chilled avocado and lime coconut-almond milk soup

chilled avocado and lime soup | A Brown Table

Random, can't begin to describe it. But the little dinner we celebrated with our friends after our court marriage, somehow landed up as a photograph in the March 2015 issue of Travel and Leisure. Come to think of it now, I vaguely remember seeing a photographer at the restaurant but didn't pay much attention. 

It's been way too hot the past few days. The interesting thing here in this part of California, we have fireplaces but no cooling systems in most homes. While it's generally cool and sunny for the most part of the year, at this time we do get a lot of heat and it can be bad. It's hot enough, that I plan to start my mornings at work making large batches of whipped cream for any fresh cream cakes because the cream can collapse fast in warm weather. Frosting cakes can be a nightmare in hot summer weather but there are advantages to the heat when it comes to cooking. Fermentation, for one is thankful for the heat in most kitchens. Your yeast will grow fast and break sugars down and your doughs etc will be quick to rise. 

I tend to lose my appetite and desire for heavy meals in summer especially at lunch. To cool off, I've been drinking this chilled soup that's full of cooling ingredients, from the coconut milk in Califia's unsweetened almond-coconut milk blend, to the greener ingredients that go into this dish. It's rather easy to make and you can adjust the levels of spiciness by removing the seeds from the pepper to make it less intense. The soup itself is creamy and velvety and refreshing with the acidity of fresh lime juice and dill. Now, that's one tasty way to stay cool, folks!

chilled avocado and lime soup | A Brown Table
chilled avocado and lime soup | A Brown Table
chilled avocado and lime soup | A Brown Table
chilled avocado and lime soup | A Brown Table

Here are some of my kitchen tips that you might find useful when preparing this soup;

  • You can adjust the thickness of the soup by adding more or less almond-coconut milk.
  • I also like to serve this soup with a corn salsa or a sweet fruity salsa made with pineapple or mango. It also makes a great side to along with seafood at a meal.
  • Instead of dill you could also use cilantro. 
  • Warm the lime to room temperature if you store it in the refrigerator. It's easier to juice this way. You can also press the lime and roll it gently across the table to make it easy to juice. 

You might like some of these other summer recipes to stay cool with!

chilled avocado and lime soup | A Brown Table

chilled avocado and lime almond-coconut milk soup

yields: 2 servings


1 haas avocado, ripe yet firm 

1 lime, fresh

2 cups Califia unsweetened coconut-almond milk blend 

1 green thai chili pepper

1 teaspoon dill leaves, fresh + extra for garnishing

1/2 teaspoon white pepper, powder

1 teaspoon fine grain sea salt

1 teaspoon hot sauce

1. Cut the avocado in half and remove the pit from the center and discard. Cube the avocado meat and place it in a blender. Squeeze the lime juice over the avocado, Califia milk along with the dill leaves, the chili pepper, white pepper, salt and hot sauce. Blend to get a smooth and creamy consistency. Taste and adjust seasoning if desired.

2. Transfer the soup to a container and store in an airtight container for two hours to chill completely. 

3. To serve, quickly stir the soup a few times and then pour it into chilled glasses and garnish with the extra fresh dill leaves. 

Disclaimer: This post is sponsored by Califia and all opinions stated here are purely my own.


broiled figs with labneh panna cotta

broiled figs with labneh panna cotta | A Brown Table

I have one single fig on the little dwarf tree we bought last year. Just one....It started out with four but three didn't make it, they just dried and fell off. Now, I have one which I'm guarding like a hawk. One day, I will make a better home gardener....I hope.

If there's one thing the my world doesn't have enough of, it's figs. Big, fat, chubby and juicy bags of sweetness. They've been especially hard to find this summer and the ones, I've come across haven't been that good. But last week, I lucked out and decided to eat my weight in figs. And I have no regrets! 

