Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Maple Caramel Apples (Spicy, nutty, choco sweet)

The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. No really. Which leads me to some important words of wisdom about picking apples with a toddler.

picking apples

1. Prepare your child about where apples come from. This is a great time to talk about the birds and the bees. I mean, warn your kid that there will be bees there, and those bees are your friends. Much less screaming will ensue.

2. Explain to your kids very gingerly that cheese does not grow on trees. Sure cheese and apples are a great combo but not one found in nature.

picking apples
3. Tell them about how apples don’t fall far from the tree. There they are rotten , and scattered all around the trunk of the tree. Sure they make a satisfying squishy sound under your pink boots. But, if you get them all, then what will the next kid picking apples do? Pick apples?

4. Give them some tips on which apples are the rotten ones. Holes are great in Swiss cheese, bowling balls and jack-o-lanterns but not apples.

picking apples

5. Don’t tell them that the store sells apple cider and apple fritters. They will immediately threaten to unionize with the other children and start a picking strike until given inappropriate amounts of sugar.

From those apples we made Duo of Maple Caramel Apples: Maple Caramel Apples with Cayenne/ Spiced Almonds and Maple, Cayenne Caramel Apples with Curry infused White chocolate to send in care packages for all of the college kids in our lives.  My recipe can be found here.  (They are my entry for the Royal Foodie Joust from the Leftover Queen)

Oh, and turning those apples into caramel apples only gives your children false hope that all fruit and vegetable can be subverted into candy.



Sunday, September 27, 2009

Homemade Puff Pastry


Making puff pastry is child’s play. Well, at our house anyway. Getting a two year old to roll out your dough doesn’t make for perfect layers and even edges.
But, showing a kid how butter and flour become puffy deliciousness does make you seem like a magician.

I wish I believed in magic. There is a point in many people’s lives where cynicism, disbelief and routine over take that innate ability to be in awe.

Wonder, the prerequisite to believing in magic, is the purview of youth. Right now, at our house, water is a hot topic. Where does rain come from? Why is water wet? Where does rain go when a puddle disappears? Why does it become ice? How does it become ice? Why is steam hot? Why is rain cold? How can you capture steam?


Puff pastry is like a snapshot of steam. The water in the butter becomes an escape artist and leaving a pocket of air. If you are a strict disciplinarian and keep the butter in line, those pockets are parallel. If you are like my daughter, and roll it out a little scattershot, your layers are a little skewed but delicious nonetheless.

Our pastry became a three cheese (Brie, fresh mozza and parm) tart topped with a vinegary raw vegetable salad, coulibiac de saumon with leeks, mushrooms and quails eggs (post upcoming) and owl palmiers.

And now to pay the piper--The September 2009 Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Steph of A Whisk and a Spoon. She chose the French treat, Vols-au-Vent based on the Puff Pastry recipe by Michel Richard from the cookbook Baking With Julia by Dorie Greenspan.

vegetable tart in puff pastry

vegetable tart in puff pastry




Saturday, September 26, 2009

Planning a Silk Route Dinner


If you want to make your own Silk Route dinner:
5-4 days ahead
make pickled radishes

2-3 days ahead:
make your grape vine and your prayer flags.
roast lambs and then make stock in the slowcooker over night.

1 days:
make nan dough
make langman sauce
slow cook chicken for the pullao
put up the laundry line
make tomato salad

Day of:
first thing in the morning, make eggplant
delegate--have husband set up the tent
make noodles (set pot of water to boil before starting noodles)
finish pullao
eat and enjoy

Making a Uighur Nan stamper


Uighur Nan is stamped with an all-over pattern. This makes the center of the bread crunchy. You could puncture it with a fork. Or you can make a stamp.

Take linoleum (from the art supply store) or a pink eraser, and draw a simple geometric pattern on the surface. Trace over with a thick sharpie. The stuff that is black will remain, the pink of the eraser (or grey of the lino) will be cut out. Using an exacto knife, begin to create a v-groove in the surface by cutting into the surface at an angle. (If you have a lino tool, you can just dig into the surface.) You want to create a fairly high relief, but obviously don't cut all the way to the bottom of the eraser.

When stamping the bread, press REALLY hard, and then trace the lines with a fork.

For more about the silk route feast, click here.

Making your own Silk Route Tent


To create your own silk route feast, you would need: 1 long string or garden twine, a laundry line, clothes pins, white duct tape, eye hooks, colored paper (I made 100 grape leaves and 70 prayer flags.)

