Healthy Quinoa Salad

Most of the time we think of healthy food and we and equate it to a drab, tasteless meal and especially, if it is a salad, we think of rabbit food. This salad is healthy and tasty, full of veggies and with a lime chilli vinaigrette. I was also making hummus and had some cooked chickpeas, so added that too to make a complete meal. It is also colorful and will make a beautiful addition to your holiday dinner table.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup uncooked quinoa
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 green, red and yellow capsicums/peppers, cut into small cubes
  • 1 cup chopped onions
  • 2 small English cucumbers, cut into cubes
  • 10 cherry tomatoes, cut into half
  • 1/2 cup, chopped coriander/cilantro
  • 1/4 cup chopped celery (optional)
  • 1/2 cup cooked chickpeas/garbanzo beans (optional – but will add protein to the salad)
  • salt to taste

Lime Chilli Vinaigrette

  • 1/4 cup lime juice
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp honey
  • 1 green chilli finely chopped
  • 1 tsp red chilli flakes
  • 2 cloves garlic, cooked in a tsp of olive oil and chopped finely

Directions

  • Rinse quinoa well. In a saucepan add the quinoa and double the amount of water and place on high heat, till it boils. Then lower to medium heat and let it simmer for 15 minutes till all the water has been absorbed. Cover for 5-10 minutes and then fluff with a fork. Let it cool.
  • Meanwhile, add all ingredients for the dressing in a glass bottle, cover it and shake it well till well blended. Let it rest. The longer it rests, the better.
  • In a large mixing bowl add all the vegetables and the cooled quinoa.
  • Pour in the dressing and mix. (Pour half of it, mix, taste and then add more if required)
  • Season with salt and let it sit for at least 10 minutes before serving. 
  • Enjoy!

You could substitute quinoa with couscous or broken wheat/bulgar too. This stays for a couple of days in the fridge, so save some for lunch the next day! I was inspired by the recipe in cookie and Kate and then adapted it to my own taste.

Hummus – Healthy and Easy to make

When I have guests, I have some easy appetizers and dips that I make. Hummus is one of them. I think the first time I ate hummus was at Oasis Falafel in Iowa city. It is a very small restaurant with maybe four tables but with the best falafel and hummus. Because I am lactose intolerant, I make this often, since it is dairy-free and of course healthy. I jazz it up with whatever catches my fancy that day and what I have in the pantry. Add olives, sun-dried tomatoes, roasted pumpkin and you get a different hummus.

Healthy Hummus

Ingredients:

1 cup dried chickpeas (garbanzo beans) or 1 can garbanzo beans

4-5 garlic cloves

¼ cup tahini (sesame seed paste)

2 tbsp olive oil

¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

Salt to taste

1 pinch baking soda

1 tsp cumin powder

4-5 ice cubes 

Garnishes: cumin powder, chilli powder, roasted chickpeas, chopped parsley, roasted pine nuts or sesame seeds

Directions:

Soak dried chickpeas in water, overnight or for 6-8 hours.

Cook chickpeas with 2 cloves of garlic and some salt till soft. I use a pressure cooker and let it whistle for 3-4 times. It should be soft. Let it cool.

Strain (save the cooking liquid) and rinse the chick peas.

In a small saucepan, heat a tsp of oil and cook 2 cloves of garlic till soft. (Usually, raw garlic is added, but I prefer to cook it)

In a blender/ food processor, add the garlic, tahini and ice cubes and blend. The ice cubes make the tahini smooth by breaking down the fat. Blend for a few minutes.

Add chickpeas in small batches and blend. Add some chickpeas cooking liquid and blend. Add cumin powder and salt and blend till creamy. (Be careful with the salt, since salt was added while cooking the chickpeas and the liquid will also have salt). Add olive oil and blend.

Garnish it with any of the garnishes mentioned.

Serve with pita bread.

Olive Hummus

To the basic hummus recipes, add 3-4 tablespoons of oliveand blend for 20 seconds. Serve.

Olive Hummus

Pumpkin Hummus

To the basic hummus recipe add a couple of tablespoonsof roasted pumpkin and blend till smooth. This hummus is slightly sweet. Garnish with small pieces of pumpkin or roasted pumpkin seeds

Sun Dried Tomato Hummus

To the basic hummus recipe add a couple of tablespoons of sun-dried tomatoes and blend.

Roasted Cherry tomatoes with Pasta and breadcrumb Topping

There are days when you get back from work and need a quick dinner. If you have some cherry tomatoes in the fridge this is a dinner you can throw together while you have a cup of tea or coffee.

