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.

Pinterest Told Me To Make: Ratatouille

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Before Mom and Dad left for India, I wanted to make something special for them. They are unlikely to visit for another year or so; this was my way to end our time together on a high note. With summer produce on a high in markets, ratatouille it was.

I had pinned this beautifully presented ratatouille dish for some time now and it was time to give it a try. The flavors are traditional and the presentation contemporary. It’s not the mush like stew that it originally was intended.

Ratatouille

The veggies are sliced thin, pan-fried to take out excess moisture and then baked over a ripe fresh tomatoes sauce.

If anything is a summer on a plate then this is it. Colorful, vegetarian and seasonal to boot.

Ratatouille

I made mini ratatouilles as individual servings and then paired it with big pearly Israeli couscous for a filling meal. It’s a great alternative to good old salad and a great way to eat that 2 cups of veggies per meal.

My kid didn’t touch it but we all loved it. Give it a try this summer while veggies are at their peak!

Ratatouille

Ratatouille Recipe

For the Sliced Veggies

  • 2 Zucchini thinly sliced
  • 1 yellow squash thinly sliced
  • 1/2 eggplant thinly sliced
  • 2 roma tomatoes thinly sliced

For the Sauce

  • 2 tablespoon olive oil, divided + 1 teaspoon to grease the baking dish
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 cup white onion finely diced
  • 2 roma tomatoes finely diced
  • 1/2 red bell pepper finely diced
  • Handful of parsley, finely chopped + more for garnish
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • Crumbled goat cheese to garnish
  1. Heat a table-spoon of olive oil in a skillet. Sear the zucchini, squash and eggplant on each side lightly till light golden brown. Set aside.

  2. In the same pan add another table-spoon of oil. Saute the garlic and onion in the oil for 2 – 3 minutes till onions are translucent over medium heat.

  3. Then add red bell pepper. Saute for another 2 – 3 minutes till softened. Add tomatoes, parsley, oregano, salt and pepper. Cook for another 4- 5 minutes till cooked into a thick sauce.

  4. Pre-heat the oven to 400 F.

  5. Grease a baking dish with olive oil. Spoon sauce at the bottom. Layer the vegetables on the sauce in rows or a spiral alternating zucchini, squash and eggplant. Bake in top third of the oven for 10 minutes till the vegetables are seared a bit on the top.

Garnish with goat cheese and parsley. Serve warm with couscous, quinoa or pasta.

 

Cardamom Poached Pears in Red Wine Sauce

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With holiday season in full swing, we all want recipes that can be made ahead, look like ton of work but are actually quick and easy. Poached pears fall in that category. Easy to make ahead, elegant and inexpensive – as all ingredients are seasonal.

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Or perhaps you have some fruit and left over wine from the party last night and are looking for a new way to use it all up.

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This dessert wins on all categories: fruit based, nut and dairy free and is light. And the red hue is very appealing. Based on what you pair with it can be dressed up ( puff pastry, custard, candied fruits) or had simply in a rustic wine sauce or just fresh diced fruits (kiwi, pomegranate and oranges would complement the flavors fabulously). It can be individually plated ( or served in wine glasses with a bit of creme anglaise to stabilize the base) for smaller gatherings or served in a platter for a potluck party.

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Oh, and citrus and cardamom perfumes the entire house. As Candice Olson would say, Simply Divine!

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Note:

1. I didn’t core the pears but I have seen recipes that quarter or halve the pears and remove the seeds. Probably makes eating them easier but I find the whole pears look more fancy.If you do halve or quarter, the pears will poach sooner than what the recipe below calls for. Keep an eye out for tender but not mushy pears.

2. You can use All Spice or Nutmeg instead of cardamom. I used what I had on hand. I had a gift pack of pepper, mace and cardamom spices from our trip to Nilgiris, Ooty, India.

Cardamom Poached Pears in Red Wine Sauce Recipe

  • 2 Bosc or Bartlett pears
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 1 – 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 1/2 small orange thinly sliced (like a cutie orange)
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 7-8 cardamom pods peeled and seeds crushed.
  • 4 black peppercorns

1. Mix all the ingredients (except the pears) in a saucepan. Bring it to a boil and then reduce to a simmer.

2. In the meantime, peel and remove the bottom brown bit from the pear ( the brown bit is from its blossom flower). Slice it at the bottom to make it stand upright.

Optionally, halve or quarter the pear and scoop out the seeds.

3. Submerge the pears in the saucepan. Add water if necessary to cover the pears. Cover and let simmer on low to medium low heat for about 30 minutes or till tender. Test with a fork or a spoon.

Keep ladling the wine mix over the pears if they are not fully submerged. Rotate the pears carefully midway through for even poaching.

4. Scoop the pears out and set aside in the refrigerator to chill for at least 4 hours.

5. Reduce the wine and spices mix to half or even third of the volume on high heat. Chill this reduction as well.

To serve, arrange the pears on a platter. Spoon the reduction over the pears to get a shiny glaze.

