May 28, 2010

Lettuce Cups

Get ready for something wonderful and flavorful. It is like a party in the mouth. It arouses all your taste-buds -  a combination of salty, sweet, crunchy, cool and warm. Yeah, it is the lettuce cup with pan fried breaded fish and mango-avocado salsa. What is not to like there. Got to try it to believe it!

Lettuce cup with fish and salsa

I made 20 lettuce cups. I wanted to make it bite sized, but it turned out to be really big bites - we ended up using fork to eat them :)  You can make it actual bite size and you will probably end up with 40 cups using this recipe.

Ingredients for pan fried fish

2 white fish fillets ( Cod, Bass, Tilapia or Catfish will work. I used Tilapia.)
1 cup all purpose flour
Salt, Pepper
Cayenne powder
1/2 cup yogurt
Breadcrumbs (I used store bought Italian seasoned bread crumb. You can make yours)
Olive oil
Sage leaves chopped

Heat a pan on a medium high flame. Add couple of TBS of olive oil to the pan.

Pat dry the fish using a paper towel. Cut the fish fillet into bite size cubes and season the cubes with salt, pepper and cayenne.
Set up the breading station by following the steps below.
In a bowl beat the yogurt and season it with salt, pepper and cayenne.
In a wide baking dish or a plate take 2 TBS of flour and season it with salt, pepper and cayenne.
Put the bread crumbs in a plate or wide baking dish.

To bread the fish - add all the fish cubes in the yogurt mixture. Let it hang out there for couple of minutes. After few minutes,  take the fish out of the yogurt mixture and dredge the fish cube in flour.  Shake off the excess flour. After that, coat the fish with yogurt again. Then coat the fish with bread crumbs. Shake off the excess bread crumb.

Pan fry the fish, on each side for 2 to 3 minutes or till it gets golden brown on each side.  Season the fried fish with salt, pepper, cayenne and chopped sage. Season them when they are still hot. It helps the seasonings to stick to the fish. Every time add 3 to 4 fishes to the pan. Repeat this process till you finish frying all the fish cubes.

Ingredients for Avocado-Mango Slasa

Olive oil
1 corn
1 mango
1 avocado
1/2 cup red onion
2 TBS lime juice
Salt, Pepper
Cayenne powder
Cumin powder
1/2 cup chopped cilantro

Take the husk off the corn, rub it with little olive oil, slat, pepper and cayenne. Roast it over the gas burner. Let it cool for a couple of minutes and then take the corn kernel off the cob by using a knife. Chop the mango and avocado into small cubes. Combine roasted corn, mango, avocado and diced onions in a bowl and toss them with salt, pepper, cayenne, cumin powder, lime juice and olive oil. Add 1/2 cup of chopped cilantro to the salsa. Keep aside.

Ingredients for Roasted Tomato and Chipotle salsa

1 roasted plum tomato
1 chipotle chili in adobo sauce
1/2 cup chopped cilanto
1 clove garlic
Olive oil
salt, pepper
Mix all the ingredients in a food processor till you get a smooth salsa.

Ingredients for Lettuce cups
1 iceberg lettuce head
Pan fried fish cubes
Avocado-mango salsa
Roasted tomato-chipotle salsa

Carefully separate the lettuce leaves.  Then tear them into small cups - large enough to hold the fish cubes.  On each cup add a fish cube, 1 full spoon of avocado-mango salsa and a little drizzle of roasted tomato-chipotle salsa. Here is the party I was telling you about! You can use room temperature or slightly warm fish for this. I think it tastes good either way.
You can use this pan fried fish and roasted tomato-chipotle slasa for dinner as well. I served red cabbage salad and some arugula leaves with the fish. I used a very simple light dressing (olive oil, red wine vinegar, salt, pepper, little honey) for the reg cabbage salad.

May 23, 2010

Walnuts and Chocolate Chip Biscotti

I don't like sugar in my coffee, but I like to dip something little sweet and little firm - something like biscotti, the double baked cookies. I fell in love with them while watching a cooking show on television. The slender and sexy look did the trick for me. Then when I ate them for the first time it was like heaven in my mouth. After finishing my Masters, when I was looking for a job, I made a batch of biscotti and they accompanied my morning and evening coffee everyday during my job search process. Luckily I found the job soon, otherwise I would have needed to go on the serious dieting schedule.  I just can't resist these baked goodness.

Walnuts and Chocolate Chip Biscotti Recipe

2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 cup sugar
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup or 1 stick of unsalted butter
2 eggs
1/2 tsp of orange zest
1 tsp of coarsely ground fennel seed
1 cup dark chocolate chips
3/4 cup chopped walnut

Preheat the oven to 350 degree F.

Cream the butter and sugar using a wooden spoon or a electric mixer. Add one egg at a time to the mixture. Add orange zest to the mixture. Keep aside this wet ingredient mixture.

Combine flour, salt, baking powder and fennel seed together in a bowl. Then incorporate the dry ingredient slowly into the wet ingredient mixture. Fold in the chocolate and walnuts in the mixture. At this point the batter should feel like a soft dough.

