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Sunday, October 30, 2011

Why "Home" and "Food" are Synonymous....Aloo Poori and Gobi Pakora

After months of writing pages, rewriting pages, adding more pages, throwing away the pages I just added, curling into a fetal ball under pages, I emerged with a 6th draft of my script, which I submitted to NYU Grad Film's first ever notable screenplay list. If I get picked, I've been told my script gets a bit more attention (press releases, word-of-mouth, etc.). If I don't get picked...well I suppose something else happens. 

At any rate, I realized I needed a break. So where do I go? The one place I can completely regress and hide: home. Where my mom and I promptly proceeded to spend my entire vacation in the kitchen. Our first project were these beauties.

Aloo poori is essential a fried bread, but with cooked potato mixed into the dough. Think of it as gnocchi dough made into a disc and deep fried. But better. We followed my grandmother's recipe. Which is to say, my mom tried to remember what her mom did with no recipe whatsoever. 

I honestly can't remember the last time I had these. Seven years? Maybe ten. The thing is, my mother and grandmother are/were (respectively) the best at cooking Indian food. I am horrendously biased, but so what. This is my blog and I don't run a democracy. 

The last time I had aloo poori must've been when my grandmother made it, and she probably was last physically able to cook almost seven years ago. Food can really smack you in the face with hundreds of memories. The smell of these puppies frying up brought me right back to eight-years-old and watching my this old, squat woman deftly pulling a batch of pooris out of the fryer onto a paper towel. She might've been the crankiest person I've ever met but damn did she know her way around a kitchen.

And since we couldn't stop with just ONE fried food around the house, we decided to make a batch of gobi pakora, or cauliflower fritters. Probably one of my favorite snacks of all time, which is why I try to stay away from them 99% of the year. But this day was kinda like dominos. I mean, we've already got all this deliciously fatty fried bread...

Thing is, you're going to look at the recipes below and think "wow, these dishes are really simple". And they are...with a bit of practice. There's not much in the batter for the poori, but I actually think a few additions might not be a bad idea. If you're a cumin or coriander junkie, you could sprinkle some of that into the dough no problem. Personally, I think some dried fenugreek (methi) would be killer. 

Oh, and open a window, these things are going to stink up your kitchen like nobody's business. Another reason I went crazy eating up all this fried food at home: there's no way I'm going to try and make this in my windowless Brooklyn kitchen.

Notice the crazy blackened stains on the sides of our fryer. That's decades of love, my friends.
And just cuz I had made it earlier and there was one last piece sitting around, here's St. Louis Gooey Butter Cake. Seriously, if you have a bit of time, make this cake. It's amazing for the soul (which means it's a cardiac arrest in a pan).

Now I admit I am quite a homebody, but I have to imagine that everyone has some feeling of relief when they step back into a place where they used to run around barefoot (and sometimes pants-less) with sticky fingers and crayons. Every now and then you need someone to ask what you want for dinner (which they will make with absolutely no help from you), or if you want to bake cookies for no particular reason.

Alright enough of that, back to reality. But before I go, can I have a snack for the plane ride?


Note: apparently I didn't get my mom's pakora recipe before heading back to NYC. Will find it for you guys soon! I'd say start with the poori first. They're my favorite.


4 medium potatoes, boiled and mashed
1 ¼ cup atta (whole wheat flour)
¾ cup all purpose flour
Salt and red pepper to taste
Ground cumin, coriander, dried fenugreek (optional)
Enough water to make a sticky dough (approx. 2/3 cup water)

Mix flours, salt, pepper and spices/herbs (if using). Cut in mashed potatoes. Slowly add water till dough comes together and is a bit sticky.

Take small balls of dough (about 2.5” in diameter) and flatten with a rolling pin into discs about a half inch thick.

Set a pot with enough vegetable oil for frying on medium high heat. When it reaches about 375 degrees (at least that’s what it looked like) begin cooking the poori one by one by carefully placing the dough disc into the oil. Cook on one side till golden brown then flip.

