Delicious World of Chefette Spicy

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Jalapeño Poppers Pizza with Sweet Corn and Garlic Chips

jalapeño poppers pizzaSometimes, you want to make a dish for dinner and then you realize that you have planned something else that you have been waiting to make. For me, it happened on the day I found surprisingly firm jalapeño peppers at the market a week ago. Thinking I would make jalapeño poppers that evening, I bought exactly six (I had to exercise sound restraint since I am known to over-indulge while shopping for vegetables) but got home to realize that there was a ball of pizza dough thawing on my counter.

If there is one thing you should know about me, it is that I have freakish rules about twice freezing anything. I simply don’t do it and I hate trashing perfectly good edibles just because I have strange opinions on things that come out of my freezer. So I decided to combine my two dinner plans and make one super-awesome, easy-peasy Jalapeño Poppers Pizza! Thankfully, I had all the ingredients I needed in the fridge and it involved around ten minutes of prep time, a very welcome coincidence since I had my last final exam the next day.
jalapeño poppers pizza2
Although it tasted a lot like the Naan Pizza you get in the freezer section of the Indian store (if you haven’t tasted it, you really have to asap! It is the bomb) sans the obvious Desi taste to it. I added some freshly cooked corn that was just off the cob for a mild sweetness and some garlic chips because, well, who doesn’t like garlic on their pizza, right? The end product was a love child between spice and flavor- two attributes of cooking we all love! And guess what. I never missed bacon, an essential in jalapeño poppers.
jalapeño poppers pizza3
This is how I made it-

Jalapeño Poppers Pizza with Sweet Corn and Garlic Chips

Ingredients:
Half a box of pizza dough

Three jalapeño peppers (two if yours are as huge as mine were) sliced breath-wise

Half cup sweet corn cooked

One small yellow onion finely sliced

6oz cream cheese

One green onion chopped

Four pods of garlic, sliced (a la Gus Fring style, if you are into Breaking Bad)

Half cup shredded cheddar cheese (or Mexican blend)

Four Tbsp olive oil

Salt and pepper

Method:
Heat a pan with one Tbsp olive oil. Saute the sliced onions on medium-low heat until brown and caramelized.  When done, transfer to a plate and heat the rest of the olive oil on high heat. While it is getting hot, preheat your oven to 400°F (200°C). When the oil is hot, add the garlic. It will sizzle and go from brown to burnt in a jiffy so take extra caution and keep sauteing until it gets golden brown and crisp. When done, transfer the garlic chips to a cup. Reserve the oil. This is liquid gold. Roll the pizza dough into an 8 inch pizza base. If it gets sticky (something that is bound to happen to thawed pizza dough), sprinkle some flour and trudge on. Transfer it to a floured pizza stone and bake for seven minutes.

The trick here is to make sure the pizza bakes without getting all soggy so this step is kinda important. While the crust is baking, mix the chopped green onion with the cream cheese. When the crust is pre-baked, take it out of the oven and slather on the cream cheese mix. It will melt and slide but don’t worry, that’s the beauty of pizza making. Top it with caramelized onion, corn, cheese and garlic chips (in that order). Finish with the sliced jalapeño on top and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Bake in the oven for fifteen minutes more. When the cheese has melted and the jalapeño slices look slightly wilted, it is done. Spoon a little garlic-infused oil on top and sink into Popper-Pizza heaven.

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Toasted Falafel in Pita Pockets with Tzatziki

It is such an amazing feeling, to face the end of finals and look forward to my first holiday season (bar an academic paper up for submission) in two long years. After doing some mental math, I realized that I have been working without respite for the past two years. Some may argue that I took a break last summer also but then, I would beg to differ. Carrying a live person in the stomach for nine odd months and popping one fine day in summer is not my idea for a vacay (plying the mom card here). And that’s exactly what I did last summer.

Although this year is going to be as tricky as last year, I am taking solace in the fact that I would not be learning something as challenging as being a mother and breastfeeding an ever hungry baby. Yep, I am up-to-date with all of Miss Kohlrabi’s tricks. Nothing, I repeat, nothing will frazzle me. But I really do hope she gives me an easy time, mommy deserves a holiday. So I have all the time until mid-August until my next (crazy) semester commences and I have all the time in the world until the last week of June to plan a party (Kohl’s first), pack for the India trip and wonder how we are going to manage this then-one year old in a confined space for 24hrs.

