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Mucho Gusto

Valeria’s Apple Dumplings

This is the thirty-ninth installment in Mucho Gusto, a recipe initiative by and for students to help connect us through food in times of isolation. If you’ve got a recipe you think would make a great addition, reach out to us!

Recipe by Luciana Molinari 
Introduction and Edits by Valeria Gutierrez

Apple dumplings were my mom’s first impression of American food. She saw them as something that was so glorious that they “did not belong in this world.” They set high expectations for her experience as a foreign exchange student in Kansas City, Missouri. 

Coming to the United States as a 17 year old from Caracas, Venezuela, my mom expected to eat hamburgers, hot dogs, and McDonald’s ice cream sundaes every day. She did not have high hopes for the cuisine she would encounter in the US, especially in comparison to the foods she ate back home. My grandmother had a true passion for cooking, and in conjunction with my grandfather’s Italian ancestry, my mom’s everyday meals back in Venezuela always involved something extravagant. 

Unlike my grandparents, my mom’s foreign exchange parents, Janus and Charlie, were humble and thrifty individuals, especially when it came to feeding and raising their five children and ferret. It was not until Janus made her famous, old-fashioned classic apple dumplings that my mom’s perspective on American food completely flipped. “This simple, spiceful dessert had no significant expertise or luxurious ingredients and tasted like something sent down from heaven” says my mom. 

From this moment on, my mom looked at American food through completely different eyes. She began experimenting with other mouth-watering typical American dishes such as barbecue brisket and baked beans. To say the least, she gained 10 pounds from her foreign exchange experience and brought home from the United States a notebook filled with recipes to share with her family and friends. In fact, she still has the notebook, which contains this very recipe, to this day! 

Ingredients:

Syrup

  • 1 ½ cups of sugar
  • 1 ½ cups of water
  • ¼ teaspoon of ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon of ground nutmeg
  • 3 tablespoons of unsalted butter

Dough

  • 2 cups of all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons of baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • ⅔ cup of all-vegetable shortening
  • ½ cup of milk

Filling

  • 6 red apples, peeled and cored, sliced in halves
  • ¼ teaspoon of ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon of nutmeg
  • 1 tablespoon of brown sugar

Instructions:

Start by making the syrup. To do this, use a medium-sized pot to boil the water. Once the water is simmering, add the sugar and spices. Boil the mixture for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally so that the sugar does not form clumps or become grainy. Remove the pot from the burner and turn off the heat. Slowly whisk in the unsalted butter until the mix has the consistency of a sticky liquid. Put the syrup aside, and move on to the dough for the dumplings.

Add all of the dry ingredients to a medium-sized bowl, and mix them together using a fork. Using a hand mixer (or a stand mixer) to blend everything, add in the vegetable shortening until little balls start forming. At this point, add the milk to wet the mixture until it forms a malleable dough. If the dough is too sticky, add more flour. If the dough is too dry, add more milk. Pack the dough into one huge ball, cover it using plastic wrap, and refrigerate for approximately 30 minutes. 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, and grease a large baking tray. While the dough is in the fridge, place all the apple halves in a large plate or cutting board and sprinkle them with ground cinnamon, nutmeg and brown sugar. Leave these aside to soak in the flavor of the sugar and spices.

Remove the dough from the fridge. Sprinkle a small amount of flour onto the countertop to prevent the dough from sticking to the surface. Place the dough ball in the middle of the floured surface and use a rolling pin to extend the dough until it is about ¼ inch thick. Cut the dough into squares that are double the size of the apple halves you will be using to fill the dumplings. These should be approximately 6×6 inch squares. 

Place the apple slice in the middle of the dough square, and gently bring up all the corners to join together in the center of the apple. Pinch all the edges until the dumpling is fully sealed. If desired, cut outs, lines, or different designs can be added to the outside of your apple dumpling. Place the apple dumplings onto the greased baking tray with space between one another. With either a brush or a spoon, cover the top of the apple dumplings with the syrup. It is optional to sprinkle a little bit of sugar on top of the syrup for more caramelization. 

Place the dumplings in the oven for 30 minutes or until golden brown. Remove them from the oven, and serve warm. I highly recommend accompanying them with a scoop of vanilla ice cream to further emphasize the flavor and create some contrast in temperature. 

This recipe makes 12 apple dumplings. Enjoy!

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Mucho Gusto

Emily’s Buffalo Chicken Dip

This is the thirty-eighth installment in Mucho Gusto, a recipe initiative by and for students to help connect us through food in times of isolation. If you’ve got a recipe you think would make a great addition, reach out to us!

