Popular Recipes

Friday, November 13, 2009

"Sweet Treats"- Almond-Chocolate Chip Biscotti

My real introduction to 'international' cuisine,after coming to USA, happened not only due to 'Food Network' and 'eating out' for dinner,but because I started working at 'Cornell'. As in any University, we had so much diverse population in the department,that it was obvious for the cultures to be shared and intermingle. There were 'Coffee Breaks', 'Lunches at Haustorium' (Dining room of Plant Path Dept) and bringing in 'Left overs'...that exposed me to various cuisines and dishes. One of our older Custodians loved to bake.But her husband was diabetic and she did not want him to eat all that sugar..so she always brought those goodies to the Dept for 'homesick' students and us research assistants. It was amazing to see that smile on her face,when we complimented her about her baking!
I had my first 'Homemade' Biscotti in my lab at Cornell."Biscotti" is a type of Italian Cookie/Biscuit and it literally means 'twice baked' because of the way it is baked.

 One of my colleagues liked to bake and she would bring her baked goods to the lab the next day for everyone to munch.I was always fond of 'dunking' something in my tea or coffee and especially something this crunchy!So got the recipe from her to try out myself. I still have the hand written paper with the recipe she gave me. She had drawn illustrations of 'biscotti making' for me to follow. That was really nice of her! Till now, I always made Biscotti from that recipe...changing a little here and there....adding chocolate chips/cranberries/walnuts etc etc. Not that the Biscottis came out 'the best' or extraordinary but somehow I just stuck to that recipe. Today I thought of trying this new recipe from "GoodHouseKeeping".I used 'Almonds' instead of Walnuts as I did not have enough of those and reduced the amount of chocolate chips and almonds to 1/2 cup each.Other than that the recipe was pretty straight forward.
The recipe can be found here  on "GoodHouseKeeping"


Dunk the Biscottis in your favorite Tea/Coffee and enjoy the Sweet Crunch!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

"Everyday Cooking"- Sweet Corn Soup

This whole week 'E' has no school....you know what that means? Where to start......that means..constant need of attention, many water color paintings gone wild,crayon wrappers peeled and thrown all over, shoe closet coming down four times a day, searching for tiny cars all around the house, beeping of 'Choo-choo train' non stop, making and breaking LEGO cars, hearing 'mumma mumma' after every minute, reading all the books over and over again and answering same questions over and over,and..........................
 the list goes on.....
Since he started school, I have noticed, he is demanding more attention from me when he is at home. At school they constantly engage them in activities and play.So he has gotten used to being 'busy' and playing with others.So at home....it all comes down to me! I have to play, jump, read, sing.....all when he wants!
Haha....that's the fun of being a mom! I love it ....but you know sometimes....I feel exerted due to this 'NON STOP' action mode!!!
So today, since it was 'Veterans Day' holiday for all schools, we had arranged a playdate for 'E' and couple of his friends. Just imagine that.....3 toddlers running around the house and having a 'gala' time! God save us!
For lunch I had planned a simple menu of Sweet Corn soup, Vegetable fried rice and some Samosas (filling and dough left over from yesterday). The kids loved the soup....especially because of the 'sweet corn' .
The samosas did not come out as crispy as the other day.Don't know why?
Here is the recipe for Sweet corn soup:
2cups Whole Sweet Corn kernel (frozen)
2tsp Corn starch mixed in some water to make paste
2tsp Soy sauce
1/4tsp Black pepper
1/4tsp Ginger garlic paste
1/4tsp Red chili paste
1/2tsp Sugar
1/2tsp Maggie hot and Sweet sauce
2tbsp Green onions + leaves sliced diagonally
1tsp oil
3-4 cupsWater

1) Heat 1 tsp oil,fry the ginger garlic paste for few seconds,Add the frozen corn kernels.Saute for 2 mins.
2) Add water,let it simmer
3) Add the corn starch,black pepper, all the sauces, sugar, salt etc.Let simmer till the soup thickens a little due to corn starch.The soup should be semi-transperant and taste mildly hot and sweet at the sametime.
4) Turn off the heat.Add the green onions and leaves.
5) Serve hot and enjoy the UMAMI!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

"Appetizers"- Vegetable Samosas

Just couple days ago,I was craving 'Samosa'. It was so much easier in India...you crave something...either ask 'mummy' to make it for you or just go around the corner and buy it from the store!There were so many chaat,fast food stalls everywhere....that your cravings were never left unfullfilled.
But here is USA, especially in small town like Ithaca,you have to make everything yourself.When I was pregnant (with 'E') I was craving Pani poori soo much.But none of the stores in Ithaca carried it then.So 'M' went all the way to Syracuse(about an hour from Ithaca) on a weekend and bought packets of pani poori ...so that I could eat till my heart content!
Anyways....good old memories...
Last year I read this interesting book...'The Hindi Bindi Club" by an Marathi author Monica Pradhan.It was about immigrant families and especially about 3 women and their 3 daughters who were born and brought up in USA. The book discusses challenges of women shaped by ancient ways but living modern lives.Their struggle between their traditional upbringing and the 'new' land they were living in.
One more interesting fact of the book was, after every chapter the author writes about some 'recipe' related to the chapter content.It is from this book that I got my recipe for vegetable samosas.
I was very confident about making the filling for samosas..it is a 'no brainer'....but the pastry covering...not so easy!! I tried this recipe from the book and it comes pretty good.
I substituted  the 'vegetable shortening' in the book with vegetable oil.I do not cook myself with 'shortening' so did not have any on hand.But...vegetable shortening is the best shortner (shortens wheat gluten strands) and makes the best flaky pastry....as I learn from my food science courses.So if you really want to make it 'authentic' try some vegetable shortening.But my samosas with butter+oil came out flaky and crispy too!!

