Saturday, February 28, 2009

Celebratory Weekend Dinner - Part 2

Have I kept you waiting long? Please don't pout, sweet readers, because I'm going to make it up to you right now. My gift to you for being so patient is this: I'm NOT going to ramble on & on in this post. Today I will just let my food do the talking.

Oh .. er .. just one teensy-weensy monologue before I clam up. To recap, this is my follow-up to the intensely delicious Resham Kabab I had posted about last time. This Sooji Halwa (Semolina Pudding) is what you should have with it. These two dishes go together like Ross and Rachel, Lucy and Desi, that King of Queens guy and his hot wife, Ron and Hermoine (props to my Harry Potter fans) - a bit bizarre but somehow successful! Meant to be together!

The protagonist - semolina.

Sooji Halwa (Semolina Pudding)
Serves 4-6

1/2 cup ghee (clarified butter) or canola/vegetable oil
1 cup semolina (sooji)
3/4 cup sugar
1.5 cups water
4 small green cardamon (lightly crushed)
1 medium pinch saffron (about 1 tsp)
1/8 tsp yellow food color (small pinch if you're using the powder) - optional


1. Dissolve the water and sugar, and bring the mixture to a simmer. Add the green cardamom, saffron and food color (if using). Let it simmer for 2-3 mins, then take it off the heat and let the mixture steep.

The saffron ties that bind us

2. In the meantime, warm up the ghee in a saucepan on medium heat. Add the semolina all at once and keep stirring it till it starts to change color through the toasting process (the greyish-white starts to take on a reddish or golden tinge) - about 5-8 mins. Don't let it burn!

Adding ghee to anything is like adding sunshine ... and it smells fantastic!

3. After the light toasting, add the water mixture all at once - stand back! It may splatter!

4. Turn the heat down. Stir well, then cover with a lid, letting it slowly absorb the liquid. Keep stirring it every 2 mins. You can always add more water or ghee if you think it needs more cooking time to soften. It should be done in about 10-15 mins.

(Note: There are two signs you need to look out for to know it's ready: a) the mixture coagulates after absorbing all the liquid, and comes away from the sides of the pan when you stir it; b) the semolina grains will become completely soft, so that you can barely distinguish one kernel from the next.)

5. There are several ways to serve this. Obviously with your favorite kabab dish, or with your hot pooris and potato bhaji. You can have it purely as dessert, still warm with a dollop of vanilla ice-cream, or just plain. Hot or cold, it's an amazingly comforting dessert.

See how you can barely see the individual semolina grains? And the shine comes from the ghee - so don't be afraid to add more of it!

Such pretty colors here - I wonder if Gayathri will likey for her Magnificent Click Contest 2009? Only one way to find out ... I'm sending this in G!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Celebratory Weekend Dinner - Part 1

The atmosphere in our house for the past month-and-a-half has been a little intense. All thanks to a big, scary MOTHER of an exam that's been looming over us, particularly over DH's head (and what a fiiiine head it is). This was no regular 3 hour paper, folks. This was a ridiculous two day, 8 hours a day, sick exam. All I could do was sit and be DH's personal cheerleader on the sidelines as he went through it, then give him the wifely pep talk for the 3 weeks after the exam.

But today the entire house breathed a sigh of relief because we got the exam results last night, and we made it! Now life can move forward! No more "let's see" or "depends on" or "in case" - now things are jumping! And I owe the big guy a real treat to make him feel special (naughty minds like mine will go there, and I don't blame you - had fun? Ok, back to reality now). I'll give him a few days to think about it. If he was a girl, I'd give him jewelry, a real sparkler, because it's one of those types of really BIG DEAL occasions! But being a guy, I might have to run in to my neighborhood Best Buy or maybe the Apple store. In the meantime though, I can make him one of his favorite desi-boy meals.

