Archives for category: Eggs

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This winter has been rough on me, and I’m sure it’s been tough for a lot of you too.  I check the weather on my phone and see no hope for days.  Temperatures lingering well below freezing seem to be the norm now.  Of course, there are snippets of beauty amongst this snow and ice.  Scenes that would rival any tropical paradise in their splendor.

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On the positive side, I do love me some winter fashion.  I love chunky knits, boots, pom-pom hats, and huge scarves wrapped around a thousand times. I’ve gotten to wear crimson and berry-toned lip colors, which look out-of-place in the warmer months.  I have also been loving  goth-inspired nail polishes – very moody and a far cry from the fuchsias and tangerine reds I wear in the summer.

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There have also been cozy times I get to share with my husband.  Him and I exploring the city and finding a new café.  I will get a latte and he will get a hot chocolate because he has an abhorrence that stems from childhood towards coffee.  We’ll share a cookie or a croissant or both and discuss things in the world that we don’t understand or can’t wrap our heads around, future vacations we want to take, or whatever may come up.

We’ll also laze around at home more often on the weekends.  In the summer I like to be out and about.  This winter I’m enjoying staying in more. Usually I’m the type of person who gets in a very bad mood if we don’t have weekend plans.  But this winter I’ve been happy to stay-in on a Friday night and cook a nice dinner for just the two of us.  Of course friends are always welcome, but rather than going out, sometimes it’s nice to stay snug and comfortable at home.  When Sunday morning comes around I’m also skipping the usual restaurant brunches and opting for an omelet or pancakes or French toast at home.  I’m not big on sweets for breakfast, but sometimes a nice french toast satisfies like nothing else.

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When making French toast I don’t really measure anything out.  It’s an effortless dish that will come together if you have the basic ingredients.  That’s why I love making it.  I paired it here with ruby-toned fruits: blood oranges, pomegranates, and raspberries.  And I always use cinnamon and vanilla in my french toast.  You can add other spices like cardamom or ground cloves.  But the combination of cinnamon and vanilla is my favorite and will make your whole kitchen smell very welcoming.

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Cinnamon and Vanilla French Toast with Ruby Colored Fruits

I am providing a loose recipe here, because I really feel French toast is foolproof unless you burn it in the pan. 😉

Ingredients

oil or butter for frying

bread of your choice, sliced a little thicker than usual and day old is best.  I usually have whole wheat or sunflower toast, but brioche and challah are optimal.

eggs, use 1 egg for every 3 slices of toast

milk of your choice, use about 1 cup for every 3 slices of toast

sugar, to taste – I like to use raw sugar or sugar with larger crystals so that it caramelizes nicely on the toast.

vanilla extract or a vanilla bean scraped, start with 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

ground cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon for 3 slices of toast, you can  adjust the amount according to your taste

a pinch of sea salt

an array of fruits or your choice, I used blood oranges, pomegranates, and raspberries. (fruit combination inspired by @thedelicious on instagram)

chopped nuts, for serving (optional)

to serve: whipped cream or sour cream or crème fraîche or yogurt, orange zest, cinnamon, and pure maple syrup

Method

Beat eggs with milk, add in sugar, cinnamon, vanilla, and a pinch of salt in a wide rectangular dish.  Soak the bread until the egg custard is absorbed on each side.

Heat a large frying pan with oil or butter on medium heat.  Add the soaked toast pieces in the pan.  Cook for about 2-3 minutes per side or until golden.  Top with the blood oranges, pomegranates, raspberries, nuts, and other topping of your choice.

I’ve totally lost touch with my blog.  I’ve been trying to write a post for ages, but something was stopping me.  I have no idea what it was, but I put my foot down finally and decided I really want to resume my posts.  They are fun for me and I love the interaction with all of you!  I’m not one for New Year’s resolutions, but my resolution this year is to get back into blogging and stop making excuses about why I’m not, because there’s no valid reason except my own laziness.  I’m so silly, I will buy things thinking I’ll use them for my blog and they sit untouched.  I’m sure some of you with blogs know what I’m talking about.

