Zesty Grilled Chicken with Cilantro Yogurt Sauce

IMG_2670 I’ve lusted after many versions of Tequila Lime chicken for ages but never got around to finding a good substitute for tequila (we don’t imbibe or cook with booze around here – except for teeny tiny amounts of vanilla extract or almond extract). I’ve thought about agave syrup, among other things, and thought some more. All that thinking got me nowhere until I watched Pioneer Woman make her tequila lime chicken the other day. Enough is enough. It’s time to give those chicken breasts in the freezer some cilantro/lime lovin’ (is that weird?). IMG_2675 Now I still haven’t found a good substitute for tequila, but I definitely compensated for the flavor in other ways. Along with super fruity EVOO, lime juice, salt and pepper, I added a touch of garlic and honey to the marinade. These days, I always add a bit of sweetness to chicken marinades. It seems to round out all the flavors. And the sauce just takes it over the top. It’s my go to sauce for dressing up any meat or fish. I don’t exactly measure things out these days, so I will attempt to provide the most accurate measurements I can! You really should taste as you go along though. If the flavor falls flat, add salt. If the tang of the yogurt overpowers, add a little bit more garlic. If it’s too pale green, add some more cilantro. If it’s not spicy enough, well you know what to do.

And since I find chicken breasts to be kind of bland, I cut them pretty thin. In this case, getting 6 cutlets from 2 chicken breasts. More surface area = more flavor. Trust me – I know my stuff. Hah!  IMG_2684I served this alongside another PW inspired dish: perfect potato salad. I swapped out pickles for capers. Reduced the mayo and added some cilantro yogurt sauce. Nixed the mustard. I just loved the idea of hardboiled eggs with my potato. And what’s best – my kids ate it! Sweet, sweet victory. You’d be suprised (or if you’re a parent, not surprised) that despite all the effort I put in the kitchen, their favorite food is mac and cheese from a box.

Sorry the pictures are out of focus – I was warding off two hyperactive toddlers while taking them. Good news though: my gorillapod is in the mail! Hopefully that means crisp pictures from here on out!


For the marinade:

  • juice from 2 limes
  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 heaping tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled and minced or mushed through a microplane
  • 1 tbsp honey or agave syrup
  • 2 chicken breasts, sliced across to form 6 cutlets

For the cilantro  yogurt sauce:

  • 1 cup yogurt
  • 2 cups cilantro (loosely packed)
  • 1 large clove of garlic or 2 small
  • 1 green chili
  • 1/4 tsp salt or taste


  1. For the sauce: add all the ingredients into a food processor and blend until smooth.
  2. For the marinade: combine the first 6 ingredients in a bowl or large ziploc bag. Add the chicken and marinade at least 2 hours, or overnight.
  3. Heat a grill pan over high heat. For at least 2 minutes. Make sure it is screaming hot. There will be smoke when the chicken hits – that’s ok. It’s part of the process. Spray the grill pan with non stick cooking spray and grill the cutlets for 3 minutes on each side. Arrange them on a platter and tent with aluminum foil to let the meat rest. Serve with cilantro yogurt sauce.

