Monday, April 24, 2017

Multi-Tasker: Gesaria Spice Blend (Making Spice Blend Substitutions)

What Spices Are In Wat Spices? ...Wat, as in Doro Wat, that is!

Last week, I was in the process of making a batch of Doro Wat as the husband was working from home and I wanted to provide him something unusual for a hot, healthy lunch. So, imagine my surprise to realize I did not possess any Berbere spice. I thought I picked some up during my last trip to Kalustyans.  Weirdly, I had Shiro (which was also Ethiopian) but no Berbere. I decided to make do with the Shiro, and buy some Berbere for future batches.

So I bought a bottle of Berbere spice the next time I went to Whole Foods, and read the ingredients, and got ticked at myself, as the blend has so many familiar ingredients that are in Gesaria and Tandoori spice.

This then got me thinking about this Gesaria spice blend I get at my local Armenian shop.

Here's a contrast/comparison of what spices are in wat spices:

In conclusion:

I would substitute Gesaria for Berbere (and adjust with cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, and ginger); or I would substitute Gesaria for Tandoori (or visa versa, and add allspice and black pepper, if I used Tandoori spice in lieu of Gesaria).  

Additionally, I would not substitute Berbere for Tandoori spice, given Berbere has more sweet smelling aromatic spices in it.

Gesaria spice seems to be the happy middle ground, and the spice to have on hand in bulk, a spice blend that can do (at a minimum as I can see it) TRIPLE DUTY, and can be used in Indian, Ethiopian, and Armenian recipes. 

Sy Syms used to say, "An educated consumer is our best customer." I wish I did this comparison before I bought my Berbere spice! I could have easily used my tandoori spice which I have on hand, and made additions of cayenne, cinnamon, and cloves.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Dim Sum & Then Some

This is a long overdue post. Overdue partially due to being sick upon arriving home, and partially procrastination/life gets in the way. And today I decided to finally put the finishing touches on this post, and upload photos from my phone, and finally send this off to the internet.

January provided me the opportunity not only to visit India again, but also to have a three day get away in Hong Kong before landing in Chennai. 

(I fell in love with this fruit plate our hotel provided for us.)

To say it was heaven, would be an understatement, and yet, it reassured me that the quality and diversity of Chinese food available to me, both, local near home, as well as in NYC, are both more than adequate facsimiles of food in Hong Kong. 

I had reservations/concerns about the quality of food I'd encounter in Hong Kong. If the food was TOO FABULOUS, I'd never want Chinese food in NY again; and if the food was UNDERWHELMING, I'd never want to return to Hong Kong

Our first meal was dinner at Hoy King Heen (located within the old Intercontinental Hotel on Mody Road). The food was delicious. Presentation lovely, and flavors so subtle, reminding me A LOT of French food I've had, both near home as well as in Paris itself. Global flavors, presented in a French manner. Just lovely.

What I ate that first meal was at, what I would call, a fancy place.  My meal consisted of hot and sour soup, and there was curried brisket stuffed inside of a pear, poached and presented with its own au jus. Subtle. Sweet. Meaty. It made me very happy--so happy, I might dare to attempt this at home. 


And then there was a terrine of sorts, that we shared, layered veggies and bamboo pith, an island of a terrine, served with a consomme and slivered asparagus. 

There was another meal, which was more casual, which we had at Dim Dimsum Dim Sum, and sadly no photos were snapped there. But we had an assortment of things ranging from mei fun noodles, to turnip cake, and dumplings, and two different variations of rice crepe, one stuffed with crunchy chicken, and the other (my favorite) stuffed with black mushrooms.

