Monday, December 24, 2012

Gooey Butter Cookies

It's Christmas eve! After having spent the whole day in the kitchen, baking and cooking, it's time to rest up for tomorrow, to be able eat, drink, and be merry! 

These downy butter cookies from St. Louis chef Gerard Craft and his former pastry chef Mathew Rice live up to their name. A favorite of Craft’s daughters, these sweet cookies glean their soft texture from the addition of glucose and get an initial coating of confectioners’ sugar before baking. Keep them stored in the refrigerator and dust with another layer of confectioners’ sugar before serving for an especially snow-kissed appearance.

The cookies totally live up to its description above, quoted from Tasting Table's 12 Days of Cookies series. I preferred the cookies the next day, but some of the other 'eaters' preferred them the first day, fresh out of the oven. (Yes, we have been eating cookies since yesterday and hope to eat them through Christmas day!). The extra sprinkle of confectioners' sugar before serving makes these cookies even more divine. 

Recipe adapted from Gerard Craft and Mathew Rice, Pastaria, St. Louis, Missouri
Makes 3 dozen cookies
Cook time: 45 minutes

4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 pound (450 gms) cream cheese, at room temperature
1 stick (8 tablespoons / 125 gms) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 1/2 cups granulated sugar (or 2 1/4 cups granulated sugar and 1/4 cup glucose syrup)
1/2 vanilla bean, halved lengthwise, seeds scraped away and reserved
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups confectioners' sugar, plus extra for serving


  1. Preheat oven to 325F (160C). 
  2. Sieve over a large bowl the flour, baking powder, and salt.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, add the cream cheese, butter, sugar, and the vanilla seeds. Mix on medium speed until the batter is light and airy, scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed, about 3 minutes.
  4. Add the eggs and vanilla extract and beat until well combined.
  5. Add the flour mixture, then mix on medium-low speed until just combined.
  6. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. To a medium bowl, add the confectioners' sugar and set aside. 
  7. Scoop the dough into 2-inch balls around the size of a golf ball, then roll each ball into confectioners' sugar before placing them 2-inches apart on the baking sheet.
  8. Bake the cookies until they spread and puff slightly, 12 to 15 minutes. They should be set around the edges and very soft in the center (don't let the cookies brown). 
  9. Remove the cookies from the oven and cool 5 minutes before transferring the parchment paper with the cookies on top to a wire rack to cool completely. Repeat with remaining dough.
  10. Once the cookies are completely cool, stack them in an airtight container and refrigerate. Serve chilled and dusted with more powdered sugar.
Make ahead: The dough can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 3 days before baking.
Storing:The cookies can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Puffed Rice

I love brussels sprouts! Not sure if I have said this enough, but it is very high up on my favorite vegetables list. So when I read this recipe on my iPad on my Epicurious app, it had me wanting to make it immediately.

Deep-fried Brussels sprouts are a popular side dish at Ssām Bar. Cooked in a hot oven (easier for the home cook), they still get that nutty sweetness and nicely browned crisp exterior. Rice Krispries, standing in for Indian puffed rice (which is more difficult to find), add crunch, while sous-chef Tien Ho's Vietnamese-style dressing lends the sprouts an offbeat complexity.

This was an absolute hit at lunch today, and it will surely be a recipe that we will make again!

Below is my variation on the recipe. The minor tweaks were the use of soy sauce instead of fish sauce, as we were serving vegetarians for lunch today. As much as I believe the fish sauce would have done wonders to the recipe, the soy sauce worked very well too. Instead of shichimi togarashi powder I used some of my good old Indian red chili powder. I also increased the amount of puffed rice, as I loved the idea of more crunch to the dish. The amount of dressing felt like too much, which is why I a reduced the amount in the recipe below.

Makes 8 first or side-course services

For brussels sprouts
2 pounds Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved lenghtwise
3 tablespoons canola oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter

For dressing
2 tablespoons Asian fish sauce (or soy sauce for a vegetarian version)
2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon finely chopped mint
1 tablespoon finely chopped cilantro stems
1 garlic clove, minced
2 fresh red Thai chiles, thinly sliced crosswise, including seeds (be generous if you like the heat)

For puffed rice
1/2 cup Indian puffed rice (or Rice Krispies, if not available)
2 tablespoons canola oil
1/2 teaspoon red chili powder

For garnish
Cilantro sprigs
Mint leaves
Scallions, chopped


  1. Roast brussels sprouts: Preheat oven to 400F. Toss brussels sprouts with oil, then arrange cut sides down, in a 17-by-12-inch baking pan. Roast, without turning, until outer leaves are tender and very dark brown, 25 to 30 minutes. Add butter and toss to coat.
  2. Make dressing: Stir together all the dressing ingredients until sugar has dissolved.
  3. Make puffed rice while sprouts roast: Cook cereal, oil, and red chili powder in a small skillet over medium heat, shaking skillet and stirring, until rice is coated and begins to turn golden brown, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and cook, stirring occasionally.
  4. Finish dish: Put Brussels sprouts in a serving bowl, then toss with just enough dressing to coat. Sprinkle with puffed rice.

