Delicious World of Chefette Spicy

formerly Ladles and High Heels


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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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Green Onion Kootu

It is official. Winter has arrived. Yes, we feel the bite of winter’s freezing hands down south here in Alabama too. But I am not as dismayed with the season as I was last year. Nausea all alone in the house was not fun but what is fun is having a home full of people and a kitchen that is always bustling with activity, be it something as simple as making a pot of tea or Amma rustling up wholesome South Indian food!
green onion kootuOne of the best things about my mother-in-law is her innate talent of creating something nutritious with fresh flavorful ingredients. Since Appa has a strict diet regimen, her choices when it comes to selecting vegetables is very rigorous. If you are one of those people who thinks that a diet that revolves around healthy cooking (low oil, lots of green leafy veggies kind) is snoozville, I am very sure that Amma’s cooking will change your mind.

This week’s bounty hunting at our local ethnic market brought to us some beautiful bunches of green onion. Now, this is not a vegetable we generally use in Indian cooking. Or so I thought until our trip to Indian last year. The day we landed in Madras, Amma cooked up some Sambar with green onions which found a huge fan in me. I would not be exaggerating if I said I had dreams about it until last Sunday. And then I found a new green onion dish to haunt my dreams: the Green Onion Kootu.

Although She laughed at me when I said I was going to write about it on the blog next, she agreed that it was a dish that connoisseurs of Indian food should taste! So after hurriedly clicking pictures of it, I decided that this Kootu deserves a big reveal as soon as possible. With the weather turning all frigid on us, I deemed this the perfect timing!

Green Onion Kootu

Ingredients:
One bunch green onions, whites and greens chopped

Two Tbsps Mung Dal, washed

One Tbsp Sambar powder. Rasam, Cumin-Coriander or even curry powder would work but it would give it a different taste

One tsp turmeric powder

One tsp salt

For Tempering:
One tsp mustard seeds

One tsp Urad Dal

One tsp asafoetida

Few curry leaves

Method:
Cook the green onions and Mung Dal with enough water, turmeric powder, Sambar powder and salt. When done, temper with mustard seeds, Urad Dal, asafoetida and curry leaves. If you are serving it as a side, make sure it is thick (thicken with AP/corn/rice flour). This dish could also be served as a soup. Squeeze half a lime and make some Papads (or cut a fresh loaf of bread) to dunk into the soup.

Since we made it for a casual lunch, we left out the cilantro for garnish. You could go ahead and dress it up.

Be safe, y’all! I heard it is going to be a messy week.


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Festival of Lights, ahoy!

Deepavali (Diwali) is here in a couple of days! It is said that Indians celebrate festivals all around the year but nothing beats Deepavali. Preparation begins at least two months in advance. Since my house in Madras is situated right in the middle of the commercial district (imagine living in Times Square all your life!), we celebrate with the crowd and curse them as we do.

People shop for clothes, crackers, sweets, jewellery and everything else during those two long months and take refuge under flimsy store roofs when Varuna, the rain god, strikes. It is the middle of monsoon after all! Our city police work extra hard, pick-pockets work harder, and everyone spends their hard-earned Moolah on worldly objects. We all get a kick out of that, of course!

Last year, I was in India for Deepavali and had so much fun! The fragrance of fire crackers woke me up in the wee hours of the morning. We took bath with oil and traditional Indian shampoo powder called Sheekai, ate lots of sweets and goodies, visited family, friends and had so much fun! K was of course, unable to come to India during that time and my phone call to him from India to America on Deepavali was the most depressing conversation I’ve ever had!

This year, I am home, looking forward to my overly-spoken about trip to India. Though we are far away, Deepavali celebrations in America are pretty awesome too, especially when you have a huge Indian community around you to make you forget about the mad-cap fun your family is having back in India. You would be surprised to know that Alabama has a huge Indian crowd and we have so many friends in our city. So this year, though firecrackers are not going to dot our celebrations, I am making/made sweets to celebrate.

 

A couple of days ago, I made Laddu, a typical Indian sweet, something I learned last year from my mom number 2. I am still reveling in the success. I have a couple more goodies to make and then we are all set to celebrate the festival of lights!

