Archives for category: Spicy

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I am a clean freak.  Honestly, I have a problem.  I cannot tolerate any dishes in the sink, any sort of mess.  I get grossed out way too easily.  It’s funny because as I’m getting older the less tolerance I have for uncleanliness.  The reason I mention this is because it is getting increasingly difficult for me to eat street food.  My husband and I went to Thailand and I couldn’t bring myself to eat ANY of the street food.  I look at photos of Thai street food and it looks so delicious.  But in the moment I failed myself!  This is such a pity because I love street food and hole in the wall places wherever they are in the world (as long as they are clean).

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In Toronto we have a small section of the city called Little India.  I have not been too much, because Pakistani or Indian food is something I can eat at home.  But there is a whole experience to going and sitting on a plastic chair or a picnic table and eating foods like papri chaat, gol guppay, tikkas, and naan.  My husband and I ventured to Little India to get some chaat a few years ago and I really think we went on a bad day because the places we found were not very good.  I’ve heard good things from friends about some places there so I don’t want to be a meanie and bash any place in particular.  🙂

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After that trip, I decided to make chaat at home.  The ingredients are readily available and it’s actually quite easy to make.  I’ve also made chaat at my inlaws’ house many times when they have guests over and not to boast, but it’s always a hit. I like to make it fresh (otherwise it gets soggy) so I make it in batches and people have no patience to wait for me to finish the next tray of chaat.  While I am making a new batch they start reaching into the serving dish.  In situations like this I just zip my lips. But despite this slight annoyance I should take this as a compliment.  My chaat is just THAT delicious.  😉

IMG_2804Papri Chaat

Ingredients

(this is a loose recipe and can be adapted to your taste)

Papri (can be found in South Asian grocery stores)

Bhel Puri (can be found in South Asian grocery stores)

1 cup cooked chickpeas

boiled potato, peeled and cut into small cubes, about 1 cup

Tamarind Chutney*

Green Chutney**

Yogurt***

Chaat Masala (can be found in South Asian grocery stores)

chopped red onions

chopped tomatoes, optional

chopped green chilies

chopped cilantro

chopped mint, optional

Method

*Tamarind Chutney is made by heating 3/4 cup of tamarind pulp, 6 pitted Medjool dates, 2 tablespoons chaat masala, 1/2 teaspoon cumin powder, 1 teaspoon red chilli powder (or to taste), 3/4 teaspoon, 1/4 cup sugar on medium heat for 15 minutes and then reducing the heat to low for 45 minutes.  Allow it to cool and then blend in a blender until the consistency is smooth.  Serve chilled.

**Green Chutney is made by placing 1 cup cilantro leaves and stems, 15 mint leaves, 1 long green chilli, 2 tablespoons water, salt, and black pepper in a blender until very finely chopped.  This should resemble a pesto.

***For the Yogurt, take 1 cup of plain yogurt and thin it out with 1/2 cup of water.  Add 1 teaspoon chaat masala and salt to taste.  Whisk until it looks like thick cream.

To assemble the chaat:  Place the papri (wafers) on a serving dish and top with chickpeas, potatoes, yogurt, tamarind chutney, green chutney, red onion, cilantro, chopped tomatoes, mint, green chilies, and sprinkle the dish with chaat masala.  Finally, top with some bhel puri.  It is best to serve this right away.  You can prepare everything in advance and assemble before serving.

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It finally feels like Spring is around the corner.  The days are getting longer and the sun is shining a little brighter.  I can’t wait until we’re basking in the sun of summer and eating al fresco and drinking some refreshing mint lemonade.  I felt winter was long and brutal this year.  Not much exciting went on in my kitchen.  Just cranking out dishes for the daily grind – a few moments of deliciousness, but overall I can’t recall anything very special.

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Sometimes you feel the same way about life, you get in the doldrums.  I’ve felt this way this winter so I am very excited about the onslaught of spring.  By doldrums I mean that I felt stagnant – not going anywhere – in the same place.  That is not always a bad thing, but I wanted more.  I started a new job, which is fun and interesting.  I’ve also stepped back in the kitchen a bit more.  I’m glad about that because I’m always so inspired by cooking, recipes and food.

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Additionally, there are times I wish my sister lived close-by.  We are quite similar and love to cook together.  I always say “if” we lived close we “could” do something together, a business or catering or anything…I need that push and support from her.  We always talk about what-ifs and never follow-through.  Sometimes you have to just take that leap.  Sometimes you weren’t meant to succeed and that’s the scary part.

