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Friday, June 30, 2017

Salmon Curry Indian-Style with Coconut Cream

Salmon Curry Indian-Style with Coconut Cream

The very last fillet of salmon, caught by the other adult in Alaska, emphatically insisted on being served as a sublime Indian-style curry full of ambrosial flavor and heady aroma.

Curries, I can make on autopilot. Call it conditioning, call it instinct, call it self-possession... but, it seems rather unlikely to find myself bungling curries. They are the most flexible and tractable of Indian dishes with no single carved-in-stone recipe to befoul, and therefore quite forgiving when I take liberties with the tried-and-tested.

One could simply toss the chopped salmon chunks into the simmering gravy and all will be fine. But, the extra effort that adds a touch of discernible difference is to cook the salmon first on a hot cast iron skillet after gently rubbing with garam masala powder, salt, splashing some fresh lemon juice, and allowing the fish to marinate before searing it on the skillet.

Scoring the skin-on salmon fillet, and marinating as a single large piece rather than cut chunks works best for the skillet-searing, rather than worrying each individual piece to cook uniformly.

Salmon Curry Indian-Style with Coconut Cream


A splash of lemon juice and about half a teaspoon of garam masala powder mixed with a pinch of salt for marinating
A 7-inch long skin-on salmon fillet, scored to separate chunks after cooking
Chopped Vegetables: red bell pepper, onions, kale, peas, potatoes
2 Tablespoon Coconut oil
Salt to taste

For the gravy/curry sauce:
14 oz. can coconut cream

dry roast and grind to powder:
2 cardamom pods
2-inch piece of Indian cinnamon bark
2 cloves
1 teaspoon whole green (or black) peppercorns

grind to fine paste:
½ cup tomato purée
2 teaspoon ginger paste
1 teaspoon minced garlic
½ tsp turmeric powder
1 teaspoon Kashmiri chili powder (or cayenne pepper)

  1. Sear the salmon: Heat a cast iron skillet to high heat, add a tablespoon of coconut oil and place the scored and marinated salmon skin side down and allow to crisp a bit; then flip and cook the salmon till mostly done, it will finish cooking in the curry sauce; by now the skin will easily peel off and the chunks can be separated to individual pieces scored earlier
  2. Start the curry: heat a tablespoon of coconut oil in a saucepan, add the ground paste and saute till aromatic, then add the finely ground powder of dry roasted spices, stir well till well-incorporated, season with salt to taste
  3. Simmer: Add the veggies, salmon, a scoop of water as needed, and simmer for 5 minutes or so, then, stir in the coconut cream, cover, and simmer gently over medium heat till salmon is fully cooked and the curry reduces to a creamy consistency
  4. Serve warm with brown or white basmati rice, or even naan/roti

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Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Salmon with Fig Chipotle Mint Sauce

Salmon with Fig Chipotle Mint Sauce

Looks like there is a theme going on here with the mint and the chipotle.

The thing is, when I open a can of chipotle in adobo sauce, I rarely manage to use up the whole can right away, and what I don't use up right away, I save for later, but don't want to refrigerate it for too long, so, the chipotle finds its way into as many dishes as I manage to make over the next few days.

A portion of the last of the skin-on Salmon fillet needed to be used up as it is nearly a year since it was last caught by the other adult and frozen safely.

Rub the non-skin side of the salmon with butter and chipotle sauce. Heat a cast iron skillet to medium-high heat. Place the chipotle-butter side down and cook till seared. Flip the fish so the skin side is down and cook till it gets crisp, and the salmon is cooked through and flaky.

Fig Chipotle Mint Sauce: In a blender, add a tablespoon of chipotle in adobo sauce, about 8 large mint leaves, and a tablespoon of fig preserves or fig jam, blend coarsely. Then drizzle some lemon juice and olive oil much like making an aioli till the sauce consistency is to your liking.

The sauce may not sport an alluring color, but, it sure exuded an alluring flavor, if one likes the potent combination of fig and mint and chipotle, which I do.

Fresh peapods, kale, and spring onions from the garden got sauteed and thrown onto the plate as the green bed on which the salmon is served, with a drizzling of the fig chipotle mint sauce, plus more sauce on the side.

