Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Vegetable - Tofu Burger Night - Another awesome treat from my Vegetarian Kitchen

Another beautiful offering from my Vegetarian Kitchen! Nowadays, I actually look forward to Wednesdays to challenge myself to whip up delicious yet nutritious vegetarian fare. When I first came up with the concept of "Vegetarian Wednesdays", Sam was pretty skeptical. He announced if I cook 'boring' vegetarian meal, he would go out and grab a KFC bucket! 

Its been five weeks now. So far so good. The KFC bucket is still at KFC and I pray that I can sustain my endeavor to try an incorporate a healthy vegetarian diet for my carnivorous family!

Sid, who loves watching Curious George, had been pestering me to make Chef Pisghetti's meatless Giardino Burgers (featured in Season 1: Episode 19) for quite a while. The Giardino Burgers are chickpea based and I assumed it would taste a lot like my Falafel. I had a tub of tofu in my fridge and decided to make Meatless Tofu Burgers instead.

Since no burger dinner is complete without munchies like French Fries and Onion Rings, I decided to make some oven baked garlic fries. I also tossed some baked zucchini as a healthier substitute to onion rings. Every last morsel of the munchies was devoured with utmost pleasure and no guilt. 

Now back to our Main Course. 
I have tasted quite a few Tofu Burgers and I found them to be bland and a tad rubbery. 

I wanted mine to be flavorful, crispy on the outside and melt-in-the-mouth soft on the inside. I searched high and low on the World Wide Web, but most of the recipes did not sound promising. Until I found Moosewood Restaurant's very own cookbook! I loved the idea of cooking the grated tofu with veggies and seasoning and then forming patties. 

I have long stopped adding breadcrumbs to my burgers or meat loaves. I add mashed up brown rice. I so happened one day that I ran out of bread crumbs and substituted with brown rice, that I had in hand. I got the most incredible, juicy and moist meat loaf. Ever since brown rice is my choice of binder. 

The patties turned to be exactly the way I expected. Crispy yet silky. Sid ate without a whimper and declared this to be best burger ever. Sam actually thanked me for a great dinner! 

Tofu triumphing over beef and chicken??? Who knew!

Recipe Snapshot: Vegetable - Tofu Burger
Loosely Adapted from: Moosewood’s Classic Tofu Burgers

Serves: 8 serving
(1 serving = 1 burger)

What I used:
For the patties:
Extra firm Tofu - 1 (14 oz) packet, grated
Carrots - 1 or 2 , grated (to yield 1.5 cups)
Bell Pepper (green or any color) - 1, grated (to yield 3/4  cup)
Mushroom - 1 (8 oz) tub, grated
Onions - 1 medium sized, finely chopped
Ginger - 1, 2: piece, grated
Garlic - 4-5 cloves, grated
Canola Oil - 1 tbsp
Worcestershire Sauce - 1 tbsp
Brown Sugar - 1 tsp
Dried Thyme - 1 tsp (use 2 tbsp of fresh thyme)
Freshly cracked pepper
Mashed brown(or white) rice / Bread crumbs - 1 cup
Oil Spray

For the Burgers:
Sandwich Thin Buns - 8
Fat Free Greek Yogurt - 1/4 cup
Coarse Ground Mustard - 1 tsp
Cucumber Slices, Tomato slices, Onion rings for topping and garnish.

What I did:
For the patties:
1. We need to press out as much as water from the Tofu. I usually place it over a wire mesh colander and let it drain all the excess water. I usually keep it like this for close to 2 hours.

2. Once the tofu is ready, I finely chop one medium sized onion and saute it in a little oil, along with grated ginger and garlic, over medium heat till its dark brown in color. 

3. White the onion is sauteing, I take out my food processor and grate/shred all the veggies (carrots, bell pepper and mushroom). If you go not have a processor, chop the veggies very finely.

4. Once the onions are well caramelized and the ginger-garlic is cooked, add the grated veggies. 

5. Ass the salt, pepper, Worcestershire Sauce, brown sugar, dried thyme and cook till the veggies are absolutely tender.

6. Add the grated tofu and mix well with the veggies. Cook till the tofu is well cooked and all the moisture from the veggies and the tofu is evaporated. Check for seasoning and adjust the salt accordingly.

