Mar 30, 2010

Summery Somersault: A citrus twist to White Wine


This entry is for Sanjana of the awesome food blog Ko Rasoi. And it is definitely for the competition titled, 'wear your food'. Did you guys get a look at the charmed bracelet? It is one most adorable thing :) and this is also my first ever entry to a giveaway. So very excited. I am gonna go by the theme, 
'cocktails, mocktails' but without strawberries.  If I had to wear a food...that has to be a wine drink :)

Summer is not here. Not yet. But spring is. And here, a few warm days almost did the summery somersault. That's a cute word. Maybe that is what I will name this cocktail. And for me, any hint of warmth comes with the color yellow and the flavor citrus. And last sunday was indeed a warm day. So out I go-- well no reason really to go out--into the sun and across the street and to the grocery. And buy myself a ton of citrus and yellows. The idea being to have something brunchy and cocktail ish, given that I had my eye on the adorable charm of Sanjana :)

There was a dry white wine in the refrigerator. And bingo, here was the idea :). All these yellow, greens together and my my..what a lovely substitution I had of a regular sunday champagne brunch. 

Here you go

2 Oz of dry white wine. You can use ginger ale for a mocktail option as well 
3 Oz of good quality Lemonade. I used organic. But sparkling would be great too :)

2 slices of lime
2 slices  of lemon

Few cubes of Ice

In a tall glass or even a wine glass, lay down the strips of lemon and lime alternately. Add the ice cubes. Pour the wine and top it off with the lemonade. 

Simple..citrusy..refreshing..and this is the kick...the charm of this one makes you wanna go out and dance your way...even to the regular grocery. There is definitely a bounce in your step :)



Charmed!

Mar 29, 2010

The punch of potatoes-- a tangy twist to the potato salad


I know I know. This is completely unacceptable. Being around and not blogging. I meant, even to myself :) but then there's always this and always that..and then that needs to be done right before this..and the saga goes on...But that don't mean that kitchen was closed or nothing new was cooking. Multiple things, actually, has been made. And a couple worth posting. Not bad..what say?

Okay, during my recent travels to India, I had a dish. My grandmother's recipe, brilliantly executed by our cook of 18 years. And it features something.. we all like. In some form or the other. Baby potatoes. This entree is much like a potato salad, only really nicely flavored with oriental spices. Actually only a single spice. Cumin. And the way it is made is that the baby potatoes are cooked in a tangy sauce. I, not being the very patient type of course, tried using the same saucy idea to make a potato salad. And it was so so good and almost like the one I had at home. Only simpler to make. Lower calorie. All of that is important too. Given we don't exactly live in the same time when this dish used to be just an appetizer or a side dish...along with elaborate entrees, that took a good three hours to eat and a good three days to digest. And of course, calories...that is that heat generated per unit food burnt..right ? :)

No definitely that era is gone by. And hence my adaptation is more attuned to our needs :)

So without any more talk..straight to the food. Oh..did I tell you that the original dish is called,'The punch of potatoes'. In bengali it is simpler to say. 'Alur dom' :) Dom== punch, Alu= Potatoes. Fun fact. Now that I actually think about it :)

Ingredients:

The amount obviously depends :) But I used the following

1 lb of baby potatoes. The smallest you can get. Halve them if they are even slightly big. I peel a little bit to allow penetration of the sauce. But feel free to keep the skin. No big deal.

1 tsp of whole cumin
2 tsp of ground cumin
A big pinch of turmeric. Optional. But use it for a healthier, colorful good option :)

4 tbsf yoghurt. You can use sour cream too for a tangier, creamier taste.
2 tbsf olive oil. Use extra virgin for health benefits. 
1 tbsf of any other oil. I use regular olive oil. Remember no frying the virgin

Salt to season
2 tbsf lemon juice. Optional

Cilantro for garnish. Optional.

What's to do in a salad..other than tossing!

