Continental Fare · Easy LunchBox Series. · Salads/ Recipes for the Calorie Conscious.

Grilled Cheese Sandwich with Peas, Arugula & Cilantro pesto.

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The best thing about a sandwich is that you dont need a spoon or a plate. All you need is your fingers and then one delightlful bite after another. Its  filling, non-messy and extremely versatile, all the time allowing for so many variations every time you make it. Whenever I feel like making sandwich, I simply look in to my pantry for any herbs that might be calling for help. Could be a wilting rosemary bunch, or tightly packed cilantro bought from the Indian store last week, or a box of arugula bought at Sprouts to try that amazing salad inspired by Giada De Laurentis. She swears by arugula, really!!!  This one was a quick fix on a week night with leftover ingredients from my refrigerator. Feel free to substitute kale f0r spinach or arugula for cilantro!

INGREDIENTS:

PEAS ARUGULA CILANTRO PESTO:

1 Cup Peas.

11/2 Cup Arugula.

1 Cup Cilantro.

2 cloves of garlic.

1 Tsp Salt.

1/4 Tsp Pepper.

1/4 Tsp Sugar.

1 Tbsp Lemon Juice.

1/4 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil.

Ingredients for Sandwich:

1 Cibatta Bread/ Sourdough Bread or 3 Regular white/ brown slices.

1 Tbsp Vegan Mayonnaise.

1 Tsp Tomato Ketchup.

3-4 Sliced Onion Rings.

1 Cheese Slice. (American/ Cheddar)

A few sprigs of Lettuce/ Kale.

Any veggie patty of your choice. ( I used home made Chickpea Burger Patty).

Salt & Pepper.

PREPARATION:

  • Add all the ingredients under “Pesto” to a food processor and give it a quick pulse. I realise it needs some moisture and I am just coming to that. The olive oil does the trick of getting them all mashed together. Imagine the aroma in my kitchen!!!
  • Transfer to a glass mason bottle and preserve tightly. This pesto can be used in pastas for a quick kids lunch, or thinned with vegan mayo / sour cream to make a dip, or a salad dressing, kind of like the Green Goddess dressing, if you know what I mean!
  • Now heat up the griddle/ tava and grease the bread that you are going to be using for the sandwich.
  • I used plain white bread and set them on the heated griddle.
  • Now slather some vegan mayo on the bread. Arrange the green lettuce on the mayo.
  • Place the veggie patty and add a dash of ketchup, slather the cilantro -pesto on top of the patty.
  • Now the goodness continues – one slice of cheese of your choice – the adventurous could try the pepperjack, I went with the cheddar cheese slice.
  • Add a few onion rings and if you want some more of the ketchup.
  • Place the second greased loaf of white bread and firmly close the griddle lid.
  • Sizzling Grilled Cheese Sandwich is ready to be served with a side of beans and ketchup.
  • This dish has it all – carbs from the white bread, protien from the patty, green kale or lettuce  and peas for the veggies.
  • ENJOY!!!
Continental Fare · Salads/ Recipes for the Calorie Conscious.

Ratatouille / Confit Byaldi – The favourite dish of a rat with a whisk and a dream!

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When this Disney Pixar movie was released I was astounded at the very thought that was the centre of the entire movie – Remy`s burning passion for cooking inspired by his Chef Gusteau and his astounding sense of smell. He always cooked with his sense of smell and that was something very magical and endearing about it. The expression of the famous food critic Anton Ego when  has a bite of the Ratatouille whipped up by Remy is  one of extreme happiness as he is immediately reminded of his mom`s cooking.  The movie ends on a happy note with the food critic Anton Ego funding a new bistro run by Remy the rat and some more of his friends. The climax of the movie is by far my favourite, where Remy patiently slices all the vegetables in the mandoline, splatters sauce on the base of the dish and arranges all the sliced veggies in the baking dish. I had never noticed that she does cover the dish with parchment paper which is what the recipe calls for. The movie has been outlined with such tremendous detail and capture new details every time I watch the movie!

