Patishapta pitha was the rare pitha I would eat growing up. Maybe it’s a regional thing, but I just did not enjoy most pithas I had. [Pitha: Bengali dumplings. Usually made out of rice flour. Sometimes a combo of rice flour and wheat flour. And in my experience, dry af most of the time. Sometimes sweet with a coconut or jaggery filling. And, as I found out after marriage, sometimes plain, eaten with curry.]
3 Layer Kulfi Cake
My husband and I were so different when we met. He like TV, I liked the arts. He liked iHOP, I liked (and still like) bougie NYC brunch places. He enjoyed test driving cars and playing video games. I liked boutique window shopping and baking.
Coconut Jaggery Hand Pies (Narkeler Pitha)
Pitha – a Bengali style sweet dumpling. Narkeler pitha – dumpling filled with coconut and date sap. Usually the dough is made with rice flour and water(?), filled with the coconut mixture, then deep fried. I never learned how to make pitha, but I did teach myself how to make hand pies.
Cha Leches Cake
Most of you are familiar with chai – a spiced tea drink, made with some kind of milk. Most Bengalis I know and grew up with, didn’t spice their tea, but steeped some strong black tea and cooked it down with milk, or evaporated milk, and sweetened to taste. This is called dood cha (translation: milk tea). My favorite childhood treat was dunking a piece of Wonder bread in my mother’s milk tea. This dessert, an adaptation of tres leches, rekindles that memory. A sponge cake that is soaked in a steeped black tea milk mixture, and topped with whipped cream, recreates that childhood favorite in dessert form. I made it on a whim at my in law’s place over the weekend so I don’t have many pictures. I tried recreating it with PG Tips pyramid tea bags – and although tasty, did not have a strong enough flavor. Will share more pictures when I recreate it – in the meantime I need to buy up some loose tea of my own, since the tea bags just won’t do in this recipe.
Rasmalai Ricotta Cheesecake
I had a lemon ricotta cheese in Sorrento that was a game changer. Compared to dense, tangy, NY style cheesecake (which is delicious in its own rite), this was so light, so brightly flavored with regional citrus, it was the most heavenly thing I had tasted during my 4 months in Italy (in addition to cinnamon gelato, rosemary potato pizza, and fresh ricotta calzone).
I woke up the morning after Thanksgiving like I imagine a runner feels the morning after a race: like I got hit by a truck.
A whole week of groceries, prep, planning culminating in an evening with loved ones and good food. It was EXHAUSTING and I was happy to do it.
But even after the last doggy bag was packed, we had quite a bit of turkey left over. It’s been our breakfast, lunch and dinner. Then last night, I recalled my friend Biny of #binyskitchen saying how she’d use her leftovers for turkey pot pies. Now, pot pies don’t fly here, but South Asian flavors do. I thought I’d cook some of the leftover turkey in a cream sauce with spices and frozen peas (to make it the slightest bit healthy) and the gang inhaled it!
So here’s how I created it. Don’t be intimidated by the long list of ingredients. If you ever want to make South Asian food at home, you need these in stock. Fine to use a “garam masala” mix if you don’t have the last 5 spices. I wouldn’t use a curry powder to sub the first few spices, as that has turmeric and chili powder and would change the flavor of the korma.
What is korma? Any meat/seafood/veggie dish cooked in a cream or yogurt or nut paste sauce. Simmered with warm spices (not the spicy spices) and slightly sweet. Chicken korma was my favorite dish growing up, but only reserved for special occasions, like Eid or birthdays.
Hope you enjoy this recipe!
- 1/2 onion, diced
- 1 tbsp ghee or butter
- 1/2 tsp ground cumin
- 1/2 tsp ground coriander
- 1 tsp garlic/ginger paste*
- 1 cup turkey/chicken broth or water
- 2-3 cups cubed turkey breast
- 1 cup frozen peas
- 1/8 tsp nutmeg
- 1/8 tsp clove
- 1/8 tsp cardamom
- 1/4 tsp cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp black pepper
- 1/2 tsp sugar
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 3/4 cup milk
- 1/4 cup half & half
- In a large saute pan, heat ghee or butter over medium high heat and add onions. Cook until onions are translucent and lightly browned around the edges. Add the cumin, coriander and garlic/ginger paste. Stir, then slowly add the broth or water. Scrape all the browned bits from the bottom of the pan and allow mixture to simmer for 2-3 minutes.