I didn’t really fall off the wagon from cooking, but I haven’t been as enthusiastic about it as I used to be.  It’s slowly coming back and I’m ready to start up again.  Maybe it’s the winter – winter blues, I guess.  I know there’s lots to cook during the winter, but until recently I was totally uninspired.  Summer produce and colors inspire me.  This is probably also probably why I’ve been thinking once my husband is done residency we NEED to move somewhere warm.  It’s been on my mind for a few weeks now.  I’m craving sun and warmth.

Despite my love for summer, I do have a few winter produce favorites.  Most notable are beets.  I almost always have them on-hand.  Must have something to do with the color, I suspect.  As I’ve said before I’m a sucker for vibrant colors.  To the same effect, I buy watermelon radishes ALL THE TIME, not because I love thetaste, but more that I love the way they look.  For this dish there were no watermelon radishes, unfortunately.  But this tart is good with whatever you have on hand: mushrooms, spinach, caramelized onions – you name it.  I used to be daunted by making dough, but now I’ve formulated my own proportions and it works every time like a charm.  This sort of tart is one of my go-to dishes.  Although it does take some time, it is by no means difficult to make.

Roasted Beet and Carrot Tart

Serves 4-5

Ingredients

for the crust:

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup walnuts

1/2 teaspoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

6 tablespoons butter, frozen

up to 1/4 cup ice water

filling:

6 ounces goat cheese, softened

1/2 cup ricotta cheese

1 egg

1/2 teaspoon herbes de Provence

salt and black pepper, to taste

for top:

2 golden beets

2 carrots

1/4 cup chopped parsley and chives, or any herbs of your choice, for garnish

Method

Roast the beets in the oven (at 350 degrees) in a foil pouch on a baking tray drizzled with some olive oil, salt, and pepper for 45 minutes or until cooked.  At the 30 minute mark add in the  whole carrots, also tossed with olive oil, salt, and pepper.  Once cooked, slice the beets and carrots into thin slices.

To make the tart dough: in a food processor, add the walnuts and pulse until they turn into a fine grind, add in the flour, sugar, and salt and pulse until combined.  Grate the frozen butter and add it to the flour.  Pulse until the mixture forms pea-sized clumps.  Next, through the top, stream in the ice water, one tablespoon at a time until the dough forms a ball.  Once the dough comes together, cover it in plastic wrap and refridgerate for at least an hour.  After the dough has chilled, roll it out and fit it into a 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom and blind bake (cover it with foil and use pie weights or dried beans to weigh down the crust, so that it doesn’t puff up while baking) it in a 400 degree oven for 15 minutes.

For the filling: whisk the goat cheese, ricotta, and egg together.  Add in the salt, pepper, and herbes de Provence.  Pour it into the partially baked crust and bake for 15 minutes at 400 degrees.  After 15 minutes, take it out of the oven and arrange the cut beets and carrots over the goat cheese and ricotta and bake for another 10-15 minutes.  Garnish the tart with chopped parsley and chives, or any herb of your choice.  You can also sprinkle the final product with some flaky sea salt and drizzle with olive oil, if you like.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

Growing up, my family was all about food.  My parents would drive us 3 hours to New York City to eat “real” Pakistani food.  On the weekend, we were travelers in search for the next delicious meal.  My sister and I would be ever so excited to explore new places and see the hustle and bustle of different cities.  Our eyes were always wide-open, ready for these experiences.  Whether, we went to Newport for fresh, straight from the ocean seafood, or to a little hole in the wall Mexican restaurant that we still frequent to this day, we were set to feast.  We learned about other cultures this way, too.  What better way for parents to expose their children to different cultures than through their food.  Food welcomes you into a new culture.  The tastes of the cuisine transports you to a new place, somewhere less familiar than what we are used to, but at the same time we are ready to embrace the novelty.

Tucked away in the back seat, my sister and I would peer out of the  windows with utter enthusiasm waiting for a new exploration.  If you remember, we were the two sisters who played in the woods and pretended we were pioneers, Indians, French, you name it-we pretended it (the joys of childhood!).  These excursions took our make-believe world into reality.