Since I day I watched the movie, I had been wanting to taste the original version of this dish and I must push that dream to a little later until I can visit my dream destination – the City of Love – Paris. This weekend I found myself with all the ingredients I wanted except of course the eggplants. I still decided to go with my heart and made it yesterday for my family and they loved it. Every bite was filled with the bite of the crunchy veggies baked in the aromatic tomato sauce and pillows of cheese ravioli! Bon Appetite!!!

INGREDIENTS:

FOR TOMATO SAUCE:

5  Medium Tomatoes.

1 Garlic Pod.

1 Medium Onion.

1 Small Carrot.

1 Tsp Salt.

1 Tsp Brown Sugar.

1 Tbsp Balsamic Vinegar.

1 Tsp Dried/ Fresh Basil.

For the Ratatoiuille Base Sauce:

1 Onion.

1 Garlic.

1 Tsp Oregano.

2 Tsp Parsley.

1 Bay Leaf.

2-3 Cups of the Prepared Tomato Sauce.

For the Vegetable Layer:

1 Zucchini  sliced in to thin circles.

1 Yellow Squash sliced in to thin circles.

1 Japanese Eggplant sliced in to thin circles.

1 Carrot Sliced into thin circles.

1 Red/Yellow/Green Peppers for colour. ( I did not have them so my version was made without them.)

Salt & Pepper to season the veggies.

PREP WORK:

  • Arrange all the sliced veggies on a large tray and season them with salt and pepper.
Veggies lined up for seasoning!
Veggies lined up for seasoning!

PREPARATION:

  • Take the first six ingredients and make a slightly chunky basic tomato sauce. Add your favourite herbs – Basil / Oregano etc.
  • Simmer the chunky tomato sauce over a medium flame for about 20 minutes until  some of the water evaporates and it becomes slightly “saucy”!!!
  • In another wok, add 2 tsp of extra virgin olive oil and then pop in the herbs listed under “Tomato Base” – bay leaf, parsley and some oregano. When they fry  in the oil, add t he garlic and the onions.  Allow to brown only slightly and then add your prepared “Ratatouille Base Sauce”. Give it a quick stir and let them all come together.
  • Take a shallow baking dish and firstly add a layer of the prepared Ratatouille Sauce.Spread them around the base of the dish.
  • Arrange the sliced veggies atop the sauce concentrically alternating each of them with the other . This does give it a dash of colour and symmetry! You might be left with a few more of the sliced veggies, but that’s fine.

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  • Make sure that the slices peek out from the sauce and they are not dunked in it completely.
  • Season one last time with a twist of your pepper mill and sprinkle a few drops of balsamic vinegar over the top.
  • Preheat the oven to 375F in the mean time.
  • Before placing the Ratatouille inside the oven, many recipes call for  lining the inside of the dish with parchment paper  but I didnt have any.
  • I went ahead and popped it in the oven for about 35-40 minutes until the veggies are well cooked but not limp. They should not be allowed to brown.
  • I served my Ratatouille as a side for Cheese Ravioli in Tomato Sauce.

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Continental Fare · Kid Friendly Recipes.

Corn Au Gratin served with Toast. (Corn cauliflower and herbs in white sauce baked with a cheesy crust)

The first time I ever had Corn Au Gratin was at Mathsya Restaurant on Mount Road, Chennai. I had no idea what an “au gratin” was and the only real reason I ordered the dish when my other cousins had chosen Matar Pulav and fried rice was I liked the way that it sounded all fancy and french! But when I got the dish all I could see was white gooey mass cleverly filled in a serving dish with a lovely golden crust with a splash of green chopped cilantro. But the minute I dug in to it, I was transported to food heaven….it was a celebration of soft, white sauce, a dash of pepper, pieces of sweet corn,  with clear undertones of butter and cheese….there was no looking back. I now had a new favourite dish. I tried it in every new restaurant we would dare to try. This was officially my new benchmark for my judgement on a restaurant.

