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Category Archives: Summer food and drinks

Watermelon Feta Salad ~ My version

I buy feta cheese at ridiculous prices here in Hyderabad and have it spoil while I make grand plans to use it inventively. A few days ago, I discovered a still fresh stash of feta in my fridge and cringed at how much I paid for it and how carelessly I kept it. That discovery hardly prompted me to do anything about it. I have been in a food funk lately and I won’t lie.

The only food I am interested in cooking these days is to pack into K’s lunch. One day its a glass noodle salad (which he won’t eat, its for his colleagues), one day plain dal, rotis and sabzi. That apart, I’m eating leftovers.

I have rocket lettuce growing out of control on my rooftop, I’ve neglected it beyond belief. I’m too lazy to go up and have left my plants un-watered for days on end. It is some wonder that they continue to grow. The watermelon lay in my fruit bowl alongside the apples, threatening to topple the bowl in which it sat since sunday and I wondered if I should just slice it up for Sage. I have an assortment of paper tea cups on my kitchen window. I have some lettuce, some garlic chives and radishes growing in them. The radishes I grow only for the leaves and it makes for an excellent rocket leaves substitute.

radish leaves in a salad

radish leaves in a salad

Yesterday, I was online after ages and was trawling my favourite food sites. Suddenly overcome with a fresh dose of guilt, I bolted to the kitchen to make lunch for myself. I gathered the watermelon with Sage underfoot, fished out the feta salad that lay languishing in the fridge and plucked out the lettuce from the paper cups (still too lazy to walk upstairs).

Watermelon and Feta Cheese Salad

Watermelon and Feta Cheese Salad

Watermelon Feta is one of the easiest salads to make. It is also the most forgiving. Usually onions and mint leaves are added. I don’t like either in salad so I skipped the onion and swapped out the scanty lettuce leaves for the mint.

I’ve found fresh paneer to be quite a good substitute for feta. Add salt to the milk and make it freshly at home using this recipe for an easy replacement if you cannot source feta cheese where you live.

Watermelon Feta Salad (Serves 2)

2 cups Cubed and de seeded watermelon (preferably chilled)

1/2 cup of cubed feta cheese

handful of lettuce (or mint leaves if you prefer)

8-10 pitted green Olives, brine rinsed off

For the dressing

2 tablespoons Extra virgin Olive oil

1 teaspoon Balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon lemon juice

salt and pepper to taste

In  a small bowl, add the ingredients for the dressing and whisk well with a fork.

Add the watermelon chunks, lettuce and olives and toss a bit. Pour half of the dressing over this and toss it. Add the cubed feta chunks and pour the remaining dressing over the feta cubes. Serve immediately. Make sure the watermelon chunks are chilled.

A simple summer spaghetti recipe and a long story

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Some days Most days, I cook just to get done with a meal and don’t put too much thought when my only aim is to whiz in and out of the kitchen. I always wonder how my mom did it. These days, I have far greater respect for her than she could imagine. As a working woman in the 80’s with school going children, a bed ridden mother in law, a blind brother, rambling house, pets and assorted creatures living and a retinue of permanent and semi permanent house guests, I wonder how she managed. Not that I or my brother gave it much thought, but we always had a welcoming if sometimes messy home, hot freshly made food on the table at all meals and some non negotiable rules about things such as eating what is on the plate and rudeness quotient for behaviour.

Everything else was pretty much flexible. We didn’t have maddening schedules but we had to help around the house. I cannot remember not being a house / kitchen help since I was 5-6. We had strict rules about eating as a family at the table and no TV while eating. Duties were gender neutral and included bathing and dressing ourselves, laying and clearing the table, filling bottles with drinking water from the blasted water filters and feeding and bathing the pets.

I cannot remember her asking for ‘me time’ or ever laboring over what to cook. Favorites were made by rotation on the weekend, but that apart no fuss about food was entertained. She discharged her duties with utmost responsibility and made sure everyone was taken care of without feeling smothered.

What's an occasion that isn't marked with a selfie? Enroute the hospital for the surgery

What’s an occasion that isn’t marked with a selfie? Enroute the hospital for the surgery

Yesterday Amma had an eye surgery for cataract. This is in today’s time a simple 15 minute procedure. In her case, it is far more complicated because she has only one eye. A few years ago, after multiple operations to help her with her eyesight failed, Amma became fully blind in one eye with an irreversible damage to her optical nerve. The last couple of surgeries had to be abandoned because of complications and contributed to the rapid loss of her eye. The other eye has 30% vision and that made this operation even more critical.

