Author Archives for Swati Raje

Brunch – Indian Style!!

My favorite brunch is Eggs Benedict Florentine with cantaloupe & strawberries and a really good Bloody Mary.  If I could eat this every Sunday I would be a happy woman – a relatively small wish I think.  But I didn’t grow up eating anything even close to this.  Indians don’t typically eat eggs, pancakes, waffles and such for brunch.  Instead we eat some unique dishes that one would never see on a restaurant menu.  One dish my mother made often is what I made this morning.  I’ve put my own spin on it over the years and made it more healthy & nutritious.  Don’t be fooled, it is a delicious start to any Sunday, and my son eats two or three bowlfuls anytime I make it. 

I’m not quite sure what to call this dish.  I make it to use up the end of loaves of bread used for sandwiches during the week.  Let’s face it, we all have these ends and never know what to do with them. Well now you have an option other than croutons or bread crumbs or worse – throwing them out.  Traditionally this was made with plain old white bread (that’s pretty much all you can buy in India even today), but I usually buy the Arnold’s Flax & Fiber or Oat Nut bread.  We go through about a loaf a week so after 5 weeks I have enough ends stored in the refrigerator to make this recipe.

10 slices of bread ends cut into 1 inch cubes
1 medium onion chopped
1 large clove garlic sliced
2 thai green chilis chopped finely (remove seeds or use only one for less heat)
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 Cup shelled soy beans (I buy the frozen kind)
1/4 cup canola oil
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp turmeric
2 tsps cumin/coriander powder
One half fresh lime
1/4 Cup chopped cilantro

In a large pan heat the oil on medium high heat.  Add cumin seeds and allow to turn dark.  Add garlic & chilies and fry until garlic starts to turn golden brown.  Add onion, salt, turmeric, cumin/coriander powder.  Saute about 2 minutes until onion is soft and translucent.  Add the soy beans.  Saute for 1 minute then cover the pan to cook the soy beans on low heat for 5 minutes or till tender.  Remove cover and return to medium high heat.  Add bread cubes and stir to coat all the bread with the oil in the pan.  Saute for 2 minutes stirring constantly but gently so as not to break the bread too much.  Sprinkle about 2 – 4 Tbsp water  over the bread distributing it around the entire pan – you will hear the pan sizzle as the water hits the hot bottom.  Turn heat to medium low, cover pan and let steam for about 5 minutes.  Do not turn heat too low as keeping it slightly higher will allow the bottom layer of bread to turn crispy and also prevent upper layers from getting soggy.  Remove from heat.  Sprinkle with juice of lime,  stir, and serve garnished with cilantro.

Notes

  • Cumin/Coriander powder can be found in Indian markets
  • I added soy beans to this because they are yummy but also because they are a great source of protein
  • Sometimes I substitute the soy beans with frozen “Soycatash” from Trader Joe’s.  It is a mix of soy beans, corn & red bell pepper.
  • If you absolutely have to have your meat, try browning some hot Italian sausage and add it with the bread cubes. 

So, the next time you have bread ends leftover and don’t know what to do with them try making this dish and let me know what you think.  If you have had some version of it, help me come up with a good name for it.  For now I’ll call it an Indian Bread Hash.

And don’t forget the Bloody Mary!!!!!!

4th Grade Homework – Bake Bread!!

Two days ago my son came home from school with a fairly heavy, plastic grocery bag in his hand.  When I asked what was in it he informed me that it was his homework for Thursday.  Ok, this was interesting.  He then proceeded to hand me a sheet of paper that explained what this was all about.  The King Arthur Flour company was at their school for an assembly to promote their Life Skills Bread Baking Program.  The objective was for the kids to learn that with a little science, a little baking instruction and some good flour, they can bake delicious bread.  They had provided the flour, yeast, rubber scraper & a plastic bag to hold the loaves.

Ok, great concept!  But my initial reaction was “I don’t have three hours to spare on a Thursday night to bake bread”.  His response “Oh don’t worry, the principal asked the teachers not to give us any homework that night”.  Awesome! But who was going to tell my boss or my clients not to schedule any conference calls or bug me with emails that evening?  I suggested perhaps going to the Whole Foods and buying a couple of loaves to donate.  Told him to tell the teacher that his mother is a professional baker and that’s why they look so perfect.  Needless to say he didn’t think much of the idea.  Seriously, couldn’t they have them do this on a Sunday?  But I saw how excited the little man was and gave in………after all the school was going to donate the loaves to a local food pantry.

I haven’t baked bread in over ten years.  I have to admit it was fun!  I didn’t do a lot.  My job was to read and knead and provide a little guidance.  Oh yes, and clean up.  He did all the measuring and mixing and followed the instructions impeccably right down to the shaping and scoring of the loaves.  I had forgotten how therapeutic baking bread can be.  Just kneading the dough worked some of my week’s stress away, and believe me there was a lot of it.  Smelling it baking in the oven as I type this is melting away the rest.  The glass of wine next to me doesn’t hurt.

Best part of all…….we get to keep one loaf!!  So the next time you have the urge to go to the local market and pick up a fresh loaf of bread, consider baking some at home.  We had a blast bonding over bread!

Final thought:  Don’t do it on a Thursday, save it for the weekend!  I’m exhausted!

Sunday Pancakes!

