Author Archives: thesophisticatedladies

Roasted Shrimp and Orzo

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This just tastes like summer!  If you grow herbs, they are getting big enough to be using, which makes this a perfect easy addition to your summer repetoire of one-dish meals.  The fresh herbs make this meal, so don’t use dried.  It is totally worth the splurge to buy them if you don’t grow them.  The orzo can be regular or whole wheat.

I love this dish for entertaining because you can make it ahead, toss it in the fridge and pull it out when you sit down to dinner.  And yet, it is a one-dish meal.  You can add a salad on the side to round it out.  Sorry there is no picture.  I’m surprised I don’t have one because I have made it a lot of times.

If you don’t want to turn on the oven in the summertime, you could grill the shrimp as well.

Note for food allergy people – if you (or your guests) are allergic to parts of the recipe, you can pull out some of the dish before adding in the offending item and then they still get to eat what everyone else has, but you don’t have to make an entirely different meal for them.  I served this at book club with a shrimp-free option and a feta-free option.

Kosher salt
Good olive oil
3/4 pound orzo pasta (rice-shaped pasta)
1/2 c freshly squeezed lemon juice (2-3 lemons)
Freshly ground black pepper
2 pounds (16 to 18 count) shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 c minced green onions, white and green parts
1 c chopped fresh dill
1 c chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 cucumber, seeded, and medium-diced
1/2 c small-diced red onion
3/4 pound good feta cheese, large diced

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Fill a large pot with water, add 1 tablespoon of salt and bring the water to a boil. Add the orzo and simmer for 9 to 11 minutes, stirring occasionally, until it’s cooked al dente. Drain and pour into a large bowl. Meanwhile whisk together the lemon juice, 1/2 cup olive oil, 2 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon of pepper. Pour over the hot pasta and stir well.

While the orzo is cooking, place the shrimp on a sheet pan, drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss to combine and spread out in a single layer. Roast for 5 to 6 minutes, until the shrimp are cooked through. Don’t overcook!

Add the shrimp to the orzo and then add the green onions, dill, parsley, cucumber, onion, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper. Toss well. Add the feta and stir carefully. Set aside at room temperature for 1 hour to allow the flavors to blend, or refrigerate overnight. If refrigerated, taste again for seasonings and bring back to room temperature before serving.

Perfect Picnic Potato-Vegetable Salad

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Fresh, crunch veggies blanched to perfection.  Summer in a bowl.

Fresh, crunch veggies blanched to perfection. Summer in a bowl.

Here is one that is perfect for 4th of July parties.  It is a change on a recipe I got from The Splendid Table.  Lynne Rosetto Kasper, the host of the show, emails out recipes once a week for weekday cooking.  If you don’t subscribe, I highly recommend it.  In last week’s email was the following recipe for “Farmers’ Market Salad with Buttermilk Chive Dressing”.   It was fantastic, but I made a few changes to the salad part of it.  If you omit the eggs, you can bring this to a picnic or BBQ and only have to keep the dressing chilled/out of the sun/omitted to make it a safe salad.  The dressing is perfect as is, so I recommend clicking on the link above and making it. (And it is non-fat!)

Since this version doesn’t have lettuce in it, and you don’t dress the salad until it hits your plate, it is a good one for making after a trip to the farmers’ market or grocery store, you can prep it all and then keep it in the fridge for veggies all week.   It is super healthy and fresh tasting and you’ll be anxious to try up new veggies in it as the season progresses.

You will notice the amounts are not too precise.  It is a salad after all, so adjust things to fit your tastes and what looks good at the market.  I’m thinking as the season progresses, you can just keep adding more veggies to the mix.

1 bunch carrots, washed and cut into 1.5” pieces (I don’t peel little carrots, just wash them well, but do what you prefer)
1 lb sugar snap peas, shucked
1 bunch green beans, trimmed and snapped in half or thirds
½ – 1 pound potatoes, cut into smaller chuck rough the same size as the other veggies
1 bunch radishes, trimmed and cut into small chunks
1 red pepper, cut into smaller pieces
1 pt cherry tomatoes (leave whole)
4 large hard-boiled eggs*

Use scoopy things like this, or thongs, a sieve or anything else that will accomplish the same goal of veggies out of hot water.

Use scoopy things like this, or thongs, a sieve or anything else that will accomplish the same goal of veggies out of hot water.

