Jul 26, 2010

Noodle soup--with Ramen noodles!


I have mentioned often, and have even posted a recipe, for ramen noodles. You heard right. A recipe for the horrible tasteless stuff we all hate and yet crave. Ramen noodles. I love it. But this is how I have it. 



Okay, guess now I have some readers. I could hear you all laughing and leaving out that door. But I knew, once you saw what I mean by ramen noodles, you wouldn't be ..well leaving without giving this guy an audience. But before I tell you the secret for creating such a ramen, I guess I should tell you why am I am so crazy about this. Why is it that a healthy flavorful food maker like me is sooo much into this stuff which has no health benefits and by itself is not even remotely tasty. And is even harmful if taken a lot.

As always it started when I was little. In India there is a variant of ramen noodles. Its called Maggi. And today it comes in all kinds of flavor-- hot garlic, manchrian etc-- but back when I was little,  a solid decade ago, it had only three flavors. Tomato, Chicken and Masala. It was the last one that was pure heaven. Even today,when I have Maggi, it has to be Masala flavored. A tangy, spicy hot say saucy mixture of wriggly carbs. Out of this world. And I was never allowed to have Maggi. My mom never allowed me and my sister to have maggi. For good reasons, as I now understand. But not when we were little. And all we could do was despair that our freinds at school brought this awesome Masala Maggi for lunch while we had to be content with cucumber and jicma and fruits and veggies :( 

And from there stems my, and my sister would agree I am sure, desire for ramen noodles.  I can tell you that I make it in a way that has gotten the biggest food snobs asking for more. People just cannot believe that Ramen can be this good. But it does :) As I shall tell you that recipe. Its no joke :) :)

But I do suggest that you resist making it. I know its difficult to resist making Ramen noodles when it is this good and this comforting. But honestly its not good for you at all. I myself don't have it more than once a week. But boy, I live for that day :) So buckle up. Here comes Ramen....the way you never knew possible

Ingredients

1 packet of ramen noodles. You can use any flavors--I like chicken, Asian, shrimp. You can also use the low sodium low carbohydrate variants. It does not matter. 
Get an assortment of colorful veggies and chop 'em' up. I like bell pepper, tomato, green onions, garlic and spinach. 
Cilantro or parsley
1 green jalapeno. Take the seeds out and slice it.


In fact, I add veggies to add color and flavor to almost any dish. Even a white or brown rice salad.

1 tsp of paprika
1 tsp of cumin
1/2 tsp of chilli flakes
A pinch of turmeric for color. Optional
1 cup of water 
2 eggs. Optional.

This is where the magic happens!
Heat water in a pot. Bring it to boil. Add the ramen noodles and the spice pack that comes with it. Let the noodles be almost done. See, boiling the noodles with the spice pack allows more infusion of the flavors (if you can at all call it that) into the noodles. So its just a step more than boiling it in hot water. Next when you add your 'super' spices, thier flavors will only be enhanced. Add your veggies, green chili/ Jalapeno, and let it go for a minute or so. Add the paprika, cumin and chilli flakes. And let it boil for another couple of minutes. Add water if you think its going dry. In another skillet, scramble the eggs. You can also whisk th eeggs, season and microwave it for 3 minutes. Dish up in the serving bowl.
Pour the noodles in the serving bowl over the eggs and season with salt and pepper. Stir in the cilantro/ parsley and spinach. 

Have it with a hot beverage-- like ginger tea on a crispy, lazy foggy morning. You will know what I am talking about :)

Happy eating and not so healthy eating. But does it matter  for a day? :)

Jul 23, 2010

The bold and the beautiful: Salmon the way you never had before!


You got to say 'yes' to all the answers before you get to the recipe. It isn't for the fain hearted. 

Here we go with the questions

1. Do you like spicy food?

2. Are you open to experiments?

3. Are you daring to try flavors mixed across cuisine, mercilessly?

4. Do you love garlic?

5. Finally..this is very important..are you up for baking fish with mustard oil?

Okay okay...the last question sort of gave away today's recipe. You guessed right. I ended up doing, what no body has yet attempted (I hope). Baking fish with mustard oil

Now, you may not be familiar with mustard oil. So let me take the joy of introducing it to you.

As the name suggests its pressed out of mustard seed. Its deep golden in color. Almost like liquid gold. It has the consistency of warm honey. So when you pour it, you get a texture. And it tastes like mustard. Spicy, sharp mustard. Much like wasabi. And it smells pungent. Strong and full bodied. Sounds delightful dosen't it? And in parts of India, especially from where I come, mustard oil is the cooking medium for fish. People use it to deep fry fish. nfact, mustard is a spice that would automatically be delegated to fish. I, however use mustard in everything. And part of that is culinary culture there, but my guess is, unlike olive oil or vegetable oil, it has a pungent flavor. And that gets somewhat diluted when you expose to high heat. That is my understanding. Not ncessarily full proof. But makes sense. Anyways I like my fish raw or slightly baked with lime. I am not much into redefining the awesome flavor of fish.

