Tag Archives: Soup & Stews

Tamatar Shorba (Indian Spiced Tomato Soup) Vegetarian & Vegan Friendly

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Tamatar Shorba with Spiced Grilled Cheese Sliders

Last year at this time tomato soup would have been the last thing on my mind!  Instead, I was preoccupied with my “baby” plants, berry picking and killing those stubborn Canadian Thistles…Seriously, how do you get rid of those things?!

Unfortunately, this year has been the complete opposite of the last.  Winter is holding on tight, refusing to budge.  Looking out the window, one would think it was December, not May!  It’s been a long winter and I’m beginning to feel a little confused (and a whole lot irritated!)–unsure if I should be planning my gardens or digging out the Christmas decorations.

As you can probably imagine, I’ve been daydreaming a lot about the warmth of India. I’ve even gone so far as to tell Piyush I think we should move there.  Sell the house, ship our stuff overseas and live happily in the tropics–with an air conditioner to keep us cool, of course.  I’d grow my own black pepper plants, drink liters of chai every single day and we’d have our very own mango tree in the back garden.   Continue reading


Indian Inspired Mussel Pilaf

I’m not a huge fan of seafood, but the other night while I was paging through one of my cookbooks (Gordon Ramsay’s Great Escape: India) I noticed a beautiful photo of a whole sea bass cooked in banana leaves.  I haven’t been able to get it out of my mind since.  It’s pretty much embedded.

I’ve had Mr. Ramsay’s cookbook for quite some time now, but have yet to cook anything out of it; so I was really excited to give this recipe a go.  Unfortunately for me, buying a whole sea bass in Rochester is absolutely impossible.  I can’t even have it ordered from our local grocery stores.  Seriously.

Luckily, the man behind the fish counter was very knowledgeable and extremely helpful.  He called his supplier to see what they could offer me.  They had a few options, and he suggested I try the strawberry grouper.  I ordered a couple fish and should be able to pick them up tomorrow.

Now that my dinner plans were officially and completely shot–yes, I am that dramatic–I decided to buy a pound of mussels and do something with those instead.

mussels: scrubbed and de-bearded

I brought my mussels home and sorted through them.  Any mussels that will not stay closed when they’re pressed on should be tossed aside.  They’re most likely dead.   The photo below shows a mussel that has not yet been cooked, but refuses to keep it’s shell fastened shut.

Mussel won’t close before cooking? Throw that sucker out!

Once the mussels were sorted and scrubbed, it was time to de-beard ’em.

You see those nasty little string-like things poking out from the shell?  That’s the mussel’s beard.  I left this on until I was just about ready to toss them in my pot.  Removing them too soon could–and probably will–cause your mussel to die.

The easiest way to remove the beard is to just grab it and pull quickly.  I thought that some of the beards were really hard to remove, and patience is not something I’m known for, so I enlisted Piyush to help with this task.  I also don’t like killing things–not even mussels–but I guess that’s another issue all together.

After the mussels were cleaned, I still didn’t know exactly what I was going to make.  So I did what I always do when I don’t know what the heck I’m planning to make…

I diced an onion.


You’ve gotta start somewhere, right?

I looked in the fridge and found a green pepper, carrots and thai chilies.  I grabbed a couple potatoes, some frozen peas and some peeled roma tomatoes.  It was right then that I decided to make a mussel stew, similar to my bouillabaisse recipe.

I added some Indian spices and on a whim I decided to toss in some raw basmati rice.  It was absolutely brilliant.

Modesty, like patience, is not something I possess in large quantities…

Indian Inspired Mussel Pilaf

The mussels had so much flavor and the rice was incredibly fragrant.  Not only did this dish taste amazing, it was also relatively quick to make.  The entire meal took approximately an hour from start to finish.