I saw a similar recipe in a food group on Facebook. Emily who is in the group makes some beautiful food and caters food. She is generous with her recipes and I adapted this from hers. She got the recipe from Bon Apetit Gwyneth Paltrow’s recipes . Emily grilled the tomatoes at 200ºF for 5-6 hours, mixing occasionally. I am sure that the flavors intensify. I did not do that. She also used anchovies; I used capers and olives instead. I modified this recipe with a recipe I saw in food network by Valerie Bertinelli and used eggplant too. Emily used toasted breadcrumbs and that really pops and I have started using it for a lot of pasta dishes. This recipe is an easy weekday recipe as most of the work is done in the oven. Relax with a cup of tea while the oven does the work.

Ingredients

  • 4 cups cherry tomatoes
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 5-6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • crushed chilli peppers
  • 1/2 cup breadcrumbs (I made my own with leftover bread and lots of herbs, some walnuts and chilli flakes)
  • 1 tbsp fresh chopped basil or parsley
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 1/2 tsp thyme
  • 2 tbsp capers and olives
  • 3-4 chopped garlic
  • fresh basil leaves
  • 1 eggplant, cubed
  • 1 pound spaghetti
  • parmesan cheese 3 tbsp (optional)

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 300ºF (150ºC)
  • Place tomatoes, salt, 2 cloves garlic, sliced and 1 tbsp olive oil. Roast for 1 hour. (Or preheat oven to 200º F and roast for 3-5 hours. Keep mixing). Set aside
  • Mix breadcrumbs with herbs, salt and pepper. Add a tbsp of oil and mix to resemble damp sand. Add capers and chopped olives. Spread on a pan with parchment paper. Drizzle with a tbsp of oil
  • Increase heat to 400ºF (200ºC). Bake for for about 5 minutes till golden brown
  • Cook spaghetti in a large pot of boiling salted water. Drain; reserving 1 cup of cooking liquid
  • In a pan heat 2 tbsp oil
  • Add garlic, stir for 30 seconds. Add eggplant and stir fry till cooked, but not overcooked
  • Add tomatoes Crush some tomatoes and cook for a few minutes
  • Add spaghetti and some of the reserved pasta water if dry and cook till well mixed
  • Pour into a serving bowl. Add some basil and drizzle some olive oil. Top with the breadcrumbs and serve
  • Sprinkle some parmesan cheese (optional)

Congress Kadalekai (Roasted Spiced Peanuts)

Congress Kadalekai- Congress is a political party in India and kadalekai is peanuts in kannada, the language spoken in the state of Karnataka. How did this dish get the name. There are different stories, one being, that this was named after the congress party split in 1969 as the peanuts used here are always split and not whole. You can read more here: http://www.expressfoodie.com/the-guide/bangalore/the-spicy-congress-peanuts-of bangalore/#:~:text=Legend%20has%20it%20that%20since,split%20to%20make%20this%20snack

The peanuts are relished by all, whatever the party affiliation of the person. This is healthy and tastes so good. In Bangalore, you can buy this in every Iyengar bakery and now even in stores. Iyengar Bakeries are small bakeries typically selling fresh white or milk bread, rolls, stuffed potato buns, vegetable puffs, cakes and snacks. They are cheap and affordable. When I was in India, I would but this and make masala peanuts as an appetizer when I had guests. It is easy to make. Now, I make the congress peanuts at home and sending a batch with my son to college to snack.

Congress peanuts goes really well with coffee, tea or a cold glass of beer. In a lot of pubs, you will find masala congress peanuts. To the congress peanuts, add some chopped onions, grated carrots, chopped tomatoes, lemon juice and cilantro and you have bar food. After you have this, you will wish every pub serves this instead of the plain peanuts.

Recently my colleague made this and she and her family and friends loved it. Give it a try, super easy to make.

Ingredients

  • 2 cup skinless peanuts (raw or roasted)
  • 3- 4 tsp vegetable oil or canola oil
  • 1-2 pinches (1/4 tsp) asafoetida
  • 20-30 curry leaves about 2 sprigs, washed and dried
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1/2- 1 tsp kashmiri red chilli powder (Kashmiri chilli powder is less spicy than the regular chilli powder and it imparts a red colour. You can use regular chilli powder too. Add according to how spicy you would like)
  • 1 tsp black pepper powder
  • salt to taste (about 1 tsp depending if peanuts are salted or not)
  • a pinch sugar

