Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Tea Sandwiches

The must at a hi-tea are tea sandwiches. If the number of guests were less I would have made more sandwiches and a larger variety of them, but this was OK. I hate being in the kitchen for a long time while your guests are there for many reasons– 1. I'm not enjoying the party that I worked hard for! 2. Your guests have arrived for a party and although food and drinks are a part of it, it's not all of it and 3. It's very possible to still have a great menu and spread on the table without stressing at the last minute.

Whenever I'd discuss entertaining with my 'entertaining guru' Denise, she would work on the menu first with a plan of action, so this way the grocery shopping is done in advance, prep work can get a head start and some things that can be made ahead can be done. 

For the chicken salad sandwiches I got a 4 lb rotisserie chicken and shredded the entire chicken. Used half of it for the sandwich and the other half I used to make Chicken Masala
I also just saw Melissa d'Arabian on the Food Network make Chicken Pot Pie Turnovers with left over chicken and will try that the next time we get a rotisserie chicken. 

Chicken Salad Sandwiches
Makes 12 sandwiches

2 1/2 cups of shredded rotisserie chicken or left over chicken
2 cups of low-fat mayonnaise
4 spring onions, finely chopped
2 sticks of celery, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp mustard
1 tsp lemon zest
1 Jalapeño, minced (or more if you want it spicier)
2–3 tbsp cilantro or parsley.
Salt, to taste
Freshly ground pepper
24 slices sandwich bread, of your choice

Mix the above in a large bowl and taste, season accordingly. 
Do ahead, cover and refrigerate. 

Remove the sides of the sandwich breads and generously butter both slices and then spread the chicken salad to one side. 
Cut the sandwich into three long strips or into 4 triangles and serve. 

It is best to make the sandwiches before serving, but you can make them a few hours earlier too, as long as it is stored in a cool temperature. 

Cucumber Cream Cheese and Dill Sandwiches
Makes 12

1 8oz tub of cream cheese
2–3 tbsp of fresh dil
Salt, to taste
3 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 large cucumber
1 tsp vinegar

Mix the first four ingredients in a large bowl.
Do ahead, cover and refrigerate. 

Wash and thinly slice the cucumber (leave the skin on).
Toss with vinegar and salt. 
Set aside for 15 minutes, drain the excess water out and compile sandwiches.

If you have any left over cream cheese, add some Zatar seasoning into it along with more black pepper, mix well and roll it in shrink wrap to create a log and freeze it. Slice and serve it on crackers for the next time you have a party.

Smoked Salmon Spread

I found this recipe while browsing inn BonAppetit.com and thought that it would work well for the Christmas tea party we were having as a substitute to smoked salmon tea sandwiches. We were expecting 30 guests and were already making some chicken salad sandwiches and cucumber cream cheese sandwiches and wanted most of the items to be make ahead.

Smoked salmon is expensive and when entertaining a large crowd your bill could add up. For a dip you don't need the slices you buy to look 'pretty' so ask for smoked salmon bits or the trimmings of the perfectly cut slices as it will help you save some money without compromising on quality or taste.

This recipe makes 3 cups, but you can halve it down if you don't want as much. Serve it on pumpernickel, flatbread or bagel chips as the recipe suggests. I had a fresh box of Melba Toast at home and used that. My recipe had some tweaks to the original, read below, make it and enjoy! 

2/3 cup créme fraiche
2/3 cup plain Greek-style fat free yogurt 
4 tsp Chipotle
1 pound sliced smoked salmon
2 tbp thinly sliced chives plus more for garnish
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 lemon
Melba toasts

  1. Whisk the creme fraiche, yogurt and chipotle in a small bowl until well blended.
  2. Place salmon in a food processor and pulse just a few seconds at a time until salmon is reduced to pea-sized pieces.
  3. Add salmon and 2 tbsp chives to the yogurt mixture; fold to incorporate. Season with salt and pepper.
Garnish with lemon zest and chives.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Scones– Orange Cranberry and Chocolate

My friend Priya was loving the chicken sandwiches while her husband couldn't believe that I baked the scones at home. Both were fun and not as time consuming as they seemed to be. The scones took me an hour, including clean up. I then decided to bake a second batch for variety to serve, but one batch will take you no more than an hour.
I have baked these scones before, and it works as a great 'base' recipe which you can then flavor as you like– orange cranberry, ginger chocolate, cinnamon sugar, chocolate or any other way you'd like to go. The recipe doesn't have eggs either, so you can serve this to vegetarians. 

