[Wordless Wednesdays]: Spiced cake pops for Diwali (or Halloween)

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Home-made treats – Halloween colors!
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Perfect treat — Fall spices make them ideal for Diwali or Halloween!
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[Entertaining bites]: Chicken tikka tartlets & Four mushrooms crostini!

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perfect bites!

At a friend’s wedding last year one of the hors d’oeuvres that left a lasting impression on my taste buds (and sight): mini-tartlets with buffalo chicken and blue cheese. They were spicy, tangy, crispy and (blue) cheesy! I loved the chef’s take on popular buffalo wings. Complete awesomeness in one bite. They inspired me to make an Indian version using chopped up chicken tikka kebabs. Kebabs are traditionally not super-spicy but definitely flavorful. I added in colorful peppers for a crunch. During Thanksgiving I serve them with a cranberry chutney — what can I say — it is a perfect combination! They are always a crowd-pleaser at potlucks, reunions with friends and my family loves it too.

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easy breezy yet fancy?!

myrule 1 for entertaining: Advance preparation!

The chicken tikka kebabs can be marinated and even oven-baked in advance. Assembling them in the tartlets, garnishing with colorful chopped peppers/cheese and baking until crisp can be done once guests arrive! For a vegetarian version — paneer (Indian cottage cheese) can be substituted for the chicken in this recipe.

Chicken tikka is a versatile dish — serve as kebabs, or wrap in a roti or add to a creamy-tomato sauce to make a popular “British/American” dish, yes, you guessed it right, the famous chicken tikka masala! For the tartlets, the kebabs don’t necessarily have to be oven-baked (on skewers) — I have made this dish by even sautéing the marinated chicken in a pan. That works great as well! Just make sure you don’t add any liquid when you fill the tartlet shells. I am all about minimizing steps and simplifying recipes.

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Kebabs can be served as is it as well!

myrule 2 for entertaining: 2 appetizers = 1 non-vegetarian + 1 vegetarian.

If you love mushrooms — you will enjoy the earthy, wild and umami flavors of shitake, porcini, portabello and cremini mushrooms. Sauté the finely chopped mushrooms in butter, olive oil, lots of garlic and red chili flakes. This recipe is inspired from something my mom used to make for my sister and I as after school snack. We called it “mushroom cheese toast”. An Indian version of the crostini – sautéed button mushrooms with onion, tomatoes and spices. Baked over small triangular pieces of sliced bread with melt-y Amul cheese! Nostalgia.

The mushrooms mixture can be prepared in advance. All you need to do before your guests arrive is bake the mushrooms on top of baguette slices. Top it off with some cheese and it’s ready to serve!

[recipe title=”Chicken tikka tartlets and Four mushrooms crostini” servings=”8″ time=”45 mins Prep 20 mins” difficulty=”moderate”]

Ingredients:

  • CHICKEN TIKKA KEBABS
    • 1/2 pound boneless/skinless chicken breast/thigh pieces
    • 2 tbsp plain Greek yogurt
    • Spices (1/2 tbsp red chili powder, 1/2 tsp turmeric powder, 1/2 tbsp garam masala, 1/2 tsp cumin-coriander powder, 1/4 tsp cardamon powder)
    • 1 tbsp ginger-garlic paste
    • 1 tbsp lemon juice
    • 1 tbsp olive oil
    • Sea salt to taste
    • 2-3 drops red food coloring (optional)
    • 10-12 bamboo skewers
    • Mini-phyllo sheet shells/tartlets (available in the frozen section of the grocery store
    • 1 chopped green/red/yellow peppers
    • Grated parmesan cheese (for garnish)
    • 1 chopped green scallion (spring onion) or cilantro (for garnish)
  • FOUR MUSHROOMS CROSTINI
    • 1/2 pound Mushrooms (Shitake, porcini, cremini, baby portabello)
    • 2 tbsp olive oil
    • 2 tbsp butter + more to apply on the baguette
    • 4-6 chopped garlic cloves
    • 2 tbsp red chili flakes
    • Salt to taste
    • Grated parmesan cheese (for garnish)
    • Chopped cilantro or parsley (for garnish)
    • French baguette

