Oct 30, 2009

Awards and Give aways... in Tarramtoo!!


A big thanks to all those you suggested some fabulous ideas. To the uninitiated, here is a quick recap.

I was unable to decide on a Halloween special recipe and I wanted to give away a small pack of whole all-spice , the last of the three packs my grandmother gifted me when I visited India last summer. It was from the local spice store. 




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In truth only two of my good blog friends: Nat and Ramona. Both of you suggested such different recipes and their variations that it was difficult for me to figure which one I like. So we have to divide the give away, ladies. So the give away  goes to 


2. Ramona of The japanese redneck.

Thank you ladies and I will soon post the pictures of how they turn out by tomorrow :).


Now, to awards.

Any guesses on the name Tarramtoo? Well, as a child Sunday used to be a big television day for me, my sister and my friends. We would all watch our sunday shows together over mid day snacks. Almost no homework that morning. It was gorgeous. The very popular shows used to be between 9-10.30 AM. Followed by rather boring shows later on. However, me and sister used to watch this show-- very tacky-- by today's standards and even then. But we used to love watching it. It was about a few people in animal costumes who lived in a village (a single room) and would live and enjoy just by themselves . They would mimic a close knit animal society..much like the jungle book.

So this one show had an award ceremony going on..where one person gives awards to others in the animal village..for being what they were and helping the small community by being themselves.  This little room/ society was called Tarramtoo. So was the name of the show.

I always refer to close-knit-fun-people-communities as Tarramtoo. Food blog community is one such Tarramtoo. Where we live, share and give awards and learn so much...enjoyment being the bottom line. I am truly lucky to be a part of such a great community  and here is where I pass on the awards (my very first ones too).

I got the this award from Rebecca of Chow and Chatter



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I adore this one (it is special for it is my first one) and would like to pass it on to a few people whose blogs and recipes I enjoy thoroughly

Eat live travel and write :- lovely style of writing and great stories to boot

Erica of my columbian recipes:- She is a goddess. Makes me go yum yum every-time I read her simple posts. Also columbian recipes has such similarity to bengali food. At least ingredient wise :)

Natashya of living in the Kitchen with puppies: She should be into food business and her fantastic food photographs

Ancoo's hobby: Love her simple japanese dishes. Made some last friday! Turned out great. Will write about this one day

Nat of Girls are made of :- She is my heart throb. Her blogs make me smile and think that life is after all simple and cute.

And the following award (my second and very precious) is from Nat of Girls are made of. Thanks a lot for your encouragement!



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And I would like to give it to a few people whom I have come to know over this short period (52 blog posts) and whose comments mean so very much to me

Trish at Mad Chemist : I like her inputs and suggestions and her cooking style

Palidor at Crazy asian girl : Thanks for your support and her blog is one which I frequent almost everyday. Good asian food

Ramona at Japanese red neck : her honest comments help me with my recipe. Also I adore her new horse stories!

The Ungourmet: Lovely writing and nice recipes

Fairy Footprints: Great blog lay out. How do you do it? :)

Thanks everyone for it has been most so pleasurable for me!

It is friday evening...almost. The table will be empty tonight. The fantastic food and dinners have all been gobbled up over the week.  But have no fear..for its going to be monday soon and we will all be back -- with scary stories, fun and Recipes! For now, the ghosts are about to creep out. Let us grab our costumes and dance with the devils... get intoxicated with spirits over bonfires under the starry sky, beneath warm quilts and marshmallow smells...






Happy Halloween

Boo!













Oct 29, 2009

A Question...A give-away ...and a fall afternoon


I have a question. I have been meaning to bake something spicy for Halloween this year. And I still have not been able to make up my mind. And now it is upon me and there is still nothing that I have put in the oven :(  And the reason is not because there are not enough recipes going around. In fact, quite the opposite. I had been meaning to make one of the many that I have bookmarked. But I am so confused. They are all soooo good!!
But what I am really looking for is something quick and exotic enough to be scary..but not too complicated. Knowing my inability to stick to instruction, the easier they are the better I may fare :)

So I have come to you all to help me out on this one. And there is a cute give- away too involved.  A pack of whole all spice-- that my grandmother had gifted me from a local spice shop in the town where I have grown up. I have the last packet left. So I am going to send some of it (since I want to use a bit of it too!) along with a lot of gratitude to the person who will suggest a quickie for me for this Halloween.  It does not have to be your own recipe either. Any thing will do!

Okay a bit about this local spice shop. I have forever associated the smell of a new pack of spice to this place. It was the only spice shop which  I have visited in my life and that smell is hardwired into my senses. For one thing this place also has huge old grinders in which they would grind spices, in the shop. You could see it. I have seen actually how they grind turmeric, cayenne pepper, cumin, mustard ...oh coriander. And there used to be a curious smell of all of these together whenever I passed by it. A real curious smell.

And at times I find myself hankering for the smell. And when I do, this is what I make. Not to say that  this dish smells exactly like that shop, although it uses quite a few of the spices that they grind in that shop, but it makes me feel like home..cosy and sweet in the winter sunshine, dry chapped lips, dusty roads and light rugs to snuggle into with a thriller...the smell of the kitchen and spices light in the breezy room upstairs..

Ingredients:

All the veggies you can think of. I use
1 big potato- sliced up
half a head of cauliflower- separate them into small flowers and discard most of the green stalk.
1 medium eggplant. Chopped up
A handful of green beans. Chopped up
A cup of green peas- frozen or freshly peeled. If you are using frozen, soak them in water for 10 minutes.

1 big tomato. Halve it and scoop out the seeds. Will help retain crunchiness and flavor while cooking. Then chop it up.
1 tbsf grated ginger. Fresh is best

Now comes the spices. Ah....

1 tsp of whole cumin
1 tbsf coriander powder
1 tbsf cumin powder
1/4 tsp of turmeric
1/4 th tsp of cayenne pepper. Optional. Use if you like heat.


4 tbsf regular oil
4.5 cups of water or vegetable stock. Its best to use warm water. If using veg stock, take it out of the refrigerator 30 minutes before using it. The warmth of the water/ stock helps seal in flavors.

