Monday, September 28, 2009

Cheesy Pasta Bake

Mac & Cheese has somehow not held me in thrall though this largely American dish seems to be a sure fire crowd pleaser. I used to be mystified about the various recipes that peppered the foreign magazines my circulating library in Chennai delivered. There was “classic Mac n Cheese”, “Mac n Cheese with a twist”, “Mom’s secret recipes” – I couldn’t imagine the to-do over what is essential cooked macaroni baked with a rich cheese sauce. Apparently, this dish became even more popular when Kraft introduced its instant version, packaged as a “meal in a box”, where the cheese sauce was made from powder base – this idea got a big boost with the World War II rationing and working women which meant that meat, dairy products and time were all in short supply.

Now, I’m no food snob and actively encourage the “to each his own” attitude; I suspect that the blandness of this dish is what makes me stay away. We usually like a nice pesto pasta and an Arrabiata sauce is also a great favourite with us. My daughter who dotes on pasta usually gets a version which has lots of veggies in it, a mild tomato sauce which is finished with a dash of milk and gratings of cheese.

But there are those days when you crave carbs and lots of cheese – okay, okay, not you, It’s just me! But I do. This cheesy bake was made on one such day. I did put in veggies though, since I couldn’t imagine eating just pasta and cheese and also added a couple of tablespoons of pureed tomatoes to give it some more flavour. It's a modified version of Mac & Cheese I guess....

It was deliciously satisfying to cut into that cheesy white sauce covered bake… tell me, what do you do when the craving for carb strikes? What is the dish that acts as an immediate remedy? – is it rice and sambar? Or khichdi? Or aloo paratha?

Cheesy Pasta Bake

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Whole Wheat Crust Pizza

I'm getting progressively better at making pizza from scratch - it's such a joy to bite into a lovely thin crust pizza, choc-a-bloc with toppings of our choice. As much or as little cheese as we want - no rationing of you can see I'm not too much of a fan of store bought pizzas!

On an average, we order pizzas about once every 4 months; we almost never go out and eat pizza - though after coming to Delhi we have found a couple of Italian restaurants which serve some great thin crust pizza - Vera Pizza at Tonino's is one of them, though for some reason the M.G Road outlet is better than the Greater Kailash one.
Aming the delivered Pizzas, loved Smokin' Joes when I was in Mumbai and when they started out Pizza Express in Chennai was very good. Slice of Italy in Delhi is also a good bet on most days.

The first time I ate one of the international "chain" pizzas was the day I got married. I was determined we wouldn't starve at our reception while seeing people all around us stuff their faces, so we ordered up a pizza to our hotel room from a brand new outlet downstairs and had it while I was getting my make up and hair done! The pizza was thick and doughy and I hated it. It was a long, long time before I had another one.

Its a pleasure then, to sink your teeth into one of these babies. Here it is before it went into the oven - this was the second one and since I had already one baking in the oven in my one and only metal pan, I put the second half of the dough into a shallow oven proof glass pan. But I won't be repeating it because the glass doesn't seem to be a great idea. The pizza took longer to cook and the glass was hot when I brought it out that I burnt my arm in two places! OUCH!!!

I stuck to the recipe I have been using from Jugalbandi with just a few adjustments.

Closer to perfection each time I make it, this time was very satisfying especially since the yeast did not give me any problem. I used olives, sweet corn, cherry tomatoes, bell peppers and onions. The sauce was store bought this time since I didn't have the time to make this delicious roasted pepper sauce. But it was good nevertheless! Try it out and you will be a convert in no time!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Spring Cleaning - Travel cleanses the mind!

Been doing a bit of cleaning up on my blog - first to be attacked was the tags. Though I take a lot of care while posting itself to make sure that I stick to a limited number of tags, turns out there were many which were quite superfluous and had only one entry under them, while there were some categories which weren't tagged at all - one pot meals (thanks A!) and Tamil cuisine for e.g - both of which I have quite a few recipes posted. So, I added a few and deleted a lot - some of the categories which have only one post under them are because of my aspirations to post more on the same - like stir fries, couscous and Mexican.

I also made sure my list of recipes has been updated - so just one click on the Recipe Index (you can find it on the right side of the blog) takes you to the recipes arranged according to different categories - Soups, Salads, Main Course, Rice, Breads, Chicken, Meat & Fish, Cakes, Desserts, Indian Sweets etc

There's lots more to be done; starting with changing the look of the blog to considering moving to wordpress. Just don't have the time or the bandwidth to do any of that right now - a full time job and home have me stretched out as it is.

Do let me know if you have any suggestions or comments or would like to see more of a certain kind of cuisine/recipe.

In the meanwhile, in case you are wondering what these photographs are about, I'm sharing some pics of our recent trip to Bhimtal Lake. This is a picturesque place about 300km from Delhi very close to the more famous Nainital Lake. We stayed at a beautiful place called Fishermen's Lodge - being the off season, we were the only guests there apart from one other couple. The service was warm and personalised, the food was excellent and the views of the lake were
spectacular! The weather was just right, there were no crowds and even when we went boating we had the entire lake to ourselves! My 4 year old daughter was thrilled - she wasn't being told to keep her voice down or to sit still at the table or not jump on the wooden deck. We walked, curled up in a corner with books, packed picnic lunches which we ate on the banks of neighbouring Naukuchiyatal and Sattal lakes. Spring cleaning for the mind - we came back all relaxed and refreshed! :)

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Pasta tossed with Roasted Vegetables

As far as this dish is concerned - what you see is what you get. I don't even think you need a recipe for this one - its that simple! As I have mentioned many times before, I love oven roasted vegetables.....and of course I simply adore pasta. So, putting them together was the easiest thing to do.
I used broccoli, babycorn, cherry tomatoes, onions and bell peppers. Feel free to substitute with any other combination that you would prefer, including zucchini, yellow or red peppers and courgettes. Toss the chopped vegetables (1 " pieces) in a tablespoon of oil mixed with dried herbs and salt and roast in a pre heated oven for about 15-20 minutes. The vegetables will still be crunchy but have a nice sweet flavour from the roasting.

Once the vegetables have been roasted, heat up olive oil in a pan, saute some garlic and then toss some cooked pasta (already cooked, drained and tossed with a tsp of oil) and vegetables together in the pan for a few minutes. Since I already add herbs while roasting vegetables, I just mixed in some paprika powder and basil leaves additionally. A generous sprinkling of grated parmesan and you have a delicious, light meal ready!