Pizzas and Pastas

Pizza cupcakes

Pizza Cupcakes
Pizza Cupcakes

I am one of those moms who want my kids to learn cooking. I do not expect them to cook any elaborate dishes if they don’t wish to, but atleast they should be able to feed themselves some fresh homemade food. I have been giving Ishaan little jobs in the kitchen whenever I can. He now gets excited when I ask him for “help”.
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Few days back we had a get together and we planned for make-your-own pizza for kids. I took the base, another friend got sauces and toppings. We rolled the bases and gave them their individual small bases. They cut them into different shapes with big cookie cutters, added whatever they wanted on the pizza. We baked the pizzas for them. They all were thrilled. Ishaan is huge fan of this idea. Since then he has been asking me to make pizzas every week.

This time I thought of making it a little different. We baked them in cupcakes. I did not know how they would come out. Ishaan loved to put sauce, toppings and cheese on them. They came out so delicious. Both the kids loved to eat them for dinner and they even took them in lunchboxes next day. I may make regularly now instead of normal pizzas.
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Pictorial:
Brush a cupcake pan with butter. Line each cup with pizza base.
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Brush the base with butter and cover and let it rise for another 30mins. Bake in preheated oven at 400F for 6mins.
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Add the sauce (I used a mix of marinara and basil pesto) and toppings.

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Top with cheese and bake at 400F for 15mins. I took them out of the pan and baked them for another 7mins.
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Pizza cupcakes

Pizzas bakes in cupcake pans
4 from 1 vote
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Total Time 55 minutes
Servings 24 cupcakes

Ingredients
  

  • For pizza dough
  • 1 pack active dry yeast
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour I use multigrain atta
  • 2 and 1/2 cups approx all purpose flour
  • 1 tbl spn butter
  • 1 tea spn honey
  • 1 tea spn dired oregano
  • Olive oil
  • Salt
  • For topping
  • Sauce
  • Corn
  • Bellpepper
  • Tomato
  • Paneer marinated in chilli powder and salt and then fried
  • Mozzarella cheese

Instructions
 

  • Take 1/2 cup lukewarm water and add honey, yeast to it.
  • Leave it aside till it becomes frothy (yeast gets active).
  • Now add remaining water, salt, wheat flour, oregano, melted butter and mix. (I sue stand mixer for this).
  • Gradually add remaining flour till the mixture comes into a dough but still very sticky.
  • Now take the dough on a floured surface and knead for a min.
  • Put the dough in a big bowl (I just use the stand mixer bowl), add 1-2 tea spns olive oil and move the dough around to coat with oil.
  • Leave the bowl covered till it doubles in volume (around 1 and 1/2 to 2 hrs.
  • Now punch the dough down to remove all the air.
  • Make small balls and roll them into rounds (as thick as stuffed paratha).
  • Brush cupcake pan with butter.
  • Now line each cup with the dough, brush with oil/butter, cover with a wet towel or plastic wrap and leave for about 30mins.
  • Preheat the oven for 400F (I keep a pizza stone in the middle rack, the stone helps to get crispy crust) , Keep the pan in hot oven and bake for about 5-6mins (I didn't want the dough becoming too soggy, so baked for few mins).
  • For the sauce, I used a mix of marinara sauce and basil pesto, use any desired sauce.
  • I microwaved the frozen corn and bellpepper cut into small pieces for about 1 mins.
  • I marinated paneer in chilli powder, salt and then shallow fried for few minutes.
  • Now add a tea spn of sauce in each cup, add corn, bellpepper, paneer, top with cheese and bake at 400F for 15mins.
  • I then removed the cupcakes from pan and bake them on the pizza stone for another 7-8mins.

 

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Spicy Pizza Pockets (Spicy Calzones)

spicy pizza pockets
We are pizza fans,  instead of going out and eating pizzas, I have started making them at home frequently. I make the pizza dough with one pack yeast (with recipe given below), use half of it and freeze remaining half. So we have pizzas once in a week or two. Making everything at home gives me enough options to customize it the way I want. I usually completely skip cheese. Sometimes I use marinated paneer as topping, sometimes I use basil pesto instead of traditional tomato pizza sauce.

