Once again, I got my inspiration from my favorite good looking chef, Jamie Oliver. I was watching his show about salads and he made a fabulous caesar salad with homemade roasted chicken and croutons. The chicken legs attached to thighs were roasted with rosemary, olive oil, salt and pepper. He tore a baguette into pieces and added them with the chicken and roasted the whole thing. His idea was to flavor the bread pieces with the chicken juices and use them as croutons in the salad- how brilliant it that? I decided to make a similar dish but used a ciabatta bread- sliced it and placed it at the bottom of the roast pan. I then placed the chicken pieces and rubbed a mixture of rosemary, salt, olive oil and pepper. I wanted to serve the chicken and bread as the main dish. I loved the idea of using full chicken legs- they are so much more flavorful than chicken breast; they are more forgiving in terms of cooking time; and most of all, they are a lot more reasonable than chicken breast. I am a big fan of dark meat chicken- my husband on the other hand, is a big skeptic. He enjoyed this dish but I could tell, he would have preferred white meat chicken. If you feel the same, go ahead and switch it for the breast pieces- I would get the bone-in pieces and would keep a good eye on the oven careful not to over cook. The roasted chicken pieces were juicy, flavorful and tender. The bread was amazingly delicious. We spread the sweet, soft, gooey roasted garlic cloves on top of the bread slices- it was out of this world. It had absorbed all the chicken goodness. We ate it with a warm chickpea salad and yes- my favorite- Malbec Rose.
I was itching to use anchovies in something. My husband thinks he doesn’t like them, but like a lot of people, he doesn’t realize that anchovies take on a very nutty and salty flavor when used in either a salad or a sauce. It adds an underlying flavor to the dish that is quite complex and hard to decipher. I decided to make a chickpea salad. I had a bag of baby spinach sitting in my fridge screaming to be used, so I paired it with the chickpeas. I sliced some shallots and melted 2 anchovy fillets with olive oil. I then added the canned chickpeas and baby spinach. Somehow using raw cumin didn’t seem right- I used roasted cumin instead. I always have it in my spice cabinet. It’s as simple as roasting nuts- either in a heavy frying pan or in the oven, till it is aromatic and dark brown. The roasted cumin has a very aromatic flavor- milder than raw cumin- almost more sophisticated. Well, all the flavors went really well together- it was a successful try and I will definitely make it again!
I had to cook for another one of our kid-adult play/dinner dates. It had to be something we would all enjoy and of course it had to healthy. I had just finished watching something on television about Spain- and what is the first thing that comes to mind- well, okay, two things- sangrias and paellas, right?? Well, it does for me…
I thought I could make a kid friendly paella with chicken, mild sausages and shrimp. I really wanted to add chorizo instead of a mild sausage, but I wasn’t sure how the kids would react to it- Sia can handle it but I wasn’t sure of the others. I LOVE chorizo, in case you don’t know what it is- it’s either fresh or cured sausage, made out of pork and various spices. Either way it is full of flavor and delicious. I can make a meal out of lots of chorizo, some Manchego cheese and red wine- oh, and maybe some delicious olives- you don’t need another thing! Chorizo and paella remind me of our trip to Barcelona. We ate a great meal, 3 times a day for our entire trip. The wine, tapas, paellas, sangrias and most of all the flan. I had to have a flan everyday and it was good every time! That reminds me to post a flan recipe soon! Anyway, the paellas were delicious with all sorts of seafood, and meats added to them.
I of course needed to make it quite simple and straight forward- so I didn’t add any spice- just lots of flavor. Who doesn’t like chicken, sausage, shrimp and rice?? I added some frozen green peas to fulfill the vegetable quota and some red peppers to give it color. The arborio rice made the dish really creamy and the chicken broth and saffron added great flavor. Adding the shrimp at the last minute ensured perfectly cooked crustaceans. I was extremely happy with the way the dish turned out.
The kids ate the dish but a bit reluctantly- Sia wanted only the shrimp and sausage and the other kids were not too keen on the shrimp. Once they were told about the no dessert till the dinner was done policy- everyone ate their share. The adults enjoyed it with a Malbec Rose- my favorite wine for the summer!
