Monday, August 28, 2006

Grilled Pineapple with Grand Marnier - Cream Sauce

Sometimes, the most simply prepared food is the most memorable - pasta tossed in butter and parsley for an easy meal, a perfectly ripe mango in the peak of summer or peach-ice on an overbearingly hot day, life's joys sometimes is in the small things. Not fussing with complex recipes or hard-to-find ingredients spares time for a lazy afternoon nap, re-reading a forgotten novel or sharing a laugh with loved ones. As summer crawls to an end, the need to capture every last bit of summer sets in, and with it, a craving for everything summer - fresh vegetables, bright colors, breezy blouses and flip-flops.

 

Although they don't often find their place in traditional pies or cobblers, tropical fruits epitomize summer - juicy mangoes, papaya or melons sometimes take the place of a meal around this time of the year. A few ingredients and a juicy pineapple, with some time, transform into an elegant and simple dessert - with subtle flavours and unexpected ingredients. Grand Marnier - an orange flavoured liquer that is instanly recognized by its signature red seal and renowned in the world of spirits for its quality and excellence, tenders a delicate flavour of oranges to the butter-cream sauce and takes the grilled pineapple to the next level.

 
Recipe:
Remove the skin from the pineapple, cut away the 'eyes' and slice into spears. Brush melted butter and grill the spears for a few minutes on each side, till grill marks start to appear.

In a saucepan, add brown sugar (1/2 cup),butter(1/3 cup) and heavy cream(1/2 cup), stir till the sugar melts and bring to a boil over medium heat. Take it off the heat, add orange juice(1/3 cup) and grand marnier(1/3 cup). Arrange the spears in a bowl and spoon the sauce over it. Garnish with orange zest.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Roasted Bell Pepper Hors d'oeuvres

 

Like with life, sometimes with food, what you see is not what you get. Appearances can be deceptive, and so can first impressions. The most comforting, delicious food need not photograph well and may not even illicit signs of awe, that a french macaron or a sugar sculpture can, but who is to say what can feed the appetite and soothe the soul. For some, it may be mom's meatloaf or that aroma of vanilla that permeates the kitchen when a cake rises in the oven. Like life, food deserves a second chance and an open mind.

Bell peppers are an ingredient that finds itself in everything ranging from stir frys to dips, simply tweaking the method of preparation brings out a subtle quality of the bell pepper, a smoky sweetness that pairs with poultry as well as seafood.

 

Roasted Bell Peppers, in its nascent stage looks charred and unsavoury - something that deserves to be tossed out - but on a second thought, just peeling the dark skin reveals a slick, sweet and smoky rendering of the bell pepper that is a bounty only for the patient. Roasting bell peppers is surprisingly easy - all one needs to do is turn up the broiler and place the bell peppers under it, turning occassionally till all the sides turn black.

The cooled bell peppers now, after removing the seeds, can be preserved in olive oil, to be tossed later in a pasta salad, or to be layered in a panini for an easy summer meal, or can serve as a tasty envelope for any filling that your heart desires.

 

Recipe:
Roast Bell peppers(4) under a hot broiler till the skin is charred. Let cool, peel the skin & remove the seeds and cut into strips an inch and a half wide.

For the filling:

Mix shredded, cooked chicken (2 cups) with pesto (3 Tbsp.), lime juice(1 Tbsp.) and fresh chopped basil(1 Tsp.). Season with salt and pepper. Spoon the filling into the roasted bell pepper strips, and roll tightly. Refrigerate these rolls for an hour, slice into bite-sized pieces and serve topped with french fried onions. 

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Kaya Appam - Banana Fritters

 

Deep frying - however intimidating it may be, always results in instant gratification. I've never met a soul who didn't like french fries, spring rolls or heck..even fried zucchini blossoms. There has to be some math somewhere that says that frying food adds calories exponentially in a manner that is directly proportional to taste, with some exceptions to the rule of course! Anybody, who has ever had a hot doughnut melt in their mouth knows exactly what I am talking about.

