Trending Now: Aquafaba (Liquid From Cooked Chickpeas)

My first attempt at making a chickpea curry was a disaster. At the end of the evening, my aunt gently reminded me to pre-soak the beans before cooking them. Ever since that rock-hard-chickpea incident, I’ve resorted to using canned cooked chickpeas, and generating a lot of discarded liquid in the process. Until now. Aquafaba, the residual liquor from cooking chickpeas, works perfectly as an egg substitute – a boon to those with an egg allergy or a vegan with a sweet tooth.

Aquafaba, from the Latin aqua (water) and faba (bean), is a more attractive name to give the liquid from a legume. This viscous amber-colored liquid is rich in starch and protein plant material that is drawn out from the legume during cooking. Aquafaba whisks into a binding agent for use in cakes or froths up as foam in drinks. Its neutral flavor doesn’t compete with other ingredients when substituted for eggs in mayonnaise or meringue. Goose Wohlt, an American software engineer, is widely recognized as the person responsible for both the name and making the first stable vegan meringue in 2015.

Aquafaba can be made from canned chickpeas. However, using dried chickpeas eliminates the added salt and preservatives found in the canned version.


Dried chickpeas – 2 cups

Salt – 1 tsp

  • Wash the dried chickpeas with several changes of fresh water.
  • Drain in a colander.
  • In a fresh bowl, add the chickpeas, 6 cups of water, and salt. Leave it to soak overnight or for about 13-15 hours.
  • Pour the contents of the bowl into a cooking pan.
  • Boil the chickpeas for 1¼ – 1½ hours. Check the chickpeas halfway into cooking time for the frothy scum that rises to the top. Using a spoon and in one continuous motion, scoop out as much of the froth as possible.
  • Chickpeas are ready when they have no crunch but are firm to the touch.
  • Strain the chickpeas, reserving both the chickpeas and golden-colored liquid or aquafaba.


One of my new favorite drinks is the Peruvian Pisco Sour – but the cocktail was hard to make for a large holiday party. It would have been a challenge to separate so many eggs and keep the egg whites at an optimal temperature. Substituting aquafaba for egg whites addresses these concerns, and is suitable to serve both vegans and worriers (regarding raw eggs) alike. Cheers!

Pisco Sour

Pisco – 3 oz

Aquafaba – 2 tbsp

Simple syrup – 2 ½ -3 tbsp (depending on taste)

Lime juice – 4 tbsp

Crushed ice – ¾ – 1 tbsp

Angostura Bitters – 2-3 drops (optional)

  • Pour all the ingredients into a cocktail shaker.
  • Add the crushed ice. Shake vigorously.
  • Pour in thirds (to create as much foam as possible) into a short glass. Serve immediately.


Note: Use the cooked chickpeas to make a simple Italian appetizer with garlic and chili powder, chickpea curry, or process into a smooth hummus.


Trending Now: Dulse

Rey, the main character, in Star Wars: The Force Awakens trades metal pieces for a ration of freeze-dried food. As she mixes the food in water, the particles gel together to form a grey bread-like unappetizing mass. Similarly, strands of dried red seaweed, dulse (rhymes with pulse), look bland when first peeled from the packet. However, the taste is surprisingly delicious.

I was inspired to try dulse when I saw a Whole Foods advertisement for the centuries-old flavors of dulse alongside other superfoods. Found commonly on both the Pacific and Atlantic coasts, interest in dulse has been renewed for the food’s umami flavor and its antioxidant properties. Dulse, which belongs in the same family as seaweed and kelp, is also rich in minerals such as iodine and proteins. When fried in a little oil, dulse swaps some of its oceanic flavors for a chewy, meaty taste – more specifically, a taste that strongly reminds me of bacon.

Fresh dulse, whether from wild or farmed sources, is air-dried to preserve its nutritional properties. The dried edible seaweed keeps for a long time. Enjoy this superfood.

How To Use Dulse:

  • The simplest way is eat as a snack straight from the packet, but I’ve listed some alternatives below:
  • Sauté until crispy in a little vegetable oil, and serve as a side to fried or poached eggs.
  • Crush the dried leaves and sprinkle on a salad for an added umami flavor.
  • Mix into vegetable and fruit smoothies for additional mineral and vitamins.
  • Add to soups as a garnish.IMG_4822

Trifle In October: National Dessert Month

Two of my friends recently shared memories of a dessert that both their mothers had made – a combination of Jell-O, Cool Whip, marshmallows, and canned fruit. They both acknowledged that they wouldn’t make the dessert because of the many processed ingredients, but they still savored the memory. Like most comfort food, the ingredients are a combination of all that is no longer popular, yet together comprise textures and flavors that stay with us forever. My friends’ conversation reminded me of another delicious dessert that had some of the aforementioned unfashionable ingredients.

