Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Drinking to that long-awaited summer!


After weeks and weeks of dreary grey skies, chilly mornings, afternoons and evenings, bizarrely cold nights and snowed-out hiking trails, we were pretty much ready to give up on warm weather. Global warming is happening for sure, but it seemed to be ignoring the Pacific Northwest, atleast when it comes to warming my nose and toes!

And just when we pretty much gave up on feeling the sunshine again, blue skies broke out! The grey clouds disappeared, we hit 90 F on more than one day, we've even had a couple of weeks of pristine summer skies. Hell, my crazy brown self has gotten crispier! :)

So, now that summer is finally here, we've got to celebrate it, right? We've been indulging in hanging outdoors a lot, but what's celebration without food or libations, right? :) When a friend gave me a super ripe watermelon, it seemed primed for working into a drink.

So, what do you get when you have a watermelon, some fancy-schmancy liqueur, some san pellegrino, some ice and plenty of sunshine?

A yummy drink that has the full potential to make you quite tipsy! :)

This fancy liqueur we're talking about ... we stumbled upon this during our frequent encounters at the fabulous Vij's in Vancouver. They have two standard cocktails on their menu - Dark Army and Mangalore - the latter drink is a concoction of berries steeped in a mildly spicy liqueur called ... Mangalore (creative, eh?) :) Once I was hooked onto this, I trolled the BC liquor stores till I finally found a bottle at the store on 42nd and Cambie. This store is the Costco equivalent of liquor stores - they have every alcohol and liqueur one could think of ... and then some! So, I returned to Seattle, triumphant in my possession of the elusive Mangalore (which we can't find at any store in the U.S.!). We've sampled this in various cocktails, most of them have turned out really tasty, but this summery drink was especially memorable!

Watermelon Mangalore-ade
For lack of a better name! :)

Servings: 4-6 glasses

1/2 medium watermelon
3 T lemon juice
1 bottle San Pellegrino (you won't need all of this) - you could use any other sparkling water too.
Mangalore liqueur
Crushed ice
A few leaves of spanish mint

Cut the watermelon into sections and remove the rind.
If it has seeds, yank those out too.
Puree the watermelon bits with the lemon juice till smooth.

Take a shaker and throw in a handful of crushed ice into it.
Add 2/3 cup of watermelon puree and a shot of Mangalore liqueur.
Shake it ... then shake it some more!

Pour about 1/4 cup of sparkling water into a glass.
Top with the shaker contents.
Gently jiggle the glass before serving.

Garnish with a leaf or two of spanish mint.

Drink up! :)


Perfect for a summer day. The watermelon was at its prime - ripe, juicy and sweet. The Mangalore added the perfect zing to it and the lemon juice lent the tiny bit of tartness that the drink needed. No need for any simple syrup, the natural flavours totally kicked ass!

Friday, July 18, 2008

Eating local and all that good stuff ...

Local ... sustainable ... organic ... earth-friendly ... call-it-what-you-want ... All the buzzwords making the rounds in the food world recently.

A handful of years ago, the air started teeming with the concept of organic foods. Horrendously expensive, but Oh! so right and healthier and tastier ... I can honestly say that with some fruits and vegetables, we could taste the difference - like tomatoes and peppers and most greens. And cherries for sure! But with others ... nah! Couldn't quite savour the difference. But we loved the idea of hitting the local farmers' markets and buying our produce and starters there. Especially after growing up in India where there are vendors trolling the streets selling their produce and it is so very common to walk to the little store at the end of the street to buy veggies for the evening's dinner, it felt so right to shop local, pick and feel the veggies before dropping them into our baskets. I still remember the first time I bought green beans at a local market -

K strides up confidently to this vendor at the Redmond farmers' market, picks up a green bean or 3 and snaps them between her fingers!
Vendor's jaw drops!
K looks up at him, wondering if he's having a seizure! Isn't that how folks check for good beans? That's how the mum did it, right?
Vendor recovers and starts laughing! And slowly asks with a smile "Do you HAVE to snap the beans before you buy them?"
K turns beet red, realizing her cool "snap-the-bean" tactic is not so cool here! And finally learns to just buy the damn green beans without obsessing about snapping them.

Ok, so what does this incident have to do with all that local, organic goodness? Umm ... nothing. I just felt like telling a story, that's all! :)

Today, it seems like we're way past organic, which I personally believe is a great thing. We're not just trying to live by some ostensibly vaguely defined standard of agriculture, but we're going several steps beyond. We're seeking out local foods, sustainable foods that are developed without monocyclic farming methods. We're looking to form bonds with the local farmers that bring those delicious beets and greens and turnips and garlic snapes to our plates.

