Archive | October, 2012

Apple Turnovers

31 Oct

Photo credit: Sneha (www.prettyinpic.com)

What’s more gratifying than a slice of warm apple pie and a cup of coffee on a crisp fall day? A portable apple pie that you can grab and take with you on your morning commute!

Growing up in India, I never quite understood the notion of “As American as Apple Pie”. In fact, over a decade ago, desserts in India consisted of Indian sweets, cakes, pastries and brownies. Spotting a pie in a dessert buffet or in a local bakery was quite uncommon. It was not until I moved to the east coast of USA that I understood the concepts of “fall baking”, “abundant apples in fall”, “semi-homemade pies” and “As American as apple pie”.  Over my years here, I have developed a new-found admiration for a warm slice of pie on a chilly autumn day – especially for a slice of apple pie.

This apple turnover is in essentially a large, handy slice of apple pie that can be enjoyed anywhere and at anytime, sans silverware. Similar to a traditional apple pie filling, the apples are cooked with butter, brown sugar and cinnamon. Cooking firm and tart Granny Smith apples with the brown sugar creates a balanced flavor; one that’s not too sweet and just a tad bit tart. Wrap this flavorful filling in flakey and buttery puff pastry and you have an apple pie that is befits our hectic lives in the 21st century.

Apple Turnovers Recipe
Recipe adapted from All Recipe’s – Apple Turnovers
Yields: 8 turnovers
Time: Active: 20 minutes Inactive: 25 minutes

Ingredients:
½ a lemon, juiced
4 cups of water
4 granny smith apples, peeled, cored and thinly sliced
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon + 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon, divided
1 tablespoon cornstarch (mixed into 1 tablespoon of water)
1 package (2 sheets of frozen puff pastry), thawed (Recommended: Pepperidge Farm Puff Pastry)
1 large egg
1 tablespoon milk
1 tablespoon powdered sugar (See Note)

Note:

  • You can make powdered sugar by grinding regular granulated sugar in a coffee grinder, spice grinder or small food processor.

Directions
1) Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).
1) In a large bowl add the lemon juice to the 4 cups of water and mix well. Place the sliced apples in this water to prevent them from browning.
2) Place the butter in a large skillet and melt it over medium heat.
3) Drain the apples thoroughly and pat them dry with a kitchen towel. Add them to the skillet once the butter has melted. Cook and stir for about 2 minutes.
4) Add the brown sugar, and 1 teaspoon of cinnamon, and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Add the cornstarch (that has already been dissolved in water) to the skillet and mix well. Cook for another 1-2 minutes, or until sauce has thickened. Remove from heat and cool slightly.
5) Whisk the egg with the 1 tablespoon of milk to create an egg wash. Set it aside.
6) Unfold the puff pastry sheets, and repair any cracks by pressing them back together. You want to cut 4 equal sized squares from each sheet. The easiest way to do this is to trim the extra puff pastry of each sheet to have one large square and then cut each trimmed sheet into 4 equal squares.
7) Spoon the apples onto the center of each square. Fold over the puff pastry from one corner to another into a triangle shape.  Press the edges together to seal. Place turnovers on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, leaving about 1 inch between them. Brush each turnover with a little egg wash.
8) Bake for 22-25 minutes in the preheated oven, until turnovers are puffed and lightly browned.
9) While the turnovers are baking, combine 1 tablespoon of sugar with 1 tablespoon of ground cinnamon. This creates a cinnamon sugar.
10) Once the turnovers are baked, remove them from the oven and sprinkle them with the cinnamon sugar.

Dinner for Two: Skillet Chicken and Rice

26 Oct

Ever faced a conundrum where you need 2 chicken breasts for dinner and have a package of three chicken breasts? I have had more than my share of these nights when I have a package of three chicken breasts and only need to grill or bake two for our dinner. The third is usually saved for a salad or a soup except per chance I stumble upon a great dinner idea.