I do tend to smother the dish with all the green stuff from the garden, which seems like a clutter in the picture... maybe next time I will take the time to compose a plate carefully instead of the quick plate-click-serve routine that I've gotten used to lately.

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Saturday, June 24, 2017

Lingcod Fish Encrusted with Mint, Fennel, and Lemon

Lingcod Fish Encrusted with Mint, Fennel, and Lemon

Fresh mint and fennel from the garden is hard to resist. Being perennials, they come up before the weather warms up for planting basil and lemon grass.

home garden mint

Mix some salt and black pepper with softened butter and rub the fish with it. Dip in flour, dust off excess, and press into Panko seasoned breadcrumbs one one side. For the other side simply place an overlapping layer of fresh mint leaves, then press some breading on top.

Heat oil in a cast iron skillet, place the mint side down and sear the fish, leaving it undisturbed till the coating sets. Then, flip over and cook till the other side is set. Then, move the skillet to a 375°F oven and finish cooking. Remove the fish and set it on the serving plate to rest while the sauce comes together.

Lemon Butter Mint Sauce: Melt some butter in the same pan, squeeze some fresh lemon juice, add some mint and fennel leaves, simmer gently. Spoon over fish before serving.

Spring onions from the garden are another treat, they make a fantastic garnish, which I can't seem to resist.

home garden spring onions

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Saturday, June 17, 2017

Lingcod with Chipotle Garlic Capers Sauce

Lingcod fish with Chipotle Garlic Capers Sauce recipe

Another small hunk of lingcod caught by the other adult in Alaska came in handy for this simple dish.

Sprinkle the fish with some paprika and salt, add a drop of avocado oil and rub the spices in. Dip it into a plate of flour and dust off excess. Then, press into Panko seasoned bread crumbs.

Heat some oil in a cast iron skillet, place the breaded fish and let it sear over medium high heat, leave it undisturbed for 8 minutes or so, depending on the thickness of the slice. Flip and cook the other side the same way, without moving it much, till the breaded coating seals the fish.

Transfer to a 375°F oven and finish cooking till internal temperature of the thickest part is 145°F. Remove from pan and allow to rest on a plate while the sauce is getting ready.

The Chipotle Garlic Capers Sauce: In the same pan, after transferring the fish to a plate, saute some crushed garlic cloves, add some stock and chipotle in adobo sauce, simmer gently till thickened a bit. Stir in capers and spoon over the fish before serving.

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Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Chayote Squash and Wild Rice with Lentils and Quinoa Soup

Chayote Squash and Wild Rice with Lentils and Quinoa Soup

Chewy wild rice along with quinoa add texture to this thick stew-like soup, with the lentils adding body, and chayote squash giving it the slightly unorthodox edge.

I grew up eating chayote squash on a regular basis, usually in lentils-based koottu, or as coconut-based molagoottal. I like its pear-like crispness and mild bland flavor that lends itself well to be incorporated into any dish.

Add in favorite herbs from the garden as a bouquet-garni, some garlic, and some cayenne pepper and the stew comes together quite easily.

For a quicker weeknight meal, I pressure cook the wild rice and lentils in vegetable stock. Then, add in the veggies and seasoning, allow to simmer gently, and serve warm.

Kids were unimpressed by the color of the soup, they would have preferred it not so tan and brown, but, they scooped spoonfuls and enjoyed ti anyway.

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Friday, June 09, 2017

Home-Garden Green Onion Flower Buds Salad

Home-Garden Green Onion Flower Buds Salad

I love scallions, they don't form bulging bulbs and are harvested tender, with the white parts that are milder than pungent regular onions.

But, I really like Spring Onions in my garden. If tended to carefully, they won't bolt, and will grow fine tender bulbs for harvesting. However, since I like the onion buds and flowers, I just let them bolt and go to seed.

Home-Garden Green Onion Flower Buds Salad

Since I continuously harvest the young tender green parts anyway while the onion grows and matures, and since I plant them staggered a few weeks apart, I get a regular supply throughout spring and summer.

The buds/flowers are sharp and peppery, with a pleasant bite that doesn't unclog sinuses.

Home-Garden Green Onion Flower Buds Salad

This salad here was thrown together in a hurry, with some radish greens and kale forming the base greens, topped with capers, red radish, mango, nectarine, grapes, plus strawberries from the garden, garnished with these gorgeous and delicious onion flower buds. A simple citrusy-vinaigrette is all it takes to make this salad special.

