Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cheesecake Bars

I know, I know. It's been 4 months since my last post, and you thought I'd dropped off the face of the earth, right? Well, this semester has been one tough battle, and I thought senior year of college was supposed to be fun!!! Well, it has been fun, but it has also been my toughest year to date, with GMAT preparations and graduate school applications, on top of all my school work. However, even if I have taken a little break from blogging, I most certainly have not taken a break from baking :) I do still have my friends over for dinner as frequently as possible, not least because it gives us all an excuse to see each other(not that we need one, of course), but it also gives me an excuse to bake some sweet treat or another every time(not that I need an excuse for that, either ;) ). Well, a couple of months ago(yes, I know how far behind I am), I had a reunion dinner with my study abroad friends, and I was looking for something rich, creamy and cooling for dessert to offset the spicy Indian food we would be enjoying for dinner. I came across this recipe for chocolate chip cookie dough cheesecake bars at Brown Eyed Baker, and seeing as cheesecake is one of my absolute favorite foods(read foods, not even desserts), I didn't need to give it a second thought. And hence, the only change I made to this recipe-as Michelle suggested, I increased the amount of cheesecake batter by 1.5 times the amount called for :)

These bars, even with the additional step of preparing the cookie dough, are quite simple to prepare, and take much less time than a traditional cheesecake, since they bake for half the time and only have to chill for a couple of hours in the fridge. Also, they make for much more reasonably sized portions than your average slice of cheesecake, so it's totally fine to serve them even after a larger meal. It's easy, it's tasty, it's different too-what are you waiting for?! Bake away, my friends!!

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cheesecake Bars
1.5 cups graham cracker crumbs
5 tbsp. melted unsalted butter

Cookie Dough:
5 tbsp. melted, cooled butter
1/3 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Cheesecake filling:
15 oz. room temperature cream cheese
1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp. granulated sugar
2 eggs(I didn't want to waste 1/2 an egg, so I used one whole extra egg, and it worked fine)
1.5 tsp. vanilla extract

Chocolate drizzle:
1/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips
2 tsp. butter

Preheat oven to 325 F. Grease an 8x8" baking pan, line with parchment paper and butter the parchment paper.

Stir together the graham cracker crumbs and butter until the crumbs are evenly moistened. Press the crumb mixture into the bottom of the pan. Bake until lightly browned, about 6 minutes, and let the crust cool slightly.

For cookie dough, beat butter and sugar together until smooth. Stir in the flour, then vanilla and chocolate chips. Refrigerate until firm(about 30 minutes), and then roll teaspoon-sized balls of the dough. Place the balls on a plate, and refrigerate the plate while you make the cheesecake filling.

Beat together the cream cheese and sugar on medium speed until smooth, scraping the bowl as needed. Add the egg and vanilla extract, beating until thoroughly combined.

Remove the cookie dough balls from the fridge, and toss with 1 tsp. flour. Drop into cheesecake filling and mix together. Pour the filling into cooled crust, and spread it into the corners and sides as needed. Bake for about 30 minutes, until the filling is almost set and only slightly jiggles in the center. Let cool completely on the counter, and chill for at least 2 hours in the fridge. Lift the bars out of the pan using parchment paper as handles, and cut into squares after placing on a cutting board. Melt chocolate chips and butter in a microwave on 50% power, stirring until smooth. Drizzle over the bars, and let it set for 20 minutes. Store leftovers in the fridge. I enjoyed them best at room temperature, but they are obviously wonderful cold as well :)

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Top 10 Must Eats in the City of Lights!

It’s no secret at all that Paris, the city of gastronomy and gourmandise, hides abounding delicious treats in its numerous corners. I had the good fortune to live in Paris throughout this past school year, and I therefore had the chance to thoroughly explore the culinary scene in Paris to my heart’s content :) After much consideration, I have at last compiled a list of the top 10 eats in the land of gourmandise (in no particular order) and hope you will also one day have the chance to profit from the awesome culinary scene in the City of Lights! Régalez-vous!

1.The Scone at Bread & Roses
It’s true that people generally associate scones with England, but honestly, Paris succeeds much more at producing wonderfully delicious scones. I tasted numerous scones in both Paris and London, and without exception, I preferred the scones in Paris. One of my favorite places to take a break for afternoon tea and a pastry was Bread & Roses, an uber-chic, modern salon de thé, located but a block from the famed Luxembourg Gardens. The pastries served here are truly exceptional, but the scones prove particularly special. Served with butter, whipped cream and strawberry jam, the scone is very flaky and perfectly cooked, and it goes wonderfully with the house Garden of Luxembourg tea (“Thé Jardin du Luxembourg”), or even a glass of wine. But the scone is also very, very filing, so I would suggest not eating a meal beforehand! The house cheesecake is also exceptionally delicious, very unctuous and light in texture, but not heavy like traditional New York cheesecakes! Bread & Roses has a second location, much larger but just as charming, by Place de la Madeleine, that serves the same menu, but at a higher cost.

