Delicious World of Chefette Spicy

formerly Ladles and High Heels


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Canning Virgin: Salsa!

I cannot believe it took me two years to discover canning! I have heard about the concept, the New Jersey aunt does it all the time and I have read on it a lot in Food Network magazine. So this time, when I came across a canning tutorial on Cooking Channel‘s website about, well, canning tomatoes, I knew I had to get started before Fall really strikes. A quick trip to my grocery store yesterday already indicated to me that the mighty fist of Autumn had taken ahold of the country. Tomato prices had gone up, herbs seemed pretty fatigued, the whole of the produce section looked like I do on a coffee-deprived day. So not wanting to waste a minute, I grabbed all the firm tomatoes I could fit into my shopping cart, jumped over the dehydrated spinach section and got home with good albeit a little less shiny veggies.

I was initially planning to make marinara with half the tomatoes and jam with the rest but I finally decided to split them three ways (thanks to canned tomatoes and tomato paste) and start with making salsa. Now, I know most of you have your own method for canning. Those who don’t (like me), have a zillion tutorials on the internet to follow. The salsa, it was my own recipe. Apart from finding out the kind of preservatives people generally use while canning, I left the recipe to my instincts. Thank god I did!

You can prepare the cans your way and make this salsa to fill ’em up.

Spicy Corn Salsa

Ingredients:

Five firm Roma tomatoes

One medium-size yellow onion (Red works too)

Half a green pepper

Two Jalapeño peppers, seeded

One head sweet corn de-husked

Four garlic pods

One can black beans (optional. I did not use it but I realized it would have been a great addition after canning)

One tsp salt

One tsp pepper

One pinch chili flakes

Quarter cup apple cider vinegar (you can use white but I just love the taste of apple cider)

Juice from half a lime

Method:

Fine chop all the vegetables (including garlic). Add them to a pan along with the corn and the condiments. Let them come to a boil and reduce to low-flame. Let them cook and come together. The water must be all absorbed, the tomatoes must have slightly mushed up (this takes approximately 15 minutes). It is ready for canning.

Wait. What? Did I miss any step? No. It is just that easy!

You could include cilantro too but I generally like garnishing with fresh cilantro while I serve the salsa.

Ps: I am going wild with the new camera here. It has been ages since I clicked pictures with an SLR. Seven years actually. If any of my pictures have no specific focal point or if the depth of field is skewed, go gentle on me. I am still learning 🙂


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Éclair au Chocolat

I admit it. I did not believe in myself when I set out to make this. French pastries freak me out when I am making them. But did I fail? I will tell you, actually, show you in a bit.

I have dreamed of eating eclairs since I was young and spent so many hours reading Enid Blyton’s books. For the uninitiated, this British author was the queen of children’s fiction. She reigned over children’s literature from the 20’s to the 60’s but I know children loved reading her books even her peak years. My sister and I were introduced to Blyton by my mother and I have childhood memories dotted with holidays solely dedicated to reading Famous Five, The Five-Find Outers and Mallory Towers and lusting after all the delicious food they eat in the books. Believe me, there were lots of ’em!

Apart from dreaming of bacon and eggs (and not knowing that bacon was meat) and Joanna’s (the cook in Famous Five) famous ginger cookies, I used to wonder what chocolate eclairs tasted like. They sounded delicious whenever the Find Outers ate them at their local swanky cafe near the railway station, especially in Mystery of the Missing Man. In my later years, I remember Googling all the food featured on Enid Blyton’s books just to know what they looked like.

Though I am not all that new to baking, I have always thought Eclairs was a dish I would shy away from making due to the complicated process it involves. But today, I had all the ingredients I needed to make this pastry and a very empty schedule for the day. Moreover, Julia Child gave me the confidence I really need to “buck up” as Blyton’s characters would say. This recipe is an adaptation from the foodnetwork website and Child’s book, The way to Cook. You can follow the link for the former and as for the latter, I promise to type out and publish soon.

