Sunday, September 26, 2010

Kathi Rolls - the ultimate hangover antidote

Kathi Rolls are India's answer to a juicy burger. The perfect late night/early morning snack for the sleep deprived and over indulged party animal that we have all morphed into at some point in our lives. A Kathi roll is basically a fried flat bread stuffed with an omelet, grilled meat or chicken, sliced onions and mint sauce. Vegetarians have created their own versions with paneer ( Indian Cheese) or mashed potato as they are apt to do, but the real deal is a mouthful of succulent mutton or chicken kebab with a greasy and utterly delicious paratha (fried bread)wrapped around it.
Although the history of its origins remains a little murky, legend has it that the Kathi Roll evolved long ago in British India when a particularly uptight Officer thought it was beneath him to touch the food with his fingers. Hence a resourceful little Indian man put it in a wrap and even put a square piece of parchment paper at one end to hold onto it. Kolkata in Eastern India has claimed ownership over the Kathi Roll and Kolkatan's swear that Nizams Roll are the best. (Nizams is a restaurant in Kolkata, famous for it's Kathi Rolls.)
Lately the Kathi Roll craze has spread as far as Manhattan. It is almost ritualistic for New Yorkers to hang out in the Village and end the evening at the Kathi Roll Company at 2 A.M. But since I live in the boonies- I have little choice but to make my own.

Recipe for Kathi Rolls:

1 lb boneless lamb or chicken cut into bite sized cubes
2 tsp ginger paste
2 tsp garlic paste
1 tsp chili powder
1tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp garam masala powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup plain yogurt

Combine all these ingredients in a large bowl and marinade the meat for a few hours or preferably overnight. Skewer the meat and grill.

For the Paratha:
4 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup oil
1/2 tsp salt
4 eggs whipped with 1/2 tsp salt.

Combine the salt, flour and the oil briefly. Adding a little water at a time, knead it into a soft pliable dough. The dough should not be tough or sticky. Grease the dough with a little oil , cover and keep until ready to use. Form 8 balls of a uniform size and roll them out to parathas 6 - 8 inches in diameter. Heat a non stick pan and place the paratha on it . When one side is cooked flip over and drizzle with 1/2 tsp of oil along its edges. Pour 2 tbsp egg over the paratha, spreading it out with the back of a ladle and flip it over. Repeat till all the dough is used up.

To assemble:
thinly sliced onions
mint sauce ( Make your own or buy a jar at the Indian grocery store)
1 tbsp oil
1 tsp chaat masala

Just before serving heat the oil in a pan and saute the meat and the onions briefly. Sprinkle over wiht the Chaat Masala and place the filling down the center of each paratha. Roll it up and serve with the mint Sauce.

Getting Saucy

Hot Sauces are all the rage these days and manufacturers appear to be in a race to create brand names that are increasingly risqué. No other product can warrant a name like "Smack My Ass and Call Me Sally" "Anal Angst X-Hot Hot Sauce" "Holy Jolokia" " Sphincter Shrinker XXX Hot Sauce" " Ass Blaster Hot Sauce" or "Colon Cleaner". Clearly there's a message here but most hot sauce lovers throw caution to the wind once they have their hands on these lethal condiments.
Gone are the days when Tabasco ruled the roost. Now fiery Habaneros and Scotch Bonnet pepper sauces take center stage. These days serious hot sauce shoppers are looking for words like Apocalypse, Armageddon and Voodoo to determine the best product; the one worthy of making them scream......for more!!
I am no stranger to hot sauces. A quick browse through the contents of my refrigerator will dispel any doubts. I try to keep a wide range and my sauces vary from the mild to the dangerously hot. Asian hot sauces play an important role and when I can't get my hands on a satisfying - "making your ears ring" heat, I just make my own. I think it's fair to post a disclaimer before the recipe since I am unsure of the tolerance levels of my readers. Any side effects/ injuries are purely coincidental and may not reflect negatively on my recipe.

Recipe for Hot sauce: ( I recommend opening up the kitchen windows)
20 dried hot chili peppers
2 sticks celery diced
1 tablespoon ginger paste
1 tablespoon garlic paste
1 tsp salt ( or to taste )
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
4 tablespoons oil
Soak and grind the chilies to a paste. Heat the oil and saute the celery, ginger and garlic. When it starts to caramelize, add in the chili paste. Continue frying, adding the vinegar a little at a time. Season and cook over gentle heat till the oil separates and the paste gets a rich color. Eat with stir fries, wantons, spring rolls, noodles or use it to spice up any recipe that calls for chili sauce. This sauce keeps well for up to 2 months in the refrigerator.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Easy as Pie

As the weather changes and the leaves turn it is impossible not to feel a twinge of nostalgia for another summer gone. Every summer, Farmers Markets and grocery stores practically burst with fresh fruit and produce. I make a bee line for the berries and load my cart up with raspberries, blackberries and blueberries like they are going out of style. I also get down and dirty with my kids picking strawberries at the local farms. I make jam with some , freeze some , eat some and make tarts with the rest.

