Ever since I started cooking for myself, my taste for takeout has rapidly declined (pizza and sushi exempt). Take chinese takeout for example: when I was a kid, it was the ultimate treat. My Friday lunch if I used my allowance wisely. I’m not sure what you know about Bengali moms, but they are pretty militant in their meal regiment. Rice, vegetable saute/bhorta, some kind of protein curried, and daal. That is what you have for dinner, every night. Without fail. Every bengali kid who grew up here knows the struggle to have something different on the table (first world problems, I know). And the retorts that follow: “Eh? Pizza? How is that any kind of food? What with all that cheese…and they wonder why American kids are so fat!”. This is usually said as one or more uncles are stuffing their faces with beef or goat curry and are working away at a Mt Everest sized mound of rice on their plate.
Anywho, takeout became less of a treat as I started making things like fried rice, fried chicken or tacos at home. The takeout versions just seemed laden with MSG, salt and grease. I used to be a little incredulous of Rachel Ray always insisting that the food you cook at home is so much better than takeout because you control what goes in there. But once you wean your taste buds of those noxiously high amounts of salt and fat, you can appreciate well made food. Food that someone didn’t just throw salt and fat at to make taste good. Rather, food that took time and thought to cook. Tasting along the way to make sure everything came together at the end.
Not to say that this recipe doesn’t include oil or sodium. I make mine with light olive oil (as opposed to extra virgin) and soy sauce, along with fresh garlic, ginger powder, and a generous serving of sriracha afterwards. It’s very versatile though: use any leftover meat you may have. And it’s quick and easy enough for a weeknight meal. You can use any combination of vegetables you like, as long as there are some root vegetables (onions, carrot, celery, etc.) along with corn, peas or even zucchini. For the protein, you can substitute eggs, small cubes of beef, shrimp or even tofu. And the cilantro is optional (I would put cilantro on everything if I could).
- 1 cup short grain rice
- 3 tbsp olive oil or vegetable oil
- 1 1/2 cups mixed root vegetables, chopped small, comparable to the size of peas (I used onions, carrots and green peppers)
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/4 tsp ginger powder
- 2 tbsps soy sauce
- a pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)
- 1 cup cooked chicken, cubed (if using left over curried chicken, rinse under water to get rid of the spices)
- 1/4 cup frozen peas
- 1/4 cup frozen corn
- a handful of cilantro, chopped
- In a small saucepan or pot, rinse the rice with cold water. Then add water to cover (the water should cover the rice by at least an inch). Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium while preparing the vegetables.
- In a wok or large skillet, heat the oil over medium high heat. Add the vegetables and let them soften (about 5 minutes depending on how big you cut them). Add garlic, ginger, soy sauce and red pepper flakes. Reduce heat to medium.
- Working quickly, and keeping an eye on your vegetables so they don’t burn, drain the rice in a colander. Add to vegetables. Add chicken and frozen vegetables. Combine over medium heat. Be sure to break up any big chunks of rice (short grain rice is very starchy). Cook until frozen vegetables are heated through. Top with cilantro and taste for seasoning.
- Serve with Sriracha or any hot sauce of your liking.
This weekend was a welcome respite from the bitter cold of the past few months. Temperatures soared to the 50s (watch out LA, we’re catching up). I refused to wear socks…despite that fact that all the snow hadn’t fully melted. We took it all in. Enjoyed our walks instead of rushing from building to car to store then back.
But now the week has begun and and with it, freezing temps. So you can imagine my efforts to avoid multiple trips to the store. I’m pulling out all the stops to use up pantry ingredients. And I know how my readers love a CHEAP, QUICK and DELICIOUS weeknight meal.This doesn’t look like your usual curry (for lack of liquid). This type of dish is called a bhuna: where the liquids are allowed to evaporate for the most part, leaving a concentrated flavor enhanced usually by a large amount of caramelized onions. Most Bengalis would leave a dish like this for special occasions, typically shunning the high amount of cholesterol by the egg and coconut milk combination. Except now, according to recent studies, the cholesterol/fat found in both is good for you (but perhaps not for South Asian populations??). Who knows what to believe anymore with studies constantly disproving what we thought to be true for so long. I’m going to go with my usual wisdom: enjoy in moderation!
