Creamy Corn Chowder

A couple of weeks ago we had some very cold weather down here in Atlanta, the first cold of the Winter. I was glad to be indoors all week and resort to warm comfort food snuggled on the couch. Soups are our first choice but when we need something a little more filling, I make Corn Chowder.

Chowder is usually any thick soup, containing seafood or vegetables. The thickness comes from adding flour to the base, which is unusual in regular broth and vegetable based soups. Corn Chowder is a hearty combination of vegetables and of course a whole lot of corn kernels (white/yellow).

You will need:

2 tbsp Butter
3 tbsp All purpose flour
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 onion, chopped
½ cup chopped carrots
1 cup Yellow corn, from a can, drained
1 ½ cups Vegetable stock or water
1 cup Whole milk, hot
¼ cup Heavy cream
¼ tsp Nutmeg
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat the butter in a non stick pan. Add the chopped garlic, sauté till fragrant and then add the chopped onions. Cook for 2 minutes and add the chopped carrots. Saute for a few more minutes. Bring the vegetable stock (or water) to a simmering boil in another pan. Now add the all purpose flour and whisk continuously, to prevent the flour from burning and to allow it to cook evenly.

Slowly add the simmering stock(or water) while still whisking till a thick sauce is formed. Cook on low heat for a minute and then whisk in the whole milk and the heavy cream. Stir in the corn. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Bring the chowder to a boil and let simmer till the milk reduces and the chowder is creamy and thick. Turn off heat and serve while still hot or warm.

Cannoli for the Daring Bakers

This month the Daring Bakers shun their ovens and took to the deep fryers for a lip smacking good challenge. We made Cannoli, crunchy creamy deliciousness...

The November 2009 Daring Bakers Challenge was chosen and hosted by Lisa Michele of Parsley, Sage, Desserts and Line Drives. She chose the Italian Pastry, Cannolo (Cannoli is plural), using the cookbooks Lidia’s Italian-American Kitchen by Lidia Matticchio Bastianich and The Sopranos Family Cookbook by Allen Rucker; recipes by Michelle Scicolone, as ingredient/direction guides. She added her own modifications/changes, so the recipe is not 100% verbatim from either book.

Cannoli are known as Italian-American pastries, although the origin of cannoli dates back to Sicily, specifically Palermo, where it was prepared during Carnevale season, and according to lore, as a symbol of fertility. The cannoli is a fried, tube-shaped pastry shell (usually containing wine) filled with a creamy amalgamation of sweetened ricotta cheese, chocolate, candied fruit or zest, and sometimes nuts. Although not traditional, mascarpone cheese is also widely used, and in fact, makes for an even creamier filling when substituted for part of the ricotta, or by itself. However, cannoli can also be filled with pastry creams, mousses, whipped cream, ice cream etc. You could also add your choice of herbs, zests or spices to the dough, if desired. Marsala is the traditional wine used in cannoli dough, but any red or white wine will work fine, as it’s not only added for flavor or color, but to relax the gluten in the dough since it can be a stiff dough to work with.

Cannoli forms/tubes - optional, but recommended if making traditional shaped cannoli.
Deep, heavy saucepan, enough to hold at least 2-3-inches of oil or deep fryer
Deep fat frying thermometer. although the bread cube or bit of dough test will work fine.
Metal tongs
Brass or wire skimmer OR large slotted spoon
Pastry bag with large star or plain tip, but a snipped ziplock bag, butter knife or teaspoon will work fine.
Cooling rack
Paper bags or paper towels
Pastry Brush
Sieve or fine wire mesh strainer
Electric Mixer, stand or hand, optional, as mixing the filling with a spoon is fine.
Food Processor or Stand Mixer (Optional) Since you can make the dough by hand, although it takes more time. I used a Stand up Mixer.
Rolling pin and/or Pasta roller/machine
Pastry or cutting board
Round cutters - The dough can also be cut into squares and rolled around the cannoli tube prior to frying. If making a stacked cannoli, any shaped cutter is fine, as well as a sharp knife.
Mixing bowl and wooden spoon if mixing filling by hand
Plastic Wrap/Clingfilm
Tea towels or just cloth towels