As October 1 is designated as start of dessert season, it was the time to start with a classic. Trifle is my husband’s favorite pudding from the many years he spent in the U.K.. Without the traditional English ladyfingers and Bird’s Eye custard that are not readily available in the US, I had to tinker with the ingredients. Dessert, after all, should always take us to a happy place. Have an indulgent month!


Pound cake – ½ loaf, cut to fit the base and sides of a bowl

Port (or sherry) – 4-5 tbsp. (enough to soak the cake)

Mixed fruit cocktail – 15 oz. can

Strawberries, Raspberries, grapes – 1 cup

Strawberry Jell-O – 6oz packet

Whole Milk – 1 pint

Egg yolks – 4

Sugar – 2 tbsp

Vanilla essence – ½ tsp

Whipping Cream – ½ pt, whipped until it forms firm peaks

  • Use the fruit syrup replacing some of the water needed to prepare the Jell-O according to the instructions on the packet.
  • Cut the fresh fruits into small chunks and mix in with the mixed fruit cocktail.
  • Layer the bottom and sides of the glass bowl with pieces of cake.
  • Pour the port over the cake, making sure all of the pieces are soaked through.
  • Add the fruits on top of the cake.
  • Pour the Jell-O over the fruits and cake. Once cool, refrigerate until the Jell-O is set.
  • Meanwhile, mix the eggs, sugar, and essence together in a bowl.
  • Heat the milk in a pan the milk to just before it starts to boil. Remove from heat.
  • Take a tablespoon of the hot milk and add it to the egg and sugar mixture. Mix. Keep adding a few tablespoons of milk at a time, until the egg-sugar mixture is warm (this is to avoid curdling). Add the egg and milk mixture back into the pan containing milk. On low heat, continue to cook (about 15-18 minutes). The custard is ready when it is thick and coats the back of a wooden spoon. Cool.
  • Pour over the set jelly.
  • Spoon the whipped cream over the custard.
  • Decorate with sliced fruits.

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Finding A Match With Claudia Roden

I learned cooking by experimenting with my mother’s ‘guestimated’ amounts for a recipe – a pinch of coriander powder, a dash of turmeric, or roughly about a ¼ cup of coconut milk. This seemingly casual style of cooking taught me to taste and adjust for individual and overall flavors while preparing a dish.

I relied on this skill recently when wanting to use up some extra zucchini. I began by following a recipe from one of my go-to cookbook authors – Claudia Roden.  A. noted that Roden’s Zucchini Fritters recipe, with its tangy feta cheese and aromatic dill, is a classic food from Turkey. However, without the two key ingredients, feta cheese and dill, I had to shop my refrigerator for equivalent tastes.

Although Roden’s unfussy recipes are precise, the flavors that are eked out from fresh ingredients are easy to replicate. Goat cheese is tangy and crumbly, and although not as strong as feta, the cheese effortlessly folds into the onion-zucchini mixture. The mixture holds together even when fried. Dill, on the other hand, has a distinct flavor, and so replicating its aromatic essence was key. Parsley proved to be a successful swap, providing the aromatics without competing with the mild taste of zucchini.

Zucchini Fritters

Onion – 1, chopped

Vegetable oil – 3+ tbsp for frying

Zucchini – 2 large, chopped

Eggs – 3

Flour – 3 tbsp

Pepper – 1 tsp

Parsley – 3-4 sprigs

Goat cheese – 7 oz

  • Heat 1tbsp oil in a pan at medium heat.
  • Add the shallots and sauté until lightly browned.
  • Add the zucchini and sauté until crisply tender.
  • Beat the eggs in a bowl. Add the flour and mix.
  • Fold the zucchini-shallot mixture and cheese into the egg mixture.
  • Heat a large skillet with enough oil to fry the mixture. Keep the oil at medium heat.
  • Drop in 3-4 generous tablespoon of the mixture into the hot oil leaving enough space between each in the pan.
  • Fry each side for 3 minutes without disturbing to check if done. Browning each side prevents them from disintegrating.
  • Remove and drain the oil on kitchen paper. Makes about 8 fritters. Use immediately.
  • If storing for later use, reheat the fritters when needed in the oven at 350°F.
  • Can also be served as hors d’oeuvres with a dab of wasabi sauce and cooked tuna placed on top.

