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pomegranate

Turmeric Roasted Cauliflower Salad

Turmeric Roasted Cauliflower Salad

I have been playing (a lot) with recipes and seasonal ingredients. And, the fridge is chock full at the moment and everyday is a new recipe and more lunches and dinners prepped for later. I love a full fridge! It makes me feel so much more optimistic about life. I am eating healthy, filling and super tasty meals. Interestingly, many of them are just vegetarian; No meat/dairy/fish/grains at all. Yet, they are proper mains, and not sides.

Often, I have heard that vegetables do not have protein or you need to add cheese or an egg atleast to fill the protein quota for a balanced meal. Actually, vegetables do have protein in them. They are just not the most efficient source of them. So, essentially you need to eat a lot of vegetables to get the same amount of protein needed. Also, you are not a strict vegetarian, and working out or in a cold place, you may actively crave more protein packed foods because you can absorb the nutrients faster with less. Nevertheless, eating more vegetables is never a bad thing.

Like a whole head of cauliflower in a salad for two. Splendid idea!

 

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A bit of a Tahini Crush + Swordfish Experiment

It began rather innocently. 

With a dish I call Anarkali Rice cooked for a  dinner I hosted recently. If you are familiar with the story of Anarkali and Salim, an historical romance, you may suspect how this ends. You see, it was an Iranian style of pilaf/biriyani tossed abundantly with spices, saffron and, the pièce de résistance, sprinkled generously with pomegranate arils. The word for pomegranate in Urdu and Hindi is anar! Kali means bud or flower, which, is generously offered on all festive occasions. 

I served the rice with a side of tahini laced yogurt sauce. It was a combination, much like Salim and Anarkali, fraught with intense passion and rapport. Oh, that is where I may have slipped into an addiction. I have somehow become intensely infatuated with tahini!

I find myself lying awake in the middle of the night, plotting how I can involve said condiment into my lunch the next day. As soon as that is done, I find my mind wandering towards a similar goal with dinner. It gives me goosebumps when I think about how amazing it tastes with the most mundane of things. My current favorite snack is to slice up vegetables and stick them straight into the tahini jar and marveling at where this has been all this time!

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I must say, I have been rather productive (and prolific) in incorporating this intense, yet delicate sesame paste in more dishes than I would have thought of before this sudden obsession. Afore, my scope on the paste extended to as far and beyond as falafels and hummus. Really! I blush as I say this and cannot believe how daft I had been. But, there it is, the unpolished truth. 

If you have seen my Instagram lately, you would have caught a fair glimpse of it too. Yet, as I said, it has been a wonderful eye-opening experience. Have you ever tasted granola with a drizzle of it? No? Well, I have something for you coming up soon. Lately, I have been having a lot of simple sautés for my meals. It seems only too natural to finish with a quick drizzle of the sauce just as I would olive oil. Omelettes? I got you covered there. Soups? Oh yes, it's coming too. I mean really, name any dish category and I have dabbled with it in my 'explorations' over the last couple of weeks.

Ahem! So, I give you fair warning. You are going to see a fair few posts coming up with that particular ingredient sneaking in smoothly. By the time I finish, you'll wonder how one could even possibly consider having the dish without the sauce! ;-)

For the first installment, I am choosing a Fall inspired salad. I walked into Whole Foods and was told a story about them receiving and filleting whole swordfishes every day on premises. I don't know how true that story is but it made me give the fish a thought. It look really good and fresh. I normally do not choose swordfish, given a choice. In my mind, it has been relegated as the American fish steak choice. Meaning, if you don't eat meat but want a steak experience, you would get a swordfish steak. Who ever calls a fish slice, steak?!

Anyway, spying a rather prime looking filet, I picked it up with the thought that, well, if hell breaks loose, there is always tahini ;-) The piece I had picked up was good enough for two meals, which, was great as it let me experiment.

For the first, I cooked it as a steak and served on a  bed of greens, sautéed brussel sprouts and apples, topped with, you go it, tahini yogurt sauce and generous sprinkles of pomegranate arils. I had marinated the fish itself in a spice mix of aleppo pepper, z'atar, lemon juice and olive oil with a touch of salt. The sear was great, the flavors were lovely but I had underestimated the cooking time for such a thick slice. I had to slice it up and sauté again as I really did not like the raw taste.

For my second attempt then, I spent only a couple of hours thinking of flavors, presentation, styling and how to get the perfect dish. This time, the fish would be cubed and seared. I used the same marinade as it had been wonderful. This time though, I pickled the apples, overnight. That was a stroke! And, as for the tahini, I made a sauce with it, homemade pumpkin puree and yogurt kissed with some aleppo pepper, lemon juice and salt. The fish was seared on all sides, strategically placed, adorned by sautéed brussel sprouts and pickled apples.

