Wednesday, January 29, 2014

A Grain of Truth--Farro Salad with Artichokes and Parsley

Farro salad!  My new favorite. A mouthful of chewy grains, tart artichokes hearts and the fresh taste of parsley makes me consume the entire bowl in one sitting. Well.. It's not a very big bowl so I don't think I look like a glutton. 

As January comes to an end, most of my food resolutions stay in place. Moderate portions during the week with one day to splurge on bad carbs, namely bread. If I could stay away from this particular food group then I could see my pounds melting away. In all honesty I'm trying. No bread for breakfast, just a big bowl of oatmeal. That makes my hunger stay the course for the next few hours. A small salad or a modest plate of leftovers constitutes lunch. A cup of tea to last until dinner. The latter being the one wholesome meal accompanied by a large glass of water. Almost every food-loss program advocates the merits of water. I like water so I indulge in the requisite 6-8 glasses a day. And you know what that results in??? Well ...It's a water-closeted situation!!! 

I search for a salad to go with lamb shanks. A salad with grains? I'm not so sure whether it will fly.  But I hear grains are good for you. I love barley, especially in soup. I lean hesitantly towards couscous. And I adore lentils. Farro has been sitting in the pantry for a bit. Trader Joe's have packages, big enough to give you a generous sampling or small enough not feel guilty if you plan on deep-sixing the end result. I cook the farro as though it is rice, a quick boil and then simmered on a low flame, with a lid. I am amazed at the fluffy grains. Inspiration strikes when I find a half-used bottle of marinated artichoke hearts. The Trader Joe's brand are bite-size, delicate, briny and not oily. I set them to drain in a colander. The salad is begging for some green and a handful of flat-leaf parsley does just that. I separate leaves from stems. As I do, I question the task. Why can't I add crunchy stems to the salad? A herbal bite will give the salad an interesting texture. An unbelievable aroma floods the kitchen as I chop parsley. It is the color green come to life. The only way to describe the aroma is to imagine sitting in a basket of freshly-mown grass. The mouth-refreshing flavor of parsley overtakes tart artichokes and olive oil. A hearty toss and it's ready.

Serves 2

1/2 cup Farro
1 cup Water
1/2 cup marinated Artichoke hearts
1/2 cup Parsley leaves and stems
1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt
1/4 teaspoon ground Black Pepper
2 tablespoons extra virgin Olive oil
A squirt of Lemon juice

Mix the farro and water in a small saucepan.

Place pan on high heat and bring to a boil.

Cover, turn heat to very low and cook for 10 minutes.

Take artichokes out of the marinating liquid and put in a strainer to drain.

Separate parsley into leaves and stems.

Roughly chop parsley leaves.

Cut parsley stems into small bits.
Take the pan off the flame and let the farro sit undisturbed for 5 minutes. Then fluff with fork.

Transfer farro to a bowl.

Add drained artichokes and parsley leaves and stems to farro.

Season with salt and pepper.

Drizzle olive oil and mix well.

Add the squirt of lemon juice.

You can eat it as soon as it's mixed or let it sit for a 1/2 hour for the flavors to develop.

I did promise to post my new favorite. A small bowl full of chewy goodness tides me over till tea time. I love the nutty texture of farro. Funnily though, inspite of being a wheat product, it's reddish tint reminds me of the unhusked rice grown in the water-filled paddies of Goa. And I am a confirmed rice lover as my ma-in-law says. From the mouths of wise ones into the spoons of the not-so-young!!!!!!!

Friday, January 24, 2014

Praise for a Braise--Lamb Shanks in Pomegranate Juice

Sometimes My cookbook shelf is a receptacle for my scribbles. Almost always those scraps of paper contain hastily written recipes, scrawled while talking to my sister. Inevitaby our conversations involve lengthy descriptions of what we are about to eat or the same in past tense! She has a Facebook page What's On The Menu Today? where friends post their concoctions. For some of us, the page is an inspiration for dinner, for others the opposite end of the spectrum.  But I digress.... Prassy and me share everyday conversations of a plethora of subjects almost always ending with a recipe which I hastily write on a scrap of paper! And these scraps sit on the shelf until I remember where they are or until they are shoved into a folder. 

