Tuesday, September 27, 2011

A Note

Hi Everyone,

     This is not a real post. This is just something I really want to say. Today, I looked into my fridge with despair. Other than an unopened packet of turkey and a bunch of kale that I boiled yesterday to use throughout the week, I really had nothing. But, I do not have time to grocery shop! I have two midterms and two papers due next week people. It is crunch time. Also, its raining. Which has more to do with it.

     Anyway, there was a packet of linguine in my pantry and that kale in the fridge, and I thought: well, I can do some kind of kale in pasta sauce for dinner. But as my pasta was boiling away, I had an epiphany! Why not cook the kale again in a simple olive oil and lemon "sauce" with some pepper? And once I had a little pot of a tablespoon of olive oil, some lemon juice, and generous grindings of pepper of course I had to add some dried basil to it...or a lot. So, I mixed everything together and dumped in my kale. It got all nice and hot, I added a little more olive oil, stirred in my cooked linguine so it got all nice and shiny with my improvised "sauce" (I don't know what you call an olive oil sauce...is it just a mixture? a dressing?), and slid it onto my plate.

     And what this very long-winded story is leading to is this: First off, I had a dinner which I wolfed down in five minutes. It took me barely longer than that to make, and just three or four ingredients. So what I want to say is, don't give up on cooking. I know we're all busy and to everyone who's in college, I'm in college too! (Though my kitchen is probably bigger and nicer than yours, I know this....it is one of the reasons I chose this apartment...) But anyway, once you start cooking, whether from recipes or out of your head, you can eat simple, absolutely delicious food any time. I just ate a bunch of kale for dinner! Who'd have thunk. Cooking doesn't have to be complicated, and it doesn't have to take a lot of time, ingredients, or money. So when you get the chance, or the space, cook a little! You'll be happy with where it takes you.

Much love,

PS. If you want to make pasta cooking time shorter and you have an electric kettle, boil a ton of water in the kettle, and then transfer it to the pasta pot! It'll be at a rolling boil in no time, and you don't have to be waiting for that pot to boil while your stomach growls and growls.

Thursday, September 22, 2011



     I love pizza. It makes me happy. The gooey cheese strands suspended in air as you hold up a perfect slice of Domino's (yes, Domino's!)...just the thought of it makes my mouth water. But you cannot have Domino's all the time. Especially if you are eating dinner by yourself on a week night, there are some limits to one's pizza eating capabilities- or mine at least.

     So what do I do on such weeknights? I make my own pizza! And why is this possible? Because I went to Trader Joe's and bought the amazing pizza crust! I am such an ad for their pizza dough. I've used it three times, in every one of my pizza recipes. I just can't help it, it's so convenient, and so good, and only a dollar! (Definitely also the third time I've said that.)

     I also had lovely fresh vegetables. There's something about a pizza loaded with tons of veggies but also some fresh mozzarella cheese that is just irresistible to me. It is so healthy! Obviously that's not why its irresistible though, sigh, that would be because of the lovely golden cheese. If things were irresistible to me based on healthiness life would be so easy. Instead my mom keeps telling me both sides of my family have diabetes, and I better watch out on the sugar. The desserts will be back though. Don't worry. I was healthy today, I can be unhealthy tomorrow!

     But for today, we are going to stick with my lovely mushroom, spinach, and tomato pizza. I didn't even use pizza sauce! Once you break out of the tomato sauce / cheese mold of pizza making, pizza can not only get a lot healthier, it can also come in endless forms. So, I just sauteed up my veggies, cut some nice slices of tomatoes and dried them out on the pan (otherwise you will get soggy pizza, I am sad to say), then dumped them all over my lovely pizza crust - which was off course brushed with olive oil. That makes up for a sauce all by itself. Then it baked. Then I ate it. And it was delicious. But that's redundant, you knew that already. How could it not be! So if you are staring at those fresh veggies with tired eyes, put them on pizza and everything will be OK again.

Mushroom, Spinach, Tomato Pizza

1 16 oz ball of Trader Joe's Pizza Dough
OR Enough Pizza Dough for a 12'' diameter thin-crust pizza 
2 tbsp Olive Oil 
1 Large Tomato, Cut into thin round slices 

1 cup Baby Spinach Leaves
1/2 cup White Button Mushrooms, Sliced
1 tsp Oregano 
1 tsp Basil 
1/2 tsp Black Pepper
1/2 tsp Salt 1/4 cup Mozzarella Cheese (I used half of the Ball of Mozzarella cheese you can get at TJ's)

If your pizza dough is in the fridge, make sure to take it out 20 minutes before you plan to use it. And pre-heat your oven to 425 degrees.