Bread and Roses: 7 rue de Fleurus, Paris 75006
Metro Rennes or Saint Placide
Second address: 25 rue Boissy d’Anglas, Paris 75008
Metro Madeleine

2.The Religieuse Caramel Fleur de Sel at Des Gâteaux et du Pain
The religieuse, a dessert made from pâte à choux, the same dough used for éclairs, and filled with pastry cream, usually chocolate or coffee-flavored, is appropriately named, for it is indeed something to be revered. Especially the one at Des Gâteaux et du Pain. This gem of a patisserie prepares their religieuse with neither chocolate nor coffee flavor, but with salted butter caramel! This is one pastry you need to be in the mood for. I call it the queen of gourmandises because it is so rich, so creamy, so exquisite! With pâte à choux well-cooked(some have actually argued that it is overcooked, but I enjoy it the way it is because it doesn’t taste sweet at all and cuts the richness of the cream), salted butter caramel pastry cream that is not too sweet but simply perfect, all topped off with a scrumptious caramel icing, this decadent pastry is without a doubt my favorite Parisian pastry! In fact, I cannot do justice to this delight with words. You’ll just have indulge and see for yourself! ☺

Des Gâteaux et du Pain
63 Boulevard Pasteur, Paris 75015
Metro Pasteur

3.The Tarte à l’Orange at Carl Marletti
If you desire something light and refreshing, but nonetheless tasty, Carl Marletti’s tarte à l’orange is for you! This marvelous pastry provides an equilibrium between fruity desserts and rich, creamy desserts (like religieuses). Very creamy, but still light and smooth without being oversweet. Also, don’t miss M. Marletti’s pistachio religieuse, lemon tartelette, and if you love, love, love chocolate (like me!), the Dôme, one of his original creations! I don’t hesitate to recommend this pâtisserie to anyone-there is certainly something to please all taste buds!

Carl Marletti
51 rue Censier, Paris 75005
Metro Censier-Daubenton

4.The Escargot Rhum-Raisins from Du Pain et des Idées
I have already blogged about this wonderful boulangerie, but this outstanding viennoiserie simply had to make the top 10 list! Traditionally made with brioche dough, this version of the pain aux raisins makes all the others uneatable. Made with flaky croissant dough, lightly garnished with vanilla pastry cream and raisins macerated in rum, hardly sweet, this breakfast pastry, which also makes a great snack, will assure you a very happy day! The escargot rhum-raisins illustrates perfectly how oftentimes the simpler things can be the best! Also be sure to try the delicious breads, including the Pain Pagnol and the Pain des Amis, made with natural leavening.

Du Pain et des Idées
34 rue Yves Toudic, Paris 75010
Metro Jacques Bonsergent or République

5.The Croissant aux Amandes from Boulangerie Julien
I love plain butter croissants, but, the gourmand that I am, I often look for something a little more special. Croissants aux amandes (almond croissants) are simply day-old croissants that have been sliced, dipped in a sugar syrup, filled with almond cream and rebaked. They are often way too sweet, overbaked or just too heavy on the almond extract. But, Boulangerie Julien knows how to whip out one perfect almond croissant! Actually, they know how to whip out dozens and dozens each day ☺ Soft and perfectly cooked, theirs taste of pure almonds and are without a doubt the best almond croissants in Paris…and I’ve tasted my fair share of almond croissants here!

Boulangerie Julien
85 rue Saint Dominique, Paris 75007
Metro La Tour Maubourg or Pont de l’Alma

6.The Fallafel Spécial at L’As du Fallafel
You probably don’t need any introduction here. But, I can only use one single word to describe this emblem of what a falafel sandwich should be: paradisiac! I’ve previously written about this spectacular sandwich, but think of freshly fried falafels, layered with slices of grilled eggplant, grated fresh cabbage and a bit of hummus, topped of with tahini and the house special spicy harissa, flavored like nowhere else!

L’As du Fallafel
34 rue des Roziers, Paris 75004
Metro Saint Paul

7.The Millefeuille at Jacques Genin
Formerly an anonymous chocolatier, Jacques Genin made Parisians very happy when he finally opened his own pâtisserie with a salon de thé where customers could sit and enjoy his delicacies close to Place de la République. Certainly don’t miss his chocolate ganaches and his exquisite pâtes a fruits, candied jellies. But, more than anything, take a seat in his elegantly designed salon de thé and order one of his millefeuilles (napoleons) made to order! I have tried countless millefeuilles in Paris, but Jacques Genin is the only one who makes them fresh to order. Genin offers 4 flavors: chocolate, vanilla-raspberry, praliné (carmelized almond), and caramel. The freshness is incomparable, the puff pastry so flaky and so perfectly cooked. I of course tried the caramel flavor. A good choice, so pure tasting, tasting more of caramel than pastry cream. Honestly, it was one of the top millefeuilles I enjoyed in Paris. Again it’s quite large and filling, so go hungry!

