Thursday, October 27, 2011

Happy Diwali!

Happy Diwali everyone!! It's the festival of lights and the Indian New Year! And to celebrate, we decided to cook up some delicious traditional Indian fare and share it with our loyal followers!

Don't be intimidated by the countless spices in your grocery store's ethnic food aisle. Instead pick up a few choice ingredients and you will be surprised at the versatility of them magic masalas!

First up: a classic and very popular street food from India, and so simple to prepare at home! Street vendors in Mumbai make these fresh to order and it's served between two pieces bread, slathered with Tamarind chutney and spicy Coriander chutney. Delish!! And the absolute comfort food on crisp Fall days.


Spiced Potato Croquettes

6 large potatoes (I used a combination of white and red)
3 cloves of Garlic, minced
2 Jalapenos, finely chopped
1 inch of freshly grated Ginger
2tsps Poppy Seeds
2 tsps Turmeric Powder
Handful of Coriander leaves, chopped
Salt and Sugar to taste

For the batter
5 large tbsps of Gram flour (made from ground chickpeas)
1 tsp Red Chili Powder
Salt to taste

1. Boil the potatoes and mash em up good - No instructions required for this! Add salt and sugar to taste
2. Prepare the batter with water and set aside. Be careful to not add too much water to the batter, you want it thick enough to coat the potatoes but not too thick!
3. In a skillet, heat 1 tbsp of Oil. Add the Poppy Seeds (let them pop), then Turmeric, Garlic, Ginger and Japalenos and saute for 2 minutes
4. Add this mixture to the mashed potatoes and mix well to incorporate
5. Form the potato mix into medium sized balls, dunk in the batter and fry until golden brown!

Enjoy the crisp and spicy Potato Croquettes with Tamarind chutney or even with plain ol' ketchup!

Curried Spinach & Lentil Soup - perfect for a cold fall day, this hearty soup is a whole meal in itself!

1 cup Yellow Pigeon Peas
3 tbsp Olive Oil/Vegetable Oil
1 cup Spinach leaves, julienned.
1 small Onion, finely chopped
1 small Tomato, finely chopped
3 cloves of Garlic (you can substitute this with Garlic Powder too)jm
1 Jalapeno, finely chopped (leave this out if you don't like your food very spicy)
1 tsp Poppy Seeds
3 tsps Red Chili Powder
3 tsps Cumin Powder
4 tsps Garam Masala (very easily available in the Ethnic Foods aisle of your Grocery Store)
1 1/2 tsps Turmeric Powder
salt and sugar to taste

1. Start with soaking the Pigeon Peas in 2 1/2 cups of water, in a large pot. Bring this to a boil and let it cook until the lentils are soft to the touch. Remove from flame and use a hand blender to puree the lentils. I like to keep this puree a little chunky.
Transfer the pot back on a low flame, add 1 cup of water, salt and sugar and let it simmer on a low flame.

2. In a skillet, heat 3 tbsps of Oil. Once the oil is hot add Poppy Seeds and let them pop! Then add Garlic, Jalapenos,Onions and Tomatoes and saute until slightly browned.
Now add the spices: Tumeric, Cumin, Red Chili and Garam Masala powders and continue to saute 5-7 minutes more to cook the spices further.

3. Now add the chopped Spinach to this mix, stir it all together for 2 minutes.

4. Transfer this cooked spiced mixture to the boiling lentil soup and stir to combine.

5. Continue to stir and let the soup simmer for 7-10 minutes. The end consistency of this soup is not too thick and not too thin. After a taste test, feel free to add more salt if needed.

Traditionally, the soup is served over plain white rice or with Naan bread. Enjoy!!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

SPOTLIGHT: The Pumpkin

In case you haven't noticed lately, we seem to be inspired by all things pumpkin here at the gourmet pantry. Fall is more than in the air- it is literally in the kitchen!

