Monday, January 9, 2012

A little sin on Sunday - Brunch with the girls

There was a time when I hated eggs. At first they were never served to me properly – as a kid I found the typically dry, overcooked scrambled eggs and the difficulty of peeling a soft boiled egg so very unappealing that it turned me off to eggs altogether. Then somewhere along the way my taste buds were introduced to eggs cooked slowly, with care and attention. And since then I have loved eggs and feel much delight in experimenting in the numerous ways to prepare eggs. I am so very adamant about my eggs being cooked slowly on not too high of heat, my sister Soniya, refuses to prepare me breakfast altogether.

A few weeks ago, to celebrate the existence of our dining table – (my previously tiny Manhattan apartment had only an island counter with stools) I invited a few of the girls over Sunday brunch.

December 12, 2011

Oeuf en Cocotte
boursin, grape tomato, herbs

Potato Gratin
garlic, thyme, cream

Yellow Cornbread
rosemary, olive oil

Berry Crossover
strawberry, cream, confectioner’s sugar

Oeufen cocotte, which may sound intimidating, is rather easy. Some refer to this dish as baked eggs or shirred eggs. The components vary, but oeuf en cocotte is typically prepared with cream or cheese inside of ramekin. I found this recipe on Chocolate Zucchini and prepared it with a few alterations seen below.

Oeuf en cocotte

- 1 egg / Or two if you prefer
- 1 tablespoon of Boursin with fine herbs
- ground black pepper,
- sea salt with herbs de provence
- paprika
- a pinch of grated pecorino romano
- chopped grape tomatoes

This is what you need to prepare breakfast for one and will require one ramekin, but make as many as needed.

Preheat the oven to 425°F. Butter a small ramekin, in this case, the exact size is not so crucial, though be conscious if you decide to use two eggs. Spoon in the tomatoes and Boursin. Crack the egg on top. Put in a tiny pinch of salt, pepper, and cheese.

Put the ramekins in a large baking dish enough to hold water. Pour hot water in the dish halfway up the ramekin. Be careful not to spill water inside the ramekins. Bake for 10 minutes, or longer if you prefer a more solid yolk.

Remove from the oven and carefully lift ramekins out of hot water. Add a tiny pinch of paprika for color and serve immediately.

Traditional Potato Gratin

I found this recipe on La Tartine Gourmande, I love this blog and cook from here religiously. She posts her entries in French and English, and I love getting a chance to practice my French. Her recipe calls for Celeriac, or celery root, which I could not find at Whole Foods so I simply omitted it and made a few alterations based on ingredients available in my kitchen. The gratin was enough for six servings and made for such a hit, and as La Tartine Gourmande says, “Can you really dislike a gratin?”

  • 1 lb & 5 ounces Yukon Gold potatoes
  • 1 whole garlic clove, 2 crushed, or more if you wish
  • 7 fluid oz whole milk (7/8 c)
  • 7 fluid oz heavy cream (7/8 c)
  • 3 thyme twigs
  • Nutmeg
  • Unsalted butter
  • Sea Salt with herbs de Provence
  • Fresh ground black pepper

Pour milk and cream in a pot and heat to a boil. Add the crushed garlic and thyme twigs. Turn off the heat, cover, and allow the flavors to combine for a half hour. Then remove the garlic and thyme from the pot.

While infusing the milk, peel and slice the potatoes very thinly. At the time I did this by hand, but I now have a mandoline and highly recommend that. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Preheat oven to 400F. I prepared this in a rectangular baking pan, but you can prepare them in individual sized dishes, too. Prepare the dish by rubbing the remaining garlic clove along the surface and then grease with butter. Line the dish with slices of potato and repeat for layers. Pour cream over potatoes. Add a pinch of nutmeg. Bake in center of oven for 45 to 50 minutes or until liquid is absorbed.