I guess I will come to that later. So until then, I have quite some time and I have planned to do a whole list of stuff while the baby will be away, having a great time at the daycare for three days in a week. It is cleaning time! Everything starting from the refrigerator to the door knobs are scheduled to get deep-cleaned, thanks to a huge bottle of hydrogen peroxide, a big bag of baking soda and Costco-size dish liquid. Yes, I am channeling all my energy into the 1050 sq.ft. that is the house.
baked falafelI also have plans to cook wholesome, healthy meals, which would be balanced by those unhealthy ones at good intervals. So before I go and revel in all the awesomeness that is the end of this academic year, let me tell you what I made recently. I cannot call it a falafel since it doesn’t involve frying and mixing in egg into the batter. But it is loosely based on this Mediterranean chickpea ball. Okay, I know that this is the second chickpea recipe in a row. Since pulses, beans and lentils are the primary source of protein in a vegetarian diet, we use all of the above quite frequently.
baked falafel2This recipe is also a super-loose interpretation of Zoe’s Kitchen’s Greek Chicken Pita. Although I don’t eat meat, I know what goes into this sandwich and I just subbed the chicken part with my toasted falafel. I didn’t see anyone complaining!

Toasted Falafel in Pita Pockets

Ingredients:
For the falafel-
15oz can garbanzo beans (or one and a half cups dried beans cooked)

Four garlic pods finely chopped

One and a half tsp cumin powder

Quarter cup chopped cilantro leaves

Salt

Pepper

Half tsp Chili flakes

One Tbsp olive oil

For the sandwich-
Two heads yellow onion sliced

One Roma tomato cut into rings

Lettuce

Haalf a carton Feta cheese

One cup Greek yogurt

Half hothouse cucumber finely shredded

One tsp dried dill

One small garlic pod finely minced

Salt

Pepper

Six Pita pockets

Method:
Falafel-
Coarsely blend all the ingredients, except for the oil, together. Add enough water to make a dough-like consistency. Shape into balls (I was able to make 12). Heat a pan. Pour enough oil to grease it lightly. Flatten the falafel balls. Working in batches, toast them until golden brown on both sides (it took me four minutes for each side on a medium flame). Set aside.

For the sandwich-
Caramelize the onions with a pinch of salt on low flame. Blend the Greek yogurt, cucumber, dill, garlic, salt and pepper with a fork to make Tzatziki. Cut the Pita pockets into half and loosen the flaps. Fill it with a leaf of lettuce. Put in a couple of falafels. Gently press the sides of the pita to crush it. Add the tomatoes and top with some caramelized onions. Drizzle with the Tzatziki and a tsp of Feta cheese.

It might sound like a complicated sandwich to make but burgers require the same number of steps. And exactly like a meaty burger, this Pita sandwich is so worth the trouble!


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Chickpeas and Roasted Garlic Spaghetti

chickpea spaghettiOverwhelming would be an understatement for the month that is passing by. I have a few days more to go and then I could probably start working towards normalcy. Yep, final exams week is upon me and I am still clueless about how I am going to go about one of the toughest exams I am scheduled to write.

But amidst all this chaos, I have managed to cook some good (read decent) food and photograph them. Since I have a very narrow window between cooking and getting to the daycare to pick up Miss Kohlrabi, I have to keep things simple and make the most of the props lying about the house. How long can a person look at my patio floor, really? So for this “shoot”, a couple of paper bags, thanks to our earth-friendly grocery store, came to my rescue. The effect was satisfactory, the food even more so. I love chickpeas to death and thankfully, it is used to a delightful degree in Indian cooking.

When I discovered hummus, even more happiness fell on my plate (quite literally). And although, I have moved on to experimenting with different kinds of hummus (with white beans, azuki beans and such), the original always rocks my palate. Now, this spaghetti might be old news to seasoned pasta lovers but to someone who has been stuck on lemon-basil pasta with goat cheese for the past year, this is quite a desirable turn of events.

