Spicy Cilantro Lime Salad Dressing

Cilantro Lime Dressing

For someone who loves to drown their salad with ranch dressing and cannot stand vinaigrettes, finding a recipe for a thicker dressing that wasn’t too tart/sweet/unhealthy has been a challenge. Playing around with ingredients a few days ago, I finally made something that was fresh, packs a bite and is full of fresh healthy whole ingredients. Serve with Naan Pizzas (recipe here) for al fresco dining on summer nights.

Naan Pizza

Cilantro Lime Dressing

The dressing is really simple to make.

  • ! medium bunch cilantro (rinsed, drained & chopped)
  • 1 small garlic clove (washed & peeled)
  • tiny piece ginger (washed & peeled)
  • 1-2 green chillies (to taste)
  • 1 tsp cumin (jeera)
  • juice from 1 lime
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • salt to taste

Blend all ingredients in a small blender jar and adjust taste to liking, adding more oil by the tbsp if dressing is too thick.

The salad shown in the photo has arugula, red onion, tomato, cucumber, carrots & red pepper. Use any combination of veggies and protein – top with chickpeas, tofu, paneer, grilled chicken, red meat, etc.

Cilantro Lime Dressing

Naan Pizza

Naan Pizza recipes have been around for a while & I’m joining the bandwagon. If only I had known how easy this meal would be. I had dinner on the table in under 30 minutes, and it was really delicious!

Naan Pizza

I’m all for convenience and used store bought naan but you make it from scratch if you like. (You can try this Naan recipe here with over 1500 reviews!!) As for toppings, our pizzas show ground turkey but you can use any protein of your choice – tandoori / rotisserie chicken, shrimp, paneer, tofu or even just veggies like mushrooms, broccoli, tomatoes, onions, etc. The recipe below is more of a guide and can be customized as you like.

My kids preferred a plain base, but you can start by spreading a spoon of pizza sauce, green chutney, etc before topping with meat, veggies and cheese.

Serve a fresh salad with Cilantro-Lime Dressing to make an easy and tasty summer meal. Click here for recipe.

Cilantro Lime Dressing

Naan Pizza

For meat / paneer topping:

  • 1 lb ground meat OR drained & crumbled paneer or tofu
  • 3 tbsp onion powder (or 1 medium onion, chopped)
  • 1 tsp garlic powder (or 1 tsp garlic paste)
  • 1 tsp ginger powder (or 1 tsp ginger paste)
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon powder
  • 1/2 tsp cloves powder
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp coriander (dhania) powder
  • 1 tsp red chilli powder (or to taste)
  • salt
  • lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp oil

1) Heat oil in a wide pan on medium flame.

2) Add all the spice powders and quickly stir for a few seconds, allowing it to get frothy or ‘bloom’ (If using fresh onion, ginger & garlic – add them to the oil first and saute till just starting to brown. Then add the spice powders.)

3) Add the ground protein and mix well with the spices. Continue cooking on medium-high heat, stirring frequently to break up lumps and ensure even cooking.

4) Cook about 10 minutes and adjust salt. Top with lemon juice. Remove from heat and set aside.

For the pizza:

  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese (if you can lay hands on AMUL cheese at the Indian store, definitely use it.)
  • 4 fresh / frozen naans of your choice (I used frozen garlic naan from Trader Joe’s)
  • 1 small red onion – finely sliced (optional)
  • green chili and mint / cilantro chutney (optional)
  • few sprigs of cilantro – finely chopped (optional)

1) Preheat the oven to 400*F

2) Lay naans on a baking sheet and top with 1 tsp of sauce or chutney of choice.

3) Spread a 1/4 of the topping mixture on the naan and spread evenly. Top with sliced onions if desired.

4) Now top with 1/4 cup cheese and place in the oven for about 3-4 minutes till cheese is melted.

5) If you want a crunchy crust (delicious!), remove the pizza from the baking sheet and gently slide directly onto the oven rack; cook for another 2-3 minutes.

6) Carefully slide onto serving plate and top with fresh chopped cilantro before serving.

(My son enjoyed it with a drizzle of Maggi Hot & Sweet sauce.)

