Gone Fishin'

As most of you know, I will be moving soon. I'm travelling light. I am excited! and scared! and a little sad... There are things about my life in Rochester that I will let go of with great reluctance. I wish I could capture this sense of peace and equilibrium, put it into a bottle and keep it by my side!

Coupled with this reluctance, like George Sheehan said, there is also "the desire to secure the self yet to be." One of these days, I will wrap things up nicely with this blog but in the meantime, many thanks for your wishes, for your generous affection and most of all, for your love.




The Chocolate Review

Picture: The Chokilait maestro in Melbourne

Heres a round-up of my favorite chocolate destinations! I certainly do not lack for distractions... The Chambourcin truffles we made at the New York Culinary Center were quite yum. And then I stumbled upon Vosges Chocolate Bars at Parkleigh. As if living within walking distance of Stever's is not enough temptation! I've held myself back with excruciating restraint. Happily, I surrended to temptation at Phillips European and Goodness Cakes on University Ave. And who can resist the miniature Opera Torte at the Little Bakery. Sigh.

What better way to sweat off those pounds than to sign up for a Chocaholics Historical Walking tour!! Suzie Wharton leads tours in Melbourne and shows off the city's gorgeous arcades. We paused for sustenance at 4 specialty chocolatiers in 2 hours. I thought I'd died and gone to heaven.

We started in Royal Arcade, at Haigh's Chocolates. Much ooh-ing and aah-ing over Haigh's creations. We trotted out to Deva, a specialty gift store. They had the most exquisite designs I've ever seen on handmade chocolates. Deva was a hard act to follow but Chokolait held its own. Tucked away in one of the rare calm nooks in the middle of Melbourne's shopping epicentre, Chokolait is where one goes to revive one's spirits. Their iced dark chocolate drink was perfection. With a spring in our step, we walked to Koko Black's. Really, we should refer to this as the Koko Black's chocolate temple. Their menu reads like a wish list and I could happily stand by their store all day, nose pressed to the glass, watching their chocolatiers work their magic. But I digress. We sampled their classic Belgian truffle. My worldly cares slipped away. I progressed into a higher state of consiousness.

Last, but not the least, my fondest chocolate memory is Soma in Toronto. We strolled into the shop plus kitchen one rainy summer afternoon. The Mayan Hot Chocolate piqued our interest... a combination of chocolate and Australian ginger, Madagascar Vanilla, orange peel, chili and SOMA spices! It was rich and sumptous, majestic and completely entrancing. It exceeded our wildest expectations. 'twas the high point of an incredibly good year ;-)



As most of you know by now, I have excellent taste in food and men. (What? I never said I was modest!) The happy intersection of these two, led me to bills in Sydney!

I went to the original location in Darlinghurst for brunch on a Friday morning. The legendary communal table was gone but the the place was bustling. The restaurant is housed in an unassuming grey building, a block away from busy Victoria St. The wait staff, dressed in black, are a blur. Honestly, their movements are choreographed, those embodiments of efficiency.

So I put myself in their hands, ordered a cappucino and bill's famous corn fritters. Allow me to explain. Many items enjoy star status on the breakfast menu. For example, the eggs routinely get rave reviews! The ricotta hotcakes and corn fritters please the most exacting palates. bills is known for not just good food prepared with fresh, flavorful ingredients but CONSISTENT good food. The latter, as we know, is much harder!

The restaurant is great for people watching. One table was in the middle of what looked like a business meeting, complete with macbook and coffee, over breakfast. In a nook, two women dove into fruit and coffee, looking like they had stepped off the covers of a magazine. Quite likely they had!

My favorite thing to do is to watch people interact with food in the context of their relationship! Take for example, the folks seated on either side of me. Two couples to be precise. The couple to my right looked like newly-weds, in the early stages of developing their couple-equation. Still aglow with marital bliss. He had the eggs and she had the corn fritters. Their glances shy and happy. The couple to the left of me were well-ensconced in togetherness. The music between them was a familiar, oft-played tune, one that lingered and seemed to always play in the background. They spoke little, seemed comfortable in their own skin and with each other. He had the eggs and she had pancakes.

At the end of their respective meals, they looked into each others eyes. The food, the ambience effortlessly fell away, highlighting the simple emotion underlying their enjoyment of life. Love! Truly, theres a simplicity to bill's that somehow enhances the whole experience of eating, and indeed, being!!

Corn fritter image credit: Dimsum Dolly

Bill Granger's Corn Fritter:
(recipes from Bill Granger's Bill's Food
1 cup plain (all-purpose) flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp paprika
1 tbsp sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
2 cups fresh corn kernels, cut from the cob
1/2 cup sliced spring onions
1/4 cup chopped coriander and parsley
4 tbsp vegetable oil

Sift flour, baking powder, salt and paprika into a large bowl, stir in sugar and make a well in the centre. In a separate bowl, combine eggs and milk. Gradually add the egg mixture to the dry ingredients and whisk until you have a smooth, lump-free batter. The batter will be quite stiff.

Place corn, spring onions and herbs in a mixing bowl and add just enough batter to lightly bind them (about 3/4 cup). Heat 2 tablespoons vegetable oil in a non-stick fying pan on medium heat, then drop in 2 tablespoons of batter per fritter and cook 4 fritters at a time, Cook for 2 minutes, or until the underside of each fritter is golden. Turn over and cook fritters on the other side. Transfer to a plate and keep warm while cooking the remaining batter.

Corn fritters on the web:
Corn fritters
Corn fritters
All about Bill


Passionfruit parfait

Isn't it amazing how one always picks the hottest, summer days in July to move? Between packing, labelling and cleaning, staying cool was a challenge. The fridge needed emptying anyways and so heres a dessert for the occasion!

