Archive for February, 2011

First of a Trilogy

There is this new restaurant (well it’s not exactly new, we’ve started frequenting it recently) that Amit and I frequently go to for lunch. It’s called the Center Bistro and its in the building right next to our lab. We went to eat there twice the week before last and both the dishes I ordered were so awesome that I had to make a variation at home. One dish I tried was a pasta dish with a chipotle sauce. I simply loved it. It was just right with all the flavors coming together and creating a heavenly experience for your taste buds. And then there was the spicy garlicky shrimp. It was fabulous and it seemed to be a pretty easy to make dish. So this post is dedicated to these two dishes that I had at Center Bistro.

I decided to combine the two dishes and make a pasta topped with the shrimp. Hope you enjoy it as much as I did. Oh and talking about this restaurant, I love it, firstly because the dishes they serve are so different from any I have had at any other restaurants. And they do change their menu once in a while so if you do frequent the place regularly, just when you wish for something new, they change-up their whole menu. Add to it, the fact that they have the Chef’s specials every day.

I also need to mention that shrimp is by far my most favorite. I love seafood much more than any meat and among all the variety of seafood available, I love shrimp, really love it. I think you get my point. I bought about two pounds of shrimp and I do not like to keep it in the refrigerator for too long. So it was a fiesta of shrimp dishes at home for about 3 days! I tried three new recipes and all three according to Amit are blogworthy or “bloggable”.

Without much more ado let me get straight to the first of the trilogy starting with my recipe of Rotini Pasta with Chipotle Cream Sauce and Spicy Garlicky Shrimp. This is a very quick to make recipe and takes about 35-45 minutes to prepare. I adapted it from a recipe I found online and have linked it at the end of this blog.

Ingredients:

  1. 1 1/2 cup rotini pasta (I used whole grain pasta)
  2. 5-6 portabella mushrooms (sliced fine)
  3. 1/2 cup thinly sliced onions
  4. 1/4-1/3 cup white wine
  5. 1+1 tablespoons butter
  6. 1/2 onion (chopped fine)
  7. 1 to 2 chipotle peppers (canned) in adobo sauce, seeded and minced
  8. 1/4 pint heavy cream
  9. 1/4 cup milk
  10. salt to taste
  11. 1/4 teaspoon fresh tarragon (chopped fine)
  12. 1/2 pound shrimp (deveined, shelled, tail on)

For the Shrimp Marinade

  1. 2 teaspoons garlic paste
  2. 2 teaspoons ginger paste
  3. 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  4. 2 teaspoons fresh chopped tarragon
  5. 2 teaspoons olive oil
  6. salt to taste

Method

  • Cook the pasta and set aside.
  • Marinate the shrimp in the ingredients listed under ‘For the shrimp marinade’ except the olive oil.
  • In the meanwhile prepare the chipotle sauce: melt 1 tbsp of butter over medium heat. Add the finely chopped onion and saute till it is slightly brown.
  • Next add half the minced chipotle peppers and the cream.
  • Mix the milk in and add more chipotle pepper depending on how spicy you would like the sauce.
  • Next add the salt and the tarragon and bring to a simmer. The sauce is now ready (keep it warm till ready to serve).
  • Heat the other tablespoon of butter and add the thinly sliced onions. Let the onions cook slowly over a medium heat.
  • Once the onions are pink in color add the sliced mushrooms and let it cook till the mushrooms and onions start drying out.
  • Add the white wine a little at a time cooking the mushrooms and onions in the wine.
  • Once it is cooked, add the cooked pasta and mix throughly. Set this aside.
  • Heat the olive oil and add the shrimp to it. Cook thoroughly till the shrimp are cooked through. Make sure that you do not overcook the shrimp.
  • When ready to serve, spoon the pasta into the serving plate. Pour the sauce over the pasta and place the shrimp over the sauce.

This recipe serves about 2-3 persons. Another word of caution is that the chipotle peppers can be very spicy therefore be very careful with adding the peppers to the sauce. Amit and I loved this recipe and the sauce being so easy to prepare can be served as is with the pasta with or without the shrimp. And here’s the original recipe for the pasta and chipotle cream sauce http://www.azcentral.com/style/hfe/recipes/articles/0717vegetarian17rec.html.

