Monday, December 31, 2012

Chocolate Bread Loaf


"Nine out of ten people like chocolate. The tenth person always lies." - John Q. Tullius
Be Calm and Eat Chocolate.
I read this recently and thought of Ak.  Not that I don’t think of him otherwise, but this was one of those moments which made me remember how a simple object like Chocolate, can provide instant gratification. A bad day, a headache, post drink, a visit do someone’s house, ill-health or simply, post dinner- All It takes is a piece of chocolate to make Ak happy. I wish that there was something as unassuming and straightforward and effortless that would be a solution to my happiness. Women are just that much more complicated I guess. Although I was quite fixated on chocolate in the early years, as I have grown older- for some reason, my love for chocolate has reduced and I can only eat in extreme moderation. The husband, the brother and the parents however completely compensate.

So, what if one could begin their day with chocolate for Breakfast? I had eaten something similar on a trip to Italy, and this recipe that I had seen in a book on Italian cooking, had been calling out to me for months. Freezing winters, seemed to be the perfect time to test it out and hence, on a cold winter morning, I set out to bake this Chocolate Bread Loaf. I had also been graciously sent some wonderful packets of instant yeast from across the seas by SIL, of which some were still left. The recipe hence, seemed to be good use. The bread turned out to be quite wonderful, almost cakeish- but not a cake. I do think, bread-making practice would have yielded better results, as I kneaded a bit too much maybe- But those, who have delved deeply into the art of bread-making; do give this one a try. You will love it.
This chocolate bread can be a wholesome Breakfast, if toasted and served with butter or cream cheese or even post dinner, with dinner or any other meal. Traditionally in Italy, it is served with Mascarpone or Gorgonzola cheese and a glass of red wine.
p.s Bread making tips would be more than welcome.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christmas Cheer

“Blessed is the season which engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love.”

Merry Xmas.
For some reason, Christmas is a festival that I have always cherished, right through the early years of my childhood- thanks to my schooling. While the longer vacation was an added plus, the carols, the plays, the entire spirit of festivities always made that little corner in my heart extremely happy. We never really celebrated Christmas at home, but I Would make it a point to decorate my own little Christmas tree- and that itself would be extremely therapeutic. There is something about this festival, that is exceedingly modest and unpretentious; the spirit really is about the giving, about connecting, and sharing the love. (and that just sounded like the episode of Friends- where Joey is giving  his speech at Monika and Chandler’s wedding!)
Anyhow, for various logistical reasons- I don’t have a recipe to share today (even though there are a few in my drafts), But what I will share is a recent experience that I had, which I think is in line with the Festive spirit of Xmas, and of exceptionally good service. Usually, as bloggers, we get invited to review books, and restaurants and new products quite often. I know, for a fact that that the really popular bloggers, sometimes are requested for reviews almost once a week or fortnight. Sometimes, the experience is good, the products are great and then there are times, when the service is horrible or the food is just average, and one is really caught in a situation- that can end up being quite harsh. However, there are moments, when one is NOT invited for a review, but is out somewhere for a casual coffee in the middle of a weekday, meeting an old friend, and IF the service is exceptional, it really calls for a post.  The experience that I will share today- was hence, not a planned review or a post- I am quite sure that they did not expect me to blog about it, and therefore there are no pictures. But it has found its way here, because it really is symbolic of what counts as brilliant service, which many a times, one does not even get at the best of places.
           I was meeting an old friend for coffee at the 361 Coffee Shop at The New Oberoi, Gurgaon, post lunch at around 330. I had undergone some dental treatment earlier that day, and hence could not eat much. I ordered some coconut waffles and ice-cream to sooth my hurting jaw, while she ordered some Kaava, which she said was fabulous and a vegetarian quiche. As we were meeting at the odd hour post lunch, all she wanted was a small bite. The kava came, and while we were waiting for our food, the server who served us (Deepak- here onwards referred to as D), came and informed us that the vegetarian quiche would not be available until the next hour or so, and can only provide us with one that has bacon. My friend M, didn’t mind the meat, and opted for it. Another 10 minutes later, when my dessert came, we were informed that even the bacon quiche was unavailable as an unexpected guest had just picked up all the party snacks that were in the patisserie. The ‘after lunch hours’ menu was offered again, and M was asked to opt for another dish. It is worth mentioning, that the menu was extensive, but it didn’t have too many options for a smaller course for 1 person; and on a cold winter day, a salad would just not have seemed right. M was a bit unhappy at the lack of choices, and decided to skip the food altogether. The manager came and apologized, and so did D- and offered to bring her any other food that she would like. They really insisted that she picked out something. After a detailed discussion of what was available, M decided to stick to an assorted sushi platter, which would be leftovers from the lunch buffet. The sushi came quite instantly, and was really a diverse assortment- so diverse, that I hadn’t seen some of the variations. We continued to chat, whilst I was hogging on my large plate of waffles and ice-cream. Almost 15 minutes later, D came, along with a freshly baked, very appetizing quiche. The process had taken so long, that the chef had managed to bake a quiche by then- just for us. M was pleasantly surprised, but declined, as she did not have much of an appetite by then. But they insisted on her tasting it, and despite her not being too hungry, she devoured the quiche. We really felt that they had done more than their bit in offering us whatever we had wished to order and ensuring that they delivered. The experience and service had turned out to be pleasant after all. And it was all not over yet.
                 When we asked for the cheque, we were quietly informed that the payment had been taken care of. We were quite surprised, called for D, and insisted to pay. We had, after all, eaten, and got all that we had ordered for. And then, we were humbly informed that they had not been able to deliver what we had asked for- and could only do it much later than desired. These were the service standards that they subscribed to, and anything lesser, was not acceptable and did not account for 361 service.
                 For me, it is not the fact that they did not ask for money; what strikes me is that they continued to try and ensure that we got what we wanted, right till the very last minute. While some people may not find this unique, I felt special and taken care of. They stuck to the 360/361 reputation of delivering prime quality and exceptional service; something that can be easily slipped on, and cost/payment did not have a bearing on the experience and on what they offered. It is very easy for people to come back and write a stinker email to the management, and complain about the horrible experience that they have had- but it is rare for us to be grateful for when are offered a great one instead. So, here is my thanks to the 361 management, for ensuring me a wonderful afternoon; this was precisely why I had opted to be there.
            I have a concluding thought though- How often is it that we continue to strive for perfection; or deliver quality in whatever it is that we may do; or sticking to our fundamental beliefs and values? We let it slip by too often; and that maybe is just not acceptable. Here is a lesson possibly to be learnt.
Merry Xmas. Enjoy the Christmas cheer and spread the love and light.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Blueberry Crumble


