Oven-roasted Asparagus

Beautiful image from Oklahoma Academy Country Store on Unsplash

I planted Asparagus in a back corner of my garden several years ago and always kind of forgot about it, until it was a giant mass of ferns. Yesterday, I checked and there were 7-8 beautiful little stems coming up! So I harvested them and we had them for supper last night, using a recipe from Allrecipes.com. Really fresh asparagus is such a treat!

Ingredients

2 Tbsp Olive Oil
1½ Tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp kosher salt
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbsp lemon juice

1 bunch thin asparagus spears, trimmed into bite-sized pieces.

Preheat oven to 425. Mix everything in a bowl, and add asparagus. Pour out onto a baking sheet and bake 12-15 minutes (longer if the stems are thicker). Remove from oven, and splash with just a bit more lemon juice.

Mustafa’s Daal (Lentils)

After visiting Kumy’s Mom at the beginning of last year, we were reminded how incredibly delicious Pakistani food is!  We were also lucky enough to learn how to make Daal from Mummy’s cook, Mustafa, who is an amazing cook.

It’s a fairly easy recipe, and uses a “bagaar” to add flavor.  It was one of the first things we made when we got back.  I’m happy to say it was just about as good as Mustafa’s and a welcome reminder of our visit back “home”.

Ingredients:

1 cup Masoor Daal (small, round, split red lentils)
1/2 cup Moong Daal (small, oval split yellow lentils)

4 cups water
2 tsp crushed garlic
1 tsp salt
1 1/4 tsp ground cayenne pepper (use less if you don’t like spicy)
1/4 tsp turmeric
3/4 cup diced onions
3/4 cup diced tomato
1/2 jalapeno, diced, optional
1/4 cup cilantro, rough-chopped, optional

Bagaar:
2 Tbsp oil
1 1/2 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
1 1/4 tsp whole cumin
3 dry red chilis (small, round ones, but you can use two long red ones instead.)

Wash both daals well, swirling and rinsing until the water is mostly clear. Add to a large pot. Then add water, garlic, salt, cayenne, turmeric, onions and tomatoes. Cook 30-40 minutes.

Whisk well and add water to get a thick gravy consistency, as needed. You can also use an immersion blender to puree the daal, but be careful not to over do it. Add Jalapeno and Cilantro, and cook 10 minutes more.

In a small frying pan, heat the oil and add the rough-chopped garlic, and dried red peppers. Cook for a minute or two and then add the cumin seeds. Cook 30 seconds more and pour oil mixture right into the daal. Stir to combine and serve with basmati rice or Naan. Can also add a squeeze of lemon when serving if you wish.

Pan Seared Salmon with Lemon Garlic Cream Sauce

My dear friend Tammy came over yesterday and we made dinner together. Fresh asparagus from the garden, roasted butternut squash salad, and this amazing salmon dish, cooked in a cast iron skillet. We ate in the backyard as the sun slowly set and it was truly magical.

Tammy actually made the salmon dish and it was just incredible! Kumy said, “this is it – we don’t need to try any other salmon recipes” and I have to say I agree! We got the recipe from Katerina on Diethood.com, with a few modifications.

Ingredients:

2 Tbsp olive oil
4 (6 oz. each) skin-on salmon fillets
salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste

For the Lemon Garlic Cream Sauce

1 Tbsp butter
1 cup half & half
1/2 Tbsp all purpose flour (or 3/4 tsp cornstarch for a gluten-free version)
1/3 cup grated Pecorino Romano (or Parmesan) cheese
2 Tbsp lemon juice
3 big cloves garlic, roughly minced
1 tsp dried dill
3/4 tsp dried thyme
salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

Heat a cast iron skillet on medium high heat and add the olive oil. Season the salmon on both sides with salt and pepper and add the salmon fillets, skin side down. Let cook for 6 minutes without moving or lifting the fish.

Gently flip the fish over and let it cook 2 more minutes, then remove to a plate.

While fish is cooking, whisk together the half & half, flour, cheese, lemon juice, garlic, dill and thyme in a small bowl. Add ½ tsp salt, and 1/4 tsp black pepper to start. (You can always add more salt and pepper at the end.)

Remove any skin that has stuck to the skillet, and reduce the temperature to medium. Add the butter, let it melt and then pour in the sauce. Bring to the boil, then reduce heat to a simmer, whisking constantly for a minute or so until the sauce starts to thicken. Add the fish carefully into the sauce, skin side down, and cook for 2-3 minutes. Leave the tops of the salmon uncovered so it looks pretty.

