Archive | January, 2013

Modern Yoğurtlu Ispanak (Warm Spinach with Yogurt Sauce)

30 Jan

Modern Yoğurtlu Ispanak (Warm Spinach with Yogurt Sauce)

Certain meals are meant to be cherished forever. They are usually associated with memories of special and significant events in our lives – memories that we hold onto forever and conjure up on days that seem less than perfect.

March 23rd, 2008

March 23rd, 2008

About 5 years ago, I unsuspectingly found myself in a small candlelit room with a magnificent table-setting for two. This mysterious jewel of a room is known as “Casablanca Room” (part of Souk Restaurant) and is situated in Mumbai’s renowned Taj Mahal Palace Hotel. It is an exclusive chef’s table for two, overlooking the splendid Gateway of India and the majestic Arabian Sea. Hiding in one corner of this room was the love of my life, who went down on one knee and asked me an extremely crucial question. I instantaneously made the best decision of my life and the rest is history.

That night we affectionately indulged in a fabulous Mediterranean meal that highlighted some of Souk’s best dishes. The recipe below is one of the many dishes my husband and I relished that momentous night. I recently came across this recipe in the “Vegetarian Fare at the Taj Cookbook” and just had to share it on my blog. Cooked spinach is always naked without garlic. Accessorize this marriage of garlic and spinach with garlic yogurt, crispy onions and chili-oil and you have a work of art that tantalizes all the senses.

Modern Yoğurtlu Ispanak (Warm Spinach with Yogurt Sauce)
Recipe Adapted from Souk’s Yogurtulu ispanaki Recipe (Vegetarian Fare at the Taj Cookbook)
Yield:  4 appetizer size portions
Time: Active 30 minutes    Inactive: 1-2 hours (for hanging the yogurt)

Ingredients:
Warm Spinach Salad ingredients
2.2lbs spinach, de-stemmed and shredded
1 ½ tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 ½ small red onions, finely sliced
10 cloves of garlic, minced
Salt to taste
White pepper to taste
½-1 teaspoon chili oil
Garlic yogurt ingredients
½ teaspoon of garlic paste
1 cup of plain full fat yogurt, strained/hung (See note)
Salt and pepper to taste
Crispy Onion Straw ingredients
1 medium red onion, thinly sliced (See note)
Oil for deep frying

See note:

  • Hung Yogurt/Hung curd: Take the 1 cup of full fat yogurt and tie it up in a cheese or muslin cloth. Suspend this cloth over a small container for 1-2 hours, so that all the excess water from the yogurt is strained out and the resulting yogurt is hung curd.
  • The thinner you slice the onions the easier it will be to make crispy onion straws.

Method:
1) Blanch the spinach in batches: Bring water to boil in a large pot. Once the water reaches a rolling boil add a third of the spinach to it and remove it within 1 minute. Remove and squeeze out the excess water. Place this spinach in a pre-prepared ice bath (a large bowl with cold water and lots of ice cubes). Repeat this process for the other 2 batches of spinach. Once the spinach is no longer hot, drain it by squeezing out the excess water and set it aside.
2) In a large skillet heat the olive oil on medium high heat. Sauté the onions till they start to change color and then add the garlic and cook till it turns golden.
3) Add the spinach and sauté for 1-2 minutes. Turn off the heat and add salt and white pepper to taste. Set aside and keep warm.
4) For the garlic yogurt: whisk the yogurt with garlic and add salt and pepper to taste.
5) For the crispy onion straws: Heat the oil on high and deep-fry the sliced onions until they are crispy. Place the fried onions on plate lined with a kitchen towel to absorb the excess the oil.
6) To assemble: Mould the spinach onto individual plates. Use a piping bag to pipe the garlic yogurt or spoon it over the spinach. Top the yogurt with crispy onions and drizzle each portion with some chili oil.

