mint and peach lassi


peach with mint lassi drink

There it was, this little produce stand that we almost drove past by on our way back from Sonoma. Quaint with its worn out thatched roof that seemed weakly held together by long wooden beams on the side of the road with the pretty backdrop of wine valley. We were out of eggs and I figured it might be worth our while to see if we could pick some up here because by the time we'd reach home, I knew neither of us would be in the mood to deal with a busy supermarket. 

peaches for lassi

My eyes were to hunt for the presence of eggs in this little stall but they failed their purpose and wandered towards the end of one of the tables that housed a stack of wooden crates filled with large golden orbs that enticed with promises of juicy sweetness. They drew me closer and I went ahead and grabbed one of those big golden balls of sunshine. I held one close to inhale its sweet fragrance and that peach reminded me that this is one of the very reasons that makes summer so special. 

peach and mint lassi drink

Lassis are probably one of my favorite drinks and in India we'd drink fresh lassis every hot summer day in tall glasses filled with the chilled sweet liquid. With my fresh ripe peaches a sweet and cool lassi that would serve to cool and refresh was definitely in order! Lassis should be thin and not heavy and thick so avoid using Greek yogurt and use either non-fat or regular plain unsweetened yogurt and then adjust the consistency with water. There is really no need to add sugar to the drink because these peaches were crazy sweet and I love when I don't have to add extra sweeteners! But feel free to adjust the sweetness as needed.

peach and mint lassi
peach lassi with mint

mint and peach lassi

yields: 2 servings

ingredients

1 1/2 cups unsweetened plain yogurt (non-fat or regular) 
1 1/2 cups ripe peaches, peeled and diced + a few pieces to garnish
3/4 cup water, chilled (you can add more or less depending on how thin you like the consistency)
3-4 fresh mint leaves + a few sprigs to garnish

1. Place the yogurt, 1 1/2 cups peaches, water and 3-4 mint leaves in a blender. Pulse until smooth and completely combined.
2. Serve in chilled classes and garnish with extra peach fruit pieces and a sprig of fresh mint.

Note: Traditionally lassi is made with regular yogurt and the lassi should be thin. Do not use Greek yogurt here or it will be too thick. Indian lassis should be refreshing and light and not heavy.

cherry chocolate granola


cherry and chocolate granola
Summer is the one time of the year that I get super excited and obsessed with every fresh and colorful ingredient that I can get my hands on. It goes without saying that cherries are never spared, they get devoured in this house and sometimes they don't make it home from the market. 


sweet red cherries

Granola is one of those things, I refuse to waste money on. For one, it is really easy to make and the ingredients are cheap, and secondly, I find the pre-made versions to be a bit too sweet and/or expensive. This granola recipe has a fresh cherry puree that's cooked into the oats with a heaving dosing of chocolate flavors. This granola is just like a black forest cake but with a tasty dose of toasted sliced almonds. There's a whole lotta crunch with every chocolatey bite you take combined with a hint of sweet and tart cherry flavor. Maybe I should have called this the "black forest granola" ?


cherry baked granola

I used a fresh cherry puree to flavor the granola versus actual cherry fruit bits because I wanted the cherry flavors to be absorbed by the oatmeal and coat every bit. I've used ghee here but you can also substitute coconut oil in the same amount. I've made it both ways and it works great, ghee gives it a much more aromatic and nutty flavor.




fresh chocolate cherry granola
cherry chocolate granola

cherry + chocolate granola

yields: about 3 cups

ingredients

2 cups (6 3/4 ounces) old-fashioned rolled oats
2 tablespoons ghee (or coconut oil)  + 1 tablespoon to grease the baking pan
1 cup (2 3/4 ounces) raw sliced almonds
1/4 cup (1 1/8 ounces) cacao nibs
1/2 cup (2 1/2 ounces) semi sweet chocolate chips
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon kosher sea salt
1 cup pureed sweet red cherries, fresh (simply puree 2 cups of sweet red cherries and use as needed)

1. Place a wire rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 250F. In the mean time, toast the oats in medium saucepan with a thick bottom on a medium-high flame. Cook with constant stirring until the oats begin to brown. This will take about 4-5 minutes.  Reduce the flame  to low and stir in the 3 tablespoons of coconut oil, cook for 1 minute. Remove the saucepan from the stove.
2. Add the almonds, cacao nibs, chocolate chips, cocoa powder, sea salt and cherry puree to the toasted oats. 
3. Pour the oat mixture onto a baking pan that's been lightly greased with the remaining tablespoon of coconut oil. Spread the mixture in a flat layer with a silicone spatula and bake for about 45-50 minutes. Check occasionally during baking to make sure the granola does not burn. Once the granola is cooked, remove the pan from the oven and allow to cool to room temperature. Store in an airtight container (I store mine in the refrigerator, it stays fresh for a longer time). 

cherry ginger pie with spelt crust

cherry ginger pie with spelt crust

I hope each and everyone of you had a great weekend and those of you celebrating July 4th had a great one as well. We had a lovely weekend that was spent with friends who visited us from D.C., it was really, really nice to see familiar faces. I'm not missing the hustle and bustle of D.C. but I do miss my friends a little. We visited a few vineyards in Sonoma valley which was a fun trip. 

