The Savory in Bittersweet

One of the great joys of being a chef is that I love to share tips on food and cooking. It is those tips and finishing touches that make a good dish into a great one. Growing up in India we always cooked with fresh ingredients. Once I moved here, no matter what I cooked never really tasted the same. Till I understood that I had to make the choice of using better ingredients. Now I love to shop at farmers markets and get bags of fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs.

Taco With Refried Beans & Tomato Chat

Ingredients for re-fried beans:
6 oz black beans
5 cups of water
Salt to taste
1/4 cup oil
1 small onion cut into thick rings
4 green chilies slit into quarters

To Prepare
Wash the beans under running cold water, strain and add to a pot with measured water and salt. Bring the water to a boil and lower the heat to medium, cook the beans till done about 1½ hours. Add water as needed.

In a medium sized pan heat oil. Add the onion rings and cook them till they turn dark brown in color. Remove the browned onions on paper towel and reserve for using later.

Add green chilies to the hot oil. Let splutter for few seconds. Add beans with a third cup of cooking liquid Mash the beans in the pan using a potato masher, cook them till all of the water is absorbed and the beans bind together. Serve hot or warm.

Ingredients for tomato chat:
2 medium sized ripe-vine tomatoes, quarter inch diced
1 small green chilies, fine chopped
1 small bunch of cilantro, fine chopped
20 leaves of mint, finely sliced
A pinch of crushed black peppercorn
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
A pinch of ajwain, lightly crushed
Salt to taste

To Prepare
Put all the ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Salt the mixture to taste. Reserve for use later.

Ingredients assemble the taco (ingredients):
4 medium sized tortillas
Refried beans
Fried onion
Tomato chaat
4 tablespoon plain yogurt

To Prepare
Smear few drops of oil onto a hot skillet. Place the tortilla and warm through.

Spread the refried beans equally between the four tortillas and sprinkle the top with the crunchy fried onion. Now equally distribute the tomato chat and yogurt above the beans on all tortillas.

Roll the tortillas and serve immediately.

 Falooda Noodles



The Falooda Noodles could be made one day in advance.

1 quart water
1/4 cup honey
4 cloves of garlic
Pinch of Saffron
1 teaspoon basil seeds
Half a packet of Falooda Noodles, break them away gently,
avoid cutting their length (available at Indian stores, one packet
has 1.75oz)

To Prepare
In a pan combine 1 quart of water with the honey and saffron, bring this to a boil. Add the falooda noodles and cook for 10-15 minutes, or until al dente. Put the colander on a bowl and strain out the water, keep the water aside for later use. Meanwhile run the boiled falooda noodles under cold running water. In the hot sweet water add the basil seeds and cool. Once the water with basil seeds is cold add the strained noodles into it and mix gently. Put in air tight container and chill for at least 4 hours.

One Pot Chicken and Tomato Stew

5-6 pieces of chicken legs with skin & bone
2 tablespoons of canola/ vegetable oil
4 cloves of garlic
Salt to taste
1 small onion roughly chopped
5 medium sized vine ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped
7 small whole green chilies
A small bunch of cilantro, fine chopped, about ¼ cup

To Prepare
Clean the chicken, leave the skin on and make 3 slant cuts on the leg. Wash under water and keep aside.

Heat oil in a medium sized pot; make sure the pan has an air tight lid. Add whole garlic cloves and sauté for about a minute. Add the chicken legs. Stir and cook the chicken for 2 minutes, add salt to taste and cover the pot. The chicken juices will run. Stir occasionally and cook till all the water in the pan evaporates.

Add the onion, tomatoes and whole green chilies, stir the mixture well, and add a little more salt for the tomato. Cook till the meat falls off the bone. Remove from heat, add cilantro and serve hot with rice and fresh bread.

Punjabi Quick Kadhi

1/2 teaspoon fenugreek
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
1 large white onion finely chopped
2 tablespoon ginger garlic paste
7-8 small green chile, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
1/2 teaspoon red chile powder
1 large potato, peeled, cut into quarter and sliced into 1/4 cm thick
2 cups of water
Salt to taste
4 cups plain yogurt
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 teaspoon crushed black peppercorn (optional)
1 teaspoon garam masala

To Prepare
In a medium sized pan heat the oil, add fenugreek and cumin seeds, roast till golden brown. Add the white onion and sauté till the onion sweat a little and start wilting, quickly add the ginger garlic paste. Cook till the mixture turns golden brown in color; keep stirring the mixture to avoid burning.

Now add the green chiles and cook for an additional minute before you add the turmeric powder and red chile powder. Stir for a few seconds and add the potatoes, one cup of water and salt to taste in the pan. Cover the pan and cook till the potatoes are done.

Add the yogurt and remaining one cup of water. Salt to taste and bring the Kadhi to a quick boil, remove from flame and pour into a serving bowl. Add cilantro, crushed black peppercorn if you want it spicier and garam masala. Serve it at room temperature with hot rice.

