Delicious World of Chefette Spicy

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Salad on a Whim

The best things about being on a regular diet are the cheats we are allowed to incorporate into our food. On a low-carb diet plan, or almost any other diet regimen, salads are considered to be “free-food”- aka eat how much ever you fancy. With a gestational diabetic and a regular type 2 diabetic at home for lunch, it was only a matter of time before one of us acknowledged the fact that yes, salads should find a way to our table everyday for lunch.
avocado-orange saladSadly, Indians are not hands-on salad eaters. We love vegetables, no denying. But the plethora of curries and Subzis that contribute to our cuisine could get so overpowering sometimes that eating raw vegetables takes a back seat. But if you are lucky, you would find some of us, especially people from the northern part of India, indulging in what they call “salAdh” at times as an accompaniment to their Rotis. The only vinaigrette they use is freshly squeezed lime juice with some salt and pepper, which in my opinion does wonders to any vegetable! I mean, who wouldn’t want to eat salad as a side when you can find tender radishes and sweet onions in the market, right? Well, not this Indian.

Thankfully, my mother is a lover of salad and enjoys them with her Rotis. So today, I decided to get off the couch in time to make a delicious salad for lunch. It was a very simple “dish” with all the usual suspects in attendance: lettuce, tomato, cucumber and avocado. But at the last minute, we decided to add an orange on a whim. I used a creamy vinaigrette which I suspected would not go all that well with the fruit in the salad but experimenting has a way of proving me wrong regularly and this was one of those times!
avocado-orange salad2Easy-Peasy Avocado-Orange Salad with Creamy Vinaigrette

Ingredients:
Half a lettuce

One avocado

One Roma tomato

Half a hothouse cucumber

One medium-size orange, separated into segments

A hand full of walnuts

Vinaigerette-
Half a cup mayonnaise (I used Kraft mayo with olive oil)

Quarter cup apple cider vinegar

Two Tbsp grated onion

One pod grated garlic

One tsp dry oregano flakes

One tsp dry basil flakes

Quarter cup milk

Dash of hot sauce (I used Mexican style hot sauce)

Salt and pepper to taste

Method:
Okay, I shall not insult your intelligence by narrating the method!

Although the vegetables are nothing exotic, the addition of orange and walnuts gives this salad a beautiful depth. I should confess that I omitted the latter but tonight, I shall include it.

The vinaigrette is an adaptation of the Creamy Italian Dressing from the book Vegetarian Creations with a few improvisations. 

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Quick Spring Salad

This is more of of a summer salad because it has been 80°F in the ‘Bama land for the past few weeks. I know you are probably going “Hmm, summer and roasted veggies? You must be crazy.” But I’ve always loved roasting anything I could get my hands on. The market was full of fresh asparagus and eggplants last week and I couldn’t help but buy some because they are what we call free food in a low-carb diet. Which means apart from the 30-45 gms of proteins I get to eat every big meal, I can eat these as much as I want to and I consider this a huge asset because now, I can go crazy with creativity and caramelize my veggies in the oven.

spring saladSo this salad, it has balsamic-roasted eggplants, asparagus, onion and garlic in it along with fresh lettuce and tomato. I seasoned it with dry basil flakes (wishing I had planted basil this year too. Oh well, it is never too late to!) and fresh mint for that extra herb-y kick. I finished it with a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese. Although I would suggest serving this with a dinner roll (for the carb part of the plan), I ate it all by itself and fell deeply in love with the wonderful sweet-spicy flavor from the balsamic and Sriracha.

