Friday, September 30, 2005

23/5 meme and a recipe

Tanvi of From the Pantry has tagged me for this funny meme that tests your counting skills.

Here is how you do it:
1. Delve into your blog archive.
2. Find your 23rd post (or closest to).
3. Find the fifth sentence (or closest to).
4. Post the text of the sentence in your blog along with these instructions. Ponder it for meaning, subtext or hidden agendas...
5. Tag five people to do the same.

My 23rd post was about a healthy Banana bread that I saw on Debbie's blog, a truly popular recipe from Epicurious.

The fifth sentence was: My only substitution was almonds for the pecans and also adding a little cinnamon as I always do in banana breads.

The fifth sentence is rather out of context. But do I still have the same opinion- YES! Cinnamon in any baked sweet treat is one of my famous additions. My hubby holds the opinion that if any goodie I make tastes off, I must have overdone the cinnamon.

I have been reading this meme on so many blogs now. I don't know if some have already been tagged and yet to post. So anyone who wants to write about their 23rd post is welcome to do so. Consider yourself tagged!

Speaking of banana bread, I had too many over-ripe bananas (as always) and some chocolate sauce (or rather cold hot chocolate, from previous post). So I made some light banana upside down cake combining two recipes. The basic cake recipe is from Cooking Light.

Banana upside down cake

2 tablespoons butter
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
2-3 large bananas, sliced 1/2 inch thick
1/2 cup toasted, chopped walnuts
1/2- 1 cup flaked sweetened coconut

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup mashed ripe banana (about 1 banana)
1/2 cup any fruit juice or water (I used Pineapple)
1 tsp vanilla
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 large egg (or egg substitute)

Preheat oven to 350°.
Melt butter in a 9-inch cast-iron skillet; sprinkle evenly with brown sugar and mix until smooth. Place banana slices on top. Sprinkle the walnuts evenly. Next, sprinkle evenly with coconut. Set aside.

Lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup, and level with a knife. Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt in a large bowl. Combine reserved juice, banana, oil, vanilla and egg, stirring with a whisk. Add banana-juice mixture to flour mixture, stirring until just combined. Pour flour mixture over banana slices in skillet. Bake at 350° for 20 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool for 10 min. Invert onto a wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature with or without chocolate sauce.

The butterscotchy flavor of the topping makes this cake taste quite rich. Try it and you won't be sorry.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Chocolate on the brain

I have been reading Chocolate desserts by Pierre Herme. Most of the recipes are above my baking skills. But the book has at least five different hot chocolate recipes. I won't give excuses for making this one- no cold weather, feeling blue etc. I was enamored by the photograph of the classic hot chocolate. It just involves heating 1/2 cup water and 1/4 cup sugar until sugar melts, adding 1/4 cup Dutch cocoa and 4.5 oz melted bittersweet chocolate and heating the mixture till a single bubble pops. I used 60 % bittersweet ghiradelli chocolate chips. After everything was done as stated and whipped for 1 min, I had beautiful chocolate lava that could easily pass as a sauce. This recipe makes two servings.

Since I am still a milk chocolate person, I topped it with some whipped cream. Pity that this recipe requires 3-4 bowls, a whisk and a blender. Despite the addition of whipped cream, this was too choclatey for me. By a couple of sips, I was done. If you are one of those, who love dark chocolate and freak out at the thought of drinking molten chocolate, please try this recipe. Otherwise, stay away.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Greens gone sour

I bought too many vegetables at the Indian grocers' last weekend. One of the lot was Gongura or sour greens. These greens with their hard, red stalks are a speciality from the South-eastern state of India- Andhra Pradesh. True to their name, they have a sourness that do not go away when cooked. My mom introduced gongura to me- she makes the traditional gongura chutney that is intensely hot and it goes well when mixed with rice and ghee. I wanted to make this chutney but due to my cramped vegetable drawer, the greens had lost their sheen and their leaves had gone brown. I salvaged about a cup of the leaves. What to do with so little? So I searched some of the Andhra blogs like Mahanandi, My cuisine and Passages for a new gongura recipe. But I found one for gongura dal elsewhere and here is how it goes:

Dal with sour greens

3/4 cup pigeon peas, cooked
2 handfuls Gongura leaves, coarsely chopped
4 Green chillies, chopped
1 medium onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, sliced
pinch of Turmeric
1 small tomato, chopped
1 tsp cayenne
Salt to taste


1/2 tsp each Mustard seeds,cummin, urad dal, 2 red chillies(broken),Asafoetida,curryleaves

Make tempering with the given ingredients using 1 tsp oil/ghee,add green chillies, onion,garlic and fry till they get pinkish brown. Add gongura leaves(chopped) and cook, covered for 2 minutes. Now add tomatoes, cayenne, turmeric and salt. Saute for another minute. Add the cooked dal and enough water to make the dal as thin as you like. Simmer for 3 min or so. Serve with rice or roti. This dal is hot and spicy. But you can always reduce the cayenne.

Friday, September 23, 2005

'Gimme some sugar' cream Pie

Don't be put-off by the unphotogenic pie. It is nothing short of delectable but yet has a comforting, home-made quality. I was not a fan of custard-like cream pies until I ate a piece of this. Apparently, this is a must-eat in Indiana state. I saw this on Paula Deen's show. She is so adorable that she sold me into making this one. I have never seen a sugar cream pie but I had a small container of heavy cream on hand and a pie shell in the pantry. With their expiry date approaching, I made an off-hand attempt at this pie, preparing myself for an inedible, watery pudding on a soggy crust. I don't know if the apple-pie kinda crust comes in a shell form. The recipes also were not clear enough about the crust. So I used the graham-cracker pie crust but this was the first time ever I have baked that kind. I always thought you can only chill it with the filling. Any sugar cream pie experts who can comment on this?

Hoosier Sugar Cream Pie (adapted a little from Paula's)
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup all-purpose flour, unsifted
1/2 pint (1 cup) whipping cream
3/4 cup milk
1 (9-inch) unbaked pie shell (I used Graham cracker crust!!!)
1 tablespoon butter, cut into small pieces
pinch of salt
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

Combine sugar, flour, cream, salt, vanilla, nutmeg and milk in a mixing bowl. You can also sprinkle the nutmeg on top. But I was afraid of it burning, so I mixed it in. Pour into pie shell that has been placed on a baking sheet. Dot butter bits all around top of pie.
Bake for approximately 15 minutes, and then reduce the heat to 350 degrees F and cook for approximately 30 more minutes. Cool to room temperature and then refrigerate until chilled. Serve chilled.

Anyway, I should have known that one cannot go wrong with milk, cream, sugar with a dash of vanilla and nutmeg. The pie is milky goodness and the top smells and tastes like a sugar cookie. I am not imagining things 'coz of the name, am I?

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Toasted almond granola bar

I am not a person to eat breakfast religiously each day. It seems like a waste of time to me. I would prefer to eat pancakes, french toast, cereal and all those good things for dinner. The only thing I eat is the grab and go cereal or granola bars. They are small enough to disappear in a few big bites. Or they can be large enough to nibble away slowly while you read the morning newspaper. Best of all, they are healthful snacks too. My favorite is Nature Valley Granola bars but they may be a little too sweet for some people.

With some time to kill and a half empty jar of Trader Joe's Almond butter, I decided to make some granola bar and this recipe from the Almonds are in website helped.

1 egg
1/2 cup honey
2/3 cup applesauce
1/2 cup almond butter
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon almond extract
3 1/3 cups quick oats
1/4 cup wheat germ
1 cup coarsely chopped almonds, roasted
1/2 cup diced dates
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 tsp cinnamon


I did not have applesauce. So I pressure-cooked diced apples with a little sugar, small amount of water and a stick of cinnamon. I pureed it up with an immersion blender and I had applesauce in 15 min. So that is another pressure-cooker trick for you all, if you are considering investing in one. My daughter enjoyed it as well.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Stir together egg, honey, cooled applesauce, almond butter, brown sugar, and extract in a large mixing bowl. The original recipe called for flax seeds but I used some wheat germ instead. I am sure you can just use oats instead.