Heres what I did:
Original recipe: Gale Gand's Passionfruit Parfait featured on Ming Tsai's website
- Mixed together 2 eggs, 3/4 cup heavy cream, 1/4 cup milk, 1/2 cup passionfruit puree, 1/4 cup sugar (or to taste).
- Cooked the mixture over water, whisking continuously till it thickened.
- Chucked it all into the freezer for 4-6 hours. I stirred every hour to break up crystals.

The verdict:
Delicious! Tart, sweet and creamy, it adds a whole new dimension to my passionfruit sorbet experience. If I'd taken the time to whip the cream, I might have achieved a creamier texture. Cut corners not-withstanding, the parfait was really quite refreshing.


War of the whole grain breads

Life, in general, sorely tries my patience! My desire for instant gratification constantly butts heads with my destiny's penchant to unfold gradually. Underneath my practised veneer of patience, lies a fidgety creature! Nevertheless, I will set aside my innate impatience when it comes to baking bread. There is something (dare I say it) almost spiritual about coaxing flavor from wheat. Feeling like a mere bystander watching dough rise, while the pre-scripted chemistry of yeast and wheat and temperature and humidity and the universe take over.

Heres what I did:
1. Made the multigrain bread from Peter Reinhardt's "The Bread Bakers Apprentice" I read every sentence in the first chapter and then read the recipe about four times. Chock full of details.
2. Made the multi grain struan from Floyd's post at The Fresh Loaf

The Verdict
The struan used whole wheat flour and about 5 minutes of vigorous kneading, while the multigrain bread extraordinaire (MBE) called for bread flour and 12 minutes of kneading. Ouch. I confess that the MBE was harder to work with, but the resultant texture was incredible. Golden crust and hearty crumb. The struan had more interesting ingredients in it and was an easier dough to work with. I added quinoa, millet and brown rice. However, unlike Floyd's version, mine did not rise as much. I am sure I will have to give this a couple tries before I figure out exactly whats going on! Used the breads for toast as well as sandwiches. It works with honey, butter, hummus and mild cheese. All in all, I am very satisfied with both recipes and if I HAD to pick one, it would be the MBE. However, clearly, I need to practice :-) Wish my hapless victims luck!

PS. Top 2 pictures: MBE, Bottom 1: Struan. It has occurred to me that I could just clear the table and take pictures. For now, please forgive the background clutter. I was too fixated on the bread (read 'too lazy to clean up or even crop'!)


Nibby Buckwheat Cookies

My sweeth tooth has been clamoring for some attention... so I made Nibby Buckwheat Cookies! This time, we discovered the happpy marriage of buchwheat, butter and cocoa nibs, recipe from, originally featured in Alice Medrich's Pure Dessert

Heres what I did:
Halved the recipe. Subbed whole wheat pastry flour for allpurpose flour and followed the recipe to the letter. Refrigerated the dough for 8 hours. Stuck it in the freezer between rolling and re-rolling. One needs to keep a close eye while baking the cookies. Since they are small, they tend to brown easily.

The verdict:
Like the walnut sticks, these cookies are perfect - rich, buttery and always satisfying. Buckwheat is a suprising ingredient in a butter cookie and works remarkably well. The nibs add crunch and the texture of the cookie is perfect.

Recipe Links:
Nibby buckwheat cookies on and Orangette.

Whole grain potato bread

Potatoes are one the vegetables that get step-motherly treatment from me. Sheesh. A vegetarian who doesn't like vegetables!

Anyhoo, the bread was a resounding success, (I think) primarily due to the addition of buttermilk and potato, resulting in a tender, fluffy crumb. I was generous with garlic but held off on the rosemary. I like to 'accessorize' my breads with all kinds of cheeses, pesto and spreads but I also like to start with a plain canvas :-)

Heres what I did:
Original recipe from Whole Grain Breads by Peter Reinhart
A version from The Bread Bakers Apprentice is reproduced here

For the biga:
1/2 cup whole wheat bread flour
1/8 teaspoon instant yeast
1/3 cup water at room temperature

For the bread:
All of the Biga
1.5 cups whole wheat high-gluten or bread flour
3/4 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper, coarsely ground (optional)
3/4 teaspoons Instant yeast
2 medim potatoes, mashed
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped roasted garlic
Olive oil for brushing on top

- Made biga by mixing all ingredients together. Fermented at room temp until double in size. Degas and stored in fridge overnight.
- Next day, unchilled biga till its at room temp.
- Break biga into 10-12 pieces.
- Nuked pototoes in microwave till mushy. Cooled and added all the ingredients.
- Kneaded for 10 minutes. Got a drink!
- Put the dough into an oiled bowl and let it rise for 2 hours, until double in size.
- Shaped it into a loaf and a boule. Misted the dough and covered with plastic wrap.
- Let it rise 1-2 hours till doubled in size.
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Brushed top of loaves with olive oil and scored the tops.
- Baked for 40 minutes, rotating pans half way through.
- Cool for about an hour before serving.

The verdict:
This bread marks the tender-est crumb I have achieved in a hearty whole grain bread. I suspect, its the combination of buttermilk, potato and warm weather that contributed. My favorite bread so far.


The Rochester Review

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My favorite restaurants in Rochester are Lento and Rooney's. But I LOVE Dogtown Hots just as much! Click on the blue balloons in the map above for more!

Alladin's: Best Value for Money on a Hot, Summer Day
Visions of crisp, leafy greens dance enticingly... Perhaps a little creamy dressing on the side... And so, I find myself sitting under a canopy at Alladin's often. I've tried their falafel, baba ganouj and hummus pitas and have come away staggering at the ginormous portions. They serve bean sprouts with their greens (yum!) The tzatziki is always tangy. All in all, fresh, flavorful food thats excellent value for money. Voice of experience: The food is just as good at their Monroe Ave location as at the Schoen Place location.

