Category Archives: thanksgiving

Thanksgiving treats: Cheeseless Pumpkin Cheesecake

As if to compensate for the dreary daylight saving change of time, the short day’s and the brown scattered leaves fluttering about in the cold breeze, Nature gives you glimpses of some pretty spectacular colors that are best appreciated in autumn, like this gorgeous sunset a couple of days ago

 I’m gracefully resigning my self to the crisp cold sunny  days of Fall, and beginning to look forward to the seasonal bounty that the season brings along, The bright colored winter squashes & pumpkins, the gemstone colored cranberries, Persimmons, pomegranates..and the list goes on.

The recipe for this post ironically uses none of these, relying instead on a canned ingredient. Yep, I’m referring to the good ol’ canned pumpkin that makes its appearance around now.

Its convenience lies in the fact that the texture and flavor is consistent and pleasantly enough it wasn’t too sweet, which meant that I could use the contents from the same can in a dessert as well as a savory spinach curry.

Back to the ‘Cheeseless’ Cheesecake: I’d first tried Raghavan Iyer’s recipe for the 10 lb Cherry Challenge that was hosted by Oxo . The dessert is basically a classic Bengali bhapa Doi , a steamed yogurt that is flavored with cardamom. This time around, I tweaked the recipe with the addition of pumpkin puree and a spice blend of cardamom, cloves and cinnamon.

Cheeseless Pumpkin cheesecake (Recipe inspired and adapted from  Indian Cooking Unfolded by Raghavan Iyer)

 You need:

2 1/2 cup plain low fat Greek yogurt
1/2 cup Pumpkin puree
1 can condensed milk
1/2 – 3/4 teaspoon spice blend* (as per taste) -see the note below the recipe for instructions
18-20 strands saffron
8-10 Pistachios for garnish (optional, leave out if concerned about nut allergies)
9 ramekins (4.0 oz / 1/2 cup volume)
Plenty of boiling hot water in a kettle

Preheat the oven to 350 F.
Combine the yogurt, condensed milk, spice blend and the pumpkin puree in a mixing bowl and whisk to thoroughly combine

Ladle the mixture evenly into the ramekins. Garnish each bowl with 2 strands of saffron and microplane the pistachio over the mix. Place the ramekins in a large baking pan. Fill the baking pan with about 3/4th inch of  the hot water.

Place the water bath into the oven. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven, allow to cool and refrigerate for atleast 2 hours prior to serving. Garnish with a piece of sugar glass ** and serve chilled.

 ** Sugar glass
 In a saucepan, combine  1 cup of sugar and 2 table spoons of water.
Bring to a boil to completely dissolve, keep stirring with a wooden spoon, lower the heat and allow the sugar to cook down beyond the hard crack stage. Keep 2 sheets of silpat silicone mats next to you on the counter. Once the sugar solution begins to turn a light amber, remove it from the heat. Allow the sugar to cease bubbling. Carefully dip the wooden spoon into the molten sugar and drizzle the liquid onto the silicone mats, making random criss cross patterns. Allow to cool completely before gently breaking the pieces. store the pieces in an airtight jar.

*Spice blend:
2 cardamoms pods (just the seeds)
4 cloves
1/2 teaspoon powdered cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon powdered nutmeg

Combine all the ingredients and crush to a fine powder using a mortar & pestle. Use the required quantity of the blend.

Bon appetit!


Happy Thanksgiving – Roasted Yam & Butternut squash Gnocchi

Come this Thursday, i.e, Thanksgiving day, I’ll be one of the few who will retire in a stupor that decidedly will NOT be induced by that ‘Turkey-philic’ amino-acid, Tryptophan. Mine will be a blissful state of lethargy brought about by sheer Carbo loading, despite my best efforts to acheive a balanced feast.. All it takes is the dessert pies to upset that apple cart!.

I’m far from deciding what I’ll actually make for our Thanksgiving family dinner except that I plan to definitely include the traditional ingredients as far as possible. Squash, sweet potato, corn & beans..and a cauliflower soup that I had made a month ago and still crave.

Its been a while since I tried my hand at making gnocchi and I had a little gnocchi shaping gadget that I was itching to try. There is absolutely no potato involved in this pasta, but the results were better than I expected. The sweetness of the roasted squash and Sweet potato is offset not by heat from chile pepper,but from the spiciness brought about by the addition of a tablespoon of fresh ginger extract.

Roasted Yam and butternut squash Gnocchi. (makes 4 servings of about 12 pieces each)

You need:

1 medium sized Yam (the golden sweet potato)
1/2 a butternut squash cut up lengthwise
1/2 cup each of all purpose flour and cornstarch, sifted together
Salt to taste (about 1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon)
1 tablespoon fresh ginger extract ( Grate a chunk of fresh ginger and squeeze out the extract)
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
2 L water for boiling the gnocchi

For the Sauce
2 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon cornstarch and AP Flour mix (from the gnocchi ingredients above)
Salt to taste
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon fresh cracked peppercorn
10 – 12 sage leaves
3-4 pieces of sundried tomatoes, chopped fine
1 cup whole or 2 % milk
Grated Parmesan cheese

 Preheat oven to 425 F. Scrub and pat dry the sweet potato.

