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Indian Stir-Fried Black-Eyed Peas with Mushroom Croquettes, & Farewell to Crappy Pictures

3 Aug

I just borrowed two Indian cookbooks from the library– India’s Vegetarian Cooking: A Regional Guide by Monisha Bharadwaj, and Pure & Simple: Homemade Indian Vegetarian Cuisine by Vidhu Mittal– and so far, I’m impressed with both! As I browsed through the pages of each cookbook, I was in awe of the vibrant pictures and helpful descriptions of the process. I bookmarked several recipes to try out. I have a feeling I will be renewing these books several times 🙂

The other night I tried one recipe from each book to make Stir-Fried Black-Eyed Peas (“Bhuna Lobhia”), and Mushroom Croquettes (“Khumb ke Cutlet”). What attracted me to these recipes was that they called for easy-to-find ingredients. In fact, for the main dish, I only needed to buy tomatoes and peas…I had everything else on hand or was buying the ingredients anyway for other dishes I was making that week. Love that!

Both dishes were amazingly flavorful. The mushroom croquettes had a crunchy exterior, then a nice thick layer of soft potato, and and finally some tasty stir-fried mushrooms and peppers in the center. I imagine it being like a tater tot for grown-ups (but obviously way better!) 🙂 I thought the croquettes tasted wonderful on their own, but next time I make them I might also include some sort of chutney to add some brightness.

The black-eyed peas were also wonderful. The ginger, garlic, cilantro, cumin seeds, and other Indian spices were a fantastic combination, and one I’ve yet to encounter in Indian restaurants. I will definitely be making this dish again and again!

Will you miss crappy pictures like this one? I won't!

In other news, the pictures you see in this post are [hopefully] the last crappy pictures you’ll see from me! I am excited to report that my husband and I just bought ourselves a Sony Cybershot DSC-HX100V as an early Christmas present! We were certainly due for a new camera; I bought my last one in 2003 and it is a measly 5 megapixels! So practically a stone age camera.

Oh and my husband just got a new job (hooray!) so he had to take advantage of his employee discount of H.H. Gregg while he still could 🙂 I am hoping my food photography improves markedly, but I know I need to still learn more about proper lighting and composition; a new camera won’t solve all my problems. Feel free to leave me some tips!

Stir-Fried Black-Eyed Peas/Bhuna Lobhia

(adapted from recipe by Monisha Bharadwaj, India’s Vegetarian Cooking: A Regional Guide)


  • 2 tbsp canola or sunflower oil
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 medium onion, finely sliced
  • 1 tbsp ginger-garlic paste (equal parts ginger and garlic, combined in mini food processor)
  • 1 can black-eyed peas, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp tumeric
  • 2 large ripe tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • Salt, to taste
  • Chopped cilantro leaves for garnish


  • Heat the oil over medium heat in a heavy saucepan. Add the cumin seeds, fry until dark, and then add the onion and stir-fry until golden. Stir in the ginger-garlic paste and mix well.
  • Add the black-eyed peas, sprinkle in the chili powder and tumeric, and fry for 1 minute. Then add tomatoes, garam masala, sugar, and salt. Stir, add about 1/2 cup water, cover, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until thickened, about 15 mins. The beans should retain their shape. To further thicken the sauce, mash a few of the black-eyed peas.
  • Garnish with cilantro and serve.

Makes 4 servings.

Mushroom Croquettes/Khumb ke Cutlet

(adapted from recipe by Vidhu Mittal, Pure & Simple: Homemade Indian Vegetarian Cuisine)


  • 1 large potato, boiled for about 20 mins, and grated
  • 2 bread slices (I used whole wheat)
  • 1 1/2 tbsp grated mozzarella or other melting cheese
  • 1/4 tsp salt, plus more, to taste
  • 2 tsp vegetable oil
  • 2 tbsp mushrooms, chopped
  • 1 tbsp bell pepper, chopped


  • Dip the bread slices in about 2/3 cup of water and immediately squeeze out the water. Mix bread with  potato, cheese, and salt. Set aside.
  • For the filling, heat 2 tsp oil in a pan, add mushrooms, and salt and pepper, to taste. Cook for about 30 seconds and remove.
  • Divide the potato dough into 15 equal-sized balls. Stuff each ball with 1/4 tsp filling, and fold to seal the filling inside. Reshape.
  • Heat a deep fryer to 360 degrees (or fry on stovetop). Fry until golden brown, about 2-3 minutes.
  • Drain on paper towels, then serve.

Makes 15 croquettes.


