Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Stuffed Shells

This is a family favorite dish. I make it very often. The best thing about this pasta is that it is not drenched in sauce. You can actually taste the butter-cream sauce, filling and al-dante pasta. This is one of our favorite food network star Giada's recipe. The only change I made is to omit pancetta. Didn't feel like having any meat in this dish. It is a bit of work but the end is so good when you bite into that cheese-spinach filled fragrant shell. Just the mention of this dish is making me drool! Looks like I will be making it again very soon. Try this one and you may have found a new favorite for your family.

Stuffed Shells

• 1 (12-ounce) package jumbo shells pasta
• 2 pounds frozen spinach, thawed and drained
• 1 (15-ounce) container whole milk ricotta
• 1 cup grated asiago cheese
• 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
• 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

• Sauce:

• 1 tablespoon butter
• 1 garlic clove, minced
• 1 cup cream
• 2 cups grated asiago cheese, plus 1/4 cup
• 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
• 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

How to:

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

For the shells:

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain pasta.

Mix the spinach, ricotta cheese, asiago cheese, pepper, and nutmeg. Stir to combine. Stuff the shells with about 2 tablespoons of the spinach mixture each and place the stuffed shells in a large, buttered baking dish.

For the sauce:

Melt the butter in a medium saucepan. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the cream and bring to a simmer. Turn the heat to very low and add the 2 cups asiago cheese, parsley, and pepper. Stir until the cheese is dissolved. Pour the sauce over the shells. Top with the remaining 1/4 cup asiago cheese. Bake until golden on top, about 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and serve immediately.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Asparagus Gremolata

Gremolata--such a fancy gourmet word! Every time I watch Iron Chef America or Chopped, chefs make gremolata because of it's easiness to prepare. The stuff takes not even 5 minutes to make. And it is an easy way to add an elegant touch to a dish, and it does double duty as both a condiment and a garnish. Gremolata is a traditional Italian condiment made from finely minced parsley, garlic and lemon zest. As raw garlic tends to be overpowering, olive oil is used to mellow down the garlic flavor. Add bread crumbs and you've got yourself a crust for your fish, chicken, tofu or anything needs to be crusted and cooked. Add Parmesan cheese and the dish is elevated even higher in taste. This was my first attempt to make gremolata. I am so proud to say that both boys loved the dish! They were asking for seconds! Seconds of asparagus…. Can't believe it still. This is definitely something I will be making over and over and over again. Not just with asparagus, but with other steamed veggies and meats.

Asparagus Gremolata
For gremolata
1 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
3 garlic cloves, grated
1 tbsp lemon zest
2-3 tbsp olive oil
1-1/2 cups bread crumbs

Mix everything, keep aside. You can add a touch of salt and pepper to taste to this. Or for even better taste, add grated Parmesan cheese and omit salt.

For Asparagus Gremolata:
Steam 2 lbs. of trimmed asparagus till tender. Take 1 tbsp oil in a skillet. Spread steamed asparagus on hot oil. Sprinkle liberally with gremolata and serve hot.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Ginger Spiced Carrot Soup

Nothing warms up the body and soul than soup in the cold, chilly weather. Soups and stews are my favourites to make when the temperature dips to freezing(BTW, today is one such day here. It's brutal outside and I am in the mood for soup!). A bowl of hot n steamy soup with a slice of grilled garlic toast or grilled cheese … is good enough to bring back the hope that summer will be here, good enough to bring back the much needed sun shine through the hot fire kindling in the fire place. What more can I say?
I love carrots. As a kid, I always loved to munch on carrots. As a perky teenager and a vivacious young woman, I always loved freshly squeezed carrot juice. I still do. Those days in India, carrots were only available in winter. So I only had a few months to juice the carrots. Here in Canada, as we get carrots all year round, I've been religiously juicing carrots for God knows how many years. Mark used to have diluted carrot juice as a baby so I must be juicing for at least 16 years!

Well, today I am going to talk about another way of having carrots. I have grown tired of eating carrots as it is a tedious task! Seriously, all the chewing puts me off. That's why this soup. It is so easy to make and soooo good, you won't even believe it until you try it for yourself.

Ginger spiced carrot soup
1 lb carrots, peeled, cubed
2-3 " piece of ginger, grated
1 medium onion, grated
2 tbsp olive oil
5-6 cups vegetable stock
3-4 tbsp heavy cream(optional)
Salt and pepper to taste

How to:
Boil carrots in enough water so that you don't need to throw away the water.
Heat oil in a sauce pot.
Sauté onion till fragrant.
Add ginger and boiled carrots and cook further for about 2 minutes.
Add vegetable broth and place everything in a blender.
Blend well till you get smooth consistency.
Return to sauce pot, add salt and pepper.
Bring to one boil, add cream if using.
Stir once and serve hot with dunkers.