John's Tex Mex: Best Tofu Quesadillas!
Stumbled upon John's Tex Mex Eatery on South Ave. To my great delight, this bright little place was just thing I was looking for on both fronts, flavor and budget. In addition, the interior is a bright orangey-red, undeniably cheerful. The service is quick and friendly. The food is not terribly authentic (like I would know!) but is quite delicious all the same. Their guacamole is quite unusual - I can't quite put my finger on the spice mix in it.

Aside from the food, John's is in the Southwedge and I'm all for revitalizing the Southwedge. John's, owned and run by an outrageously young entrepreneur, is part of the 'Southwedge renaissance'. Show your support!

And the award for Chick Appeal goes to: Simply Crepes
I've taken many of my guests to Simply Crepes at Pittsford landing, which (I think) is cute even when the weather is terrible. I've stepped out of the drizzle / slush /heat and into this bustling little restaurant. Simply Crepes has personality, lots of it. Classy and casual, it has this bright, friendly feel to it. Sure, some people will find it pretentious / yuppie. Pshaw, I say! Its the kind of place that will make anything special - you can go there with co-workers/ family/ friends/ a date and the ambience will be just right.

Anyhoo, the food is routinely fabulous. Tried the Oatmeal Creme Brulee one time. It was perfection... warm comforting oatmeal topped by luxurious cream and a wafer-thin layer of caramelized sugar. Loved the Goat Cheese Arugula crepe, Ditto for the Fresh Fruit Crepe with buckwheat flour and of course, the Chocolate Mousse Crepe. Lusty sigh.

Strictly Mediocre but Good Date Places:
'Twas dusk on a Fall evening, mercury floated in the 60s. I stepped into the warm interior of Café Cibon, and the last traces of my frantic day disappeared. Café Cibon is a charming little place, and lives up to its reputation as a "European style bistro". The pace is anything but rushed.

I'm willing to wager that the food here is consistently above-average. (clears throat apologetically) Not outstanding. I know I'm being excessively picky but I'm just sayin'. Its a slightly pricey place that features reasonably good food. To be fair, Café Cibon would be a good choice for a first or second date. Conversation will flow easily. Sit back and enjoy how the candlelight flickers on her beautiful skin / makes his eyes sparkle. The world will be tinged with a mellow glow. If you discover that s/he is a discerning foodie, grin self-deprecatingly. You've been busted!

Not to be a snob, but I would add the following in this category. Lola Bistro, , Edibles and 2 Vine fall into this category.

Best Place to get a Beer:
The Old Toad, The Tap and Mallet



Sunblock and sangria are my saviors when the summer sun hits its zenith. Other than sorbets and chilled slices of watermelon, very little seems to tempt the palate. Otsu to the rescue!

Heres what I did:
Original recipe featured in Heidi Swanson's Super Natural Cooking, inspired by the traditional Japanese combination of soba noodles and a dipping sauce
1. Cook the soba till al dente.
2. Follow Adam's instructions. The recipe is forgiving so feel free to improvise.

The verdict:
My favorite summer meal! The ginger - cilantro - scallion combination is delicious, the dressing is simple and refreshing!


Whole wheat brioche

If you've dreamed of a luxuriant fluffy bread, brioche is for you. Many moons ago, I read pastrygirl's description of brioche and fell headlong in love:

"honey-spun,sunshine-dipped clouds"

My quest led me to The Little Bakery . They have an absolutely delicious brioche loaf for $ 4.50. Highly reccommended. My only grouse was that it was a tad too rich (I know, I know, its brioche! What was I thinking!) I couldn't help wondering what middle class brioche made with whole wheat strong flour would be like... No, no, I'm not an elitist! Peter Reinhart provides three different versions of brioche based on the flour:butter ratio. The three versions are: Rich Man's brioche (80% butter!!!), Middle Class (50%), Poor man's brioche (20%).

Needless to say, I modified the recipe to 30% butter and created whole new social class (insert grand flourish here) - this is the brioche that lives well, within her means and is diligent about her IRA and FSA. Meticuous, responsible and discerning. (Grin)

Heres what I did:
Original recipe featured in Peter Reinhart's The Bread Baker's Apprentice
1. Halved the recipe.
2. Used bread flour to make the sponge.
3. Used whole wheat bread flour from Lori's for the dough.
4. The proofing times and all other kneading instructions worked perfectly.
5. Skipped the egg wash. (just plain laziness)

The verdict:
The crust was lovely - shiny and golden. The texture was that wonderful mix of fluffy, fragrant, pull-apart goodness - rich and light, meltingly tender and yet with the slightest chewiness. I love this loaf! Its so delightfully pleasing, so relaxed and easy-going. Blissfully belying all the sweat and stress that went into its creation!

Next time, I'd like to try adding an egg to the dough to see how the texture changes. I confess, I may have overbaked my loaf by a couple minutes. The bottom corner looks pretty brown, the tops and sides were good though. So next time, I will cut the baking time to 28 minutes and see what happens.

The best brioche writing (and pictures):
1. La Cerise explains brioche with many many versions.
2. PastryGirl adapts an Alice Medrich briche recipe with a muscovado sugar filling!
3. The most entertaining brioche recipe ever comes from the Traveler's Lunchbox. The Seven Steps include instructions to successfully muscle your way through Ebay, the power of prayer and other gems, such as an outstanding recipe, adapted from versions by Sherry Yard and Dorie Greenspan.
4. If you'd rather make individual brioches, here is a lovely droolworthy recipe for Apple Cinnamon Brioche by Bron of

This semi-healthy (read "whole grain, lower fat") version of brioche goes to Equal Opportunity Kitchen for Tried, Tested and Tasted - 2 !


