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Showing posts from February, 2010

Tiramisu...Deconstructed

I am so tired. This month's daring bakers challenge was truly one of the most challenging dishes I've ever made. Hosted by two lovely friends, Deeba and Aparna, the challenge was to make Tiramisu from scratch. Which means (and this is a hold your breath moment), you make your own mascarpone, your own ladyfingers, zabaglione and pastry cream.

Both zabaglione and pastry cream require that dangerous act of cooking egg yolks into something custardy, but with risk of ending up with scrambled eggs. This one was truly way out of my league.

Aparna had warned me that this will take 2-3 days so I finally got myself to start one night two days ago. The first step was making mascarpone. I've made paneer countless times so it wasn't hard. You heat the cream, then add lemon juice, let the whole thing curdle a bit and let it drain overnight. And you get such creamy cheese, I will never buy mascarpone again.

Next morning, I made three components of the dish (which is when it got a littl…

A new trend from New York

Like thousands of people, I eagerly look forward to Wednesdays when The New York Times publishes it's dining section. With it's witty reviews, NY Times has been the undoing of many a fledging new joint. And look at the trends it's pioneered. Jim Lahey's no knead bread started in the this dining section before becoming a worldwide rage.

A couple of weeks back, the dining section talked about another new trend in New York. That of putting cream or bechamel sauce on a pizza in addition to, or instead of the cheese. Now tell me a bread baker who would resist this idea, specially when followed by a great recipe for mushroom cream pizza.

NY Times tells you to start with a pizza base of your choice, as long as it's thin crust. I started with this base from the pioneer woman, but made it part whole wheat. So you mix 3/4 cup whole wheat flour and an equal quantity of plain flour with 1/3 tsp salt. Warm 1/2 cup water, add 1/3 tsp dry yeast and let it bloom for 10-15 minutes. …

Dunken Strawberries

I just discovered the best way to eat strawberries. And it doesn't even involve any cream.

Hull and slice strawberries. For each cup of fruit, sprinkle a tsp of caster sugar. Add 1/2 tsp vanilla extract (mine has seeds mixed in) and a tbsp of balsamic vinegar. Mix, then pop in the fridge for around an hour.

You might want to make sure you are alone before you take the strawberries out to eat. For starters, you don't want to share this. But more importantly, you will be left with a small quantity of vanilla and balsamic syrup once the strawberries are over. You don't want to let go of this one; not even a drop. Maybe the phrase lick the bowl clean comes to mind!

Macaroni in Spinach Sauce

This isn't your standard macaroni and cheese. It's a lot better. And since this comes from someone like me who doesn't even like casseroles, you should start thinking about making this for dinner even while you read the recipe.

First, boil half a cup of macaroni in salted water until just cooked. Slice 5-6 mushrooms thinly. Heat a tsp of olive oil in a pan. Add mushrooms and stir fry until they looked cooked. Add macaroni, salt and crushed pepper. Mix well, then arrange in a baking dish.

Now our second layer, the spinach sauce. Start with a small bunch of spinach. Discard any thick stems and spotted/damaged leaves, then pour boiling water to cover the spinach. Blanch for a few seconds, drain and make a fine puree. This should give you around 3/4 cup. Seperately, mix a cup of milk with a tbsp of cornflour.

Heat a tsp of olive oil. Add spinach puree and cook until it starts to look a little dry. Then add the milk/cornflour mix and cook, stirring continuously, until the sauce …

Just what the Doctor ordered

My doctor keeps on trying to get me to mend my ways and give up (in his words) the evils like sugar, chocolate and junk foods. This time around, he asked if I was so intent on baking, why I couldn't create something that meets his exacting standards. All he wanted was a cake with

- No eggs
- No refined flour
- No refined sugar (jaggery is fine)
- No chocolate

A tall order, it surely was! I first tried a couple of recipes from vegan cooking blogs, but nothing seemed to work for my tastebuds. Then, I decided to pick my favorite eggless chocolate cake recipe, keep the dry versus liquid ratios the same but substitute the "bad" ingredients with healthy ones. And in doing that, I seemed to have hit on one of the moistest and tastiest cakes I've encountered.

Here's how you can eat your cake and be healthy too.

Mix one cup whole wheat flour, 1/4 cup ground almonds, 1/2 cup jaggery (or dark brown sugar) and 1/2 tsp baking soda. In a microwave safe bowl, melt 40 grams butter. Pe…

Corn and Bean Salad

I have this inherent inability to soak the right quantity of beans. Invariably, I get up in the morning and get shocked at how huge my beans got to be after an overnight soak. And invariably, this is double the quantity I wanted. Which is how I ended up with boiled black eyed peas in my fridge at the same time as I got a craving for salad.

So I steamed some corn, and there you go...a chopped red onion in the middle, then black eyed peas and then steamed corn. Mint leaves torn, then scattered all over the salad. Then a dash of salt, a toss of pepper and a liberal sprinkling of sumac for that lovely red color. Finally, juice of half a lemon that brings it all together.

Go soak some extra beans tonight. It's totally worth the effort.

When you are down with a flu...

There's nothing better than soup. After two days of sore throat, fever and antibiotics, I am giving myself a treat with that French classic - the Onion Soup. Now French Onion Soup is traditionally made with beef broth, but I decided to do a vegetarian version with Alinea's mushroom stock. The rest of the recipe comes from Jennifer at Use Real Butter.

It's so easy even someone as sick as me can make it. Heat a tsp of olive oil and a tsp of butter in a pan. Add one thinly sliced onion and a dash of salt. Stir, turn the heat to lowest possible and let the onions cook in a covered pan for about 10 minutes. Remove the lid, and cook for another 10 minutes or so until the onions are a dark golden color and very soft. Heat a cup of mushroom stock (which you hopefully froze for such contingencies), add to the onions and bring the soup to a boil. Taste it, add more salt if you need it as well as some fresh ground pepper.

Toast two slices of a french baguette and arrange in a ramekin …

Climbing the Mango Trees

Before reading this month's book club pick, I had a vague impression of Madhur Jaffrey as an overindulgent diva who makes Indian food sound "too easy". After reading "Climbing the Mango Trees", the memoirs of her growing up years in India, I know why. The memoirs talk less of her childhood in an affluent joint family, and more of the foods she ate. There's daulat ki chaat and paranthey wali gali. There's kulfi and achaar and chaat from the streets. But all these poigant Delhi memories are also spiked with picnic lunches, and dinners with western influence far ahead of it's times.

Loosely written, the memoirs don't really follow a pattern. It's like a hastily scribbled diary, where Madhur writes whatever strikes her that day. I think the book is more charming because of that.

Madhur ends the book with a collection of her family recipes. From her fondly remembered dishes, I picked one of my memories - phirni, the custard-like pudding made with …