mint and peach lassi


peach with mint lassi drink

There it was, this little produce stand that we almost drove past by on our way back from Sonoma. Quaint with its worn out thatched roof that seemed weakly held together by long wooden beams on the side of the road with the pretty backdrop of wine valley. We were out of eggs and I figured it might be worth our while to see if we could pick some up here because by the time we'd reach home, I knew neither of us would be in the mood to deal with a busy supermarket. 

peaches for lassi

My eyes were to hunt for the presence of eggs in this little stall but they failed their purpose and wandered towards the end of one of the tables that housed a stack of wooden crates filled with large golden orbs that enticed with promises of juicy sweetness. They drew me closer and I went ahead and grabbed one of those big golden balls of sunshine. I held one close to inhale its sweet fragrance and that peach reminded me that this is one of the very reasons that makes summer so special. 

peach and mint lassi drink

Lassis are probably one of my favorite drinks and in India we'd drink fresh lassis every hot summer day in tall glasses filled with the chilled sweet liquid. With my fresh ripe peaches a sweet and cool lassi that would serve to cool and refresh was definitely in order! Lassis should be thin and not heavy and thick so avoid using Greek yogurt and use either non-fat or regular plain unsweetened yogurt and then adjust the consistency with water. There is really no need to add sugar to the drink because these peaches were crazy sweet and I love when I don't have to add extra sweeteners! But feel free to adjust the sweetness as needed.

peach and mint lassi
peach lassi with mint

mint and peach lassi

yields: 2 servings

ingredients

1 1/2 cups unsweetened plain yogurt (non-fat or regular) 
1 1/2 cups ripe peaches, peeled and diced + a few pieces to garnish
3/4 cup water, chilled (you can add more or less depending on how thin you like the consistency)
3-4 fresh mint leaves + a few sprigs to garnish

1. Place the yogurt, 1 1/2 cups peaches, water and 3-4 mint leaves in a blender. Pulse until smooth and completely combined.
2. Serve in chilled classes and garnish with extra peach fruit pieces and a sprig of fresh mint.

Note: Traditionally lassi is made with regular yogurt and the lassi should be thin. Do not use Greek yogurt here or it will be too thick. Indian lassis should be refreshing and light and not heavy.

spicy black bean kebabs

spicy black bean kebabs with mint yogurt sauce

I made you some kebabs, spicy Indian kebabs that are hot and tasty. And these guys are meatless too, so you can feel a little less guilty, if you decide to eat several, like we did. Yup, that's right, there's black beans and flaxseed meal in these little fat kebabs that make them terribly tasty. Plus, they are simple to make without too much fussing! Okay, maybe the black beans need some T.L.C. but that's really all there is to it. 

spice grinding

I've based the seasoning off a popular type of Indian kebab called the "seekh" kebab that is usually made with ground beef or lamb meat and rolled into long cigar-shaped structures. Since I strayed away from the traditional kebab recipe, I shaped the kebabs into flat discs so I could double-duty any leftovers as sliders the next day. By the way, the ground flaxseed meal is a delicious texture addition to the kebab.

There's also an easy to make, delicious cooling mint flavored yogurt sauce that balances the heat and spicy flavors of the kebabs. 

mint yogurt sauce

You could use canned black beans but I avoid using the canned stuff because they tend to be mushy and too moist which could make these kebabs harder to prepare, less moisture is a good thing here! It is better to start from scratch and soak the dried beans the day before, this way you are in complete control of the texture and consistency. Drain the black beans completely to get rid of any excess moisture, keeping them on a towel after boiling, also helps a lot. If you like the kebabs to be more or less hot then adjust the amount of chili accordingly.

spicy black bean kebabs

spicy black bean kebabs

yields: approximately 20-24 kebabs

ingredients

2 cups dried black beans 
a pinch of baking soda
4 cups water
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
6 cloves
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, freshly ground
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
1/2 cup red onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves
2 inch piece ginger root, peeled and minced
2 thai chili peppers, green or red
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1 1/2 teaspoon kosher sea salt
2 tablespoons ground flaxseed meal
1 large egg, lightly whisked 
1/4 cup vegetable oil for frying (you might need a little more)

