chickpea scallion crepes

spicy chickpea scallion crepes

Let me start by saying, I love crepes and pancakes of all kinds, of all shapes and sizes, and of all sorts of varieties. They can be sweet or savory, it wouldn't matter, I find absolute comfort as soon as the pan rotates and the batter swirls quickly around to morph into its almost perfect geometrical identity.There's the sweet sizzle and array of tiny of circular craters that arise on the surface of this land that is waiting to be decimated by ravenous appetite. There is comfort in the magic of the crepe (pancake). 

scallions

Chinese scallion pancakes are delicious and coincidentally one of my not-so-secret favorite things to make in the kitchen. I could eat stacks and call it a day. Fresh scallions are delicious anyway and make everything better with their bright bang of flavor and color. I like to eat the white and green parts of the scallion.

chickpea flour and chili flakes

Chickpea flour is something that I grew up with, you can't escape it if you grow up in an Indian household. It's there and occupies a special place from food to beauty treatments, it's a daily staple. My mom made chickpea crepes for breakfast, my father was a big fan because that is something he grew up eating and we'd eat them often.

chickpea batter

I've combined two of my favorite crepe/pancake recipes into one. Chickpea flour crepes with red chili flakes for heat and fresh scallions. You can serve them with any sort of sauce on the side, ketchup or soy sauce, etc. Make these you will love them and they are guilt free because chickpea flour is a naturally rich in protein and good amino acids. 

savory chickpea scallion crepes

chickpea scallion crepes

yields: 6 crepes

ingredients

1 1/2 cups (7 ounces) chickpea flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon red chili flakes
1 3/4 cups water
1 bunch scallions (approximately 1/2 cup after sliced)
spray oil/olive oil as needed for frying the crepes

1. Place the flour, salt and chili flakes in a large mixing bowl. Whisk the dry ingredients together to mix evenly. Pour the water into the dry ingredients and whisk until no specks of the chickpea flour can be seen and the batter is smooth. You can taste the batter to make sure the salt is enough and adjust accordingly.
2. Remove any dead and damaged leaves from the scallions and trim the white and green ends. Slice the white and green ends of the scallions. Reserve 1 tablespoon for the garnish and mix the rest of the scallions into the batter. 
3. Heat a cast iron skillet or non stick pan on a medium high flame. Spray the pan with oil. When the oil is hot, pour half cup of the batter into the center of the pan and carefully, rotate the pan so that the batter spreads out to form a circle. The crepe will begin to form immediately and it does not have to be a perfect circle. Cook the crepe until the edges begin to come away from the pan, flip the crepe with a silicone spatula and cook on the other side for 40-45 seconds. Transfer the crepe to a serving dish. Prepare the rest of the crepes similarly and arrange in a stack. Serve garnished with the extra reserved sliced scallions. 

chicken sweet-corn soup

Chicken sweet corn soup

I  miss spring/summer and all the fresh produce that comes with the notes of warmer weather. However, till then I realize that I need to buck-up and work with what comes my way on the East Coast. Of late, I have been craving all sorts of delicious foods from all over the globe. Some new to my palate and others familiar friends to my taste buds. Bombay/Mumbai is a melting pot of several different cultures and even countries, consequently this has led to the fusion and evolution of several different cuisines. One of my personal favorites, is Indo-Chinese food, where Indian flavors and spices come together with some Chinese dishes that make them wonderful and unique. There are a couple of places in NYC that do serve this authentic menu, one of them being Chinese Mirch. The food here is great and worth stopping by.Whenever wet and cold weather strike, I always turn to this soup. Chicken sweet corn soup is a very popular dish in Indo-Chinese restaurants in India and is also one of my favorites. I remember waiting to pick up our takeouts from the restaurant that was a few blocks from our house in Bombay. Watching the chefs,  stir-fry the food in their large woks while they quickly tossed sauces and seasonings into the sizzling hot pans was such a fascinating treat for me. Their hands moved with such finesse and speed that it was literally a magic show of sorts. 

Sweet Corn

Here is my take on the chicken sweet-corn soup that I fondly remember and miss. This recipe works great with left-over shredded chicken (if using left-over chicken, then use 2 cups of cooked shredded chicken) and fresh or frozen sweet-corn. I like to use leeks to flavor the soup because they give a robust flavor to the stock and also brighten the color. If you like this soup a little hotter, then add a few more thai peppers to it. While preparing the leeks, I find it useful to slice them in half lengthwise and then slice them finely. I then rinse them under cold water to remove any sand particles that might be trapped within the spaces of the stem.

