Wednesday, February 27, 2008

whole wheat gnocchi primavera

a few days ago i made some whole wheat gnocchi for a late nite supper. i've made it before, but always using regular potato gnocchi in a light sage cream sauce.

this time i got a hold of these whole wheat ones and decided to make it primavera style without the parmagiana-reggiano cheese. for you vegans, just omit the butter and use olive oil instead.

for the sake of time, i used ready made gnocchi and some spring vegetables. the asparagus have been springing up all over the place (excuse the pun) as well as zucchinis.

gnocchi primavera

serves 3-4
prep time: 10 min
cook time: 15 min


  • 1 package gnocchi
  • 1 bunch asparagus, washed & trimmed & cut into large pieces
  • 2 zucchinis washed and chopped in large chunks
  • 4 sun dried tomatoes diced small or 2 large ripe tomatoes chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic chopped
  • 2 tbpsn butter
  • 1 tbspn olive oil
  • italian seasoning to taste
  • crushed red pepper to taste
  • salt to taste

the play:

  • put a pot of water to boil & prepare according to package instructions, keep aside
  • in the same boiling water, add asparagus for 2 min, strain and keep aside
  • in a saute pan, heat the butter & olive oil
  • add garlic and stir for 1 minute
  • add tomatoes, stir for 2 minutes
  • add asparagus and zucchini, saute for 3 min
  • add italian seasoning, crushed red pepper and salt
  • add gnocchi and heat thru
  • serve with baby greens and garlic bread

Listening to: one of my favorite songs that was released a month before halloween which is also my favorite holiday ever...'gravedigger' by dave matthews from his first solo album, Some Devil, (2003).

Sunday, February 24, 2008

gujarati breakfast: dhoklas

there's this big myth surrounding gujarati food, that they all contain sugar. however, i'm on a mission to dispel this myth. anywho, i've seen far more south indian, konkan and rajasthani recipes call for jaggery than i have ever seen in gujarati food so there! ok ok, i know you don't believe me yet, but as for myself - i don't add sugar or jaggery in my savory recipes unless it is absolutely required. and i wouldn't know about the gujarati restaurants in india because i'm always busy eating chinese, but maybe some of them do add it and so people assume this is so for the entire gammet.

so, enough of me defending the state of my state cuisine, lol. all i can do is share my family recipes with you here and give you a glimpse of the going ons in my kitchen.

i would like to send this recipe over to lovely mythili over at Vindu, for RCI - Gujarat!

dhoklas (steamed pieces of ground rice and lentils) are made frequently in the gujarati household as a breakfast item. they are quite simple but because they take a little more time than pouring a bowl of cereal, these are usually reserved for the weekends.

let's get on with the dhoklas. and while we're at it - start this in the morning. the rice and lentils need to be soaked together for a couple of hours and then left to ferment overnight. basically, it is like making idli's or dosa. i made 2 trays; one tray sprinkled with red chilli powder and the other with freshly cracked black pepper - important!

serves 4-5
prep time: 2 hours soaking time and 1 day fermenting time
cook time: 15 min
  • wash & soak: 2.5 cups rice, 1 cup mixed dals and a tspn of fenugreek seeds for 2-3 hours
  • grind in a blender with a little water until smooth, should be like pancake batter
  • cover and place in a warm place like the oven to ferment overnight
  • in the morning, add: 1 tspn of baking soda or Eno and salt to taste
  • grease 2 trays or thalis and pour the batter equally into both
  • sprinkle one with red chilli powder and the other with freshly cracked black pepper
  • steam on high for 15 min
  • cool for 15 min, and cut into small squares
  • serve with jeeralu** and dip in peanut oil - optional


* i usually use chana dal as this is what most gujarati cooks would use, but as recent dal prices have skyrocketed, use whatever you have on hand... a mixture of urad and chana dal would be nice.

** jeeralu is a salty and tangy spice mixture available in most indian grocery stores, if you want it and can't find it, email me and i'll be glad to send you some... alpa_v at yahoo dot com.

Listening to: 'mansard roof' by Vampire Weekend from their album, Vampire Weekend, 2008

london sizzler

i'm sure those of you who have ever visited houston know about hillcroft. it's a busy street in houston that houses everything indian and pakistani. there's this one small strip center that has a restaurant called "london sizzler". we'd never been there before in the 3 years that it's been open, so the other nite we went there for dinner. to be completely honest, i didn't expect much. when we walked in, i was pleasantly surprised to find it hip, dimly lit and lounge-y. oh, and they have a pool table on one side of the restaurant. it would seem that this would be out of place but awkwardly enough, it wasn't.

their menu is obviously, british indian and the specialty of the house are sizzlers. sizzlers are dishes that are finished off on cast iron plates which are heated until smoking. these plates are the same as the ones used for fajitas.