1. Rinse and soak the beans in water overnight. After soaking, drain and rinse the beans. Place the beans in a large saucepan or stockpot, along with the baking soda and and water and bring the contents to a boil on a medium-high flame. Once it begins to boil, reduce the flame to a gentle simmer and cook until the beans  are just tender but not mushy. Remove from stove and drain the liquid from the beans. Place the beans on a clean kitchen towel to remove any excess water. Allow the beans to cool to room temperature. You can also refrigerate the beans until they are ready to use.
2. Grind the cumin, cloves, nutmeg and peppercorns in a spice grinder or coffee mill to obtain a fine powder. Keep aside until ready.
3. Place the beans, the ground spices and the rest of the ingredients except the egg and vegetable oil in a food processor fitted with a blade. Place the lid on the food processor and pulse until the mixture becomes crumbly in texture. You might need to stir the contents occasionally. Do not pulse too long or the the mixture will become a paste. Transfer the mixture from the food processor into a large mixing bowl. Fold the egg into the mixture. Cover the bowl with a lid or with cling film and refrigerate for about 30 minutes to allow the beans to absorb all the flavors.
4. When ready to prepare the kebabs, take about 2 tablespoons of the mixture in the palms of your hands and flatten to form a one inch disc. Prepare the rest of the kebabs and keep aside.
5. Heat about 2-3 tablespoons of oil in a large non-stick or cast iron skillet on medium-high flame. Shallow fry about 6 kebabs at a time. Cook the kebab on each side for about 4-5 minutes or until they are browned on the surface. Transfer the kebabs onto a plate lined with a paper towel to absorb any excess oil. Cook the rest of the kebabs in batches and serve hot.

mint yogurt dressing

yields: approximately 1 1/2 cups

ingredients

1/4 cup fresh mint leaves
1 green thai chili pepper
3/4 cup plain non-fat greek yogurt
1/4 cup chilled water
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground

Place all the ingredients in a food processor or blender (immersion blender also works great here) and pulse until completely smooth. Transfer to a container and keep chilled until ready to serve.

sea salt chocolate muffins

Sea salt chocolate muffin

On some mornings, all I want is a muffin, a deep and dark chocolate muffin with my coffee. Okay, perhaps more than one would be ideal and even perfect but either way I really like a good dose of cocoa in them. It's really the best way for me to double my daily am dose of caffeine with a whole lot of joy! Coffee with chocolate it can't get any better than that.

Brown sugar

I never ate a lot of muffins because most of the time they were either too sweet or too greasy and they also never had any interesting flavors that I would have wanted to try. Personally, I like my breakfast muffins to be multigrain or wholegrain based and I am a big fan of oat and oat bran in the mornings. So with the desire to keep things wholesome, I added a couple of different flours into the batter; oat bran, brown rice and whole-wheat give a delicious soft and grainy texture. 

Sea salt chocolate muffins

This is a very deep dark chocolatey muffin with a little bit of sea salt on the crust. When you take a bite into the muffin, the combination of the sea salt with the dark chocolate is simply amazing. The flavors intensify and every subsequent bite is even more exciting than the first, exactly the way I'd like to start my mornings. 

Muffin cocoa and salt

You only need to sprinkle a few salt crystals on top of each muffin, halfway through baking. If you put them on before they will start to sink which is why I recommend placing them once the muffins are slightly firm on the surface but not completely baked. I used a standard 12 cup muffin pan to bake these guys and you could use a smaller sized 24 cup pan as well, just make sure you divide the batter equally between the cups in the pan. You can eat these muffins warm or even at room temperature. Store them in an airtight container for up to 4 days. 