Salt to taste.

Here is how..

Soften the potatoes  cauliflower and the eggplants in the microwave at high for 3 minutes. Take a big big non stick pot. Heat the oil in it. When hot, add the whole cumin. Wait for ~ 10 secs or for the aroma. Add the potatoes and cauliflowers, followed by eggplants, followed by beans. Wait a couple of minutes before adding each set. In that interval, saute and cover.

Alternatively, you can roast all the veggies ( coat them with a tsp of oil) in the oven at  400 F for 15 minutes  and add them to the pot once your cumin has given off the aroma.

Once all the veggies are in the pot, just saute and cover for a 3 minutes, checking to make sure the bottom does not burn. Add the tomato, ginger, coriander, cumin, turmeric cayenne pepper, peas and water/ vegetable stock.  Give everything one big stir and bring to a boil. Best done by keeping the pot covered. Helps quick cooking and retaining the flavor. Lower heat and simmer for ~ 7-8 minutes. Season with salt! and take it off the stove

And have it as a veg soup with bread. You can also use it as a veggie dish on warm rice. You know just talking about it wants me go back home right now and have this one. And I do believe that no one can make it as good as my grandmother does. But its a great dish. Especially for a weekend lunch on a sunny and cold fall afternoon. ....

Sorry, I have no pictures :) I wrote this down as without any plans for it. Just came to me while I was talking about the spice shop :)


Happy eating and healthy living

Oct 28, 2009

Chicken liver-- made Italian


It was just a day...but felt like an ages since I have written. A seminar was the mad culprit. Anyway, that is in the past tense now and feels good to be back to known territory :) Question is, what am I to write about ? Well, I have a few recipes to share..just wondering about my mood, so that I can do justice to that recipe of which I will write today. And by justice I mean make it sound and look as good as it is!

Each one is :)
Okay..guess it shall have to be a quickie.

Ever tried livers? Chicken, beef, lamb? In some cuisines, I feel, they occupy a very important place. Especially cultures and cuisines borne out of shepherd communities. Apparently, shepherds were reluctant to discard any part of the animal that serves as food. And hence came up with interesting recipes to make livers. A few good examples would be Turkey, Israeli, Ethiopian (as a matter of fact all north African nations), Pakistani and Indian cuisine as well. However, I have to admit that I am not a very big fan of liver cooked in any of these cuisines. All of these look very rich and overly spicy. Something I am not terribly a fan of. Except maybe plain oven fries. Which, as we all know, are definitely not a delicacy particular to any region of the world.

However, having said that I must also admit that I adore livers and I have been making quite a lot livers-- mostly chicken livers-- my way. And that way, interestingly is very Italian in its flavor. Lots of herbs going around. A hint of mustard..maybe coconut. All of this adding to the very strong flavor of livers, make for a very interesting side dish. And to think this recipe and its minor variations are really my own creation, makes me very happy to present it to you

Its also a very cheap source of protein and Iron.

So lets get into the guts of this dish and see how it turns out.

Ingredients:

1 lb chicken liver. You can also use lamb or beef livers


3-4 cloves of garlic. Minced. You can vary the amount of garlic to your liking

1 medium size onion. Chopped

1 big tbsf Paprika

half a tsp of grated ginger

1 big spring of fresh rosemary. You can substitute with half a tsp of dried rosemary too.


2 tsp of lime juice

4 cups of water

2 tsp of good quality olive oil

Two big handful of bread crumbs with Italian seasoning.

Salt and freshly ground pepper for seasoning

Parley for garnishing

Its really easy to do

Clean the chicken livers (they look a little intimidating with red color, but don't worry, its just how livers look! Nothing gross or dirty :)). Place the livers along with the rosemary and grated ginger in a pot. Add the water to it and bring it to a boil over high heat. Boil fora good 15 minutes.  Once done ( the livers will look firmer and will have lost their deep red color), drain off the  water and scoop up the livers. Let them cool for 5 minutes and then chop each into small pieces.

In a skillet, heat the oil. Lower heat and add the onion. Saute for 3-4 minutes till they just start to brown up. A quick tip: If you want to brown up onion in less oil, lower the heat and saute the onions. Do not move about as much so as to let the color develop. Add the minced garlic and chopped up liver and saute for a good 4-5 minutes. Add the paprika. When they look mixed up enough, add the lime juice and bread crumb.  Give a mib stir to miz everything. Wait a beat. Mildly season with salt and pepper. Remember that bread crumbs already have a lot of seasoning in it. And take it off the stove.

Garnish with parsley. And serve warm with Pita bread.

A very good and healthy side dish to go with your wine. And left overs..always go as fillers into sammies for me :)





Happy eating and healthy living


Oct 26, 2009

Cilantro-Cumin Chicken-- creates life long memories


It sure feels great to hit Monday. For one thing there is activity back on the food community. And it is terrific to read about all the culinary adventures of the weekend. Thanks for the weekend! Wait..wasn't I just saying that Monday was great..? :)

Mine was a regular one. By that of course I mean lots of adventures in kitchen land. And outside too. One of them being pumpkin carving. Here is what I have been up to




Not very scary..is he?

Back to my kitchen-land. I was making a lovely lentil. That involves boiling the lentils for some time. If you have ever worked with lentils, you will notice that it gives off a lovely waft of aroma after boiling for sometime. It so happened that right around that time I was mincing up some garlic. And both these flavors found their way into my senses..kind of like two white ghosts wafting into my brain...and created this wonder recipe. I could actually smell, taste and visualize this dish. I tell you it was quite an eerie experience..and given this time of the year, I guess it is to be expected :). Huh?

However, today I am not going to write about that. For one thing, I have yet to make it! It is still my fantasy right now. And this blog is not about fantasies. It is about hard work which shows and not :) That brings me to today's recipe. Which is neither my brainchild, nor did I cook  or arrange for the ingredients. But it is my favorite chicken recipe. And only one person knows how to make it  best. R. So yesterday, he was in charge of the kitchen. And yes, we have this fantastic recipe.