So I decide to rearrange my scribbles as well as those 'cut outs' from magazines and newspapers. Hmm.. Are you smiling in companionship or rue as I know many of you do the latter. Maybe not so much in the Internet world, but my recipe clipping goes back 30-40 years. As a teenager I combed Mums Good Housekeeping to find what I thought were gems. Some truly turned out to be keepers and others got tossed!! I do this periodically. Weed out yellowed snips and add new cut outs. As I go through the pile my eyes fall on a Mediterranean lamb shank recipe. I put it aside knowing I have some in the freezer. Soon I have neat heaps of appetizers to desserts. My rule of thumb is 'try it out and then add to ✔️ section.' The lamb shanks look like they are going thataway! 

It's time I cook something completely out of my ballpark. I marinate shanks overnight in pomegranate juice. They are getting a long braise in the oven, but before that they are browned. Liquids are added along with spices and in goes the lamb. Hours to go before I eat...

Lamb Shanks in Pomergranate Juice
Serves 4

2 large Lamb Shanks
1 tablespoon Garlic paste
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground Black pepper
2 cups Pomergranate juice
2 tablespoons Olive oil
1 large Onion
10 cloves Garlic
2 tablespoons fresh Thyme leaves
1 cup Red Wine 
1/2 cup Brown sugar
1 tablespoon Oregano
1/2 teaspoon Cinammon 
1/2 teaspoon Allspice
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground Black pepper
2 tablespoon Flour
2-3 tablespoons Water

Rub lamb shanks with garlic paste, salt and pepper.

Place shanks in a ziploc bag and pour pomergranate juice into bag. Give it a shake and refridgerate for 6 hours or overnight. you could place the shanks in a container too. Make sure the shanks are covered in juice.

Allow shanks to come to room temperature before you start braising.

Heat olive oil in an ovenproof saucepan. 

Remove lamb shanks from the marinade. Save the marinade.

Drop shanks into hot oil and leave undisturbed for 4 to 5 minutes. Flip shanks and brown the other sides.

Peel and slice onions into 1/4 inch half moons.

Peel garlic cloves.

Roughly chop thyme leaves.

Remove browned shanks and place in a bowl.

Heat oven to 350F.

Add onion and garlic to the saucepan and sauté till light brown.

Drop in thyme leaves for stir for a few seconds.

Add the red wine and let the sauce come to a slow boil.

Return lamb shanks to saucepan.

Add saved marinade.

Sprinkle in brown sugar, oregano, allspice, salt and pepper. 

The sauce should be gently simmering at this point. 

Cover the saucepan with a perforated lid. Or cover with foil and make a few slit in the foil with a knife. This allows some steam to escape, not making the sauce too watery.

Braise in the oven for 2 hours. Poke with a knife to see if meat is cooked. It should come apart at this stage. If the meat still has some give, go ahead and braise for another 15-20 minutes.

Whisk flour and water to form a thick slurry. 

Take the saucepan out of the oven and scoop out lamb shanks on to a serving platter.

Place saucepan on a medium flame and let it bubble.

Add flour slurry gently to saucepan, stirring all the time so no lumps form. 

Let the sauce gently simmer for 5 minutes. 

Pour sauce over lamb shanks  and serve.


Lamb shanks are great but you could easily use shoulder or chunks.  The braising time will be much less for those... Half the above cooking time.

I marinated the shanks overnight. A few hours should suffice for lack of time.

This validation for years of recipe clipping. Most times I try a dish and it lives up to its promise. This one is a keeper.

Meat falls off the bone. Lamb shanks swim in a tart sweet sauce. roasted cauliflower in goat cheese, farro with artichokes and parsley finish the plate. I can shred the lamb with my fork.  Shanks go right into the ✔️ section!! I transfer the clipping into that file, amended, definitely assured of another turn in my kitchen. I take a bite of cauliflower...another revelation. And then a spoonful of farro...oh my....that is a flavor explosion!!!!! Be prepared!!! It's coming!!!

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Not Green With Envy-- Spinach Flecked Fettuccini with Artichokes

My hands are covered with flour, my counter experiences a bomb-like explosion and my floor is dotted with small heaps of white as I wade into pasta-making waters. Having made fresh pasta in the past, this time I venture to make the green kind....spinach pasta. And to make spinach pasta, you should have a whole bunch of it? The veggie drawer comes up empty and my freezer doesn't yield heaping quantities, just a small handful of the frozen stuff. But I am determined to make some form of pasta. Maybe not emerald green... More of a shade of ecru flecked with green shreds? Well, that's what materializes. 

