Monday, October 29, 2012

Good Old Chicken and Red Bean Soup - I call it my Mexican Soup


Nothing can be more comforting than a bowl of warm soup on a chilly and windy day. Today is one such day and I am craving for my Mexican styled Chicken and Red Bean Soup. I first made this soup for few friends on an equally cold Friday, when we had a Tex-Mex themed dinner party at our place. The soup was a big hit and I had only a small bowl of leftovers. I had it the next day for lunch and it was even better.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Subho Bijoya and Misti Mukh with Diabetic friendly Kancha Golla


Subho Bijoya!!!

After a year long wait, Durga Puja finally came and was over in a flash. Its time to bid the Goddess farewell and she promises to return the next year.

This year we had a grand time in Indianapolis. And as a fellow blogger PreeOccupied pointed out we surely did our three "must-do" this festive season - Eat, Pray and Love and in exact order! If you are a Bengali or someone who has been following the Bengali culture for sometime, you ought to know that for us no celebration is complete with out scrumptious food and delectable desserts. This Puja I had my quota of "Good Food" (read highly diabetic unfriendly food) and decided to end the festive season on a sweet note. 


After Durga Puja, we greet our friends and associates with the greeting "Subho Bijoya". We touch the feet of our elders as a mark of respect and offer our Bijoya r Pronam (regards) to them. The younger ones gets our Bijoya r Aashirbad and Bhalobasha (blessings and love). However, no Bijoya Pronam or Aashirbad is considered acceptable unless it is accompanied with a box of Misti (sweets). I was worried that my Bijoya Greeting would be shunned and looked down upon if I did not followup it with a Misti (sweets) post. 

I had spend my two hour long return journey from Indianapolis hooked on to my husband's Anroid   trying to find the perfect recipe for an easy and diabetic friendly Bengali Misti. My search ended with Tarla Dalal's Diabetic Friendly, Low Calorie, Low Cholestrol Rose Sandesh. One look at the recipe and I know its called Kancha Golla back home and Ma used to make it very often. I wonder how it slipped from my memory. Most of the Bengali sweets are made of Chana or Chena (not to be confused with  Paneer you get at your Indian Grocer). Chana/ Chena can be very easily made at home by adding lemon/ lime juice or vineger to boiling milk and then sepatating the cuddled milk solid  from the water. I think its also called Cheese Curd or Ricotta Cheese here in the US. The recipe uses very little sugar and you can also use sugar substitute. I am not too fond of rose flavor and hence swapped it for vanilla. You can use any flavor you like Rose or Almond. You can even add fruit puree to them and make delicious fruit flavored Kancha Gollas! The possibilities are endless. Hers is how I made my first ever Kancha Golla:


Heat the milk to its boiling point stirring frequently. We do not want the milk to burn at the bottom.


Add the vinegar and let the milk cuddle up. Lower the heat to medium to prevent the milk from spilling over.


Strain the cuddle up mill to separate the cheese curd from the water. Squeeze out any water remaining in the cheese curd.


Add the sugar or sugar substitute and the vanilla essence and kneed like a dough with your hands till all the sugar is absorbed and the cheese curd is velvety smooth. The kneed time is approx 3 to 4 minutes.


You can now shape your Kancha Gollas any way you like them. Traditionally, they are round and about the size of a ping-pong ball and garnished with either raisin or finely chopped pistachios or slivered almonds . I used an empty chocolate tray from Hershey's Pot of Gold to mold my Kancha Golla. Lil Sid was so excited to see them! 



Recipe Snapshot:


What I used:
Milk - 8 cups (I used 2% Reduced Fat Milk)
Vinegar - 4 tsp
Sugar or Sugar substitute - 3 tbsp
(I used Splenda Sugar Blend)
Vanilla Extract - 1 tsp

Golden Raisins or Slivered Almonds or finely chopped Pistachios for Garnish

What I did:

1. Heat the milk to its boiling point stirring frequently. We do not want the milk to burn at the bottom.

2. Add the vinegar and let the milk cuddle up. Lower the heat to medium to prevent the mil from spilling over.

3. Strain the cuddle up mill to separate the cheese curd from the water. Squeeze out any water remaining in the cheese curd.