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But at the end of the day what’s important is that you have a passion for something and you can share it with your loved ones.  I consider my blog readers my loved ones and I really enjoy sharing recipes with you.  Sometimes I need a little push to get myself posting, but at the end of the day I always feel satisfied sharing a little of my kitchen with you all. 🙂  I wish we could have one long table dinner party and eat, talk and celebrate for no reason.  🙂

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I want to share this phyllo cigar appetizer with you all because it is really tasty!  I find it quite easy to make as well.  Phyllo can be annoying to work with, but I just keep it covered with a damp cloth and fudge any mistakes I make and it all comes together alright in the end.  It’s just food, it doesn’t have to be perfect!  I’ve made these a few times now and people always enjoy them.  I love them hot out of the oven – flakey, crunchy and savory.  If you’re bored on a weekend, make a bunch and freeze them for later.  You’ll be glad to have them on hand when a sudden hunger pang comes upon you!

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Feta, Dill and Red Chili Phyllo Cigars

Makes about 8 rolls

Ingredients

1/4 cup olive oil, for brushing the phyllo and 1 tablespoon for the feta mixture

1/2 a 16 ounce package of phyllo dough, thawed if frozen

6 ounces of feta cheese

2 long red chilies, chopped, seeds removed

1/4 cup fresh dill, chopped

2 scallion, white and light green parts, chopped

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

zest of 1 lemon

1 tablespoon nigella seeds

salt and black pepper, to taste

Method

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a food processor, add the feta cheese, 1 tablespoon of olive oil, red chilies, dill, scallions, lemon juice, salt and pepper and pulse a few times until everything is combined.

Each roll will require 6 sheets of phyllo, so layer 12 sheets of phyllo and brush each sheet with olive oil.  Keep the sheets stacked on top of each other and cut the sheet into four equal-sized pieces.

Next, take about a tablespoon of the feta mixture and drop it into the quartered 6 phyllo sheets.  Roll the phyllo like a thin burrito, fold the long ends over the feta mixture and roll the rest like a cigar..  Repeat with the rest of the feta mixture and the remaining 7 quarters of phyllo dough.

Place the cigars onto a cookie sheet seam side down and top brush with a little extra olive oil and top with the lemon zest and nigella seeds.  Place in the hot oven and back for about 15 minutes, or until the cigars are golden.  Serve hot.

It was my dad’s birthday last month and my mom and sister organized a fabulous cocktail party for him.  It’s almost a month later and I’m still thinking about the spread they put together.  I wasn’t even there to taste anything, but the pictures of the food I saw have left a lasting impression. My sister and I brainstormed a menu together.  I think I can attribute that session of feeding off each other and coming up with ideas to my push to be more active on my blog again.  While we were discussing I became inspired,  I came up with some pretty good appetizer ideas if I say so myself!

While my sister went shopping for the ingredients I would be on Whatsapp receiving pictures of everything and giving my feedback.  If was a lot of fun and it would have been even more enjoyable if we could have done it together.  See, my whole family is obsessed with food and eating.  We always have been and always will be.  We take pride in having people over and entertaining them.  It’s our goal that people remember the food, ambiance and company.  I’m not being a hater, but I’ve been to way too many gatherings where food is just plopped into foil trays with no thought and no presentation.  I would rather curl up and retire in a cave than serve anything in such a manner.

I think it might have something to do with my upbringing.  If somebody comes over at the last-minute I get super stressed out if I don’t have fresh flowers in the house, if I don’t have anything to feed them.  I will go into panic mode and clean my already clean place and get everything I need as quickly as I can.  I’m sure my guest wouldn’t have noticed, but when I have people over I like to entertain in a certain way .  I also wish more people were into it, but when I see all these beautiful blogs and websites I get really happy inside to find people who think the same way as me. 🙂

As I was saying, my sister and mom did a fabulous job at arranging the birthday party.  One of the appetizers we all came up with was  Moroccan meatballs.  My sister and I made a variation together when I visited my family over the summer and they were delicious.  So I suggested she make a cocktail party style meatball.  Apparently they were a hit and everyone loved them.  I have been thinking about making them since the birthday party, but I made a dinner version with a tomato-based sauce.  My husband being my husband (not one to pick up on details!), thought they were Italian-style meatballs at first, but when he tasted them he said that they were just like the ones we had on our trip to Marrakesh.  Score.  🙂

These meatballs are lovely with some crusty Moroccan bread, couscous, or rice.  Enjoy!