Now, as I mentioned before, many versions exist on the internet. But I read quite a few of those and decided to go with my gut (I am all about the puns today, aren’t I?). And I am glad I did. Verdict: I would make this again. If I want an overload of carbs that is, for this dish combines two carbs-rich foods available in market: pasta and chickpeas. And no, buying wholewheat pasta will not do the trick because as a person who loves finding diet hacks, I checked the nutrition info. Apart from providing more fiber (a fact I am still skeptical about), wheat and normal pasta provide you with the same, or negligibly less, amount of carbohydrates. So unless you stick to serious portion control and add more vegetable stock and less chickpeas (I solemnly advise you not to go this route since it alters taste), you would be going off charts on a low-carb diet. If you follow one that is.

If not, go crazy! After all you deserve a reward for being you and this is a good way to go about it.
chickpea spaghetti2
Chickpeas and Roasted Garlic Pasta

One pound spaghetti, linguine, trenette or any kind of long pasta

One head roasted garlic (this is super easy, I have been following the method from SimplyRecipes)

One yellow onion sliced

One 15oz can pre-cooked chickpeas (I cooked my own: one and a half cups dried beans and three whistles on the cooker)

One tsp roasted cumin

Quarter cup almond (optional but recommended)

Half cup sun-dried tomatoes (in oil and dried work. The former adds extra depth)

One bunch fresh basil washed and chopped

Juice from one lemon

Half cup goat cheese or cream cheese

Feta or Parmesan cheese to sprinkle on top (optional)

One tsp chili flakes

Salt and pepper to taste

Quarter cup good olive oil

Method:

Cook the pasta according to the package. Set one cup of pasta water aside and drain the rest. Let it cool down and stop cooking. Coarsely grind the cumin seeds. Add the chickpeas, sun-dried tomatoes, roasted garlic, basil and almonds to the blender. Blend it into a coarse mixture, a hummus consistency is what we are looking for. Add the reserved pasta water to help the blender do the job.

When done, add the lemon juice, half the olive oil, salt and pepper.

Heat the rest of the olive oil in a large pan. On low-heat, saute the sliced onion with quarter tsp of salt. When nice, brown and succulent, mix in the chickpeas. Add the goat cheese (or cream cheese) to the pan. Let it melt. Pour the remaining pasta water and make it into a thick sauce. Blend in half the basil and then the cooked pasta. Mix it all in, add more water if you find it too thick. Finish with the remaining basil and cheese.

Go on a diet. You are going to thank me for this tip.

After making this, I sent a pic to my sister and informed her that I want to make this for her in India when we go this July. I seriously cannot wait!!!! (the unusual amount of exclamation points should convey my level of excitement)

 

 


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Cupcakes on a Dirt-cheap DIY Stand

I made this beautiful and elegant cupcake stand on one of those random boring afternoons when Aarabhi was down for a nap (which went on for two hours, rendering me delirious with joy) and the husband was lazing around. I saw this interesting video on YouTube a few days earlier and bought the supplies (which cost me exactly $3, exc taxes). I was waiting for half an hour of me time so that I could get on. I guess if you wish hard enough for something to happen, it really does *dramatic tears*
cupcake stand3I am in love with this whole cheap craft thingimajig and am going around the house on a scavenger hunt, looking for things to glue together with my giant tube of E6000. My husband probably fears that I might glue his eyes shut unless I find my next DIY project but what do I say, that is a fear that he has to live with.
cupcake stand2cupcake standThe cakes are nothing special, I made them from a yellow cake mix that came out of a box and slathered on some whipped vanilla frosting that was colored with gel coloring. I loved it because it was a change from the homemade cakes I normally bake. The raspberries were added on for some color, of course.
cupcake stand4Have a sunshine-filled day, y’all!

 


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Appa’s Sweet Potato Chips

One of the things I miss the most about Appa is his crispy, salty-sweet sweet potato chips. Amongst other things, of course. There have been countless Sundays (his only off day) we used to find him standing over a pot of hot oil and wielding a mandoline in one hand and a chunk of sweet potato, also called VaLLikizhangu in Tamiil, in the process of making the crispiest chips in the world! It used to be raw plantain sometimes but no matter which vegetable, his chips had a huge fan following at home and outside, for I remember fighting over a bag of these yummies with my friends at college once.
sweet potato chipsBut then, I never bothered asking him how he managed to it so delicious, so perfect every time. Or I probably knew the reason already- culinary trance. Although I some how feel he would have disown that term with horror if I had mentioned it to him, I kinda get the feeling that it was exactly that. So when I wanted to make it at home three years ago, I asked my mother for the recipe and she thought I had gone crazy. It was the easiest thing to make: grate the sweet potatoes, heat the oil, fry them and add salt to the container you put the chips it, close the lid and shake the box until dizzy.

