Saturday, March 31, 2012

Outrageous Brownies

Ina Garten calls these brownies outrageous! I call them beyond outrageous! In my earlier brownie post I said that brownies should be gooey. And these are outrageously gooey! As much as I love the Ghiradelli Brownies, this one is actually better for me. 

These brownies make a HUGE batch of brownies, perfect for a party, bake sale or to give as party favors.

1 pound unsalted butter
1 pound plus 12 ounces semisweet chocolate chips (I used Hershey's)
6 ounces unsweetened chocolate (I used Baker's)
6 extra-large eggs
3 tablespoons instant coffee granules
2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups sugar
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder 1 teaspoon salt

  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. Butter and flour a 12 x 18 x 1-inch baking sheet
  3. Melt together the butter, 1 pound of chocolate chips and the unsweetened chocolate in a medium bowl over simmering water. Allow to cool slightly.
  4. In a large bowl, stir (do not beat) together the eggs, coffee granules, vanilla, and sugar.
  5. Stir the warm chocolate mixture into the egg mixture and allow to cool to room temperature.
  6. In a medium bowl, sift together 1 cup of flour, the baking powder, and salt. Add to the cooled chocolate mixture.
  7. Toss the chocolate chips in a medium bowl with 1/4 cup of flour, then add them to the chocolate batter. Pour into the baking sheet. 
  8. Bake for 20 minutes, then rap the baking sheet against the oven shelf to force the air to escape from between the pan and the brownie dough. Bake for about 15 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Do not over bake! Allow to cool thoroughly, refrigerate, and cut into 20 large squares or 40 medium squares.
Heat and eat with a scoop or vanilla ice cream! 
Go bake! 

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Chicken Masala

Every Indian cook has one standard masala recipe. Masala means spice, so chicken masala is chicken cooked in a spice mixture, which usually contains a sauce made out of onions and tomatoes. This is my go to recipe for chicken masala and it's always delicious. This recipe is a combination of how my cook made it for us growing up in Bombay and from the years of me making it and tweaking it along the way.
In fact, it amazes me that this is the first time I'm sharing this recipe with you on this blog! 

Serve it over a bed of white Basmati rice or with some readymade store bought naan.  

Serves 2
1/2 pound boneless skinless chicken, cut into bite-size pieces
2 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp minced ginger and garlic
1/2 tsp tomato paste

Salt and pepper, to taste

2 tbsp vegetable oil
4–5 curry leaves (fresh or dried)
1 bay leaf
1 cinnamon stick
5 cloves
4 green cardamon pods, crushed
2 black cardamon pods, crushed
1 tsp cumin seeds

1/2 cup finely minced onions
1 green chili, minced (seeded if you prefer a milder taste)

1 tsp coriander powder
1/4 tsp turmeric powder

2 large tomatoes, halved OR 1 cup tomato sauce (I prefer Pomi)

4–5 tbsp fresh coriander leaves

  1. Marinate the chicken in the lemon juice, ginger, garlic, tomato paste, salt and pepper for 15–20 minutes.
  2. Heat the olive in a large, deep skillet over medium high heat. Add the whole spices– the curry leaves, bay leaf, cinnamon stick, cloves, green and black cardamon pods and cumin seeds. The cinnamon stick will begin to uncurl and the cumin seeds brown within a minute. 
  3. Immediately add the onions and green chili and let it cook until a dark golden brown, about 7 minutes. Add a pinch of salt while cooking the onions as it helps release the water and brown quicker.
  4. Follow by adding the chicken, coat in the onion and spice mixture along with the coriander and turmeric powders. Let the chicken cook for about 5 minutes.
  5. Add the tomatoes cut size down, turn the heat on low, add a tablespoon of water and cover and let it simmer for 3 minutes. Remove the lid, pull the skin of the tomato off (it should just slip out) and mash the tomato into the sauce. Scrape down the edges of the skillet to pick up all the brown bits. Cover and let it simmer for 5 minutes. Garnish with fresh cilantro.
Yum! Serve over a bed of rice or with naan.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Blueberry Muffins

Ina Garten knows her baking. Out of the recipes I have tried of hers (Date and Nut Bread, Banana Bread among a few) none have failed. So I highly recommend making these right away! The muffins are soft and spongy with a nice slightly crusty top. 

