Sunday, March 01, 2015

Breakfast Scrambled Eggs & Potatoes

Alu Deem Bhaja
We were late getting up this morning so we had breakfast for lunch. This was really quick and easy to put together because I used frozen hash brown potatoes from the freezer. But it's just as easy to peel a large russet potato and dice it instead.

Beat Eggs Until Frothy
First, I beat 2 eggs with salt & pepper to taste & a pinch of turmeric powder until frothy. The turmeric gives the eggs a lovely flavour and is what makes it Bengali scrambled eggs.

Stir-Fried Potatoes
Then, 2 cups of diced potatoes were stir-fried with salt & pepper, 1/4 cup each diced tomatoes, green onions and 1 green chili.

Setting Eggs
When the potatoes were cooked, a well was made in the center of the potatoes and a little more butter was melted, the beaten eggs poured in the well and allowed to set around the edges.

Scrambled Eggs & Potatoes
The eggs were then scrambled and stirred with the potatoes...

Plated
and mounded on a toasted and split English muffin. Add to that a mug of steaming hot coffee for a deeply satisfying meal. 

Ingredients: (serves 2)
2 eggs, beaten until frothy with
   salt & pepper to taste
   a pinch of turmeric
1 onion, minced
1 tomato, diced
1 green chilli, diced (or to taste)
2 stalks green onions, sliced
handful cilantro, chopped
2 cups potatoes, peeled & diced
2 Tbsp. (1/4 stick) butter
2 English muffins, split and toasted
salt & pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Melt half the butter in a skillet over medium-high heat.
  2. Stir-fry onions, tomatoes, chilli, green onions & cilantro until oil resurfaces.
  3. Add potatoes along with salt & pepper and stir well.
  4. Sprinkle some water over potatoes and cover.
  5. Simmer potatoes, stirring occasionally until potatoes are cooked.
  6. Make a well in the center of the potatoes and melt remaining butter.
  7. Pour beaten egg over melted butter and allow edges to set.
  8. Stir and scramble egg into potatoes; turn heat off.
  9. Toast 2 split English muffins, mound scrambled eggs & potatoes over muffin halves and serve with beverage of choice.
















Sunday, February 15, 2015

Stir-Fried Red Swiss Chard with Shrimp and Eggplant

Chingri Begun Laal Shaak er Chochori

Luck was on my side when I went shopping for fresh vegetables a few days ago. There was a good looking bunch of red Swiss chard which immediately evoked images of a stir-fry with eggplant and shrimp. The stems and backs of the leaves were beet red and the surface of the leaves were green with red veins. 

When I looked up the definition of Laal (red) Shaak (spinach) on the Internet the English equivalent was Red Amaranth or Red Swiss Chard. 

All spinach or greens need to be thoroughly washed. Fill the sink or a large pan with cold water and drop the spinach into the water as it is being chopped. Dunk the chopped spinach in the water several times. The spinach rises to the top and any sediment present will sink to the bottom of the pan. Transfer the spinach to a colander to drain.

Vegetarians and Vegans can omit the shrimp for a tasty & nutritious meal. 

Ingredients:
1 bunch red Swiss chard, chopped, rinsed thoroughly & drained
1 Oriental eggplant, cubed
8 oz. medium (26-30 count) shrimp, shelled & de-veined
1 large onion, diced
1 tsp. garlic paste
1 hot green chili, diced
1/4 tsp. turmeric
salt to taste
2 + 2 + 2 Tbsp. light olive oil
1/4 tsp. panch phoron (Bengali whole 5 spice)
1/4 tsp. toasted panch phoron powder
1 tsp. ghee
2 green chilies, slit

Directions:
  1. Toss shrimp with salt & turmeric and set aside.
  2. Heat 2 Tbsp. oil over medium-high heat & stir-fry shrimp until pink.
  3. Remove shrimp from skillet and heat another 2 Tbsp. oil.
  4. Fry eggplant cubes until golden brown and set aside.
  5. Heat remaining oil in same skillet & sputter green chilies & panch phoron.
  6. Add onions, garlic, spinach & salt, cover & cook until stems are tender.
  7. Return eggplant & shrimp to skillet, add toasted panch phoron powder, stir & cook for another 5 minutes.
  8. Adjust salt to taste & garnish with ghee & slit green chilies.  
Serve with hot Basmati rice or chapatis/tortillas.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Begun Pora - Bengali Roasted Eggplant Salad




Eggplant is a favourite vegetable (or fruit?) among Bengali people who reside in West Bengal in India and Bangladesh. For this salad, the big, purple eggplant works best. The way I pick one is to look for a tight and blemish-free skin. I then weigh an eggplant in each hand and pick the lightest one. Tapping the eggplant with a finger should produce a hollow sound. Eggplants that are huge and heavy are full of seeds which are annoying to eat.

