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Corn on the Cob Curry

2 Jul

IMG_3056You can spend several years traveling all across India and still find distinctive dishes that you have never tasted before. There are thousands of regional dishes and over hundreds of ways of preparing each of them. This is the very reason India and Indian food is paradise for food enthusiasts. Just when you think you have tried every dish a region has to offer, you will surely stumble upon another unique flavor profile.

A few years ago my mother-in-law introduced me to a Corn on the Cob Curry. I had never eaten corn in a robust coconut gravy laced with tamarind paste and finished with a classic South Indian tempering of mustard seeds, curry leaves and dried red chilies. This dish harmoniously married together different textures and several spices; there was perfect equality among all the ingredients with no element dared to over-power another.

This adaptation of my mother-in-laws brilliant recipe features  just in time for the height of corn season. So go ahead and add something more than just butter and spice to your Corn on the Cob this summer. Continue reading

Chinese Dry-Cooked Haricots Verts

23 Apr

Dry-cooked Haricot Verts

Green Beans never really excited me. I never craved them and yet I ate them ungrudgingly when they were cooked.  That was until I met Haricots Verts – French green beans. These stringless green beans are longer and thinner than most American and Indian green bean varieties. They also have a more complex flavor and are tenderer than the other green beans I have encountered. These beauties had me yearning for them right after I tried them!

One of my favorite preparations of Haricots Verts is at Mumbai’s acclaimed Chinese restaurant – Golden Dragon. Golden Dragon specializes in both traditional Sichuan and Indian-Chinese dishes. I recently stumbled upon Golden Dragon’s Dry-Cooked Haricot Verts recipe in the “Vegetarian Fare at the Taj Cookbook” and am tremendously excited to share a slightly modified version on my blog.  Continue reading

Green Mango & Shrimp Salad

10 Apr

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Most foodies concur that a dish that harmoniously unifies savory, spicy, sweet, and sour truly gratifies our taste buds. This is probably why most people fall in love with Thai, Vietnamese and Cambodian salads on tasting them. The dressings for most of these salads amalgamate fish sauce, chilies, lime juice and sugar – a true treat for the palate. I came upon this realization while creating this recipe, which is my third Asian Salad post in the last few months.   Continue reading

Mac & Cheese with an Indian Flair

19 Nov

Photo credit: Sneha (www.prettyinpic.com)

While the turkey is the superstar of a Thanksgiving dinner, guests also gather around the holiday table eager to load up on its supporting cast members – the side dishes. So if you are hosting a Thanksgiving dinner, remember while these side dishes may seem slightly less import than the Turkey they are still an integral part of a Thanksgiving meal. These are also the dishes that can showcase your creativity and ingenuity as a cook. Take comfort classics and classic Thanksgiving side dishes and brighten them up with some exotic flavors or unexpected textures to add a little extra panache to your holiday table.

Macaroni and Cheese is a comfort classic side dish of cheesy goodness that satiates the appetites of all age groups. While the base is always macaroni (or another pasta), cheese, milk and flour, people all over the world add different ingredients to their Mac and Cheese to personalize it.  A few weeks ago, I stumbled upon Reem Rizvi’s (of Simply Reem) “Mac & Cheese – An Indian Touch” guest blog post on Life of Spice. Just reading the recipe I could imagine the flavors and aroma’s that the Indian spices added to this Mac and Cheese. My recipe is an adaptation of Reem’s with a few minor changes (specifically reducing the fat content a bit without reducing the flavor at all).

Photo credit: Sneha

Photo credit: Sneha

The warm and aromatic spices and the cilantro-scallion cheese crust in this Mac and Cheese add a layer of flamboyance to a familiar classic. So why not surprise your friends and family this Thanksgiving by treating their taste buds to a quick trip to the Indian sub-continent?

Mac & Cheese with an Indian flair
Recipe adapted from Reem Rizvi’sIndian style Mac and Cheese” on a Life of Spice
Serves: 6-8 people
Time: Active: 15 -20 minutes; Inactive: 30-35minutes

Ingredients:
3 slices of bread
2 tablespoons cilantro, finely chopped.
2 tablespoons scallions, finely chopped
1 ½  tablespoons of butter, divided
3 cups cheddar cheese (grated)
2 cups dried macaroni
1 tablespoon olive oil
½ cup, finely chopped red onion
1 tablespoon ginger paste
1 tablespoon garlic paste
1 jalapeno seeded and diced (optional).
1 teaspoon cumin powder
1 teaspoon red chili powder or cayenne powder (or to taste).
½ teaspoon Garam Masala powder
¼ teaspoon ground turmeric powder
2 ½ tablespoons all purpose flour
3 cups 1 % or 2% milk, warmed up
Salt & pepper per taste

Note:
This is a great do-ahead recipe.  Prepare and set aside everything till step 7 (including step 7) a day before. Just before you are ready to serve, top the macaroni and cheese mixture with the bread crumb mixture and bake everything together.

