A lot's been going on here and at my column for the San Francisco Chronicle. I just got back from a day learning about my figs and how they're preserved by drying (but that we will deal with much later) For now, I wanted to share with you some of my recipes from the column that I've been cooking up, a little savory and a of course, a little sweet! There's a prawn and chorizo pulao inspired by Goan chorizo (and what I do since it is practically impossible to find outside India), a look back at San Francisco's Oyster Loaf with my special take with a bit of semolina, an easy toasted naan and tomato salad and of course, dessert, this roasted summer sweet corn custard tart with cardamom.Read More
We just wrapped up one major storm last weekend! Sadly, this tree that I've always wanted to see fell. Both Snoopy and Vesper Lynx don't like to get wet but they sure do love sitting by the window and watch everyone else on the road get drenched. Now, I'm off to NYC this week for a quick trip to the James Beard Foundation for a summit but I hope to also try a couple of new spots in the city. If you have any recommendations, share them below, please!
I'm also reading a few lovely books and I've added them to my kitchen library in the reference section; the La Boite Spice Companion and the new Cooks Science book. Both have a lot of useful information in them with photographs. I've also been meaning to share these photos from our farm in Virginia but haven't had a chance to get them sorted out until now. I bet last week must have been lovely with all the snow and frost covered mountains of the Appalachian range.
Some of you had seen my Instagram post in December of the delicious Dungeness crab curry my mom had cooked up while she was visiting us. I finally got the recipe from her and I'm sharing it here. We started with live crabs at home but you can swap in precooked crabs. If you're on the East coast, Maryland blue crabs work very well here but avoid using soft shell crabs as they're better off being deep fried.
[you might have noticed that, I keep avoiding the word "curry" and use "stew" whenever possible. I don't like to use it since it really isn't a word used in Indian cooking and its usage tends to oversimplify the breadth and variety of Indian gravy based dishes. e.g. pork vindaloo, butter chicken, dal, etc.]
- Use fresh crabs, I prefer to buy live ones but if that's not possible, go with what you can find at your local fish mart. Dungeness and Blue crabs are my favorites for this recipe.
- Buy fresh unsweetened grated coconut if you can or grate it yourself in a blender. The other option is to find the frozen bags of grated coconut from Asian markets. The same goes for the curry leaves and Kashmiri chiles.
- Also, a note from my mom: Use Kashmiri chiles and not any other chili here. Kashmiri chiles are not that hot but give great flavor and color. If you want the curry to be hotter, toss in one or two whole green or red Thai chili peppers to the blender.
- Traditionally, I grew up eating this stew with steamed rice but you can eat it with Indian flatbread such as roti or parathi. I find that naan doesn't pair too well with this.
- I use tamarind paste and the not concentrate in this recipe. You can also buy tamarind and soak 1 cup of the fruit (remove and discard the shell) and add it to 1 cup of warm water for about 1 to 2 hours. Strain this liquid and use as needed. Also, Mexican tamarind is a little sweeter than the Indian variety so keep this in mind. As always, taste and adjust the seasoning as needed.
my mom's dungeness crab curry
yields: 4 servings
4 whole dungeness crabs or Maryland Blue crabs or whatever crabs you like (avoid softshell crabs here) * (see notes above)
1/2 cup fresh grated coconut (unsweetened)** (see notes above)
2 tablespoons ghee or vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups diced onion
6 Kashmiri chilies
6 to 7 curry leaves (fresh/dry)
1/2 teaspoon cumin
8 to 10 black peppercorns
1 tablespoon coriander
1 1/2 teaspoons turmeric powder
1 inch piece peeled ginger root
1 tablespoon chopped garlic (about 4 cloves)
