Monday, January 28, 2013

Warm Swiss Chard with Mushrooms

This Saturday morning we went out for brunch and were pleasantly surprised to see that it’s farmers market season already! It is just January, and while the majority of the country is covered in snow, I am so glad to be living in "feels like spring all year round" Bay Area. I have to admit, it wasn't particularly warm, but it surely was sunny and pleasantly cold - good enough to shop at a farmers market!

Anyway, in my excitement of shopping fresh, locally sourced produce, I picked Swiss Rainbow Chard from one of the stalls. In the past I have made some yummy chard salads using yogurt. This time, I decided to try cooking it.

Chard is like any other greens, delicate, has an earthy flavor and generally seems like a veggie that will get along with any other fellow vegetables.  Again, I spent less than 30 min cooking this start to finish, so I’ll categorize this one as a quick fix too. However, this can’t be your main entree. 

- 1 bunch swiss rainbow chard, cleaned chopped
- 8-9 cremini mushrooms, diced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- half cup onion, minced
- 2 tsp EVOO
- 3 tsp balsamic vinegar
- salt pepper to taste

How To:
Heat 1 tsp EVOO on medium low heat and add garlic. Cook until fragrant. Add swiss chard and cook until wilted. I used some chard stalks too, so i let it cook a little longer until the hard stalks were soft, but you can cook it as you like. Remove from heat and set aside.
Heat 1 tsp EVOO on medium heat. Add onion and mushroom, and let cook until onions are translucent. Add balsamic vinegar and cook until it is reduced. (4-5 mins). Pour over the swiss chard. Add salt and pepper. 
Serve warm or cold.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Hearty Veggie Soup

I like soup for dinner on foggy cold week nights – like this week. And hearty vegetable soups can especially be comforting on busy weeknights.  My mom made all sorts of soups when I was growing up and I have grown to love them.

I liked this soup because it took me only 30 minutes to make it from start to finish, the recipe consisted of cooking veggies by steaming them - a healthier way to eat them, and plus it made an awesome leftover.

Here goes the recipe –

  • 2 carrots cut into cubes
  • 2 ripe tomatoes cut into cubes
  • 1 onion cut into cubes
  • 1 medium sized potato, peeled, cut into cubes
  • 1 tsp butter
  • Salt, pepper, red chili powder, sugar per taste
  • 1/4th cup 1% fat milk (optional)
  • Cilantro, minced

Pressure cook all veggies till tender. If you don’t have a pressure cooker, you can also cook all the veggies in a pan by adding water till they’re just covered. Puree cooked veggies. Heat butter in a stockpot and add pureed veggies. Add milk, salt, pepper, red chili powder, sugar per taste. Mix well. Garnish with cilantro and serve hot.

A and I like our soup with toasted bread with light ghee spread. I added red chilli powder as a garnish for some extra heat.

I am going to try this recipe with ghee instead of butter. Ghee doesn’t burn as fast as butter as it has a higher smoke point than butter.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Leek Salad

Yesterday Shal suggested that she and I contribute to this blog together. I accepted the offer without a blink. Nice idea, isn’t it? I immediately remembered the leek that had been staring at me from our fridge for 3 days since my “Return to Bay Area” therapeutic grocery shopping! A leek salad would be a good first blog post, I thought. Here it is...
This is a really quick salad that can put together in less than 10 min., pairs well with Indian home cooked food and serves as a satisfying substitute to traditional “koshimbir”. In fact now that I think about it, it is a better accompaniment dish, than a salad. 

Leeks appear to me like cousins of spring onion, they have a delicate onion-ny flavor, and so if you want a dinner time substitute to onions, leeks are a good option. An important aspect of working with leeks is cleaning them as they grow close to the ground, they will have dirt in the green layers.
Slice the leeks lengthwise down the center and rinse under water to remove all the dirt, especially dirt between the leaves.

Here’s the recipe, adapted from here.

·         1 Leek (discard the coarse outer leaves and use the tender white and light green parts), sliced thinly, crosswise .

·         1 medium sized Persian cucumber (I like persian cucumbers in this salad because of their delicate flavor), peeled, halved and sliced.

·         1 medium sized heirloom tomato, cut into small cubes.

·         0.5 cup cilantro, cut coarsley

·         1 tbsp roasted groundnut powder (optional)

·         Salt to taste
·         1.5 tbsp lemon juice

·         3 tbsp EVOO

·         Salt, black pepper & sugar to taste 

Mix everything in a bowl and serve.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Healthy Chicken Fried Rice

My dad makes really good chicken fried rice. I remember it was my last meal in India before I first moved to the USI've included some of his tips in the recipe below.

