Month: October 2009

Heartbreaker

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I haven’t made it down to the Chocolate Bar for some of their amazing hot chocolate yet which is pretty inexcusable.  They have the best hot chocolate I’ve had by far and I like how they offer a small size that is just enough, and not too much.  Now don’t get hot chocolate and hot cocoa confused.  Hot chocolate is made from melting chocolate and hot cocoa  is made from using cocoa.  To make up for this, I made a Chocolate and Coffee Panna Cotta.

Panna cotta, which literally means cooked cream, is native to northern Italy.  It is a mixture of cream, sugar, milk and gelatin.  It’s very similar to a custard but it doesn’t contain eggs.  It can be altered to take on many flavors or a simple vanilla with a fruit sauce to dress it.  It literally takes minutes to make and is sure to impress.

I first heard about this dessert when I was out on field research and we were discussing restaurants that have amazing desserts (while  totally focused on our work 😉 ).  Our team leader mentioned panna cotta and I certainly had never heard of it before.  Ever since I’ve been wanting to try it out and just the other day, I decided to make it myself.

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Chocolate and Coffee Panna Cotta (by Deborah Mele)

Chocolate Layer

1 1/4 tsp gelatin*

1/2 cup milk

1 cup cream

2 tbs sugar

3 oz dark chocolate

Coffee Layer

1 1/4 tsp gelatin

1/2 c milk

1 c cream

1.5 tbs sugar

2 tsp instant coffee

Chocolate Layer: Soften the gelatin by mixing it in a bowl with the milk.  Set aside and heat the cream on medium heat in sauce pan. Mix in the sugar and heat till simmering.  With a whisk, melt in the chocolate and heat till the mixture is uniform.  Take off heat and pour into tumblers to cool.

Coffee Layer: Soften the gelatin by mixing it in a bowl with the milk.  Set aside and heat the cream on medium heat in sauce pan. Mix in the sugar and heat till simmering.  Add in the coffee and mix till uniform.  Taste and add in more coffee if needed.  Take off heat.

Once the chocolate layer has set a little bit, carefully add the coffee layer on top to have two layers.  Refrigerate till cold and set.  Garnish with some whip cream and chocolate shavings or syrup.

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*A note about gelatin:  I know many people who don’t eat pork and that serves a problem with gelatin desserts.  I use to be heartbroken over this and searched many avenues.  A friend of mine found some gelatin that is not from a pork source and found at a Halal Food store.  I picked up 3 boxes because I was so excited and it definitely works.

Oh, and btw, don’t ever get these…Not good at alllll:

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Rice Paper Spring Rolls from HEB
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Mind-Reading

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I love how foodgawker reads my mind so often!  I had quite a bit of ricotta left from making ravioli and was trying to think what I could do with it.  And there it was, a ricotta pancake recipe!  I’ve never heard of ricotta pancakes but I was willing to have a little change from my favorite buttermilk pancakes.

I also just bought this non-stick flat pan thats perfect for making pancakes and crepes.  Usually as a rule, I don’t make special breakfasts during the weekdays such as pancakes and waffles but I simply could not wait the whole week.  I woke up earlier than usual so I had enough time to flip cakes.

Ricotta Pancakes (adapted from here)

2 eggs

1/4 c unsalted butter, melted

1 c milk

1 c ricotta

1/4 c white sugar

1/4 c brown sugar

1 1/4 c flour

1 tsp baking powder.

Combine eggs, butter, milk, ricotta, white and brown sugar using a whisk.  Stir in the flour and baking powder.  Heat some butter on a non-stick pan and pour out desired amount of batter, depending upon how big you want your pancakes.  Cook until bubbles appear on top and flip to cook the other side 1-2 min.  Continue until all batter is used.

I had some strawberries and bananas that needed to be used so I added them to some of the pancakes after I poured the batter onto the pan.  I also mixed in a little bit of cocoa when I had used most of the batter for some chocolate pancakes.

I was running late so I packed these pancakes for me and my carpoolers to-go.  They were nice and thin, very different from the fluffy buttermilk ones.  However, they were pretty filling which I didn’t realize until after I was done eating them.  You could also flavor them with orange zest like the original recipe.  This has made me fairly interested in trying different types of pancakes such as multi-grain and whole wheat.

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Texas State Fair

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This past weekend I was expecting people from out of town but I was the one who ended up going out of town last minute.  I woke up at the crack of dawn on Saturday and arrived in Dallas right before noon.  There was much to do when I got there as there was a big dinner planned for that evening. 

I ended up cooking some Palak Paneer to balance out all the meat-filled dishes that were on the menu.  I decided to use frozen spinach and paneer because it would take wayyy too long to make everything fresh.  Nevertheless, I received numerous compliments that night. 

During dinner, I inquired if the Texas State Fair was still going on.  Coincidently it was and Sunday was the last day!  And someone had 12 free tickets.  How could I not go?  We made plans for the next morning and decided to ride the DART down to the fair (DART was amazing…I felt like such a New Yorker :)).  The train was packed with people all headed towards the fair. 

