Sunday, March 27, 2016

Hot Cross Buns

I'm not hot. Nor am I cross. And I am ready to make these fabulous buns. The original recipe belongs to Allison Robicelli. Tasting Table amends her version. It lives on my blog in this third adaptation. The bulk of the process is the same. But I have left out a whole bunch of complications.

As always with sweet bread you need yeast, hot milk, eggs, butter and flour. The recipe has an unusual method of leavening..that is to leave a shaggy dough to rise in a warm place. Not quite convinced I peer at the dough often. I am convinced after a couple of hours, as it looks light and fluffy. Soft butter and eggs are kneaded into the dough. The technique is unfamiliar to me as I watch in amazement as the dough hook work its magic. Once again I divert from the recipe which calls for twelve buns. My sheet pans have twenty four smaller buns. Another short rise lets the buns double up. Brushed with egg wash, they bake in a hot oven to emerge golden brown. You get a textured bun, one that looks brown and crusty but really is soft and flaky. 

Adapted from Tasting Table
Makes 22-24 small buns

1 cup Milk 
1 tablespoon +1 teaspoon active dry Yeast
4 1/2 cups all purpose Flour
1/2 cup Golden Raisins
1/2 cup Sugar
2 teaspoons Kosher Salt 
2 Eggs
7 tablespoons soft Butter 
1 Egg
1 tablespoon cold Water 

3/4 cup Confectioners Sugar
1 tablespoon Lemon Zest
1-2 teaspoons Water

Heat milk till warm.

Add yeast to milk and stir. Cover bowl and leave be for 5 minutes.

Stir in flour, raisins, sugar and salt. Mix. You should have a shaggy dough. Cover with a towel and leave in aware place for 2 hours.

Put dough into the bowl of a stand mixer. Using a dough hook, knead dough for a few minutes.

Break eggs into a bowl and beat for a few minutes. 

Add eggs to dough.

Add butter to dough one tablespoon at a time. You might have to use a spatula to direct pieces of butter in to the dough. Once all the butter is added, turn the speed up to medium and knead dough for a few minutes. The dough should come away from the sides of the bowl and glisten. 

Line 2 sheetpans with parchment or silpat sheets.

Scoop out pieces of dough the size of a lemon. Roll them lightly and arrange them on sheetpans 2 inches apart. Remember they have one more proofing to go through. If they are too close they will touch when they proof.

Cover sheetpans loosely with plastic wrap. Place in a sunny warm spot for 30 minutes to proof.

Break one egg into a bowl. Add water and whisk.

Brush buns with egg wash.

Heat oven to 375F.

Bake one tray at time for 20-25 minutes.

Cool buns on a rack. 

Make the glaze by mixing confectioners sugar, lemon zest and water till it is thick. 

Spoon glaze into a small plastic bag. Gather glaze into one corner of bag. Snip off that end and pipe crosses onto cooled buns.

Wait a few minutes for the glaze to set and enjoy.

These buns are yeasty, crumbly, flaky and soft. The glaze makes a lemony requisite cross. Bites are not too sweet, chockful of raisins,  are a bread lovers delight. Hot cross buns, synonymous with Easter, jogs a preschool memory. A nursery rhyme echoes in my a penny two a cross buns. Bun in hand, I have turned into a singing Mother Goose.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Fried Fish Bahn Mi

When you bite into a bahn mi you taste roast pork along with carrots, daikon and cilantro. Such tongue tingling pleasure!  We favor them for lunch a lot, but the closest Vietnamese joint Maxia, is a long car ride away. And I want to eat this vivid memory of the crisp baguette, juicy pork, the fresh slaw, cilantro and jalapeño now! I fell in love with bahn mis when we got them to go at Ba Le on the Big Island In Hawaii. Sitting on the sunny beach, beer in one hand and the crisp sandwich in the other, as I kept asking myself why I hadn't eaten one before! Then there are the ones at Saigon Sandwich in San Francisco. They are a thing of beauty and a joy to eat. And they travel well from coast to coast! So my romance with the sandwich continues.