Last week, when I wanted to make something different, I thought about calzone. I have been thinking about making them for so long, but somehow never did. I made a spicy stuffing with loads of vegetables. Unlike the traditional stuffing where cheese is normally used along with other stuff, I left out cheese. These came out so delicious. V kept asking why I had not tried them before. They were like baked cousins of samosas. I will be making these more frequently with different stuffing.

Pizza dough:

1 pack active dry yeast
1 and 1/2 cups whole wheat flour (or atta)
2 cups all purpose flour (or maida)
1/2 tea spn dried oregano
1 tea spn brown sugar or honey
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tbl spn butter
1 egg (optional, use water
Salt

Method:
Heat the water till it is lukewarm (I just microwave it for 15 secs), ie, till it is warm to touch.
Add sugar or honey to water and add the yeast. Keep is aside for about 5-10mins till the water becomes frothy (indicating the yeast it active).
Now add all other ingredients and mix well. Once it becomes a dough, knead the dough very well for 8-10mins. I make the dough in my KitchenAid stand mixer with dough hook.
Apply some olive oil to a big bowl and keep the dough in it covered.
Leave it in a warm place for 2-3 hrs till the dough doubles in volume.
Now use the dough to make pizza.

Spicy Stuffing:
2 cups vegetables (celery, carrots, peas, onions, corn, broccoli)
1/4 cup chopped tomato
1 tea spn dried fenugreek leaves (kasuri methi)
1/2 tea spn chilli powder
1/2 tea spn garam masala
A pinch turmeric
1 tea spn chopped garlic
Oil
Salt

Method:
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Heat oil and fry garlic. Then add onion, celery, carrots. Fry for few minutes.
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Add chilli powder, turmeric, garam masala and fry.
Add tomatoes, salt, mix and let it cook till the mixture is dry.
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Now add remaining vegetables – peas, corn, broccoli. Cover and let it cook on a medium low flame. When all vegetables are cooked, take the kasuri methi on the palm and slightly crush with fingers and add to the vegetables. Mix well.

Assembling :
Preheat the oven at 400F for 10mins.
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Take small balls of dough and roll them into 1/4 inch circles.
Keep 2 tbl spn of stuffing on one half and fold the other half on top like a moon. Press the edges to seal.
Brush the top with water (which gives the color when baked), sprinkle a little salt and chili flakes(optional).
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Bake in 400F oven for about 15mins or till the top is golden brown. (I opened the oven at around 10mins and brushed the tops with water once again and kept them back).
Then I turned them upside down, brushed the other side with water and baked again for 5mins just to make sure they got crispy from other side too (this is optional step).
Brush the top with a little olive oil for some extra taste. Serve hot.
I used half of the dough which made 5 calzones.

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PS: – This is just a method more than a recipe. Experiment with different stuffing and any store bought/homemade pizza dough.
– The stuffing was so tasty, I served the left overs with chapatis next day. It will go well with any bread, naan, rotis, chapatis or simple curd rice.
– Serve them hot right out of oven for best results.
– Make sure the stuffing is very dry. Any moisture in it would soak the dough.
– Make them smaller and serve as starters at parties, they will surely win many hearts.
– Above dough recipe can be used to make pizzas. It makes delicious and soft pizza base.

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Stuffed Pasta Shells with Ricotta-Tofu-Spinach Filling

stuffed pasta shells
We are a family of Italian food lovers. While V almost always takes angel hair pasta when we are at any Italian restaurant, I have tried most of the different options available. I love different cheese stuffed pastas/lasagnas, but I feel really guilty about eating them. I wanted to find out a good alternative to all the cheese, without changing the taste. Then last week, I watched a cooking show where Laura used tofu in the stuffing. I was not paying attention, so I don’t remember if she used only tofu or mixed something else with it. I loved her idea of using tofu. Now, I can make these stuffed shells/lasagnas without feeling too guilty about eating so much cheese. I am still not ready to move completely to tofu filling – I still love the cheese, so I am going to continue mixing both as of now.