Jacques Genin
133 rue de Turenne, Paris 75003
Metro Temple or République

8.The Scone at A Priori Thé
Yes, another scone! Be it “à la folie” with a red fruit coulis and mousse made with mascarpone cheese, be it with crème fraîche and homemade jams, be it with salted butter, here you will find yet another scone that will most certainly delight! Lighter than the scone at Bread & Roses, but just as tasty, with lemon zest and raisins, the scone at A Priori Thé is best enjoyed in the company of one of their many teas, including the “Cérisier de Chine”, cherry and a hint of rose infused into a base of green tea, and the “Thé Gazelle”, flavored with vanilla and caramel-but necessitating no sugar! A Priori Thé is located in the Galeries Vivienne, the largest of Paris’s many covered passageways, and therefore, boasts a calm, cozy atmosphere perfect for escaping the whirlwinds inherent in big-city life! Also noteworthy is their summertime chocolat frappé, an iced version of the infamous French chocolat à l’ancienne, rich hot chocolate made with cream, milk, pure melted chocolate and cocoa powder, as opposed to only cocoa powder (My sister enjoyed this concoction so much that we returned two days in a row during her visit to Paris just so she could enjoy more!). The New York cheesecake, made with a blend of cream cheese, mascarpone cheese and the French fromage blanc, doused in the house red fruit coulis, is simply sublime. Say hi to the owner, Peggy, if she’s in-her warm smile and welcoming attitude will keep drawing you back to this gem of a salon de thé.

A Priori Thé
35 Galeries Vivienne, Paris 75002
Metro Bourse

9.The Macarons at Pâtisserie Hugo et Victor
When it comes to the infamous French macarons, one always hears people speak of Ladurée, Pierre Hermé, and Dalloyau, but since the opening of Hugo et Victor, the competition has dramatically augmented! Described by many as the “Luxury Pâtisserie”, a name well-deserved due to its lavish, extravagant display of pastries that makes one feel as if he or she were in a jewelry boutique! I have tasted the macarons at all the big name patisseries, but Hugo et Victor without a doubt takes the cake! Their macarons achieve a perfect balance between soft and crisp, and they are just barely sweet, like most of the other magnificent pastries on offer. I especially enjoy the summer fruit flavors such as black currant, red currant and strawberry, but also the caramel, mango and chocolate flavors. A fun story: my mother wanted pistachio macarons to bring home to the United States, but Hugo et Victor doesn’t normally offer this flavor. However, the owner and pastry chef M. Hugues Pouget agreed to prepare this flavor for my mother because she had already ordered about 50 macarons to bring back home. And honestly, the pistachio flavor is nothing short of exquisite! Hugo and Victor’s other amazing pastries include the salted butter caramel millefeuille (you should realize by now that I am a salted butter caramel addict!) and the blood orange éclair, with a soft, springy pâte à choux and an orange pastry cream simply bursting with flavor (Délicieux!)!

Pâtisserie Hugo et Victor
40 Boulevard Raspail, Paris 75006
Metro Sèvres-Babylone
Second Address:
7 Rue Gomboust, Paris 75001
Metro Pyramides

10. The Quiche Poireaux(Leek Quiche) at Dominique Saibron
Only the second savory delight to make the cut! Yet, you cannot leave Paris without relishing quiche. Boulangerie Dominique Saibron is generally known for its baguette, which is doubtless excellent (their baguette de tradition was ranked number 3 in the 2010 competition), but the fact that it also produces excellent quiches is certainly no secret! With a very flaky, tasty crust, the quiches are extremely buttery and delicious without being too eggy, as is often the case. I particularly recommend the leek variety. The portion is quite large, but the quiche is so delicious that you won’t have any trouble polishing it off! You can sit down in the salon de thé, where you will also receive a side salad and an assortment of the house specialty breads, or you can take your quiche packed to go for a relaxing picnic in the nearby, beautiful Parc Montsouris!

Dominique Saibron
77 Avenue du Général Leclerc, Paris 75014
Metro Alésia

Monday, July 4, 2011

Happy (Belated) One-Year Anniversary to The Spice Savant!

Well, after an incredibly busy, but fun-filled hiatus, I’m finally back to celebrate my one-year anniversary!! A little late, yes I know, but I of course had to prepare something super special to celebrate. What a year this has been, with all the nonstop adventures that came with living in Europe, not to mention all the delicious food! :) I took my one-year blog anniversary as the perfect opportunity to make something I wouldn’t ordinarily prepare, and so cheesecake was the first thing that sprang to mind! Yes, I love it-it’s kind of hard not to love that super smooth and silky, luscious and dense, yet not too sweet treat. But it’s precisely because it’s all of those wonderful things that I hardly ever eat, let alone make, this gem of a dessert and tend to keep it for special occasions. As I was browsing recipes, I came across Giada’s recipe for cheesecake made with a mix of regular cream cheese and mascarpone cheese, one of my all-time favorite ingredients J It sounded just perfect, and so I set out, without a hand mixer, but with only my bare hands, to whip, whip and whip, bake and finally garnish this masterpiece. The only changes I made were I used the infamous French speculos cookies(the French equivalent of graham crackers, if you will) to make the crust, orange juice instead of lemon juice, and blackcurrant jam in lieu of chocolate to top the cheesecake .Verdict? Nothing short of sublime! Super-rich and creamy, but lighter in texture than traditional New York cheesecakes. It’s not too sweet at all, and to complement it, I topped with a bit of cassis (black currant) jam (another of my all-time favorites!). Sliced strawberries provide the perfect finishing touch with a bit of freshness to offset the richness of the cheesecake itself. Will I make this again? Of course (when I have another occasion!)! And actually, even without an electric mixer, it’s a cinch to put together! If you are a cheesecake lover, try your hand for your next special occasion get together-you and your guests will be nothing short of impressed!

