Monthly Archives: May 2012

Indian Food Basics: Mint Chutney and Raita

We will be having friends over for dinner every Saturday (starting with this past Saturday) through June.  Binks said it’s great because 1. it forces us to keep our house clean and 2. we eat well.  Obviously – refer to above picture.  I also can’t wait to share some menus with you all.

When a good friend of mine came up from Oklahoma City to visit me, with her new boyfriend, I knew what I wanted to make them.  She and I frequently discussed and ate Indian food while I lived in OKC.  And, while you would think otherwise, one of my favorite Indian restaurants is in OKC proper.  Now, I didn’t know about the boyfriend so I decided to take my chances.  I’m glad I did.  And according to him and his plate, he was glad, as well.  I was especially pleased as he considered himself a sole meat and potatoes kinda guy.

I have made two of the above-referenced dishes (dal and saag), and will give you the remaining recipes soon (especially the butter paneer – heavenly).  

If you should find yourself wanting to prepare a full Indian meal, I’m going to impart some wisdom your way to help you complete your menu, specifically the condiments.  It’s no secret that Indian food can be spicy.  More importantly, with Indian food, you’re going to get a variety of flavor.  Below, you will find your usual accompaniments  to an Indian meal.  If you have been to an Indian buffet, you will have seen these for sure.

First, you have your pickle/achar.  What this is a preserved item with spices.  Popularly, the preserved item is a lemon, mango, or a mixture of both.  There are so many options to pickles/achars that it’s a magnificent condiment.

Second, the chutney.  Usually, from my experience, it’s mint.  And, traditionally, the mint chutney is served with North Indian (as opposed to South Indian) cuisine.  This provides a fresh and crisp side/condiment to a meal.  Comprised of only fresh ingredients, the chutney offers you a clean flavor to be used on appetizers such as samosas and/or pakoras.  I always enjoy using a bit on my rice, as well.

Last, but definitely not least, my favorite – raita.  As I said, Indian food is quite flavorful and in some cases, spicy.  Whether you use pickle/achar or chutney, you want to offer raita whenever you serve most Indian food.  The raita is the cooling factor in a meal and offers relief from spicy dishes without having to resort to water (which doesn’t actually make it better).

Mint Chutney

Ingredients:

  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 inch piece of ginger, peeled
  • 2 serrano chili peppers (use jalapeno for less heat, and also feel free to reduce the amount of pepper)
  • 1 medium tomato
  • 1/2 large white onion
  • 1 cup cilantro leaves
  • 2 cup mint leaves
  • 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp salt
Directions:

  1. Add the garlic, ginger, peppers, tomato, and onion in a food processor and puree until smooth.
  2. Add the cilantro, mint, and lemon juice and puree until smooth.
  3. Season with salt.  Add more salt if required.

Raita

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup plain Greek yogurt (or whole milk yogurt)
  • 1/4 red onion, finely diced
  • 1 medium tomato, diced
  • 1/2 cucumber, peeled and finely diced
  • 1 tbsp finely minced cilantro leaves
  • salt and pepper to taste (Don’t use too much pepper.  I’d limit it to about a big pinch.)

Directions:

  1. Mix all ingredients together.   Serve cold.
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Filed under Indian, Uncategorized, Vegan, Vegetarian

Chocolate Cake with Strawberry Swiss Meringue Buttercream and Chocolate Glaze

Good God. That’s pretty much what I said after a bite of this cake. First and foremost, say hello to strawberry Swiss meringue buttercream. I am a fool for not trying this earlier. Perfect in every way. Sweet, but not overly sweet. Rich, but not so that you can’t eat it straight from the bowl. That isn’t a joke, unfortunately. While regular buttercream will always have a special place in my heart and cakes, I will be using this version more and more. If you’ve tried it, you’ll know why. If you haven’t, try it and I highly recommend Sweetapolita’s version that I used here. When this cake was posted on Sweetapolita, I bookmarked it immediately. With dark chocolate cake layers contrasted with the light pink strawberry-speckled buttercream, this is a stunning cake perfect for a special occasion. What better one than my first Mother’s Day with the two grandmothers. I initially wanted to make the towering six-layer cake, but with a shortage on time, I decided to do a simple two layer cake, using my favorite quick go-to chocolate cake recipe. I love using this cake recipe because it uses one bowl. Less cleanup after means that I can enjoy the cake faster.

Chocolate Cake
Adapted from Allrecipes

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cups unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 and 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups white granulated sugar
  • 1 and 1/2 baking soda
  • 1 and 1/2 baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup milk (I have used almond milk and it has turned out just fine)
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup strong hot brewed coffee

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. Grease and flour 2 8-inch round pans.
  3. In a large bowl sift together cocoa powder, flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt.
  4. Add the eggs, milk, vegetable oil, and vanilla extract.
  5. Mix on medium speed for about 2 minutes until everything is incorporated.
  6. Stir in the hot coffee. This will make the batter very runny.
  7. Pour evenly into the greased pans.
  8. Bake 35 minutes (make sure it passes the toothpick test) and remove from the oven.
  9. Cool the cakes in the pan for 10 minutes. Then, invert onto a wire rack to cool completely.
  10. Do not frost a cake that has not been completely cooled.