Stir in remaining ingredients. Press firmly into a greased 13- by 9- by 2-inch pan. Bake for 20 minutes. Cool and cut into bars.

The recipe does not state anything about baking any further. But the bars were still quite soft and little wet. So after cutting them as desired, I gave them the biscotti treatment. I turned them over and baked them for 15 min or so until slightly colored and dry to touch. This recipe makes about 36 squares.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Potato, eggplant and okra sabzi

This is my mom's recipe and it is sort of an Indian ratatouille. This is a dish that I never liked as a kid. My mom made this dish with a few leftover potatoes, round Indian eggplant and okra for an end-of-week meal. This left-over connotation put me off. But as an adult, this dish is something that I have started to love because of the different textures and interesting flavors that come together so well. If you do not have the small Indian eggplant, zucchini is a great substitute since it offers the same melting softness. Potatoes are the foundation of this dish and the okra gives a crunchy bite to it while onions and eggplant create a sweet accent.

Potato, eggplant and okra sabzi

2 small potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 onion, minced
4-6 small round Indian eggplant, sliced lengthwise (you should get 8 slices from each)
10 whole okra, sliced into 1/2 inch pieces

1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp cayenne
1/2 tsp garam masala powder

1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp oil

Heat oil and add cumin and mustard seeds and let splutter. Add onion and saute until soft and starting to brown. Add the potatoes, salt and turmeric along with a sprinkling of water. Saute potatoes alone for 1 min. Now add the eggplant and okra. Also add the cayenne and a generous sprinkle of water. Cover tightly and let the vegetables cook until all the three types of veggies are tender. Now mix in the garam masala and cook uncovered until all the remaining water evaporates. Serve with rotis or rice.

Friday, September 16, 2005

SHF #12- Skillet Apple custard crumble

This month's SHF is hosted by the charming Elise of Simply Recipes. I love to read about the recipes her family loves so much. This month's theme, Custard, is something that I associate with apples and bananas.

Considering how much I love cooked fruit and warm desserts, this recipe caught my fancy. It has a lot of healthful ingredients and I would not complain eating it for breakfast either! I used a basic custard recipe from BBC Food. The crumble topping reminds me of a tasty granola that I bought from a local bread bakery called Loafers. This recipe is a synergistic combination of its parts. Remember people, if you have extra custard left-over after this event, you can easily make this recipe.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Radish parathas

When we visit Indian restaurants, I always eat parathas. I love this filled flatbread to the extent that I go the extra mile to make them at home. It takes a little more time and planning but it always turns out less greasy and more delicious than what I can get at a restaurant. One advantage of making parathas instead of rotis is that no side-dish is needed. With just a cup of yogurt, the meal is complete. Try it at home and you will like it much more than naan.

Radish or Mooli paratha

Whole wheat atta 2 cups
All purpose flour 1/4 cup
oil 1 tsp
lukewarm water as required
Mix all the ingredients together and knead a smooth dough. rest the dough in a cool place for 30mins min.

Making radish parathas is slightly tricky compared to making aloo parathas. Radish has a lot of liquid and if the filling is wet, making these stuffed breads is almost impossible.
You will need,
White radish/mooli 2 peeled and grated
green chillies 3-4 finely chopped.
cumin seeds 1tsp
oil 1tsp
garam masala 1tsp
grated ginger 1tsp
cayenne 1/2 tsp
turmeric 1/2 tsp
cilantro 2 tsp, finely chopped

Put salt in the grated radish and leave it on a strainer for about an hr. The radish will leave lots of water, now place the radish in your hand and try to squeeze out as much liquid as possible. Now take the oil in a saute pan,add jeera seeds. Add grated ginger and green chilies. Next add the radish and saute on medium flame till completely dry. Add cayenne, salt, turmeric and garam masala. Add the chopped cilantro and mix. Let the filling cool completely.

Making parathas: Divide the dough into lemon-sized balls and roll each ball into a round shape. You can proceed in two ways. You can spread a tbsp of filling on the roti and then bring all the corners together and seal them and make a ball again. Roll this ball carefully without putting too much pressure and flatten it into a thick paratha. With radish, this method is tricky and filling comes out a little. Or roll each ball into a circle, spread radish filling and then cover with another rolled out dough and seal the edges nicely and sprinkle a little flour and roll the paratha as thin and round as possible.