I want to change it up a bit. Why not fish in place of meat? I rub tilapia fillets with curry powder and seasonings, lightly coat then in arrowroot and sandwich them in toasted Kaiser rolls. A few more essentials are added to the fish, mainly a crisp daikon and carrot slaw. The slaw needs to marinate for an hour so as the fish defrosts,  the slaw steeps in vinegar. A quick mayo and sriracha dressing adds to the magic. The sum total is a mouthwatering handheld delight.

Makes 4 sandwiches 

4 Tilapia fillets 
2 teaspoons Curry Powder
1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt 
Several grinds of Black Pepper
2 teaspoons Arrowroot 
1 tablespoon Canola Oil 
1 small Daikon
2 Carrots
1/4 cup Rice Vinegar
2 teaspoons Sugar
A large pinch Kosher Salt 
1/4 teaspoon Chile Flakes
1/2 cup Cilantro 
1/4 cup Mayonnaise 
3 teaspoons Sriracha 
4 Kaiser Rolls 

Start making the slaw. Peel daikon and carrots and slice into matchsticks. Put them in a nonreactive bowl.

Heat vinegar, sugar salt and chile flakes till sugar dissolves for a few minutes. Remove from flame and let it come to room temperature. 

Pour vinegar over daikon and carrots and let veggies steep for 30 minutes to 1 hour. Drain and keep aside.

Wash and dry tilapia. Dust fish with curry powder, salt and pepper. Rub spices on both sides of fish. 

Heat oil in a nonstick saucepan.

Sprinkle fish with arrowroot and fry in oil till golden on one side. Flip and brown on the other.

Mix mayo and Sriracha till smooth.

Heat broiler. 

Cut rolls in half and broil for a few minutes till golden and crisp.

Start putting the sandwiches together in an assembly line fashion. Slather one half of roll with mayo.

Lay fish over mayo.

Top fish with a generous helping of daikon and carrot.

Garnish with a few sprigs of cilantro.

Top with other buns.

Enjoy !

It is fun recreating a food memory. I know I cannot bring back the sensations that go with my first bite. No sun, no sand, no sea breeze, no beer. That's the thing about a recollection. It's stays with you. Then my story changes. Pork morphs into fish, baguettes into Kaiser rolls! Though the carrots and daikon stay the same.  Flexibility and my fridge go hand in hand!

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Roasted Vegetable Salad

The first day of spring brings dire warnings of snow. I wouldn't pay attention to the weather, but the docents are prepping for the annual brunch. They bake, buy and bring goodies to fill the tables. This is our chance to chat and catch up, mingle with museum staff and munch with old friends. So the impending storm has me straddling the fence. I decide to call the weatherman's bluff and go ahead with the event. Of course that means making a lunch item. 

I plan on an old stalwart, a green salad dressed with roasted veggies and drizzled with a fresh tomato dressing. Roasting veggies makes me feel good. The resulting aroma is pleasing. The colorful vegetable variations take on painterly hues. My stove top grill is put to work with zucchini and roasted tomatoes. The oven does the rest. Roasted tomatoes make a smoky dressing. The serving platter lends itself to Kenny Sharf aesthetics. Snow be damned...I have spring on my plate.

Serves 8

2 Japanese Eggplants 
1 large Red Onion
3 Sweet Potatoes 
8-10 small assorted Red, Orange, Yellow Mini Peppers 
1 large Green Pepper  
1 large Zucchini 
Olive Oil
Kosher Salt 
1 head Romaine Lettuce

1 Plum Tomato
1 Shallot
1 teaspoon grainy Mustard
1 tablespoon Red Wine Vinegar
1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt 
1/2 teaspoon ground Black Pepper 
1/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil 

Heat oven to 375F.

Line 2 sheet pans with nonstick foil or spray with olive oil.

Slice eggplants on a bias thinly. Arrange slices on sheet pan.

Peel and cut onion into large chunks. Scatter them next to eggplant.

Trim peppers, cut into 1-2inch pieces and drop next to onions.

Drizzle veggies lightly with olive oil.

Season with salt and bake in total for 20-25 minutes till done. Turn veggies over after 10 minutes of roasting so they brown evenly.

Next broil veggies for a few minutes till tinged brown.

Peel sweet potatoes. Cut in half and then into thin half moons. Lay them on another sheet pan, drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and bake for 25-30 minutes. 

