spicy calamari

spicy calamari

There's something calming that accompanies the sound of the ocean water splashing against the rocks while the breeze caresses your face. Sticking your wet toes in the sand while you stare across into the horizon and forget everything that's on your mind. At least that what's we anticipated when we took a quick day trip to the beach in Santa Cruz. 

Amusingly enough, it was quite the opposite. The winds were very chilly and wild! So was Snoopy, the thought of sitting down calmly was not something he was in the mood for. He wanted to play with the other dogs and eat sea weed. The two of us struggled with our packed lunches which kept getting stuffed with sand. Finally we looked at each other after spending two hours of frustration trying to battle the cold winds and sand and decided that perhaps this would have been a calmer day if we stayed at home. We walked back to the car, more annoyed than ever and began our drive back home. After a few minutes in the car driving, we looked at each other and smiles started to form which turned into laughter. While the dog was being crazy at the beach he had now sunk into a deep state of slumber in the back seat of the car while the two of us were exhausted from all the craziness of those two hours at the beach. I really feel these crazy things happen only to us but then again we might not remember these moments years from now! I'm sure we will go back to the beach and definitely be better prepared than our first visit! 

mise en prep calamari

What would life not be without a little bit of craziness or spice for that matter! Calamari is one of my favorite seafood appetizers to eat in summer and I'm sharing one of my favorite ways to make calamari at home. I've added several ingredients that are commonly used in Goan cuisine that give these guys a delicious flavorful kick. Cornmeal gives these squid a super crispy crust that with will make you want to eat more with every crunch bite. I'm not a big fan of dipping sauces when it comes to eating calamari, I prefer a splash of fresh lemon juice over them but feel free to pair this with your favorite dipping sauces. 

spicy calamari goan indian style

spicy calamari

yields: 4 servings

ingredients 

2 lbs squid, cleaned
1 large egg
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher sea salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
1 teaspoon chili powder (I used freshly ground dried Kashmiri chilies but if Cayenne also works great here)
1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
1/4 teaspoon coriander seeds, freshly ground
1 clove (approximately one teaspoon) of garlic , minced 
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon cornflour
vegetable for frying
2 cups cornmeal
a few fresh lemon wedges and a few fresh cilantro/parsley leaves for garnishing

1. Wipe any excess liquid from the squid using clean paper towels. Using a sharp knife cut the head off and the body into rings, place on a clean paper towel. (Food52 has a great tutorial on how to clean and cut squid).
2. In a mixing bowl, whisk the egg. Add all the ingredients from the sea salt to the cornflour and whisk until completely combined. Fold in the cut squid until coated evenly. Allow to sit for 30 minutes in the refrigerator. 
3. Heat 2 inches of the oil in a wok on a medium-high flame. In the meantime, place the cornmeal in a medium-sized tray. Using a fork pick up the marinating pieces of squid and toss them in the cornmeal until completely coated. Place the coated pieces on a sheet of parchment paper. 
4. As soon as the oil gets hot at around 375F,  fry about 1/4th of the cornmeal-coated squid until golden brown (don't overcrowd the wok or they won't cook evenly). The squid will cook within 1 to 1 1/2 minutes, immediately transfer with a slotted spoon onto a clean sheet of absorbent paper towels to drain the excess oil. Repeat with the rest of the squid. Serve hot with fresh lemon wedges and garnish with a little fresh cilantro or parsley leaves.

goan chili rolls

goan chili rolls

These chili rolls were a staple growing up in Bombay (I know I still call it that and need to get used to saying Mumbai). We had two food breaks every day at school and if I remember correctly either one or both of those breaks were committed to eating these guys (maybe a few). They would come wrapped up like tootsie rolls in white paper. But they were not called chili rolls as I have labeled them here, instead there were known as "hot dogs" but they are basically chili dogs without the "dogs" so I decided to simply go with "chili rolls". Either way, call it what you may, if you wanted intense hot and spicy flavors wrapped up in a bread roll with a mild hint of sweetness, this will please you! 

garlic

Chili should be fiery, there are several chili peppers here and I've bumped up the dial on the heat by adding in some Sriracha sauce (which is completely optional), all you need to do is stuff your bun up good. Traditionally, they are made with ground beef to make them leaner, I've substituted the beef with turkey but chicken or a leaner ground beef will also work equally well. 

beer

These rolls are really good with a cold glass of chilled beer and enjoy the explosion of flavors. You can probably fill up more than 8 hot dog buns depending on how you load them. 

