Sunday, March 10, 2013

Pita Bread

In my mind I always thought making Pita bread would be a very time consuming laborious process involving a lot of luck and precise planetary alignment but that surely is not the case. Especially for us rolling pin wielding - roti-making Indians the stovetop version is similar to how we make our chapatis and fulkas everyday. I adapted the recipe from here and here's what I did different from the original recipe.

A big thank you to my friend Subha for clicking all the pictures.
3 C All Purpose Flour
2 Tbsp Semolina
2 Tbsp Olive Oil  (* I read this incorrectly from the original recipe, but I will stick with this measurement as I think it helps in rolling out perfectly shaped Pita which doesn't spring back as much)
1 C Warm Water + 1 to 2 Tbsp
2 tsp Salt  (* Will reduce this to 1.5 next time on it wasn't gratingly too much but a little less wouldn't hurt)
1 Pkt Rapid Rise Yeast  (* That's all I had at home)

1. Proof yeast using one cup warm water and yeast. Seeing yeast froth is something that gives me the confidence that the final product will turn out well, this is entirely optional unless your packet of yeast explicitly states so.
2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, add flour, semolina, salt and yeast and mix on low to medium speed for about 4-5 mins. Adding water as required.
3. Add olive oil and mix for another minute or so till the oil is well coated. Transfer the dough or just cover up the bowl and leave for rising up till doubled up in volume.
4. Oven Method: Followed the method from here with a minor change
Preheat oven to 450F, put your baking sheet also in the oven to heat up. In the meantime roll out the Pita bread to your desired size but make sure it is not very thin. Once oven is preheated and all your Pita rounds are rolled out remove the baking tray carefully, place the Pita circles and place them in the oven for 3 minutes.
5. After 3 minutes remove from tray from oven, carefully flip each Pita over to the other side and put it back in the oven for 2 minutes. This gives the Pita bread a few spots and IMO makes for a better Pita pocket. If like me you forget to remove them from the oven and they remain in the oven, these will turn into dried Pita chips.
6. Stovetop Method: Ok so I followed the instruction in the original source for being able to refrigerate the dough and the next day I tried Pita on the stovetop.
Heat the griddle on the stovetop keeping a med-high heat. Constant heat and pressure is the key to puffed up Pita bread.

7. Roll out the Pita bread and then slap them on the griddle. Once the first side shows signs of lifting from the griddle and a few spots turn it over and apply even pressure with a clean kitchen towel.

Watch it puff to a beautiful round. Ooh and aah over it and repeat for as many Pita's as you want.

8. I cut them into halves as soon as they were off the heat fearing that it may lose the pocket if I didn't do this. Should have tried leaving one round without cutting to see what happens ..maybe next time ...

The Verdict:
The Pita breads made in the oven remain puffed up whereas the ones made on the stovetop tend to flop down, retaining their cavity and softness.
9. Enjoy with whatever filling catches your fancy ...

Friday, March 8, 2013


As much as I love eating Greek and middle eastern food I had never made it at home. This was one thing on my to try list for so long and then Nupur of One Hot Stove organized a swap, my swap partner sent me Sumac and I decided to put it to use. So I made Hummus, Falafel, Homemade Pita Bread, Tzatiki and a Warm Eggplant and Red Pepper Salad. I was very happy with the way all of the recipes came out and my husband and my friends certified that these were a hit. So here is how I made Hummus. I read a lot of recipes online but haven't stuck to any particular one. I didn't have Tahini and I basically just used toasted sesame seeds with olive oil. I am not sure this is how Tahini is to be made but this is how I made it.

I would like to thank Subha for clicking the pics and sharing them with me. Many a recipe remains in my drafts for the lack of pictures ....