- 6 eggs
- 1/4 cup olive oil or vegetable oil
- 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
- 1 12 oz can coconut milk
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/4 tsp ground ginger
- 3/4 tsp cumin
- 3/4 tsp coriander
- a pinch of turmeric (optional)
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 green chilis (or more if you like)
- 1 tsp salt (or to taste
- 1/2 tsp black pepper (or white pepper for a more mild heat)
- Place the eggs gently into a small saucepan and add enough water to cover the eggs. Bring to a boil over hight heat, then put the lid on and turn off the heat. Let sit for 6 minutes. Then run under cold water to help cool down enough to peel. PEELING TIP: crack on the counter and roll around. That helps loosen the shell.
- In a small nonstick saute pan, heat a tablespoon of oil over high heat. While it heats, toss the eggs with a pinch of turmeric and salt. Once hot, add the peeled eggs and let it sear on one side, after 30 seconds or so, stir to brown the flip side (do the best you can with this). Remove from heat.
- In a large saute pan, heat the remaining oil over medium high heat. Add the onions and saute until they are brown around the edges (8 to 10 minutes). Add the coconut milk, garlic, ginger, cumin, coriander, turmeric (if using), bay leaf, chilis, salt and pepper. Let it simmer over a medium heat for about 5 minutes. Add the eggs, toss to combine, and check for seasoning.
Simple bhuna: ditch the coconut milk for water. Increase turmeric to 1/2 tsp.
Tomato and cilantro: use 1 cup water instead of coconut milk and add 1 tomato, diced. Garnish with 1/4 cup chopped cilantro.
Korma: Ditch the turmeric. Use milk or half and half in lieu of coconut milk. Garnish with raisins and slivered almonds.
Were the first year or two out of college a big smack in the face for anyone else? I remember sitting around my freshman year sociology class discussing Durkheim, or learning about the Coriolis effect in Intro Mechanics, or even listening to Bashir Abu Manneh’s impassioned lectures on Fanon, thinking, “I’m good enough to get this far, I can do pretty much whatever I want to do.” Well, I couldn’t. Not for a long time. For many of us who graduate from Liberal Arts schools without ultra competitive job offers, Teach For America gigs, or grad school acceptances, life after college is a bitch. One of my peers in Physics had a nanny gig lined up after graduation. Mindy Kaling, even with her Dartmouth education, nannied for a while when she first moved to the city. I got a part time job pushing paper at a consulting firm (that led to better opportunities later on). I searched for jobs for over a year and a half, whereas I believed with my degree, landing one would be a cinch. It was a humbling experience. I realized that as while you’re dishing out the dough, you can be fooled into a false sense of entitlement. But when it comes to earning a few of those dollars back, intelligence is rarely enough. You need to be practical. Don’t fall into the same millenials boat. Moral of the story is this: don’t go to a liberal arts school. Of, if you do, do incredibly well, so that you graduate at the top of your class. Become a pharmacist. Or learn to code. Make sure you have a decent internship lined up before your senior year. Harass people to get a decent job offer – persistence pays. I wish someone had told me any one of these. What does all this have to do with chocolate chip banana pancakes? Well, I have a lot of time to think while babysitting these guys on the stove. I make these like once a week and they are so incredibly good. I rarely have enough overripe bananas for banana bread, but often have one or two. The perfect amount for providing a hint of sweetness and banana flavor to regular pancakes. They are so light and fluffly…not like these ricotta pancakes I had at brunch a few weeks ago at a pretty popular Greenpoint spot (could NOT finish those dense giants).
