Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Cucumber at its best- with chaat masala

Curious George was on television. Little one was sitting on her high chair with a bottle of milk in hand and her eyes stuck to the television. This particular time is one of the most stressful time of the whole day for me because she hates milk and pushing it down her throat is a struggle. So I try everything from love to blackmail, screaming to bribing and even the television and Curious George to distract her and make her drink that freaking glass of milk. I was doing all that and was also trying to think. Think of some good recipe worth sharing for the summer fest. This week's ingredient is cucumber.

Amongst all this A thought of jumping in mostly because he had nothing better to do I guess! And he started throwing ideas. Ideas like a recipe involving a boat of cucumber stuffed with minced meat, deep fried cucumbers and something that involved cucumber and beer. Yes, ideas like that! When nothing sounded good to me he said, "just tell me the first thing that comes to your mind when you think cucumber". I tried doing so and it worked like magic.

It took me years back to the days when as a child I would go to my grandma's place for summer vacations. We would catch a state transposrt bus from the bus station at the crack of dawn. It used to be so early in the morning that we would still be half asleep when mummy would help us climb up the steps to the bus. Seats would be hard as rock and within few minutes the whole bus would be stuffed with people, not an inch to move. I would cling on to papa (my dad) and choose the window seat. The big wide windows with sliding glass doors. Bus would start and leave our town. Papa would tell stories, show me mountains, cows in the open field. When bus stops at the next station vendors would rush selling all kinds of stuff by the window. Fresh cut mangoes, coconut water, boiled chest nuts and cucumbers. Fresh cucumber, skin peeled off, cut in wedges with lots of chaat masala sprinkled on top, a little bit of red pepper flakes and a nice squirt of lemon juice to top it all off. That's the image I get when I think cucumber. And that's what food does to you. No matter how simple or complicated the method is to prepare it or how expensive the food itself is, it helps make memories. It takes you to a different place.

Chaat Masala
So after recovering from all that nostalgia I thought harder to find a recipe for cucumber that is fancy enough to be shared here. But went back to this simple cucumber and chaat masala salad every time. Finally decided I should share this memorable part of my childhood with you. In this recipe everything lies in the chaat masala powder and fresh cucumber. I like the little pickling cucumber mostly because that's very close to the kind of cucumber we get in India. And chaat masala just like garam masala is a mixture of a few spices. Its slightly sweet, a little tangy, a bit hot and a little salty. So you can imagine for something that has all kinds of flavors in it how this spice blend might spruce up any dish. Most common use of chaat masala is in raita (yogurt dips), fruit salads, bhel puri and of course chaat (a spicy and tangy preparation with chickpea curry and potatoes).So here's the recipe for cucumber salad with chaat masala and lemon juice.

This is how cucumber should be eaten!


Cucumber (peeled and cut into thick wedges)
juice of half lemon

For Chaat Masala:
2 tablespoon cumin seeds (I roast cumin seeds stiriing it in a hot pan for about a minute till it starts giving a beautiful aroma)
1 tablespoon rock salt (kala namak)
1 1/2 tablespoon Aamchur (dried mango powder) You can easily find it at any Indian grocery store.
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp salt


Grind all the ingredients of chaat masala together in a coffee grinder and store in an air tight container.
Sprinkle some chaat masala on cucumber wedges. Some lemon juice on top and enjoy one of the world's best coolers/salad just like that!