Now one of the things that the Fair is well known for is the food there.  You can find just about anything fried there, even a Fried Latte and Fried Butter (what in the….?).  Way to up the stats of obesity in Texas.  Here are some of the things we tried at the fair:

 

Fried Oreo Cookies
Fried Oreo Cookies
They basically tasted like warm oreos with a soft fried batter around them. 
Fried Green Tomatoes
Fried Green Tomatoes
I’ve been wanting to try these out for forever!  I can’t believe they’re such a rare find.  They’re so yummy with ranch dressing.  This is a traditional southern side dish that is usually dredged in buttermilk and cornmeal and then pan-fried. 
Half-eaten Strawberry Funnel Cake
Half-eaten Strawberry Funnel Cake
Funnel cakes are a must at any fair!
 
Texas Shaped Nacho
Texas Shaped Nacho
 
And lastly, a shot of a building in downtown Dallas. 
 
 
downtown

The fair was pretty interesting with different performances, auto shows, rides, games and so much more.  It was quite expensive though.  In no way did it look like the bad economy had kept people away.  My feet were killing me by the end and I still had a long drive all the way back home. And many miles to run off all that fried food!

Update

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I have some exciting news for my fellow readers.  In order to reach more people, my blog will be interfaced with a local online newsletter called Shabab Ul-Haq.  I’m honored to be able to contribute to their newsletter and look forward to hearing from new readers.   

To give the newbies a little update about my blog, I started blogging mid-March.  Here is my first post to get some background info.  Currently I’m focusing on making things off of my List, dishes that I’ve been wanting to make for a while ( I’m a big list-maker and goal-setter…otherwise I feel like I’m just wandering in empty space.)  I started this blog so I can keep track of my recipes, a motivation to learn new dishes, and learn and share with people about one of the most basic human needs, food.

Last night was another List featured dish where I made fresh pasta.  The recipe that I found for the pasta called for semolina flour.  Semolina flour comes from the Latin word, meaning “flour.”  It’s mostly used to make pasta, which is why most recipes call for this type of flour.  In Pakistan, it is known as sooji

I tried making ravioli with this pasta and although it came out to be eatable, the pasta seemed heavy.  I was only able to eat 4 pieces even though I had rolled out the pasta pretty thin. It took a lot of rolling, cutting, and filling which serves a problem when my tummy is rumbling.   When I had made fresh pasta in lab when I was in school, we used All-purpose flour and don’t remember it being heavy at all.  Will have to try using AP flour. 

The sauce that went with the ravioli was amazing.  It was really simple and health friendly.  I was skeptical when I read that it was a yogurt based sauce but it clearly exceeded my expectations. 

Ravioli Sauce (adapted from here)

24 0z plain yogurt

1 egg, beaten

1 tsp cornstarch

1 tbs dried mint

1 tsp minced garlic

2 tbs roasted pine nuts

olive or canola oil

In a sauce pan on medium heat,  combine yogurt, egg, and cornstarch.  Stir occasionally so the sauce doesn’t separate.  In a frying pan, heat up a little bit of olive or canola oil.  Add dried mint and garlic.  Sautee for a minute or two till the mint and garlic combine.  Add this to the yogurt mixture and combine.  Take off heat and garnish with pine nuts.  The pasta can be cooked in the sauce or it can boiled in water and mixed into the sauce. 

 

I didn’t take any pictures since the ravioli was quite deformed.  There were some sad tortellini attempts too. 

Oh, and I found this comic that pretty much explains what I’m thinking when going through the aisles of the grocery store. 

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The Joys of Fall

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The downpour has continued and has relieved us all of our grass-watering duties.  I was out running errands right before the first rain of the day.  The sky was enveloped in darkness with winds whirling leaves around, foreshadowing a heavy storm.

My thoughts:  coffee, hot cocoa, soup, coffee

 

Funny pic I found on a friends blog
Funny pic I found on a friend's blog

 

As soon as I got back home, I made some coffee and headed towards the computer to check out the carrot soup recipe I was looking at before.  I had a ton of carrots in the fridge that were screaming to be eaten so it was perfect.  My only reservation was the fear of an overpowering carrot-y taste kind of like when you drink carrot juice.  I don’t think I could have handled a bowl full of that. 

I began chopping up all the ingredients and made mum chop my onion for me.  I don’t know what it is with me and onions.  I cry like theres no tomorrow and can barely see what I’m doing which is quite hazardous seeing that I’m using a knife to slice so close to my fingers.  Once when I had a ton of onion chopping to do with no help, I took out my swimming goggles to shield my eyes and it worked like a charm!  My dad walked into the kitchen, shrugged his shoulders and walked away.  I think he’s learned to not ask for explanations….;)

After everything was chopped and thrown into the pot, all I had to do is wait for it to cook.  All that was left was blending everything together with an immersion blender (which is the best thing ever!).  I got out my soup bowl and dove right in.  definitely not carrot-y.  Just a bowl of warm scrumptious comfort. 

Whats interesting about this recipe is that it uses an apple.  Huh? An apple?  Yes, the apple brings more depth of flavor to the dish.  I was weirded out when I read it but it went beautifully with the soup. 