goan chili rolls indian food

goan chili rolls

yields: 8 hot dog buns

ingredients

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 cups red onion, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1 tablespoon ginger root, peeled and grated
4-6 green thai chili peppers, finely minced
1/4 cup tomato paste
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds, ground
1 teaspoon molasses
2 lbs ground turkey/chicken/beef, lean
1 1/2 cups red wine vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
1 tablespoon sriracha, generous (optional)
6 whole-wheat bread rolls
a few green ends of fresh scallions, thinly sliced for garnish

1. Heat the oil in a thick bottomed saucepan with a lid on medium high heat. When the oil is hot, add the onions and sauté for 3-4 minutes until translucent. Add the garlic and ginger and cook for another 30 seconds. Add the chili peppers, tomato paste, turmeric, cumin and molasses and cook for 1 minute with constant stirring. 
2. Fold in the ground turkey and stir until the ingredients are combined. Cover with a lid and reduce the flame to medium-low and cook for another 30 minutes or until the meat is completely cooked. You might need to stir the contents of the saucepan occasionally to ensure that the ground meat does not form large clumps. 
3. Once the meat is cooked, add the vinegar, salt, pepper, and sriracha. Cook for another 20 minutes with occasional stirring until almost all the liquid has evaporated. Leave the lid half cracked open slightly to allow the liquid to evaporate. Once the liquid has evaporated, remove from stove and keep aside until read to serve.
4. To serve, load up the hot dog buns with a generous helping of the chili and garnish with scallions. You can also top them off with some sriracha sauce. 

braised cabbage with lentils


braised cabbage with red lentils

It's the start of the new year with new memories to make and fresh recipes to share with you. And what better way to begin than to share one of my favorite ways to eat cabbage. Cabbage has always been one of my favorite vegetables as a child and it still holds a special place in my pyramid of food choices.  I enjoyed eating cabbage a lot, so much so that it really annoyed my mother when she would ask me what I would like to eat. She also got the same answer when it came to colors, I loved grey (I owned and still own my clothing items that are in different shades of grey) and she'd insist that grey was not really a color. Needless to say, I still love cabbages and the color grey! 

napa cabbage

There are many different ways to cook cabbage in Indian households, this perhaps holds a special place in my heart because it is the way I remember my grandmother preparing it. She served this on the side with a piping hot stew of beef, chicken or lamb and fresh loaves of bread. It was definitely a much more simple dish but an absolutely delicious meal and one of my favorites from her Goan kitchen.

red lentils

There are very few ingredients in this dish and the flavors are still wonderfully complex. The presoaked red lentils are cooked in the hot oil that is flavored with chili and they capture the heat of the peppers which provides a delicious punch when you taste the cabbage and the lentils. Although, it is not always necessary to presoak lentils before they are cooked, I find that the soaking process quickens the speed at which the lentils are cooked and they fluff up and become much more tender when cooked in the hot oil and the cabbage. Cabbage leaves also contain a large amount of water and when cooked the water is released which aids in braising the vegetables and lentils. I also prefer to use Napa cabbage in this recipe because it retains it structure against the high heat during cooking without getting mushy and too soft.

braised cabbage with lentils

braised cabbage with lentils

yields: 4-6 servings

ingredients

2/3 cup red lentils
2 lbs napa cabbage
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon red chili flakes
1 thai green chili pepper, thinly sliced
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher sea salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
1 tablespoon fresh cilantro (or flat leaf parsley) leaves, finely chopped to garnish

1. Clean and remove any stones and dirt from the lentils. Rinse the lentils under cold tap water and soak the lentils in water for 1 hour. 
2. Remove any damaged outer leaves from the cabbage. Quarter the cabbage across its length and then cut each quarter into thin shreds. Place the cabbage in a colander and rinse the cut leaves under cold running tap water. Transfer the cabbage shreds onto a clean kitchen towel and press to absorb any excess water.
3. Heat the olive oil in a large wok with a lid and medium high flame. As soon as the oil begins to get hot, add the chili flakes and chili pepper and stir for 15 seconds. 
4. Drain the water from the soaked lentils and transfer them to the hot oil. Stir fry the lentils for 5 minutes. Add the cabbage, salt and black pepper to the wok, stir to mix and cover with the lid. Cook until the cabbage is tender with occasional stirring. This should take about 20 minutes. Remove the wok from the flame and transfer the hot cabbage to a serving dish. Garnish with the chopped cilantro (or parsley) and serve with bread or plain rice.

baath cake/ goan coconut cake

Baath cake with tea

It's finally feeling a lot like winter, the winds are chilly and almost every leaf that was once green and had turned a fiery shade of autumn is now lying on the sidewalks. Even my precious fig tree in the garden has lost most of its leaves and looks like a naked elongated branched creature protruding out from the ground. Cold weather also makes it way harder for me to get up early in the morning when all I want to do is curl up and stay warm under the covers. Thankfully, the holidays make winter fun and it gets me excited for all the things I can do. For me, cooking and baking all sorts of special holiday recipes that I grew up eating or for that matter even venturing out into unfamiliar culinary territories makes it fun. An even more special moment for me is when I surprise my family and friends with some of my favorite holiday desserts. This year will be no different, I've already shipped some stuff out to a few people that I know will be surprised and hopefully happy when they receive their packages this week.

