Mattar Paneer Curry

Muttar Paneer2

Mattar Paneer Curry is a North Indian dish made with paneer and peas. The sauce is spicy, creamy and slightly sweet. Mattar Paneer is a dish I make frequently when I entertain, especially when my guests are vegetarian.

To keep the paneer soft and moist, fry the pieces until they turn light brown, remove with a slotted spoon, and put them directly into warm water. Just before they go into the curry, gently dab them with paper towels, to remove as much water as possible.

I think this recipe comes pretty close the popular Indian restaurant versions. I hope you will try it and give me your feedback. You can buy paneer and kasoori methi at Indian grocery stores.

Mattar Paneer
To be ground in a blender
1 cup chopped red onion
2 tablespoons chopped ginger
2 tablespoons chopped garlic
½ cup chopped cilantro

To fry the paneer
14 oz paneer (400 grams)
3 tablespoons oil
5 cups warm water

To make the mattar paneer curry
3 tablespoons oil
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
½ cup chopped tomatoes
2 teaspoons coriander powder
2 teaspoons Kashmiri chilli powder
½ teaspoon turmeric powder
½ teaspoon cumin powder
1 cup fresh or frozen peas
2 cups water
2 teaspoons kasoori methi (dry fenugreek leaves)
2 tablespoons cream
2 tablespoons lemon juice

To be ground in a blender
Grind chopped onion, ginger, garlic, and cilantro in a blender. Set aside.

To fry the paneer
Cut the paneer into small pieces. I cut my paneer into small rectangular pieces. In a non-stick frying pan, over medium heat, add one tablespoon of oil and then add a few pieces of paneer at a time and fry until light brown. Remove and put them directly into warm water. Repeat with the rest of the oil and paneer. Set aside.

To make the mattar paneer curry
Heat three tablespoons of oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. When the oil shimmers add cumin seeds. When they splutter add the ground onion, ginger, garlic, and cilantro. Sauté until it turns light brown and begins to stick to the bottom of the pan. Add the tomatoes, scrape the bottom of the pan well, and fry until the oil separates. Add the coriander, chilli, turmeric and cumin powder. Sauté for one minute and then add the peas. Add water, cover and cook until the peas are done.

In the mean time, drain the paneer pieces and with paper towels gently remove excess water. Add the paneer to the curry. Crush kasoori methi in the palm of your hand and add it to the curry. Add cream and lemon juice. Stir gently and cook for five minutes. Serve mattar paneer with rice, chapatis or naan.

Mint Limeade

Mint Limeade9Are you excited about the upcoming 4th of July celebrations? I am, because this year we will spend the day with our dear friends, the Davids, the Samuels, and the Johns. They know how to put on a show with great food, patriotic decorations, and sparklers.

Last week I shared a simple potato salad recipe that you can make for your 4th of July picnic or barbecue. This week I thought I would share my recipe for Mint Limeade – something to cool you down on a hot summer afternoon.

Whatever your plans may be this 4th of July – have fun and be safe. Happy Birthday, America!

Mint Limeade
For the Simple Syrup
1½ cups granulated sugar
1½ cups water
1 tablespoon lime zest

For the Mint Limeade
40 mint leaves
1 cup fresh lime juice
2 cups simple syrup
4 cups cold water
¼ teaspoon salt
2 cups ice cubes (or crushed ice)
sprigs of mint leaves and lime wedges for garnish

For the Simple Syrup
Bring sugar, water and lime zest to a boil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir until sugar dissolves. As soon as the sugar dissolves, remove from heat and cool. Stain and discard lime zest. Refrigerate until chilled.

For the Mint Limeade
In a large pitcher, add mint leaves. Take the handle of a wooden spoon and gently bruise mint leaves to open it up and let their natural oils give flavor to the drink. Add lime juice, 2 cups simple syrup, 4 cups cold water, salt and ice cubes or crushed ice. Stir and taste for sweet and sour balance. Chill, strain and serve over ice. Garnish each glass with mint leaves and lime wedges.

Potato Salad

Potato Salad3America’s independence day is around the corner and one of our family favorites for 4th of July celebrations is potato salad. I usually use Russet potatoes for my salad but this time I experimented with Yukon gold potatoes instead. I’m happy to report that I really liked the flavor and texture it added to my otherwise simple recipe. The smoked paprika also added great depth of flavor. Try it and let me know if you feel the same as I do.

Happy 4th of July.

