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Mrs. Kaur

Jaahaan’s mom, Mrs. Kaur is visiting from Delhi for a few weeks. I don’t know why she would visit Syracuse in January with all this snow when the weather in Delhi is balmy and wonderful. I’d been hearing stories about her mom’s obsession with PNC, so I asked for a cooking lesson and Mrs. Kaur gratefully obliged. When I arrived at Jaahaan’s apartment Mrs. Kaur  already had all the spices set out, the vegetables diced, and was ready to go. It was like entering into the Indian version of Everyday Italian with Giada. Pretty much a dream come true.

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This is all Mrs. Kaur has to work with. One saucepan, one skillet and a rice cooker. And I learned that the basic ingredients in any Indian dish are tomatoes, onions, maybe some ginger garlic paste, and some spices. Really the most essential spice is a garam masala mix. Just goes to show that Indian cooking isn’t hard. All you need is a pot, some vegetables, and a spice mix and you are cooking like a true Desi lady. Most of the ingredients used can be found in the International isle at Wegmans. Some of the more obscure items, like amchoor powder, can be found at Kashmir Grocery on Erie Boulevard.

PANEER CURRY

1/4 cup onion paste* |||| 1 teaspoon garlic ginger paste |||| 3/4 cup tomato puree |||| 1 teaspoon salt |||| 1/2 teaspoon turmeric |||| 1 teaspoon garam masala |||| 1/2 teaspoon cumin powder |||| 1 teaspoon chili powder |||| 1/2 cup diced green pepper |||| 1/2 cup diced onion |||| 1 1/2 cups milk |||| 1 package fried paneer

*To make the onion paste: mix diced onions in a blender or a food processor until an onion paste forms. Then briefly saute the paste in a skillet with some oil until the paste turns light brown. The onion paste will keep in the fridge for up to a month.

1. Heat vegetable oil in the bottom of a medium-sized pot. Add the onion paste and garlic ginger paste and saute for about 2 minutes.

2. Then add the tomato puree and spices. Allow the mixture to cook for another 3-4 minutes.

3. Add the milk, green peppers, onions, paneer, and 1 /2 cup of water to the spiced tomato puree mixture.  Allow the mixture to boil until the curry thickens and the vegetables are tender, about 15 minutes.

POTATOES with MUSTARD SEEDS

1 teaspoon mustard seeds |||| 2 potatoes, peeled, boiled, and diced |||| 1 small onion, cut into thin strips |||| 1 teaspoon garlic ginger paste |||| 1/4 cup tomato puree |||| 1 teaspoon salt |||| 1/2 teaspoon amchoor (dried mango powder) |||| 1/2 teaspoon turmeric |||| 2 teaspoons garam masala |||| 1 teaspoon dhania powder (coriander seed) |||| 1 teaspoon chili powder

1. Heat a few teaspoons of vegetable oil in a skillet. Once the oil is hot, add the mustard seeds. Beware! The mustard seeds will pop. Stand back so you don’t shoot your eye out. Allow the seeds to cook for about 30 seconds before adding the onions.

2. Once the onions start to turn brown add the tomato puree and the spices. Allow the onions to cook with the spices for another 3-4 minutes.

3. Then add potatoes and 1 cup of water to the skillet. Allow the mixture to cook until the water is totally evaporated.

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Econ homework and a plate of Indian food for dinner.

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This kitty only speaks Hindi.

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Filed under indian cuisine, side dish, vegetarian

it’s good to be back in the neighborhood

After a long hiatus (due to computer sickness, a hellish finals week, and Christmas festivities) Basta Pasta is back and better than ever. My computer isn’t totally revived, but I think it’s going to be up and running soon(ish). Nevertheless, I musta been a good girl this year because Santa brought a lot of kitchen goodies. I got  three new knives, a whole mess of spices, no less than FOUR cookbooks (one by Padma the TopChef hottie about Indian cooking) and a wok! In the words of my four-year-old cousin upon opening a package of Spiderman undies, “Its just what I always wanted!”

So I’m coming back in style with TWO wonderful baked goods recipes: a poppy seed loaf and a decadent cranberry ginger chocolate tart.  No pictures with these recipes unfortunately. But that’s a new years resolution: pictures with every Basta Pasta entry!! Food porn for everyone! Okay, now getting back to the issue…I gave my grandparents the poppy seed loaf as a Christmas gift. They like breakfast breads and my heating bill just arrived so it qualified as cheap Christmas gift. I ended up making 2 loaves, one for the grandparents and one for my family. I found the recipe in the Joy of Cooking cookbook and the loaves turned out okay. This bread needs to be eaten in the first 48 hours otherwise its hard as a rock and pretty much inedible. Any suggestions on how to lengthen the life  of this bread are appreciated.

