Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Blogging By Mail Package is Here!

I was sooo excited to receive a wonderful gift hamper filled with the most amazing goodies from Jen of Fallen Souffle! This is part of a fantastic project started by Stephanie, where I can say with even more conviction now that this was a brilliant idea ;)

Jen put put together a list of her favorite things: very tasty home baked chocolate chip cookies (with whole wheat yay!) and her recipe to go with it, apricots, cherry jam, espresso chocolates, tea in the cutest package saying "We will always have Pearis", and Jack Daniels flavored coffee (w00t!).

Thank you Jen for lovingly putting together such a fantastic array of foods!. I can't wait to make your chocolate chip cookies and of course try the Jack Daniels flavored coffee :P. My favorite part was the prettiest note written by Jen explaining the contents and how much she loves Trader Joes. Guess what Jen, me too!

The Blogging by Mail event has been such fun, where I got to send a package to Becke in Ohio, and received mine from Jen in NC!! I will write about the stuff I sent soon. In the meanwhile you can read Becke's post on it here :) Can't thank Stephanie enough for going through the trouble of pairing the bloggers up and just bringing back the joy of snail mail based interaction :)

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Indian Markets & a Meme

When I was tagged by 3 wonderful bloggers The Cooker, Bhags & Priyanka, I was absolutely thrilled! Thanks so much guys! My very 1st meme, and that too by 3 people ☺...
Now comes the tough part...what does one write for a meme like this however? Well, here the the 7 things that came foremost to my mind!
Also, as part of this meme, here are some fun pictures of a local market in my hometown, Pune

With a smile like that, how can you resist the veggies

Ooh, fresh shrimp anyone?

1. I always want to say I grew up in Pune, but the truth is I moved to a new city every 3 years during most of my childhood. However, the longest years I have spent in one place are Pune, and it was where I met the people who had most impact on me and my life! Will admit however that it was just as fun moving to new places every few years, where the place and the people gave us way more love than we could ever give them!

2. Another fantastic place I lived in was Bangkok. Whyevers? Well, believe it or not, for school! I went to Asian Institute of Technology, which is an amazingly beautiful school 40 kms from Central Bangkok. We had professors and students from over 30 countries, each sharing in each other’s cultures. I had a blast there…traveling, eating great food and making some amazing friends now spread across 5 continents!

3. I adore food. That is the true word to describe it I think! In fact, the men in our family lament that their wives will leave them rather than let go of a certain food! Hehehe….

4. Even though I like food this much, I didn’t enter the kitchen till I moved to the United States. Back in India, I just enjoyed the amazing goodies being churned out in my mom’s, aunt’s, granny’s, neighbor’s kitchens…but never really bothered to learn or try to make then..alas…

5. When I did start cooking, it was a disaster! The 1st attempt to impress R resulted in burnt kheer and burnt omelet…of course I quickly blamed that on the weird hot plate like cooking stove in our new home in the US :-0). Soon R and 2 of his friends who lived next door became my test candidates…I kept experimenting new dishes on them, which they wolfed down with no complaints..other than the occasional “there is more rice inside right?” to my surprised look that all the rice I made (barely enough for 1-2 people!) had been polished off within 5 minutes!!!

6. Other than food, I love the mobile/telecom space. I am that geek you see who changes their phone every few months and has to have the latest phone. No, I don’t have the iPhone however…That’s a whole different story ☺ Every time someone asks me why I love the mobile field so much, I always tell them that when the internet happened we were too young to be at the beginning of it. With mobile however, we now have that chance!

7. I wanted to be a chef at one point of time (werd!), but after a couple of weekend classes at the California Culinary Academy, I realized just how tough it is to be in this business. My amateur chef's hat is off to all those hard working chefs, restaurateurs and just anyone directly connected with the food industry!

Now its my turn to tag 7 fellow bloggers for their meme..yay! I call on these wonderful bloggers:
Stephanie of Dispensing Happiness
Jen of Fallen Souffle
Becke of Columbus Foodie
Sia of Spice Corner
Sharmi of Neivedyam
Cynthia of Tastes Like Home
Jyothsna of Curry Bazaar

Play along if you have time or haven't been tagged before and are bored of talking about yourself ;)

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Yellow Dahi Bhindi/Fried Okra with Yogurt

Many have wondered about the origins of this dish where some people speculate it to be a Gujarati dish and then at times as a Maharahstrian preparation. I am quite unsure of this as well, but what I am sure of is its amazing taste. This is one okra dish that never fails to please. It has converted one too many okra haters into okra lovers!! In fact our friend S loved this dish so much, he had his wife make this for him every day for few months....unbelievable but true!!!

