Tagged: oven

Coffee-cardamom banana bread with cashew nuts

My assigned childhood role was that of the good kid. The quiet one. The one who didn’t wreck tables and could be counted on to not torture the dog. Who worshiped books and didn’t need to be told that one doesn’t make paper airplanes and boats with sheets torn out of their history notebook. But even good kids aren’t perfect, because mom and I had our share of disagreements. Perhaps because I steadfastly refused to learn how to de-vein those prawns (ick!) properly. Or because I didn’t wipe the dishes completely dry. But mostly because my mother was convinced that you needed to take pride in whatever you do, be it writing an essay, drying a dish or folding a shirt. I subscribed to a much looser interpretation of this: that there were some things you took pride in doing, and that others were just work that you finished to get to the things you want to do. For me, folding laundry squarely fell in this category, but it was my chore. So when the day’s wash was off the clothesline, I would drag my feet over, rush through the sorting and folding and hurry back to my books and to intriguing statistics such as how much rice was grown in China versus India. I would remain thus engrossed until I heard the inevitable yell which signalled that mom had spotted my handiwork.

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Yogurt Cake with Candied Orange and Cardamom

What a mixed bag this summer has been so far! Days hitting the sweltering 90s have jostled around with days of rain. In May. And June! The synchronicity of warmth and rain reminds me of Bombay. Some days I wake up dreaming I’m back in India with our annual rainy season, something the denizens wait for in desperation to take the edge off the summer heat. Only in a place that experiences the monsoon would people understand and perpetuate the phrase “lovely gray day”.

It’s a start-and-stutter summer out here in the Bay area, which feels like winter and spring segued into a weird groundhog season. This makes it hard to decide how to dress for it, but I don’t quite mind that much. Sure, I love the bright golden sunlight and early morning warming rays of sun. I like summer for all that it brings: a rich plethora of colourful produce in the market, long walks on the beach to watch a rich orange sun set after 9 at night, ice cream cones licked in earnest to avoid drippage, little girls in sunny frocks followed by gamboling golden retrievers enjoying the sunshine, an impossibly blue sky set in an earthy brown landscape, embers flying out and dying into a star-strewn sky. But in truth, I hate heat. What I love most, more than anything about this city, is its mostly cool weather. When the sun turns all hot and terrible, the fog rolls in to soothe heat-stricken souls. I get to enjoy lovely gray days right here in San Francisco. Seeing the fog roll up into the Presidio off the coast is one of the prettiest sights in the world.

One of the perks of having such a summer is that while the rest of the northern hemisphere can’t be bothered with turning on the stove and would rather boil themselves before firing up the oven, I’m happy to do either. Baking a cake on a cool, foggy, summer day is just about the coziest thing you can do. You get additional cozy points if you find the cake you just made reflects this at-odds weather.

This gem-of-a-cake helps you score just that. It is sweet-and-spicy; a western dessert with an eastern twist. I’ve served it twice so far, once at a potluck and at another time as a planned ending to a very Indian meal, both times to stellar reviews. The tart citrus of orange, the sweetness of honey and the warmth and anise-like heat of cardamom amalgamate into a sensuous, sublime cake with gravity. It has a fine, moist (I’ve heard many have a problem with that word. I’m not one of them) crumb, a characteristic ensured by a generous dousing of orange infused syrup. There is no use of summer fruit and this is a deep winter warming spice, but just take a look at it. Did you ever see a cake that looked more capable of bringing sunshine to a table on a foggy day? The memory of this cake will stay with those who eat it. They love to figure out what’s in it. This is a cake you will be remembered for. In a good way. In an ‘oh-my-god-the-girl (or boy)-has-skillz’ kind of way.

Yogurt Cake with Candied Orange and Cardamom
Slightly adapted from Bon Appetit, June 2011
Makes 12 servings.

For the candied oranges and syrup:
Sugar – ¾ cup
Orange blossom honey – ¾ cup

Green cardamom pods – 3 tbsps, crushed
Orange – 1, sliced quite thin

For the cake:
Semolina flour – ½ cup
All-purpose flour – 1 cup

Baking powder – 1-½ tsp
Ground cardamom – 1 tsp
Baking soda – ¼ tsp

Salt – ½ tsp
Sugar – ½ cup, divided equally
Eggs – 3, seperated
Olive oil- ½ cup
Yoghurt – 2/3 cup
Grated orange zest – 2 tsp
Vanilla extract – 1 tsp

Pistachios – toasted, unsalted, a loose handful.

To make candied oranges:
– In a saucepan, combine the sugar, honey, cardamom pods and 2 -1/2 cups of water together and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve sugar.
– Turn the heat down to medium low and add orange slices. Continue to simmer for about half an hour, turning the orange slices over midway.
– Line a tray with parchment paper and arrange orange slices on it.
– Strain the syrup to remove pods and seeds.