I find it easiest to cut the eggplant in half lengthwise, rub some oil over the surface and cut sides, lay them face down on a greased cookie sheet and bake them at a high temperature for 20-25 minutes. This cooks the core to a soft and silky pulp that should ideally be hand-mixed with the listed ingredients. The more traditional way is to place a flat cast-iron pan (tawa) on the stove and char the eggplant over a low flame, turning it over and around every now and then.

Mustard oil is a must & provides a lovely pungent flavour to this salad. It is readily available in Indian markets outside India. In our household, a dried red chili is held with tongs over an open flame to char all over and then mashed into the salad. This adds an unbeatable smoky flavour. A word of caution - make sure to turn it around, not allowing the chili to burn or catch fire because that will have everyone at home coughing and crying their eyes out! 

Ingredients:
1 large eggplant, cut in half lengthwise
1 + 2 Tbsp. mustard oil
1 hot green chili, diced and/or 1 toasted dried red chili, crushed
1 small onion, diced
1 handful cilantro, chopped
salt to taste

Directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 400*F, grease a cookie sheet and wash your hands.
  2. Cut eggplant lengthwise, prick skin with a fork & rub with 1 Tbsp. oil.
  3. Place eggplant, cut-side down, on greased cookie sheet.
  4. Bake for 20-25 minutes until peel appears wrinkled and charred.
  5. Remove eggplant halves from oven and set aside to cool.
  6. Scoop flesh away from peel and discard the peel.
  7. Coarsely chop eggplant and hand-mix with remaining ingredients.
Serve with hot, steamed Basmati rice.



Sunday, February 08, 2015

3 Bean Salad

3 Bean Salad
Somehow, I managed to hit just the right sweet and sour notes in this salad. The trick is to assemble all the ingredients, mix them all up and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or preferably overnight. This releases the sweetness from the dried cranberries and the minty flavours to soak into the beans. The only cooking required is to steam the whole red lentils, chickpeas and red beans but I was fortunate enough to avail of a package of Melissa's steamed lentils and packages of chickpeas and red beans that were soaking in water and sea salt. Any combination of beans would work in this recipe.

Ingredients:
1 (8 oz.) cup whole red lentils, steamed
1 (8 oz.) cup chickpeas, drained
1 (8 oz.) cup red beans, drained
1/2 cup dried cranberries or cherries or raisins
2 stalks green onions, diced
1 serrano pepper, diced
2 medium tomatoes, diced
2 handfuls mint, diced
1/4 cup olive oil
1/8 cup cider vinegar
1 serrano pepper, sliced (for garnish)
salt & pepper to taste

Directions:
  1. Whip together oil, vinegar, salt and pepper and set aside.
  2. Mix remaining ingredients except sliced peppers.
  3. Add oil & vinegar dressing.
  4. Refrigerate overnight & garnish with sliced peppers before serving.

Cheesy Fajita Open-Faced Sandwich

Cheesy Fajita Sandwich
Here's a lunch that can be prepared in under 5 minutes. We had fajitas for dinner the night before so I put away two little portions for lunch the next day. The chicken breast strips come already cooked with fajita spices and can be found in the frozen section of the supermarket. Combined with strips of colourful sliced onions and sweet & hot peppers, the chicken fajita strips are laid on top of a mixture of grated Mexican cheese, mayonnaise and red pepper flakes with a sprinkling of fresh herbs.. Once toasted in the toaster-oven, the cheese melts and forms a creamy base for the chicken fajita. These open-faced sandwiches taste great on crusty Italian bread or tortillas.

Serve with a fresh salad and/or fruit. This meal is served with a 3 Bean Salad.

Ingredients:
1 cup chicken fajita strips, cooked & frozen
1 cup sweet multi-coloured peppers, sliced
1 serrano pepper, sliced
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1 onion, sliced
2 Tbsp. grated Mexican cheese
2 Tbsp. mayonnaise
1 tsp. crushed dried red peppers
2 green onions, chopped
1 Tbsp. cilantro, chopped
2 flour tortillas or 4 slices of toasted bread

Directions:
  1. Heat oil in a skillet over medium-high heat.
  2. Toss chicken, peppers and onions in the hot oil until cooked but still crisp.
  3. Remove from heat and set aside.
  4. Mix grated cheese, mayonnaise and red peppers in a bowl.
  5. Spread on tortillas or bread, making sure to work all the way to the edges.
  6. Top with prepared fajita strips and sprinkle with green onions & cilantro.
  7. Toast in a toaster-oven just until cheese melts.
  8. Serve right away with a salad and/or fruit.