*To boil eggs, put them in a small pan, cover with 1” cold water.  Bring to a boil, then cover and set aside for 15-17 min.  Remove the eggs from the pan and put into a bowl of ice water to cool them down so they are easier to peel.

Fill a large saucepan with water and a little salt.  Bring to a boil.  Make an ice bath – a bowl mostly full of ice and some water.  Put a clean kitchen towel down next to it.

Boil carrots for 3 min.  Scoop out the carrots with anything heat-safe that will drain the water out.  I have a couple of scoopy things that do this job well.  See picture.  Put the carrots into the ice bath, which stops the carrots from cooking any further so they’ll have a nice crunch still.  When the carrots are cool, take them out of the ice bath and put on the towel to dry.

Meanwhile, bring the water back to a boil.  Repeat this process with the peas (about 1-2 min) and green beans (2-3 min).  Keep adding more ice and cold water as needed and as the veggies are dried out a little, add them to a big salad bowl.

The potatoes should go into boiling water, but then turn down to a vigorous simmer (not a boil, not really a simmer) for 10-15 min, until they are cooked.  Drain them and then put in the ice bath.  I use a colander for the potatoes and then let them dry out a little bit in the colander.

Add in the radishes, peppers and tomatoes into the salad bowl.  Mix carefully.  Add in the potatoes and mix carefully.  Shell the eggs and slice length-wise and decorate the top of the salad.  Serve with Buttermilk-Chive Dressing.

Bengali Egg Rolls

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Egg roll before it is rolled - parathas, egg, keema and sauce, yum!

Egg roll before it is rolled – parathas, egg, keema and sauce, yum!

This is part 3 in a 3 part series of recipes that go together – parathas, keema and Bengali egg rolls.  They are called egg rolls because they actually have eggs in them, so forget Chinese egg rolls and give these a try. This is one of Arvind’s all-time favorite dishes.  You can tell, he stopped taking picture once they were almost assembled.  It is a snack, but if you make enough of them, they can become a meal.

The filling is extremely flexible and is nearly begging for you to add your own fusion style here.  For this recipe, I’m going with keema (see recipe in meat section), but you can put any leftovers you have in there that is not too liquidy.  The recipe is for 4 egg rolls, but you can see how to easily move it up or down to fit any quantity you want.  Also, prepare to be hooked on parathas, the most wonderful Indian bread ever.  The directions are in excruciating detail, so don’t worry, it sounds like more work than it is.  They are actually super quick once you get everything assembled.

Get all your ingredients laid out ahead of time - it goes quickly

Get all your ingredients laid out ahead of time – it goes quickly

Ingredients
4 eggs
½ of an onion, finely chopped (if you have onions in your meat, you can skip this)
1 c keema, (but see notes below)*
Maggie Hot and Sweet Sauce**
Cilantro for garnish
4 parathas, still frozen***
toothpicks

Notes
*  You just want finely chopped meat (or nice veggie) here for contrasting flavors.  I like keema (here’s a link to the recipe), but you could used chopped up cooked chicken (like leftover from rotisserie chicken), cooked hamburger, leftover Indian dishes that aren’t too saucy, etc.  Or go fusion and come up with something entirely different!

Heat up parathas and then start the first egg when they are almost done

Heat up parathas and then start the first egg when they are almost done

**Maggie Hot and Sweet sauce is sort of an Indian ketchup. Their tagline is “It’s Different!” and it is.  It is also great on scrambled eggs, potatoes, etc.   It has a little heat and is a little sweet
*** For paratha directions, see the blog on how to make parathas (click here).

Directions
Crack eggs into a bowl with a lip (like a measuring cup).  Scramble them.  Set aside.  If you like raw onions, set those aside.  If you don’t, brown the onions and set aside.  Heat up the meat.  Have the Hot and Sweet sauce and cilantro ready to go. (You may want to taste the sauce to make sure you like it before adding it to the food.  Arvind does not like it, I love it.)  Get your toothpicks handy.

Put the cooked paratha on the egg as it cooks

Put the cooked paratha on the egg as it cooks

 

Heat up a paratha according to my previous post.

Meanwhile heat up a second non-stick pan over medium heat.  When the paratha is almost done, put some oil in the second pan and pour in about 1 egg’s worth into the center of the pan and do not touch it.  You’ll see the egg start to set. When that happens, put the cooked paratha on top of it.  Use a spatula to push the paratha down into the egg.  Then use the spatula to get under the egg and paratha in one go and flip it over (they’ll go together).  Then transfer the paratha, egg-up onto a work area.