[Gas Grill Method: preheat grill on high for 10 minutes. Lightly brush each naan with oil and grill for about 30 seconds per side. Remove to a plate and reduce grill heat to medium-low. Top naan with your choice of ingredients and grill covered for another 5-6 minutes till cheese is melted.)

Easy Ice-Cream Cake

Memorial Day is around the corner – a day for honoring American veterans and doing our patriotic duties. Started three years after the Civil war ended in 1868, it was the chosen day to place flowers at the graves of those who died in the war. Originally called Decoration Day, it is believed that May 30th was chosen because flowers would be in bloom all over the country. Only in 1971 did Congress  nominate the last Monday in May to be recognized as Memorial Day, and expand the honor to all soldiers who died in American wars.

Flags & wreaths at tombstones in Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day 2011.  (Pic: military.gov)

Flags & wreaths at tombstones in Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day 2011.
(Pic: military.gov)

The first Memorial Day ceremony was held at Arlington National Cemetery and small American flags were placed at each grave. This tradition continues to date and has been adopted elsewhere too.

You can read more information on the U.S. Department of Veterans website.

It is also the day for parades, picnics and barbecues with family and friends, shopping, and the opening of pool season. This week’s recipe can be used through the year. Easy and adaptable, it can be made on the cheap too. (Have you seen the price of Ice-Cream cakes at your local store?!?!) Birthday parties, graduations, family gatherings, sleepovers, play dates …… I must warn you that the never ending stream of kids through your door over the next few warm months will love visiting you. Plus the fact that you can make it a week ahead of your event and freeze it makes it even more divine.

Easy Ice-Cream Cake

Ice-Cream Cake

(Serves 8-12)

  • 2 (8-inch) round cakes of your choice (baked and cooled completely)
  • 1 gallon ice-cream of your choice (softened & stirred)
  • sliced fruit / coarsely crushed cookies (optional)
  • jelly / berry sauce / whipping cream / Magic Shell – for layering & frosting
  • cherries / sprinkles / candy – for decorating
  • 1 deep 9-inch springform (preferred) or regular round pan
  • large freezer-safe serving platter
  • plastic wrap

Ice-Cream Cake

1) Line the bottom and sides of your 9-inch pan with a double layer of plastic wrap so that the edges come over the sides of the pan.

2) Place one round cake in the center and poke holes over the top using a chopstick or fork.

3) Pour half the softened ice-cream on top and over the sides of the cake and smoothen to make it level. (If you like jam or berry sauce, pour on the cake first before adding ice cream).

4) Arrange a single layer of sliced fruit or crushed cookies on top (if using).

5) Gently drape the wrap over the ice cream (or cover with a freezer safe plate) and freeze for about 2 hours.

Ice-Cream Cake

6) Remove pan from freezer and unwrap. Place the other round cake over the first layer and poke holes again.

7) Pour the remaining ice-cream on top and around the sides and smoothen again. Make sure the top is flat.

8) Gently cover again and refreeze for another 2 hours. or overnight.

9) To plate & serve: remove pan from freezer and let it sit on the counter for a few minutes.

10) Release the latch on the springform pan and lift the cake out holding the edges of the plastic wrap. Unwrap from the bottom and place on your serving platter. (For a regular pan, run a knife under hot water and gently run it around the inside edge of the pan to release the cake.)

11) Decorate with Magic Shell or whipping cream and top with cherries / berries and sprinkles.

TIP: For smooth and easy cutting, run or dip a knife under warm water and slice.

If you have a larger crowd to serve, you can follow the same method with a rectangular 9X13 cake. Just bake the cake as per instructions and cool completely (or use store bought). Trim the edges by a 1/4 inch on all sides and gently slice across to make two 9X13 layers. Place one sheet cake back in the same pan that is lined with a double layer of plastic wrap. Follow the remaining instructions as above. When ready to serve, cut into squares.

Mother’s Day Tablescape

Mother’s Day is to tomorrow. I’m sharing an easy, inexpensive and pretty table setting that dad and the kids can put together in a jiffy. Plus, mom doesn’t have to worry about her favorite collectibles chipping :)).

My grandmother, mother and all my aunts are in town this weekend and my husband and kids have invited everyone to an informal backyard barbecue to celebrate Mother’s Day. I am looking forward to spending the day with 5 generations and hope to get some good photos as I won’t be in charge of cooking.

