Category Archives: Pasta

Adapting from Classic Recipes: Israeli couscous & Beluga Lentil ‘Khichdi’

 This has probably been the longest gap between posts for me. A Kitchen renovation project that stretched over 3 weeks and the consequent restocking which took longer than I had imagined. How I managed with ingredients stored in plastic bags & the packaging it came with, I have no idea. I had to make many multiple trips to pick out bottles, containers and little organizing shelves in order to accommodate all the ingredients that have become pantry staples. but in the end the effort was well worth it. The last count, I had about 60 different herbs, spices & blends, but that’s for another blog post!

During the BlogHer Food 13 meet, I had the chance to meet professionals from a number of food companies, one of them being Adam Shapiro of the Peanut Butter & Co. During the course of discussing how Peanut butter figured in Indian cooking, he told me about this spicy variety that they were introducing and offered to send me a sample. When I received a jar of ‘The heat is on‘ a couple of weeks later,  I was hooked onto the spicy taste. It was hard to wait till I had a working kitchen to start creating dishes with this absolutely delightful ingredient.


The fresh peanut flavor combined with the heat from Cayenne pepper & chili powder is rather addictive. Although the ingredients listed include vinegar, there was hardly any trace of it even to my vinegar averse sensitive palate, and I almost longed for a tangy complement to the flavor. When it came to looking for dishes to incorporate the peanut butter in , I realized that a number of recipes from the western Indian state of Maharashtra use roasted & crushed peanuts as a finishing ingredients. And thus came about my brunch earlier today, a twist on the classic Sabudana (Sago/tapioca pearl) Khichdi. The tapioca pearls have been substituted with Israeli Couscous (or Fregola).

 Israeli Couscous & Beluga Lentil ‘Khichdi’

You need:

1 cup Israeli couscous
1/2 cup beluga Lentils (feel free to substitute  any regular whole lentils)
2 tablespoons oil
1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 a jalapeno chili deseeded and diced
1/2 cup diced red onions or shallots
7-8 fingerling potatoes
salt to taste
2 heaped tablespoon PB & Co’s spicy peanut butter OR
1 heaped tablespoon each of the crunchy peanut butter and the spicy variety.
Chopped cilantro for garnish.
Juice of 1 lime

Fill a saucepan with cold water and add the lentils along with the fingerling potato. Bring the water to a boil and cook the lentils for about 15 minutes until soft. (the fingerling potatoes should be done  in this time as well). Drain the water, peel the potatoes and cut into 2 pieces each. Set aside.

Refill the same pan with more water, add salt and bring the water to a boil. Add the Israeli couscous and cook for about 5 minutes. Drain the water and set aside.

In a  large skillet, heat the oil until it shimmers. Add the mustard and cumin seeds. Once the mustard sputters and the cumin ‘splits’ add the deseeded jalapeno and the onion. Saute until the onion turns translucent.

 Add the lentils and the potatoes, lower heat and saute for about 5 minutes.

 once the potatoes begin to turn golden, lower the heat (you  want the peanut butter to stick to the lentils & potatoes, not to the bottom of the skillet!) and add the couscous along with the peanut butter (adding a mix of the spicy and the crunchy varieties ensures that the heat is balanced and there are bits of nuts to bite into for a texture variation). Stir to coat the lentils,couscous and the potatoes evenly. At this time taste and adjust the amount of salt according your personal preference. Cover with a lid, turn the heat to the lowest level and allow the flavors to combine.Transfer to a serving dish, garnish with chopped cilantro and finish by drizzling the lime juice as per your preference.

Bon appetit!


Happy Thanksgiving – Roasted Yam & Butternut squash Gnocchi

Come this Thursday, i.e, Thanksgiving day, I’ll be one of the few who will retire in a stupor that decidedly will NOT be induced by that ‘Turkey-philic’ amino-acid, Tryptophan. Mine will be a blissful state of lethargy brought about by sheer Carbo loading, despite my best efforts to acheive a balanced feast.. All it takes is the dessert pies to upset that apple cart!.

