Monday, May 31, 2010

MEC: Healthy diet food event roundup

Thanks a lot Shiva, Priya and Sudha for sending in the healthy versions of your favourite dish for the MEC event..Unfortunately I am not able to concentrate on blogging and make new dishes for the past 2 months..So, there has not been any entry from me..

Priya from Priya's Easy N Tasty Recipes : MW Okra & Oats Sabji and MW Celery & Quinoa Soup

Sudha from Malaysian Delicacies: Mung Dal Yogurt Soup

Thanks Srivalli for the opportunity to host the MEC event

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Pizza ~ Ona Osuna Martínez

These pizzas were created by Ona Osuna Martínez, the 8 year old daughter of artist Teresa Martínez! I am blown away the talent of one so young ...

Here is to wishing an early happy birthday to emerging artist Ona Martínez who will turn 9 this June!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Great Summer Cookbooks

Winter is the easiest time of year to feel motivated to cook. When it's cold outside nothing is better than hunkering down in a cozy kitchen to braise and bake and simmer the day away. Summer time is perhaps the toughest season for cooking. Who wants to be in the kitchen when the weather is beckoning you to stay in the sun? When I think of Summer I think of tomato salads, guacamole, ceviche and big antipasto platters served al fresco. And of course anything and everything on the grill.

There are tons of grilling cookbooks and each season a new batch comes out (in fact you can find a recent round up of grilling book reviews on MattBites). But this year there are two Summer cookbooks that go way beyond just grilling, giving you many more options when things heat up. They are very different books, though either would be perfect to take with you on Summer vacation to a beach house or mountain cabin, or make a great hostess gift.

The Big Summer CookbookThe Big Summer Cookbook is a soft cover book with 300 recipes written by author Jeff Cox who seems particularly attuned to what is ripe and in season. The book starts with a Summer seasonality chart and perhaps even more interestingly a section on how to stock your Summer pantry. This would be helpful in planning meals for a week at a Summer house. There are recipes for no-cook dishes such as Mango Watermelon Salad and Caprese Skewers as well as some baked goods that you will want to eat during the Summer such as Plum and Nectarine Crisp and Sour Cream Breakfast Cake. Recipes I have bookmarked include a No-Cook Blackberry Pie that features a graham cracker crust and a Couscous Salad with Pine Nuts and Summer Fruit. The vegetable and fruit recipes are more interesting in general than the meat recipes which tend to be standbys such as burgers and grilled chicken. There are some new ideas in this book, but it's really more about the basics. Read an excerpt.

Recipes from an Italian SummerBy contrast, the substantial hardcover Recipes from an Italian Summer will make you dream of Summer in a villa eating dishes like Grilled Sardines scented with Orange, Wild Duck with Figs, and Spaghetti and Lobster. It begins with a seasonal food calendar and features nearly 400 exciting and adventurous recipes. These are primarily Italian recipes, many you have not likely seen before. With a few notable exceptions, they are generally not complicated dishes and in tune with the season but written for someone who is a confident cook. By "in tune" I mean things you might want to eat in Summer, as there are recipes using ingredients not strictly available in the Summer like apples and radicchio. Here and there the recipes suffer from less than optimal translations. But they are the things you will want to eat when you get bored of tomato salad and grilled chicken. The book has gorgeous photos of food in a rustic style and lots of photos of Italy. If you love Italian food you will find this book deeply satisfying because of the many fresh ideas it presents although there is some overlap with the Silver Spoon cookbook. Personally I can't wait to make dishes like Potato Pizza and Sunflower Petal Salad. It's a book that inspires. Look inside the book.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Top 20 Cooking Myths

Cooking Myths
There are lots of myths in regards to cooking. Sadly, they tend to discourage people from practicing a very basic life skill. Here are the myths about cooking that I have heard repeatedly from friends, acquaintances and even cooking pundits. Are any of them keeping YOU out of the kitchen?

1. You can't cook anything good in a short amount of time
You don't need to cook something complicated or cutting edge (unless of course you want to!), plenty of great recipes take very little time at all. Here are just a few examples:

Asparagus Frittata from Simply Recipes
Black Bean Clams from Single Guy Chef
High-roast Chicken and Potatoes from Hedonia
Grilled Tri Tip Steak with Chimol Salsa from Kalyn's Kitchen
Orechiette with Sausage and Kale from The Kitchn
Whole Wheat Spaghetti with Aglio e Olio from Skillet Chronicles

Choose from steak, chicken, pasta, seafood, some dishes are even vegetarian--all are delicious!

