Delicious World of Chefette Spicy

formerly Ladles and High Heels


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Wrapped in Paneer

After five months of waiting, mommy is finally here! She landed a day before Mother’s Day and although I don’t really believe in compartmentalizing my love for mothers into one single day, it felt good to have her here right on time. Anyway, after showing her around this part of the town for a few days and taking turns at the kitchen, it was my turn to cook her up something interesting for a change. It was Friday after all!

Paneer Kathi Rolls

Lately, I’ve been obsessed with making wraps for dinner. I know I haven’t shown any proof for that claim but these wrap situations always happen on Thursdays. Since K and I have been attending birthing classes on that day, I discovered that a wrap or a burrito is the most convenient snack to grab and go when you have exactly ten minutes to take a shower, get changed and get going. But it was a Friday, we were done with those classes and I wanted to make something different for mommy. I mean, how many ways are really there to make brown rice in, right?

I found these low-carb, whole grain tortillas in the store a few weeks ago and have been buying them regularly since my low-carb diet began. To cut the long, winding story short, I made Paneer Kathi Rolls for dinner. This dish is a great way to stretch a slab of precious Paneer and if you have ever been to Oxford Bookstore in Madras and dropped into their Cha Bar, the beautiful cafe dedicated to Chai and snacks, you would have probably tasted their Paneer Kathi rolls and fallen in love with it. If not, no big deal because as delicious as these rolls are in the cafe, it is pretty easy to make ’em at home.

Paneer Kathi Rolls

Ingredients:
Five Low-carb whole wheat tortilla rolls

One cup cubed Paneer

One big purple onion

Two Tomatoes

For the marinade:

Three Tbsps thick Greek yogurt

One Tbsp gram flour (or substitute with AP flour)

One tsp cayenne pepper powde

One tsp turmeric powder

One tsp Chat masala

One tsp Garam Masala

One tsp ginger-garlic paste

A generous pinch Kasoori Methi aka dried fenugreek leaves (optional but this is an amazing seasoning to have in your pantry if you are an Indian foodie. It freezes well too)

Salt

Two Tbsp vegetable (or canola) oil

Two cups of raw cabbage

One cup mint-cilantro-yogurt chutney (recipe follows)

Method:
Mix all the marinade ingredients. Add the Paneer cubes and let it rest for half hour. Meanwhile, thinly slice the onion, and wash, de-seed and dice the tomatoes. Heat the oil in a pan. When hot, add the onion and cook it on medium until translucent. Add the tomatoes and the marinated Paneer (and the remaining marinade) to the pan and let it cook until the mixture dries up and the tomatoes are mushy. To save the integrity of the Paneer, resist tossing it too much. When the stuffing is dry, switch off the heat. Finely slice the cabbage now. The beauty of this dish is the uncooked cabbage that acts as a bed of lettuce.

Heat the tortillas. spread them lightly with cabbage. Spread the Paneer mixture in the middle. Top it with the chutney and roll the tortilla as you would a burrito. Take a bite and tell me if it ain’t wonderful!

Mint-Cilantro-Yogurt Chutney:

Ingredients:
One cup mint leaves

One cup cilantro leaves

One cup thick yogurt

Half a lime

One shallot

One small piece ginger

One Thai chili pepper

Salt to taste

Method:
Whisk everything together in a blender. Add water if it is too thick. The Chutney should be of a thick consistency but not so thick that it refuses to let go of the spoon. You could call it an Indian Tzatziki if you wish to.

Serving Size: One roll for a snack, two rolls for a meal

Total Carbs: 20g each (with two Tbsp chutney in each roll)

 

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Fennel Virgin and a Pot of Soup

It took me three years to muster up enough courage to buy a bulb of fennel. Normally, I steer clear of a particular set of vegetables and this licorice-flavored little veggie has always topped the list. So this week on my trip to the grocery store, I stopped at the greens isle for a minute longer and picked up a bulb of fennel. I was planning to roast it along with carrots, asparagus and make a salad but stopped myself in time. I wanted to do something more adventurous so I decided on a pot of soup (see, that is me trying my hands at subtle sarcasm).

Tomato-fennel soup

The verdict: I loved it! I am generally not a fan of celery, the other veggie known for its licorice flavor but this was more peppery and my taste palate-friendly. Will I buy it again? For sure but this time I should find better ways to use fennel.

This is how I made my pot o’ soup…

Roasted Tomato-Fennel Soup

Ingredients:
Five Roma tomatoes, halved, seeded and cored

One medium-size head of fennel, cleaned, cored and diced into chunks

Half a huge white onion, diced into chunks

Five pods of garlic

Two Tbsp chopped fresh rosemary

One Tbsp chopped fresh thyme

One tsp fresh lemon zest

Four Tbsp low-fat cream cheese

Scant half a cup reduced fat milk

Two cups water or low-sodium vegetable stock (I used the former)

A pinch of chili flakes

Half a tsp chipotle peppers in adobo sauce (optional, recommended for heat-seekers)

One tsp brown sugar

Salt and pepper to taste

Three Tbsp good olive oil

(Phew!)

Method:
Pre-heat the oven at 400°F. Prepare two sheet trays. Arrange the tomatoes and fennel in one. Pour olive oil on the vegetables, one Tbsp of rosemary, little salt and pepper. Arrange the onions and garlic in the other sheet pan and replicate the seasoning. Roast the onions in the oven for twenty minutes and the tomatoes and fennel for ten minutes more. Once done and cooled down, transfer to the blender, add the thyme and lemon zest and blend it well.

