Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Baked Cauliflower 'Tree of Life' for Earth Day

"Just as treasures are uncovered from the earth, so virtue appears from good deeds, and wisdom appears from a pure and peaceful mind. To walk safely through the maze of human life, one needs the light of wisdom and the guidance of virtue." {Buddha}. 

We all call it "HOME", we all call it "Mother", It is  'Our Planet Earth'.... ! The God created Earth. The earth is the common denominator which unites us all as human beings. And if we love God we need to love its magical creation, Earth or as we call it Mother Nature, becoz Nature blesses us with blissful life...!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

As we celebrated the annual Earth day on April 22, for the 42nd time, I feel blessed to live on the most beautiful planet of our galaxy "The Earth". Lets Pledge together to make it a green planet by contributing our every little bit to save it from global warming. In our personal quest to carve a distinct niche for ourselves, we start playing and manipulating with nature. No matter how much personal and professional success we acquire, at the end of the day and life, we need to have blue skies and river, fresh air and water and naturally organic food. For all this, we need to obey the Nature to live longer and merrier !!!

We get a beautiful lesson of life and continuity from our epics. Last night I narrated a story to my son about how Every day was a Earth Day for our ancestors and sages.  He questioned me,"How"?
I told, they woke up early and started their day with offering water to the first rays of sun and chanted mantras looking at the blue sky; then took a dip in the holy rivers, ate fresh and seasonal fruits/veggies  in their meals; and spend rest of their day in sowing and cultivating (to preserve natural resources). It is believed that those who plant a tree/shrub by themselves shall always find plenty of shade. I have seen my dad setting a personal example in front of us by doing his every best to conserve the environment and in turn to preserve our most precious asset "Earth". One fine day he got a Solar Cooker to optimize solar energy plus make nutritious food full of vitamin D. So as kids we used to hop around it like bunnies to fill our little bowls with 'Kheer'  (family Indian dessert) being cooked slowly and slowly using natural heat and energy. I still have reminiscences of the 'pure and distinct taste' over stove cooked Kheer.
Now hearing the whole story, my son said, I also want to have kheer made by solar system :)
This post of mine is dedicated to "My Dear Dad"!

"Cauliflower Tree" Symbolic of Life

This recipe is adapted and tweaked to pure vegetarian version from Vikas Khanna, Chef of Junoon restaurant in NYC. Through this post I wanna share the lesson of life we learn from nature. This Cauliflour recipe, commemorate with flowers, trees and principle of continuity in our lives !

Cauliflower: 1 (makes for 2-3 trees)
Gramflour: 1/2 cup
Salt, chilli: 1/2 tsp (to taste)
Garam Masala: 1/2 tsp
Ginger powder: 1/2 tsp
Coriander salsa : 1 tsp (churning coriander, ginger and green onions)
Spring onion greens to garnish
Chilli tomato sauce to garnish

Cauliflower Trees symbolic of Life n Happiness
Wash the cauliflower in warm water with salt.
Completely dry it with paper towel, so it is free of any moisture.
Place the cauliflower on a chopping board. With a sharp knife cut 2 to 3 trees by cutting it vertically from the center.
Preheat the oven to 350 C.
In a bowl, mix gramflour with little water to make a thick paste and season with desired spices to taste. (salt, chill, garam masala, ginger, coriander salsa).
Place the cauliflower in a lightly greased baking tray.
Spray little oil/butter and coat it generously with the gramflour mix.

Baked Cauliflower Trees,  'Indian Pakoras'

Bake it for 15 minutes till it gets light golden color.
Garnish with micro greens and Chilli tomato sauce.


After talking and cooking green whole day, we ended up having a tug of war for the last tree bite, all dressed up in the platter. And finally my little boy came and said, 'Shall I' :)))))))))))))

Enjoy cauliflower trees or shall I call baked version of Gobhi Pakoras, with a cup of Green tea :)))

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Friday, April 13, 2012

Blood Orange Cupcakes for the Spring Break !

