Melting moments

I wish for a white Christmas (especially so since we spend time at home on the day) every December even after knowing that the odds are against me. National weather service forecast office predicts a desperately low probability of 0.8 % for seeing snow in Portland on Christmas day. The last white Christmas here was in 1937, so we just do not have high hopes. Yet, I wish!

In our kitchen it was snowing though, I spend most of my time yesterday (which isn’t much these days), making melting moments. There is something ethereal to the look of these cookies sitting on a baking sheet, clad in a fine dust of confectionary sugar. There is no other cookie which lives up to its name as this one does, practically crumbling and melting away in your mouth. I flavored one giant batch with cardamom and another with coffee, two of my favorite flavors. My personal pick is cardamom, but coffee went neck and neck for the honor. We have packed cookie bags for our friends , fruitcake is ready, crib and tree are set. Come on Christmas !
Thank you all for a fantastic year of companionship, for your hearty comments, lovely mails and of course for visiting a blog that was silent for the most part of the year. We wish you all a jovial season filled with merriment, laughter, good food, and company. May the love and abundance of this season be with you through the coming New Year . Thank you.

Recipe I used is from Joy of Baking website. For a batch of cardamom flavored cookies, I added 12 tsp of freshly ground cardamom seeds to the basic recipe. For making coffee cookies, add 21/2 tsp of instant coffee granules instead.
It is snowing, on a cookie !

Cookies to keep- Cashew nut biscotti

Time flew exceptionally fast this year; Christmas is here before I knew it. Yet there is no going back in drinking to the gaiety of the season, this year’s Christmas is very special in our house. Our daughter Sarah is now 3 months old, happily spending her time to eat, coo, smile and you know what. We cling to her as much as we can, we are warned that they grow up so fast,holiday baking can wait.

But then, this is the year to start a holiday baking tradition, especially since we do not really have any. We make fruitcake year around, as it is the only cake MrT ever longs for. I do bake cookies during the holiday season, but it changes from year to year. So I have picked a couple of my favorite cookies to make it our own, to pass it along my family tree! Cookie no 1 is going to be that fried cookie, which is nothing but a traditional Indian goodie my mother used to make for many other celebrations except Christmas. As for picking number two, currently I have no conflict of choices; it is going to be a biscotto. " Biscotti " if you are planning to eat two or more. Dunking is one of my favorite pass times. I grew up with good old rusk, dunked in black tea, swallowed without a thought crossing the mind. Rusk will eventually be honored in this blog with due respect and affection. But for today I raise my cup of tea to the very dunkable , al Italiano, biscotti. Be merry, it is the season!

The recipe is adapted from an almond biscotti recipe from BHG website.

2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
11/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs
2 egg yolks
6 tablespoons butter, melted
1 cup coarsely chopped cashew nuts
1/4tsp ground caraway seeds ( purely optional)

Heat oven to 325 degrees F. Mix flour, baking powder, salt and sugar in a bowl. Make a well in the center of this mixture, add eggs and egg yolks. Stir to combine with the dry ingredients. Add melted butter and ground caraway seeds ( if adding), mix with a wooden spatula or by hand. When the dough comes together, stir in the chopped nuts.

Line a cookie sheet with foil. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface; divide into three equal portions. Form each portion into a 14-inch-long log. Keep the logs approximately 3 inches apart on the baking sheet; flatten slightly until about 1-1/2 inches wide. Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until firm and light brown. Remove from oven and cool for several minutes. Using a serrated knife cut each roll diagonally into 1/2-inch slices. Place slices, cut sides down on a cookie sheet and bake for 10 minutes. Turn cookies over; bake 10 to 15 minutes more or until golden brown. Store in an air tight container for a week or two.

There is only so much you can do to resist the urge to make pickles, when an interesting recipe comes by , you have to surrender. Thank you RP, for your Vaah-inspiring chicken pickle recipe.

When inertia gets the best of you – make a bowl of fried rice !

