Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Chocolate and Cheese together.

My mother grew up between Singapore and Jakarta, and although we grew up in Bombay we spent every summer in Singapore and Jakarta with my grandparents and uncles. My mom would take us around to malls, to meet friends, to the markets, to the kiddie entertainment areas and no matter where we went, there was always street food available. The one that stands out the most to me after all these years is the sweet (chocolate) and savory (cheese) martabak.
Martabak is a pancake that has been folded over with a stuffing, like a calzone. It can be sweet, savory or sweet and savory. 
My brother and I loved it so much that our treat snack growing up in Bombay was white sandwich bread made into a sandwich with chocolate sprinkles and grated cheddar cheese. Kids laughed at me in school for loving the combination of chocolate and cheese, and till today many people don't understand my love for the combination… but think about it, we all love chocolate cheesecake, or cheesecake brownies or salted truffles! So why not chocolate and cheese?

This sandwich is my take on my childhood treat. And it hit the spot for comfort food! 

Serves 4

8 slices sourdough bread or white sandwich bread
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
6 ounces Quadrello di Bufala or Talegio cheese 
6 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
2 tsp chipotle powder 

  1. Preheat a nonstick skillet.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, toss together the cheese, chocolate chips and chipotle powder.
  3. Brush both sides of the bread with olive oil.
  4. Compile sandwiches with the oiled sides of the bread on the outside.
  5. Grill the sandwiches on the skillet for 2–3 minutes on each side until the chocolate–cheese mixture begins to melt and bread turns golden.
Get into your comfiest pajamas, watch your favorite TV show and eat this sandwich. 

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Rich Devil's Food Cupcakes

Pumpkin scones. That's what I set out to bake in the morning yesterday for our cousin Heena and her absolutely adorable daughter Jiyaa who were coming over for a play date in the afternoon. As soon as I began to measure the flour I saw that I was a cup short! The need to bake was itching at me, so I looked through my books until I found a recipe that called for no more than a cup full of flour and ensuring that the rest of the ingredients were those that I had on hand. And that's how and why I baked these cupcakes. They came out moist and yummy, and from 12, we only have 2 left! 

This recipe is from the book Cupcakes by Shelly Kaldunski. I haven't baked cupcakes in a long time, but now that I've started, I'm excited to try more– Chai and Honey Cupcakes will be the next bake. 

Baking has been a passion of mine since I was a little girl. My mother bakes fabulously, and I learnt from her. Her two main rules that I still live by are: 1. Never mess with the measurements and 2. Eggs, butter and any other refrigerated ingredient such as buttermilk should always be at room temperature unless the recipe asks for otherwise.

Makes 12 cupcakes

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
4 tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup lukewarm water
1/4 cup buttermilk

Rich Chocolate Glaze
1 cup heavy cream
1 tbsp light corn syrup
Pinch salt
8 oz semisweet chocolate, chopped
  1. Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350F. Line a standard 12-cup muffin pan with paper or foil liners.
  2. Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt in a bowl. 
  3. In another bowl, with an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat the granulated sugar, brown sugar and butter together until light and fluffy, 2–3 minutes. 
  4. Add the egg and vanilla and beat until combined; scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Beat on medium-high speed just until no traces of flour remain, 30 seconds; do not overbeat.
  5. Divide the batter evenly among the prepared muffin cups, filling each about three-fourths full. Bake until  toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean, 18–20 minutes. Let the cupcakes cool in the pan on a wire rack for 5 minutes. Transfer the cupcakes to the wire rack and let cool completely, about 1 hour.
  6. As the cupcakes cool, make the glaze. In a small saucepan combine the cream, corn syrup and salt. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Remove the pan from the heat, add the chocolate, and let stand for about 3 minutes. 
  7. Using a wooden spoon, stir the mixture until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth. Let cool to room temperature and use right away. 
The glazed cupcakes can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 4 days; bring to room temperature before finishing and serving.
The cooled glaze can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 3 days; before using, soften the glaze by gently heating in a heatproof bowl set over, but not touching, simmering water in a saucepan.