Rosemary Cornbread Muffins

LinkFor brunch, my roommate Deepa actually did all the work on this one! I was so bogged down with cooking other things and tired from spending the early hours in the kitchen, she woke up and came to my rescue. I found this recipe on Martha Stewart's website, and they were a scrumptious addition to brunch.

I made this on my own a week or so later and was so very unsatisfied because I had switched things up and used whole wheat pastry flour. I found the muffins far less pleasant as they cooked a bit faster in my mom’s oven. I stupidly asked my mom to remove them from the oven while I rushed to shower before my sister arrived from the airport. She took them out as soon as the timer went off but they had become far too golden. I prefer muffins and cupcakes to be soft and delicate – but I suppose if I wanted a sort of skillet style cornbread that coarse cornbread would have been fine.

This recipe when followed exactly produces a super soft cornbread with this pleasantly surprising infused flavors of rosemary and olive oil, and is quite addictive!!!

  • 1 c organic yellow cornmeal
  • 1 c organic all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp natural salt
  • 1 T finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • 2 large organic eggs, lightly beaten
  • 5 T organic cane sugar
  • 2/3 c organic low-fat buttermilk
  • 2/3 c extra-virgin olive oil

Preheat oven to 425F degrees. Place cornmeal in a mixing bowl. Combine remaining dry ingredients and sift into cornmeal. Add chopped rosemary and mix briefly.

In a separate bowl, break eggs into sugar, buttermilk and oil. Blend with an electric mixer on medium speed until combined. On low speed, add half of cornmeal mixture until combined, and repeat with second half. Don’t over mix.

Prep muffin pan with cupcake liners. Divide batter among cups. Bake until solid and a knife comes out clean when inserted into a muffin, approximately, 20 to 25 minutes. Keep a watchful eye, as the muffins should remain yellow, and not be golden. Remove muffins from pan to stop cooking and place them on a cooling rack.

Strawberry Crossovers

I wanted to end the meal on sweet note and found this lovely recipe for pastry made with fresh strawberries. This blog has such a great set of pictures displaying each step I’ll go ahead and suggest reviewing that for detailed instructions on how to make the crossovers. I followed the recipe to the t, and the pastries came out sweet, but not too sweet. Everyone loved them! Enjoy them immediately – they were a bit soggy the next day after refrigeration so I wouldn’t make these in advance. The nearby Whole Foods carries fresh puff pastry dough from a local bakery, which I found much better tasting then the typical frozen puff pastry. Be careful to not let the dough get too warm and also to not let the strips get too thin. It’s handy to have scissors for your kitchen, too.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Thatsaagreat pizza!

Ever since I left Paris I've been dying to find another slice of delicious saag pizza (Oh how I long for my Pink Flamingo Pizza) I've been begging my parents to show me how to make saag properly so I could make it at home, but they always thought it was a silly idea. Alas, the beautiful day has come and my tummy is oh so satisfied with my beloved saag pizza! My parents were really stoked tonight since I rarely please them and even more so rarely please them by eating Indian food.

Saag Paneer Pizza

Tonight, mom and I teamed up. Pizza girl plus Indian mom yields amazing Indian fusion pizza!!! This recipe for saag paneer is stand alone - she's made this recipe for years - and you can easily prepare it and serve it with naan as eaten traditionally. Or you can have it my way, slathered in melted cheese.
  • Canola oil
  • 1/2 tsp Turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp plus more Laal mirch
  • Garlic cloves
  • Fresh ginger
  • 2 10 oz frozen spinach packages, thawed
  • 2 T butter
  • Ready made paneer, cut into cubes (soak in water for ten minutes to soften)
  • Ghee
  • Asafoetida (in India known as Hing)
  • 2 8oz fresh balls of mozzarella

Makes 2 14-inch pizzas

Put a little oil in a medium sized pot on medium heat. Add half tsp turmeric, laal Mirch, garlic, and ginger. Fry a half cup chopped onion and stir occasionally. Then add the spinach and mix well.
Allow it to simmer, and ensure no more frozen pieces are present. Add in the butter and stir. Mix the contents of the pot with a hand blender and blend until smooth. Add one cup Indian yoghurt and stir well. Add the paneer and mix.