I have very fond memories of attending the Greek Orthodox festival in Rhode Island.  As many of you are probably aware, Greeks (like most of us) are completely immersed in their cuisine and take great pride in hospitality and serving their traditional dishes to others.  There was food galore.  Souvlakis would be sizzling on hot coals, my sister and I would stare in awe at the roast lamb spinning on a spit with the juices dripping down and coating the lamb with deliciousness, and flaky phyllo pastries such as baklava and spanakopita.  This festival was overflowing with sensory delight.  We would also watch the Greek dancers in amazement.  My sister and I would “choreograph” Bollywood dance skits at home, so the Greek dances piqued our interest as well.

We would walk around just take it all in and we loved every minute of it.  Our main purpose was eating, of course.  Our favorite thing to indulge in were the spanakopitas.  To this day I love them, no matter how introductory they are to greek cuisine.  The flaky and paper-thin phyllo layers were (and still are) so fun to break off layer by layer and in the middle you would meet the spinach filling full of feta, parley, and olive oil.  This is one way to get your kids to eat spinach.  I make spanakopita from time to time and each time I do I am reminded of the Greek Orthodox festival and every time I think it would be so nice to go again.

Spanakopita with Kalamata Olives and Pine Nuts

Serves 8

Ingredients

1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

crushed red chili flakes, to taste

2 shallots, chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced

12 ounces spinach leaves, stems removed and chopped

4 scallions, sliced

2 tablespoons chopped dill

2 tablespoons chopped parsley

1 tablespoon chopped mint

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

pinch of freshly ground nutmeg

1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese

1/4-1/2 cup grated kefalotyri cheese

1 tablespoon sour cream

2 eggs, beaten

1/3 cup kalamata olives, chopped

2 tablespoons roasted pine nuts

salt and black pepper, to taste

16 ounce package of phyllo dough, if frozen defrosted overnight in the refrigerator

Method

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

In a sauté pan on medium heat, add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and the shallots.  Allow the shallots to cook for 2-3 minutes or until they become to soften and add in the garlic and red chili flakes.  Once the garlic perfumes the oil, add in the chopped spinach.  Let the spinach wilt and cook down.  Add some salt, black pepper, and the pinch of nutmeg.  Once the spinach is all cooked, set it aside and allow it to cool slightly.  In the meantime, grease a 9″ by 13″ baking dish.

Once the spinach has cooled, add in the remaining ingredients (except the phyllo and remaining olive oil), there is no rhyme of reason to the order.  Mix to combine all the ingredients, make sure they are well incorporated.

Next, take the phyllo dough (make sure to cover it with a damp kitchen towel so that it doesn’t dry out) and cut the sheets so that they would fit into the baking dish.  I had to simply cut the sheets in half.  Once the sheets are the right size, divide the phyllo into two equal stacks.  One stack will be for the bottom layer, one will be for the top layer.

Take the phyllo dough two sheets at a time and layer into the baking dish.  Every second sheet should be brushes generously with olive oil.  Once the first stack of phyllo is finished layer all of the spinach mixture over the phyllo.  Then, repeat the process so that the spinach is covered and in the middle of the two stacks of phyllo dough.  Make sure the phyllo layers are well oiled so that they become crispier.

Bake the spanakopita in the oven for 45-50 minutes, or until the phyllo is golden brown.  Once slightly cooled, cut into squares or diamonds.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

This cheesecake was the finale to my husband’s birthday dinner.  There were no surprises here, my husband has simple tastes and knows what he likes and for dessert it was this cheesecake.  The original version, or inspiration, for this cheesecake is from Pastiche’s Vanilla Bean Cheesecake with a Raspberry Coulis.  For years, everyone in my family has loved this cheesecake.  It’s so good that when you first take a bite of it you can’t think for a moment.  It is so lovely, whipped like clouds and so very smooth on your palate.  It is the ultimate form of decadence.  We arrive early to Pastiche, just so they don’t sell out of this incredible dessert. You chocolate lovers out there may not agree, but there’s enough love to go around.