Chicken and Leeks

chicken sweet-corn soup

servings:

ingredients

4 tablespoons vegetable oil
4 medium lean chicken breasts
1/2 cup finely sliced leeks
1 cup frozen sweet-corn (fresh corn can also be used)
6 cups low-sodium chicken stock
1/4 cup low-sodium soy  sauce
1/3 cup rice wine vinegar
1 finely chopped thai chili pepper
1 heaped teaspoon cornflour
3 to 4 tablespoons of water
1 large egg, lightly beaten
salt and pepper to taste
a few scallions and/or green thai chili peppers, finely sliced for garnish

1. Heat two tablespoons of the vegetable oil in a large stockpot on a medium flame. Pat each chicken breast with a clean paper towel to absorb any liquids and then season the breasts with salt and pepper on each side. Add each breast to the hot oil in the stockpot. Cover the pot with a lid. Cook the chicken breasts on each side until the meat is tender. This should take about 20 minutes. Once the chicken is thoroughly cooked, reduce the flame to a low simmer, remove the chicken breasts and keep them on a plate to cool. Drain and collect any liquids from the stockpot and keep side (this can be added back to the soup to give a flavorful stock). When the chicken is cool enough to be handled, shred the meat and keep it covered so it does not dry.
2. In the same stock pot, heat the rest of the oil and add the leeks. Fry the leeks in the oil for about 3 minutes till they soften. 
3. Stir in the corn to the stockpot and cook for another 3 minutes on a medium flame. 
4. Now add the chicken stock and the left-over liquid that was drained from the chicken in step 1. Mix in the shredded chicken, soy sauce, vinegar, and chili pepper. Cook on low heat for 10 minutes.
5. In a small bowl, make a slurry of the corn flour in the water and add it to the soup stirring briskly.
6. Bring the soup to a boil and then with constant stirring add in the beaten egg. The egg proteins will coagulate immediately to form threads.
7. Reduce the flame to a gentle simmer and season with salt and pepper.
8. Serve the soup hot. You can garnish the soup with freshly chopped scallions or some chopped chilies. 

butternut squash with ginger root and noodle broth

Egg Noodles

Thank you so much for all the well-wishes and emails, the hurricane might have been bad but we were fortunate to have power and gas and were not hit as badly as some of the other areas that received the major brunt of Sandy. Tuesday was still a terribly rainy day but the winds had died down and I think some of the worst things that happened in our area, were the big tree that fell down and a couple of traffic signs that had moved or been yanked out of the ground. Things are pretty much back to normal here but it is getting cold, terribly cold. 

Butternut Squash and Noodle Broth

This soup tided me over the crazy hurricane days. It was hot and laced with tons of ginger to keep me warm and happy. Normally, I use tender lemongrass stems when I cook but I had the opportunity to use some fresh  leaves from my neighbor's garden. In this soup, the lemongrass flavor works well because it is mild while the ginger is strong and delicious. Of course try and use fresh ingredients for this soup, it will make it wonderfully aromatic. As you might have noticed, I am extremely partial to ginger, it's one of those important mainstays of my kitchen, that I always keep at home in fresh, dried, and crystallized forms. So yeah, I have one too many recipes here with a bit of ginger! I will admit that I am not a big fan of peeling and cutting pumpkins and butternut squashes. I tend to lean towards roasting these tough guys so it is easier to get the pulp from the skin. However, this particular soup required chunks of the butternut squash, so I saved some time and  tears by purchasing the pre-cut stuff from the store. Sometimes, it really is good to let others help you.

Ginger and Lemongrass

A couple of pointers when preparing this broth. Use a large stockpot or wok as you need to mix the noodles and squash in the broth, this will make it easy to toss things around and create less of a mess in the kitchen stove. I like to tie the lemongrass leaves in a tight knot and then add them to the broth when cooking. I then discard the leaves once the soup is done and the knot makes it easy to remove the entire bunch at one instance. I enjoy the complex flavors in soy, fish, and oyster sauces and I also love adding a little bit of soy sauce to the boiling water that I cook my noodles in because it gives them a nice flavor, though this is completely optional. Do not over saute the ginger or lemongrass or you will lose the aroma and flavor of these delicate ingredients. I do hope you get to enjoy this hot and gingery soup on a cold winter day! 

Soup and butternutsquash

butternut squash with ginger root and noodle broth

yields: approximately 4-6 servings

ingredients

3 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons soy sauce
2  bundles of Chinese egg noodles
2 cups peeled and chopped butternut squash
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 peeled and finely minced shallots or 1/2 cup finely minced red onion
1.5 inches peeled fresh ginger root
1 bunch fresh lemongrass leaves (this should be about 1/4 cup chopped or packed leaves)
2 chopped Thai chilies (use either green or red, both work well here)
5 cups water
2 tablespoons of freshly squeezed lemon juice
3 tablespoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons oyster sauce
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro leaves
few fresh cilantro leaves for garnish
salt and white pepper to taste