A great tip is to make the dough and cut it into triangles, freeze it in an airtight container, layered with parchment paper. Defrost as many scones as you would like to have and then bake them when you want them. I've had last minute guests come over for tea once and I told them I just put some fresh home baked scones into the oven, they were so impressed with my ability to whip these up with such short notice! Little did they know ;-)

To make the scones chocolate flavored, either add chocolate chips, and add 1 tsp ginger powder to the flour mixture.
Or you could add 2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder to the flour mixture and then add the above two ingredients to further flavor it. 

Makes 15–20

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp orange zest
1 1/2 sticks cold unsalted butter
2/3 cup cranberries
3/4 cup heavy cream

  1. 1.Adjust oven rack to the middle position and preheat the oven to 400F (200C)
  2. 2.In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade, combine 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, 1/3 cup granulated sugar and 1 tbsp baking powder. Mix on low to incorporate. 
  3. 3.Add 1 tsp lemon zest (about 1/2 lemon) and 1 1/2 sticks of cold unsalted butter. Mix on low until the mixture is a pale yellow and consistency of fine meal.
  4. 4.Transfer mixture to a large bowl and stir in 2/3 cup candied ginger and 2/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips, finely chopped into 1/4-inch pieces. Make a well in the center and pour in 3/4 cup heavy cream, mixing until just combined. 
  5. 5.Wash and dry your hands and dust them with flour. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and gently knead a few times to gather them into a ball. Roll or pat the dough into a circle about 3/4-inch thick. Cut out the circles, cutting as closely together as possible and keeping the trimmings intact. 
  6. 6.Gather the scraps, pat and press the pieces back together and cut out the remaining dough. 
  7. 7.Place scones 1-inch apart on a parchment-lined baking sheet.
  8. 8.Brush the tops with cream.
  9. 9.Bake for 12 to 16 minutes, until the surface cracks and they are lightly browned.

Pumpkin Cranberry Bread

It's the holidays! And I know that I said that Thanksgiving makes me like a kid in a candy store, but so do the holidays. Or anytime of the year that involves food, entertaining, and decor I'm in! This year we had a Christmas 'open house' tea party. It spanned four hours, from 2–6pm and everyone came in and out. The guest list was large, which is why a tea worked fabulously as everything is served room temperature (sans the tea) and you get to put your feet up and enjoy.
Every half hour I'd go into the kitchen, boil another pot of tea and leave it out on the table. 

If you plan ahead, it all can be done. But planning is key, and my friend Denise gets ALL the credit for my ability to entertain without panicking last minute.
We organized this party last minute, and invited everyone a week in advance too, but with that planning (and my husbands help!) we managed to get it all done in time ;-)

The menu went as:

Orange cranberry scones + Chocolate scones, served with clotted butter
Pumpkin cranberry bread
Cheesecake (store bought)
Madeleines (store bought)
Cupcakes (store bought)

Tortilla Española
Chicken sandwiches
Cucumber cream cheese sandwiches
Smoked salmon spread, served with toast

The recipe I'm highlighting in this post is the bread.
And that is because I make it every year, and it felt like a must on any Christmas menu I come up with.
This makes a large batch and my friend Denise shared this recipe with me and with her little secret of baking it in 5 small loaf pans instead of 2 large, and gifting it. For the party I used 2 large loaf pans as it made it easier to serve.

Mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl:
  1. 3 1/2 cups flour
  2. 1 cup sugar
  3. 2 tsp baking soda
  4. 1 tsp baking powder
  5. 2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
    (or 2 tsp of cinnamon powder, nutmeg powder and ginger powder)
  6. 1/2 tsp salt
Mix the wet ingredients in another large bowl:
  1. 1  15oz can pumpkin puree (Libby’s 100% Pure Pumpkin)
  2. 1 14oz whole berry Cranberry sauce (Ocean Spray Whole Berry Cranberry Sauce)
  3. 4 eggs (room temperature)
  4. 2/3 cup vegetable oil
  5. 1 cup nuts (optional)
  • Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and stir until blended.
  • Pour into 2 loaf pans.
  • Bake for 60 minutes or until done.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Eggless Marble Cake

My mother has been baking this cake for years. It's a great recipe to have on hand because it's easy and doesn't contain eggs, which works wonders for a vegetarian audience. Vegetarians rarely get good desserts and one of my quick go-to desserts when entertaining vegetarians is greek yogurt with sugar cane honey and caramelized walnuts. But when it's a birthday, cake is a must and this does the trick just right!

