Thursday, December 30, 2010

Cheesecake Brownies

The day after I baked the yogurt cake, I found myself dessertless and in the kitchen. What else could arise from that but yet another baked goodie? The only question was: which one? You see, I love to bake and cook, but indecision always, always proves my most major obstacle in the kitchen. From what to make, to whether to scramble the eggs or boil them, to whether to use green chilli pepper or red chilli powder, I spend way more(or well, at least as much as!) time planning and thinking than actually cooking. And that is probably why I don't blog as much as I would like, because there simply isn't enough time left! Anyway, as usual, I spent hours agonizing over whether to make cookies, brownies, bars, muffins, another variation of the yogurt cake or individual molten chocolate cakes! When I finally decided that I was most in the mood for brownies, my next step was to decide whether to make plain brownies, cheesecake brownies, brownies with nuts or caramel brownies. I almost never make anything plain, I always have to embellish at least a little bit. A. doesn't care for nuts in the slightest, and I heavily rely on her to help me finish all the desserts I make. And, as much as I love caramel, I do have six more months left in Paris and will most certainly get way more than my fair share of it during that time (That's an idea for a post when I come back-salted butter caramel brownies!). And, we all love cheesecake! So, cheesecake brownies it was! Ina's brownie recipe is always my go to because they are incredibly fudgy, the only way I like brownies. So, I put together the cheesecake batter from David Lebovitz's Cheesecake Brownie recipe (with slightly more cream cheese and sugar) and Ina's Outrageous Brownies* recipe(halved) to produce the most luscious, most chocolatey, most delicious dessert I have yet taken out of the oven. We savored them warm right out of the oven, when the brownies were super moist and again today, cold out of the fridge, when the brownies were incredibly fudgy. Either way, these brownies take the cake any day! Indeed, my other sister, A.P., just couldn't stop saying that this was literally the best thing she'd ever eaten! And I must say, I might just have to agree with her there :)

*I have already posted Ina's brownie recipe in my post Brownie-Caramel Sundaes, but I will repost it here(again halved) for simplicity's sake.

Brownie Batter: (adapted from Ina Garten's Outrageous Brownies)
2 sticks unsalted butter
1/2 pound(1 and 1/3 cups) semisweet chocolate chips
3 ounces(1/2 cup) unsweetened chocolate, chopped
3 extra-large eggs
1 tbsp. instant coffee powder
1 cup plus 2 tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp. flour
1.5 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease and flour a 9" x 13" baking pan. Melt together butter, 8 ounces of chocolate chips and unsweetend chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl, at 50% power, in 30-second intervals until completely melted. Stir in-between intervals. Let it cool slightly. Stir together eggs, coffee powder, vanilla extract and sugar in a large bowl. Stir the warm chocolate mixture into the egg mixture and allow to cool to room temperature. In another bowl, sift together flour, baking powder and salt. Fold this into the cooled chocolate mixture gently, until completely mixed in and no lumps of flour remain.

Cheesecake Batter: (Adapted from David Lebovitz's Cheesecake Brownies)
10 ounces cream cheese( I used neufchatel), at room temperature
1 egg
6 tbsp. sugar
1/4 tsp. vanilla extract

Beat all ingredients together until smooth.

Pour brownie batter into the prepared pan. Then, spoon cheesecake batter evenly over the brownie batter. Use a knife to whirl the cheesecake batter into the brownie batter and create a marbled effect. Place pan into preheated oven. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until the brownies have slightly pulled away from the edges and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with just a few dry crumbs, but no liquid. After 15 minutes of baking time, rap the pan against the oven shelf to release the air from between the pan and the brownie dough. Let the brownies stand for at least 20 minutes before serving, and then relish them warm with a glass of almond milk! Or, let them cool completely, refrigerate them overnight or for a few hours, and eat them cold and fudgy. Either way, you will ascend to heaven :)

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Celebrating Togetherness: Strawberry-Almond Yogurt Cake

So, the day before yesterday, I surprised my family by coming home for the holidays, and boy, were they surprised!! I was quite relieved that I managed to keep it a surprise, given the fact that I had this trip planned for a month and a half. Of course, the fact that we were all together after so long coupled with the fact that I had not done any baking since leaving for Paris meant that I absolutely had to bake a cake to celebrate. I wanted to prepare something French, of course, but yet not incredibly complicated, so, as usual, I turned to Clotilde's Gateau au Yaourt, my usual go-to cake recipe. This recipe actually entails a fusion of both her basic yogurt cake and her raspberry-almond version. I actually don't care for raspberries in their whole form, but I was extremely lucky to find exceptionally fresh, ripe strawberries(my favorite fruit!), even at the end of December! Thus, I substituted strawberries for the raspberries, and substituted part almond meal for the all-purpose flour as the raspberry version called for. Besides that, I mostly stuck to the basic recipe, besides using ghee in place of oil. I also made my own very slight change by melting some strawberry jam and pouring it over the strawberries before topping them with the second half of the batter. This resulted in a consistency similar to pie filling after the cake came out of the oven, yet the cake had the perfect level of sweetness. The cake itself was of course extremely moist on the inside, but boasted a crusty golden-brown top which I very much enjoyed in contrast. We relished this cake with masala chai, which made for the perfect afternoon goûter (French for snack), and yes, we finished the entire cake! :)

Strawberry-Almond Yogurt Cake (adapted from Yogurt Cake and Raspberry Yogurt Cake) :
1.5 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup almond meal
2 eggs
1 cup whole-milk, plain unsweetened yogurt
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup vegetable oil or ghee(I used ghee)
1.5 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1.5 cups washed and sliced strawberries
1/2 cup strawberry jam
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 tsp almond extract
a good pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 350F, and grease a 10-inch round cake pan. Combine yogurt, sugar, eggs, , ghee and vanilla and almond extracts in a large mixing-bowl. Sift together the flour, almond meal, baking powder, baking soda and salt in another bowl. Gradually add the flour mixture into the wet mixture, but don't overmix the dough. Melt jam over low heat until it becomes thin and slightly runny. Pour half of the cake batter into the cake pan. Arrange the sliced strawberries on top. Pour jam over the strawberries, and use a pastry brush to evenly spread it if needed. Pour the other half of the batter on top, and use a spatula to spread it evenly over the strawberry layer. Bake in the preheated oven for about 35 minutes, or until a tester toothpick comes out clean. Let the cake sit for about 30 minutes before serving.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Thanksgiving in Paris: Cauliflower-Baguette Gratin

So last week, in order for those of us studying in Paris to celebrate Thanksgiving, a group of friends decided to organize a potluck. I was delegated the task of preparing a main dish for the vegetarians(myself included). I had been wanting to prepare a recipe for the AWED French event, hosted by Priya and started by DK of Chef in You, and since I am in none other than Paris, I figured what better time to do it? And thus, after a trip trough the all-organic Marché Raspail in the 6th arrondisement of Paris from which I left with a giant head of cauliflower and a generous hunk of gruyère cheese, I devised this scrumptious, hearty, creamy and flavorful cauliflower-baguette gratin. Though not a traditional gratin, for which the béchamel sauce is made with dairy milk and is generally seasoned only with salt, pepper and nutmeg, being myself, I simply had to add herbs and seasoning to the vegetables and béchamel to lend the dish the level of flavor I prefer. I also added the baguette chunks to use up leftover baguette that I had sitting around (just like using leftover bread to make bread pudding). Anyway, the gratin turned out simply mouthwatering (what, with butter, cheese and all those herbs, how could it not? :) ). After a plate of savory dishes including tomato-mozzarella tartelettes, the gratin, a vegetarian stuffing, and of course for the meat-eaters, turkey, we all proceeded to completely polish an entire plate of dessert, including a fabulous pumpkin pie with vanilla ice cream, a rich and delectable caramel flan and an apple pie (which I did not sample). Stuffed we were, but the potluck proved an immensely enjoyable way to celebrate Thanksgiving with friends away from home.

For the cauliflower mixture:
1 large head cauliflower, washed and cut into large florets
4 large cloves garlic
1 tsp. dry basil
1 tsp. dry thyme
salt to taste, or about 1 tsp.
1/2 tsp. black pepper
2 tbsp. olive oil
For the béchamel:
2 cups plain, unsweetened almond milk
1/2 cup cream
2 tbsp. butter
2 tbsp. white flour
1 tsp. dry basil
1 tsp. dry thyme
1.5 tbsp. dijon mustard
2 cups grated gruyère cheese, divided
1/2 tsp. black pepper
pinch of nutmeg
salt to taste, or about 1/2 tsp.

