This is a short post because all I have to say is that the next time you are in Boston, you must start off your day with a visit to Mike’s Pastry for fresh Cannoli and a cappuccino at Cafe Vittoria in the North End. The trick is to get to the North End bright and early, which is exactly what I did last Sunday. No lines!!! I got a giant box of Cannoli (It’s the holidays, I am indulging) and then I went next door for coffee. What could be better on a cold and quiet morning than a cup of good Italian coffee? Why! an almond biscotti of course!! All in all a perfect, blissful morning in Beantown.
It is that time of the year when all can think about is baking and all I want to do is eat those baked goods by the light of a Christmas tree. Holiday baking to me means decadence, elegance, and comfort; sometimes those qualifications may not go hand-in-hand (elegant shoes are not always comfy!!!)—but this quick bread hits all those notes. When I first saw the recipe on NYtimes, I knew I had to make it, and I was not disappointed. It is warm and cozy from the ginger, gooey from the maple syrup and molasses, and the flecks of bright red cranberries add that particular holiday elegance. This bread is great for gifting or adding to the holiday dessert table.
2 cups/ fresh frozen cranberries
1 cup granulated sugar
1 stick unsalted butter
⅔ cup dark brown sugar
½ cup whole milk
½ cup maple syrup
¼ cup molasses
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon black pepper
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
Heat oven to 350 degrees and grease 9-inch square or 4 mini loaf pans pan with baking spray.
In a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan, stir together cranberries, granulated sugar and 1 tablespoon water. Stir the cranberries over medium heat until the sugar is completely dissolved and cranberries form a sauce that is syrupy and bubbling thickly, about 10 minutes. Aim to have about half the cranberries broken down, with the remainder more or less whole.
In a separate saucepan, stir together the butter, brown sugar, milk, maple syrup, and molasses over medium heat. Bring it to just barely a simmer and then remove it from the heat. Do not let it come to a boil, or the mixture may curdle.
In a large bowl, sift together the flour, ginger, cinnamon, baking powder, salt, baking soda and black pepper. Beat in the butter-maple syrup mixture and then beat in the eggs.
Scrape the batter into the pan. Drop fat dollops of cranberry sauce onto the surface of the cake batter. Drag a long, slender knife through the batter in a swirly design, as if you are marbling a cake.
Transfer the cake to the oven and bake it until the top is firm and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 50 minutes.
Transfer the pan to a wire baking rack and let the cake cool completely before eating it.
It is almost that wonderful time of year when the weather starts to cool and you ( if you are like me) are anticipating fall colors, pumpkin everything and the holidays. In my opinion, the last four months of the year are the best! The food is great, the clothes are cozy and there is always somethings to look forward to each month. Yesterday, morning was one of those “almost fall” morning where there was a crisp breeze in the air and the only thing missing was the smell of cinnamon. So, I decided to fix that and make this simple, but very satisfying quick bread. I had some homemade applesauce (courtesy my mother-in-law) and few honeycrisp apples and so I decided to make this recipe. It yields 24 muffins OR 2 larges loaves. I ended up making 12 muffins and 4 mini loaves–perfect for having some over the weekend and freezing some for later. I hope you had this recipe to you fall breakfast/snack menu!
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 cups store-bought or homemade applesauce, at room temperature
2 medium apples, grated
2 sticks (8 oz) unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled, plus more for the pan
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly butter 2 loaf pans or place paper liners in 24 cupcake or muffin tins. I ended up making 12 muffins and 4 mini loaves.
Toss the eggs and sugar in the bowl of a mixer fit with the paddle attachment and beat until the mixture thickens and turns the color of lemons, 2 to 3 minutes.
Add first the applesauce and then the butter and beat well, scraping down the sides of the bowl after each addition. T
Dump the flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon in a separate bowl and mix well. Stir it into the applesauce mixture and beat to combine. Add the nuts, if desired, and mix well. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
Scrape the batter into the prepared loaf pans or, if making muffins, use a 2-ounce ice cream scoop or heaping tablespoon to fill the prepared tins. Bake the bread until golden brown and firm in the center, about 1 hour for loaves and 20 to 25 minutes for muffins.
Let the bread cool in the pans for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack and set
Serve warm or room temperature. If you can resist the temptation and choose to save these treats for later, freeze muffins individually on a sheet tray, before transfering to a storage bag. For the loaves, wrap them tightly in plastic wrap and then with tin foil and freeze.
