Padron Peppers Pickle

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Summer is winding down and this year I am going to make some vegetable condiments to last us through fall or possibly even winter. In India, my mom and aunt used to make vegetable pickles, fruit relishes and chutneys and even dry vegetables in summer to make interesting fritters ( tomato- carrots sandge or dried yogurt filled mirchi??). I have some other ideas based on recent mind-blowing dining experiences in SF. Home-made French mustard ( over salmon, in sandwiches and salads), over roasted sun-dried tomatoes ( for sandwiches, tarts and pasta), pickled red bell pepper (over anything really).

Before buying things in bulk, I am experimenting with a few vegetables and will probably make them in bulk to preserve if successful.

First up are Padron Peppers. I haven’t seen them in Whole Foods or Trader Joes but local Farmers Market has these peppers in bulk. The Peppers are not very spicy as is ( at least not if you are used to Indian palate) but taste brilliant when tempered in fruity olive oil. If you like Indian green chillies pickle, you are bound to like this.

Tempering the peppers reduces their heat even further. The crisped up pepper skin, fruity flavor of the oil and smokiness from the cumin and peppers make this an excellent condiment. We have had it with curd-rice, dal-chawal and even over taco’s and salads.

The pepper and cumin flavors seep into the oil giving it depth and smokiness. I used the oil as a dipping sauce as well as a base to make salad dressing. Both were excellent.

This is truly one pickle you should make before the peppers disappear from the market!

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NOTE: I made this couple of times in very small quantity. I plan to make a pound of pickled peppers. It will probably need 1 cup of oil and 1/4 cup cumin seeds. Cooking time will increase as well but just eye-ball it to make sure that the peppers are roasted evenly for better taste. Taste and adjust salt. Let cool completely before filling and refrigerating in airtight containers.

Padron Peppers Pickle Recipe

1 serving

  • 1 – 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 cup padron peppers, washed and slit
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  1. Heat oil in a skillet. Add cumin seeds when the oil is heated. When the cumin seeds sizzle, add the padron peppers.

  2. Let them cook on medium heat for a couple of minutes or so till they are blistered. Toss them and let the other side of the peppers cook for another minute or so. Add salt. Cover with a lid and let cook for another minute over low heat.

Serve warm.

North African Lemon Dressing

North African Lemon Dressing

Tucked in the corner of the top kitchen shelf  was an old blue hardcover. The spine binding was falling off, the cover was faded. I had seen it when we moved in January and shoved it further as I crammed some plastic water bottles in front of it. All in the name of unpacking and getting settled.

Last week, I was looking for some serving bowls when I peered into this top shelf. The plastic containers and bottles came crashing down upon me revealing the The New York Times Cookbook (1992).

North African Lemon Dressing

Curious, I took down the book and thumbed through its yellowing pages. It was obviously well used with some watermarks, check-marks, scribbles and other recipe cut outs taped to its inner cover. Flipping through the pages, the north African Lemon dressing caught my eye.

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A Simple Homemade Dressing

Homemade Salad Dressing

Mom and Dad will be here tomorrow. I will hand over the kitchen to my mom once she is here.It’s the best thing about mom being here 🙂

But it creates a dilemma. My mom’s diet is primarily Indian. She will rarely venture into salad’s.

Vipul is still mainly eating salads. But he cannot will not make dressing.

Even if its a simple act of putting together olive oil and lemon/ balsamic vinegar to conjure up a dressing, it is filled with questions.

How much lemon juice? Is this much olive oil a lot? Should I add pepper? Or garlic? How about fresh herbs? It still doesn’t taste like what we had two nights ago!

I roll my eyes.

Call it a combination of late pregnancy hormones, exhaustion and general 10 years of marriage 😉

Here is a simple homemade dressing , bottled up and kept in the fridge.

No more every day Q & A session on how to make a dressing.

Take it out of the fridge, warm it up in microwave a bit, pour as much or as little, toss and serve.

We have sorted out one thing out.

Now the questions have changed.

