I have found that next to smoking, the most detrimental, habit-forming act a person can do is to memorize a biscuit recipe they like. For that reason, it is with great apprehension that I share the recipe below. At first, roasted root vegetables do not sound like a comfort food. They aren’t, unless you add pancetta (or “salty pork fat”), spice them up with some cayenne, and compliment them with a plate of cheddar biscuits. The cayenne provides just enough “kick” to balance the sweetness of the vegetables, and the cheddar biscuits remind you that there is a loving God. All told, this meal takes about an hour – though if you wanted to skip the veggies and go straight for the biscuits, 30 minutes will suffice.
Pancetta Roasted Root Vegetables:
3 large parsnips, peeled and chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
1 large sweet potato, peeled and chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
4 tbsp olive oil
4 leeks, cleaned and chopped into 1/2 inch pieces (only use the white parts)
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
4 oz. pancetta
Cheddar Biscuits (makes around 12 biscuits, or 8 large biscuits):
2 cups flour
2+ cups heavy whipping cream
3 tsp baking powder
3 tsp sugar
1.5 tsp Lawry’s seasoning salt (or sea salt + smoked paprika)
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese
Preheat oven to 375 F. Add the potatoes and parsnips to roasting pan. Coat veggies with 2 tbsp olive oil and season with seasoning salt and cayenne as desired. It’s important that the veggies are coated evenly.
Put the parsnips and sweet potatoes in the oven for 20-25 minutes.
While they are in the oven, chop the leeks and the garlic and add to a small bowl.
Combine with 1 tbsp olive oil. Add black pepper, cayenne, and seasoning salt to taste. Put the bowl in the refrigerator until later when we add it to the roasting pan.
Now start prepping the biscuits. Mix the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl.
Combine dry ingredients and cream until you have a moist dough. Be careful not to over-mix.
Distribute the dough into biscuit sized gobs on a greased cookie sheet. Set cookie sheet aside.
After the parsnips and sweet potatoes have cooked for 20+ minutes, pull the roasting pan out of the oven and add the garlic-leeks mixture and pancetta. Distribute evenly in pan and mix to spread seasoning.
Put the pan back in oven. Put biscuits in the oven. Set timer for 20 minutes.
After 15 minutes in the oven, remove the biscuits, sprinkle graded cheese over the tops, return to oven until brown on the edges.
Sprinkle grated cheese on top of the biscuits and put back in the oven.
The biscuits are done when the edges start to barely brown and the veggies are ready when the pancetta gets crispy.
Generally, I let the biscuits set for 3-5 minutes. At this point, they are at the greatest risk of being snatched by a dog who is the devil.
January’s finally here – which means that two of my favorite shows are back on TV with new seasons – Worst Cooks in America and MasterChef Junior. While one leaves my speechless at the ability of 8-13 year olds (some of whom can barely look above a prep table without the help of a stool) to whip up delicious, and in some cases, highly technical, restaurant-quality dishes in short periods of time, the other leaves me speechless about how bad some people can actually be at cooking. Watching Anne Burrell on Worst Cooks in America is a real treat – she is one of my favorite celebrity chefs and there is nothing more entertaining than seeing her trying to teach cooking to someone who only cooks meatloaf in the shape of animals, someone who always burns meats because that means at least it’s cooked, and someone who made a pot roast and ended up….poisoning her dog. Suffice to say, people who are nominated on this show by their friends and family are nominated not just for their lack of cooking skills, but because they have also actually succeeded in making their loved ones fall quite ill with their food.
In between gaping disbelievingly at one of the episodes this week, I was reminded that I owned one of Burrell’s cookbooks (Cook Like a Rock Star) and I decided to flip through it to get some ideas for weekly lunches. I settled on pasta fagioli, a traditional Italian dish consisting of pasta and beans – it turned out to be a delicious, filling and an inexpensive and easily portable lunch. This particular version recommended using chives, but in my opinion, they didn’t add much to the dish, so for next time, I will prefer using basil.
1 28-ounce can of San Marzano tomatoes, mostly pureed with a few chunks (or according to your preference)
2 15-ounce cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
2 15-ounce cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
12 oz ditalini pasta
Freshly grated parmesan
1 teaspoon dried oregano
Basil, chopped, for garnishing
Crushed red pepper
Heat olive oil in a wide pot and add pancetta. Over medium heat, cook the pancetta until it’s crisp (4-5 minutes).
