Sunday, February 28, 2010

Crunchy Top Banana Bread

I woke up yesterday morning with a distinct purpose. I had to make something which had cinnamon and sugar and pecans. The whole of my last week was spent dreaming of these flavors and I have no idea why. Wait a minute, I think I know why. Last weekend I had a not-so-successful attempt at making cinnamon rolls. In my enthusiasm and last minute rush, I missed activating the yeast correctly. The rolls tasted good but they didn't puff up as expected. However the filling I made for these rolls with brown sugar, cinnamon and pecans left a lasting impression with me. When the rolls were baking they enveloped the house in this wonderful sugary and cinnamony aroma. It was bliss and I was waiting all week to recreate it.

So yesterday morning found me in the quest of a goodie with cinnamon and sugar. An overripe banana looking at me wistfully provided the answer - Bake a banana bread and top it with this mixture of my dreams! I got right to it... and I am very happy to report that this weekend's baking attempt was way more successful than last weekends. And yes I did recreate the cinnamon-sugary delightfulness. It was the perfect way to start the weekend!

Crunchy topped Banana bread
Notes: I used this Banana bread recipe from Cooking Light with a few modifications which included using half cup sugar and one-fourth cup honey in place of one cup sugar. I used another one-fourth cup of brown sugar for the topping. I also omitted salt since I was using salted butter.

2 cups Unbleached All-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup butter, softened (I used Smart Balance)
2 eggs
1 & 1/2 cups mashed bananas (3 medium ripe bananas)
1/3 cup plain non-fat yogurt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the topping:
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup chopped pecans
1 & 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

- Preheat oven to 350F.
- Combine flour and baking soda in a bowl and mix together with a whisk.
- Place sugar and butter in a large bowl and beat with a mixer at medium speed until well combined (around 1 minute).
- Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.
- Add banana, yogurt, honey and vanilla and beat until blended.
- Add flour mixture and beat at low speed until well combined and moist.
- Spoon the batter into a 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 inch loaf pan coated with butter or cooking spray.
- For the topping, mix all the ingredients together and then sprinkle on top of the batter in the loaf pan, covering it evenly.
- Bake in a 350F oven for around an hour or till a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
- Cool ten minutes in pan on a wire rack. Remove from the pan and cool completely.

Makes one loaf and a very happy baker!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Curried Vegetable Frankie

If you follow cricket and that too Indian cricket you are probably very happy today. For those of you who don't, the reason for rejoice was provided by heroic Indian cricketer, Sachin Tendulkar who hit the highest ever score of 200 runs in one day cricket. Some feat that was. And it sure made a lot of people proud. It certainly made me proud even though I don't follow cricket as much as I did when I lived in Bombay. Not that I had much of a choice in Bombay. My father, my sister, my neighbors, my friends were all ardent cricket fans. The kind who sat glued to the TV in nail-biting silence as the Indian team battled on. And living where we did, close to Shivaji Park didn't help either. This was and I believe still is the breeding ground for scores of young cricketers. Thousands of cricket matches are played out for an audience of none in particular.

Growing up, Shivaji Park had another attraction. The amazing Tibb's Frankie corner which was close by and provided arguably one of the best street foods ever. The Frankie. Frankie is basically a wrap made with a chappati/paratha which is pan fried and then rolled with a yummy filling. The filling could be potatoes, mixed vegetables or chicken which is drizzled with a sweet and sour chutney, the kind used on top of chaats. I don't think my description does it justice but believe me its really good.

Anyways with Sachin Tendulkar hitting 200 today and kicking up memories of Shivaji Park and frankies, I thought of making this curried vegetable frankie. This being a weeknight meal, I was trying to minimize kitchen time so this is far from authentic. I would like to find an authentic frankie recipe sometime and post it here. But we have to make do with this one for today. And you wont be disappointed when you try it. Here is to you, Sachin!

1/2 onion, sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 cups shredded cabbage/carrots mix
1/2 cup finely chopped green beans
1/2 cup green peas
1 small potato, boiled and mashed
1 and 1/2 teaspoon curry powder
1/2 teaspoon red chilli or cayenne powder (reduce for lesser heat)
1/2 teaspoon salt

4 wheat tortillas/frozen parathas

- In a heavy bottom pan, heat oil and add the sliced onion and garlic.
- Saute till onion is transparent.
- Add all the vegetables (thaw if using frozen) and cook till vegetables are tender.
- Add curry powder, cayenne or red chilli powder and salt. Mix well .
- Heat the tortillas or parathas without oil on a skillet and set aside.
- Spoon the vegetable mixture evenly on them and roll.
- Serve with tomato ketchup or a sweet and sour chutney.

Makes 4 wraps.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Goat cheese, beet and butternut squash tart

After long weekends of freezing cold weather and snow, it finally warmed up a little this weekend. The temperature hit 60 today and it was actually sunny. So we decided to celebrate with a little brunch with friends. We were quite maxed out with eggs so we decided to keep this one egg free and focus more on some vegetarian options. And as if by intuition, both A and I decided to recreate a butternut squash tart we had absolutely loved at Busy Bee Cafe in downtown Raleigh, which by the way is a really nice place to get dinner or a drink or both.

