Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Saturday afternoon at the Farmers Market

Spring is here. How I love this time of the year! No more snow for months.. Blooming buds all around.. And sun has really been kind lately. So you might understand how nice it must be to step out of the house on a sunny afternoon & I can't even begin to tell you how much my 7 month old loves to go out, meet people, see all around and admire everything in her own language.

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So this Saturday we decided to make a trip to the farmer's market, so that baby can have all the fun she wants and mommy can have her share of fun too.If you love cooking and specially with fresh food then you know exactly what a farmer's market means.

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I absolutely have a ball in between all that hustle and crowd. You can find fresh produce, meet the farmers who actually spent a good amount of their life raising them with their hands, discover some stuff, learn something new.. Its all fun!

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Did I tell you that I found some of the most gorgeous strawberries there? The moment I laid my eyes on those berries I knew exactly what I wanted to make out of them. Will be posting that soon.

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Also met a local baker who makes some of the most beautiful brioche and yes, I bought a couple. He invited me to his baking classes that he gives every weekend. So I guess you'll find some bread recipes here too, hopefully one day.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Chocolate Sformato: What a Steal!!

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I'm one of those people who really get uncomfortable if left in silence. I just can't live alone and if I have to then there has to be a constant noise which I need to hear otherwise I start imagining things. I start imagining a big tree in the middle of my living room, a shoe coming out from behind the curtain, someone sitting on my couch...I know that happens with you too, but you just won't admit..Anyways so what I was trying to say that when I'm home I just switch on music or open the windows to be able to hear what's going on outside or else I just leave the television on..Are you still thinking I'm creepy?? But that's how I am.
So the other day as I was working on something and as usual my television was on and my ears got pulled towards something "Chocolate...when we come back after the break". Now I had to pay a little more attention and time as now I had to sit through the break for the show to come back. And comes back 'Giada' from 'Everyday Italian' on Food Network. Today she came with Chocolate Sformato. Now anyone who has ever eaten a Sformato has to agree that you shouldn't let this one go specially after seeing how easy the recipe is, so I had to steal it. So that's what I did and trust me I and my husband almost died when we took the first bite of this deadly thing and I decided I had to put it here on my blog.

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Although I made a couple changes from the original recipe but this one's good too!
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And I'm sure you'll be licking your spoons!

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Unlike Giada I made individual cups for everyone and did not use any liquor for the whipped cream infact I didn't use any whipped cream at all. And used pecans instead of almonds on the top.

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So following is the recipe of Chocolate Sformato with Pecans:


Ingredients:
1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tbsp good vanilla extract
1/2 packet gelatin
2 eggs
6 oz of semisweet chocolate
1/2 cup crushed pecans

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This recipe serves 6. I made 6 individual Sformato bowls.
First and foremost preheat the oven at 350 deg. F.
Now I took a small saucepan and combined milk, sugar and vanilla and let it simmer until all the sugar dissolves well. Just save a little milk which would be needed later probably a 1/4 cup.Then turn off the heat and leave it to rest. In a separate bowl or cup mix gelatin and the milk you would have saved. Stir it for about1-2 mins until you are sure it had\s mixed completely and then mix it to the mixture in the bowl. Now add the beaten eggs into to the warm milk but don't forget to slowly add the eggs and stir the mixture thoroughly so that eggs don't get scrambled. Now this liquid needs to be poured and strained through a thin mesh or cloth to confirm there's no lump in it.
While that's being done melt your chocolate in a double boiler (Double boiler is just a fancy word for a bowl placed tightly over a pan or pot of boiling water.) and then slowly mix the liquid mixture into the chocolate making it all smooth.
Then I buttered all my small bowls in which I wanted to serve the dessert. Poured the chocolate mixture into individual bowls. Placed them all into a tray and filled the tray with water to about half the height of the bowls. Yes! I also garnished them with coarsely chopped pecans. Then put the tray into the oven and let it bake for about 40-45 mins until the sides look firm. Take it out when ready and let it rest for about 30 mins.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Mangalore Chicken Curry

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First time when I and my husband moved together after marriage we lived in San Francisco bay area. Those were one of the most fun times of our lives ( well! mine atleast..will have to ask about his). We had a tiny one bedroom apartment which I still crave to move back into! Made several new friends and got to know a lot new cultures and food. I guess that was the time when I started to cook in my own kitchen for the first time that this affinity to food began.

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At that time we became friends with this cute couple ( I would not mention the name here) from Managlore. She was so sweet and what a great cook. She introduced me to many new recipes and one of them was this chicken curry she used to make which was a typical mangalorian recipe. I just fell in love with that chicken curry and me and my husband still are in love with it.