Another night we had dinner at  Yau Yuen Siu Tsui, a noodle shop, where we had BiangBiang Noodles, broad noodles with a chili oil type sauce, fatty pork belly, some sort of greens. Tasty, and a bit complicated to eat with the slippery plastic chop sticks they provided. We ended up seated at a table with a couple (Ray and Savita)  who actually live in Hong Kong, and we ended up having a lovely meal. Totally lost in the moment, I didn't think to either photo our meals or Ray and Savita, or friend them on social media. In India, there is this concept of "train friendships," where you hop on a train and become friends with the person sitting next to you, sharing a meal and conversation, and when you hop off at your destination, you never hear from them again. This was the Hong Kong noodle shop equivalent of that!   

Another day, we had a fancy lunch at Yan Toh Heen, located in the Intercontinental. The harbor view was lovely, the staff was attentive, friendly and helpful, and the food far exceeded our imagination. 

Items we had were:

Yan Toh Heen Superior Dumplings (Steamed scallop w/black truffles & vegetables; steamed lobster & birdsnest dumpling w/gold leaf; and steamed king crab dumpling w/green vegetables);

Baked Conpoy, Iberico Ham, and Turnip in Puff Pastry and Baked barbecued pork buns;

Roasted pork belly with crispy crust (truly remarkably crispy!);

Fried rice, wrapped and steamed in a lotus leaf;

The tea they served was very special, and floral: Osthmanthus, I believe. 

(For me, the devil is in the details--look at this generous dish of candied walnuts we were provided while we enjoyed cocktails.)
Everything was a delight, and it makes me sad that we are not local, as I would love to work my way through their entire menu of items. 

At some point during our trip (I lost track at this point), we were in a pinch to find a place for lunch, so we stopped in the local outpost of Saravana Bhavan for lunch. We had sambar vada, chole w/batura, and some paneer and gobi pakoras. All delicious, and exactly the same, whether we are eating this in Madras or NYC or London. Funny thing is, later on in our trip while we were in Madras, we ate at a Saravana Bhavan THERE, too, as it is our family tradition to eat there as a family once while we are visiting.

On our last day in the city, when we checked out of the hotel (our flight to India wasn't until later in the day), we went to an Indonesian restaurant for a riffstaffel--so much deliciousness, and fairly inexpensive, too.

Pictured above is what was the top tier contents of our high tea we enjoyed at the Peninsula. The experience was everything you'd expect, and the live musicians who were there were doing a classical sounding version of the theme from MASH "Suicide is Painless." (Interesting musical choice, eh?)

 Our time in Madras is very family oriented, and pictured above is the first breakfast my mother-in-law provided for us, which was (if I remember correctly) iddli upma, and it was homey and delicious.  

We managed to go out to one very fancy dinner out with my brother-in-law at a Peshawari restaurant located at the Grand Chola Hotel in the center of Chennai. The food, cocktails and wait staff were lovely--including the kitchen staff, as I was able to go in and take a tour and see my food being prepared. Beyond this, I'll reserve any further commentary about my enjoyment (or lack thereof) of what I'll call "dinnertime conversation."  I get glimpses of reality during these trips every two years, and let's just say I'm glad we don't live in Chennai, I'm too strong willed of a woman to sit and listen to someone let's just say BE AN IDIOT and a misogynist, on a regular basis.

We left Madras around 2 a.m., back to Hong Kong, where we had a lay over long enough to have one more meal, and we managed to have a lovely lunch of egg drop soup, and this great platter of BBQ pork and goose. 

The jury is still out on what ultimately made me sick. At first we thought it was this delightful BBQ platter pictured above, but I suspect it was whatever I had on the flight home, since that was the only time in the preceeding 24 hours that I managed to eat two whole meals DIFFERENT from what my husband ate.

WIthin one hour of returning home, I commenced getting sick, and continued to be sick for the next three weeks and two different courses of antibiotics, with a total weight loss of about 13 lbs. The entire sickness baffled even my mother-in-law who commented about how careful I had been while I was in Madras--but it wasn't Madras that was kicking my ass; what DID kick my ass were the two meals I had on my Cathay Pacific flight home.