Sunday, February 01, 2015

Chicken Do Pyaza

Chicken Braised with Two Types of Onions 
We had company for dinner tonight. This last week has been pretty busy so all the cooking was done starting early this morning. It's the middle of winter in Michigan (USA) with temperatures plunging into the single digits, making the task of cooking meat and fish rather difficult because all the windows need to be left open to air out the house.

I used all shortcuts possible while making this chicken dish. Do (two) Pyaza (onions) means a gravy made with two preparations of onions. The chicken was marinated overnight, brought to room temperature and then cooked with finely sliced onions and garnished with crispy, deep-fried red shallots. We're very fortunate that birista or deep-fried onions/shallots are now readily available in Indian and Oriental markets in North America. 

Besides using fresh tomatoes, tomato paste was also added to thicken and provide a rich, red colour to the gravy. Kashmiri mirch which is an aromatic paprika from India also adds to the rich, red colour. I was first introduced to this way of cooking meat and poultry by a friend in New Delhi close to 45 years ago. I was only just finding my way around my kitchen when this kind gentleman came over one day and taught me to make this. Although he has long since left this world, his kindness and patience remains a precious memory.

Ingredients
1 lb. chicken, cut in bite-sized pieces
3 large onions, sliced finely
1 medium tomato, diced
1 + 1 tsp. garlic paste
1 + 1 tsp. ginger paste
1 + 1 tsp. Kashmiri mirch/paprika
1/4 tsp. tandoori masala
1 tsp. tomato paste
1/2 tsp. Bengali garam masala powder (ground cinnamon, cardamon & cloves) 
1 + 6 Tbsp. vegetable oil
2 sticks cinnamon
2 black, large cardamom
1/2 tsp. shah jeera or cumin
2 cups simmering chicken broth
1 cup + 4 Tbsp. deep-fried red shallots
salt to taste

Directions
  1. Clean chicken and marinate in the fridge overnight (or minimum 2 hours) with 1 Tbsp. oil, 1 tsp. each ginger & garlic pastes, 1 tsp. Kashmiri mirch, tandoori masala and salt to taste. 
  2. Bring marinated chicken to room temperature before cooking.
  3. Blend diced tomatoes with 1 tsp. each ginger and garlic pastes.
  4. Heat oil over medium high heat, fry chicken until golden brown & set aside.
  5. In the same pan, sputter shah jeera, cinnamon and black cardamom.
  6. Add sliced onions and stir-fry until translucent.
  7. Stir in tomato paste and stir-fry until oil resurfaces.
  8. Add blended tomatoes, garam masala & remaining Kashmiri mirch.
  9. Stir well & simmer over medium heat until oil resurfaces again.
  10. Add browned chicken, 1 cup deep-fried red shallots and broth, lower heat to medium-low, cover & simmer for 30 minutes until gravy is thick and reduced by half.
  11. Adjust salt to taste, garnish with remaining deep-fried red shallots & transfer to serving dish.
Serve with hot Basmati rice, Indian bread or tortillas.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Stir-Fried Eggplant in Mustard Sauce

Begun-er Jhaal
Eggplant cooked this way is one of my favorite dishes for a number of reasons. First of all, it brings back memories of our idyllic childhood centered around Mum who managed to create the most delicious meals on a thrify budget. That one sentence describes two of life's most important lessons she taught us - to put money away for a rainy day and to be proficient in the kitchen. 

Secondly, we eat first with our eyes which is why the bright purple color of eggplant is so pleasing to our palates. And having eaten eggplant as very young children, this vegetable has grown to become a favorite over a lifetime.

Stir-fried with sliced onions and tomatoes and then wrapped in a pungent and creamy mustard sauce, it's hard to describe the intense satisfaction derived from combining this dish with hot & steamy Basmati rice or a fluffy chapati/tortilla.

Several varieties of eggplant are available in supermarkets, but for this dish I prefer to use Oriental or Japanese eggplant which have minimal seeds and a much sweeter taste than the large oval ones.

Shorshe Bata Begun

Ingredients
4 Japanese eggplant, cut lengthwise down the center & cubed
2 medium onions, sliced
6 cloves garlic, minced (or 1 tsp. garlic paste)
2 medium tomatoes, diced
1 hot green chili, diced
4 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1/4 tsp. shah jeera or cumin seeds
1 hot green chili, diced
2 Tbsp. black mustard seeds, soaked overnight in salted water with
   1 de-seeded dried red chili
1/4 tsp. sugar or to taste
1 hot green chili, diced (for garnish)
salt to taste

Directions
  1. Toss eggplant pieces with salt & set aside.
  2. Rinse mustard seeds (in a tea strainer) to remove excess salt.
  3. Blend mustard seeds with 1/2 cup water to a smooth paste.
  4. Heat oil in skillet on medium-high & sputter cumin seeds & 1 chili.
  5. Fry garlic & onions until onions turn translucent.
  6. Add eggplant, stir & fry until eggplant pieces are golden brown.
  7. Add tomatoes to skillet, followed by mustard paste and stir gently.
  8. Cover, simmer for 5 minutes & adjust salt & sugar to taste.
  9. Garnish with remaining diced chilies and serve as a side dish.