In a large frying pan, heat 1 tbsp of olive oil at medium heat. Once it is heated, add the spinach and mushrooms. Allow the spinach to wilt, then add the basil, oregano, and salt. Mix everything, cooking for about a minute. Then, place the spinach and mushrooms in a separate bowl. Take the thin slices of tomato and lay them on the bottom of the pan, allow them to cook for a minute on both sides, letting excess liquid run off the slices.

Take a large baking sheet and smear it with a little olive oil. Roll out the pizza dough a little and then put it on the baking sheet and press it down until it fills most of the sheet. Brush 1 tbsp of olive oil all over the top of the crust. Top it with the tomatoes, and then the spinach and mushroom mixture. Sprinkle the pepper over the top. Lastly, roughly shred the mozzarella if it was in a ball and sprinkle it liberally all over the pizza (if you want more than my recipe called for, go for it!) Then, bake it at 425 degrees for about 10 - 15 minutes, until the crust is golden brown and the cheese is golden. Take the baking sheet out and allow the pizza to cool on the baking sheet for a few minutes, then transfer it to a cutting board. Cut and eat!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Going in Circles


     Isn't it funny how different cultures manage to come up with the same things? How people in China and Europe came up with movable type and printing at different times? How people everywhere from Russia to Korea pickle things? (Even though there are so many people who don't like pickled things, after all. I am not one of them - you can give me pickled diakon anyday!) How the French have crepes and Indians have dosas? And why was I think about this? Because, the Japanese have Pork Katsu (which I made what seems like a ridiculously long time ago) and the Austrians have Schnitzel!

     Of course, having just done some googling to find this out, katsu (or tonkatsu really) was invented in Japan as an interpretation of European cuisine. So, I guess its because of the Europeans that the Japanese have katsu and its not really the same as what I was talking about...but whatever, you get my point, right? What's more, at this point katsu is so Japanese-ized (I'm sure there's a better way of saying that) and eaten with its traditional katsu sauce that it does seem miles away from Pork Schnitzel eaten with a simple lemon slice. Or with spaetzle (those little round egg noodles), which is the way I ate it during a blissful summer vacation in Germany so long ago.

     The point of all these heartburnings being, that I really wanted to make pork schnitzel for dinner tonight. Mainly because I had more of those those lovely thin pork chops I keep going back to in my fridge. And, in honor of those spaetzle so long ago, I wanted to accompany it with pasta. Rightfully I should have accompanied it with spaetzle, but I got lazy. It was such a beautiful day outside! And there were people to see and talk to.

     So, I made schnitzel. It seems almost cheating to put down this recipe because it is so similar to the katsu one. I even used panko instead of breadcrumbs. But, there are the slight differences: the milk mixed in with the egg, the seasoning in the flour, and the accompaniment after all. But, let me warn you, the recipe for the "sauce" I made isn't so much of a recipe as just a bunch of ideas for what you can do to make a good sauce. You can use whatever spices you like for pasta sauce and use other liquids, like wine, instead of chicken broth for the deglazing. But in the end, my pork schnitzel and pasta made a lovely dinner. The crust of the schnitzel was crispy, and it had the flavoring of the spices so it wasn't plain. The pasta was creamy and delicious, and the peas made it healthy! Yum yum.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Midnight Feasts

     Lets get this straight: I am Indian (not British, though I was born in England and lived there for a good few months or so in my baby-hood), I never went to boarding school, and I have lived in America since I was nine. Still, I am an absolute Anglophile, and I spend far too much time (especially for a twenty year old) reading boarding school books. Have any of you ever read Enid Blyton? She writes the best boarding school books. Full of pranks and half-term holidays and Midnight Feasts.

     Midnight feasts in these books tend to consist of anchovies, and canned peaches, and condensed milk...and foods I generally don't really have an interest in. But they just sound so good all together! And what sounds best of all? Shrimp paste spread on toast. I don't know why, but when I was rereading (again) one of those books, I just got an intense craving for shrimp toast.
     This craving didn't mean I decided to turn our bag of frozen shrimp into shrimp paste. I looked up a shrimp paste recipe, but it seemed far too complicated. Instead, I came up with my own time-saving shrimp toast method. First, thaw frozen shrimp. Then, lay them out on a baking sheet and sprinkle them with herb infused olive oil, because you don't know exactly what you are going to do next. Bake them until they are rosy pink, take them out, and get stricken with inspiration! Take a handful, chop them up, throw them into a small frying pan with garlic and butter, and then squish them onto a huge hearty slice of white bread. Place back into the oven. Eat. Ahhh.

