Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Dinner for a lazy couple

Although I was off from work, I did not do anything all day. But by the time Satish had come home from work, I had found out a salad and sandwich recipe that I wanted to make and also made an ingredient list. I have developed a habit of cooking only after S gets home. But today he had a headache, and so after popping a couple of Aleve tablets and watching some TV, we headed to the grocery store, but enroute we decided we were too tired to cook. Now, where to go? Definitely not Chinese today. We were in the mood for some Italian and so we went to an Italian restaurant called 'Sienna'.
It is a small cute place on summer street in Stamford. There were only 4 tables occupied.We were quickly seated and a very friendly host gave us enough time to decide on the menu. I ordered some Chianti and S had some Cab. We decided to have braised octopus for appetizer. The octopus was our choice as we had never tried before. S was a little hesitant about the octopus, but I persuaded him to try it. It was served with a little too sour greens,but overall it was an okay dish. For the main dish, I had the monk fish served with a spicy tomato sauce and served along with spinach and mashed potatoes. It was definitely a great dish. I never had monk fish before and it had a nice appealing texture to it. S had baby chicken which he thoroughly enjoyed. He offered me some, but for some reason, I never share from the other plate, I am content with enjoying what is on my plate.
For dessert, we had some biscotti( I have to mention that they were free) and finished it off with some espresso. I was very impressed by this restaurant and I convinced S to leave a generous tip . What was supposed to be a run to the grocery store left us quite a few bucks poorer than what we had planned for, but as far as I am concerned, it was a well worth experience and that is what life is all about, finding joy and time to do things you like, and then have the opportunity to write about it. This was a good day in the life of a food buff!

Is the fish stinking?

Attention sushi and fish lovers! Someone send me an article from Slate today about the 'real' the health benefits of eating fish.After reading this article, I certainly couldnot let it go without posting about it in my blog. I have always considered fish a healthy option and when some one says that "well, that might not be the case anymore", I am definitely not excited about it.
I love sushi and all fish. I grew up eating fish as part of our daily diet-fried fish, fish in curry sauce, fish in coconut sauce, fish with grated coconut, fish roasted in banana leaves and the list is endless..And when the doctor informed S that he had high cholesterol, we started religiously adding fish to our diet. As a matter of fact, S has tuna salad for lunch almost everyday. This article was a shock to him too...So, I guess the moral of the story is out there..No food is bad for you in moderation. All those who gave up on meat and got hooked on to fish for their hearts have been fooled..So, I think instead of giving up on good food, we might have to start incorporating all of God's given food into the days of our lives!
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Sunday, March 27, 2005

Haloscan commenting and trackback have been added to this blog.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Biryani was a big delicacy when growing up..reserved only for those special occasions like Easter or Christmas, this dish took hours of preparation. These days biryani is available almost everywhere and there are restaurants totally devoted to biryani.One such place is the Biryani Merchant in Banglore.
For me, biryani brings back mouthwatering memories of weddings and many more great occasions where it was served. Now that I have a family of my own, Biryani has become a main entree for those special entertainment nights. So,for Easter dinner, this was my pick and S agreed. Besides, it has been some time since we had non-vegetarian due to Lent. Now comes the hard decision, mutton(lamb) biryani, chicken biryani or shrimp biryani? hmmmm....Ok..I found a new exciting recipe which I wanna try..so,lets do chicken. The best part of this recipe is that it is really detailed and when you are making a dish this extensive, I like the detailed recipes. I am sure there are tons of posts with shortcut ways of making biryani, but hey,the real biryani needs lots of efforts and is well worth it. So, if you have commitment issues,I suggest you go to a restaurant that serves good biryani.

We have invited one of our best friends over for dinner tomorrow. Since I will be working again on Easter day, we decided to celebrate Easter on Saturday night. Will let you know how it goes...
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Good Friday

..Good Friday is here. Traditionally, we spend almost all day in church fasting, and when the services are over,there is kanji( rice with the broth in which it was cooked,)accompanied by few side dishes such as papad, lentils and a pickle. Usually the pickle is mango.
Since I had to be working, by the time I got home S had made us some kanji and it is right now being served and I can't wait to have those. Brings back all those wonderful memories from home...

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Eggplant lasagna

Photo courtesy of AMGmedia Works Inc.
It has been some days since I have done any serious cooking. The last major dish I cooked was the eggplant lasagna. That was one delicious meal. I was looking for some vegetarian recipes as I had given up meat for lent(something I am used to from my syrian orthodox christian background).Me and S devoured the lasagna with such fervour that it was ridiculous. Although when I first read about it, I have to admit I was a bit skeptical. But the dish proved me wrong and I am so glad I made it. It is a keeper. Thanks Amy for another great recipe.
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Sunday, March 20, 2005