Thoughts of burgeoning waistlines fall to the wayside as I indulge in making luscious berry tarts, arranging them willy nilly. I feel not unlike my nine year old playing with his Lego's but it is therapeutic to create a beautiful tart. Try it if you don't believe me....

A fruit/berry tart is a three step process. The first step is to hull, rinse and air dry the fruit( or with a paper towel). The second step is to make a batch of dough. I usually stick with a Pate Sucree which is sweet pie dough.The last step is is to make the Pastry Cream for the filling. At first this may seem confusing and time consuming exercise, but try it and you may never eat a store- bought tart again.

Recipe for a Berry Tart:
To make the Pate Sucree:
1 cup All Purpose Flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup Confectioners Sugar
1/2 stick ( 4tbsp) butter( cold)
1 egg

Sift the flour, salt and sugar into a bowl. Roughly chop the cold butter and combine it quickly with the flour, salt and sugar in a food processor. Add in the egg and mix till the dough comes together. Remove the dough and working quickly, shape into a ball. Do NOT knead the dough. Wrap and chill the dough till it is firm to the touch for about an hour.

Once the dough is chilled, sprinkle flour on the board and on the pin and roll the dough into an 11 inch circle, turning the dough to prevent it from sticking. Place over a 8 inch tart tin by carrying over with your rolling pin and push into place gently. Do NOT stretch the pastry. Cut off any excess dough by rolling the pin over the tart tin. Freeze the tart shell for 20-30 minutes.

Remove the shell from the freezer and spray a piece of tin foil ( large enough to cover the shell )with cooking spray. Using a fork, poke holes in the pastry and cover with the foil. Fill the tart shell with baking beans or weights( black eyed peas work well)and bake in a oven preheated to 375°F for 20 minutes. Remove the foil with the beans and bake for another 10- 15 minutes or until golden. Remove and cool.

To make the Pastry Cream:
3 egg yolks
1 cup Milk
1 tbsp Vanilla essence
2 1/2 tbsp cornstarch/corn flour
4 tablespoons sugar
1 tbsp butter

Bring the milk to a boil with the vanilla. Whip the egg yolks with the sugar using a hand held mixer or whisk. Combine the cornstarch with the eggs till it turns thick and smooth. Slowly pour in half the hot milk, whisking continuously. When the mixture is smooth pour it back into the pot with the remaining milk and cook over low heat while whisking till it becomes thick and creamy. Whisk in the butter. Remove and cool.
Make a glaze by mixing 4 tbsp apricot jam and 2 tsp water. Simmer till it becomes shiny and runny.Brush over the tart shell. Fill in the tart shell with the pastry cream. Top with fruit or berries of your choice and brush with the remaining glaze.

Say Cheese!

I don't know anybody that doesn't like cheese with the exception of the lactose intolerant. It is my ultimate go-to ingredient for adding a sparkle to even the most mundane dish. Funnily, I was inspired to do this piece after watching the unlikely love story- The Backup plan. The movie didn't do much for me but I was completely infatuated with the Goat Farm stand and the specialty store that follows- but that’s a movie….
Cheeses are produced all over the world and although France, Italy and Germany get kudos for being the worlds leading cheese producers; there is so much more out there. I have attempted to create a list of some interesting and uncommon cheeses (Cheeses we are less likely to pick ) to keep grocery shopping fun!

Haloumi- a hard white cheese from Cyprus is making waves lately for its ability to withstand high temps and resulting in perfectly grilled or fried cheese.

Paneer- a farmer’s cheese from India is a great meat substitute for vegans.

Feta- from Greece is a soft and pungent cheese best used in moderation in salads and savory pies.

Emmental and Gruyere - hard Swiss cheeses with holes; are used primarily for Fondues and Raclette but can be used in sandwiches, crepes etc.

Tilsiter and Havarti- are firm cheeses from Russia and the Netherlands that can be sliced and melted. Great for Paninis.

Limburger and Munster - from Belgium and France have a strong spicy flavor and are soft and elastic cheeses with a rind.

Quark- a fresh soft cheese is Germany’s answer to cream cheese and is used in savory dishes as well as desserts.

Camembert and Brie – can be soft to runny depending on its age and are quite moldy. They are strong smelling and can be eaten spread on toast or crackers.