Cook on both sides on a medium hot griddle until golden brown. Spread a little ghee or butter on top. Serve piping hot with a bowl of yogurt.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Coast, waterfalls, craters and some good food

Crater lake

Diamond lake

We recently visited the state of Oregon on vacation. One of the highlights of the trip was our visit to cheese companies in Tillamook. Tillamook region is famous for its milk and cheeses. One of the companies, Blue Heron, makes French cheeses mainly Brie and blue cheese. I liked the taste of their garlic brie and so I have bought some home with me. The company's shop has some great gourmet sauces, salsas and mixes. I found a meyer lemon spritz oil. I have never tasted a meyer lemon and so I had to get it at a steep price, I must say. They have a lot of European chocolates too. I found Violet Crumble, something that was brought to my notice by Nic of Baking Sheet. Cadbury's Double Decker bar was my childhood favorite and after years of searching for it, I found it here.

Tillamook Cheese

Tillamook cheese company is quite famous around Oregon for not only its milk and butter but also for the rich ice creams and several varieties of Cheddar cheese. Yes, we did a lot of tasting but I was particularly impressed by their cheese curds. They taste great and are more on the chewy side. In Canada, McDonalds serves their French fries with these cheese curds (the combo is sold as poutine). Many customers seem to enter the premises only for buying ice cream. So we treated ourselves with a scoop. Their prize-winning classic vanilla was too rich and buttery for my taste buds.

Coulmbia river

We also got to taste some fresh apples and peaches from the orchards in the Mt. Hood's famous fruit loop. I searched quite a bit for hazelnuts but did not find them in local grocery stores. Perhaps I had to look elsewhere?

Crater lake national park at dusk

I had made a list of restaurants that I wanted to visit in Oregon based on Portland food forum. It turned out that I was being way too optimistic since we could hardly find time to search for a particular restaurant in the city especially with a toddler on hand. I managed to visit Karam, a small, Lebanese restaurant in Portland Downtown. We chose the vegetarian mazzawat and it was more than enough for me and hubby. It consisted of some great baba ghannouj, hummus, labne, vegetarian kibbee (it was not so great), stuffed grape leaves, crispy falafel, tabbouli and a garbanzo bean salad with a yogurt dressing. The star of this feast was the warm,fresh, soft pita bread made on-site.

Cape Kiwanda

Thanks to ExtraMSG for putting together the restaurant tip sheet. Be sure to check out this site if you will be anywhere near Oregon.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Healthy soup-style noodles with bok choy

Don't you just love the soup-style noodles they serve at Pan-Asian restaurants? They have a small amount of noodles but the broth and vegetables sort of fill you up. I was looking for some soupy comfort food today inspite of the hot day. This is my adaptation of a Cooking Light recipe:

Soupy Noodles with Tofu and Bok Choy

1 (6-ounce) package rice noodles, cooked as directed

1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon dark sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon Thai chili sauce

4 cups sliced bok choy
2-3 hot green chilies, sliced
1/2 pound firm water-packed tofu, drained and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 inch piece ginger, peeled and minced

2-3 dried shitake mushrooms, reconstituted and sliced
1/2 cup thinly sliced green onions
1/2 cup mung bean sprouts
3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1 T toasted sesame seeds
1/2 cup to 1 cup vegetable or chicken stock

Combine soy sauce, vinegar, sugar, oil, and chili sauce.
Heat a large nonstick skillet coated with cooking spray or add a tsp of oil. Add garlic, ginger and green chilies and saute until garlic colors slightly. Add bok choy; sauté until wilted. Add chopped shitake mushrooms and saute until combined. Add soy sauce mixture and noodles and mix. Now add the broth and the amount depends on how soupy you want. Add the sliced tofu now. Heat until the broth gets heated through. Sprinkle with green onions, sprouts and cilantro. Before serving, sprinkle the sesame seeds on top.

This recipe would surely be comforting in winter but it is also light and refreshing, making it ideal for a quick summer supper.