1 teaspoon tamarind paste
1 cup tap water
1 teaspoon sea salt
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro leaves
1. Clean the crabs as shown here.
2. In a medium-sized stockpot, heat 1 tablespoon of the ghee/oil on medium-high heat. Add the onions and sauté until they just start to turn translucent. Remove the onions and transfer to a blender. Add all the ingredients from the chilies to the tamarind to the blender. Pulse until you get a smooth paste and all the ingredients are completely combined, adding minimal tap water as needed to help the ingredients move. Heat the remaining ghee/oil in the same stockpot on medium-high heat and transfer the contents of the blender to the stockpot. Stir with a wooden spoon or silicone spatula and cook for about 4 to 5 minutes until the paste starts to separate from the fat. Add the salt, cleaned crabs, and the remaining tap water, if you want the stew a little thinner add more water. Stir to coat the crabs evenly and increase the heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and cover with the stockpot with a lid. Allow to cook for about 5 to 10 minutes until the crabs are cooked. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Remove from stove, garnish with cilantro and serve immediately with steamed rice.
We spent a wonderful week on the East Coast. Thanksgiving was spent at the farm in Virginia and we then drove off to DC to stay with our friends. I haven't visited D.C since we moved some 2 1/2 years ago and boy, has the city changed! There's a much more vibrant food scene, in fact I couldn't keep with all the new spots to try out. The city has also changed quite a bit, most of my friends have moved to the NE region of the city which is also where most of the city is growing and changing. And, I also learned quickly, that I am not at all used to chilly winds.
Let's get back to the farm, we ate a lot of good food at the farm. Fresh warm biscuits from the oven with "traffic jam", pickled beans from the farm and the last of the kale from the farm before the snow kills it off. It was a food fiesta as one should expect in Southern parts of Virginia and North Carolina.
The day off Thanksgiving, I decided to prepare a rather light brekfast because I knew we had a huge meal to face. I made my grandma's banana fritters which are one of the easiest and tastiest things to make at home and I've "veganized" them so you don't need an egg or a bottle of milk to pour into the batter, in fact I used Califia Farms sweetened almond milk. Fritters are like a mini pancake but a little different, you'll probably get them served hot, straight off the stove in a Goan household for breakfast but more so with tea in the evening. Bananas form the bulk of the batter and they make the final pancake soft and chunky. Ya don't need chocolate chips in this, just a little dash of warm cinnamon and some sugar or maple syrup for sweetness!
Here are some of my kitchen tips that you might find useful when preparing these fritters;
- You can use 1 tablespoon vanilla extract or 1 vanilla bean scraped into the batter if you don't want to use cinnamon.
- Maple syrup or honey are good options here for a complex flavor of sweetness.
- Caramelizing the bananas in the oven helps to soften the fruit's tissue and release a lot of the liquid while also burning the sugar to create a delicious complex aftertaste in the fritters.
cinnamon banana fritters
makes: a dozen two-inch fritters
4 large bananas
1 cup (113g) whole-wheat pastry flour
1 tablespoon brown sugar or maple syrup
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon himalayan pink salt or regular kosher salt
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil plus more for frying
Place a wire rack at the lower two-thirds level of the oven and preheat to 400F. Take the bananas and place them in a baking dish or pan and place in the oven for about 35 to 40 minutes until they skin in black. The skin will burst and release some of the fruit's juices into the pan (This fine and if the juice gets caramelized a little, it is a good thing). Remove the bananas from the oven and allow to cool in the pan for about 20 minutes. Peel the bananas carefully and discard the skin. Transfer the fruit pulp to a large mixing bowl and scrape off any caramelized bits and
Add the flour, sugar (or maple syrup), cinnamon, salt, almond milk and 2 tablespoons of oil to the bananas in the bowl. Using a potato masher or whisk, combine all the ingredients until there are no visible specks of flour left and most of the banana is mashed up. It is okay to have a few lumps of fruit left behind in the batter.
Heat some oil in a cast-iron skillet or non stick pan on medium-high heat. Scoop out 2 tablespoons of batter on the hot greased pan and cook the fritters on each side for about 2 to 3 minutes until golden brown like pancake. Transfer the cooked fritters on to a tray lined with a kitchen paper towel and cook the remaining fritters in batches of 3 to 4. Serve hot.
Disclaimer: This post was sponsored by Califia Farms, however all opinions expressed are solely my own.
