Archive | December, 2012

Goodbye 2012: My First 4 months as a Food Blogger!

31 Dec

Thank you all for a great first four months! Please click on the link below (complete annual report) to get an overview of my blog in 2012. Happy New Year!

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 5,600 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 9 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.

Crispy Chili Garlic Baby Corn

20 Dec

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My trips to Mumbai resemble a literal walk down a food memory lane. My nostalgia surges and I am on a rampant mission to eat at all the places I fondly remember eating at, in the late 80’s and 90’s. The Mumbai dining scene has evolved considerably in the last 5-10 years.  Celebrity chefs from all over have flocked here to gain a share of the growing middle and upper income groups wallets and palates. Yet, it is not the fine dining and eclectic cuisine that I crave to eat here. It’s the bold and tangy street fare, the ambiance and culinary marvels of the old Irani cafes, and the delectable seafood at the down-to-earth coastal restaurants that have me ALWAYS coming back for more.

One cuisine that’s unique to India and is a MUST EAT on each trip is “Indian Chinese” known as “Chinese food” in India.  Chinese food in India is essentially food that is an adaptation of Chinese seasonings and cooking techniques to Indian tastes. This cuisine is said to have been developed over a century ago by a small Chinese community that lived in Kolkata (formerly Calcutta). Indian Chinese is a bold cuisine that harmoniously unites Indian and Chinese spices to season vegetables, meats, noodles and rice. It’s a mainstream cuisine in India and can be found at every place from a hawkers cart for under $2 to a five-star restaurant for $50-100 a person.

One of my favorite Indian Chinese dish is Chili Garlic Potatoes. Earlier this week, I was at the Willingdon Club of Mumbai indulging in the garlicky and tangy flavor of Chili Garlic Potatoes when I decided to recreate the flavors  at home with baby corn. The recipe below is derived from a few modifications to Sailu’s Kitchen Chili Baby Corn. It’s a piquant appetizer, that’s sure to warm you up on a cold night.

Crispy Chili Garlic Baby Corn Recipe:
Recipe Adapted from Sailu’s Kitchen Chilli Baby Corn
Time: 35-40 minutes
Yield: Appetizer sized portion for 4 people

Ingredients:
Fried Baby Corn:
3 tablespoons of corn starch
½ teaspoon garlic paste
½ teaspoon ginger paste
¼ teaspoon red chili powder
½ teaspoon black pepper
½ – ¾ teaspoon salt (per taste)
3 cups baby corn cut into 1 inch pieces (washed and dried) (See note)
2-3 tablespoons of vegetable or canola oil for pan frying

Sauce:
1 tablespoon of vegetable or canola oil
¼ cup green onions (whites and greens), thinly sliced + extra for garnish
7-8 cloves of garlic, minced
2 bird’s eye chilies/That chili (Optional) (See note)
1 tablespoon chopped ginger
½ medium to large green pepper, diced
¼ cup tomato ketchup
2 ½ teaspoons light soy sauce
1 teaspoon vinegar
1 teaspoon Siracha sauce
1 teaspoon chili garlic paste or Schezwan sauce (See note)
¼ cup of water
1 tbsp corn starch dissolved in 2 tablespoons of water

Notes:

  • I used fresh baby corn. If you cannot find fresh baby corn, large grocery stores and Asian markets carry canned baby corn. Drain, wash and thoroughly dry the canned baby corn before you use it.
  • Bird’s eye chilies, Chili Garlic Paste and Schezwan sauce are available in Asian markets and some large grocery stores. Eliminate the bird’s eye chilies if you do not want to make this too spicy.

Method:
1) In a mixing bowl combine the cornstarch, ginger paste, garlic paste, chili powder, salt and pepper. Add 1 to 2 teaspoons of water and mix well. You want to have a thin batter that creates a thin coating on the baby corn.
2) In a large skillet heat 2-3 tablespoons of oil on medium-high heat. Coat each baby corn piece in the batter. Pan-fry the baby corn in batches until they are light brown. Set aside the fried baby corn on a plate lined with kitchen towel to absorb the excess oil.
3) In the same skillet heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil on medium heat. Now add the green onions, garlic, ginger and birds eye chilies and sauté for 3-4 minutes until the garlic is golden brown.
4) Add the green pepper and cook for 4-5 minutes until the green pepper is tender.
5) Add the tomato ketchup, soy sauce, vinegar, Siracha, and chili garlic paste and cook for 1-2 minutes.
6) Add ¼ cup of water and simmer for another 3-4 minutes. Add the corn starch and water mixture and cook for 2-3 minutes until the raw corn starch taste dissipates.  Taste the sauce and add more soy or chili sauce per your taste.
7) Add the fried baby corn and toss to ensure that all the pieces are well coated with the sauce. Cook for another 1-2 minutes before transferring the baby corn to a serving platter. Garnish with a few sliced green onions and serve hot as a snack or an appetizer.

Chai Chocolate Truffles

13 Dec

Chai chocolate truffles

I have taken longer than usual to post a recipe as I was en-route to India, followed by an onslaught of jetlag and a plethora of friends and family to catch up with. Amidst all this frenzy, I am basking in the immense pampering that comes with visiting my parents’ and relishing the diverse foods of Mumbai that I so miss in DC. Not only do I miss the food, but also the importance that is placed on all meals, specifically breakfast.

