Jan 27, 2010

The day a fairy princess disappeared!


It is almost a month into 2010. And I do have to say that it feels less alien to write 2010 than it felt to scroll 2009. Hmm..now what might that mean? I am sure I will know in another short eleven month's time from now :)  Talking of new years, I realized only yesterday, that I had not written about the fantastic feast we had on new years. And this more than compensated for not going out to my favorite margarita bar, 'Border's cafe' in cambridge which was offering free cab rides back home! So you see, it was quite a feast. And I have not even uttered a word about it. Tut tut...

But there is a story to this feast. A fairy tale all set in a snowy town of cambridge..long back from now...

Snegurochka was walking down Chester Street and all the alleys in the little kingdom of Cambridge. She  wore a white sparkly hat and a matching set of mittens. Those were the only things she ever owned. It was the biggest blizzard of the year. The kingdom looked like a white ghost town. Every man-woman-child-dog-cat in had deserted the streets and were seeking comfort in low slung wooden houses. Seal oil lamps burnt in each home and there was a warm soup in every hearth. They were all trying to be warm. Something her father had stolen from the kingdom that very day. 


Her father had been angry with her that day and flew in a rage and painted the whole town white with snow and frost! And only because she had fallen in love..with warmth.  Why he hated the very idea of anything warm. And now there was no sign of anything warm anywhere. The little wooden doors were all shut close and she could see little lamps filling up the interiors with a warm glow.  She left her home, sad and sombre at the thought of the rest of her life in the cold white kingdom. But her mom told her, when she was little, that somewhere..in one of these little houses was hidden the warmth that she was looking for. Would she ever find it...If only she could find it ...


She had wandered the whole day. But she could not find anything. Not that she hoped for any miracle today. It was a regular happening in her life. Her father getting angry and painting the kingdom white..she becoming sad..and wandering the streets all alone...


And then Snegurouchka saw a house. A big white lawn in front all covered in snow and frost and the white pillars marking the entrance to the house.  A little white curtain was covering almost all of the small glass opening in the door. A tiny triangle was the only way she could spot what lay hidden inside. And for sure there was the warmth, and the love she had been looking for all her life and ...she ran to it. And pressed her ponity nose against the glass pane. There it was...all laid on the table and as the door started to open, there stood he and on the table lay dishes and dishes and dishes full of the best warm food, anyone in that kingdom could ever think of. And she began to melt..."


No one heard from Snegurouchka ever again. But somehow next day..there was warm food in every kitchen. For sure, Cambridge had blizzards after that day, but no one was afraid of blizzards anymore.  Whenever there was one, they all flocked to the table, sang merry and read the story of the winter maiden fell in love and disappeared one bizzardy night, long long time ago"

And here is the big secret. Only I know what was there on the table that day Snegurouchka disappeared. And I say this very secretly to you. So that anytime you have a sad blizzardy day, you can banish it forever and ever!! There was...  Parsley- Marjoram- Pasta and  Balsamic vinegar- Garlic- salmon. 


And here are the very coveted recipes...


Parsley- Marjoram- Pasta
Ingredients:
2- servings of Pasta- any kind is good. Look at the label for serving size.
Two handfuls of fresh parsley-- finely chopped
2 cloves of crushed garlic
1 tbsf of dried Marjoram. You can also use  dried or fresh Dill
2 tbsf extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper for seasoning

Boil the pasta till done. Drain and let stand. In a skillet, heat the olive oil. Add the garlic, Marjoram/ Dill and immediately add the drained pasta. Saute for a couple of minutes. Add the parsley. Mix well. Season with salt and pepper





Balsamic vinegar- Garlic- salmon
Ingredients
1 lb of Salmon fillet- cut into squares. It is best to use wild caught as the farmed variety is full of carcinogens fed to the farmed fish
1 medium size onion. Coarsely chopped
1 Tomato- coarsely chopped
3 cloves of garlic- finely chopped

2 tbsf smoked paprika
1 tsp of balsamic vinegar
2 tbsf Basil or Dill
3 tbsf of olive oil

Salt and pepper for seasoning

Mix the paprika, Dill/ Basil and crushed garlic. Pat dry your fish and season both sides with half the spice mixture, salt and pepper. In a shallow skillet, heat 1.5 tbsf olive oil . For oilve oil, it is best to heat at low heat. Helps retain all the goodness and flavors of the best oil in the world! When oil is hot, add the fishes to it slowly. Try two minutes on each side to allow nice browning.  When both sides are done ( ~ 4 minutes), add the balsamic vinegar. Let things mix and match for a minute and then dish it out on a serving tray.
Now add the rest of the olive oil to the same skillet, and add the onions and tomatoes and saute briefly for a minute. Add the remaining spice mixture and saute for another minute. Season with salt and pepper and dish it out over and around the salmon.




