Friday, February 23, 2018

Broccoli Au Gratin



Cheese and broccoli, they just go so well together. In my family, we all like this green flowering head. Raw, steamed, stir-fried, we love it in all forms. This combination, however, is everyone's fave. If you are not a great fan of broccoli, this recipe will certainly make you rethink this cruciferous vegetable.

This rich and delicious side dish is an excellent choice for a potluck and makes for a great side to any festive entree. Creamy b├ęchamel sauce is drizzled over tender-crisp broccoli and topped with shredded cheese and crunchy breadcrumbs to create the ultimate broccoli side dish.
As a variation you can make this recipe with a combination of broccoli and cauliflower, just tastes divine and really satisfying, especially during winter. A great way to incorporate vegetables into your meal.

Ingredients: (serves 4)
1 large bunch of broccoli florets
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
2 cups whole milk
Salt to taste
1 tsp thyme
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 tsp freshly cracked black pepper
1/2 cups grated Cheese (Gruyere or Sharp cheddar or Parmesan)
1/4 cup panko + 1 tbsp melted butter
  1. Steam the broccoli florets in a large pot of boiling water fitted with a steamer basket for 3 minutes, until florets are tender-crisp. Rinse them in cold water, drain well. We like our broccoli a little crunchy. If you prefer it a little soft then steam for 5 minutes.
  2. Arrange them in a single layer in an oven-safe dish.
  3. In a large saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter and whisk in the flour until it forms a smooth paste. Continue whisking, cook for about 2 minutes, and then gradually add the milk – 1/3 cup at a time. Continue whisking and cook until the sauce is completely heated through, smooth, and thickened. Remove from the heat and season with the salt, thyme, and nutmeg. Please grate the nutmeg yourself, it makes a huge difference in flavor.
  4. Pour 2 cups of the B├ęchamel sauce over the steamed broccoli and gently toss the florets to make sure they are thoroughly coated with the sauce.
  5. Preheat the oven to 450°F. 
  6. Bake the gratin, uncovered, for 15 minutes. Stir together the grated Gruyere cheese and breadcrumbs and sprinkle them over the gratin. Bake it for an additional 10 to 15 minutes, until the gratin is hot and bubbly and the cheese is melted and browned. Sprinkle the surface of the baked gratin with the ground pepper and serve hot.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Indian Paratha

The Indian paratha


Sunday morning, Star Trek playing on TV, slight moist chill in the air and a buttery fried smell drifting through the house. My childhood memories of Sunday brunch when my mother had a day off from work and she made hot stuffed parathas with a different filling each week. We looked forward to them, my brother and I, gorging down these 'garma garam' delicious beauties dripping with butter, and a side of 'mirchi ka achaar' and a small bowl of plain yogurt.

The Indian paratha, an unleavened bread cooked all across Indian households is a breakfast favorite and a lunchbox favorite for almost all kids. There are numerous recipes for parathas with variations of fillings and dough. Most vegetables can be used for stuffing, but my faves are potato (aloo paratha) and radish (mooli paratha). It's a good way to use any left overs, just stuff-em in a paratha.

Crisp edged, flaky and spicy, freshly made, piping hot parathas straight out of the tava, topped with butter, dunked in tangy spicy pickle and a cooling spoonful of yogurt, small moments of childhood bliss.



I have broadly categorized the stuffed parathas into three categories.
  1. The dough method - Add the chopped veggies to the flour and knead into a soft dough. Roll and fry. Some examples of this type of  parathas are methi (fenugreek), onion, spinach, green onion.
  2. The stuff in method -  Roll the dough into a small disc, place a small amount of filling in the middle, Pull the edges together and seal. Flatten, roll and fry. This is the most common method, and almost any cooked dry vegetable can be used to make a paratha using this method. Some common examples are potato, urad dal, chana dal, paneer, peas, aloo methi sabji, sugar/khoya.
  3. The two roti method - When the stuffing is too chunky or too moist to use method-2, try using the two roti method. Roll two rotis, spread the filling evenly on one, place the second roti on top and press the edges to seal them. Then fry gently. A little tricky but practice makes perfect. Works well for grated radish(mooli), cauliflower (gobhi), cabbage, cheese, egg, mince meat -chicken or mutton (keema).


