Diwali Special - Chakli!

I was coasting, mentally prepared for a do-nothing Diwali. But then, some deep seated, most likely genetic impulse kicked in and I found myself making chakli this weekend!

Being a good scientist, I dutifully researched my options. To my great delight, I found out that running a week late has its advantages. By then, all the other food bloggers have posted their successes! See the end of this post for some very attractive Diwali recipes.

Traditionally, I have been known to stuff myself with chaklis (chakkuli, to be precise) that my grandmother (ajji) would make. They were made with rice flour and urad dal flour and had homemade butter in them! Golden brown and crisp, they were outstanding! And yes, I was a chubby kid!

The chaklis that I made are not as sophisticated as ajji's but they are reliable and taste pretty good. All they needed was rice flour, besan (chick pea flour), chili powder, sesame seeds and salt. They are crisp and a lovely golden color.

Happy Diwali and Enjoy!

Chakli Recipes:
1. Indira of Mahanandi has the definitive recipe for murukkulu here
2. Bureka boy has a more complicated recipe, from Yamuna Devi's ISKCON cookbook.
3. Shilpa of Aayi's Recipes provides detailed info and pictures here
4. Manasi of A Cook at Heart, shares a recipe with wheat flour (maida) in it.


Chocolate Oat Peanut Butter Bars

Moved by a deep-seated craving for chocolate, I trawled for recipes that would hit the spot. I wasn't craving brownies, I've had my fill of Power Bars and other energy bars this week. Just looking for something with the deep satisfying sweetness of chocolate. This recipefor Chocolate Oat Peanut Bars hit the spot.

The bars are delicious - reminded me of fudge and chikki at Lonavla. Its this weather - its been raining, kinda reminds me of one of our monsoon trips to the hill station. Vast amounts of chikki and fudge were consumed and some little boxes even made it back to Bombay! Such restraint!

The bars are super-easy to make. Just remember to boil the sugar mixture enough else it will not set. I left in my living room to cool (the furnace was acting up this morning so the living room was pretty cool - ha). The bars set in about 20 mins. In honor of Lonavla Chikki, I cut them into little squares!

Want to read more about Lonavla and chikki? Try this!


Open Face Sandwich Eatery

Its happened again - I've fallen in love with a sandwich :-) No ordinary sandwich this, but one crafted at the Open Face Sandwich Eatery. Charming little place off South Ave in the South Wedge.

Pardon me while I gush over it - but the place will truly captivate your senses. It has such an interesting interior, complete with tin ceilings and fabulous knick-knacks. I liked the color scheme and the motifs. Great example of how green can be soothing as well as vibrant. Its a neat place to sit and enjoy your food because there are so many details to take in!

The menu has plenty of choices for the adventurous sandwich eater as well as for those faithful to their favorite grilled cheese. Ginger lovers, this place was made for you. They have a carrot-ginger side as well as ginger candy! My black bean on sourdough ($5.95) was flavorful and the portions were generous. They have a tea pharmacy, an espresso bar and a bunch of sodas. Since I (just barely) managed to not drool all over the place, I may have to come back for a beverage and some dessert!

The guys that own and run the place are super-creative and very friendly. I love how they introduce their patrons to the businesses next door - this is exactly why the South Wedge feels like a comumunity. I didn't capture this on camera but chances are you will find a scooter parked outside! The Negative Image Scooter Club meets at the Open Face on Wednesday pm. In a nutshell, this place is great! Most of all, it was really cool to see two creative, young people believe and invest in their dreams and make them happen.

Check out the menu and lots more at their website: Open Face Sandwich Eatery

Here is a review of the Open Face Sandwich Eatery in The City newspaper, Rochester's alternative newsweekly.

Orange Almond Biscotti

Went on a long walk this evening. It was gorgeous - I stopped often and gawked at the skyline, at all the different styles of architecture, rubbing shoulders with each other. Its that time of the day when the sun tinges everything with a golden hue. Perfect and fleeting, its a treat for eyes that have been staring at a screen too long!

Dusk is my favorite time of the day (sigh!) and I came home ready for some chai and a snack :-) Something gorgeous and golden, with delicate yet satisfying flavors...Orange almond biscotti!

Biscotti can be finicky and this recipe has served me well. It is super simple, works great with fresh orange zest. The first time I made this was for my PhD proposal meeting!! I kid you not!! The meeting was a real shot in the arm and the biscotti was a hit!!

The last time I made this, I made mini-biscotti :-) Primarily because slicing biscotti was a hassle (yes, I can be that lazy!). These turned out cute lookin' and are travel size treats!

Original recipe by Peg available here.

Patrick's Culinary Kreations

I have been hearing rave reviews about Patrick's from everyone at work. It was a serendipitous discovery - Patrick's is a stone's throw from work. We're always looking for good food :-) Patrick's offers good food as well as free wifi (gasp!) in a charming setting. The exterior is unpretentious, the interior is cozy and full of color. (My photo of the interior is terrible and I apologize in advance.)