Serve chilled with remaining reduced sauce.

Easy Peasy Whole Wheat Olive Focaccia

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My apologies for being a bit tardy in posting last week. Work got in the way and I didn’t have enough time to blog. I promise to do better this week.

Last night, I was mentally prepping menu’s for weekend and the week so I can shop accordingly. A fried egg sandwich came to my mind. Hmmm…that with coffee would be a good strat to the weekend. While thinking about bread, focaccia came to my mind. Only problem – I haven’t found focaccia in the supermarkets or even in a bakery here in Hyderabad. I needed a hearty bread for brunch.

So I looked up online to find an easy focaccia recipe and found one that needs minimal effort. Just mix all the ingredients up and let yeast do its work. The dough rises and flavours meld.  A few hours later with minimal effort we had a chewy focaccia. It was denser due to whole wheat flour but I am sure half all-purpose flour and half whole wheat flour would result in a lighter bread while still being healthy. Olives added saltiness to the bread. Herbs in the bread enhanced its flavour so we could eat it as is. Which is exactly what Varun did after removing olives.

The recipe is very simple and requires very little effort beyond the initial kneading. If you have a food processor or a stand mixer then even that is minimal. Also, it  is very versatile. Change the herbs – lemon – cilantro, roasted garlic, smoked paprika – sun-dried tomatoes per your mood. Play with toppings, mushrooms, fresh mozzarella, red onions. Its bound to surprise you with its flavour.

Give it a try this weekend. It can be dressed up into an elegant brunch with salad and wine or into a memorable breakfast with fried eggs and bacon.

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Easy Peasy Whole Wheat Olive Focaccia Recipe

  • 1/4 cup warm water
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons dry active yeast
  • 3 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon parsley
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil for topping + 1 tablespoon to grease the pan
  • 1/2  cup olives

1. In a large bowl, mix sugar in the water and add then add yeast. Set aside for 10 minutes till the yeast proofs.

2.  Once proofed, add all the ingredients listed (other than olives) and knead for about 10 minutes. It will be sticky which is fine. Cover with a plastic wrap and set aside in a warm place to double. It takes about 3- 4 hours here but can take longer. Have patience with the first rise. Else the bread will not be soft.

3.   Punch down the dough, and knead for 30 seconds again. Oil a baking pan well and spread the dough in this pan. You can leave this free form. Using your fingers, make dimples in the dough. Insert an olive in each dimple. Brush with olive oil.

Set aside for another 45 minutes to rise.

4. Pre-heat oven to 180F/350 C and bake the bread for 30 – 35 minutes till golden brown.

Remove from oven and let cool in pan.

Cut and serve warm. It goes well with salads, soups, or in an open faced sandwiches.

Goat Cheese and Fresh Figs Bruschetta

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I think this is my lucky week. After yesterday’s pan-fried tofu success, I was inspired to make something else. I was digging into fridge to see what we have on hand and came across a packet of fresh figs. The fridge had swallowed them after I bought them a couple of weeks ago and I had forgotten all about them. I hate when that happens and usually “forgetting” results in throwing out the long forgotten vegetable/ fruit.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that the figs were perfectly ripe and ready to eat. Sweet and aromatic. I ate a couple of them as is while pondering over what to make with them.

I had seen figs wrapped in bacon or prosciutto but since I didn’t have either on hand, I paired it with goat cheese ( another classic combination) and made it into a bruschetta.

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Within minutes, the bread was toasted, goat cheese spread, figs halved and topped with honey and pistachios for an added crunch. And within minutes it was devoured. Vipul hates figs. He ate the most. Devoured is the right word. They were that good! Really. I kid you not.

This is going to be my signature appetizer going forward. Simple ingredients and simple recipe. And extremely versatile. Don’t have goat cheese on hand? Use paneer, ricotta, quark or even strained greek yogurt. Don’t like figs or they are not in season? Grilled peaches, pineapples or even kumquats would fit the bill perfectly. You can skip the honey if you like. A drizzle of balsamic reduction or some fresh mint ribbons would be great too.

It can be made ahead and can be easily scaled up for a party or a potluck.
I am gonna make this again soon. This time with cherries ( if I can find them in Hyderabad).

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Goat Cheese and Figs Bruschetta Recipe

  • Quartered Sandwich Bread slices or diagonal baguette slices – 8 pieces
  • Goat cheese -1/3 – 1/2 cup at room temperature
  • Ripe figs – 4 halved
  • Honey – 2 tablespoons
  • Pistachios – 8 – 10 , shelled and coarsely chopped

1. Toast the bread in a toaster or in a skillet. If using sandwich bread, slice after toasting.

2. Spread goat cheese on the toast generously. Place the toasts on a serving platter.

3. Balance a fig half on top of the cheese on each toast piece.

4. Drizzle honey on all the figs. Sprinkle pistachios on figs.

Serve immediately.