Potato Salad
12 medium Yukon gold potatoes (about 3 lbs)
5 eggs
6 cornichons (small pickled gherkins), chopped
3 whole green onions, chopped (use white and light green parts only)
2 stalks celery, chopped
1¼ cups mayonnaise
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon smoked paprika
½ teaspoon black pepper

Wash and boil potatoes in salted water until they are tender when tested with a fork. Drain, cool, peel and chop into bite sized cubes.

Place the eggs in a pot and cover them with cold water. Once the water comes to a boil, cover the pot with a lid and turn off the heat. Let it sit for 15 minutes. Cool, peel and chop them into bite size pieces.

In a large bowl, combine the potatoes, eggs, cornichons, green onion and celery. Add mayonnaise, salt, paprika, and black pepper. Gently stir so that it coats the potatoes, eggs and other ingredients evenly. Refrigerate for at least three hours to allow the flavors to blend. Serve cold or at room temperature.

Vegetable Biriyani with Quinoa

quinoa5
The UN declared 2013 as the “International Year of Quinoa” in recognition of ancestral practices of the Andean people, who preserved quinoa as food for our generation and for generations to come.

I found quinoa at my local Costco and thought I would feature this grain-like seed in my blog today. Quinoa is considered a superfood and valued for it high protein content. It is a good source of dietary fiber and calcium and thus great for vegans who are lactose intolerant. It is also gluten-free.

Wash the quinoa in several changes of water and soak it for 20-30 minutes before you cook with it. It cooks really well in a rice cooker and I use a ratio of one cup quinoa to one and a half cups of water.

Vegetable Biriyani with Quinoa
For the masala mix
2 teaspoons coconut oil
1 inch piece cinnamon, broken into small bits
4 cloves
2 cardamoms
½ cup grated coconut
1 large red onion, roughly chopped
10 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons roughly chopped ginger
3 green chillies, roughly chopped
½ cup coriander leaves, roughly chopped

For the quinoa
3 tablespoons coconut oil
1 teaspoon turmeric
2 teaspoons salt
2 cups quinoa, washed in several changes of water
, soaked for 30 minutes and drained
1 medium carrot, cubed
1 small red capsicum, cubed
1 cup fresh or frozen green peas
3 cups chicken or vegetable stock
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
¼ cup cashew nuts, fried in a little oil

For the masala mix
In a small frying pan, over medium-high heat, add coconut oil and lightly fry cinnamon, cloves and cardamom. Remove and cool. Grind the fried spices and the rest of the ingredients for the masala mix in a blender. Set aside.

For the quinoa
Heat coconut oil in a large pot. Add the masala mix and fry for about five minutes. Add turmeric and the quinoa and fry for another three minutes. Add the vegetables, salt and water and bring to a boil. Once the water boils, turn heat to low. Cover and cook for 15 minutes. Fluff up the quinoa with a fork. Add lemon juice, garnish with fried cashew nuts and serve. Alternately, you can cook the quinoa in a rice cooker.

Thai Salad

Thai salad1Last year I visited my brother and sister-in-law in Thailand. The food was incredible and they made sure that I had an opportunity to taste everything. The only fruit I didn’t taste was durian. Maybe next time!

I thought I would share with you a Thai inspired salad. It’s 100% vegetarian – no fish sauce. The dressing is easy to make and my family loved it. I use maple syrup which gives the dressing an unusual flavor. It’s a great companion to your favorite fiery Thai dish, but compliments non-Thai dishes as well.

Thai Salad
1 head Napa cabbage, shredded (6-7 cups)
1 head purple cabbage, shredded (6-7 cups)
1 large English cucumber, julienned
3 small carrots, peeled and grated
2 cups shelled edamame, cooked
2 spring onions, finely sliced
1 cup roasted peanuts to garnish

Put all the above ingredients, except the peanuts, in a large salad bowl. The recipe for the cilantro and lime dressing is given below.

For the Cilantro and lime dressing:
1 cup lime juice
¼ cup Turbinado sugar
¼ cup maple syrup
2 cups roughly chopped fresh cilantro
1 clove garlic, grated
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
½ cup olive oil
2 teaspoons finely grated lime rind

Blend lime juice, sugar, maple syrup, cilantro, garlic, salt, pepper, and olive oil in a blender until smooth. Remove the dressing into a small bowl and stir in the grated lime rind. Top each serving of salad with two tablespoons of dressing and garnish with roasted peanuts. Serve the remaining dressing on the side, because people always ask for more!

Cauliflower Subzi

Cauliflower Subzi4Spring is here and there is an abundance of fresh vegetables in the grocery stores. I picked up a medium sized cauliflower the other day and made a “subzi” out of it for dinner. Subzi (or subji) simply means vegetable dish and it can be used with any vegetable. My cauliflower subzi turned out well and I thought I would share the recipe with you.