Broil sweet potatoes for a few minutes till you see browned spots.

Heat a cast iron stove top grill till smoking hot.

Dip a paper towel in a little olive oil and rub grill with it.

Slice zucchini into long 1/4 inch thick ribbons. Brush with olive oil and lay on grill. Cook zucchini for 7-8 minutes on each side. Remove and keep with other veggies.

Start the dressing.

Cut tomato in half and lay cut side on grill. Let tomato blister and turn a bit brown.

Cut tomato into chunks and put into a blender.

Peel and roughly chop a shallot and add to tomato.

Add mustard, vinegar, salt and pepper.

Blend tomato mix. 

Pour olive oil slowly into tomato as it blends.  Keep dressing in fridge till ready to use.

Wash and dry lettuce. Cut into bite size pieces and lay them in a bowl or platter.

Scatter roasted veggies over romaine.

Drizzle dressing over salad, toss and serve.

The snow turns out to be a nonevent. Brunch tables fill up. Docents mingle. The coffee maker is on the blink. But that issue is overshadowed by the convivial crowd, brilliant blue skies and swathes of green out the window. Stepping into the sunshine I have a spring in my step!!!

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Cauliflower with Amchur

This week cauliflower prices have plummeted!!! So we shall be cooking a whole lot of white. Today's cauliflower special is a quick saute, an Indian subji. I divide the florets into long thin spears. An Indian sautéed vegetable almost always starts with a tarka. Tarka is heated oil or ghee, to which you add a range of whole spices like cumin, cinnamon, cloves, red chiles, curry leaves...the list is longer than my arm! The tarka is step one. Then you layer up. Once the whole spices have browned, other items are added. Each tarka beginning is unique to the recipe. Vegetables beg for different spices. Today's cauliflower has a short list of them.

Long cauliflower spears allow for more browning surface. Along with them I cut thin ribbons of ginger. Ginger browns along with cumin, red chiles and fennel seeds. As they fry my kitchen smells like my mum's. That's always a good thing. Cauliflower is sautéed along with turmeric, chile powder and amchur. Amchur, made from dried mango, has a distinctive taste. It imparts a tart lemony flavor. A large pinch of garam masala finishes the spice palate. Covered and cooked on a slow flame, cauliflower caramelizes as it cooks in its own steam bath. Not adding water to the pan lets the vegetables take on an appealing bronzed look. Unless you burn them. So keep that flame low to medium and check vegetables often!

Serves 4

1 medium sized Cauliflower 
3 tablespoons Canola Oil 
1 inch piece of Ginger
1-2 dried Red Chiles 
1/2 teaspoon Cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon Fennel seeds
1/4 teaspoon Turmeric powder
1/2 teaspoon Chile powder 
1/4 teaspoon Garam Masala 
1 teaspoon Amchur powder
1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt 
Fresh Cilantro Sprigs

Cut cauliflower into big florets. Slice florets in half. Lay the halves on their cut side and cut them into thin longish spears. If this is too complicated, by all means cut the vegetable into small florets. The more flat surface area the cauliflower has, the more the caramelization as its cooks. But that's my preference. 

Peel ginger and cut into thin matchsticks. You should have a heaping tablespoon.

Heat oil in a nonstick saucepan. Make sure the pan has a corresponding tight fitting lid.

Add ginger, cumin, fennel and red chile. Saute till ginger browns.

Drop florets into oil. 

Sprinkle turmeric, chile, garam masala and amchur powders over cauliflower. Stir till mixed well.

Add kosher salt and mix.

Lower flame between low and medium. Cover saucepan with a tight fitting lid and let cauliflower pan roast for 15 minutes. Stir the florets every now and then so they don't stick to the pan. Or just shake the pan vigorously from time to time. 

Uncover, top with fresh cilantro and eat with chappatti or rice.

Undoubtedly cauliflower is the family favorite. The subji disappears as dinner progresses. The challenge persists...what else will I make with this versatile vegetable? 

