Aug 21, 2013

Indian style fresh Cucumber chaat

Summer is quickly, far too quickly coming to an end I feel.  Our summer has been filled with settling down and enjoying our new home, road trips,  biking  and walking around our neighborhood,  visiting friends, gardening (for my dad basically) and eating a lot of my mom's yummy meals and I don't want it to end and looking forward to more fun. But then comes something I’m least looking forward to #1) My parents returning back to India and #2) Sending lil’Appu back to daycare. I don’t even want to discuss these 2 topics at the moment… *sigh* :-(

Today, I’m not really sharing any recipe as such but a very simple and totally nostalgic Indian snack with fresh Cucumbers. Most of you know by now about my dad’s beautiful veggie garden that’s treating us with its bounty full of ripened veggies and we are literally feasting on them lately. This weekend we decided to pick up several of the ripened cucumbers. It was a hot sunny day and almost time for evening Tea and the minute we saw the juicy, ripe and beautiful cucumbers we wanted to have it instantly and forgot all about Tea :-)

Lil'Appu enjoys helping with plucking the veggies and carrying them back to the kitchen. Well, sometimes he thinks we gave him a new toy :-) And he really loves eating cucumber. We plucked 4 large cucumbers btw....

So I started washing, peeling and slicing them up into quarters and my mom grabbed some and stared munching immediately. That’s when I remembered a certain street food that I have really enjoyed while I lived in India, Bangalore to be precise. 

It’s such a common scene there to see chaatwaalas pushing their carts around laden with veggies like cucumbers, raw mangoes, fresh limes etc and fruits like pineapple , papaya, watermelon, oranges etc and ofcourse other types of chaat and they serve these veggies/fruits by simply sprinkling on some salt and red chilly powder  or some chaat masala and may I say, its broadens the taste of these fruits and veggies to a different level? Yes, it does!! (The red chilly powder is mostly for the veggies)

So after a memory flash-wave, I decided to do the same for these homegrown, juicy and ripe cucumbers. All you need are fresh cucumbers, salt and red chilli powder. First rub your finger on the open face of the sliced cucumber to moisten your fingertip and press into the salt and red chilli powder and lightly rub them onto the cucumber slice and the take a big bite and feel your tastebuds flow…seriously, you must try it. You can moderate the amount of red chili powder as per your taste.

I tried the same with Salt and Black Pepper powder and I must say it did not taste all that great as how it does with red chilli powder. If you aren’t very keen on using red chilli powder, try with Paprika. It might tone down the spice but seal in all the flavors for this simple, lipsmacking and must I say ‘Healthy’ snack.  Or else another option would be to use Chaat masala.

I din't know what exactly this was called so I'm just calling it an Indian style cucumber chaat!

Indian Style fresh Cucumber chaat

You’ll need
Fresh Cucumbers – 3 or 4 or more
Salt – to taste
Red Chilli powder/Paprika – 1 tsp (use as needed)
Chaat masala (optional)

1.  Wash, peel and cut up the cucumbers into halves first and then each half into quarters.
2.  Moisten your fingertip slightly (just rub your fingertip over the cucumber slices) and mildly press into some salt and red chilli powder (or one at a time) and rub them over the cucumber slices. Enjoy!
3.  Substitute red chilli powder with Chaat masala powder if the spice level doesn’t suit you.

I even had this for my morning breakfast today, ya I’m just that crazy about it. We have several more Cucumbers left and I already know what’s in future for them. So, do you want to try some and get your tastebuds flowing? :-)

 Have a lovely Summer everyone! 


Aug 13, 2013

Grilled Salmon Kebabs with basil pesto marinade

We’ve been grilling a lot this summer. I know I haven't shared much of the recipes here. Well, let just say grilled food are to be enjoyed hot and straight out of the grill and my family has no patience to wait for my photography session to be over when they are on their toes with hunger. It wasn't easy to get a good snap of these outrageously yummy Salmon kebabs either and I had to quickly take few snaps while my family waited at the table, all ready for dinner :-)

What started out as a small garden in our small backyard has grown into a large veggie patch with tomatoes, carrots, cucumber, broccolli, red and yellow onions, cabbage, eggplant, french beans, yard long beans, lady's finger, thai chillies, red spinach, lettuce and herbs like Mint, Cilantro, Basil and Rosemary growing in full swing. There are also some beautiful Marigolds, Petunia, Dahlia and garden Lily's and some perennials for some color and vibrance. 
All of this is my dad's hard work, labor, love and care for these plants. Every single spare minute he gets, is spent tending to the garden and they have started giving out their fruits for us to enjoy now. I want to do a full post specially dedicated to the garden one day, but I'm waiting for all the veggies to grow before jinxing it ;-) Here's a sneek-peak!