Pasta with Mushroom Mascarpone Sauce

29 Jan

Mushrooms are a great ingredient for vegetarian cooking. They have a hearty, almost meaty flavor that satisfy meat-eaters and vegetarians alike. This particular recipe is from the Giada at Home cookbook I recently borrowed from the library. I thought it was a new recipe, but when I went to cook it, I realized it seemed very familiar. Indeed, this was the recipe that my husband cooked for me on my birthday last year. It was delicious then, too, so I don’t know why we haven’t cooked it since. Looks like we’ll have to start making up for lost time 🙂

Pasta with Mushroom Mascarpone Sauce (by Giada De Laurentiis)


* 1 lb pasta
* 2 tbsp olive oil
* 2 shallots, minced
* 1 clove garlic, minced
* Salt and pepper, to taste
* 1 lb assorted mushrooms (such as cremini, shiitake, and button), cleaned and sliced
* 1/2 cup white wine
* 1/2 cup vegetable stock
* 1 cup (8 oz) mascarpone cheese, at room temperature
* 1/2 cup grated Parmesan
* 1/4 chopped fresh chives


  • Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 to 10 minutes.
  • While the pasta is cooking, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the shallots and garlic to the pan. Season with salt and pepper. Cook until soft, about 2 minutes. Add the mushrooms to the pan and season with salt and pepper. Cook until the mushrooms are tender, stirring occasionally, about 5 to 7 minutes. Turn the heat to high. Add the wine and cook f or 3 minutes until all the liquid evaporates. Add the stock and simmer until the liquid is slightly reduced. Remove the pan from the heat. Add the mascarpone cheese. Stir until creamy. Drain the pasta, reserving about 1 cup of the pasta water, and transfer to a serving bowl. Add the mushroom mixture and the Parmesan. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Toss well to coat pasta, adding the reserved pasta water, if needed, to loosen the pasta. Garnish with the chopped chives.

Make sure you season liberally!

Vegetarian Lettuce Wraps and Veggie Fried Rice

20 Jan

I tried my first recipe from Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 3, and if the recipe for  [imitation] P.F. Chang’s “Vegetarian Lettuce Wraps” is any indication of the rest of the recipes in the cookbook, I am very impressed!

I remember the first time I ever ate at P.F. Chang’s. My then-boyfriend (now husband) and I met some of his friends there. We ordered the “vegetarian lettuce wraps” as our appetizer. I was amazed at how flavorful the wraps were. As we were enjoying our appetizer, my boyfriend’s friend asked whether I liked tofu, given that my boyfriend is a vegetarian. I said I wasn’t sure (I had never tried it before). Embarrassingly, I was then informed that the lettuce wraps that I was so thoroughly enjoying indeed contained tofu! Since then, tofu and I have become very well acquainted. But I tell you this story to illustrate that even if you’re not a vegetarian, and even if you have an irrational fear of tofu, you will surely enjoy this dish!

Be aware that the recipe only serves two as an appetizer. Thus, you will also need to make another dish if you want to serve the lettuce wraps with dinner. Staying with the Chinese theme, I decided to serve the wraps with Veggie Fried Rice, and they complimented each other very well.

Top Secret Recipes Version of P.F. Chang’s Vegetarian Lettuce Wraps

Menu Description: “Wok-seared tofu, red onions, water chestnuts with mint and lime. Served with cool lettuce cups.”


For the Special Sauce:

* 2 tbsp granulated sugar
* 1/2 cup water
* 3 tbsp soy sauce
* 1  tbsp rice vinegar
* 1/8 tsp chili oil
* 2 tbsp chopped green onion
* 1/2 to 1 tsp Chinese hot mustard paste
* 1 to 3 tsp chili garlic sauce

For the Stir-Fry Sauce:

* 2 tbsp plus 2 tsp soy sauce
* 1 tbsp water
* 2 tbsp mirin
* 1 tbsp oyster sauce (note: I omitted this)
* 2 tsp rice vinegar

For Everything Else:

* 3 tbsp vegetable oil
* 4 oz baked tofu (note: or bake your own tofu)
* 8 oz can water chestnuts, drained and minced (about 1 cup)
* 1/4 cup diced red onion (note: regular onion is fine)
* 1 tsp minced garlic
* Juice from a wedge of lime
* 1 tbsp minced mint leaves
* 2 tbsp chopped green onion
* 4 to 5 iceberg lettuce cups


1. Make the special sauce (for spooning over your lettuce wraps) by dissolving the sugar in the water in a small bowl. Add the soy sauce, rice vinegar, and chili oil. Add the chopped green onion and set the sauce aside until you’re ready to serve the lettuce wraps. Eventually you will add Chinese mustard and garlic chili sauce to this special sauce mixture to pour over each of your lettuce wraps. In the restaurant, waiters prepare the sauce at your table the same way based on your desired heat level. More on that later.

