Sunday, December 30, 2012

Last post on zenkitchn

Hi everyone. Thank you for your support. I have recently moved to a new site. You can now find me at

Hope to see you there in the new year. :) 

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Tiramisu Birthday Cake

It feels gloriously wonderful to be back again. I am writing this post on the plane. On my way to Spokane, where my darling patiently awaits my return home.

Or impatiently.

I don’t much care as long as I know that he is there waiting.
It’s been a long, long break from blogging and food photography. It’s been a long long, long, long, looooonngg break. Did I mention it’s been too long? Dental school has been more brutal than I could ever have possibly imagined. Horror stories about the second year of dental school… that I had heard plenty of. But let me tell you something. Till you have gone through this, it is absolutely, completely, utterly impossible to guess how hard it actually is. Long days are followed by long nights. Which only lead to even longer days. I study every day, for hours on end, or at least I try. Emphasis on try.
I spend days in the dungeon-esque lab where I keep practicing one more provisional on my mannequin. I repeat to myself, “You are good at this. You can do this. When you are done and you go home you can have whatever dessert your heart pleases.” It seems I’ve gotten quite good at bribing myself and no, my growing behind does not thank me for that. 

But I can’t say it’s all bad. Dental school has brought into to my life wonderful friends. Friends who are there with me through the sleepless nights and the long days. Friends who are so darn supportive that I am frequently at a loss for words. One such precious friend turned twenty three yesterday. Jenita Suzanne George, or my “little Georgie” is the kindest, most amazing friend and roommate a person could ever have. And I seriously doubt that I will ever meet anyone else with her level of compassion and kindness. She laughs a lot, makes me laugh a lot, loves with all her heart and I have been lying to her through my teeth for the last few weeks. I had good reason to though. I was trying to recreate her favorite dessert, tiramisu in the form of a birthday cake and keeping it a secret from her. I had been looking for tiramisu birthday cake recipes online and all of them use a yellow cake base topped with mascarpone frosting.  But that’s not tiramisu people. The purist that I am, I refused to call sponge cake with mascarpone frosting a tiramisu. A real tiramisu needs to have a lady finger base soaked in strong espresso and layers upon layers of mascarpone mixed to perfection with either egg whites or whipped cream.  So anyways, I searched wide and far which in my book goes up to the 5th page on google and realized nothing fit my criteria of a birthday tiramisu. Finally and pioneer woman came to my rescue. I followed this recipe to make lady fingers, but instead of giving them the traditional long shape I piped through a very wide tip to make two discs of lady finger or savoiardi bases. I also followed thepioneerwoman's recipe to a T to make the decadent cheese layer that is sinfully fluffy, light as feather.

The birthday girl was woken up with the cake and gifts and I do believe she was not unhappy about it.
This post and my return to blogging are dedicated to the birthday-week of Jenita.
I love you my little Georgie, I hope to be there with you for many more birthdays in the future.   

Savoiardi base 
1/2 cup (65 grams) cake flour, sifted 
3 large egg yolks, room temperature 
2 tablespoons (25 grams) granulated white sugar, divided 
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract 
3 large egg whites, room temperature 
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar 
3 tablespoons (36 grams) granulated white sugar 
Powdered (icing or confectioners) sugar for dusting the tops of the cookies 

Tiramisu frosting
3 whole Egg Yolks(Large eggs)

2 Tablespoons plus 2 Tablespoons Sugar, Divided

1/4 cup plus 2 Tablespoon Marsala Wine, Divided

1/2 cup Whipping (heavy) Cream

8 oz Mascarpone Cheese, Softened (Room Temperature)

3/4 cup Brewed Espresso Or VERY Strong Coffee

1/2 Tablespoon Vanilla

Cocoa Powder, For Dusting 

Savoiardi base

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. I usually

start whisking the egg whites first because this way I don’t have to wash the beater

before moving on to the yolks. Start by whipping the egg whites until foamy and continue 

to beat until soft peaks form. Add the 3 tablespoons (36 grams) white sugar and whip 

until stiff peaks form and the whites are glossy. 

Stiff peaks of egg white

Now, beat the egg yolks and 2 tablespoons (25 grams) white sugar on high speed for about 5 minutes or until the mixture becomes thick and pale yellow. (When you raise the beaters the batter should fall back into the bowl in a slow ribbon.) Beat in the vanilla extract. Sift the cake flour over the batter but do not fold in.

Gradually fold the whites into the egg yolk and flour mixture in three additions, mixing only until incorporated.

