Thursday, April 28, 2011

I'm Back and Doing a Happy Dance!


India Trip
Hello Hello! How are my favorite people doing there? Aww, I missed you and I missed Indian Simmer! Its good to be back, not so happy about all the comforts gone and actually having to do things on my own but it still feels good to be back. The last one month spent visiting home was the most refreshing, emotional and much needed time I had to myself. Especially after having a naughty toddler at home, what can a mom ask for more than some time with closest people in her life and peace that the kid is taken care of. Yes, I had no idea where the little monster was when I would nap for hours but trust me she couldn't care less and had a time of her life herself!

India Trip

She visited the places her maa and papa spent their childhood at, she ate food her maa and papa grew up eating and she was pampered and spoiled by the same people her maa and papa were spoiled by. We laughed, we cried, we ate, we shopped and made tons of memories. Good times! Although I left one home, it is good to be back to another and its good to talk to you again!

Will tell you all about the trip soon but there's something else I'm SUPER excited about today and can't wait any longer to share with you. Here comes the "happy dance"- Indian Simmer has been selected as a finalist in SAVEUR magazine's Best Food Blog Awards! It made it to the final few in the Best Regional Cuisine Blogs category. Being chosen by SAVEUR among thousands and being nominated by you lovely readers is like winning to me! Ok, who am I kidding? I want to win it ALL the way! PLEASE please help me get there and vote for Indian Simmer in the Best Regional Cuisine Blog category! You will need to create an account if you don’t already have one. Voting is open until May 12, and the winners will be revealed on May 17. Thank You so much!

Now a few more good news that welcomed me when I came back home. Indian Simmer was also awarded a Reader's Choice Mom Food Blogger 2011 award by hugely popular Babble.com, an online parenting magazine. Then my Savory Indian Pancakes were picked and featured on the Food News Journal. A couple more projects are on their way but it might be too early to talk about them. Will keep you posted. But just wanted to let you know that it has all happened because of you, your love and your constant support. I owe you big time!

UPDATE: Lovely people from Saveur contacted and informed me that international readers (living outside of US or Canada) can also vote for their favorite contestants now. They are trying to fix their systems but for now  international voters should select USA or Canada as their country, and proceed from there by adding their own address. Once they update the system (which may take some time), they may go in and modify their profiles if they wish. I got so many emails from my friends outside of India who were bummed that they can't vote, now they can. So please help me with your votes! I love you :-)

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Orange Grand Marnier Soufflé by Xiaolu from 6bittersweets

I'm just so excited about this post and the beautiful blogger that I am introducing with you today that I have no idea where to start. Well, I shouldn't call it an introduction because I'm sure if you are even a little bit familiar with the blogging world then you would should know Xiaolu from 6bittersweets. If you don't know her yet then where have you been?! Xiaolu was someone who was so helping and supporting of me when I was starting as a blogger myself. I remember being always amazed by her photography and hoping to one day take photos like her. I tried to study every shot of hers and wrote emails asking for tips and always got a prompt reply. She might say that she's learning but trust me she's one seasoned photographer/blogger and a person who has so much to learn from. Today is Easter and I know I'm a little late at coming to you with a festive recipe but I'm sure Xiaolu's post will make up for it. Enjoy the recipe and her souffle and wait for me because I'm getting back home soon. Next time I talk to you I'll be doing that sitting on my couch in my living room!Please welcome Xiaolu from 6bittersweets!

Guest Post by Xiaolu 1
Hi there! If you're reading this, you're probably aware of how talented Prerna is...at cooking, blogging, photography...you name it! And not only that. She's also an amazing mother, wife, and a lovely person all-around. I know I'm preachin' to the choir, but preparing this post brought back memories of my 1st encounter with Indian Simmer. I don't recall exactly how I wandered here, but I know the post that started it all for me: her falooda kulfi. Even now I can still feel my excitement growing as I scrolled from one stunning photo to the next. What gorgeous light...and skillful styling! I could practically taste the nutty flavors and feel the cool creamy kulfi melting in my mouth.
Eagerly I turned to her older posts, certain I'd find the hefty archives of a seasoned blogger. But that wasn't the case -- Indian Simmer was just a baby, barely 6 months old! Needless to say I was so impressed I subscribed right then, and every post from Prerna since has made me evermore glad I did. I hope you feel my full sincerity when I tell you what an honor it is to be posting here today for Prerna and for you all. Thanks so much for having me!

