Showing posts with label Fruit. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Fruit. Show all posts

Monday, May 24, 2010

Strawberry Quick Bread and Strawberry Shrikhand

For someone who is not too fond of strawberries, I have surprised myself by making and posting three desserts involving strawberries in the short span of a week. That's because seasonal strawberries are beautiful little things, aromatic and sweet-tangy, nothing like the hard tasteless strawberry-shaped pellets that grace supermarket shelves all year round.

When I have extra fruit on hand, my first instinct is to make quick bread, which is more cake than bread. I found this strawberry bread recipe on Vintage Victuals. It is always charming to see unique recipes on food blogs that have a story behind them, that come from family and friends of the blogger.

I modified the recipe, halving it to make a single loaf, substituting some whole wheat flour and cutting back the oil and adding some sour cream  because I needed to use it up. With all these changes, the recipe goes to Blog Bites: Adaptation being hosted right here on this blog (tomorrow is the last day to send in your entries).

This quick bread is a simple, tasty treat, perfect for packing into lunch boxes or picnic baskets, worth enjoying over a cup of tea or a tall glass of iced coffee or lemonade.

Strawberry Quick Bread
(adapted from this recipe on Vintage Victuals; makes one loaf)

1. Mix 2 cups of chopped fresh strawberries with 2 tablespoons of sugar and let the strawberries sit for 30-45 minutes, until the mixture becomes syrupy.

2. Preheat oven to 350F. Grease a loaf pan.

3. Dry ingredients. Whisk together in a large bowl-
  • 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 34 cup all-purpose flour
  • 12 cup sugar
  • 12 tsp. baking soda
  • 12 tsp. cinnamon powder
  • 12 tsp. salt
4. Wet ingredients. Whisk together in a medium bowl-
  • 2 large eggs
  • 13 cup oil
  • 13 cup sour cream
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
5. Combine wet and dry ingredients gently. Stir in strawberries with all the juices. Scrape batter into the prepared pan and bake for 45 minutes or until a tester comes clean.

* * *
We hosted a farewell dinner last night for friends who are moving to another city in pursuit of new adventures. This dessert involves no cooking and showcases fresh local strawberries. It is a variation of the traditional shrikhand that I have posted before. If you can stir, then you can make this dessert. That's the extent of cooking skills needed for this recipe.

V's comment when I offered him a taste: "This is the Indian version of strawberries and cream". We all loved this summery avatar of shrikhand and at the end, the guest of honor pulled the  bowl and serving spoon into her lap and scraped it clean. This is exactly why I love cooking for my friends.

Strawberry Shrikhand
(makes about 6 servings)

1. Line a colander/strainer with cheesecloth, clean cotton fabric or paper towels. Add 4 cups (32 oz. tub) of plain low-fat yogurt to the lined colander, cover and refrigerate for 8 hours or so.

2. Take the strained yogurt into a bowl.

3. Add
  • 23 cup sugar (or less or more to taste)
  • 1 tsp. cardamom powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 to 3 cups strawberries, cut in small dice
4. Stir everything together, decorate the shrikhand with strawberry fans if you wish, chill and serve. 

  1. It helps to add the sugar a few tablespoons at a time and let it dissolve into the thick, cold yogurt rather than adding it all at one time. 
  2. If you make this shrikhand too far ahead of time, the fruit will start releasing liquid. Make it only 2-3 hours before serving if possible.
  3. To cut prep time even further, use Greek yogurt which is already strained. 
* * *
Fresh off the Needles
A small bag that I made to give as a gift; this adorable pattern is called the Christine Bag.

Check back in 2 days for the round up of the Blog Bites: Adaptation event, and have a lovely week.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

A Berry Luscious Treat

It is strawberry season and my friend from next door (mom to Shanti the husky) informed me that she had 2 pounds of plump strawberries patiently waiting in her fridge. She happens to own an ice cream maker and the fate of the strawberries was sealed once we found this easy, gorgeous recipe.

We decided to make the ice cream together by which I mean that Shanti's mom pressed the on button on the blender and I stood behind her to lend moral support. Because this is all the work that the recipe needs.

No-Cook Strawberry Ice Cream
(adapted from this recipe from Kitchen Parade, makes 6-8 servings)

1. Blend together
  • 1 lb. fresh strawberries, cleaned, stem removed and roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup cream
  • 1 cup skim milk
  • 1 box (8 oz.) low-fat cream cheese, cut in chunks
  • 1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • pinch of salt
2. Freeze in an ice cream maker and serve. Tastes best as a soft-serve rather than completely frozen.

