Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Mozzarella Tomato-Basil Panini

May 26th 2010

If you don't know by now I absolutely love my Panini Maker and put it to good use. It is one of the purchases in my kitchen that I can say I use very regularly. This combination of frezh mozzarella cheese and tomatoes in a basil-olive oil sauce is divine. And the great part about these sandwiches is they can be assembled ahead of time and just grilled in time for a party or in the morning for lunch. If you do not have a panini maker, these can be done on the stove top too on a pan.

Difficulty level : Easy

Time:  15 min 

  • Mozzarella cheese cut in slices (~ 2 or 3 per panini)
  • chopped fresh basil ( 1 or 2 tbsps)
  • olive oil ( per liking) - 4 or 5 tbsps
  • Tomatoes cut in slices (~ 2 or 3 per panini)
  • pepper (optional)
  • Bread slices (2 per panini)
Method de Preparation
  1. Mix the half the olive oil and the basil in a cup and keep aside.
  2. Lightly spread plain olive oil on one side of each bread slice, just a bit.
  3. On the same bread slice, on the other side, spread this olive oil and basil mix. So you will have for each panini, two bread slices with plain olive oil on the outside and the olive oil and basil mix on the inside.
  4. To assemble each panini,  stack bread, tomato and the mozzarella and the other bread slice. Throw in some fresh ground pepper if you like (optional).
  5. And put in the panini maker, assembling your other sandwiches in the meantime.
  6. Take out and serve with ketchup or just plain. 
  7. This would go nicely with a fresh side salad and you have dinner and if you have any leftovers lunch also taken care of.
Variations: You could use shredded mozzarella but the chewy texture of the slices would be lost.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Thai Panang Curry

May 24th 2010

Thai is a cuisine that often finds its way into our kitchen. Not only because you can make one just one entrée and serve it with rice but also because it serves to finish off the few lonely vegetables you don't know what to do with. Here is a recipe for Thai Panang curry.

I have not started making my own curries yet because I still have a lot left over from my initial store bought ones. 
An important ingredient to check in these pastes is fish/shrimp or the like. Make sure if you do buy one from the store and if you are particular about it then it is indeed vegetarian. 

Difficulty level : Easy

Time: 15 min

  • Thai paste ( Panang Curry) - a couple of tbsps
  • Vegetables all finely chopped in thin strips (onions, japanese eggplant, beans/asparagus)
  • Basil leaves  ( a few chopped finely)
  • Oil
  • A couple of garlic cloves
  • Salt ( lightly)
  • Coconut milk ( 1 can)
  • Extra firm Tofu ( 1 packet)
Method de Preparation
  1. Place sauté pan on medium heat. Add oil.
  2. Sauté the tofu cut into cubes until slightly brown and when done set aside.
  3. Increase to medium-high heat. Add the garlic cloves, and when browned, add the chopped onions.
  4. In a minute or so, add the other veggies.
  5. Stir fry on high heat and then reduce heat before adding the panang curry paste.
  6. Sauté again briefly and finally add the coconut milk and some water (if the paste is too thick) and the basil leaves.
  7. Once everything comes together throw in the Tofu and allow to simmer for a couple of minutes before turning off and serving with rice.
Confessions:  It is OK if you want to eat this with Kawan (Malaysian) Paratha or you don't have any leftovers, I don't think the Thais would care really :P 

Variations:  Use any veggies you like and also any Thai curry you like. In the end it is the goodness of the coconut milk that will see you through! 

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Tomato Thokku Grilled Cheese Sandwich

May 18th 2010

This is a really quick snack that can be made within a few mintues when you already have this Tomato thokku in the refrigerator.  This is perfect for those afternoons or evenings when you want to munch on something but don't want to spend too much time in making a snack. 

Difficulty level : Easy

Time: 10 min

  • Tomato Thokku (Chutney) - 1 tbsp
  • 2 slices of bread
  • 1 slice cheese or 2 if you really want to
  • Oil or butter (to spread)
Method de Preparation
  1. Heat a flat pan and spread the oil or butter lightly on both sides of each bread and put it to toast.
  2. When one side is slightly browning, smear the paste on one silce and put the cheese on top of it.
  3. Finally complete by placing the other bread slice on top.
  4. Flip a couple of time till the bread is toasted and the cheese inside is melted.
  5. Cut into triangles and serve immediately.
Confessions:  I know this is not the best picture. One - we ate the first one too fast before we could take a picture so the plate is ahem not so great and Two- you have to use the flash when you eat a snack at an ungodly hour now don't you, the sun can't shine to your whims and fancies!  

Variations:  You could toast the bread in the toaster, and then spread the butter and the thokku and the cheese but it just would not be same. So go ahead and spend the 5 min its takes!  

Monday, May 17, 2010

Mushroom Tofu Fried Rice

May 17th 2010

You know those evenings when you are trying to clear the fridge. And you have the mushrooms left over with which you were going to make some pasta or the Tofu that is left over because that new recipe you wanted to try never happened, well here is what you do with it. And remember this is not THAT recipe that never happened. You will try this as soon as you finish reading this post, now cross your heart and promise me! And it is perfectly OK if you rush to the store to get the ingredients and don't have the leftovers. In fact, it is even better. So here is a rice that is quick and tasty with or without the tofu. 

