Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Daring Bakers: Pizza

Bread in its essence is the manifestation of the miracle of yeast with its ability to turn a pile of wheat dust into soft, elastic, inflated dough. Without yeast, one could knead and proof until one’s heart was content and only create a flatbread. My relationship with this leavener has always been proximal—I stand near my husband as he makes pizza snapping away (photography-like) happily.

This month, Rosa from Rosa’s Yummy Yums, Sher at "What Did You Eat?", and Glenna at "A Fridge Full Of Food" chose a pizza dough challenge. Sadly, Sher passed away suddenly this summer, and while I didn’t know her, I read her blog and loved her cats. This challenge is such a wonderful testament to her.

So, back to my laudatory dialogue about the yeast…I love when others use yeast to make yummy, yummy baked goods. Daring Bakers move you to do things you might not otherwise (Opera Cake, anyone?) so what’s a little yeast? Yeast turns out not to be as tough a foe as I might have thought. The Peter Reinhart recipe was a breeze, though it required an overnight rise.

The challenge in this month was more coordination than anything else. I do not mean time-management, but instead physical coordination. We were instructed that dough tossing was a requirement to the challenge. Yes, bread has been on the ceiling on many a kitchen this month, and as secrecy is in our DB bi-laws, we have had to keep this shame secret all this time. Our ceilings were actually fine, in part because I have terrible aim and kept throwing the dough forward rather than upward. Maybelle’s Dad resurrected some long subsumed athleticism to master a respectable pizza joint-style tossing technique. That or maybe his Italian-American family secretly practiced this skill at those family reunions. Don't believe he had mad skills? Well, look at these tossing pictures and be saddened that I snagged this man instead of you.

As for toppings, we made this recipe twice this month. So the toppings were many, many: Caramelized onion, fig, goat cheese, pesto sauce

Tomato sauce, cheese, olives

Tomato and Cheese

Apples, blue cheese and arugula pesto (not pictured);
Apples, ricotta, agave nectar, and blue cheese (not pictured).

As it is Halloween week, there was also the Red Kuri Squash, Garlic and Feta shaped like Pumpkins.

Finally, one that breaks the rules (requiring sauce)—a skull with bloody eye sockets.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Nankhetai Recipes : Plain Nankhetai and Chocolate Beet Spice Nankhetai



I often try to picture, my great-grandmother, a slim, fair beauty, sitting on the step of her parents home immunized from the dust and commotion of family life through her love of reading and literature. I am not one from those connected Indian families, those people whose family had connections in the government, with the British, or filmi. We were that middle-class, average sort of Indian—we still are. And, that my great-grandmother was sent to school, learned to read English, loved Dostoyevsky above all others, brings me neverending joy. As a child, I relished her because she listened to me even when all I talked about was Strawberry Shortcake and ice cream. She made me tiny little food—mini little dosas, small cups of Bournvita, mini-samosas. She loved me.

Not too long ago, my mother was talking about how my great-grandmother would make nankhatai, basically shortbread cookies, and then go down the street to a communal oven to fire them. Of course, I couldn’t leave well enough alone, after making regular cookies, I also made some chocolate, spice beetroot ones.


1 tsp cardamom powder
1 tsp rose water
½ tsp vanilla
½ cup clarified butter OR ½ cup oil if you want them vegan

Add dry ingredients:
3/4 cup flour
¼ cup almond flour or pistachio flour (or use 1 cup flour)
½ cup sugar
1 tsp baking powder

Make a stiff dough.

Use teaspoons to make ovals of dough and then shape into a petal to shape like a lamp. Use a sliver of almond to look like the flame. Decorate with sanding sugar, dragees, sprinkles.

Beet and Chocolate Nankhatai

1 tsp cardamom powder
½ tsp garam masala
1 tsp rose water
½ tsp vanilla
½ cup clarified butter
2 T olive oil

Add dry ingredients:
3/4 cup flour
¼ cup cocoa powder
½ cup sugar
1/2 cup grated beets
1 tsp baking powder

Make a stiff dough. (you might need a bit more oil depending)

Use teaspoons to make ovals of dough and then shape into a petal to shape like a lamp. Use a sliver of almond to look like the flame. Decorate with sanding sugar, dragees, sprinkles.