Here I come along and try to mess with perfection.  I add lime zest, my ode to Miami and the amazing Key Lime Pie I had there and I changed the fruit around because the apricots at the market were so gorgeous, that I simply could not resist.  The color, oh my, too beautiful for words, light orange with a slight  blush developing on the sides.  I scooped those babies up and picked up a pint of strawberries, with the stems still attached.  I don’t know if I’m brainwashed, but I’m convinced that strawberries with stems taste better than ones without.

Since introducing my husband to Pastiche’s cheesecake, I have recreated it for him several times.  In all honesty, I think the base for the recipe came from the inside of a Philadelphia Cream Cheese Box.  Over the past few years I have adapted it and added my own flair to it.  I wish I had the patience to make homemade graham crackers for the base, but when you’re making cheesecake you’ve got to be totally crazy to make homemade graham crackers for the crust.  Totally crazy.  Instead, I use amaretti cookies and almonds, and they work together quite nicely.

My husband had the boys over for his birthday dessert.  My husband, becoming too macho in front of his friends, didn’t want me to put candles on his cake or have him cut it, as I had planned.  Perhaps, he should rethink his favorite dessert–Vanilla Bean Cheesecake, doesn’t sound that macho to me.

Vanilla Bean Lime Cheesecake with Stewed Strawberries and Apricots

Serves 8

Ingredients

Crust:

1 cup of amaretti cookie crumbs

3/4 cup ground almonds

3/4 teaspoon cinnamon

2 tablespoons raw sugar

5 tablespoons melted butter

a pinch of salt

Filling:

16 ounces of cream cheese, softened

3/4 cup fresh ricotta cheese

1/2 cup sour cream

1 cup sugar

4 eggs, at room temperature

2 tablespoons flour

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1 vanilla bean, scraped

1/4 cup heavy cream

zest of 1 lime

Fruit topping:

10 apricots, pitted, peeled, and cut into segments

1 pint strawberries, stems removed and quartered

1/4 cup sugar (use less or more depending upon the sweetness of your fruit)

juice of 2 limes

Method

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Mix together all the ingredients for the crust in a bowl and press into a 9″ springform pan.  Bake the crust in the oven for 10 minutes.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

Prepare the filling by creaming together the cream cheese, ricotta, sour cream, and sugar with an electric mixer.  Beat in the eggs, heavy cream, and vanilla extract. Fold in the flour, vanilla beans, and lime zest.  Pour the batter onto the cooled crust and bake at 375 degrees for 1 hour.  Remove from the oven and let it cool, then place the cheesecake in the fridge for 6-8 hours.

Prepare the fruit topping by combining the strawberries and apricots with the sugar and cooking them with the lime juice on medium heat for about 20 minutes, or until the mixture resembles a loose jam.  I like to leave the chunks in, but you may puree and strain them out if you wish.  Serve the sauce chilled on the side with the cheesecake.  Dust some confections sugar and lime zest on top of the cheesecake as a garnish, and also a sprig of mint, if you’d like.

*don’t fret if your cheesecake cracks a little on top, it adds to the homemade feel!

Apricot

I did it again, I pulled another ladies luncheon type of dish on my husband.  I’m telling you all (over and over again), I miss the girly bonding.   I was never the type to solely hang with the guys, but someway, somehow this has become my existence.  Much to the contrary, I consider myself a girly girl.  Ruffles, lace, pink, and jewels all make me *swoon.* Therefore, all the talk of the Habs, cardiothoracic this and that and I am at a loss.  Cooking fuels my girly aspirations.

Many of you might be wondering why I complain.  Just to be clear, it’s all light-hearted.  I moved to a small university town after I got married and it has been an adjustment.  For the first time in my life, I don’t have someone in this city I can just call and say let’s go grab a coffee.  My husband goes to medical school here and is quite busy.  I have been hunting for jobs for a few months now and no luck.  There are very limited options here, but I am hoping I find something because we have 1 more year in this city.  Essentially, I am a housewife (until I find a job).  I never pictured myself as a housewife.  The plus side to being a housewife is that I have time to cook.  There’s good and bad in every situation.