For the grape leaves, I made two per 11 by 17 sheet of paper. Free hand or download a picture of a grape leaf, trace two onto the paper. Photocopy, and then cut. Staple leaves to the line. Be careful they will get all tangled up, so keep the line on a kitchen paper towel dowel.

For the prayer flags, cut 8 by 11 sheets in half and stamp. Lay down white duct tape. Place flags on the tape, leaving the top half of the tape empty. Fold down the tape to cover all the glue.

Assemble the laundry line. Clip up CLEAN PRETTY sheets. Hang grape leaves and prayer flags from the ceiling.

Friday, September 18, 2009



I didn’t know my grandfather all that well. I only saw him for a couple weeks every four years. My understanding of him was mostly built through observation.

For this man of purposeful actions, lunch seemed the apex of his day. In the morning, as he spoke to my grandmother about lunch, he gingerly embraced the lip of his tea cup taking efficient sips. After consuming toast redolent of butter and yeast, he carefully gathered up any crumbs depositing them back onto the plate with a flick of the wrist. Perhaps an optimist, despite dustiness or inclemency, he went to work every day with a crisp white shirt and pressed dhoti.

He would return for lunch punctually sometimes with unexpected guests in tow. My grandmother would have spent the morning, probably every morning for decades, puttering around the kitchen preparing. She would move to and fro, looking for lost bowls, shuffling plates around, opening and closing stainless steel containers. When I was there, there was time spent telling me stories, reminding me to be a good girl, and, of course, cajoling me to eat more and drink more milk. My grandmother was a woman for whom efficiency really was a word better left in the dictionary.

Upon returning, he would take his place at the head of the table joyful about the upcoming meal. When the whole family was there, his son would sit to one side, and the rest of table would fill with grandchildren and son in laws. The many vegetable dishes on the table were all orchestrated by him.  He chose dishes in a way that made you feel welcome; your favorite dishes were always on the menu. For me sambar seemed a constant.  And, then, when everything was served, there was his first taste. That taste was carefully discussed and dissected. The proportions of spice and amount of salt were all noted. Sometimes my grandmother would be summoned with the salt cellar to rectify an overly spicy dish with a pinch more salt. More often, there was praise. “Oh, the bikkand is delicious today…The chutney is just right in terms of spices…The valli is very fresh and the ambat is just perfect today.” For him, food was the center of life; lunch was a hobby and a holiday.

Plans for these lunches began early in the morning. As a child, when jet lag cruelly awoke me with a start in the pitchdark early morning, I would wait for the hall light to turn on. Then I would crawl out of bed and look for my grandparents. My grandfather would instruct quick preparations of warm Bournvita and grilled butter-fried bread for “the child” and then he would sit down to the vegetables.

According to my child’s eye, my grandfather’s consideration of how each vegetable should be cut seemed to be paramount in his affairs. He would sit on the floor in the narrow hallway just beside the old stone kitchen. Slowly and efficiently, he would draw the vegetables across the blade. Matchstick potatoes would work for upkari but would never be appropriate in sambar. Before engaging in his morning toilet, a day’s worth of vegetables, lovely piles of colors and shapes, would wait for their role in lunch.


(My husband and I followed my mom when she cooked and transcribed her recipe.)

Cook 2/3 cup toor dal in a pressure cooker. (For the pressure cooker novices like me, my mother says when it whistles turn down to simmer for 10 minutes and turn off.)

In another pot, boil 2 cups vegetables. In my mind, pearl onions, potatoes, and eggplant are requisite. Radishes, eggplants, zucchini and carrots can be added. If you are lucky enough to have fresh drumsticks, be happy and add them too.

Add cooked dal and its water to the boiled vegetables that have been drained of all but ½ cup water.

In a cast iron skillet, fry:
one small onion diced.

Add onions to the dal/veg mixture.

In small bowl, combine:
1 tsp tamarind
½ cup water

In the same cast iron skillet, brown:
3 T sambar powder (homemade or store bought)
Pinch asofoetida

Once the sambar powder smells cooked and delicious, add tamarind and water. Put whole mixture into the dal.

Add a small handful of fresh coriander leaves that have been roughly chopped.

Serve with rice and papad or with idli.

I am submitting this recipe to this month's Monthly Mingle:Heirloom, which is being hosted over at Jugalbandi.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Quinoa Pilaf with Yellow Squash and Corn

I have a selfish wish today.

Next year when Barbara of Winos and Foodies hosts A Taste of Yellow, I hope that no one that I know is touched by cancer. I hope this wish not just for me and mine but also for everyone. 

