Friday, August 31, 2007

September Food Magazine Round-up

September Food Magazines
I read food magazines. Or I should say, I read a lot of food magazines. Here's a round up of what's on my stack and what's worth checking out.

For Reading and Reflecting
Sept 3 & 10, 2007
New Yorker--The Food Issue

The food issue is always a treat and this one is no exception. There are no recipes, but plenty of "good reads". There is a funny little piece from David Sedaris, Adam Gopnik writes about eating food grown only from the five boroughs of New York. Calvin Trillin writes about the food in Singapore and Jane Kramer writes about one of my favorite cookbook authors, Claudia Roden. As you might expect there are plenty of cartoons with food themes.

For Eating Healthy
September 2007
Cooking Light--20th Anniversary Issue

Even if you never read Cooking Light, you owe it to yourself to check out this edition. The editors chose their favorite recipes from the past 20 years such as Beef Daube Provencal, Creamed Corn with Bacon and Leeks, Baked Potato Soup and Coconut Banana Bread with Lime Glaze. There are readers best recipes like Ginger Cookies, Angel Biscuits and Cambodian Summer Rolls.

Also three of the vegetarian columnists pick their best recipes including Deborah Madison's Pancake Souffle with Caramelized Apples, Steven Petuvesky's Pasta with White Beans, Greens and Lemon and Peter Berley's Spinach and Shiitake Mushroom Phyllo Turnovers. The recipe I know I'll try is the Walnut Fennel Dip!

For Learning the Basics
September 2007
Everyday Food No--Fuss Family Fare

This issue is perfect for someone who wants to learn how to cook. It's filled with really solid staples like Macaroni and Three Cheeses, Lamb Chops with Garlic-Parsley Crust, Rice Pilaf with Vermicelli, Peas and Carrot Ribbons, Spaghetti with Fresh Tomato Sauce, Pasta with Turkey Meatballs and Bocconcini, Cream of Broccoli Soup, and fun stuff like Blondies with Chocolate Chips and Walnuts, Cupcakes Three Ways, Apple-Cinnamon Upside-Down Cake and even Healthy Oatmeal Cookies. There are also articles about non-dairy milks, high fructose corn syrup and Omega-3 Fatty Acids. Buy it for yourself or give it to that friend who always says "I wish I knew how to cook".

For La Dolce Vita
September 2007
Food & Wine--Italy's Best Recipes

This issue doesn't just focus on Italian recipes, it has features on Italian cooking schools, a primer on Italian ingredients, an A-Z guide to Italian wines, guides to Italy, Italian restaurants and more. Mamma mia!

For Todos Deliciosos
September 2007
Gourmet Magazine--Latino America

This is really cool and I agree, it is a collectors item. This issue focuses on Latino food, in the United States. There's a guide to Mexican places in Chicago, stories on Salvadorans, Cubans, Dominicans and more. There's even a special on taco trucks, though I'm seriously bummed they included Seattle, Portland and New York, but skipped the Bay Area....maybe next year?

Spicy Chilli Paneer

"Variety is the spice of life"- this shows how important spice is in anyone's life, so today we salute the ingredient which brings spice into our lives, literally. "Chillies" are available in various forms, shapes, sizes and colours, but the end result is always the same, something tasty and spicy. Today I share with you my recipe of Chilli Paneer. Its a favourite amongst elders and youngsters alike. With the succulent paneer (cottage cheese) coated and flavoured in soy sauce and green chillies, this dish is perfect to enjoy with rice or bread/parathas. And simple to cook, it takes not more than 15-20 mins!

Ingredients
1/2 slab of paneer - cut in small rectangular cubes
7-8 green chillies - slit half cross-sectional and cut in length
1/2 onion - diced into long thin strips
1/2 capsicum (bell peppers)- diced into thing strips
4-5 tbsp soy sauce
3 tbsp vegetable oil
2 tsp ginger - shredded
2 tsp garlic paste
1 tsp sugar
salt/black pepper - to taste
1 tsp ajinomoto (optional)

Method
Take a pan and heat the oil in it. Add the green chillies, and onions. Saute till they become golden brown.Then add the ginger, garlic paste, and capsicum and cook till all veggies are tender. Add soy sauce, salt, pepper and ajinomoto. Finally mix in the paneer cubes and cook everything together on medium flame for 8-10 mins. Do not add water!!

Remove from flame, garnish with more slit green chillies and chopped green onion leaves. Serve your Spicy and Tasty Chilli Paneer piping hot with plain or fried rice!!

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Vegetarian Pad Thai with Paneer or Tofu

Thai food is one of my favourite cuisines after Indian and Italian. I think most Indians connect to it as this asian cuisine is very similar to our cooking. The spices are different, but the preparation style and taste is pretty close. Veg Pad Thai and Fried Rice with Veg Panang Curry are my personal favourites! Though daunting at first look, Pad Thai is actually relatively easy to prepare. So here's how my Pad Thai recipe looks like! (adapted from thai kitchen) Hope you enjoy it too.

Ingredients
1 packet of thick Thai rice noodles
5-6 cloves garlic - finely chopped
1/2 cup shallots - finely chopped
1/4 cup chives or green onions - finely chopped
1/2 cup carrots - shredded
2 tbsp powdered sugar
2 tbsp lime juice
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 tbsp tamarind water(tamarind dissolved in warm water)
1 medium egg - beaten
1/2 cup roasted peanuts - coarsely crushed
1 cup bean sprouts
1/2 cup firm tofu or paneer - diced into small pieces
3 tbsp soy sauce
salt- to taste

Method
Soak the noodles in cold water for at least 45-50 mins. Add a pinch of salt while soaking.

Now take the tamarind water and strain it through a sieve so there is no residue. Add this to the sugar and lime juice and mix well. Separate the juice into 2 parts and keep aside. Shallow fry the tofu or paneer cubes and drain excess oil on paper.

Heat a little cooking oil in a wok and add the garlic, shallots, and the carrots and briefly stir fry until they soften a little. Add 1 tbsp soy sauce to this. Next add the tofu or paneer pieces (I prefer Paneer!), and when they are cooked, mix in the egg and let it cook. Do NOT beat or break the egg before its cooked. Meanwhile, remove the noodles from water, drain all excess water and add them to the wok and stir fry until the noodles become soft (about 5 minutes). Add half of the tamarind juice. Keep stirring and folding the noodles so they don't stick to each other. Mix the egg well with the noodles and the veggies. Now add the salt according to your taste. Add half of the crushed peanuts and bean sprouts. Splash some water if needed, then remove from flame immediately.

Now take the remaining tamarind juice and the soy sauce, and use this to marinade the bean sprouts. Set the pad thai noodles on a serving tray. Sprinkle the sprouts and some coarse peanut powder on the cooked Pad Thai. Chop some cucumber or carrots and serve them on the side with a wedge of fresh lime or orange!

Tip: You can easily convert this vegetarian pad thai recipe to suit your interest by adding cooked shrimp or chicken after stir-frying the veggies and adding fish sauce to the list of ingredients.

Malpua with Rose-flavoured Rabdi (Indian Pancakes)

Everyone is familiar with pancakes and syrup, and its a dish savoured by a large number of people in and out of USA. But have you heard about the Indian pancakes?? Yes, we have a traditional dessert called "Malpua" (like a pancake) which is served with "Rabdi" (which acts like syrup). This is a popular indian sweet in many parts of India (especially during Karva Chauth festival) and you can still see road-side vendors prepare fresh hot malpuas (while you watch and salivate:)) and serve it with the milk-based syrup topping. I enjoyed eating it a lot! A perfect balance of sweet and cream, it is an ideal dessert for any festival, Indian or not!!

Ingredients

For the Malpuas and Sugar Syrup
1 cup maida or all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 gallon (about 1 litre) milk
1 1/2 cups water
A few strands of saffron
1 tsp cardamom powder
1/2 cup sugar
Ghee(clarified butter)or oil for frying

For the Rabdi (recipe described below)
3 cups whole milk
2 large tbsp un-sweetened condensed milk
3 tbsp sugar
2 tsp rose essence
1 tbsp pistachio nuts- chopped for garnish
1 cup Rabri

Method

Make the Sugar Syrup
Now Boil the sugar and water together to make the sugar syrup. Keep stirring continuously in one direction only to form a thread-like consistency. To test that it's done, when it gets a little viscous, take a drop of syrup between your thumb and index finger and move them vertically apart to see if a thread forms. If it breaks, the syrup needs to be thickened, and if you are able to make 2 threads, you need to add a little more water to the syrup. When done, add saffron and cardamom powder to the syrup and keep it warm on very low heat.

