Figs in Maca Miso

I must have been on Santa’s “nice” list to have received a book on my favorite topic: equations.

This post is adapted from one of the chapters in The Flavor Equation. It was a little challenging to find fresh figs at this time of the year, but DeCicco’s came to the rescue. Instead of instant coffee in the original recipe, I took the roasted fruits on a trip to the high Andes with a Peruvian queen, maca. Her butterscotch notes result in an adult version of salted caramel!! Enjoy.

Special tools:



  • 16 oz fresh figs, halved + 12 oz fresh blueberries
  • Dressing: 2 tbsp maple syrup + 2 tbsp lime juice + 1/8 tsp cracked black pepper + a pinch of salt
  • 1-2 tbsp butter
  • Drizzle sauce: 2 tbsp white miso + 2 tbsp maca powder + 1/4 cup maple syrup + 1/4 cup tahini + 1/4 cup water


Heat oven to 375 F. Line a baking pan with parchment and lightly grease it with butter. Mix the fruits with dressing till well coated. Arrange in one layer on the lined pan and dot with butter. Roast for 25-30 minutes. Mix all the drizzle sauce ingredients with a wire whisk.

Drizzle the sauce on top and serve warm or cold.

Notes, hints, tips:
  1. I used a French fluted tart pan (which happens to have a removable bottom) and placed it on a large baking pan for ease of handling. I cut the parchment a little larger than the circular base, so it runs up the sides and contains the running juices.
  2. Macca, a superfood, has peppery butterscotch notes that complement the miso beautifully. I can very rarely find a worthwhile recipe where maca is the star and this was it! With the addictive nuttiness of tahini, the savory-sweet sauce was lip-smacking delicious.
  3. I used the leftover drizzling sauce on parsnip cakes (Garde Manger Box from Blue Hill at Stone Barns) and also served with fresh fruits (grapes). Both were perfect.

Rasagola Minimalist (ରସଗୋଲା)

The pandemic has put the world into a strange spin. Many hoarded TP, while I stocked up on milk. Different shelf-lives!! That got me into a rhythm of making cheese and yogurt-cheese in alternate weeks.

I present an iconic dish, with iconoclastic techniques (microwave, food processor, just 2 ingredients!!). Yet, the minimalist rasagola is better than the best- I exaggerate not. Clean, wholesome, made-from-scratch. From milk to cheese to rasagola — the transformation is magical.

While social distancing, in a pricey pick-up Box from Blue Hill at Stone Barns, I rediscovered whey as a sophisticated, Cheffy drink. Never have I discarded the liquid from cheese making since then: it sits in mason jars in my refrigerator. Again, the whey was served with honey, verbena, …, but I like my homemade whey straight up (chilled).

Just recently Odisha settled the GI tag (Geographic Indication) battle over rasagola with its friendly neighbor, Bengal. While the latter attribute the birth of rasagola to the days of European colonialism in Calcutta; the Odias claim an 11th century origin, with offerings in temples. The Pahala Rasagola has a special place in my heart, as jeje (grandfather) never visited us without a box of those. These minimalist ones are a close rival. Enjoy!

Special tools:

Food Processor, cheesecloth.


yields about 16 rasagollas and approx 5 cups whey

  • approx 20 oz homemade pressed cheese (made from 2 quarts of milk)
  • Sugar syrup: 4 cups water + sugar to taste (1 cup sugar for medium-high sweetness)


Make the cheese as described in the Notes. Crumble it into a food processor (not a blender!) and run it at medium speed. The cheese will gather into a ball in a minute or so (see Notes for tips). Divide into 16 equal-sized portions and form into balls with the palm of your hands.

Meanwhile bring the sugar and water to a boil. Reduce heat. Add the balls. Simmer on medium heat for 15 minutes till the balls double in size.