Home-Garden Green Onion Flower Buds Salad

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Monday, June 05, 2017

Shiso Pesto with Buckwheat Soba Noodles

Shiso Pesto with Buckwheat Soba Noodles

Back in 2006 and 2007, I was thrilled about growing Shiso in my home garden as it was the early years of my home-gardening, and I liked having herbs handy in the backyard to try different recipes.

A decade later, looks like Shiso is quite readily available in the market when in season and has become a fairly popular and mainstream herb much like cilantro and mint.

A member of the mint family, Shiso leaves can be mostly green to greenish reddish/purplish. Much like my favorite pesto and chutney, I make shiso as pesto or chutney when the mood calls for it, using whatever ingredients I feel like throwing together at that time.

In this recipe, shiso pesto comes together with a confluence of complementary Asian flavors.

Tossed in with some buckwheat soba noodles, sprinkled with toasted sesame seeds, and a side of roasted eggplant and home-garden scallions, shiso certainly takes center stage in this dish.

Shiso pesto as a dip, served with roasted eggplant slices and bell peppers makes a fantastic appetizer.

Shiso Pesto:
½ Tbsp sesame oil
½ Tbsp red miso
½ Tbsp mirin
½ Tbsp rice vinegar
½ Tbsp lime juice
¼ to ½ cup packed shiso leaves
2 to 3 Tbsp sunflower seeds

Grind the ingredients together and adjust to taste.

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Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Citrus Fresh Buckwheat Soba Salad

The crisp freshness of lemon and lime are perfect for cold summer salads. This recipe is inspired by a Japanese friend of mine with whom I exchange cooking tips on and off, among other things.

Dashi is sold in most Asian stores - either made from kombu or different types of fish. Salty Dashi, with some sesame oil, plus the tartness from lime juice and lemon zest makes this salad quite addictive.

Get the dressing ready, mix in the salad vegetables and let it sit while the soba cooks. The recipe here makes enough starter salad for two, or a huge meal for one.

Ingredients for the vinaigrette:
½ cup Seaweed Dashi or strong vegetable stock
½ tsp sesame oil
1 lime - freshly squeeze for lime juice
zest of one lemon
juice of ½ lemon, for additional tang

2 cups Salad Vegetables: For a quick meal, I use packaged kale salad mix plus scallions. Otherwise, whatever is handy -- radish, julienned carrots, sauteed cremini, slivered broccoli stems or other stems like I use for kinpira, ribboned greens, radicchio, purple cabbage...

Cook one bundle of the buckwheat soba per package directions, drain, and rinse in cold water, drain well. Toss in with the dressed vegetables, adjust the dressing as needed.

Served with some vegetable spring rolls and vegetable dumplings, this makes a filling weeknight meal.

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Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Kale and Potatoes Spiced with Turmeric and Berbere

Kale and Potatoes Spiced with Turmeric and Berbere

Saag Aloo/Aloo Palak is an earthy staple side for rotis and rice, made with potatoes (aloo) and palak (spinach).  Aloo Mattar (potatoes+peas), Aloo Gobi (potatoes+cauliflower) are two other favorite sides that are ubiquitous in Indian homestyle cooking.

Hunks of pototoes are cooked till they are fork-tender but still retain their shape; along with any other seasonal greens or other vegetable, mildly spiced with turmeric, chili powder, and salt typically.

This time, for this kale+potatoes dish, I went with turmeric powder and berbere powder which I had some handy from my recent Injera bash.

Saute some garlic and onions, add the diced potatoes, some turmeric powder, salt and berbere powder, splash enough water, cover and cook till potatoes have softened a bit, then add the chopped kale, adjust seasoning and cover and cook till kale wilts. Remove the lid and cook till the dish comes together, stirring sparingly as needed.

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Saturday, May 20, 2017

Beet Lentil Feta Burger Patties

Beet Lentil Feta Burger Patties ethiopian mesir wat zelbo gomen leftovers vegetarian

It is comforting to recognize that I've always liked leftovers. Many fond memories surround the "new" foods I tried as a kid-- foods, as it turns out, that were reconstituted and repackaged leftovers, thanks to my mom who is quite adept at making dishes even more attractive each time she "recycled" them. No wastage in her kitchen.