So what is this amazingly transformative dish that is so simple to make? Its a yoghurt based okra dish, which can be the star entree of any party! I do think one of the reasons for this version if Okra's popularity is that the deep frying process completely eliminates the usually disliked sliminess of the okra. Those who are averse to deep frying the okra could also just drizzle with some oil and bake it in the oven instead.

Given the yellowness of this dish, I am sending it to Nupur for her 'Y' of Indian vegetables series.

Yellow Dahi Bhindi/Fried Okra with Yogurt
1. 2 cups okra cut in small, bite sized pieces
2. 4 cups plain yogurt
3. 1/2 cup cilantro, finely chopped
4. 3-4 green chilies, grated
5. 1 tsp mustard
6. 3/4 tsp turmeric (this is where the yellowness comes from!)
7. 1 pinch asafetida or hing
8. 2 tbsp Oil for frying the okra. 1 tsp oil for tempering
9. Salt to taste
1. In a deep pan/kadhai, heat the oil. when oil is hot, fry the okra (till crisp) in batches and keep aside on a tissue paper (to drain the excess oil)
2. In a separate bowl, beat the yogurt till its smooth. Keep aside
3. In a pan, heat 1tsp of oil. When hot, add the asafetida, mustard, green chilies, cilantro and salt till it all splutters
4. Remove tempering from heat and add to the yogurt. Do not add the yogurt to the tempering, but add the tempering to the yogurt instead
5. Add the fried okra and mix well.

Server with Paratha or Rice. If you have leftovers of the Dahi Bhindi, so not heat it, but bring it to room temperature and consume!

Enjoy :)

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Watermelon Margarita & Stuffed Watermelon Bites

Watermelon Cheese Bites

Watermelon Margarita

You know summer is here when you get not one but two HUGE watermelons home the same day! Yes, thats exactly what happened to R & me. I picked up what I thought was a nice juicy watermelon from the local grocery store, and the very same day R decides to pick one up from Costco on his way home. We both lay our respective watermelons down and started laughing...more so from the fact that when put next to each other they looked like Laurel and Hardy!!! Well, those who know Costco well can probably guess which came from which store ;)

Given our sudden bounty of watermelon, I decided to make a cheesy watermelon appetizer to match our cheesy grins! Then blended some pretty looking watermelon margaritas to wash down our silliness!!

While we are happy and well cooled with all this watermelon consumption, we still have a fridge filled with more and more and more what else, watermelon!!! I am so excited that Jai & Bee of Jugalbandi are hosting this month's AFAM event where the theme is watermelon. I surely need ideas to use up all that great watermelon in new and innovative ways :)
This is also my submission to this month's AFAM event.

Watermelon Cheese Bites
1. Seedless watermelon cut into 6 individual blocks
2. Crumbled feta cheese. I used fresh Mozzarella as had some ready at hand
3. 1 tsp Olive oil
4. 1/2 tsp Italian herb mix. You could also use just basil, thyme or oregano
5. 2 Green chilies sliced
1. Cut the watermelon into square blocks. Remove the center flesh to make an indent leaving the bottom part intact.
2. In a bowl, combine the cheese, olive oil and herbs. Mix well
3. Scoop out a small spoonful of the cheese mix, and fill the indented portion of the watermelon squares
4. Top with green chili slices (optional)
Serve chilled. These make for great summer party finger food. Enjoy :)

Watermelon Margarita
1. 16 oz seedless watermelon pieces
2. 1/2 lime
3. 6 oz tequila
4. 3 oz triple sec
5. 1 tbsp sugar (optional)
6. 2 cups ice
1. Blend the watermelon slices in a blender and liquify
2. Add remaining ingredients, including the ice and blend until smooth
3. Add sugar if needed
4. Serve in a margarita glass with a sugar coated rim. Garnish with fresh mint
Enjoy :)

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Xtraterrestrial Gobo? Or Good Ol' Burdock Root!

Burdock Root

Burdock Root Pickle

Masala Burdock Root

Now most of us are familiar with those TV ads going BOGO or Buy One Get One Free. But what on earth is Gobo! I recently discovered this amazing vegetable also known as Burdock root in my local Japanese store. Now why would I try to cook something that looks so different from anything I have ever made? For Nupur's 'X' of Indian vegetables event ofcourse! Given that 'X' is such an ahem unique alphabet, Nupur came up with the innovative idea of using that as an opportunity to cook a vegetable we have never made before. Now given a wild card like this, I could not help BUT go wild ;).

