Monday, May 31, 2010

Restaurant Envy: Mesir Wat

A few weeks ago, a dear friend and I found ourselves in a quiet Ethiopian restaurant in Washington DC, home to the largest community of Ethiopian immigrants in the United States. We were sighing with relief that we were finally indoors getting a respite from the unseasonal heat wave, and giggling with anticipation of the tasty meal. It was my friend's very first time tasting Ethiopian cuisine and I was eager to introduce her to something I love. She has come to love Indian food over the years and enjoys cooking with spices, so I had an inkling that she would like the meal.

A few minutes after we settled down, a lovely server brought us the vegetarian combo, a large communal platter covered edge to edge with a pancake-like spongy bread called injera. Dotted on this edible platter were dollops of curries and stews in brown, red, yellow and green hues. Folded packets of extra injera were arranged in a small basket on the side. My friend and I did not hesitate- we each reached for some injera and used our hands to hungrily tear bite size chunks, scoop up the stews and exclaim over which one was our favorite. There was one with collard greens cooked to perfection, another with buttery cabbage and carrots, one with yellow lentils, and one with red lentils, and so on. We agreed that the earthy yet silky mesir wat was our very favorite. There was something about this stew that really made one ignore good table manners and lick one's fingers. When all the stews and vegetables disappeared, we ate the spice and butter-soaked injera underneath and sighed with happy satisfaction.

See photographs of Ethiopian cuisine here, here and here

Leaving the restaurant, I declared, quite predictably, that I wanted to try copying that mesir wat in my own kitchen. I started with this recipe and what follows is my short-cut adaptation of it. The good news is that if you have a well-stocked Indian pantry, you already have everything to need to try this dish from a completely different cuisine. The only extra spice that may not be in all Indian kitchens in paprika.

Mesir Wat
{Ethiopian Lentil Stew}

(adapted from What4Eats, serves 4-6)
  1. Make a fine spice powder with 12 inch cinnamon stick, 12 tsp cardamom seeds,  3 cloves and 14 tsp. fenugreek seeds
  2. Chop 2 medium onions coarsely and puree them to a fine, thick paste. You can make this paste in the same grinder used for the spices; one less thing to wash.
  3. In a heavy pot, heat 2 tbsp. oil and 2 tbsp. butter. On low heat, saute the spice powder for several minutes to infuse the fats with spice flavors. Spices can burn easily so watch the pot like a hawk. Burnt spices taste horrible.
  4. Add 12 tsp turmeric powder, 1 tsp. cayenne pepper (red chilli powder) and 1 tbsp. paprika and stir for a few seconds.
  5. Add onion puree and 1 heaped tsp. ginger-garlic paste and stir on medium-low heat for 10-15 minutes or until the paste is cooked, browned and fragrant.
  6. Add 34 cup rinsed red lentils (masoor dal) and 4 cups water. Stir, bring to a boil and simmer until the lentils are tender and falling apart. Season with salt to taste.
This is one tasty and complex stew, even if it is not much of a looker. V commented that it has a very "meaty" taste and I think that could be because it is made with onion paste and spices that are similar to those used in meat curries.

In a gesture of Indo-African solidarity, I served the mesir wat with dosa, and we really enjoyed the combination. Now that I have found a mesir wat recipe that I like, I'll try to make injera with fermented teff flour to make a real proper Ethiopian meal.

This flavorful lentil stew is going to Susan @ The Well-Seasoned Cook for the 23rd edition of My Legume Love Affair.

Have you tasted Ethiopian food and do you like it? Does anyone have a good recipe for making injera at home?

* * *
And now for the winner of the Adaptation Edition of Blog Bite. There was a tie between Kanchan's biscuit pudding and Preeti's cheese koftas, so I flipped a coin virtually, and...

...the winner is Preeti of Relishing Recipes!

But all together, there were less than a dozen votes so I can only conclude that people are not interested in this kind of a contest (which is not a big deal; you never know what works or what readers like until you try it). There will be no voting in the subsequent round-ups. I hope you will participate in BB4 and eat down the food lurking in your kitchen- some awesome entries are already trickling in!

Friday, May 28, 2010

Lentils with Peanuts

The daily bread for me (like for many Indians) is actually daily rice and dal. I was so excited when Suma announced the Delicious Dals of India event. Adding a few new dal recipes into the dinner rotation can only be a good thing.

Growing up, the everyday dal was the simplest ever- varan. On other days, there was amti. In fact quite often, leftover varan would be converted to amti. Other types of dals were made off and on. This was one of them- masoor (whole lentils) cooked with mild spices and peanuts.

