast/garlic bread/crunchy veggies

·         Vegetable stock or broth can be used in place of water in this recipe.
·         Corn starch has been used to thicken the soup, you may skip it.

  Interesting fact
·         The potato originated in Peru.
·         Potatoes are the easiest to grow but do not store well.
·         There are over 4000 varieties of potato.
·         Potato is also used to make wine and is used the same way as vodka though the alcohol content is a lot less.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Purple and Red Stir Fry

You can “smell” the food before you eat it, that’s what has been said about good food. With this dish on the table you will be forced to “look” at the food before you eat it! The lovely bright purple of the cabbage combined with the radiant red radish is simply not something you can overlook.

The bright alluring colors are not the only reason why I love to cook this one; it is the 5 minutes of cooking time which appeals the most. Yes, you read it right, FIVE minutes!

The colors, flavor and minimal cooking time, all together make this an excellent side to add to your menu when cooking an exhaustive meal. It can also be a last minute addition to your dining table if needed.


Finely sliced purple cabbage – 2 cups
Sliced red radish – half a cup
Dried oregano – 1 tsp
Red chili flakes – as tolerated
Cooking oil – 1 tsp
White vinegar – 2 tsp
Salt and pepper

Pasta and Paratha

Heat oil in a skillet and throw in the Oregano and green chili. Cook on high flame for half a minute and toss the sliced red radish. Keep cooking on high flame for another minute. Stir in the finely sliced purple cabbage, salt and pepper. Keep stirring and cooking for 2 more minutes. Turn the heat off, add the vinegar and mix well. Serve immediately.

·         The addition of vinegar gives this dish a longer life. You can store leftovers in the
 Refrigerator for up to 4 days.
·         Chili flakes can be substituted with red chili powder or green chili.

  Interesting fact
·         Purple cabbage is very rich in Vitamin K and C (in that order).
·         Red Radish is often used for pickling.
·         Eating Radish is good for your skin.
   This recipe has been sent to : "ONLY" Original Recipes

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Thursday, March 10, 2011

Masala Burger

Thursday dinners at our home are “fun food” .And the rule is to cook a dish that requires minimal cooking. As dear hubby points out, half the “fun” is lost if most of the evening is spent in preparation and the remainder in cleaning the kitchen.

On one such Thursday we came up with this particularly unusually delicious mouth watering Burger and since then this Indian version has been immensely popular in the house. The fact that I had made a recent trip to the Indian grocery store did help a lot in conceiving this dish.

Buns – as many as you can eat
Boiled potatoes – 2 large
Finely chopped onions – half a cup
Finely chopped garlic – 1 tsp
Finely chopped cilantro – half a cup
Red chili powder – 1 tsp
White sesame seeds – 1 tsp
Turmeric – a pinch
Tamarind juice – 1 tsp
Tamarind chutney/ketchup – as needed (use either)
Garam Masala – 1 tsp
Sev – as needed
Salt and pepper
Butter or oil

Heat 1 tsp oil in a pan and add sesame seeds. Once they crackle, add onions and garlic and cook till the onions are done. Add the cilantro, red chili powder, turmeric, tamarind juice, garam masala, salt and pepper. Stir well and cook for 2 minutes or so. Add the boiled and mashed potato, turn the heat off and mix well. Let the mixture cool.

Heat a flat skillet and lightly toast both sides of the buns using butter or oil. Take one part of the bun and spread 2 tsp of the potato mixture evenly. Sprinkle sev on top. Take the other part of the bun now and spread 1 tsp of tamarind chutney or ketchup and close the burger. The only  instruction I have on this one is, grab it before someone else eats it!

 Serving suggestions
*With chips/pickle/chutney/ketchup/chai

*This Burger can be cooked up with any leftover subzi (dry vegetable) that has potato
  in it.
*You can add sliced tomatoes and onions to the Burger.
* The potato mixture can be cooked beforehand, that makes it a good recipe for snack
   for a big group.

  Interesting fact
·       * It cost 10 cents to buy a Burger when it was initially listed in the menus of restaurants.