This recipe is tradition for my good friend Emily, a Massachusetts native and foodie at heart. Whether on campus or miles apart, Emily and I always bond over food; we are constantly sharing different recipes and restaurant recommendations, and this recipe is no exception. This time, we thought we’d include Gusto in our exchange over a Finn family classic.

Emily has decided to share with us a traditional family recipe for buffalo chicken dip, a quintessential American comfort food. It is, of course, as perfect for game day gatherings as it is warm, homey, and comforting. This classic dish will also fit right in at your last few summer barbecues. It is no wonder why it is a fan-favorite, Sunday staple! 

It is easy and so tasty! From the gooey, bubbly cheese to the saucy, spicy, savory chicken with crunchy bites of chips and veggies, this quick, rich dip is delicious. As Emily perfectly explains, it creates that sense of American comfort and game day spirit wherever you are…

“We do not press play on the football game until I have my bowl of buffalo chicken dip on my lap.” 

She describes the setting: It is our favorite day of the week. The house is full of people, yet silent. Only the sounds from the TV fill the air, along with the aromas from the kitchen, where mom is preparing the family favorite. Everyone is cozied up on the couch, sporting navy, red, and white. As soon as the pan comes out, happy hands reach in from all directions, without ever taking an eye off the TV.  It is a dish that has been enjoyed many times, but it never loses its charm. 

Emily explains, “Born and raised a New England fan, I can affirm that football, food, friends, and family make the world go round. If there is a football game to be watched, there is buffalo chicken dip to be eaten. For as long as I can remember, my family, friends, and I all sat on the couch and ate this addicting dip together during every Sunday Patriots game. That is what makes it so special—there is no better mix than food and sports to bring us all together for some quality time.” 

Reminiscing on the dish, Emily tells me, “My family’s ultimate game-day snack is a warm, super cheesy pan full of thick buffalo chicken, ready to be dipped into with whatever crunchy, snack-vessel you like! Did I mention that it was cheesy?

This is not your typical chips and dip. This legendary combination of tangy, tempting flavors will have you hooked; and it has no better pair than a football game to watch, in between mouthfuls of course!”

Ingredients

  • 2 cups shredded, boneless chicken breast
  • ½ cup Frank’s Red Hot Sauce (or the hot sauce of your choice)
  • ½ cup ranch dressing
  • ½ cup crumbled blue cheese
  • 8 oz cream cheese, softened 
  • 1 cup of blended cheese mix 

Emily’s Instructions

Total cook time: approximately 30 minutes 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. While the oven is heating, prepare the chicken in whatever way you prefer. This part is entirely personal preference, and it’s what makes every batch of buffalo chicken dip taste a little different. In my family’s recipe, we season the chicken breast with salt, pepper, and garlic powder, then sauté it in olive oil for 7 minutes on each side or until cooked through. Once cooled, shred the chicken to measure approximately 2 cups. 

Spray a 1-quart baking dish with non-stick cooking spray. The pan will be used as a mixing bowl to simplify the process and save time on the dishes, which means more time for eating! Spread softened cream cheese across the bottom of the pan. Next, add hot sauce and ranch dressing to pan and stir the mixture around, lifting the cream cheese to combine all ingredients. Add in the shredded chicken and the cheese mix. Once the chicken is coated with the cream cheese mixture, spread it across the dish using a spatula to form an even layer. 

The dip requires a couple rounds of oven time to get the right consistency. Start by placing the dip in the oven for ten minutes. After taking it out of the oven, add blue cheese crumbles on top. Then, put the dish back in the oven. If you, like me, believe “the cheesier, the better,” then I suggest taking the dish out of the oven five minutes after the blue cheese has been added. Then, sprinkle a bit more blended cheese mix on top. Turn the oven to broil, and let it cook through for five more minutes. The mixture should be melty and creamy at this point. 

The dip should have a total cooking time of about 20 minutes. However, this is flexible and up to personal preference. 

Once all the elements are baked to your liking, your delectable game-day dip is done! Fresh out of the oven, garnish with yet another sprinkle of cheese (I will confess I always do), and you are ready to experience a flavorful victory! You can serve a scoop of the dip with your favorite crunchy tortilla chips, refreshing veggies, or whatever your buffalo chicken dip is calling you to do! I love dipping carrots, celery, and cucumber. 

Nothing feels homier than sitting in my spot on the couch with a warm bowl of buffalo chicken dip watching football, but regardless, enjoy! It still tastes good without the football!

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Mucho Gusto

Prashanti’s Sooji Halwa/ Rava Kesari

This is the thirty-seventh installment in Mucho Gusto, a recipe initiative by and for students to help connect us through food in times of isolation. If you’ve got a recipe you think would make a great addition, reach out to us!

