A Smokin’ Grain Salad

Posted in Food, Recipes on April 14th, 2013 by nita – 4 Comments

The warm”ish” weather finally seems to be here to stay, and so our grills and deck are officially open for business! I’m dusting off my bbq and grill recipes along with some fun accoutrement ideas. My mind is set on using the olive oil that I bought during my last trip out to California… The Original Smoked Olive Oil from the company the Smoked Olive.

I was strolling back to my hotel in La Jolla after dinner one evening, and I passed a charming little shop called We Olive. They sell all sorts of olive oils and vinegars from regions of California (and even have wine tastings with bizarre varietals from all over the state! They specialize in bringing in wines from artisanal producers with small case production – I tasted 100% mourvedre from Santa Barbara as well as a Roussanne from Mendocino!) Getting back to the oil… The smoked olive oil caught my eye, so I asked to taste it. The obvious “wood fire” flavor, to my pleasure, was not masking the rich and buttery tone to the oil. It had all the characteristics of a quality olive oil with the added smokiness. They cold smoke the oil, giving it the flavor without exposing it to heat or light. The result is fabulous and the uses for it are endless! I’ve drizzled it over warm potatoes or hearty greens in the past, but today I wanted to use it in a different way. I made a vinaigrette with this oil, some aged balsamic, and a touch of garlic. The result was a smooth and elegant dressing that reminded me a little bit of an upscale barbecue sauce. So here is the recipe that I built around it!

Smoky Farro Salad

2 cups water
5 oz (or 3/4 cup) farro
1 teaspoon salt
1 small spring onion, chopped
1 medium sized tomato, seeded and chopped
2 tablespoons snipped chives
2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley leaves
1 small garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon aged balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons smoked olive oil

Combine water and farro in a small pot. Add salt, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer until farro is cooked through, about 20 to 25 minutes. Drain the farro and place in a large shallow bowl and cool to room temperature. Meanwhile, combine onion, tomato, chives, and parsley in a medium sized bowl. Set aside. Whisk the garlic and balsamic together – and continue whisking, adding the oil in a steady stream, until the vinaigrette is combined. When the farro is cool enough, add to the onion/tomato mixture. Dress the salad with the vinaigrette. This can be served right away or kept overnight in your refrigerator. Bring to room temperature before serving. Serves 4 as a side.

Has spring sprung!?

Posted in Dinners, Food, Recipes on March 26th, 2013 by nita – Be the first to comment

Silly question, indeed… but I ask this as yesterday we were contemplating whether the snow was going to accumulate to the inch that the weathermen had promised! The rest of the week seems to be cooperating with the season’s expectations though, so hopefully we will be seeing our vases full of spring flowers and our salads full of ramps soon enough!

Despite the looming gray skies of past, some precious gems did turn up at the market the other day! I found fresh morels, baby carrots in a rainbow of colors, baby golden and red beets, and fiddlehead ferns. I used all of the vegetables in delicate preparations, as their individual flavors were the focus(es) of the meal! I roasted the carrots and beets with just a hint of garlic and olive oil; and sauteed the fiddleheads (blanching them first) in a little oil and just added a sprinkling of sea salt and fresh cracked pepper. The morels were sauteed and then finished in a pan sauce for the buffalo rib eye steaks we cooked that night. They offered a deliciously earthy component to the whole meal and at least for that evening – we certainly did believe that Spring had Sprung!

Buffalo Ribeye Steaks with Morel Pan Sauce

3 8oz Buffalo Ribeye Steaks (my source was D’Artagnan)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 shallot, sliced thinly
1/2 lb fresh morels – large ones cut in half
1 6oz container of veal demi glace (my source was D’Artagnan)
1/2 cup dry red wine
1 1/2 tablespoons softened butter
1 1/2 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons chopped chives

Preheat your oven to 425F. Salt and pepper the steaks and set aside.

Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a medium sized saute pan over medium heat. Add the shallots and saute until softened, about 4 minutes – try not to brown them. Add the morels and saute with the onions. The morels will give off liquid – saute until the morels are not giving off anymore liquid. Add the demi glace and simmer on low.

