Monday, April 13, 2009

Pavlova with Lemon Curd and Berries

For Easter this year, I decided to try out a recipe from Gourmet Magazine. We already had a chocolate dessert in the works so I wanted something a bit lighter. I came across a recipe for Pavlova with lemon curd and berries and decided to give it a shot. The original recipe can be found in the April 2009 edition of Gourmet on page 86. I, however, have some tiny changes to the recipe that I want to share with you that I think will produce an even better pavlova. If you don't know what a pavlova is, you're not alone. I was clueless until a friend made it for us awhile back. Basically, a pavlova is a bed of baked meringue that has some sort of custard or sauce on top and then berries on top of that. It's light and sweet and perfect for the summer. Below is my version of the Gourmet Pavlova.

For Meringue:

1 cup granulated sugar
1 Tbsp cornstarch (mix this in with the sugar before you begin)
3 large egg whites room temperature (save the yokes for the filling)
1 tsp white vinegar (I used coconut vinegar, not sure if it made a difference or not)

For Filling:

2/3 cup granulated
1 Tbsp cornstarch
pinch of salt
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice (about 1 1/2 lemons)
1/2 stick unsalted butter
3 large lightly beaten egg yokes
2 tsp grated lemon zest
1 cup heavy cream
4 cups mixed berries (I used strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries)

Making the meringue:

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Using a piece of parchment paper, trace the face of a plate or cake platter that you plan to put the pavlova on. A regular dinner plate would make a good size. Beat together the salt and egg whites on medium speed until they form soft peaks. Next add the water and beat until the egg whites hold soft peaks again. Next, on medium-high speed slowly add in the sugar and beat 1 more minute. Lastly, turn to high speed and beat in the vinegar until meringue is glossy and holds stiff peaks (this takes approx. 5 minutes). Once done, spread the meringue out on the parchment paper in the size of the circle you traced, mounding up the sides more than the middle to create a place for the berries to lay. Bake in the oven about 45 minutes. After 45 minutes, turn the oven off and prop the door ajar and let the meringue cool inside for an hour.

Make the lemon curd while the meringue is cooling:

stir together the sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a 2-qt heavy saucepan. Next add the lemon juice and butter. Bring to a simmer and whisk constantly for about a minute. Mix in 1/4 of this mixture with the egg yolks. Take the mixed yolks and pour them into the saucepan. Reduce heat to low and cook, whisking constantly, until curd is thick (about 2 minutes). Don't let curd boil. After 2 minutes transfer the curd to a bowl and mix in the lemon zest. Cover the surface of curd with plastic wrap or parchment paper and let cool in fridge for about an 1 1/2 hours.


Beat the heavy cream until it holds still peaks, then fold it into the lemon curd. Spoon lemon curd into the meringue and mound the berries on top.

You can eat the pavlova right away but from my own experience it tastes better if you refrigerate covered overnight. The meringue becomes more marshmallowy and the flavors have time to blend.

An Indian meal from Sabrina!

The following is from my dear friend, Sabrina, who was my accomplice in so many things in Paris, including many, many meals of delicious Indian food. I was usually in charge of the Saag/Palak Paneer and chai.

She just sent me the following--her first addition to the blog! Have fun!

Welcome to the Sidhu household where the food is normally very healthy, not spicy and relatively easy to make. Not the typical Indian story right...but ours is not the typical Indian household. We have travelled all over India and lived in so many different states that one loses count. We constantly had to move, pack, unpack, and had little time for details. Plus some healthy food was always required since we were subjected to changing cuisines, which were often greasy and spicy. Our stomachs needed an anchor! So food had to be easy, quick and healthy. The Curd Chiken curry is a signature dish from the Sidhu household, one that my mom taught me before I left for Paris. She also taught me Aloo Zeera since I insisted that I needed to know more "easy" dishes if I had to play host and invite people over. So if I could do this, so can you.

Here are some easy recipes and you can thank my mother for them!

Curd Chicken
Chicken 1 kg
Garlic    11/2 pods
Ginger    1 piece
Curd/ Yogurt  1/2 kg; 2i/2 cups
Salt 1 heaped tsp
Pepper , turmeric 1/2 tsp each
Coriander powder 1 tsp
Red chilly powder  1/2 tsp

Mix the chicken with curd ( beat the curd so it is smooth) and add the following: oil or butter; ginger/ garlic (in paste or pieces), ; turmeric; salt; nutmeg; pepper; red chill powder( if you want it spicy)  coriander (powder or whole), cardamon (powder or  whole), cinnamon (powder or whole)

Leave this to marinate for about 4 hours in the fridge or even overnight. The longer you marinate it , the better. Make sure you make small cuts in the chicken pieces so the marinade can soak in. The chicken could be boneless or with bones but should be in small pieces.

Cooking: Heat some oil in a pan, and add the marinade and cook till the chicken is tender and the water has evaporated. Voila! Curd Chicken  is ready :)

Eat the curry with some basmati rice.

