Thursday, June 30, 2011

Spanish Rice

When I came back from my two week vacation and opened the fridge, I was blown away. In place of a fridge overflowing with vegetables, fruits, breads, leftovers and nearly empty jars of pickles, jams, peanut butter, spice pastes etc etc, I was looking at a newly cleaned spartan fridge with just the basics stocked neatly in the right compartments.

The reason??? My husband had decided to cook through all the produce that I had left behind in stead of buying more food. He had made simple meals with what was in the fridge and just that. No rushing out to just buy parsley or right type of cucumber. He come home, opened the fridge looked at what was there and planned his meal accordingly. The simplicity of that blew me away. And I should add that my husband is NOT an indifferent eater. As much as I envy those who do not spend hours obsessing about food, I could not have easily adjusted to being married somebody like that.

And so I decided that is what I will do too.I will just plan my meals according to what my pantry has. No rushing out to buy last minute ingredients. If I really want to make a certain dish I will make space for it when I shop next and not go shopping now. I am hoping this will reduce waste, ensure we eat fresh and will also give me a reason to cook with what I have and find ways to make it taste good for me.

All that said I had picked up a bunch of poblano peppers, some bell peppers last time I was in the store. So I decided on a simple Mexican vegetarian meal . Stuffed poblano peppers, a vegetarian fajita with bell peppers and mushrooms, spanish rice and beans.

I was very happy with all the dishes but what I really loved was how my spanish rice turned out. So that is what I am going to share here.

Spanish Rice (I altered this recipe to suit what I had)

1 cup rice
1 small onion cut fine
2 cloves garlic minced fine
1/2 green bell pepper cut fine
4 small green chillies
1/2 tsp chilli powder ( this depends a lot on how spicy your chilli powder is and how you like your rice. So adjust to taste)
1 tsp sugar ( again this depends on what tomatoes you use)
2 tomatoes ( I used Roma)
1 tsp cumin powder
salt to taste
Olive oil to cook it all.

Add olive oil to pan and heat on a medium heat. Add the garlic and onion and cook. After a minute add bell pepper and mix. Cook this mixture for a few minutes until the onion is translucent. Wash the rice, drain and add the rise to the pan. Stir to mix so that all your rice is coated with the oil. Cook this mixture for around 5 minutes until your rice starts turning slightly brown

While the rice is cooking, put the two tomatoes and the green chillies in a food processor and pulse until you get a chunky smoothie like mixture. Add this mixture in parts to the rise. Add the first part and then mix to incorporate. While the rice is absorbing the tomato add salt , sugar cumin powder. Do not add the chilli powder yet. Wait till you have an idea of how spicy the green chillies will make your rice before adding the chilli powder.

Add the rest and stir to incorporate. After the rice has absorbed all the liquid from the tomatoes start adding broth or water. Add liquid is small parts about 1/2 to 3/4 cup and wait till the liquid is absorbed before adding more. At this point you can also add the chilli powder after a tasting.

When the rice is cooked, let it rest for a few minutes and fluff with a fork. I have always made spanish rice with canned tomatoes (most recipes online also ask for canned tomatoes), but I have never been this happy with the results. Which is why in place of posting the stuffed poblanos I decided to write about my star for the evening - the humble Spanish Rice.

Edited to Add

I wanted to add pictures of the full spread...


Sunday, June 26, 2011

Vegetarian Bibim Bap

I have a rather big soft spot for Asian cooking. I was over the moon when an Asian grocery store opened in the neighborhood. To my husband's amusement and then frustration I would walk up and down the aisles ogling the condiments, pickles and vegetables.

Being a vegetarian it is rather hard to explore other cuisines that is of course if you live outside the new jersey, new york area. I discovered Bibim Bap for the first time in the Korean street in NYC. I was instantly in love. And after many months of thinking that I want to make this at home I finally got around to it last Friday.

My Bimbim Bap had mushrooms (white mushrooms and dried Shitake), soy bean sprouts, spinach, Bok Choy served with rice and a fried egg on top. You could use any mix of vegetables for Bibim Bap. I also picked up a packet of Gojuchang from the Asian store.

Soy Bean Sprouts ( recipe taken from here)

Wash soy bean sprouts thoroughly. Add the bean sprouts , a cup and half of water, a little salt to a pot. Cover and cook for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes drain the sprouts, and add a little soy sauce, sesame oil and toasted sesame seeds and set aside. Check in between to make sure that there is enough water.