Guest Post by Xiaolu 2

The treat I'm sharing today is the love child of my fondness for fresh seasonal fruit (especially citrus) and my obsession with cute, innovative ways to serve food. While these orange soufflés baked right in their shells fit my criteria for blog-worthy desserts perfectly, it's Chef Stephane of Zen Can Cook who deserves all the credit for coming up with such a creative presentation. Never one to leave a good thing alone, I did add some small twists of my own. Most notably, I swapped out a small portion of the orange juice for milk, resulting in a hint of orange creamsicle flavor in the resulting soufflé. For me this was an improvement. But if you prefer to enjoy your orange desserts without the distraction of dairy, feel free to simply use more orange juice instead of milk.

Guest Post by Xiaolu 3

If you're familiar with my blog, you know I like to be honest about my failures and share the lessons I learned from them. So here's the truth: I made these soufflés 5 times over 3 days before I got them right. And it was the same problem each time. The soufflés would rise too quickly then collapse and overflow. Though I knew I'd used too much juice the 1st time, I immediately jumped to trying other batter recipes, batter amounts, and baking temperatures rather than ironing out the kinks in the original. It was only after the 4th failure that I realized I'd been using too large oranges the whole time. So what can did I learn (and what can you learn) from my mistakes? (1) Finding recipes with exact measurements and really following them is usually critical with baking, especially desserts as delicate as soufflés; (2) when a recipe isn't working, try to identify what went wrong before jumping around to other recipes as you may have made a technical error that will sabotage those results as well; and (3) have a sense of humor even if things don't go as planned. My fallen soufflés were still delicious. Tasting them motivated me to get it right, which allowed me to share this with you. Whether you make these to impress your friends or yourself ;p, I hope you enjoy these as much as I do!

Orange Grand Marnier Soufflé [Printable Recipe]
Adapted from Zen Can Cook Makes 6 soufflés

Ingredients:
6 medium oranges (about 2 1/2 inches wide)
3 large eggs, separated
1/3 cup sugar PLUS 2 Tbsp sugar, and more for sprinkling
3 Tbsp cornstarch
1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1/4 cup milk [not skim]
2 tsp freshly grated orange zest
1 Tbsp Grand Marnier liqueur OR defrosted orange juice concentrate
Pinch of salt
Powdered sugar, to serve

Method:
Cut off the top part of each orange (about 3/4-inch) and a tiny sliver from the bottom so the oranges can stand straight. Using a microplane grater, grate the zest from the top part. Reserve 2 teaspoons for this recipe, then freeze the rest for another use. Empty the orange shells with a grapefruit spoon (making sure not to pierce the skin). Press the orange flesh through a strainer. Measure out 1 cup of juice for this recipe. Set orange shells on a large baking tray.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Dry orange shells if damp and lightly grease the insides with softened butter. Sprinkle bottoms and sides with excess sugar. Shake out extra.

Separate the eggs. In a medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the sugar and cornstarch until smooth. Whisk in the orange juice and milk. Place the mixture in a saucepan and heat over medium heat while stirring constantly until it thickens. Remove from the heat and add the zest, Grand Marnier, and salt. Let cool completely.

Using an electric mixer, whisk the egg whites until they hold soft peaks, then gradually add the 2 tablespoons of sugar and keep whisking just to stiff peaks. Fold 1/4 of egg whites into the orange custard to lighten, then add the custard mixture to the egg whites and gently fold in until fully incorporated. Fill the orange skins just to the top with the mixture. Flatten the tops with a spatula. Use your finger or a damp cloth to wipe clean the rim of the orange skins. Bake for about 20 to 25 minutes, or until puffy and golden on top. Sprinkle with powdered sugar and serve immediately.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

A New York Sunday Brunch, Eggs Benedict by Asha from Fork Spoon Knife

Its only when you are having a good time that you realize how fast the time passes. An entire month just flew by and its almost time to start packing the bags and leave home to go back to another home. After all the pampering and getting completely spoiled, we sadly have to head back to the reality. But there's still a week left and I am planning to milk these 7 days of luxury as much as I can! Talking of luxury, let me introduce you to another favorite blogger of mine. Asha from Fork Spoon Knife. Another fabulous food blogger/photographer who like me is an Indian by birth and has brought a rich heritage of culture and memories from her country to the US. Why the word luxury reminds me of her blog? Well, once you visit her blog and see lip smacking recipes and flawless photography, you'll know the answer. Her guest post today is a perfect example of how she takes simple everyday food and makes it all look so luxurious. Please welcome Asha and enjoy a New York Style brunch with her!