Coconut Lemongrass Milk

Milk Mixture Ingredients
1 cup of milk
1/4 cup and 2 tablespoons of sugar
2 stalks lemongrass, chopped fine

Lemongrass Mixture Ingredients

1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup sugar
1 stalks lemongrass, chopped fine
1 cup coconut milk

To Prepare
Bring milk, sugar and lemongrass stalks to a rolling boil. Cool and strain the milk mixture into a bowl. Set aside.
In a saucepan bring the lemon juice, sugar and lemongrass stalks to a boil. Cool and strain, set aside.
In a mixing bowl, blend the milk mixture, lemongrass mixture and the coconut milk using a hand blender. Cover and chill in refrigerator for 3 hours.

Coconut Tuiles
Makes about 12 cookies.
This dough needs to chill for a minimum of 4 hours or up to a day ahead.

4 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon unsalted butter
1 egg whites
1/4 cup desiccated coconut
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

Plating Instructions
Makes 8 portions
10-ounce glass
Falooda Noodles
Strawberry Sorbet (homemade or store bought)
Coconut Tuile
Mango Sorbet (homemade or store bought)
Lemongrass Milk

To Prepare
Using a rubber spatula gently rub the sugar and butter, until just barely combined. The mixture should resemble cornmeal.
Continue mixing as you add the egg whites slowly until well blended. Add the coconut and flour, and mix until the dough is smooth. Place in an airtight container and freeze for at least 2 hours.
Preheat the oven to 350˚ F.
Remove the dough from the freezer. Make a stencil the same size as the diameter of the glass you will use to serve the Falooda. Line a cookie sheet with silpat and place your stenciled plastic over the silpat. Spread the dough using an offset spatula over the circled opening and spread the dough to cover the opening to be the same size as the width of the stencil (the tuiles must be very thin). Bake the tuiles for 5 minutes, rotating the cookie sheet a couple of times to ensure even browning. Remove from oven and allow to cool. Store in airtight container.

To Prepare
Strain out the water from the falooda noodles and distribute it in 8 glasses about 2 big tablespoon. Add a scoop of Strawberry Sorbet. On top of the sorbet, place a Coconut Tuile and top with a scoop of Mango Sorbet. Pour ¼ cup of Coconut Lemongrass Milk in each of the glasses. If there is some left you can top the glasses a little bit, serve immediately.

Anil’s Lemon Cake
Having a good repertoire of cakes for all occasions has always been important to me. I am often asked why do the cakes made at home taste different from store bought. Sometimes people take short cuts and it leads to a different texture and flavor to the cake. If a recipe calls for an ingredient to be at room temperature try and stick to what the recipe is asking for.

This is my good friend and colleague Anil’s recipe. I love it for its perfect lemony freshness as well as its crumbly yet firm texture. A perfect treat with tea I like to serve it with strawberry lemon-curd and a lemon-coconut sorbet.

Makes about 12 cookies.
This dough needs to chill for a minimum of 4 hours or up to a day ahead. Ingredients

For coating
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoon flour

For cake
1 and 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
4oz butter at room temperature
1 cup sugar
Lemon zest of 2 lemons
2 eggs at room temperature
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

To Prepare
Set the oven rack to the middle position and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Take one, 6-inch round cake pan and coat the side and the bottom with 1 tablespoon of melted butter. Sprinkle about 2 tablespoons of flour liberally all over the pan, making sure to cover all sides, throw away any excess.

Sieve the mixture of flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt three times in a medium bowl and set aside.

Using a mixer beat the butter, sugar and lemon zest on high speed till soft and creamy white in color, about 5 minutes. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides using a rubber spatula.

Add the eggs, one at a time. Be sure that the egg is completely incorporated and scrape the sides of the bowl before adding the next. Add half of the flour mixture and mix at low speed till just incorporated; add half of the lemon juice and mix till just incorporated. Add the rest of the flour and lemon juice and mix well. The important thing to remember in this step is the mixing of flour if you over mix your batter the cake will be dense.

Take the bowl off from the mixer and add the sour cream into the batter. Fold it in using a rubber spatula.

Pour batter into prepared pan and place cake in the center of the oven. Bake for 30 minutes and rotate the pan a 180 degrees. Bake for additional 15-20 minutes, till a toothpick inserted in the center of the pan comes out clean. Cool the cake for about 20 minutes and then turn it out on a plate. Serve the cake warm or at room temperature. It will keep well for a week in the refrigerator and for two days outside, covered with plastic wrap.

** P.S: For those of you who don’t know what lemon zest is, it is the skin of lemons. Use a small serrated holed grater, and grate the outer skin of the lemon. Grate gently to ensure that only the yellow is grated not the white underneath. Tap the grater well in the pan to remove all the peel. Once you remove the zest squeeze the lemons for juice.

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