Recently, a good friend came over with a serious craving to carve a pumpkin and sip some wine. Is there a better way to spend a sunny crisp fall afternoon? Actually, yes--- when you take that cute little pumpkin you just carved a jaggedy face into and create all of the below recipes. That little jack-o-lantern can do more than light up your front porch or kitchen table, you can create all sorts of yummy meals out of him when you add just a few ingredients you already have in your pantry! Check out what we came up with: cinnamon sugar roasted pumpkin seeds, pumpkin spice soup, pumpkin oatmeal raisin cookies, and last but not least- chocolate pumpkin bread. So sit down, carve a big ole' pumpkin up, and make dinner out of him. Literally.

First thing's first, buy and carve a pumpkin. Invite a friend over, drink some hot cider (or wine, who are we kidding here). Be sure to scoop out all of the insides. Separate the seeds from the pulp on a large cookie tray. Rinse the seeds and let them dry overnight and store the pumpkin in a bowl in the fridge until you are ready to use (within 2-3 days). Maybe your pumpkin won't look as professional as ours (sarcasm, heavy heavy sarcasm there), but save the insides!

Cinnamon Sugar Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

1/2 stick butter
2 tbsp granulated sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt

Make sure the seeds have dried over-night (laid out evenly on a cookie sheet). Melt the butter and coat the seeds thoroughly. Add the sugar, salt, cinnamon. Roast at 400F for 45-55 mins or until golden brown & crunchy to the taste. Let cool and store in a ziplock bag- indulge!

Next.... it's time to use up the rest of that lovely pumpkin puree right from inside your fresh pumpkin. Mixing the few ingredients we had in our pantry this spicy, slightly creamy, protein filled soup won't leave you out in the cold.

Spiced Pumpkin Soup

olive oil
red pepper flakes
12 oz pumpkin puree
14 oz package unsalted chicken broth
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 8 oz can rinsed white cannellini beans

Begin by heating 2 tbsp olive oil in a large pot on medium-high heat. Add the chopped garlic (finely chopped!) and the red pepper flakes. Sautee for 1-2 minutes, do not burn the garlic! Then, add the broth, pumpkin puree, & heavy cream. Reduce heat to medium-low and let these ingredients marry-up for 10-15 minutes. When it starts to come to a boil, add the beans and cook another 5-10 minutes. Serve with a dollup of cream cheese or goat cheese... whatever you have that will melt and give this soup an extra OOMPH. Serve with some toasty whole grain bread & sop it up!

OK.... had enough yet? No, actually, I think you need some dessert.... onto the COOKIES!! (and frankly, the best part).

Pumpkin Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

1 stick unsalted butter
1 egg
1 3/4 cup all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
15 oz (or half of 1 large can if you don't have fresh pumpkin) puree
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup light brown sugar
1 cup raisins
1 cup instant oats
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice

Begin by preheating your oven to 350F, and whipping the butter (room temp!) with the sugars. Next, add the egg and vanilla and whip again for roughly 30 seconds, do not over-mix! Then, add the pumpkin puree and whip some more until just combined. In a separate bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt & pumpkin pie spice. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet mixture, a few additions at a time. Finally, add the raisins and oats and combine with a large spoon so as not to over-mix. Grease your cookie tray, and scoop using a small ice cream scooper or large tablespoon. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until slightly golden brown around the edges, and it passes the toothpick test. Serve with fresh whipped cream for added pleasure!

Look, even our own Mr Peppy the Pumpkin wants to eat them they smelled so good!

If you are STILL reading, and STILL aching for some pumpkin. This dessert below is the ultimate indulgence, and will stay moist for days (especially if you tuck it up in some plastic wrap). We have truly saved the best recipe for last. Here's to hoping you enjoy these as much as we have! Happy Fall!