I was pretty scared of making the pastry primarily because I ended up with flat dough, although I followed the recipe to the T. Thankfully, I decided to let my oven judge it. Within five minutes of baking it, the pastry puffed up and roughly twenty minutes later, I had two beautifully light, meringue-ish pastry in my hands. Needless to say, the Mister fell in love with it and wished I had made more than two (we are on a diet as always). Ah well, there is always the lazy weekend!


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Thank You, Ina!

If you’ve been following my blog for sometime now, you will know that I worship the ground Ina Garten treads. She makes the most amazing food, is the kind of hostess I’ve always fantasized I would be and she knows that intricate method of entwining rustic and elegance which she does with a panache. All that put together with that very cute relationship she shares with her husband, Jeffrey, makes Ina the most adorable person on television (Sheldon Cooper sufferes a narrow loss but he will survive).

This treat is an adaptation of her Outrageous Brownies, one of the featured Food Network desserts. Featured is the channel’s way of saying that they are unabashedly proud of and the pride is well-justified. I baked half the quantity and made a couple of changes that were inevitable due to (un)availability of things at the store and my pantry but I promise, Ina, that I used the most premium products available in the market.

I made these brownies as a hostess gift and that’s why they are all dressed up and ready to roll (into the gift bag). Making these brownies has also been a challenge to me and I don’t mean the whipping up part. The challenges were of two kinds: restraining myself from eating them, thanks to my intense work-out program (oh, we will need a longer blog post if I start on that!) and styling the brownies up into giftable treats.

I did taste a piece (with my own recipe for icing) and I cried a little. They were so perfectly gooey, crunchy and decadent all at the same time that they might as well be my long lost love that I was never destined to have.The Mister, of course, is jealous… of me. Apparently, he wanted them to be his long lost love.

Icing Recipe:

Ingredients:

Quarter Cup Evaporated Milk

Half Cup Sugar

One Cup Chocolate Chips

One tsp Vanilla Essence

Two Sticks (1 cup/ 8 oz) Butter

Method:

Bring the evaporated milk, sugar, butter and vanilla essence to boil. Switch off the heat. Add the chocolate chips. Stir until it melts. Slather on, baybay!

Ps: see the new changes?


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Cinnamon Swirlies

Since I got asked a million times what’s special for the day (and got threatened a couple of times that there better be something new too), I had to post this. The temperature has dropped here in East Coast and we are all looking at our woolens with resigned eagerness. The clothes I had cast off with glee into the hibernation drawers have all marked their appearance and are in the process of calling our closets home. So to match the mood, I decided to make something cheery for the day.

A couple of days ago, a good friend of mine posted a recipe link on my wall. The cinnamon bread looked so tempting and delicious that I made up my mind to try soon. Unfortunately, I didn’t have egg in my fridge so I had to stall baking the bread. The recipe actually reminded me of McRennett’s cinnamon bun and I couldn’t help but salivate at the thought. Long long ago, when I was working at my first job in ITC, one of my colleagues introduced me to the these baked goodies.

The rolls were a signature dish at the bakery and anytime I walked into McRennett, a very popular chain in Madras, the aroma of cinnamon and fresh bread would send me to a blissful gastronomic heaven. Hence, we used to haunt the outlet near work at least twice a week to buy fresh, warm cinnamon buns for the whole team. After coming here, I discovered (thanks to FN and the Neelys) that Cinnamon Roll is a popular Southern dish. And so, as the story goes, I decided that this would be my “special” of the day.

The dough, like all breads and buns, has dough, yeast, salt and sugar in it. The only difference is this one also contains milk (instead of water) and butter only  to make it softer and yummier. So 1 1/2 cups flour (not tested with wheat), half a packet yeast, two tablespoons sugar and 3/4 teaspoon salt. So mix the dry ingredients together, add two tablespoons butter to half cup milk and warm it in the microwave (for 45 seconds). Mix this to the flour mixture and knead it well. Add two tablespoons of water (one at a time) if it is thick. Adjust the consistency to a nice supple ball of dough. Cover it with a damp kitchen cloth or tissue paper for ten minutes.