7. Let the mixture cool. Also at this point, preheat the oven to 375 F.

8. When the mix is cool enough to handle, you can either add the bread crumbs or mashed rice (white or brown) to it and mix it with your hand and then make patties out of it. Or else, you can dump everything (veggies mix, bread crumbs or rice) in the food processor and pulse a little so that everything is homogeneously mixed.  

9. Shape out thick patties. I got 8 thick ones.

10. Place the patties in a greased, foil wrapped cookie sheet, wrapped in aluminium foil. Spray a little cooking spray on top the patties too. Bake in a 375 F oven for 35 - 40 minutes, flipping once.

11. I serve these burgers on Sandwich Thins (or Slimwich bun, 100 Percent Whole Wheat 90 calories Slim Bun). I also added few cucumber. onion and tomato slices. 

For the Burgers:
1. Toast the Sandwich Thins (or Slimwich bun, 100 Percent Whole Wheat 90 calories Slim Bun).
2. Mix the Greek yogurt and the mustard and apply on the inner sides of the buns.
3. Arrange the cucumber slices (or lettuce if you prefer) on one bun. Place the Veggie-Tofu Burger patty on top. top it with a tomato slices and onion rings. Cover with the other bun and serve.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Basic Stir-Fried Asparagus, because Spring is finally here!

You know its Spring, when you spot those tiny green specs of new leaves on those gray barren trees you've been seeing for past five months.

You know its Spring when the happy chirping of birds accompany your morning tea.

You know its Spring when the Day Light Saving is implemented.

You know its Spring, when one day its a gorgeous 65 F day and the very next day its back to low 20s. Or may be its just Cincinnati!

But I know its Spring, when I see abundant bundles of fresh green Asparagus, stock up high in my Farmers Market and at local grocery store!

Asparagus, like a lot of other veggies, came to my life only a couple of years back when we relocated to this country. And like the others, I too fell in love with it. You get asparagus all most all year round, but its best during this time of the year - fresh, lean and lanky, tender and super cheap. Others time, they can be tad woodsy and expensive. 

This is the only time of the year, I buy them fresh. Roasting and grilling are wonderful ways of cooking this fine vegetable, but me and my family prefer a quick stir fry with loads of garlic and pepper. Simple and basic. 

A powerhouse of nutrients, asparagus spears are also visually beautiful this time of the year; long and slender, with beautiful tips in a lovely shade of purple. 

This quick stir fry features at least once a week in our dinner menu, especially the entire spring and early summer. Its a brilliant side dish to those creamy pasta or a quick fix cracked wheat or quinoa pilaf. Its my favorite accompaniment with broiled salmon.  

The recipe I am sharing is the basic one. I often add some bells and whistles like sauteed leeks (or onoins), or some Indian tempering like cumin seeds or mustard seeds depending on my mood or the main course. But whatever you do, its tastes delicious any which way. 

Recipe Snapshot: Stir-Fried Asparagus

Serves: 3 serving
(1 serving = 1 cup)

What I used:
Fresh Asparagus Spears Tomatoes -  2 bundles ( about 1 lb)

Garlic - 5 fat cloves, mined or gated

Olive Oil - 1 tbsp

Salt  - 1/2 tsp or to taste

Freshly Pepper 

Nuts (pecans, walnuts or almonds) -  a small handful, coarsely chopped (optional)

Handful of torn parsley for garnish (optional)

What I did:
1. Snaps the tough ends of the asparagus spears and cut in to two or three pieces. Wash them thoroughly.

2. Heat oil in a wide pan or skillet, add he garlic and let it cook till the raw smell is gone and its slightly golden. About a minuter and a half.

3. Add the asparagus spears, salt and pepper and toss around , so that all the spears are coated with garlic and oil. 

4. Cover and cook for 5 minutes. If you have tougher asparagus it will take a little long. For tougher asparagus, its advisable to steam for 3-5 minutes in microwave before adding to the pan. 