Cooks' notes:
Puffed rice can be made 3 days ahead and kept in an airtight container at room temperature.
Dressing, without mint and cilantro, can be made 1 day ahead and chilled, covered. Bring to room temperature and add herbs before using.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Spicy Chindian Potstickers

Leftovers are great (especially if it is from Thanksgiving!), you can toss it with some rice and name it a pulao, fried rice or even a paella if you will. Wrap leftover Sai Bhaji or sautéd spinach with cheese in puff pastry and make turnovers. My mother-in-law adds tomato sauce to left over Indian vegetables and then layers it with lasagna sheets, béchamel sauce and cheese to make an Indo-Italian lasagna. My all-time, quick and easy, favorite is to add some mashed boiled potatoes and breadcrumbs to the left over, to make patties or burgers. 

The list of options go on and on. This time I wanted to step out of the box and make something different with the left over chicken keema, and I wondered why I couldn't just 'dumpling-them-up'! Growing up in Bombay, we ate a lot of Chindian food, which explains where I was going with this.

So I took the left over keema, added some Shaoshing rice wine, soy sauce, Sriracha chili sauce, and spring onions, folded them in store-bought dumpling wrappers, and made yummy potstickers, drizzled with chili oil. (You know where my leftovers are going to end up now!)

Makes 15
Chicken Keema
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 medium onions, minced (use a food processor to quicken the chopping process)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1-inch ginger, minced
2-3 green chilies, finely chopped 
1 1/2 teaspoon garam masala
1 bay leaf
2 lbs ground chicken
Salt, to taste
3 medium tomatoes, minced (use a food processor to quicken the chopping process)
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro

2 cups chicken keema
2 spring onions, finely sliced
1 tablespoon Shaoshing rice wine
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon Sriracha sauce
15 round dumpling or Japanese Gyoza wrappers
1/4 cup water, for sealing potstickers
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/2 cup water, or more, to steam potstickers
Chili oil, to drizzle

Method, Chicken Keema

  1. In a large dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pan, heat oil. Add the minced onions and brown well, for about 10-15 minutes.
  2. Follow by adding the ginger, garlic, chilies, garam masala, and bay leaf. Mix well into onions and continue to cook for another 2 minutes.
  3. Add the ground chicken and salt and cook until the chicken is just about done. The water from the chicken should dry up and your mixture should be dry.
  4. Add the minced tomatoes, mix well, and cook until the oil separates.
  5. Garnish with cilantro.
Serving options: Serve with flat naan, some chopped onions, and lemon.
Over plain white rice boiled with green peas.
Stuff in a pita pocket with hummus, greens, pickled jalapeño and fresh cilantro.

Method, Potstickers

  1. Add spring onions, rice wine, soy sauce, and Sriracha sauce to the reserved 2 cups of Chicken Keema. Mix well. 
  2. Lay a dumpling wrapper flat on one palm of your hand, moisten the edge of the pot sticker by brushing it with water. 
  3. Add 1 tablespoon of the Chicken Keema mixture in the center of the wrapper.
  4. Fold the potsticker wrapper over like a taco. Force the air out and press the edges together. You can add a few pleats like in the photograph above if you like.
  5. In a large non-stick skillet, heat 1 tablespoon vegetable oil. When hot, add the potstickers (flat side down) and brown for 30–60 seconds. 
  6. Add water, being careful not to splatter the oil (drain oil before if necessary) until 1/3rd the height of the potstickers. Cover and let it steam for 3–4 minutes.
  7. Serve hot, with a drizzle of chili oil.
Cooks note: If you do not want to serve all the potstickers at one time, you can freeze by placing the potstickers on a baking tray for 15 minutes. Remove and place in a freezer bag, dated and marked with contents. Defrost before cooking.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Roast Telapia with Spicy Soy Oil

I have absolutely no idea why I haven't yet shared this recipe with you. This recipe has been a staple at home for years now, and it's one of our favorite quick fix Asian meal. Perfect for that weeknight meal, when you're short of time or even you have guests coming over and you don't have much time on hand. Serve it with plain steamed rice or fried rice. It goes great with brussels sprouts or sautéd mushrooms.

It's so quick, that you could be in and out of the kitchen, sitting on your dinner table, within 15 minutes. Make it to believe me! Or make the spicy soy oil ahead and heat in saucepan right before serving.