Transfer the batter to the pastry bag and, holding the bag at about a 45 degree angle to the baking sheet, pipe the batter into a 7 inch diameter circle. Dust with icing sugar and bake for 8-10 minutes. Dust more icing sugar on it once it is out of the oven and make sure to separate it from the parchment while it's still warm. 

Mascarpone frosting
In a saucepan, bring some water to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. This will be used as a double boiler. See cake roll for another recipe that calls for a double boiler.

Put 3 egg yolks into the mixing bowl. Add 2 tablespoons sugar and beat until yolks start to turn pale. Place the mixing bowl on the saucepan with the simmering water. Slowly add 1/4 cup Marsala wine and whisk to combine. Cook over the simmering water, and use a rubber spatula to scrape the pan. Cook until thick. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until cool. this takes about 3 minutes

Place room temperature mascarpone cheese in a bowl and stir until smooth. In a mixing bowl, combine whipping cream and remaining 2 tablespoons sugar and whip until not quite stiff. To the bowl of whipped cream, add the softened mascarpone cheese and the chilled egg yolk mixture. Fold mixture gently. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 to 2 hours.

Measure 3/4 cups brewed espresso. Add remaining Marsala and vanilla. Arrange the base on a serving platter. Brush a small amount of the coffee mixture over the base. Plop 1/3 of the cold cream/mascarpone/zabaglione mixture on top and spread it into a layer. Dust coco powder and then repeat the process two more times.
Cover and refrigerate for a few hours before serving. 

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Monday, August 13, 2012

The Perfect Jilapi (Jalebi)

It's been little more than two months that I've been in Spokane and I'm already deeply in love with the town. It's been a glorious summer and a much needed break after a grueling first year of dental school. But leave I must. I fly out to Philadelphia tomorrow to start my second year of classes. Oh Penn, how I hate you right now. It's hard to imagine three more years of flying back and forth. But, since I've managed to survive this far hopefully I'll live through the rest as well. On the bright side, I do get to see my friends after the break. So it can't be all that bad. Enough with the whining. Let's simply end the summer on a sweet note, making something that reminds us (me and the hubby) of home and warmth and sweetness.

Traditionally sweets, such as the one I talk about today are a very integral part of Bengali culture. They are offered when guests arrive or they are treats that guests bring as gift. There is a warm, soothing quality to it which comes from the gentle use of spices like saffron or cardamom and the rich sweetness solidifies their status as cherished treats. Being deep fried and then soaked in a flavored sugar syrup, it is not the usual end to an everyday meal. But for special occasions there can be nothing better than a Jilapi/ Jalebi.

This is a relatively hard dish to master but the end results are completely worth the pain.

Jilapi batter
1 cup plain flour
1 and ½ tablespoon gram flour (besan, also known as chickpea flour)
1 teaspoon yeast
1 tablespoon oil
1 teaspoon sugar
3/4 cup of lukewarm water

Sugar syrup
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice -- to prevent crystallization
1/2 tablespoon rose water (optional)
pinch of cardamom powder (optional)

Dissolve yeast in warm water and wait for 5 minutes till the yeast blooms.

Add all the ingredients to make the batter. You can choose to add more or less water to achieve the right consistency, which should be like a pancake batter. Leave aside covered with a clear wrap or a kitchen towel for at least an hour.

If you are making jilapi the next day it's completely ok to stick this in the fridge. Just make sure to take it out at least an hour before you actually fry the batter.

Now onto making the syrup. Heat up the sugar water mixture and stir with a wooden spoon. Boil till you reach a one thread consistency ( at the thread stage there's still a lot of water left in the sugar and the temperature on a candy thermometer should be around  215 degree F or 101 degree C). At this stage, usually I barely touch the spoon with my index finger, then touch the index finger with the thumb and gently pull apart. If one thread is formed then the syrup is done. And you immediately switch off the flame. If you feel that the sugar is getting too thick add a little more water and boil again. If you will be adding cardamom, saffron or rose water do it at the beginning or the end. It really makes very little difference.

Now on to the actual frying bit. Heat up at least an inch of oil in a cast iron skillet or your favorite frying pan. The oil needs to be at a temperature so that when you drop a little batter it sinks for barely a second before rising to the top and sizzling.

Hold the empty bottle or ziplock bag full of jilapi batter (with one end snipped) and pipe concentric circles into the hot oil quickly making sure to join the ends. Speed is your best friend here. Do it slowly an you end up with squiggly jilapi. But it'll still taste good.

Fry the jilapis till they are golden brown on both sides. and set aside.

Transfer the fried jilapi one by one into the sugar water slurry and dip completely for 20-30 seconds. The hollow jilapi will take in the flavored sugar syrup while remaining crispy on the outside.