There is nothing to do actually. Take the potatoes and put in a pan. Fill it up with water. Add a bit od salt. And bring things to a boil. ~ 15 min. Poke to see if they are done. Once done, drain the water and transfer it back to the still hot boiling pot. Drizzle the extra virgin (or whatever oil you are using) on top. And let it rest. Also poke the potatoes here are there. Allows for the warm oil and later the sauce to seep through. Meanwhile, while the potatoes take a rest, heat the 1 tbsf regular olive oil (or whatever oil you are using). Once hot, add the whole cumin and frry for no more than a couple of secs. no burning and destroying spices please :) Then add the rest of the cumin and turmeric. Fry for a few second. Let your nose guide you. ~ 5-7 secs. Lower heat and add the yoghurt and mix all of them together. Remember to lower heat before adding the yoghurt. High heat kills yoghurt. Keep sauting for a couple of minutes. Season with salt. 

Transfer the potatoes in the serving bowl. Pour the sauce all over the potatoes, nice and warm and oiled. Add the lemon juice. Toss together gently. You don't want broken potatoes. Let all of the things work together for a good 10 minutes. Garnish with cilantro. Serve warm.

A  tangy, smoky potato salad...a fantastic twist to your ordinary potato salad...and will be a great thing to serve for your starch requirements and comfort you in your blue days. The punch of poato...you will feel for sure :)




Happy eating and healthy living!

Mar 21, 2010

Tale of fishing with cumin-coriander-garlic fish


If there is one thing, you can't go wrong with, that has to be fish. I mean mother Nature has bestowed her best recipe while designing this thing, we so lovingly call,' fish'. And there is absolutely no way to make it go wrong. I mean, take me for instance. I have done my best. And yet, all the recipes come out fantastic! I have had it with spices of all countries, mix-matched east with west, north with south, even north-east with south-east :) I can't get it wrong. I sometimes stop and think if it is for real? I totally like going with fish if I have to try out a new spice rub/ concoction/ combination. That way I know if I can use that with veggies or chicken. Also it might just have to do with the fact that I am a fish-eatarian.  I coined that word for myself by myself of myself :) :)

I mean I love fish best when it is raw or just-about. Sushi! 

Okay enough of this fishy business. Let me tell you a tale about fishing :)

Have you ever been on a fishing boat? I haven't. But I have seen fishing boats being launched. Not big commercial ones. The way those catch fish and kill other marine organisms might just be enough to throw me off fish. So I am not talking of those. I am talking more of local fishing boats-- no more than a a few fisherman on a wooden boat. It is kind of amazing.  Kind of like these boats..



So these fisherman go into the ocean with the high tide and return with the tide hanging out in the ocean catching fish. You can see them from the shore. Little lamps lighting those boats off into the horizon. Little specs here and there. Feeble lights trying in vain to beat the darkness about them. And the nets. They are so fine, that once a part of you get entangled, it is marvelously difficult to get in untangled. And those are real heavy too. Takes very careful winding and unwinding and also takes the careful task of a few strong bodied men to load them onto these boats. 







However, it is amazing the very small number of fishes they manage to get their hands on after such an elaborate process. A fish here and a fish there hanging on to this vast net.


I did have the very good luck of witnessing this entire procedure first hand when I visited Sankarpur-- a tiny tiny desolate beach on the coastal areas of west bengal just along the Bay of bengal.

That, my friends, is how some fishermen make their incredible living :)

And the fish, when you first taste them, cooking it right on the beach...ahhhh.

Well we can't get that here, but yes we definitely can make it taste great, fresh or not fresh :)  And here is one way how!

Ingredients:

1lb of fish. You want white fish. Tilapia, catfish, flounder anything. And the reason you want white is because these whites generally don't have a big flavor going about them. So it can absorb the flavor of spices and herbs that you can use on it. I used a fillet of catfish.

6-8 asparagus stems. I like them. But you can use beans too. 

1 tbsf coriander
1 tbsf cumin.
3-4 cloves of garlic. finely chopped
A bit of lemon zest. optional.