Stainless steel....for the kitchen's soul

OK..after months and months of deliberation I finally did it....I bought my first stainless cookware.I had put to work all the information I had researched on the net about finding the perfect stainless cookware....but they all come at such prices! I got mine from Bed Bath and Beyond and it is an Emeril cookware. Since I couldn't afford the whole set I had to content myself by buying one of those single pieces($53). And since I had no experience hatsoever with stainless steel,I decided to give this a test run.
So after I brought this home I cooked an omelet in this...It turned out great although I found that the heat resistant spatula( or so I thought)started to melt while I flipped the omelet.So the next day I got more adventurous and cooked some salmon and oh boy what a great idea.Just sear the salmon and pop it right in the oven.But getting yourself burnt after removing the pan from the oven...Bad idea.. and there is a blister on my left forearm as a proof of this point...
Is this a great investment?I don't know yet. But I missed the ease of nonstick cooking when I used the steel and it was mighty heavy for me to lift( I weigh all of 110 pounds).So, I guess after few months of using this I will decide if I am going to buy my dream stainless steel set...and if I do, you will know.
May be I should share my first recipe I tried on my stainless steel cookware.Since it was an Emeril cookware, it made sense to use an Emeril recipe.

Zucchini wrapped salmon with butternut squash and pinot noir butter sauce

3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup minced yellow onions
1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 small butternut squash (1 to 1 1/2 pounds), peeled, halved, seeds and fibers removed, and diced ( I used the already diced squash as a time saver)
2 teaspoons light brown sugar
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup chicken stock
2 large zucchini, ends trimmed ( use long zucchini to ensure that the salmon is wrapped fully)
8 (3-ounce) medallions salmon, trimmed to measure, each about 1 1/2 to 2 inches square
1 large egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon water to make an egg wash
2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Pinot Noir Butter Sauce:
2 tablespoons finely minced shallots
1/2 cup pinot noir, or other dry red wine
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
2 sticks cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces

Chopped chives, garnish

In a saute pan, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions and garlic and cook, stirring, until soft, 3 minutes. Add the squash and cook, stirring, until golden brown, 5 to 6 minutes. Add the sugar, salt, pepper, and chicken stock, and stir. Cover and cook over medium heat until the squash is tender, 5 to 6 minutes. Uncover, stir, and cook until the liquid is absorbed, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from the heat, adjust seasoning, to taste, and cover to keep warm until ready to serve.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Using a mandolin or other slicing machine, cut the zucchini lengthwise into long ribbons, about 1/8-inch thick. On a work surface, overlap 2 long zucchini ribbons to form a cross. In the center of the cross, place 1 salmon medallion and season lightly with salt and pepper. Brush a small amount of egg wash on each zucchini strip and fold alternately over the fish to form a tight package. Lightly salt and pepper. Repeat with the remaining ingredients. Use toothpicks to better hold the packages and remove prior to serving.
In a large non-stick skillet, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons oil over medium-high heat. Add the fish packages, folded side down, and sear for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the butter, turn the fish and place in the oven until cooked through and tops are golden, 5 minutes. Remove from the oven.
To serve, spoon the squash hash in the center of 4 plates. Top each portion with 2 fish packages and nap with the Pinot Noir Butter Sauce. Garnish with chopped chives. Serve immediately.

To make the Pinot Noir sauce

In a medium saucepan, combine the shallots, wine and peppercorns and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until reduced in volume by half, about 2 minutes. Whisk in the butter, 1 tablespoon at a time, adding each piece before the previous one has been completely incorporated. Continue until all the butter is incorporated and the sauce coats the back of a spoon, removing the pan from the heat periodically to prevent the sauce from getting too hot and breaking.
Strain into a clean container and use immediately.
Yield: 1 cup
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Friday, March 18, 2005

Mastering the pound cake

When I got the call on Wednesday night to bring something in for St.Patricks's day, I was lost! I did not want to buy anything from the store and there was no time to research recipes, and I definitely could not bring beer to work,especially with the inspection team that was in house. So, to end the crisis, my husband suggested that I take the pound cake that I had so painstakingly made during the day. When I say painstakingly people laugh and they go,"well, how can you mess up a pound cake". Maybe that is true, but this is one of the cakes that I have not messed up and I really like to think I did a good job with the baking.
I have had horrible experiences with baking. Deeply motivated after cooking shows or reading cookbooks, I have tried to bake many a cake. But the problem was that I would inadvertantly pick the most complex looking cake to bake..That is when I found the book Essentials of Baking by Williams-Sonoma. What a great book with a section on basic techniques and equipment which is very helpful. I again made the mistake of trying the most complex cake in the book with results that you can imagine. And so I though I will read the basic techniques and lo..it said" If you are new to cake baking, butter cakes, such as pound cake, are an excellent place to start". So I did and it worked..I made the perfect pound cake.
I have also made the pizza dough using their recipe and we had a pizza party. I didn't know about the indian pizza then, or we could have tried that too...but I am sure we will be having more pizza parties.