Separately prepare the Tarka. Heat ghee and add 5 little shakes of asafetida powder, pinch of laal mirch, just for a minute!

Pour Tarka immediately in. Mom scoops up the spinach afterward and then pours it back in so that all the the tarka mjxture absorbed and the yummy oil doesnt stay in the other pan.

Add a pinch of cumin to the spinach mixture. Stir. Remove from heat!

On a floured surface, roll out dough into a rectangle or circle depending on your pizza pans. I prefer to cook on either a pan with holes to allow the crust to cook well or a pre-heated pizza stone. Otherwise especially with a saag pizza you may have some soggy saag pizza on your hands. Place crust in pan.

Grate or slice the mozzarella depending on your preference.

Brush dough with olive oil with a pastry brush. Cook at 425F for 8- 10 minute you want dough cooked. Don't worry, the crust will get crisp/golden when you put it back in with the toppings.

Remove the crust and spread palak paneer on both crusts in a manner that you would put tomato sauce.

Sprinkle cheese evenly on both pizzas. Cook for ten minutes and then broil for a few minutes. Keep a watchful eye so the pizza doesn't burn! My dad prefers a more golden look so I broil for a full 3 minutes.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

It's About Thyme for Another Potato Gratin!

I have been preparing gratins quite frequently since my mother gifted me this for Christmas (And to think all this time I was making delicate slices by hand)!


Why do you need this? 4 Reasons: Scalloped Potatoes, Homemade Chips, Beet Carpaccio, Uniform vegetables that cook evenly!!! You know something is really amazing when a mom buys it for herself and her three daughters.

Typically, I prepare a gratin with a combination of whole milk and heavy cream, but today I wanted to make something a little lighter and a little easier on our lactose intolerant digestive systems. I found this without cream potato gratin recipe on High Ground Organics and decided to give it a go. I made a few alterations and this is the recipe I ended up preparing.

A Potato Gratin, Without Cream


- 2 c red onions, chopped (USE AN ONION CHOPPER! Another great invention!)
- 8 medium potatoes, I used russet but prefer Yukon Gold, sliced thinly (with your mandoline slicer!)
- 2 cloves garlic
- dried thyme
- ½ c Chardonnay
- 2 c mushroom broth
- sea salt and freshly ground pepper
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 1 c grated Comté


Preheat the oven to 400°F. Prep a ceramic or glass 7x11 dish by rubbing a garlic clove along the surface. Mince this clove and the other and set aside.

Lightly sauté onions in olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and thyme and cook for another few minutes. Add the wine and cook until it has evaporated.

Meanwhile, heat broth over stove over medium heat with a lid. When hot, keep lid on, but turn off heat or keep on low until gratin is just about to go into the oven.

Spoon out about a third of the onions on the bottom of the gratin dish. Inside a large bowl, stir remainder of onions, sliced potatoes, thyme, grated cheese, salt and pepper until well mixed. Pour mixture into gratin dish over onions and spread as evenly as possible.

Using a spatula, press down on the potatoes to compress them (reminds me of the days I used to sit on my suitcase so I could zip it close). Pour in the hot broth very slowly to avoid spills or running over the side of the dish. The broth should cover the potatoes about 3/4 of the way up the dish.

Sprinkle a little salt and pepper on top and place uncovered on the middle oven rack for an hour. The top layer will be golden and a little crispy, and the liquid should be absorbed.

Allow gratin to set for a few moments upon removing it from the oven before serving.