Brush the cut surface of the butternut squash with olive oil. Place the sweet potato & squash onto a baking sheet with the and bake for about 25 minutes till the tuber  is done.

Remove the sweet potato and bake the butternut squash for about 20 more minutes until the surface appears blistered and a knife completely slips through the flesh.

Allow to cool completely before scraping the flesh of the squash and peeling the sweet potato.
Add the roasted vegetables into a food processor along with the Ginger extract, salt and nutmeg.

Keeping the appliance running at a low speed, add the cornstarch and AP flour mixture (you will need only about 3/4th of a cup, too much flour and the pasta will turn chewy & tough) until the mixture just begins to come together into a ball of dough.

Drop the dough onto a floured surface and knead lightly. Divide into quarters. Leaving one piece on the floured surface, wrap the other three pieces in a Saran wrap until ready to use.

Roll the piece of dough gently into a long rope of about 12 inches long.

Using a dough scraper, cut the rope into 1 inch pillows.

You may either leave the pasta as is or using the back of a folk, gently slide along the tines to create the grooves. I used a gnocchi  press that tended to elongate the pillows. The final pasta resembled baby carrots! Repeat with the remaining dough. Place the pasta on a floured plate and allow to dry for about 1/2 hr while you bring a large pot of water to boil, and prepare the sauce.

Heat one tablespoon of butter in a non sick skillet. Gently fry the Sage leaves on low heat, until they turn crisp. remove with a slotted spoon and set aside. Add about a tablespoon of the flour mixture to the butter and toast the flour until it turns a golden brown.

Stir  the seasonings into the ‘roue’ and whisk in the milk. Whisk well to avoid any lumps and allow the sauce to thicken. Transfer to a container, covering the surface with Saran wrap to prevent a skin from forming. rinse and dry the skillet. Place back on the stove and add the remaining butter.

Lower the heat to bring the water down to a simmer and add the gnocchi (about 12 at a time) when the pasta begins to bob up after initially sinking to the bottom of the pan, allow to cook for about 1/2 a minute.
 Remove the pasta with a spider skimmer gently agitate to shake of any excess water and add the gnocchi to the sizzling butter in the non stick skillet.
Shake the pan to coat the gnocchi with the butter and gently toss till the pasta just begins to develop brown spots.

Transfer the pasta to a serving plate, and gently spoon the required amount of the sauce. Garnish with the sage leaves and serve warm, with some Parmesan cheese sprinkled over if you prefer.

Here’s wishing all of you a very happy Thanksgiving.
 Bon Appetit!!

My Thanksgiving table 2011

When November rolls around, so do a slew of events preparing you for the short cold days ahead. The first weekend is ‘extended’ by an hour thanks to  daylight savings, which brings on a spot of depressing evenings with the sun disappearing under the horizon an hour early (yes, it does rise an hour early as well, but no one bothers to take that into account). the leaves litter the lawn, and thoughts turn to the preparation of that time honored American event. Thanksgiving.
The nice part about thanksgiving is that there is a list of ingredients that are staples on the festive table, pumpkin (pie), cranberry (jellied or in sauce form), brussel sprouts (roasted), Green beans (casserole), turkey (roasted), & ham, corn (cornbread), apples (cider & pie), chestnuts.. of course, there is no set rule that corn HAS to be in the form of cornbread, or cranberry must absolutely be jellied.. Of course, being vegetarian, no turkey or other recipes with meat on the table!

My recipes from last year’s thanksgiving included an ‘Iyer-n-chef’ Roulade (inspired by a dish from Chef Michael Symons show ‘Cook like an Iron Chef’), Roasted pumpkin & fennel soup (with a vegetable dip), Brussels sprouts stir fried South Indian style with toasted coconut, and of course, Traditional apple pie.

 I’ve yet to finish my entire repertoire of thanksgiving offerings in their final avatars. (the side dish I made with roasted chestnuts got polished off before I could reach for the camera, .. you get the drift), but here’s some dishes that I’m bringing to the Virtual Thanksgiving table hosted by Food Network

This pair of savory & sweet dishes are inspired by classic  South Indian one pot rice dishes known as ‘Pongal’. Made in both sweet & savory versions, the main ingredient in the traditional version is rice and split dehusked mung and are made during harvest festivals as a gesture of thanksgiving. The recipes given below serve 3-4 guests.