There are many wonderful and reliable recipes for pasta, but I wholeheartedly trust Lidia Bastianich. In fact her Italian American Kitchen is an often-thumbed and much loved book that gets its spine cracked at least once a month. Her instructions are precise, clear and I cannot stress it enough...reliable! Can't say the same about a certain chef in orange Crocs. His books and recipes look and sound wonderful, but I have yet to make something that sticks the landing. Anyway... going back to one of my favorite books from which I have recreated something from each chapter with great success. This time I endeavor something a little challenging. 

Spinach is defrosted and squeezed dry. Flour swirls in the mixer. Olive oil and eggs help make a cohesive dough. As I knead I scrutinize the dough marbled with spinach. Not as green as I first visualized. Am I disappointed? A little. I do want to see that deep green but I'll settle for flecks.

Spinach Flecked Fettuccini with Artichokes
Serves 4

2 cups unbleached all purpose Flour
1 cup frozen Spinach, defrosted
2 Eggs
2 tablespoons Olive oil
1 teaspoon Kosher Salt
2 tablespoons Olive oil
1 Shallot
2 cloves Garlic
1 cup White Wine
1/2 cup marinated Artichoke hearts
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon Black Pepper
1/2 cup Cream
1/2 cup Pea shoots

Start with the pasta. Put flour and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer with a paddle blade.

Squeeze as much water as you can from the spinach.

Roughly chop the spinach and add to flour.

Give the mixture a few spins.

Break eggs into a bowl and whisk to break up yolks.

With the mixer on low add eggs and olive oil. Let the dough come together for a few minutes. 

Take dough and place on a flour-dusted counter.

Knead the dough for a few minutes. Cover and let dough rest for 1/2 hour.

When you are ready to make fettuccini divide the dough into 8 parts. 

I use a pasta attachment for my KitchenAid. It's fast and easy. For other devices look below at NOTES.

Affix the roller attachment.

Flatten one piece of dough and run it through the roller set at #1.

Move roller to #2 and run pasta through again. 

Rotate the roller to #4 and keep rolling pasta. It should get thinner with each roll.

Turn the roller to a spot between #5 and #6 and roll the dough. At this point the dough will have stretched quite a bit and is thin enough to cut.

Flour the counter and lay the pasta on the flour. Lightly dust the surface with flour too. 

Fold pasta in half and then in half again. 

Cut pasta into 1/2 inch ribbons with a sharp knife.

Unfurl pasta and gently toss in a little flour. 

Place pasta in piles on a sheet pan.

Roll out the rest of the pasta the same way.

Fill a large saucepan with 8 cups of water and bring to a boil. 

Salt the water generously and add pasta to boiling water.

Cook pasta for 8 minutes. 

Drain and keep warm.

Peel and finely chop shallot and garlic.

Heat olive oil in large saucepan. 

Add shallots and garlic and lightly brown.

Pour white wine in and let the liquid bubble for 8 to10 minutes.

Lower heat and add the cream.

Artichokes go in at this point along with the cooked fettuccini.

Season with salt and pepper, give the pasta a stir and serve hot.

Garnish with peas shoots.


If you have a pasta attachment to your stand mixer, this would be a good time to use it. You could also use a stand alone pasta maker. If no such device exists, resort to good old manual labor..your hands, a rolling pin and lots of flour. Roll the pasta thin. Folllow the directions from the above recipe.

Then again if you cant be bothered to knead and roll, just buy spinach fettuccini! Easy as pie and cooked in a jiffy!!

So the fettuccini is not completely green. In fact it looks like regular pasta with an afterthought of green. But it tastes really good, toothsome, cooked with just enough bite. Overt flavors of wine, cream and fresh pea shoots do not wrangle for particular attention. Briny artichokes add texture and taste. Broad ribbons bathed in creamy sauce are piled high in my bowl....where's my fork????

