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

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

  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
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

  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.

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

  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.

Thursday, January 01, 2015

Salisbury Steak

Salisbury Steak
For Christmas dinner this year we had Salisbury Steak for a main dish. In our family, we can tolerate turkey and ham only once a year, for Thanksgiving, and beef seemed like a viable option for Christmas dinner. 

The butcher had blade steaks already flattened and 'cubed' meaning chopped without cutting all the way through the steak. This tenderizes the steak so that it's quick and easy to cook. When I defrosted the steaks a couple of days later I found that the butcher had, very considerately, placed a slip of parchment paper between each steak to make them easy to separate.

This can be made with hamburger patties, but cubed steaks taste better. We had these with several vegetable sides and everything had to be kept simple and palatable to suit the taste of our three grandsons, aged 7 and 8. They cringe at the sight of onions so I blended the French onion soup to make the gravy.

2015 Christmas Dinner
8 cubed steaks
2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1 (10 oz.) Campbell's French Onion Soup, blended
1 (8 oz.) cup chicken broth or water
1 Tbsp. tomato ketchup

  1. Season flour with salt, pepper and garlic, and place on a plate.
  2. Add one steak at a time to the seasoned flour, shake until completely coated and transfer to a clean plate.
  3. In a frying pan over medium-high heat, cook 2 steaks at a time in oil for 5-6 minutes on each side until browned.
  4. Transfer browned steaks to a paper-towel lined plate to drain. 
  5. Add any leftover seasoned flour to oil in which steaks were browned and toast to a golden brown.
  6. Add soup, broth and ketchup to toasted flour, stir well and bring to a boil. 
  7. Lower heat to low and add steaks to simmering gravy.
  8. Cover and cook steaks on low heat for 20 minutes or until tender.
Serve over cooked egg noodles with a side of mashed or baked potatoes.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Buttermilk Hidden Valley Ranch Oyster Crackers

Years ago, while I was still a working woman, a co-worker brought in this snack for a potluck. It's so crunchy, delicious, and easy to assemble that I wonder why it's taken so long to resurface.

1 (0.4 oz. pkg.) Buttermilk Hidden Valley Ranch Salad Dressing & Seasoning Mix
¼ cup vegetable oil
1 tsp. dried dill
¼ tsp. garlic powder
1 (12 oz.) pkg. oyster crackers


  1. Preheat the oven to 250°F.
  2. In a small bowl, stir oil, dressing mix, dill and garlic powder until mixed through.
  3. Pour crackers in a large pan and pour prepared oil over crackers..
  4. Toss crackers until well coated with oil.
  5. Arrange crackers on an ungreased cookie sheet in a single layer.
  6. Bake at  250°F for 15 to 20 minutes or until crackers are golden brown.
  7. Store in an airtight container after cooling to room temperature.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Easy Kosha Mangsho - Simmered Lamb Curry

Kosha (stirred & simmered) Mangsho (meat) produces a lamb curry that is bathed in a thick gravy. Note that no water or watery ingredients are added during cooking in order to ensure a thick sauce or gravy. Tomato ketchup or paste is used, not pureed tomatoes, for this reason. Why call this recipe easy? Because it takes a couple of hours or more to cook this on the stove top. By using a pressure cooker, the cooking time is reduced drastically and the meat falls off the bones.

Bone-in leg of baby lamb works best for this recipe and purchasing from a halal meat store ensures tenderness and good quality meat. I ask the butcher to cut the leg into pieces suitable for stewing and to pack it in 3-4 separate portions. That cuts down on work once I get it home, so all I have to do is freeze it until ready to be cooked.

We generally don't eat lamb unless company's coming, so that makes it an extra-special meal. Most of the fat is removed during the butchering process, but a sufficient amount remains which gives the lamb its familiar flavor. 

It's a family tradition to add potatoes to meat dishes and I've used one large russet potato chopped into pieces similar in size to the pieces of lamb. For an added festive touch, this dish can be garnished with deep fried onions just prior to serving.

2 lbs. lamb, cut in big chunks & washed
2 tsp. Kashmiri mirch or paprika
1 Tbsp. ginger paste
1 Tbsp. garlic paste
1/4 tsp. turmeric powder
1/2 tsp. cumin-coriander powder
2 Tbsp. tomato ketchup or paste (not pureed)
salt to taste

4 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1 tsp. shah jeera or cumin seeds
1 cinnamon stick
3 large black cardamom
1 star anise
2 large onions, halved & sliced in crescents

1 russet potato, peeled and cut in chunks
1/2 tsp. Bengali garam masala (ground cinnamon, cardamom & cloves)
salt to taste

