Saturday, April 27, 2013

Peperonata | Goodness of Peppers Italian Way

Recently the convenience shop n our complex was giving free veggies to their customers as they had surplus produce which cannot be stored for a long time.Prominent were red and yellow peppers and purple/red cabbage which otherwise cost a bomb in the same shop. 

And to think I had visited the same shop previous evening and got the red and yellow peppers at a high price.Anyway the next day I too got a bagful of these and was wondering how many dishes I could transform these into before they go bad. And the first dish that came to my mind was the Italian peperonata.  
In my family everybody loves the peppers and more colourful the more better. 

Peperonata is a simple vegetarian side with coloured peppers, onion and tomatoes along with spices and flavourings. Though there are several versions to this I have chosen a simple and hearty version from SimplyRecipes


Olive Oil: 2-3 tbsp
Red, Yellow, Green,Orange Peppers :1 or 2 each. deseeded and sliced into thin long strips 
Onion: 1 large sliced thin long.
Garlic: 2-4 cloves sliced thin
Tomatoes: 2-3 large, chopped
Oregano: 2-3 tsp as per taste
Sugar: 2-3 tsp
Salt& pepper : as per taste

Fresh Basil: few torn coarsely
Lemon Juice: as per taste

Heat oil in a deep wide pan and while it becomes smoking hot add in onions.Add in a little salt and saute for 2-3 minutes until the onions change colour and start to brown.

Add the peppers and saute for another 5-6 minutes till they become al-dente - cooked yet crunchy.Add garlic, saute till it softens. Add the sugar and oregano and adjust the salt. 

Add the chopped tomatoes and cook for another one minute. Remove from heat and add in the basil and black pepper. 

Serve by drizzling lemon juice as a side along with bread or as itself.

I went for bite size peices of the pepper rather than long strips as they are easier to chew. Also green pepper is optional and not there in the source.A simple and quick preparation.Its like gourmet becomes easy. You can top bread with it and serve as canapes, or stuff tortillas or rotis with it along with some cheese.  

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Torcettini de St. Vincent | We knead to Bake #4

If you think breads or kneading is threapeutic then I have something else to add to it. Along with breads,cookies are also my "pick-me-ups'.

 Ofcourse our cookie obsession starts right from childhood or say by 2 years of age. Instead of chocolate which we say " decays tooth" we give the kids cookies/biscuits with milk as snack or think about the traditional cookie- milk snack for Santa. 

But you are wrong if you think I love munching them. I love baking them and go for different varieties in them.Whenever I am at a baking low, baking cookies pulls me up. And on one such cookie baking experiment it was a yeasted cookie- my previous oven conked out.

No worries, I did bake a cookie and that too a yeasted one. From my googling, I have come under the assumption that yeasted cookies give slightly different results from a normal cookies. Yeasted cookies are tastier and yeast in them gives slight puffiness and flavour. Atleast thats what I got from Torcettini de St.Vincent that we baked for We Knead to Bake #4. The recipe is adapted from A Baker's Tour by
Nick Malgieri.

These are twisted sugar cookies made of flour,yeast, butter dough, and rolled into sugar before baking.The origin of these biscuits is believed to be from Grissini (breadsticks) which were made from the leftover scraps of bread dough. According to one story, a Grissini baker had some leftover butter which he needed to use up. Inspiration struck and he decided to add the butter to the last batch of his Grissini dough for the day. To be able to differentiate this lot of “breadsticks”, he rolled them in sugar and shaped them into loops, and the Torcetti was born. Torcetti/ Torchettini taste even better when they’re flavoured with lime/ lemon zest or anise.
These biscuits are crunchy, not very sweet and pair very well with cold milk, hot chocolate, tea/ coffee or wine. They are delicious served warm and equally good cold, and keep very well if stored in airtight containers. Apparently, Queen Margaret, the wife of King Umberto I of Savoy loved these biscuits so much during her stay in Valle d'Aosta, that she gave her servants enough provisions to bake an abundant supply for her consumption. (source: Aparna)

Warm Water: 1/2 cup, about 110F
Instant yeast: 1 tsp (active dry 1 1/4)

All Purpose Flour: 1.5 cups
Salt: 1/4 tsp
Cold Cubed Unsalted Butter:  40 gms
Lemon Zest: 1 tsp

Granulated White Sugar: 1/3 cup + for rolling the cookies


Dissolve yeast  in warm water and let it sit until yeast starts working.