1.5 cups of chopped baguette cubes

Pressure cook cauliflower until tender, but still relatively firm. Heat oil in a large pan, and add the chopped garlic cloves. Cook on medium-low heat until the garlic is no longer raw, but not yet brown, about 2 minutes. Add the basil and thyme, and then add the cauliflower florets. Toss carefully to combine, making sure not to break the florets, and let the mixture cook for just one minute. Season with salt and pepper. Preheat the oven to 400 F.

For the béchamel sauce, melt butter in a medium-sized pot over medium-low heat. Whisk in the flour. Cook over medium-low heat for about 4-5 minutes, until the roux achieves a deep golden color and the raw smell of the flour disappears. Gradually add in the almond milk, making sure the first batch is thoroughly incorporated before adding the next batch. Add the cream. Vigorously whisk the mixture over medium heat for about 7-8 minutes, or until the sauce is thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon. After about five minutes, whisk in the basil, thyme, salt, pepper and nutmeg. When the sauce is thickened properly, turn off the stove and remove from the heat. Whisk in the dijon mustard. Then, gradually whisk in 1 and 1/2 cups of grated cheese in 1/2 cup increments until completely melted. Grease the bottom of a baking dish. Place half of the cauliflower mixture and half of the bread cubes, evenly distributed, on the bottom of the pan. Top with half of the béchamel sauce. Then, top with the remaining cauliflower and bread cubes, evenly distributed, and finish with the remaining sauce. Top with the remaining half cup of cheese. Place the dish in the oven, and bake for about 20 minutes, or until the cheese is completely melted and bubbling (Start checking after 15 minutes). Remove from the oven, and let slightly cool before serving. Serve still warm.

Cauliflower-Baguette Gratin

Caramel Flan

Pumpkin Pie

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Aux Desirs de Manon

Ok, so I know I haven't been good about updating, but I really have been extremely busy. Extremely busy eating. Yes, the City of Lights is also the city of pastries, and temptation continuously abounds! Literally, on every corner one turns, one comes across a boulangerie and/or patisserie with their beautiful displays of creatively crafted viennoiseries and patisseries. I must again give due thanks to Clotilde Dusoulier of Chocolate and Zucchini for all of her wonderful recommendations in Clotilde's Edible Adventures in Paris. Really, this gem of a book has served as my Bible here in the City of Lights. In my spare time, what do you think I do other than scout out the various patisseries, boulangeries, fromageries, and restaurants that she raves about? Clotilde's recommendations have never led me astray. However, one of my most favorite boulangerie-patisseries is one I stumbled across myself while wandering the Marais. I spend a lot of time in this rather chic, bustling area of Paris, and so I have scouted out quite a few of the eateries here. And, other than L'As du Falafel, the one that repeatedly draws me back is a truly spectacular boulangerie-patisserie called Aux Désirs de Manon. Every day I come to the Marais for classes, I undoubtedly make a stop at Aux Désirs de Manon, whether for breakfast, lunch, a snack, and/or to pick up their outstanding baguette for dinner. And yes, I have been known to stop by more than once a day :) Just make a trip out here yourself, and you'll immediately see why. The artful array of pastries, ranging from the classic tartelette aux fraises(tart crust filled with strawberries and pastry cream), to classics with a twist such as the pistachio éclair, to innovative creations such as the Piémond, a white sponge cake topped with orange cream and surrounded by a chocolate ganache and sweet tarts ranging from almond and quetsches to pistachio and red fruit, will make your head spin with indecision.

Pistachio and Red Fruit Crumble

Also of note are the high-quality viennoiseries and breads. Try the pain au chocolat-amande, a croissant filled with almond cream and a chocolate bar, covered with toasted almonds. So delectable, but quite heavy-split it with a friend, and don't make the mistake of eating the entire croissant like I did :) Their baguette is also perfect, and I have been lucky enough to get one warm on multiple occasions.


Aux Désirs de Manon
129 Rue Saint Antoine
75004 Paris

01 42 72 32 91

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Jeera Aloo

I have been so busy these past few weeks that it has indeed been difficult to find time to post. But, I'm back with another recipe, super-simple yet super-scrumptious. If you're Indian, you will undoubtedly know and love the classic jeera aloo. I had some leftover baby potatoes that I wanted to finish up, so I decided that hot jeera aloo would make a perfect main dish for the cold, rainy night I was facing. Mild, yet flavorful, this easy-to-make dish never fails to please. Though traditionally enjoyed with roti, I honestly love to eat jeera aloo all by itself, maybe with a bit of salad, for a hearty and satisfying meal. Just don't leave out the butter!! Potatoes always taste so much better with a bit of butter. Then again, what doesn't? :)

6 baby potatoes
3/4 tsp. cumin seeds
1/2 tsp. fennel seeds
1/2 onion
1 tsp. coriander powder
1/2 tsp. red chilli powder, or to taste
1/2 tsp. salt, or to taste
1.5 tbsp. olive oil
2 tsp. butter

Wash and pressure cook the potatoes until they're soft and cooked through but still hold their shape. Quarter them, and leave the peel on. Heat olive oil in a pan. On medium heat, add the cumin seeds. When they begin to darken and give off a strong aroma, add the fennel seeds. After a few seconds, when the fennel seeds begin to give off a strong aroma, add the onion and saute until tender and transluscent, but not brown. Add the coriander powder and cook for 1 minute. Add the potatoes along with salt, butter and enough water to cover them about halfway. Cover the pan, and let the water come to a boil. Reduce the heat, and let the mixture simmer until most of the water has evaporated and you are left with a very thick gravy. About midway, add the red chilli powder as per your preference.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

A Kitchen at Last: Red Lentil-Cauliflower Soup

I just had a truly wonderful weekend here in Paris. I finally moved into a more permanent housing situation where I have access to a functioning kitchen. To boot, I absolutely love my new arrondisement. Life here is quite calm, but, filled with numerous markets that sell top-quality produce, as well as high-quality fromageries and pâtisseries, the 17th arrondisement is perfect for a food-lover such as myself, and I am so excited to live here now.
Without a doubt, the highlight of my weekend consisted not only of attending a lecture given by, but also meeting in person none other than Clotilde Dusoulier of Chocolate and Zucchini. Apart from writing Clotilde's Edible Adventures in Paris, in which she discusses the array of restaurants, cafés, salons de thé, boulangeries, pâtisseries, fromageries, etc., also the book which excited me more than anything else about spending a year in Paris, Clotilde herself, through her extremely successful, professional-calibur food blog, served as a source of tremendous inspiration to me in starting my own food blog. It is through meeting and learning from people such as her that I really seek to build and expand my own culinary knowledge, particularly in a place such as Paris. Indeed, meeting her during this year in Paris was one of my major goals, and I am so lucky and fortunate to have been able to meet her so early on in my stay. Thank you again, Clotilde, for serving as a source of continued inspiration.
Finally, can anyone guess the other great thing that happened this weekend? Well, it's probably quite obvious anyway, but I started cooking again!!! Yes, yesterday I cooked both lunch and dinner for myself, and I really felt as though I were in Heaven! I spent Sunday morning wandering through the 17th arrondisement, and I returned home with a head of very fresh cauliflower and some red lentils. Yesterday actually proved quite chilly, so I decided to concoct an Indian-style soup for dinner using those two ingredients, as well as some coconut milk I had lying around, as the shining stars. Wow, it turned out incredibly flavorful and delicious! I really liked the flavor of the coconut milk mixed with such spices as fennel and cumin; the mé
lange resulted in a warm, comforting one dish meal perfectly suited to a cold night. One word, I did not puree the soup as I do not currently have food processor, and honestly, I really enjoyed it chunky. However, if your prefer, feel free to puree it to the consistency of your liking.