So we are trying to make the best use of our garden produce. That's how I made some Basil pesto from few leaves of the rather overgrown Basil plant we have. We've been eating the basil raw in our salads daily for dinner, but mummy and me are personally not a fan of raw basil. So the pesto was a very good way to enjoy this superb herb.

At our local Costco store, we got some really fresh and fleshy Salmon and I instantly decided to grill them and used the basil pesto as a marinade. To add some color and and to enable cooking space for the salmon I added some colorful veggies in between the salmon. 

The kebabs were juicy and so flavorful. The rather fishy smell and flavor of Salmon subsided with the pesto marinade and it added a very fresh taste to the fish kebabs. It tasted so good , even my lil'Appu ate several pieces of the Salmon. I'm positive now that Basil pesto as a marinade would taste great on veggie and other non-veg kebabs as well. 
By the time I was done with marinating and then grilling these kebabs it was almost 8pm, so the snaps aren't as pretty as I'd like them to be, but I wanted to share it with you, and here it is.

My family felt the Salmon kebabs weren't as spicy as they would have liked, because my Pesto wasn't spicy enough, so I have accordingly updated the pesto recipe if you prefer a spicier version. But my Appu loved it due to the mild spice level and to me that's all that mattered ;-) We had the kebab's with some Naan, seasoned raita and salad...yumm!

Grilled Salmon Kebabs with basil pesto marinade

You’ll need
Salmon (skinless) – 1½ pounds  ( Cut into square shaped cubes)
Fresh Basil pesto – ½ cup or more, as needed
Red Onions/Bell peppers/Mushrooms etc – as preferred
Lemon juice – 2 tblsp
Salt and Pepper – to taste
Metal  or wooden skewers

1.  Prepare the Basil pesto.  Cut up the Salmon into cubes.
2.  Apply the Basil pesto all over the salmon cubes and marinate for atleast 3 hrs. Overnight is best.
3. Chop up preferred veggies into equal sized cubes and marinate it with 2 tblsp lemon juice, salt and pepper for ½ hour.
4. Skewer the salmon and veggies alternately. (If using wooden skewers, soak them in water for ½ hour before using)
5. Heat up your grill and make sure the grill grates are well oiled or use a tray covered with aluminium foil and sprayed with oil and place the salmon kebab skewers on it and cook well on one side (for about 8-10 mins) and slowly turn it to other side and cook the other side.
6. If preferred you can squeeze on some more lemon juice onto the kebabs immediately as it comes out of the grill (My dad’s suggestion)

1. Please make sure the grill grates or the tray you use are well oiled. Mine wasn’t and some of the salmon cubes got stuck and flaked apart while I tried to turn them over  *bad luck*
2. Fish is very soft and flaky , so be very gentle while turning them, unless you want 'scrambled' salmon…which is great for making fish tacos btw!
3. I wanted the veggies to look bright and colorful on the kebabs, but if you want pesto marinated on the veggies, go for it.
4. Grill on a low to medium-low flame for the fish to cook slowly and nicely, else it may char too fast but not get cooked inside (speaking from experience)!

So folks, I do hope you will try out this really healthy, colorful and absolutely delicious Salmon Kebabs. You can find my Basil Pesto recipe here.  Do try out both the recipes and I hope you will like them and don't forget to share your feedback with me.  See you all again soon :-) 


Aug 11, 2013

Fresh Basil Pesto

A pesto is nothing but a sort of Italian chutney. Basil Pesto is authentically prepared by crushing some basil leaves, little garlic, pine nuts and some freshly grated parmesan cheese in a mortal pestle drizzled with some Olive oil until a smooth (chutney like) paste is obtained.

When we started our small backyard garden, we bought a tiny basil plant and planted it along with some Mint leaves in a herb grower pot and can you imagine, the Mint took over and killed my basil plant…hmph! So we bought another plant of Italian Basil and grew in the garden along with our tomatoes and carrots and other veggies and they all grew together happily like brothers and sisters and I now have more Basil than I want! And I'm trying out all kinds of recipes to make use of every single Basil leaf from this lovely plant.