Serve warm.
Do not eat everyday.
That is all...

Friday, August 10, 2012

Rose Water Crème Brûlée Infused with Saffron

Crème Brûlée..
I barely have words to describe how delicate this dessert is. My heart gives a little leap of joy every time I break through the thin crisp layer of caramelized sugar to sample (read devour) the velvety smooth custard underneath. And best of all, it is as easy to make as it is delicious. Over the years I've made Crème Brûlée with vanilla beans and never did I consider that such perfection could be improved. But, as always I am happy to be proven wrong. I'm glad to report that flavored with saffron and rose water, this iconic French dessert is elevated to a whole new level. Go on. Buy some saffron this weekend. It's absolutely worth the splurge. Also, if you don't own a kitchen torch you could just leave out the whole caramelization bit, call it rose water and saffron pudding and no one would be the wiser.

Crème Brûlée
1 1/4 cup heavy cream
3 extra large egg yolks (60 grams)
2 tablespoon + 2 teaspoon sugar (40 grams)
1 1/2 tablespoon rose water
1/4 teaspoon saffron

First thing's first. Pre-heat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Then, begin by heating the heavy cream till you see bubbles around the edge of your non stick pan. You do not want the cream to come to a boil. All you need is for it to simmer gently.

Now turn off the heat and add crushed saffron. Give it a quick stir, cover the pot and forget it exists for the next 10 minutes.

In the meanwhile mix the yolk with sugar till it dissolves. You keep mixing till the color of the yolk appears to be a little lighter.

Add the saffron cream mixture (which has taken on a delicate yellow hue by now) to the yolk sugar concoction while stirring continuously. 

You'll see that this recipe does not make a lot. This is because it's hard to stop eating this dessert if there's a lot in the fridge. So, unless you are making for company stick to making small amounts. You waistline will thank me.

Now back to the recipe. Strain custard into a pourable container (a 2 cup measuring dish perhaps) and pour equal amounts in four ramekins that have been placed in a rimmed baking pan. It doesn't matter whether the pan is made of glass or not. As long the little dishes fit comfortable, you are fine.

Stick the pan into the oven and fill up the pan with boiling hot water so that the ramekins are half submerged in water. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until the custard barely sets. The center should still jiggle when you take it out of the oven. As the residual heat from the ramekins will finish the cooking process.
I can not stress how important this is. To get the best consistency, the custard needs to be taken out before the center's completely set.

Now chill the custard in the fridge overnight or at least an hour or two. I don't know if you've noticed but these are different ramekins, as the first batch was gone before I could take pictures.

Spread a thin layer a sugar on top and caramelize with a cooking torch or a small propane torch available at hardware stores.
 The sugar bubbles and sizzles...

Before settling down to form a crisp layer.

Chill for 5 minutes to cool down the custard. Break open with a spoon.

And cherish every bite

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Chicken Korma

Curries do not necessarily have to be garishly red, or yellow. Nor is it always spicy. Chances are if you have only tried curries in restaurants you have not experienced the full depth and breadth of flavor that mild, creamy curries like this can bring.

The Chicken Korma is the regal version of curries. Brought to the Indian subcontinent by the Mughal empire, it is subtle, even understated but brimming with flavor. The complexity of this dish comes from the use of nutmeg, mace and poppy seed paste as well the typical spices like coriander and cumin. Although I use milk instead of cream to make it a little healthier, this recipe has deep roots. It comes from my aunt who has been lovingly cooking this dish for us for as long as I can remember.

Chicken Korma (Other than the chicken, ingredients are listed in the order that they are added)

2 lb chicken
1/3 cup + 1 tablespoon oil
1/2 cup onion thinly sliced or minced
1/2 tablespoon salt
1/2 teaspoon garam masala powder
2 tablespoon ginger paste
2 tablespoon garlic paste
1 tablespoon cumin powder
1 tablespoon coriander powder
1/2 teaspoon paprika/ chili powder
1/2 teaspoon crushed black pepper
1/4-1/2 cup water
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon powdered mace
1 tablespoon poppy seed paste
4 green chilies
1/3 cup water
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 tablespoon rose water
1/2 tablespoon kewra water

First off, heat up oil in a 3 qt pan that has a tight lid. Fry the onions till you begin to see caramelization around the edges. The key is to stir the onion from time to time so that the edges turn a rich golden brown. This will take some time, close to 10 minutes but the flavor they provide is essential to good curries. Make sure to add salt at this stage so that the water is steeped out of the onions helping them brown evenly.
Starting to get caramelized. Needs to be cooked for a few more minutes
Now add all the spices up to the black pepper powder all the while cooking over a slow medium heat. You do not want to add water at this stage unless your spices start to stick. The "masala" mixture should be lightly sauteed adding tablespoons of water only if it's absolutely necessary.
A light brown color after all the spices have been added 
Now add the chicken pieces and cook on low medium heat for 10-15 more minutes.