1. In a pot bring 3 cups of water to boil. Add the salt and soy sauce to the water. Break the bundles of dry egg noodles in half and then add them to the boiling water. Cook till the noodles are almost tender. This will take about 4 to 5 minutes. Drain the water and keep the noodles aside.
2. While the noodles are cooking, take a separate wok or stockpot add the oil, and heat on a high flame. When the oil is hot, toss in the butternut squash and cook completely till the inside of the squash is tender. This should take about 14-15 minutes.
3. Remove the squash from the wok, cover and keep aside. In the same oil add the shallots/onion and cook for about 3 minutes till translucent.
4. Peel the ginger root and julienne into 1/2 inch strips. Reduce the flame to medium heat and toss in the ginger and cook for another two minutes. 
5. Add the lemon grass, chilies and cook for another minute.
6. Add the 5 cups of water, fish sauce, oyster sauce, and lemon juice to the wok and bring to a boil. Once the broth begins to boil, reduce the flame to a gentle simmer and add the cooked squash. Discard the lemongrass leaves at this stage.
7. Transfer and stir in the drained noodles to the simmering broth.
8. Season the broth with salt and pepper, according to taste. Stir in the chopped cilantro to the broth. Prior to serving, garnish the broth with a few whole cilantro leaves in individual soup bowls. Serve hot.

Hurricane Sandy in D.C.

pan seared hot and spicy pumpkin cakes


This is the one time of the year that fresh pumpkins are easy to score and at great prices. The farms and pumpkin patches around D.C. have convincing evidence that pumpkins are abundant, if you see what I mean. We recently drove by a patch of pumpkins and it was the most amazing display of orange against green at 6 am in the morning! We picked out three huge behemoth monstrosities to carve, have you picked your pumpkins out yet ? Canned pumpkin purees are easier to find at almost anytime of the year than fresh pumpkins. One thing that I find with canned purees is that most brands are almost inevitably a bit sweet and are mostly targeted towards pies and other dessert recipes. There are very few unsweetened pumpkin purees out in the market so I normally freeze a little  chopped or unsweetened puree that lasts for a few months. This gives me some flexibility in my pumpkin recipe options for a short while. 


This is one of my favorite pumpkin recipes that I make almost every year, at least a couple of times. These pumpkin cakes are hot and spicy and best when served fresh off the stove. I merged a few Asian and Indian ingredients to bring out the heat and flavor in the pumpkin cakes. The heat in the cakes comes from the chili pepper flakes and the sambal olek (which is my go-to heat resource for all things spicy in Asian cooking and is now available at most stores). The fresh garlic and garam masala not only adds rich and warm flavors but are also the main aromatics in the cakes. These days almost every grocery store will carry a brand of garam masala and they are quite good. A dash of turmeric brightens the color of the pumpkin while the soy sauce helps to bring all the ingredients together. There are three binding agents in these cakes, the mashed peas, the panko breadcrumbs, and the beaten egg. Since pumpkin has quite a bit of water in it, I recommend squeezing the pumpkin as tight as you can to release as much liquid as possible. If you squeeze the pumpkin before the mixing stage, you will get crispier cakes.


My food processor was a big help here! It grated the raw pumpkin easily with no hesitation. After halving my pumpkin, I peeled the hard exterior skin off and then chopped them into thick wedges about  4 inches or so in length and ran them through the food processor. I have also found it helpful to peel pumpkins after they have been refrigerated for at least 4 hours, it seems to help the skin come off easily. Another useful tool here is a cookie cutter that helps to shape and size the cakes evenly. I was tempted to coat the cakes with the breadcrumbs and then fry them but I like the pretty yellowish-orange colors of pumpkins and could not find a reason good enough to hide them.


pan seared hot and spicy pumpkin cakes

ingredients


4 cups grated pumpkin
1/3 cup frozen peas
2 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro
1 teaspoon dried chili pepper flakes (I used dried Kashmiri chilies)
1 garlic clove, finely minced
1/2 teaspoon garam masala
1 tablespoon low sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon sambal olek
1 teaspoon salt
1 large egg, beaten
1 teaspoon white pepper
1 cup panko bread crumbs or regular bread crumbs
olive oil for frying

1. Squeeze the liquid out of the grated pumpkin and discard the juice.
2. Microwave the peas for 3 minutes on the high setting. They should get soft enough to be easily mashed. When ready mash the peas with a fork.
3. In a large mixing bowl, add the pumpkin, mashed peas, garlic, egg, soy sauce, sambal olek, panko, chili, salt, pepper, and garam masala. Combine them together with a spoon or by hand.
4. Heat the olive oil in a skillet. 
5. Spoon out about 3 heaped tablespoons of the mixture inside a 2 inch circular cookie cutter directly on to the hot pan. Quickly shape it to conform to the cookie cutter. Pan fry the cakes on each side till seared. This should take about 4 minutes on each side. Drain any excess oil from the cakes on to a clean paper towel. Serve hot.