This dish is a winner! You may wonder why the tahini. Well, let me tell you, it's the sauce that pulls everything together. The subtle spices on the fish are emboldened by their trusted cohort, the tahini. As for the sauce itself, without the sesame, it utterly lacks depth. When you pull together a forkful of fish, a sliver of the pickled apple, a piece of the sprout and drag it through the puree generously lapping it up into a bite, you will know what I mean. They just belong together and in no small measure is that to the credit of the behind-the-scenes role of the sesame paste.

And, thus, continues my adoration of the tahini.....

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Seared SwordFish Salad

with Pickled Apples + Tahini Pumpkin Puree

I made this dish for one and give you that recipe for proportion. It is easily scalable. The recipes for the puree and pickled apples, further below are for a larger quantity then you would need just for one serving. 

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1/4 lb fresh, firm sword fish filet

4 brussel sprouts, halved

3 T of tahini-pumpkin puree (recipe below)

7-8 slices pickled apples (recipe below)

a few slices of red onion

pomegranate arils for garnish

lemon juice

For the fish marinade:

1-1/2 tsp z'atar

3/4 tsp ground aleppo pepper

2 tsp olive oil

juice of half lemon

salt and pepper as needed

 

Start with dicing the sword fish into approximately 2 inch cubes.

Mix together the marinade ingredients and soak the fish cubes for atleast 10 minutes.

In a frying pan, sauté the brussel sprouts in oil, simply seasoning it with salt and pepper. When done, reserve.

Heat oil in a pan large enough to hold all the fish you are frying or make in batches. Do not overlap fish pieces.

When the oil is hot, arrange the fish in one layer and leave it on medium for 2 minutes. 

Turn the fish to sear on all sides, it will take about 5 minutes in all for each batch.

While the fish is cooking, arrange the salad starting with puree at the bottom and then layering with the remaining ingredients.

Place the hot fish cubes on top. Finish with a squirt of lemon juice and sprinkle of pomegranate arils.


Tahini Pumpkin Puree

This recipe makes enough for a 4 person salad of above. If you are making more or using less, it can be stored in the fridge for up to a week. Leftovers are great as a chip dip for appetizer or even sandwich spread!

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1/4 cup tahini sauce

1/2 cup homemade pumpkin puree (without any added spices)

1/2 cup greek yogurt

juice of 1 lemon

1 T aleppo pepper

salt as needed

Puree everything together to a cohesive paste.

I left mine, slightly coarse for texture but for a more restaurant style finish, make it a fine finish.


Pickled Apples

1 apple, cored, sliced thin

2 tsp white vinegar

1/2 tsp sugar

1/2 tsp salt 

Combine the vinegar, salt and sugar and pour into the bottom of a small shallow dish.

Place the apple slices on top, overlapping as needed.

Let it sit for a few hours or overnight, turning it occasionally to let the vinegar infuse all the slices.


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{VOTING OPEN} A drive through New England and a picnic with Colors

Thank you so much for supporting me so far in PFB 2010. Voting is now open for until 6PM PST on Oct 28, 2010. Please use this link to vote. Thank you very much! :)

Picnic Table

As much as Fall portends the beginning of the cold and dreary, I think it is THE most gorgeous time of the year. It isn't too cold for one to step out, take a deep breath and smile and see people smiling back (come Winter and nobody smiles in NYC. They just hurry past!). And, the best part, of course is seeing Nature putting on a simply glorious show! The red and golds of leaves simply warm your heart.

However, it is only for a short period of time that one can enjoy this Nature's dance. And, it doesn't always happen. It's a timing thing. During my stay here in the North East, I have perhaps seen vibrant colors only once before this year.

2 Vibrant

This year, this weekend (I am writing this post from Boston), we were lucky again! We decided to drive through New England and with much help from N.E. blogger El, we charted out a route that took us through some the most gorgeous regions we have seen during this season!

Ofcourse any road trip like this isn't complete without food.I am not very big on road trips mostly because I fall asleep on the drive.. hehe.. actually I do that in any moving vehicle. It's the momentum I think. So, one way I stay awake is by munching. I always have a bag of something like crusty bread, fruits or other homemade snacks on hand in the glove compartment.