they have cocktails starting at $9. these are placed on a menu card at the table, some of them have an indian flair, like the mango martini. and i must say, the bar is decked out in granite and looks plush.

besides the usual suspects, they have appetizers such as tikka rolls, vegetable kofta rolls and chili mogo. we skipped the appetizers because we were so hungry, we just wanted to get straight to dinner. there were interesting options for the entrees such as masala mogo & paneer, mogo & paneer pili pili and the masala sizzler.

we ordered the chilli manchurian sizzler and the paneer tikka masala. they have 4 options for the heat level: spicy, x spicy, killer and nuclear. we got the killer. the chilli manchurian was decent! the manchurian was made of cabbage and vegetables in a spicy green onion gravy. the paneer tikka masala was especially tasty. they topped off the dish with sauteed sliced almonds; a nice touch. the only thing i think should have been done differently was the manchurian itself, it had the slightest aftertaste of oil. if this had been corrected, it would have been the star of the night. i mean the texture was on, the gravy was on, but something about that residual taste of frying oil just sort of ruined it for me.

the waitstaff was a little on the dry side if you know what i mean, but i guess they did the needed job. i asked the waiter for some recommendations, but he didn't have any.

all in all, a wonderful meal in a nice ambiance. if you're in the area, drop by or visit them online here.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

nasty cube mate

****beware, this is well, ummm gross ...

dear nasty cube mate,
why are you so disgusting? why do you print out every email when they can be organized much more efficiently in outlook? why do you think there is this horrid conspiracy to oust you out of a job?

why do you insist on printing out every single thing that comes your way and then leaving it on your desk in lopsided piles? and then top them off in crowning glory with foam cups that drip 2 day old cold black coffee onto all your papers? why do you still have candy canes from christmas and unfinished pieces of pound cake sitting on your desk?

nasty cube mate, why don't you wash your hands after leaving the restroom so i don't have to walk around with a paper towel opening all the doors until i reach my sterile cube? yes, i know i'm slightly anal about my hand washing and keeping my area disinfected, but please don't tell me anymore about how you let your 10lb chiweenie poop all up in your house without the use of doggy pads. all the while in heat nonetheless.

yes co-worker, i know your love of baking knows no bounds. but please don't bring in anymore tomato soup cake from the 1920's that your grandma used to make. the depression is quite over. I and all your other co-workers don't want to eat your cookies that you have frosted and anointed with a couple of dog hairs that were thrown in for good measure.

please please don't come to my desk asking me if i want to eat a kolache that you were unable to finish because you got acidity all of a sudden. as anal as i am about eating from other people's cups, plates, forks you should know by now that i don't want to eat from your dentured saliva.

oh you foul friend, please start taking all your cookies, creamers, chips, cake and candy home with you everyday so i don't have to call pest control again. remember we just caught 3 small mice whose droppings were found in all our drawers?

oh nasty cube dweller, please show mercy on me and the rest of the office by refraining from releasing explosive gases in our vicinity. everyday i leave home with a faint resonance of shit particles floating about. one day my husband will wonder if i'm volunteering for the local SPCA.

dear cube mate, please stay home when you are sick instead of coughing, hacking, sneezing on me. or at the very least provide me with a box of tissues every once in awhile so i can cover my mouth. i don't want to hear anymore stories of regurgitated phlegm or how your crotch itches at age 70.

notes: these pictures are after she had been told to clean her desk after the mice incident. She took home 3 boxes of food from her cubicle! And this is the most hilarious thing - if you look closely next to the foam cup, you will see 2 bottles of hand sanitizer!!!! this is what she should to be giving out to the people who need to come by her desk to drop off papers. oh ya, and check out the q-tip next to the 2 packets of swiss miss hot cocoa in the second picture.
and it doesn't stop there - if i showed you guys what's under her desk, you all would die. she's got a big bulk container of creamer, a huge box of cream crackers, a tin of coffee, a box of plastic forks, 2 cardboard boxes, 2 expandable files, a pillow and a box of manila envelopes. there's also some other unidentified objects down under. i have a lot more pictures but don't want to post them because i love my job.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

hobbit cafe

friday nite my supper club went to the hobbit cafe. it's been a houston institution for over 30 years and originally started off as a healthy vegetarian joint. nowadays however, they serve non-vegetarian items as well.

it's known for that bohemian atmosphere, and just by looking at its clientele you can see why this is so. there are all ages and ethnicities eating there. like one of my dear friends put it, "it's a place where art history professors come with their sketchbooks."
so you get the drift right?
it's near downtown and housed in an old dilipidated tudor style building. i didn't have high hopes for this place. but then we ventured forward and i was so happy we did. the house is like you've entered hobbitdom. so small, cozy and with all that soft lighting you'll wish there was a fire going with some elves sitting around drinkin some strong ale, singin folk songs about slaying the evil dragon... er... back to the real story.