Variations: The filling is YOUR choice! Anything you want to fill them with is perfectly fine, sweet or savory, or you can use the filling recipe provided – making whatever changes you want to it. Cannoli would make a great addition to a Thanksgiving dessert table/spread. In many Italian households, during the holidays, cannoli is always part of the dessert offerings. You could also make a Thanksgiving themed cannoli, like pumpkin cannoli (I came up with a great pumpkin filling recipe below) or apples, pecans, walnuts, any dried fruits etc. An idea to gussy up your cannoli is; dipping the rims of the shell in melted chocolate and rolling in chopped nuts or sprinkles, then letting them set prior to filling. Dipping or pressing mini chocolate chips into the filled ends OR just stirring mini chocolate chips into the filling prior to stacking or filling whatever shaped shells you come up with, is another great idea and makes a nice presentation The sky is the limit here, be creative! Naturally, if you have any dietary restrictions, by all means, go with it. I’ve provided a link to a gluten-free cannoli recipe and a slightly savory vegan cannoli recipe to help get you started.

Lidisano’s Cannoli
Makes 22-24 4-inch cannoli
Prep time:
Dough – 2 hours and 10-20 minutes, including resting time, and depending on whether you do it by hand or machine.
Filling – 5-10 minutes plus chilling time (about 2 hours or more)
Frying – 1-2 minutes per cannoli
Assemble – 20–30 minutes

Cannoli Shells

2 cups (250 grams/16 ounces) all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons(28 grams/1 ounce) sugar
1 teaspoon (5 grams/0.06 ounces) unsweetened baking cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon (1.15 grams/0.04 ounces) ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon (approx. 3 grams/0.11 ounces) salt
3 tablespoons (42 grams/1.5 ounces) vegetable or olive oil
1 teaspoon (5 grams/0.18 ounces) white wine vinegar
Approximately 1/2 cup (approx. 59 grams/approx. 4 fluid ounces/approx. 125 ml) sweet Marsala or any white or red wine you have on hand
1 large egg, separated (you will need the egg white but not the yolk)
Vegetable or any neutral oil for frying – about 2 quarts (8 cups/approx. 2 litres)
1/2 cup (approx. 62 grams/2 ounces) toasted, chopped pistachio nuts, mini chocolate chips/grated chocolate and/or candied or plain zests, fruits etc.. for garnish
Confectioners' sugar

Note on Wine : For those who don't like to cook or bake with alcohol - grape juice, cranberry juice, pomegranate juice, apple juice; any sweet juice of a fruit, especially ones used in or to make wine can be substituted. Just add a little more vinegar to ensure you get enough acid to relax the dough. I used Pomegranate Blueberry juice, since that’s what I had on hand. I had to use 3 more teaspoons of the vinegar to relax the dough.

The shells were so tasty, it was hard to not eat them all before filling them. The juice added additional sweetness and tasted good even with the savory filling.

Cannoli Filling

2 lbs (approx. 3.5 cups/approx. 1 kg/32 ounces) ricotta cheese, drained
1 2/3 cups cup (160 grams/6 ounces) confectioner’s sugar, (more or less, depending on how sweet you want it), sifted
1/2 teaspoon (1.15 grams/0.04 ounces) ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon (4 grams/0.15 ounces) pure vanilla extract or the beans from one vanilla bean
3 tablespoons (approx. 28 grams/approx. 1 ounce) finely chopped good quality chocolate of your choice
2 tablespoons (12 grams/0.42 ounces) of finely chopped, candied orange peel, or the grated zest of one small to medium orange
3 tablespoons (23 grams/0.81 ounce) toasted, finely chopped pistachios

Note - If you want chocolate ricotta filling, add a few tablespoons of dark, unsweetened cocoa powder to the above recipe, and thin it out with a few drops of warm water if too thick to pipe.

This was the recipe provided for the challenge. The recipes for the fillings I used are given below.