“We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect.”
― Anaïs Nin
My world has been extremely hectic. From Family weddings back to back for a couple of weeks- to festivals, gift shopping, gift exchanging, all the finery and finally with travel across the seas, It has been a frenzied two months. A lot of action, a lot of thinking, a lot of doing, and yet- a lot still needs to be done.
In the midst of all of this chaos, a lot of cooking and tasting took place as well; especially, as an ode to the festive season. And of course, some wonderful dishes were concocted as a result. This recipe for a Blueberry crumble was fed to family for breakfast, lunch, evening tea (a traditional Swedish fika for our new Swedish family) and even dinner. The fika is a distinguished meal, and personally, I thought it was the perfect way to bond with family/friends and of course, eat some wonderful food in the process. More information on a traditional fika can be found here.
Coming back to the crumble, Batches were prepared, and then again, more batches were prepared. In fact even post the festivities, I made a batch yesterday again. We constantly had people over, through the course of a few days around Diwali and I don’t think I have ever used a recipe in a manner like this. Easy to prepare in advance- and all one has to do is just pop in the oven when the guests arrive. The fillings can last up to 15 days, when refrigerated. Although Blueberries are not so easily available here, I used the dried ones that my SIL had kindly sent about a month back. To get them closer to taste like the fresh ones, I usually soak them in milk for about 15 minutes, until they swell up and are ready to be used. What is remarkable about this crumble is how healthy it is. I adapted the recipe from the crumble topping by the fabulous Deeba @ Passionate about Baking- and of course, one of her recipes could never go wrong. Her crumble recipe can be found here and the filling was adapted from another of my favourite blogs- How Sweet Eats. A beautiful blog, with great writing, and of course, brilliant recipes.
The oats add just the right crunch to the moist blueberry filling and the warmth is ideal for a cold winter day. One of those flawless desserts- the flavours are precise. For variations, and if blueberries are not available, strawberries can easily be used to replace the blueberries. Served with ice-cream or whipped cream, the crumble is a delectable dessert. For anyone who loves fruity desserts and likes to serve individual dessert servings, This one is a must try- Now!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

chocolate cake shots


There are no mistakes. The events we bring upon ourselves, no matter how unpleasant, are necessary in order to learn what we need to learn; whatever steps we take, they're necessary to reach the places we've chosen to go. - Richard Bach

Life has a funny way of making one realize what is important. The old adage of not knowing what one values, unless it’s far away from them is- really- true. The last few months have made me realize the same. Only through my last trip, I have had the opportunity to apprehend what I have, how lucky I am to have it, and that despite failures and troubles- Life is good.
Sometimes one does accomplish a few Good things, even by making mistakes- and this pending recipe is in line with my thoughts, just perfect for this post.

Sometimes when you innovate, you make mistakes. It is best to admit them quickly, and get on with improving your other innovations.
Steve Jobs

And that’s exactly what I did. I had tried a new recipe for a chocolate cake- hoping to find that perfect chocolate cake. The cake turned out to be a disappointment- The taste was perfect- but it just crumbled its way through. An imperfect cake recipe, set grounds for innovation. Instead of serving it in the traditional manner, with some ice-cream, I decided to make some cake shots. For handy desserts- this is a great recipe that I will surely repeat- with hopefully a more perfect cake.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Search for the Perfect Martini - Guest Post by Ak

It's a crispy winter evening in Delhi and I am going to be stuck in front of the telly for the next couple of hours. For those who aren't in the know, today is Sunday evening and the last Formula One race of the season is on. If that wasn't motivation enough, today's race decides the 2012 F1 champion, and it's at Interlagos, Senna's home track. The championship hunt usually doesn't last all the way to the last race - the years where Schumacher was winning them back to back were so humdrum, you could literally sleep through the season. Tonight though is a close fight between Alonso & Vettel, with the odds highly favouring Vettel. I am not really writing this post to celebrate Vettel's victory or even Alonso's for that matter. It's Schumacher's last race before he retires, and while I am not a fan (I prefer Raikkonen, and Senna before him), he did win seven seasons and that surely deserves a toast.


"I never go jogging. It makes me spill my martini." George Burns

The martini is a great drink. Stories of the origin and evolution could fill volumes and they have, so I'll dispense with the mythology and the history that drunk bores go on and on about. What I would like to touch upon is the martini/manhattan relationship to the original cocktail. The word cocktail simply denotes mixed drink these days, but the cocktail was once an exact combination of sugar, water, bitters and spirit. The entire concoction was a delivery for the medicinal quality of the bitters, a combination of herbs much like achaar. They were a cornerstone of the hard working man's daily routine and helped keep away the diseases that plagued the industrial revolution. There was a lot of alcohol in the glass, typically 2oz, but it was simply to make the bitters better. Like Betty with her butter.

The availability of French & Italian vermouth from across the Atlantic really changed the cocktail scene around the turn of the century. The addition of vermouth meant that sugar was no longer required as a sweetener, and that you could add even more alcohol to your daily alcohol intake. The vermouth, being fortified, kept much longer than regular wine, which was more likely to go bad after opening. Sweeter vermouths were added to create the manhattan family of drinks and dryer vermouths created the martini family. The earlier martinis were notably vermouth heavy, presumably to mask the unappetizing notes of turn of the century spirits. However, as the quality of spirits improved, bartenders and drinkers across the world reduced the vermouth quantity to the point that Noel Coward simply waved his double shot of gin "in the general direction of Italy."

Update. We are on lap 41/71 and although Alonso is ahead, Vettel looks to win the championship on overall points. The first 10 laps were quite engaging, hence my slow speed in typing.

Gin is the primary ingredient in a martini. One of the older distilled spirits, its Christmas tree smell and clarity are distinctive. Originally a herbal medicine, Gin has evolved from its primarily naval heritage to a more sophisticated spirit that has found its way into many a modern day classic libation. I dont mind either Gordons or Bombay Sapphire in my martini, but Tanqueray is the only one that really makes it perfect. Tanqueray, although owned by Diageo, is a Scottish Gin, surely there must be something in the water up there. The folks at 12bottlebar, David & Lesley are experts on Gin History and Lesley has literally written the book on Gin. In fact, you can buy it here.

I mentioned earlier that the martini is a family and that what it really is. The purist view is that a martini is a lot of gin, a little bit of vermouth, a dash of orange bitters, served really really cold. However, like all good things, it has spawned a lot of offshoots. I have a book on martinis that list 4 chapters and 63 kinds of distinct martinis. Thankfully, the author, and I both agree somewhat on the "classic" recipe. Here it is.