You have to start somewhere to get going. Ingi told so, and so here it is.

Out of the numerous variations of desi fried rice that we tasted and loved, here is one with no sauces added during preparation. Rice is flavored with a medley of vegetables, spring onion and freshly ground white/black pepper. If you are venturing into this recipe, please feel free to get benefited from the following three tips.

1) Use freshly ground black/white pepper
2) Cool the cooked rice thoroughly
3) Never opt to omit bell peppers

Bharathy, this post is for you.

Rice (long grain, preferably Basmati) – 2 cups
Garlic minced – 1 ½ tbsp
Boneless cooked shredded chicken – 1 cup
Diced carrots – 1 cup
Diced green beans – ½ cup
Diced bell pepper (red and green mixed) – 1 ¼ cup
Green onion chopped – ½ cup
Whole white or black pepper – ½ tsp
White vinegar – 2 tbsp
Eggs – 2
Oil – 3 tbsp
Salt – to taste

Heat 1 ½ tbsp oil in a pressure cooker (lid off!). Lightly sauté 1/4 tbsp of garlic. Before garlic pieces change color add Basmati rice and gently mix to coat the grains with oil . Add 2 ½ cups of hot water, 1 tbsp vinegar, salt and pressure cook till one whistle. Turn off the heat, wait 5 more minutes. Release pressure, open the cooker, spread the cooked rice on a platter and let it cool. You need thoroughly cooled rice for making this dish, so it is better to prepare the rice the day before and store it in the fridge.

Beat eggs with a pinch of salt. Heat oil in a pan, scramble the beaten eggs. Remove from the stove to a chopping board, finely mince and keep. In the same pan heat 1 tbsp oil, add 1 tbsp garlic and stir fry for 30 seconds. Add green beans and carrots, toss to coat with oil. Add 2 tbsp water and cook covered for 1-2 minutes. Remove the lid, increase the heat, add bell peppers, chicken, half of the chopped green onions and finely crushed black/white pepper. Add salt to taste. Stir fry for 1 minute at high heat. Add the cooked rice, keep stir frying for 2-3 more minutes. Sprinkle 1 tbsp vinegar; stir fry for 1 more minute. Remove from stove, add the remaining spring onions and scrambled egg. Mix well and serve hot.
ഓണാശംസകള്‍ !
A prelude to good things to come - Plantain skin and Green gram thoran

Onam once again is so merrily upon us, for me like many others this festival is not about celebrating a single day, but it is all about mentally re-creating a season slathered in golden sunshine. This of course is a time many of us take a walk down the memory lane, reliving the good times we had in the past or raking our brains about how Onam has evolved over the years into the big time shopping season that it is now. But when we sit down for that one meal of the Onam day known as “sadya” , served on a banana leaf, we realize that the spirit and cheer of Onam as we once knew never left us for good.

A meal sometimes if not always can do wonders, forget the calorie highs you get, a sadya properly served is a reassurance of your connections to the past, a promise of good things to come, it is no grave matter if your avial contains Zucchini, or lacks drumsticks in it. My first Onam sadya in the US for that matter was made out of dried coconut flakes, canned coconut milk, and those vegetables I found in the nearest grocery shop. A marked absence of banana leaves topped it all. There was hardly enough time between my arrival here and Onam that it felt seemingly impossible to look for the resources back then. Managing with what we had was the best way to go. Two banana leaf shaped melamine platters I found at Macy’s just two days before Onam immensely lifted my spirits up, and I hold on to them dearly still. You may never know where life will take you next !

Over the past couple of years, as I made more friends and started exploring the city, there came answers for all sadya shopping needs. Now we live close to the two good Indian grocery stores in town, so this year I am assured that I might find all the necessary vegetables neatly packed and stacked in freezers there. I might even find frozen grated coconut shipped from Kottayam ! Sadya being set in that way, there is something else I look forward to cooking this season, which serves as a humble prelude to the grand gastronomical events associated with Onam. My mother every year makes a thoran made out of plantain skins, which regularly appeared along with rice in our plate in one of the days preceding Onam. The day of serving this dish was a sheer a matter of convenience. The day my mother found time to make fresh banana chips was the day this curry was made. A simple statement of sustenance in cooking popular in my hometown, this thoran tastes as good as any other vegetable thoran if not slightly better if you ask me. Hope all of you are having a nice time, enjoy the rest of the summer days.



