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.

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

Red Lentil and Zucchini Pakodas

I saw this recipe in Bon Appetit a few months ago and it caught my attention for several reasons. I had never seen a pakoda (fritter) recipe made with not only Masoor dal (red lentils) but also a nutritious green vegetable.

Lentils are an excellent source of vegetable protein, rich in iron and folate and the addition of Zucchini adds antioxidants and fiber to the dish .

I experimented, adding a few more spices and cilantro to the original recipe and cooked it in my air fryer (healthy alternative to pan frying).

Serve the pakodas with cilantro chutney, ketchup or hot sauce.

Ingredients

1 cup Masoor dal (red lentils)

1 medium zucchini, coarsely grated

1 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup onion, finely chopped

1 teaspoon garlic paste

1 teaspoon ginger grated

1/2 – 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/2 teaspoon turmeric

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup cilantro leaves, chopped

Ghee or oil for sautéing

Preparation

Rinse the lentil and soak with water overnight.

Add the grated zucchini to a colander and add the salt and onion. Mix well and set the colander over a medium bowl and let this mixture sit for a couple of hours.

Squeeze the liquid from the mixture and pat with paper towels to remove any excess moisture.

Drain the lentils and place in a food processor.

Add the spices and 1/2 teaspoon salt and pulse the mixture till it forms a puree.

Transfer the lentil mixture to a bowl, add the zucchini mixture, chopped cilantro and stir to combine .

Heat oil or ghee in a large skillet over medium heat and drop about 1/4 cup batter , flattening the top with a spatula. Drop about 6 “pakodas” in the skillet and frying them for 3-4 minutes on each side.

Transfer them to a plate lined with a paper towel. Repeat with the remains mixture.

Makes about 12 pakodas, depending on size.

Air Fryer Method

While your air fryer is preheating (for approximately 5 minutes) at 380 degrees, shape your pakodas and brush with oil

Cook for about 6 minutes; turn them over, brush oil on the other side and continue to cook for about 5 more minutes, until brown.

Serve with cilantro chutney, ketchup or hot sauce.

Savory Quinoa Mini Muffins

Quinoa is one of the healthiest grains – high in protein, a moderate amount of fibre and various minerals and vitamins. These mini muffins made with quinoa are a great addition to lunch or dinner with soup or as an appetizer.

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups cooked Quinoa

1/2 cup finely chopped onion

1/4 -1/2 cup corn

1/2 cup black beans

1/2 cup edamame or lima beans

1/4 cup salsa

1-2 tbsp hot sauce (Sriracha or buffalo wing hot sauce)

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp garlic powder

2-3 tbsp cilantro leaves, finely chopped

2 eggs, beaten

Preparation

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Brush a 24 cup mini muffin pan (or 2- 12 cup mini muffin pans) with oil.

Mix all of the above ingredients together and fill the muffin cups.

Bake for 20 minutes. Cool in pan for 5 minutes and remove to a wire rack.

Almond Halwa

Happy Diwali! Diwali (or Deepavali) is India’s biggest holiday of the year. Also called the festival of lights – it gets its name from the row (avali) of clay lamps (deepa) that Indians light outside their homes to symbolize the inner light that protects from spiritual darkness.

I enjoy making a variety of Mitai (Indian sweets) during this time – and this recipe is a quick and easy one!

Preparation

2 teaspoon butter or ghee

1 cup almond or cashew flour

1/2 cup milk

4 tablespoon sugar (or more to taste)

Pinch of saffron strands (optional)

1/4 teaspoon cardamom powder (optional)

Chopped nuts, for garnish

Whipping cream (optional)

Method

Heat the butter or ghee in a saucepan.

Add the almond flour, milk, sugar and saffron strands, if using.

Cook over medium heat for 3-4 minutes, until mixture is thick

Add Cardamom powder (if using).

Pour into a serving dish, and garnish with nuts

Serve warm, with whipping cream if desired

Gajjar Halwa (Carrot)

Carrot Halwa is a popular dish to make in India in the winter months -especially during Diwali. The carrots are plentiful and it is an easy dish to make. Enjoying a warm dessert after a delicious meal when its cold out, makes this even more appetizing! It is also another way to get some additional Vitamin A !

And if you have a major sweet tooth, simply add more condensed milk.