Cherry season is one of my favorite things to look to every summer but sadly it is also one of the shortest. So this week, I'm going to share two easy recipes back to back, that use cherries and I hope you like them. We've been getting tons sweet cherries here at the farmer's markets in California, so of course, yours truly has been partaking in eating copious amounts of these sweet little red bubbles of joy. 

cherry ginger pie filling

The first recipe this week is this delightful cherry pie that has a little kick of ginger in it. When I started out to develop this recipe, I wanted a pie with relatively little added sugar or sweeteners of any kind, this way I wouldn't feel too guilty when I ate the pie and you could taste the tart and sweet flavors of the cherries in the pie. Different people have different salt and sugar taste sensitivities, so what I will recommend that if you like this pie on the sweeter side, taste the pie filling while making it and then add a teaspoon or two of sugar. I love the texture of crystallized bits of ginger in baked goods, so I've bumped up the notch here by adding a little. You can leave the ginger bits out too, the gingers bits are crystallized in sugar so they do sweeten the cherry filling a little. 

pie tin and pie beads

I used my previous spelt crust recipe for this pie. This pie crust is very forgiving if it cracks during assembly, all you need to do is pressed the cracked ends together. Also, if you don't want to use my pie crust recipe you can use your own or your favorite pre-made pie crust. Feel free to style the pie pastry as creatively as you want, just make sure you create enough holes or slits to allow the pie to ventilate. Cherries are very juicy and will release a lot of moisture and steam during baking.

pie pastry

Pies are such a delightful treat to bake, they are rustic and remind me of busy kitchens with wooden stoves on old farms. I think a pie should be as messy as can be, dripping with all the delicious flavors that it holds that entice you. So go ahead enjoy cherry season and make some pie!

cherry ginger pie

cherry ginger pie with spelt crust

yields: one 9 inch pie

ingredients

Click here for the spelt pie crust ingredients

cherry pie filling

2 lbs sweet cherries, ripe
1/2 teaspoon ginger powder
1/4 cup crystallized ginger bits (optional)
1 teaspoon sugar (*optional) I didn't add any sugar because these cherries were very sweet
1 teaspoon lime/lemon juice, freshly squeezed 
1/2 teaspoon madagascar bourbon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cornstarch powder
1 tablespoon water

1. Wash and drain the cherries in a colander. Pit the cherries and discard the pits. Place half of the cherries in a thick bottomed saucepan with the ginger, crystallized ginger bits, *sugar (optional) and lime juice. Heat the contents on a medium-high flame and bring to a boil. Reduce the flame to a gentle simmer, cover with a lid and stir occasionally. Cook for 5-6 minutes until the cherries have become soft and mushy. Remove the contents of the saucepan and puree in a blender, food processor or with an immersion blender until smooth. Return the puree back to the saucepan.
2. Add the vanilla and salt to the puree and bring the contents of the saucepan back to a boil on a medium-high flame. Whisk the cornstarch and the water in a small bowl and quickly mix into the puree. Stir until the puree thickens, this should take about a minute. Remove the saucepan from the stove and carefully fold the rest of the cherries into the puree. Cover the saucepan with a lid and allow it to sit for 30 minutes. Keep aside until ready to use. 
Note: This pie filling can be prepared the day ahead and then refrigerated until ready to use.

Assembling & cooking the pastry and pie

1. Perform step1 to prepare the dough. Divide the dough into two equal parts, wrap with cling film and chill until ready to use.
2. Place a wire rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 400F.  
3. Roll out one disc of dough and line a 9 inch pie pan with it. Pour the cherry pie filling prepared earlier into the prepared pie pan lined with the pastry dough. 
4. Roll out the second disc of pastry and cut out circles using the wider end of icing tip or a circular biscuit cutter (you can even use a small cookie cutter to make the holes extra special such as stars). Place the second sheet of pastry over the prepared pie and press the edges together and seal. Whisk the egg yolk with the water in a small bowl. Brush the surface of the pie with the egg yolk mixture.
5. Bake the pie in the oven for about 25-30 minutes until the crust turns golden brown. Reduce oven temperature to 350F and bake for another 35-40 minutes until the juices begin to bubble and the crust becomes a deep golden brown. Remove the pie from the oven and allow to cool for at least 2 hours on a wire rack before serving. 

