Archives for posts with tag: Cilantro

When in doubt I turn ingredients into a dip.  I don’t know where I got this habit from, but somehow I developed it.  I think it partially might have stemmed from my childhood love for artichoke dip.  But who knows, whatever the reason is, I am now somewhat notorious for my dips.  When I visit my parents and they have people over I make a dip platter, along with a cheese platter, of course.  When I invite people over I do the same.  You can’t even imagine the attachment I have with my Cuisinart food processor and my mini food processor, which I fondly refer to as C. Junior.  These two gadgets make everything so simple, so effortless.

When I tell you I am attached, I really mean it.  Practically, every time I cook, I use either the “Senior” or “Junior” version of my food processor.  If I want to make a Pakistani dish quickly, then I throw in the garlic and ginger whiz it up and then throw in some tomatoes and within no time without all the chopping and slaving over the cutting board I have a delicious dish.

Believe me, I could go on and on about my food processors, but for the sake of the readers who might abandon me and deem me as off the wall, I will stop now.  The reason I mention the food processor was this eggplant dip I made.  You see, I had a vague idea in my mind as to what I wanted to make: eggplant with pomegranate molasses, and feta.  But, in the initial stages I was not visualizing a dip.  As I went along preparing the eggplant, the idea of a dip struck me.  Call it predictable or whatever you want, but the truth is, it worked and worked quite well I might add.  The smokiness of the spices, the creaminess of the feta, and the freshness of the herbs melded together to form one harmonious dip that was gobbled up by my husband and I in no time.


Eggplant Dip with Pomegranate Molasses and Feta

*I was inspired by this recipe, but I did not stay true to the recipe, I just used it as a jumping off point.

Serves 4-6, as an appetizer

Ingredients

Olive Oil

2 medium-sized Sicilian eggplants, peeled and cut into a small dice (or any variety you prefer), about 3 cups diced

3 shallots. chopped

4 cloves of garlic, minced

1/4 cup pomegranate molasses

1 cup crumbled Middle Eastern Feta

1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

1/2 cup chopped parsley

5-7 mint leaves chopped

1/4 cup pomegranate seeds

2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts

salt and black pepper, to taste

for the spices:

1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds

1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds

1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika

1 teaspoon dried pomegranate seeds, found in most Pakistani/Indian grocery stores

Method

First, dry roast the spices in a dry pan on medium heat until you start to smell their aromas, 5-7 minutes.  Cool them for a minute and then transfer to a spice mill or coffee grinder and pulse until they all combine into a uniform mixture.  Set aside.

Heat a medium-sized sauté pan with a nice coating of olive oil on medium heat.  When the oil comes to temperature, add the shallots and allow them to caramelize, about 5-7 minutes.  Add in the garlic and cook for 1-2 minutes.   Toss in the eggplant and pomegranate molasses and allow the eggplant to caramelize as well.  Season with salt and pepper.  After 5 minutes of cooking, add the spice mixture.  Let the eggplant cook down further, until it is completely cooked through, about another 15-20 minutes.

Once the eggplant is cooked, allow it to cool for 15 minutes.  Next, take out a food processor (if you don’t have one you can mash by hand) and add in the cooked eggplant, feta, lemon juice, parsley, mint, a good drizzle of olive oil and pulse until combined.  Taste to see if any additional salt and pepper is required.  Garnish with the fresh pomegranate seeds, toasted pine nuts, parsley, mint, and a drizzle of olive oil.  Serve with toasted pita wedges or any bread of your choice.  I like to serve this slightly warm or at room temperature, but it can be served chilled.

* I decided to make a similar dip with butternut squash and caramelized shallots and posted it on food52, do have a look here.

Lately my routine has not allowed me to update my blog as frequently as I would have liked to.  I have come up with a bout of forgetfulness.  Not to say I forgot about my blog, but I have been misplaced from my apartment and have had a very ill-regimented schedule.  I really missed cooking but now I’m ready to forge ahead with full force!  I was staying at my in-law’s house in Toronto and my sister-in-law is a great cook on her own, so I was not really needed in the kitchen.  Not that I’m complaining, this was easy for me. Not to say that my sister-in-law’s purpose is to cook for me.  She is very sweet and I am lucky to have her as a sister-in-law. But, my time off from the kitchen had something to do with my absolute absent-mindedness.  With no responsibilities, I became somewhat aloof.

My husband and I were going to drive back to Kingston to drop off some stuff I had accumulated on my US trip.  After sitting in two hours of traffic I suddenly realized I forgot the apartment keys at home.  As you can guess my husband was not amused.  That’s was when I got the lecture about, “my irresponsibility.”  I became a little paranoid, was I showing early signs of dementia?  When I mentioned this you should have seen the glare my husband gave me.  He was already angry with me forgetting the keys, and my ridiculousness put him over the edge.  Thankfully, my husband is a calm person and got over it quickly.  Mistakes happen!

I also forgot my camera at my in-law’s.  I am quite upset about this, because though I was going through a cooking drought I did manage to make one Spring version of a potato salad.  Me being myself, did not upload the pictures beforehand and cannot post the recipe until I get my camera back.  These are the two major things I have forgotten recently, but there are countless other things I will not bore you with.