Instead of plain tomato sauce, I use my vegetable-tomato sauce – I use a little tomato paste to make it thick. We loved it, so I am going to make this once in a while.

Ingredients:
15 jumbo pasta shells
4 oz (approx) ricotta cheese
4 oz (approx) soft tofu
2 tbl spn + 1/4 cup parmesan cheese
1 cup spinach
1/4 cup onions
1/2 tea spn dried basil (optional)
Olive oil
Salt
1 and 1/2 cups (approx) pasta sauce – I use homemade sauce

Method:
Cook the pasta shells according to instructions on the packet.
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Heat olive oil and add onions and salt. When they become translucent, switch off heat and add chopped spinach. Cover and leave for few minutes.  Then mix it well. Let it cool.
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Now in a bowl, crumble tofu, ricotta cheese. Add 2 tbl spn parmesan cheese, spinach mixture, basil, salt and mix well.
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Stuff the pasta shells with the mixture.
Preheat oven at 350F for about 10 mins.
In a oven safe dish, spread half of the pasta sauce. Line the stuffed shells on top. Then spread another layer of remaining sauce. Spread parmesan cheese on top.
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Cover the dish with aluminum foil. Bake at 350F for 30mins.
Then remove the aluminum foil and bake for another 10 mins.
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Serve hot.

Serves :3
Preparation time : 20 mins + baking time

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Tomato Vegetable Pasta Sauce For Ravioli / Spaghetti

tomato veg pasta sauce

I get many requests to post kid friendly recipes. Ishaan starting eating what we eat from a very young age. There are many things that he does not want to touch – like most of the vegetables. But I always serve him everything that I have prepared. I give him very small quantities, sometimes I ask him to serve food by his own. He tries a little bit some days and other days he does not want to do anything with the vegetables. I am hoping, he will soon start trying new things. He is more open to pastas though. So I experiment a lot with different pastas and pasta sauces.

I have always loved Ravioli. So I introduced it to Ishaan and he loved it too. I usually buy these from the frozen section of grocery stores. I have tried raviolis with different fillings – like cheese, winter squash etc. I am not sure how he will like the spinach filling, yet to try that. I normally buy Ravioletti – which are miniature versions of Raviolis. I make the sauce at home by adding lot of veggies. When he was much younger, he would pick up the green bits from the sauce and throw them down. Now he does not mind them anymore. I use the same sauce for spaghetti also. He loves to serve himself and add the parmesan cheese on top :). The measurements are approximates only. Change them according to your choice. Sometimes I make this sauce in big batch and freeze some to use later.

Ingredients:
2-3 big tomatoes or 1 can tomato paste
1/2 cup zucchini grated
1/2 cup green bell pepper (capsicum) cut into small pieces
1/2 tea spn dried basil or 6-7 fresh leaves
1/4 tea spn black pepper
1/2 tea spn chopped garlic
Olive oil/butter
Spaghetti/Ravioli
Oil
Parmesan cheese

Method:

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Blanch the tomatoes – bring a pot of water to boil, add the tomatoes. Remove the skin and blend to a smooth paste. You can also use canned tomato paste.
Heat oil/butter and add all chopped and grated vegetables, garlic. Cook till they become soft.

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Now add the tomato paste, basil, pepper, salt. Let it cook covered for 3-4 mins.

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Cook Ravioli or Spaghetti in salted water according to package instructions. Add them to the sauce.
Serve hot topped with Parmesan cheese. I also add some pieces of butter for the kid.

tomato veg pasta sauce

Preparation time : 20mins

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Vegetable Mac and Cheese

vegetable mac n cheese

Ishaan started going to daycare at a very young age. When he was around 1 year old, they made him sit on his highchair to eat. He was all excited about feeding himself at that age. I was not a very big fan of the food provided at daycare – especially lunch, most of which was non-vegetarian. I buy mostly Organic vegetables/chicken, so the thought of him eating something else everyday at daycare was not easy to digest for me. I started sending his lunch boxes (luckily this was the only daycare which allowed us to send food!). There were hits and misses, some days he would eat everything and some days he refused to touch food. Once in two weeks, they had mac and cheese on the menu. The teachers there gave him a little bit of it to him and he would happily eat it. That’s how his love for mac and cheese started. Soon it became the one dish that he would eat without fuss anywhere. Since it is a part of most of the kid menus here in US, it made us easier to eat at restaurants. I never gave him mac and cheese at home, he would eat it only outside.

