Happy happy new year to you! What a year 2011 was… I started my second graduate program here in Minneapolis, made more friends in one year than I did in the two years before that, learned a whole ton about myself, and of course, tried many more types of food and cuisines!
A big part of 2011 was doing things a little differently here on OneLifeToEat. In the midst of being busy with a graduate program, I slowly but surely started trying to take better pictures of the blog. A few even made the cut on TasteSpotting! Although that is something I wasn’t hoping for, it felt fantastic when I got the approval email. I also added a new header to the blog, and redid the layout to make it look cleaner, and more easy to navigate.
I leave you with links to the top 5 most-viewed posts last year. It was my goal through this blog to simplify and demystify Indian cooking, and the top posts show that visitors come to my blog to learn about the basics of this exciting cuisine. So, if 2012 is the year you want to learn how to make Indian food, look no further! Here’s to more food, more photography, more blogging and more fun in the kitchen!
Top 5 OneLifeToEat posts in 2011
There’s something about simplicity that is so attractive. A living room done up with simple furniture and accent pieces. An outfit put together with simple clothing and accessories. And a dish put together using simple, easy to find and use ingredients. This bread pudding recipe I discovered on Steamy Kitchen’s website is just that; It uses a few simple ingredients and voila! You have a decadent, delicious dessert that looks like it took a long time to put together.
So recently, when I was invited to an impromptu dinner at a friend’s home, and all I had at home were a few croissants, nutella and the usual suspects – milk, cream, eggs and sugar – I quickly put together this bread pudding. Day-old croissants are sliced in half lengthwise, slathered with yummy nutella, sandwiched back together, cut in chunks, and baked with a creamy custard made with eggs, cream, sugar and vanilla. I never thought the taste would be so so good.
Check out the original recipe here on Steamy Kitchen’s website. I mad a few modifications to Jaden’s recipe by using half and half instead of whole cream. I also added a big pinch of powdered cardamom to the custard, to add an extra layer of interesting flavor. This whole dish took under 10 minutes of prep time, and all I had to do after that was put it in the oven and let it cook, while I tackled other things around the house. Make it for Christmas eve dessert, or for Christmas day breakfast – you decide! I think it’ll be a hit either way. I know it was at the party I went to!
Wishing you all a Merry Christmas!
I’ve been missing home particularly a lot lately. Maybe it’s the freezing winter here, or the Christmas spirit that’s all about families… or maybe it’s also because it’s been a while since I visited home. As my semester winds down to an end and I look forward to 6 weeks of no classes, I am craving a trip home and catching up with my friends and family. As a substitute, I’ve been trying to replicate a few dishes from home.
Tandoori chicken wasn’t that big a part of my childhood; however the few times my family ordered it from the local Mughlai restaurant, we relished it thoroughly. I loved the deep red color of the tangdis although I knew I was shoveling tons of artificial color down my body, and loved squeezing lime juice over the chicken pieces, then nibbling on the charred bits (my favorite). What I probably enjoyed more than the chicken itself, was the yummy kachumbar or sliced onion salad that they packed with the chicken. There was something about the way the onion was sliced super thin, that made it all the more yummy.
Tandoori chicken is India’s answer to Barbequed meat. As many of you may know, the name tandoori chicken comes from the clay oven called tandoor, that it’s made in. While I don’t have a tandoor, and an American grill wouldn’t cook the chicken the way tandoori chicken is supposed to end up tasting, I searched for ways I could replicate the same tastes by cooking the chicken in an oven. The answer lied at the back of pack of tandoori spice mix
I used the recipe from a tandoori spice mix pack as the foundation, and made several changes to achieve the taste I was looking for. I started the recipe, thinking it would take a long time to make, but the chicken was fairly quick to prepare. The recipe starts with cleaning the chicken and removing the skin. Then, a quick ginger-garlic paste marinade makes sure the meat is tenderized. The chicken is then pressure cooked… yes, pressure cooked, for just one whistle. I found this step quite interesting, as in the past, when I have marinated chicken and tried to cook it on a grill, it takes a long time to cook through, which leaves the outer part of the chicken tough and hard, and the inner part, cooked through but dry.
Pressure cooking the chicken makes sure it is partially cooked, so when it is broiled in the oven, it cooks faster, but the result is perfectly charred from outside, and soft and juicy from inside. After this step, the chicken is basted in a mixture of spices and yogurt, and then baked in an oven. The whole process takes under 90 minutes from the time you start cleaning the chicken! Here’s my recipe for a really simple, oven-baked tandoori chicken, and a tangy onion kachumbar, to go with it. Serves 4 people.
