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Thursday, February 17, 2011

Apple, Gorgonzola Salad

This is one of my favorite salads. The slightly sour taste of the cheese and cranberries blends wonderfully with the sweet and sour taste of the vinaigrette and apples. It's got a lot of interesting flavors. It is quick to make and extremely delicious. I make it often when entertaining and it's an easy to scale up recipe.

For the salad
1/4 cup blue cheese/gorgonzola, crumbled into small pieces
4 cups mixed greens, chopped
1 cucumber, diced into small pieces
1 apple, diced
1/4 cup cranberries
1/4 cup walnut, chopped (optional)

For the vinaigrette
1 tbsp strawberry jam
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup orange juice
salt to taste
1/8 tsp black pepper
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Whisk together all the ingredients for the vinaigrette till an emulsion is formed and the oil and other ingredients are mixed together.
Toss together the greens, apples, cucumber, cranberries and walnuts. Drizzle the vinaigrette on the mixture to taste. Then add the blue cheese and lightly toss together.

You can subsitute the mixed greens with green or red leaf lettuce. Mixed greens are a mixture of different greens and herbs. There are different leaves like lettuce, endive, radicchio and arugula. These greens have different flavors including spicy and bitter flavors. Using mixed greens enhances the overall taste of a salad.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Karlya chi Bhaaji - Bitter Gourd Curry

This is a recipe that I rarely ate as a kid. In fact, as a kid I didn’t want to eat bitter gourd curry as I always thought that this would be very bitter. To my surprise when I finally tasted it, I loved it. It was savory, spicy, sweet and bitter, all the tastes blending beautifully to create a very tasty curry. We used to grow bitter gourd in our garden, so whenever we had a fresh crop, my mom used to make this curry and the fried chips version. This is a recipe which needs many ingredients and is more involved than the fried version. But it is so delicious, that I decided to buy the vegetable this time with the sole aim of making this curry. I must say we enjoyed it.  I hope you enjoy it too.

Note: To see more details about bitter gourd/karela/karla, see my previous post on “karlya che kaap-bitter gourd chips

4-5 bitter gourds, diced into cubes
1/2 red onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
1 tbsp ginger-garlic paste
1/8 tsp cumin seeds
1/4 cup dry coconut (unsweetened), sliced/ grated/shredded
1 tsp garam masala
1 tsp goda masala (can substitute cumin-corriander/dhana-jeera powder)
1/8 tsp turmeric
¼ cup groundnut/peanut, ground coarsely into a powder
Red chilli powder to taste
1 inch piece jaggery or 1 tbsp brown sugar
Salt to taste
2 tbsp oil
1-2 cups water

Pressure cook the bitter gourd pieces, by adding sufficient water to cover the pieces.  They should be cooked through and softened, not overcooked.  Alternately, you may boil the pieces in water till they are cooked through, if you do not have a pressure cooker. This step reduces the bitterness. Drain and set aside.

Roast the cumin seeds and the coconut separately. Dry roast them till you can smell the aroma, do not let it burn. Then grind this together to form a powder.

In a pan, add the oil, to this add onions and fry till lightly browned. Then add the ginger garlic paste and fry for a couple of minutes. To this add the cumin, coconut mixture. Then add the garam and goda masalas, the peanut powder, salt, chilli powder, turmeric. Fry this for a minute or so. Add the cooked bitter gourd pieces. Fry for a minute. Then add about 1 cup of water to form the gravy. Add more water if the gravy is very thick. Boil for a few minutes.  Then add the jaggery as the last step, cook for another minute. Serve hot with chapatti or white rice.

Another method to reduce the bitterness would be to apply salt over the bitter gourd pieces and keep them aside for 10-15 minutes. They will release a lot of water, then rinse and pat them dry.  You can use these directly in the gravy instead of cooking them separately. They may be bitterer than the cooked, drained pieces.  If you have a pressure cooker and are tolerant of bitter taste, then omit the first step and cook the entire preparation directly in the pressure cooker. This is much faster, but the gravy will have a stronger bitter flavor than using cooked and drained pieces.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Sphagetti with Peas

This is a wonderfully easy and quick recipe to make.  All the different flavors complement each other to create a slightly sweet, sour and savory pasta dish. Most of the times pasta recipes involve some kind of a sauce. This is a great alternative to sauce based pasta recipes. The best part of the recipe is that it involves minimal preparation time, has limited ingredients and still is so delectable that you would want to repeat this often. It is also a great recipe to make when entertaining, easy to scale, elegant and tasty.

1 packet whole wheat sphagetti, cooked per instructions on the box
1 cup frozen peas, thawed
1 tbsp Italian spice mix
salt to taste
1/4 cup black olived, sliced
4-5 artichoke hearts, chopped - use the pickled variety
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2-3 garlic gloved, finely chopped
Parmigiano Reggiano, also known as Parmesan cheese, to garnish

Heat the olive oil. Add the chopped garlic and let it cook for a minute or so. Then add the peas. Stir fry for a minute, then add the olives, artichokes and Italian spice mix. Stir around, then add the sphagetti. Mix all the ingredients together. Add salt to taste. Add parmesan cheese. Serve hot.

Cook the pasta in saline water, which means that add sufficient salt to the water that you cook your pasta in so that it tastes salty. This will flavor the pasta and it will not taste bland when added to the other ingredients.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Shahi Palak Biryani - Spinach Rice, A Royal Experience

This is my favorite spinach preparation and one of my favorite biryani recipes. My mom rarely made it, reserving it for special occasions, festivals or when we entertained guests. I had been thinking about it quite frequently and finally decided to make it. So a call to mom, jotted down the recipe and made it. It turned out as delicious as I remember. Hope you enjoy it as much as my family and I do.

1 bunch spinach/palak - chopped coarsely and blanched
1/4 cup cilantro leaves
1-2 green chillies, to taste
1/2 red onion - diced
1/2 red onion- sliced
2 tsp garam masala
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tsp ginger paste
4-5 mint leaves
salt to taste
2 tbsp ghee
1 cup basmati rice
1 cup coconut milk
1 cup water
2 badi elaichi/ black cardamom
4-5 cloves
2 cinnamon pieces, an inch in length
2 bay leaves
1/4 cup cashews, to garnish
salt to taste

Puree together the blanched spinach leaves, green chillies, cilantro and mint leaves and set aside. In a pan, add one tbsp of ghee, and fry the diced onions along with the ginger and garlic. Once the raw smell goes away, add the puree made earlier and the garam masala. Add salt. Cook for a minute more and set aside. Roast some cashews in a drop of ghee and keep aside. The cashews should be lightly browned.

In a deep pan, add one tbsp of ghee and add the whole spices viz. cinnamon, cardamom, cloves and bay leaves. Stir till you get the aromatic smell of the spices (about a minute). To this add the sliced onion, fry till the onion is transparent and then add the rice. Fry the rice for a couple of minutes. This helps to make the rice less sticky. Then add the coconut milk and water, stir well. Add salt, then cook the rice till it is completely cooked and fluffy. You can also pressure cook the rice, but cook it for one whistle and take it off the heat immediately. Do not overcook the rice.

Using a fork, separate the rice grains and fluff it. Then add the cooked spinach mixutre prepared earlier to the rice and mix together it all toghether. Garnish with cashews and serve hot.

To blanch the leaves, boil enough water so that you can easily submerge all the leaves and add the spinach to the boiling water. Keep a bowl of ice cold water ready. After a minute, remove the spinach leaves and add to the cold water. This is called "shocking" and it stops the spinach from cooking further.