I make them “reduced guilt” by incorporating whole wheat. You can even go the full 9 yards by subbing unsweetened applesauce for butter, and blueberries for chocolate chips. I sometimes have blueberries and hand and ALWAYS have chocolate chips. So, here you go.
- 2 overripe bananas
- 1 egg
- 1 1/2 cups whole or reduced fat milk
- 3 tbsp butter, melted
- 3/4 cup all purpose flour
- 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
- 2 1/2 tsps baking powder
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 1/4 cup chocolate chips
- Mash bananas in a medium bowl with fork. Add egg and whisk together. Add milk and stir to combine. I like to melt the butter in the frying pan that I’m using to cook the pancakes in. Add to the banana/egg/milk mixture.
- Add both flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt and sugar to the mix. Stir to combine without over beating (few lumps are ok). Add chocolate chips.
- Heat up your griddle or non stick pan over low heat.
- Scoop 1/4 cup of batter onto the pan. Cook until bubbles come through, about 1 min. Flip and cook for an additional 30 seconds or until you achieve a golden brown color.
I prefer this method rather than adding pads of butter to the pan for each pancake, as the coloring is much more even.
I remember having fruit chaat for the first time at my cousin Lima Apa’s house. I was flabbergasted at how bright and flavorful a simple yogurt dressing made otherwise pretty boring fruit (green apples, red grapes). Since then, I use the dressing as a way to eat more fruits during the winter months. When the mangos are tart and the berries are lackluster. A quick toss, and you’ll be surprised at how quickly the fruit disappears!
The key ingredient in this South Asian fruit salad is Chaat Masala. A tangy/savory/spicy combination of spices that includes salt, chili powder, black pepper, citric acid and green mango. On it’s own, it’s a bit too spicy for me. So a little bit of it, along with a little bit of salt and the yogurt is uh-mazing. It’s available in any South Asian grocery.
I’ve left this deconstructed since it’s not so pretty mixed up. This makes for a great appetizer if you’re hosting a party, or even as a hostess gift. Just leave some toothpicks on the side for people to pierce the fruit with.
It’s so versatile, you can alter it any which way to accommodate most dietary restrictions. Dairy allergy? Use soy yogurt. Counting calories? Substitute lowfat yogurt in the dressing (though I am a big proponent of eating full fat foods in moderation). Allergic to a specific fruit? Just leave everything in their own compartments. Cover well with plastic wrap if transporting or consuming later in the day.
- 1 cup full fat yogurt
- 3/4 tsp chaat masala (or you could use a mix of equal parts chili powder, black pepper, coriander, and cumin)
- 3/4 tsp salt (or to taste)
1. Mix the ingredients for the dressing in a bowl. You only need a small amount for each cup of fruit – approximately 1 tbsp per cup.
Is anyone else desperately searching for flights out of this frozen tundra?? I know I am. And as much as I’d love a quick getaway, schedules and money are just slightly getting in the way. So if you can’t get away to the heat…bring it!
Let me start off by issuing an apology to any of my South Indian readers: I am sorry. This is not an authentic Sambar. For those who are less familiar, sambar is a traditional South Indian lentil and vegetable soup and is an accompaniment to pretty much any South Indian meal. You can dip your idli (rice cake) or dosa (rice flour crepe) in the spicy/tangy/savory broth. Or you can have it over rice, or the way I do: straight out of the bowl. This version came about after some extensive online searches for sambar recipes, as well as some deep soul searching into what ingredients I can make do with thus saving myself a trip to the store. I did not use Tur daal, as is traditionally used in sambars. No coconut or curry leaves. This is basically my usual daal, but with the addition of:
- mixed vegetables – so I can sneak some more veggies into my kids
- tamarind – to provide that distinctly tart taste
- cumin, coriander and chili powder – for a well rounded and spicy flavor profile
- and ketchup…because I was out of tomatoes.
I know, I know! Ketchup! But things changed when I got a bottle of REAL ketchup. Like organic ketchup, with no high fructose corn syrup. It’s not overpoweringly sweet. It tastes like…tomatoes. So it was really a wonderful substitute in this dish. I actually think I’m going to add it to more dishes (e.g. like my mother in law’s sweet chicken curry…the whole sauce is ketchup based!).