This is a very common spice combination used in Eastern India to make fish. The kind I was talking about :)

2 tbsf regular olive oil
Salt and pepper for seasoning

half a tsp of butter. Optional
Juice of one lemon. Please use fresh :)

A handful of parsley or cilantro for garnish

All you do is bake:)

Preheat your oven to 400F for 10 mins. Meanwhile wash the fish and in on an oven friendly tray. Season both sides with salt and pepper. Clean your veggies and lay them around the fish. No overlap please. Hinders even heating :) Season your veggies too. Drizzle the olive oil all over your stuff. Mix the spices, including the garlic and lemon zest, together. Rub this mixture all over the fish and veggies. Both sides please. 

Stick your tray in the oven for a solid 20 mins. With two minutes to go, take out the tray and add the butter and the lemon juice. Be liberal with it. All over the fish and veggies. And stick it in the oven for the next 2 minutes. Follow by broiling on high (450F) for a minute to get some dark look on that fish :)

Take it out of the oven.  Place on your serving ware and sprinkle fresh parsley all over. 
My my..prettiness and flavors all over the place. Enjoy with a glass of wine.






Happy eating and healthy living!



Mar 16, 2010

Flavorful way to health-- steam em'..will ya'?


I have only recently figured out the joys of steaming edibles. It started with fish ( of course, why am I not surprised? :)) and then it has spilled over to veggies and even chicken. I find it delightful to simply steam edible stuff and then give it a spicy rub and let the whole thing sit for sometime. Amazingly refreshing..  especially since spring is in the air and days are longer and noticeably warmer. This technique was born more out of necessity and laziness than curiosity or anything more fashionable.. Pure laziness which sometimes grips, even me. And what an antidote to that feeling :)

And, I can see those hawk eyes, looking at me saying, 'whatever girl, thats not cooking'. No it isn't. And that is the fun part of it :) But honestly, you can use this to make simple veggie stuff for the sides, when you are prepping, say a grand meat dish. Low calorie, healthy but not bland, not cooked veggies and not even salads! Gives those fries a fair competition, if I may say so. And I am a big big fan of fries, especially oven baked ones :). This technique can also help you with simple fish and veggie lunches on the lighter side. And you know, it is one way of unleashing your culinary instincts, that sometimes never gets a chance to be unleashed for fear of ruining a great looking recipe! I mean what cab go wrong? Nothing! you are just steaming and rubbin :)

Depending on your choice of fish, veggies and even chicken...and the mood..you can go crazy with the spice mixture/rub. And you get tons and tons of lovely sides each time you are cooking! how great is that? 

So with no more ado...lets get straight into it

Ingredients:

There are really two parts: the choice of your veggie and/or fish and or/ chicken. Or all. Just make sure you are steaming them properly. Fish and veggies can be steamed at the same temperature and for the same time..but chicken would need longer and at higher temperatures, of course. And the spice rub. Today's is just an example. Feel free to get dangerous :)

I chose the following to steam

1 medium potato. Cubed to bite size pieces
1 carrot. Sliced
1 cauliflower. Cut into bite size bits
2 cloves of garlic. Smashed 

Spice rub
1 tbsf smoked hungarian paprika
1 tbsf cumin
1 tbsf poppy seeds. Optional. You can also use herbs like Dill, Marjoram or even nice spring of fennel or  thyme.
A splash of lime. Bright bright lime. Always good :)

1 tbsf olive oil
Salt and pepper for seasoning


Steam steam steam:

Steam your veggies. Preheat to 350F for 10 min. Wash your veggies and leave a wee bit of water in them. Add the garlic. Cover your oven friendly container with a foil and seal it carefully. The steam will work wonders on those veggies and the addition of garlic is gonna infuse the veggies with nice garlicky flavor.hmmm. Stick the veggies in there for a solid 20 min. 

Meanwhile mix all the dry spices and herbs (if you are using them) together and add a bit of salt. Did you know that adding salt to spices brings out their flavor nice and big? 