- Add the turkey, peas and remaining spices. Stir to combine then add the milk and half and half. Let simmer for 5 minutes.
- Remove from heat and serve with rice or quinoa.
*You can sub garlic/ginger paste with 1 clove of garlic AND a small (maybe 1/2inch) piece of ginger minced or pressed through a zester.
Mango Mousse (Eggless)
Summa summa summatiiiiiime. I’m keeping the oven off for this one. I’m keeping my fruit bowl stocked up on glorious mangoes. And I’m eating them whole, skin off, just me and the pulp, with the juices running down my elbows. When I’m not eating them whole, I’m whipping up the most divine desserts with them, from ice cream to pudding to this luscious mousse.
Of course I couldn’t leave well enough alone. Yes, I could’ve blended mango pulp with sugar and folded it into whipped cream. But why do that when adding a bump of flavor is so easy and impactful? I add the juice and zest of half a lime and it works so well to cut the sweetness of the mango and the richness of the cream. It’s a balancing act. And I’ve been obsessed with limes lately. I find the aroma absolutely intoxicating. From virgin mojitos to salad dressings – I’ve been putting them in everything. I also add a splash of vanilla to make it extra special – adding a floral dimension to a fruity dessert.
There are two schools of thought when it comes to mousse. One includes raw whipped eggs whites. The other is a more simple one, made with just whipped cream. While this was a delicious, easy and no fuss method of making mango mousse, my curiosity will not be satisfied until I try a version with the egg whites. Though I’m not too crazy about consuming raw eggs, for the sake of recipe testing, I will! So keep an eye out for a future post with the egg white inclusive version!
- 2 1/2 cups heavy cream
- 2 cups mango pulp (from about 3 large mangos)
- 1/2 cup sugar plus 2 tbsp
- juice and zest of half a lime plus more for garnish
- 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
- If possible, freeze the bowl and whisk attachment of your stand mixer (or bowl/beaters) for about 10 minutes. Cream whips up much faster when cooler. When ready to whip, take out bowl and whisk/beaters from fridge, pour cream into bowl and add 2 tbsp sugar. Start whipping at low speed. As the cream gets thicker, gradually increase speed. When it reaches soft peaks (when it looks billowy and the whisk leaves lines in the cream), remove about 1 cup of the cream for the topping. Keep mixing the rest until you reach stiff peaks. Add in the vanilla and give it a final stir by hand. Set aside.
- In a food processor or high power blender, blend the mango puree, 1/2 cup sugar, lime juice and zest until well combined.
- Gradually add to the whipped cream, 1/3 of the mango puree at a time, folding into the whipped cream gently. When completely incorporated, pour the mousse into a trifle bowl, or similar bowl with high sides. Top with the whipped cream you set aside earlier. Garnish with extra lime zest.
Ramadan Round Up
Ramadan is halfway over, but there’s still time to make some of my favorite recipes for this time of year! Going clockwise from the top left:
Citrus Quinoa Salad with Dates, Almonds and Mint – we consume a lot of dates during Ramadan. This recipe uses up any extra dates you may have in a salad you can feel good about eating at the end of a long fast!
Meyer Lemon Strawberry Lemonade – I know sugar is the devil. I know. But you have to try this lemonade. It is light years beyond any bottled strawberry lemonade you can find. Recipe adapted from Pioneer Woman.
Basil Smoothie – a surprising staple in many homes I’ve introduced this smoothie to. Basil, yogurt, sugar and ice makes for an unexpectedly refreshing drink.
Tandoori Chicken – an easy, make ahead dish. When you’re fasting, you’re low on energy. So the less time you have to spend on your feet in the kitchen, the better. These chicken legs get a quick marinade of yogurt and spices. Then about 45 minutes before eating, pop them in a hot oven. That is all.
Mint Limeade – aka virgin mojitos. The refreshing flavors of lime and mint make this the perfect compliment to your break-fast meal.