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In the southern part of India there's a liberal use of coconut and curry leaves. That probably distinguishes it from the typical north Indian food. Curry leaves give it a different aroma and coconut lends a hint of sweetness to it which is unbelievable. Mostly South Indian dishes are paired with rice or any preparation of rice but being from north India chapattis are more staple to me so I paired it with that but you can even eat this chicken with rice or parathas or naan or even idli, dosa or appam. Choice is yours.

Ingredients:
For curry paste:
1/2 cup grated coconut
1 cup chopped onion
Red pepper- 1-2 tsp ( according to heat you can take)
Peppercorn- 12-25 no.
3-4 cloves garlic
1 inch ginger
2 tbsp coriander powder
2 cups coconut milk ( this much would be good for both the paste as well as the gravy)
turmeric- 1 tsp

For the main dish:
3 cups chicken cubes ( I used only breast but that's because that was available, you can use any part )
1 cup thinly sliced onion
1 tbsp curry powder
a small bunch of curry leaves
3 tbsp olive oil
tomato paste- 2 tbsp ( I didn't have it handy so I just pureed half tomato and used that instead)
Salt

First it would be better to prepare the curry paste. This paste can even be made in bulk just increase the quantity of the ingredients and stored in the refrigerator for weeks.
To make the paste I first heated a pan brown the grated coconut. After that set it aside and in the same pan add a little oil and fry the chopped 1 cup onion. Now mix all the ingredients and blend it all together to make a thick paste. Use coconut milk while grinding it to make the paste.
Then I took a pot and heated it. Added oil to it and threw in thinly sliced onion to it. Now you have to fry it until its a little golden and then you add your chicken and stir it for a few minutes before adding the curry powder and tomato paste into it. When I saw that chicken is half done I added salt to it and the curry paste. Fried it for about 5 mins and when I saw it leaving a little oil on the sides of the pan I just added coconut milk to it and let it simmer until chicken was well cooked.
If you want to garnish it, just use a little cilantro or lemon too if you want. I served it with fulkas or home made chapattis.

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How to make curry powder at home?

After getting married when I was leaving for the US for the first time with all the other things that my mother-in-law gave to for my new house hold she also gave me a big packet of chat masala and garam masala or which is popular as curry powder. I did not realize how important that packet of curry powder was until it was finished and I had to go and get a store bought curry powder. Now whoever has used or eaten Indian food made with homemade curry powder knows how great is the difference. Well! after using that packed masala I made sure that I never had to use it in my kitchen again and always got a big pack of it from my mother-in-law whenever she would visit me or we would visit them.
It has been a while since the last batch of that curry powder in my pantry is finished and I had been running from putting any kind of curry powder in any of my cooking but after a while it really becomes difficult to cook Indian food without curry powder so this time I thought of preparing it at home. I was not sure how it would turn out but I did pretty well and it was super easy too.
You can just make a big batch of curry powder and store it in your pantry forever. It never turns bad and if the box is tightly closed it will never loose that beautiful aroma. I promise after trying this no-one can go back to that store bought curry powder.
The following would make about half a cup of curry powder.

Ingredients:
Whole bay leaves (8-10 no.)
Whole cloves 10 gms
Whole peppercorn 50 gms
Cinnamon sticks (3-4no.)
cumin seeds 150 gms
Black cardamoms 100gms

Just grind everything together in a coffee grinder. Don't add any water to it.
That's it! Try this one and you'll know the difference.

Friday, March 19, 2010

My mom's coconut laddu

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Everyone has something or the other that never fails to remind them of their childhood. For me it has to be khoye ki barfi and coconut laddu. I spent my childhood in a small town of Madhya Pradesh and my grandmother was a few hours away from us. Everytime we would go visit my grandmother, my mom would make either homemade khoya and fresh barfi out of them or she would make these awesome coconut laddus. I still taste them just talking about them.
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A day before we were supposed to leave my mom would spend hours grating coconuts and then make the laddus. Of course by the time we would get there, grandma's share would be nearly gone. Every time I make them I end up talking with my mom as if for assurance if nothing else. I have to tell you that its one of the simplest recipes. But I still have moments where I feel I am not hitting the right tones. You may be off by bit but you can never go wrong with it! So here it is ... my mom's coconut laddu recipe.

Ingredients:
1 cup shredded coconut
1 cup sugar
2-3 cardamom

My mom used to grate fresh coconut without peeling the dark skin off but I just used the store bought shredded coconut. You can go with either of them according to the convinience. Then I just heat a thick bottom pan and throw in shredded coconut. Keep stirring the coconut till it gets hot. Once its hot you'll notice that it starts to lose oil and you know that its time to add sugar.

Heat will melt sugar and mix it to the coconut making it sticky. When that happens, you know that its time to turn off the heat and let it cool a little.

Crush the cardamom seeds and mix them into the mixture.
Wet your hands, take about 1 tablespoon of the coconut mixture in the hand and make balls out of it. Total mixture should make about 8-10 laddus.
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Friday, March 5, 2010

Red Velvet Cake with a twist..