So good!

Brazilian Seafood Stew (Moqueca)

I made this remarkably delicious stew last night and it’s a keeper. With a coconutty, fresh lime and cilantro focus, it’s light and the fish and shrimp taste wonderful with it. I’ve tweaked a recipe originally from the New York Times, and everything is very easily available except Dende oil. It may be worth ordering some – since I will definitely make this again.

Ingredients

12 oz peeled, deveined shrimp
12 oz cod fillet, cut into 1″ pieces
kosher salt
2 limes (juice of one and the other cut into wedges)
2 Tbsp olive oil (Or Dende oil – traditional but less easily available)
4 garlic cloves, crushed
1 small yellow onion, chopped
2 large bell peppers, cut into 1/4″ slices, and halved
1 can Ro-tel tomatoes, drained and juice reserved (Or 1 lb. tomatoes, cut in 1″ wedges, and 1 Scotch Bonnet pepper, whole and pricked all over with a a knife.)
1 13.5 oz can of coconut milk
1/4 cup fresh chopped cilantro
steamed rice for serving

Directions

In a bowl, squeeze the juice of one lime and add 1 tsp salt. Place fish chunks in bowl and let marinate.

In a large, deep frying pan, heat olive oil. Add garlic and cook for a minute, then add onions and cook another few minutes. Turn heat up a bit and add the peppers and drained Ro-tel tomatoes. (Save the juice!) Saute for 5 minutes or so, until the peppers are starting to soften.

Reduce heat and add the coconut milk, the Ro-tel juice and simmer about 10 minutes. Add half the chopped cilantro, and the shrimp and cook 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Gently place fish and marinade into the pan, and cook 2-3 more minutes until fish is cooked through. Taste and add salt if needed.

To serve, place some steamed rice in the bottom of the bowl and ladle stew over. Top with a squeeze of fresh lime and more chopped cilantro. Delish!

Chicken Karahi (Stew)

I’ve always loved Chicken Karahi from when we lived in Karachi, but really never made it until I snagged a Shan Masala mix for it. It’s a surprisingly easy dish and Kumy and I both loved it with fresh hot Roti (like whole wheat tortillas.) Another good Shan Masala mix – though it’s pretty spicy when made as directed on the box. I might try doing half the mix in the box if you don’t like things too spicy, or using just one chili.

Also – you’ll note that the recipe on the box calls for 1 1/2 cups of oil, and a 1/2 cup of butter, but have mercy – that’s just too oily! The oil and butter are important to this recipe though, so 1/2 cup of oil and the 1/4 cup of butter are about right.

Ingredients

1/2 to 1 box Shan Karahi Seasoning Mix
3 lbs. boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into bite-sized chunks
2 Tbsp crushed garlic, or 1 tsp garlic powder
1 Tbsp grated ginger
2 Tbsp ginger, julienned
5 tomatoes, diced
4 little green chillies
(You can also substitute 1 can Rotel and ½ can diced tomatoes for the tomatoes and chillies.)
½ cup olive oil + 1 Tbsp olive oil
½ stick butter
3 Tbsp fresh chopped Cilantro

Mix crushed garlic, grated ginger and shan masala mix in a medium bowl. Add chicken chunks and stir until everything is well coated. Let sit for at least 15 minutes.

Heat oil in a medium saucepan, and add meat mixture. Stir fry 5-6 minutes on high heat. Reduce heat and add juliened ginger, cvoer and cook for 10 minutes on low heat.

In a separate pan, heat a Tbsp of olive oil, and saute tomatoes and peppers for a minute or two stirring frequently. Reduce heat and cook 5-6 more minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add cooked tomatoes and peppers to the chicken mixture, and increase heat to medium. Cook stirring gently but frequently to prevent burning.

Stir in butter and garnish with Cilantro.

Serve with Naan, roti or tortillas.

New Year’s Day Hoppin’ John

It’s a Southern tradition to eat Hopping John (Black-eyed Pea Stew) on New Year’s Day for good luck all year, and this year, I’m not taking any chances!

I started with Ree Drummonds recipe. Ree adds a ham hock and says that you can also add a can of diced tomatoes, or a few cups of torn-up Kale. I skipped the ham hock, but may try the tomatoes or kale the next time I make it. If you don’t like black-eyed peas, it’s also good with black beans – it’s a great, comforting dish perfect for a cold Winter’s Day!

