Friday, May 30, 2014

Dabblings of the Culinary kind...

I'm thoroughly reveling in the season. The calming aspect of tending to my little vegetable patch, which has been colonized by grass, and more important, seeds from my plants last year, dozens of little tomato saplings sprouting in natural disarray, Tiny carrots and red radishes that I'm so tempted to yank out and chew on, but refrain, and a whole patch of fennel &  Delfino cilantro with their delicate leaves. I cant get over the fact that they made it out through the harsh winter.

At times, I feel that the right side of  my brain has finally opened up, awakened by flavors & aroma of the culinary kind. I had twosweet potatoes sitting on the counter, and suddenly felt an urge to blend in the colors of spring.. Pink stems from Swiss chard and delicate green chives. As I combined these 3 ingredients into a bowl, my fingers fluttered over the rows of spice blends in my kitchen cabinet. Harissa? a tad too garlicky, Berbere? too much cardamom, Tawa fry masala? too strong.. and so on until they came to rest on the Ras el Hanout.

Ras el Hanout... the very name of the spice blend translates as 'the head of the shop' in Arabic. Only the very best ingredients made it into the blend, and so it would be with my supper veggies. Of course roasting ensured that the vibrant colors were replaced with warm golden tones of caramelized sweet potato, but then whats life but a series of constant changes?

Roasted sweet potato with Swiss chard stems & chives: (Serves ONE)

You need:

2 medium white sweet potatoes
12-15 stems from Swiss chard leaves (preferably the colorful red or yellow ones)
1 bunch chives
1/2 teaspoon freshly crushed mix of cumin and coriander
1/2  teaspoon Ras el Hanout spice blend
1/2 teaspoon Aamchur (dried mango powder)
Kosher salt to taste
3-4 tablespoons olive oil

Preheat the oven to 450 F.

 Peel and dice the sweet potatoes, and chop the chard stems into 1 cm pieces. Finely chop the chives. Combine all the three in a bowl and drizzle with the olive oil. Add the spice blend, crushed cumin/coriander, the dried mango powder and the salt.

Spread the vegetables in a single layer onto a baking tray and pop into the oven for 20 minutes.

Transfer into a bowl and serve. I like to scoop this up with  warm plain roti or paratha, along with a cup of fresh home made yogurt.

 Bon appetit!

Sunday, May 25, 2014

The 'We knead to bake' project 2014 - Petit Pain au Lait

 Many a time, Simple is best, after last month's exotic Flaounes, it was a pleasant change to
 have a quick & easy recipe from Aparna  Balasubramanian. And yet, I managed to put off baking until today. I really need to snap out of my lethargy, & hopefully the laundry list of pointers I've acquired from the BlogHer Food conference  will help me do that.

As far as breads go, it does not get much simpler than these elegant Petit Pain au lait ( Milk Bread)
The original versions are sweet with a generous sprinkling of pearl sugar, but the majority ruling at home (a.k.a my eight year old miniature 'Anton Ego') shot that idea down, instead preferring a savory version. I had to do some serious improvising with the original recipe that Aparna provided, but the end result was well worth it. Improvisation # 1 was obviously swapping out the sweet version for the savory. The second was that I had only skim milk at home, so I boosted the amount of butter in the dough to make up for it.

Savory petit pain au lait: (Makes 10 rolls)

You need:

2/3 cup warm skim milk
1 tsp instant yeast
1/8 cup sugar
1 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup bread flour*
1/2 tsp salt
80gm butter, soft at room temperature
2 teaspoon dried French Thyme
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
A generous pinch of fresh cracked peppercorn
Extra milk for brushing
Flavored Salt for sprinkling. (I used a home made Citrus salt)

Add the milk, yeast and sugar into the bowl of the stand mixer (fitted with the dough hook) and allow them to combine. In a separate bowl, sift together the flours, salt, thyme, parmesan cheese and the salt. Add thhis mixture gradually into the stand mixture bowl until the mixture looks crumbly. Now add the butter gradually, allowing the dough to come together in a smooth elastic consistency. If the dough appears dry, add extra milk by the teaspoonful until you reach the right consistency. Transfer to a well oiled bowl, cover and allow to proof in a warm place until the dough doubles in volume.

Turn the dough over on to the working surface, deflate and dived into 10 equal pieces

Allow the the pieces of dough to rest for about 15 minutes.

Roll out each piece of dough into a 5 inch diameter circle. 

Roll the flattened piece of dough like a Swiss / Jelly roll. Pinch together the seams and fold the edges underneath the dough. Place onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

 Cover the baking trays and allow the rolls to rise for a second time for about an hour.
Preheat the oven to 400 F. Once the dough has risen sufficiently, Brush the surface with milk and sprinkle a bit of flavored salt over the top. Next, using a pair of sharp tipped kitchen scissors, make little cuts over the surface as seen below.


Place the trays in the oven and bake for about 15 - 20 minutes until the top turns a golden brown. Transfer the bread to a rack to cool. Serve warm or at room temperature with your favorite beverage of choice. Or, simply with a pat of good salted butter.

 Bon Appetit!

This post is being Yeastspotted

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

BlogHer Food 2014 - Miami , Day 1

As much as I loved being a 'Newbie' at last year's BlogHer Food in Austin, It was a whole new level of experience this year in Miami. For one, I traveled with the family,  and while Mommy was attending the conference, the kids were taking full advantage of the beaches and hotel swimming pool.

Thanks to severe weather  in Miami, what was originally supposed to be a 2 3/4 hour flight lasted over 6 hours. One hour on the tarmac at La Guardia, with a trip back to the gate just to fill up on extra fuel. and then when we finally took off towards Florida on a longer alternative flight path, the aircraft kept circling around for about 90 minutes before landing. We finally landed in Miami, hungry, and tired out with one hyper cranky 5 year old in tow.. My older one was way too excited about the holiday to whine.

As a result, I had to give the sponsor receptions a miss even though I had accepted the invitations. The swag bags at the registration were quite bulky, so had to call my other half and ask him to pick it up. One of my biggest regrets that I felt like kicking myself over was that my choice of smart phone was ironically,rather dumb, the Motorola Droid was a useless piece of junk that drained out the battery within the span of an hour or so.. net result, I must have been the only disconnected dinosaur in the room!

As it was with  the previous conference, the sponsor tables were a MAJOR attraction, and I must have spent most of the morning chatting with the representatives about their products, connecting with them  to evaluate how we could create a mutual symbiosis with brand Panfusine.

A selection of the wonderful items in the registration welcome bag!

Lunch was a yummy sit down catered affair sponsored by McCormick spices,but that is a subject for another blog post. The discussion during lunch time was on 'Superfoods' and their role in changing the health destiny of America. Needless to say, the list had Turmeric & Ginger at the top of the list, and I plan to make sure to include as many of the ingredients mentioned in my recipes to come.

The afternoon session was one that I really wanted to attend, as it pertains to where I want to take the blog from its present state over the coming year. From being a home maker who also blogs, its time to switch the terms to a food blogger who also happens to be a mommy.

The Highlight of the day of course was meeting David Lebovitz in person. He was the keynote speaker and hearing him relate his experience as a food writer in Paris was inspirational to say the least. I'm in the midst of reading his latest book 'My Paris Kitchen' and it definitely is a great addition to my collection.

And so that was Day 1.. BlogHer had hosted a wonderful reception in the evening with a decadent spread of amuse bouches , but then as I said before, that is a story for my upcoming posts.


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