salted roasted figs and cardamom ice cream

roasted salted fig cardamom ice cream

One of the hardest parts about moving this year, was having to leave my fig trees behind. My brown turkey fig tree had just begun fruiting last year and I was so excited (and I treated it like a child). A bunch of questions kept circling through my head, will the new people keep the tree and take care of it? Will the tree fruit plenty? Finally, last weekend, we took a quick trip to the nursery and I picked up a new black mission fig tree, a Meyer lemon tree and a Moro blood orange tree. Except for the fig tree, I haven't had much experience growing the others so I'm hoping they take off and I get some fruit. The lemon tree came with a several lemons so I'm not too worried but I hope the other two don't take too long to produce. I'm not planning on starting my own farmer's stand anytime soon but I'm a little impatient when it comes to my homegrown produce!

california black mission figs

I love fresh figs, they are fat and juicy and sweet like nectar when ripe. Every fig season, I make it a point to eat some on a weekly basis whenever possible. We had a couple of hot days this past week and I found another excuse to make some ice cream. I decided to use cardamom for the base because the spice has a wonderful cooling fragrant taste. Also, cardamom is to Indian cooking what vanilla is to Western cuisine when it comes to desserts, though I should add that Indian cuisine also uses this great spice to season meats and vegetables in dishes.

roasted salted fig and cardamom ice cream

If you never tried oven roasting slices of figs then you should give it a shot. For this recipe, I've lightly roasted the figs just enough to caramelize the sugars and drive out some of the moisture from the figs. The light dash of salt contrasts against the sweetness of the figs and cardamom ice cream which makes every bite wonderful. This ice cream is seriously amazing and if you're looking to make something fancy for a party or event, this is one ice cream that will impress.

Note: If you can't find Maldon sea salt flakes, use a good quality brand of sea salt crystals just make sure the crystals aren't huge as it will be overwhelming to taste. You can break the crystals using a mortar and pestle and then sprinkle them.

black mission figs
salted roasted figs  and cardamom ice cream

roasted salted fig ice cream

yields: 1 generous quart

ingredients 

12 black mission figs, ripe
1/4 teaspoon Maldon sea salt flakes or kosher sea salt crystals
2 cups whole milk + 4 tablespoons
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon green cardamom seeds, freshly ground 
2/3 cup (5 1/2 ounces) raw sugar
2 1/2 tablespoon cornstarch

1. Place a wire rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350F. Wash the figs, wipe the dry with a clean paper towel or kitchen cloth. Trim the tops and bottoms of each fig and then slice them lengthwise into 4 sections. Place the individual figs on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Sprinkle the salt flakes over the figs (it's fine if you don't salt all the fig sections) and bake them for about 10 minutes in the oven or until the figs begin to caramelize and turn slightly golden brown at the edges. Remove from oven and allow to cool on baking sheet. Refrigerate the figs on the baking sheet until completely chilled. If the baking sheet doesn't fit in the refrigerator transfer them to a smaller plate but keep them individually separate.
2. In a medium-sized saucepan, heat the 2 cups of milk, heavy cream, cardamom, and sugar on a medium-high flame. Stir to ensure the sugar is completely dissolved. Bring the mixture to a boil. Whisk the 4 tablespoons of milk and cornstarch in a small bowl and then add it to the boiling mix. Whisk immediately and continue to stir for about 3-4 minutes until the milk begins to thicken. It will acquire a custard like consistency and should coat the back of a spoon. Remove from stove and allow the ice cream to cool for about 5 minutes.
3. Transfer the ice cream base to an airtight gallon ziploc bag and seal. Place the bag in an ice water bath and allow to chill completely for about 30 minutes. Transfer the chilled ice cream to your prepared frozen canister of your ice cream maker. Churn for about 30 minutes until the ice cream has formed. Alternatively, follow the instructions given by your ice cream maker's manufacturers. 
4. Transfer half of the ice cream into a freezer safe container (preferably airtight). Layer with half of the chilled roasted salted fig sections and then layer with the rest of the ice cream. Layer the top of the ice cream with the rest of the fig sections. Cover the surface of the ice cream with parchment paper and press gently. Freeze the ice cream for about 4 hrs or overnight before serving.

roasted purple yam and molasses ice cream

roasted purple yam molasses ice cream

The fun part about exploring the local markets in your new neighborhood is the fun things you might come across. My eyes and heart burst with excitement when I came across these purple/violet yams/ube in my neighborhood. Until now, I had never tried them and everything about these guys blew my senses away. They are sweet to taste but when roasted the yams give off a beautiful floral nectar like fragrance which frankly is kind of amazing! 

mashing yams

Purple/violet yams/Ube are popular in Asian cooking and you can also find them in some Indian recipes, so you should be able to find them in Asian/International markets. I made one 

sweet potato ice cream

 last year and I figured it would only be appropriate to cook these yams into an ice cream to trap those delicious scents and flavors possessed by this magic tuber. 

ice cream prep

Roasting is my cheat method for many recipes, especially here because not only does it concentrate flavors and heightens tastes but it also helps to drive out moisture from the yam. I used molasses and brown sugar to sweeten the mixture and the resultant ice cream is very soft because of the yam pulp. I think you're gonna love this one, so make yourself some roasted purple yam ice cream and the purple!

roasted purple yam and molasses ice cream

roasted purple yam and molasses ice cream

yields:

1 generous quart

ingredients

1 large purple yam/ube/violet yam

2 cups whole milk

3/4 cup heavy cream

1 tablespoon cream cheese, plain

3/4 cup brown sugar

2 tablespoons dark molasses

1. Place a wire rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 400F.  Rinse the yam under cold running tap water, wipe it dry with a clean towel. Prick the yam a couple of times with a fork and bake the yam for 45 minutes or until it is tender on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Once the yam is baked, remove and allow it to cool to room temperature.

