herbed lime chickpea vol au vent

herbed lime chickpea vol au vent | A Brown Table

There were two articles recently in the Washington Post that echoed some of my thoughts I have about Indian food. One discussed why people find Indian food to be delicious while the other touched on the low popularity of Indian food in the US. Two interesting yet contrasting topics well worth the read if you have a few minutes to spare. 

In my opinion, I think Indian food has reached an interesting stage in the food scene, traditional and well-known dishes remain popular but there still remains plenty of room to grow. And though, it's true that Asian and Mexican cuisines tend to dominate the Western food scene, I don't think there's any cause for alarm, in fact I think it's the perfect opportunity and time to explore the variety in Indian food. There's so much to share and learn from Indian food. Within India, itself you will notice a huge variation in culture, language and diet. However, I also think it is important to break away from tradition and create your own traditions when it comes to food. Here on my blog, I humbly try to make an attempt to mix Indian cuisine into Western culture. It is important for me on a personal level to share food that I enjoy to prepare and in a way that represents the elements that influence me and my thoughts on food, on a daily basis. So here's to the future of Indian food and all the wonderful and tasty possibilities it has to offer!

This is an easy yet flavorful Indian-inspired savory pastry appetizer that can be served at gatherings of any type. Remember that little mint-cilantro chutney I made for the chickpea battered sandwich? Well here's another use for it and yet, again with chickpeas. This time, they flavor whole chickpeas which  get stuffed into little puff pastry nests. The ginger strips and fresh herbed chutney are what gives these chickpeas a flavorful and tasty punch!

The folks at Yahoo Food have me up as their Food Blogger of the Week and it's definitely been an honor and wonderful experience. Here's the link to the interview I did with them.

herbed lime chickpea vol au vent | A Brown Table
herbed lime chickpea vol au vent | A Brown Table
herbed lime chickpea vol au vent | A Brown Tableherbed lime chickpea vol au vent | A Brown Tableherbed lime chickpea vol au vent | A Brown Table

Here are some of my kitchen tips that you might find useful when preparing these vols au vent;

  • Make the chutney fresh. It will taste better the day it is made. 
  • I remove the seeds from the center of the tomatoes as they contain a lot of liquid trapped in the surrounding gel. 
  • I use store bought puff pastry. These days you can be puff pastry sheets or precut puff pastry shells which eliminate the need to cut the sheets. Go with you can find and what is easiest for you. To cut the smaller pastry circle within the large precut circle of puff pastry, I use the wider end of my large pastry tip. If you own a smaller circular pastry cutter, use that instead. 
  • Always keep the pastry cold when working with it. Follow the manufacturer's instructions to bake the pastry. In general puff pastry bakes and rises well at high temperatures which allow the trapped steam and butter within the dough to expand and create multiple layers. 
  • You will probably end up with way more chickpea filling than you need. I save the extra unused filling for lunch or as a side to add onto my dinner plate. 
  • You can play around with the heat level of the filling by adding more chili or leaving the seeds in. 
herbed lime chickpea vol au vent | A Brown Table

herbed lime chickpea vol au vent

yields: enough filling for 24 vol au vents

ingredients 

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 cup red onion, chopped fine

1 inch piece ginger root, peeled and julienned

1/2 cup tomatoes, seeds removed

2 X 15ounces cans chickpea, rinsed and drained

1 teaspoon kosher sea salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper 

1/2 serrano or 1 thai chili pepper, thinly sliced

1 cup mint-cilantro chutney (recipe here - skip the chickpea batter part of the recipe)

2 puff pastry sheets or precut (store bought)

a little cilantro leaves, fresh to garnish

1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan on medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, sauté the onions until they turn light pink. Add the ginger and cook for another minute with constant stirring. Then toss in the tomatoes, chickpeas, salt, pepper and chili pepper. Stir for one minute, then fold in the mint-cilantro chutney and cover the saucepan with a lid. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook for about 25-30 minutes, stirring occasionally. The chickpeas should be tender when done. Remove the lid and cook for an additional 1-2 minutes to evaporate any liquid that might be left behind. Remove from stove and keep warm until ready to use. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.

2. To prepare the pastry for the vol au vent. Option 1: Precut vol au vents; Bake the precut shells as instructed by the manufacturer. Option 2: Pastry sheets: Place the pastry sheets on a lightly floured surface and cut out 3 inch circles using a biscuit cutter. Transfer the pastry to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or silicone sheet. Using a sharp paring knife make indentations around the outer edge of the pastry. Then using a 1 inch diameter pastry cutter carefully cut a circle halfway through the center of each of the cut pastry circles. Bake the pastry as per the manufacturer's instructions. (In general for puff pastry, I bake the pastry in a preheated oven at 425F for about 18-20 minutes until the pastry rises completely and turns golden brown). Remove the baked pastry from the oven and allow to cool for about 10 minutes before handling.