I would love to hear from you about your go-to cookbooks, and I hope to add them to my “Cook The Book” featured category. I would also like to hear about why a particular ingredient was swapped, and if it added or took away the original flavor.

Note: Zucchini Fritters adapted from Claudia Roden’s Arabesque: a taste of Morocco, Turkey, and Lebanon


Meringues: How To Manage The Peaks And Avoid The Weeps

I seem to be compelled to makeover my leftovers, which were most recently the six egg whites that remained after making Hollandaise sauce. They sat in the refrigerator for a few days – three too many eggs for an omelet, but just right to make 12 meringues for dessert.

My family often points out that I constantly talk about a time when I used to make their “favorite” desserts such as trifle and meringue. The reason that I don’t make meringues any more is that I feel intimidated when stacking my attempts against the perfect swirls and beautiful pastel-colored ones in the stores. On revisiting this recipe, I found homemade meringues not only easy to make, but also hard to resist until dessert time with their crisp outsides that crumbled in to a soft and chewy center.

Here are a few guidelines when working with egg whites:

  • Egg whites should be separated carefully, making sure there is no trace of the yolk in the bowl.
  • Both sugar and egg whites are hygroscopic, meaning that they attract moisture from the air, and so the bowls and whisks should be bone dry. Egg whites will not stiffen with high humidity.
  • When whisking the egg whites, use an electric whisk. It takes steady whisking to form snowy white alien-landscapes of soft, medium, or firm peaks.
  • Adding an acid (cream of tartar or vinegar) to the egg whites keep the peaks firm.
  • The finished meringues should be stored in an airtight container; moisture droplets cause them to sweat or weep!


Egg whites – 6

Cream of Tartar – ¾ tsp

Superfine sugar (confectioners’ sugar) – 1½ cup

Bring the egg whites to room temperature

Set oven to 225°F

  • Using an electric mixer, whip the egg whites until they form soft peaks.
  • Add the cream of tartar and continue to whip, until the powder is mixed into the peaks.
  • Add sugar in small batches and mix until all used up. Whip until the peaks are firm (about 10 minutes).
  • Place a tablespoon of the whipped egg whites onto a parchment paper or oil-sprayed sheet pan.
  • Cook for about 8 minutes (varies with ovens, remove immediately when there is a sugary aroma or the meringue has a pale brown color.
  • Makes between 12-14 medium cookie-sized meringues.
  • Serve with unsweetened stewed berries.

Note: I didn’t have superfine sugar and used confectioner’s sugar.

Add a drop of flavoring or few drops of color for variety of aromas and tastes.



Welsh Rarebit: A Becoming Fit between Grilled Cheese and Eggs Benedict

The week ending April 18th holds two perennial favorite comfort food days – April 12th, National Grilled Cheese Sandwich Day and April 16th, Eggs Benedict Day. I could cover both food events with one delicious savory dish, Welsh rabbit or Welsh rarebit.

I used to picture Welsh rabbit as a dish with a small animal in a creamy sauce, and so using its other name, Welsh rarebit, sits better with me. The dish includes many of the food creations from the British Isles – tangy Guinness stout, tart Cheddar cheese, vinegary Worcestershire sauce, and pungent English mustard powder (in that familiar yellow tin). All of the ingredients are mixed with egg yolk, liberally slathered on a hunk of country bread, and broiled. The resulting creamy and substantial dish is a cinch to prepare, while combining in one swoop all of the major comfort foods: bread, cheese, butter, and eggs.


Welsh Rarebit

Bread (sturdy country loaf) – four chunky slices

Butter – 1½ tbsp

Cheddar cheese (such as Welsh reserve) – ¾ – 1 cup, freshly grated

Mustard powder – ¾ tsp

Paprika – ¼ tsp

Stout (such as Guinness) – 2 tbsp

Worcestershire Sauce – ½ tbsp

Egg yolks – 2, beaten

  • Pre-heat the broiler.
  • Melt the butter in a pan on low heat.
  • Add the mustard powder and paprika to the melting butter. Stir and mix well.
  • Add the stout and the Worcestershire sauce. Stir to mix.
  • Add the grated cheese to the pan, stirring continuously to incorporate into the mixture. Do not let it come to a boil.
  • Remove the pan from the fire and cool until just warm to the touch.
  • In the meanwhile, place the bread under the broiler and broil both sides. Remove.
  • Add the egg yolks to the warm pan and beat until you get a smooth, spreadable mixture.
  • Spread the mixture over the broiled bread and place the bread back under the broiler. Cook for a minute or until the cheese-egg mixture starts to brown and bubble.
  • Serve immediately. There should be enough egg-cheese mixture to top four slices.