Now, tell me wasn't this dinner really worth skipping a night out at a margarita pub with a free cab-ride. Or for that matter, doesn't this look like something Snegurouchka might actually have disappeared into folklore?

Happy eating and healthy living!


Special thanks to my friend Maria, for suggesting the folklore to me








Jan 21, 2010

Prawn Balls- simply gorgeous :)


Okay, this is gonna be my last post about stuff that I haven't really had much to do, but ended up being great anyway :) Don't you like that sometimes? How you chance upon some good stuff and all you do is add your own touch and voila! you have everyone literally eating out of your hand? :)

I remember a fun incident. Not from my childhood. But very recently. I have often mentioned my very good friend Tamar. Now she is not someone who likes very spicy food. And we did have really good cocktails often times and we ended up nibbling on some apricots or dried fruits. I like to also munch on spicy mixes. But I never really offered her any, as I knew she did not like spice. Or at least I thought so. And then one evening we were all out of apricots and I pulled out a rare stash of spice mix that my grandma gave to me last year when I was traveling in India. And she loved it! I was amazed. It was rather spicy for me too. But she just adored it. And that kind of changed her attitude to spice. She still does not like it when things look scary..but other than that, I suppose she always really liked spice..just did not get the combination right, when it came to heavy spices :)

That brings me to today's post. I mentioned buying some heavy-garlic-flavored prawn balls that I bought from Ranch 99. To tell you the truth, I have a thing 'about' mashed stuff that I haven't had the chance to witness first hand. It may have to do with me...but I have a feeling I am not alone in this one :) I see the nods :) Anyway so I was dilly dallying on making those. And finally one evening, I had no chicken-fish etc and the only things left were the prawn balls. It was like I had to make something of those. R, in a very characteristic R'ish way said I should just fry them like crazy. I am not such an oil fan. So I decided to treat these well.

With tomatoes and paprika, and more garlic...boy it was heaven!  I did not expect it to be this good. But then when you have prawns mashed up with  garlic and salt and pepper...You would have to really really really good cook to screw it up

So here is what I did. And sure as hell, I did not measure up as a super good cook :)

Ingredients:

10 prawn balls
1 big red tomato- coarsely cubed
one medium onion- chopped

3-4 cloves of garlic mashed
2 tbsf smoked paprika
1 tbsf cumin
juice of half a lime

2-3 tbsf good quality olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
A handful of coriander or parsley for garnish

There is nothing really to do!

In a shallow skillet, heat the oil and fry the onion for 2 minutes or till translucent. Add the prawn balls and keep sautéing for another 3 minutes. Add the tomato, paprika, garlic, cumin and lime juice.



Add some hot water. Simmer for 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Take it off the stove and garnish with parsley or coriander.

Serve with warm pita bread or over Jasmine rice.

A simple dish to love and to cherish!





Happy eating and healthy living!



Jan 12, 2010

Ranch 99


I kept hearing tales about it. I knew it was one of the best things to have happened to California. I knew people got great stuff out there. I knew what it was. But I never found the time to get there myself. You have any clue as to what I am talking of ?

Ranch 99.

On an unusually warm December morning I found the time to hitch a short ride to Ranch 99. The ride itself was fun, cos' me was filled with anticipation of all the goodies I was to see. And maybe buy a little. For cheap...yada yada yada...:) And boy was it a great place! I did not loitre as much as a grocery freak like me would like to. But in that short 20 minutes I knew it was one of most fun grocery places ever.

Live catfish in giant aquariums. Lobsters. And some other fishes too. There were the regular fish varieties of course. And you will not believe it when I will say, that at that store I came to know what a whole tuna/ salmon/ haddock actually looked like. Oh! I did not mention prawns-- tiger prawns.  I mean these look like the real thing you get in fancy Thai-Vietnamese-Japanese-Chinese places. The noodle Aisle was another revelation. I mean just the sheer variety was mind boggling. Mind boggling. I tell ya. 15 types of simple rice noodles. Bean noodles and oh so many types of ramen noodles too. It was real fun for me to pick up as I have no idea what these were. If you ask me, I enjoy shopping that way too :) It is like opening a package. You never know what you gonna find unless you open it. In this case , eat it.