Some more cucumber recipes from friends-
Pinch My Salt: Chilled Cucumber, Kefir and Avocado Soup
What’s Gaby Cooking: Cucumber-Basil Gimlet
In Jennie’s Kitchen: Radish-Cucumber Crostini
Big Girl Small Kitchen: Spicy Cucumber Salad with Shallot, Ginger and Mint
Grecian Kitchen: Summer Cucumber Salad
And Love It Too: Cucumber, Mint and Watermelon Salad
Napa Farmhouse 1885: Cucumbers Coolers with Agave Simple Syrup
Cooking With My Kid: Cucumber Limeade
FN Dish: Summer Fest: Cucumber Recipes
CIA Dropout: Relishing Cucumbers
Healthy Eats: Cool Cucumber Soup
Food for 7 Stages of Life: Cucumber Cherry Salsa
Cooking With Elise: Green Tea Cucumber Pops
Glory Foods: Cucumber and Shrimp Boat
Virtually Vegan Mama: Fire-Roasted Tomato and Cucumber Gazpacho
Food2: When Life Gives You Cucumbers, Make a Cucumber Cocktai
Cooking Channel: Cucumbers Stuffed with Crab-Mango Salad
Recipe Girl: Bread and Butter Pickles
Taste With the Eyes: Spicy Pickled Cucumbers with Wakame and Garlic Blossoms
Virtually Homemade: Cold Thai Cucumber-Mint Soup
Add a Pinch: Cucumber Tea Sandwiches
The Cultural Dish: Ahi Tuna with Cucumber Sauce and Salad
Daily*Dishin: Cool n’ Zesty Cukes: 7 Minute Summer in a Jar
Daydreamer Desserts: Cubanita Margarita
Purple Cook: Cucumber Gazpacho with Indian Flavored Shrimp Relish
Big Apple Nosh: Quick and Easy Homemade Pickles
Sweet Life Bake: Agua de Pepino
The Sensitive Epicure: Tzatziki with Grilled Gluten-Free Pitas and Fresh Cucumbers and Peppers
Zaika Zabardast: Cucumber Gazpacho
A Way to Garden: Cucumber-Growing Q&A and the Best Pickles
Cooking with Books: Summer Fest: Cucumbers

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Monday, July 11, 2011

Spelt Flour Challah Dough Rolls & Chocolate Babka by Food Wanderings

There are a few things in life that you can do and then there are some that you cannot. Sooner you get in terms with that, the better. Like I have come in terms with the fact that I just can not bake a beautiful loaf of bread. However hard I try it never comes out to be crusty on the outside, light and airy on the inside. But I always want to bake one and look for people who can teach me the right tricks to do so. So today I thought of inviting my dear friend Shulie who knows a thing or two about the art of baking a bread! Shulie like me also has her roots back in India. She comes from an Indian Jewish family and was born and brought up in Israel but has lived in the US for half her life. You can imagine how culturally rich her kitchen and her recipes must be. When I expressed my lack of skills in the baking front she very kindly offered me to teach a few tricks. What better recipe to learn from her than a Challah, right? So let me present you Shulie from Food Wanderings, a gorgeous and informative blog you just can't afford to miss!

When the wonderful and very talented Prerna asked me to guest for her, initially I was thinking of something Indian from my mom's. When I saw a recipe by an Israeli chef for a spelt savory challah filled with sauteed vegetables the opportunity presented itself. For years now I wished to bake with different grains. Somehow I felt the spelt would go perfectly with chocolate and upon further baking and experimenting, I felt my original proportion for the honey challah worked best. For example instead of the 3/4 cup oil I only used 1/2. One thing led to another and I thought what better recipe to share with Prerna than one from my Jewish and Israeli heritage. Although the recipe is evolved from savory to sweet and tweaked, originally it was dubbed A Galilee Challah.

This dough is very versatile. If you wish to make only rolls, reduce sugar to 1/2 cup and make knots for individual mini rolls. You can also make sweet rolls and leave the recipe as is. You can make 2 Babka loaves with two thirds of the dough and mini individual rolls with the third remaining dough and so on…

Spelt flour can be found at Whole Foods or at least in the DC area in some mainstream supermarkets. It can also be found online . I bought two organic brands Arrowhead Mills and Bob’s Red Mill. I baked with both batches challah rolls and babkas, both came out fabulous. They vary slightly in texture and moisture level. Arrowhead is slightly coarser, Red Mill more floury. Arrowhead seems to have more moisture. Add to both doughs water slowly while kneading in mixer as different spelt flours from different companies vary.


½  kg (1.1lbs) all purpose unbleached flour
½ kg (1.1lbs) spelt flour
25 grams (3 ½ packets) of active dry yeast (each packet is 1/4oz)
 ¾ cups sugar in the raw
1 tablespoon salt
2 eggs
1 1/2 – 1 3/4 cups mineral water
½ cup canola oil
1 egg for egg wash
Sesame seeds

Chocolate Filling:
12oz bitter sweet chocolate chips
4oz butter
2oz corn starch


In a mixer with a hook attachment, add both flours, yeast, sugar, salt, canola oil and eggs. Mix on low and slowly add water. Knead on low for about 8-10 minutes. Coat with a light film of oil and set back into mixer bowl. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let rise in a cool spot for an hour until doubles.