Notes, hints, tips:
  • Homemade pressed cheese (chena/paneer): I usually start the process a day in advance, so that it spaces out the effort, in this 5-step process.
    1. (6 mins + 6 mins + 3 mins) Bring 2 quarts of milk in a 8-cup Pyrex glass container to just about a boil in a microwave. The timing given here is what I see in my microwave- adjust with yours. It is better to do that in multiple steps, rather than one long shot.
      [– I use Skim Plus milk. But feel free to use whole milk or 1-2 % milk. But not just skim.
      — Why use microwave, many of you ask. Zero risk of milk scorching in the Pyrex cup. Not to mention the ease of use.]
    2. (5 mins) Curdling. Immediately, while the milk is very hot, add 2-3 tsps of acidifying agent (AA) and stir vigorously till the proteins coagulate and you can see the whey separating. Note that, there is no more heating or cooking at this point.
      AA can be lemon juice or distilled white vinegar.
    3. (1 hr) Cooling. Let the cheese separate from the whey by sinking to the bottom of the container and it comes to a room temperature, or comfortably warm to the touch.
    4. (overnight or at least 1-2 hrs) Draining. Unlike the yogurt-cheese, where gravity alone helps in draining, here it takes a little more coaxing. Hence, the three steps, but you could go straight to the Hang step below.
      • Pour. Gently pour out the whey, without disturbing the cheese at the bottom, into mason jars.
      • Drain. (30 mins) Line a metal sieve with cheese cloth and pour all the contents of the pyrex cup, gathering more of the whey either directly in a mason jar or in a convenient container with a spout.
      • Press. I use a tofu-press (“that tofu thing”) that works perfect both in size for the 2 quarts milk and the pressure. Let it drain for 1-2 hours or overnight.
    5. Gently peel the cheese cloth from the pressed cheese.
  • Is the cheese of the right consistency to make the rasagola ? This is the million dollar question. I have a simple test– if the cheese does not gather into a ball in the food processor — it is not going to work.
    • If it is too sticky, you may have to add a little cream of wheat (semolina) at a time till it gathers into a ball.
    • If it is too powdery, you can add little whey at a time till it gathers into a ball.
  • Some use cardamom powder, pistachio bits and other garnishes, but you may like them nude, like I do.
  • I store the rasagolas in a mason jar, upside down when the level of syrup is not covering all the balls. This way when you retrieve your top rasgolas they are sufficiently steeped in syrup.

Pressed Chena/ paneer:

Rasagola from pressed chena

Pahala rasagola. For a caramel colored rasagola, caramelize the white sugar, before adding the water to make the syrup.

Halloween Cassava Pumpkin Waffles

Halloween is upon us, pandemic or not. It will be a quiet one this year. But a nail-biting election on its heels. Good luck to the contestants and may the planet win!

Back to small things. Pumpkin on the menu. Cassava flour was a serendipitous discovery in the pantry but it went so well with the pumpkin that I was compelled to blog. Enjoy!

Special tools:

Waffle maker; silicone brush


Makes 5 large waffles

  • Dry ingredients: 2 cups cassava flour + 1 tsp baking powder +1/2 tbsp cooking soda + 2 tbsp Maca powder (optional) + 1 tsp pumpkin spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, grated fresh ginger) + dash of salt
  • Wet ingredients: 2 cups pumpkin (a 15oz can) + 1 cup yogurt + 2 eggs + 2 tbsp oil


Mix the dry and wet ingredients separately with a wire whisk. When well mixed, pour the wet into the dry. The leavening ingredients make the batter light.

You will not be able to pour the batter. Instead, using a measuring cup, place 1 cup of the thick batter at a time in the waffle maker (follow manufacturer’s instructions). Brush a little oil at each use with the silicone brush.

Serve warm with maple syrup.

Notes, hints, tips:
  1. Cassava flour is the same as yuca flour– just make sure the bag is not labeled starch. This flour is a good substitute to wheat flour, but without the baggage. And, doubles the calorie and a truck-load of nutrients. But, you can indulge in it just for its delicious appeal.
  2. Pumpkin can threaten the waffle to be softer- but cassava is a good crisping complement.
  3. Sweet potato can be used in place of pumpkin: steam 3-4 medium sized ones in the microwave in their jackets (wrapped in moist kitchen towel) for a few minutes. Cool, peel and mash.
  4. Sans cassava: Another fantastic version with the flour mix: 1/4 cup flour each of oat, black rye, almond and coconut.
  5. Sans pumpkin: Here are a few flour mixes that turn out equally marvelous even without the pumpkin.
    Makes 3-4 large waffles or about 8 pancakes on a griddle
    • Dry ingredients 1 1/3 cup flour (one of the mixes from below) + 1 tbsp baking powder + dash of salt
      • 1 cup brown rice flour + 1/3 cup coconut flour OR
      • 1/3 cup oat flour + 1/3 cup black rye flour + 1/3 cup brown rice flour + 1/3 cup coconut flour OR
      • 1 cup brown rice flour + 1/6 cup coffee flour; 1/6 cup coconut flour OR
      • 1/3 cup regular white flour + 1/3 cup brown teff flour + 1/3 cup buckwheat flour + 1/3 cup millet flour
    • Wet ingredients: 1 ½ cups buttermilk + 2eggs +2 tbsp oil
  6. Date syrup is another pleasant accompaniment to the waffles/pancakes.