My mistake I made was overfilling the cups, which caused for muffin 'tops' to create. 

Simple baking rules is to follow the recipe exactly, measure the measurements perfectly and to not over mix. Keep a timer when you put the muffins in the oven but keep an eye on your muffins as every oven is slightly different. Use an oven thermometer if you aren't sure of the temperature of your oven. bakes a lot of Ina Garten's recipes, and raves about them too. Check out her blog to find more of Ina's recipes tried and tested by a home cook.

3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
4 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 cups buttermilk, shaken
1/4 pound (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 1/2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
2 extra-large eggs, lightly beaten
2 cups fresh blueberries (2 half-pints)

Preheat the oven to 350F degrees. Line muffin tins with paper liners.

Sift the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl and mix together. 

In a separate bowl, mix together the buttermilk, butter, lemon zest, and eggs.

Make a hole in the center of the dry ingredients and pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Mix with a fork just until blended.

Fold the blueberries into the batter. Don't over mix!

With a standard (2 1/4-inch) ice cream scoop or large spoon, scoop the batter into the prepared cups, filling them almost full.

Bake the muffins for 20 to 25 minutes, until golden brown.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Steamed Halibut in Spinach Sauce

Back to our friend Ching-He Huang, her recipes are simple, quick, flavorful and healthy. And exactly as she describes it in her book– It's easy to make, nutritious and fuss-free. The hardest part is getting your hands on the freshest-possible fish.

After making this dinner my husband insisted I get down to blogging it immediately to share it! 

Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook in: 10 minutes
Serves 2

2 6–7 oz fillets of Halibut
Sea salt and ground white pepper
1 tbsp Shaohsing rice wine or dry sherry
1 tbsp of peeled and grated fresh ginger 
1 tbsp of light soy sauce to taste
1 tbsp cornstarch mixed with 1 tbsp water

For the sauce
1 tbsp of peanut oil
3 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 red chili, finely chopped
Large bunch of cilantro
Large handful of spinach leaves
7 tbsp of cold vegetable stock

  1. Place the fish fillets on a heatproof plate that will fit inside a bamboo steamer. Season the fish with salt and pepper, drizzle over the rice wine or sherry, and rub the grated ginger over the flesh of the fish.
  2. Put the plate inside the steamer and cover with the lid. Set the seamer over a wok or saucepan filled with boiling water (making sure the bottom of the steamer does not touch the water). Steam for 10 minutes over high heat, or until the flesh of the fish flakes easily to the point of a knife. Keep the fish warm in the steamer until ready to serve.
  3. Meanwhile, place all ingredients for the sauce in a blender and blitz together, then set aside.
  4. Heat a small wok or saucepan over high heat and pour in the sauce, then season to taste with the soy sauce. Bring sauce to simmer, add the cornstarch paste and stir until thickened, then remove from the heat. Transfer the halibut fillets to individual plates, pour over the sauce and serve with sautéed shitake mushrooms and bok choy over a bed of jasmine rice.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Scallion and Asparagus Salad with Fried Egg

The Italians do asparagus and egg salad beautifully. The asparagus gets blanched, with boiled eggs and a classic vinaigrette. And that is what dinner was meant to be today, but as I got to the kitchen I realized that I wanted the same combination of the vegetable and protein, with a spin. Which is why it went towards the Asian flavors. And boy, were we happy with the results! 
If I were you, I'd make this a repeat dinner recipe in your home.

Serves 2
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp mustard
1 tbsp lemon juice
Pinch of salt
2 tbsp lemon ginger olive oil (or plain olive oil with a little grated ginger)

1 tbsp + 1 tbsp sesame oil
16 spears of asparagus
8 scallions (spring onions)
1tbsp Shaoxing rice wine (or dry Sherry)
2 cups loosely packed baby spinach
1 tbsp black and white sesame seeds
4 eggs

  1. In a small bowl whisk together the dressing ingredients
  2. Snap the ends of the asparagus, trim the scallions. 
  3. Heat a skillet with 1 tbsp sesame oil and cook until lightly charred on a skillet, for 5 minutes. 
  4. Remove from heat and toss with sesame seeds
  5. Deglaze the pan with the Shaoxing rice wine, add the remaining 1 tbsp olive oil and fry two eggs.
  6. Plate the asparagus and fried egg over a bed of baby spinach and drizzle with the salad dressing.

