Baked Chole

I’m a big fan of baking. Great taste, minimal clean-up. This is a recipe that my mother in-law makes often. Given that we learned this recipe over a year ago, it’s clearly long overdue.

Anyway – hope you enjoy. This is something you can make ahead of time and plow through the course of a week. The combination of flavors in this recipe is bold and amazing.

 

P.S. Apologies for not updating this blog – life has gotten very busy!

Recipe

Serving Size (2-4 people)

Estimated time: 2 hours (30 minutes prep, 1.5 hours cooking)

Ingredients:

  • 2 19 oz cans of of garbanzo beans, rinsed
  • 1 medium red onion
  • 1 medium tomato
  • ¼ cup ginger
  • 2 jalapenos
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1.5 tablespoons garam masala (home made)
  • 1 tablespoon Punjabi chole (chana) masala powder
  • 2 tablespoons amchoor powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground red cayenne pepper
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter

What You’ll Need:

  • medium mixing bowl
  • casserole or baking pan

Directions:

  1. Slice vegetables – red onion, tomatoes, ginger, jalapenos – into thin strips 2-3” long. Mix and set aside in a bowl.
  2. In a separate bowl, combine all spices – salt, garam masala, chole masala, amchoor powder, red pepper – and set aside.
  3. Heat oil in a pot on medium/high heat. Add cumin seeds and toast for a few minutes
  4. Add rinsed chickpeas to the pot and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally (lower heat if you notice the chickpeas to be burning)
  5. Spray oven roasting pan with PAM
  6. Prepare an assembly line of chickpeas, spices and vegetables to begin layering
  7. Create at least 2 layers in following order: chickpeas, spices, vegetables, spices – create 2-4 of these layers (depending on the dimensions of your pot).
  8. Cut butter into small pieces and place butter on top of chickpea mixture
  9. Cover with foil and let rest at room temperature for 1 hour
  10. Preheat oven to 375 F
  11. Bake chickpeas for 1 hours, covered
  12. Remove aluminum foil, lower to 350 F and cook for another 20 minutes

Grilled Vegetable Salad

This recipe is a replica of a meal I recently had at a restaurant down in West Palm Beach, FL.

I found myself down in FL this past week for an impromptu getaway. A recent job switch provided me with a rare opportunity to have some time off in between jobs and it just so happened that a friend of mine had decided to extend a bachelor party into a golf trip.  Invitation at hand, it didn’t take long for me to book that flight.

The first day I arrived – after a long day of golfing in the Floridian sun – we grabbed dinner across the street from our hotel at a swanky restaurant that was all but deserted (must be the ‘off-season’). Having spent the day in the grueling sun, my appetite was MIA. I wanted something light yet fulfilling. Upon the waitress’ recommendation, I went with the Grilled Vegetable Salad which hit the spot. I loved everything about it – the crunchy texture of the asparagus, smooth avocado and pop of color from the tomatoes. All on a bed of lettuce that was more of a prop than an ingredient. Best part about this salad was that it was COLD! The veggies were cooked but cooled down – this further accentuated the light and healthy nature of the dish.

Recipe

Serving Size (2 people)

Estimated time: 30 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 bunch asparagus
  • 2 medium sized tomatoes
  • 1 ripe avocado
  • 1 piece of squash or zucchini
  • 4 large leaves of romaine lettuce
  • 1/2 cup of corn
  • juice of 1 lemon or lime
  • drizzle of olive oil
  • splash of red wine vinegar
  • salt & pepper

What You’ll Need:

  1. grill, wok or pan

Directions:

  1. since I don’t have an outdoor grill, I cooked my veggies indoors on a stove top using a cast iron pan. simply cut the squash into 1/2″ cubes and asparagus into 1″ strips. cook the veggies in a pan for about 3-5 minutes, adding the corn in at the end (2-3 minutes after the other veggies). you can either use fresh corn on the cob (just cut the corn off the cob first) or frozen. make sure to season the veggies along the way with salt & pepper
  2. meanwhile, cube tomatoes into 1/2″ pieces, making sure to discard the inside of the tomatoes. cube the avocado into 1/2″ pieces, too
  3. once the veggies are done cooking, transfer them into a bowl. immediately place the bowl into an ice bath (i.e. larger bowl filled with ice) to cool veggies to room temp
  4. once grilled veggies are cooled, mix them together with tomatoes and avocado
  5. season with salt / pepper and dress with a drizzle of olive oil, squeeze of lemon or lime and a splash (1-2 teaspoons) of red wine vinegar
  6. mix and serve on a bed of lettuce (2 pieces per serving)

French Macarons

Our recent trip to Paris introduced me to one of the sweetest delicacies I’ve ever had the pleasure of eating – French macarons. These are not to be mistaken with (coconut based) macaroons, which too are delicious but a completely different beast.

I didn’t actually come across these ornate treats until our second day in the City of Lights when we walked up Champs Elysees and discovered a cool boutique Parisian cafe called Laduree (which, as I quickly  realized, is world renown).

The irony in my latest food obsession is the fact that I didn’t even care to try them at first. Tania was hungry and got herself a croissant at Laduree. I was in the mood for something different and opted for a box of 8 macarons (which are NOT cheap!). Expecting a stale shelled pastry, I was pleasantly surprised by the complexion and texture of these macarons. A firm outer shell followed by a smooth and sweet interior and cool and firm filling…mmmmmmm.

Upon landing back in the US, the challenge was on – I was determined to replicate the Laduree’s Parisian macarons! Worst case, if my attempts failed, I had an alternate plan of buying them at the recently opened Laduree store on the Upper East Side (for $3 per piece!).

After days of research and a few attempts, I am here to share the best technique for macaron making. As it turned out, macarons are difficult to make and temperamental if you don’t follow the right directions. One wrong move and you’re done.

The internet is an amazing resource but also filled with ALOT of information. In all of my research, I found the following three sites to be the best resources in macaron making: FoodNouveau, Tartlette, and Not So Humble Pie.

Recipe

Serving Size (40-50 cookies)

Estimated time: 1 hours

Ingredients:

  • 100g egg whites (aged 24 hours) – this measurement comes out to 2-3 eggs
  • 30g sugar
  • 5g dehydrated egg white powder
  • 125g almond meal/flour
  • 220g powdered sugar (high quality)

What You’ll Need:

  • scale
  • baking sheet
  • parchment paper
  • hand or stand mixer
  • mixing bowls
  • sifter / mesh sieve
  • pastry piping bag and round tip

Directions:

  1. divide eggs, cover in plastic wrap and leave out at room temperature overnight
  2. next day, measure out all ingredients using a scale
  3. prepare 2 baking sheets covered in parchment paper
  4. sift almond meal and powdered sugar into a new bowl
  5. combine granulated sugar with dehydrated egg whites into one bowl
  6. begin preparing merengue: on medium speed, mix (using mixer) egg whites until foamy
  7. begin to add granulated sugar/dehydrated egg mixture to the egg whites
  8. once mixture is fully integrated, turn up the speed to high and whip until soft peaks are achieved. this will take 3-5 minutes. don’t over mix…you don’t want the peaks to become too firm. your base / meringue is ready
  9. if you plan on adding liquid food coloring, this is the time to do it – drop a few drops into meringue (whipped egg whites) and fold to incorporate
  10. now it’s time to make the batter – pour 1/4 of almond/sugar mixture into the meringue and fold to incorporate using a rubber spatula. the motion should be gentle enough not to deflate the whipped egg whites
  11. continue folding in the rest of the almond / sugar mixture until complete. fold until everything is fully incorporated but do not over mix
  12. pre-heat oven to 290 F
  13. prepare a pastry piping bag with a standard large/round tip and pour batter into the bag
  14. pipe 1-2″ rounds onto pre-lined baking sheets. keep in mind that macarons will expand as the settle
  15. when done, bang sheets flat against counter a few times to help aerate the macarons
  16. let sit for 20-30 minutes. you will know they are ready when they are dry to a gentle touch of your finger
  17. bake in oven for 14-16 minutes. at 14 minutes, monitor closely to make sure they don’t start getting brown edges
  18. once cooked, the macarons should peel off easily in one piece. if they do not, try cooking them for an extra minute at a time
  19. cool macarons on a cooling rack
  20. fill with your favorite filling – i like to use nutella (when lazy) or vanilla buttercream (when motivated). store overnight in fridge in an airtight ziplock bag to allow flavors to marry before serving