Lemon Yogurt Cake

IMG_2645Is your fridge forever cluttered? If so,  you can empathize when I say I made this cake for the sole purpose of clearing out a container of yogurt. I’ve been using yogurt quite a bit in lieu of buttermilk for our morning pancakes. Just sub it in your favorite buttermilk pancake recipe, thin it out with some water or milk, and it is just as good!  IMG_2625Inaya is my go to person for sifting dry ingredients together. She can almost mix wet batter, but needs a little help reining in her stirring excitement. Kudos to her since I am not easy to work with in the kitchen. Any one of my friends who have attempted to cook or bake with me only to run out screaming and flailing their arms can attest to that. IMG_2632 Sorry for the sofa/printer pictured here. It’s hard to find good lighting in my apartment and it just so happens that smack in the middle of the living room is the best place. IMG_2633 There’s no butter in this cake. And I can’t say that I don’t miss it. I do. Sincerely. But, luckily, I am taking this over to my in-laws tomorrow, where there is a sort of hex on butter (I know, I know how could we be so different, might as well be from another planet). But there is no denying that some of the best cakes are made with vegetable oil. Namely because veg oil is a liquid at room temperature, so cakes made with it tend to be more moist. Take Beatty’s Chocolate Cake from example. And make no mistake – this is yet another Ina recipe, adapted a bit, which she adapted a bit from Dorie Greenspan. IMG_2637 This cake gets a few hits of lemon flavor. First, the lemon zest infuses the batter. Second, it gets drenched in a lemon/sugar syrup while still warm. Third, it gets a pretty little glaze from a powdered sugar/lemon juice concoction. IMG_2638 I used large eggs instead of the extra large eggs she usually calls for. Didn’t miss a thing. I might try a mixture of baking powder/baking soda next time though, just to see how it affects the rise. Also, I omitted the vanilla extract, which I sincerely regret. IMG_2640  I also used 1/3 cup powdered sugar for the icing rather than a full cup (we’re watching our waist lines around here LOL). IMG_2651So, if you know of any butter haters, this is the cake to make for them.

Adapted from Ina Garten.


  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup full fat plain yogurt
  • 2 tsp lemon zest (from 2 big lemons or 3 small ones)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup lemon juice
  • another 1/3 cup sugar
  • additional 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup powdered sugar (more if that’s your thing)


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line the bottom of a loaf pan with parchment paper and spray with non stick spray.
  2. Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt into a medium bowl. Mix oil, yogurt, lemon zest and vanilla in a large measuring cup or mixing bowl. Add eggs, sugar and stir vigorously until incorporated. Add the wet ingredients to the dry. Don’t over mix – a few lumps are OK. Pour batter into greased pan and bake for 50 minutes.
  3. After the cake is done, let it sit 10 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack. Place the cake and rack over a sheet pan (to catch excess syrup/icing). Dissolve water and sugar in a sauce pan. Poke holes through the top of the cake with a toothpick and drizzle the lemon syrup.
  4. Combine lemon juice and powdered sugar until smooth. Drizzle over the top of the cake. Slice. Serve.

Basil Smoothie

IMG_2613I’m pretty sure Kawsar and I are the only ones I know who doesn’t like smoothies. There’s just something off putting about the texture and consistency, especially when bananas are involved. I wasn’t always this way. He did this to me. It’s funny all the little ways you and your spouse end up influencing one another. IMG_2596 Enter, the basil smoothie. As strange as it sounds, there is only one resounding response to this beverage any time it is served: REFRESHING. SO REFRESHING. No fruits here to muddle with the consistency. Just delicious, tangy, full fat organic yogurt. Fresh basil (a great way to use up that excess basil if your garden is currently overflowing – as basil tends to do). Simple syrup. And ice. Now if you have a quality blender, the consistency would be of a blended ice beverage. Mine is pretty prehistoric so when I hit the power button, it usually just liquifies the ice cubes. It doesn’t bother me too much, since the beverage itself tastes great. But if you are really looking for that shaved ice consistency, pour it into a flat baking dish, stick it in the freezer, and scrape with a fork every few hours to turn this smoothie into a granita type dessert. IMG_2601I saw Giada making this smoothie ages ago and I was hooked. I’ve tweaked it to cut down the sugar (and by omitting the lemon). Since then, pretty much everyone I’ve made it for has duplicated it at home.

I wanted to share this recipe weeks ago so you could enjoy it all Ramadan long. But fear not! We have several more weeks of summer ie lots more basil to be consumed. So if you’ve had it up to here with pesto, or just eaten your last caprese salad (though I don’t know how anyone can have enough caprese salad), then try drinking your basil. You won’t regret it!