Irish Cream Flan

Psst! My mom and grandmom are visiting. I need to drastically reduce my (ahem) alcohol reserves. It was all logical in the beginning. Of course, I've used Grand Marnier and Sherry in various baking projects. Wine and beer are for sharing with my guests. But how to explain my tendency to add a spash of Bailey's Irish Cream in my coffee or hot chocolate?! I've decided to destroy the evidence, so to speak! Goodbye you handsome devil, I will miss you :-)

Of course, I'm kidding. Now that I've made the Italian Chocolate Almond Torte a few times, I often have egg yolks on hand. While I like the occasional brulee, I'm too lazy to indulge in cream and a blow torch! And, so I turned to something a little more simple...

Heres what I did:
1. Scald scant one cup milk. I had skim milk on hand so thats what I used.
2. Dissolve one quarter cup muscovado sugar. I suspect brown sugar will work just as well.
3. This is the all-important secret ingredient: add a pinch of nutmeg.
4. Take off heat and stir in two thirds of a cup of Bailey's Irish Cream.
5. Whisk seven egg yolks. Do not cook them or incorporate too much air. I found these instructions very useful. The goal is to get the mixture creamy and cooked.
6. Divide into ramekins. Cook at 350 degrees F in a water bath for about 20-25 minutes till the centers set. Cool, chill for at least 2-4 hours before serving.

The verdict:
Delicious light eggy smooth dessert. The nutmeg adds fragrance as well as flavor. I am not a big fan of milk and so I quite liked the subtle Irish Cream flavor melding with the nutmeg. I prefer muscovado or brown sugar in this flan, it adds a sort of butterscotch dimension to the Irish Creme - Nutmeg theme. Utterly scrumptious!

The best things to do with left over egg yolks:
1. Bailey's Brulee, Custard or Flan
2. Alice Medrich's Low Fat Lemon Curd
3. Sabayon or Zabaglione
4. If only I could hold off on eating these Saffron-Sherry Flans just long enough to take pictures! I pared the recipe down and only used skim milk, egg yolks, saffron, sherry and lemon zest. Sigh. They were wonderful! Soothing and luxuriant, beyond fabulous!
Note: If you're concerned about raw egg yolks, there are quite a few blog posts about how to judge when the yolks are cooked without scrambling them.

My little Irish Cream Flans are on their way to Aparna who is hosting "Think Nutmeg"! Enjoy!


Garlic Scape Pesto

What a wonderful Jul 4th weeknd its been! Perfect weather, the days have been quite delightful.

Summer has been bountiful - bought rhubarb and red peppers at the Public Market. Came across garlic scapes at the Public Market and was quite charmed with their sinuous, graceful curves. I used them in a stir-fry and made a simple walnut based pesto with the rest. Strong garlicky flavor, yet different from regular garlic! They are a little more assertive than the garlic scapes we found at Bhaji Gully last winter.

Heres what I did:
1. Chopped up 6-7 tender scapes.
2. Combined 3-4 tablespoons walnuts.
3. Added 1/4 cup olive oil in a slow steady stream.
4. Add salt to taste. Refrigerate to store.

The verdict:
Voilà! Homemade pesto! Good with various kinds of bread, roasted vegetables (summer squash, eggplant and the like).

My tentative steps towards embracing locally foods have been quite positive! The high point of the loca-vore experience may have been "Lento". The ambience is stylish and simple, the emphasis on innovative, seasonal local cuisine. There were lots of young people working at the restaurant - from the host and hostess, to the sommelier, valet and server. They were SO hard-working and polite. It is my favorite restaurant in the area. They have the most vegetarian choices and the most interesting combinations. Omnivores may want to try the duck.

My 'other' favorite restaurants are:
1. I adore Rooney's.
2. I haven't been bowled over by the food at Edibles or 2 Vine but they are both very enjoyable.
3. Tasteology in Pittsford wins brownie points for trying to serve small(er), healthy, portions across the road from the Cheesecake Factory!
Most of these make some effort to serve locally produced dairy, meat, produce and/or wine.

1. Muffin Love hosts Eating Local!
2. The 100 mile diet.
3. More perspective on eating local.


Italian Chocolate Almond Torte

Are you stressed out of your mind? Have you tried napping / working out / meditation / a good stiff drink or various combinations thereof? It is time to stop "dealing with it" and start baking. Yes, I speak from experience. As an antidote, may I suggest,
Alice Medrich's Italian Chocolate Almond Torte. I swear the woman has done more for me than my health care providers have or ever will. Thank god for Alice.

Heres what I did:
1. Ground up 6 oz chocolate, a pinch of salt, 1.25 cups unblanched almond meal and 1/4 cup sugar. Of all the hair-brained things I've done, reducing chocolate in a recipe is the most heinous. Do not err on the side of miserly. Be generous.
2. Whisked 7 egg whites, a quarter cup sugar and 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar to stiff peaks. I used organic cane sugar but plain white sugar will probably do just as well.
3. Fold the almond mixture into the eggs. Do not overmix.
4. Bake in a spring form pan lined with parchment paper at 350 degrees F for 25-30 minutes. The center takes longest to be done. The cake cooks a little as it cools. It is best inverted etc after its has cooled completely.

The verdict:
I loved the recipe because its all nuts, chocolate and eggs. No oil, no butter. The butter in the chocolate and nuts are put to good use. Its a light, fluffy cake. Great texture from the eggs and almond meal. I cut down on the sugar so my version is not very sweet. Perfect balance of chocolate and nuts. Works great with iced coffee. I'm sure I will make this one many times over and will likely up the ante and use fancier chocolate to take things up a notch, especially if I'm making it for company. But for now, this is just right. Full of style and substance, satisfying in every way. Alice never fails. The nerves, formerly a jangled mess, have been restored to a chocolate-induced zen state.