Tips:

  • use a scale and make sure to have everything measured out before you start working
  • whipping the merengue is a delicate art – you don’t want the egg whites runny but you also don’t want to over beat. this will take practice…worst case you over whip and the macarons may become slightly hollow
  • food coloring: macarons are known for their exotic colors. i’ve yet to really experiment with color, mainly because of its  toxic and artificial nature. macarons’ natural color is off-white. in the images above, i dropped (only a few drops) of liquid chlorophyll into the meringue to make it green. all natural coloring, you can get chlorophyll at Whole Foods or a healthy foods store.
  • folding dry ingredients into merengue is also a delicate balance. see this video on how to fold properly
  • once batter is ready, you need to move very quickly with the piping process before it dries out
  • to get perfectly round macarons, you can print out templates and place beneath the parchment paper. make sure you remove them before baking!
  • when piping macarons, the trick i find is to apply downward pressure (straight down at 90 degrees) to release batter, make a circle, and then simultaneously release pressure and quickly yank the tip away
  • the perfect macaron will have the following properties: flat outer surface, well-defined feet and a dense (not hollow) inner layer

No Knead Pizza Dough

It’s time for another pizza recipe.

Discovering how to make homemade pizza is one of those enlightening moments in life. I made my first pie a few years ago and have been experimenting with new versions ever since. To some, making pizza at home is nothing more than buying dough at a local pizzeria (or the supermarket) and dressing it with your own set of toppings.  I call that cheating :)  Gotta make the dough yourself!  Besides…that’s the most fun and fulfilling part!

One of the first posts to this blog, back in the day, was a pizza dough recipe that I often use.  Well it’s time for a new one. This recipe comes from a recent issue of Bon Appetite. It’s a no knead pizza dough by Jim Lahey of Sullivan Street Bakery in NY.  The key ingredient in this recipe is TIME. Unlike other dough recipes out there, this one calls for very little yeast (and obviously, no kneading). The trick to this dough an extra long (18 hour) fermentation process. The result is a very light, rustic dough that will amaze you!

Recipe

Serving Size (three 10″ pizzas)

Estimated time: 20 hours (1 hour active, 19 hours inactive)

Ingredients:

  • 3 3/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • small can plain tomato sauce
  • your choice of spices (salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, dried oregano, dried basil)
  • your choice of  toppings (I used mozzarella, sopresatta and arugula in this recipe)

What You’ll Need:

  • medium mixing bowl
  • pizza peel
  • pizza stone

Dough Directions {steps 1-9 follow sequence of images above}:

  1. mix dry ingredients in a medium mixing bowl. slowly add water while stirring with a wooden spoon
  2. use your hands to create the dough into a rough ball (do not knead). add a slight bit of more flour or water, if the dough is too dry or wet
  3. move dough into a clean mixing bowl (or clean one you just used) and cover with saran wrap. let sit at room temperature for 18 hours
  4. the dough will rise fully after 18 hours. spill dough onto a well floured surface and divide, using a dough cutter or butter knife, into 3 equal pieces
  5. for each piece of dough – shape into a rough square, fold 4 corners into the middle, flip over in your hands and gently (without squeezing air out of the dough) create dough into a round ball by pulling surface of dough from in to out (and under)
  6. place doughs on a PAM sprayed surface. gently spray doughs and cover them with saran wrap. let sit for another 1-2 hours
  7. dough will rise again
  8. at this point, you can either use the dough immediately or store them for later use. if storing, place each individual dough into a large ziplock bag (do not seal completely). pour some oil in and move dough around to keep it from sticking
  9. if storing for later use – when ready to use dough, remove from refrigerator and place it on the kitchen counter covered with saran wrap for 1 hour (for another rise…similar to step 6 above). if frozen, leave on countertop (covered) for several hours until dough has risen
  10. generously sprinkle cornmeal onto a pizza peel to prevent dough from sticking. alternatively, you can use parchment paper and spray it with PAM
  11. use your knuckles to gently stretch the dough out. once expanded, place onto the peel and stretch the outsides using your fingertips. this will take practice and requires feel more than anything.