Strawberry Swiss Meringue Buttercream Frosting
Adapted from Sweetapolita

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup fresh ripe strawberries
  • 3 tbsp sugar
  • 5 large egg whites, day old and room temperature
  • 1 and 1/4 cup white granulated sugar
  • 3/4 lb butter, unsalted (3 sticks of butter)
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt

Directions:

  1. Take your butter from the fridge and cut it into cubes and set aside on a plate on your counter – just not in your fridge.
  2. In a food processor, add the strawberries and process until smooth.
  3. Add the strawberry puree to a saucepan with the 3 tbsp sugar.
  4. Over a medium-low heat, cook down the strawberries into a thick sauce (cooking for about 15-20 minutes), stirring occasionally. Once thickened, set aside to cool.
  5. Wipe down a large (preferably steel) bowl with lemon juice to ensure that no trace amounts of oil remain. Oil is danger to meringue.
  6. Add the egg whites and sugar to the mixing bowl and simmer over a pot of water (not boiling), stirring constantly with a whisk. Be gentle but consistent with the stirring. Keep whisking until you get a temperature of 150F for the mixture using your candy thermometer. Another way to check is to dip your hands in the mixture and rub it between your fingers. It should be completely smooth, with no grainy-ness. If there is any grains of sugar, keep stirring/whisking. you want the sugar to be completely dissolved and the egg whites to be hot (and cooked).
  7. Once it gets to be 150F, attach the bowl to your electric mixer. Using the whisk attachment, whip on medium-high heat until the meringue is thick and glossy. You know you are done when the bowl is also room temperature to the touch, and not at all warm. It cannot be warm at all.
  8. Once you get stiff thick peaks with your meringue, switch from the whisk attachment to the paddle attachment.
  9. You are going to start adding the butter, one cube at a time. Your butter should be cool, not cold, at this point.
  10. With the mixer on low speed, mix until you get a smooth rich texture. The mixture will look curdly at some point, just keep mixing. I promise you it will come together.
  11. Add vanilla and salt, and continue to mix on low speed until everything is combined.
  12. Add the strawberry puree until well blended into the buttercream.

Chocolate Glaze
recipe from Sweetapolita

Ingredients:

  • 4 oz semi-sweet chocolate
  • 1/3 cup butter, room temperature and cut into cubes
Directions:
  1. Place the chocolate and butter into a bowl and melt over a pot of simmering water. Stir the mixture until completely melted.

Assembling the Cake

  1. Place the first layer of cake and add buttercream frosting. Place the other layer on top.
  2. Crumb coat.
  3. Refrigerate for one hour.
  4. Remove from fridge and frost the cake. Try to be as even and straight as possible. Don’t worry too much about the top as you will be pouring chocolate all over it.
  5. Chill the cake.
  6. Remove the cake from the fridge and pour the chocolate glaze over the cake.
  7. Chill the cake again to set.
  8. Remove from the fridge at least 2 hours before you serve the cake. You want this cake to be completely at room temperature when you serve. Otherwise, the buttercream will be too hard and will taste just like butter. For those that complain of the Swiss meringue buttercream, this is the number one problem and can be easily remedied if you just let you cake sit out.

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Filed under Cake, Desserts, Favorites

Oven Roasted Potatoes and Green Beans

While I believe we incorporate a good amount of veggies in our household diet, spring time really is a great time to add more to your repertoire. My in-laws have a substantial garden growing by this time and they are quite eager to share. I consider it my family CSA. Recently, they brought over some green beans and red potatoes for me.

I wanted to make a dish to highlight the best of the two ingredients while maintaining the flavor of the food. I kept it simple. A combination of favors with the ease of this dish cannot be beat. I have used this side dish to compliment many main courses, including blackened salmon, which we served on Mother’s Day this year.

While the original recipe did not call for onions, the addition of the same gives the dish a dimension of flavor that I appreciate. If you are not an onion fan, feel free to omit.

What fruits or vegetables do you look forward to during the spring?