Pan fried Polenta seasoned with Cumin, Ginger & black pepper served with sauteed Brussel sprouts with sun dried tomatoes & caramelized onions

For the Polenta:

1 cup  yellow corn meal
1 cups whole milk
1.5 cups water
Salt to taste
2 tablespoon ghee (clarified butter)
1/2 teaspoon cracked black peppercorn
2 teaspoon  fresh ginger root, minced to a paste
1 tablespoon powdered cumin
Ghee for pan frying
 8 x 8 baking pan brushed liberally with butter.

Heat the milk & water along with a salt on medium heat till it comes to a boil. While the milk is heating up, heat the ghee in a small skillet and add the cumin powder & cracked peppercorns followed by the minced ginger paste. Fry till the spices start emitting their characteristic aroma, and add this mixture to the milk.

When the milk begins to boil, lower the heat and  gradually add the cornmeal, taking care to continuously whisk the mixture eliminating any lumps. Stir till the polenta thickens sufficiently, Pour the polenta into the baking dish, smoothen the surface with a spatula. Cover and place in the refrigerator for about 2 hours to let the polenta set. When cool, cut out 2′ squares or circles .

Heat a tablespoon of ghee in a non stick skillet and place 1-2 pieces of the polenta over the melted ghee. Pan fry till golden on both sides.

Sauteed Brussels sprouts with caramelized onions & sun dried tomatoes

1 large onion cut, quartered and thinly sliced.
1 cup Brussels sprouts finely cut into a chiffonade (a mandolin works best for this)
3-4 pieces sundried tomato, cut into thin strips.
Salt & freshly ground peppercorn to taste
2 tablespoons canola oil.
juice of 1/2 a lime or lemon

In a cast iron skillet, heat the oil and add the sliced onions, cook down for about 15-20 minutes on medium heat till the onions brown, reduce in volume & caramelize. Remove the onions, increase the heat and add the Brussels sprouts and the sun dried tomatoes. Saute till the Brussels sprouts loses its rawness, adding desired amount of salt & pepper. Add the caramelized onions back and combine well. Transfer into a serving dish and keep warm.Drizzle with lime/lemon juice prior ro serving.

 paired with a Cranberry & Ginger chutney

1 cup fresh Cranberry pulp (without seeds)
1 cup minced fresh ginger root
1/3 cup canola oil
1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
2-3 green jalapenos, 
1/4 teaspoon asafetida powder
Salt to taste

To make the cranberry pulp, add about 1.5 cups fresh cranberries into boiling water & blanch until they begin ‘popping’ & turn soft. remove from the water into a sieve & press with a spoon to strain the pulp out. Reserve one cup for the chutney.

Using the stove top, roast the jalapeno peppers till the skins get charred. Cool & rub off the blackened skin using a paper towel, Slit in two, remove the seeds & mince the flesh into small pieces.

In a skillet, Heat the canola oil till near smoking. Add the mustard seeds and allow to sputter. Add the minced ginger root, Jalapeno & cranberry pulp and saute to combine, add the asafetida powder and salt & cook down until the moisture evaporates and the oil seeps out. Transfer to a clean dry jar. Store in the refrigerator. This relish will keep for about 2 weeks in the fridge.

and a Sweet corn & Rice Pudding for dessert

Sweet corn & Rice Pudding

1 cup Fresh yellow sweet corn off the cob
3/4 cups Arborio rice
1/3 cup muscovado sugar or jaggery (gud)
5-6 pod cardamom, seeds crushed
3 cups whole or 2% milk
10-12 strands of saffron
2 tablespoons melted ghee
2 tablespoons cashew nuts broken
2 tablespoons Raisins

Wash the arborio rice well, combine with the shucked corn and 2 cups of the milk & cook in a heavy bottom pan till the rice is well cooked and mushy. (you may alternatively pressure cook it)

Warm the extra cup of milk. Remove 1/4 cup of this and dissolve the strands of saffron. Add back into the milk & set aside.

Add the sugar/jaggery and the cardamom powder to the rice & corn mixture and combine till the sugar melts. Adding the extra saffron infused milk, Continue cooking the pudding on a low flame, till it thickens.

In a separate skillet, heat the ghee and fry the cashew nuts & raisins till golden brown. Stir into the pudding & serve warm or cold as per your preference.

Here is a sampling of all the other great dishes at the table..

Cocktails, Appetizers, Soups and Salads:
Eat Be Mary: She’s Mulling It Over Wine
Cookistry: Bread With Ancient Grains
Celebrity Chefs and Their Gardens: The American Hotel Peconic Clam Chowder
Picky Eater Blog: Butternut Squash Soup With Thyme and Parmesan
Good Food Good Friends: Mushroom Soup

Even more:
Kitchen Courses: Thanksgiving for Six People Under $60
A Curious Palate: The Communal Table

Bon appetit and have a very happy Thanksgiving!