Delicious World of Chefette Spicy

formerly Ladles and High Heels


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Thai Basil Eggplant

Holidays are nearly on top of us and I have no idea how this whole year zipped by. Although I am busy lovin’ winter, what with the sudden, global warming-induced 80° F weather and all that, I cannot help but miss the glorious summer we had. The summer filled with fresh produce, an abundant supply of sweet basil and trips to the farmer’s market that left me with a dilemma of what to buy and what to let go of… Sigh, what a beautiful season that was!

On the brighter side, I discovered the joys of one of the biggest farmer’s market in Atlanta right on time and although I am not going to be able to visit it often, I know that I can always find season-appropriate fresh produce there, if we can manage a two-hour car ride from this side of the country. And we have friends who visit Atlanta and the market regularly, so in case we ever feel too lazy to venture out, we can always request them to grab a few things for us… like we did last weekend.
baby food_yogurt3Our friends brought back fresh Thai basil amongst other produce. I was so taken by the herb that I decided it was time to make it the star of the show! After a couple of, erm, episodes involving curries named after various colors in the recent past, I decided to wing it and use the Japanese eggplant I had in the refrigerator along with peppers and call it a dinner. I surprise myself sometimes! 😉
Thai basil eggplantThai basil eggplant3

Thai Basil Eggplant

Ingredients:
Two Japanese eggplants, cut into three inch pieces

One bunch Thai basil, julienned

One onion, sliced thin

Two sweet red bell peppers, julienned (you can use a combination of different colors also)

Half cup babycorn, cut into bite size pieces

Quarter cup coconut milk

Quarter cup water

One Tbsp minced garlic

One tsp red chili flakes

Quarter cup light soy sauce

Quarter cup mushroom-flavored oyster sauce

Quarter cup Hoisin sauce

Quarter cup chili sauce like Sriracha or Sambal Olek (I used a combination of both)

Half tsp pepper

Quarter cup canola or vegetable oil

Method:
Heat two Tbsps of oil in a pan. Sauté the eggplants over medium-high heat, stirring just a couple of times. Make sure the pan sizzles all the time, else the eggplant will mush. As you cook the eggplant, heat the rest of the oil in a wok or a bigger pan. Add the onion and garlic and cook on high heat. When slightly browned, add the peppers and turn the heat to medium. When the peppers soften slightly, mix in the sauces, chili flakes and half the basil. Let the sauce cook and bubble. When it is nearly absorbed, pour in the coconut milk and quarter cup water along with the babycorn. Now add the eggplant to the pan and gently stir. Garnish with the rest of the basil and eat up or I will!
Thai basil eggplant2


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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.
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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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Ratatouille and Garlic-Lemon Spaghetti

To kick-start the long weekend, I recreated one of my most favorite recipes from the blog, Ratatouille. This time, I served it with wonderful lemon-garlic spaghetti and French bread-sticks.  Dinner was done at 6pm. Do I need a bigger validation?!
ratatouille2
The spaghetti recipe has been adapted from Giada’s Lemon Spaghetti and edited some. Here is the recipe:

Lemon-Garlic Spaghetti

Ingredients:
Half lb spaghetti or any long pasta

One third cup olive oil

Quarter cup lemon juice

A hand-full Italian blend cheese

Two pods garlic, finely grated

A pinch chili flakes

Salt and pepper to taste

Quarter cup basil, finely torn

Recipe:
Cook the spaghetti according to the package. Save half a cup of the pasta water and drain the rest. Whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, cheese, salt, pepper and chili flakes. Return the spaghetti to the pan, add the sauce. If the pasta is too thick, add the pasta water gradually until it reaches the desired consistency. Mix in the basil and serve warm with ratatouille and bread-sticks.
ratatouille
It probably took me longer to click pics than eat. I would call it a job pretty well done, won’t you? Happy Labor day, stay safe!


