Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Creamy Polenta with Shiitake Mushrooms & Truffle Oil

This polenta dish is my new go-to weeknight favorite. It is an ultimate comfort meal but also looks and tastes quite sophisticated to deserve a place at a sit-down dinner! 

Polenta serves as a departure from the usual noodles and pastas that attend the weeknight last minute meals. Sometimes varierty is all your need to keep weeknight dinner rotations interesting!

The Creamy Polenta:
I use Bob's Red Mill's polenta corn grits. The regular corn meal might work as well, but this one is specially made for polenta and it cooks up really quickly. I use the ratio 1:5 for a ceamy polenta - ie, add 1C corn grits to 5C of hot water gradually stirring constantly. Then drizzle in some olive oil, add salt to taste and let it cook away partially covered for about 20-25 minutes stirring every few mins. 

I use a large pot to cook polenta because it sputters a lot and can sting your hands while stirring, so be careful!

Mushroom and Tomato Sauce:
While the polenta is cooking, I start the sauce. While any mushrooms will work, I must say I am absolutely in love with the fresh shiitake mushrooms our farmer's market carries, particularly in the rainy season, they are just a delight to cook with and devour! I highly recommend you to try buying freshly picked Shiitake if you can, but if not any regular supermarket mushrooms will do.

Heat olive oil in a pan, add 2 cloves of crushed garlic, pinch of chilli flakes and saute for a minute or two until oil is fragrant with garlic and chillis. Then add handful of chopped mushrooms, season with salt & pepper and cook for a few minutes until the mushrooms have released all their juices. Then add 2 large tomatoes chopped, season with fresh or dried basil and cook for 5 more minutes until tomatoes have softened. If tomatoes aren't very juicy, please feel free to add 1/4C water along-with tomatoes to create "sauce". 

Finishing Touches:
To serve: add creamy polenta to a small pan or bowl. Then laddle some sauce and drizzle with a good quality truffle oil (or just regular olive oil if no truffle oil at hand) and finish with some finely chopped basil. 

Eat while warm and enjoy!  

Monday, December 24, 2018

Happy Holidays - Holiday Baking!

It is that time of the year again - when homes everywhere are adorning beautiful Christmas trees dazzling with twinkling lights, cherishing family memories over the years as pretty ornaments. Love and laughter of friends and family is everywhere. And the tiny kitchens and ovens become stars of the homes churning out wonderful dishes and wafting beautiful baking aromas that are so reminiscent of the holidays!

When my daughter turned two, we started an annual Christmas Eve cookie baking tradition - we don't have many traditions in our house, but we have that one and we have been on it year after year. As a toddler, all she could do was lick the dough and be the eager taster - but now, she helps select recipes, makes dough and takes charge of decorating half the batch. 

Life gets soo busy and stressful year around that I have really come to cherish these small pleasures and tiny moments of baking together on Christmas Eve!

We rarely bake cookies otherwise in the whole year, so it's something we both eager look forward to just as December rolls in.

This year we made 3 cookies:
  1. Simple sugar cookies which we decorated with icing. 
  2. Gingerbread cookies
  3. For grown-ups of the house, a fresh batch of almond biscotti to dip into afternoon tea or coffee.
Of the three biscotti's were my favorite. I skipped almond liquor but instead added almond extract. It came out wonderful. At baking times of 35-10-15 mins, the biscotti were not super hard - a pleasure to dunk in but also could it on it's own too. I'll definitely be making these again and again!

I made only one change to the gingerbread cookies recipe. I really avoid to buy large portion of an ingredient, when only a little bit is used in a year - so in the spirit of limiting waste, I substituted molasses with dark honey we bought from farmer's market the day before. It turned out just fine.

This year we also experimented a lot with icing decorations - specially using unique patterns by mixing colors using toothpicks. A cookie then becomes only but an empty canvas to express yourself with colors - as my daughter called it, it's just like painting!

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all my friends and readers! 

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Black Bean and Sweet Corn Enchilada

We love Mexican food at our place. Enchilada in particular is a crowd favorite - served hot, bubbling with freshly baked melting cheese, it's quite a treat! And much less messier to eat for the little ones compared to tacos or burritos.