This mild dal gets most of its flavor from cumin and coriander. As is quite typical with the Brahmani variety of Maharashtrian cooking, it has some sweetness from jaggery and some tangy from dried kokum fruit. You can substitute tamarind for the latter.

I like using tiny brown lentils from the Indian store in this recipe (for some reason, it is labeled "masoor matki"), but any lentils will do.

Masoor Shengdana Amti
{Lentil stew with Peanuts}

1. Cook in the pressure cooker-
  • 1 cup brown lentils (whole masoor)
  • 13 cup raw peanuts

2. In another pot, do the tempering-
  • 2 tsp. oil
  • 1 tsp. mustard seeds

3. Add 1 medium chopped onion and saute until translucent.

4. Add spices and stir for a few seconds-
  • 12 tsp. turmeric 
  • 12 tsp. red chilli powder (or more to taste)
  • 2 tsp. cumin-coriander powder
  • 12 tsp. garam masala
5. Add the following and simmer for 5 minutes-
  • Cooked lentil-peanut mixture
  • Small lump of jaggery
  • 4-5 pieces of dried kokum
  • Salt to taste
  • Water as required to get the desired consistency
This dal tastes even better if you let it rest for 30 minutes or so before serving. Serve it with any bread or with steamed rice. Garnish it with a handful of chopped cilantro if you wish.

This dal goes to Suma for the Delicious Dals of India event.

Once the entries are posted, I'll be busy making everyday meals special by trying dals from other homes. Isn't it extraordinary that humble lentils and everyday spices can be put together in so many permutations and combinations?

If you grew up eating home-style Indian food, what was the go-to dal in your home?

Thursday, May 27, 2010

BB4: What's Lurking in the Kitchen?

I have a little quiz for you. Look into your kitchen cupboards, your refrigerator and freezer and raise your hand if you see any of the following:
  • Open bottles of jams and preserves that have not been touched for months
  • Ingredients bought for a specific recipe that you have not used again
  • Foods given to you as gifts but that you never get around to using
  • Food at the back of the freezer that you can't even get to
  • Bottles lined up in the fridge door filled with mysterious sauces
  • Leftovers in the fridge waiting to be used up before you forget about them and chuck them out next weekend
  • Ingredients that you buy because they are nutritious and you feel like you should be eating them, but you can't think of ways to use them, so they sit there, taking up space and mocking you
  • Foods that are dangerously close to or just past the expiration date
  • Overripe bananas that you are collecting in the freezer
  • Spices that you bought in bulk because the price was right but are now rapidly losing their flavor
  • A bulk package of something that will last you until 2035
  • Ingredients that you are saving for a "special occasion" that never comes
  • Impulse purchases from grocery shopping trips that are sitting around 6 months later and making you feel guilty

If you raised your hand at any point while reading the list above, listen up, because I have a challenge for you. This month's Blog Bites event is all about using recipes from food blogs as the inspiration to use up the foods and ingredients that are lurking in our kitchens.

Find the lurkers in your kitchen and clean them out by using them up to make something new and tasty. Don't let those ingredients take up valuable space; real estate is very precious in most kitchens. Don't let your leftovers end up in the trash; food is a precious commodity. Above all, don't have a cluttered kitchen when you can have one that is well-organized and a pleasure to work in.

All this month, I will be using up ingredients from my pantry, fridge and freezer. I plan to use it or lose it: use whatever I can to make something tasty and if I come upon things that are already beyond use, then to toss them away instead of hanging on to them with a guilty feeling. If I find ingredients that I don't want to use, I will try and give them to someone who can use them.

If you want to join me, we will end up making good use of the ingredients that are already in our kitchens, minimizing waste and discovering new recipes in the process, and hopefully end up with a kitchen that is less cluttered and easier to work in.

If you are looking for inspiration to go after the lurkers in your kitchen and clean them out, here are 5 links:

So, if you want to join me this month in cleaning out the kitchen, here are...

The Rules

  • (a) From now until June 25, look through your kitchen for ingredients that need to be used up, and (b) look through your favorite blogs for ways to use them. That's the theme of the month- to use up the ingredients lurking in your kitchen and cluttering it up.
  • The recipe has to come from another blog. This is the whole premise of the Blog Bites event, so please turn to other blogs for inspiration.
  • Write a post telling us about the recipe you tried, with the following: (a) A link to the recipe on the inspiring blog, (b) A link to this post announcing the event (c) Picture of your dish.
  • Please do not copy a recipe word for word from another blog- that would be both illegal and unethical. Either re-write the recipe in your own words, or simply tell us about it with a link to the recipe. One of the reasons I am hosting this event is to promote the idea of cooking from blogs while giving them due credit.
  • Please make sure your entry meets all the rules above. Then, send me the link (URL) of your entry, either by leaving a comment on this post, or using the contact form.
  • You can send in as many entries as you like.