For this dish, I suggest that you use fresh ginger and garlic and crush them using a mortar and pestle. Using bottled ginger and garlic from the grocery store changes the taste of this dish completely. Also, make the extra effort to roast and crush whole black pepper and whole coriander seeds to sprinkle on the dish just before it is done. This extra step gives this cauliflower subzi a unique North Indian flavor.

Cauliflower Subzi
1 medium cauliflower, separated into bite-sized florets
1 cup sliced onion
2 teaspoons crushed garlic (about four or five garlic cloves)
1 teaspoon crushed ginger (about 1/2 inch piece of ginger)
2 small tomatoes, diced
1 teaspoon chilli flakes
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
1 teaspoon coriander powder
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 teaspoon garam masala
3 tablespoons oil
1/2 teaspoon whole black pepper
2 teaspoons whole coriander seeds

In a large pot, set over moderate heat, add three tablespoons of oil. When the oil is hot, add the sliced onion and cook, stirring frequently, until they are soft. Add garlic, ginger, tomatoes, chill flakes, salt, and cumin seeds. Cook for one minute and then add the coriander, turmeric, and garam masala powder. Stir and cook until the oil separates from the tomato-onion mixture.

Add the cauliflower and mix well, stirring occasionally, to make sure that the cauliflower does not stick to the bottom of the pot. Cook for seven to eight minutes or until the cauliflower is done.

In the meantime, place another small frying pan over low heat and gently toast the black pepper corn, and coriander seeds for three minutes. Remove and cool. Put them in a mortar and pestle and crush them to a coarse grind. Sprinkle the crushed pepper-coriander mixture over the cauliflower. Stir gently, cover the dish with a lid, and turn the heat off. This dish goes well with fresh rotis (Indian bread).

Cabbage Thoran

Cabbage ThorenCabbage “thoran” is a dish my mom made often. It is a Kerala specialty and the main ingredients are shredded cabbage and grated coconut. Thoran means dry vegetable dish, in that it does not have a gravy. I am sharing with you a basic thoran recipe. You can switch the star ingredient, cabbage, for French green beans, carrots, or spinach.

My mom was my favorite chef and I loved the food she made for my family. During dinner, she would often tout the health benefits of the vegetables she cooked. When we had cabbage thoran, her lecture would go something like this: “Did you know that the cheap, humble looking cabbage can do wonders for our bodies? It has more vitamin C than oranges. It helps to repair the wear and tear of our bodies and also treats ulcers and certain cancers, while strengthening our immune system.” I am sure my brothers and sister can hear my mom’s voice right now. I catch myself doing the same thing at my table with my children!

My daughter-in-law, Dharti, likes this dish so I find myself buying cabbage more often than I used to. Shredding cabbage is easy to do with a mandoline. In India we used a small stone mortar and pestle to crush the ingredients required for this recipe, but you can use a blender or food processor to do the same job.

Cabbage Thoren
1 small cabbage, finely shredded (about 6-8 cups loosely packed)
1 teaspoons red chilli seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
2 cloves garlic, grated
2 tablespoons chopped shallots
1 cup grated fresh coconut (or grated frozen coconut)
1½ teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon turmeric powder
2 tablespoons coconut oil (or vegetable oil)
½ teaspoon mustard seeds
1 teaspoon black gram dal
6 tablespoons sliced shallots
1 sprig curry leaves
2 green chillies (optional)

Coarsely grind the chilli seeds, cumin seeds, finely grated garlic and 2 tablespoons sliced shallots in a food processor. Two or three pulses should do. Add coconut and turmeric and pulse again so that all the ingredients are coarsely ground.

Wash the shredded cabbage, drain well and put it in a saucepan over medium high heat. Make a well in the center of the cabbage and add the ground ingredients. Cover the ground ingredients it with a little cabbage and put the lid on the pan. Cook for about six minutes. Stir well and if there is water, remove the lid and let the water evaporate. Remove from heat.

Heat oil in a small pan over medium high heat. Add mustard seeds and when they splutter, add the black gram dal and let them brown lightly. Then add the curry leaves and chopped shallots. When the shallots turn light brown pour the seasoning is ready. Pour it over the cooked cabbage. Stir well, garnish with fresh green chillies and serve.

Blueberry Pancakes

Blueberry pancakes3There’s nothing like waking up to pancakes on a Sunday. I wish I could have them more than once a week. I must admit that, for many years, my pancakes were made from a box of Bisquick. This morning, I made some blueberry pancakes from scratch, thanks to the crew from America’s Test Kitchen. And they are simply amazing!