Semolina Gnocchi (Part 2)

I had previously written about the semolina grain and how it appears and tastes differently in North African and Middle Eastern couscous and Indian uppamav contexts. The semolina granules used in couscous and uppamav have a distinctive texture. Adding vegetables or meat to the dish make them both substantial meals. Semolina flour, on the other hand, is smooth much like regular flour. It is used to make both bread and pasta.

Semolina flour is made from the inner endosperm of durum wheat which is  yellow in color, and the resulting flour has a pale yellow hue. The flour is commonly used to make gnocchi. As N. is a big fan of gnocchi, I waited for her to come home to make potato gnocchi with semolina flour. The recipe uses rich ingredients resulting in a decadent and creamy gnocchi. Baked gnocchi can  be eaten on its own, warm from the oven! Alternately, serve with fresh tomato sauce.


Baked Potato Gnocchi

Potato – 1 large, boiled

Semolina flour – 1 cup, plus ¼ cup for dusting

Milk – 4 cups

Nutmeg powder – ½ tsp

Egg yolks – 2, whisked

Egg – 1, whisked

Butter – ¾ cup, room temperature

Parmigiano Reggiano cheese – ¾ cup + ¼ cup, finely grated

Sage – 10 leaves, finely chopped

Parchment paper

Metal grater

  • Using a metal grater, grate the boiled potato into a large bowl. Keep aside.
  • Bring the milk to a simmer in a large pan.
  • Add the semolina flour and nutmeg to the milk. Mix well, removing lumps with a wooden spoon. The mixture should be smooth. Cook for about 7-8 minutes, stirring continuously so the mixture doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan.
  • Remove from heat. Add the butter, egg yolks, egg, and ¾ cup grated cheese and combine.
  • Add chopped sage and grated potato. Mix with a light touch to form a dough ball. Roll out the dough on parchment paper, about 1 1/2-inch thickness. Refrigerate for an hour.
  • Dust a clean surface with a little flour.
  • Take a small amount of dough and start to roll between your palm and then on the clean surface to make a 4-5-inch-long log. Use a light touch.
  • Cut into small pieces (about 1-inch). Make a small dent (collects the sauce later) in each piece with your pointer finger. Place the small pieces on a parchment paper. Or, use a cookie cutter or a tea strainer to cut out different shapes.
  • If you are not cooking right away, freeze the gnocchi. It can be baked from frozen.
  • Otherwise, sprinkle the remaining grated cheese and bake it at 425°F for 25-30 minutes. The gnocchi should have a light brown crust.
  • Serve immediately.




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Learning a trick or two

I was taught to re-purpose things, and I hopefully have passed that message on to A. and N. So I was pleasantly surprised to learn a trick or two in NYC, serving as reminders that just about anything can be salvaged and made fresh again. Although I saw two impressive installations of reprocessed everyday items (Ingo Maurer’s elegant chandelier made from broken white plates and ceramic kettles and Xu Bing’s rising phoenix assembled from remnants of  industrialized waste), it was the creative takes on food that inspired me to experiment in the kitchen when I returned home.

I normally discard broccoli stems as I dislike their woody, fibrous taste. Yet, I happily ate a plateful of Chinese broccoli stems at Red Farm. When I decided to give broccoli stems another chance at home, I began by peeling the tough outermost layer to reveal a soft, slightly sweet inner core. I cut the stem on the diagonal, and after eating some raw, I steamed the rest for a couple of minutes (my advice on using a colander as a steamer can be found here). The cooked stems can be dressed up with your favorite vinaigrette or light soy sauce to make a quick veggie side. The dish was both visually attractive as well as light on the palate.