Lamb and Harissa Meatballs

Serves 4

Ingredients

for the tomato sauce:

2 tablespoons olive oil

28 ounce can of crushed tomatoes

1/2 onion chopped

4 cloves garlic, chopped

2 tablespoons of harissa paste

1/4 teaspoon crushed red chilies, optional

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

salt and pepper, to taste

for the meatballs:

oil for frying

1 pound ground lamb

1/2 a red onion, finely chopped

2 gloves garlic, minced finely

fresh parsley and cilantro, about 1/2 cup, chopped

1 Serrano chili, chopped and deseeded, if you like

1/4 cup dried golden raisins and dried cranberries

1 egg

1/4 cup plain breadcrumbs

1/4 cup harissa paste (you can find it in most grocery stores or Middle Eastern markets, if you want to make your own you can use my friend Sara’s recipe)

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

salt and black pepper, to taste

for garnishing:

fresh parsley, scallions, cilantro (or whatever you like)

toasted almonds

lemon wedges

olive oil, for drizzling

Method

To make the tomato sauce:

Heat the olive oil in a pot on medium heat and add the onions and allow them to get translucent, about 5-7 minutes.  Add in the garlic and let it cook for 2 minutes.  Add in the harissa, ground coriander, ground cumin, and crushed red chilies (optional) and let them cook for a minute.  Add in the crushed tomatoes and stir so that everything is combined.  Season with salt and pepper and after 10 minutes turn the heat down to low and leave the sauce to cook for about an hour.

To make the meatballs:

Combine all the ingredients for the meatballs in a large bowl and mix together with your hands.  Shape the meat mixture into balls (not too big and not too small) and let them marinate in the refrigerator for an hour or two.

After they have marinated, heat a large frying pan with a good amount (about 4-5 tablespoons) of oil (I used olive oil) and fry until the meatballs are golden on all sides and mostly cooked through.  Using a slotted spoon, remove the meatballs from the pan and add into the tomato sauce.  Make sure you drain most of the grease from the meatballs.

Let the meatballs simmer in the sauce for about 10-15 minutes.  Garnish with parsley, cilantro, scallions, toasted almonds, lemon wedges and finish with a drizzle of olive oil.

Serve with crusty bread, couscous, or rice.

My dad’s birthday spread prepared my my mom and sister!

Today is one of those days where it looks like 7:00 pm at noon.   It’s rainy and thundering and all I want to do is stay in all day.  Is this a sign that summer’s over?  For the past few days I’ve been reading everywhere that summer is over and it’s time for fall.  I do love autumn, but I’m not quite ready for summer to be over.  This summer was a fun one.  I spent a whole month with my sister – something I haven’t done in years.  We had a fun time together, first she visited me in Toronto and then we went on a sister road trip from Toronto to Rhode Island to see my parents.

I was quite nervous to drive 9-10 hours with just my sister.  I’ve done that drive with my husband before, but he drives most of it and I just keep him company.  Neither my sister or myself had tackled such a long drive on our own.  Surprisingly, it wasn’t that bad and I drove for the majority of it.  Usually I tend to get sleepy while driving long distances, but I was fine and so was she.  My sister started to drive once we entered Massachusetts.

The funny thing about this drive is that my GPS took out the scenic route.  When I say scenic route I really mean it.  We drove through Amish country in upstate New York and drove for about 3 hours on a rural route.  I should have known better, my GPS is notorious for making me take the scenic route.  I guess it wants me to explore a little more and not just take the highways.  Usually, the scenic route takes way longer even though the calculated time is shorter.  But this time, my GPS knew what it was doing and we cut an hour off of our time.

The best part of this alternate route were all the farms and farm stands we got to see along the way.  It was a really beautiful drive.  Rows and rows of corn and other produce scattered the terrain.  We saw Amish horse and buggies riding along the edge of the road and whole families tending to the fields.  It was really nice and we both felt like we stepped back in time.  We really wanted to stop at the farm stands and pick up some produce – lots of fresh corn, tomatoes, peppers, radishes and even dairy products like eggs, milk, and cheese.  If we didn’t have such a long drive ahead of us we surely would have.