But then, I wanted to start making it at home. As most of my friends know, I am very fond of making things from scratch. Somehow I almost always messed up the sauce. Since it is the single most important part of this recipe, the entire dish gets spoiled when the sauce is not good. Finally a tip that I read somewhere on the internet helped me. "You have to add the cheese after switching off the heat". That was such a big help.

The inspiration for vegetable mac and cheese came from none other than Ishaan himself!!. Our latest favorite restaurant is Sweet Tomatoes – it has soups and salad buffet. He loves mac and cheese there. I have watched them make it many times. They make a smooth sauce and add it to macaroni. They mix it all and keep it in a hot pan. I give him some vegetables like peas, corn etc in one plate and mac and cheese in another. He recently started adding peas,corn to mac and cheese before eating!. Wow, my little chef!!. So I started making this version at home and he loved it. First time he picked all zucchini pieces and threw them away, but next time it didn’t bother him so much. V and I love this because of vegetables.

The quantities mentioned below are approximates. I do not measure any ingredients. While serving it to Ishaan, I just add some spoons of butter.

Ingredients:
1 and 1/2 cups elbow macaroni
1 cup mild cheddar cheese + about 2 tbl spn for topping
1/2 cup milk
1 tbl spn all purpose flour
1 tea spn butter
1/4 tea spn pepper + 1/4 tea spn red pepper flakes
1/2 tea spn dried basil
1/2 cup tomato
1/2 cup carrots
1/2 cup zucchini
Olive oil
1/2 cup peas and corn (not in pictures)
1/4 cup parmesan cheese (optional)
Salt

Method:
Cook macaroni according to package instructions. Keep it aside.
Cook carrots in little water.
In a bowl, combine tomato, zucchini, peas, corn, dried basil, little salt, little olive oil, pepper, red pepper flakes and microwave for 2mins. This can also be done on stove top if you wish.
In a thick bottomed pan, melt butter. Add flour and mix. Let the flour cook, but do not burn it. Very important step.
Now add the milk and let the sauce thicken. Take off the heat. Add cheddar cheese and mix very well till all cheese is melted. If you add the cheese too soon, the sauce will separate, so be very careful. Needs some trial and error to get this right. The sauce has to be very smooth.
Preheat the oven at 350F.
Now in a oven safe dish (lightly apply olive oil to the dish), mix macaroni, carrots, vegetables, sauce. Mix them. Top it off with remaining 2 tbl spn cheddar cheese and parmesan cheese. Bake in the oven at 350F for about 6-7mins till cheese is melted. (This step can be done on a stove top instead of oven if you do not want to use oven). I mix everything with a spoon as soon as it comes out of oven to get a smooth consistency.

Serves : 3-4
Preparation time : 40mins

Pictorial:

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Baked Pasta With Chicken And Vegetables Casserole

baked pasta with chicken-veg

I am trying to include more chicken into our diet. Although I mostly make Indian dishes at home, once in a week, I experiment with new dishes. This was one such dish which came out really well. If you are a vegetarian, you can leave out chicken in this, it will still taste very good. It is a rich and creamy dish we absolutely loved.

Ingredients:
1/2 lb tender tender chicken
1/2 lb small cut pasta
1 cup vegetables – onion, corn, carrot, red bellpepper
Dried basil, red chilli flakes flakes – according to taste
1 cup cheddar cheese
1/2 cup tomato
Olive oil/butter
1/2 tea spn pepper
1 tbl spn whipping cream
Salt

Method:
Apply salt and pepper to chicken pieces and grill them till they are done.
Cook the pasta according to package instructions and keep it aside.
Heat olive oil/butter and add corn, carrot, onions, bellpepper. Add some salt, basil, chilli flakes. Cover and cook for few minutes till the vegetables are soft.
Preheat the oven at 350F.
Take an oven safe dish. Spread the vegetables. Then the chicken, followed by pasta. Spread the cream on it, followed by cheese. Spread tomato on top.
Bake in the oven for about 8-10mins till the cheese is melted.
Serve hot.