Sending this to Priya's healthy diet event.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Chicken Alfredo Pizza-Pizza of the Month!

We don't have Olive Garden restaurants in my area anymore. I remember we always used to go there to celebrate any occasion. Mark's 1st birthday was celebrated there! After they closed down here, we have made a point to visit the Olive Garden anytime we are in the US. A few years back, if my memory serves right, January 2007 we were in Orlando and Mark ordered Chicken Alfredo pizza for himself. The pizza looked so good and it was truly delish. After that day forward, he has ordered this pizza mostly every time we are in the US and we go to the US at least twice a year! So this was on back of my head to replicate the recipe and create my version of this very popular pizza. When I made this for Sunday supper, I did get kudos! First of all, it looked even better than the original and for sure, it had much more chicken than the original! I was out of cream so I used bottled alfredo sauce. But I do believe my alfredo sauce is way better than bottled one.

Make this your family favourite also!

take out from Olive Garden!

Chicken Alfredo Pizza
1 pizza base(recipe at the end of this post)
2 cups alfredo sauce(please scroll to the end of this post for recipe)
2 cups shredded mozzarella
2 cups grilled boneless chicken breasts slices
1 tbsp olive oil
1 scallion(green part only), for garnish

How to:
Pre heat the oven to 425° F.
Roll out the pizza base.
Place it on the pizza pan.
Drizzle olive oil on top of the pan, spread with hands.
Spread alfredo sauce on top of the base.
Scatter chicken pieces on sauce.
Cover with as much mozzarella cheese as you want.
Bake for about 20 minutes.
Garnish with sliced scallion.

Basic Garlic Alfredo Sauce

Mix 1/2 litre of half and half or evaporated milk, 3 tbsp shredded parmesan cheese, 2 cloves garlic, shredded and 1 tbsp unsalted butter in a sauce pan. Heat till everything comes together in a thick sauce! This sauce keeps in the refrigerator for a week.

Basic Pizza Dough
1 pkg. dry yeast
3/4 c. warm water
1/4 tsp. salt
1 T. oil
1 tsp. sugar
3 c. flour

Mix ingredients together, adding flour last. Cover and let rise 2 hr.

Sending this to Anzz of Anzzcafe.com for her http://anzzcafe.com/event-valentines-special/

Please let your emails/comments keep coming! it's been great and thanks for your kindness and love!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Simple Aloo Methi(Potato-Fenugreek dry curry)

This is another simple weeknight dinner dish for me. Just like mom, I too keep my veggies clean and chopped and ready to be cooked. I grew up watching mom doing so as she used to work shifts in Telecom company. So she always used to buy a week's worth of groceries on Sunday after noon, right after the church. We would have lunch and then my sister and I would sit down with my parents to clean the leafy veggies and chop the veggies that requires chopping. That's why when I came to Canada, weekend grocery shopping was NOT at all a new concept! I have taken it a step further. I not only clean and chop the leaves of greens like spinach and methi(fenugreek), I sauté them in a little bit of oil and cook till the water evaporates. Then I stash them in the fridge. So they are ready to be used in whichever recipe I want to use them. It works great because sometimes after a couple of days, the greens start to turn yellow and if they are watery, they are done. They end up in the trash. And seriously, who would like to see the precious vegetables and meat go to waste?

Aloo Methi (Potato-Fenugreek)
1 bunch of Methi(about 1/2 lb), leaves only, washed,dried and chopped
2 medium potatoes, cubed
1/4 cup oil
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 med onion, diced
3-4 garlic cloves, chopped
2-3 whole red chilies, broken into pieces
1 small stick of Cinnamon
2-3 pepper corns
1 big cardamom
1 bay leaf
Salt to taste

How to:
Heat oil in a skillet.
Add cumin seeds, onion and whole spices and sauté until onion is light golden brown in color, for about 7 minutes.
Add garlic and cook for a minute.
Now add potatoes sprinkle some water and cook the potatoes till almost tender.
Lastly, add salt and methi leaves and stir so that the spices coat the leaves, cook for a couple more minutes.
Serve with hot rotis.