She travels between my brother’s home and mine alone, manages her daily routine, even reads the newspapers with a magnifying glass, chops vegetables and cooks full meals. She is determined to make the best use of whatever vision she has and not be a bother to anyone around. She has a busy circle of friends and family that she keeps in touch with. Watches her favourite TV programs sometimes relying only on the dialogues to figure out what is happening and freely gives her opinion on everything from how clumsy I sometimes am to football teams in the current world cup :). We were fortunate to find a doctor who invested almost 2 years to understand her case and gain her trust. He reassured her that he would operate only when it was absolutely needed and only in her interest.

So last week when the doctor told her at the end of a routine check up that it was time, though she was anxious, she agreed. She spent the week preparing mentally for being sightless for atleast 6 hours post operation. She counted the steps from her bed to the washroom and dining table and back and practiced with her eyes closed. She made little packets of her medication and kept them ready so that I wouldn’t have to help her figure out which ones to take. She told the doctor that she was in his hands and that he was in God’s hands as she walked in for her procedure.

After a half day’s stay at the hospital, we came back home yesterday. The procedure went well and the doctor has said that he was happy with the outcome. He was able to successfully remove the cataract and some growth that would help her see a little clearer than before. Amma is recovering well. She has eaten all her meals by herself with a spoon, seated at the table. While I was busy in the kitchen, she found her clothes, freshened up, changed herself and combed her hair. I am scanning all phone calls from her close circle of trusted friends and family who are checking on her progress. She is tenacious and determined not to ask for help unless needed, yet she knows her limitations and wont jeopardize herself by taking unnecessary risks.

If I turn out to be even a fraction of what she is as a person, I will be very happy with myself.

The recipe I am sharing today is unlike what Amma would have rustled up. On the busiest day too, the table would be laden with rice, rotis, dal and atleast one vegetable or meat dish, all made from scratch. The kitchen appliances and other conveniences I so much take for granted were not available, no pastes, no frozen masalas, no fuss.

I turn to pasta when in doubt. When I need to feed just myself, when I couldn’t care less about what to cook. This is an ingredient that lends itself so well to any situation. It is a summer pasta and inspired by what I saw my current TV chef obsession David Rocco cook in an episode while travelling in India. My fellow salivator over David Rocco, R too made something similar and when I saw her post, I thought I should post this recipe of easy pasta (do I ever post anything that I don’t claim is easy to make?) too.

Summer Spaghetti

Summer Spaghetti

Summer Spaghetti Recipe (serves 2)

Spaghetti or any other dry pasta for 2 servings

1/2 piece of Green Zucchini (About 4-5 inches, sliced)

6-8 button Mushrooms, washed (yes they are dirty in India), wiped and quartered

1 large Roma or other firm ripe tomato, chopped into 8 pieces

2-3 tablespoons of Extra virgin olive oil (be generous)

a small sprig of fresh basil (1/2 teaspoon of dried)

Salt and pepper to taste

2 pods of garlic, peeled and sliced finely

2 teaspoons of fresh lemon juice

2-3 tablespoons of parmesan cheese (optional, I never have this on hand)

In a wide pan, bring about 2 litres of water to a rolling boil and add 1 teaspoon of salt to it.

Add the spaghetti and cook stirring till done the way you like it. I do not like it al dente, so I cook it 1 minute more than that. By all means cook the pasta the way YOU like eating it 😀

Drain the pasta and reserve 1/2 cup of the water. Set aside the cooked pasta.

In another pan, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and fry the garlic till just turning a shade darker. Add the zucchini slices and cook till they are turning golden around the edges, turn over gently and repeat. Remove the zucchini slices to a plate.

Add the tomatoes and mushrooms to the remaining hot oil and toss till they are beginning to wilt about 2 minutes but retain a crunch. The idea is not to cook them till mushy so cooking time is flexible as per your taste. Add the cooked spaghetti, zucchini slices and toss well. Add salt and pepper to taste and the torn basil leaves. Toss well. Add a little of the reserved cooking liquid if it is very dry.

