Monday, January 31, 2011

Mushroom Bisque With Artichoke Hearts

There is a terrific restaurant, in my little corner of Wisconsin, that serves the most delicious Mushroom Bisque. I have tried to replicate their recipe, but it is simply never the same. Rather than harassing them for the recipe, I decided to make my own version with artichoke hearts in it. And it is really good!

Mushroom Bisque

You will need:
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup flour
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 small white onion, finely chopped
1 1/2 cups mushrooms, roughly chopped (any kind, or a mixture of different mushrooms)
2 tablespoons good white wine (I used Chardonnay)
1 cup vegetable, or chicken stock
3/4 cup cream, or half and half
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup finely chopped canned artichoke hearts
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
1/2 teaspoon dried dill
1 teaspoon dried parsley
salt if needed

Melt butter in a soup pot. Turn heat to low, add onions and chopped garlic. Stir until translucent, about 2 minutes on low heat, careful not to burn. Lower heat to simmer, then add flour, and stir. Add mushrooms and allow flour mixture to coat it well. Add the dried herbs, pepper, white wine and stir.  Add the stock, milk, and cream. Allow soup to simmer for about 30 minutes, stirring every once in a while. Puree the soup either in a food processor in batches, or using an immersion blender. Add pureed soup back to pot on low heat, then add chopped artichoke hearts. Let sit on low heat for 10 minutes. Adjust salt if needed (I didn't need to add any). Serve warm. Enjoy!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Coconut Ice Cream

This is the easiest homemade ice cream I have ever made. And it is exotic! Do try it.

I have so many fond "ice cream" memories from my childhood (see some of my earlier posts: kulfi, rocky road), and among my most treasured are those involving "natural" ice cream. There was an ice cream shop in Bangalore that had only "natural" ice cream, with fresh fruit flavors like guava, watermelon, apple, and coconut. We visited this shop at least once whenever I was there during my school holidays. The ice cream was fresh and tasty, it never failed to please!

I was taken down this ice cream memory lane when I stumbled onto a recipe for Coconut Ice Cream in one of my Asian cookbooks. I tried it, varied it a little, and am now enjoying it! It is creamy yet light, tastes fresh, and so delicious. Here is the recipe:

Homemade Coconut Ice Cream

You will need:
1 14oz can sweetened condensed milk
1 14oz can "lite" coconut milk
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Chill both cans in the refrigerator overnight, or at least 4 hours (until well chilled). Whisk contents of both cans together in a large bowl, adding in salt. Whisk at least 2 to 3 minutes by hand, until well combined. Pour into shallow containers with tight fitting lids and freeze covered about one hour, just until ice crystals have started forming around the edges. Remove from freezer, empty into a large bowl and whisk again. Pour back into shallow pans and freeze for another hour. Repeat this whisking process at least once more. This is what creates that oh-so-light ice-cream texture. When you've whisked twice, freeze in covered containers overnight, or at least six hours. Serve with toasted coconut chips, or flakes. Enjoy!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011


Here is a quick, easy dish to make with ground beef, packed with delicious Indian flavors. You can disguise it for picky kids - or adults - as taco meat, burrito filling, or sloppy joes  :)

Kheema is a very popular Indian dish that you can make with just about any ground meat: beef, turkey, lamb, whatever you like. I happen to have ground bison on hand so I used that for dinner tonight, but my recipe below is for lean ground beef. There are so many different ways to prepare Kheema (depending on who you ask, where they are from, and who their grandmother is) but here is the recipe we like:

Kheema (Spicy Ground Meat)

You will need:
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon finely chopped ginger
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 lb lean ground beef
2 tablespoons coriander powder
1 tablespoon cumin powder
1 tablespoon garam masala
1/2 teaspoon salt, or more as needed
1 medium tomato, finely chopped
1/4 cup peas, thawed if using frozen
1 tablespoon lime juice
cilantro leaves for garnish

Heat the oil in a wok, on medium heat, then add the cumin seeds. When cumin seeds start sputtering, add onion, ginger and garlic and fry for about a minute. Add meat, all the spices, and salt to taste. Cook until meat has browned well - about 6 or 7 minutes. Then add the chopped tomatoes and peas and cook until tomatoes have softened, about 3 or 4 minutes. Remove from heat, stir in lime juice. Garnish with cilantro leaves, and serve hot. It can be served with your carb of choice - flatbread, over rice, or as a fun alternative to taco meat, burrito filling, or sloppy joes! We had ours filled in Dosas (a thin Indian crepe-like food) for dinner tonight, pictured below, another recipe for another day!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Spiced Pretzel Sticks