Not pictured: One final photo, depicting a bevvy of comestibles we procured for home. Sweets from a friend; Karela chips; Bourbon creams; assortment of teas and biscuits from Hong Kong. It was a delight--and to be honest, I squirreled away the last of the Bourbon Creams--and managed to eat them last night. It is now precisely three months since returning home, and it seems like a lifetime away.  

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Prelude to a Big Cook

I've been a bit uninspired lately and doing the bare minimum for meals the last few weeks. Ive been anxious and distracted.

Anyway. Today I had the start of a root canal, and immediately after, we went grocery shopping to kill some time until I could eat. We had a nice dimsum lunch after grocery shopping, a reward for me powering through two hours and 15 minutes in the endodontist's chair.

I got home, and promptly put away groceries, decided to dispatch the packages of meat into several ziplock bags and different marinades.


One bag was for Tandoori chicken (which the leftovers can do double duty in a chicken curry the next day).

The Tandoori chicken marinade:

1C plain yogurt
2T tandoori spice
2T neutral oil
Juice of 1 lemon
Pinch red food coloring

The next bag was for Teriyaki bbq pork skewers:

1T garlic paste
2T Kentuckiyaki
2T Whole Foods Pineapple Moonshine BBQ Sauce

The third bag was for Thai garlic-peanut pork skewers**:

1T garlic paste
2T chunky peanut butter
1T Gojuchang
1T Nam Pla
2T coconut milk powder
1T maple syrup
Juice of one lime

The fourth item to be prepped was ground chicken which I got to make use of some left over mushroom stuffing from a stupid easy meal I made in my slow cooker.  

The leftover mushroom stuffing was mixed with the ground chicken for what will become a Chicken Marsala Meatloaf.    The prelude to the meatloaf of course is the stupid easy slow cooker meal. Don't judge! It uses cream of mushroom soup.

Into the slow cooker, layer these items in the order indicated:

Four chicken thighs, skin-side down
One package sliced shitakes or criminis
Black pepper--liberal amounts
One can cream of mushroom soup
1/2 C dry marsala
1 Box Stovetop type stuffing
Several pats of butter or margarine on top

Lock lid, and slow cook 4.5 hours. BOOM. Delicious.

**So about those asterisks... The pork cubes will be then tossed in a zip lock bag to be coated with this product (not the Kentuckiyaki--the other stuff!):

I love Amazon, as I never know what items I'll encounter. And I found this product and decided to give it a try. It comes with this bland white goo you smear on your meat and then coat with The Good Table Crunchy Thai Peanut Sauce & Crust Mix for Chicken(kit).

I would think the white stuff would smell or taste coconutty or even have ANY taste at all--it was weird. So rather than use the goo (or as they say "sauce") for my pork skewers, I'm going to use just the coating--and instead marinate my pork cubes with what amounts to a satay dipping sauce.  To each their own. Eventually I'll write a review on Amazon to this effect, but thereyago. 

Note: A Taste of Thai makes a similar product (though I believe theirs doesn't have a sauce packet).

Since today was food prep day--tomorrow is the cook day. I need a nap now.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Easter Spitzad

My cousin and I go back and forth, texting each other photos of the most-delicious thing we've created recently. And since it's Easter, he's reminding me to make a family favorite, "Spitzad". He's also making a traditional "wheat pie," but that wasn't something my grandfather was known for making--he was more well known for his rice pie. Spitzad is something my grandfather's mother would make.

Apparently, my great-grandmother would use dandelion greens in it in lieu of parsley; and my permutation on this is to use mint, as I think it pairs nicely with the lamb and the lemon juice.

A fine recipe that was my jumping off point was this recipe for Agnello Brodettato.

