Monthly Archives: September 2011

Fannie Farmer’s Pancakes

Everybody’s got a favorite pancake recipe. It’s the one that they turn to time and time again because it brings back childhood memories or opened up the doors to a whole new world of pancake bliss. Growing up in an Indian household, pancakes from scratch are a bit of an anomaly. There’s nothing quite like them in Kerala, as a lot of Indian breakfast foods are more savory than sweet. That being said, my parents didn’t limit our weekend breakfast menu to traditional Malayalee fare. We got our dose of dosa and appam, along with pancakes, waffles, and french toast. The only thing was that our pancake batter came out of a Bisquick box.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I am not harping on Bisquick. In fact, I’ll take a Bisquick pancake any day (especially if someone else wants to make them for me). But, being a foodie and a control freak, I like to know exactly what is going into my meal, meaning I needed to find a solid recipe for pancakes from scratch. This recipe was introduced to me by my college housemate, D. On occasion, when we were all awake writing papers or studying into the wee hours of the morning, she’d whip up a batch of these pancakes which we would dot with chocolate chips, blueberries, or any other fruit that was on hand. Probably not the healthiest midnight snack, but they were delicious!

These pancakes are actually an American classic, as the recipe comes from the Fannie Farmer Cookbook. Now, I had no clue who the heck Fannie Farmer was when D first introduced us to this recipe, but I bought myself a copy of her cookbook at Borders before it closed and have found that it’s filled with traditional American fare. I’m excited to keep exploring the book, and these pancakes are now a staple in my kitchen.

Happy Eating!

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Herbed Salmon with Sweet Potato Salad

I’ve found that the hardest part about living by myself is the fact that I am incapable of cooking for just one person. My mom often complained about this same problem once Liz and I went to college, but I never thought it would be that difficult. I was wrong. As you can see from my last post, I tend to make recipes that feed a crowd. That’s great if you are living with a bunch of people, but not so good when you live by yourself and find sanity in cooking something different several times a week.

For dinner today, I decided to tackle my problem head on using a 3-oz fillet of fish, some salad greens, and a sweet potato. This dish happens to combine a lot of staples in my kitchen. In my family, if we don’t think we’ll use all of the salmon right away, we always cut it into portions, wrap them individually, and pop them in the freezer. This makes cooking for one much easier, as I just have to pop a fillet in the fridge on the morning that I intend to eat fish for dinner. The great thing about salads is that it’s easy to make only one serving, making them the perfect accompaniment for your main dish. While I suggest you roast an entire sweet potato at once, you can save half and re-crisp the pieces under the broiler for five minutes later in the week–you’ll save an extra step in a future meal. Same goes for lemon zest- you can always zest a whole lemon and save the rest of the zest in the freezer or in the fridge for future use.

Happy eating!

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End of Summer Farro

Summer is at an end. I knew it was coming. The sudden decline in temperature. My instinct to reach for a scarf and opt for warmer pajama pants. The adorable jackets and wool knits on the racks of the stores on M Street.

And yet, I didn’t see it until it was right in my face at the farmers market last weekend with a sign advertising the last peaches of the season.

Excuse me? Last peaches? I beg your pardon?! I still have salads and tarts and jam to make! And I know with peaches go the good tomatoes, and with the tomatoes go farm fresh zucchini, and with zucchini go the perfect eggplant….I could go on and on. I am so, so sad.

So my solution of course was to clear out my fridge and make a dish as an homage to the vegetables of summer and early fall. This meal is chock full of vegetables, and the nutty farro makes for an incredibly filling dinner. In case you don’t know what farro is, it’s a grain from Italy that is high in protein and in fiber. I’d tell you to Wikipedia it, but I just looked at the article and it wasn’t helpful. It softens when cooked but retains a bit of a crunchy texture. Whatever the official definition is, I love it, and this dish is a great way to transition into fall with the last of summer’s produce.

Happy Eating!

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Heirloom Tomato and Peach Salad

Hurry!  You must get to your farmers’ market quick.  With the beginning of fall creeping in, we are officially nearing the end of both tomato and peach seasons.  If you are thinking, “Who cares?,” then you have never had the joy of slicing up a densely-flavorful heirloom tomato or biting into a perfectly juicy and sweet peach.

Others of you might think, “Heirloom tomatoes?  You mean those ugly, cracked, overpriced things?”  Yes, I do.

Heirloom tomatoes are not your everyday tomatoes.  They come in many shapes and sizes—ranging from red to yellow to striped green to purple—and can range in flavor from slightly peppery to candy-sweet.  Their flesh seems to pack so much more flavor than your normal hybrid breed, and they are rarely mealy or watery like many tomatoes.  Many farmers say that the uglier the heirloom, the better.  Don’t pass one by for having a small crack on its side.  It is probably a gem.  Hung up on the price tag?  Let me ask you, how many bad, mealy tomatoes have you wasted your money on over the years?  I promise you, these babies are worth the extra $1 per pound.