Make the Malpuas
Mix the flour and baking powder. Now boil the milk in a thick-bottomed vessel till it reduces to half. Slowly add the thickened milk to the flour to make into a smooth thin batter, same as the pancake batter. Set aside for 5-10 mins.

Now heat a frying pan, add 1 tsp oil or ghee, take a ladle-full of the batter and make small pancakes out of it. Cook on both sides till golden brown.

Immerse them in the sugar syrup for about 2-3 mins, then place on a dish to get rid of excess syrup. You can just dip it in the syrup and remove instantly if you don't like it too sweet. Just let it coat a little.

Rabdi
Pour the milk in a saucepan and leave it on medium heat till it reduces to one fourth its original content. Add the condensed milk and keep stirring fequently to prevent it from sticking to the bottom. Add sugar according to your taste. Then add the rose essence and remove from flame. let it cool completely. Garnish with chopped pistachios and keep it referigerated.

Serve the hot Malpuas with the Rabdi on the side (photo courtesy of indobase.com). You can either pour the rabdi over the malpuas or dip the latter in the rabri. Whatever way you choose to eat them, they will taste delicious, rich and creamy!! I bet this will put you in the seventh heaven!!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Grape and Watermelon Soda

Summer has really kicked into California, and we have started experiencing the heat waves now!! So as we look forward to a glorious yet sunny weekend, there's no better way to relax than enjoy sipping a cool and refreshing drink on your hammock in your backyard or your favourite rocking chair. An interesting book in your hand would make the scene picture perfect, right??!! Here's a simple recipe using 2 summer favourite fruits- Watermelon and Grapes -combine them with soda and it turns into a nice mocktail!!

Ingredients

1/2 fresh watermelon
1 cup green or red grapes
2 ripe plums
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp powdered sugar
1 tsp salt
1 bottle soda water (sparkling soda)
6-7 icecubes
watermelon pieces - to garnish

Method
Crush the ice cubes, watermelon, grapes, plums in a blender. Mix in the sugar, lemon juice and salt. Leave a little watermelon pulp aside and cut into small pieces. Now take a serving glass and fill it 1/2 with the juice. Fill the remaining 1/2 with the sparkling soda. Add more icecubes if needed and add the cut watermelon pieces.

This Watermelon Soda is a beautiful and healthy Summer Drink. Refresh your senses with this cool soda on a summer afternoon or early evening!

Similar Recipes:
Orange Creme Soda
Tropical Fruit Punch Lemonade

About This Site

Welcome to Fun and Food, and thanks for dropping by! This is your one-stop destination for all your cooking needs, and no one says you cannot have fun while cooking! That is precisely the motto of this site: To enjoy yourself while cooking good food, and spreading the joy of culinary bliss!

The Inspiration
This site was created as an outlet for my passion for food, cooking, having fun, and sharing my knowledge with people. Everyday you come in touch with something new and exciting in the culinary world, and the chef inside you craves to take up the challenge and create something marvellous. But cooking should never be just a "chore"; it is fun and adventurous, and no matter how things go, your aim should always be to create something you and the people around you would always cherish. That's the idea behind Fun and Food. We are ready to serve you the best, and our recipes range from the basic to the most drool-worthy varieties, something for every chef, be it a novice or an expert. We care a lot about health and fitness, and have a separate section dedicated to Healthy Recipes. The sections about Restaurant Reviews, Kitchen Appliances and Gadgets, Chef Biographies, Health and Travel contribute to the Fun part of the site, so that there's something interesting and helpful to browse when you are not in the mood to cook!!

The Author
Based in the San Francisco Bay Area, I am an Indian living in USA, and hence have the advantage of being exposed to several traditional and fusion styles of cooking. I think of myself as a "Self-proclaimed Expert Chef", who dreams of having her own restaurant some day. I live with my family and work as a Software Engineer(yeah, need a stable job to pay all the bills, you know!). I manage this site to cater to my passion for cooking good food, and to help others do the same. Besides Cooking, I enjoy travelling, adventure sports, reading, writing and singing. I happen to be a Featured Publisher on "FoodBuzz", "Well-Fed Network", and also write free-lance articles every now and then. So if you are in need of a food writer(check out my restaurant reviews), Contact Me

Advertising and Sponsorship - For product reviews related to this site's content, just send me a word and I'll write about it if it grabs my attention. For advertisements, sponsorships, donations, or freelancing assignments, please submit the Contact form with your offers and details. This site receives high-quality traffic and I take extreme care to maintain the quality of the content. I reserve the right to reject any request that does not meet the standards.

Copyright and Disclaimer - All content, text and photographs are copyright of Fun and Food, unless otherwise noted. Please contact me for permission to reproduce any content. The recipes, reviews and articles published here are solely my own views, and may not match yours! Please use them as a reference and make your own decision.

To subscribe to this fabulous site, click here. We hope you enjoy your visit at "Fun and Food". Your feedback and comments are always welcome as it helps me improve and make your experience here a pleasing one!

Easy & Impressive--Leg of Lamb

American Lamb Kebabs
Looking at the recipe index on this site, I realize I have only written one lamb recipe. That's a shame. I like lamb a lot. I think it's a well-kept secret that lamb is actually very easy to cook. I used to have a friend who made leg of lamb every time she threw a dinner party. People thought she was a fabulous cook, but really, leg of lamb was ALL she knew how to cook!

When the American Lamb Board offered to send me some local lamb I was more than happy to accept. When it arrived I was a bit overwhelmed. It was boneless leg of lamb, but over seven pounds. Fortunately I had a good friend to help guide me, master of all things meaty, Biggles over at Meathenge. His suggestion was as follows:

Why don't you try a meat puzzle? Take a look and see if you can get 2 little roasts and some kebob action out of it? 2-2 pound roasts and the rest for kebobs?

This turned out to be great advice. Indeed, it was easy to trim the fat, find the membranes and natural points at which to divide up the meat. Small roasts take a bit longer to cook than kebabs, but the marinade or spice rub you use can be exactly the same. The expert's suggestion:

Something Mediterranean. Cilantro, toasted coriander seeds, garlic, onion, lemon zest, salt and pepper. Maybe something with some heat to it? Curry? If you did that on Friday, Saturday cooking would be divine. Wine poured over as a baste? We're set.

The lamb roast of just under two pounds was marinated, then grilled slowly until the internal temperature reached just under 140 degrees. 145 degrees is rare, but if you take it off the heat before that, the carryover heat brings it up to temperature. It was a great addition to the party this past weekend

Last night, I used some of the trimmings to make lamb kebabs which cook under the broiler in minutes flat. I used a rub of dried herbs--mint, rosemary, oregano, some garlic and mustard seeds. A little oil helps the meat to brown nicely. Delicious and easy peasy. Best of all, local lamb is likely to be fresher, and fresher is tastier. Ok, I like it fresher, some like it aged and gamey. No recipes are really necessary, use a marinade or rub you like and use a thermometer to check the temperature. You can marinate overnight or just sprinkle on the herbs or spices right before cooking. Lamb is good rare, medium and well-done. It's also less common than pork or beef which makes it something special to savor at a party or for a weeknight dinner at home.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Homemade Mexican Salsa

"Chips and Salsa" is a universal favourite, and though Salsa finds its origin in the mexican cuisine, it's fame has crossed borders and travelled far and wide. It is similar to ketchup, but much more tasty and spicy. In fact, different cuisines have added their touches to salsa and hence you'll find a variety of salsa bottles on supermarket aisles. I'm sure most of you know how to make this, but just for the benefit of a few of my readers who might not, here's my homemade authentic mexican salsa recipe.

Ingredients
1/2 medium onion - finely chopped
3 medium tomatoes
1/2 capsicum - chopped finely
3 serrano chillies - chopped
red chilly powder (optional)
salt/pepper - to taste
2 tsp oil

Method
Take a pan, add 2 tsp oil and add the chopped onion, capsicum and the serrano chillies. Saute for 1-2 mins, but not so that they become soggy. Then add the chopped tomato. Add some salt, and red chilli powder and mix everything together. Remove from flame and let the mixture cool a little. Finally pulse everything together in a mini-grinder or food processor for 2 mins. DO NOT add water. Make sure that the salsa remains chunky, and do not blend it into a paste.

There, a perfect accompaniment to your chips (tortilla or regular) is ready. Enjoy and indulge in the spicy flavours of Mexican food!!

