Stir Fried Garlic Tofu Noodles

Some of my favorite weeknight dinners are simple stir fried dishes. This version came about simply with ingredients I had in my fridge, combined with my love for singapore noodles. With garlic, ginger and turmeric as base flavors, this stir fried noodle is a great way to incorporate tofu into your meals.

8 oz rice noodles (approx.220 grams)
1 large red onion, thinly sliced lengthwise
2″ piece ginger, peeled
5 cloves garlic, peeled
5 indian green chillies (makes this dish spicy. substitute with 1 serrano to make it mild or feel free to leave out chillies all together)
3/4 tsp cumin powder
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1 1/2 tsp coriander powder
4 cups fresh baby spinach, washed
2 cups sweet corn (I used frozen, can be substituted with fresh)
14 oz extra firm tofu  (you could also used super firm tofu)
handful of fresh cilantro, washed and chopped
2 tsp salt
2 tbsp canola oil

Cube the fresh tofu into 1″ pieces and place between dry towels and gently squeeze any excess moisture out. Make sure you don’t break the pieces.

In a pan heat one tbsp canola oil over medium heat for 30 seconds. Add the tofu to the hot oil. Make sure you stand away and drop the pieces in gently, facing away from your body. There will be some spluttering. Let cook for 3 minutes. Gently move the tofu around and get an even light brown on them. Remove the tofu onto a paper towel using a slotted spoon and let them rest.

Add the remaining tbsp of oil to the leftover oil in the pan and heat over medium heat. Finely chop ginger, garlic and chillies together. Add the cumin, coriander and turmeric powders to the oil and fry for 20 seconds and then add the chopped garlic, ginger and chillies. Fry over medium heat for 2 minutes.

Add thinly sliced red onions and sautee for 7-8 minutes until the onions are cooked and start slightly browning. Add 4 cups of spinach along with a tsp of salt. Mix well and cook over medium-high heat for 10 minutes. The spinach will wilt and give out a bit of water which should help you scrap any spices in the bottom of the pan and create a unified aromatic base for our noodles.

Add the frozen corn with the remaining tsp of salt, mix well and cook covered for 5 minutes over medium-high heat. Uncover, increase the heat and cook another 5 minutes. Add the pre-sauteed tofu to the corn mixture and toss together gently. Cook over medium heat for 10 minutes which will allow the tofu to soak in all the flavors of the vegetables and spices. Add almost all of the chopped cilantro with a little saved to add just before serving and turn of the heat.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add a few drops of oil to the water and then drop the rice noodles in it. The oil will keep the noodles from sticking to each other when cooked and drained. Cook the noodles according to your package instructions. Mine took just about 3 minutes. Drain the noodles, let sit for a minute to make sure all the water is drained.

Add the noodles to the vegetable-tofu mixture and toss together gently. Use tongs to separate the noodles and mix well to make sure all the spices, vegetables and color mix evenly.

Sprinkle the reserved fresh cilantro on top and serve warm.

Aaloo Palak

This recipe is very special and one of my favorites. I am thrilled to share my simple , easy to follow recipe of this traditionally  slow cooked laborious process, all without compromising on an ounce of flavor.

My home made version is not doused with cream and butter which often is the reason for flavor in many restaurants. I like to rely on the natural taste of the ingredients and add to the deliciousness with perfect combination of spices and stay away from the cream.

Much like for me,  this will quickly become one of your favorite weekend meals.

1 pound of baby potatoes, boiled and peeled (around 10-12)
3 bags of baby spinach (about 12-13 cups of fresh spinach)
1 large red onion, peeled and diced
3 large tomatoes, roughly chopped
5 cloves garlic, peeled
1 inch piece of ginger, peeled
3 green chillies (substitute: 1 serrano)
3 cloves
1/2 inch stick of cinnamon
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp canola oil
1 tsp cumin seeds
2 tsps salt
1 tsp garam masala
1 tsp coriander powder
3 tbsps cilantro, washed and finely chopped
In a large saute pot, melt 2 tbsps butter and add the oil and heat for 30 seconds. Add the cumin seeds and just when it starts turning light golden brown,  add chopped onions. Keep sautéing on medium-high heat until the onions are golden brown, around 10-12 minutes. Drop the heat to low.