The only hindrance to making Mexican feasts often is time, or the lack of it. It takes a while to put together Spanish rice, black beans, guacamole, salsas and for enchilada, the enchilada sauces and baking is additional time on top of it. It just doesn't fit my dinner time budget - which on most days is no more than 20-30 minutes. 

But that's where this new line of Mexican sauces and condiments I found from chef Rick Bayless comes in so handy! We have tried their red chili enchilada sauce, green chili enchilada sauce and roasted tomatillo and poblano sauce - and all were great! None of that pre-cooked and packaged taste but instead brimming with fresh flavors and no-one could tell sauces were not home made. I bought ours from Whole Foods but I believe many other grocery chains like Target carries the brand.

I use the roasted tomatillo and poblano sauce to make green salsa or spoon over as a cooking sauce. To make green salsa from this sauce just add some freshly chopped onion, coriander and season with salt & lemon juice per taste. I also find heating the sauce once and then letting it cool brings more umpf in the sauce.

The red chili enchilada sauce is a personal favorite - it's perfectly mild making it good for kids but at the same time rich in flavors. I have tried many enchilada sauces but with this one, I don't miss making sauce at home. It's just as good or may be better.

So this was our dinner on a lazy Saturday when we skipped doing groceries and fridge was looking bare.

Photos are not great, but that's only because we couldn't wait to dig in!
Spanish rice: 1.5C rice, 1Tbsp olive oil, 2 cloves of garlic minced, 2 small tomatoes chopped, 1tsp tomato paste, 1/4tsp oregano dried, salt & pepper, 2.5C water. Recipe here.

Enchilada filling: 1 small can black beans - rinsed, kernels of one white corn, handful of edamame, 2Tbsp of roasted tomatillo and poblano sauce, Mexican shredded cheese per taste (we put just a little bit), salt & some salsa seasoning (optional). Mix together, using the back of your spatula crush some black beans so the filling holds together better. And set aside. 

Green salsa: roasted tomatillo and poblano sauce, finely chopped onion, coriander, salt & lemon juice (per taste).

Guacamole: 3 small avocados, finely chopped 2Tbsp green onion, chopped coriander, salt, lemon juice. Recipe here.

Assembly: pre-heat oven to 375F. Brush an oven-safe large casserole dish with oil. Warm up 8 corn tortillas in microwave or on a skillet. Fill 1Tbsp filling in each tortilla in the middle, roll, add it to the casserole pan. Keep adding until the tortillas are snuggled to each other. Then drizzle red enchilada sauce over the tortillas. Sneak in any remaining filling. Add some shredded Mexican cheese on top. Bake for 15 minutes on a middle rack until cheese is bubbly and sides of enchilada look cooked well.

Remove and serve with Spanish rice, guacamole and green salsa. Enjoy! 

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Steamed Vegetarian Dumplings

For a long time I was not enthusiastic to eat at a dumpling place. I love dumplings but having strong vegetarian preferences, I rarely found entrees I could enjoy - vegetarian menu options always seemed like an after-thought at dumpling places I visited. But that changed the first time I ate at Din Tai Fung - it's the best dumpling place I have come across and hands-down awesome for vegetarians dumpling fans!

So it was only a natural next-step that I ventured on a quest to make the Din Tai Fung style vegetarian dumpling at home :) I don't think I have gotten 100% there yet, but close enough and it's a version we devour at home so that's good enough for me!

These are steamed dumplings - not pan fried. I prefer the steamed version but you could pan fry and then steam by adding a cup of water to hot pan and put the lid on.

(photo isn't great - we could hardly wait to dig in!)
Making dumplings can bring the whole family together. Rolling the dough disks, filling them and then locking them into a dumpling is a process ripe for parallelism and more than one pair of hands. To little ones, it's also a time to unleash her creativity and make different shaped dumplings! 

And to be sure it is a slow process, takes time, but the results are very rewarding; and if you have good enjoyable company, what's not there to love making dumplings as family bonding cooking activity!