Dry Fruit Basundi

Rakshabandhan or "Rakhi" is a festival for brothers and sisters throughout India, though it is mainly celebrated in Western India, which signifies an eternal bond between the siblings. My brother and bhabhi (brother's wife) had invited us for lunch this sunday and luckily for us, my parents and my in-laws, both visiting us from India- were also present on this auspicious day and we had lots of food, fun and laughter!! My Bhabhi had made "Dry Fruit Basundi" for us and it was so good that I could hardly keep my eyes open after I gulped down 2 bowls full of this wonderful Indian sweet made from milk.

Dry Fruit Basundi

Ingredients
1/2 gallon whole milk
1 cup condensed milk (if using sweetened, add sugar accordingly)
1 cup crushed dry fruits (almonds, cashews, pistachios)
1 tbsp saffron (kesar)
2 tbsp warm milk (for diluting saffron)
2 tbsp cardamom powder
2 cups powdered sugar (more if you like it sweet like me!)
Chopped nuts for garnish

Method
Pour the whole milk in a large non-stick saucepan and put to boil on medium flame. Keep stirring almost continuously to prevent it from sticking to the bottom. Slowly add the condensed milk and stir to mix well.

Now add the sugar and the dry fruit powder to this and let it simmer for 30-40 mins. If cream forms on the top of milk or on the sides of the saucepan, remove this and add it to the milk. The more the milk boils, the thicker it gets and keep doing this till it turns into a light-brown color.

Meanwhile, take 2 tbsp milk, warm it in the microwave or on stove, and dissolve the saffron strands in this by rubbing with your fingers. The more you rub, the more yellowish-orange color it will give and of course, more flavour!

Now mix this into the basundi and stir to spread the color to the entire pan. Also add the cardamom powder and lower the flame and let it cook.

Once it becomes thick, remove from flame and let it cool for some time. Then referigerate it until it's time to serve.

Garnish with remaining chopped nuts and serve with puri-bhaji!!

Basundi is a traditional dessert cherished in many Indian households, and as it's easy to make, you just can't go wrong with it!!

Garlic - Packed with flavor and lots of Health Benefits

When we speak about food that has plenty of health benefits, Garlic is one thing that tops the charts. Everyone knows about its benefits for a healthy heart, but there's more to this stinking(or should I say fragrant!)spice than what meets the eye. Garlic has long been considered a herbal "wonder drug", contributing to cures of everything from the common cold to the Plague. It has also been used extensively in herbal medicines. So here's a comprehensive list of some well-known and some less-known facts about Garlic. After reading this, I think you'd appreciate it more than just for the "garlicky flavour" that most of us love in our food!!

Garlic contains a wide variety of phytochemicals, but the one that seems to be the center of attention and a lot of research is "Allicin". Garlic, in its raw form, does not normally contain allicin. In fact, Allicin is formed when garlic is cut, crushed or cooked and the sulphur containing amino acid "Alliin" is broken down by enzymes to form di-allyl sulphides or Allicin. Though current research shows that there is insufficient evidence to support health claims about garlic, history and personal experience of millions is enough to make me believe in this "wonder drug".

Some of the tried-and-tested health benefits of garlic are as follows:

Healthy Heart - Garlic is said to be good for cardiovascular problems due to its blood pressure lowering effects, blood lipid lowering effects and its anticoagulant properties. It helps reduce atherosclerotic buildup (plaque) within the arterial system, thereby lowering or regulating blood sugar levels. One recent study shows this effect to be greater in women than men.

Anti-Cancer - It is believed to help in prevention or alleviate cancer,especially of the digestive system,and helps fight hepatic and microbial infections by removing heavy metals such as lead and mercury from the body.
It can also prevent certain tumors from growing larger

Common Cold and Fever - There are reports that eating garlic reduces the frequency and severity of the common cold. A way to use garlic on a stuffy nose, sore throat and infection is to crush a garlic clove and use it like an inhaler. This will help clear the passages as well as fight the germs. Garlic has anti-fungal and anti-viral properties. Garlic dramatically reduces yeast infections due to Candida species and also has anti-oxidant properties (is a source of selenium). Garlic also brings down fever significantly. Crush fresh cloves of garlic to make a paste, apply this on a cotton pad or gauze. Apply olive oil on the feet and press the garlic pads onto the feet and leave overnight to see the fever gone in the morning!

Psoriasis - Applying garlic oil to the red and itchy affected areas of skin can help reduce the effect of psoriasis.

Anti Acne Agent - Raw garlic(mixed with white vinegar)is used by some to treat the symptoms of acne. This treatment uses the antibiotic, antifungal, antiseptic and germicidal properties of garlic to fight the acne while its antioxidants help repair and protect the skin from free radical damage and help draw out infections. The vinegar balances your skin’s pH levels.

Antibiotic - Crushed raw garlic applied to the site of the infection, can burn badly for a min, but allicin, a very powerful antibacterial compund can be very effective on most infections. It can also act as a natural mosquito repellent.

Besides these, garlic has been used for Hair-loss treatment, toothaches, beauty treatments and other things as well. The list can go on and on. But I think what we summarized above conveys the message of how beneficial it is. However, if you are on any prescribed medications, ask your doctor if your garlic intake interferes with it in any way (especially haemophilliacs or anti-clotting agents)

So if Garlic is still not a part of your daily diet, now is the time to incorporate it! It will not only make your food taste better, but will also make you a more healthy person. And if you hate the smell it leaves in your mouth, you can easily use the garlic capsules available in the stores. Great health and no Bad Breath- what more can one ask for??

This article is on it's way to Mathy's JFI-Garlic festival to spread the message of good health!

Monday, August 27, 2007

Potato Chip Cookies: Recipe

potato chip cookies
At an "early 60's tacky tiki" theme party this weekend, it occured to me how sometimes the most retro recipes can also be very of-the-moment. At this particular party there were modern takes on all sorts of things. In each case very high quality ingredients were used and, you know the saying, "quality in, quality out." There was a cucumber gelatin mold salad, only the cucumbers were fresh from the farm, agar-agar was used to gel it and fresh dill and citrus flavors punctuated the dish. It was so good I took some home!

Another dish that hasn't been popular in a while was the cheese ball, though at this party there were three of them. When made with the best cheeses, fresh roasted red peppers and rolled in nuts, it was positively delicious. The dish I had the hardest keeping my paws out of was nothing more than a premium "seven layer dip". Seven layer dip is made from refried beans, sour cream, guacamole, salsa, cheese, olives and green onions or some similar combination. But imagine a version where each layer was made from scratch or with the best products available. It was a far cry from the versions I've had that were made mostly from mundane canned ingredients.

I admit, I only made potato chip cookies out a sense of nostalgia. Potato chip cookies are one of the few 60's foods I can remember eating, but for all I know it might have even been the 70's. Though my contribution was only intended as a novelty item, after the second person asked me for the recipe, I figured I'd share it here. While the ingredients are nothing spectacular, the combination of salty and sweet in dessert is very common these days, especially on restaurant menus. The recipe is very similar to the one from Frito-Lay, but I use more nuts and less sugar.

Potato Chip Cookies
3 dozen cookies

2 1/2 cups crushed potato chips* (measure after crushing)
1/2 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
1/4 cup white sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup chopped pecans or roasted peanuts

Combine the sugars, egg, milk and vanilla and whisk together to combine in a medium mixing bowl. In a small bowl, stir together the flour and baking powder to combine. Add dry ingredients to batter then mix in the potato chips and nuts. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto a greased baking sheet (or parchment lined sheet) allowing space for the cookies to spread. Bake at 375° for 10 to 15 minutes, or until lightly browned.

* I use Lay's potato chips because they are thin, crispy and very salty. Other chips may work well too, but I've always used Lay's. You can now get Lay's with no trans-fat and while I couldn't work out exactly how much fat and calories are in 2 1/2 cups of potato chip crumbles, there is no addition added fat in the recipe (other than what is in the egg and milk).

Enjoy!

Looking for more party posts? Here they are:
Anita's dip recipe
Sam's party round up
Biggles' meaty report from the grill

Instant Chocolate Candies

There is absolutely no one in this entire world who would hate chocolates; a distaste for a particular flavour is understandable, but chocolates have remained a man's lifelong friend since ages. And with a large array of options available in the market, you are sure to find one that captures your heart!! But what if you needed to uplift your mood, or were relaxing at home and had a sudden whim to munch on one and you ran out of the ones in your tin!! Well, here's an Instant chocolate recipe for just those times...It takes less than 10 mins to prepare and you can store them for several days too.

