Homemade Masala Mac & Cheese

On one of my many trips visiting my daughter in NYC, we went to S’Mac – a restaurant dedicated to mac and cheese! The location in her neighborhood closed down unfortunately but there’s still a location on the LES (Lower East Side). 10+ years later, I still remember the Masala Mac infused with spices- delicious!

Since my daughter moved to Baltimore years ago and I don’t visit NYC as often, I thought I would try to recreate the dish!

Change the spices and flavorings to create your own favorite version … using a combination of taco seasoning, Mexican chili powder, hatch green chili, jalapeño and corn, create a Mexican version of Mac and cheese.. Feel free to experiment with other cheeses like Pepper Jack or Colby Jack.

INGREDIENTS

2 cups elbow macaroni

1 tablespoon oil

1/4 cup finely chopped onion

1/4 cup finely diced red pepper

1 green chillies, chopped

1 teaspoon grated ginger

2 cloves garlic minced

1 Roma tomato, chopped

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/4 teaspoon cumin powder

1/4 teaspoon coriander powder

1 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons cilantro leaves, finely chopped, set aside a little for garnish

3 tablespoons butter, separated

2 tablespoons all purpose flour

2 cups warm milk

2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, grated

1/2 cup dry breadcrumbs

PREPARATIONS

Boil the macaroni (al dente) according to the directions on the packet. Drain and set aside

Heat oil in a saucepan, add the onion and red pepper, saute for about 2-3 minutes.

Add the green chili, ginger and garlic and stir on low heat for about a minute.

Add the tomato, cumin powder, coriander powder and salt, stir till combined. Cook over medium heat for 2 minutes Remove from heat and set aside.

In another saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons butter and when foamy add the flour and keep mixing for about a minute. Gradually add the milk and when the sauce is smooth, stir occasionally until thick and bubbly.

Add the cooked pasta, cheese and the tomato spice mixture; mix until the cheese is melted.

Pour into a greased 8″ x 8″ square glass dish or a 2 quart glass dish.

In a small pan, melt the remaining 1 tablespoon butter – mix in the dry breadcrumbs.

Add breadcrumb mixture evenly over the Mac and Cheese.

Bake at 400 for 5 mins until the breadcrumbs are brown. Garnish with cilantro.

Baked Chickpeas

Did you know…. chickpeas, or garbanzo beans are one of the top 10 trending food products in 2021? Chickpeas have so many benefits– a low glycemic index (your body absorbs and digests them slowly), high dietary fiber (which can help lower cholesterol), calcium and magnesium.

India produces the most worldwide, though grown in more than 50 countries.

This Ottolenghi recipe my daughter sent me reminded me of the dish Chole- though the traditional recipe takes quite a bit of time to cook. This recipe’s only liquid is oil- cooking the chickpeas and other ingredients in the olive oil makes all of the flavors more concentrated and flavorful. All you need is a casserole dish or large pot with a lid, and in an hour and a half the dish is done.

The recipe calls for canned chickpeas, but if you choose- soak 1 1/2 cups dry chickpeas overnight or for at least 4 hours with a pinch of baking soda. Rinse and add more water, pressure cook them for 5 minutes and they’re done!

Ingredients

2 (14 ounce) cans chickpeas, rinsed

10 whole garlic cloves, chopped (if you prefer, thinly slice or leave whole)

1 tablespoon ginger, grated or thinly sliced

1 pint cherry tomatoes

1 tablespoon tomato paste

2 teaspoons each: cumin seeds and coriander seeds, crushed or blended in a spice grinder

1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder

1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes, optional

2 teaspoons paprika

2 fresh or dry red chilies, optional

1 teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1/2-3/4 cup olive oil

Preparation

Heat oven to 325 degrees.

Put all the ingredients in a casserole dish (which has a lid). Stir to combine.

Cover with the dish, place in the oven and cook for about 75 minutes, stirring once halfway.

Serve with Pita bread, Naan using the bread to soak up the flavored oil, or rice.

Curry Leaf Popcorn Chicken

Recently I came across this recipe in Bon Appetit and knew that I had to try it as it had curry leaves in the ingredients. Chicken nuggets + Curry leaves = a winning combination!

Curry leaf plants can grow in tropical places similar to its native region of India. As it gets cold in the Carolinas, I have to bring the plant indoors in the winter.

Curry leaves can be found in Indian grocery stores (and some organic stores like Mom’s).
Storage Tip: After washing and drying the leaves, rub the leaves with a little oil and place them in a jar or zippered bag to freeze.

