Monday, July 25, 2011

Grilled Naan & More

Earlier this year, I had the fun experience of recipe testing for a friend, Carolyn Hughey. She's got a book coming out Aug. 5: SHUT UP AND KISS ME.

Doesn't the cover & title make your mouth water? You can learn more about the book here. Anyhoo, the book I recipe tested for is Dishing Up Romance (available February 2012). Now back to the food :) Let me tell you, the recipes she includes will both make you smile and your tummy happy!

Carolyn had me try two recipes: Naan of this, and Naan of that Bread and the Nutty Apple Cake with HOT Caramel Sauce.

With the Naan recipe, Carolyn attached this little note: "You can probably make the Naan in your sleep, but I thought cooking it on the grill might be a nice change--give it that smoky taste. Tell me what you think."

Um, total head*to*desk moment. Yes, I'd grown up enjoying naan and kababs and chicken tikka, but I'd never considered grilling them. Yes, I live in Texas, and grilling tops the list of my favorite summer activities, and I'm always trying to bring the Bengali kitchen of my childhood together with the West Texas kitchen of my marriage...yeah, head-to-desk.

So what did I think about grilling naan? Abso-freaking-lutely brilliant! Oooh, there's nothing like watching the breads puff up on the grill while inhaling the aroma of freshly-cooked bread. Yeah, I swooned. :)

And yes, the Nutty Apple Cake with the Hot Caramel sauce was good too.

I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and my family enjoyed every anyone need a recipe tester?

Recipes? Sorry, you'll have to get the recipes from Carolyn's DISHING UP ROMANCE when it's out...but here's my recipe for Naan (which is a modified version of Madhur Jaffrey's)


2/3 cup hand hot milk
2 teaspoons caster sugar
2 teaspoons dried active yeast
3 3/4 cup plain flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon caraway seed
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2/3 cup natural yogurt, lightly beaten
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 teaspoons of minced chives (optional)

1/4 cup butter, melted


1. Put the milk in a bowl. Add 1tsp sugar and the yeast. Stir to mix. Set aside for 15-20 minutes or until the yeast has dissolved and the mixture is frothy.

2. Sift the flour, salt, caraway and baking powder into a bowl. Add the remaining 1tsp sugar, the yeast mixture, 2tblsp vegetable oil and yogurt,egg and minced chive (if using). Mix to form a ball of dough.

3. Knead for 10 minutes until smooth and satiny (I did this in a stand mixer). Form into a ball. Pour 1/4tsp oil into a large bowl and roll the ball of dough in it. Cover the bowl with clingfilm and set aside for 1 hour until doubled in size.

4. Preheat your grill. (Lightly oil the grill)

5. Punch down the dough and knead again. Divide into six equal balls. Keep covered when not working with the balls of dough. Roll the ball of dough into a tear-shaped naan, about 10-inches long and 5-inches wide at it's widest point.

6. Brush one side of the Naan with melted butter and place on a hot grill cooking for approximately 3 minutes or until it puffs and is lightly browned. Flip it over and repeat the same thing with the other side.

7.Wrap the naans in a tea towel or foil. Make all the naans this way. Serve hot. You can reheat them in the microwave for 40 seconds or so.


Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Review of Mollie Katzen's Get Cooking with a Recipe

When I first started cooking Western foods, I relied heavily on cookbooks since I hadn't grown up with these dishes. Mollie Katzen's Moosewood cookbooks appealed to me because of their simplicity and flavor. I could try a recipe and know it'd taste good and satisfy. She was my kitchen companion without even knowing it.

So I was totally jazzed when I met her in Austin for the IACP conference earlier this year and received her Get Cooking cookbook. What impressed me most was how gracious and down-to-earth Ms. Katzen was and how much she just enjoyed her time in the kitchen playing with recipes.

Once home, I pored through Get Cooking: 150 Simple Recipes to Get You Started in the Kitchen with the intention of reviewing it for my column. As part of the review process, I tried out a few of her recipes. My favorite turned out to be the Mostly Classic Cole Slaw. The basic recipe was good. I loved all the colors from the purple and green cabbage and carrots, I loved that she included yogurt.

Now I like to experiment in the kitchen and come up with my own twists. Well, everything I thought to add-- from sour cream to cranberries-- she'd thought to include plus some in her additional Get Creative section. She's definitely my kind of a cook.

I made the recipe for my family of 4, and then later for my father-in-law's 86th birthday party. The cole slaw was a hit both times. My 6-year-old actually saved the cole slaw until the end of her meal. "I like it so much," she said. "It's my dessert."

Here's the review that was published in the San Angelo Standard-Times.

