Eggless Peanut Butter Cookies


Hi Everyone! It's Savithri back with another baking recipe. My mom is a teacher and can't eat peanut butter often because her school is a nut-free zone. Over the holidays I baked these tasty cookies to let my mom get her fill of the peanut-y goodness!

These thin, crisp cookies are sweet and savoury at the same time and are a little chewy in the centre. I put a Smartie (candy-coated chocolate) in the middle which makes the cookie look more fun to eat!

Eggless Almond Puff Cookies

Happy New Year everyone! Hope you all had a relaxing holiday. I'm excited to be guest-blogging the first post of 2011.

I made these amazing cookies while visiting my sister Kanchana in Chicago over the break. I had one week off from work and made the most of it by spending time with the people I love and baking lots of yummy treats for them!

The most popular item was definitely the eggless almond puffs. They have a delicious, naturally sweet almond flavour plus they are full of healthy fats and vitamin E. This low-sugar recipe only has two tablespoons of the sweet stuff plus a bit of confectioners' powder dusted on top.

These bite-sized goodies will last in an airtight container up to a week but they probably will be gobbled up before that. I hope you try it.

~Savithri

Oven Baked Paneer and Vegetables


One of our favorite party time appetizers is to make grilled paneer and vegetables we reserve some of the marindate and serve it with the paneer as a chutney as well. Its surefire hit with your friends!

Greek Salad





My sister Savithri is another fabulous cook in our family in addition to being a baker extraordinaire. She loves salads and made this fresh and juicy greek summer salad for our 'sisters spa day'.  We spent a wonderful evening doing yoga, drinking refreshing hydrating teas, watched a couple of chick flicks, and eating this healthy salad.  The main ingredients for this salad are juicy tomatoes, fresh cucumbers, lemon juice, feta cheese, black olives, and chopped mint. We added red peppers to this version, you can make several variations on this salad by adding chickpeas, other colored peppers inlcuding hot peppers or banana peppers. It was filling, super healthy, low in calories, and delicious. Taking time out to relax, breathe deeply, and eat healthy are great ways to manage the overwhelming pressures of a busy life. I'm noticing the positive impact already! 





Ingredients
2 large tomatoes (or 1 package cherry tomatoes), 1 medium cucumber, 1 heart romaine lettuce, 5 black olives, 1/2 medium red onion,  1/4 pound feta cheese, 1 tsp fennel fronds,  handful of chopped mint, 1 tsp lemon zest, juice of 1 lemon, Salt and Pepper to taste

1. Rough chop the tomatoes, cucumber, romaine lettuce, black olives, and red onion into medium chunks. (We also added red peppers to our salad, but its optional)
2. Assemble all the ingredients into a large salad bowl and mix. 
3. Crumble the feta cheese last so it doesn't disintegrate into the salad.





Potato Dauphinoise (aka potatoes with cheese sauce)


A couple of years ago Shankar made a delicious potato dish knowing that his wife loves potatoes in any shape or form.  He used a French method of baking potatoes in milk (often including cream) and cheese called 'dauphinoise'.
The result was individual stacks of potatoes, sliced thinly, layered with a delicious mornay sauce, baked to perfect crispiness on top and oozing fromage inside.  Back then, we had no discipline and our cheese budget would rival our weekly meal budget.  Shankar might have been inspired to make this with the blocks of gruyere, havarti, and various other high brow fromages in the cheese drawer of our fridge.
The pictures have been tantalizing me since. Here is the recipe loosely based on the preparation because it has been so long we can barely remember what we did.  But I do remember it was a memorable night with friends over to enjoy the cheesiness of course!

Potatoes Dauphinoise

2 tablespoons butter
3  cups whole milk or half-and-half
1 cup shredded Gruyere Cheese
1½ teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon grated nutmeg
2½ pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled, thinly sliced, rinsed, and patted dry

Mode d'emploi: 

Step 1: Make the Mornay Sauce (Bechamel with Cheese)

  1. Heat the milk in a saucepan (or microwave it until its steaming). 
  2. In a heavy saucepan, melt the butter. Once the butter melts add the flour and cook until the flour lightly browns.
  3. Add the milk to the butter and flour in a stream while continuously whisking.Whisk until the sauce thickens and you can draw a line across the spoon coated with the sauce. 
  4. Add the cheese (grated, and reserve some for the topping) and mix in until its melted.
  5. Season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg.
  6. Add the potato slices to the sauce and stir to coat. Carefully arrange the slices in individual ramekins and ensure you add some sauce in between layers.  Sprinkle the reserved cheese on top and dot with butter. Set in the oven. Raise the heat to 400°F and bake for 1 hour. 
  7. Remove from the oven, let it cool. You will then need to loosen the edges of the potato and then invert the ramekin on a plate. Flip your potato stack over and voila, individual potato dauphinoise.

