June 27, 2010

Daring Bakers: Chocolate Pavlova from New Zealand

After missing a couple of the Daring Bakers events, I managed to participate in this month's challenge. The June 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Dawn of Doable and Delicious. Dawn challenged the Daring Bakers’ to make Chocolate Pavlovas and Chocolate Mascarpone Mousse. The challenge recipe is based on a recipe from the book Chocolate Epiphany by Francois Payard. The recipe for the wonderful dessert is here.

I followed the recipe pretty closely. I didn't make the mascarpone cream for drizzling though. I mixed a syrup of horlicks in cream for a malty drizzle. Yesterday I served them with bananas and with blueberries today. A special thanks to Aakriti for helping with the free-form pavlovas. Having never tasted a pavlova before, I am definitely hooked to them now. And I am ticking off New Zealand from my Cooking the World!

June 24, 2010

Inspired by Africa

Here is one of  my latest paintings...the pattern is inspired by a ceremonial cloth from Africa, which was on exhibit at the Art Museum in St. Louis.  I was gonna paint a kolam on top of this after a this layer of glazing. Shankar likes it as it is. Hmmm.......

Acrylic on 12x12 canvas

June 23, 2010

Purkouri from Cyprus

Here is my last entry for Blog bites #4: Whats lurking in the kitchen? This time, it is half a jar of cracked wheat that has been wanting to be used. Well, I didn't use all of it, but at least it is a start! This recipe is also adapted from Pille's blog Nami-Nami and is from the book Falling Cloudberries: A world of family recipes by Tessa Kiros.

This is a very simple recipe similar to the upma from South India. I heated some olive oil in a pan, and sauteed 1/2 a chopped onion and 2 cloves of minced garlic. Then added 1/2 a can of diced tomatoes which was also lurking in the pantry. Once the tomatoes were cooked, I added 1 cup of cracked wheat. Seasoned with salt, pepper and chili powder. Added 2 cups of water, let it boil, reduced the heat and let the wheat cook for a few minutes. Once the water was all absorbed, turned off the heat, and let it sit for a few minutes. Served it with yogurt and some walnuts, along with the Sauerkraut soup for dinner. Very filling! 

June 22, 2010

Waiting for Friday

Its only Tuesday and I am already waiting for Friday, when Shankar is coming back home with my two birdies. The house is way too quiet without them - I know we like them even when they are screaming. I miss being greeted by Nikko even before I open the door, Pepper calling for me to come near her and wanting to get on my fingers. I even catch myself looking out for Nikko ready to jump on me when I come through the hallway :) And it is no fun having Shankar all to myself without the crazy competition for attention from Nikko!!!

Mixed Beans Vada

Thanks to the inspiration from Nupur and her Blog Bites #4, I managed to make use of and finish yet another lurking ingredient in my kitchen - a half -used bag of mixed beans intended for a soup. I have been holding on to this for more than an year now. Given that this bag required pre-planning and the beans had to be soaked before I used them and I hardly ever plan my cooking - this bag had a comfortable spot in the pantry. As I was looking for recipes to use these beans, I came across this recipe by Divya on Dil Se. I hardly ever do deep frying at home - my frequency of deep frying is 1-2 times an year and wasn't sure I wanted to last weekend. But the birdies are in St. Louis till the end of the week and my friends texted that they are running a little late and I decided to give this a try. I had  already soaked the lentils the previous night hoping to make a kurma. And I am so glad I made the vadas instead, as they were a hit and I actually ended up making another batch in the evening. 

I ground into a coarse paste without adding water, about 3 cups of pre-soaked mixed beans in the food processor with a little salt. I also added 3 tbsp of rice flour to make the vadas crispy. To this I added finely minced 2 green chilies, 1/2 an onion and 2 cloves of garlic. Seasoned with a little more salt and asafoetida powder. Mixed them all, and fried the vadas in oil till they were brown. 

And to continue the theme of using up lurkers, I made a simple no-cook chutney by using some of the left over produce in the fridge to dunk the vadas in. In the food processor, I ground together two carrots that were waiting to be used up, a bunch of cilantro that has started wilting, two cups of peanuts, 3 green chilies, salt and a tsp of cumin with water. The chutney was spicy and went well with the not-so-spicy vadas. And I used all the soaked beans for making more vadas in the evening!

June 21, 2010

Painting Landscapes

After years of playing with different paints on various surfaces, I finally got to sign up for a class on versatile acrylics at the UW Extension last week. The class for me was mostly about learning new techniques and get a better understanding on some of the stuff I already do. It did not help being the only newbie in class though. The first thing we did after doing the color wheel, tints & shades was to do a still life in black & white value. One of the hardest thing I have ever done! whew!

