Top 10 Recipes & Tidbits From 2013

From exciting experiments to fearless failures, 2013 was a momentous year in the kitchen for me. It was also a year of my first half-marathon, lots of travel (4 different continents!), buckets of coffee, never-ending TLC from family, some downs but many many many ups. 

And as I welcome 2014 with new resolutions, earnest smiles, test recipes and you - my ardent readers, I can't help but look back fondly on some of my favorites from last year. Here is a list of my top 10 recipes (in no particular order).

Make me happy and leave me a comment with your picks will you?

1. Savory Jalebi for the beer guzzlers
2. Caramel Bread Pudding for those with a sweet tooth
3. Curried Guacamole for them Guac fans
4. Carrot Halwa Cheesecake or Parfait for those who love a twist
5. Okra Chips for the healthy
6. Masala Gobi Pizza for the experimental
8. Truffled Mushroom & Cheese Samosa for the bite-sized
9. Whole-Wheat Gougeres for the fancy french
10. Wonder Tea Recipes for all those who need to stop calling it 'chai-tea'!

Not to mention the fun I had creating, plating, feeding and [not] cleaning up for all my dining events! For memory sake, here is a photographic recap of some past events from 2013 - makes me pull my collar up high ;)

A big 29. shout out to all of you who made 2013 more-than-memorable! And remember, keep eating your way through 2014. 

Christmas Colors - The Meal That Closed 2013!

"To those who came
And smacked their lips,
To those who thanked
And taught me tricks.
To those who support(ed)
And taste it all,
To those who fearlessly
Told me to get some balls.
To those who are patient
People old & new,
To those who with me
Bid 2013 adieu!
I love you much
With a heart so true,
Here's to 2014, and cooking
Many more storms for you..."

29. wishes all it's readers, supporters, commenters, criticizers a very very happy Holiday season!
Today I hosted the EatWith Management team for my last meal in 2013. Personally, it was a great deal. The team who has been monumental in helping me grow, market and keep working on what I love were actually in my living room. And thankfully, did not leave disappointed.

My meal was inspired with the colors of christmas - Red, Greed and a touch of Gold. And no, I don't believe in food colors. Why use artificial 'helpers' when nature offers so much. Don't believe me? Scroll down for the pictures and you'll see!

I started the team with warm Lentil Soup with a dash of Chili Sesame oil. Sounds strange? Try it - the Indian spices with a slight chinese kick was quite a combination. Be careful though, don't add too much. The soup was paired with spoons of curried chickpea hummus & homemade wholewheat crackers (baked namak paare). Notice the red, green & golden?

The conversation started just as the courses were heating up. I served
- Spicy Spinach Chicken in Bread Cups w/ a dollop of cream cheese. Inspired by all things green and similar to my Spinach Corn Deep Dish Pizza Bites.

- Masala Gobi (cauliflower) with Potato Fritter Nests & smashed Avocados. Yes please! My take on a sort of a deconstructed Aloo Gobi. This was an experimental dish but the combination did wonders, specially the spice from the gobi, crunch from the fritters and the creaminess of avocados! One satisfying bite. Inspired by the gold twinkle of the season. I also served some chilled Pomegranate & Mint tea along for those who might need some help with that tingling heat. 

- Last but not the least was the South Indian Tomato Brown Rice w/ Mint yogurt & homemade wheat crisps. Inspired by the happy red, I think this won the show - both by taste & presentation!

(PS-I was too excited to get pics of the first two, but will upload them when I make them next time!)

I ended the afternoon with Fig Milk Pudding Truffles dipped in a gooey dark chocolate ganache. And of course,the sprinkles for added happiness. I sneakishly grinned as I watched the guests play which-sprinkle-color-do-I-like-more? I think red won. Paired with some warm Cardamom Masala Chai, this had holiday written all over it!

The best part. The sunset decided to join in the fun and co-operate with my color theme! Bye bye 2013.

To try any of these dishes or teas, join me for my upcoming Dining Experiences in 2014, or contact me for a private tasting! I'll see you there.

Leftover Lesson : Tomato Chicken Puff Pastry

“Another kitchen trick for you
For that pile of thanksgiving meat,
Transformation is key
To a great new treat.
Warm and crusty
A mid-afternoon winner,
Dip in your soup
And add zest to your dinner.
Bite & savor
Lick those fingers clean,
After this leftover makeover
None will left to be seen..”

This time of the year I feel overwhelmed with leftovers. In the excitement of the holiday season, I am entertaining (and experimenting) continuously. So there are bound to be spillovers that no one can stomach. Also, I hate repeats during my dinners, so that usually adds to the pile up. Leftovers, on the other hand, are great to be creative with - specially for appetizers and quick snacks. Here is one of many ways to use that turkey/chicken roast shreds from your thanksgiving dinner. After this, hopefully, you shall not see them for another year!
1 cup leftover chicken or turkey roast, shredded
½ cup leftover grilled vegetables, diced – I used green pepper, red pepper & carrots
1 large plum tomato, diced
1 spring onion, finely chopped
½ red onion, finely chopped
½ teaspoon fresh ginger, grated
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 green chili, finely chopped
1 teaspoon coriander powder
½ teaspoon cumin powder
¼ teaspoon turmeric powder
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed and rolled out

Heat oil in a non-stick pan. Add the ginger, garlic chili and both onions and sauté till transparent. Stir in the tomatoes along with all dry spices. Cook till tomatoes are tender. Now add the vegetables & meat, and cook on high heat for a few minutes till all ingredients are well mixed. Remember the meat and vegetables are already cooked, so you don’t want to overcook it. Remove from heat and cool.

