Hi Friends, I can’t believe we’re almost 12 days away from the release of my first cookbook, Season. How do I feel? Honestly, it is a mixture of eager anticipation and happiness and I cannot wait for you to hold a copy in your hands. And with that note, I have wonderful news to share with you! We’re giving away a copy of SEASON to FOUR lucky readers on Instagram.Read More
Come summer and I lean towards ice cream and cold sweet things but also towards smaller dishes that I can snack on versus larger meals. Dips can become a meal especially with a colorful assortment at the table and if you include a few different types (keeping in mind your diner's preferences) you could end up with a gorgeous spread of tastes and aromas begging to be eaten.Read More
I just wrapped up the first round of copy edits and some reshoots for my solo book! It's all turned in and I'm going to take a breather for a days from the book and focus on a couple of other exciting new projects that are coming up. More on that soon!
Oh yeah and I also got to play with a kite this weekend while visiting a winery in Sonoma. Think of them like a large cat with wings but calm and patient. The kites are used in a natural program to protect the environment. I want one now but I don't think my pets want a third one to take away all the attention they get.
Let's get back to the kitchen. It's officially pumpkin season and here's a vibrant and tasty dip to kick it off. And it's easy. Roast, blend and serve. And it's made with Califia's unsweetened almond milk which gives it rich and smooth finish. I've been eating this dip with chips but you SHOULD also drizzle it over your fries or hasselback potatoes (especially those!).
And if you want it extra hot, throw in an extra serrano or use Thai chiles!
roasted red pepper pumpkin seed dip
makes about 2 cups
2 medium bell peppers
1 medium onion, peeled and halved
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup pumpkin seeds
1 serrano pepper (deseed if desired)
1/4 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp fresh lemon juice
1/2 tsp black peppercorns
1 tsp kosher salt
1/4 cup unsweetened almond milk (I use Califia's unsweetened almond milk)
Preheat the oven to 425F. Place the bell peppers and onions in a roasting pan and rub them with the oil. Place the pan in the oven and roast for about 30 to 45 minutes, rotating the peppers halfway through baking. The peppers will be seared in spots. Remove from oven and allow to cool for about 20 minutes.
Cut the cooled peppers and discard the stem and seeds. Transfer the peppers with the onions and the remaining ingredients to a blender. Pulse until you get a coarse paste. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Transfer to a serving container and serve with chips. You can store the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
Disclaimer: This post was sponsored by Califia Farms. However, all opinions expressed are solely my own.
A few weeks ago I visited the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) in gorgeous Napa valley. It’s a few hours from Oakland and though I’ve been there before and (at one point even considered going to school there) I had never walked through the kitchens or for that matter cooked in them. But all of that was about to change, thankfully through a trip via the folk behind CARipeOlives. The purpose of this trip was to immerse myself in learning about the diverse possibilities in using olives in cooking taught by the chefs at the CIA and Elise Bauer of Simply Recipes.
To be completely honest, I’ve always thought of whole olives as a table snack or of something that you use for texture or for that pop of brininess in a dish but now I was going to learn to do much more than just that with them. We started off our day with a little tasting of various kinds of olives brined or treated in some way just to get a quick taste of how diverse this little fruit is. Among the different tasting samples, two really stood out. A candied black olive concoction and a smoked olive, neither of which I had ever tasted before. I’ve had olives in ice creams and desserts as a topping but never as a candy, the taste and texture reminded me of a sweet dried fruit with a much softer texture. Then came the smoked olives, it is everything you can imagine and more. At the CIA they start out with sawdust as the source for smoke and place it in a hotel pan, over which a perforated hotel plan is placed along with the drained olives (just use a can drained) and then covered with another pan. Then the entire apparatus is kept on the stove and as the heat starts to burn the wood and release the smoke, the olives start to absorb the flavors. The olives are then removed and allowed to cool a little before they can be used in any conceivable way possible.
