Wednesday, April 24, 2013

# 276 A Prayer and Cherry Tomato Rice

In light of the devastation at the Boston Marathon,Watertown residents stayed vigilant for fear of an escaped suspect for a day until he was found. My heart goes out to each one of them for what they had to go through. Last Friday night we all took a sigh of relief  when the second suspect was captured and taken into custody. In some way or other it affected all Americans and although we continue on with our lives, we utter a small prayer for all those who lost loved ones. We go about our routines, work, commute and dinner as usual, but now we know the distressed families are at peace now that the last surviving suspect was taken in.

Today, I'm sharing a simple Tomato Rice I made last night. The good news is it takes very simple ingredients from your pantry to make this dish, the bad news is that it will disappear so fast that you will have absolutely no leftovers for the next day. Tomato rice is a dish in India and is made from tomato paste pre-prepared and tossed over cooked Basmati rice until it is well coated and flavored lightly. The tanginess of tomato rice is even lighter when using cherry tomatoes and it appears decorative enough to serve at parties. I served the rice with large mussels stir fried with Masala paste although it does not need a side-dish at all.

Cooked Basmati rice- 4 cups
Garlic, ginger and thai green pepper paste- 2 Tblspn
Onion chopped fine- 1white onion
Ghee- 3 Tablespoons.
Cherry tomatoes halved-1 pint
Cilantro chopped- 1/2 cup
roasted cashews- 1/4 cup
Hot chili sauce with ketchup- 2 Tblspn (also available in Indian groceries)
Whole spices -3 cloves, 2 sticks cinnamon, 2 cardamom pods, 2 bay leaves
Salt and Olive Oil as needed

1. Place a heavy bottomed paella pan(wide mouthed) over medium fire.
2. Add ghee to it and additional olive oil if necessary. Add the whole spices.
allow them to roast for a few mins and toss in the onion and saute until soft and golden.
3. Add the garlic/ginger/pepper paste and let saute until the paste lets out a nice aroma.
4. Add the halved tomatoes and saute for just 2 mins. DO not over cook them.
5. Toss in the rice and chili/ketchup(substitute with 3 tblsp ketchup and 1 tspn chili sauce).
6. Add enough salt to taste and mix well. Remove from fire.
7. Serve garnished with cilantro and cashews. I served it with Indian style Masala Mussels.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

#275 The last of the Soup Season-Low Carb New England Style Fish Chowder

"Chowda" (Chowder) is the kind of soup that most people associate with clams but it turns out that 'Chowder' is derived from the French-Canadian word "chaudiere" or cooking pot. Yes, just like the name suggests, this creamy white soup is made in one pot. Only, I made mine without any bacon or potatoes very unlike the traditional New England soup or the tomato based Manhattan style soup. If done right, a really good chowder involves many steps, but the results are worth the effort.

But first, I must admit that I am souped out this winter. The reason for that is because both R (my husband) and I were badly hit with the respiratory virus our friendly co-workers shared with us a couple of months ago. We were so sick that it was Soup and broth for weeks until we overcame the prolonged cough that lasted for over six weeks. Even the Center for Disease Control seemed to think this past Winter Flu overshadowed all other winter miseries circulating across the nation. But with fresh fish on hand and fresh fish broth, I wanted to get a good old Chowder brewing before we drive out the remaining cold air of the past season.
Besides, there's no harm in making one more bone warming soup just as we move on to warm weather and I was right -the soup turned out to be comforting, thick, creamy and deeelicious:)

Whole Fish- 1 lb with head
1/2 onion chopped
3 shallots chopped fine
3Tblspn Olive oil
1 tspn butter
4 sprigs thyme
6 garlic cloves, 1/2 onion, 2 bay  leaves and 1 tspn whole pepper
1 Large head of Fennel and fronds
1 cup dry white wine
2 sticks celery
1/4 cup cornflour
1 cup thick cream
Salt and pepper to taste
Sriracha- 1/4 tspn

1. Take a crock pot and add 4-5 cups cold water.  Wash and clean the fish well.
Place the entire fish along with the head, skin and bones into the water.
2. Seperate the fennel bulb from the fronds. Chop the Bulb fine.keep aside.
3. Add the garlic, bay leaves, 1/2 onion. pepper into the water and fish.
4. On a medium fire slowly let the water and fish boil. Gently remove the fish and head
from the water. When cooled seperate the flesh of the fish from the bones, head, skin and keep
the flesh aside in large chunks.  Toss the rest of the fish.
5. Strain the fish broth well passing it through a strainer to remove the fronds and any bones.
6. Chop the celery into small peices and keep aside.
7. Take the same crock pot, add butter and oil place on a medium fire.
8. Add the onions and shallots and saute along with thyme until it is translucent.
9. Add chopped fennel, celery  and saute well.
10. Add the strained fish broth- it will be about 3 cups, add wine, salt and pepper.
11. Add the Sriracha and slowly let the vegetables cook for about 20 mins,
12. Mix the cornflour with a little water and add this slurry to the soup. Simmer
until it is quite thickened. remove from fire.
13. Add the cream and stir well. Add 1 tspn of chopped Fennel fronds or dill.
serve hot.