For the onion Kachumbar -
- Thinly slice 1/2 a red onion and place in a glass bowl. Spritz juice of 1/2 a lime, add 1 tbsp of white vinegar and 1/4 tsp salt
- Sprinkle finely chopped cilantro, mix well, and place in the fridge
For the Tandoori Chicken -
- 12 chicken drumsticks or equivalent quantity in bone-in chicken, skinless, cleaned, washed thoroughly, and patted dry
- 2 spoonfuls yogurt (a little more or less doesn’t matter, use your regular soup spoon)
- About 50 gms Tandoori spice mix (available at any Indian grocery store. Measurement is in grams because these spices come from the Indian sub-continent)
- Juice of 1/4 lime
- 1.5 tsp salt
- 1 tbsp ginger-garlic paste
- A pressure cooker. If you don’t have one, cook chicken in boiling water.
- Baking trays with aluminum foil
- Vegetable oil and a basting brush
- Rub ginger-garlic paste well over all the chicken and allow to marinate in the fridge for about 15 minutes. Then, place in a pressure cooker with about 2 cups water, and cook for only one whistle. Alternatively, cook chicken in boiling water until it is 1/2 cooked. Do not fully cook the chicken
- While the chicken cooks, mix together all the other ingredients in a bowl. When the chicken is cooked and cooled, rub this mixture well all over the chicken pieces. Rub inside any cavities and below folds of flesh too. Allow to marinate for another 10 minutes
- In the mean time, prepare the baking trays; line with foil. Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees F. Place chicken on the trays and bake for about 20 minutes or until the chicken is fully cooked. Then, remove from oven, baste with vegetable oil or melted butter, and place back in oven for 5-6 more minutes or until the right amount of char is achieved. This step helps the chicken get the appearance of authentic tandoori chicken.
- Serve immediately with the ‘pickled’ onion and slices of lime.
With the Fall semester winding down to an end comes final project submissions, tests, and the final push to score that extra grade to cover up for the few papers you did badly on. Questions like “Will I get extra points if I…” are posed frequently to professors (ok, I admit… I’m the only person who asks this question ) and often, you hear about trips and vacations everyone will be taking in the Christmas break.
Lately however, people have been talking about Thanksgiving. This American holiday that I am yet to accept and internalize, appeals to me only because of the copious amounts of food involved. It’s been so interesting reading my Twitter and Facebook feeds lately that seem to be full of thanksgiving recipe suggestions. My favorite was Aarti Paarti’s Indian Thanksgiving menu suggestion.
Having been to two thanksgiving dinners so far, I know the festivities and cooking begins early in the day, and the meal is served only later in the evening. This means that the hungry folks need to be fed something right? Enter, the Thanksgiving starter. A few weeks ago I had some leftover spinach and mascarpone cheese from an earlier recipe, and wondered what to do with it. A long time ago, when browsing the famous food website Steamy Kitchen, which is written by food personality Jaden Hair, I instantly loved her recipe for a Spinach and Mascarpone dip. I’ve followed Jaden’s website for years and I ardently follow her tweets too, but this was the first time I tried her recipe. It took hardly any time to make and it was de-li-cious!! Not as heavy as an artichoke spinach dip, but not as light as a salsa. It was warm, creamy, cheesy (with hardly any cheese in it) and overall, comforting.
Jaden is right – it’s a dip you truly fall in love with. I always crave something warm, baked and cheesy when it gets colder outside (much to the disappointment of my thighs) and this dip was just right. When I finished baking a couple ramekins of the dip, I let them cool, poured out a few bland crackers on a plate, and polished off both servings of the dip in one sitting The next time around I’ll actually eat it like an appetizer and not a meal!
Please visit Jaden Hair’s TLC page for the recipe here. Your guests will not be disappointed if you make this for them!
The weather here in Minneapolis, MN has been weird. A week ago, it was cold, chilly & windy… typical Fall weather. This past week, it’s like things have receded back to Summer-like temperatures! Bright blue skies, breezy and cool (70-80 degrees Fahrenheit), with some pretty Fall colors to go with it. While I was moping about the cooler weather and cooking up warming dishes a few weeks ago, the last few days have made me more thankful of the warmer temperatures, prompting me to cook up summer-y dishes all over again.