Green and black olives are essentially one and the same fruit, the green olives just aren’t exposed to air during the ripening process. The way in which they’re brined affects the color, the ripe green olives from the tree can be made purplish black if you simply bubble oxygen through the liquid during the ripening process. Another fun fact, olives are like sponges, they absorb flavors really well which explains why they take on the salt of the brine in which they’re kept and also helps explain why smoking and candying work well. So even if you don’t want to cook olives in a dish you could do something simple like smoking and create an exciting change to your menu!
We then got the chance to cook in the kitchen and along with my team, we came up this delicious Kumquat Tapenade that we served with grilled shrimp and mushrooms. You can use any type of brined olives but I like the combination of color and flavor that both green and black olives bring to the tapenade. There’s a tiny bit of heat here balanced by the sweet acidity of the kumquats. I’ve shared the recipe here so you can make this easy and interesting citrusy version of this olive dip at home.
Makes approximately 3 cups
1/2 cup chopped kumquats with juice and skin, seeds discarded
1/2 cup chopped shallots
1 serrano pepper, deseeded
1 cup black olives, drained
1 cup green olives, drained
1/2 cup shelled pistachios
1 cup chopped parsley
1 Tbsp fresh lemon zest
1/4 cup [60ml] freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup [120ml] extra-virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
Place all the ingredients from the kumquats to the olive oil in the bowl of a food processor for a few seconds and pulse until you get a coarse paste. Taste and adjust seasoning. Refrigerate and allow to sit for at least 1 hour before serving. Serve as a dip with bread or roasted shrimp.
Guavas are perhaps one of my favorite fruits, like citrus trees and plants, the leaves are also aromatic when rubbed. The fruit on the other hand when ripe is sweet yet not too sweet, soft with edible crunchy seeds. Every Christmas my mom buys them in kilograms to make a fruit leather type dessert called "guava cheese". She even brings me some every time she visits and this is one of the few things she cooks and takes a lot of pride in. She even sends some to her friends and relatives in Canada and New Zealand. But that is a recipe and story for another day. Instead today, I decided to share one of my favorite ways to eat this fruit. In India when in season, many street vendors will have the carts laden with fresh ripe guavas. The guavas will be sliced right in front of you and then rubbed to coat them with a mix of chili and salt using the exposed end of a freshly cut lime. The resulting bite is a complex mixture of sweet, sour, heat and salt and it's a rather spectacular experience to behold. Here's my version of this simple snack that's built on a such a diverse combination of tastes.
chili and salt seasoned guava bites
makes 4 servings
8 ripe baby/Mexican guavas
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 tablespoon Maldon salt flakes
zest of one lime
Rinse the guavas clean under cold running tap water, pat dry and then trim the ends of the fruit off. Cut into quarters and place in a large mixing bowl.
In a small mixing bowl, mix the chili, salt flakes and zest. Sprinkle this mixture over the quartered guavas and serve immediately.
Happy 2017!!! I spent much of the past few weeks celebrating Christmas and NYE with my mom and sister who were visiting us from India. Now that they've gone back to India, the house feels quiet even with our beloved pets, both of whom who can be loud at times. We ate a lot of good food, took a few trips, saw a few movies but most of all, it was great to spend some one-on-one time with my mom who I get to see once, perhaps every two years.
One of the things, my mom and I like to do is, snack. We snack a lot and if there was one way to mark the start of the new year here, an appetizer or some sort of snack would be fitting. And so I have an easy hazelnut and walnut based pâté flavored with mushrooms, tea and a few aromatics for you.
To make a nut based pâté, you'll need a blender with a bit of oomph to grind those nuts down and the powerful new Ascent blender from Vitamixdoes just that! With a few short pulses in a few seconds, I ended up with an impressive smooth and creamy nut based paste that was ready to be absorb the umami of the mushrooms and tea. The only annoying part was having a little patience to let the pâté stiffen a little in the refrigerator but that is something I can live with.