The next day we did our "master project" that you are seeing below. I didn't get to finish it till tonight. It was a fun time and I ended up asking a lot of questions to the instructor. I am kinda happy with the way it turned out. What I am not happy about is the foreground with the grass & shrubs. I love my dead trees and the sky :)

June 18, 2010

Simple Stew with Lentils (Kootu)

Here is a quick South Indian stew - what we call as a kootu in Tamil. In this version I made for dinner on a weeknight, I used the vegetable called Snake Gourd that I got from St. Louis. But any green vegetable would go well in a kootu. I used moong dal which is much easier to cook without a pressure cooker. In a pot, boil together a cup of moong dal and sliced snake gourd seasoned with salt  and a pinch of turmeric. Once the dal is cooked completely and the vegetable is soft, add 2-3 tbsp of shredded coconut. On a separate pan, heat a tsp of oil and temper 1/4 tsp of mustard seeds, 1/4 of cumin, a tsp of urad dal, 2 diced green chilies, 1/2 tsp of grated ginger and a few curry leaves. Add this to the boiling veggies and take off from heat. If it is too thin, add a solution of rice flour to thicken. Serve with rice or roti.

June 17, 2010

Slaai from Swaziland

This Swazi avocado slaw is a simple variation of the Avocado salad with ginger. Basically I marinated diced avocado in lemon juice and ginger, seasoned with salt. Then added a bunch of crushed peanuts and chopped mint to this and mixed it well. Voilà - we had a yummy salad with dinner. I really  liked this variation and this gingery avocado is my new favorite instead of a typical guacamole. Recipe is from Celtnet

June 15, 2010

Lone Elk Park @ St. Louis

Our last weekend in St. Louis we went to the World Bird Sanctuary and drove through the Lone Elk County Park. We didnt get to go hiking here as dogs are not allowed. There were plenty of wildlife and it was an awesome place to to spend a wonderful evening.

The herd of bison had quite a few calves running around

The elk that chased Shankar back to the car

Sauerkraut Soup from Estonia

Nupur's latest Blog Bites #4 is all about unearthing some of the stuff thats been lurking in the kitchen and use another blog as an inspiration to use up some/ all of the lurking ingredients. Here is my first contribution, using up half of a jar of sauerkraut from 2008, that was a gift from a friend. I wasn't really keen on using this before and had it tucked away in some corner shelf. So, when Shankar pulled it out as one of the first things I should use up, I was glad to find this wonderful soup recipe from Pille at Nami-Nami. Given that is it from Estonia, I am also ticking off one more country in my Cooking the World. 

It was a simple soup to make, the only laborious(!) part is chopping the veggies. Given the chilly weather we have been having in WI for the last couple of days, the soup was wonderful with Purkouri for dinner. Basically I sautéed 1/2 a chopped onion and about 1/2 a jar of sauerkraut (after rinsing it) in a little ghee (ingredient needing to be used up), added 2 chopped carrots and 2 chopped golden potatoes, 1 tbsp of tomato paste (another ingredient that has been lurking) and enough water. I also added a bay leaf, salt, pepper and a pinch of nutmeg for seasoning. Let this cook for about 20 minutes. I thickened the soup a little bit with a tsp of rice flour. I also added a handful of chopped walnuts before turning off the heat. These walnuts became the magic ingredient adding a whole lot of texture to the soup! I added a dollop of quark on top and garnished with some shredded carrots and mint. Yummy! 

June 13, 2010

Sweet Potato Rösti

For my Cooking the World challenge, when I wanted to cook a dish from Switzerland, I absolutely wanted to try making a Rösti ~ but with sweet potatoes instead! So here is what I made: I used a Japanese sweet potato, which I think is much more tastier than the regular variety. Shredded the sweet potato and microwaved it for a couple of minutes. To this I added 2 eggs, one tbsp of flour, salt, pepper, one small  chopped shallot, 1 clove of minced garlic and a pinch of dried herbs. Whisked everything together and spread the mixture on a hot girdle. Once the side is cooked, I slided the pancake to a plate and flipped it over the girdle to cook the other side. Topped it with a tbsp of crème fraiche. We had this along with a Quinoa-peanut stew for dinner!

June 12, 2010

Sabse Borani from Afghanistan

Sabse Borani is such a simple and flavorful dish and it is exactly what Shankar and I were craving after all the recent travels and eating out. I sautéed a small chopped onion and a couple of cloves of minced garlic. Added a bunch of chopped spinach, covered and let cook till the spinach is wilted. Seasoned with salt and pepper. In a bowl I whisked together 1 cup of yogurt and 1/2 of Quark (not called for in the original recipe) with a pinch of salt. I added the cooked spinach to this yogurt and sprinkled some chopped cilantro on it. Served this yummy dish with rice and a green beans Urap :)

June 9, 2010

Chilean Charquicán

Charquicán is a simple stew made with potatoes and squash and served with a fried egg. This version is without the charqui :) (meat). I also skipped the broth part and instead of making it as a stew, cooked it a little dry and served as a side dish. In a pan, add olive oil, sauté a small chopped onion, a couple cloves of garlic, one chopped small serrano pepper, one chopped tomato and season with salt, pepper. I also added a 1/4 tsp of dried herbs (oregano, mint and thyme). I added two chopped potatoes, one grated garnet yam and a can of chickpeas. Cook till the potatoes are tender, adjust the seasoning and serve hot! Adapted from The South American Cookbook.