Basil often called 'The King of Herbs' is a very nutritious and flavorful herb. Fresh basil  can be eaten raw in salads, made into a pesto to be used as a marinade or sandwich spread, used as a fresh herb on pizza's, breads, curries and can even be used in dessert preparations.

I've always wanted to try making Basil pesto at home and now the chance had come to try it out :-) Pesto can be used for various preparations like a sandwich spread, dipping sauce, pasta sauce, pizza sauce, veg/n0n-veg marinade, on omelettes  etc
Originally recipes for pesto uses pine nuts, but I didn't have any, so used walnuts instead. Some recipes call for toasting the nuts, but I didn't toast mine.

I have found several variations to pesto recipes that's made with spinach leaves, mint leaves, cilantro etc where the main ingredients are fresh greens leaves, garlic, nuts, cheese and olive oil. So its quite versatile and can be made with any green leaves, good quality nuts, cheese of choice and ofcourse Extra virgin Olive oil.

If you do not want to pound on a mortar pestle, make it easy by using a food processor or mixer grinder to combine everything. I added some crushed black pepper for some spice, but my family felt the spice was less, so you can add some green chilies to suit your spice level.

I made this pesto to my family's liking, by moderating the amount of oil, cheese and nuts used and it still came out really good, so I'm sharing the same with you all. 

Fresh Basil Pesto
Yields 1 cup of pesto

You’ll need
Fresh Basil Leaves – 3 cups , packed
Fresh Garlic cloves – 2 or 3
Pine nuts or Walnuts – 2-3 tblsp (almost ¼ cup)
Parmesan Cheese (grated or powdered) – 2 heaped tblsp  (can add upto ½ cup if preferred)
Extra virgin Olive Oil – ½ cup
Lemon Juice - 2 tblsp
Salt and freshly crushed black Pepper corns – to taste
Green Chilies – 2 or 3 (purely optional - if you prefer more spice)

1. Add all the above ingredients (except salt) into a food processor or mixer-grinder and blend it well until a smooth pesto is obtained.  (Add green chillies for a spicier version)
2. Season with salt, do a taste test and enjoy using as a marinade or pasta sauce or sandwich spread or as a dipping sauce, however you like!

Suggestions and changes I made:
1. Some recipes suggest toasting the nuts to release the oil and flavor in the nuts. Be sure the nuts are cooled to room temp, before grinding them.
2. I personally did not want to add ½ cup oil, so I added ¼ cup olive oil + ¼ cup water to make my pesto. Tasted great nevertheless.
3. My family felt the pesto I made wasn’t too spicy as I had not added green chillies, hence I’ve included them in the recipe above incase you prefer a spicier version. Or else add more crushed pepper.

My mom really loved the basil pesto. She hates the taste of raw basil in salads but this version was much more appealing to her and everyone else at home enjoyed it too. Its tasty and healthy and can be made so easily with no cooking required :-) Try it out and see for yourself.

The first thing I did with this pesto was to marinate it on some Salmon to make grilled Salmon kebabs and it was simply superb. Here's a pic of the kebabs (ready to be grilled) that I shared on my Instagram page. Coming up next come back soon.


Aug 4, 2013

We Knead to Bake # 6: Baked Yeasted Doughnuts (Eggless)

Hello there folks. Hope you are all doing well. July just got over so fast and apparently all my time , energy and subsequent blog posts were dedicated to the one little birthday party that we held for our bubbly toddler who turned 2 on July11th. And due to my slack I’m far behind at posting some of my monthly bread baking extravaganzas.

As many of you may know I’m part of a group called ‘We Knead To Bake’ where we bake up some baked (yeasted) bread every month. The month of June was also celebrated as the Month of Doughnuts in the US, which was actually the first friday of June which was June 1st this year, and Aparna's brilliant brain came up with Baked Doughnuts for the group to bake and enjoy!

So see I’m laaaagggging behind in sharing this post :-), but better late then never right?!!

Doughnuts or Donuts, no matter how they are pronounced or written, they are just delicious!! 
Have you ever met a person who has never eaten these? Now how many of you din't know that this goody with a hole in the middle are actually 'deep fried' before being coated in some sugary glaze? I for one din't know until recently and my parents din't know until I made this baked version...its never too late to learn something new now, is it? ;-) But I'm so glad we did a Baked version and that too eggless and they tasted just as good!