Note, that I've said portabello/portabella mushrooms in the ingredient list, it honestly just depends on what you can find, the male mushrooms have the "bello" while the females have the "bella" in their names. It shouldn't make a big difference in taste.
vegetarian pâté (with mushrooms, nuts and tea)
makes: about 1 1/2 cups
1/2 cup (76 grams)hazelnuts
1/2 cup (46 grams) walnuts
1/4 cup (59 ml) melted unsalted butter
1 1/2 teaspoons black tea such as Darjeeling
1/4 cup (59 ml) boiling water
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup sliced shallots
2 teaspoons garlic cloves minced
1/4 lb chopped crimini mushrooms
1/4 lb chopped portobello/portabella mushrooms
2 tablespoons thyme leaves
4 to 5 black peppercorns
1 teaspoon sea salt
1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Place the nuts on baking sheet and bake for 12 minutes until they just start to release the aroma and turn light brown. Remove from oven and transfer the nuts to the blender along with the melted butter. Pulse the nuts for a few seconds until they start to form a coarse powder. You might need to scrape the sides of the jug, just in case the nut bits move up to the sides.
2. Add the tea leaves to the boiling water in a small bowl and allow to steep for 4 minutes. Strain and discard the leaves, reserve the liquid.
3. Melt the 2 tablespoons of butter in a large skillet on medium-high heat. Add the shallots and cook until they just start to turn translucent, then add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Add the mushrooms, thyme and peppercorns and salt. Cook for about 6 to 8 minutes or until most of the liquid has evaporated. Transfer the contents of the skillet to the ground nuts and the reserved tea liquid to the blender. Place the lid and pulse until you get a smooth and creamy mixture. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Transfer the pâté to a clean air-tight container and refrigerate for at least four to six hours before use. Serve the pâté with slices of fresh bread such as a baguette.
Disclaimer: This post was sponsored by Vitamix, however all opinions expressed are solely my own.
This is how I envision summer, it should be filled with moments outside, preferably on a beach with good people you love, a book, light snacks or a salad and a couple of drinks. Summer should be a couple of months of picnicking. It should be fun. In reality my summers don’t usually go down that route, there’s the occasional picnic and fewer moments than I’d like to be outside in the sun. So my only option is to make the most of it and treat myself to all the food I would like to eat in the confines of being indoor.
I'm excited to partner with Pernod Classic to create a bunch of delicious dishes that will showcase the versatility of this ingredient in the kitchen beyond its common use in cocktails and drinks. Pernod Classic has a delicate flavor that can transform a dish to create something special just like it does in this bruschetta
This bruschetta is one of my solutions to make up for those days when I can’t be outside especially when the weather is extra nice. Kumquats and Pernod are the base for the flavor of this olive oil dressing that coats the colorful and fresh ingredients of this bruschetta.The trick to the kumquats is to slice them really thin so the tartness of the pulp is lost and you taste the sweet skin of the fruit. The shallots and fennel are also sliced thin which allows their flavors to meld with the rest of the ingredients to give a much more flavorful texture. And in case I don’t say this enough, this also doubles as an amazing salad!
Here are some of my kitchen tips that you might find useful when preparing this dish,
- Use fresh ingredients wherever possible in this recipe, it makes a huge difference to the flavor of this dish.
- Pernod infuses a delicate flavor into the dressing of this dish and you can also skip the bruschetta route and serve this as a salad on a hot summer day. I don’t recommend storing this salad overnight as shallots tend to get a little soft and lose their crunch after day in most salads.
- You can also add a sharp cheese to this bean dish if you like.
white bean kumquat bruschetta
yields: 8 servings
1 can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1/4 cup thinly sliced kumquats
1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, sliced in half lengthwise
1/4 cup shallots, thinly sliced lengthwise
1/2 cup fennel bulb, halved and thinly sliced lengthwise
2 tablespoons fresh whole, flat leaf parsley leaves
2 tablespoons fresh fennel fronds
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper powder
1/2 teaspoon freshly red chili flakes
1 teaspoon sea salt flakes
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil + olive oil for brushing the crostini
50mL Pernod Classic
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed kumquat juice
1 baguette (I used sourdough)
1. Place a wire rack at midlevel and preheat the oven to 350F.
2. In a large mixing bowl, place all the ingredients from the cannellini beans to the fennel fronds. Add the black pepper, chili flakes and salt.
