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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Jalapeño Poppers Pizza with Sweet Corn and Garlic Chips

jalapeño poppers pizzaSometimes, you want to make a dish for dinner and then you realize that you have planned something else that you have been waiting to make. For me, it happened on the day I found surprisingly firm jalapeño peppers at the market a week ago. Thinking I would make jalapeño poppers that evening, I bought exactly six (I had to exercise sound restraint since I am known to over-indulge while shopping for vegetables) but got home to realize that there was a ball of pizza dough thawing on my counter.

If there is one thing you should know about me, it is that I have freakish rules about twice freezing anything. I simply don’t do it and I hate trashing perfectly good edibles just because I have strange opinions on things that come out of my freezer. So I decided to combine my two dinner plans and make one super-awesome, easy-peasy Jalapeño Poppers Pizza! Thankfully, I had all the ingredients I needed in the fridge and it involved around ten minutes of prep time, a very welcome coincidence since I had my last final exam the next day.
jalapeño poppers pizza2
Although it tasted a lot like the Naan Pizza you get in the freezer section of the Indian store (if you haven’t tasted it, you really have to asap! It is the bomb) sans the obvious Desi taste to it. I added some freshly cooked corn that was just off the cob for a mild sweetness and some garlic chips because, well, who doesn’t like garlic on their pizza, right? The end product was a love child between spice and flavor- two attributes of cooking we all love! And guess what. I never missed bacon, an essential in jalapeño poppers.
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This is how I made it-

Jalapeño Poppers Pizza with Sweet Corn and Garlic Chips

Ingredients:
Half a box of pizza dough

Three jalapeño peppers (two if yours are as huge as mine were) sliced breath-wise

Half cup sweet corn cooked

One small yellow onion finely sliced

6oz cream cheese

One green onion chopped

Four pods of garlic, sliced (a la Gus Fring style, if you are into Breaking Bad)

Half cup shredded cheddar cheese (or Mexican blend)

Four Tbsp olive oil

Salt and pepper

Method:
Heat a pan with one Tbsp olive oil. Saute the sliced onions on medium-low heat until brown and caramelized.  When done, transfer to a plate and heat the rest of the olive oil on high heat. While it is getting hot, preheat your oven to 400°F (200°C). When the oil is hot, add the garlic. It will sizzle and go from brown to burnt in a jiffy so take extra caution and keep sauteing until it gets golden brown and crisp. When done, transfer the garlic chips to a cup. Reserve the oil. This is liquid gold. Roll the pizza dough into an 8 inch pizza base. If it gets sticky (something that is bound to happen to thawed pizza dough), sprinkle some flour and trudge on. Transfer it to a floured pizza stone and bake for seven minutes.

The trick here is to make sure the pizza bakes without getting all soggy so this step is kinda important. While the crust is baking, mix the chopped green onion with the cream cheese. When the crust is pre-baked, take it out of the oven and slather on the cream cheese mix. It will melt and slide but don’t worry, that’s the beauty of pizza making. Top it with caramelized onion, corn, cheese and garlic chips (in that order). Finish with the sliced jalapeño on top and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Bake in the oven for fifteen minutes more. When the cheese has melted and the jalapeño slices look slightly wilted, it is done. Spoon a little garlic-infused oil on top and sink into Popper-Pizza heaven.


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Feel Good Food: Bisi Bele Bath

BisibeleHolidays are here! Can you believe that it is already time for Christmas? I mean, it was only June yesterday but I woke up this morning to a very cold day and it suddenly hit me that we were nearly done with 2013. Last year this time, I was subtly pregnant and we were shopping for our trip to India. Although we are not due for a visit back home yet (or to deliver a baby), we are still shopping. Shopping for Christmas gifts that we would be taking with us while we visit family and friends back in East Coast.

I am pumped about travelling back to where it all- K and my life together, my culinary Eureka moments and ultimately this blog- began. But I am more excited about meeting the family, showing them Aarabhi for the first time and catching up with the awesome family, especially my wonderful sisters and brother-in-law (they range from the age of six to eighteen, so I find it weird to call ’em that).

Anyway, back to food. I cannot talk about Bisi Bele Bath without mentioning that our New Jersey aunt is a pro at making this wonderful dish. It is native to Karnataka, as she is and the spice mix she puts in her Bisi Bele is wonderful. Since I ran out of it last year, I used the store-bought Bisi Bele Bath powder by MTR and I have been in love with it since! But S Chithi did promise to give me the recipe for it this time when we go to Jersey.

