Monday, March 26, 2012

Ancient Grains & Modern Gadgets, My first giveaway

 There comes a time in every bloggers blog life when they announce that first giveaway & this is my moment. I'd like to say a big Thank You to OXO tools for sponsoring the gift, a digital kitchen scale that is indispensable for baking  great cakes & cookies.

I've been an ardent fan of OXO products ever since my graduate school days. My dad bought me a set of kitchen knives & peeler  from Bloomingdales way back in 1996 when I first moved to New York City. 15 + years later, the peeler works as great as ever. In time I've gone on to collect a vast arsenal of OXO from strawberry hullers to spatulas and have never been disappointed with any of them.

Perhaps, one of the reasons I've stayed away from creating recipes that involve weighing out ingredients was because I never bothered to invest in a good scale.Using one simply elevates the culinary experience to a refined high. And keeps you wanting more of the same. I'll definitely be posting more recipes that call for weighing ingredients, that's for sure!

 A big Thank You is in order to Zester Daily and Maria Speck for a wonderful giveaway gift that I received in the mail a couple of days ago. A copy of Ms. Specks new book 'Ancient Grains for Modern Meals'. I'm so in love with this book for all the wonderful information it contains and the awesome recipes. There will be a proper review of this book in the next couple of weeks, I promise. In the meantime, I've picked an amazing recipe to showcase from the book this week, a Greek Lenten cookie that was the highlight of my weekend baking.

Orange-Rosemary Cookies with Olive Oil
(Recipe Credit: Maria Speck, I've taken the liberty of writing the steps in my own words)

You need:
4 1/4 ounces white whole wheat flour (1 cup)
1 3/4 ounces Almond meal (1/2 cup, lightly packed
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/4 cup  packed light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon minced fresh Rosemary
1/2 teaspoon Vanilla extract
2-3 tablespoons turbinado sugar for topping


Measure out the Flour and almond meal . Add to a large mixing bowl along with the baking powder and salt.

Whisk to combine evenly and break up any lumps of almond meal in the mixture. Make a 'well' in the center. to add the wet ingredients.

Grate the zest of an orange to obtain 1 teaspoon. Squeeze the orange to obtain 1/4 cup of juice. Mince the fresh Rosemary and set aside.

In a medium sized mixing bowl, combine the light brown sugar and olive oil and vigorously whisk for a minute till the sugar starts to dissolve and the color of the mixture lightens (about 1 minute of brisk arm cranking). Add the Orange juice, zest, rosemary & vanilla extract and whisk to combine.

Pour the oil/sugar mixture into the center of the flour mixture and combine with a wooden spoon until just mixed. DO not over mix, you do not want to activate the gluten in the wheat flour.

Place a sheet of parchment paper or plastic wrap in from f you on the work surface. Gently transfer the doughto the paper/wrap. Shape the dough into a log with your hands and roll the  paper/wrap around to completely wrap it. Twist the ends.

Place the log into the freezer for about 2 hours to chill & firm.  Preheat oven to 350 F. Place two oven racks in the lower and upper third of the oven. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

Remove the 'log' from the freezer and cut it into thin slices less than 1/2 inch thick (this is tricky since the dough is still quite soft. I cut out thin portions of equal volume using a butter knife and basically flattened it on the baking sheets). Sprinkle liberally with the turbinado sugar.

 Bake both the sheets at the same time, one on the top rack, the other on the lower rack, swapping it half way through the baking, for about 16-18 minutes (8-9 minutes on each rack), until the edges & bottom of the cookies turn a golden brown. Transfer the cookies onto a wire rack to cool completely.  Store in an airtight container. The cookies tun crisp as they cool

Bon Appetit!


Coming back to the Giveaway by OXO...

This giveaway is open only to residents of the United states (sorry, no overseas shipping possible).  just follow the instructions on the rafflecopter below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway  

Monday, March 19, 2012

Gatte ke pulao - Sahara Desert version

Q. How do you know when you've completely morphed into a true full blooded Foodie?
A. When you look forward to making something from your native Indian cuisine as a special treat, and when you begin, you can't, just cannot refrain from reaching for those spices that normally have no connection with Indian food.

My traditional Friday evenings for the longest time, have involved making dinner from different cuisines and in the process, its been a great way to master some favorite classics from all over the world. Of late, its become pretty ingrained to whip up Thai curry rice or a Mediterranean Pasta with such ease that I've had to pause & think when it comes to traditional Indian  food . So when the other half suggested North Indian, I set out resolutely to make some traditional Rajasthani dishes. Determined to keep it authentic, I decided on making Gatte ke pulao (using a link from the late Jayashri Satish's blog Kailas Kitchen ) & a 'launji' from bell peppers.

