Aglio Olio Pasta is one of my favorite types of pasta because it is lighter on the stomach and yet so flavorful. While I don't mind my pasta in tomato or creamy sauce, I especially like Aglio Olio because it leaves some space in your tummy for seconds, sides or best of all desserts. Tiramisu is my all time fav of desserts. Haven't had a slice of Tiramisu for quite some time. ( My friends in SG - you know now what to get for me when I am there for vacation in June!! )
Aglio Olio means Garlic and Oil in Italian and this is one dish that you can cook with minimum ingredients. I am always on the lookout for dishes with minimal ingredients and yet flavorful and healthy. Just makes our lives a lot easier, doesn't it?
Some tips when cooking Aglio Olio
1) Pasta should be cooked in above normal salted water to add overall flavor.
2) Do not add oil when cooking the pasta as this will prevent the pasta from absorbing the salt.
3) Pasta has to be al dente and not under or over cooked.
4) Reserve some pasta water to bind the ingredients and the starch in the water will give a smoother finish to the dish.
5) Because you are working with minimum ingredients, the quality of the ingredients are utmostly important. Use fresh ingredients and good quality EVOO.
6) Authentic Aglio Olio is plain but it is now quite popular to add in vegetables to make it a complete meal.
Ingredients( for 4)
3 tbsps EVOO
4 servings of pasta , boiled aldente in salted water according to box instructions.
Keep 1/2 cup pasta water.
1 whole bulb garlic, peeled and pounded ( If you love the taste and the heavenly aroma of garlic -you can increase to 2 bulbs)
1 medium zucchini washed, cut into half and sliced thin
8 oz button mushrooms, sliced thin
1 and half red bird's eye chili ( reduce if you prefer less spicy), sliced thin
Peel and pound the whole bulb of garlic. It is essential that you use this amount of garlic to enhance the flavor of Aglio Olio.
Take a big pot and start frying the garlic in olive oil. Watch the pot to ensure the garlic does not get burnt.
Then add in the sliced bird's eye chilli and fry for another 2 minutes.
Add in the sliced mushrooms and zucchini. Toss in some salt at this juncture.
Once the vegetables are cooked, add in the boiled pasta and let it absorb the flavor of the garlic. If you find it too dry, add in some pasta water - 2 tbsp should be enough. Check for seasonings.
Serve immediately with delicious Broccoli in Baked Potatoes ( My next post), Roasted Vegetables or Roasted Rosemary Potatoes.
A lovely colorful Chinese dish of noodles and vegetables stir fried in seasonings. I first had a taste of this on the return leg of our week long holiday in Florida last December at the airport. We were all hungry and were looking for something vegetarian to wolf down. Chanced upon this chow mein in one of the Asian Food stalls in the Food Court. That version had mainly oily noodles with minimal vegetables.
I have come up with a healthier spicier version. You can pretty much add in any type of vegetables - cauliflower florets, broccoli florets, julienned bell peppers, baby corns etc
Ingredients (For 4)
300 gm uncooked stir fry chow mien noodles (See Picture Below)
2 tbsp. canola oil
1 medium chopped onion
4 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tsp mushroom seasoning (See Basics Category on the right)
2 tbsp sambal oelek (See Basics)
2tbsp light soy sauce
1 tbsp dark soy sauce
1 medium carot, cut into matchsticks
20 snap peas, sliced thin
2 cups bean sprouts, washed
1 block of tofu, cubed and grilled
Chopped bird's eyes chili for garnish and serving as an accompaniment
Chopped scallions for serving as an accompaniment
Cook the Chow Mein noodles according to the package and keep aside.
Take a medium sized wok or a deep non stick cookware and then heat the oil.
Fry the chopped onions and then followed by the pounded garlic.
One golden brown, add in all the seasonings except the dark soy sauce.
After 2 mins, toss in the vegetables and the grilled tofu cubes.
Once all the vegetables are cooked, add in the cooked noodles and dark soy sauce.
Toss with two ladles like you would toss a salad.
Serve piping hot with chopped bird's eye chillies and scallions.
While sourcing for an alternative cauliflower side dish, I came across this recipe. Now, I can't remember which site I got it from! I like this recipe as it doesn't involve tedious onion and tomato chopping. A very simple recipe and the aroma and taste of ginger are quite out of the world!
Ingredients ( For 4)
2 tbsps. canola oil
1/2 tsp cumin seeds, pounded for extra flavor release
1 tbsp. ginger, pounded
1/2 green chilli, chopped ( more if you prefer spicier)
1 tsp turmeric powder
1/2 tsp chilli powder ( more if you prefer spicier)
3/4 cup tomato sauce
Salt per preference
1 medium cauliflower cut into florets
1/2 cup green peas
2 sprigs coriander leaves, chopped and extra for garnishing
Heat a pot with the oil and fry the cumin seeds and then the pounded ginger.
