Avocado Mint Pesto
After moving to the US, I got introduced to several new cuisines and flavors. While I immediately fell in love with some, there were a few that I just repelled. I can't believe I am saying this today, but the taste of avocado was one of them. From its confusing texture, to the smell and taste, there was nothing about this fruit that impressed me. I gave it a few tries but then made peace with the fact that this fruit is just not for me.Then, just like with every winter holiday, we went on a vacation as a family. This time it was a week spent in Mexico. The week that turned out to be one of the most delicious weeks ever. Apart from the breathtakingly gorgeous surroundings and the colorful Mexican culture, it was mainly the food that blew our mind. When on a vacation, we try to experience the cuisine through street food and hole-in-the-wall kind of places. It was at one such roadside vendor that we tried fish tacos. Fresh caught fish in the morning turned into mouth watering tacos by noon. Wrapped in warm handmade tortillas, topped with simple guacamole and a light squirt of lemon juice and you're set. This was when I, really for the first time, enjoyed avocado and then there was no looking back. Now avocado is one of the must haves on my kitchen counter.Today I tried to mix avocado with some of my other favorites and turned it into a healthy dinner. A very simple and healthy pesto but loaded with robust flavors. Earthiness from mint and pistachios, a zing from lemon juice, creaminess with avocados and topping it all off with loads of parmesan. It is my go-to dish for weeknight family dinners. Like any new food blogger, during those early days I would spend hours staring at my computer screen drooling over some amazing food blogs. Their beautiful writing would make me want to write more from the heart, flawless photography would tempt me to spend more time behind the camera and innovative recipes would take me back to the kitchen and play around more. Many such food blogs became my daily companions and slowly their authors became great friends. One such friend is Sia of Monsoon Spice. Recently, Sia with her family, decided to make some changes in her life. They decided to wrap up the home they created in a foreign land and decided to move back to where they came from. They left England, their son's birthplace and went back to India, their own birthplace. Closer to family and the streets she grew up in. So while she was busy unpacking I thought I'll cook something for her. So to check out the recipe for this refreshing light pesto please head over to Sia's blog and while you are there, look around and you are in for a treat!
Iced Masala Chai
Oh summer! How much I longed for you. How I wished and prayed for you to come visit. How I hoped for the sun to shine upon me and how I craved to put away my coats and gloves and pull out my bags of shorts, carefully hidden in the back of my closet. I had all these plans to bathe in your sunshine and had dreamt of not leaving my backyard for days. And then you came with all your glory. Oh, you came with all you glory! And now I wanna run away from you and hide in the bottom of a pool or glue myself to the air conditioning that my house doesn't have (lucky me!).All this was still alright as you were much awaited until you snatched the cup of my hot masala tea I relished every evening with a slice of banana cardamom cake. That made things a little cruel, I have to say. Not many have the capacity of taking that cup of evening chai away from me but to savor a cup of anything steaming hot on this hot, hot summer is close to torture. But to completely stay away from the warmth of masala mixed in a creamy cup of chai is impossible too. So I had to improvise. I used the same spices, boiled it with my favorite tea but instead poured it in a bottle and chilled it in my refrigerator and fooled the summer!Typically Indian homes use a pre-made chai masala powder, where every family has their own set of favorite spices. Dried ginger, cinnamon, cloves, green cardamom, fennel, star anise are typically used to make this masala. These spices ground together in a ratio based on taste preference. Just a few pinches on chai masala in the end mixed to chai before straining into mugs makes all the difference.For this Iced tea I used whole spices though because I wanted a mild flavor of spices and also because I had run out of my stock of chai masala in my pantry. I also picked the spices I believed will suit my family's palette. Feel free to add or take out the spices of your choice. You can add extra flavor to the chai by adding milk, fresh herbs or citrus of choice. I like my iced tea with a few teaspoons of coconut milk, Abhishek likes his with mint leaves mulled with lemon juice. You can use this concentrate to make hot tea also. Just mix it with some hot milk and serve with biscuits on the side. So basically feel free to use your imagination and play around with all sorts of flavor combinations but beware, iced or hot call it Masala Chai only!Ingredients:5 cups water1 cinnamon stick2 inches fresh ginger root (sliced or coarsely chopped)10 green cardamom (smashed)8-10 cloves (whole)4-5 tablespoon brown sugar (can substitute with a choice of sweetener like honey, agave, coconut palm sugar)6-7 Tetley Black & Green tea bagsAdditional flavors that I tried and tasted great with the tea-A few teaspoons milk. Coconut and soy are my personal favorite. You can use a milk of your choice.A few crushed mint leaves.A squirt or a couple slices of lemon.Method:In a medium sized saucepan bring water to a rolling boil.Add the spices, sugar and tea bags. Turn the heat off. Let it steep for 15 minutes. Longer if you prefer a stronger taste of spices.Strain hot tea through a strainer. Let it cool a little and then transfer to a flask or pitcher.Place in the refrigerator until chilled.To serve, fill a glass with ice. Pour the tea. Add milk or lemon juice and mint or enjoy as it is on a hot summer day!
