The election excitement is over and there already is talk of who might run in 2016 but for now I am just going to enjoy the absence of any political commercials on the radio and television. My excitement however, was not only limited to the election but also to the wonderful and delicious Metropolitan Cooking and Food Festival that was held in D.C. a few days before the election. There were quite a few celebrity star chefs and I had a brief brush with fame when I ran into Chef Tom Colicchio and Gail Simmons (Bravo's Top Chef's Judges) at the event. Unfortunately for me, I was in my own world when we greeted each other (they appear to be very friendly) and for that one second I completely forgot who they were and lost out on getting a quick photograph with them. Hopefully, I might see them again someday and be a bit more "aware". The show itself was wonderful, lots of fun things to taste and enjoy. My favorite were these little chocolate covered puffed rice grains which I jokingly referred to as "a delicious way to enrich your fertility", yup I picked up a large bag to snack on. I also enjoyed sampling some delicious cuts of meat from the charcuterie called "Three Little Pigs", a variety of fresh avocado based dishes, and some amazing frozen wine desserts. I've posted some of the photographs from the event to share some of the fun moments with you.
Diwali is around the corner and it will be a fun food event at our house. Diwali is the Indian festival of lights, a colorfully rich Hindu tradition that is celebrated with family and friends. The menu is deliciously vegetarian; the sides, the entrees, and of course the desserts are all very decadent in color and taste! During Diwali, my favorite tradition is to decorate the house with little oil and candle lamps and I'll be sticking with the custom. Since Diwali falls on a weekday, I plan to keep the celebrations small to keep it easy, though I still plan to make some of my favorite Diwali foods.
One of the desserts on my Diwali menu is this delicious carrot halva. This is probably one of the top 5 Indian desserts that I love and will always remember from my childhood. It's easy and simple and the hardest part is probably the carrot shredding. A food processor really goes a long way here, shredding 2lbs of fresh carrots manually is simply no fun. This dessert is usually prepared with very rich ingredients so I cut back on the sugar and fat amounts whenever I could with compromising on taste. Of course if you like it sweeter, add more sugar. The carrots I picked up were naturally sweet making it easy to cutback on the extra sugar. Instead of using whole milk, I switched to skim milk. You have to condense the milk at first to half its original volume, when I first started to make this dessert I found that I would sometimes burn the milk a little at the bottom of the vessel. Folks believe me you do not want this burned milk flavor in your halva, so I recommend microwaving the milk to condense. This works beautifully! Believe me this is way easier, cleaner, and really a foolproof way to avoid scalding the milk, just make sure your milk does not overflow by keeping an eye on it during the microwaving process. Try this dessert out, I think you will truly love this carrot halva at any time of the year. Golden raisins or sultanas work better here as the dark raisins give a very strong and empowering flavor that does not go compliment the carrot flavor.
6 -8 servings
4 cups skim milk
2lbs peeled and grated carrots
1 cup almond milk
1/2 teaspoon butter
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 cup raisins or sultanas
1 tablespoons slivered or chopped almonds to garnish
1. There are two ways to condense the milk. Put the milk into a large bowl and microwave for 15 minutes. The milk will begin to boil and start to condense. You will see a skin form at the top. Every few minutes during the cooking process, the milk will rise to the top of the bowl, immediately pause the microwave and open the door of the microwave, the milk will settle down and then start the microwave again to complete the process of condensing the milk (This might take longer depending on the microwave and the heat settings). Reduce the milk to half the original volume. Alternatively, to condense the milk, you can bring the milk to a boil in a large thick bottomed saucepan. Stir continuously while boiling the milk hard for another 45 minutes or till the milk reduces to half the original volume. If the milk does scald in the saucepan, transfer the milk to a clean container taking care to avoid disturbing the bottom burned milk solids that are stuck to the dish.
2. Mix the grated carrots with the butter, milk, almond milk, sugar, cardamom, and raisins in a thick bottomed saucepan. Cook on a medium-high flame for 30 minutes with occasional stirring till the carrots are soft and tender. Most of the liquid will evaporate at this stage. Switch the flame off.
3. In a hot pan, toast the almonds gently on a high flame for 60 seconds. Keep aside until needed.
4. Just before serving, garnish the carrot halva with the toasted almonds. This dish tastes best when served warm or hot.