For the Pastry/Dough:
2 cups All purpose flour
2tsp corn starch
3/4stick cold butter
2tbsp vegetable oil
1/2tsp Ajwain seeds
Oil for frying
Ice cold water to make dough.(Add ice cubes to water)

1) Cut cold butter into small pieces.
2) Mix with the flour and corn starch by gently rubbing the butter on to the flour.The mixture should look crumbly.
3) Add oil,ajwain,salt and slowly add ice cold water and knead the dough firmly.
4) Cover and place in the refrigerator for 1 hour.
Secret to best flaky pastry is keeping everything cold till ready to fry.

For the Filling:
2 Potatoes boiled and mashed
1/2 cup boiled green peas
1 onion chopped
1/2tsp ginger garlic paste
1/2tsp Garam masala
1/2tsp Cumin-corainder powder
1/2tsp chili powder
1/2tsp turmeric
1/2tsp mustard seeds
1/2tsp Cumin
1/2tsp Fennel seeds(Gives nice flavor.Try it if you haven't used it before!)
5-6 Curry leaves
1/2tsp Mint powder/paste
1tsp chopped cilantro

1) Heat 1tbsp oil, add mustard,cumin,curry leaves and fennel seeds.Add chopped onion,ginger garlic paste,turmeric and fry.
2) Add the potatoes,peas and mix well.Add the mint paste,cilantro,garam masala and other spices and fry.
3) Let the filling cool.

Assemblying the Samosas:
1) Knead the dough again before rolling out.Take a small portion of the dough.Roll out into a circle(about 6 inch).
2) Cut into half moon shape.Arrange with straight edge close to you.
3) Fill 2 spoons filling in the center
4) Fold the right edge over the left edge.Press it shut
5) Press the semicircular bottom with fingers.The samosa resembles a triangle now. You can press the edges with a fork to seal well and make it look prettier.
6) Fry in hot oil on low-medium flame.This is important to make the Samosas crisp.Fry till Golden brown.It takes time for samosas to change color and become crisp.Be patient!
7) Serve hot with Mint chutney/ Ketchup/ Tamarind chutney/ Maggie Hot & Sweet sauce.
8) Enjoy every Bite!!!

Monday, November 9, 2009

"Food For Thought"- To be Vegetarian or Non vegetarian...(About movie Food Inc)

Yesterday watched an interesting movie, Food Inc by Robert Kenner. Actually it was a pretty disturbing movie.It was about the nations food industry,food supply and the 'mass' production of foods.
I have read about these issues both online and in my Food Science courses, but when you actually 'watch' something it shakes you up. Samething happened....when we watched the movie, mind you...it was pretty graphic, I am troubled and thinking about it again and again...
They show how your foods reach you.How they are produced. When they show the chicken, cattle or pigs raised for meat,the conditions they are kept in, how they are slaughtered...it is very disturbing.
There is an 'assembly' line for everything...from start to finish everything is done mechanically...mass produced. They show that the hens are breed in a way so that they grow big in 1/4th the time as the traditional hens, they put on as much weight that they cannot stand on their own feet.They are given hormones so that they put on weight on their breasts....to inrease the 'breast meat' production.
Similar thing about cattle....and the pigs.They are fed diets they are not accustomed to.....just to increase 'meat production".
Other than that, the movies discusses,the emergence of E.coli strains and Salmonella strains that are found in meat...and people getting sick. The 'insecurity' of the food supply and how it affects us...
They mention that a  few 'big' companies rule the food supply and production....the farmers,consumers are not the key players anymore...

Everytime I read or watch something like this....I feel like ....I don't want to eat Chicken/meat anymore.
But again in few days..all is forgotten..and I am back..cooking with it and eating it.
To be vegetarian or Non Vegetarian???
I keep asking myself.
But till now, I haven't quite understood,why people criticize only 'mass' production of meat.Killing is killing.You kill in traditioanl way.....or in 'mass' produced way. You are still killing and eating.
So you either give up eating meat or go with the system and demand....
I am myself very confused and disturbed about this whole issue...
What about you?

On the other side...

Nov 16,2009
Just couple days ago....I read a chapter about "Food Security". It explains why the companies have to do certains things, which customers or other people find offensive....
I thought we all should learn to read at both ends...before making any conclusions.So here are some explanations from the other side...
About 'repetitive' nature of  job of slaughterhouse workers-
When I watched the documentary,it showed that the workers are made to do same job again and again so that they can be payed less. But in reality the "Food security" guidelines by the government ask the companies to compartmentalize the jobs.So that at any time,there should be only 'certain' authorized personnel allowed in that department of the slaughterhouse.This is important in 'food security' of the food supply. So every department has few personnel who always are responsible for that particular job.This makes it easier to 'track' if intentional food contamination or 'bio terroism' like activity occurs.

About common feeding operations and meat processing-
The documentary shows that the cattle are feed in 'Common Feeding Operation' grounds and not 'let out in natural environment" for grazing.
The goverment and the companies have to be really carefull of what the cattle eat. Letting out the cattle to graze in 'natural' environment also makes them likely to be targets of intentional food contamination.If everything is controlled, it becomes easier for the food companies and the government to make the food supply safer.
Meat processing by only a few companies has its advantages as well as disadvantages....
Advantage is....if food contamination occurs,the government knows excatly where it was processed and what could be the potential targets.

Like every coin has 2 sides....so does everything else
You have to look at both before making any opinion or decision ....