Baking is meticulous, and all about the measurements being perfect and order of mixing ingredients not being messed with, but this recipe is truly fool proof. I have used lesser amount of flour once because I ran out. Another time I used 3/4th the quantity of condensed milk because I was serving this to a diabetic vegetarian and it still came out fine. 

Except for the fact that it doesn't rise as high, this cake is still light and fluffy unlike many other eggless cakes that I have tried. 

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup butter (melted and cooled)
14oz tin condensed milk
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp vanilla essence
4 oz (1/2 cup) water

Pre-heat oven to 400F
Butter and flour a bundt pan
Mix all the ingredients and beat well.

Mix 4 tbsp cocoa powder into half the batter.

Drop alternate spoonfuls of the regular batter and cocoa batter into a bunt pan.

Bake at 400F for 10 minutes and then 300F for 10 minutes.

Thanksgiving Sides: Broccolini and Green Beans with Smoked Paprika, Almonds and Garlic

If you have been reading all the Thanksgiving Sides in this blog, this one was the one I thought would be least appreciated on the table as it had nuts in the food. Most of our guests at Thanksgiving don't like nuts in food, but I wanted one vegetable side with nuts in it to keep traditional alive. The Bon Appetit Sides had this with only Broccolini, but I added green beans to it. 

While blogging these recipes, I am almost wanting Thanksgiving to return sooner!


  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1/2 cup whole almonds, coarsely chopped
  • 3 large garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • Coarse kosher salt
  • 1 to 1 1/2 pounds broccolini, rinsed, stalks cut into 2- to 3-inch lengths
  • 1/2 pound green greens, rinsed, cut into 2- to 3-inch lengths
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons Sherry wine vinegar


  • Heat 1 tablespoon oil in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. 
    Add almonds. Stir until lightly browned, 2 to 3 minutes. 
    Add garlic and paprika. 
    Sprinkle with coarse salt; sauté 1 minute. 
    Transfer to small bowl.

  • Add remaining 2 tablespoons oil to skillet. 
    Add broccolini and green beans; sprinkle with coarse salt. 
    Add 1/3 cup water. Cover and boil until crisp-tender and still bright green, about 4 minutes. 
    Pour off any water. 
    Stir in almond mixture. 
    Season to taste with coarse salt and pepper. 
    Mix in 1 to 2 teaspoons vinegar.
  • Transfer to bowl and serve.

Black Pepper Crusted Tuna with Soy Basil Sauce

I found this recipe on my Epicurious (Epi) app on my iPad, and although I tweaked it a great amount, the essence of encrusting with black pepper and creating a dipping sauce stayed the same. It was my lunch today, and loved it so much that I packed some up for my husband and brought it to him at work! (Yes, I definitely get those good wife points here!)

Time: 15 minutes
Serves 2

Prepare sauce
Mix together in a small bowl
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp ginger, grated
1 scallion (white and green parts), finely chopped
4-5 small basil leaves, finely chopped
1/2 Serrano pepper, finely chopped (optional)
1/2 tsp togarshi powder*

Prepare tuna
Wash and pat dry 1/2 lb tuna steak
Coat with 1 tbsp olive oil and kosher salt
Crust generously with freshly ground black peppercorns generously

Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a frying pan on high
Grill the tuna for 1 minute on the first side and then 3 minutes on second side, or until dark and crusty on the outside and pink and rare inside. 

Transfer the grilled tuna steak to a cutting board and cut them into 1/4-inch slices. Fan out the tuna slices on a serving platter, drizzle the sauce on top and serve hot.

