May 04, 2016

Barley salad that goes with everything

It has been a month away from blog, a month of unsettling with news from India. A loss that was hard, I needed to be away.

As I slowly begin to heal, I come back to my comfort place, a blog that has given me comfort.

The weather is changing here (even though it's cloudy and rainy), you see it in the buds of the trees, in the chirping you hear in the morning and in the energy around you. And what better way to celebrate the heralding of spring than with a refreshing salad.

Barley salad

I have been making this barley salad for a year and it's finally ready to be shared. The raw garlic that I put in the first time, has been replaced with toasted garlic chips. Chickpeas have been added, so it can be a hearty lunch in itself. It has served as a side with roasted chicken and had as a main lunch with some tandoori shrimps.

The herbs are what make it perfect for spring, it brings that freshness right in your spoonful.

1 cup barley (you can also choose quick cook barley)
1/2 cup cooked chickpeas
1 small onion - chopped finely
3-4 radish - chopped finely
6-8 garlic cloves - thin slices
handful cilantro - chopped
handful parsley - chopped
1lemon - juiced
2 tbspoon olive oil
1/4 tspoon black pepper
1/2 tspoon cumin seeds
3-4 cardamoms

Cook the barley in a saucepan in water till the barley is soft. Drain the barley and then set it aside to cool.

Dry roast the cumin and the cardamom. Take the cardamom seeds out and grind it with the cumin seeds to a fine powder.

In a small pan, add a tablespoon or olive oil and toast the garlic cloves till they turn golden. Take then out and set on a paper towel to drain.

Once all the chopping is done, the next thing is to assemble the salad.

Barley salad
For the dressing, juice the lemon, in a small bowl, then add the lemon juice, cumin and cardamom mix, black pepper and salt. Whisk till it all mixes together.

Barley salad

Now take a big bowl, add the barley, chickpeas, onions, herbs, and the radish. Top it with the garlic cloves and then add the dressing to the salad. Now mix it all together. I like to mix it with my hands.

Barley salad

 The salad is ready. Serve it with some roast chicken, tandoori shrimp (optional) and enjoy.

March 28, 2016

Making lemon bars with meyer lemons

Making lemon bars

Happy Holi everyone. I hope you enjoyed the festival of colors with something sweet.

Holi kind of sneaked up on me. I was on the phone with my parents when they asked what our plans were for Holi, and of course what was I making for the festival. I sputtered and went on overdrive.

I remembered that my moms kitchen is busy at this time - the gujias my mom would make, along with sandesh or even naroo if fresh coconut was available.

Instead all I had were two bags of meyer lemons that I had greedily picked up on my last grocery trip. I had to make a quick decision and I decided to tackle two problems with one solution. Holi mithai and meyer lemons. I initially thought of a cake with lemon curd but swiftly changed my plans for something simpler.

I settled on lemon bars. I was kind of nervous attempting it just like lemon curd last year. And just like lemon curd, this is easy to make and super delicious.

I followed the Betty Crocker lemon bar recipe substituting lemons with meyer lemons. With meyer lemons the bars weren't as tart, and had a divine floral smell.

Here is the recipe.


For base:
1 cup all purpose flour
1 stick or 1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup powdered sugar

For lemon filling:
1 cup granualted sugar
2 tspoon grated meyer lemon peel
2tbspoon lemon juice
1/2 tspoon baking poweder
1/4tspoon salt
2 eggs

Powdered sugar to dust

Preheat the over to 350degF.

Sieve the flour and sugar together to remove any lumps. Now mix in the butter till a dough is formed. It will be soft. Now put the dough in a uniform layer in a baking pan.

Bake the crust for 20 minutes.

In the meantime, beat sugar and eggs together till foamy. Add the baking powder, salt and lemon juice and peel and beat for 2-3 minutes till it's all mixed and light.

Take the crust out and pour the lemon mix on top.

Bake for another 20-25 minutes.

Cool and dust with powdered sugar. Cut into squares and enjoy.

March 17, 2016

Kasoori methi chicken -- Mohana's recipe

Kasoori Methi chicken

The best part of blogging has been meeting people. Someone's cousin is in town, would you recommend a good restaurant, or a friend of a friend is visiting over the weekend and contacts us, or connections through relatives or through another blogger.

When Mohana,  Soma's (who blogs at e-Curry) cousin moved to Ann Arbor, I made another friend. When we were at her place for lunch, she had made this kasoori methi chicken.

Usually, my kids are not big fans of curry. When I ask them, they will pour a little curry over rice, minimal I say, and eat the chicken on the side.

That is not what happened with this curry. They asked for multiple helpings and had a proper jhol-bhath (rice soaked in curry). I immediately asked Mohana for the recipe that she graciously shared with visual descriptions of how much of each ingredients.

I have made it since then and even sent it for lunch with the kindergartner.

Thank you Mohana! it is delicious.

I just add some grated ginger to her original recipe and you can decide to omit it out.

(serves 4-5)
2-3 Chicken breast pieces cut in strips
2 1/2 tspoon kasoori methi
1 tspoon garam masala
1/2 can crushed tomatoes
1/2 cup whole milk (you can also use 1/4 cup cream instead)
1/2 tspoon grated ginger
1/2 tspoon turmeric powder
1/4 tspoon chilli powder (change it according to your taste)
4 tbspoon oil
salt to taste

Marinate the chicken strips in 1 tspoon kasoori methi, 1/2 tspoon garam masala salt and turmeric and let it sit for a couple of hours.

Now heat a pan with 3 tbspoon oil and brown the chicken strips on each side about 3-4 minutes on each side.

In a saucepan, heat the rest of 1 tbspoon oil. Add 1 tspoon kasoori methi sort of cruch it with your hands over the oil and then add the garam masala. Add the ginger and the crushed tomatoes and let it cook for 3-4 minutes till the chicken is done.