Monday, April 15, 2013

#274 The dawn of yet another Kerala New Year- Happy Vishu

Happy Vishu and a Prosperous New Year to all Malayalees Worldwide!!

The festival Vishu is the beginning of the New Year for Keralites and it has an astrological and historical relevance. Just like Pongal in Tamil Nadu it is more like a thanksgiving celebration between nature and the human species. The VishuKani has cucumber, jackfruit, mangoes and fresh yellow flowers. Since the original Kanikonna is not available I make do with yellow Forsythia just for re-kindling nostalgic memories of home.Vishu is never complete without at least three pickles on the Menu. 

I was about to toss the peels of the oranges we were eating and R mentioned an Orange peel pickle his mother used to make when he was  a little boy. Can I get a show of hands for how many of you have heard their husbands talk about their Moms' dishes? So now, I felt the need to make this pickle for him although he is bound to say it's good but not as good as Mom's!!  I have never heard or tasted Orange peel pickle but I have become a fan now. So instead of the Ginger/inji curry that I usually make on such occasions, today I decided to pickle a couple of Navel orange peels. Why Navel oranges? Because they are easily available at this time of the year and they have crisp, thick, clean and bright outer coats.  Anyway, it turned out really delicious with a hint of sweet brown sugar and chili and I can't say enough about the blood cleansing power of Orange peel!!

Navel Orange peels- of 2 oranges.
Chili powder- 2 tspn
Green chili- 1
Methi(fenugreek) seeds- 1 pinch
roast and powder the methi seeds
Asafoetida- 1/4 tspn
Brown sugar- 2 Tblspns
Tamarind Paste- 1 Tspn
Salt to taste
Mustard seeds, Curry leaves, red chilis and olive oil for tempering

1. Chop the peels and green chili into very small bits. Keep aside.
2. Place a saucepan over a medium fire and add about 1 Tblpsn Olive oil.
3. When it warms up add 1/2 tspn mustard, split red chili, curry leaves and wait until
the mustard seeds splutter.
4. Slowly add the orange peel and green chili and saute on low flame for about 2 mins.
5. When the peel is crisped, add the rest of the ingredients and just enough water.
6. Season well and let the peel cook down.
7. Taste to confirm that the pickle is well seasoned, remove from fire and cool.
8. Serve as a side dish for Vishu or Onam.This is simply delicious with almost any meal!!

Thursday, April 4, 2013

#273 Crispy Caramel Tuile Cups filled with Fresh Fruit and Icecream

Let's welcome Spring with open arms and fancy fruit cups with ice cream. Scrumptious, elegant and surprisingly light, these cups make quite a stir around the table when dessert is served. The abundance of Strawberries and any other berries is the best excuse to fill up on them with the flavor of caramel. Spring break is over but this one is an awesome treat for everyone for the next phase of Spring!!

Neiman Marcus first opened its doors in 1907 to customers and then it opened its 100 anniversary cookbook with luxurious and rich dishes. This recipe is derived from one of their famous Tuile cups filled with fresh fruit and ice cream. If you have careful fingers you can make these delicate lace-like caramel cups and fill them with the fruit of your choice. The fruit is flavored with brandy and black pepper, yes black pepper. After a spoonful it makes you think..Mmm what is that little kick at the back of your throat but exploding with flavor? Don't hold back on any of the ingredients because its all about measurement and consistency to get these lacey cups to hold their shape and the fruit, but at the end its all worth the pure indulgence of a spring dessert.

Brown Sugar-1 cup
Butter-1 cup
Light Cron Syrup-6 Tablespoons
All-purpose flour-1 cup
A splash of Brandy or Bourbon
sugar and a dash of black pepper

1. Heat the butter, brown sugar and corn syrup over moderate heat while contantly stirring the mixture
until it is completely boiling and smooth.
2. Lower the heat, and slowly add the flour incorporating it by stirring or whisking the mixture until
the dough is thickened (takes only about 1 minutes).
3. Pour the hot mixture on to a cookie sheet to cool slightly.
4. Drop the mixture by tablespoonfuls onto parchment paper-lined baking sheets, roll into balls spacing 4 inches apart.
5. Bake for 350 degrees for about 8 mins and then remove from oven.
6. Working quickly with a wide metal spatula, lift each Tuile from the sheet
7. Immediately set the warm, pliable tuiles very very gently over inverted custard cups or glasses. Gently press
the cup pinching into shape to form a small cup while still warm. Repeat with all the tuiles. Cool until set.
8. Slice strawberries into a glass bowl. Add the brandy, sugar, mint and dash of ground pepper.
Toss together and cool in the fridge.
9. Melt 1/2 cup sugar and 1 Tblspn water in a small saucepan. Swirl until a brown caramel is formed.
10. Spoon over foil paper, moving the spoon back and forth to form long designs.
11. Let cool, break into shapes to use as garnish.
12. When ready to serve, take each cup and add a large spoonful of cooled fruit into it. Top with
a scoop of your favorite ice cream (preferably vanilla or caramel) and garnish with caramel designs.

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