One word though. It might look similar to one recipe which I have posted earlier, when I was a newbie in this wonderful community. However, these two taste very different. Today's one is lovely in its spice combination and has got a cooked feel to it, although it takes almost no babysitting. A couple of layers of flavor going about it. The other one has a strong garlic- sour cream flavor, got a baked feel to it and definitely is less of an hassle to make. Similar looking. But very different tasting. And just one addition..no make it two, makes such a big difference. A spice and a cooking technique You will see. Just thought it was best to let you guys know beforehand.

Oh! before I plunge into the recipe..a little tit bit. I loved this recipe ever since I had it. And that ever since is not that long back. About three years back. R was visiting me in cambridge. I have mentioned this before that I used to live in a dorm. And I was not a cook those days. Just about did a few good dishes. So R came to visit and made this dish for me. It was a typical rainy cambridge evening. And I remember we both were sitting in the huge dorm kitchen-- by a stroke of luck it was without anybody else--alking about this and that while the chicken marinaded....the faint garlic-Cilantro smell wafting about casually...

This dish...always bring back the memory of the warm savory evening...while the world outside was wet and sad.

So here is to lovely, cosy and spicy memories!

Ingredients

1 lb  of chicken. Skin or with skin. Your choice. Boneless or with bone. Your choice. I would go with skinless, with bones.

2 small bunches of Cilantro. You can substitute partly or wholly with Parsley. I would definitely stick with  Cilantro. Since I love it sooo much. Remember to wash the cilantro/ Parsley. Apparently they can bear deadly germs and give you a bad case of food poisoning.

7-8 cloves of garlic- grated. You can vary as per your taste. But in this case, the more the merrier :)

2 green chili- chopped up. You can also use Jalapeno

2 tsp of whole cumin.

1 tsp of oil-- what a catch!!

1.5 cup of good quality yoghurt.

Salt to season

All you do is really...just marinade and cook


Make a coarse paste using the Cilantro/ Parsley, garlic, yoghurt. Marinade the chicken with this paste for  an hour. This is the only thing that is to be done. So we might as well be patient about it.

Heat the oil (1 tsp!) in a skillet. When hot, add the chili/ Jalapeno. Fry for ~ 30 secs. Add the whole cumin. Wait for 10 secs or till you smell aroma. Wow! And then add the marinaded chicken. Mix everything together.  Saute for a minute, lower and then simply cover and wait for 15-20 minutes. Give it a stir once in the mean time. After 20 minutes, uncover, and see if the water has dried up. There is water in the yoghurt :). If the chicken has reached desired consistency, season with salt, turn off heat

Serve with anything-- rice, bread, salad! Its all good. really light and flavorful. My favorite chicken dish.







Happy eating and healthy living!

Oct 23, 2009

Yoghurt fish..very traditionally gourmet


Another award!! This is clearly overwhelming for me. This time for my oldest blog friend, Nat of Girl's are made of.. . Thank you so so so very much Nat. This is such a super good week for me. Just plain super good. And this is my 50th post too! And all of this calls for another celebration. With nothing other than...you guessed right this time!

Fish :) There is a saying that Bengalis (that's me from West Bengal, India) cannot  thrive without fish and rice. For once I agree...about the fish part. Not the rice. I am an out and out bread person

One thing has always fascinated me. How come gourmet dishes are so much more easy to make than regular fares. e.g its easy to make clafoutis than a regular yoghurt cake. It is easier to make garlic spinach than say roasted veggies. I mean its counter intuitive. Right? Or maybe its me. I don't know. Well this has its upsides. Needless to say :). I make gourmet meals regularly. Simply because they are easier to make!!

This one is a gourmet, very authentic Bengali fish dish. As light as a couple of tsp of oil. And about 20 minutes in the kitchen. It is called 'doi maach' literally translating to yoghurt fish. Even for a fishy person like me (:), I can say for sure, that this is one of my all time favorite fish dishes. And its not a curry. Cos you use nothing more than cloves and yoghurt.  It ain't a curry unless you use a few spices together. Everyone with me on this? :)

Traditionally, it is made with fresh water fishes from which you can cut a big steak size chunks. But, of course that is never mandatory. You can use this with any fish of your choice. Will taste just as good. In all Bengali homes, this is a lunchtime delicacy, to be served with warm rice. Its almost never a dinner recipe. Because in India, lunch is the most important meal of the day. That culture is changing, of course, now. But hey..food wise that is such a calamity. There is something to a good hearty lunch followed by tea and siesta..if you have the time. For those good old days..of which I have had the luck of only reading in novels....

But...we can always evolve good food to meet our needs. Especially those that are  healthy and flavorful and easy to cook!  And this recipe does exactly that. The way I have changed a bit of the proportions will make it into a lovely dinner recipe, in time as short,.... as 20 minutes.

So here is to good old times...never really lost!

Ingredients:

1 big rainbow trout-- Cleaned and cut into four peices
A word about choice of the fish: I used Trout. But you can really use any thing. Best will be haddock and Salmon. I will not recommend Tilapia and Tuna and Flounder ..but I bet it should be fine as well. I just have never made this dish with anything other than Trout, salmon and Haddock.

1 medium onion- chopped very very fine or made into a crunchy paste in the food processor or blender. Do not use water.

1.5 cups of yoghurt
1 tsp of grated ginger

3-4 cloves
1 tsp of sugar
1 tsp of lime juice
1 cup of water
4 tsp  of oil

A big pinch of turmeric (optional) 
Turmeric gives only color to food. No flavor. So if you do not like yellow color feel free to opt out of it. Will make no difference.
A big pinch of cayenne pepper (optional).
This is for Heat. If you don't like it, just skip it. Use paprika instead :)

Lets do the drill:


Marinate the fish in a bit of salt, a pinch of turmeric and a pinch of cayenne pepper.

This next step is optional. If you like  a bit of crunch on fish, do this, otherwise just skip it.