Here is my version:


1 lb lamb shoulder, trimmed and cut into cubes
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 oz Bacon, prosciutto or pancetta, chopped
2 T Olive oil
Flour for dredging
(About) 1/4 Cup Dry Vermouth
Salt and pepper
Optional: 2 T garlic paste (for marinating)

For the egg and lemon finish:

2 whole eggs
Juice of one freshly squeezed lemon (I even used the zest of the lemon, too)
12 nice sized, fresh mint leaves, shredded


1. Marinate lamb cubes overnight in garlic paste.
2. Dredge cubes in flour, set aside.
3. Render out bacon in 1 T olive oil and about 1/4 cup water. Add onions, sweat them and let them cook until golden, then set aside.
4. Add 1 T olive oil to pan and start to brown lamb cubes. Once they are nicely browned, add onion mixture back to pot, then deglaze pot with vermouth, stirring up brown bits stuck to bottom of pot.
5. Add about 1 cup of water and put in a 300 degree oven (*covered*) for 2 hours -OR- cook in electric pressure cooker on high pressure for 25 minutes (letting the pot depressurize on its own).
6. Once lamb is thoroughly cooked, scramble eggs with the lemon juice, then slowly drizzle a little bit at a time, stirring constantly to keep eggs from setting, continue this process until all the egg mixture is incorporated--this helps fortify and thicken the gravy.
7. Add the mint leaves.
8. Taste. Adjust salt, and apply black pepper liberally, a nice fat pinch or a dozen twists on the pepper grinder should do it.

Friday, March 17, 2017

On Tap For This Weekend: Lazy Belebath

The husband is a bit depressed or stressed this week, so I think some comfort food is in order for him. 

Thanks to Subbus Kitchen, I now have a very good visual of what dishes go with other dishes--love this visual of dish combinations, it really helps me out a lot, given I wasn't raised cooking (or eating!) South Indian food, and it's helpful to know which dishes complement others.  

My mother-in-law gave me a set of Cook & See cookbooks by S. Meenakshi Ammal years ago, and I cannot say I got much use out of them, as I don't believe there's something so necessary in the book: Menu suggestions. It's just straight recipes, no pictures, and the measurements are in metric--so prior to me getting a digital scale, this was a small obstacle for me as I never mastered metric conversions in school and today, I rely on either my digital scale for cooking--or a metric converter at work.

So my mind drifts to visiting with relatives this past October, and in the discussion I mentioned how I make bise belebath with leftover sambar. Maharajah's uncle quipped:
"That's not bise belebath--that's LAZY belebath!" 
Now, mind you, this uncle has always been so serious, and I don't get much opportunity to socialize with him (if I'm lucky, maybe 1-2 visits every two years or so), but this particular visit he really let his hair down. In India I've seen him only wearing dothis, and yet there he was (in Austin, not India!), wearing jeans and a "Super Dad" tee shirt, joking about "lazy belebath!" What a pleasure, and of course his joke just struck me EVEN MORE hilarious, as it was so unexpected. It's nice when I finally meet the "real" person, after being married into this family for many years now.

So! Rather than go to the trouble of typing out my recipe or formula, I'm just going to share this particular recipe from Cooking With Meena, as it PERFECTION, and is QUITE nearly identical to the method I use. Perhaps I'll share the link, and then herein on my blog, I'll merely identify whatever additions/"tweaks" of mine. 

Like the uncle said, "Lazy belebath," well, today I'm feeling very lazy (or is it tired/exhausted?).


I dry roast the masala, omitting 2 chiles (as my sambar is usually firey enough--perhaps even too firey for the Maharajah!).

I then dry roast the coconut, with: 1 tsp white Poppy Seeds, 1T almond meal and 1T ground cashew meal (from Trader Joes), and set this aside. 

Optional: I have 1/2 a bag of frozen pearl onions (also from Trader Joes!) on hand, which might be put to good use!

I use an electric pressure cooker--yes, even for this dish! It goes so quick, plus I can fry the tadka directly in the cooker, add the sambar and rice, and fresh roasted/ground powder for the sambar sadam, and pressure cook it all together for five minutes.

I then decide to "finish" the dish in the manner the French do, by putting the butter (or in this case, the fresh made ghee) in towards the end.  