Indian Inspired Mussel Pilaf

Now, before I post this recipe, I have to say that it is not an authentic Indian preparation.  It’s just inspired by my love of spice. 🙂

Serves 4


  • 1 lb. mussels– washed and de-bearded (see notes above)
  • 2 tbsp. oil (I used a mix of olive oil/ghee)
  • 1 large white onion- diced
  • 5 garlic cloves- crushed and minced (add less if you don’t like garlic a lot)
  • 1″ piece of fresh ginger- peeled, smashed and minced
  • 1 tsp. black mustard seeds
  • 4 thai chilies- slit (you may remove the membrane/seeds if you don’t like heat)
  • 1 large green bell pepper- diced
  • 2 medium potatoes- diced
  • 2 carrots- diced
  • 1/2 tsp. ground turmeric
  • 1 1/2 tsp. garam masala
  • 1 tsp. coriander powder
  • 1 tsp. cumin powder
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1″ small piece of cinnamon
  • 4 green cardamom pods- slightly crushed
  • 3 whole cloves
  • 2/3 c. dry white wine*
  • 14.5 oz. peeled roma tomatoes- diced (equivalent to 1 can store bought tomatoes)
  • 1 c. frozen peas
  • water- 1 c. to start
  • pinch of saffron
  • 1 c. basmati rice- rinsed
  • salt- to taste
  • pepper- to taste
  • fresh coriander (cilantro)- 2 handfuls, chopped (one for recipe, one for garnish)

*If you do not wish to use wine, you can use water.  No problem.


  • Heat oil in a large pot over medium-high heat.  Add black mustard seeds.  Once they start to sizzle, toss in the diced onion, green bell pepper, carrot, chili peppers and potatoes.  Lower heat to medium, and sweat the vegetables until they become soft and tender.
  • Add ginger and garlic. Also add the turmeric, garam masala, coriander powder, cumin powder, bay leaf, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves and 1 handful chopped coriander.  Cook for one to two minutes or until the raw smell disappears. Things should start sticking to the bottom of the pan, and you’ll notice things will turn a little brown.
  • De-glaze the pan with 2/3 cup of wine.  Stir everything really well and let this simmer for a few minutes or until the wine doesn’t smell so strong.  Add the tomatoes and cover the pan.  Let this cook for about 10 minutes, or until the tomatoes break down.
  • Add 1 c. water and a pinch of saffron.  Cover and let this simmer another 3-5 minutes.
  • Add the uncooked mussels to the tomato mixture and put the lid back on the pot.  Let the mussels steam for 5 minutes, then remove the lid.  Using a tongs, remove any mussels that have opened their shells and set them aside.  If there are any unopened mussels, place the lid back on the pot and let them steam an additional 2 minutes.  If they still do not open, they are most likely bad.  Toss them out.
  • Add 1 c. frozen peas.
  • Season with salt and pepper.
  • Add 1 c. raw basmati rice and an additional cup of water.  Cover the pot and let the rice cook.  After 10 minutes, check your rice.  Add more water, if needed.  The rice will take anywhere from 10-20 minutes to fully cook.
  • Once the rice is properly cooked, check the seasoning and add salt and pepper if needed.
  • Place the cooked mussels back into the pot of rice, place the lid back on the pot and turn off the heat.  Let the dish sit, covered for at least 3 to 4 minutes so the mussels re-heat.
  • Garnish with additional chopped coriander…and enjoy!

**NOTE**  I leave the whole spices in my dish, but if you would like you can remove them.  This can be difficult, but if you put all the whole spices in a little bag of cheesecloth before adding them to the pot it will make this task a lot easier.

I’ll get the printer-friendly recipe posted soon!

The only bad thing about this meal?

The lingering smell of the mussels.  Now my house is going to smell fishy for about a week.  Yuck.

Home-Style Chicken Masala (Indian-Spiced Chicken Stew)

It’s no secret that I love Indian food.  Love may even be an understatement.  Truthfully, I am obsessed with the cuisine!

Sure, I enjoy the typical restaurant fare: chicken tikka masala, saag paneer, and even heaps of naan slathered with ghee (clarified butter).  Yes,  I admitted it.  I love ghee.  But, that’s not the point…(**quickly changes topic**)

What I’m trying to say is that the restaurant stuff is good, but it doesn’t even hold a candle to the rustic and inventive food served in the Indian home.  There is absolutely no comparison.

The curries my mother-in-law (Maa) and my father-in-law (Baba) create aren’t just food.  No way.  If you could just have one taste, you’d understand; these curries are love.

Home-Style Chicken Masala

Continue reading

Asparagus Soup with Tarragon and Chèvre

It’s no secret that I love chèvre (goat cheese).  I’m always looking for ways to sneak goat cheese into my recipes…whether it be in a salad, a sauce or a soup.  It’s even the “secret” ingredient to my mashed potatoes.  Yum!

