Fruitful days

Far too much time is being spent with the laptop and not enough time with other human beans. Wish me luck, gentle reader. Here's hoping all this will bear fruit someday. Speaking of fruit, Fall brings sweet gifts. Pictured above are apples (? Red Delicious) by the Lake.

The plethora of choices had me waffling in the apple aisle at Wegman's this past week. (Yes, there is an apple aisle) Picked up some Cortlands and turned them into a Apple Clove Bread.

Heres what I did:

- Beat 4 Tablespoons butter, 2 Tablespoons yoghurt and half a cup of sugar (white and muscovado in equal parts). Added 2 eggs and half a cup of milk.
- Combined 1 and 1/3 cups mixed flour and 1 teaspoon baking powder. I used equal parts: whole wheat, amaranth, barley and oat flour!!
- Added 1.5 cups of chopped apples and 1 teaspooon fresh ground cloves.
- Baked at 350 for 60 minutes.

Voice of Experience:

The apple clove combination is delightful. I'm thinking about adding cinnamon next time. Tart apples like Golden Delicious would work even better. The flour combination was overkill. In general, oat flour is tricky to work with, in my admittedly limited experience. Will stick to whole wheat and a little amaranth or spelt next time. Else will make it in a flatter pan, like a 9x13 instead of a 9x5 loaf pan. To be fair, this a good snack or breakfast bread, hearty and flavorful without going overboard on the butter.

This one goes to Scott at The Real Epicurean for "In the Bag". Scott hosts this seasonal food-themed event and this month's feature is fruit!

Recipe links:
Apple Clove Cake


Get. Rich. Quick!

Theres no other way to say this. I have, what may politely be called, a baking disorder. Symptoms included the creation of this Rhubarb Bread, served with peaches from the Public Market.

I've pondered over the social whirl of the last few months when it suddenly struck me - I have the best guests. Honest! Its been so much fun. Please keep on coming over.

We've hiked by waterfalls, sipped wine and sighed over gorgeous summer sunsets by the lakes. We've talked non-stop, into the night over ice cream / parathas / beer. And of course, we've argued. French toast or omelette. Tea or coffee. Pandit Jasraj or Kanye West. Ah, the lively banter of vibrant relationships.

Much to my amazement, we didn't get lost. (Knock on wood). Not that I had anything to do with it. I am now the proud owner of a GPS thingamabob. (Feel the waves of rapture here - Thank you, Thank you, Thank you!!) Being little gadget-geeks, we drooled over the device and played with it. Personally, I attribute the vast popularity of the device to the fact that one can set it up so theres a woman with a British accent who orders one around!! In spite of my loud and strident demands to pick the American guy (Rich), the evil navigator chose the American chick. I'm waiting (im)patiently. Its only a matter of time before we get Rich.

And so the adventures continue! This one goes to Coffee for Monthly Blog Patrol!

Recipe Notes:
1. Rhubarb Bread was part of a Spring Brunch here (yum!)
2. Picture Perfect Rhubarb Bread here
3. Another version that uses oil instead of butter
4. Reccomended changes:
- Substitute whole wheat for all-purpose flour. Big improvement in texture.
- 1.5 cups brown sugar is overkill. Scant 1 cup is good. I've also chucked in strawberries in previous versions, when I worried that the bread will be too tart. Besides, I figured I can always top it with a little honey.

Chocolate Pistachio Shortbread

One immensely intriguing aspect of cooking for people is the matching of personalities and flavors... This whole business of trying to guess what flavors a given person will like is quite fascinating. Dutiful, mild mannered men with a passion for chocolate, stodgy WASPS at Wegman's adventurously diving into sushi... and then of course the brash thirty year old who cradles her oatmeal :-)

My favorite though, is the completely charming, well-behaved nineteen year old who wanted to try a new flavor of donut a day!!! I felt my arteries harden at the very suggestion. Shuddering delicately, I held the door open for her at Dunkin' Donuts and at the mothership Wegman's at Pittsford. While I couldn't bring myself to deep-fry at home, I wondered secretly, if I couldn't find a happy meeting ground. Something chocolatey, rich and sweet, that we all could enjoy...