2. Prepare the stir-fry sauce by mixing all of the ingredients together in a small bowl.

3. To prepare the filling for your lettuce wraps, heat 3 tbsp of vegetable oil in a large saute pan or wok over high heat. Slice the tofu into thin strips, slice the strips in half, and then cut through the strips, making a small dice. Chop the water chestnuts into pieces that are about the size of peas.

4. When the oil is hot, add the tofu and saute for about 20 seconds. Add the water chestnuts, red onion, and garlic, and saute for 2 minutes. Add the stir-fry sauce and juice from the wedge of lime and saute for 2 more minutes. Add the mint and green onion.

5. Serve the dish with a side of lettuce cups.. Make these cups by slicing the top off of a head of lettuce right through the middle of the head. Pull your lettuce cups off of the outside of this slice.

6. Prepare the special sauce by adding your desired measurement of hot mustard and chili sauce to the special sauce blend: 1 tsp of chili garlic sauce for mild, 1/2 tsp of mustard paste plus 2 tsp chili garlic sauce for medium, and 1 tsp of mustard paste and 3 tsp of chili garlic sauce for hot. Stir well.

7. Assemble each lettuce wrap by spooning the filling into a lettuce cup, adding special sauce over the top, and eating it like a taco.

Serves two as an appetizer.

Veggie Fried Rice (adapted from Special Fried Rice by Rachael Ray)


* 2 3/4 cups water
* 1 1/2 cups white rice
* 3 tbsp vegetable oil
* 2 cloves garlic, minced
* 2 inches fresh ginger, minced or grated
* 1/2 cup shredded carrots
* 1 small red pepper, diced
* 4 scallions, thinly sliced on an angle
* 1/2 cup frozen peas
* 1/3 cup Tamari (dark aged soy sauce)


1. Bring water to a boil. Add rice, reduce heat, cover and cook over medium low heat until tender, 15 to 18 minutes. Set aside.

2. Heat a wok or large nonstick skillet over high heat. Add oil to the pan. Add garlic and ginger to the pan. Add carrots, pepper, and scallions to the pan and quick stir0fry veggies 2 minutes. Add rice to the pan and combine with veggies. Fry rice with veggies 2 or 3 minutes.  Add peas and soy sauce to the rice and stir fry 1 minute more.

Makes four servings.

A Chinese feast

I suppose I should confess that it was a team effort making both of these dishes, with my  husband tackling the more challenging lettuce wraps (and also embarking on the journey for some of the difficult-to-find ingredients). One of the only adjustments we made was by accident: When I was frying the rice, I accidentally added his “stir fry sauce” for the lettuce wraps to the rice. Thus, he just supplemented his stir-fry sauce with extra soy sauce. It all turned out delicious in the end.

I do recommend seeking out some of the Chinese items that you wouldn’t normally have on hand. It’s always good to try something new, the extra ingredients will last you quite a while, and these dishes are good enough to make again and again!

Gifts for a food-lover

25 Dec

I still haven’t done any cooking since I’ve been staying with my parents for the holidays. Although I had anticipated helping my mom out with the “vegetable” she was supposed to bring to my aunt’s house today, my dad ended up whipping up his famous “vegetable medley casserole” instead. It’s topped with swiss cheese and french fried onions, and is quite scrumptious.

My dad owns a restaurant, by the way. The restaurant has been in the family since 1932, soon after my great grandfather emigrated from Italy. I suppose you could describe the food as “diner style,” which is why I strongly believe that it should be on Diners, Drive Ins, & Dives. I desperately want to meet Guy Fieri, or any Food Network star, for that matter!

One summer, I cooked all the daily specials for the restaurant. My dad is quite the perfectionist, especially in the kitchen, so I can’t say it was a pleasant experience, but educational at least.

But anywho, I am excited to get back into the groove of cooking when I go home in a few days. Christmas was great; I received many cool gifts, and as pictured below, quite a few food-related gifts.

I’m really excited to try out “Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 3” by Todd Wilbur. I’d never heard of the cookbook before, but apparently it contains “copycat recipes” from chain restaurants. Here are some recipes that I’m dying to try from the book:

  • Avocado Egg Rolls w/ Tamarind Sauce (BJ’s Restaurant & Brewhouse)
  • Fresh Banana Cream Cheesecake (Cheesecake Factory)
  • Stephanie’s Ultimate Red Velvet Cheesecake (Cheesecake Factory)
  • Breadsticks & dipping sauces (Olive Garden)
  • Vegetarian Lettuce Wraps (P.F. Chang’s)

The book also contains detailed diagrams, which seem  like they’ll be quite useful.

The Good Housekeeping “Vegetarian Meals” cookbook also looks promising. I love cookbooks with photos, and they seem very vibrant.

I will report back on recipes from these cookbooks soon. Anyone tried any recipes from these cookbooks, yet?