Eggs Benedict
I am not a cookbook person. No, really! Yes, I know, your jaw just dropped open. How can I be a food blogger and not be a cookbook person, right? Well, actually, I love cookbooks, I just don't collect them. I like ogling at them at bookstores, turning pages filled with beautiful images of how a dish looks, feels and even tastes. I draw inspiration not only from the recipe that the image spells but the image itself, the styling, the light, the setting, the mood, the props.

Then, it is only natural, that I almost always reach for the most potently photographed and graphically presented books. "Almost", I say, because there are indeed some exceptions. Books of yore, written by legends, that need no illustration to summon up the perfect image of how the finished dish should be.
Eggs Benedict1
Julia Child is an author, whose books you could read just for some light reading. She is witty yet succinct, describing each dish and it's history in meticulous detail while somehow managing to keeping the reader completely engrossed and not the least bit bored. To her graceful words, the illustrative sketches are just the perfect complement.

My dear friend recently gifted me her two volume compilation of Mastering the Art of French Cooking (my favorite cuisine). This is my first recipe from her book. The first time I made Hollandaise, some three years back, I scrambled the eggs and found the whole experience much too stressful. LOL. Now, I am a more seasoned cook and I figured I could handle a multi part brunch with more panache than before.

With Julia's precise instructions on hand, it was indeed a pinch to recreate the Perfect NYC Sunday Brunch, which, New Yorkers patiently wait, even hours, for, in the leisure of home, enjoyed in pyjamas! :)
Eggs Benedict on Thyme Shortbread
And the Hollandase! Oh! the decadence of it! Rich, buttery and instensely satifying. Perfectly worth the pain of flexed biceps and all that...perfectly executed too, btw!! ;-))
Voila! Je présente les Oeufs Benedict - oeufs pochés sur sablés au thym, avec sauce hollandaise... :) Bon Appétit!

Eggs Benedict
(Homemade Thyme Biscuit, Asparagus, Poached Egg and Hollandaise Sauce)

For each sandwich:
1 thyme biscuit
1 egg, poached
2 spears of asparagus
3 T Julia Child's Hollandaise sauce
salt as needed
1 tsp butter, softened
Cut each biscuit in half horizontally. Spread butter on the bottom half. You can toast if you like. I just prefer fresh out of the oven biscuit as is. Place the asparagus spears on the biscuit. Gently

Thyme Biscuits

200 g flour
1 tsp sugar
2 tsp salt
1.5 tsp baking powder
2 tsp thyme, finely minced
60 g cold butter, cubed
140 g buttermilk
1 yolk + 1 T cream for egg wash
Sift together the flour, salt, sugar and baking powder together. Cut into the mixture the cold butter until they are no more than the size of peas. Stir in the thyme and mix well. Add the buttermilk and mix for form a dough. On a floured surface knead just a bit to make into a non-sticky dough ball.
Pat the dough out with your palms to 1/2 inch thickness. Using a cookie cutter, cut out scones and place on a greased baking sheet. Brush egg wash over the scones. Bake at 425F for 10-12 minutes until golden brown on top. Cool on rack.



Poached Eggs
4 eggs, freshest you can find
3 tsp vinegar
Bring a shallow pot of water to boil in a wide vessel. Reduce the heat to barely a simmer. Add the vinegar and swirl it in. Break each egg into a ramekin and gently slip them one by one into the hot water keeping the lip of the ramekin as close to the water as you can, without touching the water.
Using a spatula, gently tease the white fingers closer to the center while making sure that the egg does not stick to the vessel. Cook for two minutes until the whites become opaque but the yolk still runny. Using a slotted spoon, gently remove them onto the biscuit.


Sauteed Asparaus
8 spears of Asparagus (2 per egg)
Blanch the Asparagus spears in the same water that you poached the eggs for a couple of munutes. Drain and quikly saute in butter for a minute and remove.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Lemon Raspberry Tart by Sylvie from Gourmande In the Kitchen

If you know me a little then you know how important photography is to me. It has exposed a whole new aspect of life to me and has also made me learn a thing or two about myself. And it has helped me know a few very talented people as well. One such person is Sylvie. I met Sylvie a while back through flickr. She liked one of my photos and wrote me an email telling me that. Her sweetness and kindness reflected straight through that email and I immediately wrote back to her after looking at her breathtaking photography. One email led to another and the next thing we know, we were friends. Sylvie then told me how she was planning to start her own food blog and I was so confident that she and her blog would be a big hit. Now I can brag by saying that, "Sylvie, I told you so!" She is not only a great photographer but a very engaging writer who can take you to a different world with her stories. No wonder she now has a very successful blog Gourmande In the Kitchen. So when I was thinking of some great people to take my place while I am gone, she had to be one of them. Please welcome Sylvie who is here with a lovely post and recipe!

