Sunday, July 21, 2013

Chunky Chocolate Chocolate Chips Cookies

Say the title fast on repeat.

Its monsoons in Mumbai and some afternoons it rains for hours. A cup of coffee and a cookie is the best indulgence ever. I was craving chocolate chip cookies one rainy afternoon. After a brief google search that really just included searching for Pioneer Woman's website- I found her Chocolate Chips Cookie recipe. I did not have all her ingredient so I just went ahead and made my own with what I had. I was missing white chocolate chips and unsweetened cocoa powder. But I did have extra large (hence chunky) dark semi sweet chocolate chips and Cadbury's drinking chocolate (slightly sweet-so be careful)

So here is what I did.

50gms butter (I used Amul butter) at room temperature
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 cup flour
1/2 cup Cadbury's drinking chocolate (slightly sweet)
1/2 tspn salt
1 tspn baking soda
1.5 tspn vanilla essence
1 cup Ghiradelli's extra large semi sweet dark chocolate chips (ok dont be fussy - use what you have)
If you have you can add a mix of white chocolate chips and dark. Also some chopped walnuts for crunch.

Time taken: 1 hour from start to finish

Yields: 8 large cookies (3" diameter)


I also used all my new purchases from Crate and Barrel. My new spatuala, new egg beater (I dont own a Kitchen Aid mixer), my new cup measures. So exciting it was!

Preheat the oven at 175 Celcius

I mixed this using my eggbeater. The butter and sugar should not be lumpy. More like a smooth paste. Add the egg and keep beating till you have a smooth paste. 

Lovely smooth mixture of egg, sugar and butter. Feel to check if there are any lumps of sugar.

In a separate bowl mix the flour, drinking chocolate, baking soda, and salt. (Love the packaging for the hot chocolate.

Sift a scoopful of the flour-cocoa mixture into the egg-sugar mixture and fold. I still used the eggbeater for a smooth batter. A proper upper-body work out. 

So here is the tricky part. Its really yummy cookie batter. Yield to one lick maybe two. Or even better just lick the egg beater once you are done scraping the sides. Just be careful- its delicious you could finish half the batter!

Now for the yummy semi sweet dark chocolate chips. 

I wish I had white chocolate chips as well. But never mind. These guys will give the cookie chunky chocolatey bites. 

Mix well and gently. Notice the new red spatula. It is amazing how well it clears up the sides of the bowl. Nothing was stuck. I covered the bowl and put the cookie batter in the fridge for 20 min for it to firm up. Meanwhile Sous Chef Walter got a whole bunch of hearts from me.

Once the batter is firm- you got yourself some cookie dough. Now scoop a tablespoon amount on a baking dish. Decorate the mounds of cookie dough with some more chocolate chips- here I used milk chocolate chips- just cause I had some with me. Put the baking dish in the oven for exactly 10 min at 175 degree Celsius or 350 degree Fahrenheit.

Remove from the oven in 10 minutes. The cookies will still be soft and partially baked. Let them cool on the counter. As they cool, their surface firms up and the inside is still soft and gooey. When they are nearly cool, scrape them off the baking dish and pile them on a plate.

Yep just like that. Perfection on a plate. These babies have a slightly harder exterior and are gooey soft inside. When hot the chocolate chips just melt in your mouth.  

Well as Ree Drummond insists. MUST HAVE with a glass of cold milk. Its hard to stop at one or two or three. But no one has to know right.

This song goes so well these wonderfully indulgent cookies. It can be a secret right - no one has to know that you ate these lovely cookies. This is also a fun song though slightly morbid - perfect for rainy days outside. 

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Nana's Japanese Cafe- A Hidden Gem, Alfred, NY

Alfred NY- the quaintest little town I have ever been to. I think its the contrast from Mumbai that I love so much. The absolute opposite in every sense.  Nestled in the mountains of the northern Appalachian, it is the home of the famous Alfred University. I have family up in Alfred. Hence, I have spent many a summers walking up the hilly country roads, along the farms and lakes, or the trees turn shades or yellow, orange and red in the fall and thanksgiving and Christmas meals staying warm eating wonderful goodness my aunt cooks while the world turns while outside.

This blog started in Alfred a few years ago when I nursing broken ankle. The first few recipes are from my aunt's kitchen.

I took a summer course of 3 months in 1998 to learn glass blowing at Alfred University. Now summers in Alfred are wonderful, it never gets very hot. It rains every couple of days and everything is lush green. On the weekends there are wonderful trails to discover, lovely little caves and waterfalls - Stonybrook and Watkins Glen. Niagara is a two hour drive and Corning (glass lovers) is an hour drive. Everytime I go to Alfred, its a home away from home. Its my safe haven in a country that was my home for 9 years.

