Category Archives: Appetizers

[Thanksgiving special] Cumin-spiced baby potatoes/Jeera Aloo

Looking for a non-traditional side dish for your Thanksgiving meal? Highly recommend myMom’s Jeera Aloo (cumin-spiced baby potatoes)!

I love the simplicity yet bold flavors of this dish. Absolutely adore every bite – combination of cumin, ginger, curry leaves and spicy green chillies! This dish is not supposed to be super-spicy — if you cannot tolerate any heat minimize or skip the green chillies all together. The cumin seeds and fresh ginger will do their magic!

Jeera Aloo is a very popular dish from North India that my mom adapted to suit my family’s taste buds! Growing up we ate with rotis. The cute baby potatoes and the aroma brighten our dinner table. If you have a picky 5 year old or want to introduce new ethnic tastes to your family this would be my go to dish! After all, Indian food isn’t all about creamy, spicy, bright-red curries.

Cumin (aka jeera) is the star of this dish and that’s all you will think about when you take a bite. If you haven’t experienced the full flavor of cumin this is your chance. I dream about it!

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cumin spiced baby potatoes
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Non-traditional Thanksgiving side dish

Adapted from: myMom’s recipe

[recipe title=”Jeera Aloo” servings=”2″ time=”40 mins Prep 15 mins” difficulty=”easy”]

Ingredients:

  • ~1 lb baby potatoes
  • 1.5-2 inches finely chopped fresh ginger
  • 2-4 finely chopped green chillies (from Indian store or thai green chillies)
  • 1.5-2 tbsp cumin seeds (jeera)
  • 1-1.5 tbsp garam masala
  • Pinch of asafoetida
  • 6-8 curry leaves
  •  1 tbsp lime juice
  • Finely chopped cilantro for garnish
  • 4 tbsp sunflower/olive oil
  • salt to taste

Directions:

  • Rinse and peel the baby potatoes. Alternatively, (peeled, raw) frozen baby potatoes are available at some Indian stores.
  • Poke them with a knife tip and let them marinate in garam masala and salt.
  • Heat a pan and add oil. Once the oil is hot add pinch of asafoetida, cumin seeds (add more if needed), ginger, curry leaves, green chillies and let it sizzle! Trust me it is the best smell in the world.
  • Add in the potatoes and stir-fry them until all the goodness is mixed in.
  • Put a lid if necessary and stir intermittenly until the potatoes are cooked (10-12 mins). Please do not add water.
  • Adjust salt and garam masala as needed.
  • Sprinkle some lime juice and garnish with chopped cilantro.
  • Serve hot with rest of the Thanksgiving fare!

[/recipe]

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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]

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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Vegetarian Seekh Kebabs

vegetable seekh kebabs
vegetable seekh kebabs

I love kebabs – I associate them with delicate yet bold flavors, marination being the key and the chicken/lamb or seafood is really the star. There is no curry to complicate the flavors and rice or couscous are just sides. Today’s challenge was to make vegetables the star of the evening!

Let me back up a little bit. My husband, V prefers vegetarian food (as predominantly eaten in India – lacto vegetarian with no eggs, seafood or meat).  Secondly, his friends are mainly vegetarian so when they invited us over for a BBQ night  I really wanted to try out something that is vegetarian, in the category of kebabs and of course delicious!

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The good part is you can use any vegetables you prefer but potatoes are the key since they help with binding and of course the flavor. The first step is to boil and mash the potatoes. I cooked some veggies in a little olive oil – finely chopped french beans, carrots, cabbage and green chillies for the spice. Added in boiled corn kernels, green peas, ginger-garlic paste and roughly chopped cashew nuts. While the veggies cook down you can add in some spices such as cumin powder and chaat masala for some tanginess. The recipe I reviewed also calls for few tablespoons of roasted besan (gram flour) which adds an additional layer to hold the kebabs on the skewer.

Finally I added the veggie mixture to the potatoes and made medium size balls. One skewer at a time I individually pressed in the one or two balls along the skewers (until they looked like in the photo above). This step does require some patience – if the mixture does not hold on to the skewer feel free to add in some bread crumbs.

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Once all the skewers were ready they went in the oven (400 deg F) for 25-35 minutes with one or two oil/butter basting(s) and the kebabs were ready! The day I made them I pre-cooked them for 15-20 minutes  in the oven and then finished them on the grill just before serving.

Garnish with some thinly sliced onions, sprinkle with some chaat masala and lemon juice. Yum!

mythoughts: Vegetable Seekh kebabs are healthy but time/labor intensive compared to non-vegetarian kebabs. Definitely crowd pleasers if you have multiple vegetarian friends or family members at a party. If you skip the bread crumbs (which I did) they are gluten-free.

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Adapted from http://www.sanjeevkapoor.com

[recipe title=”Vegetarian Seekh Kebabs” servings=”4″ time=”60 mins Prep 20 mins” difficulty=”moderate”]

Ingredients:

  • 2-3 medium size potatoes (boiled and mashed)
  • 1 1/2 cups french beans (finely chopped)
  • 1/2 cup spinach (finely chopped)
  • 1/2 cup carrots (finely chopped)
  • 1 cup green peas
  • 1 cup corn
  • 1 1/2 cup cabbage (shredded)
  • 2-3 green chillies (finely chopped)
  • 2 tbsp ginger-garlic paste
  • 2-3 tbsp gram flour (besan)
  • 1/2 tbsp cumin powder
  • 1 tbsp chaat masala
  • 1/4 cup cashewnuts (roughly chopped)
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp butter (for basting – optional)
  • Sea salt to taste
  • 2-3 drops green food coloring (optional)
  • 10-12 bamboo skewers

Directions:

  • Pre-heat the over at 400 F.
  • Heat a pan, add olive oil followed by green chillies, ginger-garlic paste, gram flour, veggies (all except potatoes), chopped cashews and spices.
  • Cook for few 5-8 minutes.
  • Add the cooked veggies to mashed potatoes and mix well. Add salt to taste. Adding green color is an option. Make medium-size balls.
  • One skewer at a time individually pressed in the one or two balls along the skewers (until they looked like in the photo above). This step does require some patience – if the mixture does not hold on to the skewer feel free to add in some bread crumbs or a small boiled potato.
  • Once all the skewers are ready arrange in an oven-proof dish and place in the oven (400 deg F) for 25-35 minutes with one or two oil/butter basting(s) and the kebabs were ready!
  • Sprinkle chaat masala and lemon juice and serve with slice onions. [/recipe]

[Sunday feast]: Biryani, kebabs et al.

A lazy Sunday morning calls for a feast down the memory lane. Shrimp biryani fills me with nostalgia — spiced shrimp delicately layered with aromatic basmati rice. Mom’s special garnishes — thinly slices fried onions, crispy potato thins and cilantro. To complement the biryani — chicken tikka kebabs, mother in law’s special shrimp fritters and cucumber-tomato relish. Stay tuned for detailed recipes!

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myComfortFood – Shrimp biryani, chicken tikka bites and mother in law’s shrimp wadas.