Kannadigas around the world are freakishly proud of this dish and rightly so because it is a one pot wonder and nothing can parallel the taste of hot hot Bisi Bele. Especially on a cold day like today. The name itself is an abbreviation. Called Bisi Bele Huli Anna, hot and sour lentil rice, the name is pretty self-explanatory. It is made of rice, Dal and tamarind and generously packed with other veggies and a hot spice mix. Sounds delicious doesn’t it?! So here is how I made it.
Bisibele2Bisi Bele Bath

Ingredients:
One cup white rice

Half cup Tuar Dal

One cup Shallots

One cup frozen peas

A lemon size ball of tamarind (or two Tbsp tamarind paste dissolved in two cups of water)

Salt

Three Tbsp MTR Bisi Bele Bath powder

Quarter cup shredded unsweetened coconut

Two Tbsp Ghee/Brown Butter

One Tbsp Cooking oil

One tsp mustard seeds

Few curry leaves (optional but recommended)

One tsp Asafoetida

Few pieces of cashew nut

Method:
Before we begin, let’s talk rice.

Whatever you do, try to avoid using Basmati rice for this dish. South Indian rice dishes seldom call for Basmati since it is predominantly used in the northern parts of India only. Moreover, and most importantly, using fragrant rice varieties like Basmati or Jasmine would alter the taste of Bisi Bele and that is really not what you want to do, trust me.

If you are using rice bought from the Indian grocer, cook it together with the Dal in six cups of water until it turns mushy and runny. If you are using white rice bought from a store like Costco, cook them together in four and a half cups of water. This is because you generally need less water to cook American rice than you need to make Indian rice, whether it is Sona Masoori or Ponni.

Pour two cups of water to the tamarind and extract thick juice. Heat the one Tbsp of oil in a huge pot. Fry the shallots for a few seconds. Add the tamarind water and peas to this. Let it cook for ten minutes on medium-low. Now add the peas, salt, Bisi Bele Bath powder, coconut and asafoetida. Cook this together for ten more minutes. The tamarind water and peas have to cook and the spices have to mix and blend with the gravy.

Once done, mix in the cooked rice and Dal mix in batches. The result has to be loose, runny and smell like your kitchen has suddenly transformed into Indian food heaven. Heat the Ghee separately. Fry the mustard seeds along with cashew pieces and curry leaves. Add this to the Bisi Bele Huli Anna and mix it up one last time.

Since Appa decided to throw his strict diet out of the window for the day, I (guiltily) made spicy Potato Curry to go with it. Chips and onion Raita made our lunch brighter.

Much yummy noises were made at the dining table. That made me a happy girl!


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Black Bean Rajma for Lunch

This is probably the most basic recipe for Rajma and I am pretty sure most people are wondering why I am putting it up. Well, it was uber yummylicious and I figured it would be a sin not to click a pretty pic of it and share it with the world! Mom made it and she added a darn secret ingredient to it which made the dish pop with flavor and color. We had some left-over tamarind Chutney from all the food our friends ordered for my surprise baby shower last weekend (the shower was so wonderful that I am not done gushing about it yet. I cannot believe that my family drove all the way from New Jersey, Virginia and Atlanta just to give me a huge surprise! How awesome are they!!).
rajma
Although the spring rolls and Gobi Pakoras (cauliflower fritters) are long gone, the dipping sauces are still gracing our refrigerator in air-tight take-out boxes. So this morning,  after Amma made the Subzi and tasted it, she felt that something was missing. Putting her creative cap on, she quickly emptied half a container of the chutney into the Rajma. The result was a tangy-sweet and spicy curry that we ate with Roti and Basmati rice.

And as always, I have a cup waiting in the fridge for tomorrow with my name on it. Man! Do I love leftover delicious food!


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Summertime is Pickle Time

I have the most amazing recipe to share today and I am bursting with excitement. Summer is officially the pickle and crunchy things making month back home. Come May, you would find women and (as it is in my family) men up in the terrace writing Vethal (the South Indian version of Papadum) with their wonderfully flexible wrists. Since ’tis also the season for mangoes, lemons and lush ginger, you would also find them relentlessly busy, making spicy pickles in the kitchen. My grandmother used to be the queen of summer food and my aunts and father followed her well-trodden footsteps. On the way, they made their own changes to the well-established recipes but during family get-togethers, they would always talk about Paati’s pickles.

The other day, I was out grocery shopping (what else is new, you ask me?) and stumbled upon wonderful ginger roots. They were juicy, fragrant and brazenly calling out to me. I had no other choice but to buy three gigantic roots of ginger. Don’t look at the screen like I’ve gone crazy because I had huge plans for the root. When I got home, I cut one of the gingers into huge chunks, sealed them in Ziplocks and stored them in the freezer (Rachel Ray, thank you very much!). I packed the other two in another Ziplock and put the bag in the fridge… because I was planning to use them soon.