Resham Kabab using the pre-packaged Bihari Kabab Shan masala (available in any Indian/Pakistani grocery store), is something my mom's been making for years. Weird thing is that it doesn't look anything like a traditional kabab! But the flavors are all there - that deep, meaty, fragrant, warm, spicy taste. The structure reminds me somewhat of meatloaf, but it's more melt-in-your-mouth. And you've GOT to get into it with your bare hands, with parathas, rotis or even flour tortillas. After meeting DH, he introduced me to a novel pairing to go with it. Would you believe, sooji halwa (sweet semolina pudding)?!
This was many years ago, back in Pakistan, when DH took me to one of his favorite kabab haunts. I remember it being packed to the gills, a bit ramshackle and pretty rough around the edges. Like most girls, I thought "this is his idea of a date?!". But then the food was served. Plates of steaming, fresh kababs that were so tender that they were dissolving the minute they touched my tongue. DH had also ordered a sizable order of sooji (semolina) halwa, which I thought was dessert. DH suggested I follow his example - "break off a piece of your naan (bread), take a bit of the kabab, then add some halwa to it ... now eat the whole thing". I did what Iwas told, and that was possibly the night I fell for him (or was it the kababs and halwa? Too late to think about it now!).

Resham Kabab
(made using Shan's Bihari Kabab Masala)
Serves 8

2 lbs ground beef
1.5 cups fried onions (pre-fried, or 4 onions, sliced & browned in canola oil)
1.5 tsp ginger paste
1.5 tsp garlic paste
1 cup plain whole milk yogurt, whipped
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped (plus a bit more for garnish)
1/2 cup mint leaves, chopped (plus a bit more for garnish)
2 tbsp canola oil
1 package Shan's Bihari Kabab mix
1 red onion, thinly sliced
1 lemon, quartered
1/4 cup raw papaya with skin, pureed (optional)
It's not "long black pepper" ... it's laung (which is cloves) AND black pepper. And I have no idea what the heck a "musk melon" is.
1. Put the raw ground beef in a 9" x 13" baking dish. Add the fried onions, ginger-garlic, yogurt, cilantro, mint, papaya (optional), oil and the whole Shan Masala package.

2. Get in there and mix it all up with your hands. Everything needs to fully incorporated, and evenly distributed. Press the mixture down evenly across the pan. Cover it with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 8-12 hours (or even upto 24 hours). But if you're using the papaya OR any other meat tenderizer, then just 8 hours is perfect.
3. When you're ready to cook it, preheat your oven to 350 F. Remember to take the plastic wrap off the baking dish before placing it in the oven! Let it bake for 45 mins - 1 hour. Keep an eye on it after 45 mins though. It should be bubbling and the top will start to brown. You want there to be a medium brown crust on top.
4. Take it out of the oven and let it rest for 10 mins. Garnish it with the sliced red onion, chopped cilantro and mint, and the quartered lemon (every person gets a quarter of the lemon to squeeze on their serving of the kabab), then serve. Preferably with naan, parathas, rotis or flour tortillas.
Verdict: This dish gets the award for most flavorful meal that uses minimal effort! Think about it - it's just dump, mix and bake. And you're a star - ta daaaaa! Leftovers are great, just like meatloaf, because you can make deeelish sandwiches out of it for days. Or take a paratha and roll it up with this kabab mixture inside, along with some raita and onions - instant kabab rolls!

You should definitely serve this with my quick 'n easy Sooji Halwa (Semolina Pudding) right alongside with it. I'll be posting that next, so watch out. Let me tease you with this though ...

Ooooo, aaaaahhhhh *applause*

Oh, and for those of you who have been kind enough to be thinking about my Ozzy and how you haven't seen him in a while, thought I'd give you lovely people a little update - here he is, soaking up the afternoon sun ...

As you can see, he's doing fine. Just fine :)

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Bling Bling Peaches for the Oscars

Tonight is the night, folks! Can you feel it? That electricity in the air? The anticipation, the excitement, the snarky comments of Joan Rivers, and the fake smile of Ryan Seacrest? It's a night when we get to see the glamazons and titans of Hollywood strutting their feathers on the red carpet. The results in those tiny envelopes can skyrocket someone's career to the stars, while at the same time send their peers shooting down in flames. It's a time to make a fashion statement, a political statement, ANY statement, because the world is watching.

And we, the world, can't wait to judge them. HeeheehehehahahAHAHAHAHAAAAA!

Overdramatic, you say?! Well, tonight is all about the drama!