I recently purchased Monica Bhide’s latest cook book – Modern Spice: Inspired Indian Flavors for the Contemporary Kitchen and have a running list of all its recipes that I have to try. Earlier this year, I also took a food writing course with Monica. She has been a great source of inspiration for me and was the final push I needed to start writing this blog.

The Sunday Night Skillet Chicken and Rice recipe from the book was one of the top recipes on my list. It so turned out that I recently found myself with one chicken breast in the fridge and had the ingenious idea to use that recipe to create a hearty meal for two. I scaled down Modern Spice’s recipe to feed two, and made only a few minor modifications. This is really a heartwarming meal with big, bold flavors and is easy enough to make on any night of the week.

Skillet Chicken and Rice Recipe
Recipe adapted for Modern Spice’s Sunday Night Skillet Chicken and Rice
Yields: 2 servings
Time: Active 20 minutes Inactive 20 minutes

Ingredients:
1 tablespoon of vegetable or canola oil
1-inch cinnamon stick
1 bay leaf
½ large red onion, finely diced
1 teaspoon ginger paste
1 teaspoon garlic paste
1 green chili, seeded and diced (optional)
1 medium-large Roma tomato, diced
½ teaspoon red chili powder
½ teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon ground coriander powder
Salt to taste
½ pound of boneless, skinless chicken breasts cut into bite size pieces (See note)
½ cup basmati rice, rinsed and drained
1 cup + 2 tablespoons of water
Cilantro, chopped for garnish

Notes:

  • Depending on the size of the chicken breasts ½ pound is either one large chicken breast or 2 smaller ones. You can also use boneless skinless thighs.
  • This recipe is very easy to scale up. Just double all the ingredients and use 2 cups of water. Cooking times will vary very minimally.

Method:
1) In a 10-12 inch deep lidded skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the cinnamon stick and bay leaf. Within 1-2 minutes when you get the aroma of these spices, add the onion, ginger paste and garlic paste. Sauté for 5-7 minutes, until the onions soften and change color. Add the green chili (if using it) and cook for 1 minute.
2) Add the tomatoes along with a pinch of salt and cook for 8-10 minutes, until the tomatoes are soft and the oil separates from the side of the mixture. Adding a pinch of salt at this stage speeds up the process of breaking down the tomatoes. Use a wooden spoon or a potato masher to mash the tomatoes as they cook. Make sure you stir this mixture occasionally to ensure it does not stick to the skillet.
3) Add the chili powder, turmeric, coriander and salt to taste. Cook stirring constantly for another minute.
4) Add the chicken pieces and cook for 3-4 minutes, until all the pieces are white on the outside and almost cooked through.
5) Add the rice and water and bring to a rolling boil. Once is has reached a rolling boil, reduce the heat cover and cook for about 16-18 minutes on low heat, until the water is completely absorbed and the rice is fully cooked. The final dish will be barely moist.
6) Fluff the rice with a fork, garnish with cilantro and serve.

Garlicky Green Mung Bean Soup

23 Oct

“To have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish; from this day forward until death do us part.”

My husband rides the overcrowded DC metro to and from work each day. Once or twice a year he brings home the cold and flu virus. Since we are together in sickness and health, it’s inevitable that I get sick every time he is just about recovering. The truth in our house is that I am a horrible patient. I do not accept the invasion of germs without grumbling and moping. I also become really finicky about food and refuse to eat anything short of hearty comfort food.

We recently just encountered a round of flu and to survive the week it was essential to have nourishing and cozy meals each day. This soup was developed to satiate a craving for green lentil soup. I did not have French green lentils in my pantry so I worked with green mung beans that I always have on hand. The addition of garlic, cumin, cinnamon and a bay leaf gives this soup a rustic and earthy flavor. Topping it off with fried onions and serving it with crusty bread or toasted pita crafts a meal that you will enjoy, both in sickness and in health!