But I am a foodie hippie. 'Pay no attention to lill me' :) :).

But you know, R does not like that. And I kind of feel selfish just making fish so that I get to eat the majority. R loves fish with mustard oil. Really deep fried.

So we struck a deal last week. We decided to make salmon-- partly because youcan't go wrong with salmon--and use all our favorite spices and bake it with a drizzle of mustard oil. R was real skeptical about baking with mustard oil. But I knew that baking at high heat would be just as good and as perfect with mustard oil as with any other oil. Te high heat will take off the edge of the oil and leave the fragrance behind. In theory it should work great. Did it work?
So we mixed all the spices we liked, threw in all the veggies we liked in a hige bake tray. Drizzled it with garlic and mustard oil. You hear that. Drizzzlllled it with garlic. How much garlic would that have to be ? :)

And voila...That was the best spicy salmon dish ever :) I mean we kind of made sure of that. Didn't we?

So just to lure you into it, here is the fish from the devil. Spicy, tangy, golden, red...all the naugty colors and flavors.

Ingredients:

Your love and your choice :) :)

to guide you a little better,

Fish: I like salmon. But this would be good with haddock as well. 1lb of it. cut into big squares
1 small red onion. Sliced
Half a cup of tomato. Broadly cubed
2-3 cloves of garlic. Minced. You can add some more if you are as garlic crazy as me and R

Spice blend: 1 tsf coriander
                     1 tsp cumin
                     1 tsp of smoked or sweet paprika. The sweet will balance the heat
                     A pinch of turmeric. Optional
Oil: 2 tbsf of mustard oil. But feel free to use the ever trusted veg oil, corn oil or olive oil. :) 
 Salt and pepper to taste
Juice of half a lemon

Just bake buddies!

Take a baking tray. Place  the fish, onions and tomatoes. Do not crowd them. Toss with the spice blend, garlic and the oil you are choosing. Season with salt and pepper. Prheat oven to 450F for no less than 12 mins. Pop the tray in the oven. Let it be there for 20 mins.  Tak eit out and sprinkle the lemon juice all over it. 

You are done!! It does not get more experimental than this. And it does not get spicy flavored than this. And its not for the faint hearted. Have it dry dry red wine. And let the devil do what it wan't s to your senses and palate.


Happy eating and healthy living!

Jul 17, 2010

Stoups from 'here' and 'there'-- a technique to master

The heat is on. Finally.

And the amazing thing about heat is I happen to be from a place which specializes in summer recipes. You see, India has terrible summers. Terrible. Hot, humid, temperatures in excess of 120F. For almost three months. And nowhere is it more terrible than in the estern part. And that is where your's truly hails from :)

So naturally I got tons of recipes up my sleeve which is more than capable of beating the near enjoyable summer heat we have here. One very common thing used in Indian summer recipes is tons of fresh vegetables and yogurt. Both sort of cool you from inside. The veggies are mostly ligthly sauteed and then made into a soup like dish. This has a couple of advantages. One for the cook and one for the eater. The effective cooking time is reduced as these dishes double up as the veggie and the soup part. Lets call it a stoup. Thicker than a soup and thinner than a stew. I learnt this term from Rach ray. Love it. Oh sorry for getting so distracted :) The other advantage being for the eater.  Such stoups are really  light and hence great for the stomach. We also have a lot of fresh water fish. Sometimes simply added to the veggie stoup I was talking about. But generally a complete absence of meat. Lean or otherwise.

But one food disadvantage in such a weather condition is it severely limits the varaity of veggies available. Its almost limited to a few greens and eggplants. But here that's a different story. Summer is when varaity hits markets stands. The smell, the colors are just mind boggling.

So today's star are veggies from here and a recipe from there. That's lethal :) so once you master the technique, you just hit the veggie stand and go crazy. Its so good.

Ingredients:

Any choice of summer veggies. I like a mixture of carrots, eggplants, some potato and bell peppers. But fennels etc will be great as well. One of each. Bite sized chopped up 

1 tbsf whole cumin
1 tbsf whole mustard
1/2 tsp of grated ginger
1/2 tsp  of turmeric.
1 bayleaf. Optional

1 cup of veg stock. Or you can simply use hot water.
1/2 cup yogurt. Optional
Salt and pepper for seasoning
3 tbsf oil.
Cilantro or parsley or chives or green onions for garnishing

All set...lets go get this one.