Method:
1) Pre-heat the oven to 350F and grease a 9” by 13” baking dish or 8, 5oz ramekins with little butter or cooking spray.
2) In a food processor, add the bread, cilantro and scallions with 3/4 tablespoon of the butter. Give it a quick pulse, till it starts to look like crumbs. Do not over pulse it as a little texture taste great. Add 1 cup of cheese and mix everything well. Set it aside.
3) Cook the macaroni according to the direction on the packet and set it aside.
4) In a large non-stick saucepan, heat the olive oil with the remaining 3/4 tablespoon of butter on medium heat. Once the oil is heated add the chopped onions, stir and cook until the onions soften and are just beginning to change color. Now add the ginger and garlic paste along with the jalapeno and cook for another minute. Keep stirring.
5) Add the garam masala, cumin, turmeric and chili powder, stir for about a minute.
6) Add the flour, salt and pepper and stir for about 2-3 minutes. Slowly add the warm milk and continue to stir as the milk mixture starts to thicken about 10-12 minutes. Remove from the heat and add 2 cups of the cheddar cheese. Stir well till the cheese melts into the sauce. Set the cheese sauce aside.
7) Stir the drained macaroni into the cheese sauce and give it a nice mix.  Taste the salt and pepper at this stage and adjust it accordingly.
8) Pour everything in the greased baking dish or ramekins, top with the bread and cheese mixture that was prepared earlier.  Bake in 350F oven for 25-30 minutes, until golden brown and bubbly on the top. Let it sit for 5 minutes before serving it.

Eggplant Raita

5 Nov

Diwali, the festival of lights, is my favorite Indian festival. The week leading up to Diwali and the week of, the spirit of this festival reverberates throughout India. People dress in vibrant, ornate outfits; visit their friends and family, exchange gifts and sweets and feast on several traditional delicacies. The sounds, sights and smells of fireworks are omnipresent in every city, town and village. Families adorn their homes with earthen lamps, floral garlands and colorful rangoli (decorative designs made on the floors with colored powders). It is truly the brightest, most jovial and exhilarating time of the year in India.

Sadly, this is also the time of the year I truly yearn to be in India. Despite all efforts, I am unable to recreate in the US the Diwali spirit I experienced growing up in India. The closest I get to it is through the annual Diwali dinner that we host. Our friends dress-up in festive Indian outfits, and join us for a fun night that includes plenty of eating and drinking. I work diligently each Diwali to cook and share my favorite celebratory Indian recipes with my friends and family.

The very first year, I was hosting one of these Diwali dinners, I fell sick right before the event and my mother-in-law helped me out by preparing a few dishes. She made this eggplant raita that was the star of the night and a few years later my friends still remember it fondly. A raita is an Indian, Pakistani or Bangladeshi side dish that is made with yogurt and is a common accompaniment to a rice dish. The fruit, vegetable, crunch or flavor that can be added to a raita is only limited by your imagination.

This raita highlights lightly fried eggplant slices in a flavorful and slightly spicy yogurt mixture that’s tempered with mustard seeds and curry leaves. This is a radiant side dish or a wonderful mini-meal anytime of the day.

Eggplant Raita Recipe:
Minal Moraji (My mother-in-law’s) recipe
Yields: 6-8 servings (Based on eggplant size)
Time: 25 minutes

Ingredients:
1-1½ cups of vegetable or canola oil
1 American or Italian eggplant, cut into ½ inch rounds (Leave the skin on)
3 cups plain non-fat yogurt
1 tablespoon of water
1 teaspoon table salt (Use less or more per your taste)
1 tablespoon vegetable or canola oil
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
A pinch of asafoetida (See note)
8-10 curry leaves
½ teaspoon chili powder
2 tablespoons of chopped cilantro for garnish

Notes:

  • Asafoetida (known as Hing in India), has a very pungent aroma, so be careful not to add more than a pinch as it will over-power the rest of the flavors.
  • The eggplant can be fried and set aside in an airtight container a day before this dish is to be served. The yogurt can also be prepared a day before and stored in the refrigerator. Only add the yogurt mixture to the eggplant 5-10 minutes before you are going to serve it.
  • This raita is great by itself or as a complement to a spicy biryani or pulao.

