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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Scallion/Green Onion Stir Fry - "Paati Chi Bhaaji"

This long delicate green is tender onion and is called scallion or green onion. In Marathi its called "Paati cha Kanda" which literaly translates to "Leaves of Onion". Now, occasionally I have confused the word scallion with scallop, but these are nowhere in the same food category. One is a vegetable while the latter is a type of seafood. However, always remember that scallion ends with the word "onion" and that will help you remember that scallions are "green onions". This is a vegetable commonly found in Chinese style stir frys and salads, but usually is not used as a standalone agent. This is possibly one of the only preparations that I have come across where this is the star of the show. When you cook scallions, they tend to shrink and reduce significantly in volume, so you must start off with double the volume of these fresh green onions, so you end up with a sufficient quantity for your meal.

2 tbsp oil
1/8 tsp mustard seeds
1/8 tsp cumin/jeera seeds
1 tsp sesame seeds
1 green chilli
4 cups chopped scallions/green onions (use the green leaves as well as the onions)
1 cup besan/chickpea flour
salt to taste
1/2 tsp sugar
1/8 tsp turmeric

In a bowl, mix the chickpea flour, salt and sugar together and set aside
In a large, broad pan, heat some oil. To it add the the mustard and cumin seeds. Once the mustard seeds start sputtering, add the sesame seeds and the green chilli. Once the sesame seeds are slightly golden, add the chopped white tips of the scallions. Cook till they are transparent and then add the turmeric powder. Next add the greens and stir fry for a couple of minutes. Now, sprinkle the chickpea flour mixture into the stirfry and mix well. This will ensure that most of the leaves and onions will get coated with the mixture. Now, let this cook for ten minutes or so on low to medium heat. You can stop cooking it as soon as the mixture tasted cooked, however I prefer to cook it on longer till the flour coated parts start to brown and crisp up. At this stage, turn off the heat. Serve as a side or with chapati.

Instead of green chilli, you can use 1/2 to 1 tsp chilli powder (adjust to taste). If you use the chilli powder, mix it into the chickpea flour. Always add the white part of the onion a few minutes before the green leafy part. The white part takes a little longer to cook.  

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

French Butter Cookies - Sables

As December comes around, you can find stacks of butter cookie tins everywhere. They are probably available year round, but you just can't miss the huge stacks of tins during the holiday season. They are so delicious that I do cave into temptation and end up buying a couple of boxes. The ones that I see stocked in the local store,  generally are called "Danish" cookies and over the years I have come to associate butter cookies with being Danish.  A few days ago, I was watching the cooking show "America's Test Kitchen" and they demonstrated a cookie recipe called "Sables". Now they kept calling it a a French cookie. Their cookie platter looked delicious on the show and reminded me of butter cookies. Of course, I made fervent notes and jotted down the detailed recipe with all the tips they provided. I couldn't wait to try out the recipe, so I prepared the cookie dough (rather late at night) and then baked them the following day. Oh the result!!! Absolutely delicious and decadent. It was just like the butter cookies that I indulge in during the holiday season. So, based on this experience, I must conclude that I love all butter cookies. I have also learnt that they taste delicious and similar, irrespective of what they are named and what country they come from.

10 tbsp unsalted butter
1/3 cup plus 1 tbsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 yolk of hard boiled egg
1 tsp vanilla essence
1.5 cups all purpose flour/maida
1 egg white
1 tsp water
2-3 tbsp sugar (garnish)

Mash up the egg yolk so that it is soft and lump free. Using an electric mixer or whisk, beat together the butter, sugar, salt and yolk for a couple of minutes. Once the ingredients are mixedd together, add vanilla essence and mix. Then add the flour a little at a time and mix till the flour is completely incorporated into the mixture. At this stage, the mixture will have a soft dough like texture. Bring it all together and roll out the dough into two logs. These will be about six inches in length and about 1.75 (1 and 3/4) inches in diameter. Roll up these logs tightly in parchment or wax paper. Refrigerate these rolls in the fridge for at least an hour. Then take these well chilled logs and cut them into diskettes about 1/4 inch in thickness. Place these on a baking sheet. Don't crowd the cookies, leave about an half to an inch space around each cookie. Then, make an egg wash by mixing together egg white of one egg and water. Brush the top side of each cookie with this egg wash. Sprinkle a little sugar on top of each cookie. Bake the cookies at 350F for 10-15minutes.

