Creamy No-Cream Cauliflower Soup

I know, I know. I’m completely failing at posting regularly on my blog, but I promise you it’s all for good reason. Life has been a whirlwind lately with tons of travel and a busy work schedule, but I’m looking forward to things slowing down a bit for the summer. We’ve had a taste of some amazing weather here in Chicago, and I’m getting so amped for outdoor music festivals, day drinking, international travel (fingers crossed), barbecues, and experimenting with some lighter summer flavors in the kitchen. It’s gonna be a gooood, good summer. I can just feel it!

This time of year, I always find myself craving more veggies. My husband and I have been trying to incorporate one meatless meal at least once a week, and it actually hasn’t been that difficult to do. Veggie soups are perfect for helping us accomplish this goal – they’re easy to make, quite filling, and last for at least three days. I’m a lazy cook, so this is a big win in my book 🙂 Last week, I made a modified/healthier version of Food Network’s Cauliflower Soup and absolutely loved it. The best part about my recipe is that it was super creamy and sweet, with NO cream at all. Enjoy!

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Ingredients (serves 4) 

1/2 stick butter
1/2 onion, finely diced
1 carrot, finely diced
1 cauliflower head, cored and cut into small florets
2 tbsp fresh parsley
4 cups chicken broth/stock
6 tbsp all purpose flour
2 cups whole milk
Salt, to taste
Black pepper
Paprika, to taste
1 cup greek yoghurt

Recipe (*modified from the Food Network) 

Melt 1/4 stick of butter in a heavy soup pot over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until translucent, then add the carrots and cook until they begin to brown. Add the cauliflower florets, cover and cook over low heat for 15 minutes. The cauliflower should be very soft at this point. Add the parsley and chicken broth and let simmer for 10 minutes.

In the meantime, make a white sauce in a small saucepan. Melt the remaining 1/4 stick butter over medium heat. Whisk in the flour and cook for a couple of minutes. Add the milk and whisk to combine until the flour is no longer lumpy. Pour the white sauce into the pot. Add salt, pepper, and paprika to taste and allow the soup to simmer for another 20 to 30 minutes. When serving, place some greek yogurt at the bottom of the serving bowl, add the soup, and stir slowly. Creamy and delicious, with ZERO cream involved!

*Note that the Food Network recipe suggests that you can use an immersion blender to puree for a smoother, thicker soup. This is a great option, but I sort of liked feeling the cauliflower’s texture. And like I said, I’m a lazy cook, so love the added benefit of only cleaning one pot!

Oven Roasted Eggplant with Tahini

It’s official. Tahini might just be my new favorite ingredient. If you’ve never heard of it, it’s an oily paste made from ground sesame seeds and is commonly used in Middle Eastern cooking. It’s nutty, creamy, and delicious all at once.

I also think I should rename my blog Mrs. Chatterjee, because I’ve been stealing so many of my mom’s recipes! 🙂 I can’t help it, she’s just a creative genius in the kitchen. She made us this roasted eggplant with tahini over the holidays and I’ve been craving it ever since! I finally tried it out yesterday and it’s SO easy – definitely my new go-to side dish. All you need is some eggplant, tahini, onions, garlic, and olive oil, and you have this amazing, creamy dip that you can eat with bread or even mixed in with hot rice. So good!

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Ingredients (serves 2)

1.5 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 small onion, diced
3 cloves of garlic, grated
1 large eggplant
2 teaspoons tahini
Salt and pepper, to taste

Recipe

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Rub some olive oil on the eggplant, place it in an oven proof dish, and cook for 45 minutes. Prepare your ingredients while the eggplant is roasting to save time.

Once the eggplant is done cooking, let cool for 5 minutes. Remove the skin and scrape out all the ‘meat’.

Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a medium sized pan on high. Fry the onions for a few minutes till they begin to turn slightly golden. Add the garlic and stir for another minute. Add the eggplant and tahini into the onion garlic mixture and stir. The eggplant will stick to the pan, so continue stirring for several minutes until everything is nicely mixed together. Season with salt and pepper and your’e done! Told ya, easiest recipe EVER.