My attempts at 'mise en place' (every thing measured & set in place) began with the chickpea flour...
and ended with it.  Dinner was technically Gatte ke pulao, a classic rice dish made with deep fried chickpea nuggets blended with rice & caramelized onions from the Thar desert. &  the spicing?? definitely arid origins, but from a continent away, from the Sahara Desert!

Gattas are steamed & fried nuggets made from spiced chickpea/garbanzo flour bound with sour yogurt. In the arid regions of the Thar desert, fresh vegetables are a rarity, and hence the regional cuisine relies a lot on dried beans & legumes as a valuable source of protein. These steamed nuggets can be dried & stored for long term use and revived simply by frying them in hot oil.

The spicing I chose for my version was  the Algerian spice blend Ras el Hanout, traditionally used to season cous cous. Combined with a Harissa spiced blend used to season the rice, the final dish is exquisitely delicious, and leaves you surprised at the difference in flavors while reveling in the familiarity of a comfort food.

Gatte ke Pulao, Sahara desert version (technique adapted from Tarla Dalal, via Kailas Kitchen)

You need:

2 cups Chickpea flour (Besan)
2 teaspoon Ras el Hanout spice blend
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1.5 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 tablespoon finely chopped fresh thyme
2/3 cup greek yogurt
juice of 1/2 a lemon
A Large pot of  boiling water
3 cups olive or canola oil  for deep frying

In a large mixing bowl, combine all the  ingredients except the yogurt & thyme and combine well using a whisk. add the thyme mix to distribute evenly and add the yogurt and lemon juice. Fold in & knead to make a stiff dough. Divide into golf ball sized portions. using a smear of oil to grease your palms roll out each portion into a 'snake' about 1/2 inch in diameter.

Bring the water to a rolling boil and add the ropes of dough. Boil for about 10-12 minutes. Remove and place on paper towels to cool completely. Once cooled, cut into small pieces as shown below.

Heat the oil in a  cast iron pan. When the oil is smoking hot, fry these nuggets in batches until golden brown. remove and place on paper towels to absorb any extra oil. Set aside. (you're forgiven if you succumb to popping a couple or more of these down the hatch. they're delicious!)

For the Rice

2 cups cooked Basmati Rice, fluffed to separate the grains
2 large onions
1 tablespoon cumin
4 tablespoons Olive oil
Salt to taste
1 table spoon Tomato paste
1 large knob of fresh ginger
1 teaspoon Harissa spice blend
2 cloves garlic
2-3 shallots
2-3 sprigs finely chopped flat leaf Parsley for garnishing

Combine the ginger, garlic, shallots,  and the Harissa spice blend and blend to make a smooth paste. Set aside.

Cut the onions into half and then further into thin slices.

 In a  large skillet, heat 3 tablespoons of oil and add the onions. Fry until soft and almost caramelized. Set aside. Wash the skillet and return to the stove, adding the remaining oil.

When the oil begins 'shimmering', add the cumin, when the seeds sizzle & split, add the paste and fry on a low flame until the water evaporates. Add salt and the tomato paste and cook down until the paste loses its 'raw' smell (you may sprinkle some water to de-glaze if the pan gets too dry.). Add the caramelized onions along with the fried nuggets. Add the rice and fold to combine all the ingredients well.

Transfer to a serving dish and  garnish with chopped parsley.

Serve warm with a side of cucumber mint raita.

  Cucumber - Mint Raita.

 You need:

2 cups Greek Yogurt
1 cup shredded English cucumber (water squeezed out)
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh mint leaves.
1 small green chili, finely minced.
 Salt & pepper to taste.
1/4 teaspoon dried pomegranate powder.

Combine all the ingredients well. sprinkle with the pomegranate powder. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Bon appetit

(Sharing this recipe with Girlichef and the well seasoned cook as part of the MLLA (My Legume Love Affair) event # 45.)

Monday, March 12, 2012

Its MOGO time again - Roasted Carrot/golden beet Soup with Harissa & a smoky refried bean root burger.

(MOGO: Abbr.for 'Make One Get One')

I'm not really all that much into making soups, unless its for a relaxed winter afternoon, curled up in front of the idiot box, watching a mindless movie. It just seems too much work for something that gets slurped up with the speed of a cup of coffee. The bonus that many soups offer is that the same set of veggies used can be literally split up into two dishes, and hence zero waste in terms of ingredients & flavors and its quite a bit of fun to play around with seasonings to get two completely unrelated flavor profiles from a single source.
I've shied away from carrots as a soup ingredient long enough, and in the process missed out on that earthy incomparable flavor  touched with a dollop of caramelized sweetness, that somehow annoys me unless I completely smother it with spices. The trick is to balance the tastes to get that incomparable sweet & spicy earthiness that  makes this weeks recipe(s) a complete keeper!