Preheat oven to 500 F for 10 minutes. Drizzle just 2 tsp of oil ( one on each side) and place on a shallow baking tray. Bake for 15 minutes. You can adjust this time depending on the power of your oven. I use 15 minutes. Turn once. The fish will end up with a oven-fried feel.

If you want, you can opt out of the step and simply leave the fish marinated.

Meanwhile, heat the remaining oil in a skillet. When hot pop the cloves, taking care to remove the head before popping them in the skillet. Will lessen the chance of it popping out of the skillet :). Wait for a 10 secs, and add the minced or crushed onion and fry on medium for 3-4 minutes or till it turns a bit brown. Just a bit. Add the ginger and sugar. Fry for another minute or so. Lower heat and add the yoghurt, a pinch of turmeric and cayenne pepper. An important tip here. Never put yoghurt on a hot surface. It ruins the flavor of yoghurt and even burns its badly. I learnt it from terrible experience. So before putting in yoghurt always turn down the heat, wait a bit and then, carefully place the yoghurt in the skillet. 


Saute for a minute or so. Add lime juice and water and bring to a boil. The lime juice will take the milky smell out of the dish , leaving it fragrant :) Clever idea!  Add the baked or raw fish and continue cooking on low for 10 minutes. Go a little longer if you have not baked the fish beforehand. You can tell that fish is done, when it is all white. Season with salt. Remember you have already used some salt in marinading the fish. So add accordingly.


You are done! Serve with warm jasmine rice. And maybe some lovely tropical cocktail to go with it?






Happy eating and healthy living!



Oct 22, 2009

Spinach with Garlic...with eggplants! and an award :)


I got an award. This is almost unbelievable. Thanks to  Rebecca of Chow and Chatter for giving it to me. And to all of you who encourage me so much :) Life wouldn't be the same without all of you!

I was so happy yesterday with the news, that I decided to make something. Turned out I could not think really well..so had to revert back to a tried-and-tasted-recipe. But..make no mistake. It is one of my very best! And I am sure, all of you like some variant or the other of this. It is a gourmet appetizer. It has featured on n number of shows. It is nothing else but garlic spinach!! Who does not like it? But..here is the thing with mine. It features an extra something..take a guess?

None coming?..:) :)

EggPlants!! my favorite. Actually, my mom used to make this very delectable dish from a particular variety of leafy green, found in West Bengal and eggplants. The green is called 'Kalmi'. Kind of like baby spinach but a bit more spicy. It is commonly used as a delectable leafy green in side dishes, mostly vegetarian in west bengal. But also as stuffing and for flavoring up breads. Sometimes in gourmet samosas too :)

Sometime back..I don't know quite why, I decided to combine both. Make garlic spinach..with eggplants. It turned out super good. And since then, the saga is on :) Takes literally 10 minutes to make and it is always a hit with anyone I have had the pleasure of serving. It also serves as a quickie veggie for dinner. And how good is spinach as a source of Iron. The very best.

So here it is...your 10 minutes to stardom :) :) :)

Ingredients

A few big handfuls of good quality baby spinach

4-5 cloves of garlic. Mash em. Go easy if it is too much. You can also substitute with ginger ( half a tsp). But then we will have to re name that dish :)

3 tbsp of good quality of extra virgin olive oil

1 Medium size eggplant cut into bite size chunks

Salt and pepper for seasoning

Almonds for garnish (optional)


Our time starts now!

In a deep non stick skillet, heat the oil. Once oil is hot, reduce heat and add the mashed garlic cloves. Saute for a minute or garlic browns up slightly. Add the eggplants, saute and cover. This allows for the eggplants to quickly cook through in very less oil. Keep checking and sauting to prevent burning of the eggplants. Do this for ~ 7-minutes. Once eggplant is cooked through, add the spinach. Saute for 1 minute. No longer. Longer for make the greens look less crunchy and dry the sauce. So if you want that effect, by all means, go for another couple. But I like it a bit saucy :) Add the nuts. Season with salt and pepper. Take it off the stove.

10 minutes and you are done!! You were keeping time..weren't you ? :) :)

Serve with anything. I like to have it with good red wine.

How good is the fusion..eggplants with baby spinach and garlic and olive oil. And the best thing is ..everybody goes.."hmmm this tastes familiar..but..."










Happy eating and healthy living! how colorful is this!!

Oct 21, 2009

Green lentils-- the Tarka way


I am going to write about a recipe which is very popular in India. It is called 'Tadka Daal'-- which literally translates into 'Sautéing lentils or sprouts with spices'. It can be made into a gourmet dish or  a regular fare at roadside eateries or one which is served over Indian bread during family dinners. But all of of the variants are great to taste. The dish is vegetarian. And a bucket of good quality protein. But there is, a slight problem.

Time.

This one takes time. So if you are tired and want to walk in to a good but quick meal-- this isn't for you, at least today. If you are impatient, like me, its best not tried.  However, if you have some time on your hand (like an hour and half) and if you can plan beforehand-- this is a dish that will jazz up the way you think of lentil stoup. In fact, this recipe makes for a lazy, creative afternoon time in kitchen with a book to read or anything else to do, because largely this is a hands off dish --there is also no need to babysit it. You actually spend less than 15 minutes in the kitchen.
This can serve as the main dish by itself  with a side of garden salad and some bread.You can feed an army of people for cheap. Besides, you earn a place as a gourmet chef. Not bad-- for 15 minutes in the kitchen.