Heat a large saute pan on medium high heat with a drizzle of olive oil. Sear the steaks on both sides – about one and a half minutes on each side, do not exceed 3 minutes total. Transfer the steaks to a baking sheet and place in the oven for 4 minutes, until medium rare. Remove the steaks onto a cutting board and let rest for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, empty the shallot/morel/demi glace mixture into the large saute pan and maintain the medium-high heat. Bring to a simmer. Add the wine and simmer for another couple minutes. Mix the butter and flour together into a paste. Add to the sauce and whisk until the sauce begins to thicken. Stir in the chives and take off heat.

Slice the steaks thinly and serve with the pan sauce. This serves my family of 4 with a little bit leftover – we had this with our melange of spring vegetables.

Epitomizing Comfort Food

Posted in Dinners, Family, Food, Pairings, Recipes, Wine on February 7th, 2013 by nita – Be the first to comment

Feeling incredibly lucky to be the recipient of any foodie’s dream gift, Thomas Keller’s French Laundry/Ad Hoc cookbook set (Thx RAP!), I decided to follow master Keller’s instructions for a comfort classic… Chicken Pot Pie. This is the epitome of comfort food for Manish. No matter how strict he is on his carb or dairy intake for the week, he always makes room for a good pot pie.

This recipe is super easy and delicious! It takes time though – and a little bit of patience. So give yourself a few hours, follow his instructions, and get ready for a real treat! I personally didn’t veer from the recipe at all – but next time I wouldn’t mind adding some peas, maybe a smidge of garlic, and just a tad more cayenne to the bechamel. The crust is to die for!

Thomas Keller’s Chicken Pot Pie, AdHoc Cookbook

Pie Crust:
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 1/2 sticks of butter, cut into 1/2 inch pieces and chilled
About 5 tablespoons of ice water

Combine the flour and salt in a large bowl. Then add the butter and toss to coat with flour. With your hands or a pastry blender, work the butter into the flour, tossing and incorporating any pieces of butter that have settled at the bottom of the bowl, until the butter pieces are no larger than a pea. Drizzle 1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) of ice water over the top and, using a fork, mix the dough until it holds together when pinched: add the remaining tablespoon of water if the dough is very dry. Knead the dough until it is completely smooth and the butter is incorporated. (I used all 5 tablespoons)

Divide the dough in half, with one piece slightly larger than the other (the larger crust will be the bottom piece). Shape each half in a 1 inch thick disk. Wrap tightly with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for atleast one hour, or up to a day. (if the dough does not rest, it will shrink as it bakes.)

If the dough is too hard to roll, let it rest at room temperature for a few minutes or pound it a few times with a rolling pin. Lightly flour the work surface and rolling pin. Lightly dust the top of the large disk with flour and roll it out to a 13 to 14 inch round about 1/8 inch thick: roll outward from the center, rotating the dough frequently and adding a little flour to the work surfaceor dough as needed to prevent sticking. Fold the dough in half and transfer to a 9 to 10 inch pie plate, gently easing the dough into the corners and up the sides.

Roll out the second piece of dough in the same manner, to a 12 inch round, about 1/8 inch thick. Place on parchment-lined baking sheet. Refrigerate both doughs for 15 minutes.

Makes one 9 to 10 inch double crust pie.

Chicken Pie Filling:
1 cup of 1/2-inch pieces red-skinned potatoes
1 1/4 cups of 1/2-inch pieces carrots (cut on the diagonal)
12 white pearl onions
3 bay leaves
3 thyme sprigs
24 black peppercorns
1 1/4 cups of 1/2-inch pieces of celery (cut on the diagonal)
2 cups of shredded cooked chicken

Bechamel Sauce:
3 tablespoons of unsalted butter
3 tablespoons of all-purpose flour
3 cups of whole milk
1 teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
1 tablespoon finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
1/2 teaspoon finely chopped thyme
Pinch of cayenne

1 egg, beaten

Roll out the dough, place one piece in a 9 or 10 inch pie plate and the second on a baking sheet, and refrigerate.