Put a few tablespoons of the mixture on the rolled out pastry and roll into a disc. Cut into 2 inch pieces and bake at 400 F for 15-20 minutes, till the pastry has puffed and is light brown. Serve hot with chili mayo.

The Last Lunch : A Thanksgiving Photo Journey

"Here's a little jingle
To start your holiday,
Food, fun & family
Or whatever makes you yay!
You don't have to be special
To enjoy a meal warm,
Eat with strangers 
And still soak up the charm..
Put on your best shirt
And grab that festive cheer,
Celebration is about you
So come make friends dear!"

Happy Thanksgiving!

Today, I hosted the last EatWith lunch in my apartment. No, I am not quitting. No ways! Just moving apartments.

In the true spirit of the holiday, my menu was an Indian-Inspired-Global-Style-Thanksgiving-Tapas : if there ever were such a thing! The idea was to go beyond America while enjoying Thanksgiving, and bring in that global palate in an authentic 29. style - by fusion or presentation. Thus, each course was served in a style popularized by another country/cuisine, but boasted of Indian flavors. Confused? Read on, you'll know what I mean.

We started on the streets of India. A warm Chicken Chili Soup with winter spices, paired with crisp Cumin Sweet Potato Poppers. 

It was a small group this time so I tried my hands at a sit down meal as well. It was different, and quite enjoyable actually!

The mains courses were:

1. A truly American inspired Turkey Fritters served with a sweet spiced mango chutney and Alfalfa sprouts. It's Thanksgiving, there had to be Turkey!

2. Traveling to Mexico, the guests had a go at Roasted & Spiced Eggplant Tacos with a cold carrot slaw.  [recipe coming soon]

3. Ending the savory courses with an Italian take on pilaf was the Curried Cauliflower Orzo Pilaf, served with some sprinkles for a crunch.

The journey had to bring you back to India eventually. So, the sweet showcase was a Semolina Coconut Pudding with a pomegranate burnt sugar glaze & cinnamon cream. A warm, silky end to a great holiday lunch. Thanks to all those who came, and hello to all those who I'll be seeing at my next few meals...

29. Dinner Recap : The Warmth of Spice

Another dinner. Another menu. And another hell-of-a night! 

I know you're all itching to see the pictures so without saying too much, I'll jump right into the star of the show - the 29. table. 

The welcome bite was themed to bring warmth on a cold autumn evening - a Hot & Sweet starter combo of Spicy Red Cabbage Rasam Soup & Sweet Mango Chutney Crackers. Delish! Both were 29. first timers and more successful than I had anticipated them to be! No complaints there.

The mains were:
1. Grilled Tilapia and Curried Cauliflower Puree served in Gol Gappas. A perfect combination of silken warmth and that ever endearing crunch.

2. Roasted Eggplant Pinwheels sautéed with vegetables & spices, served in a chaat form. The little boats made it look rather cute - if I may say so myself! The flavor of roasted (almost charred) eggplant sure did a dance in everyones' mouth. A sure keeper for future events.

3. Chicken & Lentil curry served atop Brown Rice Ajwain Pulao , finished with warm Alfalfa sprouts. A slight asian touch on an otherwise typical Indian dinner dish. If anyone was still hungry, this filled in the gaps just right.

The sweet end to it all was my second experiment of the day. A smooth Carrot Chocolate Pudding served with Cinnamon Cream. I usually make this with rice, like kheer, but decided to use a bunch of sweet winter carrots instead that were threatening to take over my refrigerator. The result was, to say the least, a great end to a creatively enjoyed meal. And the sprinkles brought an early christmas cheer to my gathering. Oh joy! [recipe coming soon]

Was this my most-loved menu yet? Someone did ask for an autograph, so perhaps it was. But only till the next one.

Want to try the next 29. menu? Sign up for one of my upcoming events!

October on a Plate : A Photo Essay

"A warm greeting
With a touch of spice,
Feeding strangers
29. does like!

Colorful soup shots
To begin the treat,
Then a few sticks, cups & rolls
Sans any meat.

While the wine does air
The fritters come out,
Talking and mingling
With flavors all around...

Moonlight on the bridge
With water sparkling bright,
The flavorful chicken next
Is just as great a sight!
Conversation grows loud
There is humor in hunger,
The warm curried bowls
Cause a mini stir!

With tummy's growing full
The end is [sadly] nigh,
With a sweet ol' sigh...

And as we wind up
Another night of celebration,
I get a few hugs
And an imaginary ovation.

Thank you to those
Who love my unique feast,
I know I'll cook forever
If you just promise to eat...."

Check our upcoming events or contact us to book a private tasting today!

