Shrimp Scampi and Success in the Kitchen

If I have shrimp in the house and ask my dad, “how he would like me to make it,” – he will always say Shrimp scampi, without fail.

Then he will tell me how in 1964 some famous chef taught him how to make scampi, which is by the way exactly how I make it.  However he is compelled to tell me the story.

Then I say, “why don’t you make it?”

“Why should I make it,” he says. “I have you.”

He’s right. He does have me and off I go into the kitchen rolling my eyes wondering why I even ask my dad how he would like me to cook the shrimp.



Having said that, I really do like Shrimp scampi, for the simplicity of the ingredients, how quickly it cooks and of course, how wonderful it tastes.

I have shared the recipe for this dish many a time but I want to talk about mis en place – or preparation in the kitchen.

I am a cooking instructor – teaching both professional and amateur cooks. So many people express fear of cooking or being overwhelmed while cooking.

I have ideas and help.

One, if you are someone who easily gets overwhelmed in the kitchen – stop watching cooking shows, especially on the Food Network. They glamorize cooking and don’t show you the nitty gritty, the mess in the kitchen.

And so when you try to make something, and you don’t find yourself smiling like a fool like most of the hosts of cooking shows do, while looking as though they are having the time of their life – you think you are doing something wrong. You are not doing anything wrong. You are cooking. Cooking can be work, cooking is messy, cooking is a skill that you get better at over time.

Two, lay out all the ingredients you will need for the dish that you are making. This is very helpful for a novice or nervous cook.

IMG_7694This is what I am talking about.

Even though this is a simple dish with very few ingredients, and I cook for a living – I set everything out and then it’s an absolute breeze and pleasure to cook.

1 lb. shrimp, shelled and deveined. I leave the tails on

Many many cloves of garlic

2 lemons

2 tbs. butter (a tsp. will be just fine if you are watching your calories)

1/2 – 3/4 cup white wine

1 tsp. olive oil

red pepper flakes and salt to taste.

parsley for garnish

Heat the oil on a low flame and add half the garlic, sliced. If you cook garlic on low heat to start, you draw out more flavor from it.

In a minute or so, increase the heat and add the shrimp, red pepper flakes and salt. Cook on high heat for about 2 minutes on each side.

Add the wine and stir well.


Next, add the lemon juice, and rest of the garlic minced (you can skip this step with the garlic – I enjoy the strong flavor of crushed garlic along with the more mellow flavor that is in the sliced garlic). When the shrimp is almost cooked – shouldn’t be more than five minutes, add a pat or two of cold butter. Stir well and garnish with parsley.

Taste for seasoning.

Serve with a crusty baguette or


over pasta.

Whether you make this recipe or not, which I hope you do because of it’s simplicity and wonderful flavor – I hope you set yourself up for success in the kitchen.

Prep and place all your ingredients in front of you before you start cooking and I promise you things will be so much easier.

Until I cook again!



Mussels with Swiss Chard, Tomatoes and Sparkling Wine


I love mussels.

They are like a blank canvas and come to life from so many types of flavors.

Sometimes I will ask my mother, who also loves mussels, “which country would you like to go to?

It could be Asian, French, Italian, Indian – the choices are endless really.

This time my assignment was to use the Swiss chard that mom had brought from the farmer’s market.

Challenge accepted!

I started with some olive oil, heated it in a large wok and added dried red chilies and sliced garlic. Cook this for a few minutes on low heat to draw out the flavor from the garlic. Next add a sliced red onion and the stems of the Swiss chard. Save the green tops for later.  Season with salt and cook on high heat for 3-5 minutes.


I took this picture at Whole Foods to show you the Swiss chard. Chop the red stems and cook them first, then add the greens later in the cooking to preserve their vibrant color.

After the onions have browned and softened, add the greens of the chard and I used halved cherry tomatoes. You can use any tomatoes – they add a nice sweetness to the dish.