Please let your emails/comments keep coming! it's been great and thanks for your kindness and love!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Fruit N Tomato Salads

I love fresh fruits and produce so much, I try to use them whenever I have a dish to bring for the potlucks! Normally here in North America, the salad in the Indian restaurants means chopped head lettuce, tomatoes and cucumbers! Whenever we have the catering done for our parties, a huge foil pot has arrived full with plain pieces of iceberg! A few tomatoes and cucumbers thrown on the top, that's it! And I've seen those whole pots ending up in the trash. What a waste.

People normally think that salad should have some kind of lettuce in it. I don't like the idea. Lettuce puts me off to tell you the truth. I can munch on leaves of Romaine like a bunny, no problem. But when the same leafs get chopped into bite size pieces--- it gives me a chill! Don't like it at all. I like to incorporate as many veggies and fruits as possible in my salads to make them healthy and alive. And that's how these two salads were created.

Both salads are a no-brainer. You can put whatever you want in it.

Fruit salad - I made it two ways. Used the freshly peeled slices of melons and combined them with beets. More like carpaccio. Another was just the cut up fruits.

Tomato salad was especially fabulous as I found these beautiful colored tomatoes in the middle of winter and guess what, gotta make my Caprese salad! As mentioned in one of my earlier posts, I love Italian foods. And this salad is very close to my heart. I love the simplicity of Italian food. Seriously, it's just fresh ingredients toss together and you've got yourself a healthy, flavourful meal. This salad is no exception either. Arrange slices of tomatoes and fresh mozzarella the way you want, place basil leaves here and there, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper and voila!! Salad is served!

fruit carpaccio

Please let your emails/comments keep coming! it's been great and thanks for your kindness and love!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Butter Chicken

It wouldn't be inappropriate if I call this dish the most popular Indian dish in the whole wide world! Murgh Makhani is from Punjab, India. It became a common name across the world as the Sikhs spread out of Punjab, more towards the UK and Canada. Often I have noticed that it confused with chicken tikka masala, a similar colored dish that is not even Indian! It was invented in the UK by a Bangladeshi immigrant that's what I've heard!

For so many people, making butter chicken is a daunting task. Well, it shouldn't be that way. It's actually very easy to make butter chicken at home. Making it at home is the easiest way one can control the amount of butter and cream that go into the dish. The dauting task should be eating the butter chicken! With all that butter, heavy cream etc in the dish, it makes it truly an indulgence, something you can have once in a blue moon.

Butter chicken tastes best when the chicken is marinated overnight with yogurt and spice mixture and then cooked in the oven. So it's a two step process. Make the chicken and sauce separately. One can grill or pan fry the chicken. I prefer roasting it in the oven.

The sauce is made by heating and mixing butter, pureed tomatoes and various spices, alongwith the fresh heavy cream and cashew paste which gives the sauce that rich flavor and aroma. Addition of the cashew paste makes the sauce thicker. Dried fenugreek leaves are also the must-have part of this dish. Without this ingredient, it's simply not butter chicken! Kasoori methi contributes to the characteristic flavour of the dish.

Once the sauce is prepared, the prepared chicken is chopped and cooked just until the sauce and chicken have blended. The dish may be garnished with white butter, fresh cream, sliced green chillies and crushed fenugreek leaves.

This particular post is to show off that my butter chicken recipe was selected for our company's 2012 diversity calendar!  I've made that recipe a bit more general and easy to follow as not all people know what kasoori methi is all about. I tried to make it as easy as I can and believe me, I am getting lots of complements on it!

Butter Chicken
For chicken:
2 lbs. boneless chicken
2 tbsp plain yogurt
1 tsp crushed kasoori methi
Salt to taste
1 tbsp garam masala powder
1 tsp each cumin, coriander and cayenne powders
Ginger-garlic paste to taste
Juice of 1/2 lemon

For sauce
1/4 cup butter
About 1 cup pureed tomatoes
Powdered spices like cumin, cloves, cinnamon, coriander, paprika to taste
Salt to taste
1/4 cup cashew pieces, soaked in warm water and then make thin paste
2 tbsp kasoori methi, crushed
About 1/2 cup fresh heavy cream

How to:

Mix chicken cubes with marinade ingredients and leave overnight in the fridge. Roast or grill chicken till they are completely cooked.

In the meantime, prepare butter sauce. Heat up the butter on medium high till it melts completely. Now add tomoto puree, the spice powders, kasoori methi and cook till the oil separates. Add cooked chicken pieces and gently stir in cashew paste and heavy cream. Heat till the sauce bubbles and serve.

This is a seriously fatty dish. I have tried a few different versions of making it less fatty and less rich, trust me, it didn’t taste anywhere near the original!

Please let your emails/comments keep coming! it's been great and thanks for your kindness and love!

Sunday, January 1, 2012