So all the disclaimers in place. Lets get on with it. One quick suggestion. Since this is not something you can make while your coffee gets cold..its best  trying to make it with a mood for abundant cold coffee :)

Ingredients:

1 cup of green lentil. Soak it overnight in a container filled with water at room temperature. Do not refrigerate. The soaking will allow the lentil to become soft and will cook fast-- an essential step towards cooking green lentils. You might see a bit of white froth the next morning-- do not call 911. Its the baby  plant inside the seed (you do know that lentils are seeds..right? :)) that is trying to grow up-- breathing and photosynthesizing, releasing carbon dioxide and sugar. That's the white froth. Rinse it away and you are good to go. 
Alternatively, you can use 3 cups of sprout green lentils (you find those too). Saves the preplanned overnight soaking

1 big onion- chopped
3 medium size tomatoes- chopped

1 tbsf grated ginger
1.5 tbsf powder cumin
1.5 tbsf powder coriander
A pinch of turmeric
A pinch of Cayenne powder
2 tea bag. Use regular tea. Unflavored and not green.
2 tbsf lime juice
1 tsp Sugar


3 cloves
2 cardamom
A bit of Cinnamon stick
1 bay leaf

3 tbsf oil
5 cups of water
Salt for seasoning
Cilantro or parsley and lime wedge for garnishing.

Let's begin :)

In a deep covered pot, place the soaked, and rinsed lentils or the sprouts. Pour water 3 cups of water. A Bring to boil and let it go for good 40 minutes. After 30 minutes or so  the boiling process, add the turmeric, cayenne, half a tbsf each of the cumin and the coriander powder and tea bag. This tea bag will infuse the flavor-- a secret ingredient into the lentils. No one tells you this. I learn't this by chance. Scoop the tea bag out after 10 minutes and turn off the heat.

Next in a skillet, heat the oil. Once hot, pop the cardamom, cinnamon, cloves. Remember to smash them up a bit to release the trapped air in them. Will prevent them popping out of the skillet. Wait ! 15 secs for the aroma. Lower heat, add the onions and saute till brown for 3-4 minutes.  The lowered heat allows for browning of onion in less oil. Something which we are always after :) Add the tomatoes and keep sautéing for another 3-4 minutes till the tomatoes lose their individuality. Add the ginger, sugar, rest of the cumin and coriander powder and saute for a minute. Add the boiled lentils along with any water left. Stir to mix in everything. Add the rest of the water ( remember warm water is best; will trap the flavors better), lower heat to simmer, cover and...leave the kitchen. Let it go for another 30-40 minutes. Check every 10 minutes to give a  stir and prevent sticking to the bottom. Add water if it is going super dry. Use your discretion.  Half a cup at a time. No more than that.

Once done, season with lime juice and salt. One big stir. Wait a beat. Take it off the stove and garnish wit lime wedges and Cilantro. What a great way to get your proteins too!

Great with bread and a garden salad. on a fall evening with some red wine.





Happy eating and healthy living!

Oct 20, 2009

A template for a billion different dishes!


For some unexplainable behavioral compulsion, call it healthy, I feel guilty if I go without some form of veggies for a couple of days at a stretch. It is a very rare situation. But, it has happened. And part of the reason is, it is difficult to come up with tasty recipes which are not a repeat version of something, that I have made a zillion times already. I know some of you are shaking your head. You know that feeling...! How best to come up with something new? A perpetual question on anyone's mind who likes to cook at home.

Okay..one thing is salads. You can make a zillion different combos. But dressing wise...how many can you come up with? Several. I agree.

However, I am talking of a veggie side dish. A fulfilling one. One way, I have figured is using the philosophy behind making salads. Basically, using the same spice used in different combination of veggies. It works like a charm. And different veggies always make the taste way different. For example, a spice rub of cumin and ginger will taste very different on say eggplant/ beans combo than say tomato/potato/ cabbage combo. See what I mean.

I keep doing this...so basically in every veggie recipe that I post-- there is inbuilt a zillion recipes--any of the zillion combinations you can possibly come up with. The more imaginative or in some cases daring you are, chances are you are gonna be very benefitted.  'Isn't that a clever disguise Christopher Robin'?

So here is one such template.

Ingredients:
Remember this part is very variable. You chose your veggie combinations. I used the following. Cos that was what I found in the refrigerator. Also this makes for a very good refrigerator clean up dish.

A handful of  green beans
1 medium size  eggplant
2 medium size potatoes
12 or so Mushrooms-- Crimini, Bella anything. This was the twist :)

1 tsp of grated ginger
1 tsp of powder cumin
A pinch of turmeric optional
A pinch of cayenne pepper optional


3 tbsf regular oil
A cup of vegetable stock or hot water.  Remember, warm stock or hot water makes any dish much for flavorful by trapping the vapors already being given off by the food. If you are using stock, take it out of the refrigerator an hour before using it. This will allow it to come up to room temperature.


Salt and pepper and half a tsp of lime juice for seasoning.

There is really one easy way to do this!

Chop up all your veggies into bite size chunks. In a deep skillet, heat the oil. Once hot, reduce temperature and add the potatoes. Saute  for  half a minute and cover. This will allow  quick cooking of the potatoes in minimal oil. Do this for  a good 3-4 minutes. Saute every minute to prevent burning of the potatoes at the bottom. Add the eggplants and do the same thing for another  3-4 minutes. Add the beans and do the same for 2 minutes. Add the mushroom, ginger and cumin, turmeric and cayenne pepper (if you are using them) and saute for half a minute or so. Add the water or stock, give the pot one big stir, lower heat to simmer and let cook through for 8-10 minutes. Remove the cover and... smell the vapor. That is your template on which to cook anything else using this technique! season with salt, pepper and lemon juice.

Serve as a side dish with anything. You have your quota of fresh spice and vegetable! And a template for a zillion different combinations...how cool is that :)





Happy eating and healthy living!










Oct 19, 2009

Red in all its glory-- citrus Israeli Salad!


It was a lazy lazy weekend. With an even lazier monday morning :)  The sky is overcast, it is misty by the ocean, and there is a chill in the air. The mountains in the distance wears a crown of low slung clouds. How can it be a busy morning. Nature seems reluctant to start the week :) How can a mortal like me fret about numbers and data? :(  Such days call for comfortable coco, warm socks , a deep armchair and a book about pirates and the Indians :) On such days, do I miss cambridge, MA. The fall. Sigh...