Sue Doeden’s blog All About Food is one I follow pretty diligently for easy, inventive and delicious recipes that use tons seasonal veggies. Sue was one of the first Mid-western bloggers I connected with when I started out OneLifeToEat. I later found out that she is a food columnist for The Bemidji Pioneer and was thrilled to be connected to a professional food writer.
So when I came across her Black Bean Cabbage salad with Avocado Cream dressing post, I was drooling before I could finish reading it. I couldn’t wait to make it at home! The recipe is really simple and includes some of my favorite ingredients like Garlic, Avocado, Sour Cream and Cilantro. I’m not such a big fan of cabbage but something told me the dressing and Red bell peppers would make it a pretty yummy salad. The beans add an interesting texture, an ingredient I would’ve never thought would go with Cabbage. Paired with some warm toasty bread, the salad made a meal on its own.
I urge you to go check out the recipe on Sue’s blog and browse around for some pretty neat cooking ideas too.
What’s the weather like where you live? What are some new recipes you’ve been trying?
I’ve never told you how much I love soup… yes, I’m that strange person who gets a weird look from the server in a restaurant for ordering soup when its HOT outside
The reason I love soup so much, lies in the fact that my dear mum loves soup too. She used to make the yummiest soups for me and my sisters when we were children. My favorite was this broth-y germinated pigeon pea (yes, pigeon pea!) soup, with soft, chunky veggies and oats, simply flavored with cumin, salt and pepper. Having a mug of that with a slice of buttered toast when we were ill with fevers and coughs and colds was all we needed to get back on our feet. And the getting back on the feet part meant we couldn’t miss school when we were ill, which is probably the only thing about this soup that I used to hate
Now that the weather is cooler here in Minnesota (and the rest of the country too, I suppose?) I have one more excuse to make my favorite soups and eat them as a meal. So last week, after putting away all my fun cotton t-shirts and shorts and capris in the storage closet to fill my dresser drawers with last year’s woolens, I felt so sorry for myself, and so depressed about winter being just around the corner (Sorry fellow Minnesotans. I am from India after all). All there was really left to do was make a large pot of thick, yummy soup, cut up some chunky bread, and make myself feel all better. And so, I began looking for recipes.
I’ve told you before how much I admire Rachael Ray. I had bookmarked her Red & Green Winter ‘stoup’ recipe from her cookbook and realized I didn’t have all the ingredients needed. The stoup (mixture of the words ‘soup’ and ‘stew’) calls for a few veggies like kale, potatoes, canned tomatoes and roasted red peppers, all cooked together with a few simple ingredients. Depending on what I had in the refrigerator and pantry, I changed a few things around and also added a bigger punch to the soup by adding a mixture of my own spices. What I love about this recipe is that its all in one pot, you plop everything in, let it simmer and without much effort, it comes together very nicely. The starch from the potatoes thickens the soup very well too. Paired with chunks of some good baguette to dip into the liquid-y part of the soup, its a yummy, hearty meal on its own.
As I settled into the couch with a bowl of the stoup with pieces of bread soaked in, Mad Men season 3 episode 8 (The one where Don & Betty take a trip to Rome) playing on the TV via Netflix (which will be making wayyy too many changes to my account ), and a blanket on my feet, I felt like everything would be fine with the world again
Here’s Rachael Ray’s recipe for Red & Green Winter stoup, slightly tweaked by me (adapted for 2 people):
- 3 tbsp Olive oil
- 1 large garlic clove, finely chopped
- 1 medium sized potato, peeled and sliced
- 1 medium sized white onion, thinly sliced
- 2 tbsp fresh or dried parsley or 1 tbsp dried oregano or 1 tbsp fresh or dried rosemary (whichever you have at home)
- 1 bay leaf, fresh or dried
- 2 cups vegetable or chicken stock
- 1/2 packet of baby spinach salad, or equivalent amount of kale
- 1 (28 oz) can of fire roasted tomatoes, or a can of diced or crushed tomatoes
- 1 roasted red pepper (get it pre-packaged from the grocery store), well drained and finely chopped
- Salt & pepper to taste
- A pinch of cayenne pepper
- 1/2 tsp garlic powder
- Any shredded cheese you like
- Any crusty bread to go with the soup.
Heat the Olive oil in a large pot and add in the sliced onions and potatoes. Allow to cook until they are lightly brown and soft. Season with salt, pepper, cayenne pepper, garlic powder and herbs.Add the chopped garlic and cook for another minute or so.