  • 1 cup full fat plain yogurt
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup water
  • a handful of basil leaves
  • 1 cup of ice


  1. Make the simple syrup: dissolve the sugar and water in a small saucepan. Let cool.
  2. Add the remaining ingredients to the blender and blend until combined. Garnish with basil leaves.

Salsa all’Amatriciana

IMG_2587It’s Ramadan. The days are long. Brain cells hardly get enough glucose to function throughout the day. You would think after breaking our fasts in the evening, we get a second wind and can be productive. Not the case here. Usually after iftar, my husband and I try to make the most of the 20 or minutes we have together post-kids-bedtime and pre-taraweeh (nightly prayer). Yet even after he leaves for the masjid, I find myself completely unable to do ANYTHING productive. That includes the dishes. I don’t know why this year’s fasts has left my brain and body completely depleted (any md’s/rn’s/nutrionists feel free to chime in). IMG_2538But my dear friend Amreen has been requesting this recipe from the very first time I made it for her back in college. And I, being the jerk friend that I am, have neglected to share it until now. So, on Friday, with bacon, tomatoes and sidekick Moury in hand, whipped up this old favorite.  IMG_2546This recipe is actually from my very first cookbook purchase in high school: Giada’s Everyday Italian. I know I’m always singing Ina’s praises and yes, her show really informed my current culinary outlook. But it all started with Everyday Italian. From Giada, I learned how to make my very first marinara sauce. Shrimp Fra Diavolo. Balsamic Roasted Chicken. Eggplant Caponata. Favorites that I use time and again – and they all come from this book. I can’t say as much for her follow up cookbooks, but this is definitely one I can vouch for. IMG_2557Any Roman reading this will gasp at my bastardization of their beloved Amatriciana sauce – a pancetta/onion/garlic/tomato sauce  except with halal beef bacon in place of the pancetta. I’m sorry! This is just the best we can do! The fat from the bacon balances well with the sweetness/acidity of the tomatoes. So you neither feel like you’re eating a really greasy pesto, nor a flat lined marinara (let’s face it, marinara just isn’t that exciting unless doctored up with some crushed red chili flakes). 
IMG_2576My old, and I mean old (seriously, friends for 13 years now?), friend Moury was with me in the kitchen. And contrary to our last cooking experience, I wasn’t a total tyrant. She took all these photographs for you guys. And since I haven’t been doing any day time eating, these are the only photographs I could manage for this post. IMG_2586So, bacon and pasta lovers rejoice! The perfect marriage of the two is in this dish.

Recipe from Giada De Laurentiis’ Everyday Italian


  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 6 ounces pancetta or slab bacon, diced
  • 1 yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves (I used 3), minced
  • pinch of dried crushed red pepper flakes (I would go with a generous pinch)
  • 1 (28 oz) can tomato purée (I used just over 1.5 lbs fresh tomatoes, blanched then peeled)
  • 1/2 tsp salt plus more to taste
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper plus more to taste
  • 1/2 cup grated Pecorino (I had none, so I just added some julienned basil)


  1. In a large, heavy skillet heat the oil over medium high heat. Add the bacon or pancetta and cook until the fat is rendered – about 8 minutes. Add the onion and cook for an additional 5 min. Add garlic and red pepper flakes and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  2. Add the tomatoes, salt and pepper and reduce the heat to medium-low. Allow the sauce to cook, uncovered for 15 minutes. Stir in the cheese (if you have) and salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Serve with 1 pound of cooked pasta (spaghetti or bucatini).