I made this super-easy snack for a meeting today. Tasty, takes less than ten minutes of your time, so simple to put together at the last minute (as I usually do), and probably *slightly* better for you than a family size bag of chips :)

Spiced Pretzel Sticks

You will need:
1 envelope Ranch salad dressing mix
1 tablespoon red chilli powder
2/3 cup vegetable oil
2lb bag of pretzel sticks (or any other snack size pretzels)

Combine oil, ranch mix, and red chilli powder and whisk together well. Toss with pretzel sticks in a large bowl, and let marinate for at least fifteen minutes, stirring every once in a while. Spread pretzels out on a cookie sheet and bake in a pre-heated oven at 350 degrees F for 10 minutes, turning once halfway through. Enjoy!

Friday, January 21, 2011

International Cooking Club, And Chana Masala

A few months ago, a friend of a friend invited me to join an international cooking club that was just being formed in our town. That's right - a cooking club, right here in my little corner in the middle of nowhere, Wisconsin. Who knew my little town of about four thousand-ish could be so cosmopolitan? :) It is not easy to meet new people in this town, so this club was really a huge answer to prayer! Anyway, there are now about ten of us, representing as many countries, and we each take turns demonstrating recipes from our home country, and generally sharing our the food culture with the others. Such fun!

Our next meeting is this Saturday, and it will be my turn to showcase a little bit of India. But, where to even start? Indian food is so diverse. You step fifty or so miles this side or that side, and it's like you're in a whole other country..the language is different, customs are different, the food is different, the clothes can be get the idea, right? I really hope to take more turns in the future, so I can at least skim the surface and show a few more dishes.

Now, there are a few rules so we can accommodate everyone's dietary needs...for instance, no meat, vegetarian stuff only, and limited dairy products. So, I could immediately kiss goodbye to the idea of showing off my beloved fried fish, or any of my favorite chicken curry recipes. The rules are probably a helpful thing for me, in any case, because I was having way too much trouble picking from among my favorite dishes. However, one of the four dishes I am choosing to show is this Chana Masala. This savory concoction of chick peas (garbanzo beans) and spices goes with just about any carbs you can get your hands on......rice, sliced bread, naan, whatever. It is a home favorite, and the ingredients are easily available. I can't wait to show it at cooking club on Saturday. Here is the recipe:

Chana Masala
(Chick Peas Simmered In Spicy Gravy)

You will need:
1 can Chick peas (Garbanzo beans)
3/4 cup finely chopped onion
1/2 cup finely chopped tomato
2 tablespoons coriander powder
1 teaspoon red chilli powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons veg oil
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1 teaspoon butter
1 1/2 cups of water
1 teaspoon lemon juice
cilantro leaves for garnish

Serves 4.

Rinse and drain chick peas and set aside. Heat oil in a saucepan on medium heat. Once the oil is hot, add the mustard seeds and allow them to 'pop'. Add the chopped onions and saute till translucent. Add the chopped tomato and saute. Add coriander powder and red chilli powder and mix well. Stir in the butter. Once the butter has melted in, add the water and let the whole thing come up to a boil. Then, add the chick peas and salt and mix well. Lower heat to medium and let cook for about 5 minutes. When it starts to thicken, add the lemon juice. Stir, and remove from heat. Enjoy!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Jalapeno Chicken Soup

My husband got sick with a cold this past weekend. Needless to say, he and I have been eating a lot of soup over the past few days. Particularly chicken soup. Not that there's anything wrong with soup in general, but when it comes to chicken soup there's only so much I can take.

So what do you do to make your chicken soup less boring, and different? You dig out the jalapenos from the vegetable crisper, cut them up, and throw them in the soup along with a little lime juice, cilantro, and corn and voila, instant chicken soup makeover and, it has become Mexican! This soup cooks up very quickly, and not only is it better than ordinary chicken soup, it is also better for your cold (the added heat from the jalapenos will help clear out one's sinuses). The argument for this soup to be called Mexican is fairly slim - granted - but I'll take any excuse to have a Margarita with dinner. How do you like that?