The soup is a  roasted carrot & golden beet soup (with chunks of fresh ginger thrown into the roasting mix). the spicing ingredient is the North African spice blend Harissa (which I use in the powdered form rather than the paste.  Kalustyan's in New York City, sells a variety of different brands, both in the paste & powder form)

Harissa is one of the most versatile spice blends you can stock in your pantry. This particular variety, I've even added some salt & sesame oil  to pair it beautifully with  South Indian Dosa. It makes for a delightful variation of the traditional 'Milaga podi' a.k.a 'gunpowder'.

Roasted Carrots & Golden Beet soup (serves 4)

 You need:

4 Large Carrots
2 medium sized golden beets
12-15 cherry or grape tomatoes
2 large chunk (~ 2 inch cubes ) Fresh Ginger
a generous pinch of freshly cracked peppercorn
3 tablespoon Olive oil
3 cups water or vegetable stock.
1-1.5 teaspoon Harissa spice blend
1/4 cup Creme fraiche or sour cream or Greek Yogurt

Preheat the Oven to 400 F. Line a large baking tray with aluminum foil.

Wash, peel & cut the carrots, golden beets & Ginger into 1 inch cubes. add to a mixing bowl along with the grape tomatoes and 2 tablespoons of the olive oil.. Season with Salt & freshly cracked pepper.

Add the vegetables in a single layer on the baking tray and roast for about 25-30 minutes in the oven, until the vegetables turn a light golden brown on the outside and yield when pierced with the tip of a knife. Remove from oven and allow to cool.

Add the roasted veggies into a food processor & blend. Drizzle about 2 cups of water / stock while the mix is being pureed. the final consistency should be similar to that of crushed tomatoes  from a can.

Sieve the puree to extract the soup part of this recipe. Reserve the part that remains in the strainer (should yield about 1 cup). (that's the main ingredient in the 'GO' part of this "MOGO' recipe)

Heat the remaining oil in a saucepan. when the oil is warm, (NOT hot, you do not want to burn up the spice) Add the Harissa powder & allow the flavors to bloom in the oil.

Add the strained soup to the saucepan & simmer on a low-medium heat. Add the last cup of water/stock as per your preference of thickness.  Taste and adjust for seasonings. Serve warm with a dollop of Creme Fraiche ( sour cream/Greek yogurt) and a chunk of warm crusty french bread.

As for the solid part of the soup, the stuff that remains in the strainer, it still has a LOT of great roasted flavor and it would be a travesty to toss this in the garbage. There is no specific spicing that would restrict its usage and hence, one could technically endow a flavors from a completely different cuisine. I used up this batch to make some delicious burger patties that would be perfect between a sliced, toasted kaiser roll along with slices of tomatoes, cucumber and lettuce with a slather of spiced Mayo.

Roasted veggies & refried bean burger  patties (makes about 6 medium sized patties)

You need:

1 cup of the pureed root vegetables left over from straining the soup
1 cup Panko bread crumbs
3/4 - 1 cup fat free refried beans.
1/2- 1 teaspoon Ancho chile powder (for that characteristic smokiness)
2 tablespoons finely chopped Cilantro (which I did not add in the photographed version)
Oil for pan-frying

Combine the refried beans and  half cup of Panko breadcrumbs along with the Ancho Chile powder. Mix well enough for the bread crumbs to absorb the moisture from the refried beans.

Add the strained veggies and the cilantro to the mix and fold to combine evenly. Taste and adjust for salt (the refried beans already has a lot of salt, so you may want to adjust for it).

Divide the mixture into six equal parts. Shape each one into a flattened patty.

Heat a non stick skillet and add about 2 teaspoons of oil. When it heats up & begins shimmering, swirl to coat the pan evenly. Gently place two patties and pan fry on medium heat for about 3 minutes. Resist any temptation to flip the patty over more than is necessary. you want the proteins from the beans to coagulate and form a nice crisp skin before you turn it over. Brush the top side liberally with oil before flipping over and cooking the other side (~2-3 minutes). Remove and place on a plate lined with paper towels.

Serve between a toasted Kaiser roll with sliced tomatoes, cucumber & lettuce with your choice of condiments. Alternatively you may simply serve this alongside some spicy Sriracha flavored mayo as a dip.