Honey drizzled over fresh figs is probably my favorite way to eat them, the sprinkling of salt flakes is optional but the honey is what makes it magical. I kept the same theme here in this very simple labneh based panna cotta. I've flavored the panna cotta with orange blossom water and sweetened it lightly with a little honey. But the main sweetness in this dessert comes from broiling the fresh figs which helps to concentrate the sugar and add a nice caramel flavor to the fruit. And of course a little extra drizzle of honey before eating it!

broiled figs with labneh panna cotta | A Brown Table
broiled figs with labneh panna cotta | A Brown Table
broiled figs with labneh panna cotta | A Brown Table
broiled figs with labneh panna cotta | A Brown Table
broiled figs with labneh panna cotta | A Brown Table
broiled figs with labneh panna cotta | A Brown Table
broiled figs with labneh panna cotta | A Brown Table
broiled figs with labneh panna cotta | A Brown Table
broiled figs with labneh panna cotta | A Brown Table

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

  • You can choose to serve the panna cotta in the jars or release them from the mold. To do the latter, you will need to spray the inner surface of the jar with a little neutral tasting oil and then pour the liquid in and allow it to set firm in the refrigerator. You can then release the panna cotta by running a knife along the edges of the pudding or simply just tapping it gently over a serving plate. I do however, recommend using a smaller volume if you want to release it from the mold, the weight doesn't make the pudding collapse as easy.
  • You could add a tiny pinch of Maldon sea salt flakes over the figs but that is a bit of an overkill here as the pistachios I use are already salted.
  • I used whole milk and full fat labneh here for a creamier taste. Low-fat should work too.
  • Experiment with flavored honeys for more complex tastes. I used clover but there are so many other lovely varieties to pair in this dish.

Since fig season is short you might want to make the most of it with these recipes:

broiled figs with labneh panna cotta | A Brown Table

broiled figs with labneh panna cotta

yields: 4 servings


1 cup whole milk

4 tablespoons honey + extra for drizzling

1 packet gelatin

6 tablespoons water

1 tablespoon orange blossom water

1 lb labneh, lightly whipped

8 large figs, fresh, firm and ripe

1 tablespoon olive oil

12 toasted salted pistachios, whole

1. Place the milk in a small saucepan along with the honey and bring it to a boil on medium-high heat. While the milk is boiling, sprinkle the gelatin in a small mixing bowl containing the water. Allow the gelatin to bloom for 5 minutes. 

2. Once the milk has boiled and the honey is dissolved, remove from stove and stir it while warm into the bowl containing the bloomed gelatin.

3. Pour the milk mixture into a large mixing bowl containing the labneh. Whisk to combine evenly. Divide the mixture into 4 equal parts and pour it into serving jars or bowls. Cover the mouth of each jar with cling film and refrigerate for at least 2 to 4 hours until firm.

4. Set a wire rack in the upper level of the oven and set to broil. Take the figs and slice them in half. Brush a baking dish with a little olive oil and place the figs, sliced surface up. Broil for about 3 to 4 minutes until the figs are lightly golden brown and slightly caramelized on the surface. Remove from oven and keep aside until ready to assemble the dessert.

5. Take the pistachios and remove them from the shells (if present). Crumble the pistachio meat with a knife or a rolling pin and keep aside.

6. Unwrap the jars containing the panna cotta. Place about 4 broiled figs halves over each jar containing the panna cotta and sprinkle the pistachio crumble. Drizzle with honey and serve immediately. 

black forest ice cream cake

black forest ice cream cake | A Brown Table

This week marks the four year anniversary of this blog. It's been one amazing journey and I'm grateful for all the friendships and opportunities it has brought along the way. The start of this week also marked an important "holiday" one that I hold dear to my heart,  National Ice cream day and though, I'm two days late, an ice cream cake seemed the perfect way to celebrate. And of course, I'll do anything to stay cool in this hot weather. 

This black forest cake, is an ice cream version and it uses the cherry labneh kefir ice cream I shared last week. I took a lot of liberty with the flavor combinations so it's not one hundred percent a black forest cake by definition. At first I was tempted to layer the cake with chocolate ice cream and throw in some chopped cherries but that would overwhelm the strong chocolate flavor of the cake and it would be flat. But with this flavor combination you can taste the chocolate and cherry flavor in every bite... and the ice cream has chunks of chocolate.

The buttermilk based chocolate layer cake recipe is from one of my favorite baking books, The Cook's Illustrated Baking Book. The cake has a soft crumb and is very moist and is a great recipe to use when making other chocolate layer cakes. This cake is also loaded with a good amount of chocolate flavor and the best part, it's relatively easy to make at home.