Chocolate Pumpkin Bread

1 stick unsalted butter
2 eggs
1 1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
8 oz pumpkin puree (or canned pumpkin puree, whichever you have on hand)
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate morsels
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1/4 cup full fat sour cream
1 tsp vanilla extract

Begin by preheating the oven to 375F. Line your bread loaf pan with nonstick spray or parchment paper (we used both to play it safe, and for easy removal). Whip the butter and sugar together in your stand-mixer until combined thoroughly. Next, crack the eggs one at a time and combine one at a time. Add the pumpkin puree, vanilla, and sour cream. Whip for roughly 30 seconds until combined. In a separate bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda, salt, and spice. Slowly add in portions to the wet ingredients & whip for 1-2 minutes. When the dough has formed, add the chocolate morsels and mix with a spoon just to combine. Pour into the pan and bake 45-55 minutes or until cooked thoroughly. Serve hot with fresh whipped cream. To. Die. For.

*Special note--- if you don't have a freshly carved pumpkin but still want to try these recipes, they work just as well with the canned version! Always go for the organic or pure pumpkin (without any additives or salts or sugars, maximize that true pumpkin flavor!*

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Banana Bread Addiction, it continues...

If you saw our most recent post on the Peanut Butter Banana Bread, I hope it got your wheels turning to make some of your own. Because, in all honesty, it got mine turning as well! That little office competition I entered also gave me the opportunity to taste some really great variations to everyone's take on a traditional banana bread... and it suddenly had me experimenting with my own new recipe! Without wanting to buy any funky ingredients (like macadamia nuts or something equally as pricey and rare for me to use), I scoured my pantry looking for fun ingredients to throw in my banana bread recipe--- and here's what came out of it! A Honey Banana Bread with an Oatmeal Brown Sugar crumble topping. Um.... yes, please. 

Everyone has a box of instant oats in the back of their pantry and an old jar of honey (from that flu you had 8 months ago that had you drinking green tea with honey for 5 days straight... well, now you have another use for that little bear sitting in the back of your pantry!). The honey adds a certain hint of sweetness, moisture, and the topping is just, here it comes... amazeballs. 

Be wild, go for it. Or as my best friend has inked on her email signature: "Carpe Diem!"

Honey Banana Bread with Oatmeal Crumble Topping 


3 overripe bananas, mashed
1 stick unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup full fat sour cream
3 tbsp honey

1 stick unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup instant oats 
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1/2 cup all purpose flour

Begin to assemble this in the same you would with the previously posted recipe. Make sure all ingredients are room temp! Preheat oven to 375F. Spray the loaf tin, and line with parchment paper (if desired). Whip the butter with the sugar until combined. In a small bowl, crack two eggs and add the vanilla & honey. Add this mixture to the butter/sugar one egg at a time. This ensures the honey gets mixed in properly and doesn't get stuck. Finally, add the mashed bananas & sour cream. Mixed until thoroughly incorporated. Meanwhile, in a separate large bowl whisk the flour, baking soda & salt. Slowly add to the wet mixture and beat only until well combined and you have dough. Do not over-mix! Pour into the pan, bake for 10-15 minutes before adding the crumble.

Meanwhile, in another small bowl, combine the topping ingredients. Mix all together with your hands, smoosh, smash, and make a lovely little mess out of it. Once the banana bread begins to set a bit, take out of the oven and evenly coat with the butter/topping mixture. The more, the yummier!!! Place back into the oven and bake another 45-55 minutes or until cooked through. Cool, slice, and EAT IT UP!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

My award-winning (well, almost award-winning) BANANA BREAD!

Recently, it seems that my office has also caught the "fall foods" bug. A few overripe bananas were hanging out in our communal kitchen, and someone had the bright idea to host a Banana Bread Bake Off. With an office of about 200 people (and amongst them, a few intense bakers, even a graduate of the Culinary Institute!), I was sure to have some serious competition. There were over 10 variations of banana bread at the end of the day- but mine was the ONLY one that contained one magical ingredient: PEANUT BUTTER!