So what do I do? I go pick up the craziest looking vegetable that looks barely edible, and resolve to make something R & I can enjoy! I come home, promptly fire up my internet browser and look up what this is and how one cooks it. Much to my surprise, I was delighted to find that the Gobo root has incredible medicinal properties and actually looks quite pretty as a young plant :) Now with even more motivation, I started looking for recipes, most of which were South East Asian style preparations.

Given that Nupur's event calls for predominantly Indian flavors, I decided to cook it 2 ways: a. as a pickle (yumm!) and b. as a spicy vegetable cooked Indian style.
The pickle I absolutely loved (its been pickling a few days now and tastes great!). As for the Indian style vegetable preparation, was not too bad either, where it tasted a bit like potato sabzi.

The key thing with the Burdock root is that it needs to be cleaned well and steamed for 15 minutes at least to make sure it loses its initial hardness. Once you are past that stage, you can use this in fried rice, noodles, and stir frys.

This is what the Gobo looks like once its cleaned and julienned...

Gobo/Burdock Root Pickle
1. 1 Burdock root
2. 1 cup readymade Pickle Mix. I used KaPra's mango pickle mix (available in any Indian store)
3. 1 cup oilve oil
4. Salt as desired
1. Wash and scrub the burdock root with a rough sponge or metal scrubber
2. Cut the root into juliennes and steam for 15 minutes till soft
3. Mix together the burdock root, pickle mix, salt and oil. Mix well.
4. Store in a air tight container. Make sure the oil rises 2 inches over the pickle mix for a longer shelf life
5. The pickle is ready to enjoy in 3-4 days

Masala Gobo/Burdock
1. 1 Burdock root
2. 1/2 cup thinly sliced onion
3. 1½ tsp ginger-garlic paste
4. 1½ tsp red chilli powder
5. 1 tsp dhana-jeera powder
6. 1/4 tsp garam masala
7. 1 tsp turmeric powder
8. 1/2 cup chopped coriander
9. Salt to taste
10. 2-3 tsp olive oil
11. 1 tsp lemon juice
1. Wash and scrub the burdock root with a rough sponge or metal scrubber
2. Cut the root into juliennes and steam for 15 minutes till soft
3. In a heated pan, sauté the onions in oil
4. To this add the turmeric and roast well
5. Add the ginger garlic paste and sauté for a minute or two
6. Add the dhana-jeera powder, red chili powder and garam masala. Roast well
7. Add the steamed burdock root and sauté well
8. Add salt, lemon juice and coriander
9. Let the mixture cook well. Add some water if needed
Server with Naan or Rice

Enjoy :)

Monday, July 16, 2007

Broccoli Peas Salad

When my friend M asked me to make a broccoli salad in the same vein as the one you get at Fresh Choice, I was stumped! While I haven't been to Fresh Choice in a while, I did remember their broccoli salad as being pretty good. Just as I was about to go looking for the recipe, M comes to the rescue with a link to a few Broccoli salad recipes.

I liked this simple, yet amazingly tasty version that takes mere minutes to put together!! The only change I made was skip the bacon and added some grated carrot instead given that I was making this for M's son's birthday party which had a lot of vegetarian guests attending :)

I recently made this salad for a picnic where it made for one perfectly refreshing summer cooler. Given the fact that this recipe calls for the salad to be chilled ahead of time, definitely adds to its cooling effect!

One of the best things about this salad is that even the hard core broccoli haters ended up loving it (well it does have a lot of mayo to make the broccoli go down smoother ;). Now only if Bush Sr had tried this version, he would not go down in history as the president who banned broccoli from the White House(whoa!!)

Broccoli Peas Salad (inspired by Southernfood)
1. 5 cups fresh broccoli florets
2. 1/2 cup raisins
3. 1/2 cup sunflower seeds
4. 1/4 cup of red onion, chopped
5. 1 cup of frozen peas, thawed
6. 1 cup grated carrot (optional)
For the Dressing
1. 1 cup mayonnaise
2. 2 tablespoons vinegar
3. 1/2 cup sugar

1. Combine broccoli florets, raisins, sunflower seeds, chopped onion, and peas in a salad bowl
2. In a separate bowl, mix together mayonnaise, vinegar and sugar to make the dressing
3. Add the dressing to the salad and mix well
4. Chill well before serving.

Enjoy :)

Monday, July 09, 2007

Restaurant Review: Green Elephant Gourmet

Tea Leaf Salad

Pic taken by my friend S before the tea leaf salad was all gone!