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Noel's Bread Upma

Finger sandwiches look best crustless. After the DA marathon I am left with a mound of crusts. No many ideas come to mind short of sharing them with the birds. Many moons ago I was tasked to make crumbs out of crusts. Back then in Bombay breadcrumbs were usually a home-made item. Loaf ends, slices and crusts were either dried in the  noonday sun or in the oven, the former more often the latter. Wasting LPG gas on crumb-making was a nono! I would arrange bread on newspaper and lay it out on a sunny veranda. I was also tasked with shooing away errant birds that came for these morsels. After moving to the US, for years I ferried Progresso Breadcrumbs to Mum, her then crumb of choice. 

But I digress. No more crumb making for me. So these crusts will morph into one tasty treat...bread upma. I make it for breakfast or as a snack with tea. Pepperidge Farm bread has good texture, but the upma turns out well with sourdough, ciabatta or leftover garlic bread. My favorite upma recipe comes from Noel Louis. He effortlessly puts together a moist and spicy snack. A whole lot of onions, curry leaves and turmeric turn bread cubes into a delicious savory treat.

Makes 2 generous portions

4-5 cups Bread cubes (crusts and slices)
3 tablespoons Canola Oil 
A Pinch of Asafoetida (Hing)
1/2 teaspoon Mustard Seeds 
1 large Onion
5-6 Curry Leaves
1 Green Chile (more if you like it spicy)
1/2 teaspoon Turmeric
1/4 teaspoon Kosher Salt 
1/2 cup fresh Cilantro leaves and stems
1/4 cup lightly fried or roasted Cashew Nuts (optional)

Dampen cubes by sprinkling a little water over them.

Chop onion into small chunks.

Slice green chile thinly.

Heat oil in saucepan or wok.

Add  asafoetida and mustard seeds. 

Once they splutter, add curry leaves, chopped onions, chile and turmeric. Saute a few minutes till onions are soft.

Add bread to onions and stir well to mix.

Season with salt.

Cover saucepan and cook bread on a very low flame for 5 minutes to let spices infuse.

Uncover, garnish with cilantro and cashew nuts and serve hot.

It's upma for lunch, carbs be damned! There is something so satisfying about these carbs laden with chile and spice. I break bread and give thanks to Noel for this gem.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Spiced Chicken Pot Pie

Time for another acrimonious debate. I scurry with dinner prep. Shortcuts are vital to quick meals, so the pot pie I bake will consist of cooked chicken, frozen peas, boiled potatoes and carrots and store bought puff pastry. Having said that I plan to tweak the All American version with an Indian spin. My pot pie is not the white sauce variety as I begin with an abbreviated brown stew, a Goan staple. Onions, ginger, garlic and tomatoes makes the base in which chicken cooks along with spices and vegetables. In this recipe I shorten the cooking process, using cooked chicken, boiled veggies, some scant gravy and simple spices. 

Onions turn golden brown in a little oil. Generous teaspoons of ginger and garlic paste along with pulped tomatoes thicken the base. I toss in handfuls of cooked shredded chicken and boiled vegetables. Chile powder, salt and blizzard of pepper are sufficient seasonings. Piled into an oven proof dish and covered with puff pastry, the pie goes into a hot oven. Before you know it, you have a golden brown crusty pie!

Makes 2-4 servings 

1 sheet store-bought frozen Pepperidge Farm Puff Pastry
1-2 tablespoons Flour
2 cups cooked and shredded Chicken or Turkey
2 tablespoons Canola Oil 
1 large Onion
1 teaspoon Ginger paste or 3 Ginger Slices
1 teaspoon Garlic paste
2 large Tomatoes 
2 Potatoes, boiled and cubed
2 Carrots, boiled and sliced
1/2 cup frozen Peas
1/2 teaspoon Chile Powder 
1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt 
1 teaspoon Black Pepper 
1 Egg

Defrost puff pastry while you prep the chicken base.

Cut onion and tomatoes into thin slices.

Heat oil in a saucepan.

Fry onion in oil till golden brown.

Add ginger garlic pastes and tomatoes and saute for 3-4 minutes till tomatoes have softened.

Add chicken and spices to sauce. Stir to mix, cover saucepan and let chicken fry on a low flame for 5-10 minutes. Stir often so chicken doesn't stick to the pan. You might add a few tablespoons of water if it does stick.

Add boiled potatoes, carrots and peas to chicken. 

Season with salt and pepper.

Heat oven to 375F.