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Monday, March 14, 2005

Dining Indian Style

This weekend, thankfully we (me & S) were off from work. I spend the morning finishing my classwork and he had gone with a friend looking for a car. So, when we finally saw each other I was in the mood to cook something but he insisted we go out. I wanted Indian and he wanted Sushi...finally we decided on Indian food. These days I have a tendency to look up restaurant reviews before going anywhere, much to S's annoyance. Anyway there were some good reviews about a couple of the nearby restaurants and finally I chanced upon this site. So we finally gave up on Dakshin which was our first pick and decided to take the slightly longer ride to Bombay Bar and Grill in Westport.
This place is so well hid in the corner of a shopping strip that you might easily miss it but when we went inside, it looked like quite a few had found it. In fact,there were hardly any Indians at the place. The now infamous Martha Stewart had made the place quite famous by featuring the place in one of her episodes.
We were greeted quite cheerfully and we were taken to our seats. This is a good size restaurant and had a nice decor too...and I felt the seating was quite comfortable. I made sure I took the seat from where I could see all the action. We were served water and the menus. And that was it for atleast the next 20 min..We had decided to time everything as we were quite familiar with the delay in the service in Indian restaurants. Everybody else was snacking on papads and dips and my mouth was watering. There was a tray of these in the next table where nobody was seated and I kept telling S that they had misplaced it and I would have taken it if he had not given me those 'looks'. Finally we managed to catch the eye of one of the numerous servers hurrying by and was promptly given the tray of papads that was on the next table. I was fuming by now...Then somebody took our order..The guy at the bar looked like he knew his stuff and I ordered a mangotini...I was served this with the mangotini spilling from the glass and dripping over the servers hands and it wasn't as I had expected at all...So that is lesson no:1 for all of you...Always order wine or beer at the Indian eateries. You can't screw those up.
The menu was quite interesting too with bits and pieces of information about India and I ordered the halibut with green sauce and S ordered shrimp in a red creamy curry sauce.
The food was served and I forgot all my grumblings...It was to die for. I enjoyed it tremendously. Oops..I forgot to mention the masala dosa we had, which was exceptional too...I was all happy by the end of it...And I strongly believe it is the food that is the success of this restaurant.
There was a funny bit too.. The lady next to us ordered 'Martha Stewart Chicken'...It is actually the chicken malai kebob or so I believe. Anyway the server corrected her promptly..See what I mean when I said Martha made the place famous. Everything went back to normal again ..i mean went back to being slow again..Nobody cared if we wanted desserts...We asked if we could have some south Indian style coffee and then the long wait for the cheque. I guess they want us to enjoy the restaurant experience as much as we can....
So...if I have any suggestions to the restaurant it would be...
1. Get rid of that long ties that looks like it is gonna fall into the food soon..
2.Ask what they want to drink as soon as the diners sit down.
3.Have one single waiter serve a table.
I don't mean to trash Indian hospitality...I know it is excellent...I just want the restaurant experience to be truly magical as the food!

Friday, March 11, 2005

Asparagus Rolls

I had only read and seen pictures about this vegetable when I was in India...So it has been only about 2 years since I have tasted an asparagus and it was love at first bite. I have tried only the fresh asparagus but I have seen them frozen and canned. I try to stick with fresh as much as I can..They are available all year round but may be a little expensive but who cares..it is totally worth it.

Americans love this vegetable and the asparagus festival is proof enough. In India festivals are reserved for the gods,...so this might be a reflection of how important food is for Americans. Anyway let us came back to the vegetable..Here is a site if you believe in growing your own asparagus
Here is a wonderful way to try this wonderful veggie....I had found this recipe and had adapted it as I did not have all the listed ingredients but this recipe earned rave reviews.This is a great appetizer and is best served warm.

Asparagus rolls

12 slices bread slices (use the thin whole wheat sandwich slices if u can get them)
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup sour cream
2 green onions sliced thin
Black pepper a few grinds
2 bacon strips cooked and crumbled
24 asparagus spears
Parmesan cheese(optional)

Combine the mayonnaise and sour cream. Add the bacon, green onions and black pepper to this.
Trim and blanch the asparagus.
Spread the above mixture on a bread slice, place 2 spears at one end and roll the bread. Place it on a baking sheet seam side down.Secure using a toothpick it it unrolls.
Brush the rolls with butter and sprinkle with cheese(optional).
Bake at 400°F for 10min or until slightly brown.
This recipe should serve 4 adults.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

live to eat

Hi all
I am sure there are many cooking fans all over....But being a good cook takes more than a burning desire to cook. It means getting the right tools, right attitude, and also a right partner...someone who will standby you when you buy all that expensive tools and cookbooks and will agree to taste the weird looking fish dish you cooked up..
In my postings I will try to post some cool recipes, info. about gadgets that you must have and so on....In my house we are in a constant struggle to find low cholesterol recipes as my honey has a high cholesterol problem. So you might find some postings related to that as I have spend many hrs finding such recipes and I am learning to adapt recipes so they are healthier.....
So...join me in my pursuit of good food and good food joints....