Now add the washed mussels, juice of a lemon and a cup of sparkling wine or white wine. If you don’t want to use alcohol, you can use chicken or vegetable broth. The wine adds a lovely tangy flavor.

Cover the mussels and cook on high heat. Check in 3-5 minutes. The dish is done when all the mussels have opened. Discard any that didn’t open.


I like to finish the dish with a pat of cold butter. This is of course optional if you are counting your calories – but this one pat of butter rounds off the flavors in the sauce and gives a wonderful mouth feel. Taste the sauce and adjust seasoning. Ladle the mussels, the sauce and the vegetables in large bowls and serve hot.

I like to serve the mussels with slices of crusty baguette to sop up the delicious sauce and of course a glass of the cold sparkling wine I added to the dish.

Please add mussels to your repertoire – they are economical, healthful, delicious and they can be cooked in endless ways.

Until I cook again!

Spicy Shrimp Curry – Simple and Healthful


I have been making this curry for many years. It is so simple and satisfies each time.

It is also very low in fat and healthful.  Substitute other seafood if you like.

Don’t get scared with me calling it spicy – you can control the heat level of any dish.

As a rule it is best to do your mise en place– just a fancy french way of saying gather your ingredients and have them in one place.

It makes your life easier in the kitchen and you are set up for success.

1 1/2 lb. large shrimp, peeled and deveined ( I like to keep the tails on for appearance and makes them look bigger)

1 large onion, sliced (I like red onions)

As many green chilies as you can stand, sliced length wise  (these are serranos and I admit I put a couple too many)

4-5-6 garlic cloves, crushed

1-2 Tbs. fresh ginger, minced

Tomatoes – I like using a combination of fresh and canned. (2 large tomatoes diced, or 2 cups of crushed canned tomatoes)

1 tbs. black mustard seeds

Salt to taste

Cilantro for garnish

1 tbs. oil

2 tbs. coriander powder

1 tbs. cumin powder

2 tbs. white vinegar

1 tbs. sugar (optional)

Heat the oil in a skillet and add the green chilies. When the oil is hot, add the mustard seeds. They will spatter- keep a lid around to avoid the mess. And be ready for a little coughing 😁 when the chili cooks.

When the mustard seeds stop popping, add the sliced onions and salt. Cook on a medium high heat for about 7 minutes or till they are slightly browned.

How brown you like your onions is your choice – it will change the appearance of the end product and the browner they are, the more intense will be the flavor of the sauce.

I like them medium brown for shrimp and other seafood as their flavor is subtle.

Next add the coriander and cumin powder. Cook, stirring well for a couple of minutes. It is essential that spices cook enough to lose their raw flavor.

Add the tomatoes – I used 1/2 can of whole, peeled tomatoes and one fresh tomato, diced.

Next add the garlic (I love my garlic press) and 1/2 the ginger. Stir well, making sure nothing burns.

Bring the sauce to a boil and simmer for about 10 minutes to develop the flavor. Add the vinegar and sugar ,and taste for seasoning.

Add the shrimp and cook for about 5 minutes, depending on their size. Be careful to remove from the heat as soon as they turn pink and not to over cook them.

Garnish with lots of chopped cilantro. If you don’t like cilantro, you can use mint or even dill.

Serve over boiled basmati rice or pasta if you like.

Until I cook again!

Simple and Spicy Chana (chickpea) Masala


Chickpeas are a delicious and nutritious protein to add to your meals.

You can use dried chickpeas which I do often, or use the ones from a can – either is fine really as long as you cook with them.


Last weekend I had the yen for a traditional Indian breakfast which included these chickpeas, potato curry and Kulchas (a bread which I will post the recipe for another time).