Next, add in the green chilli and fry further.
After a few minutes, add in the spice powders, salt and then the tomato sauce.
Once all the spices has married well with the tomato sauce, add in the cauliflower florets, green peas and coriander leaves. Stir to combine.
Cover and cook for 10-15 minutes. Sprinkle some water now and then to ensure vegetables don't stick to the bottom or get burnt!
Check for seasonings and serve warm with any curry and Basmati Peas Rice.
I can't say a lot about this curry. You just have to cook it and taste it to believe it. It may sound like an odd combination of vegetables but like I said you hv to try it to believe it!
It is one of my fav curries because the drumsticks, potato cubes and radish marry so well and it tastes so very delicious. Usually, nothing goes to the trash because every last drop is relished and sometimes even licked!! It goes best with plain rice or flatbreads called parathas with a side of a vegetable dish, yoghurt and papadams.
Ingredients (For 4)
2 tbsp. canola oil
1 big onion, chopped big
1 and 1/2 tsp ginger garlic paste
1/2 green chilli (more if you prefer spicier)
1 tsp chilli powder
2 tsp coriander powder
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp cumin powder
3 medium tomatoes, chopped big
3 stalks coriander leaves
4 - 5 pieces of 2 inch of drumsticks
1 medium potato, scrubbed and cubed big
1/2 radish, peeled, cut in half and then sliced thin
2 and half cups water (+/-)
Salt per preference
Prepare all the vegetables and then get a medium sized pot for cooking curries.
Heat the oil and then fry the onions and green chilli followed by the ginger garlic paste.
When fried, reduce fire and then add in the chilli powder and let it sauté for 2 minutes.
This will then be followed by the rest of the spices and salt. Cook again for a further 2 mins.
Add in the tomatoes and coriander leaves, 1/2 cup water and let the tomatoes soften.
Switch off the fire and let the gravy cool for a few mins.
Blend this curry till smooth and then pour it back into the pot.
Add 1 to 2 cups water to the blender and wash the remains of the curry into the pot. Stir to combine.
Add in the rest of the vegetables and cook till done on medium heat. Roughly 10-15 mins.
Serve warm garnished with more coriander leaves.
Who can ever resist a Chocolate fudge cake? With the ganache oozing down on the sides and as you take that first bite and slowly relishing the heavenly taste of chocolate...?? This is always a hit with my girls.
Yields one 18cm by 18cm Sq Cake
Ingredients for Butter Cake
2/3 cup unsalted butter
1 cup castor sugar
1 cup dark choc/baking choc (at least 55% cocoa)
1/2 cup brown sugar
300ml skim milk (separated into 2 quantities, 150ml each)
1 and 1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder
A pinch of salt
2 egg yolks
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 egg whites
Method for Butter Cake
Preheat oven to 180 deg C or 350 deg F
Grease a square 18cm by 18cm baking tin and lay grease proof paper.
Beat unsalted butter and castor sugar till light and fluffy. Add egg yolk one at a time and beat till combined.
Take a small pot and melt dark choc, brown sugar and 150 ml milk. Stir consistently till combined, then add another 150 ml milk. Stir well and then allow to cool for 5 mins.
Sieve flour, cocoa powder and baking powder.
Pour the melted choc mixture and the sieved ingredients to the beaten sugar and butter bowl. Fold all the ingredients in.
In another bowl, whisk the egg whites till soft peaks form. Fold this into the combined ingredients.
Pour this cake batter into the baking tin and bake for 40-45 mins. Allow to cool then cut into half sideways.
Ingredients for Ganache
200ml whipping cream
200gm dark choc (55.5% cocoa)
2/3 cup unsalted butter
Method for Ganache
Bring whipping cream to boil, then add the dark choc and butter. Stir till well combined.
Final Assembly for Chocolate Fudge Cake
Take the lower half the cut butter cake and spread a thick layer of ganache on the top.
Place the top portion over this. Coat the whole cake with a thick layer of ganache. Let it drip over the sides for that extra effect.
You can either serve this decadent Chocolate Fudge Cake warm immediately or set it in the fridge for an hour before serving. Garnish with sliced strawberries and dust with confectioner's sugar.
Enjoy but do watch out for calories. In moderation please!
I found this recipe online accidentally while sourcing for baked pasta dishes. As usual, I have tweaked the original recipe and this time I hv excluded the garlic, egg and nutmeg.
I have now a baked pasta dish favored by my family. Ricotta Cheese in baked savory food - what an incredible delicious idea! I wasn't aware that ricotta cheese even existed till I came to Penn.