Here are some accompaniments that make these parathas even more special. You may want to try one or more with your next paratha meal.
  1. White butter and/or ghee
  2. Stuffed or chopped red chili pickle
  3. Lime or lemon pickle
  4. Raw mango pickle in oil
  5. Plain yogurt

THE DOUGH METHOD
Methi Paratha
Ingredients: (Makes 15)
3 cups whole wheat flour
2 tsp oil
4 cups packed chopped methi
1 tsp ajwain
1 tsp garam masala
3-4 green chilies, chopped fine
1-inch ginger, grated
Salt and red chili powder to taste
Oil/ghee for shallow frying
  1. Combine the first eight ingredients in a bowl and knead a soft dough with cool water. 
  2. Knead well for 3-5 minutes until smooth.
  3. Cover and keep aside to rest the dough for 10-15 minutes.
  4. Heat a flat griddle pan (tava) or frying pan.
  5. Divide the dough into equal portions. Flatten the dough ball and roll out on a lightly floured surface to a 6 inch circle. 
  6. Dust off the excess flour from the paratha and place it on the hot pan.
  7. Cook for a few seconds and turn over. Smear the top of the paratha with a little melted butter or oil using the back of a spoon. 
  8. Turn over and repeat the process of buttering the top while the base cooks. Now turn over to cook the other side until there are brown speckles on the base as well. 
  9. Serve warm with yogurt and your choice of some pickle.

THE STUFF IN METHOD
Potato (Aloo) Paratha
Ingredients: (Makes 12)
For the dough
2 cups whole wheat flour
2 tsp oil
For the filling
6 large potatoes, boiled, peeled
1 tsp ajwain
1 tsp garam masala
3-4 green chilies, chopped fine
1-inch ginger, grated
Fresh coriander, chopped fine
2 tsp anardana/ dried pomegranate powder
Salt and red chili powder to taste
Oil/ghee for shallow frying
  1. In a bowl, sift the flour and add 2 teaspoons of oil and enough water to form a soft dough.
  2. Rest the dough while you make the filling. Wrap it in cling film or cover with a damp cloth and keep aside. 
  3. Place the peeled and boiled potatoes in a large bowl and mash them well using a potato masher.
  4. Add all the other ingredients to the mashed potato and mix well. 
  5. Heat a flat tava (griddle) or a frying pan to medium.
  6. Divide the dough and stuffing into equal portions. Flatten the dough ball and roll out on a lightly floured pastry board to a 3 inch disc. Add the filling to the disc, pull the edges together, seal well and flatten.
  7. Roll out the encased dough into a 6 inch circle on a lightly floured pastry board. Dust off the excess flour from the paratha and place it on the hot tava. 
  8. Cook for 10-15 seconds and turn over. Smear the top of the paratha with a little melted ghee or oil using the back of a spoon. Turn over again to cook the other side and add some more butter on the top side. Turn one more time and cook for a few seconds till lightly crisp.
  9. Serve hot with yogurt and your choice of pickle.

THE TWO ROTI METHOD
Cauliflower (Gobi) paratha
Ingredients: (Makes 8)

For the dough
2 cups whole wheat flour
2 tsp oil
For the filling
½ large cauliflower, grated fine
1 tsp ajwain
1 tsp garam masala
3-4 Green Chilies, chopped
1-inch ginger, grated
Fresh coriander, chopped fine
Red chili powder to taste
Salt to taste
Oil/ghee  for shallow frying
  1. In a bowl, sift the flour and add 2 teaspoons of oil and enough water to form a soft dough.
  2. Rest the dough while you make the filling. Wrap it in cling film or cover with a damp cloth and keep aside. 
  3. Mix all the ingredients under filling except salt. Salt will leech out moisture of the vegetable, making the stuffing moist. Add salt just before you start rolling the paratha. 
  4. Heat a flat tava (griddle) or a frying pan to medium.
  5. Divide the dough into 16 equal portions. 2 of the dough balls will become one paratha. 
  6. Flatten a dough ball and roll out on a lightly floured pastry board to a 4 inch circle. Keep it aside while you roll out another dough ball.  Spread a generous amount of filling all over the circle, place the other rolled out circle on top and using your fingers lightly press to seal the edges. 
  7. Now roll it gently into a 6 inch circle. Carefully place it on the hot tava. 
  8. Cook for 10-15 seconds and turn over. Smear the top of the paratha with a little melted ghee or oil using the back of a spoon. Turn over again to cook the other side and add some more butter on the top side. Turn one more time and cook for a few seconds till lightly crisp.
  9. Serve hot with yogurt and your choice of pickle.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Sausage potato Skillet


A simple, homey, "I wanna be in my sweats all day" kinda meal. With just four main ingredients, this inexpensive recipe is perfect for those busy or lazy nights when cooking is not on the top of my mind. Most of these ingredients are usually always in my pantry. And I can customize the flavors by using any herbs I have at hand. My first preference is always thyme. And garlic, lots of garlic. I use Turkey kielbasa for this dish, but pork or beef sausage works just well.