In most recipes curry leaves are tempered in oil, but in this recipe you simply blend them for the marinade and some chopped leaves are added to the flour coating as well.

The recipe calls for the chicken to be fried, but I made them successfully in my air fryer. They can be reheated in the air fryer or in a toaster oven.

Ingredients

1/4 teaspoon cardamom seeds or 1/8 tsp. cardamom powder

2 teaspoons coriander seeds

2 teaspoons cumin seeds

1/4 teaspoon whole black pepper corns

2 cups buttermilk

1 tablespoon kosher salt

1/4 cup fresh lime juice

2-3 green chillies, chopped

1 -1″ piece ginger, grated

4-5 cloves garlic, minced

25- 30 fresh curry leaves, divided

2 teaspoons cayenne pepper, divided, reserving a little for garnish

2 pounds boneless chicken breasts, cubed into about 1″

2 cups all-purpose four

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon kosher salt

Oil for frying (or brushing on)

2-3 green chillies, fried for garnish

5-10 curry leaves, fried for garnish

Preparation

In a small dry skillet, toast the cardamom, coriander, cumin seeds and black peppercorn, stirring until fragrant.

Cool and transfer half of the mixture to a spice mill and blend to a fine powder. Set aside.

Blend the remaining whole spices, buttermilk, lime juice, chillies, ginger, garlic, 15 curry leaves, 1 tablespoon salt and 1 teaspoon cayenne to a blender until smooth.

Add the chicken to this, mix well and add to a resealable bag or covered bowl. Chill overnight or at least 4-8 hours.

Combine the reserved spice mixture, flour, baking powder, baking soda, 1 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon cayenne in another resealable bag. Chop the remaining 10 curry leaves and add to the flour mixture. Stir to combine well.

Heat about 1 1/2 ” oil in a wok , or pre-heat the air fryer to 400 degrees.

In the mean time, remove the chicken from the marinade and let the excess drip.

Add the chicken in small batches to the flour bag and coat well. Remove and set the coated chicken over a wire rack.

Repeat with the remaining chicken

Fry small batches of the chicken for 6-8 minutes until golden brown. Transfer to wire rack with paper towels below to drain.

If using the air fryer, brush the chicken pieces with oil and add to air fryer (do not crowd) and cook for 5 minutes… Turn the chicken pieces and continue to cook for about 3-4 minutes to a golden brown. Repeat with the remaining chicken nuggets.

Garnish with fried chillies and fried curry leaves

Toor Dal (Split Pigeon Pea Soup)

Dal is a staple in all parts of India, served thick over rice or in a bowl as a soup. There are so many different varieties, all made with somewhat different ingredients. There are many types of lentils (also called dal) – whole lentils, split lentils, and lentils which have the husk or skin removed.

Lentils are a low-calorie source of plant-based protein (they have a protein concentration of approximately 25%). One-half cup serving of cooked lentils provides 9 grams of protein. They also are a good source of iron, fiber and a good source of Vitamin B.

This recipe uses split pigeon peas, or toor lentils – a basic, every day dal. Feel free to adjust the taste to suit your menu – eliminate the tomatoes, add more lemon juice – most of the ingredients are optional.

Soaking the lentils will help cut down the cooking time, though using a pressure cooker makes it even quicker.

Ingredients

1 cup toor dal, (split pigeon peas)

2 tablespoons oil

1 teaspoon mustard seeds

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

1 small onion, chopped

1-2 green chilies, slit or 1 dry red chiili

1- 2 garlic cloves, crushed

2 roma tomatoes, chopped

1/2 teaspoon turmeric

1 teaspoon salt (to taste)

1- 2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 tablespoon cilantro leaves for garnish

Preparation

Prepare the lentils: Rinse dal until the water is clear. If you have the time, soak the dal for about 1 hour.

Drain the soaked dal, add 3 cups water and cook the toor dal in a pressure cooker for about 10 minutes (unsoaked for 14 minutes). Or cook in a saucepan with approximately 3 cups water, until soft for about 30 minutes.

If you prefer a smoother consistency, blend with an immersion blender, whisk or potato masher.

Tempering: In a medium saucepan, heat the oil. Add the mustard and cumin seeds- as soon as they start popping, mix in the red or green chilies and onion. Cook for 3- 4 minutes until the onions are soft and translucent and then add in the garlic and tomatoes. Stir for a few minutes- next add in turmeric and salt.

Stir in the cooked dal and about 1-2 cups of water, depending on the consistency you prefer. Simmer for about 10 minutes until the tomato is soft and dal is well combined.

