Thursday, March 28, 2013

Quesadilla with Roasted Red Pepper spread, Spinach and Feta

Quesadilla is one of my favorite go to meals over the weekday especially with the large variety of tasty tortillas that are available now in grocery stores. It is quick, simple, flavorful and offers endless options for fillings. Also, quesadilla doesnt really have to be loaded with cheese the way most restaurants do (definitely amazing but artery-clogging) !! I prefer mine a bit less fatty and loaded with yummy beans and veggies. You control all that goes into the quesadilla and can add little to NO cheese! We like our quesadillas light on cheese and pretty toasty. Quesadilla for main course warrants it be a complete meal with proteins, carbs and fat and hence I like to layer it with a spread made of bean or nuts, some vegetable either sauteed, roasted or fresh and finish it with some cheese. If I really feel like splurging I might just finish it with a side of salsa and a dollop of sour cream or Greek Yogurt :-)

  1. Spreads like hummus, roasted red pepper or any leftover bean dip work well. Infact I have had tasty quesadillas with simple chutneys like cilantro or mint. 
  2. You can bump up the protein by adding a few tbsp of cooked beans tossed in a little bit of oil and salt in the filling.
  3. If you would like to increase the veggies, raw (cucmber, olives, bell pepper etc) or roasted vegetables (zucchini, bell pepper, egg plants etc) can be added.
  4. I dont like the cheese to get very gooey and we find feta pleases our palate the best. Use any of your favorite cheeses instead of or in addition to the feta.

Cilantro-red pepper spread
1/2 cup toasted Almonds
1 roasted red pepper, chopped(store bought works just fine)
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1 Jalapeno pepper (adjust as per taste)
1 tsp lemon juice
Salt, to taste

6 large tortilla (corn, wheat or others)
1 cup sauteed spinach or fresh baby spinach (see notes)
1/2 cup Feta or as needed
Oil to brush the tortilla
Sour Cream/Greek yogurt, Salsa (optional)

  1. Pulse the toasted almonds in a food processor just until it is coarse. Add cilantro, jalapeno, roasted red peppers, salt and lemon juice. Run the processor for a few minutes just until you get a coarse paste. Add a few tbsp of water or a few drops of oil if the spread is too thick.
  2. Heat a griddle on medium low heat. 
  3. Spread one half of the tortilla with the cilantro-red pepper spread. Spread evenly a few tbsp of the spinach mixture. Sprinkle feta cheese. 
  4. Fold the tortilla over the cheese. Brush the outside with oil.
  5. Toast it over the hot griddle for about 3 min on each side. Remove from heat when you get the desired browning on the tortilla.
  6. Slice it into 4 triangles. Serve hot with a dollop of sour cream/greek yogurt and salsa.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Black-eyed Peas Pulao

Winter this year has been what winter should be - cold snowy and white !! Not that I am a huge fan of winter but there is something a little unsettling about those 60F non snowy days like we had last year during the peak winter months. And on cold wintry nights the thought of piping hot food on the table is very comforting and warms us from the inside.

So here is an easy one pot meal for cold winter nights - extremely flavorful that will make you momentarily forget the below zero temperatures outside :-) Just what the doctor ordered !!

  • I have used black-eyed peas but any kind of beans (pinto, kidney beans, garbanzo beans etc) works great. 
  • Cilantro/green chillies combination is the major flavor that gives the kick to this dish, so feel free to adjust the quantity as per your taste. Mint can be substituted for cilantro or a mint/cilantro combination will work great. 
  • Serve this with a cooling cucumber raita (cucumber yogurt dip, recipe included) to balance the spices.
2 cups basmati rice (soak in 3 cups of salted water for 30 min)
1/2 cup Black-eyed peas (cooked al dente or canned will work fine as well)
1/2 cup mixed vegetables, diced (carrots, green beans, broccoli, cauliflower florets)
1 small onion (red or cooking onions), finely chopped
1/2 tsp cumin seeds (Jeera)
6 nos. whole cloves
3-4 Cardamom pods
1 Bay leaf
1/2 cup thick coconut milk
11/2 cup water
Salt to taste
2 tbsp oil

Grind to Paste
1/4 cup cilantro
2-3 serrano chillies (adjust to taste)
1 clove garlic, peeled
1/2 inch ginger, peeled

  1. Heat oil in a saute pan on medium heat, add cumin. cloves, cardamom and bay leaf. Let it splutter. 
  2. Now add the onion and saute until the onions are turn light brown. 
  3. Add the cilantro/chilli/garlic paste. Saute for a few minutes until the raw smell disappears. 
  4. Add the mixed vegetables, stir and allow it to cook for a 2-3 minutes. 
  5. Drain the rice and add it to the above mixture. Now add the black-eyed peas. Stir until well mixed. Add salt to taste.
Stove-top method -
  1. If you plan to continue cooking on the stove top, pour the water and coconut milk to the above mixture. 
  2. Bring it to a rolling boil, reduce heat to low. And cover the pan tightly. 
  3. Let it cook for 15 - 18 minutes until all the liquid is absorbed. Check once around 12 minutes to see if the rice is done and if necessary can add another 1/4 cup water.
  4. Turn the heat off. And let it rest for 5-10 minutes before opening the lid.
Microwave method -
  1. After step 5, transfer the contents in to a microwave safe bowl. 
  2. Pour the liquids (water and coconut milk) to the above mixture. Stir once and cook it in the microwave for 15 - 18 minutes.
  3. Check once around 12 minutes to see if the rice is done and if necessary can add another 1/4 cup water. 
Fluff with a fork and serve hot with cucumber raita.

