July 13, 2010

Apricot Biryani

This is one of my all time favorite rice recipe with fruits and nuts. Adapted this recipe from a show in Food Network. I love the flavor, though I did make a couple of changes from the original.

Preparation time:20 minutes

Cooking time:25 minutes
Yields:4 servings
For the Rice:
1 1/2 cups basmati rice
2 tbsp butter (unsalted)
1 tbsp chili paste
1 tsp ground cardamom
1/2 ttsp ground cloves
1/2 cup cashews, toasted
1/2 cup chopped apricots
1/4 cup raisins (optional)
1/4 cup crispy shallots
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint leaves
salt to taste

Onion Sauce: (Makes 2 cups)
4 tbsp unsalted butter
1 cup chopped onions
1 1/2 tbsp chili paste
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1 cup vegetable broth
3 tbsp coconut milk
1/2 cup soy milk
1 tsp salt

For the Onion Sauce:
1.Melt the unsalted butter over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until golden brown.
2.Add the chili paste, ground cloves, and ground cardamom and cook mix.
3.Pour in the vegetable broth and coconut milk. Raise the heat to high and simmer for 10mins.
4.Remove the pan from the heat add the soy milk and salt. Puree in a blender until smooth.

For the rice:
1. Rinse the rice until the water runs clear, soak in warm water for 10 minutes.
2.Add the rice in a pot filled with boiling salted water.Cook until tender, takes about 6-10 mins.
3.Meanwhile, melt the butter with the curry paste, cardamom, and cloves in a saucepan.
4.Once the rice is done toss with the butter mixture until evenly coated. Keep warm until ready to serve.
5. Just before serving add cashews, pumpkin seeds, apricots, shallots, coriander and mint leaves.

Note: Serve this rice with pepper fry chicken or mushroom.

May 24, 2010

Zucchini Pancake

Preparation time:15 minutes
Cooking time: 15 minutes
Serves 3

2 medium zucchini, grated
1/2 cup onions, finely chopped
1/4 cup parsley, chopped
1 garlic, minced
3 green chili,chopped
3 eggs
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
6 tbsp whole wheat flour
salt and pepper

1.Whisk egg is a bowl along with salt and pepper.2.Take another large bowl and add all other ingredients. Finally pour the egg mixture into the bowl.3.Heat a large skillet and spray oil. Drop 3tbsp of the batter into the skillet. Cook about 2 minutes on each side until golden brown.

4.Continue with remaining batter. Serve warm along with ketchup.
HINT: Make small pancake so that its easy to flip.

April 27, 2010

Chicken and Pesto Pasta

What is the perfect way of making pesto ?? Do you think there is any exact procedure to make one ? Well, I know there are lot of different ways in making pesto, but one should always stick to the main ingredients which are basil,garlic,cheese and olive oil. I say the perfect pesto would always be made with fresh basil. The other ingredients, meaning the kind of pasta and vegetables or meat are left to ones own choice.
I had this dish in a lot of restaurants but the best was at a restaurant called Tropea Ristorante Italiano, they served this pesto pasta in the name of Rigatoni zii teresa. Cant forget the fresh flavors ...mmmm!!!So creamy...deep smell...oh it was a delight. However it is quite hard to get the restaurant flavor at home. But all that's necessary is to cook with fresh ingredients and fresh cheese. Dont substitute cheddar or any pre-sliced cheese. Sometimes I cook them with chicken, sometimes with mushrooms but my pesto sauce is the same. So try it out and you will have no regrets in serving this for a party too !!

1 tbsp White Pepper
3 garlic cloves crushed
1/2 pound julienne chicken breast
2 tbsp butter
2cups Buitoni sea shells pasta
1 cup pesto sauce
3tbsp heavy cream
1/4 cup grated parmigiano cheese
pesto sauce:
1 bunch basil leaves
2 garlic cloves
1/3 cup roasted pine nuts
1/4 cup grated parmigiano cheese
1/2 cup olive oil
Salt to taste

For Pesto Sauce:
1.Grind the basil, garlic, roasted pine nuts, cheese and olive oil with a pinch of salt.
2.Add olive oil little at a time mixing well until the sauce binds together (for a thicker sauce add less oil).Check for seasoning and adjust.
For Pasta:
1.Mix white pepper,garlic and chicken. Keep it aside.
2.Heat the butter in a large skillet.Add marinated chicken let it cook for 10-15 minutes.
3.Meanwhile cook the pasta according to package direction.Just before draining the pasta into a colander,remove 1/4 cup of pasta water and set aside.
4.Add the pesto sauce into the chicken mixture and toss it with pasta.Finally add the cream and pasta water. Cook for another 5 minutes.

