Super Duper Delicious Sundried Tomato-Basil Dip

I genuinely love writing about food.  It doesn’t matter how many people I reach, it’s just therapeutic to put down what I feel about food and to share recipes that have worked fantastically for me! Over the last few months, I have been at a crossroads – my small social media and digital marketing agency has taken off really well and that leaves me with very little time to blog! I’m hoping I can change this by installing a WordPress app on my phone to let me blog whenever I have a few minutes! This post is the first using this new app as I head to Bombay. 

Chips and dip are a classic combination! I think it takes a lot of will power for someone to turn down this combo! Perhaps it’s more attractive and comforting because it is enjoyed best when shared with friends and family. Whenever I think of chips and dip, I think of happy faces, casual seating and lots of laughter!

It also reminds me of the time my mom came to visit me in Monterey, where I was studying. She had just come down from India and was rather jet lagged. At 4 AM, I hear a ‘crunch, crunch’ sound breaking the deafening silence of the town. I head to the kitchen to find my mom with a giant pack of chips and a tub of Artichoke-Cheese Dip, seemingly pleased and in a trance! It’s an incident that my brother and I often laugh about while my mom dishes out weak defences every time.. If I concentrate, I can still hear the crunching of the chips and her sheepish look that morning!

This Sundried Tomato-Basil Dip is fabulous!! It’s creamy, tangy and can be made spicy. Perfect for our Indian palates and goes really well with our packaged Salted Chips. I cut out all the mayo and sour cream from the original recipehttp://m.allrecipes.com/recipe/81396/sun-dried-tomato-dip/?page=0 and substituted it with some thick, hung curd. I did keep some of the cream cheese, but reduced the quantity to keep it lower in fat.

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Sundried Tomato-Basil Dip

Ingredients

3 TBSP Cream Cheese (I use Brittania), at room temperature
1/2 Cup Thick, hung curd
1/3 cup chopped, Sundried Tomatos
2 garlic cloves
1/4 TSP ground pepper
Few dashes of Tobasco sauce
1/4 cup fresh Basil, roughly chopped
1 TSP Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Salt, to taste

Method

1. Rehydrate the sundried tomatoes by letting them soak in a bowl of hot water for 15 minutes.
2. Once the tomatoes have rehydrated, strain the water, keeping 3 TBSP reserved, and let them cool slightly.
3. Add the garlic, pepper, salt, tomatoes in the blender, with a little of the reserved water, and blend till smooth.
4. Then add the cream cheese, curd and Tobasco to the mix and blend again.
5. Finally, add the chopped basil and blend till smooth. Taste the dip for seasoning and adjust to your preference.
6. Remove the dip in a bowl and drizzle the olive oil over the surface. Keep in the refrigerator until ready to serve!

Enjoy this dip with pita chips, potato chips or tortilla chips!

Notes:
I used completely dehydrated Sub Dried tomatoes rather than those preserved in oil to reduce the fat and calorie content.
This dip cannot be stored for too long (2 days, at most) and must be refrigerated!

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Shahi Paneer Recipe – The Low-Cal version!

I love paneer. It is a very common Indian farmer’s cheese in India and is often called ‘farmer’s cottage cheese’ in menu descriptions in restaurants across India. I decided to do some research and discovered  a few differences between paneer and cottage cheese:

  • Cottage cheese is salted while paneer is unsalted
  • Paneer is usually ‘pressed’ to give it a firm shape. Cottage cheese is not pressed and is left ‘chunky’
  • Cottage cheese is made using milk that has been curdled using ‘rennet’ while to make paneer, the milk is curdled using lemon/lime juice or some citric acid.

I can’t decide if the restaurants’ menu descriptions are right or wrong. What do you think?

Any ways, paneer is an excellent source of protein for vegetarians and if it is made with low-fat milk and is not fried, it is a very healthy milk product. Nutritionists in India tend to recommend it to vegetarians to help improve their protein intake. It’s great for growing children and the taste is wonderful so they tend to lap it up. My brother and I love it and we have to order something which has paneer in it when we go to an Indian restaurant!

Since I started working, I have very little time to go out and eat and I tend to cook a few of my favorite foods at home like this Shahi Paneer. Shahi literally means royal and this dish, traditionally is made with cream, fried paneer pieces and exotic spices like bay leaves, cardamom, cashew nuts and some saffron. Now, if I did put all those ingredients in my version of the Shahi Paneer and I ate it 2 times a week, my nutritionist would throw me out of her office. Here is my low cal version of the same dish. All the delicious flavors, fewer calories and a lower fat content.

Shahi Paneer – The Low Cal Way

Ingredients:

  1. Paneer – 200 gms; cut in cubes
  2. Ginger – 1/2″ grated
  3. Garlic – 2 to 3 cloves, chopped finely
  4. 2 tomatoes – chopped
  5. 1/2 teaspoon turmeric (haldi)
  6. 1/2 teaspoon chilli powder (adjust to your tastes)
  7. 1 teaspoon cardamom (eliachi) powder
  8. 1/2 teaspoon garam masala
  9. 1/2 teaspoon jeera (cumin seed) powder
  10. 1 teaspoon jeera (cumin) seeds
  11. 1-2 bay leaves
  12. a small pinch of nutmeg powder
  13. Salt, to taste
  14. 2 tablespoons tomato ketchup
  15. 1 cup yogurt, beaten
  16. 1/2 cup milk (slightly warmed)
  17. 2 teaspoons of oil (if using a non stick vessel)

Steps:

  • Heat the oil in a non stick wok on a medium flame for a minute and add the bay leaves. Once the leaves begin crackling, add the cumin and cardamom seeds to it. Wait for the seeds to start releasing their flavors, about 15 seconds if the oil is hot enough
  • Add the ginger and garlic and allow to cook for 1-2 minutes
  • Add the tomatoes to the wok and mix them in well with the cumin seeds, ginger and garlic. Cover and allow to cook for 5 minutes, checking periodically on them. Add the tomato ketchup to the tomatoes and let it cook for another 2 minutes.
  • Once the tomatoes are nice and soft, add the turmeric powder, chilli powder, garam masala, cumin seed powder and the nutmeg powder. Stir them all in. If the mixtures looks very dry, add half a cup of water and allow to cook for 3 more minutes.
  • Next add the yogurt to the tomato-masala mix and let it boil for 5-7 minutes.
  • Once the yogurt mixture has reduced, add the cubes of paneer. You can deep fry them if you like, but since I like to keep it low cal, I use the paneer raw.
  • Turn the heat off and add the milk. Stir and serve immediately.

Notes:

– I don’t eat onions (don’t like the taste) which is why I have omitted them in this recipe. You will not find onions in most of the recipes I will post. But feel free to use 1 onion, finely chopped and fried in the oil before adding the tomatoes. Allow the onions to turn transparent and then add the tomatoes.

– You can make a richer version of this dish by using 1/2 cup of cashew nut paste. Add it to the tomato mixture and use    water (1.5 cups) to dilute it. Reduce the quantity of yogurt to 1/2 cup of completely omit it.

– You can also add some cream instead of milk if you are making it for a special occasion or if you just want to indulge yourself! 🙂

Happy cooking and let me know how your Shahi Paneer turns out! 😀