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Echoes From The Past--Dum Aloo or Masala Potatoes

I've been on an Indian food jag. Don't ask why. Food that is familiar, beloved, might be reason. After all, desserts have been banished from this house. At least for the month of January. So to compensate I stir and scrape, chop and cube industriously. The floor-to-ceiling shelf of cookbooks gets a workout. The upper shelves are crammed with many paperbacks dealing with a range of regional indian cuisines. They go from A for Andhra cooking to V for vegetarian cuisine. These food-splattered Indian publications, with literally paper-thin pages, are chockful of recipes both popular and obscure. Written by famous and not-so-famous home cooks, at a time when 'foodism' wasn't a phenomenon, these palm-sized books are a treasure trove. It's open sesame time!

I pick a North Indian dimunitive book. My interest veers towards veggies and in particular potatoes. I shouldn't be eating taters, but it's comfort we are talking about. Right?  And to me, potatoes equate comfort! A while ago I had dum aloo, or baby potatoes cooked in masala. I salivate over the thought of tiny Yukon Golds, fried crisp, bathed in a spice laden sauce. But the recipe calls for cashew up paste...a definite no-no. How do I go around that mine field? I remember Mum making teeny potatoes in gravy decades ago. Books are swept aside. I reach for my trusty old recipe file, filled with hand written recipes by Mum, Dad and my sister Prassy. Thirty years ago after I got married, they would send me informative epistles of life back in Bombay along with recipes I requested. It was usually a dish of Mums that I craved. And I dutifully arranged them in a paper file, one that needs a two-hole-punch. Today It is in quite a state of disrepair, food-stained and clearly falling apart. The tattered edges are held together by scotch tape. But I won't part with it as yet. Looking throughout the recipes is a walk down memory lane, especially with Dad's witty comments scribbled alongside ingredients!

I find what I'm looking for. An uncomplicated dum aloo without nuts. It calls for deep frying the potatoes. And to think I have put away my handy-dandy kadhai!!!! Good intentions fly out the window and out it comes. Shallow frying be damned. If that's what Mum says, then that's what I plan on doing!

Dum Aloo or Masala Potatoes
Serves 4 to 6

1 pound small Yukon Gold Potatoes
Canola oil to deep fry potatoes
1 tablespoon Chile powder
1 tablespoon Garlic paste
1 teaspoon Ginger paste
1 teaspoon Coriander powder
1 teaspoon Cumin powder
3 tablespoons Canola oil
2 big Onions
3/4 cup Water
1/4 cup Yogurt
1 teaspoon Garam masala
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/4 cup Cream
2 tablespoons chopped Cilantro 

Boil potatoes aand peel and air dry them.

Heat canola oil in a kadhai, wok or deep saucepan. You should have 3 inches of oil in the pan.

Add potatoes to hot oil carefully and fry till golden brown.

Drain on to a paper towel and keep aside.

Mix chile powder, garlic and ginger pastes, coriander and cumin powders in a bowl.

Peel and finely chop the onions.

Heat canola oil in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium high heat.

Add chopped onion and sauté till onions are brown.

Add masala mix, lower heat a bit and sauté for 5 minutes. Stir often so masala doesn't stick to the pan.
At this point add the water and bring to a vigorous simmer.

Add yogurt a little at time, stirring well after each addition

Drop potatoes into gravy and season with kosher salt. Let potatoes simmer uncovered for 5 minutes letting the gravy thicken.

Sprinkle Garam masala in and mix well.

Just before you serve add cream and chopped cilantro.

Dum aloo goes well with both chapattis and rice.


If you cannot find baby potatoes, use regular Yukon Golds. Boil and quarter them before you fry. 

My favorite is Yukon Gold. It's the closest to the taste of Indian potatoes. Feel free to substitute any type.

Dum aloo taste best deep fried, but I have made them with plain boiled potatoes too.

You could omit the cream if it doesn't work for you.

The file lies wide open. Recipes written in ink smudge over time. Pages tear. The file comforts and saddens me. Perusing instructions I can hear Mum and Dad's voices. At first encouraging me, then applauding me and now reassuring me that all is well in the world.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

My Sweet Year-- Apple Raisin Roll

My mind goes back to New Year's Eve a year ago. Some fifteen friends gather to pray the rosary. We pray for our own intentions but my close friends Colleen and Mary Lou say a heartfelt prayer for us. The old changes to new and so does my fortune. I count blessings. An old new house. A new house. Unequivocal and overwhelming support from family and friends. New beginnings for Shauna and Rehan. Family that visits from near and far. Friends who matter, stay and party a while. Travels to widen our horizons and waistlines. Visits to loved ones. And a few lamentations . Mostly, for me this is year I welcome you into my kitchen. You sit at my table. You imitate what I concoct. And so many of you take pride in your experiments! 