Line a baking sheet with a parchment paper. Make two (2 inch thick and 5 inch long) logs out of the dough and put them on the parchment paper. Bake them for 35 minutes in the preheated oven.
Take them out of the oven and then cool for 10 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 300 degree F.Then cut those logs at an angle using serrated knife. If you try to cut the logs when they are still hot, you won't get a clean cut of the biscotti. Since the dough is still soft, it will break while cutting.
Bake the biscottis for 20-25 minutes or till they get golden brown in a 300 degree oven. Transfer the biscottis to a cooling rack and hold them there till they have completely cooled down.

May 17, 2010

Tortilla Espanola - Snack and Sandwich

Tortilla Espanola is a thick omelet with potato and onions. It can be served hot or at room temperature. It tastes good irrespective of the temperature, it is very versatile. I made this for a dinner party I had a couple of weeks back. I served it as an appetizer on a slice of baguette at room temperature.  I also used it for my open faced sandwich and this time served it warm. Both ways it was delicious.

To make Tortilla Espanola, instead of frying potato and onion, I pan fried the vegetables. I made sauce out of pumpkin seed, cilantro and parsley to pair with the tortilla espanola wedges.

Tortilla Espanola - Snack and Sandwich Recipe

Tortilla Espanola
1 big  russet potato
1/2 of a white onion ( about 1 cup)
1/2 TBS olive oil
salt and pepper
3/4 cup sweet peas
1/2 tsp cumin powder
1/2 tsp cayenne 
chopped parsley
6 eggs

Peel the potatoes and cut it into small cubes. Do a rough chop on the onion. Then add oil to a pan, when oil gets medium hot add potato,onion, salt and pepper to it. Stir fry it till the potato gets soft. Add frozen sweet peas. Stir it till it takes chill off from the frozen peas. Then add cumin powder and parsley to the potato and onion mixture. Let the mixture cool down, otherwise it will scramble the eggs when you add it to the egg mixture.

Lightly beat the 6 eggs in a bowl. Add salt, pepper, cumin, cayenne to the egg mixture.  Combine the eggs and potato-onion mixture.

Add oil to a non-stick skillet. When the oil gets moderately hot, add the egg mixture. Cover it with a lid and turn the stove to medium-low heat. Let it sit for few minutes till the edge starts to settle. Then flip the omelet using a fish spatula. Fish spatula really helps in keeping the omelet intact. If  the omelet breaks a little that is not a big deal! Then after flipping the omelet cover it with a lid and cook it on a low flame for five more minutes till the omelet gets floppy and eggs cook through. By that time the omelet will have a nice brown color on it too.

Pumpkin seed green sauce 
1 cup of toasted pumpkin seed
1 cup of fresh cilantro
1/2 cup fresh mint
1 tsp chopped jalapeno
1 garlic clove
1 tsp lemon zest
Juice of 1 lemon
Salt and Pepper
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup home made chicken stock or water

Combine all the ingredients except oil and chicken stock in the food processor. Process until the mixture gets smooth. While the food processor is running, add in the olive oil. You can thin out the sauce using water. I had home made chicken stock at hand, so for more flavor I used it to thin out the sauce.

Tortilla Espanola wedge on baguette

Cut the baguette into 1/2 inch slices. Put a small tortilla espanola wedge on the baguette slice and top it with the pumpkin seed green sauce

Tortilla Espanola sandwich

Take a whole grain bread slice, spread the pumpkin seed green sauce on it. Add a large warm tortilla espanola wedge and arugula on the bread slice. This makes a really good, tasty sandwich.

May 7, 2010

Non-traditional English Trifle

We had some friends over for dinner last weekend. For dessert I made a non-traditional English trifle.  Instead  of lady-fingers, I used home-made lemon yogurt cake - which was very light and it didn't have butter for a change :)  I layered cake and mango-yogurt sauce and topped it with chopped mango and black berry sauce.

Someone in my house thought that the pattern I made on the dessert looked like Chinese armor and named it a 'Ming Mango Cake'. I won't mention the name of that person - who couldn't stop laughing for at least half an hour.

The yogurt cake had cardamom and saffron in it. I had some Swedish cardamom rolls couple of weeks back which was made by a student in my class. The cardamom flavor in the roll was enticing as well as surprising. In many Indian desserts cardamon is used as a flavoring agent, but I had never had cardamom in a baked good before. Since the non-traditional English trifle is English with Indian flavor, I used cardamom and saffron instead of vanilla. Actually, I used saffron because I have always liked the 'kesar pista'  flavored Indian ice cream. Kesar is the Indian name of saffron and pista is pistachio - which I have used in the mango-yogurt sauce.

The mango sauce is inspired by lassi - mango-yogurt based Indian drink. The black berry sauce added one more level of complex tanginess to the dessert along with piquant taste from mango-yogurt and sharpness from the lemon-yogurt cake.

