Friday, May 25, 2012

Restaurant Review: Kryptos by Willi

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Let me just start off by saying that I am huge fan of Chef Willi's food. I love, love, LOVE the food at Tuscana. Burgundy has some tasty stuff as well, though hot buffets are not my favorite kind of dining experience - the food tends to get kinda overcooked and dry sometimes, don't you think? So when we were invited to review the Greek-Cypriot restaurant 'Kryptos', I was quite excited. I had been there once before, and enjoyed the cold mezze buffet!

This time, our hosts had a set menu planned for us. We had unlimited access to the cold mezze buffet (yay!) and a few warm mezze dishes, and our mains and desserts had been ordered for us. I couldn't wait to get started!
I started with the cold mezze and loaded my plate with all my favorite things. By the time I walked back to my table, I felt like I was being greedy, but there was really a LOT of yummy stuff on the buffet and I just had to try them all. I loved the salads - there were so many kinds, and my favorites were some awesome pickled vegetables, a really nice potato salad and the classic Insalata Caprese. Apart from the lovely salads they had some really lovely dips - hummus, tzatziki and a few more. And they had a few varieties of cheese. You know how I love me some cheese. Very nice spread!

The warm mezze dishes were served to us at the table and I sampled a few of them.
There were quite a few vegetarian and non-vegetarian options, and I just loved the vegetarian ones! My favorite of the lot were these rolls called Bourekakia Melitzanes (don't ask me to pronounce it!), which were deep fried rolls filled with cheese and eggplant. Oh my! They were really, really yummy! The falafel was also really good.

Among the non-vegetarian ones, I liked the Lamb and Aubergine rolls. There was a fried lady finger fish, which is supposed to be eaten whole - bones and all, but personally, I felt the fish was too big and the bones were too brittle. Swallowing was a little painful for me. But then again, maybe it was just me!

The mains arrived in quick succession. There was a chicken breast dish which was flavored with garlic and mint. I found it under-seasoned and didn't enjoy it much.
Next up came an impressive and intriguing looking claypot. In it was oven baked fish cooked with potatoes and herbs. While I loved the presentation, the flavors just didn't work for me, and I felt that the fish was a little over-cooked. The pot seemed to retain a lot of heat, and I feel that the fish kept cooking long after it was taken off the stove.
The beef dish, called Fried Hamburgers, was my favorite among the non-vegetarian dishes, but to be honest it didn't blow my mind either. It was fine. And it was well-seasoned.
My favorite main of the evening turned out to be a dish called 'Papoutsakia' which was eggplant halves (are you noticing a pattern here?) stuffed with some aromatics, a bechamel sauce and some cheesy topping that was all melted and golden. I just LOVED it and helped myself to a second eggplant half. The other vegetarian dishes were also good.
Along with the mains, we were served some sides of caramelized carrots, potato wedges and garlic rice. All the sides were really tasty and the potato wedges were so incredibly crispy! I was very impressed with the sides.

Finally, we got to dessert and we were served a moist chocolate 'pie' and baklava.
The chocolate dessert tasted pretty good, though I couldn't figure out what made it a 'pie'. It had a very unusual (but not unpleasant) texture and had a deep chocolate-y flavor. I quite enjoyed it. The baklava, I didn't like much. I felt there was a LOT of the filling and not enough pastry layers. Personally, my favorite part of baklava is the crispy filo pastry, and this one just didn't have enough for me!

An interesting new thing at Kryptos is that the menu is bilingual - with all the dishes explained both in English and in the local language, Tamil. Quite unique, I must say!

Overall, I enjoyed the meal - especially the mezze dishes (hot and cold). Would I go back to Kryptos? Yes - to enjoy some awesome mezze!

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Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Foodie Exchange

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Before I get into this post, let me thank everyone who wrote in and commented congratulating me my 100th post! It truly feels like a HUGE milestone considering how much has happened this past year. I appreciate each and every one of you!

If you didn't visit the post, I hope you do. One of the most interesting things about that celebration cake was the filling. Without that awesome filling, it would have been a plain ol' butter cake - not that there's anything wrong with that. But the filling gave it a wonderful new twist. It was a sunflower seed butter filling and it was nutty, salty-sweet and delicious!

I mentioned in the post that I received the sunflower seed butter in a package from Ruchira of The Great Cookaroo, and today I want to share more about what we were a part of.

In April, I had a wonderful time participating in a Foodie Exchange where food bloggers from around the country got the chance to exchange packages filled with things that a foodie would love. And let me tell you - I was totally in LOVE with the stuff I got. Ruchira really knows how to put together a wonderful package and there's so much for me to show and tell!