2. Once the yam is cool enough to handle, peel the skin and place the pulp in a food processor. Pulse until you get a smooth puree.  Reserve 1 cup of the puree to prepare the ice cream. This can be done the day ahead and stored in an airtight container until ready to use. 

3. In a large thick bottomed saucepan, add the milk, heavy cream, cream cheese, sugar and molasses. Stir the mixture on a medium-high flame until the sugar and molasses are completely dissolved. Reduce the flame to medium-low and whisk in one cup of the reserved yam puree. Increase the flame to a medium high and bring the mixture to a rolling boil, whisking the liquid continuously. Continue to whisk and cook until the liquid acquires a thick custard like consistency. Remove the saucepan from the stove.

4. Strain the ice cream base through a sieve and transfer it to an airtight 1 gallon ziploc bag. Seal airtight and place the bag in an ice-water bath. Allow the ice cream base to chill completely for about 30 minutes.

5. Pour the chilled ice cream base into the pre frozen canister of your ice cream maker. Churn until the ice cream starts to form and no longer sticks to the side of the canister. This should take about 30 minutes (alternatively, follow the instructions that came with your ice cream maker).

6. Transfer the ice cream into a freezer-safe container with an airtight lid. Press the ice cream down with a spatula to remove any air bubbles and cover the surface with parchment paper. Cover the container with its lid and freeze the ice cream for at least 4 hours or until firm. 

sriracha buckwheat molten lava cakes

sriracha buckwheat molten lava cakes

This is probably the craziest yet happiest batch of little things I've baked in a while. My not-so-secret obsession with all things chocolate and Sriracha hit it's peak this week when I decided to travel down the path of mixing them together. Maybe they might get married someday and make a happy couple, one could only hope! 

chocolate and whisk

Until now, I had never baked a lava cake, so I scrounged around for several recipes in my stack of baking cookbooks (that are unpacked yet literally piled against the wall of the living room like the entrance to a some ancient monument.....I'll eventually deal with this soon, hopefully), unfortunately I didn't have a recipe in any of my books (could also be an excuse to get more cookbooks)! I went online and found one that looked pretty easy to prepare and decided to take the plunge down the hole that looked dark and messy yet held a promise of sweet peppery goodness.  

lava cake prep

Buckwheat is by far one of my favorite whole grain flours to work with because it has such a lovely color and flavor. Indian cooking uses a lot of whole grain flours but buckwheat is a flour that I came across after I moved to the US and I love, love it! I've adapted the original lava cake recipe from one of my trusted cooking magazines, 

Saveur

 and substituted the flour with buckwheat among a few other ingredients. 

sriracha buckwheat molten lava cake
sriracha molten lava cakes

Here are a few notes that I made during baking and I wanted to share with you; 

  • I had no heavy cream at home but I did have full fat coconut milk and that worked just fine in preparing the truffles.You can make the truffles ahead of time and store them in the refrigerator, just stick them into the cake batter they day you are ready to bake the cakes. 
  • The cakes will rise during baking and you should remove them while they are still hot after the initial 2 minute cooling process. I removed them from the ramekins even though we didn't eat all of them the same day. The cakes might sink slightly once they are too cool which is why I really like serving them as soon as they are baked straight out of the oven.
  • To store, I ended up wrapping the rest of the cakes (after removing them from the ramekins) with cling film and freezing them for long term storage in an an airtight ziploc bag. Before eating the cakes, instead of thawing, I unwrapped the cling film and microwaved them covered with a microwave-safe lid. It worked great and now I have Sriracha lava cakes on demand. 