I’m far from deciding what I’ll actually make for our Thanksgiving family dinner except that I plan to definitely include the traditional ingredients as far as possible. Squash, sweet potato, corn & beans..and a cauliflower soup that I had made a month ago and still crave.

Its been a while since I tried my hand at making gnocchi and I had a little gnocchi shaping gadget that I was itching to try. There is absolutely no potato involved in this pasta, but the results were better than I expected. The sweetness of the roasted squash and Sweet potato is offset not by heat from chile pepper,but from the spiciness brought about by the addition of a tablespoon of fresh ginger extract.

Roasted Yam and butternut squash Gnocchi. (makes 4 servings of about 12 pieces each)

You need:

1 medium sized Yam (the golden sweet potato)
1/2 a butternut squash cut up lengthwise
1/2 cup each of all purpose flour and cornstarch, sifted together
Salt to taste (about 1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon)
1 tablespoon fresh ginger extract ( Grate a chunk of fresh ginger and squeeze out the extract)
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
2 L water for boiling the gnocchi

For the Sauce
2 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon cornstarch and AP Flour mix (from the gnocchi ingredients above)
Salt to taste
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon fresh cracked peppercorn
10 – 12 sage leaves
3-4 pieces of sundried tomatoes, chopped fine
1 cup whole or 2 % milk
Grated Parmesan cheese

 Preheat oven to 425 F. Scrub and pat dry the sweet potato.

Brush the cut surface of the butternut squash with olive oil. Place the sweet potato & squash onto a baking sheet with the and bake for about 25 minutes till the tuber  is done.

Remove the sweet potato and bake the butternut squash for about 20 more minutes until the surface appears blistered and a knife completely slips through the flesh.

Allow to cool completely before scraping the flesh of the squash and peeling the sweet potato.
Add the roasted vegetables into a food processor along with the Ginger extract, salt and nutmeg.

Keeping the appliance running at a low speed, add the cornstarch and AP flour mixture (you will need only about 3/4th of a cup, too much flour and the pasta will turn chewy & tough) until the mixture just begins to come together into a ball of dough.

Drop the dough onto a floured surface and knead lightly. Divide into quarters. Leaving one piece on the floured surface, wrap the other three pieces in a Saran wrap until ready to use.

Roll the piece of dough gently into a long rope of about 12 inches long.

Using a dough scraper, cut the rope into 1 inch pillows.

You may either leave the pasta as is or using the back of a folk, gently slide along the tines to create the grooves. I used a gnocchi  press that tended to elongate the pillows. The final pasta resembled baby carrots! Repeat with the remaining dough. Place the pasta on a floured plate and allow to dry for about 1/2 hr while you bring a large pot of water to boil, and prepare the sauce.

Heat one tablespoon of butter in a non sick skillet. Gently fry the Sage leaves on low heat, until they turn crisp. remove with a slotted spoon and set aside. Add about a tablespoon of the flour mixture to the butter and toast the flour until it turns a golden brown.

Stir  the seasonings into the ‘roue’ and whisk in the milk. Whisk well to avoid any lumps and allow the sauce to thicken. Transfer to a container, covering the surface with Saran wrap to prevent a skin from forming. rinse and dry the skillet. Place back on the stove and add the remaining butter.

Lower the heat to bring the water down to a simmer and add the gnocchi (about 12 at a time) when the pasta begins to bob up after initially sinking to the bottom of the pan, allow to cook for about 1/2 a minute.
 Remove the pasta with a spider skimmer gently agitate to shake of any excess water and add the gnocchi to the sizzling butter in the non stick skillet.
Shake the pan to coat the gnocchi with the butter and gently toss till the pasta just begins to develop brown spots.

Transfer the pasta to a serving plate, and gently spoon the required amount of the sauce. Garnish with the sage leaves and serve warm, with some Parmesan cheese sprinkled over if you prefer.

Here’s wishing all of you a very happy Thanksgiving.
 Bon Appetit!!