Friday, December 05, 2008

Bad Bad Mommy

I understand I've been a bit negligent of my blog "baby" lately but you will just have to believe me when I say its been pretttty hectic around here. School just kicks my butt sometimes and I wonder what business a 27 year old has to still be doing homework and studying for exams. Although I can do without both of the above--for once in my life, I actually enjoy what I'm doing professionally. You know, it gets my blood running, its great. I have gazillion things to do at any given point and I've never been good at multitasking but life teaches new skills all the time. Its good!

This is not to say there hasnt been any cooking...theres always got to be food!! I've been pretty experimental actually and for the most part, all my kitchen experiments have been fruitful (literally!!). My latest food obsession has the most interesting name QUINCE-- makes me think of a tall lanky Brit in a plaid vest and glasses. I dont know why, my imagination is a bit random at times (ok, most times). I've made the most lovely fruit preserve with it and had it for thanksgiving breakfast with fried angel food cake (its the holidays, c'mon let me sin!). I had focus on the turkey that day, so just used store-bought angel food cake, spread it with butter and toasted it on a heated griddle. The recipe for quince jam is pretty straightforward and just about every other blog seems to be talking about it. Seeing as much as I have to catch up with, I'll just point you to it. And leave you with a picture of our warm, satisfying start to Turkey day festivities and the promise to be back with lots and lots of tried and tested new recipes.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Citron Bundt

Sometime earlier this year, hubby came across this bakery near where he was working then called CakeLove. As the name would suggest the speciality here was cakes, particularly to die for are their cupcakes. All sorts of combinations but my favorite is the simple yellow cake with coffee buttercream...yummm. When I found out that owner Warren Brown was coming out with his own cake bible, I knew I HAD to get it.

Warren's instructions are very thorough and actually quite stern, theres just something about the tone of his writing that actually made me (although measure-averse) go out and buy a measuring scale. As for his actual method, once you are done measuring and setting everything out on the counter, it goes really quick. Basically cream butter and sugar and then alternate wet and dry ingredients within about a minute and pour into a prepared baking pan, unmould and stare at the outcome. This particular pound cake was my first try of his recipes and it was super delicious (if I do say so myself!), moist, slightly crumbly, slightly tangy with warm creamy cardamom...mmmmm. You can frost it too if you like, but I chose to keep ours a bit calorie friendly.

Citron Bundt

Dry Ingredients

13.5 oz sifted unbleached all purpose flour (2 1/2 cups +3 tbsps)
1 tbsp potato starch
5-7 cardamom pods (depodded and powdered)
3/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda

Liquid Ingredients

8 oz sour cream (1 cup)
1 orange
1 lemon
1/2 red grapefruit
2 tbsp whole milk
1 tsp vanilla extract

Creaming ingredients

2 sticks unsalted butter
21 oz granulated sugar (2 1/2 cups +2 tbsps)
2 tbsp citrus zest (from lemon and orange in liquid ingredients)
5 large eggs
1 large egg yolk

To prepare citrus:

Segment lemon, orange and grapefruit in a heavy bottomed saucepan and cover with 1/2 cup sugar. Dont stir. Bring to a gentle simmer over low-medium heat, then remove from heat. Immediately strain syrup from segments and reserve segments.

For the cake:

Preheat oven to 350F. Prepare baking pan using baking spray.

Measure dry ingredients into a bowl. Measure sour cream, milk and vanilla into a seperate bowl and gently fold cooked citrus segments and set aside.

Cream butter, citrus zest and sugar together. Add eggs (and yolk) one by one till each is completely incorporated. Add dry ingredients alternately with wet ingredients (sour cream mixture). Try to make it within 3-5 additions. Make sure to scrape out batter from the bottom of the bowl. Beat batter on medium speed for about 15-20 seconds. Spoon batter into prepared pan and place in oven for about 50-55 minutes or till the top doesnt jiggle anymore.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Maryland Seafood pasta salad

Maybe this recipe is a sign, a sign that I've finally come to peace with Maryland. I've always liked being associated with Boston, you know, its hip, its cool and next to it suburban MD just seemed the frumpy cousin. But crab with Old bay seasoning is as MD as it gets and quite deliciously so! This pasta salad is simple and the use of fully cooked imitation crab meat makes it quick and great for a weekday lunch. Couldnt take pictures of this one unfortunately, but I envision making it again very soon and will update this post then.