Garlicky Green Mung Bean Soup
Serves: 4 people
Time: Active time: 15 minutes   Inactive time: 45 minutes

Ingredients:
Soup
1 cup green mung beans
3 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
1 tablespoon butter
1 bay leaf
½ cinnamon stick
1 large yellow onion, diced
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tablespoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon ground turmeric
3 cups vegetable broth
2 cups water
Salt and pepper to taste

Garnish:
1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
¼ cup cilantro, finely chopped

Method:
1) Put the lentils into a medium sauce pan and cover with cold water. Bring the water to a rapid boil and boil the lentils for 10 minutes. The lentils will start to change color.  Drain them and set aside.
2)  In a medium pot, heat 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil and the butter on medium heat.  Add the bay leaf and cinnamon stick and let it cook for 1-2 minutes till you get their aroma.
3) Add the diced onion and cook till translucent, about 5-7 minutes. Add the minced garlic and cook for 2 minutes or until the raw garlic smell dissipates.
4) Add the cumin and turmeric and cook stirring for 1 minute. Add the lentils, water and broth and bring to a boil. Once it reaches a boil, reduce the heat to low and cover and simmer for 30 minutes or until the lentils are soft.
5) While the lentils are cooking, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil in a skillet. Add the sliced onion (for garnish) and cook stirringly frequently till the onions are golden brown. Do not let them burn. Remove them and place on a paper towel to drain off the excess oil.
6) Once the lentils are soft, remove the cinnamon stick and bay leaf. Use an immersion bender or potato masher to achieve a soup consistency that consists of half ground mung beans (See picture above). You do not want to over-puree this soup. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper.
7) Pour the soup into bowls and top each bowl with the fried onions and cilantro. Enjoy with warm crusty bread or toasted pita.

Chocolate Cupcakes with Orange Creamsicle Frosting

18 Oct

The amalgamation of chocolate and orange is a match made in heaven. I recognized this for the first time when I tasted a dark chocolate and orange ice cream at a local scoop shop in Pittsburgh over a decade ago. I was so captivated by that combination that ever since then I have never forgone an opportunity to savor a sweet treat that combines chocolate and orange.

Last week I shared my friend Sneha’s Pineapple Mojito Smoothie recipe. She’s a fellow addict of the heavenly combination of chocolate and orange. For her birthday, I decided to surprise her with these Chocolate Cupcakes with an Orange Creamsicle Frosting.

My recipe is adapted from My Baking Addiction’s – Chocolate Cupcakes with Orange Cream Cheese Frosting. Jamie, the author of the blog has adapted this cupcake recipe from Ina Garten’s recipe. These are the moistest cupcakes I have ever baked. The addition of the coffee brings out the intensity of the chocolate and enhances the moisture. So even if you decide to make another frosting, do use this chocolate cupcake recipe for it.

I made one minor modification to Jamie’s cupcake recipe by adding a little orange zest into the batter (which you can omit if you are pairing this cupcake with another frosting). I altered the original frosting recipe by increasing the butter, reducing the confectioner’s sugar and adding fresh orange juice. The result is a frosting that tastes exactly like an orange creamsicle. The chocolate cupcake with a slight hint of orange unites with the bold, creamy orange frosting to create a cupcake worthy of any celebration.

Chocolate Cupcakes with Orange Creamsicle Frosting
Adapted from My Baking Addiction’s – Chocolate Cupcakes with Orange Cream Cheese Frosting
Servings: 24 regular size cupcakes

Ingredients:

Cupcake Ingredients:
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
3/4 cups cocoa powder ( I used Nestle Toll House Cocoa)
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon table salt
1 cup low-fat buttermilk, shaken
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon orange zest (See note)
1 cup freshly brewed hot coffee

Orange Creamsicle Frosting Ingredients:
16 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature (See note)
zest of one large orange
2 sticks of butter, at room temperature
4.5 cups of confectioner’s sugar, sifted (See note)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 tablespoons of freshly squeezed orange juice
1 drop orange food coloring (See note)

Notes:

  • Adding orange zest to the batter gives a slight hint or orange in each cupcake, which pairs well with the bold orange flavor of the frosting. If you want the actual cupcake to have a more concentrated orange flavor, you can increase the orange zest to 2 tablespoons.
  • The cream cheese and butter must be at room temperature to cream well together. Make sure you set them on the counter top an hour before making this frosting.
  • I used a lot lesser sugar in the frosting than the original recipe, as I added a few tablespoons of fresh orange juice. Please taste the frosting when it has combined in the mixer and add more sugar per your taste. Just make sure you use the mixer to blend in all the sugar.
  • I added only a drop of food coloring to achieve the color in the picture above. If you want a brighter orange color add another drop.
  • Store cupcakes in a sealed container in the refrigerator. Remove to room temperature 30-45 minutes before serving.

Directions:

Cupcakes:
1) Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line standard muffin tins with paper liners and set aside.
2) Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and mix on low-speed until combined.
3) In a separate bowl, combine the buttermilk, oil, eggs, orange zest and vanilla extract. With the mixer on low-speed, slowly add these wet ingredients to the dry ingredients.
4) Now add the coffee (mixer should still be at a low-speed) and stir just to combine. Scrape the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula to make sure all the ingredients are well combined.
5) Use an ice-cream scoop to distribute the batter evenly between 24 muffin wells. Each well should only be 2/3 full to allow the cupcakes to rise.
6) Bake for 18 to 22 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in the pans for 10 minutes, then remove to a cooling rack and cool completely.

Orange Creamsicle Frosting:
1) In a the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together cream cheese, orange zest, shortening, and butter until well combined.
2) With the mixer of low, gradually add the confectioners’ sugar until thoroughly incorporated and smooth. Add vanilla and orange juice and mix to combine.
3) Use a piping bag or a mini spatula to frost the cupcakes with this frosting.

Orange Zest and Saffron Dutch Baby

15 Oct

They say you live and you learn. I say you cook and you learn.

Ever had a culinary discovery that has blown your mind away and left you wondering why you hadn’t discovered it sooner?  I recently had one of these breakthroughs when I learnt about a “Dutch Baby”.

A Dutch Baby is a German pancake that is a cross between a pop-over and a pancake. It is baked in a sizzling-hot skillet in the oven until the sides of the pancake rise high above the edges of the pan and the center is light and puffy. The base ingredients eggs, flour and milk are always in the proportion or 1: ¼: ¼, so you can easily scale-up this recipe to feed a crowd. And unlike, traditional pancakes you will not find yourself slaving over the stove-top making individual pancakes, the oven will do all the work for you.

The batter is extremely versatile and can be flavored with any combination of flavors you like. I chose saffron as saffron-kissed Malpuas (Indian pancakes) are my weakness. The orange zest pairs harmoniously with the saffron and gives this classic German pancake an exotic twist. This recipe is perfect for breakfast or brunch and if you love it like I do, it may even become a daily tea-time snack.

Orange Zest and Saffron Dutch Baby
Yields: 2-3 servings
Time: Active time:  5 minutes Inactive time: 30 minutes
 
Ingredients:
2 eggs at room temperature (See note)
½ cup milk at room temperature
½ teaspoon saffron
½ cup of sifted all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon orange zest
1 teaspoon sugar
A pinch of salt
2 tablespoons butter
Powdered sugar for topping (See note)

Notes:

  • For the Dutch Baby to be light and fluffy and for it to rise well, it is extremely important that the milk and eggs are at room temperature. Set them out on your kitchen counter one hour before you are going to make this to ensure they come to room temperature.
  • I like to just top this with powdered sugar, but you can get really creative with toppings. Like a pancake you could top this with maple syrup or Nutella or berry compote or any topping you enjoy. The Dutch Baby that comes out of the oven is not sweet, so you will need powdered sugar or another sweet topping to sweeten it.
  • When scaling-up this recipe keep in mind that for every one egg, you need a ¼ cup of flour and a ¼ cup of milk. Also scale-up the added flavorings. The cooking time will also vary based on how much batter you have.