Tandoori Chicken

IMG_2526My mother, who is a great cook, simply gets green with envy at my oven utilization. She boasts to her friends how I simply toss a few ingredients together and put them all into the oven and set a timer on. No babysitting, freeing up your hands and mind to take care of the dishes, clean up a wee wee accident (what? that’s not a constant in your day to day?) or whatever else you might need to do. People in Bangladesh just don’t have ovens (or they didn’t at least when she was growing up), so the only method of food prep she’s ever known was stovetop. Luckily, I grew up in new york. I’ve used my oven to satisfy my sweet (and savory) tooth since I was a kid. So, given the craziness of everyday life here, it’s good to have a few of these marinades up your sleeves that you can prepare the morning of or night before, and toss in the oven half an hour before dinner time.  IMG_2506I made these homefries to go along with the chicken. The bag said they’re a good source of potassium. Yay for good carbs! Salt, pepper, paprika, garlic powder and olive oil. 425 for 25 min. Wow!IMG_2518 The spice mix is a little tricky to put together but I highly recommend it! There is a small amount of nutmeg (compared to everything else in it) but the flavor really comes through! The flavor is more vibrant than any Shan mix you may buy (and minus the preservatives). Just spend a little bit of time one afternoon or evening to prepare the mix and you’ll have access to delicious tandoori chicken any time! I’ve actually had it sitting in my cupboard for a while (over a year) because I wasn’t crazy about the recipe that went with the mix, but I tried my hand at creating my own recipe more recently and I was blown away! I integrated a few tricks I picked up from Smitten Kitchen, namely her recipe for Buttermilk Roast Chicken. One: that 1 tbsp of salt in the marinade achieves the same effect of brining your chicken. Two: a little bit of sugar goes a long way when roasting chicken. I never was a fan of sweet/savory flavor combinations, but the amount of sugar in this recipe doesn’t make the chicken sweet, rather helps keep all the flavors balanced.  IMG_2521Another thing that’s helped my cooking recently is raw ginger. I’ve always had an aversion to it. The times I would bite down on a piece while eating haleem. The sharp, unpleasant flavor it adds to drinks. So I kind of carried that into my cooking, only using small pinches of the milder version, ginger powder. But when I started using the real deal, something amazing happened: the foods I cooked reached new heights. Like, can-compete-with-my-mom heights. I used to attribute the difference in our foods to the type of salt we use (she uses table salt, I use kosher or sea salt), thinking perhaps what she uses (or the volume of it) amplifies the flavor in a way that kosher salt doesn’t. But now I really believe ginger to hold the key. It adds a depth, a warmth, that is hard to achieve with black pepper or chili powder. All in all, ginger, nutmeg, tender fall-off-the-bone meat all knocks this recipe out of the park.

I kept the skin on the legs, because I love a good, crispy skin. But this recipe works just as well with skinless.


  • 6 chicken legs (thigh + drumstick)
  • 1 cup of plain yogurt
  • juice of a 1 lemon
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp tandoori spice mix
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced or made into a paste
  • 1 inch piece of ginger root, minced or made into a paste
  • a pinch of chili powder (optional)
  • an extra drizzle of olive oil


  1. Make two cuts into the chicken: one at the thigh, one at the drumstick. Place in a gallon zip lock bag.
  2. Combine yogurt, lemon juice, salt, sugar, spice mix, garlic, and ginger in a bowl or large glass measuring cup. Pour over the chicken in the bag and zip shut. Massage the marinade into the meat. Let sit in the fridge for about 8 hours (I did mine in a hurry, about 4 hours, and although it was delicious, it makes a difference in how deeply the flavor penetrates).
  3. Heat oven to 425 Fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet with parchment or aluminum. Take the chicken out of the marinade, shaking off excess. Spread the chicken out (overcrowding will keep the skin from crisping) and lightly sprinkle some chili powder over the top. Drizzle with olive oil for a nice tan, and bake for 30-35 minutes, depending on the size of the individual legs. The meat should be cooked through, but if your meat isn’t nicely browned, turn the heat up to 450 and bake for an additional 5 minutes. I had some leftover (halal beef) bacon grease from the morning, so I used that instead =)
  4. Serve with naan, home fries, or just a nice salad. Extra points for homemade cilantro yogurt dipping sauce (recipe to come!).