The fields of corn came to an end once we got back on the highway, but it was truly a memorable drive.  I photographed this recipe back in June and wasn’t inspired to post it.  But after the trip and drive home I felt rejuvenated and felt like sharing this story with you all.  I know summer is over and fresh corn will be hard to find by October.  But August and September are the best produce months in my opinion and we should all relish these last weeks of summer because before we know it we will be sitting in snow again.  Or I will – because I live in Canada.  🙂

End of Summer Corn and Potato Salad with Red Chilies

Serves 4

Ingredients

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 ears corn shucked (can also use cooked grilled corn and take the corn off the cob)

2 large Yukon gold potato, peeled and sliced

6-7 radishes, sliced

1 avocado, cut into chunks

chives, cilantro, parsley or any herbs you like chopped – about a 1/4 cup

salt, to taste

for the red chili dressing

4 mild long red chilies, sliced thinly

1/4 cup olive oil

2 cloves of garlic, chopped

1/4 cup sour cream or full-fat yogurt

2 tablespoons mayonnaise

juice of 1 lime

1 tablespoon chives, chopped

salt and pepper, to taste

Method

In a pan on medium heat add the 2 tablespoons of olive oil and add the potatoes and some salt and cook until they begin to get crispy and lightly browned, about 15 minutes.  Next, add in the shucked corn and cook for about 5 minutes.  Set aside.

Now, make the chili dressing.  Start by heating a sauté pan on medium heat with the 1/4 cup of olive oil.  Add in the chopped garlic, once the garlic becomes fragrant, about 2 minutes add in the sliced red chilies.  Lower the heat to medium-low and let the chilies soften and caramelize.  Cook the chilies like this for about 35 minutes.  Let the chilies cool a bit and then add them to a bowl with the sour cream, mayonnaise, lime juice, salt, pepper, and chives.  Mix the ingredients together. You may not want to add all the oil from the red chilies.

In a large bowl, add the avocado, radish, herbs,  potatoes and corn mixture, and the red chili dressing.  Mix everything together gently and check for salt and pepper.  Serve in a bowl at room temperature or cold.

I am the worst blogger ever.  My last post was in February.  I’m not even going to try and explain why I haven’t posted because there’s no real reason.  As a matter of fact, I photographed this recipe three weeks ago. Just. Plain. Lazy. Anyway, during my unplanned hiatus my husband and I took a much needed vacation.  We visited Thailand and had a fabulous time.  We went to Bangkok and Koh Samui.  Thailand was so different than what I had pictured in my mind.  It was the first time my husband or I had been there and we both loved it.

I pictured Bangkok to be a hectic city.  In some ways it is, but I mostly saw it as controlled chaos.  Traffic without beeping or honking.  Everything was beautifully orchestrated.  I can still hear the lovely greeting, “Sawadee kha”  echoing in my head.  I loved the Thai people.  They were so friendly.  I saw so many smiling faces in Thailand that I began to smile for no reason at all.

I could picture myself living in Bangkok.  I do say that for a lot of cities I visit, but Bangkok appealed to me very much.  Koh Samui was also fantastic.  The hotel we stayed at was super quirky and really fun.  The Island had some rundown parts and also some parts that were absolutely spectacular.  Beautiful ocean, like I’ve never seen before.  All in all I have fond memories of our trip to Thailand.

Let me discuss the food!  We ate and ate.  I got so used to eating lavish breakfast spreads that when I got back home a bowl of cereal and fruit in the morning was not cutting it at all.  We enjoyed spicy curries and surpassed our quota of seafood for a year.  I miss all the softshell crab dishes with lots of red chilies, Thai basil, and lemongrass.

We ate gargantuan river prawns, simply grilled and served with a refreshing fresh chopped vegetable relish.  This was one of my favorite dishes in Thailand.  We don’t get prawns like that here.  The week after we returned I was craving the grilled prawns so much that I had to make them.  I had no real recipe, but with some trial and error I got it right.

I was so excited that I was upset my husband wasn’t at home to try them hot and fresh.  When he got home and tried them, I sat next to him eagerly and kept looking at him to say, “these taste just like the ones in Thailand!”  After I finally asked him, he agreed and continued to watch the TV un-phased, typical.  Here’s the recipe and I hope you try them.  And if you’ve been to Thailand and find they taste THE SAME, do let me know. 😉

Grilled Thai Prawns with a Fresh Vegetable Relish

serves 3-4, as a starter, can easily be doubled or tripled

Ingredients

for the shrimp

1 pound large-size shell-on prawns/shrimp, de-veined

2 tablespoons neutral vegetable oil of your choice

2 tablespoons tamarind pulp

2-3 cloves garlic, mashed

1 inch piece of ginger

1 stalk lemon grass

zest and juice of 1 lime

1 long red chilli, roughly chopped, de-seeded if you like

1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder

1 teaspoon red chili flakes, or to taste (this much will make it spicy)

sea salt, to taste

for the Fresh Vegetable Relish

2 shallots, finely chopped

1 radish, finely chopped (I used a watermelon radish for color)