This culinary effort has been long in the making. A niggling thought residing in my subconscious for many years. It literally takes a flood to conceive this outpouring. The words take a while to coalesce. My daughter holds my hand through the teething stages. My son manipulates photographs to please my aesthetics. My husband is my grammarian, albeit a little late! The ideas ebb and flow, peak and perish. The omnipresent camera lives by my plate. As I critique art concepts of light and shadow, I apply those concepts to plates of potatoes, pooris, pancakes. The sun doesn't always cooperate, night shadows filter in unbidden and I fight with artistic angularity. But most often it comes together and as I hit the 'publish' button, it's always a sense of relief, of anticipation, of thankfulness.

Here is something sweet to start the year. Pastry and apples live in so many recipes. I make a yogurt pastry from one of my favorite cookbooks Sweet Miniatures by Flo Braker. It is versatile, delicate, flaky, just a sheer delight to handle. Baker beware!..all good things start with butter!!! It's an unchangeable fact of life!!The original recipe calls for sour cream. I don't have any in the fridge so I use yogurt instead as Ms Braker suggests. The result is quite delightful. My go-to apple for pie is Gala. I find small Gala apples at Trader Joes. They are not too tart and hold up wonderfully in a pie. I hope they do the same in this strudel-like confection.Since this is new territory for me, I am tiptoeing! 

Apple Raisin Roll
Serves 4

2 cups unsifted all-purpose Flour
1/4 teaspoon Salt
2 sticks (8 oz) cold Butter
1/2 cup Yogurt
1 tablespoon Butter
1 pound Gala Apples
1/4 cup golden Raisins
1/3 cup Sugar
1/4 teaspoon Lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon Lemon juice
I Egg

Begin with the pastry. Place flour and salt in a food processor bowl. 

Cut cold butter into small 1/2 inch pieces and add to bowl.

Pulse flour and butter 5 to 6 times till butter resembles small peas.

Whisk yogurt and add to flour. 

Pulse once again 3 to 5 times or till dough starts to come together. 

Empty contents of bowl onto a floured surface and knead gently till dough holds together. You might have to add a few drops of water at this point if the dough doesn't come together.

Divide dough in half. Place each half in Saran or a plastic bag, flatten the disc a bit and refridgerate for 2 hours.

Prepare the filling by peeling, coring and thinly slicing apples. 

Heat 1 tablespoon of butter in a nonstick pan.

Add apples, raisins, sugar, lemon zest and juice and sauté for 10-15 minutes till apples are golden and lightly caramelized. Keep aside to cool completely.

Take the pastry out of the fridge when you are ready to make the roll. 

Heat the oven to 375F.

Lightly flour a surface and roll pastry into a rough oval or rectangle about 10 inches long and 6 inches wide. The pastry shouldn't thaw out too much. If the pastry is hard to roll out, thump it with the rolling pin to help it along! 

Put the cooled filling on the pastry. Fold in the edges in and roll the pastry away from you.

Crack egg into a bowl and lightly whisk it. 

Brush on a little egg at the end of the roll and seal the edge.

Place roll carefully on a Silpat- lined or parchment- lined baking sheet.

Brush whisked egg over the top and sides of roll.

Bake roll for 20 to 25 minutes. The pastry should be golden brown.

Cool roll for 5 minutes before you cut into it.

It tastes best warm.


As I said Gala is my favorite apple. I like the way it keeps it's shape and doesn't get all mushy. 

Feel free to use sour cream in place of the yogurt. It makes for a flaky, crumbly, tangy pastry.

The new year is always about new resolutions, fervent and adamant. We start well-intentioned with salad dreams! At least I do! And it has been done for the first week! A dessert isn't the right way to go but since my year ended on a sweet note, why not begin one in the same fashion!!! There is an auspicious saying in Hindi ' moo mitha karo' or let's sweeten you mouth! It's been over ten thousand views for this site!!!! You are the reason I am inspired to write! Thank you.