Chocolate Mousse Cake

IMG_2483I have always usually been outnumbered in my family by people who aren’t enamored by chocolate. Same was true when I married my husband. Even more so. But then the kids came, and they loved chocolate, especially  dark chocolate. It was then that I knew they were mine (that was the real testament, not the whole watching them come out of me thing). And so now I have little people to share my chocolate obsession with. Little people to make chocolate cake for on birthdays. Little hands to help stir the chocolate chips into cookie dough. And little fingers to steal chocolate chips from the counter before they even have a shot at meeting pancake batter.

IMG_7226 I’ve been planning on making this cake for months now. In March as I assembled my husband’s strawberry shortcake, I was actually thinking of this one. In January while I frosted my daughter’s rocket cake, I secretly fantasized about the light, airy and intensely chocolatey flavor this mousse would impart on a chocolate layer cake. But now it was my son’s birthday, and it was just the four of us. So I went the whole nine chocolate yards.

There are so many things that make this cake delicious. Chocolate, vanilla, and coffee all flavor the chocolate layers. The original recipe doesn’t call for espresso, but this girl learned from the school of Ina Garten, so there is going to be some coffee in my chocolate cake. The mousse is decadent with 2 cups of heavy cream, 13 oz of bittersweet chocolate, 7 egg whites. This is definitely not an everyday cake, but so worth the effort once you take a bite of the finished product. IMG_7227It’s also not for the novice baker, unfortunately. There is egg white beating, folding, chocolate melting, cooling, uniform cake slicing, etc. So if you’ve done these a few times, then you won’t be daunted by this recipe.

The recipe for the mousse makes 8 cups and the directions imply an even divide of all 8 cups between and atop the 3 layers. I needed much less, even when applying the mousse around the sides like a frosting. I used 6 cups for the layers, 1 cup around the sides, and 1 cup for my midnight craving =)

The only thing to be aware of is if you use it around the sides, this cake will have to be refrigerated. At room temperature, the liquid will start to separate and you’ll have a chocolatey mess for the cake. So, keep it in the fridge until just ready to slice and serve.

IMG_2480At this point I have to make a shout out to my friend Jenn Chowdhury, who gifted me this lovely antique cake stand! You might remember the vanilla cake with chocolate buttercream frosting I made for her birthday a few months back.  I’ve been in the market for a while now, since my previous one broke, and this came in the mail like a gift from above. So, thank  you Jenn!!

Recipe adapted from Fine Cooking.


For the cake

  • Butter or vegetable oil for greasing the pan
  • 1 1/2 cups cake flour
  • 6 tbsps unsweetened natural cocoa powder
  • 2 tsp baking pwder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup hottest tap water
  • 1 tsp instant espresso

For the mousse

  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened natural cocoa
  • 13 oz bittersweet chocolate (I used Ghirardelli)
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 7 large egg whites at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup white sugar


For the cake

  1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Grease a 9×2 circular cake pan. Line the bottom with parchment paper and flour the sides of the pan.
  3. Sift the cake flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into a large bowl. Add the sugar and whisk until all the ingredients are well blended. Measure the oil into a liquid measuring cup. Add the egg and vanilla and mix with a fork. Add to the dry ingredients.
  4. Fill the liquid measuring cup with 1 cup hottest tap water. Dissolve the espresso in it and add to the dry ingredients. Mix until the dry ingredients  are just moist, scraping down the sides of the bowl. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 32 to 34 minutes (I baked for 34 min because we’re not dealing with cupcakes here; I’m not too worried about it drying out.) Test it with a toothpick, ensuring that it comes out clean.
  5. Let it cool in the pan for a bit, until you can handle it with your bare hands. Invert it onto a wire rack to cool completely. I like to loosen the sides with a metal spatula or butterknife. Then I place on hand on top, turn the cake out onto my hand, and delicately place over the wire rack. Remove the parchment paper. Let cool to room temperature. Refrigerate or freeze until ready to apply the mousse.
  6. The original recipe suggests assembling it in a springform pan, but I just did so on the cake stand. Slice the cake into three even layers. I like to cut an inch or two deep going around the circumference, before cutting all the way through (otherwise I usually end up with slanted layers). Set the top two layers aside. Scoop about 2 cups of the mousse onto the layer. Spread delicately with a spatula. Add the second cake layer on top. Scoop an additional 2 cups of mousse and spread evenly. Add the top layer and an additional 2 cups mousse. Before applying to the sides, add strips of parchment paper on the cake stand, tucking into the bottom layer (just to keep the surface clean). Starting from the top, add a dollop of mousse and carefully push down the sides. Rotate the stand and continue until the sides are fully covered.
  7. Garnish with chocolate curls, if desired. Refrigerate until ready to be eaten.