     Needless to say, this was a success. The shrimp was perfectly cooked (I had the oven at 450 degrees and the shrimp literally needed 3 minutes, watch them well and do Not let them overcook). The bread was deliciously crusty and buttery under the soft shrimp, and it all tasted absolutely gorgeous. Like an upscale garlic bread and so much more. Midnight feast worthy!

The Aftermath
Shrimp Toast
Makes 5 Toasts 

Italian White Bread (I'm sure other bread would do, but this was so good!)
25 Shrimp (I used about five shrimp per toast, so this number is dependent on how many people want toast!)
Herbed Olive Oil (if this is not available, use regular olive oil, a dash of salt and pepper, and sprinkle some oregano or thyme over the shrimp) 
3 Garlic Cloves, Minced Finely
2 tbsp Butter (plus a little more to butter the bread)

Pre-heat the oven to 450 degrees. Cut the white bread into five 1 inch slices, make sure they are big enough to fit a large handful of shrimp (not from the end of a loaf) and butter the slices. Take the shrimp, thawed if they were frozen, and scatter them on the baking sheet. Sprinkle the olive oil (or herbs and olive oil) liberally over the shrimp, and turn the shrimp over so they are covered in olive oil and herbs. Put the baking sheet into the oven for 3-5 minutes, only until the shrimp turn light pink. Take the shrimp out and allow them to cool a little. Peel them if they are shelled, and then chop them into small pieces. Next, place a large frying pan on medium heat. Add the butter and garlic, allowing the butter to melt. Stir in the shrimp, making sure all are coated well. You only have to cook them for a minute or two, then turn off the heat. Use a large spoon to get about a handful of shrimp and press it into one slice of bread, it should require pressing and be barely fitting on the slice. Prepare all the slices, and then carefully place them on a baking sheet and put them back into the oven for two minutes, until the bread is heated through. Then serve! This went great with the tomato soup too.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Tomato Soup


     Grilled cheese and tomato soup. What could be a better dinner? Sometimes, I just don't know. And so, I give in - and that is exactly what I made for dinner last night.

     Pause: This was quite a long pause. Um, a couple of weeks to be exact? I made this dinner sometime in August for my family. But you know how it goes, it was summer's end, I moved back to school, started settling in, and the poor blog got left behind. But now I'm back! Hi world!

     This recipe is, after all, just too good not to blog about. I had never made tomato soup from scratch before, and I always assumed it would use something bad for you - like cream. Instead, all I used was veggies! Tomatoes, celery, potato, oh my! The potato is what gives this vegan soup its creaminess you see, we didn't need real cream after all. This soup still had the thickness and richness of tomato soup, but also felt hearty and wholesome. What more could one want?

     There's something about tomato soup that is so comforting. As I was standing stirring at the stove, on one of those inexplicably gloomy summer evenings, I just felt so content. The smells of rosemary and well...tomato soup, wafting up were as good as a massage. For the soul at least, my body would still like a massage. And after whipping up a few grilled cheese in the oven (good Italian bread, butter, and chunks of cheddar placed under the broiler for a few minutes do wonders for one's mood) and dunking them into the soup, I wished I could feel that way always and you could too.

Tomato Soup
Loosely adapted from The Innocent Primate Vegan Blog

2 tbsp Olive Oil
1 Small Red Onion, Finely Chopped
4 cloves Garlic, Minced
1 Celery Stalk, Chopped
1 Large Russet Potato, Diced (the bigger the dice, the longer you will have to cook it...)
2 tsp Salt
2 tsp Oregano
1 tsp Rosemary
2 tsp Sweet Paprika
8 Medium Sized Tomatoes, Diced
2 cups Vegetable Broth

In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil at medium heat. Add the onions and garlic, sauteeing them for a few minutes. Then, add the celery and potato. Stir everything together, and lower the heat to medium-low. Once the potatoes are softened, add the salt, oregano, rosemary, and sweet paprika. Stir in the tomatoes, and then the vegetable broth. Allow the soup to come to a boil, stirring occasionally, and then reduce the heat to low. Let it simmer for ten minutes, still stirring once in a while, until it has thickened. Then turn off the heat and pour it into the blender (feel free to do this in two or more steps if your blender is small - you do not want flying tomato soup!). If you want a chunkier soup, blend just a little, otherwise continue blending till you get your desired consistency. Pour the soup back into the pan or a prettier serving vessel, and ladle it out!

Note: This served five people for dinner, but if you were serving it as an appetizer it could probably serve at least eight.