Update: I'm quite in love with this recipe. It has been quite a success whenever I've made it. It goes to Mansi for Healthy Cooking and to Sangeeth for Eat Healthy - Protein Rich.


Passionfruit Sherry Sorbet

Remember the heat wave that baked much of the northeast in a couple weeks ago June? It drove me to seek relief in the arms of this sorbet. A quick raid of the fridge for fruit / fruit-like ingredients yielded passionfruit pulp. Plus I had some sherry on hand. So I took Brilynn's advice. Especially the part where she said, "Alcohol is your friend"!

Heres what I did:
1. Dissolved one third cup sugar in half a cup of passion fruit pulp. Diluted it with a quarter cup water.
2. Warmed it in the microwave to get everything to dissolve.
3. Cooled the mixture and added a cup of sherry.
4. Refrigerated for 4 hours or more.

The Verdict:
Hands down, its the simplest way to make a sorbet. And since I used the microwave to heat up my 'simple syrup', I didn't have to turn the stove on or heat up the kitchen. Yay! The alcohol in the sherry (11-20%) prevents the sorbet from freezing solid. The combination of sherry and passionfruit makes for a nice balance between tart and sweet, tropical and citrusy.

I like making sorbets at home. For one thing you can adjust sweetness and alcohol content to your taste. Previous flavors included a
Pineapple Chardonnay Sorbet. I've also been toying with a raspberry version, inspired by David Leibovitz' legendary Apple Reisling Sorbet.

This one goes to Click for Bri. Godspeed and peace.
Mike at Mike's Table is hosting You Scream, I Scream, We All Scream for Frozen Desserts! It also goes to Lore at Culinarty who is hosting "Original Recipes"! Join us at the round-up!


Chipotle Bean Dip

Some of fondest memories of graduate school are from when S and I were roommates. One quirk that we shared was a predilection to load the freezer like it was going out of style. My freezer proclivities include flour, lentil and bean storage. Various and sundry jokes and diagnoses have been made, all of which I cheerfully ignore. Nevertheless, it was a common occurrence for ingredients to jump into my hands when I opened the freezer. ahem. For instance, one time a bag of beans jumped into my hands and begged to made into something delicious. They were sick of being thought of as "healthy" or "good for you". They wanted to be beguiling, alluring... lip-smackingly spicy!

Heres what I did:
1. Sprouted one cup of mixed beans. I used
black chickpeas (kala chana) and red cowpeas (red choris, vanpayar).
2. Cooked them till tender with scant one cup water.
3. Blend them with two chipotle chillies and salt to taste. Add a sprinkle of sesame and flax seeds.
Voilà - Chipotle Hummus!

The Verdict:
Chunky hummus-like texture and robust chipotle flavor. Quite pretty. I've served it as a dip for
chili and lime chips and as a spread for a sandwich. Easily combined with other toppings like tomatillo salsa, chopped onions and a squeeze of lime. They seem fairly healthful, what with the sprouts and no added preservatives / oil. At about 20-25% protein, I wonder if they're still pretty carb-heavy though.

I quite like the texture and flavor of this one. It reminded me of hummus and I'd like to send to
Siri for AWED - Middle Eastern Cuisine and to Whats Cooking for Fat Chefs or Skinny Gourmets?



Warm afternoons beg for a simple, cool snack. And versatility is the flavor of the week! I like foods that can be
"mixed and matched", so I can make one thing and not get bored seeing it in my lunchbox five days a week. This post is vaguely reminiscent of one of those 'New Uses for Old Things' articles in Real Simple. Usually along the lines of... Do the dishes honey 'coz I want to "store art supplies in a dish rack"!! Lets drink that wine up so we can organize our magazines!

Heres what I did:
1. Followed
Raspberry Eggplant's recipe. Simmered a third cup of rice vinegar, a teaspoon of sugar and a pinch of salt.
2. Allow the mixture to cool.
3. In the meantime, chop 3-4 carrots into ribbons.
4. Mix the vinegar mixture with the carrots and chill for a couple hours.

The verdict:
Works nicely as a cool snack. Is also good with cottage cheese or orange sections. Has also been used to jazz up a spinach salad. Is a very good side with a spicy burger. Of course, you can always go the whole hog and make the

This one goes to Michelle for
Snackshots - Salad. Amazingly enough, carrots also lend themselves to face masks! Who knew! DIY, no less! I couldn't help thinking of Diva who is organizing Beauty and the Feast! This round-up promises to be super-fun!


While I am quite terrible at math, the one thing I quite enjoyed in calculus was finding derivatives. This business of examining stuff over infinitesimally small intervals is intriguing. Fabulous, no! Life is perfect and makes complete sense in infinitesimally small intervals. Bliss, gentle reader, exists in small bites.

Such is the tale of dimunitive delights featured above. The spicy, piquant goodness that we know as muthias.

Heres what I did:
I followed
Coffee's recipe from The Spice Cafe. I used spinach and beet greens. I made the dough with a combination of besan, whole wheat and barley flour. I've also used Trupti's recipe with great success, especially the addition of yoghurt / pickle oil. They both have the spice combination down just right.

The verdict:
Quick savory snack. I've steamed a bunch and frozen them. Aisles of chips hold no charms for me any more! Its hard to get bored with these little fellows because you can keep varying the vegetables, spices and flours.

Recipe links:
In additon to Trupti and Coffee's recipes, here are a couple of my favorites:
Methi Muthia
A microwave version

Find more bite-sized delights at
Monthly Mingle, hosted by Mansi and Meeta. See you at the round-up!

Walnut sticks with cocoa nibs

April found me quite enamored with cocoa nibs. It all started quite innocently
with a package that arrived in the mail.