Monday, February 20, 2012


As you may have seen, I'm scone obsessed! Love to eat them, love to bake them, and I love tea. 
My dear friend Reha, who is beyond fabulous with her baking skills, called me and asked if I have a good recipe for cinnamon scones. My first instinct was to look up one of my favorite cookbooks– Alice's Tea Cup. The recipe there wasn't the conventional scone, flavored with cinnamon, but instead cinnascones, inspired from cinnamon buns. I guarantee that when you do bake these scones, you will have NO left overs! 
Makes 10–12 scones
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 tsp baking soda
1 3/4 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp kosher salt
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
3/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1 1/4 sticks (10 tbsp) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 cup buttermilk
3/4 tsp almond extract
1/4 cup heavy cream (for brushing)
Cinnamon Paste
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
Frosting Drizzle
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
2 1/2 tbsp whole milk
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg.
  3. With clean hands, work the butter into the dry mixture until it is thoroughly incporated and has the consistency of fine breadcrumbs.
  4. Make a well in the center of the dry mixture, and pour buttermilk and almond extract into the well. Still using your hands, mix the ingredients until all the wet ingredients are absorbed by the dry. Then knead the mixture about 7 times— no more.
  5. Turn the dough onto a floured surface, and using a floured rolling pin, roll it out to form a 1/2-inch-thick rectangle.
  6. Make the cinnamon paste by combining the btuter, brown sugar, and cinnamon in a small saucepan over low heat and stirring until the sugar is completely dissolved.
  7. Smear the cinnamon paste over the entire surface of the rolled-out dough. Starting at the one long side, roll the dough tightly to create a long cylinder. Using an extremely sharp knife, slice the roll into 1-inch-thick disks. Lay the disks on their sides, spacing them about 2 inches apart, on a nonstick baking sheet. Carefully press them with the palm of your hand to flatten them to 1/2 inch thick.
  8. Using a pastry brush, brush the tops of the disks liberally with the heavy cream.
  9. Reduce the oven temperature to 350°F and bake the scones for 15 to 20 minutes, or until firm and golden on top. Remove from the oven and let cool on the baking sheet for about 20 minutes.
  10. To make the frosting, drizzle, combine the confectioners’ sugar, milk, and almond extract in a medium bowl and whisk until smooth.
  11. Using a spoon or a pastry bag, drizzle the tops of the Cinnascones in whatever design moves you! 
  12. Best served warm

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Brussel Sprouts Pizza

I love brussels sprouts. I love pizza. I also love to cook in my cast-iron skillet. Put them together, and you've got a Brussels Sprouts Pizza in a cast iron skillet. 
This recipe is a mix of several recipes– the pizza dough is a recipe from Sara Moulten, the idea of brussels sprouts on a pizza from Martha Stewart Living and then a few tweaks made by me, to suit my pantry and taste.
You can use store bought pizza or make your own (recipe below), but this one will definitely be a crowd pleaser. 

I make the pizza dough when I have the time and freeze them in individual portions. It defrosts on the counter in half an hour which works fabulously for a quick week night dinner.

Food Processor Pizza Dough
Makes 4 servings
Hands-on-time 10 minutes
Total preparation time 45 minutes

To quote Sara Moulten: "Making pizza dough in the food processor is a snap. You don't have to know how to knead; the machine does all the work. What's left is the fun– tossing in the herbs or spices. Chopped fresh rosemary or thyme, cracked black pepper, cumin seeds, and chili powder– these are all good ideas"

2 to 2 1/2 cups unsifted, unbleached all-purpose flour
One 1/4-ounce package quick-rising yeast (about 2 1/4 teaspoons)
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon table salt
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

1. Combine 1 3/4 cups of the flour, the yeast, sugar and salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the chopping blade. Add 3/4 cup very warm water (120 to 130F) and the oil; process until a soft dough forms. Add as much of the remaining flour, 1/4 cup at time, as necessary to make the dough manageable.
2. Shape the dough in a ball and place in an oiled bowl, turning so an oiled surface is up. Cover and let rise in a warm place until double in size, about 35 minutes. 

Brussel Sprouts Pizza
Makes one 12-inch pizza
Active time 15 minutes
Total time 25 minutes

This recipe is mostly taken from Martha Stewarts Living March 2012. The only change was the elimination of lemon.

