Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Pizza Nirvana


This month, Tried and Tasted features Raaga, one of my favorite bloggers. With a freewheeling style pretty much like mine, Raaga blogs about whatever she fancies, be it an Indian curry, a casserole or a cake. Since the event requires that you create a recipe of your choice out of the month's chosen blog, I had a great time going through Raaga's archives and shortlisting some 5-6 recipes.

Then I had my spectacular daring bakers disaster. I don't know what happened - no one else seemed to have any trouble with the recipe - but mine wasn't meant to be. So in need of comfort food, I turned to Raaga's mushroom and capsicum pizza.

Raaga says this is the pizza they would eat before Pizza Hut and Dominos came to rule the world. The pizza your mom would make for dinner in fact, complete with an Indian style masala. I made the yeasted base, then once it had risen, topped it with mushroom and capsicum "masala". A layer of grated mozarella on top, then baked at the highest my oven would go until browned.

It might be just me and my penchant for tandoori pizzas, but I think this is the best pizza I've ever eaten.

Mushroom and Capsicum pizza is also my entry for Global Kadai, hosted this month with the theme "Indian Flavored Pizzas".

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Avocado and Corn Sushi


Did you come here looking for Orange Tian. Like every month, I planned on doing the daring bakers challenge in time, but ended up postponing it to the last minute. So it's reveal date, and my orange tian is still a work-in-progress.

Which means it's time for another lazy dinner. Trust me, for all the hype, sushi is the easiest thing to put together. Buy some pre-toasted nori sheets. Cook sushi rice as per package directions. Spread the rice in a plate and for each cup of cooked rice, pour over a tbsp of rice vinegar, mixed with a tsp of sugar and a pinch of salt, then warmed to mix everything.

Spread this rice on the nori sheet, then heap your choice of fillings on one corner. I picked avocade and corn, and spread them in layers over the rice (which is the picture you see above). Then I thought it will be too bland and poured half a tbsp of soy sauce over the veggies. Rolled it all up, the steam from the warm rice sealing the nori sheet, and then cut it into five pieces.

So next time you are off to eat that overpriced sushi, remember this takes less than half an hour from start to finish.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The last strawberries this season


India has a strange strawberry season. They red berries come into the market end of January, just when winter has started to ebb into spring. And by mid-March, even before summer sets in, they are all gone. I have been doing a lot of strawberry eating past few weeks but I wanted to keep this cheesecake, a recipe I spotted in a magazine a few months back, for last.

Then, for a week, there were no strawberries to be seen and I thought I'd waited too long. That I'd have to wait another year to make this one. But then, this one last box made a miraculous appearance and here it is - the grand finale of strawberry season.

The magazine I picked the recipe from had a full scale 9" springform pan in mind. But I have it here adapted to my mini 3" tart tin. You start with the biscuit base. Break 4 digestive biscuits into 3-4 pieces each. Drop in a plastic bag and use your rolling pin to turn them into crumbs. Heat 30 grams butter in a microwave until just melted and pour on the crumbs. Mix well, then spread in the tart tin to make your biscuit base. Put this in the fridge for at least an hour to harden. At the same time, take out 80 grams of cream cheese to soften.

After an hour, mix the cream cheese with 30 grams caster sugar and 1/2 tsp vanilla essence. Whisk until well blended. Add 2 tbsp heavy cream and keep beating until it is smooth. Spread on the biscuit base, making it as even as you can and leave to set it the fridge for a few hours or overnight.

Once the cheesecake has set, unmould and pile halved strawberries in the centre. Puree 4-5 strawberries with a tsp of sugar and pour on the cake. Then go find friends to share this last berry bounty of the season.

Monday, March 15, 2010

New York Deli Style Rye Bread


That's one big to-do off my agenda. I've wanted to bake the crusty, caraway studded New York style rye bread for some time now. And what a great bread it turned out to be. I wish I had bookmarked the link when I printed out the recipe, but I just have this printout and no one to give credit to.

Well, I can pass on the recipe at least so you can try this at home. Heat a cup of water until it's a little hotter than lukewarm. Add a tsp of instant yeast and a tsp of caraway seeds. If you don't like caraway, or not in a mood to eat them today, add a tsp of carom seeds instead like I did. Add 1/2 cup rye flour, 1 3/4 cup plain flour and a tsp of salt. Mix well until the flours are blended with the water but do not knead. Let rise for 2 hours (or until doubled). At this stage, you can either bake the bread or leave the dough in the fridge for upto 2 weeks.