29. Let's Lunch Event - EatWith Your Eyes

Curried Sweet Potato & Coconut Soup Spoons. A delectable way to begin a Friday. Don't you agree?

29. opened it's doors to a truly diverse group this afternoon. A retired teacher from Argentina, a student from upstate NY, an HR consultant from London/Korea and a Wall st journalist from right here, NYC.

I greeted them with some Iced Clove & Mint Tea & a spoonful of Curried Sweet Potato & Coconut Soup. Yum! My surprise nibbler for the day was a roasted pepper and cream cheese dip served in little Tostitos scoops. I find these things so cute!

The main act was:
1. Grilled Mixed Veg Kebabs - marinated in cumin, coriander, garlic, fresh mint & lime juice, these are a light & colorful way to start a mid-day meal.
2. Fishcakes with Tomato Chutney - as always, a crowd pleaser! 
3. Chicken & Pea 'Sticky' Biryani w/ Cumin Yogurt - In favor of [always] experimenting, I served the yogurt in little glasses on the side. Oh, and I stuck a coriander stalk in each biryani to make it look like a little bonzai pot. How fun & adorable! 
4. Indian Trifle Parfait - with luscious layers of sponge cake soaked in milk, raspberry jam and a personal favorite, chocolate custard! Remember what I always say about chocolate? It's a miracle waiting to happen in your mouth.

A lunch should always be this special. Specially if it welcomes the weekend.

Come join me in my next culinary adventure. You will leave fascinated, full and with a range of new ideas you never thought you needed!

Hello Sweden! A Night of Transformations & Tapas

"Down from Sweden
Picturesque & green,
To the jungle that's NYC
With skyscrapers mean.
Marvels & buildings
That beg to be seen,
Tours & studies
From Brooklyn to Queens.
Amidst the work
There were treats in mind,
A tingle of taste buds
Seeking that unique find.
So in quest of adventure
For fun, food & wine,
This great group of Swedes
Stopped by 29..."
A team from the biggest Swedish architectural firm in NYC? A study themed on "Transformation" in the boroughs? Well, 29. just had to have a peek. I'm quite nosy like that.

Transformation is really the foundation of what I do. So it was an absolute pleasure when a group of 10 visitors wanted to carry that very theme from their tour to their taste buds. What an honor! Not to mention fun.

The night started with a call from the Swedes saying they have gotten off at a wrong subway station. Oh hell, a 20 minute walk in an unknown part of town - not to mention the humidity? Not a great way to start an experience I'd say. But all smiles at the door, they were the most conversational, comfortable, curious, receptive & beer-loving group I have fed. And thankfully they were hungry too.

I greeted them with little shots of spiced buttermilk with celery sticks - a rather cooling treat after the long walk. While they munched on slight variations of mince chicken & potato chaat bites, I started on the menu. With each dish themed around their study and showcasing it's own 'transformation', the night finally went uphill....

1. Curried Eggplant Sliders - my version of the Indian Pav Bhaji made with curried eggplant & a mixed salad for that slight crunch. The warm & soft brioche buns only added to the melt-in-the mouth taste. Yes, there is a slight french fusion here!

2. Tilapia Fishcakes w/ Tomato Chutney - these did a vanishing act. Perhaps it was the combination of tangy chutney with a smooth & spicy fish cutlet that worked the taste buds. Or perhaps the bite sized portions were just too convenient to pop in. All I can say is I will definitely be making these for future events. (Psst, notice how I didn't even manage to get a pic!)
3. Beans & Chicken Biryani w/ Cumin Yogurt - I don't have a recipe for this (yet), simply because it was an experimental (read accidental) discovery. I cooked basmati rice in a chicken version of my Indian Chili and voila! I love yogurt and I believe in adding it to everything - in this case it was the flame fighter for those who needed it. Try cooking your rice/grains in a pre-made (or leftover) Indian curry next time. You will be surprised at the flavors that develop. 

4. Kalakand Truffles w/ Chocolate Ganache & Crushed Nuts - something I have made over and over and over. And always received the same reaction - 'OMG! what is this!'. My proudest showcase of how you can transform any Indian sweet into something low on sugar, lighter on the palate and in a form recognizable to all. And what I can say about chocolate. Chocolate is chocolate. Sneak a spoon of it anytime, anywhere.

Amidst the view and tapas, one of them fell asleep on the couch. Overfed? Bored? Jetlagged? Whatever the reason, I couldn't be happier that they made themselves at home.
[Update] - And they revisited! Read all about the second dinner here.
Check out my upcoming events to plan your own night of Indian Tapas!

29. Navigates NYC : A Tale of 3 Tea & Tapas

Tea time is about introductions, food and conversations. So what better a way to get acquainted to something new, than over a few cuppas?

Today, a few ladies who are new to New York (much like myself) visited the 29. kitchen. Held in collaboration with NYC Navigator, it was a Tea & Tapas Pairing afternoon. What is that you ask? A quirky way to make people have 3 varieties of Indian teas, along with some flavorful (a.k.a slightly spicy) bite sized treats. With questions and curiosity, stories and sharing, wows and wondrous looks, we pretty much talked about everything under the sun. Women.

