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Archive for October, 2007

…stay tuned.

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“Happy Halloween! May your day be full of treats!”
-Fairy Elana

ps: a crazy delicious pumpkin cupcake recipe will be up tonight.

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[Filipino food at Cendrillon]

 

Cendrillon
45 Mercer Street
New York, NY 10013
(212) 343-9012

In the belly: fresh lumpia, mixed noodles with shiitake, Asian greens, and eggplant fritter, young coconut pie
Rating: Very enjoyable and different- both food and atmosphere. Dessert was unbelievably good.

Last week, Sandhya and I went to Cendrillon, a Filipino restaurant, for lunch. Other than us, there was just one customer, but the inside of the restaurant was so peaceful and pretty: high ceilings, gauzy curtains, exposed brick, sparkling, branch-like white lights, and a sky-lit backroom, filled with greenery. I had never eaten Filipino food before so I had no idea what to expect. What I found was the surprising presence of my parents’ favorite vegetable, the friendly purple yam, and really great coconut pie.

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We started with the Fresh Lumpia: sautéed veggies (cabbage, mushroom, leeks) stuffed in a crepe made with…yes, purple yam batter. The crepe itself tasted faintly yogurty and soft, and the purple was a fun color to eat. It was drizzled with a tamarind-peanut sauce, which added some depth to otherwise fairly standard, but tasty, scallion flavors.

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We also ordered the mixed noodles with shiitake, Asian greens, and eggplant fritter. This bowl of soup was picture-perfect: a purple eggplant, cut like a flower with dusky white petals, floated pristinely atop a woodsy-amber broth filled with noodles, scallions, and mushrooms.

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And then, there was dessert. I’ve never eaten a coconut pie that celebrated so well the juicy meat of the fruit. Usually, coconut pies and cakes have shredded coconut; Cendrillon’s had thick, soft sheets of tender young coconut (buco/buko), held safe inside a flaky golden crust (lined with purple yam), and topped with a scoop of real vanilla-bean ice cream. What makes this pie even better is that the waitress asked us if we minded waiting ten minutes- they made all the desserts to order. Fresh baked pie? Less time at the desk? The choice was easy, and so very worth it.

lumpia: $6; mixed noodles: $8.50; buko pie: $7.50

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Batata Powa (or poha, as it’s called in Hindi) is a Gujarati dish made of fluffy flattened rice (powa) and potatoes (batata). Light, lemony and flecked with shredded coconut and tiny black mustard seeds, this dish is ideal for a simple and savory weekend lunch; in India, it’s often eaten for breakfast.

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Batata powa is colored a pretty yellow with the addition of little turmeric, or haldi. A few weeks ago, my father lent me The Garden of Life: An Introduction to the Healing Plants of India, by Naveen Patnaik. The book, which is fascinating AND beautifully illustrated, explains the medicinal benefits of various spices, herbs, and roots used in India, according to the principles of Ayurveda. About turmeric, it says that in addition to its coloring properties, the root also provides relief when suffering from gastric disorders. According to a comment left on the blog Sepia Mutiny, when they were discussing the Ayurvedic properties of turmeric, it is also a great hangover cure; maybe this explains why the only time I crave heavy Indian food is after a night of partying.

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[Powa, or flattened rice, on the left. Neem, or curry leaves, and cashews, on the right. ]

Ingredients:

1/2 pound of powa (flattened rice). Powa/poha is readily available at Indian grocery stores.
1 cup chopped cilantro
1 medium tomato, diced
1 large onion or 2 smaller onions, diced
1 cup shredded coconut
2 boiled potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 inch ginger, shredded
1 long green chili, sliced into thin rounds
juice from 2 limes
1 rounded tsp. black mustard seeds
1/2 tsp. asofetida
1/2 tsp. turmeric
8 tsp. sugar
1 handful of curry leaves
3/4 cup peanut/vegetable/safflower oil

Wash the powa thoroughly in very cold water about 3-4 times. Place in a colander to let water drain out. Do not squeeze the powa, which will be inflated from the washing.