Red Lentil-Cauliflower Soup (Serves 3-4):
1/2 head cauliflower, washed and chopped into medium-sized florets
1/2 onion, chopped
3 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tsp. fennel seeds
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 tsp. coriander powder
2 tsp. cumin powder
1 tsp. garam masala
3/4 tsp red chilli powder, or as per your heat preference
1/2 cup tomato sauce
1 cup coconut milk
1/2 cup dry red lentils, and thoroughly washed and drained
2 tbsp. powdered toasted almonds
1/2 cup water

Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the fennel seeds, and wait until they begin to give off a fairly strong aroma, but not until they brown. Add chopped onion, and sautee until tender and transluscent. Add the garlic, and cook for one more minute, before it begins to brown. Add the tomato sauce along with the cumin, coriander, and garam masala, and cook for 1-2 minutes. Then, add the chopped cauliflower and drained lentils along with coconut milk, water and salt. Add more water if needed to cover the mixture. Let the mixture come to a boil, and simmer, uncovered for 20 minutes, or until the lentils are completely cooked. About five minutes before the soup finishes cooking, add the powdered almonds and red chilli powder. Taste (be careful because it will be extremely hot!), and adjust seasoning as needed. Savor warm with a nice hunk of baguette or any other bread you enjoy.

Day Trip to Champagne(Revised)

Ok, so everyone knows that France is famous for its food-its fresh, flavorful artisanal breads, over 400 types of cheese, chocolates and a myriad of pastries ranging from simple fruit tarts to religieuses filled with salted butter caramel. But of course, France also takes great pride in her high-quality wines and champagnes. Therefore, a yearlong sojourn in France would simply be incomplete without making a concerted effort to learn more about this integral element of French life and culture. Thus, my friends and I set out last week to the Champagne region of France, specifically Epernay and Reims, to visit the production sites of some of the highest quality champagnes in France. In Epernay, we visited the caves Moët-Chandon, while in Reims we toured the cellars of Martel, both producers of incredible champagne. I learned a tremendous amount about the production process and history of various champagnes, and now I understand much more about the difference between the range of champagnes from brut(very dry) to demi-sec(the sweetest kind) :) I consider myself truly fortunate to have taken this trip and further enlightened myself on yet another aspect of the rich French culture. Of course, each tour ended with a tasting. In Moët-Chandon, we sampled Impérial, while in Martel, the staff presented us with three different types-my favorite of which was an Ernest Rapeneau brut. We also tasted a dessert champagne called Ernest Rapeneau carte bleu, a demi-sec. I found it to be too sweet for my taste, though. But the visit was truly worthwhile and very enjoyable with the great company of friends. Also, in Reims, I ate my first tartine here in France, and it was absolutely delicious. A tartine simply consists of toasted bread topped with usually vegetables of some kind and melted cheese. The kind I ordered came topped with ratatouille and melted mozzarella cheese. As if that were not enough, I ordered what I though would be a scoop each of salted-butter caramel and strawberry ice cream; what I got instead was a giant sundae(which I didn't even think one could find in France) smothered with whipped cream and toasted almonds, accompanied by a fudgy brownie. It was certainly delicious(as is all the ice cream I have tasted here thus far), although I barely managed to finish the ice cream, let alone the entire sundae! Take a look below!

Impérial from Moët-Chandon
A Glimpse of the Cellar at Martel in Reims

Tartine with Ratatouille in Reims
The Obnoxious yet Delicious Brownie-Caramel Sundae

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

L'As du Falafel

Ok, so maybe not traditional French fare, but strolling through the streets of Paris, one will inevitably encounter a plethora of falafel/schwarma restaurants and/or stands. Falafel ranks right alongside crepes, croissants and ice cream among the popular street foods of Paris. And for good reason-falafel in Paris, I have found, tends to be of good quality and taste, and it makes for a nice change to the usual baguette and cheese sandwiches that people often consume for lunch on the go here. During this past month here in Paris, I have sampled the falafel sandwiches in at least five different restaurant/delis, and I have never been disappointed. However, one in particular draws me back again and again and again. You have probably heard of it-yep, L'As du Falafel!! Everyone I spoke to before coming to Paris insisted, "Treat yourself to the delectable patisseries, but make sure not to miss L'As du Falafel, wherever else you go!" Well, my first attempt to L'As du Falafel fell on a Saturday. I set out on my second day in Paris with the intention of indulging in both L'As du Falafel and Berthillon ice cream before returning back to my hotel. Little did I know that a restaurant so popular with tourists would actually be closed on a Saturday! Yep, believe it or not, L'As du Falafel is closed both Friday and Saturday! But L'As du Falafel is open on Sunday, when many other restaurants and eateries in Paris are closed. Anyway, I next made a trip out to L'As du Falafel on my first day of classes. I was elated to discover that I can walk from my classes in the Marais to the restaurant in under ten minutes. Needless to say, L'As du Falafel has truly earned it fame. I will never be able to eat falafel in the U.S. again! Wow, the falafels themselves were extremely fresh, warm, crisp, perfectly cooked, and of course, full of flavor. The sandwich itself is truly one of a kind. It consists of a huge, warm pita pocket, layered with fresh cabbage, tomato and grilled eggplant, all smothered in a tahini-yogurt sauce, the perfect cooling accompaniment to the warm falafel. I always spoon generous amounts of the spicy red chilli sauce furnished on the side. This sandwich is nothing but savory heaven!! Wow, I dragged my friends back the very next day-it was really that good!! In fact, we have made it a Tuesday tradition to visit L'As du Falafel for lunch, followed by a dessert from Aux Desirs de Manon, a nearby patisserie that has become one of my all-time favorites!. Not that we need anything at all after that amazing sandwich, but as the French would say, "C'est par gourmandise." If you ever find yourself on the streets of Paris, do not hesitate for a second to stroll over to the Marais for a wonderful, memorable meal at L'As du Falafel. Of course, the Marais is wonderful area, but even if not, L'As du Falafel would without a doubt merit a special trip to the quarter. Hope you ascend to the heavens soon!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Avocado-Olive Salad

So unfortunately, I am currently without access to a kitchen and a working stove. I love eating out, really, especially at all the wonderful restaurants, cafes and patisseries that Paris has to offer. However, of course, I do love cooking for myself, and oftentimes, I just feel like having a nice, homemade meal. My current lack of a stove poses a challenge to me, however, so for the moment, I have taken to preparing a lot of salads whenever I want to prepare my own meal. Accompanied by a fresh baguette or sourdough tourte from a boulangerie and a bit of cheese from a fromagerie, perhaps followed by a dessert from a local patisserie, salads make for a light, refreshing meal. Given the high quality of produce one can find here in Paris, a variety of salads provides the best mainstay for me that I can prepare myself until I find a better housing arrangement with a working kitchen. The other day, I picked up a very ripe, ready to eat avocado from the farmer's market. I absolutely love avocado in any form, and so I decided to concoct a salad using avocado as the main ingredient. Nourishing and filling, a generous hunk of fresh baguette is all one really needs to accompany this salad. Enjoy!

Avocado-Olive Salad (Serves 2 as a starter or 1 as a main dish):
1 ripe haas avocado, flesh removed and cut into chunks
3 tbsp. ripe pitted black or Greek olives
1/4 tsp. dried herbs of your choice(I used herbes de provence)
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. good dijon mustard(use less if you don't want it as pungent)
1 tsp. lemon juice
few drops of hot sauce, as per your taste
1/4 tsp. black pepper
salt to taste(with the olives and mustard, you may not need any at all)

In a small bowl, mix together olive oil, lemon juice, dijon mustard, herbs and black pepper. In a separate bowl, toss avocado chunks and olives together. Toss dressing with the avocado and olives. Taste, and add salt if needed.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Back to Cooking at Last: Cauliflower-Camembert "Stoup"

After eating out for 2 weeks in the city of lights, I decided I no longer had any excuse to put off cooking for myself. I'd had enough time to settle in and find my way around, so enough was enough. I'm certainly not going to stop eating out-there's way too much delicious food to sample here is Paris, but there are also ample resources available for one to prepare gourmet meals for oneself, if one so has the inclination, which I mot certainly do. So, last Sunday, I dragged myself out of bed and out to Marche Raspail, an all-organic farmer's market in the 6th arrondisement of Paris. I will talk about Marche Raspail in more detail later, but it was certainly worth the effort of waking up early on a Sunday morning to find fresh, organic produce and other goods. Among the products I purchased were a fresh head of cauliflower, some fresh leek, some very ripe, juicy figs and peaches, and a wheel of delicious, creamy camembert cheese.
It's already beginning to get a bit chilly here in Paris, so I decided soup would make a delicious, satisfying evening meal when it came time to prepare dinner. I had plenty of fresh vegetables, but I like my soups thick and creamy. Normally, I would add a bit of cream or sour cream, but today, I had the idea of using cheese instead. Why not? I had an entire wheel of camembert, and while not a traditional use by any means, it certainly did the trick. I just removed the rind, cut it into small wedges and melted it into the soup at the end. However, while it lent the soup exactly the texture I desired, the taste of the cheese did not come through very strongly; therefore, next time I will increase the amount by 1.5 to 2 times. Also, make sure the cheese is cold when you try to cut it; if it at room temperature, it will be too creamy and ooze everywhere when you try to cut it, making a huge mess. Nonetheless, my first homemade meal in Paris turned out extremely successful! My host mom and I relished the soup, along with an avocado-olive salad that I prepared and coffee-eclairs from a local bakery. I am certainly glad to have returned to cooking, and I can't wait to prepare my next meal here :)