5.Finally pour the pasta into serving bowl and garnish with grated parmigiano cheese. Serve hot.
HINT: Garnish with roasted pine nuts for crunchy taste.
NOTE: Use fresh basil for fresh flavor.
VARIATION: Can use 1 tbsp of soar cream instead of heavy cream.

April 22, 2010

Tofu Kabab

Here is a simple but classic method for the Tandoori delight,Tofu Kebabs. These kebabs are not only easy to make but will satisfy your craving for fried food. And this is certainly a favorite food for all seasons. Usually Kebabs give you a feel that its too complicated to make, but actually its not. There is no rushing and sweating to make this dish. Just follow few simple steps and in no time you will have nice hot, tender and juicy appetizer.
As for the vegetables selections, I used onions and capsicum. You can also consider using egg plants, cherry tomatoes, mushrooms and zucchini. I am confident that the kebabs will be a perfect appetizer for all vegetarian lovers.

Preparation time:15 minutes

Standing time:3-6 hours

Total cooking time:15 minutes

2 cloves of garlic,crushed
2 tsp fresh ginger,grated
1/4 cup coriander leaves
1/4 cup mint leaves
1 cup plain thick yogurt
2 tsp turmeric powder
2 tsp garam masala
1 tsp chili powder
1tbsp lime juice
salt to taste
1lb firm tofu,cut into 1 inch cube
1/2lb broccoli, cut into small pieces
1 capsicum,cut into 1 inch squares
1 onion,cut into 1 inch squares
oil to spray

1.Combine garlic,ginger,coriander and mint leaves.Grind it to paste along with 1/2 cup of water.
2.Whisk yogurt in a separate bowl and add the paste.Add rest of the dry ingredients and tofu cubes.Set aside for 3-6 hours.
3.Thread tofu,capsicum,broccoli and onion alternately.

4.Brush yogurt mixture lightly over skewer and place on lightly oiled griller tray and cook, brushing with the remaining yogurt mixture occasionally under high heat for 5-6 minutes.
5.Turn and cook,brushing again with yogurt mixture, for 5 minutes or until tofu is cooked or firm.Serve with saffron rice or mint chutney,if desired.

HINT:Dont over cook the tofu.15-20 minutes is sufficient for the tofu to fully cook.Soak the skewers in water before threading tofu and vegetables.
NOTE:I used Shan's tandoori masala.It gave a very good flavor.

April 21, 2010

Cheesecake Streusel Bars

Cookie Swap by Julia.M.Usher is on my "best books" list. I remember the countless hours I spent browsing all the wonderful pages of this book. The recipes are simple, they turn out right and yield delicious results. There are wide variety of holiday cookie recipes. The pictures are wonderful, and steps are very detailed.

While browsing through the pages one recipe caught my interest, the streusel bars. I never tried making cheese cake (quite skeptical about how it would turn out) but for some reason today I was in a mood for cheese cake. So after scanning through my refrigerator for listed ingredients I was ready to try them. The recipe required foil for lining the baking pan, since I ran out of them, I sprayed some butter and it work pretty well for me. As for the baking pans, for this recipe I used two 9 inch square pans. I had bookmarked other recipes too and am planning to try out some over the weekend, and I cant wait !!

Preparation:20 minutes
Baking time:15 plus 30 minutes
Makes: 2 dozen bars


Cocoa Streusel Crust:
2 cups plus 3 tbsp all purpose flour
1 cup plus 3 tbsp light brown sugar
4 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup unsalted butter,softened and divided
1 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
Cheesecake Filling:
8oz cream cheese,room temperature
1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp granulated sugar
2 large eggs,room temperature
2 1/2 tsp bourbon
1 1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
2 tsp vanilla extract
For topping:
1/2 cup milk chocolate chips
1 1/4 cup walnut halve, lightly toasted and cooled
Caramel Drizzle:(optional)
4tbsp caramel sauce