Recipe (adapted from Giada de Laurentis's Mascarpone Cheesecake with Almond Crust):


1.5 cups speculos cookies, crushed

3 tbsp. melted butter


2 8 oz. packages cream cheese, at room temperature

2 8 oz. packages mascarpone cheese, at room temperature

1.25 cups sugar

2 tbsp. fresh orange juice

1 tsp. vanilla extract

4 large eggs, at room temperature


3/4 cup blackcurrant jam

! cup washed, sliced strawberries

Preheat oven to 350F. Mix together crushed speculos cookies and melted butter, and spread on bottom of a 9" springform pan or pie plate. Bake the crust until it is set and beginning to brown, about 10-12 minutes. Let the crust cool, and lower the oven temperature to 325F.

Beat the cream cheese, mascarpone and sugar together in a large bowl until smooth, occasionally scraping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Beat in the lemon juice and vanilla. Add in the eggs 1 at a time, and beat until just blended.

Pour the cheese mixture over the crust. Place the springform pan in a large roasting pan(if using pie plate, put roasting pan on bottom rack). Pour enough hot water in the roasting pan to come halfway up the sides of the springform pan. Bake until the center of the cheesecake moves sightly when the pan is gently shaken, about 1 hour, 5 minutes. Turn the oven off, but leave the cake in with the door ajar for another hour. Then let the cake completely cool before refrigerating overnight. Once cold and before serving, spread the top of the cheesecake with the blackcurrant jam and arrange the strawberries on top in desired pattern. Slice, serve and relish!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Double Take chez Le Dali

Living as a student in Paris certainly has its perks, with many activities and necessities steeply discounted or even free. However, it can be a nightmare for a gourmand such as myself when it, comes to food. Désolé, no such luck there. However, I do manage quite well if I do say so myself; one simply needs the know-how. Nonetheless, every once in a while, you do want to go all-out and really treat yourself to something classy. It's only natural, right?
I had decided even before arriving in Paris that I would visit Hôtel Le Meurice for their famous afternoon tea at their restaurant, Le Dali, at least once during my stay here. Now, this 5-star hotel and restaurant is no less than the talk of the town here-I've heard honestly nothing but people raving when it comes to Le Dali. Their tea-time formule includes, for 30 euros, a warm scone with clotted cream and jam, an assortment of finger sandwiches, 3 mini-pastries and either tea or hot chocolate-sounds like quite a bargain, no? So now, let me tell you about my not one, but two, visits to Le Dali-quite a funny story actually!
A couple of weeks ago, my mom came to visit me here, and I decided that it would be a perfect time to visit Le Dali (not only because it would be her treat! :) ). My sister, A.P., who was also here at the same time, paid them a visit a few days before and had thoroughly enjoyed her experience, with the staff whose sole concern was the happiness of the customers. Unfortunately, this was not at all the experience we had when we visited. For that price and location, one would expect nothing but the best in terms of both food and service. Well, we were disgusted by both! The staff downright ignored us the entire time we were there, and whenever they had to speak to us, they did so in the rudest manner possible. They went to every other table, asking to make sure everything was alright for the other customers. They did not bother to ask us even once. Nor did they give us any explanation when they brought the food to our table. The food was less than mediocre. The pastries were all incredibly dry and stale. I've had way better scones in Paris for half the price. When we asked for vegetarian finger sandwiches, they brought us the driest sliced possible bread with sliced carrots in-between. I was so incensed by this experience, that I wrote Le Meurice a letter the very next day, detailing our experience and how it was completely unacceptable for any establishment, but particularly one of its stature and with its reputation, to behave in such a fashion with paying customers, and demanding an explanation for what had happened. Truth be told, I did not expect any response; however, to my surprise, I received a phone call the very next day from the restaurant manager apologizing frantically for what had happened and insisting that the treatment we had received was entirely uncharacteristic of their establishment. Furthermore, she maintained that the hotel really wanted to preserve their positive reputation, and therefore, they were willing to offer me a free tea for two, for the date and time of my choosing, to make up for our awful experience the first time! Well now, I certainly wasn't about to say no to that, so one week later, my friend S. and I were standing in their doorway right when they opened for tea-time. They were waiting for us. Indeed, I will never forget this experience. The manager, who came and introduced herself, was there the whole time supervising the waiters, who, I will not hesitate to say, were actually intimidated by our presence. I have actually never seen French waiters react in such a way before, but the waiters that day(the same ones I had when I went with my mom) were completely different people.We just looked at them, and they literally came running over to us to find out what we wanted. They actually refilled our teapots, and the vegetarian sandwiches this time around included an assortment of sandwiches such as cucumber with cream cheese and emmental cheese with dijon mustard. The pastries were considerably better this time around-I particularly like the lemon-meringue tartelette, the fondant au chocolat(which had a molten center!) and the grapefruit-pistachio tartelette. I ordered the Marco Polo Noir(black tea), and S. ordered the Marco Polo Rouge(red fruit tea), both of which were excellent, of course. All in all, the second experience proved more than gratifying, not only because of the fawning waiters, but also because the restaurant/hotel itself is actually quite stunning-dark but elegant, with vibrant paintings covering the ceiling, the dining room has a very old-world, cozy feel to it, whilst the rest of the hotel is designed literally as though it were an ornate palace. Now after all this, would I return? Certainly not. For the price, the food was still nothing exceptional, and although I'm certain that if I were to return, I would receive the same level of service, I could not recommend it to anyone after my first experience there. If you do decide to go, it should be for the classy high-tea experience more than anything else. And if you are not at all satisfied with your experience, like me, you know the solution :)