Ingredients

2 cups grated carrots

1 tablespoon ghee or butter

1/2 cup milk

2 tablespoon milk powder ( optional)

1/4 cup condensed milk

1/4 teaspoon cardamom powder (optional)

chopped almonds or pistachio for garnish

Method:

Heat the ghee in a frying pan or wok.

Add the carrots and sauté for 3 – 4 minutes till carrots are soft.

Add the milk and milk powder, continue to cook till the milk is evaporated.

Add the condensed milk and continue to stir for about 3 minutes till the mixture is thick .

Add the cardamom powder if using – stir until well mixed.

Add nuts and serve.

Serve at room temperature. Serve with whipping cream (optional).

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.

 

Crunchy Chickpea & Corn Cups

These savory appetizers are made with tortillas and are filled with either chickpeas or corn.

A tasty corn alternative for those who have a Trader Joe’s near by, is the Mexican Style Roasted Corn with Cotija cheese.

Make ahead: the cups can be baked up to 2 weeks in advance and stored at room temperature.

IMG_4300

Ingredients

Flour tortillas, to make the cups

Mini muffin pans

Chickpea filling:

1 cup chickpeas (approx 1 can)

3 tablespoons mint chutney

1-2 tablespoons oil

1/2 small onion, finely chopped

1/2 small tomato, chopped

1/4- 1/2  teaspoon red chili powder

1/2 teaspoon chaat masala (optional)

1/2 teaspoon coriander powder

3 tablespoons cilantro, finely chopped

1/2 teaspoon green chillies, finely chopped

1 teaspoon salt

Corn filling:

1 cup of boiled corn (or canned)

3 tablespoons cream cheese

3 tablespoons cilantro, finely chopped

1/2 teaspoon green chillies, chopped,

 

Preparation

Preheat the oven to 350. Spray mini muffin pans with cooking spray.

Cut out large circles from the flour tortillas (even easier with a cookie cutter if you have one) and press into the mini muffin pans.  Bake for about 5 minutes until light brown.  Remove from pan and cool on a wire rack.

Note: These can be made ahead and stored at room temperature in an air tight container for 2 weeks.

IMG_4299

Chickpea filling:

Heat the oil, add onions and saute till light brown. Add the tomato and cook for a minute.

Add the remaining ingredients and stir until mixed well. Cool until room temperature.

Fill into tortilla cups and serve.

Corn filling:

Heat the corn in a pan, add the cream cheese and cook on low till the cheese is softened over the corn.

Add the remaining ingredients. Cool until room temperature, fill cups and serve .

OR

1 packet frozen Trader JoesMexican style roasted corn with Cotija cheese.”

Prepare according to directions, cool until room temperature and fill.

 

 

 

 

 

Cauliflower with Red Pepper Sauce

I came across this delicious cauliflower recipe on FoodNetwork.com as I was looking for a new dish to try for a luncheon with a vegetarian friend. I added a slight twist and used ready made roasted peppers to make it even quicker.

You can use any spice seasoning that you have – on my most recent trip to Baltimore, I discovered McCormick’s new Jalapeño,  Sriracha and also Chipotle seasonings which would work well.

IMG_3517

 

Ingredients

2-4 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium head cauliflower, cut into florets (3-4 cups)

1/2 teaspoon salt and a few grindings of black pepper

4-5 cloves of garlic

1 red pepper, roasted, seeded and chopped or (Jar of roasted red peppers, drained )

1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes   OR

1/2 – 1 teaspoon Mc Cormick Siracha seasoning  or cayenne pepper

2 tablespoons greek yogurt ( or plain yogurt strained in a cheese cloth or paper coffee filter)

2 tablespoons dry breadcrumbs

1 tablespoon sesame seeds

3  tablespoons chopped cilantro

Preparation

Preheat the oven to 400.

Mix the cauliflower with 2 tablespoon olive oil and salt and pepper, and spread on a baking sheet.  Roast in the oven for 15 – 20 minutes, stirring half way .

IMG_3509

Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon oil in a small saucepan, add the garlic cloves and saute for 1-2 minutes. Add the red pepper or (drained roasted red pepper )and the seasoning of your choice. Cool for a few minutes. Pour into a blender along with the yogurt and blend to smooth puree. Mix in 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro.

IMG_3510

Before serving, toss the red pepper sauce with the cauliflower and simmer for 2 minutes. Add the breadcrumbs and sesame seeds, and heat through.

Garnish with remaining chopped cilantro.

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