And, no wastage in mine either. Although I tend to primarily serve portioned plated meals most of the time, there are some weekends that call for family-style meals to be savored over a couple of days.

The recent Injera bash with five sides certainly guaranteed some leftovers, which thrilled me to bits as I can find ways to repackage them.

Leftover Mesir wat (lentils), Zelbo gomen (kale), Yeqey Sir Qiqqil (beets) were perfect starting point.

Add in some leftover brown rice, some feta, and already it screams "Veggie Burger".

Since the leftover mesir wat and gomen can be a bit watery, best to strain out the liquids first, then add the brown rice and feta, minced garlic, and a generous sprinkling of berbere spice mix. Gently pulse to a coarse mass.

It still might need a binding agent to hold it all together. While eggs seem like the standard, I don't typically use it in my patties and cutlets.

So, I went with my favorite Coconut Flour.

kale flower home gardenMix in just enough coconut flour to be able to shape the patties. Just for fun, some Panko breadcrumbs got pressed in till the patties were happy to hold their shape.

Pan-cooking them first to seal both sides and then baking them till firmly set seems to work well for me, but, if preferred, can grill it or pan cook it all the way through.

Who needs buns? Patties are perfect by themselves.

I can't seem to ignore the kale flowers from my garden, they sneak into every food photo I've clicked since they bloomed. They are short-lived, of course, so, soon there won't be any, but at least I'll have these pictures to make me smile when I miss them.

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Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Ethiopian Spiced Stews with Injera

Ethiopian Spiced Stews with Injera alicha wat berbere mekelesha mitmita

Much like the various Masala Spice Powders of India, I enjoy learning about the various spice mixes in cuisines around the world.

Having made Ethiopian foods for nearly a dozen years now, my go-to reference has been Exotic Ethiopian Cooking by D.J. Mesfin.

While the book does not have gorgeous food photos, and the instructions are somewhat loose, I like the Society, Culture, Hospitality & Traditions explained in the introduction, as well as the cooking methods and general tips for "doing it right".

And, nothing beats tasting the foods at Ethiopian restaurants and getting a feel for its flavors and presentation.

The three main spice mix that I like to use are Mitmita, Mekelesha, and, of course, the most popular Berbere, which can be made into a paste rather than a powdery spice mix.

Mitmita is fiery hot spice mix that uses super hot chilies, along with the warmth and comfort of cardamom and cloves. A small dash of this goes a long way in stews/wats.

Ethiopian Spiced Stews with Injera alicha wat berbere mekelesha mitmita

Mekelesha, made with a blend of 7 spices, reminds me of a combination of my favorite South Indian Sambar powder and Northeast Indian Panch Phoron spices. A combination of cumin, Indian cinnamon, cardamom, long pepper (aka pippili), nigella, ajwain/caraway, cloves and nutmeg bring a rich confluence of aroma and flavors to this mix.

Ethiopian Spiced Stews with Injera alicha wat berbere mekelesha mitmita

Berbere, the staple Ethiopian spice mix, is not necessarily a set-in-stone recipe, much like the Sambar and Rasam powders of South India or the Garam masala and Curry powder that are popular all over India. The bright red color from paprika, plus, some chili powder, nigella, ajwain, fenugreek all add up to a fantastic base to flavor many of the Ethiopian dishes that accompany the soft and spongy injeras.

Ethiopian Spiced Stews with Injera alicha wat berbere mekelesha mitmita

Every once in a while, I get these as ready-made mixes from Ethiopian store nearby, where I am told it is sold fresh in small batches so they don't sit on the shelf and grow stale. If I run out of store-bought, I make my own, and for sure each batch comes out a bit different from the previous one, and that's okay as I vary the proportions and don't measure out exactly anyway.

Ethiopian Spiced Stews with Injera alicha wat berbere mekelesha mitmita

For a weekend dinner, Injera with a few sides is quite a satisfying spread. I went with 5 easy sides, along with Yedagussa Injera which is typically made with millet flour, but this time I did equal parts millet + all purpose flour.

Though Injeras are usually made with tef flour, they can be made with chickpea flour, buckwheat, millet, rye, spelt flours, even corn and rice flours. The consistency of the finished pancake will differ in texture and thickness, of course.

