Monday, August 21, 2006

The New Arrival

I finally got myself a proper cast iron pan last week.Thanks to craigslist I got this brand new, pre seasoned Emerilware grill pan for half the market price. I had been looking for one for quite sometime now but could not justify paying 25-30 dollars for a pan that I would use only occassionally. Besides maintaining a cast iron pan takes some effort in this age of non stick pots and pans. Then there is the weight issue, this smallish pan weighs seven pounds. I can do some light weight training with it. Anyways after cooking one meal I am throughly convinced that every kitchen needs one of these. For our first meal, we made grilled Tilapia fillets with a simple salad, steamed broccoli and a roasted corn and pepper soup. The corn soup came out of a box which came from Trader Joe's. Subhamoy livened it up a bit with some sauteed garlic,crushed pepper and cilantro.

The Tilapia fillets were marinated with lime juice and lime zest for one hour in the refrigerator. They were then generously seasoned on both sides with Cajun seasoning and grilled (about 4 minutes each side). Make sure the fish pieces are uniformly thin to begin with or you might be left with a slightly undercooked edge. Yikes!

The salad was a mish mash of cubed cucumber, cherry tomatoes, thinly sliced onions,a handful of canned chickpeas and some herbs (mainly mint and cilantro). It was tossed with a simple lime juice and maple syrup dressing and seasoned with salt and pepper.

We made the salad first and allowed it to sit in the refrigerator to let the various flavour develop. The fish had the nicely developed crust, the typical barbecue aroma and I also managed to get my first set of criss-cross grill marks.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

How to Make Very Healthy Bread a Tad Unhealthy

Remove crusts from four slices of whole grain bread. Take the crusts, cut them up into cubes. Put the cubed crusts (to be made into croutons at some unspecified timein the future) in a ziploc bag and forget about it. Now, dice three to four sun dried tomato halves, mince a few basil leaves and thinly slice the white part of three spring onions. Spread cream cheese on all four slices. Top one slice with basil, green onions, sun dried tomato (as shown) and cover with remaining slice. Grill in a sandwich maker and enjoy. Moan and groan after polishing off the finished product and realising that there are no pictures of the grilled goodies. Also feel a little stupid about the fact that a dash of ground pepper would have taken the taste one notch higher. Not that we were complaining or anything.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Egg Curry with a Difference

This recipe from Sanjeev Kapoor is listed in the complementary recipes section of his web site. Its rather innovative use of mashed dal as a gravy thickener was what caught my eye. I made two batches of the dish, one with boiled egg halves and one with whole eggs. They tasted the same, though the one with egg halves definitely looks prettier. I also added more than the listed amount of coconut milk and used a mix of spring onion whites and coriander leaves for garnish. I think this gravy might work well with tofu and certain vegeatbles like steamed broccoli.

Bengal gram split (chana dal) - 1/2 cup
Eggs - 6
Onions - 2 medium sized
Ginger - 1 inch piece
Garlic - 3 cloves
Tomato - 1 medium sized
Green chillies - 2
Oil - 3 tbsps
Curry leaves - 4
Kashmiri red chilli powder - 1 tsp
Cumin powder - 1 tsp
Coriander powder - 1 tbsp
Coconut milk - 1 cup
Tamarind pulp - 2 tbsps
Salt to taste
Fresh coriander leaves small bunch

1. Wash and soak the dal for two hours. Put the eggs in boiling water and cook for fifteen minutes. Cool and peel.
2. Peel, wash and grind onions. Peel, wash and grind ginger and garlic into a paste. Blanch the tomatoes, peel and roughly chop. Remove stems, wash and slit green chillies. Clean, wash and chop coriander leaves.
3. Cook dal in one and half cups of water until soft. Mash and set aside.
4. Heat oil in a heavy bottomed pan, add curry leaves. Add onion paste and fry till it turns light brown in colour. Add ginger paste, garlic paste, Kashmiri red chilli powder, cumin powder, coriander powder and sauté well. Stir in tomatoes. Add the cooked dal, slit green chillies, coconut milk, tamarind pulp and salt to taste. Simmer for further ten minutes, stirring frequently.
5. Add the boiled eggs and simmer for two minutes. Garnish with chopped coriander leaves.
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Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Baby Onion Series - Chapter 1

Pearl Onions were called sambhar onions back home for a reason. My mother used them only to make sambhar and that is all I knew about them till we started to get a small bag home every now on then. I guess my initial apprehension had everything to do with my misconceptions about peeling them. But the first bag of onions came with a little note with instruction. All you have to do is apparently blanch them in boiling water for three minutes, take them out, cool, chop one end and squeeze the other to get a shiny gel like pearl. I tried them on the first batch and was pleased to note that the technique worked.
Ever since we have been tying them in all kinds of dishes and enjoying their mild sweet taste. Add a couple to your canned soup, or if you desire something a wee bit adventurous, pressure cook (two whistles only) a handful of pearl onions with Nutrela nuggets and baby potatoes in a standard tomato, onion gravy for a delicious entrée.
I still believe that no other dish brings out the full flavour of these onions as sambhar does. I might be biased because of my childhood associations. I have come to realise that there are as many sambhar recipes as there are cooks, so here’s yet another recipe which goes back to my friend and cooking guru V.

Toor Dal – 1 1/2 cups
Pearl Onions – 10-15 , blanced and peeled
Tomatoes – 2 medium, chopped
Tamarind Paste – 1 tbsp
Sambhar Masala – 3 tbsps
Dry, Shredded Coconut – 1 tbsps
Salt – to taste
Jaggery – optional

For Tempering:
Ghee or vegetable oil – 2 tbsps
Urad dal -1 tsp
Mustard Seeds – 1 tsp
Dry Red Chillies – 5-6
Curry Leaves – 2 sprigs, shredded

1. Cook the toor dal with salt till it falls apart. Usually 4-5 whistles in a pressure cooker does the job. Mash it well and dilute with water to get desired consistency .
2. Now add the onions, chopped tomatoes and the tamarind paste and cook on medium heat till the tomatoes and onions are done. This should take about 6-7 minutes. At the end the dal hsould be dark brown in color.

3. In the meanwhile, grind the sambhar masala and coconut with a little water to a fine paste.
4. Once the tomatoes and onions are cooked, add the sambhar masala paste and stir. Cook on low heat for about 10 minutes. Taste for sourness. If it’s not sour enough, add lime juice. On the other hand if it’s too sour, add a little jaggery to moderate taste.
5. Finally heat the oil or ghee in a pan, add the tempering ingredients. Once the curry leaves are aromatic and crisp, add it to the cooked dal.
6. Taste one last time and adjust seasoning.
Enjoy with rice and forget all about clicking pictures of the steaming bowl.

PS: The technical name might be Pearl Onions, but I love calling them baby onions. Like baby potatoes, baby carrots and bay bella's it tickles me pink to think of these onions as a part of the little vegetable group. For all we know they could be the Smurf's or Lilliputians of the vegetable world. Imagine the riot they might be causing in the crisper when put together with the towering bell pepper or the ginormous head of cabbage.

Snow Pea Shoots

Another new green, snow pea shoots are the fragrant top leaves of the snow pea plant. I got a boxed packet of these greens at the local Asian grocery store. The leaves, the shoots as well as the wispy tendrils are tender and edible. I simply sauteed them with some panch phoron , green chillies, thinly sliced garlic and a minced shallot. As you can see I did add a nice sprinkle of roasted sesame seeds at the end for some crunch. Perhaps the next time around I will braise it with soy sauce and ginger...yum, I see endless possibilities. So how would you cook your little bundle of snow pea goodness?
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