5. Once tender, take it off he flame, add a handful of chopped nuts and parsley for some crunch and freshness. 

6. Serve as a side dish to your favorite main course. 

Notes/Tip: If you do not have asparagus, this super simple stir-fry can be made with fresh green beans too. 

Variations: Can saute some onions , leeks, mushrooms, or bell pepper along with garlic and asparagus. 
Can add tempering of cumin seeds, or mustard seeds or nigella seeds for an different bust of flavors.

Diabetic Platter:
Asparagus is a very low calorie vegetable. 100 g fresh spears give only 20 calories. More calories will be burnt to digest than gained. In addition, the spears contain moderate levels of dietary-fiber. 100 g of fresh spears provide 2.1 g of roughage. Its shoots have long been used in many traditional medicines to treat conditions like dropsy and irritable bowel syndrome.

Asparagus is a very good source of fiber, folate, vitamins A, C, E and K, as well as chromium, a trace mineral that enhances the ability of insulin to transport glucose from the bloodstream into cells.

Fresh asparagus is packed with antioxidants, ranking among the top fruits and vegetables for its ability to neutralize cell-damaging free radicals. This, according to preliminary research, may help slow the aging process. 

It contains high levels of the amino acid asparagine, which serves as a natural diuretic, and increased urination not only releases fluid but helps rid the body of excess salts. This is especially beneficial for people who suffer from edema (an accumulation of fluids in the body's tissues) and those who have high blood pressure or other heart-related diseases.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Cracked Wheat Tabbouleh - Leftover Rescue to Lunchtime Staple

Its not every day that I write a post munching on the dish, the post is about. But then, there's always a first time. I am pretty sure by the time I hit the 'Publish' button it will be way beyond midnight. At least in some parts of the world.

My love affair with Tabbouleh started a couple of years ago, when I was searching for an innovative recipe for Daliya (Cracked Wheat in Bengali), apart from the usual Pulao (pilaf) or Khichuri (a risotto of lentils and grains). Tabbouleh was like a breath of fresh air to this herb loving; salad munching soul of mine.

Tabbouleh is a Levitine (region encompassing Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, Israel, Syria, parts of southern Turkey and northern Iraq) Arab Salad, traditionally served as a part of mezze (selection of small dishes served in the Middle East,the Balkans, Levantine and Caucasian cuisines, served at the beginning of all large-scale meals).

Traditionally, its made of Bulgur Wheat.
Tomatoes, cucumbers, finely chopped parsley, mint, onion, and garlic are few of its main components. Its liberally seasoned with olive oil, lemon juice and salt,

I have made made Tabbouleh with bulgur wheat, cracked wheat, quinoa and couscous. Cracked Wheat is by far my favorite grain to make Tabbouleh. Its a lot chewier and has more flavor. Actually Bulgur Wheat and Cracked Wheat is the same thing, only at different stages of processing. Bulgur is cracked wheat that has been steamed partially, where as, cracked wheat is the raw, non cooked product.

A lot had changed in the constitution of Tabbouleh, once it traveled to the Western world. Originally, what was an herb salad, speckled with bulgur, slowly transitioned to an full blown bulgur salad with herbs thrown in. My version is some what a cross between the traditional and the modern.

I love herbs and add loads of it. I also throw in a good measure of grains (cracked wheat in my case), mainly because Tabbouleh is a complete meal for me. I like adding almonds or walnuts for that extra crunch. Cooked brown chickpea often finds its way to my Tabbouleh, simply because I love its earthiness and it also packs a nutritional punch. Tomatoes, cucumbers onions (the red variety or scallion only) are the standard addition.

Herbs are the soul of a good Tabbouleh. Parsley and mint are the most commonly used herbs. Coriander leaves or cilantro is generally not an herb you associate with Tabbouleh. But I use it if, I am running low on parsley.

The dressing is simple and basic. Olive oil, lemon juice (lots of it) and salt. Pinch of ground cumin or cayenne is often used to give an edge. For me simple and basic works the best.

The best about Tabbouleh is you can feel free to throw in anything, without getting too much stressed. This has actually resulted in many creative and delicious avatars of the Tabbouleh.