Curry Pasta Salad


To continue Shankar's theme of fusion food, this is another delicious recipe from my friend Lavanya Krishnan. The pasta salad is kicked up a notch with the addition of garam masala, but it doesn't overpower the dish. I wasn't sure how this was going to taste, but it was lovely. The yogurt -- mildy flavored by the onions, masala, and cilantro -- mixed with the beans, peas, and red peppers, was healthy meal.

The next time you are looking for a quick fix lunch or dinner, I recommend this recipe. Serve it chilled.


Curry Pasta Salad


1 lb shell pasta, cooked al dente and drained
1 cup peas
1 cup canned black beans, rinsed
1/2 cup diced colored peppers
1/4 red onion diced
1-2 tsp of garam masala

Dressing

1/4 cup yogurt
2 tbsp chopped cilantro
salt and pepper to taste

1. Heat olive oil in a skillet, saute the onions and peppers with the garam masala.

2. Add the peas (you can use frozen peas here), and cook through.

3. Turn off the heat, and mix the onion pepper mixture with the pasta, and black beans.

4. Toss with the dressing.

5. Cool in the fridge, then serve.







Acorn Squash Soup



Greetings, readers!

Kanchana is out of town, so I thought I'd do a bit of guest blogging. If memory serves, my last guest post detailed a particularly horrendous failure in the kitchen - so I'm glad to be back with a story of success.

Ethnic cooks who attempt foods outside of their background are frequently accused of putting some of their ethnicity into their creations - even if they weren't trying to! In spite of such criticism, there is definitely a tremendous value associated with fusion foods not just to the palate, but socially and economically - just look around at the variety of fusion cuisines now widely accepted as well as the number of celebrity chefs who make a living from those cuisines. Without claiming to step into their ranks, here's a recipe that brings together flavors from Southeast Asia and the American heartland. I hope you enjoy it!

Acorn Squash Soup
2 acorn squash
4-5 cups mushroom or vegetable stock (depending on how thick you like your soup)
1 cup milk
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup chopped carrot
1 cup chopped yellow onion
1/2 cup fennel root
1 chopped lemongrass stalk
1/4 cup minced galangal
2 tbsp minced ginger
1 sprig rosemary
2 tsp nutmeg
3 tbsp butter/olive oil


Topping
1/4 cup minced fennel
2 cloves minced garlic
3 tbsp butter

1. Cut the acorn squash into quarters and coat it with a little olive oil. Top the squash with the one third of the aromatics (reserving the rest for later) - onions, celery, carrots, ginger, galangal, lemongrass (bruise this with a knife to release the oils first), and rosemary. Roast this in the oven at 400 degrees F till fully cooked (approx 40 minutes).

2. Heat some butter in a heavy bottomed soup pot (I like cast iron dutch ovens or enameled cast iron) and add the remaining ginger, galangal, rosemary and lemongrass. Don't let these herbs/spices cook too much - just let them get hot and release some flavor. Toss in the remaining mirepoix and fennel and saute till the carrots are soft. Add the nutmeg.

3. Add the mushroom stock and salt the contents of your soup pot. Keep the heat at a low simmer.

4. Pull the acorn squash out of the oven. Let them cool a little, then peel the skin off - all you need to do is gently tug at it and the flesh will separate from the skin. Taste the aromatics in the roasting pan- if they've browned too much and taste a little bitter, discard them. Otherwise, it's just more flavor in the soup! Add the contents of the roasting pan to the soup pot.

5. Once the flavors have melded together a little, it's time to force them to meld even more. Enter your trusty kitchen blender - I can't say enough about Vitamix. Since K and I have started using a Vitamix (thank you, in-laws!), I have never had to strain a soup! If you have a less powerful blender, just blend for a longer time - sometimes as long as 3 to 5 minutes. Grrrowwrrrr! until the mixture is extremely smooth.

6. Return the mixture to the soup pot and stir in a cup of milk - you could always whisk in a half cup of creme fraiche, but your arteries will thank you for using fat-free milk.

7. For the topping, fry the fennel in some butter until it becomes crisp, add the garlic for a minute (garlic cooks quickly and turns bitter even more quickly). Salt and pepper to taste.