Roasted Spring Veggies Salad with Blasamic Vinegar

Ingredients:
Half a large eggplant

One huge purple onion (I used yellow because I didn’t have purple in my pantry)

Ten spears of asparagus

Four garlic pods

Two cups lettuce

Two Roma tomatoes, diced

One and a half tsp Sriracha or one tsp chili flakes

Three Tbsp balsamic + more for finishing

Few chiffonaded leaves of fresh basil (I used 1 1/2 tsp of dry flakes)

Few fresh mint leaves

Cilantro leaves for garnish (optional)

Parmesan cheese

Three Tbsp olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Method:
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Dice the asparagus and onion into bite-size pieces. In a large bowl, mix one Tbsp of olive oil with little salt, little pepper, one tsp Sriracha, One Tbsp balsamic vinegar and half the basil. Toss the cute vegetables along with the garlic and spread it on a aluminum foil-covered baking sheet. Roast it in the oven for twenty minutes. Meanwhile, cut the eggplant into bite-size pieces too. In the same bowl, mix together another Tbsp of olive oil with salt, pepper, rest of the Sriracha, one more Tbsp of balsamic vinegar and the rest of the basil. Toss the eggplant and roast it in a pan until caramelized and crunchy. You could also save time and roast it all together but I have let the fire alarm go off many-a-times while roasting eggplants. Hence, didn’t want to take a chance again.

In the bowl, make a vinaigrette out of the remaining oil, vinegar, salt and pepper. Toss the lettuce and diced tomatoes. When the vegetables are done roasting, mix them together and sprinkle the cheese and mint leaves over the hot mixture.

To serve: make a bed of lettuce and tomatoes. Serve the roasted vegetables over it with another sprinkle of cheese, cilantro and finish it off with a splash of balsamic.

Carbs: 7.5 gms

Carbs with a dinner roll: 22.5 gms

(That is 7.5 gms less than the minimum allowed limit for a meal and the maximum allowed limit for a snack. Hah!)

spring salad2

 

 


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Indo-French Fries, You Beauties

We Desis have a way of Indianizing every dish we can get our hands on. When we forget to weave that magic on a certain recipe, the rest of the world goes ahead and does it for us. I mean, Maggi Masala Noodles is a national snack of sorts back home and I have a friend who knows to make only one kind of pasta: the Marinara Masala Spaghetti, as I have dubbed it. While I do appreciate the eclectic flavor a multi-cuisine dish can radiate and get a kick out of reading about condiments and spices common to cuisines world over, I am a prude when it comes to my kitchen. Indo-Chinese is as far as I’ve ever gone since I am familiar with it. So when I made these fries this afternoon, I felt like I was standing at the pinnacle of my multi-cuisine creativity while in reality, all I did was add delicious Indian spices to basic French Fries.
french fries2

But in my defense, desperate times call for desperate measures. I’ve been hitting my books with a vengeance for, my exams are looming over me next week. When my academic adviser told me that combining Finance and Accounts in a term (note, not a semester but its evil condensed form), I knew I should have listened to her. Oh well, my bad. Studying this hard has left me with no motivation to cook, leave alone dress it up and click pretty pictures. So late last night, I remembered that two years of trying to perfect the non-fried French fries has yielded great results and I could play on that. Hence, my Indian fries were born today. One thing though: they are yummy. You might need to make double the batch. After half an hour of trying to get a few perfect shots, I realized that my fries had gone cold. That did not stop me from thanking god K was not home to steal from my plate and gobbling it all up while watching Cupcake Wars. What? A girl can take a break from balancing accounts, ya know!

Indo-French Fries

Ingredients:
Three medium-sized Idaho or Russet potatoes (Yukon, I find, is wasted here)

One tsp salt

One tsp each cumin and coriander powder

One pinch red pepper flakes

One tsp Chat Masala (for the more daring people, I suggest Garam Masala)

Two Tbsp canola oil

Method:
Preheat the oven to 425ºF (220ºC) Peel and cut potatoes length-wise into thick wedges. Pat the wedges down with paper towel or a kitchen cloth to dab out all the moisture. Transfer it to a bowl and add the salt and oil. There are two methods you can choose from now. You can either add the spices to this or save it up to add on after the fries are done. If you use Garam Masala, which has a pretty strong flavor, I suggest you add it before baking. Chat Masala is always tastier when garnished in the end.

Make sure all the potato wedges are evenly coated with oil and spices. Lightly grease a baking sheet with PAM. Spread the potatoes in a single layer on the sheet and bake for 30 minutes, tossing once, 20 minutes into baking. The fries will end up golden and crispy on the outside and soft and done on the inside. When done, transfer to a bowl and mix in the spices. You could finish it off with a generous squeeze of lemon juice.