You will need -
  • boneless skinless chicken breast - chopped, marinated in garlic and soy sauce
  • cooked rice (I usually use a 50-50 mixture of white basmati and brown basmati. Please refer to 'notes' below on how to cook rice)
  • minced garlic
  • spring onions
  • whisked eggs (optional)
  • sesame oil (optional)
A few of the following -
  • carrots
  • bell peppers - any color. I used red.
  • green beans
  • cabbage
  • broccoli, if you want to make up for some decadent sins from the day before
  • peas
Seasoning -
  • soy sauce
  • fish sauce (optional)
  • ketchup (optional)
  • sriracha or hot sauce (optional)
  • water
Method -
  1. In a large shallow pan heat some vegetable oil and saute marinated chicken until fully cooked.  Keep aside.
  2. Add eggs to the pan, saute to make a scramble, set aside.
  3. Add vegetable oil and 1 or 2 tsp sesame oil to pan . After a couple of mins add the garlic, saute. Then add the veggies that take longer to cook - such as green beans, carrot, broccoli.
  4. Once those veggies are semi-cooked add the other veggies that cook fast - such as bell peppers, cabbage, peas.
  5. Meanwhile combine all the ingredients under 'Seasoning' in a small bowl.
  6. Add seasoning mixture and chicken to pan. Mix well.
  7. Add the rice, mix well. Be gentle with the rice, you want to avoid breaking the grains. Saute for 2-3 mins.
  8. Add spring onions and scrambled eggs. Mix well.
  9. Check the taste. If required add soy sauce/ hot sauce/ black pepper and mix well.
Some tips -
  1. It is widely recommended that you use a day-old rice for fried rice. But I have got as good results by cooking the rice with slightly less water than usual and then spreading it out on plates for 1 to 2 hours in a well-ventilated area before using it. I sometimes put the fan on to dry the rice faster.
  2. Cooking the eggs and veggies together will make your rice smell of egg. To avoid this  it's better to saute the eggs separately, keep aside and add to the rice towards the end.
  3. All the steps should be done over medium to high heat. You don't want to slow-cook your veggies in fried rice.
  4. It's always good to use a mix of colorful veggies - if you don't have red bell pepper, try to use carrot so that your fried rice looks colorful and appetizing. Eating all colors is also a good way to get all kinds of vitamins and minerals.

'Chickpea Chaat' - Quick and healthy garbanzo bean snack

I whipped up this easy and healthy snack on a late weekend afternoon. I tossed cooked chickpeas leftover from dinner with chopped onion, tamarind chutney ('Maggie Tamarina' is great), black salt (you can get that in an Indian grocery store), a sprinkle of sev (crispy broken Indian noodles) and plain low fat yogurt.

Similar to bhel, but with wholesome beans instead of puffed rice.

The black color of the beans is from cooking it with tea bags. I think it looks more appetizing that way, but it doesn't matter as far as taste is concerned. You can use canned garbanzo beans if you don't have cooked ones.

Friday, January 11, 2013

A Vegetarian Thanksgiving Menu - Butternut Squash Risotto & a Pumpkin Dessert

Butternut Squash Saffron Risotto
(Apologies for the poor picture quality - it is a product of dim lighting and iPhone 4)

                                                                       Pumpkin Dessert with three textures

We had some friends over for dinner around Thanksgiving so I made a fall-themed dinner. As one of our friends is vegetarian I came up with a vegetarian menu but had no regrets whatsoever! It turned out to be so good that I didn't miss turkey at all. The star of the show was Ina Garten's butternut squash saffron risotto and a delicious pumpkin dessert vying for the limelight. The dessert has three layers - the bottom one like pumpkin pie, the middle one like a cookie and the topmost one crunchy because of the pecans.
I made it with reduced fat evaporated milk and it still tasted good if a bit less firm. Next time I'll make my own yellow cake mix because the store bought is too sweet especially when it sits in one compact layer like in this dessert.

For the risotto I used good New Zealand sauvignon blanc and skipped the pancetta.
To go with the risotto I made a quick tossed greens salad.
Here's the salad recipe... or something like it -
Toss arugula, spinach, thinly sliced pears, grated parmesan and cooked (or canned) garbanzo beans with a dressing of apple cider vinegar, olive oil, salt, pepper and sugar.

In general adding garbanzo beans to salads is a great way of incorporating vegetarian protein to your meal. Especially if you want to control the amount of soy protein in your diet because of the concerns regarding its harmful effect on hormones in both men and women.

Pineapple Jam

One thing that you don't easily get in the US is pineapple jam. It's one of my favorite jams so I decided to make a quick fix myself. Followed this recipe with some modifications -
  - Cut the pineapple into small pieces instead of grating it. Then when it was cooked and softened, I mashed it with a masher before adding the sugar.
- Used less sugar
- Used lemon juice instead of lime juice and used less of it.

Rosewater Panna Cotta

I love the flavor of rosewater. One whiff of it transports me to some dreamland! What's better than combining that with a delicious Italian dessert?

Recipe based on this one.
Yields 4 servings
Level: Easy, Time: 20 mins.
  • 1 and half cups half-and-half (mixture of full fat milk and cream)
  • 4 tbsp 2% reduced fat milk
  • 2 to 3 tbsp rose water (I used 'Sadaf' brand - it is really good)
  • 5 tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 envelop (1 envelop=0.25 oz) powdered gelatin
Method -
1. Add gelatin to the 2% milk, mix and let stay.
2. Bring half-and-half and sugar to boil or heat until very hot. Then add rooh afza and gelatin mixture, let simmer for 1 minute and turn off heat.
3. Add rose water.
4. Pour into bowls, let cool. Then cover with plastic wrap and keep in fridge for at least 3 hours.

5. You can either serve it in the bowls or place the bowls in hot water one by one, place a small plate on top of the bowl and turn the bowl upside down on the plate and pat the bowl so that the beautiful, luscious panna cotta gently falls on to the plate with a plop. Drizzle a little bit of rooh afza on top if you like.

You can get creative with panna cotta! For instance add baileys to base of bowl and then add vanilla panna cotta mixture. Or top it off with a fruity compote.

- Many recipes ask for gelatin leaves to be used but they are harder to find than powdered gelatin. Here's a simple conversion formula between the two -
1 envelop (0.25 oz) powdered gelatin = 4 gelatin sheets/ leaves