I will acknowledge the entries you send in by leaving a comment on your post and thanking you for the entry. Check back on July 26 to see the round-up.

We'll ask readers to vote for their favorite entry and I will send that participant a little gift. Very few people have been voting in the last 2 editions, so I guess readers/participants don't like this contest bit and I won't include it in this event any more.

Thank you for your participation!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Adaptation Edition Round-Up, and Your Chance to Vote

Here they are- bloggers taking on the challenge, adapting the recipes of other food blogs to fit their own tastes and their own needs. A recipe is a mere suggestion, a starting point, a source of inspiration, how it evolves is up to the cook.

I hope you enjoy reading each post, that you discover new blogs and find new recipes to try. At the end of the round-up you can put in a 
vote for your favorite entry.

Snacks & Condiments

We kick off this round-up on the right note with an ode to adaptation written by Maya of Palate Ticklers. She adapted super-crispy potato wadas from Holy Cow! and added some soft bread to the potato mixture to make her version of potato tikkis.

Indosungod of Daily Musings adapted mint vadai from A Peek Into My Kitchen, adding more green goodness in the form of spinach and coriander leaves to make spinach and mint paruppu vadai to be shared over a chat with good friends.

Shilpa of Thoughts and Pots adapted carrot masala vada from Sailu's Kitchen and used a variety of dals and some spinach to make her version of dal vadas.

Here at One Hot Stove, I adapted crustless spinach, onion and feta quiche from Baking Bites to a muffin pan format and used broccoli and cheddar to make broccoli mini quiches.

Jayasri Ravi of Samayal Arai adapted onion paneer calzones from My Diverse Kitchen, adding quinoa and soy flours to the dough and tofu and peas to the filling to make a unique version of calzones.

Purnima of Fantasy Cooking adapted spinach and feta pockets from Foodie's Hope and used puff pastry squares instead of crescent rolls to make spinach feta puffs.

Priya of Priya's Easy n Tasty Recipes adapted Chinese-style chapati noodles from Dishes from My Kitchen and made an Indianized version of egg chapati noodles.

Anaamica of A Slice of Life adapted masala puri from Aayi's Recipes, using some store bought ingredients and changing some spices to make her own version of masala puri.

JK of The Gujju Ben Cooks (a  newly minted food blogger; this is the first recipe she has posted) adapted Tarla Dalal's handvo from Mitho Limdo and used the batter to make handva uttapams instead.

Piya at Indian Food Court adapted bean guacamole from One Hot Stove and used chickpeas and fresh mint to make her version of minty guacamole hummus.

Umm Mymoonah of Taste of Pearl City adapted asparagus chutney from Health Nut and used white asparagus, tomato and seasoning to make a South Indian style asparagus chutney.

Main dishes

Nithu Bala of Nithu's Kitchen adapted chow-chow varuval from Geetha Achal and modified it with sambar powder and oats to make chayote fry.

Suparna of The Spice Rack adapted Punjabi aloo from Tasty Palettes and added some okra into the mix to make restaurant-style Punjabi aloo bhindi.

Harini of Tamalapaku adapted peanut-sesame sauce from Veggie Platter and used roasted chana dal instead of peanuts to make a new masala base and this carrot beans peas gravy. She also adapted pineapple gojju from Veggie Platter to make a very innovative strawberry gojju.

Preeti Kashyap of Relishing Recipes adapted paneer kofta curry from Kitchen Tantra and used mozzarella cheese instead to make a delectable cheese kofta curry.

Sonia of Seven Spice adapted sarson da saag from Mahanandi, skipped the mustard greens and used tofu instead of paneer to make palak da saag.

Jaya Wagle of Desi Soccer Mom adapted palak paneer from Mahanandi and blended in some tips from a vah chef video to come up with her version of palak paneer.

notyet100 of Asankhana adapted an incredible chana recipe from Eat and Dust and made it sans potatoes and cooked a Bengali thali with recipes from Bong Mom's Cookbook and Kichu Khon.

Denny of Oh Taste N See adapted lamb stir-fry from Live To Eat and used chicken and scallions instead to make bell pepper chicken fry.

Niloufer of Kitchen Samraj adapted babycorn pulao from Priya's Easy n Tasty Recipes, using thin vermicelli noodles instead of rice to make mint n babycorn vermicelli pulao.

Priya (Yallapantula) Mitharwal of Mharo Rajasthan's Recipes adapted coconut milk vegetable pilaf from Ruchikacooks and made her own version of coconut vegetable pulao.

