Thursday, July 05, 2007

Bad Girl Round Up

Its been a long long time since I posted anything. I have been cooking new things a lot in the meantime but somehow, the camera, the laptop and I were never in the right place at the right time together. Plus the last parts of the Spring semester are always really hard and time-consuming. So I took a bit of break....and welcomed my brother for a visit! So its been a hectic and fun time the past month. We rushed through the East Coast, have been back on MO for the past few weeks and are off to India in the next couple.

I have been reading all of the blogs that are bursting with new recipes and interesting ideas! I started visiting the local farmers market and marvelled at the freshness of the veggies (they last twice longer in the fridge), I discovered a great (though pricey) all-natural store in town, I ate at a wonderful all-vegetarian(!) south-east asian restaurant in NYC (Gobo is the name, if you are visiting NYC), I failed at making Bitman's no-knead bread (any tips?), I excelled at frying tofu (thanks to Barbara), I hosted two barbeques and 3 dinners..................phew!

Here is a list of the high points of the past 2 months cooking. I am not posting the entire recipes....just the source's that I adapted from and the changes that I made.

Early Summer BBQ: Farm-fresh zucchini, Eggplant, Green peppers, Onions and Tandoori cauliflower. I marinated the cauliflower in yogurt, ginger, garlic, garam masala and salt - was relatively successful. Any tips about grilling cauliflower?


One thing not in the picture was wildly successful - grilled portabella mushrooms marinated for 2 hours in am emulsion of dijon mustard, honey, soy sauce and olive oil. The paste coated the shrooms and gave a really lovely, crunchy, slightly burnt crust when grilled (10 mins, high heat).

Grilled Strawberries!!!

They were wonderful! I washed, thoroughly dried the berries, removed the leaves and threaded them on skewers. A little brush with butter (salted butter actually tasted better), 5 mins on the dying embers of the grill and serve with whipped cream and/or mascarpone cheese. My new absolutely favorite dessert - soft, light and not too sweet.

Ina Garten's Lemon Cream Sauce - very versatile and insanely easy.


This is a keeper recipe. The cream may make one slightly wary but you can put in any amount of veggies in this to ameliorate your conscience!

Try 1: Used baby spinach (not arugula), normal tomatoes (chopped in large chunks). I also added some basil leaves (roughly torn) and mint leaves on top of everything, right before serving.
Try 2: A zinger - while the garlic was infusing into the olive oil I also added some (ok, a lot) red pepper flakes. I think it adds another dimension of flavor: cream, lemon, heat.......can you ask for anything more?

Orzo with Oven-grilled veggies and a light, mint-cream sauce.


This was Try 3 of the basic lemon cream sauce (above) but with half the amount of sauce. Since I didnt have any spinach or basil or arugula I tossed orzo with the cream sauce and slightly crushed mint leaves. And oven-grilled veggies, of course. I think this is light and healthy summer dish. Plus it has the advantage of helping me use up all those tiny amounts of veggies that somehow always get left over (eye's rolling).

Asian Adventures! Tofu stir fry


Its prolly stupid to be excited about a stir fry dish but it took me FOUR tries and a long long post from Barbara of Tigers and Strawberries to finally be able to shallow fry tofu!

Learning curve:

1. I learnt that sesame oil handles better if you drizzle tiny amounts over nearly-cooked dishes, rather than in a hot, smoking wok.

2. Thanks to Barbara I think I will also use shallow fried tofu in Indian dishes though till now I have thought it a very bad sub for Paneer.

3. Another lesson: In my grocery I found small packets of mixed veggies in various combos (not in frozen section, they were near the fresh veggies) which are PERFECT for stir fry's. I usually dont like to 'waste' packaging by buying small servings but these are perfect cooking for 1 or 2 people and when you do not want to buy huge bunches of carrots, large zuchinis and pounds of snow peas! Particularly if you are capricious like me and do not want to see the same veggies again for at least 2 weeks :)

4. New & exciting ingredient in my pantry! Dried Mushrooms! They taste amazing and last long and they are very easy to use (woe be the amount of fresh 'shrooms I have shoved into the fridge, forgotten about and had to throw away!). I wonder why they seemed so intimidating before? Oh! And the recipes to use them on the back of the package are great too.

PS: The dried oyester mushrooms werent so great. Main problem was a fishy smell during the rehydration process. It is my pet peeve but may be ok with you.

Light Summer Pizza - adapted from Micheal Chiarello


I wanted to try out store-brought pizza dough and this seemed like a great summer pizza. I didnt have feta cheese (so skipped it) . I used hummus made in a local restaurant (yummy!) AND my twist was to use some new ings.........I raided the grocery store salad bar for olives, sun dried tomatoes and capers. I dont usually use these ings and so it seemed wierd buying whole jars for 1 recipe. Me thinks raiding the salad/olive bar is great idea to use new ingredients without having to buy them.

The last sinful entree! Three Cheese Mac and Cheese

Why, you ask...why this heavy comfort food in the middle of summer. Well readers, I wasnt well for pretty much the entire month of May. Nothing major, nothing urgent.....just dull, gnawing malaise. Horrid!
This version of M&C was inspired by Ina Garten (as you can see, I have been a model TV viewer!). And I have to say, a combination of cheese (rather than the normal cheddar) makes a world of a difference. I am a huge fan of comfort food but after three bites of mac and cheese, I am already bored....and looking around for condiments. Well, you wont need any with this version.



Basic Bechamel sauce---------------- 1 cup (see my recipe here)
Assorted cheese----------------------1 cup.
I used a not-so-gourmet store brought mixture with mozzarella, cheddar and .....something else!
Grated Romano and Parmesan --------1/4 cup
Cooked Pasta-------------------------3 quarters of box
Hot sauce (only Cholula!)-------------2-3 dashes

Method: Pre-heat oven to 350

1. Once Bechamel sauce is almost done, stir in the cheese and hot sauce on low heat. If the sauce is too thick you can use some milk to get the consistency to that of dosa batter.

2. Put a layer of pasta at the bottom of baking dish. Drizzle liberally with half the sauce. Put in the rest of the pasta and then layer with the rest of the sauce. Top with grated Romano and Parmesan (they gave a good crust and color).

3. Put in oven for 15-20 mins till there is a brown colored crust.

Phew! That was a long post and I hope that you enjoy these recipes and forgive me for my long sorjourn from blogging :) I promise (to try) to be more regular from now on.