Sunday, January 1, 2012


What to do with all that leftover canned pumpkin from Thanksgiving!!? Somehow the day before Thanksgiving we are all running to get the last minute ingredients we forgot or decided to add to the menu. It always happens but some how we're all still surprised to see empty shelves where canned pumpkin or yams are supposed be. This year we ventured to four stores in Toronto before finding pumpkin, and when we did, boy, did we stock up! As you can imagine after making our Thanksgiving dinner pumpkin souffle, we had so much pumpkin left to go through.

Pecan Topped Pumpkin Pie in a Puff Pastry Crust

We had leftover puff pastry from making tarts earlier and decided to nix the traditional pie crust used for pumpkin pie. You can never go wrong with the recipe on the back of the can - I feel a little better about using organic canned pumpkin when I put the spices and vanilla in myself - as opposed to buying "Pumpkin Pie in a Can," when I don't have time to cook and scoop out a whole pumpkin. Just roll out the puff pastry a bit larger than your dish to leave enough room for the crust. Pour in your filling, brush the edges with an egg wash, and bake at 375F until set. I decorated the pie with chopped pecans immediately upon removing it from the oven. I think I throw nuts in everything - vegetarians can never get too much protein.

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Mini-Loaf

And still there was more pumpkin! My sister's kitchen has all sorts of lovely tools and pans she's inherited from our mom, her mother-in-law, and my college apartment, ha! I love this baking pan that's just perfect for the holidays when you want to make a bunch of mini-loaves of pound cake or pumpkin bread to give to the mail persons (?), your children's teachers, coworkers, etc.

The pumpkin makes these little loaves so moist and the chocolate adds such a pleasantly, sweet touch, especially when fresh from the oven!

[be back with the recipe, soon]

Monday, October 10, 2011

A Canadian Thanksgiving

Greetings from Canada!!

My sister Pooja, my brother-in-law Anish and I had the most delicious Thanksgiving last night! Against all odds, we didn't plan it out - we just went to the farmer's market literally after it closed, snuck in when some people were walking out, and grabbed as much fresh produce as we could.

Everyone complains about spending so much on Thanksgiving dinner ingredients (cough, cough, you know who you are) but everything was inexpensive because it was the end of the market! The vendors knew what they didn't sell now wouldn't last the holidays to be sold after. One of the ladies working the market gave us a box of free peeled garlic, too!

We cooked everything in about four hours. We got home after six and ate just after ten! Would have gone even faster if that PGA tournament wasn't on.... We made some seriously yummy dishes, and the most satisfying part of this Thanksgiving was that nothing was too complicated aside from one of the desserts. I'm not sure how your holidays go but usually in our kitchen with the good food, laughter, and thanks come arguing, burns, cuts, and tears. In fact the cooking was so simple and easy to replicate that my sister is going use these recipes for an upcoming dinner party. Honestly, we made a lovely meal from just chopping vegetables and fruit and throwing it together.

To start, we made a salad with chunks of yellow peach, chopped yellow tomato, creamy buratta cheese, baby arugula, chopped pecans and shaved parmigiano.

For a colorful side, we threw beets in the oven for a little over an hour inside packets of foil filled with olive oil. After letting the beets cool down, I peeled and chopped till my hands turned a lovely purply pink. We dressed the beets with a cup of Greek yoghurt that we had mixed with honey, lemon, and cayenne. To add a little decoration, we topped the beets with pistachios coated in salt, turmeric, garam masala, red chili powder, and coriander powder.

You can't have Thanksgiving without mashed potatoes. Pooja boiled sweet potatoes till tender. She kept the peel on - which is both nutritious and minimizes work - and mixed the potatoes with milk, butter, salt, pepper, and some sage, garlic, and thyme that she browned in butter.

Aside from Anish's lamb souvlaki (which by the way he picked up at the market marinated, 4 skewers for $5) our meal was vegetarian, and so we made a savory Wild Mushroom Leek Tart for our main dish. So tasty, but so easy! Pooja rolled out some thawed frozen puff pastry (I usually make my own dough but here in Canada it's easy to find puff pastry without lard or hydrogenated oil) to fit 10x14 sheet pan. She brushed it with a beaten egg and baked it for 10 minutes. She repeated this step with a mixture of shredded Gouda and 2 beaten eggs and baked for 10 minutes. The final step is to spoon out sautéed leeks and mushrooms leaving room for crust, sprinkle with some basil and thyme, and broil for a minute!