When the water has drained out, place powa in a large bowl, and gently mix with the tomatoes, cilantro, coconut, ginger, sugar, and lime. Add salt to taste. Set aside. The mix should look something like a snowy garden of vegetables and fluffy rice:

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Heat a large pot over medium heat, and add the oil and mustard seeds. Cover pot with lid until mustard starts to pop and sputter, about two minutes.

Add the curry leaves, green chili, asofetida and onions. Cook the onions on medium heat for one minute; then turn heat to low and let them cook until they become translucent. Add salt to taste.

Add the potatoes and turmeric and stir. Pour in the flattened rice mixture, stir once and cover pot with lid for 2 minutes, over low heat. Turn stove off. Serve with chutney.

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I have dozens of pictures of me with pumpkins. And pictures of pumpkins without me. In this one, I made friends with the cutest baby while sitting in my pumpkin throne:

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Pumpkins are so jolly, so happily orange and round that I want to hug them (and sometimes, I do). They look picturesque on bright and chilly fall days. And I also love eating pumpkins, which is one reason I don’t mind fall’s colder weather so much: I know I’m going to be eating pumpkin muffins and cheesecakes, cinnamon-dusted pumpkin truffles from Godiva, pumpkin ravioli in sage or mushroom sauces, my dadi’s sister’s Sri Lankan pumpkin-coconut curry, and autumn colored pumpkin ice-cream.

So I apologize, seeing as it’s nearing the end of October, and I have yet to post one pumpkin recipe or review. I have many in my mind, believe me, but I have a tendency to put off the things I really want to write about…like pumpkins. But today I decided to do something with the can of organic Trader Joe’s pumpkin that’s been sitting, unopened, on my bookshelf for the past 3 weeks. So I searched for a recipe and found, in an issue of Bon Apetit, exactly what I wanted to make: Spiced Pumpkin Walnut Biscuits with a Honey-Cream Glaze.

This recipe is fairly simple but the resulting biscuits are so yummy. The pumpkin’s sweet, mellow flavor nestles nicely between the buttery walnuts, rich golden honey, and fireplace-warmth of the cloves. Topped with the thick honey-cream nectar, these biscuits were perfect fall-scented treats for this rainy Saturday in New York.

I adjusted the recipe a little to make it slightly spicier than the typical pumpkin pastry- I substituted 3/4 tsp. crushed ginger for 3/4 tsp. ground ginger and 1/2 tsp. ground cloves instead of ground cardamom.

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Spiced Pumpkin Walnut Biscuits with Honey-Cream Glaze
adapted from Bon Apetit, November 1995

2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon crushed ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 cup (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/2 cup canned solid pack pumpkin
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons chilled whipping cream
1/3 cup golden brown sugar
4 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon (packed) grated lemon peel
1/2 cup chopped walnuts, toasted

A few chocolate chips (optional)

Preheat oven to 375°F. Butter large foil baking sheet.
Mix flour, baking powder, ginger, cinnamon, salt and cloves in medium bowl until blended.
Add butter and rub in with fingertips until mixture looks crumbly. .
Whisk pumpkin, 1/4 cup cream, brown sugar, 2 tablespoons honey and lemon peel in another medium bowl.
Add pumpkin mixture and chopped nuts to dry ingredients and stir until thoroughly blended (dough will be moist).

Turn dough out onto floured surface and knead gently until smooth, about 8 turns.
Roll out dough to 3/4-inch thickness.
Using floured 2-inch-diameter cookie cutter, cut out rounds. I used my ¼ cup measure to cut these rounds, since I don’t have a cookie cutter.
Reroll scraps to 3/4-inch thickness; cut out additional rounds. Place biscuits on prepared baking sheet, spacing evenly.

Whisk remaining 2 tablespoons cream and 2 tablespoons honey in small bowl. Spoon/brush atop biscuits and spread.
I then placed a chocolate chip in the center of half my biscuits. I liked how the chocolate didn’t blend much into the pumpkin or overpower the flavor of the biscuits; it just acted as a little Halloween treat.

Bake biscuits until light golden and tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Cool biscuits for 15 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature. (Can be prepared 6 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature. If desired, wrap biscuits in foil and rewarm in 350°F oven about 5 minutes.)