Haleem – a protein packed Ramadan must. It’s one stop, one pot iftar. Stewed meat, grains and lentils combine to make the most filling, comforting dish possible. Can probably make this in your slow cooker as well.
Fruit Chaat – refreshing and easy. Simply combine your favorite fruits – try to ensure varying textures and levels of sweetness. Try apples, grapes, kiwis. Or pineapple, cantelope, raspberries. Or mango, blueberry, nectarine. Leave the yogurt/chaat masala dressing on the side, or mixed in, for a variation of your favorite fruit salad.
Banana Date Nut Bread – another healthy way to use up dates. The potassium from the bananas and dates combined with the fiber from the whole wheat make this bread great to have on hand when you’re short on time for your pre-dawn meal. Can bump up the fiber content with flax seeds, chia seeds, etc.
Aloo Chop (Fried Mashed Potato Balls) – not the healthiest thing on the list, but a comfort food must for many of us South Asians. Mashed potato balls stuffed with bits of hard boiled egg, breaded and fried. Yum!
Aloo Chop (Fried Mashed Potato Balls)
Traditional Bengali iftars are an exercise in how many different ways can we consume fried foods. Ground up lentils and herbs? FRY IT! Fresh sliced eggplant? BATTER AND FRY IT! Whole green chilis? FRY IT! Mashed potatoes? FRY. IT.
There’s been a backlash by my generation against the fried iftars of our parents’ generation:
- “We’re just doing broiled salmon and sauteed green beans for iftar.”
- “I’m doing a green smoothie for iftar.”
- “Every year I gain weight during Ramadan. No fried foods for me this year.”
Yet when we go to the inevitable iftar dawat at our parents’ or aunts’ or grandparents’, we’re still gonna pop a couple of fritters on our plate while no one’s looking. Not the whole deep fried green chilis – dear God no. I don’t know WHO that appeals to. But we can pretty unanimously agree on the Aloo Chop. Any manifestation of a fried potato is right by my books. And when filled with tiny cubes of hard boiled egg, well it becomes a whole darn meal!
I justify it by compounding it with salad. Lots of greens and veggies. And water. I read somewhere on the internets that junk food is ok, as long as you drink lots of water afterward. =)
I went with Yukon gold potatoes, as they are more waxy than Idaho. I didn’t add any butter or milk to the potatoes themselves, as I wanted them to hold their shape as well as they could while sizzling away in the hot oil.
The best part is, they freeze beautifully. Just pop them in the a ziploc before the egg wash/breading stage, and fry them up whenever you want them. These take a little bit of time to prepare, but these are the things childhood memories are made of.
- 2 lbs yukon gold potato, quartered
- 1 tsp kosher salt plus more to taste
- 1 tsp chaat masala*
- 1/2 tsp ground cumin
- 4 scallions, thinly sliced
- 1/2 cup minced cilantro
- 1 green chili, minced (optional)
- 3 hard boiled eggs, chopped small
- a squeeze of lemon juice (optional)
- a dash of salt
- a dash of cayenne pepper
- 3 eggs
- 2 cups seasoned breadcrumbs
- vegetable oil for frying
- In a large pot, bring 4 quarts of water to boil. Carefully lower potatoes and cook until tender: 10-12 minutes. I don’t bother peeling them. I boil them skin on, then when cool to the touch, peel back the skins like my mom used to do.
- Season the potatoes with salt, chaat masala and cumin. Taste for seasoning and add more salt if necessary. Mash with a potato masher. Add scallions, cilantro (all but 1 tbsp of it) and green chili is using**. Then get in there with your hand and incorporate very well. Set aside.
- Season the diced hard boiled eggs with the remaining 1 tbsp cilantro, lemon juice, salt and cayenne pepper. Toss lightly.
- Make balls with the mashed potato mixture by grabbing a handful, rolling into a ball, pressing in to make an indent (see picture above), and fill with a tiny bit of the egg mixture. Enclose the egg mixture fully with the edges of the potato ball. Set aside on a plate or baking sheet and continue making the rest of the balls. At this point you can freeze the balls and fry them off at a later time as needed.