Mother's Day Tablescape

(Please ignore the fact that I forgot to place a napkin on the right side place setting :-0)

Now for setting the table:

STEP 1: Buy or pick flowers and set aside.

STEP 2: Spread a tablecloth or table runner (use a dupatta or scarf or even a folded bed sheet) on the dining table.

STEP 3: Set the plates, cups, napkins and flatware as needed.

STEP 4: Fill empty bottles from around the house with water- different heights and sizes add interest to the table – and place cut flowers in them (I have used empty single-serve wine and soda bottles). You can use jam bottles, water bottles, or even water glasses.

STEP 5: Place a few candle holders in between and use tea lights, pillar candles, or a combination of both.

STEP 6: Watch mom’s face light up at the sight of the pretty presentation.

STEP 7: Watch dad’s face light up because he scored major brownie points :))

Mother's Day Tablescape

Mother's Day Tablescape

Mother's Day Tablescape

Mother's Day Tablescape

Mother's Day Tablescape

No-Cook Oats & Dates Breakfast Bars

No-cook Oats & Dates Breakfast Bars

Have you spent enough already on snack / granola/ energy / breakfast bars? One – the $$ add up pretty quickly; two – have you turned to the ingredients list? Yes – they may be low in sugar & carbs, high in protein & fiber, and claim to be a good meal replacement. But most of them are chock full of additives & have dozens of ingredients that I would never put in my mouth if I saw it by itself. In my attempt to feed my family food that is tasty, nutritious, natural and most importantly,  can be made ahead, I have been experimenting with a few different recipes.

I found that over the last few months, the alternative to my 4pm sweet tooth / chocolate craving was only satiated by the texture and sweetness of dates and the crunch of a few walnuts or almonds. If that was not enough, I would eat an apple or a banana to tide me through till dinner. Some days, I needed a ‘portable’ breakfast & cereal bars seemed like a good thing to start the day with.

These bars are husband & kid approved, and I generally don’t flinch when my boys go back for a second piece. The recipe below is more of a guide  – feel free to swap out ingredients for what you have on hand and adjust sweetness to your preference.

No-Cook Oats & Dates Breakfast Bars

(Makes 16 – 2X2 inch squares)

  • 2 cups nuts (walnuts, pecans, almonds, etc)
  • 2 cups oats ( I used rolled / old-fashioned oats; can probably try Instant / quick cook variety)
  • 1 cup dates
  • 1 cup dry figs (soak in 1/2 cup warm water for about 15 mins and drain well before using)
  • 1/4 cup chia seeds (optional)
  • 2-3 tsp cinnamon OR cardamom powder
  • few Tbsp honey OR maple syrup OR agave syrup (optional)
  • 1-2 cups applesauce OR finely chopped apple OR banana

1) Heat a wide, heavy bottomed pan on medium-high flame and add the oats. Toast them for about 5-10 mins till they are nutty, stirring constantly and making sure they do not brown. Remove to another wide container to cool.

2) In the same pan, add the nuts in a single layer and toast for a few minutes, again stirring continuously and making sure they do not burn. Toast till they are fragrant and glossy with their own oil. Remove from hot pan to cool completely. Work in batches if necessary.

3) In a large food processor, add the oats, the nuts and the dates & figs separately. Process till coarsely (your preference) chopped, removing to another container as each one is done.

4) Add the cinnamon/cardamom powder and fruit and mix well. – If using applesauce, use only 1/2 – 1 cup to bind mixture, and add on as needed.

5) Alternately, add all the coarsely chopped ingredients and powder back to the food processor and pulse till it all comes together. (This is my preferred method as we don’t like chunks in our bars.) Drizzle in some honey/syrup if needed as everything is getting mixed.

6) Line an 8X8 inch pan with wax paper or foil, making sure it overhangs over the sides.

7) Press the mixture into the pan, and smooth out the top evenly.

8) At this point, the bars are ready to eat. I prefer to let the raw mixture stand overnight in the refrigerator to set and allow the flavors to meld. 

9) When the mixture is set, remove the bars by holding the foil. Slice into 2X2 inch squares and store in an airtight container. They will be fine for a week or more in the fridge.