Whole grain sea salt chocolate muffin


sea salt chocolate muffins

yields: 12 muffins

ingredients 

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon dark roast instant coffee powder
1/2 cup oat bran
1/2 cup brown rice flour
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup whole-wheat pastry flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 stick unsalted butter, chilled
1 2/3 cups brown sugar
5 large eggs, chilled
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (I used the madagascar bourbon variety)
1/2 cup plain non-fat greek yogurt, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons sea salt crystals

1. Preheat the oven to 350F and place the wire rack in the middle position. Line a standard muffin cake pan with baking cup liners. 
Mix and sift all the dry ingredients from the cocoa to the baking powder.  Transfer any grain bits back to the dry mix. Keep aside.
2. Cube the butter and transfer it to the bowl of a stand mixer. Add the sugar and fix the paddle attachment to the mixer. Cream the butter and sugar on medium low speed for 5 minutes. Add one egg at a time and beat until completely smooth.  Add the vanilla and mix for another 30 seconds on medium low speed. 
3. Add half of the sifted dry ingredients from step 1 to the creamed eggs. Mix on medium low speed until smooth and completely blended, approximately 3 minutes. Add the yogurt to the batter and beat for 1 minute. Add the rest of the dry ingredients and beat for another 3 minutes until completely mixed.
4. Divide the batter equally among the muffin pan cups. Bake the muffins for 12 minutes, remove the pan from the oven and sprinkle the salt crystals over the muffins. Return the pan to the oven and bake for another 8-10 minutes until the centers are firm to touch or skewer comes out clean from the center of the muffin. Allow the muffins to cool in the pan for 10 minutes and then transfer to a wire rack to cool further.

pumpkin raita

pumpkin raita

Here's my first pumpkin recipe of the year, even though autumn is technically a few days away, I think it is fair to say, the weather is cooling down quickly, the sun is setting earlier, and my craving for pumpkins is kicking in. Though this is also the time when we bounce back and forth between hot and chilly day  and I think that you will find this recipe a fitting tribute to the transition between summer and fall,  with its cool, light, and refreshing flavors, something that you can eat as an accompaniment to any meal or even as a salad. 

Pumpkin cutting

One of my favorite accompaniments in Indian cuisine is the "raita".  It is usually served chilled and it soothes and cleans your palette whenever you eat a spicy hot dish. There are several hundred different varieties of raitas but all of them share one common ingredient, yogurt. Normally, you would use plain yogurt but since I like my raitas a little thick and creamy, I use plain Greek yogurt. If you want it thinner, mix in a little cold water till you achieve the desired consistency.

Yogurt and Cilantro

Sugar pie pumpkins are the perfect size for a small family and much more easier to work with. All you need to do is simply quarter the pumpkin, discard the seeds and strings from the inner cavity, peel and discard the skin. To grate the flesh, pass it through a food processor with the appropriate blade or use a grater. For this particular dish, I prefer to steam cook the grated pumpkin since it only takes a few minutes and the pumpkin retains its structure. 

Falling black mustard seeds

This raita will go deliciously well with rice dishes, flat breads like naan or rotis or even as a dip for a party. If you want it hotter, just add a few more chili peppers just make sure it is served super chilled.

Here are some of my other favorite savory and sweet pumpkin dishes that I hope you will like,
bowl of pumpkin raita

pumpkin raita

yields: 4 servings

ingredients

2 cups grated pumpkin
1 thai green chili pepper, thinly sliced
1/4 red onion, minced
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh mint, chopped
3 cups plain non-fat greek yogurt
1/2 teaspoon sea salt 
1/4 teaspoon pepper, freshly ground
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/4 teaspoon black mustard seeds
2-3 curry leaves, dried or fresh

1. Place the grated pumpkin in a microwave-safe bowl, cover with a lid and microwave for 3-4 minutes until the pumpkin is completely tender.  Keep aside to cool.
2. In a large mixing bowl add the pumpkin, chili pepper, onion, cilantro, mint, yogurt, salt, and pepper. Whisk the ingredients with a fork and taste to make sure the amount of salt and pepper is enough. Transfer the mixture to a clean serving dish. Cover and refrigerate the raita for 1-2 hours until chilled.
3. Before serving, heat the oil in a saucepan on a medium high flame till it gets slightly smoky. Immediately reduce the flame to low and carefully add the mustard seeds and curry leaves. The seeds will begin to spurt and the leaves will brown in the hot oil. Cook till the seeds stop spurting and pour the entire contents while hot on top of the chilled raita. Serve immediately. 

yogurt and coconut curried mussels

Mussels

Back in Bombay we ate plenty of seafood, probably about two to three times a week. Fresh fish would be delivered right to our doorstep by a local fisherwoman with whom my mom would always bargain for a better deal. They would go back and forth with each other trying to get the most of the deal that was to be struck between them. I think this was also probably how I learned to haggle, though not as efficiently. I would excitedly watch the assortment of fresh fish, shrimp, and crabs that filled her large basket. On some days we would eat clams stewed in broth while on other days, pan-fried mackerel seasoned with a concoction of spices. Oceans away here in D.C. we are lucky enough to have a fresh seafood market and I really do need to take more advantage of this gem. It's nice to have a source where you can go and literally "fish through the fish" and pick out what you want for a good price.