When I was in 5th grade, I remember coming home on my 10th birthday to the smell of something incredibly sweet and buttery: roasted nuts and melted ghee (clarified butter). Back then I had—and admittedly still do today—the biggest sweet tooth. I bolted upstairs to find my mom in the kitchen as the sweet aroma of the traditional Indian dessert she was preparing left a wide grin across my face. She was making one of my favorite recipes: rava kesari, also known as sooji halwa in other parts of India. As I watched my mom work, I was in awe, amazed by the dessert’s bright orange color. Ten years later, I learned how to make this exact dish so that I could surprise my mom for her birthday. 

Sooji halwa is a delicious North Indian dessert made primarily from sugar, ghee, and semolina— a type of wheat commonly referred to as sooji in North India. The South Indian counterpart for this tasty dessert is rava kesari. Like sooji, rava is another name for semolina. Kesari means “saffron color” in many South Indian languages, a reference to the bright orange color of this treat. Interestingly, the addition of the saffron water—and thus the difference in color—to the semolina in the rava kesari is what differentiates it from sooji halwa. 

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup semolina 
  • 1 cup water 
  • ½ cup sugar 
  • ¼ cup + 1 ½ tbsp. ghee (clarified butter) 
  • ¼ tsp. cardamom powder 
  • Handful of roughly chopped nuts (cashews, almonds, and/or pistachios) 
  • Handful of golden raisins 
  • Optional: 2 tbsp. water, saffron

Instructions:

First, add a few pieces of saffron to two tbsp. of water. The water should immediately become a golden yellow or orange color. Set the saffron water aside until the final step. By the time you are ready to use the saffron water, it should be a bright orange or red color. 

Add 1 ½ tbsp. of ghee to a medium-sized pan on medium heat. Once the ghee has completely melted, add the nuts and raisins. I like to use cashews and almonds for this recipe, but pistachios work as well. Lightly roast the nuts and raisins for 2-3 minutes, or until the nuts are lightly browned and the raisins absorb some of the ghee. Continuously stir the nuts and raisins so that they do not burn. Remove the nuts and raisins from the pan and set them aside. Do not remove the ghee from the pan, as you will use it in the next step. 

Add the semolina to the leftover ghee in the pan. On medium heat, lightly toast the semolina until it absorbs all the ghee and becomes slightly brown. Be sure to stir the semolina consistently so that it does not burn. This step should take approximately 3-4 minutes. It is very easy to burn the semolina so keep a careful eye on the pan. 

Next, in a medium-sized saucepan, boil the water. On low heat, add the toasted semolina to the water. Stir this mixture continuously until the semolina completely absorbs the water. Make sure there are no lumps. Add the sugar to the pan, and stir continuously until the mixture is well combined. After 2-3 minutes have passed, the sugar should be completely dissolved. 

Add the saffron water and ¼ cup of the ghee to the mixture and stir. Place a lid onto the saucepan and let the mixture simmer on medium heat for 2-3 minutes. Add the roasted nuts, raisins, and the cardamom powder to the pan. Stir so that everything is evenly distributed throughout the mixture. 

This quick and yummy recipe should take no more than 15 minutes to prepare, and it should last for several days if stored in the refrigerator. Enjoy! 

Recipe adapted from Hebbars Kitchen’s “rava kesari recipe | kesari bath recipe | how to make kesari recipe or sheera recipe

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Mucho Gusto

Allison’s Traveling Chocolate Cookies

This is the thirty-sixth installment in Mucho Gusto, a recipe initiative by and for students to help connect us through food in times of isolation. If you’ve got a recipe you think would make a great addition, reach out to us!

Chewy, fudgey, and crunchy. This chocolate cookie recipe has been a family favorite on my mom’s side since she was a little girl. In the 1970s, while my grandfather was serving with the army in Korea, my grandma, mom, and aunt had just moved to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. A sweet next door neighbor brought these cookies over, and my grandma asked for the recipe. Since then, the tradition has continued of sharing these mouthwatering chocolate cookies everywhere my family goes. 

Growing up as a military kid, I moved around every few years and was forced to adjust to new schools and meet new people. What a better way to make friends than by bringing over a plate of ooey gooey chocolate cookies? Whether in Texas, South Carolina, Colorado, or Virginia, we knocked on neighbor’s doors with these treats. They were always a big hit and gave me comfort by making a new place feel more like home. 