Whisk some Eggs

In the next few weeks, I am going to continue to share some of my favorite holiday recipes with you. One of these holiday recipes is this delicious and traditional Goan cake that was served at almost every holiday occasion such as Christmas and Easter, as far as I can remember. Goa has a lot of coconut trees and consequently they became a major part of the regional diet and lifestyle over time. The Baath cake is rich in coconut flavored with rose water that gives it a wonderfully nutty and floral fragrance at the same time. Besides its heavenly taste and aroma, the cake is also very moist and tender. This is the second semolina based cake recipe that I have shared with you.

Shredded Coconut and Cake

This is a simple and easy cake recipe to prepare. However, you must let the cake batter soak anywhere from a few hours to overnight, this will allow the semolina to absorb all the liquid and swell up. The resultant cake has a nice moist and plump crumb that is soaked up with all the deliciousness of the coconut and rose water flavors. You can serve this cake warm or cold. The original recipe that I had was very rich and had way too much sugar and eggs that I have tried to cut back without really compromising on the taste or the quality of the cake. I used reduced-fat coconut milk in my recipe to cut back on the fat and also because coconuts are seasonal. If you can find fresh coconuts, I recommend using two cups of finely grated coconuts instead of the coconut milk and the 1/4 cup of shredded coconut. The finer the shreds the better the texture of the cake. Personally, I like to serve the cake in small bite-sized pieces with hot tea or coffee.

Freshly cut and baked right out of the oven

baath cake/goan coconut cake

ingredients

1 stick unsalted butter
4 large eggs
2 1/4 cups sugar
3 cups semolina flour

a pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder


1/4 cup shredded/grated unsweetened coconut

1/4 cup rose water

2 cups reduced-fat coconut milk

1. Line a 9X10 inch baking pan with a sheet of parchment paper cut to size. Spray the sheet and pan with a neutral cooking oil spray.
2. Cream the butter, eggs, and sugar till fluffy using an electric mixer.
3. Fold in the semolina, salt, baking powder, coconut, rose water, and coconut milk. Then mix for another 2 minutes with the mixer until all the ingredients are combined. 
4. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Seal the pan with cling film and refrigerate for at least 4 hours to overnight. 
5. The cake batter will have set by this point. Bake the cake for 40 minutes in the center of the middle rack of an oven that is preheated to 350F.
6. The cake is done when it gets golden brown on the surface or when a knife comes out clean from the center.  Allow to cool in the baking pan, serve warm or chilled with tea or coffee.

slow-cooker goan chicken coconut curry

Goan Coconut Chicken Curry

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving. I had a great time spending it with my friends while we ate and drank copious amounts of good food and wine. At about 7 or 8pm, the tryptophan-induced sleep kicked in and we were all extremely tired and sleepy. If I remember correctly, by the time we got home and walked the dog, our eyelids were too heavy and we were so tired to sit up and watch any television. I am thankful that we get Friday off or it would be terrible to go in to work. Still, I am amazed as to how some people have the stamina to go and wait in lines for those insane Black Friday Deals at all the stores the night before. I really don't think I could do that after such a large meal, so more power to those who can and I hope they score great deals.

Garlic and Ginger

After a delicious Thanksgiving dinner and a very busy time cooking, I think most cooks like me would prefer a simple and easy meal with hardly any prep work. This recipe is exactly how I remember my grandmother's chicken curry tasted. I remember this curry when we'd visit her house, she would serve it with rice and a few other accompaniments for lunch, however at night we'd simply eat it with baked bread and sop up the broth. She was never a big fan of eating rice at night as she said it was too heavy to eat before bed time. Simple yet comforting is what this curry is. The curry is infused with delicious coconut milk and a blend of aromatic spices. I've tried to make it simple by skipping out several steps where the spices need to be fried with the onions and removed the oil completely. It's pretty much a leave-it, shut-it, and forget-it kind of recipe. Most Goan curries generally use fresh coconut milk squeezed out from freshly grated coconut to make them hearty and flavorful. I use canned coconut milk since it is easier to find when fresh coconuts are not in season.