Directions:

Chicken tikka tartlets

  • Marinate the chicken pieces (1/2-1 inch) in yogurt, spices, ginger-garlic paste, lemon juice, olive oil, red food color, salt for few hours (or overnight in refrigerator).
  • Making the perfect chicken tikka is all about getting the perfect spice combination. To make sure the seasoning is as per taste — I bake one chicken skewer and taste it once it is cooked. Adjust spices, salt as needed and only then bake the rest of the chicken.
  • Heat oven to 400 F. Skewer the chicken and bake for ~20 mins (or until cooked).
  • If you don’t have enough time you can sauté the marinated chicken in a pan with little olive oil — works fine.
  • Once cooked roughly chopped the chicken tikkas pieces and add cilantro, green/yellow/red peppers.
  • Add spoonfuls to the mini-tartlet shell, top with some cheese and baked for 5-8 mins in the oven (350F). Follow any additional instructions as listed on the frozen mini-tartlet box.
  • Garnish with cilantro or chopped green scallion and serve.

Four mushrooms crostini

  • In a pan heat olive oil and butter, add garlic, crushed red chillies, sauté for 1 minutes. Once you get a nice garlic aroma add in chopped up mushrooms and stir until cooked (3-4 minutes). Add salt to taste and remove from heat.
  • Apply little butter to the baguette slices (cut diagonally) and add spoonful of mushroom mixture, top with cheese. Arrange the slides in a cookie sheet.
  • Bake in the oven (350 F) until the cheese melts. Garnish with finely chopped cilantro or another herb.
  • Alternatively, the baguette slices can be toasted on a grill or a pan with grooves for the grill marks. Topped with the mushroom mixture, garnishes and serve warm.

[/recipe]

[Halloween Special] Rustic meal: Bajri Roti and Spicy Lasun Chutney

After all the summer craziness and travels I’m enjoying the relaxing Fall season. I love the crisp cool air and all combinations of red-orange-yellow colors around. The weather inspired me to make my mother in law’s mini-meal bajra roti and lasun chutney. Bajra is perfect for cooler weather since it is considered “heat-y” and the spiciness of the chutney ties in well with it’s nutty flavor. V grew up eating it for breakfast during not-so hot months in Mumbai (aka winter) but it is a great combo on a weeknight. This meal can be planned ahead – doesn’t need a lot of prep time and includes ingredients that you either already have in your pantry or have a longer-shelf life (such as flour or frozen grated coconut).

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If you are not a fan of coconut the bajra roti can be a good substitute for breads/wheat rotis and can be enjoyed with any curry or vegetable. Bajra is considered very nutritional, gluten-free and if you skip the ghee the recipe is dairy-free as well.

Are you wondering about my non-traditional Halloween post? The roti’s natural dark grey/black color and the chutney’s orange color remind me of Fall and Halloween. That’s not it — the number of dried red chillies and the spiciness is for the brave-hearted only! Scary ha? Just kidding — enjoy!

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Something to warm you up this Fall. And spiciness that sounds scary. Trust me you need it after all the candy-consumption!

[recipe title=”Rustic meal: Bajra Roti and Lasun Chutney” servings=”2″ time=”45 mins Prep 20 mins” difficulty=”moderate/difficult”]

Ingredients:

  • BAJRA ROTI
    • 2 cups bajra flour (black/pearl millet flour)*
    • 1 cup warm water + 1/2 cups for sprinkling
    • 1 tbsp olive oil
    • Sea salt to taste
    • Extra flour for rolling
    • 2 tbsp Ghee (optional)*
  • SPICY LASUN CHUTNEY
    • 6-8 garlic cloves
    • 8-12 dried red chillies*
    • 1 tbsp tamarind paste*
    • 1 cup freshly grated coconut (or thawed frozen coconut)*
    • 1 tbsp olive oil
    • pinch of asafoetida*
    • 1/2 cup water
    • Salt to taste
  • *ingredients available at an Indian grocery store