Nana's Japanese Cafe was my go to lunch place while I was blowing glass in Alfred. It is a unique little cafe run by a Japanese lady called Nana. On a street of typical college restaurants and bars that serve sandwiches and pizzas, I found Nana's fascinating, healthy and not very expensive. Nana's was my first encounter with Japanese food. Here, I cried out in pain as wasabi burnt a hole in my nose like I had no idea what struck me. I was in love and totally fascinated by Sushi rolls, makis, inoris, the flavor of miso, udon noodles, ramen. Imagine - in this little Village of Alfred, I learnt to love the flavors of homestyle Japanese food. The cafe is simple and homey, with an eclectic mix of wooden tables and chairs, ceramic pots for decor.

So on my dad's birthday I decided to treat him and mom to one of my favourite places. It was such a sweet surprise to see Nana's smiling face behind the counter. I told her I used to come to her cafe 16 years ago. She gave me her biggest and warmest smile, came over to our table and chatted with my parents. We ordered her famous bento boxes that come piled high with salad slaw in a ginger soy sauce, teriyaki- chicken or tofu. Her tofu is perfectly crispy on the outside and soft inside. Rice in a sweet vinegar, beans in sesame, a California roll and slice of watermelon. I ordered my favourite miso with tofu soup, a mixed plate of sushi, an inori roll and steamed edemame. The food was wonderful, light and flavourful. It was mixture of color and texture plated on beautiful raku ceramics.

Sitting in Nana's on a rainy afternoon reminds me of the book Kafka on the Shore when the protagonist runs away to this little town to live in a library. Nana's is such a gem in the middle of nowhere Alfred.
I thought the song Runaway by Yeah Yeah Yeahs goes perfectly well with this meal.

Massive pine trees
The houses on Main Street
A little stream and a wooden heron
Quaint little Nana's Japanese Cafe
Blueberry soy smoothis & the deadly wasabi
Tofu and udon in a miso broth 
Lovely to see Nana after all these years
Bento boxes- tofu and chicken
Noodle soup and  3 kinds of sushi
Our lovely meal
Dad's birthday lunch 
Completely wiped out 
The backyard

My wonderful uncle & aunt, mom & dad
The age old Japanese Maple tree- almost 27 years old

Monday, July 8, 2013

The Crustacean Adventure- Washington D.C,

Washington D.C. is an exciting city for history and museum lovers. You can spend weeks in the Smithsonian, visit memorials and homes of presidents. We took a Segway tour of the main tourist points in the city. It was a really fun way to experience a city.

My cousin Rupal moved to D.C. a few years back. She proudly carries the food lover label as well. I asked her to take us to a not for tourist place for a meal. She recommended the D.C waterfront to eat crabs.

The D.C. Waterfront seemed like a place from the past. It reminded me of the various blues festivals I had attended when I lived in Chicago. It reminded me of my road trips through Tennessee and Kentucky and Louisiana. Even though there was no music, i could hear the rhythm and blues in my head. People were casually dressed for date night, buying crabs, oysters, lobsters, mussels, clams, crawfish. Fried catfish sandwiches. I could hear the harmonica, drums and sax in my head as we walked around the large plaza surrounded by the fresh catch of the day. Live crabs being sold by the dozens. $50 for 2.5 dozens of the large male blue crabs. Plates of fresh oyesters to shuck, one of the best ceviches I have ever eaten. We even bought some crawfish to try. The place was alive and vibrant.

Rupal guided us through the process of buying and eating the crabs. Christian & my sister and my cousin Neil were all new to the experience. We were all in seafood heaven. The men behind the counters were very sweet and helpful. I bought some Old Bay Seasoning - the local Baltimore masala that goes well with everything.

The thing that I really enjoyed was people watching. This place seemed most popular amongst the black folks. I find black fashion the most fun, evolved and experimental. Men in colourful suits, women in jumpers and mini dresses. Large frizzy hair, several braids in some. I always admire the confidence and the beauty of these people. Many folks were nice and let me take their pictures.

After a couple of hours, we had gone through 30 crabs, a dozen crawfish, a dozen oysters, a large box of ceviche with crackers and some 24 beers amongst the five of us. As we walked back to our car, there was a lady playing this really amazing song on her radio- Birds by Weeknd. That song was the song of the night for me. Do hear it out as you scroll through the pictures.