Put the potatoes, carrots, and onions in separate small saucepans with water to cover and add 1 bay leaf, 1 thyme sprig, and 8 peppercorns to each pan. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat and simmer until just tender, 8 to 10 minutes.

Drain the vegetables, discard the bay, thyme, and peppercorns, and spread on a baking sheet. Cut the onions in half.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Fill a medium bowl with ice water. Blanch the celery until just crisp-tender, 1 to 1 1/2 minutes.
Drain, transfer to the ice bath, and chill just until cold. Drain and add to the baking sheet with the other vegetables.

Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in the flour and cook for 2 to 3 minutes; adjust the heat as needed so that the mixture does not brown. Whisk in the milk, lower the heat to keep the bechamel at a gentle simmer, and cook, whisking often, until the sauce has thickened and reduced to about 2 cups, 30 to 40 minutes; move the whisk over the bottom and into the corners of the pan to be sure the bechamel doesn’t burn.

Position the oven racks in the lower third and center of the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Strain the bechamel through a fine-mesh conical strainer into a spouted measuring cup. Season with salt, pepper, parsley, thyme, and cayenne.

Remove both doughs from the refrigerator.

Scatter the vegetables and chicken into the pie shell. Pour the bechamel over them. At this point, if the top crust is too hard to shape, let it rest at room temperature for a few minutes. Moisten the rim of pie shell with some of the beaten egg. Cover the filling with the top crust and press the edges of the dough together to seal. Trim away the excess dough that overhangs the rim. Brush the top crust with the egg. Cut a small vent in the center of the dough with a small cutter or the tip of a paring knife to allow steam to escape.

Bake on the lower oven rack until the crust is a rich golden brown, 50 minutes to 1 hour. If necessary, move the pie to the center rack during the last 10 minutes of baking to brown the crust. Transfer to a cooling rack and let rest for 10 minutes.

Cut the pot pie into 6 wedges and serve warm.

I didn’t have any California Chardonnay on hand to pair with this (surprise surprise) but wanted something with a level of richness, but of course good balance, that would go well. I chose the 2011 Edi Keber Collio Bianco. A blend of Friulano and Ribolla Gialla, the wine is fermented and aged in cement vats which results in great weight, fruit, and balance while still retaining a load of minerality. Love it!

The sloppy photo above is just proving how impatient we all were to eat this last night after following meticulous instructions, and waiting! But it WAS worth the wait… So go ahead and run to the grocery store now – it’ll be the perfect meal to make when you are snowed in this weekend! :)

Lemon Ricotta Pancakes

Posted in Family, Food, Recipes on January 7th, 2013 by nita – Be the first to comment

If I have fresh ricotta in the house, this recipe is a must. Eggs, lemons, and flour are all staple ingredients – so the fresh ricotta is key. I’ve tried many recipes for lemon ricotta pancakes, but I go back to the one published in the September, 1991 issue of Gourmet each time. Light, fluffy, slightly sweet and fresh! There is something about the texture that I enjoy about this recipe. It was originally printed with an accoutrement of sauteed apples, but I just have mine with a light drizzle of pure Vermont maple syrup…

I instagramed this photo yesterday and received numerous messages for the recipe, so here it is!

Lemon Ricotta Pancakes (as published in Gourmet Magazine, Sep, 1991)

4 large eggs, separated
1 1/3 cups fresh ricotta
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons freshly grated lemon zest
1/2 cup all purpose flour
melted butter for the griddle
pure maple syrup

Place an oven proof baking sheet in a warm oven (no warmer than 200 degrees F.) In a bowl, whisk together the yolks, the ricotta, the sugar, and the zest. Add the flour, stirring with a wooden spoon until just combined. Set aside. In a bowl of an electric mixer, beat egg whites with a pinch of salt until stiff peaks form. Whisk about 1/4 of the whites into the ricotta mixture, and then fold the rest of it in gently but thoroughly. Heat a griddle over medium heat and wait until hot enough for drops of water to scatter over surface. Brush griddle with melted butter, drop 1/4 cups-ful of batter on griddle and cook 1-2 minutes on each side or until golden brown. Transfer the pancakes to the baking sheet in warm oven and continue with the rest of the batter, brushing melted butter as needed. Serve pancakes with maple syrup (and dust with powdered sugar if you want!) Makes about twelve 3-4 inch pancakes.