Chili, wraps and grilled cheese are highly reccomended. They have some interesting sides - homemade chips and a mustardy macaroni salad (called the 'mac' by regulars :-) The italian sodas are okay ~ fizzy, fruity and frivolous. My sources tell me that it helps to check if Patrick is cooking!

Patrick's also offers a solid catering menu. At a recent gathering, people LOVED the Hors d'Oeuvres: bruschetta, artichoke sundried tomato spread with crackers, red pepper aioli with crabcakes!! Happily, I was among these people :-)

(You've probably concluded that I work with an AWESOME group of people :-D I agree!) Go try Patrick's, it will be fun!

On the web at:
Patrick's Culinary Kreations and Bake Shop

Update: Patrik's has closed :-( Send him good wishes here.

Fall Baking - Carrot Apple Bran Bread

    Fall is here! The air is crisp, the sun flirts all day, the leaves blush and swoon.

    I'm in the mood for a rustic, sweet bread and have been meaning to build some baking skills this Fall. Turns out there are all sorts of places in Rochester that have baking / cooking classes. A recent acquaintance took classes at Monroe Community College and highly reccommended it. The Wegmans at Pittsford has a Menu Development Kitchen and offers a variety of classes. Tops Markets also offers classes and some free events (always music to my ears!). The new kid on the block is the The New York Wine and Culinary Center in Canandaigua, with state-of-the-art kitchens and a very cool educational theater.

    I've decided to try my hand at baking sweet breads. If I meet with more disasters than successes, I'll sign up for one of the Fall breadmaking or Holiday breadmaking classes! Cross your fingers, here we go!

    This weekend I made a carrot apple bran bread, halved and modified the original recipe for Bran Flax Muffins. Here are my modifications:

    • I used whole wheat flour, oat bran with flaxseed and oats.
    • Substituted yoghurt for oil.
    • Did not peel the apples :-)
    • Added a handful of chocolate chips (knowing me, this should really not come as a surprise!)

    Happily, inspite of my modifications, the bread turned out hearty and not-too-sweet, just as I like it. The end product is delightfully rustic and gently sweet. Filled my apartment with the wonderful warm aroma of cinnamon and baking!


    1. Monroe Community College - Food Service Administration (? $ 113 per credit)
    2. Wegman's Menu Cooking School ( $ 49-59 per class)
    3. The Cooking School at Tops Market ( $ 20-40 per class)
    4. New York Wine and Culinary Center ( $ 65-100 per event or class)

    Okra Adventures

    Overslept and did not make it to the Public Market. Gentle reader, note that this is Rochester and a trip to the Public Market is a venerable undertaking. One cannot stagger outta bed and cheerfully trot over to the Market. Visits to the market must be planned and executed with precsion. Be there (early) or be square! However I digress. GRR will be here next week (Yay!). He has been eating home-cooked food for the last several weeks and my barley and beans fads will be a rude shock to his system. So I'm looking for something thats easy to make, flavorful and not super greasy . So I turned to my old standby: Stuffed okra.

    I found perfect tender little okra in the frozen section of Wegmans (my love affair with the Pittsford Wegman's continues to flourish. We're both very satisfied with the relationship, what can I say!) Heres what happened to the okra:

    - Allowed them to thaw and made a slit down the middle.
    - Mixed cumin and coriander powder in equal proportions and added a pinch of salt, turmeric and red chili powders.
    - Threw in some amchur (dried mango powder).
    - Packed about 1 teaspoon of the powder mixture in each okra pod. Lined the little guys up in a little saucepan, squirted some vegetable oil and turned up the heat.
    - Very little to do after this point. They practically cook themselves. All I did was nudge them over once every few minutes. You can tell they're done when the okra loses its fresh green and acquires a more golden brown color.

    I'm going to serve this with a pretty basic dal and rice.

    Voice of experience:
    1. As far as the vegetable oil is concerned, less is more. Start with 1 teaspoon per 5 okra pods. They really don't need more unless they're starting to stick.
    2. If you'd like a little more tang, or if you don't have amchur, squirt some lemon juice over the okra. Since it cooks without a lid, the liquid will evaporate without turning the okra mushy.


    Pancakes 101

    A couple weekends ago, I was trying to explain to a friend how to make pancakes. Nothing too difficult about it except that I was doing this over the phone. I was trying to emphasize that pancakes are all about timing. When the timing is right, the texture is perfect and the end product is unfailingly delicious. (Hmm, is there a lesson in there somewhere?!)

    Its tricky to visualize texture over the phone, hence this post! 'Nuf talk! Grab the batter and set your griddle on the stove. Turn the knob on the stove to 4. As the griddle heats up, lets talk about the batter. You can make batter from scratch or make it from a mix. I am a big fan of Hodgson Mills and I like all three of their mixes, whole wheat, multigrain as well as buckwheat. For the most part, these mixes are pretty forgiving. Half the time, I do not have oil handy and substitute for it with apple sauce, buttermilk, yoghurt and such like. Just make sure that the batter is not too watery.

    Give the griddle enough time to warm up. If you grease the griddle with a sliver of butter, the butter should froth and sizzle right away. If the butter browns and/or burns, the griddle is too hot. Pour the batter in 1/3 cup measures on the griddle. Give it a couple minutes and little bubbles will appear!