Happy Diwali with Diya Shaped Nankhatai


Recipe and story coming later tonight--but in the meantime Happy Deepavali

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Orange Glazed Tofu with Acorn Squash and Whole Wheat Noodles

I have become on the fence about tofu.  Tofu-haters might say what took you so long.  But, I have always loved tofu in all its forms.  Recently, I have really begun to consider the ecological implications of farming soya beans.  And, tofu hater and meat-eaters shouldn't feel that they are out of this, soy has become so much part of our food economy, it is right after corn production-wise.  At some point, tofu was on the menu all the time at our home, and now, we eat it much less often--and use beans and lentils and quinoa as a protein source.  When it is on the menu, we are using organic to lessen the pesticides that impact them.  Alright, let me climb down from my soapbox.

I do love crispy oven baked tofu (as does Belle), so moderation my friend.  the other night, I sliced up some tofu, spritzed it with oil, placed it in the oven.  At the same time, I boiled some pasta and used some of the boiling water to steam some acorn squash.  I made a glaze of orange juice, sage, ginger, garlic, soy sauce, pinch of brown sugar, agave nectar, and water (basically, combine in a saucepot and simmer).  Then, at the last minute, sautee some garlic, toss in the al dente pasta, brown slightly, add tofu and acorn squash, add glaze.  Serve.  This meal was very low work and quick. I spent much of my time playing with Belle rather than cooking which was the goal on a night when Maybelle's Dad was working.  

Friday, October 24, 2008

Royal Foodie Joust : Acorn Squash, Orange, Sage Cinnamon Rolls


Royal Foodie Joust time again. No erudite post though because work has made me feel stupid and my whole family has had the worst cold ever this week. (All my posts this week were actually scheduled.)

But, luckily, we did have these delicious, healthy vaguely decadent spice rolls--ful of vitamin C and a little sugar. I had originally debated about entering my Merguez and Acorn Squash Sandwiches on Acorn Squash Foccaccia, my Sage Chocolotta Acorn Squash Cupcakes, Chinese-Style Orange Glazed Tofu with Noodles but these had the most luscious picture so they one. Recipes for the others someday soon.

Orange Sage Acorn Squash “Cinnamon Rolls”
Based on the Mini Pumpkin Pie Cinnamon Buns from Sophie of Flour Arrangments

Begin by infusing your sugar with sage.

In an airtight jar,
Place 2 cups of sugar
3 spring sage that has been bruised until the aroma is apparent

Stir even couple days and use after 2 weeks (I only waited 9 ten days)

After 2 weeks, make your baked goods


Combine in the bowl of a stand mixer with a hook attachment until everything comes together as dough:
2 cups all purpose flour
½ cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp yeast
¼ cup orange juice
¼ cup whole milk
1/3 cup sage sugar
½ tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp finely shredded orange zest
pinch dried orange peel powder (from the Chinese store)
pinch Chinese 5 spice powder
4 T roasted acorn squash puree
1 egg (slightly beaten)

Knead for 8 minutes

Cover with a towel and let rise for 2 hours.

While the dough is rising, create the filling.


½ cup brown sugar
½ cup orange juice (preferably fresh)

When still warm, add:
1 cup roasted acorn squash puree
½ t cinnamon
½ t Chinese 5 spice powder
½ t nutmeg
1 t sage sugar

Let the filling rest

This dough doesn’t rise very high. Roll out the dough into a rectangle that is ½ inch thick. (I think mine was about 24 by 18 but I am terrible with dimensions.)

Cover with the filling, then sprinkle the filling with wheat germ and roasted squash seeds.

Roll up to make a long rectangle. Place this on a baking sheet and freeze for about ½ hour.

Using a serrated knife, cut cross-sections of this roll that are about 1 inch thick. Line up these rolls (cut side up) in a greased pan.