One of my (and most women's) favorite part about tonight is the red carpet fashions. I get so excited when someone looks way better than I've ever seen them, and so disappointed when others go the safe route. But let's face it, the most fun is when someone wears something truly atrocious! It's SO bad that you can't take your eyes off of it! Lately, the stars have been pretty tame, but I have high hopes for this year. Someone's got to go the way of Bjork-in-the-swan-dress tonight!

But let's keep things pretty between us, dear readers. To whet your appetites, here are some glamourous dresses I spotted here in NYC. Who do you think would look good in these?
This one's got Penelope Cruz written all over it!
Some young thing with long legs could rock this - Dakota Fanning perhaps? Or maybe Heidi Klum, who has the guts to wear something so out there! But it's too casual for the Oscars, if you ask me.
Kate Winslet, because she's got classic tastes.

We're going to need something to eat while watching the Oscars, folks. It's going to be a long show. I can't miss that Slumdog Millionaire nominated song which will be performed on stage tonight! So yes, we'll need some fortifying grub that not only looks fantastic, but makes you feel amazing on the inside. And this year, I pick this Bling-Bling Peach & Blueberry Cobbler. A humble dessert when you break it down, because it doesn't seem to require a lot of effort. But those peaches and blueberries remind me of precious jewels, nestled in that caramely cobbler mix, waiting to be crowned by a dollop of ice-cream. It's a perfect dessert (even though it doesn't have a smidgen of chocolate). It smells like what heaven SHOULD smell like (you listening, God?), it has the right amount of sweetness, freshness, gooeyiness, and crunch. And let's not forget, before it goes into the oven it just looks so darn PRETTY!

(Note: Not so pretty when it comes out of the oven; just very beige and brown overall, but underneath that are those jewel-like fruits, waiting to be exposed! Sounds so naughty!)

Bling-Bling Peach & Blueberry Cobbler
(inspired by Peabody's version and the one on Pick Your Own's site)
Serves 8

6 tbsp unsalted butter
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tbsp baking powder
3/4 cup milk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
4 medium ripe peaches
1/4 cup fresh blueberries
1/4 cup chopped pecans
1/3 cup packed brown sugar

1. Fill up a medium saucepan with water and set it to boil. Once it's boiling, dunk the ripe peaches in the boiling water for 1 min. Then take them out and immediately put them in an ice-bath (ice-cubes and cold water). Now you should be able to take the skin off very easily, with your fingers.
2. Slice the skinned peaches and keep aside.
3. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Put the butter in an 8" x 8" baking pan, and leave it in the oven to melt completely.
4. In a bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, cinnamon and baking powder. Mix in the milk and vanilla. Then pour the batter over the melted butter in the baking pan. Do NOT stir!
5. Take the sliced peach and scatter them over the top of the batter. At the same time, add the blueberries and pecans. No need to arrange in any pattern like I did, because everything just get covered up by the batter after it's baked! I was just mesmerized by those gorgeous peaches, and couldn't get enough of staring at them!
6. Sprinkle the brown sugar evenly on top of it all.
7. Place the 8" x 8" pan on a baking sheet and put in the oven. Let it bake for 45 mins.
8. Once you see that the top is golden brown, take it out and let it rest for 15 mins before serving it, preferably with good vanilla ice-cream.
Verdict: I've made this recipe twice already. The first time was in round pie-pan, which just wasn't deep enough, so the mixture overflowed a bit. It was still incredibly delicious though! Second time I got it right by using the correct square pan. I've got to say, this is my current favorite dessert. Yes, even more than cheesecake! I think it's the combination of the brown sugar flavor, the juicy ripe peaches (I give them SO much more respect now!), the crunch from the pecans, the hot temperature of the cobbler, with the cold ice-cream melting all over it ... ack! I'll miss the Oscars if I sit here day-dreaming about it! Time for me to grab a bowl for meself and DH (who is so oblivious to my Oscar-fever) and plunk myself down in front of my good 'ol idiot box for a night of magic!
By the way, I'm going to give in to a tiny bit of narcissism and submit one of these photos to Gayathri's Magnificent Click Contest 2009! She is doing something wonderful for wannabe food photographers like myself - THAAAAAAAANK you G!