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Another delicious Daring Cooks Challenge

I had never tried Japanese food till a year back. I was introduced to it by a couple of our friends. They introduced me to Sushi, for some reason I had never tried it. But the moment I tried it, I fell in love with it. So when the February Daring Bakers Challenge was to be a Japanese dish I was more than excited to try it out. The reason being that I always end up having just the Sushi when we go out for Japanese food. The Cold Soba Salad & Tempura were so tempting that I had to try making it immediately. I made it almost as soon as the challenge was posted on the site. But am late posting it as I was busy making Valentine’s day dinner yesterday. And was too tired at the end of the day cause it was a Monday so I had to go to my Internship which is 40 minutes away and then I went shopping and then made dinner. So it was a long day.

The February 2011 Daring Cooks’ challenge was hosted by Lisa of Blueberry Girl. She challenged Daring Cooks to make Hiyashi Soba and Tempura. She has various sources for her challenge including japanesefood.about.com, pinkbites.com, and itsybitsyfoodies.com.


It takes about 35-45 minutes to prepare the Soba and about an hour or less to prepare the Tempura. The time you take to prepare the Tempura depends on the amount of Tempura you are making.

Thanks Lisa from Blueberry girl, this was an amazing challenge. So easy to make yet delicious and satisfying. Thumbs up for the awesome February challenge… And here’s to another successful daring bakers challenge! I am sorry about the pictures. I was in such a rush to eat that I really messed up the pictures.

Hiyashi Soba

Ingredients:

  1. 2 quarts (2 L) water + 1 cup cold water, separate
  2. 12 oz (340 g) dried soba (buckwheat) noodles (or any Asian thin noodle)

Directions:

Cooking the Noodle:

  • Heat 2 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot over high heat. Add the noodles a small bundle at a time, stirring gently to
    separate. When the water returns to a full boil, add 1 cup of cold water. Repeat this twice. When the water returns to a full boil, check the noodles for doneness. You want to cook them until they are firm-tender. Do not overcook them.
  • Drain the noodles in a colander and rinse well under cold running water until the noodles are cool.  This not only stops the cooking process, but also removes the starch from the noodles. This is an essential part of soba noodle making. Once the noodles are cool, drain them and cover them with a damp kitchen towel and set them aside allowing them to cool completely.

Mentsuyu – Traditional dipping sauce:

Ingredients:

  1. 2 cups (480ml) Kombu and Katsuobushi dashi (This can be bought in many forms from most Asian stores and you can make
    your own. Recipe is HERE.) Or a basic vegetable stock.
  2. 1/3 cup (80 ml) soy sauce or a low sodium soy sauce
  3. 1/3 cup (80 ml) mirin (sweet rice wine) (If you can’t find Mirin, a substitute recipe can be found HERE)

Directions:

  • Put mirin in a sauce pan and heat gently. Add soy sauce and dashi soup stock in the pan and bring to a boil. Take off the heat and cool. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Spicy Dipping Sauce:

Ingredients:

  1. ¾ cup 70gm/2½ oz spring onions/green onions/scallions, finely chopped
  2. 3 tablespoons (45 ml) soy sauce
  3. 2 tablespoons (30 ml) rice vinegar
  4. ½ teaspoon  (2½ ml) (4 ⅔ gm) (0.16 oz)  granulated sugar
  5. ¼ teaspoon (1¼ ml) (1/8 gm) (0.005 oz) English mustard powder
  6. 1 tablespoon (15 ml) grape-seed oil or vegetable oil
  7. 1 tablespoon (15 ml) sesame oil (if you can’t find this just omit from recipe.)
  8. Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste – roughly 1/3  a teaspoon of each

Directions:

  • Shake all the ingredients together in a covered container. Once the salt has dissolved, add and shake in 2 tablespoons of water and season again if needed.