Method:
1) Place a 10 inch oven proof skillet in the oven and pre-heat the oven to 400 degree F (205 degree C). Wait 5-8 minutes before you start preparing the other ingredients. You want the batter to be ready only when the oven is pre-heated as you do not want it sitting around.
2) Warm up the milk in the microwave for 20 seconds (do not over warm it). Add the saffron to this milk, stir well and set aside for 3-4 minutes.
3) In a medium bowl beat the eggs until they are light. Slowly stir the milk into the eggs.
4) Now whisk in the flour, vanilla extract, cinnamon, orange zest, sugar and salt. Make sure you remove all the lumps while whisking.
5) Remove the skillet from the oven (make sure are wearing oven mitts) and place the butter into the hot skillet and swirl it around till it melts.
6) Once the oven is pre-heated pour the batter into the skillet and bake in the oven for 18-20 minutes till it is golden brown on the edges and puffed in the center. If you want it more custardy in the center, then remove it from the oven a little sooner.
7) Remove it immediately after it’s baked and add the powdered sugar or any other sweet topping. Cut it in slices and serve.

Kerala Beef Fry

13 Oct

“Holy Cow! Do Indians eat Beef?”

The answer to that is yes, just not all of them. Cows are considered sacred in Hinduism and the majority of Hindus in India do not eat beef. When people think of India they immediately associate it with Indians not eating beef. While Hinduism is the major religion (80.5% of the population), India also has 13.4% Muslims and 2.3% Christians. That seems like a rather small percentage until you realize we are talking about a population of over a billion people.  There are also a growing number of expatriates and repatriates in India who are beef eaters.

Eating beef is not illegal in India, though cow slaughtering is prohibited in some states.  Then there is also the controversy over cows and buffaloes – cows are considered holy but their cousins the buffaloes are frequently used to process beef in India. In fact, USDA has projected that India will become the largest beef exporter in 2012. 

In short, beef in served at several restaurants across India and is also cooked in several households. One of my favorite Indian beef recipes is Beef Ularthiyathu better known as Spicy Kerala Beef Fry. Bite size pieces of beef are marinated in freshly ground aromatic spices, then pressure cooked till tender and finally fried with fragrant curry leaves and slivers of coconut. Kerala beef fry is usually served with flaky Kerala parathas or fluffy appams, but regular chapatis or basmati rice works just fine as this dish will be the real star of the meal.

Kerala Beef Fry Recipe:
Adapted from Petrina Verma Sarkar’s Kerala Beef Fry Recipe
Time: In Active time:  1.5hrs   Active time: 45 minutes

Ingredients:

Marinade Ingredients:
1 inch cinnamon stick
3 teaspoons fennel seeds
8 cloves
16 whole black peppercorns
5 green cardamom pods, seeds only
1 ½ tablespoons coriander powder
1 tablespoon ginger paste
1 tablespoon garlic paste
1 tablespoon vinegar
½ peeled and thinly sliced medium red onion
2 green chilies, sliced

Cooking Ingredients:
Boneless Beef 1.5 lbs, cleaned and cut up into 1.5 inch chunks (I used stew meat)
1 tablespoon vegetable or canola oil
1 peeled and thinly sliced medium red onion
10 curry leaves
2 green chilies
3 tablespoons dried, grated coconut (See note)
½ teaspoon red chili powder (See note)
Salt to taste

Note:

  • Traditionally this is made with slices of fresh coconut, so if you have access to fresh coconut of sliced frozen coconut, you can use that instead of the dried, grated coconut.
  • Feel free to add more chili powder after tasting it and deciding how spicy you want it to be.