But food wise it is quite a different story.  Its wonderful to sit by my desk and write on my laptop. So lets perk up a bit with some nice smelling, flavorful recipe! Okay..what can I write about today? Yes a colorful, mediterranean salad. Yes.! that will do it. Unfortunately I don't have a picture of it. But I shall sometime today and then we will have all the colors that this post would be lacking till then :)

I learnt making lovely salads from my Israeli roommate, Tamar. I love Mediterranean salads. The real ones. Learnt from real people :) and it turns out that the most important component of Israeli salad are cucumbers, tomatoes and onions--much like in India. In fact in India if you wanted a salad-- it is probably the only thing you might end up getting!! But its super heathy and nothing is as flavorful as that. With a dash of fresh lime juice and some black pepper. Ahhh.....

Today, however I am going with a red colored salad. Red. Different shades of it. I made it sometime back, when I invited my friend, Celli, to dinner. She could not believe the riot of colors. It was really nice. So here it is today

Salads!

Ingredients:

Any veggie you can find that is a variant of red, orange or purple or at best yellow :)

2 bell pepper-- one red and the other yellow. No greens please. Remember its all red!
2 big carrots
half a head of red cabbage.
5-6 radish
7-8 small tomatoes halved. If you are using regular tomatoes, just a medium size would do.
1 big apple
1 orange-- peeled

Okay I can't remember anything else that might be red. But feel free to keep adding.

4 green onions-- the only green we are gonna use to make it look pretty.

3-4 tsp extra virgin olive oil.
juice of half lemon-- freshly squeezed
1/3 a cup orange juice
a big handful of cranberries. You can also use raisins instead of or together with the crans
7- 8 olives optional.

1 tsf honey
salt and pepper for seasoning

Now there isn't really much to do other than cut and toss!

Chop up all your veggies and fruits to chunk sizes. Keep the cuts similar so that they look pretty. Here is a little tip:- Shred the carrots, preferably in a grater.  And with the tomatoes scoop out the seeds. Will keep your salad crispy. Place em' all in a big big salad bowl. Whisk together the oil, lemon juice, orange juice and honey. Pour it all over the salad. Add the cranberries or raisins and the olives. Toss everything together.  Season with salt and pepper. Chill for  a few hours before serving.

God! the colors the come out! healthy and so  so so pretty. Oh! did you know red color indicated richness in carotene- a vitamin essential for your eye health?

happy eating, healthy living and what's life without some colors!

Pictures forthcoming





Oct 16, 2009

Fish Curry-- the only ONE Recipe that is really a curry.


One thing bothers me. The use of the word 'curry' in english. Its unfair. The moment someone says 'curry', it automatically builds up a stereotype in the mind and its almost a let down when a particular dish does not 'live up to the standards'. Well, for one thing it is not a standard. More like an expectation. I grew up in India. A place everyone associates as the birthplace of curry. So anything spicy looking is automatically categorized as curry! Think again. You are in for a surprise.

And here is a moment of truth.

There is only one recipe with minor modifications (using yoghurt in the northern part and coconut in the southern part of the country) to that recipe which will qualify as  'curry' in india. One recipe. Not everything which looks spicy. And curry is not something one would serve guests either. It is not available in restaurants. In cheap eateries maybe. But that's about it. And it is not even hot...well you can of course make it hot. But it does not have to be so. This is the first time...I am actually posting the recipe of a curry. The only 'real' curry you can make.

Oh! here is a fun story. My friend, Katrina loves Indian cuisine. The American version. Popularized by restaurants across the country. The red colored stuff  with an  unhealthy and hot  taste to it. Lots of grease. That stuff. Her favorite is chicken Tikka masala. And she went to India. Hoping to taste the ' real chicken Tikka masala'. She walked into a restaurant and not finding it on the menu- asked the waiter. They did not know what she was talking about!! I am telling ya..these restaurants have ruined the loveliness of Indian cuisine. I wonder if everyone loves this cuisine..what would they do with the real stuff--which is gorgeous!! And so unlike what is dished out in the name of Indian cuisine.

In India there is nothing called a chicken Tikka Masala. There is something called chicken tikka, something called chicken masala. Similarly, you don't get curries in India. Except in homes, where it is an-easy-to-make flavorful dish, light on your tummy.

Taken aback? Its the truth.

But have no fear...for this one time you will know what a 'curry' actually looks and tastes like. And yes the red color would come from tomato. Not food color.

I will be using Trout-- my fave one and also one which is always on sale :)

Ingredients:

1 trout fish. Clean the fish and divide it into three or four pieces. You can also use any fish you like. All is good.

2 medium size tomatoes- chopped
you can substitute with 1/3 cup of yoghurt, or 1/3 cup of coconut milk, or a mixture of both. I find tomatoes the most flavorful and healthy

1 medium size onion- chopped

1 green chilli pepper- optional

2 cloves
2 cardamom
2 pepper corn
1 bay leaf
small bit of cinnamon stick-- together this is called 'garam masala' translating literally to,  'hot spice'-- not because it is hot on your palate..but because it generates heat in your body.

half a tsp of grated ginger
half a tsp of grated garlic  optional

1 tsp of coriander powder
A pinch of turmeric
A pinch of cayenne pepper optional

2-3 tbsf of regular oil

half a cup of water or veg stock.

salt to season.

Here is to curry!

Season both sides of fish with salt. Take a tsp of oil and rub it on both your palm and just lightly brush the fish in that oil. This should be enough for all the pieces of that one fish. Place the fish on a baking tray and broil it on high for 20 minutes or till fish is white.

In a shallow skillet, heat the remaining oil. When hot, pop the cardamom, clove, cinnamon, peppercorn and bay leaf in that oil. Wait a couple of secs. Add the onion and fry till almost brown. 3-4 minutes. Add the ginger and garlic (if you are using them). Fry for another minute. Add the tomatoes and keep sautéing for a 2-3 mins. Add the coriander, turmeric and the cayenne pepper ( if you are using them, I don't). Fry for half a minute. Add the water or veg stock. Here is a tip. Use as warm a water as you can. This makes any dish tastier. The hot water prevents clumping of spices which is what happens if you pour cold water or stock. If you are using stock take it out of refrigerator an hour before using. Will take that chill off . Bring to a boil. Season with salt and pepper. That is your curry sauce.