Common Hiyashi Soba Toppings:

  1. Thin omelet strips
  2. Ham
  3. Boiled chicken breasts
  4. Cucumber
  5. Boiled bean sprouts
  6. Tomatoes
  7. Toasted nori (Dried Seaweed)
  8. Green onions
  9. Wasabi powder
  10. Finely grated daikon (Japanese radish)
  11. Beni Shoga (Pickled Ginger)

All toppings should be julienne, finely diced or grated.  Prepare and refrigerate covered until needed.

Serving:

Traditionally soba is served on a bamboo basket tray, but if you don’t have these, you can simply serve them on a plate or in a bowl. Divide up the noodles, laying them on your serving dishes. Sprinkle each one with nori. In small side bowl or cup, place 1/2 cup (120 ml) of dipping sauce into each. In separate small side dishes, serve each person a small amount of wasabi, grated daikon, and green onions.The noodles are eaten by sprinkling the desired garnishes into the dipping sauce and eating the noodles by first dipping them into the sauce. Feel free to slurp away! Oishii!

Tempura:

Ingredients:

  1. 1 egg yolk from a large egg
  2. 1 cup (240 ml) iced water
  3. ½ cup (120 ml) (70 gm) (2½ oz) plain (all purpose) flour, plus extra for dredging
  4. ½ cup (120 ml) (70 gm) (2½ oz) cornflour  (also called cornstarch)
  5. ½ teaspoon  (2½ ml) (2½ gm) (0.09 oz) baking powder
  6. oil, for deep frying preferably vegetable
  7. ice water bath, for the tempura batter (a larger bowl than what will be used for the tempura should be used.  Fill the large bowl with ice and some water, set aside)
  8. Very cold vegetables and seafood of your choice:
    • Sweet potato, peeled, thinly sliced, blanched
    • Carrot, peeled, thinly sliced diagonally
    • Pumpkin, peeled, seeds removed, thinly sliced blanched
    • Green beans, trimmed
    • Green bell pepper/capsicum, seeds removed, cut into 2cm (¾ inch)-wide strips
    • Assorted fresh mushrooms
    • Eggplant cut into strips (traditionally it’s fanned)
    • Onions sliced

Directions:

  • Place the iced water into a mixing bowl. Lightly beat the egg yolk and gradually pour into the iced water, stirring (preferably with chopsticks) and blending well. Add flours and baking powder all at once, stroke a few times with chopsticks until the ingredients are loosely combined.  The batter should be runny and lumpy. Place the bowl of batter in an ice water bath to keep it cold while you are frying the tempura. The batter as well as the vegetables and seafood have to be very cold. The temperature shock between the hot oil and the cold veggies help create a crispy tempura.
  • Heat the oil in a large pan or a wok. For vegetables, the oil should be 320°F/160°C; for seafood it should be 340°F/170°C. It is more difficult to maintain a steady temperature and produce consistent tempura if you don’t have a thermometer, but it can be done. You can test the oil by dropping a piece of batter into the hot oil. If it sinks a little bit and then immediately rises to the top, the oil is ready.
  • Start with the vegetables, such as sweet potatoes, that won’t leave a strong odor in the oil. Dip them in a shallow bowl of flour to lightly coat them and then dip them into the batter.  Slide them into the hot oil, deep frying only a couple of pieces at a time so that the temperature of the oil does not drop.
  • Place finished tempura pieces on a wire rack so that excess oil can drip off. Continue frying the other items, frequently scooping out any bits of batter to keep the oil clean and prevent the oil (and the remaining tempura) from getting a burned flavor.
  • Serve immediately for the best flavor, but they can also be eaten cold.
Whoa, now that’s an interesting trio!!!

I have to mention this before I go ahead and continue with the post. The pictures do absolutely no justice to the dessert. The three flavors come together really well. And it’s a pretty guilt-free recipe. Just a few teaspoons of cream, and lots of fruits. So how did I come up with the recipe… Well a friend of ours gave us a huge bag full of hand picked oranges. There were so many of them, and I was starting to get worried that Amit is going to get a Vitamin C overdose. He was peeling one orange after another and polishing them off. And I had some leftover chocolate bars from the chocolate mousse I made last time. And well, the only way I ever eat bananas are if they are broiled and caramelized. So here’s the recipe for the amazingly delicious and heavenly Caramelized Banana with Chocolate Orange sauce. And you could make the sauce and use it for other desserts. I found the chocolate orange sauce recipe at a website. The link for the sauce recipe is given at the end of this post. I did make a couple of changes to make it less guilty.