Serves : 3-4
Preparation time : 40mins

Pictorial:

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baked pasta with chicken-veg

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Pasta With Artichokes

pasta with artichokes

I had never tasted artichokes before coming to US. But it was love at first bite. I am yet to try the fresh one. I use either frozen or canned ones. I like to add it as a topping for pizza or put it in some pasta dish. This one is so far our favorite pasta dish.

Ingredients:
1/2 packet angel hair pasta
1/2 tbl spn butter/olive oil
1/2 cup cherry tomatoes cut into half
1/2 cup chopped artichoke hearts
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
1 tea spn chopped garlic
Chopped basil leaves
Pepper
Salt

Method:
Bring water to boi with salt and a drop of olive oil.
Heat butter (or olive oil) and add onion, garlic. Fry till they are trnslucent (do not brown them). Add tomatoes, artichokes, a little sat.
Add pasta, parmesan cheese, pepper, basil leaves. Toss all the pasta.
Serve sprinkled with little cheese and basil.

Serves : 2-3
Preparation time : 30mins

Pictorial:

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pasta with artichokes

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Vegetable Pasta

vegetable pasta

Lately I have been getting lot of emails/comments requesting me to post pasta recipes. My son is 11 months old now and likes to eat only the things that he can pick up from his fingers. At his daycare, they encourage him to eat by himself. Even though they provide food, I pack his lunch. I usually send pastas loaded with vegetables or parathas.

I have used different pastas in this recipe. I have tried egg noodles, small penne pasta, farfelle, macaroni etc. I usually buy whole wheat pasta. I cook the pasta till it is soft, so that he can eat it easily. I use different vegetables to make it taste different.

I used to buy marinara sauce earlier. Then I asked the expert. And as usual, he did not disappoint. Pelicano gave me a very easy recipe for marinara sauce and I have stopped buying the sauce ever since. Never knew making this sauce was so easy. I usually make the sauce once a week and refrigerate it, since I have not attempted canning so far.

Here is how I make the marinara sauce – Bring a pot of water to boil. Add tomatoes in it and leave for couple of minutes. Then take them out of water and peel them. Break the tomatoes with fingers. Now in a pan, heat a little olive oil. Add a clove of garlic and cook it for a minute. Do not burn it. Add the tomatoes, dried basil, pepper, a little sugar (optional, was not in original recipe, I add it sometimes for my son) and salt. Cook till the sauce thickens. Cool to room temperature, then put in a air tight container and refrigerate.

Ingredients:
1/2 lb any small cut pasta like farfarelle or penne or egg noodles
1 cup marinara sauce
1 cup long strips of vegetables like sweet potato, carrot, capsicum(bellpepper), onion, peas
Butter or Olive oil
1 garlic clove(optional)
Salt
Parmesan cheese (optional)

Method:
In a thick bottomed pan, heat butter or olive oil. Add the vegetables, garlic, stir fry till they are soft. Now add the marinara sauce, mix well.
Add the pasta and mix.
Spread cheese (optional). I usually do not add cheese for my son.

Serves : 3-4
Preparation time : 15mins

 

Pictorial:

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Vegetable Lasagna – 2

More than 2 years ago, I had posted a recipe of Vegetable Lasagna which was more of my own experiment. This time I am back with another recipe which was given to me by my friend Cindy.

About 1 year ago, Cindy had invited us for a lunch at her place. Though she usually prepares meat dishes, she made vegetarian food for us. She knew I am a lasagna lover, so she made this for me. I became an instant fan. On my request, she sent me the recipe. Somehow, I never got to try this until recently.

Llast month, one of my colleagues asked me if I can make vegetable lasagna. He wanted to bring lasagna for our entire group. But he didn’t know how to make vegetarian version. We have about 4-5 vegetarians in the group. Since I had not tried it for more than 2 years, I wasn’t very sure if I can pull it off.

