Breakfast, Brunch, Comfort food, Quick-breads, Sweet

Applesauce Bread

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!

INGREDIENTS

 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

DIRECTIONS

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.

Food from Travels

Berkshires Getaway

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!

Classics, Dinner, Fish & Seafood, Savory

Sea Bass in a lemon-butter-caper sauce

Last Friday, my husband went fishing, and I mean serious fishing.  He and a few of his colleagues, chartered a boat and went fishing into the Atlantic Ocean.  It was quite a successful trip!  He came home with some Sea Bass fillets, porgy fillets and bluefish.  His first request was Sea Bass cooked lemons and capers—as suggested by one of his friends. This is how I cooked the fish and I have to say, fish tastes so much better when it is caught fresh!

Ingredients:

4 sea bass fillets

sea salt, to taste

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon olive oil

3 tablespoons lemon juice, freshly squeezed

2 tablespoons butter, softened

Method:

Generously salt the fish fillets. And coat them with flour.  Shake off excess and set aside.

In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat until rippling. Gently add the fillets, Cook for about 3 minutes on medium heat. Turn the fillets over and cook for another 2-3 minutes. After the fish is cooked through, using a spatula, carefully remove fillets to the plate. Turn the pan down to medium-low.

Add capers and lemon juice to the same pan with oil. Cook on medium-low heat for about 1 minute. Remove from heat. Add 2 tablespoons of butter, off heat, to the caper sauce, stirring, until butter melts and forms a creamy mixture.

Add fish back to the pan, spoon sauce over the fish and serve.

Classics, Dessert, Sweet

Creme Brulee

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!

Ingredients:

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.

Method:

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!!

Classics, Dessert, Sweet

Strawberry Ice Cream

Back in 2018, my husband and I took a trip to England, and I learned that the Brits take their strawberries very seriously! Outside most of the tourist spots there were vendors selling fresh strawberries and cream.  To my surprise, the cream was not a carton of whipped cream, it was liquid cream, like the kind you put in your coffee!  You dip the fresh strawberry in the cream, and you have the most delicious and refreshing treat ever!  In addition to strawberries and cream, there were several opportunities to have local ice cream.  I had to try their strawberry ice cream and guess what? the flavor was so perfect and fresh that it tasted like the strawberries and cream snack!  Later I learned that this is such a quintessential English tradition that strawberries and cream are the traditional dessert of Wimbledon!  I guess when you are doing something since 1877, there must b something magical about it!  So, in honor of the start of Wimbledon (yes!!! after an entire year of COVID) here is a recipe for strawberry ice cream.  Make a pint and settle in for some good tennis, or any other summer activity of your choice—who am I to judge!

Ingredients:

32 ounces fresh strawberries (get the best possible strawberries you can find)

1 1/4 cups sugar

4 tablespoons of vodka

2 cups half and half

1/2 cup corn syrup

Method:

Hull and quarter 1 cup of strawberries, then slice quarters crosswise into very thin pieces. In a mixing bowl, combine strawberries with 1/2 cup sugar and alcohol and let stand in refrigerator for at least 2 hours and up to 2 days.

Hull remaining strawberries and purée at high speed in a blender until very smooth, about 30 seconds. Strain through a fine mesh strainer to filter out all seeds and fibers, then measure and reserve 1 1/2 cups purée. Extra purée, if there is any, can be put to another use.  This can be done 1-2 days in advance.

In a clean mixing bowl, whisk together 1 1/2 cups strawberry purée with half and half, corn syrup, and remaining 3/4 cup sugar until fully combined.

Chill in refrigerator, I like to chill the base overnight—it the guess out of “how cold is your base?”  Churn in ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions. In the last minute of churning, retrieve strawberry mix-ins from the refrigerator, strain off syrup, and add mix-ins to the churn; reserve strawberry syrup for another use (think your favorite summer cocktail!).

Transfer ice cream to airtight container and chill in freezer for at least 4 hours before serving.

Italian, Poultry, Savory

Chicken Piccata

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!

Ingredients:

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

Method:

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!

Food from Travels

Missing the Parisian Bistro

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?!?

Breakfast, Brunch, Classics

Hot Cross Buns with Raisins and Candied Orange Peel

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.

Ingredients

 1/2 cup whole milk

2 1/4 tsp active dry or instant yeast

2 Tbsp warm water

1 egg

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)

For glaze:

1 egg yolk

1 tsp water

For the icing:

1 cup icing/confectioners sugar

2-3 Tbsp milk (add a little at a time )

Instructions

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.

Breakfast, Brunch, Cupcakes, Sweet

Bibingka (Coconut-Rice Cake)

It has been a while since I have written, I blame the holidays and the post-holiday slump. In the new year, I have been trying to clear out my pantry. I had some rice flour and a can of coconut milk, and was wondering how to use them up. That is when I came across this recipe for Bibingka; it is a traditional Filipino breakfast cake. I had never heard of it before, but the ingredient list reminded me of Indian crepes or patishapta (if you are wondering what an Indian Crepe is, check out my friend’s recipe here). Anyway, the cakes came out looking beautiful, with a nice golden top. The rice flour gives it a nice nutty smell and an interesting texture; also gluten free! The coconut milk and sugar makes the cakes taste more like desert than breakfast, but who ever said you can’t have cake for breakfast? I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as I did.

Ingredients:

2 cups rice flour

2 Tbsp baking powder

1 pinch salt

4 eggs

1 1/4 cups granulated sugar

1 can (13.5 oz) coconut milk

2 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted and cooled

1 tsp vanilla

1/4 tsp of ground cardamom

Method:

Pre-heat oven to 375F. Lightly grease line muffin tins (approximately 18).

In a medium bowl sift together the rice flour, baking powder and salt.

In a large bowl beat the eggs, then add the sugar, coconut milk, butter and vanilla and combine well.

Slowly add the flour mixture to the egg mixture and whisk until well combined and smooth. Divide the batter evenly into the prepared tins.

Bake, for 20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Leave in the pan for 10 minutes then remove to wire rack to cool completely.

Classics, Comfort food, Dinner, Meat, Savory

Classic Pot Roast

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.

Ingredients:

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.

Method:

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.