Posted in Family, Food, Recipes, Wine on January 5th, 2013 by nita – Be the first to comment

Balance is the key to successful execution in food, wine, and even life in general.

I remember as a kid, my father used to say to me “Nita, too much of anything is never good.” So the little smart a$$ that I was, I would find examples that I thought would stump him… “Oh yeah, well how about too much fruit or too many vegetables!?” He would then go on to explain the effects of fiber and lack of on the digestive system… and I was pretty much done trying to stump him.

The next “balance” themed life lesson that I took from my father was when we had our first child. He told me that while life will change now, we shouldn’t revolve everything around the baby – instead, submerge the baby in our revolving worlds. Although the scale teetered quite a bit at times, we did manage to find a balance, and appreciate the advice to this day.

Now onto food and wine… Your palate senses 5 different flavor elements… salty, sweet, sour, bitter, and umami (my upbringing will remind me that “spicy” should be the 6th element but that’s something I don’t need to argue right now.) While all do not need to be present in a dish or a wine, a balance of two or more of these flavors is necessary to counteract an excess of any one particular element. In wine, acidity is key. Some of the best Riesling producers are the ones that are dedicated to making high acid wines – never cloying, always fresh. Without the acidity, we would feel like we are just drinking syrup.

I have a recipe that exemplefies the importance of balance. It’s really more of a condiment recipe – you can use it on everything from combining it in salads, topping your blanched vegetables with, a sprinkle over a grilled fish, or hearty pieces of meat. It’s a gremolata recipe – and it possesses qualities of sweet, sour, bitter, umami, salt, and even spice… Sprinkle it over the next dish that you think needs a lesson in balance!

“Kicked up” Gremolata

1 clove garlic, minced
1/3 cup finely chopped parsley
zest of 1 large navel orange
zest of 1 large lemon
1 1/2 tablespoons freshly grated horseradish
salt (see notes)

Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Do not add salt until you are ready to sprinkle the gremolata on your dish. You can store this gremolata in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 days – but not with salt. So set some aside if you want leftovers! I use this to top everything from salads, vegetables, fish, eggs, and meat. Sprinkled over braised lamb shanks is divine!!

Makes about 1/2 cup

Goodbye 2012… A May-December Recap

Posted in Dinners, Food, Wine on December 31st, 2012 by nita – Be the first to comment

I lied. I promised to be more diligent about updating my blog and posting several times a month. And I didn’t adhere to that promise.

For the 3 followers that I may still have, I apologize. But I do have some very noteworthy experiences to document… So here is a very quick recap of some of my favorites from the months of May through December…

We traveled quite a bit in these few months – local family getaways and overseasadventures! Some of my favorite shots…

Watching the Sunset from our backyard in Greensboro, Vermont

Being part of a close friend's very special WHITE party in Michigan

Hiking in the Poconos with family

A gorgeous view in Getarria, Spain - at Bodega Ameztoi overlooking Bodega Txomin Extaniz

A unique shot of "Maman" at the Guggenheim in Bilbao, Spain

We ate a lot too! Visited the likes of Il Buco in NYC, Ryland Inn in Whitehouse, NJ, Claire’s in Hardwick, VT, A Toute Huerre in Cranford, NJ, and La Vara in Brooklyn… Here are a few photos that made the cut – most of these are taken in Spain…

Nantucket Bay Scallops with Sunchokes three ways and a green coconut sauce at Ryland Inn

Mixed Heirloom Beet Salad with Goat cheese and Chocolate at Ryland Inn

A "risotto" style dish where you start with this structured rice encased in a dried tomato strip, with a poached egg (yolk taken out and pumpkin puree magically took its place) all mixed together... YUM! At Al Fuego Negro in San Sebastian, Spain