Turn off the heat. Drizzle on the lemon juice and toss well before serving it out into bowls and top with some parmesan cheese if you have it or drizzle the remaining olive oil. Serve.

This is a simple dish and can be served with a nice soup or salad on the side. For a non veg version, grilled chicken or prawns can be added to the mix. The simple flavours are so refreshing from the loaded with tomato / sauce / cheese pasta dishes that we usually reach out for.

Mango cupcakes with mango buttercream frosting

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Mango Cupcakes with Mango Butter-cream

Mango Cupcakes with Mango Butter-cream

I am nothing if not a mango fiend. I brave the summers in Hyderabad only because of the fabulous array of mangoes we get here. The most popular and commercially successful one is the Banaganapalli. While my favourites are Shakkar gutli (a small apple sized mango that is sweet as sugar – shakkar +sugar) and Imampasand for its flavour, the humble banaganapalli is a good fruit to use in bakes and desserts.

I made my basic vanilla cupcake recipe and swapped out the vanilla for a dash of mango essence and pulp. The result was a moist, subtle mango cupcake. I went a few steps further and slapped on some mango flavoured buttercream. My mantra seems to be “when in doubt, go the whole hog”

I made this for a party and it was a huge hit. Try this with fresh mango pulp while the last of the season slowly inches out or with frozen if you cannot get fresh mangoes in your part of the world.

Mango Cupcakes with Mango Butter-cream

Mango Cupcakes with Mango Butter-cream

Mango Cupcakes (makes 12 medium ones)

½ cup unsalted butter at room temperature

2/3 cup sugar (I used regular sugar, powdered for ease of mixing)

2 eggs ( use 3 tablespoons of plain yogurt for an egg-less variant)

1 teaspoon mango essence

1 ½ cup all purpose flour

1 ½ teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

¼ teaspoon salt

1/2 cup of mango puree (mango pieces chopped and pureed in a blender with a splash of water)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Farenhiet or 175 Celsius and line muffin trays with paper liners

Cream butter and sugar till light and fluffy. Add the yogurt (or eggs, beating well after each addition) and beat well. Beat in the mango essence.

In another bowl, whisk the flour with salt, baking soda and baking powder

Add the mango puree and flour to the butter-sugar mixture alternately, beginning and ending with flour.

Evenly fill the paper liners with batter and bake for 18-20 minutes or till a tester comes out clean.

Leave to cool on a wire rack before frosting.

Edited to add: Sometimes the consistency of the mango pulp/ puree can make the batter thicker than desired. Adding 2-3 tablespoons of milk / water to the batter to get cake batter consistency will help.

For the mango butter-cream frosting

1/2 cup unsalted butter at room temperature

11/2 cup sifted confectioner’s sugar / icing sugar

1/2 teaspoon mango essence

1 pinch of salt

1/2 cup mango puree

Whip the butter for 1 minute on medium speed with a hand whisk/ blender until creamy. Add the sugar in 2-3 batches and whip on low speed till it has mixed well. Add the salt, essence and mango puree and mix till blended. Use as required. If the buttercream is too runny, add upto 3/4 cup more icing sugar to make piping consistency.

I used a star tip nozzle to pipe swirls on the cooled cupcakes. Added a few slivers of chopped fresh mango as garnish.

 

Mango Cupcakes with Mango Butter-cream

Mango Cupcakes with Mango Butter-cream

 

Chili Garlic Sauteed Vegetables ~ Sandwich

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Sauteed Vegetable Sandwich

Sauteed Vegetable Sandwich

This has to be the month of sandwiches for me. After detesting dry bread with cucumber and tomato slices, I have become a sandwich fiend with a vengeance. There is nothing better than a good sandwich made with fresh bread. Generally I do not like the bread to be slathered on with either butter or mayonnaise. Just a little to get things going and add flavour.  This sandwich filling has three of my current favourites ~ mushrooms, olive oil and a readymade chilli garlic paste which is handy to have in the fridge.

I add this paste to curries, dal, pasta sauce, vegetables and even spinach for a nice kick. It is not too spicy and yet lends a wonderful depth to the vegetables. Am sure this can be made at home, I just picked it up on a whim of my now aimless supermarket trips and am (for a change) making good use of it.