In the meantime, using a blender, make a puree of roughly chopped tomatoes, garlic, ginger, cloves, cinnamon and a pinch of salt. No extra water needed since the tomatoes will lend a lot of water.

Add this pureed tomato mixture to the simmering onions. Make sure you are on low heat, there will be some spluttering. Mix well and let cook covered for 15 minutes until the tomato puree and spices are cooked and infused together with the onions and cumin.

Uncover and let the tomato sauce simmer on low heat. In the meanwhile, puree the baby spinach in a blender with few tsps of water. You will have to do this in batches. Make sure the spinach is a puree and not too watery. It is raw spinach at this time.
Add the pureed spinach to the simmering tomato sauce. Mix well and let simmer over medium heat for 30 minutes, while mixing every 10 minutes. You will notice a change from a bright green to a darker and earthier green as an indication of being done.

Add salt, coriander powder and garam masala. Mix well, add the halved cooked baby potatoes to the spinach sauce. Let simmer over medium heat for another 20 minutes. Check for seasoning, sprinkle cilantro and turn off the heat. Tastes great with any indian bread or basmati rice.

I like to serve this the day after because the baby potatoes have more time to absorb all the flavors. Tastes quite divine!

Spiced Lentil and Bean Stew

Inspired by the classic Ethiopian dish, and with my inclination towards indian spices came about this hearty and ‘warm your belly’ lentil stew. If you love earthy, warm spices, this will hit the right spot. Just the perfect bowl of dinner for the winter.

You will need:

3 cups lentils (regular brown or puy)
2 cans dark red kidney beans (pre-cooked)
1 bay leaf (fresh or dried)
1 large onion, finely chopped (yellow or white)
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2″ piece ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
1 tbsp vegetable oil
2 tbsp butter
2 large tomatoes, chopped ( for plum tomatoes, use 4)
1/4 cup tomato paste
4 cups vegetable stock (you can substitute with water)
1/3 cup cilantro, chopped
1 sprig, fresh mint leaves, roughly chopped
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp lemon juice

For the Spice mixture:
2 tsp cumin seeds
2 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp fenugreek seeds (optional)
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 tsp cardamom (i use whole ones)
4 cloves
1/2 stick cinnamon
2 tbsp crushed red pepper
1/2 tsp salt

In a dry skillet, add all the above spice mixture  ingredients. Toast over medium heat for 3-4 minutes. Keep tossing making sure the spices don’t burn. Powder these ingredients in a blender along with the chopped ginger with no liquid. It has to be a dry powder. Frying whole spices and freshly grinding them adds immense flavor to the stew. If you don’t have access to fresh whole spices, as a substitute, you could use the pre-powdered version of all the above spices and just mix them together in a bowl.

In a large pot, add 6 cups of water along with the lentils and bay leaf. Boil the lentils for about 45 minutes. Around the 30 minute mark, check to see the doneness and adjust amount of water and cooking time accordingly. The lentils after 45 minutes, should be cooked but not mushy. It should be firm and al dente since it is going to cook a bit more while putting together the stew.

Drain the lentils, also drain the can of kidney beans and set aside.

In a large pot, add the butter and vegetable oil. Once the butter is golden brown, add the onions and garlic. Sauteé for 10 minutes until the onions soften.

Add the ground spice mixture and cook for 7-8 more minutes making sure the spice powder is mixed evenly.

Add the chopped tomatoes and salt , cook 5 more minutes.

Add tomato paste, mix well and then add the vegetable stock.

Simmer over medium heat for 25-30 minutes.

Now add the cooked lentils and beans, simmer 20 more minutes.

Check for salt, top with the chopped cilantro, mint, lemon juice and turn off the heat.

I prefer this stew just on it’s own with a little extra squeeze of lemon, but you could also serve it with your favorite bread.

Sweet Potato, Chickpea and Green Lentil Soup

This is a soup recipe adapted from BHG. The original recipe called for pumpkin, red lentils and chickpeas, but with sweet potatoes, green lentils (french puy lentils) and chickpeas in my pantry, I decided to improvise. The sweet potatoes and green lentils turned out to be a great substitute for the pumpkin and red lentils.

I also had sage in stock. Since I am a sucker for sage with sweet potatoes, I decided to fry the sage in butter first and then start the soup with the sage infused butter. The crispy butter fried sage also makes a great garnish.

