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.
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!
There’s a lot going on in today’s post. Firstly, we’re talking vegetable peelers and a giveaway! My good friend’s husband has started a company selling premium kitchen products, with their first being this awesome curved Japanese blade vegetable peeler! Using mine was a breeze – the sharp blade made for smooth cuts and the design definitely required less pressure from the hand doing the peeling. The sprout remover on either side helped get those little “eyes” out. I tackled these buds in no time. I will say, though, if you are used to the vertical peelers, it may take some getting used to. But as with any sharp edge, take care to curl the fingers of your supporting hand away while using!Because this is such a great product and think you guys would love it, too, we are giving one away! To enter, simply comment on my FB page responding to this question: What’s the first thing you would use ChefBasix Vegetable Peeler for? Good luck!Secondly, we’re talking about ghee – clarified butter that South Asians use to cook (some dishes) with. It doesn’t have the milk solids of butter, so it has a higher burning temperature. This picture shows how it happens. After melting the butter over low heat, you keep it on until it attains this golden color, not the amber color you would look for while making browned butter. We are just looking for the milk solids in the butter to toast up to give the ghee a nice nutty flavor. You don’t want to get to that light brown stage, otherwise you will lose too much moisture. Once you’ve gotten the right color, take it off the heat. You can let it cool in the pot, but I poured it into this bowl to show you what was going on. The milk solids sink to the bottom so you only spoon off the fluid on top. Left to cool long enough it will congeal and resemble the store bought ghee. This last step is not totally necessary in today’s dish, as we are not cooking with the ghee. It’s more for aesthetic purposes so you don’t have bits of brown running through the mashed potatoes (don’t toss it, though! spoon it over toast for a snack!). Finally, we are talking about aloo bhorta (mashed potatoes)! It seems like potatoes are a universal comfort food. When coming back from a family trip, or on days when we were low on groceries, dinner looked like this: steamed rice, aloo bhorta, an omelette and daal. South Asian immigrant parents have an almost militant attitude toward eating out. Take out was a non-existent concept. As newcomers, our parents had to reign with frugality. Though we were brats about it and whined about wanting pizza or burgers, our parents did the hard work of making every single meal from scratch. The aloo bhorta and omelette were studded with pieces of raw onion and slivers of green chilis. Most of my time during those meals were spent picking out the aforementioned bits to get to the good stuff. I was never a part of the set-my-mouth-ablaze-to-enjoy-my-meal set. So now, since I’m in charge of my kitchen, I’ve started to substitute scallion for the raw onion and dried red chili for the fruity spice of the green chili (or Thai chili as it’s known to some). The dried red chili still has some heat – just not as explosive as its green counterpart.
Traditionally, the potatoes are mixed by hand with mustard oil, salt, the onions and chilis. Individuals will later add as much or as little ghee atop the potatoes as they like to their portion. However, my many years of making and eating American style mashed potatoes would not allow me to serve a butter-barren bowl of spuds. It just needs the silkiness that butter imparts! Definitely mix by hands to achieve the full effect. I wore gloves, though, to protect my eczema prone hands from the heat. Though these are mustard and chili mashed potatoes, the mustard that’s used is in the form of oil, rather than the paste. I’ve never made it with the paste, but if you have trouble locating mustard oil, definitely feel free to use the powder or paste (starting with a 1/2 tsp and working your way up).
- 2 lbs Russet potatoes, peeled and quartered
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
- 2 1/2 tbsps mustard oil
- 1 tsp salt (plus more to taste)
- 3 scallions, sliced thinly
- 2 dried chilis (3 if you like it HOT)
- Bring a large pot of water to boil. Carefully lower the potatoes in and let cook for about 20 minutes. Drain in a colander and set aside.
- While the potatoes cook, add the butter to a small saucepan and cook over low heat until melted and the butter becomes golden and fragrant. Turn off the heat and let cool.