In a pot heat the 2 tbsf oil. Add all the veggie (save the bell peppers if you are using them). Saute for less than  a min. Just make sure its all lightly oil coated. Take it out. You can also just grill your veggies or bake them at 450F for 10 mins. And return the pot to the fire :) such a cute thought :)
Anyway, add the remaining oil. Pop the cumin and mustard and the bay leaf and dump in all the veggies. This time around add the bell peppers too. Add the turmeric and ginger. Mix together everything. Season with salt. Add the stock/water. Cover and cook till veggies are tender. Stir in the yogurt. Its optional. So feel free to skip it if yogurt is not your thing. Check for seasoning. Add the pepper and some salt if you need. Garnish with the choice of your herb.

Have it nice and warm on your patio on a summer evening...those long lazy evening. Cools from inside and leaves you super refreshed. That's my promise.






Jul 12, 2010

A sicilian travelogue with galic-lemon-parsley chicken


This is a cliche, but I want to go to Italy. And not to Rome.

As a kid I used to love reading travel memos. Even better were travel guides. Every afternoon, after school and lunch I would read sections of travel guides. There were a zillion of them in our house. You may ask , why not travel books? Well....I do like to read travelogues. But with travelougues I feel I am undertaking a journey with the author. Staying at the same hotels, riding the same trains. Essentially viewing a country the way the author views it. Why! I also find myself sort of sharing the same thoughts with the author! I mean how do I know if the pizzeria where the author went is the best one or the cheapest one? Maybe the one right next to would suit me better! But the travelogue does not say anything of that 'other' pizzeria or the cafe or the beach or the book place...that is there for sure :) While travelogues are incredible if you haven't been to a place, it is somehow not very fulfilling for me at least. Travel guides on the other hand, are informations. Which hotel prices, which trains etc. Mundane and banal. But as a kid I felt like an adult with that information- -- in charge of the whole operation. I could plan and enjoy the journey from start to finish. The hotels I would stay in, the places I would eat, the train rides I would take. It was somehow my own journey and I always wrote a travelogue in my head. My own travelogue. I was the author of a journey through unknown country and people. No longer tagging with someone.

Weird is it?

Well, weird is as weird does :) In this way I undertook many a journey. From the deserts of Sahara to rainforests of amazon. Through the cobbled streets of Malaga and into the spice bazars of Turkey. And in those solo soujourns I did stop over in Italy. Who dosen't ? And guess where I loved it most? Capri. You know where there were those little white houses on the green hills overlooking the mediterranean.  And you get the best fruit icecreams and salads. I lived there for  a whole month. 

...I have never been to Capri. Someday I will :)

Meanwhile, whenever I remember my sojourn through Capri, I  crave Italian food. Not the American one. The ones that I am sure abounds in cafes and eateries of Capri, Sicily...and all of the countrysides of Italy. Fruity, lemony, garlicky-- decadant and yet flavorful. Sinful yet delightfully light. Last week on such a day, I  hapened to watch a Rach Ray show and she was putting on a Sicilian dinner. Was there any way I was not going to go for it? 

So here is a Sicilian meal. My way..as I think it is in Sicily :) Lemon Garlic chicken and Orzo pilaf

Lemon garlic chicken:

Ingredients

4-5 chicken drumsticks
Lemon zest of 1 lemon
Lemon juice of 1 lemon
4-5 cloves of garlic minced
half a cup of freshl parsley. Chopped
3-4 tbsf olive oil
1/2 cup of vermouth or dry white wine. You can also simply use Chicken stock or even just plain hot water.
Salt abd pepper for seasoning

It starts with oilve oil of course :)
Heat oil in a skillet. When oil smokes, add the chicken drumsticks and caramelize one side--,eaning do not move the chicken before at least 3-4 minutes. Then turn and cook chicken for 5 more minutes moving it around. Add the garlic and lemon zest. Saute for a minute. Deglaze with your fluid--water/wine/vermouth. Lower heat, cover and cook through for 10 minutes. Add stock or water if necessary.When chicken is done, season with salt and pepper. Add the parsley. Tur off heat and add the lemon juice and toss well :)

Serve with any bread or pilaf. I used Spinach Orzo pilaf :) Something which we will talk about some other day.



Dosen't this take you to the mditerranean coast...where birds sing and the sky is all blue and the food is beautiful and the maidnes look fair  ? :)


Happy eating and healthy living!

Jul 8, 2010

Rains...distant lands..and pure flavors..phoof!


This is sad...very sad. When summers in southern California  are nothing but misty mornings, foggy days and perennially gray skies. This was supposed to be New England weather! And I thought California would ne different. And while heat waves assault new England, southern California is mistily coated in fogs and rains. 