Anyway, coming back to the butternut squash tart, I was trying to take the easier route by buying a pre-made pie crust. But A refused. He was intent on making the crust from scratch and he also wanted to make it a healthy one. So we decided to take a little inspiration from this previous recipe and use the oats/flour combination. We did reduce the amount of sugar by a little and also added in some chopped hazelnuts. For the butternut squash mixture, it was lots of, well, butternut squash mixed in with some caramelised onions. And carmelised onions need goat cheese for company so that went in as well. We were a little worried about the lack of a binder but really we shouldnt have since everything stuck quite well together after a little oven time. The tart made for a great sunny brunch accompanied by a simple salad. Now I am just hoping that the sunny weather continues for a little bit. But alas there is forecast for rain tomorrow. Oh well.



1 cup oats

1 cup Unbleached All purpose flour

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt (if using unsalted butter)

1/4 chopped toasted hazelnuts

1/8 teaspoon cayenne powder

1/2 cup butter (we used Smart Balance)


1 medium-large butternut squash

2 beets

1 medium onion, sliced

1 teaspoon sugar

2 ounces goat cheese

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon paprika

1/2 teaspoon crushed black pepper

bread crumbs to top (optional)

For the crust:

- Preheat oven to 350F. Line 2 8-inch pie pans (we used the disposable aluminium foil ones) with a little bit of butter.

- Combine all the dry ingredients for the crust with a whisk till well mixed.

- Add in cubes of chilled butter and mix in with hands till the mixture resembles small moist clumps.

- Divide the mixture equally between the two pans and firmly pat down till it sticks to the pan and sides.

- Bake till golden brown (around 35 mins). These can be baked ahead of time and frozen.

For the filling:

- Peel and chop the butternut squash into small cubes. Thinly slice the beets.

- Line a baking sheet with foil and spread squash evenly on it. On a separate sheet line the beets.

- Drizzle both with olive oil, salt, pepper and mix well.

- Bake both in a 350F oven till tender (around 30 mins)..

- While the squash bakes, cook the onions in olive oil with a little sugar till they caramelise. Set aside.

- After the squash is ready, mix it in with the caramelised onions and goat cheese. Add paprika and more salt or pepper if required.

- Line each tart shell with the roasted beet slices, then add the butternut squash mixture and top it with some bread crumbs.

- Bake for 10 more minutes for the filling to settle in. Broil for a minute or two for the tops to get browned.

- Serve with a simple salad. We made a quick dressing of lemon juice, red wine vinegar, balsamic vinegar, agave nectar, honey, olive oil and a bit of salt and pepper, which was tossed over mixed greens.

Makes two 8-inch tarts.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Oatmeal, Fig, Date and Walnut bars

I originally meant to post this recipe a few days before Valentine's day. The intention was for it to be considered as a candidate for a sweet something you might have planned to bake for your Valentine. I know there is no chocolate involved here but hey don't you think a heart healthy sweet treat would be quite appropriate for a day symbolized with hearts? I think so. In fact an iron and omega-3 packed treat would definitely make an honest statement for undying love. But well, I didn't make this post in time. But don't let that stop you from trying these. I loved these bars so much that I would definitely recommend them for any day of the year.

I found the recipe for these bars in the last months issue of the Bon Appetit magazine and immediately marked it as a must-try. They were originally called Oatmeal, Fig and Walnut bars. I reduced the amount of figs and sugar by a little bit and added some dates. The only gotcha I found in this recipe was the bake time mentioned was 35 mins after which it said the bars would be browned on top and firm to touch. Mine didn't look very brown at the end of the said 35 mins. I ended up baking them for almost 50 mins by which I had burned the edges. So I would definitely recommend baking them only for 35 mins (maybe just 5 mins more) even if they don't look very brown on top.

In other noteworthy food related news from this weekend, I made a very unusual dal on a whim and it totally exceeded expectations. I had some leftover pumpkin which I wasn't sure how to use. I also felt like making a I googled (with a little bit of hesitation) for pumpkin dal. And I wasn't disappointed! Apparently I wasn't the only one to think of this and that provided some reassurance. And the
first link I got looked so good that I ran with it and was thrilled at the result. There are times like these which fortify my love for the internet and the blogosphere!

Oatmeal, Fig, Date and Walnut bars
Notes: Original recipe from Bon Appetit can be found here.

1 and 1/2 cups of chopped stemmed dried figs
1/2 cup of chopped pitted dates
1 cup water
3 tablespoons sugar
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup chopped toasted walnuts

Non-stick vegetable spray
1 and 3/4 cups old fashioned oats
1 and 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1 cup (packed) dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter (chilled and cut into cubes)

For filling:
- Combine first 4 ingredients in heavy medium saucepan. Bring to simmer over medium heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Reduce heat to low.

- Cover and simmer 5 minutes. Uncover and simmer until figs are very soft and filling is thick, stirring often, about 10 minutes.

- Mix in lemon juice and vanilla, then walnuts. Cool completely.

DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill. Bring to room temperature before using.

For crust:
- Position rack in top third of oven and preheat to 350°F. Spray 13x9x2- inch metal baking pan with nonstick spray.