A few weeks ago, we escaped to the Berkshires. This was our first vacation in two years and the first excursion amidst the pandemic. We were lucky enough to get tickets to watch “John Williams-Film Night” at Tanglewood, which really initiated the whole getaway plan. At first, we were cautious about Covid restrictions and were thinking of just driving out for the concert. But, the restrictions had lifted a little bit, we were fully vaccinated and frankly a little stir-crazy from being home. So if you ever manage to go to the Berkshires, here are some suggestions.
Try to have lunch or dinner at Bistro Zinc–I had a delicious Tuna Nicoise salad and my husband had a duck confit grilled cheese. The food was delicious and I managed to get a picture with the “Queen”.
We stayed at the Red Lion Inn, which is full of New England charm. The front porch is a peaceful place to people watch and sip your morning coffee–which I recommend you buy from the nearby Stockbridge Coffee & Tea. The staff is friendly and they have fresh, locally made biscotti– a perfect pairing with your morning coffee.
Before the concert, we had dinner at The Gateway Inn. They have a new chef and food is delicious, I am really looking forward to going back when they have a full brunch menu. The bartender was really nice–they don’t have a cocktail menu, but he will personalize a cocktail for you. For me, it had to light, refreshing and with St. Germain. Also, on their bar menu, there is an Eggplant Caviar which is to die for!
One thing that I like to do after a vacations, is to try to recreate some of the food that I have had during the course of my travels. This time around, I chose something really simple, primarily because I remember enjoying it thoroughly at dinner one night. It was a tomato watermelon salad; and let me tell you, the ingredients might be humble, but when you have been walking around amidst a heat wave, this refreshing salad hits the spot. So, last night, I made it at home and it was just as refreshing and delicious as it was at the Red Lion.
The salad is super simple to make. I used heirloom cherry tomatoes, cut in half, watermelon balls and baby arugula. For the dressing, you could balsamic dressing, but I decided to blend lemon juice, honey, olive oil and basil together for a light sweet dressing to complement the tart tomatoes and juicy watermelon.
I like to dress just the arugula and then sprinkle the tomatoes and watermelon on top of it. If you like crunch, you can add crushed pistachios and almonds. Of course, then best paring with this would be crumbled feta cheese, but we are not cheese fans. I paired this with Sea Bass (recipe here) and it was a quite the elegant saturday night super !
I hope you are inspired by my travels and head out to the Berkshires. Till then, enjoy this salad!
Crème Brulee–sounds and looks so fancy, and yet, it is by far the easiest dessert to make. All you need is some good quality vanilla, a small hand-held propane torch (totally worth buying one) and some patience—to allow it cool before devouring it. This is such a family favorite, that I even bought the wide shallow dishes that you see in the restaurant. The dishes are not a requirement, it all depends on sugary crust to custard ratio. If you like a large crunchy top, get the dishes; if you prefer more custard and small sugary top, you can make it in any regular ramekin. Choose your adventure, but do not choose against this recipe!
1-quart heavy cream
1.5 tsp vanilla bean paste (yes, this is a lot, but I love seeing and tasting the vanilla beans)
6 large egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar, plus additional for sprinkling
Hot water to fill your baking dish.
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
In a large measure cup (or bowl) , whisk together 1/2 cup sugar and the egg yolks until well blended and it just starts to lighten in color.
Add the cream a little at a time, stirring continually. Pour the liquid into the ramekins of your choice.
Place the ramekins into a large cake pan or roasting pan or cookie sheet. Pour enough hot water into the pan to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins.
Bake just until the creme brulee is set, but still trembling in the center, approximately 40 to 45 minutes.
Remove the ramekins from the roasting pan and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to 3 days.
Remove the creme brulee from the refrigerator for at least 10-15 minutes prior to browning the sugar on top. Sprinkle a teaspoon of sugar, evenly over the custard. Using a torch, melt the sugar and form a crispy top.
Allow the creme brulee to sit for at least 5 minutes before serving.
Crack the top with back of spoon, enjoy the sound of that satisfying crunch and proceed to eating immediately!!
Chicken Piccata is a classic Italian dish and husband is a huge fan. He likes it extra briney, which means lots of a capers! So, this recipe is certainly not “classic” or “traditional”, but it is the way I like to make it. Give it a try and let me know what you think!