Add the stock and bay leaf, bring to boil, then wilt in the greens. Then add the tomato and the pepper. Mix well, allow everything to simmer together on medium to low heat for about 8-9 minutes.
In the mean time, prep the bread the way you like. You could slice up the bread thick, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and toast it or broil it in the oven. If you’re feeling indulgent, sprinkle some cheese on each slice, and place back in the oven to let the cheese melt.
Tear bread, dunk in stoup, eat hungrily, slurp a spoonful of the stoup, repeat.
Last Saturday, my friends and I held one more Iron Chef style cooking competition. After the success of the first Iron Chef ‘coconut’ event, where all of us were awed by each others’ cooking prowess, we eagerly awaited one more opportunity to show off our inventive cooking skills. Although this time’s secret ingredient was intimidating to say the least, everyone came up with some very impressive dishes! From mango vinegar, to white balsamic vinegar to cider vinegar, we all incorporated some type of vinegar in all our dishes.
I have to say, EVERYONE seriously got very competitive this time around. I for starters struggled with what to make with this secret ingredient. Not only was I pressed for time to research recipes, the imaginative part of my brain had taken a pretty long vacation, owing to all the crazy amounts of studying I’ve been doing lately. In the end, I decided to make my version of Strawberries & Cream – Strawberries marinated in apple cider vinegar, topped with a syrup made of cider vinegar, sugar and sherry vinegar, and then topped with a dollop of mascarpone & ricotta cheese whipped together with chopped basil and a dash of cider vinegar.
I have tried my best to give you an idea of how much effort everyone made. It was so much fun and I can’t wait for the next one. The following is a list of dishes everyone made, with prizes that they won.
1. Winner of the Iron Chef Vinegar – Vinegar fish and coleslaw tacos by Sameera Kapasi Soni
Sameera seriously got the big guns out with this dish. Her fish was marinated in vinegar and spices, cider and white vinegar were incorporated in the tangy-sweet coleslaw, and she got special taco chips made with vinegar too! Other categories Sameera also won were: 2nd place in Creativity, Tie on 1st place in Presentation and 2nd place in Taste.
2. First Runner-up – Vinegar Pecan pie by Sheila Wheaton
None of us even imagined that we could incorporate vinegar into a pie! Sheila has a reputation for being a fantastic baker in our group so when we learned she’s made pie, we weren’t surprised. The pie was perfectly cooked, with a delicious crust and a very nice filling with just the perfect hint of vinegar-y flavor in it. YUM! Sheila’s pie also won other prizes – Tie on 1st place for Presentation and 1st price for Taste.
3. Second Runner-up – Peach and Apricot compote by Huzefa Gandhi
Huzefa’s dish was another unexpected, delicious, taste-bud-tingling delight. He used a combination of various vinegars, the most prominent being Mango vinegar. The whole spices added a wonderful warm note to the dish that really reminded me of Fall. This dish had to be the most innovative fruit preparation I have tasted. Huzefa’s compote also won 3rd place in the Taste category.
Other delicious preparations that we enjoyed but which didn’t make it to the top 3:
Scott’s Vinegar-marinated Beef. I’m really not much of a beef eater, but this dish made me want to kill a bovine then and there and eat it whole. This was so so so delicious… I must ask Scott to make this for me again. The pineapple added an interesting tartness to each bite.
Huzefa’s Balsamic vinegar and sweet potato Risotto. This dish tied in 3rd place under the Creativity category. I loved the creamy sweetness of this dish, whose flavor went really well with a reduced Balsamic vinegar sauce.
Scott’s Chicken & Potatoes. Scott’s dish was an adaptation from a traditional Italian dish where meat and potatoes are browned in a skillet before they are baked together slowly for a long time. Loved the hearty, familiar flavors of this dish.
Sheila’s Chicken Adobo. Sheila’s dish was a take on a traditional Vietnamese dish that is actually eaten with sliced banana. The sauce from this dish was to-die-for. Loved drizzling it over my rice and eating spoonfuls.
Sameera’s Warm Taco Salad. Delicious, comforting and vinegar-y, in just the right way.
Rob’s ‘Grandpa’s’ Salad. Rob’s salad seemed simple but had tons of interesting flavors. His dressing was vinegar based and complimented the tartness of the fruits very well.
My entry into the competition – Strawberries & Cream. I tied in 3rd place in the Creativity category and won 2nd place in the Presentation category.
What’s your favorite vinegar-y dish?