The spicy soy oil goes well with mostly all fish. If I remember correct, this recipe was originally for salmon. Through the years we have made it with many kinds of fish, such as tuna, cod, lemon sole, and telapia.

2 tbsp peanut oil
1 1/2 to 2 lbs fish fillets, in 4 pieces
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp slivered garlic
2 dried red chillies (or more if you like the heat)
1 tbsp soy sauce
1/4 cup chopped scallions


  1. Place 12-inch non-stick skillet over medium high heat. When hot, add 1 tbsp peanut oil, swirl it around.
  2. Season fish with salt and pepper, and place on skillet. Flip when browned on one side and cook the other side for another 2-3 minutes. (time will depend on the fish variety). Move to a plate.
  3. While the second side is cooking, combine remaining peanut oil in a small saucepan with sesame oil, garlic, scallions, and chilies, and turn heat to medium. 
  4. Cook, gently shaking pan, until garlic colors lightly, about 5 minutes. 
  5. Turn off heat and add soy. 
  6. Drizzle fish with spicy soy oil.

I Love Brussels Sprouts, Thai Style

I love brussels sprouts. I love them so much that I can eat them plain, roasted with salt and pepper, blanched, and even on pizzas! This winter we are in the Canary Islands, and it has been difficult finding them. I spoke to the vegetable vendor at the market, and asked him to call me when he did find them. Three (long) weeks later my phone rings, my brussels sprouts had arrived! 

Half the batch was roasted, a little olive oil, salt and pepper, at 400F for 30–35 minutes. Don't forget to shake the pan from time to time to evenly brown the sprouts. Roast until crisp on the outside and tender on the inside. 

The second half of the treasured brussels sprouts was made in this Thai style inspired sauce. (Please note, the vegetable vendor has already been called and asked to get me more brussels sprouts soon!)

2 cups brussels sprouts, cut in half
2 tbsp + 1 tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp oyster sauce
1 tsp fish sauce
1 tsp soy sauce
1/2 tsp sugar
2 red chillies, sliced (or more if you like the heat)
1/4 cup chicken broth


  1. Preheat oven to 400F
  2. On a baking tray, toss brussels sprouts with 2 tbsp olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast for 30–35 minutes, until crisp on the outside and tender on the inside
  3. While sprouts roasts, in a small sauce pan, heat 1 tbsp olive oil on medium-high heat. Add garlic and sauté for 2 minutes. 
  4. Add sauces, chili, and chicken broth. Boil until liquid is reduced by half.
  5. Toss roasted brussels sprouts with as much sauce as required. Reserve remaining sauce to add to a stir-fry, rice, or more brussels sprouts! 

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Coconut Thumbprint Cookies With Salted Caramel

'Sweet and savory make friends in one delicious bite' is what sold me on this recipe. Reading this recipe in Martha Stewarts Everyday Living made my mouth water. So, one afternoon, while my little monkey of a toddler napped, and I had the kitchen to myself, I did what I love the most, baked in absolute silence. And the cookies lived up to its description— sweet (but not too sweet) shortbread cookies, coated with coconut, with an oh-so-sweet bite of caramel, with the perfect surprise hit of good quality flaked sea salt. I had a cookie with my evening cup of tea yesterday and woke up bright an early today (not feeling so bright and early) but this cookie definitely helped perk my morning up. 

I did have to make a few changes to the recipe, based on availability of ingredients here in Las Palmas, Spain (where I am for the rest for the year) along with dietary restrictions. Instead of sweetened coconut flakes, I used unsweetened coconut powder. This worked for us as my father-in-law is diabetic, and this way he can share this large batch of cookies with us, almost guilt-free. I also omitted using the egg (which was called for in the recipe to help the coconut flakes to stick to the dough ball) but it worked just fine without the egg. Some of the people I was sharing this large batch of cookies with do not eat eggs.

The caramel candies that you use, must be the soft kind. Do not use caramel candies that are hard, as it will harden again and the textures just won't work! I did my first batch with hard caramel candies (lesson learnt: read the recipe carefully!) and it didn't work out so well. The second batch worked beautifully with the softer candies— taste wise and also to work with.

