Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Mumbai Style Fish Curry

Long weekends are best spent with good friends. This last weekend was one and I visited friends in NY as well as in Edgewater NJ and with a bit of luck was able to taste authentic Mumbai cuisine from veteran cook Usha Kothari who is visiting her children. I called ahead to ask if I could stop by and was invited to stay for lunch by my hospitable friends who immediately ran to the local Asian store to pick up fresh fish. I obliged happily by showing up with an appetite and in less than an hour, a vast quantity of shrimp was de veined and the Pomfret cleaned. Two delicious curries, very different in flavor and appearance were conjured up rapidly with minimum fuss and great speed. I am convinced that the older generation have an edge when it comes to ethnic food - there is confidence and a natural instinct for great flavor that is unrivaled, that comes from years of experience. Either way it was a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon and the memory of the taste lingers on...

Recipe for Pomfret in a green coconut curry:

2 medium Pomfret cut into steaks
3 cups grated coconut
2 cups cilantro
2 green chilies
1 tbsp uncooked rice or rice flour
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp asafetida
7-8 cloves of garlic
2 cups coconut milk
salt to taste

1. Grind the coconut, cilantro, chilies and garlic with the rice ( if using rice grains) to a thick paste.
2. Pour the mixture into a large saute pan and add in the turmeric and asafetida. Mix well and add in the fish. Stir over medium heat till the fish is cooked( approximately 10 minutes).
3. Add in the coconut milk and whisk in the rice flour at this point.
4. Serve hot over boiled rice.

To be continued.....next up -Shrimp in a red curry, Mumbai style

Friday, May 27, 2011

Jerk Pork from Jamaica

This time of year is perfect for firing up the old BBQ and giving the kitchen a rest. There's something about the charred tips, the grill marks and the aroma of meat on a grill outdoors that whets the appetite and easily becomes a habit all summer. The health benefits of eating this way are not to be dismissed but this coupled with a huge repertoire of marinades and rubs can sustain us and make entertaining so much easier and a lot more fun... Whenever I have a protein to work with, I identify the dish I want to create and its country of origin, whether it be Thai, Mexican, MiddleEastern, Indian, a simple pepper encrusted steak or Jamaican Jerk. Then, the next step is to find the sides that best suit it, prep the ingredients and wait until dinner time. BBq's are team efforts. I delegate without batting an eyelid and every one marches to my tune or they eat the piece that got stuck, charred or cooked unevenly! It works like magic and my team of busy bees set the table complete with steak knives and hot sauce. Even a salad shows up with large clumsy chunks of cucumber and a butchered tomato. But it works.

Recipe for Jamaican Jerk Pork:
3- 4 pork filets trimmed, rinsed and patted dry
6 cloves garlic
1" piece of ginger
salt to taste
1 tbsp hot sauce
2 tbsp oil
combine together in a food processor:
1 tsp onion flakes
2 tsp fresh thyme leaves
1 tsp Allspice
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp pepper
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 scallion

1. Grind all the ingredients to a paste, rub it into the pork and allow it to marinate in it.
2. Heat the grill and cook the meat on each side till golden on the outside and cooked on the inside.
3. Serve hot with sides of salad,baked sweet potato, slaw or corn on the cob.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Treats from Linda's Kitchen

My friend Linda flies in to see me from Chicago every now and again and never comes empty handed. Her gifts are always thoughtful and creative, not to mention light, due to the new baggage policies... She always bears unique treats for my two boys and this time was no exception. She made them a box of chocolate toffee cookies, most of which, unfortunately made it's way into my stomach. I had to stash the box high up in the refrigerator under the tortillas so no one could find it. Besides they taste great -cold. They were buttery and crunchy and hit my sweet spot - I had to run an extra 15 minutes to make up for this indulgence, but it was truly worth it .

Recipe for Linda's Chocolate Cookie Treats:
2 sticks ( 1/2 cup) butter at room temperature
1 cup brown sugar
2 cups AP Flour
1 egg yolk
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 Hershey Bars
1 cup crushed walnuts

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Cream the butter and the sugar till creamy. Add in the egg yolk and the vanilla.
3. Add in the AP Flour and mix with an electric mixer till just combined.
4. Grease a cookie sheet ( 15 x 11) and spread the mixture evenly, pressing it in as you go.
5. Bake it for 15- 20 minutes or until golden brown.
6. Melt the 2 chocolate bars and spread over the cookies and sprinkle over with the walnuts. When the chocolate hardens ( it can be refrigerated once cool) in order to let the chocolate set. Cut into squares.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Thai cook-off

There is nothing quite as delicious as fresh shrimp. Anything from the supermarket freezer is a turn-off for me personally and shrimp most of all. So even though it involves a trek down to the Korean Market, I am motivated and come back with pounds of the stuff. This time I grabbed some fresh lemon grass and bird's eye chili peppers along with it and got creative.
Anyone who has walked down a street in Thailand, has experienced the wafts of fresh lemongrass and galangal from the vendors that cook street side. It was time to re-create those flavors and smells....
Linda an old friend and my biggest fan ( in the kitchen) acted as sous chef as we got busy and conjured up a pretty impressive meal
with the shrimp, a bag of Bokchoy and some Jasmine rice. Everything was wiped out- a good sign at the end of any meal and the cleanup was a breeze!