The other night I was trying to decide what to make for supper.  I didn’t really want to cook a whole lot, but I didn’t want to eat out.  I looked in the fridge and saw the beautiful asparagus I purchased at the farmer’s market last Saturday.  I wanted something vegetarian…and I wanted to make it a main-course.

Soup was the perfect (delicious) solution!

I accompanied the soup with some black garlic toasts.

Baguette slices, smothered with a black garlic goat’s butter,ccccc and toasted

To make the toasts, I simply sliced a baguette.  I chopped some black garlic and mixed it with some goat’s butter.

black garlic cloves

Goat Butter (this butter has a lower melting point than regular cow’s milk butter–therefore it’s not really all that awesome for baking cookies or things like that)

I melted the mixture and brushed it over the slices and laid them on a baking sheet–lined with parchment paper.  Then I popped the baguette slices in my oven that was set to broil.  I let them bake until they became golden and crispy—and delicious!

The soup was equally simple to prepare, and only took about 15 minutes.

cooking the shallots and asparagus with some tarragon

I simply sauteed shallots, asparagus and tarragon in some butter.  Then I added some goat cheese and veggie stock and blended everything until it was smooth.  I added a little dairy…and it was done!

asparagus soup with tarragon and goat cheese –served with black garlic toasts

Easy…and so, so good!

printer-friendly recipe

**note: sorry, I forgot to link the recipe to the printer icon.  It’s all fixed now!**

This soup would be super easy to freeze as well.  Just be sure to leave out the milk and half&half before freezing.  Once you’re ready to use it, allow it to thaw and then add the dairy at that point.

Pav Bhaji: Indian Vegetarian “Chili” with Spiced Buns

Across the United States, everyone has their favorite version of Chili–a thick stew made with peppers, beans, meat, tomatoes, and spices.

I grew up eating my Mom’s version of chili (which I have to say may be the best…).  Her’s included tomato sauce, pork and beans, lots of beef and absolutely no chunky vegetables.  Man, it’s tasty!  But once I met Piyush, the chili had to change!

Because Piyush is Indian and was raised Hindu, beef is not something he eats.  Mom tweaked her recipe a little and substituted the beef with ground turkey or venison.  Once Piyush took a bite–even he was in awe!  He said it reminded him of Pav Bhaji–a wildly popular Indian street food found all over Mumbai (he grew up in Mumbai).

Since Piyush and I have been married, I have changed my mom’s chili even more.  I’ve added chopped veggies and about 5 different kind of beans. And every single time Piyush takes his first bite, he always says the same 2 things.

“This isn’t as good as your moms.”


“This reminds me of Pav Bhaji.  You should make me Pav Bhaji.”

So…finally–after 3 years of marriage–I have made him Pav Bhaji.

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And he was happy. Continue reading

Coq Au Vin

Today I was craving Coq Au Vin.  I’m not really sure why I was craving it, because I’ve never actually had it before.  It just sounded good.  The weather has been dreary so something slow cooked sounded amazing.  I knew I wanted to use chicken and some veggies, but I didn’t want a hotdish or a casserole (yes, in MN they are 2 different things!).  All the sudden coq au vin popped into my head and I couldn’t get it out.  I looked up a couple recipes in some books I had and then decided to google it too, just in case.  I chose to use Ina Garten’s recipe.  I swear, if you really want to cook something good and know the results will be completely delicious, you want to turn to Ina.  Ina knows everything.

Her recipe called for a dry red wine and some cognac, so I headed to the wine shop.  The guy is always so nice and I won’t buy my wine anywhere else, if I can help it.  I told him I didn’t want to spend a lot of money but I wanted something with incredible flavor.  He picked out Crane Lake,  a Cabernet Sauvignon.  It was only $4.99…which made my pocketbook happy.  When I was paying he told me how pretty my drivers license picture is and that it is one of the best he’s seen….which made me happy.

Then it was off to the butcher shop.  I wish Rochester had a butcher shop with more variety, but what the Ye Olde Butcher Shoppe lacks in product, it makes up for in customer service.  People are just so nice!  I got 1/4 lb of their house smoked bacon and a 3.5lb chicken.  The guy offered to dice up the bacon for me (how did he know that’s what I was going to do with it?) and he chopped the chicken into 8 pieces for me.  Next time I’ll ask them to slice the breasts in half too, they were just huge!

