Sunday, August 28, 2005

Herb chicken

I cooked this dish last night... if you like subtle tastes, you'll like this.

Bone less chicken slices (look for the chicken thats for stir frying)
Half an Onion
Minced Ginger (use your own measure)
Half-boiled Potatoes (3-4 minutes in the microwave)
Some plain yogurt
- Parsley
- Oregano
- Thyme
- Cumin seeds (a pinch)

A skillet. (Preferably something thats not non-stick... ideally a cast-iron skillet, adds to the taste and is also a healthier option. In its absence stick to a regular steel pan!!) + regular overhead.

Marinate the chicken in yogurt and nothing else

Heat a wee bit of olive oil in the pan... just to wet the surface. All the ingredients give out their own oil, so don't over kill on the grease. Thats also a very good reason to buy free-range corn fed farmed chicken... so you don't cook your food in artificial enzymes, growth hormones and unhappy energies.

Put in a pinch of cumin seeds and wait till they crackle.

Put in the mushroom, reduce the flame and sautee for about a minute.

Put in the finely chopped onions and shortly after add the ginger

Fry till the onions turn golden brown

Put in the herbs... typically I sprinkle generously. Use your judgement.

Add a wee bit water, becasue the herbs tend to rise... not too much water because you don't want to boil things yet.

Fry till things get a nice sauteed look

Put in the marinated chicken and half-boiled potatoes

Stir fry for a wee bit, till the chicken turns white.

Add water, turn the flame to medium and let the whole deal simmer... and add salt to taste

Let it simmer for a little while till the potatoes are done and the chicken is cooked.

Sprinkle some parsely, oregano and thyme and serve with rice or bread.


Friday, August 26, 2005

Good Food and Bus Stops

The morning was spent evaluating bus stop locations and signalized intersections for pedestrian safety with my colleague. Since we were in Takoma Park, we decided to drop by The Savory Cafe for lunch. Located in the heart of dowtown Takoma Park, the exterior belies this really sunny cafe's cavernous interiors (this is horrible grammar...but with an overfed belly who cares!!!). Now now, don't go trying to fit an elephant in there. Built on three levels it also has outdoor seating and for folks used to the quaint cramped neghbourhood cafes like us that translates to spacious with a capital S. The spread offered is simple but wholesome and the baked goods tempting. I tried their Southwestern sandwich on ciabatta bread (which was a bit on the spicy side) and a side salad. My colleague ordered a tuna salad with capers which unlike most places was more tuna and less goeey mayonnaise. The seating is very bistro-ish and the plates and bowls are colorful and kitschy....I really like places which do not give you color co-ordinated plates and bowls. I could not resist the temptation of buying an almond croissant for the boy. At 8 bucks per person it is also nice on the wallet. If you are in this region do stop by for some organic goodness.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Quick Warm Okra Salad

My mom made this dish last night for dinner. We had this with rice, but in retrospect bread might have been a better choice . You will need Chaat Masala and Garam Masala for this dish. Garam Masala is available in most grocery stores in the US now but Chaat Masala is still solely available in the Asian stores. If you don't have it handy just substitute it with a mix of equal parts rock salt and ground cumin seeds. A souring agent like amchoor (powdered dried mango) is usually added, but you can do without it in this case as the yogurt has some sourness to it. On the other if you favour tangy foods like me, feel free to splash on some lemon juice.

Frozen Cut Okra /Bhindi- one 16 ounce bag
Red Onion - one medium sized
Yogurt - 1 cup
Chaat Masala - 2 tbsps
Red Chilli Powder - 1/2 tsp
Garam Masala - 1/2 tsp
Salt - To Taste (the Chaat Masala has some salt in it)

1. Slice the Onion thickly.
2. In a microwave proof bowl mix all the ingredients and then microwave on high for 7-8 minutes till the okra is cooked through.
3. Serve warm with bread.

Monday, August 15, 2005

To the Market, To the Market, To Buy a....

I come from one of the most industrialized cities of India located in the heart of the Chotanagpur Plateau – known for its rich natural resources, vibrant tribal life, lush forests and yes, the mildly musical, wildly exotic names. Being a steel town, life revolves around the mammoth blast furnaces for most people. There is a certain discipline to life there, almost bordering on boredom during the weekdays. But come Sunday morning, the town market comes alive. This is the only day the “Engineer Babus” have time to indulge in some “bajar kora” or shopping for the household. Tribal women with loads of vegetables balanced precariously on their heads head for the market as do truckloads of fish from Haldipukur (it literally means “Yellow Pond”.....who would want to eat fish that came from a jaundiced pond...Ewwww!). I remember going to the market with my father on Sundays and looking on with amusement as he haggled with every vegetable seller before making a purchase. He had his favorites among them – Kesto (I always thought he looked a little drunk like the guy from the movies) sold good “kancha kola”, “thor”, “mocha” and other exotic vegetables while the Mota Aluwallah (that is what we called him) sold potatoes, onions and chicken!! Then there was some Mashi or the other who would sell stuff for making sweet chutneys like “kool”, “amra” “kamranga” etc. Families would be enquired about and stories of births, deaths and marriages exchanged as one picked through the produce. A regular customer would always get a bunch of cilantro or a handful of green chillies for free with his purchase.

