May 27, 2010

Eggplant-- adding color to your life :)


Nothing veggies posted in several days. That is so not me! Did I ever tell you about my favorite vegetable? It is eggplant with a capital E. I also love the varaities they come in. Italian, Chinese, the jumbo ones. And all of them have such a different tastes. Earlier I would use all of them without giving each type its due respect. Imbecile me :) But now of course, when I have the time and money, I try to utilise the flavors of each of these varaities. 

For example the chinese ones are great for my veggie potpouries. Their usually mushy interiors help me with quick cooking. The Jumbo ones, I would usually peel the skin off and do some mashed dish. My recent favorite are the cute looking Italian eggplants. They are so good when oven roasted or grilled.

But I often go with the veggie potpouri, cos that just lasts longer and also features a few more veggies.  Before I get ahead of myself, let me tell you what I mean by potpouri. Back when I was little, I always used to get confused by the several names attached to mixed veggies. Each would feature kind of the same or rather similar veggie combination, but with different spice combinations. I can't think of the names. So when I make food, I use varaity of spice combinations, kind of using things I like and know will go great together. So if I started coming up with names for each of these combinations....boy I need to spend time wrting up a dicktionary :) So its potpouri for me.

Today's dish is just one of such many combinations of spices-- with eggplant. You can do this combination or any other using the same technique and you can give your veggie dish a name. Kind of your signature dish. 

I will just go with potpouri :)

So here is how

Ingredients:

1 Big chinese eggplant. Or feel free to use any. If you are using the Italian or the Jumbo one, I would suggest feeling off some or all of that skin. Cut into bite size chunks.
1 cup of fresh green beans chopped up.

2 cloves of garlic. Crushed or grated
1/2 tsp of whole allspice.
A pinch of turmeric. Optional. This is simply for some color in your life..I mean dish :)

The combination of garlic and allspice is lethally good.Allspice is a common spice in Indian, especially bengali food. I just happen to add garlic to that. So another flavor, that I adore :)

2-3 tbsf good quality olive oil
1/2 cup of veggie stock, brought to room temperature. YOu can simply use hot water too
Salt and pepper for seasoning


Its really simple.

For the eggplants you can do either of the two things. I tend to do the former.
a) Marinate the eggplants in 1 tbsf olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and you can bake the eggplants on high (500F or as high as the oven goes) for 10 mins
                              Or
b) You can heat 2 tbsf oil in a skillet and saute the eggplants. Remember to cover it and give it a shimmy shake. The covering helps the eggplants cook quickly with little oil. 

Either one is fine. I do the foremer. Less of work for me. In a skillet, heat the remaining oil. Once oil is hot, pop the allspice. Wait for the aroma to hit you :) Add the eggplants and saute till they are coated with the allspice Add the beans and turmeric. Saute till everything is well mixed. Add water/stock. Cover and cook through. Medium heat is best. Make sure that bottom is not getting charred. Add extra water if you need. Season with salt and pepper. 

Serve warm. A delish veggies dish and one for the keeps too :)



Happy eating and healthy living!


May 25, 2010

Spinach-onion chicken. Traditionally simple :)



My father always said that the every new game starts at zero. I now know that feeling. Thank you everyone for attending the party at my 100 post. I woke up, all smiles and gift only to find that I start at one again. 

I have always been a big fan of simple things. By that I don't mean, I like tacky things. Not at all.  but Simple enough to be appealing and yet not confusing. This is a classic example. But I like to think about it. Take google website for example. I mean most of it is white space. The search box in the centre defines the biggest purpose of the web page. But then, if you look at all other, including yahoo. Clustered. You need to be with Yahoo for a sometime till you can figure out what it is tha they are selling. I have been with it for twelve long years. And I am still not sure what it is trying to sell. News, views, mailservice, search engine, health, beauty, fashion...? 

Food is like that. I don't really enjoy clutter too much. There should be but one focus of any recipe. A lot of  recipes taste really good...but then I am often confused with what it is I am tasting. The tangy tomato? or  no the Saffron? And that is a kind of turn off to me. Don't get me wrong. But this is true for many popular entrees. One I will use as a strawman is the ever favorite 'Butter-chikken Tikka Masala' . 

