Saturday, June 3, 2017

Banana Nut Bread - 2

Banana nut bread is really easy to make. It is a nifty appetizer too when you think about it. Who can seriously resist warm, moist slices of freshly baked BNB?  It is also a great way to reuse those bananas gone black that all of a sudden no wants to eat.  Definitely better than reserving it for H's compost can, however tempting and responsible that may be.

It's been a while since I'd made this bread and so forgot that I actually had a recipe in my blog. Off I go to the great wizard of google to ask for a recipe. The effort paid off and I landed on an even better one at the countrycook's! Both kids love baking just as much as I do. Kannan is the local (in-house) pound cake baker and molu of course is a natural at these things. She makes the greatest of crepes when she is in the mood. She loved the idea of BNB and signed on from the beginning. I just had to call out the recipe and she did everything else almost all the times we've made this recently. I didn't add the streusel on top suggested in the original recipe as that makes it a bit too sweet for us. It sure is a neat way to fancy up the bread a bit.

In The Mix

overripe bananas - 3
eggs - 2
butter - 1/3 cup melted (= 5 1/4 tbsp)
vanilla extract - 1 tsp
sugar - 1/2 cup
all purpose flour - 1 3/4 cup
baking powder - 2 3/4 tsp
salt - 1/2 tsp
cinnamon - 1 1/2 tsp
walnuts - 1/2 cup chopped or hand crushed

How To Do

Preheat oven to 325F. Spray a loaf pan (9x5) with non-stick spray.
Mash the bananas and combine with eggs, butter, sugar and vanilla. Mix well and add flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. Add in the walnuts and stir together.

Pour batter into the pan and bake for about 55-60 minutes. Bread should spring back when done. Insert a fork to see if it comes out clean. Cool a bit, cut a slice or two and go bananas!

Friday, June 2, 2017

Broiled Chicken Drumsticks

As I said, it is oven, oven all the way here. Drumsticks play an important role in this scenario. Magic words of clean, fast and easy came true in this excellent recipe adapted from simplyrecipes. Thank you simplyrecipes for making this a staple for us.

I did have a yummy recipe for chicken legs but the oil step was making it a messy proposition to clean up after. So it is that this nifty recipe came to save our lives. Really, to help me not to do the cleaning.

In The Mix

chicken legs/drumsticks - 12

For the Marinade
green onion stalks - 10 , white & green parts, diced
serrano chilies - 3, seeded, quartered
garlic cloves - 3, peeled, crushed
lemon thyme - 1 tbsp, chopped
cilantro - 1 tbsp, chopped
white wine vinegar - 2 tbsp
garam Masala powder - 1 1/2 tsp
freshly ground pepper - 1 tsp
kosher salt - 1 1/2 tsp

kosher salt - to sprinkle
pepper powder - to sprinkle
olive oil - to coat the broiler pan

How To Do

Turn the oven broiler to high/450F.  Make sure to place a rack at the center of the oven before it heats up. Wash and drain the drumsticks and pat dry with paper towels. Set aside.

Mix all of the marinade ingredients and  grind to a paste. Immersion blender does this job well.

Marinate the chicken legs with the paste for 30 minutes at room temp. If you set it to marinate overnight in the fridge, make sure to take out and keep at room temp for 30 minutes prior to baking.

Boiler pan is best as it can take the heat of the broiler. Other pans may warp. Coat the bottom pan with some oil with a sprayer or paper towels. Cover the top slit pan with aluminum foil for easy clean later. Coat the foil also with oil. Make sure to open some slits of the top sheet for juice to run into the bottom pan.

Arrange the drumsticks on the pan and sprinkle generously with kosher salt. Add pepper as needed. Broil for 10 minutes, turn the pan and turn over chicken pieces and bake for another 10 minutes or till the juices run clear when poked with a knife.

Enjoy with hot sticky basmati rice & yogurt or with fresh baked bread.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Broiled Tri-Tip Steak

Indian cooking has taken a hiatus in our home lately. As always this dull period is caused by lack of demand from customers. I do push the occasional fish curry, and idli/chutney or egg curry whenever I can but poor oven's been working overtime to meet the increased demand on its output.