Cauliflower-Camembert "Stoup" (Serves 4 as a main dish):
1 head cauliflower, cut into florets
1 leek, trimmed and chopped
1 8 oz. can tomato sauce
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp. herbes de provence
1 tsp. dry thyme
1 t dry basil
1/2 cup toasted walnuts, powdered
1 tbsp. dijon mustard
2 tsp. hot sauce
salt and black pepper, to taste
4 oz. camembert, chopped into chunks with rind removed( I will increase the amount next time to 6-8 oz. 4 oz. lent it a wonderful creaminess, but the taste could have been more prominent)
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, and boil the cauliflower florets in it for about 5-7 minutes, until quite tender. Use a spoon the remove the cauliflower from the water, and drain it in a colander(save the water). Let it cool slightly. Heat olive oil in a large pot. Sautee chopped onion on medium heat until transluscent and tender. Add the minced garlic, and cook for 1-2 minutes, until it is no longer raw but not yet brown. Add the basil, thyme, and herbes de provence along with the chopped leek. Cook for 2-3 minutes on medium heat. Add the tomato sauce along with one cup of the water used to cook the cauliflower. Let it simmer for about 10 minutes, or until the water is almost evaporated. In the meantime, puree the cauliflower in a food processor until almost smooth, but slightly chunky, adding the cooking water as needed. Add the puree to the pot along with the powdered walnuts, mix, and let the mixture simmer for about 20-25 minutes on low heat. Add the cheeses, and mix until they completely melt. Add the hot sauce, dijon mustard, salt and pepper; taste and adjust seasonings as needed. Serve hot with a nice crusty bread.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Creperie au Lys

90 Rue St Louis en l'Ile
75004 Paris
01 46 33 56 13
Metro: Pont Marie

I know I haven't posted in quite a while now, but, as I'm sure you can imagine, my first week here in Paris has kept me incredibly busy! What, with orientation, settling into new housing and finding my way around a huge city, its proven to be such a whirlwind!! Yet, I am already thoroughly enjoying being in this marvelous city, and fortunately, I have already partaken of some of the sumptuous delicacies that she boasts. Of course, everyone who comes to Paris just has to eat crepes, right? Such a tourist thing, no? Well, touristy though it may be, when it comes to good food, nothing can stop me! Yes, I have already consumed numerous crepes since my arrival; in fact, the first thing I ate in Paris was (surprise, surprise!) a nutella crepe!
However, even though people tend to think of the sweet crepes, one would greatly miss out if he or she never sampled any of the savory varieties. Fillings for savory crepes range from vegetables to cheeses to eggs to meat. Yesterday, my friend Noodle Tzar, who is also studying abroad in Paris, and I trotted over to le Marais, a very historic section of Paris, for lunch and settled on a tiny, but charming venue called Au Lys Creperie. Perhaps not very well-known, but certainly worth a visit for those seeking delicious, good quality crepes in a less touristy locale. I savored the Galette Sarrasin Provencale, a buckwheat crepe filled with tomatoes, olives, gruyere cheese and creme fraiche. Now, what's not to like about such a melange of ingredients? Creamy and cheesy coupled with the nuttiness of the buckwheat crepe, I almost (I repeat, almost) prefer this to the sweet counterparts filled with nutella, banana and whipped cream. At any rate, I will be sure to sample as many varieties of savory crepes as possible during my year in Paris. And if you're in Paris and seeking out some delicious savory crepes for a nice lunch, give Creperie au Lys a try. Noodle Tzar really liked their Quiche Lorraine as well(albeit not vegetarian). The dark chocolate cake with creme anglaise unfortunately looked and sounded better than it actually tasted-it was on the dry side. But if you're in the mood for dessert, stroll over to Berthillon, Paris's most famous ice cream parlor and the subject of my next post, located on the same street as Creperie au Lys, and several cafes/retailers on the same street sell Berthillon's ice cream.

The Galette Provencale

Dark Chocolate Cake with Creme Anglaise

Friday, September 3, 2010

A Paris!

So today, finally, after 4 long months of anticipation and excitement, I have finally arrived in the City of Lights, ready to embark upon a challenging, but very fulfilling year-long journey. I have looked forward to this experience since way before college, and in all honesty, it still hasn't quite sunk in that I'm actually here. But in just one more day, my study abroad program shall commence, and the enormity of this undertaking will really begin to hit me. In the meantime, I will most certainly keep my blog up and running. After all, what better place to blog about food than Paris? I may not post as regularly over the next few weeks as I settle in, but rest assured, I will continue to blog not only about all the wonderful food I eat in Paris, but also the various delicacies that I sample in all of the other countries and cities I travel to throughout the year. I certainly plan to continue cooking, but my blog will also begin to incorporate dishes that I sample in various restaurants, cafes, bistros, and the like. If anything, this new spin will enrapture you even further! Stay tuned!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Cilantro-Rosemary Naan

I have said before that parathas are my absolute favorite type of Indian bread. Nevertheless, I do harbor a soft spot for naan, probably the most well-known Indian bread. Naan is traditionally made with plain white flour without any added flavoring, except possibly kalonji(onion seeds). However, these days, naan comes in a myriad of varieties and flavors, including whole wheat, garlic, kashmiri (a sweeter version flavored with dry fruits and nuts), and many more. When my mom moved A. into her college dorm, she had the opportunity to dine at a very unique Indian restaurant with innovative twists on classic dishes. In particular, she raved about a certain type of naan flavored with rosemary and jalapeno peppers. Now, doesn't that sound like an enticing spin? I absolutely love rosemary, and I was very intrigued by the idea of using it in naan. So, when I came across this recipe at Chef in You for Butter Naan, I slightly modified it to prepare Cilantro-Rosemary naans. I used 2 parts white whole wheat flour to 1 part white flour to make it more nutritious. Moreover, I prepared them on the stovetop, as I much prefer the soft, fluffy naans fresh off the stovetop to the crispy ones that emerge from the oven. Everyone loved them! The rosemary added a whole new dimension to the otherwise rather plain naan, and I loved the slight nutty flavor from the whole wheat flour, which was not at all overbearing. Together, the two lent a very earthy flavor to the naan, and I must say, I definitely favor this earthy, flavorful, not to mention healthier version of naan to the traditional one made with just plain white flour. Enjoy this divine treat with any rich curry, such as my Egg Kheema, Palak Paneer or Creamed Eggplant!
Cilantro-Rosemary Naan(Makes about 10 naans):
2 cups white whole wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp. instant yeast
2/3 cup warm water(check yeast package for appropriate temperature)
salt to taste, or about 1 tsp.
1/2 tsp. sugar
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1.5 tbsp. chopped fresh rosemary
melted butter or ghee for brushing on top
Mix yeast, water and sugar together in a bowl, and mix until the yeast dissolves. Let the mixture sit for 5 minutes. Sift the flour and salt together in a large bowl, and mix in the rosemary and cilantro. Make a well in the center and add the yeast mixture. Mix them together well, and gradually add water(I added about 3/4 cup) to make a soft, slightly pliable dough. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap. and leave it in a warm place to double in volume(about 3 hours). Then, knead the dough for 5 minutes, and divide it into about 10 balls of equal size. Heat a large griddle pan. Roll out one naan into an oblong shape, and brush water onto one side. Place the watered side face down on the griddle, and cook over medium heat. Cook one side until brown spots just begin to appear. Then, flip it and cook until the other side is completely done and covered with brown spots. Spread butter on the top side, flip, and cook until completely done. Repeat for the other naans, and serve them hot. Wrap them in foil and reheat on the stove if not eating right away.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Palak Paneer: The Emblem of Indian Cuisine