Method
1) In a 10 or 12 inch skillet heat 1 cup of oil on medium to high heat.
2) When the oil is ready add the eggplant in batches and pan fry them on each side till they are a light brown in color and fully cooked through. Do not overcrowd the pan and ensure that the eggplant slices do not overlap. Overcrowding the pan brings down the oil temperature and increases cooking time. If you have a large eggplant and run out of oil, heat the remaining half cup of oil and then resume frying the remaining slices of eggplant.
3) Place the cooked eggplant slices on a plate lined with a kitchen towel to absorb the excess oil.
4) Beat the yogurt with the water and salt, until it is smooth and lump free.
5) In a small skillet heat 1 tablespoon of oil and add the mustard seeds. Once the mustard seeds start to splutter, add the asafoetida. Turn off the stove and remove the skillet from it. Add the curry leaves right away and then after another minute add the red chili powder. Add this tempering to the yogurt and mix well. Taste and adjust the salt if you need to.
6) When ready to serve, layout the eggplant slices on a serving platter and cover them with the yogurt. Garnish with cilantro. Serve immediately.

Ginger-Garlic Fried Quinoa

9 Oct

One of my favorite restaurants in New York City is Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s  Spice Market. It is a chic and sexy restaurant in the Meatpacking District that specializes in South East Asian street food. Over the years, my husband and I have worked our way through most of its food and cocktail menu and every taste is worth writing home about. Some of our all time favorites include the spicy Thai fried chicken wings, the Nonya seafood laksa, and the ginger fried rice. Spice Market’s ginger fried rice is possibly my favorite fried rice.

I recently came across an old New York Time’s post where Mark Bittman shared Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s Ginger Fried Rice recipe with a few modifications to it. Bittman uses Jasmine rice but I decided to recreate this dish with quinoa. I have come to realize that quinoa works as a great rice substitute for bold Asian flavors as it absorbs the flavors very well.

The quinoa soaks in the flavors and aromas of the nutty sesame oil and savory soy sauce. It comes together with the crisped ginger-garlic and softened leeks to create a party of flavors and textures in the mouth. So go ahead and try this recipe with quinoa or use up leftover brown or white rice to make this. Either way you will be creating a scrumptious crowd pleaser.

Ginger-Garlic Fried Quinoa
Adapted from Mark Bittman’s Ginger Fried Rice
Time: 30 minutes
Yields: 3 servings

Ingredients:
1 cup quinoa (See note)
2 cups of vegetable or chicken broth
3 tablespoons vegetable, canola or peanut oil, divided
2 tablespoons minced ginger
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 cup thinly sliced leeks, white and green parts, rinsed and dried
1 tablespoon soy sauce
½ tablespoon sesame oil
3 large eggs (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste

Notes:

  • You can use leftover rice – brown or white rice work great in place of the quinoa. Just make sure the rice is a day old, otherwise you will have mushy fried rice.

Method:
1) Place the quinoa and broth in a saucepan and bring to a boil. When it has reached a rolling boil, reduce to a simmer and cover and cook till all the water is absorbed (10-15 minutes).  Quinoa appears soft and translucent when it is cooked and a ring is visible on the outer edges of the grain. Use a fork to fluff the cooked quinoa and set it aside.
2) In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil over medium heat. Add the ginger and garlic and cook till it is crisp and brown. Keep stirring this so that it does not burn. Use a slotted spoon and transfer the fried garlic and ginger to a paper towel to absorb the excess oil.
3) In the same skillet add the remaining oil and add the leeks. Cook the leeks until they are tender but not brown. Make sure you stir the leeks occasionally to ensure that they do not burn.  Season them lightly with salt once they are cooked.
4) Now add the quinoa to this skillet and stir it with the leeks. Season this with 1 tablespoon of soy sauce and ½ tablespoon of sesame oil. Taste the quinoa and adjust the soy sauce and sesame oil as needed.
5) If using the eggs in a small skillet fry them to sunny-side up, till the edges are set but yolk is still runny. Season the eggs with some pepper and drizzle with a little soy sauce and sesame sauce.
6) Divide rice among 3 plates. Top each with the fried garlic and ginger, followed by an egg (if you are using eggs).

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