2. Cooking takes too long
I don't know what "too long" means. But I can cook dinner faster than you can get it served to you at a restaurant and quicker than it takes to get it delivered. Really. Don't believe me? Revisit the recipes above.

3. You need lots of ingredients
There are tons of recipes that use 5 ingredients or less. Just check out this collection on Epicurious. Or just revisit the recipes above, the ingredients for those recipe would fit in a single grocery bag.

4. Cooking is not enjoyable
Cooking can and SHOULD BE ENJOYABLE! It's not just a necessity, it's actually fun or why would so many bloggers (myself included) be droning on about it endlessly?

5. Cooking is hard
Cooking in a restaurant is hard work. Cooking at home does not need to be hard. If you don't believe me, see Michael Ruhlman's sarcastically named, World's Most Difficult Roasted Chicken Recipe.

6. You need to use processed foods to save time, effort and money
Processed foods actually cost more than raw foods, not less. They do not necessarily save you time. The Kitchn did a test to see what the difference was between making a cake from scratch and from a mix. The results will surprise you!

7. Cooking from scratch is expensive, even more than eating out
Check out this blogger's challenge to create $2 a serving meals.

8. Cooking requires a lot of skill
Nope. Even dummies can cook French food.

9. You need expensive pots and pan to cook
The Breakaway Cook shows you how to use some of the cheapest pans around, cast iron.

10. You need lots of expensive knives to cook
Three knives. That's all you need! And this from a restaurant blogger.

11. You need a very well-stocked kitchen to cook
A basic pantry doesn't need to be overflowing with ingredients. Not sure where to start? Check out this primer on Slashfood.

12. Good cooks never use recipes
There are cooks who advocate ratios rather than recipes, but you know what? They too use recipes too sometimes.

13. Good cooks always use recipes
Pastry chef and blogger Shuna Lydon dispels this myth, thoughtfully and provocatively.

14. Cooking is too messy
Yes, cooking can be messy. But you should be able to clean everything in your kitchen. Keeping your kitchen clean is not a good reason for not cooking!

15. Cleaning up takes longer than cooking so it's not worth the effort
The secret is to clean as you cook, just ask Martha.

16. Cooking is too dangerous for kids to do
When kids learn to cook with adult supervision it's not dangerous. Check out What's Cooking Blog to learn more about cooking with kids.

17. Cooking is fattening and leads to overeating
By cooking you can control and be aware of exactly what is in your food. I guess if you cook well you might be inclined to overeat, but that's about will power, not cooking!

18. You must follow recipes exactly or they won't work
If that was true you would never see the word "adapted" next to recipes.

19. Cooking is menial or dull
In the 1950's women were told that cooking was a chore and not worth the effort. Laura Shapiro writes about the phenomenon in Something from the Oven. But cooking was and is something truly enjoyable. Cleaning might be menial and dull, but cooking is a joy. The classic cookbook that proclaims it so has sold over 18 million copies!

20. Cooking for one is not worth the effort
Legendary cookbook editor Judith Jones would beg to differ. She's the author of The Pleasures of Cooking for One.

Pizza ~ Tiny Delights by Ana

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Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Mango Ice Cream with Condensed Milk

mango-ice cream-recipe
Mango is undoubtedly the King of fruits, at least for me, and I bet several others would agree with me on this one! With a beautiful color, rich creamy pulp and unbeatable taste, mangoes hold a special place in every recipe. Though they are great to just consume by themselves, they do add a special touch to the food they are paired with, especially desserts. So here's a household favorite - rich creamy Mango Ice Cream, made without using an ice cream maker! And I add a hint of Cardamom to the recipe, which is a taste I developed after trying it for my Peach Melba with Vanilla Cardamom Ice Cream recipe. The Condensed milk is indeed the second star ingredient which lends the smooth texture to this ice cream.

Back when I was a young kid in India, helping my mom in the kitchen we did not have the convenience of fancy kitchen gadgets. It was hard to find a proper baking oven in most homes, as some of you might recollect, so having an Ice Cream Maker was definitely not treated as a valid expense!:) But that does not mean we did not get to enjoy creamy dense ice cream at home - it just meant you had to add in a few extra steps to develop that smooth velvety texture, and this Mango Ice Cream is proof that you don't always need gadgets to do things right!

Eggless Mango Ice Cream Recipe using Condensed Milk, and Flavored with Vanilla & Cardamom

Makes about 6 servings

1/2 litre full-fat milk
4-6 medium sized ripe mangoes
100 ml (small can) of sweetened condensed milk
additional sugar - add to taste
1/2 tsp vanilla essence
3/4 tsp ground cardamom powder

Boil the milk till it becomes a little thick and creamy, about 12-15 mins, then remove from flame and add condensed milk to it.