Oven Roasted Potatoes and Green Beans
Adapted from The Vanilla Bean Blog who adapted it from Ina Garten and The Joy of Cooking

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound potatoes, diced large (I prefer the smaller potatoes, i.e. fingerling, small red, small gold.)
  • 1/2 large onion, sliced
  • 1 pound string green beans, ends removed
  • 1/8 cup good olive oil
  • 1 tsp salt, plus more to taste
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 425F.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the potatoes and onions.
  3. Toss the potatoes and onions with olive oil to coat.
  4. Sprinkle salt and pepper.
  5. Transfer the coated potatoes and onions to a baking sheet.
  6. Bake in the preheated oven for 25-30 minutes, until the potatoes are tender.  Toss once while cooking, at the half-way mark.
  7. After the potatoes are tender, toss in the string beans to the pan.
  8. Bake for another 10-15 minutes, until the beans are tender.
  9. Remove from the oven and add more salt and/or pepper if you want.

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Filed under Side Dish, Vegan, Vegetarian

Mexican Wedding Cookies

Meet one of my all-time favorite cookies. I can almost guarantee that they are my second favorite, right after the obvious chocolate chip. I prepare these cookies often, as they are a favorite among all members of the family. I also prepare them for my family because they are not overly sweet and the flavors are subtly sweet and rich from the walnuts. I have also displayed them on the blog several times on the blog as well. I cannot say enough about these cookies. So, instead I just eat them.

As I make them often, I have adapted it over time to perfect the balance of all flavors. If you have not yet tried these cookies, I highly suggest that you. Perfect for any occasion, these light and crisp cookies can be made all-year round.

Mexican Wedding Cookies
– adapted from Allrecipes.com

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup butter, room temperature
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 6 tablespoons powdered sugar
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup walnuts
  • 1/3 cup powdered sugar, for rolling the cookies

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. In a pan, over medium-high heat, roast the walnuts for about 3-5 minutes. Do not burn. Once cooled, chop the walnuts quite finely. Set aside.
  3. In a medium-sized bowl, cream the butter.
  4. Add vanilla extract.
  5. Slowly add the powdered sugar and flour until fully incorporated.
  6. Add the chopped walnuts.
  7. Using a cookie scoop, place each cookie an inch apart on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.
  8. Bake for 12 minutes. When cooled, roll twice in powdered sugar.
  9. I place them on cupcake liners to keep them in tact.

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Filed under Cookies, Desserts

Cake Balls

Bite-sized or personal desserts are completely up my foodie alley.  One could argue that it allows you exercise some form of portion control.  That one may be you, because it is not me.  My interest is purely aesthetic, unless of course, you can attribute it to a greater amount of frosting in each bite.  Cake balls or cake truffles offer just that – a decadent portion of cake and frosting surrounded by a chocolate shell.  Texture and flavor – it’s all there.

Remember, when I told you I baked four layers of cake for a three-layer cake.  I saved the fourth layer for this.  I also had extra buttercream, which if not used for this would have gone the way of the spoon … directly into my mouth.

When (not if) you decide to make these treats, I suggest you save a good amount of time for the process.  Between cooling the cakes, forming them into balls, cooling them again and the dipping process, a significant portion of day was allocated to cake balls.  Not a bad way to spend the day when you spend your time finishing up Nip/Tuck on Netflix.  Are you a fan?

Cake Balls

Ingredients:

  • 1 prepared cake (you can use a box mix, or you can bake your own – anything that yields 9 x 13 cake)
  • 2 cups of buttercream frosting (or any frosting you wish)
  • 1 package of chocolate bark (you can use chocolate chips but I like the way the chocolate bark hardens)

Directions:

  1. Make sure the prepared cake is cooled.  Once cooled, crumble the cake into a large bowl.  Do your best to break apart any clumps.
  2. Mix in the frosting thoroughly to ensure that the mixture is evenly and completely incorporated.
  3. I highly suggest at this point you put the mixture into the fridge (covered) for at least 2 hours.  I have left it overnight.
  4. After the mixture has cooled, using a cookie scoop, scoop one ball into your hands and roll to form tight balls.
  5. Arrange the formed balls onto a cookie sheet lined with waxed paper.
  6. Place the pans into the freezer for about 10-15 minutes.  Don’t leave it longer than that as may cause cracks once you dip into the melted chocolate bark.
  7. Melt the chocolate bark over a double boiler.  You can also use a microwave to melt the chocolate, but I like working over the double boiler as it keeps the chocolate warm and melted.  If you use a microwave, melt only a little bit of chocolate at one time so that you are not reheating the same chocolate.
  8. Using a toothpick, skewer one of the balls and dip into the melted chocolate.  Twirl the toothpick gently to allow excess chocolate to shake off.
  9. Repeat with each ball and place back on the wax paper.
  10. The chocolate should harden quite quickly.
  11. These are best used within the same day.  However, if you need to store, store in an airtight container in room temperature.

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Filed under Desserts

Spanish Rice

Binks and I rarely cook together. I am responsible for the food (cooking, ordering out, planning, etc.) in the house. However, one meal, since the beginning of our relationship, brings us to the kitchen together. Tacos. Binks cooks the tacos and makes salsa. I, on the other hand, am responsible for the sides. And, for our taco meal, the sides are always the same. Refried beans and Spanish rice.