I’m glad I have the free time to explore my culinary interests.  This is why I made this savory roasted tomato tart all from *scratch.*  I was quite proud of myself because dough rolling/preparing and I have never quite on the same page.  So you can imagine my utmost and complete anger when my husband walked in and said, “where’s the meat?”  Grrrrrrrr.  In my head it was, “I’ll tell you where the meat is!”  But, in reality it was more, “I made you a fresh and delicious meal, so stop complaining.”  When he came into the kitchen and saw my farmer’s cheese all whipped up looking smooth and silky and the garnet-red roasted tomatoes and the sprinkling of thyme, I could tell he was getting excited and eating his own words.  That’s when he started saying, “I haven’t eaten all day, when will dinner be ready.”

Once my husband started eating, he actually really enjoyed this tomato tart, maybe even more than did.  Plus, he wanted to take it for lunch the next day.  Men, they are all the same.  I like to say, “simple minds.”  They will most probably come back and say women are all the same.  Tit for tat.  My husband and I call it revenge tactics.

The tomato tart is bursting with rich concentrated tomato flavor.  It is summer on a plate, a nice and light slice with a fresh farmer’s market salad so absolute bliss on a warm, sunny day.  The farmer’s market is beginning to boom with tomatoes, lettuces, rhubarb, berries, asparagus, radishes, and fiddleheads.

For the past few weeks, the farmer’s market was kind of drab and desolate but slowly the produce selection is expanding.  It’s a Saturday tradition, albeit a new one, for my husband and I to go to the farmer’s market.  We never stayed in Kingston for the summer, during the off-season the market only had maple syrup and a few odds and ends.  I am glad it is blossoming.  I look forward to the upcoming months and creating dishes for my husband and myself and of course, anyone who wants to visit.

Oven Roasted Tomato Tart with Whipped Farmer’s Cheese

Serves 3-4

adapted from Susan Spungen’s, RECIPES: a collection for the modern cook

Ingredients

for the cheese base:

1/2 cup farmer’s cheese

1/4 cup mascarpone cheese

1 egg

1/2 teaspoon sea salt, (I used fleur de sel)

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

for the oven roasted tomatoes:

4-5 plum tomatoes, sliced in half lengthwise

3 cloves garlic, minced finely

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

3-4 sprigs thyme

sprinkling of sea salt

a few grinds of black pepper

2-3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

for the crust:

1 cup flour

4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 teaspoon sugar

1/4 ice water

Set aside 1 tablespoon of capers or olives for the tart, optional

Method

Start by making the dough.  Combine all the ingredients for the dough except the ice water in a food processor and pulse until the butter and flour combine into pea-sized pieces.  Next, stream in the ice water 1 tablespoon at a time until the dough just starts to come together.  You may not have to use all the water.  Next, pour out the dough onto a floured surface and knead into a ball.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour to overnight.

Preheat your oven to 300 degrees and meanwhile place the tomatoes on a baking tray with the herbs, salt, pepper, and the olive oil.  When the oven has come to temperature place the tomatoes in the oven for about 2 1/2-3 hours or until they shrivel up.

Prepare the cheese base by whipping together (using a mixer, food processor, or whisk) the cheeses, egg, salt, and pepper together.  Refrigerate until you are ready to assemble the tart.

At this point, set your oven to 400 degrees, for the baking of the tart make sure your oven rack is in the middle of your oven and not too close to the top.

When the tomatoes are done, start rolling out the tart shell.  Hit it a few times with your rolling-pin so it becomes more pliable.  Roll it out until it can fill a 9 inch tart pan with a removable bottom.  Place the tart shell into the pan once it’s the right size.  Press it into the sides, it doesn’t have to be perfect and rustic looks better.

Next, spread the cheese mixture onto the base of the tart and arrange the tomatoes over the cheese mixture.  You can add some extra thyme on top if you chose.  Also, sprinkle the capers or olives on top, if you are using them.  If you wish, you can add on some extra farmer’s cheese.  Bake the tart for 35-40 minutes or until the crust is fully cooked through.  Remove from oven and allow to cool for 10-15 minutes.

Serve warm or at room temperature with a garden salad with whatever vegetables are fresh and tasty.