So, here's the soup recipe:

Jalapeno Chicken Soup

You will need:
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 cups red or white onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 jalapeno pepper, minced (don't deseed - it's really not that much hotter with the seeds)
1/2 tsp black pepper
2 cups shredded cooked chicken breast
5 cups chicken broth
1 1/2 cups of frozen corn, thawed (you can substitute hominy if you prefer)
2 tablespoons lime juice
2 tablespoons cilantro leaves

Serves 4.

Heat olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onions, saute until translucent, about 2 minutes. Add garlic and jalapeno, saute until softened, about 2 minutes. Add chicken, black pepper, and broth and bring the whole thing up to a boil. Once boiling, lower heat to simmer, cover and let simmer for about 5 minutes. Then add the corn, cover and let simmer another 10 minutes. Stir in the lime juice just before serving. Serve hot with a couple of cilantro leaves. Enjoy!

Note: this soup is fantastic served with tortilla chips, which is exactly how we ate it for dinner tonight. Feel free to add noodles, or any other veggies you want...go ahead, play with it, make it your own :)

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Salt And Pepper Roasted Chicken

My only new year's resolution get organized. De-clutter, minimize, simplify. That is my motto. The point of success, ideally, will be when I throw out most of what I own to Goodwill. But I have settled for just getting rid of the junk that is in my hall closet and basement.

At this point, you may be wondering..."what the heck does this have to do with Chicken?"  I promise I have a point, just stick with me.

There is nothing that should be quite as basic as a roast chicken. But...I have been wayyy too guilty of having rubbed, sprinkled, stuffed, and basted my chickens with all sorts of things, unnecessary things, often too many things, and having done things to chickens that the poor creatures have imagined only in their worst nightmares? I have had this beautiful, locally raised 4lb roasting chicken sitting in my freezer for a month, knowing I would want to roast it at some point soon...and in the space of that time I have come up with about ten or fifteen ideas for roasting this choice bird. All of those ideas involved way too many ingredients, stuffings, and brushings. So, I figured, let's de-clutter this! I vowed that this time it would be different - and with my new decluttering  motto gave me just the boost I needed.

And I'm happy to say it was successful. A little Kosher salt, pepper, butter.....ahhhhh. Decluttered to tasty, moist, and crispy brown-ness. We had ours for dinner tonight with parley potatoes, and cous cous.

Salt And Pepper Roasted Chicken

You will need:
1 tablespoon Kosher salt
1 tablespoon Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons butter, softened to room temperature
1 roasting chicken (3-4lbs)

Combine salt and pepper in a small bowl and set aside. Discard neck, giblets and other yucky stuff from chicken. Truss the chicken, then pat dry with paper towels (the dryer the outside of the bird, the more beautifully it browns), then place in the roasting pan. Rub the butter all over the outside of the chicken, stuffing a little bit of the butter into the "pockets" between the skin and breastmeat, and putting some into the cavity. Then sprinkle the salt and pepper all over the chicken. Add a little of any kind of liquid to the roasting pan, to keep from drying out. I poured 1 1/2 cups of chicken stock, and 1 1/2 cups of dry white wine - this made a beautifully flavored gravy later. Bake at 425 degrees F for 15 minutes, then baste. Lower oven temperature to 375, then bake for an additional 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until chicken reaches an internal temperature of 180 degrees D, basting at 15 minute intervals. Let the chicken rest for at least 20 minutes before carving, while you make a gravy out of those delicious peppery pan drippings. Enjoy!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Oatmeal...My Journey From "Eww" To "Yum!"

When I was a little girl, I remember oatmeal ("oats", or "porridge", as it was commonly referred to in India) being the most unpleasant food that one could conceive of eating - to be quite frank - an utterly disgusting breakfast that only old people ate. I turned my nose up at it. The odd thing is, I'm quite sure that as a child I only tasted it once....and I don't even have much memory of that experience, it had to be before I was six or seven years old.

The first time I ate oatmeal as an adult was three years ago, almost exactly to this day. My husband and I were getting ready for our first trip to India as a married couple, and I picked up a whole lot of Quaker instant oatmeal to take to my grandfather, who loves this stuff. While we shopped for it, my husband asked me why we never had oatmeal at home. So I gave him that "are you nuts?" look (wives, you know what I mean), and he immediately tells me that this oatmeal is actually really good, and probably nothing like the oatmeal I remembered from my childhood, and therefore had to at least try it. I'll try ANYTHING, at least once (as an adult, anyway), so I did. And, boy, was I mistaken as a kid. This was amazing! The instant stuff, apples and cinnamon or something like that. But still, delicious!

