Thursday, September 3, 2009

Tastes good, good for you!

I have been wanting to make my own granola for a while now, and I'm pleased to say I finally did! Since moving to the US, I've adopted the convenient practice of eating cereal for breakfast, hoping that the extra milk will make my bones stronger when I'm old and grey ;) Although I must confess to fantasizing about fluffy idlis and crisp dosas every now and then - sadly, these items are now relegated to the "on weekends only" category!
Breakfast cereals may look healthy, but they can actually be l-o-a-d-e-d with sugar. It is also an exhausting task to read through their lengthy lists of ingredients! Making granola at home is almost ridiculously easy. It's also very economical, and makes a good amount, so you'll have some to give your friends as well. I used rolled oats, wheatgerm, flax seeds, and almonds, all toasted together with pure honey and a drizzle of vegetable oil, and then mixed in dried cranberries and chopped apricots. This yielded a mix with a satisfying crunch, not too sweet - just the right way to start your day! 

You can ring the changes endlessly, using different combinations of fruit, nuts and seeds to suit your taste. Coconut, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, walnuts, pecans, dried blueberries, dates, raisins...your imagination is the limit!

Honey-toasted fruit and nut granola (makes 10 cups, or about 20 servings)
6 cups rolled oats
1 cup wheatgerm
1/2 cup flax seeds
1 cup raw almonds, roughly chopped (you can also use ready-slivered ones)
3/4 cup dried cranberries
3/4 cup dried apricots, chopped
3/4 cup honey
4 tbsp vegetable oil
1 1/2 tsp sea salt
Preheat the oven to 300F(150C).
In a large bowl, stir together the dry ingredients excepting the fruit till well mixed. Heat the oil and honey together over low heat till the honey loosens up completely. Pour the warm honey mixture over the dry ingredients and stir till evenly moistened. Spread the mixture over two rimmed baking sheets and bake in the oven, stirring occasionally, for about 30 minutes. Stir in the fruit for the last 5 minutes of baking, just to dry up any excess moisture in them.
Cool completely and store in an airtight container.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Simple yet stylish brunch for two

The incredible edible egg. That's the slogan of the American Egg Board, and I love it! (Though I am less fond of their efforts, or lack thereof, to end battery farming of hens) Eggs are among my favorite things to cook for brunch on weekends. They're inexpensive, versatile, and best of all, quick to cook. Perfect for those mornings after a night on the town! Omelets, pancakes, frittatas, scrambled can ring the changes endlessly and come out looking like a pro!
One of my favorite ways to cook eggs is to make a tortilla - also known as a Spanish omelet. This is for those days when you have a wee bit more time to lavish on your eggs, but it is a great dish to whip up if guests stop by unexpectedly, since you're quite likely to have potatoes and onions at hand.
Tortilla is good on its own, or with a nice green salad. Cut into small cubes and serve with drinks as part of a tapas platter, or sandwich with some crusty bread and head to the beach for a picnic! For today, though, I settled on a bright, lively salsa to accompany it - what better way to make use of those home-grown tomatoes and serrano peppers? I added some black beans as well, for a color and texture contrast.

The tortilla is proof that you don't need expensive ingredients to produce a truly delicious dish - just a little bit of love and care. Make sure to cook it on a low heat, running a butter knife around the edge every now and then. Flipping it may seem tricky, but all you need is a heatproof oven glove and a flat plate larger than your pan for it to work properly. The result? Thick, satisfying wedges of omelet, each bite laden with mellow sautéed onions and buttery-soft potatoes. You can make it thicker or thinner, well-cooked or a bit runny, depending on what your taste is.

And for dessert, I made one peach, two ways - an experiment at using a single peach to make two simple, light and healthy desserts, perfect for my husband and me to share! (Okay - I confess the ice cream was an added indulgence) I was pretty pleased with the results, so I will share that in a separate post.

Tortilla de patatas (Serves 2-3, depending on how hungry you are)
5 large free-range eggs
3 medium potatoes
1 medium onion
Extra-virgin olive oil, sea salt and freshly cracked pepper
Peel the potatoes and cut them in half lengthwise, then slice them thinly. Do the same with the onions.
In an 8" pan, heat a generous slug of olive oil, then add the potatoes and some salt. Fry briefly, then turn the heat down, cover an cook till the potatoes are almost done. Add the onions at this point, and fry till softened but not colored. The traditional method involves deep-frying the potatoes, then draining the oil away, but for health reasons I prefer to use this one. I think it tastes pretty good as it is.
While the potatoes and onions are getting done, crack the eggs into a bowl, season to taste, and beat with a fork until combined. Once the potatoes and onions are done, let them cool briefly, then add them into the bowl along with the eggs and stir till well mixed. Pour the mixture back into the pan, turn the heat to low, and cook for about 20 minutes, running a butter knife around the edge every now and then. When the surface looks like it is almost fully set, turn the tortilla out on to a flat plate larger than the pan, and slide it back in to cook the other side, about 10 minutes. Cut into portions of the desired size and serve.
Tomato and black bean salsa (Serves 2-3 as an appetizer with chips, or as a condiment)
1 tomato, diced
1/2 cup cooked black beans (canned is fine)
1 serrano pepper, chopped fine (You can use any hot pepper of choice, seeds in or removed, depending on how much heat you can handle)
2 tbsp finely chopped cilantro
1/2 tsp each ground cumin, coriander and cayenne pepper
Juice of half a lime
Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and season to taste. Allow to sit for 10 minutes before eating, for the flavors to meld.