Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Feta Cheese Tartlets

Sunday afternoons are fun and boring both. Boring because they start out so and fun because that's what they turn into as soon as I decide about what exciting thing to make. So this past Sunday, it was feta cheese tartlets. I got the recipe from a vegetarian cookbook.

The cooking time is really fast and you can get these tartlets ready in 15 minutes flat if you have everything.

Items:
8 slices of bread of your choice (I took 9 as it was for 3 people)
½ cup melted butter
4½ oz feta cheese, small cubes (I took ~ 3-4 tbsp crumbled)
4 cherry tomatoes, cut into wedges (I took 1 small sized tomato & diced it)
8 pitted black or green olives, halved
8 quail's eggs, hard-boiled
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp wine vinegar (I used red wine vinegar)
1 tsp whole grain mustard (I didn't have it)
1 pinch superfine sugar
3 pinches of salt
pepper
parsley sprigs, to garnish (fresh)


Method:

Remove the bread crusts and trim into squares and roll flat with a rolling pin.

Brush the bread slices with melted butter and arrange into a muffin pan. First batch, I buttered only one side of the bread but on the second one, I applied butter on both sides of bread.


Bread baskets with foil


Press a piece of crumpled foil into each bread case to secure in place. I did this with my first batch and that left the bread soft under the foil so in the second batch I didn't put any foil.

Bake these bread slices in preheated oven at 375 F for 15 minutes. 10 mins weren't enough to toast the bread slices.


Baked bread baskets


While the bread is in oven, mix together tomatoes and olives. If you're putting in eggs, shell them and quarter them.

Mix together olive oil, vinegar, mustard (optional), sugar, salt and pepper.

Here I mixed the cheese-tomato-olive mix with dressing and kept it ready for use.


Tomato, olive, cheese mixture


Remove the bread baskets from oven and remove the foil, if you used any. Let them cool for a couple of mins.

Just before serving, fill the bread baskets with cheese-tomato-olive mixture, arrange the egg pieces on top and spoon the dressing. Garnish with fresh parsley.


Feta Cheese Tartlets


Next time, I am thinking to cut the bread slices in half as these ones were rectangular and little larger than the muffin case.

Enjoy this super quick item as appetizer or afternoon snack.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Apricot Bread

This one I baked last weekend. I had been wanting to do some more baking and then got a request from R to make some apricot bread. The thing is we both had been wanting to eat this since the time we had gotten to try this on a flight. I don't even remember when that was but it's been years since... and we had never eaten anything like that afterwards. So it was perfect timing!

I googled for quite a few recipes and finally settled with this one. And it turned out so good. As usual, made quite a lot of modifications/adjustments to the recipe to my liking.

Original recipe: Apricot Bread @ allrecipes.com

Items:
1 cup snipped dried apricots
2 cups warm water
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons butter or margarine, softened (I added 3 tbsp)
1 egg 5 tbsp yogurt
3/4 cup orange juice (I added 1 cup)
2 cups all-purpose flour wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup chopped nuts (I just added walnuts)
1/2 cup apple sauce (this is something I added)

Method:
So the first thing you do is soak the little pieces of apricots in warm water for 30 minutes.

In the meantime, in a large bowl, mix the sugar, butter and yogurt together. Once they're mixed well, add in orange juice. I added 1 cup of OJ instead of 3/4. Right at this point, I also added 1/2 cup of apple sauce for fun. :)


Apricot bread ready to be baked


In another bowl, combine wheat flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Mix in the sugar-butter-yogurt-juices mixture and stir it well until it's all combined together.

Drain apricots to remove all water and add to the batter with walnuts. Mix well again.

Pour into a greased loaf pan. Bake at 350 degrees F for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.


Baked apricot bread


Let the pan cool down for 10-15 minutes before slicing the bread.


A slice of apricot bread

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Vegetable Jambalaya

Everyone wanted to eat something with vegetables and so I sat there flipping through the pages of "Practical Cooking - Vegetarian" and liked this one the best. I had practically everything it needed and seemed pretty quick one so Vegetable Jambalaya it was. I made quite a lot of changes to the recipe and everyone loved it. :) Now I know why people who like cooking enjoy it. It's because when you make it with so much passion, there's such a little change that it will actually go wrong and when people eat it and enjoy it, they give you compliments and your efforts are appreciated. What could be a greater feeling than that!!


Items:
½ cup brown rice
4 tbsp olive oil (recipe called for 2 tbsp)
3 garlic cloves (finely chopped) (recipe suggested 2)
1 red onion (cut into 8 pieces)
2 dry red chili peppers (whole) (recipe suggested chili flakes)
1 green bell (diced)
1 eggplant (diced)
½ cup frozen peas
1 can baby corn (recipe suggested halved lengthways but I had diced)
1½ cups broccoli florets
1 tomato (chopped)
½ tsp garam masala
1 tsp red chili powder
1 tsp dhana jeera powder
3 pinch nutmeg
1 tsp salt (or to taste)

Note: the recipe had 1 tsp creole seasoning but I didn't have it and I searched for it at Whole Foods but they couldn't find it for me and so I gave up and decided to make my version of spices and that's what you see up in the Items section.