At SS Blogs Here, SS adapted methi-avarekalu rice from Aayi's Recipes and took the beans-in-pulao concept to make chawli vegetable pulao.

Meera of Enjoy Indian Food adapted vangi bhat from Holy Cow! and switched up the base grain to make this innovative vangi quinoa instead.

Steph of Stephfood adapted a South African stew called tomato bredie from Fork Spoon Knife and used seitan instead to make a vegetarian version of tomato bredie.

Johanna of Green Gourmet Giraffe adapted tofu in a tomato ginger sauce from Mostly Eating and used red peppers and cayenne pepper to make her version of tofu cooked in a tomato, lemongrass and ginger sauce.


Bala of A Life Journey Together adapted mango peda from Red Chillies and scaled it up to feed 40 hungry folks with her mango pedas for a crowd.

Anaamica of A Slice of Life adapted jaangri from Tamalapaku using saffron instead of food color to make picture perfect, golden jaangri; she also explains the difference between jalebi and jaangri.

Priya (Yallapantula) Mitharwal of Mharo Rajasthan's Recipes adapted kalakand from Mahanandi for a Mother's Day treat.

SS of SS Blogs Here started out wanting to make finger millet cookies from Aayi's Recipes but ended with these tasty brown pittye laddoos.

Swathi of Zesty South Indian Kitchen adapted and translated a South African recipe to make South African crunchies with the added goodness of whole wheat flour and flaxseed.

Kanchan of Kitchen Gossip adapted biscuit pudding from Collaborative Curry and used molten chocolate instead of cocoa powder to make her sweet treat.

Priya of Priya's Easy n Tasty Recipes adapted bread machine mango bread from Stories of an Indian Kitchen to a hand-kneaded format and added some sweetness and chocolate chips to make mango chocolate chip bread.

At One Hot Stove, I adapted strawberry bread from Vintage Victuals, halving the recipe and adding some whole wheat goodness to make a loaf of strawberry quick bread.

At Look Who's Cooking Too, the blogger adapted Pear Bread from Smitten Kitchen, having the recipe, adding walnuts and using oil instead of butter to make a Pear Walnut Loaf.

Soma of eCurry adapted mini lemon bundt cakes from Sunita's World to fit a round cake pan and used a dreamy strawberry cream filling to make strawberry lime cake, the sheer incarnation of Spring.

Mints! of Vadani Kaval Gheta adapted chocolate cake from The Cooker by converting them into a cupcake format and spiking them with hazelnut flour to make hazelnut chocolate cupcakes; a wonderful way to enjoy the hazelnut flavor that she loves so much.

Aquadaze of Served with Love adapted a cinnamon chocolate bundt cake from Passionate About Baking and gave it the citrus treatment to make this stunning chocolate orange bundt cake.

At Cooking With Koki, she adapted opera cake from What's For Lunch, Honey?, simplified it, made the flavors her own and created a Mickey Mouse layer cake for her son's birthday.

Jagruti of Joy of Cooking adapted mango panna cotta from Cooking Pals and traveled for miles and miles to buy agar agar flakes and make her vegetarian version of alphonso mango panna cotta.

Anjali of Anna Parabrahma adapted express mango ice cream from Jugalbandi and used real dairy cream to make the last hapoos ice cream of the season.

Katie from Making Food and Other Stuff adapted “Fudge You!” High-Protein Chocolate Cake (LOL at that name) from Chocolate-Covered Healthy and made some modifications to come up with protein-packed chocolate brownies.

In turn, Lori of What Runs Lori adapted the two recipes above and made her own modifications to come up with protein brownie cakes to satisfy a sweet craving after a big helping of salad. And so the circle of adaptation goes on...

Readers and participants, you all get a chance to vote for your favorite post from all these beautiful entries.
  • Please choose ONE favorite post from the ones above, based on how closely it fits the adaptation, how tasty the dish looks and how well the post is written. 
  • Then tell me your choice in a comment on this post, or via the contact form if you want to vote anonymously. If you want, tell us what you liked about that particular entry.
  • My own entries are not eligible for this little contest.
  • I will tally the votes at 6 AM Central Time on May 312010 and the winner will get a surprise gift from me. 
Check back tomorrow for a home-style dal recipe.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Strawberry Quick Bread and Strawberry Shrikhand

For someone who is not too fond of strawberries, I have surprised myself by making and posting three desserts involving strawberries in the short span of a week. That's because seasonal strawberries are beautiful little things, aromatic and sweet-tangy, nothing like the hard tasteless strawberry-shaped pellets that grace supermarket shelves all year round.

