Friday, August 8, 2014

Using the harvest from the garden for a perfect appetizer- Caprese Salad Bruschetta

We have a small kitchen garden in our backyard - a few small patches in fact. The husband takes great care of the garden and we have a standing joke in the house that he takes better care of them than he does about the other family members. In short, they are his "babies". We have had some great harvest over the years including tomatoes, cucumbers, hot peppers, zucchini and beetroot. Over the last years he has grown cauliflower , cabbage, eggplant, water melon, pui saag and even had a great crop   of bottle gourd last year. Based on my request, he has grown some potted herbs that have included curry leaves, basil, rosemary , chives, thyme and dill. This year, we had some rogue plants that we hadn't planted but still grew on their own based on last year's planting. The cherry tomatoes and basil came out on their own and they were crying to be harvested and used in something delicious. So I decided to turn it into a Caprese Salad Bruschetta. A bruschetta can be topped with many different options and I wanted to use the perfect Italian salad called the Caprese salad due to the easily available ingredients.


  •  Cherry tomatoes - a handful
  • Basil leaves- 1 small branch
  • Mozzarella cheese balls- 15-20
  • Olive oil- 1/2 cup
  • French baguette bread- 1
  • Garlic- 1 clove
  • Salt and pepper to taste

To make the bruschetta
  • Pre heat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Slice the baguette into 1/2 inch pieces.
  • Apply olive oil to the bread and place it on a baking sheet.
  • Bake the bread for 5 minutes till it turns a bit crisp.
  • Meanwhile chop the basil, slice the tomatoes and mozzarella balls into halves.
  • Combine the rest of the olive oil, basil , mozzarella, tomatoes , salt and pepper.
  • Take the bread out of the oven and rub them with the garlic clove on both sides.
  • Top the bread with the salad.
  • Put the bread back in the oven for 10 minutes or till the cheese melts.
The harvest from the garden has yielded some great cooking, including pui sager ghonto( a mixed vegetable curry with egg plants, squash and greens) and bandhakofi diye chingri maach ( cabbage curry with shrimp). I have a cauliflower sitting in the fridge with Gobi Manchurian written all over it. When I was a kid , I had seen my dad and grandfather tending to flower and vegetable gardens and now we have a farmer in the family too. Happy cooking folks! It's even more fun with fresh ingredients.

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Sunday, June 1, 2014

Chicken Samosas- A great addition to the office potluck

A couple of weeks back, the office potluck showcased a very diverse range of food from my coworkers. While there was the usual store bought sloppie joes. banana cream pie and ice cream, there was also  roasted beetroot hummus , pao de queijo (Brazilian cheese bread) and spanakopitas ( Greek spinach pies). My contribution was the Chicken Samosa. The Indian snack that is usually made with a stuffing of potatoes and vegetables was instead a minced chicken and peas recipe.
        For the uninitiated, a samosa is a fried pastry dough usually filled with potatoes and peas. It is also called singara in Bengali. I learned making singara from my dad who was very particular about the consistency of the dough and the various folds that went into making one. And using store bought pastry dough is a big no no in my opinion. It doesn't taste the same.The filling is a mix of ground chicken with onions, ginger, garlic and tomato along with sweet peas. 

Ingredients for the filling
  • Ground chicken -1 lb
  • Onions -1 finely chopped
  • Garlic paste1 tbsp.
  • Ginger paste-1tbsp
  • Green peas-1 cup
  • Tomato-1 chopped
  • Chilli powder- 1tbsp
  • Turmeric- 1tsp
  • Garam Masala- 1 tsp
  • Salt-to taste
  • Raisins- 1/2 cup
  • Oil-2 tbsp
Ingredients for the dough
  • All purpose flour(maida)- 4 cups
  • Canola or vegetable oil -1/2 cup
  • Salt- to taste
  • Oil for Frying
To make the samosas
  • Soak the raisins in a cup of water.
  • In a wok, fry the onions till they are translucent.
  • Add the ginger and garlic paste and fry for another minute.
  • Add the chilli powder, salt and turmeric and tomatoes and fry for another minute.
  • Add the ground chicken and cook till the chicken is completely cooked.
  • Add the garam masala and the green peas and cook till the peas are soft.
  • Fold in the raisins and let the mixture cool to room temperature.
  • Meanwhile, mix the ingredients of the dough and add water and make it into a stiff pastry like dough.
  • Divide the dough into half the size of golf balls.
  • Roll the dough and follow the steps below to construct the samosa. 

  • In another wok heat the oil for frying. Drop 2 or 3 samosas and fry them till they are golden brown.
  • Serve with spicy ketchup or a date and tamarind chutney.
My dad has taught me making various street food like jilepi, chop and nimki. And I can only say, I have learnt it very well. I had taken about 35 samosas to share amongst 5-6 people. I didn't come back with any leftovers.
 Note:This post was written last year. The context at the beginning was the spring of 2013.

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Saturday, January 19, 2013

Recreating restaurant food - Yummy Chicken Sandwich with Sweet Potato fries

I love recreating food that I like at a restaurant. I have tried grilled vegetable skewers , calamari and chicken fajitas. A few months back I tried a farm style chicken sandwich at a neighborhood breakfast place and loved it. I tried to recreate it at home and it was fun making it from scratch. Though I had to get the bread twice as the first one was a baguette and one was not wide enough for a sandwich. So we made some bruschetta instead. I decided to go with some home style bread for the sandwich. Sweet potato fries is one of the sides available at most restaurants. They are more sweet than savory. So I decided to add my own twist to it. We usually have them with baked salmon or any other fish dish. It was a great accompaniment to a farm style sandwich.