2 chicken breasts, thin sliced (not to thin, and definitely not the thick ones)
1 tbsp of butter
1 tbsp of oil
Flour for dredging the chicken, plus 1 tbsp for making the sauce
1 small shallot, sliced
1/2 tsp of dried parsley
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 tsp of chicken broth concentrate or 1/2 cup broth
salt and pepper to taste
Capers, as much as you like
Heat oil and butter in a skillet. While the butter melts, season chicken with salt and pepper and dredge in flour.
Once the butter has melted, add the chicken to the pan and fry till one side is golden brown.
Flip the chicken to cook on the other side and add in the shallots and chicken stock concentrate ( in the picture it looks like anchovy paste, but that is because my concentrate comes from a tube !). The concentrate will start to brown and become granular. Don’t worry! Just keep stirring it around with the shallots. I also like to keep the chicken on one side of the pan and make the sauce on the other, this allow the chicken to get its own heat and prevents the sauce from making the chicken too soggy.
Add in 1 tbsp of flour and the parsley and bit more oil if you think the pan is drying up.
Finally, add the lemon juice and 1/2 water (or 1/2 cup broth, if you were not using the concentrate)
Keep stirring on medium-low heat till the sauce thickens and the chicken is cooked through. You may need to add a bit more water if the sauce thickens too much. Season the sauce with salt and pepper half way through the cooking process (this will take about 6-8 mins).
Add the capers at very end, stir for a few more minutes.
Plate the chicken and pour the sauce all over it. Serve hot!
Back in 2019, before the pandemic, my husband and I travelled to France. One of our favorite things to after a long day of sight-seeing and museum-hopping, was to have a late-night, light dinner in a classic french bistro. Ahh, to sit outside on a summer night, nibble on delicacies from a humble charcuterie board and sip great french wine. Not to forget the baguette!! Since we have been locked-up (like the rest of the world), I have been going through old pictures and thinking, when will we be able to travel again?!?
In my mind, I cannot celebrate Easter without an Easter lily plant ( I get one every year) and Hot Cross Buns. One of my fondest memories from growing up in India, was to buy Hot Cross Buns with my mother, right before Easter and delivering them to my Grandma. While Hot Cross Buns are not that popular in the US and certainly not in my household, I still make them, afterall, it is tradition!! Last year during the COVID-19 lockdown, I tried a recipe without yeast (remember, everyone was making sourdough and there was no yeast in the stores!!), it served its purpose, but this year when I got my hands on yeast and high quality candied orange peels (please spend the extra money to get the good kind like the FRATELLI MOTTA brand), I had no excuse but to make the buns. In the past I used a recipe that made a huge batch and no one would eat them, so now, this recipe is going to be a go to since it yields approximately 9 buns. I hope, someone out there is a hot cross bun fan and will make these soon.
1/2 cup whole milk
2 1/4 tsp active dry or instant yeast
2 Tbsp warm water
2 Tbsp white sugar
1 tsp lemon zest
2 cups all-purpose flour, more as needed
1/2 tsp fine salt, use 1/4 tsp. if using salted butter
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
½ tsp of ground cardamom
3 Tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature
Raisins and chopped, candied orange peel (I never measure these)
1 egg yolk
1 tsp water
For the icing:
1 cup icing/confectioners sugar
2-3 Tbsp milk (add a little at a time )
Heat your milk in a small saucepan or in the microwave until steaming with small bubbles around the edges. Set aside to cool to lukewarm.
Add your yeast to 2 Tbsp. warm water (about 110° F.). Stir, then set aside to proof.
Once milk has cooled to lukewarm, add egg and stir until well combined. (*Be sure your milk has cooled sufficiently, otherwise the egg will cook in the hot milk). Add the yeast mixture. Set aside.
In a large bowl add the sugar flour, salt, spices, and butter to bowl. Using your hands or a pastry fork, work the butter in to the flour until it has broken down a bit.
Add flour mixture to the bowl of your stand mixer and attach the dough hook. Add milk/egg/yeast mixer to bowl. Knead until dough is smooth and elastic, adding a bit more flour if necessary.
Add raisins and orange peel and knead until incorporated.
Remove dough to a greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Allow to rise until doubled, about 2 hours.
Remove dough to a floured surface and divide in to 9 equal portions. Form each portion into a ball and place in a greased 9×9 square pan. Cover with a tea towel and allow to rise until almost doubled and puffy – 60-75 minutes (note the rise in the picture on the right).
Preheat oven to 375° F.