For the mousse

  1. Set up an ice bath in a large bowl. Bring the cream and cocoa to a boil in a large saucepan over medium heat, whisking to incorporate all the cocoa. Remove from heat and add the chopped chocolate and butter. Whisk until well combined. Pour the chocolate mixture into a medium bowl and place over ice bath. Keep stirring while the mixture comes to room temperature. Remove bowl from ice bath.
  2. Beat the egg whites in a large bowl with a hand held electric mixture on low speed until frothy. Increase speed to medium and beat until soft peaks form. Add the sugar gradually and beat until peaks are almost stiff.
  3. Add the beaten egg whites to the chocolate mixture in about four batches. Fold the egg whites into the mixture carefully with each addition. Here is a great video demonstrating folding.
  4. The mousse is ready when all the egg whites are incorporated and there are no lumps.

Rhubarb Mango Chutney

IMG_2464Is rhubarb out of season yet? I am way behind with this post, I know. I have been behind on life, in general, as of late. So even though I made my husband track down rhubarb when the season for it first came around (it is surprisingly difficult to find around these parts) and serendipitously also had some delicious, though overripe, Haitian mangoes on hand to make this weeks ago…I am only now sharing it with you. Sad face.

I know the combination of rhubarb, overripe mangoes, anise seeds and mustard oil aren’t ingredients most people have on hand most of the time. But as we near the end of rhubarb season, I hope you can still attempt to make this chutney. Or at least save it for next year.

I know most people tend to make some sort of rhubarb/strawberry pastry this time of year but something strange has happened to me recently. My sweet tooth has faded. Maybe I’ve made one too many cookies. But for some reason, butter rich, sugar filled treats just don’t give me the same satisfaction it used to. Not to say I’ve shunned them for good. I still taste test what I make and indulge when I go out with my girlfriends. Anyway, I was looking for something a bit more savory, and palatable for the rest of the clan. This was probably one of my most successful experimentations. It was annihilated at my in-laws’. Reduced to half in my own home overnight. It just hit every note. Admittedly, there is a lot of sugar in this, but only because the rhubarb was so darn tart. I don’t regularly have rhubarb, I don’t know if they range in tartness, but the tartness of this batch rivaled any lemon. If yours is less tart, feel free to start out with a smaller amount of sugar, and add more as needed.


  • 1 tbsp mustard oil
  • 1 pinch anise seeds or pach forom
  • 1/2 red onion, diced
  • 3 stalks of rhubarb, leaves and ends trimmed, diced into 1 in pieces
  • 4-5 dried red chilis (less for mild heat)
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • pulp of 2 overripe mangoes, preferably the haitian variety


  1. Heat oil over medium high heat in a medium saucepan. Add the anise seeds or pach forom and fry until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the onions and cook until translucent. Add rhubarb, chilis, sugar, vinegar, salt and mango pulp. Stir and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cover.
  2. Cook for 40 minutes, stirring occasionally, until everything is broken down. Taste for seasoning.