When I was younger, my brother and I often sat at the top of the stairs, listening to my mom clanging pots and spoons, anticipating our job in the cookie baking process—licking the chocolate spoon. After the chocolate chips, butter, and milk were melted, my mom called us down to help “clean up” the mixing tools. Over the years, making these cookies myself has become my go-to whether for bringing in dessert for a birthday at school or just baking with friends. People always ask for the recipe, and it’s so fun to be able to share such an easy dessert with family and friends! 

These cookies are so delicious because they are almost brownie-like, making them perfect for chocolate fanatics. Their deep chocolate flavor isn’t too rich, and each bite leaves you excited for the next. The chopped nuts add a nice crunch but are optional for a nut-free choice. Personally, I recommend pecans, but you can use walnuts, almonds, or whatever you prefer. Enjoy!

Ingredients:

  • 1 12 oz. package of semi-sweet chocolate chips 
  • 1 14 oz. can of sweetened condensed milk 
  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla 
  • 1 cup chopped nuts (optional)
  • 1 ¼ cup flour 
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder 
  • ¼ teaspoon salt 

Instructions

First, preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Fill up the bottom pot of a double boiler with approximately 3 inches of water and place the top pot inside. If you don’t have a double boiler, it is very easy to create a make-shift one! One way to do so is to place a heat-safe mixing bowl inside a pot, making sure that the bottom of the bowl does not touch the bottom of the pot. 

Next, turn on the stove to medium-high heat. When the water in the bottom pot begins to boil, mix the chocolate chips, sweetened condensed milk, and butter in the top pot of the double boiler. Continuously stir until a smooth, melted mixture forms. Turn off the stove, remove the top pot, and set aside. Then, add the vanilla and the chopped nuts to the melted mixture.

In a separate bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together. Add the dry ingredients to the melted chocolate mix and stir until it is well mixed. Next, lightly grease a cookie tray with cooking spray. Use a scooper to scoop out teaspoon-size balls of batter. Drop the gooey chocolate balls onto the tray, and place the tray into the oven. Bake for 10 minutes, or until the cookies are crisp on the outside, and remove from the oven. Let the cookies cool for 2-3 minutes, then serve. 

This recipe makes about 2 and a half dozen cookies. Enjoy!

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Valeria’s Baked Beet Falafels

This is the thirty-fifth installment in Mucho Gusto, a recipe initiative by and for students to help connect us through food in times of isolation. If you’ve got a recipe you think would make a great addition, reach out to us!

With their vibrant, eccentric color and the stereotypical belief that they taste like dirt,  beets tend to scare people away. This bright red root vegetable grows below the soil just like carrots and radishes. Thus, the common misconception is that the soil perforates into the beetroot, giving the vegetable its characteristic earthy taste and smell. 

Beets should not be judged by their cover. Some people, like me, love this rich, natural flavor. They have a distinct sweet and bitter tang and along with a vivacious color that gives an extra pop to any dish. Beets are actually one of my favorite vegetables! I vividly remember being 5 years old, eating roasted beets for lunch. I absolutely loved the vegetable that left my tongue and lips stained pink. 

Beets are believed to have originated along the coasts of the Mediterranean and are presently used in various food recipes, as a dye or colorant, and even in medicine. They have a lot of health benefits and an impressive nutritional value. They are low in calories and are a natural antioxidant containing a bit of each of the vitamins and minerals that a human needs. 

In this recipe I chose to ignore beets’ controversial flavor and experiment with one of my favorite Middle Eastern dishes, Falafel, to create a healthy snack. Falafels are known as a very versatile street food because there are multiple ways to eat it and can be easily combined with other flavors. They are usually deep fried balls or patties made primarily with chickpeas but I decided to give them a healthy twist by baking them and mixing beets into the batter.

Ingredients:

  • 2 raw beets, peeled and diced
  • ½ red onion, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
  • 2 tbsp of cilantro leaves
  • 1 can of chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • ½ cup of rice flour (you can make this yourself by grinding up ½ cup of uncooked rice in the blender)
  • 1 tbsp of lemon juice
  • ½ tsp of salt
  • ⅛ tsp of ground cumin

Instructions:

Boil the raw beets for 10 minutes or until a fork goes through them easily. Drain the beets and set them aside to cool. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit and lightly grease two 12 hole muffin pans and set aside. 

Place the diced red onions, minced garlic, and cilantro leaves in a blender or food processor and blend at a low speed for 10 seconds. Add the cooked beets, chickpeas, rice flour, lemon juice, salt and cumin to the blender and blend until everything is chunky but still well mixed. The small chunks will add extra crunchiness to the falafel. 