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Bananas Foster-Croissant Bread Pudding

I must say, in spite of the plethora wonderful pâtisseries and desserts I gorge myself on in this fair City of Lights, I do often miss the comfort and satisfaction of baking my own goodies. However, with the lack of proper baking equipment-pans, mixers and beaters-I just have not tried my hand at it here. Until now. This past weekend, I had friends over for dinner for the first time here, and of course, I just had to serve an over-the-top dessert. But what? I ransacked my brains trying to figure out what I could make with my very limited equipment, that was bound to turn out perfectly? Cakes were out of the question, as I have neither mixers nor cake pans. And as my oven has a gas mark, it is difficult to determine the exact temperature. Thus, I tried to think of a recipe which would be somewhat flexible with respect to baking temperature, pan size, and the like, and I realized-what better than bread pudding? One certainly doesn't need exact measurements, and the temperature doesn't need to be exact to the degree. I thought of several possible variations to spruce up the dessert-chocolate, tropical fruit, etc., but then I came across this insanely good sounding recipe for Bananas Foster Bread Pudding at Brown Eyed Baker. I saw the photo, and it was love at first sight! :) Instantly, my search had ended, and I trotted out to multiple locales to secure all the ingredients. I made several changes to the original recipe, however. First of all, I mainly used the bananas foster sauce recipe from Brown Eyed Baker. For the actual pudding, I adapted Colleen Patrick-Goudreau's Bread Pudding recipe from The Joy of Vegan Baking. I changed the recipe by using half oat milk and half full-fat cream, and dairy butter instead of nondairy, but more than that, the change that really elevated this already gem of a dessert from simply delicious to a truly decadent gourmandise: I used croissants instead of bread! Yes, with such high quality croissants available in Paris, these flaky, buttery delights were just what was needed to set this dessert apart. Need I say how moist and sinfully scrumptious this delight, coupled with the warm bananas foster sauce, turned out? Just use fresh, ripe bananas, real butter and the best quality croissants you can find, and I guarantee you nothing but sheer delight!

Croissant Bread Pudding(adapted from The Joy of Vegan Baking and Brown Eyed Baker):
6 croissants, torn into bite-sized pieces
2 tbsp. melted butter
1 ripe banana
1 cup oat milk(more if needed-I added about 1/3 cup extra)
1 cup full-fat cream
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
2 tsp. vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 F or 180 C or gas mark 4. Add to a 9 inch square baking pan. Drizzle
melted butter.
Mash the banana. Add milk, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla. Beat until well
mixed. Pour over torn croissants and push down lightly over the croissants with fork until they are covered and soaking up the mixture. Bake for 45 minutes.

Bananas Foster Sauce(adapted from Brown Eyed Baker):
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/3 cup heavy cream
3 bananas, sliced
2 tsp. vanilla extract

Heat a large skillet on low heat. Add butter and brown sugar, and cook while continuously stirring until the sugar begins to melt into the butter. Add the banana slices, and cook for 1 minute, moving the skillet back and forth. Add vanilla extract and cream, and whisk to fully incorporate them. Spoon warm over warm bread pudding.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Paneer Bhurji

This past weekend, my friends R. and K. decided all of a sudden that they wanted to whip up and relish some fresh Indian delights for dinner. Of course, they thought, who better to call upon than yours truly? :) I ransacked my brains trying to decide what would be the best dish to prepare-a sure-shot palate pleaser that would be simple enough to prepare, given our limited equipment and cooking space. Of course, I realized, paneer is always a winner with both Indians and non-Indians alike, and paneer bhurji(essentially scrambled paneer) is the simplest of all! No kneading, pressing and cutting involved, only draining the curds. So after making clear that non-sterilized milk was a must(the vast majority of milk in France is sterilized and sits on shelves for months on end-gross, right?) and after trotting home to collect all the necessary spices and prepare the dough for the crisp, flaky parathas I would be making to accompany the paneer bhurji, we proceeded to chop ingredients for, cook and enfin, eat the simply delectable, creamy and spicy paneer bhurji with parathas hot off the stove :) I can't wait to cook with everyone again! Au revoir!
1 large onion
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tbsp. chopped fresh ginger
2 heaping tsp. cumin seeds
1 heaping tsp. fennel seeds
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. coriander powder
2 large fresh red chilli peppers, chopped
2 tsp. garam masala
3/4 tsp. red chilli powder
1 cup chopped juicy tomatoes
1.5 tbsp. butter
paneer made from 1 gallon of milk
salt to taste

