Saturday, July 24, 2010

Ricotta Cheese Munchies - A healthy sweet treat

I was introduced to Ricotta cheese by my aunt. When I first bought this cheese from the local Trader Joe's store, I was not sure how I could use it in dishes other than pasta. After following some interesting recipes on the web, I decided to make sweet munchies with this cheese. The recipe is really simple. No baking required, however, some patience is needed because you have to cook the cheese until all its water content is evaporated.


1 box of Ricotta cheese: I like the one at Trader Joe's the best.

Few treads of saffron immersed in 1/8 cup warm milk: This releases the color and flavor of the saffron into the milk.

1/4 cup honey

Powdered cardamom seeds.

Jaggery or Brown Sugar as per taste.

Empty the Ricotta cheese into a heavy bottomed stainless steel pan and cook on medium heat until the water evaporates and a crumbly, dry cheese is left behind. To this, add, the honey, milk and saffron mixture, cardamom powder and jaggery. Mix thoroughly until any traces of milk are all gone. The mixture should be dry. Now, use your hands to shape small portions of the cheese into any form you like. I typically make "modak" shapes with this cheese. This shape can be easily obtained by gently shaping a ball of this mixture with all five fingers to form a tower like structure! You could also roll the cheese on saran wrap into a 1/2'' thick slab and cut pieces with cookie cutters. Store each piece in separate chocolate cups and serve with a drizzle of maple syrup or honey! The texture of the cooked and dry ricotta goes very well with the honey, saffron and cardamom. These sweet treats store well in the refrigerator and are so easy to make.


An Introduction to Ghee a.k.a. Clarified Butter

"Ghee" has been used in Indian cooking for a long time. My fondest "edible" memories from my childhood all revolve around ghee. The aroma of freshly made ghee is ethereal and no store bought ghee really does justice to any recipe when compared to homemade ghee. Also, given the URL of my blog, it only seems fair to begin with a recipe to make ghee. There is nothing to it really. Besides some patience, all you will need is good quality butter made from cream with no other additives.

Ghee is used to sauté spices before adding pulses such as lentils to make dal, the classic Indian version of a lentil like soup. In my recipes, I also use ghee to sputter cumin seeds to add to a traditional "raita" which is a yogurt based salad. Ghee is also spread over freshly made "rotis" or other Indian breads.

I start with one stick of butter that has been chopped into smaller pieces. I place these in a stainless steel pan and set the heat to a low to medium setting as the butter melts. Once the butter has fully melted, I change the setting to low until the butter clarifies and takes a golden - brown color. I like my ghee this way, and nothing beats this ghee when eaten with fresh "phulkas" (puffed Indian bread made with unleavened dough) and "jaggery" (a solid form of sugar formed by evaporating sugarcane juice). Once the browning is noticeable, turn off the heat and allow the pan to cool. Transfer the ghee to a steel or glass jar for storage. I store ghee at room temperature in the pantry. Also, I do not like to make large portions of ghee, I prefer to make it on an as need bases. Ghee retains its freshness for up to a month (as per my observations). Below is a picture of the butter turned into ghee when it is almost done. Enjoy!