Also, if you don't like Sriracha you can leave it out from the cakes and make yourself a whole grain buckwheat lava cake. 

buckwheat sriracha molten lava cakes

sriracha buckwheat molten lava cakes

(

adapted from Saveur

)

yields:

6 cakes

ingredients

2 oz semisweet chocolate chips

3 tablespoons full fat coconut milk or heavy cream

1/2 teaspoon sriracha sauce 

8 tablespoons unsalted butter, chopped + additional butter for greasing

1 1/4 ounces buckwheat flour + additional for dusting

6 ounces bittersweet chocolate

1/2 cup (2 ounces) raw brown sugar

1 teaspoon madgascar bourbon vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon kosher sea salt

3 large eggs

confectioners sugar for dusting (optional, I did not do this)

1. Heat the coconut milk (or heavy cream) in a medium sized saucepan over medium high heat until it just begins to simmer. Remove from the stove and pour it into a heat proof bowl containing the chocolate chips. Whisk until the chocolate melts into a smooth paste. If the chocolate doesn't melt completely, microwave carefully for 10 seconds, just be careful not to burn the chocolate.  Once the chocolate forms a smooth silky sauce, whisk in the sriracha. Over the bowl with cling film and allow it to chill completely for at least 30 minutes. 

2. Remove the bowl from the refrigerator once the chocolate is chilled. Divide into 6 equal parts and mold into small truffles/balls. Place each truffle onto a sheet of parchment paper and refrigerate until ready to use.

3. Place a wire rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 450F. Take 6, six ounce ramekin bowls and grease them with butter and then dust them generously with flour. Place the bowls on a baking sheet/tray and refrigerate until ready to use.

4. Melt the butter and chocolate in a medium sized saucepan, stir until combined. The mixture will resemble a smooth silky sauce. Remove from stove, once completely combined and then cool for about 10 minutes. While the chocolate is cooling, whisk the sugar, vanilla, salt and eggs in a large mixing bowl with an electric mixer on medium-high speed until the batter turns pale yellow and fluffy. This will take about 4-5 minutes. Finally, beat in the melted chocolate mixture followed by the flour. Divide half of the batter between the ramekin bowls, then place a truffle in each bowl and cover each bowl with the rest of the remainder batter. Even out the surfaces of each bowl with an offset spatula and bake them for 15 minutes until the cakes are just set (they will rise a little). Remove from oven and allow to cool for 2 minutes.

5. Run a sharp knife around the edges of the ramekin bowl and immediately invert onto an individual serving plate. Tap gently to release the cake. Dust with confectioner's sugar. Repeat with the rest of the cakes. Serve immediately.

cherry darjeeling tea lemon sorbet

darjeeling tea cherry lemon sorbet

Cherries make a happy sticky red mess whether you're eating or working with them in the kitchen. The juicier they are, the bigger the mess they make. I know this from first hand experience because I was still finding a few red spots today even though I thought I had done a superb job of cleaning up after myself! I might need one of those hazmat style protection wraps for my kitchen or one big "kitchen bib". But don't let the mess scare you off, this sorbet will make you very happy this summer.

cherries

I added a good dose of dark Indian tea leaves, the Darjeeling kind and infused the woody tea flavors into the sugar syrup before mixing it in with the fresh lemon juice and cherries. Once you make it, you can do what I did, serve it for tea in tea cups. It felt somewhat appropriate.....

cherry halving

Tea really does make everything better but it makes good things even better! 

lemon juice squeezing

Here are some of favorite food links of the week,

cherry darjeeling tea lemon sorbet

cherry darjeeling tea lemon sorbet

yields: 4-6 servings

ingredients

1 cup water
1 cup (7 3/8 ounces) sugar
1 tablespoon darjeeling tea leaves
5 3/4 ounces fresh ripe cherries, cleaned, sliced in half with stalks and stones removed
1/2 cup lemon juice, freshly squeezed

1. In a medium sized saucepan bring the water, sugar and tea leaves to a boil on a medium high flame to prepare a simple syrup. Once the liquid reaches a rolling boil, remove from the stove and strain the liquid through a tea strainer and discard the tea leaves. Keep the strained syrup aside until ready to use.
2. Place the cherries and lemon juice in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until the cherries have formed a smooth puree. You can do this with an immersion blender too, just pulse until the cherries are completely pureed. Strain the puree through a sieve and press the pulp in the strainer with a spoon to squeeze as much fruit pulp as you can out. Save the fruit bits left behind in the strainer (I add them to pancakes or muffins or just eat them raw). With a whisk mix the strained cherry puree into the tea infused simple syrup to prepare the sorbet base.
3. Place the sorbet base into a clean gallon ziplock bag. Seal the bag airtight and place it an ice water bath for 20 minutes to cool completely. 
4. Pour the chilled sorbet base into the frozen canister of your ice cream maker. Churn for about 20 minutes or until the sorbet is completely formed, it will acquire a slightly milky pink color. Transfer the sorbet to an airtight freezer safe container and cover with a layer of parchment paper. Press the surface of the paper gently to remove any trapped air bubbles. Freeze for at least 4 to 6 hours to firm completely before serving.

semolina halva

semolina halva

Thank you so much for all your kind words and support. To be honest, things have definitely become a little crazy here but we're trying to tackle the madness together and that's what makes it fun! I've chalked out my bucket list of places I've wanted to eat at or want to eat at again, sights I want to see; but how much of this I will get to accomplish, I'm not sure but I'm going to give this my best shot.

semolina and golden raisins

Have you ever tried a semolina halva? It's probably my favorite halva because of its simplicity and  the toasted aroma of semolina can be pretty delicious and comforting. This halva is wickedly two-faced and satisfying, you can eat it for breakfast or serve it as dessert, either way it never disappoints!

