Food Food Food

May 17, 2009

Food Network.  Whoever thought of dedicating an entire channel to food is a genius.  I have been hooked on it ever since I turned on the television one tired evening to find Rachel Ray coaxing people to make an entire meal in under 30 minutes.

I even wrote down her recipes for the entire week following that episode.  Though I have never gotten around to trying any of her recipes till date, I still remain a huge fan of her, her show and her recipes.

Many a dinner here has been thanks to Food Network.  The recipes do not always come from there, but the motivation almost always does.  But ofcourse, after my treatment, every dish, be it italian, lebanese or american, will ultimately have an Indian touch to it.

One recipe that I have tried more than once, that has consistently turned out great is the Schirripa’s Eggplant Parmesan from Foodnetwork.com.

Here is the link: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/paulas-party/schirripas-eggplant-parmigiana-recipe/index.html.

Eggplant Parmigiana

Loved it!  Try it.

Jaw Drops In My Poker Face

January 9, 2009

Long long ago, so long ago, my father tried to teach us the game of Poker.  Atleast, the Poker that he and his friends used to play in local clubs.  That Poker was played with a pack devoid of numbers from 2 to 9.  Each player was dealt 3 cards, and the rest was put aside.  My father, though a genius in his own right, is hardly a patient man.  We could never get it into our head that Ten Jack Queen of different suits was higher than Ace Ace King.  Hang over from playing too much Ace.  Though we remained poker faced, to not give away the fact that we didn’t understand a thing, my father discerned that the game was lost on us.  So, before long, he reached for the rest of the cards, shuffled together the entire pack and we continued playing Rummy instead.

Not very long ago, in other words, day before yesterday, while listlessly changing channels, we stumbled across the telecast of World Series of Poker.  This riveting game atlast bestowed a Eureka moment on me.  Yes, now, with a clear understanding, I can truthfully say what an amazing, marvellous game it is.  The James Bond franchise really didn’t do it justice in the movie Casino Royale.  Why do movie makers not take actual occurences in real life to glamorize on the reel.  There was this round on the series where a guy named NGO Mike pulled a cool bluff on Theo Tran to win that round, quite ingeniously.  Though he spoiled it by letting it get to his head and showing off immediately after, this could make quite an impressive inspiration for screenplay writers.

My husband says I am one person who could never play poker no matter how well I might understand or appreciate the game, since my body language will give away whenever, if ever, I try to bluff.  Good thing my father did not waste any more time than he did trying to teach me.  Speaking of bluffs, if you ever get to catch that round between NGO and Tran on a re-telecast or on YouTube or whatever, observe the fact that Tran fell for the bait because he thought of the exact same conclusion that NGO intended him to arrive at.  You will realize that falling for a trick is not as stupid as one would think.  The one who tricks and the one who gets tricked need to be on the same wave length, atleast, in the game of poker, for the trick to have any success.  So it is, either ways, a commendable thing.  Even then, I do not stand a chance.  Body language, you see.

Anyways, the guy who won the event was a cool-headed, deserving player, Grant Hinkle, who we were rooting for throughout.  Besides our support, and his family’s, I must add, luck also seemed to favor him big time in the final round.  He had a 10 and was all in with close to 9 million dollars.  And 3 of the comunity cards turned out to be 10.

Jaw dropping or what.

Chettinad Dinner

November 13, 2008

 
I am back.  With no vengeance!  To cooking, reading and blogging.
  
An aquaintance from Chettinad said there is no such thing as the Chettinad style that we taste in restaurants specializing in that particular cuisine.  I personally associate Chettinad only with cooking and that too a certain, authentic or not, kind of taste, look and style, especially of chicken curry.  It has been years since I actually had an opportunity to enjoy this dish.  Until I came across this recipe at http://www.sailusfood.com/2007/04/16/chettinad-style-chicken-curry/, I had not hoped to enjoy it ever again!
 
Chettinad chicken curry goes best with Dosa, Idli or Biriyani; so we decided to have all the three!  For biriyani, I settled for a non-Chettinad style, though very tasty, recipe that my aunt had given me, which I would like to share.
 
Egg Dum Biriyani
 
Ingredients
  • 2 cups basmati rice
  • 2 teaspoons oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 6-8 hard boiled eggs
  • 2 medium sized onions (sliced lengthwise)
  • 4 green chillies (slit lengthwise)
  • 2 tomatoes (chopped)
  • 1 tablespoon ginger-garlic paste
  • 1 teaspoon red chilli powder
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 2 tablespoon cooking oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • Salt
  • 1 cup water or chicken stock
  • Coriander leaves and mint leaves for garnish
Whole Garam Masala Ingredients
  • 4 cloves
  • 2 cinnamon sticks (1 inch each)
  • 1 nutmeg
  • 2 star anise
  • 2 pieces mace
  • 1/2 teaspoon black cumin
  • 1 black cardamom
  • 2 cardomoms
  • 2 bay leaves
Method
 
Cook the rice with 1 teaspoon salt and 2 teaspoons oil, and spread on a plate to cool.
 