3. To stuff the pastry, pop out the center from the cooked pastry and remove and discard and excess pastry from the center. Stuff the center with a generous tablespoon of the warm chickpea filling and garnish with a few leaves of cilantro. Serve immediately. 

chickpea battered green chutney and mozarella sandwiches

chickpea battered green chutney and mozzarella sandwiches | A Brown Table

Sometimes, it's good to take a break even a short one if you can. I normally work on Saturdays and at the bakery, that's an extra busy day for me! Fortunately, last Saturday I was able to "wrap my pastries up" a little earlier than usual and we decided to be spontaneous and drive out to Monterey Bay. We sat on the sand, soaked in the sun for a little bit and then walked around the pier after grabbing a couple of crab and shrimp sandwiches. We got to watch the seals as they lay out sprawled in the sun on the decks at the pier doing nothing but sleeping and the occasional loud growl. A rather uneventful time at the beach except for the seals but still nonetheless every bit relaxing and fun. I realized that I need to do this more often whenever possible take a break and recharge. 

Our trip to the bay reminded me of lazy Sundays with the occasional breakfast that would satisfy my fried food cravings and this sandwich satisfies that moment. It starts with a golden crispy exterior that encases a tender soft layer of bread that encapsulates a savory spicy herbed chutney and a layer of cheese. That's essentially what this chickpea battered sandwich/bread "pakoda" is all about! 

chickpea battered green chutney and mozzarella sandwiches | A Brown Table
chickpea battered green chutney and mozzarella sandwiches | A Brown Table
chickpea battered green chutney and mozzarella sandwiches | A Brown Tablechickpea battered green chutney and mozzarella sandwiches | A Brown Table
chickpea battered green chutney and mozzarella sandwiches | A Brown Table

Here are some of my tips when preparing this sandwich that you might find useful,

  • Use thick slices of good bread, it doesn't collapse as easily when dipped into the batter. Don't leave the sandwiches in the batter for too long. As soon as you dip and coat them, add them to the hot oil. 
  • I prefer savory fillings to this sandwich like this fresh herb chutney and layer of cheese I use in my recipe. 
  • I recommend using as little water as possible when making this chutney. Start with half the amount of water listed in the recipe and then slowly add more. If it is too watery you will end up with a soggy sandwich. However, if you can't get the purée to form with less water, you can drain the liquid out a little before you spread it over the bread.
  • Remove the seeds from the chili pepper if you want the chutney less hot otherwise leave them in.
  • Eat the sandwiches as soon as they come out of the frying oil as they will get soft and soggy over time. 
chickpea battered green chutney and mozzarella sandwiches | A Brown Table

chickpea battered green chutney and mozarella sandwiches

yields: 4 half sandwiches

ingredients 

2 bunches cilantro leaves, fresh

1 bunch mint leaves, fresh

1 serrano or thai chili pepper, chopped

1 tablespoon ginger root, peeled and chopped

4 tablespoons lime juice, freshly squeezed

1 teaspoon kosher sea salt

3/4 cup water, you may need less than this amount

4 thick slices of plain sandwich bread

2 fresh mozzarella cheese slices

for the batter

1 1/2 cups chickpea flour 

1/2 teaspoon kosher sea salt

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

3/4 cup water

enough vegetable oil for frying

1. Place the fresh cilantro, mint, chili, ginger, lime juice, and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Then add half of the water and pulse until puréed. Add more water if needed but use water sparingly (see notes on tips). Taste the chutney and adjust salt if necessary. Keep the 

2. Take one slice of bread and spread a generous tablespoon of the chutney after draining any excess liquid if necessary. Place a slice of the mozzarella cheese and then top with a slice of a bread to form the sandwich. Slice the sandwich in half with a sharp serrated knife.  Prepare the second sandwich in the same manner. 

