Pawpaw Kulfi

Kulfi is a velvety-rich milk dessert, and I will always remember pista (pistachio) kulfi, sold at the 100-year-old Irani creamery in Mumbai, for its vivid green color and dense consistency. Churned ice cream has air pockets that create fluffy lightness; but in kulfi,  reduced milk produces an impenetrable creamy thickness. Plain milk (malai) or pistachio are the two most common flavors, but you’ll usually see mango kulfi during the short season of the prized Alphonso mango — as everybody tries to extend the flavor of this fast-ripening fruit. When I was given a pawpaw at Ferderber Farms in Pennsylvania, the farmer’s wife pointed out its similarity to two tropical fruits of my childhood, mango and custard apple. The pawpaw also shares a small window of time when the fruit is at its best, and I created a pawpaw kulfi to prolong this summer treat.

Native to Pennsylvania and the Eastern part of the country, pawpaw has floral notes and a green outer skin that is like that of a mango. The pale silk-colored flesh, complete with several large black seeds that neatly run through its middle, is similar to custard apple. Pawpaw is an ancient fruit tree, although it has been less popular for awhile. However, if you are in the Pennsylvania area, keep an eye out for this fruit.: Pawpaw is delicious on its own, and can also be substituted in any recipe that uses mango.

Pawpaw Kulfi

Whole milk – 2 cups

Evaporated milk – 1½ cup

Condensed milk – ¼ cup

Cardamom pods – 3

Pawpaw – 1, peeled, flesh mashed

Unsalted pistachio nuts – crushed for decoration

  • Add the milk and evaporated milk to a cast iron pan. Bring to a boil, and then immediately lower the heat to simmer. Stir continuously for the next five minutes. Fold in any milky film that forms on the surface.
  • Add the condensed milk and the cardamom pods. Cook for 15-20 minutes, stirring continuously. The milk will thicken as it reduces in volume.
  • Remove from heat.
  • While the milk is still hot, add the mashed pawpaw, stirring until well incorporated.
  • Discard the cardamom pods.
  • Let the kulfi cool to room temperature.
  • Once cooled, pour the kulfi into small individual glass cups or molds and cover with aluminum foil. Alternatively, pour into a large stainless steel container with a lid. Freeze for about eight hours.
  • When ready to serve, dip the individual moulds into hot water, allowing the hot water to come up the sides and loosen the kulfi from the mold. Serve immediately.
  • Decorate with pistachio slivers.


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Heirloom Tomatoes: Tomato Chutney

Next to my home-grown, round, organic tomatoes, heirloom tomatoes look wild and crazily-shaped. Their sunset reds, dazzling yellows, and deep purple colors, along with striations and ridges, only accentuate their misshapen appearance. However, heirloom tomatoes’ strange form conceals a smooth texture and buttery sweetness. This combination of firmness and balanced acidity makes heirloom tomatoes a favorite in a Caprese salad – the bold flavors pair particularly well with basil vinaigrette. These same qualities make heirloom tomatoes good contenders in pickles and chutneys.


The best time to eat heirloom tomatoes is when they are at their peak during summer. Their flavors are best conserved when the fruits are stored at room temperature. However, as spoilage is quick, cooking the tomatoes into a chutney (with spices, salt and sugar) preserves them. Heirloom tomatoes can now be enjoyed well into fall!

Tomato Chutney

Heirloom tomatoes – 2, chopped

Onion – 1, small, roughly chopped

Ginger – 4-5-inch piece, chopped

Chilies – 7-8, adjust depending on preferred chili heat

Vegetable oil – ½ cup

Salt – 1- 1½ tsp

Sugar – ¼ tsp

  • Process all the ingredients in a food processor or in batches in a blender, until you have a smooth mixture.
  • Heat oil in a heavy-bottomed cast iron pan.
  • Add all the blended ingredients into the pan and stir.
  • Bring the mixture to a boil, and then let the mixture simmer for about 30-40 minutes. The mixture should have boiled down and have a creamy texture. Remove from heat and let the chutney cool.
  • Once cooled, store the chutney in sterilized mason jars in the refrigerator or freeze.


Tomato chutney, much like pickles, provides the zesty addition to an Indian meal of vegetables and meat served with rice or naan. Tomato chutney can also be used as a spread over cream/goat cheese in a sandwich or used as a dip with sliced, raw vegetables.