Method:
Cook the brown rice in a pot until it's cooked. Drain the water and set aside. The original recipe suggests to drain, rinse in boiling water and drain and then side aside.

Heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed pot and add the garlic and onion and keep stirring for 2-3 minutes or until light brown. While you're stirring it, add the two red chili peppers after 1st minute (not part of the original recipe).

Add eggplant, bell pepper, corn, peas, and broccoli to the pan and cook while stirring occassionally for another 2-3 minutes.


Eggplant, broccoli, peas, baby corn, bell pepper added to onion & garlic


Add tomatoes, garam masala, red chili powder, nutmeg, dhana jeera, and salt and stir well. Let the vegetables cook until they are tender for another 10-15 minutes on low heat.


Added tomatoes to the veggies mix


Add the brown rice to the veggies and mix well and cook for another 2-3 minutes. Recipe suggests you can use mixture of different kinds of rice such as wild or red rice for color and texture. They also suggest to cook the rice in advance for a speedier recipe.


Veggies after adding the brown rice


Serve hot with brown rice or just by itself or any how your heart pleases.

If you feel that is it not very spicy for your taste, you can always add some hot sauce or sweet & sour sauce to adjust it to your taste. I like it as is because then you actually get to taste each of the veggies and it is truly delicious.


Vegetable Jambalaya


Enjoy! :)

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Gujarati Sweet: Mohan-thaal (મોહન-થાળ)

I had been wanting to make this since a long time and finally got a chance to make it during Holi-Dhuleti this year. It's a famous Gujarati sweet and usually is prepared for festivals and at many other occasions.

I made two batches of it - one on each day of the weekend. The first one turned out perfect but the secone one got messed up big time because I increased the portions and made some mistakes. But more on that later, first is the recipe that works! :)

Items:

1 ½ cups ghee
1 ½ cups chana besan flour
1 ½ cups sugar
¾ cups maavo
¾ cups water
4 tbsp milk (do not take any more than this)
3 tbsp ghee (do not take any more than this)
2 tsp cardamom powder
6-8 shredded almonds
6-8 shredded pistachio
1 tsp chaaroli/calumpong nut/cheronjee

Method:
Warm up the 4 tbsp of milk with 3 tbsp of ghee and add to the flour. Mix well and set aside for 15-20 minutes.

Shred the almonds and pistachio and set aside.

Shred the maavo to make crumbs and set aside.

Shredded maavo


Take a deep dish (I use stainless steel thaali) and brush it with ghee and set aside.

Take the flour that you had set aside earlier for 15-20 mins and mix it well to make it finer and sift the flour through a chaalni (sieve) (use the one that mainly used for wheat flour).


Mohan-thaal base


Put the ghee in a heavy bottomed pan and once melted, add the sifted flour. Let the flour turn golden or lighter shade of brown on a low-medium heat. Keep stirring in between. This usually takes about half an hour or more. Once the color of flour changes to light brown, add the maavo crumbs and stir well to mix them together for 3 minutes. Remove from the stove.


Chana besan being stirred on low heat


In another pot, take the sugar and water and heat to make syrup. Heat it enough so that when you put a drop on plate, it stays round and doesn’t spread (goli vale tya sudhi). (I had this prepared earlier when the flour was sitting around for 15-20 minutes and it got a bit hard so I had to reheat it with ¼ cup of water right before adding it to the flour.)

Add this syrup to the flour and mix it well. Add one tsp of cardamom powder in the flour, use the other tsp to sprinkle on top.

Pour the mix in the deep dish and set it. Remove the excess ghee, if you like. Sprinkle with the remaining cardamom powder, chaaroli (I didn’t have this so I skipped it), shredded almonds and shredded pistachio.


Mohan thaal set in a deepdish


Let it set for 10-15 minutes and then cut rectangular pieces with a sharp knife.

Note: at this point, you might have some excess ghee that comes up on the sides of the deepdish. You can remove it using a spoon and make use of it for some other sweets or strain it well and use it to spread on the roti/chapati/rotali, if you like.


Mohan thaal cut into rectangular pieces



Mohan thaal pieces


What not to do:

So for batch II, I had 2½ cups of flour and for that I took 6 tbsp of milk and 4-5 tbsp of ghee. This turned the flour into dough-like texture. Then by the time I was ready to sift the flour through the sieve, it would not go through as it was too gooie/sticky/dough-like. So then I was like "oh this isn't a problem, let me add some more flour" and I did. I kept doing that multiple times until I got all the flour/dough through the sieve. Well, this messed up the whole batch because by the time I poured out the final mixture with syrup mixed-in into a deepdish, the syrup started to separate from the flour and by the time the deepdish cooled down, the syrup turned into sugar crystals and sat at the bottom of the container as a layer. As you can imagine, it was not fun to even try out this mohan-thaal. My sweet mohan-thaal had been ruined royally... lesson learned: do not think more ghee and more milk make better sweets! :D

Moral of the story: the little bit of ghee and milk are supposed to be very small amounts compared to the amount of flour. They are not to be used to make dough of this flour, but more like to just moisten it slightly. If you feel that you've by mistake added more of it, add more flour right at that point and then let it the flour sit for 20 mins. Do not add more flour right before sifting it or while sifting it.


Mohan thaal batch 2


More later...
Enjoy! :)