Ethiopian Spiced Stews with Injera

Pretty much all of these recipes below are already shared in this blog over the years, so, am just linking to those. Of course, each time, I vary the proportions a bit and the dish comes out just a bit different and that is fine.

Yekik Alicha: Split Pea Sauce. Only, I used split pigeon peas (aka Tuvar dal, in India)

Ethiopian Spiced Stews with Injera yekik alicha mesir wat yabesha gomen

Mesir Wat: Lentils stew using Berbere

Ethiopian Spiced Stews with Injera yekik alicha mesir wat yabesha gomen

Zelbo Gomen: Kale Stew using Mekelesha, cooked much like Y'abesha Gomen

Ethiopian Spiced Stews with Injera yekik alicha mesir wat yabesha gomen

Yeqey Sir Qiqqil: Boiled Beets in Lemon Vinaigrette

Ethiopian Spiced Stews with Injera yekik alicha mesir wat yabesha gomen

Ayib BeMit'Mit'a: Spiced Cottage Cheese, using Mitmita

Ethiopian Spiced Stews with Injera ayib bemitmita cottage cheese

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Saturday, May 13, 2017

Green Jackfruit Taquitos

Green Jackfruit Taquitos

Growing up with young green jackfruit as part of a vegetarian diet, I never gave it much thought, never felt it was supposed to be exotic or that it had the potential to stand in for meat. It was a fantastic element to be relished on its own right, especially in south Indian style cuisine that I was nurtured on.

There are quite a few jackfruit recipes shared here so far, and I've been finding ways to use them in more unconventional dishes as well.

Jackfruit is quite popular in Asian cuisine, especially in Indian cuisine. Not just the ripe fruit used for desserts, and chips, but particularly the young green jackfruit that is treated as a vegetable.

My mom's specialty is "Idi Chakkai" - a Palakkad term for smashed young green jackfruit dish flavored with coconut and chilies, and tempered with mustard seeds and curry leaves. I could not have enough of it when I was young.

Jackfruit seed - nicknamed "jacknut" - is another favorite at home, quite a special treat, even though tons of these get discarded every jackfruit season.

Green Jackfruit Taquitos

The raw green jackfruit when smashed into coarse chunks have the texture of shredded chicken. Being mild in flavor, these raw green jackfruit chunks lend themselves to a variety of deep flavoring, and quite easily make a good meat imitator.

In local Asian grocery stores, various brands of canned young green jackfruit are available at a reasonable price. I prefer the ones canned in water rather than in brine. But, the brined ones are not too salty so they work well in savory dishes.

I've sauteed them with a light coating of barbecue sauce and used them as pizza toppings, and in Sloppy Joes.

In this taquitos recipe, the green jackfruit is flavored with Taco Seasoning and used as a filling with beans and cheese to make scrumptious taquitos.

Simply add beans cheese and seasoned green jackfruit into a corn tortilla, roll it up and bake it, or pan fry it.

Green Jackfruit Taquitos

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Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Fattoush with Grape Molasses, Fenugreek, and Mango Powder

Fattoush with Grape Molasses, Fenugreek, and Mango Powder

Mediterranean foods are perfect for Spring and Summer... well, any time of the year, really, but as fresh produce is abundant around this time of the year, it makes it all the more easier to serve up these bursting-with-goodness options.

Fattoush is a wonderfully fresh salad if one can get the traditional spices, but, suitable substitutions are fine with me. I tend to go MediterrAsian or MediterrIndian with the spices that are handy.

Coating the pita with olive oil and lightly pan-frying them is an extra step I do sometimes to prevent the pita from soaking up the vinaigrette and ending up a soggy mess.

Grape Molasses, one of the original sweeteners, is still a favorite for me, especially in vinaigrettes. I try to keep an extra jar in my pantry, as these are not easy to find in the regular grocery stores. While I don't actively hunt for ethnic ingredients, I can't pass them up when I find them at specialty stores around town that I manage to visit on and off.