Had enough of my rambling yet?  Let’s get on to the chicken, to be honest, I started writing the post for the chicken skewers in green marinade more than a month ago and forgot about it.  Then as I was looking through my posts I saw this and wondered why I never finished the post.  I guess things always come around to full circle.  I really wanted to get back into my blog and thankfully, I had some uploaded pictures on my computer.  So here I am now bringing this to you.

This chicken dish is a staple of mine.  One thing I never forget to do is to use herbs.  My dishes are naked without them.  This exemplifies my use of some of my favorite herbs: cilantro and mint.  The flavors meld into one.  I really think someone should make a hybrid of mint and cilantro.  Maybe I should get going on that idea.  :)  The marination process really allows the chicken to moisten.  This also has something to do with the addition of cream into the marinade, indulgent, yes, but well worth it.  It also is also a variant from the traditional Pakistani food I cook most of the time.  I love using similar and familiar flavors but with a twist.  This keeps cooking and eating fun.

Chicken Skewers in a Green Marinade

Serves 4

Ingredients

2 pounds boneless chicken in chunks (breast or thigh)

4 cloves of garlic made into a paste

1/2 cup packed mint leaves, finely chopped

1/2 cup packed cilantro leaves, finely chopped

1 long green chili, finely chopped

juice of 1 lime

1 teaspoon cumin powder

1 teaspoon salt, or to taste

freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1/2 teaspoon  crushed red chilis, or to taste

1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder

1/2 teaspoon garam masala powder

1/4 cup heavy cream

Method

Combine all ingredients except the chicken in a blender or food processor.  Place the chicken in a bowl and pour the marinade over it.  Allow it to marinate for 3-4 hours.  After 3-4 hours place the chicken on skewers and bake on a  lightly oiled baking tray in a preheated 400 degree oven for about 15-20 minutes or until cooked through.  Now that the weather is getting better, this would be great on a charcoal grill.  Serve with lime wedges and garnish with mint and cilantro.  Accompany with rice or naan.

December is here and the cold has arrived!  Today I kept my earmuffs with me just in case the walk home would yield frostbite :).  No, I wasn’t going to wear them, but just in case :).  I’ve been thinking about making some chili for a few days now but today it felt right.  I needed the warmth and the comfort it brings.

I know when some people think of chili they think of Wendy’s 99 cent menu or some tailgating party.  But, I find it to be more nourishing and satisfying and actually quite healthy.  I mean, unless you use fatty meat and pile on the oil, I think chili could be considered a health food.  It’s full of protein and you can doctor it up any way you wish.  Use lean ground beef, or ground turkey/chicken, keep it vegetarian, or even vegan.

The chili I make is not a traditional chili con carne made famous by chili cook-offs and the like.  Mine is just my own take on a somewhat iconic American dish.  I love that there’s no hard and fast rule to chili and that’s the way all cooking should be.  If you like it add it, if you don’t leave it out.  There are no precise measurements here, don’t fret if you add 1 teaspoon more of cumin, don’t worry everything will be alright.  Even if you think you can’t cook, you CAN cook chili,  even without the “XYZ chili seasoning packet.”

Chili

Serves 4-5

Ingredients

1 onion, roughly chopped

6-7 cloves garlic, minced

1-2 jalapeno peppers, chopped (seeds removed if you like)

4 sprigs of thyme

1 pound lean ground beef

1 cup black beans

1 can kidney beans

1 chipotle pepper with the adobo sauce

2-3 tablespoons tomato paste

1 28 ounce can whole tomatoes chopped finely or crushed/diced tomatoes

2 heaping tablespoons chili powder

1 teaspoon ancho chili powder

2 teaspoons salt

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 cup chicken or vegetable stock if the chili gets too thick

Handful of chopped cilantro

2 tablespoons olive oil

Method

Heat a large pot to medium heat and add the oil, sweat the onions for about 5 minutes.  Turn down the heat to medium-low and add in the jalapenos, garlic, and thyme and allow to cook for about 10 more minutes or until the onions or almost light brown.  Add in the meat and all of the spices and use a spoon to break up the meat so it can distribute evenly and be smooth.  Stir for a minute or two and add in the tomato paste and chipotle peppers and combine them with the meat.  Add the beans and the large can of tomatoes.  Mix everything together and allow to simmer on medium-low for about an hour.  Check occasionally, if it gets too thick add the chicken or vegetable stock.  The consistency should be like a stew.  At about 45 minutes throw in the handful of cilantro and continue to simmer for 15 minutes.  Before serving remove the thyme stems.

Garnish options:

red onions, cilantro, scallions, jalapenos, limes, avocado, sour cream, creme fraiche, cheese (monterey jack, cheddar, cojita, or anything you like), tabasco, salsa, and the list could go on.

I’m all about the garnish!  Don’t feed me chili without garnishes or I will be throughly disappointed!

I made these Pakistani style Potato Cutlets for my Eid dinner as a replacement for beef kebabs because we invited someone who doesn’t eat beef.  Therefore, I decided on these.  They can be served as an appetizer, you are probably familiar of them from Indian restaurants where they are referred to as Aloo ki Tikki (usually an appetizer).