You know I have a sort of love-hate relationship with rain, mists, fogs and grey skies. Long strectches of gray days get me into a melancholy mood. A mood ill suited for my day-to-day activities. But a state of mind which takes me to these far away places... over those mist covered green mountains, right where the road curves and eyes loose it. In those lands I am the flaneur. Large leaves drip mist droplets, the tall trees hide away the skies. I feel like  trespasser. But one very excited at the chance of discovering a new land. But its all new and its all scary. And just when I am starting to get afraid and about to turn back...a tap on my shoulder startles me. I look back scared to death..and lo and behold...its a fair ground. Merry-go-rounds and candies and old men selling toys and children playing. Or you know it could be a North pole winter fair or a sea of milk and sugar and white elephants play in that sea, each with a big pearl on their head...and I never return.

Somehow when the sun is bright and shining and there are happy people all around and the bbq smells tease the senses...that distant land vanishes. Phoof :)

I  feel this distant land is like mellowed flavor. One which I approach with caution and excitement. Whats new what's new? And the only thing I can think of fish. Raw fish. Salmon, Haddock, Tuna...they all have such unique understated flavors. I get the same feeling as I do on a gloomy day. An anticipation of something somewhere..new and quaint. First time I tried it was this spring at my sister's place, with left over salmon from a sushi making session. And I never returned. I think the taste of raw fish or seafood  in its unadultrated quality is very understated. Its sometimes best appreciated without any brighter flavors and strong spices cos in presence of brightness, their weak flavor goes away....phoof.

So this week while the weather continues to be gloomy and dark, I decided on having raw fish, with some money my mom sent me. My favorite is salmon. So I got some nice big salmon chunks and had it dipping in a mixture of soy sauce and garlic. I have to tell you ...that my sister really showed me how to have raw fish :)




Happy eating and healthy living

Jul 5, 2010

Tofu-Spinach-Bellpepper salad-- with stretch marks!


That's right. I got a a new grill for the 4th of july. 


Only it wasn't so :) I got an electric grill earlier this month. You see I was a bit fed up with grilling in a prehistoric caveman-like way. Directly on the gas flame. Look above you and there you go. Although it did have its benefits ...but the problems far outweighed the advantage of having those really charred flavors. 

Plus I love the stretch marks, I mean the grill marks, on food which a grill does!

And boy, don't I love my new grill! It isn't fancy. But serves more than its purpose. And one of the first things I did with it was a salad. The sole puropose was to grill away colorful veggis and make a salad out of it in a healthy way for the looming summer days aheaf :)

Without much to talk about lets get into the lovely colors-- with some stretch marks

Ingredients:

Any colorful crunchy veggies : I used one giant red bell pepper, thivkly sliced up lenthwise
Tofu: One box of extra firm tofu.
A bunch of Spinach.
2 cloves of garlic. Finely chopped.
1 tbsf of dill or curry leaves.
3-4 tbsf low fat yoghurt
1 tbsf olive oil
1 tbsf soy sauce
1/2 tsp of mustard seed. Optional
1/2 tsp of red chilli flakes.
Half a lime
Salt and pepper to taste

Its a  grilled salad!! So all you do is grill

Drain the Tofu and cover it in a paper towl and press it down with something very heavy for 15-20 mins to drain the liquid. Cut the drained and dries tofu into big fat stripes. The draining drying and thick slicing helps with quicker and less messy and oil free grilling. If you don't have a grill, cut the tofu in small 1' cubes and shallow fry them in some olive oil and place in your salad bowl.
Anyway heat the grill and place your tofu strips on the grill-- without oil--for about 10 minutes. You can use oil of course, but I was trying a healthy way. The best way to know if your tofu is done, when you can take it off the grill effortlessly and without breaking it. Let the tofu cool and then cut it into bite size cubes. Meanwhile start grilling the bell pepper (or the crunchy veggie you are using)--5 minutes. You can also of shallow fry  them (2 min) or broil them on high for 10 minutes. Once the bell pepper is cooled down, cut it in bite seze peices. Lay the tofu cubes and bell pepper in your salad dish. In a skillet, add a tbsf of oilive oil and add one clove of garlic and the spinach. Wilt down the spinach and add to the tofu in the salad dish. 



For the sauce, whish together the remaining clove of garlic, yoghurt, soysauce, curry/ dill leaves. In the remaining oil, crackle the flakes and the mustard see and add all of it to the whisked yoghurt. Mix well and add the sauce to the salad dish. Squeeze the lemon juice from half the lime. Mix well but be careful.  Season with salt and pepper.  Chill and serve. 

A lovely light dish for your summer evenings :) Oh, did you know that yoghurt is a cooling agent. Keeps you cool from inside!


Happy eating and healthy living