Spinach (recipe taken from here)

Wash spinach thoroughly. Add to boiling water and cook for 2 minutes. Drain, squeeze gently to remove a little of the excess water. Add soy sauce, sesame oil and toasted sesame seeds and set apart.

Ginger garlic Bok Choy ( recipe taken from here)

3 to 4 heads of Bok Choy chopped to large bite size pieces
2 cloves garlic grated fine
1 tsp finely grated ginger
soy sauce to taste
1 1/2 tsp sesame oil
toasted sesame seeds
1 1/2 tsp rice vinegar

In a hot pan add 1/2 cup water and add the ginger and garlic. Cook while stirring for 3 minutes. Throw in the Bok Choy. Cover and cook for 5 to 6 minutes. Remove the cover and drain water in case there is too much water. Add the soy sauce, rice vinegar, sesame oil and toasted sesame seeds and stir to coat and set aside.

Mushrooms (recipe take from here)

You can use dried or fresh mushrooms. If using dried mushrooms first rehydrate them in boiling water. Slice the mushrooms thinly. Heat some vegetable oil in pan. Add the mushrooms and saute. In case of fresh mushrooms cook them till they stop oozing water. Cook on a medium flame and make sure you don't burn the mushrooms. Add a little sugar and soy sauce to the mushrooms and cook for one more minute. Remove from heat and set aside.

Shitake Mushroom

Button Mushrooms


Julienne carrots. Add to pan with a tiny amount of oil and cook for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Remove from pan and set aside.

Assemble the Bibim Bap in a plate. Traditionally Bibim Bap is served in a Dolsot which is just a heated dish where the food continues to cook just a little bit. I did not have these so I served the dish on plates. Put rice down and surround with all the vegetables.

Add a fried egg of top and serve with soy sauce, Gojuchang and sesame oil . Enjoy.

The joy of this dish is you can adjust it to taste and add any vegetables you want. Next time I also want to add Kosari which was delicious at the restaurant.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Tomato Basil Bread

I wanted a perfect bread for a grilled cheese. What is better than a tomato basil bread.
I tried out this recipe since it called for diced tomatoes in place of paste or juice.

3 - 4 cups bread flour
3/4 cup diced tomatoes
3/4 cup basil leaves
2 tsp salt
2 -3 tbsp sugar (based on your taste)
2 tbsp olive oil
2 1/2 tsp of yeast ( around one packet )

Cut the basil into ribbons. For ease stack up the leaves and use scissors to cut the strips.

Mix the water and one tsp of water and warm in microwave for 15 seconds. Add the yeast and mix. Set aside for 5 - 6 minutes and watch for the yeast to get all bubbly.

Mix 3 cups flour, salt, diced tomato, rest of the sugar. Add the oil and the yeast to the mixture. Start kneading the flour while adding the rest of the flour gradually. Add the basil to the mixture and continue to knead. Do not add more flour then is necessary to get a smooth dough. If the dough is too unmanageable, one thing that is very handy is to cover the dough and step away for 10 minutes.

Set the dough aside in a warm place and let it rise till it doubles (about an hour). Punch the dough down. Shape it into two rounds. Place on an oiled cookie sheet and cover with a towel. Let it rise for another 45 minutes.

I baked these at a 350 F oven for 25 minutes. I added a boiling pan of water in the bottom. Next time I think I will form it into a single loaf and bake at 450 F for about 25 minutes. This was a soft bread which is nice for cheese sandwiches but next time I am going to aim for some crust.

The tomato flavour in the bread was lovely but the basil was not where where I wanted it. Maybe the tomato was too powerful. Next time I will try with more basil and less tomato.

I will leave you with a picture of my breakfast with two slices of tomato toast. Egg white cheese omelet, steamed vegetables and toast. It was just too early in the day for a grilled cheese.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

My Garden

I am tired of hearing about green thumbs or lack thereof. We were hunters and gatherers and then farmers. Plants die, it happens and then you grow them again. I am sure a knack for gardening would be relevant if I were the growing blue roses for a moghul king but as it stands anyone can grow a bunch of herbs and some flowers.

That said gardening does not come easy to me. It requires that you plan ahead, be patient, accept failure but try again, respect what a plant needs but show them who is boss. All of these are reasons I wanted to garden. I am slave to immediate gratification. My eye is always on the goal.