A Simple Indian Vegetarian Recipe: Pink Lentils with Broccoli Rabe served with Basmati Rice and Mustard Seeds (Dal Chawal)
Sometimes you need to make the very simple foods to satisfy your nostalgic self. I was in the mood for ‘dal chawal’- which means lentils and rice. Growing up, ‘dal chawal’ meant that it was going to be a laid back meal that doesn’t take very long to cook. Depending on what lentils are used, they can be cooked in no time. The pink lentils fall under that category- you can cook these up in about 20 minutes. Now although it is a simple meal- it can be dressed up in many ways. The lentils can be cooked in different ways and can be topped with various concoctions (called the tempering). In this case, I kept it really simple- didn’t add any tempering and cooked everything in the lentils including garlic and chopped broccoli rabe. Yes, you read it correctly- I used broccoli rabe! Talk about fusion cuisine! I like to add vegetables to my lentil dishes to make them healthier- normally I add baby spinach. I was at the Indian grocery store and saw broccoli rabe there- most Indians cook broccoli rabe (because of it’s bitter and earthy flavor) with mustard greens and make a dish called ‘sarson ka saag’- sarson is mustard greens and saag is when any greens like spinach or mustard greens are blended to a smooth cream spinach like consistency. Sarson ka saag is eaten with roti made out of corn meal – it’s delicious! It’s mainly eaten in North India, in Punjab- that is where my parents come from and so my Mom makes the tastiest version of this dish- hands down! I digress- I decided to use broccoli rabe in my lentils instead of spinach since broccoli rabe is one of my favorite greens. Well, the dal (lentils) was delicious- my daughter ate it up not even realizing what was in it.
Another way to dress up ‘dal and chawal’ is by making the rice in different ways. I remember eating dal (lentils) with plain white rice- it does taste really good with just plain rice- but of course I had to do something different! I decided to cook the rice with mustard seeds and curry leaves- two of my favorite spices used in South Indian cooking.
Yogurt is usually served with all Indian meals- and this one was no different. Again, the yogurt can be dressed up in a variety of ways. I decided to chop some cucumbers and tomatoes and add it to the yogurt with some salt, cumin powder and dried mint. It makes a delicious raita.
Overall, the meal took me back years when I was a little girl and would eat ‘dal chawal’- but would not really enjoy it too much- thinking to myself- this is all I got?? Now, I crave it! It’s funny how things change as you get older and old flavors and memories hold a very special place in your heart. My daughter liked my dressed up ‘dal chawal’! My husband ate it like he hadn’t eaten the dish in years!
My daughter loves going to Thai restaurants. Her favorite thing to eat are the gyozas and chicken satay. She can really pack away a number of skewers- if I let her. What she doesn’t like is the peanut sauce- very strange! For me it’s the peanut sauce that is the interesting part- like the rest of Thai cuisine- it really assaults your palette. Sweet, salty, sour and spice happening at the same time. I think that is why I love the cuisine so much. I love anything that has the peanut sauce. I usually make a whole lot and keep in my fridge. It is very versatile- it is a great dipping sauce; it goes really well in cold noodles with shrimp and vegetables; it makes a delicious salad dressing- the sky is the limit! One of my favorite things to eat in the summer months is grilled vegetables. I like to grill all sorts of different veggies and serve them with different marinades. This particular one is my favorite way to eat them. The creamy peanut sauce goes really well with the smoky grilled vegetables. In this case I used red peppers, zucchini and a japanese eggplant. I loved the combination of all the veggies- the peppers bring a subtle sweetness; the zucchini is creamy and the eggplant is like a sponge- absorbing all the peanut goodness! I made this with the shrimp fried rice but the dish goes really well with burgers, hot dogs and steaks.
If your kids like peanut sauce, this dish is a great way to give them vegetables- especially if they are grilled- I feel grilling and roasting brings out the natural sweetness of everything. In our case, I gave Sia the vegetables without the peanut sauce- I think she is a bit strange- but then I can’t really complain, she is a very good eater and loves food!
This is now my favorite fish- all time favorite!! My husband has been obsessed with it for many years- actually since he ate it at Blue Ginger- Ming Tsai’s restaurant in Boston. I recently found it at our local fish store. I was so excited to bring it home and cook with it. Wasn’t sure what I was going to do, so, I decided to look at the Ming Tsai’s recipe. Since it was quite complicated, I used it as my inspiration. I bought white miso paste- which I have discovered, is a great ingredient to use. It gives the dish a very mild and complex flavor. I marinated it in miso, mirin, ginger and sugar. Kept it in the fridge over night and then broiled it. It melts in your mouth- the most delicious, buttery flavored fish you will every have- guaranteed!
When we were at Blue Ginger recently, I ate their other signature dish- Lobster fried rice. It was very flavorful and delicious. The flavor that stuck in my mind was the butter in the jasmine rice- it came through really well, especially with the lobster. I wanted to replicate that for the bok choy fried rice I was going to make. I decided to saute the rice with a combination of oil and butter and then cook it in chicken broth. Once the rice was cooled off, I took the left over fish marinade and used it as the base flavor. I added the bok choy with salt and pepper. It is a very simple dish- but extremely flavorful. The fish marinade gives it a great earthy flavor. The buttery rice goes really well with the chopped bok choy. If you have never cooked with this vegetable- you must! It’s delicious- it reminds me of eating cabbage and broccoli rabe. The crunch is great and the flavor is mild and goes great in Asian dishes.
My husband was thrilled to eat this meal- reminded him of the Blue Ginger experience! Now, it is an expensive fish to buy but it is a lot cheaper than what you would pay at a restaurant. With the money you save, you can buy a great bottle of wine and make it a fantastic meal!