3. In a separate mixing bowl whisk 1/4 cup of olive oil, Pernod and kumquat juice. Add this to the vegetables in the larger mixing bowl, toss gently to coat evenly and let it set for 20 minutes before using. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.
4. While the bruschetta is resting, prepare the bread. Slice the baguette at a 45 degree angle into 1/4 inch thick slices. Brush the slices of bread on both sides with the extra olive oil and spread them out in a single layer on two baking sheets. Toast the bread for about 15 minutes until the bread is crispy golden, remove from oven and allow to cool.
5. To prepare the bruschetta for serving, spoon a generous tablespoon of the bean mixture over the slices of toasted bread and serve immediately.
Disclaimer: This post is sponsored by Pernod Classic. All opinions expressed are solely my own.
After I painted the rooms in the last house in DC, I swore I'd never paint walls again but here I am now, knee deep in paint and stained. Not to say that it isn't fun and a good arm workout but a couple of hours through and I keep considering my sanity and life choices when it comes to painting. The prospect of cooking in the new kitchen has me very, very excited. It was one of the things that immediately blew me away when we looked at the house and I feel fortunate that we were able to get it. Snoopy on the other hand has found it to be an exhausting experience, he spends most of his time running around the house while we work but he makes sure he gets his nap time, in and out of the sun.
Between wall painting and backyard cleaning, there was a mini blogger reunion last weekend and I got to spend some time with the lovely Molly and Lindsey who were visiting the San Francisco Bay on a quick trip for work. Oddly enough, it was also a reunion of sorts for those of us that live in the Bay but don't get a chance to meet each other as often as we'd like to. Our little party also included my local fellow bloggers and pals, Michelle, Phyllis, Todd and Phi, we met up for drinks at Prizefighter.
Speaking of bars and drinks, I'm a huge fan of serving drinks with a few small bites. Cheese is usually a good accompaniment to most drinks and with so many varieties to choose from it makes it an ideal pairing option. There are cheese slices and cheese balls, and cheese balls are an amazing invention. The first time I tasted a cheese ball, was several years ago during an Easter dinner in Virginia. We were visiting M's family and his mother made two large cheese balls coated with all sorts of delicious things. She prepares them in the afternoon, the first one disappears by the time its made, the second one disappears by dinner. Taking some inspiration from her, I've made a fall themed, herbed coated cheeseball that has sweet cranberries and pumpkin seeds and a dash of hot sriracha sauce for a kick. http://blog.westelm.com/2015/10/30/herbed-goat-cheese-balls/
Disclaimer: Thank you to West Elm for sponsoring this post. All opinions expressed are purely my own.
I've fallen in love with Netflix's new documentary called The Chef's Table. It's one of the most inspiring cooking documentaries, I've seen in a long time. I don't really care for the food competitions shows and rarely watch them but this is one show that has had me glued to the TV. It's easy to get repetitive when it comes to creating food (I find myself falling into this trap often) but after watching this series and listening to the stories and how these world renowned chefs overcame their personal struggles was uplifting, encouraging and exciting. My only complaint, too few episodes but I do hope it comes back for another season. I've been eyeing Marcus Nilsson's Fäviken cookbook for a while now and to see him in the series was exciting. I'm also hoping I get to visit LA to try out Niki Nakayama and her Kaiseki techniques that make her food so beautiful. If you get a chance, do check the documentary out, you won't be disappointed!
Dairy is pretty popular in India, the fact that I grew up eating plain yogurt at any time of the day, is probably a good testament to this fact. Cheese however as we think of it here in the West, is made in a very different manner in India. Rennet and fermentative bacteria are not the tools of choice when it comes to preparing Indian cheeses but rather acid and heat coagulate the proteins in milk. You still get western style cheeses in India and they are popular but panner is by far the most prominent cheese used in Indian cuisine.