*Tōgarashi (seven flavor chili pepper), is a common Japanese spice mixture containing seven ingredients.
A typical blend may contain:
  • coarsely ground red chili pepper (the main ingredient)
  • ground sansho (Sichuan pepper)
  • roasted orange peel
  • black sesame seed
  • white sesame seed
  • hemp seed
  • ground ginger
  • nori or aonori

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Thanksgiving Sides: Roasted Squash with Toasted Pumpkin Seeds and Mint

My 'American mom' Denise introduced me to butternut squash in 1998. Since then, every winter, from the first time I see the vegetable in the market, I must have it at home often. It's a great side to work with and soaks in flavors. Denise used to poke holes into the squash and microwave it for 8 minutes, she would then let it cool, slice it open, scoop the seeds out and mash it with butter, salt and pepper. I still enjoy it like that, but I have begun to prefer it roasted– with salt and pepper, with Vadouvan spice mix, or any strong or mild spice mix or herb. 

It was wiped clean this year at Thanksgiving dinner. Makes me want some more again as I write this blog!  
This recipe is from Bon Appetit, and the only addition / tweak I made was the addition of red chili powder to work with my guests at Thanksgiving dinner.

2 medium butternut squash (about 3lb. total)
4 tbsp olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1 tbsp red chili powder
1/4 cup shelled pumpkin seeds (pepitas) 
1 tbsp aged balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup fresh mint, torn


  1. Preheat oven to 425F. Cut squash into 1.5-inch thick wedges, leaving skin on. Scrape off seeds and strings with a large spoon and discard. Coat wedges with olive oil and season with salt, pepper and chili powder. Lay wedges cut side down on a large rimmed baking sheet. Roast, carefully turning halfway through, until golden brown on both sides, about 30 minutes.
  2. Heat a small skillet over medium heat. Add pumpkin seeds to cook, swirling pan often, until seeds are puffed and brown but still have a bit of green, 4–5 minutes. Transfer seeds to a plate. Sprinkle with salt.
  3. Transfer squash to a large platter and drizzle with balsamic vinegar. Sprinkle with torn mint leaves and toasted pumpkin seeds.

Thanksgiving Sides: Mashed Potatoes with Roasted Garlic

Mashed potatoes for me shouldn't be messed with. But while making it this year I decided to play around with it a bit based on several recipes I have read and to suit the tastes of my guests. And I think I love the idea of subtly spiced or herb-flavored mashed potatoes, which makes this versatile side even more fun to work with!

4 large russet potatoes
1 yukon gold potato
2 tbsp kosher salt
8 whole black peppercorns
3 sprigs thyme
2 bay leaves
1 stick cinnamon
4 cardamon pods, crushed

1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup unsalted butter, cubed
Freshly ground black pepper

  1. Roast the garlic: Preheat over to 400F. Peel away the outer layers of the garlic bulb skin, leaving the skins of the individual bulbs intact. Using a knife, cut off 1/4 to 1/2-inch of the top of the bulb, exposing the individual cloves. Place the garlic in a baking pan with raised edges, drizzle a couple of teaspoons of olive oil and cover with foil. Bake for 30–35 minutes. Allow the garlic to cool enough so you can touch it and then squeeze the soft roasted garlic out.
  2. Fill a large pot halfway with cold water. Peel potatoes and cut into 2-inch pieces, adding to the pot as they are cut. Add cold water to cover by 1-inch if needed. Stir in kosher salt and the next five ingredients. 
  3. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and gently simmer until tender, 10–15 minutes. Drain potatoes, discard whole spices and herbs and transfer to a baking sheet. Let dry, 5–10 minutes.
  4. Pass it through the smallest disk of a food mill along with the roasted garlic and butter into a large bowl. Stir in the milk.
  5. Season generously to taste with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Thanksgiving Sides: Stuffin' Muffin

Thanksgiving makes me so happy, like a kid in a candy store. Researching recipes, menu planning and of course the big beautiful turkey that awaits. My husband always makes the turkey and gravy, but I make the sides. And this year, I can confidently say that I now have my Thanksgiving side menu that I will be repeated. The reason for the confidence not only is that I loved it (if I may say so!) but because it passed my in-laws test. They are vegetarians and prefer either Indian or classic Spanish food. Every year they nibble on the sides to please me, but this year they took seconds! 

