Tuesday, May 24, 2011

In Season Dessert: Blackberry Crème Cups

Can you tell that I'm on a fresh fruit dessert kick this week?

There's no ice cream or chocolate in the house this week (which nearly never happens) so, craving something sweet yet not that unhealthy, I came up with this lovely fresh and light dessert that can easily be made on a weeknight - just like I did tonight! We have plenty of blackberries on hand since they are in season, and available in proper abundance at grocery stores around here.

Blackberry Crème Cups

Serves 4

1 cup blackberries
1/4 cup white sugar
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
1 cup heavy cream
3-4 drops pure vanilla extract

Blend the blackberries, sugar, and lemon juice in a food processor until smooth. You will now need to discard the seeds (otherwise it would be really annoying to have them in your dessert) so pour the mixture through a mesh strainer, pushing it through with the back of a spoon, like so:

The resulting blackberry puree should now have a sauce-like consistency and will smell like fruit heaven. Set aside about 2 tablespoons of this puree for the topping. Then combine heavy cream and vanilla and whisk for about 3-4 minutes, until stiff peaks form. Gently fold remaining berry puree into cream, then divide into dessert cups. Cover loosely and refrigerate at least 1 hour. To serve, drizzle the reserved 2 tablespoons of blackberry puree over the blackberry crème cups. If desired, garnish with fresh blackberries. Enjoy!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Fresh Strawberries With Mascarpone Cheese, and Chocolate Sauce

An easy, timeless dessert made with fresh, in season, Strawberries, Mascarpone cheese, and a touch of chocolate sauce. Delicious, and not so sinfully unhealthy...am I right?

Fresh Strawberries With Mascarpone Cheese, and Chocolate Sauce

Serves 4

You will need:
16 fresh Strawberries
1/2 cup Mascarpone cheese
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 teaspoon orange zest
optional - chocolate sauce

Mix Mascarpone cheese, honey, and orange zest together in a small bowl.  Slice off the green tops of the strawberries, stand them on their heads and make deep slits in a cross pattern.  Fill each with a spoonful of the Mascarpone mixture (use a piping bag for this to make your life easier!  I usually just put the mixture into a ziploc bag and snip the tip off.)  Serve chilled.  If desired, just before serving, drizzle some chocolate syrup over the top. Enjoy!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Whole Wheat Pasta with Roasted Eggplant and Parmesan Peppercorn Sauce

I don't even know what else there is to say! It was amazing. Easy to make, and healthful.

Whole Wheat Pasta with Roasted Eggplant and Parmesan Peppercorn Sauce

This is really simple to prepare. I used Indian eggplant, which is much smaller in size, just because I had them on hand but regular eggplant sliced about 1/2" thick would work just as well. Just put the eggplant on a cookie sheet coated with cooking spray, brush with olive oil and sprinkle on some salt and pepper, and bake at 425 degrees F for about 10 minutes. Then make the sauce - but really, any pasta sauce will do! Last, cook the pasta, drain, top with eggplant, sauce, and serve. Enjoy!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Som Tam (Thai Salad)

Simple ingredients come together for a fresh and exotic salad.

In college, I spent a lot of time at the home of my very first roommate who ended up becoming a close friend too. Her mother is from Thailand and I had the chance to eat all sorts of delicious homemade Thai food, including something called Som Tam which is a popular Thai salad made with finely julienned raw papaya, thai green chilies, and a few other things. I immediately fell in love with it! A few years ago, my husband and I went to visit my friend and her own family came to visit as well. So I had the opportunity to eat homemade Som Tam again, and this time I actually paid attention to how her mother made it and learned how to make it on my own! She didn't have any raw papaya available at the time so she used cucumbers instead and I have been making it this way very often ever since. My husband and I both really love this salad. It is fresh, very tasty, and spicy. Simple ingredients come together for a really fresh and exotic salad.

Som Tam (Thai Salad)

Serves 8

You will need:
2 cucumbers, medium sized, peeled and finely julienned
2 roma tomatoes, diced
2 thai green chillies (can substitute serrano or jalapenos in a pinch)
3 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
Optional - 1 tablespoon dried shrimp, or dried crab
4 tablespoons fish sauce
4 tablespoons lime juice

Mix everything together in a large bowl and let sit covered in refrigerator until ready to serve. The longer it sits (usually at least one hour or so), the more potent the flavors and the spice! I usually make a large batch of it so we can make the most out of all the time it takes to chop and prep, and get a lot of salad out of it. Enjoy!