A. trotted off to college last week, and she had requested that we prepare many of her favorite dishes before she left. One of those dishes was the infamous palak paneer. I was more than happy to oblige, given that palak paneer has been my all-time favorite Indian dish since I was a toddler. Every year, my mother prepares palak paneer for my birthday, and I never, ever tire of it. How could I, given the creamy, spiced spinach flavored with cumin and garam masala, and of course, the soft, creamy cubes of paneer. I think of palak paneer as the emblem of Indian cuisine. After all, you find it in practically every Indian restaurant, and even those with just a basic knowledge of Indian cusine will more than likely be familiar with palak paneer. We prepare this dish at home each time we want to introduce someone to Indian cuisine. There exist, of course, numerous methods of perparing this delicacy. Some people fry the paneer, while some use it uncooked. There is often some variation in the spices and their proportions. I have never tasted any palak paneer quite like my mother's. Hers always turns out mouthwatering and just the way I like it, with the perfect balance of spices to please all palates; it is neither too spicy nor too mild, but just right. I have been less than thrilled by many versions prepared by restaurants, so I always prefer my mother's own recipe. I promise, after just one bite of this creamy spinach delight, you will never revert to restaurant palak paneer, or (God forbid!) the frozen versions again. Enjoy!

Palak Paneer:
About 1.5 cups of paneer
1 16 oz. bag of frozen spinach, thawed and partially squeezed
2 tbsp. oil
1 onion, peeled and cut into fourths
1 heaping tsp. coriander powder
1 tsp. cumin powder
1/2 tsp. cayenne powder
1 tsp. garam masala
1 8 oz. can tomato sauce
salt to taste, or about 1 tsp.
1 tsp. garam masala
1/2 cup cream

Put the onion pieces into a food processor, and process until finely chopped, but not ground. Heat the oil in a pan. Add the onion, and cook on medium heat until tansluscent and cooked. Add the corainder, cumin and cayenne powders. Then, add the tomato sauce, and cook for 1-2 minutes. In the meantime, process the spinach in the food processor until fine, but not a paste. Add in the spinach, cover, and cook for about 15-20 minutes, or until it achieves a creamy consistency. Add the salt, garam masala, and cream, and let it simmer for 2 more minutes. Finally, add the paneer cubes, cover and cook on low for about 5 minutes. Serve hot. Note: This picture was taken with candlelight on a night we had lost our electricity.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Egg Kheema: An Entry to Cooking with Seeds-Fennel Seeds

My university started back up last week; however, I am leaving in a few days to spend the year abroad in Paris. So, I wanted to prepare a nice dinner for some of my friends before I left. Previously, for my dinner parties, I had prepared mostly Italian/Mediterranean style food, but this time I wanted to come up with something different. So, I thought, what better alternative than a warm, comforting Indian meal? Of course, I just had to concoct something other than the ordinary restaurant fare that most people conceive of when they think of Indian cuisine. Thus arose this aromatic, scrumptious egg kheema. Kheema is traditionally made with minced meat(generally chicken or lamb) in a thick, spicy gravy. I prepared this version with boiled, grated eggs in place of the meat, also flavoring the gravy with fennel and saffon for a unique twist. The tiny amount of saffron adds a touch of sweetness that perfectly rounds out the overall spicy flavor of the dish, but only use a tiny amount as a little goes a very long way. I also used coconut milk to lend some richness to the dish. This gravy can be used as a base for any other type of kheema; I plan to try this with both tofu and paneer. Egg kheema lends itself to being served with paratha, roti, or in my case, Cilantro-Rosemary Naan(mmm...need I say more?), coming in my next post. This dish goes to the event Cooking with Seeds: Fennel Seeds hosted by Priya of Priya's Easy N Tasty Recipes.
Egg Kheema:
1 large onion, peeled and chopped
2 tbsp. oil
4 cloves garlic
1.5" piece ginger
2 green chilli peppers
1 tsp. fennel seeds
1 tsp. cumin seeds
1 bay leaf
2 potatoes, boiled, peeled and mashed
1 8 oz. can tomato sauce
2 heaping tsp. coriander powder
1/2 tsp. cayenne powder, or to taste
1/2 tsp. turmeric powder
1.5 tsp. garam masala
1 cup chopped carrots, partially steamed
1 cup frozen peas, defrosted
2 tbsp. lemon juice
a pinch of saffron powder
salt to taste, or about 1.5 tsp
1 cup full-fat coconut milk
10 hard boiled eggs, peeled and grated

Heat the oil in a large pan. Add the bay leaf and cumin seeds, and let the cumin seeds begin to brown. After, add the fennel seeds, and let them just begin to brown until they give off a strong aroma. Add the chopped onion, and cook it over medium heat until transluscent and tender. Make a paste with the garlic, ginger and green chillis, and add the paste to the onion. Cook for 1-2 minutes, or until the garlic is no longer raw, but not brown. Add the tomato sauce, and cook for 2 more minutes. Add the coriander, cayenne and turmeric powders. Add the carrots and peas, cover and cook until the carrots are well-cooked, but still have a slight crunch to them. Then, mash the potatoes and add them to the mixture along with about 3/4 cup water. The potatoes act as a thickener for the gravy. Cook covered until the potatoes absorb the water. Add the coconut milk, garam masala, lemon juice, saffron and salt to taste. Let simmer for about 2 minutes, and then taste and adjust spices/seasonings as needed, especially the lemon juice depending on how sour as opposed to sweet you like it. Add the grated eggs, cover, and let the mixture simmer for about 5-7 minutes. Serve hot with rotis, parathas or naan.
Serves 8

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Homemade Paneer

I have received numerous requests to post the recipe for homemade paneer, so lo and behold! Actually, even though many people find it a daunting task, it is actually a breeze to prepare. And of course, homemade paneer just cannot compare to anything you buy in a store; it is so much creamier and tastes(and is) so much more natural, as opposed to that rubbery taste you find in the store-bought paneer. It is a small effort that is well-worth the time it takes to really elevate the quality of any dish you prepare.

Homemade Paneer (enough for 8 people if making a thick-gravied dish, like paneer makhani):
1/2 gallon whole milk(do not use low-fat or skim)
3-4 tablespoons lemon/lime juice or distilled white vinegar
1 tbsp. all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt

Bring the milk to a boil. As soon as it starts to boil, turn off the heat, and add the lemon juice or vinegar. Stir until the curds completely separate from the whey. Strain the curds, and run them under cold water to keep them soft. Let them drain for about half and hour to get rid of the excess water. Transfer the drained curds to a food processor, and add the flour and salt. Process until the flour is thouroughly incorporated and the mixture is very creamy. Transfer to a lightly oiled work surface, and knead it lightly for a minute or so. Place the paneer on a cheesecloth, and press it into a square about 3/4" thick. Wrap it in the cheesecloth, place a plate on top of it, and place one or two large, heavy cans on top of the plate. Leave it for at least 2-3 hours to firm up. When ready to use, remove the cans, unwrap carefully, and cut the paneer into about 3/4" cubes. The paneer is ready to use in any gravy-based dish.

If you want to make paneer bhurji or anything else that does not require the paneer to be cubed or hold its shape, then you can skip the steps of adding flour and kneading. Just run it under cold water, and let it drain.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Paneer Makhani

What Indian doesn't love paneer? For that matter, what non-Indian who has tasted paneer has not fallen in love with it? Since my early childhood, paneer has held a very special place in my heart. If you present me with any dish made with paneer, you can surely bank on love at first bite! Every year for my birthday, I ask my mom to prepare her amazing palak paneer, my most favorite paneer dish made with creamed, spiced spinach and paneer cubes. I can eat paneer anytime of day, morning, noon and night, and I never tire of it because of its extreme versatility. Like tofu, paneer is quite bland on its own but takes on the flavor of whatever you combine it with. Anytime I visit a North Indian restaurant, I almost always order a paneer-based dish. Paneer makhani(paneer butter masala) ranks as an all-time favorite paneer dish found in practically all Indian restaurants. However, I had never tasted this dish in spite of my fondness for paneer. I had wanted to prepare this dish for the longest time, but, as with many others, I just never got around to it. So the other day when I decided to make paneer to use up leftover whole milk, I decided that instead of the palak paneer or paneer parathas we usually make, that I would finally try my hand at the infamous paneer makhani! Boy, oh boy, what a delight! Soft, creamy paneer smothered in a warm, spicy tomato-based gravy coupled with the richness of butter and cream! What's not to like about it? Make sure to serve it warm. I served it with onion kulchas*, but you can also serve it with naan, roti or pulao. Next time you're craving paneer and feeling in a particularly indulgent mood, treat yourself to this rich, spicy delight! But be warned, paneer makhani is an indulgence, not an everyday dish by any means!