Using your hands, divide the batter into golf ball sized balls and place each ball into the individual holes of the muffin pans. Beware– your hands will become stained in pink from handling the batter! Gently press down the small balls to form patties.

Bake the patties for 12-15 minutes or until the falafel starts to crack. Cool the falafels for 5 minutes before removing them from the muffin pan. It is imperative that you do not remove the falafels before they have cooled so that the falafels do not break or crack.

This recipe pairs well with a cucumber and yogurt dip, which gives the falafel patties creaminess and freshness in contrast to the dense beet falafels. 

This recipe usually makes 24 beet falafel patties.

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Maya’s Guatemalan Tacos

This is the thirty-fourth installment in Mucho Gusto, a recipe initiative by and for students to help connect us through food in times of isolation. If you’ve got a recipe you think would make a great addition, reach out to us!

Odds are you’ve probably indulged in a classic taco from a Mexican restaurant. With a perfect balance of crunch, spice, salt, and a hint of gooey, melted cheese, tacos are an incredibly popular dish that many enjoy—how could you not? Tacos are iconic pockets of bold, authentic flavor that are undeniably loved by all. 

But, what about a rolled taco? One that is even crispier and crunchier, fried to golden perfection? I’m not talking about the taquitos in your freezer (although those are a guilty pleasure!), but rather my family’s favorite recipe—Guatemalan tacos. Yes, Guatemala has its own version of tacos, and they are actually quite different from the Mexican ones that you know and love. Simple but always satisfying, these tacos require just a few staple ingredients from Guatemalan culture. Tasty corn tortillas are filled with savory meat and rolled into a flavorful food vessel. The experience is comforting and familiar, yet captivating; each crunchy bite becomes more and more irresistible. It is no wonder that this favorite is both a great appetizer and a rich, satiating meal. 

Traditional Guatemalan cuisine is derived from the Mayans, with influence from the Spanish. The diverse gastronomy usually involves some of Guatemala’s most famous native crops: corn, chiles, beans, and avocados. In name, the dishes are similar to those of Mexico, but the resemblance stops there; the recipes are unique to each region and vary from town to town. 

Guatemalan tacos are typically eaten at the refacción time, which is a short break in the day for workers to enjoy a snack, or refaccionar. This meal in particular was practically my introduction to my Guatemalan heritage, as it is one of the first traditional plates I had and loved as a child. It was a way to connect me with my family’s home country from miles away in our own kitchen. So, though this dish may sound a little unfamiliar, I promise you it will still be a crowd-pleaser. 

Moreover, this recipe is dynamic and easy to adapt. I followed the traditional route, a recipe that is tried-and-true in my family, using beef and a spicy tomato salsa. Other variations can be made using different dipping sauces, such as guacamole and tomato or chile sauce, and different fillings can be used as well, such as chicken or potato. The possibilities are endless and delicious!

Ingredients: 

  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 20-25 corn tortillas
  • 2 large Roma tomatoes, chopped
  • ½ cup Spanish onions, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
  • ½ green bell pepper, chopped
  • About 1 cup Canola oil (approximately ½ cup per 10 tortillas)
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Optional Salsa Picante:

  • 3 large tomatoes, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • ½ cup Spanish onions, chopped finely
  • 2 green onions, chopped finely
  • ½ green bell pepper, chopped
  • ½ Chile Guajillo
  • ½ Chile de Árbol
  • ¼ cup of water

Instructions: 

Start by cooking the ground beef in a pan. In a separate pan, sauté the garlic, onions, green bell pepper, and tomatoes in butter until all the water is absorbed, forming a paste. Then, add this paste to the beef. Mix the ingredients all together and cook over medium heat until the meat is fully cooked. This step should take approximately 15 minutes. 

In another pan, begin heating the oil over medium heat. Meanwhile, warm up your tortillas over low heat, 2 at a time, with one on top of the other. Traditionally in Guatemalan culture, a comal is used, but a pan works as well. Flip the tortillas so that both sides are evenly cooked. Add 1-1 ½ heaping spoonfuls of the meat mixture to the edge of the tortilla. This is the key to the rolling process. Once you put the meat at this one edge, tightly roll the tortilla around the meat, going to the other end, like a wrap. It usually helps to use toothpicks to keep it tight. The folded side of the tortilla then goes into the hot oil to prevent unraveling and keep the roll intact. Fry each taco for about 4-5 minutes in medium heat. Be sure to evenly coat and fry every side of the tortilla by carefully rotating it during the frying process, making sure the roll is held together. It will become easier as the tortilla crisps up.