Proof again for 40 minutes

Bake at 350 for 20 minutes (convection oven)

As the buns cool, make your glaze:

Orange Glaze
In a saucepan, simmer until thick (stir continuously):

2 cups powdered sugar
½ tsp orange extract
3 T whole milk

Eating Art: Apple Tarts



I have come to love my crust recipe for its fast, easy and flaky characteristics. So, I knew that I would be making apple tarts for dessert for our Eating Art dinner. As I said previously, I wanted to use the image by Rene Magritte as a signature dish. The painting explains right above an image of an apple that this is not an apple—after all it is a painting. Magritte points out the artifice inherent in art in his painting. So for dessert, after a meal of cerebral connections between food and art, I wanted to give my guests a similar moment—ceci n’est une pomme, ceci est une tart de pomme.
The tarts were a breeze—sliced Ohio apples, plenty of cardamom, a little Chinese five spice and a pinch of cinnamon and a tiny pinch of garam masala. Then, some brown sugar, some jaggery and some flour. This filling was lined up neatly on little rounds of dough, topped with dough, pinched, FROZEN and then baked.
To give it the right look, we topped them with green sugar, pale green (really basically white) pistachio shrikand, and edible paper with the tell-tale words.


Thursday, October 23, 2008

Eating Art: Pear Sorbet with Fresh Ginger


As a child, we often went out for ice cream with my parents. Both my parents were raised in India, and dairy was a strong portion of their diet. My father has been known to eat sweet butter straight out of the container. So, they were also incredulous when I eschewed ice cream, with its tongue coating after taste, for sorbet, whose sweet, clean fruitiness I prized.

We recently made a delicious pear sorbet from a recipe from La Mia Cucina (queen of Daring Bakers) but we added 2 T freshly grated ginger and 1 t powdered ginger. One thing that was interesting about the Mia Cucina was that she used canned pears for her sorbet. We decided to do this too because it made for a more creamy sorbet and frankly less work as we were in the midst of creating 10 dishes for our Eating Art Dinner party. But, next time, I might experiment with fresh ones.

For presentation, we served it with candied ginger cut to look like letters (using mini-fondant cutters) as we were making our nod at the how 20th century artists, like Claes Oldenburg, employ letters, words, and cultural symbols in their art.

Eating Art: Deconstructed Shrimp Biryani


We all have kitchen failures. Mine is often short-grained rice. I am a bit of a space cadet and a multitasker; the combination has overcooked more than one pot of rice. (I also seem to always misplace my timer.) But, I hate throwing out food or even composting it before trying to use it for another purpose.

We planned the Eating Art dinner, 10 courses/ 20 diners, in about three weeks. The weekend before, we made a list of things that could be made ahead of time and frozen. We also identified the recipes that were harder or completely new to us. As such, some dishes received more attention (such as the tea house soba noodles.) Some dishes that were to be a breeze were basically decided to be givens. The Pistachio Kulfi from the dessert course was one of these.

Kulfi is Indian ice cream. Unlike its Western sisters, it is unchurned and therefore dense and creamy. I have made this sweet treat many times before, and there in was my familiar. Somehow in the hullabaloo of dinner preparation, my husband and I completely miscommunicated about the proportion of nut extract and rose water needed. When it came out of the freezer, I was basically like cold, thick perfume and the unedibility was remarkable. My husband wanted to chuck it was our freezer was rapidly filling up and our refrigerator was bursting at the seam. But, I just couldn’t.

As we debated, the kulfi was defrosting on the counter, turning into a pale green glop. And, somehow, my husband’s inner brilliance began to shine—it could be the marinade for the shrimp biryani.

As we had some who don’t eat shrimp, we went with a “deconstructed” biryani. (I know that word has become so cheesy.) We made saffron rice with dried unsulfured apricots, slivered almonds, and mint. We also made a rich curry sauce sweetened by the last of the season’s Sweet 100 tomatoes. And then we had planned for grilled marinated shrimp.

So, we marinated 1.5 lbs of American shrimp in a little more than 1/2 cup of pistachio kulfi melted, 1/3 cup coconut milk, 2 T chilli powder, 2 T garam masala, 1 sprinkle asofoetida, and a sprinkle of fresh mint.

We grilled them up and at the same time cooked the marinade down into a rice curry sauce. Yummy, yummy innovation.

For the Kulfi recipe, follow my kulfi recipe but add 2 drops pistachio extract.


Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Eating Art: tea noodle handroll


Four more Eating Art recipes to go—think of it this way, I could have posted one recipe per week and it would take ¼ of the year to get through it…

Years and years ago, I was in Nara in one of the hottest Augusts on record. We wandered through the Daibutsuden, danced with the deer and then sought refuge in a lovely little restaurant that I would never be able to find again. My co-diner was not a great lover of Japanese food and basically only ate noodles during our trip. And, this little restaurant was known for its cha soba--cold tea noodles. The restaurant was filled with well dressed Japanese ladies and us dusty travellers. I ordered the cha soba and meditated on their fine, even texture. If I hadn't been so exausted, I might have been able to slurp more appropriately.

Tea house culture is something one sees commonly in Edo period (1615-1868) prints when the Shogun made the regional lords live in Tokyo, so that they were more occupied with lovely ladies and Kabuki than a coup d'etat. The Ukiyo-e or pictures of the floating world that emerged from the period show the sorts of affairs of Tokyo with tea scenes. In these scenes, women pour steeped tea and play the stinged samimasen. Cha Soba is often made with matcha, which is known for its use in the tea ceremony, drunk after being whipped. However, as I wanted my noodles to be inspired by art, I made mine with sencha (though in Japan, sometimes sencha can be used.)
I adore cha soba and somehow believed that I might be able to create soba noodles. Over the weeks that were preparing for the meal, these noodles became my white whale. I read various recipes about the proportion of buckwheat to water, about whether you can add egg (we didn’t), etc. Frankly, the dough was so much “add wheat, add a sprinkle of sencha” that I have no recipe. But, I will be trying them again.

However, I am posting them, because they ended up being a surprise hit of the dinner. (Almost as surprising as the Acorn Squash Kimchi.) The plan was to have the guests make their own rolls, so each guest received nori, a flat noodle served ice cold, shredded daikon also ice cold, shredded carrot, vinegar, and wasabi.

The noodles were not Tokyo perfect by any stretch of the imagination, however, they did have that tea sense. I was gratified that the guests liked it, even if it didn’t work out as perfect as I hoped.

We served them on pieces of balsa (we composted them after dinner) to evoke the traditional basket of cha soba.

Eating Art: Trenchers


Alright, I know that the walk down memory lane to my Eating Art event might be getting old, but I feel like if I don’t get all these recipes out, I won’t be able to move on, so don’t be upset with me.

Anyway, this one would make a nice Halloween treat. I have a lot of plates. The Cage Free Tomato is convinced that I have many a single plate for the blog photos, but untrue. The blog has actually been a nice way for me to prove to my husband that all those years of dimestore and second-hand store plates were really for a purpose. Thanks blog.

Even then, we still had to plan in dishwashing to have enough plates for our ten course meal. To add a little more insurance we made one course where the plate was edible—though the guests were uncertain whether they would need to keep it for more than one course.

The idea was not mine, but a regular feature of the Medieval dinner table. Day old bread would be a plate shared by every two dinners. That’s right, you didn’t get a plate and you had to share your not-plate. But, at least you were eating, right?

So for our trenchers, taking a cue from Wild Yeast, we used pizza dough doctored with olives, fennel and olive oil, and made simple rounds.

And here in lies my confession, we decorated one plate after it was baked with tomato paste (red) and spinach/green food coloring (green), but our diners received undecorated ones. Because, well, we were swamped with work.


Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Eating Art: Roasted and Dried Beet Salad

Beets are one of those foods, like coconut and radishes, that have the power to divide people into neat camps of the will eat and won’t. For the beet, its richness of color and flavor are both its best and worst characteristics depending on which side of the line you fall. I, of course, adore beets. I had a childhood filled with beets as my mother found them easy to prepare and love. Beets on salad, beet salad, beet curry… Luckily, I didn’t know better to refuse.

This salad was a breeze; I used it for my Eating Art dinner. I took fresh beets, sliced them thin, and dried them low and slow in an oven. For the rest, I roasted them and dressed them in a sweet dressing.
Roasted and Dried Beet Salad

Slice very thinly and dry:
1 large yellow beet
1 small red beet

Roast at 400 then peel:
3 large beets
6 small beets

When beets are still warm, dress with:
3 T blood orange marmalade (warmed in a microwave)
1 pinch cinnamon
1 T red wine vinegar
3 T grapeseed oil
When serving, top with dried beets and mint.

