Friday, April 30, 2010

Sopapilla Cheesecake Pie

April 28th 2010

And rounding up the Tex-Mex series is this dessert. This is easy to make, has a cheesecake like filling and a nice crust to go with it. Like the crowded streets clear for the President, all the food in your stomach will clear and make way for the dessert, the king of foods. [Quoting the famous Tenali Raman].

Makes enough for about 8-10 people easily. Tastes even better the next day when you have no one to share it with :)

Difficulty level : Easy

Time: 15 min (prep time), 30-35 min (making time)

  • 2 ( 8 oz) packages Cream Cheese, softened
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon Mexican vanilla extract ( I ended up using pure vanilla extract)
  • 2 ( 8 oz) cans refrigerated crescent rolls
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup butter at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup honey (optional)
 Method de Preparation
  1. Preheat an oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease a 9x13 inch baking dish with butter from the wrapper. Don't waste it!
  2. Beat the cream cheese with 1 cup of sugar and the vanilla extract in a bowl until smooth.
  3. Unroll the cans of crescent roll dough, and use a rolling pin to shape each piece into 9x13 inch rectangles. Press one piece into the bottom of a 9x13 inch baking dish. The crescent roll is just that, a roll, so unroll it and then spread it out.
  4. Evenly spread the cream cheese mixture into the baking dish, then cover with the remaining piece of crescent dough. 
  5. Stir together 3/4 cup of sugar, cinnamon, and butter. Spread the mixture over the top of the cheesecake. Make sure you powder the cinnamon well, else you will be left with pieces you bite into.
  6. Bake in the preheated oven until the crescent dough has puffed and turned golden brown, about 30 minutes. 
  7. And it is really ready at this stage. The recipe calls for drizzling honey on the top which I skipped because I felt it would be too sweet. 
  8. Cool completely (~ 1 hr at least) and then cut into squares, rectangles, hearts or circles and serve.
Chef's Tip: I think this would go well with a dollop of whipped cream, did not have any, but next time :P But if you are watching your weight or stuff, I can understand but the dessert will not. So please please eat a piece!

Variations: This is a heavy dessert but if you want more cheesecake filling then use one more pack of cream cheese. 

Source: Original recipe from


Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Vegetarian Burrito

April 28th 2010

Another Tex-Mex entrée, the Mr's favorite - the big and bad Burrito! The main modification to this and others served in restaurants is the fact that I toast/roast the tortilla so that the outer skin is also crispy; unlike usually the tortilla the burrito is made in is soft.  We love the light crispness that comes with warming it up on the pan. So if you prefer it the other way,then don't roast it. 

Before you go further make sure you can open your mouth wide enough and say aahhhhh to be able to eat this, else practice till you can and then proceed!

Difficulty level : Easy

Time: 15 min (prep time), 10 min (making time)

  • Cooked white rice 
  • Chopped onions and tomatoes 
  • Chopped Cilantro
  • Lime
  • Vegetarian Refried Beans
  • Chopped Spring Onions 
  • Store bought flour tortillas
  • Mexican Blend cheese (vary per taste)
  • Chile con Queso
  • Butter (to spread)
  • Taco bell sauce (fire, mild, hot)- optional
  • Sour cream (optional)
  • Guacamole (optional)
  • Salsa (optional)
 Method de Preparation
  1. Keep all ingredients ready so that you can assemble the burrito quickly.
  2. Heat a pan and slight warm tortilla on both sides with a bit of butter, till it is browns a bit.
  3. Take tortilla and place on counter. Assemble in center- all the ingredients (beans, rice, veggies, cilantro). Add a spoon of the Chile con Queso and sprinkle some cheese and finally a dash of lemon juice. Add the taco bell sauce here if you like.
  4. Keep ingredients in the center and roll the tortilla into a tight burrito. If you don't know how or don't succeed the first time it is OK. But remember to not curse the Qdoba employee who fumbles with your extra large burrito next time you go there. It hapeens to the best of us :P
  5. Serve as is or with sour cream and guacamole and some salsa.
Chef's Tip: The next time you eat at taco bell, get some extras of their sauces and keep in the pantry and use when you make your quesadillas and burritos for the authentic Tex-Mex taste :D. Use the Chile con Queso, it is goooooodddddddddd!

Variations:  Skip the tortilla and serve it as a naked burrito. Use pinto or black beans instead of refried beans.

Vegetarian Quesadilla

April 28th 2010

Continuing the Tex-Mex series, this is quick, easy and tasty. You can customize the veggies per liking or just use plain cheese and make a cheese quesadilla. Without further adieu, here is the recipe. 