The next best time that  I can definitely recall was at Eden, Besant Nagar, Chennai. It was called “Corn Florentine” and was just priced at 150 rupees! It was absolutely amazing, hot, and gooey filled with cheese and I am guessing spinach. My daughters loved it and enjoyed the textures and tastes! When we came back to the US she wanted me to recreate the dish for her at home. It is an easy dish to make, with ingredients available at home. If you already have the bechamel sauce made ahead, all you need to do it add corn and spinach and cauliflower and bake! That simple! I promise you, it would never be disappointing. Such a lovely wholesome dish filled with corn and spinach and any other vegetable you like served with warm toast!!!

INGREDIENTS:

1 MediumOnion Finely chopped.

1 cup Finely shredded cauliflower.

2 Cups Fresh Corn.

Salt to taste.

1 – 1 1/2 Tsp Pepper Powder.

1/4 Tsp Dried Oregano.

4 Tbsp Butter.

4 Tbsp All Purpose Flour.

1 3/4 Cup Milk.

1/3 Cup Shredded Cheese. (Anything cheese that melts easily but not get too sticky – I used a combination of Asadero, Mozarella and sharp Cheddar.)

PREPARATION:

  • In a wide mouthed kadai add 1 tsp of butter and allow it to melt slowly. Add the finely chopped onions and let them saute well.
  • Meanwhile pop the cauliflower in the food processor and give it a quick pulse. I prefer to pulse the cauliflower as this easily blends in to the dish without sticking out, yet providing valuable body and soul to the dish.
  • You can omit the cauliflower if needed.
  • Once the onions are sauted add the cauliflower and corn. Add salt to the veggies and allow them to cook for a couple minutes. Switch off and set aside.

WHITE SAUCE:

  • In a clean kadai add the 4 tbsp of butter and allow to melt. Slowly add the all purpose flour and whisk briskly under medium low flame.
  • Allow the flour to cook in the butter and whisk briskly until it turns a light yellowish shade.
  • Slowly add the milk and continue stirring. The roux mixes in to the milk and you get a lovely creamy off white sauce.
  • Keep stirring until all the flour has dissolved in to the milk.
  • Add the pepper powder, salt  and oregano and stir it well.
  • Now add the shredded cheese and allow to slowly melt.
  • Switch off the flame and set aside.

ASSEMBLING THE AU GRATIN:

  • Preheat the oven to 350F/ 180 C and grease an oven proof pan. I used a 9 inch cake pan.
  • Add the cooked veggies to the white sauce and stir well. Taste at this point to check if the spice from the black pepper and the salt are fine. Adjust the levels now as you cant alter anything once the dish is baked.
  • Pour in to the baking pan and top with bread crumbs. This renders the au gratin with a lovely crusty top filled with gooey goodness inside, but can be totally omitted if you prefer to.
  • Top with more shredded cheese and pop in to the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes DEPENDING ON THE STRENGTH OF THE  OVEN , THE CAPACITY, THE BAKING DISH ETC.
  • KEEP AN EYE ON THE AU GRATIN TO MAKE SURE YOU DONT LET IT BURN OR OVERCOOK.
  • When done, keep outside to cool for a few minutes.
  • Serve piping hot au gratin with warm toast on the side.

HINTS:

  1. The consistency of the white sauce before baking should be creamy and silky. When you dip a ladle in to the sauce, it should coat it well and not be runny.
  2. The consistency of the baked au gratin should be a little soft and gooey but NOT runny.
  3. Add chopped spinach if you have some in your refrigerator. Corn and Spinach Au gratin has a totally out of the world taste!
  4. The first time I made au gratin I had used little pepper so this made the final dish a little bland. Pepper is the only spice and taste in this dish, so go ahead and spice it up!
  5. Adding one or two garlic pods before adding the onions to the butter give it another twist to the au gratin altogether!