Delicious World of Chefette Spicy

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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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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.


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Quick Three Cheese Pasta Bake with Homemade Marinara

Time seems to be flying these days! It seems like just yesterday that I updated the blog but here I am, ten days later, wondering where all that time went. Although I am supposed to be reveling in the joy of spring break, I am stuck at home, working on yet another paper. This means that little A is back at daycare, something I was looking forward to avoid for a weak at least. I completely miss spending all my daytime with her and was very pumped about the prospect. But it was not to be.

So, after two days of exclusive mommy-baby time, she went back to her auntie for the major part of the day. Not that she complained. I suspect that she was secretly pleased to run away from boring ol’ me to a place where she can play, laugh and have fun with her friend-ish kind of people. Although I am home alone and all that, I hardly find time to cook. The only thing that pushes me to get on with it is the fact that surviving on water and other liquids is not a diet we are interested in doing at the moment. Hence, I plan my menu a few days in advance and stick to one pot meals as much as my conscience would allow me. Since K is not the complaining kind, I take advantage of him a lot more than I want to admit.
Ricotta Pasta2Yesterday was pasta day. I had a can of diced tomatoes with basil, oregano and garlic sitting in my pantry. I bought some ricotta a couple of days ago and a nice ball of fresh mozzarella on dairy run yesterday. I decided to whip up some of my favorite double-duty marinara sauce to make a cheesy (albeit healthy) pasta bake that kind of edged extravagance while managing to be healthy. It was on the higher side of carbs, but with moderation, I knew that I could have my dinner and eat it too (cliche alert!).
Ricotta PastaQuick Three Cheese Pasta Bake

Ingredients:
One can diced tomatoes with basil, oregano and garlic

Three pods of garlic, minced

3/4 box of medium-size pasta like Penne or Rigatoni, cooked al dante, drained and a cup of pasta water set aside

One cup part-skim Ricotta cheese

Half a ball of fresh Mozzarella (or one cup of the shredded kind)

Two Tbsp Parmesan Cheese

Half an eggplant diced

Quarter cup frozen peas

One large egg (optional)

Salt

Pepper

Crushed red pepper

Quarter cup Olive oil

Method:
Preheat oven to 375°F (190°C). Heat a saucepan with half the olive oil on medium heat. Saute the minced garlic until it releases flavor. Pour the can of diced tomatoes and let it cook for ten minutes. When done, add salt, pepper and crushed red pepper. Transfer to a large salad bowl.

Pour half of the remaining oil in the same pan. Saute the diced eggplant on medium-high heat until it browns and starts to cook. meanwhile, add the ricotta and egg (if using) to the marinara sauce. Mix the peas in with the eggplant before you switch off and add this to the ricotta mixture. Blend in some of the reserved pasta water if you find the sauce to be thick. Fold in the Parmesan cheese.

Mix the cooked pasta with the sauce. Grease a baking dish with the remaining oil. Transfer the pasta mixture and top with the Mozzarella cheese. Bake for 20 minutes, until the cheese is bubbly. I broiled it for a few minutes to brown the cheese but this is only an optional step.


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My Experiments with Brussels

brussel salad3There comes a day in every food blogger’s life when they make the most perfect batch of roasted vegetables. Food angels will sing, you will shower in a million buckets of conceit and act like you just won the James Beard. Never happened to you? Is it just me? Well, alright then, let me go on. I made the most beautiful batch of Brussels yesterday and immediately let my smugness get ahead of me.

Initially, I had planned a curry with the veggie. When I realized that they were the most perfect shade of caramelized golden-brown with flavors popping every-which-way, I found the intended recipe too normal, very tame for this beauty. So I decided to let the Brussels revel in its newly acquired swag- I decided that a warm salad was the best route to take. What do I say, I was pressed for time and needed to set a few minutes aside for photographing this beauty.  Personally, I was tempted to eat it as it was, off the baking sheet but I kinda had to share it with the hub.
brussel saladI made the salad as I went- I roasted the Brussels Sprouts at 400ºF (205º C) for 30 minutes after coating them with two Tbsp of olive oil, salt and pepper. You could substitute salt with garlic salt if you want but honestly, I never missed the garlic (and I am the kind of person who thinks everything is wonderful with a little chopped garlic in it). I added Craisins and some walnuts. Since I wanted a creamy vinaigrette that would not steal the Brussels Sprouts’ thunder, I made a mild yogurt sauce with a little Chipotle in Adobo and a generous (quarter) cup of milk. I was impressed. Yes, it takes very little for me to feel happy with myself.
brussel salad2The only downside was that I missed Amma while I was greedily eating the salad off the plate after clicking a few hasty photos when I remembered: Amma was so taken by these mini-cabbages although she was not new to them. But then they are pretty expensive in India and not a perennial vegetable like they are in USA so we seldom bought them. She once made a wonderful pepper fry with Brussels when she lived with us last year. We also spoke extensively about making Brussels Fried Rice one day but we never really got down to it. Next time, Amma. We always have the next time.