Mix in the lemon juice and garnish with cilantro.

Other variations:

  • Add 1-2 cups chopped fresh spinach (1/2-1 cup frozen spinach, thawed)
  • Add 1/2 teaspoon grated ginger with the garlic.
  • Add 1 teaspoon sambar powder, with the turmeric

Waffled Falafel with Tzakiki

falfal waffelI discovered this recipe on the Food Network website – it’s now my favorite way to make falafel.  Its an easy kid friendly vegetarian meal… chickpeas are such a great source of protein and fiber.

It can be eaten by itself if you are carb conscious, or with pita bread and salad. You can serve the falafel waffles with a variety of different sauces such as homemade tzaziki.

They also freeze well and are easily reheated in a toaster oven.

Falafel Ingredients

16 ounces cooked chicken peas (1 can drained)

1/3 cup oil (or less if desired)

2 tablespoons chopped cilantro

2 tablespoons all purpose or whole wheat flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon ground cumin powder

1 teaspoon coarse salt

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander powder

1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon red chili powder

1 small green chile chopped (optional)

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 large egg whites (or 1 egg)

Tzakiki Ingredients

1 medium cucumber, seeded and diced (or shredded)

1 cup of yogurt

1 clove of garlic, minced

1/2 teaspoon salt

lemon juice to taste

1-2 teaspoon fresh dill, chopped (optional)

 

Preparation

Make the Tzakiki first:

Put the cucumber in a colander, sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt. Let this sit for 30 minutes, (water is drawn out of the cucumber so the sauce is not so watery) and press gently to remove  the liquid from the cucumber.

Add the cucumber to the remaining ingredients . Season with salt as needed. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving.

Prepare the Falafel:

Preheat a waffle iron (on maximum settings if your waffle maker has settings).

Add the above ingredients to a food processor and blend until smooth.

Brush both sides of the grid with oil, and pour about 1/2 cup batter in the middle of the waffle iron.

Falafal waffel

Check the waffle when the light goes out, as you may need to leave the waffle in a few minutes longer until it is crisp about 6- 10 minutes.

Serve with  Tzatziki sauce and harissa sauce,  cilantro chutney or a tomato cucumber relish.

 

Creamy Corn Pasta with Basil (or Cilantro!)

My tweaked version of the New York Times recipe was a big hit with my family and friends this summer when corn was in season.  The sauce was easy to prepare ahead of time and could be added to the pasta just before serving.

Ingredients

12 ounces of farfalle pasta

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 bunch green onions, chopped, keeping the green and white part of the onion separate

2 cups of corn, cut from fresh corn or frozen corn (reserve 1/4 cup)

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/3 cup fresh basil or cilantro, more for garnish

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 green or red chili, cut fine

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

fresh lemon juice , as needed

Preparation

Cook the pasta according to the directions on the packet, reserve 1/2 cup pasta water.

Heat a saucepan with 1 tablespoon of oil. Saute the white part of the scallions and cook until the onions are soft and then add the corn. Add 1/4 cup water, stir for a few minutes until the corn is tender about 3-5 minutes. Transfer the corn mixture to a blender and blend till a pouring consistency, adding a little water if needed.

Heat the same saucepan with butter, add the reserved 1/4 cup corn and cook till tender about 2 minutes. Add the salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, green chili, and corn puree. Cook till the puree is heated through.

Add the pasta to the corn puree, adding some of the reserved pasta water to thin the puree if necessary. Heat through and add  Parmesan cheese, green scallions and basil (or cilantro), a squeeze of lemon before serving.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Green Masala Chicken

This dish is one of my regulars – it is quick and easy since you simply  blend the ingredients for the marinade together, and then grill. It incorporates veggies into the sauce so perfect for our family!

 

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Ingredients

1 teaspoon each, garlic paste and ginger paste
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 cup yogurt
1 teaspoon coriander powder
1 pound boneless chicken breast, cut in small cubes
1-2 green chillies
1/2  large green bell pepper
2 cups packed spinach leaves
1/2 cup cilantro leaves
2 tablespoons vinegar or lemon juice
1/2 medium onion, chopped, fried brown or  1/2  cup package fried onions (from the indian grocery store)
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 lime

Preparation

Marinade chicken with the first 5 ingredients.

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Blend the remaining ingredients except the lime, to a smooth paste, in blender or food processor.IMG_2923 (1)

Add this to the chicken and marinade for several hours or overnight.

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Skewer the chicken and grill for about 3-4 minutes or each side.

Squeeze the lime over the chicken and serve with slices of onion.