Breaded Chicken and Roasted Veggies

Nothing like a quick dinner, that's yummy and healthy.And a dinner that also required very little mess. And although I love to cook, these are the dinners I want to eat 6 out of the 7 nights of the week. 
This recipe is a basic recipe, and it hit the spot so well that I couldn't help but blog it.

Serves 2

2 pieces of boneless skinless chicken breast, tenderized

1 tbsp + 2 tbsp olive oil
4 cloves of garlic, minced
3–4 tbsp of parsley, finely chopped
Juice of one lemon
Salt and pepper, to taste

1 cup flour
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 cup whole wheat breadcrumbs 

Marinate the chicken in 1 tbsp olive oil, garlic, parsley, lemon, salt and pepper for 15–20 minutes.

While marinating, set three plates in a row on your kitchen counter, with flour in the first, the beaten egg in the second and the last with the breadcrumbs.

Heat the remaining 2 tbsp olive oil in a large skillet.

Using a pair of tongs, dredge both sides of the chicken in flour.

Next run the chicken through the egg to coat it lightly and hold the chicken over to let any excess fall back into the plate.

Finally, lay the chicken in the breadcrumbs, turn it over and press it into the breading to evenly coat. 

Cook the chicken without turning until golden brown, about 2 minutes. Turn the chicken and cook until equally brown on the other side and the chicken is cooked through, about 5–7 minutes more. 

Serve with roasted veggies or potato. 

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

General Tso's Chicken

I've been watching 'Chinese Food Made Easy' on The Cooking Channel and love Ching He-Huang recipes. They look good, healthy and quick. My husband and I joke and call her 'Shaoshing Rice Wine' because it's one of her most-used ingredients. 
Then my friend Mumtaz gifts me her book and every recipe looked like I wanted to make it now! 
Today I made General Tso's chicken from her cookbook. It was delicious and definitely a recipe worth blogging and repeating, except it wasn't what we expected. However, Ching does say that everyone has a different version of it. 

Here is a fun piece of information that she shares with us in her book: Its inventor was from Hunan, a chef named Peng-Chang Kuei who fled with the Nationalist Party to Taiwan during the Second World War. Cooking for state banquets and official events for the Nationalist Party, he first came up with this dish in the 1950's, calling it after the a Hunanese general from the Qing dynasty. Its original flavors were typically Hunanese– hot, sour, salty and heavy– but when he moved to New York in 1973, he adapted the recipe for the American palate. Peng was a friend of Henry Kissinger and it was he who believed to have popularized Hunan cuisine in America. The dish's popularity has spread back to China where, ironically, Hunan chefs now claim it as a speciality of their region! 
The taste should be sweet and spicy with a slight zing from the chilies– Sichuan sun-dried chilies if you can find them. You might be surprised by the use of ketchup, you can also use tomato purée if you prefer, adding a bit of sugar.

Although I am fast in the kitchen, I was skeptical of the prep and cook time mentioned below. But after making this dish, without rushing it, I can vouch for the fact that it is indeed true! If you're buying chicken from a butcher, ask him to slice it for you ready for a stir-fry. Makes it even quicker! 

Below is the recipe with minor tweaks. It called for dark and light soy sauce, but since I just had regular soy sauce that is what I used. 

Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 9 minutes
Serves: 2–4 to share

2 skinless boneless chicken breasts or 4 thighs, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
Salt and ground black pepper 
1 tbsp potato flour or cornstarch
1 tbsp of peanut oil
1 clove garlic, crushed
4 dried red chilies
1 tbsp of Shaoshing rice wine or dry sherry
4 scallions, chopped into 1-inch lengths

For the sauce
1 tbsp of yellow bean sauce
2 tbsp of light soy sauce 
1 tbsp of tomato ketchup
1 tbsp of chili sauce (I used Sriracha)
1 tsp of light brown sugar or honey
  1. Place the chicken in a bowl and season with salt and pepper. Add the cornstarch and mix well.
  2. Place the ingredients for the sauce in another bowl and sit together.
  3. Heat a wok over high heat until it starts to smoke and then add the peanut oil. 
  4. Add the garlic and dried chilies and fry for a few seconds, then add the chicken and stir-fry for 2 minutes. 
  5. As the chicken starts to turn opaque, add the rice wine or dry sherry. Cook for another 2 minutes, then pour in the sauce and bring to a boil. 
  6. Cook the chicken in the sauce for an additional 2 minutes, or until it is cooked through and the sauce has reduced and thickened until it slightly sticky.
  7. Add the scallions and cook for just under 1 minute, then transfer to a serving plate and serve immediately.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Crispy Skin Salmon in Portobello-Cream Sauce