You can add as few or as many red chilis as you like. Just keep in mind, the longer you cook the chilis and sambar together, the spicier it will be. I prefer to just smush the chilis into the broth as I’m eating, little by little. But that’s only if you can handle the heat.
- 1/2 cup masoor daal, rinsed with water and picked through for any impurities
- 8 cups of water
- 3 large cloves of garlic, peeled
- 4 dried red chilis
- 1 cup mixed vegetables (I used an assortment of frozen peas, corn, edamame and peppers)
- 2 tsps salt (or to taste)
- 1/2 tsp turmeric
- 1/2 tsp coriander
- 1/2 tsp cumin
- pinch of chili powder (or a 1/4 tsp depending on how spicy you like it)
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1/2 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
- 1 pinch pach forom
- 1 large clove garlic, minced
- 1 tsp tamarind paste
- 2 heaping tbsps good ketchup
- a handful of cilantro
- Rinse the lentils in a medium saucepan and add the 8 cups of water. Add garlic and 2 of the chilis and bring to a boil over high heat. Watch carefully as it might overflow.
- Reduce heat to medium high and skim off the foam on top. Add the vegetables, salt, turmeric, coriander, cumin and chili powder and cook until lentils are cooked through (about 10 to 12 minutes).
- While that is going, heat the olive oil in a small to medium fry pan over medium heat. Add the onions and stir occasionally. When starting to brown around the edges, lower the heat and add the pach forom, minced garlic and remaining two chilis. Stir until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
- In a small bowl, dissolve the tamarind with some of the liquid from the sauce pan. Add back into the saucepan, along with ketchup and fried onion mixture. Add the cilantro and check for seasonings. It should have a slightly salty bite.
Photo credit: my dear sister in law, Sabika Mustafa. Ethics Bowl Champ of NJ!!
My daughter wants to be an astronaut…for now. For the sole purpose of being able to board a rocket and go to the mysterious presence in the night sky. I remember wanting to as well. Then I learned you have to pass a swim test. And psych testing. And you need a PhD in math/science/engineering (the bachelors did me in).
And the job market doesn’t seem to be too promising for astronauts, since they’re outsourcing it to the machines [insert techno slur]. But she doesn’t know all this just yet. So for now, [CLICHÉ ALERT] she will just have her rocket cake and eat it, too. Planet earth(ish) sugar cookies, pop rocks, and little green men all helped make the space party special!For the inside, I used the classic chocolate cake recipe from Ina Garten (Beatty’s Chocolate Cake), baked in an 11×15 pan for 27 min. Except I did the usual substitution for buttermilk (1 tbsp white vinegar + 1 tbsp less than 1 cup of milk). And since the kids were going to be hopped up on sugar, I used decaf coffee. I’ve been doing A LOT of reading up on cakes. And there’s no wonder why this recipe has over 1700 rave reviews and counting. There’s:
- vegetable oil, which is a liquid at room temp, which makes it moist
- coffee, which compliments the cocoa flavor and also adds moisture
- acidity from the buttermilk: which tenderizes the flour
And yet with all these liquids, the cake holds up well enough to decorate. I used the guide from Spoonful on how to create a rocket cake. Just remember when you are attaching the “thrusters”, you have to flip cut parts down, and then over, so that the curve faces away from the cake. I added a little extra “flair” with the leftover scraps (I could have eaten all of them myself, but my pants would hate me for it).
I also made two other cakes: banana cake with dark chocolate ganache for my daughter for the day of her birthday and perfect yellow cake with chocolate buttercream for a friend from college on her 30th (can you tell I’m a big smitten kitchen fan?)!