When I have extra fruit on hand, my first instinct is to make quick bread, which is more cake than bread. I found this strawberry bread recipe on Vintage Victuals. It is always charming to see unique recipes on food blogs that have a story behind them, that come from family and friends of the blogger.

I modified the recipe, halving it to make a single loaf, substituting some whole wheat flour and cutting back the oil and adding some sour cream  because I needed to use it up. With all these changes, the recipe goes to Blog Bites: Adaptation being hosted right here on this blog (tomorrow is the last day to send in your entries).

This quick bread is a simple, tasty treat, perfect for packing into lunch boxes or picnic baskets, worth enjoying over a cup of tea or a tall glass of iced coffee or lemonade.

Strawberry Quick Bread
(adapted from this recipe on Vintage Victuals; makes one loaf)

1. Mix 2 cups of chopped fresh strawberries with 2 tablespoons of sugar and let the strawberries sit for 30-45 minutes, until the mixture becomes syrupy.

2. Preheat oven to 350F. Grease a loaf pan.

3. Dry ingredients. Whisk together in a large bowl-
  • 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 34 cup all-purpose flour
  • 12 cup sugar
  • 12 tsp. baking soda
  • 12 tsp. cinnamon powder
  • 12 tsp. salt
4. Wet ingredients. Whisk together in a medium bowl-
  • 2 large eggs
  • 13 cup oil
  • 13 cup sour cream
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
5. Combine wet and dry ingredients gently. Stir in strawberries with all the juices. Scrape batter into the prepared pan and bake for 45 minutes or until a tester comes clean.

* * *
We hosted a farewell dinner last night for friends who are moving to another city in pursuit of new adventures. This dessert involves no cooking and showcases fresh local strawberries. It is a variation of the traditional shrikhand that I have posted before. If you can stir, then you can make this dessert. That's the extent of cooking skills needed for this recipe.

V's comment when I offered him a taste: "This is the Indian version of strawberries and cream". We all loved this summery avatar of shrikhand and at the end, the guest of honor pulled the  bowl and serving spoon into her lap and scraped it clean. This is exactly why I love cooking for my friends.

Strawberry Shrikhand
(makes about 6 servings)

1. Line a colander/strainer with cheesecloth, clean cotton fabric or paper towels. Add 4 cups (32 oz. tub) of plain low-fat yogurt to the lined colander, cover and refrigerate for 8 hours or so.

2. Take the strained yogurt into a bowl.

3. Add
  • 23 cup sugar (or less or more to taste)
  • 1 tsp. cardamom powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 to 3 cups strawberries, cut in small dice
4. Stir everything together, decorate the shrikhand with strawberry fans if you wish, chill and serve. 

  1. It helps to add the sugar a few tablespoons at a time and let it dissolve into the thick, cold yogurt rather than adding it all at one time. 
  2. If you make this shrikhand too far ahead of time, the fruit will start releasing liquid. Make it only 2-3 hours before serving if possible.
  3. To cut prep time even further, use Greek yogurt which is already strained. 
* * *
Fresh off the Needles
A small bag that I made to give as a gift; this adorable pattern is called the Christine Bag.

Check back in 2 days for the round up of the Blog Bites: Adaptation event, and have a lovely week.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

A Sunny Weekend

We have had pretty dismal weather here for the past week or two- grey skies, showers and the rest of it. This morning I was shocked to see a bright yellow round object in the sky. Apparently they call it the Sun. It was the perfect day to visit a local Farmers' Market and this week we stopped by Tower Grove Park.

I bought...
  • Free range eggs which will be used over the next couple of weeks for omelets, curry and in baked goods. 
  • Red lentils, which I forgot to buy on my last trip to the Indian store and which I plan to use for mesir wat tonight.
  • Rainbow chard. I have friends coming over for a South Indian dinner tomorrow night and had this (what I thought was a) brilliant and innovative idea of making chard sambar. But it turns out that indosungod is far smarter than I am. I will try her recipe tomorrow.
  • Strawberries, for use in two desserts, and for snacking, of course. If the desserts work out, I'll share them on the blog in a few days.
  • "French breakfast" radishes- cute elongated two-toned ones. These will be served with a salad tomorrow. 
  • A loaf of bread.
We lunched on the fresh bread. V made pesto and cheese sandwiches for himself and bread-butter-radish sandwiches for me. The joy of simple flavorful food.

What produce is in season where you live? 