Allow the milk to cool to room temperature. Meanwhile, de-seed the mangoes and blend the pulp in a mixer to make thick mango pulp. Do not add water or any other liquid.

Once the milk is cool, add the mango pulp to it and blend well. Check for taste and add more sugar, if needed. Now transfer the mixture to an ice cream pan; cover it with cling-wrap, then put an inverted baking dish over it, to prevent ice from forming on the top of the pan. Freeze the mixture for a couple hours.

Remove the mixture and transfer to a mixer again. Add the cardamom powder and vanilla essence, then blend well, using the Whisk/Froth setting on the Blender.

Again freeze it for an hour, then repeat the blending process again, one more time. This may sound strenuous, but it is what you need to do when you are not using the convenience of an Ice Cream maker! But don't worry, its totally worth it - the freezing/churning process will ensure that your ice cream becomes nice and creamy, and sets well to give you same texture as an ice-cream maker recipe.

Now put the ice cream pan in the freezer, again, covered with cling-wrap and freeze for another 3-4 hours, or until ready to serve.

When you want to serve it, remove the pan from the freezer and let it thaw for 5 minutes. Then take an ice cream scooper and dish out as many scoops as you like in a bowl. Garnish with some fresh fruit and mint leaves, more mango pieces if you like, and serve immediately. You can also use pistachios or other fresh fruit like berries as a topping.

I like my Mango Ice Cream plain, but adding a few raspberries makes the presentation look much better:)

Related Recipes
Eggless Anjir (Fig) Ice Cream
Vanilla Panna Cotta with Balsamic Strawberries
Easy Mango & Mascarpone Mousse

Anthony Boutard on What Makes Fruit Great?

Anthony Boutard of Ayers Creek Farm
One of the best presentations I got to attend at the International Association of Culinary Professionals conference in Portland last month was a conversation between chef and cookbook author Deborah Madison and farmer Anthony Boutard of Ayers Creek Farm. Ayers Creek Farm is an organic farm located in Gaston, Oregon in the Wapato Valley 10 miles west of Beaverton and 40 miles from the ocean. The theme was fruit and I learned so much! Here are a just a few highlights from the discussion:

Deborah Madison asked, "What makes fruit great?"

• Boutard said, in some ways it's hard to say because everyone's palate is different; for example some people love tart marionberries, some people hate them.

• According to Boutard, the best fruit has acidity upfront. Acid and tannins in fruit are complex and cannot be simply duplicated by adding lemon juice. Sweetness on the other hand is not very complex.

• Shipped fruit seems like it loses acidity (another reason to buy local).

• The best way to get shoppers to warm up to fruit with high acid, is to give samples to their kids. Kids love acidity!

• Some fruit are best suited to wide temperature variation, such as melons and plums that want hot days and cool nights. Different plums grow in different parts of the country. In California there are lots of Japanese plums and in Oregon more European plums.

• Cellared fruit takes on different characteristics. It won't have the same texture, it may not be crisp, but the flavor can be amazing. Boutard said the best apple he ever ate was a russet apple in Switzerland, it had been cellared for many months and was mealy, but complex and delicious.

• Grapes with seeds have more flavor and nutritional value. Boutard calls grapes "celibate" or "fecund" instead of seedless or seeded. A little sex helps sell! Grapes with seeds don't last as long as seedless varieties but the seeds are worth eating too. You can't eat Concord grape seeds but other grape seeds have a spicy flavor that balances the sweetness of the fruit.

• Picking fruit takes real skill. For example, some fruit needs to be watered the night before picking, such as raspberries, other fruit like plums will split if watered when already ripe. Boutard has been working with the same Oaxacan family for years because they understand how to pick fruit.

• Systemic pesticides and fungicides cannot be washed off fruit. Boutard chooses to grow fruit that is well-suited to the environment and can be grown organically rather than fight mother nature.

• Machine picked fruit is not as fully ripe because it is picked using beaters.

• The best way to judge the quality of most fruit, is to smell it. Don't look at the size. The first batch of fruit often has more pectin in it that the subsequent crops.

Pizza ~ Mo Tipton

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Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Numi Puerh Tea

Numi puerh
I have become a puerh pusher. Anyone who takes so much as a whiff from my cup, ends up buying their own. I discovered puerh tea a few years ago at a wonderful tea shop, Modern Tea, run by tea expert Alice Cravens, (now sadly closed). It was served in the traditional manner in a tiny tea pot with tea broken from a cake of puerh. Not long after I purchases some loose puerh tea from Tillerman Tea in Napa. But it's the perfect-for-sampling Numi Tea tea bags that have made me go pro.