Spring Blossoms
Onion and Forsythia

On our latest trip to the market, we picked up a fresh bag of mussels in addition to a bushel of freshly steamed crabs. It turned out we bought way too many crabs for three people. I was so excited to cook the mussels, that off they went into the stockpot as soon as we reached home. This is a Goan-based recipe that I use quite often based on my mother's original version that I've modified and changed a little along the way. It has all the goodness of a rich and flavorful Indian curry but much lighter.

My kitchen filled up with the aroma of the sautéing onions, ginger, and garlic while the spices blended in. The mussels simmered and cooked in vinegar and coconut milk and by the time the yogurt was folded in, there were some hungry faces at the table. But there was still had a second or two before we could dive into our bowls, the mussels needed a splash of fresh lime juice and a little cilantro to freshen up and brighten the flavors. Once the mussels were served and devoured and the broth all gone, I knew that another trip to the market might happily be in my future a little sooner than I had anticipated.

Bread and Limes
Mussels and Grated Ginger
Mussels in Yogurt Broth

steamed mussels in yogurt broth

yields: 4 servings

ingredients

2 1/2 lbs mussels
1 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium size red onion, finely minced
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
1 teaspoon ginger root, freshly grated
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon cumin, ground
1/4 teaspoon cloves, ground
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, ground
1/2 teaspoon kosher sea-salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
1 can light coconut milk
1/2 cup white rice wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
3-4 fresh/dried curry leaves
1/2 cup plain non-fat greek yogurt
juice of 2 freshly squeezed limes
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, finely chopped

1. Wash and scrub the mussels clean under cold water, remove any beards if present and keep the cleaned mussels on ice. 
2. In a large stockpot, heat the olive oil on a medium flame. Sauté the onions, garlic and ginger for about 3 minutes or until the onions turn translucent. Add the turmeric, cumin cloves, nutmeg, salt, and pepper and cook for another minute with constant stirring. 
3. Stir the coconut milk, vinegar, and curry leaves into the onion mixture.  Fold in the cleaned mussels and cover the stockpot with a lid. Bring the broth to a boil and cook for 5 minutes. Reduce the flame to a gentle simmer.
4. Beat the yogurt in a small bowl and mix it along with the lime juice into the broth. Taste the broth and season with additional salt and pepper if desired. Discard any mussels that did not open during the cooking.
5. Garnish the mussels with the cilantro. Serve hot with warm toasted bread or plain rice. 

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.

carrot-stuffed amaranth and whole-wheat flat-bread

carrot and amaranth flatbread

Last week was a week full of lucky events, one of which involved these beautiful rainbow carrots (and a couple of gorgeous beets) that were absolutely delicious. In my attempts to be adventurous, I tried to plant a few carrot seeds last year, with the hope that I might get some rainbow roots to eat but luck and  the Garden Gods were literally not rooting for me. Thankfully, if I keep seeing these carrots at my local Whole Foods and maybe even the Farmer's Markets this warm season, I won't have to depend on the forces of nature and a very obnoxious family of squirrels that occasionally frequent my garden. 

Carrots and beets

At home, I've been a bit more experimental in the kitchen trying out all sorts of newer varieties of flours that I rarely cook with. A few months ago I tried a very delicious and inspiring amaranth flour based muffin which had such a delicate and tender crumb texture that I instantly fell in love with the taste and knew at some point that it would be worth exploring. Sure enough the combination of amaranth and durum whole-wheat flours made such a very delicate yet tasty flat-bread in this recipe, that I instantly knew it was a treat I'd like to share with you. To make the breads even more wholesome and fun, I combined my freshly grated rainbow carrots with a little a sprinkling of cayenne pepper for heat with the flours. By adding plain non-fat Greek yogurt to bind the dry ingredients, the flat-bread becomes even more tastier and tender. Though, I have mentioned adding a half cup of water to the dough, you may end up using less than this, depending on how  fast your dough comes together. If the dough gets too sticky, you can knead it by hand on a lightly floured clean working surface. Be careful while handling the dough during the rolling-out stage, it is delicate and can tear. However, if it does tear, it's an easy fix, just press the torn edges together with your fingers. You need very little oil to pan-fry the flat-breads and they are best when served freshly hot straight from the pan. I love eating them with a little bit of plain yogurt and a side of a fresh salad or pickle.

