Cook's Hideout: February 2010

February 26, 2010

Baked Veggie Pasta

This is my quick & easy version of vegetable lasagna. I was craving for lasagna this past weekend, but realized I didn’t have any lasagna noodles on hand. So I followed Rachael Ray’s route of making regular pasta but lasagnafy it with all the lasagna fixings (except for the lasagna and layering of course).

Great for weeknight meals (it doesn’t make for a quick meal, but at least it is not as involved as making real lasagna). Recipe is a combination of recipes I found online.

Short Pasta – 1lb. (I used tri color rotini-spirals)
Asparagus – 1 bunch, chopped into 1” pieces
Carrots – 2 medium, chopped
Broccoli florets – 2 cups
Onion – 1 small, chopped
Tomato Puree – 1cup
Basil – 2-3tbsp, finely chopped (I used dried Herbes de Provence)
Veggie Broth – 2 cups, divided
Milk – 1 cup (I used whole milk, but low-fat will work fine)
All purpose Flour – 2tbsp
Nutmeg – ½ tsp, grated
Red chili flakes – ½ tsp
Garlic – 3 cloves, divided
Parmesan cheese – ¼ cup
Fontina Cheese – 1 cup, grated
Salt & pepper – to taste

  • Preheat oven to 450ºF.
  • Cook pasta according to package directions to al-dente and keep aside until ready to use.
  • While pasta cooks make the veggie sauce – Heat 2tbsp olive oil in a large sauté pan; add chili flakes and toast for 30 seconds. Add 2 cloves finely chopped garlic and onion and sauté till lightly browned.
  • Next add all the chopped veggies; cook till the veggies are ¾th cooked. Add tomato puree, herbs, salt and 1 cup veggie broth. Cover and cook till the veggies are completely cooked through.
  • In the meantime make the cheese sauce: Take the remaining 1 cup broth and milk along with the remaining garlic (crushed) in a microwaveable container. Microwave for 2 – 3 minutes or until the mixture is hot. Discard the garlic clove.
  • In a small sauce pan, melt 2tbsp butter & 1 tbsp olive oil, add the flour and toast until the flour loses its raw smell, about 2-3 minutes. Carefully pour the milk mixture in the saucepan and whisk thoroughly to remove any lumps. Bring the mixture to a boil and simmer until it thickens a little bit. Season with salt and pepper and grated nutmeg. Finally add grated cheese, mix well and keep aside.
  • To bake: Mix pasta with the veggie sauce and pour that mixture into a baking dish. Top it with the cheese sauce and grated fontina cheese. Bake until the cheese is browned and bubbly, about 10-15 minutes. Let it rest for 5 minutes, before digging in..


February 21, 2010

Tuscan Almond Cookies: Ricciarelli

This post has been in my drafts for a while now. I think my next few posts will also be from drafts until (a) I start making some post worthy dishes and (b) run-out of posts in my drafts. Ok then, moving on..
I buy lot of stuff on impulse, not really thinking or planning on what I’m going to use it for. This happens mostly with the items for kitchen; ingredients, appliances etc. Same used to be the case with clothes & shoes, but with age, I’ve slowed down a lot and only buy things that I really really want & need. But I guess it’ll take me a little while to get that kind of restraint in buying kitchen supplies. So one such impulse buys was Almond meal from Trader Joe's a while back. I had it out in the pantry for a long time, and then I stashed it in the freezer along with my other nuts & grains.
When I saw this cookie post by the Jugalbandits, I wanted to try the almond cookie because they looked so cute in their pic. Since the almond meal was made from unpeeled almonds, it has brown flecks unlike the creamy white Jugalbandit’s cookies. That did not affect the taste of these yummy cookies. They are extremely easy to put together, though I was skeptical about whipping egg whites. That’s one of my fears along with making sugar syrups and whipping cream. I don’t even attempt any of the above listed due to the fear of failure. What if I do too much, eggs are going to deflate and sugar is going to too hard. Well I tried this time and I’m glad that everything turned out well and the cookies were just delicious. I followed the recipe from Divina Cucina closely, my only addition is grated orange zest, taken from Jugalbandit’s recipe.

Almond meal* – 2 cups (I sifted it remove some of the peel)
Confectioners Sugar – 2 cups + Extra for rolling the cookies
Egg whites – 2**
AP flour – 2tbsp
Baking powder – ½tsp
Almond extract – 1 tsp

  • Preheat the oven to 350ºF.
  • Mix almond meal & confectioners sugar. Add flour & baking powder and mix well.
  • Whip egg whites until they hold peaks. Fold egg whites into almond meal mixture; add almond extract & orange zest and mix until incorporated. Resultant mixture is sticky but you should able to easily roll into round cookies, if it is too sticky add some flour.
  • Roll a small lemon size dough into a round and roll them in confectioner’s sugar; flatten lightly and put them on parchment lined baking sheet.
  • Make sure that the cookies are at least an inch thick. Place them well apart as they spread considerably.
  • Bake for 13-14 minutes, but check at 12 to make sure they done.
  • These measurements made me about 2 dozen cookies. They keep good in an air tight container for about a week. Great with a cup of coffee or even tea.
* Make your own almond meal; see how to here.
** Separate eggs while still cold. Leave the whites at room temperature for at least 20 minutes to bring them to room temperature and then whip, room temp whites whip faster then cold whites.