Directions

  • Heat a heavy bottom pan
  • If using raw peanuts, add to pan and roast. Be careful not to burn. Set aside on a plate. If peanuts have skin, rub them against your palm to remove skin and seperate skin and nut. (I used roasted peanuts and skipped this step)
  • Place pan on stove and add oil.
  • When oil is hot, reduce flame to medium heat and add asafoetida and curry leaves and fry for 30 seconds
  • Add spices and fry for a minute on low heat. Do not burn
  • Add peanuts and mix well
  • Take off heat and let cool before you serve
  • Store in airtight container

To make Peanut Masala: To 1 cup congress peanuts, add 3 tbsp chopped onions, 3 tbsp chopped tomatoes, 2 tbsp grated carrots, 2 tbsp chopped cilantro, a tsp or two of lime/lemon juice, salt to taste and mix. If you want it even more spicy, add 1 chopped serrano chilli pepper or some more chilli powder and mix. Serve with coffee, tea, beer or as a salad.

Roasted Summer Tomato Tart

Summer – when tomatoes are fresh and local; fresh herbs everywhere. I joke that I feel like I am in master-chef, running out to get a tomato or fresh herbs from the garden. Another month or so and I will be back to dried herbs and winter vegetables. It is good while it lasts.

I saw a post in a food group of a tomato tart. It looked scrumptious and I decided to make it for dinner. I usually keep some puff pastry in the freezer and so this was one of those quick weekday dinners. Pair it with a salad if you want. Since I cannot eat cheese and can tolerate some goat cheese, I made a quarter of the tart without cheese and sprinkled some goat cheese and even the cheese eaters enjoyed that part. If you are vegan, leave the cheese out. I always make my pesto with no cheese (Oh my!) and then whoever wants cheese adds cheese on it. For vegan options, leave cheese out or use vegan cheese

Ingredients

  • puff pastry 1 sheet (I used store bought Wewalka Puff pastry as it did not have lard and many of them do. This is made with canola oil)
  • 3 pesto (grind basil, roasted pine nuts, garlic, olive oil, and garlic)- recipe: or store bought pesto
  • 1 tbsp pesto
  • 2- tomatoes- sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • sliced fresh mozzarella or 3/4 cup goat cheese or ricotta cheese
  • 3 tbsp parmesan cheese
  • fresh basil
  • extra virgin olive oil for drizzling
  • salt, pepper and crushed red pepper

Directions

  • Slice tomatoes. Place on paper towels or colander and sprinkle salt and pepper on both sides. Let sit for 15 minutes. This allows the salt to draw out the moisture and the pastry does not get soggy
  • Heat oven to 400°F ( 200°C)
  • Roll out puff pastry onto a parchment paper on a sheet pan.
  • Prick the pastry with a fork leaving a 1/2 inch border so it does not puff up
  • Bake crust for 10 minutes
  • Sprinkle crust with parmesan cheese
  • Remove crust and brush pesto on the crust
  • Layer tomatoes and cheese on top of the crust, overlapping slightly, within the borders. Tuck in some basil leaves. Drizzle with a tsp of olive oil and some crushed red pepper
  • Bake the tart for 20-30 minutes, rotating halfway through
  • Remove from oven, drizzle with more olive oil or some pesto thinned out with olive oil.
  • Serve warm

Indian Street Style Grilled Corn

Monsoons bring a vivid picture to all those who have experienced it. Each one with different memories and mostly about food. I remember one day, returning to the office (I was working in marketing just after college) on my moped. I was at on the street my office was on, could almost see it at the end of the road. It started raining; I was sure I could make it to the office in a minute or so and therefore did not stop at a shelter. The skies opened up and I was soaked to the bone. I literally had to squeeze the water from my clothes. The experience of soaking wet or standing under a tree or under a bus stop shelter, trying to keep dry; umbrellas flying in the wind; a chaiwalla at the corner of a street selling chai; a person frying hot pakodas and bhajjis (fritters); a person selling grilled corn at the street corner.

Grilled Corn- The thought of it makes my mouth water, the spicy chilli and the tangy lime and the green chutney. The cart would have a small charcoal grill (a metal bowl filled with coal). The person would grill the corn, embers flying; you standing close to the grill to stay warm but trying to avoid the embers. Once he grills the corn, he would ask you if you want chutney on it. It is a green liquid in a bottle with a brush. If you are brave (not worrying whether the water is filtered or not), you would say yes. He would then brush the corn with the chutney and put it back on the coal. He would then dip a piece of lime in a mixture of salt and chilli powder and rub it on the corn. Taking the first bite, there would be a rush of flavours; the dry spices sticking to your lips, the mixture of herbs and spices and the charred grill corn.

This is really easy to make and after you eat this, you will not want to eat plain grilled corn. In Mexico, I saw them grilling corn on teh roadside and added spices and sprinkled some cheese on it. I have grilled corn and sprinkled mexican spices (tajin) and the taste is very similar.