Bon Appetit:

Coming up next week: A quantitative recipe with digital measurements & my very first giveaway from OXO.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Grounding reality for the next 100, and an inspiring dose of pure motivation

Image credit:

There are very few moods that match the depth of emptiness that follows a jubilant high.One invariably needs a high to match the previous one & then some more.. (Isn't that what an addiction begins with?). Rather than try & match the highs of the last month, (a Cooking Channel taping session opposite Kelsey Nixon, A walking tour through the hallowed kitchens at Food Network Studios,  a milestone post..), I'd like to take a moment to pause & ask myself.. What now? Do I do a George Bush & declare 'Success'? Not a Chance!!

This seemed to be the perfect opportunity to sit down and read through author Monica Bhide's latest work, an e-book 'In Conversation with exceptional women'. This compilation is an inspirational labor of love, a heart to heart conversation with 57 exceptionally talented women, each of whom have succeeded in their respective fields by their sheer grit, hard work & determination. As much as one marvels at the heights they've scaled, it is heartening & reassuring to read about their personal journeys, their triumphs & tribulations,  what they would have told their 16 yr old selves (most popular answers, 'lighten up', 'believe in yourself, & 'to hell with the boys (I'm paraphrasing here,  I can also  personally identify with Padma Lakshmi's admonition of not buying those acid washed jeans!).

The initial thought that hits the readers brain while scrolling down the table of contents, is a deep sense of intimidation and that is to be expected. After all, this is a group of uber successful women all clubbed together. Enough to make one want to go hide under the bed. Reading on, (curled up under the bed springs if need be) one experiences the sense of motivation & inspiration from each subject wrapping around the thought processes in the brain, draping itself gracefully & integrating, kindling new  ideas, questioning and challenging them in a positive way.

As I scrolled down to the last page, my personal ego was more than happy to disperse any notions of doing a Dubya. Success is a continuous and dynamic process, something that will stay with you as long as you work for it. Courting success is like maintaining a relationship, you have to keep working hard at it, always keeping in mind your starting point, (your grounding voltage), and never taking your eyes off the pinnacle you've set your sights on. Monica Bhide hands you not one, but 57 shining examples of what hard work & determination can achieve. The passion & dedication that the author has poured into this book makes her absolutely worthy of being clubbed as the 58th exceptional woman that should be included within.

Image credit:

Speaking of starting points, it seems to be a great time to hark back to the very first 'panfusine' recipe that I ever attempted. It was more out of sheer necessity than anything else. August 2002, a blazing hot summer day, & there I was, draped in 9 yards of heavy Kanjeevaram silk,  ready to do my first solo Varalakshmi pooja. I had managed to cobble together most of the mandatory 'prasad' dishes (offerings to the deity), except for the all important 'medu vada'. Running up and down a flight of stairs with the traditionally draped saree, frying up batches of vada over a hot wok of oil and taking care of the pooja details were kind of making me nervous. Happened to spot my unused waffle iron and decided to make two ( yep, just enough for the pooja) waffles with the batter. At least that way, I'd have a cooked product. It was the best Medu vada I had, in terms of texture. Crisp on the outside, with a perfectly fluffy light as air interior..I've come some ways and still have a long way ahead. but here is a slightly modified version of the traditional medu vada.

Waffle Vada (with mung & urad dal)

1/2 cup split dehusked urad dal
1/2 cup split dehusked mung dal
Salt to taste
1 teaspoon freshly crushed peppercorn
Sesame oil for brushing the waffle plates

(you may choose to add finely minced green chillies, chopped curry leaves, cilantro in addition as per your preference)

Soak the dals together in about 5 cups of water for at least 4 hours, preferably overnight.
Rinse the soaked rehydrated dals thoroughly and grind them into a smooth batter using as little water as possible. The consistency of the batter should be similar to softly whipped egg whites.

Switch on the Waffle iron and liberally brush the surface with oil. When the iron is ready drop about 2 coffee scoops worth of batter onto the plates and close the iron. Wait until any emerging steam subsides and the indicator on the appliance shows that the waffle is 'ready'. Gently open the iron, and pry out the waffle 'vada' using a pair of wooden chopsticks. Serve hot with some tomato rasam on the side.
Cherry tomato Rasam

(the waffles do not take kindly to dunking into the rasam for extended periods of time like the traditional vadas do). Alternate pairing suggestion, fresh Coconut cilantro chutney or even a basic cilantro & mint chutney

Coconut cilantro chutney

Bon Appetit!


I'm adding this dish to the the wonderful collection of Indian recipes at the #IndianFoodPalooza being hosted by Prerna Singh, the author  of


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