These are so simple to make as well.  It is often the case in my house that I get lazy on occasion and don’t feel like grocery shopping.  Especially, when I have to carry the heavy bags home.  Sometimes, I am left at home with potatoes, eggs, some random herbs, and other things not worth mentioning.  That’s when I really wish I had gone food shopping because I wouldn’t have to put my mind through the agony of what can I make from these ingredients I have on hand.  But, I can usually make these potato cutlets.  They are really yummm when they are freshly pan-fried.  These cutlets satisfy anyone’s salty cravings (which, I usually have a lot of).  I use Panko breadcrumbs because they create more texture and add a better crispiness, but regular breadcrumbs work fine as well.  They are simple, quick, and very budget friendly as well.

Potato Cutlets

Makes about 20, 3-4 inch in diameter cutlets

Ingredients

4 medium to large potatoes, I used red ones

1 onion, chopped finely

1 large handful cilantro, chopped finely (I know, how exact)

1 long green chili, chopped finely

1 teaspoon cumin powder

1/2-1 teaspoon cumin seeds

1 1/2  teaspoons coriander seeds ground coarsely in a spice mill or mortar and pestle

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon dried pomegranate seeds (anar dana) ground in the spice mill or mortar and pestle, optional (My mother in law adds these in her cutlets and they improve the taste.  If an Indian or Pakistani grocery store is not near you, you can skip this.)

1 teaspoon salt

1 egg beaten with some water salt and crushed chili flakes

Panko breadcrumbs about 1 cup

vegetable oil for frying

*Adjust the spices if you would like a milder cutlet.  I think most people can handle the amount of spice I have listed here, but make adjustments according to your taste buds.

Method

Cut and peel the potatoes into large chunks and place in a saucepan with cold water and boil until they are fork tender, about 15-20 minutes.  Meanwhile, chop the onions, cilantro, and green chili.  I did this in my mini food processor.  When the potatoes have cooled slightly, mash them with a potato masher or fork.  Do not make them too smooth, leave a little bit of chunkiness to them.  Next, add the onions, cilantro, green chili, and all the spices.  Mix everything together like how you would mix meatballs.  Next, form the potato mixture into medium sized round patties.  You can keep them frozen like this for about a month and bread them after they are defrosted.  But, I fried mine fresh.  Put the egg mixture (with salt and red chili flakes) in a plate and in a separate plate add the panko breadcrumbs.  Put the potato cutlet into the egg then into the breadcrumbs and fry in hot oil until golden brown on both sides.  You do not need to add too much oil to your frying pan, just enough for a pan fry.  You can place these on a plate with paper towel to soak up the excess oil.  Serve hot with chutney.  Or serve on a bun as a “veggie” burger with double the carbs :).

IMG_7766Hari chutney is a South Asian condiment.  I always have it made in my fridge.   Basically, it is a green chutney consisting of cilantro, mint, and green chilies.  You can eat with rice, curries, samosas, tandoori dishes, basically anything.  The flavors in it are so fresh and vibrant because of the mint and cilantro.  The herby quality of the chutney mellows out and completes whatever dish it is accompanying.  I have been trying to make the perfect chutney for quite a few years and now I think I finally have it right.  Sometimes it would be too minty, other times too spicy, I have tried it with and without lime and I think I prefer it without lime (just slightly though).  I usually add whisked yogurt to tone it down a bit and give the chutney a more delicate flavor.  However, it is perfectly suitable to refrain from adding yogurt.  In this case, a squirt of lime juice to enhance the chutney’s flavor.  Traditionally, this chutney was made with a large mortar and pestle.  But, in today’s world, usually we opt for an easier option–the blender.

This chutney is quite simple to prepare.  I also add some freshly ground cumin, and just a pinch of ajwain (carom) seeds.  The cumin adds earthiness and the ajwain complements the mint with a great pungency.

Cilantro and Mint Chutney

Makes about 2 cups of chutneyIMG_7733

Ingredients

1/2 a bunch of cilantro, washed throughly, thick stems removed

15 mint leaves, stems removed

1-2 green chilies, stems removed and coarsely chopped

1 clove garlic, chopped roughly

juice of half a lime, optional (for chutney without yogurt)

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground cumin powder

1/4 teaspoon scant ajwain

1/2 teaspoon of salt (or to taste)

1/2 teaspoon red chili powder (cayenne pepper)

1 1/2 cup whisked plain yogurt (you may add water or milk to thin it out a bit)

Method:IMG_7749

In a blender or food processor, add the cilantro, mint, green chilies, garlic, salt, cumin, ajwain, and cayenne.  Add 1-2 tablespoons of water until everything is a smooth puree.  If you are not using yogurt add the lime as well.

If adding yogurt, pour the chutney into the whisked yogurt and combine.  Taste and adjust seasonings, if necessary.

This can keep in the refrigerator for about a week.

*Some add dried pomegranate seeds to the chutney as well.  I do not particularly care for it in this chutney, but you may want to try it out.

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