Carrot Soup (from here)

1 tbs olive oil

1 tbs butter

1 onion, chopped

1 garlic, minced

1 green apple ( I used ol’Granny), chopped

1 1/4 lb carrots, sliced

1 russet or starchy potato, chopped

2 tbs ginger, freshly grated

6 cups water

1/2 tsp ground coriander

dash of nutmeg

1/2 cup cream

salt and pepper to taste

In a 6qt pot, heat oil and add garlic and onions to it.  Cook till onion are clear.  Add the water, potato, apple, carrots, coriander, and ginger.  Season with salt and pepper.  Cook for about 20-25 min until carrots are tender.  Using an immersion blender, puree everything till smooth.  Add in cream, nutmeg and adjust seasonings.  Serve with some sliced baguette or enjoy it on its own. 

A Lil Nibble  was just asking me today what my Fall “thing” would be this year since last year I had made a lot of Pumpkin Cake (I’ll post it up soon).  And it seems like it will be soup.  I’m in love with soup.  So easy to make, healthful, and I can eat leftovers easily throughout the week for lunch.  Need to have some baguettes on hand.

Velvety Clouds?

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I have my phases of falling in love with certain blogs and I secretly wish I could get to know these awesome food bloggers.  I spend way too long reading their posts and yummy recipes.  My latest obsession is Tony Tahan’s blog.  The first time I ran across his blog was when he wrote his Gnocchi recipe.   I had totally forgotten about his blog until the Spinach Fatayer and was totally taken away. 

I decided to finally make the Gnocchi recipe the other day.  It seemed pretty simple, potato, flour and an egg.  I’ve made fresh pasta before in lab so I didn’t think it’d be too different.  But to my dismay, I couldn’t get the dough to come together and not be sticky.  I kept on adding flour but it only helped some.  Finally I decided to boil the semi-sticky gnocchi and eat them with some pasta sauce.  They weren’t like the “velvety clouds” that everyone seems to describe them as and I felt weighed down by the amount of flour. 

I’m sure I messed up somewhere or another.  But I haven’t given up on these clouds.  I will try making these again sometime in the future when the freshness of this experience fades.  Or buying them at the store and seeing what they’re like.  So instead of posting the recipe up, here is some info about gnocchi. 

Gnocchi is pronounced as “nee-okkee” which means lumps.  It’s a traditional type of pasta originating from the Middle East since the Roman times.  Some say it’s been dated back to the 13th century, making it one of the oldest ways to prepare food.  Depending upon the region, gnocchi can be made from semolina, wheat flour, bread crumbs, ricotta, or potatoes   They can be eaten as an entree with a variety of sauces or in soups. 

Usually I write off foods if they don’t satisfy me but something so old and cherished over centuries deserves another try.  The lil one seemed to like it though.

Spinach Fatayer

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There use to be a local shop not 5 min from my house called Droubi’s.  It was  sort of a Middle Eastern shop that sold shwarmas, pita breads, feta cheese, and different spices.  It ran pretty well and I was in utter shock when it closed down.  There are other locations in the city but theyre out of my way. 

Well one of my favorite things I use to buy from there were Spinach Fatayer or Spinach Pies.  They were these cute little triangle breads that had spinach filled inside.  One was never enough.  Since the place closed down, I haven’t had them…that is until I came across a pretty simple recipe and decided to make them on my own.  I used fresh spinach but next time I’ll opt to use baby spinach that comes precleaned so I don’t have to spend time de-stemming and washing the dirt filled spinach. 

Spinach Fatayer (from here)

Dough

3 cups of AP flour

3/4 cup warm milk or water

1/2 tsp sugar or honey

1 tsp dry active yeast

1/4 cup olive or canola oil

Filling

500 g spinach, chopped

1 medium onion, chopped

1 red bell pepper, chopped

2-3 lemons, juiced

2 tbs sumac

salt and pepper to taste

Bloom the yeast by mixing the yeast, sugar (or honey), and water (or milk) in a small bowl and cover for about 10 min.  It should result in a foamy mixture.  If not, your yeast isn’t alive and you should buy some more before continuing. 

In a mixing bowl, combine the flour and oil.  Slowly mix in the yeast mixture with some salt to taste.  Knead the dough for 10-15 min until the dough is soft and elastic.  Divide the dough into small balls (large golf ball size) and cover it with a damp towel while you prepare the filling. 

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Combine the onion, bell pepper, sumac, and salt in a bowl to soften.  In another bowl, combine salt and the spinach by rubbing it together with your hands till the spinach wilts.  Squeeze out all the water out of the spinach and mix in the onion-bell pepper mixture.  Add in lemon juice and mix.  Drain out any remaining liquid. 

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Preheat oven to 450 F. Flatten out the balls into little circles.  Take about a 1 to 1.5 tbs of filling and place in the center of the circles.  Pinch the dough together to make a triangle.  Place the triangles on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  If you want a nice golden sheen, brush it with milk or egg white.  Bake in the oven for about 15-20 min until golden brown.  Can be served warm out of the oven or at room temperature.

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 I’ve got some guests coming in for a few days next week and I can’t wait to cook/bake for them.  Going to start brainstorming and shopping so I can be prepared.