In a food processor, pulse together flour and salt and then add cubed cold butter and lemon zest and pulse few times till it looks powdery. 

Add in the yeast-water mix and pulse few more times till the dough comes together in a ball.

Place the dough ball in a well oiled bowl turning once to coat it with oil and let it rise quite a bit covered with a plastic wrap.

The dough doesn't double ,but it puffs up a bit until about an hour or so. Deflate the dough gently,wrap it and chill in the fridge for an hour or so. You can chill it upto 24 hours as well.

Once you are ready for baking the cookies, roll out the dough in to a 6' square. If the dough is sticky sprinkle some sugar and continue rolling out.Using a pizza wheel, cut the dough into 4 pieces of equal width. Cut each strip into 6 pieces across, totalling 24 pieces of equal size.

My size is just approximate and not in perfect agreement with the above numbers. :D

Roll each piece into a pencil thick “rope” about 5” long. Sprinkle a little sugar on your work surface and roll the “rope” in it so the sugar crusts the dough uniformly. Form the “rope” into a loop crossing it over before the ends.

Here, if you have noticed, the dough does not include sugar at all. Just rolling in sugar will sweeten it but its just not enough for a sweeeeet person like me. For me cookies are sweet unless you are going for a savoury cookie adding required ingredients.

So for few pieces, before turning out into ropes, I rolled or stuffed with little sugar and then again rolled the rope into more sugar before turning it into a loop.

Place each loop on parchment lined baking sheet leaves about 1.5 " between them. Let them sit for another 20 minutes till they start puffing up. Compared to the first "rise" this one was more prominent and they rose beautifully.

Bake the torcettinis at 160C (325F) for about 25 minutes till they’re a nice golden brown. Cool the cookies completely, on a rack. Store them in an air-tight container at room temperature.

Yum cookies, just rightly sweet and crisp. They actually reminded me of palmiers or the little hearts biscuits that are available here. Thanks Aparna for this wonderful deviation from breads, this month.You can also see step by step pics at Aparna's post.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf | 50 & Going Strong

There are several coffee brands and cafes but what makes CBTL a cut above the rest.? Read on..

The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf  (CBTL) is the biggest private specialty coffee and tea retailer in USA. In their own words they select "only the one percent of finest Arabica coffee beans and finest hand plucked whole leaf teas". They are based in Los Angeles and opened their first cafe in Brentwood, California in 1963. Since then they has spread across 900 international locations and started operations in India in 2008. They started their first outlet in Bangalore last year and recently opened another lounge in Phoenix Market City. 

2013 being their 50th Year, they have commenced year long celebrations with their new menu with a variety of gourmet bites and healthy options. They have also unveiled a new logo for this occasion that literally shows their passion for tea and coffee.Definitely  CBTL leaves a high mark in the way it treats its customers. 

I had been to Phoenix cafe for a review and was floored by its warmth and coziness. You can choose a corner, order your elixir and feel comfy. Whether you go alone or with a group you will love it. While you are there, you can go through the 'Tea Guide' & 'Coffee Guide' and understand what you've ordered  or about to. Each guide gives you insight about the art of brewing coffee and tea and even the background of tealeaf and coffee bean used in the cafe. 

The menu tells us about classic coffee and teas and there is an impressive line of Indian tea as well. Otherwise they import their coffee bean and tealeaf from US. So be assured that you are getting the same taste as your counterpart in Israel or US or any other CBTL cafes across the world. 

Me being a tea person, I went for Tropical Passion Tea Latte and also tried the Genmaicha Green Tea. The former was combination of Ceylon tea,passion fruit & guava flavor along with marigold flowers. It was perfect for a rainy day. Genmaicha Green Tea on the other hand had delicate Sencha tea with toasted rice and puffed rice. Now this is a tea which everybody wont appreciate. The aroma of toasted rice and puffed rice might be a little too strong but don't worry, they have a wonderful list and you can definitely find your favourite one among them.

Along with this you can really have a look into the bites options which is very tempting. I tried few items  such as the soft chewy granola bars along with grab n go paneer tikka sandwich and penne arrabiata. The sandwich (or all Grab N Go Sandwiches) comes with store made potato wafers and a salad and is definitely a winner. The pasta sauces are all homemade and are definitely a cut above the rest. 

The operations Manager at CBTL, Mr Zameer claimed that they even have a vegetarian caesar salad to cater to Indian tastebuds. And yes, it was definitely a refreshing salad.