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An American reader visiting Bombay emailed me asking for recommendations of my favorite places to eat in the city. On my list, many places are associated with good memories as well as good food. China Garden might not be the best Indian Chinese in the city (what IS the best Indian Chinese in Bombay? Anyone know?) but every time we visit India, we go there for consistently tasty food and large, noisy dinners with my mom’s side of the family. Add your favorite places to the comments section!

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  1. We’ve been going to Cream Center ever since I was a kid for their chunna batura and sizzling brownie. Waiting in line during the lunchtime rush in order to eat a platter of spicy chickpeas and inflated, beach ball-sized golden puris was worth it back in the day. The lines aren’t so long anymore but the food is still pretty good. I think I had my first-ever batura there: crispy, fluffy, meltingly hot. The sizzling brownie – a warm chocolate brownie doused with hot fudge, topped with crushed peanuts and cold vanilla ice cream and served on a sizzling iron skillet- is happily messy, sputtering bubbles of chocolate. Scraping the remnants of chewy, hardened fudge off the skillet after finishing the brownie is my favorite way to end this meal.
  2. Head to the Gateway of India if you’re thirsting for some made-on-the-spot sugarcane juice. Raw, sweet, and sticky-satisfying.
  3. Craving a quiet conversation? Climb to the rooftop of the Strand Hotel, also near the Gateway of India, where there are tables, beer, and magnificent views of the Bombay harbor. Their menu is short; I got the hara bhara kabobs, which were not so remarkable except for their vivid green color– but the view, the beers, and the silence are things to savor.
  4. The man next to the bus stop on Nepean sea road (opposite Chandralok) and the man parked outside Xavier’s College both serve mouthwatering dosas. Hot off a roadside stand, these dosas are so good I wrote my college essay about them. Get a cheese and chutney dosa and preferably eat it during an electric Bombay rain- breaking off dosa pieces with your fingers will quickly transfer the heat from the food to your senses and warm you up thoroughly. Disclaimer: you might get sick eating street food during the rain. Nevertheless, this is how I ate my first dosa outside Xavier’s and it was lovely.
  5. Pizzeria on Marine Drive serves a surprisingly good slice. Most Indian pizzas taste overwhelmingly of a super-sweet tomato sauce, but Pizzeria’s sauce is mercifully savory, even slightly masalafied for a saucy Bombay kick. The crust is thin and the toppings are totally yummy: Tandoori Paneer and Bombay Masala are especially unique, but even more traditional onion and green pepper is great here, because in a proper Indian fashion, slightly browned onions are piled onto a slice. Tables line the enormous bay windows that open to a view of the sea; enjoying a tall glass of beer and a platter of crispy pizza while smelling the salty air is a delicious way to spend an afternoon.
  6. The Breach Candy Sandwich. Need I say more?
  7. Cafe Moshe in Crossword Bookstore is a sunny, peaceful place to sip on fresh press coffee and sample decadent pastries, cakes, and daily baked bread. Sometimes I bring a book or magazine from the bookstore below to keep me company while I enjoy a fruit tart or slice of coconut cake; sometimes I’ll split one of the Mediterranean inspired soups or sandwiches with friends for lunch.
  8. Vegetable hakka noodles; sweet corn soup; Manchurian cauliflower: the Indian-Chinese food at ornately decorated China Garden is always a delight. The inherent sugar in Chinese food satisfies the Indian sweet tooth, but the more prominent roles of onion, garlic, and chili along with some Indian spices makes the fusion food a little spicier and a lot better. Indian Chinese food is also dramatically less oily than it’s American counterpart, which is a relief. Think: Sichuan cooking, but with an Indian twist, and you’ll understand why Chinese Mirch is failing miserably at emulating the food in China Garden.
  9. Chili Cheese Toast is a very Bombay snack, and eating it at the popular Irani hole-in-the-wall, Café Churchill, is fun- if you can find seats. But if you can’t, or you’re not going to Bombay anytime soon, here’s how to make Chili Cheese Toast at home: get some Amul cheese (or another cheese that’s very mild and buttery) and shred it; chop tomatoes, cilantro and green chilies; mix the cheese with the veggies; and melt into a lickable goodness on rectangle half slices of white bread toast. For even crispier results, lightly toast buttered slices before adding the cheese mixture and then toast once again). Most Bombayites dip their cheesy wedges into ketch-up, but I eat ketchup sparingly and prefer them plain. You can also enjoy Chili Cheese Toast at Leopold’s, also in Colaba; the bar/café is a known hang-out spot for personalities like Gregory David Roberts, author of Shantaram.
  10. Shiv Sagar: Shiv Sagar at Churchgate serves a wide variety of street snacks- under a restaurant roof. Pav bhaji, cheese pav bhaji, pani puri, regular masala dosas, fusion dosas like spring dosas (crispy dosas packed tightly with Chinese-style veggies and vermicelli noodles), idlis, Chinese-style idlis- it’s all there. Shiv Sagar cooks great versions of Indian street food, snacks, and fusion concoctions, but it’s hygienic, still cheap, and served in an actual restaurant, where you can sit on chairs to enjoy your meal. Thirsty? Try one of their various fruit juices or milk shakes- watermelon, banana, pineapple, mango, custard apple- they are all so fresh and so clean.
  11. Bombay’s Mexican food is abysmally bland: baked sweet red kidney beans substitute for spiced black or pinto beans; the salsa is full of sugar; the cheese isn’t salty. But ever since Phoenix Mills opened, I’ve been able to get a partial, but totally lickable, Mexican fix from a stand outside the large mill converted to a shopping/bowling/sports bar/restaurant/nightclub complex. Lining the sidewalk are men who serve novel foods- varieties of toasted corn, popcorn, and my favorite- nachos. While not authentic Tex-Mex, the round corn tortilla chips topped with hot Bombay movie theater cheese, chopped onions, tomatoes, and cilantro, are still an appreciated addition to Bombay’s sorry scene.
  12. Bade Miya/Ayubs: These two roadside stands are often grouped together because they both operate late at night, selling foods to satiate drunken hunger: paneer bhurji and kati rolls cooked over a grill, fresh and spicy. I went to both stands the last time I was in India; we ate our food against the hood of the car. It was all the more delicious because it was slightly forbidden: the paneer and roti were cooked out in the open air, sharing grill space with roasting meat, and perfuming the air with tandoori spices. And delicately biting into piping hot rotis garnished with the sloppy paneer bhurji was the best way to end a night.