My nine year old loves pancakes for breakfast.  He would eat them every day if I allowed.  Much like so many others out there I bought frozen pancakes (yes I am admitting it) from Eggo or Aunt Jemima for years.  Being a single mom doesn’t leave me very much time and I thought how bad could it be.  Until one day I decided to actually read the lengthy list of ingredients on the box.  Perhaps I was in denial all those years in opting not to read them.  That day I decided to buy frozen pancakes no longer and find a healthy alternative.

Now I spend about one hour each Sunday morning making some healthy pancakes which I then refrigerate for the rest of the week.  They can also be individually frozen if you need them to last longer.  The kids will never know they’re healthy.  HINT – don’t tell them they’re healthy else you’ve lost them.  Here is my pancake recipe……

Combine 1/2 C sifted all purpose flour, 1/2 C sifted white whole wheat flour, 1/2 cup Bob’s Red Mill High Fiber hot cereal, 2 1/2 tsp baking powder, 2 tbsp sugar, 1/2 tsp cinnamon, 3/4 tsp salt in a large bowl.  In a smaller bowl, whisk 1 egg until well beaten.  Add 1 1/4 C skim milk and 3 tbsp canola oil.  Add the wet ingredients to the dry and whisk to combine.  Let sit for 10 mins.  Cook pancakes as usual.  Serve with maple syrup (please do not use the imitation stuff) or my son likes to eat them with strawberry or peach jam.

Note: you can buy the Bob’s Red Mill brand at almost any grocery store in the same aisle as the flour.

Variations: 

1 – You can make these into buttermilk pancakes by substituting 1/2 tsp baking soda for the baking powder and 1 1/4 cup of buttermilk for the skim milk.
2 – Try adding a mashed ripe banana to the batter.
3 – I am not a fan of sweet breakfast foods so I make a savory variation of these pancakes for myself.  Here’s how:

Eliminate the sugar and cinnamon.  Add an additional 1/4 tsp of salt, 1 tsp garam masala (found in Indian markets), 1 medium onion chopped and sauteed, 1 finely chopped green chili.  Cook in same manner.  Serve topped with scrambled eggs (egg whites are great too) and a dash of Frank’s Red Hot sauce.

The recipe makes about 10 pancakes depending on size of your ladle.  It actually makes 11 with mine but we all know that the first one is never pretty and meant to be for the cook to taste.

I had my neighbor’s kids over one morning and they went home raving about them.  So if you get a chance try these pancakes out.  Let me know how your kids react.  Would love to hear about any other variations you can think of too…..

Ciao,
Swati

Welcome!

Welcome to The Persnickety Palate!!  This blog is meant to be a journey into the culinary world and I am thrilled that you have joined me!

I discovered food fairly late in life.  Now I realize that sounds silly since we all eat from the day we’re born.  But I am referring to the love of food; the true enjoyment in making it and eating it.  I was born in India and grew up in many different cities throughout India and the U.S.  You would think this would have exposed me to a plethora of cuisines and yet most of my childhood revolved around home made Maharashtrian Indian food.  Mind you my mother is a superb cook and would venture once in a while so no complaints here.  But our outside influences were the basic burgers, pizza (from Pizza Hut no less), pasta with jarred Ragu, and take out Chinese.  Not exactly haute cuisine.

My college years were my missed opportunity.  You see I went to a university with international diversity and met friends from more than 30 countries.  I even had the good fortune of traveling to Greece and Italy to live with the locals for which I will be forever grateful to the two friends who made it possible.  So why do I call this a missed opportunity?  Somewhere around my senior year of high school I decided to go partially vegetarian.  Today, just writing that makes me laugh.  What exactly is a partial vegetarian?  Well, I decided I wouldn’t eat anything with a bone on it – chicken breast only.  No beef – unless I craved a burger.  No seafood – except white fish fillet……you catch my drift.  Needless to say, I missed some amazing foods in my travels.

Luckily my first job was in NYC in corporate america during the glory days of the 80s.  The days of 3 martini lunches and Friday lunches that turned into dinners at the company expense.  Here I met some wonderful mentors who told me how idiotic my little rules were and I began to try new foods.  My most memorable dinner was at the Mansion on Turtle Creek in Dallas, TX where for the first time I had a 12 course tasting menu with wine pairings…….I was hooked!

Ok, so I had learned to love to eat food but I rejected any notion of cooking it because I saw it as a chore.  Largely because I had watched my mother day in and day out working so hard to make a meal after a hard day at work, and then cleaning up afterward only to do it again the next day.  My culture also has a tendency to make cooking an obligation for women which of course sucks the joy out of it.  Moving out on my own took all those silly notions right out of my head.  I realized I was the one suffering since eating takeout got old very quickly.  You see my mother had spoiled me by providing delicious home cooked meals for all those years.  So it was either learn to cook or give up good food!  I chose wisely and started experimenting.

Today I love to try anything and everything (almost – there are some limitations).  Recent adventures coming in the next post.  I love to cook different types of cuisines and am experimenting all the time.  My son and foodie friends are kind enough to be the guinea pigs and polite enough to eat what I make.  I rarely follow a recipe without changing it and consider it a piece of scientific artwork.

If you have a passion for food, I hope you will share some ideas and experiences with us.  If you are a novice to cooking or want to get started, I hope this blog will provide you with some tips and encouragement to keep at it.  So let’s share some food and some fun!!

Cheers,
Swati

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