Friday, February 8, 2013

Sweet sweet potato Kofta Curry

My mom's kofta curry is an experience that takes you the goodness of India. The vibrant colors, the effort, the sweet taste of hard work all manifests in this dish. It has a creamy, nutty, spicy, packed with flavor that lingers in your memory for days and days. Whenever I'm completely exhausted, I ask Josh to take me to an indian restaurant, where I can relish in some good ol' comfort food. To this day, my mom makes kofta curry on my birthday every year.
Traditional malai kofta curry is made with paneer, potatoes, and heavy cream. The koftas (think meatballs) are traditionally fried. In this version, the koftas are baked using sweet potatoes in place of potatoes and paneer. Sweet potatoes are an amazingly satisfying, rich superfood that are low in sodium and saturated fat, high in calcium and beta carotene. In place of cream, I used low fat sour cream that gave it a tangy, succulent flavor. See how much you can fool people with this version. The best part? You can eat more of it! This pot was wiped clean within about 10 minutes.

Now hang onto this mental image before you sift through the recipe below... it's well worth it!

This recipe goes on for a while, don't be afraid. It's actually very simple if you do it in small sections. Start with the koftas. Get them into the oven, then work on the gravy.

To make koftas, you'll need:

2-2.5 cups of sweet potatoes, boiled and mashed (or cooked for 5 minutes in a pressure cooker).
1 teaspoon olive oil
Half teaspoon of fenugreek seeds (optional)
1/4-1 cup of besan (chick pea flour)
2 teaspoons cumin
2 teaspoons red chili
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
Couple of toasted, finely mashed up cashews (optional)
Salt to taste

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

For the sweet potatoes:
If you have a pressure cooker, peel and dice up 2.5 cups of sweet potatoes and add them into a steel pot. At this point, add the fenugreek seeds into the cooker as well--they will steam and add flavor to the potatoes. DO NOT ADD WATER TO THE POTATOES. You'll end up with an awesome side dish of unworkable potatoes! Instead, place water within the pressure cooker itself and put the pot into the pressure cooker. Close the cooker, and let it whistle for 5 minutes. Once cooled, they'll mash perfectly.

If boiling, throw them into the hot pot with the fenugreek seeds, cook until tender, then drain well and mash. Caution: these taste awesome just on their own, it'll be tempting to snack on mashed sweet potatoes while you're cooking :)

Add flour and spices to mashed sweet potatoes. You may have to add more flour to the potatoes if the mixture is too watery.. as you add more flour, add more spices to make up for it. You may even have to add an extra sweet potato to get the right consistency.

Form the mixture into 12-15 balls.. the mixture shouldn't be sticky, but firm. If the dough sticks to you hands, add more flour or bread crumbs to get a cleaner consistency. You may even have to add an extra sweet potato in (I had to quickly peel, dice, and stick one in the microwave for 5 minutes).

Grease a small baking sheet with a few drops of olive oil. Lay the koftas on the pan and bake in the oven for about 30 minutes until golden brown. Half way through, use a toothpick or a fork to check for doneness. The toothpick should come out clean. Once done, set aside. The koftas should be solid when cut open.

While the koftas are baking, you can start making the curry!

For the curry, you'll need:

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 yellow onion, diced
4-5 pieces of garlic, minced
1 tsp fresh ginger
1-2 green chilies, chopped
8 oz of low sodium tomato sauce
1 teaspoon of whole cumin seeds
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon coriander
half teaspoon of ground cardamom
half teaspoon of cinnamon/clove powder
1 cup of water (can go up to 2 cups for more gravy)
2 tablespoons of lowfat sour cream (or any type of sour cream)
5 cashews - toasted and ground up (optional)
Salt to taste
Fresh cilantro

Heat the oil in a wide pan or a dutch oven. Add the cumin seeds and let them sizzle until they turn dark brown and emit a nice, smoky odor.

Add the onions and green chilis... cook the onions until brown, about 15 minutes. Add the ginger, garlic, and cinnamon/clove powder and cook until fragrant. Add the tomato sauce, turmeric, chili powder, ground cumin, cardamom and coriander. Bring to a simmer and on low-medium heat. Once simmering, add water--enough water to form a thick gravy. Simmer on medium-low heat for 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Turn off the heat. Place the sour cream in a bowl and mix well. Add mixture into the gravy--stir well, no clumps! The gravy's flavor should be tangy and smoky.