It was also a great way for me to tell others that Indian tea is not only Masala chai, and Indian food is not only curry. Here is why.

The menu was short and simple, but each pairing had a story.

1. Tangy Corn & Pea Crackers paired with Cardamom Black Milk Tea : We started our afternoon on  the streets of North India. A place where swarms of tired shoppers relax with a cup of 'masala chai' and roadside 'chaat' (street snacks). The combination of sweet milky tea with a crunchy snack is enough to wake the dead, leave alone perk up a dissatisfied spender. Gotta keep boosting the economy I say.
2. Spicy Chicken Mince Cups paired with a chilled Fresh Mint & Clove Tea : Our journey then moved to a sophisticated Indian restaurant that doesn't exist. The spicy chicken mince curry that sat atop crusty bread cups did not need selling. With no signs of leftovers, the cool mint tea was a a fire extinguisher for those weak at the heart of spice- including myself! A refreshing palate cleanser, before the grand finale....
3. Carrot Milk Pudding Truffles paired with Ginger & Date Tea : We then headed towards our last stop. The sweet market. If nothing else makes you happy, this surely will. The warmth of ginger and subtle sweetness from the dates, made this pairing truly candied. And the best part? It's good for you! The combination of dates, ginger and carrots made this course a wholesome one, and while you were licking your fingers clean, your body was smiling back at you. Oh, and the dollop of chocolate on the truffles was my wild card - everyone needs a little treat now & then.
Want to taste this menu? Join me in my next Tea & Tapas Pairing!

Indian Tapas with EatWith

Yesterday, the EatWith team came to visit the 29. Kitchen. 

Celebrating home-chefs and home-cooked meals, EatWith urges you to dine in homes around the world. Much like what I am trying to do with 29. in NYC.  Oh joy! So I just had to have them over.

With a nip in the air welcoming fall, I set out to prepare a unique 4-course menu that showcased a variety of Indian flavors. We started with a Tangy Corn & Peas Chaat (cold) and Chicken Keema Bites (warm). Having a warm and cold starter ensures that there is something for every palate. Lucky for me, the ladies enjoyed both!

Conversations trailed to the smell of Spiced Lentil Quinoa served aside a fresh-off-the-pan garlic sautéed Prawns. Dal is a lovely way to cook this grain, and replace that everyday oh-so-boring rice. With a side of fish, it's a complete meal! Amidst all the laughter, I know they were waiting for seconds., and the look when I got it to them? Precious. I live for such moments. 

We ended the meal with a layered Carrot Halwa Parfait. With mushy carrots slow cooked in milk and sandwiched between crunchy biscuits and coconut flakes, what's there not to love? Did I mention it was topped off with a dollop of maple whipped cream? This was one of my better dessert success stories, and I am dancing all over again for it.

*You can get a taste of this very menu at the next available 29. eventCome in for a bite!

2. Spoons of Chicken Keema Bites
3. Spicy & flavorful Lentil Quinoa Pilaf with Garlic Prawn Skewers (recipe only on EatWith)
4. Shots of sweet Carrot Halwa Parfait

Slow-Baked Chicken & Oats Stew : The One Pot Wonderdish

"Lazy to cook
And stir and fry?
It's time you gave 
This dish a try.
Nutrition in a pot
Bakes while you rest,
It cooks itself
And gives you it's best.
Simplicity in summer
Autumn, winter or fall,
In fact so simple
That it needs no recipe at all!"

Cooking can't get any easier. It just can't.

Incurring a head injury has its benefits. It forced me into creating quick and simple recipes that were nutritious, without compromising the flavors you crave. After all, who wants to eat bland food when unwell! This was a food miracle. Do try it, I promise it will not disappoint.

1 pound chicken breast, cut into cubes (change to meat of choice)
1/2 cup black eyed peas, soaked overnight
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/2 carrot, chopped
1 celery stick, chopped
1/2 cup snow peas, halved
1/2 green pepper, diced
1/2 onion, diced
1 clove of garlic, crushed
1 green chili, finely chopped
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, finely chopped
1 large bay leaf
2 cloves, crushed
1 tablespoon coriander powder
1 teaspoon paprika or cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 cups chicken stock
1 tablespoons whole wheat flour (optional - used to thicken the stock)
1 tablespoons light olive oil
Salt & pepper to taste

Pre heat the oven to 375 F.

Mix all the ingredients for the stew in a deep baking dish. Cover properly with aluminum foil and bake for 2 hours. Remove from the oven and let it sit for 15 minutes before removing the cover.
Dish out and enjoy! 

Castello Moments - A Tale of 3 Cheeses


I'm cheesed. It's been one hell of a satisfying month. 

With the samples I received from Castello Moments, namely the nutty Classic, melting Weissbier and the rich Hirten, I have been making mouth-watering, dream-worthy goodies all month long. My waistline might be complaining, but the head isn't listening. All's fair in food & cheese I say.

