Appetizers, Savory, Sides

Zucchini Fritters

 

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In India, on a raw, rainy night, you will often find family members gathered over hot cups of tea and plate of piping hot fried fritters.  These fritters are usually vegetarian, like potato, onion, and eggplant (all separate–not mixed together).  Yesterday, a beautiful sunny spring day turned into a gloomy, rainy evening–which led me to crave fried food.  I could have pulled out some samosas, but I have zucchini in the fridge that needed to be used.  Also, earlier in the day, I came across this recipe in Cooking Light magazine, so it must have been a combination of all these different sensory inputs (haha, can you tell I am a biologist?) that led to this recipe.

Ingredients:

2 medium zucchinis, grated and drained

1 jalapeno, seeded and minced

1 small onion, minced

1 egg

2 Tbsp of flour

1 Tbsp of rice flour

1/2 tsp of salt

A dash of black pepper

1 tsp of olive oil for the batter plus more for frying

Method:

Grate and or chop finely the zucchini.  If you have a food processor, you can grate it.  I have a handheld grater which almost pulverizes the zucchini.  So, for some texture I grated one and chopped the other–the different textures give the fritters some body.

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Place the zucchini on a paper towel or dishcloth and let it drain for 30 minutes to 1 hour.

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Squeeze out all the water and add the zucchini to a mixing bowl.

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Add egg, flours, salt, pepper, jalapenos, and oil to the zucchini and mix thoroughly.

Heat a tablespoon or so of oil in a skillet.  Using a tablespoon, gently dollop the batter into the hot oil.  Using the back of the spoon, flatten out the dollops to form a pancake shape.

Fry on medium-high to high heat for 2-3 minutes or till golden brown.  Then flip the fritters and cook the other side.

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Blot the fritters on a paper towel and serve piping hot!  This makes a great evening snack or a hearty side dish for a simple chicken dinner.

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Fish & Seafood, Lent, Mexican, Savory

Chili lime Shrimp

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I have said this before and I will say it again, I love shrimp tacos! The only problem is that my husband is a hard-shell-beef-taco purist and, in my opinion, tacos are a social food.  It is rather sad to have all the elaborate fixings just for one!  Nevertheless, in grad-school, when I would have to cook for one, I would make simple small-batch shrimp tacos, but it never really “feels” the same.  So, I rarely get to eat shrimp tacos, unless we go out for Mexican food.  Yesterday was Cinco de Mayo and I love “occasion” cooking.  Obviously, we had tacos–my husband made beef ones and I made myself some shrimp tacos, only because we had cooked shrimp for “cocktail” sauce in the freezer.  I wanted to make a warm dressing to sautee the already cooked shrimp in, hence this recipe.  This is a super quick preparation and packs a punch for pre-cooked shrimp.  They were delicious, and my only complaint was that I wish I had soft-shells!

Ingredients:

2 Tbsp of chopped scallions, only the white and light green parts.  Save the green tops for garnish

1 Tbsp of olive oil

1 tsp of ground cumin

1 tsp of chipotle chili powder

1/2 tsp garlic powder

1/4 tsp of salt

1 and 1/2 Tbsp of fresh lime juice

1 Tbsp of water

16-18 medium-sized pre-cooked shrimp.

Method:

Heat oil in a skillet on medium-high heat.

Add all the scallions and spices.  Bloom the spices with the scallions in the oil for 2-3 minutes.

 

Add the shrimp, lime juice, and water and cook for an additional 3 minutes till the liquid reduces to create a “dry” sauce.

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Remove from heat, you don’t want the already cooked shrimp to cook any longer, they will become really rubbery.  If you were starting with raw shrimp (which I would have preferred) cook till the shrimps are pink in color.

 

Garnish with chopped green scallions and get ready to stuff those tacos !!