Okay the name is confounding to begin with :) Butter--Tikka- Massala? And then Massala really means 'spices' and 'Tikka' is just a technique of grilling little bits over hot charcoal. But when I taste butter-chicken-Tikka massala, the confusion reigns even higher. I am tasting this salty, hot, spicy, sweet tangy thing....but what is going on?  See I don't like this sort of confusion. For one thing is sure all of these ingredients have such gorgeous flavors. And its a pity to down them into one another. For example, if I want butter in my dish, I will use a herb and lemon to increase the smokiness of the butter. If I want a spice I will use it to dominate a recipe. And if I want barbecued the only thing I am gonna use is a bit of yoghurt, oil and cumin and cayenne pepper and maybe some coriander :) The flavors stick out.

That is  what I love in any food. And its not a simple thing to come up with simple combinations that work wonders. Often we think the more the merrier. But when we do come up with these simple lines of flavorings, its often difficult to beat :)

One such recipe is Spinach chicken. And you won't believe it that it is adapted from a recipe book of traditional bengali recipes (written in local vernacular) and a gift from my grandmother who bought this a good 30-40 years back. It is so simple and elegant...flavorful and you can literally eat tons of it. There is so little oil  to coat your taste buds 

So without much ado...straight into onion-spinach chicken-- a flavor that sticks. Traditionally speaking :)

Ingredients:

2 lb of chicken. I opt for the organic drumsticks. Bone in. But feel free to discard the skin. I also use organic whole chicken and ask the friendly butcher to chop it up. That way I get the taste, flavor of whole organic chicken at 1$/lb :) Neat trick I tell ya :)

1 big bunch of spinach. Baby spinach, organic spinach..any thing you have on hand
4 cloves of garlic- grated
2 big tomatoes. Chopped up
1 big or two medium onions diced.
1 Jalapeno. Seed removed and diced. You can keep the seeds for heat if you like.

1 tbsf of whole coriander. 
A few cloves. This is the fragrance imparting ingredient
1/2 a tsp  of Turmeric for color

3 tbsf of olive oil.
3-4 cups of water for boiling chicken.
Salt and pepper for seasoning
Cilantro and Parsley for garnish

All you gotta do is this :)

In a pot take water and boil your chicken. While your chicken is waiting to be cooked, in a skillet, heat oil and add the coriander. Wait for fragrance and add the onion, Fry for 4-5 minutes till they are browned. Add the tomatoes and keep sauteeing for another couple of minutes. Add the garlic, jalapeno, spinach and the cloves. Wilt everyting down. Turn off the stove. 

After the chicken is done cooking, strain the pieces and put in back in the pot. Add the spinach- mixture you just made and the turmeric. Let everything combine. A good 5-6 minutes over low heat. Season with salt and pepper. Garnish with parsley or Cilantro.

Serve hot with jasmine rice or will be great with dinner bread and rolls. 

Its simplicity and aroma is just awesome. Try it to know it :)





Happy eating and healthy living



May 20, 2010

My very 100th post..awards...and a bit of celebration!


You heard right! It is indeed my 100th post and no one I suppose could be happier or more surprized than myself about achieving this teeny tiny landmark :) I did not know that I had a 100 post ideas in myself. So quite a discovery. And happy as hell to share with the best blogging community in town, who has been such a constant source of joy, inspiration and creativity through it all :) 

Three cheers for us! 

I know I  have been a little lazy about posting. But that is because I manage a Phd along with it---which sometimes takes up a lot of time. But I can tell you one thing. I am happiest writing in my blogs. Happiest. I might have also just figured out what I wanna do with the rest of my life-- given an oppetunity and also finding it at the right time, of course-- write. Science, food, short stories, novels....the list goes on. And so does my imagination. And to think it all started and kept happening with blogging. Food blogging more so. 

Three cheers to us! ...for that as well

And it even better that I get to share some lovely awards that I have recieved from Kristy at my little space.. You should check out her website, if you haven't done so yet. Incredible recipes, especially her dessert recipes...Looks so professional, but does not sound that impossible to come up with. A must stop for dessert lovers. And she has been so sweet in sharing multiple awards with many of us.  But guess what atracted me to her blog in the very first place? The name: My little space. A small place that makes and shares such yummy sweet things :) And that is one thing I love about this community. Sharing without a sense of competition. 