Recipe Snapshot: Cracked Wheat Tabbouleh

Serves: 2 serving
(1 serving = 1 cup)

What I used:
Cracked Wheat (cooked) - 1/4 cup

Flat Leaf Parsley (finely chopped) - 1.5 cups

Mint (finely chopped) - 1/4 cup
(I feel mint is a strong herb and just used a little. Feel free to add more. Most recipes use 1 cup)

Tomatoes (chopped) - 1/2 cup

(since I used grape tomatoes, I simply halved it)

Cucumber (chopped) - 1/2 cup

Red onion (coarsely chopped) - 1/4 cup

Brown Chickpeas (cooked) - 1/4 cup (optional)

Almonds/Walnuts (coarsely chopped) - 2 tbsp (optional)

Lemon  - 1

Extra Virgin Olive Oil - 2 tbsp

Coarse Sea Salt - 1.5 tsp
(a lot less if using regular table salt)

What I did:
1. In a large mixing bowl, add the cooked Cracked Wheat. Add 1 tablespoon of Extra Virgin Olive oil and juice of almost half a lemon and mix. The cracked wheat must be warm to absorb the lemon juice-olive oil mix. If using cold left overs, warm it in the microwave for a minute. 

2. Next, add the finely chopped herbs and mix well.

3. Now add the paraphernalia - tomatoes, cucumber, onions, chickpeas and nuts. Toss to combine.

4. Add the remaining one tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil and the juice of the remaining lemon. Season with salt. 

5. Let it sit at room temperature for an hour before serving. Refrigerate if you want to serve later than one hour. 


1. I cook the Cracked Wheat like a pasta. I bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Then add the cracked wheat. One its tender (in about 5-7 mins), I drain it. I cook the quinoa exactly the same way. 

2. For bulgur or couscous, I follow the packet instructions. 

3. Ground cumin, smoked paprika, cayenne and even a pinch of ground all spice are spices that can be added for a special spunk. 

Diabetic Platter:
Cracked wheat is just what it sounds like: the cracked berries of whole wheat. The distinctively nutty food is versatile, low in calories and loaded with nutrients. Cracked wheat and other whole grains are good sources of magnesium. This mineral is essential to more than 300 enzymes, especially those that contribute to insulin secretion and the release of glucose into the bloodstream. The risk of developing type 2 diabetes can be up to 30 percent lower in people who consume cracked wheat and other whole grains regularly.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Oven Roasted Cauliflower and Potatoes - Indian Style

Everybody must have roasted a cauliflower, at some point in their life. Not me. Not until now.

Roasted Zucchini - Yes
Roasted Butternut Squash - Yes
Roasted Bell Pepper - Oh Yes!
But Roasted Cauliflower - Not yet!

There is no specific reason as to why I have never roasted them. Its just didn't happen. But when I did, Sam declared that he is never going to eat cauliflower in any other way. Sid seconded him.

It started a couple of weeks ago, when I had a severe allergic reaction and was covered from head to toe in hives. Apart from the burning sensation and the constant itch, what bothered me most, was my inability to cook. Heat from the stove top was unbearable.

I had promised myself that I will not yield to the temptation of eating out. Eating out on week day would mean either Chipotle, or a Chinese takeout or a Pizza night. None of the options appease me. Not anymore.

We had sandwich dinners, stuffed with either Tuna Salad or deli meats; slow cooker soups and store bought garlic breads. Store bought Rotisserie Chicken and the Salad bar at Kroger were life savers as was canned Sardines.

Most of the veggies in refrigerator that week, was either steamed or dumped into the slow cooker along with beans to create hearty soups and stews. Sam rescued a cauliflower, which did not look half as pretty as the above pic.

Cauliflower is a much loved veggie in our house but it mostly ends up either in stir fries or get curried with fish or shrimps. We never ate it in any other form.

Not knowing what else to do, I simply sprinkled the cauliflower with dry spices (the ones that goes into my curries) and roasted it.

And then magic happened.

Roasting brought out flavors that I didn't even know existed.

The first time I made it, Sam and Sid ate it as if it was popcorn. They just couldn't stop popping one after another. I have made this thrice since then and every time I had to remind them that it was for dinner and not snack.