Ingredients:

4 Tbsp butter (or 2 Tbsp bacon drippings & 2 Tbsp olive oil) (Or just 4 Tbsp olive oil for a vegan version)
1 large yellow onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 bell pepper, any color, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
3 14-oz cans black-eyed peas, drained and rinsed
1 quart chicken stock (or veggie stock for vegan)
1 tsp Kosher salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
Good pinch of red pepper flakes
2 tbsp. white wine vinegar
White rice

Heat butter or bacon drippings and oil in a cast iron skillet. Add, onions, bell pepper and celery. Saute for about 5 minutes, until onions are translucent. Add garlic and saute another 2-3 minutes.

Add black-eyed peas, chicken stock and seasonings. Don’t add the vinegar yet! Bring to a simmer, cover and let cook 30 minutes. Remove lid, stir and let cook another 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add vinegar and stir. Check seasonings. Serve in a bowl over hot rice.

Baked Apple Oatmeal

Another MelsKitchenCafe recipe – and I like this because you can prep it ahead of time and it isn’t overly sweet. It makes a great breakfast on a cold morning, but you could even use this as a treat with afternoon tea. Or as a weeknight dessert, served with a dollop of sweetened, whipped cream.

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups old-fashioned regular style oats
3/4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp freshly ground Nutmeg
1/4 – 1/3 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 cups milk
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
2 T butter, melted, (omit for a vegan version)
2 large apples, cored and chopped (no need to peel) (I used Gala, but really you can mix it up.)

Mix oats, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and brown sugar. If you like things a bit sweeter, use the larger amount of brown sugar.

Mix the milk, egg, vanilla and melted butter, and pour into the oats. Stir gently to combine

Place chopped apples in the bottom of a 9×9 cake pan, (or a 9×12 pan as shown) and top with the oatmeal mixture. You can cover and hold this overnight, or you can bake it straight away at 350 degrees for about 35 minutes. Delish!

Beautiful, Chunky Roasted Veggies

I love roasted vegetables, but sometimes forget how much veggies shrink while cooking. By cutting the chunks larger, and spreading them out, you can get wonderful flavor without overcooking them. Plus all of these truly beautiful vegetables are hardy, so you can prep this early and roast them later.

Ingredients

1 large red onion, halved and cut into eighths
1 medium yellow onion, halved and cut into quarters
2 small zucchini, cut lengthwise and into 2″ pieces
2 small summer squash, cut lengthwise and into 2″ pieces
2 green bell peppers, cut into 2″ pieces
2 red bell peppers, cut into 2″ pieces
1 carton baby Portabella mushrooms, sliced thickly
1/2 head of cauliflower, cut into florets
2 blue potatoes, halved and cut into 3/4″ slices

3 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp garlic powder
good-sized pinch each of Oregano, Basil, Red Pepper Flakes & Parsley
smaller pinch each of Rosemary and Thyme

Mix oil and spices in a small bowl. Pour a little extra olive oil on two baking sheets and sprinkle a little more garlic powder, salt and black pepper on them. Spread around with your hand, and then dump the vegetables on one pan. Pour the olive oil mixture over and toss gently until all of the veggies are coated. Spread the veggies evenly on the two trays and bake at 425 for 25-30 minutes. Give them a bit of a stir half way through. The veggies should still have all their beautiful colors, but still be nicely cooked.

These vegetables are so beautiful:

Palak Paneer

Beautiful Baby Spinach from Pille-Riin-Priske on Unsplash.com

I’ve always loved Palak Paneer, but had never tried to make it. We had Samir’s birthday supper last night and I made it, along with Biryani and a really delicious Mango Trifle, which I’ll add soon. Kumy made his amazing Potatoes, too.

I used a modified version of Swasthi’s recipe from IndianHealthyRecipes.com, which was excellent, if a bit confusing. Basically, you cook the spinach mixture first, and then the spice, onion tomato mixture. You add the spinach back in near the end, and Paneer goes in last, just before serving. It’s actually fairly easy.

It looks like a million ingredients, but they all go together beautifully.