Once the koftas are done, add them to the gravy and let them simmer in the sauce for 5 minutes. Let the dish stand for another 5-10 minutes let the gravy thicken more and the flavors intensify.

Sprinkle fresh coriander and toasted ground cashews on top and serve hot. Cashews are optional.

Serve with home-made rotis or store chapatis, and rice. Enjoy and don't be too sad when that pot is licked clean--the hard work will never go in vain!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Improvisation is the result of... a lack of ingredients

So maybe this isn't very original, maybe it is. You can google it to find out, I'm sure. I wanted to make hummus for a Halloween party but didn't have what I thought was chick pea's second in command: tahini paste. Since Halloween is all about disguise, I wanted everything to be in complete character! Saw once that Alton Brown uses low sodium peanut butter in place of tahini, so I thought this would be my perfect chance to get rid of that nasty low sodium, sugarless peanut paste that's been prowling the pantry for weeks!
I know olive oil is full of phenols and other healthy fats, but it still pains me to stream in a half cup for one can of chick peas, especially after today's bike ride. I always have tons of nonfat plain yogurt in the house for Indian food and thought hey, that's creamy and tangy.. two food traits I love. So here's the skinny on some home made hummus with things you're more likely to have in the house. I had cilantro to use up, so I threw it in with some freshly ground cumin.

  • 1 15 oz can of chickpeas, drained & rinsed
  • 1-2 cloves garlic
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice (I like it eye squinting tangy so I use a squeeze or two more)
  • 1 tablespoon low fat peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup nonfat plain yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon salt, some pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 tablespoons cilantro, 1 sprig for garnish
  • Pinch of paprika to blend in and to top with
  • 2 or so tablespoons of warm water (add as needed for consistency you want)
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil (can't have hummus without at least a hint of it!)

Using a food processor or magic bullet (forever grateful to my sweet cousin Nikita for mine), take the plunge:

1. Combine all ingredients except for the warm water and olive oil. Puree til pasty.
2. Add olive oil and water as needed to get right consistency.
3. After accomplishing your preferred consistency, transfer to a serving dish.
4. Sprinkle paprika and top with a cilantro leaf. You can also add olives around it.. for me, I grilled pita and arranged them around the bowl for easy partying.

Not only does the yogurt cut your cals, it gives a nice creamy texture and imparts a terrific tart.

You can also drizzle some olive oil for taste.. and to make it look like you didn't cheat with all these healthy ingredients ;)


Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Mom's Eggplant and Potato Curry

Giving credit to whom it's fairly due.. Thanks mom :)
If you roast the potatoes and eggplant in the oven until they're soft, it gives the whole dish a smoky flavor. For a faster cooking time, I suggest cooking the eggplant and potato in the microwave until softened.. then add it into the curry.
  • 1 chopped onion
  • 2 teaspoons whole cumin seeds
  • 3-4 cloves minced garlic
  • 2 8 oz cans sodium free tomato sauce (you can also add a chopped tomato)
  • 1.5 teaspoon crushed cinnamon/clove mixture
  • 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 2 teaspoons garam masala (split them up)
  • 1.5 teaspoon bhengan bharta masala (eggplant spice mix)
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 1 eggplant - cut in big chunks. Slit each piece.
  • 5-6 small potatoes - cut in big chunks. Slit each piece.
  • Chopped cilantro

1. Prepare the eggplant and potatoes by cutting them up and placing them in a microwavable dish with a few teaspoons of water. Cook in microwave with some salt until the potatoes are tender.

2. Heat cumin seeds in olive oil. Once seeds are toasted, add onion and garlic for around 15 minutes (until the onion is nice and brown). Add the cinnamon/clove mixture in the last couple of minutes as the onions finish browning.

3. Add tomato sauce and tomato. Add pepper, cardamom, 1 tsp of garam masala, salt. Simmer on low for around 15 minutes. Add water as needed to get the gravy consistency you like.

4. Once the eggplant and potatoes are done cooking, drain them and add into the curry. Mix well and add water and salt as needed. Add the remaining garam masala as well as the bhengan bharta mix. Simmer for 8-10 minutes.

5. Top with fresh cilantro.

I serve this with roti, tumeric fried rice and yogurt. The tomato sauce gives it a nice tang, while the cinnamon/clove mixture give a noticeable bite. I never measure with the spices, so just add whatever you like to get the flavor you like. Cutting the slits into the vegetables not only helps soak up more curry in each piece, it also helps cook them faster.