3oz of Gin (Tanqueray recommended)
1/2oz of Vermouth (Noilly Prat recommended)
Dash of Orange Bitters (Angostura or Fees)

Mixing a martini is an art unto itself. You need a chilled mixing glass, large cubes of ice that don't melt as much as smaller ones and a chilled bar spoon. Add the bitters and vermouth to the ice in the mixing glass and give it about 20 seconds of stirring. A little water from the melting ice will help mix the ingredients. Add the gin, preferably from the fridge. If you're adding the gin at room temperature, you could add a little more to compensate for the melting ice that will form a sizable component of the drink, considering all the stirring you'll have to do to chill it down. That it needs to be cold is an understatement. You best keep the glass in the freezer and handle it only from the stem. Pour without ice and garnish with a couple of olives that have had the brine wiped from the surface. A thin slice of lemon zest can also be used, but in my opinion, it adds too much of a strong flavor to the drink and distracts from the herbal notes.

I am adding a video of Mr. Mori of Mori's Bar, Tokyo, making a martini. I've ordered a great many martinis and probably mixed a lot more, but this is certainly the best example I have seen to date.


Where Mori-San and I differ, is that he uses Boodles Gin. I've never used it myself, but I just love the ad. Also he free pours, something I am not yet confident of doing, opting to measure using a jigger. The distance at which he twists the lemon zest suggests he too is trying to control the amount of lemon oil that lands up on the surface of the drink and the inner surface of the glass, to avoid overpowering the drink.

Another Update. Kimi Raikkonen just went off the circuit onto part of the older layout and didn't really realize what was happening until he saw he was pretty much racing alone. What a lunatic. Reminds me of James Hunt & Duncan Hamilton. First time I've ever seen something like that in a live F1 race.

A word here on Bond. James Bond. He was Wrong. Dead Wrong.

You never shake a martini, it becomes cloudy with the ice shards. You never use vodka for a martini either, it really should taste of something besides the vermouth and the olive brine. You don't add Kina Lillet(which you can't even buy anymore), unless you want to make a Vesper. Even worse, in Skyfall, I swear I saw him have a beer, a Heinekin lager at that. The least he could have done was have a proper pint, a scottish ale perhaps.

Last Update. What a Race. Alonso finishes second in the race, just 3 points behind Vettel in the overall standings. Vettel is world champ. Toast to Adrian Newey, the man behind it all.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Travel Times

Ideas are like Pizza dough; made to be tossed around. Anna Quindlen

The news is that Communicooking has a new look. Ak, being his usual kind self has revamped the design of the Blog to be more in sync with me- Simple and clean. How I like things to be.
And to add to it, I have decided to sync the blog with what I do. And hence, a new section of Inspiring Travel times will now frequent this webspace more often. A lot of things inspire me, sometimes it is food that i eat, food that i read about, Pinterest and very often, Food that I come across on my travels. Some of them are recreated through memory, while some are researched, and attempted.
Just like Pizza, here are some travel ideas that have tossed their way into my life- and maybe will find their way into yours too. Enjoy.
 



 

   
  


Tuesday, October 9, 2012

WILD RICE WITH VEGETABLES


On a recent trip to the hills, on the way back we stopped by at one of Ak’s favourite stores- Himjoli.
No matter how often the trips are, this visit is like a visit to the Temple, that we cannot avoid. Ak loves the jams, I – the herbs. My first tasting was of their scrubs, and cosmetics, when I had initially met Ak, and now, we restrict our share to the foodie yield. Quite often, our pantry is stocked with enough of an assortment of products, despite us constantly sharing the stuff with both sides of the family. Almost, well, actually Everyone has loved the products- from the flavourings, to the jams etc. I must say, their stuff is quite good. My personal Favorite is the Himalayan Herb Salt- adds some wonderful flavors to anything and everything! The only one thing that one must be vary of, which was a tip shared with us recently, was  the date of expiry- some of the products at the store- could be expired or due to expire soon.

So, back to the last trip, Ak insisted we pick up some ‘Wild Red Rice’. Personally, I really like Brown Rice, or Wild rice, or rice in any form- But I know that a lot of people don’t appreciate the healthier forms of rice. I was quite surprised on his keenness to try it out, and hence, jumped at the opportunity to pick up a packet.

And am I glad that I did! I am a complete rice person- plain, basmati, sticky, jasmine- I could have rice every day. But with this new discovery to into the healthy rice world, I am quite pleased with the results, of a great, HEALTHY meal. So much so, that even though I had made this for the first time quite a while back, and have just managed to write down the post, I was recently asked to make it again on a sick day, as comfort food. That- I think, is a big deal, and a significant compliment to the dish.

To be honest, I didn’t test out the recipe that was written on the back of the packet. By simply adding a few vegetables, and some basic kitchen ingredients, and slow cooking it like a risotto, and a salad as an accompaniment, I think I may have a new visitor to our list of regular meals.
For all the Health Freaks- I totally recommend it.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Warm Chutneyed Baby Potatoes


My idea of heaven is a great big baked potato and someone to share it with. 
Oprah Winfrey 

I don’t like potatoes.
Don’t get me wrong, I am a complete potato chips/crisps/fries/hash browns/baked potatoes etc. addict, but I don’t like the way potatoes are used in traditional Indian Cooking, just as a side dish. For me, it disrespects the vegetable that the potato is accompanying, and of course, the potato itself. The flavors of both the vegetables end up getting compromised, and it all just doesn’t come together in my head.
It’s almost like the plight of a 25-30 year old ‘single’ girl, who without a man in company, is, kind of considered, incomplete. The thing that is missed however is that, it really is ok to be single.
And yes, that should be the life of Dear potato. We must appreciate it, and love it in its singular form!

Ak loves baby potatoes, and I kind of like them too. I usually like to use them in the form of a salad (one of the recipes can be found here), but on a day when I was making regular Indian food, with dal and rice, I thought of making something, a bit more Indian. Using some remnants of Green chutney in the fridge, I was hoping to add some zing and of course, use up the green chutney. This warm, chutneyed baby potato dish can be tried with regular potatoes too, but I think, the thin potato peel of the baby potatoes, adds a third dimension to the dish. Both my Mom, and mom-in law make something similar, with full potatoes, and this recipe I guess, is adapted from a bit of both, and is an adaptation of the traditional jeera aloo. Can be served as an easy accompaniment to Indian food, both as a main course, or as a snack as well. Enjoy!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Book Review- Chakh Le India + Blogger's Table@Veda


So this post was due to be posted on 5thSeptember; it was filed, dated and everything.
All I was waiting was for some time to test out one of the dishes from the Book- The Mango kheer. I even had 2 mangoes in the fridge and promises made to my Mom about the new recipe. Unfortunately though, after the meet, I was NOT Enthused enough to try it. Then, came the wonderful holiday, and of course, by now, it’s too late to try out a mango recipe. Sorry Mr Bal, Better Luck next time- I wish there was something in the book to inspire me to instantly test out a recipe. The original post is as follows.