Pickling Summer: Watermelon Rinds

When September rolls around with its cool mornings, I start looking for ways to bottle up summer – to keep it around a little longer. Watermelon evokes summer; a slice of fruit with the red juice running down your forearms is the perfect dessert after a barbecue. When a friend recently brought pickled watermelon rinds to a party, I knew that the recipe would be another way to extend the season’s flavors (check out basil butter and oven dried sage and lavender).

Buying a whole watermelon is economical (see cocktail and granita), and now the whole fruit including the rind can be utilized. Pickling the rind creates instant gratification, as the pickled rinds are ready to eat in about 12 hours. The ingredients are commonplace items that are usually available in a well-stocked pantry. The process of combining the pickling spices (cloves, peppercorns, allspice, and cinnamon), aromatics (fresh ginger and lemon) with the pickling liquid of sugar-water-vinegar mix requires little effort. Pickling is more of an art form, and the ingredients can be varied according to your preferences. However, the pickling liquid has to be sufficiently acidic with enough of the liquid covering the rinds to prevent any mold growth.

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Serve the pickled rinds as an accompaniment to burgers and hot dogs or as a side dish alongside hummus and olives.

Pickled Watermelon Rinds

Watermelon – 4 cups (about half of a medium-sized watermelon)

Water – 4 cups

Vinegar (plain or apple cider vinegar) – 3½ cups

Salt – 1½ tbsp

Sugar – ¾ cup

Whole cloves – 4-5

Peppercorns – 4-5

Whole Allspice – 4-5

Whole cinnamon stick – 1

Ginger – 6-7 slices

Lemon – 1, sliced

  • Cut the red flesh away from the rind, leaving behind just ¼-inch of the flesh close to the rind. Use the fruit to make granita or salad.
  • Peel the hard dark green, striped rind with a good strong peeler. Once the striped green rind has been peeled away and discarded, the paler green rind below is easy to remove. Scrape down until you have 1½-inch layer of the pale green rind left.
  • Cut the peeled rind into smaller cubes or slivers. Keep aside.
  • Boil 3½ cups of water. Add the salt to the boiling water.
  • Add the cut rinds to the boiling water and cook for about 5 minutes, until the rinds have softened. Remove and drain. Rinse the rinds with fresh water. Place the rinds in a fresh metal pan.
  • Meanwhile, mix the sugar with the vinegar and ½ cup of water until the sugar has dissolved. Heat the mixture.
  • Add cloves, peppercorns, allspice, cinnamon, and lemon and ginger slices. Boil the mixture for about 8 minutes.
  • Pour the vinegar mixture over the watermelon rinds. Place a plate (or weights) on the rinds to keep all of the rinds submerged in the pickling liquid. Cover.
  • Once the mixture has cooled, keep the pan in the refrigerator.
  • The pickled watermelon rinds are ready after 12 hours.
  • Pour the rinds and vinegar solution into a sterilized mason jar to store, making sure the rinds are submerged in the pickling liquid. Pickled watermelon rinds keep in the refrigerator for a week and longer.


Mango Shrikhand – Yogurt And Mango Dessert

In my experience when writing a regular food blog, often two disparate food-related events culminate in a new recipe or a twist on a memorable flavor. This time around, it was a case of overripe mangoes in addition to excess yogurt from experiments with a starter culture. Combining these two ingredients brought back memories from my childhood in Bombay of a wholesome, custardy dessert – shrikhand.

Shrikhand (pronounced shreek-ind), from the western states of India, combines the velvety richness of thickened yogurt with hints of warm floral notes from saffron and cardamom and a crunchy finish of pistachio nuts. Similar to ricotta, the creamy strained yogurt also complements pureed fruits, which gave me the idea to pair it with mango. When I was young, my father would bring home a small box of freshly-churned shrikhand made at a roadside stall. This unpretentious shop was exactly what today’s gourmet hopes to find, tucked in a market selling everything from vegetables to plumbing equipment. At that time, shrikhand was expensive as the ingredients were all top quality; which is why we only ever received a small box! Making shrikhand at home was much easier than I had expected, and perfectly recaptured the taste of my memory. The silky, thick consistency of the strained yogurt pairs well with mango’s natural sweetness.