The packaging itself was classy and simple - just the way I like it. I love that she addressed it to 'The Harried Cook'. I swear most people (including myself) are forgetting my real name. I am fast becoming 'first name Harried, last name Cook'! :) And I absolutely LOVED the hand-written note! I wrote her one too, and it made me realize how long it has been since I actually wrote a letter with pen and paper!

So here's my stash.
Awesome, right?

What I loved most about this package, is that Ruchira took so much trouble and effort tying each little jar and packet with a ribbon and a handmade tag on which she wrote out her ideas on what I could make with it.
In comparison, I just chucked everything in a box and sent it off to her! Tsk tsk... You can see what I sent her by going here.

I really admire the effort she put into the package! Here's the awesome stuff I got -
Sunflower seed butter (you know what I did with that!), Harissa paste (yum on some chicken I made!), Mini Marshmallows (for me to make more Rocky Road Ice cream!), Organic Multi-grain flour (so cool! I'm going to make some bread!) and adorable heart shaped foil chocolate cups (so adorable!)... 

I feel so blessed to have been paired with Ruchira. She is an awesome baker and cook (as you will see on her blog when you visit it - yes I said 'when' and not 'if' - go visit), and she really knows her food. I loved chatting with her and getting to know her and we have a few things in common - including a crazy love for cheese. Thank you, Ruchira for this wonderful package!! Here is one of the things that I made with it - you know it already!

This post is SO late. I feel terrible about being one of the last people to post about my package. First there was the hectic-ness of my life, then camera trouble and so on. But let me tell you - I am sure I was one of the most excited. Here is a list of the other people who took part in the Foodie Exchange.

Charis of Culinary Storm  (who came up with the Foodie Exchange - *applause*)
Deeps of Naughty Curry
Madhuri of Cook Curry Nook
Sarita of The Clean Toothpick
Pratiksha of Honeyed Pandemonium
Jeetendra of Moody Foodie
Apeksha of Veggie Wiz
Poorna of Presented by P
Ameya of Kitty in the Kitchen
Sid of Chef at Large
Siri of Cooking with Siri
Geetha of Fragrant Kitchen
Renuka of Pinch of Salt
Sangeeta of Health Food Desi Videshi
Rekha of My Tasty Curry
Nikhil of Nonchalant Gourmand

P.S. - I am SO behind on posts. So, I will be back in less than 24 hours with a Restaurant Review! See ya'll soon!
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Monday, May 14, 2012

Sun Cake: Celebrating 100 posts & Summer!

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I made it. I finally made it.

I never thought it would happen, but this is my 100th post.

I remember when I reached my 25th post. Feels like forever ago! I made a Mini-cake to celebrate the occasion and felt quite silly for doing it.

Now that I have made it to 100 posts, I really feel like celebrating. So much has happened since I started blogging, and you know I've almost quit a couple of times! But I hung around, and I am still here! Yay! So I won't feel silly for celebrating this milestone. And what celebration is complete without cake, I ask you?

I call this creation my Sun Cake. You'll see why!
The cake is my new favorite recipe for a Classic Butter Cake. I love the simplicity of a butter cake. It is flavorful, moist and just perfect. 

But what really makes this cake special is the filling! I filled the layers with a flavorful, nutty, slightly salty sunflower seed butter! Yes - you read right! Butter made from sunflower seeds. If you're asking  "what's that?!", it is kinda like peanut butter but different.

I got my sunflower seed butter as a part of an awesome package I received from my friend Ruchira from The Great Cookaroo, as a part of a Foodie Exchange program! More about the awesomeness of the package in the next post. The sunflower seed butter is really lovely on a lot of things and I am feeling a little sad that the bottle's almost empty, and I haven't seen it in any stores around here! But you know what - you can make your own sunflower seed butter! Yay! I've got to try that soon!

I wanted this cake to be a celebration of summer, too. Yes. Why fight it? Summer is here to stay, and we might as well accept it. I know - the heat and humidity is quite unbearable. I fuss and moan about it a lot, too. But summer means a lot of nice things too - vacation (I hope I get one this year!), bright colors, watermelon and most of all - the mangoes! I colored the layers of this cake in three summery colors - a light lemony yellow, a bright sunflower yellow and a lovely orange. I didn't do a great job with the yellows because they're kinda similar looking, but you get what I was trying to do, right?
The outside of the cake is a classic vanilla butter cream. I love butter cream. It's rich, sweet and luscious. I don't understand when people say "I don't like butter!". Really? What's wrong with you?