My quest for experimenting with intriguing produce continues this week. It all started last weekend when I landed myself a bag full of Blood Oranges. I had been thinking a lot in the past about what I can do with the great color & flavor this fruit might have to offer. Finally a combo of unlikely factors - My Son being home for spring break & having not baked a cake for a few weeks let to this simple yet interesting creation.
I have always loved cream cheese frostings, and I asked my son (knowing his love for anything citrus)- How about he helps me in making "Blood Orange Cup Cakes". By the end of the day we had a Happy Toddler & happy Mom situation :)

So lets see how we went about it !

Ingredients: -

For Cupcakes:
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tablespoon blood orange zest
1 1/2 cup APF
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup freshly squeezed blood orange juice
1/2 cup melted butter
1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
A few Chocolate Chips, optional

For Frosting:
1 Cup Cream Cheese
1 cup sugar
1 cup extracted blood orange pulp
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon blood orange zest
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

Method for Cupcakes: -
Preheat the over to 350 degrees. 
In a large bowl mix the sugar with the zest till sugar becomes wet. 
At this stage whisk in the APF, baking soda, baking powder and salt.
In another bowl, whisk together the blood orange juice, butter and vanilla extract. 
Pour the liquid ingredients into the dry and whisk until smooth–the batter will be quite thin.
Throw some chocolate chips.
Using an ice-cream scooper add batter to muffin tins (lined with plain white cupcake liners), filling each well no more than 3/4rths full. 
Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cakes comes out clean 
When done place cupcakes on a wire rack for at least 25-30 mins to cool down to room temperature.

Method for Frosting: -
Combine the blood orange pulp, sugar, zest and lemon juice in a medium saucepan and place over medium-low heat for 15-20mins (keep a close eye, don't let it burn). 
Cook, stirring occasionally, until the B.O. pulp begins to breakdown, creating a thick, chunky sauce, about 10 minutes. 
Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the vanilla extract. 
Set the puree' aside to cool to room temperature (at least 30-45 mins)
In a bowl, whisk cream cheese, sugar, blood orange puree'. 
Put this mixture in a ziplock bag and can do frosting as desired.
I cut the bottom of the frosting bag and squeezed out the frosting in circular motion, starting from outer moving to the inner layer and ending at the top.
Really quick and easy :)

These are great when made ahead (at least a few hours) and stored in a tightly covered container at cool room temperature. The flavor grows with time - making in the morning & consuming the evening is a good idea to have balanced results.

Yumm... is what my Kiddo said & by the time my husband arrived from work supplies were diminishing. He helped the cause & things vanished quick :) 

Nothing compares to a feeling of satisfaction that you get when your recipes are adored by your loved ones.
Happy Spring break to everyone...Cheers !

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Sunday, April 8, 2012

Indian Culinary World Rocks @ Varli Food Fest in NYC

Indian Culinary world rocked at the Varli Food Festival hosted in New York on April 5 2012. The Varli Food festival is an Annual Food, Wine and Dessert tasting event that brings the amalgamation of finest Indian chefs from all over the world. The Varli fest was hosted by Emmy Award nominee and Top Chef Host Padma Lakshmi. The event showcased the culinary expertise of top most Indian restaurants and Chefs by sharing their signature dishes. The festival celebrated the success of India's culture and cuisine.

It's 'Me' at the venue - Metropolitan Pavillion, NYC

A glimpse into the Art of Indian Cooking. It was a fabulous experience to see how the constellation of top Indian chefs were sharing their hand made dishes and desserts, each with an underlying different flavor and concoction.  The mission of the festival is to celebrate and appreciate the success of indian cuisine in the international food market. I was so glad to experience the vigor and enthusiasm with which people from cross continents were eager to try different indian fusion food and appreciate it whole heartedly. I appreciate all the underlying hard work by Varli Singh, Publisher and founder of Varli Magazine in pulling diverse crowd and making this fest a huge success !!!!! 