Roquefort, Gorgonzola and Stilton are blue cheeses from The South of France, Italy and England respectively. They can be soft or runny and are very pungent.

Recipe for Scrambled Eggs Whites with Gruyere and Chives:
4 egg whites whipped in a large bowl
1/2 cup milk or half and half
4 slices of baguette (sliced on the diagonal and toasted )
salt and pepper
1 tbsp chopped fresh chives
1/2 cup grated Gruyere cheese
1 tbsp butter

Melt the butter in a non stick skillet. Whip the eggs with the milk / half and half, salt and pepper. Mix in the cheese and chives.Pour the mixture into the skillet over low heat and whisk with a rubber whisk or spatula till the egg scrambles. Remove from heat when it is no longer runny. The eggs should not become hard. Serve over buttered toasted baguette slices.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

French Cookware at its best...

I first heard about E.Dehillerin from Ina Garten's Paris Cookbook and immediately put it on the top of my to-do list for my trip to France. I was intrigued by the sheer volume of cookware displayed in the pictures. I am not a minimalist when it comes to kitchen tools and gadgets and a visit to a shop of that magnitude was an opportunity of a lifetime for me.

E. Dehillerin is a shop situated on Rue Coquilliere in the first Arrondisement in Paris, selling possibly the largest selection of cookware on this planet. The sheer volume and variety is hypnotic and hours may go by before you stumble back onto the streets of Paris juggling shopping bags and a substantially lighter wallet. It is money well spent if you make the right choices. Copper pots and pans and tableware compete with the latest cookware technology, pepper mills and knives in a dazzling display. The shop reflects its age with an old world charm. Creaky wooden floorboards, quaint floor to ceiling shelving and narrow staircases that lead to a cellar-like basement crammed with more paraphernalia, all remind you that it was way back in 1820 when it began. I was helped eagerly by an enthusiastic salesman who gave me his undivided attention for the duration. The only drawback was that there were no price tags on any merchandise. I suppose that goes hand in hand with the "old world theme" but it blew my budget right out the window!

A veritable Mecca to Chefs, restaurateurs and home cooks alike; it did seem like a pilgrimage to me. A place I intend to revisit whenever the opportunity arises. Just like a trip to London is incomplete without stopping at Harrods, a trip to Paris would not be the same without a quick sojourn to Dehillerin.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Hot Potato- why spuds are in...

Potatoes have long been a victim of derision and debate and to dispel the myth surrounding this wholesome vegetable is a worthy cause. Pigging out on fries and chips is not recommended but a well cooked potato rounds off a meal perfectly. There are so many different ways to turn this versatile tuber into a great side dish. Potato gratins, baked potatoes, mashed potatoes and herb roasted potatoes are some of my favorites. An 8oz potato ( baked or boiled) has only a 100 calories and is a great source of potassium and vitamin C.

Recipe for Herb Roasted Potatoes:
An assortment of Yukon Gold, fingerling, red skinned, Peruvian purple, Russet potatoes
Extra virgin olive oil
sea salt
fresh ground pepper
cloves of garlic cut into chunks
fresh Rosemary - take the leaves off the stems

Cut the potatoes to a uniform size and toss with the remaining ingredients. Roast in a preheated oven at 375°F for 15- 20 minute or until cooked.
Any kind of potato is great for quick fixes -I always have them in my pantry. The trick to keeping them fresh is to make sure they are in a cool, dry, well ventilated place. Do not refrigerate them as it converts the starch in the potatoes to sugar. Whether you throw them under a roast chicken, fill them into samosas and Pierogis or in a fit of inspiration cook up a batch of Vichyssoise it is the ultimate comfort food.

Friday, September 17, 2010

kids lunches- it's a wrap!

Mom's everywhere pack lunch for their kids and I'm sure I'm not alone when I say that it is not an easy task. Having said that, there are a few things one can do to make life easier.
I always have a few staples that make lunch time more interesting:
a variety of fruit yogurt, fresh fruit like pineapple, grapes, melon, watermelon, strawberries, bags of baked chips, juice boxes and cereal bars to name a few.
I am not a fan of cold pizza or frozen chicken nuggets and thankfully, neither are the kids.
I have been accused of rearing children who are "spoilt" when it
comes to the contents of their lunch boxes. In my defence I say " Kids have taste buds too!" When they refuse to eat school lunches and I am not unhappy. It lets me know that they are eating healthy fresh food and I really believe it impacts their performance at school.
I have a stash of lunchtime favorites and every night the kids pick one for lunch the next day:
Chicken and cheese Quesadilla
Ham and Swiss Baguette sandwiches
Grilled tomato, basil and mozzarella paninis
Vegetable spring rolls
cucumber and cream cheese sandwiches
leftover pasta and marinara with Parmesan or ravioli
wrap with ham and salami, lettuce and cheese
leftover chicken, pork or beef shredded into tacos with corn and peppers
soups and noodles in winter