The Bloggers Table has had a hectic 2 weeks; and along with that my life has been extremely social. With a packed 10 days over 3 events, I’m amazed how I didn’t know this existed till a while back. Although the first time was a bit intimidating- especially meeting people who are so good at what they do, I finally loosened up a bit at the second event. Having met this wonderful group of people, I feel there is a lot to learn, a lot to explore and a lot to discover.

This meet was at Veda, Connaught place, a fine dining Indian restaurant, run by the ever so popular Rohit Bal. The event was organized by West Midland Publishing House that has recently launched the Book Chakh Le India by Aditya Bal (Coincidentally Rohit Bal’s nephew). The event was organized for the Bloggers Table to have a tete-a-tete with Aditya on his new book. As much as we were given the book a week earlier, to be able to make a more informed review, I didn’t manage to try out a recipe before we actually met. However, I did make do by going over it from back to front.
My first thoughts were that the book is simple, intended for easy reading, and Aditya’s casual style of writing makes him really reach out to the reader. Also, the fact that it is based on a TV show, my initial reaction was that it would be a good buy for people who follow the show regularly. The introductory chapters are fun to read, But, on going through it in detail, The photographs were not enticing enough and the recipes- well, without the photographs, I am not sure how many I would end up trying. Hailing from a publishing background, where I do this on a daily basis, I do feel that the real reason why pick up books, especially cookbooks are for their glossiness and the tempting photographs which would entice one to try out the recipe. In this case, there was none. It seems to be just another book off the shelf, which may actually just get lost in a bookshop, unless Mr Bal decides to actively promote it on his show!
The event though, was fun; he is a simple man, a novice at this, who found himself amidst a few people, who really knew what they were talking about. The chat over some wonderful, famous Palak Chaat and Kurkuri Bhindi at Vedaa, went beyond the book itself. I think the evening was a great reality check for all of us- some of the people on the table I assume would be writing books soon! It was good reminder for all of us - to keep that Quality check in control, rather not do it, than do it without your heart. Aditya however was extremely positive about feedback, and I would want to wish him luck. The publishing business is a tough one- and I experience that daily- it’s a pity, but if I was to go ahead, I would just self-publish. But that’s a personal opinion. Wonder though, if out of the many books I plan to write- will a cook book be one?
Sadly though, beyond the above mentioned dishes- the food was not worth talking about. In fact, the Gobhi Manchurian- Well, it tasted of ‘more flour than cauliflower.’ Hats off to Aditya and the Bloggers Table to keep the conversation going- and to create an event that was a lot of fun and learning. Looking forward to a few more. The book is kinda lost on me now; am not so enthused to try a recipe, but maybe will test out one sometime in the future. Good Luck Mr Bal.
p.s Apologies for the shaky photographs- The lighting @veda was extremely dim!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Communicooking Salad- with love to Feta

One year.
I didn’t realize that my blog has turned one.
I missed a True Anniversary. That ought to have been celebrated.

My first post was on August 22 last year, when after a late night baking session, and many conversations about why I should have a blog, Ak decided to not wait for a yes from me, but instead go ahead and just do it. Yes, he thought of the name (of course, we discussed it), setup the blog, and even clicked the photographs, while I was baking. All I had to do was to write, and of course, cook. Those were the good old days! Sigh.
I have come a long way since then. Today, I cook, and then suddenly remember that I want to click as well. I rush to get my camera, and then realize it’s late.  I am a true believer in ‘process’ and then, I realize that I had to shoot before the last mixing step. Or had to capture a shot of the fancy ingredient before I decided to add it to the bowl. Or that I had to capture it without mixing it with another ingredient etc. And then there are times when I realize after the complete documentation of the process, that I have served the dish without documenting the ‘final product’. Yes, it has been a learning all the way, and yes, I am still discovering.

Since the inception of the blog, I have almost always, been sheepish about it. Including the times when someone at work told me of a moment when they discovered me/the blog on Google images- accidently, or each time, when someone much older/experienced appreciates my cooking skills, when I become a part of the Bloggers Table or the fact that I get called to judge a cooking competition at a school. I am still very shy- yes, and each time I wonder, Really? Me? So much so, that I only updated the 'Me' section very recently. 

But with any luck, I will learn.

Parenting, we all know is a tough job, and this blog baby was not planned. Hopefully, I will get better at it, and with all the late nights and the managing with work life balance, I hope to not disappoint you Communicooking in its growing up years. Thank you Ak- for being the Guinea pig to all my experiments, for always encouraging me, for withstanding all my anxiety about this blog and making me take that one extra step- forward. For making me do this.

A celebratory recipe is due.

This recipe was yet another test that Ak was subjected to- with my love for Feta, this is my version of a Twisted Greek Salad, inspired by one of Martha Stewarts' here. I am sure like all mothers, both of ours  would think of him as  a tormented child, being fed something that doesn’t quite suffice as a meal- He as usual was a sport, and his love for salads was hopefully not compromised. I served it with Special Seekh Kebabs and bread. Given the occasion, all that was missing was some wine J

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Bloggers Table Review- Italia, New Delhi

Life has a brilliant way to demonstrate some action in one’s life. Sometimes, one fails to see the signals, while, on other occasions, they hit you- bang- in your face. If you read my recent post (about almost giving up on the blog!), this one may come as a shocker; I have decided not to- at least not just yet. Ironically, while I had just finished posting a recent post, I got invited to be a part of the Blogger’s Table, and well, after much resistance from my confused inner self, I decided to go ahead, not give up just yet. And I am quite glad, I didn’t. This is my first post as a part of the Blogger’s Table; thank you all for having me as a part of this.
The event was the launch of a summer menu at Italia, DLF Promenade, New Delhi and they were kind enough to host a table for the big, chatty bunch of us as part of their upcoming Olive Festival. Italia is an extremely warm and cosy, Italian restaurant by the Park Group, amidst the very busy mall. In my daily life, it actually holds a very special place in my heart, with some fond memories. Being close to home, me and Ak actually frequent it quite often. The evenings are usually, simple, with excellent, luscious food and a classic ambience.  Their outdoor terrace is perfect for winter evenings, and the interiors are elegantly done- great to celebrate pleasurable occasions. Hence, to be invited for a special tasting menu, was an opportunity I grabbed.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Crostini with Caramelized Onion, Feta and Rocket


It’s amazing how versatile the onion is. Or rather I should specify- the Red Onion. Yes, the epitome of Stink-The wonderful red onion. I never knew the concept of Red Onion, until my stint in the UK a few years ago. In our part of the world, Onions were always red or green, aren’t they?
Yes, they make you cry, but what the heck- the flavor I have discovered over time, is surely worth it. The tangy flavor, which I sometimes remove (by soaking cut onion in water for about 10 minutes), is in essence quite wonderful, and for those who despise it, there is news- Onions are good cures for colds (Wikipedia) and are quite useful as flavoring agents.