10) Alternately, once you press the mixture into the pan, cook in a preheated 350* oven for 20 minutes and allow to cool completely. Remove with foil, slice and store in an airtight container.

NOTE: As mentioned above, add or reduce the quantity of the dates, fruits and syrup to suit your tastes. You can also experiment with different types of nuts, although I find that walnuts have the best texture here.

Gotgamssam – Korean Dessert with Persimmon & Walnut

Gotgamssam

Waiting at the barber while my kids got their haircuts, I was skimming through the old magazines they had around. One of the Korean magazines had a few beautiful pictures of dry persimmons, and this orange roll with nuts in the middle. Of course, all instructions were in Korean. I asked the ladies who work there what it was, and after a few minutes of going back and forth, another nice customer stepped in to help translate for us. He found out from the women where to buy the ingredients and how to make this roll. Hope he got a great haircut for his good deed :)).

Gotgamssam

Gotgamssam is a traditional Korean desert or snack that is served with cinnamon or green tea, and it requires only 2 ingredients. I was told that it is common in Korean homes to have a few rolls tucked away in the refrigerator for company. Super easy to make, I was reminded of diabetic family members who stay away from dessert. A few slices of this might be a welcome treat for them. Give it a try.

Gotgamssam

You can buy dried persimmons in the frozen section of your International market. The box pictured here was around $6. If you cannot find dried persimmons, this same technique can be used for dried apricots which are more easily available. Looking online, I learnt that the apricot version is called Salgussam.

Gotgamssam

(About 18 slices)

  • 1 container (6 pcs) dried persimmon (if frozen, thaw)
  • big handful of whole walnuts

1) Preheat oven to 350*F, pour the walnuts on a rimmed cookie tray, and place on the center oven rack.

2) Bake for 6-8 minutes, stirring once in between, till golden and fragrant.

3) Remove from the cookie tray onto a plate and spread to cool completely.

4) With a sharp knife, trim the ends of the persimmon, and slit all the way down only on one side to form a flat, rectangular piece.

Gotgamssam

5) Lay a large piece of plastic wrap on the counter, and line up the persimmon slices where the edges slightly overlap.

Gotgamssam

6) Place a double or triple layer of the toasted walnuts on top of the persimmon slices and gently press into the fruit to hold in place.

Gotgamssam

7) Gently, but tightly roll up the fruit over the walnuts and roll into a log. Cover with plastic wrap and reshape into a circular log if necessary.

8) Place the log in the freezer for about 30-45 minutes to firm up.

9) Unwrap, and cut each persimmon into 3 slices using a serrated knife.

Gotgamssam

10) Serve with green tea or cinnamon tea.

NOTE:

  1. If the slit fruit seems too ‘pulpy’, gently scrape out some of the soft stuff before filling with the walnuts.
  2. Toasting the walnuts was my idea – you may skip this step if you like.
  3. Consider substituting candied walnuts for a different taste.

Tofu Sofritas (Vegan)

Tofu Sofritos

Original Chipotle Tofu Sofritas is braised (seared on high heat in fat, then simmered in a liquid) in a combination of spicy peppers and spices. While I would have loved to replicate the exact recipe, I didn’t want to buy 1-use ingredients like poblano, adobo, etc. This version here is quite close in taste, but easier and not as saucy as the original. You can use store bought taco seasoning or make your own blend with ingredients at home.

Tofu Sofritas

  • 1 (16 oz) extra firm tofu (if not available, use firm)
  • 3-4 Tbsp oil
  • 1 medium onion (chopped fine)
  • 3 garlic cloves (minced)
  • 2 Tbsp taco seasoning
  • 1 tsp red chilli powder
  • 1 tsp dry oregano
  • 1-1/2 tsp cumin powder
  • 1/3 cup salsa (or 2 Tbsp tomato paste & 2 Tbsp water/stock/beer mixed together)
  • salt to taste

1) Drain tofu from package and press to remove as much moisture as possible.

2) Move to a bowl and crumble the tofu with your hands or a fork.

3) Mix in the taco seasoning, red chilli powder, cumin and oregano.

4) Heat a wide & thick-bottom pan, and add oil.

5) Add the minced garlic and saute till golden. Do not burn it.