Eating Art: Beans in Banana Leaves

When I was a child, one of the joys of visiting my family in India was eating off banana leaves. The smell and the slick feel against one’s fingers. Even now, those leaves give me a sense of youthful joy. So, when I saw some frozen leaves at the Asian market I couldn’t exist.

For my Eating Art dinner, I needed something that was hot and wet, and I planned to do beans en papillote so this would be sort of an asian take on that. But, frankly, this was one of the least successful dishes I made at that dinner. Frozen banana leaves are a pale, well nasty, replacement for the original. I purchased them out of nostalgia but instead they simply reminded me that there is no place like home (or in my case your grandmother’s home.)

This would be nice either with fresh banana leaves or en papillote (in parchment)

Beans in Banana Leaves
Sautee for 30 sec:
½ cup grated coconut (only brown very slightly)

1 tsp tamarind paste soaked in hot water
1-2 green chilis
2 smashed lemongrass stems, cleaned and pulsed in a food processor
¼ cup coconut milk

Mix coconut mixed with cleaned green beans. Place on parchment and make into a sealed package. Bake for 8 minutes. Serve in package and let guests/ diners open it themselves.


Monday, October 20, 2008

Eating Art: Cauliflower Handpies

Here I have totally lost my recipe and my pictures, but I know that they will return this winter for the Bento. But, I can give you a brief. I used a pie crust made with a combination of vegetable shortening and Earthbalance (rather than butter.)

But, the filling was where it was at. It was cauliflower, ras el hanout, turmeric yellow raisins, onions, and cider vinegar. When I make them next time, I will be adding more chili pepper, and less vinegar. They were almost there.

Eating Art: Red Lentil and Fennel Salad

I am still working out what to put in my lunchbox. It is hard to get protein in a mouth satisfying manner. I had a bad habit of throwing out recipes after I make them. But, as that is anything but efficient, I am forcing myself to go back to recipes that were tasty and easy.

One such recipe was from my Eating Art event. It was so simple, light, but yet filling. The recipe had actually started with the carrying case. There were lovely little peppers at the market. Even though it is October, there are still plenty of peppers at the market. I had used them this summer as stuffed peppers and they were so enchanting to the dinners (my family), so they were early on my list for our big dinner. The filling almost seemed immaterial. But, in the end, the filling was nice enough that looking back they truly eclipse their housing.

For the bento, I diced up one red pepper and added it to the lentil salad, for a less fussy and time-consuming dish.
Red Lentil and Fennel Salad

Cook 1 cup masoor lentils until tender but still whole

Add 1/2 fennel bulb diced very finely.

In a skillet, sautee 1 t fennel seeds, 1 t coriander seeds, and ½ t pimenton in oil under fragrant.

Add this hot oil dressing to the lentils and refrigerate overnight. Serve in tiny sweet peppers that have been deseeded. (Alternately, toss with 1 red pepper chopped.)


Sunday, October 19, 2008

Eating Art: Vegetable Course

I love buffets. I know, I know that vat of chicken curry is likely pullulating with any manner of bacteria and that the pasta course is just warmed up from the night before. But, I adore options, tastes, bits. Tapas is eminently appealing too me, though generally nixed by my husband who hates the price tag.

It has now been a month since my Eating Art party, and almost all of the dishes are no longer seasonable, but I still wanted to post the recipes for me to use next year.

The goals was to create a “choose your own eating adventure” in a single course. Our guests were asked to diagnose themselves and their temperaments and then self-medicate.

The use of food as medication is something that commonly occurs today (ever turned to ice cream to mediate a depression?) . But, in the Renaissance, the effort of dining on the part of the host and the guest. The host was to compose a meal plan that had offerings for all their guests, and then the guests had the responsibility to eat only that which helped them stay at their bests. A seven-course meal might consist of 20 dishes in each course so 140 dishes for one dinner.
As we are not historians, or historical reactors, we freed ourselves from whatever research that we did do about Renaissance meals (beware brassicas, they say.) And, we decided to focus on the core of this type of meal planning—the fact that an eater should consider the balance of cold, hot, wet, dry foods. And, here is what we created.