1/2 cup cucumber, finely diced

1 red chili, de-seeded and finely chopped

1/2 stalk of lemon grass, roughly chopped

1/2 teaspoon freshly grated ginger

1 teaspoon sesame oil

juice of 1 lime

fresh chopped herbs like cilantro, Thai basil, or mint

salt, to taste

Method

Place the shrimp in a bowl.  Combine all the ingredients except the shrimp in a blender or food processor.  Pulse ingredients in the blender until pureed and well combined.  Pour the marinade over the shrimp and toss with the shrimp.  Marinate the shrimp in the fridge for 1-2 hours.  After 1-2 hours, heat a grill pan or use an outdoor grill and grill the shrimp on each side until cooked.  it should take about 2 minutes per side.  If you would like you may grill the shrimp on skewers.

While the shrimp is marinating prepare the relish by combining all the ingredients in a bowl and allow it to sit in the fridge for 30 minutes before serving.  Serve with the shrimp after it is done on the grill.  I also like to serve red chili paste on the side for some extra spice.  Serve with lime wedges as well.

I hope anyone on the Eastern seaboard stayed safe throughout Hurricane Irene.  My parents live in Rhode Island and haven’t had electricity since early Sunday.  My mom says she’s so bored.  I can imagine, but I’m glad the storm wasn’t as severe as anticipated.  Slowly, lights will turn back on and the scramble to cook something by candlelight will be a fond tale people tell their kids time and time again.  If the word hurricane is even mentioned my dad will go on about how my sister was born during Hurricane Gloria and about the little stream in the back of my house that was used for water.  He likes to tell us how they managed without electricity for over a week with a newborn baby.

We are so accustomed to a life where electricity runs all the time and food and water are plentiful.  In Toronto, where I live I looked out the window yesterday and the sun was peeking through the clouds.  Imagine, while life is normal where you are, people in other areas may not have the same luxury.  That’s what I thought as I looked outside and that a few hundred miles away the scene was completely different.

I hope the fallen trees get picked up soon and people are able to get back to their normal routine.  I know it won’t take very long.  But until then you can whip this salad as you read my blog on your mobile device or while using the free wireless at Starbucks. It’s a simple salad with clean flavors.  It requires no excessive work and is full of freshness.  I’ve been making this salad way too often, it’s the kind of thing where once you start you can’t stop.  I pair it with chicken, fish, or even on its own.  I love this recipe because it literally takes 5 minutes to make and it’s so healthy.  Give it a try before summer is over.

Cucumber Salad with Black Sesame Seeds

Serves 2, as a side can easily be doubled or tripled, etc.

Ingredients

1/2 a large English cucumber cut into thick match sticks (de-seeded if you like, I don’t mind the seeds)

3 scallions, sliced on an angle

1 tablespoon mint,  cut in a chiffonade

1 tablespoon toasted black sesame seeds

for the dressing:

1/2 a jalapeño pepper, chopped finely and seeds, removed if desired

1 small shallot, chopped finely

juice and zest of lime juicy lime

1 teaspoon Sambal Oelek, more or less depending on how spicy you like it

2 teaspoons soy sauce

1 teaspoon rice vinegar

1 teaspoon sesame oil

1 teaspoon neutral-flavored vegetable oil

raw sugar, to taste

pinch sea salt

1/4 teaspoon red chili flakes, or to taste

Method

Make the dressing first by adding the shallots and jalapeño to a bowl and letting them soften in the  lime juice and zest, soy sauce, rice vinegar for 10 minutes.  After 10 minutes, add in the Sambal Oelek, sesame oil, vegetable oil, salt, sugar, red chili flakes and whisk well until combined.  You can make the dressing ahead of time and toss it with the cucumbers and herbs at the last-minute.

Next, toss the dressing with the cucumbers, scallions, and mint.  Also add in the toasted black sesame seeds.  Allow to sit for 15 minutes before serving.  This is not a “make ahead” salad and should be served fresh.  But as I said before the dressing can be made in advance.

I have tried to write this post for a few days now, finding it kind of out of place.  With so many people suffering right now, I felt a sort of guilt that I have the luxury to write a blog post about soup whereas for many this would be the last thing on their mind.  I couldn’t find a way to fit it together without sounding forced.  Usually I have an idea about what my blog post is going to be about.  Here I am just typing, whatever words come out, I don’t know.  Let’s hope it makes some sense.