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
3/4 pound pizza dough (recipe above or store bought)
3 ounces lightly salted fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced
1 1/2 ounces finely grated Pecorino Romano cheese (about 3/4 cup)
3 cups packed brussels sprouts leaves (from about 1/2 pound)
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper

1. Preheat oven to 500F. Brush a 12-inch cast-iron skillet with 1 teaspoon oil. Press dough flat in skillet, spreading to edge (if it retracts, let rest 5 minutes before continuing). Brush a 1-inch border around edge with 1 teaspoon oil
2. Scatter mozzarella and half the Pecorino evenly over dough, leaving a 1/4-inch border around edge.
3. Toss brussels sprouts with remaining Pecorino, remaining 2 teaspoon oil, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Scatter sprout mixture over cheeses.
4. Cook over medium-high heat until bottom is golden brown, 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer to oven and bake until edges of sprouts start to char, edge of crust is golden, and dough is cooked through, about 10 minutes. Season with pepper.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Olive Oil Pancakes / Tortillas de Aciete de Olivia

I grew up (in Mumbai, India) with pancakes for breakfast every Sunday morning. Pancakes and waffles. Those days getting non-Indian groceries weren't easy. So my mother would make the batter from scratch. Even the maple syrup was bought when we travelled abroad. It was a fabulous treat! 
And in time, when mixes became easily available, she began to make both– the batter from scratch and from the mixes too. 
When I got married and moved to New York, I'd make pancakes using the Stonewall Kitchen Pancake and Waffle Mix and hooked my husband onto the Sunday morning pancake breakfast tradition too. However, it's been a while since we had pancakes, and I was woken up by a hungry husband this morning with three words: "I want pancakes!"
Thankfully, we were out of the mix, which motivated me to make these pancakes from scratch. They were far better, light and fluffy and not much more work. The mix calls for you to melt butter, add the wet ingredients (butter, egg and milk) to the ready dry mix. This recipe probably adds about 5 more minutes to the prep time and it's all yours from scratch! 
As José Andrés says in the recipe: "Once you are in on the secret that you can make pancakes with healthy olive oil, why would you ever want to use butter again?"
He makes these with chocolate chips, and I would have to if I wasn't out of it. Andrés also asks for these to be served with Spanish lemon honey, but I chose to use some of the fabulous Jansal Valley Ginger Maple Syrup I had from Sid Wainer's. (They have other fabulous maple syrup products!)
The only change I made in the recipe was while cooking the pancakes. I stopped use olive oil in the pan as it burnt the pancakes within seconds. Work with a good non-stick skillet and you can do it without any additional olive oil.

Serves 4
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tbsp sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 egg, lightly beaten (or use egg replacer)
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
2 tbsp Spanish extra-virgin olive oil
1/3 cup dark chocolate, preferably Spanish, broken into small pieces
1/4 cup honey, preferably Spanish lemon honey
Fresh mint leaves

Mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt together in a mixing bowl.
Whisk in the egg, buttermilk and 2 tbsp of the olive oil, until you have a smooth batter.
Then stir in the chocolate pieces.

Heat the pan and ladle 1/4 cup of the pancake mixture into the pan and cook until golden brown. Flip the pancake with a spatula and cook until golden brown on the second side.
Transfer the pancake to a warm oven.
Repeat with the remaining batter.
To serve, drizzle the pancakes with honey and garnish with mint.

José's Tip:
These pancakes are a perfect showcase for some of Spain's most delicious products– olive oil, chocolate and honey– so be sure to seek them out in speciality markets.
Two speciality stores that I recommend in Manhattan for some good Spanish ingredients are: Despaña and Ideal Cheese

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Creamy Orzo Risotto

I was inspired by a recipe in Anabel Karmel's book, Top 100 Baby Purees and made this for dinner one night for my 13 month old son. He loved it! But so did my husband and I that re-made it a few days later for all there of us. It was a breath of fresh air not to have to make two separate dinners, but to finally be able to do a one-pot meal for the whole family. 

For all those mommies out there, who are cooking separate meals, I'm going to try and start blogging more recipes that can work for all at home. We all get to eat yummy and healthy together!  