  1. Marinate lamb in next 7 ingredients, mixing thoroughly.
  2. Refrigerate overnight or for at least 2 hours.
  3. Take lamb out of the fridge and bring to room temperature.
  4. Heat pressure cooker over medium-high heat and add oil.
  5. When oil is hot, sputter next 4 ingredients until aromatic.
  6. Stir-fry onions until translucent and add lamb.
  7. Stir well and simmer until juices are released.
  8. Cover pressure cooker & bring to full pressure.
  9. Simmer on medium heat for 20 minutes & remove from heat.
  10. Allow pressure to dissipate completely before removing cover.
  11. Add potatoes, stir well and place over medium-low heat.
  12. Simmer for half an hour or until potatoes are tender.
  13. Adjust salt to taste and stir in garam masala.
  14. Serve with Indian bread or steamed Basmati rice.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Burmese Stir-Fried Garlicky Shrimp

Pazun Hsipyan
These shrimp (pazun) are stir-fried until the "oil resurfaces" (hsipyan). Most of the effort in preparing this dish is spent in shelling and deveining the shrimp, which take no time at all to cook. Keep this recipe in your repertoire of dishes that can be prepared in a hurry. The shrimp can be cleaned and marinated in advance and then cooked just before serving.

1 lb. shrimp, shelled & deveined
6 Tbsp. vegetable oil
8-10 cloves garlic, peeled & diced
1 large onion, peeled, halved & sliced in thin crescents
1 large tomato, diced
1 serrano pepper, diced
1 bunch cilantro stems, diced
1/2 tsp. Kashmiri mirch or paprika
1 Tbsp. fish sauce
1/4 tsp. turmeric powder
salt to taste

  1. Marinate shrimp with turmeric & fish sauce for 15 minutes or longer.
  2. Heat oil in a skillet/wok over medium-high heat and add paprika.
  3. Stir-fry onions, peppers & garlic until onions are translucent.
  4. Lower heat to medium, add tomatoes & simmer until oil resurfaces.
  5. Add shrimp & cilantro stems and stir-fry until shrimp are no longer pink.
  6. Adjust salt to taste & serve immediately over steamed long-grain rice.
Note: No water is used in cooking this dish. The gravy/sauce is the light olive oil (white & odorless) that I used which turned red from Kashmiri mirch and tomatoes.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Baked Mushroom Pilaf

Baked Mushroom Pilaf
Did you know you can bake rice from scratch in the oven? It works really well and combined with a couple of cans of soup and mushrooms, it tastes amazing! Oh, I almost forgot to mention that most of the taste comes from the butter which is the fifth ingredient! No need to add salt because the soups have plenty.

Facebook is my #1 go-to source for recipes these days. A couple of days ago, I came across a recipe called Stick of Butter Rice which I vowed to try as soon as possible. It sounded divine. Today was the perfect time to experiment because I have to take something for a Christmas potluck tomorrow. 

Normally I would just point you to the original recipe, but because I used Basmati rice, baking times were a little different and I added fresh shiitake mushrooms. The umami from the mushrooms and butter make this a winner!

1 cup Basmati rice, rinsed in several changes of water & drained
1 (10 oz.) can Campbell's Cream of French Onion soup
1 (10 oz.) can Campbell's Beef Broth
1 (1/2 cup) stick of butter, sliced
8 oz. shiitake mushrooms, sliced

  1. Pre-heat oven to 425*F.
  2. Place drained rice in a 9X9 inch glass baking dish.
  3. Pour both cans of soup over rice.
  4. Layer mushrooms over top and dot with sliced butter.
  5. Cover baking dish with aluminum foil and bake at 452*F for 30 minutes.
  6. Take foil off & bake for another 20 minutes just until edges crisp & brown.
  7. Turn oven off and take baking pan out of oven.
  8. Cover dish with foil and leave at room temperature for 10-20 minutes.
Serve with a salad or raita such as Fuji Apple Raita. It tastes yummy!

Monday, December 01, 2014

Baked Tandoori Cauliflower & Potato Casserole

Tandoori Cauliflower & Potato Casserole
One of my favorite food blogs is The English Kitchen, which inspired this dish. I've switched out and added several ingredients to favor my Indian palate and it turned out to be perfect!

Take it easy with the salt because grated cheese has plenty. Serve as a side dish with grilled meats, chicken, fish or shrimp.

1 large russet potatoes, peeled, sliced & blanched
1 large cauliflower, trimmed, sliced & blanched
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3 oz. Greek/hung yogurt
1 medium onion, peeled and sliced
2 (8 oz.) cups grated Mexican blend cheese 
2 tsp. tandoori masala powder
1 tsp. Kashmiri mirch/paprika
freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup chicken broth
butter to dot the top
salt to taste

  1. Pre-heat oven to 350*F.
  2. Heat oil, and stir-fry onions, cauliflower & potatoes, cover and simmer until cooked.
  3. Season with tandoori powder, paprika and pepper and cook for another 3 minutes.
  4. Remove skillet from heat and stir in yogurt, mixing it into gravy.
  5. Spray a baking dish with Pam non-stick butter spray.
  6. Layer onions, potatoes, cauliflower and cheese twice.
  7. Pour chicken broth around edges and dot top with butter.
  8. Bake at 350*F for 20-25 minutes until bubbling & golden brown.
Serve hot as a side dish with grilled meat, fish or shrimp.