Scatter flour over counter.

Divide chicken into two oven proof dishes for individual portions. ALTERNATELY arrange chicken in a 8 inch round glass pie plate for family style dining.

Lay puff pastry on flour. Cut pastry into half with a sharp knife if you are doing two dishes. Keep the pastry while if you are using a pie plate.

Cover chicken with pastry, tucking in the edges to fit the dish. Press down on the outer edges of the dishes or plate.

Using the tip of a knife make holes in pastry for the steam to escape.

Break egg into a bowl and beat with fork to mix.

Brush puff pastry with beaten egg liberally.

Place dishes or plate on a baking tray and bake for 35-40 minutes.

Remove from oven and eat while hot. Puff pastry isn't conducive to cold meals. 

Dinner takes longer with a few distractions. So the pot pie makes a convenient TV meal. The Republicans debate with barely concealed restraint and recriminations. My eye goes from fork to screen with ease. After a while the pie looks more interesting than any on screen persona. Degustation overcomes disgust!

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Pork Meatballs in Coconut Curry

I like the sound of pork meatballs. I also like their flavor. They do not have that strong meaty mouth feel, tasting lighter on the palate. Permeated with fresh herbs and spices they come alive in a simple coconut curry. The curry is infused with all things Thai...lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, galangal, garlic and chile paste. How could I go wrong???!!!! It is delicious and disappeared fast at last week's dinner. We have an old buddy of G's visiting so I recreate it once more.

The same ingredients make a stellar appearance. Minced pork is mashed and squeezed with scallions, cilantro, mint, heaping spoonfuls of ginger and garlic, a heavy hand of chile garlic paste and panko crumbs. I shallow fry small balls in oil, so they area lighly browned. I will finish cooking them in the curry. The curry starts with the pork flavored oil. Garlic and galangal is sauteed briefly. Lightly smashed lemongrass stems, kaffir lime leaves and spoonfuls of chile garlic paste are the aromatic stars. A can of thick coconut milk, some chicken stock and seasonings provide a soupy base for the pork balls to finish cooking. Fresh cilantro and scallions garnish the curry and off to the table it is.

Serves 6

1 1/2 pounds ground Pork
3 tablespoons minced Garlic
3 tablespoons minced Ginger
1/4 cup thinly sliced Scallions
1/2 cup chopped Cilantro
15 slivered Mint leaves
3-4 heaped teaspoons Chile Garlic Paste or Sambal Olek
3/4 teaspoon Kosher Salt 
Several grinds fresh Black Pepper 
3/4 cup Panko Breadcrumbs or regular Breadcrumbs
3 tablespoons Canola Oil 

2 tablespoons minced Garlic 
4-5 slices Galangal or Ginger
2-3 Lemongrass stalks
6 Kaffir Lime leaves or rind of 1 Lime
1-2 teaspoons Chile Garlic Paste or Sambal Olek
1 14 oz can Coconut Milk
1 cup Chicken Stock
1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt 
1/2 cup roughly chopped Cilantro
1/4 cup thinly sliced Scallions

Mix pork, garlic, ginger, scallions, cilantro, mint, salt, pepper and Panko in a bowl. Shape into 1 inch balls.

Heat oil in a large nonstick saucepan.

Shallow fry balls a few minutes on each side till light brown. Drain on a paper towel.

Use the same pan with pork drippings. If you are squeamish about too much fat, remove all but 2 tablespoons. Know that this fat adds a lot of flavor to the sauce. 

Add garlic and galangal to hot drippings and saute for 30 seconds.

Throw lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves into fat.add spoonfuls of chile garlic paste to pan and stir to mix.

Coconut milk and chicken stock are poured in. Stir and let curry come to a simmer.

Season with salt. 

Slip meatballs into simmering curry and cook 25-30 minutes on a low flame uncovered. Shake the pan from time to time so curry washes over meatballs. Or use a spoon to ladle curry over meatballs.This way they stay moist.

Just before serving add fresh cilantro and scallions.

These are best accompanied by white rice or noodles.

My guests ooh and aah as they savor the curry. Being pork aficionados, they appreciate the simple Asian flavors of meat, lemongrass, lime and coconut. A recipe is requested. And I promptly oblige!