Maryland Seafood pasta salad

1 package imitation crab meat
1 small red onion minced
2 med stalks of celery finely chopped
1/2 cup of mayonnaise
3 cups cooked pasta (I like bowtie for this but really its upto you)
11/2 tsp of old bay seafood seasoning (can be found in either seasoning aisle or by seafood in any grocery store)


Saute the onions for just 5 minutes on low to medium heat. This is just to take away the pungent smell, but if you dont mind it just skip the step. Toss onions into a nice big bowl. Add crab, celery pasta to the bowl. Mix old bay seasoning in with mayonnaise in a seperate bowl (to allow uniform distribution). Add the mayo to the big bowl with all the other ingredients. Toss to mix. Old bay seasoning has salt in it, but if you need more feel free to add to taste.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Bangers and Mash

On a recent trip to Bar Harbor, ME, we went to this Irish pub/restaurant-- the only place that would take 15 of us half an hour before closing. This restaurant, McKays, seemed pretty casual and laidback, set in an oldish looking Victorian with a beautiful front garden. The chairs and tables were traditional, almost plain wood, again adding to the oh so casual ambience. But let me tell you the food was anything but plain and casual! Like most places in Maine, seafood- lobster in particular was the highlight but having OD'ed on lobster (never thought that would happen!) over the past couple of days I settled on their version of Bangers and Mash made with duck. Bangers and Mash is basically British slang for sausage links and mashed potatoes, it makes for a simple, delicious yet hardy dinner especially on a particularly cool night on Mt. Desert island. I'd never had duck before and couldnt have asked for a better first. Spicy duck sausage complemented by slightly bitter greens and velvety smooth mashed potatoes topped with a tangy mustard sauce....mmmmm....comfort food glory!

So when I came back home and had a major craving I hit the stores but couldnt find duck sausages anywhere. Grudgingly I had to settle for Whole food's Smokey Andouille Chicken sausage. Although, I must admit they were really good- they paled in comparison to the crumbly texture of duck...oh well, am sure we'll go back to McKays again someday and when we do...Mr. Duck sausage better be ready to get annihilated (have been hanging around nephews too long!)...

Recipe (serves 2)

For "Bangers":
1/2 lb chicken sausage (2 gigantic links)
1 tbsp vegetable oil

In a shallow but wide pan fry the sausages till golden brown. Cut lengthwise through the middle invert and fry again to make sure the insides also get a crispy coating. Take sausages out, drain on paper towels till ready to assemble (should be quick).

For Greens:
4 cups of fresh greens
2 cloves garlic minced
salt to taste

Add garlic to the same pan you fried sausages in. Fry for about a minute on low-medium heat. Add spinach and salt and cook till wilted and dark green (about 4 minutes).

For Mashed potatoes:
5 small-medium cooked and peeled red potatoes (cooked in microwave HIGH for 12 mins)
1 1/2 cups of milk
salt and pepper to taste

I wanted bland mashed potatoes so their taste and smell didn't overwhelm all the other flavors, hence the super simple recipe. Bring milk to a boil in a saucepan. Add cooked potatoes and mash till smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste. Mix well. If potatoes seem to thick, add more milk/water.

For mustard sauce:
1 tbsp coarsely ground mustard
1/4 cup Italian dressing

Whisk the two ingredients thoroughly and heat in a saucepan.


I put a layer of mashed potatoes on the plate, then some greens and then added the sausage. Finally topped it off with mustard sauce.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Leche Flan

My father had lots of Filipino friends in Kuwait. In fact our neighbors across the street from us had loads of parties and we were always invited. There were some party staples I always searched for-- Pancit (a noodle dish) , the most amazing fruit salad (still looking for ingredients to make this) and what they called Lamington pudding. I looooooved the "Lamington pudding", I could make dinner out of that alone. But of course back then I was too young and didnt think of asking for recipes so I'd just eat them at said parties. But a couple of weeks ago when I asked my Filipino friend for the recipe she didnt quite understand what I was talking about. And then I described it...its this really thick, creamy pudding with a beautiful dark caramel topping --"Oh! You mean Leche Flan!" she said. Apparently I grew up with a complete misnomer, its ok wouldnt be the first. My friend said that it was super easy and she could usually make it in less than an hour with about 10 mins of actual work. Great! With a baby who knows no naps thats about all the time I can spare. So I gave it a shot and she was right super quick, delicious and just the way I remembered it! My mom makes Creme Caramel which is somewhat of a similar concept-- vanilla flavored pudding with caramel syrup but the texture is just not the same. I know there is Mexican Flan which from what I remember of the one time that I tried it was similar to my mother's version but can't say for sure.

Leche Flan
For pudding:

1 (14 oz) can of condensed milk-- I used Carnation just b/c it was lying around
1 (14 oz) can of evaporated milk
12 egg yolks
1 tsp vanilla extract

For caramel syrup
1 cup of sugar
3/4 cup of water

Preheat oven to 350F.

Put sugar and water in a saucepan and let boil on medium heat till nutty brown and thick (will still be of pourable consistency). This will make the caramel sauce. In the mean time beat egg yolks till pale. Add condensed and evaporated milk and vanilla extract. Beat, the mixture might seem too runny but its ok. Keep aside till ready to assemble everything for flan.