Take the paratha/egg off the heat and add the filling.  (There is a litte too much egg on this one)

Take the paratha/egg off the heat and add the filling. (There is a litte too much egg on this one)

Top the paratha with meat, onions, sauce and cilantro.  Roll it up and secure it with some toothpicks.   Set that one aside and continue on making the rest of them the same way.  Arvind and I create an assembly line – he makes the parathas.  I do the egg and fill them.  It goes really fast, so that is why you want have everything all ready to go before you start.

The basic thing is paratha and egg with a little something else mixed in.  Have fun experimenting with flavors you like or leftovers you don’t know what to do with.  Think of it like I’m giving you the recipe for burritos.  Sure, this combo is good, but really, you can mix and match up stuff you like.

Post combinations below that you like so other people can enjoy your combinations.

Sushi

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Making sushi at home can seem intimidating, but it is a ton of fun!  It is far, far cheaper than eating it out, but generally is less pretty at home too.  Arvind is not a huge fan and he is traveling, so my friend and co-sushi-chef Nikki came over to make a ton of sushi before watching Game of Thrones.  Sushi is one of those dishes that is more prep than cooking, so make sure you do all your prep work before you start rolling.  Also, I tried to cover a ton of different kinds of sushi in one go, so this is a looooooooong post. Apologies in advance!  You can focus on the ingredients and types you like.  That is the beauty of making sushi at home – you control what you make, so every roll has stuff you love in it.

Sushi for 4: tuna, spicy tuna, eel, salmon, cream cheese and veggies all in various rolls, tuna and eel on the side, served with wasabi, eel sauce and roasted asparagus

Sushi for 4: tuna, spicy tuna, eel, salmon, cream cheese and veggies all in various rolls, tuna and eel on the side, served with wasabi, eel sauce and roasted asparagus

I have covered: making sushi rice, tezu (which is necessary when using sushi rice), prepping ingredients, making spicy tuna and eel sauce, rolling up rolls and making sashimi.   In addition to the ingredients, you will need a sushi mat.  It is a bamboo mat that helps you roll the sushi up.  You can get them from most Asian grocery stores.

Before getting started, let me state – sushi is raw fish so please be careful and follow strict food safety rules.  You don’t want to get sick from your sushi.  Part of being safe is to make sure that the fish you buy is sushi-grade.  Confirm that when you buy your fish.  Oh, and since this is just the internet and I can’t watch you – I take no responsibility for your cooking!

Sushi Rice

This is the backbone to everything you’re going to make.  While you’re at the store picking up your mat, pick up sushi rice.  Other rices won’t cut it because they aren’t sticky enough.  This recipe made exactly the amount of rice you see in the picture above.

While your rice cooks, get all of your other ingredients prepped and put together for easy rolling.  Here we have a bowl of spicy tuna, cream cheese, tuna, avocados, cucumbers, green onions, carrots and smoked salmon.

While your rice cooks, get all of your other ingredients prepped and put together for easy rolling. Here we have a bowl of spicy tuna, cream cheese, tuna, avocados, cucumbers, green onions, carrots and smoked salmon.

Sushi rice
2c sushi rice (some brands are Kokuho, Nishiki or Calrose brand)
2c +2T water

Sushi Seasoning
1/4c rice vinegar
2-1/2 T  sugar
1/2 t salt
(Or 1/3 c premade sushi seasoning)

Wash rice until water is clear.  Drain in colander.  Add water and rice to heavy pot or rice cooker.  Bring to a boil, lower heat and continue steaming for 15 minutes more with the cover on at all times.  Remove from heat.  Spread a clean cloth (a dishtowel works great) over the pot and recover.  Let it sit 15 minutes more.

Mix rice vinegar, sugar and salt in a non-aluminum pan.  Heat and stir to dissolve sugar.  Cool.  Quickly add seasoned vinegar to the rice.  Mix it using a cutting motion.  Do not smash the kernels.  Keep it at room temperature (don’t refrigerate it).  Cover with the cloth and lid and use within an hour if possible.  The trick is it has to be cool enough to handle, but not too cold or it hardens.

Tezu

This is a very necessary liquid you will need as you make the sushi.  The rice is so sticky that it will stick to your hands.  I usually take out a bowl big enough to comfortably hold both of my hands.  I only fill it up about half way.  There is no exact science to the ratio, but the vinegar is the cutting-the-sticky agent.