On The Bookshelf
If you are looking for some light, easy summer reading, here are a few books that I've enjoyed in the last few days-

The Lost Ravioli Recipes of Hoboken by Laura Schenone. A food writer in NJ is obsessed with tracing back the roots of her family's ravioli recipe. It takes her to Italy and to homes and restaurants to learn the art of pasta making from expert cooks. I was reading this book on a flight and 36,000 feet high in the sky, I was seized by the overwhelming urge to roll out some pasta. It took all of my self-control to keep from banging on the emergency doors and begging the flight attendant to let me out. But I digress. The book is a good read and if you are passionate about home cooking, much of the story will resonate with you. For instance, someone in the book says,
"If you come into my house and I cook for you and feed you from my special plates and glasses, well that's nice. But it's a better thing entirely if I serve you on the everyday plates".
Now isn't that the truth?

The Sweet Life in Paris by David Lebovitz. These are the tales of an expat living in Paris, full of predictable snafus having to do with speaking French etc. But I'll admit that I often laughed out loud reading this book. Of course it is full of food, glorious food.

The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. I do enjoy reading the author's blog, and the book is a quick and fun read, reminding us about simple truths. The fact is that I know too many people who seem to have everything in terms of financial security, family and friends, a job and a fridge full of food, but are terribly unhappy. I'm not above kvetching about minor things myself, so reading this book makes me want to try harder to be happy and appreciate all that I have.

What are you reading these days?

* * *
Dale says to have a good weekend- get some rest, enjoy a few long walks, and eat a treat or two.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

A Berry Luscious Treat

It is strawberry season and my friend from next door (mom to Shanti the husky) informed me that she had 2 pounds of plump strawberries patiently waiting in her fridge. She happens to own an ice cream maker and the fate of the strawberries was sealed once we found this easy, gorgeous recipe.

We decided to make the ice cream together by which I mean that Shanti's mom pressed the on button on the blender and I stood behind her to lend moral support. Because this is all the work that the recipe needs.

No-Cook Strawberry Ice Cream
(adapted from this recipe from Kitchen Parade, makes 6-8 servings)

1. Blend together
  • 1 lb. fresh strawberries, cleaned, stem removed and roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup cream
  • 1 cup skim milk
  • 1 box (8 oz.) low-fat cream cheese, cut in chunks
  • 1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • pinch of salt
2. Freeze in an ice cream maker and serve. Tastes best as a soft-serve rather than completely frozen.

Everyone who tasted this ice cream, including one person who insisted that he does not like strawberry ice cream loved it. For one thing, it has that glorious, fresh, spring-like, girly shade of pink without the yummy addition of FD&C Red No. 40. It is bursting with strawberry flavor and the sugar has a mere supporting role. If you love fruit and hate sugary desserts, this one is for you.

The no-cook ice cream recipes are good to have in one's repertoire. Over the summer, I'd love to try out some more of them, like this chocolate banana ice cream and this pistachio rosewater ice cream.

Last night, Neighbor Girl went grocery shopping and came back with a treat for us, cute little single serving cups of chocolate peanut butter ice cream from Haagen Daaz (and all normal sounding ingredients, imagine that). It was to die for. Of course, I promptly found this double chocolate peanut butter ice cream recipe that I have to try ASAP.

I don't own an ice cream maker yet but might get one later this summer- they really seem to come in handy for quick desserts. Until then, I'll use the old elbow grease method, whipping ice cream by hand a few times as it freezes. 

Fresh off the Hooks and Needles

A couple of crocheted hats adorned with cheerful flowers:

Can you tell what creature is lurking on this hat?
It is a whole parliament of owls. The pattern is called "Who?" and is kindly shared on Penguin Purls. What a hoot!
The only depressing thing is that these hats are destined for a Children's Cancer Hospital. I truly wish we lived in a world where there was no need for chemo caps for wee kids (or for anyone else, for that matter). I couldn't help getting a lump in my throat as I made the little hats.

Have a good rest of the week; I have many things on my to-cook list but let's see what I can come up with next.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Pesto Pasta Frittata

My huge cooking spree last weekend for the birthday party left me with a fridge full of odds and ends, and this week has been fun, coming up with inventive ways to use all that food and not waste any of it.

I made a big batch of pesto pasta salad for the party, and this morning, discovered the remnants from cooking that dish- some cooked pasta (I boiled more pasta than I ended up using for the pasta salad), a few tablespoons of pesto sauce and a lone yellow bell pepper.

Inspired by Terry B's post on Pasta Frittata, I pulled out other pantry staples like onions and eggs, and described the recipe to V, who went on to make this quick and tasty lunch on this rainy day.