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I went home this weekend to see the fall colors, eat pumpkin chocolates, and rub my feet on our carpet. I also went to hang out with my dadi (paternal grandmother) who is here from India this month. Dadi has short white hair, nut-colored, spotless skin, and gifted hands. She sews clothes and crotchets scarves and quilts me bedspreads. She is the grandmother that makes ice creams and sells them to a lucky few. Above all, Dadi can cook. On Saturday, before we spent the afternoon leaf gazing, she taught me how to make four traditional Gujarati dishes. Then, on Sunday, she and my dad teamed up to teach me a couple more.

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I am not an ardent Gujarati food lover by any means, but I think the cuisine has some uniquely tasty fare that draws the masses to the upscale Guju restaurants now sprinkled across Bombay and New York (like Soam, opposite the Babulnath temple, and Vatan on 3rd Avenue). These dishes can be difficult to recreate with a generic recipe since they never taste quite the same as when you eat them at your Gujarati friend’s home. But my grandma shared her special recipes- the recipes generations of her family have loved for years- so I thought I’d post them here for any hungry and adventurous cooks.

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The first recipe dadi taught me was for Handvo, baked savory lentil cakes from a region in Gujarat called Kathiyavad. Don’t let the word “baked” fool you: this fragrant Indian style cornbread (sans the corn) is not low fat. But a slice of Handvo is stunningly savory and worth the time and effort it takes to make it. Handvo’s flour, made from coarsely ground lentils and rice, forms a rustic base, which when combined with the buttery shredded squash and milky coconut, brings a homey, country feeling to your belly. Green chilis and ginger work together to form a sharp, aromatic paste that, when mixed into the batter with the sugar, transforms into a calm, fresh flavor in the cooked slices. And sizzling white sesame seeds encrusted in the top and bottom add a nutty crispiness to the outer edges of this soft, savory cake.

