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!

Mastering My Mom’s Classic Chicken Curry

Happy belated Halloween, all! The last few weeks have been so busy, I didn’t even realize it’s been 12 whole days since my last post. Ahem, clearly I need to do a better job of posting regularly, but I’m not going to be too hard on myself. I want blogging to continue feeling like a hobby rather than a chore.

Anyways, life has been keeping me busy lately with work, amazing fall weather, and the usual fun fall festivities. I just love this time of the year! Two weekends ago, my husband and I celebrated Durga Puja (a Hindu festival honoring the Goddess Durga) by getting decked out in our Indian clothes, attending a Bengali community gathering at UIC, and then cooking up a Bengali feast at home. I feel like I’m finally mastering my mom’s classic chicken curry and wanted to share the recipe with you guys. It’s incredibly simple to make, but always hits the spot when I’m craving homemade Indian food. It really is the best comfort food and I love how Bengalis add a little bit of sugar to their chicken curries. It makes all the difference.

Enjoy the recipe and give me a shout if you have any questions!

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 Ingredients (serves 4-6)

6 chicken drumsticks, 6 chicken thighs
1 tbsp Greek yogurt
1 tbsp milk
1/2 large onion, sliced into long slender pieces
4 garlic gloves, grated
1/2 teaspoon ginger paste
Optional: 3 green chilis, 2 bay leaves, 1 tsp cumin powder, 1 tsp coriander powder, 1/2 tsp peppercorn
1.5 tsp haldi (turmeric powder)
1/2 tomato, finely diced
1/2 tsp sugar
1 tsp garam masala
1 tsp Kashmiri chili powder
Salt, to taste
2 tbsp vegetable oil
Cilantro leaves, for garnish

Recipe 

In a large bowl, marinate the drumsticks and thighs in the Greek yogurt,  1/2 teaspoon of haldi and a sprinkling of salt. Don’t go overboard with the yogurt, because it can easily curdle while cooking! I’ve learned that the hard way.

While the chicken is marinating, prep the onion, garlic, ginger, and tomatoes. Heat the oil on a large pan. Once the oil is hot, drop in the sugar until it becomes to caramelize. Stir the sugar around the pan so it doesn’t stick to the pan – this is what will give the curry a darker color. Fry the onions, garlic, and ginger in the sugar until the mixture becomes a little brown. Throw in the tomatoes, remaining haldi, garam masala, chili powder, optional spices, and stir for a few minutes. Drop in the chicken pieces (get rid of the watery yogurt mixture that’s remaining in the bowl – this will curdle!) and fry on each side for a few minutes till they start browning slightly. Pour the milk over the mixture to help tenderize the chicken. Season the curry generously with salt and continue stirring so that all the chicken is coated in the onion and spice mixture. Add half a cup of water, lower the heat, and cover the pan. Let the curry simmer on low for 20-30 minutes – note that the thighs will cook first (after 15-20 minutes), so remove them into a separate platter to avoid overcooking. The drumsticks will take slightly longer to cook. Once the drumsticks are done, taste the curry to make sure it’s seasoned to your liking (this is there stage where I usually add more garam masala or chili powder!).

Finally, garnish the curry with fresh cilantro leaves and serve with a steaming hot plate of rice and a side of Greek yogurt. Best enjoyed on a rainy, homesick sorta day.

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’.

 

 

Smoky Mezcal Cocktails

While I’m the self-proclaimed chef of our little two-person household, my husband is the “mixologist.” He loves experimenting with different homemade cocktail recipes, and they’re always so delicious! He makes a mean Old Fashioned and a Sazerac, but this past Saturday evening, he whipped up a Tobacco Road, a smokey mezcal cocktail with a powerful tobacco taste. I didn’t think I would enjoy it so much (I prefer lighter, fruitier cocktails), but I downed my entire drink like a champ!

Check out the recipe from Serious Eats and pictures from our bar-tending fun below. I’d say go easy on  the Cynar–don’t use the full amount the recipe suggests–and add in a little simple syrup to sweeten the drink. It’s definitely a STRONG drink, so take it slowly 🙂

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The ingredients: sherry, Cynar, Vida mezcal, and Peychaud’s bitters. Not pictured: a drop of simple syrup to balance out the strong tobacco flavor.

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The end product – so Mad Men, no?

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Is it Saturday night yet?