For the chickpeas:

2 cans of chickpeas, drained and rinsed

1 Tbs. vegetable oil

1/8 tsp. ajwain**seeds (optional)

1/4 tsp. Nigella seeds

2 Tbs. Tamarind Paste or the Juice of 2 lemons/limes

2 green chilies, sliced (or 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper)

Salt to taste

2Tbs. ground coriander powder

1Tbs. cumin powder

Thinly sliced ginger and scallions for garnish

Heat the oil in a pan and add the nigella and ajwain seeds. Cook for about 20 seconds or until you smell their aroma and then add the washed and drained chickpeas. Add salt, cayenne or green chilies, cumin and coriander powder. Stir on high heat.  Add the tamarind paste and a splash of water if the chickpeas are sticking.

Stir well and taste for seasoning. Add the lemon/lime juice in the end if not using the tamarind paste.

Garnish with sliced ginger and scallions.

Serve hot.


(Ajwain, ajowan (/ˈædʒəwɒn/) Trachyspermum ammi, also known as Ajwain caraway, bishop’s weed or carom, is an annual herb in the family Apiaceae. It originated in India.

Until I cook again!


Meat Pulao (rice casserole) with leftovers and a Raita

an easy way to repurpose leftovers – Pulao (rice casserole) – quick and healthy



A couple of weeks ago I made a beef curry which was wonderfully delicious.

What was leftover was not enough to feed 3 people – the number of people in my household and so I repurposed it into a pulao (rice casserole). This was enough to happily feed 3 people and it was also a new dish from leftovers.

I like to cook this way and following are the instructions to make the rice.

I have several recipes for rice on the blog and as most of my recipes, these are suggestions and feel free to use what you have.


Saute an onion and a tsp. of cumin in a tsp of oil.  Cook for about five minutes and then add the leftover beef curry (or any curry you may have on hand).  Heat through and add frozen peas if you like.  Now add a cup of basmati rice…

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Technique: how to use tomatoes simply in a stew or curry

Today I want to talk technique – specifically something very simple that I learned from my mom. It is a time saver in the kitchen, especially for Indian cooking.

Often when people ask for starter recipes for Indian curries – I find myself telling them to saute onions, ginger and garlic – then add tomatoes …

This is where the technique comes in

When adding tomatoes to a stew/curry and you want to skip the step of chopping them and also peeling the skin – make an x as shown above.

Throw the tomatoes into the pot and cover for about 5 minutes.

After a few minutes, pull out the tomatoes and the skin will peel easily.​
Once you peel the tomato- add it back to the pot and it will easily crush with the back of a spoon.

When I was in cooking school- we were taught to achieve the same thing by putting the tomatoes in boiling water for a few minutes. I like to do it in the manner above since it saves me a step and time. Always a welcome thing.

Hope you found this helpful.

Care to share any of your short cut techniques?  Would love to hear from you.
Until I cook again!

Simple Yellow Daal (lentils)

July 19th, 2017 – an update:

Yesterday I posted a picture of a simple bowl of lentils that I had as soup for lunch.

Many people asked for the recipe and so here it is.


I am surprised that I haven’t blogged the recipe for Lentils – maybe because they are so easy to make but let me remedy that.

There are many many lentils in Indian cuisine – some can be cooked in 20 minutes and others take much longer.

The following is mung daal – split yellow lentils, not to be confused with split yellow peas.

You will need:

A cup of lentils

1 tsp cumin seeds

a couple of dried red chilies (optional)

salt to taste

1/4 tsp. turmeric powder

1 tbs ghee, butter or oil

To make:

Add the lentils with two cups of water to a boil.  When it comes to a boil, you will see some foam – just skim it off a couple of times.  Now add the salt and turmeric. Lower the heat to a simmer and cook the lentils for about 20 minutes or until soft.

In saute pan, heat the fat yo are using and add the cumin seeds and red chili if using.  Let the seeds sizzle for a couple of minutes and as soon as the lentils are cooked – add the hot fat with the cumin seeds to them – stir well and your lentils are ready.


Serve as is in a bowl like soup or have over boiled rice.

Until I cook again!