Stay tuned for the simplest tumeric fried rice recipe :)


Sunday, August 21, 2011

Whole Wheat Sweet Potato Gnocchi with garden fresh spicy sauce

So I wish I could say I made this gnocchi from scratch, but frankly I didn't have the energy or counter space to make a mixture mound of flour, potato and eggs. Bought these pillowy morsels at World Market!
However, the sauce is partially home made. A co-worker brought me a bag full of farm fresh vegetables that were quickly approaching too much softness to be appetizing, so I decided to make a quick stewy, chunky vegetable sauce.. almost like a ragout. For a more meaty, smoky flavor, I sometimes add ground meatless crumbles.

Here's how the sauce goes..
  • Coarsely chop two beefsteak or roma tomatoes
  • Chop half of a red onion and two cloves of garlic
  • Thinly slice one yellow squash
  • Coarsely chop 1/2 cup fresh spinach
  • Dice one red bell pepper
  • Thaw one cup of meatless crumbles (optional)
  • Teaspoon of italian herbs
  • Red chili flakes
  • Teaspoon sriracha suace
  • 1-1.5 cup of Classico Florentine & Spinach marinara sauce (depending on how saucy you like things..)
  • 1/2 cup skim mozzarella cheese
1. Saute red onion and garlic in red chili flakes and olive oil until tender. Season with very little salt and lots of black pepper. The Classico sauce will have enough salt that you don't need to add extra. If you're going to add meatless crumbles, add them after the onions are cooked. Let them brown up. If you can't stand fake meat, go to step 2.

2. Add yellow squash, bell pepper and tomatoes. Season with italian seasoning. Add Classico and sriracha. Mix well. Cover and let simmer on low for around 20 minutes. You can also add some shredded parm for some tang. Stir occasionally. After about ten minutes, add in the chopped spinach.

3. Boil water, add gnocchi. Once they float to the top, they're cooked.. about 3 minutes!

4. Drain gnocchi and combine with spicy sauce. Mix in a half cup of mozzarella cheese. Serve!

The mozzarella does a fantastic job of thickening up the sauce and making it rich and creamy. The more vegetables, the better. They provide a nice chunky texture to the soft gnocchi.. not to mention, lots of nutrients! I'm so glad I could use all those nice farm veggies to make this spicy, creamy, tangy tomato sauce.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Stuff Shells with Spinach and Kale

When I was a kid, my mom use to make stuffed shells with ricotta, spinach and loads of cheese. As I've started getting older, my recipes have become healthy so I can save the flat tire for an unfortunate road incident. I was craving a taste of my mom's dish, so I came up with a very simple, pretty healthy version of stuff shells. These are rich with spinach, kale, nutmeg and a touch of red pepper flakes. The result? Extremely satisfying and not terribly guilty. You can add any vegetables you like.. next time I might try shredding in some beautiful, bright red bell peppers or throw in some sweet peas.

Around 3-4 shells per person is enough, so 4 people can eat with even leftovers for lunch to make your coworkers jealous. Great for potlucks! You can halve the recipe if it's just you and your cuddle bean.. or just snack on it for a few days!

  • 20 whole wheat jumbo pasta shells
  • 2 15 oz. containers of low fat ricotta cheese
  • 1 24 oz container of marinara (I sauteed my sauce with onion, garlic and hot sauce)
  • 4 cups of spinach - washed and drained - finely chop
  • 3 cups of kale - washed and drained - finely chop
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese - grated
  • 2-3 oz skim mozzarella cheese - grated
  • Pinch of salt, pepper, red pepper flakes
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

1) Heat oven to 400 degrees
2) Cook shells (around 14 - 16 minutes is best to get the right texture) - drain and rinse under cold water
3) Spread marinara sauce in bottom of a large baking dish
4) In a large mixing bowl, thoroughly combine ricotta, spinach, kale (whatever veggies), parmesan, salt, pepper to taste, nutmeg, red chili flakes
5) Spoon mixture into shells, place on top of the sauce and sprinkle with mozzarella. Bake for 10-12 minutes
6) Broil shells for 2-4 minutes until golden brown

Saturday, September 26, 2009

something spicier

I cook every night. It's a hobby, a necessity, economical and even expressive. It's a way to decompress after a day of work and spend time with Josh for something we both enjoy and need. It's a way for me to give Josh a wee bit of comfort when days are hard, lost in stress or business or just to add my presence to his day. I had the urge to share one of my favorite recipes. I realize it's faux Mexican food, but nothing pleases me more than the combination of Mexican flavors, especially the tang of lime juice tossed with fresh, creamy avocado slices or the earthy blend of cumin and coriander sizzling with a saute of sweet caramelized onions and crunchy, juicy peppers.