From a cheesy twist to the classic Indian dhokla to an everyday Pasta dinner, cheese does make the world a slightly better place to live in. We also had some friends over for a wine and cheese gathering, and made little cheese & vegetable fritter appetizers (recipe to be up soon) to go along. Wine with cheese, and more cheese. How could it go wrong! It was rather hard to share the cheeses I have to admit, but I suppose it had to be done. I also recently met with an accident and was on bed-rest for a week with a head injury. I somehow never thought that the doctor would recommend eating cheese for concussions. Ok, I exaggerate, but I just needed an excuse to keep me going. And a Castello Moments adaptation on these Gougeres did wonders for my recovery! Made me question - Is there anything you can't make with cheese?? I can confidently say, No.

And while the 29. kitchen has been bubbling with melting moments, my fellow bloggers have had their own share of fun and experimentation. Click on the links below for some exciting recipes, cheesy substitutions, intriguing ideas, random musings and more.

And while you read, don't forget to make yourself that perfect Castello Moments grilled cheese to go along...
  1. Potato Gratin from Lemon-Sugar
  2. Savory Cheese Crackers from An Edible Mosaic
  3. Cheese Tasting & Pairing from Girli Chef
  4. Spinach & Cheese Bake from The Village Cook
  5. Cheese Inspiration & Recipes from Taste Food Blog
  6. Cauliflower-Au-Gratin from Foodie Fiasco
  7. Cheese Cookies from Funand Food Cafe
  8. Three Cheese Flatbread from Itsybitsy Foodies
  9. German Picnic Salad from Daring Gourmet
  10. Roasted Sausages & Summer Veg with Garden Fresh Pesto from My Humble Kitchen
  11. Wine & Cheese Pairing 101 from The Roasted Root
  12. Four Creative Crostinis from Shared Appetite
  13. Cheese Ice Cream and a Cheesfest from The Colors of Indian Cooking
  14. Cheesy Grits, Shrimp Tacos w/ Classic Castello and Tomato Crostini from 30a Eats
  15. Cheese Platter Perfection from Cooking with the Books
  16. Lemon Artichoke Pesto Pasta from Anecdotes And Apples
  17. Chive Chili Cheese Souffle from Camille
  18. Brocolli & Red Onion Quesadillas from Cooking Westchester
  19. Paignets from From Brazil to You
  20. Cheese Souffle from Home Made Delish
  21. Alpine Pizza from Fritos and Foie Gras
  22. The Gooey Affair from The B Critic
  23. Gougeres from Blogging Over Thyme
  24. Beer Cheese Pairing from Kitchenette Blog
  25. Braised Short Rib French Onion Soup from Sea Weed & Sassafras
  26. Cheese & Caramelized Onion Biscuits from Chef Karolina
  27. Wine Tasting, Toas-tite Grilled Cheese, Chicken Couscous and Truffle Mac&Cheese from Where and What in the World
  28. Roasted Garlic Beer & Cheese Dip from Lizzy Pancakes

Win a Private Cheese Tasting in your own home - enter by clicking on the banner below. Castello Moments and this post is a collaboration between the blogger and Arla Foods USA. 
Win Castello Cheese Tasting

Easy Meatball & Vino Pasta Bake

"One of those days
When my mind is blank,
I can’t think or write
Hey! at least I'm being frank!
The recipe is all I have
To convey the flavor today,
You’ll just have to try it
And do as I say..
Melted to perfection
Disappoint this will not,
Layered pasta surprise,
A.k.a magic in a pot.”

Ever had one of those days when you wish you could throw everything in a pot and it cooked by itself? Today was just that. I wanted to make a quick, flavorful dinner that was simple, tasty and yet had a slight sophistication to it. And what speaks sophistication better than wine. I used a basic white wine pasta recipe, threw in some veggies (always!) and added a quick bake in the end - for that warm gooey goodness that sinks till the last bite. God bless whoever invented the oven!

Sadly, it finished before I could take my post-bake-finished-dish pic. Perhaps, that says it all.

2 cups short tube or shell pasta, par boiled
½ red onion, sliced lengthwise
8 frozen chicken meatballs, sliced (you could also make fresh like these, replace with beef/pork etc)
½ red pepper, diced
½ cup brocolli florets
3 cloves of garlic, minced
¾ cup chicken stock
½ cup white wine (any kind that you like to drink - I used Sauvignon Blanc)
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (lots more if you like it hot!)
3 tablespoons olive oil
½ cup grated cheese – I used Castello Weissbier since I had it in stock but typical cheeses like gruyere, cheddar or gouda would work well too.
Some fresh coriander/basil, finely chopped
Salt & pepper
Heat oil in a non stick pan. Add onions and garlic, and sauté till onion begins to turn translucent. Add the red pepper and broccoli and sauté for a quick minute till the broccoli turns dark green. Pour in the wine and let it simmer for a minute. Now add the chicken stock and dry spices. Let the sauce simmer till it becomes slightly thick and then stir in the pasta. Mix well and cook covered till the pasta is al dente. Once done, uncover and turn heat to high so any excess liquid gets absorbed. Leave a little moisture as we are also going to bake the dish and you don’t want it to turn too dry.
Transfer the pasta to a baking dish. Top with half the sliced meatballs, followed by grated cheese and then the remaining meatballs. Sprinkle some fresh coriander/basil on top and bake at 375 F till the cheese has melted and begins to bubble. Turn oven to broil and let the cheese brown for 30 seconds.
Remove from the oven and dig in.... A relatively quick and mouth watering weekday dinner.
[Tip: Bake in individual ramekins to create an appetizer size portion!]

