Friday, March 12, 2010

Beijinho ('Little Kiss' in Portuguese) (Sweet from Brazil)



The town close to us (Framingham) has a lot of Brazilian residents and the down town has quiet a lot of Brazilian shops. Both V and myself love to try various cuisines. Though we have been staying here for a while, we never thought about visiting the Brazilian restaurants here. It was late last year that we got the idea to visit one of these restaurants when we had started on our weekend venture to try a different cuisine. It was an unforgettable experience when we visited this restaurant called Terra Brasilis (which is become our go-to restaurant when we are not-sooo-hungry but hungry enough to feel like eating out ;-) ...that's the exact way we describe it to our friends here whenever we talk about this restaurant. There is a reason behind it :) . And that's what made it an unforgettable experience the first time.

We entered the restaurant and the manager/employee told us that we could sit anywhere, there wasn't anybody else eating there at the time we went. We let him know that this was our first time eating at a Brazilian restaurant (thank god we did that...because....that's when this gets interesting)... The food was like a buffet, and we went to the meat section which was a grill section serving different types of grilled meats. Since I had the option for just chicken sausage, I took that while V was piling up with his favourites, then something unusual happened , they told us that we need to weigh our plates before returning to our table. The plates were weighed and a receipt was given about the amount charged for the meat served. Instead of returning to our tables, we then moved towards the rest of the buffet section , after all just eating meat was not our idea of a buffet. Like at any other restaurant buffet we went to, we piled up our plates with a lot of food from the rest of the buffet section that had various foods , some looked familiar, while others were typical Brazilian food. I was glad to pile up the plate thinking, yay ..so we need to pay just for the meat and rest of it is all-you-can-eat....while V thought, maybe we need to pay a standard buffet rate at the end. 

What both of us didn't realize until we saw more people coming into the restaurant, started taking food from the usual buffet side and moving towards the grilled meat section and weighing the total plate ! When we finished our first course of food and wanted to go for a second helping (as is normally done at the buffets we have been to in the past), we realized we didn't weigh our plates completely the first time for the food we ate. Realizing our mistake, we felt embarrassed and we apologized to the manager who realized what happened (remember we told him this was our first time !) was amused and cheerfully told us not to worry as this was our first time, it was a funny as well as embarrassing moment for us ...We then did the right thing for our second helping ,(didn't pile up our plates though ;-) .....that's why we call it 'the to-go restaurant for the not-sooo hungry , but hungry to feel like eating out' days ;-) ...you pay for exactly how much you eat ! The food was really good and we became their loyal customers from then on :) We left the the restaurant that day with a discount coupon which we got from the manager that we still use when we go there every month.


It was at this restaurant that we tried this Brazilian sweet made of condensed milk , and shredded coconut coated with powdered sugar and unsweetened powdered coconut. We relished it so much that I wanted to re-create it in my kitchen. Upon researching on internet, I found this was the simplest sweet that could be made by even children (with adult supervision of course) !




It looked and tasted exactly the same way as in the restaurant and is my husband's favorite as its a coconut based sweet.

Ingredients:

Sweetened Condensed milk : 1 can

Sweetened coconut flakes or Shredded coconut : 3/4 cup

1 tablespoon butter

Dry unsweetened coconut : for coating each ball of the sweet
Granulated sugar : for coating each ball of sweet

Method:

  • On medium heat, combine Sweetenend Condensed milk and butter in a deep bottom vessel. 
  • Stir until the mixture starts reducing and leaves the sides of the vessel while stirring. 
  • Take off the heat and add Sweetened coconut and stir until well combined. 
  • Transfer to a bowl, let it cool. Keep it in refrigerator for at least 2 hours. 
  • Then take out and the mixture should have hardened. Now using a spoon or melon scoop, form even size balls, and coat each ball with a combination of unsweetened coconut and granulated sugar. Arrange it on a plate. 
  • As a serving suggestion , you may insert a clove on the top of each ball (that's how it was served in that restaurant :) ...just remember to take out the clove before eating the sweet.
  • Cool it in the refrigerator for few more hours for the coating to harden a bit. Beijinhos taste better the next day when a slight flavour of the cloves penetrate the sweets.  .....Love this sweet and will make again :)
Note:
The left-over cloves can be used as a spice while making tea ;-)

    Friday, March 5, 2010

    Cashew Biscotti with chocolate glaze


    This is going to be my first homemade Biscotti. Biscotti is an all time favorite at our house. I have been meaning to make this from a long long time. The time was just right few days back, when I had all ingredients and the memory that I had to make this :) I got the recipe from 'Joy of Baking' and was surprised to know it didn't require butter or oil. Just flour, sugar,  eggs and the rest of the usual baking ingredients.