8. Top the soup with the fennel mixture, and a few fennel fronds - Voila!

Notes:
  • Substitute all butter with olive oil for a lower cholesterol levels.
  • If you don't have access to galangal, just skip it - ginger is NOT a substitute. The two roots look a bit similar but do not taste similar. Besides, there's already ginger in the recipe!
  • If you're not up for lots of chopping, you can leave out the onions/celery/carrots. They should already be in your stock. I prefer adding the mirepoix in both - kind of a double-strong stock. Besides, the additional veggies are good for you too! This recipe is something your mother will love - it makes you eat your vegetables and drink your milk.
  • Similarly, you don't necessarily have to add the aromatics to the roasting pan - it's just really nice how the aromatics roast into the squash.
  • Buy a Vitamix. It's awesome!












So, how does it taste, you ask? Very, very good - squash, rosemary, nutmeg are basic building block to a variety of classically American harvest vegetable soups - think butternut squash, pumpkins, acorn squash, etc. The Southeast Asian flavors - galangal, lemongrass, ginger - work very well with the squash and a hearty mushroom stock really ties it all together. Kanchana scarfed her soup down very quickly, so I'm going to assume that the result is more than just edible.

Shankar



Penne a la Vodka

My brother in law makes a fantastic pasta, with a peppery tomato sauce. This is definitely a dish that is a great item for entertaining a few people. The garlicy sauce really packs a punch that will keep you coming back for more and more. Gopi's website is the culinary go to for the family, and he started blogging recipes much earlier than I did. In fact as I started learning to cook Indian food, I used his website regularly as a reference. Gopi's website is fantastic, because he really takes the time to provide exact measurements and precise instructions. He posts a variety of recipes; Indian, Italian, varieties of breads and cakes, and many more. You can even read them in three different languages!

The following recipe is taken exactly from Gopi's site www.zrox.net/Recipes.

Pasta with pepper vodka sauce

Ingredients

  • 1 lb penne or ziti pasta
  • 3 tbsp. olive oil
  • ½ cup finely chopped shallots
  • 2 tbsp. minced garlic
  • 28 oz canned diced tomatoes
  • ½ tsp. crushed pepper flakes
  • ¾ cup Pepper Vodka
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • Chopped basil leaves, garnish
  • Finely grated pecorino cheese, garnish

Procedure

In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the pasta until just al dente, 8 to 10 minutes. Drain in a colander, return to the pot, and cover to keep warm.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet or sauté pan, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the shallots and garlic, and cook, stirring, until soft, about 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes and pepper flakes, and cook, stirring, until thickened, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the vodka and cook until reduced to about 3 to 4 tablespoons, about 3 minutes. Add the cream and cook until thickened, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and adjust the seasoning, to taste.

Add the cooked pasta to the sauce and toss to coat evenly.

Transfer to a large serving bowl and garnish with the basil and top with a sprinkling of the pecorino cheese.


Notes by Gopi Sundaram:

I got this recipe from Emeril Live on the Food Network.

The sauce may look like it won't suffice for the whole pound of pasta, but it'll be okay. Too much cream sauce would make it too heavy. If you really want more sauce, add another 14oz can of tomatoes, and proportionally increase the quantities of vodka, cream, and pepper flakes.

I usually use farfalle instead of ziti or penne pasta, and use a blend of mozzarella and parmesan cheeses instead of pecorino.

Vegetable, Fruit, and Paneer Salad



The healthy salads continue with this colorful vegetable, fruit, and paneer salad. You have read correctly that there are vegetebles and fruits and paneer in this salad! The picture was taken on a bright summer day, when the vegetables and fruits were at their best in season. The key to this salad is finely chopping up all the vegetables, and fruits in a uniform size. You can take out the paneer, and chat masala seasoning, and serve just fresh vegetables and fruits like a 'kosumalli' seasoned with lemon juice, salt, and pepper. I find that the simple seasoning really brings out the taste of the vegetables. The basis of this salad are the carrot and tomato, and to this you can add any combination of vegetables and fruits that you have on hand. You can increase the protein content by adding nuts, and sprouts.

The credit for this recipe goes to my MIL who apparently was inspired to add fruit to her salads by my FIL!


Vegetable, Fruit, and Paneer Salad
serves 2 people

2 carrots, peeled and finely diced
1 large tomato, diced
1/4 cup tbsp finely diced fruit such as peach, pear, apple, plum, or grape
2 tbsp pomegranate (optional)
1/4 cup diced cucumber
1/2 cup paneer diced, mixed with chat masala powder
2 tbsp of finely chopped almonds (optional)
handful of chopped cilantro
juice of 1/2 small lime
salt and pepper to taste

Mix all the ingredients together, and serve fresh.