My Recipe for Shrimp stir-fried with chilies and lemongrass:
2 dozen shrimp
4 cloves garlic
2 stalks of lemon grass ( only the tender tips)
1"piece of ginger
2 tbsp oil
4-5 bird's eye chilies chopped fine ( adjust to taste)
a handful of Thai basil
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp fish sauce
1 tsp palm sugar
salt to taste

1. Clean, devein and rinse the shrimp. Leave to drain in a colander.
2. Grind in a food processor or simply pound with a mortar and pestle, the lemon grass, ginger and garlic.
3. Rub the shrimp with this paste. Heat oil in a wok and saute the shrimp over high heat. Do not overcook, but add in the remaining ingredients quickly. Saute briefly and serve hot with Jasmine rice.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Raisin Bran Cherry Muffins

Eating a healthy breakfast is imperative to a good weight-control regime, as every health nut or guru will tell you. I am a firm believer, based on personal experiences and what better way than to make breakfast interesting? Having said this, it is not an easy task since it is generally on-the-go and the least elaborate of all meals. A great muffin recipe is my secret weapon when all else fails. This one in particular is lower on the carbs and has great texture in spite of it. It is wholesome, filling and will keep you bright-eyed and bushy tailed!

Recipe For Raisin Bran Cherry Muffins:
1 1/4 cup buttermilk
3/4 cup milk
1 1/2 cup Raisin Bran cereal
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 1/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 t baking soda
1/2 cup /1 stick unsalted butter.
1/2 cup dried cherries

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
2. Soak the cereal in the milk and set aside. Cream the butter and the sugar till creamy. Add in the buttermilk and continue mixing with an electric mixer. Add in the cereal mixture and beat well. Add in the eggs one at a time, beating in between each.
3. Sift the dry ingredients together and stir it in with a wooden spoon. Do not over work it, but only till it is just combined. Mix in the cherries.
4. Spoon the mixture with an ice cream scoop or a tablespoon into the muffin cups and bake for 15 minutes.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

A Taste of India

Indian food in America is synonymous with Chicken Tikka. Fans of our spicy food tend to play it safe and repeat the familiar more often than not. Unfortunately in doing so, one can miss out. Sometimes it pays to take a gamble and try something new, like a Kadhai Chicken. This dish gets its name from the wok-like pot it is cooked in aka a Kadhai. If you like spicy- go for it! A dish redolent with freshly roasted coriander seeds and fenugreek, as well as the unusual use of red and green peppers that complement the chicken superbly, it is hugely popular in restaurants in North India, but has failed to pick up the same pace here in North America. The list of ingredients here may seem long and scary, but in all probability, you will find most of it in your pantry. Once tried, there's no going back and here's how to do it nice and easy, at home.

Recipe for Kadhai Chicken :
1 whole chicken cut into sections or
6 chicken breasts cut into pieces.
1 tbsp coriander seeds
1/2 tsp fenugreek seeds
4 dried red chilies
2 red onions sliced
6 cloves of garlic chopped finely
1 tbsp ginger paste
2-3 tomatoes chopped
2-3 tbsp tomato paste
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp coriander powder
1 tsp garam masala powder
salt to taste
1 each - red and green pepper
1 tsp shredded ginger
2 tbsp chopped cilantro
1/4 cup cream ( optional)
1. Heat a pan and roast the coriander seeds and chilies briefly, till they change color but try not to scorch them. Crush the seeds roughly and set aside.
2. Heat the oil in a wok or a heavy bottomed pan and add in the fenugreek seeds and the chilies. As soon as they turn color, add in the sliced onions, followed by the coriander seeds, chili powder and coriander powder. Saute it till the onions are caramelized and then add in the ginger paste and the garlic.
3. Throw in the chicken and saute it well until it gets some color, over low heat ( about 10 minutes). Then add in the tomatoes, salt and garam masala. Put the pot on a simmer, cover and let it cook for about 20 minutes or until the oil separates.
4. Add in the sliced peppers and the tomato paste. Cook briefly and continue stirring.
5. Lastly, add in the cream and garnish with the chopped cilantro and shredded ginger. Serve hot, with Naan or Rice.