    Ingredients:

    1 cup (145 grams) unsalted cashews, toasted and chopped coarsely
    1 teaspoon (5 grams)baking powder
    1/8 teaspoon salt
    2 cups all purpose flour
    3/4 cup (150 grams) granulated white sugar
    3 large eggs
    1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    1/ 2 teaspoon orange extract



    Method:

    Preheat oven to 300 F(150 C)
    Line baking sheet with parchment paper
    In a small bowl, beat the eggs and extracts together
    In a separate bowl, mix the dry ingredients (except the nuts) for 30 seconds
    Then gradually add the egg mixture along with the cashews
    Mix until the dough comes together (It will be probably a gooey sticky dough)
    Transfer the dough directly to the baking pan (the dough can be too gooey sticky to roll it on a separate surface and then transfer, hence its better to do the flattening or rolling on the prepared baking pan.
    Roll the dough about 14 inches (35 cm) long and 3-4 inches (8-10 cm) wide and and bake for 30-40 minutes until firm to touch (Log will spread during baking)
    Cool it on a wire rack about 10 minutes.
    Transfer log to a cutting board and using a serrated knife, cut it into 1/2 inch (1.25 cm) thick on the diagonal.
    Arrange the slices on the baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes. Flip over and bake for another 10 minutes.
    Cool on wired rack



    Once cooled prepare the chocolate glaze:



    Ingredients:

    1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
    1 teaspoon butter

    Method:

    Melt both the ingredients over a pot of simmering water (double boiler method). Dip the biscotti on one side in the glaze and keep the glazed side facing up on a baking sheet. Repeat the step for all biscotti. Transfer to refrigerator to firm up the chocolate glaze. Enjoy !

    Thursday, March 4, 2010

    Raw plantain coconut dry curry (Ethakka thoran)

    I don't remember when was the first time I ate this dish. But sure enough it captured its place in my mind. After marriage, until now, I always used to either fry the chips of Raw plantain or make a simple curry with just salt and little water. I wanted to make something else with it and hence remembered the coconut version of this curry. In malayalam, when grated coconut is added to any vegetable to make a dry curry, it is either called mezhukkupuratty (മെഴുക്കുപുരട്ടി ) or thoran (തോരന്‍), mostly thoran.

    Thoran is a versatile dish as it can be altered to use a variety of vegetables, like cabbage, spinach, carrot, beans, or combination of vegetables. The main ingredient common to all thoran is grated coconut.

    Here is the recipe:

    1. Raw plantain cut into small thin square slices. (Before you cut a raw plantain, scrub the outside skin lightly for removing dirt, make sure you have a big bowl of water to put the slices in. ) : 1 medium sized plantain
    2. Grated coconut : 3/4 cup
    3. Turmeric : a pinch
    4. Red chilli powder : 1 teaspoon 
    5. Garlic minced : 2 cloves
    6. Tampering: 1 teaspoon each of mustard seeds, cumin seeds, fenugreek seeds, urad lentil
    7. Pinch of asafoetida
    8. Salt
    9. Water : just enough to cover the plantain slices while being cooked


      Method:

      Usually with other vegetables used in thoran, water is not used , and most of the times, all the ingredients (except the tampering) is pre-mixed and cooked together. But since raw plantain requires a longer cooking time, it is cooked until tender with a pinch of salt and very little water.

      1. Cook the plantain in very little water (just enough to cover the slices) until soft and tender.
      2. Wait until the water is all absorbed (the heat can be stepped up a notch , to quicken the process, but keep an eye to prevent any burning of the plantain)
      3. Now mix the plantain with coconut, garlic, turmeric, red chilli powder, and salt . Combine everything well with hands, taking care not to mush the plantain slices. 
      4. Now add a teapoon of oil to a hot pan, lower the heat, add the tampering and asafoetida. Saute for 5 seconds. Then add the plantain coconut mixture. 
      5. Stir well to combine everything.
      6. Close the pan with a lid, keep fire on medium. Wait for everything to be cooked and allow the flavors to combine. 
      7. After 2 minutes, open the lid and combine everything again, at this point check for salt. Close the lid, increase heat to medium -high for 30 seconds. This is to get a nice light caramalized coating on the thoran. Switch off the heat, Open the lid, give everything a final stir , put the lid back on. Best served when hot.