Directions for Shells:
1. In the bowl of an electric stand mixer or food processor, combine the flour, sugar, cocoa, cinnamon, and salt. Stir in the oil, vinegar, and enough of the wine to make a soft dough. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and well blended, about two minutes. Shape the dough into a ball. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest in the fridge from 2 hours to overnight.

2. Cut the dough into two pieces. Keep the remaining dough covered while you work. Lightly flour a large cutting or pastry board and roll the dough until super thin, about 1/16 to 1/8” thick (An area of about 13 inches by 18 inches should give you that). Cut out 3 to 5-inch circles (3-inch – small/medium; 4-inch – medium/large; 5-inch;- large). Roll the cut out circle into an oval, rolling it larger and thinner if it’s shrunk a little. I used the lid of a cookie cutter tin, which measured about 4.5 inches.

3. Oil the outside of the cannoli tubes (You only have to do this once, as the oil from the deep fryer will keep them well oiled). Roll a dough oval from the long side (If square, position like a diamond, and place tube/form on the corner closest to you, then roll) around each tube/form and dab a little egg white on the dough where the edges overlap. (Avoid getting egg white on the tube, or the pastry will stick to it.) Press well to seal. Set aside to let the egg white seal dry a little.

4. In a deep heavy saucepan, pour enough oil to reach a depth of 3 inches, or if using an electric deep-fryer, follow the manufacturer's directions. Heat the oil to 375°F (190 °C) on a deep fry thermometer, or until a small piece of the dough or bread cube placed in the oil sizzles and browns in 1 minute. Have ready a tray or sheet pan lined with paper towels or paper bags.

5. Carefully lower a few of the cannoli tubes into the hot oil. Do not crowd the pan. Fry the shells until golden, about 2 minutes, turning them so that they brown evenly.

8. Lift a cannoli tube with a wire skimmer or large slotted spoon, out of the oil. Using tongs, grasp the cannoli tube at one end. Very carefully remove the cannoli tube with the open sides straight up and down so that the oil flows back into the pan. Place the tube on paper towels or bags to drain. Repeat with the remaining tubes. While they are still hot, grasp the tubes with a potholder and pull the cannoli shells off the tubes with a pair of tongs, or with your hand protected by an oven mitt or towel. Let the shells cool completely on the paper towels. Place shells on cooling rack until ready to fill.

9. Repeat making and frying the shells with the remaining dough. If you are reusing the cannoli tubes, let them cool before wrapping them in the dough.

Pasta Machine method:
1. Divide the dough into 4 equal pieces. Starting at the middle setting, run one of the pieces of dough through the rollers of a pasta machine. Lightly dust the dough with flour as needed to keep it from sticking. Pass the dough through the machine repeatedly, until you reach the highest or second highest setting. The dough should be about 4 inches wide and thin enough to see your hand through

2. Continue rolling out the remaining dough. If you do not have enough cannoli tubes for all of the dough, lay the pieces of dough on sheets of plastic wrap and keep them covered until you are ready to use them.

3, Roll, cut out and fry the cannoli shells as according to the directions above.

For stacked cannoli:
1. Heat 2-inches of oil in a saucepan or deep sauté pan, to 350-375°F (176 - 190 °C).

2. Cut out desired shapes with cutters or a sharp knife. Deep fry until golden brown and blistered on each side, about 1 – 2 minutes. Remove from oil with wire skimmer or large slotted spoon, then place on paper towels or bags until dry and grease free. If they balloon up in the hot oil, dock them lightly prior to frying. Place on cooling rack until ready to stack with filling.


Sweet Filling:

½ cup Ricotta cheese

1 tsp Orange zest

3 tbsp Powdered sugar (more to suit taste)

¼ tsp Cardamom powder

2 tbsp White chocolate chopped

1 tbsp Pistachios, finely chopped

Combine the first four ingredients in a medium bowl. Spoon mixture into a piping bag fitted with a large star tip.