Traditionally, the tacos are served with steamed cabbage, tomato salsa, chile sauce, guacamole, onions, Guatemalan cheese, and chopped parsley. However, in my family, we garnish them with cilantro, fresh cheese, and most importantly, the salsa picante. Salsa picante is made with tomatoes, garlic, onions, green pepper, and two kinds of chile peppers: Chile Guajillo and Chile de Árbol. Simmer the ingredients over medium heat for 30 minutes until very little water remains. After cooling, blend everything to a smooth, liquid consistency, thus forming the classic red sauce. 

This recipe makes about 20-25 rolled Guatemalan tacos. Enjoy!

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Mucho Gusto

Prashanti’s Boondi Laddus

This is the thirty-third installment in Mucho Gusto, a recipe initiative by and for students to help connect us through food in times of isolation. If you’ve got a recipe you think would make a great addition, reach out to us!

When I was a little girl, I absolutely loved going to sweet shops when visiting my family in India. A wide grin across my face, I would stare in awe at the rows and rows of sweets in the store, most of which were not available in the United States. The sugary smell that filled the store made me giddy. I was instantly drawn to the sweets’ bright colors and different shapes. I distinctly remember going to the sweet shop at 7 years old, seeing boondi laddus in the display case, being taken aback by their sweet aroma and shiny appearance, and begging my parents to buy me one. I loved that the boondi laddus were made up of tiny droplets, almost like puzzle pieces. I was mesmerized by the fact that the boondi, something I had only ever eaten in savory foods, could be used to make something, laddus, so sweet and delicious.

Boondis are small droplets of fried besan flour batter that are used to make many different Indian snacks, both sweet and savory. Some people season the boondi with a small amount of salt and chile powder and eat it with diced yellow onions and finely chopped green chiles. Others go one step further and add this delicious combination to raita, a traditional Indian yogurt dipping sauce. My favorite way to prepare boondi is to make boondi laddus.

Laddus are heavenly Indian sweets that are made from sugar, oil or fat (ghee), and a base, which can be anything from besan flour to rava to boondi. Laddus come in all sizes and colors and are the staple of many different Indian festivals and holidays, including Diwali. While there are many types of laddus, I like boondi laddus the best because they deliciously pair the crispiness of the boondi pairs with sugar-water syrup.

Ingredients:

  • 1 ⅔ cups besan (chickpea) flour 
  • 2 ⅓ cups water 
  • 4-5 cups vegetable oil or melted ghee 
  • Handful of golden raisins 
  • ½ tbsp. ghee (clarified butter)
  • ½ tsp. cardamom powder
  • 1 ⅔  cups sugar 
  • Optional: food coloring
  • Optional: a handful of nuts (such as almonds, cashews, and pistachios)

Supplies:

Instructions:

To make the boondi, add 1 cup of water to the besan flour in a mixing bowl and use the spatula to stir. This should form a batter with a similar consistency to that of pancake batter. If the batter is too thick, add a little more water; if the batter is too thin, add a little more besan flour. Some people choose to add food coloring to the batter so that the final product is bright and colorful. Let the batter sit for at least 20 minutes at room temperature. 

Pour the vegetable oil in the large pot and heat; this should take at least 10 minutes. To add more flavor, some people prefer to use ghee for this step instead. After heating the oil for several minutes, drop a small amount of the boondi batter into the oil. When the batter rises to the top, the oil is hot enough to use. Once the oil reaches the appropriate temperature, pour the batter into the oil through the skimmer. Doing this should cause small droplets of batter to form as they fall into the pot. Fry these droplets for approximately 30 seconds or until golden. Use the skimmer to remove the boondi from the oil. Let the boondi cool while proceeding to the next step. You can either dispose of the oil or use it to deep fry other foods.

Pouring the boondi batter through a skimmer

Finely chop the assortment of nuts. For this recipe, I prefer almonds and cashews. People also like to include pistachios, but you do not need to include any nuts to make the boondi laddus. In a small pan, heat the ghee until it melts completely. When the ghee is hot, add the finely chopped nuts and the golden raisins and roast for a few minutes. The nuts should be lightly browned and the raisins should become “plump” because they absorb some of the melted ghee. Set the roasted nuts and raisins aside for now. It is very easy to burn the nuts, so make sure you are paying attention! 