Anyways bring out the veggie and open that foil. Breath that flavor. Isn't it gorgeous? Okay now, drain the water that is there. Transfer the veggies to the serving dish. Add the olive oil and spice rub. Season with salt and peper. Add the lime splash. Toss nicely. Let the whole thing sit for 10-15 mins. Let all those flavors work their magic for ya :)

Serve with a nice summery cocktail..white wine, sangria...flavors abound and health abounds too :)


Happy eating and healthy living!

Mar 12, 2010

Rach..whats cooking? I see smoke :) EVOO facts gone wrong?


Rachel Ray...I know I know..the name does not inspire much of ooh's and aah's in the foodie blogdom :) And there are reasons. I will give that to  ya'll. But, I adore her. Simply do. It isn't so much that I am a big fan of her recipes. It does not hep that I am not a fan of the concept of recipes in the first place. But what I like best  about her, is her earthy, rustic approach to cooking. Anything goes. And there aren't any rules. I like it. Cos me is like that. In the kitchen, one can't be too cautious :) 

But one thing I recently did find out, that got even me a little worried. Use of extra virgin Olive oil (EVOO) in Rachel's recipes. Now I use extra virgin olive oil in any cooking. Almost all. I use it in salads, dressings, baking, fries, cooking..and this I did pick up from Ray. Till I found out, how terrible it might have been. Turns out that all forms of cooking fat-oil and butter mostly-- have something called a 'smoke point'. A temperature above which these fats break down and release harmful chemicals. Carcinogens. Cancer causing stuff. And this smoke point is lowest for canola oil and extra virgin oilve oil! ~ 225F. We don't make anything at such low temperatures.  Scary Scary. But does that mean we don't use our favorite olive oil? No! We simply used regular olive oil which has been refined enough to have very high smoke points. 470F. In fact light olive oil is the best with even higher smoke points. Here is a link that explains it all so well. 


I checked my blogs to see what oil I have been recommending. Was relieved to see I suggested any good quality olive oil. Whew :). Anyways basic point is extra virgin olive oil and canola oil is good and full of nutrients and should thereby not be used for heating. Just use it in salads, dressings etc. Veggie oil, sunflower oil and light oilve oil, which high smoke points for cooking and baking!! 

Rach..girl..I love you..but you surely are out of line here ? :)

Anyways, having said so, Rach did have a fantastic middle eastern chicken recipe this week, and I did make something similar to it. Turned out super good. 

Here's the recipe. Using Light Olive Oil!

Ingredients

  •  2-3 tbsf light olive oil. You definitely can use regular oil as well. 
  • 1 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs, chopped into bite-sized pieces. You can use regular chicken as well. Just keep in mind that the time to cook would go up. But tastes way better :)
  • 1 onion, coarsely sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, grated or chopped
  • 1 carrots. Coarsely cubed
  • 1  bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon paprika. Smoked is best. Hot is good too, if you like heat :)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon coriander
  • Pinch ground cinnamon. You can use a bit of unground cinnamon too.
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 lemon, zested and juiced
  • 2.5 cups of hot water. 
  • Handful flat-leaf parsley, chopped. You can easily sub with Cilantro

Here is what I did :)

Heat the olive oil in a deep skillet over medium-high heat. When the oil ripples add the chicken and brown 3 to 4 minutes on each side. Add the onions, garlic, carrots, bay leaf and season with spices, salt and pepper, cook 5 to 6 minutes. Add the zest of the lemon, and 2 1/2 cups of stock. Reduce heat to low and simmer 10 minutes more. Sprinkle with lemon juice and turn off heat. Somehow adding the lemon juice early on just makes the dish a bit bitter. So  when using lemon juice, its prolly best to finish off that dish adding the juice at the very end :)
 Garnish with parsley.