The world has been a tumultuous place lately–revolutions, earthquakes, floods, poverty, slavery, injustice.  I guess these things have always existed, maybe I just notice more now, now that I’m older and not as aloof as I used to be.  I watch the news in a daze sometimes, in awe of the hate and the suffering in the world.  My eyes often well up with tears and I hold them in.  My husband would tease me and call me a softy.  I feel safe where I am, just as people all over the world feel safe in their homes, eating meals cooked by loves ones everyday.  Sometimes we are shaken, as life can throw a curve at us.  It’s amazing how resilient the human spirit can be–how strong we are.

We do what we have to to get by.  A mother will still look after her children even when her world is shaken.  She will find a way to feed and comfort them.  Eating gives us fuel, gives us a feeling of the familiar.  We all have our favorite meals and sometimes when you sit down to a meal after a long hard day, you can unwind and just relish in food.

This Thai Soup is a family favorite.  Usually in restaurants, it’s called Tom Yum Goong, but I couldn’t find lime leaves, galangal, and Thai Basil, so I improvised.  The results were still delicious.  I also added coconut milk, because something about the aroma of coconut milk soothes the soul–comfort.  Chilies and spiciness are also soothing for me.  We always ask for our Thai food extra spicy.  Sometimes we regret it, but most times we enjoy the fiery spice.  How ever you like your soup, enjoy it and take a minute or two to reflect on life and be grateful for the small things.

Thai Style Soup with Shrimp

Serves 3-4

Ingredients

Vegetable oil of your choice

2 shallots, roughly chopped

4 cloves garlic roughly chopped

2 inch piece of ginger, peeled and roughly chopped

1 stalk of lemon grass, bruised with a knife and roughly chopped

zest and juice of one lime

6 dried red chilies, or to taste and a few extra for the broth

1 tablespoon brown sugar

15 sprigs of cilantro, stems included

1 pound peeled and deveined shrimp, any size you prefer

crimini mushrooms, quartered

handful of pea pods, optional

6-8 cups chicken stock

salt, to taste

1 teaspoon fish sauce

1 3/4 cup coconut milk, I used light

1 red chili, sliced

1 green chili, sliced

cilantro, basil, limes, for garnish (or any combination)

Method

Put the shallots, garlic, ginger, lemongrass, lime zest/juice, dried red chilies, brown sugar, and cilantro springs in a food process and pulse until it forms a smooth paste.

Next, heat a large pot on medium and heat about 1 tablespoon of oil and add the paste to the oil and mix for 3-4 minutes.  Add in the chicken stock and mix the paste and chicken stock well so tat they become uniform. Taste for salt, and add salt, if necessary.  Also, throw in a few extra dried red chilies into the broth, optional.

Cook until the stock boils, once the stock boils add in the coconut milk and let it come to a boil again.  Add in the fish sauce and let the soup boil until you can see the oil separately.

Add in the mushrooms, pea pods, and shrimp and cook until the shrimp turns pink.  Garish with the red and green chilies, cilantro, basil, limes.  Serve hot.

A few other recipes of Thai Soup:

Temple of Thai

The Asian Grandmother’s Cookbook

Thai Food About

Rasa Malaysia

**A good breakdown of a few organizations you can donate through for earthquake/tsunami relief via Slow Like Honey**

Oh, how I miss Mexican flavors.  I envy people who have access to good authentic Mexican food.  Although, the dish I made here isn’t exactly Mexican, it does include Poblano peppers which do have some affinity with Mexican cuisine.  The day I saw these Poblanos at the farmer’s market, I literally screeched in excitement.  I was instantly reminded of my favorite dish, chilies rellenos.

In Rhode Island, where I grew up, is where I had first taste I had of authentic Mexican food, and no I’m not talking about Taco Bell or some Tex-Mex chain, I am talking about real authentic and fresh food.  The food where you taste the smokiness of fresh cumin, the tartness of lime, the creaminess of avocado, and the smoothness of crema.  It’s where you add radishes for that perfect and slightly piquant bite of fish taco.

Every time I visit my parents, I make sure to make a stop at our old family favorite, Mexico Restaurant.  I know new restaurants have popped up and some claim they are better, I have not found that to be so, maybe I am biased by the many years of dining there.  I have even made my husband a lover of their cuisine.