On a stove, in a different large pot, add the sugar to 1 ⅓ cups of water on medium heat. Once the sugar dissolves, add the cardamom powder and bring the mixture to a boil until the sugar-water mixture forms a sticky syrup of sorts. Use the spatula to periodically mix the sugar-water syrup as it boils. The sugar-water syrup must be the correct consistency or else you will not be able to properly shape the laddus. If the sugar-water mixture is too thin, the boondi will not be able to absorb all of the syrup; if the sugar-water mixture is too thick, there will be too little syrup to coat the boondi. One way to determine if the sugar-water mixture is the correct consistency is to observe how the mixture falls off the spatula. When lifting the spatula above the sugar-water mixture, if the mixture on the spatula falls off in a continuous stream, the mixture is too thin and still needs to be reduced. Conversely, you can tell that the sugar-water mixture is the correct consistency if it forms small droplets as it falls off the spatula. 

Next, add the boondi to the pot and stir with a spatula until every droplet is coated in the syrup. Add the roasted nuts and golden raisins from before and stir. Make sure the nuts and raisins are evenly dispersed throughout the boondi mixture. After 1 minute has passed, remove the boondi mixture from heat. 

To form the laddus, take a small handful of the mixture and mold it into a ball. The best way to do this is by placing a small handful of boondi mixture in one hand and placing your other hand directly on top of the handful of boondi mixture you are already holding. Continuously press the boondi mixture in your hands until a firm ball forms. If you do not press the boondi mixture hard enough or long enough, the shape of the laddu will not be spherical. It may also be helpful to put a little bit of oil on your hands before working with the boondi mixture. It is important to do this step as quickly as possible so that the sugar-water syrup does not dry up before you form the balls. Be careful while doing this step, as the mixture is still a little bit hot. Let the boondi laddus harden for a minimum of 4 hours. These sweets do not need to be eaten right away and can last for up to 1 month if they are stored in an airtight container at room temperature. Enjoy! 

Recipe adapted from CookingShooking’s Boondi Ladoo Recipe | Easy Perfect Boondi Laddu – Indian Sweets, Everything Explained,Halwai Secrets

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Mucho Gusto

Allison’s Pesto Bruschetta

This is the thirty-second installment in Mucho Gusto, a recipe initiative by and for students to help connect us through food in times of isolation. If you’ve got a recipe you think would make a great addition, reach out to us!

In my big, Italian family, we crave our pesto, olive oil, and bread. Pronounced broo-skeh-tah, this Italian appetizer is extremely popular around the world. Bruschetta is actually just a name for toasted bread, but the classic version usually includes tomatoes and a drizzle of olive oil. 

There is no clear origin, but bruschetta is centuries old, possibly dating back to the Ancient Romans. For years, it was a simple snack, just stale bread and tomatoes, that was eaten by farmers and workers doing intense manual labor. It’s served far and wide across the Italian peninsula today, but the toppings vary in the different regions. For example, in Tuscany, bruschetta is usually topped with chicken liver or kale. In Abruzzo, they use salami. 

My family prefers this pesto version, which has been with us for as long as I can remember. Plenty of cooking and tasting has led us to conclude that these measurements and combinations work best! Regardless of the recipe you choose, the most important part of a good bruschetta is having the right ingredients. The key is using fresh mozzarella, high-quality olive oil, and good bread.

Over the past few years, my cousins, brother, and I have taken over the bruschetta making and mastered it. Whether it’s over holidays, family dinners, or our annual family beach trip, we make this recipe. I truly believe that cooking and working in the kitchen together is one of the best ways to bring a family closer to each other. There are many ways to make bruschetta, but I promise this Vuono classic will not disappoint. 

Ingredients:

  • 1 baguette, long
  • 1 lb fresh mozzarella cheese 
  • ½ cup sun-dried tomatoes 
  • ½ cup walnuts 
  • ⅔ cup olive oil (extra-virgin)
  • ½ cup grated parmesan-reggiano cheese 
  • 2 cups fresh basil leaves
  • ¼ tsp pepper 
  • ½ tsp salt 
  • 2 cloves of garlic, chopped 

Instructions:  

First, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Slice the baguette into ½ inch thick pieces. On a baking tray, toast the baguette slices in the oven for approximately 2 minutes, or until slightly crisp and golden. Flip the slices over, and toast for another minute. Turn off the oven, remove the slices, and set them aside while preparing the pesto. 

Place the walnuts and garlic inside a food processor and process for approximately 15 seconds or until finely chopped. Next, add in the salt, pepper, and basil. Process for 1 minute or until the mixture forms a creamy paste. Add the parmesan-reggiano cheese and olive oil to the mixture, and blend for another 30 seconds or until smooth. If the pesto is too thick, add olive oil, one tablespoon at a time, until the preferred consistency is reached.

Once the pesto is ready for plating, slice the mozzarella cheese into ¼ inch slices and the sun dried tomatoes into halves. To assemble, spread the pesto on a toasted bread slice, add a piece of mozzarella, and top with a sun dried tomato. Repeat for each slice, serve, and enjoy!