29. & Soul Salsa's Twirl-to-Tapas Evening - Recap | Recipes

"Glasses with name tags
And a table of treats,
Chatter and laughter
And art with bolly beats,
Colors and charisma
The room had it all,
Some ate, some drank
But each had a ball,
Merengue to Desi tunes
Trips over many a feet,
Spice and sweetness
Where twirls and taste meet,
Friday had come for real
And we welcomed this weekend,
With 29, Soul salsa and
Fifteen hungry friends..."

When a logo takes to canvas, the art of the evening is bound to leave you spellbound.

From the food to the feet, every aspect of the Twirl-to-Tapas evening was upbeat, fragrant and a great distraction to the thunderstorm outside. While Andrea rocked NYC, we had our own little storm brewing indoors.

A 4-course Indian Tapas menu (3 savory, 1 sweet), delectable wine pairings, a Merengue dance class to Bollywood tunes, colorful art pieces on display and a sold out event welcomed fifteen guests to the start of a (hopefully) dryer weekend! The evening smelt of spices and sang of freedom. With the busy work week behind us, everyone enjoyed meeting new company, the 29. buffet of spicy & sweet Indian Tapas and of course, wine to wash it all down.

The dance instructor for the night, the beautiful Arati Jadhav from Soul Salsa NYC chapter, mesmerized the crowd with her Merengue demo - she made it look much easier than it was! The fusion of bollywood and latin was meant to be and as the crowd scurried to get their footwork right, I managed to take these moments of rhythmic chaos. Priceless.

The artwork on display, courtesy Mandar & Arati Jadhav, brought talent to every corner of the otherwise bare dance studio. With color on the walls and art in our eyes, each piece complemented the creativity of the food. From sketches, wire art to splashes of vibrant hues, the walls truly came alive at every twirl.

And as with every 29. event, there was the buffet table. My personal art for the evening.
The menu for the night boasted simple Indian flavors with a balance of spice and sweet. With candles and candies, the table was dressed to impress.  

The menu consisted of:
1. Masala Chicken Shepherds Pie - an adaptation of this recent post, served with curry flavored mashed potaoes.
2. Malai (Cream) Corn Cracker Chaat- recipe here
3. Spicy Chickpea Bunny Chow - mini versions of this, dressed with a yogurt sriracha sauce, greens and spicy indian bhujia for a crunch.

Assorted Indian Truffles
1. Almond Kalakand - used the recipe given here, added some chopped almonds and rolled into balls. The truffles were dressed with a dash of chocolate ganache.
2. Cardamom Semolina Halwa: recipe here

As these little pieces of edible creatives pulled the crowd, the dance floor turned into a wine & dine ground. But despite my efforts to lure here with foody aromas, Arati turned out to be a relentless coach. She even made my aunt and cousins dance! And she never did stop.

Slowly the shy guests became dance converts and smiled to full stomachs, and even she gave in to some 29. culinary indulgence. The wine kept pouring, the food began to mysteriously disappear, but some people just couldn't stop twirling....

A big thank you to all those who came, and to Arati & Mandar for a great show! Look forward to seeing more of you in the upcoming 29. events.

Masala Mince & Veg Fritter Bites

“The sun has set,
Tomorrow is nigh,
With experiments new
And dishes to try.
Like mince & fritters
That flirt in sight,
Mingling in flavor
To create a bite.
A combination rare
Mock if you may,
But I think it’s gourmet
In every way.”

For the Masala mince
½ pound minced chicken (or turkey, pork, beef, mutton)
½ cup frozen green peas, thawed
1 green chili, finely chopped
½ teaspoon cumin seeds
1 tablespoon coriander powder
1/3 teaspoon garam masala
½ teaspoon roasted cumin powder
1 bay leaf
2 cloves, crushed
1 green cardamom, crushed
1 plum tomato, finely chopped
½ red onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, grated
¼ cup olive oil
For the Fritters
½ cup red pepper, grated
½ cup red onion, grated
½ cup baby spinach leaves, finely chopped
4 tablespoons gram flour
½ teaspoon chili powder
½ teaspoon dry mango powder
½ teaspoon garam masala
Salt to taste
Oil to shallow fry

Make the Keema
Heat oil in a non stick pan. Add the cumin seeds, cloves, cardamom and bay leaves and cook on medium flame till the spices become fragrant (approx 1 minutes). Add the onions, garlic, green chilies and ginger and continue to cook till the onions turn translucent. At this stage, add the tomatoes along with all the dry spices. Cover and cook till the tomatoes are soft and fully cooked and the oil begins to separate. Now add the chicken mince, peas and ½ cup water. Cover and cook till the chicken is fully cooked. Remove cover and continue to sauté on high flame till all excess liquid has been absorbed. Remove from heat and cool.
Make the Fritters
Make a batter from all the ingredients for the fritters. If its too dry, add a few teaspoons of water, but the water in the vegetables should be enough to make a thick sticky batter (one that can be shaped and is not flowy).
Heat oil in a non-stick pan. Divide the batter into small coin sized rounds, and cook each till its crisp and brown on either side. Alternatively you can also cook the entire batter as a pancake and later cut it into smaller pieces.
Add a teaspoon of the chicken mince on an appetizer spoon. Top with a fritter, some yogurt and fresh coriander and serve.