You can now do either of the following

 1. Place the broiled fish in a serving tray and pour the sauce all over it
 2. Put the fish back into the sauce for a couple of minutes. And take the whole thing of the stove.

The second option allows more penetration of the curry sauce into the fish.

This is the real curry!  Serve it with jasmine rice. Its awesome. Good for your palate and easy on your tummy.





Happy eating and healthy living!

Oct 15, 2009

Everything Jambalaya!


Its a very very exciting day for me. I finally got my driver's license!! in my third effort. So it feels super great. So much so, that I don't feel like spending a lot of time writing :) Which is fine. Since last weekend I got to make Jambalaya from a recipe book. Now Jambalaya hold a special..special place in my heart. You have to hear the reason. In my first two years of grad school I used to stay on campus-- in graduate dorms. Tha included an exorbitant and complicated meal plan. 5 meals a week @ 11$ for healthy but terrible tasting food. Except two. A vietnamese noodle soup that was served everyday. And an exquisite Jambalaya on Friday lunch time. I would skip one lunch so that I could stock up on that jambalaya for the weekend.

I have never had any jambalaya that was ever that good.

And this one I don't even presume to replicate. However, its worth a try to get some form of it done. So I used Rachel Ray's Recipe,' Everything Jambalaya'. It turned out fine without the worchester sauce.  I used tabasco instead. Also, I made up my own poultry seasoning by mixing sage and Thyme.

Just a small tip. I figured it is best to add the cooked rice to the sauce before taking the sauce off the oven. Mix in everything and then take the whole jambalaya out off the stove. Will work better. It tasted fine. But can't match my standards which were set as a hungry student in cold cambridge dorm life :)






Happy eating and healthy living

Oct 14, 2009

Egg- mushroom pot pouri


Changing gears. A bit. From poultry, fish and veggies to ....eggs! These are such good things. Easy to make. Delish...with all the vitamins and proteins that you can possibly ask for. An egg contains ~ 75 cals. Good calories. So I am not sure why this extreme stance on using egg whites for cutting calories. A regular muffin from Starbucks has close to 700cal!

Anyways, I am not into cutting into egg calories. Given that there is so little of it in there any which way. And I make something or the other from eggs almost every month. My sister who visited me a couple of weeks ago, has developed this egg fetish :) Apparently it stemmed from the movie,
'Sunflower' (1970). Where Marcello Mastroianni and Sophia Loren makes a cake size omlette from 24 eggs. We wanted to try it. Trust me, 8 of them-- and three of us could not finish it. 3 including R , my sister-- egg mongereres and me (not that bad).

So, while that remains a project for future...there are more realistic things that I make. One of which involves crimini mushrooms. Great to taste. Such a lovely appetizer. And great with sammies too.

So here it is

Ingredients:

6 eggs

~ 12 mushrooms- diced into halves
You can use bella, crimini-- whatever is on sale. I used small crimini.

1 medium size onions- chopped

half tsp grated ginger.
You can always substitute with same amount of garlic. Or you half tsp of garlic in addition to ginger :). It will only get better.

1 tsp vinegar

1 tbsf paprika

Jalapeno- diced (optional)

1 tsp coriander powder (optional)
For a fresh feel you can also use fresh coriander or parsley ( if you did not like coriander)

salt and pepper for seasoning

Garnish with green onions, fresh coriander or parsley

Lets get going!

Boil the eggs till hard. Peel them. Here is an age old technique for peeling hard boiled eggs. Drain the hot water and place the eggs instantaneously in cold a water. Drop a few cubes of ice in the water. Wait for 2 minutes. Peel the eggs. It should come off nice and easy. No mess :).
Chop the eggs into small pieces. No worries if they break. Its part of the recipe. How cool is that, (w)hen you can make no mistake ? :)

In a skillet heat oil. Add the onions. Saute till translucent. ~ 3 minutes. Add the mushrooms and saute another couple of minutes. Add the jalapeno (if you are using them) and ginger (and/or garlic).Saute for half a minute. Add the chopped eggs. Add the coriander (or any substitution that you are using), paprika and vinegar. Saute everything for a minute. Season with salt and pepper.

Serve as a appetizer. Or..like me you can use it as a fancy filler in sammies :)




Happy eating and healthy living!

Oct 13, 2009

Chicken and Spinach --- in Coconut and Milk!



Thanks everyone for their nice, nice comments on my new pot :)..uh I mean orange tray.

But back to business!

Coconut and yogurt-- between the two of them they contribute to about 90% of Indian cooking. Its true. In the northern part of the country, its yogurt and in the southern part its coconut.  And in the eastern and western part, its the milk of coconut which is very much in vogue too. Naturally I am inclined towards recipes which use these. Amazingly, I am not at all keen upon any of these two by themselves. You know what I mean. Like, for example, strawberries-- lovely to look at and great in cakes et al (probably that explains the over abundance of these in any ads involving fruits and cakes)..but by themselves--eh.

Having said that, I am often times bothered by the amount of calories a can of milk of coconut contains. I mean its all fat! That is probably what makes it so tasty. But there must be some way to deal with this! And as the saying goes, if there is a will..there is a way. And this idea strike me while pondering upon the calories issues of coconut milk---but because I did not have a can while I was making a dish which traditionally requires use of coconut milk. So what I did was use unsweetened coconut powder and some 2% reduced milk. It was perfect. And the dish Iwas making, I knew what it should taste like. And the substutution did not change the taste/ flavour ..however it did make the dish a little less smooth.

Since then, I was hooked onto this combination-- milk and coconut mixture in place of coconut milk. So much less calories and with almost no change in taste.

Here is one which..yes you guessed right..I made and served in my orange tray!!!

Ingredients:

1 lb of chicken-- with bones and no skin is best. You can also use lamb for this one. Chop the chicken or lamb into half-a-palm size pieces.