Easter and Christmas were the two big family meals that I looked forward to every year. The food, it was all about the food. A large oval dining table filled with way too many dishes for one person to cook (the tasks were wisely divided between my aunts and mom by my grandma, I think this is also one of the wisest ways to use your children, as soon as they come of age make them help you in the kitchen. I eagerly await the day, I have mine and they come of age to help me clean peas from their pods).
This Easter, I decided to take my favorite Goan cake, yup y'all know how much I love this Ba'ath cake because I've done different versions of it...this time it's a cornmeal cake that's got the sweet and delicate flavor of rosewater with coconut. I made little individual cakes in my mini-cocottes but you can even make them cakes in a lined muffin pan just like you would cupcakes. Just make a note that the number of cakes will change depending on how big/small the muffin pans are.
Instead of using milk, I've used Califia Farm's unsweetened creamer. The results are pretty amazing, I find that it adds to the flavor of the cake, the coconut flavor pops out. The cornmeal gives this cake a granular yet soft texture, there's the sweetness of the corn mixed in with the coconut flakes and rosewater. I mean honestly, this couldn't get any better and even if you don't celebrate Easter, you should still make this cake to welcome spring!
Here are some of my kitchen tips that you might find useful when preparing the cakes;
- I'm using coconut oil instead of butter in this cake batter. I amplifies the fragrance of the coconut in the cake but coconut oil's shelf life decreases after baking so I wrap and refrigerate the individual cakes in clingfilm for up to 4 days. You can warm these cakes up at 30 seconds on low power in the microwave if you prefer them warm.
- I use cast iron mini-cocottes but as I mention above, muffin pans will work too, just remember the number of cakes will change depending on the size of the muffin pan.
- Don't use rosewater that's too old, it loses it's intensity and always store it tight in the refrigerator once you open it.
cornmeal and coconut rosewater cakes
yields: 6 individual cakes
150gm coconut oil + a little extra for greasing the cake pan
1 cup califia creamer unsweetened almond milk
1 cup(81g) cup unsweetened shredded coconut (I used desiccated)
2 cups(282gm) cornmeal
1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1cup (200g) superfine sugar
3 large eggs, cold
1/4 cup coconut cream
1 tablespoon rose water
1. Place a wire rack at midlevel and preheat the oven to 350F. Grease 6 mini-cocottes with a little coconut oil and keep aside. Place the creamer in small thick bottomed saucepan. Heat on medium-low heat until warm for about 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from stove and add the coconut, stir with a silicone spatula and allow to steep for 20 minutes.
2. In a medium size mixing bowl, dry whisk the cornmeal, salt and baking powder. Keep aside.
3. Attach the whisk to the stand mixer and in the bowl of a standmixer whisk the sugar and eggs for about 4 to 5 minutes until pale yellow on medium speed. Reduce the speed to low and add the coconut oil, cream and rose water and mix for about 1 minute until combined. Remove the whisk and replace with the paddle attachment. Combine the ingredients on medium-low speed until completely combined. Divide the batter equally between the 6 greased mini-cocottes and place them on lined baking sheet. Bake in the preheated oven for about 30 minutes, turning them halfway through. The cakes will be lightly golden brown in color when done and firm to touch, a skewer should come out clean when inserted through the center of the cake. Remove the cakes from the oven and allow to cool on a wire rack for about 60 minutes before serving. Serve the cakes lukewarm in the min-cocottes or un-mold the cooled cakes using a blunt knife by running it between the edges of the cake and the mini-cocottes. The cakes can also be served cool at room temperature.
Disclaimer: This post is sponsored by Califia Farms. However, all opinions expressed are solely my own.
I think this might just be the final blood orange post of the year for me and this blog. As per our favorite "dealer" at the farmer's market, the season is slowly coming to an end and this dream will too. This is one gift of winter, I'd like to keep on giving forever but then again, I guess I probably wouldn't appreciate them if they were available year round.
Let's start with the meatballs and then get back to the aioli. My grandmother made meatballs often but we never ate them in sandwiches, they were always served as a small side with a bunch of other dishes. And I wish she had made us sandwiches because she did make the best meatballs! Her trick to making a good meatball that holds its shape, an egg and a few slices of bread soaked in milk and then squeezed. The combination of both of these together in meat makes a really great binding agent.