Melt the chocolate in a microwave safe bowl for 2 minutes, stirring every 30 seconds, until smooth and creamy. Dip the ends of the cannoli shells in the melted chocolate and roll in the chopped pistachios. Let set before filling.

Savory Filling:

For the savory filling, I used two jalapenos for color and heat. The garlic made it almost irresistible to pass.

½ cup Ricotta cheese

½ cup Yellow corn,drained

1 green Jalapeno, chopped

1 red Jalapeno, chopped

¼ cup chopped onion

1 clove of Garlic, minced

1 tbsp Oil

Salt to taste

Heat oil in a non stick pan. Add the minced garlic and chopped jalapenos. Saute for a minute and then add the chopped onions. Cook onions and then stir in the yellow corn and salt to taste. Cook for a couple of minutes and then turn off heat. Let mixture cool completely. Combine with the drained ricotta and fill cannoli shells.

Directions for Filling:
1. Line a strainer with cheesecloth. Place the ricotta in the strainer over a bowl, and cover with plastic wrap and a towel. Weight it down with a heavy can, and let the ricotta drain in the refrigerator for several hours to overnight.

2. In a bowl with electric mixer, beat ricotta until smooth and creamy. Beat in confectioner’s sugar, cinnamon, vanilla and blend until smooth. Transfer to another bowl and stir in chocolate, zest and nuts. Chill until firm.(The filling can be made up to 24 hours prior to filling the shells. Just cover and keep refrigerated).

Assemble the Cannoli:
1. When ready to serve - fill a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2-inch plain or star tip, or a ziplock bag, with the ricotta cream. If using a ziplock bag, cut about 1/2 inch off one corner. Insert the tip in the cannoli shell and squeeze gently until the shell is half filled. Turn the shell and fill the other side. You can also use a teaspoon to do this, although it’s messier and will take longer. (I did this for the savory filling)

2. Press or dip cannoli in chopped pistachios, grated chocolate/mini chocolate chips, candied fruit or zest into the cream at each end. Dust with confectioner’s sugar and/or drizzles of melted chocolate if desired.

I dusted the sweet cannolis with a light sprinkle of confectioner’s sugar and served the savory cannolis with a squirt of hot sauce on the plate.

Tips & Notes

These are some tips provided by Lisa and they are definitely worth noting.

- Dough must be stiff and well kneaded

- Rolling the dough to paper thinness, using either a rolling pin or pasta machine, is very important. If the dough is not rolled thin enough, it will not blister, and good cannoli should have a blistered surface.

- Initially, this dough is VERY stubborn, but keep rolling, it eventually gives in. Before cutting the shapes, let the dough rest a bit, covered, as it tends to spring back into a smaller shapes once cut. Then again, you can also roll circles larger after they’re cut, and/or into ovals, which gives you more space for filling.

- Your basic set of round cutters usually doesn’t contain a 5-inch cutter. Try a plastic container top, bowl etc, or just roll each circle to 5 inches. There will always be something in your kitchen that’s round and 5-inches if you want large cannoli.

- Oil should be at least 3 inches deep and hot – 360°F-375°F, or you’ll end up with greasy shells. I prefer 350°F - 360°F because I felt the shells darkened too quickly at 375°F.

- If using the cannoli forms, when you drop the dough on the form into the oil, they tend to sink to the bottom, resulting in one side darkening more. Use a slotted spoon or skimmer to gently lift and roll them while frying.

- DO NOT crowd the pan. Cannoli should be fried 2-4 at a time, depending on the width of your saucepan or deep fryer. Turn them once, and lift them out gently with a slotted spoon/wire skimmer and tongs. Just use a wire strainer or slotted spoon for flat cannoli shapes.

- When the cannoli turns light brown - uniform in color, watch it closely or remove it. If it’s already a deep brown when you remove it, you might end up with a really dark or slightly burnt shell.

- Depending on how much scrap you have left after cutting out all of your cannoli shapes, you can fry them up and sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar for a crispy treat, or let the scraps rest under plastic wrap and a towel, then re-roll and cut more cannoli shapes.