Difficulty level : Easy

Time: 15 min (prep time), 10 min (making time)

  • Store bought flour tortillas
  • Chopped Veggies ( I used red peppers and onions) - one can add spinach, green peppers, mushrooms,spring onions etc.
  • 1/2 or 1/4 cup Mexican Blend cheese (vary per taste)
  • Oil
  • Salt
  • Butter (to spread)
  • Taco bell sauce (fire, mild, hot)- optional
  • Sour cream (optional)
  • Guacamole (optional)
 Method de Preparation
  1. Chop the onions and peppers finely, drizzle some oil and salt and grill in the top rack of the oven on broil setting (low). Watch constantly as it can burn easily. Maybe about  5 min. Keep aside.
  2. Slightly grease one side of the flour tortilla with butter and heat on the pan, repeat on both sides.
  3. When slightly browning on one side, layer with cheese and then veggies and maybe one more layer of cheese, depending on your cholesterol level and then fold in a semi-circle and grill well, till cheese melts and both sides brown well.
  4. Remove and cut in triangles and serve with sour cream, guacamole and salsa.
Chef's Tip: The next time you eat at taco bell, get some extras of their sauces and keep in the pantry and use when you make your quesadillas and burritos for the authentic Tex-Mex taste :D

Friday, April 23, 2010

Creamy Tomato Basil Marinara

April 21st 2010

If you have not heard enough about our love for cheese, then here is another cuisine that only reinforces why. What is not to like in Pizzas and Pastas and their relatives. What is not to like is the fact that I have not been to Italy and not even married to an Italian and that sucks. All in good time I suppose.

People who primarily like spicy food sometimes cannot appreciate Italian food. They easily dismiss it as bland. But there is so much more to food than just hot spices like the flavors you get from the Italian seasonings and the richness of cheese itself for instance. I am not a big fan of just plain marinara but I like this version and Prego's creamy sauces that you can use off the shelf.

I had leftovers of mushrooms and olives and I have used them in this recipe, but you can make the sauce plain without those and use them with any pasta you like. Additionally I skipped garlic yesterday because I did not want too many flavors as I was going to use this with the spinach-cheese ravioli from Costco.

This is quick and easy and will want you coming back for more and more.  Enough said!

Difficulty level : Easy

Time: 5 min (prep time), 10 min (making time)

  • 1/2 large onion chopped finely
  • 1 1/2 cup tomato puree
  • 1/2 cup chopped black olives
  • 3/4 cup chopped mushrooms
  • 7-8 basil leaves chopped finely
  • 2 ounces butter
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 3-4 tbsps half and half or whipping cream
  • 1/4 cup shredded Parmesan
  • a pinch of salt (to taste)
  • Italian Spices ( Oregano/Thyme/Tarragon)-optional
 Method de Preparation
  1. On medium high heat, melt butter. 
  2. Once it is done, add the onions, sauté for a few min. Add the olives and the mushrooms and sauté some more till cooked well.
  3. Add the tomato puree and allow the raw smell to go away and cook some more.
  4. Add the milk and half and half. The quantity of this can be varied depending on how thick you want your sauce to be.
  5. Add chopped basil, allow everything to come together. Savor the flavor and think of Don Corleone from Godfather. 
  6. Add the salt and cheese and turn off gas. Serve over pasta or ravioli as your please. 
  7. Sprinkle some Italian seasoning and Parmesan right before you dig in like the servers do in Italian restaurants wearing the whitest of aprons. 
Chef's Tip: Don't let sauce sit for too long, it will thicken. Try to cook pasta and start on sauce once you have dropped the pasta in the water for cooking. The timing will be about right. Go for the garlic if you are using just pasta and not ravioli.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Chile Con Queso

April 19th 2010

If Indian is our favorite cuisine, Mexican is not far behind at all. The Mr. has a very very passionate affair with cheese in all forms and spices don't hurt him either. And while everything we eat here might he America's Mexican versions, we love it. I say this because not all Indian restaurants depict true Indian dishes and mostly border towards North Indian sabjis. Same I think is true with other cuisines too. We found this to be true when we traveled to China and realised that our favorite Chinese dishes were only available in "P F Changs" and they were not so Chinese in the first place.

But any food that is pleasing to the palate works for us. Chips, Dips and Salsa are favorite starters in most Mexican restaurants especially in most cases the chips and salsa are on the house. I have even read that you can judge the quality of the restaurant by the quality and freshness of their salsa and I think there is a lot of truth to that. And the bean and/or queso dip has always been our favorite.

So when I saw the recipe for this version of the Chile Con Queso, I had to give it a try. And in all modesty I say that this beats any restuarant queso dip I have tried so far hands down! The original has meat in it, and I have modified it to be vegetarian. This is first of my Mexican recipe series that I will posting over the next few days/weeks.

