Thursday, May 28, 2015

A Whale of a Kale Tale! Harissa roasted Kale sprouts with Cashews.



Kumquats and Kale - an interesting combination which really do not have much in common except for the common first letter in their names. But when I opened up the box sent to me from Melissa's produce, the visual beauty of the colors just struck a chord, the bright golden kumquats and the regally purple Kale sprouts.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Kumquats & the art of Produce Maintenance (and a divine Kumquat, ginger & thyme Focaccia)


Kumquats definitely lucked out in the aesthetic beauty department when it comes to citrus fruits (although, Mayer lemons come in a close second). Tiny, golden,  olive sized, and a spectacular shade of vibrant orange that almost seems to radiate a glow from within.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

The 'We Knead to Bake Project' - Orange Cinnamon & Apricot swirl bread (# 27)




I can't seem to ever be sure why baking always seems to involve a certain level of complexity. Maybe its my inherent South Indian background where baking is almost unheard of, -- for starters, the first time I ever set eyes on an 'oven' was when I was 7 years old, and even then, it was one of those gadgets whose main purpose was to store pots and pans. Daily cooking was always on the stove top and the level of heat applied was always measure in terms of high, medium or 'simmer'. Three settings and the particular burner (the 'Big' or 'small' ) used was all that determined the technique for countless delicious meal sessions that Amma dished out day in & day out. Temperature control was unheard of!

Friday, May 15, 2015

Popping up with Leftovers - Uthappam mini 'muffins'


Anybody who's made idli / dosa batter in its standard minimum industrial quantity knows the drill. 
  1. Make batter on Friday
  2. Leave to ferment overnight
  3. Make Idlies for Saturday morning breakfast.
  4. Make Masala dosas for Saturday's supper 
  5. Plain dosa for Sunday brunch
By Sunday evening you have about 2 cups of rather flat looking runny batter that you're not quite sure what to do with. It seems to be a precious waste considering the effort that went into soaking the rice & lentils, Grinding it down to a batter either in the kitchen blender, or on the table top chocolate conching device that has been perfectly re purposed for South Indian kitchens as the ubiquitous 'Dosa Grinder' (these machines have almost been elevated to the same royal brand recognition as Xerox, Q-Tips or Band-Aid -- they're simply referred to as 'Ultra' after the most popular brand of machines). And then, there's the burdensome chore of meticulously cleaning & drying the stone rollers and the container so that not a single speck of sticky, tacky batter remains and finally putting the entire 'grinder' away.

Back to those two cups of flat runny batter. They don't take kindly to making any more dosas. The end result is flat, greasy  tart and has the texture of gelatinous sourdough (thanks to the starch from the rice that gels up in the batter). It needs copious amounts of oil before the pancake can be scraped out of the griddle even if its a non stick. And in the end, the rest of the family ignores it completely.

My usual solution is to make Uthappams, and some of my friends add Garbanzo flour and spices to the mix, dip in various veggies and deep fry into a tempura / Bhajia. This time around, I happened to spot a bag of semolina flour left over from a previous baking project, and since I didn't have much to 'lose' decided to throw in a few ingredients like shallots and cilantro along with the semolina, and tossed in a packet of rapid rise yeast. As I switched on the oven to pre-heat, I was still undecided whether I wanted to even play around, but with a little encouragement from my 9 year old 'sous' chef, I scooped out the batter into those little mini baking cups.  It turned out to be a wonderful snack that he completely polished off with a generous 'frosting' of  ketchup.

The only drawback was that I had no measurements on hand and so had to wait for a second batch of 'over-the-hill' batter to repeat the session and get accurate measurements. As of today, the kid is proudly carrying it for his school lunch two days  in a row.

The word 'Uthappam' comes from Tamil and literally translates to a puffed pancake that's been 'poured' onto a griddle and cooked (the prefix 'Uth' or 'Ooth' means 'to pour' in the language).

