Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Vanilla-who says it's plain?

I was reading this post on Slate about vanilla. I will take a serving of vanilla icecream over any other flavor any day. It is the simplicity of its flavor that makes it so elegant, I think. I have only used the vanilla extract as it is the more affordable option. My parents have a few vanilla plants growing in their yard, so I might be able to bring some real vanilla pods during my next visit to India...

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Rasam simple!

I know that S used to make a lot of rasam during his bachelor days, but my experience with rasam is very limited. I don't remember my mother making a lot of rasam at home.Some of my good rasam memories are from when I visited my mom's sister at Trivandrum and also at my brother in laws house, and my worst rasam memories are of course from the hostel canteen. It has been almost 3 yrs since I have known S and we have never made rasam. So...I am making it today.
We had gone to Berkshire over the weekend, and on our way back we stopped at a farm and bought some lovely tomatoes. I was putting them away in the fridge when inspiration struck..So I looked up the cookbook by Mrs.K.M.Mathew and sure enough that was the third recipe in the book. Luckily I also had all the ingredients for making rasam...the ginger was almost dried up but who cares, I managed to get some fresh looking ginger after peeling away most of the outer parts. And to my surprise, this was one of the simplest dishes I put together. How does it taste? Not too bad...Will I make this again? Sure...although it won't me my favorite. I could fall back on times like this when I need to eat quick.
I will post the recipe here

1. Cooked toor dal half cup
Tomatoes 2 large, each cut into 8 pieces
Curry leaves 2 sprigs
Water 4 cups
Tamarind 3-4 small pieces, mix with water and use that water
Salt to taste
Coriander seeds 2 table spoon( 1 used 1 tbsp. of powdered coriander)
Black pepper 1teaspoon
Jeera seeds 1 teaspoon
Ginger 1 teaspoon sliced thin
Garlic cloves 4( leave whole)
Dried red pepper 1
Asafoetida( I used the powder form, maybe used 1/4 tsp.)
Cooking oil 1 tablespoon
Mustard seeds 1 teaspoon
Dried red pepper 2( cut into 2-3 pieces)
Coriander (fresh) 1 tablespoon


Crush all the ingredients under the heading 2.
Add all this to ingredients under 1. and being to boil.
After the tomatoes have cooked weell, drain the mixture through a wide eyed sieve.( I did this ,but ended up adding some of the stuff to the drained liquid to give it some body)

Crack the mustard seeds in oil, add the dried red pepper and then add the drained mixture into it. Add fresh coriander and serve hot.

Friday, August 05, 2005

An aphrodisiac menu

I was quite bored this morning and was just browsing through the TV channels when this show on food network attracted me and the show was on aphrodisiacs. The show was pretty good and as a result I decided to recreate some of the stuff at home.

So when S came back from work, we started on a hunt for oysters. The two local grocery stores did not have any oysters, nor did Trader Joes. And then out of the blue S remembered a fish store he has seen somewhere along the way, and so we went in search of the store. It was quite near to our place and I finally spotted the neon sign saying'Fresh Fish' and lo and behold there were oysters in the store. They were $ 8 per dozen and we bought half a dozen and headed home all excited to try out the recipe.
Cleaning the oysters were no piece of cake... I could not open a single one. We did not have any oyster knifes or such special equipment for opening those but our regular kitchen knifes did not let us down and S was able to open them after some effort.
So finally the oysters were freed and now they were ready for me. We chugged down two of them raw with some hot sauce and lemon juice and then I followed to cook the rest of them. The recipe can be found here
The recipe was a perfect way to use some of the white truffle oil I had in my pantry.
This was a very delightful dish and whether it worked as an aphrodisiac, I will leave it to your imagination.

And by the way check this out.It is quite interesting..

The rest of the saga

This is what eventually became of the bittergourds.
The ones that are sliced are now basking in the sun and are now one-fourth of their previous size and we are still enjoying leftovers of the bittergourd and coconut combo.

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Thursday, August 04, 2005

Bittergourd saga

So yesterday I was all ready to make some Goan fish curry when unexpectedly the front bell rang. It was one of S's friend who kindly took it upon himself,(bless his heart) to bring us some bittergourd or 'karela' or 'pavakka', all the way from New Jersey. These gourds are grown locally in a farm over there and these were handpicked.
I am not sure if the non-Indian public is aware of this vegetable. It is a quite common veggie in India. In the North they stuff and fry it.If you are from Kerala, I am sure you have been subjected to the horrors of this quite bitter tasting vegetable in many different forms when you were a kid. My mom has made many futile attempts to get me to eat this vegetable. But as I grew older, I somewhat grew out of my dislike but S is a diehard fan of this vegetable.
These beauties are so gorgeous with a waxy outer surface but don't let these looks deceive you. They are really bitter and one way to get rid of the bitterness is to soak them in salt water and then wash them again, but I believe this will drain away their vitamins too..So I would rather eat it with its bitterness.
There were atleast 20 of these huge gourds sitting in a box just looking at me and I was not sure what to do with them. I couldn't bear to see them sitting there and so we took some to our dear friends who lived a few miles away, although it was late at night, and shared our bounty with them.
So this morning I set out on my mission of 'taking care' of these beauties...

The sun was shining really bright and so I took 4 of them and used my mandolin and cut them into thin slices and put them out in the sun to dry them. After two days in the sun, they will turn brown and crisp and they can be stored to be fried later.

Then I took another 3 of them and made the following dish
I took this recipe from a malayalam cookbook by Mrs. K.M.Mathew and it turned out quite nice. S will be quite happy to see this treat for dinner....

Bitter gourd with shredded coconut
(pavakka thoran)


Finally chopped bitter gourd 1 cup
Finally chopped onion 1 cup
Salt as needed
Oil 3 tsp ( I used coconut oil)
Mustard seeds half tsp
Raw rice 1 tsp
Hot green peppers 4( cut each into two)
Grated coconut half cup
Finely grated carrot 1/4 cup


1. Boil 1/4 cup of water. Add the bitter gourd and onion to the water. Cover and cook for about 5 mins. When cooked add salt and keep aside.

2. To a hot pan, add oil and then add the mustard seeds and when they start to pop, add the rice. The rice will start to turn into crispies and then add the green peppers. To this add the cooked bitter gourd and the grated coconut. Combine well. Just before serving add the shredded carrot. This adds a nice contrast.

There are another 6 of these pavakka on the kitchen cabinet. I think I will chop those up and freeze them for later.
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Monday, August 01, 2005

Searching for inspiration

I am going to be off from work for the next 2 days and I feel inspired to cook but do not know what....I think I am going to hunt for some recipes in some blogs or I might turn to my minimalistic cookbook collection.