Yogurt (32 oz) – 1

Mango – 1, peeled and pureed

Superfine sugar – 2 tbsp + more if needed

Saffron strands – 3-4

Milk – 1 tbsp

Cardamom powder – ½- ¾ tsp

Pistachio nuts – 10, lightly crushed

Cheesecloth or muslin

  • Strain the yogurt through a cheesecloth. Tie the ends of the cheesecloth together to form a bag. Suspend the bag high over a bowl, such that the whey liquid can drain out without touching the bag.
  • Peel, slice, and puree the mango. Put the mango pulp in a colander, to drain any excess juice.
  • Warm the milk for 10 seconds, and add the saffron strands. The milk should turn a warm yellow color in about 5-7 minutes.
  • Combine the strained yogurt, mango, sugar, saffron milk, and cardamom powder. Whip them together with a fork or whisk, until smoothly combined.
  • Divide and serve in small, individual ramekin- sized bowls.
  • Garnish with a few pistachio pieces.

Note: Use the best quality saffron and cardamom that you can get, as these flavors are subtle. Try the original shrikhand recipe (which uses no fruit) if you don’t have mangoes, adjusting sugar according to your taste.




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Fruit of Knowledge: Apple (Part 3)

I wanted to use the apples from a fruit basket that I received over the holidays to follow a cousin’s apple cake recipe. Her apple cake is more than just dessert; the cake is usually devoured for breakfast as well as in-between snacks whenever our family gets together. However, to prevent the large quantity of apples from spoiling, I ended up puréeing most of the apples into applesauce. The refrigerated sauce stays fresh for a week. The bonus – adding the applesauce to cake ingredients — resulted in a moist cake.

Applesauce is more than just stomach-settling baby food purée. Roughly-mashed apples, when cooked down in a sugary syrup with spices such as cinnamon and cloves or zests of orange and lemon, work equally well as dessert or as a condiment. In savory dishes, applesauce works like gravy when accompanying pork roasts or potato pancakes. Applesauce becomes a delicious hot compote dessert, and can also be served with ice cream or whipped cream. During the war years, applesauce replaced eggs and butter that were in short supply. Taking advantage of the fruit’s natural sweetness and the cooked down creamy sauce, I ended up with a low-fat (less sugar) and low cholesterol (no eggs) cake.


Apples (2 granny smith plus any other firm apples) – 5, peel, core, and cut into chunks

Brown sugar – ¼ cup

Cinnamon stick – 1

Water – ¾ cup

  • Add all the ingredients together in a pan. Cook on low heat for about 15 minutes.
  • Process the mixture in a blender for a creamy applesauce or blend with a potato masher for a more chunky sauce.


Applesauce Cake

Applesauce – 1¼ cup

Apples – 3, peeled, cored and cut into ¼-inch slices

Flour – 2 cups, sifted

Vegetable oil – ½ cup

Sugar – ½ cup

Baking soda – 1 tsp

Cinnamon powder – ½ tsp

Chopped walnuts – 1 cup

  • Mix the applesauce, sugar, and cinnamon in a food processor.
  • While the processor is running, add the sifted flour, baking soda, and cinnamon. Mix until incorporated. Do not over mix.
  • Add the oil while the food processor is running.
  • Add walnuts to the mixture.
  • Pour the batter onto a greased 9×13-inch pan.
  • Add the apple slices, mixing and coating them with batter.
  • Bake at 350ºF for 40-60 minutes or until a fork comes out clean.
  • Cool and serve.

Note: The applesauce cake had more of an apple bread consistency, as I had reduced the amount of oil and sugar to make it a healthy treat.

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When oranges and clementines appear in grocery stores, they serve as reminders that winter is almost upon us – a time to boost up vitamin C. Clementines are an easy-to-peel fruit, while the more difficult Navel, Jaffa, and blood oranges are still worth the effort as they can add color and crispness to a salad. The acidity in oranges also helps counter fats in poultry. As I was roasting my favorite bird, duck, this past week, news started to trickle in about Beirut and Paris.

As both these cities share history, and both have world-renowned cuisines, honoring their food traditions seemed appropriate for the time. Food, in both these cities, is more about celebration of life, and eating out  is part of both cultures. In the classic French dish, duck à l’orange, duck is served with a rich orange sauce. In the mezze traditions of Lebanese cuisine, oranges perk up simple salads and orange blossom water suffuses desserts with delicate flavor.