My daughter loves to eat steak and so it was that I discovered tri-tip steaks. The important thing is to broil them so it becomes a fast and easy thing to do for dinner on those busy week days. They are relatively less expensive than other cuts of steaks I think and so an easy choice for regular cooking. The trick as with any meat, is to cook them just right so it doesn't dry out. Now that the kid palette's are expanding, there is a demand for flavor. In my quest for flavor I chanced upon this marinade recipe with everyday ingredients and full of flavor. 

In The Mix

Tri-tip steak - 2 lbs
Salt - sprinkle to taste
Steak seasoning - sprinkle to taste
(Steak seasoning can be substituted with just black pepper if you don't want it to be too spicy)

For the Marinade
Soy sauce - 2tbsp
Apple cider vinegar - 2 tbsp
Olive oil - 2 tbsp
Garlic cloves, minced - 4
freshly ground black pepper - 1/2 tsp

How To Do

Wash and drain the steaks. They come in large single pieces or medium sized pieces. Mix all the marinade ingredients with the steak and keep overnight for the flavors to set in. On the day of cooking allow the meat to sit for half an hour at room temp. If you are not doing the overnight thing, just marinate outside for half an hour on the day of cooking.

Preheat the broiler oven to 375. Make sure the broiler element is on in the oven. 

It is best to use the broiler pan for this. It usually comes with the oven when you buy it. If the broiler pan is not available, you can just use an oven safe pan. Spread oil on the bottom pan and cover the top pan with aluminum foil. Spear through gently so some of the slits on the top pan are open.  Spray the top foil also with cooking spray or oil. This helps to get the steak off after cooking.

Keep the marinated steaks on the top sheet. Sprinkle generously with salt and seasoning or ground pepper. Do this for all sides.

Place the pan in the middle of the oven and cook for about 15 minutes. Then turn the pan, turn over the steaks and cook for another 14-18 minutes to get to medium rare.  Better to watch the last few minutes and take out before the meat gets too dry.  

Let sit for a few minutes and slice against grain. Serve with oven roasted potatoes or fresh bread.

Friday, May 12, 2017

From The Garden

Starting with this cute little assorted corner in the backyard, I wanted to add the latest snaps of my curry leaf plant and the little lime tree in a barrel. The very sight of them, all clad in such pretty green, brings me joy every time I step out into the backyard these days.

I happened to have some garlic cloves that sprouted while in storage. Thought I'll plant a few in the lime tree barrel and was quite surprised to see them coming up so well there in the back if you can spot'em. The parsley and cilantro I had there are almost done but the poppies and other little flowering plants seem to be doing OK. Love seeing flowers come up in spring.

Didn't think the curry leaf would have survived through winter times! Have already harvested a few bunches form this nifty little group.  Hope to see them through the many winters. Spring is such a beautiful time!

We had quite a spectacular run of H's roses as always and a few of my nasturtiums from last year decided to show up as well. So beautiful! 

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Say Cheese!

This delicious spread is from the cheese and wine party I hosted last week for a ladies group. It was formed out of our need to escape from this hectic lifestyle and relax for a few hours. We all met here and most have kids who went to the same school and some had met at church and live not that far from each other. So far it is going well and we like it enough to keep meeting even though schedules are tight and demands on time keeps going up. H and kids got to go out and enjoy a movie and dinner while mom was chillin' at home with friends.

I picked wine and cheese for my turn as I'd been itching to do one for a while. It was really fun to put together. The good news is you just can't go wrong no matter what you do. I got most of my cheeses and crackers from Whole Foods and some of the sauces and fruits from Safeway. Here is a rundown on what I had.

The Cheese
It is good to have cheeses of different flavors and texture depending on you and your guests' preferences. Soft french brie, salty blue, creamy goat cheese, soft mozzarella, are all good to bring to the table.