Toss in the onion and season with salt, red pepper, oregano, and cook for another 8 to 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 2 to 3 minutes.
Add the tomatoes and 1 and 1/4 cup water. Bring it to a boil, then reduce to simmer and cook for 15 minutes
Add the cannellini beans and chickpeas to the pot and cook for 20 minutes more.
Boil water in a well-salted large pot to cook the ditalini, which should be cooked only two-thirds of the way, being fairly hard in the middle.
Drain pasta, reserving 1 cup of the cooking water. Add the pasta and the water to the pot with the tomatoes and beans. Cook until pasta is done, for about another 3 to 4 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning if need be.
Being vegetarian for the first 22 years of my life, my move towards developing positive feelings for seafood has been slow – the first time I ever had seafood that I loved was in New Orleans, but since then, the movement towards it had been rather stalled, except for trips to Seattle which have always provided me more opportunity to try different kinds of fresh seafood. Watching a kid on Masterchef Junior cook with scallops, and being in Seattle again for Christmas last month, I decided that it was high time that I learnt to make a few seafood dishes.
With most holiday dishes being quite heavy, coupled with my enthusiasm for holiday baking (coming soon!), we decided to have scallop crudo as the appetizer for our Christmas dinner. Compared to other kinds of shellfish, scallops are quite easy to clean, requiring nothing more than a rinse, patting them dry and removing the side-muscle if you find any attached. Light and refreshing, the acidity from the orange juice compliments the heat from the Thai chile in this dish really well, giving it the extra kick that it needs – a dish that would actually be perfect during summer.
The most popular post on my blog till date has been fried egg in an avocado – a simple and quick breakfast that involves baking or frying an egg in an avocado, using the avocado as a vessel, which can be topped with bacon for a salty and crunchy texture atop the nutritional mush that lies beneath. I have to admit that I am surprised that is the most popular recipe, but it got me thinking about the combination of eggs and avocados when I was trying to empty my refrigerator last week and whip up a meal without buying any new groceries. End result – a jalapeno-cheddar toast with a guacamole spread, topped with a fried egg with feta and cilantro.
The crunchiness and heat from the jalapeno-cheddar toast goes really well with the soft texture of the egg and the acidity of the guacamole. Topped off with some salty, crumbly feta and some fresh cilantro, this turned out to be a pretty filling meal. You can fry the egg to your personal preference – I personally like the yolk a little firm, but you can also choose to have the yolk ooze out on to the toast (though it may get soggy faster that way).
A semester of living in Charlottesville is complete and I am looking forward to slowing down from dissertation mode and sitting back and relaxing a bit. I am also thankful to Nora Benedict for introducing me to Aperol, an Italian orange-red liquor often used as an aperitif – it is slightly bitter and has a citrusy flavor.
Though this Aperol Spritz (a spritz is technically a wine-based cocktail made with bitter liquor and a splash of soda) is more of a summer drink, the bright color is perfect for perking up a chilly fall or winter evening as well. It also includes my favorite, Prosecco, which gives it a nice kick of acidity. And for those who prefer more traditional holiday drinks, check out this Eggnog!
3 ounces Prosecco
2 ounces Aperol
1 ounce club soda
Fill a glass with ice cubes
Add Prosecco, followed by Aperol and club soda. Stir.
The only silver lining in using up all your kitchen utensils, pots, pans and gadgets to whip up a Thanksgiving meal is discovering kitchen things that you forgot you owned. While putting away some of the bakeware that we used, I came across our slow cooker, not being able to remember the last time we used it. Not wanting to cook again for a few days after Thanksgiving also meant that this slow cooker would provide us an easy, flavorful meal. But looking for inspiration at other food blogs didn’t seem to do the trick – Thanksgiving leftover recipes seem to be the most predominant topic across food blogs for the last week. But for those of who neither have any more leftovers, or are just looking to eat something leaner between Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners, this is a flavorful and healthy recipe that does the trick. It can work both with white and brown rice, or with your bread preparation of choice, and takes cares of your lunch for the week. The prep takes around 15 minutes, and then around 8 hours later, you’re all set! I use brown lentils in this recipe, which are little firmer than other kinds of lentils and can thus, withstand 8 hours in the slow cookers without getting mushy. Adjust the time accordingly depending on the kind of lentils you decide to use.