While traditionally (as traditional as Tex-Mex goes) you would usually make Mexican rice (very different from Spanish rice), I love the taste of Spanish rice and prefer it to Mexican rice. The addition of tomatoes and bell pepper gives the rice a bold flavor to serve alongside tacos, burritos or all on its own. I love making a rice bowl with Spanish rice leftovers, taco meat or lentil tacos, fresh veggies and a splash of lime juice.

Whether you use it as a part of your main dish or a side, you will be very happy with the results.

Spanish Rice

– Adapted from Allrecipes
– Yields approximately 6 servings

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 cup uncooked, long-grain white rice
  • 1 onion, finely diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • 2 cups vegetable stock (you can also use chicken stock)
  • 1 (10 oz can) canned tomato and green chilies (e.g. Rotel), undrained
  • 2 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp salt

Directions:

  1. Heat oil in a deep pan (I used my dutch oven), heat olive oil over medium heat.
  2. Saute the onion, garlic and green bell pepper until it gets soft. Add the rice and brown until the rice is a bit browned.
  3. Add the stock, canned tomatoes/green chilies, chili powder, cumin, and salt.
  4. Cover and bring to a simmer for 30 minutes, or until the stock is fully absorbed into the water.
  5. Once absorbed, remove from heat, remove from heat and fluff with a fork.

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Filed under Side Dish, Uncategorized

Oreo Cake with Oreo & Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

Recently, I baked a cake for a local club that was raising money for a charity event.  Like I need an excuse to bake a cake.  They had no preference for the type but because the event would be attended by both adults and children.  Wanting to appeal to both groups, I went for a classic.  Chocolate cake with layers of Oreo buttercream, topped with vanilla buttercream.  I dare you to resist.

I wanted to get a picture of the inside but after I set it down, all that was left was crumbs and a smear of buttercream.  Bad for blog.  Good for tummies.

I used some help from Bridget to assemble the whole thing.  I used one of my favorite chocolate cakes (multiplied it by two) and my go-to buttercream (multiplied by two) to start the filling  for the cake.  As you are using the same delicious buttercream for the base, the whole process is relatively easy compared to the outcome.

Chocolate Cake I doubled this cake and used three of the layers.  The other layer…more to come on that. 

– recipe from Ina Garten
–  yields two 8″ layers

Ingredients:

  • 1 and 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  •  3/4 cups good cocoa powder
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk, shaken
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 extra-large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup freshly and strongly brewed hot coffee

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F.  Butter and flour the two 8-inch round cake pans.
  2. Into the bowl your mixer, sift together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt.  With the paddle attachment, mix on low  until combined.
  3. In another bowl, beat together the eggs, buttermilk, oil and vanilla extract.
  4. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients slowly until fully incorporated.
  5. Pour the hot coffee into he fully mixed batter and mix on low.  Stop the mixer as needed to scrape the bowl and mix to ensure that the batter doesn’t contain inconsistencies.  The mixture will be very liquidy.
  6. Pour the batter into the prepared pans.
  7. Bake in the preheated oven for 35-40 minutes, until it passes the toothpick test.
  8. Remove from the oven and cool in the pans for thirty minutes.  After, cooled, turn the cake over onto a cooling rack to fully cool.
  9. Once cool, get ready to frost.

Oreo Buttercream

Ingredients:

Directions:

  1. Divide the buttercream into two.  One part will be used for the frosting and one for the Oreo filling.  The half reserved for the frosting, save 1/3 cup of that and put side into a small bowl.  In the 1/3 cup of frosting, add 1/4 cup powdered sugar to stiffen.  Add the stiffened frosting to a plastic bag for piping.  When you are ready to assemble the cake, cut a corner of the plastic bag to pipe the frosting.
  2. Add the crushed Oreos to the half reserved for the Oreo filling.
  3. You should have three types of frosting now.
  4. Get ready to assemble.

Assembling the Cake

  1. Place one of the cooled cakes, with the flat side on top.
  2. Pipe half of the stiffened frosting to outline the cake layer.
  3. Add half of the Oreo buttercream to fill the cake and stay inside the frosting outline.
  4. Place the other cooled cake layer with the flat side on top.
  5. Pipe the other half of the stiffened frosting to outline the cake layer.
  6. Add the remaining Oreo buttercream to fill the cake.
  7. Place the last cooled cake layer with the flat side on top.
  8. Crumb coat – apply a thin layer of the vanilla buttercream around the cake and make sure the cake is completely covered with a thin layer of buttercream.
  9. refrigerate the coated cake for at least an hour to fully set.
  10. Once refrigerated, using the remaining buttercream to frost the cake.
  11. You will have extra buttercream, which you can either use for piping borders, decorations, or save for cake balls.   ::foreshadowing::

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Filed under Cake, Desserts, Uncategorized