Paneer Butter Masala (adapted vastly from Wake Up and Smell the Masala):

Paneer made from 1/2 gallon whole milk, cubed(about 2 cups)
1.5 tbsp. oil
1/2 of a large onion, chopped
3 large cloves garlic
1" piece ginger
2 green chilli peppers
1/4 cup roasted cashew nuts, ground
5 tbsp. butter
1/2 cup heavy cream
puree of 5 tomatoes
1 tsp. cayenne pepper
2 tsp. coriander powder
1.5 tsp. garam masala
1 tbsp. crushed kasturi methi leaves
salt to taste, or about 1 tsp.

Heat oil in a large pan, and saute the onion over medium heat until tender and transluscent. Make a paste with the garlic, ginger and green chillis in the meantime, and add it to the onions. Cook for 1-2 minutes, until the garlic is no longer raw. Add the tomato puree, powdered cashew nuts, coriander powder, salt and 1/2 cup of water, and let it cook for 8 minutes. Then, add the paneer and kasturi methi, and let the mixture cook for another 5 minutes. If the mixture appears too thick, add extra water as needed (I added about 1/2 cup extra). Gently stir in the heavy cream, and let it simmer for 2 minutes (Be careful not to break the paneer cubes). Remove from heat and serve hot.

*For the onion kulcha recipe, check out my post on Paneer Kulchas. The method is exactly the same, except I used no paneer and extra onion in the stuffing. Also, I used 2 cups of white whole wheat flour and one cup of all-purpose flour for the dough.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

A Sudden Craving: Nachos with Homemade Queso!

Mexican food(or rather, Tex-Mex in most cases) always turns out either hit or miss with me. When prepared well and with good quality ingredients, I fall heels over head for it! But oftentimes, unfortunately, I walk away from Mexican restaurants with my plate half-empty because of exceptionally poor quality. Thus, I often like to prepare Mexican/Tex-Mex food myself at home, and I am always more than happy with the end result as I can control the quality of the ingredients and customize the taste to my liking, mostly with tons of flavorful spices such as roasted cumin and smoked paprika, which both lend that extra dimension that I find essential in Mexican cuisine.

It had been forever since I had tasted good nachos, or nachos at all for that matter, when I suddenly began to crave them. Quite random, actually, but I just had to have my fill of nachos, nonetheless. In the past, Ive just spread crushed tortilla chips with salsa, canned refried beans and shredded cheese, which I then microwaved, but I definitely wanted to elevate them up a notch this time around. So, I prepared my own refried black beans, which makes such a huge difference from using canned beans. I especially wanted to come up with a delicious homemade queso sauce.The first time, I made the queso sauce by first preparing a bechamel sauce with a flour-butter roux, and then whisking in pepperjack cheese to make it a mornay sauce. However, I was not entirely satisfied. So I tried it again, this time by mixing the pepper jack into a mixture of softened cream cheese and sour cream and baking the entire mixture in the oven until bubbling. It turned out to be exactly what I was looking for! Nice and thick, creamy, with the heat from the pepperjack and jalapenos, with the cheese flavor as the shining star. Serve the nachos as an appetizer or as a meal all-together, like I did! I will make only this recipe every time I feel like nachos from now on!
For the refried beans:
3 cans unsalted cooked black beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 of a large onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. roasted cumin powder
1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
salt to taste, about 1.5 tsp.
2 tbsp. oil
For the queso:
8 ounces neufchatel cheese, at room temperature
8 ounces pepperjack cheese, shredded
1 cup sour cream
3/4 tsp. salt, or to taste
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/4 cup hot jalapeno peppers

For the guacamole:
3 ripe avocados, cut into chunks
1.5 tbsp. lime juice
1/4 cup chopped cilantro leaves
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
3 green onions, chopped
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1/2 tsp. salt, or to taste

Salsa of your choice(I used Whole Foods brand Roasted Chipotle Salsa)
Jalapeno peppers to top
Corn tortilla chips for serving

Preheat the oven to 350F. Combine all the ingredients for the queso in the food processor, and blend them until smooth. Transfer to a small baking dish, and bake in the heated oven for 25-30 minutes, or until bubbling and golden brown on top.

Meanwhile, heat oil in a pan. Add the chopped onion, and cook on medium heat until the onions are transluscent and tender. Add the garlic, and cook for 1-2 minutes until the garlic just begins to brown. Add the roasted cumin powder, the paprika, and the cayenne pepper. Then, add in the black beans with enough water to cover them. Add the salt and pepper, and let the water come to a boil on high heat. Lower the heat once the water starts boiling, and let the mixture simmer until the water is nearly evaporated. At this point, begin to mash the beans until they reach the desired consistency. Taste for salt, and adjust as needed.

Place all the ingredients for the guacamole in a large bowl, and mix them together with a fork until combined. Mash if you prefer a creamy consistency.

To serve the nachos, divide tortilla chips among 5 individual plates. Cover the chips generously with salsa. Then, divide the refried beans among each plate of chips. Then, top with queso as desired(it is rich, so a little goes a long way). Finally, top each plate with a generous dollop of guacamole.

Yields 5 meal-sized servings

I unfortunately did not get to take a picture of the nachos on my second attempt because everyone was starving by the time I took the queso out of the oven, so Ive included a picture of the first attempt, with the bechamel-based queso sauce(which is why it looks runny).

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Aloo Parathas

When it comes to Indian breads, most people spontaneously think of naan. And for good reason. Soft, fluffy, buttery goodness-what's not to like about naan after all? However, as much as I love naan, parathas win hands down when it comes to my personal favorite Indian bread. I love parathas in any form, plain or stuffed, and would choose paratha over naan any day! Plain parathas typically entail layered, crisp and flaky flatbread brushed generously with ghee or butter, while stuffed parathas can contain a variety of fillings, including just about any vegetable and paneer. The most widespread type of paratha is the aloo paratha, a stuffed paratha containing a spiced potato filling. In addition to being one of our family favorites, I harbor many fond memories of eating aloo parathas with my family back in India. A dhaba in Pune, Vadeshwar, prepares some pretty scrumptious aloo parathas in the evenings, so whenever we visit my aunt in Pune, we always have to order aloo parathas from Vadeshwar for at least one dinner. Moreover, each aloo paratha dinner has to be followed by mastani from Hotel Sujata for dessert. Mastani, ever-popular in Maharashtra, simply consists of a milkshake topped with the same flavor of ice cream, and Sujata wins hands down for the best mastani in Pune. You can find an ample array of flavors, from the typical mango and pistachio to butterscotch and, my personal favorite, orange! I always look forward to this ritual each time we visit India. Indeed, most of my memories of trips to India center around food! Not at all surprising when India boasts such divine delights as chaats, aloo bondas, crisp and spicy dosas, pav bhaaji, samosas, Indian Chinese cuisine and, of course, all the delicious ice creams!

Anyway, I prepared aloo parathas for dinner the other night, and I have only one word to describe them: YUM! Hot off the stove, smeared in ghee, flavorful and filling, aloo parathas make for a perfect one-dish meal, accompanied by just plain yogurt and perhaps a spicy pickle. As if I didn't eat enough of the parathas, I remembered all those aloo paratha and mastani dinners with my family in India, and I suddenly began to crave mastani! Of course, you unfortunately cannot find mastani here in the U.S., but I satisfied my craving by running out and buying my favorite ice cream instead :)

For the dough:
2 cups atta/whole wheat flour
2 tsp. oil
3/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. mung flour
1/4 tsp. methi (fenugreek) powder
2 tbsp. yogurt(if you want to incorporate soaking)
enough water to make a very soft, pliable dough

Combine all the ingredients except for the water in a large bowl. Gradually mix in the water until you have a soft, pliable dough. Knead for one minute, cover with plastic wrap, and let it sit at room temperature for 12-24 hours if you wish to incorporate soaking, or at least 1/2 hour to fully work the dough.

