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Thursday, August 21, 2014

Soup ideas for a cold

Garlic and green onion soup
I found inspiration of garlic soup in the book 400 soups. However, I seldom stick to recipes. I used olive oil instead of butter to saute some crushed garlic (8-10 cloves) until soft (not brown) and then added some chopped green onions. You may add herbs like thyme, parsley or cilantro. Add homemade or store-bought chicken broth (I used Certified Organic Swanson Chicken Broth), about 2 cups. I always like crushed pepper in hot soup, some green chilies and a squeeze of fresh lime. You may add roux to thicken the soup. I don't fancy it. Goes well with garlic crotons.

Dried mushroom soup
Soak dry mushrooms (I used a blend of morels, portobello and oyster mushrooms) in water at room temperature (retains flavor more than hot water) for 30 mins to  4 hours (until soft). Make sure there is no grit remaining. Rinse well. Squeeze extra water and slice them to serving size (or use pre-sliced mushrooms). You may strain and use the soaking liquid for extra flavor.  Saute the mushrooms in a saucepan with olive oil, parsley, 1 tsp dark soy sauce, cracked pepper and salt to taste. I added minced bulbs of green onions. You may add red onions and diced celery ribs. Add 2 -4 cups of chicken or vegetable stock/broth. Serve warm with grated parmesan on top.

Those who want a spicier version may add some minced green chilies, chipotle powder and some garlic flakes.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Chicken with soy sauce and coconut milk


Cooking, like most other things in life, is a quest. It can be more than a means to satisfy hunger. It can be an adventure, a spiritual journey and a way to show love. I am thinking about the mother who cooks for the daughter she hasn't seen for years, the kid who makes chicken soup with inept hands, the husband who makes French toast for breakfast. It need not be elaborate. The expressions vary. We might forget the details of a particularly flavorful dish, but we will always  remember how it made us feel. Comforted. Warm. Happy.

Years ago, my father made a spicy chicken dish in soy sauce and yogurt on my brother's birthday.  It was so long ago that he has forgotten the recipe. We can seldom recreate our own creations, but this is as close as I could get. I used coconut milk instead of yogurt and added curry leaves. Tweak to suit your taste. Search for your own perfection.

Method using wok or frying pan :
  1. Clean, pat dry with paper towels and dice 2 lbs (1 kg) boneless chicken thigh into serving size. Marinate in salt, turmeric, ground cumin-coriander, red chili powder, ground black pepper, lemon juice overnight.
  2. In a wok or nonstick frying pan, fry 1 big onion (finely chopped), minced ginger, crushed garlic, minced green chilies, 1 medium sized tomato, and 10 curry leaves.
  3. Crush whole garam masala like 1 stick of cinnamon, 4-5 green cardamom, 5 -7 cloves, 1/2 tsp coriander seeds and 1/2 tsp peppercorn in mortar and pestle. Add to the wok.
  4. When the onions have been fried well, add the chicken. Keep stirring. Do not cover yet.
  5. Add 1 tsp dark soy sauce, 2 tsp (or drizzle) low-sodium soy sauce. Stir and cover.
  6. When the soy sauce is almost dry, add coconut milk. Cook till the oil separates.
Use whole green chilies instead of minced if you want it less hot.

Alternate method:
You may also use the ingredients to make a spicy roasted chicken. Use a cornish hen with skin on and rub the marinade inside the sking and over it. Cook 30 mins at pre-heated oven at 375 F (190 C) for 30 mins and turn to cook another  20-25 mins (or until the skin is crisp). Broil the last 10 mins. If you are using coals, place the chicken sufficiently distant from the heat so the chicken cooks through before the skin gets too brown.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Lemon Rice



  1. Parboil rice. Drain.
  2. In a wok heat oil, add minced onion, ginger, green chilis, chana dal, curry leaves, mustard seeds. Mix the rice with a pinch of turmeric and salt to taste. Add freshly squeezed juice of a lemon. 
  3. Add the rice in installments, stir well. Break any big chunks to ensure the flavor is even. Stir and cook further in low flame. Sprinkle salt. Add a few dry roasted peanuts or cashews.
I had it with mixed vegetables- Bengali style panchmisali. Pure bliss.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Making vadis/bori at home in the oven:an adventure

Let me confess-the store-bought vadis taste like impostors. Mom and grandmom used to make urad dal (kolai er dal) vadis/bori at home and dry them in the sunlight. California sees enough sun, but I am wary of birds adding their own ingredients into my creation. So, I looked up possibilities with an alternative source of dry heat -the conventional oven. I decided to make my own version after consulting my mom and Ashwani Uncle (from a food group on FB, thanks for the bake-cool cycle tip). One recipe suggested to use the lowest temperature for 4-5 hours. Made sense because the home made vadis were dried through the day.

Method:
  1. Soak urad dal over night or for 8 hrs, or until soft. (You may also make moong vadis similarly)
  2. Make a paste using Magic Bullet, add salt, hing, and a pinch of red chilli powder halfway through. (Ashwani uncle also suggested coarsely ground Cumin seeds, Black Pepper, Black cardamon  and Cloves for extra kick)



  3. Heat oven to the lowest. Add a thin film of oil on an Aluminium foil and place 1 tsp batter, pat with your fingers if you want, to make suitable shapes. (flattened disc traditionally).
  4. Alternately bake in 3 heat-cool cycle for an hour each. Best done on a weekend.
Recipe with vadis.

I made climbing spinach and shrimp with the vadis. Follow this recipe with shrimp. And crumble vadi/bori on top.

You can use rest of the batter to make dahi vadas. (recipe to follow soon)