You can make your own dough and wrappers; but to save time you can also buy pre-made gyoza or wonton wrappers from your local supermarket Asian refrigerated section, which is what I do. They are quite cheap - $3 for 52 wrappers or so.

This is how I made the dumpling filling:
Serves very hungry 3, or moderately hungry 4 (made about 32 dumplings)
Ingredients:
  • 1 block of extra firm tofu (extra firm is important)
  • 1C finely chopped mushrooms (shitake would be great, but I used regular brown mushrooms and they work well too)
  • 2 carrots - grated
  • 1 bok choy (finely chopped)
  • 1Tbsp freshly grated ginger
  • 1-2 spring or green onions (finely chopped)
  • 1C finely shredded cabbage
  • few mint leaves - chopped (optional)
  • handful of thin rice noodles
  • 1Tbsp soy sauce
  • salt to taste (go low as soy sauce has salt)
  • 2Tbsp vegetable oil
Vegetables - prepped

Recipe:

  • Prep all the ingredients before starting.
  • Try to drain as much water from tofu as you can - pressing it between two paper towels. Then break into small pieces.
  • Heat oil in a wok or large bottom pan.
  • When hot, add ginger and saute a minute until oil is fragrant.
  • Then add tofu and mushroom. Add a little salt to release mushroom juices. Saute until mixture looks dry.
  • Then add rest of the veggies, mint and saute until mixture looks dry.
  • Add say sauce, mix, taste - season more salt if needed.
  • Remove from heat. Spread the mixture in a large plate and let it cool completely.
  • Meanwhile soak rice noodles in hot water in a covered pan to cook the noodles for 10 minutes. Remove, check for done-ness. Chop into small bites and add to the filling mixture. Mix well.
Dumpling vegetarian filling
Assembly is very straight forward once you get the hang of it. Take a dumpling wrapper. Wet the edge of the wrapper using wet fingers dipped in water. Add filling in the middle (I add about 1Tbsp per dumpling). Fold the dumpling and press and pinch the edges together to make a half moon. 

Then make a sliding folding pattern on the edge to lock in the edges using your thumb and index finger (optional for that distinguishing decorated dumpling edges). Set them on a plate with seam side up. Steam in a steamer for 10 minutes. It's great if you have the special bamboo steamers - but regular vegetable steamer works well too.

Serve hot with dipping sauce (= soy sauce + very thinly sliced ginger)

Enjoy!

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Cinnamon Star Bread

Recently New York Times ran an article about procrastibaking - have you heard the term? "Procrastibaking — the practice of baking something completely unnecessary, with the intention of avoiding “real” work — is a surprisingly common habit that has only recently acquired a name." says the Times article. Rings a bell, anyone? :)

As the article goes on it explains that people procrastibake for many reasons, from avoiding the particular bit of work you are dreading, to using baking as a creative time to get your creative juices flowing for work that requires creativity. Whatever may be the reasons, procrastibaking sounds fun and something I could quickly get into - given the condition of working from home regularly.

This cinnamon star bread is not a result of procrastibaking per say. I had long since bookmarked this recipe when I saw it run in King Arthur baking blog. I just got around to trying it out now.
Your first instinct looking at it might be that it's a recipe that will take a really really long time with lots of artsy decorative twists more fit for a pastry artist than a humble home-cook - but let me tell you, it's so easy! Beyond baking basics there is nothing more complicated in it and it is a breathtaking starter bread to put out at your next party and wow your guests with what they might think as the baking Goddess within you!

Or perhaps you can make it next time you are procrastibaking, whatever, when it comes to baking there is no judgement here :)

I followed the recipe pretty much as is. My only subtraction was vanilla extract (ran out of it!) and reducing quantity of cinnamon sugar brushed on the bread. As a tip, before you make filling, leave a little bit of beaten egg aside for top coat - I didn't need the full large egg for cinnamon sugar filling and had to crack open a second egg just for the top coat (top coat is just egg brushing, not cinnamon sugar + egg brushing). Hate to waste perfectly edible things away!
Cinnamon star bread - before baking
It came out just as I was expecting it to be. 