- Push forms out of cannoli very gently, being careful not to break the shells as they are very delicate. DO NOT let the cannoli cool on the form, or you may never get it off without it breaking. Try to take it off while still hot. Hold it with a cloth in the center, and push the form out with a butter knife or the back of a spoon.

- When adding the confectioner’s sugar to the filling..taste. You may like it sweeter than what the recipe calls for, or less sweet, so add in increments.

- Fill cannoli right before serving! If you fill them an hour or so prior, you’ll end up with soggy cannoli shells.

- If you want to prepare the shells ahead of time, store them in an airtight container, then re-crisp in a 350°F (176 °C) oven for a few minutes, before filling.

Hubby and I polished off the savory ones in no time and the sweet ones I gave to friends who enjoyed them just as much. Thanks Lisa for a wonderful challenge!

Tomatoes in a Coconut gravy

It was just one of those days packed with work and no time or energy to make an elaborate dinner. That's when one of these quick gravy recipes come in handy. One such is this Tomato curry, simple yet flavorful and comes together in minutes. Also happens to be hubby's favourite.

You will need:

4 medium sized Tomatoes, cubed

1 large onion, sliced

1 tbsp Oil

1 tsp Mustard seeds

1 tsp Urad Dal

1 tsp Chana Dal

A few curry leaves

Fresh chopped cilantro for garnish

½ tsp Tamarind paste

A small piece of jaggery

Salt to taste

To grind into a paste:

2 tbsp Split dalia ( Hurgadale)

6 Byadige red dry chillies (for color)

4 Guntur red dry chillies (for heat)

½ cup fresh grated coconut

Powder the dalia and dry red chillies first. Then add the coconut and little water and blend to a smooth paste. Set aside.

Heat oil in a pan. Add the mustard seeds and when it begins to splutter, add the urad and chana dals. Saute for a few seconds and then add the curry leaves and sliced onions. Saute till the onions are soft then add the tomatoes. Cook until tomatoes are soft but not mushy. Stir in the ground prepared paste, the tamarind paste and jaggery. Season with salt and add ½ cup of water. Combine and bring to a boil on medium heat. Simmer for 6-8 minutes on low heat . If the curry is getting too thick, add more water to achieve required consistency. Garnish with chopped cilantro.

Vegetables and Egg Noodle Casserole

This past weekend was pleasant with great weather after the incessant rains last week. We met up with friends for dinner on Saturday and on Sunday the hubby and I went on a winter shopping spree. Well, Winter is nowhere in sight at least here in the South, but all we needed was a reason to shop. After all the shopping we were ravenous by dinner time and I wanted to make something that would hit the dinner table asap.

I had a pack of Egg Noodles which I had bought very long ago, and I had fresh veggies on hand. Put the two together in a creamy sauce and you have one delicious casserole.

You will need:

6 ounces Egg Noodles
1 tbsp Olive oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 Onion, thinly sliced

½ red bell pepper, sliced

½ cup carrots, cubed

¼ cup green peas

½ cup cauliflower florets

1 tsp Chilli flakes

1 tbsp fresh Oregano

1 tbsp fresh Thyme

For the sauce:

2 tbsp Butter

2 tbsp All purpose flour

¾ cup whole milk

¼ cup heavy cream

A pinch nutmeg

Salt to taste


½ cup grated Parmesan

Prepare the sauce – Heat the butter in a non stick pan. When it melts add the flour and whisk continuously while cooking on medium heat. Cook for 2-3 minutes and then whisk in the whole milk and heavy cream. Bring to a simmering boil. Season with salt and nutmeg. Turn off heat and set aside.

Cook Egg Noodles according to package instructions. Drain and reserve.

Preheat oven to 400F.

Prepare the veggies- Boil carrots, peas and cauliflower till done, about 7-8 minutes. Drain. Heat the olive oil in a pan. Add the minced garlic, sauté till fragrant. Add the sliced onions and peppers. Cook till onions are translucent and peppers are soft. Add the chilli flakes, and boiled veggies. Combine and then add the fresh herbs, the prepared sauce and egg noodles. Season with salt. Cook for a minute or two and transfer to a lightly buttered casserole dish. Top generously with the parmesan cheese.