I hoarded the precious nibs for a while, not entirely sure how best to showcase them. They are unassuming little guys. They waited patiently as I pondered over the many possibilities. And then I stumbled upon a whole slew of recipes inspired by
Alice Medrich's creations. And so in a moment of inspired browsing, the idea for Walnut Sticks with Cocoa Nibs was born.

Heres what I did
I halved the original recipe (see links below) and used walnuts and whole wheat pastry flour. I chilled the dough for two hours but a little more patience would have brought even better results.

The Verdict:
Delicious!!! These cookies are stylish, unpretentious and never fail to satisfy. The marriage of sugar - butter - cocoa nib is pure genius. I simply cannot imagine "a more perfect union".

Recipe links:
Original recipe from
Bittersweet by Alice Medrich
Almond Sticks with Cocoa nibs on Lisa's blog
Nibby Pecan cookies
3. Pistachio and cocoa nib thins and another version here.
4. Nibs in
muffins or cupcakes.
5. Perhaps a
cocoa nib pavlova !
6. And for all you lily-gilders out there,
Chocolate and Cocoa Nib cookies!

This one is going to
Andrew for WTSIM... Dried Fruit and Nuts. See y'all at the round-up!


Sherry and Olive Oil Pound Cake

Alice Medrich's Sherry and Olive Oil Pound Cake marks the high point of my
experiments with olive oil. The original recipe is featured in Pure Dessert. You can find the recipe online here and here. There are a couple creative versions with tangerines and clementines as well.

Heres what I did:
1. Followed the recipe to the letter, including all instructions about sifting, whisking, temperature of the eggs and such. sigh. How the mighty have fallen.
2. Baked in a two loaf pans, one glass and one metal.
3. Made the cakes the night before and served with strawberries in balsamic vinegar. Many thanks to the generous gifter of said balsamic vinegar.

The verdict:
Moist and fluffy, this cake has GREAT texture. The metal pan worked much better than the glass one. The sherry and orange came together beautifully. Its the perfect elegant well-behaved dessert. Not cloying, not brash. Tried the cakes toasted a couple days later and they were still very good. This will become the
Leela Naidu of my dessert repertoire. Serene, classy and ages well.

Tartlette is hosting SHF # 43 - May 2008 with a Citrus theme! Hope to see you at the round up!


Pure Bread

I have been working with whole wheat flour which is always more hearty than all purpose flour. I can never tell if the crumb of my breads is dense because of my choice of ingredients or if its my technique.

And so I looked for alternatives. One option was to try baking with bread flour. Surely the higher gluten content would help improve the crumb. I used this recipe from Multi-Grain Bread, originally featured in Bon Appétit

Heres what I did:
1. Used a combination of wheat flakes and rolled oats for the unsweetened cereal.
2. Used half whole wheat bread flour (bought at Lori's) and half all purpose unbleached bread flour . 3. Used sunflower, flax, sesame and nigella seeds in the topping.

Technique notes:
1. The recipe instructions, especially proofing times work perfectly. Ambient temperature at 70-75 degrees F seems to guarantee the best rise.
2. Press the seeds into the load before baking if you're concerned that they will pop off as you slice the bread.
3. Don't forget to put the baking pan in the oven before you start pre-heating! There were small bubbles in the water by the time the bread entered the oven.

The verdict:
For the amount of effort that goes into it, this is my favorite bread recipe so far. Sure it uses a lot of yeast and also calls for bread flour. Both these ingredients go a long way in guaranteeing the success of the end-product. I was quite satisfied with the crumb, I'm sure I will keep trying different proportions of whole wheat to all purpose bread flour. I've used the bread for toast in the morning, for sandwiches or with soup at lunch or simply with some cheese. It also does well when toasted.

Update: Meet more bread-heads at the Sandwich Festival! Anupama, thank you for hosting!

Sprouted Moong with Pomegranate Molasses

The time has come to confess my unabashed infatuation with pomegranate molasses. Sigh. Its become the little black dress of my kitchen. Adds much style and is quite versatile.

Heres what I did:
1. Moong keeps well, so I always seem to have some dried beans around. I have a soft spot for sprouted moong. Its like magic - finding curly little sprouts emerge in 12 hours! Anyhoo, soak the dried beans for 8 hours. Drain water and store in a moist, dark environment. They will sprout in 8-12 hours.
2. You can eat 'em crunchy. In my (ahem) advanced years, I find that I like my moong tender (Now why does that sound evil?!) Chucked the sprouts in a pan, water and all, and put a lid on it. I usually don't add more than a scant quarter cup of water per cup of sprouted moong. I don't like cooking them to mush.
3. When they have reached the desired level of softness, allow them to cool a little.
4. Toss with pomegranate molasses. This is the secret ingredient that makes everything DELICIOUS! Tart and sweet. Yum.
5. Other ideas: One can always break out the chaat masala and/or lemon juice. Chop up some onions and coriander, if the mood stikes you. Serve with yoghurt on top.

The verdict:
Served with yoghurt, these little guys work nicely as a snack on a hot day or after a workout. I also take them for lunch, accompanied by baby spinach or couscous. No wonder my devotion to pomegranate molasses continues unabated.

Links and Resources
What to do with Pomegranate Molasses now that I have it:
1. I fell headlong in love with Kip and her blog, featuring Roasted Red Bell Peppers with Pomegranate Molasses
2. I've used beet greens and various kinds of chard in this recipe from the Slow Cook
3. Cumin and pomegranete molasses glazed squash, based on this recipe from Raspberry Eggplant has worked pretty well for me.