MedirrIndian Fattoush Dressing:
Juice of 1 lime
Juice of 1 lemon, plus its lemon zest
2 Tbsp grape molasses
1 Tbsp finely pressed/minced garlic
½ tsp dried mint leaves
1 tsp dried fenugreek leaves
¼ tsp dried mango powder
½ cup extra virgin olive oil, maybe a bit more...
salt to taste

For the salad:
English cucumbers (or burpless Persian cucumbers if available)
cherry or grape tomatoes
seedless red or black grapes
kalamata olives
scallions or red onions or both, thinly sliced
whole wheat pita bread, or naan

Served here with leftover Fenugreek Sesame Oregano Cumin Stuffed Eggplant, plus some wholewheat pita slices, and those gorgeous kale flowers that I am determined to enjoy for the short couple of weeks that they grace my garden.

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Saturday, May 06, 2017

Black Bean Hummus

Black Bean Hummus Dip

Cinco de Mayo is always fun, especially when it is close to a weekend, extending the party.

This black bean "hummus" dip is easy to whip up if using canned black beans. I usually have a stash of pressure cooked beans in the freezer, not just black beans, but pinto, mayo coba, chickpeas, kidney beans, white beans... plus, home-made refried beans as well, so kids can make a quick burrito for themselves.

Nothing fancy here, just used black beans instead of chickpeas, and followed my usual hummus method using garlic, tahini, olive oil, lemon juice, and cilantro instead of parsley.

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Wednesday, May 03, 2017

Fenugreek Sesame Oregano Cumin Stuffed Eggplant

Fenugreek Sesame Oregano Cumin Stuffed Eggplant delectable victuals

There is something beautiful in the shapely elegance, the careless asymmetry, and the deep velvety purpleness of the Eggplant that has always attracted me.

Of course, having grown these beauties at home for almost a decade now, and knowing that not all of them are purple (think orange!), and not all of them sport the same uniform looks, I'd like to think that their differences add to their charm, for sure.

They are not always in season, and I try to eat local, so, it doesn't always work out that I find the right eggplant for the price and origin I am comfortable with. But, when I found these young Black Bells at the market, I couldn't pass them up.

Stuffing vegetables is always fun, mixing up the spices and grains to suit the mood and the vegetable at hand:

Bitter gourd,

Bitter melon,

Ridge gourd,

Snake gourd,



Danish Squash,

Acorn Squash,

Scallop Squash,

 Bell Peppers,

Brussels sprouts,


Sweet Potato Skins,

Portobello Mushrooms,

and of course, Eggplant!

This time, I wanted to bring in the goodness of fenugreek and sesame to the mix. Simmered in a tomato-based sauce, these slit-and-stuffed eggplants were quite a treat, enjoyed even more as leftovers when flavors have had a chance to settle.

The kale in my garden has matured, flowered and gone to seed. Kale flowers get sprinkled on salads when they are handy in the garden. They make a fun garnish for spicy dishes, bringing in their sunny yellow to the dish.

Fenugreek Sesame Oregano Cumin Stuffed Eggplant

Medium eggplants that are easy to slit and stuff
Salt to taste

For the spice mix powder:
1 Tbsp sesame seeds (white or black is fine, I went with white)
2 Tbsp dried fenugreek leaves
1 Tbsp dry oregano leaves
1 tsp cumin seeds
2 Tbsp coriander seeds
2 dry red chilies

For the sauce/gravy to simmer in:
½ cup chopped onions
½ cup chopped tomatoes
6 cloves of garlic
1 Tbsp grated ginger
2 Tbsp raw almonds, soaked in water for about 10 minutes


  1. Slit the eggplant cross-wise, like a plus sign, to separate out the quarters, but still held intact at the stem-end
  2. Rub the insides of the eggplant with some salt and let it sit
  3. Grind the spice mix to a powder; stir some of it with some oil to make a paste
  4. Slather this paste into the slits of the eggplant
  5. Grind the sauce ingredients to a fine paste
  6. Heat some oil in a pan, add this paste and a pinch of salt, saute till rawness of onions is gone
  7. Add some water and stir well to make a slightly runny sauce consistency, then, place the slit-and-stuffed eggplants into this runny sauce, cover the pan, and allow to simmer till eggplants are cooked and the sauce thickens
  8. Turn the eggplant partway, carefully, so, all sides get cooked evenly while still retaining their wholeness
  9. Serve warm with naan or basmati rice

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Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Refreshing Cucumber Mango Sweet Potato Salad

Refreshing Cucumber Mango Sweet Potato Salad

Come spring, I start dreaming about the various fresh vegetables that will start rolling into the market as the season progresses... and the salads I can make with them.