So here are the lovely awards



























































And I like to share them with everyone who has been so fantastic over the course of 100 posts, and that includes a few freinds who have dropped out since then. But their support went a long way. So special mention to my lost friend Nat of Nat loves baking in Nyc. Hopefully she will one day join us with her lovely simple posts and recipes :)

HOpefully you will all pick up the awards and be as much happy to display them as I am to do so :)

And on a celebratory note, a 100th post without a recipe...nahhh :)

So here is simple idea to make your brunches a bit more savory and flavorful. Adding garlic sauteed spinach and watercress to your morning bagel, with no more than half a tsp of olive oil. Let me tell you..that is one hell of a good breakfast...and quite a substitute if you are having a spinach-harissa-crepe mood, in your pyjamas



Happy eating and healthy living!

May 10, 2010

Cheeseless pizza--a way to patch up and create a flavorful memory


I firmly believe that our strongest memories are associated with food. I cannot pass judgement. But I know it is true for me. The most vivid memories of my childhood, adolescence, my adult life so far, has always had a attachment to food--the aroma of cardamom from the kitchen suggestive of a 'rule' breaking sunday breakfast, the first time I had angel cake at my friend's birthday party, the aroma of fresh vegetables in the farmers market I used to frequent with my mother, the pinics that we used to have, the taste of samosas in the college cafeteria, the very first time I used to make food by myself in the dorm kitchens -- all of it. I find it  incredible that  almost always reminiscing down the memory lane starts with food.

Food also has a therapeutic effect. And this I did not know. Till a few days back.

I had a rough couple of days with R. Altercation of any manner leaves me very emotionally drained and vulnerable. I have been like this for a long time now. I hate confontrations. I somehow find myself very out of touch with my usual self, which even if I may add is pretty fun and optimistic. A bit forced, at times. but I like the feeling of being happy. I remember that as a child my parents, like all other parents I am sure, ran into confrontations of very serious types. At least they looked very serious from where I was standing, 4 feet above the ground :) And the first thing that happend was both of them refused to eat. They could go on for a couple of days on minimal eating. I used to get very scared. The feeling of the kitchen being off was certainly the worst thing that could ever happen. And I always rejoiced when my mother would go back to the kitchen after they had resolved whatever it was that was bothering them and my father would say how good the food tasted..etc. Seemed like everything was fine with the world again.

For me, however the kitchen is where the solutions lie. The other way for me to think through problems is to take long long walks. When I have to figure out something out, mathematical or emotional, the kitchen or the road is my refuge.  As I was saying that I had a rough couple of days with R. And I wanted to figure the root of the problem. And I started making a dish. As  the home filled up with a lovely smell, the problem lost its over bearing presence. It is as if a geanie appeared from the pot and smiled at me and said, 'Really is this what you are making of all that has been said?'.  Of course the problem could not be so important to have such a big impact. The  cause and the solutions lay clearly before my eyes.  And with that  I started to fill happy again.

There is no better way to say sorry than with food. I think it kind of shows that you mean what you say. you are ready to put an effort into saying it. And more importantly food appeals to us humans in a vey basic, good kind of way. I have always done this. And I have always appreciated when someone said 'sorry' with food. For me, of course it has to be choclate and wine :)

I wish my mom knew had figured that geanies reside in food and one just needs to rub tha pot and the solutions would be there. Right there. Food is therapeutic. Making it and eating it together brings people closer, helps ending altercations and creates the best and nicest memories, even from situations which can turn real nasty. So next time you have an unhappy day, try this recipe. Its a great way to dispel bad feeling and retsore the aroma of the house :)

So here is that fiery chicken recipe which solved my dilemmas . And you can do one more fun thing with it...but that is for, after the recipe :

Ingredients:

1/2 lb Skinless boneless chicken. Darker thing meat is better. Organic is even better. But use whatever  you have on hand
1/4 th cup of red wine vinegar. You can also use balsamic vinegar. Better actually
1 tsp of hot sauce. If you don't have hot sauce use A pinch of cayenne pepper powder
1/2 tsp of crushed chille flakes
1 tsp of fresh rosemary leaves. Diced. Or you can use dried ones too.
3 tbsf olive oil
Salt and pepper for seasoning

Nothing really to do :)

Mix all ingredients together and marinade chicken in it for ~ 10 min. Heat oil in a skillet and cook them on high on each side for 4 minutes. Let that brown color develop. You can also grill your chicken.

Tak eit out of the skillet and rest it for ~ 10 minutes.