Pop a top off a Corona and you'll feel like you're sitting right in a Taquiera in the Mission. OK, maybe that's not completely true, but at least you'll have saved a substantial amount of money and transit time on a stinky bus, all the while achieving a healthy, hearty and flavorful meal.

Easily serves 4--or in the case of Josh and I, dinner at night and leftover lunches the next day!

Vegetarian Tortilla Soup (I'm sure this blend exists somewhere in some form.)

  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil - for sauteing
  • 1 onion and 1 red or yellow bell pepper, sliced thinly
  • 1 jalapeno pepper and 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 3/4 frozen or fresh corn
  • 3 cups of vegetable stock, 2 cups of water
  • 1 8 oz. can of tomato sauce
  • 3 tablespoons of cumin, 2 tablespoons of coriander
  • 1 can of pinto or kidney beans (rinsed and drained)
  • 1/2 cup of cilantro, plus some for serving
  • 2 tortillas - heated in the oven for 5-7 minutes at 375 degrees or until crisp
  • 1 avocado, pitted and sliced - rub with a teaspoon of lime juice
  • Cheddar cheese and sour cream for garnish (can also add chopped green onions)
  • 1 lime
  • 1 tablespoon of salt (or to taste), 1 teaspoon of fresh cracked pepper

1. Chop up the jalapeno, pepper, onion and garlic and sweat the veggies out for 3-4 minutes in the olive oil. Add the cumin and coriander--mix well and let it saute until the onions and peppers are tender. Stir in the corn and tomato sauce. Mix well and add the broth and water. Bring to a simmer, add the salt, pepper, cilantro, beans and the juice of one lime. Cover and let simmer for 15-20 minutes.

2. In the mean time, heat the tortillas in the oven, and once done, cut into 1 inch strips. Pit and slice the avocado and rub with lime juice.

3. Ladle soup into large bowls and top with tortilla strips, cheese, sour cream, cilantro and a squirt of lime juice. I add in the avocado slices around this garnish. Serve and enjoy!!!

Saturday, August 1, 2009

The beginning

I realize it has been too long since I last wrote, and I realize it is only in the past couple of weeks I've come to terms with the changes that have occurred in the past three months. My previous postings were primarily grim, and as dramatic as it seems, that time period was probably the most dreadful I've encountered thus far. I also realize it takes incredible milestones for me to feel fulfilled, and those milestones amount to how I spend the majority of my time.

Despite my negative notions about Knoxville, I went back after that last posting to escape dismal San Francisco and to press closely against the breast of my parents' comfortable abode and to be among friends. The irony that resulted in the fact that I didn't want to go back to the city struck me deeply. However, I came back, and it was as if the elements of the universe were suddenly not against me, and San Francisco welcomed me, much to my hesitation to succumb to the belief that it was actually on my side.

One random day, the TV was murmuring during one of my desperate hours, and it was regarding "how to put yourself in the market during trouble economic times." I scoffed at the screen as some corporate cog yammered on about posting your resume on Craigslist. I was desperate, so I put one line of my resume on there, knowing that it'd never be that easy.

The next day, I get a call. This sounds like an unbelievable story, and trust me, it is. I attribute every part of this situation to luck. I'm not in the business of promoting encouragement, so don't use this hopeful story as a strategy to lay back and think the same thing will happen to you too, in time. The call resulted in a contract position with what I later realized was a great company. I started working as a technical writer in a field all too unfamiliar to me, a field that makes our world go 'round, a field that everyone of us has come to rely on--wireless technology.

I studied British Literature in college. What did I know about PANS, WANS and LANS? ZigBee, mesh or lighting? Turns out, I know nothing, but my daily routine is an exercise in learning.

This is how I spend the majority of my time now. Am I fulfilled? Mostly. I will never get full on fulfillment, though. After how luck struck my life, I'm not in the business of complaining anymore, either.

Though my life my sound like a living cliche right about now, I sit back, have my brain fried and thank my lucky stars for the people that truly saved my life.