None of these dishes had a true recipe, but a plan, so I thought I would just enumerate all in this post. There were a couple that were more complicated, so I will post those this week. (Promise. They are written and in the queque!)

Also, as this was already such a big meal a some serious carbon footprint, we tried to make many of the dishes vegan. I starred the three that were vegetarian.

Carrot and Walnut Salad—Simple, grated carrot, walnuts, grapeseed oil, mint, and sea salt. (Was delicious.)

Roasted and Dried Beet Salad—will post this week as the dressing was wonderful!

Red Lentil and Fennel Salad—will post this week because it was very easy and yummy
Acorn Squash Kimchi

Tomato Terrine—Layer heirloom tomatoes and roasted red bell peppers. Add sea salt and basil infused oil at each layer.

*Watermelon and Feta Salad—Layer watermelon, pistachio, feta and arugula microgreens. Dress with grapeseed oil. Based on a dish we ate at Jaleo.
Baked Eggplant—Salt eggplant, chopped garlic (put it under the eggplant or it will burn), tomato and tomatillo and bake, dress with oil, asofoetida, and kimchi pepper.

Beans in Banana Leaves—will post this week

Roasted Pepper Rolatinis—roasted red pepper wrapped around cherry tomatoes and kalamata olives, served warm dressed with olive oil, cider vinegar and agave nectar.

*Roasted Buttered Squash—We used Yugoslavian Finger Food squash because they are stunning. Roasted whole and ate them.

Cauliflower Handpies—Will post this week.

*Mushroom Ravioli—Filled handmade raviolis (egg dough) with shitake/pecorino mushroom filling.
Art Objects: many, many...
Pairing: A to Z Oregon Pinot Gris

Friday, October 17, 2008

Lemongrass Potato Salad


The Bento Box Chronicles continue. . .

I have been packing four bentos this week. Two for those looking to loose weight(my mother and husband); 1 for those looking to maintain/gain weight (me); and 1 for a toddler (Belle). But, basically, I want everyone to eat healthy varied diets--and I don't want to make four separate meals. So, I am trying to modify calories my portioning and add ons.

One of the hardest things for me is to create healthful meals that don't skim on mouthfeel. My mother has eaten terrible food for so long and I don't want her to break and buy her old creamy or crunchy favorites. So, as a treat on Friday, I made potato salad.

My husband and I used to adore the Korean potato salad we got at a neighborhood joint. When it went out of business, we started making our own version topped with vinegary cucumbers and onions. But, I have thing about cucumbers--I hate cucumbers that have been sliced and then left in the refrigerator overnight even in vinegar. So that potato salad recipe doesn't work as a bento box option for me.

For an update, the Bento potato salad was rich in lemongrass as I hoped the herbal citric punch would be exhilerating during the work day. With winter coming on, I have been turning to spicier, richer foods, and I have begun using more lemongrass.
As one might expect, the internet has lots to tell me about lemongrass. It is a perenial plant in warmer climates, native to South Asia, and the edible portion is the fleshy stem. When you purchase lemon grass, look for firm stalks. When you bring them home, cut off the top leaves and reserve for stock making. Then smash the stem like you might smash garlic. At this point, I put this into a food processor. I then put the lemongrass confetti, as it were, and froze it en masse for future use.
So back to the potato salad, it was delicious. Much better than my vegan hot dog fish that swam upon them. (Photo tutorial for that coming next week.) This potato salad is also my entry for Weekend Herb Blogging, started by Kalyn's Kitchen and hosted this week by Amy and Jonny of We Are Never Full.

Lemongrass Potato Salad
Combine and mash 4 medium blue potatoes, 1 small red potato, and 1 not very sweet, sweet potato (I get these small ones from Asian grocery stores that are perfect. If you can't get this, just put in one more white potato)

Add 2 T grapeseed vegannaise, 1 T spicy mustard, splash of rice wine vinegar, splash olive oil, 2 T lemongrass, 1 t ground coriander, salt and white pepper.

In a separate bowl, dress 1 small grated carrot, 1 radish finely diced, and 1 small chopped shallot with lime juice and salt.

Combine the diced vegetables with the potatoes and then add 1 handful of fresh cilantro leaves.