Did You know:

CBTL is the first one to launch ice blended drinks. An ice blended drink is made fresh for every order and has their speciality coffee/tea extract blended with custom made ice cubes and speciality flavouring resulting in smoother,richer and creamier drink but still with the full bodied flavour of tea/coffee. In other words its not just coffee shaken/stirred/poured over ice.

And now do you really want to know what is my elixir at CBTL?
It was refreshing Fruit infusion ice blended Tea with Swedish Berries.

Herbal & Fruit Tea Infusions are naturally caffeine free and are made with large pieces of dried fruit with fruit flavours added. These are best alternative to regular tea or coffee. Talking about my elixir, Swedish berries tea mix is a blend of hibiscus,raisins and mixed berries with natural fruity flavour and a sweet,fragrant aroma.

I can't describe to you the refreshing taste of this. I went for another one and am still yearning for more. Also recommended is Caramel ice blended which is now on my waiting list. 

All this makes  CBTL a cut above the rest. The location and the excellent ambiance are just part of it. Also to be mentioned is the 'coffee to go' containers a speciality of  CBTL. All beverages and snacks in CBTL are halal and kosher certified. Only filtered water is used to brew tea and coffee.The ice cubes used in "ice blended" drinks are custom made for CBTL.The menu has desi options also to cater to various taste. The wi-fi /internet is free in CBTL lounges as well. 

No wonder they won the "Best Cafe Award - Gold" at in India International Coffee Festival , 2012.

So what are you waiting for.? Do visit CBTL and enjoy a loooooooong Coffee/Tea Break

  • Phoenix Market City, Whitefield
  • 1 MG Mall, MG Road
  • Koramangala, 7th Block
  • Inorbit Mall,Whitefield

For more information do visit Coffeebean

Monday, April 15, 2013

Mango Cheese(cup)cake | Baking Partners Challenge #9

For me cheesecake was a dream. I made my first cheese cake with egg replacer and cream cheese while in US. After coming here somehow I didn't feel like making one. The cream cheese was either tangy or not available. But still I went on bookmarking yummy cheesecakes that I saw on web. 

Finally I got down to make one or few when I was pushed into it thanks to Swathi who wanted me to suggest a cheesecake. Obviously I chose the no-bake luscious mango cheesecake from DivineTaste. Ofcourse you can go for any fruit/flavour but mangoes are in season and though I am no mango lover I thought why not give the King of Fruits its due. 

I had wanted to make individual cheesecakes and I went with just one-fourth of the recipe.I had used lined in my regular muffin pans for this and they turned out best. They were devoured off within moments. With this recipe you can get about 6-8 regular muffins.


Digestive Biscuits powdered : about 6-8 tbsp (I used one regular packet of 8 bisuits crushed in a blender)
Butter: 2 tbsp cubed/chopped into small pieces 

Powdered Sugar: 4-6 tbsp
Thick Yogurt: 1 cup drained overnight 
Paneer/Cottage Cheese: 1/2 cup

Water: 7tbsp
Chinagrass /Agar-agar/Kaanten: 4 tbsp

Mango Puree: 1/2 cup (1 small or 1/2 big mango peeled,chopped and pureed with about 1-2 tbsp of sugar)
Vanilla extract: 1/4 tsp 

Mango Puree: 2-3 tbsp
Water: 2 tsp
Sugar: 2 tsp + more as per taste
Lemon Juice: few drops /almost 1/2 -3/4 tsp


Powder the bisuits in a blender or ziploc. I used the blender. Make a fine powder of about 8 tbsp and then blend in the chopped/cubed butter to get a mixture.

Line about 6-8 muffin cups/pan with double liners . Add about 1 tbsp of this biscuit mix onto each cup and press evenly along the base to make the base for our cheesecake.

Chill in the freezer for about 15 minutes or in the fridge for atleast 30 minutes or until the filling is ready.


Chop agar agar into small pieces and soak in enough (7 tbsp for me) water till it softens. While this is being done, blend together the curd cheese and paneer till smooth and creamy,put this in a mixing bowl and keep ready the mango puree.

I had drained my yogurt in a vessel using a cheesecloth and a strainer and left it overnight in the fridge.You can use the whey collected in the vessel for other purposes like making doughs,stock etc.Anyway you need to use the cheese in the strainer for the cheesecake filling.

When the chinagrass turns soft,heat it in low flame,stirring continuously till it dissolves in water and ready for use. This takes about 5-6 minutes and requires very low heat for melting.On another burner, place the mango puree and heat it on medium flame. Do not allow both these mixes to boil. Once the chinagrass solution is ready, remove both from heat and mix in the chinagrass solution to the hot mango solution stirring well.