Caramelized Ragi Polenta

When I last visited India, I brought back a bag of whole red millet called nachni or ragi. Then I scoured the web for suggestions: all used the milled form. Yes, the powerful Vitamix can pulverize the grains in seconds, but I wanted to respect the granularity. I found that the whole grain indeed takes a long time to cook- perhaps the reason why it has escaped the interest of the internet foodies. But I am very patient. And, exploitative! I use the grains’ resilience for a despacito caramelization.

I present two forms: one sweet, for a breakfast porridge; the other savory, to accompany your entree. The al nero (black) in the latter comes from activated charcoal, a superfood.

Use a thick-bottomed pan to get deep caramelization. Keep an eye on it and cook with your nose and the results will blow your mind. Enjoy!


Thick-bottomed pan, wooden spoon.


  • 1 cup whole red millet, soaked for about 8 hrs in plenty of water, then drained
  • dash of salt + 1/2 can of coconut milk (about 1 cup)
  • Sweet version:
    • Sweet flavorings: 10 prunes + 1/8 cup dehydrated Goji Berries + 1/8 cup dehydrated black cherries + dash of salt
    • Topping: dehydrated mulberries
  • Savory version:
    • Savory flavorings: 1 cup coarsely grated cheese (sharp Cheddar) + 1 tbsp olive tapenade + 1/2 tsp edible Charcoal powder
    • Topping: 1/4 cup coarsely grated cheese


For the sweet version mix in the all the flavoring ingredients with the grains. Cook the grain in intervals of 30 minutes as follows.

Place the grains with about 1 cup of water (which should be only about 1/2 cm or so above the level of grains) in a thick-bottomed pan. Bring to a boil. Then simmer, covered, on medium-low for 30 minutes.

Do not worry if it sticks to the bottom – just don’t let it char too much. Then with a wooden-spoon, deglaze with a tbsp of water. Add another cup of water (the level should be just a little above the grain surface) and continue to cook covered for another 30 minutes.

Again, deglaze with 1 tbsp coconut milk. Add the coconut milk, cover and cook for the last 30 minutes. Turn off heat. For the savory version, fold in the flavorings. Let it rest for 10 minutes.

Serve hot with the toppings.

  1. Soaking the grain is optional. However, soaking in water activates the grains- this makes the enzymes lot more accessible to your body. It turns out to be a little grainier when not soaked, but still delicious.
  2. The activated black charcoal does not lend any perceptible flavor– just turns the polenta al nero black. The saltiness of the olive tapenade marries well with the richness of the cheese.
  3. Due to the dehydrated fruits in the sweet version, the kitchen is redolent with the intoxicating aroma of caramelization. Almost like molasses. This porridge will blow your mind! Try this out on a lazy Sunday morning – you can get a lot done while this cooks 🙂 Just use your timer to intervene at the right times; do not baby-sit this one.

Honeynut Squash: Easy Petit-Dumplings

Gnocchi is an Italian dumpling made with flour and a mainstay ingredient (usually potatoes) and another usual suspect, egg. Poached in water and dressed in a light sauce, it is an absolutely delicious pasta. Italians, take a bow!

Gnocchi-making takes some expertise. The flour in the classical gnocchi plays a vital structural role for handling and shape-retention (with egg) in the unforgiving boiling water.

I present here a friendly version that you can knead simply, roll, cut and shape. I strike out the egg and cut the flour down to absolute minimum (just enough to absorb the excess moisture). And, just microwave (instead of poaching) to retain the delicate shape of the dumplings. With squash as the only ingredient -and, potatoes as the invisible delivery agent-, the pristine honeynut, with a dab of EVOO, shines. Enjoy!

Special tools:

Food processor; potato masher or ricer.


  • 1 honeynut squash halved lengthwise and the internal pulp and seeds removed
  • 3-4 small potatoes
  • 1/4 cup flour (buckwheat)
  • Seasoning: salt and pepper to taste
  • Dressing: EVOO and sea salt


Place the halved honeynut squash with the cut side up on a baking tray. Brush with EVOO. Roast at 400 F for 30 mins. Run the squash, with skin, in the processor.

