Savory Onion Quick Bread

My love affair with breakfast foods continues to flourish! While oatmeal is my favorite breakfast, eggs come a very close second. Eggs are for the weekend, oatmeal for weekdays - how about that for conflict resolution!

I like my eggs creamy and firm, with just a little black pepper. Hold the ketchup, please! Eggs and toast are standard weekend fare but white bread has never been a big favorite of mine. Not even in Bombay, not even after we stopped by the Modern Bread factory near Aarey Milk Colony on a picnic! Loved the smells and all but found the bread lacking.

This summer, I was going to bake something for a friend's shower. The menu had a lot of sweet breads and we were looking for something savory. Came upon this recipe for Savory Onion Quick Bread. Being a believer in the peer-review process (famous last words!), I love Allrecipes! I made a 'few' changes: 1) Used whole wheat and white flour, 2) Stuck with butter, I'll pass on the transfat! 3) Sauteed the onions with garlic and oregano. One of the reviewers on the Allrecipes site mentioned the 'disturbingly yellow color of the onions' (!!) and so I decided to caramelize mine!

Did a 'dry run' before the shower and you can see the end product below. The bread was simple to make, pretty forgiving and appropriately savory. It wasn't super moist and I guess one could add some butter/yoghurt to improve the texture. However I quite liked it.

Made little mini loaves and mini muffins for the shower. They were easy to serve and made a nice, mild counter point to sweeter breakfast breads. Enjoy!

My entry for Nandita's Weekend Breakfast Blogging (WBB) # 7. Don't miss the fabulous round up!


Jackfruit muffins aka Halsinahannu Appa

Jaggery, with its deep, mellow sweetness and gorgeous golden hue, is a frequent and much-beloved ingredient in South Kanara cooking. My earliest jaggery memories are from when we (my brother and I) were kids. Summer vacations often involved a trip to 'ooru' (aka 'native village' or where my father grew up). On a hot summer day, you would step into a cool house and be offered a glass of water and some jaggery. It was refreshing! Since then, my palate has been jaded with pop and other refrigerated delights but water and jaggery still work great!

No jaggery story would be complete without a mention of my father's love of jaggery. After dinner, irrespective of how lavish or how modest our meal was, he would find room for a little piece of jaggery. It was a quick maneuver, executed with smoothness and precision. You would barely catch sight of the little piece of 'bella' (thats what jaggery is called in kannada) as it sailed in a graceful parabolic arc into his mouth!

Prime examples of jaggery in South Kanara cooking include:
1. Hesaru Bele Payasa (Moong Bean Payasa): Nutritious payasa made with moong dal and coconut milk, sweetened with jaggery. Ghee roasted cashew and raisins take it up a notch. In my graduate student days, I have eaten this for breakfast - yum!

2. Panchakajaaya: Sweet mix-of-five-things often served as 'prasad'. Usually features five out of the folowing beaten rice (avlakki or poha), coconut, cardomom, jaggery, ghee, poppy seeds. No cooking involved, just toss together. Quite delicious!

3. Kannada version of Modak: Dumplings made with a paste of rice flour and a filling of jaggery and coconut, steamed in turmeric leaves. Ganesh Chathurthi special!

4. Last but not the least, kannada version of appams. These sweet muffin-like creations usually feature rice, bananas, jaggery and coconut. I attempted to make Jackfruit Appa - HalsinaHannu (Ripe Jackfruit) Appa, to be precise!

I made two versions (the story follows), one with rice flour and the other with wheat flour. Traditionally, the appa is made in a special skillet with rice flour. This summer, one of our aunts served us a modified version made with wheat flour and like everything she makes, it was DELICIOUS! Using the lack of the special skillet as an excuse, I started to work on a recipe. I called my consultants, in this case, my brother and my parents! My question was simple, which of the two flours should I use and should I use rising agents, like baking soda/yoghurt? Methodical scientists that we are, they suggested I try all the options!!!!! Make one batch with rice flour, the second with wheat, and a third with both, suggested my father!! My brother was no different. However, the astute scientist will realize that we're increasing the number of fixed effects (flour, rising agent), opening ourselves to the possibility of interaction and moving towards a more complicated design. So I decided to simplify things, made one batch with rice flour (picture above) and another with wheat (picture below).

Personally, I think the rice flour tastes like the traditional appa, the wheat flour version tastes like a muffin. Ripe jackfruit acquires a shy sweetness, in the presence of the robust flavors of coconut, rice and jaggery. The jackfruit-iness is more obvious with the wheat flour.

Heres what I did:
-Ground coconut and jackfruit (canned) in a blender.
-Dissolved jaggery in warm water and added it to the mixture in the blender.
-For the rice version: Added idli rava. For the wheat flour version: Added whole wheat flour + 1 tablespoon of wheat germ.
-Baked in a silicone muffin pan for 18 minutes
-Dotted with butter, baked 5 more minutes.
-Things to watch out for: My 'consultants' reminded me to not use too much water. Just make the batter dropping consistency, not flowing consistency.
-Baking + topping with butter (hopefully) resulted in a healthier version, but in the interests of authenticity I must confess that the traditional version involves a skillet and plenty of butter!