the doorways were arched so you felt so tiny and well protected. the walls had what else? J.R.R. Tolkien posters and art. this is the place to be if you're a hobbit or lord of the rings fan. which i am. the hobbit is in my top 10 books of all time. while i was enjoying the walls, our waiter a handsome young guy seated us towards the back. funny thing about the waiter, he has an identical twin brother who works the patio area. that was a little freaky. but in a good way.

the menu pays serious homage to Tolkien. all the items are named after his characters and other places and things from the books. the sandwiches are sold in either slim or regular. just a fyi, if you can't eat a whole pizza by yourself you should be ordering the slim. the portions are made for hobbits who are known for their greedy love of good food.

the gandalf sandwich comes with avocados and mushrooms with melted cheese on whole wheat bread. this is a serious sandwich. your group will just have to accept your prudeness while you dive in with a fork and knife.

then there is the fatty lumpkin which is a tuna sandwich, also on whole wheat. there is the smaugs delight, the withywindle and bilbo the magnificent with tomatoes, sprouts, guacamole and cucumber sandwich and the very popular drink, mithrili, a fruit smoothie which as far as i can recollect is made of pineapple, strawberries and bananas. aren't the names just fabulous?

i ordered the black bean burger and iced tea, i know, i know... i'm such a lame ass for sticking with a sure thing, but in my defense, i was really hungry that nite and wanted to hit the bull's eye. all sandwiches are served with matchstick carrots but i substituted mine for fries. the fries here are legendary as the place itself.

i was also warned that if you order a sandwich with avocado, you are likely to get a tree in return. this place unlike so many others is not stingy with this green wonder of a fruit. i love this place!!!

if you live in houston or plan to visit here, be sure to try out this landmark. it's truly off the beaten path and the menu will leave you grinning.

Rating: A+ for the timely and friendly service and the excellent food. my only grievance is there were quite a few tables packed into a small space which didn't give you much room to squirm around.

Notes: i promise i will try to remember my camera the next time i am here. image of the restaurant was taken from

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

flirty pomengranate & lychee martini

  • what better way to celebrate valentine's day with your special someone than making a toast with something pink and sweet?

    this valentine's day, i would like to make a toast to A and all the lovers out there, whosoever you choose to spend this day with.

and here's hoping your heart is big enough to love everyone, because it is true the old addage - love is blind. love takes in no account of color, sex, creed, age, race, marital status, weight or salary. love is something that is completely absorbing and yet so giving that it gives you a reason to be. love is truly a gift that every being placed on this ball of life that we call planet earth should experience. so again, i raise my glass to all the loves in your life - whoever and whatever they may be.

flirty pomengranate & lychee martini

serves: 2

prep time: 5 min


2 oz grey goose vodka

4 oz lychee juice

1 oz cointreau

4-6 tbpsn grenadine or pomengranate juice

4 lychees, either fresh or canned (optional)

the play:

fill a cocktail shaker with strainer attached with crushed ice and shake everything together except the lychees. place the lychees in the glass and pour your baby a drink.

i would like to send this to lovely pooja of
my creative ideas for the theme of the week, valentine's day, as well as to sra of when my soup came alive and to maheshwari of beyond the usual who are hosting this month's AFM-pomengranate.

Notes: grenadine is a pomengranate syrup that is used in many mixers, i bought mine readymade bottled, but you can also make your own by following this recipe from
webtender . i didn't have a proper martini glass to serve this in, but can you see the luscious lychees on the bottom?

Listening to: "all that i am" by the absolutely delicious Joe, from his album All That I Am (1997) and of course the classic, "we're in this love together" by the ever fabulous, Al Jarreau, from his album, Breakin Away (1981).

Sunday, February 10, 2008

healthy cereal chevdo

I have this little problem you see, everyday right around 10am and 3pm i just get ravenous. i get so hungry like i haven't been fed in days. like a tiger fed up waiting for mama deer to go away. the weird thing is that this occurs only during the work week. on the weekends, i'm fine. what's up with that? does this happen to anyone else? i hardly ever snack and rarely have chips and cookies around, but man, this worktime hunger is killin' me.

so instead of loading up on stuff i don't need like candy bars and pop tarts, this weekend i bought three different types of cereals to make chevdo, a gujarati version of a snack mix. i've heard it being compared to chex mix. that must be its step brother.

now i know before some of you start getting testy, let me go on and say that cereal is probably not one of the healthiest foods out there. all that disgusting corn syrup and hyrdogenated fats they put into the stuff could clog the arteries of a 5 year old. however, if you try to avoid some of the more sickly sweet, over-the-top stuff, this can be relatively healthy. and nowadays there are some good options out there.