Uthappam mini muffins (makes 36 mini cupcake sized servings)

You need:

  • 2 cups (16 oz) 'deflated tart fermented dosa batter 
  • 1 packet rapid rise yeast
  • 1 - 1 1/2 cups semolina flour
  • 1/2 cup (heaped) finely chopped shallots or scallions
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped cilantro (or mint)
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper powder (as per your preference)
  • 1/4 cup oil (untoasted sesame, or olive)
  • pinch of asafetida or any spice blend of your choice
  • Salt to taste





There often is a bit of misunderstanding when using the term semolina w.r.t Indian recipes. Semolina flour as its sold in the US of A is much finer in texture compared to the finest grade of Rava available at the Indian grocery and is a pale yellow in color. In other words, I would not use the semolina flour to make Upma. but yes, fine rava can be used for these muffins, just let the batter sit for an extra 15 minutes to allow the rava to soak in some moisture.

Combine the batter, semolina, scallions (or shallots), cilantro, spices, oil and salt in a large mixing bowl.  Depending upon how thick your deflated batter is, add about a cup of the semolina and adjust for consistency with the remaining 1/2 cup. The consistency should be that of thick corn bread (or cake ) batter. Stir in the yeast and allow the batter to rest for about 30 minutes.


Preheat the oven to 375 F. Place the little baking cups in a mini muffin tin and  using a cookie scoop dole out the batter.






Bake at 375 F for 20  minutes. At this point the tops of the baked uthappams will still be pale, Brush the tops with a bit of oil. Increase the temperature to 400 F and bake for 10 minutes more.



I served up these along with a cup of coffee and a Kumquat-ginger relish.




That recipe will be up in the next post along with another Kumquat recipe which will be a sponsored one by OXO & Melissa's Produce . But here's a heads up.. those green savers are definitely a worthwhile investment. Details coming up!




Bon appetit!

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Spring fever - Gardening with OXO.



SPRING - whoever conferred multiple meanings to this word certainly was wise. Almost every one of these imply a positive connotation - Springtime, a spring in your step, 'spring' into action, spring spring spring.. heck, just like the repetitive version of the sound as is!

OXO, my favorite kitchen gadget company just announced their range of  gardening tools and it was the perfect motivation to get working on my kitchen garden patch (which was more of a weed patch by last fall.). I love every product that OXO brings to market, and I'm unabashed about it. It was love at first 'slice'  in August 1996 with my first set of knives and peeler that my dad bought for me when I moved to New York City for my Neuroscience graduate program at NYU. (I still have the knives).

The company sent me a set of outdoor gardening tools at the end of last month and it got me 'springing' into action on the veggie patch. A true realization that gardening is all the more fun when you have the proper tools for each task.


I was supposed to pick 3 of the gadgets  and explain how I used them but, each and everyone of the tools were so handy that I find it hard to pick and choose. The first to be used was of course the watering can, a large 2 gallon capacity container that my kids immediately latched on to. The iconic OXO non slip grip on the handle ensures that it does not slip from your fingers even when kids use it.



Clearing the vegetable beds:

The vegetable beds that were filled up with dried leaves from last year were raked up by a hand rake. This is one cool gizmo that snaps out into a large 12 inch rake with a simple twist. (reminded me of how a peacock shows off its plumage). I did make a mistake of pushing the rake away from me once causing a tine to bend, but it was easily tweaked back into place.


Weeding:

This is going to be an ongoing task for the entire growing season, and the cultivator should come in handy in scratching the weed saplings off the dirt as soon as they pop out. But in addition,  its indispensable to aerate and turn over the soil prior to planting.



The plow and the trowel were most definitely the most used in this set of tools, truly workhorses in the garden. Constructed of solid stainless steel, they have a mean serrated edge that can easily rip through the plastic bags and containers that seedlings are sold in (and yes, if you're not careful, a deep gash through your skin as well!). If I had to pick and choose, these would definitely be the first OXO gardening tools I would invest in.

Trowel for planting seedlings and digging holes in the soil

The plow is perfect for digging deep furrows to plant seeds.
 These are high quality gardening tools and a great investment, so they need to be taken care of well.



Make sure to thoroughly rise them of all dirt and mud after each use and allow them to dry in the sun before storing them.



Looking forward to many more post with all the produce I grow with the help of these superb gardening tools. Thank you once again OXO for the opportunity to use them.

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