Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Peeps Cake!!

This 4-storey cake is strawberry and vanilla checkerboard cake with whipped vanilla icing and 38 peeps decorating the outer surface. Lindsey of hungry eyes fame hosted an amazing Easter dinner party and this was my contribution...

The cake is leaning slightly.. mostly because of my inaccurate top-cutting technique to flatten each layer before adding the next. I hacked at it with a bread knife, eyeballing how straight the cut was. The cake was finished by 1PM, and the party was at 4. By 2, the cake was leaning dangerously.. so much so that I devised a plan to insert a chopstick or skewer through it to hold it steady. I didn't have any of either on hand.. but I had a straight plastic straw from subway. The unwrapped straw was a bit flimsy.. but I poked it straight through the center of the cake, and I credit the brave little subway straw for maintaining the cake integrity until after dinner...at which time the great peeps cake massacre began.. and my oh my, what a glorious massacre it was!

Monday, March 10, 2008

Parathas, Peas Panneer, and Okra

A much needed trip to the local Indian store fueled my desire for this favorite of mine. I bought frozen parathas (delicious and completely hassel free.. but Im pretty sure nutritionally its the "big mac" of Indian food), premade paneer, and a large frozen bag of okra.
The peas paneer recipe comes from The "Ultimate Vegetarian" Cookbook. With premade paneer, the recipe is complete in about 20 minutes. 1 med onion is fried in vegetable oil or ghee. The dry spices and ginger garlic mix are added to the lightly browned onions, then peas and 1 can of diced tomatoes and 1/2 c broth is added to the mix. The whole deal is simmered for 10 mins, then add the lightly toasted paneer and youre all set! Note-- if you dont have paneer, well fried tofu can substitute. The flavor is definately not the same (the paneer is a rich cheese with a distinct flavor, whereas tofu has more of a distinct texture but lacks much flavor), but it is a healthier and more locally available alternative and will work in this recipe.

Okra, commonly called lady's fingers or in Tamil vendaikkai is my favorite vegetable. Fresh okra is identifyable by breaking the tip, if the tip breaks cleanly with a snap, the okra is fresh. Frozen okra.. well.. you take what you can get. Generally it is cut into 1/4 inch pieces, which works out well for a plain okra fry.

To make plain okra, fry mustard seeds and urad dhal in a small amount of oil until the mustard seeds pop and the urad dhal turns light brown (careful-- burning the spice mix means you have to start over) Add cut onions and fry a few mins, till lightly brown. Then, add the frozen okra. Cook over medium heat for a while, stirring to thaw the okra. Once thawed, add about 1/4 cup water and let simmer. Add salt and a small pinch of chili pepper, and youre ready to enjoy the simple okra fry. This part of the meal is actually good for you.. but the effects are negated with the paneer and paratha...and especially negated if you opt (as I did) for the rasmalai dessert.