Ingredients
2 tbsp Milk powder
1 1/2 tbsp Cocoa powder
1 large tbsp Drinking Chocolate Mix
1 tbsp Butter
3/4 tbsp Icing sugar
Grated Dry Coconut (optional)
2 tsp chopped Nuts (cashews, almonds, peanuts, or pistachios)
1-2 large tbsp Milk

Method
Take a bowl and mix the drinking chocolate, cocoa powder, milk powder and icing sugar. Melt the butter in the microwave and add it to the mix. Mix well and finally add the chopped nuts and milk and whisk with a spoon to form a very thick viscous batter. Pour this mixture into moulds of desired shape and referigerate it for an hour or so. Take out after 30 mins, then lightly create striations on the top of candies with a tooth-pick, or any other patters. Then refrigerate again for another 30 mins. You can roll the candies in the shredded coconut or mix it with the batter. Indulge your senses with these instant chocolates on a holiday or as a mid-day snack!! They can be perfect additions to your child's lunch box too:)

Tip: You can use any other fruits, nuts or essence to create chocolates of different kinds and flavors. My recommendations would be Hazelnut, Mint, Caramel, Pecans, or Coffee. They all go well with this instant recipe.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Apricot Peach and Mixed Green Salad with Feta Cheese

I have loved the dry apricots since a long time now, and recently, I've started enjoying peaches too. I suffered from a negative notion about peaches for some years, until a friend started getting them for me to share at lunch, and slowly I started liking them. Same is the case for Green Salads. The concept of salads in India is very different from what we see in the US. And believe me, it took me almost 4 years to finally start appreciating the flavors in a bowl of salad. I always knew it was healthy, but never really got to savour it!! But not anymore; I enjoy eating then and here's a recipe that I recently tried. It turned out great- a hand-tossed mixed green salad with apricots, peaches and Ceasar dressing.

Ingredients
1 bag of mixed greens
1 large ripe peach - cut into thin slices
1 fresh apricot or canned slices
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 tbsp orange juice
6 tbsp olive oil
2-3 tbsp Ceasar dressing
8-10 garlic-flavored croutons (optional)
3 large tbsp Feta Cheese
salt and pepper - to taste

Method
Wash the peaches and apricots and slice thinly. Toss the fruits with the lemon and orange juice . Now add the olive oil and the dressing. Mix in the greens and add salt and pepper to taste. Finally top it off with Feta cheese and croutons and enjoy as a healthy meal by itself, or as a side order.


Friday, August 24, 2007

Ragda-Patties

Weekends are times for family and fun, and there's nothing more satisfying than preparing a nice delicious meal that all of you would enjoy together. But if you don't want to spend most of your time cooking in the kitchen, a bit of prudence and planning can get you both, fun time with your family and loads of compliments for your cooking!! Here's one of my husband's favourite dishes: Ragda (curry made of dried white peas) poured over delicious Potato Patties (cutlets). Hope your family enjoys it as much as mine!!

Ingredients

For Ragda
3 cups dehydrated white peas, soaked overnight or at least for 3-4 hours
3 cup water
2 tbsp tamarind paste (or lemon juice)
2 tbsp oil
3 green chillies
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp chopped coriander
Spices: 2 tsp red chilli powder, turmeric, sugar (optional) and garam masala, salt - to taste

For Patties
4 potatoes boiled, peeled, mashed
1/2 cup peas boiled
1/4 cup semolina (rawa) or cornflour
1/2 cup bread crumbs
8-10 green chillies
1/10th piece of a medium ginger
3-4 large tbsp oil
Spices: 1-2 tsp salt, garam masala, and lemon juice

Method

The Ragda
Wash and pressure cook the peas till well done. Heat oil in a pan, add the cumin seeds, green chillies and the tamarind paste. Now add 1/4th of the cooked peas and mix well. Mash these with a large ladle or spoon. Alternately, you could even blend them first, but I prefer mashing them in the pan with the tamarind paste. This way they soak up more flavour. Add the dry masalas and salt and cook for 2-3 minutes. now add the remaining peas, add water to form a thich curry and bring to boil. Cook covered or uncovered on medium flame for about 10 mins till the gravy thickens.

The Patties
Mash the potatoes and peas separately and then mix them in a bowl. Grind the ginger and green chillies to form a paste and add this alongwith all other spices to the mixture. Mix in the bread crumbs and finally the semolina (rawa) one spoon at a time, only to make the mixture hold together firmly. Grease your palms and roll a small amount of mixture into cutlets or patties. Roast 3-4 at a time on a greased hot griddle on medium-high flame.Flip onto the other side till both sides are crisp and golden brown.

To serve, place 2 patties in a shallow dish or bowl, pour ragda on the top, add Green Chutney and Tamarind chutney, sprinkle some sev, chopped onions and chopped coriander and eat it hot!...Hmm...I can't wait to have one of these myself!!!



Mango-Raspberry Thickshake

Drinks and Cocktails are the best for experimenting with your culinary skills!! They involve very little "actual" work though you might have to strain your gray cells to think of suitable ingredients and judge their compatibility!! But that's the fun part, at least for me. We all love fruits, and to try different interesting combinations is neither tiring nor time-consuming. And most of the times, you are bound to succeed in your experiments!! As a child, I used to love the Mango Dolly and Raspberry Dolly, so for me creating something colourful and delicious has never been so easy. I just had to juggle a bit with my childhood favourites and the trick worked! Try my Mango-Raspberry thickshake to invigorate your senses, scintillate your taste buds and relive your childhood!!!

Ingredients
Pulp of 1 fresh ripe mango (you can use the canned mango pulp too)
1/2 cup raspberries
1 scoop mango or vanilla ice-cream
2-3 tbsp crushed ice


2-3 tsp sugar (if needed)
sprig of mint (for garnish)

Method
Blend the mango pulp without adding water if you are using fresh mango and keep aside. Now take the raspberries and blend them with 2 tsp water till it forms into a pulp. Do not make it into a liquid. It should be as thick as the mango pulp. If the raspberries are sour (not sweet enough for a drink), add the sugar while blending.

Now take a tall serving glass, add crushed ice at the bottom and layer it with the mango and raspberry pulp alternately. As both are thick enough, they would easily layer upon each other without blending. Top it with a scoop of vanilla or mango ice-cream. Garnish the glass edge with a sprig of mint and enjoy the pleasantly surprised looks on the faces of your guests when you serve them this colorful and flavorful mango and raspberry thickshake!!

Vegetable Fried Rice

Veg Fried Rice is what all of you must have cooked and eaten at home or in restaurants. It's a really simple dish to make, and healthy too because of all the veggies that it has. I describe my recipe for making Veg Fried Rice which goes extremely well with my Veg Manchurian Gravy recipe

Ingredients
2 cups long-grained rice
3/4 cup French beans, finely chopped
3/4 cup carrots, finely chopped
1/4 cup capsicums, finely chopped
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
2 spring onions, finely chopped
1/2 tsp soy sauce
2 tbsp oil
2 green chillies - finely chopped
salt to taste

Method
Wash the rice properly with water to remove excess starch. Then soak them in water for about 10 mins. Now cook them on the stove while stirring occasionally to make rice which has all grains separated, (not sticky rice). Now take a pan, add the oil, saute the green chillies, then all the veggies and cook it covered for 7-8 min. now add the soy sauce to it and let the veggies soak it well. Add salt to taste and finally the cooked rice. Mix well and remove from flame. Garnish with remaining spring onion greens and serve hot with Veg Manchurian Gravy!!

Vegetable Manchurian Gravy

A colleague at work who read about my review on the restaurant Spice Hut was surprised to know that there actually exists a cuisine called Indian-Chinese which is very popular in India. So to her benefit, and for all the others who savour Indian food, here's my Veg Manchurian Gravy which will leave you smacking your lips! It has most of the Indian spices, but the gravy is soy-sauce based, hence the name Indian-chinese:) This tastes best with the Chinese-style Fried Rice, and once you finish reading this post, hop on to that recipe to make a complete meal!! (photo courtesy Zeenews)

Ingredients
1 cup grated cabbage
1 cup grated carrots
1/2 cup cauliflower florettes - shredded
4-5 finely chopped French beans
1/4 cup finely chopped spring onions
1/4 cup finely chopped green capsicum
1/3 cup refined flour (maida)
2 large tbsp cornflour (to hold and bind the veggies)
1 egg - beaten
2 large tbsp soy sauce
1-2 tbsp vinegar
2-3 tbsp oil
Water - around 4 cups to make the gravy

Spices: 1/2 ginger and 5-6 garlic cloves,2-3 green chillies (all finely chopped)
1 tsp sugar,1/2 tsp msg (optional, salt- to taste

Method
Reserve the chopped greens of the spring onions for garnishing.

