बर्फी (Barfi) - Pistachio Barfi and Coconut Barfi

Last Saturday was दिवाली (Diwali), or festival of lights, celebrated in India and around the world. My friend Nidhi hosted a large party at her house and instructed my friend Emera and I to bring बर्फी (barfi), a fudge-like Indian sweet made with milk, sugar, and a variety of flavorings. While Emera and I both enjoy barfi, neither of us had actually made it previously, so we weren't sure how our attempt would turn out. For our first barfi, we decided to try pistachio barfi.

While the ingredients for barfi are simple - milk, sugar, butter, and pistachios - there is quite a lot of time involved in cooking it down from milk to fudge. Luckily, Emera and I were able to switch off and at times her husband even came in to relieve us. Although the finished product came out a bit gooeier than barfis we'd had in India and here in the States (one person described it as more of a halwa - a thick pudding), it was delicious! In the future, we might try grinding the pistachios even finer or perhaps cooking down the mixture a bit longer. However, even if you aren't able to get a firm, dryish barfi, this recipe yields a tasty treat.

This week, I tried a different recipe for barfi - this one using ricotta cheese and sweetened condensed milk in place of the milk and sugar and coconut instead of pistachios. In addition, the recipe calls for layering two different colors of barfi together. This time around, the barfi came out firmer - although still not quite as dry as what I've had in the past. However, it did cut well, hold its shape, and tasted very nice. More experiementation and repetition is needed, but both recipes yielded positive results. You can store barfi in tightly-sealed containers in the refrigerator for at least a month - use wax paper to separate the layers of cut pieces.

Pistachio Barfi (~ 20-30 pieces)
2 cups milk
3/4 cup sugar
2 cups shelled roasted pistachios (unsalted), processed into a fine powder
2 T. ghee or unsalted butter
2-3 drops केवड़ा (kewda or kevra) water [iris water]
1-2 drops green food coloring, if desired

1. Butter the bottom and sides of an 8 x 8 or 9 x 9 square dish and set aside.

2. Combine milk and sugar in large saucepan and heat over medium-high heat, stirring constantly. Continue heating and stirring until mixture is much thickened and reduced to ~ 1/2 cup.

3. Reduce heat to medium, add pistachios and ghee. Continue heating and stirring until mixture begins to form a ball and pull away from the sides of the pan.

4. Stir in iris water and food coloring. Press mixture into buttered dish and refrigerate until completely cooled. Cut into square or diamond-shaped pieces.

Coconut Burfi (~ 48 pieces)
6 T. unsalted butter
2 lbs. part-skim ricotta cheese
1 14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup sweetened shredded coconut + additional coconut for topping
2-3 drops red food coloring

1. Process the coconut in a food processor until very fine; set aside.

2. Heat the butter in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. When butter is melted, add the ricotta cheese and lower the heat to medium. Continue cooking, stirring frequently, until liquid evaporates - about 20-25 minutes.

3. Add the sweetened condensed milk and continue cooking and stirring until the mixture begins to thicken and pull away from the sides of the pan - about 10 minutes. Add the 1/2 cup processed coconut and continue cooking until all liquid is evaporated - about 5 minutes.

4. Pour about half of the mixture into a 9 x 13 pan and use a spatula to spread into a smooth, even layer. Add food coloring to the remaining mixture and stir thoroughly, until the remaining mixture is pink. Pour the pink layer over the white layer and use the spatula to spread it into a smooth, even layer.

5. Sprinkle additional coconut on top and refrigerate until completely cooled. Cut into square or diamond-shaped pieces.


Tomato - Basil Soup

Today I went out to Larriland Farms in Woodbine, MD to take advantage of some of their fall bounty (you may remember Larriland as the inspiration for July's berry spectacular). This time around, I got apples (stayman, jonamac, braeburn, cameo, fuji, and ida red), yellow raspberries, and tomatoes. The apples will have to wait their turn, but I immediately harvested some basil from the windowsill and whipped up a batch of tomato-basil soup. While that simmered, I fashioned the golden raspberries into a crisp (using a halved version of my recipe for peach-ginger crisp). This soup is a great finish to a fall day spent at the farm with friends - and I'll freeze some of the leftovers for deep winter, when I need a bit of sunshine.

Tomato - Basil Soup (enough for a meal and for freezing)
6 -7 lbs. fresh tomatoes, sliced (and peeled and seeded, if you prefer)
1 cup fresh basil
1-2 tsp. black pepper, or to taste
1-2 tsp. salt, or to taste
1 T. olive oil
1 small rind of parmiggiano-reggiano cheese
1 cup milk or cream

1. Use a food processor to puree the tomatoes and basil. For a smoother soup, strain the liquid and reprocess the remaining mash before proceeding.

2. Stir together tomato/basil puree, pepper, salt, olive oil, and cheese rind in a large stockpot. Bring to low boil over medium heat, reduce to medium-low and simmer for 30 minutes.

3. Add milk and continue to simmer (do not boil) for 10 more minutes. Remove any remaining cheese rind.

4. Ladle into bowls and serve! This soup goes well with grilled cheese (of course!), a crust bread, or tortilla chips. Store leftovers in the refrigerator or freeze for the bleak midwinter.