Everyone who tasted this ice cream, including one person who insisted that he does not like strawberry ice cream loved it. For one thing, it has that glorious, fresh, spring-like, girly shade of pink without the yummy addition of FD&C Red No. 40. It is bursting with strawberry flavor and the sugar has a mere supporting role. If you love fruit and hate sugary desserts, this one is for you.

The no-cook ice cream recipes are good to have in one's repertoire. Over the summer, I'd love to try out some more of them, like this chocolate banana ice cream and this pistachio rosewater ice cream.

Last night, Neighbor Girl went grocery shopping and came back with a treat for us, cute little single serving cups of chocolate peanut butter ice cream from Haagen Daaz (and all normal sounding ingredients, imagine that). It was to die for. Of course, I promptly found this double chocolate peanut butter ice cream recipe that I have to try ASAP.

I don't own an ice cream maker yet but might get one later this summer- they really seem to come in handy for quick desserts. Until then, I'll use the old elbow grease method, whipping ice cream by hand a few times as it freezes. 

Fresh off the Hooks and Needles

A couple of crocheted hats adorned with cheerful flowers:

Can you tell what creature is lurking on this hat?
It is a whole parliament of owls. The pattern is called "Who?" and is kindly shared on Penguin Purls. What a hoot!
The only depressing thing is that these hats are destined for a Children's Cancer Hospital. I truly wish we lived in a world where there was no need for chemo caps for wee kids (or for anyone else, for that matter). I couldn't help getting a lump in my throat as I made the little hats.

Have a good rest of the week; I have many things on my to-cook list but let's see what I can come up with next.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Sweet and Salubrious

Back to breakfast! All the new-and-improved breakfast treats I tried so far this month have been savory, in a frank display of my personal preferences. But every once in a while, I do crave a little sweet something to go along with my morning chai.

Today's whole-grain tweak: Using whole-wheat pastry flour and almond meal for baked goodies. Whole-wheat pastry four is a low-gluten flour of finely milled whole wheat. I started using it only this month, and am I loving it! It is the perfect substitute for all-purpose flour in a variety of popular breakfast foods like pancakes, coffee cake, biscotti and muffins. Apparently, it works even in a decadent chocolate cake!

Almond meal is nothing but almonds that are ground to a flour. I got mine at Trader Joe's, but of course it can be made it home by simply blitzing down almonds to a fine powder. Nut flours can go real rancid real fast, so I store it in the refrigerator. Almond meal is becoming more commonly available because it is a useful flour replacer for those who are on a low-carb or gluten-free diet. Almond meal can be creatively used in all kinds of sweet treats like apple crisp, cherry clafoutis, lemon ricotta-almond cake and also in savory recipes like Kalyn's breakfast muffins.

In a bid to use up some buttermilk left over from this recipe, I used the proportions given in this Vegetarian Times recipe to come up with a simple pear and almond loaf. Grated pears add a beautiful moist and sweet touch to this cake.

Pear Almond Loaf


1 ½ firm medium Pears
1 T Lemon juice

2 large Eggs
½ C Sugar

Dry Ingredients (mix together)
1 ½ Whole-wheat pastry flour
¾ C Almond meal
1 ½ t Baking powder
½ t Baking soda

Wet Ingredients (mix together)
¾ C low-fat cultured Buttermilk
2 T Applesauce
2 T Oil
1 t Vanilla extract (or almond extract)

Almond slivers for garnish

1. Preheat the oven to 350F and grease/spray a loaf pan.
2. Coarsely grate the pears (you need about 1 cup), add the lemon juice and set aside.
3. In a large bowl, beat together eggs and sugar for several minutes until the mixture is pale and fluffy.
4. Add the dry and wet ingredients alternately, a third of each at a time, into the egg-sugar mixture and mix gently.
5. Press the extra liquid out of the grated pears and stir them into the batter.
6. Pour batter into the loaf pan evenly. Sprinkle with slivered almonds. Bake for 35-45 minutes or until the top is golden and an inserted toothpick comes clean. Let it cool before slicing.

Verdict: What a spongy and delicious loaf this is! The rich almond flavor was unmistakable. The loaf rose just beautifully and I got that coveted crease on top. The almond slivers did add a pretty touch and a great crunch to the loaf (IMHO) but they sure made it a challenge to cut neat slices. I found it easier to turn the loaf on its side and cut that way. Cut into thin slices or thick wedges, this is a great loaf to pack into a lunch-box or take along on a picnic, or to serve with your favorite beverage. Instead of pears, other fruits like apple or ripe banana would work just as well, as would chopped dried fruits like dates or figs.

This post is making its way to Raaga's blog, where pears are being celebrated as the fruit of the month!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Pseudo Panha

Dear Winter,
How can I miss you if you never go away?

