Sunday, April 8, 2018

Steamed Broccolini w/ Garlic & Reading Charlotte's Web

Spring is a great time to enjoy broccolini. For last few weeks I have been seeing large bunches of super fresh broccolini at our farmer's markets in California for $1/bunch. Since it's grown in abundance in spring, it's also super cheap in spring.

Contrary to perception (and what I believed for many years), broccolini is not baby broccoli. Though they are so much alike in looks and taste! It is a spring vegetable similar to broccoli but with long thin stem and a slightly stronger taste. Wikipedia calls it a hybrid between broccoli and gai lan.

We love broccolini at our house and always devour it in spring for as many weeks as it's on market. While you can steam it, saute it or roast it, my favorite cooking method is to steam it and then saute lightly with garlic oil. 

We bought an instant pot mini duo a few months ago and it's great for quick steaming tasks. I used the steam setting with 0 minute cook time; and released the pressure manually right when it built up. Broccolini are very delicate and over cooking is about the worst thing that could happen to them.

Meanwhile saute a few chugs of olive oil and add chopped garlic (2 cloves); once the garlic has infused the oil, add steamed broccolini and sprinkle some salt & pepper. A minute in pan and it's done!

Since this is a very simple preparation, good quality ingredients go a long way. I always go for the best quality ingredients I have at hand - which means a good extra virgin olive oil and a fancy salt (we use pink Himalayan salt from Trader Joe's for all of our drizzling salt needs). 

It's a great side for any soups, pastas or noodle dishes. I hope you get a chance to enjoy broccolini while the season lasts!


Last few weeks I have been having a really cool time reading Charlotte's Web with my daughter! As she is growing up, she is in that middle age of overgrown the toddler section books but not yet ready for the big kid books either. I thought it might be a great time to introduce her to some of the classics that I could read to her and we can enjoy spending that time together. 

Now I myself haven't read any of the American children's classics, so picking a book meant a lot of Amazon searching. Finally we landed on Charlotte's Web and it seemed like a great story with animal characters she still loves but a complex and long plot.

Image Credit: goodreads.com
We read a few chapters a day and took about 2-3 weeks to finish the book. It was very engrossing, even for me :) And we quickly felt the characters like Wilbur, Charlotte and Templeton come alive. It's a lovely story about love and friendship and is sure to keep children guessing. It also provides a lot of opportunities for discussions particularly about topics like being kind to others, helping a friend in need, feeling sad and helpless etc.

The only unfortunate bit was the sad ending, which I had to run-time edit slightly. But all in all, it's a great read and I am so happy we chose it for our first big book!   

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Hello Again... (after a hiatus)

It has been a very long time, blog, but I have missed posting here a lot. I guess life happened, things got crazy at work and at home with a new kindergartner in tow this year! 

I am also not cooking as much these days, but I am hoping to change it now that I have a bit of a breather for next few months. 

Last year we started on an Indian Tiffin service plan for the weekdays (one of the perks of bay area!) so I rarely cooked on weekdays for the past 6 months. It was hard to let go of food for me, but that was a practical option for our family and so we embraced it. I try to make up for it by going a bit overboard over the weekends :)

One of the new entrees making a round at our dinner table these days is this veggie General Tsao's stir fry. It is a very versatile recipe - and becoming my go-to Friday evening dinner. 

The thing that really pulls this together for me is this general Tsao's stir-fry sauce I ordered from Amazon. It's not fishy or spicy and is a very nice blend with umami! We are almost through our first box of 6-pack and I have ordered for more!

Simply stir-fry any combination of chopped veggies (bok-choy, asparagus, arugula, mushroom, spinach, carrots - anything lurking in the fridge by end of the week) in hot sesame oil one by one. You can also add protein (tofu or chicken), stir-fry sauce, salt & pepper and finish it up with garnish of roasted peanuts and chopped green onions. 

Serve with steamed jasmine rice with a side of some sautéed greens and meal is ready in as long as it takes for rice to be ready!


General Tsao's stir fry served over steamed Jasmine rice with a side of sautéed garlic chrysanthemum leaves


Sunday, April 23, 2017

Kumquat Bread

We are blessed with many awesome fruit treet in our yard. They were all planted less than 10 years ago, so the fruit quantity is not yet over-whelming but just enough for us to enjoy the hand picked to tummy sweet taste year around. 