Wrap the potatoes in damp kitchen paper and microwave for 4 minutes; peel and mash while still warm, mixing in the processed squash. Add the seasoning and the flour to knead lightly. Cut the dough into four equal-sized pieces. Roll each piece into a rope of 1/2 inch thickness and cut into (roughly) 20 little cylinders. Lightly mark with a fork. Place on a platter and refrigerate till ready to cook.

Cover with damp kitchen towel and microwave 20 at a time for 1 minute. Mix lightly in the dressing and serve.

Notes, hints, tips:
  1. The recipe makes 20 X 4 = 80 gnocchis.
  2. Using buckwheat flour and omitting the eggs gives gluten-free, vegan dumplings.
  3. If the squash is hard to cut, microwave for 2 minutes or so till it just softens enough for the knife to run through.
  4. The skin of the squash will be in bits but not completely pulverized. if you don’t like this texture, you can remove the peel. My recommendation is to use the peel: it breaks the monotony of a smooth texture. Also, the peel has more nutrients than the interior flesh.
  5. I used buckwheat flour, but you can use regular white flour. And, even an egg.
  6. Even just EVOO makes this little gnocchis irresistible. But you could use other elaborate sauces of your liking.
  7. See the Honeynut Squash Mousse, for an alternative treatment. Simple too.

Nuts Bar

Sweet, delicate, exquisite as the snowflakes of (Bolshoi) Nutcracker! Use as breakfast bar, your travel bar or simply a snack bar.

The recipe is adapted from Pamela Ellegan’s book on dehydrating. Lest a dehydrator is not in your toolbox, I use the oven here by conflating with the technique from Norwegian knekkebrød.
[Do scroll down to check out all the awesome varieties of bar formulae that I have added.]

Nuts Cracker Bar
Special tools:

Food processor; silicone silpat; oven.


  • Nuts soaked overnight for 6 hrs: 1/2 cup pecans + 1/2 cup hazelnuts with 1/2 tsp Himalayan sea salt in plenty of water
  • Seeds: 1/2 cup whole pepitas or sunflower seeds + 1/2 cup flaxseed meal
  • Sweetening tignum : 1/2 cup pitted dates soaked in water for 30 mins


Drain all the soaking ingredients. (Note the flaxseed is not whole.) Save the draining liquid of the dates. Run all the ingredients in a processor, adding the date liquid gradually, till it holds together lightly. Then spread it thin on the silicon mat with the spatula of the processor to a rectangle approximately 8 inches X 10 inches. Score lines on it. Place on a wire rack and bake at 175 F for 1 1/4 hours. Remove from the oven and let cool on the rack. Makes 32 bars.

Notes, hints, tips:
  1. I place a lid (parchment paper) just on the surface of the water to ensure that all of the nuts are constantly submerged. I attribute this ingenious technique to the Japanese, although you may be more familiar with it as cartouche (a French term that is more popular, thanks to the world history of the last few centuries).
  2. Let the bars dry thoroughly, although quite tempting to have them right away: it may be a little sticky to the teeth. When completely dry, they don’t stick.
    I am in the hunt for an even better binder than dates, albeit with equally good-health endorsements and ready-to-consume sans cooking characteristic.
  3. Feel free to bake longer, for a crispier effect.
  4. I soaked the nuts in the morning; baked in the evening and let it cool overnight.

Garbanzo Bar: Here is a bar that uses legume (garbanzo) instead of the nuts.
1 cup cooked garbanzo (not mushed) + 1/2 cup sunflower seeds + 1/2 cup psyllium meal + 1/2 cup dates soaked in water for 30 minutes + a dash of vanilla
Process as the recipe above adding the liquid of the soaking dates till it holds together. Spread thin in a silicon mat and place on a wire rack. Bake at 175 F for 2 hrs. Check after the first hour and then every 30 mins. Let cool overnight. 

Beet Bar: Here is a bar that uses beet pulp from the juicer and beet juice. Absolutely addictive, I promise!
I am told that soaking the raw (not toasted) nuts and seeds with a little salt activates them, making them easier to digest and absorb. In general use 1/2 tsp Himalayan salt for 1 cup nuts/seeds.
The texture is a little “bready”: so you can also halve the recipe and spread even thinner on the silicone mat to the same area and bake for the same amount of time (3 hrs) at 170 F. See picture at bottom.