When I first made this dish, I used one pan and realized pretty early on that it was a mistake. Cooking potatoes in a separate skillet keep them crisp and dry. The other ingredients can be cooked together without the fear of overcooking. I mix the two just before serving.

Make it Vegan by substituting tofu for sausage.


Ingredients: (serves 4)
1 package turkey kielbasa, chopped
1 green pepper, diced
1 red pepper, diced
1 red onion, diced
4 small potatoes, diced
olive oil
2-3 cloves of garlic
1/2 tsp dry thyme
salt and pepper
red chili flakes (optional)
  1. In a heavy bottomed pan, heat 2 tbsp of olive oil over medium-high heat.  Add the potatoes to the skillet and season with salt and pepper. Cover and cook on medium-low for 5 minutes. Increase heat to medium-high and fry until golden brown and cooked through, around 1-2 minutes, stirring to ensure even browning.
  2. In a separate pan, brown the sliced kielbasa for around 2-3 minutes in a little olive oil over medium-high heat.  Remove from the pan and set aside.  
  3. In the same pan add a little more oil followed by garlic and dry thyme. Let cook for a few seconds before adding the peppers and onions. Cook for 7-10 minutes on high, until slightly charred at the edges, stirring occasionally. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper.  
  4. Add the cooked potatoes and kielbasa to the onions and peppers and mix everything together.  Serve hot and crisp with a chilled beer or frozen margarita (whichever you fancy).

Friday, February 2, 2018

Blueberry Cobbler


Truth be told, I am no fan of fruit pies. The goopy and gluey fruit sogging up the bottom crust doesn't do anything for my sweet tooth. But all that's good about the idea of a pie, the hot juicy melting fruit, tender buttery crust and fragrant aromas can be savored in a crisp or a cobbler. In addition to being so much easier than pie crust to make, the crisp or cobbler topping is, frankly, also way more delicious.

Cobbler consists of a sweet or savory filling baked with a biscuit type dough topping. Pie, cobbler, crisps, and crumbles are all in the same family of sweet desserts, often having similar fruit fillings but each with its own distinctive topping. As opposed to a crisp or a crumble, the cobbler dough is a thick dense pastry and more cake-like in nature. Regional variations exist, with some mimicking a pie crust and others more like a dumpling than a pastry.

Most popular cobblers are fruit based, peach, blueberry, blackberry, often served with a scoop of ice cream. This combination of hot and cold, crisp and soft creates a party in the mouth. Some of the savory versions include mutton or beef cobbler.



My favorite cobbler by far is the blueberry one. The best thing about this recipe is that you can enjoy it all year round using frozen blueberries. When fresh berries come in season, it becomes even more of a treat. As a general rule, use 4-6 cups of fruit, fresh or frozen. A little sugar and cornstarch added to the fruit creates a shiny luscious sauce from the fruit's juices. The biscuit topping bakes up crisp on top and fluffy underneath for an ideal contrast to the soft fruit. 

Ingredients: (6-8 servings)
Fruit filling
4 cups blueberries
¼ cup sugar
2-3 tbsp cornstarch (based on fresh or frozen berries)
2 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp cinnamon powder (optional)
Cobbler topping
1 cup flour
¼ tsp salt
½ cup sugar
1½ tsp baking powder
3 tbsp butter
½ cup milk
    1. Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C).
    2. Prep the berries - In a mixing bowl combine all the ingredients listed under fruit filling. Pour into a pie dish/baking dish. It should fill the dish halfway to three quarters leaving enough space for the cobbler topping.
    3. Prep the topping - In another mixing bowl combine flour,  salt, sugar, and baking powder. Cut in butter until mixture is crumbly. Now add milk to moisten the dough. It should be sticky and quite wet. 
    4. Spread the dough evenly on top of berry mixture with your hand and press it down lightly. Or drop spoonfuls of dough all over the fruit. 
    5. Bake uncovered for 35 to 40 minutes until the edges are bubbling and the top is golden brown.
    6. Serve hot with a blob of vanilla ice cream or as is.  
    7. Note - If you are using frozen berries instead of fresh, place the berries on top of a paper towel till they reach room temperature. This will allow any ice crystals to melt off before baking and not wind up making the cobbler too liquidy. Add more cornstarch. 
    8. Leftovers can be stored for up to 2 days in the fridge.