May 28, 2010

Of quiet husbands and risotto surprises

Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction (except for the recipe) and may or may not have some resemblence to persons living.

“You are going to be late for class,” he said as she dunked her toast and sipped her tea at a leisurely pace.

“Don’t worry, I have plenty of time. It takes 25 minutes to reach school, 35 max if there is traffic,” she replied in her nonchalant way.

He just shrugged and went back to reading his book. He knew it wouldn’t do any good to point out that the traffic increased at this time of the day.

She had always been like this, relaxed and completely out of sync with time; he sometimes wondered how she got anything done at all.

Earlier in their marriage, he used to get exasperated. “I am so glad you are not a doctor. Your patients would have died waiting for you on the operating table.” She would just laugh and walk away.

In time, he had learnt to relax around her laid back attitude but there were times when he still bristled when she went about her business as if time was infinite. Most of the time, he just shrugged and let go. It was easier that way, less stressful.

“Ok, I am ready. How do I look?” she asked with that twinkle in her eyes he had grown to love so much.

“Good,” he said. He wasn’t the loquacious one in this union. She pecked him on his cheek, got into the car and sped off.

“I hope she reaches school in time,” he muttered under his breath as he headed back into the house.

He was glad she was finally doing something with her life. The ten years they had been married he had stood by her as she squandered away her life on trivial pursuits instead of doing something productive with her talent.

“At least she woke up before she turned 50,” he thought as he went back to the book he was reading. He had picked it up at a garage sale for a dollar. It was called Risotto, Polenta and Pasta, a Taste of Italy.

He decided he would try his hand at making risotto. He knew she didn’t like him cooking without her present.

“You make too much mess and you are not very efficient with the chopping and the pots and pans. Let me help you,” she would insist.

He hated being told how to cook or her interfering “help”. He had his own ideas and even if he was wrong, he wanted to find it out for himself.

Today was the perfect chance. She won’t be back for another four hours. He can drive down to the grocery store for the supplies; cook to his heart’s content and even clean up the kitchen decently before she came home.

He set about in his meticulous way writing down the ingredients he needed for the risotto. The list was a big point of contention between the two. He believed in them, she didn’t. Today, he gets to do things his own way.

May 24, 2010

Best, easiest almond cup cakes ever

What is the difference between cupcakes and muffins? I have not the faintest clue.

Ten years ago when I stepped foot in a nearby Walmart for the first time I encountered muffins, which looked like the cupcake’s chunkier older sibling. I did not for a moment suspect that the difference in name equated to the difference in taste. After all, coriander was cilantro, okra was American for ladyfinger and lady fingers were Italian dessert not to mention brinjal was eggplant! So who could blame me when I decided to get the 12-pack of muffins anticipating the delicious, subtly flavored cupcakes that the local bakeries sell back home.

It is to be noted that I was forewarned by him of the huge difference in taste. I, of little faith, did not want to believe him. To me, it was a slice of home and I had to have it.

Ten years to that fateful day I haven’t gone near a muffin for money or love. A cupcake is another matter altogether. I will eat it any day of the week, if I can just manage to find them in a country obsessed with mass production of everything including baked goods.
Was it any wonder then that when I chanced upon a cupcake recipe, it was from a French chef? Yes, one of the most venerable and exalted of French chef’s in America, Jacque Peppin. Regular readers of this blog will remember my paean to him when I posted his Tibetan Skillet Bread. If you thought the bread was easy, wait till you try these almond cup cakes which Jacque’s calls mini almond cakes.

The recipe is simple, with just five ingredients and a splash of vanilla, I added to simulate that home like taste. It all comes together in the time it takes to preheat the oven and best of all, no fancy baking equipment. A food processor is all you need.

Here’s a video of him making the aforementioned mini cakes.

In theme with the simple to make cupcakes, this post will also be short and simple. Without further ado, here’s the recipe.

Makes: 4 cupcakes*

1/4 cup raw almonds
1/4 cup AP Flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 tsp baking powder
1 egg
2 tbsp melted butter
Splash of vanilla (my addition and optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a muffin pan with liners.
Grind the almonds to a fine powder. Add the flour, sugar and baking powder. Give it a whirr to mix.
Add the melted butter, egg and splash of vanilla. Mix till everything is incorporated, about a minute.
Divide equally in the muffin cups and bake for 12-15 minutes till a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean.
Cool and serve with fruits, ice cream or just eat them plain.

*Measurements can be doubled, tripled or quadrupled to make 8, 12 or 16 muffins.

A research into difference between cupcakes and muffins came up with these views on an internet forum. The most interesting post was this:

If you threw a cupcake against a wall, you would hear something of a “poof”! If you threw a muffin, you would hear a “thud!”

Sounds good to me (no pun intended).

The delicious cupcakes are being shipped to the Versatile Vegetarian Kitchen's weekly bake off event.

May 19, 2010

Something old, something borrowed, something green

Palak Paneer (Cottage cheese in Spinach curry)

How do you come back after more than a month of hiatus? First order of business: Update 359 Days of DSM, which had been gathering cobwebs since I decided to hang up my blogging gloves and pick up US Government and History books. DSM is almost updated. It took almost two weeks to update a month and a half of clicks. As of today, only three days remain to be uploaded. Fruits of procrastination are not sweet, believe me!
Next, to figure out blogger in draft and revamp DSM to look all spiffy and hi-tech like, err... the other spiffy and hi-tech blogs.
While in the midst of updating a daily blog (yes, I am aware it is an oxymoron) and revamping the original blog, I decided to do a quick Google search for Kothimbir Vadi (roughly translated, steamed cilantro pudding?) and landed on Nupur’s One Hot Stove and almost sizzled with excitement over her The Adaptation Edition. A perfect come back for yours truly who has a hard time following a recipe to a T.
Besides, the way I look at it, Indian cooking is versatile enough to substitute chole masala instead of garam masala and add cream cheese instead of heavy cream in a restaurant-style curry. The result is unpredictable but rarely, if ever, undesirable.

Take note all those Nay-Sayers who think Indian cooking is too involved. Most of the time, a teaspoon or two of garam masala, some turmeric, red chili and mustard and/or cumin seeds is all you need in your pantry to cook up Indian food.

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