Mix all the veggies in a bowl, add the beaten egg, spring onion, capsicum, refined flour and one tbsp of cornflour. Add the salt for this mixture according to your taste (remember, the gravy will have salt too) and mix thoroughly. Take a spoonfull of this batter and shape into small balls. (Do NOT add water)

Now heat sufficient oil in a wok or pan and deep-fry vegetable balls, 3-4 at a time so they do not stick to each other, on medium heat until they turn golden brown.
Remove and keep them on a tissue paper to absorb excess oil.

Now heat 2 tbsp of oil again and add ginger-garlic and the green chillies. Then add soy sauce, sugar, MSG and salt to taste. Add 3 cups of water and bring to a boil.

Dissolve the cornflour in a cup of water and add slowly to the gravy. Also add the vinegar to it. Stir till the sauce starts to thicken. When it looks reasonably thick, remove from flame and keep aside.

Now add the fried manchurian balls and mix well. Garnish with spring onions and Serve hot with Veg Fried Rice !!

Tip: You can use bread crumbs instead of cornflour while making the veggie balls.


Note: MSG (Monosodium glutamate) enhances the flavour and is commonly used in chinese food preparations. But some people have reported allergic reactions to it. So unless you are sure you have eaten it before, you can safely omit it from the above recipe to avoid any allergies

Using Japanese Ingredients Anew

The Breakaway Cook, Morimoto


While I love going out for Japanese food, I would never make it at home. And neither would Eric Gower, the "Breakaway Cook". At a recent dinner and cooking demonstration the cookbook author and private chef explained that when he lived in Japan he could get all the great Japanese food he wanted eating out, but Japanese ingredients intrigued him just the same. So he experimented and came up with a new style of cooking.

The Breakaway Cook is a cookbook that uses lots of ingredients that might be considered exotic, including many Japanese ingredients but uses them in simple, accessible ways. Before taking on the recipes you'll want to hunt down ingredients like maccha (green tea powder), umeboshi (pickled plum) miso (fermented soy bean paste) and yuzu juice (citron). Gower also uses other "flavor blast" ingredients that aren't Japanese like one of my favorites, pomegranate molasses.

You can check out recipes for Five Flavored Salts, Crispy Tangy Tofu, Maccha Poached Eggs, and more here. His non-Japanese ingredient recipes are terrific too, I tried his tip for folding yogurt into scrambled eggs and loved it.

On the other end of the spectrum is Iron Chef Morimoto. The only holdover from the original and truly wacky Japanese version of the Iron Chef show who also stars in the American version. If you've ever seen him in action you've had to wonder, how did he make some of those challenge-winning recipes? In the new book Morimoto The New Art of Japanese Cooking, you can find out. His recipes also use Japanese ingredients but often in very unusual ways.

Sadly many of the ingredients such as kinki fish, Japanese soy lecithin sheets and live abalone, and techniques like cold smoking and using co2 canisters are likely to be inaccessible to the home cook. But the book is inspiring nonetheless and many of the recipes aren't nearly as daunting. Recipes like Sushi Rice Risotto, Morimoto Bouillabaisse, and Bagna Cauda with Crab Naan and Eggplant Shigiyaki (a kind of eggplant parmesan with mozzarella and red miso sauce) all merge Japanese ingredients with Italian, French and even Indian classics. In addition to the restaurant style of many of the recipes, the book also features several recipes made on Iron Chef, which were originally accomplished in under one hour.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Spice Hut - The best Fast Food restaurant in Fremont California!

I suddenly realized that it has been a long time since I posted a restaurant review. I've been so busy creating my own special recipes that I forgot about the great chefs working day in and day out to serve us quality food when we go to their restaurants!! So, here's a tribute to one of my special food joints; Spice Hut in Fremont, CA is the best self-serve Indian fast food restaurant that I've been to in the Bay Area. And with a large menu full of top picks from around the country, this is sure to win your hearts and souls (after all, great food touches your soul, right!!:))

Spice Hut is located on Cedar Blvd in Newark in a small place in one of the road-side complexes. The place is easy to miss, and we had to make a U-turn and come back to discover it. As the area is small, you have to stand in line as soon as you enter the door, to order for your food at the counter. They have ample seating, and you can join tables at the far end of the restaurant to accomodate large groups, and there's also the patio seating if you are in the mood. But even with all this, the place is always cramped; well, I told you, it has the best food at the right price!! Plus, it's not a lavish restaurant, so if you come here with that in mind, and if you are not wary of children creating havoc and having fun, you would enjoy Spice-Hut.

Now for the good part, the menu has a huge collection of vegetarian and non-vegetarian regional favourites, including "Indian-Chinese" food (yes, there's actually a food category by that name!!) I love their Paneer Chilly and Veg manchurian with Fried Rice!! amazingly simple and tastes so good!! Other dishes that deserve a mention are the Veggi Burgers, Mysore Masala Dosa, the Masala Fried Fish Combo and the biryanis.We went there once for a team outing and all my colleagues (mostly americans and chinese) loved the food there!! They also have combos so you can choose 2-3 items in a meal. This is ideal for first-time visitors who want to taste a little bit of everything. And don't forget to try out their chutneys and raitha which comes complimentary with your meals. I just love their tomato-onion chutney!!

They have branches in Sunnyvale, San Jose and Menlo Park too, but I like the Fremont one because it is the largest in area. The food is fresh and the staff is cordial. The price is also perfect for a quick lunch or an evening with friends. The restaurant is reasonably-clean for a self-serve one. You cannot expect the luxury of a dine-in restaurant, so don't come here with any pre-notions!! Overall, I would rate it a 4 out of 5. it loses the 5th star for the cramped place and the noisy environment. Not something for a quiet evening or a special date!! But the best in Indian food for your money's worth!

If you happen to be around Fremont or Newark, you have to try Spice Hut; and come back to share your experiences with us!!

Spice Hut in Newark

Address:
39277 Cedar Blvd
Newark, CA 94560
(510) 745-9870
Spice Hut

More Bay Area Restaurant Reviews

Lychee Martini - Cocktail or Virgin, You pick!

The one word that comes to your mind when you see or hear about a Lychee is "EXOTIC" !! And the second word would probably be Hawaai or Mauii or something of that kind, right? Well, a lychee is a rare sub-tropical fruit originating in South China where the lychee is very important in their culture and is famed as "the King of Fruits". It not only tastes divine, but is high in Vitamin C (antioxidant)and Potassium (mineral) too. It sure is one of my favourite fruits, and here's a drink that is a favourite for a lot of people. This recipe for a Lychee Martini is an inspiration from a similar one that I read about in the Gourmet magazine, and I modified it a little to suit my style. Presenting to you, the Lychee Martini (Cocktail or Virgin, your choice!!)

Ingredients
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1 cup drained canned lychees (15 to 20, from a 16- to 20-oz can)
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 small cherries
2 tsp cranberry or grenaldine (artificial pomegranate) juice
Sprig of mint, lemon rind for garnish
6 oz (3/4 cup) vodka (optional)
1 1/2 oz (3 tablespoons) orange-flavored liqueur (optional)
For the Virgin drink, omit the vodka and liquer.

Method
Heat sugar and water in a small saucepan over high heat, stirring, until sugar is dissolved, then allow it to cool by transferring it to a small bowl kept in a tray filled with ice cubes. Let stand, stirring occasionally, until the syrup is cold and a little thick.

Now Purée lychees with sugar syrup and lemon juice in a blender until smooth, then filter the liquid from the fruit residu using a colander or a fine mesh. If you have a cocktail shaker, fill it half with ice cubes and add the lychee puree, vodka, and the orange liquer.

Now take a Martini glass, drop a cherry at the bottom, then add 1 tsp cranberry or Grenadine (artificial pomegranate juice) to create the dark red hue that you see in restaurant-served drinks, and fill the remaining glass with the prepared syrup. Garnish the glass rim with a split lemon rind or a mint leaf and drift into the exotic world of this divine fruit!!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Banana Bread and Cream Cheese Dessert

I discovered banana bread one week after I came to US, and from that day onwards, it has been my favourite! I love the taste, the delicate banana flavor and the crunchy pieces inside. It makes for a perfect snack, and so, inspired by an urge of using all my banana favourites, I decided to try this Dessert recipe. The name is simple, not "froo froo":), because this is my own creation. If you love bananas, you will surely enjoy this easy-to-make delicious dish that caters to your sweet tooth! So go bananas over the Banana Bread Dessert! As I intend to make it quick and simple, I'm going to use as many ready-made ingredients as available. But don't worry, they'll only enhance the final presentation!!(photo source wikipedia)

Ingredients
4 slices of Banana bread
8 oz. cream cheese
1 tsp vanilla essence
2 tbsp milk
2 tbsp. whipping cream
1 chopped banana
3 tbsp Post Banana-Nut Crunch Cereals (optional, for garnish)

Method
In a microwave safe bowl, melt the cream cheese and half of the whipping cream for 2-3 mins. Stir often while melting.