Well, it was only once I started to cook Indian food often enough, I discovered the difference between the varieties of onion, except just red and green. I figured, how some traditional Indian dishes cannot just be made, using anything else except for red onions. The white onion simply isn’t flavorful enough for its usage in traditional Indian cooking. It was tough, (and expensive) to find good red onions in the heart of where I stayed, but soon enough we realized that food such as the traditional dal with tadka or baingan ka bharta just wouldn’t be the same without the beloved red onion. And therefore, we would stash bags of onions at our home and use them all the time, everywhere. Initially, when I started cooking, I would keep the red onion away from international cuisines, but as I started to experiment, I soon realized that I just needed to pair it well. This dish is my favorite form of the Red Onion – in a cuisine other than Indian. An interesting twist is the caramelization, which adds to the colour as well. I had always thought that caramelized onions are tough to do, but as I learnt from Martha Stewart, the trick really is to cook them slowly. The icing on the cake for this dish is its pairing with 2 of my other favorite ingredients- Feta and Rocket. Am not sure if it is unique, but what I do know is that the blend is absolutely harmonious- I usually drool at the thought of either of these 2 ingredients, and paired together, surely results in bliss. Try at your own risk.

p.s. RB, if you are reading this, for the love of Onions-  this post is for you.
p.p.s. Totally directed by a whim of mine, I’m glad my audience@ 261 enjoyed these as much as I did.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Baked Broccoli and Babycorn


Its unfathomable, how my mind flutters so much. Sometimes I truly believe in my ‘dual zodiac nature’ that describes me as a person getting bored quickly, of anything and everything. I think I have more often posted about how I don’t know where this blog is headed, than posted about real blog stuff. Yes, one can easily predict that the reason I haven’t posted in the last few weeks (despite having a ready documented dish in drafts), is because I have been thinking and re-thinking the blog. Honestly, despite my resolutions to write more, I struggle to stay convinced. Yes, I have been caught up with work, family and so much stuff happening, but I know that’s hardly reason enough to not do this. Today, as I write this, I am almost feeling guilty for not wanting to do this at all. Am not 100% there yet, but I think I am going to try.
This post is about some of the cooking that took place at our abode, in the last month; some of it extremely simple at the end of a hard day, some of it quite “ironchefy” (I quote the 13 year old RB) such as the fancy lemonade (recipe coming soon, courtesy RB), some to remind us of the good things we enjoyed as kids (and don’t indulge in anymore as adults) - such as Jello, which I re-discovered is an art in itself, especially, to remove from the cases, and some to purely enjoy good food. The Baked broccoli and corn dish is one of my all-time favourite- its simplicity is what makes it a pleasure, to cook and eat as well.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Classic Chocolate Chip Cookies- Guest post by RB


If I had to sum up my life’s current state in three words, they would be; ‘An Eventful Life’
Trying hard to maintain a work-life balance, I feel a bit scattered, with numerous things happening; lots of projects up in the air, too much work with no help at all, and family over for holidays. The good part is that I love all of it. After a tough work day, what would be better than having some homemade cookies? Together with the nieces, we baked classic chocolate chip cookies. The old adage of ‘Too many cooks spoiling the broth’ was proven entirely wrong; there were 3 of us baking while Ak was busy clicking away! We had a really good time baking and the cookies turned out delicious- fresh, just the right amount of sweet and extremely crunchy. I would totally recommend a batch. The icing on the cake is that the 12 year old RB has decided to a Guest Post on this one, while the 9 year old NB, has worked on the photographs. What better way to cook and communicate!

Hi everybody- I'm RB and this is first guest post. I hope you like it! A little bit about me and NB- We love cooking and watching shows like Masterchef Australia and Food Network Star. I had an epic baking session together with NB and the chocolate chip cookies turned out ''classic''. Chocolate chip cookies are not only one of my absolute  holiday time favorite- they are a year-round favourite. Believe it or not- Choco chip cookies were an accidental creation by Ruth Graves Wakefield in 1930, the owner of toll house.
Well- enough facts for now. Here are some things that are pretty interesting.
Did you know that you consume about 35,000 cookies in your lifetime? Well, you must be thinking- wow I better cut down on cookies. Well, fear no more. 
Because the chocolate chip recipe I am posting today is pretty healthy! Bon Appetit!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Pistachio Kulfi


Summers are wonderful for the ‘cool’ stuff they offer. By cool, I really mean chilly, frosty and icy.
Tis’ the perfect weather to sit indoors, in front of the TV with a tubful of ice-cream or maybe read a book; Simple indulgences that we deprive ourselves of in the rut of daily life. Gone are those days of summer vacations or days off, when one would just relax for a few days, without an agenda. This is a true luxury that most often I can’t or rather do not grant myself- yes, I am one of those people who is almost slightly, unfortunately stuck in ‘the busy trap’. (Must read this article here ).
p.s. Note to myself about the New Year resolution.

Coming back to ice-cream, since the family is visiting, and there is a lot of eating out and stashing of goodies at home, I decided to try out my mum’s tried and tested recipe for kesar pista kulfi (traditional Indian ice-cream with saffron and pistachios). I am an ardent kulfi fan and this recipe has been playing on my mind forever. Having loads of pistachios at home in our dry fruit reserve, this seemed to be a good use for the same. Traditional Kulfi is a dessert from the Indian region and is almost like ice-cream, except that it is richer and creamier. Its original form is with pistachios and saffron, and has more contemporary variations with fruits such as apples and strawberries. Being a frozen dessert, it can be made using a regular ice-cream maker, or the conventional technique of freezing, thawing, blending and re-freezing to avoid any crystallization. I prefer this particular recipe, because it is absolutely pure- made of milk, and does not have any gelatin or condensed milk as thickening agents. This recipe uses the traditional technique of slow cooking milk to make it thicker; infact the recipe is quite similar to the rice pudding or kheer recipe found here.