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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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Breadsticks for Early Dinner

For the millionth time, I say this: I love playing with yeast. More than french pastries and soup dinners. Well, probably not as much as comfort food but it gets close enough. Baking with yeast gives me a sense of accomplishment when I pull the tray out of the oven at the end of all the waiting around for the dough to rise and for the bread to cook. I know, I am not physically helping the dough to rise. That’s all the yeast’s job. But I cannot help thinking that all the good thoughts I send my dough helps it… a little 😉

So, every time I look at Olive Garden’s commercials on television, I cannot help but salivate at the golden-brown bread sticks (which taste as good as they look, I found). Today, when I watched the same commercial on every network I cruised through, I decided it was fate and went to make the dough. I have made bread sticks so many times before and now have my own recipe for soft, golden-brown sticks that go equally well with a simple marinara dip or with a complete meal of salad and pasta.

I don’t know if it is a (American) Southern thing, but I find myself using buttermilk in so many of my recipes that call for normal milk. In India, buttermilk is thinned out yogurt, which we either mix with rice and other condiments and eat or drink straight up during summer. The closest substitute to the American buttermilk is one cup milk mixed with one Tbsp vinegar and shaken together. That, together with wheat flour, gives my bread sticks a nice twist. The garlic and fresh basil only makes things better.

Garlic/Basil Bread sticks

Ingredients:

One cup all-purpose flour

One cup wheat flour

One small packet dry yeast

Half cup warm water

Quarter cup buttermilk

Half tsp sugar

Quarter tsp salt

Four minced garlic pods

Half a bunch fresh basil

Two Tbsp + 1 tsp for finishing (you could replace with two Tbsp of olive oil too)

One tsp good olive oil

Method:

In a bowl, mix the warm water, sugar and yeast. Stir and let it rest for five minutes until the yeast froths. Add the buttermilk, 2 Tbsp butter (or olive oil), garlic, basil and the salt. Mix well and add the flour combination. With a wooden spatula, stir (I always use my hand) until the dough comes together. Scrape the sides of the bowl and make a ball. Coat the bowl with one tsp olive oil. Place the dough in the bowl, cover with a clean kitchen cloth and, as always with yeast-incorporated dough, leave in a warm place in your kitchen for two hours.

After two hours, punch the risen dough down and divide into eight equal balls. Shape the balls into ropes, cover and let them rest for half-hour. Meanwhile, pre-heat the oven to  400 °F ( 200 °C). Bake the bread sticks for ten to twelve minutes. Once out of the oven, dab some butter (or olive oil) over the sticks. I went further and broiled them on high for three minutes. If you don’t mind pale yet delicious bread sticks, you could omit the step.


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Back After So Long: I Brought Dinner Rolls with Me

So much has changed since I last updated this blog. Coursework has been keeping me busy, hence, I haven’t had much time to cook any blog-worthy food. Or did I make many and decided not to click pictures of them? I honestly don’t remember.

So lately, I have gotten into making cheese. Though it is going to take me a lot of time and bucket-loads of patience to master the art of creating beautiful slabs of Mozzarella and Cheddar, I am not going to bow down and give up. But this post is not about cheese, sorry.

A couple of weeks ago, I came across Chef John’s recipe for Garlic-Parmesan Dinner rolls on allrecipes.com. I tried it for an evening snack (yes, we are crazy like that at home!) and I ended up with the softest set of delicious rolls ever! Since then, I have become a huge fan and have been trying variations to the roll. I made Chef John’s recipe two weeks ago and yesterday, I tried another version: my pesto rolls in whole-wheat flour.

Initially, I had my own suspicion because I have had so many misadventures while dealing with whole-wheat loaves but this time, it was a success. I ended up with soft golden rolls again. We ate them with marinara dipping sauce and oh boy! I cannot wait to make it again. This time, I am thinking rosemary and goat-cheese?

One small thing though: if you try this out, don’t alter the sponge. Make it with AP. Add wheat flour to it when you make the dough.