Semolina is the tinier cousin of bulgur and it resembles a fine sand. You need to lightly toast the semolina but be careful while doing this as it can burn fast, the photograph below shows how deep I let it brown and should give you a rough idea of what the semolina must look like. You can also use ghee instead of coconut oil (stick to the same amounts) in this recipe. The semolina itself is lightly sweetened but the golden raisins impart a pop of sweetness with every bite you take. The rose water is completely optional and I don't like nuts with this halva so I didn't add any but feel free to add a few mixed nuts with the raisins if you prefer to.

toasted semolina for halva

Here are some of my fellow blogger peeps that made me very hungry this week!
  • What's for Breakfast, Today? by Marta is a spectacular collection of food and travel photographs that if you haven't come across already, you need to check it out! Her work is inspiring and tasty!
  • Molly of My Name is Yeh whipped up a batch of pretzel shortbread cookies and then drizzled them with chocolate. I want to eat each and every cookie she baked.
  • I'm on a breakfast kick these days and Kelly of The Gouda Life is responsible for this, reason being her blackberry sour cream muffins.
I'm also super thankful to the wonderful folks at The Kitchn for mentioning my Fennel Roasted Strawberry Frozen Yogurt as part of their Delicious Links series, last week!


semolina halva with golden raisins

semolina halva

yields: 2-4 servings

ingredients

1 cup semolina
1 1/2 tablespoons coconut oil
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/4 cup green cardamom, freshly ground 
3-4 tablespoons sugar
2 cups water
1 tablespoons rose water (optional)

1. Take a large non-stick wok or large saucepan (you need a pan with large surface area to evenly brown the semolina) with a lid and heat the wok on a medium-high flame. Pour the semolina into the wok and toast the semolina until the granules just begin to turn golden brown. Stir the semolina while toasting to prevent any burning. As soon as the the semolina starts to turns golden brown remove from the wok from the stove and add the coconut oil, raisins and cardamom. Place back on the stove and cook for one 45 seconds with constant stirring.
2. Add the sugar and water, stir the contents. Cover the wok with a lid and reduce the flame to medium-low. Cook the contents for about 5 minutes or until most of the water has evaporated. Remove the lid and stir the contents, all the liquid should be completely evaporated at this point and the semolina should be soft and fluffy. Remove the wok from the stove and sprinkle the rose water over the halva. You can serve the halva as is or use a mold to shape it. Serve this halva warm, store in airtight container and refrigerate excess, reheat before serving.

Note: You can also garnish the halva with toasted nuts or sweetened shredded coconut. I haven't done that here but feel free to do so if you like.

berry, lime and cardamom spring cake

berry lime cardamom cake

There are things that I have learned that I do as a blogger that normal people don't. For example, baking yourself a cake and then trying to figure out if it's more birthday, spring or Easter appropriate for the blog. You see April is my birthday month (though my birthday falls at the very end of the month) and this year it falls on one of the solar eclipses (perhaps it might mean something), Easter too tends to bounce around the calendar every year, so I fell into the blogging dilemma of when to make the cake and when to share it on the blog. The only thing I was surely certain of, was making it! Last year I made myself chocolate butter cookies but this year I wanted a big fat cake full of berries, I should rephrase that, I mean't to say LOADED with berries! 

a dozen eggs

I love angel food cakes because they are so airy and light yet so soft and spongy. I zested a couple of green limes into the batter and tossed in some ground green cardamom. Instead of a frosting, I slapped the cake layers with an extra generous amount of lightly sweetened Greek yogurt and stuffed the cake with fresh strawberries and blueberries.

cornflour

This is not a very sweet cake but when you taste the yogurt and the cake together, the yogurt brings out the sweetness of the cake and the fresh flavors of the lime, cardamom and berries. I'm very happy with this cake, it's a little less guilt-free and makes deliciously light dessert. Needless to say, to balance things out, I cut myself a huge fat chunk and ate  devoured it! So here's to happy spring, birthdays, Easter and celebrations of all sorts and for that matter any reason.

lime zest and meringue 

I adapted the angel food cake recipe from Great Cakes by Carole Walter.