Appetizers make great lunches for kids. When you make them- freeze some and use them as you need. Quiche, Calzones, wantons, samosas and kebabs are always popular with my kids. Quesadillas are satisfying and versatile; can be made with vegetables or meat. Grilled chicken, corn, peppers or zucchini make great fillings. Here's how I make them

Recipe for Chicken Quesadilla- 1 large quesadilla makes 6-8 wedges
2 large flour tortillas
3/4 cup grated cheddar or other cheese
grilled protein and/or vegetables

Spray a large pan with vegetable oil and place a tortilla on it. Top evenly with half the cheese, place the the filling and top with the remaining cheese. Place the second tortilla over it and press down. Keep the heat on low and once the cheese starts to melt , flip the quesadilla over carefully and cook on the other side. When all the cheese is melted and the tortillas turn brown in spots, remove and cut into wedges.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Double Chocolate Cookie Ice cream Sandwich- is that a mouthful??

Skinny people make it a habit to talk about their strict diet and exercise regimens just as you dig into a sinfully calorific ice cream sundae. My response is to tell them that I too have a balanced diet - with one cookie in each hand!

I try to eat healthy but cookies and dessert are my pitfalls. An ice cream sandwich is the ultimate culmination of both vices - a cookie and a dessert rolled into one delicious mouthful- what can I say? I live to eat! If you are reading my blog you probably feel the same way.

There are days when we have to pick ourselves by the seat of our pants and we all need some motivation. My trick is to bake these indulgent cookies and turn them into ice cream sandwiches. I have to warn you though - once you've tried these there's no looking back....
These cookies are light, almost like a meringue but without the hard work .

Recipe for Double Chocolate cookie ice cream sandwiches:
Yield: 20 cookies

8 oz Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips
4 oz Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 eggs
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup All-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
1 cup(s) chopped walnuts

1. Melt 8 oz semisweet chocolate chips and butter in a double boiler or in a bowl set over hot water.
2. In large bowl whisk eggs and sugar until thick and whip into chocolate mixture.
3. In a small bowl, sift together flour and baking powder and stir into chocolate mixture.
4. Gently mix in semi-sweet chocolate chips and walnuts with a spatula.
5. Refrigerate the batter for an hour or until firm. Using an ice cream scoop, place the scoops 1 ½ inches apart. Preheat oven to 375°F.
6. Bake 12 to 14 minutes or until a shiny crust forms on top but interior is still soft. Cool on baking sheet; store in airtight container up to 1 week or freeze.
7. Place half the cookies on a tray and put a generous scoop of ice cream on each cookie. Top each with a second cookie and press down gently. Freeze or serve immediately.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Soup Kitchen

Thailand's favorite soups- Tom Ka Gai (Chicken soup with coconut milk) and Tom Yum Kung(Hot and Sour Soup with Shrimp)are available in sidewalk cafes as well as in upscale restaurants. The street side soups are likely to give you instant acid reflux, but that didn't stop me from trying it! Despite the oppressive heat, a bowl of hot spicy soup hit the spot...
Noodles in any form are well received in my household. Although I can't say the same for myself, there's something about a combination of soup and noodles that gets me hungry. I simmer my chicken stock with a generous chunk of ginger and garlic( smash them with a rolling pin first) throw in thinly sliced chicken and dress it up with scallions or shallots, cilantro and minced chilies. The kids clean it up pretty good. Lots of slurpy sounds accompany the sucking up of rice sticks.

Cream of Mushroom/ broccoli/ tomato, spinach or whatever is in your fridge. Cream soups are divine and a great way to use up wilted veggies in the fridge that are not good for much else. Most people shy away from cream soups especially if they have the muffin top thing going on. It is not necessary to smother the soup in cream; a dollop on top just as you serve it is enough to give it the right creamy texture.