Breakfasts are an elaborate affair in most Indian households, especially at my parents’ place. While the menu is ever evolving, a staple at their breakfast table is an abundance of heart-warming cups of masala chai. Masala chai is a tea drink prepared by brewing black tea with a mixture of aromatic Indian spices and herbs. The combination of spices and herbs may vary but green cardamom and ground cinnamon are common ingredients.

At breakfast, earlier this week while I was sipping contently on my second cup of masala chai my husband broached the subject of making chocolate truffles. I am always looking to switch up flavorings for chocolate truffles and the apt timing of our conversation lead to developing this chocolate truffle recipe. These luscious truffles melt in your mouth, revealing a magnificent synchronization of earthy masala chai and creamy, decadent chocolate. Try these at your own risk – you will probably pack in more truffles than you serve your friends and family!

Chai Chocolate Truffles Recipe
Yield: 24 truffles (depends on size)
Time: Preparation 30 minutes; Refrigeration 18 hours

Ingredients:
½ cup heavy whipping cream
2.5 tablespoons honey
2 black tea bags (I used Lipton Yellow Label Tea)
6 green cardamom pods, bruised
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon powder
8 oz good quality semisweet chocolate, cut up into bite size chunks
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

Cocoa powder for dusting (Optional)
Crushed or chopped pistachios for coating (Optional)

Method:
1) Place the bite-sized chunks of chocolates in a medium glass bowl and set aside.
2) In a medium saucepan, heat the cream along with the tea bags, cardamom pods, cinnamon powder and honey on medium-high heat, until it reaches a boil. Once it reaches a boil remove from the heat and set aside for 30 minutes. Squeeze the tea-bags to get all the flavor out of them. It takes about 30 minutes for the chai flavors to infuse into the cream.
3) Re-boil the cream mixture and remove from the heat once it comes up to a boil.
4) Using a mesh strainer, pour the boiling cream mixture over the chocolate chunks and let it rest for 2 minutes. Discard the teabags and cardamom pods. Use a whisk and slowly start mixing the chocolate and cream until you get a smooth mixture. It is important to do this slowly to ensure that minimal air bubbles enter the mixture.
5) Now add the butter and whisk well, till it is fully incorporated. Cover with cling wrap and refrigerate for a minimum of 12 hours.
6) Take a large bowl and fill it with cold water and ice cubes. Remove the chocolate mixture from the refrigerator.
7) Dip your hands in the ice-bath and then dry them completely. Roll the chocolate mixture into one inch size balls. Note: I use a rounded tablespoon measure to ensure that all the truffles are even in size. I usually need to repeat the step of dipping my hands in the ice-bath and drying them 1-2 times in the middle of rolling out 24 truffles. Body heat melts the ganache and makes it difficult to form even balls. The ice bath step helps reduce this. This is a messy and tedious but extremely rewarding process.
8) Place the rolled balls in a serving platter and refrigerate for another 6 hours.
9) After 6 hours (or more) remove the chocolate truffles from the refrigerator and coat them with cocoa powder or crushed pistachios.
10) Refrigerate the chocolate truffles for at least another hour after coating them and before serving.

Bacon, Apple and Onion Stuffing Muffins

5 Dec

Bacon, Apple and Onion sTUFFINMy last recipe post – Chili-Cheese Wontons was a simple and elegant Hors d’oeuvre for holiday entertaining or a cocktail party. Life would be way too simple if the only entertaining during the holidays were cocktail parties. Unfortunately, it’s just not that simple! There are sumptuous and comforting dinners to be served, brunches and lunches to be cooked, and finally guests who stay a few days and need to be fed around the clock.

This is when you need a crowd-pleasing recipe that can easily be doubled, tripled or quadrupled up to be served as an appetizer or a side dish at dinner or a brunch. That is exactly what I thought when I came across Rachael Ray’s Apple Onion and Stuffin’ Muffin’s recipe. Bread, apples, onions and celery are elements that can be consumed at all mealtimes. Combining them creates a luscious dish that can be savored at various meal occasions. Plus making muffins out of this stuffing nudges it from being just a dinner side to a brunch side or even a heavy appetizer. Holiday Muffins

I made various changes to the original recipe to personalize it. Specifically, I added bacon and introduced a tart apple to add multiple layers of flavor. The smoky and savory flavor profile of the bacon marries harmoniously with the tart granny smith apple as well as the sweet McIntosh apples. There is nothing to not love about these muffins – they are delectable and unique and best of all can be served at any time of the day!