Chicken & Sun-Dried Tomatoes in a Garlic Cream Sauce

‘Tis the season for turkey, but I have to admit, I’m always going to favor chicken over turkey. I didn’t grow up celebrating Thanksgiving, but after my family migrated to Canada, we always chose roasting a chicken over trying to handle a big bird. Chicken is just so much more juicy and flavorful! Anyone else with me?!

Anyways, today’s recipe is one of my favorite chicken dishes that would make an excellent non-traditional side for a Turkey Day meal. Or an entree for after Thanksgiving, when you’re sick of all the leftover turkey and craving something new.

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I first discovered this recipe on Damn Delicious, and simplified it even further for the lazy (or time pressed!) cook. My version is really really ridiculously simple, but impressive enough for guests and still damn delicious. Trust me, you won’t be able to stop licking your plate. My husband doesn’t even like sun-dried tomatoes, but he loves everything about this chicken and always asks for it.

Keep reading for the recipe!

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Ingredients (serves 2-4)

6 chicken thighs
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 an onion (or 1/2 small onion), chopped
6 cloves of garlic, diced
1/3 cup sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil, chopped
Parsley flakes, to taste
1.5 tablespoons heavy cream
1 cup chicken broth
Salt and pepper, to taste
Red chili flakes, to taste
Thyme leaves, for garnishing

Recipe

Marinate the chicken in salt and pepper, to taste. Melt the butter on a large saucepan on high heat. Once heated, fry the onions and garlic till the mixture becomes slightly translucent. Add the chicken thighs, fry on each side for a few minutes until they begin to brown. Add the sun-dried tomatoes and allow the thighs to fry a little longer in the olive oil. Lower the heat to medium and add the chicken broth, cream, and parsley flakes. Stir everything together and add more salt if necessary. Cover until the chicken is fully cooked, then garnish with thyme leaves.

Best served with pasta, or just a side salad and some garlic bread to soak up all that delicious gravy. Yum!

Let me know if you guys try out the recipe and don’t forget to subscribe by email (to the right) so you can get immediate updates. You can also like me on Facebook. Happy almost Turkey week!

Bengali Salmon Curry (Macher Jhol)

Every family has that one meal that reminds them of home. It’s usually simple and uncomplicated, the meal that you remember eating on a weeknight after a long day of school and homework. For me, that dish is bhaat, daal, and macher jhol. Rice, lentils, and fish curry.

My family hails from West Bengal in India and we’re obsessed with fish. Growing up, we moved from the United Arab Emirates, to France, to Indonesia, to Texas and Bombay, but fish was always a staple with our dinner. The best part about living in different countries is that we would get to try different types of local fish (pomphret, carp, Indonesian gurami, Bengali hilsa), but always cooked as a simple macher jhol with Bengali spices. The ultimate comfort food that made our home feel like home, no matter where in the world we were.

I miss my mom’s fish curry every day. My recipe will never be as good as hers, but at least it satisfies my cravings for a little taste of home on cold Chicago nights. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

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Pieces of salmon, cut in squares, marinaded in turmeric and salt 

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Kalo jeere (black cumin) – the most important spice for Bengali cuisine! 

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Salmon simmering in the light curry of onions, garlic, ginger, tomatoes and turmeric

Ingredients (serves 2) 

1 salmon fillet, cut in 4-5 squares
1/4 onion, diced
3 cloves garlic
1/4 tsp ginger paste
Salt, to taste
2 tsp haldi (turmeric powder)
1/2 tsp kalo jeere (black cumin)
1/2 tomato, diced (can be substituted with 1/2 tsp tomato ketchup or paste)
Oil

Recipe 

Marinade the salmon pieces in 1 and a half tsp of haldi and season generously with salt.

Heat oil on a non-stick pan – use your best judgment, but I usually add a little extra than I normally would. A little bit of extra oil makes curries more delicious! Once the oil is heated, pour the kalo jeere and let fry for 15 seconds. Add in the onions, garlic, and ginger and fry this mixture together for a minute or till the onions are slightly brown. Add in salt, tomatoes (or ketchup) and the remaining haldi. Stir for a minute on low to medium heat.