You want the pieces to be evenly coated with the spice mixture.
Evenly coated bone-in pieces of chicken  
Now add 1/4 cup water and continue cooking. The chicken will release its own juices and stew in it. If you want you can definitely use boneless, skinless chicken but chicken pieces, bones and all produces a stock that enriches the sauce. Plus cooking the meat on the bone makes it very succulent.

Not much longer now. We are nearing the end,After 15-20 minutes this is what the dish looks like. When spice mixture becomes thick add nutmeg, mace and poppy seed paste. The poppy seed paste is something that you have to make at home from whole poppy seeds. You have to dry roast the poppy seed and blend with water to make a smooth paste. I can not stress how essential it is for the paste to be smooth. If you feel that the paste is grainy, strain the paste before adding it. You can also choose to leave it out if it is too hard to find but it does add a new dimension to the meal.  

Now add 1/3 cup more water, milk and whole green chilies and cook covered for 10 more minutes.

5 minutes before you take it off the heat add in sugar, salt (do a taste test and only add salt if you think it needs it), rosewater and kewra water.

Serve with a side of naan or polau (rice fried and cooked with whole spices). It doesn't get more authentic than this. :)

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Aloor Dom

I've been sitting on this for weeks, trying to come up with a translation that would truly explain what "Aloor dom" is to someone who isn't Bengali. Aloo is the Bengali for potatoes, so the easiest name would be "potato curry" but it really wouldn't be right. Curry is just too generic a word to explain this dish which was a quintessential part of growing up in Bangladesh. Served with a side of  Luchi ( a deep fried flat bread very popular in my part of the world), aloor dum was breakfast on weekends for the longest time. One way of making this, is to boil the potatoes till barely cooked through and sauteing in a mixture of spices. It is then simmered in a covered pan over a low flame till the flavors completely permeate the potatoes transforming it into a delightful beginning to a lazy weekend.
p.s. I do know that it's Wednesday. But no harm in planning for the coming weekend.

1 lb Potatoes
4 tablespoon oil
7-8 curry leaves
1/4 teaspoon mustard seeds
1/4 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
2-3 cloves of garlic
1 teaspoon grated ginger
1 tomato
1/2 teaspoon cumin powder
1/2 teaspoon coriander powder
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 cayenne pepper

I used red, yellow and purple baby potatoes which were cut in half, boiled and then peeled.  You want these to be on the smaller end of the spectrum as the smaller potatoes taste better in this dish.

Heat oil in a flat pan and add curry leaves. After a minute add cumin and mustard seeds. Be careful as the seeds will splutter in hot oil. A process we lovingly called tempering. Very common in Bengali cuisine.
Add in rest of the spices along with chopped tomatoes.

Saute for a few minutes adding tablespoons of water if the mixture starts sticking.

Add potatoes. Give it a quick stir to evenly mix everything. You want each piece of potato to be coated. But be gentle as traditionally the dish is served as chunky pieces that are not mashed together.

Add 1/2 cup of water, lower the flame and cover with a tight lid. Water will slowly evaporate and infuse potatoes with flavor, a process known as "dom". Stir once in a while to ensure it doesn't stick.  

Potatoes are ready once most of the water evaporates and you are left with a semi-dry mix of potatoes and spices.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Strawberry Lemonade and Ramadan

It is Ramadan and here in Spokane our fasts last 17 hours. And let me tell you, it's not the hunger that gets to you after a long tiring is the thirst. So the first thing we gulp down is some form of sweet beverage..most commonly, lemonade. It is tradition to have plain lemonade but I encourage you to switch it up a bit. I saw this recipe on t.v. years ago and have been making it ever since. Whether you are fasting or just trying to cool off, strawberry lemonades will be a delightful addition to your repertoire.

Recipe adapted from Emeril Lagasse

2 cups water
1 cup sugar
1 cup fresh lemon juice
1 pint fresh strawberries, hulled and halved
2 cups cold sparkling water or club soda or plain water

In a medium saucepan, bring the water and sugar to a boil. Stir occasionally, until the sugar dissolves. Add the lemon juice, stir, and remove from the heat. Let cool completely, then strain into a clean pitcher
In a blender, puree the pint of strawberries and strain into the pitcher with the lemon juice. Stir well to combine and refrigerate until well chilled.