1 big size potato- chopped into slightly big bite size

1 big onion- chopped

a cup of baby spinach

3 cloves of garlic minced or grated

half a tsp of grated ginger

1 tsp cumin

2 cloves- optional

a tiny bit of cinnamon stick- optional

1 bay leaf- optional

3 tbsf coconut powder

1/3 cup of milk

1 tsp of sugar

1/2 cup of water or chicken stock

2-3 tbsf regular oil

1 tsp of lime juice


Its really chopping and dropping!

Heat oil in a deep skillet. Once hot, add the cinamon, clove and onion. Fry until onions are tranparent. ~ 3 mins. Add the garlic, ginger and potatoes. Fry for another 2 mins. Add the chicken or lamb pieces. Fry for another 3 minutes. Add the sugar, cumin, coconut, milk and fry for a minute. Add the water or chicken stock and bring everything to a boil. Best done by covering the pot. ~ 10 mins. Give the pot a stir or shake once every 2 minutes.  Check to see if you are burning stuff at the bottom. Add water as necessary. Once cooked, season with salt, pepper and lime juice. Add the baby spinach and take it off the stove.

Serve with good quality bread or jasmine rice. Very agreeable on a cold fall evening. Marvelous with a glass of Red wine.









Happy eating healthy living


Oct 12, 2009

My Orange Pot!


Friday news ..continues..

I did not get a chance to blog about the best part of Friday..which was after I got home from the lab. But before I come to what happened after I got home, I definitely need to give you a wee bit of background.

I love orange pots. For that matter any colorful cooking utensil. But Orange pots are my fanatasy. No chef can really feel like a chef without a hat and an orange cooking pot. And I never had the pots. At times I would go look on amazon for the pots (  have one in my shopping cart). But they are expensive. So I would tell myself that when I saved up enough money (interpret this as not buying 'stuff' from clothing stores) I would go for this. But that never happened. And as a poor grad student I was reduced to looking at these pots, heaving a sigh, complianing just a wee bit..and moving on.

Till of course Friday. As I walked in, after a very good Chinese dinner at our favourite joint (I will tell you about this place someday soon), there was a package from Amazon. Heavy. It had R's name on it. He insisted I open it. I ...always fond of opening boxes, was very happy to oblige And, as I opened that package....lo and behold-- an orange cooking tray!!! not a pot..but the exact orange color I love in cooking utensils--that color without which I don't feel like a chef. It was here!! And here is an extra nice part. It was from Rachel Ray shop. Rachel Ray. My favorite..ever favorite food host.

ohh..Thanks R...and its so glorious to be able to look into my utesil cupboard and look at the couplet of orange baking trays. I was one happy person the whole time.
But here is where the pain will come in. I am determined to put everything in that tray. Even red colored food. So pictures in the coming time may not be visually appealing...but it will be mostly on the orange trays.

here is how the bigger of the two looks like




Ain't it pretty???

Happy living and healthy cooking...oops the order is reversed :)

Oct 9, 2009

Views and news-- with Garlic salmon!


I have a few news to give, views to share--all of which has made my morning very interesting.

Obama won the peace prize. ..Great. I like it. I mean its a bit premature maybe. But I disagree with the criticism that, it is all words, no actions. I mean he is not just delivering fantastic speeches. He has actually done something in a short time to change a few things around. And well...since when was a award of the stature of the Noble, apolitical?  Also a few years back, everybody including myself, criticized Al gore (I am a climate scientist btw) for winning the Noble. I had the same reservations as many have now about  President Obama. But I must say, since then and because of the 'Inconvenient Truth' movie (its our fault if we need high definition movies with histrionics , popocorn and beer to wake up to reality) till today..the conservation and green movement is making huge progress. So yes, that was premature too. But then it was for a justifiable cause which not immediately appreciated.


But what is the best piece of news today? Guesses?

My lunch! Everyday I bring sammies and veggies . Today, however, I have brought some leftovers from yesterday's lovely dinner. Thanks to My columbian Recipes. This was a killer. I modified some from this recipe. But with that kind of framework...its difficult to go wrong. So here I am..writing this post and waiting for a proper lunch hour to hit.

Meanwhile here is the deal...

Ingredients:

1/2 lb of Salmon. You can try it with Tuna too. But Salmon is really the very very best.
Take the fish out of the freezer  and leave in the refrigerator about half a day before making this. The fish will have thawed enough to be juicy.

Half a bunch of Cilantro. You can substitute partly or completely with Parsley. I used some local fresh cilantro.

A handful of spinach leaves. Baby spinach would be best.

4-5 cloves of garlic. You can go easy with less, if you did not like garlic as much as I do.

4-5 tbsf olive oil

3 tbsf freshly squeezed lime juice. I had this extremely aromatic lime. I used a few drops for its exquisite aroma on top of the lime juice.

Freshly ground pepper and salt for seasoning.

Its pretty darn easy to make!

Carefully clean your leafy greens. I read an article yesterday, which says that  apparently leafy greens are great for us..but is also good source of food poisoning. So carefully, rinse out the greens. Put the Cilantro, garlic, 4 tbsf olive oil, a bit of salt and peper in a food processor and finely chop it. Clean the fish lay the fillet (make horizontal slashes into the flesh for easy penetration of flavor) in a baking tray. Season both sides with salt and pepper and a dash of lime juice. Be liberal. Add the marinade to the tray and liberally cover your fish. Leave in the tray for 10 minutes.

Preheat your oven to 420 F for 10 min. Pour the rest of the olive oil all over the fish. Bake your fish at 420 F ( if the fillets are regular size or thicker. For thin fillets go no higher than 350F) for 20-25 mins.
Take the tray out , and add the remaining lime juice.

 And here is a recipe for a quick stirred martini to go with it :)

1 oz of Vodka. You can use Bacardi or Gin as well.
1 oz of lemonade
1/2 oz of club soda
1 hint of lime just--a couple of drops. Key lime would be ideal.

Pour the Vodka, followed by the soda, followed by the lemonade in a Martini glass. Stir it gently. Add the key lime.

Your drink is ready! and so is your fish. Serve with good quality bread. Delish :)

























Happy eating and healthy living