Mostly Classic Cole Slaw

2 pounds cabbage (purple and/or green), shredded
1 large carrot, coarsely grated
1/2 cup very finely minced red onion (I didn't have any, so used Sweet Texas 1015s)
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup olive oil
1/3 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup plain yogurt
(for a richer dressing, substitute some of the mayo or yogurt with sour cream)
1 to 2 tablespoons sweetner (white or brown sugar, pure maple syrup or a light-colored honey)

1. Combine cabbage, carrot, and onion in a very large bowl. Sprinkle with salt, toss, and set aside.

2. In a second, smaller bowl, combine the oil, vinegar, mayo, yogurt and 1 tablespoon of sweetner and whisk until smooth. Pour this onto the cabbage mixture and toss well. Taste, add more sweetner if you wish. Transfer to a container with a tight-fitting lid, cover and refrigerate. Serve cold. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Some Get Creative ideas from Ms. Katzen:

*Top the slaw with up to 1 cup chopped roasted peanuts or toasted walnuts

*Add up to 2 cups chopped pineapples -- either fresh or canned (packed in water or juice and drained)

*Add up to 1/2 cup of dried cranberries or 1/4 cup minced fresh cranberries

Friday, July 15, 2011

Let's Celebrate: Samosa-Shingara Pies & (faux) Champagne!

Cheers! Hooray! Let's here it for #Letslunch on its second anniversary!

What's #Letslunch? Why it's one of the most fun groups you'll find in all of twitterverse.Spearheaded by Cheryl Tan (author of the wonderful foodie memoir, A Tiger in the Kitchen), food enthusiasts from all over the world, who come together to share recipes, stories, friendship and virtual lunch in cyberspace. Want to join us? Just send a tweet with the hashtag #LetsLunch!

Anyhoo, we are celebrating this month with Champagne and bubbly-friendly bites. Something special. Of course, that brought up mouth-watering memories of hot shingaras and samosas enjoyed as a treat on wet and chilly Monsoon evenings in my childhood. Ahhh, I miss those treats.

So what are Samosas and Shingaras?

Bangla(my mother tongue) is a very precise language. For example, in English your father's sister is your aunt and your mom's sister is your aunt as well. But Bengalis(the people) would call the first Fooppee and the latter Khala, denoting relationship and respect all at the same time.

So Samosas, in Bangladesh (the country), would be a triangular meat-filled deep fried snack with a crispy-crackly shell.

(The image is from, which has some really good desi recipes)

Shingaras are vegetarian pot-bellied deep-fried faintly triangular snacks with a softer, melt-in-your-mouth crust. The filling is spiced up potatoes and peas and sometimes cauliflower.

(This image is from Pakistani Food Recipes, which has a variety of samosa & shingara recipes from all different places).

I prefer the Shingaras, but I have noticed that online as well as in restaurants, "Samosa" is the go-to word for both the veg and non-veg snacks.Call it by whatever name, every bite is just as yummy!

The reason I don't make them at home is I detest deep frying. Yes, I know I live in TX where they deep fry everything -- from pickles to oreos. And I'll eat these deep-fried delicacies once in a blue moon, but I'm not deep frying. So, I decided to bake. Healthier and easier.

But then, y'all know how I like to play around with tradition and add my own twists. So from my desi-Texas kitchen, you have: bite-sized Samosa-Shingara Pies!

1. Boil some potatoes (I thought the sweetness of a sweet potato would go great in the samosa recipe so in it went). Peel, mash and set aside.

2. Measure out the other ingredients:

1/2 cup minced red onion
1/2-inch ginger, peeled and minced
2 green chillies, minced (I had to skip this for the kidlets)
A small handful of cilatro leaves, finely chopped

Whole Spices/seeds: 1 teaspoon cumin, 1/2 teaspoon caraway, 1/2 teaspoon black mustard seeds, 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Ground Spices: 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon amchur (dried mango powder), 1/2 teaspoon garam masala, 1/4 teaspoon seasoned pepper, 1/2 teaspoon turmeric, 1 teaspoon salt.

3. Heat 2 teaspoons of canola oil in a large pan over medium high heat. Add the whole spices and cook for about 1 minute. (The aroma should have you swooning)
4.Add the onion and chillies (if using), cook until they soften. Add 1 cup frozen green peas, ginger, and ground spices.

5. Cook it all together and sprinkle some water to keep from sticking. About 5 minutes. Add mashed potatoes and gently mix well. It should look like this:

6.Fill in prepared pie shells. I used a refrigerated pie crust, a wine glass to cut the circles out and a 12-count mini-muffin pan.

7. Bake in a 350 oven until the crust is golden. Next time, I might pre-bake the shells and then scoop in the filling. Let rest for 10 minutes. Sprinkle with cilantro (if you really like cilantro, you can also add this to the potato mixture.

8. Serve with your favorite condiment (we went with ketchup for the kids and Green Chili Sauce found in Indian grocery stores for the grownups) and bubbly. Um, yes, our bubbly wasn't exactly Champagne...but the kids really wanted to be part of the celebration. The end result was still fun & yum!