Oatmeal has become this special thing, a food that may be common to some but will always make me think of that stubborn little kid I used to be, my grandfather, and my husband...and how all these characters and memories have woven this beautiful collective experience for me. Of course, now my taste in oatmeal is entirely more "mature" and I'm proud to say that I have since developed a passable comfort-level in cooking the old fashioned, stove top variety (from scratch, mind you!) and look forward to a hearty bowl of oatmeal for breakfast fairly often. The recipe that follows is one of my most cherished ways to eat it. I would love to hear about your favorite ways to prepare and eat oatmeal!

Cranberry Walnut Oatmeal
with cinnamon and brown sugar

You will need:
1 cup old fashioned rolled oats
2 1/4 cups milk
pinch of cinnamon
pinch of salt
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon dried cranberries
1 tablespoon chopped walnuts

Serves 2.

Warm the milk in a saucepan on medium heat until bubbles form around the edges. Add the oats and salt, and let cook on medium-low heat for seven to eight minutes, stirring constantly. Around the two minutes remaining mark, stir in cinnamon and brown sugar, and mix well to combine. Add cranberries and walnuts, remove from heat, and let sit covered for 1 minute. Serve immediately. Enjoy!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Creme Brulee

My husband gave me a brulee torch for Christmas this year. So, I am making Creme Brulee :)

While scouring recipes for Creme Brulee, I learned a few things:
1) You don't have to have a blow torch to make this, you can simply use the broiler in your kitchen oven. (But don't tell my husband that!) It takes some extra planning ahead on your part, but it's definitely doable. I will outline both methods in the below recipe.
2) This is a great make-ahead type of dessert. Of course, if you have a blow torch, you can leave the fun of caramelizing for later, do it in front of your dinner guests :)

This is the easiest recipe for Creme Brulee that I found. Here you go:

Vanilla Creme Brulee

You will need:
6 large egg yolks
6 tablespoons sugar
1 tsp good vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups whipping cream
6  teaspoons sugar

Preheat oven to 325°F. Whisk yolks and 6 tablespoons sugar together. Add vanilla. Whisk cream into the sugar, a little at a time. Pour mixture into six ramekins. Arrange in 13x9x2-inch baking pan. Pour enough hot water into pan to come halfway up sides of dishes. Bake approximately 35-40 minutes until the custard is set.  Do not overbake or your custard will be rubbery.  Remove the pan from the oven and remove ramekins from the water.  Allow to cool before placing in refrigerator. Chill overnight.
If you have a kitchen torch: evenly sprinkle a teaspoon of sugar atop each custard, and caramelize on medium-low for about 20 seconds, or until evenly browned.
If you do not have a kitchen torch: Two hours before serving, preheat broiler. Evenly sprinkle a teaspoon of sugar atop each custard. Place dishes on small baking sheet. Broil until sugar just starts to caramelize, rotating sheet for even browning, about 2 minutes. Chill until caramelized sugar  hardens, about 2 hours.


Sunday, January 2, 2011

Chocolate Wontons

Happy New Year everyone!

In the flurry and frenzy of  Holiday get-togethers and parties, where sugary treats flow like water, I have been trying to put extra thought into bringing something unusual to the table (pardon the pun). In the meantime, my husband and I are enjoying the experiments! I settled on Chocolate Wontons for New Year's Eve.

This truly decadent dessert has every component necessary to stop one's heart. Fudge sauce, and walnuts, tucked nicely in a wonton wrapper, then deep fried to crispy perfection and dusted with icing sugar. Can you say, heart-attack on a plate? Oh, so delicious. But best eaten sparingly :)

Chocolate Wontons

There is no real "recipe", because it is just that simple. You can use anything you like. A hershey kiss filling, is just as yummy as putting half of a lindt truffle in there :) Or you can make it like I did:

Fill each wonton wrapper with - 1 tsp fudge sauce, a sprinkling of chopped walnuts. Seal edges with a bit of water, fry to golden brown, then dust with powdered sugar. Serve hot. Enjoy!