Dry pooris on a paper towel lined plate. Serve immediately or at room temperature

Note: Your cooking time will depend on what type of pan you use. If you’re going with metal, make sure to continuously check the cake, as it will bake faster than if in a glass pan.
ST. LOUIS GOOEY BUTTER CAKE (from Smitten Kitchen)

For the cake
3 tbsp milk at room temperature
1 3/4 tsp active dry yeast
6 tbsp unsalted butter at room temperature
3 tbsp sugar
1 tsp kosher salt
1 large egg
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
For the topping

3 tbsp plus 1 tsp light corn syrup
2 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
12 tbsp (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 large egg
1 cup plus 3 tbsp all-purpose flour
Confectioners’ sugar, for sprinkling.

In a small bowl, mix milk with 2 tablespoons warm water. Add yeast and whisk gently until it dissolves. Mixture should foam slightly.
Using an electric mixer with paddle attachment, cream butter, sugar and salt. Scrape down sides of bowl and beat in the egg. Alternately add flour and the milk mixture, scraping down the sides of the bowl between each addition. I’d switch to a dough hook at this point and beat dough on medium speed until it forms a smooth mass and pulls away slightly from sides of bowl, 7 to 10 minutes. Dough will still be soft.

Press, stretch and nudge dough into a 9-by 13-inch baking dish at least 2 inches deep. Cover dish with plastic wrap or clean tea towel, put in a warm place, and allow to rise until doubled, 2 1/2 to 3 hours.


Heat oven to 350 degrees. In a small bowl whisk corn syrup with 2 tablespoons water and the vanilla. Using an electric mixer with paddle attachment, cream butter, sugar and salt until light and fluffy, 5 to 7 minutes. Scrape down sides of bowl and beat in the egg. Alternately add flour and corn syrup mixture, scraping down sides of bowl between each addition.
Spoon topping in large dollops over risen cake and use an offset spatula to gently spread into an even layer. Bake for 30 to 45 minutes; cake will rise and fall in waves and have a golden brown top, but will still be liquid in center when done. Allow to cool in pan before sprinkling with confectioners’ sugar for serving.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Happy Anniversary! A Deluge of Recipes...

I didn't miss it! It's still October 10th in California!

I honestly can't believe it's been a year since I've started writing this thing. And in that time I've accrued possibly...five readers. Three if we don't count my parents.  Oh well, that's fine because when it comes down to it, am I really writing these little notes on life and food for anyone, or am I happy to have these words just floating around within internet ether for my own pleasure? Heavy stuff.

At any rate, I haven't been the best blog poster, I realize that. And I apologize. The past few weeks were nuts as I've been working towards a very important deadline for my script, which is now seven drafts old! (Sniff....they grow up so fast...) But now that things have settled a bit I find myself coming to a depressing realization: I really need a job.

But let's not talk about that right now. Let's focus on all the delicious creations coming out of my mess of a kitchen.

A few months ago an amazing food blogger named Jennifer Perillo lost her husband, Michael. His favorite dessert was peanut butter pie, and food bloggers around the world made a pie for Mikey. I did too, but kept mine and my thoughts in the fridge for a while. After I read about Jennifer and her family, I immediately went out to the grocery story to buy ingredients for my own pie. Even if Jenny never knows I made this, my thoughts and prayers are with her. As is this pie (in spirit). 


I made too much peanut butter filling, so what do I do? Make another peanut butter pie, of course. But this one is PB&J, the "J" consisting of a homemade rhubarb jam. Topped off with some toasted graham cracker crumbs, this was a big hit at the nudist potluck party I went to (yeah, "nudist" means what you think it means).

But one of the best things I've started making is a roasted garlic and cauliflower soup. Oh. My. God. Not only is this really healthy, it tastes AMAZING. And such a good addition to the soon-to-be chilly nights we'll be getting in the Big Apple. I make mine a bit chunkier than normal soup and top it with some brown rice. Super, super filling, and guilt-free. Although I warn you: this is not a soup for a romantic first date. I reeked of pungent (yet delicious) garlic for the rest of the night. Luckily my script doesn't mind. He's good to me like that.

I added a few spoons of creme fraiche to the second batch of this soup and it didn't seem to make much difference, but perhaps there was an undertone of creamy tangy-ness. I'd stick to just chicken stock. But, I realized that the type of garlic I used DID change the character of this soup. I bought some fancy bulbs of garlic from the USQ farmer's market for batch #2 and I could swear the garlic in the soup had more depth. Maybe my mind just forced me to think that because I had to spend a buck fifty per (smallish) bulb.