And if you are a fish- seafood person like me and you haven't had the good chance of visiting one of these stores...I  would say you put it on your list of to-do-very very-important things in 2010. Maybe even make a new year resolution out of it :)

Of course I did not come back empty handed. I bought  a ramen noodles, which was so garlicky that I can't bring myself to eat any other ramen noodle flavor. And I could eat. Believe me :) I got a lovely big tin of assorted biscuits-- my favorite type of food. I can have these-- beware these are not cookies but simple biscuits--for lunch, dinner, breakfast, tea -- you name it I have it :). Continuing with the list of stuff ; I got some nice tiger prawns, rice noodles and some prawn balls.

And I made simple Sphagemein with the noodle and stir fried the prawns with cumin and garlic and they tasted out of the world. That just shows why I crave chinese food so often :)

Here you go!






 And in case you are wondering about the chicken in there it is just simple chili- chicken (A dish which makes everyday a day to celebrate). I do have a fantastic, easy-peasy recipe with the prawn balls-- but that will have to wait a couple of days. For  now

Happy eating and healthy living!!


Jan 5, 2010

A paprika feast! happy new year


Happy new year everyone:) I finally got myself back in the blogging chair. Just to geographically orient you all, I am currently in Cambridge, MA. Otherwise also known to myself as 'Cakeand' in winter.  Everything gets so covered in white. It is like pixie dust all over! Last year even the river froze (So I lived in place by the river..quite literally) and I got to walk right across it.  Walk right across a frozen river- that experience was ethereal to a tropical person like me! Here..Take a look




Anyway, I can get quite carried away talking if frozen rivers and before I do so, back to the blog.  So I am back here for a month or so to so some analysis. And here in starts the fun. I am currently occupying the house of a friend who is away on vacation. And have you ever felt the need to look into kitchen closets of a place you are in just for a few days? When it still does not have your signature all over it? I feel that urge. And it gives me such a confirmed peek into lives of people that live in. The type of spices and grocery shows me what they eat, snack on, how frequently, and so much more...I guess archeology is like that. From the thousands of year old pantry remains they make up entire civilizations and kingdoms!

So the friend whose place I am staying at present is from Hungary. And I have mentioned before and I will say it again, Hungarians know their paprika and make use of it in so many many different ways!! And I am glad that I got to know the varied uses of Paprika from a Hungarian who is also a great cook. Her name is Maria. Her pantry is stuffed with good smelling and good looking paprika. There is hot paprika, smoked paprika, sweet paprika, ...and this paprika  and that paprika and good , better , best..all kinds. And for a moment I thought I would just have to use these and there might not be that big a difference that my regular whole food paprika.

I was wrong. A simple dish tasted gourmet. And R said that it just might be the contender of my best drumstick dish ever.

So here it is...A paprika feast.

Ingredients

6-8 chicken drumsticks.

1 big onion
1 big green bell pepper. Coarsely cubed
1 big tomato. Coarsely cubed

4-5 cloves of garlic. Crushed or minced
2 tbsf of ground parsley
1 tbsf Dill
2 tbsf Marjoram. This is a herb whose awesome flavors I just came to appreciate. I totally recommend it. Totally
1 tbsf powdered mustard. You can also use good quality brown mustard.
1.5 tbsf flour

3 tbsf smoked paprika
2 tbsf hot Paprika
1 tbsf sweet paprika
Mix all of the above. I call it 'Papri- paprika' :)

Freshly ground black pepper
Salt
3-4 tbsf good quality Extra Virgin olive oil. I use the light variety.

Here is what you do!

The chicken

Heat your oven to 450F. While it is getting toasty in there, perp your chicken babies. Lay them side to side on a shallow oven friendly tray. Be ruthless and make slices in those legs. Be erratic. Its actually fun :). Season all sides with pepper and salt. Marinade it with  flour, dill, marjoram, 2-3 tbsf crushed garlic, 3-4 tbsf of the paprika mix, 2-3 tbsf olive oil and mustard. Roast the chicken in the oven at 450 for 20 minutes. Lower the heat to 350F and continue baking for another 10 minutes. This technique allows you to get a crunchy  feeling into the chicken without drying it out. Take out the tray and cover it with a foil to prevent the heat escape while you prep your veggies!

Veggies

Heat the remaining oil in a skillet. Saute your onions, tomato, bell pepper with the remaining garlic, lightly for a few minutes. Make sure they all retain their color, crunch and texture. Add the remaining paprika mix and the parsley. Saute for a minute. Season with salt and pepper.

Add your veggies over the chicken and serve! The paprika will be just super fantastic with some good quality bread. And the colors that go with it. Gorgeous to look at and yummmy to boot too. And healthy too. Your getaway to Hungary over  a paprika feast :)






Happy eating and healthy living