This one goes to Click! May 2008 - Beans and Lentils and to FoodBlogga for Beautiful Bones. Forgive me for regurgitating scientific information that I have no authority over. With that disclaimer, here are the reasons I think its appropriate for Beautiful Bones. While moong is not particularly calcium-rich, sprouting apparently enhances the calcium content of beans. The presence of trace nutrients in sprouted moong may enhance calcium absorption. Lastly, while calcium intake may be the 'necessary' condition, muscle activation and loading serve as the 'sufficient' condition for good bone health. Alright, time to step off the soapbox!

Microwave Chocolate Orange Raisin Cakes

The sheer simplicity of this recipe piqued my curiosity. The fact that it actually worked won me over! The promise of a chocolate treat (from scratch) in under 20 minutes? Surely, you jest! But I am happy to report that it works! and even better, that it works well.

Heres what I did:
1. Original recipe from Gourmet via
2. Substituted whole wheat pastry flour for all purpose flour.
3. Tried various combinations of rum/Grand Marnier and raisins, dates, cranberries.
4. No glaze.

The verdict:
I got four servings out of the recipe. I didn't miss the glaze at all. Once cooled, the cakes were gooey, sweet and chocolatey. The cakes are best made in small portions as they don't hold up when frozen or refrigerated. Its a good recipe when you're strapped for time or just need a quick, comforting warm chocolate dessert thats not a sugar bomb. To cut to the chase, gentle reader, if I were stranded on a dessert island (ha ha) with a microwave, this is the recipe, I'd take with me.

I am quite enamored with this recipe - and could not resist sharing it. It goes to:
1. Since its so low on electric tools and requires under 5 minutes of total microwave time, its going to: Black Salt for Lights Out, Knives Out April 2. Srivalli at Cooking for All Seasons who is hosting Microwave Cooking: Cakes.
3. Lets nix the Grand Marnier and pinch some pennies. Substitute with orange juice and share it with Ginny at Just Get Floury for the Dollar Dish Duel!

Chocolate Hazelnut Teacakes

Shield your eyes, gentle reader, I've started another pottery class! As always, its with a fun group of people. In addition to my new-found infatuation with clay, I'm continuing my experiments with olive oil. As Beans and Caviar pointed out, choosing the right olive oil is critical.

I came across a recipe for Chocolate, Hazelnut, Banana and Olive Oil Teacakes at La Tartine Gourmand. She had me at "Chocolate"!! Her post was titled "A Healthy Sunday in March". sigh. I was whisking eggs by the time I reached "and Olive Oil Teacakes"!

Heres what I did:
1. The original recipe is featured here.
2. I substituted about a quarter cup dates, soaked in a little Grand Marnier for the banana. Since the dates were sweet, I reduced the sugar by a tablespoon.
3. Used walnuts instead of pecans.
4. Baked in a loaf pan instead of muffin cups.

The verdict:
The teacake is full of gentle sweetness and all kinds of goodness. Perfect for a late afternoon pick-me up with tea (ha), milk or hot chocolate. I ground the quinoa at home (as against buying quinoa flour) and so the texture of my teacake was a little grainy but otherwise I loved the end product. The cake gets its fluffiness from eggs. My favorite part about this cake is that its sweet but not a sugar-bomb. Plus its gluten-free. Nice change from my usual suspects!

Update: Made a modified version with 4 oz chocolate and no banana or dates. Used barley flour instead of quinoa flour and the results are still very good. Yum!

More Gluten Free alternatives at Gluten A Go Go! See you all at "Go Ahead Honey, It's Gluten Free". The theme for April is Finger Food!


Barley Salad

I don't want to jinx myself, but I must admit that it feels like my baking disorder has passed. I no longer feel the urge to dice every fruit in sight, whisk in a little sugar / butter / egg and combine with flour and turn it into some sort of sweet baked treat. Thats the good news. Ahem. Invariably, one set of symptoms is replaced by another set of symptoms. Who is to say which set is normal - ha. Normal is a sine wave, if you ask me. However, I digress. The baking disorder has turned into whole grain madness. You probably saw this coming. I am so incredibly transparent.

Even as the baking disorder loosened its tentacles round my brain, a new stream of ideas started to take over. At the tail end of my infatutation with baked fruit, I found myself lingering over whole grains. Spelt, quinoa, millet, brown rice, you get the picture. I have traded smiling, summery sweetness of rustic fruit breads for hearty, robust whole grains.

The Real Food Daily Cookbook jumped into my hands - such a treasure trove of ideas! Some delightfully innovative flavor combinations lurk between those pages. The barley salad caught my eye.

Heres what I did:
1. Soaked and cooked a cup of pearled barley.
2. Chopped up half a cup of grape tomatoes, three green onions, a handful of kalamata olives and added it to the cooked barley. Tossed with lemon juice, parsley and cilantro. The original recipe called for dill. Topped with a little sprinkle of feta cheese.

The verdict:
Delicious! In a light, summery way. This one worked nicely as a salad for lunch and even as a side dish.

Don't miss the other lunchbox delights at Coffee and Vanilla!


Chocolate walnut cakes with passionfruit-star anise syrup

I find myself intrigued by cakes made with olive oil. I tried a few recipes, and the Walnut Orange Cake from Epicurious really opened me up to the possibilities. Sure, the rest were healthy but nothing to write home about.

Cakes using oil usually eliminate the need for butter. So some change in texture is to be expected. The orignal walnut orange cake turned out very well, perfectly flavored, subtle and sophisticated. Perfect to gift heart-health-conscious friends or folks who eschew butter for whatever reason.

(confession) I couldn't wait to try a version with chocolate in it! So I substituted a quarter cup unsweetened cocoa for flour in the original recipe. Also, I halved the recipe and made my version with whole wheat pastry flour. I was afraid that the changes I made would result in a dry cake and so I served cakes warm, with a passionfruit-star anise syrup.