Anyhoo, here is my version of Jackfruit Appa - Enjoy!

Here are links to blogs that have appam recipes:
I found these blogs particularly useful however this list of links is by no means comprehensive. If you'd like to send links my way, I would be delighted to view and add them. All of the bloggers below have wonderful stories to share and have pictures of the end product. The recipes are not exactly the same, lots of variations on a general theme. Makes me happy to know that there are many ways to happiness in life!

1. Priya of Priya's Kitchen
2. Monica of Monika gi Chakhum - Manipuri Food
3. Maheshwari of Beyond the Usual
4. Monisha of Coconut Chutney
5. Krithika of Manpasand
6. RP of My workshop

Update! Jivha For Ingredients Round-up by Kay from Towards a Better Tomorrow.


Weekend of Disasters

Oh dear - I'm afraid I don't really have any successes to report this week! Tried making spinach stromboli with pizza dough from Wegmans. I rolled it up too much and it turned out quite unglamorous. Then I tried to modify the oatmeal bars from a couple weeks ago. Decided I'd substitute some brown sugar for all the white sugar in there. The new version turned out chewy - yus, very chewy.

If you need proof of my thickheadedness, read on. Never one to give in gracefully, I kept going. Tried to make brownies using a recipe from Cooking Light. The thing to remember about recipes from Cooking Light is that everything that can be done to lighten the end product has ALREADY been done. Never improvise! The recipe is teetering on the edge, that dollop of yoghurt will send it over. Nevertheless, with cheerful insouciance, I ran my finger down the recipe, recklessly substituting yoghurt for honey, apple sauce, oil and whatever else I did not have handy. Rest assured, I wll be eating strangely grainy bownies for a long time. On the bright side, they may be a good beauty product - all that yoghurt should speed the exfoliation right along!! On second thoughts, perhaps they'd make good insulation. I should save my good looks :-)

I couln't bring myself to take pictures of the not-so-successful cooking, and so I'm going to distract you with my latest finds from the grocery aisle: Cider Chai adnd Chai Nog!!! Chai purists may wrinkle their noses at me but I am excited! For one thing, Oregon Chai has some nice flavors. I've quite enjoyed some of their flavors. I can never remember which one I like, and so I keep buying them all. Those devils in marketing know how to confuse the consumer and keep us shopping recklessly, but I digress. The point is Oregon Chai is exotic and flavorful - but sometimes a little over-budget. Now that Wegman's is full of seasonal cheer (the store is stuffed to the gills with Turkey and Christmas paraphernalia, it looks like the elves are on meth, but again, I digress), they have Cider Chai and Cider Nog on sale ($2.99 instead of the usual $3.99 or $4.99). So naturally, I bought two, saving a total of -$ 5.98! Anyhoo, so I'm dunking my grainy brownies and chewy oatmeal bars in Chai and hoping the cooking gods look upon me favorably next week!

Eating Out Windfall!

Caught the Georgia O'Keefe exhibit at the Memorial Art Gallery on Thursday night. Decided to stop at Cutler's for dinner. MAG is beautiful. The building reminds me of the Divinity School. The O'Keefe exhibit was good. They have these cute little gadgets so you can do your own audio tour. Its a cross between a remote control and a cell phone. Anyhoo, plenty of Stieglitz photos and a good variety of O'Keefe's work. With someone like her, its hard for one exhibition to really capture ALL of her. This exhibition focused on /'Color and Conservation'. I wish they'd included more about her evolution as an artist.

Thursday night is popular at the MAG because tickets are discounted. I snuck upstairs to see the Impressionst Gallery upstairs. It was FABULOUS! They have works by Monet, Matisse and Renoir, and even one by Braque in their 19th Century gallery. Even saw an Ingres! Being greedy, I searched for Degas but the two that they have are not currently on display. Gives me an excuse to be back!

The coolest thing about all of the works I've listed is that at MAG, you can stand right in front them, inches from the canvas. Its like being in the same space as the artist! Then as you step back, you can 'see' other things. You start to 'feel', its more than just what you see. I'd been working on a one page piece of writing all day and it was very cool to take that step back...

Back to food! Cutler's is cozy and located within the building. The food is good and reliably so. It won't make you weep or sigh in ecstasy but you will get a top-of-the-line soup/salad/pork chop/etc. I tried a soup and salad and to be fair, its hard to impress me with a soup and salad. The soup was a bisque, appropriately rich and creamy. The salad had a chocolate vinaigrette and candied pecans. They were both good.

Also went to dinner at the Pomodoro Grill. The food was outstanding - innovative, flavorful take on Italian. The portions are generous. The building and location are very interesting. You drive into a dark, no-frills parking lot, and enter a warm brick building. It has that massive warehouse feel, in complete contrast to the contemporary, sophisticated food. Was chatting at the bar, and caught a freight train passing by! Come to think of it, its all very yin and yang. Very masculine building, very sumptuous food :-D