I finally made it home after adventuring around town and running all sorts of errands.  I got some oil in the dutch oven and sliced an onion and some carrots while it all got nice and hot.  When the oil was hot I threw in the bacon and let it sizzle.  I’m not someone who loves bacon…I’m not even sure that I like it all that much…but this stuff from the butcher shop was like nothing I’ve ever tasted from the grocery store.  It had so much flavor!

Then it was time to brown the chicken.  I’ve never actually fried anything successfully in my life.  I don’t like fried food, so I don’t make fried food.  I needed the skin to be crispy though so I tossed it in the hot oil and hoped for the best.  It got some nice color but gosh!, hot oil sure makes a mess!!!

A glass of wine makes frying chicken a whole heck of a lot easier! 🙂

I love that Coq Au Vin is, for the most part, a one pot meal.  After I set the chicken aside, it was time to throw the sliced onion, carrots and garlic in.  I also love that Coq Au Vin requires ingredients that I usually have on hand.  I only had to buy 4 things to make this dish.

After the carrots got a little tender and the onions turned a little brown…I dumped in the cognac and added the bacon and chicken back into the dish.  I poured 1/2 the bottle of wine and 1 cup of delicious, homemade chicken stock into the pot.  I keep chicken stock in the freezer, frozen flat in ziplock bags.  It’s so easy to make and tastes a billion-trillion times better than store bought.  I had forgot to thaw some out so I simply ran hot water over the bag until I had a cup of liquid.  I set the rest aside to finish thawing.

so easy!

I added some thyme and parsley to the pot and then plopped the lid on and put it into a 250 degree (preheated) oven.  I forgot about it for about 40 minutes…during which I made 3 batches of butter-cream frosting for a wedding cake I’m working on tomorrow.  Making the frosting is the worst part!  I absolutely hate it, but now it’s over so I’m feeling a little better about it.  🙂  I also tossed 5 small red potatoes into a pot of boiling water.  When they were done cooking I drained the liquid into a jar.  You want to keep that stuff!  It makes awesome bread.

Make sure to slap a label on it! It looks almost the same as chicken stock!

I threw a little butter into a pan and once it got hot, tossed in 3 fat cloves of garlic.  I sauted for a little while until the garlic was cooked.  Added in some chives and the potatoes, and then smashed away!!!  I added a little of the potato water to the potatoes along with a few ounces of goat cheese, because everything is better with goat cheese!!!

Back to the Coq au Vin.  I chopped the stems off the mushrooms and sliced them pretty thick.

I sauted them in 1tbsp of butter until they were nice and tender…but not overcooked!  The cooked mushrooms and some peeled pearl onions  (definitely buy these frozen….or else they’re just a pain in the ass!) got tossed into the pot and left to simmer awhile with everything else.  It was really that easy!!!  I think it took me about an hour and a half from start to finish—including the time it was chillin’…errr…cookin’ in the oven.

time to dig in!

so good that there was nothin' but chicken bones left!

Find Ina’s recipe for Coq Au Vin HERE.

Garlic-Goat Cheese Mashed Potatoes

(about 6 servings)

  • about 5 small to medium red potatoes, skin on.
  • 1tbsp. butter
  • reserved potato water
  • salt
  • pepper
  • chives, chopped
  • 3 fat garlic cloves, minced
  • goat cheese, to your taste


  • Boil some water in a large pot.  Once it’s boiling add in the potatoes.  Allow them to boil for about 20 minutes or until tender.
  • Strain potatoes from water, reserving water for later.
  • Heat 1tbsp butter in a pot and add the garlic.  Saute until it’s cooked.  Add the chives and the potatoes.  Mash the potatoes until they are a smooth consistency.
  • Add in the goat cheese—to your taste, and keep mashing.  Add salt and pepper.
  • Keep mashing, adding reserved potato water a little at a time until you get super smooth, yummy mashed potatoes!

Goat Cheese Mashed Potatoes

Now…time to relax, finish my glass of wine and watch Teen Mom.  Ahhh!  Tuesday nights!

Bouillabaisse: Something Smells Fishy!