The recipe was a success; and it was one of those rare days when I knew it would be J. Most often, I am wondering how the results would turn out, but with this recipe and the memories of mom making it every summer, I could taste it even when it was cooking, knowing that this one would not fail. The time-honored kulfi is the perfect dessert for a busy, hot summer day; one should surely have a stock, hoarded away in the fridge.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Cous Cous Salad with Mixed Peppers


It was only when started working on this post did I realize that I am in love with peppers; yes, the red, green and yellow variety. In the last less than a year of me writing this blog, and me cooking/documenting a lot, I have made a lot of dishes with peppers and repeatedly. I am surprised people around me haven’t killed me yet. But then again, maybe, it is the prettiness and varied nature of the peppers and for some, the healthy aspect that prevents us from getting bored. In fact, I also realized, that there are so many recipes that I haven’t even documented, but I guess they will find their way in soon.

Today’s post is Cous Cous with mixed peppers. I have always loved Cous Cous and now, it is a regular on our dinner menu. Couscous is a North African semolina dish that is traditionally served with a stew or accompanied with vegetables. Extremely simple to make and very, very versatile, Cous Cous is available in dried, instant form, and can be cooked and is ready to eat in under 5 minutes. Even though it resembles pasta, it is much and is among the healthiest grain-based products. It has a superior vitamin profile to pasta, and In terms of protein, couscous has 3.6 g for every 100 calories, equivalent to pasta, and well above the 2.6 g for every 100 calories of white rice. Furthermore, couscous contains a 1% fat-to-calorie ratio, compared to 3% for white rice, 5% for pasta etc. (Source: Wikipedia)

Now that I have justified the wonderful qualities of Cous Cous, how about an actual recipe? This is a great summer salad; can be had warm or cold, and variations can be adopted. I served it as an accompaniment to some bread and pasta with mushrooms in white sauce- however, I am sure its a much healthier meal, just by itself.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Cocktail Sausages

A wise woman puts a grain of sugar into everything she says to a man, and takes a grain of salt with everything he says to her.                                                                                                                                      Helen Rowland

The food world is a funny place to be; a little bit of sugar suddenly makes the world a much nicer place. 
A little maple syrup on waffles, Honey on pancakes, a simple chocolate cake, and even some honey in a cheesy dip, can ironically make the world seem not so bad after all. Comfort food, as I keep rambling about, becomes a lot more comfortable, with a dash of sugar in it. Especially if you are coming from the family where I come from, where every meal must end with something sweet to eat (including breakfast, lunch and dinner- and dinner sometimes followed by 2-3 courses of dessert), and married to a man, whose day is excelled by means of an additional piece of chocolate or a spoonful of ice-cream, for me- not having a sweet tooth IS IMPOSSIBLE. For some reason though, over a period of time, my craving for sugar has reduced, and with me getting only older with time- I assume it’s just good for me.

I come from a family, where sausages are actually considered unhealthy; pork sausages that is. Having pork sausages at home was a luxury. However I developed a taste, or rather a love for sausages during my stint in London, and since then it is a relationship that I am sure will last forever. I use more of the chicken variety now; makes no difference to my life- but I yes, psychologically, I just feel less guilty. The versatility of the sausage is brilliant- for breakfast, lunch or dinner, sausages accompanied with ANYthing including a slice of bread can lead to a satisfying meal.


I do adore food. If I have any vice it's eating. If I was told I could only eat one food for the rest of my life, I could put up with sausage and mash forever.                                                                                                 Colin Baker

The recipe that I am sharing today is one that has been pending forever; not because I didn’t have the time to post it, but simply because I never documented it. It is the perfect blend of two of my favourite ingredients. 
I had stumbled across this recipe on Nigella’s website (Original Recipe can be found here) soon after I got married. Ak calls this our ‘House Specialty’; the Cocktail Sausages and the recipe finds its way into our meals quite often. In fact, I never even though about posting it, since I made it so often. I have tested it out on multiple occasions, with a variety of guests; young and old, meat eaters and the no-red meat eaters, "I like chicken only" people and many others; and each time the recipe was a big success. Most often in fact, there is not even a single piece left. It goes well as an appetizer and I have often made it as an accompaniment to a main course as well.  The best part is that, it can be made well ahead of time; the longer the sausages are marinated for, the better the flavours are- sweet, sticky and savoury.Thank you Nigella for this wonderful, really easy recipe.

p.s Must Try this recipe with Chili Flavored Sausages- the addition of the spice takes the recipe to another world altogether!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Double Chocolate Hot Fudge Sundae Cake

Decadence: A literary movement especially of late 19th-century France and England characterized by refined aestheticism, artifice, and the quest for new sensations.

This post is about true decadence and self-indulgence. A Tough one for me to pander to, especially when it comes to food; my indulgences are more often to do with clothes and shoes or travel J and that usually leaves me feeling content enough and rejuvenated. There are very few food items that make me feel indulgent- Cookies and Cream ice-cream, being one and variety in food, of course. For Ak however, it’s simple- All it takes is a piece of chocolate. Anything brown is sufficient to coddle the taste buds. Come sickness or health, good times or bad- a piece of chocolate caters to all moods.

About a week back, my sis-in-law and the nieces sent me a recipe for a double chocolate fudge cake, as a must-do for Ak. They had tested it out- and of course, had loved it; hence the recommendation. The cake recipe is a mix of coffee and chocolate, and it seemed to me as the perfect end to a weekend. Thus, I began the act of indulgence- post dinner, on a Sunday night. To give me company in the act, Ak tried out the Manhattan Cocktail. To coincide with the really hot summer day, Brown became the colour of the evening.
A couple of really wonderful things about the recipe; it is literally a 1 pan and 1 cup task, it is eggless, the blend of coffee and chocolate is perfect etc. Last but not the least, I think it would be a great dessert serving for a larger gathering, if done in individual portions- I may try that soon. It really is so simple, that at moments like this I realize- simple pleasures in life are not tough to achieve.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Italiano Grilled Peppers


It’s the peak of summers. Hot and Dry. This weather drains me out completely. Work is at an all time peak- and I feel scattered. Almost feeling disorganized- Very unlike the 'ocd'ish me.

This post has been pending for a couple of weeks. In reality, in fact, it may have been due for a few months- the fact being that this recipe has been tried and tested, many a times over. It is one of my essential favorites and we make it quite often.  These are grilled peppers with Italian flavors, but I do make an oriental version as well, which I will post about another time. The recipe is such, that even people, who don’t like peppers, are tempted by its colourful, enticing aesthetic.