Serves 4
2 tbsp unsalted butter
3 tbsp minced onion
1 tbsp ginger and garlic paste or finely minced
2 cups mixed vegetables (asparagus, mushrooms, red peppers and peas), cut into bite-sized pieces that your toddler is comfortable with eating
3–4 leaves of basil (optional)
2 cups orzo
3 1/2 cups homemade chicken stock
2 tbsp grated parmesan cheese, plus more to sprinkle on top

  1. Heat the butter in a dutch oven or a thick-bottomed pot over medium heat.
  2. Sauté the onion and ginger garlic paste until the onion is pink (do not brown it).
  3. Mix in the vegetables and basil, stir occasionally for 3 minutes.
  4. Add the orzo, coat well with the vegetable mixture.
  5. Now add1/2 cup of the chicken stock, mix it for 5 minutes continuously. Pour in another 1/2 cup of the stock, stir and let it cook for a few minutes until almost all of the stock (but not all) has been absorbed. Continue doing so until the balance stock is over. This will take about 20 minutes in total. Stir occasionally as you add the additional stock.
  6. Remove from fire, add the cheese and taste for salt. Season with salt, if needed.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Greek Yogurt with Honey and Caramelized Walnuts

My husband and I frequent a restaurant called Gambrinus in Las Palmas, Canary Islands, whenever we are in the island. We end up having long Sunday lunches there, with pitchers of sangria and an excessive amount of delicious tapas. At the end of the meal, we're stuffed, but still need that little bite of sweet to 'close the chapter'. And this dessert is perfect. 

The recipe is even easier. 
Fat-free greek yogurt
Drizzled with good quality honey
Topped with caramelized walnuts

You're done! Serve and impress your guests.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Seared Piquillo Peppers stuffed with Roncal Cheese

Roasted piquillo peppers are always in our pantry. They are nice blended in to make a sauce, added in a soup or to a salad and in a paella. So when I read this recipe, I was glad to have another reason to use it. This recipe was from Jose Andrés book Made in Spain. As you can see, I love his recipes, from the two recipes blogged here– the Spicy Chorizo with Mushrooms and Herb-Marinated Olives.

This had my guests rolling their eyeballs. And it is also a great tapa for your vegetarian guests. I recommend stuffing the peppers ahead of time so that when your guests arrive you sear and plate it within minutes. 

The piquillo pepper is a variety of chili traditionally grown in Northern Spain over the town of Lodosa. Its name is derived from Spanish for "little beak". If you cannot find these, you can substitute it with roasted red peppers. 

Roncal cheese is a Spanish sheep's milk cheese. It has a nutty and piquant flavor, with a firm and chewable texture. If not available, it can be substituted with Manchego cheese, which is readably available in most supermarkets. 

Serves 4 tapa portions
5 tbsp Spanish extra-virgin olive oil
1 tbsp Spanish aged Sherry Vinegar
1 tbsp minced shallot
1/2 spring onion, white part only, thinly sliced
Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
8 piquillo peppers
4 ounces Roncal cheese (Spanish sheep's milk cheese), cut into 2-inch thick sticks*
Fresh thyme sprigs
Fresh parsley sprigs
 *You could stuff these peppers with any of your favorite cheeses.

Whisk together 4 tbsp of the olive oil, vinegar and onions in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
Cut a slit in each piquillo pepper and slide a piece of cheese in each.
Heat the remaining 1 tbsp oil in a medium sauté pan on high heat. Add the peppers and brown on both sides, 30 seconds each.
Transfer the peppers to a plate.
Drizzle with dressing and sprinkle with both thyme and parsley sprigs.
Serve immediately.

Herb-Marinated Olives

I love most things Spanish. I also love all things olive, except for the olive fruit itself! But this just looked so pretty that I had to try it. And since all our guests at lunch this afternoon were olive fans, it was a good opportunity to try it. 
This recipe was taken from Jose Andrés book Made in Spain
To quote him: Olives grow throughout Spain, and the varieties from each region have distinct flavors. Pick your favorite olives for this dish– as long as they're from Spain. Here I've used a selection of the country's best varieties.

Serves 4 to 6
1 orange
5 garlic cloves
1 cup Empeltre or any black cured olive
1 cup Arbequina or any small green olive
1 cup Manzanilla olives (large green olive also known as Spanish olives)
2 bay leafs
3 fresh thyme sprigs, broken up with your fingers
2 fresh rosemary sprigs, broken up with your fingers
1 cup Spanish extra-virgin olive oil, preferably of Arbequina variety
2 tbsp Marcona almonds
Coarse sea salt, to taste

Using a vegetable peeler remove the zest from half an orange and then squeeze the juice of the entire orange into a bowl.
Peel and crush the garlic cloves using the back of a knife and add it to the bowl.
Add the rest of the ingredients to the bowl and mix well.
Cover with plastic wrap and let it marinate overnight or at least 4 hours. It can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
Be sure to bring the olives to room temperature before serving.
Garnish with the almonds and salt (if required).