Curried Orzo Salad
Warm Masala Orzo Salad with Cumin Roasted Sausages and Tomatoes

And, then there is the actual food for the journey. I typically pack our own lunch; find it simpler and healthier. The practise started since we hike quite a bit and the feeling of eating a sandwich and fruit at the peak is just incomparable. As it happened, this trip coincided with the Project Food Blog challenge 6 and we took with us a more elaborate spread than usual.. noone is complaining!! ;-)

Bag-Collage

For the challenge we were told to "whip up a entree, side, drink, and dessert to enjoy after hitting the road, from picnics and school lunches to bento boxes, or any other meal on the go". When I saw the challenge, a. I went on a nostalgic trip and b. When I came back, I had way too many options for things to make and take.

Cauliflower Cake side
Cauliflower Cake

The story is this. Going to school in India, we would carry our lunches from home everyday. We all had steel lunch boxes that were carried along with a plastic water bottle in a plastic or wire lunch basket. Yes, they sell baskets especially for carrying lunches and there can be much status rivalry in that too!

My lunch boxes typically had rotis with vegetables or some rice dish. I was a picky rice eater, so rice wasn't so common in my lunches unless it was either pulav or biriyani which were the only rice items I LOVED! My favorite lunches were typically Monday's because it was usually the leftovers of our Sunday lunch. Sunday was usually the day we ate meat, so it was an extra special treat for me to revisit the next day!

Spiced-Apple-Pomegranate-Cider
Spiced Apple Pomegranate Cider

Mr. FSK's on the other hand, grew up with whole different lunch custom. His consisted of mostly sandwiches made with varied fillings like egg, sausage, meat cutlets etc. Meat was more common at his place than vegetables (the reverse for me) and so he never really had a real vegetarian lunch! I, on the other hand, had never sighted sausages before move out of the country! Yes, indeed, a marriage of opposites... :)

Living in the US, and especially NYC, we have been fortunate to have the opportunities to explore almost every cuisine out there. Being natural foodies with little qualms for new experiences, we have had so much fun trying out new dishes and flavors.

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Ivy Gourd and Cumin Spelt Focaccia

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In my picnic basket for the trip, I tried to mesh all these experiences, his past, my past and our present, into a cohesive meal. So, on our picnic table were, Warm Masala Orzo Salad with Cumin Roasted Sausages and Tomatoes, Spiced Cauliflower Cake, Ivy Gourd and Cumin Spelt Focaccia and for dessert Mini Brownie Cakes with Ripe Pears. And to keep us warm, we were drinking Spiced Apple Pomegranate Cider.

The orzo is new take on flavored rice that I love so much with the addition of sausages calling to FSK's childhood. They make sausage rice at his place :). The spiced cauliflower cake was an inspiration from Deb, that was just perfect with the pasta. The, focaccia? Ivy Gourd is one my favorite vegetables and I use it here like one uses caramelised onions. Spelt flour is used to make rotis.

Picnic Food Plated

Fruits are usually our dessert for hikes and trips, but for this trip, spurred by the challenge, I went for a little extra! :) Chocolate pairs so beautifully with pears that it was a no brainer combination.

We enjoyed our sumptuous spread in Holyoke State Forest somewhat half way in our meandering route from NYC to Boston. We drove through North West CT, through South West MA, over to North East MA touching Harvard and Concord and then Boston. CT is now at peak and Western MA is declining. East MA is now in color. So if you want to catch some colors this year, get out on the road quickly and don't forget to pack a good lunch for the road!! :)

Picnic Grill

Some tips on packing for the road -

1. For any kind of trip, I usually prepare everything I need the previous night, so I am not frazzled the day of. This especially helps, when you plan early starts like for hikes.

2. For hikes, keep in mind that what you carry should, not only easily fit in your backpack, but, also last through hours in the sun. For carrying ease, wrapped foods like sandwiches work better than rice and pasta. I avoid meats here since I am not always confident of how they handle heat. Always carry some fruit, non-squishy ones. They are the healthiest source of sugar for a boost of energy.

3. For road trips, a carb rich main such as rice, pasta or bread is good. I typically avoid raw items like raw tomatoes here since sitting for prolonged periods release juices that may detract from the dish. That's why I roasted the tomatoes in my orzo salad.

4. For healthy munchies, I like roasted nuts, ends of crusty bread or fruits.

5. We carried the drink in individual jam bottles. It not only looks cool but it's a great way to store any remaining drink and you know whose is which..

6. Invest in a set of reusable plastic/melamine crockery and cutlery. I used melamine plates, platic water glasses, plastic cutlery for this picnic. Another great way to carry items like bread is to wrap in parchment paper. Then at the picnic you can use the paper for plating as well!

