Sunday, May 22, 2016

Potato Lasagna with OXO bakeware

In the 20 plus years that I have been using OXO, I've seen the product range expand from the traditional Kitchen gadgets (like the peeler I've held on to since 1996) to small appliances to baking equipment. I have been fortunate to test many of these appliances and they've been a firm and permanent fixture in my kitchen.

The latest from OXO product line is a fantastic set of bakeware and glass storage bowls with airtight lids. The first feature that grabs your eyeballs is the weight of the pans ans you carefully pull it out of the packaging. Like it or not, glass bakeware has a tendency to make food stick to the bottom. (just think of how many dish cleaning products base their ads on this one fact), and my first instinct as my arms adjusted to the weight of the baking dish was 'I wonder if the heavy base will minimize the scrubbing afterward'.

 I did a test run with the 9 inch square baking dish using a ready made brownie package and it aced the test. once the brownies had cooled down, they could be cut and scooped out with minimal crumbs stuck to the pan, which made cleaning a breeze.

As is the case with any product oriented post, I always worry myself silly about what I should make. Its a natural reaction, you want to showcase the product with a fantastic recipe that really catches the reader's attention.
This 14 piece package from OXO was a combination of bakeware and storage bowls. A 9 inch pie plate, a 1.6 qt loaf pan (awaiting a recipe for my baking series later this week) 2 baking dishes  - a 2 qt. square and a 3 qt. rectangular dish. The snapware storage bowls are available in 4, 2 or single cup capacity and they are so watertight and sturdy, that they can even be used to send lunch for potentially clumsy elementary school kids (and yes, I personally did that validation successfully)

While I debated between a new variation of a biryani or a colorful beet terrine, a flashback to a facebook conversation made up my mind for me.

Raghavan Iyer, the James Bear & Emmy winning chef had posted a picture of a dish he simply referred to as Potato Lasagna. The photograph has no indication on what the ingredients were, or the technique, nothing, nada, zip zilch. This was a perfect inspiration to create a new dish that I decided to make up as I went along. Once the idea struck, it was a focused shopping trip to get the ingredients.

The dish could have gone in two directions, Pasta sheets layered with a potato based filling which would have rendered the dish Carb-centric. Naah, that would have been just another pasta dish.. so this alternate version was what I went with and the results were DELICIOUS!

Potato Lasagna:

You need:

  • 10 - 12 medium sized Yukon gold potatoes
  • 32 oz Ricotta Cheese (I used Part Skim, but feel free to use the full fat version)
  • 2 cups shredded Mozzarella Cheese
  • 1 cup shredded or grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 1/2 cup Panko Bread crumbs
  • 4 - 5 tablespoons Herbes de Provence
  • 1/3 cup Basil Pesto
  • 4 tablespoons tomato flakes 
  • 2 tablespoons Tomato paste
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Korean chili threads or chili flakes for topping (Optional)

Combine the Ricotta, Panko and the Herbes de Provence and fold well to ensure that it gets well mixed. Season with Salt and pepper and taste to adjust.

Divide into three equal parts. Combine one part with the tomato paste and one with the Basil Pesto. Leave the last bowl alone, just seasoned with the Herbes de Provence. Let these sit in the refrigerator while you prep the potatoes.

Wash and peel the potatoes. Using a Mandoline (I used the OXO handheld slicer at the thickest setting '4' ), Slice the potatoes. Place these slices in batches in a steamer basket and par cook them until barely limp. Take care not to completely cook the potatoes or else they will disintegrate, Conversely you do not want to use raw potatoes since it will be difficult to layer the ricotta mix over crunchy potato slices.

Place  the potatoes in a single layer, overlapping slightly so as to not leave any open gaps in between. Gently 'drop' the first ricotta layer (the Tomato flavored one) and press down to evenly spread out over the potatoes, covering them. Season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle 1/2 a cup of Mozzarella cheese.

Repeat the sequence with another layer of potatoes, followed by the white layer (seasoned with just the dried herbes de Provence), season with salt and pepper and 1/2 a cup of mozzarella. Finish off the final layer using the Pesto infused Ricotta mix.

 Combine the remaining Mozzarella with the shredded Parmesan and top liberally over the Ricotta
-Pesto mix. Top off with the Korean Chile threads or chili flakes.