Heat oil in a large pan. Add cumin seeds, and when they begin to brown and give off a strong aroma, add the fennel seeds. Five seconds later, lower the heat to medium and add the chopped onion. Cook until the onions are tender and transluscent, but not brown. Add garlic and ginger, and cook for about 2 minutes, or until garlic is no longer raw, but not brown. Add chopped red chilli peppers and coriander powder. Cook for 2 minutes, and then add the chopped tomatoes. Let the mixture simmer until the tomatoes are completely cooked, but still somewhat juicy. Add paneer, garam masala, red chilli powder and salt, mix thoroughly, and let cook for 3-4 minutes on medium heat. Mix in the butter, and serve warm with parathas, rotis or naan.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Gobhi Manchurian

My friend, L., celebrated her birthday this past week, and in honor of her special day, she hosted a potluck dinner for all of us to share in. So of course, I wanted to make something special and delicious for all of our friends to relish. My first thought was, as usual, a cake or other sweet treat. However, given my lack of adequate baking supplies and the fact that there were already going to be multiple desserts, I instead decided to go for a savory delight and try my hand at something very different. Gobhi manchurian proved just the answer. A staple of Indo-Chinese cuisine, many of us Indians have been lucky enough to have sampled this true delicacy. However, Indo-Chinese remains very much unknown to the practically everyone else. So, as I love gobhi manchurian, I decided I would whip up a batch for everyone to sample, slightly adapting this recipe from ...From my Palate. An excellent decision, if I do say so myself :) This dish turned out so flavorful and spicy, a nice change for everyone. The soy sauce, along with the ginger and garlic, really accentuated the Indian flavor from spices such as cumin and coriander, culminating in a time-proven Indo-Chinese classic. Furthermore, the baked version tasted just as delicious as the traditional deep-fried version but was much healthier. What more can one ask for, right?

Baked Gobhi Manchurian( adapted from ...From my Palate):
For battered cauliflower:
1 medium head cauliflower, washed and cut into big florets
1" piece ginger, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves finely chopped
3 tbsp. cornflour
1 tbsp. cumin powder
1 tbsp. coriander power
2 tsp. red chili powder
2 tbsp. tomato sauce

For the sauce:
1 small onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
2 tbsp. oil
3 tbsp. soy sauce
2 large cloves garlic, chopped
1" piece ginger, chopped
1/2 tsp. cumin powder
1/2 tsp. coriander powder
2 red chili peppers, chopped into large pieces
3 tbsp. tomato sauce
spring onions, chopped
salt to taste, if needed

Boil a large pot of water, and cook cauliflower florets in the boiling water(salted) for about 5 minutes. Drain and dry the florets. Preheat oven to 400F. Mix the garlic, ginger, cornflour, cumin and coriander powders along with the red chili powder, and add enough water to make a thick batter. Mix the florets with the batter, and transfer the mixture to a baking dish. Bake in the preheated oven for 15-20 minutes until dry.
For the sauce, heat oil in a pan, and add the chopped onion. Cook for 2-3 minutes on medium heat until the pieces become translucent and tender, but not brown. Add ginger, garlic and red chili peppers. Cook for 2 minutes, or until the garlic is no longer raw, but not yet brown. Add the bell pepper and tomato sauce, along with cumin and coriander powder. Cook, covered, for about 3 minutes. Removed the pieces of red chili peppers. Then, mix soy sauce and cornflour with a cup of water, and add to the mixture. Simmer until thick. Add the baked cauliflower, and toss until it is well-coated. Check for salt and seasoning, and add if needed. Garnish with chopped spring onions.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Mung Dal-Fry for One!

After several days of eating out, I just wanted a simple, light but tasty homemade meal. Mung dal was absolutely perfect. Light and easy to digest, it can be a simple one-dish meal with some vegetables tossed in. I normally add onion, but I didn't have any on hand today; even then, the dal-fry was still so delightful. I had leftover cooked carrots and leeks already in my fridge, so no chopping and no grinding involved! And for once, I managed to make just the right amount of food for only myself without any leftovers. I finished cooking in under ten minutes, and enjoyed the dal-fry with a slice of multigrain bread spread with Jean-Yves Bordier butter, claimed by many to be the best butter in Paris. And I have to say, thus far, I quite agree :)