Then remove from microwave and add the vanilla essence and the milk and use hand blender to mix everything together. The mixture should be semi-liquid so that it's a little more thick than milk or water (almost like condensed milk).

Now take a cookie cutter or a small round cup and cut the bread slices into small rounds. (You can leave the breads as they are too if you don't want to waste the excess bread. I just ate the remaining edges myself!!:))

Take a serving dish, soak each banana bread piece into the cream cheese mixture and arrange on the dish. Then spread the remaining mixture evenly over the entire tray. Freeze this tray for a couple of hours.

When ready to serve, make individual servings with each circular bread piece, garnished with cool whip, cereals and bananas on the side.

This serves to be an excellent dessert ready within 30 mins or less. I tried the same thing with strawberries and regular short-bread the first time and it came out very well too.

Other Topping Ideas: Chopped walnuts, chocolate sauce, shredded coconut, vanilla ice-cream....just let your imagination run wild!!! You can drizzle strawberry and chocolate syrup and the remaining cream cheese on the plate to create a unique presentation too.



A Day at the Farm

Alemany farm
Say you live in a big city. You love eating fresh-from-the-farm produce. You frequent the farmers' market, maybe you even subscribe to a CSA. But every once in a while you long to feel the soil, dig a little, pluck some weeds, pick some fruit and vegetables and get back in touch with mother nature.

Here in San Francisco we are lucky to have a four and a half acre farm, and it's just a stone's throw from the Alemany farmers' market. Long neglected after the demise of the San Francisco League of Urban Gardeners, it is now coming back to life under the nurturing care of the Alemany farm managers. Best of all, it's completely open to the public.

This past weekend a whole bunch of Bay Area food bloggers helped out at the farm, including four Bay Area Bites bloggers. One of the farm managers, Jason, showed us around and put us to work and gave us a tour. We climbed up the hill to see the remains of an orchard, viewed the beds of chard, tomatoes, strawberries, swung by the herb garden and meandered over to the swampy pond surrounded by cattails. It was dirty and gritty and everyone worked up a sweat, but the farm is positively gorgeous and the experience (despite my allergies) was gratifying.

You may have read about the recent campaign to bring back victory gardens in San Francisco. But if you don't have the space, you can easily volunteer at the Alemany farm just check the calendar for available dates. As an added bonus you might get to take home some fruits of your labor as a thank you. The rest of the produce is sold to residents of Bayview Hunters Point to support larger food security efforts. You don't need to be an experienced gardener, and even children are welcome.

READ MORE
Over at Bay Area Bites is my review of a terrific new book The Santa Monica Farmers' Market Cookbook


Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Ever thought what lies behind the Fancy Restaurant Menus?? - MUST READ!!

It's well-known that first impressions are very important, and though I don't always adhere to this popular quote, restaurant menus are one thing where I think this does prove to be a worthy measure of competence. Ok, before you start thinking that I have gone bonkers, let me explain myself. Have you recently been to an expensive restaurant and looked at a menu which is more like a decorative binder? Well, if you exercise your gray cells a bit more, you'll also recollect that most of these menus have very interesting and out-of-this-world names for their entrees like "Deep Fried Shrimp with Whipped Mashed Potatoes" (ok, I just made it up, I doubt if there can really be such an item on the menu:); but you get the meaning, right?)

I have always wondered what inspired them to come up with such intricate names, and would there be an actual set of people working towards researching and coming up with such creative names? Well, I recently got an email from an unknown friend which can shed some light onto this mystery. Apparently, these menus are famous as "Froo Froo Menus". Restaurant owners can specify their regular entrees and the generator script can use those words and combine them with other relevant names to create unique Froo Froo names!! Still don't believe me - check this out!


http://www.generatorland.com/generators/froofroomenu_gl.php

My personal favourites are "Rotisserie Kitten with a Cinnamon Chutney" and "Bangkok Raccoon with a Traumatic Reduction" hhahhhaaaa...I just couldn't control myself and rolled in laughter on trying out all the different combinations. Thanks Mike for sharing this with all of us!!! I hope all of you have as much fun as I did with this FrooFroo Menu Generator!!!!

Spicy Rice Bhajiyas (Fritters)

Rice is a very staple diet for people in any region, be it Asia, USA or Europe. The beauty of these grains is that they can be cooked and savoured in various forms. Eat it alone, or combine with other ingredients to make a delicious meal! Easy to cook, easy to eat, and equally easy to use the leftover rice to make something unique the next day! I wonder what we'd ever do if it were not for RICE!! Its the perfect saviour when you are in a hurry and need to cook something really fast. And that's exactly what motivated me to try this dish that I describe below: "Bhaat na Bhajiya" (local dialect) or Rice Fritters; tasty, simple and very filling. My husband and in-laws love this so much, they often ask me to make more rice during the day so that the leftover rice can be used to make these in the evening!!:)

Ingredients
2 cups Cooked rice
1/2 onion
1/2 capsicum
1/2 potato
1/2 cup Spinach or Methi (fenugreek) leaves
1/2 cup chickpea flour (besan)
1 1/4 cup yoghurt
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp salt
2 tsp turmeric powder
2 tsp red chilly powder or 2-3 serrano chillies for more spice
Oil for frying

Method
Mix the cooked rice and the yoghurt and keep aside.

Now chop all the veggies and spinach or methi leaves into small pieces. Add these, the spices and the baking soda to the rice mixture and mix well. Slowly add the besan, 2 tsps at a time and mix to break the lumps and form a nice thick blend that can be held between your fingers without any of it dripping below. It should not drip, yet it should not be hard enough to be rolled into balls.

Now heat the oil in a wok. Drop a small amount of the mix into the oil. If it comes up instantaneously, your oil has reached the perfect required temperature.

Lower the flame a bit and gently drop small balls of the rice mixture into the wok with your hand. Be careful as to not lower your hands very close to the oil. The oil might splutter a little, so stay far from the stove. Now let these fritters be cooked till they are golden brown on all sides. Turn them over using a long-handled ladle.

Remove from oil and place on a tissue paper to soak excess oil. There, your delicious fritters are ready!! They can be excellent appetizers for your party. Serve them with the Green Cilantro Chutney, ketchup or any of your favourite dipping sauce!! It tastes great with Queso too, by the way:)

We just love these spicy and tasty bhajiyas, and hope you enjoy them too!

Monday, August 20, 2007

The New Epicurious Guest Blogger

Epicurious


I've been sitting on some very exciting news for a long time now. But today is the launch day for the new version of Epicurious and I am one of the daily guest contributors! I am in the very best of company with people I greatly admire and respect including Chef Rick Bayless, food writer (and frequent New York Times contributor) Melissa Clark and wine expert Natalie MacLean in addition to the Epicurious staff contributors.

I will keep posting here, and once a week over at KQED, but for a daily fix, you can now read my posts over at the Epi Log. Primarily I expect to be writing about what's going on in the food blogosphere. I hope you enjoy the new blog and as always, do let me know what you think.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Alton Brown-Has a degree in Drama and loves "Apple"??!!

This week in chef-o-logy, we feature a chef who's different, and is loved more for his sense of humour and style than his cooking. Yup, you guessed it right, I speak of the legendary Alton Brown, the funny guy with the spectacles who makes you laugh on Food Network, and who is also a "scientifically-correct" cook! The way he hosts the show "Good Eats" makes me feel informed and satisfied. The details that he shares about every ingredient, all in his humorous ways goes a long way in appealing to the chef in all of us!


Snapshot
Name: Alton Brown
Family: Wife DeAnna and daughter Zoey
Born on: July 30th, 1962 in Los Angeles, CA
Famous Shows: Good Eats, Iron Chef America, Feasting on Asphalt
Famous Books: I'm Just Here for Food, Alton Brown's Gear for your Kitchen
Trivia: Is an ardent fan of the apple (not just the fruit, the mac too!)