Fall Colors




Warm Masala Orzo Salad with Cumin Roasted Sausages and Tomatoes

1/4 lb orzo, cooked al dente and drained
1 package of grape tomatoes
2 precooked sausages, diced
2 T red onion, diced
2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp garam masala
3 T olive oil
salt, pepper and oil to saute/roast as needed

Toss the tomatoes in oil, salt, half the cumin and garam masala and roast at 300F for 1-1/2 hours until they burst and shrink. Meanwhile, saute the sausage with the remaining cumin until browned.

Mix the orzo, onions, tomatoes, sausage and olive oil together gently. Taste and add more cumin and garam masala if needed. Before packing, warm the salad (not hot) in the microwave.



Spiced Apple Pomegranate Cider


2 cups apple cider
2 cups Pomegranate juice
3 sticks of cinnamon
4-5 cloves
2 tsp pomegranate arils (optional)

Bring everything except the arils to a boil. Simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat, cover and let rest for half hour for flavors to develop. Pour into glasses, tops with some arils to serve.


Picnic Table 1

Pomegranate and Cocoa Glazed and Pear Stuffed Quail

Pomegranate-Cocoa Glazed Stuffed Quail served

It's officially Fall or perhaps even bordering on Winter. However, despite the temperatures hovering in the 50s and the heater coming on already, there hardly any other evidence of the season that has sneaked (a sarcastic misnomer here) upon us with a surprising suddenness this year. I mean, it was barmy yesterday and today, what do you know, it's frosty!

In the city, there is hardly any change in foliage. The two trees outside my apartment are still a vibrant green with perhaps a scant few leaves hesitatingly siding with the season. But, last weekend, I got my first real evidence of the changing time of the year. Upstate New York, near the Catskills area, there were trees that were glowing amber especially in the gorgeous late afternoon sun.

Amber

It was beautiful, in a very chilled, ethereal sense. The sun was still out and mightily working herself to warm the day. But, as soon as she was gone, the beauty almost seemed to fade away as the cold seeped in unhesitatingly and we wrapped ourselves in multiple layers to walk just 5 minutes to the neighbouring diner. The nights even dipped dangerously close to the 30s.. Brr!!

We came back to a city, which, we had left only a couple of days back undecided between Summer and after, now decidedly moving on towards shorter and colder days. Still, the leaves are green but I don't think for long. I am rather anxious that it's going be a sudden metamorphosis to barren! :( Hopefully not!

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Meanwhile, our craving for foods like soups and stews has already kicked in. It seems like the body has an internal clock. The first hint of a nip in the air and the brain frantically sends messages to all the senses to seek immediate solace in the warming to the hands and the soul! :)

Suddenly, I feel like luxuriating over our dinners. The thought of roasting meats and vegetables in the oven and slow cooking over the stove have been growing over me ever so enticingly. And, only a short few weeks back I wouldn't even consider turning on the oven for staples like cake! I even attempted successfully, many times, to escape the reflected and refracted heat of the city to the cool recesses of the Westin in NJ! :)

Pomegranate-Cocoa Glazed Stuffed Quail with Risotto

It's the perfect time for risottos and stuffed birds. As we inch closer to Thanksgiving, I can definitely use the practise and new recipes! ;-). This one again was inspired by the bounty of Fall fruits that seem to have taken permanent abode in our little apartment. It's really becoming a case of "Here an Pear, there an pear, every where an pear-pear!" Old Macdonald's orchard indeed! :)

My choice of poultry was the delicate quail. I love quail. For a tiny bird, it packs a lovely punch of flavor. I stuffed the quail with a mixture of bread, nuts, pears and chocolate. Extending the fruit and chocolate theme, I used a pomegranate cocoa reduction to glaze the bird while roasting. I served the whole bird over a bed of a simple herb risotto.

It was the perfect meal to begin the season.... :)

Pomegranate-Cocoa Glazed Stuffed Quail



Pomegranate and Cocoa Glazed and Pear Stuffed Quail

2 Quails

For the stuffing:
1 Bartlett Pear, peeled, cored and diced
2 oz of dark chocolate, chopped
1/2 sliced of white bread, corners cut and cubed small
2 T pistachios, chopped
1 tsp milk

Glaze:
1-1/2 cup pomegranate juice
2 tsp cocoa powder
3 T honey

Salt, pepper and olive oil as needed

To make the glaze, bring the glaze ingredients to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and continue to cook, stirring occasionally until the mixture has reduced to a third. Set aside.

Combine the stuffing ingredients together and set aside for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, oil and season the bird with salt and pepper on the outside and inside the cavity. Gently stuff the bird with the filling and tie the legs with twine to keep the stuffing in. Baste the bird all over with the glaze. Place the bird in an oiled roasting pan.