Ok, so I didn't win, but not everyone likes peanut butter (they're just crazy in my opinion), and there was not one "bad" loaf of bread on that table. I was "banana-breaded" out by midday, but I stick by my recipe and got plenty of compliments on it, as it was still a huge hit!
I call this Monkey Bread---- and I am sure you all know why. So the next time you find yourself with a few of over-ripe bananas, try this out. Amazeballs!


3 overripe bananas, mashed
1 stick unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup full fat sour cream
1/3 cup natural creamy peanut butter
1/2 tsp cinnamon
non stick cooking spray

Start by preheating your oven to 350F, and spraying your loaf tin with some nonstick spray (I also line mine with parchment paper, as it helps to remove the bread for easy removal and packaging later on!).

Next, take out your stand mixer, and whip the butter (make sure it is room temp). Then, add the sugar and blend until well combined. Add the eggs one at a time just until incorporated (do NOT over-mix any banana bread or bread recipe, it won't come out as moist or fluffy). Then, add the vanilla extract, mashed bananas, peanut butter, and sour cream. Mix again until combined. In a separate bowl whisk the flour, baking soda, and salt. Then, slowly add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients. Beat for 1-2 mins until well combined and your dough is ready to g-o, go. Pour into your pan and bake for 50-60 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean and it is brown all around! Let cool, and enjoy!!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Pumpkin, pumpkin... who wants some pumpkin?!?!

Well, it is officially fall. That means one thing: PUMPKIN GALORE! Farmer's markets are stocked with all sorts of squashes, pumpkins, vegetables, and fruits from the fall harvest. The air is crisp, and everyone is craving the best this season has to offer. Lately, I seem to want to put pumpkin puree in just about anything I can get my hands on. SO, for dinner tonight, all I had was some defrosted chicken breasts, a bag of spinach, and naturally, some pumpkin puree in a can. Add some goat cheese, pine nuts, and some spice and TA-DA, the best fall dinner I have had in quite some time. This dish actually came out better than I expected, and I couldn't resist sharing it. If you don't have any pumpkin puree in your pantry, do yourself a solid and get a couple of cans. It will NOT go to waste. You can put this jar of amazing-ness in just about anything, from pasta & risotto to baked goods and now, chicken!! Try this recipe- not only is it healthy, but it is quick, easy & cheap! Is there anything better?

Spicy Pumpkin Chicken Breasts with sauteed Spinach


4-5 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 large bag of spinach (uncooked, or 1 box of frozen spinach, defrosted and drained)
1/2 white onion, roughly diced
4 oz pumpkin puree
1/2 cup red wine, whatever you have left over in your apt will do just fine,
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes, more or less depending on your spice preference
olive oil
salt & pepper
chili powder
balsamic vinegar
lemon juice
pine nuts, for garnish
goat cheese, for garnish

First, heat up a large sautee pan in medium-high heat with some olive oil. Dice the onions, then drop then in the oil when the pan is hot. Sprinkle with salt & red pepper flakes, let them sauté until they're soft and cook down (3-5 minutes). Meanwhile, season your chicken breasts with salt, pepper, and chili powder. Add to the sautee pan and reduce heat to medium-low. Add the red wine, and let cook down for 1-2 minutes. Next, add the pumpkin pie puree and cover. Let cook for 10 minutes, flip the breasts and cook 10 minutes more or until the breasts are cooked all the way through (become firm to the touch).

As the chicken is cooking, add a drizzle of olive oil to a large pot and heat on medium. Then, add the spinach. Drizzle with 2 tbsps of balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper and a splash of lemon juice. Cover and let the greens cook down, these puppies wilt fast and fiercely. Let the chicken and spinach cool. When all is finished, plate it up, sprinkle with toasted pine nuts and goat cheese (however much you like, I prefer a lot of cheese personally, you only live once. and it isn't worth living without goat cheese).