Bake for 15 minutes till the cheese is brown and bubbly. Serve hot.

The Egg Noodles were light and with the veggies made for a not too heavy meal, but enough to satisfy two very hungry people. If you are not big on Egg Noodles, you can substitute with any short pasta like penne or farfalle.

Autumn themed cake – for a contest

The folks at US Confection Connection and The Daring Kitchen (Daring Bakers are a part of The Daring Kitchen) have announced a cake decorating contest with theme of “Autumn”. One winner will be chosen from a list of ten finalists and the winner gets an all expense paid trip to New York City, to attend the NY Cake Convention being held from Jan 2nd - Jan 5th 2010.

We were required to create a cake to depict what Autumn meant to us.To me, Autumn brings to mind, colorful leaves and the fun part of Halloween. Kids dressed up in cute cuddly costumes going trick or treating on a chilly Autumn evening, the thought makes me break into a smile. I wanted to bring out these two aspects in my cake and this is what I came up with.

All decorations – apples, pumpkins, kids in costumes and fall leaves are made out of a fondant-gumpaste mix and are completely edible. The cake is a sour cream pound cake with a chocolate ganache filling and frosted with buttercream.

The rules of the contest and event details are here.

Other entries to the contest are here

This is my first time participating in a cake decorating contest, and I am excited. The winners will be announced on the Daring Kitchen forum on the 14th of Nov.

Fajita Quesadillas with Picco de gallo

The hubby and I are big fans of Mexican (the Americanized kind) food. The past year I've tried a variety of Mexican dishes at home every time a Mexican food craving hits us. Making it at home gives me the option to choose my ingredients and spice it up the way we like it.

Fajitas is often referred to a mixture of meat cooked with onions and bell peppers, eaten with warm flour tortillas. I made Fajita Quesadillas, sans the meat...with only the onions and bell peppers and cheese. And of course I added a few other ingredients we love - like black beans and corn (I use that in almost any Mexican dish I make!) You can leave these two out if you like.

You will need:

2 onions, thinly sliced

1 large Green bell pepper, sliced

1 tsp Red chilli flakes

2 cloves Garlic, grated

1 cup Shredded yellow Cheddar

1/4 cup Black beans

1/4 cup Yellow corn (from a can, drained)

1 tbsp Oil

Salt to taste

4 Wheat/Flour/Corn Tortillas

Heat oil in a pan. Add the grated garlic, sliced onions and peppers. Saute on medium heat till the onions and translucent and peppers are soft. Season with salt and red chilli flakes. Stir in the black beans and corn. Turn off heat and cool slightly.

Meanwhile heat a cast iron skillet. Place tortillas one by one and warm them till they are pliable. Set aside between paper towels or wrapped in a cloth till ready to use.

Take one tortilla, evenly spread about ¼ cup of cheese and half of the fajita filling. Spread another ¼ cup of cheese on top. Carefully transfer this to a hot skillet. Place another tortilla on top of the filled one and press gently. Cook until the cheese begins to melt on the underside and the tortilla begins to crisp up. Carefully flip the quesadilla and cook till the cheese melts. Remove from heat and repeat with the remaining tortillas and filling.

Cut the quesadilla into wedges and serve with the Pico de Gallo.

We had the Fajita Quesadillas with Pico de Gallo, which is a mix of fresh tomatoes, onions, jalapeno or serrano chilli and a little bit of lime juice.

Picco De Gallo:

You will need:

3 Roma tomatoes, finely chopped

1 Serrano chilli, chopped

1 Red onion, chopped

1 tsp Lime juice

Salt to taste

2 tbsp Chopped cilantro

½ tsp Garlic powder

½ cup Water

Combine all the ingredients, stir and refrigerate for an hour or more till ready to serve. Leftover Pico de Gallo makes for a great dip with tortilla chips.

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