½ bowl of water
2 T or so of rice vinegar
Mix together.

Sushi Ingredients

Frozen eel comes pre-cooked and ready to be cut up and microwaved

Frozen eel comes pre-cooked and ready to be cut up and microwaved

Items with at * are available at Asian grocery stores.  The most important thing to keep in mind when buying sushi ingredients is to buy sushi-grade.  No one wants to get sick.  Follow strict food safety rules.

Nori* – seaweed sheets used to make sushi.  You can toast them before using them.  Or not.
Eel*– available already cooked and in their delicious sauce in the freezer section of Asian grocery stores,  thaw in the fridge before using
Block of frozen sushi-grade tuna* –Make sure it is sushi grade!  Thaw in the fridge before using.  Sometimes it comes pre-sliced.

Blocks of frozen tuna come in different sizes and sometimes pre-sliced.  Make sure it is sushi-grade!

Blocks of frozen tuna come in different sizes and sometimes pre-sliced. Make sure it is sushi-grade!

Sushi-grade salmon – I cannot stress the importance of getting this one right.  You’ll have to buy it fresh, so get it from a place you really trust.  I will only go to Coastal Seafood and tell them it is for sushi.  Don’t let them take the skin off – you can fry that up for yumminess.
Various cut up veggies – you want to practice your julienne skills or pull out that julienne do-hicky in your drawer.  Carrots, cucumber, green onions and avocado (slices) are all my favorites
Cream cheese – if you’re into that.
Pickled ginger* – no need to do any prep to this, it comes pre-sliced
Wasabi powder* – just add water, you’ll be surprised at how much stronger it is when you “make” it yourself.
Mirin* – It is a sweet cooking wine critical for making eel sauce

Sushi Recipes

Before you start rolling up your rolls, you might want to whip up these recipes

You can mix and match ingredients to come up with interesting rolls.  Notice the tezu bowl above the rolls is handy for sticky hands.

You can mix and match ingredients to come up with interesting rolls. Notice the tezu bowl above the rolls is handy for sticky hands.

Spicy Tuna
This makes a TON of spicy tuna.  You can use it in rolls and you can add it to a salad the next day for lunch.  If you want to make a smaller amount, just adjust the quantities down, which is super easy since you have to adjust the flavors in this one as you go anyway.

1-1/2 – 2 c yellowfin tuna
6 green onions, thinly sliced
1-2T Sriracha, (to taste)
1-2T toasted sesame seed oil
1-2 cloves garlic minced
1 T soy sauce
Lots roe, optional

Start by cutting up about half of your your tuna. Make it as finely chopped as you can.  If you choose to go with a smaller amount of tuna, do even less than half of what is listed, just be sure to reduce everything else.  Add in about 3 of the green onions, a little of the chili sauce, a splash of the sesame seed oil, some garlic and roe.  Mix it all up well.  If it is bland, add in the rest of the green onion, garlic and more chili sauce to what you like.  The sesame oil can undo a little too much spiciness, but the best defense against that is more tuna.  Just keep tinkering with it until you love it.

Don't forget to cut some eel in strips for rolls

Don’t forget to cut some eel in strips for rolls

Eel
Make sure the eel is thawed before starting.

1 package of eel

Take the eel out of the package.  Cut the eel lengthwise in half, then width-wise about 1-1/2” slices.  Arrange on a microwave plate and microwave for about 2 minutes, until you hear some popping.  Voila, ready to serve.  To use in rolls, slice the pieces even thinner.

Eel Sauce
Yes, that heavenly sauce that has moved from just eel to all sorts of rolls.  Make your own for dunking your rolls in instead of soy sauce.

1 part soy sauce
1 part mirin
Brown sugar, optional

Bring the soy sauce and mirin to a boil, reduce and simmer until it thickens, stirring occasionally.  As it thickens, taste and adjust as necessary.  The mirin makes it sweeter and the soy sauce saltier.  But if it is too far from where you want sweet-wise, add in a pinch of brown sugar.  It should be thick enough to coat a spoon.

Rolling up rolls

And now you’re ready to begin.  The good news is, this is one of those “prep is everything” dishes.  You are all set to get moving.  Hopefully the pictures will help you see what I’m talking about.