Green gram – 1/4 cup
Finely chopped unripe plantain skins – 4 cups
Fresh grated coconut – 3/4 cup
Green chilies – 1-2
Cumin- 3 pinches
Curry leaves – 15
Turmeric - ½ tsp + 2 pinches
Dried red chilies – 3
Mustard seeds – 1 tsp
Salt – to taste
Oil- 1 tbsp

Cook green gram with salt till soft not mushy, drain and keep. Finely chop plantain skins and soak in water mixed with ½ tsp turmeric. Drain after half an hour. Coarsely grind grated coconut, green chilies, 2 pinches of turmeric and cumin. Cut the dried red chilies into 1 cm long pieces; remove the seeds if you wish to control the heat. Heat oil in a pan, add mustard seeds, and let it crack. Lower the heat, add red chilies and curry leaves. When curry leaves start curling up add chopped skins, salt and stir well to mix. Add the ground coconut mixture, sprinkle 2 tbsp water, and mix well. Cook covered under medium heat for 10 minutes. Remove the lid, turn the heat up. Stir in the cooked green gram and keep stirring till the thoran is dry (about 3 minutes on high heat). Serve with rice and a curd based curry or rasam on the side.

Skinning a plantain – You need unripe or medium ripe plantains. Make a long shallow vertical cut on the skin, using your hands unwrap the plantain out of its skin working through the incision.
Eat your flowers while you can - for GBP Summer 2007

Zucchini flower thoran

Thanks to T, now we have a thriving vegetable patch and something to show off for the green blog project this summer. Getting preoccupied with the thousand little nothings associated with a move, we ended up starting our vegetable patch a bit late, so now we have flowers when we should be talking vegetables! Pumpkin and Zucchini thankfully belongs to the same botanical family Cucurbitaceae, and I hear that their flowers are equally edible and tasty. This crumb of information is pure joy for me who had the privilege of eating a decent amount of pumpkin flowers growing up, and then for the past several years was deprived of that vantage. So when I saw these zucchini flowers blooming in my backyard, I got a very pleasant premonition about the events to unfold in my kitchen.

Stuffing and frying Zucchini flowers, I am sure is an excellent way to savor these blossoms, but first I had to make a simple Kerala style thoran hoping my best that these flowers will taste similar to pumpkin flowers. The word Thoran is a generic name for a simple Kerala style vegetable preparation, though there is no reason to be surprised when you hear somebody talking about a fabulous fish thoran that they once tasted. While most of the thorans depend on cumin, grated coconut, curry leaves, mustard and chillies playing along with the vegetable for the flavor, onion and garlic gets into the list of ingredients based on the practice in your neck of the woods in the state. Thoran in essence is mildly spiced; you should be able to eat many spoonfuls of this dish, without ever shedding a tear or running for a cup of water, and it tastes best served with rice. This post is on its way to the Green Blog Project- Summer 2007 event hosted by Deepz of Letz cook. To read more about this blog-green revolution and to meet the ‘YOU KNOW WHO’ that started it, visit this blog.

There are two kinds of Zucchini flowers, males and females; both are edible and easily distinguishable from each other. Male flowers have thinner stalks while the females have stems resembling zucchinis. You might want to leave all or a desired number of female flowers back on the plant for the future zucchini harvest, but can reap most of the male flowers leaving a couple for the fertilization process. Best time to collect is in the morning, being the fragile flowers they are storing for more than two days is not recommended. I used flower stalks along with whole flowers in this recipe. 5 to 6 cups of chopped flowers will give you a cup of prepared thoran, so collect as much as you can.