Hummus - I pronounce it as Hoo-mus this was how I first heard a kuwaiti friend refer to it, I have heard others pronounce it as Hum-mus I don't know which is correct or authentic, if you do please let me know ...
1 15Oz Can Chickpeas
3-4 cloves of Garlic

1/4 C Olive Oil (I used Extra Virgin but I guess a lighter, fruitier olive oil will work too)
Juice of Half Lemon 
Tahini (Note:  I used 1/2 C toasted sesame seeds, powdered them and then added 2 Tbsp of EVOO - Not sure if this is authentic but didn't have it on hand so decided to make it)
Warm Water (as needed)
1/2 tsp Roasted Cumin and Pepper Powder
1 tsp Sumac

1. Empty the can of chickpeas in a colander and rinse it under hot water to remove all the gooey canned residue. I also think it reduces the tinny taste.
2. Remove the skin off the chickpeas as much as you can, it is kind of boring but I read somewhere that it results in a smooth textured hummus.
3. In a food processor add the chickpeas, garlic, lemon juice and tahini. Grind the ingredients till they start to form a paste. I needed to add warm water to bring them all together, if the mixture doesn't seem to be coming together add warm water little at a time.
4. When it starts to become into a paste, add salt, cumin powder and half of olive oil and continue to pulse.
5. Transfer to a bowl, taste test for the seasoning adjust if required. Make a swirly mark with your spoon, drizzle olive oil and sprinkle with Sumac on top.
6. Serve with Pita bread, chips or veges ...
The tomatillos make a good prop ;)

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Cabbage Mishmash

Today was one of the rare days when my refrigerator vege section was nearly empty .. I mean I almost always suffer from the other extreme of having too many vegetables but not today. All I had was half a bell pepper, half an onion, one measly carrot, almost a third of a head of cabbage and that was by far the biggest portion, a couple of tomatoes, one small potato. So I decided to make something with this mishmash and since cabbage was the highest in quantity I have decided to call it a Cabbage Mishmash. This time I would say that the "whole is definitely greater than the sum of its parts". The flavor of this vegetable mishmash was so yummy that I decided to post the recipe so I can make it again.

1/3 Cabbage sliced thinly
1/2 Capsicum cubed
1/2 Onion cubed
1 Small Potato cubed fine
1 Carrot diced
2 Tomatoes diced
Handful of Frozen Peas
1 Pod Garlic
1 Small piece ginger
1 Tbsp Oil
1 tsp Turmeric
2 tsp Red Chilli Powder
1 tsp Corriander Powder
1 tsp Garam Masala
Small piece Jaggery (optional)

1. Heat oil in a pan. Add ginger and garlic sauté for a minute, then add onions sauté for a couple of minutes then add carrots, potato keep stirring. Add cabbage, mix well and continue sauteing. Then add capsicum and  peas continue to sauté.
2. Add salt, and all dry spices. Mix well.
3. Add tomatoes and continue till cooked. Add jaggery mix well cook till jaggery is dissolved switch off the gas. Adjust salt and seasoning as needed. Garnish with fresh cilantro, serve with phulkas.

Notes: This mishmash reminded me of the vegetable filling in the vegetable puffs available in farsan shops and local railway platform shops in Mumbai.
2. This will make a beautiful filling for vegetable wraps or grilled sandwiches, inside pita bread or frozen puff pastry dough mishmash endless possibilities .. Enjoy !!!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Small Batch Strawberry Jam

All I can say is I am a happy woman. I have always wanted to experiment with making jam at home but a couple of things (or lack of them) have held me back - namely Pectin and no knowledge of canning / preserving techniques. However, this time I decided to try it with a small enough batch of strawberries so I can simply save it in a glass jar and use it up real quick and I am so very happy with the result. If any of you out there decides to try this please let me know how it turns out and if possible share your pics and also if you decide to use different berries or different amount of sugar etc do let me know. I am a newbie and would love to hear your experiments and experiences ...

1 lb Strawberries
1 C and a little less than 1/2 C Sugar
2 Tbsp Lemon Juice
2 pieces Candied ginger chopped fine (*Optional)

