cilantro coconut chutney

cilantro coconut chutney

I have big and exciting news to share with you today;

1. We're moving to the Bay Area.
2. We got engaged! I can't believe, I get to marry my best friend and now we are on our way to start and share an exciting new chapter in our lives! We've known each other for six years, been through the ups and downs that life has to offer, laughed, argued, and cried together, traveled to places, and once narrowly escaped a bear on a hike. Yep, the usual things that all couples do, but above all we're happy and home is where the two of us are together.
3. Finally, I am also super excited to have my first post up at Food52 today where I talk about my love for this bright green chutney aka the Green Goddess, with so many fresh and bright flavors, it will surely brighten up your day. So head over to Food52 to get the recipe.

coconut chutney

grilled shrimp with cilantro mint chutney

Grilled shrimp with Cilantro Mint Chutney


Summer surely is a perfect time to grill though I try to grill in any weather if possible. I find it as comforting as baking, each with its own charms and techniques that make them so unique and fun. I like to grill both outdoors and indoors and I like to grill everything possible. The flavors generally get much more complex and bolder making every meal delightful and tasty. This is really what comes to my mind when I hear the word "grilling" or "barbecuing". Deliciously exciting feelings cross my mind that involve the sizzling sounds of meat and vegetables hitting the hot grates of the grill while the smoky clouds rise from the searing food. This is probably why we grill so much in our home. I just really hate cleaning the grill, no love lost there! That is really the part I don't like to think about.

Cilantro mint chutney and veggies

I based this recipe on a very popular chutney that is used in India as a dipping sauce for appetizers such as samosas and even as a sandwich filling. If you spread a bit between two buttered slices of bread, it is delicious! The flavors of this chutney are fresh so make sure to use absolutely fresh cilantro and mint leaves. The chilies, ginger and lemon juice give the chutney its flavorful pungent jolt. Since, we had picked up some fresh jumbo shrimp from the D.C. I thought it might be perfect to marinate the shrimp in a little bit of the chutney. The other half of the chutney I refrigerated (it stays good for upto a week) in an airtight container, I used some of it as a dipping sauce with the rest of the grilled shrimp. Overall, this is a great fresh "herby" grilled shrimp recipe with tons of classic Indian flavors. I love serving these shrimp with fresh crispy salad vegetables, so feel free to add whatever you can find or love!
On a side note please make sure to use fresh shrimp and devein them.

Shrimp grilling

cilantro mint chutney

yields: about 1 1/2 -2 cups

ingredients

2 cups packed cilantro leaves, fresh
1 cup packed mint leaves, fresh
4 thai green chilis 
1 tablespoon ginger root, peeled and chopped
1/4 cup lemon juice, fresh (about 2 large lemons)
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
1/2 cup water

In a food processor, pulse all the ingredients from the cilantro to the water to make a smooth chutney. Adjust the taste with additional salt and pepper if desired. Store the chutney in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week.

grilled shrimp 


yields: 6 servings 


ingredients

2 lbs jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined with tail on
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large lemon, fresh

1. Pat the shrimp dry with a clean towel and add half of the cilantro mint chutney along with the olive oil. Mix and refrigerate in a covered container for at least 30 mins. 
2. Preheat a grill. Skewer the shrimp and grill them on the hot grill for 2-3 minutes on each side. Baste as needed with the leftover marinade from the chutney. The shells at the tail end and the meat will turn a hot pink color when they are done cooking. Remove the skewers and immediately squeeze a little lemon juice from the lemon over the hot shrimp. Serve them on the skewers with the reserved chutney.

Note: I like to serve these shrimp straight off the grill on a bed of fresh crisp veggies such as radishes, sweet bell peppers and grape tomatoes. Cucumbers, carrots and lettuce are a great addition too. 

indian-style beet burgers

Indian Style Beet Burgers

Sometimes when things get a little tough, you need a bit of a break and a breather. You need to stop for a second, calm down and relax, breathe in and then reevaluate your environment. This is exactly what I did this week just to calm my nerves and ultimately hope for the best. Fortunately, I got to unwind a little bit when we decided to take a walk down to the national monument to view the annual cherry blossoms. The  blossoms are in full bloom this week  and people from all over are here for the festival in D.C. It's definitely crowded here! The flowers are a light pretty pink or white though I honestly have to admit that don't think I have ever smelled any sort of scent from them. Nevertheless, they are gorgeous to look at and cheered me up. Apparently you cook quite a few things with the blossoms, there is a plum vinegar pickled cherry blossom flowers/Sakura preserve available which means that I've got a new ingredient to my list. Now, if only I can get my hands on some!