Which cheese, which mix-ins, which bowl,… ( Le sigh! I exaggerate for effect ;))

Simple Homemade Dressing Recipe

  • 3/4 cup  Olive Oil
  • 1/4 cup Balsamic Vinegar
  • 1/2 – 1 tablespoon Mustard sauce
  • 1 – 1 1/2  tablespoon Garlic finely minced
  • Salt and Pepper (to taste)

1. Mix all the ingredients in a bottle. Shake it till mixed through. Taste and adjust seasonings.

Pour over salad immediately or refrigerate for later use.

Healthy Veggie Loaded Artichoke Dip

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Need I say more?

Dips are something I cannot eat in moderation. Salsa’s and Hummus are ok. They can be had without restraint. Possibly some seven layer dips. But what about the warm cheesy dips? They are inviting and very scrumptious.

In restaurants, I manage to finish the dip as I eat it as is.

So much cheese can’t really be good for anyone in a single serving. But sometimes heart (or rather taste buds) don’t listen to your brain and then next think we know is that the dip bowl is empty! Now satisfaction kicks in. Later regret kicks in.

I needed something that was amazing to taste with no regrets.

That’s where a healthified artichoke Spinach dip came into picture.

Its full of veggies and using less cheese compared to traditional recipes. Thick Yogurt is what gives it extra creaminess and protein without the excess fat.

We topped it with finely diced bell pepper and ate them with veggies ( as well as multi grain toast fingers) for a filling afternoon snack.

It makes about 3 cups of dip and can be made ahead, frozen and then thawed before serving. We have a stash in our freeze for days when the baby arrives and we are hungry for “something fun/interesting”. It tastes yummy even as is out of the fridge.

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Healthy Veggie Loaded Artichoke Dip Recipe

Makes ~ 3 cups of dip

  • 1 can Artichoke hearts drained and coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup frozen chopped spinach, thawed and water removed
  • 1 cup milk , divided
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan
  • 1/2 Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 goat cheese
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/4 cup finely diced bell pepper and red onion ( for Garnish)

1.  In a skillet, add artichoke hearts, spinach, 1/2 cup milk, garlic, cumin seeds and paprika. Mix well and let cook for a few minutes on medium-low heat.

2. Stir in the parmesan cheese and let cook for another 2-3 minutes till the cheese melts and is incorporated in the mixture.  Lower the heat if necessary. Once cooked, let cool for a couple of minutes.

3. In the meantime, in a bowl, whip greek yogurt with goat cheese. Set aside.

4. Once the artichoke-spinach mixture is cooled, blend it till desired consistency. I like the dip to be smooth with some chunks of artichoke. Skip this step if you like the dip to be chunky.

5. Add the yogurt – goat cheese mixture to the artichoke mixture. Add salt. Mix well.

6. Top with bell pepper and red onions.

Serve immediately or freeze for later use.

Making Vanilla Extract

Home made vanilla

Its surprising that I haven’t made this earlier.

A little bit of alcohol (bourbon or vodka or rum) and vanilla beans set aside for couple of months yield vanilla extract. I mean I have made kumquat flavored vodka before. Why didn’t I see the connection?

I used to ask any one travelling to lug back a bottle Nielsen Masey vanilla extract from US which is a bit on the expensive side. To think about it, top quality vanilla is grown in India and exported. It’s maddening that I should import an extract made from those beans back at an exorbitant price.

So, today I set out some beans that we acquired in a co-op in Kochi in rum ( as that is what I had on hand) and hope that in 8 – 10 weeks I will have vanilla extract.

Vanilla extract

Cant wait for that! It will be just in time as my current vanilla extract is getting used up.

What are you planning to make this weekend? I am toying with the idea of making Haleem from scratch or chicken momos. If not, at least I will go Haleem tasting this weekend!

Vanilla Extract 

  • 2 vanilla beans – get the highest quality possible
  • 1/4 cup bourbon or vodka
  • 1 clean sterile bottle

1. Split the vanilla bean and add it to the bottle. Cover with alcohol of choice. Close lid. Shake.

Set aside in a cool dark place for the vanilla to infuse.

Takes bout 8 – 10 weeks.

Enjoy in baked goods!