We were given the choice of glaze to coat the doughnuts and whether baked or fried I'm a fan of the Chocolate glazed doughnuts ( no sprinkles n' all)  So I made a quick Chocolate ganache glaze making sure it was smooth and dipped my perfectly baked doughnuts in them, tapped off any excess and voila! I made some perfectly glazed chocolate doughnuts - all homemade!!

As for the Doughnut holes, I brushed them with some butter and generously rolled them in the Cinnamon Sugar that I made. 

These doughnut holes and mini doughnuts turned out to be good mid-day snacks for Manish and me at office for few days :-)

I made 6 large doughnuts, 7 mini doughnuts and 12 doughnuts holes (round and star shaped). Some were glazed with chocolate ganache and the rest with cinnamon sugar. I wanted to do some Jam filled doughnuts as well, but no one at home wanted any, so I din't make any. 

These baked doughnuts were soft and spongy and I for one ate them without much guilt :-) Manish and my dad felt they were a bit dry when compared to the fried ones we get at bakeries, but with the yummy glaze and cinnamon sugar on them, they tasted just perfect to me. These are best eaten the day they are made. 

Baked Doughnuts

You'll need:
1/4 cup superfine sugar
1 cup warm milk (45C/115F)
3/4 tbsp instant yeast (or 1 tbsp active dry yeast)
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp vanilla extract
3 1/2 cups cake flour (or all-purpose flour) , plus more for kneading
100gm butter, cut into 1 inch cubes

For the topping:
75 to 100gm butter, melted

1 cup superfine sugar + 2 tablespoons cinnamon (more or less, depending on your taste), mixed together
Glazes of your choice ( I made a thin Chocolate ganache)
Jam to fill your doughnuts

1. Using a processor to knead helps but you can do this by hand. Put the sugar, milk, yeast, salt and vanilla in the processor bowl and pulse to mix well. Add the cake flour and 1 cup of all-purpose flour and process, adding a little more of the flour as necessary till the dough is thick and pulls away from the sides of the bowl.
Now add the butter pieces one at a time and process till there no large chunks of butter are left in the bottom of the bowl. Now add a little more flour until your have a soft, pliable and elastic dough that is most but not overly sticky.
Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead gently until the dough no longer sticks to your hands. Shape the dough into a ball and place in a lightly greased large mixing bowl., turning it to coat well. Cover with a damp towel and let it rise till double in volume. This should take about an hour.

2. Punch down the dough and roll out to a thickness of 1/2" thickness. Cut out doughnuts using a doughnut cutter or whatever you have on hand to cut out 3” diameter with 1” diameter holes. If you’re making doughnuts to fill with jam, then do not cut out the holes. Place the doughnuts and the holes on parchment lined or lightly greased baking sheets, leaving at least 1” space between them.
Re-roll the scraps and cut out more doughnuts. I used the last left over scraps of dough by pinching of bits, rolling them into balls and baking them too.

3. Let them rise for about 20 minutes or till almost double in size and then bake them at 200C (400F) for about 5 to 10 minutes till they’re done and golden brown. Do not over bake them.
4. Take them out of the oven and immediately brush them with the melted butter and then dip them into the cinnamon sugar mixture. If filling the doughnuts with jam, let them cool.
(Ideally this recipe makes about 12 to 14 doughnuts and holes )

(The slightly browned one is how the bottom portion of the baked doughnut looks like)

If glazing the doughnuts:
If glazing your doughnuts, let them cool completely and then dip one side of the doughnut in the glaze of your choice and let it set.
( I made a small quantity of chocolate glaze by heating quarter cup of 2% milk and adding it to 3 tblsp semi-sweet chocolate chips + 3 tblsp powdered sugar until everything was melted and smooth )

If glazing with flavored sugar (like Cinnamon Sugar)
If glazing your doughnuts with flavored sugar, let them cool completely and then lightly brush them with melted butter and roll the doughnuts in the sugar until coated.
(I made a small quantity by adding 2 tsp cinnamon to 3 tblsp of sugar and mixing it together)

If making jam filled doughnuts:
Put the jam into a piping bag with a writing nozzle/ tip and press into the doughnut from the side and gently press out the jam into the doughnut till it starts oozing out. Jam doughnuts do not need too much jam to fill them.

You must try baking doughnuts at home sometime and who knows, you might just love them so much that you might never buy a store bought one again! Have a great day ahead you guys and enjoy some doughnuts today :-)