For the frosting, I used a concoction of my own:
- 12 oz white chocolate (Ghirardelli)
- 3 sticks (12 oz) butter, room temp
- 4 tbsp milk (or as needed)
- Break the chocolate up and add to a bowl and microwave at 30 second intervals, stirring between each interval, until melted. Do not overheat! Remaining bits of chocolate will melt with the residual heat of the melted chocolate. Just keep stirring! Mine took 90 seconds. Set aside and let cool for 10 minutes.
- Whip butter at medium speed for 1 minute. Add cooled chocolate and continue whipping for 2 minutes. Lower the speed and add milk until it reaches spreadable consistency. Tint TINY dabs of food gels to decorate.
I don’t really give a lot of thought to New Years resolutions. Calendars are such a man made construct – how is tomorrow more or less relevant than today? I know I seem like Buzz Killington here, while everyone is hastily getting ready for their NYE parties (and hey, I am, too). But I just got this email from wordpress reviewing the year in stats that made me reflect a bit. Although it is nowhere where I’d like to be, I’ve come a long way from the early days of dinky pictures in low lit spaces. I’ve learned a lot and have put a lot of work into sharing content that I think will be meaningful you guys. And as I make my way through my late twenties, I definitely feel the pressure to do something I am proud of, improve and grow, and do right by my kids.Some of my favorite posts from this past year was Julia Child’s glorious ratatouille, the traditional Bengali Rice Pilaf that was actually approved for submission into Foodgawker, and the Sticky Toffee Pudding that I thought photographed so beautifully. I am proud though, of the progress I’ve made. Starting out with some not so relevant recipes to some pretty handy dandy ones for newbies to the [especially Bengali] kitchen. And though I haven’t garnered nearly enough traffic to consider myself a success, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed hearing anecdotes from you guys about the different recipes you’ve tried and your personal success stories in the kitchen. A friend of mine posted on my Facebook page saying, “You inspire me to cook!” and I thought to myself, that is the whole reason I started this blog in the first place. To share some recipes or insights with people who don’t have the time or resources to spend in the kitchen. So to them, and to anyone else reading this, THANK YOU for making 2013 such a great year for Kitchen3N. I look forward to sharing more goodies with you guys in the years to come. Now, what is a bhorta? They are usually made from boiled/steamed vegetables or dried fish, then ground to a pulp using a shil pata (stone slab, kind of like mortar and pestle), along with raw onions, green chilis, salt and mustard oil. Sometimes dried red chilis. They are CRAZY good. My mom’s experimented with the preserved fish readily available in this country: anchovies, sardines, etc. But this one is the best. Some permutations include lime leaves (which can be hard to find, which is why I improvised with lemon zest and lemon juice). These aren’t traditional ingredients but they help brighten up the flavor without using way too much salt. It’s a great low fat side. Be warned though: it is spicy! Of course you can adjust it to your taste, but for an authentic Bengali experience, crank up the heat!
- 1/2 lb large shrimp, peeled, deveined and tails off
- salt, pepper and olive oil
- 3/4 lb string beans, stems off
- zest of 1 lemon
- 1 tsp lemon juice
- 1/2 cup cilantro, roughly chopped
- 1/4 chopped yellow onion
- 1 tbsp mustard oil (could probably substitute regular ol’ mustard)
- 1/2 tsp salt (or to taste)
- 2 green chilis, roughly chopped (add just one if you are a heat lightweight! and wear gloves if necessary…just don’t stick your fingers in your eyes afterward!)
- This is unconventional, but it’s the only way I cook shrimp: toss shrimp with 1/4 tsp salt, 1/8 tsp pepper and 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil. Spread onto a baking sheet and roast in a 400 degree F oven for 7 minutes (more or less depending on the size of the shrimp. Once cool enough to handle, chop roughly and transfer into a food processor.
- Next boil some water in a large pot. Once it comes to a full boil, add 1 tsp salt and add the green beans (do it in batches if necessary). It should take 5 minutes to cook through. Drain, chop roughly and add to food processor.
- Add the remaining ingredients to the food processor and blend to combine. Serve with rice and daal.