Very fresh fish in Getarria - this is Anglar fish at Asador Astillero, Getarria, Spain

A very surprisingly refreshing "pre dessert" - avocado mousse, coconut ice cream, and liquid nitrogen frozen grapefruit "kernels" at Nerua at Guggenheim, Bilbao, Spain

Sometimes simple is the most extravagant thing on the plate... This was dessert at the Guggenheim - a chocolate slab (notice the granule of grey salt on the corners :)

Foie at Al Fuego - it was as delicious as it is beautiful

Can’t forget about all of the wonderful libations and pairings… everything from hand crafted Gin from a Beekeeper I now call a friend, to some fabulously oxidative styles of vino that I have grown to love… Here are some favorites!

Amazing Sherry - nutty, oxidative, all the while possessing fresh citrus qualities too... Fabulous!

Lopez de Heredia's whites - when tasted blind, it's been said that most people think they are drinking red...

Todd Hardie of Caledonia Spirits is the creator of these fabulous spirits – all made from or with his raw honey! -Caledonia Spirits, Hardwick, VT

1989 Vina Rionda - Oddero Barolo - Consumed at my birthday celebration at Il Buco thanks to JB!

We were one of the lucky people to be at dinner with friends of friends that brought this! Absolutely divine. We tasted much newer vintages in Spain.

One of my favorite additions to our Italian wall at the shop - The Ruche is full of geranium leaves on the nose, and spiced red fruit on the palate. I love it!

Sherry Tasting at Murray's Cheese - Kerin's a great teacher!

Lopez's reds

Happy 16th Anniversary!

Posted in Dinners, Family, Food, Pairings, Wine on May 26th, 2012 by nita – Be the first to comment

“Each year on this day, I think about my world and how you make it a better place for me. I then resolve that I can’t love you more than I already do… And the following year I realize I am wrong. Thank you for your support and your love and being part of something to always look forward to. Happy sweet sixteen and here’s to many many more!”

To celebrate 16 years of marriage, Manish and I spent the night in a gorgeous B&B in Princeton, and had dinner at our favorite… elements. We participated in a special dinner as guests of Chefs Scott Anderson, Mike Ryan, and their team at elements with guest chefs Curtis Duffy, Alex Talbot, and John and Karen Shields. The textures, colors, and remarkable flavors of the meal were unmatched by any other we’ve experienced. The wine pairings by Justin Kuruvilla, wine director and sommelier were divine.  Here is the recap of our incredibly memorable meal…

Guest Chef Dinner at elements with Alex Talbot, John & Karen Shields, Curtis Duffy

Pansy custard, egg, yogurt with crispy crouton by team elements

Back Cove Oyster new spruce, spinach, an infusion of seaweeds, radish milk by chef John Shields

Cold broth of english pea recado negro, creamy ginger, compressed pineapple, black mint by chef Curtis Duffy

After the "coconut shell" was cracked open... Amazing.

Dried beets and sour strawberries concord grape kombucha, walnut, yogurt by chefs Alex Talbot & Aki Kamozawa

Chilled scallops toasted goats milk pudding, hibiscus tea, licorice flavored herbs by chef Curtis Duffy

"Tongue-katsu Oscar" soft shell crab, asparagus gribiche, almand by chefs Alex Talbot & Aki Kamozawa

100 day dry aged Wagyu dehydrated shrimp, shiitake mushroom, cured, elderflower 1 of 2 by team Elements

100 day dry aged Wagyu dehydrated shrimp, shiitake mushroom, cured, elderflower 2 of 2 by team elements

Alpine strawberry cashew, thai chili, tarragon, hyssop by team elements

Dried carrot sweet woodruff, white chocolate yogurt, tonka bean, muscavado sugar spread by chef Karen Shields

Final desert by team elements

Txikifest 2012

Posted in Family, Food, Wine on May 7th, 2012 by nita – Be the first to comment

one of the first producers of txacoli that i tried back in 2007

an experienced txacoli pourer

Txacolina… or Txacoli… Incredibly refreshing, light, mineral, and slightly effervescent. The perfect warm weather wine. The Basque region’s reason for celebration.