For dinner my husband created an open faced sandwich for us– some fresh salad tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, basil, avocado and these marinated olives. 

Chorizo with Mushrooms

My aunt and uncle were over this afternoon for lunch with my cousins Pooja and Divya. They requested that I make a paella. My uncle loves lobster and shrimp, so a seafood paella it was! The paella recipe was secretly shared to me in a private lesson with a chef from our favorite restaurant in the Canary Islands. Chef Juan swore me to secrecy, so sshhh! this one stays with me. But the tapas were pretty fabulous (if I may say so!) and so much fun to make.
Most of the prep work was done the night before, so cooking for lunch this morning was fun and quick.
The tapa that was fabulous for me was this one– Chorizo with mushrooms.
This recipe was inspired by Jose Andrés recipe for Catalan pork sausage with mushrooms in his book Made in Spain

Serves 4 tapa portions
1/2 pound spicy chorizo, thinly sliced
1/4 pound mixed wild mushrooms (I used Black Trumpet and Hedgehog mushrooms*)
1 tbsp Spanish extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 onion sliced
1 tbsp Spanish sherry vinegar
1 bay leaf
2 springs fresh thyme
2 tbsp raisins
2 tbsp pine nuts
1 tbsp chopped flat leaf parsley


  1. Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the sausages and brown on both sides, about 2 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and transfer to a plate.
  2. Add the onions to the pan and cook, stirring occasionally, until it is soft and golden brown, about 10 minutes.
  3. Deglaze the pan with the vinegar and add the mushrooms, thyme, bay leaf and thyme. 
  4. Cook for another 5-7 minutes, or until the juices from the mushroom have evaporated.
  5. Return the sausage to the pan, mix in the raisins and the pine nuts.
  6. Season to taste with salt and garnish with the parsley.
Enjoy! This one will get your eyeballs rolling all over and your guests busy with eating! 
*Black Trumpet mushrooms are from France and Hedgehog mushrooms are from the Pacific Northwest and also from Europe. 

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Soy and Citrus Marinated Tofu Burger

I have cooked from Tasting Table's recipe series several times before, and this is yet another great recipe. It works well for a quick dinner, although it does require a little planning ahead as the tofu needs to be grilled and then marinated for 8 hours. The change I made was that I broiled the tofu in the oven to crisp it up slightly.

Tasting Table says: Angelo Sosa has reinvigorated the genre with the soy-and-citrus-marinated tofu burger ($8) at Social Eatz, his new Midtown spot. 232 East 53rd Street (between Second and Third Avenues) 212.207.3339 or

Makes 4 burgers
1/2 cup low-sodium soy sauce
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1 pound firm tofu, sliced lengthwise into 4 equal pieces 
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
Olive oil
2 tablespoons Sriracha
3/4 cup mayonnaise
4 potato buns
Iceberg lettuce, shredded
Red onion, thinly sliced
1 jalapeño pepper, thinly sliced
Cilantro springs

  1. Whisk together soy sauce and lime juice in a large, shallow dish and set aside.
  2. Preheat a grill over high heat. Season the tofu with salt and pepper. Lightly oil, then place on the grill. Sear the tofu for 2 minutes on each side. Place the seared tofu in the reserved marinade, cover with plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator for at least 8 hours or overnight.
  3. Remove the tofu from the refrigerator and allow it to come to room temperature, about 45 minutes.
  4. In a small bowl, mix together the Sriracha and mayonnaise until well combined. Set aside.
  5. Preheat the oven to 350F. Place the tofu on a sheet pan and heat in the oven until warm, about 5 minutes. Place the buns on another sheet tray and toast in the oven until warm, about 2 minutes.
  6. To assemble: spread the Sriracha mayonnaise on both sides of the toasted bun. On the bottom bun, place the lettuce, tofu, red onion, jalapeño slices and cilantro sprigs. Finish with the top bun and serve right away.