In a frying pan, heat the oil and saute the whole garam masala ingredients for a minute.  Add onions, chillies and saute till the onions turn light brown.  Add ginger garlic paste, red chilli powder, turmeric powder and salt.  Saute for a few more minutes.  Add tomatoes, boiled eggs and one cup of water or chicken stock.  Cover and cook for five minutes or until the oil seperates.  Keep this curry aside.
 
Smear the bottom and sides of a thick-bottomed vessel (you may use a slow cooker or a pressure cooker) with butter.  Layer rice and the curry alternately (about 4 layers in all).  Garnish with coriander and mint leaves.  Cover with a heavy lid and cook on low flame for 45 minutes.
 

Egg Dum Biriyani

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chicken Chettinad Curry

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
We cook only once a day, so there is still a lot of time to spare.  So I thought I should get back to the list I had made long time back.  I was looking for “By The Time You Read This” by Giles Blunt but could find only “Forty Words of Sorrow”.  And I have no word of complaint!  There are many things going for the book but what I liked best was the way the detective figures out the link and eventually finds the killer.  It may seem like there was nothing great about it, but in real life, that is how it works.  If you have solved puzzles that have no formula, you would know.  It is like, one domino tilts, and everything else falls – into place.
 
Now I am trying to get hold of “Tell No One” by Harlan Coben.
 

Hazelnut Cake By A Nut

September 27, 2008

When I started this blog, cooking as a topic was far from my thoughts.  I take after my mother where cooking skills are concerned.  One day, she would make an excellent dish.  Then, another day, when we are expecting to enjoy the same dish, she would serve us something entirely different though it would go by the same name.  She has a penchant for giving an ingredient a miss or adding an altogether new one every time she cooks, thus making no two versions of a dish the same, ever again.

Like my mother, I too did not use to have the habit of jotting down recipes.  On the other hand, the veteran cooks in the family, are veterans simply for the fact that they follow the recipe, handed down for generations, to the pinch.  Ofcourse, there are some who simply have a gift for it.  Like my brother, for instance.  And my husband.  I might have easily mistaken this for a masculine privilege if I had not seen this manifest in my aunts as well.  All that they touch, turn into delicious mouth watering food!  This seems to have been the case since their very first experimental dish.

As for me, cooking is forever an experiment that always results in a happy stomach but only an occasional gratified tongue.  My only consolation is so far I have caused no health risks by making people come for a second helping.  But how I would love to lay my hands on those recipes that have made every cook a success!  That is why I have asked my mother-in-law to write me the traditional day-to-day recipes.  I am also thinking of starting a seperate blog with just those recipes as and when I try each one of those.

In the meanwhile, I tried my hand at “Hazelnut Chocolate Torte” from “Betty Crocker’s Chocolate Cookbook”.  My inspiration was, once again, http://www.creampuffsinvenice.ca/.

Hazelnut Cake Collage
Hazelnut Cake Slice 

What I learnt from this experience:

1. It was not mentioned in this recipe, but roast the hazelnuts to bring out the flavor.
2. Do not grind the hazelnuts when they are warm as they would become a paste when you might want them dry.
3. You really have to be a huge fan of Hazelnuts to really appreciate this cake – it is THAT RICH.
4. If you are not that big a fan, do not help yourself to a huge slice.
5. The frosting in this recipe was amazing.  Try it with chocolate cake if you do not prefer hazelnut.

Other sites that I stumbled across during this process that are worth mentioning:

http://www.joyofbaking.com/
http://smittenkitchen.com/

Overall, this took me three days, and three injuries to self, in the form of cuts and burns, to make; and it has left me with more enthusiam to bake than ever!

Dreams to Cookies – Drommar

September 14, 2008

How did we ever survive without the internet!  How did we use to find our way on the roads?  How did we use to connect with people?  How did we use to get information?  How did we use to kill time?

Whatever may have become out-dated, there is one thing that has stood up to the evolution and monopoly of the internet.  And that is face-to-face gossiping.  In fact, the internet has supplemented this pastime in inventive ways!  Ofcourse, it is nice to chat online, but it gets even better, when you meet up in person to follow up on the chat and exchange more discoveries made on google or facebook or orkut.  Yes, yes, the internet brings people together and also, miraculously, manages to keep them together – friends, enemies and bystanders alike.

Luckily, like you grow out of teenage, you grow up in the cyber-age as well.  There is such a thing as “downtime” even while spying!  So you eventually find other ways to use the medium.  Once upon a time, it used to be so difficult to get a book or find somebody knowledgeable to educate you on some subject that might have taken your fancy.  For me, many an interest have just been a dream due to lack of resources, or perhaps want of resourcefulness.  It is not the case anymore.