Difficulty level : Easy

Time: 10 min (prep time), 20 min (making time)

  • 32 ounces weight Velveeta Cheese Loaf ( found in the Cheese section, non-refrigirated)
  • 14.5 oz Diced tomates with Jalapenos
  • 1 large onion
  • 4 oz hot fire roasted Jalapenos
  • 1 lb Old El Paso Vegetarian Refriend Beans (optional)
  • 1 bunch spring onions
  • Oil
 Method de Preparation
  1. Chop the onions finely and in a pan take some oil and saute this till it turns brown. Keep on medium to high heat.
  2. Cut Velveeta Cheese into smaller cubes so it will be easier to blend in.
  3. Add the cheese cubes, the diced tomatoes and the jalapenos in once the onions have cooked well.
  4. If you are using the refried beans, add them at this stage.
  5. When done and mixture starts to bubble, top with chopped spring onions and serve chot with chips. 
Chef's Tip: The above ingredients produce a LOT of queso, so make this amount only if you have are having a get-together or you can always store some in the freezer which is what I did.

Variations: I skipped the refriend beans because I wanted just a queso dip and not a bean cheese dip, so based on what you like, take a pick.

Source: Pioneer Woman Cooks 

Friday, April 16, 2010

Gotsu ( Eggplant Curry)

April 16th 2010

I was not able to find a suitable history or link for this. So, I'll share what I know. Gotsu is traditionally made with eggplant and is a side accompaniment to Venn Pongal. Pongal is the Indian equivalent of thanksgiving to put easily. I however love my hot Venn pongal with some chutney. I'll share the recipe for that some other day. 

This recipe for the Gotsu is what I make for my toddler. I like this because of the fact that it exposes them to tamarind but not in a spicy capacity. Additionally you get them to eat eggplant, onions, tomatoes and ginger..all at one go! And it is a nice change compared to just dal versions that you can give them at this stage.

To make the adult version of this, increase the spice level, use Indian (small) eggplants instead of the long Chinese/Japanese one and chop them slightly bigger.

Difficulty level : Easy 

Time:  20 min (prep time), 20 min (making time)

  • lemon size tamarind ( or 1 tbsp inst. tamarind paste)
  • 1 Chinese/Japanese long eggplant
  • 1 small onion
  • 1 tomato
  • 1-2 inches ginger
  • 1 green chilly
  • mustard ( 1 tbsp)
  • urad dal ( 1 tbsp)
  • cilantro (to season)
  • moong dal ( 1 cup)
  • oil ( to saute and to season)
  • salt ( to taste)
  • asafoetida ( a pinch)
  • turmeric powder ( a pinch)
Method de Preparation
  1. Cook moong dal in the open with 1:4 water. Cooking in the presure cooker mushes it and you can't taste the dal individually.
  2. Soak tamarind in water and extract the juice and keep aside. Repeat couple of times till all the extract has been taken.
  3. Chop onions, tomatoes, ginger, green chilly and eggplant finely.
  4. Take oil in a pan, add the mustard seeds, once it splutters, add the urad dhal and the ginger and green chilly. If using powder hing (asafoetida) add now, if using solid hing, drop it in with the tamarind extract.
  5. Sauté for a few secs and then add the onions.
  6. Once they are done, add the eggplant and then finally the tomatoes and continue to sauté.
  7. Add salt and turmeric at this point.
  8. Once all are cooked, add the tamarind extract and allow to cook for 4-5 min till the raw smells goes and all the vegetables feel soft to touch and are well cooked.
  9. At this point the moong dal must have cooked and will get squished when pressed between 2 fingers.
  10. Add the dal to the first mix and bring everything to boil.
  11. Keep the consistency reasonably loose if you are making this for your toddler and going to mix it with rice. If you are making it for pongal, keep it thicker.
  12. When everything comes together, turn off gas and season with cilantro.
  13. I mix this with rice and ghee as a meal for my toddler. Just serve it as is for pongal. 
Chef's Tip: Moong dal should never be used raw. Always dry roast it to a slight golden brown color for any dish in general. You can roast and cool and then store when you buy a whole packet to save time. This way it will last longer.


Thursday, April 8, 2010

Masala Eggplant (Kathirikkai Fry)

April 8th 2010

This is a simple and easy side dish that can be eaten along with any south Indian soup - sambar, rasam and the like. Since this is spicy, it goes especially well with the bland molakutal ( lentil vegetable soup) or morkootan (yogurt based curry) that are Keralite dishes. That is a post for another day.