February 15, 2010

Pyaz Ki Kachori for ICC

January & half of February was fairly uneventful (or rather post-less) blog-wise, though life in general was pretty eventful with 2 sicknesses and 1 car wreck incident. I have been cooking but nothing that is post worthy and was even thinking of emailing Valli on not being able to participate in this month's Indian Cooking Challenge. But things started to get better health-wise and on a much needed mid-week day off due to snow, I made these yummy fried goodies and I'm so glad I did because they turned out super delicious.

To be honest, I don't remember eating kachoris in a long long time and totally forgot how they looked. But after watching Manjulaji making them on You Tube, I tried my hands on making these and even though my kachoris are no where near her perfectly round ones, they tasted awesome.
I chose to make onion filling as I'm not a big fan of moong dal filling and caramelized onion filling sounded just scrumptious and they tasted great too.

Here's the recipe for Pyaz ki Kachori from Medhaa's Mom. Thanks Valli & Medhaa for this yummy recipe.

First make the dough:
All Purpose Flour/Maida - 2cups
Oil/ Ghee - 1/4cup
Salt - 1/2tsp
Water for kneading

  • Mix the flour and salt, Add the oil/ghee and mix till you get a bread crumbs texture.
  • Slowly add water and make a soft dough. Knead well for about 8 minutes.
  • Cover and keep aside to rest for atleast half hour.
Special Tips / Notes for the dough:
  • Keep the dough covered at all times, if not it will dry up and not puff up when frying. If the dough is made right wet cloth can be used if not just a towel.
  • The dough could spring back for many reasons:
  • Dough is too cold (If wet cloth is used)
  • Dough is not soft enough.
  • Not kneaded for enough time.
  • Oil is less.
  • Not rested enough.
For the onion filling:
Onions - 2 cups
Nigella Seeds (Kalongi) - 2tsp
Fennel seeds (saunf) - 2tsp
Bay leaves - 2
Green chillies - 1 1/2tsp finely chopped
Bengal gram flour (besan) - 2tbsp
Coriander (dhania) powder - 2tsp
Chili powder - 2tsp
Garam masala - 1tsp
Coriander leaves - 3tbsp, finely chopped
Oil - 2 tbsp
Salt - to taste

  • Heat the oil in a pan. Add the nigella seeds, fennel seeds, bay leaves, green chillies and onions and sauté till the onions turn light brown in color.
  • Add the gram flour, coriander powder, chilli powder, garam masala and salt and sauté for 2 to 3 minutes.
  • Add the chopped coriander and mix well. Remove the bay leaves and discard. Allow the mixture to cool completely.
  • Divide into 12 equal portions and keep aside.
Assembling the Kachoris:
  • Make a small ball from the dough. Roll out into a 2 inch diameter circle. Or flatten the ball using your fingers having the center thick and sides little thin.
  • Place about 1.5 tsp of the filling in the center of the rolled dough.
  • Cover the filling with the dough by slowly stretching it over the filling. Seal the ends and remove excess dough. Repeat with all the balls and keep aside for 5 -7 mins.
  • Then using your palm, flatten the balls by lightly pressing it, as using the rolling pin will make the filling come out. (See notes below). Keep aside covered. Repeat with the remaining dough.
  • Meanwhile heat some oil for deep frying. The oil should not become smoking hot. Test to see if the temperature is right by dropping a tiny ball of dough and see if it is rising slowly to the top.
  • Drop the kachoris in batches of 3-4 gently into the oil. It should rise up slowly. If you don't want to use lot of oil, use just enough for two or three at a time and fry them.
  • After it rises up (about 2 minutes), turn it over.
  • Cook for about 6 to 10 minutes till the side down gets a golden brown color.
  • Turn and cook the other side for another 6 minutes or till its golden brown in color.
  • Remove when done, cool and store in airtight container.
  • Serve with coriander chutney and tamarind chutney
Special Tips / Notes for making the Kachoris:
  • You can fry 3 kachori's at a time.
  • The oil should be at a heat when you drop some dough it should come up slowly, if the dough comes up too fast the oil is too hot, if it does not come up then the oil is cold.
  • It will not be crisp if the oil is too hot.


February 03, 2010

Coming Back after a Short Break

I have been MIA for quite sometime now. This year started off with a runny nose & coughing child passing off his germs onto to me. I ended up with an ear infection and the antibiotics I took for that caused severe intestinal infection (stomach cramps & bloody diarrhea). I was so sick to my stomach that I was eating about a katori of rice for almost half an hour. A healthier me would have wiped out at least 5 times at amount of rice in 5 minutes (yes.. I'm a rather quick eater).

I can’t imagine myself not thinking about food and that 1 week was like hell to me. My poor husband was doing all the cooking, but I didn’t have the energy or the appetite to eat. I knew I was getting better only when I started craving for khichdi and thinking about what to make for my next post. Right now I’m healthy enough to cook AND eat, but not ready to take pictures and post. But I’ll be back with a dish pretty soon.

Until then read about this interesting article about a Mother of 2 who planned meals for a WHOLE YEAR. I wish I could be that organized, let me know how you guys organize your meal calendars.


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