I too discovered blogging.  And productive blogging at that.  People sharing their experiences on pursuing their hobbies inspire you to take up yours where you left off or start anew.  Three things that benefitted me thanks to blogging are – one, blogging itself.  I have always found writing soothing and it is a great vent.  Two – trying my hand at creative things that I wouldn’t have thought possible of me otherwise – like sculpting, for instance, however amateur it might be.  Three – appreciation and awareness.  I had no idea that there was so much talent in each and everyone of us.  For me, whether I have a talent or not, I find this a means to developing it.  And the best part is, you get recognition – you do not have to become famous or be learned or acclaimed before one takes notice, and you can find like minded people without having to be obliged.

Yesterday, we got a last minute invitation to an uncle’s (in fact, two uncles’)  birthday party.  I felt like making something to bring for my aunt, the hostess.  Days of browsing lead to fruition as I ended up making Dromar – Swedish Dream Cookies, and packed them in a hand-made gift box.

Here is the link that inspired me to make the cookies: http://creampuffsinvenice.ca/2006/11/05/to-sleep-perchance-to-dream/.
Here is the link to the recipe (can also get here from the link above): http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/SWEDISH-DREAM-COOKIES-DROMMAR-104424.
Here is the link to instructions for making the origami box: http://www.origami-instructions.com/origami-box.html.

I used 1 teaspoon baking powder + 1 teaspoon baking soda in place of 1 teaspoon baker’s ammonia as advised at http://www.foodsubs.com/Leaven.html#baker’s%20ammonia.  To make the gift box, I used old calendar pages to make 2 origami boxes, one of which served as the lid.

Drommar
Boxed Drommar
Gift Box

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Such a simple thing, it is.  If you really think about it, everything in life is simple.  A piece of cake.  Or cookie, if you will.  Crunch!

Cake Decorating

August 30, 2008

Again, all credit to Annita at http://deepann.wordpress.com/2007/07/11/wilton-course-photo-essay/.  I was inspired by her posts to go for a cake decorating class.  It was a four session class, each lasting 3 hours.  Cake decorating is quite easy (well, don’t judge by the pictures here!)… all you need are the tools and also, you need to know the techniques.  This course has served as a starter.  There is so much you can do – books, blogs and above all, practice will help you realize your imagination.  But I am not ambitious.  I like to keep it simple.  You will know how simple once you see the pictures!  No, the pictures are here just so you and I can compare these to the hopefully improved ones that I will do in the future.

Class #1

List of supplies, butter cream recipe, etc handed out.

Class #2 – Masking, stars, round tips, etc.

Cake Decorating Class 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Class #3 – Flowers, clowns, bracelets, shells, etc.

Cake Decorating Class 3 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Class #4 – Roses, leaves, stem, etc.

What you see here are – flat, collapsed – roses!

Cake Decorating Class 4.1
Cake Decorating Class 4.2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As Shakepeare would have said:

“What’s in a shape? That which I have carved into a rose
In any shape would taste as sweet.”

Improvements and refinement – coming-up later!

Our favorite hang-out place was “Brown”.  The coffee pubs and chains that have cropped up, like Cafe Coffee Day and the Barista, cannot hold a candle to what “Brown” was.  Yes, I said “was”.  The last time I went there was four years later and the place was run down and the coffee was appalling.  It had taken a beating from the more famous chains.  Surprisingly, the chains too suffered the same fate two years after they had established themselves.  That is, in Coimbatore.  That is what Coimbatore does to you.  It sucks the life out of you – if you want to live and let live, your best option is to RUN.  Yes, go… GO NOW!  Else, soon you will be one of them.

I do like to be dramatic.  But if you came from outside, you would see what I mean.  As for those on the inside, they are part of it.  If you are a visitor, then never mind.  You are safe!

My favorite in Brown was “Cold Coffee” and “Chilli Cheese Toast”.  That was my regular order.  When I came to the US, at first, I expected the Frappuccino in Starbucks to be like the one and only Cold Coffee I was used to.  What a disappointment that was!  Starbucks sells for the so-called culture, not the coffee.  But even there, I have a favorite – a crush, if you will – Peppermint Mocha!  And I am yet to get over it.

The chilli cheese toast is another that I am yet to taste since Brown.  Following is a very pathetic attempt at copying that.

Chilli Cheese Toast

Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons Mozarella cheese
  • 4 green chillies (very thinly sliced)
  • Salt
  • 4 bread slices
  • Salted butter

Method

Mix the first three ingredients together and sandwich generously between buttered bread slices.  Toast them in a sandwich maker.  That is it!

chilli cheese toast

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I am going to keep experimenting, until I get close to the original – unless, somebody can get me the original recipe!