While Dough is rising, melt butter and chocolate in a bain-marie, a water bath, until melted to smooth silky texture. Take chocolate/butter mixture off the heat and add corn starch. Mix well and let cool.

Cut risen dough into thirds. With one third, work on lightly floured surface. Return the other two parts to the bowl and cover with a plastic wrap. Butter 9X5X2 ¾ inch loaf pan. At this point you can butter three loaf pans to make entire dough into three loaves

Roll out each third into about 18x14 inch rectangular shape. Spread third of chocolate mixture on rolled out dough surface, leaving an uncovered edge/border of about ¼ inch all around. Fold ¼ inch wide edges and start folding into a rolled torte shape from long side. Twist rolled dough 5-6 times/twists and fit into loaf pan.

Brush with a beaten egg wash and sprinkle with sesame seeds and let rest for 20-40 minutes covered with plastic wrap. Bake in a preheated 350F oven for about 30 minutes or until deep golden on top.

If you wish to make plain spelt challah roll knots, divide dough into palm size rolls, roll out to about a nine inch cylinder and knot like first knot of a shoelace, with one edge of the knot popping up through the hole. Brush with an egg wash and sprinkle with sesame seeds.

Let rolls rise for 20-40 minutes on a parchment lined cookie sheet, one inch apart from each other, covered with plastic wrap. Pop cookie sheet into a preheated 350F oven for 15-25 minutes or until deep golden.

Once cooled, loaves can be frozen wrapped in foil and then plastic wrap. Reheat oven to 350F before serving, take plastic wrap off and reheat in foil for about 20 minutes. Put frozen loaf directly into preheated oven.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Vada Pav (Indian Slider)

Did I tell you we went to Napa for the 4th of July weekend? Ok, not exactly the whole long weekend but made a quick one day trip to Napa. Enjoyed a fabulous weather, tasted some wine and had our little family picnic. It was after quite a while that we as a family spent some relaxed time. Just the three of us! Chased the little one in an open field, fell off and laughed till our stomach hurt. Good time! And this is when come pouring the memories of your own childhood.

I remember as children we did not have the luxury of getting away every long weekend. We had to wait the whole year for the summers to come until there were summer vacations. Every summer vacation our parents would take us to a new place. A new city every summer. India is a country of diverse cultures and one part of the country is so different from the other. So every trip used to be a new experience. Every summer used to be different from the previous. This one summer we went to Bombay (now Mumbai), the big city with the ocean, local trains, bustling streets and vada pav! Vada Pav was the first thing that we ate at the train station as soon as we stepped into the city. I remember me and my dad loving it so much that we ate just vada pav for the next three days! A fried potato dumpling sandwiched between two pieces of a pav (bread). It was good and its taste lasted long – until today!

It’s a hugely popular street food in India and has its origins in the state of Maharashtra. For the vada pav you need some potatoes – don’t ask what kind. In India back then if you asked for potatoes you’d get potatoes. No Russets, Yukons or Idahos, just potatoes. So out of two most important things for vada pav, one is potato and the second is pav. Pav is the dinner roll you use at your home every day. But it was not before I bit into the vada pav I made for this post that I realized that there was a third very important ingredient. That is this dry red coconut and garlic chutney. I forgot to make it before taking photos but very soon I realized the mistake, so please try and make this chutney to accompany your vada pav.

Vada Pav

My friend Brian from A Thought For Food invited me over to his lovely blog to share an Indian recipe with him and his readers. It was 4th of July and I had made these Vada Pav for the picnic. Prefect time for me to share this recipe which is easy, simple and yet packed with tons of flavors. Brian says his readers loved the recipe. If you want to check it out head over to Brian's blog. But let me warn you that its going to be tough for you to come out of it. Yes, he is awesome and so is his photography and blog. Hope you enjoy!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Peach Gujiya - An Indian Empanada or Deep Fried Pie?