As I said before, since he seems a bit "blue," I will probably make a small batch of pineapple rasam and thayir sadam to accompany, with possibly vendakai fry, too.

Luckily for me (and yes, this is going to sound crazy), I stowed a quart of sambar in the freezer here at work (don't look at me crazy--I always have storage issues in my freezer at home, and one day I had the brilliant idea to stow stuff at work. I figured if anyone complained, that would be the end of this storage solution. And so far no one has complained, and here we are).

It's 10:43 a.m. on Friday, and I've removed the sambar from the freezer (and it'll sit on my desk all day, thawing out), so I'm "halfway there" to the bise belebath.  

I just hope it cheers him up!

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Without Commentary: Pie for Pi Day

Sourdough Pizza made w/(33%) King Arthur brand Sprouted Wheat
Flour, Dried Figs, Guaniciale (from Fleishers), Serrano Ham, 
Grana Parmesan, Olive Oil, Arugala, and Balsamic 
Glaze from Trader Joes.

Monday, March 06, 2017

Sunday Bake

Not much really to add here, but wanted to save my photos here, as they were so pretty. First up was a batch of the Buttery Sourdough Buns from King Arthur Flour--of which I subbed olive oil for the butter, and I also swapped out 1/3 the flour for KAF Sprouted Wheat Flour--the texture did not change at all as a result! Here they are, I dusted my hands with some paprika I picked up in Budapest in May, and this is what they looked like before proofing. So pretty!

Additionally: I set aside a bit of the dough, so I could make "Pigs in a Blanket" with four Big Red hot dogs from Dicksons. No picture snapped. They'll be for dinner tonight! Next was a duo of pizzas, one of this is pictured here. It's a simple pie (mind you in the dough, I put some dry rosemary and cracked black pepper), with garlicky-marsala mushrooms, paper thin sliced guaniciale, and a couple sunny side up eggs. So pretty!

Friday, March 03, 2017

Tonight's Big Bake: Ultra Dark Chocolate Sourdough Cupcakes w/Cannoli Filling

Pictures, of course, will be forthcoming, once they are made:)

As referenced in my previous post, I've got a couple things I'm going to either bake or set up tonight. One of which is a batch of chocolate cupcakes with cannoli filling which I'll take to my housebound mom, in honor of her birthday which was this week.

The cake recipe I'm going to use as my "jumping off point" is the Sourdough Chocolate Cake from Pinch My Salt; however, I'm going to tweak the hell out of it due to my own needs/preferences and the fact my mom's a Type II Diabetic.

Wet Stuff
1/2 C Grapeseed Oil
1/2 C Coconut oil
1/2 C Coffee
1/2 C Yogurt
1 C Sourdough starter (I fed mine this morning, and it's not too funky)
1/2 C Granulated sugar
1/2 C Splenda
2 Eggs
1 tsp Vanilla

Dry Stuff
1/2 C Granulated Sugar
1/2 C Splenda
1/2 C KAF Sprouted Wheat Flour
1/2 C Coconut Flour
3/4 KAF Black Cocoa
1 T Ovaltine powder or Diastatic Malted Barley Powder
1 tsp Salt
1 tsp Baking Soda


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. I'm going to make cupcakes, so YMMV if you use a 13 x 9 inch cake pan or a BOONDT! pan. Prep cupcake tins with nonstick cooking spray.

(What's a BOONDT!? you may ask! For further reference check out this clip from My Big Fat Greek Wedding.) 

In a large mixing bowl add the wet ingredients in the order listed and blend thoroughly by hand or with a mixer. Then, one by one, gradually mix in the dry ingredients until completely blended (about two minutes).

Pour batter into the prepared, greased cake pan of your choosing and bake in center rack of preheated oven. If using a 13x9 baking pan, bake time will be roughly 27-30 minutes, and cupcakes will be roughly 22 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. 