Cherry Blossoms 2013_1 Cherry blossom 2013_3
Cherry blossom 2013_4 Cherry Blossoms 2013_2

Moving away from something lightly pink to something a little darker and red, beets! People either love them or hate them, I love beets but hate turnips. A few years ago, we tried an amazing beet tartare dish at a pop-up restaurant somewhere in our Chinatown area and I made a mental note to make one at some point. Though I did end up finding two delicious sounding recipes at the NY Times, one with horseradish and another with salmon, I still haven't made any because during my quest for beet tartare recipes, I got inspired by a delicious looking beet burger recipe at Sara Forte's beautiful blog, the Sprouted Kitchen. I based my version of the burger patty on the Indian lamb kebab recipe that I frequently use at home. The heat and spiciness brought by the chili and seasonings complement the sweetness of the beets in these patties and then there's a refreshing chilled chili herbed-yogurt sauce helps to bring it all together in the bun. Since beets have a large amount of liquid inside them, I used the roasting method from the NY Times tartare recipes to reduce their water content before they could be blended with the other ingredients. I then used a bit of toasted oat bran along with an egg as a binding agent. The trick with using oat bran is to let it sit with ground beet mixture for at least an hour (I've left it overnight too) to absorb any other liquids in the mixture. The bran also gives a nice toasty crisp coating to the burger patties once they are seared. 

Oven Roasted Beets and Frying the Beet Burgers
Yogurt Mint Spread

My chili herbed yogurt sauce is loosely inspired by Sara's version and also by the way Indian homes make their yogurt salads or raitas. I like my raita's a little thicker and so I tend to use Greek yogurt which works out well as a sauce/dressing in this burger. I was happily surprised as to how delicious the combination of the goat cheese and yogurt tasted, the extra creaminess of the goat cheese gave the sauce, a nice smooth and buttery flavor. Alternatively, if you don't want the bread, you can also do what I do with the rest of the burger patties, serve and eat them as kebabs with a meal along with the yogurt sauce on the side. Either way these turned out to be our new favorite at home and I think we will have a repeat pretty soon!

Red Beets

indian-style beet burgers

yields: about 12 burgers

ingredients

6 medium sized-beets
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup toasted oat-bran
1 large egg
2 cloves garlic, freshly grated
2 teaspoons ginger root, freshly grated
1 thai chili pepper, chopped fine
2 tablespoons fresh whole cilantro leaves
1 medium sized red onion, peeled and cut into quarters
1/4 teaspoon garam masala (optional)
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 cup plain non-fat greek yogurt
2 tablespoons goat cheese, softened to room-temperature 
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh mint leaves, chopped
a pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)
1 thai chili pepper, thinly sliced (optional)
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste
olive oil for frying
fresh tomatoes, sliced
boston lettuce, fresh
bunch of cote du mache leaves, fresh or any other microgreens
any type of burger buns you love

1. Heat the oven to 400F. Trim the ends of the beets and scrub them under running water. With your hands, massage the beets with the olive oil and place them in a baking pan with about 1/2 cup of water. Bake the beets in the oven for one hour until they are tender when tested with the prongs of a fork. Remove the beets from the oven and let them cool for at least another hour. (This helps to shrink the skin on the beets and makes it easier to peel). Once the beets are cooled, peel and discard the skin and quarter the beets into large chunks.
2. Add the beets, oat bran, egg, garlic, ginger, thai chili pepper, cilantro, onion, garam masala, cayenne, salt, and pepper into a food processor. Cover and pulse until the beets and the rest of the ingredients are finely chopped but not puréed. Transfer the mix into a bowl, cover and leave in the refrigerator for at least one hour. (At this stage you can leave the burger mix in the refrigerator for up to 2 days before frying them).
3. Heat the olive oil in a cast-iron or nonstick skillet on a medium-high flame. Take about 3-4 tablespoons of the beet mixture in your hands and assemble into a burger patty. Place the patty onto the hot pan, reduce the flame to low and cook  patty for about 15 minutes on each side, until crisp. (The reason for slow-cooking the burger patty is to cook the patty slowly to avoid burning and also to ensure that any excess liquid inside the patty evaporates). Transfer the patty to a clean paper towel to absorb any excess oil. 
4. For the yogurt sauce, mix the yogurt, goat cheese, cilantro, mint, cayenne, chili, and lemon juice with a fork in a medium-size mixing bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate until needed.
5. To assemble the burger. Slice and lightly toast the buns. Spread a little yogurt sauce on each side of the bun. On the lower half of the sliced bun, assemble the lettuce, a slice of tomato, cote du mache, the burger patty, a generous dollop of yogurt sauce, and another lettuce leaf. Cover the burger with other half of the bun and insert a toothpick through the center of the burger. Serve immediately.