1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350F. Line two 9x9x2-inch pan with butter.
2.For the crust: In a medium bowl, combine 1 1/4cup plus 3tbsp flour, 1/4cup plus 3tbspbrown sugar,2tbsp cocoa powder, and salt. Using a fork or your hands, thoroughly work in 3/4cup plus 1 tbsp butter until you have a moist dough.(there should be no dry spots) Press the dough firmly into an even layer in the bottom of the pan. Prick generously with a fork.
3. Bake the crust for about 15 minutes. Remove and let it cool completely before filling.
4.For Cocoa Topping:Combine the remaining powder 3/4cup flour,3/4cup brown sugar,2tbsp cocoa powder and netmeg in a small bowl. Work in the remaining 3tbsp butter until the dry ingredients are uniformly moistened. Set aside for step6.
5. For the filling:Place the cream cheese in the bowl and beat until smooth. Gradually add the sugar then the eggs one at a time.
6.Pour the filling onto the cooled crust and spread into an even layer.
7. Sprinkle the streusel topping evenly over the filling, followed by the chocolate chips and pecans. Gently press the topping into the cheesecake.
8.Bake the cheesecake about 30 minutes, or until slightly puffed ad firm through to the center. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Drizzle 3 to 4 tbsp of caramel sauce over the top of the cheesecake.
9.Cover the pan and refrigerate at least 2 hours.
10.Remove the cheesecake from the pan and slice them into blocks with a spatula. Trim any uneven edges with a knife.
The book contains eight themed cookie parties that are designed to do precisely this. With a party every season and occasions as diverse as kids birthday and bridal showers- this book will show you how the joy of special cookie swap can transcend the month of December to be shared with loved ones at any time of the year. As a specialized form of potluck, a cookie swap has all the same traits that make a potluck so effortless to host.

HINT: For the neatest cuts, use a sharp knife, wiped clean with a warm,damp cloth between slices.
NOTE: Never substitute pre-ground nutmeg for freshly grated, as the former can be harsh and bitter. For best flavor and texture, serve at room temperature withing 2 to 3 days, before the streusel softens.

April 18, 2010

Zucchini Cake

I first had this cake in Jamba Juice. Was quite surprised with zucchini in it. The cake was so moist and the flavor was great. After borrowing few books from the library, I came across a cake recipe. Well my fridge is always stocked with zucchini so went ahead and tried this cake. It came out so dense and moist. What more can you ask, a yummy cake using green vegetable with nutritional benefits.
The recipe I followed is from the book called The Iraqi Cookbook by Lamees Ibrahim. The nuts and raisins in the cake gives a fruity flavor just like the fruit cake. I will surely try this delicious cake again. I used 5" mini baking pans to bake individually. It was easy to store and serve them warm with needed. A lovely combination with evening tea or coffee.

Preparation time:20 minutes
Baking time:1 hour

Serves 8-10

2cups zucchini,grated with skin
4 eggs
1 cup oil
2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cardamom powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon powder
1/2 tsp nutmeg
11/2cup granulated sugar
1 cup walnut or almonds, chopped
1 cup raisins

1.Grate the zucchini with the skin. Try not to squeeze the liquid out.
2.Whisk the eggs along with oil and keep it aside.
3.Mix all the dry ingredients in a separate bowl.Stir in the zucchini, making sure all of the spices are well covered.
4.Make a well in the middle and pour in the egg mixture.Mix well.
5.Finally add the nuts and raisins.
6.Pour the mixture into a well oiled 8" pan.Bake at 350F for an hour.

7.Remove from the oven and let it cool before taking it out from the pan.
8. Slice it and store it in an air-tight container. Serve cold with evening tea or coffee.
The Iraqi Cookbook is full of authentic recipes that have been handed down through the generations. The detailed, easy-to-follow recipes are adorned with beautiful photography throughout, making this book a feast for both the eyes and the palate.

HINT: For a smaller portion of the cake, you can proportionately decrease the amount of ingredients.
NOTE: I used four 5" round baking pans. It baked really well and was able to easily distribute it to friends.

April 13, 2010

Quinoa Burger

Recently I have fallen in love with baking. The oven is on almost every day. Anything that requires frying, goes right into the oven. I dont have to miss the crispy and crunchy tastes either with the broil option.
Although I enjoy eating meat, I sometimes like to substitute them with vegetables or legumes. This dish was something that I wanted to try. I also like the fact that it was so simple to make and I can freeze the patties and bake them fresh in no time. This will be a dish I find myself making again and dont have to think about the amount of fat consumption.