This refreshing cucumber mango salad is marinated in a zesty lime vinaigrette for that extra burst of flavor. Semi-ripe and firm mangoes that are not mushy work best for this salad as they bring the tangy-sweet flavor.

Sweet potatoes are optional, but, since the older child loves them, it gives another dimension to the salad with its texture, and its mildly sweet flavor.

English cucumber, diced chunky
Seedless red grapes, halved lengthwise
Grape or cherry snack tomatoes, halved lengthwise
Celery stalk with leaves, coarsely chopped
Kale leaves, ribboned
Orange bell pepper, diced
Semi-ripe but firm mango, sliced
Shallots or purple onions, sliced thinly

Lemon-Lime Sweet Vinaigrette
2 Tbsp lime juice
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1 Tbsp honey or agave nectar
1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
3 Tbsp ground paste of fresh jalapeno and cilantro**
1 Tbsp cilantro chopped finely for garnish
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp chives
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 garlic clove squeezed through garlic press
6 Tbsp hazelnut oil or walnut oil
salt to taste

**Pulse some fresh cilantro leaves, some fresh de-seeded jalapeno, some oil and apple cider vinegar to make a coarse paste

  1. Massage the kale ribbons with some olive oil and let them sit 
  2. Combine the cucumbers, mango, celery, bell peppers, onions and toss with some salt and the cilantro-jalapeno paste from the step above; allow to marinate while assembling the rest
  3. Pan-roast the sweet potatoes and allow to cool before tossing into the salad
  4. Stir together the vinaigrette ingredients, adjust to taste
  5. Serve layered or tossed, with feta or goat cheese, if preferred

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Thursday, April 20, 2017

Melomakarona-Inspired Honey Orange Walnut Cupcakes

Melomakarona-Inspired Honey Orange Walnut Cupcakes

Cakes not being my favorite, I rarely make them unless the kids ask for it as a treat on birthdays and other special holidays. So far, they've preferred the simple hearty flax-bran-loaded muffins or fruit tartlets or mini pies that I offer as desserts anytime they feel like having a sweet treat.

When I do make a few different kinds of sweets on and off, of course, fruit pies turn out to be one of the top favorites, especially during the berry season when we pick berries from local farms, and later in fall when apples and peaches and cherries rain from the sky.

Cupcakes being my daughter's favorite pastime, along with cake pops -- dreaming up the varieties and drooling over pictures of them in books and web -- I end up making a few with her, based on her current choice.

Speaking of cake pops, and birthdays, she made these Shaun and Shirley cake pops along with some oddly crazy chicks for her brother's birthday. As cloying as I find the candy melts for cake pops, it seems like an easy, quick, satisfying treat that kids can make and decorate on their own. Less work for me, and I don't have to eat it anyway. Microwave Mug Cakes are the easiest to make, which can then be used to make the cake pops.

cake pops sheep shaun ahirley

Back to the Honey Orange Walnut cupcakes, this time, it was the Greek delicacy Melamakarona that inspired them. Honey and Citrus. Fresh and sweet for a springtime indulgence.

Drizzling some freshly squeezed orange juice mixed with honey onto the cupcakes before serving make them moist, almost juicy. The cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg add that warmth and sweetness that enhances the sense of indulgence.

Typically, I don't have self-rising flour handy, so, I mix a small batch every time a recipe calls for it: simply mix 1 cup flour, with 1½ tsp baking powder, plus ¼ tsp salt.