The first side I want to talk about is the stuffing. I found the recipe on the Today Show. It was a competition for the best stuffing and I adapted the recipe to suit our tastes and pantry, but I took the idea of making Stuffin' Muffins. Yes, the stuffing was in a muffin pan so everyone got their own piece nice and crusty.
  1. In a large bowl toss 2 cups Italian season croutons with 2 cups chicken broth and 1 beaten egg.
  2. In a large sauté pan, sauté 1 cup spicy chorizo and 1 cup sliced bacon in 1 tbsp olive oil. Remove with a slotted spoon and add to the bread bowl.
  3. Then sauté 1 cup minced onions in the same pan with the chorizo and bacon fat with 2 cloves of minced garlic, 1 cup minced celery. Once slightly browned, remove and add to the bread bowl.
  4. Then sauté 2 cups sliced oyster mushrooms with 1 stalk thyme, 1 tbsp fresh oregano and 1 stalk rosemary. Season with S&P and add to the bread bowl. 
  5. Add chipotle powder or sliced serrano chilis.
  6. Make them into small balls, drain out the excess liquid and add to a muffin tray.
  7. Bake at 350F for 30 minutes, broil for 2-3 minutes and enjoy! 

Friday, November 18, 2011

Chorizo and Kale Soup

I've been lazy with blogging lately. Cooking has happened, but I've also been lazy with coming up with new recipes or making the effort to experiment. It would be easy to simply blame it on my ten month super energetic (and adorable) son, but the truth is that I've become lazy. Cooking is my passion, trying new flavors and recipes is part of that and I have to get my act together.

This morning my cousin Munisha asked me on Facebook to get some recipes up, so here goes a soup I recently made. 

Denise had sent me a recipe for a kale soup a while back and I did make it several times. I couldn't find the recipe, but remembered the basic recipe and worked with the ingredients I had. The original recipe called for brown rice, but I had some Spanish fideos boiled. The recipe also called for keilbasa over chorizo, but we had chorizo so that was what was going in. It was a rainy and cold day and what better than soup to warm you up (an hour later I had ginger spiced Indian tea to complete the moment).


  • 6oz spicy chorizo, sliced
  • 1/4 white onion, minced (about 1/2 cup)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3/4 tsp chicken soup base / 1 chicken stock cube
  • 1 bunch kale, stems removed and leaves sliced
  • 1 cup fideos / white or brown rice / linguine (I've made it with all these choices, and it works out great either way)
  • In a large pot, heat 1 tbsp olive oil
  • Sauté the onions, garlic and soup base for 2-3 minutes or until the onions are transparent
  • Add the chorizo and cook for another 2-3 minutes
  • Toss in the kale until slightly wilted
  • Add 4 cups water and a pinch of salt and let it come to a boil, cover and leave it to simmer for 10–15 minutes.
  • Add the fideos / noodles / rice or carbohydrate of your choice. 
I grated fresh Parmesan cheese on top for my husband but enjoyed mine without. 
This soup is definitely hale and hearty. Kale is fabulous for you, click here to read its benefits. 

Ultimate Chocolate Cake

It was the Spring of 2005. My friend, Trang had Denise and me over for dinner. The dinner, as always was incredible. But… the dessert of the evening stole the show. Warm chocolate cake with strawberries for her husband James birthday. It was so good that on returning back to New York, my friends Mumtaz, Tehmina and I made it so often to ensure that we always had it at home. It became a staple 'food' at home! It is now 2011 and the cake is still a hit every time I make it. In fact, I make it for my husbands aunt and uncle every time they visit as it's almost a demand. 

So yes, it is the ultimate chocolate cake for its delicious content, but also ultimate for how simple and quick it is to make. I love to bake, to meticulously measure and time every second of the process. But this cake is so simple that it makes baking for me almost playful.

Preheat oven to 350F.

Butter and flour a bundt pan.

In a large bowl, mix together with a spatula / hand held mixer / stand mixer
1 box Devil's Food Cake Mix
1 box Instant Chocolate Pudding Mix
1 16-oz fat-free Sour Cream tub (I use fat free for this even though everything else is so high in calories because it probably makes me feel better! Use full-fat if you like too)
4 large eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil

Once mixed together, fold in 3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips.

Bake for 40–45 minutes.

Serve warm with ice cream and strawberries. 

This cake also freezes very well (if you have left overs!). Slice it and pull out a slice when you want it, microwave it for 30 seconds. You and whoever you serve this cake to will thank us for the recipe!