This is a dry dish with the masala just coating the veggies. It is perfect side to a simple meal of rice-dal or dal-roti. It can also turn into an interesting salad, when served on the bead of baby spring mix with a light squeeze of lemon juice, with a sprinkle of toasted almonds or walnut for crunch and some cranberries for sweetness.

Recipe Snapshot: Oven Roasted Cauliflower and Potatoes - Indian Style

Serves: 4 serving
(1 serving = 1/2 cup)

What I used:
Cauliflower - 1 medium sized or 2 small head
Yukon Gold Potatoes(small ones) - 1/2 lb
Turmeric powder - 1.5 tsp
Red Chili Powder (or Paprika) - 1.5 tsp (or to taste)
Cumin Powder - 1 tsp
Coriander Powder - 2 tsp
Ginger Powder - 1 tsp
Salt - 1 tsp
Oil - 2-3 tbsp
Coriander leaves/Cilantro for garnish.

What I did:
1. Preheat the oven at 500 F.

2. Wash the cauliflower thoroughly and pat dry. Cut into almost even sized florets.

3. Wash the potatoes and cut them into quarter. Keep the skin on.

4. In a larger mixing bowl combine the cauliflower florets, quartered potatoes, turmeric powder, red chili powder, cumin powder, coriander powder, ginger powder, salt and oil.

5. Toss them together using your hand, ensuring that the florets and the potato pieces are well covered wit the dry masala rub.

6. In a well greased aluminium foil lined cookie sheet, arrange the cauliflower florets and the potatoes in a single layer.

7. Put the cookie sheet into super hot oven.

8. Immediately lower the oven temperature to 400 F.

9. Roast for 15 minutes. take it out, flip the veggies and put it back for another 10 minutes.

10. By this time the top of the veggies would have turned slight golden with few dark golden spots. Test with a fork for desired doneness. The fork should be able to easily pierce the cauliflower and the potatoes.

11. Remove from the oven. Check for seasoning. Sprinkle more salt, if need.

12. Serve hot, garnished with finely chopped cilantro/coriander leaves.

1. You can use any kind or size of potatoes. Just make sure they are all of uniform size, for even cooking. also try to keep it the same size as the florets. 

2. We first put it into very hot oven because the dry masala rub has salt in it and we do not want any moisture to ooze out from the cauliflowers and make them soggy. So the hot oven 'shocks' the veggies and seal in their moisture. The temperature is then lowered so that it can cook well in its own moisture. 

Diabetic Platter:
Cauliflower is very low in calories. 100 g of the fresh cauliflower head provides only 26 calories. It comprises of several health-benefiting antioxidants and vitamins in addition to be very low in fat and contains no cholesterol.
Its florets contain about 2 g of dietary fiber per 100 g; providing about 5% of recommended value.
Cauliflower contains several anti-cancer phyto-chemicals like sulforaphane and plant sterols such as indole-3-carbinol. Fresh cauliflower is an excellent source of vitamin C. It contains good amounts of many vital B-complex groups of vitamins such as folates, pantothenic acid (vitamin B5), pyridoxine (vitamin B6) and thiamin (vitamin B1), niacin (B3) as well as vitamin K. Further, It is an also good source of minerals such as manganese, copper, iron, calcium and potassium.

Monday, March 10, 2014

A Forgotten Favorite - Simple Radish Salad with Lime and Ginger Dressing

There are certain veggies and recipes that I love, but have stooped making it (or buying), because the other members of the family are not so fond of it. 

Has it ever happened to you?

The moment I saw Soma's Radish and Mint Salad, I had this certain urge to rush to a grocery store to buy these reddish-purplish cuties. They brought back memories; memories close to my heart.

Back in India, Radish (Mooli in Hindi and Mulo in Bengali) is mostly white, long and slender. In Kolkata (née Cacutta) during the winter months we used to get red skinned radishes called "Ranga Mulo" for few weeks only. They were also oblong and more flavorful than their white counterparts. Though it had the characteristic pungency of the white radishes, they also had a sweet undertone. 

Though, the cute round ones that we find here is the US, looks different from their slender white Indian cousins, they taste exactly the same. Crisp and pungent.