This recipe has been requested numerous times.  I did not intend on posting it, but I will since it had such rave reviews.  It is so simple to make and was the result of having nothing to eat on a weekend breakfast.  I am including the recipe that yields a serving of 4 slices of bread.  Just double or triple, etc if you need to make a larger quantity.

Ricotta and Raspberry Stuffed French Toast

Makes 4 slices

Ingredients

4 slices of bread, I only had farmer’s market whole wheat on hand, but the best choice would be Brioche or Challah

1 egg

3-4 tablespoons milk

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

tiny pinch of nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon (or more if you want it more “cinnamony”)

1 tablespoons sugar

pinch of salt

vegetable oil or butter for frying

fresh berries, for garnish, optional

1 tablespoons toasted chopped walnut, for garnish, optional

1 tablespoon powdered sugar, for garnish, optional

some mint leaves for garnish, optional

maple syrup, optional

for the ricotta filling:

3/4 a cup part-skim ricotta cheese

2 tablespoons sugar

1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/4 fresh raspberries

1 tablespoon toasted chopped walnuts, optional

Method

First make the ricotta filling.  Using an electric mixer beat all the filling ingredients together (except the almonds) on medium speed until it is light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Next, mix in the nuts.  Set aside.

Heat a frying pan on medium heat with some oil or butter.  In a shallow bowl beat the egg with the milk, sugar, nutmeg, cinnamon, vanilla extract and salt.  Dip the bread slices in this mixture.  and place about 2 tablespoons of the ricotta mixture between 2 slices of bread, sort of like making a sandwich.  Fry the “sandwich” in the frying pan until golden brown on both sides.  Repeat until all your slices of bread are finished.  Garnish with any remaining ricotta mixture, berries, and powdered sugar.  Serve with maple syrup if you would like.

WARNING:  Health nuts should close the page right now.  This is truly rich and decadent and may be your only meal for a few days ;).  (Kidding about a few days, but one day should be fine hehe).

These pancakes have been haunting me since I ate them back in October.  It is funny how you can think of a food and want it so badly but you are scared to make it.  That is because you fear it will not live up to the expectations you had of it.  I mean these Bongo Room delights changed my entire perspective on pancakes.  I was never a fan of pancakes.  I would not make them on my own.  Okay, fine if you offered me some I would not say no and probably finish my plate and then take seconds.  But, these pancakes were so decadent and the perfect combination of flavors; sweet and salty, my favorite pairing for desserts.  My husband always makes fun of me, “There you go again adding you fleur de blah blah into the dessert.”  I am not being pretentious about it, believe me, I shudder when I hear food snobs.  I simply like the roundness and that zing salt adds to sweet dishes.  The pretzels also add a great textural and salty element.  I love the CRUNCH!

Also, I did not have a pancake recipe in my repertoire so I put my faith into an Allrecipes recipe.  Now, I am officially a pancake fan with or with out the over the top white chocolate and caramel toppings!  This recipe yielded such fluffy, airy, and cloud-like pancakes that I converted without a fight.  I would eat these plain!

My next mission is to go to the Clinton Street Baking Company in Manhattan for their famous pancakes.  My sister did not speak to me for a few days after I went to Manhattan a few months ago and did not stop there.  See how passionate we are about food.  🙂

White Chocolate Caramel Pretzel Pancakes inspired by The Bongo Room (Chicago)

Serves 2

Pancake recipe from here.

Ingredients

3/4 cup milk

2 tablespoons white vinegar

1 cup all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons white sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 cup of crushed pretzels

1 egg

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2 tablespoons butter, melted

Mix together the milk and the vinegar in a small bowl and set aside for 5-10 minutes, so that the milk sours.  Meanwhile, combine all the dry ingredients into a bowl.  After the milk has soured, pour it into the dry ingredients and also add the egg and the vanilla extract.  Whisk together all the ingredients until they form a smooth batter.  Mix in the crushed pretzels.  Heat a frying pan or griddle on medium-low heat with some butter or oil.  Take 1/4 cup fulls of the batter and cook on a frying pan or griddle until cooked on both sides, flip when the top of the pancake is covered in bubbles, about 2 minutes per side.

Serve with warm caramel sauce and white chocolate sauce and garnish with crushed pretzel pieces and confectioner’s sugar.

