Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Weeknight Oven Dinner



As a working professional, I’m always looking for weekday quick fix dinners. There are times you get so wrapped up in work that making a fancy meal at night is just not feasible. Of course, eating out weighs pretty heavy on the wallet, not to mention the scale! I still want to have something exciting on the table to accompany exciting dinner chats. ‘Pop it in the oven’ dinners are great for weeknights as they require little work or time. Here are two recipes that get to the table in no time!

Basic preparation: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. 

Spicy Roasted Potatoes

Ingredients:
10-15 Small red potatoes 
Hot sauce - I used Tapatio
Paprika
2-3 Garlic cloves
Olive Oil
Salt 

  • Wash the potatoes and cut them in halves leaving the skin on.
  • Drizzle some olive oil, a few dashes of hot sauce (go by your tolerance for heat), sprinkle some paprika and salt for seasoning. Toss it well and transfer to a baking sheet/pan.
  • Crush a couple of garlic cloves and add to the potatoes. The garlic smells great after roasting. 
  • Pop it in the oven for 15-20 minutes or until tender. 

Stuffed Portobello Mushroom

Ingredients:
2 Large Portobello  mushrooms
½ Medium onion
1 garlic clove
4-5 Sundried tomato halves
Parmesan Reggiano
Salt & Pepper
Italian herb mix
Olive Oil
Cilantro

  • Clean the mushrooms with a wet towel and take out the stems (don’t throw them away!). You can choose to leave the gills on but I usually scrape them off.
  • Chop the onion, mushroom stems, garlic and sundried tomatoes.
  • Heat a pan over medium to high heat, drizzle some olive oil and roast the mushrooms on each side for a couple of minutes. Remove and keep aside.
  • In the same pan, give the veggies a quick stir and season with some Italian herbs and salt & pepper.
  • Stuff this filling into the mushroom, top it off with some cheese and pop in the oven in a greased pan.
  • Remove from the oven when the cheese melts and gets golden brown on top (about 5-10 minutes).
  • Garnish with some chopped cilantro and serve.
This is a great meal as you can work on both the dishes simultaneously and they'll be ready at the same time. Get the veggies cut and ready, get the potatoes in the oven and work on the mushrooms since they require less oven time. One simple tasty dinner!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Flowers And Chocolates...


Some say Valentine's Day is highly over-rated and commercialized; but what's so wrong in taking some time out of our busy lives to do something special for our loved ones? My husband and I celebrated our first Valentine's Day together this year and I wanted to surprise him by making something he would love. If there is one thing he loves next to ice-cream, it's dark chocolate. My sister had made a delicious semi-sweet chocolate mousse (no sugar added!) once and I wanted to give it a shot. She couldn't find the original recipe so I used my own judgement and made this mousse based on the method she told me. However clich├ęd, there is nothing better than flowers and chocolates to say 'I love you' and this chocolate mousse is just perfect to go with those flowers :).

Chocolate Mousse


Ingredients:

2 Oz. semi-sweet baking chocolate - I used Baker's Semi-sweet Chocolate Squares(2 squares)
1 Egg white
¾  Cup heavy cream
½ Teaspoon vanilla essence
1 Teaspoon orange liqueur

  • Whip the heavy cream until soft peaks start forming. Keep the whipped cream in the fridge until you work on the other ingredients.
  • Melt the chocolate in the microwave. This is extremely simple – no melting over boiling water! Keep the chocolate in the microwave on HIGH for about 30 seconds. Remove and stir. Pop it in the oven for another 20 seconds, take out and stir again. Do this until the chocolate melts completely. It takes about 1.5 minutes or so. Keep aside.
  • Separate the white of one egg. Beat the egg until it is foamy and starts forming a shape.
  • The chocolate should be slightly cooled off by the time you get your egg ready. It should be just warm enough to stay gooey. Fold in a third of the egg white and the vanilla essence and orange lequeur in the melted chocolate. It is safer to add the liqueur with the egg whites so that it doesn't harden the chocolate.
  • Fold in the remaining egg white by thirds. Fold in the whipped heavy cream spoon by spoon. Make sure you handle it very gently because keeping the mousse soft and fluffy is the idea. Pop the mousse in the fridge for 15-20 minutes and it’s ready to serve.
  • Serve the mousse with some shaved chocolate, whipped cream, raspberries, strawberries or whatever rocks your boat. I just used some shaved chocolate and bright colored flower petals for decoration =).
This was very easy to make compared to some other recipes I saw online. You can add any kind of flavoring such as espresso, amaretto liqueur etc. The above recipe makes decent sized portions for two.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Cup-A-Soup

 

My hubby was down with really bad tooth pain last week (do you see how my cooking revolves around him? :D). I couldn't look at his sad puppy face and wanted to cheer him up by making dinner he didn't have to chew! And what's better than a bowl of soup? I had a butternut squash sitting in the kitchen for about a week which was a perfect ingredient. I've always just roasted butternut squash, which by the way tastes amazing, until now. Soup out of roasted squash seemed like a good idea, but I wanted to give it some more flavor. I did some crazy thinking and thought of giving one of my mom's recipes a twist (the effect of watching Iron Chef a little too much) - pumpkin sabji turned into butternut squash soup! Pumpkin sabji may not sound too exciting but oddly my friends used to love it too. I decided to use all the ingredients from the sabji in the soup and did it taste good! This experiment made me a little nervous thinking the spices I used would overpower the squash, but it was just perfecto!

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

Ingredients:
2 teaspoons grated coconut
Half medium onion chopped
1 whole red chili
1 dried bay leaf
1 big garlic clove
½ Teaspoon fenugreek seeds 
Salt
Black pepper
Yogurt
Water/vegetable broth
Butter
Couple of pinches of Brown sugar
  • Chop the onions and mix with the shredded coconut. Use fresh coconut instead of the dried one.
  • Cut the garlic clove, bay leaf and red chili in half and put in the belly of the squash halves.
  • Fill the squash with coconut-onion filling.
  • Add a small cube of butter on top so the squash and the filling roast nicely while locking in the moisture.
  • Sprinkle some brown sugar/crushed jaggery on top…just a little. It caramelizes beautifully. I used jaggery since that's what I had in my pantry and went well with other Indian flavors.
  • Roast in the overn for about 20 mins on 400F. Remove when the squash is a little darker than golden brown…poke a knife and make sure the squash is soft.
  • Scoop out the filling and the flesh…remove the bay leaf.
  • Puree the in the food processor adding some water in between. You can use vegetable stock but water was perfectly fine. Keep the soup nice and thick.
  • Put some crushed black pepper on top after serving.
  • Instead of using cream, I whipped some yogurt and put a dollop of it on top – a healthier option!
The soup was so heartwarming! Butternut squash - like the name suggests - is so creamy and buttery I din't have to add any real cream. All the ingredients shined through individually while maintaining the delicate flavor of the squash. The sweetness of caramelized onions, toasty-nutty flavor of the coconut and the bay leaf fragrance - just divine! It was a happy marriage. This was a big hit with my husband who has asked me to make it again...yep! :)

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