Happy Birthday #Letslunch! And may there be many more :)

Here's other bubbly & bites posts to enjoy:

Cheryl & Mike's Cheddar Pecan Crisps

Steff's Southern Style Finger Foods

Free Range Cookies Cheese Straw Crackers

Zestbakery's Bacon, Apple, Swiss Quiche

Emma's Cold, Cured Salmon

Ellise's Sundried Tomato Pesto Palmiers

Caitlin's Gruyere Lace Cookies

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Easy As Pie Tomato Pie

I met Glutenfree Girl or Shauna James Ahern on twitter while whining about attending my first foodie conference, the giganaramous and impressive IACP Conference in Austin. She was kind enough to tweet at me and reassure me that'd she'd been in a similar boat not too long ago and I'd be okay. Now, I'd heard of Shauna, read her blog and recent cookbook (Loved the sweet lovestory of her and the chef)and so I was totally wowed that she took the time. In Austin, I did feel kind of lost but there were too many nice people around for me to stay that way for too long. I even managed to say hi to Shauna.

So when I saw @glutenfreegirl tweeting about #pieparty, well I just had to jump in to the fun :)

My 9-year-old recently brought home Easy as Pie by Cari Best and Melissa Sweet.

I simply adored the book, maybe even more than my son. The book celebrates the joys of the kitchen, but also touches important themes like cooperation, finishing up tasks, cleaning up your messes and working for a solution-- all without preaching but through baking. In fact, young and adult bakers should all try and follow ~

Chef Monty's Baking Rules:

1. A happy baker bakes a happy pie.
2. Concentrate on what you're doing no matter what.
3. If something unexpected happens,fix it as best as you can.
4. Always leave your kitchen as you found it.
5. Don't give up even when what you're making doesn't look the way it's supposed to.
6. A baker can always use some help.
7. Always finish what you start.
8. A pie is ready when it's ready and not a minute before!

Besides the rules and the story, the book also comes with a "Happy Peach Pie" recipe on the back. By the end of our reading, we were both ready to bake.

Only problem was an untimely frost killed off our peach blossoms and this summer I have zero peaches. But I had buckets of tomatoes! So we used Rule #3.

The recipe called for refrigerated pie dough and well, keeping things simple is one of my cardinal rules. So went with refrigerated pie dough.

Now a lot of tomato pie recipes call for Mayo, never liked the stuff: so went with a quiche-style filling. The kids took turns whisking the egg mixture. Threw in some sliced onions and micro-Thai Basil from the garden. Layer everything in starting with the cheese.

Add the egg batter.

Popped it into a 375 degrees oven for 35 minutes. Let it cool and served it to the family.


Six-year-old: We are like the cooking shows on tv. We cook, cook, cook, take pictures, finally eat and then we judge it.

Well this one got thumbs up all around the table.


1 unbaked 9-inch refrigerated pie crust, set into the pie pan
1/4 cup mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup cheddar cheese, divided
4 medium tomatoes, sliced
1 small yellow onion sliced
1 tablespoon micro-basil leaves or slivered basil
4 eggs, beaten
3/4 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour


Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.

Have the unbaked pie crust in the pan, ready.

Sprinkle the mozzarella and 1/4 cup of cheddar cheese on the bottom of the crust,single layer tomatoes, onions and basil on top.

In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, seasoning and flour. Pour it into the pie shell. Sprinkle the reserved 1/4 cup of cheddar cheese.

You can add a few more slices of tomatoes on top.

Bake 35 minutes. Serve with a side salad.

I even like this cold and could eat if for breakfast, lunch and dinner!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Happy 235th Birthday America! How about some cake?

Fireworks, barbecue and great music all seem to be part and parcel of July 4th celebrations. To this, different people add their own traditions and twists. Mine happens to involve cake, and it all started with my college best friend Stephanie Bencze.

She is a Belgian/French-American and a Martha Stewart/Mother Hen. In college, she took this lost foreigner under her wings and introduced me to all things American. She stranded me on a highway with orders to just get in the driver's seat and drive. How else would I ever learn? She took me on my first trip to Galveston. She also invited me to my first ever July 4th bash.

And every year, I attended college I celebrated Independence Day with Steph and the group of college students she managed to pull together into a family. We had our traditions: blankets on the Outdoor Miller Theater hill in Houston, a picnic feast, and cake. The cake was to celebrate the birthday of another friend, Larry. But to me it was also to celebrate the birth of my new country.

To this day, there's nothing more I enjoy than cake under the July 4th fireworks. Brings back good memories.

So for my column that was published around July 4th, I put together a cake that not only celebrated my adopted country, but also my adopted state: An American Flag Texas Sheet Cake.

And my editor, Tim Archuleta of the Standard-Times is the coolest because he and his family made it for July 4th this year. Here's the picture he shared:

Happy July 4th y'all!