I was quite pleased that I could make enough and share with friends at work. It turned out to be a great lunch perfect for that rainy day!

4 medium sweet potatoes, washed, peeled and cubed
1 32 oz can chickpeas
3 cups green lentils, dried ( I prefer using dried and cooking it in stock, rather than using pre cooked lentils)
1″ piece ginger, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
3 medium carrots, peeled and diced
3 large tomatoes, chopped
6-8 fresh sage leaves
3 tbsp fresh cilantro, finely chopped
1 dried bay leaf (optional)
1 tsp turmeric powder
1 1/2 tsp coriander powder
3/4 tsp cumin powder
4 tbsp butter
12 cups vegetable stock
2 tsp salt ( split into four 1/2 tsp quantities to be added in layers)
juice from 1 lemon

Melt butter over medium heat until it turns golden brown. Add sage leaves which will start becoming crispy after some spluttering. Remove sage and set aside.

In the sage infused butter left behind in the pan, add garlic, ginger and onions. Cook for 4-5 minutes until the onions are cooked translucent.

Add chopped carrots, 1/2 tsp salt and sauté for 5 minutes until the carrots just start getting tender. Add cubed sweet potatoes, chickpeas, 1 tsp salt, turmeric, cumin and coriander powders. Cook for 10 minutes until the sweet potatoes just start cooking.

Add chopped tomatoes, remaining 1/2 tsp salt and the sage leaves. Cook for 2 minutes and add the lentils, bay leaf and measured vegetable stock. Cover and let cook over medium heat for 40-45 minutes.

Uncover and check for doneness. The lentils should be perfectly tender (but not mushy), the sweet potato, chickpeas and carrots should also be tender yet hold their shape but will melt in your mouth into an explosion of flavors. Add chopped cilantro and lemon juice, turn off the heat and serve hot with any fresh baked bread of your choice.

I served the soup with pumpernickel bread and loved the combination of the smoky earthy soup with the deep and intense pumpernickel bread. The combination was perfect.

Coconut Chayote Squash Masala

This kind of Squash, a prominent vegetable in Indian cooking, is known as Chayote squash in markets in the US. The local name we know and call it by is Chow Chow, which certainly sounds more fun! It is typically used to many varieties of stews. It is a juicy/watery vegetable with a light and delicate flavor.

This variation makes it an easy weeknight meal and an ideal side dish for Indian breads or a steaming bowl of basmati rice. Personally, the garlic-ginger-coconut combination makes it divine!

4 chayote squash, washed and peeled
1 large onion, thinly sliced
1 large tomato, chopped
1 large potato, chopped into 1 inch cubes
1″ piece ginger, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 serrano peppers, finely chopped
2 tsp coriander powder
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1/4 tsp cumin powder
1/3 cup freshly grated coconut
3 tbsp cilantro, finely chopped
2 tbsp canola oil
2 tbsp salt

Heat a non stick pan over medium heat. Add the chopped serrano, ginger and garlic. Stir for a 30 seconds and make sure the garlic doesn’t burn. Add the chopped onions and cook for 5 minutes until they turn translucent. Add tomatoes and cook for 10 minutes until the tomatoes soften.

Add cumin, coriander and turmeric powders. Sauté for 6-7 minutes minutes until the strong spices mellow down slightly and get incorporated well with the veggies. Add the chopped potatoes, squash, salt and mix well together. Cover and cook on medium heat for 10-15 minutes. Check a couple of times in between and stir the veggies to make sure they don’t stick to the bottom. If they do, then sprinkle a little water and lower the heat.

Uncover and make sure the squash and potatoes are cooked well. Insert a small knife into the center of veggie and make sure they are cooked through. They should to still hold their shape but also be tender.

Sprinkle the coconut and cilantro and cook uncovered for another 6-7 minutes which helps blending all the flavors together. It is best served hot like most other Indian curries.

Garlicky Carrot and Potato stuffed Wontons

This makes a perfect tea time snack and is great served as an appetizer. It’s quite easy to make and needs only a few ingredients. I love working with wonton wrappers because sky is the limit when it comes to options for it’s filling. Here is one of my creations served with a ginger-scallion sauce.

