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Showing posts from April, 2008

My favorite Pasta Salad

Here's how to make the cutest pasta salad ever. First, find your perfect pasta shape. I think the bows (farfelle) looks best, but go for shells if you like them better.

Boil a cup of your chosen pasta until al dente and drain. Now, for the fillers, pick two colors that contrast with the pasta's white. I think of this salad as red and yellow of summer specled with green. And I get there by adding strips of roasted yellow and red peppers. If you don't like peppers, substitute a tomato for red pepper. For yellow, add 1/2 cup of boiled corn.

Now for the dressing. Mix a tbsp of capers, a tbsp of chopped chives, juice of one lemon and 1/2 tsp honey in a bowl. Add salt and pepper, then whisk everything together and add to pasta and peppers while they are still warm. Toss to coat.

A gift for a gift

Taking a break from salad making to say thanks to a friend who just returned from New York with my favorite gift : bags of Hershey's chocolates. Don't snigger. I like the belgians as much as anyone, but that doesn't mean I don't appreciate Dairy Milk or Hershey's. I positively adore the Hershey's Nuggets; of the extra creamy and with nuts variety. I got those from NY, and I got their semi-sweet chocolate chips. Which is when I decided to bake these chocolate chip cookies as a thank you.

As with all cookies, I start by taking 50 gms butter out of the fridge and leaving it to soften. After an hour or so, cream this soft butter with 50 gms sugar. Here, I used half caster sugar and half raw brown sugar. Now add 2 tbsp milk and 1/2 tsp vanilla essence. Beat everything until light and fluffy. Mix together 120 gms flour and 1/4 tsp baking soda, then add to the bowl with butter/sugar and mix well. The batter should be fairly runny. Finally, fold in 80-100 gms chocolat…

Couscous Salad

Let's set the record straight. Couscous is not a grain, its a pasta. I had to say this here, for I've said this so many times and yet no one believes me. For doesn't it look so much like bulghur or a rougher version of semolina. Yet, this north african staple is steamed and dried before it reaches you, just like any of your pasta.

My favorite couscous is served with a chickpea curry, but its summer and time for salads. And what's better than a minty, fresh couscous salad.

Heat 1 tsp olive oil, then add one chopped spring onion and a crushed garlic clove. Stir in 1/2 tsp of ground cumin and some salt, stir for a few seconds and add a cup of water. Bring to a boil, then remove from heat and stir in a cup of couscous. Let it stand for 5 minutes, by which time your couscous would have swelled and all water absorbed. Obviously, this goes for my brand of couscous, but go by whatever it says on your packet.

In a bowl, mix this cooked couscous with a chopped tomato and as mu…

Salad Making 101

A few years back I gave a class on salad making to a group of women keen on healthy eating. As I set about picking the recipes for the class, I set thinking what constitutes a perfect salad for me. For I have rarely turned to recipes when making a salad. I just find the combinations that work.

And how do you find those combinations, my class asked. And here's my answer, my philosophy of salad making.

I think of a salad as four distinct constituents.

1. First comes the base. The lettuce of a green salad, the macroni in a pasta salad, bread in panzanella - these are the ingredients that define what the salad is.

2. Next is what I call fillers. These are ingredients (maybe one, but usually 2-3) that complement the base. And I dont just mean complement here in taste. Think looks, think color, think what will make your salad beautiful. What I do is find flavors that work together, and yet have colors that constrast.

3. The third item on my list is what I can only describe as flavor bu…

Cheese and Herb Rolls

I’m sitting here in a daze. I’ve done it – finally baked a bread that you can actually eat! Never thought I’d live to see the day when the fresh-bread-baking smell fills the house.

Let's start with the temptress, the active dry yeast. I strictly followed the instructions on the package, and dissolved 1/2 tsp sugar and 1/3 tsp yeast granules in 1/3 cup warm water. Then started hoping ferverntly that it rises. It did foam marvelously and was bubbling when I moved to the next step.

In a bowl, I stirred together 1 cup plain flour and a pinch of salt. Then added 1/2 tsp olive oil and the yeast, water et al to make a sticky dough. I had to knead it for 3-4 minutes for the dough to become smooth. It was still quite soft.



Next, I lightly greased a plastic sheet and rolled out the dough to a large circle. I spread roughly a tablespoon of butter on the rolled dough, and then sprinkled grated cheddar and sweet marjoram leaves. How much? Really, as little or as much as you like. There's…

Bananas, Breakfast and all that jazz

Taste & Create, the wonderful event hosted by Nicole of "For the Love of Food" is back and this month my partner is Erin of Skinny Gourmet. A PhD researcher from windy Chicago, Erin has spent a lot of time in Ghana recently. Her well travelled lifesytle shows in her eclectic mix of recipes. And even these recipes are only the front to a rich mix of stories - on her life in Ghana, about her grandmother, other seemingly day-to-day things that become vibrantly alive in her telling.