I love eggs, especially when they retain both shape and texture of the white and yolk! I was delighted to see that a house specialty at Red Rooster Harlem was devilled (also known as deviled or stuffed) eggs, a dish that seems to ride in and out of fashion. Deviled eggs are shelled, hard-boiled eggs that are sliced in half; the yolk is removed and combined with mayonnaise, mustard, salt and pepper, mixed to a creamy-smooth consistency and reassembled back. The eggs are often dusted with paprika or decorated with a piece of anchovy or finely chopped red pepper. At Red Rooster, the yolk is mixed with a spicy chicken skin mayonnaise and served with crispy leaves on the side. Devilled eggs could also be spiced up with fried green chilies, ginger, tomatoes, and fresh cilantro leaves, or served with crunchy, baked kale leaves to balance the velvety smoothness of the creamy yolk and the bite of kale for a more filling brunch.

In keeping with color-themed restaurants, Blue Hill served the most amazing beet burger as an amuse-bouche. The “burger” consisted of whipped beet puree placed between two minuscule halves of almond bread. When I experimented with beets at home, I began by roasting beets (recipe here). Grate the roasted or boiled beet in a food processor or with a grater. Season the grated beets with salt and pepper. Shape a small amount of grated beet such that it sits compactly in a toasted brioche or slider roll, or on open-face toasted rounds. Top the beets with goat cheese and a red onion ring for a crunch.


Stand-by Recipes

N.’s uncle pointed out that N. isn’t featured in the blog anymore!  It was a reminder to include recipes that are perfect for N. – quick unfussy meals that don’t require a stove (microwave works just fine) or exotic ingredients. If food is to be savored every day, whether it is a humble egg salad or a multi-step meat and vegetable stew, it is good to have a collection of stand-by recipes.

I use the stand-by recipes for any number of reasons: I am tired and don’t want to cook, I have to use up the eggs to make space in my fridge, I have an avocado that has ripened before I made my fancy salad, or I spot a previously frozen salmon filet on sale! Stand-by recipes have no measurements or rules; they simply exist to feed you well. My recent favorite is from my newest, oldest friend who shares her freshly made Gravlax with friends and even transports the frozen cured salmon across the country to her sons.


For a cleaned 1lb salmon filet, you will need about 3 tbsp. salt, 3 tbsp. sugar, fresh pepper, and lots of fresh dill.

  • Combine the salt, pepper and sugar, and while my friend moistens it with vodka to create a paste, you can use water.
  • Smear the fleshy side of salmon with the paste. Cover the entire salmon with dill.
  • Wrap it tightly in saran wrap. Place the salmon in a non-corrosive dish, like a Pyrex glass dish. Place weights (or soup cans) on top of the salmon.
  • Keep the salmon in the fridge for 2-3 days, turning it as often as you remember. Drain any liquid that has accumulated.
  • Remove the salmon from saran wrap and rinse off the dill and paste. It is ready to be eaten.
  • Slice it at an angle as thinly as possible.
  • Serve with toasted bagels or crackers.

Egg Salad

For about 3-4 eggs, you will need about 3 tbsp. of mayonnaise, ¼ tsp. dry yellow mustard powder, celery salt, and salt and pepper to taste.

  • Cook the eggs for 9 minutes in boiling water.
  • Remove shells and mash the eggs in a bowl.
  • Add mayonnaise, pepper, salt, mustard powder, and celery salt (or chopped celery) to the eggs. Mix gently.
  • Serve the egg on an open-faced sandwich or serve as a salad with chopped tomatoes and mixed greens.

Tuna Salad

For a 5-oz. can of tuna, you will need about 2 tbsp. mayonnaise, ¼ tsp. hot sauce, and salt and pepper to taste.

  • Drain the excess oil from a can of tuna.
  • Mix the tuna with 1-2 scallions (or shallots), mayonnaise, Tabasco (any hot sauce), salt, and pepper.
  • Add chopped tomatoes, and serve as a sandwich or with greens for a quick salad.

Avocado Salsa/Guacamole

For 1 avocado, you will need 1 chopped tomato, 1 chopped green chili (seeded, if preferred), and 1 tbsp. chopped red onion, fresh cilantro, and juice from ½ lemon.

  • Cut the avocado in half. Discard the pit and peel. Chop into bite-size pieces.
  • Add tomato, chili, red onion, cilantro, and lemon juice.
  • Add just enough salt to get the perfect tangy balance of salt-lemon flavor in the salsa.

Note: Overripe avocados do not make a good salsa — instead smoosh the cut side of the avocado on a slice of bread as they do in California delis. Pile on grilled or store-bought peppers and your favorite vegetables for an easy veggie sandwich.