Coming back to the story, while Aavakkai (a pickle made of raw mangoes, mustard and chili powder) was our all time favorite, we found space for gems like Mavadu (baby raw mango pickle), lemon and ginger pickle in our palate. One such pickle is the Puli-Inji (Tamarind-Ginger) pickle. It is a native of Kerala, one of the southern Indian states. Since my grandmother spent most of her teens in Kerala, she adopted the lifestyle, food, language and all, and was very proud of it. Hence, we took wonderful Kerala dishes like Avial, Eriseri and Puli-Inji for granted.

When I saw the ginger in the store, it struck me. I was going to make Puli-Inji. While this is a spicy little side-dish, I assure you that you will fall in love with it. You can always play with the quantity of each ingredient to make it less-spicy, more tangy, etc. I researched online, adapted the recipe from nearly five websites (Puli-Inji is famous!) and ended up with my own. So here we go:

Ingredients:

Two and a half cups of ginger (One huge head of ginger yields that much), peeled and roughly chopped

Five Thai chilies (this makes a very spicy pickle)

One Tbsp tamarind pulp (Indian store, it comes in a bottle. That is the easiest way to deal with tamarind)

One cup water

One tsp salt

One and a half tsp chili powder (again, spice quotient will be high so this is optional)

Three Tbsp jaggery (this is the Indian substitute for sugar. Has high iron content. It is easily available in Indian grocery stores. If you don’t want to buy it, use brown sugar), grated

One tsp mustard seeds

A few fenugreek seeds (Indian store again but this is optional. These seeds are very bitter and used sparingly in Indian cooking)

A few sprigs of curry leaves

Half cup oil (I used sesame oil because I love the taste. You can use any oil other than olive. And don’t worry, we will not use all that while cooking)

A shake of asafoetida

Method:

Heat the oil in a heavy-bottom pan. When it is hot enough, add the ginger pieces and fry on medium-high. When it turns golden brown, with darker brown edges, add the chilies and toss once. Switch off the heat and scoop the fried ginger and chilies out. When cool enough to handle (I gave it an ice water bath), grind it smooth in the mixer. Discard half the oil. Heat the oil again, add mustard. When it starts to pop, add the fenugreek seeds, curry leaves and the asafoetida. Now add the ginger mixture, salt and chili powder (if using). Dissolve the tamarind pulp in the water and add it to the mixture along with jaggery.

When the mixture starts to boil, turn the heat to medium-low. Let the pickle cook until the water is 80% absorbed and the oil separates from it. Switch the heat off, check for salt and let it cool. Transfer to a container, seal it and store in the refrigerator.

What can you eat this with, you ask me? Use it as a spread, dip, add a little water to two tsp of the pickle and marinate veggies or meat. Use it as a glaze for not-so-sweet dessert. Go crazy!


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Spanish Spicy Potatoes

It has been a long hiatus and I’m not happy about it. This time, I blame my photographer’s block. Though I made a lot of yummy food in the past month, I did not photograph any of it. So for the past 30 (odd) days, its been like this: I make food, we gobble it up and I end up wishing I had clicked pictures.

To me, half the joy in cooking lies in presentation, especially when I have a blog going. I can go on and on, describing an amazing Kofta Curry I made a few days ago without managing to earn a single “ooh” out of people reading it. So I sadly have to ditch writing about things I haven’t photographed and start putting my camera to use in the future.

The last visual proof I have of in my recipe box is the Spanish Spicy Potatoes. I got the idea for it from random food blogs gawking sessions. I tasted a version of this dish at Zara’s (the Chennai-based Tapas bar) and I remember falling wildly in love with it. My version has a blend of my own spices and McCormick’s Fajita mix. Whatever it is, this semi-homemade is sure to rock your world… until you clean it all up.

Here we go:

Ingredients:

Three large potatoes (I used Idaho), cleaned and peeled and diced

Half a packet of McCormick’s Fajita Mix

(If you don’t have it, mix together the following: one tsp cumin powder, half tsp oregano, a few shakes of garlic powder, one tsp paprika, one tsp cayenne pepper powder)

One tsp coriander powder,

One tsp onion powder

Salt and pepper to taste

Three Tbsp vegetable oil

One Tbsp olive oil

Two tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice

Cilantro for garnish

Method:

Heat a pan with two Tbsp oil. While that is heating up, rub the pieces of potatoes with olive oil, the spices, salt and pepper. When the pan is hot, hot, hot (yes, that hot!), add the potatoes. The key here is to cook the potatoes, make it crunchy and manage not to burn it, all at once. Turn the heat to medium and just let it be. Toss it regularly, but manage not to mush it.

When the potato is cooked, it is time to crunch it up. Turn the heat up to medium-high, add the other Tbsp of oil and let it fry away to glory. Give it a shimmy shake regularly until it crisps all over. When done, switch the heat off and stir in the lemon juice. Garnish with cilantro, grab a few tooth picks and dig in!