Add the sparkling water and stir well. Pour over glasses filled with ice and serve. Garnished with slices of lemon, mint or strawberries.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Step by Step Guide to Paneer

The best thing about making homemade Paneer is that you know it will be fresh, it will never be  rubbery like storebought frozen cubed ones and you can infuse the milk with herbs and spices that will introduce a very subtle hint of flavor. It won't overpower and when used in curries, it will provide a distinct yet subtle edge.
Flavored with lime zest, parsley and cilantro

8 cups whole milk
1/4 c lime juice
1 tablespoon parsley
1 tablespoon cilantro
1 tablespoon lime zest

First, set a pot of milk over medium heat so that it can gently come to a boil. If I recommend using a non stick pot for anything this would be it. Make sure to stir frequently so that the milk does not stick.

Zest and juice one lime. Make sure not to get the white pith that is under the bright green peel because it's the pith that brings bitterness not the zest.

Line a strainer with cheesecloth that has been folded over four times. A single layer would not be strong enough to hold in the cheese.

Once the milk starts boiling add cilantro, parsley and the zest. It is all optional here, you can choose to add some other herb or crushed black pepper for a little kick.

Pour in lime juice and the protein will separate from the greenish whey. Turn off stove immediately as the longer you cook the harder the paneer gets. 

Strain out the cheese. You can use the whey to make bread or as soup stock if you like.

Grab the ends of the cheesecloth and twist the ball of cheese to squeeze out the excess whey.

Now place the paneer on a flat porus surface. and place a heavy pan on top of it.

The water will gently ooze out and you will get paneer that holds it's shape and does not crumble. 

Cut into cubes to use in curries or stir fries.  

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Cake Roll with Mango Curd, Whipped Cream and Chopped Strawberries

Guess who went strawberry picking the other day..

Even in the 95 degree weather picking was the easy part. These keep for but a few days. Hence the next few posts will revolve around these ruby red lovelies. And as I keep telling my friends...Strawberry desserts for a month....:)

The first in the series is a simple roll cake flavored with a thin layer of mango curd, sprinkled with little bits of fresh strawberries, then topped with sweetened whipped cream and rolled up to sweet perfection.

Sheet Cake(The recipe comes from Nick Malgieri's Perfect Cakes and Epicurious, May 2009)
3 large eggs
3 large egg yolks
Pinch of salt
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup cake flour (spoon flour into dry-measure cup and level off)
1/4 cup cornstarch (spoon flour into dry-measure cup and level off)

Mango curd

Whipped cream
1 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon sugar

First thing's first. Position the rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Butter or coat a jelly roll pan with vegetable spray. The pan I used was 12 x 17 x 2 inches.

Line with parchment paper and then spray the paper. If using butter, butter both pan and paper. You do not want this cake to stick.

Measure cake flour by first scooping into a measuring cup and sift flour into a separate bowl. 

Then spoon the sifted flour into measuring cup. If you do not precisely measure the sifted flour this cake will give you trouble.

Here's a picture of how much extra sifted flour I had left after measuring into my cup.

Enough about four. Now onto eggs. Take eggs in a large enough bowl. After beating the volume will increase by 3 fold. So you need room for that.

Add sugar.

Whisk away over a pot of simmering water till the mixture reaches 100 degrees. A quick way to check this is to gently test the egg sugar mixture. you should not be able to feel the gritty sugar when you rub the mixture between fingers. It'll also be about body temperature. If you go higher you will get scrambled eggs. So stop when you feel that the mixture is hot. Or as an alternative use a kitchen thermometer.

Whip on medium-high speed until the egg mixture is cooled (touch the outside of the bowl to tell) and tripled in volume. The egg foam will start off yellowish and very thin.

But it'll start getting thicker.

And thicker.

And thicker.

You are done when it forms a slowly dissolving ribbon falling back onto the bowl of whipped eggs when the whisk is lifted.

Gently fold in sifted cake flour and corn starch mixture.

Only mix till you can't see flour anymore. Do not over mix or your batter will lose volume.

Pour into the prepared pan.

Bake for 10-12 minutes. Take out when the cake starts pulling away from the sides like so.

Flip onto another piece of parchment paper. The bottom is now the top.

Peel off the parchment and cool on a cooling rack.

Almost there now. Just a bit longer. Chop up strawberries and whip up heavy cream with sugar.

After the cake has cooled down completely spoon mango curd onto the cake.

In a nice thin layer.

Sprinkle strawberries.

Spread whipped cream.

Spread it out.

Roll it up tightly and chill in the fridge for atleast half an hour.

Sprinkle some icing sugar on top.

And enjoy. :)