Now add the chicken to the saucepan, lower the heat and add the milk stirring constantly. Add the salt, chilli powder and the rest of the kasoori methi (1/2 tspoon).

Kasoori Methi chicken

Cook on low heat with frequent stirring for another 7-8 minutes or till the chicken is cooked.

Take it off the heat and serve it with some plain rice.

March 04, 2016

Simple tadka mixed dal for vacation

Simple tadka mixed dal
We had received 12 inches of snow and another 4-5 inches was in the forecast. In middle of this huddling down and going about our routine, it was great to pack our bags and head for the sandy beaches and miss the snow in the forecast.

Instead of shoveling, we soaked the sun, played in the pool, collected shells on the beach, watched birds and enjoyed the warm weather of Florida. 

Dolphin spotting

One of the highlights was going on a boat tour to watch the dolphins. We ran into a nursery of dolphins and the mother and the baby regaled us by swimming behind the boat and jumping out every minute or so. It was wonderful. Look how cute they are!

While on these vacations, we try to find a place that has a small kitchen so we can cook one meal in the room instead of eating out and it works out very well with little kids. 

The set up is minimal, few ingredients, I carry a few spices, dal and rice and we buy a few vegetables. 

In these trips, I make a simple tadka dal that we love. I just cook the dal outside (instead of a pressure cooker) and then put a simple tadka at the end. It tastes great with a quick stir fry and some rice.

(serves 4-5)
1/2 cup moong dal
1/2 cup masoor dal
1/4 tspoon turmeric powder
1/2 tspoon cumin powder
salt to taste

For tadka:
1/2 tspoon cumin seeds
1/4 tspoon red chilli powder
1 tspoon oil

Wash the dals together and then boil it with 3- 3.5 cups of water, salt and turmeric and cumin powder. I just stir it every few minutes till the dal is soft to touch, somewhere between 10-15 minutes. 

 Heat the oil in a small vessel and temper it with the cumin seeds. Once it starts sputtering, add the red chilli. Immediately take it off the heat and add it to the dal.
Simple tadka mixed dal

It's ready to be served.

January 27, 2016

Celebrating 6th birthday with StarWars vanilla cupackes

celebrating birthday with vanilla cupcakes

Lil A turned six. Before I get too sentimental, let me tell you all about the party.

Birthday was a big discussion for weeks. Lil A changed themes every week if not every day. We finally settled on Lego birthday theme. I started preparing, ordered a few things when he announced that it had to be Star Wars birthday.

We switched gears midway and finally settled on Lego activities and Star Wars food for the kids birthday party. A few of his friends came over and we hosted it at home.

The menu was:
    celebrating birthday with vanilla cupcakes
  • Cheese and pepperoni pizza
  • Carrots
  • Watermelon
  • Cheese and crackers
  • Grape lightsabers
  • Starwars chocolate in both white and dark chocolate
  • Marshmallow stormtroopers and
  • Starwars cupcakes 
Ameya made Lego masks for his friends and some friends chose to make it themselves. Then we played a game of Lego bingo. I wasn't sure but the kids really got into it. They would shout out "Bingo" as they crossed a line on their page.

Finally, it was time for food and the Star Wars theme won over some of the critics as well. The cupcakes are really my go to vanilla cupcakes with Star Wars pictures! But we'll keep that a secret.

Those who know me know that I have been experimenting with oil, buttermilk combination in cakes and the cupcake has it too. I find them more moist and kids prefer it too. The frosting is just whipped cream, another favorite. In fact, they come for multiple tastings when I am whipping it, acting as my testers. :-)

Here is the recipe:

(makes 12-14 cupcakes)
1 1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 1/4 tspoon baking powder
1/2 tspoon baking soda
1/2 tspoon salt
2/3 cup oil
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 tspoon vanilla

1 1/2 cup heavy cream
3-4 tbspoon powdered sugar
food color (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 degF. Butter the cupcake liners and put them in the pan.

Sift all the dry ingredients together and keep is aside.

Whip the 2 eggs for about 1 -2 minutes till it turns fluffy. Add the sugar and beat for another minute.

Then add the oil and vanilla and beat for another 30 seconds till well incorporated. Then add the dry ingredients in three and buttermilk in two installments, ending with the dry ingredients.

Make sure to clean the sides.

Pour the batter, which is a little liquidy into the liners filling a little more than half.

Bake for 12-16 minutes till the toothpicks come out clean.

Cool them completely before frosting.

Beat the heavy cream with sugar till soft peaks form. Use it to decorate the cupcakes.

I got the pictures of Star Wars characters from here which I cut out and put on toothpicks.

celebrating birthday with vanilla cupcakes

The cupcakes are ready to serve.

January 09, 2016

Khao soi

Khao Soy

-->Happy New Year!
I am back with a new recipe - Khao soi. It is coconut milk soaked noodle dish topped with meat/vegetables and a variety of toppings. It's can be a lot of fun to have this at dinner parties where everyone can make their own bowl.

I made it several times in 2015 and it was a lot of fun. Instead of preparing a prepared bowl, I put all the ingredients on the table and everyone could choose and make their own Khao soi bowl.

It can be done with chicken or any other meat. I also added a vegetable dish as I had vegetarians on the table as well.

After you add the coconut soup, noodles on top and choose chicken and vegetables, then come the toppings - fried onions, fried garlic, ginger soaked in lemon juice and sugar, cilantro, spring onions, crispy bhujia, fresh radish, boiled eggs or any other multitudes of combination you can think of.

It may take a little bit of time getting all the ingredients, but the bowl with all the toppings will be the talk of the night, not to mention so delicious that it will be gone in no time.

Here is how I do it:


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