Use the mat to roll everything up nice and tightly

Use the mat to roll everything up nice and tightly

Set your bamboo mat so the bamboo runs side-to-side in front of you.  Put a piece of seaweed on it and take a handful of rice.  Spread the rice on as thinly as possible on the seaweed.  You may need to dip your hands in the tezu as you go since it will be sticky.  Make sure it is fairly evenly spread out side to side.  It is ok if it is heavier on the bottom of the sheet than the top.  As you can see, it doesn’t need to be a thick layer, but just try to keep things even side to side.

Now put your roll contents across the bottom of the sheet.  Don’t overfill them!  Then, using your mat, roll the seaweed up, starting at the bottom and rolling to the top.  You may find that you do some, rearrange your mat or adjust the roll and keep going.  Once it is rolled up, slice into bite size pieces and put on a serving platter.  Practice will really help with this.  Expect some not-so-pretty rolls to start with.

If you want the rice on the outside of the roll, put saran wrap around the mat, put the rice down first, then the seaweed on top of that, add in fillings and roll up.  (Personally, I find it too fussy to bother).

Sashimi

Form a rice ball that is almost football (American) shaped.  Set the fish or eel on top of it.  In our picture above, we didn’t bother with that, but did keep the eel and tuna handy for yummy eating on their own.

Drinking note

You can go with the usual sake or beer, but we have found a dirty martini is the perfect pairing with sushi.

In closing

Have fun experimenting with different combinations.  And it is always more fun in a group.  When Nikki and make sushi together, we prep everything together.  She did some time in culinary school, hence nicely sliced veggies.  I took the sushi class, so I make the spicy tuna.  Then form an assembly line.  Nikki comes up with combos, I roll, she cuts and arranges on platters.  Inevitably we make a feast so always good to have a hungry, yet patient group to enjoy the fruits of your labors.

Shrimp with Lobster Sauce

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Shrimp with Lobster Sauce served with rice and roasted carrots

Shrimp with Lobster Sauce served with rice and roasted carrots

This is a contribution from a Sophisticated Gentleman.  My brother-in-law enjoys cooking more than my sister does.  This is one of the first dishes that he won her heart (through her picky stomach) with when they were dating.  It is still one of her favorites.  Don’t worry if it turns out differently every time.  It is part of the charm of it all.

It all comes together quickly, so I recommend prepping all the ingredients before you start cooking.  I color-coded ingredients that can be mixed ahead of time so you just have to dump it all in at once.  The bonus is you can taste it and see if you like it or want to adjust it before adding it in. Feel free to play around with the quantities.  If you like more egg, add more.  Like the black bean sauce, add more of that.  If you’re not sure about how to adjust it, think about the individual ingredients – too salty, that is too much soy sauce, so add more black bean sauce.  Black bean sauce is usually in the Asian section of the grocery store, or of course in Asian grocery stores.  Before adding in the water/cornstarch mixture, make sure you give it a fresh stir because it tends to settle in clumps.

Everything prepped and ready since everything cooks up quickly (the bonus, you'll feel like you're on your own cooking show!)

Everything prepped and ready since everything cooks up quickly (the bonus, you’ll feel like you’re on your own cooking show!)

2 T cornstarch (split into ½ T and 1-1/2 T)
2 tsp dry sherry or Shao Zing wine
1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
4 T vegetable oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp minced fresh ginger
¼ pound ground pork
1 c chicken broth or water
2 T soy sauce
2 T black bean sauce
¼ tsp sugar
¼ c cold water
1 egg, beaten

In a medium bowl, dissolve ½ T cornstarch in the sherryAdd the shrimp to the bowl and toss to coat.  Prep the rest of the ingredients if they are colored, put like colors together.

Heat the wok or large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the shrimp and fry until pink, about 3-5 minutes, flipping them about halfway through.  Remove the shrimp to a plate, leaving as much oil in the pan as possible.

Add the garlic and ginger to the hot oil, fry for a few seconds.  Then add the ground pork.  Cook, stirring constantly until the pork is cooked and no longer pink.

Combine broth, soy sauce, black bean sauce, sugar and salt in the wok with the pork.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to medium and simmer for 2 minutes.  Mix the remaining 1-1/2 T cornstarch with ¼ c cold water.  Pour in the pan with the pork.  Add back in the shrimp and any juices.  Bring to a simmer and keep stirring.  While stirring, drizzle in the egg and keep stirring until the egg gets mixed into everything as it cooks.  Serve over rice.