Method:
1) In a spice grinder or coffee grinder, grind together the cinnamon stick, fennel seeds, cloves, peppercorns and cardamom.
2) Put the beef into a large bowl and mix it with the ground up spice mixture and all other marinade ingredients. Plastic wrap this bowl and place the beef in the refrigerator, and let it marinate for 1-2 hours.
3) Put the marinated beef along with ½ a cup of water into a pressure cooker and let it cook till you hear two whistles. You want the meat to be cooked through and tender. Simmer out most of the remaining water, leaving behind only 2-3 tablespoons of liquid.
4) In a large skillet heat the oil on medium high heat. When the oil is hot add 1 thinly sliced onion to it and sauté till golden brown. Stir the onions occasionally to ensure they do not burn.
5) Add the curry leaves and green chilies fry them for 1-2 minutes.
6) Then add the coconut and cook it for about 2 minutes or till is toasty.
7) Now add the beef with the 2-3 tablespoons of reserved cooking liquid (from the pressure cooker) and cook everything together till the beef turns a deep, dark color.
8) Serve hot with basmati rice, rotis, parathas, dosas or appams.

Ginger-Garlic Fried Quinoa

9 Oct

One of my favorite restaurants in New York City is Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s  Spice Market. It is a chic and sexy restaurant in the Meatpacking District that specializes in South East Asian street food. Over the years, my husband and I have worked our way through most of its food and cocktail menu and every taste is worth writing home about. Some of our all time favorites include the spicy Thai fried chicken wings, the Nonya seafood laksa, and the ginger fried rice. Spice Market’s ginger fried rice is possibly my favorite fried rice.

I recently came across an old New York Time’s post where Mark Bittman shared Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s Ginger Fried Rice recipe with a few modifications to it. Bittman uses Jasmine rice but I decided to recreate this dish with quinoa. I have come to realize that quinoa works as a great rice substitute for bold Asian flavors as it absorbs the flavors very well.

The quinoa soaks in the flavors and aromas of the nutty sesame oil and savory soy sauce. It comes together with the crisped ginger-garlic and softened leeks to create a party of flavors and textures in the mouth. So go ahead and try this recipe with quinoa or use up leftover brown or white rice to make this. Either way you will be creating a scrumptious crowd pleaser.

Ginger-Garlic Fried Quinoa
Adapted from Mark Bittman’s Ginger Fried Rice
Time: 30 minutes
Yields: 3 servings

Ingredients:
1 cup quinoa (See note)
2 cups of vegetable or chicken broth
3 tablespoons vegetable, canola or peanut oil, divided
2 tablespoons minced ginger
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 cup thinly sliced leeks, white and green parts, rinsed and dried
1 tablespoon soy sauce
½ tablespoon sesame oil
3 large eggs (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste

Notes:

  • You can use leftover rice – brown or white rice work great in place of the quinoa. Just make sure the rice is a day old, otherwise you will have mushy fried rice.

Method:
1) Place the quinoa and broth in a saucepan and bring to a boil. When it has reached a rolling boil, reduce to a simmer and cover and cook till all the water is absorbed (10-15 minutes).  Quinoa appears soft and translucent when it is cooked and a ring is visible on the outer edges of the grain. Use a fork to fluff the cooked quinoa and set it aside.
2) In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil over medium heat. Add the ginger and garlic and cook till it is crisp and brown. Keep stirring this so that it does not burn. Use a slotted spoon and transfer the fried garlic and ginger to a paper towel to absorb the excess oil.
3) In the same skillet add the remaining oil and add the leeks. Cook the leeks until they are tender but not brown. Make sure you stir the leeks occasionally to ensure that they do not burn.  Season them lightly with salt once they are cooked.
4) Now add the quinoa to this skillet and stir it with the leeks. Season this with 1 tablespoon of soy sauce and ½ tablespoon of sesame oil. Taste the quinoa and adjust the soy sauce and sesame oil as needed.
5) If using the eggs in a small skillet fry them to sunny-side up, till the edges are set but yolk is still runny. Season the eggs with some pepper and drizzle with a little soy sauce and sesame sauce.
6) Divide rice among 3 plates. Top each with the fried garlic and ginger, followed by an egg (if you are using eggs).

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