An appetizer with a difference.

Spring Chicken Bake

“Chicken and vegetables
At war, hold that enemy eye,
Children hate them greens
But the bird gets no sigh.
Such discrimination
Is hardly fair today,
Why should nature work so hard
While slaughter gets its way?
So I mixed them up
And let them become friends,
The only way to change minds
Is to start a new trend.
Out came a cohesion
Of love, color & taste,
While some experiments fail
This was surely no waste!”
I love food that can be just thrown together and baked. Love, love, love it. It's simple, quick, and shouts fresh and wholesome. Best part? It tastes great too!

1 pound chicken breast, cut into small cubes
1 small eggplant, diced
½ onion, sliced lengthwise
½ cup baby carrots, diced
1 red pepper, diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
½ cup cherry tomatoes, halved
2 green chilies, finely chopped (add more if you want it more spicy)
¼ cup fresh basil or mint, roughly chopped
5 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon paprika
1 tablespoon coriander powder
½ teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon dried basil
½ teaspoon turmeric powder
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Salt to taste

Mix all the ingredients and refrigerate for 2 hours for the flavors to mingle. Bake in a 375 degree F oven for 30-35 minutes, till the chicken is fully cooked and the vegetables are slightly tender and brown. Turn oven to broil and cook for another 2-3 minutes. This will give the vegetables a tender crisp film – much like what you get in a BBQ.

Serve hot with paranthas and mint yogurt chutney. A quick, healthy and wholesome meal!

Volunteering with Chef Jehangir Mehta & The WITS Annual Benefit (22April2013)

"Cutlery was out, tables were laid
People walked in, smiles were exchanged
Lights turned dim, room filled with noise
Photographer flashes, women with poise
Small bites many, vegetables dumplings with soy
Tastes & conversation, bites of joy
Amidst the buzz, auctions were sold
As the night progressed, stories were told
Chefs & children, food for thought
A night with a cause, well wishers sought
 Jazz for the ears, celebrities in sight
Eating & mingling, wishing goodnight
An experience for keeps, opportunity of gold
Just at hello, I was sold."

Last night I had the opportunity to volunteer with Iron Chef contestant, Chef Jehangir Mehta (chef & owner - Graffiti & Mehtaphor) at the WITS Annual Benefit Ball in Tribeca!

More than 40 restaurants volunteered tastings for charity that benefited the WITS organization - Wellness In The Schools. An organization that "inspires healthy eating, environmental awareness and fitness as a way of life for kids in public schools". Mehtaphor was one of the stalls, and Chef Jehangir wowed the crowd with his taste of asian fusion with the Vegetable Dumpling Chaat - a savory dish of mixed vegetable dumplings tossed in light chili soy, tomatoes, onions and finished with Indian sev (fried indian noodle snack) for a crunch. The plates disappeared faster than we could replace them, and  people did not quite want to say goodbye as they kept coming back for more. I, for one, can say I saw one distinguished guest relish at least 15 dumplings. Hey, no one's complaining, all's fair in the name of charity!

Some of the other features were reBar with a smooth tantalizing dish of cheesy polenta, truffle & salmon roe, Alice's Tea Cup with melt-in-the mouth mini red velvet cupcakes and pumpkin spice scones, Levain Bakery with a choice of gooey fudgy cookies, Ammirati Coffee & many many more. This was one night where I wish I could get a stomach for hire!

I was helping out so didn't take my camera to capture the buzz, beauty and bountiful food, but I did use my phone (thank god for technology) to capture some of the moments. 
The Delectable Dumpling Chaat
Atsuko-san (Chef Jehangir's lovely assistant) & Me
Some of the other delish food at the event
Chef Jehangir's Book- Mantra
One of the restaurants setting their table - gearing up for the crowd
All that hard work paid off - ended the night with a palatable plum sour & rum cocktail. Hello, purple!
The Team (from left) - Gee, Atsuko-san, Thomas, Chef Jehangir, Me & Christian.
Hurrah! to a great night, great people and of course some gorgeous food. 

The Beer Snack Series # 3 - Tandoori Chicken Nacho Cups

Whilst you refill your glass
And plunge into these,
Hope for a crunch
And a ton of cheese.
The series may be over
But you can stay,
Guzzle, crunch, enjoy
Life should always be this way!”
The last of the trilogy! But don't hold your breath, I will come up with other exciting stuff soon. Till then, try these!
For the chicken & tandoori marinade
½ pound chicken breast, cut into very small cubes
1 green chili, finely chopped
1 tablespoon thick yogurt
1 teaspoon coriander powder
½ teaspoon cumin powder
½ teaspoon garam masala
¼ teaspoon red chili powder
1 teaspoon garlic ginger paste
1 teaspoon lime juice
1 teaspoon tobasco sauce / any hot sauce (optional)
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt & pepper to taste
For the nachos
8 wonton wrappers
½ cup frozen peas, thawed (optional)
¼ cup grated gouda cheese
Fresh coriander & thick yogurt for garnish
Mix the chicken with all the ingredients for the tandoori marinade (except the oil). Marinate for 4-6 hours (or overnight). Heat oil in a non-stick pan and cook the chicken pieces till slightly brown.
Line the wonton wrappers in a mini muffin pan. Fill the cups with a teaspoon of the tandoori chicken, some peas and cheese. Bake at 325 F for 10-15 minutes till the wrapper is crisp & brown on the edges. Remove from moulds, garnish with fresh coriander & yogurt. Serve hot!