While cake is baking, make cannoli filling.

Let cake cool in baking pan. If you'll frost your cake, do so once it's completely cooled.   I plan on using a "cupcake corer" and fill the interior with cannoli filling--and love this recipe at Homemade Hooplah--but again, I need to tweak it!


1 C Ricotta
8 oz Cream Cheese (Room Temp)
1/2-3/4 C  Splenda or Swerve (Note: I might use a combination of both)
1/2 tsp Vanilla
1/2 tsp Fiori di Sicilia
Pinch salt
2/3 cup mini chocolate chips (Note: Since I will be piping this filling into the cupcakes, I will merely garnish the cupcakes with the chocolate chips, as the chips will no doubt clog the piping bag.) 

This is pretty straightforward! I plan on mixing with a hand held mixer until well blended and somewhat fluffy. Set aside until cake is cool enough to pipe filling in.

Still Not Sour on Sourdough

I'm so damned tired right now, I actually typed out DOURSOUGH in the title of this blog post! 

Anyway, I'm addicted to Amazon Pantry, and every month or so, I'll order up a box of staples, and things that are on the heavy side (I live on the second floor, no elevator, so heavy stuff is problematic for me), and several days later, it arrives at my doorstep.

Every once in a while, while perusing Amazon, I'll find things I never knew existed, or things that aren't available at my local grocer. The most-recent discovery I made was Sprouted Wheat Flour by King Arthur.  On a whim, I bought two packages of it.

It arrived three days ago, and the very first night, I opened a package, and gave my sourdough starter a feeding with it. Now mind you, this is a new starter I started with buttermilk and APF--not to be confused with what I'll refer to as my "standard starter,"  which I hybridized with kombucha and is chilling out in the fridge for a while until I'm ready to deal with it. However, depending on how I feel in the immediate future, I might just use up that starter for crepes and waffles, and stay with the buttermilk starter--I'm truly happy at how nice and responsive it is to feedings.

While the buttermilk starter was happy enough with APF or "00" feedings, I have to admit I noticed not just more bubbles on top, but also, the starter seemed POOFY in contrast to previous feedings.  I fed it again last night. But before I gave it a feeding, I set some of the starter aside so I could make waffles for dinner.

Sourdough waffles made w/sprouted wheat flour, served with Comstock reduced sugar apple pie filling, and sage sausages from Dickson's.

When I woke up this morning, I fed it once more, as tonight I plan on making cupcakes out of the ultra dark chocolate sourdough cake recipe I've been using (and plan on making a batch of cannoli filling, as I'll hollow out the cupcakes and pipe in the cannoli filling, as birthday cakes for my mom). Additionally, I plan on making a batch of dough (Buttery Sourdough Buns on KAF), which I'll substitute a bit of the sprouted wheat.  

Have I ever shared the chocolate cake recipe? I need to dig around in my archives a bit to see if I have, and if I haven't, I'll have to do a separate post for it.  I know I've made THIS chocolate cake, but I could swear there's another recipe I use.

And the Buttery Sourdough Buns, I substitute olive oil for the butter since the Maharajah is lactose intolerant--and the buns turn out perfect regardless of this substitution. I plan on making the buns as-is, and set aside a bit of the dough, so I can do "pigs in a blanket" for the four hotdogs the Maharajah got from Dickson's Farmstand Meats last night.  Each of those hot dogs is a meal unto themselves!  More on this as it happens. I'll mix up the dough, do the initial proof, then prep the buns and pigs in a blanket, and bake them off on Sunday when I get home.

And Sunday will be pizza day, as I made a batch of pizza dough (and divided it, and froze half) two days ago, and the dough should be nice and aged by Sunday. I'm thinking of a garlicky sauteed shitake and guaniciale with sunny side up eggs. 

Anyway, I'm prattling, and wanted to share. When it comes to sourdough baking, I get a bit carried away--and I'm looking forward to enjoying myself:)