After retirement my parents moved from company housing to their own place very near the banks of the Subarnarekha river (which translates to “Golden Line” - legend has it that the river carries gold from mines far, far away); where on early mornings they could waylay villagers crossing the river to sell their produce and gloat about the freshness of vegetables and fish acquired this way. Soon, the villagers stopped going all the way to the market and now setup stalls every morning and evening outside our place instead!!! It has been ages since I stepped into one of those hustling, bustling market places. I am not particularly fond of the chain grocery stores but I am quite satisfied with the produce at my local Korean store and the occasional trip to the Farmer’s Market (read once a year maybe!!). My parents on the other hand found the ultra hygienic confines of the local supermarket stifling and the produce insipid. The Korean store with its fishy smells felt a little more homely but still…. The Farmer’s Market on the other hand …aha!!…now we were talking fresh vegetables for the first time. We came back from the Farmer’s Market with loads of vegetables on Saturday morning. Amongst which were three beautifully glistening, greenish black peppers which were promptly cooked when we returned home. We picked them from this box of other colorful peppers.

The recipe is an old one which was taken from some cook book or the other (the details escape me at the moment). The try-it-with-tofu-if-you-are-a health-food-nut-like-me advice comes free of charge as usual. On the other hand if you have recently discovered feelings of ummm…the not so friendly kind…towards any fellow human/s, call them over for a meal and cook this with loads of ghee instead (and for added taste deep fry the paneer in ghee). And then after a meal, sit back and let that warm glow of a job well done spread within as you mentally picture his/her arteries clogging up!!!!

Paneer with Peppers

Paneer– 400 gms
Peppers– 2 medium sized
Plum Tomatoes – 4 medium sized
Ginger paste – 2 tbsps
Garlic Paste – 2 tbsps
Coriander seeds – 2 tbsps
Dried Red Chilly or Cayenne Pepper – 3 (add more if you like it spicy)
Seranno Pepper/Tai Peppers – 2 (add more if you like it spicy)
Salt – to taste

1. Slice the paneer and the peppers and keep aside. Finely chop the tomatoes. Crush the coriander and dried red chillies in a mortar. The spice mix should be coarsely ground. Remove seeds and spine from the Serrano peppers and finely slice them.
2. In a heated work, add two turns of oil. Add the garlic paste and cook till fragrant. Now add the sliced peppers. Let it cook for 3-4 minutes.
3. Add the ginger paste and the Serrano peppers to the wok and cook for two minutes.
4. Now add the coarsely ground spice mix and stir. Once the spice blend is mixed in well, add the tomatoes and cook, till the oil separates from the vegetables.
5. Finally add the paneer slices and the salt to taste. Let the paneer heat through, don’t overcook.
Remove from heat and serve garnished with chopped cilantro. This is turns out a little on the dry side and goes very well with naans, paranthas or any other Indian bread.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

My Woes!

Sorry folks haven't posted an original recipe in a long time. But then, I've been in the middle of a move and so completely out of the kitchen. Now, if I may lend you some kitchen related advice (if you ignore this you will get yourself a recipe for disaster, as I did), as and when you are moving from one end of the country to the other (or to somewhere in the middle, as in my case) and you are employing a mover make sure that you do not ask them to pack in all your kitchen utensils. Thats exactly what I did.

I physically moved to MI on 8/1 and the movers still have not arrived. So I have been left with eating frozen TV dinners (the oven being my only cooking tool).

Yeah! Why don't I eat out? I am officially broke - at least till all my first pay cheque comes in and I start getting reimbursed for my moving expenses

Why don't I get myself a bare-bone kitchen utensil set? Heres my sad story. I don't have a car so I am yet to drive around this new town to find an appropriate place to buy utensils. However, yesterday I made an honest attempt. Looked up the map and trudged down a couple of miles to the nearby strip mall. But alas! I couldn't find a place where they sold utensils ... I was only looking for a saucepan.

However, I did hunt down a stainless steel bowl and a set of paper plates and plastic spoons so I can at least boil rice and dal.

Of course I still have to get off my computer and trudge to the grocery store so I can buy the stuff I need to boil.