Puerh is a fermented and aged green tea that has many of the characteristics of black tea and more antioxidants than either black or green tea. It is dark and malty with rich flavor that can handle a splash of milk. Up until recently it was almost impossible to find high quality puerh tea bags. Normally I buy all my tea loose leaf, bulk, never in bags, but Numi Tea is making some fabulous puerh tea blends, available in bags. They use whole leaf tea, not dust. The convenience of tea bags has worked well for me because I am usually just drinking one cup and I often take a few bags in my purse and my suitcase.

Back in January I participated in Numi's Puerh Challenge. I didn't drink three cups a day because it's just too much caffeine for me. But I quickly added to my stash buying boxes of Magnolia Puerh and Emperor's Puerh to my favorite the Chocolate version. The Numi Chocolate Puerh tea is a blend of all organic ingredients--puerh tea, cocoa powder, vanilla, Theo chocolate cocoa nibs, rooibos, orange peel, nutmeg and cinnamon. It is such a treat! It has lovely spicy notes that pair with the mild chocolate and rich tea.

For a more delicate tea I like the floral Magnolia blend which has green tea and magnolia flowers along with the puerh. The Emperor's version is pure puerh, nothing else added. It is the most robust with toasty rich flavor, great when you feel like you want a cup of coffee. The only version I'm not crazy about is the Mint Puerh, but to each his own. Numi also sells puerh in a brick and in bulk, which is probably what I will end up purchasing next. The advantage to the brick is that a small amount of tea can be used again and again, to make up to 4 cups of tea.

Puerh is considered a very healthy tea, potentially strengthening your immune system and reducing the risk of heart attack. Other studies show tea can reduce cholesterol and triglycerides and lower blood pressure. I would love to tell you I lost weight drinking this tea, but I don't think I did. But it absolutely gets me going in the morning on those days when I need a little extra boost and the different varieties seem to fit my mood at different times of the day.

Apple Pie ~ After Dark Miniatures

Monday, May 17, 2010

Mango Cucumber Salad Recipes

Mango Salad
Ok here's a crazy idea, one basic salad that can be either sweet or savory. I was trying to think of what to do with some mangoes coming my way from the National Mango Board this week and then I saw a tweet from @SimpleGourmetLA with the idea for a "mojito cucumber, mango and strawberry salad." It occurred to me that both cucumber and mango could go either way--sweet or savory.

I'm always looking for ways to use common ingredients in slightly unexpected ways. Here the twist is using cucumber in a sweet fruit salad and using sweet mango in a savory salad. English cucumber is available year round and does not need to be peeled. It has a very mild flavor and a fine texture without big slippery seeds. Best of all, it has a terrific crunch! I used the most commonly available mango, the Tommy Atkins variety in both salads. It's not a very tropical, luscious or creamy mango, but more of a workhorse, with citrus-like flavor, able and willing to stand up to whatever you demand of it. It's a bit on the firm side so it's particularly good in salads.

For the sweet salad I combined cucumber, mango and strawberries and for the savory version, cucumber, mango and radishes. You might recognize the ingredients from the savory salad as being similar to what you find Mexican street vendors selling. Each salad is flavored with lime, but the sweet salad gets a touch of honey and mint, the savory salad, a pinch of salt and green onion. Both are bursting with juiciness, crunch and Summery flavors and would be great at a picnic. I'd serve the savory salad with grilled fish or chicken. I'd serve the sweet salad with a scoop of sorbet or just a couple of cookies.

Sweet Mango Salad
Mango, Cucumber, Strawberry Salad
Serves 4

1 Tommy Atkins mango, peeled, pitted and cut into chunks
1/2 large English cucumber, cut into chunks
1 pint strawberries, trimmed and cut in chunks
Juice of a fresh lime, squeezed
2 teaspoons honey
2 sprigs chopped fresh mint leaves, about 12 leves

In a mixing bowl combine the lime and honey and stir until smooth. Add the mango, cucumber, strawberries and mix. Sprinkle with mint and taste for seasoning before serving.

Savory Mango Salad
Mango, Cucumber, Radish Salad
Serves 4

1 Tommy Atkins mango, peeled, pitted and cut into chunks
1/2 large English cucumber, cut into chunks
1 bunch radishes, trimmed and cut into chunks
1 green onion, thinly sliced
Juice of a fresh lime, squeezed
Pinch kosher salt

In a mixing bowl combine the lime and salt and stir until dissolved. Add the mango, cucumber, radishes and mix. Sprinkle with green onions and taste for seasoning before serving.


Apple & Blackberry Eve's Pudding ~ Vicky Guile

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