Cool the cookies for 5 minutes on the baking sheets itself, then transfer these to the cooling rack. Enjoy with a cup of coffee or tea.

Process the egg yolk through a sieve using a spoon to mash it up and squeeze out of the sieve. This will ensure there are no big chunks or lumps. The butter should be room temperature, but still solid. You can freeze the dough once you roll it into a log and you can bake the cookies when you are ready to eat them. The egg wash helps the cookies get a shine and also helps the sugar stick to the cookie.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Sphagetti Squash with Marinara Sauce

Once you have cooked the marinara sauce and the sphagetti squash, pair them together to make the most delicious meal. This is the perfect food for a warm, filling and a really low calorie meal. Enjoy it for lunch or dinner. It is high in vitamins with all the goodness of vegetables, but low in fat, carbs and absolutely delicious. You can garnish with some parmesan cheese if you want.

See recipe for sphagetti squash
and recipe for marinara sauce

See recipe for sphagetti squash and marinara sauce

You can prepare the marinara sauce in advance and on the day of the meal, cook the squash. Thaw the sauce, and serve hot with the sphagetti squash. Add any vegetables to the basic marinara sauce after you thaw it.

Homemade Marinara Sauce - Tomato Based Pasta Sauce

There are many many brands of marinara sauce available in the grocery stores, however my favorite sauce has always been the homemade kind. It  is an easy recipe and a quick preparation too. Also, you can make this in advance and freeze it for later use. Homemade marinara tastes fresh and light. This is a recipe you can improvise on and change based on your taste preferences by changing the proportions of the ingredients. You can add an assortment of vegetables into the basic marinara to change the taste everytime you prepare it. This is a recipe that I have demonstrated to a few friends and is probably one of my  most requested recipes.

For the basic marinara sauce
1 tbsp olive oil
1 yellow onion, diced
3-4 garlic cloves, minced
salt to taste
5-6 tomatoes, diced
1 tbsp italian seasoning
1/4 cup water
1 tsp sugar (optional - see method)

Vegetables that can be added
bell peppers, sliced (assortment of green, red/yellow/orange)
mushrooms, diced
broccoli florets

In a broad, deep pan heat the oil and add the onions to it. Next add the garlic. Season with a little salt and let the onions and garlic cook till the onion becomes transparent. Next add the italian seasoning and stir it and then add the diced tomatoes. Cover the pan and cook the tomatoesfor a few minutes. Then add the water and cook till the tomatoes soften up.  Then take about 1-2 cups of the cooked down mixture and blend it into a puree and add it back to the sauce. Add salt and taste. If the tomatoes are not in season, they maybe a little tart and the sauce may taste a little sour. If so, add a little sugar and balance out the taste. The sauce is ready. Toss it with pasta and serve hot.

You can blend the entire sauce to get a smoother consistency or blend it partially for a chunky texture. You can add sauteed or partially cooked vegetables to the sauce, and cook them together. If you cannot find italian seasoning, then instead you can use a blend of basil and oregano. I have added a mix of diced bell peppers to the sauce in the pictures, by sauteeing them in a little oil in a pan and then adding them to the sauce. Then I cooked it for a few minutes, before tossing it with the sphagetti squash. Top with some parmesan cheese for a richer taste.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Sphagetti Squash

This is the healthiest "pasta" you can possibly have. I had noticed it stacked next to the butternut squash, on my visits to the grocery store but hadn't tried it.  This is the first time I cooked this squash and I absolutely loved it. Once the squash is completely cooked, it forms ribbons or sphagetti like strands. Hence, it gets the name "sphagetti squash".

This makes for a wonderful, low calorie option for pasta. You can pair it with marinara sauce and it is a delicious alternate to regular sphagetti with marinara. This is also a really great substitute if you are looking for a low carbohydrate option and is gluten-free.

1 sphagetti squash
1 tbsp olive oil (optional)
salt to taste

Preheat the oven to 350F. Cut the sphagetti squash into half along the length. Remove the seeds. At this stage you can apply a little oil over the exposed cut side of the squash. I didn't add any oil and it still cooked perfectly. Bake this for about 20-30 minutes, till the skin softens up a little. At this stage the squash is completely cooked. Use a fork and separate out the strands of the cooked squash. At this stage it is ready to eat.  You can sprinkle a little salt and pepper and it tastes great just by itself.

Top it with marinara sauce or any pasta sauce that you would usually pair with sphagetti pasta.