I used onions, sliced mushrooms and a little bit of bell peppers. Am sure zucchini, thin strips of carrot, and even slices of eggplant will taste terrific in this. The key is to add a lot of onions  and saute them on a medium flame till they are sweet from the caramelization, but not brown or crisp.

A box of these sauteed vegetables in the fridge will make it easy to rustle up pasta, a roti wrap or even as a vegetable side on a busy weeknight.

Sauteed Vegetable Sandwich

Sauteed Vegetable Sandwich

Chili Garlic Sauteed Vegetables ~ Sandwich (Makes 2)

4 slices                       Bread of choice, lightly toasted

1 medium                   Onion, sliced (about 2/3 cup)

1 cup                          Vegetables such as bell peppers, mushrooms, zucchini, spinach etc, sliced

1 tablespoon              Extra virgin olive oil

Salt to taste

1 teaspoon                 Chilli garlic paste (or grind together one clove of garlic with 1 ripe red chilli)

a handful of fresh herbs such as coriander or basil

1 teaspoons               Salted butter

  • In a flat pan, heat the oil and add all the vegetables. Saute on medium heat till the vegetables have wilted and the onions are translucent(about 2 minutes).
  • Add the chilli garlic paste, salt to taste and the fresh herbs and mix well.  Continue to saute till the liquid from the vegetables has almost dried off. At this point, the onions should be a deep brown and still soft. Turn off the heat and cool.
  • On a medium hot tava, toast the bread lightly and apply the butter.
  • Place the sauteed vegetables in a thin layer, top with the other slice of bread and press down lightly. Toast for 1 minute on each side, ensuring the filling does not come out.
  • Slice diagonally and serve warm.

Note: these vegetables can be stored in the fridge in an air tight container for upto 5 days to make a quick meal tossed with cooked pasta or in a wrap.

 

Tabbouleh Salad with Jowar Pearls (Gluten Free)

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Note: If you would like to attend the Escapades Culinary Studio Class on salads this week, send me a message on our FB page.

 

I love Mediterranean food. As is evident from my attempts to make non deep fried falafels and pita bread from scratch. I also love the freshness of the salads that are served. Simple fresh ingredients, light and summery dressings and a meal or a side is ready in as much time as it takes to chop all the vegetables.

Tabbouleh Salad

Tabbouleh Salad

Tabbouleh salad is popular as a side. It uses bulgur wheat. I teach this in my salads class, and it is a very big hit with everyone. I’m sharing it here for the readers of this blog. Use jowar pearls as per this recipe for a gluten free version of this salad. The original uses bulgur wheat which can be substituted with broken wheat rava used for upma etc, cooked millets of any kind such as foxtail or even cooked brown rice.

I like to eat this salad spread on a roti wrap with either a sliced boiled egg or grilled paneer and make it a complete meal.

Tabbouleh Salad with Jowar Pearls (Gluten Free)

Serves 3-4

Jowar pearls                                              ½ cup, soaked for 4-5 hours, cooked in a pressure cooker with ½ teaspoon salt

Parsley                                                        11/2 cup, leaves tightly packed

Mint                                                              ½ cup, leaves only

Cucumber                                                  1 medium, retain the skin, remove seeds and chopped small

Tomatoes                                                  3 medium, chopped

Onion                                                          1 small, finely sliced

Feta Cheese                                             ¼ cup, crumbled (use fresh paneer to substitute)

Pine Nuts                                                  1/4 cup, toasted (use walnuts or almonds to substitute)

For the dressing

Lemon Juice                                          2-3 tablespoons (adjust according to taste)

Salt and freshly cracked pepper    to taste

Extra virgin Olive oil                          1/3 cup

 

* Wash all the greens and lay them to drain on absorbent towels.

* Chop the tomatoes into small squares. Remove the seeds from the cucumber and chop to the same size of the tomatoes. Finely chop the onions and set aside.

* Finely shred the greens – parsley, mint

* Whisk all the ingredients for the dressing and do a taste test. Adjust seasonings and set aside.

* In a bowl large enough to toss everything up, add the chopped greens, cucumber, tomato, onion and jowar. Mix well with a large spoon. Pour over the salad dressing and mix everything well. Let stand for at 10 minutes before serving. Top with crumbled feta cheese and toasted pine nuts just before serving.