This is the very wet dough, so when you want to bake the bread, cut out the size you want and pretend to shape it into a loaf (or into rolls if you're me). Let rise for half an hour to 40 minutes. Preheat the oven to 220C and bake the rolls until golden.

Optional but not implemented:
- Keeping a bowlful of water at a lower rack of the oven to create steam and crustier rolls. My oven doesn't have a lower rack; it's a miracle I can fit one of these baking trays in there.
- Cornstarch wash. I'm sure there's a good reason for that; but I'm lazy and it seemed like too much effort.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Shelling Season


Do you get excited when shelling beans are in season. Dried beans and legumes of all kinds are a staple for me, but there is something extra special about fresh borlotti beans that make an appearance for a few weeks each year.

So when I got some shelling beans, I decided to make this simple salad rather than drown them in curry the way my cook wished to. It's just boiled beans, steamed corn, chopped black olives, chopped scallions and a few mint leaves. I mixed all of these in a bowl, then made a simple vinaigrette.

In a mixing bowl, add a tbsp of your best olive oil and a tbsp of white wine vinegar. Add enough salt and freshly crushed pepper to season your salad, then whisk everything until blended. Pour this over the salad, mix and let it chill in the fridge for a few hours for the flavors to mingle.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Under the Tuscan Sun

There are tourists and there are wanderers. And then there are people who make another country their own. Like Frances Mayes did when, after years of spending summers in Italy as a tourist, she bought an abandoned villa in Tuscany. Under the Tuscan Sun, our book club's read for February, is her funny account of a tourist who decided to stay and discover the country's little quibbles.

The contractors, the workers who come to repair the villa, the first olives and the struggle to get them crushed into a golden olive oil - Frances Mayes adaptation to her adopted country is slow, her American surprise at how things work very real. Mayes' writing is a genre of her own, only surpassed by a similar account of Provence by Peter Mayles.

If it's Tuscany, can food be far behind. Accounts of food shopped from local markets and accumulated from Mayes' own gardens flow through the book. Then she very thoughtfully provides two sections of recipes - one for summer and tomatoes and peaches; the other for the hearty winter food. My first impulse was to cook one of her recipes. But then, I ended up making another Italian dish on my wishlist - the caponata.



Caponata is typically made with eggplants and capers. But I have so far not been able to convince myself to the use of eggplants in a dish so it ended up being a zucchini caponata. Heat a tbsp of olive oil and fry a finely chopped onion until it begins to brown. Add a zucchini, cut into thin slices and stir fry until it's golden but not mushy. Add 1/2 cup tomato pasta sauce, 8-10 sliced black olives and a tbsp of capers. Stir well, then cook at a low heat for 5-7 minutes. Check for seasoning and add some salt and pepper if you think you need it.

I served this caponata on toasted bread, but I have leftovers that are going into a pasta dish.

Here's what the other Tuscany inspired book clubbers came up with:
- Sweatha made Basil Mint Sorbet.
- Ann made a pizza with onion confit, grilled sausage and peppers.
- Aqua made Pears in Red Wine.
- Aparna is back after a long hiatus with Schiacciata Con L'Uva, a grape stuffed focaccia.
- Rachel made pappa al pomodoro.
- Srimathi, another member back after a long break, made eggplant rolls.

This month, we are switching tracks and reading a chic lit. If you would like to read Sophie Kinsella's "Can You Keep A Secret" with us, please leave a comment here and I will get back to you with details.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Strawberry and Apple Jam


Given how recipes languish in my bookmarks folder for years, this jam made a remarkable journey to actual recipe in less than two weeks. When Shaheen made this gorgeous jam a few days back, I knew I just had to hurry up and get this done. Partly because we are nearing the end of the strawberry season here, but mainly because this was simply way too good looking.

And easy too. Wash and hull a cup and a half of strawberries, then halve them. Mix with 1/4 cup sugar in a heavy bottomed pan. You might need more sugar here, as my strawberries were super sweet. Bring the fruit to a boil on a low heat. Add one small apple, peeled and diced finely. Let the jam boil until it reaches 220F on a candy thermometer. This takes around 20-25 minutes and you would need to keep stirring every once in a while, skimming the foam that collects on top.

Let it cool, then put it in the fridge. Since we aren't canning it, eat within a week. Or, if you are like me, you'd steal spoonfuls of warm jam and won't have much left to go in the fridge. Just don't tell my mom (since this is what I did to all her plum jams when I was a kid)!