Bell Peppers or Sweet Peppers or simply peppers are one of the most versatile vegetables; they can be eaten raw, steamed, grilled, cooked, stuffed and even baked.  I love peppers in all forms, except the Indian style maybe, which is with potatoes- and that’s probably because I am not a big fan of potatoes. Peppers, especially the red ones, have extremely high nutritional value, especially Vitamin C; in fact, one large red bell pepper contains 209 mg of vitamin C, which is three times the 70 mg of an average orange (Source: Wikipedia). The difference between the three is however not much. Red peppers are merely completely ripened green peppers. These are the sweetest of the variety, and the green ones have a slightly bitter taste. Hence, a combination of the three is a good blend of flavours. This post was a part of a recent dinner for my cousins; where the focus was on assorted food, and since I was the only one cooking, I decided to make some simple, handy recipes. The ingredients here can be mixed and kept well ahead of time; it is grilled/sautéed for a couple of minutes just before serving.

A charming technique to dress up the dinner table!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Little Balls of Heaven- Guest Post by Ak

As the saying goes, sometimes the best things come in small sizes. Fortunately for me, being the lesser talented cook in the relationship, they are also easy to make and very useful for scoring the occasional brownie points with family. We have a penchant for entertaining, and take it very seriously - lists & menus are drawn up days in advance, and although my contribution is usually limited, this time I happened to be home during the afternoon when all the chaos action was taking place. The occasion was the anniversary of my in-laws and although there were already 2 desserts planned and in process, I decided that some amount of chocolate & alcohol was also in order.

Rum balls seemed like the perfect thing to do for multiple reasons. We had all the ingredients readily available, the lovely online lady suggested I would be done in a matter of minutes and much of the work could be done outside the kitchen, which looked like a war zone. So, even though this is traditionally a Christmas time treat, & we are approaching peak summer in Delhi, this combined two of the most potent entertaining ingredients in the world, what could go wrong? I got right to it.

I finely blended some whole almonds, toasted them - easy peasy till I realized I should have done it the other way round, but I assume it couldn't have made much difference. Next were the biscuits, also in the blender, till I had them in crumbs. Having access to all of my wife's awesome baking stuff was useful - measuring cups, cocoa, castor sugar - you name it, it was there. Added the honey (substituted for the originally suggested corn syrup) & the Rum (I used gold rum, not white). Gave the whole thing a little mixing and voila, I had the batter ready. These are no-bake, so they are essentially candies and I thought I was essentially done. I popped it into the fridge to let it set and become a little less sticky. I also found some 3/4" cupcake liner baking paper cups(there is probably a better way to describe them) that we had picked up from IKEA that seemed like the perfect receptacles. I had visions of guests squabbling over the last ones and comparing them to Anthon Berg liqueur chocolates..

Monday, May 14, 2012

4000

Communicooking has hit 4000 views today.
I think that is reason enough to celebrate. :)

Monday, May 7, 2012

Mango Mousse



A king asked a sage to explain the Truth. In response the sage asked the king how he would convey the taste of a mango to someone who had never eaten anything sweet. No matter how hard the king tried, he could not adequately describe the flavor of the fruit, and, in frustration, he demanded of the sage "Tell me then, how would you describe it?" The sage picked up a mango and handed it to the king saying "This is very sweet. Try eating it!"

Summers are here. 
The good part is that the layers are off- but more recently- I have discovered that this is my not so favorite time of the year. The peak of the allergy season, the health issues, and there is a dull limp in the air that just seems to bring everyone/everything down? Where is the freshness of summer like it used to be?

However, one of the nicer things about summer is the Mangoes. Luckily, being in Delhi, we get the best variety of mangoes through the year, and that is something I truly cherish about the summers. And, I am one of those people who can eat a mango a day to keep the doctor away! My childhood training from Dad, has me equipped to recognize the variety of mangoes available, the time of the year they come in and how best to eat them. We had a stash of wonderful alphonso mangoes, which I utilized quite aptly, if I may say so- in the form of a mango mousse. Alphonso mangoes come from the western India belt, and are known for their pulpy nature and a dark yellow colour. I have come to learn over many years, that the best use of an Alphonso is in the form of a milk shake. In more recent times, I have used it for a mango cheesecake and icecream too- truly, it is a fruit to be used in its pulpy form.

We had a formal dinner for my K side of the family- and I planned to utilize the fruits available for desserts. Since it was my parents anniversary as well, A cake was planned along with some sort of a shot dessert helping. I went in for the strawberry shortcake, for its fanciful look, and decided to use the mangoes for a mango mousse. The recipe is adapted from the Chocolate Mousse here. Original can be found here. I have never had such wonderful feedback for a dessert that was literally made in about 20 minutes. Even people who don’t have a sweet tooth- could not stop raving. This dessert is a definite recommendation for a light sweet bite!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Egg Salad Open Sandwiches




Today is Good Friday.
Yes, I am well aware of the goodness of all Fridays, but today really is ‘The Good Friday’, just before Easter Sunday. Last year, On Easter Sunday, we were at the Vatican; that is really one of the rare moments in my life. Ahh- I miss the travels already. With so much activity buzzing around Easter, all the Easter egg preparations, the egg hunt and other activities globally, I have been feeling morally inclined to contribute my bit to the festivities. Having studied in a Christian school throughout, I feel quite connected and aware of the rituals, and rather enjoy them actually. On the contrary, I quite miss the real Christmas buzz- beyond the party season that runs through Delhi. I looked around a bit for some egg colouring, in order to try some devilled easter eggs, but my hunt started late.
                Having had limited options at hand, I decided to wake up early (rather just in good time!) on Friday morning and make some interesting eggy breakfast instead, in order to celebrate Easter. I am not much of an egg person, and from what I have understood, neither is Ak. Although it is quite ironic, that the first thing that I ever cooked @261 for Ak, was of course, an egg for Breakfast. For me, an egg is good for any other meal, except breakfast; Baked eggs, Scrambled (Indian, The traditional English style, Mexican…), etc. I am happy to have eggs for dinner. In the last year or so, with various minor health concerns, in order to be healthy and improve my food habits, I am going to allow Mr Egg to come into my life, more often. Coming back to the post, to celebrate Easter Style, I made Egg Salad Open Sandwiches. I had read this post by David Lebovitz a couple of months ago, and there was something so classic about this simple post- that it had been playing in my mind. I was travelling then, and didn’t get an opportunity, and it was only now, that I finally had eggs to play with, I decided to give this a shot. What I love about David’s cooking is the simplicity and perfect blend of flavours. Am an ardent fan, and the perfect-ness of this recipe, has only made it better from here on.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