The chicken is very versatile. You can use the chicken as your entree, on your salad. As an appetizer. Whatever. Its real spicy and makes for a wonderful barbeque substitute as well.

Or you can do what I and R did.

We chopped the chicken up and used it as a topping for our thin crust pizza along with  bell pepper, onion and jalapeno. We also used garlic-olive oil- lemon-pesto sauce (we made up this combination) to coat our pizza crust.



I tell you it is one of the best pizza we ever had! Also it was so flavorful, we did not use the cheese. How fantastically low calorie, flavorful and therapeutic does that sound? Wait, here is how it looked :)




Happy eating and healthy living!!



May 3, 2010

Anchovy-Garlic-egg-spinach pasta. 'Only so much of new'






Old skirt + new tank== A new outfit.

Old chair+ new drape== New chair.

I am addicted to this idea. Turning something--anything--old and classic into something 'newish' by adding a little extra something. Kind of marrying comfort with rebellion. And in nothing is this so easily achieved as is with food. 

Iam mixing and matching. But the kind that I am suggesting today, is not your regular mixing-matiching type of thing. It is about changing 'only so much' of an age old favorite. Like adding fennel and grated carrots to the my lentil soup, adding a radichio to my potato salad. Things like that. Here is an example. My comfort food is potato fries. Yes it is true. Even for a healthy eater like me, it still is fries. And on thos rainy days, those depressing days, tired day, there is simply no way I would be coaxed into substituting my fries for  a grilled bokchoy. Agreed it is healthier, a new food option. But no Thank you. I will like fries, please.  

See the kind of association with such classic thingys. I know they work like a charm. And it is difficult to let go of such comfort, especially after a harrowing day. However on such a harrowing day, I would be very happy to have potatoes-- but baked on high-- with some garlic, smoked paprika, and lemon pepper. Now that is what  I will love..even more than my regular fries. 

I am always doing such things. Changing only so much..enough to have people fall in love with the 'new' dish..but not so much as to have it apprear suspicious :) It is like changing the decor of my room..but still keeping that old couch. Just with a new set of drapes on :) 

One such classic favorite is garlic-spinach pasta. Ceaser pasta like. I  simply added a bit of twist to this. Anchovy and egg. Boy wasn't it an instant hit! As I was saying it still had all the components of the classic spinach pasta..with the boldness of anchovy. The inspiration of the dish is from Rachel Ray. But my version is more figure friendly, in the sense that it does not have the cheese in it. You can obviosly add on some cheese. This is also a fantastic way to get pasta haters (it is crazy..let me tell you they exist!) to get inittiated in this lovely world of squiggliness. I have a friend who is like this. He hated pasta-- but on very logical ground. That they all tasted the same cheesy thingies. Of course he meant the student joint kind of places. This was of course before I treated him to pasta. And let me tell you, that pasta was not as half good as this one. I wonder what he would have to say about hating pasta, had he the chance of savoring this recipe.

Without much talk (as it is it is quite a lot) lets get straight into the recipe 

Ingredients

  • Salt
  • 1 pound spaghetti
  • 3 tbsf of  olive oil
  • 6 anchovy fillets, drained
  • 4 large cloves garlic, grated or finely chopped
  •  1 tbsf of hot sauce
  • A box of baby spinach. You can use two bunches of regular spinach as well. Wash and drain. Wash real well
  • 1 lemon, halved
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg, or to taste
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1 cup grated Pecorino Romano. Optional


Here is how you do it!



Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Once boiling, salt the water. Add the pasta and cook until just shy of al dente, according to package directions.
Heads up: you need to reserve about 1 cup of the starchy cooking water just before draining.
While the pasta is cooking, put a large skillet over medium-high heat and add the extra-virgin olive oil. Add the anchovies and cook until they've melted into the oil, about 2 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the garlic, stir 1 minute then add in hot sauce. Add several handfuls of spinach  at a time, wilting the greens in the garlic oil. Dress the greens with lots of pepper and a little nutmeg, then squeeze the juice of 1 lemon over the pan. Add the reserved starchy cooking water to the eggs in a small bowl and beat together to temper them. Turn off the heat and add the drained pasta and the egg mixture. Stir to combine. Transfer to a serving dish. Pass the cheese at the table.


I served it with a stir fry of veggies-- tofu, carrots and beans. Was that much healthier of course. 






Happy eating and healthy living!