Bean sprouts needs no explanation. An easy way of obtaining vitamins, minerals and enzymes that is found in various fruits and vegetables. Quinoa (pronounced as keen-wah), a frequent ingredient in my kitchen is a seed related to the spinach family which was originally from South America. It is a delicious whole grain that's easy to digest and an excellent replacement for rice. Some of the nutritional fact about Quinoa are; they are high in amino acids, protein and calcium. It is found to be more satiating than wheat or rice, so helps in weight loss. Basic method to cook is to boil 1 cup of quinoa with 2 cups of water for 15 minutes. It absorbs all the water and the size of the seed will increase, with a tender and springy texture.

I made two versions, one with turkey and the other with mixed beans/lentils. I din have to use potatoes nor breadcrumbs which are usually the main ingredients to make patties. Qunioa was a very good substitute.

QUINOA BURGER with Mixed Lentils

1 cup Quinoa, cooked in 2 cups of water
1 cup mixed beans, soaked overnight
3 green chilies
2 tsp red chili powder
1 tbsp cumin powder
2 tsp coriander powder
1 egg white(optional)
1/4 cup fresh mint leaves, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
To Layer:
Oroweat sandwich thins
Onion slices
Mustard sauce
Ketch up
Alfalfa sprouts

1. Pressure cook soaked beans for 3 whistles along with a pinch of baking soda. Cool and mash.
2.In a medium bowl, combine quinoa and rest of the ingredients.
3. Make burgers using a cutter ,about 3 inch across. Place them on a baking sheet.
4. Since the bean and quinoa are already cooked, bake at 350F for about 5 minutes and boiler for another 5-7 minutes or until the top layer turns light brown.
5. Serve by sandwiching them in between lettuce,onions and sprouts.


1 cup Quinoa, cooked in 2 cups of water
1 lb ground turkey
3 green chilies
2 tsp chilli powder
1 tbsp cumin powder
2 tsp coriander powder
salt and pepper to taste
To Layer:
Oroweat sandwich thins
Onion slices
Mustard sauce
Ketch up

1.In a medium bowl, combine quinoa and rest of the ingredients.
2. Make burgers using a cutter ,about 3 inch across. Place them on a baking sheet.

3. Bake at 350F for about 20 minutes and boiler for another 6 minutes or until the top layer turns light brown.
4.Serve them by sandwiching them in between lettuce,onions and sprouts.

NOTE: You can substitute vegetable too.
HINT: Qunioa hold the mixture together. There is no need to use breadcrumbs.
HINT2: If you are not able to shape them, then add 1 egg white.

April 12, 2010

Strawberry streusel cake

Strawberries generally are abundant in market places and grocery stores especially from April to October.
Living in a city with so many food produce stores around its easy to bump on one. Care should be taken that they should not be packaged too tight. This usually means they have been crushed and are much more perishable. Take advantage of near by farmers markets for freshly plucked strawberries. Choosing strawberries, is not a tough task. The best ones are firm, plump and deep red in color. Removing the unripe ones is always better because they will not ripen further. One spoil strawberry will contaminate the rest so watch out.

When it comes to storing the strawberries for a long period. When I say long I mean not more than a week or two. I freeze them. There are so many ways of freezing them. It can be done by washing and slicing them or by pureeing them. I usually remove their green caps,wash,slice and freeze. I use this mostly for making smoothies. For the rest I prefer consuming them fresh within one or two days of purchase.

Besides eating them fresh, I like them on cakes. Perfectly baked moist cake with crispy streusel topping. Streusel meaning "sprinkled or scattered" in German, is a topping made combining flour,sugar and butter. This crumb is usually topped on cakes, muffins and breads.

1 1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla essence
1/2 cup cold milk or buttermilk
1/2 cup chopped strawberries
For Streusel:
1/3 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tbsp cold butter

1. Mix all the dry ingredients and sieve.
2. In another bowl combine oil,egg,essence and milk. Whisk along with dry ingredients and finally add the chopped strawberries.

3. Combine the batter in a greased pan.
4. Combine the ingredients for streusel and spread it on top of the batter.
5. Bake at 350F for about 35 minutes or until the crust turns brown. Slice and serve hot.
You can slice and store them in an air tin container. Its good even when had cold.
NOTE: Make sure the butter is cold while making streusel topping.
HINT: Slice them when they get to room temperature.