But I should not fret too much. This being St. Louis, the lingering chills of late winter will turn into the sweltering heat of summer soon enough. And this time, I shall be prepared with a tall jug of rejuvenating panha in the fridge. The traditional version of this drink calls for raw mangoes, but what I tried making today is a very clever and innovative version that uses applesauce, a creative recipe shared by The Cooker. In North America, the odds of finding a 20$ bill on the sidewalk are far better than the odds of finding a decent kairi (raw mango), so coming upon this recipe was a very lucky thing.

Applesauce, which is nothing but stewed, mashed apples, is ubiquitously available in the US. If you use store-bought applesauce, just check the label to make sure there is no added sugar or other additives. The one I used has only one ingredient (apples). Applesauce is easy to make at home; see recipes here, here and here. For this panha, I would make plain applesauce without any added spices.

My slight tweak to the recipe: I used agave nectar as the sweetener instead of sugar. Agave nectar is a newfangled product of the ancient agave plant, the same succulent that gives us tequila. I have started using agave nectar as a sweetener for beverages like tea (and this panha) because it dissolves really well, and has a lower glycemic index than sugar. It is more expensive than regular sugar, but I am quite happy to pay a little extra for something that I use very little of in the first place. Of course, in this recipe, one could use any sweetener at all. In fact, next time I will try using jaggery, the way I make the traditional version of panha.

Applesauce Panha

(Makes about 3 servings; adapted from The Cooker)
1 C plain applesauce
2 C filtered water
hefty pinch of salt
2 t lemon juice (or to taste)
2 t agave nectar (or to taste)
1/2 t cardamom powder

1. In a small saucepan, cook the applesauce on low heat for 10 minutes or so.
2. Let it cool down for 30-60 minutes.
3. Add the rest of the ingredients, stir well and taste. Adjust the flavors if necessary to get the right balance of salty-tangy-sweet.
4. Serve chilled!

There is nothing "pseudo" about this taste of this panha: it is utterly refreshing and startling similar to the real thing. I poured myself a glass of applesauce panha when I got back from the gym, all thirsty and exhausted. Every gulp was oh-so-sweet and restorative. Thank you, Ms. Cooker.

This post goes to Coffee's popular Monthly Blog Patrol hosted this month by our favorite mixologist Sig with the theme (surprise, surprise): Mixed Drinks! Cheers!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

WaterLemon Ginger Ale

Maheshwari of Beyond the Usual has started an event called A Fruit A Month that seeks to take fruits beyond the usual! The challenge is to try a recipe using the fruit of that month. Bee and Jai of Jugalbandi are guest hosts this month and they are celebrating the season with the WATERMELON! See details about this event here. Every weekend this summer, V and I have been trekking to the Soulard Farmer's market, and ritually choosing and bringing home a huge watermelon. Here is one we bought last week: it is a Missouri-grown seedless variety called Black Diamond.
That creamy yellow spot on the belly of the watermelon tells us that this guy was sitting on the ground, ripening in the sun. Inside, the watermelon is bright red, turgid with juice, with a crisp texture and a thin rind.

All week, we carve out chunks from the melon and slurp the abundant nectar, sticky juice running down our chins. That is the way I like my watermelon: just the way it is, "simply unfooled around with" :) But Jai and Bee came up with their challenge, and I went hunting for a recipe. If you can call it that! This summery drink is simply watermelon juice spiked with ginger and lemon. The inspiring recipe called for ginger *syrup*, but with the sweetness of the melon, I felt that it was completely unnecessary to add all that extra sugar to the drink. Also, a few chunks and fibers in the drink don't bother me at all, so I don't strain the watermelon juice. This can hardly be called an exact recipe...the proportion of ginger, lemon and sugar are all to taste.

(This icon means that we are celebrating local produce fresh from the Farmers' Market. Many thanks to Alanna for sharing this icon with her fellow bloggers!)

WaterLemon Ginger Ale

(adapted from a Martha Stewart recipe, makes 6-10 servings)
1/2 of a medium-large watermelon
Juice of 2 lemons
3/4 cup finely chopped fresh ginger
1/4 cup sugar
1. Make the ginger infusion by combining ginger, sugar and 1 cup water in a small saucepan. Bring it to the boil, then simmer for 20 minutes. Let it cool down completely, then strain it to remove the ginger pieces.
2. Make watermelon juice by cutting the watermelon into cubes, removing seeds if there are any, and putting the cubes through a food processor (a blender may also work).
3. In a large bowl, combine the watermelon juice, lemon juice and ginger infusion. Taste and adjust sugar if necessary. Serve chilled, adding ice cubes just before serving.