CHRISTMAS POPPY SEED LOAF

This recipe makes two loaves

7 cups all-purpose flour, sifted |||| 3/4 cup sugar |||| 1 tablespoon salt |||| 1 package active dry yeast |||| 1/2 cup shortening |||| 3 eggs |||| 2 cups poppy seeds |||| 1 cup honey |||| 1 tablespoon lemon juice

1. In a large bowl, combine 3 cups of flour, sugar, salt, and the entire package of yeast. In a seperate bowl combine, 2 1/2 cups of hot water with shortening.

2. Gradually add the water to the dry ingredients and beat for 2 minutes with an electric mixer. Then add 1 beaten egg and another cup of flour. Beat for 1 more minute.

3.  Add the additional 3 cups of flour to make the dough. It is easiest to combine all the ingredients with your hands at this point. Knead the dough until smooth and elastic, for about 10 minutes. Then place the dough in a flour covered glass bowl and cover with a dry dish towel. Allow the dough to rise for about 45 minutes.

4.  Meanwhile, grind the poppyseeds in between towels with a wooden mallet (or just buy already ground poppy seeds at the store). Then combine the poppy seeds with 1 egg, 1/3 cup honey, and lemon juice. You can add nuts or dried fruit to the poppy seed filling if you wish.

5. After the dough has been allowed to rise for 45 minutes, divide into 2 pieces. Roll each piece into an oval shape about 1/4 of an inch thick with a rolling pin. Put 1/2 of the poppy seed filling in the center of the dough.

6. The Joy of Cooking cookbook has an excellent illustration of the technique to give the loaf a braided effect. Essentially, cut the dough on the sides of the filling into 1 inch stripes. Then alternate folding the stripes over the top of the filling. Brush the top of the loaves with 1 egg white.

7. Transfer the loaves to a greased cookie sheet. Bake the loaves in a 350 degree oven for 30-40 minutes, until the bread is a nice golden brown color.

Yay for holiday baking! I decided to make this Cranberry Ginger Choclate tart for dessert after a Christmas dinner of honey baked ham, sweet potatoes and broccoli…a humble but delicious holiday feast.

This tart was quite an ambitious project spanning over two days of preparation. I ended up having to make two crusts because I cracked the first one while taking it out of the oven. But the result was well worth the effort. The cheese filling is very light and not too sweet. The tartness of the cranberries is so refreshing after too many super sweet Christmas cookies. The crust was only okay. Even on the second try, my crust was too hard. I like a soft pastry-like crust on pies and tarts. This crust ended up like an Oreo cookie. I would make this again, but possibly with some adjustments to the crust.

Some of my family liked the ginger flavor and others would have preferred the tart better without it. Personally, I love candied ginger (especially when its dipped in chocolate) but my family members are not the most adventurous of eaters and this was just a little too much. There were little leftovers though, so no one was too offended.

CRANBERRY GINGER CHOCOLATE TART

Cranberry Topping:  1/2 cup cranberry juice |||| 1 teaspoon unflavored gelatin |||| 1 12-oz bag of fresh cranberries |||| 3/4 cup sugar |||| juice of 1 lemon |||| 1 teaspoon lemon zest |||| 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger root |||| 4 tablespoons chopped candied ginger

Crust: 1 1/4 cups chocolate wafer cookie crumbs |||| 1/4 sugar |||| 6 tablespoons unsalted butter |||| pinch of salt

Filling: 1 8-oz container of mascarpone cheese |||| 1/2 cup powdered sugar |||| 1/2 cup whipping cream |||| 1 teaspoon vanilla extract |||| 2 tablespoons candied ginger

1. First make the cranberry topping because it needs to chill for at least 8 hours. Pour 1/4 cup cranberry juice and gelatin into a small bowl. Let it stand while you make the rest of the cranberry topping.

2. Combine 1/4 cup cran juice, fresh cranberries, sugar, lemon juice and zest, and fresh ginger in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring until sugar dissolves. Simmer until cranberries are plump but still tender, about 5 minutes.

3. Strain into a bowl and set cranberries aside. Stir gelatin mixture into the cranberry juice mixture until the gelatin dissolves. Then stir the cranberries back into the juice. Chill cranberry mixture for at least 8 hours (I chilled it overnight).

4. Next make the crust. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grind about 3/4 of a package of chocolate wafers in a food processor to make crumbs.

5. Combine cookie crumbs, sugar, salt, and melted butter. Crumbs should feel moist when pressed together. You can add another tablespoon of butter if mixture is dry or doesn’t stick together.

6. Press crumb mixture into the bottom and sides of a 9 inch greased tart pan with removable bottom.

7. Bake chocolate crust for about 15 minutes. Transfer tart pan to a rack and cool completely before adding the filling.

8. To make the mascarpone filling, use an electric mixer to beat all the ingredients together. Only beat the mixture for a minute because over mixing will cause the filling to curdle.