3 sticks unsalted butter (24 tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon table salt
2 large eggs, lightly beaten (optional)
12 ounces sweetened flaked coconut
44 small soft caramel candies, (12 ounces), such as Kraft
6 tablespoons heavy cream
Large, flaky sea salt, such as Maldon


  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. Beat together butter and sugar, with a mixer on medium speed, until pale and fluffy, then beat in vanilla.
  3. With mixer on low, gradually add flour and 1/2 teaspoon table salt, and beat to combine.
  4. Press dough together in plastic wrap, then roll into 1 1/4-inch balls.
  5. Dip each ball in the beaten egg, and roll into coconut, or roll into coconut directly.
  6. Place balls on parchment-lined baking sheets, and press an indentation into each with your thumb. 
  7. Bake for 10 minutes.
  8. Remove the sheets from oven, and re-press indentations.
  9. Bake cookies until golden, another 9 to 10 minutes. 
  10. Let cook on wire racks. Repeat with remaining dough.
  11. Place caramels and heavy cream in a small saucepan over low heat. Cook, stirring constantly, until the caramels are melted and mixture is smooth, 4 to 6 minutes. 
  12. Spoon into indentations in cookies, and sprinkle with sea salt.
  13. Rewarm caramel if hardens before all cookies are filled. (Store in airtight containers for up to 2 days).

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Banana Butterscotch Scones

My mother had a tea party for her friends and family today, and it was great to see everyone after so long. Although a lot of her friends brought treats, me not baking scones for a tea is impossible. So, I got down to trying a recipe that I have been dying to try for a while. I'm proud to say that the plate was cleaned out and everyone seemed to love them. 

The combination of banana and butterscotch is pure bliss, and even more so once topped with the sweet and tangy clotted cream.

This recipe is adapted from my all-time favorite cookbook, Alice's Tea Cup

Makes 10–12 scones (or 36 mini scones)
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 bananas, sliced
1/2 cup butterscotch chips, plus more for sprinkling
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup heavy cream (for brushing)


  1. Preheat oven to 425F
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
  3. With clean hands, work the butter into the dry mixture until it is thoroughly incorporated and has the consistency of fine breadcrumbs. Add the banana slices and butterscotch chips and combine well, so that they are evenly distributed throughout the dry mixture.
  4. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients, and pour the buttermilk and vanilla extract into the well, little by little, until a dough is formed. Do not knead! 
  5. Turn the mixture onto a floured surface and gather the dough together. Gently pat the dough to make a disk, about 1 1/2-inches thick. Using a 3 or 3 1/2-inch biscuit cutter, cut out as many scones as you can and lay them on a nonstick baking sheet. Gather the remaining dough together lightly to cut out more scones— just don't knead the dough too much.
  6. Brush the top of each scone liberally with heavy cream and sprinkle with butterscotch chips.
  7. Bake the scones for about 12–17 minutes, or until lightly browned.
Alice's "un-clotted" cream
1 quart heavy cream
3 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
2/3 cup lemon juice

Pour the heavy cream into a mixer fitted with a whipping attachment. Start the mixer on medium speed and add the sugar slowly, until the entire amount is incorporated into the cream. Then add the lemon juice to the mixture in a slow stream. Turn the mixer up to high speed and whip until it forms stiff peaks— but no longer, or it will turn into butter! The cream will keep, covered, in the refrigerator for a week.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Seafood Paella

Finally! Here it is. A Seafood Paella recipe, that has been long requested for. Everyone has their own Paella recipe. There is always a debate on how a paella should be— caldoso (wet, with more broth) or on the drier side, whether it should have more rice or less rice, what combination of ingredients go in…  So make this recipe your own. Add chicken and rabbit to it, and it'll become a Paella Valenciana. Add chorizo and a meat of your choice and enjoy a Meat Paella. Or just use vegetables of your choice, and you have a Paella Vegetariana. Have fun while making it, it's one of those dishes, that once you know the basic of how-to, you can vary it and make it so many different ways. 

We have been spending the summer in Spain, the quality of the seafood here is incredible— leaving us with mostly grilling fish with salt and pepper, nada mas! With our cousins visiting us for the summer here in Spain, it has been fun re-making most of the earlier recipes in this blog with them. This morning, I missed making something new, something that wasn't a recipe I've made before. So I looked up my favorite Spanish chef ever, José Andres, and found this video on YouTube. The recipe looks delicious (after all, it is José Andres's recipe), simple and quick. The part that attracted me most to it, is that it involved minimal chopping. The comments on YouTube said otherwise, (a Paella recipe must be controversial!) but we absolutely loved the paella, and so did the rest of the people who ate it with me. 