apple and carrot soup with cilantro-peanut chutney

carrot and apple soup

I started my holidays a little earlier than anticipated since we decided to finally take on our pending bathroom remodeling project and I'm relieved that it's finished. No more drilling and hammering noises and pesky dust issues!  Since, I've stayed at home for the bathroom project, I decided to finish up wrapping all the gifts that we need to take down with us on our trip this weekend. Honestly, I am not a big fan of wrapping gifts, sometimes I get them right and on other occasions, I simply don't. It would be much easier if there was a standard rectangular shape box for every gift versus all the other random shaped toy cartons that I have come across. 

carrots and apples

With all the hustle and bustle of the calorie loaded holidays parties, I've been opting for very simple, easy, and refreshing meals at home. This is one of my favorite recipes that I have grown to love and appreciate this year. This apple and carrot soup has all the fresh flavors of the season. The soup by itself is very delicious but it gets a pretty bold kick of heat from the Thai chili peppers in the crunchy peanut and cilantro chutney.

cilantro and apples

To give this pureed soup a silky and smooth texture, it is essential to simmer all the vegetables for at least 30 minutes. It does not matter how long you small you dice the apples and carrots because they will get soft and tender during the simmering stage. If you can't find black sea salt or "Kala Namak" (you can find it at most Indian grocery stores) then I would recommend using regular Kosher sea salt. You can thin the soup as much as you want to with water but don't forget to adjust the salt and pepper. While making the chutney, I like to use fresh lemon juice and I also leave the seeds inside the chilies. If you like the chutney less hot, then remove the seeds and only use the skin of the chilies. A little drop of the chutney goes along way in this soup. Another tip with the peanuts, I eliminated the need for using raw peanuts, since pre-salted and roasted peanuts are so easily available. The little crunch bits of peanuts in the chutney against the smooth silky soup makes for a wonderful and delicious texture. As an added bonus, the chutney can also be used as a dipping sauce.

carrots garlic and pot
onion

apple and carrot soup with cilantro-peanut chutney

yields: 4-6 servings

ingredients

for the apple and carrot soup

2 medium sized Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and diced 
2 lb carrots, peeled and diced 
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup red onion, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cups water
1/2 teaspoon cayenne powder
juice of half a lemon
ground black sea salt (or regular sea salt) to taste
freshly ground black pepper to taste

for the cilantro-peanut chutney

1 cup of fresh cilantro leaves 
2 tablespoons salted roasted peanuts
2 green thai chili peppers
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
juice of one lemon
salt and pepper to taste

for the apple and carrot soup

1. Heat the olive oil in a thick bottomed stock pot with a lid on a medium flame. When the oil is hot, add the onions and garlic and sauté for 2 minutes with constant stirring. The onions will become translucent and light pink in color. Now add the carrots and apples, stir for a minute and cover with a lid. Cook for another 2 minutes. Add 1 cup of water and bring it to boil. Once the water boils, reduce the flame to a gentle simmer and cook for another 30 minutes until all the vegetables are soft. Switch the flame off and let the contents cool for about 15 minutes.
2. Add the contents of the stockpot to a food processor and pulse until completely smooth. Add the pureed vegetables back to the stockpot. Add the rest of the water to the puree along with the cayenne pepper and lemon juice. Season the soup with salt and pepper. Heat the soup on a medium flame and bring to a boil with constant stirring. Then reduce to a gentle simmer and keep warm until ready to serve.
Note: If you prefer the soup to be thinner, then add a little more water to it and accordingly adjust the salt and pepper.

for the cilantro-peanut chutney

1. Grind all the ingredients for the chutney to get a coarse paste. The peanuts should be coarsely ground.
2. Season with salt and pepper as per taste.

serving suggestion:
Top each bowl of soup with 1 teaspoon of the cilantro-peanut chutney.

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.