Increase the heat to high and gently drop in the salmon pieces. Fry the salmon on each side for a minute. Pour half a cup of water into the mixture and let the salmon simmer in this mixture for a few minutes. Turn off the heat and cover the mixture to let the salmon continue cooking until ready to serve. Do not overcook! The salmon will cook very quickly, especially if they’re cut into small squares, so just keep an eye on the fish and remove from heat so that they’re as soft and succulent as possible.

Serve with a plate of hot rice and make sure to mix it with the curry to enjoy the true flavor of ‘macher jhol’.

 

 

Creamy Handmade Fettuccine with Pancetta, Leeks, Mushrooms & Caramelized Onions

Two Fridays ago, my husband and I said “screw you, cold weather” and made creamy handmade fettuccine with pancetta, leeks, mushrooms, and caramelized onions. Drizzled with truffle oil. And generously topped with freshly-grated parmigiano-reggiano.

I know that’s the longest description EVER for something that basically sounds like carbonara, but each of these ingredients were essential for making this pasta the most decadently delicious thing I’ve ever made in my life. The combination of salty pancetta and mushrooms with the sweet caramelized mixture of leeks and shallots, with a touch of cream and truffle oil was just perfect. So perfect, that my husband immediately called his parents after polishing off his plate and invited them over for lunch the next day to sample leftovers. NBD.

You obviously don’t need to make the fettuccine from scratch in order to enjoy this recipe, but trust me, it’s so much better handmade. I’ve included the steps for making the dough below the pictures in case you’re interested in a fun pasta-making workshop with your girlfriends or significant other. It takes some time, but it’s fun and once you’ve tried handmade pasta, there really is nothing better. The texture and taste is just unbeatable! We had a blast turning our home into a little pasta factory–hope you enjoy the pictures and the recipes 🙂

What my kitchen looked like during this entire process:

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Prepping the ingredients – pancetta, leaks, shallots, garlic, mushrooms, semolina flour, and lotsa cheese! 

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The creamy mixture of pancetta, caramelized onions and leeks, and mushrooms. So good. 

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Making the fettuccine – from scratch!

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Voila! The final product. A little plate of heaven. 

Recipe for Handmade Fettuccine
*Straight from Bob’s Red Mill Semolina Flour recipe for basic pasta! 

Ingredients

1 and a half cups Bob’s Red Mill Semolina Flour
Half teaspoon salt, optional
2 eggs or 3 egg whites, beaten (we added in an extra yolk or two for the yellow color!)
2 tbsp. water
2 tbsp. olive oil

Combine the semolina flour and salt. Add beaten eggs, water and oil. Mix to make a stiff dough. Knead 10 minutes or until dough is elastic. Wrap dough in a towel or place in plastic bag and let rest for 20 minutes.

For this next part, we used our pasta machine (you can see the process on my Instagram @mrsgcg), but here’s what the recipe suggests if you don’t have a pasta maker:

On a lightly floured surface, roll out to desired thickness and cut as desired to make fettuccine. Bring large pot of water containing half teaspoon oil to a boil. Add pasta and cook until tender (this should take no longer than two minutes).

Recipe for the Sauce

Ingredients (serves 4) 

1 and a half tablespoons of olive oil
1 and a half tablespoons of butter
4 ounces pancetta, diced in small squares
2 shallots, thinly sliced
1 leek, thinly sliced (throw away the dark green and tough stems)
4 cloves of garlic, grated
Sea salt
1/2 cup or 3/4 cup heavy cream (depending on how creamy you want the sauce – can also be subbed with two tablespoons of Greek yogurt)
1 box of mushrooms
Truffle oil
Parmigiano-reggiano
Thyme leaves for garnishing

Directions

Heat the olive oil in a large pan on high heat. Once the oil is heated, add the diced pancetta, lower the heat slightly, and cook for 3-5 minutes until slightly brown. Stir frequently to make sure the pancetta doesn’t stick to the pan.

Add the butter to the pan, along with the sliced leeks, shallots and grated garlic. Saute this mixture for around 5 minutes stirring frequently, add in the mushrooms, and continue stirring for another 5 minutes until the leeks and shallots become soft and caramelized. Lower the heat, and fold in the heavy cream along with a splash of water, stirring all the ingredients until becomes a creamy mixture. Simmer the mixture for a few minutes, until the cream thickens. Season with sea salt and pepper – remember, the pancetta already packs a ton of salty flavor, so go easy on the salt! Turn off the heat till your cooked pasta is ready to be added into the mixture.