Again, I come back to the poblanos.  I wanted to make the chilies rellenos, but I feared I could not do them justice.  I will try another time, hopefully yielding delicious results.  With the days of summer gone, I decided to relish the last of its flavors.  Corn and poblanos are a natural paining.  Paired with some quinoa, the dish soared.  I almost forgot about the authentic Mexican food, almost but not quite.  Luckily, I will be visiting my parents soon and there will be poblanos galore waiting for me.

Quinoa with Poblanos, Corn, and Chives

Ingredients

Serves 2-3

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 cup dry quinoa, soaked in water for 15 minutes and then rinsed

3 Poblano peppers, cut into strips (seeds and ribs removed)

1 cup corn kernels

2 shallots, chopped

3 cloves of garlic, finely minced

the juice of 2 limes

a bunch of chives (as much as you want really, I like a lot)

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground cumin

salt, to taste

black pepper, to taste

optional–lime wedges, avocado slices, sour cream, extra chives, for garnish

Method

I like to cook quinoa in the pasta method, if you prefer it the traditional way, go with your own method.  Boil ample water in a medium-sized pot.  Add the quinoa and allow to boil for about 15 minutes, or until cooked.  Drain the excess water in a colander and set aside.

In a sauté pan, on medium heat, cook the shallots in 2 tablespoons of olive oil until translucent, about 5-7 minutes.  Add in the garlic and allow it to slightly change color, about a minute.  Add in the corn and cumin and allow the corn to cook for 3-4 minutes.  Next, the Poblanos along with the lime juice go in and do not let them get mushy, they should still have a little bite left in them, season with salt and pepper.

The corn and Poblano mixture should cook for about 5 more minutes.  At this point, toss in the quinoa and chives and incorporate the whole mixture together.  Serve warm with a dollop of sour cream, avocado, chives, and lime.

Pakistani street-foods are the ultimate in sweet, salty, and sour deliciousness.  I am a huge fan of chaat and when I miss the taste of chaat I usually opt for this version with potatoes and chickpeas.  In these hot summer months, it’s the perfect light snack.  The temperature is scorching hot and I feel so very lethargic that I just want to  make something easy.  I no longer have the patience to stand in front of the stove and sweat, even in air conditioning.

I last went to Pakistan for my wedding shopping, I haven’t been back since due to schedules and the like.  But, the thing I miss most, besides family, of course, is the street food.  My mom, my aunt, and I went crazy during my wedding shopping, getting my bridal dresses, jewelry, and the various other outfits.  Despite all the rush and chaos, we could calm down with a bowl of chaat practically everyday.  Sitting on a rickety chair with an even ricketier table at a street vendor, we would just relax with our chaat.  The scorching sun in the market, the pollution from traffic and rickshaws, the fan that was blowing around hot air didn’t even phase us.  It was our time to unwind.  Let me tell you, wedding preparations are stressful.

Now that I’m way beyond my newlywed days and back to reality, I have the responsibility of making the chaat.  As we have established before my husband is good for nothing in the kitchen.  Thankfully, chaat is simple and pantry-friendly.  I always have potatoes and chickpeas on hand.  I don’t think my household would run without them.  The tamarind chutney adds the right amount of tang.  I love tamarind, I love tamarind candies coated in chaat masala.  I am salivating just thinking about them.  (You can get similar candies in Mexican/Latin American grocery stores).  My chutney recipe isn’t 100% authentic because I make mine in 5 minutes.  The real version is slowly simmered on a stove all day and I haven’t learned how to make it yet.  My shortcut chutney is just fine for the time being.  Chaat is a nice departure from usual summer fare and could also be considered a salad of sorts.  You don’t even need to go to Pakistan to try it, but I must admit, even though mine is pretty tasty, it is not even close to Pakistani chaat.

Potato and Chickpea “Chaat” with Tamarind Chutney

Serves 3

Ingredients

2 cups cooked chickpeas

1-2 medium-sized potatoes, boiled until tender and then peeled and cut into a small dice

1/2 a medium-sized red onion, finely chopped

1 long green chili, finely chopped (seeds and ribs removed for less spicy)

1 tomato, finely chopped, optional

1/4 bunch of cilantro chopped (use as much as you like)

a few mint leaves, optional

chaat masala, (as much as you like, I like to add a lot, about 1 tablespoon, you can find it in Indian/Pakistani grocery stores, I use Shan brand)

for the Tamarind Chutney:

2 heaping teaspoons of tamarind paste

juice of 1 lime

1/2 teaspoon cumin powder

1 teaspoon chaat masala

1/4 teaspoon red chili powder (as much as you like)

1 tablespoon raw sugar

Method

First, make the chutney by combining all the ingredients for the chutney in a small saucepan on medium heat and melt the tamarind until it becomes liquidy, about 5 minutes.  If your chutney is thick, thin it out with some water.  Chill for an hour.