My daughter also helped along by brushing the cinnamon sugar filling over the bread layers and helping me twist the two "petals" together. That's the most fun pat of baking for me - baking with the little one! We share stories - mostly of my childhood which she is always super interested in or about some small tidbits of her school world. It's a time I cherish.

That is exactly as how baking should be - utterly relaxing and enjoyable - happy time spent together kneading dough, rolling with a pin and expectantly looking at the clock wondering when it's time to open the oven or atleast have a peek!   
Cinnamon star bread - after baking
Happy baking (or procrastibaking) this long weekend everyone!

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Sabudana Khichadi

In my mind there are two quint-essential Maharashtrian snacks - kande pohe and sabudana khichadi. Almost everyone I know who grew up in Maharashtra region of India grew up eating them - even those who were not locals (neighbors generally took it upon themselves to feed local delicacies to out of state neighbors - Marathi folks love to connect with each other over food and tea :) )

Unlike the more spicier, richer and well-known North Indian cuisine, Marathi food has a lot milder flavors and simple preparations with locally grown vegetables. The food is lightly influenced by neighboring Gujarat region taking it's cues to add a little sugar to flavor many savory preparations.

Sabudana khichadi to this date reminds me of Tuesdays. Tuesday was the fasting day growing up at our house and Tuesday dinner was predictably the mighty sabudana khichadi - everyone's favorite fasting food. Fasting was religious and was supposed to teach us abstinence, control over what you eat for one day a week. But, this khichadi is so tasty, we never felt like giving up anything or controlling what we eat - instead we kids used to look forward to Tuesday dinners the whole week!
Sago (or Sabudana) is found abundantly in tropical climates. It's an edible starch obtained from a type of palm tree, I believe. These are perfectly round small super white crystals that look like tiny pearls in your hands. The way to cook it is to soak them in water for a few hours and then lightly saute in oil (for savory) or boil with milk (for sweet). Like many ancient foods, these are multi-purpose - you can make khichadi, fry them for sabudana vada or make a sweet kheer. 

Recipe is super simple and being a fasting food, you don't generally add onions, garlic or any other spices other than cumin seeds - but unless you are preparing it for fasting, feel free to add whatever will taste good to you!
Recipe:
Serves 4
Ingredients:
  • 2C sago - dried
  • 1C crushed roasted peanut (or 3/4C roasted peanut powder)
  • 1 large potato
  • 1tsp grated fresh ginger
  • 1tsp cumin seeds
  • 1Tbsp oil or ghee
  • 2 curry leaves
  • 2 green chillis - chopped
  • salt to taste
  • 1/2tsp sugar
  • Garnish: chopped coriander leaves, freshly grated coconut, lime juice (optional)
Recipe:
  • Thoroughly clean and then soak sago/sabudana in 2x the water for a few hours.
  • Drain sago, add peanut powder, salt and sugar. Mix well. Set aside.
  • Boil the potato and then peel and chop it into pieces.
  • In a wok, heat oil or ghee. When hot add cumin seeds, curry leaves, chilli and ginger and saute for a few minutes
  • Reduce heat, add potatoes. Cook another minute.
  • Then add sago mixture, mix well. Cover and cook for a few minutes stirring regularly until sago is translucent meaning it's ready. Please don't overcook otherwise they will get gluey and harden.
  • Remove from heat. Serve immediately. Garnish with chopped coriander leaves, freshly grated coconut, lime juice. We serve it with some yogurt (optional).
Enjoy with a hot steaming cup of tea or coffee!

Monday, May 21, 2018

Tea Time Baking - Making Scones, Rose Cookies and Lemon Curd Sponge Cake

This weekend, like countless others around the world, I swooned over the pictures of the royal wedding across the seas. A lovely ceremony, a smart and beautiful bride's journey from a commoner to royal and just the picture perfectness of this modern day fairy tale - what's not there to love and rejoice! I completely resonated with a Washington Post article this weekend saying did we ever realize how much we really needed this message of love and hope particularly at this time which has the power to bring everyone together - so true.