1. Cut up strawberries into really small pieces .. you could also pulse them a few times in the food processor I think ...
2. Put a couple of small plates in the freezer to chill ...we need these to test the consistency of the jam.
3. Take a heavy bottomed pan with tall sides ** tall sides are important otherwise you will have a tough cleaning job on hand **  and mix together mooshed strawberries, sugar and lemon juice.
3. Put on medium heat and let it cook. Keep removing the whitish foam that floats to the top ...
4. You will notice that the mixture will go on thickening as it reaches a rolling boil - a rolling boil is basically when the liquid bubbles in your pot threaten to explode in a colorful spray around you .. be careful sugar burns can be dangerous.
5. Let it boil for 8-10 minutes or till the mix starts to appear like an almost set jello or fruit jelly. At this point remove one plate from the freezer, and run a small amount of jam in a straight line. Tilt the plate if the mix is too runny, let it cook for a couple of minutes more and repeat the test. If the jam appears to be just a wee bit thinner than regular bottled jam it is time to switch the gas and take the pan off the heat.
6. Since this is a small batch I did not use canning techniques. I just nuked a small glass bottle in the microwave for a couple of minutes. I removed it from the microwave and filled hot jam into the hot glass jar and put a lid on it but not before leaving out a good tablespoon on the cold plate for me and hubby to enjoy immediately.
7. Leave the jam to cool for about 10-12 hours then ..well then just enjoy it with toast or pancakes or ....

I know I have the ingredient candied ginger listed above, I had intended adding it once the mixture started to bubble vigorously but I forgot to add them. I have sampled strawberry jam with candied ginger at one of the farm stands a while back and it does taste yummy.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

A hot and spicy bowl of Vegetable Jalfrezi

I have been MIA from my blog. Last year was a momentous one for me I became a mother and well another great thing that happened was I got to spent a good five months with my own ma learning the tricks of being one from the best one. This was the longest time I have spent with my mother after I moved to Bombay for my studies and it has been the most wonderful time of my life. I have written earlier also that my mummy is a terrific cook, I got to savor my favourite foods when she was here and found out that over the years she too has been experimenting a lot with food. I am sharing one of her recent recipes which she has reverse engineered from her favourite take-out place menu - Vegetable Jalfrezi. I have no idea why it is called "Jalfrezi" but I love the flavor of this vegetable and the fact that it is simple and quick can be paired with Roti, Bread or Rice or eaten plain straight from the bowl. Another good thing about this one is that you can add / subtract and or substitute vegetables of your choice. I am giving you the version I enjoy.

P.S: I forgot to thank my good friend Subha for patiently clicking the pics ...

14 Oz Paneer
2 Medium Onions
1 Green Bell Pepper
10-15 Green Beans (less or more is upto you)
1 or 2 Carrots 
1 Tbsp Ginger / Garlic Paste (More ginger less garlic, can also add green chillies if you like it hot)
2 Tbsp Tomato Ketchup
1-2 Tbsp White Vinegar
2 tsp Corriander Powder
1 tsp Turmeric Pdr
1-2 tsp Red Chilli Powder (More if you like it spicy)
Salt to taste
2 Tbsp Oil

1. Chop the onions in big cubes, similarly cut bell peppers in big chunks, peel and chop carrots into rounds or if they are really big in half moon shape. String the beans and cut them in 2 inch pieces.
2. Cut Paneer into cubes. I like big chunks for this recipe. Also, here in the US I use Nanak brand Paneer and I like to wash the Paneer cubes with cold water and microwave them for 2 minutes before adding them to the wok as I think it yields softer paneer.
3. In a wok heat the oil, add onions and sauté for a couple of mins till slightly translucent but not mushy. They should still have a crunch in them.
4. Add ginger and garlic paste saute, add carrots, beans, paneer and mix. Add salt and seasoning sauté till vegetables and paneer are coated with spices. Add bell pepper and mix. Now add the ketchup and vinegar, mix it all together. Let cook for a couple of minutes. All the veges should still have a bite more like chinese stir-fry veges take care not to overcook else you will end up with a regular mixed vegetable.
5. Adjust salt, spices and sweet and tart balance by adding more ketchup and / or vinegar as needed. You can also add a couple of spoons of water if you want it a little bit on the wet side.
6. Put it in a bowl and enjoy. Even my non-Paneer loving husband enjoys this one ...

