Pancakes round the world

My favorite thing to eat for breakfast is a homemade, fresh of the griddle pancake. I don’t particularly like the ones at restaurants and hotels. In my opinion, they probably have a lot of butter or oil that make them taste very rich and leaves me with an overstuffed belly.

I try to make my pancakes as healthy as possible, by adding fat free milk and frying with Pam (vegetable spray). Here are recipes for three versions of pancakes that I make at home. These are great for breakfast, lunch, snack or dessert.American pancake

 

 

American – These are classic American, fluffy and thick pancakes. Use low-fat Bisquick to make the job easier and serve them with low-calorie maple syrup. Take it a step further by using whole wheat flour (instead of white) and serve the pancakes with lots of fruits and berries.

Another twist is adding mashed bananas or a cup of fresh blueberries into the pancake batter. It takes your ordinary pancake to “gourmet” and everyone loves it.

swedish pancake

 

 

Swedish – Prepared almost the same way, but much thinner and lighter. Swedish pancakes look almost like mini crepes but are soft and have a slight saltiness to their taste. Stack up 3-4 pancakes and serve on a warm plate. These savory pancakes can also be served for lunch. I use the Lund’s mix, but a runny pancake batter would do too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hungarian – When I first tasted Hungarian pancakes (Palacsinta) served in a rich creamy sauce as dessert in Budapest, I felt like I died and went to heaven! Once I returned home to the US, I recreated this recipe with my own inspiration. The pancakes themselves are extremely thin, thinner than a crepe, so you need to make 8-10 for each serving. Add a teaspoon of Nutella and sprinkle poppy seeds between each layer. Finally, top it all with a Bourbon sauce. I have to warn you this dish is far from health but worth every calorie!

Cooking with Herbs

Spring is around the corner and the garden will be in full bloom again. I grow my own herbs in my backyard. There is rosemary, lavender, mint, thyme, chive, parsley, cilantro and sage always at my disposal! It is a wonderful experience to cook with fresh herbs that have been plucked within a few minutes. The other great quality of herbs is that they are so diverse. Every country has it own herb of choice that is incorporated in the local cuisine. Like people, places, and cultures, herbs are also international.

Last year I was invited to speak at a garden party. I demonstrated how one can cook with fresh herbs and which herbs paired well with which recipes. We played a “guess the herb” game where you had to identify the name of the herb by seeing and smelling it. The person with the most right answers won a gift bag of gourmet goodies.

Basically, there are three ways in which you can use your herbs:

1. Cooking – If your recipe calls for a herb, chances are it needs to be added towards the end of cooking. You don’t want the herb to wilt and cook for too long or else it’s flavor would be lost. If you are using dry herb instead, the quantity used will be a lot less than if you were to use fresh sprigs.

2. Presentation – I like to take a few sprigs or leaves of fresh herbs for presentation. A parsley leaf adds color to a risotto or pasta marinara. A few sprigs of rosemary can be plated under a roast chicken. Fresh chives can be chopped and sprinkles over mashed or baked potatoes. Think mojitos!

3. Ambience – When I have too much fresh herbs and don’t know what to do with them, I put them in a vase with a little water. It gives the room a nice herby fragrance and makes a cheap arrangement.

Can you think of any other ways to use fresh herbs?

Here is a recipe for Salmon Satay. It is one of my favorite grilling recipes. The marinade is made entirely of herbs. Even if you don’t have these exact ones, you can mix and match whatever is available.

  • 2 teaspoons ginger , peeled and minced
  • 3 cloves garlic , peeled and smashed
  • 1/2 jalapeno chile , seeded and coarsely chopped
  • 3/4 cup lightly packed cilantro
  • 1/4 cup lightly packed mint
  • 1/4 cup lightly packed flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh lemongrass
  • 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon grapeseed or canola oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 (1 1/4-pound) skinless center-cut wild salmon fillet
  • Vegetable oil cooking spray

Combine all ingredients in a small food processor or blender; blend until smooth.

Lay salmon fillet on a cutting surface with a short end facing you. Cut fillet in half from top to bottom. Make 6 equal cuts across fillet, creating 12 pieces. Insert an 8-inch bamboo (or other wooden) skewer through the short ends of each piece. Arrange salmon in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Brush both sides evenly with pesto. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate 30 minutes.

Spray a nonstick griddle or large skillet with cooking spray; heat over medium-high flame. Lightly coat salmon with cooking spray. Cook until browned on each side and just cooked through, carefully turning with spatula, 1 1/2 to 2 minutes per side.

Making Gelato at home

Making Gelato at home takes time and commitment. It is not difficult, but needs some advance planning. Here is a basic recipe to make your own Dulce De Leche Gelato.

The first step is to make a base. This can be plain (which will be used in most flavors) or chocolate.

1. Combine 2 cups milk and 1 cup heavy cream in a saucepan, with a cooking thermometer attached. Place over medium-high heat and cook stirring occasionally, until it reaches 170F.