Recipe for cream soup:
2 cups Vegetable of choice cut into small pieces
2 shallots diced
2 cups hot broth/stock
salt and pepper
1 tablespoon butter or margarine
2 teaspoons flour
1 cup hot milk

1. Melt the butter/margarine in a pot and saute the shallots. When they start to caramelize, add in the flour and cook over low heat till it changes color. This is called a roux and is the base for many sauces and soups.
2. Add in the the stock and whisk till all the lumps are gone then add in the vegetables and simmer covered till they are cooked. Using a hand-held blender or a food processor, blend the soup and strain it. Discard solids. Season and add the milk to the soup. Serve hot topped with croutons and a couple teaspoons of cream (optional)
Note: To make fresh croutons- Cut stale bread or bagels into small cubes and deep fry. Sprinkle over with dry crushed parsley (optional)

Soup of the Day

I often take favorite recipes and add whatever is available at the time. This classic Thai soup with shrimp and lemongrass is generally made without coconut milk. But I thought that the Pak choi would go great with the coconut milk and gave it a shot. It was a risk well taken and I had to share it . So here it is...
Recipe for Shrimp in a Lemongrass Broth
4 large shrimp cleaned and de-veined
8 thin slices galangal
2 Pak choi sliced down the centre into 4 parts
1 stem lemongrass sliced thinly
1 cilantro root
2 kaffir lime leaves
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon lime juice
1 cup chicken broth/stock
1 cup coconut milk
Fresh cilantro leaves

1.Bring chicken stock to a boil and add in the galangal, chili, cilantro root and lemon grass. Turn the heat down and simmer.
2.Add shrimp and pak choi. Season with sugar and salt.
3.Add in coconut milk and lime leaf torn into quarters. Finish with lime juice and garnish with fresh cilantro.
Cooked chicken slices can be used in place of the shrimp. Although most Thai soups use fish sauce, this one is refreshing with its lemongrass and cilantro flavors and its creamy color.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Soup to Nuts

There is a lot of truth in the old Spanish saying " between soup and love the first is better". A hearty soup can keep you warm on a cold day and give you strength when a nasty flu gets you but above all, it is a great way to eat healthy and fast. The backbone of a good bowl of soup is the stock or broth. Stock is generally made from bones and broth from meat.

I use the wings and carcasses of chickens to make my stock. I freeze them over time and when I have a lot -it's time to make fresh stock.

Recipe for Homemade Chicken Stock
2 lb chicken bones
1 onion cut into chunks
2 carrots cut into chunks
2 celery sticks cut into chunks
a handful of fresh parsley
a handful of fresh thyme
8 peppercorns
2 bay leaves
1 gallon of cold water

1.Place all the ingredients in a pot and add in the water. Bring the pot to a boil and immediately reduce it to a simmer. There should only be the slightest movement in the pot. Continuously skim the scum from the top to get a clear stock . Never season stocks and broths. It is not necessary since the finished product i.e. the soup or stew gets seasoned eventually.

2.Leave it to simmer for 5-6 hours if possible to get all the flavors out. Replenish the water as needed.( Use boiling water for this)

3.Cool and refrigerate. Remove the layer of fat carefully and use. The stock can then be frozen in airtight containers and used as needed.

soup recipes to follow...

Saturday, September 11, 2010

The Other White meat

The kids are back in school and that means I can resume cooking and blogging once more. Hallelujah !!
I am having an Iron chef moment here with 5 pork chops and no particular recipe in mind. I do have a taste for something spicy- Pork Vindaloo would hit the spot. I glance quickly through old recipes and find one that makes me hungry. Vindaloo is the legacy of Portugese influences on the food culture of Goa in South West India. "Vin" refers to the vinegar and "aloo" to the garlic which are major components of this dish along with fiery red chilies and tamarind.
For those of you that love Indian flavors and have never tried a vindaloo- try this recipe and let me know how it works...
Recipe for Pork Vindaloo
2 lbs pork cut into cubes( beef can be used instead)
3 red onions
1/3 cup oil
10 dried red chilies
6 cloves garlic
2 tbsp ginger paste
1 cinnamon stick
6 cloves
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp poppy seeds
10 peppercorns
1/2 star anise
1 tsp chili powder
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tbsp jaggery or brown sugar
1 tbsp tamarind pulp
10 curry leaves ( available at any Indian grocery store)
salt to taste
2-3 cups of water

1.Remove the stalks and seeds of the chilies and soak them in warm water till soft. Combine them with the ginger, garlic, cinnamon, cloves,cumin, peppercorns, star anise, poppy seeds, and chili powder to a paste along with the vinegar. Marinate the meat with a little of this paste and keep the rest aside.
2. Heat the oil and saute the onions till they are caramelized and add in the spice paste. When it is fragrant, add in the jaggery/sugar, tamarind and a little water if necessary and season.
3. Stir in the meat and continue frying for another 5 minutes. Lower the heat and simmer covered until the meat is cooked thoroughly. Add in the curry leaves last, taste and adjust the seasoning. Serve hot over Basmati Rice.

I used my neighbors Sarah and Andy as my guinea pigs- they loved it and even their little girl Emma ( barely 2) said "yummy". I guess that says it all !