April 09, 2010

Broccoli Quinoa

Broccoli,a vegetable which is available throughout the year was originally cultivated in Italy. The best way to cook this is stir-fry or steam because heavy cooking might destroy some of the anti oxidants in it. However it emits a sulfuric odor just like the cauliflower and cabbage while cooking so, for few people its not a favorite vegetable untilof course they are fully aware of the health benefits.
I don't want to go on and on with the amount of vitamins and minerals in it because I am sure every one knows that eating broccoli is good for health and its vibrant green color is a major clue that tells you how good it is for that body. But some of the interesting facts that I read about broccoli is the amount of calcium in one bunch is equal to one glass of milk. And looks like it also helps in promoting weight loss because its rich in fiber content and works wonders for digestive system. Now that's something to take note of. Just like the cauliflower, broccoli is a gas producing food so to reduce it, its is suggested to eat along with ginger or garlic.

Quinoa (pronounced as keen-wah) is not a grain; its a seed related to the spinach family which was originally from South America. It was a regular Incas diet. It is a delicious whole grain that's easy to digest and an excellent replacement for rice. Some of the nutritional fact about Quinoa are; they are high in amino acids, protein and calcium. It is found to be more satiating than wheat or rice, so helps in weight loss.
The coating of the saponin on the seeds gives it a bitter taste, so it needs to be washed before cooking. Basic method to cook is to boil 1 cup of quinoa with 2 cups of water for 15 minutes. It absorbs all the water and the size of the seed will increase, with a tender and springy texture. Quinoa can be enjoyed as porridge for breakfast or salad with vegetable and many other items.

2 cup Quinoa, cooked in 4 cups of water.
1 tbsp oil
1/2 lb broccoli floret
2 tsp dry or fresh oregano
1 tbsp chili paste
1/2 cup mint leaves
2 cloves garlic
1/4 cup roasted almond
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
1. Heat oil in a wok and add chopped broccoli and cook until soft or for about 10 minutes.
2. Add oregano and chili paste.

3. In a food processor grind mint,garlic, Parmesan cheese and roasted almonds. Add water if needed.4. Add the grind paste to the wok and cook for another 5 minutes and finally add the cooked Quinoa. Sprinkle salt and pepper before serving.

NOTE: Taste before adding salt because most cheese have salt in it.

April 07, 2010


Baklava a famous Turkish pastry originally from the Ottoman cuisine. The original name of baki-halva translates as "Lenten sweet". Originally the baklava had forty sheets of pastry sheet. Each for the days of Lent. There are so many versions in preparing this dessert, resulting in a rich and sticky pastry studded with assorted nuts and oozing butte and drenched with sugar syrup.
I always love to prepare things from scratch. When I was looking for recipes for Baklava online I found Farida's recipe, which was simple and the step by step pictures were very helpful. Some times its not lot of fun to follow the same steps so I modified a few and gave a little twist. And the result was yum. The quality of the home made pastry was equal and tasty to the ones made with the store bought sheets. So take advantage of this simple yet tasty recipe. I am sure you wont be disappointed.

For the Dough:
3 cups unbleached flour
1 tsp baking soda
8oz/2 sticks butter,
1 cup sour cream
2 egg yolks
For the Filling:
1 cup sugar
2 egg whites
1 cup walnuts,chopped
1 cup pistachio
To brush:
1 egg yolk
Sugar Syrup:
200 ml water
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 tsp lemon juice
1/4 tsp cinnamon

1. In a large bowl,combine flour,baking soda and butter. Press the butter and mix it with the dough until it crumbs.
2. Add sour cream and the yolks. Combine until you get a soft dough. Wrap in a plastic wrap and chill in refrigerator for an hour or 2.

3. For the filling, whisk the egg whites until fluffy. Combine the sugar and the nuts.
4. Preheat the oven to 350F. Grease a rectangular pan with oil.
5. Remove the dough from the refrigerator. The dough will be very easy to work. I din have to dust my work pad either. Divide the dough into 4 equal parts. Roll each one into a rectangular shape sheets. Shape it in such as way that it should fix your pan.
6. Layer one sheet then spread a small portion of the filling then layer another.
7. Repeat until you cover the top with the finally pastry sheet. Cut the baklava into diamond shapes using a knife. Brush this layer with egg yolk.
8.Bake in the oven for about 35-40 minutes or until the top turns golden.
9. Meanwhile make the sugar syrup by boiling the water, then add sugar and cook until it dissolves. Then add cinnamon and lemon juice.
10. Strain the syrup; arrange a pistachio on each baklava and pour the syrup on top.
11. Serve them warm or cold.
THINGS THAT I WOULD CHANGE: I might skip using egg white for the filling and substitue it with 1/2cup honey.
NOTE:Baklava are lot more softer when stored.
VARIATION: I prefer using unbleached flour. But you can use the normal one too.