While the dough rests, mix together 1/2 cup of brown sugar, 1 1/2 teaspoons of cinnamon, 1/2 cup raisins and a tablespoon butter. Roll the dough with a rolling pin into a rectangle (I have no idea about the actual dimension). The dough should be neither thick, nor thin. The height will finally decide the size of your roll. Spread the topping on the dough. Now roll the dough up from the width (the longer size) side nearest to you. Show some TLC, don’t roll it too tight. You will love the result! Cut then horizontally and then magic! You will see the swirls on the pieces of what is soon going to be the cinnamon rolls.

Preheat the oven to 375 F (190 C), bake for 15 minutes or until the rolls are completely cooked (you will know if they are if you are in the habit of peeping into the oven multiple times like I do)

That’s it. My so easy to bake cinnamon twists are ready. Replace the raisins with tooty-frooty (remember those colorful yummy things?) and you have the McRennett version of the rolls. So after this (not so) quick post, I am looking forward to eating a couple while watching Friends as I wait for the Mister to get back. Happy Birthday to me! 🙂

Please tell me you noticed the largely improved quality of my photos! I spent a zillion (half hour actually) hours editing them. My latest resolution (pun, ha ha) is to churn out better blog pics. Who said a digi cannot produce awesome pics? I didn’t, certainly!


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Anniversary Surprises and a Brownie

So the calendar informed me that we’ve been married for a year. I wish I could contradict that by claiming temporary amnesia   but there, the verdict has been declared. Though hurricane Irene played a havoc with the Mister’s surprise plans phase 2 and 3 (which he still hasn’t disclosed to me), we sure had an awesome lunch at Mie N Yu in the District.

As for the gifts, I got a huge bag of baking goodies: a set of 3 spring foam pans, a lush brownie pan and a set of shiny wall decals. The man, I admit, sure knows his audience and he also know how to get assured returns from his investments. Why, you ask me? Well, after bidding good-bye to Irene and reveling in a day of beautiful sunshine and breeze, I broke into my brownie pan, unable to resist the temptation.

My initial plan was to make Ina’s Outrageous Brownies, a universal favorite here in the pad. I first made it when our cousin came to spend a week with us this summer and she made washing up a mighty easy job by licking the bowl, ladle and the cups clean. Today the hubby took over the job and I finished making the brownie.

Soft chocolate, with a hint of vanilla and coffee and a crunch of half-melted chocolate-chips, Ina has done good stuff to the spirit of chocolate and caffeine lovers everywhere. I managed to click pictures before we gobbled up a couple of pieces jealously.

Since I got the recipe from foodnetwork.com/ina-garten (no, I did not copy that from the address bar, I have the link memorized), I am not going to plagiarize or even reproduce it with a courtesy tag. To make things easier, I have linked it to the post. My last Gyan would be this: if you are a wannabe baker like I am, you’ve gotta try this out.

Magic brownie pan or not, Ina’s recipe is unrivaled!


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For the Love of Baking

I admit it. I am a compulsive baker. I love my ancient yet awesome oven and all the scintillating smells it can create when I am in the mood for it. When I first moved here, new to the country and my home, I took an oath: I will venture anywhere in this new land but I will never dare to open my oven to cook food. A few of my friends use it as a storage space of sorts and I actually thought it was a novel idea. Thank god I changed my mind!

Hours of watching Food Network and Cooking Channel actually made me curious about the forbidden territory that lay behind the dark door under my stove. For some reason, I hadn’t found the heart to stack my pots there so it lay hollow, like an empty cave. During one of our grocery escapades a month after the relocation, I found a packet of Betty Crocker’s SuperMoist cake mix on sale and decided to grab it.