Star of the evening: Chinese eggplant

Everyone seems to be talking about the famed Burma Super Star in San Francisco. I have been there a long time ago, and have been wanting to go back ever since all those glowing reviews about the new management came out.
Now given that I live in the Peninsula, found Green Elephant Gourmet which a Yelper said was the closest to the SF Burmese hangout this side of the bay! Whats that you say? A Burma Super Star alternative in Palo Alto? Now I surely could not pass this one up!!

I finally got the opportunity to visit this wonderful restaurant with some friends last month and we were not disappointed!! The friends accompanying us are vegetarians , so it always a treat to find great vegetarian food which looks as good as it tastes.

We started with a Tea Leaf Salad, which was actually quite good. A tea leaf salad consists of lentils, sesame, peanuts, lettuce (or at times rice) with sauces mixed in at the table. While the salad was really good, it lacked a bit of spice. A bit of chilli added the much needed kick to this dish. We also got the samusas, which were just Ok.

For the entrees, we really liked the Chinese eggplant and Garlic Chicken! Both these dishes were cooked to perfection with the eggplant emerging as the real superstar :)
All the entrees paired extremely well with the brown rice and jasmine rice we ordered. Apart from the eggplant, the service was another aspect that was superb here. Our friends have a baby (R), where the servers went out of their way to make sure R was comfortable and yes, us as well!

We skipped dessert only because we thought we were too full, but of course that didn't stop us from stopping next door at Rick's icecream which is only the best ice cream I have ever had! Ok saving that one for a different post :). Coming back to the Green Eelephant Gourmet, their wine and drinks menu was pretty standard, nothing off the charts really.

The decor was relatively upscale compared to what we were expecting, with one oddity: there was this huge beautifully laid out table with ornate silverware at the entrance of the restaurant. As time went by we noticed that no one was assigned that table, where it seemed like a mere prop! Never quite seen anything like that at a restaurant before!!

All in all was a very pleasurable dining experience and will definitely go back for more! The only drawback is that its located in yet another strip mall (sigh), but on the other hand the advantage of THIS particular location is that its right next door to the Rick's Ice Cream shop!

My Ratings:
Cuisine: Burmese
Food: Mmm Mmm (very good!). Decent portions. Enough options for vegetarians!
Decor: Yay.
Service: Yay Yay.
Price: Yay. Quite inexpensive, about $12-16 per entree.
Would Go Again: Yay Yay Yay!
Website: Could not find one. Physical Location at 3950 Middlefield Road. Palo Alto, CA 94303

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Suralichi Vadi/Steamed Chickpea Rolls

When I read Anupama's Suralichi Wadi entry for Nupur's Marathi cuisine series, my friend S and I felt that we could do it too!

Alas, though the recipe is extremely simple and made for very tasty wadis, it was almost a no go for us! Well, there are several things that may have gone wrong, the core one being us not taking some of the instructions seriously perhaps ;)? Our biggest hurdle was once we pressure cooked the chickpea flour mixture, the cooker just REFUSED to open up. It all started with us smelling something burning, where we quickly shut the gas off, but left the cooker on the hot plate based gas, so guess what, the heat kept going for a while :(

Then after several futile tries of getting the cooker to cool off and of course just open up, we gave up exhausted! Then S had the presence of mind to call the expert, aka her mom (visiting from India) to help figure out the mystery of the un-openable cooker lid...S's mom calmly assessed the situation, and in a way only moms can, somehow got the lid to open up and re-assured us that all was not lost! And how right she was ..If not for her, we would have thrown the whole thing out. But we did manage to retrieve the top unburnt, super tasty part of the steamed mix and roll out those incredible bites of joy :)

So the key issue we think caused the mini crisis was that there was less water in the cooker. And why would that happen you may ask....now therein lies the secret..we substituted the butter milk in Anumapa's recipe with yoghurt (well, we didn't have any buttermilk at hand now did we!) Now that may explain the lack of sufficient water maybe ;)?

Oh well, all is well that tastes and looks well. In our case we had both going for us after the initial panic attack. I surely want to try this again with buttermilk as apart from the cooker lid sticking part, the rest of the process was really simple!

We followed this recipe on Anupama's blog pretty much as is. The only other change we made other than the aforementioned buttermilk replacement, was we didn't fill the wadis with the coconut stuffing, but just sprinkled some fresh coconut on top after the tempering process. Do check out Anupama's version of the Suralichi wadi (also known as Khandvi in Gujrati), as hers look divine!

Enjoy :)