For the first dessert (because Thanksgiving can't happen with just one) we dumped a bag of Walkers shortbread cookies that Pooja brought home from a flight on Porter Airlines and butter in the food processor. Got the cookies down to crumbles, and then pressed them into two small "tartlet" dishes. You could really do it with any size, you just have to use a bigger bag of cookies. We hardened the empty crust in the oven for about 15 minutes. I sautéed three kinds of berries (blackberry, raspberry, and local gooseberry) with sugar and a pinch of cornstarch, let it cool, and filled it in the shell, and the tart was ready to go!

The only dish truly complicated was the recipe from an old issue of Gourmet magazine (I'm still mourning for this discontinued magazine) for a spiced pumpkin souffle. The recipe can be found here. The souffle was to be served with a bourbon molasses sauce but we couldn't find a mickey of bourbon anywhere in Toronto nor the jar of Grandma's molasses in Pooja's kitchen. At this point the tension started to build in the kitchen, but no worries. Anish brought out a bottle of Pondview Gewurtztraminer Riesling to calm us down (Anish and Pooja recently visted this winery at Niagra-on-the-Lake). Instead of the molasses and bourbon, we used local maple syrup and Jack Daniel's! The souffles soak up that caramel whisky sauce, and oh, was it delectable!

We were so busy having fun this weekend, we just didn't have time to find recipes. Anish was adamant about not spending too much time in the kitchen so we just didn't have time to stop and look at recipes while cooking. The moral of the story is buy fresh ingredients in season, be flexible, have fun, and everything will work out and come out well. Thanksgiving has and always will be my favorite holiday, and this year it comes twice! Just a month now ,and we'll have round 2 in the States.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

I want this real bad. Santa, baby....

I want this for Christmas or Diwali or my birthday in 6 months. Is someone reading this? I actually need a kitchen of my own to put it in first. Santa, get to work!

I've been eying this bad boy since August.

Giada's Cast Iron Panini Press

1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue

Location: Manhattan (My new home, New York)

Went to 1492, a tapas bar in the Lower East Side with Kelly the other night for much needed friend date after work.

Trekked down there from the Upper East Side on a Monday night sometime around 7:30pm. Apparently Happy Hour was still going on, of course the waiter failed to share that us when we specifically asked what the specials were that night. It was fairly quiet, not an exciting happy hour atmosphere that I'm used to in Soho - regular crowds regardless of what day it is.

Atmosphere was soothing after a long day's work. I imagine things would've picked up on Thursday or over the weekend. Good feel for a date or relaxing evening, but don't bring your foodie significant other here. Despite the annoyance that we each could've gotten our second drink for free (2 for 1 cocktails during Happy Hour) had the waiter given us the happy hour special, our waitor was friendly and went and tracked down the name of the song playing per my request.

The food was a disappointment. I ordered the wild mushroom croquettes. Inside to my displeasure I found mushroom puree. It was bland and unpleasant to consume. I also tried the Vegetable Coca.. some sort of spanish flatbread... It was like a bad bland open quesadilla. I couldn't taste the supposed manchego (which I love!!) cheese and wasn't excited by the limp red pepper and tomato on top. My friend enjoyed the shrimp and steak and potatoes tapas she ordered, but said they were nothing special. Also, I'm not sure how steak and mashed potatoes makes serves as a tapa...

The cocktails we had were a plus! The vodka with strawberries was potent and fresh tasting. One sip and we didn't regret overlooking the sangria on the menu.

Overall I give this place 3 stars. Will I be back? Maybe, but just for the drinks and only on night where I can expect a more lively atmosphere.