Since then, it has been a journey for me. I read up some oven tactics on the internet and the Food Network website has always been a guide to me. My culinary gurus, Ina Garten and Giada De Laurentiis have never given up on mentoring me (of course, they would be surprised to know that!) For a haphazard cook like me,  I have had it pretty easy so far. First of all, I took Ina’s advice seriously.  Quantity is really the key to baking. Hence, I decided to move up a step by abandoning my faithful little coffee cup measuring device (I know Rachael Ray did). Lucky for me, I found an inexpensive plastic set at a local store. I didn’t want to give up baking but I was not very keen on taking giant steps either.

Oh, I remember the day so well! To celebrate my black cups, I made biscuits. Apart from a charred stray that set off the fire alarm, the rest of it was crisp, delicate and wonderful. So I have moved a few phases. Right now, I have a well stocked baking pantry and a couple of basic baking pans. I have a whisk that I use to mix pretty much everything. So in case, if you are planning to start baking after this “inspirational” blog, here is a small list of things you need in your kitchen:

Oven mits (keep those hands safe!)

Measuring cups (very very VERY important!)

Couple of basic baking sheets

Aluminum foil sheets

Tongs

Whisk (for desserts in which you use dry and wet ingredients)

Baking soda

Baking powder

Vanilla essence

All-purpose flour (Maida)

Sugar

Butter

Eggs

Of course, I am still a beginner and making scones or croissants is a pretty far away dream to me. But I am hoping to get there. There are so many awesome bakers in this country so I am hoping that being in their radius will rub some of their goodness on me. Anyway, I’ll post a couple of my favorite recipes the next time. They are easy and delicious. Until then, look for a packet of Betty Crocker, Pillsbury or Cadbury cake mix in your local store and have fun. May the baking begin!

Ps: People in India can use the perfectly beautiful alternative for the oven there: the OTG. I bought one for my mother from Vivek’s (this is not the exact one but the closest one I could find) and it is amazing!


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H4 on my mind

Back home, we were living people, not just an alpha-numeric visa-code put together. We had lives, we had education and professions that kept us on our toes. We had dreams of feeling worthy all the time while keeping in sync with the social demands. Perhaps that’s what found us open to marriage and family duties. Not all of us seeked out NRI men from the USA but out of love, commitment and sometimes pressure, we signed up for the ride.

People back home judge us. They think it was our wild dream to live in the land of a million opportunities and we took the easy way out by getting married to a semi-Americanised, big brand wearing professional. Oh, they would be surprised when they toss the coin and notice the other side. As I said, we had a fulfilling life back at home and if we had had a choice to be married to the same man and live on in our motherland, we would have agreed to it only readily.

Instead, we have a H4 prefixed to our identity and spend our daytime surfing between Food Network and brushing off dust from the coffee table. We are far away from our indulgent parents and parents-in-law who are either waiting to dote on us or preparing to criticize us. And amidst all the transition, we wonder why our identities ditched us in the cold.

The climate is another thing. We hate the cold, we just try to convince ourselves that wearing a coat and slipping on those boots were our longtime dream. We fool ourselves into thinking that New Delhi is nearly as cold as Washington DC  in winter and that the eclectic cuisines are hard to come across in India. We put our country down ignorantly while we know somewhere in our sub-conscience that we do that only to make ourselves feel better.

We know our next generation has a beautiful future in India, that the country is developing. In fact, for some reason, that is the only thing on my mind when I try to toss a Rava Dosa on a flat Dosa Tawa (instead of the concave one I am used to back at home). Yet we hold on, for we are strong, we are married and we have wonderful men who come home to us every evening with stories about Mandys, Sallys and Peters. We may still be looking for our identity, scouring craigslist.org in search of that one soul who would have a big enough heart to give us at least an internship while we try our best to ignore the judgmental comments from our India-based friends.

We try to believe it is worth all the mental strain. If it is worth it…