Pizza Directions:

  1. preheat oven to 500F (let oven stay at this temp for 30-60 minutes to make it very hot)
  2. carefully pour tomato sauce onto pizza. use a spoon to evenly spread it out. don’t over sauce the pie!
  3. sprinkle with spices of your choice
  4. add toppings
  5. cook in oven from 8-11 minutes until crust is brown and cheese is melted

Tips:

  • I like to make a batch of several dough rounds (this recipe calls for 3). I’ll typically freeze one or two for later use (within a month)

Dark Chocolate & Almond Bark

I am a chocolate fiend. That should be no secret considering the dessert section of this blog is exclusively a list of chocolate recipes. One of my favorite chocolate treats is ‘bark’, which, if I didn’t know any better, was named after a doggy treat. I’m not sure what it is about bark that makes it a completely different experience than any other piece of chocolate. Maybe it’s the irregularly shaped chunks that it comes in. It feels imperfectly natural…as if it was a natural food.

The creation of chocolate bark isn’t a recipe as much as it is a reformation of a perfectly shaped piece of chocolate. The process is simple: melt chocolate, add toppings (almonds in this case), re-harden in the fridge and break apart with your hands! It may seem elementary, but the process leads to such a better experience that it makes it totally worthwhile.

Recipe

Serving Size (10-15 pieces)

Estimated time: 1 hour (15 minutes cooking, 45 minutes cooling)

Ingredients:

  • 12 oz your favorite dark chocolate
  • 1/4 cup almonds (sliced, whole or chopped…your choice)

What You’ll Need:

  • small, shallow baking pan
  • heatproof bowl
  • small pot
  • parchment paper

Directions:

  1. pour 1″ of water in a pot and bring to a simmer. lower heat to low and create a double broiler (by placing bowl on top of the pot)
  2. break chocolate into smaller pieces and melt in the bowl
  3. once melted, add almonds to the chocolate and stir
  4. line baking sheet with parchment paper
  5. pour melted chocolate into lined baking pan
  6. place into the fridge for 2 hours or freezer for 1 hour
  7. once fully solid, break sheet of chocolate into smaller pieces and serve (break pieces using your hands, but covered in parchment paper to avoid melting)

Spaghetti with Ramps

Your secret ingredient is…RAMPS.

That was the thought that entered my mind yesterday afternoon. We were deep in heart of Jersey at a venue called Ninety Acres Culinary Center in Far Hills, NJ. Picture a huge estate with endless rolling hills and a beautiful brick cottage at the top of a long, windy hill. That’s where we were when we met Ben and Jared, two prospective partners in our latest business venture. Ben, a devoted foodie, was generous enough to gift us a freshly picked batch of ‘ramps’ from his garden.

I accepted the friendly gesture without having a clue how to actually prepare them! That said, I was totally up for the challenge. I imagined myself on the set of Chopped or Iron Chef, being introduced to a secret ingredient.

After scouring the internet, I decided to incorporate them into one of Mario Batali‘s spaghetti dishes . I’ve been making a lot of pasta lately and loved the idea of introducing ramps into a dish I knew would taste good. As part of the recipe, I separated the ramps into root bulbs and leaves (discarding the stems). I ended up with an herbal root similar to garlic/onion/shallot and a leafy vegetable that resembles spinach in consistency.