Difficulty level : Easy

Time: 30- 35 min

  • 1/2 or 3/4 packet firm tofu cut in cubes (optional)
  • 1 or 1 1/2 cups of button mushrooms (stems removed and chopped in thin slices)
  • 1 large onion chopped thinly longitudinally
  • 1 cup frozen peas ( thawed)
  • 1/2 cup chopped black olives (optional)
  • 1 bunch spring onions
  • salt (to taste)
  • 1 tbsp or more pepper ( per taste)
  • oil
  • 2 cups (rice cup measure) basmathi rice cooked with 1: 2 water in a pressure or rice cooker
Method de Preparation
  1. Wash basmathi rice under the water and drain out the water in a sieve. In a rice cooker,  measure 4 cups of water and allow to heat. When water is heated, then drop in the rice and a spoon of ghee. This prevents the rice from sticking together.
  2. Take oil in a pan, when heated, add the cubed tofu and saute till desired brownness is attained. Take and keep aside. If you have a toddler at home, offer him or her a few cubes but shoo the husband away! [ This step is purely optional]
  3. Add a little bit more oil, add the chopped onions, when it is cooked well and translucent, add the chopped and washed mushrooms.
  4. Saute both well, add salt. Add the olives too.
  5. When the water from the mushroom has drained out and the vegetables are tender and cooked well, add the chopped spring onions.
  6. Add the tofu and salt and pepper. Saute for a few minutes.
  7. By now the rice should be done. Open the rice cooker and allow the rice to cool
  8. Turn off gas and mix well with the cooked and cooled rice. 
  9. Serve hot with chips and with this handy cucumber raita or any other raita.
Chef's Tip:  The Tofu and the olives are optional. Throw in other veggies if you like. The highlight of this dish is that salt and pepper are the only condiments used.  Savor the simple yet potent taste of this dish.

Cucumber Raita ( Cucumber Yogurt Dip)

May 15th 2010

With the summer quickly setting in, we are all looking for ways to chill, not just with what we do, but also with what we eat. Additionally it is great to balance out hard or laborious dishes with a few easy but tasty ones on the side so you can enjoy that sun while it lasts. Here is a recipe for a quick Raita that is a great accompaniment to any rice/pulav/biriyani or even parathas. 

Difficulty level : Easy 

Time:  10 min

  • 1 cucumber (cut into tiny pieces)
  • 2 cups thick yogurt
  • 1 tsp or more jeera powder (cumin powder)
  • salt to taste
  • chopped cilantro (for garnish)
Method de Preparation
  1. Peel and chop cucumber into small pieces.
  2. Sprinkle a little bit of salt and set aside. The water in it will be excreted. You can either drain this out if your yogurt is not very thick or use it if your yogurt is really thick.
  3. Beat the yogurt well with a spoon and then mix it with the cucumber.
  4. Add the cumin powder and salt to taste.
  5. Garnish with chopped cilantro and serve.
Confessions:   I forgot the cilantro, and it still tasted good. It happens :D 

Chef's Tip: If you have the time or you are going to make a lot of this, dry roast jeera (cumin) on the tava and then powder it and use it for a fresh taste.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Methi Matar Malai

May 3rd 2010

This is a really great side dish that goes extremely well with 'phulkas' or piping hot rotis. Quite easy to make and the end result is as good or even better than what you get in a good restaurant. The trick to this dish is to cleanse the methi (fenugreek) leaves well and to use only the leaves and not too much of the stalk. That is the laborious part. Anyway, here is the recipe.

Difficulty level : Easy - Medium

Time:  30 - 35 min

  • 1 cup frozen and thawed green peas
  • 1/2 cup cream or half and half [increase or decrease to alter gravy]
  • 1 bunch fresh methi leaves chopped  (stalk removed)
  • 3 tbsp. ghee or butter
  • salt to taste
  • 1/2 tsp. cumin seeds
  • 1 pinch asafoetida
Powder together
  • 1 cardamom
  • 2-3 cloves
  • 1/2" stick cinnamon

Grind to a paste
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1 tbsp. khuskhus (poppy seeds)
  • 1-1/2 tbsp. cashewnuts
  • 1 tbsp. curds
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 2-3 green chillies
  • 1/2" ginger
Method de Preparation
  1. Immerse methi in salted hot water for 5 minutes.
  2. Drain and wash well in colander under running water. Remove as much water as possible. Keep aside. 
  3. Beat malai till smooth. If using half and half or whipping cream, do nothing :) 
  4. Heat ghee, add cumin seeds and asafoetida.
  5. Add  ground paste and stir fry till raw smell of the onion goes. You can taste it and the bitter taste will no longer be there.
  6. Add powdered spices.
  7. Stir, and add thawed peas, methi leaves and cream.
  8. Add salt and boil for 2-3 minutes or till gravy thickens.
  9. If the gravy feels thin, add a pinch of flour and stir ( has never happened to me so far), if too thick, add a few tbsp. of milk ( has happened few times).
  10. Serve hot with rotis.
Chef's Tip:   Make it it the day or at the most within a couple of days you get fresh methi leaves (fenugreek) from the store. Don't let it sit in the refrigerator.

Source:  Saroj Kering

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