Roasted Duck, Lettuce, and Orange Salad 

Frisée lettuce – 1, bunch

Oranges – 2, large

Wine vinegar – 6-8 tbsp

Olive/Sesame oil – 3 tbsp

Salt and pepper – to taste

Roasted duck leg/breast – 1, thinly sliced

  • Wash the orange. Julienne about 10 zests into thin slivers and keep aside. Cut the oranges crosswise in ¼-inch rounds.
  • Add the wine vinegar in a pan, and heat until it is just warm. Remove from heat.
  • Add the orange zests, and let them steep in the warm vinegar.
  • Add the olive oil, salt, and pepper to the vinegar. Keep this vinaigrette aside.
  • Assemble the washed lettuce on a platter. Remove the white pith from around the oranges and place them on the lettuce.
  • When ready to serve, pour the vinaigrette over the orange and lettuce.
  • Layer the duck slices between the oranges.



Persimmon Syrup For A Modified Mojito: A Persimmoto, Perhaps?

Persimmon is a mellow fall fruit, which looks like a cross between an apricot and tomato. The fruit’s color also reflects autumn shades, falling somewhere in between a pale orange and drifting maple red leaves. The two varieties of persimmon, categorized as astringent and non-astringent fruits, are available through December. Their edible skin bruises easily, and once the fruit has ripened, their shelf life hastens.

The rapidly deteriorating condition of the persimmons inspired me to preserve their essence. I remembered my mother’s stewed pineapples and jackfruit, which I savored long after their season. Stewing the persimmons conserve their subtle sweetness. Stewed fruits can be flavored with cinnamon or ginger and they can be used immediately as a spread or frozen and used later. Fresh persimmons can be added to a salad or baked in an open tart. I used the stewed paste to flavor simple syrup. The persimmon syrup became my fall version of a mojito – a persimmoto!


Persimmon Syrup

Persimmon – 5-6

Light cane syrup – 2-3 tbsp

Water – ½ cup

  • Wash the persimmons. Remove the brown calyx, and extract the seeds from the mashed fruit. Place the fruit into a pan.
  • Add the cane syrup and water. Bring to a boil.
  • Simmer for 5-7 minutes, until the fruit has softened.
  • When ready to use in the cocktail, crush the pulp with the back of a spoon to extract as much of their flavors.
  • Strain the pulp through a tea strainer, keeping both the syrup and pulp separate.
  • Add syrup (1oz) and mint leaves (5-6) and muddle them in a glass. Add light rum (1½ oz) and pulp (½ tsp). Top with ice, a lime wedge, and a sprig of mint. Cheers!


Caramel And Candied Apples: A Slice Of Sweetness

N. went apple picking last week and brought back enough fruit to make apple quesadillas for a work potluck. Inspired by her adventurous recipe and the bounteous selections of organic apples at the farmer’s market, I bought a few different varieties and made dessert for two.

The small organic apples are a great snack, but their diminutive shape also makes them more manageable to dip in melted caramel or sugar syrup. Playing around with a classic recipe meant that the candied apples didn’t have to the neon-red color that kids adore. Instead, a hint of red highlights their natural appearance. When these caramel or syrup-covered apples are sliced, each piece is covered with just enough sweetness to satisfy sugar cravings!

Caramel Apples

Caramel squares – 5-6 oz. (available in candy aisles in packets containing individually wrapped pieces)

Whole Cream – 1-2 tbsp

Apples – 4

Wooden skewers – 4

Lightly buttered waxed paper (or a few vases) to hold the sticky apples

  • Halve the wooden skewers.
  • Wash the apples and dry them thoroughly. Remove the stalk, and pierce with the skewer. Refrigerate the apple lollipops while you are working with the caramel. (Warm caramel sticks easily to the cold apples)
  • Add the caramel squares to a small pan. On medium heat, melt the caramel. Using the back of a wooden spoon, bring together the separate caramel squares.
  • Add the cream a little at a time, until the melted caramel becomes a thick, gooey mass.
  • Remove the skewered apples from the refrigerator and dip them one at a time into the warm caramel. Tilt the pan as you swirl the apple, to coat it completely and evenly in caramel.
  • Place the coated apple on waxed paper or keep it upright in the vase to catch the drips. Repeat for all the apples.
  • Refrigerate the fruit until the caramel hardens.
  • Remove the apples from the refrigerator about 5 minutes before serving, so that they can be cut easily into slices.