Arrange the cheese by texture from soft to hard. Have a sweet cheese to end as in dessert. Some cheeses and their common available names are given below as a future reference for me too. I had some but not all on my cheeseboards.

Brie/camembert/chaource :: from cow's milk - creamy, melting

Triple cream soft cheese from cow's milk

Goat cheese/chevre'/mathais/humboldt :: as soft as brie

Manchega/feta/ossau iraty :: sheep's milk - semi-soft

Blue/gorgonzola/stilton :: cow's milk - crumbly/salty/firm/buttery

Taleggio :: washed rind/sweet/semi-soft

Gouda :: good for flavor and adds some gold to your offering.

I didn't get any hard cheese as I knew that may not go over very well with this crowd and myself. There are many more than I have mentioned here. Like wine, cheese is an interesting fare to read upon and I plan to do just that . The next few paragraphs give an idea of what else to add to the cheeses to make it a full table.

The Crunch
Cheese needs to sit on a base of something so you can eat it as a delectable bite. Crackers are the answer to this. Add some sliced baguette breads to this and you are almost there. Olive bread is a good option to go with brie and brioche toast goes well with the stilton. Baked flatbread is good to top with some protein while any round crackers are always a good pick for anything. Cheese twists were good for the overall look, while sweet olive tortas discovered on a grocery shelf were immensely popular.

Any kind of nuts; toasted, roasted or honeyed will add that extra crunch you are looking for.
I had almonds, spanish cocktail mix and spicy roasted chickpeas to the rescue.

The Savory Dips
I found a spicy fresh guacamole dish on a last minute trip to the grocery store. Glad I grabbed it on the way to the register as it went over very well with the guests. Hummus is a must since it goes with almost anything I think. Veggie dips are good when you are adding baby carrots or steamed broccoli to the mix. Last minute panic made me add some shrimp salad which in hindsight was not needed at all.

The Fresh
I had grapes, blue berries and cherry tomatoes for color and palette pleasures.

The Meat
Prosciutto is a favorite but I found salami worked the best with all kinds of combinations. So it will be a definite go-to next time. I also had cured sausage that went famously with a dollop of some orange-fig jam. Yum!

The Sweet
Black truffle honey is always present next to the cheeses in the grocery stores and I loved the pear sauce which added a nice note on every bite. Orange-fig jam is the best find through and I can eat it just by itself. It reminds me a lot of my mom's home made pineapple jam both in texture and taste and I can't get enough of it.

The Wine
Any clear white wine will do the job. You can add red for a mix up. A sip between bites prepares your taste buds for the next delicious bite. I had Pinot Grigio for the white wine. Red Chianti, a rose wine and sparkling cider for the non-winers completed the wine roaster.

The Knives
Cheese knives are so cute, you'd want some even if you are not thinking of having a cheese event. Picture here shows the assortment that I have but it is not complete. This link or a simple google search can tell you more on these little guys.

Kids and H had the first dibs before heading out the door and it was great to see them experimenting with various flavors with excitement and enjoying it. So what is holding you? Go on, select a cracker base, select your cheese, top off with jam or honey and some nuts or fruits and delve into the world of exploding flavors accompanied by a sip of your favorite wine. 

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Happy Belated TG.

Roasting a turkey for thanksgiving has become like reading books. No matter what is currently going on in our lives, this new tradition is not dropped. It started off with just the four of us, then 2 or 3 families were added and now we do the full roaster of the 9-10 families that usually meet on special occasions. Some may not be around, and some will be busy with other activities planned for this rare long weekend, but most make it to pay homage to the turkey. Besides the bird, I usually make the gravy, stuffing, cranberry sauce and mashed potatoes. Mashed p is so popular that a friend is roped in to make a batch and bring it along with her usual item of sweet rolls. H made some yummy salad with beans and corn this year, a fitting addition to this feast. Corn bread, roasted veggies, appetizers and desserts are outsourced to the hapless friends on the promise of a dinner. They are game and we had a very noisy and fulfilling dinner this year too.