2. Meanwhile, with an electric mixer, whisk 4 egg yolks and 2/3 cup sugar, until mixture is thick and pale yellow.  Temper the eggs by adding the milk mixture one soup spoonful at a time, while whisking constantly.

3. Return the custard to the saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until it reaches 185F. At no point the custard should bowl or form skin on the top.

4. Pour the custard through a mesh strainer into a large bowl. Let cool at room temperature, then cover and refrigerate overnight. At this point, your freezer bowl (if using one) should be kept in the freezer overnight.

5.The following day, blend half of the custard mixture with ½ cup of Dulce le Leche (I use Nestle) but you can make your own with condensed milk. Blend until smooth, then whisk in the remaining custard. Pour into the ice cream machine and let it churn for 30 minutes (or as directed by your particular machine).

6. Warm ½ cup of Dulce le Leche in a microwave safe bowl. Drizzle it over the churned Gelato and let it churn for another 5 minutes. Transfer to an air tight, freezer safe bowl. Freeze at least 4 hours or overnight.

7. Enjoy with a cookie, over a dessert or by itself!

Tips on making homemade Gelato

          I have been making my own Gelato from scratch since last summer. It is a two-day labor-intensive but very rewarding process.  I have a new appreciation for it now that I am making my own. First thing I learned was Gelato is relatively healthier than ice-cream. Whereas ice-cream is made with 100% cream, Gelato is 1/3 cream and 2/3 whole milk. Also, one of the ingredients for Gelato is egg yolks, so it is not a strict vegetarian dessert.

Gelato making process is very similar to that of custard. In fact, some places in U.S. serve Frozen Custard, which is a similar concept.

It tastes best fresh but needs to be consumed within a week of preparation. Obviously, if you add preservatives and store in commercial refrigerators, different rules would apply. In casa mia, Gelato è servito fresco.

Gelato can be made at home in small batches only. I have a small machine that makes 2 Quarts max. I usually make 1 Quart at a time which fits comfortably in the freezer bowl and the storage containers. It serves 8-10 scoops.

I use only fresh ingredients – no frozen fruits, or pre-ground nuts. You can definitely taste the flavor of the ingredients. Occasionally, I do cheat and use grated coconut flakes or dulce de leche from a can. I have also tried alcohol in my Gelato and it tastes goooood!

Lastly, ice in Gelato is bad. When I go quality testing (for fun) at other Gelato shops, my two pet peeves are – creaminess and iciness. The texture of the Gelato should be creamy (like Greek yogurt) but not thick like ice cream. Often, you can taste bits of ice particles in the Gelato (a drawback of the kind of machine you are using for churning or freezing), which is a huge turnoff. I am in love with Gelato, not Sorbetto!

My next post will give step-by-step instructions on how you can make your own Gelato at home.

Best Friend’s Chocolate Cake

I attended high school in a small town in northern India. It was an all-girls Catholic Convent school, right across the street from where I lived. Our school was considered to produce polished, well-spoken, and smart girls who were quite successful in whatever path they chose after graduation.

From sixth grade until now, I have been best friends with two of my classmates. We use to hang out together all the time, be it sitting in class, having lunch during break, going for movies on the weekends, to spending all festivals and holidays together. All three of us moved to different parts of the world after college, but still managed to remain in touch and keep the friendship alive.

When my friends would come over, my mom would sometimes bake cakes and make noodles (my two favorite eats growing up). Since she could not find bags of chocolate morsels in stores, she would buy bars of Cadburys chocolates and melt them into the cake batter. It would be so delicious and rich!

One of my best friends from high school came to visit me at my home in Atlanta, back in 2005 while she was in New York for an assignment. Needless to say, I showed off my culinary skills by baking a chocolate cake for her. She fell in love with it and asked me to make it every time she visited then on.

It’s a very simple velvety chocolate cake with no layers or icing. I like it because it’s not too sweet and can be had at any time of the day. It serves well at tea or snack time so you don’t have to wait for dessert to enjoy it.

Chocolate Cake RecipeDan's Chocolates

1 ½ cups semisweet chocolate morsel

½ cup butter, at room temperature

16-oz brown sugar

3 eggs

2 cups all purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

8-oz sour cream

1 cup hot water

2 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 teaspoon powdered sugar

Melt the chocolate in a bowl in the microwave for 1 minute or until smooth. Stir gently.

Beat butter and sugar in an electric mixer at medium speed for 5 minutes, and then add eggs, 1 at a time. Beat until just blended. Add the melted chocolate and beat for another 30 seconds.

Mix together flour, baking soda and salt in a separate bowl. Now, gradually add the flour mixture to the chocolate base, alternating with sour cream. Beat at low speed during this process. Add the hot water in a low steady stream still blending on slow. Stir in the vanilla.

Spoon batter in a prepared (floured and greased) angel cake or a 10-inch round pan. Bake at 350F for 55-65 minutes or until wooden toothpick comes out clean. Cool completely, sift powdered sugar on top and enjoy.


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