Isn't it interesting, I made it a point to have the net up and running at home but completely goated out on the kitchen bit.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Fish Fry

As a graduate student I lived in a house with three more students. The meager pay was enough to send us scuttling into the kitchen, experimenting with pots, pans, knives, vegetables and spices to keep body and soul from being rent apart by penury. My initial forays into the kitchen were quite disastrous, much to the amusement of my housemates. After a few mishaps however an emergency meeting(bereft of mirth) was called and I was demoted to the rank of helper and advised to register for Cooking 101 to be administered by V. Now V was not only the best cook in the house but she had gone to cooking school and had loads of experience teaching ingĂ©nue’s like me. Henceforth, I would chop vegetables in the beginning and scrub the pans at the end and somewhere in between V would teach me some culinary basics. I never really got around to cooking a lot as V was better and faster and the arrangement (with her cooking and me cleaning up) seemed to suit us fine. It was only after I moved out of Amherst that I started to cook earnestly because I was suddenly craving all the Marathi dishes she would make. This was one of the first dishes I made for me new apartment mates and it was also the one that made me rethink and rationalize my hatred for fish.

Try to use a white fish fillet without too much overwhelming flavor of its own for this dish. Catfish and Sword fish hold up rather well. I normally get four catfish fillets and then make 4 approximately 4” X 2” pieces out of each fillet. Feel free to use any other size that you might be comfortable with. The recipe is rather basic like any other fried fish recipe, so feel free to experiment with the quantities as per your taste. If you don’t have the rice flour this recipe calls for, use all purpose flour instead. I am assuming that bread crumbs would work just fine too.

You Will Need…
Fish Fillets – 4 pieces (4” X2”)
Tamarind Concentrate – 1.5 tbsps
Ginger Paste – 1 tbsps
Garlic Paste – 1 tbsps
Salt – to taste
Sugar – to taste
Red chilli Powder – ½ tsp
Turmeric powder – ½ tsp
Rice flour – 6 to 8 tbsps
Rawa – 4 tbsps
Oil for frying

Now Get Down and Dirty…
Marinate the fish in salt, turmeric and ginger, garlic paste. While the fish is marinating make a dipping sauce out of the tamarind concentrate, salt, sugar and red chilli powder. Use water to adjust its consistency. The sauce should be a little on the tart side.
In a separate plate mix the rawa and the rice flour and keep aside. Now take each fish piece, first dip liberally in the tamarind sauce and then roll in rice flour mix and set aside.
Finally shallow fry the pieces and serve on bed of onion rings. If you don’t mind the grease go ahead and deep fry the fish.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

My New Pot

Just because we have been so dormant on this forum, here's some news...I bought a new pot for myself. I had been feeling the need for a pot for some time now and then last week while making pasta the lack of a suitable vessel to boil water in really hit us hard (we just moved into our new place and our still setting it up- for those who did not know!!). Hence a trip was made to Bed Bath and Beyond and after much pondering we brought home our new pot - A Circulon hard anodized 3.5 quart pot with a handle. Have not used it yet. Will soon post a pic of it and also a recipe (maybe!!).

Monday, August 01, 2005

Paneer Korma

My Mom and I made this for a party we threw for friends a few days back. The original recipe is from Sanjeev Kapoor but I have experimented with it quite a few times with very good results. For a healthier variation subsitute paneer with tofu.

Paneer (cubed)- 250 gms
Onion (sliced) - 1 medium
Cinnamon - 1/2 stick
Cloves - 6
Green Cardamoms - 6
Bay Leaf - 1
Black Cumin Seeds - 1 tbsp (may subsitute with normal cumin )
Ginger Paste - 2 tbsp
Garlic Paste - 1 tbsp
Chilli Powder - 1 tbsp
Coriander Powder - 1 tbsp
Cumin Powder - 2 tbsp
Turmeric POwder - 1/4 tbsp
Yogurt - 1/4 cup( please no fat free here)
Water - 1 cup
Green Chillies Sliced -2
Cilantro Chopped - for garnish
Vegetable Oil - 2 turns of wok
Salt to Taste

Phew!! that was quite a list wasn't now we cook. Since the gravy for this dish is yogurt based you would do well not to use any of the fat free stuff...makes the gravy quite runny.

1. Sautee onions in oil, add cinnamon, cardamom, bay leaf and the black cumin seeds and fry till fragrant.
2. Add the ginger and garlic pastes and stir fry. Then add the cubed paneer.
3. Sprinkle in the chilli, coariander, cumin and turmeric powders and mix well.
4. Add yogurt mixed well with one cup of water and cook over low heat.
5. Once the gravy has thickened considerably, add the salt and remove from flame.
6. Garnish with sliced green chilies and cilantro. You may throw in some slivered almonds for added effect.

PS: Add the salt last as the yogurt tends to curdle into lumps when salt is added while cooking.