Goat Cheese, Sun-dried Tomato & Arugula Pesto Crostini

15 Jan

IMG_2398Necessity is the mother of invention, and often how a new recipe is born. In fact excess of a perishable ingredient and a desire to do something special with it often inspire tasty solutions in my kitchen!

In short here is the whole truth behind this recipe:

Pickle # 1:  I have a bunch of arugula that I need to use up soon, and I do not feel like eating a salad tonight. Duh, but I  always eat Arugula in my salad!
Solution #1: Make a Pesto out of it!

Pickle #2: A basic Arugula Pesto is a bit too strong by itself on bread.
Solution #2: It could use some sweetness and tang and possibly the addition of neutral and  creamy component. Hmmm…how about topping it with SUN-DRIED TOMATOES & GOAT CHEESE?

Final Result: Aha! The perfect balance of flavors on a slice of crusty bread. It’s a party in your mouth when the sweet, acidic and chewy sun-dried tomatoes balance out the sharp taste of the pesto and the creamy texture of the goat cheese. Pair this with a crisp Sauvignon Blanc and its a lot more elating that a classic Arugula salad!

Goat Cheese, Sun-dried tomato & Arugula Pesto Crostini Recipe
Time: 15-20 minutes
Yield: 3/4 cup of Pesto

Ingredients:
2 cups packed arugula, washed and drained
6 cloves of garlic
1/3 cup of pine nuts, lightly roasted (See note)
1/3 cup of good Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
6 whole black peppercorns
¼ cup of good quality extra virgin olive oil
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper
Salt to taste
1/3-1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes, sliced or diced
1 cup of goat cheese, crumbled
1 loaf French or Italian Baguette (See note)

Note:

  • Pine nuts can be toasted in a non-stick skillet on low heat. Keep an eye on these as they get done quickly and can burn easily. They are ready when they have a light color change and you can smell them.
  • French Baguettes are typically a lot harder than Italian Baguettes. Since I used a French Baguette, I did not toast it up for the Crostini. If you use an Italian Baguette or another softer baguette, you should toast it in the oven or under the broiler to ensure crusty bread that stands up to the toppings without getting soggy too soon.

Method:
1) In a food processor or blender combine the arugula, garlic, roasted pine nuts, Parmesan cheese, peppercorns, olive oil, crushed red pepper and salt to taste. Blend this to a thick paste, or leave some texture if you prefer a chunkier pesto.
2) Slice the baguette into 1 inch slices on a bias.
3) Spread a layer or two of pesto on each slice. Now top each slice with a few sun-dried tomatoes followed by goat cheese crumbles. I was skimpy with the goat cheese, to reduce some of the fat content, but these are even tastier when you are generous with the sun-dried tomatoes and goat cheese!

Healthy Quinoa Upma

10 Jan

IMG_2391

I revealed my love for Indian breakfasts when I shared my Chai Chocolate Truffles Recipe a few weeks earlier. I have always loved a good Upma for breakfast. Upma, is a common South Indian savory breakfast dish made with dry-roasted semolina. Vegetables and spices are added in the cooking process to create a wholesome and delicious breakfast item.

Since I am still repenting for my gluttony in the last few months of 2012, I wanted to recreate my favorite upma with a lower carbohydrate and higher protein substitute for semolina. The ingredient is (yes, yet again!) the super food – Quinoa! Quinoa, turned out to be a perfect textural substitute and a wonderful blank canvas to be enriched by the tempering of mustard seeds and curry leaves in a little ghee (clarified butter).  I only included peas and corn for the vegetable additions to this upma, but you can substitute or supplement them with  cauliflower, green beans and even cabbage. This upma is sure to satisfy your palate without undoing your ongoing New Year’s resolution of eating healthy.