 Summer is here in full swing. We are all enjoying the seasonal produce, trying to experiment with new recipes and also enjoying some old favorites. Food Network thought it would be great to kick off the summer fest again. So they teamed up with some food bloggers and brought back Summer Fest 2011. I had so much fun doing it last year that I had to say yes! If you are not sure what Summer Fest is, its a season- long garden party. Every week or every other week a favorite seasonal produce is featured and we cook and bring something new to the table. This week's theme was peaches.

Peach Gujiya

On the 4th of July weekend we took a stroll to the wine country to taste some wine. While driving through the gorgeous scenic roads of Napa Valley I bumped into a fruit stand. The fruit stand had fresh produce straight off the trees from the farm right behind it. They had some of the juiciest and sweetest berries and cherries, ripe red apples and then there were peaches - prefect for my summer fest recipe! So I bought a bag, brought them home and made Peach Gujiya.

Easy Peach Gujiya!

You can call Gujiya a sweet Indian twin brother of Empanadas. A flaky and slightly salty flattened dough wrapped around a sweet filling and then deep fried. Traditionally the filling is either made of mava/khoya (a milk derivative made by reducing the milk to a thick paste or even a dry form). In some parts of India it is also filled with sweetened coconut mixture. Inspired by sweet empanadas and pies, I gave the traditional gujiya my own twist and made a sweet, fruity and peachy one!

For the outer crust of a gujiya you work pretty much like you do for the dough of your empanadas or pie crust, just a little less butter. For the filling I used nice and ripe peaches, the slightly harder ones will be chunky in your mouth and will not melt as well but if you like it chunky, use the ones that are a little harder. Then another challenge I faced was the extra juice or liquid the fruit sheds once you add sugar and working with that can become a problem. For that I first drained all the extra liquid from the fruit before adding sugar and then when you add grated coconut the consistency is perfect. You can even cook the fruit in a little butter to get rid of the extra liquid. 

While playing around with the recipe I used two interesting spices - black pepper and cardamom. Boy, that tasted good! Sweetness from the peach, a light aroma of cardamom and punch with pepper worked well together! Ok, you can imagine what I am trying to say- Try it, because its good!
Do you also have some peachy recipes up your sleeve? Share some of your flavor experiments in the comments section below or join the conversation on twitter using the hash tag #cookingwith. I will come back with some more peach recipes by other participants tomorrow.

Indian empanadas or a pie?

For the filling:
2 1/2 cups ripe peaches (diced and drained)
1/2 cup grated dry coconut
1/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 tsp crushed black pepper
1/2 tsp crushed cardamom seeds
1 tbsp cornstarch

For the dough:
2 cups all purpose flour
8 tbsp ghee
1/2 tsp baking soda
Oil for frying


For the dough mix flour, baking soda and ghee together. For the ghee to mix well with the flour I pick a little flour in hand and rub it between the palms. If you hold flour in your fist and on opening the fist it holds itself in a ball and doesn't run out then you know the proportion of ghee and flour is right and its mixed well.
Now while sprinkling little water, try to knead the flour forming a stuff dough. You should not be able to penetrate the dough very easily when poking with a finger.
Cover with a damp cloth and set aside.

For the filling mix all the ingredients together. Set aside.
Divide the dough into equal parts and make balls off of them.
Dust your working station and roll each ball into circle (if the circles are not "circular" enough then just use a small plate or cup as a cutter).
Put a tablespoon of filling on one half of the circle. Run a finger dipped in water around the edges. Fold the other half over it so the edges meet, forming a half moon.
My life was a little easier because my mom got me these gujiya fillers and cutters from India. But you can use a fork to press the edges and stick them together forming tiny lines all around the edges, just like you do for empanada.
Repeat the same for the rest of the dough and filling. Cover it with damp cloth.
Heat oil/ghee for deep frying and fry gujiya until its golden brown on the outside.
I poked a hole on one side of the gujiya as soon as it came out of the deep fryer. I think it helped release the hot vapors from inside of the gujiya without letting the juicy liquid seep out of it. I can be wrong too.
You can either serve it hot or when its cold enough to not burn your tongue!