1 pound chicken, cut into small cubes
1 pound brown lentils
1 28 oz can of diced tomatoes
4 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp fresh grated ginger
2 tsp cumin
1 and 1/2 tsp garam masala
1/4 tsp turmeric
1 bay leaf
1 and 1/2 tsp red chili powder
1/4 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp amchoor (dried mango powder)
1/2 tsp chana masala
Lemon juice (of 1/2 a lemon)
Add all of the ingredients, minus the lemon juice and cilantro to your slow cooker. Mix well, cover and cook on low for 8-10 hours (If your slow cooker runs hot, you will not need to cook for the full 8-10 hours. If your slow cooker does not run hot, you will probably need to cook for the full 8-10 hours)
Once the soup is done cooking, mix in the fresh lemon juice. Ladle into bowls or serve over rice. Garnish with fresh cilantro.
Now that I’ve rediscovered our slow cooker, I can’t wait to try cooking more things in it! What are some of your favorite slow cooker recipes?
As someone who gets annoyed with food trends really fast, I’m surprised at how much my obsession with pumpkins has continued for the third consecutive fall now. Of course, I’m not dropping to the level of adopting this Pumpkin Spice Diet, but I do look forward to the smell of pumpkin wafting through my food and drink – with some of my favorites being pumpkin bread, pumpkin beer and this pumpkin pie (sadly though, pumpkin pies were found to account for only 3% of all orders out of all dishes featuring pumpkin). This is also the third Thanksgiving in a row that I’ve made this pie – the first year I made it with pumpkin and candied yams, the second time around with pumpkin and regular canned yams, and this year, finally, my favorite combination, pumpkin and maple-glazed sweet potatoes.
I got the idea of using maple-glazed sweet potatoes when I was walking through Whole Foods. I normally dislike the sickly sweet taste of corn syrup (which is present in candied yams), so the idea of using maple-glazed products appealed to me, especially given that this recipe already uses some maple syrup. So I decided to substitute yams with these maple-glazed sweet potatoes this time around. Before I had even put this pie in the oven, the scent of the pumpkin, cinnamon, nutmeg, maple syrup and sweet potatoes was floating through my kitchen, cut through with the sharp taste of ginger. I baked it on a graham cracker crust, and let it set overnight in the refrigerator and we were good to go for Thanksgiving next day!
This recipe needs a 10 inch pie plate. Pre-bake the graham cracker crust for 5-7 minutes at 350 F. Once done, let it cool at room temperature.
Increase oven temperature to 400 degrees F.
Whisk cream, milk, eggs, yolks and vanilla together in medium bowl.
Combine pumpkin puree, mashed sweet potatoes, sugar, maple syrup, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt in large heavy-bottomed saucepan; bring to sputtering simmer over medium heat, 5 to 7 minutes.
Continue to simmer pumpkin mixture, stirring constantly, until thick and shiny, another 5 to 7 minutes.
Remove pan from heat. Whisk in cream mixture slowly, until fully incorporated. (Make sure that the filling is not too hot, otherwise your eggs may get scrambled as you are whisking in the cream mixture)
Run mixture through a blender if it does not have a smooth consistency and then transfer to warm pre-baked pie shell.
Return pie plate with baking sheet to oven and bake pie for 10 minutes.
Reduce heat to 300 degrees. Continue baking until edges are set (instant-read thermometer inserted in center registers 175 degrees), 20 to 35 minutes longer.
Transfer pie to wire rack and cool to room temperature, 2 to 3 hours. (The pie finishes cooking with resident heat; to ensure the filling sets, cool it at room temperature and not in the refrigerator.)
* – Bought from Whole Foods
Besides this pie, it was also my second year of making this spiced pecan pie! What are some of your favorite Thanksgiving desserts?
The two words that come to my mind when I think about lunch in New Haven are Ethiopian and Mexican. For most of these past three years that I was in New Haven, my favorite places to have lunch were a Mexican food cart and an Ethiopian food cart, located just outside the ice hockey rink, a few hundred feet from my department. The Ethiopian cart, Lalibela, in particular, has a special place in my heart both because it offered a variety of vegetarian options, and some of the dishes reminded me a lot about Indian food. And even though I’m not that big a fan of injera, or the bread that is eaten in Ethiopian cuisine, I still miss that cart when I moved to Charlottesville. When I further found out that there was literally no place serving Ethiopian food in Charlottesville, I decided it was time to experiment and try making some on my own.