Gardening is hard for me yet I find it so rewarding because it does not let me hurry things along. I am forced to enjoy the process and not the results ( when you see the produce I picked after a month and a half of seed germination, transplanting, watering, fertilizing you will understand what I am talking about).

I tell you all this only because I am not capable of getting right to the point and like to meander through a labyrinth of words at the drop of a hat.

The purpose of this post was only to put up pictures of some of my plants as they stand today so I have an opportunity to compare a few months down the line.

I have a couple of window boxes of lettuce growing with some arugula sharing space with them. These were too much work for too little returns. And also seemed to attract more pests than all of my other plants. I will hesitate to grow these again.

A pot of flat leaf parsley.

This is one of the few plants that survived from last year. Though it is also one of the few perennials that I grew.

Rosemary - I picked some fresh rosemary off this plant for my bread.

Sweet basil - I have two pots of sweet basil and am considering planting more. You can never have enough basil as far as I am concerned. By far my favorite herb. I am also starting a couple of other types of basil.

Thai basil - Last year I had bought a Thai basil plant that was quite tasty but in the end flowered and went to seed. This year I am growing mine from seed. So far the plant looks healthy. I have not tasted any so do not know if these will be as nice as the plant I had last year.

Mint - Since mint does not grow true to seed and I had no idea where to get cuttings from , I went out and bought a small plant about a month ago. This mint is growing rapidly and has already reached its capacity in that 8 inch pot. If it show any signs of distress I might have to re pot these into a bigger container. Not something I want to do since I have a really tiny patio and a lot of plants.

Growing some assorted chillies from seed.

Two Tomato plants


Crookneck squash.

Fennel - not sure why I grew these. I can not find too many uses for the leaves and I do not want to dig up bulbs at the moment. Again not sure if this is a plant I will repeat.

And finally with an imaginary drum roll - today's harvest.

Lets see how many of these survive in the coming months with multiple vacations planned.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Unmoved from wordpress

I moved to wordpress only to realize that I cannot do any of the things I already do in blogspot as long as I use
So I unmoved from wordpress. I am pretty sure I am missing something since I have never heard anything but good things about wordpress. But I cannot even seem to make google analytics work with

Whole Wheat Rosemary Bread

I am a big fan of the rosemary bread served in Macaroni Grill. As lovely as that bread is I was convinced that rosemary would be perfect in a whole wheat bread. The natural sweetness of a whole wheat bread seemed like a great match for rosemary. I am pleased to report that I was right and a little less pleased that other people have had this idea already. Nevertheless the other recipes did help a lot in the actual baking so I suppose it all worked out for good. The recipe I followed is here.

1 to 1 and 1/cup warm water
1 packet yeast
2 tsp sugar
1 and 1/2 cups bread flour ( King Arthur Bread Flour)
1 and 1/2 cups whole wheat flour ( King Arthur White Whole Wheat Flour)
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp oil
2 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary or dried rosemary ( I used a combination of the two since I did not want to over tax my relatively new rosemary plant)

Proof the yeast with the water and 1 tsp sugar. Add the flour and the salt to a bowl and stir. Add the oil and the rosemary to this mixture. To this also add the yeast and water mixture. Knead the dough for 10 minutes until you get a smooth dough. Add a little flour if the mixture is too wet for you.

Cover the dough and let it rise in a well oiled bowl for an hour. After an hour punch the dough down shape it into a loaf and put it into an oiled loaf tin for the second rise. Cover and let the loaf rise again for 45 minutes to an hour till the dough is 1 to 2 " above the loaf tin.

Preheat the oven at 350 F for about half an hour. Remove cover from loaf and bake for 35 to 40 minutes.

Be gentle with the loaf. I actually managed to knock mine some and the bread fell a little. Despite that I ended up with a very wholesome tasting whole wheat rosemary loaf for sandwiches all of next week.

Have a great weekend.

Olive Bread

I love olive bread. When I lived in Oregon I used to pick up a loaf of black olive ciabatta that was fantastic.
This is the first attempt at this olive bread. This is not a ciabatta but a more basic loaf. I found a recipe online that I liked and then modified it to suit my taste. The recipe was for olive and rosemary bread. Since I also wanted to make whole wheat rosemary bread I held off putting rosemary in this. Also I do not like any egginess in my bread. Even New York City challahs manage to repel me as a result. So I left out the one egg that the recipe called for and added extra water to compensate.