 

Dadi’s Handvo Recipe
Prep time: 45 min
Oven time: 50 min

Serves 12

 

Ingredients:

3 cups of shredded squash/gourd/cabbage. We used 1 medium “dhoodhi / loki” or Indian gourd, but we’ve used squash and cabbage before. Your vegetable of choice should yield about 3 cups of shredded material.

3 cups handvo flour (a coarse flour made of ground mixed lentils and rice). You can find prepackaged handvo flour (NOT Instant Handvo Mix) at your local Indian grocery store by asking for handvo loht (flour) or handvo daro (coarsely ground flour.)

 

A 32-ounce container of plain, preferably sour, yogurt

Salt to taste

8 tbsp. sugar

¾ tsp. asafetida

2 tbsp. ginger chili paste. We blended 2 inches of ginger and 8 small chilies into a paste; you can vary the number of chilies depending on how spicy you like your food. 6 chilies to two inches of ginger yields a mildly spicy paste.

½-1 tsp. turmeric

3 tbsp. chopped cilantro

1 1/2 tbsp. crushed garlic

4 tsp. chili powder

2 handfuls + 1 tbsp. white sesame seeds

juice from 1 lime

1 cup shredded coconut (can buy frozen from an ethnic grocery store)

1 cup + 1 tsp. peanut oil (can substitute with safflower or vegetable oil)

2 heaped teaspoons black mustard seeds

handful of curry leaves

½ tsp. baking soda

1 level tsp. baking powder

 

 

Mix 3 cups handvo flour with the yogurt in a large steel bowl; leave out overnight to ferment.

 

The next morning, sprinkle batter liberally with salt to taste and add the sugar and asafetida. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

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Sprinkle shredded squash (or cabbage, or gourd) with salt and let sit for 5-10 minutes. Squeeze out excess water from vegetable and mix into the batter.

 

Add 2 tbsp. of the ginger-chili paste to batter and stir. Add ½ tsp. of turmeric. Batter should become a banana yellow color. Add the chopped cilantro and crushed garlic to batter, stir.

 

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Set ½ cup of peanut oil in a small pot over low heat. When oil is slightly warm, add the red chili powder. Swirl pot to mix the oil and chili, about 10 seconds, and then stir into batter.

 

Liberally grease a 15 x 10 glass dish (or two smaller dishes) with oil, and sprinkle the bottom of the pan with a handful of white sesame seeds

 

Mix the shredded coconut into batter, and then add ¼ tsp. asafetida and juice from ½ a lime.

 

Taste the batter. Adjust it for salt/sugar levels to taste.

 

In a small pot, heat 1/2 cup oil. When hot, add 2 heaped tsp. mustard seeds, ½ tsp of asafetida, handful of curry leaves, and 1 tbsp of sesame. Wait until mustard seeds start to pop (so they release their flavors). Set aside.

 

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In another small pot, add 1 tsp. of oil, baking soda, baking powder, and juice from ½ lime. As soon as the mixture starts bubbling, stir it into the batter and quickly pour batter into greased pan. Spoon the heated oil-spice mixture on top and put in the preheated oven.

 

Cook handvo on 350 degrees for 50 minutes. Handvo should rise and cracks should appear on surface. Handvo should be a toasty golden yellow in color. Serve with chutney.

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[sublimely sexy]

Ciabatta, toasted, insides scooped out, filled with 2 egg yolks and fontina cheese, baked, drizzled with truffle oil and sprinkled with black pepper and salt. Cooked, sliced asparagus forms a crown for this gem of a dish. The truffle smells and tastes so good, especially when blended with runny egg. The black pepper is accents the salty cheese and earthy truffle, and the crusty bread is the perfect edible bowl. Asparagus provides the relief from the intense decadence that is ‘ino’s Truffled Egg Toast with its bright, mildy sweet flavor.

Truffled Egg Toast: $8
ino is at 21 Bedford Street, between Houston and Downing, New York, NY. (212) 989-5769.

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