Paneer is a type of cheese, that doesn't melt when heated and in many ways, it reminds me of tofu. It takes on the flavor of anything it's mixed with and you'll find it used in curries and other savory dishes. If you look into my freezer, you will often see a small pack of paneer stored because the possibilities with this cheese are endless when used correctly. You can find paneer at Indian and South East Asian and/or International food markets and I've also come across low-fat versions of this cheese too. The good thing about this cheese is that it holds it's texture very well when heated as it doesn't melt. However, this also makes it, in my opinion, unsuitable for a grilled cheese sandwich.
This paneer recipe is very simple to make and is an easy appetizer or side to serve. It's definitely not a traditional way of serving it in India but as I always say, why not! Just doll the warm slabs of paneer up with a few fresh daikon radish shoots and the tea and pineapple dressing before serving it.
Here are some of my kitchen tips when preparing this paneer dish;
- Use low-fat or full-fat milk derived paneer. Honestly, the fat-free kind tastes terrible.
- I was tempted to call the tea and pineapple dressing a vinaigrette but the ratios of the components are a little off from the classical definition so I've labeled it a dressing.
- The tea is lightly sweetened with fresh pineapple juice which gives the dressing a little sweetness and tanginess. If you want it a little sweeter add a little more juice after tasting the dressing.
- The extra garnish of sea salt flakes at the end when serving is optional but I personally like the touch of saltiness because paneer by itself is generally not salty when made from milk.
seared paneer with tea and pineapple dressing
yields: 4 servings
400 grams (14 ounces) low-fat/full-fat paneer, chilled
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil + a little extra for searing
1/2 teaspoon kosher sea salt
1/2 teaspoon white pepper powder
1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika powder
a few fresh daikon radish shoots to garnish
a little Maldon sea salt flakes (optional)
tea and pineapple dressing
1 black tea bag (I used Darjeeling tea)
100mL boiling water
50mL white wine vinegar
3 tablespoons pineapple juice, fresh
100 mL extra virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon kosher sea salt
1. Slice the paneer into 9 cm X 3 cm long slabs that are 1.5 cm thick.
2. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, place the olive oil and the rest of the ingredients from the salt to the paprika and mix with a spoon. Brush each of the paneer slabs with this mixture and allow them to sit for 10 minutes at room temperature to absorb the flavors.
3. Heat a little extra oil in a medium-sized skillet on medium - high heat. When the oil just starts to smoke, place two to three slabs of the seasoned paneer. Cook on each side until seared and lightly browned. This should take about 60-90 seconds on each side. Place the seared paneer on a dry paper towel to absorb any excess oil. Cook the rest of the paneer in the same manner and keep aside until ready to use.
4. To prepare the dressing, place the tea bag in a small heat proof bowl. Pour the boiling water over it and allow it to sit for 10 minutes. Drain the tea bag to remove any excess liquid (avoid squeezing the bag or the tea liquid will turn murky). Pour the tea into a medium bowl along with the remaining ingredients. Whisk until combined.
5. To serve place the hot/warm seared paneer slabs in a serving dish. Drizzle the paneer with as much as tea dressing as desired. Garnish with a few fresh daikon shoots and sprinkle with extra sea salt flakes if desired. Serve immediately with extra dressing and daikon radish shoots on the side.
There were two articles recently in the Washington Post that echoed some of my thoughts I have about Indian food. One discussed why people find Indian food to be delicious while the other touched on the low popularity of Indian food in the US. Two interesting yet contrasting topics well worth the read if you have a few minutes to spare.