I find that my own notes here are helping me. So here I go. We had a 23. 4 pounder bird this time.  I got a brine mix from World Market  which coincidentally had all the ingredients that I normally use. We set the turkey to brine in the garage instead of the refrigerator and turned the turkey in the brine once after 12 hours. This year's turkey was perfectly moist and evenly browned.  I am beginning to realize that Alton Brown's recipe needs slight modifications for the organic, never frozen turkey that we roast.

Maybe 30 min at 500 degrees is good for a 23 pounder but 20 min might be enough for 12-18 pounders. After 30 min, the inner temperature this time was 64 and it took an additional 2 hours for the temp to get to 162. I think 64-70 is a good temp to start the 350 step instead of 100. This means the rest of the turkey cooks slowly to prevent over browning. The temp probe should be taken out as soon as the bird is out of the oven and set to rest on a platter covered in foil for 10-15 minutes before carving. Herbs are as good a liner for the serving platters as lettuce or cabbage. I also liked adding finely chopped rosemary and lemon thyme from my garden to canola butter for the turkey rub. Pouring about 1/2 cup water in the pan before placing the roasting pan in the oven each time it went in helped to reduce the oven smoke and kept the pan less burnt for gravy making.

For stuffing, the store cut onion celery mix ended up being better than fennel bulb and onions cut at home. Curly parsley is a flavorful addition to stuffing or gravy or roasted red potatoes.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

C for Coconut, Cliantro & Chutney

Chutneys can make or break a dish. In the case of dosas their role is larger than life. They come in various forms. In the guise of mint, coconut, tomato and lately even dates. I have yet to try the dates version. Long before I mastered (!) the art of making edible coconut chutney at home, we were patrons of 'dosa places' as they are generally called by the kiddos. Naturally what you eat first takes precedence over the latecomers in the taste ladder. While H and I were pretty happy with my humble coconut chutney, it was always difficult to get the kids to like it. Molu tolerated it but Kannan just would opt for the absent sambhar instead. Who has time to make the laborious and time consuming dosa and then sambhar too? We were lucky I managed to at least make a chutney! Lately though Kannan is more open to experiments and has latched onto cilantro as a flavor he likes. I started a quest to see if I can make a compromise chutney. That will give it a 4th C for compromise. In the process I discovered anything can be called a chutney so long as I have some coconut in it and some grinding is involved. Then as I was reaching the end of my patience, I chanced upon a few hotel style recipes. Thanks to these recipes and some trials I think I have now a recipe that is agreeable to all the clashing palates at home. Let us hope this is a long term solution to the chutney problem.

In The Mix

chana dal or bengal gram - 1/4 cup
fresh grated coconut - 1 cup
shallots - 1 medium diced
ginger - 1/2" piece peeled and diced
yogurt - 2-3 tbsp
green serano chili - 1 or 2 sliced
cilantro - 1/4 cup chopped
salt to taste
water - enough for the right consistency

for seasoning:

1 tbsp coconut oil
mustard seeds - 1/2 tsp
dry red chili - 2 each cut into pieces
curry leaves - 1 small sprig

How To Do

Roast the chana dal in a pan on high heat. Keep stirring and remove from heat at the first sign of color change to a darker shade. Grind together all the ingredients in the first list including the chana dal. Add enough water if the yogurt is not enough to keep the mixer going. Chana gives the restaurant like taste for Molu and cilantro gives the craved color to Kannan. Dad and mom are happy to eat anything made at home these days without specifications. Don't forget to add salt to taste.

Heat oil in a pan and add the mustards to splatter. Add red chili and saute till brown. You can add a pinch of methi/fenugreek/uluva if you like. I forgot it this time. Add curry leaves at the end, mix together and quickly remove from heat. They you can add the chutney to seasoning and heat for a short time or just add the seasoning to the chutney mix. Either way the chutney will come out ahead. Enjoy with dosa or idly. Despite the grand claims of hard labor above, I have found that the 'Sastha' brand of dosa batter is a good replacement for home made batter. Why not? Go ahead and enjoy your home made dosa with half the work if that is what keeps you going in the regular grind (pun intended) of life.