The Dense Chocolate Loaf Cake


This is what baking, what all of this book, is about: feeling good, wafting along in the warm, sweet smelling air, unwinding, no longer being entirely an office creature; and that’s exactly what I mean by ‘comfort cooking’. Nigella Lawson

It was as if the book was calling out to me. It was as if it was my life, or then again, maybe I am just one of the many millions who feel this way about baking. The waft of vanilla, the folding in of the batters, the layering of the cakes- nothing but True Bliss. 
CommuniCooking has resumed with some real cooking- or should I say comfort cooking.
This post is long due-it is the inaugural post of one of the 1 year gifts, in continuation to the earlier ones here;
This will probably be one of the most treasured gifts-ever and hopefully, will embark me on a journey towards being marginally domestic, if not the goddess herself. From the book, Nigella Lawson’s; “How to be a Domestic Goddess: Baking and the art of Comfort Cooking”, here comes this really special post, and with a bit of luck, a lot more culinary pleasure in the days to come.
                 Additionally, this post is special, as it is the 25th Post on this blog. It may not seem special to many, but really to achieve this landmark on my very own blog- I am amazed at myself. Despite the numerous occasions, when I have thought I will not come back to the blog, and the many times, when in a tearing rush, I forget that I was supposed to photograph what I had just cooked- this blog has reached 25 posts. And that is reason enough to celebrate. Further, with over 3200 views, I am a happy child. I guess, there are people who are reading this- I may not have engaged with many- but statistics are proof of an audience for my lil’ blog.
                I have spent a lot of time contemplating, and wondering what should the first recipe from this book be? I have spent months thinking, going through it again and again- the fact is that I wanted the first recipe to be something - perfect for Ak. It’s a tough one. I realised, that I had actually spent weeks and months, just thinking- Why wasn’t I able to crack it?!First it was the weddings, then travel, then navratras- my excuses had to stop; I had almost started to feel guilty. My initial choice was kept aside (it involves some days of preparation- but it will be here soon!), and I decided to settle in for a classic- The Dense Chocolate Loaf Cake. According to Ak, Nothing beats a Brown, unadulterated chocolate cake. The chocolate chapter in Nigella’s book also begins with this cake- she thinks this cake is the essence of all that is desirable in chocolate.
The results were true to the words. This cake really is the essence of a chocolate cake; simple, classic and a chocolate lover’s delight. I think it could be less sugary and more chocolaty though; however it is The perfect cake for any celebration :) With a little more practice- I may get it just right.



Monday, March 12, 2012

Communicooking on Holiday

Post my very long hiatus in the web world, I am back. Communicooking has been on holiday.
A great new year, big Punjabi weddings, extremely hectic, chaotic work schedules, travel plans organization and finally a long holiday- and now some post-holiday blues. Back- with some renewed and fresh perspective. Travelling always does that to me; it gives me so much free time to think- outside of my habitual life that I come back with new thoughts, new realizations, insight and ideas. Often, I wonder, that my mind would go bonkers if travelling was my 365 day occupation! So much to see, so much to absorb, and so much to aspire for- and the hangover usually results in so much to do! My New Year and NY resolutions should only begin with a long Holiday (Hint for Ak!)- I think holidays make me a better person.

No man needs a vacation so much as the person who has just had one. Elbert Hubbard 
One big resolution on this holiday is to not fall into the rut of my life; I will actually do all those things that I keep thinking I will do (it includes exercising, being more healthy, reading and writing- the music too shall definitely happen!). Communicooking will not stop- and will become more meaningful. Everything that I aspire for will actually happen. Keeping the above in mind- communicooking will also see more than just food. This post is hence, not about a recipe, but about nostalgia- vis-à-vis the last holiday. (A censored version though :))
  • Snow and London; J I am definitely going there sometime soon.
  • Architecture and Good Buildings; Despite my usual angst against architects, the awesomeness of great architecture is breathtaking.
  • The Brilliance of Good Design and Detailing. From cutlery, to tableware, to the restaurant and the building of course- good design really makes a difference to the experience.
  • The US really is the land of Good Food. Beyond the portion sizes of course, the availability of ingredients, the quality, the freshness- it’s a pity that our best stock usually gets exported internationally and we do not get to savour most of it. I thoroughly enjoyed the cooking, despite being on Holiday, because it is simply a delight, to have all the options available. Blueberries, water chestnuts, pecan nuts, beef pastrami, the many, many varieties, of deli food- desserts, breads, hummus, cheeses, leaves and herbs, are just a few to be named. Salads, Blueberry Muffins, Mixed berry tarts, pasta, and Thai food were just some of the recipes I tested. Unfortunately, there are no photographs- the food finished even before I thought of documenting it! By the time we left Dallas, a part of me wanted to pack the berries, and bring back for another round of baking.
  • Seafood ain’t that bad- I have been off seafood for a few years now, mainly due to bad case of food poisoning on vacation, but this time, from Day 1, when the SIL had made some shrimp curry (was wonderful- I must add!), I encouraged myself to give Mr Seafood one more try to be a part of my life. Yes, we will take our own time, and would like to take it slow, but someday we could be friends again. (Thanks to the Calamari date!)
  • Some recommendations for Restaurants:
Ghengi’sGrill- A Cook your own grill/ mongolian Stir Fry. The concept is to create your own dish, casual dining and I personally thought it was a lot of fun, and good food!
Grimaldi’s Pizza- Originally NY, although we had ours in Dallas!
Five Guys- for the Best Beef Burgers- Ever (although I couldn’t eat for an entire day after that)
  • Brussel Sprouts are wonderful. Anyone visiting NY must go to Alta (east village). It’s a Tapas place, slightly expensive, but the food is superb. The Brussel Sprouts were so good, that Ak convinced me to try the recipe- Was a super hit- and I am more convinced about their yumminess quotient, as the 12 year old couldn’t stop eating them, even post dinner! I saw her picking the remnants before she moved back to her room and I am sure I will be making this more often. Post coming soon!
  • The NY Street Pretzels are worse than ever! So don’t be touristic, and pick one up from a bakery instead!
  • Starbucks- Yes, I rediscovered my love for Starbucks on our trip, and AM SO Glad that they are coming to India.
  • I also discovered that I cannot have enough of Tex- Mex!
  • Nothing like a Hot Krispy Kreme, just off the counter! A must visit when the sign says “Hot now”! (I had always had them with fresh, but never- just cooked! Simply an experience- and a must do, if one ever crosses this lit sign) 
I am sure there are a 100 other things that I have forgotten. The trip was wonderful- great hospitality, and had a brilliant time with family/friends. Thank you to all those who made it happen! I am now suffering from extreme post-holiday blues. Will recover with some communicooking soon!

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