Sunday, March 25, 2007


Croutons are one of the best things about salad. Unfortunately, croutons are not a mandatory element of most salads. This is why Panzanella, an italian bread salad, is one of our favorites. Basically anything can go into this salad, but the crusty croutons are a must! It's a great way to use day old bread, and you can even make extra croutons for use later. You can use whatever ingredients you have on hand. We like to use lots of tomatoes, cubed mozzarella and sauteed portabello mushrooms. Also, it doesn't hurt to go heavy on the croutons!

3 cups romaine lettuce, washed and cut into bite-sized pieces
1 1/2 cups radicchio, washed and cut into bite-sized pieces
5 medium tomatoes, seeded and diced and drained
8 ounces of mozzarella cheese, cut in 1/2 inch cubes
6 ounces of portabello mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
5 cups of croutons (recipe below)
1/2 onion (red or white), finely diced
1 clove garlic, finely minced
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup parmesan cheese, finely grated
6 leaves of fresh basil, cut in fine chiffonade
salt and pepper to taste

In a large salad bowl, place the romaine, radicchio, tomatoes, and mozzarella.
In a small container with a top, mix the olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Place top on container and shake well. Add the onions and the garlic marinate in the dressing for 5 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste to the dressing.
In a hot skillet, add 2 tablespoons of olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the sliced mushrooms. Sautee until cooked, do no overcook. Salt and pepper to taste. Let cool and place in salad bowl as well.
Add the croutons to the salad and toss.
Shake dressing in container before pouring over the salad. Toss salad gently. Sprinkle with parmesan and basil.

Makes 4 entree servings

For the croutons:
10 oz crusty italian bread
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1 clove garlic, finely minced
3 tablespoons parmesan cheese, finely grated
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Mix together the olive oil and the oregano and minced garlic.
Cut bread into 3/4 inch cubes, and place into large bowl.
Pour the olive oil mixture over bread and the parmesan cheese and toss the bread cubes until evenly coated.
Spread the bread cubes on an ungreased baking sheet in a uniform flat layer. Salt and pepper to taste
Bake for 10 minutes or until the cubes are golden and crunchy, gently turning the croutons halfway during cooking time.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Dal Stuffed Parathas

Take two classic Indian staples and combined them to make something wonderful: Dal stuffed parathas. Parathas can be stuffed with anything, so long as it is a bit mushy but not liquidy. This time we stuff with a spicy toor dal. It makes for a great snack, appetizer, or light entree. The paratha dough is super easy to work with, don't hesitate, stop by your local Asian/Indian market and make this today!

For the Toor Dal:
1 cup Toor Dal (yellow lentils) - you may subsitute other lentils if you like.
1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 inch of ginger, peeled
1/2 teaspoon mustard seed
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon garam masala*
1/2 teaspoon hot pepper flakes
1/2 cup chopped tomato (canned or fresh)
salt and pepper to taste

Rinse and clean the lentils.
In 4 cups of water, bring the lentils and the turmeric to a boil.
Lower heat and simmer for 25 minutes or until the lentils are fully cooked and most of the water is absorbed, and the lentils are very 'mashable'. (Add more water if necessary.) Set aside.
Heat oil in a skillet over medium flame.
Add the onions, garlic, mustard seeds, and ginger. Sautee until the onions are translucent.
Mix in the cumin, coriander, garam masala and hot pepper.
Add the chopped tomato, and cook for 1 minute.
Pour the cooked lentils into the skillet. Cook, stirring until the mixture has a thick mushy consistency, adding water if necessary.
Add salt and pepper to taste. Remove ginger and discard.

For the paratha dough:
2 cups atta flour
2 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup atta flour for working surfaces
additional oil for pan frying

In a large bowl, mix the flour with the oil and salt.
Add enough water to the mixture to create a firm dough. (Start with 1/2 cup water and add more as necessary.)
Knead until well combined.
Allow the dough to rest under a moist teacloth for 20 minutes.