6) Add the chopped onions and saute on medium-high till it starts to brown lightly.

7) Now add the seasoned tofu and stir fry on medium-high for 3-4 minutes, stirring often. Add another teaspoon or two of oil if the tofu mix sticks to the bottom of the pan.

8) Add in the salsa or tomato paste mixture and mix well. Continue stir frying till well incorporated and the mixture is almost dry. Adjust salt to taste. Top with chopped cilantro if you like.

This can be served on a salad, in a burrito, as a lettuce wrap, or with rice or quinoa.

For serving suggestions, and to see other related recipes, see my post on Homemade Chioptle-Style Buffet & Tortilla Salad (Lots of vegetarian options)

Kachumber

Kachumber

Depending on the region, Indian food is served with a small plate of sliced raw onions, tomatoes, radish, green chilli, lemon/ lime wedges and cilantro. While this is primarily a North Indian offering, my family (and many others I know from the South) usually serves this ‘salad’ with meat dishes. It’s not uncommon for rural diets to include these fresh raw vegetables with their roti or flatbread (made from rice, wheat, corn, buckwheat, maize, etc) as it make for a sharp accompaniment and travels well.

My husband is an onion-lover of the first degree and I hate them! As simple as this dish is, it’s a treat for him when I make some kachumber. He swears that a few pieces of raw onion, a squeeze of lemon juice and a sprinkle of cilantro takes food to a whole new level. You can click here to see the Oven Roasted Tandoori Cornish Hen recipe and the complete menu that I served this Kachumber with.

Kachumber

  • 1 medium red onion – sliced
  • 1/2 medium tomato – seeded and cut into wedges
  • 1-2 Tbsp chopped cilantro
  • 1/2 tsp chaat masala OR salt to taste
  • lemon juice to taste
  • 1/2 tsp finely chopped green chilli (optional)

Mix all ingredients in a bowl and serve.

Cocktail Papadums & Carrot Salad

Cocktail Papadums & Carrot Salad

As promised – here is the next easy appetizer idea. Most Indians will be familiar with some version of this carrot salad. You can add in seeded & finely chopped tomatoes, or sprouted mung beans. I have just added a small twist to how it’s served. Cocktail Papadums (mini papads) are available at most Indian grocery stores. If not, you can use tortilla chips / scoops.

These papads and the salad can be made ahead of time and assembled just before serving. Hope this helps make your entertaining easier :)).

Cocktail Papadums & Carrot Salad

Cocktail Papadums & Carrot Salad

(serves 4-6)

  • 1/2 packet cocktail papadums (fried and drained)
  • 2 large carrots (peeled & grated)
  • 1 small red onion (finely chopped)
  • 1-2 green chillies (finely chopped)
  • 2-3 Tbsp cilantro (finely chopped)
  • salt to taste
  • lemon juice to taste
  • 1 medium tomato (seeded & finely diced) – optional
  • 1/2 cup sprouted mung beans – optional

This recipe is more a guide than an actual measurement:

1) Fry cocktail papadums and drain on paper towels. Store in a paper towel lined air tight container for up to 2 days. (If you cannot find mini papadums/papads,  I suppose you could get away with tortilla chips/scoops.)

2) In a bowl, mix together the grated carrots, onion, green chillies and mung beans (if using). Refrigerate till ready to serve.

3) Just before serving, add the salt, lemon juice & tomato and gently mix with a fork. (Remember that tomatoes will release moisture and make the carrot mix soggy after a while. I generally avoid it if I expect the mix to sit for a while.)

4) Serve in a bowl on a plate with the papads. Guests can fix their own bite size snack.

Cocktail Papadums

Growing up, this was something we occasionally had as Sunday breakfast to give my mom a break from cooking. We slathered our bread with ghee and toasted it on the griddle till it was golden and crunchy, and topped it with this spicy carrot salad. I still enjoy this salad, but without the bread!