My family knows I love cookbooks so when they visit me they often bring me books. My nephew, Bobby, and his wife, Anna, visited recently from New York and they brought me, The Complete America’s Test Kitchen TV Show Cookbook – 2001-2013. Thanks, kids, I love the book. The blueberry pancake recipe that I share with you today is adapted from this book. So, get in the kitchen and give this recipe a try. I promise, you will not go back to making pancakes from a box!

Blueberry Pancakes
2 cups all purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
2 cups buttermilk
1 egg
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
4 teaspoons vegetable oil
1 cup fresh blueberries

Place the blueberries in a mesh strainer and wash them gently by running cold water over them. Dry the blueberries on a paper towel lined plate.

In a medium bowl whisk the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

Whisk the egg, melted and cooled butter, and buttermilk until combined. Make a small well in the center of the dry flour mixture; pour the milk mixture and whisk very gently until just combined. Don’t over-mix.

Heat a large nonstick pan over medium heat; add 1 teaspoon of oil and turn the pan to coat the entire surface. Pour ¼ cup of the batter onto three spots on the pan; sprinkle 1 tablespoon of the blueberries over each pancake. Cook until large bubbles appear on the surface of the pancake. About two minutes. Turn the pancake’s and cook until golden brown on the other side. Make the rest of the pancakes in the same manner. These pancakes taste best topped with butter and dusted with confectioners’ sugar. Yummy!

Mushroom Soup

Mushroom Soup2A bowl of hot soup is a welcome comfort on cold winter evenings. I make soup for dinner quite often  because it is easy to make, filling, and light enough for an evening meal. The mushroom soup recipe that I am sharing with you today is a basic recipe which can be changed easily with whatever vegetables you have on hand. For example, if you don’t have enough mushrooms, you could add a potato, two carrots, two sticks of celery and make a vegetable soup. Soup and toasted cheese sandwiches are made for each other. Try this recipe and let me know how it turns out. Stay warm!

Mushroom Soup
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
¾ cup minced shallots
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
4 cups chopped button mushroom and stems
4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 cup hot water
1 cup heavy cream
Salt and pepper to taste

Wipe the mushroom clean and slice into ¼ in thick pieces. You can use the stems as well.

Melt butter in a large pot over medium low heat. Add the shallots and sauté until transparent. It will take about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and nutmeg and cook until fragrant. Add the mushrooms and stir well so that the pieces are coated with butter. You can turn the heat up to medium high at this point. Stir once in a while until the mushrooms release their liquid. Reduce the heat to medium low and cover the pot and cook until all the water evaporates.

Add chicken stock or vegetable stock and the hot water. Cover and bring to a simmer, then reduce the heat to low and simmer until the mushroom are fully cooked and tender. It will take about 20 minutes. Let the soup cool.

Puree the soup in a blender until smooth. Put the puree back into the large pot and add the cream. Bring to simmer over low heat. Season with salt and pepper. Garnish with croutons and little blobs of cream.

Fettuccine Alfredo

Fettuccine Alfredo2I love Fettuccine Alfredo. Every time I order it at an Italian restaurant, my kids tease me for not trying something new. I just like the fact that it takes only pasta, butter, cream, Parmigiano-Reggiano, salt, and pepper to create such a heavenly dish! In preparation for this recipe, I tested several from different magazines. After a few modifications, I have finally come up with this version that my kids and I think turned out the best.

When I have unexpected guests, Fettuccine Alfredo is on my dinner menu. Its quick and requires ingredients you probably already have in your pantry and refrigerator. Serve it with thick slices of garlic bread and a hearty tossed salad. Try it and let me know what you think.

Fettuccine Alfredo
1 pound dried Fettuccine
1½ cups heavy cream
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 cups finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
3 tablespoons pasta water
Fresh parsley for garnish, optional

In a saucepan, bring 1 cup heavy cream and butter to a simmer over medium heat. Reserve ½ cup of the cream for later. Lower the heat and simmer gently until the milk and butter mixture reduces to ½ cup. It will take about 15 minutes. Turn off the heat and add the remaining ½ cup of cream. Season with salt and pepper.

Using a large pot, cook the pasta according to the directions on the package. Remember to add salt to the boiling water before you add the pasta. When the pasta is cooked but still firm when bitten, reserve 3 tablespoons of the cooking water, drain the pasta, and put it back into the pot.

In a large, shallow serving bowl add half the finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano. Pour the warm butter and cream mixture over it. Immediately add the hot pasta and the reserved pasta water. Toss well and then sprinkle the other half of the Parmigiano-Reggiano. Garnish with fresh parsley and serve right away.