The end-result was delicious! In stepping up to the challenge, I educated myself on ramps and successfully incorporated a completely new, seasonal ingredient into a great recipe.

ramps - separated into chopped root and leaves

sautéed with olive oil and red pepper flakes

Recipe

Serving Size (2 people)

Estimated time: 15 minutes

Ingredients:

  • batch of ramps (around 10 pieces)
  • 1/2 box of spaghetti
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 tablespoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon bread crumbs
  • kosher salt to taste

What You’ll Need:

  1. medium pot with lid
  2. large frying pan
  3. salad spinner (optional)

Directions:

  1. cut root bulbs off of ramps. using your hands, remove the loose layer of skin from the bulbs and wash them
  2. cut ramps leaves off of stems, wash/dry them (I used a salad spinner to dry the leaves) and cut them in half (lengthwise)
  3. finely dice ramp bulbs (like you would garlic)
  4. fill medium pot 2/3 with water and add a tablespoon of salt. cover the pot and bring to a boil
  5. once boiling, add pasta and cook for 9-10 minutes until al-dente (test a strand of pasta near the end for doneness)
  6. after 5 minutes of cooking, heat olive oil in a separate frying pan (low-medium heat)
  7. add diced ram roots to the pan and cook for a few minutes until tender
  8. add a teaspoon of salt and red pepper flakes to the pan and stir
  9. once pasta is 1 minutes away from completion, add ramp leaves to the frying pan and allow them to wilt
  10. once pasta is complete, use tongs to remove pasta from the pot and into the frying pan
  11. raise frying pan temperature to medium/high and cook or 2-3 minutes until all ingredients are incorporated
  12. mix in breadcrumbs and serve
  13. drizzle olive oil over the plated pasta

Mascarpone and Nutella Heaven

I’m proud to be writing about an awesome find in Hoboken this past weekend.

Saturday morning began with a city view blocked by incredibly dense fog over the Hudson River and the sound of a large cruise ship repeatedly blaring its horn (to avoid running over smaller boats, I guess). Nevertheless, the weather forecast called for yet another unseasonably mild winter day (March 20th = first day of Spring). It was the perfect opportunity to transition my 4-mile race (Central Park, first ever race, April 29th) training regimen from the treadmill to the streets. The outdoor air was brisk, crisp and fresh. A great start to the weekend.

Later that day, the Mrs. and I decided to go for a stroll around town and grab a late lunch. One of our stops was Italmoda, our favorite tailor in Hoboken on 6th and Jefferson. It was along that route that we came across a corner BYOB pizza joint called Dozzino. Although technically a pizza restaurant, Dozzino is anything but a stereotypical Hoboken pizzeria. It’s not located on Washington Street and it does not sell pizza by the slice. Its charm, authenticity and minimalist decor drew us in. After sharing a bottle of prosecco and two pies (I ordered a plain pie while Tania ordered something spicy with meat), it was time for dessert – the best part of the meal (and inspiration for this post).

Dozzino had two items on their dessert menu: nutella ice cream and mascarpone/nutella crostini’s. The thought of cheese and dessert didn’t appeal to me so I went for the ice cream (which was delicious). That said, the crostini was even better! The unusual combination of mascarpone and sweet nutella along with a touch of salt created the perfect compliment of flavors and texture. You know that show on Food Network called “The Best Thing I Ever Ate”? This would be on there. It is that good.

By the time I got home, I was determined to recreate this sweet treat. How hard could it be; the name itself included two of the three ingredients. It didn’t take long to come across the exact recipe posted by the owner Marc in an NJ.com article.

Do yourself a favor and try this right now!! No bake dessert that will take you about 30 seconds to create. Serve as a crostini, on a cracker or any way you wish.

Recipe

Serving Size (up to you)

Estimated time: 5 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 3 parts mascarpone cheese
  • 1 part nutella spread
  • toasted sliced baguette or cracker

Directions:

  1. using a spoon, mix nutella and mascarpone in a bowl
  2. spoon mixture onto a baguette or cracker
  3. sprinkle with salt
  4. serve immediately or store in fridge for a few minutes to make sure the cheese is not melted

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