For the filling:
4 large potatoes, boiled, peeled and mashed
1.5 tbsp. lemon juice
paste made with 3 green chillis and 1/2 tsp. ginger
1 tsp. garam masala
1 tsp. coriander powder
1 heaping tsp. cumin powder
salt to taste, or about 1 tsp.
2 tbsp. chopped cilantro leaves

Ghee or melted butter for brushing

Mix the mashed potatoes with all the seasonings until thoroughly incorporated. Divide the mixture into 10 equal-sized balls. To make the parathas, make ten 2 inch balls from the dough. Roll each dough ball into a small circle that is larger than each ball of the potato mixture. Place one potato ball in the center of each circle of dough, and close the dough up and around the potato mixture. Flatten the dough ball, dip in flour to lightly coat, and roll in out on a floured surface into a round paratha about 8" in diameter. Cook on a preheated skillet on each side until golden brown. Then, brush each side with ghee or melted butter and cook again until slightly crisp on each side. Serve hot with plain yogurt or raita and a pickle.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Roasted Asparagus with Scrambled Eggs

I had never oven-roasted veggies before until recently, when I found a bunch of very fresh asparagus at Whole Foods. In spite of the fact that I bake incessantly, I found the task of oven-roasting vegetables quite daunting and intimidating. However, I absolutely love roasted asparagus, and roasted vegetables in general; roasting just intensifies the natural flavor of the vegetables themselves without the addition of much extra flavoring. When I came across Ina Garten's recipe for Roasted Asparagus with Scrambled Eggs, I knew I just had to give it a shot. This combo makes for a perfect, light summer lunch or a hearty breakfast (if you have a big appetite early in the morning). I actually remembered the episode in which Ina prepared the roasted asparagus, and she made it seem so simple to whip up. Indeed, Ina makes everything look smooth and straightforward; however, her recipes almost always produce outstanding results. So I decided to have faith in her, and I must say, I made the right decision. I successfully roasted the asparagus without any problem, and A. and I gobbled up the entire pan. The scrambled eggs also turned out prefectly creamy and mouthwatering, especially with my addition of garlic and herbs. So bottom line, roasting in the oven is a breeze and something I will continue to do over and over. Thanks Ina!

Roasted Asparagus with Scrambled Eggs(adapted from Ina Garten's recipe):
Scrambled Eggs:
4 eggs
2 tbsp. half-and-half
1 tbsp. unsalted butter
2 cloves garlic
1 tsp. fresh rosemary, chopped
1 tsp. fresh basil, chopped
3/4 tsp. salt, or to taste
1/4 tsp. black pepper
2 tbsp. parmesan cheese

Roasted Asparagus:
1 bunch fresh asparagus
Good olive oil
salt and pepper for seasoning
2 tbsp. parmesan cheese

For the asparagus:
Break off the tough ends of the asparagus, and, if they're thick, peel them. Place the asparagus on a baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil, and toss to coat completely. Spread the asparagus in a single layer and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast the asparagus for 15 to 20 minutes, until tender but still crisp. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese, and return to the oven for 5 minutes or until cheese melts.

For the eggs:
Whisk eggs in a bowl with salt, pepper and half-and-half. Melt 1/2 tbsp. butter in a skillet; add chopped garlic, and cook for 1-2 minutes on medium-low heat until it just begins to brown. Add basil and rosemary, and cook for another minute. Turn the heat to low, and add the eggs. Cook the eggs over the lowest heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, to the desired doneness. Remove from heat, add remaining 1/2 tbsp. of butter and the parmesan cheese, and stir until they melt. Serve atop the roasted asparagus.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Lemon-Berry Fruit Pizza

Anytime I think of dessert, the tought of a rich, chocolate-based confection inevitably pops into my mind before anything else. Indeed, I proudly admit that I suffer from chocoholism. My day is never complete without at least a tiny dose of chocolate, in some form or another, whether just a small piece from a Valhrona bar or a large piece of a rich, decadent, fudgy brownie. Especially when it comes to serving guests, chocolate tends to be my number-one go to base for sweet treats. After all, chocolate always pleases the masses. However, for once, in my quest for lighter, more summer appropriate fare, I decided to challenge myself to step out of my comfort zone and come up with something different, something that did not include any chocolate! A fruit-based delight seemed the perfect alternative. Years ago, during one summer vacation, my mom prepared a scrumptious, refreshing fruit pizza for us that we all gobbled up. Simple yet elegant, light yet zestful, a fruit pizza is a perfect make-ahead dessert for dinner parties and a sureshot crowd-pleaser. I recreated this version turned-up a notch by adding the lemon curd as opposed to preparing a plain cream cheese frosting. Citrus flavors in general, but particularly lemon, wonderfully accompany all types of fruit. The amalgamation of sweet berries with the tang of the lemon curd atop the sweet cookie crust provides the perfect ending to any meal, and because it is not overly rich, you just might have room for a second piece!

Sugar Cookie Crust (from
2 and 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 cup butter, softened
1.5 cups white sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Microwave Lemon Curd(from Morning Coffee and Afternoon Tea):
1 stick unsalted butter
1 cup granulated sugar
3 eggs
zest of 3 lemons
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice

8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup lemon curd
1/2 cup sugar(powdered is best, but granulated works fine too)
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 cup orange juice
3 tbsp. sugar
1 tbsp. lemon juice
Strawberries and blueberries to top pizza

For the crust:
Preheat oven to 375F. Sift together flour, baking soda and baking powder in a small bowl. Cream butter and sugar together in a large bowl until smooth. Beat in the egg and vanilla extract. Gradually beat in the flour mix until it forms a ball, but don't over mix. Transfer the ball to a lightly greased 10X15 inch sheet pan. Press dough evenly across the bottom of the pan to form a crust. Bake for about 8-10 minutes, or until, golden brown, in the preheated oven. Crust will be bubbling and appear slightly underdone, but it will finish cooking with the internal heat. Let it cool completely at room temperature before assembling the pizza.

For the lemon curd:
Melt the butter in a microwave-safe bowl in a microwave on high for about 1 minute, or until melted. Combine sugar, eggs, lemon juice and lemon zest in another bowl with a whisk. Slowly beat in the melted butter. Microwave the mixture on high(or about 70% power if you have a very powerful microwave like me) for 3-4 minutes, until it is thickened. Stir every minute. Transfer to a clean glass jar, and let it cool slightly. Let it chill in the refrigerator overnight.
This made about 2 cups, one cup of which I used for the pizza. I happily used up the rest by mixing a dollop into vanilla yogurt for breakfast or using as a fruit dip!

For the frosting:
Beat all the ingredients together in a bowl until smooth and creamy.

For the glaze:
Mix orange juice and sugar in a saucepan on a stovetop on medium heat, and let it simmer until the sugar dissolves. Let it cool, and them mix in the lemon juice.
To assemble:
Spread frosting on top of the cooled crust. Wash strawberries and blueberries, and slice the strawberries. Toss the berries with the glaze just to coat, and strain the extra glaze. Arrange the berries on top of the frosting in desired pattern. Let it chill in the fridge for at least a few hours, preferably overnight. I promise, it is worth the wait!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Zucchini Slider Sandwiches

Inevitably, summertime means grilling time for many people. I was trying to come up with lighter, summer-appropriate fare for my latest dinner party, and grilling immediately came to mind. Though I don't own an actual grill, I was sure I could certainly achieve more than acceptable results using the stovetop. However, I have never been a fan of pre-packaged, frozen veggie burgers, so I decided to improvise my own vegetarian burgers with a mediterranean flare, keeping in line with the Greek Htipti. Thus arose these aromatic, titillating delights. I promise, you'll never miss the meat in these sliders(mini-burgers). Packed with pungent spices, these sliders make a delicious, healthy alternative to falafel, as they are grilled(well, on the stovetop at any rate) as opposed to fried and contain zucchini in addition to the garbanzo beans. They require very little time to prepare, and the best part is that you can make the sliders beforehand and just keep them warm in the oven until you are ready to serve. But be warned, the scent of roasted cumin will permeate well-beyond your kitchen, rendering your guests impatient as they wait to sample this sumptuous culinary concoction.
Zucchini Sliders:
2 large zucchini
2 cups canned garbanzo beans
1/2 red onion, medium-chopped
about 1/2 cup dry breadcrumbs, unsalted
1 tsp. roasted cumin powder
1 tsp. coriander powder
1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1.5 tsp. salt, or to taste
1/2 tsp. black pepper
3 tbsp. oil
Shred the zucchini, and very lighty salt it. Place it in a strainer over a bowl to let the water drain out. In the mean time, mash the garbanzo beans together with all the spices and salt. Add in the drained zucchini and enough breadcrumbs to be able to form patties. Preheat stovetop grill pan. Form 20 mini-patties of roughly equal size, about 2" in diameter. Oil the grill pan well, let the oil get hot, and then place 10 patties(or as many as the pan will hold) on the pan. Grill on medium-high heat for about 4 minutes on each side, or until each side is well-browned. Repeat until all sliders are finished. If you are not serving the sliders right away, place them in a 200F preheated oven to keep them warm until you are ready to serve them.