Pasta Frittata for Two
  1. Cut 1 small onion and 1 bell pepper into thin strips.
  2. Heat 2 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil in a skillet, then saute the onion and pepper.
  3. Add 2 to 3 cups left-over cooked pasta (I used tricolor fusilli but any shape will do) and season the mixture with salt, pepper and red pepper flakes
  4. Fry the mixture well on medium heat so the pasta gets a little crunchy.
  5. Stir in 3 tablespoons of pesto into the pasta mixture.
  6. Beat 3 eggs with a little salt and pepper. Pat down the pasta mixture, then pour the eggs evenly on it.
  7. Cover and cook for a few minutes until the eggs are set.
  8. Upturn on a plate. Cut into wedges and serve with a shower of parmesan cheese or not. 
Such an easy way to jazz up leftover cooked pasta! This presto pesto pasta dish goes to Presto Pasta Nights, the 164th week (!) is hosted at The Well-Seasoned Cook

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

There's An App For That

Think of any occasion where people come together. Throw in a few snacks and appetizers and you have a party on your hands. Here are three apps I made last weekend and all of them passed the taste test, so they made it to the blog. 

The first involves a bright green fruit with a pale green, creamy interior- the avocado. As a bonus, we also have the tender leafy green herb, cilantro. Add to that the fire from fresh green chillies. All that greenness makes it a perfect candidate for Preeti Kashyap's Green Gourmet event.

The inspiring recipe was this guacamole bean dip.I thought it was a brilliant idea, to sneak in protein and fiber in the form of creamy cannellini (white) beans into the delectable rich fattiness of ripe avocado. Here is my version:

Bean Guacamole
1. Place the following in a food processor and blend together to a smooth puree:
  • 1 15-oz can canellini beans, drained and rinsed thoroughly
  • 2 ripe avocados, peeled, halved and pitted
  • 12 tsp. green chilli paste
  • 1 cup packed cilantro
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • Salt to taste
  • Freshly ground pepper
2. Mince 1 small onion and pulse it into the mixture.
3. Scoop into a bowl and garnish with chopped fresh tomatoes.
4. Serve with vegetable sticks and tortilla chips.

This take on traditional guacamole was terrific and something I will make again and again- a great healthy snacking option if you leave a bowl in the fridge.

* * *
The second app was inspired from this crustless quiche recipe from Baking Bites. I was very intrigued by the recipe, a simple mixture of milk, eggs, vegetables and cheese but with the addition of a little flour, which separates while baking to form a thin crust on the quiche.

I adapted the recipe in some ways: (a) I baked it in a muffin pan to make mini quiches, all the better to be picked up and munched on, (b) I used broccoli instead of spinach, (c) and used cheddar cheese because I am not a fan of feta.

By trying a recipe from another blog and making some modifications to it, this becomes an entry to Blog Bites: Adaptation edition, hosted right here on this blog. Some wonderful entries have been coming in and I hope you will participate too.

Broccoli Mini Quiches
(adapted from a Baking Bites recipe)

1. In a skillet, heat 1 tsp. olive oil. Saute 1 diced onion and 3 minced garlic cloves until fragrant. Add 2-3 cups finely chopped fresh broccoli and saute for 5-6 minutes or until the mixture is quite dry and the broccoli is tender.

2. Preheat oven to 400F.

3. In a bowl, whisk together
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 13 cup milk
  • 12 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 12 cup all-purpose flour
  • 12 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. paprika
  • Salt to taste
4. Stir in the cooked, cooled broccoli mixture.

5. Grease a 12-cup muffin pan. Divide the batter equally among the cups and bake for 20 minutes or until the quiches are puffy and golden.

Again, a wonderful appetizer, full of tender vegetables and cheese encased in a thin crust.
* * *
The final appetizer today comes from a Martha Stewart recipe. Hot Spinach dip is a restaurant staple- all that rich calorie-laden glory hiding innocently in the guise of a vegetable. Still, it was something I wanted to try making at home for a party; portion control is a lot easier when you are forced to share with others. I followed the recipe exactly, using frozen spinach instead of fresh. Here it is:
I personally did not love the dip, it was OK for me, but everyone else devoured it so I thought I would mention it here.
* * *
Fresh off the Hooks
In other news, my Babette Blanket is done- it is the size of a throw, actually, and not a full blanket, being about 50 inches square. I gave it away as a gift and the recipient seemed to be pretty thrilled. If I really squint at it, all those gaudy colors seem to work together- heh!

I've already fallen in love with the next crochet throw pattern: this one. Is it gorgeous or what? I am totally stealing this crafter's idea of the graduated colors and making one for myself.

See you in a few!

Monday, May 10, 2010

My First Bundt Cake

It is always such an honor and pleasure to make a birthday cake for someone. As much as birthdays remind us how quickly time is passing by, they also take us back to being a kid again- blowing out candles on a birthday cake with puffy cheeks and eyes tightly closed as we make a wish. 