If you're looking for a cocktail food to serve at your upcoming soiree, I'd say this soup can be transformed very easily. Just use a bit less chicken stock while blending and perhaps throw in a couple spoonfuls of grated Romano (or any ol' dry, crumbly cheese). Voila! Contemporary veggie dip.

And what do I do when a hurricane blows through the city? Make banana chocolate chip bread, of course. I'd had enough of surfing the internet, pretending to write, and reading in bed and decided to putter around the kitchen for a bit. This turned out surprisingly good. So good in fact that I'm ready to call this the ONE banana bread recipe I'll be using from now on. So good I refuse to tell you how much I ate hunched over the kitchen counter. (Hint: more than one bite.)

Alright, my devoted fans. I hope this tides you over for a bit. I'll be back soon with more. Funny thing about unemployment: it's doing wonders for my cooking. (Just learned about an amazing baking supply store in Manhattan that's much to convenient for me to get to. This does not bode well for my budget.)

Ummm....that wasn't me. Swear.

PEANUT BUTTER PIE FOR MIKEY (based on recipe from In Jennie’s Kitchen)

8 oz chocolate cookies
4 tbsp butter, melted
8 oz finely chopped chocolate
1/3 cup peanuts
1 ¼ cup heavy cream
8 oz cream cheese
1 cup creamy peanut butter
1 cup confectioner’s sugar
1 14 oz can condensed milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
Pinches of salt
Pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)

Roast peanuts in an oven set to 350 degrees till warm and toasty. Keep an eye on them, as they’ll turn dark quickly. After they’ve cooled, chop them up a bit.

Put cookies in a food processor and pulse into fine crumbs. Add butter and a pinch of salt. Pule till combined. Press mixture into the bottom of a pie pan.

Melt chocolate in double boiler or microwave. Stir in ¼ cup of heavy cream, along with the red pepper flakes. Spread half the chocolate mixture on the bottom of the crust and top with a sprinkling of half the chopped peanuts. Place pan in fridge as you prepare filling.

Whip heavy cream to stiff peaks and store in fridge. Beat cream cheese and peanut butter together till light and fluffy. Slowly add confectioner’s sugar, then condensed milk. Add vanilla and lemon juice, and a small pinch of salt. Beat until all ingredients are combined and filling is smooth.

Stir 1/3 of whipped cream into filling mixture and fold in the other two thirds.

Pour half the filling into the prepared pan and spread out. Top with the rest of the chocolate, and sprinkle on the rest of the chopped peanuts. Refrigerate for three hours or up to overnight before serving.


Note: This is the kind of soup you can do almost anything to, add any vegetable, but I’d recommend always having the cauliflower. It gives the soup it’s creamy and binding texture.

1 small head cauliflower, chopped (medium florets)
1-2 bulbs garlic, cut in half
2 leeks, washed and chopped (1” pieces)
½ eggplant, chopped (1” pieces)
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp thyme leaves
2 tsp rosemary, chopped fine
Sprinkling salt
Sprinkling black pepper
½ to 1 cup chicken stock

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spread vegetables on a baking sheet and cover with oil. Sprinkle on herbs, salt and pepper. Toss to coat.

Roast veggies for about 20 to 25 minutes, till soft and caramelized. Place veggies in food processor (take roasted garlic out of skins) and pulse till becoming smooth. Add chicken stock little by little till you get the consistency you like. Serve. 

AMAZING BANANA BREAD (from Smitten Kitchen:

3 to 4 ripe bananas, smashed
1/3 cup melted salted butter
¾ cup brown sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp vanilla
1 ½ tsp baking soda
Pinch of salt
1 ½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp nutmeg
½ tsp ground cloves
1 ½ cup flour
3/4 cup toasted, chopped walnuts
1 cup dark chocolate chips

Prehead oven to 350 degrees. Mix butter into mashed bananas and ass sugar, egg, vanilla, then spices. Add salt and baking soda. Add flour and mix till almost combined. Add walnuts and chocolate chips. Mix till just combined.

Pour mixture into a buttered loaf pan. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, until toothpick inserted in center comes out with just a few crumbs. Cool and serve.