June 8, 2010

Kansiyé from Guinea

Kansiyé is a really good, cheap and wholesome dish from Guinea. I used tempeh instead of beef for the protein fix. In a pan heat some oil, saute a small chopped onion and a couple of cloves of minced garlic. Add cubed tempeh and heat for a few minutes. Season with salt, pepper, and curry powder. Then add a couple tsps of tomato puree and a cup of water. Once the tempeh is cooked well, add a tbsp of peanut butter and mix thoroughly. Cook till the stew has thickened. We had this Kansiyé with roti and rice.

June 7, 2010

Lebanese Lentils & Cabbage with Bulghur

Here is yet another quick weeknight dinner: Lentils & Cabbage with Bulgur (Moujadara Bi-Burghul). This is a main dish in which lentils are paired wonderfully with bulghur. This recipe is adapted from the Tables of Lebanon.  I used a pressure cooker and basically sautéed half an onion, a small chopped cabbage and one diced tomato in olive oil. To this I added half a cup moong dal and a half a cup of medium bulghur. seasoned with salt, pepper and chili powder. Then I added about 1.5 cups of water. Closed and let it cook for a couple of whistles. Delish served hot with a simple tomato salad!

June 4, 2010

Kolam Art

Here is the latest in my series of Kolam on canvas. This picture doesn't do justice to the actual one at all ~ the background kolam thats showing as a little brown is actually a very light yellow and you can't see it unless you are close to the painting. From even just a few feet away all you would see is the white kolam on the blue background. There is a layer of blue pearly reflective paint in between the kolam layers that helps change the appearance. However, it doesn't work that way through the lens of a camera from any angle :(   The size is a 10x10. 

June 3, 2010

Nigerian Okra and Plantain Stew

Before I started catching up on African dishes, I would have never thought of bringing together okra and plantains in the same dish. I love plantains and avoided okra during much of my childhood. These days, I cook it more often as Shankar likes them a lot. In this simple Nigerian stew, both the veggies blend well in their flavors and actually make the dish pretty interesting. One of the secrets is to cook the okra thoroughly so that the mushiness is gone!

In a sauté pan, heat a few tsps of olive oil, add one small chopped onion, let it soften. Add a couple of cloves of minced garlic and a chopped tomato and cook for a few minutes. Then add the sliced okra. Season with salt, pepper and cumin powder. I also added a pinch of chili powder. As the okra gets cooked, add a boiled and chopped plantain. Cook for a few minutes. Add some water depending on the consistency you want. Sprinkle with chopped scallions and serve!

Amy back to Swimming!

When Shankar had Kalki in St. Louis a few weeks back and I had Amy, I took her to the Governor Nelson State Park on the north side of town for swimming. This park has a special pet swim area and we went around 4 in the afternoon. She had to jump off a dock which she has not done before and was a little anxious on how she was going to get in the water. Once she figured it out, we had to teach her to use the stairs to get back on the dock. She had such a great time, especially playing with another dog Daisy, who looked very similar to Kalki, except for her black nose. 

June 2, 2010

Boondhi Laddu

There are a few times that I take on a challenge of making something that even my mom hardly makes in the kitchen. Given the childhood memories of my parents inviting a couple of "chefs" to come help in preparing the sweets and snacks for Diwali, somehow making the traditional laddus and jelebis seem to be a big challenge to take on by myself. Trying to make boondhi laddu by reading recipes on food blogs and cook books definitely falls under the challenge category. Especially after it involved calling my parents for troubleshooting in the middle of their night :)

Here is how I made them: I whisked together about 1 cup of besan flour (chickpea) with water to make a thick paste. I warmed a few tsps of milk and soaked a few strands of saffron in it for a few minutes and added the milk to the besan batter. I then fried the boondhis by sending this batter through a ladle with holes in it over hot oil. The boondhis don't have to be fried crisp. In a separate pan, I made sugar syrup by boiling together 1 cup of sugar and 1/2 cup of water. I also added a 1/4 tsp of cardamom powder, about 1/4 cup of broken cashews and raisins fried in ghee to the sugar syrup. The final step is adding the boondhis to the sugar syrup, let them soak and after cooling for a little while, mold them to laddu shapes. 

The hard part for me was getting the boondhis to be perfect pearls. Mine turned out to be teardrops, of spheres with a tiny tail, no matter whether I diluted the batter or thickened it. Or whether I moved a little higher from the oil or closer to it. I have not made the laddu again to figure this out. I was simply joyed that the laddu was not breaking apart and held its shape. Overall, the taste was perfect and the kitchen was filled with the sweet aroma of ghee and cardamom :)
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