Recipe adapted from Chef José Andres
Serves 2

8 mussels
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon virgin olive oil
Saffron, a generous pinch
3 cups water

1 medium onion, cut into chunks
1 medium tomato, cut into chunks
1 medium red pepper, cut into chunks
4–6 large cloves of garlic
4 guindillas, or dried red chillies (adjust to your spice level)

3 tablespoons olive oil
2 sticks thyme
1 teaspoon orange food coloring

Salt, to taste  

150 gms fish, such as sea bass, cut into 1-inch pieces
4 langostinos, shell on or 8 large shrimps, shell on
1 1/2 cups paella rice
6 sticks asparagus, cut into 2-inch pieces
1 lemon, cut into 4 wedges


  1. In a medium saucepan, boil the mussels with the bay leaf, olive oil, saffron, in 3 cups of water, for 5 minutes.
  2. While the mussels boil, puree the onion, tomato, red pepper, garlic, and red chillies. 
  3. Drain the mussels, discarding the ones that did not open. Reserve the liquid (seafood broth). Remove the meat of the mussels and discard the shells. 
  4. In a paella pan (for two) heat the olive oil. When smoking hot, add the onion-tomato puree. Fry for no more than 2 minutes Add the thyme and orange food coloring. 
  5. Add seafood broth, season with salt, to taste, and bring to a boil. Add water till the top of the pan. Let it boil for 5–10 minutes,until it is reduced by a quarter. After this step, you do not mix the paella, ever! 
  6. Add the shelled mussels, the fish, and the langostinos or shrimp.
  7. Immediately add the rice, scattered evenly through the pan. Let it cook for 10 minutes.
  8. Add the asparagus, check for doneness, and serve, garnished with lemon wedges. 

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Mushroom and Teleggio Turnovers

Mushroom, cheese and butter is such a beautiful combination. You cannot go wrong with it. Flavor it as you please. This recipe is yet again from one of my favorite cookbooks— American Masala, by Suvir Saran. Saran is chef and owner of Manhattan's highly acclaimed Indian restaurant, Devi. This book is a compilation of some of his favorite recipes from his home. Thank you Chef, you have brought some great recipes into our home.

I loved the idea of this recipe, because it's simple, can be made ahead in time and frozen for when you're ready to serve it and you can alter the flavoring each time and make it your own. This is his recipe, but I used a mixture of cheeses I had in the refrigerator. Swap the mushrooms for spinach or add spinach too by making it Mushroom, Spinach, and Cheese Turnovers. Have fun! And impress those last minute guests with a homemade treat. 

One of my guests didn't eat eggs, which is why I omitted the egg wash. It tasted great  without it. The egg wash will give it a beautiful glaze.

There is nothing healthy or low-fat about this. The puff pastry does enough caloric damage, so don't bother skimping on the butter. This is party food, so be sure that you keep all the yum in it.

Makes 16 turnovers
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1 teaspoon finely chopped rosemary
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon ground peppercorns
1 small red onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons fruity white wine or vermouth
1 1/2 pounds cremini mushrooms, trimmed and sliced
1 teaspoon kosher salt plus a pinch, for the egg wash
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
1 large egg
1 tablespoon water
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
All-purpose flour, for rolling pastry
2 packages frozen puff pastry, thawed
2 ounces Taleggio cheese, cut into 16 small pieces


  1. Melt the butter with the rosemary, pepper flakes, and ground peppercorns in a large skillet over medium-high heat, cooking until it's fragrant, about 1 minute.
  2. Add the onions, reduce the heat to medium, and cook until browned and sticky, stirring often, 5 to 7 minutes. 
  3. Pour in the wine and cook 1 minute longer while scraping the onion and any browned bits off the bottom of the skillet.
  4. Add the mushrooms and cook until they release their liquid and that liquid mostly evaporates, stirring occasionally, another 5 to 7 minutes.
  5. Reduce the heat to medium-low, add the salt, and cook for an additional 10 minutes, stirring often to prevent burning (reduce heat to low is mushrooms begin to brown too much). 
  6. Stir in the thyme, transfer the mushrooms to a bowl to cool, or refrigerate overnight.
  7. Preheat the oven to 400F. Whisk the egg, water, cayenne pepper, and salt and set aside.
  8. Dust your work surface with flour and place 1 sheet of puff pastry on top (if it came folded in thirds, keep folded). Roll the folded pastry sheet to an approximate 12 x 8-inch rectangle.
  9. Starting 1-inch from the left edge, place a heaping 1 1/2 tablespoons of mushrooms in the center of the pastry. Repeat three times, working your way across the pastry, leaving about 1 1/2-inches between mounds and ending about 1-inch from the right edge. Place 1 piece of cheese atop each mound.
  10. Using a pastry brush, lightly paint the long edge of pastry closest to you with the egg wash. Paint the left and right edges up to the midpoint of the pastry, and then paint between each of the mounds up to the middle of the pastry. Fold the top half of the pastry down over the bottom half, press the edges together to seal, and press the dough together in between each of the mounds.
  11. Trim the edges and cut between each mound so you have 4 turnovers. Press the tines of an upturned fork around the turnovers' edges to crimp.
  12. Brush with egg wash and place on a baking sheet. 
  13. Proceed with the remaining pastry and filling, making 12 more turnovers. 
  14. Bake the turnovers until golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes, rotating midway through cooking. Cool 10 minutes, and serve warm or at room temparature.
Saran's tips: The turnovers can be frozen on a baking sheet until they are hard, about 1 hour, and then transferred to a large resealable plastic bag and kept frozen for 3 months. Let turnovers thaw before baking.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Pistachio-Cardamon Cake