So I started with one of my favorites – mesir wat. Its main ingredient is red lentils, also sold in Indian stores as masoor dal. The stew has a kick to it, which comes from berbere, a chili-spice blend. The main heat in berbere comes from paprika, which is not a particularly hot spice (like cayenne), and can therefore be used in large amounts without fear of making the dish too hot. Though I purchased a pre-made blend of berbere, you can also make it on your own – here’s a recipe for berbere by celebrity chef Marcus Samuelsson, whom I had the luck of talking to for a few minutes at his restaurant in Harlem, Red Rooster! As someone who is fascinated by his Ethiopian and Swedish influences in his food (besides his good lucks which make me swoon!), I highly recommend reading his autobiography, which details his journey from Ethiopia to Sweden to Harlem. He also frequently uses berbere in many of the dishes at his restaurant, including one of my favorites, the Fried Yard Bird.
Mesir Wat takes less than an hour to make, and is quite healthy, with red lentils being high in protein and iron.
1 tbsp oil
1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 cup tomato puree
1/4 tsp ginger paste
1 and 1/2 cup red lentils
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
3 tbsp berbere spice
1 tsp paprika
1 and 1/2 tsp cumin
2 cups water
Salt, to taste (Most berbere seasonings already contain some salt, so be wary of adding any salt to the dish before tasting it)
Heat 1 tbsp oil in a medium sauce pan. Add onions, cook until translucent, about 4-5 minutes.
Add garlic and ginger paste and cook for 1 minute. Next add tomato puree and berbere spice, cardamon, paprika and cumin, cook for 3-4 minutes.
Add lentils and water to the saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer until lentils are cooked through and fall apart, about 30 to 40 minutes. Add water if necessary to keep the lentils from drying out. Add salt, if needed, and cayenne, if an additional kick is required.
As someone who one day aspires to carve Yoda’s face on a pumpkin, I’m always fascinated by all the different things people carve on their pumpkins (even though this year I settled for a cat, surprise!)
But the foodie in me is always lamenting about how the insides of a pumpkin during this season often goes to waste. One of the ways to salvage the inside is by roasting the pumpkin seeds. Healthy and nutritious, filling, delicious – these make for a great snack, especially a snack to take with you while you’re on-the-go. The seeds themselves, barely take more than 10 or 15 minutes to roast, but they need to be cleaned thoroughly, with all the pumpkin fibers taken off them before we put them in the oven to roast.
2 cupraw whole pumpkin seeds, washed and dried
1 and 1/2 teaspoon Cajun seasoning
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt, to taste
Separate the seeds from the pumpkin flesh, rinse thoroughly in a colander, using your hand to rub off any tenacious pumpkin fibers. Spread out on paper towels to dry (I let them sit out overnight).
Preheat oven to 325°F.
Toss pumpkin seeds with olive oil, paprika, Cajun seasoning, and salt until coated thoroughly.
Spread out the seeds on a baking sheet evenly and roast for 10-15 minutes, stirring half way through or until the seeds turn a nice golden brown.
Eat immediately or store in an air-tight container in the refrigerator, where they will last for at least a month.
Having just moved to Virginia a while back, I’m lucky enough to still be experiencing some lovely summer weather instead of getting ready for a chilly fall and winter like in the north-east. The farmer’s markets are still selling the last of the summer produce with some plump, bright, juicy berries, yellow peaches, and some large and sweet tomatoes. So for my housewarming party, I decided to use some of my favorite summer ingredients in our drinks – strawberry and basil. This is a lovely make-ahead drink (it definitely needs to be made-ahead to let the drink soak up the flavors), and is really quick to throw together as well. The sweetness of the strawberries really complements the citric notes in triple sec and the limeade, and the basil adds a lovely aroma. You can throw in a little less or more water depending on your taste.
Empty the limeade concentrate into a pitcher. Add 3 and 1/2 cups of water along with the tequila and triple sec in the pitcher.
Hull the strawberries, slice lengthwise, and add to the pitcher. Crumple the basil a little in your hands (this will help the basil flavor release into the drink) and add it to the pitcher, too. Place the pitcher in the and refrigerate it for at least four hours.
When you remove the pitcher from the fridge, your margaritas will be a lovely pale pink color.