Radish is definitely not my most favorite vegetable on the planet, but its something I like. I have always enjoyed radish in its raw state rather than its cooked form. Though most people shy ways from this vegetable because of its strong flavor, pungency and spiciness, they are the exact reason for my fondness.

I can munch any veggies (eatable in its raw form), with a squirt of lemon juice and a sprinkle of freshly cracked black pepper and rock salt. Frankly, that's my favorite and mostly used salad dressing.

The lemon juice mellows the pungency of the radish and the ginger enhances its spiciness. The zing from the rock salt just livens everything up. The more it sits, the more cohesive are the flavors. Just like a pickle. But don't let it sit for long. You don't want to loose the crispiness of the radishes. 30 mins to an hour should be good enough. 

See the liquid at the bottom of the salad. Tangy, salty; its the essence of the salad. Never throw it away. It the best part of the salad. Slurp it, smack your lips... That's how you should have it. 

From being a side to a simple meal of roti-sabzi or dal chawal to topping your wraps and taco to more elegant grilled fish and meat, this salad is truly versatile and perfect for the upcoming summer months.

Recipe Snapshot:  Simple Radish Salad with Lime and Ginger Dressing

Serves: 2 serving
(1 serving = 1/2 cup)

What I used:
Small Red Radish- 1 bunch (which is usually a little over 1/2 lb)

Coriander leaves/ Cilantro - 1/2 cup, finely chopped

Fresh Ginger - 1/4 tsp, finely minced

Green Chili - 1, chopped (optional)

Juice of half a Lime/Lemon - more or less depends on personal taste

Sugar - a small pinch

Rock salt - 1/4 tsp, or to taste
(coarse sea salt or Himalayan pink salt can be used)

Freshly cracked black pepper

What I did:
1. Wash the radishes thoroughly. Pat dry. Slice as thinly as possible.

2. Chop the coriander leaves/ cilantro very finely. 

3. Finely mince a tiny piece of fresh ginger. I like getting tiny bits of ginger, while chomping down my salad. If you are not a fan, grate the ginger and add around 1/4 tsp of its juice.

4. In a  medium sized bowl, combine the the radish slices, the cilantro and the green chili(if using)

5. In a separate bowl, whisk together the lemon/lime juice, minced ginger (or its juice), rock salt (or coarse sea salt or Himalayan pink salt) an a teeny bit of sugar. 

6. Pour over the radish and toss well. 

7. Let it stand for 30 minutes to an hour before serving. I like to keep it covred at room temperature, but it can sure be refrigerated. 

My usual simple salad -  the one I grew up eating!

Diabetic Platter:
Here are some of the health benefits of Radishes:

1. Naturally cooling
Radishes are a naturally cooling food and their pungent flavor is highly regarded in eastern medicine for the ability to decrease excess heat in the body that can build up during the warmer months.

2. Sooth sore throats
Their pungent flavor and natural spice can help eliminate excess mucus in the body and can be especially helpful when fighting a cold. Radishes can help clear the sinuses and soothe soar throats too.

3. Aids digestion
Radishes are a natural cleansing agent for the digestive system, helping to break down and eliminate stagnant food and toxins built up over time.

4. Prevents viral infections
Because of their high vitamin C content and natural cleansing effects, regular consumption of radishes can help prevent viral infections.

5. Eliminates toxins
In Eastern and Ayurvedic healing practices radishes are said to have effective toxin-purging effects, helping break down and eliminate toxins and cancer-causing free radicals in the body.

6. Protects against cancer
As a member of the cruciferous vegetable family (same family as broccoli and cabbage) radishes contain phytonutrients, fiber, vitamins and minerals that are cancer protecting.

7. Relieves indigestion
Radishes have a calming effect on the digestive system and can help relieve bloating and indigestion.

8. Low in calories, high in nutrients
With a very low calorie count, less than 20 calories in an entire cup, radishes are a great way to add nutrients, fiber and tons of flavor to your meals without compromising your health.

9. Keeps you hydrated

With a high water content and lots of vitamin C as well as phosphorus and zinc, radishes are a nourishing food for the tissues and can help keep your body hydrated and your skin looking fresh and healthy all summer long!