In other news, I'm also writing a new column at Food52 on easy Indian cooking at home and besides recipes, I will also share tips and hints on what you need to have in your kitchen to cook a tasty Indian meal. 

black forest ice cream cake | A Brown Table
black forest ice cream cake | A Brown Table
black forest ice cream cake | A Brown Table
black forest ice cream cake | A Brown Table
black forest ice cream cake | A Brown Table
black forest ice cream cake | A Brown Table

Here are some of my kitchen tips that you might find useful when preparing this cake;

  • Both the cakes and the ice cream can be made a day in advance. If you assemble the ice cream cake the morning of and then let it sit in the freezer to set for several hours before serving. 
  • I didn't do this but you can spray the chocolate cakes with a little kirsch to bump up the cherry flavor. There is no need for simple syrup to moisten the cake as it will crystallize
  • This chocolate buttermilk cake has a very tender crumb but it is also easy to handle. For an even layer trim the tops of the cakes with a serrated knife to create a flat surface. 
  • You can also fold 1/2 cup of chopped maraschino cherries into the ice cream to add more fruit.

Here are some other recipes you might like:

black forest ice cream cake | A Brown Table

black forest ice cream cake

yields: one 9 inch layer cake

cherry labneh kefir ice cream - one batch

chocolate buttermilk layer cake (from The Cook's Illustrated Baking Book)

yields: 2 x 9 inch cakes


4 ounces unsweetened dark chocolate chips (65% cacao)

1/4 cup (21.26gm/ 3/4 ounces) Dutch-processed cocoa powder

1/2 cup boiling hot water

1 3/4 cups (347.28gm/ 12 1/4 ounces) fine-grain sugar

1 3/4 cups (248.06gm/ 8 3/4 ounces) all-purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon fine-grain salt

1 cup buttermilk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 tablespoon kirsch

4 large eggs + 2 large egg yolks, room temperature

12 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

1. Place a wire rack at mid level in the oven and preheat to 350F. Grease and line two 9 inch circular cake pans with parchment paper, keep aside until ready to use. 

2. Place the chocolate and cocoa in a medium-size mixing bowl. Pour the boiling hot water into the bowl and stir with whisk until all the chocolate has melted. Add 1/2 cup sugar to the melted chocolate mixture and stir until combined. Keep aside until cool.

3. In a medium mixing bowl, dry whisk the flour, baking soda and salt. In a small bowl, stir the buttermilk, vanilla and kirsch together. 

4. Add the eggs and yolks to the bowl of a stand mixer. Using the whisk attachment, whisk on medium-low speed until just combined for around 10 seconds. Pour in the remaining sugar and increase the speed to high. Whisk the eggs until light and fluffy but pale yellow, for about 3 minutes. Remove the whisk and replace with the paddle attachment. 

5. Add the cooled chocolate mixture from step 1 into the bowl and mix on medium-low speed. Scrape the sides of the bowl as needed with a silicone spatula. Then add the butter, one teaspoon at a time and mix for 10 seconds after each addition.

6. Add the flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with the buttermilk mix in the last two additions. Mix at medium-low speed until completely combined and no visible flecks of flour can be seen. Divide the batter equally between the two prepared pans and bake them in the preheated oven for 25-30 minutes, rotating them halfway through the baking process. The cakes are done when a skewer comes out clean from the center after insertion. 

7. Allow the cakes to cool in the pan for 10 minutes on a wire rack. Remove the cakes from the pan by running a knife along the edges of the cake. Cool completely for at least two hours. Wrap the cakes individually in parchment paper and then aluminum foil. Freeze for at least 4 hours before using.

To assemble the cake:

1. Leave the ice cream outside to soften for at least 10 minutes. It should be soft enough to manipulate but not runny.

2. Line a 9 inch springform cake pan on the bottom and sides with parchment paper. You can also use an acetate sheet cut to size to get a smoother finish. Unwrap one of the frozen cakes and place it at the bottom of the springform pan. Layer the surface with about 2 cups of the softened ice cream. Quickly place the second cake over the ice cream and repeat the layer of ice cream. Smoothen the layers of ice cream using an offset spatula. Cover the entire cake with aluminum foil and freeze for at least 6 hours before serving. Store in the freezer.

3. Pop the springform mechanism to release the cake and peel the parchment paper off. Decorate the cake with fresh cherries and semisweet dark chocolate shavings. The cones are optional.