3. In a medium sized mixing bowl, whisk the chickpea flour, salt, baking soda and water to form a thick slurry. 

4. Heat enough oil in a deep frying pan to around 350F. You can test if the oil is hot enough by dropping a half a teaspoon of the batter, if the oil is hot enough and ready, the batter will immediately bubble and rise up to the surface of the oil. Dip one halved sandwich in the chickpea batter and coat evenly. Immediately and carefully drop the sandwich into the hot oil and use a slotted spoon or spider move the sandwich in the hot oil to fry. Flip the sandwich over after about 1 or 2 minutes or until the surface is golden brown. Cook on both sides, remove and drain any excess oil by placing the fried sandwich on a plate lined with a sheet of absorbent kitchen towel paper or cloth. Serve immediately and hot with a side of the remaining chutney or ketchup.

chocolate ladyfingers

Chocolate Lady Fingers | A Brown Table

Tiramisu is probably one of the most popular desserts, I get to prepare at the bakery. We go through several sheets of this multi layered marscapone filled dessert very, very quickly. I also find it one of the trickiest desserts to slice through because it is so delicate. One accidental touch can lead to a bad disaster that can be hard to fix because the sweet creamy filling is too soft. But it is also one of my favorite desserts that I used to order every year for my birthday while in grad school. What I find fascinating about this dessert is the cookie that holds it all together and today I'm sharing a recipe that makes a lovely batch of dark chocolate flavored ones. 

Ladyfingers/Savoiardi are used as building blocks to many desserts and they are surprisingly easy to prepare at home, so I found out recently. The technique is very similar to making the genoise cake. It basically involves a lot of air incorporating via whisking aggressively followed by a little bit of gentle folding, that's really all there is to it! Except for the fat in the egg yolks, there's no other fat added to the batter so this cookie is rather dry which helps, when you use them in constructing desserts such as tiramisu. Think of them as efficient liquid sponges, they will absorb and hold flavors well and make you one very happy dessert consumer!

Chocolate Lady Fingers | A Brown Table
Chocolate Lady Fingers | A Brown Table
Chocolate Lady Fingers | A Brown Table
Chocolate Lady Fingers | A Brown Table
Chocolate Lady Fingers | A Brown Table

Here are some of my kitchen tips when preparing these cookies;

  • I used a 100% dark unsweetened cacao because I want the color of the cookie to be pretty dark brown in color but if you want a lighter color you can use 60-70% cacao.
  • Work quickly and avoid the temptation to over-mix the batter. 
  • Ideally you would dust the cookies with a little confectioner's sugar but I skipped this step as I did not plan on eating them directly. 
  • The cookies do expand on baking which is why I find it easier to bake them on a parchment paper that's pre-marked into rectangles. 
  • You will notice that I use a silicone mat and a sheet of parchment to bake these cookies. The silicone mat really helped prevent burning and gave me even baking on each cookie while the parchment paper was helpful in drawing out the size of the ladyfingers. You can also play around with the sizes of the cookies to suit your needs. 

I've adapted this recipe from the Baking and Pastry: Mastering the Art and Craft by the Culinary Institute of America.

Chocolate Lady Fingers | A Brown Table

chocolate lady fingers 

yields: about forty 3 inch cookies

ingredients 

3 large eggs, cold and separated 

1/2 cup (3 1/2 ounces) fine grain sugar

1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon (3 ounces) all purpose flour 

1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon cornstarch 

2 tablespoons + 1 tablespoon unsweetened dark cocoa powder (100% cacao)

1. Place a wire rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 400F. Place the 3 yolks with half the sugar in a large mixing bowl. Using an electric whisk, beat the yolks on high speed for around 6 minutes until they turn pale yellow and creamy. They will expand in volume as air gets incorporated. 

2. Place the egg whites with the remaining sugar in a large mixing bowl and whisk with an electric mixer for about 3-4 minutes on high speed until the egg whites form soft peaks. The whites will expand and triple in volume. 

3. Sift the flour, cornstarch and cocoa together, three times and keep aside. 

4. Fold the eggs whites into the egg yolks using an outward to inward circular motion using a silicone spatula. Do this folding motion 4 times. There is no need to over-mix at this stage. Sift the pre-sifted dry ingredients over the eggs and the using the outward to inward circular motion, fold the ingredients until no visible specks of flour are visible. The mixture will deflate a little as you fold but it should not be completely flat. 

5. Line two baking sheets, each with a silicone mat and a sheet of parchment paper. Using a pencil mark the parchment sheet in half and then divide each half into 7 equal sized rectangles. Repeat with the other half. Fill half of the cookie batter into a pastry bag fitted with a large #1 round decorating tip and pipe out one 3 inch long strip of batter in each rectangle. Bake one sheet of cookies at a time in the oven for about 6-8 minutes or until the edges of the cookies are just firm to touch. They should not be browned or they will be overbaked. The cookies bake very fast so keep an eye on them. Repeat with rest of the batter to prepare the remaining cookies. Cool the cookies on the parchment paper before removing and transferring to an airtight container for storage.