Candied Apples

Sugar – ½ cup

Light corn syrup – ¼ cup

Water – ¼ cup

Red food coloring – 2-3 drops

Cinnamon stick – 1

Apples – 4

Wooden skewers – 4

Lightly-buttered waxed paper or a vase to hold the sticky apples

  • Halve the wooden skewers.
  • Wash the apples and dry them thoroughly. Remove the stalk with a corer, and pierce with the skewer. Refrigerate the apple lollipops, while working with sugar syrup.
  • Combine all the ingredients in a small pan and bring it to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and continue to simmer for about 20 -25 minutes. The syrup should be thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon.
  • Remove the cinnamon stick.
  • Remove the skewered apples from the refrigerator and dip them one at a time into the warm sugary mixture. Tilt the pan as you swirl the apple to coat it completely and evenly.
  • Place the syrup-coated apple on waxed paper or keep them upright in the vase to catch the drips. Repeat for all the apples.
  • Refrigerate the fruit until the syrup hardens.
  • Remove them from the refrigerator about 5 minutes before serving, so that they can be cut easily into slices.



  • Apples should be small since this makes them easier to coat. Pick apples that do not have the shiny waxy surface or else they will not coat easily.
  • Look for firm and slightly tart apples as they pair well with caramel.
  • Dip sugar-coated apples into a mix of granola and nuts or crushed pecans for more texture. Flavor with a dash of chili for a combination of spicy and sweet tastes.

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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Using Straw and a Brown Paper Bag To Ripen Fruits and Vegetables

While visiting my father in India, a friend gifted him with a crate of our favorite mangoes. Alphonso mangoes have a short season and a shorter shelf life, and my father was leaving nothing to chance in order to savor their valuable flavor. He unpacked the wooden crate to aerate and reassemble the contents. Using the jute fiber as a base, he spaced out the mangoes nestling them under a layer of straw. Like a mother bird guarding her eggs, my father hovered over the mangoes for the next few days. Every day, he rotated the mangoes a quarter turn and checked for black spots, especially around the stem. He removed some of the straw to regulate the heat being generated by the mangoes, and waited for the skin to turn a golden orange color – just as their floral aroma reached a peak.

Mangoes, considered the king of fruits (each state and district in India claims to have the best), have a cult-like following, and yet they share something in common with less exotic fruits such as avocado, banana, papaya, pears, and kiwis. All of these fruits are plucked before they can ripen on the tree. They continue to ripen on our kitchen counters with the release of ethylene gas, a natural plant hormone. Trapping the gases hastens ripening, and it is the reason why avocados and pears ripen faster when they are stored in a brown paper bag. The brown paper bag, like straw, allows air circulation and additionally concentrates ethylene gas, which softens and ripens the fruit.

Most fruits and vegetables produce varying amounts of ethylene, which is also responsible for their final degradation. Separating fruits and vegetables, whether in different fruit bowls or shelves in a refrigerator, is important. This prevents a high ethylene producer such as apple from spoiling an already ripe strawberry or citrus fruit. Separating vegetables such as asparagus or leafy greens, a lower ethylene producer, from tomatoes helps keep both fresh for a longer period.

This chart is helpful for separating and storing your produce:

Fruits and Vegetables Classified By Ethylene Production Rates
Very Low: artichoke, asparagus, cauliflower, cherry, citrus fruits, grape, jujube,Strawberry, pomegranate, leafy vegetables, root vegetables, potato, most cut flowers
Low: blackberry, blueberry, casaba melon, cranberry, cucumber, eggplant, okra, olive, pepper (sweet and chili), persimmon, pineapple, pumpkin, raspberry, tamarillo, watermelon
Moderate: banana, fig, guava, honeydew melon, lychee, mango, plantain, tomato
High: apple, apricot, avocado, cantaloupe, feijoa, kiwifruit (ripe), nectarine, papaya, peach, pear, plum
Very High: cherimoya, mammee apple, passion fruit, sapote


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