Butter Cake Layers
Adapted from
3 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 3/4 cup sugar
4 eggs, at room temperature
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk

1. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt and set aside.
2. In a large bowl, cream the butter until light and fluffy.
3. Add the sugar and cream until completely combined.
4. Add the eggs in one at a time, beating well after each addition.
5. Beat in the vanilla extract.
6. Add 1/3 of the flour mixture to the butter mixture, followed by 1/2 of the buttermilk, another 1/3rd of the flour mixture, the remaining buttermilk and finish off with the rest of the flour mixture. Stir well to combine between each addition.
7. If desired, divide the batter equally into three bowls and color as desired.
8. Bake in greased and floured 8" round cake tins at 350F/180C until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean - about 20-25 minutes per layer.
9. Allow to cool in the pans for 15 minutes, and transfer onto racks to cool completely.
10. Fill and frost as desired.

Sunflower Seed Butter Filling
Adapted from
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup sunflower seed butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 - 2.5 cups confectioner's sugar, sifted
1-3 tbsp milk
A few drops of yellow food coloring, if desired

1. Cream the butter and sunflower seed butter in a bowl until light and fluffy.
2. Add the vanilla (and the food coloring, if you're using it) and continue creaming for about 30 seconds.
3. Add 2 cups of sugar - 1/2 cup at a time - until completely incorporated and fluffy.
4. If you find the filling too thick, lighten it with milk, adding 1 tbsp at a time, beating well after each addition.
5. If you find the filling too running, add more powdered sugar.

Vanilla Butter Cream
Adapted from
1 cup unsalted butter
3 tsp vanilla extract
3 1/2 cups confectioner's sugar, sifted
1/4 tsp salt
2-3 tbsp whipping cream

1. Cream the butter until light and fluffy.
2. Add the vanilla and salt and cream for about 30 seconds.
3. Add 3 cups of the sugar - 1/2 cup at a time - until you have a light, fluffy frosting.
4. Add 1 tbsp of the whipping cream and beat for about a minute. 
4. If you find the filling too thick, lighten it with more whipping cream, adding 1 tbsp at a time, beating well after each addition.
5. If you find the filling too runny, add more powdered sugar.

Assembly: Divide the sunflower seed butter filling into two equal portions. Fill the cooled cake layers with the sunflower seed butter, and frost the sides and top of the cake with a plain vanilla butter cream. Decorate with yellow and orange fondant daisies, if desired.
With colors of summer and flavors of sunflower, I think Sun Cake is a good name, don't you? I love this cake because the salty sweet sunflower seed butter filling offsets the sweetness of the cake and frosting. I just love that sweet-salty hit! 

This post is also hopefully the beginning of more regular blogging. Life has been crazy this past month and I really miss posting regularly. And more than that - I miss visiting all my favorite blogs! Don't be mad at me for not visiting you, okay? I am going to start being more regular this week. 

I am a lot more active on Facebook these days, and if you haven't connected with me on Facebook yet, please visit my page and say 'hello'! 
I wish I could share a slice of this cake with each and every one of the people I've met through this blog. Who knew, when I started posting 100 posts ago, that I would meet so many awesome new people, and make some friends who will stay with me for life? Thank you all for the love and support!

This post is dedicated to each & every person that I have met through The Harried Cook. 

Have a blessed week, all!
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Thursday, May 3, 2012

Sesame Overload Cookies - My Guest Post at Priya's Bon Appetit

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Can I just say how much I love my readers and blogger friends? I really, truly do!

I know I said in my last post that I was considering quitting the blog, but now I know I most definitely won't be doing that! I love and enjoy this too much! And I couldn't bear it if I lost touch with you guys, you know? :)

This week has been crazy because we're in the middle of Summer Camp (V.B.S.) at church and just like last year it is 600 wild kids who are full of energy! So sorry I still haven't gotten around to visiting your site... I am just catching up on my Google Reader updates (which is at a CRAZY number!) and I will get around to you soon... I can't wait to see what you've been cooking! <3

Today, I am I guest posting over at Priya's fabulous blog - Bon Appetit - where she has given me the title "Blogger of the Month - May 2012"! Very cool :) I was really excited when she asked me to share a recipe with her readers. Priya makes some yummy food - check out impressive recipe list! She has also had some really amazing guest bloggers on her site. I am so glad to be guest posting there today.

If you are a regular follower of The Harried Cook, you already know about my love for sesame. This cookie recipe is a tribute to the awesomeness that is the humble sesame seed!
To see the recipe and read more about it, you must go visit Priya's site! And while you're there, don't forget to leave her a comment and tell her I said hello!

Also, I would like to thank Manu of Manu's Menu (she's just such an AWESOME cook, baker, blogger and friend!), for these awards. I am truly honored to accept them, Manu... Thank you and BIG hugs to you!
I will see you all next week with a very special post! :)

Have a wonderful weekend & God bless you!
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