Verdict: I served this drink to friends a couple of evenings ago, and we all loved it! It was utterly refreshing. One of my friends said that it reminded her of sugarcane juice- and once she said it, I had to agree: this drink has many of the same flavor notes of sugarcane juice, something that I really miss drinking :(
You could add some black salt or chaat masala to this drink, as a variation. I like it just the way it is.

This week is all about exploration and experimentation, as we cook with unfamilar veggies for the X of Indian Vegetables. Just to remind all enthusiastic participants, entries are due Saturday!

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

WHB: Ginger-Pear-Saffron Cake

One of the most popular (and long-running) events in the food blog world is Weekend Herb Blogging started by Kalyn of Kalyn's Kitchen. I always learn about new and interesting vegetables, herbs and spices through this event, but don't get around to participating much. Now, I am going to use WHB as a motivation to write about some new foods as they find their way into my kitchen.

My obsession with wanting to make this particular dessert started the minute I glanced at this picture and recipe in the November 2006 issue of Martha Stewart Living Magazine. I just *dearly* wanted to make this beauty of a cake: studded with pears (V's favorite fruit) and the color of sunshine because of the saffron. I also imagined that the pairing of pear with ginger would be spicy and delicious. Last weekend, I was assigned to bring dessert to a large potluck-style party. This was just the perfect opportunity to try a new recipe on some unsuspecting guinea pigs!

The recipe called for a few ingredients that I never keep on hand: candied ginger, ground ginger and buttermilk. Thus was the candied ginger introduced into my kitchen for the first time. I bought it from Trader Joe's and the ingredient list was gratifyingly short: just ginger and sugar.
Candied ginger is a simple form of preserved ginger where the ginger is boiled in sugar syrup and dried. You can certainly make your own using a recipe like the one on this page. Generally, after soaking, the candied ginger is rolled in more sugar, resulting in crystallized candied ginger but the one from TJ's is uncrystallized and smooth. I prefer not having that extra sugar, actually.
What can you use candied ginger for? A combination of candied ginger and ground dried ginger gives a great spicy kick to any ginger-flavored sweet food like ginger cakes, gingerbread, ginger shortbread or ginger pancakes. Or this decadent chocolate-ginger tartlet. You can just pop it into your mouth for a sweet gingery treat.

Making the Saffron-Scented Pear Upside-Down Cake...see the recipe here.
1. I pulsed together saffron and sugar to make, well, saffron sugar. It smells so good! The saffron sugar was creamed with butter and spread on the bottom of an oiled pan. I needed to make two cakes to feed the crowd, so I doubled the recipe.
2. Layering the pear slices: now this was the tricky part. The recipe called for Comice pears, but I was only able to find red Anjou pear. Martha says to peel and core the pears, then thinly slice them (by hand, or using a mandoline). Well, Martha must have a much better knife than I do, as well as vastly superior knife skills, because the pears I had were too unripe to be cut into silky, thin slices. I ended up with something far uglier...this was for cake A. For cake B, I decided not to peel the pears at all, just slice them using the mandoline. Much better! The slices were layered on to the saffron-butter mixture.
3. Next: the batter. This contained buttermilk, eggs and vegetable oil but no butter, and was liberally sprinkled with minced candied ginger and ground ginger. The batter was poured into the pans, and into the oven they went.

As I started cleaning the kitchen after popping the pans into the oven, I clapped my hands to my forehead: I had forgotten to add vanilla extract! The next 40 minutes were spent trying to come up with a way to remedy this. A google search of "forgot vanilla cake trouble-shooting" and other such incoherent phrases yielded no useful information. As the cake baked, the lack of the warm vanilla scent kept reminding me of my foolish omission. I decided to taste the cake, and if it tasted eggy, or if I really missed the vanilla, I would make some honey-vanilla whipped cream to serve with it.

This is what the cakes looked like: Cake A, the ugly one:

Cake B, slightly prettier:

The verdict: I tasted a generous slice from cake A ( resulting in the pac-man-like avatar seen here) and was relieved to find that with the ginger and saffron, I barely missed the vanilla. The cake was quite delicious with a surprisingly prominent saffron taste. The pear layer was too skimpy; next time I will layer the pears on some more, and might use riper pears for a more fruity taste. I think this cake would be best served as a snack, at brunch or tea-time. It does not work so well as an after-dinner dessert by itself, but may work with some caramel sauce or a fruit compote.

And now I have all this buttermilk to use up. What is your favorite recipe using buttermilk? Has anyone tried using store-bought cultured buttermilk in Indian recipes for "kadhi" style recipes? Thanks for your ideas!