My aioli turned out to be less pink and more yellow than I would like it to be but definitely had that distinct sweet citrusy flavor of the blood orange (reminded me of my blood orange curd experience). The color will depend on how red your oranges are. The reduction method helps to incorporate as much color and flavor you can squeeze into the aioli without affecting the ratios of the ingredients to create one thick and delicious creamy emulsion.
You can use any bread to for the base of the sub and then stuff it up with your favorite greens and veggies. I'm not big on lettuce but I absolutely love arugula for its distinct peppery flavor which goes rather well with the spices that flavor the meatballs in this recipe. Layer the sub with a few slices of radishes and slather or drizzle with as much blood orange aioli as you want.
Here are some of my kitchen tips;
- The dried mushroom powder - I make my own. I just grind up a couple of dried mushrooms in a spice mill and use that use that to flavor meat. It's definitely a great way to keep a lean cut of meat juicy and enhance flavor, a trick I learned from the Mushroom Council last year in Philly.
- Aioli is a labor of love. I prefer to make it by hand with a whisk and a bowl (get the arm strength and stamina) versus the food processor. I mellowed the harshness of the garlic by using oven roasting it (you can find instructions here in this previous post), this also helped to have the orange flavor stand out.
- I recommend the reduction step to keep the water out of the aioli. Depending on how red your blood oranges are, you will end up with a pink or a more yellow aioli. I clearly had a more yellow aioli with a faint pink tinge. The addition of fresh orange zest gives this aioli a lovely bump of fresh citrus flavors.
goan style meatball subs with blood orange aioli
goan style meatballs
yields: 25 X 1 inch diameter meatballs
1 1/2 lbs ground lean beef (90% beef, 10%fat) or chicken or turkey
2 tablespoon dried shitake mushrooms powder
1/4 cup red onion, minced fine
1 teaspoon garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon ginger root, grated
1/2 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
1 teaspoon garam masala
1 tablespoon fresh cilantro leaves, finely chopped
1 teaspoon red chili powder
1 teaspoon kosher sea salt
2 slices of white bread (ends trimmed off), soaked in milk for 2 minutes and then squeezed (you should have about 1/4 cup of the resulting softened bread mixture
olive or vegetable oil for frying
1. In a large mixing bowl, add all the ingredients from the meat to the squeezed bread slices. Mix and combine with a large wooden spoon. Divide the mixture into 25 equal parts, each approximately 1 inch diameter in size.
2. To cook the meatballs: If frying - heat a large skillet with a 1-2 tablespoons of oil on medium-high heat. Cook 6-8 meatballs in batches for 3-4 minutes, turning occasionally to cook on each side. The meatballs will be be slightly caramelized when done. Drain the cooked meatballs on a clean sheet of kitchen paper. If baking - preheat the oven to 350F and place about 12 meatballs on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or silicone baking mat and bake in the middle rack for 15-20 minutes.
blood orange aioli
yields: a little over 1 cup
3/4 cup blood orange juice, freshly squeezed and strained
2 large egg yolks at room temperature
1 garlic clove, oven roasted and mashed completely
1/4 teaspoon blood orange zest, fresh
1 teaspoon kosher sea salt
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice, freshly squeezed and strained
3/4 cup light extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon white pepper (or black pepper) powder
1. Place the orange juice in a small thick bottomed saucepan and heat on medium-high heat for about 5-6 minutes and reduce to 2 tablespoons. The final reduction should be able to coat the surface of the pan as a very thick liquid. Remove from stove and allow to cool completely before use.
2. Place the egg yolks in a large mixing bowl. Add the garlic clove and orange zest and whisk vigorously until creamy and pale for about 2 minutes. Then add the salt and whisk vigorously for another minute. The mixture should start to thicken.