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Asian, Indian, Savory, Stew

Coconut Pork Curry

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This is an amazing recipe!! Originally written in 2010, in Food and Wine magazine, I did not have the means to make the recipe till 2016.  I had bookmarked the recipe for 5 years and was waiting to have a kitchen of my own to make it. In 2016, my mother came to visit during the summer, and this was the perfect meal to make for her!  Unlike, my father, she grew up eating pork, so she really appreciated it.  I was intrigued by this recipe, it looked like a cross between an Indian and Thai dish.  Anyway, I made it and it was super hit!  In fact, my mother said that it tasted like a “curry” her mother used to make–what a compliment and what a food memory!  You can find the original recipe here.  I would strongly recommend following the recipe, word for word!  With that said, during the current pandemic,  I did not find pork shoulder, so I had to (with great trepidation) substitute with pork tenderloin.  Thankfully, after cooking for four hours, the meat did become soft and fork-tender.  I also never cook this in a slow-cooker; I love making it in my large dutch oven.  I also add a good amount of additional spices, mostly because it suits our palette.  Here is my tweaked version.

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Ingredients:

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

4 pounds boneless pork shoulder, cut into 2-inch pieces

Salt and freshly ground pepper

1 large onion, chopped

3 garlic cloves, minced

3 tablespoons minced fresh ginger

1 tablespoon mild curry powder

1 tablespoon ground cumin

1 tablespoon of ground coriander

1/2 tablespoon of chili powder

1/2 tablespoon of sweet paprika

1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric

One 14-ounce can diced tomatoes

1 cup unsweetened coconut milk

3 cups chicken stock or low-sodium broth

1/2 tsp of garam masala at the end

a bunch of chopped cilantro and sliced scallions, for stirring into the curry at the very end.

Method:

In a large skillet, heat the oil. Season the pork with salt and pepper.  Brown the pork in batched and set aside.

Once the pork is done, add the onion, garlic, ginger, curry, cumin, coriander, chili powder, paprika, and turmeric and cook over low heat, stirring, until fragrant and the onion is softened about 5 minutes.

Add the tomatoes and their juices and coconut milk and scrape the bottom of the pan, lifting all the delicious brown bits from the bottom.

Return the pork to the pot, add the stock, cover, and cook on medium-high for 4 hours.

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At the 2 hour mark, I like to taste and the stew and adjust for salt and heat, mostly the heat—our household like a spicy stew.  Notice how the light creamy color is turning into a rich, dark stew–yum!

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Towards the end of the cooking process, add a bunch of chopped cilantro and scallions to the stew, stir and cook for another 15-20 minutes and remove from heat.

 

Serve with steamed rice or, our favorite, naan

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Savory, Sides

Roasted Broccoli Rabe

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This is a quick side dish that tastes great with seafood.  Leftovers are great in a sandwich or chopped up in pasta.  It also happens to be a super easy recipe; in fact, it really isn’t a recipe at all!  Here is how I make it.  Substitute with fresh broccoli florets if you can’t find broccoli rabe.

Preheat oven to 350F

Cut up two small bunches of broccoli rabe and arrange on a baking sheet.

Drizzle generously with olive oil and sprinkle with salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes.

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Roast for 15-20 mins till golden brown.

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Side dish sorted!

Classics, Lent, Savory

New England Scallops Casserole

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This is a favorite in our household.  Whenever the scallops look fresh I like to get them and make this dish.  You can find the original recipe here.  Last night I cooked them “restaurant-style” in individual casserole dishes.  As I said in the original post, this will elevate any dinner to “date-night”.  I made a few changes to the recipe to adjust to the fact that was cooking smaller scallops in casserole dishes.

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Ingredients/Methods:

Coat two shallow casserole dishes with a little bit of olive oil.

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1 lb of scallops, divided into two shallow casserole dishes.

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Zest half of a lemon over the scallops.

Sprinkle 1/4 tsp of salt, a pinch of parsley, 1 tsp of white wine, and 1 tsp of fresh lemon juice over each casserole dish

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Bake at 325F for 10 minutes

In a separate bowl, melt 1/2 stick of butter and crush 12-14 ritz-crackers into the bowl.

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After 10 minutes, increase the oven temperature to 375F.  Sprinkle the cracker mixture over the scallops.

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Bake at 375 for 5 minutes.  Then, turn on the broiler to high and watch the crumb top like a hawk!  As soon as it turns golden brown (about 1 minute for my oven) pull of the casserole dishes.

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Enjoy with a crisp, cool glass of chardonnay!