So, I love this rice dish- it’s a nice fusion between Chinese and South Indian cuisines. I was at a market and saw local Long Island pink shrimp on sale. I decided to be kind to the fish monger and only asked for half a pound- it was cruel of me to have him clean and devein those tiny little shrimp! Anyway, what was I going to do with just half a pound of tiny shrimp especially since everyone in my family loves them. I had recently seen a fried rice recipe on television and thought that would be a great way to use a small amount of shrimp! I am not sure what inspired me to combine the two cuisines- I love eating both fried rice and lemon rice. I enjoy the mustard seeds and the coconut in the lemon rice and I love a well made fried rice – and shrimp is quite prevalent in both the cuisines- so I thought why not combine all the flavors. Also, typically the take out fried rice is full of fat and sodium- same with the lemon rice in restaurants. Making it at home is a great way to control what goes in your family’s mouth.
I sauteed cumin, fennel, mustard seeds with garlic, I then sauteed finely chopped shrimp and curry leaves. I have to say, curry leaves are one of my favorite herbs to use- they have a very unique earthy flavor. I love using them with chicken, pork, fish and mutton! The lemon rice I usually make has shredded coconut, although I sometimes cook the white rice in coconut milk and eliminate the coconut on top. In this case, I decided to use the shredded coconut- I usually have it in my freezer so it’s always handy. The lemon juice and fresh cilantro finished the rice dish off really well. I paired the rice dish with some grilled vegetables smothered in a peanut sauce- will post the recipe on Monday!
I think this was a great way to stretch the buck and feed the whole family a delicious meal. My daughter loved the rice, especially the shrimp in it. I gave her the vegetables but without the peanut sauce. She had so many friends in pre-school who were allergic to peanuts, that she thinks she shouldn’t be eating them either. My husband and I enjoyed our dinner with a nice Riesling- it was a delightful evening!
This red bean salad was the third dish we made for the cooking class. The recipe came about in my attempt to keep up with the number of mangoes ripening in my kitchen. I wanted to eat a refreshing salad that included mangoes. I decided to pair it with red beans- first because it’s good to have protein in the salad and second because I like the red color against the mangoes. I had a few vidalia spring onions (they look like regular spring onions but are much bigger) but regular spring onions will work as well. They gave the salad a soft onion flavor. I also added an orange pepper- for it’s crunch and lovely color- we used a yellow one for the cooking class- all the different colors look gorgeous together. Cilantro added the much needed bright green color. The feta was a last minute addition- not sure what prompted me but I have to say, it was a brilliant one! The creamy and salty flavor goes very well with the sweet mangoes and peppers. I decided to make the dressing with the mango pineapple juice I had in the fridge- now I am not a big juice person- but this juice is absolutely delicious! I buy it once in a while from Whole Foods since it is quite expensive. During the cooking class I juiced a large fresh navel orange and it was just fine. Lime juice and honey added the much needed sweet and sour taste and balanced the flavors out. I added one of my favorite ingredients to the dressing- chipotle peppers in adobo sauce. It adds great smoky and spicy flavor to any dish- I use it in marinades and sauces all the time- it’s delicious.
For the class I paired this salad with the malai chicken and the vegetable korma– but when I was testing the recipe, I paired it with some fish. There is nothing simple, quick and healthier to eat than a nice fillet of fresh fish! I decided to pan saute the fillets of cod and serve simply with- salt, lime juice and a little burst of a smoky flavor- ancho chili powder– I used this particular spice since it echoed the flavor of the adobo in chipotle but was not as spicy. Overall a very healthy meal- my daughter devoured the fish- I didn’t add the ancho powder for her. I gave her some roasted corn on the side- as she does not like anything too tangy- so the salad didn’t appeal to her at all- but she couldn’t get enough of the fish!!!
- 1 pound or 3-4 fillets of Cod
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons ancho chili powder
- Juice of one lime
Drizzle the olive oil on the fish and then sprinkle with salt, ancho chili powder and limejuice. Heat a non-stick frying pan and cook the fish on high heat. Turn the fish after 3 minutes or till the side is golden brown. Cook the other side for another 3-4 minutes depending on how thick the fillets are.
Red Bean and Mango Salad
- 20 ounces can of red beans
- 2 spring Vidalia onions, chopped including the green part
- 1 orange or red peppers, chopped
- 2 mangoes peeled and chopped
- ½ cup cilantro, chopped
- 1/3 cup feta cheese, crumbled
- Juice of 2 limes
- ¼ cup mango pineapple juice (pineapple or orange juice can be used)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 teaspoons honey
- 1 teaspoon ground roasted cumin
- 1 teaspoon chipotle in adobo sauce (use more if you like spicy)
- Salt to taste
Add the limejuice, mango pineapple juice, honey, roasted cumin, adobo sauce and salt to a small bowl. Whisk the olive oil until the vinaigrette is emulsified. Keep aside.
In a large bowl, add the red beans, Vidalia onions, red peppers, mangoes, cilantro and feta. Add the vinaigrette and check for seasonings.