3/4 cup self-rising flour
¼ tsp cinnamon
1/8th tsp ground cloves
1/8th tsp ground nutmeg
5 Tbsp softened unsalted butter
2 Tbsp heavy whipping cream
⅓ cup superfine sugar
2 eggs
2 Tbsp honey
1 Tbsp orange zest
¼ cup minced/chopped walnut pieces
¼ tsp cinnamon
2 Tbsp honey
2 Tbsp freshly squeezed orange juice

Melomakarona-Inspired Honey Orange Walnut Cupcakes


  1. Sift the Dry ingredients into a small bowl
  2. Beat the Wet ingredients until light and fluffy
  3. Fold in the dry ingredients into the whipped wet ingredients and mix gently till well incorporated
  4. Spoon into muffin cups
  5. Bake in a 375°F oven for about 20 minutes
  6. Remove from oven, allow to cool a bit, then prick the cupcakes with a toothpick so it can hold the drizzled toppings
  7. Topping: Stir the honey, cinnamon, and orange juice till well blended, and drizzle spoonfuls on each cupcake; sprinkle minced walnuts and serve warm or chilled

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Monday, April 17, 2017

Fiery Charred Szechuan-inspired Eggplant

Fiery Charred Szechuan-inspired Eggplant

It is no secret that I love eggplant. I may not make eggplant dishes every day, but, when it is in season, I bring home as many varieties as I can find at the market, plus I grow my own favorites in the garden every year when it gets warm enough in these parts: Ichiban, Black beauty, Cloud Nine, Casper, and some heirloom varieties that I can find.

Any variety will be fine for this recipe. The sauce glaze is fairly standard as well. The extra step that boosts this recipe is the initial brining, and then charring over open flame a bit before braising in the sauce.

Brine: ¼ cup salt in 4 cups water
1 medium globe eggplant, cut into thick pieces lengthwise

2 Tablespoon dry white wine
2 Tbsp low sodium soy sauce
1 Tbsp Zhenjiang vinegar
1 Tbsp mirin
1 Tbsp Nam Prik Pow if available, or Sambal oelek

Chopped Thai red chilies, sweet red bell peppers
4 to 6 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tsp sesame oil


  1. Soak the eggplant slices in brine while assembling the other ingredients, for about 15 minutes
  2. Heat the sesame oil in a pot, add the garlic and chilies and peppers and saute till aromatic
  3. Add the sauce ingredients and allow it to simmer
  4. Remove eggplant from brine, pat dry and char it over over flame: I use my roti grill for flame roasting
  5. Drop the charred/flame roasted eggplant in the simmering sauce, cover and allow to cook over low heat for slow braising
  6. Remove the lid when eggplant is mostly done but still firm, not mushy, toss it well till sauce thickens
  7. Serve warm with steamed rice

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Friday, April 14, 2017

Southwest Rice Stuffed Red Peppers

Southwest Rice Stuffed Red Peppers

Stuffed vegetables are always fun. And, not just vegetables, anything that lends itself well to stuffing seems a fair game.

Millet and Lentils Stuffed Golden Danish Squash is a particular favorite in autumn when these dainty squashes flood the local farm markets.

Kohlrabi Greens Dolma Bites is another favorite, especially during the Kohlrabi season when local farms and CSA showcase these lovely bulbs aka enlarged stems above the soil.

Stuffed Kohlrabi in Coconut Cream Sauce is another seasonal favorite much relished by the adults in the house

Stuffed Okra might be an acquired taste for some, but, it seems like another favorite at home.

Zucchini Mahshi, inspired by Lebanese-cuisine, is an easy summer favorite of stuffed zucchini served in a spicy sauce.

Nutty Fruity Rice-Stuffed Swiss Chard Dolmas are perfect when these lovely greens are in season in my home garden.

Anyway, the stuffing this time was rice, flavored with Southwest-inspired spices and vegetables -- corn, black beans, red peppers, onions, ancho chilies with some Taco seasoning mix.

Southwest Rice Stuffed Red Peppers

Brush the red peppers with oil and roast them in the oven for a short time, then stuff with rice and bake for another 10-15 minutes.

Finally, top with some mozzarella and Parmesan and broil right before serving.

Southwest Rice Stuffed Red Peppers

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Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Parmesan Cheese-crusted Roasted Zucchini

Parmesan Cheese-crusted Roasted Zucchini

Zucchini "Pizza", much like Cheesy Eggplant Pizza, is a quick and easy side, sometimes the main dish, for the adults, kids are not quite into it. Yet.

Some tender zucchini were at the market at a good price, although it feels too early for zucchini in these parts it looks like they are yielding fine elsewhere.

Slice them up, brush with oil and pan sear them first. Much like Charred Summer Squash with Pipián Rojo. Then, spread some sauce and top with Parmesan or Smoked Gouda or other favorite cheese and broil for a few minutes and serve warm

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