Turned to the Joy Of Cooking series and sure enough, there was a recipe for Chocolate Shortbread. It met ALL our specifications, no small feat. It was loaded with chocolate, already putting it ahead of its competitors. It was NOT loaded with sugar, making me warm up to it even more! No eggs. The only change I made was to top with crushed pistachios, cashew nuts and cardamom. Time to embrace the inner desi!

Everybody LOVED it (though I say so myself). The recipe does not use baking soda or powder and all its richness comes from butter. But it is quite delicious, as shortbreads go and the nut topping endeared it to us even more. I was happy, to find a trans-fat-free, delicious treat. We ate it as a dessert and as a snack with tea, coffee and/or milk. We took it with us on a picnic - it held up quite well and was gone before we made it home!

Original Recipe from Joy of Cooking: All About Cookies

Why I try to read (and digest) more than one book at a time remains a mystery!

Recipe Update:
A thousand apologies for the delay in posting the recipe. Without further ado, here it is, modified from The Joy of Cooking: All about Cookies.

Heres what to do:
- Beat 1/2 pound (2 sticks) softened butter and 1/2 cup sugar until fluffy.
- Add 2 ounces melted bittersweet chocolate - I've added upto 4 ounces.
- Sift 1.5 cups flour and 1/2 cup cocoa over the melted chocolate / beaten butter mixture. (I used 1 cup all purpose flour and 1/2 cup amarant flour) Mix it all up nicely. Press dough into a 9x13 pan.
- Toast 1/2 cup mixed nuts. I used pistachio, cashew nuts and a couple pods green cardamom. Pulse till finely chopped or coarse. Press the chopped nut / cardamom mixture on top of the shortbread. A rolling pin makes quick work of this.
- Bake at 300 degrees F for about 40 mins. Test with a toothpick, the edges and nuts will appear lightly browned. Cut into bars and cool. Enjoy!

This one goes to Nags at "For the cook in me"! Show me your cookbooks!


Beans Pallya

One of the reasons I find South Kanara food so intriguing is that the exact same dish made by two different cooks ends up tasting completely different. My secret (though not quite original*) hypothesis is that the flavors of the food meld with the personalities of the chef. And the end result can be rather startling. Robust, bold curries emerge from the kitchens of bashful, self-effacing aunts; simple, satisfying pallyas made by taciturn, fastidious uncles.

Speaking of which, pallyas (not fastidious uncles) are one of the cornerstones of our evening meal at home. All kinds of vegetables were introduced to us, camouflaged in a benign pallya. Beans, cabbage, peans, suvarna gedde (literal: "golden tuber") have all featured in starring roles, at one time or the other.

The delightful thing about South Kanara cooking in general and pallya in particuar, is that it lends itself to infinite variation. On a school night, the pallya in question was a humble, no-frills affair. Chopped vegetables, with barely a hint of curry leaves. Perhaps some green chili echoing in the background... If guests dropped by or if we wanted to take it up a notch, a little jaggery and tamarind slipped in. Sometimes a quick squirt of lemon juice. And then of course, there is the dressed-to-impress pallya. This is the no-holds-barred pallya, decked in coriander, coconut and red chili. The vegetables boldly hold their own amidst the fanfare of all these exotic spices.

Ya gotta love 'em all!

I remember digging into my no-frills beans pallya and tomato saaru on a weeknight, pensively contemplating homework or some other injustice meted out at school! Such comfort food. Many years later, I marvelled at the uncomplicated genius of kene gedde (a.k.a. suran, elephant yam) pallya. The pallya brought back the simple pleasures of eating together, of a home-cooked meal... And then of course, there is the all-dressed-up pallya thats served at wedding feasts and such. Quite unforgettable! Even among, culinary celebrities like chitranna and all kinds of sambhar and huli, the pallya would shine.

So this weeks feature is beans pallya, a common feature from my menu(picture above). I confess that I've served it as a pallya, just as often as a side dish. I know, blasphemous! What to do - everybody likes it!

*The original idea for 'culinary witchcraft' came from Aunty Alia in Midnight's Children. What can I say, I'm a sucker for all things Bombay :-)

This post is for Asha of Foodie's Hope - hostess extraordinaire and wonderful, wonderful person. She is hosting RCI (Regional Cuisines of India) featuring Karnataka Cuisine this month. I can't wait for the round-up!