Banana Fritters - Kaya Appam as they are known in the state of Kerala, India are delicious, sweet fritters that are crisp to bite into and tender inside, bursting with the flavour of Bananas and Cardamom and sweetened with Jaggery. The closest comparison I can make of the crunchy outside is to Hushpuppies, but the similarity stops there.

Jaggery is a version of sugar that is relatively unprocessed, and doesn't contain the chemicals used in processing cane juice to sugar, it is an ingredient in a majority of Keralite (from the state of Kerala, India) Desserts. Jaggery or Gur as it is also known, ranges in color from pale to deep brown, has a crumbly texture and is usually sold in blocks weighing a pound or so.

Kaya Appam is my entry to Food Parade on Independence Day.

 

Banana Fritters taste best after they've had some time to sit, usually a day or two later - ie., if you're lucky, usually doesn't last that long !

Recipe:
Melt coarsely chopped Jaggery (3/4 lb.) in a saucepan with 2-3 tsp. of water to a smooth consistency. On sufficiently cooling add melted Jaggery to the mashed bananas (3), add 1 tsp. Cardamom powder and 1 tsp. Baking Powder and mix well.

Add flour(3/4 cup), I used wheat flour, all-purpose flour will work too, till the mixture reached a medium consistency - a little thicker than the consistency of pancake batter. If the consistency is too thin add some more flour or if it is too thick dilute with water and add jaggery accordingly. Drop spoonfulls of this batter into the hot oil and turn occassionally to get a even brown color throughout.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Lemon Garlic Chicken Kebabs with Roasted Vegetables

I love GAHLIC !! I have a tendency to almost double the amount of garlic in everything I make ..correction- everything other than 'chicken with forty cloves of garlic' - that I don't want to mess with. Garlic doesn't leave your breath smelling like roses - but the way I think about it - that can be fixed with some mint! In addition to the various health benefits that garlic has to offer ranging from mitigating and resisting the common flu to some cancers, it is the centerpiece of my repertoire. Chopped garlic sauteed in olive oil is the first step to a delicious meal. The base for sauces, marinades and dresssings, this is something I inadvertently always always have in my kitchen.

 

A recent episode of Alton Brown's 'Good Eats' focused on Garlic, and confirmed what my Grandmom had told me years ago - that the smaller clove of garlic had much more flavour than the larger, easier to peel version, and that the elephant garlic or the XL ones that you find in the grocery store is not really garlic but a kind of leek !! I'd be stumped if I had to cook for someone who was allergic to Garlic - I'll have to search for recipes that didn't include this miracle bulb!

For a simple meal, I marinated chicken that was cut to bite-sized pieces in olive oil, chopped garlic, lemon juice and salt for at least half an hour. Roasted vegetables, I think have a greater complexity of taste than ones that are boiled or even sauteed, I'd like to roast vegetables more often except that I don't often like to deal with a hot kitchen in the summer. Eggplant and Bell pepper cut in long strips and tossed with olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper went into a oven at 350 F for 45 minutes.

After the chicken is marinated, thread it onto the skewers alternating with juicy strawberry tomatoes. To avoid the wooden skewers from burning on the grill - soak them in water. Place the skewered kebabs on a hot grill and turn occasionally till the chicken is tender and opaque all the way. Transfer the skewers onto a bed of roasted vegetables and serve immediately.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Buttercream Roses

Roses are sooooooo overrated !!! That was my response when I first attempted Buttercream Roses. There were a lot of little things to remember - such as the way one has to hold the piping bag, the way pressure has to be applied so that the petals come out looking stunning like a blooming rose.

 

Now that I have spent a little more time on roses, I feel that roses are a testament to the skill of the cake decorator - because it focuses on the fundamentals such as proper pressure, consistency and smooth flow. Here is a video on how to make roses the right way, it looks way easier than it actually is!

 

This cake is the result of my first attempt at making roses - and in the process I discovered that making leaves (who knew??!!) is a lot of fun, just holding the bag and making tiny squiggles is addictive!

The cake here is a cookies n' creme cake with oreo cookies added to the batter just before the cake went into the oven - the creme made the cake very moist with lil' brown specks of oreo cookies throughout.