 

Beet and Orange Citrus Salad with Walnuts {Recipe}

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Beetroot and Orange Salad

Beetroot and Orange Salad

My love for beetroot is well, err, nonexistent to tell you the truth. It cannot be easy to get over years of being subjected to an overcooked grey green goop of a ‘curry’ to be eaten with sambar and rice in a hostel mess or any one of the several (cheap) eating joints one frequents as a singleton / student / working woman in a new place that actually turns out to be this brilliantly coloured beetroot! Imagine my shock and horror when I realized, hours of cooking can turn a beautiful wine coloured beetroot into a grey mess.

My favourite way to eat beetroot is boiled, chopped, with simple mustard and curry leaves tadka, salt and a dash of lime squeezed on top.

I also love them as cutlets which are very popular in the Escapades family and in a raita where they look so glam! Up next I want to try out this beautiful Beetroot and Gruyere Cheese Salad. Just look at how gorgeous it is!

I was supposed to join my friend Preethi who writes the blog The Meal Algorithm in her salad a day quest. she is posting one salad per day for the whole month of August and I failed miserably. This is a make up post honestly 😦 Check out her blog for some pretty awesome salad recipes

beetroot and orange salad

beetroot and orange salad

Beetroot and Orange Citrus Salad

Serves 2

Beetroot                                                          4, boiled and skin removed

Oranges                                                           3

Walnuts                                                           1/3 cup

Mint Leaves                                                    a few

For the Dressing

Orange Juice                                                   2 tablespoons

Honey                                                             2 teaspoons

Extra Virgin Olive Oil                                    2 teaspoons

Salt and pepper to taste

  1. Skin the oranges with a knife, removing the skin and the white membrane. Slice into rounds
  2. Boil and skin the beetroots, slice into rounds
  3. In a small bowl, add all the ingredients for the dressing and whisk lightly with a fork. Set aside
  4. On a plate, assemble the beetroot and orange slices; sprinkle the mint leaves and walnuts on top. Drizzle the salad dressing and serve immediately

Breakfast Muffins with Mango ~ Wholewheat & Egg-less

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DSC_0432

A breakfast muffin is a misnomer. Make and enjoy these tasty little muffins any time of the day. They can be ofcourse had for breakfast, warmed slightly with a little butter, or as a tea time snack, post workout indulgence or snack box item for an adult or child.

I was almost entirely inspired by this recipe of fellow blogger who I endlessly stalk. I added chopped mango pieces instead of making them into a pulp. Remember how I gushed about her Masala Bread and made this Wholewheat Spinach Bread? Anyhoo, prolific bloggers make me mad. How do they churn out yumminess, take amazing pictures and have the post up before the season is out? Beats me…after all these years of blogging, I still can’t get my posts up and running.

On a side note, how many of you have food pictures from 4 years ago that you haven’t blogged yet? (*raises hand guiltily).

Wholewheat Mango Muffins

Whole Wheat Egg-less Mango Muffins

Makes 6 muffins

Mango                                     1 cup peeled and chopped (about 1/2 a large mango – I used Bananaganapalle)

Whole Wheat Flour            1 cup

Milk                                          1/2 cup

Jaggery/ Sugar                    ¼ cup (grated if using jaggery)

Baking Powder                     1 teaspoon

Baking Soda                           ½ teaspoon

Cardamom                             2 pods, skin removed and powdered smooth

Vegetable Oil                        2 tablespoons

Salt                                            a pinch

Vinegar                                   1 teaspoon

Coconut                                  2 tablespoons (fresh coconut grated or use dried)

Granola                                   2 teaspoons (for the topping)

 Whisk together the flour, coconut, salt, cardamom powder, baking powder and soda.

Add the vinegar to the milk and set aside for 10 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 180 C and lightly coat the insides of the pan with oil.

Add the oil and grated Jaggery/ sugar to the milk and vinegar and mix till the Jaggery has melted

Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix gently in a few strokes till a batter is formed. Add the mango pieces and mix.

Spoon the batter into the muffin tray till about 2/3 full, top with the granola and bake for 26-28 minutes. Insert a skewer into the muffin at 25 minutes, if it comes out clean, remove from the oven.

Set aside to cool for 10-15 minutes. Serve warm with a little butter.

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