Pour the soup in a pan and heat it. Add the rest of the flavorings, milk and water and let it come to a boil. Reduce heat and add the cream cheese and whisk it until thick and creamy. Check for seasoning. Serve with a dollop of cream cheese, a splash of olive oil and grilled cheese sandwiches. Ooh, yumm!!

Serving Size: half a cup

Total carbs: 16.9g

With sandwich: 40g

Tomato-fennel soup 2


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Waves of Change…



I love change. If change was a huge squishy toy, I would hug it all the time with bubbly happiness and never let go. When it comes to my blog, my love for transition reflects on every post I write. Which is probably why this blog never has a specific format. I do a lot of research and I read other food blogs everyday. “Have a structure!” is what all of them scream in unison. But I don’t think I ever will.

So one fine day, when I was on the long sabbatical from writing, I realized that I have outgrown Ladles and High Heels. I started the blog roughly a year and a half ago on a whim. Since then, things have changed (yes, that is me being overly dramatic). I have fallen deeper in love with food, more with cooking it than eating. I have learned new tricks, embraced new cuisines and I should tell you rather proudly that my standard has really increased.

This, I figured, calls for a change. Of the good kind. So without much ado, I would like you to meet the delicious world of Chefette Spicy. I know I am no fancy chef but a girl can dream, ya know!

The domain name, unfortunately, will remain the same until January 2013 since I registered for a year. This means I can look forward to another change next year. Yay, me!


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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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Indian 101

I realized how cheesy I sound as I typed the headline to this post but it is apt and so it shall stay. I got a couple of e-mails from people who read my blog (thank you, you wonderful people!), demanding to see more easy Indian recipes, stuff you will not find in normal Desi restaurants here. Loosely translated: No Paneer, Tandoori, Dosa or Idli. While the demand did shock me, it also made me secretly happy that people here want to go an extra mile towards some normal Indian cooking. Yes, we don’t always make fiery gravies and tame rice-cakes but balance our palate with other delicious food too.

so before we begin, here is a list of a few basic Indian ingredients you will normally find in any Indian store near home (oh, we know you know our secret hang-out!):

Turmeric powder: we use this for color, flavor and the goodness in this fights cancer.

Chili Powder: And we don’t mean the tame ones. We love our pure cayenne pepper powder and take it with us everywhere.

Tamarind paste: Tang is the word when it comes to it and we use it everywhere we need something sour. This is also the key ingredient in our Sambar, Rasam and a few Chutneys. Back home, we buy it in slabs which comes with seeds. We soak in water, squeeze the juice and use it. The tamarind pulp in bottle you get in stores today saves you a whole lot of time now.

Ground cumin and coriander seeds: if you have cooked Mexican, you probably have both these magical ingredients in the pantry already. They have a warm flavor and we add them in a lot of Indian foods.

Urad Dal: is it a condiment? Is it a pulse? It is both and it is white in color. Broken or whole, it doesn’t matter but this pulse is used to cook and garnish.

Rice: I cannot tell a lie, we love our rice. Basmati, Sona Masoori or Ponni (these are types of rice), we can live on rice without complaining… forever. Normally, we use Sona Masoori or Ponni for everyday use and reserve Basmati for fried rice, Pilaf and Biriyani (due to its unattractive nutrition value)

So there you go. The basic stuff you need to buy on your next grocery shopping.


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Red Velvet Holiday

Here is a quick post before the holidays officially set in. After giving it a lot of thought, I decided on baking a Red Velvet cake with cream cheese frosting to take with us tomorrow when we visit family in New Jersey for Christmas. I’m not going to reveal the actual two-layer cake now. There is time for that later. But before I leave, I wanted to wish everyone a Merry Christmas in LH style.

So when I was aligning the cake before frosting, I had to cut a thin layer off the top of the lower part of the cake (wow, that was a confusing sentence!) Instead of throwing it away like a fancy chef would, I made a couple of mini Napoleons with it that the Mister and I can munch on this evening.

So a Napoleon is basically made of layers of puff pastry and pastry cream but this is my spin-off the classic French dessert. I alternated between a layer of the cake and a layer of the cream cheese. Yum, what a dream it was!

On this note, I say good-bye until we meet after the holidays. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, bloggers. If not for you, I would have very few reasons to celebrate.



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India À la carte

If there is one thing about India I always think of fondly, it is food. That is because my every memory connected to my people back home has an underlying relationship with food, cooking and recipes. My mother, first of all, is an amazing cook. She says she hates cooking but it is amazing how she innovates and comes up with dishes that can send anyone off to gastronomic heaven. To know more, read this up.

I discovered my mom-in-law’s food this time… and it was not all Vatha Kuzhambu as I had promised earlier. To know more, check this. Now, she is the queen of yummy diet food and gosh, are they tasty! I woke up every morning just to potter about the kitchen and learn to make food she is famous for and that exercise had actually paid off. Back at home, I have started to adapt her style and her recipes… something, which I am sure, tickles her.

In my trip back home, I also got to meet two other chefs who hold a special place in my heart. In Bangalore, I stayed over at my eldest sister’s. Now Sarayu Akka is the first ever baker in the family. She has been an inspiration to me and this time, we really got to discuss food, read up recipes and I promised to get my blog more active. So if you see a  post with a Sarayu Akka tag, you will know who inspired me to make that!

Finally, my dearest aunt, Sudha Athai: she is the Mom of Modern Food for me. She was the first one to give me a taste of Vegetable Au Gratin, fifteen years back and she is the only one who can rock the Sambar as no one can.

JNU Dhabbas, million visits to relatives, Deepavali goodies, potluck lunches, I can go on and on if you ask me to tell you more. But I will not. Instead, I will show you. You will love it.