Quinoa Upma Recipe
Time: 25 minutes
Yield: About 3.5 cups

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup quinoa, washed and drained
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1½ teaspoons of ghee/clarified butter (See note)
  • 1 tablespoon mustard seeds
  • 8-10 curry leaves
  • ½ cup red onions, peeled and diced
  • 1-2 green chilies, seeded and diced
  • 1 teaspoon ginger paste
  • ½ cup frozen green peas, defrosted
  • ½ cup frozen yellow corn, defrosted
  • Salt to taste
  • ½ teaspoon red chili powder
  • 2 tablespoons cilantro, finely chopped
  • Freshly squeezed lemon juice to taste
  • 2 tablespoons peanuts, chopped (optional)
  • Store bought mint chutney/cilantro chutney as an accompaniment (optional)

Note:

Method:
1) In a medium pot cook 1 cup of Quinoa along with 2 cups of water, as per the package instructions. When cooked, fluff with a fork and set aside.
2) In another medium non-stick pot heat the oil and ghee on medium heat. Once the oil is heated add the mustard seeds. When the mustard seeds start to sputter, add the curry leaves and cook them for 1 minute.
3) Now add the onions and green chilies and sauté until the onions start to change color. Add the ginger paste and cook for 1-2 minutes.
4) Add the peas and corn along with 1-2 tablespoons of water and cover and cook till the peas and corn are tender.
5) Add ½ teaspoon red chili powder and salt to taste. Now add the quinoa and toss gently to mix all the ingredients into the quinoa.
6) Turn off the heat and remove from the stove-top. Add the cilantro and give the quinoa another quick toss.
7) Season with lemon juice to taste and garnish with crushed peanuts. (Add more salt if you need to at this stage).This can be served by itself or with an accompaniment of store-bought mint or cilantro chutney.

Start your year right: Thai Pomelo Salad

2 Jan

Thai Pomelo Salad

Happy New Year!

It is the time for New Year’s Resolutions; often know as – lofty promises of regular workouts and healthy meals. These resolutions are more than often short-lived pledges that fade away within a few weeks into the year. But since most of us are trying to start our year right, this is a great salad to add to a healthy regimen. Its intense flavors will ensure that even though you’ll soon revert to your old ways you may just crave to eat this salad throughout the year.Pomelo Salad

This salad is inspired by my favorite salad on a recent trip to Thailand. Its star ingredient is the Pomelo, a citrus fruit similar in taste to a pink or Ruby Red grapefruit (great substitutes if you cannot find Pomelos). The fish sauce, Thai basil and birds eye chili add a quintessential Thai flavor to this salad, creating a unique and invigorating salad for any meal of the day.

Thai Pomelo Salad Recipe
Yield: about 3 cups of salad
Time:20 minutes

Ingredients:

Dressing Ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons vinegar
  • ½ teaspoon lime zest
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1 ½ teaspoons light brown sugar
  • 1 finely chopped birds eye chili

Salad Ingredients:

  • 2 cups bite size pieces of Thai pomelo/ South Indian Pummelo or Ruby red grapefruit (See note)
  • ½ cup bean sprouts
  • ¼ small red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 ½ tablespoons finely sliced scallions
  • 1 ½ tablespoons finely chopped Thai basil (See note)
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped cilantro
  • Garnish: Crushed peanuts (optional)
  • Iceberg or Bib lettuce for a serving bed (optional)

Notes:

  • You can use Thai Pomelos, South Indian Pummelos or ruby red grapefruits for this salad. The dressings and all other salad ingredients work well with any of these 3 fruits. Pomelos can be found in Mexican and in Asian markets.
  • Thai Basil can be found in all Asian Grocery stores as well as some of the larger grocery chains.

Method:
1) In a small bowl mix together all the dressing ingredients and set aside for 15 minutes.
2) In a large bowl Toss together all the salad ingredients (except for the peanuts and lettuce).
3) If you do not want a very spicy salad, at this stage remove the birds eye chili from the dressing. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss well till all the ingredients are well coated with the dressing.
4) Refrigerate for 30 minutes (can be refrigerated for a maximum of 12 hours).
5) Serve cold on a bed of lettuce or in lettuce cups and garnish with peanuts if using them.

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