Keema with Peas (Peas optional)

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Keema seasoning mix is available in Indian grocery stores

Keema seasoning mix is available in Indian grocery stores

Today we are tackling keema.  It is a lovely flavored ground meat, onion and pea mixture that is super easy to pull together.  If you can brown hamburger, you can make this.  It is a total weeknight dish since all you chop is an onion and you make this all in one dish in less than 20 min.  I serve with with parathas and another vegetable.  Last week we had Arvind’s favorite baked “fried” eggplant.  But that is a recipe for another day.

Usually keema is made with ground lamb.  If that is not something you can get easily or enjoy, substitute it out for other ground meats.  I made it with turkey recently to keep it lean.  You might find that chicken or turkey take a little more seasoning because the meat is a little blander, whereas lamb, hamburger or meatloaf mix have a little more umphf to them.

Next week I will be covering Bengali egg rolls.  Unlike the Chinese food of the same name, these actually have eggs in them.  And you can use your leftover keema in your egg rolls.

For those of you who love kabobs, we’ll cover keema kabobs later.

My apologies that I don’t have pictures of the final dish today.  My photographer left for India today and has all sorts of pictures in his camera.  I will edit this later to include them, so check back later!

Olive oil
1 large onion, small dice
1 T ginger garlic paste (or ½ T minced garlic and ½ T minced ginger)
½-1 T keema seasoning (see picture)
1 pound ground lamb (or ground turkey, ground chicken, hamburger, pork or meatloaf mix)
1/2-1 c water
2 c frozen peas, optional
1 T cornstarch mixed into 3 T water, optional

Here is how I carve out a spot for heating up spices before mixing them into fried onions.  Heating the spices helps make them taste better.

Here is how I carve out a spot for heating up spices before mixing them into fried onions. Heating the spices helps make them taste better.

Heat oil in a skillet and mix in onions.  Cook until they are just starting to brown.  Pull the onions aside to make a small hole in the lowest part of your skillet.  (On my stove, it is off to the side because of my crooked house).  Add a pinch more oil, then add in the ginger garlic paste.  Mash the paste with a wooden spoon to get as much of it touching the skillet as possible.  Let the paste heat up a pinch.  Mix into onions.  Create a new free spot and add a pinch of oil.  Add in the keema mix.  You can go easy on this and add more later if you don’t add enough.  It can get spicy if you do a ton, so go light to start and you can always add more later.  Mix the keema spices and oil and let heat until you can smell the spices heating up.  Then mix into the onions.  Add in the ground meat.  Break up the meat with wood spoon to get small pieces, about the size of peas.  Brown the meat.

You can stop here if the meat is cooked all the way through.  Particularly with lamb, you’ll probably want to keep going because the meat will get more tender with more cooking.  Just test the dish to make sure you like how it tastes.  If it is too bland, add in more keema seasoning.

Add the water and cover.  Cook for 5 min.  Mix in peas and cover up again.  Cook for 5 more minutes.  Take the cover off of the pan.  Check to see if everything is cooked well.  If it is saucy with a thin sauce, mix up the cornstarch/water mixture and add that in as well.  The sauce will thicken up.  If it isn’t as thick as you’d like, add another round of cornstarch/water.  It should be the consistency of taco meat.  Taste it and see if you like how it tastes.  If it is too bland, add more keema spices.

Serve with parathas.  Keep the leftovers for egg rolls (coming next week).

Parathas

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Parathas nicely puffed up

Parathas nicely puffed up

Parathas.  For those of you who know what they are, you’re all sighing in contentment.  This easy bread is a great way to finish off cooking a meal without having to do any work.  And if you have an Indian husband lurking near your kitchen, you can probably put him to work “making” them for you.  I will be using them in other recipes, so I thought I’d dedicate a post to them today so you have the basics in what they are an how to make them.

What are they?  Parathas are an Indian bread that is similar to naan.  You can make them from scratch, but here in the States, pre-made frozen ones are very popular.  They are smaller than the naan you get in a restaurant.  The come in plain, whole wheat or stuffed.  You can heat some up to take the place of rice in different

Fresh out of the freezer, they are hard disks

Fresh out of the freezer, they are hard disks

meals.  Or, if you are Arvind, they are the meal.  The first meal he made me was parathas, Indian pickle (lime chutney, carrot chutney, etc) and shrikhand (a sweet, strained yogurt).  Yeah, he went all out.  But I was hooked.  The puffy consistency pulls you in and they have just enough flavor that they are good on their own, but can also go along with a ton of different dishes.  Arvind is a fan of Swedish meatballs and parathas.