Chopped zucchini flowers and stalk – 5 cups
Chopped Green chilies – 1/4 tsp (or according to your taste)
Cumin – a pinch
Garlic- 1 clove, chopped
Curry leaves – 3 -4
Mustard seeds – ¼ tsp
Coconut grated – 1 /4 cup
Salt – to taste

Mix chopped zucchini with grated coconut, a pinch of salt and chopped garlic. Heat oil in a pan, splutter mustard seeds. Add curry leaves and cumin. Quickly add the chopped flowers, mix well. At this point these flowers will release a surprising volume of water, shrinking into 1/4th of the initial quantity. When this happens, you might want to move the flowers over to the side of the pan, so that the water will drain into the middle of the pan. Let the water evaporate to a teaspoonful or so (takes about 2 minutes)., mix everything again and stir till the thoran is dry and ready ( 1-2 minutes in high heat)

Hello again !

A big ‘THANK YOU’ and tons of smiles to all of you for visiting this blog and keeping in touch while I was away. Everything went well, and we are almost settled in our new place. I hope I will be able to get back to my routine blogging schedule very soon. I have a lot of catching up to do, so many interesting new blogs, even more fantastic posts from the bloggers I know ! I am just so glad to be back.

March 5th - Bloggers protest against plagiarism

In solidarity to my fellow bloggers and friends I am joining in the protest against Yahoo-India’s defiant stand on copyright violation issues. Read the full story here. Yahoo India’s Malayalam Portal blames it all on their subcontractor/content provider Webdunia, instead of making an apology to the blogger whose weblog content was taken and published without crediting the source. It is a shame that Yahoo-India failed to practice the proper etiquette of web publishing. If they are looking for solutions, start with a proper apology, try crediting the source for the content, and let Webdunia take some time off to refresh (or learn) their ABCs on copyright protection laws.

Icon designed by Sandeepa of Bong mom's cook book

Cake peek and blogging break

I am taking a short break from blogging , will be back in a month or so. In the next couple of weeks we will be packing our stuff and moving to the new house we bought, which thankfully is not so far away from where we are living now. Until I see you all again, take care and have fun !

Here is a cake I made two years ago, my first attempt to make a sugar bow. The bow is handmade out of sugar paste, trimmed with gold luster dust.

Stuffed eggplant

The vegetable eggplant rarely held a good standing in the household I grew up, it was almost always the purple floating object in a sambar or an ingredient in a last minute stir fry, except for a limited number of occasions when my mother made a pretty decent curry with lots of coconut milk added. But to get a feel of how interesting this vegetable can be when used properly in a recipe, I had to wait for a couple of more years till the day I tasted Baingan Bharta for the first time in a Mumbai restaurant. It was rich creamy and mildly fragrant, pleasantly different from any of the eggplant dishes I ever tasted. I buy Indian egg plant very often these days, and I am hooked for life to a stuffed egg plant recipe of Indira’s, and now I even have a recipe of my own! Well, it uses the same elements my mother uses in the curry I mentioned; only that the ingredients are stuffed inside the eggplant, and baked. To make this you will need Indian eggplants of medium size. It is as easy as scooping the flesh out, sautéing with spices and onions, refilling the shells and baking.

Indian eggplant –4 nos
Chopped onions – ½ cup
Ginger paste- ½ tsp
Chopped garlic- 1 tsp
Thick coconut milk – 1 ½ tbsp
Chopped green chilly skins (I used jalapeno)- 1 tsp
Curry leaves, chopped fine – 3
Red chilly powder – ¼ tsp (adjust according to your taste)
Salt- to taste
Oil (Did I say coconut?)- ½ tsp + ½ tsp for brushing