NOTE: I will be honest, I usually eyeball and add my ingredients so most of my recipes are approximations rather than exact quantities. You can adjust the quantities to suit your taste buds.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Spring Greens Salad with Sweet & Tangy Dressing

It's summer time and one of the most satisfying meals for me is a huge bowl of salad with loads of fresh vegetables and of course cheese ;). I just love the Organic Spring Greens Mix from Sams Club which contains a mix of red and green romaine, red and green oak leaf, lollo rosa and tango lettuces get a little kick from mizuna, arugula and radicchio. It comes in a one pound box and stays nice for a week. 
Spring Greens Mix
1 Small red onion, chopped fine
Handful of grape tomatoes - chopped in quarters
Handful of red grapes ( I love the contrast in flavor this brings)
Feta Cheese Crumbled ( Any other shredded / crumbled cheese of your choice)
Croutons ( love the ones with Sea Salt and Pepper)
Jalapenos (Optional - Hubby's topping)
Cucumbers (Optional - My topping)

For the Salad Dressing
1/4 C Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/2 of 1/4 cup Raspberry Balsamic Vinegar 
1 Tbsp Dijon Mustard
1/2 Lime Juiced
1 Tbsp Honey
Salt & Pepper
Crushed Red Chilli flakes (as per taste)
Italian Herb Seasoning (as per taste)
1 Garlic Clove minced
1/2 fresh jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced (Strictly optional)
1. In a salad mixing bowl combine all ingredients for the salad and toss lightly to mix.
2. In a glass bottle or mason jar, measure out all ingredients for the salad dressing, close the lid and give it a vigorous shake, till the dressing appears to be homogeneous.
3. Add the dressing to your salad mix well and adjust seasoning to taste. Add more cheese if you like or are like me ;)
4. Enjoy with a chilled glass of wine.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Stuffed Mushrooms

It has been a long hiatus from my blog, no I didn't stop cooking -in fact, if you ask me I have done some of my best and most creative cooking during this time period. I however had a small problem with my camera which prevented me from taking photos and well I just didn't feel like posting recipes without pictures. But I have finally freed myself of that thought or rather what has freed me and pushed me into posting again is this quote from William Denton "Food is to eat, not to frame and hang on the wall." So I say touche to that and am back with a post on Stuffed Mushrooms. I have been meaning to make them like forever but never got down to making these. This time however, when I picked up this big box of mushrooms on my regular grocery trip I had decided then and there that a good part if not all of these mushrooms were gonna be stuffed.

16-20 White Button Mushrooms 
1 Tbsp Finely chopped Garlic
1 Medium White Onion finely diced
1 Jalapeno Pepper finely diced *(Optional but we love it hot)
Handful of Baby Spinach leaves, blanched and chopped fine
2-3 Sundried tomatoes finely diced
2 Tbsp Breadcrumbs
2 - 3 Tbsp Feta Cheese
1 Tbsp Olive Oil 
Fresh Rosemary 
Salt and Pepper

1. Wash mushrooms in cold water and pop out the stems. Chop the stems finely and set aside.
2. Finely dice onion, jalapeno pepper, sundried tomatoes. You can also use a chopper but do chop each ingredient separately.
3. Preheat oven to 350 F.
3. In a saute pan, add a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil. I used this gorgeous rosemary and red-pepper infused EVOO that I picked up on one of our road trips ..
4. Add finely chopped garlic you will need approximately 4-5 garlic cloves and let it become golden brown.
5. To this add chopped onions and jalapeno pepper (if using) cook for 2-3 minutes on medium-high heat till onions start to turn brownish. Now add the chopped mushroom stems and continue cooking for a couple of minutes, then add chopped blanched spinach and sun-dried tomatoes.
6. Season with salt, pepper, fresh rosemary. The mixture should be on the dry side if not cook for a couple more minutes till dry and then turn off the heat. 
7. Once the mixture has cooled a little, add bread crumbs and feta cheese and mix well.
8. Start stuffing the mushrooms with this mixture, smear into the cavity and heap a little on top as well, go on placing these in a baking tray.
9. Bake at 350 F for 18-20 minutes. Let them cool for a few minutes before serving.

10. I bite into one and am instantly transported to foodie heaven - an old ad jingle keeps ringing in my ears "ek baar khaoge to khate reh jaoge, No one can eat just one" ;) 
Enjoy !!!

A word of caution: The mushrooms leave out a lot of water, so be careful handling the hot baking tray with hot liquid.