Ingredients for the chicken sandwich
Ciabatta Bread- 2 big long ones cut into half
Boneless chicken - 4 pieces
Rosemary - 1 tbsp
Spinach (from a washed bag)- 2cups
White Mushrooms- 1 cup
Provolone cheese-4 slices
Butter- 4 tsp
Salt and pepper - to taste
Oil - to shallow fry

Ingredients for sweet potato fries
Sweet potato- 1 large
Chilli powder- 1tsp
Ground cumin- 1 tsp
Salt and pepper to taste
Oil - to deep fry

For the sandwich
  • Wash the chicken pieces and marinate with salt, pepper and rosemary for 30 minutes.
  • Wash the mushrooms and slice them.
  • Slice the ciabatta bread length wise and apply the butter.
  • Heat a griddle and toast the insides of the bread till they are golden brown.
  • Heat some oil in the griddle and saute the mushrooms with salt and pepper,
  • Heat some more oil in the griddle and brown the marinated chicken on both sides. Make sure they are fully cooked inside.
  • Add a slice of provolone on top of the chicken breasts and shut the griddle and let the cheese melt on its own.
  • On a bottom slice of the bread, arrange a bed of fresh green spinach and place the chicken with cheese on it. Top it with the sauted mushrooms and the top of the bread.
For the sweet potato fries
  • Peel the sweet potato  and slice it in fry size pieces.
  • Add salt, pepper , chilli powder and cumin and mix it with your hands.
  • Heat oil in a wok and fry the sweet potato till they turn a little brown and crunchy.
If you want to go the healthy way, add some olive oil to the sweet potato and bake it in the oven on a baking sheet for 30 minutes at 400 Degrees F. The sandwich is delicious and is a quick meal on a week night.
PS: It has been a while that I have updated this blog. This is not a new year resolution but I will be posting a bit more frequently. I am hoping to become a regular here if I can get away from chauffeuring and number crunching.

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Monday, March 28, 2011

Fried Squash Blossoms- Doesn't that sound sophisticated and exotic?

Bangalis have been called great gourmet critics. They are supposed to know the subtle differences in flavor and can tell what spices you have tempered your dish with. I personally am of the opinion that Bangalis love finding faults in every experience, the main one being hospitality. We love visiting our relatives and finding fault in how they have taken care of us. We are invited to someone’s home for dinner and we surely will come back and have opinions on whether the chicken was spicy or the dal was sweet or the nalen gurer payesh (rice pudding made with date molasses) did not really contain the flavor of khejur gur but was just substituted by brown sugar. We may pride ourselves to be great cooks, but we get apprehensive when we are asked to bring a dish to a Bangali potluck party lest someone finds fault with the dish that we have painstakingly spend hours to make.
This brings me to a legendary story my Baba happens to tell all the time. Once there was a rich man in a village who had to organize his daughter’s wedding. He wanted to prove all his critics wrong and made every arrangement so that his guests would not find fault in anything. The food catered to every type of diet, the hospitality was impressive and every ceremony and meal was on time. When the guests left, they did not have anything to criticize. Addicted to their habit of criticizing, someone said “Oto bhalo o bhalo noi (So much good is not good either)” and everyone seemed to agree. At the end of the day, it’s very difficult to keep them from finding faults when there is fine dining involved.

Bhaja (fried food) is one thing that everyone loves and it is not very easy to ruin a bhaja. You put oil in the kadai (wok), mix some batter (or not), dip (take) whatever you want to in it and fry it crispy brown. No, we can even find faults in our bhajas, if it was brown or raw or burnt, if it was crunchy or soggy or if it was salty or spicy. Last summer, the husband decided to plant some kumro (pumpkin squash) seeds in the garden. Based on the short summers that we have, we did not get any kumros but we enjoyed a bunch of squash blossoms (kumro phool) and the leaves and branches ( kumro sag). The easiest thing to make with dal and rice was batter Fried Squash Blossoms(Kumro Phool Bhaja) . Since the mater was in town, the choicest fluffy ones always went to the dear son-in-law. So when she left, I made them one day and had the lion’s share :). Even my picky eater daughter took a few bites and enjoyed them.

Squash blossoms (Kumro phool) - 8-10
Chick pea flour (besan) - 1 cup
Oil- 1tsp to mix and rest to fry
Salt – to taste
Chilli powder - 1tsp
Turmeric -1/2 tsp
Baking soda- ½ tsp
Water- as needed

• Wash the blossoms and flatten them so that you can dip it in the batter.
• Mix chick pea flour, salt, oil, chilli powder, turmeric, nigella seeds and baking soda.
• Add water and use a whisk to mix it as it adds air to the batter for a fluffy and crunchy fry.
• Heat oil in a wok till you see fumes rising ( buying a thermometer for frying is a waste of money)
• Dip the flattened blossom in the batter and coat it well on both sides.
• Carefully drop a few blossoms in the oil. (Do not drop too many as it brings down the temperature of the oil.)
• Turn the stove to a low setting. Otherwise the batter will burn and the blossoms will remain raw.
• Flip the blossoms half way through so that that they are light brown on both sides.
• When they are cooked, place them in a dish covered with paper towel so that it soaks up the extra oil.
• Enjoy it with rice or dal or as a snack with your evening tea.
This is like any other pakoda you would make so it’s not rocket science. Make sure they are warm and crunchy when you serve them .Remember when you are reheating them, DO NOT USE the microwave. Microwave makes any fry soggy. Heat it in a convection oven or stove top on a flat pan. I am hoping to be regular on this blog with the other million things I have on my to do list. My target is one recipe per week which seems to be a piece of cake or in this case a bit of a crunchy fry. Bon Appetit!

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