In the words of my all time favorite Tamil actor, Superstar Rajnianth, Happy Diwali, folks! 🙂


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Ginger Snap Memories

I have always loved ginger cookies. Back home, we call these ginger biscuits. We have this bakery called McRennett in Madras which has been around since pre-Independence days (which is why the English/Scottish name). When I was younger, my mom used to work and she would bring us back tasty McRennett treats from an outlet near her work. The store expanded as I grew up and quite a few of them popped up near where we lived.

It was at McRennett that I tasted my first cinnamon bun, Swiss roll and other yummy pastries. My paternal grandfather (Thatha) used to love ginger biscuits and people would buy it from McRennett when they used to visit him. His personal pantry was always open to his lucky granddaughters and he would indulge us in rummaging through it on weekends and summer holidays. My favorite treats from my Thatha’s stash would always be ginger snap cookies and orange sugar candies.

I had quite a volatile relationship with my grandfather while I was growing up. My grandparents lived with us and Thatha disapproved of quite a few things I did in my growing up years. Those dark years didn’t really stop him from indulging me in the weekly treats. Thankfully, all that passed and we formed a strong bond for the last seven years of his life. So after Thatha passed away, a few of us grandchildren got together in his room one day, rummaged through his pantry and feasted on what was left of his goodies while sharing wonderful stories about him. So these gingersnap cookies might as well be a tribute to my Thatha. Only thing is, the store-bought ones were always darker in color and crunchier in texture. But they had the same wonderful ginger taste.

Ginger also happens to be one of those doc-recommended flavor for me so I am all on board!

This time, when I go to Madras, I will make sure I stop at a McRennett outlet and buy a few goodies.


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Vegetarian Creations Inspired: Ratatouille Dinner

It was a cold night and I wanted to make something interesting, healthy and hearty for dinner. I was tired of the run-of-the-mill Sambar, Rasam and Curry and I am sure the Mister was too. I brought my copy of Vegetarian Creations out and leafed it through to that one recipe I have been dying to try. I have read the recipe so many times in the past one month that I knew the page number and the ingredients by heart.

I first tasted Ratatouille in a Chennai-based Tapas bar called Zara. It is my most favorite place in the city to hang out with friends and the food in the bar is always so drool-worthy that it is safe to say that I used to frequent the place especially for their scrumptious platters. While the Cottage Cheese in Tomato Gravy is what I order most of the time, my secret favorite will always be Zara’s Ratatouille.

Well seasoned and cooked to perfection, their Ratatouille always tasted tangy, spicy and wholesome. At Zara, they always served it with some rice, a dinner roll and freshly made coleslaw. What a perfect platter, right? So I decided to recreate the platter at home and boy, oh boy, was it worth it!

Here is a little history: Ratatouille originated in France but has traveled the world multiple times. Many countries have their own version. Though basically a vegetarian dish (surprise, surprise!), it has meat versions and native spices versions now. Anyway, here is my modified version, adopted from Vegetarian Creations:

Ingredients:

Onion 1 huge

Garlic 2 bulbs (minced)

Eggplant 1 huge

Zucchini 1 huge

Bell pepper (any color) 1 small

Tomatoes 2 medium-sized

Tomato Paste 16 Oz (450 ml approx.)

Fresh parsley 1/4 cup

Basil leaves 5

Dry Marjoram 1tsp (you can use oregano, which is from the same family of spices for a Mexican twist)

Salt 1tsp

Freshly ground black pepper 1/2tsp

Grated Parmesan (or Cheddar if you cannot find Parmesan) 3 tbsp and more for garnish

Olive oil 4Tbsp

Method:

Cut the eggplant into small cubes and salt it in a colander. After 20 minutes, pat dry with a kitchen towel. Meanwhile, chop other vegetables separately and mix salt, pepper and the other seasonings together in a bowl. Heat a huge (and I mean HUGE) pan, add olive oil and fry the onion and garlic over medium heat until onion is tender. Now add eggplant and zucchini and cook for five minutes. Finally add bell pepper, tomato, tomato paste and season it with the mixture. Cover and cook for 30 minutes over medium-medium low heat (alternate the temperature). Take off the cover and cook for (ideally) 20 minutes. If the eggplant is still a little raw (as it probably will), don’t hesitate to cook more until it cooks completely and the liquid is fully absorbed.

As I said, Ratatouille can be made a million different ways. This is just one of them.