Friday, September 23, 2016

So Good Chocolate Ice Cream

I'm told it is so good, hence the name. We have been on a roll, making chocolate ice cream at home. And what a revelation it has been for the fans. No more searching for chocolate fudge brownie at grocery stores. Or waiting for the two-for-one sales. This is a home run for the chocolate lovers and it takes minimal effort (cough cough)on my part.

Cousin Mario has given us his electric ice cream maker. The one given to his wife Cheryl, by their children. Sadly, she passed away last year. Knowing my predilection for all things home made, the ice cream maker travels with him, from the sub-continent to our home. The D'Souza family, Mario, Charmaine, Verne and Brent, spend a few days in our house and thoughtfully leave us this treasure.

I use the recipe off the Cuisinart manual.  A little planning is involved as you have to start a day before. The inner container needs to be chilled for 24 hour before use, for best results. Most good ice creams starts with milk, sugar and cream and of course chocolate. The best quality you can find. I have used milk as well as semi sweet chocolate. The popular vote goes to semi sweet. Both slabs or chips work, as they both have to be pulsed to a fine powder along with sugar. Warm milk is added and whizzed again. The food processor works best. This thick chocolate mix is then refrigerated for a couple hours. Then the fun begins.

Makes 4 cups

1 cup whole or 2% Milk
1/2 cup Sugar
8 oz semi-sweet Chocolate (bar or chips)
2 cups Cream
1 teaspoon Vanilla extract

Place the container from the ice cream machine in the freezer a day before you make the ice cream. Follow the manual for directions. Electric ice cream makers have precise instructions.

The next day start making ice cream by heating milk till you see small bubbles on the sides of the pan.

Place sugar and chocolate in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse till you have a fine powder.

Pour warm milk over chocolate and pulse a couple of times more to mix.

Put the chocolate mix in a bowl and cool. 

When it is cool add cream and vanilla to chocolate. Whisk well.

Place bowl in the fridge for 2 hours.

When you are ready to make the ice cream, remove the container from the freezer and place in ice cream maker.

Scrape chocolate mix into container, insert paddle and cover and start the ice maker.

  Let ice cream maker go on for 20-25 minutes.

At this point the ice cream will have a soft serve consistency.

Empty contents into a plastic or glass container and freeze till firm.


I have to admit making ice cream is a messy affair. Be prepared for drips and spills and many chocolate trails on counter tops. Once the whir of the machine stops, chocoholics cannot wait to dig into soft serve scoops without waiting for the big freeze. Mario...the electric ice cream machine has driven me to chocolate despair, and the rest of the house to chocolate heaven.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Potatoes and Tomatoes with Ginger

After sampling a plethora of restaurants in North Carolina, the desire to eat home cooked is very appealing. I want something simple, a plate of food that is not complicated. Of course I resort to potatoes. Can't resist that call. Comfort foods come in all kinds and sizes, just like people, and mine is unapologetically potatoes. And tomatoes. Cooked together they transport me to my childhood, to happy memories and simple dinner.

I cube a mound of russet potatoes. No....not Yukons...much to my dismay, they don't work well in this dish. But russets dissolve a bit and thicken the gravy adequately. Yukons tend to keep their shape as they cook, leaving the gravy kind of watery. Be the judge of your starch. Use your choice of potato, as they comfort the soul and stomach effortlessly. Mustard seeds splutter along with asefoetida, chiles, curry leaves and ginger. Potatoes are added to the mix and sauteed for a few minutes. This lets them develop crusty edges. Cooked in water till almost done, potatoes turn soft and mushy along with tomatoes and spices and a shock of fresh cilantro. Rice or roti...your choice.

Serves 4

4 Russet Potatoes 
2 tablespoons Canola Oil 
1/2 teaspoon Mustard seeds
A pinch of Asefoetida 
6-8 Curry leaves
3 green Chiles, sliced on a bias
2-3 Ginger slices
1 large Tomato
1/4 teaspoon Turmeric 
1/4 teaspoon Chile powder 
1 teaspoon Sugar
1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt 
3 tablespoons minced Cilantro

Peel potatoes and chop into 1/2 inch cubes.

Heat oil in a deep pan till very hot.

Splutter mustard seeds, asefoetida, curry leaves, cut chiles and ginger slices. Let mustard seeds pop.

Drop potatoes into oil and stir well. Let potatoes saute for a few minutes over high heat till the edges are a little crusty. You do not want to brown the potatoes, just crisp them lightly.

Season with 1/4 teaspoon salt.

Add enough water to cover potatoes and bring to a boil.  

Place a lid on the pan, lower flame and cook potatoes till almost done.

Roughly chop tomatoes.

When potatoes are almost done add tomatoes, turmeric, chile powder, sugar, remaining 1/4 teaspoon of salt and cilantro. Mix well and once again place lid over pan. 

Simmer for 5-10 minutes until tomatoes are soft and pulpy.

Eat with rice or any Indian bread of choice.

You should eat foods that matter. A big bowl of steaming rice. Potatoes and tomatoes, soft and mushy, emanating a strong ginger fragrance. Fresh cilantro lending an herbal flavor. Nothing wrong with simplicity. 