I used Ina Garten’s caramel sauce recipe and added 1/4 teaspoon of fleur de sel and 1 tablespoon of butter at the end.  If you can find a good quality store-made caramel sauce go ahead and use it.  For me, making caramel is daunting and not something I enjoy.  Ina’s recipe is pretty good, but a bit stressful.

For the white chocolate sauce, simply take 6 ounces of good quality white chocolate (I used Callebaut, if you can find Valrhona Ivoire that would be great as well), 1/4 cup of milk, 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract and melt over a double boiler until smooth.

I love my food to be spicy and flavorful.  Many times, I find some cooking too bland for my taste.  Not to say that I don’t appreciate subtle and delicate flavors, I do as long as they are well-seasoned.  It is amazing to me, how taste buds can vary so much.  What is bland to me might be spicy to someone else.  By well-seasoned, I do not only mean spicy, I also mean the salt content.  Yes, salt is bad for you, but to the point where your food has no real taste?  Sometimes, I really ponder about these things.  Strange?

It’s just how my taste-buds are, I guess.  I like powerful flavors, just how I am drawn to bright and vibrant colors.  My rendition of fried rice is just that–powerful.  Savory, sweet, herbacious, and last but not least spicy.  It is in the style of Pakistani Chinese cuisine, sometimes called, Hakka Chinese.  It is of course not at all authentic Hakka Chinese, but a corrupted and masala laden version of it (in my opinion, at least).

I used ketchup, cauliflower, turmeric, and long green chilies, an out of the ordinary combination to add to fried rice, but it works.  I do not use ketchup often, not even for for French fries, so my addition here is only because it adds a great taste component.  When you are stumped on cauliflower, go Pakistani.  The South Asian flavors go so well with the bland nature of cauliflower.  Ginger and cauliflower are soulmates, I do not know how or why this pairing works, but it is one of those things just does.  Also, to keep it a little healthier I used brown rice and could hardly notice the difference.  Use any vegetable and/or meats/seafood you like or have on hand, anything works!  🙂

Sesame Chicken and Vegetable Fried Rice with a South Asian Twist

Serves 2

Ingredients

vegetable oil

1 cup of brown rice (dry), and then cooked according to instructions and cooled in the refrigerator

1 chicken breast, in small chunks

1/2 a red onion, chopped

5 cloves on garlic, roughly chopped

1 inch piece of ginger, roughly chopped

1/2 a head of cauliflower, in small pieces

2 cups mushrooms (any variety), sliced

1 long green chili, sliced on an angle

1/2 a bell pepper (orange, red, or yellow), in chunks

1/4 cup sesame seeds, toasted

1 egg beaten

2 scallions, sliced on an angle

fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped

handful of cilantro, roughly chopped

For the sauce combine all the following ingredients together:

1/4 cup hoisin sauce

2 tablespoons Vietnamese chili garlic sauce

2 tablespoons ketchup, preferably organic

2 tablespoons chili oil

2 tablespoons soy sauce (I used low-sodium)

1 teaspoon sesame oil

pinch of turmeric

salt, if needed

(Extra soy sauce and hoisin sauce may be needed for the end when tossing in the rice)

Method

Saute the onions on medium high heat in a wok or large skillet until they start to become transparent.  Next, add in the garlic and ginger.  Turn heat down so that the garlic does not burn.  Add in the cauliflower and the chicken and allow them to cook, about 5-7 minutes.  Next, add in the sauce and let it to coat the chicken and cauliflower.   Toss in bell peppers and green chilies or any other vegetable you may be using.  Also, at this point, add in the toasted sesame seeds.  Cook until the chicken is done.  Move the contents to the rims of the wok and fry the beaten egg in the middle so that it is like an omelet.  Then, using your spatula break the egg up into strips and toss in the chicken and vegetables.  Turn up the heat and toss in the rice, scallions, basil, and cilantro.  If necessary, add more soy sauce and hoisin sauce to the rice.  Garnish with toasted sesame seeds, a sprinkling of chili oil, scallions, basil, and cilantro.