Eat it with mint-cilantro chutney, spicy chat dip from the Pakoda post or as one of my friends on Facebook has suggested, onion Chutney.
french fries

 


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Healthy Semolina

There are only so many ways to make semolina, I always thought. But the only one I could come up with for a “snack” or what we South Indians proudly call “tiffin” was the boring old upma. First, about the tiffin. It is that mini meal we eat between an early lunch and a dinner, around 3pm. As a kid, I used to love weekend tiffin time because my mother or grandmother would make yummy snacks that were completely dedicated to evening-meals on weekends and they would always be of the fried kind, fritter-like, filled with an assortment of vegetables.

On weekdays, we would be given something boring like an Upma or if we were lucky, Maggi noodles. Upma is sort of like couscous. It is made of coarse semolina, or broken rice, or vermicelli and we add spices and condiments to make it, er, more interesting. But lately, I’ve felt like I’m done with Upma. It is so boring, gets repetitive and has no real nutritional value (yes, I am suddenly all big on that) unless I add on all the veggies I’ve got in my pantry.

So yesterday, I went on a quest: to revamp semolina. I wanted to add some depth of flavor to it, some extra texture and basically make it a teeny bit more exciting. And then I got this bright idea to treat it like you would couscous and make salad out of it. End of the day, I don’t know if we loved it or simply tolerated it. I am guessing the former because we went back for seconds and wiped out the huge portion I had made. So here is the recipe.

Ingredients:

One cup coarse semolina (Indian stores stock up on various sizes)

Two Tbsp olive oil

One and a quarter cups vegetable stock

One cup raisins or dried cranberries

Half cup roasted almond slivers (I cut up my pan roasted almonds)

One Tbsp dry oregano flakes

Few cilantro leaves, rough chopped

For the vinaigrette:

Quarter cup olive oil

Quarter cup apple cider vinegar

Two Tbsp honey

One tsp salt

Half tsp freshly ground black pepper

Method:

Heat the two Tbsp oil in a pan. Add the semolina to it and fry for a few minutes on medium heat until lightly golden-brown and fragrant. Add the vegetable stock to it, close the pan with a lid and let it cook for ten to twelve minutes until completely cooked. Take it off heat when done and let it cool.

While it cools, make the vinaigrette. In a bowl, pour the vinegar, honey, oregano, salt and pepper. Whisk them together as you add the olive oil.

When the semolina is cool enough to handle, fluff it up using a fork. It is an arduous process but make sure it is fluffy. If it forms a thin, brown coat in the bottom, take it off (the browned part tastes yummy, fyi). Add on the raisins, almonds and oregano to it. Make sure it is well mixed. Now pour the vinaigrette on top of the semolina and toss to coat. Garnish with parsley and ta da!


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Those last pounds of muffin top…

It is said by work-out moguls that the last few pounds are the toughest to lose. You tend to feel overly happy with your new weight that you feel that one piece of brownie with your evening coffee is okay to eat. I’ve been carrying my last few pound for, lets see, forever and they have decided to set up camp and not let me go. My magic number is 33 and this is when you stop letting your Indian brain from doing wrong conversion. 15 kgs is a heavy weight to carry around and my most important reason for shying away from colors like white and peach. I mean, who wants to look like a golf ball when you can actually do dark?

So a couple of weeks back, I bullied myself into going to the forbidden land of community gym at home. It has not been dramatic: I haven’t magically fallen in love with the study-sized training room but I haven’t tried to cook up reasons for copping out either. My ritual, like playing the part of my couch’s cover, has been constant. I go and train around late afternoon. My ipod gives me much needed company and my water bottle always acts as the savior.

I feel like smiling when I get out. For a person who has been feeling like she needs to re-stock her wardrobe in goth colors, it is a welcome change. I love achy knees, stretchy arms and the urgent need to shower in cold water. So I am not going to say that I have officially become this health-conscious girl that I’ve always dreamed of being. But this is certainly a start to a little bit of health and action in my sloth book.

Update you, I shall. I mean, how can I not, my invisible ones (or visible ones who never leave a comment. Hint, hint.)?