9. Spread filling on to the cooled crust. Then spoon the cranberry mixture over the filling. Chill for another 2-6 hours. Garnish with 4 tablespoons chopped candied ginger before serving.

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OMG CHIX WONTONS!!!!!!

1 package of 60 wonton (or eggroll) wraps |||| 1 pound of ground chicken |||| 1/4 cup water chestnuts, chopped |||| 1/4 cup green onion, chopped |||| 2 cloves of garlic, chopped |||| 2 teaspoons ginger powder |||| 3/4 cup vegetable oil |||| 1 egg |||| salt and pepper to taste

1. Combine the chicken, water chestnuts, green onion, garlic, ginger powder and salt and pepper in a large bowl.

2. Scramble the egg in a small bowl. To assemble the wontons, lay one wonton wrapper in front of you and place a teaspoon sized amount of the filling in the middle of the wrapper. Moisten the edges of the wonton wrapper with the egg. Fold the wonton wrapper in half lengthwise. Press firmly to seal the edges. Then fold the wonton wrapper over once more. Wet the corners with egg and seal. The finished product should look like a nurse’s cap. (Alternative method: place a teaspoon of filling in the center of the wrapper. Twist and seal. The finished product should look like a the top of a lollipop.)

3. Heat oil in a large skillet with high sides. If you have a thermometer, the oil should be about 360 degrees. If you don’t have a thermometer, test the oil by adding a few drops of water. When the water pops, the oil is hot enough. Add the wontons in small batches. Cook for 2-3 minutes, turning occasionally, until wontons are golden brown.

4. Serve the wontons with cornflower soup and rice. Or just dip them in some soy sauce.

 

OMG I LOVE CHIX WONTONS! These little guys are so crispy, and meaty, and greasy. They are so good because they are so not good for you. CHIX WONTONS are good for a special treat but don’t go eatin them every night for dinner (even though you might want to). The veggie packed cornflower soup is a good balance and rounds out a good DIY Chinese meal. If you want to make this recipe a little healthier, you can boil the wontons in water instead of frying them in oil. But in my humble opinion, the friedness is what really makes these wontons worth making.

It takes awhile to assemble the wontons so make sure that you plan at least 20 minutes for prep time. If you have any left over wonton wrappers, cut them into strips and fry them in the oil. The wonton chips are great on top of the cornflower soup.

I think these CHIX WONTONS have some healing powers. Neil went and broke is clavicle when he got hit by a car on his bike. Then Dana, Jeff and I fed him some CHIX WONTONS and I could tell that busted clavicle was on its way to recovery. As soon as that killer mohawk returns I will know that the CHIX WONTONS served their purpose. Heal on, wontons!

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DIY chinese take out

General Tso’s Chicken

1 pound green beans |||| 1 tablespoon + 3 tablespoons corn starch |||| 4 garlic cloves, minced |||| 2 teaspoons fresh ginger, grated |||| 2 teaspoons paprika |||| 3 tablespoons brown sugar |||| 2 tablespoons + 2 tablespoons soy sauce |||| 1 1/2 teaspoons red pepper flakes |||| 1 tablespoon sesame seeds |||| 2 egg whites|||| 1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast, diced |||| 2 tablespoons vegetable oil |||| salt and pepper

1. In a large bowl, stir together 1 tablespoon cornstarch with 1/2 cup cold water. Add garlic, ginger, brown sugar, 2 tablespoons soy sauce, and red pepper flakes. Add the green beans and evenly coat with sauce.

2. In another bowl, whisk egg whites and 3 tablespoons corn starch. Add about a teaspoon each of salt, pepper and paprika. Add the chicken and coat evenly with corn starch mixture.

3. In a large skillet heat 2 tablespoons vegetable oil. Add chicken to skillet. Once chicken begins to turn brown, add 2 more tablespoons of soy sauce and sesame seeds. Then add the snow peas mixture. Cook until chicken is cooked through, green beans are tender and the sauce has thickened.

Fried Rice

2 cups white or brown rice |||| 1/4 cup green onion, chopped |||| 1/4 cup green pepper, finely chopped |||| 2 eggs |||| 3 tablespoons vegetable oil |||| 1 teaspoon salt |||| 1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce

1. Cook rice according to the directions on the package

2. In a large skillet, heat vegetable oil. Toss in the green onion and green pepper. Cook until tender. Add the cooked rice, salt, and soy sauce. Heat until rice is golden and toasted looking.

3. Hallow a center in the middle of the rice. Break eggs into the hollow. Scramble until semi-cooked, then stir into the rice mixture. Continuously mix the rice until the egg is cooked thoroughly.

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