The first time that I ever tried Txacoli (pronounced Chock-o-lee,) one of our suppliers at the shop had brought in a bottle for us to sample. “Hondurrabi Zuri and Hondurrabi Beltza,” was the response from our rep when asked what the grape varietal was of this unique wine with the silly name. Made of indigenous varietals found almost exclusively in the Basque region, Txacoli is a dry wine with high acid and low alcohol. The slight spritz of this libation is volumized by the elevated pouring technique performed by bartenders and servers that are familiar with this practice. Normally served in tumblers, Txacoli is fabulous as an apertif or served aside tapas, cheeses, meats, and fresh seafood.

spiced prawns with taro root

tarragon deviled egg with deep fried hama hama oyster

buckets of txacoli!

Txacoli was going to be front and center at “Txikifest 2012.” Txikifest is the annual NYC festival (2012 marked its 2nd year) that celebrates the newest vintage of Txacoli and is hosted by the fabulous tapas restaurant in Chelsea, Txikito. Many new releases of Txacoli were presented along side some of the most delicious bites from eateries all around Manhattan (and some even a bit farther away.) The festival took place in the back alley of Txikito and welcomed over 200 guests.  JB gave us the initial heads up on this May 6th event and we decided to attend with some fam and friends. We sampled so many different producers of Txacoli and paired them with the perfect Basque-inspired bites. The proper way to pour Txacoli is  to start a foot or so above so that the wine aerates by the time it hits the tumbler. It helps to use the little plastic pourers that aid in the aerating as well. It’s quite fun to watch.

Our etched souveneir glasses

We bought some raffle tickets (all proceeds from Txikifest went to Department of Neonatology at NYU Langone Medical Center) and came home winners! I won a lovely basket of cheeses, meats, vinegars, olive oils, chocolate, and wine. One would think after a day so beautiful, wine so refreshing, food so delicious, and gift (raffle) so generous, that the day was complete. Of course there was more!

The winners! Congrats P&J!!!!

The last few numbers were being called on the final raffle draw of the day – the trip for two to Spain! Up to the seventh digit, my ticket was a match… but then the last two numbers were called out… close but no cigar. The winner was my brother in law, Piyush! But it wasn’t until he came back to the “screaming crowd” with an envelope in his hand that he realized he had won THE TRIP! Several celebratory toasts and interviews later, we were all pouring txacoli like “experts” (some better than others) and decided to call it a day.

And yes, if all goes well, we will be joining the winners to Bilbao later this year.


Ricotta Cheesecake with Chai Spices

Posted in Family, Food, Recipes on February 29th, 2012 by nita – Be the first to comment

I grew up enjoying the sweet, rich dairy concoctions from India that my mother would make for celebratory occasions. Often making her own version of ricotta, she would always allow me to “sample” the still very hot batter for her famous Indian sweet… “Burfi.” I leave the burfi-making to my mother, but one of my favorite tried and true dessert recipes of all time is for ricotta cheesecake. Perhaps dating back to the pleasure I felt as a child while eating my mother’s creations, ricotta cheesecake takes me to a very happy place :)

I’m sure if I had an Italian grandmother, I would have a treasured family recipe to pass down to my children… But instead, I have a recipe that I have tweaked through the years, and one that I may say I am quite proud of. But something about this dessert just wasn’t screaming “pass me down to your children because this defines who you are as a mother, wife, and cook!” So, I Nita-fied it. Enjoy!