What is up with the different types?  Plain and whole wheat parathas are the basics.  they’ll go with anything.  But they do make them stuffed with potatoes, cauliflower, onion, or my new favorite – fenugreek (methi).  The stuffed ones are a bit more substantial and can be coordinated with your other dishes.

A plain one (in back) and whole wheat one (in front) just starting to cook

A plain one (in back) and whole wheat one (in front) just starting to cook

How do I make them?  This is the easiest part.  You will need a non-stick pan.  We use a 2-burner griddle (aka “the paratha pan” in our house).  That is it.  No oil, butter or ghee.  Just a pan and some heat.  The parathas come in 5 in a pack (or multiple 5-packs in a larger bag).  They gave sheets of plastic between them.  You take out as many as you want while heating up your pan over medium-high heat.  I usually am too impatient for the pan to heat up and as soon as it is warm, I toss on the parathas.  They will look like a frozen tortilla.  Using thongs, a spatula or wooden spoon, flip the paratha frequently as it melts and then starts to cook.  As it gets closer to being done, you’ll see brown spots on it.  When it puffs up and has some nice brown spots, you’re done.  You can make the next one.  We keep them in a tortilla warmer to keep on the table because you want to keep them nice and warm.  They aren’t great reheated.

As thaw, they get almost opaque

As thaw, they get almost opaque

Of course they come from the Indian grocery store.  They are in the freezer section.  Our freezer section has a bewildering array of them, but the nice thing is that they are pretty risk-free in trying out different flavors, but definitely start with the plain ones to get a feel for them.

Click on pictures to make them bigger. Enjoy!

They start cooking after they thaw

They start cooking after they thaw

Nearly there! Brown spots are starting to form and they are getting puffier

Nearly there! Brown spots are starting to form and they are getting puffier

 

Done! You can see the plain one (in back) is puffier than the whole wheat one

Done! You can see the plain one (in back) is puffier than the whole wheat one

You can find parathas in the freezer section of the Indian grocery store, or larger Asian grocery stores

You can find parathas in the freezer section of the Indian grocery store, or larger Asian grocery stores

Beaufort Stew

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Beaufort Stew with Rice  has tons of flavor and is easy to make

Beaufort Stew with Rice has tons of flavor and is easy to make

Are you looking for something that is PACKED with great flavors – Andoulle sausage, shrimp, chicken – that is super satisfying, impressive for guests, but also super easy to pull together?  Well, here is one for you.  It is a stew, but you serve it over rice, so it is an all-in-one meal in a bowl.  This one is from our family friend, Lois.  She is an amazing cook who has only given me amazing recipes.  And lives up to her great reputation.   The tomato stock can be made directly in the skillet, so you won’t even use too many dishes to make it.  If you think of it, grill the chicken ahead of time when you’re making something else on the grill (or bake them if you don’t want to fire up the grill).  You can add more veggies if you want and if you like it even thicker, just add more cornstarch-water mixture.   It freezes well, and it is a great one for company because you can finish it ahead of time and then serve when you want.

Chicken with cajun seasoning and andoulle sausage really make this pop

Chicken with cajun seasoning and andoulle sausage really make this pop

2 T olive oil
1 cup celery, large diced
½ cup onion, large diced – I used about 1 medium onion
1 cup mixed red, yellow and green peppers – about 1 pepper
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast – grilled (I used about 4 frozen ones) – I sprinkled with Cajun seasoning before grilling.
1 pound Andoulle sausage – sliced
1 pound shrimp, peeled
1 small can of corn – or use fresh if you have it!

Tomato Stock:
3 cups V8 juice
2 bay leaves
Pepper and salt to taste
2 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tsp. thyme (fresh or dried)
2 tsp corn starch (mixed with 2 tsp water) – mix into stock

Saute the celery, onion and peppers in large heavy skillet in olive oil.   Cook until vegetables are half cooked.  Add the chicken and Andoulle sausage and sauté for 5 minutes.  If you are serving it right away, add in the shrimp at this point.   Add in the tomato stock ingredients, simmer for 10 minutes or until you feel all is done.  If it isn’t thick enough for your liking, mix up some more corn starch and water and mix it in.

If you are serving later, add the shrimp in and heat over medium-high heat for about 7-10 min until the shrimp is cooked.

Serve over cooked white rice.

Can freeze to serve later.