When I read this recipe in Suvir Saran's book American Masala I knew it had to be made immediately. My husband, who does not have a sweet tooth, was salivating over the cake and begged me to make it again. This was several years ago. So a few weeks ago when I took this to a potluck with my fabulous girlfriends (where I also took along the Spinach and Cheese Dip from Saran's book) it was a hit! I have re-made it for several occasions in the past few weeks— which made me wonder why I never shared this fantastic recipe with all of you. 

This Lebanese cake is a pound cake is wonderfully soft as the pistachios are ground to a fine powder. As Saran says; "I find that the freshly ground cardamon enhances the flavor of the pistachios, contributing an ethereal citrus essence." The lemon icing is what sends this perfect cake over the top and gives it that irreplaceable finishing touch.

Makes 1 loaf

For the cake
1 cup raw, shelled pistachios
1 1/2 sticks (12 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cardamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup whole milk

For the icing
1 cup confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon ground cardamon
1 tablespoon plus 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon heavy cream or milk

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F. 
  2. Butter and flour a 8 1/2 x 4 1/2-inch loaf pan with 1 tablespoon butter.
  3. Pulse pistachios in a food processor until they become very fine (be careful not to over process; otherwise you'll have pistachio butter). Set aside.
  4. Whisk the flour, baking powder, cardamon, and salt together in a medium bowl and set aside.
  5. Crack the eggs in a liquid measuring cup, whisk in the vanilla and set aside.
  6. Using an electric mixer, cream the remaining stick and a half of butter and sugar, until they are light and airy.
  7. Drizzle in the eggs, a little at a time, beating between additions to incorporate and scraping the bowl as necessary.
  8. Alternate adding the flour and milk, starting and ending with the flour and mixing until the batter is just nearly combined between additions, scraping the bowl as necessary.
  9. Fold the pistachios into the batter by hang, then transfer to the prepared loaf pan. Bake the cake until a cake tester inserted into the cake's center comes out clean, 45 to 55 minutes. Let the cake cool for 10 minutes, then invert onto a cooling rack and turn it so that its top faces up. Let the cake cool completely.
  10. While the cake cools, make the icing. Sift the confectioners' sugar and cardamon powder into a medium bowl. Whisk in the lemon juice and milk
  11. Spread the icing over the cake, letting it drop over the sides. Once the icing has set, slice and serve.
Saran's tip: The lemon icing is nice finish, but the cake is delicious on its own too. Heavy cream makes the icing opaque and less gritty, but if you don't have any handy, add an extra teaspoon of lemon juice.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Parmesan Shortbread with Fennel and Smoked Sea Salt

Every few weeks Denise sends me a stuffed envelope of newspaper cuttings and recipes that she knows I would love. Without doubt I always do and this time the winner recipe (for me) was this shortbread recipe. Shortbread is a perfect cookie to bake, as we are all tea drinkers and my in-laws are strict vegetarians, making this is a nice treat to bake for them. The fennel topping goes great with their taste preferences for all things Indian along with their evening cup of Indian chai.

The credit of this recipe goes to Bon Appétit, thank you! The only change I made was to use smoked sea salt as opposed to regular sea salt. 

Any salty hard cheese, such as an aged Manchego, Grana Padano, or Mimolette, would be a fine substitute for the Parmesan. This recipe is from Caitlin Williams Freeman's upcoming cookbook, The Blue Bottle Craft of Coffee

Makes 18
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup finely grated Parmesan
1 tablespoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon Maldon smoked sea salt
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil


  1. Using an electric mixer, beat butter in a medium bowl on low speed until smooth, 1–2 minutes. 
  2. Add powdered sugar, pepper, and kosher salt.
  3. Reduce speed to medium and beat, occasionaly scraping down sides of bowl, until light and fluffy, 4–5 minutes. 
  4. Add flour and cheese. Reduce mixer to low and beat mixture until dough comes together.
  5. Wrap dough in plastic and flatten into a rectangle. Chill until firm, at least 2 hours. Do ahead: Dough can be made 5 days ahead. Keep chilled. Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before continuing.
  6. Place fennel seeds in a resealable plastic freezer bag. Coarsely crush with a rolling pin or the bottom of a skillet. Alternatively, pulse in a spice mill until coarsely crushed. Transfer to a bowl; stir in sea salt. Set fennel salt aside.
  7. Arrange a rack in the center of oven and preheat to 350F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. 
  8. Remove plastic wrap from dough. Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface to a 10x8-inch rectangle about 1/4-inch thick. 
  9. Cut until 18 equal rectangles. Arrange cookies on the prepared baking sheet, spacing 1-inch apart. Brush cookies generously with olive oil and then sprinkle with the fennel salt.
  10. Bake, rooting sheet halfway through, until cookies are golden brown (flecks of cheese will be slightly darker), 20–24 minutes. 
  11. Let cool on sheets for at least 10 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature. Do ahead: Can be made 2 days ahead. Store airtight at room temperature.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Mocha Chocolate Chip Cake

There is something about a classic tiered cake on a cake stand, with a ton of frosting on it, a candle in the center and a family singing "Happy Something" around the dinner table. Well, it was my aunt and uncles 18th anniversary. One of my favorite aunt and uncle ever! They've given me two fabulous cousins, and it was so good having all four of them visit us in New York. 
So when it came to baking a cake for their anniversary, I reached out for one of my favorite cookbooks– Alice's Tea Cup and decided to make the Mocha Chocolate Chip Cake that they rave about. Now I understand why— and hopefully you will soon too!

As the book says: If you like coffee (coffee to drink, coffee ice cream, iced mocha lattes, or all of the above), prepare to never make another cake again!

The recipe below is the original recipe from the book– Jean's Not-Yet-but-Soon-to-Be-Famous Mocha Chocolate Chip Cake. The only change I made was from the recipe was that I used my electric stand mixer instead of mixing it by hand. The rest remains the same.

Makes one 8-inch 2-layer cake

For the Cake
1 stick (1/2 cup) salted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups turbinado sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups sifted all-purpose flour (Alice's Tea Cup recommends Hecker's unbleached flour)
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 level teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons 2% or whole milk (I used whole milk)
3/4 cup to 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips, to taste

For the Frosting
8 heaping teaspoons instant espresso powder
7 cups (two 1-pound boxes) confectioners' sugar
2 sticks (1 cup) salted butter, at room temperature
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 to 2 cups semisweet chocolate chips


  1. To make the cake, preheat the oven to 350F, and butter and flour two 8-inch round cake pans, and mix well. Set them aside.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar by hand. Add the eggs and vanilla, and mix well. 
  3. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt, also by hand. Add half the flour mixture to the wet mixture, and mix thoroughly. Then mix in half the milk,  followed by the remaining flour mixture, and then the remaining flour mixture, and then the remaining milk, mixing after each addition. 
  4. Add the chocolate chips, and mix again.
  5. Pour the batter into the prepared cake pans and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the cake has pulled away from the sides of the pan and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Set the cake layers aside on a wire rack to cool thoroughly before removing from the pans and frosting.
  6. To make the frosting, combine the espresso powder with 6 to 10 teaspoons boiling-hot water (use less water for a strong mocha flavor and more water for a milder flavor). Set aside.
  7. In a large mixing bowl, thoroughly mix one-third of the confectioners' sugar with the butter, salt, and vanilla. Add the next one-third of the sugar, then the final third, mixing well after each addition. 
  8. Add the espresso a little at a time, mixing well as you go, until the frosting has reached the desired consistency. 
  9. Add the chocolate chips and mix again.
  10. To build the cake, frost both layers and stack them; then frost the sides of the cake. (Be sure to wait until the layers have cooled fully; you don't want to melt the chocolate chips!)

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Three-Cheese Spinach Dip

The very first entry I made in this blog was from Chef Suvir Saran's book, American Masala for Double Basil Spicy Mussels. This book is fabulous! I bought it when I saw it on sale at Williams Sonoma, without a clue of who Saran was. Turns out that he is the chef of Manhattan acclaimed restaurant Devi. I have used this book so much (all the cooking stains on the book are justice) and his recipes have proved yummier each round. 

This is what I took to a potluck last night with my fabulous girlfriends. Soul food, last night was definitely not about skinny-girl time (although we did talk about the Skinny Girl Diet a lot!). Mumtaz made her SPECTACULAR biryani, Amita brought yummy and spicy potatoes. To work with the fiery Pakistani and Indian flavors on the table, this Three-Cheese Spinach Dip was a great way to start the evening, as it had a great kick to it with Habañero and lots of black pepper. 

Saran says that this spinach dip may be the richest, creamiest, and most satisfying that you have ever made. It's redolent with heady cheeses like Parmigianno-Reggiano and Gouda and emerges from the oven with a golden Fontina crust. If you plan on serving the dip in a bread bowl, brush the edges of the hollowed-out bread with olive oil or melted butter prior to placing it under the broiler– and keep an eye on the bread to make sure it doesn't burn while the cheese browns (you can cover the edge with a ring of aluminum foil to protect it).