3. Whisk in the reduced blood orange juice followed by the lemon juice as vigorously as possible. Then slowly trickle 1 tablespoon of the olive oil while whisking fast to incorporate the oil. Then whisk another tablespoon of the oil into the mixture. Then slowly trickle the rest of the oil from the side of the mixing bowl while whisking the mixture as fast as possible. Whisk in the pepper and taste and season the aioli if necessary. The aioli will be thick and creamy in texture. The color of the aioli will depend on how red your original blood oranges are.
assembling the sandwiches
yields: I'm giving general instructions on how to assemble the sandwiches with no amounts listed. Feel free to add how much you want to make up the final sub.
sourdough baguette or any type of bread you love
fresh arugula leaves
thinly sliced radishes
salt and pepper
1. Pull out some of the soft inner bread to make a little well in the center of the baguette. Layer with a generous amount of arugula leaves, radishes and place a couple of meatballs. Drizzle with blood orange aioli and season with a little salt and pepper. Serve immediately.
If anything can move fast, it has got to be time. I certainly have a hard time keeping up with it and now that it's almost mid-December here I am writing my final recipe for the year (there'll be one more post this week from me sharing some of my favorite holiday recipes). We're taking a long and much needed trip to visit my family in India. A big family reunion and a fun wedding, it is going to be fun time. While, I'm away a couple of my wonderful blogger friends are going to take over and share their delicious food with you. So stay tuned for those exciting posts in the upcoming weeks to follow. I'll be sharing photographs from my India trip on Instagram , so do stop by.
I'm excited to go back to Bombay (Mumbai) and Goa. This is also M's first time, so we have to do a few touristy things on this trip, sadly no trips to Agra to see the Taj Mahal this time but we have plans to see a ton of other fun places and eat a whole lot of food. We also have a wedding, my not-so-baby cousin has decided to celebrate her wedding in Goa so this is also going to be one big party! Needless to say, since we're celebrating Christmas with my family, I may have sent a few "subtle" hints to relevant family members on what I would like to eat when I arrive. Most of the dishes I've requested are traditional recipes served at Christmas though I'd be happy to eat other items they are willing to prepare. I'm not one to refuse a kind offer, especially the food-related kind!
It would only be fitting that I share this coconut toffee recipe with you since I'll be in Goa in a few weeks. Goan food uses a lot of coconuts, coconut trees in Goa are as abundant as lemon and orange trees in the San Francisco Bay Area, they're everywhere. This is one of my favorite desserts that my mom's side of the family makes often at Christmas. They are sweet and decadent and a little bite goes a long way.
Here are some of my kitchen tips while preparing this little treat at home;
- Use fresh coconut if possible, if you can't find it you can use dried but in either case always use unsweetened shredded.
- I use pure unbleached cane sugar in this recipe, I find raw brown sugar to overwhelm the delicate taste of coconut.
- Stirring to prevent burning is critical in this recipe as is reaching the soft-ball temperature of 240F. At this point the mixture solidifies correctly to form one little delicious candy.
yields: approximately 54 pieces (each 1.5 X 1 inch in size)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter + a little extra for greasing the pan
2 cups (14 ounces) packed unsweetened fresh coconut grated/shredded (or 11 ounces dry coconut grated/shredded)
1 cup 2% milk
2 cups (14 ounces) sugar
1/4 teaspoon green cardamom, freshly ground (optional)
2 tablespoons almond flour
1 tablespoon rose water (or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract)
1. Line 9X9 square baking pan with 12X9 rectangle of parchment paper and then grease it with the extra butter.
2. Place the 4 tablespoons of butter, coconut, milk and sugar in a thick bottomed saucepan. Heat on a medium-high flame and bring to boil. Stir occasionally with a silicone spatula until the sugar completely dissolves. If you decide to add the cardamom, add it now, otherwise move to step 3.
3. Continue to heat the contents of the pan with constant stirring. Keep heating and stirring until the temperature reaches 240F, the mixture will begin to brown and the sugars will caramelize a little (it is important to stir as you proceed to prevent burning), quickly fold in the almond flour. Cook for one additional minute with constant stirring. The mixture will be relatively liquid free and will start to come off from the sides of the pan in a ball (just like preparing marzipan at home). Remove from stove and fold the rose water in to the mixture. Transfer the contents of the saucepan to the greased baking pan. Using an offset spatula or butterknife spread and smoothen the coconut mixture to cover the entire surface of the pan evenly. Allow the coconut toffee to cool completely.