Note: Som Tam is traditionally served with sticky rice, which is how we always eat it, and this is available at all asian grocery stores (you steam it in a bamboo steamer, very easy to make.)

Friday, May 13, 2011

Pepper Fried Beef

Carnivore friends, this one is especially for you!

This dish can stand up to two bold claims:  1) the best fried beef ever, and 2) Indian food like you've never had it. My husband - who is non-Indian - ranks this dish in his top five favorite foods of all time. In fact, he often asks, "when are we having that charred beef thing?"  Much to his credit, it didn't take him long to learn the actual Malayalam name for the dish, and he says it so beautifully!

I hope you will cherish the dish, and savor it as much as I do!

I hardly ever cook with beef in the house, except for this fried beef dish, and ground beef occasionally. This is essentially my mother's recipe, but when I make this I always leave out a couple of ingredients from the traditional Kerala version either due to lack of easy availability here, or my own laziness to go find them, or some combination of both! By my standards this dish takes a painfully long time to put together (about one hour total, between prep time, and cooking time) but it is sooooooooooooo worth the time. An added bonus - you can make bulk batches of it to freeze in smaller portions and later just fry each portion when needed.

Pepper Fried Beef (Erachi Olathiyathu - in Malayalam, my native tongue)

Serves 4

You will need:
Beef cubes 1 lb
Red or white onion diced ¼ cup
Garlic, 3 cloves crushed
Ginger root ½” piece
Unsweetened Coconut flakes 1 tbsp
Salt, 1 teaspoon or to taste
Veg oil ¼ cup, divided
¼ cup white vinegar

Dry spices:
Coriander powder 1 heaped tbsp
Red chilli powder 1 heaped tsp
Black pepper powder 1 heaped tsp
Cumin powder ½ tsp
Aniseed ½ tsp
Cloves 2
Cinnamon, 1 small piece

In a food processor, or using a mortar and pestle, grind together all the dry spices with the vinegar and keep aside. Then grind ginger/garlic and keep aside.
Fry onions in a skillet in very little oil, until golden brown. Add the ginger/garlic paste and sauté till the raw smell goes away. Add the dry ground spices and sauté for a couple of mins. Add coconut and sauté. Add the beef and stir well. Add salt to taste. Add about a cup of water, or enough to cover half the beef, cover the skillet and cook on low until beef is done, about 30 minutes. (Note: If you have a pressure cooker, using it for this is a much faster cooking method than using a skillet. If you prefer to use a pressure cooker, add just enough water to cover and cook the beef and pressure cook till done – normally takes about 15 minutes after first steam).
When cooked, remove beef with a slotted spoon, and discard any remaining liquid. (Note: at this point you can freeze the beef in baggies and fry a little at a time when you need to.)
To fry, heat up the oil in a clean, dry, skillet and fry the beef on medium-high until crispy, and dark brown, almost black in color. Serve with rice and any other side dishes. Enjoy!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Baingan Bharta (Spicy Roasted Eggplant)

Baingan Bharta is an extremely popular Indian dish that is flavorful and fragrant. The main ingredient is eggplant (baingan) roasted then cooked with an array of spices. Usually, the eggplant is roasted over an open flame (gas stove owners rejoice!) but I have adapted it to the electric stovetop in my new abode.

Baingan Bharta (Spicy Roasted Eggplant)

Serves 2

You will need:
1 whole Eggplant (about 1/2 lb)
1 large roma tomato
1/2 cup finely chopped red onion
1 serrano pepper, finely chopped
1/4 inch piece of ginger
3 tablespoons veg oil
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon coriander powder
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon red chili powder
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoon chopped parsley or cilantro to garnish