Next, combine all the ingredients for the chaat; the chickpeas, potatoes, red onion, green chili, tomatoes (optional), cilantro,  mint (optional), and chaat masala.  Check for salt.  I don’t add salt because the chaat masala already has it in it.  I got ahead of myself and mixed in the tamarind chutney with the chickpeas, usually I just drizzle some on top of the chickpeas.  If you would like you can mix the chutney in with the chickpeas as I did here.  Chill the chaat for an hour in the refrigerator.  Some people like to drizzle on thinned out yogurt on top as well.  Garnish with cilantro leaves and a sprinkling of chaat masala.

Chickpeas

There are some foods that you always say you don’t like, and then when you haven’t had them for a while you really crave them.  I remember when I first moved to Montreal for Grad School, I had not eaten Pakistani food in over a month.  Luckily, I made a Pakistani friend who had done her research and knew of several Pakistani restaurants.  I did not cook at my apartment, simply because I was grossed out.  I did no prior research and just opted for Graduate Housing and thought it would be fine (at least the pictures online looked fine).  When I arrived, I was almost in tears, looking back it wasn’t thattt bad, but still.  When that lease was finished, I moved out of there and into a new place like it was no one’s business.

That is why I never cooked, and lived off of takeout or meals that did not require cooking.  So, when my friend asked if I wanted to go out for Pakistani, I was so incredibly excited.  Thank God, she took me for a buffet.  That was one time that I was in the mood for “all you can eat.”  I don’t even remember what exactly we ate, but I do remember we were both extremely satiated.

I think it was during that dinner, we started talking about our moms’ cooking.  Most Pakistani moms do cook quite well, or so their kids say.  Even though my mom doesn’t look like the typical Pakistani mom, her food is always great.  My friend and I started talking about when our moms throw big parties and what their cooking specialties were.  It turned out that both our moms thought their maash ki dal (white lentils) was something special.  It’s different than the more soupy dals out there, and is “party-worthy” food.  My friend and I laughed so much thinking about how our moms thought their dishes were something unique.  My friend was saying that her mom makes the maash ki dal because it is everyone’s request.  It was the same story with my mom.

I never really paid maash ki dal much attention before.  But, there are those few times that I crave it.  Luckily for me, it is a snap to prepare and my husband will eat just about anything without being overly picky, so he enjoys it as well.  It is a different dish to add to your repertoire and you can also make this dal soupy, if you chose to.  The recipe here is a dry version.

White Lentils with a Sizzling Oil (Tarka) Garnish

Serves 2

Ingredients

1 cup maash dal sometimes called Urad dal, available at Indian/Pakistani grocery stores (soak the dal in water for 1 hour and then rinse away the old water a few times)

2 cups water, scant

1 teaspoon salt, or to taste

1/8 teaspoon turmeric, optional

1/2 teaspoon red chili powder, or to taste

1/2 a tomato, chopped finely, optional (I just used one because I had half of one in the fridge)

for garnish:

3-4 tablespoons canola oil

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

1/2  a small onion, sliced thinly

2 branches/stems of curry leaves (removed from stems), available in Indian/Pakistani grocery stores

4-5 whole dried red chilies

handful chopped cilantro

a few mint leaves, chopped

2″ piece of ginger, julienned

1 green chili, sliced in half length-wise

Method

In a medium-sized saucepan bring the water to a boil on medium to medium-high heat.  Add in the maash ki dal, salt, turmeric, red chili powder, and tomato.  Lower the heat to medium and cook for about 20 minutes, until the water has evaporated and when you press on the dal with your finger it mashes easily.  The grains should be separate, not mushy.  Place the dal into your serving dish.  Next, in a frying pan, heat the oil on medium heat.  Add the onion and begin to fry it.  After 3 minutes add in the cumin seeds, curry leaves, whole dried red chilies and fry all of the items together until the onions turn golden brown.  You may want to run your exhaust fan during this process because it may cause you to cough a bit. When the onions are golden, pour the hot oil mixture over the lentils.  Then finish the garnish with the ginger, cilantro, mint leaves, and the green chili.  Serve with roti or naan.