When I returned to my apartment from my vacation, the fridge was practically empty and nothing was in the cabinets.  I had to do a major grocery haul.  My grocery cart was exploding like a volcano and yet when I came home and put everything away it looked like I had bought very little.  Isn’t that always the case :).  But, I did stock up on olives, lemons, mint, and other Moroccan ingredients.

Oh, and guess who’s *thinking* about going back on P90-X…you guessed it, the husband.  He bought salmon filets this time instead of chicken breasts.  I think his culinary mind just might be expanding.  But, thankfully instead of 30 chicken breasts, he picked up 1 salmon filet.  Of course, he wanted me to saute the salmon and give him a side of asparagus with it.  But no!  I did not yield to the p90-X ways!

I decided to make salmon cakes slightly influenced by my Moroccan vacation.  (That is so me, I’ll probably be cooking Moroccan for 2 weeks now, hehe).  Well, Morocco was definitely sensory overload and makes you feel all inspired to bring the beauty of the cuisine into your own kitchen.  Though you probably will not find salmon cakes available in Morocco, I used Marrakech as inspiration for my dish.

My attempt at a Moroccan spice pyramid 😉

I was ready to cook up the salmon cakes and then my husband’s friend calls him to go out for dinner.  His wife was not joining them so I decided to stay home.  Therefore, I made some salmon cakes for my husband’s lunch the next day.  Much to my absolute dismay, when he got home and I asked him where they went for dinner he told me it was an Italian chain restaurant that I have not even thought about going since I was probably 7 years old.  He left my dinner for that!  I know we live in a small city, but still, there are many better options out there.  There are men for you ;).  At least he told me it was not good.  Anyway, here’s the recipe for Moroccan Spiced Salmon Cakes.  Enjoy!

Moroccan Spiced Salmon Cakes

Serves 4-5

adapted from Ina Garten’s Salmon Cakes Recipe

Ingredients

3/4 pound wild salmon filet

1/2 a yellow pepper

1/2 an orange pepper (use any colored pepper you like)

2 jalapeno peppers (seeded if you don’t want it very spicy)

7-8 baby carrots or 1 whole carrot, peeled

3 scallions

1/2 cup pitted olives

1/2 a small red onion

1 small shallot

3 cloves garlic

15-20 sprigs of chives, chopped

1 teaspoon dried oregano (probably the only case in which I will use dried herbs)

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1 egg

1/2 cup bread crumbs ( I just used old bread and toasted it and crumbled it up.)

2 tablespoons mayo

2 tablespoons creme fraiche

1 heaping teaspoon stoneground Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1 teaspoon hot sauce

4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

salt to taste (1/2 tsp or so)

pepper if needed

olive oil for frying

lemon wedges for serving

lettuce of your choice for serving (I used red and green Bibb lettuce)

Method

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Place the salmon on a baking tray and lightly salt and cover with 2 tablespoons of the lemon juice.  Bake for 15-20 minutes or until almost done.  Meanwhile, take all the vegetables (including the olives and except the chives) and pulse them in a food processor until they still have some texture.  If you don’t have a food processor, just finely chop them all.  Lightly saute the vegetables on medium heat with the salt and a little pepper in olive oil for about 10 minutes.  Place the vegetables in a bowl and allow to cool slightly.  Next, combine the mayo, creme fraiche, Dijon mustard, Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce, and the remaining 2 tablespoons of lemon juice together in a bowl.  By this time the salmon should be ready, allow it to rest for 10 minutes.  After 10 minutes flake the salmon (remove skin) and combine it with the vegetables.  (If the salmon is still hot then allow it to cool down a little more.)  Next, mix in half of the mayo/sour cream mixture (reserve the rest for drizzling afterwards), the egg, and the chives with the salmon and vegetables.  Combine and add in the bread crumbs.  Allow the whole mixture to cool for at least an hour.

Heat a pan and just lightly coat it with olive oil.  Form into cakes, about the size of your palm (they don’t have to be perfect) and fry on each side until golden, about 3 minutes per side. Plate on top of lettuce or greens of your choice and with a wedge of lemon.  Drizzle a little of the remaining mayo/sour cream sauce on top, garnish with chives and serve.

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 :).