Difficulty level : Easy 

Time:  under 30 min

  • 8-10 small eggplant (indian brinjal) 
  • curry powder ( 1 tbsp)
  • chilly powder ( 2 tsp)
  • sambar powder ( 1-2 tbsp)
  • turmeric powder ( a pinch)
  • oil
  • mustard ( 1 tbsp)
  • urad and chana dal ( 1 tbsp each)
  • curry leaves ( a few)
  • salt ( to taste)
Method de Preparation
  1. Cut brinjal into pieces, you can chop each brinjal into two and each piece into 2 or 3 pieces max, about the size of a potato wedge. Don't make them fine or they will be mushy, make it too big and they won't get cooked.
  2. Take a large microwave bowl, add all the powders (2-5) and a little bit of salt and then add the cut eggplant and mix it well, such that they cover the vegetable.
  3. Microwave for about 12-15 min , in 2 min intervals, mixing well and making sure the brinjal becomes soft at the end. If needed cook some more, microwave oven powers may vary.
  4. Take oil in a pan, add the mustard and when it splutters, the urad and chana dal, and finally the curry leaves.
  5. Once the dals brown a bit, add the brinjal and sauté for some time ( about 4-5 min).
  6. Turn off gas when done and serve hot.
Variations:   You can sauté onions too before you add the brinjal to get a version for chappati. 


Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Capsicum Paneer Sabzi

April 7th 2010

I am always looking for new sabzis to make and eat with chappati. And who does not love paneer. This easy recipe is from a dear friend who was kind enough to allow us to sample it first. This dish just allows the taste of the paneers to take center stage, don't crowd it with any masala. It goes well with rotis or maybe with rice too. Here is my version of her recipe.

Difficulty level : Easy 

Time:  30 min

  • 1 packet Paneer (store bought)
  • 2 green bell peppers
  • 1 medium size onion
  • 1 medium size tomato
  • 1/2 cup milk [increase or decrease to alter gravy]
  • salt (to taste)
  • turmeric ( a pinch)
  • chilly powder ( 1-2 tsps)
  • jeera ( 2 tsps)
  • oil
  • cilantro (for garnish)
Method de Preparation
  1. Soak cut paneer in hot, boiling water for 5 min (till it become soft). Alternatively take a little bit of ghee in a pan and slightly roast the paneer till it becomes golden brown. Whichever method you use, finish and keep paneer aside. And yes it is totally ok to pop 1 or 2 accidentally in your mouths, it happens!
  2. In the same pan, take oil and add onion and jeera and fry for some time till onion becomes soft and brown.
  3. Add tomatoes and the bell pepper. 
  4. Add turmeric, chilly powder, salt and cook for a few min, till the bell pepper is cooked and is soft.
  5. Finally add paneer and cook for a little bit.
  6. Add the milk in the end and allow everything to come together.
  7. Garnish with Cilantro and serve hot.
Chef's Tip:   Get a good brand of paneer as it is vital for the taste of this dish. Nanak brand or fresh from your local Indian store.

Source:  Krupa Sharath

Monday, April 5, 2010

Kothamalli Dal ( Cilantro Lentil Soup)

April 5th 2010

The beautiful flavorful cilantro is the star of this dish. And thanks to my ex-neighbor Sameer and his simple and tasty recipes, this is a staple many days in my home. This dal is a lifesaver when you want to make something quick. Extremely easy to make but so good to taste too. Once you've tried it, you are gonna keep making it over and over. This is a good accompaniment to rice and to rotis. 

Difficulty level : Easy Peasy Japanesy

Time:  20 min (Prep time) 5 min (cooking time)

  • Thoor dal ( 1/2 cup)
  • 3 cups water 
  • Cilantro (1/2 a bunch)
  • Green chillies ( 3 nos or more if you want to set your tongue on fire)
  • Mustard ( 1 tbsp)
  • Ghee (to season)
  • Turmeric power ( a pinch)
  • salt (to taste)
Method de Preparation
  1. Cook Thoor dal in a pressure cooker with 1:3 water. Allow to cook well, equivalent of 3 or more whistles and turn of gas.
  2. Chop the cilantro finely and keep ready.
  3. Once cooker has cooled ( you can do your dishes or make your chapatis in the meantime or watch 2 Bollywood songs), put the dal and the chopped cilantro in a pan and allow to cook well.
  4. Add salt too and when the mixture begins to boil, turn of gas.
  5. In a small vessel, season in ghee, mustard and when it splutters add the green chillies and then finally the turmeric.
  6. Empty into the dal, mix and serve hot.
  7. Squeeze lime if you like ( I don't).
Chef's Tip:   This is not a thick dal, but don't let it be too watery. 1:3 ratio works well. Add the water when you cook in the pressure cooker rather than later, it matters.

Source:  Sameer Mahajan

My two seconds of fame

My small piece came out today in the April issue of Spark Magazine . Spark is Anu Viswanathan's brainchild. If you happen to read it, leave a comment to let me know what you think.

As always thanks for your support.
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