If you really want to be fancy, then you can add a third dish : Raita-  Take some curd, beat it and add chopped tomatoes , salt and pepper. The curd normally has a cooling effect if the chicken is spicy.

If you want to show off, then you can make Zeera Aloo or Cumin Potato which is also very easy to do. Boil potatoes, peel the skin, and cut into small square pieces. Then in another dish, heat some oil, and add cumin and garlic. Let that cook, and then add onions and cook. Add turmeric and salt and pepper. Then add the potatoes and mix. Garnish with coriander.

You don't need any special ingredients except the turmeric & coriander powder ...which should be readily available at the local grocer. The others (cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg) should be readily available anywhere. If you cant find coriander powder, you can use fresh coriander.


Enjoy cooking! Hope it turns out well :) Send me some photos!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The Neiman-Marcus Chocolate Chip Cookie Challenge

Ever heard the story of the Neiman-Marcus cookie? No? Well, the website sums it up like this:

"Neiman-Marcus charged a shopper $250 for its cookie recipe, not the $2.50 the woman had been expecting to pay. As revenge on the store for refusing to reverse the charge, she now provides the recipe for free and exhorts others to pass it along."

Long since proven as an urban legend, the cookie story still gets passed around the internet along with the "infamous" recipe. Neiman Marcus on their website sums it up like this:

"An urban myth is a modern folk tale, its origins unknown, its believability enhanced
simply by the frequency with which it is repeated. Our signature chocolate chip cookie
is the subject of one such myth. If you haven't heard the story, we won't perpetuate it
here. If you have, the recipe below should serve to refute it. Copy it, print it out, pass it along to friends and family. It's a terrific recipe. And it's absolutely free."

Well, with Neiman-Marcus providing a true N.M. recipe and with the endurance of the urban legend I thought it would be a fun idea to bake the two cookies and put them to the test. Which cookie was better? The real Neiman-Marcus cookie or the urban legend Neiman Marcus cookie.

Both recipes were fairly simple (I provide each one at the end of this post) and I was able to make both the same night. It should be noted that the urban legend recipe contains a lot more ingredients and is more of an oatmeal/chocolate chip cookie than the real N.M. recipe which is a twist on the classic c.c. cookie. These differences make it a bit harder to compare but we were up for the challenge.

The Urban Legend cookie's (ULC) dough was much more interesting than the Real Neiman-Marcus Cookie (RNMC) and in my opinion tasted better. The texture was great and the dough very thick (don't attempt to make the ULC with a hand mixer!). However, the RNMC had the most wonderful smell while cooking. It was similar to a chocolate chip cookie smell but more intense and just awesome. The appearance of the two after they were done baking was totally different. The ULC was more of a home-made rustic look while the RNMC were more sleek and traditional looking (but still a darker color than a traditional c.c. cookie). It's hard to judge which one looked better but they both looked delicious and I think it depends on type of look your going for.

As for the taste (which is what we utimately judged the cookie on), we brought the cookies to about a dozen people without telling them which cookie was which. What were the results? Split 50/50. Some people loved the oatmeal and nuts in the ULC while others felt that those ingredients didn't belong in a real chocolate chip cookie. The people who liked the NMC best all said it was more buttery and if they went and bought a cookie at N-M then this the NMC is what they would expect to get. Overall, everyone really loved both cookies but most people agreed that the real Neiman-Marcus cookie belonged at the store.


Urban Legend Cookie Recipe:


1 cup butter
2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 cup sugar
2 1/2 cups blended oatmeal (measure oatmeal and blend in a blender to a fine powder)
12 oz. chocolate chips
1 cup light brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 of an 8oz. Hershey Bar (grated)
2 eggs
1 tsp. baking powder
1 1/2 cups chopped nuts (your choice but I used walnuts)
1 tsp. vanilla


Cream the butter and both sugars. Add eggs and vanilla; mix together with flour, oatmeal, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. Add chocolate chips, Hershey Bar and nuts. Roll into balls and place two inches apart on a cookie sheet. Bake for 10 minutes at 375 degrees. Makes 66 cookies.

The Real Neiman-Marcus Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe:

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1 cup light brown sugar
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 large egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1-3/4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 teaspoons instant espresso coffee powder
1-1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Cream the butter with the sugars using an electric mixer on medium speed until fluffy (approximately 30 seconds)

2. Beat in the egg and the vanilla extract for another 30 seconds.

3. In a mixing bowl, sift together the dry ingredients and beat into the butter mixture at low speed for about 15 seconds. Stir in the espresso coffee powder and chocolate chips.

4. Using a 1 ounce scoop or a 2 tablespoon measure, drop cookie dough onto a greased cookie sheet about 3 inches apart. Gently press down on the dough with the back of a spoon to spread out into a 2 inch circle. Bake for about 20 minutes or until nicely browned around the edges. Bake a little longer for a crispier cookie.

Yield: 2 dozen cookies