This is definitely a recipe I am going to repeat for a party. Most of it can be made ahead and that's always a plus point! 

Adapted from American Masala, Suvir Saran
Serves 8–10
For the dip
1 pound frozen spinach, thawed
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon ground peppercorns
1/2 teaspoon Habañero powder (or red pepper flakes)
1/2 teaspoon dried Oregano
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups heavy cream
4 ounces aged Gouda cheese, grated
4 ounces Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon kosher salt

For the topping
8 ounces Fontina cheese, grated
1/4 cup panko bread crumbs
1/4 teaspoon ground peppercorns

Tortilla chips or a bread bowl, for serving

  1. To make the dip, wrap the spinach in a clean kitchen towel and wring until the spinach is free of liquid.
  2. Melt the butter with ground peppercorns, Habañero, and thyme in a large saucepan over medium-high heat, cooking until fragrant, about 1 1/2 minutes.
  3. Add the flour, reduce heat to medium, and store for 1 1/2 minutes.
  4. Whisk in the heavy cream and cook until the mixture begins to thicken and bubble, stirring occasionally, 2 to 3 minutes. 
  5. Stir in the Gouda and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheeses, spinach, nutmeg, and salt and continue cooking for 2 minutes. 
  6. Transfer the spinach to a shallow 1 1/2-quart oven-safe casserole or gratin dish. (At this point the dip can be refrigerated for up to 2 days; bring to room temperature before proceeding.)
  7. Set an oven rack 6-inches from heating element and preheat the broiler. 
  8. Make the topping: Combine all topping ingredients and sprinkle over the spinach dip.
  9. Broil until the cheese is browned and bubbly, 5 to 10 minutes (watch carefully as broilers vary).
Cooks Tip: Add canned artichokes hearts to the left over dip, and serve Three-Cheese Artichoke and Spinach Dip. 

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Oyster Sauce Chicken with Ginger and Mushrooms

Comfort food for me are many things, Chinese food is high up on the list. My mother grew up in Singapore, so she cooked a lot of Chinese and Singaporean foods at home (in Mumbai, India). Lately, I've been loving cooking recipes from Ching-He Huang's cookbook, Ching's Everyday Easy Chinese. The reasons: Easy, Fast and Healthy. Once you have your pantry stocked with the ingredients she recommends, then you're all set to whip up a quick Chinese meal. All the ingredients she asks for are easily available in any Chinese supermarket, none of which are expensive. 

Her top 10 essential Chinese pantry ingredients are:

  1. Light soy sauce
  2. Dark soy sauce
  3. Shaoshing rice wine
  4. Toasted sesame oil
  5. Five-spice powder
  6. Sichuan peppercorns
  7. Chinkiang black rice vinegar
  8. Clear rice vinegar
  9. Chili bean sauce
  10. Chili sauce

This is one of Ching's own flavor combination recipe, inspired from the southern Chinese dishes from regions such as Canton and Fujian, where the combination of meat and seafood is very common. 

You may have noticed that many Chinese recipes call for vegetables to be cut on the diagonal. It is a simple Chinese cooking technique to expose more of the vegetable's surface area to heat to help it cook quicker and to absorb more of the seasonings and sauces. In this recipe the scallions are cut on the diagonal. 

Here is the revised recipe, hope you make it and enjoy it as much as we did! 

Serves 2–4 to share
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 9 minutes

1 lb boneless skinless chicken, thinly sliced
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 tbsp cornstarch
1 tbsp peanut oil
1-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and sliced
1 tbsp Shaoshing rice wine, or dry sherry
5–7 shiitake mushrooms (I used button mushrooms)
2 large scallions, sliced on the diagonal

For the sauce
1 tbsp light soy sauce
1 tbsp oyster sauce
1 tbsp chili sauce
7 tbsp cold vegetable stock


  1. Place the chicken in a bowl and season with salt and pepper. Add the cornstarch and mix well to coat the chicken.
  2. Pour all ingredients of the sauce in another bowl and stir together to combine.
  3. Heat a wok over high heat until it starts to smoke and add the peanut oil. 
  4. Add the ginger and fry for a few seconds, then add the chicken pieces and stir-fry another 4 minutes, stirring constantly. 
  5. As the chicken starts to turn opaque, add the rice wine or dry sherry and cook for an additional 2 minutes, then add the sauce and bring to a boil. 
  6. Add the mushrooms and cook for 1 minute, then stir in the scallions. 
  7. Remove from heat and serve immediately.