Born in Los Angeles, Mr. Brown received a degree in drama from the University of Georgia. He then worked in cinematography and film production (and still does) before he noticed that he was very dissatisfied with the quality of cooking shows currently airing on American television, so he set out to produce his own show. He wished to bring his own unique style to cooking and his show, so that people could be entertained, and at the same time learn something fascinating and interesting. To realize this dream, he enrolled in the New England Culinary Institute, as cooking was not his forte. He worked really hard to understand the basics of cooking and graduated in 1995 with his first culinary degree. Though Food was his first love, he could not forget about television, and while struggling with restaurant and catering jobs, he was busy planning a new kind of cooking show, one that would entertain and inform with wit and humor—"something for his sitcom-and-fast-food-junkie generation". With that in mind, he started writing Good Eats, a show that combines his passion for food with quirky pop culture. launched his own show "Good Eats", which soon became highly popular on Food Network.

The rest is history! He is often described as a culinary version of Mr. Wizard or Bill Nye because he brings a scientific and humorous approach to his cooking shows. He is also the commentator on the show Iron Chef America, and currently hosts the show called "Feasting on Asphalt". He has a huge fan following, and in May 2003 he published his first book "I'm Just Here for the Food" which won a James Beard Foundation Book Award in the Reference category.

My husband loves to watch him on TV, with his nerdy geek-like look and his witty remarks. There is a Good Eats Fan Page too, but you are most welcome to leave your comments on this post itself and show your fanaticism for the cherished chef -Alton Brown!

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Live Longer and healthier with a Tomato

A fruit that is more commonly used as a vegetable, botanically classified in the poisonous fruit family (nightshade plants), packed with lots of nutrients, and that which brings the beautiful red colour to many of our recipes, please welcome the most popular fruit in the world- The Tomato!! First cultivated in 700 AD, explorers returning from Mexico introduced the tomato into Europe in 1556. The French called it "the apple of love," the Germans "the apple of paradise", due to the misconception that it acts as an aphrodisiac (you are free to try it out though and prove it wrong!:)) A single average tomato has only 35 calories, and it's better to eat it cooked than raw. Let's explore more health benefits that this red tiny-tot holds within itself.

Lycopene - A phytochemical (carotenoid) that is responsible for the red color of tomatoes and other fruits and vegetables is a powerful antioxidant and may help reduce the risk of some cancers and cardiovascular disease. Unlike other carotenoids, lycopene is not converted into vitamin A by the body.Lycopene is a fat soluble substance that is found in the blood and tissues of the testes, adrenal glands, liver, prostate, breast, colon and lungs. Combined with vitamins C and E, it protect us from the free radicals that degrade many parts of the body.

Vitamins(A,B,C,E and K) - One tomato contains around 60-65% of the daily recommended vitamin intake.Vitamin C acts as an antioxidant, reducing blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Vitamin C helps form connective tissue, keeps capillaries healthy to help prevent easy bruising, and keeps the gums healthy. It also helps the body to access iron from plant sources. Vitamin A assists in maintaining normal cellular growth, aids in the development of healthy skin, hair and mucous membranes, proper vision, development of bones and teeth and reproduction. Vitamin K helps to maintain blood clotting, thus helping to prevent hemorrhaging (excessive bleeding). Vitamin K is used fr healthy bone growth through mineralization.

Potassium - Like banana, tomato contains significant amount of potassium which helps regulate blood pressure and aids muscle contractions. It may also reduce the risk of kidney stones and bone loss.

Dietary fiber - The undigestible part of a plant, Fiber can aid digestion by preventing constipation and thereby prevent Piles or similar ailments.

Besides all the above, Tomato contains several other nutrients which combined with the above help in preventing prostrate, colon, lung, stomah and endometrial cancers. They help in increasing longevity of life, and also prevent cataracts. Though raw tomatoes are great for you, cooking them in oil releases Lycopene which is stored in its cell wall, and can be better absorbed by the body. They are best when consumed within a few days after ripening.

So the next time you go grocery shopping, remember this article and pick a couple extra tomatoes for its health benefits, if not for me!!

Friday, August 17, 2007

Green Chutney (Sauce)

Side orders are generally the most tasty servings, and it's so not fair that they never get the importance that a main course enjoys!! But seriously, "chutneys" and "pickles" are cherished in every Indian home. In fact, after I married my chutney-craving husband, I rarely have a day when I run out of his favourite Coriander sauce. He can eat almost anything with this!! makes my life easier, so no complaints!! Enjoy this fresh coriander and green-chilly chutney that does not take more than 5 mins to make.

Ingredients
1 bunch fresh chopped coriander
3 green chillies - chopped
1 tsp ginger-chopped
a fistful of raw peanuts
5-6 mint leaves (optional)
salt, sugar and lemon juice - to taste
a pinch of asafoetida

Method
Take a blender and add the peanuts to it first. Grind them for a min. Now add the remaining ingredients, add water as needed and blend together to achieve a thick paste like consistency. And no, it's not supposed to be as watery as you have been served in some restaurants!!(Taste to make sure you don't need more salt:)) There, your chutney is ready to be savoured with any of the snacks found here

Tip: You can freeze and store the thick chutney for as long as 12-15 days. Thaw it in the microwave before using. Add a little water and you are ready to go!

Touring Kerala - God's Own Country


Today I'm going out of my bay area destinations to share with you one of the most-visited and beautiful destination in the southern region of India - Kerala. It's described as "God's own country", and this would not be an overstatement once you experience the myriad diversity of this tropical paradise: dense forests, fertile planes, beautiful beaches, cliffs and rocky coasts, an intricate maze of backwaters, still bays and astounding 44 glimmering rivers.
The Portuguese arrived in the 1500’s and left behind their mediterranean attitude and Catholicism and the Dutch left behind their architecture. The Brits left behind their reserved nature. The people are generally mixed with Arab,Tamil, Jewish and Portuguese blood and the local language is Malayalam. The Jews that escaped persercution over the last 2,500 years settled in Kerala and assimilated into Indian life. That's how the "Swastika" got into India, which is nothing related to Hitler! Its just a religious and auspicious symbol that signifies well-being and sanctity.

Kerala is a 560 kms long stretch of land at the southernmost tip of India, hence it provides kaleidoscopic backwater destinations. They offer all acquatic activities or just relaxing beaches for a peaceful vacation. To check out all these places visit here.


Cochin or "Kochi" is probably the best place to begin your tour of kerala. You can easily spend a couple of days here while you figure out your next stop. If you are short on time, try including at least these 3 places-Periyar for its Tiger reserve, other plant and wildlife, the exotic Spice Garden and the famous periyar Lake, The Kovalam Beach for its palm treese, coconut groves and the Ayurvedic Spas, Munnar for its tea plantations, pristine valleys and mountains and the Lakshadweep Islands, an archipelago consisting of 36 islands, 12 atolls, 3 reefs and 5 submerged banks in the Arabian Sea. These emerald islands, rich in greenery, adorned with colourful corals and fringed by silvery beaches overwhelm you with their natural beauty. And its a perfect spot for scuba-diving!!

You also have to find some time to appreciate the architecture of some beautiful temples scattered throughout the state. And being a 100% litereate state, you wouldn't have a problem asking for tips or directions. There are several tourist packages offered on the net which will plan your entire trip. So whether you choose one of these, or decide to explore it on your own, you need to put Kerala on your vacations destinations list if you are a true nature lover. As for food and lodging, there are plenty of options available that boast of international standards to make your stay as pleasant and stress-free as possible.
Anyone who's already been to this classic vacation destination, please share your thoughts for the benefit of others!

Honeyaholic

honey jars
My name is Amy and I am a honeyaholic. Sure, I have a lot of jam and mustard in my fridge but I think it's honey that takes the cake. I currently have 13 different containers of honey. Actually it's 14 because I also have a big can of honey that I use when I make granola but I didn't include that in the photo. I personally pledge not to buy anymore honey until I get down to a more reasonable number. What number is that? I really couldn't say...

So let me introduce you to some stars in the honey bunch. On the left we have Italian chestnut honey and backup chestnut honey. I greatly fear running out of chestnut honey. It has an almost bitter pollen flavor that perfectly complements roasted pork or gorgonzola. Piled on top is some precious truffle honey I found at a local discount store, the Bargain Bank. It's terrific with cheese like parmesan.

I'm skipping the little sample jars, but let me tell you about the honey I bought in Florida at the International Mango Festival from vendor Bees-N-The-Keys. I bought mango honey, key lime honey and tupelo honey. The mango and especially the key lime honey are wonderfully fragrant. Tupelo honey comes from the tupelo gum tree which grows along river swamps in Florida. The bees are placed on elevated platforms over the water and their resulting honey is light in color with a delicate flavor and will not granulate.