Yesterday, V and I threw a birthday bash for our extra-sweet downstairs neighbor, inviting a dozen of her friends over for dinner, cake and ice cream. Neighbor girl and I are very close, being only 2 weeks apart in age, and with our lives running parallel in some respects- we are both recent graduates engaged in the dreaded job search. Personality wise we are as different as chalk and cheese which only makes the friendship that much more interesting. 

Two weeks ago, on my birthday, neighbor girl announced that she had a surprise for me. I HATE surprises and protested feebly as she folded me into her mini car, and we set off on the Interstate highway. Neighbor girl drives like a bloody maniac, swerving into lanes, cutting people off willy-nilly. "I'm not so much a defensive driver", she told me cheerfully as I buried my head in my hands and wished I was the praying kind, and a minute later "Ooh, the fuel gauge is on empty, how much time do you think I have before I run out of gas...20 minutes? 30 minutes?". At which point I told her to take the next exit and find a gas station- or else. Anyway, we ended up in one piece, miraculously, at Kitchen Conservatory and she handed me a gift card and ordered me to start shopping. How sweet is that?

A bundt pan had been on my wish list for a while (they look pretty and the cake is large enough to feed a crowd), so together we chose the sturdy, heavy sunflower pan from Nordicware and also splurged on a bottle of the finest vanilla extract. It was only fitting that the first time I used the pan was for neighbor girl's birthday cake.

The birthday girl requested "chocolate cake with lots of stuff in it, like nuts and candy bits and things, you know" and I considered the chocolate part and ignored the rest. The chocolate stout cake on Smitten Kitchen sounded very rich and moist so that's the recipe I decided to go with.

Just look at the grooves and nooks on the bundt pan. Getting a cake stuck in this pan would be an absolute nightmare, so I highly recommend using a special baking spray, a combination of oil and flour which really coats the surface of the pan. I used the brand "Pam for Baking" but there are other brands available too. Alternatively, use soft butter (not melted) and brush it into every crevice of the pan with utmost patience, then flour the pan thoroughly.

Chocolate Bundt Cake
1. Prep-
(a) Prepare the bundt pan very well.
(b) Preheat oven to 350F.

2. Dry mix. Whisk together-
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1 12 tsp. baking soda
34 tsp. salt

3. Wet mix I. Heat together to a simmer-
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter
1 cup strong beer like stout or porter (I used vanilla porter). This is about two-thirds of the bottle.

Stir in 34 cup cocoa powder and whisk well. Let it cool for 15 minutes.

4. Wet mix II. Cream together-
2 large eggs
23 cup sour cream
1 tsp. vanilla extract

5. Mix the cocoa mixture into the egg mixture. Stir in flour mixture gently to make a thick glossy batter. Pour into bundt pan and bake for 40 minutes or so, until inserted toothpick comes clean. As you wait for the cake to bake, drink the rest of the beer from the bottle, no point wasting good beer.

6. Cool for an hour before holding your breath and turning out the cake.

The cake was spongy, sturdy, moist and had a wonderful deep chocolate flavor. The beer taste is discernible as a malty undertone.

If you have a favorite bundt pan recipe, I'd love to know about it. I have a feeling I'll be using this pan often, to make self-decorating cakes.

Come back on Wednesday for 3 easy appetizer recipes. Have a good week!

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

The Winner of BB#2, Etc.

The votes are in, and the winner is jaangri (sweet sticky fried spirals) from Harini of Tamalapaku. Harini, please send me your address if you would like a little gift from me. Congratulations on being the most popular recipe this time around!

I want to thank all of the participants (if I could, I would send all of you prizes because all the entries were fantastic) and hope you will come back to participate in the next round.

Fresh Off the Hooks

I talked about dyeing wool with Kool-Aid and this is what it looked like after another dunking in orange Kool-Aid-

I used this yarn, and another ball of already-dyed green yarn to make these summery citrus hot-pads. Each is green on one side, and orange on the other side.

The pattern for each side is adapted from a slice of summer from BitterSweet. Hannah has come up with many adorable patterns, and generously shares them at no cost- very sweet of her.

My modifications: After embroidering seeds on each orange/lime slice, I added a layer of batting between them for extra padding and sewed the two sides together using single crochet.

The hot-pads were a hostess gift for a dear friend of mine.

Guessing Game
Finally, a guessing game. I visited this kitchen over the weekend, can you guess whose kitchen it is?
I'm back from vacation, and regular programming on One Hot Stove will start in a few days.