Friday, January 16, 2015

Tuna Melt Wraps


Tuna Melt Wrap with Green Onions
Tuna Melt Wrap with Dill
Packaged tuna fish now comes in a variety of flavors. I picked up a package of Tuna Creations of the Lemon Pepper variety and was pleasantly surprised at how good it tasted. If tuna is not readily available where you live, substitute any flaked fish seasoned with lemon & pepper powder, mayonnaise and anything else you fancy. 

The other necessary ingredient is the bread and I chose to use a flour tortilla. The 'melt' component comes from the cheese for which a slice of pepper jack cheese gave it a spicy kick.

To toast the wrap, a small cast iron frying pan did the trick. This sandwich was a golden, crispy brown on the outside with an ooey-gooey center. 

Great for lunch and it all came together in under 5 minutes!

Ingredients (makes 2 wraps)
1 (2.6 oz.) pkg. Starkist Tuna Creations (Lemon Pepper flavor)
2 slices pepper jack cheese, cut in half
2 stalks green onions or dill, minced 
2 dabs of butter
2 small flour tortillas

Directions (for each wrap)
  1. Melt a dab of butter in a small cast iron frying pan over medium heat.
  2. Place a tortilla in the pan and heat one side.
  3. Flip tortilla over, layer with 2 halves of a cheese slice, half the tuna and some green onions or dill.
  4. Fold other half of tortilla over filling and press edges together to seal with cheese.
  5. Fry both sides of wrap until golden brown.
  6. Transfer to serving plate, cut in half and garnish with green onions or dill.


Sunday, January 11, 2015

Hasselback Potato

Hasselback Potatoes
This makes an excellent side for dinner and is so easy to prepare! If your family likes baked potatoes, this will soon become a favorite. One way to speed up the baking process is to leave the skin on for maximum nutrition, prick each potato all over with a fork, rub the surface with oil, salt and pepper and microwave one at a time for 2 minutes. The potatoes will be semi-cooked which also makes it easier to score with a knife. Bake in the oven for 10 minutes, sprinkle the necessary ingredients over top and in the crevices and bake for another 10 minutes until the cheese melts. Tastes yummy!


Half a Hasselback Potato Served with
Salisbury Steak & Cranberry Chutney
Ingredients
1 russet potato, scrubbed under running water
1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
salt & pepper to taste
dash of garlic powder
dash of onion powder
2 Tbsp. grated cheese
1 Tbsp. bacon bits (optional for vegetarians)
1 stalk scallions/green onions, minced

Directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 425*F & place a rack on a baking sheet.
  2. Prick potato with a fork on all sides.
  3. Rub with oil, salt & pepper and microwave on high power for 2 minutes.
  4. Remove from microwave & score with a serrated knife 2/3 of the way down.
  5. Season with salt, pepper, garlic & onion powder.
  6. Place on a rack in preheated oven and bake for 10 minutes.
  7. Sprinkle with cheese, bacon bits (if using) and bake another 10 minutes.
  8. Garnish with scallions and serve immediately.






Saturday, January 03, 2015

Huevos Con Queso - Microwaved Eggs with Hot Peppers & Cheese

Microwaved Eggs with Hot Peppers & Cheese
The best dishes are created when one is ravenous. Lunch was late today because I had only myself to cater to. Earlier in the day, a Pinterest post caught my eye - 12 Ways to Cook Eggs in the Microwave. I've done that before with great success, so when my stomach began to growl, I raided the fridge and came up with this heartwarming and oh-so satisfying one-dish meal.

Ingredients:
2 eggs
salt & pepper to taste
1 wheat tortilla
1 cup left-over chicken fajitas or taco meat (optional)
1 handful cilantro, minced
1 green onion, minced
1 green chili, minced
2 Tbsp. grated cheese

Directions:
  1. Break eggs into a microwave-safe dish and beat well with salt & pepper.
  2. Tear tortilla into pieces and top with remaining ingredients, except cheese.
  3. Mix everything together and microwave on high for 2-1/2 minutes. 
  4. Sprinkle with cheese & microwave for another 30 seconds until eggs set.
Serve for lunch with fruit or salad for a hearty meal. Notice I didn't use any butter or oil so it's fat-free.