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Classics, Dinner, Poultry, Savory

Almost Jägerschnitzel and Spaetzle

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Jägerschnitzel is a classic German dish where a thin pork cutlet is fried and bathed in a rich mushroom sauce.  It is usually accompanied by egg noodles or Spaetzle-a German egg noodle-like dumpling.  This is my husband’s favorite dish to order at the Munich Haus (Local German restaurant).  I call it “almost” because I make it at home with chicken–Perdue sells thinly sliced chicken breasts which are perfect for this recipe.  I have purchased thin-sliced pork cutlets, but then are often never thin enough and I always end up tearing the meat during the “pounding” process.  Therefore, I stick to using chicken.  Also, you can never have enough “chicken dinner” recipes.

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Ingredients–for the Mushroom Sauce:

2 Tbsp of olive oil (additional 1 Tbsp, if you are finishing the sauce another day)

1, 8oz package of sliced mushroom

1 medium shallot sliced

1/2 tsp of dried thyme

1/4 tsp of sweet paprika

1/2 tsp of Worchestershire sauce

3 turns of the pepper mill, about 1/2 tsp of fresh cracked black pepper

1 and 1/2 Tbsp flour

1/ 2 cup chicken stock

Salt to taste.

Method:

Heat oil in a pan and add the mushrooms and shallots.  Saute for a few minutes and once the mushrooms and shallots start to soften, add thyme and paprika.  The most important tip for this step is not to add salt.  Salt draws out liquid from the mushrooms, which will result in steamed mushrooms and not browned mushrooms!

 

Saute for 3-4 minutes on medium and then add the black pepper and the Worchestershire sauce.

Continue to saute till the mixture has reduced, and the mushrooms and shallots and soft and deep brown in color.

 

At this point, you can stop the cooking process and store the mushroom mixture.  I will sometimes do this if I see that the mushrooms are going bad in the fridge.  If you choose to stop at this step, empty the contents into a food storage bowl.  Add 2 tbsps of water to the hot pan and scrape off all the delicious bits and pieces. You don’t want to miss out on the flavor, just because you are prepping ahead of time.  Add the pan juices to the storage bowl, cool, and store in the fridge.

 

When you are ready to make the sauce, add 1 tbsp of olive oil to the pan and re-heat the  mixture.  If you are not re-heating the mushrooms, proceed to the next step.

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Add flour and stir continuously till the flour is incorporated and the mushroom mixture

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Continue to simmer for 3-4 minutes on low heat, stirring frequently to ensure that nothing sticks to the bottom.   Taste for salt.  This is the first time you are adding salt.  I like to this at the very end becasue worhestershire sauce and chicken stock all bring in a little bit of salt. Continue this process for an addition 2-3 minutes till most of the liquid evaporates and it turns into a thick and rich gravy.

I forgot to taka picture, but if you look at the plated food, you will get an idea of what the consistency should look like

For the Schnitzel:

Super thin chicken cutlets–use pork cutlets for the real deal !

Bread the cutlet with egg and breadcrumbs.  I like to season the egg wash with salt and pepper and I use Italian breadcrumbs.

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Fry cutlets in a pan till golden.  If you are making the the sauce and the spaetzle at the same time, you might want to fry the cutlets and store them on a wire rack in the a 175F oven–this will keep the cutlets warm and the wire rack will prevent the cutlets from getting a soggy bottom.

 

Ingredients–for the Spaetzle (original recipe from Tyler Florence)

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground pepper

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

2 large eggs

1/4 cup milk

1 Tbsp of butter

1/2 Tbsp of breadcrumbs

1/2 tsp of chopped parsley for garnish (optional)

Method:

In a large bowl, combine the flour, salt, pepper, and nutmeg. In another mixing bowl, whisk the eggs and milk together.  The dough should be smooth, tacky, and thick. Let the dough rest for 10 to 15 minutes.

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Bring 3 quarts of salted water to a boil in a large pot, then reduce to a simmer. To form the spaetzle, pour the dough into a potato ricer.

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Hold the ricer over the simmering water and slowly push the dough through the holes. Do this in batches so you don’t overcrowd the pot. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes or until the spaetzle floats to the surface, stirring gently to prevent sticking. Dump the spaetzle into a colander and give it a quick rinse with cool water.  It can stay in the colander for about 10-15 minutes, while to finish up on the sauce and fry the cutlets.