The black sage honey was a gift from a reader and it never crystallizes either. It has a fruity scent with vanilla notes. It is very rare and very delicious. The sourwood honey I bought in Asheville after tasting the unbelievably good prize-winning sweet potato salad made with it at Laurey's Catering. You'll find the recipe in her charming book, Elsie's Biscuits. I have New Zealand manuka honey which I bought on impulse at a sale after the Fancy Food Show last year. It is supposed to have healthful properties, it purportedly can help with everything from colds to skin infections, but I have yet to try it. Finally I have macadamia blossom honey, a gift from my parents. it is dark and very rich tasting.

I've already posted my all about honey post, so I don't have any more suggestions for how to use it at the moment. How about you? Is there a secret collection lurking in your pantry?

+

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Tropical Paradise

Summer is a time for drinks, and with a plethora of tropical fruits flooding the supermarket aisles, it is but natural to mix some of these to create a refreshing and cool summer drink. Here is one of my husband's concoctions, very easy to make, and fulfilling to the last sip!

Ingredients
1 cup orange juice
1 cup pineapple juice
2 cups mango juice
half cup strawberries-semi crushed

2 tbsp honey
7-8 ice cubes

Orange or lemon rind and mint for garnish

Method
You can use fresh juices or the Kernes ones. We used the latter and they worked out just great. Blend the strawberries on Pulse for 2-3 times so that they are not entirely liquidised. Fill this in a tall glass. Mix all the remaining ingredients and blend with ice.
Fill the glass upto the brim. Garnish with an orange or lemon rind and a sprig of mint.
Enjoy with your spouse on a relaxing sunny day settled in your patio chairs (that's what we did), or serve this as a starter drink when you invite your friends.

Muthiya (Steamed dumplings)

Muthiya is a very famous Gujarati recipe, but slowly this fame has transcended the borders of western India and there is absolutely no one who'd say that they do not enjoy this dish. With Spinach(Palak) and Bottlegourd(Lauki) and Rice as its main ingredients, its as nutritious as delicious. The rice gives the desired softness, the veggies make it healthy, and the flours form the glue that holds everything together. This is my all-time favourite recipe, and my mom cooks them the best!! We generally consume a lot of chapatis and wheat products, while rice is treated as a secondary produce in Gujarat. But I used to wait for my mom to make Muthiyas out of the rice leftover from last night, and when she packed them in my "tiffin box" (lunch box) they were as famous with my friends at school, as they were with ME!!!! I dedicate this recipe to my loving mom....all my culinary skills - I owe to her!

Ingredients
4 tbsp whole wheat flour (gehun ka atta)
2 tbsp Bengal gram flour (besan)
2 tbsp semolina (rawa) (optional)
1 cup cooked rice
1/2 cup spinach leaves-chopped
1/2 cup grated bottle-gourd (lauki)
1/4 cup fenugreek leaves (methi)- chopped
1 tsp green chilli-ginger paste
1 tsp garlic paste
1/4 tsp pepper powder
1/4 tsp cumin seeds (jeera ) and mustard seeds
1/2 tsp baking powder or soda
3 tbsp oil
2 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp chopped coriander
salt and sugar- to taste
2 tbsp grated coconut-for garnishing

Method
In a bowl, combine the cooked rice,fenugreek and spinach leaves. Sprinkle salt to taste, mix it well and add the bottle-gourd after squeezing out all the liquid. Add all the flours and semolina, ginger-garlic-chilli paste, sugar and baking powder and knead into a soft dough, using water. Apply a little oil on your hands and divide the mixture into 2-3 parts. Then roll them into cylindrical shapes and place in a steamer. You can use a pressure cooker without the whistle. Insert a knife after 20 mins and see that it comes out clean, meaning its cooked. Let it cool a little and slice each roll into thin oval-shaped pieces.

Heat oil in a pan, add the cumin and mustard seeds. When they start spluttering, add the cooked muthiya pieces and saute for 5 mins. Garnish with chopped coriander and grated coconut. Serve the hot Muthiyas with Indian Chai or Green chutney.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Strawberry Colada Smoothie

Nutritionists say that its best to include berries in your breakfast, and with all the supporting evidence, they can't be wrong. And though strawberries are delicious by themselves, I'd like to point out that they can taste even better with bananas, coconuts and milk, right?? Strawberries have plenty of antioxidants and vitamins that are very useful to the body. Plus, starting your day with a strawberry smoothie helps detoxify your system in the morning. So here's a healthy and refreshing Strawberry Colada smoothie to kick-start your day with a bang!!

Ingredients
4-5 fresh strawberries-washed and cut into 2 pieces each
3 tbsp grated coconut
2 tbsp milk
2 scoops ice
2 tsp sugar

Method
Add all the above ingredients to a blender and blend to a frothy thick consistency. Serve immediately to refresh your senses. Pour in a tall glass and garnish with a split strawberry on the glass rim!! The strawberry-coconut smoothie is best consumed immediately.

Similar Recipes:
Peanut Butter-Banana Smoothie
Cranberry-Soy Milk Smoothie

Italian French Toast

Friends, it is fascinating to know how food knows no boundaries or regions, and this is one area in which there's no limit to the amount of experimentation you can do. So in this breakfast recipe, I combine my two favourites- french toast and bruschetta. And who says French toast has to be sweet!! I dare to be different...how about you?? Easy to make and with all the scintillating flavours, I think this recipe is going to rock!!

Ingredients
3-4 slices of thick buttermilk bread
3 eggs
3 cloves of fresh garlic (or garlic powder)
1 small onion-chopped finely
1 tomato-chopped finely
grated fresh coriander
2 tsp dry basil flakes
salt,black pepper and lemon juice to taste
oil for saute


Method
Beat the eggs in a bowl and add some salt and pepper to it. Now take a large saucepan, put 1 tsp oil to it. Then dip the bread slices in the egg mixture and saute them on medium heat on both sides till they become golden brown in colour. Keep aside. Mix the chopped onions, tomatoes, coriander and basil flakes and add salt/pepper and lemon juice as per taste. Now crush the garlic cloves with a butcher knife, then rub it lightly on the french toast bread slicesYou can mix the garlic powder in the veggies with salt/pepper if you choose to use that. Now sprinkle the veggie mixture onto the bread and serve hot!! You can even re-heat just the bread slices in the microwave before serving.

I just love bruschetta, as I'm sure many of you too...And you just cannot go wrong with a french toast. This is a classic example of a Breakfast recipe with a Twist, perfect for a sunday weekend breakfast! Enjoy it with my Strawberry Colada Smoothie for a complete breakfast!

San Mateo County Fair

One of the best advantages of living in the Bay Area, besides the beautiful weather, is the tremendous amount of opportunities that it offers for fun-lovers like us!! Today we feature the San Mateo County Fair, which is going on from Aug 10th to Aug 19th 2007, so if you've not already visited it, you need to check this out. (photo courtesy of official website)

This year is extra special, because it celebrates the 150th Anniversary of San Mateo County. (Incidentally India celebrates its 60th anniversary of Independence today!!) From food to rides, concerts to exhibits, and more, the fair is a full day's worth of fun and excitement for as low as $6. They also have mainstage entertainment featuring famous bands like Blue October, Hawthorn heights, REO Speedwagon and more. Some highlights for this year's fair are the pig races, giant BMX bike show, and Lifehouse concert in the Expo Hall. You can check out showtimes at their official website
http://www.sanmateocountyfair.com/entertainment.html

They even have some discounts and promotions that would make this trip all the more worthwhile. What I was most interested in were the several exhibits boasting of categories like Culinary Arts, Home and Garden, Fine Arts , Floral and Youth exhibits. They even have contests, so if you have something interesting to show, you could win $$75,000!!! Wow, now that's something that can get you there. My husband was enthralled with the idea that the fair admission also includes a free voucher for entry into the Bay Meadows Horse Racing track!!! That's sure a deal hard to say NO to.

For kids, there's the carnival with lots of funa and exciting rides, and when you are exhausted and hungry, the numerous food stalls will pamper your culinary cravings. There are also game-stalls and booths in case your little one wants you to win a cuddly teddy bear for her!!

many people think that if you've been to one fair, you've seen all of them. But I think this one's a little different from the others as it provides entertainment for the whole family, and also because country fairs are a perfect way to reminisce about your childhood and live it once again with your kids!! So go out and enjoy and have a swell time at the San Mateo fair...