Dough and carrots
Dough

carrot-stuffed amaranth and whole-wheat flat-bread

yields: around 15 flat-breads (6 to 7 inch diameter)

ingredients

1 1/2 cups amaranth flour (Bob's Red Mill brand)
1 cup durum whole-wheat flour
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper 
1/2 teaspoon caraway seeds
1 cup grated carrots
1/2 cup Greek yogurt, lightly beaten (I used the non-fat variety)
1/2 cup water, at room temperature (*you may end up using less than this)
a little extra whole-wheat flour for rolling out the dough
olive oil for pan-frying the bread

1. In the mixing bowl of a stand mixer, add the flours, salt, cayenne pepper, and caraway seeds. Whisk with a fork to mix the ingredients together.
2. Fold the carrots into the mixture with a silicone spatula until evenly distributed. 
3. Place the bowl in the stand mixer and attach the dough-mixing hook.
4. Set the speed to low-setting (speed settings will vary depending on the brand of the mixer but use the lowest mixing settings recommended for dough preparation). Add the yogurt to the dry ingredients in the bowl and mix till almost combined. Add 2 tablespoons of water at a time to the dough while mixing until the dough comes together. (* You may end up using less than the half cup of water depending on the moisture content of the flour, so add a little at a time).
5. Dust a clean work surface with a little whole-wheat flour and place the dough on it. Knead the dough to form a large ball. Cover the dough with a clean cloth or cling film and let it rest for at least 20 minutes at room temperature.
6. Divide the rested dough into 15 balls of equal size (around 1.5 inches in diameter). Dust a little whole-wheat flour on to a your working surface and carefully roll out each ball into 6 to 7 inch diameter circles with a rolling pin. 
7. Heat a pan/skillet on a medium-high flame. Spread about a 1/2 teaspoon of oil onto the surface of a rolled flat-bread and place the oiled-surface down onto the hot pan. Spread another 1/2 teaspoon of oil onto the upper surface. Cook the flat-bread for around 3 minutes before flipping to cook the other side. The flat-bread is cooked when golden brown and slightly blistered on each side. Serve hot.

chilled mint yogurt soup


It was pretty exciting when one of the editors at the Huffington Post asked to feature my chocolate mint cake on their website, this was a great start to the holidays! With summer in full swing, we slipped away to Fire Island in New York for a week with a couple of friends. We were super lucky to have missed most of the heat wave and the electric shortage that hit D.C. during that entire week. Fire Island is a long and narrow barrier island that is surrounded by the bay with some beautiful beaches and wildlife. Its also a fun summer party spot. Beaches on the North East have waters that are a bit too cool for my liking, so I tend to spend more time on the sand. Fire Island is very interesting, there are boardwalks that connect the entire island, except for golf carts and water taxis you won't find any gas propelled vehicles. The island is also National Park which is where some of these rules stem from. 


I am sharing some of my favorite random moments on this holiday. A life-size Superman adorned the entrance to a house on the boardwalk. You always run into deer on the island that are neutralized to humans (which does not mean you should feed or touch them), they will walk right next to you and go about their business. Its fascinating bit a bit unnerving. Since there are no lights at night, it does get pretty dark, we almost walked into a doe on the boardwalk but thankfully it was smarter and crossed over to the side and let us pass. I was secretly hoping to see some foxes but unfortunately either I missed them or they missed me. 