Today was a productive day!  I had went to a cable class last night at the gym and was really, really hurting this morning.  I feel muscles that I usually forget I have.  As much as I wanted to just laze around and relax I decided that I should go back to the gym today and do some cardio and stretching for my very sore legs.  I am very glad I decided to go, but I’m still awfully sore.  After I finished at the gym I stopped at the grocery store to buy some seafood for making Bouillabaisse.  Piyush was requesting I make it and I was kind of craving it so it seemed like a good night to learn to cook seafood.  I’ve never really cooked seafood much before so I was a little nervous, but it was so easy!!!  I was really intimidated by the mussels and clams, but I ended up showing them who was boss and they opened with no issues.


What, exactly, is Bouillabaisse?

Bouillabaisse is a French style seafood soup, and it is yummy!  In a traditional bouillabaisse there are at least 3 different types of fish, most which are not available in Rochester, Minnesota.  The broth is flavored with vegetables, shellfish, herbs and spices.  Saffron is a spice that usually plays a large part in the flavor of the bouillabaisse and although it is quite expensive (the priciest spice in the world!), I don’t recommend leaving it out.  The name bouillabaisse comes from the way the dish is prepared.  The ingredients are cooked separately and are not added all at one time.  The broth is boiled first and then the fish are added one by one.  Each time the broth comes to a boil the heat is lowered.


This recipe was inspired by the Bouillabaisse I had at Zzest a few weeks ago.  I  knew most of the ingredients to use but had no idea of the quantities or the techniques.  I just bought what I knew I needed and a few other things that I thought would work well.  It took about an hour and a half, most of that time was spent letting the broth simmer and develop the flavor.  And let me tell you, this seafood stew is amazing!  It tasted just as good as what you would get at a restaurant.


I don’t really measure things when I cook but I tried my best to estimate and write down what I did so that I can make this many more times!

Piyush liked it so much that he even gave me an A+, and he never gives anything an A+.  Usually he has so many opinions on everything I cook.   This dinner was the perfect way to end the day.  I had a nice, big glass of wine—a red from Cannon Falls, MN.  Its called “Gunflint Red” and it is wonderful!  It sort of reminds me of a malbec.  It’s a little peppery and paired wonderful with the Bouillabaisse.

Its a good thing he enjoyed his dinner, it made so much that we'll be eating it for a couple days!

The Recipe

  • 1 white onion, diced
  • 1 green pepper, chopped
  • About 2 large red potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 4 fat garlic cloves, minced
  • about 1 c. dry white wine, maybe even more?
  • 28oz. chopped plum tomatoes + juice
  • large pinch of saffron
  • salt/pepper to season
  • about 1/2 c. flat leaf parsley, chopped very fine
  • bunch of chopped chives
  • olive oil, as needed
  • zest of 1 orange
  • scallops, jumbo shrimp, mussels, clams, ect. (I used the previous in addition to a 1lb. cod fillet) –amount based on how many servings you are making


  • Heat some olive oil in a heavy dutch oven.  Once it gets hot add the potatoes, onions, garlic, green pepper and orange zest.  Cover and sweat everything until it’s tender and perfect!
  • Deglaze the pan with the white wine.  Stir it together and bring to a boil.
  • Add the tomatoes, parsley and chives.  Simmer, stirring occasionally until the broth looks rich and soup-like.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  The broth will taste a little “off” at this point.  The wine will be strong and so will the acidity from the tomatoes.  That’s okay.
  • Add about 1 cup of water and the pinch of saffron.  Let the saffron steep for about 10 minutes.  Stir everything together and give it another taste.  Add more saffron if you want.  Don’t add a lot right away though because it’s pretty strong and can be very overwhelming.
  • Turn the flame to about med-high and add the clams/mussels into the broth.  Cover the dutch oven and let them cook (about 3 minutes).  When they open, remove them with tongs and place them into a bowl.  Set this aside.
  • While the broth simmers along, deepening the flavor, start cooking the seafood individually.
  • When your scallops are perfectly seared and your shrimps are a pretty pink, put everything back into the broth and let it simmer about 15 minutes or until everything is heated through.

Serve with some grilled bread and a stellar wine!  Enjoy!

Piyush's dinner, before he dived in!

If you decide to have an amazing bouillabaisse dinner, make sure you add an empty bowl to your table.  You’re going to need a place to get rid of all those shells!

And now I’m going to go watch Teen Mom.  …Don’t judge me! 🙂