Sadly, between last year’s Yellow and this one, the world lost a wonderful human being, my friend’s father. He was kind and thoughtful, considerate and considered. He was the special sort of man who adores being a father to daughters. It is very sad to everyone that he is not in the world any more.

When I was in middle school, he was told to cut down drastically on fat after problems with his heart. Dinner was changed immediately. It was the first time I remember eating chappatis dry without butter. So, I thought for him, I would make a heart-healthy and colorful quinoa pilaf. I wish I could invite him over to enjoy it.

Quinoa Pilaf

1.5 cups quinoa in 2 cups vegetable broth

When the quinoa is still warm add:
Raw corn from 3 ears of corn
½ cup steamed yellow squash; I used tiny ones that were an impulse buy.
½ cup diced wax beans (raw) ; I had purple at home but yellow would better
1 cup yellow cherry tomatoes; each cut in ½
¼ cup raw carrots, diced; again, yellow would be cool but I had orange
½ cup parsley, chopped coarsely
¼ cup basil, chopped coarsely
¼-1/2 cup cider vinaigrette made with shallots, garlic, cider vinegar, mustard, and grapeseed or olive oil
¼ cup nutritional yeast
plenty of freshly cracked black pepper
Toss and let sit for 1 hour. Serve at room temperature.


Monday, September 14, 2009


When I was in high school, I was fairly convinced a boy's whole soul could be summed up by his choice in shoes and how he liked his coffee.  (I am only slightly less judgmental these days.)  That said, I still think situations that draw out the idiosyncratic still offer an insight into the soul. A man who drinks black coffee has something different about him than one who quaffs caramel macchiatos, no?

One particular such indicator of a person's inner being (at least in my mind) is how you like your dosa.  I am a thin and cripsy (dripping in ghee) girl.  My father likes thick and soft ones, verging on uttapams.  My mother prefers them medium with a crispy edge.  Whatever your liking, this month the Daring Cooks made Dosas made with flour rather than rice and urad dal thanks to Debyi (The Healthy Vegan Kitchen).  Go over to Daring Kitchen to read more about them and find the blogroll for other versions.  (The picture below is urad dal and rice dosas with the Challenge filling.  My challenge dosa pictures were not so becoming.)

Hopefully, if I can get a little more sleep, I will be back to writing and posting soon.


Thursday, September 10, 2009

Red Foods: An Expose

Red, and its derivatives purple and pink, are the stuff of little girl dreams. And, Belle’s dream is to incarnadine all that with which she comes in contact. Don’t believe me? Let’s ask Belle. (This interview contains elements that have been fictionalized b/c Belle’s mother has a valid poetic license.)

Mom: Dear Belle, what is your favorite color?
Belle: Red and pink and purple and orange.

Mom: But which one is your most favorite?
Belle: Red…and pink and purple and orange.

Mom: Why ?
Belle: What?

Mom: Remember when we ate this red cupcake? Was it good?
Belle: Yeah.

Mom: Why?
Belle: Because it is red.

Mom: Would it have been yummy if it wasn’t red?
Belle: It is red.

Mom: What about this cupcake? What part was yummy?
Belle: Yes. The red part was yummy.

Mom: How did you eat it? 
Belle: I licked my fingers.

Mom: And this cake?
Belle: Ohh, the pink cake.

Mom: What about this bread? Which one was most yummy?
Belle: The pink one.

Mom: Was the green yummy?
Belle: The pink one was yummy.

So for those of you who asked if the red velvet cake needed the red dye, apparently the two-year old votes yes. I was allergic to red dye as a child so I have never been a giant fan. But as red is in the name, it might be a better to pick a different kind of chocolate cake if you are dye abhorent. Since I only use it once in a great while, I figure whatever. Food stuffs can be a dye—vegan beet cake buttercream frosting on Cook & Eat's chocolate beet cake; red currant glaze; beet and tomato bread.

And, also if you asked how we made the red currant glaze, we splatted the berries in a mortar and pestle, strained that through a tea strainer, and then whisked in powdered sugar until the concoction was a thick paste. It was about 5 T of juice and 2-3 T of sugar, I believe. As to the beet and tomato bread, I will post them eventually.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Red Velvet Cupcakes


My husband and I couldn’t have been raised by more different mothers. His stayed home, taught Sunday school and served homemade yogurt and wheat germ for breakfast. Mine worked long hours, let me stay up to watch Johnny Carson while I was still in elementary school, and served me sugar cereal.