The house we rented was wonderful. You could see the bay and watch the sun traverse its way across the horizon. There aren't too many restaurants to eat at Fire Island, so you tend to cook a lot. The kitchen had all the basic amenities and we grilled and barbecued almost every day. I got a chance to cook some fresh scallops and shrimp and there is nothing better than fresh seafood with a glass of wine. The week passed us by so quickly and by the time we were back in D.C. we were greeted by temperatures over 106F and high humidity levels! I was still glad to be back since I began to miss Snoopy and his licks. We spent the rest of our weekend readjusting (recovery and rest) before we got back into the grind. Snoopy was exhausted from playing at his daycare and slept all weekend. It looks like everyone had a good time!


This is the perfect recipe for a hot day when you don't feel like spending too much time in the kitchen and need something soothing and light to cool you down. Though you do need to chill the soup for at least two hours. If you are running short on time, you can rest the soup bowl into a larger bowl containing crushed ice to chill it down faster. Inspired by middle eastern cuisine, this recipe uses refreshing mint in both dried and fresh forms to brighten up the flavors of the soup. Garlic adds a little bit of a kick to the soup. Sometimes, if I feel that the garlic might be too strong (especially if we plan to go out later - the dreaded garlic breath), I will tone the intensity of the garlic down by sautéing it gently with some olive oil. However, if you prefer you can use the garlic directly in the soup without cooking it.


chilled yogurt soup

yields: 4-6 servings

ingredients

1 large persian cucumber (about 1 1/2- 2 cups)
3 cups plain non-fat yogurt
2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic
1/2 teaspoon dried ancho chili powder
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
salt and pepper to taste
1 teaspoon dried mint 

1. Coarsely grate the cucumber, squeeze the liquid and keep aside. 
2. In a mixing bowl, whisk the yogurt gently for a minute. Finely mince the garlic and sauté it gently for 20 seconds with half of the olive oil on medium-high flame in a small saucepan. Add the garlic, cucumber, fresh mint, ancho chili, and vinegar in a large mixing bowl. Season with salt and pepper. 
3. Chill the soup for at least two hours before serving. Garnish with the dried mint and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil. Serve with warm pita bread.


baked curried sweet potato frites


For the past few months, I have incessantly worked my thesis into perhaps every post, I promise this will be the final time. It's complete, approved, signed, and GONE! Graduation is finally in sight and the horizon looks brighter. Things have been busy at the home-front too, I painted the bedroom last week. Every year since we moved in, I always swear to never paint again, normally when I am half-way through painting but somehow I have succumbed to painting. Painting can be fun but if you have a bit of an O.C.D. problem like me it can morph into a nightmare. Now all I have to do is wait for the furniture to be delivered before I can complete the room.


This year I am taking charge of my own fate when it comes to certain fruits such as figs and pomegranates. You see last year, I performed a series of physical and internet searches to find these fruits but had no luck in Washington D.C. This time around, I grabbed the problem by the fruit literally and planted a fig tree and a pomegranate bush. Now, all I need to do is pray that they grow, bloom, and fruit. Of course and pesky little squirrels stay far, far away!


I love almost all things that contain sweet potatoes, especially sweet potato frites/fries. They definitely have a nicer taste than regular fries and are rich in fiber, beta-carotene, and zinc. The simplicity of preparing these baked fries in nearly 20 minutes makes this an easy snack when I am hungry or even as a side to a barbecue. Since the sweet potatoes have their own unique taste and are seasoned with a bit of curry powder, I prefer to serve them with a little bit of chilled yogurt as a dipping sauce rather than mayo or ketchup both of which can hide the flavors of the curry and the sweet potatoes. A tip when making fries or  chips from any vegetable by the baking method, use parchment paper to line the baking sheet. The paper will prevent the veggies from sticking to the surface and make cleaning easy.


curried baked sweet potato frites

ingredients

2 large sweet potatoes 
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes
1 teaspoon curry powder ( I used Jamaican Curry)
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

1. Preheat the oven to 350F. 
2. Peel the sweet potatoes and cut them into 1/2 inch thick strips along the length of the potatoes. In a large bowl, toss  and coat the sweet potatoes and the rest of the ingredients. 
3. Spread the sweet potatoes on a baking sheet that is lined with parchment paper. Bake for about 20 minutes in the center of the oven, till the strips are cooked. If a crispier texture is desired then bake the fries for a longer time in the oven. Serve hot with chilled non-fat plain yogurt seasoned with a little black pepper.