    It was a great moment to see Master Chef Sanjeev Kapoor in person.

In sheer excitement, I reached the venue of the event - Metropolitan Pavilion in Manhattan much earlier than the start time 5 pm. Got into spotlight by media, pics plus interview. The first thing first was to feast with my eyes on these various dishes from the finest Indian restaurants in the US.

Assorted cupcakes with Indian Flavors

It was a special experience to sample and taste the delicacies. The terrific presentation and the warmth and smile with which they were shared was making it more wholesome experience. The decor reflected upon the traditional and contemporary India. 

Cake representing Diverse heritage and colors of India

Feeling happy to join this fest, I started capturing pictures and pictures whilst enjoying refreshing drinks to desserts. I loved the mango cupcakes,  lotus root flowers, dosai rolls, spinach bites...and many more dishes. 

Most Popular Indian Sweet - Ladoo's at its best

The live cooking demos by experienced chefs were a great experience. I promise to share more pictures, some newly learnt recipes and tips with you soon.

Sumptuous desserts !

This is  my checklist of favorite places to eat. I simply loved their exquisite vegetarian dishes. Next time when you want to give yourself a treat, pamper yourself with the best Indian food around. I was elated to explore that I have tried food at more than a dozen of the participating restaurants.
Some of my personal favorites -
Urban Spice, Moghul, Sarvana Bhawan @ Edison-NJ; Mantra @ Boston-MA; United States; Masala Zone@ Earls court, London; Harry's @ Venice, Italy; Indian Kitchen @ Shanghai, China; Bukhara, Yellow Chilli @ Delhi, Haldirams @ Gurgaon ; Gopals @ Chandigarh ; Chokhi Dhani @ Jaipur, Rajasthan; Dasaprakash@ Agra ; Indian Coffee House @ Shimla, India.

I came back chock'o'bag full of my favorite Indian spices plus a cookbook to inspire me to learn more and share more with you... !!!

Disclosure: All the observations/comments are my personal opinion of the event. I visited the event purely on my discretion as a food enthusiast. 

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Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Baked Stuffed Kumatoes - for a Sumptuous Sunday Brunch

Kumato = Brown Tomato ?? , yeah almost... as per wikipedia Kumato is a trade name given to the variety of tomato developed in Spain. It is a green to reddish brown, and sweeter than typical tomatoes. I have always had Kumatoes in varios salad forms. This time I thought of using this stuffed tomato recipe from to do something different, stuff my Kumatoes with couscous. The recipe is simple, fun, full of flavors & very nutritious. So lets see how we go about stuffing & baking my Kumatoes.

Love these Brown Beauties

Ingredients: -
4 medium Kumatoes
1 vegetable broth
1/4 cup freshly chopped tomatoes.
1 cup couscous
1/4 cup Shredded Mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup Shredded Cheddar Cheese (for topping)
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil or Spinach
1 tablespoon minced fresh mint leaves
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
Salt to Taste

Directions: -
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Cut the fresh tomatoes crosswise in half and scoop out the pulp; set aside. 
Invert the Kumato shells on paper towels to drain.
In a small saucepan, bring the veggie broth and tomatoes to a boil. 
Remove the saucepan from heat and stir in the couscous. 
Cover and let stand for 5 minutes.
Stir in the mozzarella cheese, basil, mint and pepper. 
Place the Kumato shells in an 11x7 inch baking dish. 
Spoon the couscous mixture into the shells, pressing the mixture firmly into the shells.
Top with some shredded cheddar cheese.
Bake at 375 degrees F for 30-35 minutes or until heated through.

Flavors were yummm & texture of the filling was great, cheese topping perfectly complemented the textured filling.

Loved the way this melted cheese is oozing out !!!

All my Kumatoes disappeared quick, definitely made the Sunday Brunch-eon effort worthwhile.
Hope you liked the recipe & will give it a try.
And yes, dont forget to tell me how you did !!!

Cheers, Sonia

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