29. Tasting Part II - Of Desserts, Discussions & Dining

"This little game is easy to play, 
And is our little ice breaker for the day,
You just add, subtract, multiple, divide or more
And there is a prize for the highest score.  
Give yourself 5 if you came by car. 
And add 8 if you spent last night in a bar
Spectacles are cute, add 2
6 points more if your eyes are blue. 
Subtract 5 if you are wearing pink, 
But multiply by 4 if you are showing some skin. 
Count all your buttons, each gives you 1, 
Except if they're white, then you get none. 
Add 10 if coffee makes you say yay,
But divide by 5 if you have a starbucks each day.
Now here's a little chance to score better, 
Add 6 if you're wearing a sweater. 
1 point for each year that you have been wed, 
But take away 5 if today you didn't make your bed. 
Spring is for food, if you're a foodie multiple by 3- hurry!
And of course, divide by 6 if you hate curry.
If you kissed your husband/wife/bf/gf today, add 12, 
But If you kissed them both 20 you must shelve 
If you enjoy travel, multiple by 5 
Add another 10 if you've done a sky-dive
Now that's all there is, so total your score, 
Don't cheat, and add a fictitious 4!
But wait, there is an added bait
For those who arrived not a minute late
You know who you are, add 10 today
Punctuality pays, what can I say!"
Great way to get the conversation started - don't you think? Games and a few laughs always put people at ease, specially me, so I used this as an ice breaker for the 29. Calories second Tasting held yesterday, 7th April 2013! And congratulations Laura, for winning the gift hamper - set of 3 edible candles. Yes, you heard right, edible candles. 

Fifteen wonderful people attended to taste, critique and provide invaluable feedback on a 4-course tasting menu.  With spring in the air, and a dessert themed table dressing, the afternoon was colorful, entertaining and hopefully satisfying. 

Each dish was made to mimic a popular dessert and the menu consisted of:

1. Pav Bhaji Sundae - Bharta Sliders served in sundae cups.
2. Gobi Cupcakes - Mini Curried Cauliflower Frittata with a Mint Yogurt frosting (Add 4 extra eggs to the pizza recipe for firmness, and baked it in mini cupcake moulds for the shape).
3. Chicken Pops - A deconstructed Butter Chicken. Chicken meatballs w/ naan pieces served with a tangy tomato cream dipping sauce. A variety of 'sprinkles' accompanied the ensemble for that crunch I love.
4. Phirni Pudding - Phirni (ground rice pudding) served with burnt sugar bits and a jelly glaze in tall shot glasses. And raspberries are the very best to dress a dish, simple yet elegant.
Alongside the tasting menu were some effortless yet, refreshing palate cleansers that also served as starters for the (few) early birds:

1. Cucumber Boats - filled with a mixture of minced turkey ham, veggie cream cheese & herbs. 
2. Fruit Chaat Sticks - A first timer, these were skewers of bananas, apples, strawberries & blueberries tossed in fresh orange juice, crushed mint & chaat masala. Ooh, how they echoed spring!

I wish you were there, but here are some more pictures from the event for you to feast on. And if you're still tempted, simply contact me to set up the table for your next event. Nothing makes me happier than helping others with a full stomach.
Happy monday everyone.

Potato & Sausage 10-minute Bites

“Potato, king of vegetables
Why is it called so?
Because it cooks like magic
And makes me look like a pro.
Blends with almost anything
And eaten in summer, winter or fall,
Grilled, mash, sautéed
Go on, take your call.
A secret ingredient
To bind, enhance, add
It makes every dish gourmet
So give in to the potato fad.”
1 small baking potato, peeled and cut into ½ inch discs (use a cookie cutter)
1 spicy chicken sausage (or anything you like), cut into discs and casing discarded
4 baby carrot, cut into discs
1 jalapeno, cut into thin discs
1 teaspoon coriander powder
1 teaspoon olive oil + some more
1 teaspoon sour cream/ thick yogurt
½ teaspoon paprika
Salt & pepper to taste
½ teaspoon honey

Mix the sour cream/yogurt with salt, pepper & paprika and refrigerate till you prepare the rest of the dish.
Toss the potatoes, sausage & jalapeno in olive oil, coriander powder, salt & pepper till everything is well coated. Mix the honey with some olive oil, salt & pepper and rub the carrots with this mixture. Line everything on a baking tray and bake at 375 F for 8-10 minutes till slightly browned.
Pile the potato, sausage, carrot & jalapeno. Drizzle some sour cream or yogurt on top & serve fresh!