Be sure to check out these peachy links from other participants.
CIA Dropout: Peachy Keen Panna Cotta
In Jennie’s Kitchen: Easy Peach Preserves
Daily Dishin: Fresh Peaches and Cream No-Bake Pie
Cooking with Books: Peaches and Cream Cheesecake
Cooking With My Kid: Peach & Friends Cobbler Pie
White on Rice Couple: Peach Heirloom Tomato Salad
Cooking With Elise: Bruschetta with Grilled Peach Chutney
FN Dish: Summer Fest: Peach Recipes
Taste With The Eyes: Warm White Peach and Blackberry Cobbler
Recipe Girl: Fresh Peach Pie
A Way to Garden: Farm Fresh Peaches Frozen to Perfection
Napa Farmhouse 1885: Fresh Peach Cookies
Sassy Radish: Peach, Apricot and Blueberry Cobbler with a Cornmeal Crust
Sweet Life Bake: Sweet Peach Ancho Chile Salsa
Pinch My Salt: Creamy Peach Smoothie
Dixie Chik Cooks: Peach Cobbler
Food2: 5 Killer Peach Flavored Cocktails
Healthy Eats: 8 Ways You Didn’t Know You Could Eat Peaches
Cooking Channel: Peaches on the Grill
Add a Pinch: My Grandmother’s Peach Cobbler
And Love It Too: Pan Seared Salmon with Fresh Peach Salsa
The Sensitive Epicure: A Summer Peach Tart, Gluten-Free
From My Corner of Saratoga: Double Caramel Peaches
She Wears Many Hats: Peach Wontons
I Am Mommy: Peach Bread

Friday, July 1, 2011

Shikanji (Indian Limeade) Sorbet for this 4th of July

Summers are not that hot around here. Coming from India and after experiencing Indian summer, 70 or 80 degrees feels like a cool breeze. Summers in California are probably not summery enough for me!

Shikanji (Indian Limeade) Sorbet

Still the ray of sunshine sneaking through the window and the sound of ice cream truck passing by in the afternoon reminds that its summer time. It reminds that no matter what country and what part of the world you live in, simple things in life always remain simple. Boxes of strawberries bring the same joy on the little monster's face as the bags of mangoes did to ours as a child. Kids selling lemonades by the street just like at those nimbu pani and shikanji stalls in India.


Summers in India are not the sunny, warm and bright summers like California. Summers in India mean scorching heat, sand storms and sweaty days and these nimbu pani and shikhanji stalls are a sigh of relief. These can be found anywhere throughout summer. Back in the day they would sell a glass of shikanji for 50 paisas. From rikshawwalas to those coming out of a car, people would stand in lines to grab one and kill the heat even for a few minutes. It worked like magic, brought smile to faces and made the day a little brighter.

You can call Shikanji an Indian version of limeade. Water, lime juice and sugar. To spice it up, add some ginger and a little mint adds more flavor. I tried to take it to another level and make a sorbet of it. Or to be honest it was the little one who gave me the idea. She is a lover of i-pream (ice cream). She demands that I make an ice cream of everything I put in front of her, even pasta and lentils! Ok, I did not go that far but I try to throw everything I can in the ice cream maker. The same happened to my shikanji and thank god she demanded me to do so because a shikanji sorbet tastes SO much better than a normal shikanji. Even better than the one they sell outside the bus-station in summers in India. Try this shikanji sorbet this 4th of July and you will thank the little monster for this idea like I do now!


Ingredients: Serves 4

1/3 cup lime juice
1/3 cup sugar
1 inch fresh ginger root
1/2 cup fresh mint leaves
3 cups water

In a tall glass or a bowl, pour lime juice and sugar. Add mint and ginger root and mull it well.
Let it sit for half an hour.
Then pour it into the ice cream maker along with water. Process according to the instructions.
Freeze in an airtight container for a couple hours and then serve.
In case you don't have an ice cream maker I have tried the recipe with a smoothie maker. Just that instead of water, you add 5 cups of ice to the shikanji mix and set the blender to ice crusher setting. Blend it all together until the mixture is smooth and stiff. Serve immediately.
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