Nutrition Info:

Serving Size: One Cup

Total Carbs: 15g


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Third Anniversary Deserves Something Sweet

My WordPress Notifications informed me that today is this blog’s third anniversary. As a blog that has evolved over time and become what I did not imagine even in my wildest dreams would become, it is time for some celebration indeed. Hence, I decided to do it with something sweet, Rava Laddu.

You might have seen a Boondi Laddu, even a Motichur Laddu but not even in your wildest dreams would you have come across the Rava (Semolina) Laddu… unless you are India, of course. No, your local Indian restaurant or store is not going to carry this delicate sweet. You have got to go online and find the recipe. Since it is a specialty in the city of Madurai in Tamil Nadu, which happens to be my mom-in-law’s hometown, I did not have to go looking for the recipe anywhere.
rava laddooAfter rummaging through my pantry a month ago, she came across a packet of pre-made Laddu mix (that she had made the year before when we visited home) and was slightly horrified bordering on miffed to know that I hadn’t made it yet. So praying to all the deities that it shouldn’t have gone bad, she ventured into making delicious Laddus for snack one day. The Rava Laddu, what can I say about these beauties? Semolina is gently fried until slightly brown and then sugar is added along with cardamom powder. This is sauteed again on gentle heat until golden brown and aromatic. Fried nuts are mixed into this powder, along with a generous amount of Ghee (brown butter) and this mixture is gently molded into small spheres by loving hands.

The result is a very decadent sweet that is extensively made during Deepavali in India. But Amma made it as a snack at home. Can you blame me for making a dinner out if Rava Laddus?
rava laddoo2


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Coconutty Egg Korma

I have plans for you this weekend: you are going to make this flavorful egg Korma with coconut milk for dinner. It will pair well with rice, Naan, grits, pita bread, lavash, quinoa or any other bread/grain you can think of! It is crazy good and made me wonder what I had in me to make this out of the blue. I mean, I am bad at making things up as I cook.
Coconutty Egg KormaGrowing up, I’ve had my share of tasty egg Kormas. If I’ve already told you this story, please forgive me for repeating, because my parents’ egg Korma deserves unlimited mentions! I also have very happy memories associated with this dish because egg for dinner always meant we were all alone at home, with no extended family for company. In a household that used to frown upon cooking egg in the kitchen with normal everyday utensils, family time with Roti and egg Korma was a luxury we would always look forward to.

Fast-forward to slightly grown up days, I remember gobbling up hot egg Biriyani with Jan and my favorite cousin, S, in dimly-lit restaurants that specialized in Biriyani from everywhich state. Oh, the taste. Of warm rice induced with every Indian spice imaginable. The succulent grains of Basmati coated with the Masala and fresh cilantro, oh heaven!  I had eggs, coconut milk and other things in my pantry that could make super yummy food. So I made up my own recipe and this is what I ended up with-Coconutty Egg Korma2Coconutty Egg Korma

Ingredients:
Four eggs, boiled, skins peeled and halved

One big purple onion, finely sliced

Two big tomatoes, diced

Half a can coconut milk

One Tbsp ginger-garlic paste

Two Thai green chilies

One Tbsp Dania-Jeera/Coriander-Cumin Powder

One tsp turmeric powder

One tsp cayenne pepper powder

Salt

To temper-
One tsp mustard seeds

One sprig curry leaves (optional)

Quarter bunch cilantro finely chopped

Two Tbsp cooking oil

Method:
Heat the oil in a pan. Add the mustard seeds and let it pop. Add the curry leaves and the sliced onions and saute on medium flame. When slightly brown, add the ginger garlic paste, chilies and tomato. Cover the pan with a lid and let it cook for five minutes on medium-low.

When the tomato turns mushy, add the Dania-Jeera powder, turmeric powder, cayenne pepper powder and salt. Let is cook for a few minutes, then add the coconut milk and one cup of water. Bring it to boil and switch it off. Don’t let the gravy boil for too long, it will change the taste of the coconut milk. The curry will thicken when you add the halved boiled eggs. Garnish with cilantro.

I think S will dig this gravy. I just have to find a way to make it and sneak it to her when I visit home this time…