We enjoy pomegranates in the fall, figs and plums in the summer and meyer lemons throughout half the year. And there is hardly a fruit to spare on the tree!

One exception to this is our trooper kumquat tree. This year it was raining kumquats in our household. Kumquat is a citrus family tree which produces very small (think jujube or dates size) pungent fruit. The skin is very sweet but the flesh is slightly sour. You pop the whole fruit in your mouth. 

For last few months we are snacking kumquats, chopping and adding them to salads and topping them on pizzas but still the tree is laden with fruit - so much so that it recently started bending due to the weight of the fruit. Finally just as it looked at risk of not bearing new spring blossom, I was forced to pick all the fruit and we ended up with 3 (!!) large colander full!

I am thinking hard of ways to use this and decided to try two things: 1) a kumquat bread and 2) a kumquat marmalade. 

We tried the bread yesterday and it was a super hit! I used my trusty banana bread recipe just substitute chopped kumquats instead of banana, keeping the rest same. 

And we all liked it better than banana bread - the tanginess of kumquats paired really well with the otherwise sweet bread. This is one of our keeper recipe now and I plan to make a few more batches next week to hand over to friends during a potluck lunch.

Kumquat Bread:
Ingredients:
18-20 kumquats chopped (remove any big seeds which come out easily)
1.5C all purpose flour
1/2C sugar (see note)
3Tbsp melted butter + 2Tbsp vegetable oil
2tsp vanilla extract
1 beaten egg
1/4C milk
1/4tsp salt (see note)
1tsp baking soda

Recipe:

  1. Add beaten egg, melted butter, vanilla extract and milk to chopped fruit and mix well. 
  2. Mix dry ingredients -flour, salt, sugar and baking soda.
  3. Pre-heat oven to 360. Lightly butter a bread pan.
  4. Add dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix well.
  5. Pour into the bread pan and bake for 1 hour.
  6. Remove from oven, let cool for 10mins and then remove from pan, slice and enjoy with a cup of coffee!

Notes:

  • We like our bread on the less sweet side, but you are welcome to increase the sugar to 3/4 C if you like bread of sweeter side. 
  • Please do not skip the salt - it's essential to the balance of flavors in this recipe.
  • Kumquat seeds are generally very small and okay to eat. I only take out the seeds if I see any big once.
Found one kumquat winner recipe - now trying the next one kumquat marmalade - wish me luck :)

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

Season's best wishes to all of you from our kitchen at Ginger & Garlic! May the new year bring us all peace and happiness and get us closer to achieving our dreams, big and small :)

Here is to wishing all of you lots of delicious cooking, eating and love to spread this season...

Here is a Christmas fruit tree I prepared many years ago which still continues to be a huge reader's favorite after so many years.. super easy and always gets the oohs and aahs and wows whichever Christmas party it goes... enjoy!


Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Vegetable Biryani

Biryani is like the ultimate rich comfort yet classy food for us. It is also a dish I feel is made for potlucks and get togethers. It travels well and is made to be cooked ahead. You can make it as simple or as rich as you want with addition of roasted cashews, raisins and deep saffron.

When perfectly spiced, biryani can be as warming to the Indian soul as people would say chicken soup is over here :)

I have made chicken biryani a few times but we make veggie biryani a lot more often. I like the veggies slightly undercooked, but if you want fully cooked veggies then just increase the veggie cooking time by 5 mins and check for doneness.

Every biryani needs a yogurt raita to tango. Our yogurt raita is usually super simple, just beaten non-fat yogurt, grated half a carrot, few mint leaves torn, salt, pepper and pinch of cumin powder. Mix, taste and let rest in refrigerator.

If there are two things I feel are crucial to this biryani they are fresh mint leaves and a good quality saffron. I add mint leaves at every stage - while rice is cooking, while veggies and simmering and also in raita. It gives a wonderful aroma and balances the rich spices very nicely!

There are a few steps in this dish but with proper planning it can go from start to finish in less than an hour and is sure to be a crowd pleaser!