Part 1:

2 Tbsp oil
4 green chilies (Long, skinny ones, seeded) or 2 small/medium Jalapenos, seeded
1 lb. organic baby spinach, washed and well-drained
20 cashews (unsalted or salted is fine)

Part 2:

2 Tbsp butter
1/2 tsp cumin seeds, whole
2 green cardamoms, whole
1″ cinnamon stick, whole
4 cloves, whole

1.5 cups onions, finely chopped
2 tsp fresh grated ginger
2 tsp crushed garlic

1 14 oz. can crushed or petite-diced tomatoes with juices in can. (Can carefully buzz with an immersion blender in the can if you want a smoother curry.)
1.5 tsp salt

1 tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp dried fenugreek leaves
12 oz. Paneer, cut into 1/2″ cubes

In a dutch oven, heat oil. Saute chillies, cashews and spinach until spinach is completely wilted, but still bright green. Remove from heat, transfer into a bowl and let cool. Use an immersion blender or food processor to buzz the spinach into a smooth mixture.

Melt butter in the dutch oven and add the whole spices. Let cook until the spices are starting to sizzle a bit – maybe a minute or two. Add the onions and cook until golden – about 8-10 minutes. Add the ginger and garlic and cook, stirring constantly for 1-2 minutes.

Add tomatoes with juice and salt. (If you used salted cashews, go easy on the salt.) Cook for several minutes until the tomatoes start to break down. If you buzzed the tomatoes, you’ll have a smoother curry. If you left the tomatoes in chunks, you’ll have a chunkier curry. Both are fine.

Add the garam masala and about 1 cup of water to the pan, and cook down until you have a nice, fairly thick gravy consistency. When in doubt – let it get a little drier. You can always add a bit of water at the end to loosen it up if you need to.

Add the spinach mixture and the dried Fenugreek leaves. Cook another 2-3 minutes to bring it back to the simmer. Taste and add a bit of salt if needed, and if it’s very thick, add a couple of spoons of water.

Add the paneer and mix gently to coat with curry.

Serve with Naan, or roti.

Vanna’s Nam Van – Coconut Milk & Fruit Dessert

Our dear friend Vanna is the most amazing cook.  Literally everything she makes is the best I’ve ever eaten – no matter what she’s cooking!

Last night she was in town and made supper for all of us, including one of my favorite desserts – Nam Van, and she shared the recipe with me.

Nam Van is a popular dessert in Southeast Asia, and it’s a fruity, coconut milky dessert that’s unlike anything you’ll ever try. More liquid than a pudding, it’s refreshing and not overly sweet. The green jelly make it a pretty light green color, too.

We are lucky to have a great Asian Market close by, so we were able to pick up all the components, but you can always order these items online as well.  All the fruit and coconut milk was Arroy-D, and the green jelly is Chin Chin brand.

Next time I’ll photograph it before it’s all gone!

Ingredients:

1/2 cup palm sugar (or 1/3 cup brown sugar)
1/2 cup water

1 can lychees in syrup  (save lychee syrup)
1 can longans in syrup
1 can rambutans in syrup
1 can toddy palm seeds
1 can jackfruit in syrup

3 cups of coconut milk (We used Arroy-D cartons.)
2 cups ice
2 cans Green Jelly (We got Chin Chin brand)

1 cup fresh cantaloupe chunks
1 cup fresh muskmelon chunks

Make a simple syrup with palm sugar and water, by heating them in a pan until it comes to the boil and the sugar is completely dissolved. Remove from heat and let cool.

Open all the cans of fruit. Drain the syrup and rinse all the fruit.  Be sure to save the lychee syrup – you’ll add it back in later!

Palm seeds are oddly slick and sticky at the same time, but add a wonderful chewy texture. Don’t freak out – just put them in a colander and rinse them really well.

Place all rinsed, canned fruit into a large bowl.

Add the coconut milk, lychee syrup and about half the simple syrup. Stir the fruit gently until well mixed. Add ice and stir more until the mixture is a little chilled.Stir very gently and taste – adding more of the simple syrup as needed.

Shake the jelly out of the can, and cut it into 1/2″ cubes.  Cut melons into chunks and add both to the coconut fruit mixture, again stirring very, very gently.

Refrigerate at least a couple of hours.

To serve, add a little crushed ice to a bowl or cup and fill with fruit and coconut mixture. The ice helps keep it cool.

You could probably save time by refrigerating the cans and carton of coconut milk overnight so they’re cold to start with.  Still add ice to the mix and to the cup – this lightens the milk a bit.