Heres what I did:
1. Made the cakes in a silicone mini-muffin pan using this recipe.
2. Made the syrup by simmering passionfruit pulp and sugar to taste and star anise for 5 minutes.

The verdict
The cakes turned out light, fluffy and chocolatey. Not too sweet. The syrup was tart and sweet, quite delicious! The star anise lent an interesting spiciness - nice change from my usual suspects, cinnamon, cardamom and all.

The cakes are a lovely afternoon snack and would also work as a light dessert. They don't age well - I tried stashing them in the freezer and they did alright but they were best fresh.

Where to find passionfruit:
1. Wegmans carries fresh passionfruit but they are terribly expensive and looks like they may have flown a long way. I know what I look like after travelling for a few hours so I can't bring myself to buy (ahem) well-travelled, "fresh" passion fruit.
2. I've often found pulp in Asian stores in the frozen section

These will go to Abby at Eat the Right Stuff, who us hosting "Monthly Mingle - Spring Fruit Sensations". Hopefully Spring has arrived in your neck of the woods! Michelle at Greedy Gourmet is hosting Snackshots 3 with a Muffin theme . Don't miss the round-up!


Barley-Brown Rice Dosa

The inner kannadiga cannot be squelched. I've baked biscotti and stirred stews, tossed salads and dallied with more spices that you could sneeze at, but theres no escaping my dosa craving.

Fluffy, crisp dosas are of course, the result of careful soaking and grinding and what not. Sadly, such organization eludes me this week and I decided to wing it. Stop laughing. I can hear you.

(sigh) Alright, alright, I will confess that I have had more than my usual share of disasters in the recent past. For instance, I have only recently realized that it is best not to tinker with rava idlis. I've tried making them with bulghur. And one time, I even added some barley flour. They were edible but mere shadows of their former, fluffy selves. I vowed (Mahabharat music plays in the background, kitschy special effects), never to tinker with rava idli or any of the "classics". Uddina dosa, Rava dosa, Neer dosa are all off limits.

Thats when I stumbled upon this version of Barley and Brown Rice dosa! A ha! It was a sign from the gods.

Heres what I did:
1. Combined barley and brown rice flour in equal proportions (2/3 cup each). Added 2 tablespoons oat flour.
2. Added a teaspoon of cumin seeds, 2 tablespoons of chopped coriander, a half teaspoon of red chili powder and salt to taste.
3. Added warm water to make a runny batter.
4. Thats pretty much it! I let the batter sit for about half an hour. And then made the dosas on a non-stick skillet.

Served with sorekai bele saaru (bottle gourd / doodhi in toor dal) and sorekai sippe gojju (chutney made with the peel of said sorekai / bottle gourd / doodhi). I know, I know. In for a penny...

All in all, the combination was delightful. The Barley-Brown Rice dosa was super-easy to make. The texture was just right, delicate and lacy. They didn't stay crisp very long but I guess one could tweak the recipe to increase the proportion of rice flour. The sorekai bele saaru and gojju / chutney worked out great (Thanks Asha!) The gojju was simple, reminded me of the gojju that my mother and grand mother make. I put my trust in Asha's recipe and set aside my distrust of tomatoes.I halved the recipe and it was delicious.

The verdict:
Perfect for a Friday evening. Low-maintenance and flavorful.

Get your dosa fix at Srivalli's Dosa Mela! What a wonderful, wondergul idea, Sri! Thank so much Suganya for suggesting this event!


Happiness in a box

One of the highlights of March is Blogging by mail, the brainchild of Stephanie over at Dispensing Happiness . I love Stephanie's blog... many moons ago, one of my friends dutifully researched food blogs and said excitedly, "Theres someone who hosts blog parties"!! Thats Stephanie! Full of creative energy. So I signed up for 'Blogging by Mail' and could barely contain my excitement.

I received this delightful package from Lisa over at Pittsburgh Needs Eated. Thrilled. To. Bits. A sampling of treats from the strip district in Pittsburgh Delightful candy, luxurious chocolate. Ginger biscuits, cocoa nibs! Poco dolce was outstanding - burnt caramel and sea salt - oy!! All carefully packaged and outfitted for travel.

Thank you, Lisa! I can't tell you how much I've enjoyed your thoughtful, generous gift!

In the meantime, as one package flew into Rochester, another left Rochester for Melbourne! I will confess that I exchanged a couple of very helpful e-mails with some very nice folks at Australian Quaratine . Many thanks! CakeLaw is well-travelled and a very good cook - and it was a lot of fun putting the package together for her. Most of all, thanks ever so much Stephanie for organizing Blogging by Mail!


Whole grain biscotti

I love gifts of all sorts, and food in particular. All the thought and emotion that goes into one of these little packages always lifts my spirits. Fortunately, as far as food gifts are concerned, I like being at the giving end as much as I enjoy being at the receiving end!

Knowing my penchant for whole grains, it will come as no surprise that I tried Heidi Swanson's whole grain biscotti. . She also featured a recipe for chocolate biscotti in 'Super Natural Cooking'. How could I resist!

I made both. What can I say, I simply couldn't choose. I've served them as part of a brunch menu and used them variously for gifting. Bon Voyage, Good luck before an exam! Welcome back (to work!! Ha ha) Happy Friday! And they've always gone over well.

I will confess that I liked the almond chocolate chip version heaps more than the chocolate version. There was nothing wrong with the chocolate version and god knows I LOVE chocolate, but nevertheless, the almond chocolate chip biscotti is truly outstanding. She has the texture just right. The original recipe is here and I wouldn't change a thing. Made with wheat germ and oat flour, these chocolate studded biscotti are full of virtue and low-glycemic goodness!

Come share the love at Sugar High Friday#41: Sweet Gifts, hosted by Danielle of Habeas Brulee.