squash yogurt soup with panko crusted chicken


How did I end up celebrating my extra Monday holiday, courtesy Columbus Day? Well, I popped onto the subway at the green line and then switched to the red line on the metro to visit the Smithsonian National Zoo in the Adam's Morgan neighborhood. I think our zoo is one of the best treasures at the Capitol more so than the monuments. The joy and satisfaction that these animals give people and kids every time I walk through there brings a smile to my face. However, as much as I love that our city gets tourists from all over the country and the world, it is kind of nice to have a slow day without having to traverse and find my way through a crowded place such as the zoo and enjoy watching the animals relaxing and doze off in the sun. Oddly enough, I also realized that it is normally quite a walk through the zoo (for me) but this time it turned out to be a nice and evenly spaced stroll and I didn't have to stand up on my toes or sift my way through people to get a glimpse of the animals. Yes, it is true that I am at a bit of a disadvantage when it comes to height.


This week's soup was inspired by Marc Matsumoto of [No Recipes]. Not only are his recipes easy to prepare and delicious but his skills with the camera make his blog an alluring treat. His most recent post on the Katsudon gave me a bit of inspiration on creating a Far-East fusion recipe for a chicken and squash yogurt soup. By using Panko crumbs, I was able to create a perfect crispy layer to my chicken that went along great with my creamy (without any added cream) yogurt based squash soup. Since our C.S.A sends us a mix of different squashes every Wednesday, soups tend to be one of the fastest ways for me to get "rid" of them. This week's soup used 2 delicata squashes, 1 acorn squash and 1 carnival squash. I followed Chef Matsumoto's recipe for his Tonkatsu pork chops but made a couple of changes for the chicken used in my recipe. Sambal olek, a type of chili paste that can be found at almost any store these days gives the soup a bit of heat.


squash yogurt soup with panko crusted chicken

servings: 4 individuals

ingredients

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 clove of garlic, minced 
4 cups of peeled and chopped mixed squash (butternut, pumpkin)
2 cups of peeled and chopped granny smith apples 
2 cups chicken or vegetable stock, low -sodium
3 cups water
2 cups fat free greek yogurt
1 tablespoon low sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon sambal olek 
salt and pepper for seasoning the soup
4 lean chicken breasts
1 beaten egg
1/2 cup plain flour
1 cup Panko crumbs
1 /2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
vegetable oil for frying
chopped scallions for garnishing

1. In a large stockpot, heat up the olive oil on a high flame. Add the garlic and cook for about 40 seconds before adding in the chopped squash and apples. Saute for about 10 minutes on a medium flame. Now, pour in the stock and bring the entire contents of the pot to boil. Reduce the flame to a simmer and let the squash cook till tender. Let the contents cool and then blend to a smooth consistency either in a food processor or blender. You can add some water in to the mixture during blending to get a smoother texture. 
2. Add the processed squash back to the stockpot and stir in the yogurt. Now add the remaining water, soy sauce, and the sambal olek. Season with salt and pepper (You can add as much water as you want to adjust the consistency of the soup, I prefer this soup to be a bit creamier so I added less water).
3. Set up a dredging station. Put the flour in a tray that will be easy to dredge the chicken in. Place the beaten egg in another bowl and the Panko crumbs in another tray. Place the chicken breasts between two strips of cling film. Using a meat tenderizer, pound the chicken till it spreads out evenly into a thin layer just like a cutlet. Remove the chicken and absorb any excess liquid with paper towels. Season each side of the breast with cayenne pepper, salt and pepper. 
4. Heat the oil up in a shallow frying pan. The level of oil in the pan should be about 0.5" or less. The chicken will cook fast since it has been pounded into an even thin layer. When the oil heats up, start to prepare the chicken. Dredge the seasoned chicken in the flour and dust of any excess and then dip it into the beaten egg. Then coat the chicken with Panko crumbs and press it gently to seal the crumbs on the chicken in an even layer. 
5. Fry the chicken in the oil, till golden brown on both sides. This should take about 10-15 minutes, depending on the thickness of your chicken breast. Drain the excess oil from the fried chicken on paper towels. Pour some soup into a shallow soup bowl and put the sliced chicken on top. Serve immediately garnished with chopped scallions.