Though we're technically a few weeks away from the official start to summer, it's been warm enough that we've been grilling outdoors on the gas grill. We also just completed a massive backyard remodel over the past two months and converted the entire space into an edible garden.Read More
Spring has made me busy and get my hands dirty. I've cleaned out every box we brought with us when moved and boy, did we hold on to a lot to a lot of stuff we don't need. That feeling when you get rid of all the unnecessary stuff, it's good! I've also been working on my little container gardening on our deck. My pomegranate plant is blooming with little pomegranates that hang off the tree and every evening a hummingbird drops by to feed on the flowers in the garden. Little lemons and blood oranges are slowly growing and trying to make it to next winter to fruit.
Pesto is one of those simple dishes that's easy to make yet flavorful that can multitask in many parts of the meal as possible. From spreads to dips to pasta, it works its magic in every way possible and all over the place. Since we are well into spring, I thought about taking a few liberties with pesto and adding some of my favorite greens. Especially one particular green leaf that rarely gets much attention, fenugreek. Fenugreek leaves are small and flat, the stem is edible too and sometimes, you might see little yellow flowers attached. It's all edible and tasty. And now it's in my version of a very spring themed pesto.
I've also added two other favorite greens in here, a little fresh mint and a whole lot of fresh pea shoots. No pine nuts in this one (it's sad that they're so costly) but instead roasted sunflower seeds along with the usual suspects, parmesan and garlic. Just like any pesto, serve it up the way you want to!
Here are some of my tips that you might find useful when preparing this pesto,
- Mint leaves darken quickly when cut or bruised but lemon juice reduces the darkening a little and brightens the flavors at the same time.
- You can use the stems of the greens in the recipe. They pack a lot of flavor. I used them both.
- Even though, I've listed the amount of salt and pepper I used, I still recommend tasting it and then seasoning.
fenugreek mint and pea shoot pesto
yields: about 1 cup
2 cups pea shoots
1/4 cup fresh mint leaves
1/2 cup fresh fenugreek
3 garlic cloves, peeled and halved
1/3 cup parmesan
1/3 cup roasted sunflower seeds
3 tablespoons lemon juice, freshly squeezed
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon kosher sea salt (see note above)
1/4 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground (see note above)
1. Place all the ingredients from the pea shoots to the lemon juice in the bowl of a food processor. Attach the metal blade, attach the lid and pulse while trickling the olive oil in slowly. Plus until the ingredients are all combined and you get a smooth paste.
2. Season the pesto with salt and pepper. Serve immediately or refrigerate until ready.
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.
Thank you so much for the feedback on the new look! I have to admit, having a blog teaches you all sorts of things that you never thought you would but as challenging as it can be, it's also a lot of fun. Speaking of fun things, this mention by Parade Magazine was exciting and I was very honored to be included in such an amazing list of creative and talented people.
Today, I have two recipes for you and I think they are perfect way to deal with all this hot weather that's coming our way here in California. There's a fresh cilantro and mint chutney which has a dash of fresh ginger root blended in. You can use this chutney as a dip, or spread it between slices of buttered bread or use it in this raita recipe that I've included in this post.
Raitas are a dish I make it at home a couple of times during the week and on hot summer days like the ones we are having right now, a refreshing and cooling cucumber and cilantro-mint raita hits the right spot. I've described two ways to prepare the raita but honestly, it's all up to you, present it the way you want to. Just have fun! I do find that the "parfait" style makes for a good travel companion when it comes to packing lunches and a little more exciting because I like the personalized touch.
I used Greek yogurt instead of the traditional method of using plain regular yogurt because I like my raitas a little creamy. A thicker yogurt base also makes it easy to layer and prepare the parfait.
yields: approximately 1 cup
1 cup packed mint leaves, fresh
1 cup packed cilantro, leaves
1 inch piece ginger root, peeled, julienned
2 thai green chili peppers
1/4 cup water, chilled
1/2 teaspoon kosher sea salt
1. Place the mint, cilantro, ginger, chili into a blender (or a jar if you're using an immersion blender), Squeeze the lime juice and add the water and salt. Blend until the ingredients for a smooth paste. You might need to add a little more water to the paste or occasionally stir the ingredients to get them moving in the blender. Once this chutney is prepared you can use it immediately or refrigerate it in an airtight container. You can also freeze this for for a few days. (Note: the vibrant color does tend to become a little darker after a few days of storage but the it is still good to use and eat)
cucumber mint raita
yields: approximately 4 cups
2 cups plain Greek yogurt
1/2 cup water, chilled (* if you want the raita thinner add more water but remember to adjust the salt and pepper according to your taste preferences)
1/2 teaspoon kosher sea salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
2 cups cucumber, peeled and grated
1 thai chili pepper, cut into thin slices for garnish
1. In a large bowl, whisk the yogurt, water, salt and pepper until the ingredients are completely combined. Keep this yogurt base aside in the refrigerator until ready to use.
2. Squeeze the grated cucumber for any excess liquid. You can save the liquid and use it to for something else (I either drink it or use it in chilled juices).
3. There are two ways to prepare the raita.
a) The first method is for the "parfait style". You can prepare about 4-6 (5-6 ounce) glass jars with this method. Layer the bottom of one jar, half-way with the yogurt base. Add about 2-3 tablespoons of the grated cucumber above and layer with more yogurt base until you're about half an inch from the top of the jar. Layer with 2 generous tablespoons of the cilantro-mint chutney and garnish with a few of the sliced chilies and a little left over grated cucumber. Prepare the rest of the jars using this method. Refrigerate and serve chilled.
b)The second method is to mix 1/2 cup of the cilantro-mint chutney prepared earlier with the yogurt base and the cucumber in a large mixing bowl. Garnish with the thinly sliced chilies. You can serve it immediately or cover the bowl with cling film and refrigerate until ready to serve. Serve chilled.