I am too new to parenting to say how much of palette-building is nature or nurture. But from my own childhood, I am somewhat ambivalent. After growing up eating 2-3 bowls of sugar-laden cereal a day, I have grown up to be slim and cavity-free. Most importantly I have a sense of moderation for sweets. I am that person who will eat one bite of cake and need no more. My husband has a voracious sweet tooth. And, don’t think that his wheat germ breakfasts were emblematic of a childhood of sweet deprivation—that is certainly not the case. Soon after meeting my mother-in-law for the first time, I mean hours after meeting a woman who at first seemed very pleasant and kind, she informed me she would not, could not share her desserts. (I should tell you in all other things she is very sharing.) So, for my husband to have a sweet tooth, I am not surprised.


Belle might come to think of King Arthur as a magical fairy who changed her mother from vegetable toting disciplinarian into a cupcake baking sorceress. We received a box of King Arthur Unbleached Flour to test as part of Bloggeraid: Changing the Face of Famine. Belle looks like me--but her sweet tooth is all her father’s. When she says cupcake, she enunciates every syllable and her eyes light up as if she can already taste the sugar on her lips. She loves my experiments with the cake flour.

So, after peach upside down cake and red currant glazed cupcakes, we made red velvet cupcakes using the Canadian Baker recipe. This recipe really made the cake flour sing—they were moist and airy.

So, King Arthur, Belle and her sweet tooth thank you for your cake flour.


Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Whole Wheat Mashed Potato Pizza Dough

BLT Pizza

A workday generally means a cup of tea in the car, followed by a couple of meeting in the office, lunch with coworkers, a few hours of email and catching up with the latest work literature, a late afternoon meeting, a bit more reading if I am lucky and then home. It is a life marked by relative quietude, intellectualism at some junctures, and caffeine at all times.

The home life cannot be more dissimilar. Here we have a one-month old, the Tiger, who nurses every hour and cries as if she has never been fed if I should dawdle before latching her on; a 2 year old, Belle, who has learned climbing the walls is not just a charming turn of phrase; and an old dog, Coyote, who has lost her mind. All three are in diapers—and I am never nearly caffeinated enough. Mind you I have a ridiculous amount of help with my brood, so we can spend a great deal of time cooking and enjoying food.

Of late, I have started thinking about the food of my childhood and what elements should make it to my daughter’s plates. My mother was an excellent cook who made dinner nearly every night. She kept a number of dishes, sambar, dal, potato upkari, in regular rotation and then switched it up with more time consuming dishes likes pathrado and sanna pollo. In the upcoming months, J— and I have decided to start making and documenting our family favorites, so that the girls will them as part of their lives.

J—is up first with pizza. Belle would eat it morning, noon and night. Pizza toppings change by the season though generally the adult, and ideally not me, rolls in out and places it in an oiled round pan or on a pizza peel and then Belle tops it with Mommy-cut toppings. Right now, corn is a particularly popular topping. Fruit is another.

We made two BLT pizzas with homemade bacon (thanks to my Ruhlman challenge) and homegown tomatoes. The first was confit of green tomatoes, figs, gorgonzola and bacon; the second, tomatoes, basil, bacon, provolone and cheddar. Belle was first rooting for the former as it matched her new purple crocs but after one bite felt the red one was more her speed.

Next Family Recipe—Sambar


Whole Wheat Mashed Potato Dough
Make 4 medium pizzas or 2 large

In a stand mixer with its hook attachment, combine
2 cups mashed potatoes
1 tsp yeast in 1 cup warm watter
3 cups whole wheat flour
¾ cup wheat germ

Knead. Add AP flour until you get a smooth (non-sticky) dough. Let rise 1 hour. Beat down. Let rise again.

J—‘s other dough
In a stand mixer with its hook attachment, combine
3 cups AP flour
1 cup warm water with 1 packet yeast
1 T olive oil

Knead. Add flour until you get a smooth (non-sticky) dough. Let rise 1 hour. Beat down. Let rise again.

Recipes to Rival: Vegan Zucchini and Corn Risotto

I have made my feelings of Veganomicon quite clear previously, but to summarize—I adore it. I have made a number of recipes since receiving the book last year. For this month’s Recipes To Rival, we Debyi from The Healthy Vegan Kichen chose an asparagus risotto recipe (for ours we used corn and zucchini) My husband believes in parmesan and chicken stock as cornerstones of risotto, but he was open-minded to Isa’s Asian inspired version. After 30 minutes of stirring homemade stock into the Arborio, the result was delicious though I would rename it Thai-style risotto or Arborio Fried Rice or something that made you understand that this was wholly different than those that you have had before. This was a great challenge and I am glad to be back to R2R.