Vegan Zucchini & Corn Cutlets

Vegan Zucchini Corn Cutlets

Is everybody getting ready for the holiday madness? For many years, I felt like I was short changing my kids and family if our holidays didn’t involve hand made stuff, decorating, cleaning and cooking like a maniac, and entertaining over the 6+ weeks starting mid-November. It’s so easy to get caught up in the picture perfect version of the holidays that is sold to us by retailers and media, that we forget it took a large paid team of people to come up with what we see in ads. 2 years ago, I decided that I would not do anything that my kids didn’t really care about. Surprisingly, they were fine with not putting up a tree (second time in 15 years; the first was when we lived overseas for a year)!! That December, we travelled to Jamaica for a gloriously relaxing vacation, took naps, read books, watched movies and played Scrabble. Not a single wreath/christmas decoration came out of the box. We did do some casual entertaining (as in easy meals, or order in Chinese or pizza) with small groups, and were actually able to sit down and enjoy company. It was an eye-opener for me. I wasn’t a yelling nagging lunatic with a whisk in one hand and a dusting rag in the other!! (Atleast, I think I wasn’t one. My family may differ 🙂 but they have to agree that I toned it down a couple notches.) We did put up our tree last year, and baked, entertained, shopped, etc. but I didn’t stress about how perfect everything had to be. It’s definitely a work in progress, but I’m trying to walk down the same path again this year.

What I want to say here is that while we may not be able to completely give up everything, the holidays are about appreciating our loved ones and making the time to connect with them. If you can effortlessly whip up a 7 course meal and still smile, hats off to you. But most of us need a stash of easy and quick tricks in our bag to tide the next few weeks. In the coming days, my plan is to post recipes of what I am making in my own home. I assure you that they will be easy, healthy (somewhat :)), elegant, and mostly make-ahead. After all, the hosts need to enjoy the party too.

The recipe below is just a guide for making these cutlets. Since zucchini has a neutral taste, you can add any seasoning of choice: green chillies & chopped mint; sriracha & fish sauce; chopped dill & feta cheese; etc. I have used basil & oregano as I wanted to empty them out. It is crucial to squeeze out the water from the zucchini, and to add a binding agent to hold the mix together. (I might try adding mashed black beans instead of the potato next time.) The flour & starch / bread crumbs aid in absorbing any left over moisture, and may not be necessary if you have had enough time to drain the vegetable.

I have made these cutlets a day or two before my party and heated in a toaster oven, and they tasted just as good as fresh. If you plan on reheating, place them on a rack after cooking so they cool without sitting in steam. Cool completely and store in a paper towel lined air tight box in the refrigerator. I sometimes make these and serve as after-school snacks and my 10-year old will eat 4-5 without complaint.

Vegan Zucchini – Corn Cutlets

(Makes about 24)

  • 2 lbs zucchini
  • 1 cup roasted corn ( I buy the frozen bag but you can roast at home if you like)
  • 1 Tbsp garlic (paste or minced or powder)
  • 1 Tbsp dry red chili flakes (or to taste)
  • 1 Tbsp dry basil (crush between palms before adding)
  • 1 Tbsp dry oregano (crush between palms before adding)
  • 1 medium boiled, peeled & mashed potato [or] 1 egg**
  • 1 cup bread crumbs [or] 1/2 cup all-purpose flour + 2 Tbsp cornstarch
  • salt to taste
  • Oil for griddle

1) Set a colander in a plate or bowl,and grate zucchini into it using the fine side of the grater.

2) Toss with 1 tsp salt and set aside for 15 minutes. This will make the vegetable release a lot of moisture and drain into the lining plate/bowl.

3) Meanwhile, in another large bowl, mix the corn, garlic, chili flakes, basil, oregano & potato.

4) After 15 minutes, squeeze out the grated zucchini and add to the corn mixture. Adjust salt and spices, and chill for another 15 minutes (optional – this will help to set the mixture and make for easier shaping. Also, this will release any additional water in the zucchini, and you can control the amount of bread crumbs added).

5) Alternately, you may skip the chilling, and add the bread crumbs (or all-purpose flour & cornstarch) and mix well.

6) Heat a griddle on medium and add 2 Tbsp oil to it.

7) Shape 2-3 Tbsp of the mixture into balls and flatten into patties. Cook the patties on medium-high for about 3 minutes per side until golden brown.

8) Serve with dipping sauce of your choice – ketchup, ranch, sriracha, cilantro-mint-green chili chutney, etc.

*** Vegans might want to try flax egg as a binding agent. Please let me know how it turns out if you do.