- Heat up oil (enough to come up 2 inches) in a small wok or saucepan to 325 to 350 degrees F. In a shallow bowl, crack eggs and beat lightly. In another shallow bowl, pour out the breadcrumbs. roll each ball in the egg, then in the bread mixture, then lower carefully into the hot oil. Do not crowd the pan. Fry for 2 to 4 minutes, until lightly browned. Remove from oil and onto a paper towel lined plate. Serve with Sriracha or Ketchup.
*Chaat masala is a tangy/salty/spicy spice mix that can bring any dish to life. Easily available at any Indian grocery.
**I wouldn’t recommend adding the green chili unless you are a LOVER of spicy foods. I just have it listed as it is a traditional ingredient.
I was going to write about how comfort food for me is not cream laden, starch based dish. About how I would be disappointed during weekend lunches when my mom would bring out a pot of fish curry yet when I moved out to my dorm it was those memories that comforted me during cold, dark and lonely weekday nights. And one of the few things that connected me to my childhood as a married woman cooking for her own family. But I realized I’ve written all of that before. And as touching as it is, I can’t dwell on it. Not with all that’s going on. I am sick of the vitriol being spewed from my screen. From fellow commuters. From people I’ve shared a hometown with for years. But I’m emboldened by the acts of good among all the recent backlash against my community. The little Texan boy that donated his savings to a mosque in his neighborhood that was vandalized. Brandon of HONY, who appeared on Fareed Zakaria, pleading the case of the Syrian refugees. Justin Trudeau and the choir that welcomed refugees with a rendition of Tala Al Badru Alayna – the song that the people of Medina sang to receive the Prophet Muhammad and his followers when they left Mecca due to persecution.Scapegoating, racism, xenophobia – these are nothing new to mankind. But social media is. So I ask you, during these historic times, will we find ourselves as complacent as the citizens of the world during WWII? Will we let the negative news saturate our feeds? Or will we use the platforms we’ve been given to help our neighbors, speak the truth and contribute to the forces of good?
- 2 tilapia filets (about 3/4 pound total), cut widthwise into 1/2 in to 3/4 in pieces*
- 1/4 tsp turmeric
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 3 tbsp light olive oil
- pinch anise seeds (optional)**
- 1/2 large onion (or 1 medium one), sliced
- 1 Roma tomato, sliced into half inch slices
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 jalapeno, tip cut off and sliced down the middle
- 1/2 tsp ground cumin
- 1/2 tsp ground coriander
- 1/2 tsp salt
- dash cayenne pepper
- 1/2 pound shrimp, peeled, deveined, with the tail on
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
- Season tilapia with turmeric and salt – rub to coat the fish with the spices.
- Heat oil over medium high heat in a large wok or fry pan with high sides. Lightly fry the fish about 2 minutes on each side to get a nice golden brown crust on them. I like to use tongs for this. Do this in two batches. Set aside browned fish on a plate or bowl.
- In the same oil, add the anise seeds and onion and cook until onions are translucent – about 4 minutes. Next add tomato, garlic, and jalapeno. Cook for 1-2 minutes, then add cumin, coriander, salt and cayenne pepper. Stir to combine then add 1/2 cup of water to allow the spices to cook down. When the water is almost fully evaporated, add shrimp and stir with the vegetable and spice mixture. Allow to cook for 1 minutes. Then add 1/2 cup more water, the tilapia and bring to a boil. When it reaches a boil, put the lid on and the heat low and allow to simmer for 4-5 minutes, stirring occasionally.***
- Meanwhile chop cilantro. When the shrimp and tilapia are cooked through and the broth looks like a broth (homogenous in appearance, not like water with bits floating in it), then turn off the heat. Add the cilantro and taste for seasoning.
*Cook’s note: you can substitute about 2-2 1/2 pounds of bone-in, gutted and de-scaled fish that have been cut into thirds (e.g. porgy, whiting, buffalo). You can skip the shrimp in that case. We’re looking for flavor here (bones of the fish or tails of the shrimp).
**You ever notice that the French use Pernod (anise liqueur) to bouillabaisse (fish stew) and Italians add fennel to cioppino (fish stew). There’s just something about the combination of anise flavor with fish that just works!
***I know most recipes warn of overcooking shrimp but my personal taste is – I like it with a bit of a bite to it!