If you want to look at pictures more closely, just click on them.

Asma’s Brussel Sprouts

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My friend Asma brought this dish to a book club party a few years ago.  I have never seen brussel sprouts be elevated to rock star status, but they were that night.  If you are not eating brussel sprouts, I have to insist you try them again.  Forget the mushy, smelly mess of your childhood.  Now think complex, nutty, roasted goodness instead.  This recipe takes that one step further by making a little crunchy topping for them.  I have adapted Asma’s recipe and feel free to do the same.   Also, feel free to only do parts of it.  Sometimes I just do the topping and skip the dressing.   Oh, and don’t be intimidated that there are 3 parts to this recipe.  You can make the dressing and topping while the brussel sprouts are roasting and still have time left over.

I know brussel sprouts are more of a winter vegetable, but since spring is taking soooo long to come around, brussel sprouts are still looking like good options to me in the grocery stores these days!

Ingredients:

2 pounds Brussels sprouts, trim the bottom and halved lengthwise
3 tablespoons vegetable oil

For dressing
1/4 cup soy sauce
Lemongrass, thinly sliced and soaked in soy sauce, optional
1/4 cup water
pinch of red chili powder
2 T finely chopped mint
2 T finely chopped cilantro
1 garlic clove, minced
1 (1 1/2-inch) fresh red Thai chili, thinly sliced crosswise, including seeds
Lemon or lime for taste

For puffed rice
1/4 teaspoon vegetable oil (I do a pinch more just to make it easier)
1/4 teaspoon Chinese 5 spice
1/2 cup crisp rice cereal such as Rice Krispies

Roast brussels sprouts:
Preheat oven to 400°F.  Put down some parchment paper on a backing sheet or preheat your cast iron skillet in the oven.  Put the brussel sprouts in the pan and toss with oil.  Arrange in a single layer, cut side down and spaced out as much as possible.  Bake for 20-30 min until they turning brown and the cut sides look nice and toasted.  While the brussel sprouts roast, make the other 2 parts.

For the dressing:
Stir together all dressing ingredients.  Taste it to make sure it tastes good.  Adjust any flavors to suit you.

For the topping:
Heat the oil over medium heat in a small frying pan.  Mix in the spices until you start smelling them, then add in the Rice Krispies, stirring constantly.  When the Rice Krispies are coated and begin to turn a golden color, about 3 minutes, transfer to a bowl and cool, stirring occasionally.

Finish dish:
Put Brussels sprouts in a serving bowl, then toss with just enough dressing to coat. Sprinkle with puffed rice and serve remaining dressing on the side.

Herbed Butter and Sliced Radishes

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We are still not getting spring here and it is making me a little stir crazy.  So I thought I’d post this springy/summery recipe.  I served this at book club and the butter was mistaken for cheese because it is just that tasty. Here is a picture of this with a couple of cheeses as an appetizer platter.  You could also use some nice thinly sliced whole-wheat bread to make open-faced sandwiches for lunch.  You’ll want to use the butter on everything,  and should.  It would be great if you steamed or roasted veggies and then tossed a little of this on it to finish them off.

Herbed butter (center), sliced radishes and sliced baguettes along with some cheeses

Herbed butter (center), sliced radishes and sliced baguettes along with some cheeses

1 stick of unsalted butter (really, unsalted, it makes a huge difference in this one!)
1 tsp kosher salt (the larger grains make a difference here)
2-4 T Chopped fresh herbs – like chives, thyme, rosemary, dill, tarragon, parsley.  Whatever is fresh and you can get your hands on.  You can do just one or any mix that smells good to you.  I like chives and dill, but pick out what you like.  Altogether, you’ll need at least a couple of tablespoons.
1 bunch radishes, as fresh and beautiful as you can get
Baguette

Soften the butter by leaving it on the counter for about an hour.  Using a mixer, whip the butter until it is fluffy.  Mix in the salt.  Mix in the herbs.  Taste the butter and see if it tastes good to you.  If not, add more salt and/or herbs.  Put the butter in a serving bowl.  You can use it right away or put it in the fridge.  It will harden in the fridge, but if you want it fluffy later on, just make sure you take it out of the fridge in time to resoften before using.

Slice the radishes thinly.  Slice the baguette.  Arrange the butter, radishes and bread on a platter.  Guests butter and top the baguette slices themselves.  If you want this to be a passed appetizer, you could do that ahead of time and serve all ready on a platter.