Recipe:

Rice:
1.5C rice (ideally basmati, but any long grain rice should do)
2.5C water
6 cardamom pods, 3 bay leaves, short cinnamon stick, handful of fresh mint leaves
dash of oil & salt

Mix everything together. Cook in rice cooker. Turn off heat a little before cooker says rice is done. Keep checking periodically - I look for a stage where water is just absorbed and grains are separate but rice is not fully cooked - about 80% cooked.

Remove from rice cooker. Spread in a large plate and fluff. Add a touch of ghee or butter. And leet cool to room temp.

Veggies:
1C cauliflower florets, 1 carrot chopped, 3 small potatoes - chopped, 1/2 red pepper, few musrooms (really any combination of 2-3C chopped veggies)
2Tsbp oil
1/2tsp mustard seeds and cumin seeds each
1/2tsp turrmeric powder
2tsp biryani spice blend
1/4C water
1/4C yogurt
few mint sprigs
salt

Heat oil. When hot, add mustard seeds, cumin seeds, turmeric powder and biryani masala. Add all the veggies, water, salt and cover and let cook for 5-7 mins. Then remove from heat and add yogurt. Mix well. Let cool uncovered.

Toppings:
Fried onions:
1/2 of large onion - sliced. Heat in 2 Tbsp oil over low-med heat until onions are nicely browned and slightly crunchy. Set aside

Roasted handful of cashews

Warm 2Tbsp milk and add 1/4tsp saffron strands. Mix well and let sit.

2Tsbp beaten yogurt

Chopped cilantro and lemon wedges

Layering:
Pre-heat oven to 375
In a largee cassarole pan, layer 1/4th of the rice. Then add 1/2 of veggie mix. Dash over some saffron milk and a Tsbp yogurt. Repeat with another layer of rice and veggies. Top with another rice round. Add more saffron milk, cashews, half of fried onions on top. Seal tightly with an aluminium wrap and then close the lid.

Cook for 20mins @375.

Remove from oven, garnish with cilantro and remaining fried onions and serve warm with raita and lemon wedges.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Pesto Pinwheels

Holiday season is a time for family, friends, lots of chats and laughter and an endless stream of potlucks! 

We kickstarted the holiday season with two potlucks. I signed up to bring appetizers for both. I love to bring appetizers because that's a course which gets the first share of hungry tummys. And besides with a side of a good glass of wine and a healthy appetite, anything tastes super great and gushing compliments are over to the cook :)

I brought these pinwheels for both potlucks. They are super easy - I mean really can not get any easier and are guaranteed crowd pleasers.

I have always had people ask for more beyond what I made and that I consider as a crowd pleasing appetizer!

During holidays I always keep a packet of frozen puff pastry dough from Trader Joe's and a couple of pestos - the usual basil pesto, sun dried tomato pesto - and that's all you need for this recipe.

The only forward looking prep is to thaw the dough in refrigerator. Then a half an hour before serving take it out on counter and unroll. Spread a thin layer of one or multiple pestos. Roll it back up. Using a serated knife cut small rounds lenghwise (so you get more rounds). Bake at 400F for 12-15 mins or as per pastry package instructions.

That's it - you have a green pesto pinwheel, or a holiday red and green pinwheels or let your imagination be unbound!

These pinwheels travel well too. You can always assemble at the host's kitchen or make them in advance and just pop in microwave or pre-heated oven for a few minutes before serving. And I usually just serve them on their own, no other condiments necessary.

This appetizer is also great for chilly evenings - just make a batch, serve with your favorite wine or beer and munch and sip while watching a good movie -- one of the many blisses of a merry season :)    

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Banana Cake

It was my daughter's birthday recently.. I can't believe how fast time has flown! She is also my sous-chef in the kitchen - she is foodie by birth and just like her mom loves cooking and eating and restaurant hunting :)

Every year for her birthday I try to make fancier cakes like almond cake or chocolate cake with frosting but this year I thought of making a simple banana cake. She loves banana bread and after many iterations I have a much less fattier version of banana bread which we love eating. So I thought why not try that into a cake? 

The result was absolutely delicious! And we devoured the full cake in a matter of 2 days. This is absolutely going to be my go-to kids cake. 

I avoid frosting as much as I can on kids cakes, so we skipped frosting and instead dusted the cake with powdered sugar. But by all means frost away! Vanilla buttercream frosting would be divine with this cake!