I followed the recipe. And I failed. I also had to give up making it because back then, we used to live in a super-tiny apartment and the fire alarm there could weirdly sense when I was about to fry. I swear it would go off the minute I start heating up the pot of oil. But things have changed since then. I have a better command over the kitchen now, have since disowned my grater and finally and most importantly, we live in a better apartment with tall ceilings and better ventilation now. So a week ago, I decided that it was time to put Appa’s recipe to test again.

I was not disappointed this time! I ended up with the crispiest bowl of perfectly browned chips. How did I do it? I ditched the mandoline and “hand-crafted” my chips. Yes, I used a knife (and felt secretly pleased at my gradually acquired knife skills). Moreover, I practiced the art of keeping my hands to myself and resisted adjusting the temperature every time I felt like it. It was at the medium mark all through (after heating it up at high, of course!). And finally, at the fear of breaking my precious chips while mixing in the salt, I sprinkled some as soon as they got out of the oil pot. I have seen people doing this on television. It was bound to be a sensible thing to do, and it was.

I ended up missing Appa extra lot, of course. But I wagged a chip up at heaven as we sat eating our lunch. I am sure he was pretty proud of the chip maker in me!

 


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Roti- How to Make Soft Roti in an Electric Cooktop- Step By Step Post

I feel rather ashamed to admit this. I used to suck at making Chapatis/Rotis. I have heard from people whose staple diet consists of Roti that every demure housewife is judged by the shape and texture of the Rotis she rolls. I am not demure.  Nor was I a perfect Roti maker. The latter saddend me, of course. So I decided to push things further and tried everything I could think of- every tip food blogs and recipe books had to offer. Most of my experiments ended in roadblocks and rock-hard Rotis.

My father-in-law, when he visited us for a couple of weeks along with my mother-in-law, used to be half scared during dinnertime, thanks to my skills or the lack of in the Chapati-making department. So I trudged on for a few weeks more to realize this: I needed to come up with my own method. The problem was my cooktop. Our environment-friendly apartment has an electric stove. Although it gives off heat and cooks food rather wonderfully, it needs a whole new skill-set to perfect making foods like Roti, Dosa and pancakes. The method of preparation doesn’t affect the latter two but making perfectly soft Rotis starts with making the dough.

Why? This is because you cannot show the Rotis on naked flame on an electric cooktop, an essential step for making soft Chapatis or even Phulkas. So the need to correct the dough arose and this is what I set out to perfect. After mixing, remixing and changing the quantity of  the wet ingredients I used (thanks to diet-conscious Roti dinners every night), I hit jackpot. And I decided that it would be cruel to not share my method with the part of the world that owns/rents homes with electric stove. Since it is a tricky process (haha, just joking!), I decided to add the step-by-step process with pictures. Since I seldom do this, gather around and make the most of it, everyone!

The key to soft Rotis is three-fold:

  • Warm water
  • Use of yogurt
  • Autolyse (autolysis)

When you hit all the aforementioned notes, there is no reason to eat another tough/crunchy/pull-your-tongue-out-and-die Roti again!

Ingredients:

One cup whole wheat flour + extra for dusting

Two Tbsp olive oil (or vegetable oil)

Two Tbsp yogurt (any kind would do)

Quarter (to half cup) very warm water

Quarter tsp salt

Method:

Mix wheat and salt in a bowl. Add the olive oil and yogurt and mix it into a crumbly dough. Now add water gradually as you knead into a soft pliable dough. The amount of water you need could be anywhere between a quarter cup and half a cup (influenced primarily by the humidity in the air). When it forms a rough dough, transfer it to a clean working surface and knead with the heel of your palm. Stop when it comes together into a soft ball of dough.

Wrap it up in a kitchen towel or cheese cloth and let it rest anywhere between 30 mins and two hours (autolyse time!). If you plan to make it the next day, put it in a ziplock and leave it in the fridge. Bring it out the next day and bring it down to room temperature and then make the Rotis.