Note: When sifting flour, I recommend taking out a leveled cup of the flour, then sifting it and remeasuring the sifted flour. You can store the extra bit that's left behind. Also, with the strawberries and blueberries, you can use less and I indeed did have fruit left behind after I put the cake together. Feel free to play around with the amounts of the berries. You might notice, that I've used cornstarch/cornflour here to make my own cake flour and yes, this kitchen hack indeed does work!

berry lime cardamom spring cake

These are some of the delicious and beautiful spring recipes and blogs that I'm definitely gearing up to try out from my fellow bloggers;
  • Sini of My Blue and White Kitchen made her version of Finnish Raspberry Meade that looks and sounds absolutely gorgeous.  I might need a few pitchers, just saying!
  • I came across a new blog called Kiss My Spatula and I've fallen in love with the rich and colorful photography. 
  • The talented duo, Alex and Sonja at A Couple Cooks made these Ricotta Scrambled Egg and Asparagus Tacos that looks perfect for a spring brunch.
  • One of my favorite inspirational bloggers, Linda of The Tart Tart made some amazing Black Sesame Macarons that I really, really want to taste!
  • Imen has a Rhubarb and Rosemary Syllabub with Poitin up on the Farmette. It's no secret that I love farms and I'm adore the photographs she shares of her family farm on Instagram because it reminds me of M's parents' farm in Virginia. 
lime berry cardamom cake

berry, lime and cardamom spring cake 

yields: 6-8 servings / one 10 inch diameter angel food cake

ingredients 

32 ounces plain non-fat/ low-fat greek yogurt
1 cup (4 1/2 ounces) sifted flour 
2 tablespoons cornflour/cornstarch
1 1/2 cups fine sugar
1 1/2 cups (15 3/4 ounces) 12 egg whites, at room temperature
1 tablespoon warm water
1 1/2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons madagascar bourbon vanilla extract
3 limes
1/4 teaspoon green cardamom, freshly ground
1/4 cup (1 1/4 ounces) confectioners sugar
32 ounces strawberries, rinsed, drained, hulled and sliced in half 
6 ounces blueberries, rinsed and drained

1. Place the greek yogurt in a colander or sieve pre lined with a piece of clean cheese cloth or a kitchen towel over a large bowl. Allow the yogurt to drain in the refrigerator for at least 2 to 3 hours and discard any whey the collects in the bowl. Reserve the yogurt until ready to use.
2. Place a wire rack in the lower-third of the oven and preheat to 375F.  Take a 10 inch diameter angel food pan, trace and cut out a circle of parchment paper to line the base of the pan. There is no need to grease the pan. Keep the prepared pan aside until ready.
3. Sift the pre-sifted flour, cornflour and 1/2 cup of the sugar three times on to a sheet of parchment paper and keep aside.
4. Place the egg whites and warm water in the bowl of a stand mixer and using the whisk attachment beat on medium-high speed for about 2 minutes or until the eggs get frothy. Stop the mixer and add the cream of tartar, salt, and 1 teaspoon of the vanilla extract. Whisk until the mixture begins to form soft peaks (ripples should form in the foam at this stage). At this stage, add the freshly grated zest of two limes and the ground cardamom and whisk for another minute .  Add 1 cup of the sugar, two tablespoons at a time from the side of the bowl and continue to whisk for about 2 minutes in total time. Remove the bowl from the mixer and transfer any of the white meringue mixture and lime zest bits that might have collected onto the whisk, back into the bowl. 
5. Sift 1/3 of the sifted dry ingredients from step 2 onto the egg whites and using a large wire whisk and carefully fold the dry ingredients into the meringue. Do not overmix or stir the batter as it will deflate. 
6. Using a rubber spatula, carefully transfer and push the batter into the prepared cake pan. Gently press the cake batter with a clean tablespoon and flatten the top surface. Finally, run a knife along the edges of the pan in a circle to remove any trapped air bubbles and once again smoothen the surface with the tablespoon. 
7. Place the pan in the oven and bake for about 30 minutes or until the center of the cake is soft and springy to touch and becomes golden brown. Avoid over baking the cake or it will deflate. Spray a wire rack with a little non stick spray and then once the cake is done, immediately invert the cake onto the wire rack. Allow the cake to cool completely in the pan. Once the cake has cooled, run a sharp knife along the edges of the pan and around the inner tube to loosen it. Transfer the cake on to a cake rack and remove the pan. Peel and discard the parchment paper from the top of the cake and discard. 
8. To prepare the yogurt "frosting", place the drained yogurt in a large mixing bowl, add the remaining 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract and the confectioners sugar. Whisk the yogurt until the sugar is completely blended. 
9. To assemble the cake: Slice the cake in half using a sharp serrated bread knife. Remove the upper layer and keep aside. Spread a generous 1/2 cup of the yogurt on the lower half and place the sliced strawberries with the bottom surface onto the yogurt. Scatter some of the blueberries in the space between the yogurt. Layer the berries with another generous 1/2 cup of the yogurt and place and align the upper half of the angel cake on top. Layer the top of the cake with a generous amount 1/2 cup of the yogurt and fill the hollow center of the cake with the rest of the yogurt. Layer the top of the cake with some of the strawberries and blueberries and fill the hollow center with the rest of the fruit as desired. Just before serving the cake zest the last lime over the cake. Store the cake in the refrigerator. This cake is best eaten the day it is prepared but you can make the angel cake a day in advance and assemble the cake the following day.