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I'm still dizzy thinking that my little girl is 6 month old now.She touched the 6 month milestone last week.. Can you believe it?? I don't want to go into all that "feels like yesterday when I brought her home...bla bla bla" its such a  typical dialogue and I don't want to be a typical mom, but you know what?? It feels like yesterday when I brought her home from the hospital..
We were sooo clueless that day when she was put into our arms for the first time and we are clueless even today that how do people raise kids and how do they turn that tiny thing into a responsible human being?? Even they teach you so much, without spitting a word out of their mouths . It sure feels like not only she, but we have also grown so much. As parents and as human beings in general.. Well! my case is a little extreme I guess. I've become ridiculously emotional and stupidly sensitive person, thanks to my little monster.. Now even History channel and Animal planet make me cry so I don't even want to get into all that...But WOW!!! I'm dizzy again..
 I always thought before I was a mother myself that why don't those parents realize when they talk about their kids that they can possibly bore the person they are talking to. At-least they bored me! I mean I don't care how many times your son poops or how good piano player your daughter is or how cute she looks when she sings that centuries old rhyme.. But now I do the same. So now I'll try to restrain myself and and do what i come here to do that is to tell you what I'm making today..
So we celebrated Aashvi's half birthday in our tiny little way & it was her half birthday there had to be a cake and considering how sleep deprived I am these days it has to be a super easy and quick one.. So it has to be a Red Velvet Cake.

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First of all I chose it because I never have shared this recipe on my blog and second of all I've never tried a cream cheese frosting before so I thought they would pair well together. But you know what..to be honest this was the only cake for which I had all the ingredients at home sitting in my refrigerator dying to get out of there and I just never like throwing away the buttermilk I don't know why but we're just so close.. So I thought what the heck! let's make a Red velvet cake..Wait can I make it pink for my li'l girl? Why not?
So let's make a Pink velvet cake.
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Things that I have used out of the ordinary here is a little cocoa powder. A little bit of contrasting taste into any recipe brings out the real taste of food so well. So try adding some here and you'll notice some difference. And we're making around 6-8 servings so a 9 inch baking pan would work well. Although I always run short of the frosting so I always make it a little extra but that's upto you. If you want extra frosting just add the amount of ingredients proportionately but always consider the ratio.
Alright! so the recipe follows:

Ingredients:
2 1/2 cups of all purpose flour
1 1/2 cups of vegetable oil. Again you can use unsalted butter if you like. I had oil handy so I used that.
1 1/2 cups of powdered sugar
1 teaspoon each of baking soda, baking powder, salt, white vinegar, vanilla extract and cocoa powder. Now if you have apple cider vinegar at home you can use that too, I prefer white.
2 eggs. Its important that the eggs are at room temperature because then they mix well in the batter and help making the cake soft.
1 tablespoon red food color. I just added lesser red color to make my cake pink. If you want it super red just add 2 TBSP of color.
1 cup buttermilk
For the frosting you'll need a pound of cream cheese
I don't like my frosting to be very sweet so I used a cup of confectioners suger. If you like it sweet you can use about 3-4 cups
1 teaspoon good vanilla extract and 1/2 a cup of unsalted butter. Again I like the frosting to be very light but if you don't mind butter the recipe calls for a cup of it.

If you like decorating your cake you can use any nuts or any color if you want. help yourself. I wanted mine to be very plain and simple.

 First things first, preheat the oven to 350 deg. F and butter three 6 inch baking pans. This is going to be one cute small cake!
So first sift all the dry ingredients into a bowl and set it aside.
Now mix all the wet ingredients in a big bowl. First of I beat my eggs and then I start adding sugar turning the mixer to the lowest speed. When its mixed to the extent that the mixture looks light yellow in color then I add rest of the wet ingredients into it. Mix it all well.
Add dry ingredients into the wet ones but very slowly so that it doesn't make a clog and scrape the walls to mix everything thoroughly. I turn the mixer to low speed when adding the dry ingredients.
Place parchment paper in th bottom of all the three pans and pour the mixture into it. Place it in the oven and bake till a tooth pick comes out clean. Approx. 25-30mins.
After pulling them out of the oven let the cakes cool for 10-15 mins and then take them out and place on a cooling rack.
Then comes the frosting:
Easiest and yummiest frosting ever! You'll need to use cream cheese which is at room temperature. Beat the cream cheese first with mixer at medium speed and turning the speed to low add the rest of the ingredients. I've used only a cup confectioner's sugar cos I wanted my frosting to taste a little sweet n sour but if you want your frosting sweeter feel free to add upto 4 cups of sugar.
Mix everything well untill it becomes creamy, light and yummy.
 Its always better to place your cake into the fridge for a couple hrs before actually frosting it. That makes the cake firmer and easier to frost.
I hope you enjoy your 'Red velvet cake with a twist' as much as we did!

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