Ingredients:

  1. 4 oz semi-sweet chocolate (chopped)
  2. 1/4 cup whipping cream
  3. 1/2 cup 2% milk
  4. Rind from half an orange
  5. 1 cup fresh orange juice
  6. 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  7. 5 teaspoons granulated sugar
  8. 2 bananas (sliced lengthwise and cut into 4 pieces)
  9. 2 Tbsp brown sugar for each banana
  10. 1 tbsp triple sec for each banana
  11. 1 teaspoon butter for each banana

Directions:

For the Chocolate Orange Sauce

  • Put the chopped chocolate in a large enough bowl.
  • Pour the cream, milk and the orange rind in a saucepan and bring to a boil.
  • Remove the saucepan from the heat and cover the saucepan with plastic wrap. And leave it aside for 30 minutes.
  • Heat the orange juice and sugar on a low flame till the quantity reduces to half the initial quantity. Once the orange juice is reduced to half a cup remove and set aside.
  • Once 30 minutes have passed, bring the milk, cream and orange rind to a simmer once again and add the reduced orange juice to it. Let the mixture simmer for a minute. (if you do not like the orange rind in the sauce, you can strain this mixture before adding it to the chocolate.)
  • Next add this mixture to the chocolate pieces and once the chocolate pieces melt, blend the mixture using a hand mixer.
  • This sauce can be stored for upto a month in the refrigerator.

For the Caramelized Banana

  • Preheat the oven on the broiler setting to 500 F.
  • Melt the butter and mix the triple sec with it (amounts depending on the number of bananas you want to use).
  • Spread the mixture on both sides of the banana.
  • Now place the bananas on a baking dish and sprinkle some of the brown sugar on the top side.
  • Now place the baking dish in the oven and broil the bananas.
  • After about 5 minutes or when the bananas have caramelized on one side, turn the bananas over and sprinkle the rest of the brown sugar on the other side.
  • Again let this side brown in the broiler for about 5 minutes.
  • Remove the banana slices from under the broiler and place it on a plate.
  • Next pour the chocolate orange sauce over the bananas and serve warm.

We loved this dessert. The orange flavor lightened the chocolate sauce.The small amount of cream makes it a less guilty version of the original recipe. The bananas, orange and chocolate flavors come together very well in this melt in your mouth dessert. It is also a very quick and easy to put together recipe and requires no exotic ingredients. But this is an awesome and very exotic tasting recipe. We loved it and I hope you do too. Enjoy!

And here’s the link to the recipe for chocolate orange sauce http://www.recchiuti.com/recipe_detail.html?recipe=11.

A Light and Spicy Delight!!!

After a simple yet quite a heavy lunch yesterday, I really wanted something light to eat for dinner but Amit wanted something spicy yet light. Now that’s a tough combination. But well a chicken salad with a spicy and tangy dressing sounded just about perfect.

I looked up this recipe online and found this very interesting looking recipe. I just had to try it. I made a few changes to the recipe, but in essence it’s the same. I have added a link to the original recipe at the end of this post.

This serves 2-3 persons and takes about 30 minutes from start to finish. I cooked the chicken in a saucepan but the broiler or grill would be a preferred choice. It would cut the calories from the oil you would otherwise have to use, and if you use the broiler, it’s quicker and less messier.

Ingredients:

  1. 8 chicken thigh tenders (cut into small chunks or strips)
  2. 1 large bowl salad greens

Marinade for Chicken:

  1. 3 tbsp fish sauce
  2. 6 garlic cloves (crushed)
  3. 1.5 tbsp soy sauce (low sodium)
  4. 2 tbsp lime juice
  5. 1 teaspoon sesame seeds

For Salad Dressing:

  1. 1/2 cup water
  2. 1.5 stalk lemongrass (cut into pieces)
  3. 1 tbsp fish sauce
  4. 3 tbsp soy sauce
  5. 2 cloves garlic (minced)
  6. 1.5 tbsp brown sugar
  7. 2 tbsp lime juice
  8. 3 tbsp chopped coriander leaves
  9. 1 red chilli (chopped fine) – if you don’t want it spicy, you can avoid this chilli and reduce the brown sugar by 1/2 tbsp

Directions:

  • Mix the marinade ingredients together in a large bowl. Add the chicken and make sure that the marinade completely covers the chicken.
  • Then sprinkle the sesame seeds over the chicken pieces on both sides.
  • Leave the chicken marinade aside for about 15 minutes.
  • Pre-heat the oven at the broiler setting.
  • While the chicken is marinating, complete the first step of the salad dressing.
  • Add the water to a saucepan and add the lemongrass to it. Bring to a boil and let it simmer for 5 minutes. Now strain the lemongrass out of the water and add the rest of the salad dressing ingredients to the saucepan.
  • Now put the pan with the chicken in the broiler. Turn over the chicken every 5 minutes. You will need to turn it over 3 times.
  • Once the dressing ingredients come to a simmer, take the saucepan off the heat.
  • Cool the salad dressing in the refrigerator. Once the chicken is cooked, toss the salad greens with the dressing.
  • Add the chicken on top and serve while the chicken is still warm.

You may want to taste test the salad dressing, and add more spice, lime or sugar to adjust the dressing to your taste. This is a very light salad, but very filling thanks to the chicken. The greens, the tangy spicy dressing and the chicken flavors come together very well. ANd it’s a pretty easy to make and quick chicken salad with a twist. You can find the original recipe at this link http://thaifood.about.com/od/thaisnacks/r/thaichickensala.htm. Hope you enjoy this light, spicy and tangy salad as much as we did.


Bringing together two of my favorites

Yesterday was a long day, with a seminar class, then research and then a farewell dinner for a friend and then some games and drinks with friends. So that resulted in a late morning for us. I wanted something quick for lunch and while I was making the morning coffee I put a couple of microwaveable sweet potatoes in the microwave. They were done in 10 minutes. Once I was done with my morning coffee, I decided to go ahead and make lunch. Or maybe brunch, because this was both breakfast and lunch for us.

Now that the main dish was ready and I also had some focacia bread ready to be popped into the oven. It was going to be ready in less than 10 minutes. So I decided to make some gravy for the sweet potato. Since there were some hot italian sausages in the freezer I decided to use them up for the gravy. The gravy takes about 20 minutes to prepare and the sweet potatoes, well they are ready by the time the gravy is ready. It serves 2-3 persons.

Ingredients:

  1. 2 large sweet potatoes (cooked)
  2. 1/2 teaspoon salt
  3. 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  4. 1 teaspoon olive oil
  5. 2 italian hot sausages (casing removed)
  6. 1/2 cup red wine
  7. 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  8. 1 tomato (chopped fine)
  9. 1/2 teaspoon red chili powder
  10. 2 tablespoons chopped coriander leaves

Directions:

  1. Cook the sweet potatoes in the microwave till cooked.
  2. Heat the olive oil and cook the italian sausage using a wooden spoon. This will cause the sausage to crumble. Cook till, it is completely cooked.
  3. Remove the sausages from the saucepan and place on a plate lined with a paper towel to remove excess oil.
  4. Spoon out any excess oil from the saucepan, then add the red wine to the saucepan.
  5. Once the red wine starts simmering add the tomatoes to it and let it simmer for about 5 minutes.
  6. Next add the cooked sausages back to the saucepan and let it simmer for 7-9 minutes.
  7. Add the cream and the coriander leaves and mix together.
  8. Remove the saucepan from heat and serve with the sweet potatoes.

I served the sweet potatoes and italian sausage gravy with some focacia bread. Oh and the sweet potatoes were such a beautiful orange color. It was a feast for the taste buds and the eyes. This was a pretty quick and satisfying lunch. I know this one goes into my repertoire of quick to make meals. This is for all those who want to make lunch without spending a long time in the kitchen. Hope you enjoy it as much as we did. And I am sorry about the quality of the pictures, for some reason my camera refused to work. And I had to use my phone camera. Hopefully it isn’t all that bad.