Simply sliced with a drizzle of good olive oil, heirloom tomatoes will steal the meal, but in my opinion, the best way to showcase these bad boys is with another seasonal item:  the humble peach.  The combination might seem a bit strange, but trust me, the tomatoes and peaches bring out the best in each other.  For me, this salad is the highlight of summer. Continue reading

Plum Cobbler

Sooooo I woke up this morning to 48 degree weather. D.C. rarely gets cold this early in September so, to say it was unexpected is an understatement. That being said, I love love love fall, and I can’t wait to see colorful leaves and to start cooking with pumpkin again.

For dessert last Friday, I decided to take advantage of the abundance of stone fruit available at the grocery store. I love the versatility of fruit cobbler. You need very few additional ingredients in your filling to accentuate the flavors of your fruit, and a cobbler topping can be put together in minutes. Then, it’s just a matter of throwing everything into a baking dish or ramekins and serving it straight from the oven.

This cobbler took mere minutes to make and baked while we enjoyed dinner. Serve it with a dollop of ice cream or whipped cream, and it is sure to be a crowd pleaser. It’s fun to experiment with different fruit as the seasons change, and a bowl of warm cobbler is particularly comforting as temperatures start to cool. Next time, I think I’ll try adding some cinnamon to the topping and some mint to the filling.

Happy Eating!

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Caramelized Fennel

I’ve come to the conclusion that fennel is one of the most under-appreciated vegetables. Raw, it tastes like slightly nutty licorice. I love its crunchy texture, and it tastes great eating as pinzimonio–the Italian tradition of dipping fresh vegetables into olive oil, vinegar, and, sometimes, a little seasoning. That being said, it’s great cooked as well. The licorice flavor mellows out and, when baked, the bulb becomes so tender that it literally melts in your mouth.

When buying fennel, make sure you look for clean, white bulbs with no bruising and dark fronds that have not wilted. When cooking, discard the green stems and the fronds. You can save the fronds for a salad or insert both stems and fronds into the cavity of a roast chicken for a different flavor (my mom is particular fond of using them this way). Today’s side dish takes mere minutes to put together, and you can prep the rest of your meal while it bakes. The recipe is also easy to halve if you are cooking for fewer people.

I also recommend giving David Rocco’s website a look. He has some fantastic recipes that they are very authentic and pretty simple!

Happy eating!

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Saffron Arancini

Ten years ago, I was in the seventh grade, sitting in my classroom, beginning a writing exercise with thirty of my peers, more concerned about my plans for the following weekend than the vocabulary words in front of me. I didn’t know what al-Qaeda was, and, although interested in government, I did not particularly care for foreign affairs. It’s amazing how much changes in ten years.

While a lot has changed, many things have stayed the same. For one thing, I always turn to my family and to my friends when grappling with crises or issues in my life, and those friends have expanded my perspective and my understanding in so many ways. For another, I continue to feel safe living in the District, knowing that countless men and women are putting in the time, and at times risking their lives to protect mine. The one thing that I can be grateful for is how much more aware 9/11 made me of what I have, and so, today, I say “Thank you.”

Now on to cooking: One thing about those aforementioned friends is that I love to show my appreciation for them by cooking. Perhaps it’s an Indian thing, but we often show our love by feeding people. So on Friday night, I had a bunch of my close Georgetown friends over for dinner.

Now, I love risotto; there are few things in this world that are as comforting as a bowl of warm rice, cooked slowly in broth. Which is why it should be of no surprise to you that one of my favorite foods in which to occasionally indulge is arancini. Arancini are little balls of risotto, lightly coated in breadcrumbs and fried until just golden. The name translates to “little oranges,” and these little bites actually look like golden oranges when piled on a plate.

I first had arancini when studying abroad in Italy. On my first day in the city, I opted to explore. I hadn’t eaten lunch that day and was starving, and by late afternoon I was scouting out places to grab a quick bite to eat. There was a small line outside a small, fairly nondescript shop in Rome, but I figured that the Romans must know what they are doing. I popped in and bought myself a few arancini. Delicious. I have no clue how the Romans stay so thin with these things around.

Happy eating and I wish all of you a safe and peaceful day.

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Crab Cakes with Piquillo Pepper Vinaigrette

Crab cakes, to be honest, are usually disappointing.  They’re dry or contain very little crab.  What’s the point of a crab cake if there’s no crab?

In our house, Thomas Keller is a culinary genius.  Around here, we just know him as “Tom.”  We started out with his cinnamon-sugar doughnuts, and since then, we’ve been working our way through his Ad Hoc at Home cookbook.  You could almost call this summer the “Summer of Thomas Keller.”

One of our favorite recipes, so far, is Tom’s recipe for crab cakes.  They’re moist, they’re savory, and they’re full of sweet crab—just the way a crab cake should be. Continue reading

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