1/4 cup mung dal, washed and pressure-cooked
1 small clove garlic, finely chopped
1 tbsp. olive oil
1/2 tsp. mustard seeds
1/2 tsp. cumin seeds
2/3 tsp coriander powder
pinch of asafoetida(hing)
1/4 tsp. red chilli powder, or to taste
1/2 tsp. salt, or to taste
1/2 cup chopped cooked vegetables, or a mix of(I used carrots and leeks)
1/2 cup water, or as needed

Heat oil in a small pan on high heat. Add the mustard seeds. When they begin to splutter, lower the heat and add cumin seeds. When they begin to brown, add hing. Then, add chopped garlic. When it is no longer raw, but before it is brown, add the chopped cooked vegetables and mung dal. Cook for one minute, then add coriander powder, red chilli powder and salt, along with water. Let cook until the dal-fry reaches the desired consistency. Serve warm.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Du Pain et Des Idées

One of my predominant goals for this semester remains to stake out and sample as much as I can from the myriad of boulangeries, pâtisseries, and salons de thé dispersed throughout Paris; however, my other predominant goal now is to actually write about them, after la dégustation! You see, I tasted plenty last semester, really. But, after all the tasting I was left with hardly any time for blogging. But, here I am today to share with you one of the absolute best, and my all-time favorite, boulangerie in Paris, called Du Pain et Des Idées. I owe my discovery of this gem to none other then Clotilde Dusoulier's (of Chocolate and Zucchini) Clotilde's Edible Adventures in Paris, my bible here in the City of Lights. As Clotilde points out, their selection is indeed quite limited so as to assure a high quality of output. Well, Monsiuer Christophe Vasseur, the boulanger, succeeds like no other. Whenever you're looking for something other than an ordinary baguette, this is the place to visit. Of course, their baguette is of very high quality. But beyond that, M. Vasseur's Pain Pagnol, a naturally-leavened loaf which tastes very much like sourdough but is actually several notches above, still remains my preferred non-baguette bread, perfect with a hunk of cheese, as an accompaniment to soup or salad, or with just a nice slather of butter :) His house-specialty Pain des Amis is also extremely popular and makes a nice change to the baguette every so often. If you happen to be in Paris right now while the galettes des rois line the shelves of Parisian boulangeries and pâtisseries, make sure to grab the one at Du Pain et Des Idées while it lasts-simply sublime, a flaky puff pastry filled with sweet, creamy almond paste with a hint of citrus flavor. However, my absolute favorite of M. Vasseur's products remains, and will always remain, his escargot rhum-raisins, his personal take on the classic pain aux raisins. Traditionally made with brioche dough, filled with pastry cream and raisins, and shaped into a swirl, I am typically not fond of this viennoiserie. Not only do I tend to find it too sweet for my taste, but I just do not care for the texture of brioche. However, M. Vasseur solves both problems with his escargot rhum-raisins here. First of all, it is made with puff pastry dough as opposed to brioche dough, which for me already improves it about a hundred-fold. Furthermore, it is just barely sweetened, perfect for my taste in the mornings. The vanilla pastry cream is delectable, and, although I am generally not a fan of rum flavor, the just hint of rum pairs perfectly with the raisins and vanilla, thereby elevating this creation to a level equivalent to pure bliss. Just to put things in perspective, despite the fact that Du Pain et Des Idées is located by Canal St. Martin in the 10th arrondisement of Paris(in the east), I do not hesitate for one second to drag myself out of bed early on an almost-daily basis to trek practically across the city from the 17th arrondisement(in Paris Northwest) just to savor this delight first thing in the morning-about a 20-25 minute trip total by métro including a five-minute walk to the boulangerie itself. I know, you must think I'm crazy, as do many of my friends. But, just give it one try, and you'll immediately see why. Even if it does not become your daily boulangerie, if you are in Paris, Du Pain et Des Idées is a paradise simply not to be missed by any gourmand. Just hop by early in the morning for an escargot rhum-raisins, and pick up a loaf of bread (which you can buy in halves or quarters) to relish with dinner that night. Regardless of whatever else happens during the day, you will go to bed in a very happy state :)

L'Escargot Rhum-Raisins
Les Galettes des Rois
Pastry Selection
Du Pain et Des Idées
34 rue Yves Toudic
75010 Paris
01 42 40 44 52
Monday-Friday, 6h45-20h
Métro: Jacques Bonsergent or République