In my opinion, I think Indian food has reached an interesting stage in the food scene, traditional and well-known dishes remain popular but there still remains plenty of room to grow. And though, it's true that Asian and Mexican cuisines tend to dominate the Western food scene, I don't think there's any cause for alarm, in fact I think it's the perfect opportunity and time to explore the variety in Indian food. There's so much to share and learn from Indian food. Within India, itself you will notice a huge variation in culture, language and diet. However, I also think it is important to break away from tradition and create your own traditions when it comes to food. Here on my blog, I humbly try to make an attempt to mix Indian cuisine into Western culture. It is important for me on a personal level to share food that I enjoy to prepare and in a way that represents the elements that influence me and my thoughts on food, on a daily basis. So here's to the future of Indian food and all the wonderful and tasty possibilities it has to offer!
This is an easy yet flavorful Indian-inspired savory pastry appetizer that can be served at gatherings of any type. Remember that little mint-cilantro chutney I made for the chickpea battered sandwich? Well here's another use for it and yet, again with chickpeas. This time, they flavor whole chickpeas which get stuffed into little puff pastry nests. The ginger strips and fresh herbed chutney are what gives these chickpeas a flavorful and tasty punch!
The folks at Yahoo Food have me up as their Food Blogger of the Week and it's definitely been an honor and wonderful experience. Here's the link to the interview I did with them.
Here are some of my kitchen tips that you might find useful when preparing these vols au vent;
- Make the chutney fresh. It will taste better the day it is made.
- I remove the seeds from the center of the tomatoes as they contain a lot of liquid trapped in the surrounding gel.
- I use store bought puff pastry. These days you can be puff pastry sheets or precut puff pastry shells which eliminate the need to cut the sheets. Go with you can find and what is easiest for you. To cut the smaller pastry circle within the large precut circle of puff pastry, I use the wider end of my large pastry tip. If you own a smaller circular pastry cutter, use that instead.
- Always keep the pastry cold when working with it. Follow the manufacturer's instructions to bake the pastry. In general puff pastry bakes and rises well at high temperatures which allow the trapped steam and butter within the dough to expand and create multiple layers.
- You will probably end up with way more chickpea filling than you need. I save the extra unused filling for lunch or as a side to add onto my dinner plate.
- You can play around with the heat level of the filling by adding more chili or leaving the seeds in.
herbed lime chickpea vol au vent
yields: enough filling for 24 vol au vents
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup red onion, chopped fine
1 inch piece ginger root, peeled and julienned
1/2 cup tomatoes, seeds removed
2 X 15ounces cans chickpea, rinsed and drained
1 teaspoon kosher sea salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 serrano or 1 thai chili pepper, thinly sliced
1 cup mint-cilantro chutney (recipe here - skip the chickpea batter part of the recipe)
2 puff pastry sheets or precut (store bought)
a little cilantro leaves, fresh to garnish
1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan on medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, sauté the onions until they turn light pink. Add the ginger and cook for another minute with constant stirring. Then toss in the tomatoes, chickpeas, salt, pepper and chili pepper. Stir for one minute, then fold in the mint-cilantro chutney and cover the saucepan with a lid. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook for about 25-30 minutes, stirring occasionally. The chickpeas should be tender when done. Remove the lid and cook for an additional 1-2 minutes to evaporate any liquid that might be left behind. Remove from stove and keep warm until ready to use. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.
2. To prepare the pastry for the vol au vent. Option 1: Precut vol au vents; Bake the precut shells as instructed by the manufacturer. Option 2: Pastry sheets: Place the pastry sheets on a lightly floured surface and cut out 3 inch circles using a biscuit cutter. Transfer the pastry to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or silicone sheet. Using a sharp paring knife make indentations around the outer edge of the pastry. Then using a 1 inch diameter pastry cutter carefully cut a circle halfway through the center of each of the cut pastry circles. Bake the pastry as per the manufacturer's instructions. (In general for puff pastry, I bake the pastry in a preheated oven at 425F for about 18-20 minutes until the pastry rises completely and turns golden brown). Remove the baked pastry from the oven and allow to cool for about 10 minutes before handling.
3. To stuff the pastry, pop out the center from the cooked pastry and remove and discard and excess pastry from the center. Stuff the center with a generous tablespoon of the warm chickpea filling and garnish with a few leaves of cilantro. Serve immediately.