When buns have risen, combine 1 egg yolk with 1 tsp. water in a small bowl. Brush tops and sides of buns well. Bake for 20 mins.
Allow the buns to cool completely before icing.
For the icing: Add icing sugar and milk. Add more icing sugar (or milk) as needed to make an icing of piping consistency. Pipe crosses on the bun and let the icing set.
Serve at room temperature or microwave for 30sec to achieve that “fresh-out-of-the-oven” feel.
When the temperature is 22F, there is nothing quite like a slow cooked roast in the oven. This past Sunday, I tried my hand at making a classic pot roast and I have to say, there is a reason this is called comfort food. I would highly recommend making this recipe this winter season.
3-4 lbs of brisket
4 medium onions, quatered
4 medium carrots, cut into 2 inch pieces
4-5 medium potatoes, cut into large cubes
2 springs of rosemary
2 springs of thyme
1 bay leaf
1 cup of red wine (pick a nice full-bodied wine, something that you would enjoy drinking!)
3 cups of low-sodium chicken stock
4 tsps of salt
4 tsps of pepper
4 tbsps of olive oil.
Preheat your oven to 300F
Heat 2 tbsps of olive oil in a dutch-oven. Fry onions and carrots with 1 tsp of salt and pepper each. You are looking to get a golden color on the onions and slight char marks on the carrots. Once they are done, set aside.
In the same pot, add the rest of the oil and fry the potatoes with 1 tsp of salt and pepper each.
While the potatoes are frying, season the beef with the rest of the salt and pepper.
The potatoes will not cook through at this stage, all you are looking is to get a golden color. Set aside.
Sear the beef in the same pot, about 3 minutes per side. All you are looking to get is a brown crust on the beef.
Set the beef aside and deglaze the pan with wine, scraping up all the delicious brown bits from bottom of the pan.
Add the beef and just the onions back to the pot, cover with chicken stock, add rosemary, thyme and a bay leaf.
Cover the pot and cook in a 300F oven for 2 hours.
After 2 hours, add the vegetables back to the pot and cook for another additional 1 to 1.5 hours, till the beef is fall-apart-fork-tender!!!
After a total of 3 to 3,5 hours, pull the pot out of the oven and remove the beef. Tent the beef and let it rest. Remove the carrots and potatoes from the pot, arrange them in the foil-lines baking sheet and roast them at 375F for 20 mins. The will remove the sogginess from the veggies and give them a nice roasted texture.
While the veggies are roasting, simmer the juices in the pot on the stove-top, skimming the fat from the top.
Serve large chunks of the brisket with the roasted carrots and potatoes and generous spoonful of the juices. You will also want a bing chunk of crusty bread and a big goblet of red wine.
I guess you could call then a French recipe, but really, I was looking at what I had in the fridge and sort of threw it together, and it came together wonderfully! It is a perfect fall stew, easy enough for a regular weeknight dinner, yet elegant enough for company. If you make this, let me know what you think, I know I will be adding this stew to the rotation!
3 pounds of cubed pork (I used tenderloin, but I would recommend pork shoulder)
2 small onions, diced
4 shallots, diced
4 stalks of celery diced
2 small apples, cubed (use whatever kind you have–remember to peel and core them!)
16 oz of sliced mushrooms
6 slices of bacon, chopped
1 tsp of paprika
2 tsp of Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup flour
1/2 cup white wine
3 cups of chicken stalk
1 tsp of salt
1 tsp of black pepper
2 tsp of sage
2 tsp of thyme
2 Tbsp of olive oil.
In a large dutch oven, fry the bacon till crisp. Set the bason aside.
Fry the cubed pork pieces in the bacon fat will golden, set aside
Add 2 tbsp of olive oil to the pot, and all the veggies. Saute for 10-15 minutes on medium-heat, till the veggies are pale golden and have softened.
Add salt, pepper, paprika, sage, thyme, and flour, and saute for an additional 10 minutes.
Add the pork and bacon back to the pot, add wine and worcestershire sauce, and cover with chicken stock.
Reduce the heat to low, cover the pot and cook the stew till it thickens. This will take about 2 to 2.5 hours. Make sure to stir every 15-20 minutes to ensure that nothing sticks to the bottom.
Half way through the cooking process, taste the stew and adjust salt and pepper as needed.
The stew is ready when the meat is fork tender and sauce has thickened. You should not be able to see any of the apples, they should melt into the stew completely.
Serve over a bed or creamy mashed potatoes.