Cucumber Raita - Mix 1/2 cup greek or regular yogurt with 1 shredded cucumber, 1 finely chopped green chillies. Add 2 tsp of finely powdered roasted peanuts (optional). Season with salt.

Enjoy !!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Muhammara - Roasted Pepper and Walnut Dip

NOLA - truly a place for R&R. We had a great time eating, walking around the town ogling at beautiful mansions and strolling along the Mississippi riverfront. We skipped the usual things that 1st time visitors do (read getting drunk at Bourbon street :-)) and instead did lots of walking around the town so we were truly primed well to enjoy the food scene. We had great dining experiences despite our initial reservations about finding vegetarian food in a city where shrimp and sausage rule. Though we missed eating vegan jambalaya and gumbo (yes, you read that right!), we managed to indulge in different ethnic cuisines ranging from Greek to Ethiopian to Middle-eastern - not to forget the amazing French macaroons from Sucre'.  My first meal there was a plate of roasted vegetables with muhammara. It was simply out of this world - vegetables roasted to perfection, fruits at room temperature (NO cold fruits for me!!) and I also discovered another oft heard but never tried vegetable - Heart of Palms. That was a revelation as well but that story is for another day. Overall this trip turned out much better than we had expected and we already have a list to things to do if/when we get a chance to go back to NOLA, enjoy some of the local flavors that we missed - Cajun/Creole cooking, Blues/Jazz. Hoping we get to do that some day.

Here's the recipe for Muhammara, easy to make and all it requires is a few whirls in the processor.

  • Pomegranate molasses makes this dip very authentic but I am yet to find one for my kitchen. I used honey and though it may not be authentic it tasted just as if not better.
  • I used roasted red peppers from the store but you can roast your own in a 450F oven for 20 min or until the skin turns black.
  • Serving suggestions for this dip are endless - it is great as a sandwich spread, with pita chips, fresh pitas, roasted or raw vegetables. Or best yet its amazing with hot basmati rice !! Almost like eating South Indian "thogayal" :-)
4-5 Roasted red or yellow peppers, cut into bite sized chunks
1/3 cup toasted walnuts, roughly chopped
1/3 cup plain bread crumbs
2-3 garlic cloves
1 tbsp pomegranate molasses (or honey)
1 tsp cumin powder
1/2 tsp red chilli flakes (adjust to taste)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil (more if needed)
Salt to taste
2 tbsp lemon juice

  1. In a food processor pulse the walnuts to a coarse powder. 
  2. Now add rest of the ingredients and pulse just until all the ingredients are well combined. Take care not to pulse it into a fine paste.
  3. Taste and adjust seasoning (salt and lemon juice). 
  4. Serve with pita chips, roasted or raw vegetables.

Enjoy !!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Blueberry Buttermilk Cake

I absolutely love this recipe for everyday cakes. I love the fact that I can use up any berries left over from not eating them fresh which happens almost always. And I must confess - I love my berries real sweet. So more often than not the berries are a bit sour for my taste and I end up making this cake for a weekend breakfast/snack. Since I seem to be making this way too often I decided to make it a bit more healthy and substantial; just so a piece of this cake, a cup of coffee and an egg scrambled makes for a scrumptious weekend breakfast.

Any type of berries will work and I have tried blueberries and raspberries and they both turn out yummy.  I doubled the recipe and have used a 50-50 mix of all-purpose and whole wheat flour. If using whole wheat pastry flour then you can use that for the entire 2 cups that is called for in this recipe. The one thing with using whole grain flour is that the texture tends to be dense and the cake turns out just a wee bit dry than when using all purpose flour. So to overcome that I make an orange (or any other flavored syrup) to glaze/soak the cake in. This results in a very fruity flavored moist cake which surely is a keeper.

1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 stick butter, softened
11/3 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp grated orange zest
2 large eggs
1 cup buttermilk
2 cups fresh blueberry

Orange syrup
1/4 - 1/3 cup fresh orange juice (about 4 clementines)
1 tsp grand marnier
3 tbsp sugar (or more, adjust to taste)

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 350F. Butter a 9-inch cake pan and dust with flour.
  2. In a bowl mix all the two flours, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl cream butter and sugar with an electric mixer till it turns pale yellow and airy, about 3-4 min.
  4. Add vanilla extract, the orange zest and eggs. Beat until well mixed.
  5. Add the flour mixture in three batches and buttermilk alternately to the wet ingredients starting and finishing with the flour. Mix just until the flour is well incorporated.
  6. Pour into the prepared 9-inch cake pan and evenly spread the batter. 
  7. Scatter the blueberries evenly over the top. Bake for 40-45 min or until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean.
  8. Let it cool and then invert it on to a plate.  When the cake is cooling prepare the glaze/syrup. 
  9. In a small pan mix all the orange juice and sugar. Heat it over a medium flame for 3-5 min until the sugar dissolves. Add grand marnier, let it boil on low for a minute or two more. Remove from heat.
Assembly - Poke a few holes on the cake with a toothpick or a fork. Spoon the glaze/syrup over the cake. Its ok even if it forms a puddle on the top. With time the syrup will seep into the cake. Let it rest for a few hours before serving.

Enjoy !!