4. Add the sugar or sugar substitute and the vanilla essence and kneed like a dough with your hands till all the sugar is absorbed and the cheese curd is velvety smooth. The kneed time is approx 3 to 4 minutes.

5. Shape them in ping pong ball sized round balls or use molds to give an interesting shapes.

6. Kancha Golla are ready to be served. They taste the best when the are absolutely fresh.



Tip: Do not throw away the water left after curdling of the milk. Use that water to make your chapati/ roti dough. Your rotis or chapatis will be super soft!

These Kancha Golla are very delicate, both in texture and taste. They taste phenomenal but do not have a great shelf life. No preservatives you see.  Its better to have it on the same day or you can refrigerate it for a day or two. But I feel it changes the taste.


Diabetic Platter:
"Desserts are never healthy. They are loaded with Sugar, Calories and Carbohydrate. And you better avoid it." As A diabetic I have heard theses sentences time and again and I have tried to follow them. However the festival season makes your mind weak. You really want to indulge. So here is THAT perfect recipe. Its not a zero-calorie or fat free recipe but a relatively healthier option than a lot of Indian dessert. And the good news is, its packed with tons protein and calcium and vitamins minerals like Riboflavin, Vitamin B12, Phosphorus and Selenium


Once again Subho Bijoya to everyone and may Ma Durga shower her blessing on everyone.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Chicken Teriyaki with Green Beans and Baby Corn and Happy Durga Pujo

".. Na dhaker awaj na parar pandel er gaan.... Muted panchami!!!! Missing Kolkata...!!!!.." says the FB status of my friend. And I echo her sentiments completely. Its Panchami today. The fifth day of Durga Puja and the only sound I hear is that of my dishwasher. As I sit continent apart from my hometown gazing at the beautiful fall colors from my window, I terribly miss that Dhak (kind of an Indian Drum and integral part of Durga Puja. More information here) and even the loudspeakers of my neighborhood pujo belting out one Bollywood song after the other, that I once hated.


Today is a very gloomy day here with scattered showers. I am in a pensive mood and the weather is not helping me either. The view from my window was the only saving grace which stopped my from sulking further and prompted me to take my camera and click a few shots. The camera reminded me of food, Durga Puja reminded me of food and my cousin just posted on FB that she is having dinner at my favorite Chinese joint in Kolkata. Innocent status updates can be so cruel at times!

I had already planned to make chicken noodles for dinner tonight but now after all the calls back home I wanted to make my dinner more festive. Few weeks earlier, I had seen Nigella Lawsaon make an express Chicken Teriyaki and I wanted to try it ASAP.

You can always get Teriyaki sauce in a bottle. Warm around half a cup of store bought Teriyaki sauce, diluted with one forth cup of water. Toss in some diced cooked chicken (boiled/ baked or fried). Cook till the sauce thickens and coats the chicken. Express Chicken Teriyaki served! Well that's for weeknights; for my first Durga Pujo in the US, I am ready to walk an extra mile!


We have been recently introduced to authentic Japanese cuisine and we don't seem to have enough of it. Sam love his Sake and Shochu. Sid's new favorite is Miso Soup and Ramen Noodles. And I am fantasizing about the melt-in-the-mouth Sashimi platter as I write about them. My or rather Nigella's Chicken Teriyaki recipe uses two very important Japanese ingredient, Sake (Rice Wine) and Mirin (Sweet Rice Wine). Even a month ago I would have thought twice before buying a Sake or a Mirin but not anymore; they are a part of my "pantry family" now along with Sesame Oil, Tahini, Olives, Cumin Powder and Hing!



Combine Sake, Mirin, Soy Sauce, Brown Sugar, freshly grated Ginger and Sesame Oil to make a marinade. Steep the chicken chunks in the marinade for 15 to 30 minutes.