20 wonton wrappers (makes 10)
2 large potatoes, boiled and peeled
1 large onion, finely chopped
5 garlic cloves, minced
1″ piece ginger, minced
4-6 indian or thai green chillies, minced
3 carrots, peeled and grated
2 tbsps salt
3 tbsp cilantro, finely chopped
3 tbsp unsalted butter

For the sauce:
1 cup low sodium soy sauce
1 tbsp sriracha sauce(optional)
3 tbsp  scallions, finely chopped
1 “piece fresh ginger, grated
1 tbsp lemon juice

Heat a large skillet and melt butter until golden brown. Add onions, ginger, garlic and green chillies.  Saute for 5 minutes over medium-high until the onions are cooked until translucent, not just brown yet. Add the grated carrots and 1 tbsp salt. Cook for another 6-8 minutes until the carrots are done.

Add cilantro and remove from heat. Transfer this mixture to a mixing bowl and let cool. Boil potatoes and peel. Add the potatoes to the mixing bowl along with the carrot mixture. Mash together adding the remaining tbsp salt until it comes together like a filling.

Place a tbsp of the filling on a wonton wrapper. Wet the edges of with water. Place another wonton wrapper over it and use a fork to press the edges together immediately so the water helps to stick and seal the edges.

Prepare all of them and set them aside for 20 minutes before frying or steaming. In the mean while mix the soy sauce, sriracha sauce, ginger, lemon juice and scallions in a bowl and set aside. This is the dipping sauce. It is a really versatile sauce that can be used for many other asian inspired dishes.

The filled wonton wrappers can be prepared two ways. I fried half of them and steamed the remaining half.

Heat a wide-deep skillet with canola oil for frying. Keep the heat low and drop in two wontons at a time, fry until golden brown and set aside over a paper towel to drain.

In another pot, fill water about 2-3 inches high and let it come to a gentle boil. Drop in two wontons at a time and cook for 2-3 minutes until the inside is completely warmed and the skin is perfectly soft. Serve with the ginger scallion sauce.

Lima Bean Biryani

This is another one of my crazy kitchen sink recipes. Kitchen sink recipes are ones I have no plan or recipe for. I just make it up as I go along, with whatever ingredients I have at that moment. Most of the times it works well and the times it doesn’t, you don’t hear about it!

I love lima beans and I think these classic flavors go very well together and jazz up the usually challenging lima beans. It’s just another way of using the yummy beans.

2 cups lima beans, thawed ( I used frozen)
2 cups basmati rice
1 large white onion, peeled and roughly chopped
1 large red tomato, roughly chopped
5 cloves of garlic, peeled
1″ piece ginger, peeled
3 serrano chillies, roughly chopped ( I use the whole peppers. Feel free to adjust this as you please)
6 cloves
1 cinnamon stick
1/4 tsp asafoetida powder ( Optional: don’t let not having this ingredient discourage you from trying this recipe!)
1tbsp + 1tsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp coriander seeds
2 tsp salt
1/4 cup fresh cilantro
2 tbsp canola oil
1 tbsp butter

In a blender, add garlic, ginger, serrano chillies, cilantro, 1 tbsp cumin seeds, coriander seeds, 1 tsp salt, tomato and onions. Blend this mixture together, with no added water. The watery tomatoes yield just enough. Make this into a smooth paste and set aside.

Heat a largewide non-stick pan over medium heat with canola oil and  butter. Once the butter has melted add the remaining 1 tsp cumin seeds  and asafoetida powder.As I mentioned above, asafoetida is one of those things that not every one may have available. But don’t let not having  this one ingredient discourage you  from making the dish. It will taste great either way.

When the cumin seeds start spluttering, remove the pan from heat and  add the blended mixture. Doing it on heat will make a mess, there is a lot  of spluttering. Make sure you reduce the heat to low before returning the  pan to heat. Cook over low heat partially covered for 20-25 minutes,  stirring every  8 or so minutes. This will remove the raw smell from the  onion and spices and give room for all the flavors to meld together. Your kitchen must smell heavenly just about now!

Add the lima beans, the measured water and remaining tsp of salt. Increase the heat to medium high and cook uncovered for 10-12 minutes. Add the basmati rice, mix and let it come to a boil.

Just when it comes to a boil, cover and drop the heat to low. Cook for 20-25 minutes until the rice is perfectly done. Remove and gently fold or fluff using a spatula. Do not over mix or the rice will break and become mushy.

Garnish with cilantro and serve this dish hot with a cup of cool raita.