- Combine oats and next 5 ingredients in large bowl and whisk to blend. Add cubed "butter." Using fingertips, blend until mixture forms small moist clumps.

- Firmly press half of crust mixture (about 3 cups) over bottom of prepared pan.

- Spread filling evenly over crust. Sprinkle remaining crust mixture over filling; press to adhere.

- Bake bars until deep brown and firm to touch, about 35 minutes.

- Cool in pan on rack. Cut crosswise into 6 strips. Make 8 lengthwise cuts, forming 2x1-inch bars.

DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover pan with foil; store at room temperature.

Makes 48 bars

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Doi Maach (Fish cooked in a yogurt sauce)

A couple of years back A and I visited Calcutta for the first time. I had heard so many things that I didnt quite know what to expect. Howrah bridge, rassogollas, hand drawn carts, old world charm, mishti doi all seemed to jump out when I thought of Calcutta. But after the visit I could remember only one thing. Fish cooked the Bengali way. Wrapped in banana leaves or cooked in a yogurt based curry, And this was after tasting it at a local institution called Kewpies which was recommended by my brother in law, S who is a pastry chef. I had never had Bengali food before and after trying their thali, I was quite enamored.

Since then I had been on the lookout for a Bengali style fish curry recipe. It was only happy coincidence then that A chanced upon this amazing book "The Calcutta Kitchen" by Simon Parkes and Udit Sarkhel at our local library. I was even more excited when this book referred to Kewpies. So I had to give the doi maach recipe a try. The original recipe called for bhetki which is a sweet water fish and recommended substitutions were either cod or haddock. I couldn't find either so I used sole instead and I thought it worked quite well though being very flaky it kind of broke down in the curry. The final product was still very satisfying. Also sole has a very mild flavor so if you are not a fish eater and trying to be one, I would strongly recommend giving it a try.

1 pound skinless white fish fillet (Cod/Haddock, we used Dover Sole)
1/2 tsp salt + extra to taste
3 tsp turmeric
2 1/2 cups plain yoghurt
1 tbsp chickpea flour (besan)
1 tsp red chilli flour
1/2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp sugar
3 tbsp mustard oil if available (we used regular vegetable oil)
1 large dried bayleaf
1 small onion, peeled and finely chopped

- Wash the fish and rub it with 1/2 tsp salt and 1 tsp turmeric. Set the fish aside
- Using a whisk, mix the yoghurt, chickpea flour, remaining turmeric, red chilli powder, cumin and sugar
- In a wide pan, fry the fish in a little oil on both sides. Remove and set aside
- In the same pan, add the bayleaf and onion and cook until light brown
- Add the spiced yoghurt and simmer on low heat for about 15 mins
- Arrange the fish pieces in the sauce, coat them and simmer for a few more mins
- Serve with steamed rice

Makes 4 servings

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Black bean cakes with avocado and yogurt sauce

I find it hard to believe that the first month of this new year is already over. For me this month was mostly about unusually cold weather, of either me or A being sick and blogging much lesser than I would have liked. So in a way I am glad that January is over and I am going to pretend that its the start of the new year all over again with February (I know we are a little into Feb as well but thats ok by me). With this new beginning I am making a few New Year resolutions too. They include more cooking, more blogging and more reading. Not necessarily in that order but lets see which one gets done more.

Aditya came up with this idea for the black bean cakes based on a somewhat similar dish he tried at a local restaurant. So we decided to give this a try for lunch today by raiding the refrigerator and finding everything that could go into these. We ended up using a carrot, some corn and a can of black beans for the cakes. We were both tired of eating bread so we decided to top these with a little bit of shredded cabbage and top it with an avocado sauce. The avocado sauce was inspired by both guacamole and sour cream and we made it by blending avocado with some mint and jalapeno along with yogurt. The end result was quite satisfying. Heres the recipe.

Black Bean Cakes:
2 tablespoons oil
1/2 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 jalapeno, deseeded and minced
1 carrot, chopped
1/2 cup corn
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon cumin powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne powder
lime juice of 1/2 a lime
2 tablespoons corn meal

- Heat around a tablespoon oil in a pan.
- Add garlic and onion and saute for 2-3 minutes.
- Add jalapeno and carrot and saute for another 2-3 minutes.
- Add corn, followed by salt and black beans.
- Sprinkle with a little bit of water and cook covered till the beans and carrots are soft.
- Puree 3/4 of the mixture and mix in with the remainder.
- Add corn meal (vary quantity depending on the wetness of the dough). Refrigerate for 10-15 mins so that mixture binds well.
- Use 1/3rd cup measures to spoon into patties.
- Coat with a little cornmeal/semolina and cook till brown on both sides with the remaining oil.

Avocado and Yogurt sauce

1 Avocado, chopped into chunks
1/2 jalapeno, deseeded and minced
1 tablespoon mint, chopped
lime juice of 1/2 a lime
2 tablespoons yogurt
1/2 teaspoon salt

- Combine all ingredients and puree together.

Serve the black bean cakes, topped with a little bit of shredded cabbage and the avocado sauce.

Makes 4 cakes.