    Resist the urge to look under the pancake, lift the edge etc etc. After you see the bubbles, the bottom of the pancake will appear firm. Flip the pancake over! It should be a lovely golden color, not brown and not apologetically underdone, just a wholesome golden (picky picky!). Let it cook for another couple minutes and you're on your way to creating perfect pancakes! Top with peanut butter and blackberry syrup (see picture above) and enjoy!

    I love pancakes because once you have the basic technique down, you can experiment with a zillion different variations. I've sliced an apple, placed a few slices on the griddle and then poured the batter on it. What you get are very pretty pancakes with a flower shaped design on them! We've also made pancake batter with blueberries or cherries in them. Banana pancakes, sweet potato pancakes and apricot or peach upside down pancakes are also fun.

    Heres a dishy chef and a delicious recipe for a gourmet pancake.

    Ode to Oatmeal

    My quest for a healthy and yummy breakfast, that can be prepared in under 5 minutes (without neccessarily being awake) has led me to oatmeal! I was raving about my new-found love when a friend scoffed, "Why don't you just eat cardboard?". I was shocked! Granted he is young and and loves bacon. Granted he went to business school. Still, thats no excuse for an under-developed palate!

    Anyhoo, in defense of oatmeal, I felt compelled to share my modus operandi. This will work with old fashioned oats, quick cooking oats, oat or wheat bran or stuff from one of the boxed multi-grain thingys (see picture above!).

    - Measure a 1/3 cup of oatmeal into a microwave proof bowl. And really, this is the only critical requirement!
    - Measure 1 cup water into the bowl.
    - Add 1 tsp brown sugar / 1 tablespoon raisins or any dried fruit.
    - Zap for about 2-3 minutes in 1 minute intervals.

    Voice of experience:
    - Do not zap the bowl for 2-3 minutes at one go. The whole thing boils and overflows creating a godawful sticky mess.
    - Add milk / honey based on taste and what not.
    - If you are exceptionally awake, grate an apple and add it to the oatmeal. Go ahead, grate the skin, its good for you! (And its less work!)


    Ithaca Bakery

    Made a trip to Ithaca, NY. This is my third in six weeks - thank goodness for the little Civic. Since I'm always looking for ways to combine business with gustatory pleasure, I asked around the office for reccommendations. This led to much nostalgia and reminiscing! Viva Taqueria and Gino's were mentioned fondly, for a killer burrito and pizza respectively. I was feeling more like a sandwich (ha ha) and the vote was unanimous: Ithaca Bakery.

    So I sped downhill, on the way back and made a quick little stop at Ithaca Bakery off Meadow Street. The bakery itself is housed in a charming brick building. Step inside for an impressive selection of beverages (coffee and such like) and food. You get get your pick of sandwiches with all the fixins. Lotsa cheese and bread choices. Baked good included sweet treats as well as cheesecake type temptations!

    Paralyzed by indecision, I stood rooted to the floor. Eventually, I picked the Michigan Hollow, primarily because balsamic-marinated portobello mushrooms captured my imagination! I considered the Varna vegan briefly (teriyaki seitan, cool no?!) but all this hullabaloo with the spincach thwarted my plans. The Michigan Hollow was delightful, a robust, hearty, flavorful sandwich. Yes, I remembered to bring treats for the folks that made the reccommendation! Will distribute the goodies tomorrow!

    For your viewing pleasure:

    Greetings from Rochester, NY!!

    I have finally moved - officially started the never-ending process of settling in! So this weekend, I was talking to S and giving her all my updates and she asked me, "Have you baked yet?" I smiled - she was right on! Baking is one of those little milestones in the moving process. Makes me feel I'm home. So this weekend's highlight was a modified version of Banana Oat Muffins (original recipe by Karen Rescinti on

    Knowing me, the mods (in IRB parlance) should not be surprising!! When have I ever followed instructions to the T! But improv makes everything better, no ;-) Anyhoo, instead of muffins, I baked mine in a springform pan lined with aluminum foil. Kindly adjust! I prefer baked goods that are square or rectangular (one of my many symptoms :-) Also, I have a really good cookie sheet, loaf pan and springform pans. Prepare to be shocked - I don't have a glass 9 x 13 inch pan !!! ... yet. So springform pan it was. However, what with the metal and the foil and all, I think the finished product was slightly overdone. Nice and golden brown on top but darker on the bottom. Still, nothing disastrous. Tthe moral of the story is: adjust baking time when fooling round with the pan!

    Other changes include: 1. Used whole wheat flour (Btw I am now a dedicated Wegman's shopper! Welcome to Rochester! 2. Substituted vanilla yogurt for the milk. 3. Chucked a handful of chocolate chips into the batter. Nothing good ever comes of holding back on chocolate, so don't be shy :-)

    The net result is a moist bread, gently flavored and perfect for breakfast or snacking. It is not cloyingly sweet nor does it go overboard with the banana flavor. If you'd like it sweeter, top with honey. Delicous! Perfect accompaniment to coffee for an afternoon pick-me-up. Ate a slice with my oatmeal and chai this am, it felt like I was home.