Bacon, Apple and Onion Stuffing Muffins
Recipe adapted from Rachael Ray’s Apple and Onion Stuffin’ Muffins
Yields: 12 regular size muffins
Time: Active: 20 minutes; Inactive (Baking) 12-15 minutes

Ingredients
Butter favored cooking spray (Recommended: PAM)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil,
1 tablespoon butter, at room temperature
1/3 cup chopped bacon (I used center-cut thick bacon)
1 fresh bay leaf (use a dried one if you cannot find fresh bay leaves)
4 ribs celery and greens, from the heart, chopped
1 medium to large yellow onion, peeled and chopped
1 Granny Smith Apple, peeled, cored, quartered and chopped
1 ½ McIntosh apples, peeled, cored, quartered and chopped
2 tablespoons poultry seasoning
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves
7 cups cubed stuffing mix (Recommended: Pepperidge Farm Herbed Stuffing – Cubed)
2 to 3 cups chicken stock, store-bought from the soup aisle

Note:

  • To make these vegetarian eliminate the bacon. Increase the butter by another 1.5 tablespoons. Substitute the chicken stock with vegetable broth/stock.

Method:
1) Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees F. Spray a regular muffin tin (12 muffins), liberally with butter-flavored cooking spray and set aside.
2) Preheat a large skillet (12 inch) over medium high heat. Add extra-virgin olive oil to skillet and 1 tablespoon of butter. When the butter melts, cook the bacon.
3) Add the bay leaf followed by celery, onions and then apples. Sprinkle the vegetables and apples with poultry seasoning, salt and pepper. Cook 5 to 6 minutes or until the vegetables and apples begin to soften.
4) Add the parsley and stuffing cubes to the pan and combine. Moisten the stuffing with chicken broth until all of the bread is soft but not wet. (This was about 2.5 cups of stock for me) Do not over-wet the mixture as this will make it harder for the muffins to stay together. Taste the mixture and adjust salt and pepper as needed.
5) Remove the bay leaf. Use an ice cream scoop to fill and mound up the stuffing in muffin tins.
6) Bake until set and crisp on top, about 12 to 15 minutes. Remove stuffing muffins from the muffin tray and serve hot or room temperature.

Chili-Cheese Wonton Cups

3 Dec

Chili-Cheese Wonton Cups

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year
With the kids jingle belling
And everyone telling you “Be of good cheer”
It’s the most wonderful time of the year
It’s the hap-happiest season of all
With those holiday greetings and gay happy meetings
When friends come to call
It’s the hap- happiest season of all”

    – Andy Williams

Yes the magic of the holidays is right around the corner. Unfortunately, this most wonderful time comes coupled with the stress of entertaining hordes of guests that show up with the holidays. The key to survive is to keep things simple, yet delicious. This is a great time to take some help from your favorite food stores and create semi-homemade menus. The easiest way to entertain is to host a cocktail party with exciting drinks and mouthwatering appetizers. It keeps things uncomplicated, especially since several appetizers can be made and assembled ahead of time.

No cocktail party is ever complete without at least one or two cheese-centric Hors d’oeuvres. While anything with warm, melted cheese tastes delicious presentation is also crucial at these cocktail parties. So instead of a classic cracker or crostini topped with a melted cheese mixture, why not delight your guests by serving up some cheesy-goodness in an edible mini-cup? These chili-cheese wonton cups with a bubbly mixture of cheese brightened up with fresh chives and a hint of earthy cumin is a scrumptious and exquisite looking appetizer.

Chili-Cheese Wonton Cups Recipe
Recipe Adapted from Taste of Home’s Chili-Cheese Wonton Cups
Yields: 24 wonton cups
Time: Active: 10 minutes; Baking 18-20 minutes.

Ingredients:
24 wonton wrappers
Butter-flavored non-stick cooking spray (Recommended: PAM)
1 cup (4 ounces) shredded pepper-jack cheese (See note)
½ cup reduced-fat ricotta cheese
1 large jalapeno (or 2 small ones), seeded and minced
1 ½ tablespoons chives, minced
¼ teaspoon salt
½  teaspoon ground cumin
¼ teaspoon cracked black pepper
5-6 green or black pitted olives, thinly sliced.

Notes:

  • I used regular pepper jack cheese, but you can use a lower fat version or substitute with cheddar cheese.
  • Once you master how to make the wonton cups, you can get creative and play around with the edges of the wonton to create slightly different shapes. The third cup in the picture has a more leafy effect as I played around with the edges to create it.
  • The cups (without the filling) can be made a day in advance and should be stored in an air-tight container.

Method:
1) Pre-heat the oven to 350 degree F. Coat a miniature muffin tin (24 mini muffins) with cooking spray and set aside.
2) Gently press 1 wanton wrapper into each muffin tin to form a cup. Make sure you press the edges down onto the sides, as they have a tendency to flap in while baking – forming a deformed cup. Wonton wrappers can tear easily so be patient and gentle with them. If you have a small tear, do not worry, just pinch it together. Spritz all the cups with the butter-flavored spray and bake for 8-9 minutes until the edges are golden. (Don’t wait till these are fully baked as you will be baking them again after the cheese mixture is filled into them.)
3) While the wonton cups are baking, in a small bowl combine the cheeses, jalapeno, chives, salt, cumin and pepper. Once everything is well combined set it aside.
4) Remove the cups from the oven and spoon the cheese mixture into each of the cups. Top with 1-2 olive slices and bake for 10 minutes or longer until golden brown and bubbly. Serve warm. 

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