Split each eggplant horizontally into two halves, scoop out the flesh leaving about 5mm on the shell. Heat ½ tsp oil till smoking hot; add chopped onion, ginger, garlic, green chilies, chopped eggplant flesh and curry leaves. Stir fry for 1 minute. Mix in chilly powder, add salt and coconut milk. Turn of the heat, and let it cool for 5-10 minutes. Fill the eggplant shells with this mixture. Brush with coconut oil and bake at 350 degree in a preheated oven for 15-20 minutes. Serve hot with rice and a yogurt based curry on the side.
Weekend cake peek

A cake made for our friends’ cute baby boy , when we went to say Hello to him for the first time. All decorations are fondant made.
Tiramisu Cookies

Not long ago, while scampering through a pile of books in a clearance sale, I picked up an edition of “Desserts-500 delicious recipes” by Ann Kay. Like in many of my spur of the moment cookbook purchases, I had no idea about this book altogether. It was in mint condition, had an elegantly styled photo on dust jacket and looked totally out of place in that tarnished assemblage of books. Priced barely under $15, studded with beautiful food shots and bearing a promising number of 500 in the title, the book marched straight into my collection. I am happy about it till this day ! The book is an interesting hodgepodge of dessert recipes ranging from an Indian Kulfi, to a Moroccan serpent cake, encompasses an array of well working recipes for cakes, pies, and frozen treats. I have relied heavily on this relatively no frills recipe book for many occasions, mainly as an inspiration for bringing in some diversity to the desserts I make.

Heterogeneity of the recipe collection is not the lone significant attribute of this book; there are plenty of refreshing takes on some of the popular desserts like Tiramisu. If you are willing to look beyond ladyfingers or if impatience bothers you when you wait for that bowl of tiramisu to chill off, there is a Tiramisu cookie recipe for you in the book. The recipe is for a soft and chewy sandwich cookie with a Mascarpone-coffee-rum center. The book recommends drizzling melted white chocolate all over the sandwich before decorating it further with chocolate shavings, a good idea as such. But I liked it better when I gave it a light and shade effect with dark and light coco powders. Making tiny little paper stencils for printing shapes on to these cookies is fun, make a heart, or make any shape you love. Falling for an eye candy dust jacket is a sin I commit often while buying cookbooks, but this one is an exception, I am not repenting!

For cookies
Butter (at room temperature) – ¼ cup
Confectioners sugar – ½ cup
Egg, beaten- 1
All purpose flour- ½ cup

For filling
Mascarpone cheese – 2/3 cup
Rum – 1 tbsp (Optional, though recommended)
Instant coffee powder – ½ to 1 tsp
Brown sugar-3 tbsp

For decoration
2 tbsp dark coco powder
1 tbsp light coco powder
* I used HERSHEY’S

To make the filling: Mix coffee powder with rum and beat together with the rest of the ingredients. Cover and chill until use.

To make cookies: Preheat oven to 375 degree. Line a cookie sheet with parchment. Cream together sugar and butter until light and fluffy. Add egg, mix well, mix in flour, and mix thoroughly to get a smooth batter. Fill the mixture in a piping bag fitted with ½ inch plain round nozzle (or simply make a cut of that size on the tip of a parchment /wax paper cone.), pipe 28 blobs on to the baking sheet, spaced slightly apart. Bake for 5-6 minutes. (Till the cookies are firm at the center and the edges are starting to brown) Remove from oven, and cool.

Assembling cookie Sandwiches
Take a pastry bag fitted with a round tip and fill with the prepared Mascarpone cream. Take a cookie; pipe a blob of cream filling and sandwich with another cookie of identical size. Repeat till all cookies are finished, and arrange on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Take 2 tbsp light coco powder in a tea strainer and dust all over the cookies. Carefully place the paper stencils (size of the paper should be bigger than the cookie with a small cutout portion of the desired shape in the center) over the cookie and lightly dust with dark coco powder. Remove the stencils; you should be able to see the stenciled shape on the cookie. Refrigerate and serve, tastes great when served at room temperature too. Can be refrigerated for upto2-3 days, freeze up to a month.

* Recipe adapted from Desserts-500 delicious recipes – Edited by Ann Kay


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