So first I made a small batch with Cindy’s recipe. It came out fantastic. Next, I made a whole batch for our group. I asked for some tips to get a beautiful top. Thanks to my friends, colleague and internet resources, I could make a very nice lasagna. Even the meat eaters in the group enjoyed it. It got over in minutes, I wish I had made a bigger batch. Soon, within one week, I made it once more for us. This recipe is a keeper.

The original recipe called for unpeeled eggplant. But sometimes eggplants have a slight bitter taste near the peels. So one of my batches turned slightly bitter(the one when I took these pictures). So I am going to peel it hereafter. The canned tomatoes make a lot of difference due to their concentrated flavor.

Things to improve : Next time, I need to mix the ricotta cheese very well with other cheeses before spreading it. I was getting impatient, so didn’t take time to mix well. Also, I need to wait till the lasagna cools down before digging into it(you can tell that from the above picture. I could not wait until it reached room temperature) :).

Ingredients:
4 cups eggplant, peeled & diced
2 cups yellow squash, unpeeled & diced
2 cups zuchini, unpeeled & diced
1 cup chopped onion
6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
28 ounces crushed canned tomatoes
12 ounces tomato canned paste
Salt
1 tsp sugar
3 tea spn chopped fresh basil or 1 tea spn dred basil
2 tea spn fresh oregano leaves or about 1/2 tea spn dried oegano
15 ounces ricotta cheese, part skim milk (I used low fat version)
2 cups mozzarella cheese, part skim milk, shredded
1 large egg, beaten (I did not use it)
9 lasagna noodles, cooked
2 tbl spn grated Parmesan cheese

Method:
In large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add eggplant, zuchini, squash, onions and garlic. Cook, stirring, 5 minutes. Bring to boil, reduce heat to low, cover and simmer until eggplant is tender.
Preheat oven to 350 F.
In another bowl, stir together both tomato paste and crushed tomatoes, 1 teaspoon salt and the sugar, basil and oregano.
Combine ricotta, mozzarella, egg(if using), 1 teaspoon salt and the parmesan in large bowl.
Bring water to boil in large saucepan, Add salt and cook noodles.

Putting everything together:
Spray the 9 x 13-inch baking sheet with a little cooking spray(optional). Spoon 1/3rd eggplant sauce in the baking dish. Layer with 3 lasagna noodles and 1/3rd tomato mixture, 1/3rd cheese mixture. Repeat layers until all layers are finished. Sprinkle with Parmesan and some mozzarella cheese. Cover the baking dish with a silver foil (poke 2-3 small holes to the silver foil) and for 30 to 40 minutes, until all cheese melts. Take out, discard the silver foil and bake again for about 1-2mins. Take out from oven and keep rest it for about 1hr before cutting into it.
Refrigerate remaining lasagna. Next day, it becomes much more easier to cut.

Serves: 8
Preparation time : 90mins

Pictorial:

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Baked halibut

baked halibut
While growing up in coastal India, we always had luxury of getting very fresh fish. Though I don’t miss it much, V misses the Sunday fish lunches very much. So last time when we went to buy fish, I remembered a baked fish which I had seen on TV many times. We came home with Halibut (Please do not ask me what is this fish called in one of Indian languages, I have no idea).

This was the first time we tasted this fish and I just made up the recipe from what I remembered watching on Food Network sometime ago. It came out delicious. I served it with fettuccine pasta with white sauce. It made a nice dinner.

Its mostly a method, not an exact recipe, you can change, mix and match ingredients to suit your taste.

Baked Halibut:
Preheat the oven at 300F for about 10mins.
Take the halibut piece on a parchment paper or silver foil.
Season generously with salt and pepper.
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In a bowl, mix together onion, tomato, chopped garlic, chopped black olives, red pepper flakes, chopped jalapeños, red pepper flakes and little salt.
Pile about 2 tbl spns of mixture on the fish piece. Top with few fresh basil leaves.
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Fold the foil/paper over the fish.
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Bake in the hot oven at 300F for about 30-40mins or till the fish is completely cooked.
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Serve with pasta.

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