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Mucho Gusto

Valeria’s Tuna Tartare

This is the thirty-first installment in Mucho Gusto, a recipe initiative by and for students to help connect us through food in times of isolation. If you’ve got a recipe you think would make a great addition, reach out to us!

If you’re looking to achieve Michelin star chef status at your next small gathering, it’s time to stop shying away from preparing raw fish. Try out this straightforward tuna tartare recipe, and you’ll surely leave your guests in pure amazement.

I recently made this tangy recipe for my family after coming home from the beach on a scorching hot day, and I can assure you it’s the perfect summer dish to soothe burnt skin and excite tired taste buds.

Ingredients:

  • 1 4-6 oz frozen yellowfin tuna steak 
  • 1 ripe Hass avocado
  • ½ mango
  • 1 tsp thinly chopped scallions (green onions)
  • 2 tsp soy sauce (or coconut aminos for a low sodium alternative) 
  • 2 tsp citrus ponzu sauce
  • A pinch of salt
  • Optional: a pinch of black sesame seeds
  • Optional: a few plantain chips for decoration and crunch

Instructions:

Begin by using a sharp knife to slice the whole tuna steak into pieces about the size of your nail. I recommend freezing the tuna steak prior to making the dish, as it allows the fish to stay compact and tender while you cut it into small cubes. Once you finish slicing, place the tuna cubes into a medium-sized bowl. 

Cut the avocado in half lengthwise and remove the pit. Leaving the flesh inside the skin, use the knife to cut even lines both horizontally and vertically, making little squares. Use a spoon to scoop the flesh out of each avocado half and add it to the bowl containing the sliced tuna. Then, dice the mango into small pieces about the same size as both the tuna and avocado. Thinly chop the scallions. Add both ingredients into the bowl. 

Add the coconut aminos or soy sauce, the citrus ponzu sauce, and salt to the bowl. Use a spoon to mix everything together thoroughly. 

Viola! Now you’re ready to plate.

The key to excellence in this recipe is creativity in your plating. I recommend using a mold or cookie cutter to firmly pack the tuna tartare in the center of the plate. I used a pinch of black sesame seeds to decorate and served the dish with a few plantain chips for some extra crunchiness that paired perfectly with the tenderness of the fish.

This recipe makes about 2 servings.

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Mucho Gusto

Prashanti’s Homemade Ice Cream

This is the thirtieth installment in Mucho Gusto, a recipe initiative by and for students to help connect us through food in times of isolation. If you’ve got a recipe you think would make a great addition, reach out to us!

It’s a hot summer day, and the school year has just ended. My friends and I are walking towards the local ice cream shop, celebrating our first official day of freedom as all our responsibilities from the school year wash away. For a split second, it feels as if we are all little kids again. The first bite is heavenly, taking us back to our youth and innocence. 

Many of my best childhood memories involved eating ice cream, whether at parties or just with friends. When I was in elementary school, I often begged my parents to buy an ice cream cake for my birthday. I believe that no matter where you’re from in the world, you’re bound to love ice cream, so today, I am sharing a simple recipe for a homemade version of the treat. This is a cookies and cream flavored ice cream that can easily be modified to your liking. 

Time: 4 hours & 10 minutes total 

Ingredients & Supplies: 

1 medium mixing bowl 

1 hand blender or mixer

1 rubber spatula

1 rolling pin 

1 Ziplock bag 

1 cup heavy cream  

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

⅓ can of sweetened condensed milk (approximately 5 oz.)

Optional: 4-5 Biscoff cookies, or any type of cookie (Oreos, chocolate chip cookies, etc.)

Instructions:

Add the heavy cream to a medium mixing bowl. Use a mixer or hand blender to mix the heavy cream until it forms whipped cream. Be careful not to blend the heavy cream too much as it will form butter instead. 

Add the vanilla extract and sweetened condensed milk. Use the mixer or hand blender to mix the ingredients together until they are well combined. If the mixture is not sweet enough, add more sweetened condensed milk to taste. 

Place 4-5 Biscoff cookies in a Ziplock bag, and use a rolling pin to crush the cookies. Add the crumbled cookies to the whipped cream mixture. Use a rubber spatula to incorporate the bite-sized cookie pieces into the mixture. If you prefer, you can skip this step and make plain vanilla ice cream instead. 

Freeze the whipped cream mixture for a minimum of 4 hours before eating. Freezing overnight produces the best result. 

Adapted from Eitan Bernath’s  “Four Ingredients Oreo Ice Cream”