Ricotta Cheesecake with Chai Spices
Serves 10-12

2 lb whole milk ricotta (fresh if possible)
1 tablespoon butter, room temperature
2 teaspoons sugar
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
pinch of ginger powder
3 tablespoons unseasoned dry breadcrumbs
1 lb cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon fresh orange juice
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 teaspoon orange zest
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 ½ tablespoons masala blend for chai (see my previous post)
pinch of salt
1 tablespoon of salt free matzo meal (if you can’t find matzo meal, process matzo crackers into fine crumbs)

Drain ricotta in a fine mesh strainer over a bowl for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease an 8 inch springform pan with 2 ½ inch sides with butter. Combine the 2 teaspoons sugar, cinnamon, ginger powder, and breadcrumbs together in a bowl, and sprinkle inside the pan. Coat all sides and bottom of pan, tapping out excess.

Transfer the ricotta to a food processor and puree until smooth, scraping down sides when necessary. Add cream cheese and puree until smooth. Add the rest of the ingredients and puree, scraping down the sides when necessary, until very smooth. Transfer batter to the prepared pan and bake until golden brown and just set, about an hour and 15 minutes.

Let the cake cool on a rack (it will deflate slightly.) Then refrigerate uncovered for an hour. Cover the cake and refrigerate overnight. To serve, remove the cake from the refrigerator about ½ hour before serving. Remove the pan sides and dust with powdered sugar. Cut in slices and serve with chilled whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

Spice of Life

Posted in Family, Food, Recipes on February 28th, 2012 by nita – Be the first to comment

Home remedies have been a part of my childhood, my adulthood, and my livelihood. When I was a kid and I had a sore throat, my mother would tell me to drink a “tea” made from boiling grated ginger in water, adding honey and lemon to taste. My father would tell me to chew on a clove for a tooth ache. When I got married, my mother in law suggested that I wear a necklace of garlic to get rid of my cold. And after having my first child, she suggested rubbing asafetida on her belly to get rid of gas.

Immediate relief was not the intended goal here… but the homeopathic route was always preferred over the pharmacy. The slight burn and tingle or the ginger provided balance to the soothing nature of the honey and lemon for my sore throats. Clove oil is one of the main ingredients in natural tooth paste and dental anesthetics. Garlic, when crushed, forms a sulphuric compound called allicin which aids in healing colds. Asafetida has been used for medicinal purposes for centuries – aiding in relieving digestive issues.

The ingredients for these home remedies are not only nature’s way of healing, but they are some of the brilliant gems of my pantry. Inspired by my recent visit to India, and all of the amazing spices and flavors, I wanted to share my recipe for Chai Masala. Known to cure sore throats and aid in the prevention of colds and fevers, this spice blend is extremely versatile! I use it when I make Chai, but also found another creative way to utilize the exotic nature of its flavors… My next post will talk more about that…

Every household in India serves Chai – ALL DAY LONG. When we first arrive at someone’s home, we are served Chai. Mid day, we are served Chai. Late afternoon, or tea time, we are served Chai. After dinner, we are served Chai. So, needless to say, I had my fill of Chai while visiting India. I like my spice blend to be on the spicier side, so I tweaked my recipe to accommodate my preference. Enjoy!

Photo taken from

Spice blend for Masala Chai
Makes 1 cup

5 cinnamon sticks
15 whole cloves
¼ cup whole black peppercorns
3 tablespoons green cardamom seeds (pods removed)
freshly grated nutmeg (I use about 1/3 of a single nutmeg)
3-4 tablespoons ground ginger powder

Dry roast in a heavy fry pan over medium heat the cinnamon, cloves, black peppercorns, and cardamom seeds for about 5 to 7 minutes. Cool completely. Transfer roasted spices to a spice grinder (in batches if necessary) and grind to a fine powder. Stir in the nutmeg and ginger powder until well combined. Store in an air-tight container.

Masala Chai (Indian Spiced Tea with Milk)
Makes 1 cup

¾ cups water
¼ cup 2% milk
scant ¼ teaspoon spice blend for masala chai
scant 2 teaspoons loose leaf black tea (I use Assam)

Heat the milk and water in a pot over high heat. Just before it comes to a boil, add the masala. Just as the mixture boils, add the tea. Let the mixture simmer for 2 minutes, watching constantly to make sure that it doesn’t boil over. Take off heat and let it steep for another 1 to 2 minutes. Strain into a tea cup, and add sugar to taste.