Ingredients

  • 4 corn on the cob, cleaned
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 1 tsp chilli powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp chat masala or garam masala (optional)
  • 1 lime, cut in half
  • green chutney- grind 1/4 cup cilantro, 1/4 cup fresh mint leaves, salt to taste and 1 jalapeno or serrano pepper to a paste with 1/4 cup water (optional)

Directions

  • Clean corn- remove husk and silk. Brush oil over it
  • Heat a coal or gas grill
  • In a bowl, make a mixture of salt, chilli powder and chat masala
  • If using, grind ingredients for green chutney and set aside
  • Place corn and roast on all sides. Keep turning to uniformly roast.
  • Take off heat and brush chutney all over the corn and put it back on the grill for a minute. Turn. Be careful not to burn
  • Take off heat
  • Dip lemon slice into the salt chilli powder mixture and rub on all sides of the corn.
  • Serve

Bangalore Special- Tomato Puri Slices

Bangalore Chaat is special. I can see my Mumbai cousins and Delhi friends rolling their eyes. It is surely different but for those who grew up in Bangalore, it is what we love. Walking past a chaat food cart on the street smelling the distinct smells of the masala puri takes you back to your childhood. There are other chaat dishes which are quintessential Bangalore; tomato puri slices, nipattu masala chaat, congress masala and boti masala among many others.

The other day I saw a post in a FB friend’s post on tomato puris and it brought back memories. This is an easy an quick snack to make. I used store bought tamarind chutney and green chutney (mint coriander chutney). I had bhel mix, puffed rice, roasted peanuts and sev in the pantry. All these ingredients are available in an indian store. I used tomatoes from the garden. The tomatoes are the star of the dish.

Since I sprinkled ingredients, I am not giving exact meaurements.

Ingredients

  • 1 – 2 tomatoes, sliced
  • 1/2 chopped red onion
  • 1 small carrot, grated
  • green chutney
  • tamarind chutney
  • cilantro, chopped
  • bhel or puffed rice
  • roasted peanuts
  • sev
  • salt
  • chilli powder
  • chat powder

Method

  • Slice tomatoes and place on plate
  • Spread 1/4 tsp of each chutney on the tomato slice
  • Sprinkle some onions, carrots, cilantro on each slice
  • Place about a tablespoon of bhel or puffed rice, sev and a few peanuts on each slice.
  • Sprinkle some salt and chat masala and serve immediately.
  • Eating this will be messy. Pick up the tomato slice like a pizza slice and bite into it. Keep napkins ready
  • Enjoy!

Chocolate Chip cookies – Adapted from David Leite’s recipe

Chocolate Chip Cookies is a quintessential american snack. Today it is found everywhere in the world. I started making them when I moved the the US some 20 odd years ago. My go to recipe was and still is the classic Tollhouse Cookie and here is the recipe: https://chaiwithpreethi.com/2017/07/08/chocolate-chip-cookies/

Recently, during the pandemic and more time to spare and the with the kids back home, I came across this recipe in NYT cooking; the only problem was it needed time. The recipe calls for the dough to sit in the fridge for 24 to 36 hours. That means I need to plan at least a day before.

We tried making cookies immediately after we made the dough, 24 hours later, 36 hours later and once even froze the dough and made it a week later. The cookies 36 hours later and the frozen dough (a week later) made the best cookies. They are gooey and chewy and chocolatey and so so good!

Ingredients

  • 2 cups minus 6 tablespoons all purpose flour
  • 1 ⅔ cups bread flour or all purpose flour
  • 4 tbsp cornstarch
  • 1 ¼ teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 ½ teaspoons salt
  • 1 ¼ cups unsalted butter (2 1/2 sticks)
  • 1 ¼ cups light brown sugar (10 ounces)
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar (8 ounces)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons natural vanilla extract
  • 1 ¼ pounds bittersweet/ dark chocolate chips
  •  Sea salt

Directions

  • Sift flours, salt, baking powder and baking soda
  • Using a mixer or by hand, cream butter and sugars until very light for about 5 minutes
  • Add eggs one at a time. Add vanilla and mix
  • Reduce speed to low and add flour mixture until just combined
  • Add chocolate chips and mix
  • Press plastic wrap against the dough and refrigerate it for 24- 36 hours or upto 72 hours. If freezing, make balls and freeze in an airtight box.
  • When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350ºF or 180ºC
  • Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or oil/ butter pan
  • Scoop golf ball sized dough on the pan. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt and bake for 18-20 minutes
  • Remove and slide on wire rack.
  • Serve warm