Indeed a lovely middle easternish dish. Great to be had with some full bodies red wine. My choice is Cabernet





Mar 8, 2010

Upma- a tangy twist to your leisurely mornings


Okay...I am not sure that travel is my thing. I mean definitely not the flying and the horrible horrible jet lag. Guess that is inevitable if you are flying diametrically across the globe. So much so that the departure city and the arrival city are farthest that can be achieved on this earth. Tis true. Well almost :) But everything else-wise, particularly food wise, it sure is the best thing to happen to me. In fact I found out something real cool about myself this time around. If I eat only veggies and lean protein (psstt..only fish) while on long travels, I actually manage to lose weight. Guess, traveling does not require me to gorge on a lot of energy inducing carbs and fats :) So here I am. Back. With a ton of fantastic recipes to try out, great stories that go with it and mostly has a refreshing but flavorful twist to it. 

I did mention that I am jet lagged. Right? What that translates into is, waking up at 3 am and feeling sleepy by 11 AM. What that also means is I get hungry at 7 and very ready to make more than cereals and fruits. And given that my head is full of fresh ideas and recipes my kitchen is waking up very early these days and smelling great too. Actually, just over the weekend. So I am gonna tell you about a dish which makes for a wonderful brunch or weekend breakfast. But guys..if you are jet lagged, and are craving good food..this is your's. Weekends or not :)

But before I give you this gorgeous dish, a point or two. Ever heard of semolina? You might have skipped over it in the pasta aisle. But it is there. Hopefully. If not, no big deal. It is made of the exact same stuff as pasta and couscous. It is carb rich. God, we do need energy. Especially to get our working habits into gear. And it is just like pasta. Very versatile. You can do literally whatever with it. People in southern part of India use it like Pasta. To make it in a zillion different ways. But mostly for breakfast. It is one of the healthiest, most authentic-- and I would even say most versatile-- Indian breakfast that you can possibly get. It is basically couscous made with yoghurt and veggies and some herbs. How cool does that sound?

So here it is-- a tangy breakfast for the experimental foodie, right from the heart of the country, we lovingly call, 'the land of spices'. Upma

Ingredients:

Half a cup of semolina. You can substitute with couscous
1 tsp of red lentil. Optional.

1 medium onion. Chopped
1 medium tomato. Chopped
Half a cup of veggies. I use carrots and peas. You can use your own stuff. You can even thaw a cup of those frozen veggies that you can buy at your grocery. But fresh, as always, has its own advantages.
1 Jalapeno. Chopped
A handful of Dill.
A handful of Cilantro or parsley.

1 tsp of mustard seed.
2-3 cloves of garlic crushed
1 tsp of grated ginger
2 cloves.
1 tsp of cumin.

half a cup of yoghurt
A palmful of coconut flakes. Unsweetened please!
1 tsp of oil. How little is that for a major meal in a day?  
half a cup of water. Hot is best.

Salt to taste

That's a lot of ingredients...but then it is something authentic Indian.Which means its all going to be worth it :)

So here is what you do.

In a skillet, heat oil and once hot, add the mustard seeds, red lentil, cumin seeds, jalapeno. Fry for  a few secs. Add the onion and fry for a couple of minutes. Leave em' crunchy. Add the garlic, ginger, tomato and the coconut flakes. Fry for a couple. Add the veggies and keep frying for another minute or so. Add the semolina and fry for another 2-3 minutes. Stir constantly. Semolina has a sticky habit and it sticks to the bottom pretty easily and then worst of all burns. So keep those hands busy till you see them turn yellow. 
If you are using couscous (as I do sometimes), it is best to boil water, add the couscous to the hot water with some salt and wait for ~ 10 minutes till the couscous is done and then drain it very very well to the point of almost drying it. 
When you see the semolina turn yellowish or the couscous is drained and dry, add the dill, yoghurt and water and mix all of it carefully and let the water dry up a bit. Season with salt and garnish with cilantro/ Parsley.

A tangy, spicy and flavorful brunch-- in a way you never thought possible! Enjoy with black coffee. That is what people in southern part of India do.


This is with semolina.


Happy eating and healthy living!