Directions:

  • In a bowl (or kitchen aid with dough hook attachment) mix bajra flour, salt, olive oil and warm water. Knead into soft dough. mytip: Add water gradually, starting with only 1/2 cup first and the rest as needed.
  • Let the dough rest for 10-15 mins.
  • In the meantime let’s make the chutney, in a pan add olive oil, asafoetida, roughly chopped garlic cloves and dried red chillies. Roast for few minutes. Once you get a nice aroma of garlic and the chillies add in the grated coconut. Roast for additional 2-3 minutes. mytip: Certain red chillies can be really spicy so please use caution and use according to your spice level. I used the byagdi variety from South India that is spicy and imparts a nice orange color to the chutney.
  • In a blender grind – roasted coconut, garlic, red chillies, salt, tamarind paste and water to make a fine paste. Roasted garlic chutney is ready!
  • Back to the bajra dough — the consistency of the dough should be soft. If it is sticky it will be difficult to roll and if it gets too firm it will be easy to roll but the final product might be too hard to eat! Add flour or water and adjust the dough.
  • Make ~8 small balls and flatten them like a crab cake.
  • Individually roll into a flat bread either with a rolling pin or with your finger tips. This is the most tricky part — you will need some practice and some patience but use flour generously or roll mini-ones.
  • Bajra flour is gluten-free so can break easily. Handle the flatbread with delicate hand if it sticks use a flat spoon to remove the sticky parts.
  •  Place the roti on a hot non-stick pan, sprinkle some water on the top no oil is required.
  • Once both sides are cooked remove on a plate. Smear some ghee while still hot (totally optionally but certainly enhances the flavor). If you do not apply the ghee this recipe is gluten-free and dairy-free.
  • Serve hot with the chutney!

[/recipe]

New Haven: Jhinga Manchurian

During my several recent trips to New Haven, Connecticut I realized it is definitely an ethnic foodie haven. From Ethiopian to Mexican to Mediterranean to Spanish (tapas) and of course Indian. I enjoy walking around Yale University campus and exploring new restaurants along with a dear friend/New Haven local. We invariably indulge in dessert before dinner – Bubbies mochi ice cream!

Jhinga manchurian is an Indo-Chinese concoction with deep fried shrimp typically in a corn flour batter and a spicy-vinegary sauce. It is a perfect appetizer to share with a friend!

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Jhinga Manchurian – Thali, New Haven, CT
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Square donut: Orangeside donuts, New Haven.

New Orleans: Culinary Experience!

What can I say – NOLA is a foodie’s paradise. I have visited New Orleans three times so far and every time I’m blown away. Love the seafood. Love the bread pudding. Love the beignets. Love. Love. Love.

During one of my trips last year my parents were able to visit NOLA with me. I was busy with work but they explored New Orleans and thoroughly enjoyed their trip! My dad writes to my sister S after the trip that really sums up what New Orleans is all about –

“NOLA visit was great. We stayed at the historic Hotel Monteleone which is in the heart of downtown just a few blocks away from the Mississippi river walk. It is an old French area known as French Quarter. Our hotel was more than hundred years old.
We enjoyed the local Cajun cuisine, the freshly made pralines and the seafood was good. The variety in the food and the serving is amazing. Since this area was also under Spanish control the food variety multiplies.
NOLA downtown is a very lively place with musicians on the streets, Jazz originated here they say, street art and art galleries in old settings, every other shop is a specialty restaurant some even hundred years old. Tourists are on their feet walking around and enjoying. Two days we walked a lot along with them until we were just tired. The street cars are also a century old and well-maintained. We enjoyed the ride.”
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Shrimp in BBQ sauce.
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Blackened Catfish!

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