Onion, Bay leaves and Chilies

You can use substitute any kind of dried chilies in this recipe but I prefer to use Kashmiri chilies and always keep them on hand. Otherwise, even fresh green or red Thai chilies would be great here. I bumped up the number of tomatoes in this recipe and you can leave the seeds too. Using low-fat coconut milk reduces the amount of saturated fat in the curry keeping it healthy. I also skim of the extra fat that floats to the surface at the end but if you use lean and skinless chicken then you should not end up with too much. I was nervous at first about using a slow cooker for preparing this curry but it turned out to be so easy with minimal work and reminded me so much of my grandmother's curry, that I had to share it with you.

Tomatoes

goan chicken curry

yields: 6 servings

ingredients

4 dried Kashmiri chilies
1 teaspoon cilantro/coriander seeds
1/2 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
1/2" piece ginger root, peeled and minced fine
2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
6 chicken drumsticks or thighs, skin removed
2 cups reduced-fat coconut milk
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 medium sized onion (about 1 1/2 to 2 cups chopped)
4 large tomatoes (about 3 cups chopped)
1 teaspoon tamarind paste
salt to taste
cilantro leaves for garnish

1. Heat a skillet on a medium flame and roast the chilies, cilantro seeds, and peppercorns. As soon as you smell the aromatics (this will take less than a minute or two), remove the spices from the pan and grind them in a processor or coffer grinder with the garlic and ginger.
2. Set the slow cooker to the high heat setting and time to 5 hours. Add the ground spices, the chicken, and the rest of the ingredients, except for the salt. Stir the contents once and cover with the cooker with the lid. You can occasionally stir the chicken curry during the cooking process after one hour.
3. After 5 hours, the curry will be done and the chicken will be soft and tender. At this point season with salt according to taste. Garnish with fresh cilantro leaves and serve hot with plain rice.

goan beef and chili stir fry


I apologize for being terrible at posting nothing last week mostly because my final semester of school has finally begun and I took a quick trip to Delaware. The pressure seems to be slowly growing like an invasive vine but I feel ready to be done with classes and completing my thesis. Excuses aside, I can now get back into the swing of things. I did have some exciting news from last week when I super thrilled to find one of my photographs of Lafayette Park on the cover of the DCist. Among other significant events of last week, were the couple of inches of snow that covered up the capital. I think this is probably the first time I may have ever seen daffodils blooming in the snow. The streets of Georgetown always look pretty in the snow even with this year's winter resembling more of a spring. I wonder if we will have a terribly hot summer this year ? 


This is perhaps one of my many cherished childhood meals, spicy meat and potatoes. There are so many wonderful Indian recipes out there but this is by far my favorite. My grandmother cooked this dish every other week and I couldn't wait to eat lunch when I'd go over for on Thursdays at lunchtime. To me this dish represents the Goan version of an Asian stir fry, the beef and the potatoes are stir-fried separately and then mixed together with the garam masala and seasonings. The warm notes of the ground cloves and cinnamon from the garam masala along with the Indian green chilies give this dish its characteristic heat and spicy flavors. Indian green chilies are available in so many different varieties and many of them are way hotter than the habanero. Thai green chilies can also be substituted in this recipe. The more the chili, the greater the heat. Served with steamed rice this dish makes a wonderful complete meal.


goan beef and chili stir fry

ingredients 

2 cloves of garlic
2 large red onions
4 medium sized potatoes
4 medium sized green chilies 
4 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon grated ginger root
2 lbs cubed beef (stew beef pieces preferably) 
2 tablespoons lemon juice, freshly squeezed
1 teaspoon garam masala
salt and pepper to taste

1. Peel the garlic, onions, and potatoes. Halve the onions and slice them length wise and keep aside. Chop the garlic and keep aside. Dice the potatoes into 1/2 inch cubes. Slice the chilies length wise (you can leave the seeds in if you want more heat). 
2. Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large skillet on a medium flame. When the oil gets hot, add the potatoes and toss them around to coat them in the oil. Cover with a lid and cook till tender. Add the onions and cook till translucent. Add the garlic, ginger, and the chilies and cook for another 2 minutes. Remove the vegetables from the skillet and keep aside. 
3. Now, add the rest of the oil to the same skillet and continue heating on a medium flame. Add the beef cubes to the pan and cook till browned on both sides and tender. This should take about 20 minutes. Add the vegetables back into the pot along with the lemon juice, garam masala and season with salt and pepper. Gently fold all the ingredients together. Cover the skillet with a tight lid and reduce the heat to a gentle simmer. Cook for another 5 minutes so all the flavors are combined evenly. Serve hot with rice.