- In a dry non stick skillet or cast iron skillet, toast the chilis over medium high heat for 2-3 minutes. You should see the oil on the surface and the aroma emerge. Set aside.
- Add the cooked potatoes to a large bowl. Season with mustard oil and salt. Mash together with a potato masher. Add the scallions, chilis, and 4 tbsps of the clarified butter. Mix by hand, using your fingertips to break apart the chilis, until everything is uniformly distributed. Taste to see if the seasoning is just right. Serve with an extra dollop of the clarified butter.
I did it! I conquered the quinoa! I thought about ways to desi-fy it since practically anything cooked in a curry sauce in this house gets consumed in minutes. Since I had this bag of frozen spinach in the fridge, I thought about doing a take on the classic palak paneer, replacing the protein in the form of paneer (cheese) with quinoa.
Before you cringe at the thought of sullying your favorite buttery, cheesy spinach dish with healthy food, keep in mind – it passed my taste test! In fact as I ate it throughout the week (the hubby helped – though the kids did not), and even went on to make French green lentils with the leftover vegetable stock, I really started acquiring a taste for these plant based proteins. When I had chicken after about two weeks, the poultry smell actually bothered me! Not to say I’m going vegan on you guys. No no no no. As I experiment with South Asian flavors and new ingredients, I’m excited to share some of the things I’ve been whipping up. On a side note: apparently the casual and sometimes excessive usage of the word “excited” or “exciting” is a uniquely American colloquialism. I found this out while reading the supremely entertaining and insightful novel Americanah about two Nigerians, following their lives in their home country and abroad. It reminds me a bit of The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, about a chubby Dominican kid growing up in the states. Both these novels do such a great job of relating the immigrant experience, part universal, part relative to their specific ethnic group. They overshadow most novels in that genre (recall the overly saccharine images of the Mama Ganguli making her holiday cards or the tired “behind the veil” stereotypes offered by Hosseini). I digress. I used tricolor quinoa for a nice balance of nutty and earthy flavors. The main difference between this preparation and past failed attempts at quinoa was SALT AND PEPPER. After cooking in the low sodium vegetable broth, it was OK. After seasoning to taste, I was like, “I could get used to this.” And the spinach puree, though not plated very well here, was amazing. Pair it with any of your favorite proteins (salmon, grilled chicken breast, etc.). I added a dollop of yogurt to balance the deep seated flavor, but you can add sour cream, creme fraiche or nothing at all!
- 1 cup quinoa, rinsed
- 2 cups vegetable broth
- 2 tbsp light olive or vegetable oil
- a pinch of cumin seeds
- a pinch pach forom (optional)
- 1/2 yellow onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 12oz bag frozen spinach
- 2 green chilis
- 1/8 tsp ginger powder (or raw ginger, minced)
- 1 bay leaf
- 3/4 tsp kosher salt
- 2 tbsp water
- In a small saucepan, bring the quinoa and vegetable broth (or chicken stock) to a boil. Let simmer for 10 to 15 minutes until the ring pops out of the quinoa. When it’s done, season with kosher salt and pepper (about 3/4 tsp and 1/2 tsp respectively). Set aside
- In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium high heat. Add the cumin seeds and pach forom, if using, and let it warm through until fragrant, about 60 seconds. Add onions and saute until translucent (about 4 min). Add garlic and chilis. Stir to combine. Then add the frozen spinach, breaking up clumps with your wooden spoon. When it’s manageable, add the remaining ingredients. Let simmer, covered, for 5-7 min.
- Remove one of the green chilis and a bay leaf. You can always add the second chili to the puree if you like it hotter. Carefully add the spinach mixture to a blender and blend, covered, until smooth. Add water as necessary to thin it out. WARNING: (In case you are as inexperienced with the blender as I am)I made mine a bit too thin by attempting to blend it with the “Smoothie” function. “Ice Crush” did a much better job, but it was too late, I added the extra water already.
- Serve on top of the quinoa, adding yogurt as desired.