Heat a tablespoon of oil in a non stick pan and pan fry the chicken pieces, with out the marinade till nearly cooked and beautifully bronzed on both sides.


Remove from the pan and set aside.


Add the marinade to the pan and let it cook on medium heat till bubbly and thickened.


Add the fried chicken pieces back to the sauce and give a good toss.


Add a hand fill of blanched green beans and a drained can of baby corn to the chicken pieces.


Give it a good toss, so that the sauce coats the vegetables properly.


Chicken Teriyaki is served!

Recipe Snapshot:


What I used:
Chicken - 1 lb, prefeably thighs, cut into chunks
Sake - 3 tbsp
Mirin - ¼ cup
Soy Sauce - ¼ cup
Brown Sugar - 1 tsp
Freshly grated Ginger - 2 tsp
Sesame Oil - a splash (10 drops approx)
Green Beans - 1 cup, blanched
Baby corn - 1 can drained
Vegetable/ Canola Oil - 1 tbsp

What I did:

1. Combine Sake, Mirin, Soy Sauce, Brown Sugar, freshly grated Ginger and Sesame Oil to make a marinade. Steep the chicken chunks in the marinade for 15 to 30 minutes.

2. Heat a tablespoon of oil in a non stick pan and pan fry the chicken pieces, with out the marinade till nearly cooked and beautifully bronzed on both sides.

3. Add the marinade to the pan and let it cook on medium heat till bubbly and thickened.

4. Add the fried chicken pieces back to the sauce and give a good toss.

5. Add a hand fill of blanched green beans and a drained can of baby corn to the chicken pieces.

6. Give it a good toss, so that the sauce coats the vegetables properly. Chicken Teriyaki is served!


I served it along some stir fried noodles with loads of vegetables. I had used whole grain Thin Spaghetti instead of egg noodles, to make it more healthy.


From scratch; from bottle or even take out, what ever the source might be, do try Chicken Teriyaki this Durga Pujo. Have a wonderful one!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Falling for Fall with this Spicy Smoky Pumpkin Soup

Fall is finally here!!! Actually its been a more than a month that it has arrived. As usual I am having late realizations. Be it in US or India, this is my favorite time of the year. I love the beautiful colors of the Fall here and back home its Durga Puja time. Durga Puja is the most important festival for Bengalis and the frenzy associated with it uncomparable. Even here, the Bengali Associations organizes the Durga Puja every year, albeit in a much smaller scale. I am excited to be a part of such an occasion this weekend!!!


Keeping Durga Puja aside, this Fall Lil Sid had his first Pumpkin Patch visit and was thrilled to bits. He tried to lift every pumpkin he came across and gave up saying, "Too Heavy!" Finally he and his Dad picked up a moderately sized pumpkin from the fields and Sid became so fond of his new prized possession that he even wanted to sleep with his pumpkin!



Sid wanted to carve a Jack-o-lantern out of his "beautiful" pumpkin as Caillou and his Grandpa had done but alas! His Mommy is not half as talented as Caillou's Grandpa! "Next year maybe" was her valiant try to pacify wailing Sid. Sam was worried that the pumpkin would rot sitting eternally on our kitchen counter table and Sid did not want any knives near his "its my pumpkin". Finally Sam could convince him that Mommy would make yummy goodies out of the pumpkin for him and he gave in at the mention of Pumpkin Pancakes.



The Pumpkin festival continued at my home for two full weeks starting with Pumpkin Pancakes for Sid. I boiled and then pureed the pumpkin and added to my usual Pancake batter and served it with Maple Syrup. Next we had Kumror Chokka, a dry pumpkin side dish with Kala Chana (whole Bengal gram). My friend Kichu Khon's recipe of Kumror Chokka is very similar to the way I cook it. I use Paanch Phoron (Bengali five spice - mix of Cumin, Nigella Seeds, Fenugreek Seeds, Mustard Seeds and Fennel Seeds) instead of just cumin for my tempering. Rest all remains the same. I also made Kumro Bhaja (Pumpkin Fritters) by dipping thin slices of pumpkin in a thick batter made of flour , corn flour, oil and water and a sprinkling of Poppy Seeds and then deep frying it. It was delightfully sinful and not so healthy. Not to forget the Kumro Bhaat e (Mashed Pumpkin with mustard oil, red onions and fiery green chilies), which brought back nostalgic childhood memories for Sam and me. 