To make the cake:
– Pre-heat the oven to 350° F.
– Whisk together the two flours, baking powder, baking soda, cardamom powder and salt.
– In a separate bowl, beat ¼ cup of sugar with the olive oil for about a minute. Beat in yolks, than the flour mixture.
– Add the add the yogurt and orange zest.
– In another bowl, beat the eggs whites with clean beaters until they form soft peaks. Gradually beat in the sugar and vanilla, beating until    firm peaks form.
– Fold half the egg whites into the batter, then the other half, both times until just folded in.
– Pour into a 9” cake or spring form pan.
– Bake until a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean, for about 25 minutes.
– Once out of the oven, pierce the cake all over the top  and drizzle a cup of the syrup on to it. When that is absorbed, add another cup.
– Once the cake has cooled, take it out of the pan.  Arrange the orange slices on the cake. Sprinkle pistachios over.
– Cut into wedges and serve.

Cook’s notes:-
I’ve adjusted sugar quantities slightly the second time around and found it didn’t make too much of a difference. The recipe asks for you to serve the cake with an additional dose of  syrup, but I didn’t think it needed it. The cake was great right out of the pan. The candied orange keeps its lovely citrus tang, great just by itself but dynamite on this cake. The candied orange slices can be made a day ahead of time. Just cover the tray with cling wrap and place in fridge. Do the same with the syrup. Warm the syrup slightly before pouring onto cake.
Often I’ve wanted to end Indian meals with a non-Indian dessert that tied it all together somehow. I was never quite happy with things I tried, until now. This recipe is a keeper.
I’ve added powdered cardamom where it asks for whole, skipped steps or mixed ‘em up. The cake still turned out fine. People really love it, and you. Try it, you won’t be sorry!

Bravery, baked eggs and a kickin’ sage pesto

Spring in the Bay area has brought some beautiful days along with several gray ones, filled with rain, cold and general gloom all around. I’ve had my low days but for the most part, I’ve been very thankful I’m not truly affected by seasons. This past winter and spring would have done quite a number on me.

This hasn’t been the general case though. Our move to a lovely Richmond apartment by Golden Gate Park last year not only brought with it a peaceful neighbourhood and lovely north-facing windows, but also a small, overgrown quadrangle of leftover land its Craigslist ad called a backyard. What a combination of this move and this year’s spring begot was an expansion to our previous humble efforts at gardening.


We’ve tried to get the powers-that-be to clear this up but our ardent requests in this regard have so far gone unheard. So we’ve resorted to container gardening. There’s lots of room for this since, despite being overgrown, this is a huge upgrade from our former tiny kitchen window sill. This sunny piece of decrepit tarmac is great for pots. I’ll tell you all about our urban garden soon.

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Gourmet’s cheese and scallion drop biscuits

Let’s face it. The Bay area weather hasn’t really been up to snuff lately. What’s worse is we’re talking rainy weekends here, people. Last week was no different. We got two glorious days of sunshine that turned into a gray, rainy weekend. To add insult to injury, now as I write this on Sunday evening, the sun is out.

My pre-Monday morning blues just got bluer.

I think I love winter and gray skies way more than the average person, but it is almost a month into spring. Really weather gods, could you get with the program already? Given that this is Northern California, those May flowers are inevitable, why the April storms? We’re also probably well stocked with the Hetch Hetchy for now, what with the intense winter. How about we get a break, huh? More importantly, a weekend truce. A break from this weird “will it, won’t it?” pro-con game you’ve got us playing. Because frankly, it’s getting on my nerves.

Yesterday, it rained when I was inside and stopped when I came out. The black clouds though, hovered with this pervading sense of threat. When you’re juggling a few odds-and-ends up certain hills, without any actual rain but with an umbrella that keeps knocking you in the shins every second step, all you want to do is hurl it at the sky in your very own Jay & Silent Bob “Damn yous all to hell” moment. Yet not carrying such protection leaves you at the mercy of the contrary elements, which you cannot risk. So there you are, feeling a complete fool for trying to be prepared. Not to mention feeling the pain in those very sore shins.

That same unreal pro-con feeling seeped through most of my weekend. On the pro side, I finally made it back to Omnivore Books as I’ve meaning to since my last trip. On the con side, I forgot to check updates and walked into a shop where Alice Waters sat signing copies of her books. Yes, I love getting my books signed. No, I did not have my copy of The Art of Simple Food. I couldn’t even make eye contact with the author, talk about a completely absurd sense of guilt! Omnivore Books is intimate enough that it is not easy to browse all the shelves when there’s a book signing set up. So with a quick perusal, we turned to head out.
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