Slowly add the mango-agar solution to the  paneer -curd cheese mix along with powdered sugar and vanilla, stirring well until well blended. Now filling is ready.

Once the crust is well chilled, pour spoonful of filling atop the crust, level with a spoon and chill for atleast 3 hours or overnight in the fridge.

Mix together all the items for the glaze and heat in on medium fire till it comes to boil. Reduce the heat and let it cook for few more minutes till it thickens.

Once the cheesecake chills for atleast an hour you can spread the glaze atop and let it chill again for few more hours or even overnight.

Yumm... Cheesecupcake is ready to be attacked..

A simple fuss free cheesecake that requires no baking. Only chilling and patience to go through the steps and wait for it to be ready. You can go for a round pan for making a single big cheesecake which has to be cut and served.I prefer the individual mess free ones.Also despite the mango being naturally sweet, I had added sugar while pureeing the mango pieces. So the overall cheesecake turned out sweeter that the original recipe.This extra sweetness/sugar I suppose is needed as the curd available is basically tangy and same might go for paneer.

Lets see what other baking partners have prepared this time. Check out here for more treats 

Friday, April 12, 2013

Rose Shrikhand | Wishing All A Rosy Sweet Year Ahead

This is a simple recipe easy to make but looks and taste different. A bit like life I feel. I started making this shrikhand with dried rose petals and rose preserve (gulkhand) expecting a rosy pink dish. But it was still pure white thanks to the curd cheese. But one taste it bursted rose in my mouth.

Appearances can be deceiving in dishes as well.:).

But taste is an all important factor and hence my rose version is good to go when you are celebrating Ugadi/Gudi Padva/Cheti Chand. A celebration of the year ahead expecting a happy fun filled or rosy year with little bitterness or thorns thrown in.

Feel free to increase the amount of sugar and rose jam/gulkhand. All depends on the taste/sourness of the yogurt as well. These days yogurt turns sour fast as its hot. Anyway its upto you.The recipe is adapted from Sanjeev Kapoor. The recipe makes 1-2 big bowls depending on how big your bowl is.

Hung Curd: almost 2 cups
Powdered Sugar: 8 tbsp +

Dried Rose Petals : 3-5 tsp + more for garnishing
Gulkhand/ Rose Preserves: 2 tbsp+

I had drained the normal full fat yogurt overnight and had used around 3/4 cup of the curd cheese for this.
Mix together dried rose petals and gulkhand into a paste and keep aside.

Mix together powdered sugar and hung yogurt/curd cheese to blend into a smooth paste.Mix in the rose petal and gulkhand paste and adjust the sweetness. 

Serve well garnished with remaining rose petals as a sweet ending for Ugadi lunch.

A simple dessert for a rosy year ahead. Don't expect pink colour in this dish. You can use rose syrup for a pink colour and also drizzle rose oil for a more enriching aroma and flavour.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Blueberry Slushy/Ice | Hello Summer

The good thing about summer is the various cold and refreshing items we can consume . The moment heat rises out come the slushies, granitas,sorbets ices and whatnot. When I was a kid, I knew only very few of these. I could see the roads lined  with watermelon and knew then summer was here.Mostly I was happy with the 'sip ups' that where available all the year round and were much needed in summer. But now its gourmet. You get French sorbet, Italian granitas along with Indian kulfis and golas. 

Anyway recently I tried out slushies. I had heard that name few years back in a board in front of icecream parlour. Which left me wondering what it was. Then as usual I completely forgot about it. Then came coffee & tea lounges "on the rocks" drinks. They too were given up by me. Then I saw an episode of Giada's Italian ice. Finally I found out the slushies, "on the rock" drinks and ices are almost the same. They might differ slightly on how they are prepared, but basically they are ice blended/topped with flavours.

I had tried out blueberry slushy/slush/slushie/ice here. Its very simple also. I had blueberry syrup with me which I pulsed together with ice cubes . A simple straight forward recipe.

Blueberry syrup/puree : 2+ tbsp
Ice cubes: 1 cup +

Blend in an ice crusher or chutney jar of your mixer both the ingredients. You can do the taste test and add sugar syrup as well to adjust the sweetness. 

Serve in glasses garnished with mint along with spoons/straws.

In case you want Italian ice, crush the ice, pour in cups, top with syrup. You can go for your choice of syrup not just blueberry.Welcome summer.

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