1. Seeds/Nuts (soak in 1 tsp Himalayan sea salt and plenty of water for 12 hours to activate):  3/4 cup sunflower seeds [or pecans or almonds] + 1/2 cup pumpkin seeds + 1/8 cup chia seeds + 1/8 cup poppy seeds + 1/6 cup flax seeds [or blend of seeds & ancient grains (see picture)].
2. Drain the soaking seeds. Process with the following ingredients till well blended and pliable.
— 1  cups rolled oats + 1/2 cup beet juice pulp +
— 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice [or lemon flavored balsamic] + 1/4 cup EVOO + 1 tbsp psyllium husks + 1 tbsp fresh beet juice + 1 tsp Himalayan salt
3. Spread thin on a silicon mat (approximately 18 inches X 12 inches) and bake directly on a wire rack at 170 F for 3 hrs, checking after each hour.

Thinner version (1/2 the Beet Bar recipe):

Cacao-Orange Bar: A fragrant bar that will blow your mind- using the classic combination of chocolate and orange.
1 cup pecans (soaked with 1/2 Himalayan salt for 8 hrs) + 1/2 cup flaxmeal + 2 tbsp psyllium + 1/8 cup cacao powder + zest of 1 orange + 1/2 tsp vanilla essence (to kill the earthy flaxseed flavor) + dash salt + 1/2 cup dates (soaked in orange juice for 30 mins)
Process as the recipe above adding the orange juice of the soaking dates till it holds together. Spread thin in a silicon mat and place on a wire rack. Bake at 175 F for 2 hrs. Check after the first hour and then every 30 mins. Let cool overnight.

Plantain Wafers: Plantain is one of my absolute favorites! Inspired by my Mom’s kadali kofta and Pamela’s Peurto Rican Mofongo, this wafer is bound to steal your heart! The fennel gives a nice anise-accent.
1. Steam three green plantains (not sweet ones) with skin for about 10-12 minutes. Peel while still warm.
2. Run in a processor the steamed plantains with 1 cup chopped fennel +3 tbsp flaxseed meal + 1 tbsp oil (coconut oil) + 2 pods of garlic + salt and pepper to taste. Process till it holds together when pressed into a ball.
3. Make little balls and dot a teflon or silicon base. Flatten and roll thin. [Easy to place another teflon sheet on it and use a wine bottle, if you can’t access a rolling pin.]
3. Bake at 175F for 2-3 hrs until fully dehydrated.
4. Pamela’s Sweet-Sour-Hot Sauce: I am not a big fan of raw garlic, but I will make an exception for this one: the garlic mellows in the powerful agave and cider medium. Mix 1/4 cup agave + 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar + 1 tbsp (or to taste) cayenne pepper + 1-2 pods of finely crushed garlic + salt to taste.

Chipotle Corn Wafers: Influenced by Rachel Carr’s book Modern Raw. The wafer is fantastic!
1. Run in a processor into a soft paste: 2 cups corn kernel + 3/4 cup flaxseeds pulsed into meal + salt + 1/2 tsp cumin seeds +1 tsp chipotle powder + salt to taste + juice of 1/2 lime.
2. Spread thin on two teflon sheets.
3. At 175 F for 2-3 hrs until dehydrated. No need to even flip.
4. Break off the wafers into artisan pieces and serve.

Granola: Influenced by Sara Dickerman’s Dried and True. I replace egg whites with homemade whey. The latter is an even better binder.
1. 1 1/2 cups rolled oats (not quick-cooking) + 1/4 cup toasted coconut slivers (called chips) + 1/4 cup toasted slivered almonds + + 1/4 tsp cinnamon powder + 1/4 tsp cardamom powder + dash sea salt
2. Tignum fudge: 1/8 cup coconut oil + 1/2 tbsp butter + 1/8 cup condensed milk + 1 oz whey + 1 tbsp brown sugar
3. 1 oz cold whey, beaten well with wire whisk (or 1 egg white)
4. Mix the tignum fudge ingredients on low heat in a small pan for a few minutes until well-mixed and pour over the rest of the ingredients. Fold in the beaten whey. Spread on silpat on a wire rack.
5. At 175 F for 4 hrs until dehydrated. No need to even flip.