Recipe:

Ingredients:
4 ripe bananas - smashed with potato smasher
5Tbsp unsalted butter - melted
1 egg - beaten
1 tsp vanilla extract
handful of chopped walnuts (optional)
handful of dried cranberry (optional)
1.5C all purpose flour
1/2C + 2Tbsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1.5tsp baking soda

Recipe:
Pre-heat oven to 360F

Mix dry ingredients (flour, sugar, salt, baking soda). Set aside.

Mix wet ingredients (bananas, butter, egg, vanilla extract). Add walnuts and cranberries. Mix well.

Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients. Mix thoroughly.

Grease a 9" round baking pan with butter. Pour cake batter into the pan and bake for 35-40 mins until the top is slightly browned and center is cooked through (insert a toothpick to check). 

Remove from oven and let cook on a rack for 20 mins before prying the cake out of the pan.

Serve warm or cold - but we like our banana cake warm!


Sunday, November 27, 2016

Happy 7th Blogversary to Ginger & Garlic!

This November Ginger & Garlic turned 7 - wow, I can't believe it was 7 years ago that I wrote my very first quinoa salad post. I never thought anyone would read it. And I was ecstatic when someone did read it and comment!

It has been a long journey since then. To some extent I think the changes in how I blog reflect my own personal journey over the last 7 years. And this 7 year blogversary is making me sentimental enough to walk down the memory lanes....
Carrots with Saffron & Cardamom

This blog started off with a simple enough reason. I rarely set foot in kitchen until I moved to US for grad school. I was trying to be a better cook, reading recipes on internet, on the many blogs popping up in 2008-2009 timeframe and experimenting a lot with various recipes and cooking techniques. 

I also wanted to improve my photography -- and most importantly, I love to write, always have! This is probably the primary reason I blog; I love to write. Anything. And cooking was a great medium for me.

In an alternate universe I wish to be a successful chef and a writer, owning a beach front house where I just write, cook & bake. In this universe, I am happy to be a working mom who loves to food blog :)

The blog started off at a point when I had a major lull in my career - I felt stuck where I was and felt a bit helpless. I wanted a metaphorical escape. My husband, always the supportive type, encouraged me to start a blog, which he said will add up to something over the years - sort of like a digital diary/recipe box. I agreed. And started Ginger & Garlic.

As are most new bloggers, I was attention seeking, number of comments on a post signified to me the value of that post - and that's what I chased by posting often, posting more fancy things, blog networking etc etc. It worked. The blog was vibrant and I felt like a part of blogger community. I was super happy but not fully satisfied deep down, I think.

Around then life happened. My career picked up, a few great opportunities (in hindsight) came along at work, I jumped on them and worked like crazy; often neglected the blog for months at a time. But the blog was always at the back of my mind - every weekend I would open up the webpage and browse through old postings, always with a smile on my face :)

And then we decided to start a family. The morning sickness put me off of food in general and I couldn't even look at food pictures, let alone blog about food. So came the longest break from first trimester through the birth of the baby. I picked up steam during my maternity leave finding time to blog about cooking as a new mom - it was a wonderful period!

And then career picked up again. None of these things are planned. An opportunity comes your way, you pounce on it and do the best you can. It was a simple matter of prioritization then - family, work and some time for personal care. The blog always took the hit :(

But one thing I did not want to happen is to kill the blog or orphan it. So I came up with a new plan. The holidays Nov-Dec, right when work tempers down is when I'll invest in my blog. Then by spring time I am back in my got-to-prioritize routine. It's not much, but it's something. And something is better than nothing.

Over the years I also learnt to be true to why I blog. It is not for appreciation or acknowledgement. There are readers who will always read no matter how infrequently I post; and then there is Google which will ensure good content stays on through search., I learnt to let go of chasing appreciation and instead focused more on creating a portal where I can write about what I cherish - something which I hope to hand down to my daughter.

Something I hope she will read to her kids when she grows up and something I'll look back years from today to immerse myself in the time of "back-then" as if it never left me.... and that's why I blog.

Happy 7th Blogversary, Ginger & Garlic!    
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This page and all of its contents is copyright of Prajakta Gudadhe. All rights reserved.

This is a web catalog of the recipes that I have tried and tasted in my kitchen. While these recipes and instructions have worked well for me, please use all the information and the recipes from Ginger and Garlic at your own risk.