The Pumpkin soup was the grand finale of our Pumpkin Fest. I really wanted to give it an Indian flavor and hence added a lot cumin. The cumin also imparted a smoky flavor to the soup which was further enhanced by Smoked Sweet Paprika. Those who know me or follow my blog knows my love for garlic. But in this soup, I ditched it completely and went for ginger. Cumin-ginger is a classic combination and the ginger also provides warmth to the soup. A very hearty and filling soup and Sid approved too!
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Peel and chop the pumpkin into big chunks and roast them in an 450 F oven for 35-45 min, till the pumpkin is tender. Let it cool and then mash it and keep aside.





In a soup pot, heat oil and add cumin seeds. Let it splutter for sometime. When the spluttering stops, add chopped onions and grated ginger and fry till the onions are slightly brown. Approx 3-4 min.





Next add the cumin powder and paprika. Mix well and cook for another minute.





 Now mash the roasted pumpkin and add to the pot, mixing it well with the rest of the masala.




Add half a cup of milk and make a fine puree of the pumpkin mixture. You could do it in a blender or a food processor or even use an immersion blender. I used a hand held one and it worked beautifully. There was a little spluttering here and there, the puree was fine.





Return the pumpkin puree to heat and add the remaining milk and bring it to a boil. Check for salt and pepper and adjust accordingly.





Ideally would have served it some toasted pumpkin seeds, but didn't have them on hand. So I served with toasted sunflower seed and jalapeno Greek Yogurt. I got this idea from Soma of eCurry's recipe. She had used fresh chopped Jalapeno and mixed it with sour cream. I chopped up some pickled Jalapenos and mixed it with Greek Yogurt. The combination was heavenly. This Jalapeno Cream is a must with this smoky Pumpkin soup.


Recipe Snapshot:


What I used:
Pumpkin/ Butternut squash - 10 cups chopped into big cubes
Onion - 1 medium sized chopped
Ginger - 2 tsp grated
Cumin Seeds - 1 tsp
Cumin Powder - 1 heaped tsp
Smoked Sweet Paprika - 1 tsp
Milk - 2 cups
Cooking Oil - 2 tsp
Salt
Pepper

What I did:

1. Peel and chop the pumpkin into big chunks and roast them in an 450 F oven for 35-45 min, till the pumpkin is tender. Let it cool and then mash it and keep aside.

2. In a soup pot, heat oil and add cumin seeds. Let it splutter for sometime. When the spluttering stops, add chopped onions and grated ginger and fry till the onions are slightly brown. Approx 3-4 min.

3. Next add the cumin powder and paprika. Mix well and cook for another minute.

4. Now add the mashed pumpkin to the pot, mixing it well with the rest of the masala.

5. Add half a cup of milk and make a fine puree of the pumpkin mixture.

6. Return the pumpkin puree to heat and add the remaining milk and bring it to a boil. Check for salt and pepper and adjust accordingly.

7. Serve hot with a dollop of Jalapeno Cream.

To make the jalapeno cream, 2 tsp of finely chopped pickled Jalapenos with half cup of Greek Yogurt or Sour Cream. You can always adjust the heat factor. If you want it mild, use one or even half a tsp of chopped jalapenos.



This soup is now synonymous with Fall for my family. And please... please pretty please do not forget the Jalapeno cream. It makes a lot of difference. Thanks Soma for that wonderful tip.

And as they say on the last day of Durga Puja, "Asche bochor aabar hobe!" (We''ll be beck next year)
The Pumpkin Soup returns to my kitchen next Fall.