3 cups bread flour
1 cup water ( Start with 3/4 a cup along with yeast and add more as you go along)
1 tbsp sugar
1 and 1/2 tsp salt
one cup sliced black olives
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp active dry yeast or a packet of dry yeast.

Warm the water to 110 F and add sugar and yeast to it. Set aside and let it proof for 8 minutes. The mixture should be bubbly at the end of eight minutes.
Now add the olives, oil and bread flour to the mixture. Notice I am leaving out the salt. The original recipe used this method and I wanted to try it out. I have to say I like the results. Knead the resulting mixture for around 5 minutes. This will result in a very sticky dough. Set the dough aside for 15 minutes. Make sure to cover the dough so it does not dry out.
Come back after 15 minutes and add the salt on top of the dough. Knead the dough well for another 5 or so minutes. Adding the salt later gives the yeast a better chance to do its magic. Salt kills yeast and this delay in adding salt gets things started in dough a little quicker.
Form the dough into a rough ball and place it in a well oiled bowl. Let the dough rise for an hour at 90 F. I followed some online advice and placed the dough in my oven with the oven light on. Do not switch the oven on at this point. That will NOT be a pretty thing.
After an hour punch the dough down. Knead the dough for 30 secs. Form into a ball and place on a baking sheet that has been oiled and dusted with flour. Cover the dough with a towel and let it rise for another 30 min.
Preheat the oven for about 20 minutes at 400 F. The original recipe called for preheating the oven for an hour. The original recipe also baked this bread in a very nice looking cloche.
After 30 minutes remove the towel, slash the top of the bread with a sharp knife and bake for 35 to 40 minutes.
To help with crust formation I heated some water in a stainless steel pan and placed it under the bread in the oven while cooking. You can find more information online about this method. Since I do not own a Pizza stone or a cloche the crust on my breads need all the help they can get.

Take out and cool on the rack.
The crumb was quite nice in the finished product.

Thursday, June 2, 2011


I did some more baking. This time I decided to make some simple pav. I have tried pav before had over baked it. Though it looked rather pretty last time the pav itself was a little on the tough side. This time I cooked it right and also followed a slightly different recipe.
3 cups bread flour
1 to 1 and 1/4 cup water ( this will vary quite a bit based on humidity)
1/2 tsp salt (to taste)
1 tsp sugar
3 tbsp butter ( the next time I am going to try oil but I did not want to risk things this time)
1 and 1/2 tsp yeast or one packet of yeast
Warm the water so it feels warm to touch. Even slightly too hot and you will kill the yeast, the water should be only just warm. Add sugar and the yeast. Stir and set aside for 8 minutes.

Take a large mixing bowl that is convenient for kneading. I prefer to knead in a bowl, a lot of people seem to prefer a floored board. Whatever floats your boat is fine. Add the flour and the salt and mix thoroughly.

Add the proofed water, yeast and sugar mixture ( which should be all bubbly) to the flour and mix. The resulting mixture will be quite sticky. Knead the dough for 5 minutes until it is a little more manageable but will still be sticky. At this point add melt the butter and add it to the mixture. The dough will become a lot easier to knead :). Knead the dough for 5 more minutes. Shape into a ball and put it into a well oiled container. Cover and let the dough rise for an hour.
After an hour the dough should have doubled in the size.

Take the dough out and punch it down and knead a couple of times. Now form a long tube like shape with the dough. You can make up to eight well sized pavs with this mix. Cut the tube into equal portions with a knife and shape into pavs. Put them together on a oiled and floured baking sheet or cake pan. I used a cake pan this time but will probably use a baking sheet the next time since I think that would give me a more traditional pav.Cover the pavs and let them rise for 30 or so minutes. Brush the top of the pavs with egg whites. I do not like the smell of eggs and so I brushed the top with some milk.

Pav recipe. After second rise.
Preheat the oven at 350 F. Put the pav in and let it bake for 20 to 22 minutes. Check if they are done. They should have the beginnings of a golden colour on top. Brush with a little butter on top to ensure a soft pav

Pav Recipe. After Baking
Pav recipe. Closeup of texture. SoftLink

I was very pleased with the end result.