balsamic raspberry sauce and chèvre cake

balsamic raspberry sauce and chevre cake

One of my favorite things to do when I work on my blog posts is to sit in the bedroom and have the curtains to the doors pulled back all the way, simply because I can glance outside and enjoy the view of my little garden. It's even more exciting when spring arrives, because I impatiently indulge in multiple glimpses of the little tips of green that are sprouting through the soil or budding off the branches. Not that the incessant staring will make them come any sooner but more so because it reminds me of what my garden looked like in previous year and what it might look this time.  I have a mid-shade of a green thumb, I can grow some plants with ease and others, well not so much. I keep getting a little better each year, learning what really works well with me and my garden. Mind you my garden is not huge, it's a tiny semicircle of open soil that I am super thankful for, especially when you live in a city, it's my little oasis.

raspberry cake prep

Spring time entertaining is one of my favorite things to do, there are so many fresh colors and tastes that start to show up everywhere that it's hard not to enjoy it. I haven't baked a cake in a while and I figured this would be the perfect opportunity to indulge a little. This cake is not too sweet and is "healthy-ish" but it definitely has personality (it might remind you of my cobbler recipe) but it's simple to make and will definitely impress. This is a saucy cake and a sassy one at that, perfect to serve at a spring lunch or dinner party. There are fresh raspberries that are bathed in a sweet concoction of honey and a balsamic vinegar from Calivirgin to make that sassy sauce. To brighten and balance the sweet and tart flavors of the sauce, I added a few dollops of lightly sweetened fresh chèvre cheese from Vermont Creamery. Serve this cake warm, then eat a lot of it and share it with your loved ones, if you must. A little cooking note, you can keep the raspberry seeds in the sauce or filter them out, either way it's delicious!

To give spring a much needed warm welcome, I've teamed up with a bunch of wonderful and talented bloggers in a fantastic giveaway organized by the very wonderful Katie Webster of Healthy Seasonal Recipes. There are several wonderful prizes that one lucky person will win. To enter the giveaway, simply follow the instructions in the widget at the bottom of the post. Good luck and do visit the other participating bloggers and check out their delicious recipes! The giveaway begins on April 11, 2013 and ends on April 16, 2014 at 9:00am PST.

Here's what's to be won in the goodie bag!

From Vermont Creamery: A Taste of Vermont Creamery Gift Package and In a Cheesemakers Kitchen Cookbook. 
From JK Adams: A set of Coupe Appetizer Plates (2 pieces.) 
From Calivirgin: 1 8.45 ounce bottle of roasted garlic olive oil, 1 8.45 ounce bottle of the rosemary infused olive oil and 1 8.45 ounce bottle balsamic vinegar. 
From Effie’s homemade: 10 packages of crackers (2 oat, 2 corn, 2 nut, 2 cocoa, 2 rye.) 

Disclaimer: I did not receive any financial compensation from the participating sponsors in this giveaway. All opinions stated are my own. I did receive free samples from Calivirgin and Vermont Creamery.

balsamic raspberry sauce chevre cake

balsamic raspberry sauce and chèvre cake

yields: 4-6 servings

ingredients

11 ounces raspberries, fresh
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar (Calivirgin) 
1/4 cup honey+ 2 tablespoons
2 ounces fresh chèvre cheese, at room temperature (Vermont Creamery)
1 cup (4 1/4 ounces) all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher sea salt
1 large egg
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut milk, full fat
1/2 cup (3 1/2 ounces) sugar
1 teaspoon madagascar bourbon vanilla extract
6 tablespoons coconut oil, melted + a little extra to grease the baking pan

1. Place half of the raspberries in a medium sized saucepan along with the balsamic vinegar and the 1/4 cup of honey. Heat the contents on medium-high flame and bring to a boil, immediately reduce and cook for 10-15 minutes. Mash the raspberries with a potato masher. At this point you can use the sauce as is or pass it through a sieve and press the pulp as much as you can to remove the seeds. Add the remaining raspberries to the sauce and keep aside.
2. Place the chèvre and remaining two tablespoons of honey in a small bowl and mix with fork.
3. Preheat the oven to 350F and place the wire rack at mid level in the oven. Lightly grease the baking pan with a little coconut oil. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt and keep aside. 
3. In another medium-sized mixing bowl, whisk the egg, coconut milk, sugar, vanilla, and coconut oil. Carefully fold the egg and coconut milk liquid into the whisked dry ingredients and mix until completely combined. Transfer the batter into the greased baking pan.
4. Randomly drizzle the raspberry mixture onto the cake batter and then using a silicone spatula or spoon create random swirls. Using a teaspoon drop small scoops of the sweetened chèvre on the surface of the cake. Bake the cake for at least 30 minutes or until the cake is completely cooked or until a knife comes out clean from the center of the cake.


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