 

Once you are ready, heat butter in a pan (I usually, do this in same pan that I used to fry the cutlets) and add the dumplings and the breadcrumbs.  Toss in the butter, on high heat for a quick 2-3 minutes, till the spaetzle is light golden and crispy.

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Garnish with parsley and they spaetzle is ready.

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To serve:

Plate up a huge pile fo the spaetzle, with a schnitzel on the side and drench the two with the mushroom sauce.

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Cookies, Sweet

PB&J graham cracker cookies

 

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This is the type of cookie you make when you are trying to save ingredients.  After I made my icebox cake, I  had quite a bit of graham cracker crumb crust mixture leftover.  I was not going to waste all that deliciousness, so I came up with this “cookie” recipe.  My husband said, “this cookie is having an identity crisis! It tastes like peanut butter, but it also has the texture of a cake, but then it’s flakey–it’s weird but good!”.  I will take that! I only got 12 cookies out of it and while I don’t plan on adding this to the official Christmas Cookie list anytime soon, but I will make it again if I ever have extra graham crackers crumbs!

Ingredients:

1 and 1/2 cup graham cracker crumb-crust mixture (refer to the original recipe here)

1/8 cup AP-flour

1 egg

2 Tbsp smooth peanut butter (you could use any other kind of nut butter)

Grape jelly to top the cookies

Method:

Preheat oven to 350F

Mix all the ingredients (except the jelly) together in a bowl.  It will resemble a crumbly shortbread cookie mixture.

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Using a cookie scoop, divide the dough into 12 balls and place them on a lined cookie sheet.

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Roll the divided dough, like meatballs, into smooth dough balls.

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Using the back of a wooden spoon, gently press down on the center of the dough ball, to create divet. As you push down, the dough-ball edges will crack.  Use your fingers to press the cracks together, as best as you can–they do not need to be perfect.

Fill each divet with 1/2 tsp of grape jelly.

Bake for 15 minutes.

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Let the cookies cool on the cookie sheet for about a minute and then transfer to a cooling rack.

Store in an air-tight container for a week to 10 days.

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Dessert, Sweet

Blueberry Icebox Cake

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My husband and I love blueberries.  In fact, it is our favorite after-dinner dessert, whether we are trying to be healthy or not.  A few weeks ago,  I bought two large boxes of blueberries (in fear that we may not get fresh fruit for a while–pandemic and such).  With all the other easter/birthday related desserts I have been making (Raspberry-swirl Cheesecake, Banana Bread), we have not been able to go through the berries as fast as we normally do.   As a result, the berries needed saving.  I did not want to through them away and since I just made blueberry waffles, I wanted to make something different. Thus, the icebox cake was born.  I saw a recipe like this in Bon Appetit magazine and decided to make my own version with what I had in the pantry.  I also wanted to make it relatively healthy so that I could eat the cake every night and not feel guilty.   The recipe has a few steps, and it does require overnight freezing.  You may think it is labor-intensive but, making this was a welcome distraction to grading papers!  The overall verdict was that it “tastes good”, but “it could do with more layers” (I quote my husband).  Maybe, in the warmer months, I will try to tweak the recipe, but this will do wonderfully, for now.

Ingredients:

For the Blueberry filling:

4 cups of fresh blueberries, rinsed and picked

2Tbsp of cornstarch

4 Tbsp of water

3 Tbsp of sugar (add more if your berries are not sweet)

To make the filling:

 

 

Dump all the ingredients in a deep sauce-pot and turn the heat to medium-low and start stirring constantly.  This is important, you don’t want the berries to melt and stick to the bottom on the pot,  Nobody likes burnt filling.  You will need to stir constantly for about 5 minutes.  You can reduce the heat to low if you think that the berries are sticking to the bottom.  By the end of the process, you will have a pot full of gooey blueberries–resembling the consistency of pie filling.  Take the pot off the heat and cool completely.  Proceed to make the graham cracker crust.

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Ingredients:

For the graham crackers crust:

2 cups graham cracker crumbs

1/8 cup sugar

1/2 tsp of ground cinnamon

1 stick of butter

To make the crust mixture:

Put all the ingredients in a bowl and microwave on high for 1 minute.  Stir all the ingredients, till it resembles wet sand.