Poha

Poha, also called Pohe, is beaten or flattened rice – a popular dish from the state of Maharashtra. Though traditionally eaten for breakfast or a snack, it is a super quick option for any meal.

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Ingredients

1 cup Pohe (raw beaten rice) – the medium to thick variety

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1 tablespoon oil

1 teaspoon black mustard seeds

2-3 tablespoon onion, finely chopped

1-2 small green chillies, slit

a few curry leaves (optional)

1/8 teaspoon turmeric powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 small potato, boiled and cubed (optional)

1/2- 3/4 cup frozen peas, thawed (optional)

1/2 lime

2-3 tablespoon cilantro leaves chopped

Preparation

Place the raw poha in a sieve and rinse it with water for a minute or two. Set aside.

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Heat oil in a saucepan and add the mustard seeds. As the seeds start to pop, add the onion and saute for a few minutes till it becomes light brown. Add the green chillies and curry leaves, and stir for 30 seconds.

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Add the turmeric, salt and potatoes and the rinsed poha Stir until combined and add one or two tablespoons of water, if the mixture looks dry.

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Cover and cook over low heat for about 3 minutes.  If adding peas, add the peas and continue to cook for another minute. Squeeze the lime  and garnish with chopped cilantro leaves.

 

 

 

 

Upuma

In the southern part of India, Upuma, a simple breakfast, snack or lunch dish is made from cream of wheat mixed with a few spices.

The cream of wheat used in this dish is of a finer variety, bought in the Indian grocery stores. The cream of wheat found in the supermarket can be used, it is just a little coarser in texture.

When my daughter was working in Atlanta I came up with this home made “upuma mix” which she could use when needed for a quick dinner.  Adding boiling water & some frozen or left over veggies,  it is also nutritious as cream of wheat has iron and some protein.

 

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Ingredients

Upuma Mix:

  1 cup cream of wheat

  1 tablespoon oil

  1 teaspoon black mustard seeds

  1 small red dry chilly, broken

  1 teaspoon urad dal

  1 small onion, finely chopped

  1/2 teaspoon grated ginger

  1 teaspoon salt

1 small tomato, chopped (optional)

1/2 cup cooked vegetables  (green peas, beans, carrots etc)

Preparation

Homemade Upuma Mix:

NOTE: When I’m making the mix, I typically make 4 times this recipe, and store it in the fridge. 

Heat the cream of wheat in a skillet over medium heat until it turns light brown, stirring constantly. Remove from pan and set aside.

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Heat oil in a skillet; add the mustard seeds and when they start to pop add the red dry chilly. Stir for a few seconds and add the onion. Cook the onion till brown, add the ginger and stir for 1-2 more minutes.

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Add the urad dal and nuts, if using, and stir until the dal turns brown (for a few more minutes). Add the toasted cream of wheat and salt and stir well until the cream of wheat is thoroughly mixed in.

If using as a “mix” cool and store in a container in the refrigerator.

Heat 2 cups of water to boiling, and if using vegetables add them now (I added beans that I had in the refrigerator, and a small tomato). Turn down to simmer and add 1 cup of your homemade upuma mix, stir until slightly thickened.

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Cover and continue to simmer for about 3-5 minutes or until the mixture is thick.  Upuma is usually served hot, with a little bit of Indian hot mango or lime pickle.

Dosa-Waffles

I have been reading lately about the many non-waffle recipes you can make in your waffle iron. There’s even a blog (waffled tofu & frozen fries!) & cookbook called “Will it Waffle” – 53 “unexpected” recipes!

I decided to experiment with a dosa recipe (Indian lentil pancakes) using green moong dal. It is quicker & easier than making dosas on the stove, one by one! I did have to add a few extra ingredients (oats & baking powder) but they turned out great.

The dosa-waffles can be served with cilantro chutney or even with a spicy ketchup (make your own by mixing regular ketchup with a little of Siracha or hot sauce). These also reheat well and can be frozen.

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Ingredients

1 cup whole green moong dal, (soaked for about 4 hours)

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1/2 small onion

2 whole green chillies

1/4 cup oat flour (you can also grind oats in a blender)

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

3 tablespoon oil

1/2 cup water

Preparation

Put all of the ingredients in a blender and process till smooth.

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Add a little more water, slowly, to get a thick pouring batter (like waffle batter!).

Preheat the waffle iron, brush the grids with a little oil, add about 3/4 cup batter (depending on the shape and size of your waffle maker) and cook them.

Remove and place on a wire rack.

Serve hot with chutney or spicy ketchup.

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