Lamb Kofta Curry
I don't remember how old I was at the time but I think I was in grade four or five. Papa and I were arguing over a wrist watch. Well, me not having one wouldn't have mattered much if Seema's dad did not get her one. Seema, my classmate and "competition" at school. As usual she did something nice and her dad got her this watch. "Seriously, who buys a watch for a 5th grader? Well, loving dads of course," I was thinking while also admiring hers that had a black and white dial and a golden circular rim around the edges. It looked fancy and her wrist nice, against my bare arm. So I went to Papa and demanded that I deserve a new shiny one too. Papa thought "deserve" was a big word but promised if I scored above some 80% marks in my final exams, then I can have one. Instantly I considered the watch mine! It was a sweet deal. All I had to do was to wait a few more months and just study. And boy, did I study that semester! I worked day and night, asked questions, found answers, did whatever I thought could take to score that watch, I mean 80% marks.Exams went well. I felt good about it. Then the day of result approached. Like every results day, in the morning I woke up with a knot in my stomach although I was still confident. Took a shower, put on nice clean clothes mummy had put out for me, sat behind Papa on his scooter and went to school to see the results. My hand was sweaty the whole time Papa was holding it while my class teacher spoke about how I did. Then she handed over the report card to Papa. I stared at his face horrified while he opened the report card, smiled and said how proud he was while rubbing my head. He sure looked happy but all I cared about was the 80%. As I flipped the report card, I found out that I fell short by just a few numbers. Oh that hurt like an arrow straight to heart!Off we went to our customary ice cream treat after a good result. This time even my favorite chocolate strawberry sundae tasted like mud but I gulped it down. Then we headed back home. No one spoke of the watch although someone still had some dying hopes in her heart. At home mummy was eagerly waiting for us with lunch ready. The house smelled like celebration as mummy had made lamb kofta. Lightly spiced meatballs, deep fried to give them a crispy, dark brown exterior still juicy and tender from inside. Served in a creamy masala sauce made it rich with cashew paste and some milk. Today that lunch would make up for any heart break. That day, not so much. But I still stuffed my face with whatever goodness came my way.Packing for Las Vegas today. Excited to be receiving an award for the blog and Papa feels I should use the word "deserve" this time. That makes it more exciting. Still the mind keeps wandering back to two things. The watch that Papa did buy me eventually, a consolation I suppose. And to Mummy's lamb kofta, which warms your heart and can brighten up any day. I made some to share with you today before hopping on that plane.Ingredients:For Koftas:1/2 lb ground lamb1 medium size potato (boiled, peeled, mashed)1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds (coarsely crushed)1 teaspoon coriander seeds (coarsely crushed)1/4 cup onion (finely chopped)1 teaspoon ginger garlic pasteSaltFor Curry:1 1/2 tablespoon whole coriander seeds1 cinnamon stick3-4 whole green cardamom2-3 whole black cardamom4-5 cloves1 dry bay leaf1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds2 tablespoon cashews1 tablespoon pumpkin seeds1/2 cup milk1 1/2 cup onion (chopped)3 cloves garlic1 inch ginger2-3 thai green chiliSalt1 teaspoon turmeric1 teaspoon sugar1 teaspoon garam masala1 teaspoon Kashmiri Lal Mirch (for color mainly)1/2 cup heavy cream (I usually substitute it with 2 tablespoon cream cheese. It works surprisingly well)3-4 tablespoon cooking oilMethod:Pre heat the oven to 375deg. F.Mix all the ingredients of kofta well together. About a tablespoon each in size roll it into balls.Line on an oiled baking sheet. Place in the oven. Cook for 15-20 minutes.Traditionally the koftas are deep fried in oil. Can then either be served with a dip as an appetizer or dipped in a rich curry.While the koftas are baking coarsely grind the first seven spices either using a mortar pestle or in your spice grinder. Set aside.Soak cashews and pumpkin seeds in milk until they are soft enough to be turned to paste. Atleast 1 hr. Blend into a smooth paste. Set aside.Grind onion, ginger, garlic and green chili together into a paste. Set aside.Heat oil in a thick bottom pan. Add ground spices. As they sputter add the prepared onion paste. Stir well.Cook on medium heat until all the liquid is evaporated and the paste turns light golden. 8-10 minutes.Add salt, sugar and turmeric. Mix well.Reduce the heat to medium low. Add garam masala and Kashmiri Lal Mirch.Stir in cashew and pumpkin seeds paste. Stir well. Cook for a minute.Add heavy cream. Mix well. At this point you can add upto 1 1/2 cups of water depending how thick you want the curry to be.On a medium heat bring the curry to a boil.Transfer the koftas to the curry. Stir to cover in sauce. Reduce the heat to low. Simmer for 3-5 minutes for the koftas to adsorb some goodness of the curry.Turn off heat. Serve with choice of hot naan or rice.
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