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Baingan-Mirchi ka Salan

Eggplant ranks as one of my all-time favorite vegetables. Actually, eggplant is technically a fruit, even though most of us still think of it and utilize it as a vegetable. I can relish it in just about any form-broiled, baked, fried, sauteed, and so on. I also love just about every variety of eggplant that exists, from the huge American eggplant, to the Indian baby eggplants, to the long, purple Chinese eggplants to the small green variety. In the ten days that I have been at home, I must have eaten at least 5 different dishes made with eggplant in some form, including the simply sublime creamed eggplant that I've already blogged about. But, I have heard so many people rant and rave about Baingan-Mirchi ka Salan and how flavorful it is that I just had to try making it myself. So, I sent my mom to the Indian grocery store for baby eggplants, and last night for dinner, I prepared a heartwarming main dish of Baingan-Mirchi ka Salan. That's a fair compromise, no? :) I followed Tarla Dalal's recipe for Mirchi ka Salan, except I added baby eggplants to the curry. The result? C'était un vrai régale. It was indeed a royal treat. Extremely rich and flavorful, but not too spicy, the salan, a Hyderabadi specialty, turned out simply perfect in every way. The green chillis provided just the right amount of heat without overpowering the rest of the dish, and the addition of coconut and peanuts, along with sesame seeds provided the perfect complement to the spices and elevated this curry to a level way above your standard vegetable curry. Though a bit time consuming, this delicacy is worth every second of preparation required. Your family, and your taste buds, will most certainly thank you :) Relish this mouthwatering delight with hot parathas or rotis, or steaming hot rice.

Baingan-Mirchi ka Salan(adapted from Tarla Dalal's Mirchi ka Salan):
8 baby eggplants
4 hot green chilli peppers
1 tsp. cumin seeds
1/2 tsp. mustard seeds
1/4 tsp. fenugreek seeds
1/4 tsp. nigella seeds
6 curry leaves
1/4 tsp. turmeric powder
2 tbsp. cumin-coriander powder
1 tsp. chilli powder, or to taste
1 tsp. tamarind concentrate
1/2 cup coconut milk
5 tbsp. oil, plus 3 tbsp.
salt to taste, or about 1.5 tsp.
1.5 cups water

For paste:
5 garlic cloves
1/2" piece ginger
1 onion
2 tomatoes
1/4 cup shredded coconut

For dry powder:
2 tbsp. roasted peanuts
2 tbsp. sesame seeds
1 tbsp. cumin seeds

Cut off them stems of the eggplants, and cut slits in the eggplants lengthwise in both directions without cutting all the way through. Heat 3 tbsp. oil in a skillet, and then add the slit eggplants. Shallow fry, covered, on medium-low heat for 5-7 minutes until almost cooked through. They should still be slightly firm. Remove and drain excess oil.

Add a fresh 5 tbsp. oil to the skillet on medium heat. Slit green chillis, and remove the seeds. Fry in the hot oil until they give off a very strong aroma, about 5 minutes total. Remove the chillis. Add the cumin seeds, nigella seeds, fenugreek seeds, mustard seeds and curry leaves to the same oil, and fry until they begin to crackle. Add the paste, and fry until cooked through. Add the coriander-cumin powder, turmeric, chilli powder, and dry powder masala, along with the cooked eggplants and salt. Cook for a 5 minutes. Add water and tamarind, cover and cook until eggplants are completely cooked. Add coconut milk, and let simmer until thick. Serve warm.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Raisin Scones

First of all, a very happy new year to all of you!! Best wishes to all of you for a coming year filled with happiness, health and lots more delicious food :)
A couple of weeks ago, while I was in Munich, I had the great pleasure of meeting Rachana of Veggi Fare. She so kindly introduced me to a wonderful tearoom in the city that served the most heavenly scones, fresh out of the oven, with real clotted cream and jam. In fact, I loved them so much that I dragged my friends back there the very next day, insisting that they try the scones and that I get to eat more :) Now, I have meant to try my hand at scones for quite a while, but after relishing those, I just could not wait any longer. Thus, for my goûter party on New Year's, I decided to whip up a batch of fresh raisin scones, along with French-style thick, unctuous chocolat chaud. Needless to say, they turned out simply fabulous! Not at all too sweet, but flaky and buttery, savored with clotted cream and strawberry preserves, fresh, hot scones make for the perfect afternoon snack, particularly in the winter, but I could eat them any time of the year :) Just make sure all of your ingredients are cold and ready to go before you start mixing in order to ensure flaky scones. I used Ina Garten's recipe, halved, but with more raisins and sugar, and I got a yield of 7 very large scones. I have included the halved recipe below. Enjoy!

Raisin Scones: (Adapted from Ina Garten's Raisin Scones)
2 cups plus 1 tbsp. flour
1 tbsp. baking powder
2 tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
1.5 sticks cold, unsalted butter, cubed
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup cold heavy cream
3/4 cup raisins
1 egg, beaten with 2 tbsp. water or milk, for egg wash

Preheat oven to 400F. Combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix in the cold butter at the lowest possible speed until the butter is in pea-size pieces. Combine the eggs and heavy cream (or have them combined beforehand), and quickly add them to the flour/butter mixture. Combine until just blended. Combine the raisins and 1 tbsp. flour and add to the dough and mix quickly. The dough may be a bit sticky.
Dump the dough out onto a floured surface and make sure it is well combined. Flour your hands and a rolling pin and roll the dough out to 3/4 to 1 inch thick. You should have lumps of butter in the dough. Cut into squares, then triangles. Place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Brush the scones with egg wash. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until the outsides are crisp and the insides are done. I actually froze mine for an hour before baking them, and I just added five minutes to the baking time. Serve warm with clotted cream and jam, and relish this delight with hot chocolate or a hot cup of tea :)


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