Friday, September 9, 2016

Heirloom Tomato Panzanella

Summer wanes as we eat a plethora of tomatoes. Cooked, braised or raw, to me tomatoes are the taste of summer. A popular lunch item is an open faced tower. Good buttered bread, topped with thick slices of tomato, bufalo mozzarella and a scattering of basil leaves, and drizzle of EVVO..all piled on high. That's my lunch time staple.

Then there is panzanella. Bread salad Italian style. But oh it's so much more. You have to start the best of ingredients...especially the most flavorful tomatoes are crucial to the end result. Standard tomatoes will do in a pinch, but they cannot replicate the full bodied taste of a home grown ripe red tomato. Scour your farmers market or a specialty grocery store for the best selection. I experiment with many breads and like the tang of sourdough the best. I toast slices golden brown this time, though grilled sourdough slices make a delicious variation. The heavenly flavor of heirloom tomatoes seeps into sourdough croutons. Thinly sliced red onions add a bite. It has to be fresh basil scattered on top of the tomatoes. All this goodness is drizzled with the best olive oil and vinegar you can find. A generous pinch of salt and cracked black pepper are the only seasonings you need. Let the salad sit for a few minutes so the juices soak into the bread. If you must.

Serves 4-6

5-6 Sourdough Bead slices
2-3 Heirloom Tomatoes or any vine ripened Tomatoes
1/4 Red Onion
15 Basil leaves
1/4 cup extra virgin Olive Oil 
1/2 teaspoon red wine Vinegar 
A large pinch of Kosher or Sea Salt 
Fresh ground Black Pepper 

Toast sourdough slices.

Chop bread into 1 inch pieces and put them in a shallow bowl.

Cut tomatoes into large chunks half hour ahead of time and place in a bowl. This allows the juices to pool in the bowl.

Thinly slice red onion.

Start assembling the salad 10 minutes before you serve it.

Scatter tomatoes with juice and red onion over the bread cubes.

Shred basil leaves by hand onto tomatoes.

Whisk olive oil and vinegar. Drizzle over tomatoes.

Season and allow salad to sit for 5-10 minutes before you toss and eat.

I make this salad for two parties in a row. Both occasions are birthdays. Both birthday girls, Mary Lou and Elaine, enjoy the fruits of my labor. All I have to do is walk into the garden, pick the fruit and basil....just a little work to going into this delightful salad.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Pumpkin Vada or Saandge

Ganesh Chaturthi comes once again. Walking the aisles of the grocery store I spy red pumpkin. My first thought is to make raita. I then drift towards fried slices. A distinct memory slides into view, my mum frying grated pumpkin vadas or saandge, as she called them. I see her adding sesame seeds, chiles, spices, cilantro and rice flour to the grated mess. Hands are her best tool, as she squishes the pumpkin. I see her fingers form small flat vadas which she lays on a thali. Once all of them have been formed, she fries them till they are dark brown and crisp. As she grates and mixes, she tells me how she finds this recipe.  Nothing secret.... just her literal translation from a Marathi magazine. What stands out most is her eagerness to give me the new found recipe. I love that she wants us to share the same flavors even though we live oceans apart. The present day holds this cherished memory dear to my heart.

And thats enough to pique my curiosity, so I grate some pumpkin. And add herbs, spices and seeds. Then, squish with my hands. But I balk at making the small flat vadas, choosing to form, flatten and fry the vadas in one fluid motion. Saves me a whole lot of time since I grate a whole lot of pumpkin!!!

Serves 4-6

1/2 pound Red Pumpkin 
3 green Chiles
1/4 cup Cilantro
1 heaped tablespoon Sesame seeds
1/2 teaspoon Turmeric 
1/2 teaspoon Chile powder 
3/4 teaspoon Kosher Salt 
3-4 tablespoons Rice Flour
Canola Oil for deep frying

Peel pumpkin. 

Grate pumpkin, either using a hand grater or a food processor with a shredding disc. The latter is much faster, with same results as a hand grater. 

You should have two or three cups of grated pumpkin. Put pumpkin in bowl.

Mince green chiles and cilantro and add to pumpkin.

Mix sesame seeds, spices, salt and rice flour into pumpkin. Use your hands to distribute everything equally. Or use a spatula. 

Heat canola oil in a kadhai or wok.

Test the oil by dropping a strand of pumpkin in. It should sizzle and float to the surface immediately.

Form one small 1 inch flat vada and add to hot oil as a test. The vada should hold together as it fries. If it breaks apart, add a tablespoon more of rice flour to bind the pumpkin.

Form 1 inch flat patties and drop them carefully into hot oil. Depending on the width of the pan you could  fry 6-8 vadas at a time. The vadas should be flat to insure that the insides cook evenly. Fry till the edges are brown, then flip and cook the other sides. 

Drain on paper towels.

Eat them piping hot!

Shauna uses a video to make a Playdoh Ganesh. It's is adorable and authentic. The thali comes together easily. I try a few different vegetables. Snake gourd and moong dal subji sits next to corn and cucumber. There is a mound of pooris and shrikhand. Cauliflower coconut curry is poured into katoris.  Umbar or fried plantain sit along side pumpkin vadas. Varan bhaat or toor dal and rice, resplendent with ghee, anchors the thali. Colleen, Keith, Mary Lou, Roy and Ryan join us to celebrate. It goes well. And by that I mean there are very few leftovers!