Non-traditional English Trifle Recipe

Lemon-yogurt cake
11/2 cup flour
11/2  tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1  tsp cardamom powder
1 cup whole milk yogurt
1 1/2 cup sugar
3 eggs
Few saffron strands
1 tsp lemon zest
1 cup vegetable oil

Preheat the oven to 350 degree.

Stir all the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl. In another mixing bowl combine yogurt, sugar, eggs and mix them well. Add oil to the wet mixture. Slowly add the dry ingredient mixture to the wet ingredients and mix them well. Add lemon zest and cardamom to the batter. Soak a few saffron strands in a little bit of warm water and add it to the batter. The warm water helps to bring out the flavor and color in saffron. Line a loaf pan with parchment paper. I used a disposable 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 x 1/2 inch loaf pan. Pour the batter in the loaf pan and bake for 45 minutes or till a fork comes out clean of the center of the cake. After the cake is done, let it completely cool on a cooling rack.

Mango-Yogurt sauce
1 quart whole milk yogurt (try to use Greek yogurt which is much thicker)
1 30 oz canned mango pulp
1/2 cup chopped pistachio

If you are not using Greek yogurt then put the yogurt on a cheese cloth and squeeze out the water from the yogurt. Then add mango pulp and chopped pistachio to the yogurt. I added the entire can of mango pulp to the thick yogurt. Since the pulp is sweet it doesn't need any extra sugar. But if you don't like the strong mango flavor, you can go easy on mango pulp.

Blackberry sauce
12 oz black berry
1/2 cup simple syrup - which is made of 1/2 cup water and 1/2 cup sugar

Simple syrup - add sugar and water in a pan and bring it to a boil.

Let the sugar cool down a little and then blend the simple syrup and black berry together. Pass the sauce through a sieve to get rid of the seed.

Layering of the Trifle
1 lemon yogurt cake
Mango yogurt sauce
Blackberry sauce
1/2 cup freshly chopped mango

I used a pyrex 8-inch  baking dish to layer the trifle. Layer the bottom of the dish with slices of lemon cake, then add half of the mango-yogurt sauce and half of the freshly chopped mango. Add another layer of cake followed by rest of the mango-yogurt sauce. Then make the 'ming' pattern using the blackberry sauce :) Take a look at the picture - the black lines are the black berry sauce.  Then garnish the square made out of blackberry sauce with chopped mango. Let it chill in the fridge at least for a day. The longer you keep it, the better it tastes.

The two sauces are very versatile. You can make instant dessert if you have some left over sauce. Top any sweet cookie or wafer with a dollop of mango-yogurt sauce and a little blackberry sauce. It looks sensational and even tastes amazing.

I made this mini dessert by topping Nilla vanilla wafer with both of these sauces.

May 5, 2010

Egg Salad Sandwich

Egg salad sandwich is the perfect cold sandwich for lunch. But if you prepare it in advance it will be really soggy by lunch time. The other day, I made a egg salad sandwich for lunch and to avoid the sogginess I replaced mayo with baked potato which helped in binding the whole sandwich together without making it soggy. In addition to that I toasted the bread which also prevented the sandwich from getting mushy. I also added leek and chipotle and tomatillo chutney to give it a nice smokey, sweet and sour flavor.

Egg Salad Sandwich Recipe
2 slices of whole grain bread
1 hard boiled egg
1/2 of a yukon gold potato boiled
1 medium chopped leek
2 tsp of tomatilo, chipotle chutney (recipe follows)
Chopped cilantro or parsley
Salt and pepper

Ingredients for Tomatillo Chipotle chutney
2 tomatillo
1 chipotle chili in adobo sauce
2 cloves of garlic
1/2 cup cilantro
Roasted cumin seed
Salt and Pepper
1/2 tsp olive oil
1/4 tsp honey

To make the chutney, roast the tomatillo in a 450 degree oven for 15-20 minutes or till it gets a nice char on it. Then add the roasted tomatillo, chipotle chili and garlic cloves to a food processor and chop it fine. You can leave it a little chunky or make a fine saucy chutney out of it. I made the smooth chutney for the sandwich. Then stir in salt, pepper, cumin powder, little drizzle of honey and chopped cilantro.

Clean and slice the leek and saute it in a medium hot pan till it gets little color.

Take the egg and cold water in a pan. The water should cover the egg. Bring it to a boil over medium flame. Then switch off the stove and cover the pan with a lid. After 12 minutes put the egg in ice cold water till it cools down. Peel off the shell and you will have the perfect hard boiled egg. Twelve minutes is not very exact, you can leave the eggs there for a few more minutes, the yolk color will still be bright yellow without any greenish ring around it.

In a bowl, mix half of a yukon gold potato, hard boiled egg, sauteed leek, chutney, salt and pepper. Mix them well with a fork, don't over-mix it.

Toast the bread using a hot pan on a stove top. Then to assemble the sandwich, put the mixture on the toasted bread and add another piece of bread on top of it.