Monday, March 27, 2017

Garlic Onion Focaccia

The yeasty smell of proofing bread is one of my top ten aromas. I bury my nose in risen dough, happily pull and knead at a ball of wheat and wait in anticipation for the end result. Baking bread is satisfying on so many levels. For some reason focaccia drills a hole in my brain. I have been thinking about this bread for a few days. As I make pasta for dinner, the focaccia will fit right in. 

Memorable focaccia is to had at Liguria street bakery in San Francisco. My brother-in-law treats us to foot long slabs, with a host of addictive toppings. I am hooked. Needless to say, every trip to the city on the bay is a gluten filled experience. 

I start with a simple flour, water, yeast dough. The KitchenAid does the heavy duty work, but I make sure I knead the dough till smooth. The dough rises in a cold oven, with a trick I read somewhere. Beneath the proofing bowl sits a deep dish of steaming water. Heat rises and the dough magically proofs. This trick works especially well in winter.

Makes 1 12x6 rectangle

1 1/2 teaspoons instant Yeast granules
2 teaspoons Sugar
1 cup warm Water
1/4 cup Flour
1/2 teaspoon Salt
3 1/2 cups all purpose Flour
Olive Oil
3 Garlic cloves
1/2 Onion

Place water, yeast, sugar and flour in the bowl of a mixer. Whisk till frothy. Keep for 10 minutes till yeast blooms. You should see a few bubbles.

Use a dough hook. Start the mixer and add salt and flour in 1/2 cup increments.

Let mixer run till dough comes together in a ball. Work the dough in the mixer for a few minutes. 

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead with your hands till smooth.

Pour 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a big glass bowl. 

Drop dough into bowl and move it till it's covered with olive oil.

Cover loosely with plastic wrap.

Heat water till boiling.

Place dough on the top rack of a cold oven.

Place a bowl of boiling water under dough. 

Dough should take 1 1/2 to 2 hours to rise. It should look and feel soft and spongy.

Lightly oil a baking sheet.

Scrape dough onto sheet pan and spread with your fingers till dough is 1/2 inch thick.

Once again let dough sit in a warm place for 30 minutes.

Thinly slice garlic and onion.

Heat teaspoon of olive oil in a pan.

Saute garlic and onion till golden.

Heat oven to 425F.

Use your finger tips to make small dents all over the dough.

Scatter garlic and onion over dough.

Bake for 15 minutes till edges are slightly brown.

Take focaccia out of the oven.

Place on a wooden board and cut into strips. I used a pizza cutter in place of a knife.

The edges are crusty. The inside bits are soft and chewy.


My first attempt turns out a tasty but a trifle crusty focaccia. My mistake would be in spreading the dough too thinly towards the edges of the sheetpan. That's mistake number one. The second is the slightly burnt topping of onion and garlic. My remedy for the second mistake would be to incorporate the browned garlic and onion into the dough rather than over it. We eat and learn. The family do not find any deficiencies in the bread. They relish pieces along with their pasta. Thank heaven for husbands who love crisply browned onions and garlic.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Fada ni Khichdi with Kadhi

I have the sniffles. And in my state the food group that appeases my dulled senses is khichdi and kadhi. The first is a thick amalgam of rice and dal. The second is a soupy accompaniment to khichdi. They go hand in hand, paired together in so many regional Indian cuisines. And to me this pair is comfort personified. 

I veer from the normal rice and dal khichdi recipe, to a new standard from my sister's kitchen. She uses fada or lapsi. In plain English thats cracked wheat. Wheat that has been pounded to small grains. Healthy and nutritious, it is an adequate substitute for rice. She adds a few vegetables to the mix for a one bowl meal. I follow her instructions to the letter. Except for not having moong dal. So in goes whole masoor dal, a slight variation with the same result. Her instructions require the use of a pressure cooker. So I'm not sure how the khichdi will cook without this device. Sorry!

Kadhi comes together with yogurt, chick pea flour and a few spices. It is a one two three soupy concoction that is full of subtle flavor. It echoes the same spice elements as the khichdi.

Serves 2

1/2 cup Fada, Lapsi or Cracked Wheat
1/4 cup yellow Moong Dal or whole Masoor Dal
1 Carrot
1/2 cup frozen Peas
1 tablespoon Canola Oil 
1 tablespoon Ghee
5 Cloves
1 Cinnamon stick
10-12 Black Peppercorns 
1/4 teaspoon Cumin seeds
1/4 teaspoon Mustard seeds
2-3 dried Red Chiles
6-7 Curry Leaves
1/4 teaspoon Turmeric powder 
1/4 teaspoon Chile powder
1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt
4 cups Water

Rinse fada in cold water a couple of times using a fine mesh strainer. Keep aside.

Wash moong dal till water runs clear.

Peel carrot and cut into small dice.

Heat oil and ghee in pressure pan.

When hot, add red chiles, cinnamon, cloves, peppercorns, cumin seeds, mustard seeds and curry leaves. Let the spices sizzle for 20 seconds, till cumin seeds are dark brown. 

Add carrot and peas to pan and saute for 30 seconds.

Scrape fada into pan along with moong dal. Saute on a low flame for 5-8 minutes. Stir well so fada doesn't stick to the pan.

Sprinkle turmeric and chile powder over fada. Stir to mix.

Season with salt.

Pour water into pan and bring the mix to a boil.

Cover the pressure pan and let it whistle twice. Turn the flame to the lowest and cook for 7 minutes.

Let the pressure decrease before opening the pan.

Serve with kadhi and papad.


1 cup Greek or regular Yogurt (whole or 2%)
2 heaping teaspoons Chickpea flour or Besan
2 1/2 cups Water
1 tablespoon Canola Oil 
4 Garlic cloves
1-2 dried Red Chiles
1 small Cinnamon stick
4 Cloves
1/4 teaspoon Cumin seeds
1/4 teaspoon Mustard seeds
10 Curry leaves
1/4 teaspoon Turmeric powder
1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt 
1/2 teaspoon Sugar

Whisk yogurt till smooth in a bowl.

Add chickpea flour to yogurt. Whisk till smooth. Make sure there are no lumps.

Add water to yogurt, whisk again and keep aside.

Slice garlic cloves thinly.

Heat oil in deep saucepan.

When hot add garlic slices. Let garlic color slightly.

Add chiles, cinnamon, cloves, cumin, mustard seeds and curry leaves. Let spices splutter and sizzle till cumin turns dark brown.

Add turmeric to oil.

Wait a few seconds and then pour whisked yogurt into hot oil.

Stir to mix.

Season with salt and sugar.

Let yogurt come to low boil. Stir occasionally. Keep a wooden spoon in the saucepan. This prevents the kadhi from boiling over.

Let kadhi bubble for 10 minutes.

If kadhi is too thick, add water till pouring consistency. Season again with a little salt.

Add cilantro and serve.

Papad are fried.  The pressure pan is uncovered. Tempting aromas waft through the kitchen air. I can't wait to tuck into one of my favorite meals. Sniffles or not, Prassy has made me a convert to this combination of similar flavors. Spoonfuls of khichdi are drowned in kadhi. I crumble crisp papad over the mix and eat a forkful of comfort.