so here's the recipe, it makes one big batch, don't ask me how many servings because i don't know. lets just say this should last you for 2-3 weeks if you eat it M-F like me. this is made in proper gujarati form by my fabulous mom. i got the delectable cranberry idea from Bee and Jai over at the lovely blog, Jugalbandi. thanks guys :)

Healthy cereal chevdo

serves - your guess is good as mine
prep-cook time: 15 min

  • 3 cups kashi 7 grain flakes
  • 2 cups kix
  • 2 cups wheat chex
  • 1/2 cup roasted peanuts and or dalia and or cashews
  • 1/2 cup cranberries or cherries or raisins
  • 6 chopped chillies
  • 6 sprigs curry leaves
  • 6 tbpn oil
  • 1/2 tspn each of red chili powder, nimbu ka phool (ascorbic acid) and sugar

the play:

  • heat the oil and add chillies and curry leaves and stir for 2-3 minutes
  • add the nuts and dried fruit and stir for another couple of minutes
  • add the chili powder, nimbu ka phool, sugar and stir until mixed well
  • add the cereals and mix lightly for 3 more minutes
  • cool completely and store in an airtight container
Notes: if you've never worked with nimbu ka phool or ascorbic acid, it's a wonderful ingredient in that it provides a sour tangy taste just like lime or lemon juice but in a dry format. i also use it when making vegetable cutlets and alu or gobi parantha when i don't want any added wetness or moisture.

Listening to: one of my favorite songs that take me to the streets of paris - "Lilly" by Pink Martini from their 2nd album, Hang on Little Tomato (2004). now if only i could get Pierre Herme to deliver that dang ispahan to me... drool.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

chicago style whole wheat red pepper and caper pizza

my chicago style deep dish pizza is so easy and versatile, so if you've never made dough at home, you should definitely try it out. the little tiny packet of yeast holds so much promise and wonder and can be used for so many things - naan, pita bread, potpies, stuffed buns, spinach pies... you name it.

i think people are a little frightened of yeast because they're not sure how it works. i wouldn't compare using yeast to molecular gastronomy or anything, but if you're worried about the rising time and whatnot, i used a quick rise or rapid rise yeast. the manufacturer says it works in 10 min, but i let my dough rise for a little longer.

if you're still scared, just pretend you're cooking with Ferran Adria or Blumenthal on one of those horrid working vacations. you know the ones - where you pay them to pick a thousand pounds of microgreens during your holiday. whoever made that up was seriously coked out.

So even on a weeknight you can make this pizza because the dough only needs 30 min to rise and 30 min to bake. normally what i do is make the dough as soon as i walk in the door and stick it in the oven to rise while i'm getting everything else together.

chicago style whole wheat red pepper & caper pizza
serves 4
prep time: 15 min
bake time: 30 min

***dough: heat oven on 200 deg for 5 min while you make the dough and then turn off


  • 2 cups organic whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup unbleached AP flour
  • 4 tbspn yogurt
  • 1 packet of rapid rise instant or quick rise yeast
  • 1 tspn sugar
  • 3 tbspn olive oil

***optional - 1/2 tspn of each: dried italian seasoning, garlic powder, crushed red pepper flakes


  • in a small bowl add a packet of yeast, add 1 tspn sugar and 1/2 cup of warm water
  • let sit for 5 minutes until foamy and bubbly
  • in a large mixing bowl mix both the flours with salt and rub in the oil, add the optional seasonings if desired
  • add in the yeast mixture and yogurt
  • knead the dough with enough warm water to make a soft pliable dough
  • rub the dough all over with oil, cover and place in a warm oven for 30 min to rise

the play:

  • preheat oven to 375 deg for at least 10 min
  • grease 16" deep dish pizza pan
  • shape dough evenly on the bottom and up the sides of the pan
  • prick all over with fork
  • bake blind for 25 min on lower rack
  • add toppings and bake for another 5 min for cheese to melt


pizza sauce, mozzarella cheese, sauteed together: red & green bell peppers, onion and mushrooms, artichokes drained, 3-4 chopped sundried tomatoes, 2 tbspn capers

Listening to: 'california dreamin' , not because i love the Mamas & the Papas, but because i love Wong Kar-Wai's movie Chungking Express.

Friday, February 1, 2008

why isn't my curry this yellow?

to make up for the my last photo shoot of the yellow colored yogurt curry, i present you this drop dead gorgeous photo of one of my favorite stars who can do no wrong in my book... ladies and gentlemen, i present you Kate Beckinsale in vintage Luisa Beccaria at the SAG awards. and guess what color she's wearing??

image courtesy of AP Photo/Evan Agostini