Tahini-Yogurt Sauce:
1.5 cups yogurt
1/2 cup tahini from roasted sesame seeds
1 tbsp. lemon juice
1/2 tsp. cumin powder
1/2 cup cilantro
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper

Place all ingredients together in a mini-food processor and whirl until thoroughly combined but some pieces of cilantro remain.
To serve, use fresh ciabatta bread, and cut it into individual sandwich-size portions. Spread both sides of the bread generously with yogurt sauce, and place 2 sliders on top of one side. Top as desired-I used romaine lettuce and pepperjack cheese, whch gave it a nice zing. Enjoy!
Yield: 5 sandwiches

Monday, July 26, 2010

Htipiti: Feta Cheese and Roasted Red Pepper Dip

I hosted another dinner party this past weekend, this time with a Mediterranean-themed menu. For an appetizer, a cool but flavorful dip of some sort seemed like the perfect option. However, I certainly wanted to serve something other than the typical hummus or baba ghanoush. I thought about some of my favorite ingredients commonly used in mediterranean-style cooking. Feta cheese and roasted red peppers immediately came to mind. So after searching, I came across this fabulous, yet strikingly simple recipe by Kevin of Closet Cooking for Htipiti, a roasted red pepper and feta cheese dip, made entirely in the food processor. It tastes phenomenal. Feta cheese provides all the necessary creaminess, and the sweetness from the roasted red peppers well balances the tanginess of the feta. I have modified the recipe only slightly, using crushed red pepper flakes in place of the jalapeno pepper, and the heat provides that slight kick that rounds out the overall flavor of the dish perfectly. I also used garlic powder in place of raw garlic, as I do not care for the strong aftertaste left in your mouth by raw garlic. Leftovers make for a great sandwich/wrap spread and would also serve as a tasty alternative to pasta sauce.

Htipiti (This is the original recipe; I tripled it):
1 roasted red pepper
4 ounces feta cheese
2 ounces sun-dried tomatoes
scant 1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1 green onion
1 tbsp. lemon juice
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1/8 tsp. black pepper

Combine all ingredients in a food processor, and process until well-blended but still slightly chunky. Add oil from the sun-dried tomatoes if you need to thin the dip out. Garnish with olive slices and crumbled feta, if desired.

Serve with good crackers, pita chips or fresh veggies.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

A Birthday on Bastille Day!

My friend J. is spending the summer here in town, and since she celebrated her birthday last week, I just had to bake her a cake. I should mention that, as indicated in the title, her birthday falls on the French Bastille Day, which is of special significance to the two of us given our Francophilia. So, I figured that I should try to incorporate at least some French element into the cake. Well, that element came in the form of the cake base, Clotilde's recipe for French Yogurt Cake. This recipe never fails me, and it comes out moist, fluffy and scrumptious every time. That however, was the extent of the French element. I turned the basic cake into a dark chocolate cake with peanut butter frosting, as J. loves both chocolate and peanut butter. Though ever-popular here in the U.S., the French just don't seem to adore this combination nearly as much as we do. Oh well, nothing beats this classic combo in my eyes. And of course, no one complained while eating the cake :)

Cake(adapted from Chocolate and Zucchini):
3 cups all-purpose flour
1.5 cups whole-milk yogurt
3 eggs
1.5 cups sugar
1/3 + one-half of 1/3 cup ghee or canola oil
3/4 tsp. baking soda
2 and 1/4 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. vanilla extract
6 ounces of good-quality dark chocolate, grated

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease a 9x13 inch baking pan. Gently combine yogurt, sugar, eggs, oil/ghee and vanilla in a large bowl. Sift together flour, baking powder and baking soda in another bowl. Mix the grated dark chocolate into the dry ingredients Add the flour mixture into the yogurt mixture and mix together until just combined. Do not overmix. Pour the batter into the greased cake pan, and bake it until the top is golden brown and a cake tester comes out clean, about 25-30 minutes. Let it cool completely before frosting.

Peanut Butter-Cream Cheese Frosting
6 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/2 stick butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup creamy peanut butter
About 3/4 cup powdered sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
Cream butter and cream cheese together until fulffy. Beat in the peanut butter and vanilla until thoroughly combined. Add 1/2 cup of powdered sugar, and beat it in completely. If more sweetness is desired, add the remaining 1/4 cup. Spread on top of cooled cake.

Decorate as desired. I used chocolate chips to spell out "Happy Birthday Mon Ami." I wrote "Mon Ami" just to add a bit more of the French element, as I could not fit "Anniversaire", the French word for "birthday."

Friday, July 16, 2010

Spaghetti with Vegetarian "Meatballs" and Spicy Red Sauce

My mom used to make the most amazing vegetarian "meatballs", which she called "wheatballs" while we were growing up. I used to love eating them with spaghetti, in sandwiches smothered with mozzarella cheese and tomato sauce, and even just plain as a snack :) However, that recipe called for deep frying, which I did not want to do. Fortunately, I found another recipe for baked vegetarian meatballs, which turned out just as delicious as the original recipe, if not more so. I served them with spaghetti and homemade red sauce for a vegatarian version of the classic spaghetti and meatballs, and we simply loved it. The meatballs were dense yet soft, and the crunch of the walnuts provided the perfect contrast. The tangy flavor from the sharp cheddar melded perfectly with the herbs and the heat from the red pepper. A. could not stop uttering "Mmm..." and "Aah..." between bites. She looked at me after just a couple of bites, "Ameya, you must make this again!" I have mentioned before that she is a rather picky eater, so the dish must be truly phenomenal for her to say that! I will certainly make these delicious "meatballs" again, although next time I will bake them with the sauce and serve them without the pasta so that I can eat more of them :) They'll also taste spectacular in sandwiches!

Vegetarian "Meatballs"(adapted from
1 cup of Italian seasoned breadcrumbs
1/4 cup cottage cheese
1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1/2 cup walnuts
2 eggs
1/4 cup chopped onion
1/2 tsp. dry basil
1/4 tsp. dry oregano
1/2 tsp. salt

Preheat oven to 350F. Mix eggs, cheddar cheese and cottage cheese in a food processor until combined. Then, add onion, basil, oregano and salt. After, add in walnuts and pulse a couple of times until the walnuts are just coarsely chopped. Transfer the mixture to a bowl, and mix in the breadcrumbs. Form 8 balls of equal size, and place in a baking dish. Bake uncovered until a tester toothpick inserted in the center of one of the balls comes out clean, about 25 minutes.(See original recipe if you want to bake the meatballs with sauce).

Spicy Red Sauce:
4 fresh tomatoes, pureed
2 8 oz. cans tomato sauce
4 large garlic cloves, chopped
1 medium-sized onion, chopped
2 tsp. fresh rosemary, chopped
2 tsp. dry basil
1 tsp. dry thyme
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
2 tbsp. olive oil
1.5 tsp. salt, or to taste
1 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. black pepper

Heat the oil in a pot. Saute the onion over medium heat until transluscent. Add the garlic, and cook for 1-2 minutes, until it just begins to brown. Then lower the heat, and add the rosemary, basil, thyme and red pepper flakes. Cook for 1-2 minutes. Then, add the fresh tomato puree, and cook over medium heat until the puree turns a deep red, about 2-3 minutes. Add the canned tomato sauce, and let the mixture come to a simmer. Let it simmer for about 5-7 minutes. Add the salt, pepper and sugar, taste, and adjust as needed. Add as many meatballs as you plan to serve into the simmering sauce, cover, and let the sauce continue to simmer for about 7-8 minutes. Spoon sauce over the meatballs periodically. Serve sauce and meatballs warm over spaghetti.

Yields 4 servings.


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