Thank you Prerna for inviting me to share my recipe with your readers, I am very happy to be here.

lemon raspberry tart guest post (1 of 1)-7

Inspired by the countless hours I’ve spent eyeing the gorgeous displays in patisserie windows, I wanted to share my Lemon Raspberry Tart with White Chocolate Drizzle.
When I first walked into the pastry shop, I didn’t know where to focus my attention.  What had lured me in were the colorful rows of delicate macarons displayed in the shop window.  Once inside my eyes darted frantically around the room landing first on the rows of individual chocolates.   Countless varieties of creamy ganache-filled squares sat just out of reach behind the glass case.  Across from those were the boxed gifts stuffed with tuiles and buttery miniature cookies.  Just down from the chocolates were the pastries.  Oh, the pastries!  A case full of exquisitely crafted pieces entranced me, and the above was quickly overlooked.

lemon raspberry tart guest post (1 of 1)-3

Insatiable.  That’s the appropriate word for my appetite when it comes to dessert.  My face lit up, and the wheels started turning in my head. “They all look so amazing. Should I get one?  Which one should I try?”  Oh the agony of choosing!  I quickly reminded myself that it is very possible to overlook gems if your focus is always on the most ornate offerings, so I composed myself and refocused.  Elegant yet understated, it was the simple aesthetic of the lemon tart that caught my attention.  But the minimal and straight lemon tart exudes simplicity in its content as well as its form.

lemon raspberry tart guest post (1 of 1)-6

While it sounds rather ordinary, a good lemon tart is a brilliant juxtaposition of intensity and delicateness.  The pastry crust is sandy and light in texture, yet rich with butter flavor.  The bright tartness of the citrus filling is tamed ever so slightly by just the right amount sugar.  The creaminess of the sweet-sour filling contrasts in turn with the crumbliness of the cookie-like crust.  Bold and boisterous when it first hits the tongue, the gooey bed of lemon quickly melts and melds with the crunchy bits of crust, the two smoothly rolling around the mouth.

lemon raspberry tart guest post (1 of 1)-3

You don’t need any advanced pastry skills to make my version however.  The food processor does all the mixing for the pâte sable.  No rolling is required either; you just press the dough into the tart pan. The tart shell is blind baked, then filled with a mixture of eggs, sugar, lemon juice and heavy cream. Quickly whisked together and briefly baked, it requires only the slightest attention.  The tart is finished with a thin layer of raspberry jam and a drizzle of white chocolate for a big impact with little effort.
Oh, and that lemon tart I was eyeing… I got it; that, and a few more pastries.

Lemon Raspberry Tart with White Chocolate Drizzle
Serves 8 to 10

For the Crust
1 1/4 cups (166g) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (50g) confectioners’ sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (114g) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 large egg yolk
½ tsp vanilla extract
For the Lemon Filling
3 large eggs, at room temperature
¾ cup (150 g) granulated sugar
1/3 cup (75 ml) strained fresh squeezed lemon juice
1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoon (100 ml) heavy cream
For the Finish
1 cup (320g) good quality raspberry jam
4 oz good quality white chocolate, finely chopped

lemon raspberry tart guest post (1 of 1)

Make the crust:
1. Place the flour, confectioners’ sugar, and salt in a food processor and process to combine. Add the butter pieces and process briefly to blend, until the mixture resembles bread crumbs (about 10 seconds). Mix the egg and vanilla together in a small bowl just to combine. With the motor running add the egg yolk and vanilla extract, then pulse in 1 second intervals until the mixture starts to come together (do not overmix).
2. Turn out the dough onto the bottom of a greased 9 inch false-bottomed fluted tart pan and press the mixture into the pan firmly with your fingers into an even layer over the entire pan bottom and up the sides. Prick the bottom with a fork and refrigerate for at least 1 hour to firm.  (The crust can be made ahead of time and kept in the fridge or freezer until needed)
3. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 375° F (190° C) Place the tart pan on a baking sheet.  Line the dough with parchment and evenly fill with pie weights (or you can use dried beans).  Bake the crust for about 20 minutes, or until the edge of the crust is golden. Remove parchment and weights from crust, and continue baking until the entire crust is a light golden color, about 5 minutes more. Set aside to cool while you make the filling. Leave the oven on.

Make the filling:
1. In a medium bowl, beat the eggs lightly to just combine them. Add the sugar and lemon juice and mix just until blended. Stir in the cream slowly just until blended. 