Preheat oven to 400 F, and bake the eggplant whole on a cookie sheet for about 45 minutes, rotating it every fifteen minutes so it bakes evenly on all sides. Let it cool, then peel off the skin and dice the eggplant into 1" cubes. Set aside.
Heat the oil in a skillet on medium high and cook the onions until translucent, about three minutes. Add the cumin seeds and let them sputter. Add the chopped serrano pepper, ginger, and cook for about two minutes, just until the peppers have softened through. Then add the coriander powder, turmeric, red chili powder, and salt and let it cook for about a minute. Add the tomatoes, and tomato paste and mix well, let it cook for about two minutes. Then add the eggplant let it cook on medium heat for about seven or eight minutes. Keep stirring and mashing down the while it cooks. Garnish with chopped cilantro or parsley. Serve with any kind of carb like rice or naan. Enjoy!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Shrimp Bisque

Since we moved here last month, we have been thoroughly indulging ourselves in the abundance of good, fresh (and mostly sustainable) seafood available at local grocery stores...yay! In addition, the Pacific Northwest is experiencing unseasonably cold weather for spring.  So, we are making the most of both situations by savoring this hot soup, safely tucked away indoors on this cold misty night.  Thank God for these comforts.  So give this shrimp bisque a go, if you have a craving for hot soup or something with seafood that is truly yummy! The flavors are delightful, and it is sure to warm you up.

Shrimp Bisque

Serves 4

You will need:
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup onion, finely minced
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 lb fresh raw shrimp, well-cleaned and finely minced
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 cup white wine (I used Riesling)
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
2 cups seafood or any other kind of stock
2 heaped tablespoons tomato paste
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup skim milk
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
fresh parsley, minced - optional

Heat the olive oil in a soup pot over medium heat. Add onions and saute until translucent, about 3 minutes. Then add garlic and saute another minute, just until the raw smell goes away. Add shrimp and cayenne pepper and saute for about 3 minutes. Then add the white wine and let cook for 2-3 minutes. Add the butter to the pot and let it melt through. Then add flour, whisking constantly over medium heat until roux becomes light brown (about 2 minutes). Add the cream, whisking constantly to ensure mixture stays smooth. Slowly add the stock, milk, tomato paste, salt, and pepper and cook over medium heat, stirring well, until very hot but not boiling. Garnish with fresh minced parsley if desired. Enjoy!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Eat More Sprouts!

I have a whole lot of them in my refrigerator right now and, looking for something different than putting them on my turkey sandwich, I came up with this very easy Sprouts Salad - which, of course, has a lovely Indian flair! This can be a stand-alone salad, or a topper on tortilla chips. You can read news and research articles all day long about how nutritionally rich sprouts are and basically just so good for you. So, why not eat some? And this recipe is so easy, and fresh and good and has just the right amount of spice, and so yummy! The yogurt in this gives it a lovely creamy texture, like "raita" (for those unfamiliar with Indian food, "raita" is basically a yogurt-based condiment that you eat with spicy foods to give your stomach lining a bit of a cooling element!)

Do try it.

Easy Sprouts Salad

Serves 2
1 cup sprouts
1/4 finely chopped onion
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1/2 cup plain nonfat yogurt
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 tsp. dried dill
1 teaspoon coriander powder
1/2 teaspoon red chilli powder
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
salt + fresh ground black pepper, 1/4 tsp each or to taste
1 roma tomato - diced

Toss all ingredients together except the diced tomato, stirring gently to combine. Fold in tomato at the very end. Enjoy!

P.S.: Sprouts are available abundantly in grocery stores right now...or, better yet, sprout your own stuff! This is a very helpful site when it comes to "all things sprouts": http://sproutpeople.org/

getting upset over little things

It has been a day filled with upsets. Tiny things causing serious damage to my mood and general productivity for the day. There has been something irritating happening pretty steadily, just about every hour. The most upsetting of all was that one of my favorite bracelets broke. It's a cheapie but holds fond memories for me since my mom bought it for me at one of those kitschy $1 shops on a fun-filled day trip to Wisconsin Dells last year. Actually, they are three separate bracelets that I strung together and today all of a sudden it came apart…just like you see in those movies where the string breaks and all the beads fall on the floor…

Why is it that the littlest things make me the most upset and end up getting so much of my attention? Actually, it makes sense when I think about it, since it's the little things that sometimes need the most patience. And those who know me well know that I completely lack patience. Lord, give me patience to finish this week!