Once the pasta is prepared, transfer in small increments to the creamy mixture to make sure you’re happy with the pasta-to-cream ratio. Stir the pasta with the mixture until it’s evenly coated to your desire.

Suggested Plating

This is a beautiful lookin’ pasta, so make sure to dress it up just right! Serve the pasta hot on a plate with freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano. Garnish with thyme leaves and a few drizzles of truffle oil. A little bit goes a long way with truffle oil, so make sure it’s just a drizzle! Sit back, enjoy. With a big glass of red.

Pssst – if you liked this recipe, don’t forget to subscribe to my blog so you get new posts via email!

Sunday Dinners: Sweet & Salty Vietnamese Stir Fry

Sunday dinners are my favorite. There’s something so relaxing about spending a lazy Sunday bringing an entire meal to life – finding the perfect recipe, getting groceries, and then just chopping, stirring, and cooking away in the kitchen with a good playlist in the background. Sometimes my husband and I will cook together, but he’s been spending most of his weekends this summer at work (he’s a medical resident), so Sunday evenings are just my time to be alone and unwind in the kitchen. And I love it.

This past Sunday, I was inspired by a recipe from My Healthy Dish. If you haven’t checked out My Nguyen’s blog yet, do it! She was a panelist at the Create + Cultivate conference that I attended this past weekend, and I just fell in love with her sassy sense of humour and no BS attitude. Her recipes are super easy and healthy, perfect for a quick weeknight meal. She’s a mother of two, so she’s completely mastered the art of whipping up a quick meal without compromising on nutrition.

I followed her recipe for Vietnamese Caramelized Shrimp, but added some extra veggies (asparagus, zucchini, and green bell peppers) and cooked the shrimp and vegetables all at once with the fish sauce, soy sauce, brown sugar, and maple sugar. Yum! Paired with a light egg fried rice and I’m all ready for the work week 🙂

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Indian Comfort Food: Paneer Makhani

Fall is officially here in Chicago, which means it’s time to take out those pea coats, woollen scarves, and boots out of their summer slumber. This is also that time of the year when my body begs for carb-loaded, hearty meals to make it through those miserable Midwestern winter months.

So when I had Columbus Day off last week, I decided to get all my spices out and prepare my favorite Indian comfort food – chicken biryani, a delicious rice pilaf, and paneer makhani, a creamy cottage cheese curry. I had never made paneer makhani before and always assumed it was too complicated to try at home. After searching recipes online (there are so many to choose from, it’s overwhelming!), I finally found one on Show Me The Curry that seemed pretty simple and easy to follow.

The results – oh. my. GOD. I only have this one Instagram picture unfortunately (this was before I decided to start a blog), but I wish you could see the curry close up! The paneer was scrumptious – completely hit the spot, and so easy to make.

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Here’s my slightly revised version of the Show Me The Curry Recipe:

Recipe for Paneer Makhani 

Cut a 14 oz block of paneer (I got mine from Costco – surprisingly delicious!) into small-ish squares. Then, chop up one tomato and crush the pieces so that you have one cup of crushed tomatoes. If you’re seriously low on supplies, you can substitute with ketchup.

Heat up some oil and add four tablespoons (a little less than half a stick) of butter. Once the pan is hot, add 1.5 teaspoons of garlic paste and ginger paste and saute for a minute or so. Add in the crushed tomatoes and 1 teaspoon of coriander powder, garam masala, a pinch of red chilli powder and salt to taste. Cook for a minute or until the oil separates. Add in the paneer squares and mix until they’re coated by the spices and tomatoes. Then, add half a glass of water and simmer for five minutes. Lower the heat, add 1/3 a cup of heavy whipping cream (the recipe calls for 1/2 but it’s a little too rich and heavy) and mix gently. Allow it to come to a boil, then add a pinch of sugar.

As the recipe says, garnish with cilantro and serve hot! Best with brown or white rice.

UPDATE: I tried this recipe one year later subbing the heavy whipping cream with 1 tablespoon of greek yogurt and it was just as delicious! Healthier alternative with the same great taste.