Preheat the oven to 375 F , and bake the dish for about 30-40 minutes until the top turns golden brown and bubbly.  Remove from the oven allow to cool for about 15 minutes before cutting the Lasagna into serving size pieces.

Notice how cleanly the lasagna can be scooped up from the glass dish w/o sticking..
 Serve warm with a side of salad and a glass of chilled Rose.

The three layers of ricotta show up beautifully with their respective colors, Try as I might I could not capture it well enough when the lasagna was fresh and warm, but the leftovers, once covered  and stored overnight (in the baking dish itself), show up the layers beautifully

 Using the bits of potato and fillings left over from the big dish, (there was just about enough for a personal one cup version. I used the 1 cup Snapware glass bowl to assemble, bake, refrigerate  AND pack it of to school for lunch. You better believe it, it does go straight from oven to fridge with no hassles.

Thank you to OXO & Ms. Veronica Chan to test the new OXO glassware. Stay tuned for a bread recipe coming up using the OXO loaf pan later this week.

Bon Appetit!

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Happy Holi - A recipe for Thandai Posset

Holi hai - 'Its Holi' runs the refrain this time of year when merriment and revelry break loose with he advent of spring. when travel brochures describe it as a 'riot of color' you could take it literally. THe festival is riotous, the normal 'distance' between the genders is blurred, sometimes for the worse. There was a rather powerful tweet out there yesterday suggesting that Holi would be a perfect occasion to teach kids accept 'NO' for an answer, something the average male Indian population seems all to often to require a refresher in.
From the mythological point of view, Holi celebrates the rather fiery end of a demoness called Holika. Holika was the sister of the asura Hiranyakashipu, whose son was a devotee of Lord Vishnu. Hiranyakaship hated Vishnu with such a passion that he later found refuge at the feet of the Lord, simply because of his perverted reverse obsession. Similar to what the Abrahamic texts sometimes indicate about Lucifer, the fallen angel. Well, Hiranyakashipu knew very well that Holika was immune to fire and so asked her to incinerate Prahlad to get rid of the Vishnu obsession. To cut a long story short, Holika reduces to ashes, the kid lives.

Where there is revelry, invariably there is food, and Holi is no exception. Probably the only celelbration when pot brownies would be offered as prasad before being consumed with devotion. Other dishes associated with Holi inclide 'Poli' - In Maharashtra, its a griddled flatbread stuffed with a sweet dal filling. (I have a Panfusine version, but its currently still in my head), Bhang, an intoxicating desi 'eggnog style' drink laced with Pot, and its virgin counterpart Thandai, both of which claim their origins to  the ancient city of Benares.

I have already posted a recipe for  Posset a couple of years ago, and here's the recipe if you're looking for it. What is Posset? Its basically cream seasoned with spices and curdled to set like a custard. Setting agents of yore included ale, but this version I have in the recipe section is completely non-alcoholic. Heck, I'm hoping that the kids will help me polish of this batch of decadent rich dessert.

Thandai Posset (serves 4)

You need:
1 cup heavy cream (not whipping cream)
1 cup 2% milk
1/2 cup pistachio
1/4 cup cashewnuts
1/4 cup almonds
1/2 cup sugar
juice of 1 Meyer lemon (~ 2 tablespoons)
1 teaspoon spice blend**

**Spice blend
1/2 teaspoon Fennel seeds,
3-4 cardamom pods powdered
1/4 teaspoon mix of nutmeg and mace powdered together

Combine the nuts together in a  bowl and pour 2 cups of boiling water over. Allow to cool and then peel the brown skins over the almonds and the covering over the pistachios. Drain and combine with the cup of 2% milk, the spice blend and the sugar and blend to a smooth paste. Strain the paste to remove any gritty bits of nutmeat.

Whisk in the nutmeat paste with the heavy cream and bring to a gentle simmer. Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly.

Whisk in the lemon juice (seeds strained out of course) and pour the mixture into 4 small cups. Allow to set and chill in the refrigerator for about 2 hours.

Garnish with microplaned bits of pistachio and saffron strands and serve chilled.

Happy Holi & Bon Appetit!

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Dessert Bowls with OXO - Chia and Forbidden Rice Pudding with grilled fruits.