Monday, March 7, 2011

I cant believe its Beetroot

Now Beetroot is simply impossible to disguise in form and color but for those looking to mask its flavor, there’s good news. Yes, it can be done. The primary question here is who would want to do that? Obviously people like me who find it hard to enjoy the beetroot in its original taste but find it even harder to ignore the blood purifying qualities of this bright colored vegetable.

When experimenting with a new ingredient, my motto is stick to your comfort zone. This recipe of Beetroot curry is a simple dish with a slight twist and if you had a bite with your eyes closed, you would remark “I can’t believe its Beetroot”.

Beetroots – 2 medium
Finely chopped red onion – 1 small
Green chilies – 4 medium
Chickpea flour (besan) – 2 tsp
Yogurt – half a cup
Water – 4 cups or as needed
Cumin powder – 1 tsp
Bay leaf – 1 small
Oil – 1 tsp
Salt and pepper

Cook whole beetroots in a vessel full of water for about 15 minutes. Let them cool, peel off the skin and chop in medium sized pieces. Keep aside. In a small bowl, mix yogurt and chickpea flour, keep aside as well.  In a pan, heat oil and add bay leaf, chopped onion and green chilies. Cook for 5 minutes or until the onions are done. Add the beetroot pieces, cumin powder, salt and pepper, mix well. Cook for 2 minutes. Add the yogurt and chickpea flour paste and water. Mix well and cook covered for 15 minutes, stirring in between. At this point the curry is done; you may cook for a little while more if you need a thicker version. Serve hot and immediately.

After a successful experiment with this one, I am ready to step out of my comfort zone, more Beetroot recipes coming soon….

Serving suggestions
*With Rice/paratha

*Boiling the Beetroot makes it easier to peel the skin off, you can skip that step
  and increase the cooking time of the raw beetroot pieces.

Interesting fact

·         There is a yellow colored variety of Beetroot too.

·         Beetroot is used as a dye for adding flavor and coloring food items such as tomato paste, jams and jellies and desserts.
·         Beetroot is well known for its blood purifying properties
·         Those with a history of kidney stones should avoid consuming beets in high quantities.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Baked Brown Rice Balls

I accidentally stumbled upon Baked Brown Rice Balls while looking for recipes with leftovers. And as I dug deeper and deeper, there were numerous recipes for this classic Italian dish made from leftovers. The yummiest of them being the fried ones.

Taking a bit from here and another from there, this recipe has been modified to suit whatever was available in my kitchen today. I baked them instead of frying, which is what everyone seems to be doing these days and what came out of the oven was nothing short of delicious.

Cooked Brown rice – 2 cups
Finely chopped Spring onions – 4 tsp (just the green part)
Bread crumbs – half a cup (divided into two portions)
Egg – 1 small
Italian seasoning – 1 tsp
Red chili flakes – as tolerated
Dried parsley leaves – 1 tsp
Olive oil – for drizzling
Grated Parmesan cheese – half a cup (optional)
Cheddar/mozzarella cheese – 8 small cubes
Salt and pepper

Combine the rice, spring onions, one part of bread crumbs, egg, Parmesan cheese and the seasonings. Mix well. Take a spoonful of mixture in your hand, insert a cube of cheese in between, cover it with yet another spoonful of the same mixture and roll to form a ball. In a plate, spread the other portion of bread crumbs. Roll the rice ball in the bread crumbs and put in the baking tray. Repeat with all.

I started baking the rice balls at 350 F for 30 minutes, added 10 more minutes, lost patience and increased the temperature to 400 F and time by 15 minutes. To avoid losing control of the mind, drizzle olive oil on top and bake on 400 F for about 20 minutes or until the rice balls form a nice brown crust.

Cheese in this recipe is optional but I do not guarantee if they will taste the same, never tried them without it!

Serving suggestions
*With ketchup or dipped in Marinara Sauce
*In red gravy in place of meat balls with spagetti

*Egg has been used as a binding agent here, you can use more bread crumbs or
  corn starch instead
*finely chopped vegetables like carrots/ bell peppers can also be added to the
  rice mixture

Interesting fact
·         The art of baking was made popular by the Romans.