4. Remove the cooled coconut toffee from the pan by releasing it from the sides of the pan with a sharp paring knife. Lift the coconut toffee out using the parchment paper. Cut into 1.5X1 inch rectangles or 1 X 1 inch squares (or any size you like). Serve the toffee at room temperature. Store the extra in an airtight container at room temperature.
- I had a little interview at Food and Wine magazine this week, talking about my blog and food. Please do check it out!
- My sweet and wonderful friend Alanna shares some of the fun moments she captured when we made Masala Chai this past weekend. Her photography and recipes are a treat, you won't be disappointed!
Here's a little twist to one of my favorite coconut cakes, the Baath, it's a delicious, rustic Goan coconut cake made with semolina that has a little bit of rose water. I've shared a lightened version of the regular Baath cake before but I've been aching to make it again and wanted to try something new this time. This version uses nutty tahini and toasty black sesame seeds, imagine all of that nestled in a semolina cake with the light fragrance of rose water and a gentle hint of vanilla.
I cut back on the sugar in this version but you can certainly increase the amount of sugar (as suggested in the recipe instructions below). This cake would be perfect with that cup of masala chai or coffee.
Here are some of my tips for working with semolina cakes and this cake in particular,
- The trick to a good moist and soft semolina cake, soak it in the batter for a few hours to overnight and then bake it.
- I prefer to store this cake wrapped in the refrigerator (or freeze the excess in airtight bags). I'm always worried that the coconut could get rancid and the cake keeps well. Bring the cake to room temperature before serving. Refrigeration also helps to lock in the aromatic floral scents in this cake.
sesame tahini baath (Goan Coconut Cake) Cake
yields: one 9 inch cake
1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature + a little more for greasing a 9 inch circular pan
1 1/2 cups brown sugar (if you like it sweeter, you can go up to 2 cups)
1 tablespoon tahini
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon madagascar bourbon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon coconut flavored rum (optional)
1/4 cup rose water
3 cups (1 lb + 1 2/4 ounces) semolina
1 cup (2 3/4 ounces) shredded unsweetened coconut (I used the Bob's Red Mill brand, I was really pleased with its scent and taste)
1/4 teaspoon kosher sea salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 cups reduced fat coconut milk
1/4 cup black sesame seeds
1. Line the base of springform or regular circular 9 inch cake pan with parchment paper. Lightly grease the sides with butter and keep aside until ready to use.
2. Place the butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer and using the paddle attachment cream until light and fluffy on medium high speed for about 5 minutes. Add the tahini and beat for another minute until combined.
3. Add one egg at a time to the creamed butter and sugar mixture and mix on medium-high speed until completely combined.
4. Add the vanilla extract and coconut rum (if using). Beat for 30 seconds until completely mixed.
5. In a large mixing bowl, lightly whisk, the semolina, coconut, salt, baking powder and 1 1/2 tablespoons of the black sesame seeds. Pour half of this mixture into the creamed butter-sugar-egg mixture and combine using the paddle attachment. Pour in the rose water and coconut milk. Add the rest of the semolina mixture and combine on medium speed until smooth. Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan and smooth the surface with an offset spatula (wet the spatula with a little cold water, to prevent the batter from sticking). Sprinkle the rest of the sesame seeds on the surface of the cake batter. Cover the cake with cling film and refrigerate for at least 4 hours to overnight before baking.
6. To bake the cake, place a wire rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350F. Remove the cling film and bake for 45-50 minutes turning the cake half way through baking. The cake is done with the top is slightly golden and the center is firm to touch or when a knife or skewer when passed through the center of the cake comes out clean from the center. Remove the cake from the oven and allow it to cool for 30 minutes in the cake pan. Run a knife around the edges of the baked cake, remove and allow to cool to room temperature before serving. To store, I recommend refrigerating in an airtight container or freezing the extra (bring to room temperature before serving).