When it comes to new kitchen gadgets, I make no bones of it, I have a weakness. I love them, some fall by the wayside ass I fall out, and with some, its an enduring relationship as I depend upon them for my daily cooking. I's not often that I get to extol about kitchen gadgets used in daily cooking, because this blog is not about what I cook daily for my family (although my Instagram feed does take care of that).
Oxo's latest product campaign just upped the ante in the utility category and I ended up using the products on a regular basis before the recipe actually became a reality.
The package arrived with a colander bowl, a hand held mandoline and a grape/tomato cutter.

Since rice is a daily staple, I put the rice & grain  colander to full use from day one. the perforations on the gadgets are small enough to hold in the tiniest of seeds such as quinoa and the wining feature is the perforations added on the pouring spout that drains of residual water with an extra bit of efficiency. I wish I had a good enough shot of the chia seeds that I rinsed for the recipe. but, moist chia seeds are not really photogenic.

The Mandolin is a must have implement. A gadget designed for home cooks that matches up to professional mandolins.

It comes with seven settings from slices thick enough for making gratins to almost translucent paper thin . Any thinner setting and I'd probably be ordering a  micrometer gauge to measure my slices of beets & turnips. Even fussy, non conventional fruits like pineapples were no match for the slicing abilities of this gadget. In addition to a safety guard, this mandoline has a locking safety feature that ensures that the blade isn't exposed for any potential mishap while stored away.

Last but not the least, the grape and tomato cutter, a tool for small fruits and vegetables such as pitted olives, grapes and tomatoes. this spring loaded cutter neatly quarters into small wedges. It's perfect for salads.

The contours are designed to curve around your fingers and its a breeze to clean, The added bonus - my kids were arguing about who gets to dice the grapes for the final recipe. Its quite kid friendly with proper supervision.

You can take these words to the bank that I will be using these tools regularly for future blog posts.

It was a toss up between a savory breakfast or a dessert, since the theme had to be a dish presented in a bowl. Even though I had used these tools for other breakfast dishes like steel cut oats upma Oats Upma, It wasn't as photogenic in terms of the color. A beautiful contrast of a light lavender from the purple forbidden rice and sunshine yellow from the mango puree that the chia seeds are hydrated with.
And so the final recipe that showcases these amazing kitchen gadgets is a rather hearty, yet elegant dessert. The tough purple forbidden rice is packed with healthy flavanoids and Chia is, of course a super food, packed with Omega 3 fatty acids, anti-oxidants and fiber.

Chia and Forbidden Rice Pudding with grilled fruits

You need:

1/2 cup forbidden rice
2 cups water
1 can condensed milk
2 cups low fat milk
1/2 teaspoon cardamom powder

1/4 cup Chia seeds
2 cups (16 fl. oz) mango puree

Pineapple slices as needed
Purple seedless grapes.

Rinse and drain the forbidden rice well and soak with plenty of water to completely submerge the grain. Leave to hydrate overnight. The next day, add 2 cups of water, bring to a boil, cover, lower the heat and cook until the grains get easily squished when pressed between the thumb and finger. Purple rice has a thick outer covering that that takes its time to soften, so be prepared for about 30 - 45 minutes of cooking. Mash the grains roughly with the back of a spoon. 
Whisk together the condensed milk and the low fat milk and heat in a heavy bottom saucepan. add the mashed rice and simmer on a medium heat. Using an Immersion blender, blend the rice until the entire mixture turns into a light purple color. Add the cardamom powder and allow to simmer for an extra 10 minutes. Transfer to a container, cover and allow to chill. the mixture will thicken significantly and the cardamom infuses into the entire bowl of pudding.

Rinse the chia seeds and transfer immediately into a large glass container. Pour the mango pulp over the seeds and stir with a spoon so that the seeds do not form lumps. Allow to hydrate overnight in the fridge.

The next day, prep the pineapple by removing the hard peel and coring out the 'eyes'. Cut into 4 wedges and remove the central core. Set the mandolin at the '4' setting (the thickest) and slice. Wash & cut the grapes.

Heat a cast iron pan and  place the pineapple slices on the pan, allow to caramelize on one side for about 2-3 minutes before turning over and grilling the other.

To Assemble :
Spoon the chilled rice pudding into  glass bowls  and smooth over the surface. Gently spoon the mango and chia seeds mixture over the purple rice pudding. If you prefer, add some extra mango puree over the chia. Top up with the diced grapes and finish with bits of the grilled pineapple. Serve chilled.

A big thank you to OXO and Ms. Veronica Chan for the opportunity to test and showcase these fantastic gadgets.

Bon Appetit!

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