Baked pasta with spinach and ricotta cheese is a complete fulfilling meal. It is sure to be a winner with your family.
Ingredients (Serves 4)
1/2 lb/ 6oz medium shell pasta, cooked al dente
3 cups marinara sauce ( See Note )
1 cup part skim Ricotta cheese
1 cup Parmesan Cheese
3 cups chopped fresh spinach
2 cups low fat Mozarella Cheese
4 Basil leaves, chopped
Salt, Pepper and Chilli Flakes to season per your preference.
Preheat oven to 375 deg F and get a 10inch by 7 inch baking dish ready.
In a mixing bowl, combine the ricotta cheese and parmesan cheese together.
Stir in the chopped spinach, salt, pepper and chilli flakes.
Spread 1 and 1/2 cup of the marinara sauce on the baking dish.
Put half of the cooked pasta over the marinara sauce.
Spoon half of the spinach ricotta mix over the pasta and spread it out evenly.
Top this layer with 1 cup of mozzarella cheese.
Repeat the process with the remaining marinara sauce, the cooked pasta and the remaining spinach ricotta mix.
Finish it off with remaining 1 cup mozzarella cheese and toss the chopped basil leaves.
Using your fingers, press the entire mix gently part by part so as to get a good layered finish when cut after being baked.
Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 25 mins. Then uncovered for another 10-15 mins till the sides are slightly browned and the cheese has all melted.
Serve warm with additional chilli flakes or hot sauce.
Marinara sauce can either be made at home or you can buy from any grocery store. I like my Marinara sauce to be light and not overwhelmingly loaded with Italian spices, sugar and salt. I tried a few brands before I came across Rinaldi's Marinara Sauce.
We loved the combination of so many types of cheese and hence the second time I baked this dish, I doubled all the cheese! It became heavy and we just couldn't go for seconds! I believe the above combination is the best. But, do try out different quantities - every family has its own preference.
I have never and don't intend to use any ghee or butter in my Vegetable Briyani. On the contrary, I try to always make it as natural or healthy as possible. In fact, I am not too pleased about using food colorings too. Can anyone give me a natural alternative to yellow and orange food colorings?
I have layered my Briyani here, alternating the spice mix with the rice. I learnt how to do this from my older sister June in Singapore many years back. Before that, I have not attempted to try making biryani at home.
Ingredients (for 4 persons)
2 cups Basmati Rice soaked for 30-40 mins
4 cups water
1/4 tsp salt
5-6 drops of yellow food coloring
5-6 drops of orange food coloring
2 tbsps. canola oil
1 big onion chopped big
1 tsp pounded ginger
1 tsp pounded garlic
2 tbsps. Vegetable Briyani Spice Powder (National Brand - found in any Indian Grocery Stores. Any other brand will work as well)
3 tomatoes, chopped big
4 stalks coriander leaves chopped big
1/2 cup water
3 cups of mixed vegetables ( peas, carrot cubes, small french bean pieces, small cauliflower florets or potato cubes)
1/2 cup tomato sauce
1 block of milk cheese or Paneer (200g) cut into medium sized cubes, grilled
extra (around 2/3 cups) coriander leaves for garnishing
Drain and cook the soaked Basmati Rice with the water and salt in your rice cooker. Sprinkle the food coloring and set aside to cool.
Take a pot and fry the onions followed by the ginger and garlic.
Next add in the spice powder and let the mixture simmer for 2-4 mins.
Add the tomato pieces, coriander leaves and salt. Add the 1/2 cup water and let it cook for 3-5 mins on high heat till tomatoes are soft and mushy.
Blend this mix till smooth and add back into the pot. Pour 1 cup water into blender to get the remaining curry from the sides. Add this into the pot too.
Now put in the vegetables, add in the tomato sauce and cook till gravy is half in quantity and vegs are all cooked.
Before switching the fire off, add in the cubed grilled cheese cubes and combine well. Don't add in paneer too early otherwise it will disintegrate into the curry.
Take another big pot, spread half the gravy on the base and then spread half the rice over it. Toss 1/3 cup of coriander leaves.
Then, spread the remaining gravy followed by the remaining rice and garnish with another 1/3 cup of chopped coriander leaves.
Cover the pot and cook on very low heat for 10 mins.
Serve for lunch or dinner with simple dal curry and cucumber yoghurt dip.
My first taste of curry puffs was when I was in Telok Kurau Primary School (incidently, the same school which our late founding father Mr Lee Kuan Yew attended) in Singapore and it was my first day in Primary 1. During recess, my brother took me to the stall vendor and got me a big curry puff for just 10 cents! I remember how I loved that taste with my first bite. I still remember devouring it in the school field while my brother played soccer with his school mates. My brother, Faizal, took care of me pretty much in school while I was still trying to find my way around and making friends.