Last week my friend Gitanjali and I went for a cooking class at Sur La Table's new upper west side store. We attended a class called '4 Fish Recipes Ever Cook Should Know' with Chef Judi Rose. It was great because it was a hands-on class, not one that we just look at the chefs cook (because we have cooking shows on TV for free if that is what we want!) but we got to cook in small groups and learn hands-on. Plus, Rose kept the class upbeat and fun as we juggled making two recipes at a time, learning knife skills, terms and little tips along the way.

The four recipes we were taught were:
  • Crispy Skin Salmon with Shiitake-Cream Sauce (I used portobello with this recipe at home)
  • Sesame Crusted Tuna Steaks with Ginger-Soy Sauce
  • Classic Fish and Chips and
  • Grilled Fish Tacos

Since I am not a big fan of tacos in general, you may not see it being made on this blog. Fish and Chips I grew up eating in Bombay and ate a lot of it while I was studying in Rhode Island, but may not make it at home to just avoid deep-frying, although I absolutely love fish and chips. The salmon and tuna recipes stood out the most for me and they will surely become some of my go-to fish recipes.

To quote from Judi Rose, Leaving the skin on the salmon imparts a great deal of flavor and helps to hold the fillets together. Plus it's incredibly delicious! Use fish tweezers to quickly and easily remove any pinbones from the fillets.

Before I go ahead with sharing this recipe with you, I want to share that even though wild salmon is more expensive and less readily availably, please try cook and eat wild salmon. Farm-raised isn't as good and has less of the value it should. Here is a link which shares more information on it, and a quick search online will give you lots of information.
Buy fish from a fish monger over the packaged fish at the grocery store. And talk to them, ask them what's fresh, what's good and what they recommend today. Work with that. It's always better than coming home with smelly fish.

And fish should not smell! To think of all those years I didn't eat fish because I thought all fish was smelly. So if your fish smells, it's stale. 
Cook it the same day you buy it. And if it doesn't look as good as it should, as bright and fresh as you'd like it to, don't buy it. 

Serves 4
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
4 (6-ounce each) wild salmon fillets, 1-inch thick, skin-on, pinbones removes, patted dry
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

2 tbsp unsalted butter
1/4 cup rice wine
1 medium shallot, peeled and finely minced
2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely minced
12 large (about 3 ounces) fresh shiitake mushrooms, stems removed, caps sliced into 1/4-inch thick slices (I used portobello mushrooms)
1/2 cup heavy cream
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tbsp unsalted butter (optional)
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

  1. Wash and pat dry the wild salmon fillets. Season with salt and pepper on both sides (sprinkle the salt and pepper from higher up, so that it seasons evenly instead of falling on the fish in sections)
  2. In a large heavy skillet, heat the olive oil on medium-high heat until nearly smoking. Place salmon skin side down and cook until skin is crispy, almost 4 minutes, flattening fillets with the spatula to evenly cook the skin.
  3. Flip fillets and continue cooking until the flesh turns pink, another 2-3 minutes. To test the doneness of fish, it should be firm to touch. Be careful not to burn your fingers! 
  4. Remove fish from skillet, place on a baking sheet and tent loosely with foil to keep warm.
  5. Wipe skillet to remove excess oil. Return skillet to medium heat, add butter and heat until it foams.
  6. When foaming subsides, add shallots and garlic; sauté until softened but not browned, about 3 minutes. 
  7. Add rice wine to the pan and reduce by half. 
  8. Add the mushroom slices to the pan and season with a generous pinch of salt. Sauté mushrooms until tender, about 5 minutes.
  9. Add cream and lemon juice, stir well to combine, and continue cooking until reduced sauce coats the back of a spoon, about 5–7 minutes. 
  10. Add butter if using and stir gently to incorporate. 
  11. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt, pepper and additional lemon juice. 
  12. Remove fillets from the baking tray and plate on individual serving plates or as above. Using a ladle, pour 1–2 ounces of the mushroom cream sauce over each fillet.