Edited to add.
I found this video from Vah Chef very helpful. It helps to get an idea about the texture you should be shooting for. I Looooove Vah Chef. The guy has an unabashed enthusiasm about food that is obvious in every recipe that he puts up.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Spaghetti with Brussels Sprouts, Bell Pepper and Basil

Sometimes you need to marinate for a day, roast slowly for an hour, simmer for 90 minutes and sometimes you can get a lovely colourful meal by throwing some of your favourite vegetables together with some whole wheat pasta.

For dinner there had whole wheat spaghetti with brussels sprouts, yellow bell pepper, sun dried tomatoes.

For a simple summer meal

1/2 a packet of spaghetti
1 head of garlic chopped
3 tablespoons of olive oil
1 tablespoon chili flakes
2 yellow bell pepper (or you can use red bell pepper) chopped thin slices
a dozen or so brussels sprouts sliced thin
one onion chopped thin slices
one cup of basil leaves washed and chopped

Set up a pot of water to boil. Salt the water. When the water comes to a boil add the spaghetti and boil according to instructions on the packet. Drain when done.

Heat the olive oil in another pan. Add the chili flakes and the garlic. Make sure the oil is not too hot, you do not want the garlic to brown just to cook gently and flavour the oil. Add the thin slices of onions and the thin slices of bell pepper. Stir to coat. As the onion is beginning to become translucent add the brussels sprouts. Add salt to taste. Cook on a medium flame till the vegetables are tender.

Add the spaghetti to the vegetables and add the basil leaves. Stir to coat the pasta and cover for a minute or so to kind of let the basil sweat with the rest of the pasta and flavour it.

Serve with a generous sprinkle of Parmesan.

Start with Bread

I opened this space a loooooong time ago. Food and I have a long complicated history. And my relationship changed forever when I started to cook. At one point it was enough that I got to eat something cool but now the experience is not complete till I can reproduce the dish/ alter it to my tastes.

I like to cook. I wish I could say things like it relaxes me. It does not- I cook like I do most do things - with adrenaline, stress poured in, hating myself for not being better even the first time. But I enjoy it. It is what I like to do that I do not have to do.

So to backtrack I opened this space a loooong time ago. I wanted to file away the things I enjoyed making, enjoyed eating and sharing. But I never did anything about till now.

And I will start with bread. Simple, wholesome bread. My husbands face as he eats bread is another reason I love the man. It is such a simple yet bordering carnal experience to eat good bread. And he appreciates it as deserves to be appreciated.

This is a recipe for a bread with some oats thrown in. I am working through some recipes from the King Arthur site. I also recently switched to King Arthur for all my baking and have been kicking myself for being a cheapskate and not doing it earlier. That one dollar that I am shelling out extra per 10 lb bag - very very worth it.

I am relative new comer to baking. The strictness of baking in that there is no stirring, tasting and adjusting makes it less enjoyable to me. But after some success the taste of fresh homemade bread makes the rest of the process more bearable.

I changed the recipe a bit and in place of 3 cups of Bread Flour used 2 cups of Bread Flour and 1 cup of whole wheat flour. I have made the recipe as is and it is delicious, the altered version is a bit denser but still very tasty.

Edited to add
I wanted to add what I did since I was told that some of my friends could not bring themselves to click on a link to get at the ingredients. So -
I added
2 cups bread flour (King Arthur)
1 cup white whole wheat flour (King Arthur)
1 cup of oatmeal
1 and 1/4 cup low fat milk
1 and half tablespoons butter melted a little in the microwave
2 tsp yeast.
3 tablespoons brown sugar

Warm the milk in the microwave until it feels lukewarm to touch. It should NOT be hot at all. Add a tsp of the sugar and add the yeast. Set the stuff aside for around 8 minutes to proof.

Add all the dry ingredients and the butter and the yeast. Knead the dough for about 10 minutes until a smooth dough is formed. Form a ball with the dough and place it in an oiled container and cover with plastic wrap. Let the dough rise for an hour. The dough should be a little sticky. I have a feeling that my dough was a little on the drier side and might have risen more if it were a tad wetter.

Punch the dough down after the hour and shape into a log. Put the dough into an oiled loaf pan. Let the dough rise for 1 to 1 1/2 hr. I let mine rise for a full one and half hours. It should rise above the top of the loaf pan and should be 1 to 2 " above the top of the loaf pan.

Now heat the oven at 350 F and bake for 35 minutes. Take out and cool before slicing into it.
This is a slightly sweet loaf and lovely for sandwiches.

Edited to add- do taste the dough before the first rise. This dough should be on the sweeter side.

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