For the stuffed paratha:
Tear off a piece of dough (about 1/8 of dough) and shape into a ball.
On a floured surface, with a floured rolling pin, roll out the dough into a thin disc about 8 to 10 inches across.
Spoon 2 to 3 tablespoons of dal filling into the center.
Fold over one edge of the dough around the stuffing, fold another adjacent edge and pinch together the edges so that they stick.
Continue folding around the filling and pinching until the dough is totally sealed. Gently pat down to make a round fat disc.
With the rolling pin, very gently flatten the disc further, making sure not to tear the dough.
Heat a skillet over medium flame. Place paratha in the skillet seam side down. Drizzle oil in the pan around the paratha and shimmy the pan so that the oil seeps underneath the paratha. Let cook for 1 minute and flip.
Continue cooking and flipping until both sides are evenly browned. Set paratha aside on paper towels.
Repeat above for the rest of the dough.

Makes 8 stuffed paratha.

* Garam masala is a spice blend common to many tasty Indian dishes. Atta flour is a type of whole wheat flour used for many kinds of Indian breads; Both are very affordable and can be found at your local Indian or Asian market (check one out, most areas have at least one). Any brand should be suitable.

Sweet Lassi

Usually we go for the mango lassi when we dine at Indian restaurants, and it's always so tasty we never think to try anything else. On a whim, I tried the sweet lassi, and wow! With a hint of rosewater, this lassi soon became my favorite. Just 4 ingredients, it's super easy and very refreshing! Goes great with Dal Stuffed Parathas.

1 1/2 cups lowfat plain yogurt
1 cup ice water
1/2 cup evaporated cane sugar (or to taste, use less if using regular sugar)
5 drops rosewater (or to taste)

Process all ingredients together in a blender. This makes about 3 cups of lassi.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Hummus and Pita Chips

My office is very close to a Moby Dick's, a local kabob chain, which serves some pretty fabulous hummus. As my luck would have it, the Washington Post did a feature on the local chain with a quick hummus recipe. While the recipe called for canned chickpeas, we decided to take the long road, and try our hand at soaking the beans ourselves, using the printed recipe as a guide. I must say, using dried beans does make a difference in taste, and is well worth the time to soak and cook. Many cooks use baking soda in their soak water to quicken the soaking time, but according to this site, adding baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) to your soak breaks down B vitamins like thiamin in the final product. These are important things to consider, especially if you are vegetarian. The resulting hummus was so flavorful, and a good amount thicker than the hummus from Moby Dick's. I suspect more olive oil, and using some of the bean cooking water would have helped thin it out, but the hummus was so tasty, we opted to just stick with our thick hummus creation. Instead of plain pitas for dipping, we toasted up some simple garlic pita chips. They are so cheap, tasty, and easy to make, I can't justify spending money on the packaged pita chips.


1 lb dried chickpeas (garbanzo beans)
2 cloves garlic
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons tahini
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup olive oil
kalamata olive and paprika (optional garnish)

Pick over chickpeas to remove any shriveled or broken ones as well as foreign matter such as dried soil or pebbles, then rinse and drain.
Place chickpeas in a large bowl, and cover with water, enough so that the beans are about 3 inches below the water surface.
Soak chickpeas overnight. Drain and replace water halfway through soak.
Drain chickpeas and place in a large pot. Fill pot with water enough so that the beans are at least 5 inches below the water surface.
Bring the pot to a boil and let boil for a few minutes.
Lower heat and let the beans simmer for about an hour and a half (or until they are soft, and fully hydrated).
With a food processor or immersion blender, pulse the garlic until it is coarsely chopped.
Drain the chickpeas. Add the chickpeas, tahini, salt and lemon juice and process until smooth. With the motor running, add the olive oil in a steady stream until well combined. Add more salt to taste, if desired.
To serve, transfer to a bowl and top with a sprinkle of paprika and the olive, if desired.

Makes a little more than 4 cups of very thick hummus.

Pita Chips

3 large thin pitas (largest, thinnest you can find)
1/3 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Mix olive oil, garlic powder and salt in a small bowl.
Brush the olive oil mixture on both sides of a pita. Cut pita into wedges or whatever shape you want your chips to be.
Lay them on an ungreased baking sheet.
Bake in oven for about 4 minutes, turn the chips over, and return to the oven for 4 more minutes or until toasted and crunchy, but not burned. (Thinner pitas may take less, thicker pitas may take more)
Repeat with the brushing, cutting, baking with the other 2 pitas.