Bake the tart:
1.Pour the filling into the partially baked tart shell. Return to 375°F (190°C) oven and bake for 18 to 20 minutes, or until the filling appears set, and only the center quivers a little.
2. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool on the pan for about 20 minutes.
3. Refrigerate the tart just long enough to chill, about 30 minutes.

Finish the tart:
1. Heat the raspberry jam until just warm to make it easier to spread. Spread evenly over the cool tart with an off-set spatula.  Place the tart back in the fridge to firm up while you melt the chocolate.
2. Slowly melt the white chocolate in double boiler or alternatively, place in small microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on medium (50% power) for 1 minute. Stir. Microwave 30 seconds more or until the chocolate is softened, stir until smooth.
3. Drizzle tart with melted chocolate, using a small spoon, or alternatively put in a squeeze bottle and squeeze across the top of the tart in a zig-zag pattern.  Return the tart to fridge to allow chocolate to set for another 20 minutes or longer.
4. Slide the rim of the tart pan down so that the bottom of the pan is released as the metal rim slips down.  Cut the tart into wedges with a sharp knife.


Friday, April 8, 2011

Chocolate Cake Pops - Guest Post by Joyti from Darjeeling Dreams

How are you all doing there? I know it has been ages since I last came here to say hello but you can imagine how busy I must be these days. By busy I mean shopping all day long! And searching for the fast food stall that I used to frequent years back, needs a lot of of time. Little monster is enjoying all the attention and doesn't even remember that she has a mom and dad too, and trust me I am enjoying it! But today I managed to take a break from all the fun and introduce to you someone whose work I really adore. I am thrilled to welcome Joyti from Darjeeling Dreams. Another blog that I fell in love with during the days when Indian Simmer was a little baby. More than that, I fell in love with Joyti's warmth. I not only looked up to having a blog as gorgeous as her's but she also inspired me to lend a helping hand to someone asking for one. I have no doubt you will fall in love with her as soon as you visit her blog but just look at what she made for us today... Cake Pops!! Now who can beat that?! Please welcome Jyoti!

Cake pops in hand

When Prerna first asked me to do a guest post for her, I was thrilled. Of course, its flattering to be asked to be a guest on a blog as beautiful as hers. Its a blog that is filled with not only with beautiful photographs and useable, delicious food, but also the wonderfully friendly, charming spirit of the blog editor herself. And, at the same time, I felt intimidated as well. I’m sure you can understand.

Cake pop with milk

It took me quite a bit of time to come up with a recipe to share. I thought that I should not only make something for Prerna, but for her little princess as well. For, after all, in Hindu households such as Prerna’s and the one that I grew up in, girl children are treated like princesses. It is believed that daughters are a living form of the goddess of good luck and prosperity, and thus, bring these in to their birth family. Also, having once been a little girl myself, I can still remember thinking that if a guest brought a gift or a treat, it should have been for me. So how can I be a guest in Prerna’s space without bringing something for her princess?

slice of chocolate cake 2

In that spirit, I made cake pops. I would imagine that most little girls would enjoy them, they look like adorable candies but are basically the smallest, cutest form of cake imaginable. Cake pops have become insanely popular in the last few years, but their popularity is deserved. They actually taste good. Yes, they’re cake, but deliciously moist candy-covered cake. And they are on a stick, so they make a perfect finger food. Or finger dessert – which should be a separate category of sweet altogether. Moreover, cake pops would be so nice and easy for little princesses to hold and still keep their hands clean.

Chocolate Cake Pops

Makes 32-36
- 1 recipe Glazed Chocolate Cake
(or any 9-inch round chocolate cake)
- 12 oz. whipped cream cheese
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- 28 oz candy melts or other meltable white/dark chocolate
- optional: sprinkles, cake pearls, edible glitter, or fondant…
You will also need lollipop sticks, which you can find at craft stores, Sur la Table, or on Amazon.com.

Carefully cut the glaze or frosting off of the chocolate cake, reserve. Crumble the cake with hands or food processor, and put crumbs into a large bowl. Combine the reserved glaze, whipped cream cheese, and sugar in a medium bowl. Mix this mixture into the cake crumbs thoroughly.

Form 1 tbsp-sized balls, and stick onto lollipop sticks. Freeze for 2+ hours. Melt candy melts or chocolate in microwave or over double boiler. Be careful if using the microwave – do not overmelt or the candy melts/chocolate can seize. Roll the cake balls in the mixture. If using sprinkles or other décor, apply at this point.

Freeze for approximately 30 minutes to harden shell.
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