      Spiced Indian Tea



      One of the favorite morning routines for me the past few months is to try various ways of spicing up the morning cup of tea. I prefer tea to coffee. I was drawn to the idea of spicing up the tea when one morning we were out of milk (I always love my tea with milk and sugar ('Equal' sweetener to be precise) , or maybe milk and honey), I decided to satisfy myself with the Chamomile flavoured Green Tea (I love to have these herbal teas without milk and sugar though) and V was more than willing to have his favourite cup of coffee :D . Why I wrote the phrase 'more than willing' is because, he prefers coffee to tea , but joins the tea session with me during morning time, for company sake ;)



      I then remembered that I had those 'Indian Chai flavour' herbal tea bags. They smelled so nice. Checking the ingredients didn't help much as the trade secret word 'and various other spices' wasn't clear. It was then that I decided to try making my own fresh tea masala. On our next Indian grocery shopping, I purchased whatever spice I knew (cardomom, star anise, dry ginger root, ajwain, aniseed). The only other ingredient that I forgot from the to-buy list was Lemongrass. It was at one of our cousin's place that I had this Lemongrass flavoured tea which our cousin bought it from Mumbai, India. I could never get that delicate flavor of lemongrass infused tea out of my mind since then. Lemongrass has this delicate gingery smell, almost like fresh cut ginger.The dry stalks you get in the grocery shops such as 'Stop and Shop', Shaws etc.. are extremely high : $6.00 for 2 dry stalks, the size of my small finger ! I was almost about to order it online, but it almost came up to the same price. Then one day when we went to this Chinese grocery shop, I luckily remembered about Lemongrass and promptly asked the owner, and there she got me, two long fresh stalks of Lemongrass just for $1.50 . I was thrilled ! From that day onwards my teas always spoke a different story ;)

      Let me share how I spice up my tea:

      Makes 2 cups of tea

      Ingredients:

      • Lemongrass minced : Any part of the lemon grass is edible, so dont throw away the outer leavy covering. I cut a small disc from the top of the stalk. Thats more than enough to spice up two cups of tea. 
      • Fresh ginger minced : 1/2 teaspoon
      • Star anise or fennel seed (optional): 1/2 teaspoon
      • Cardomom : 1 whole
      • Tea leaf powder (Tea bag) : 3 teaspoons (vary according to your taste) I use the Red Label (Orange Pekoe) brand.
      • Water : 1 cup
      • Milk : 1 cup
      • Sugar : 2 teaspoons or 2 packets 'Equal'

      Method:
      1.  In a vessel, boil 1 cup of water and add Lemongrass, Ginger, Star anise or fennel seeds, and Cardomom and reduce the heat to low. Close it with a lid. Let this mixture simmer for 15 seconds
      2. Then add the tea leaf powder (bags) and out the lid back. Let it simmer for 20 seconds.
      3. Now add the milk and let it sit for 10 seconds without the lid on low fire. After 10 seconds, turn up the heat to high and wait until the milk starts boiling, then lower heat to medium until the milk is just on the verge of boiling, but doesn't boil over. Wait for 3 seconds, this gives it the strong color to the tea.
      4. Switch off the heat, add sugar and pour it into cups. Enjoy !

      Wednesday, March 3, 2010

      Simple Vanilla Cupcake

      Its been a while since I baked a cake in the oven. In fact I never baked one in our brand new toaster oven. So I decided to venture into the world of baking cakes in an oven once again after a gap of almost one year. I wanted to start on a healthy note, and I was in a dilemma to choose from the various recipes that use healthy substitutions when it comes to the ingredients that go into the cake batter. Finally I decided on a recipe from Joy Of Baking where I substituted a portion of the All Purpose Flour (Maida) for White whole wheat flour and I skipped the frosting part as both me and V dont enjoy eating frosting, maybe just enjoy viewing it ;-). I did not want to risk this attempt and disappoint myself my ruining the whole batter because of a lot of substitutions. Hence starting with a small attempt of the same for baking healthy. I also wanted to start with something small so that the left-over or wastage remains minimal. Cupcakes suited my needs, hence here I am with the Simple Vanilla Cupcake.


      Ingredients:
      •  1/2 cup (113 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
      • 2/3 cup (130 grams) granulated white sugar
      • 3 large eggs
      • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
      • Orange extract or zest of 1 large lemon (optional)
      • 1 cup of all purpose flour + 1/2 cup of white whole wheat flour
      • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
      • 1/4 teaspoon salt (if using salted butter, skip this)
      • 1/4 cup (60 ml) milk

       Puffing...Puffing...



      Trrrringgg....(the sound of the timer on the toaster oven) indicating...its Done :)



      Method:

      1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (177 Degrees C)
      2. Line a 12 cup muffin pan (I had to use a 6 cup muffin pan two times due to the space constraints in my toaster oven)
      3. Cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy
      4. Add eggs one at a time beating well after each addition. Add the vanilla extract and orange extract/lemon zest
      5. In a separate bowl whisk together the flours, baking powder and salt
      6. Add the flour and milk in alternate steps to the egg mixture in a way that it begins and ends with flour. While mixing the batter, use a floding action to combine all ingredients. If using a mixer, use it at low speed and scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed
      7. Evenly fill the muffin cups (each cup can be upto half full because if you overfill the batter in the muffin cup, the cupcake will have a alien spaceship like appearance ;-) and there are chances that you will have to clean up a gooey mess later)
      8. Keep in the preheated oven and bake for 18-20 minutes



      Enjoy :)

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