Image Credit: Barnes & Noble
In spirit of the royal wedding, our local Sur La Table had a special going on their British Baking class making the tea time baked favorites - rose cookies, lemon curd sponge cake and savory scones.

I have always loved traditional English tea time foods and experiences and combined with my baking mania of now, this seemed like a perfect opportunity to spend an afternoon baking tea time favorites with fellow local foodies.

All three recipes were from The Cottage Kitchen cookbook

Rosedrop cookies:
Of the three, rose cookies were our family's favorite. They are light crumbly cookies with a strong English rose flavor. They are the perfect companion for an English cup of tea. They just melt in your mouth and leave you with an enticing lingering rose essence on your palette to cherish. It took us about 10 minutes to finish the 12 small cookies I brought home. 
Rosedrop Cookies
The recipe used potato starch - which I used in baking for the first time - resulted in a dough which was not sticky at all and was a pleasure to handle! I'll definitely be using more potato flour or potato starch in home baking going forward.

Prosecco Scones:
No English teatime would be complete without a savory and flaky scone! We made ours with prosecco - it turned out wonderful. An addition of thyme in the recipe gave it the what is it intrigue. Slice the scone in half, slather with some cottage cream and jam and it's the perfect accompaniment to an afternoon high tea.
Prosecco Scones
Lemon Curd Sponge Cake:
I felt this recipe was a bit too sweet for my taste. I preferred the other two - but there were many swooning over the lemon curd sponge cake. We made two sponge cakes. Made lemon curd and whipped cream to go as filling in between the two cakes. Topped with more lemon curd and sprinkled some powdered sugar and lemon zest on top for good measure! It tasted lovely.
Lemon Curd Sponge Cake
All in all, it was another enjoyable baking class I took spending a lazy afternoon with local foodies, sipping our tea and the hard-earned tea time goodies!

Friday, May 18, 2018

Steamed Kale with Garlic

This recipe is a homage to it's namesake dish we enjoy at a Taiwanese upscale dumpling place called Din Tai Fung (highly recommended, if you are in bay area or Seattle). 

I must say, this kale preparation was a turn-over point for me in my kale experience - I went from got to eat it, it's good for you to oh wow, I love it, I can't wait to make it again! I feel like being forever indebted to Din Tai Fung for introducing me to this lovely side dish and giving me a delicious new perspective on this well known vegetable.

For over a year now this is the only way I prepare kale at home and every single time the pot is wiped clean with not even a single sprig of kale remaining.
The preparation is very simple - you take a bunch of curly kale. Tear up the leaves in smallish pieces discarding the tough stem. Wash the pieces well and then steam them until soft but still have a little bite to it. On my instant pot I use the steam setting and set it to 1min. In my stand-alone steamer, I steam for about 10-12minutes. 

While the kale is steaming, prepare garlic oil. Heat a few Tbsp olive oil on low-medium heat, add a couple of (1-2) finely chopped garlic cloves while the oil is warm but not too hot. We just want to infuse oil with garlic flavors, not brown the garlic - use low-medium heat for a few minutes. 

Once kale is steamed and ready, add it to the pan. Sprinkle a good quality salt (we use pink Himalayan salt for this recipe) and mix thoroughly to ensure garlic oil and salt quotes the kale evenly. Serve while warm!

My favorite way to eat this is a bit unusual. I take a whole bowl full of kale and broil a slice of a nice crusty bread, rub the bread with a bit of raw garlic while it's warm and then use the bread to mop up any of the kale juices that it will release a few minutes after adding salt. So good!

Steaming and sautéing with garlic oil is my in general favorite preparation for vegetables and I have adopted it to more than kale now. It's a wonderful way to enjoy seasonal vegetables!
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This page and all of its contents is copyright of Prajakta Gudadhe. All rights reserved.

This is a web catalog of the recipes that I have tried and tasted in my kitchen. While these recipes and instructions have worked well for me, please use all the information and the recipes from Ginger and Garlic at your own risk.