For this month's challenge, I decided to make her Banana Breakfast Bars. Surprisingly for me, I struck very close to her recipe. In fact, the basic cake dough is absolutely the same as she makes it - cream 20 gms butter with 1/2 cup brown sugar and a pinch of salt. Mix 3/4 cup regular flour, 1/2 cup whole wheat flour and a tsp each of cinammon powder and baking powder. Mix these with butter and sugar. Now add 1/4 cup milk, 1 tsp vanilla extract and 1/2 cup mashed banana. Mix well and spread h…

Whiffs of Memory

Arugula : pungent, bright and flavorful, a dimension lettuce can never hope to achieve.

To me, food is all about memory. Some flavors remembered from childhood, some acquired over the years; every favorite triggers a moment that makes it special. And this salad is what makes arugula more than a salad leaf. Arugula to me is cobbled side streets, a rustic Italian bistro, friends and conversations.

First, wash arugula and pat dry. The leaves are small enough so you don’t need to tear them. Peel and chop a pear. Toss it in lemon juice to make sure it keeps on looking a bright white. Add it to the bowl over a layer of arugula. Add another layer of arugula, then some walnuts. Top the salad with cheese. The traditional choice is grated parmesan, but I prefer crumbled goat cheese or feta.

As you build each layer, keep on sprinkling some salt and pepper – we are not going to add much of a dressing here so no need to toss it later. For our non-dressing, I just pour enough balsamic vinegar to …

Balsamic Apples

The apple pie gave me an idea. If what I like is baked apples, why not make just the filling and no pie. So this time around I simply cored and chopped an apple into thin slices, and tossed it in lemon juice.

I just spread the slices in a single layer on a baking sheet, then sprinkled some demarara sugar. Poured in two large slugs of balsamic vinegar to coat everything, and covered the baking sheet with a foil to stop the fruit burning. I baked it in a 200C oven for 10 minutes, then removed the foil and sprinkled some walnuts. Baked the apples for another five minutes or so, this time without the foil, until the juice has reduced to a thick syrup. They were delicious warm and straight out of the oven.

Apple Pie for Lazy Cooks

My second lazy recipe in a row. Guess just the mood I am in! I’d copied this lazy pastry recipe from a cookbook many years ago, so just decided to finally try it. To make the pastry, mix together 1 cup flour, 1 tbsp caster sugar and a pinch of ground cinnamon. Rub in 75 gms butter until the whole mixture resembles breadcrumbs. The recipe says to add an egg yolk now, but I just used some water to bring the dough together. Knead it until smooth.



Roll out the dough as thin as you can, then transfer to a baking sheet. Now peel and thinly slice an apple. Toss it in lemon juice. Make a layer of apples in the center of the pastry leaving 2-3 inches all round. Sprinkle some raisins and ½ tsp demarara sugar. Add another layer of apples, then raisins and sugar again. I added a third layer and then my apple was all used up. Top with some more raisins and sugar as well as some chopped walnuts. Bring the pastry up to cover most of the apples (you will probably have a hole in the middle; cover it…

An (Almost) No Cook Sunday Dinner

Yes, I do know that food bloggers are supposed to be passionate about cooking. But try this after a weekend spent working, and an early start looming for Monday. I’d also had a bit too much of eating out in past two days, so didn’t want to order home delivery either. AND I really, really wanted a nice dinner.

So here’s my easiest quickest gourmet feast ever. For starters, I made salsa with a finely chopped tomato, half a chopped onion, couple of jalapeno slices, salt and juice of half a lemon. I just mixed it all together and let it rest for a few minutes for the flavors to mingle. A perfect dip for my sour cream chips.

Next on course was a paneer sandwich, and the meal wrapped up with a piece of chocolate. I was trying to be nice here, so stopped at one square. But what a square – pure dark chocolate laced with nuts and orange zest. Ten minutes, almost zero effort and a happy me; what a deal!

Sprout ‘em Up

Sprouts are so easy to make. I usually soak some lentils in the morning, drain the water when I get back at night and tie them in a wet cloth. In Bombay’s warm weather, they usually start sprouting by morning. I waited until evening for them to sprout some more, and then made this cute salad.



Steam sprouts lightly. Also steam an equal quantity of corn. Mix sprouts, boiled corn, and a finely chopped onion. Now sprinkle some salt, crushed pepper and chaat masala. Add juice of 1 lemon and toss to coat. Dig in for a delicious dinner!

From our Guest Chef : A New Take on Soymilk

This drink began with sceptism. I am not a fan of soymilk. And while I like bananas, I'd rather eat than drink them. But our guest chef said to go for it.

So here goes : blend a banana with one cup soymilk. Now, our guest chef says to throw in a handful of oatmeal. But I have muesli here right now, so its a handful of swiss style muesli into the blender, nuts and all. Zip for a few seconds and pour into a pretty glass.

Beautiful and delicious; I'm converted.