 

 

Important note: Since I was “coming up” with the recipe, I grossly overestimated the amount of crumbs.  I ended up using about half of the butter, crumb mixture.  I made PB&J cookies with the rest–why waste ingredients?  You can most certainly halve the recipe.

Ingredients:

For the yogurt filling:

1 and 1/2 cup of vanilla greek yogurt

1/8 cup of sugar

2 cups of whipped topping

1 tsp of vanilla bean paste (you can use extract)

To make the filling:

Mix yogurt, sugar, and vanilla thoroughly till completely incorporate and smooth.

 

 

Gently fold in the whipped topping at the end.  Continue folding, till fully incorporated.

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To assemble the icebox cake:

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Line a 9X5 loaf pan with plastic wrap, leaving some overhangs so that you can lift the cake out of the pan once it is set.

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Using a 1 cup measure, layer in the graham cracker crumbs.  Press down with the back of a spatula/measuring cup/or spoon to create a neat and flat crust.

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Pour in 1 cup of the yogurt mixture and smooth it out.

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Add all of the blueberries (I wanted to use up all the berries–that was the whole point of this recipe. My husband would have preferred a thinner layer of berries)

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Cover the berry mixture with 1 cup of crumbs–smooth it out.

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Top the crumbs with the remaining yogurt mixture and smooth it out.

 

 

Wrap the “cake” with the plastic wrap overhangs and set in the freezer overnight.

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Remove from the freezer and leave it in the refrigerator for 1-2 hours before unfolding.  If it is still frozen, you can place the bottom of the pan in a larger dish filled with tap/warm water–it should help with the unfolding process.

 

 

Unwrap the top of the cake and using the overhangs, gently lift the cake out of the loaf pan on to a cutting board.

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Slice into half-inch slices and serve!  It tastes better as it starts to thaw a bit, but you most certainly still want to enjoy it while it is cold.  This is indeed a perfect dessert for a hot summer’s day!

 

 

Appetizers, Lifestyle

Party platters

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These past few days I have been going through all the pictures on my phone and daydreaming of traveling again, going out with friends again, and having house parties.  To be honest, I don’t know what I will do first once the SARS-COV2 lockdown lifts, but one thing I know is that I would love to entertain again.  As I was going through these pictures, I stumbled across pictures from a holiday party we hosted, last year, after Thanksgiving.  While I did get too caught up in the party to take pictures of the actual platters, I did have sketches from the way I decided to set up a Cheese Board and a Veggie Platter.  I often like to draw things out before I execute a design set-up.  I started this with my cake designs, and these are my first sketches for party platters.  It may seem unnecessary, but I firmly believe that you eat with your eyes first.  So, I like to have a plan–a plan that I can follow to a) decide how much food to buy, b) figure out dishes I will need to use and eventually wash, c) envision where the food will be placed around the house, and d) extrapolate what my guests will see once they walk in through the door.  Surprisingly,  taking an extra minute to plan it out really reduces the rush of putting food out “elegantly” when guests arrive.   I am not a party planner, but here is my little tip to make your next party platter, “party-ready”!

Breakfast, Lifestyle

Breakfast Du Jour

 

I eat oatmeal everyday and if you read my blog, you will see that I am constantly trying to come up with creative ways of eating oatmeal for breakfast.  Usually I bake my oatmeal with fruits and nuts;  sometimes in a large baking dish like my Baked Oatmeal with Walnuts and Figs recipe, or in muffin tins/ mini bundt pans like Marmalade Muffins, Blueberry-almond oatmeal muffins or Lemon, rosemary and olive-oil cakes.  It is all about fooling the mind and making it appear as if I were eating dessert for breakfast.  However, when I don’t have time to “bake” my oatmeal ahead of time, I will eat it in its traditional porridge form.  Even then, I try to jazz it up, just to cheer myself and start the day off right.  After all,  Mom was right, breakfast is the most important meal of the day!

Featured here is my Cherry Almond Oatmeal.  Cook the oatmeal as directed and thin it out with almond milk and honey.  Add sliced almonds and chopped cherries, and enjoy ! Make your Monday morning a little more exciting!