Bake at 400F for 12-15 minutes. Halfway through, flip the bird over and baste again. Once done, baste the bird once more before serving over the risotto. Drizzle the pomegranate reduction over the dish and serve.


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Farm to Table: Red Currant Tea Cake

Red Currant Tea Cake with lemonade

I always find it amazing when I find fruits that I was used to in India, once again here, in the US, only in a different color and known by a different name. In some cases, I never knew the Indian name anyway. So, unlikely I would recognise the English one! :)

Currant is one such fruit. I have seen the gorgeous red little berries pop out of many a bloggers' site and was pretty curious about them. When I received a small basket of them from my CSA, I was thrilled to, finally, be able to taste them! Imagine my surprise when I realised that they were anything but new and indeed a rediscovery of a wild growing berry in India.

Red currants in a basket

Ofcourse, the currants I have seen here, are usually red in color, although google tells me that they can be black as well. Indeed, these black currants are what grow as wild hedges in India. As soon as I bit into a currant, the tangy taste transported me back to my country and a childhood of running in the garden, picking these berries, squishing them with my fingers because their purple insides were a fun color and then popping them into my mouth. Any Indian kid will know them... :)

Once I had my flavor reference down pat, I started wondering what to do with them. I mean, in the past, I just ate them as is. These red ones were a bit too tart for that. I could make jam (which I did with some of them mixed with gooseberries and strawberries) but then that seemed too tame an idea.

Red Currant Tea Cake - sprinkling powdered sugar

Browsing through my favorite blogs, I landed upon Bea's Lemongrass, Vanilla and Red Currant Cakes that just called to me. Ofcourse the recipe called for more ingredients that I had. So, I happily adapted. After all, adapting is one thing every blogger knows to do best! :) Mine was to be an ode to the currant alone and, as such, it was.

I also had the brilliant idea of making currant lemonade. So, I steeped a few berries in hot sugar syrup hoped that osmosis and it's reverse would help both the drink and the berry. Unfortunately, my science experiment wasn't much of a success. I don't know, which, fluid density I was off on.

Red Currant Tea Cake Close1

After 8 hours of soaking, the lemonade, well, remained lemonade and the berries were just marginally sweeter. Nevertheless, they added a brilliant punch of color to the lemonade jar! :) Where I did triumph was the tea cake. The cake itself was sweet and biting into a currant added a refreshing twist of tart that played well with this light cake...

Going back to the drawing board, I came up with another lemonade creation, which, YIPPEEE!! this time worked and very nicely! The sweet folks at POM had recently sent me a case of their POM Wonderful pomegranate juice. The curvy bottles were sitting in the fridge just beckoning to be made into a cool drink for the summer. Well, one could definitely drink the juice as is, but this Pomegranate Lemonade really does kick the butt of Summer heat! Trust me, I know! I have functional air conditioning in only one room!! ;-)

POMegranate Lemonade


For more ideas on cooking fresh, seasonal produce, please click on the "Farm to Table Series" tab above.




Red Currant Tea Cake
Adapted from
La Tartine Gourmande
(makes one 5 inch cake)

1/2 cup almond meal, sifted (if you don't already have it, grind unblanched almonds to a dry powder)
1/4 cup all purpose flour
4 T butter
1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar, sifted
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
2 egg whites
Red Currants, as much as you like, berries removed from stems. (can easily substitute with raspberry or blueberries)

Preheat the oven to 350 F. In a bowl sift together flour, almond meal, confectioner’s sugar, salt and baking powder. Add the vanilla and melted butter and set aside.

Whip the egg whites to stiff peaks and gently fold 1/3 of it into the flour mixture to loosen it. Add the mixture to remaining whites and gently fold until you see no white egg streaks. Pour the batter into a prepared mold. Sprinkle the currants on top and press them lightly into the batter.

Bake for 30 min or until a tester comes out clean. Let the cake cool in pan for a few minutes before unmolding onto a rack.

Tea cake - Just out of the pan

Pomegranate Lemonade


Note: There isn't a real recipe. I have listed the basics. You just tweak the amounts of pomegranate juice and lime juice according to your taste.

4 cups water
juice of 2 limes
1 bottle of POM
sugar/mild honey to taste
1/2 lime sliced (optional)

Mix everything together. Drop the lime slices in if using an refrigerate for atleast an hour. You can add a sprig of mint in each glass, if you like! :)
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Share your creations tagging @ashafsk on Instagram and hashtag #MadeFromFSK