Over the years as I grew up in Singapore, I came across different variations - with shrimp paste, with sardines but I only try to eat those which were vegetarian. Sometimes, a little shrimp could be tasted here and there, even though the stall owners vouch it is vegetarian!
Homemade version is always the best - because you know what you are eating. You don't want full fat butter in your dough, no palm oil while cooking the filling or when frying the puffs in palm oil. Palm oil is high in saturated fat. It is so alarming so many people don't know about the badness of palm oil. Because it is a cheap source of oil. palm oil is found in many types of food - cereals, chips, cookies, breads....Watch out for it in the ingredients of the food you purchase.
I attempted baking curry puffs because I get awfully guilty eating fried food. I am hardly exercising here in Bluebell, PA because of the cold weather even though it is supposed to be Spring! I simply wanted to eat my curry puffs guilt free. These baked curry puffs turned out rather well - even my fussy 11 year old Riya agreed!
Ingredients (12 curry puffs)
2 cups all purpose flour or whole wheat flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
2 pinches salt
1 inch cube light butter (50% fat)
water needed to knead to a smooth dough
Method for Dough
Take a medium sized mixing bowl and place all the dry ingredients. Mix and then add the light butter and water and knead. Set aside for half an hour.
3 large potatoes, scrubbed, boiled or steamed in salted water, skinned and then cut into small cubes. (See Note)
2 tbsp. canola oil
1 big onion, chopped finely
1 green chilli, sliced
2 stalks of Chinese celery, chopped fine.
2 tsp curry powder
1 tsp turmeric powder
1/2 cup peas
salt to taste per preference
Method for Filling
Preheat oven to 375 deg F or 200 deg C and pray cooking spray over two baking trays. Set aside.
Heat a pot with canola oil and then fry the onion till translucent.
Add in the green chilli, chopped celery stalks and fry further.
Stir in the spice powders, salt and peas and cook for 2-3 mins.
Finally add in the cubed potatoes and combine well.
Let the filling cook on low heat for 2-3 minutes on medium heat.
Remove from stove and cool.
Roll out the dough on a floured surface and cut 4 inch circles using a small bowl.
Place the filling on one side of the circle dough and fold over.
Press the edges down with a fork to seal the curry puffs.
Brush a little canola oil over the curry puffs.
Bake in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes, turning over and pressing down slightly midway.
Enjoy warm with any dipping sauce.
Sambar is another spicy vegetable lentil curry very commonly cooked in many South Indian households. Because it is such a basic curry, it will be a shame if any South Indian doesn't know how to cook this!!
Sambar can be served with plain boiled rice, steamed rice cakes ( idlis), fried lentil doughnuts ( medhu vadais), lentil crepes (dosas)- well just about any South Indian snack!! And it is rather nutritious because of the boiled lentils and stewed vegetables.
My girls love Sambar with Grilled Tofu and Okra or Tofu Sambal. The following recipe is for 4 in a household.
Ingredients for Dal Stew
1/2 cup toor dal ( pigeon peas)
4 garlic cloves, sliced
1/2 medium onion, chopped finely
2 ripe tomatoes, chopped finely
3 cups water
Method for Dal Stew
Boil the toor dal with garlic, onion and tomatoes in pressure cooker for 10 mins till well cooked and mushy. Mash and keep aside.
Ingredients for Vegetable Stew
1/2 radish, cut into half and sliced thinly
4 pieces of 3 inch drumsticks (veg)
10 pieces beans, cut into 3 inch pieces
1 small carrot, sliced thinly
1 tsp tamarind pulp, juice extracted
3 tsp sambar powder ( See Note)
3 cups water
Salt to season
Method for Vegetable Stew
Boil all the vegetables with water, sambar powder, tamarind extract and salt for 10-15 mins till vegetables are cooked.
Mix these vegetables with the Dal Stew and keep aside on low heat.
Ingredients for tempering
5-6 curry leaves
2 dried chillies, torn into 2
1/4 tsp each of fenugreek seeds, mustard seeds and coriander seeds
1 tbsp Sesame oil for tempering
Method for tempering
Fry the dried chillies, curry leaves and all the seeds in sesame oil. Pour this tempering oil with all the ingredients in to the pot with the vegetables and dal.
Serve hot with rice, a vegetable dish, mango pickle and pappads.
Many other vegetables can be used too like okra, potatoes, eggplants etc. It is quite a versatile dish.
Sambar powder can be found in many Indian grocery stores. It is made up of ground whole dry spices and lentils. Or you can make your own at home.
Sandwich idea 2 of a request from a reader.