Delicious World of Chefette Spicy

formerly Ladles and High Heels


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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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Weirdest rice ever!

You are going to laugh or cast me in the weirdo box when you hear about this rice. But the ones who already know all about this rice are probably going to ask me if this recipe even deserved a post. Well, every yummy dish deserves a blogpost and the yum quotient on this one probably tops mac and cheese in my book. So without further ado, I present to you curd rice. You could call it yogurt rice because that is exactly what it is.

It is the ultimate comfort food for us South Indians. I should probably narrow it down to the Tam-Brahms (Tamil-which is our language-Brahmin-the, erm, cast) because I have many a curd rice hating friend and they would disown me if I generalize. Every South Indian meal is incomplete without this dish. It tastes different in different regions and we add a varied list of condiments to make this otherwise bland dish more tasty. We love it cold in the summer, a little warm in the winter and absolutely hot and fragrant at weddings.

curd rice2

Talking about curd rice reminds me of a very funny (albeit a little embarrassing) story K once told me. This happened during his grad school days. Though he used to avoid taking Indian food to class, he couldn’t help but take curd rice once to school. So during lunch, he opens his box and starts eating. His American friend sitting next to him sniffs loudly and looks into K’s box. “Dude, what is that thing you are eating?” K very slowly says “Yogurt rice?”  The disbelieving guy is like “What’s that again?” The even more embarrassed husband goes “Yogurt and rice?” His friend gives him a horrified look and goes back to his lunch. That was probably the last day K packed curd rice to school!

What I am trying to tell you here is try it. It might sound very weird but you might just end up liking it. And as I said, this dish has so many different ways of preparation. I follow my mother’s method and it has never failed me. This is how I make it…

curd rice

Warm and Tasty Curd Rice

Ingredients:
Two cups freshly cooked rice

One cup yogurt/curd

One cup milk

Half cup water

Two tsp oil

Two Thai chili peppers

One tsp mustard seeds

One tsp Urad Dal (optional)

One tsp Channa Dal (optional)

A sprinkle asafoetida

One tsp salt

Cilantro leaves for garnish

Method:
Mix the rice, yogurt, milk and water. Add the salt. Heat the oil in a pan. Add the chili, mustard seeds, Dals and asafoetida. When the mustard seeds pop and the Dals turn golden-brown, take off the heat and mix with rice. The final product has to be a loose, creamy bowl of curd rice. If it is a little tight, add more milk or curd. Even better is a quarter cup of cream but I try to avoid that!

Ps: the black chilis are a South Indian condiment we make by mixing chilis with yogurt and drying them in the hot sun over a period of weeks. And then we fry them with the mustard and other condiments while making the rice. I haven’t mentioned it in the recipe because it is virtually impossible to get it in USA. But if you are an adventurous soul, let me know. I will send it over!

I eat it with any curry or jarred spicy pickle but honestly, you really don’t need anything to accompany curd rice. It is a rockstar all by itself!