The Process of Making Soft Roti

The Process of Making Soft Roti

When you are ready to start making the Rotis, heat a pan on the stove top. Pinch the dough into equal size balls (one cup makes roughly 5 Rotis) and roll them smooth on the counter top. Dunk each ball ever so slightly in wheat flour. Gently press into a flat disk. Roll it out with a rolling pin into a thin, round (-ish in my case) circle. Switch the stove to medium. Place the circle in the pan/Tawa/griddle and let it cook. You will see small bubbles forming.

When quite a few of them form, turn it over. While it cooks, bunch up a piece of kitchen towel and use it to rotate the Roti on the pan. This will aid it in puffing up and cook evenly. When the other side has also equally browned, take it off the stove and place it on the cloth that you used to cover it initially. I like my Rotis with a drop of butter so I spread some before wrapping it up. You don’t have to if you prefer non-buttered Rotis.
rotiSo yes, Vaish- 1, Electric Cooktop- 0

 


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Bhindi Sambhariya

If there is one cuisine (apart from an eclectic mix of many other) I had to eat all my life, I would probably choose Gujarati. Why not? Their spices are mild, every dish is invariably vegetarian, made with fresh vegetables at that, and most of the dishes have a slight sweetness to them. So yes, why not? I first tasted Gujju food in this wonderful little restaurant in Madras called Mansukh’s Sweets and Snacks. It is quite a famous place to eat in my locality back home and the Gujarati Thali you got there used to be unparalleled. Yes, I used the past tense because the quality has pretty much gone down the drain now.
bhindi sambariya2When it used to be an awesome place to dine at, I got a chance to do a feature on them for the Newspaper I was working for. After the interview, the owner of the store gave me and my friend (who was the protographer) some Basundi that s the most decadent dessert I have ever tasted! But apart from a vestige of better known Gujarati fare, Mansukh’s never served anything more native. So I decided to dig deeper and find foods that we can enjoy at home instead of dream about another visit to the restaurant.

My favorite place to look for Indian food, Tarla Dalal’s literature, is where I began. I bought The Complete Gujarati Cookbook off Amazon (thank you very much, Prime!) and proceeded to turn pages, admiring the simplicity of Dalal’s narration and the wholesome Gujarati foods she has featured in the book. I sent her a silent thanks for not including the usual suspects like Khakra and Jalebi and proceeded to examine the book with much care.
bhindi sambariyaMy most favorite dish (and the first I made) in the book is the Bhindi Sambhariya. A close cousin of Bharli Vangi, this tasty side makes okra the star of the show. By stuffing this normally slimy (but very tasty) vegetable with fresh spices(hence the name Sambhariya, where Bhariya means fill or stuff), Gujarati home cooks only hit the ball out of the park. I don’t stuff, no sir. When I get cooking, I am always pressed for time. Moreover, eating stuffed whole okras and the husband don’t go together but let me not go into details on this. You don’t want to know that info on a food blog. Although there are many versions to this Sambhariya, here is mine-

Bhindi Sambhariya (Adapted from Tarla Dalal’s The Complete Gujarati Cookbook)

Ingredients
Two cups fresh okra, diced into bite-size pieces (or one and a half tray, leave it whole and slit a hole in the side)

One fourth cup cooking oil

To be mixed together:
Six Tbsp freshly scraped coconut (no other kind would do)

One tsp ginger-green chile paste

One tsp turmeric powder

Two tsp cumin-coriander powder

One tsp Garam Masala powder

One tsp Aamchur/dry mango powder (substitute with two tsps lemon juice)

One Tbsp jaggery (substitute brown sugar but I strongly recommend jaggery)

One tsp salt

One Tbsp sesame seeds

Two Tbsp ground peanut (optional but recommended)

Method:
If you dice the okra, mix it with the Masala paste. Heat oil in a pan, add the okra mixture, put a lid on and cook it on medium-low heat until the vegetable is cooked. Make sure you give it a gentle mix a couple of times in the middle to prevent burning.

If you slit the whole okras, stuff the Masala into it and cook it exactly like I have mentioned above.

Adapting either of the methods doesn’t alter the taste. I should probably not call mine “Sambhariya” but I exercise my blogger license here since I adapted it from the traditional recipe.