Monday, September 13, 2010

Pear Blueberry Almond Crisp

I made a pear crisp for my friend Anjali's dinner party with some local (backyard) produce. It was the perfect dish because her husband is writing a paper on locally grown food for his masters.  It doesn't get any closer to home than your backyard.

We planted a Bosc pear tree sapling when I was a kid.  It is now as tall as our house and produces bushels of pears every year.  The crunchy pears also taste great just before they ripen with a bit of salt and pepper.

There were some blueberries in the fridge so I added them in the crisp.  They added a lovely light purple colour to the pears once it came out of the oven.  They also boost the nutrition value of this dessert because they are packed with antioxidants. A crisp seems a little healthier than a crumble because of the oatmeal which contains protein and phosphorus. It's a great warm dessert to serve on a fall evening now that the weather is cooler. And your house smells wonderful when you pull a golden brown crisp out of the oven!

4-5 pears peeled and chopped into cubes
1/2 cup blueberries
1-2 tsp lemon juice to keep the pears from browning
1 tbsp maple syrup

2/3 cup oats
1/4 whole wheat flour
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp coarse salt
1/3 cup chopped almonds
1/4 cup cold butter

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Peel and chop pears into small cubes and place in baking dish.  Squeeze lemon juice over it so it doesn't turn brown.  Add in blueberries and drizzle maple syrup over the fruits to add sweetness.

In a bowl, combine oats, whole wheat flour, brown sugar, cinnamon and coarse salt.  Cut the cold butter into small cubes so you can rub it into the mixture with your fingertips.  Once you have a coarse topping, add in the chopped almonds. Incorporate them well into the mixture and spread over the fruits.

Bake for 30 minutes or until bubbling and brown on top.  Let it cool slightly before serving. For a more indulgent dessert, top with vanilla ice cream.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Kozhakattai -- Modakam -- Steamed sweet rice dumplings

Happy Ganesh Chathurthi! It is the birthday of the Hindu elephant-headed god who is prayed to before starting anything new because he will remove the obstacles from your path.

In South India, devotees make kozhakattai during this festival because it is Ganesha's favourite sweet. It's a delicious steamed sweet rice dumplings stuffed with a caramel flavoured coconut mixture made with jaggery, an unrefined sugar. It has a sweeter, more intense flavour than molasses brown sugar. Its distinctive shape, a round ball with a pointy top which is called a mooku, nose, is the most fun part to make.

1 cup long grain rice
1 1/2 cups water (approx., add slowly because you may need less)
pinch of salt

1 cup fresh grated coconut
1/2 cup jaggery
1/4 tsp cardamom powder
1/2 tbsp ghee

2 tbsp oil in a bowl (to rub on hands when forming your modakams)

Soak the rice for an hour and grind very to a smooth consistency with a little pinch of salt, like dosai batter. Too much water will make the dough loose and sticky. If that happens add a little rice flour to thicken it up.

If you are pressed for time and can't soak the rice, just use rice flour the proportion is one cup flour to one and a half cup hot water. It may go up or down depending on the kind of rice used to make powder.
Put it in a pot on low heat and stir it until it forms a tight ball.This dough will lump up first and get hard to move around and will stick to the sides of your pot. You have to scrape it fast and try to bring it all together till it is sort of shiny and oily looking. Keep the ball in the pot and close it tightly as the steam will cook it more.

Filling (poornam)
To make the filling, dissolve the jaggery in little bit of water and stir it on medium heat until it starts to bubble. Be careful as it will splatter. Add the grated coconut and keep on stirring until all the water has evaporated and it comes together and forms a ball. If it is too runny add some ground almonds while stirring. Take out of pan and keep in a plate to cool.

Making your modakams
Take the dough and knead it until soft and roll into a 1/2" diameter cylinder. Pinch off a 1/2" size piece of dough and roll into a ball. Pinch the sides of the ball and press your thumbs into the center to form a bowl. Place a piece of the coconut jaggery mixture into the middle and close the dough around it and form a little "nose" at the top.  Steam it for five minutes. When the dough becomes shiny you know it is done.

May Ganesha bless you and your loved ones!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Backyard Bounty: Cherry Tomatoes

We have the most delicious cherry tomatoes growing in our backyard.  It is so exciting to find the ripe red tomatoes and pick them.  They taste better than anything I've ever bought from the store.  The tomatoes are so juicy and burst with flavour in your mouth.  It is sweet and a little salty at the same time.

These tiny red tomatoes are the perfect size to pop in your mouth.  It's a healthy snack you can feel good about eating since one cup is only 27 calories and is full of vitamins A, C and E. Tomatoes get their bright red colour from the antioxidant, lycopene, which fights free radicals linked to cancer.

All you have to do is pick, wash, eat and enjoy!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Strawberry Lemon Brulee

There are still a few weeks left for you to enjoy the fresh flavours of the summer.  The delicious taste of strawberries and lemon makes this dessert hard to resist.  It is creamy, fruity, bright and fresh and the perfect finale to a meal.

I was looking for a fun dessert to make for my friend's birthday and I thought creme brulee would be quite elegant and fancy but when I saw the number of eggs that were needed (about 6) I was a bit turned off.  I found this recipe in a creme brulee book I have and I had to try it out.

This recipe doesn't use any eggs because the lemon juice makes the cream thicken.  The final product isn't as firm as a creme brulee with eggs but it tastes lighter and smoother.  The longer you leave the cream to set, the more the strawberry flavour infuses.  The strawberry pieces float to the top when you pour in the cream and it also adds a lovely pink colour to the dish. 

1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup of superfine sugar (also called special fine sugar)
Juice of 1 lemon
Zest of 1 lemon
4 strawberries sliced
(makes 4-5 servings depending on size of ramekin)

1. Put sliced strawberried in bottom of ramekins
2.  Add cream and sugar to pot and bring to a boil on medium heat.
3. Take mixture off heat and add in lemon juice and zest.
4. Pour cream over strawberries
5. Put ramekins in fridge for 3-4 hours
6. Put 1 tablespoon of sugar over cream mixture and use a blowtorch to brulee the top.

It is still delicious without the sugar crust topping if you don't have a blowtorch.  The torches are pretty affordable.  You can get them for about $20 at a kitchen supply store and they usually include the ramekins.  It's a cool conversation piece for a party.  Everyone wants a turn with the torch!

You can use any of your favourite fruits for this recipe.  Blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, bananas or peaches would work very nicely.  Strawberries make this dessert healthier because they are packed with antioxidants, vitamin C and are low in calories.  One cup of sliced strawberries is about 50 calories. 

It's great to use whatever is fresh in season because it will taste better and probably be less expensive at the grocery store.  Plus if you share, it's only half the calories.  Enjoy!
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