Once the caramel is ready, pour it into a mould. I used a 10in deep glass pie dish but small ramekins for individual portions will also work. Then pour the egg mixture into the mould. Seal the mould with aluminium foil. Place the mould in a larger oven-proof dish and fill the large dish with water till about 1 cm below the edge of the mould (make sure no water gets into the covered mould!). Put the larger dish with mould into oven and let bake for about 45 mins or till set. You can tell when you touch the top of the pudding lightly and your finger does NOT leave an imprint. Let the pudding stand till it comes to room temperature. To remove from flan from mould, run a knife around the edge of the mould, cover with a serving plate and quickly invert. You should hear a big sluuurp, and then remove the mould. Although you can eat it at room temperature I like mine cool, so we cut it after refrigerating for a couple of hours. Delicious!!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

All that summer has to offer

I hate venturing to new locations in ghetto downtown Baltimore. Even if by some random chance of luck you find where ever it is you're going, you may not find parking, so you go into some strange street but find its a one way, then you have to go to another street and one road leads to another and before you know it you are in gangster country.

That's why I very carefully made my first trip to the nearest (downtown) Whole Foods. Not finding on-street parking, I didnt even bother going inside. The next trip, I did find parking but then asking an employee found that they have parking (for free!!) in an indoor garage. Such a valuable city commodity for free! Basking in an almost guilty pleasure, I get out of my car, walk down one flight of stairs, through automatic doors and wow! Hello, summer! Raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, cherries, mangoes, kiwis, melons, pineapples-- cant deny presentation being a major selling point in higher end grocery stores. Everything is gorgeous and before I knew it my cart was full with yummy ripe fruit of all kinds.

Walking through the aisles, I was wondering what I could do with my bounty and then I remembered my most favorite bakery as a child--Caesar's in Kuwait. Caesar's was a treasure trove of yummy bakies (aka baked goods). Pillow soft mini pizzas with a hint of marinara sauce and a sprinkling of crunchy cheddar, crispy and slightly spicy cheese twists, creamy chicken salad, super spicy and flaky meat curry puffs, dark and dense fruit cake (a christmas staple) fruit tarts. Tiny, flaky buttery crusts filled with sweet vanilla scented custard and topped with fanned out strawberries, sprinkling of blueberries and thin slices of kiwi. Yummmmm.....

My tart couldnt really be classified as mini but the flavor components were all there. I went all out and made the crust and custard from scratch. The custard was perfect but the crust was a far cry from Ina Garten's description. Not quite sure what I was doing wrong but pie crusts have never been my forte. I'm describing how I made the're on your own for the pie crust...maybe even store bought frozen crust would work well.

Fruit Tart

Completely cooked pie crust
Assorted summer fruit (strawberries, blueberries, kiwis, pineapple chunks, mango chunks, etc)
Bowl of apricot preserves (warmed in microwave for about 25 secs with 1 tbsp of water)

Ingredients for Custard (aka Pastry cream)

1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/8 cup all purpose flour
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 1/4 cup of milk
1 tsp pure vanilla extract (1/2 vanilla bean if you have one)
3 large egg yolks


In a bowl mix sugar and yolks together. Add sifted flour and corn starch to the bowl as soon as you can. Mix to a smooth paste.
In a saucepan, heat milk and vanilla until it comes to a boil. Remove from the heat and add slowly to egg mixture (little by little, you dont want sweet scrambled eggs) whisking constantly. Pour this egg mixture now back in saucepan and bring to a boil again, keep whisking till mixture becomes thick (almost to polenta consistency). Keep aside and cool to room temperature. If the custard becomes too thick and looks like pudding, just add a little more milk and heat to desired consistency.

Tart assembly:

Spoon the custard into fully baked and completely cool pie crust. Level the custard. Arrange fresh fruit creatively on top of the custard. Brush warm apricot preserves on top of fruit for beatiful glossy appearance.

Friday, July 11, 2008

I'm back, again!

I know its been more than 8 months since my disappearance but with all the sleep deprivation that comes with raising a baby it feels like my last post was only yesterday. For all my faithful readers who keep visiting and checking in-- thank you. Your support is probably why I'm slowly picking up the remnant pieces of this blog and good news, I have lots of plans. I hope to start a new series-- not quite culinary related (although I anticipate there to be a lot of that as well), but lots of personal stories. I think having a baby made me realize how important it is to catalogue life's incidences. I mean, I want my son to know his grandparents' story, how they moved to the middle east-- completely foreign land with a completely foreign language, how they adapted, how they brought up two girls while still in their early twenties, how in their very early thirties they smuggled their family to safety during a war-- how they survived it. For most of my high school class mates and friends our experiences were nothing extraordinary, yeah we experienced and made it through the Persian Gulf war (what we call the invasion) but life moves on. But I look at the people around me here and its incredible how insular their life is. Many east coasters have never even been to the other side of the country let alone travel foreign. And although to most, the invasion may seem a joke of a war, the fright was real, the danger was constant and death painful. Statistically speaking the death toll of the entire war was negligible but not for a child who heard her neighbors being shot to death and who heard of uncles being killed by misfired missles. Our nationality and maybe even luck saved our family back then. But I want my son to know where he came from and that life is a gift, that homework and school are not really the worst things on the face of the earth, that that girl who breaks his heart in high school is not fortunate enough and that there is so much to the world that exploring it will take an entire lifetime. And hopefully in doing so, it makes for good enough reading that others (like you :) ) will also enjoy.