Yes, I very much like to have a personal stake in what I'm writing about.
~ Michael Pollan

So, talking about eating local ... we love it! Truly, madly, deeply! Pretty much all our veggies come from the veggie patch or a local market, except for the occasional indulgence in something that has been on a plane. Honestly, we don't know if it helps with all that carbon footprint stuff that is making the rounds everywhere, but it sure makes us feel good. Plus, we have a connection with several local vendors, the tomato guy even asks me how the plants are doing - they're quite happy, thankfully! I would feel terrible to tell him that I did the plant in!!!

So, this meal was one of those mostly local ones. Took all of 15 minutes to throw it together and tasted so blissful, I'm still talking about it! All that it took to make this meal:


* A slew of garlic and vidalia sweet onions from the market
* Spinach and Roasted Garlic Ravioli from the pasta guy (La Pasta?) at the Madrona farmers' market
* A fabulous sourdough loaf from La Panzanella
* Roasted Red Pepper tapenade from La Buona Tavola
* Yummy Cirrus Camembert from Mt.Townsend Creamery
* Gouda from Golden Glen Creamery

Not so local:

* A really tasty bottle of Tinta de Toro that Abbie heartily recommended - super fruity and luscious!
* And the rest of the glue (spices, oils, etc) We're not obsessively local about our ingredients, but we definitely keep an eye out for fresh local produce and wines as much as we can. Yes, there is definitely a feel-good factor there :) But the biggest kicks (for us) are the insanely awesome quality of the foods and the whole community-bonding thing.

As for this meal, what more could we ask for - fabulous ingredients, perfect company, warm summer evening. Sheer bliss!

And yes, substandard pictures, but whatever! :)

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Mango-ing away!

Still hot outside, I was still craving a giant creamy milkshake, but I'm really really trying to stick to my regular workout and eating habits ... which pretty much ruled out that GIANT milkshake looming in the back of my mind ... *sigh*.

But the plan was to come up with a suitable alternative ... something that would squash all memories of that GIANT milkshake! It took some poking around my Ultimate Desserts book ... Yes, I will get through all the recipes in that book someday soon! :) I stumbled upon this banana honey yogurt ice recipe ... hmm ... Ain't got no bananas. But we have a mountain of mangoes to wade our way through - never a problem given that I've eaten as many as 8 mangoes in one go :)

So, the idea was to rework this recipe to use mangoes instead. I also had some fabulous labneh - the to-die-for middle eastern yogurt as well as some greek yogurt sitting around. I haven't made icecream in a while, let alone fancy "yogurt ice", so this was approached with some dubiousness. But it turned out to be so damn easy to work with, a ton of fun and super delicious to boot!

Mango Yogurt Ice with Agave Nectar
Mango! Mango! Mango! Need I say more?

Servings: Hmm ... 12+ generous scoops

3 medium sized mangoes (I used the Ecuadorian ones that Costco is currently carrying)
3 T agave nectar
1/2 cup labneh
1/2 cup nonfat greek yogurt
1 t cinnamon
1 T orange blossom water

Peel the mangoes and chop into chunks.
Puree the mango chunks along with the rest of the ingredients till smooth.
Pour into a freezer pan, cover with plastic wrap and seal it with a rubber band.
Set this in the freezer till it starts to harden - takes atleast an hour.
Break up the yogurt ice with a beater till crumbled and there are no chunks remaining.
Smoothen the top, seal with the plastic wrap once more and set in the freezer for another hour.
Repeat this beating and freezing process one more time - this just makes the yogurt ice a lot more creamy and removes any crunchy ice bits that may have formed while freezing.

We served this atop this insanely tasty bread pudding - perfect blending of flavours ... I've got ot run out to go meet the gals, but I'll be posting that recipe in the next day or two (Really!).


I forgot all about that GIANT milkshake once I put this in my mouth! We loved the fact that it was so much lighter than regular icecream, yet much more decadent than sorbet. The orange blossom water lent this really neat mild fragrance to the yogurt, loved it! And we all loved the mango-yogurt creamy combination - reminded us of a frozen mango lassi (guess it is pretty close to that! :))

Off this goes to Meeta for her Mango Mania - a day late, but what else could you expect of me? *sigh*! And I have to agree with her, mango is *so* the queen of fruit! Think I'll go eat one right now ...


Hmm ... guess this post is total paisa-vasool when it comes to event posts! Am shipping this off to Rachna for her JFI-Flowers event (I do use Orange Blossom water here :)) and to Mansi for her Healthy Cooking event - this is a super healthy dessert after all!


Sunday, July 13, 2008

Nutty Pear Kumquat Chutney

Today was blisteringly hot here ... so much so that one of my first thoughts of the day was of a thick, creamy, icy milkshake! And yet, I spent large parts of the day cooking - which actually ended being a fabulously cathartic experience - making up for all those insane work days that kept me away from cooking and blogging :)

A long, long time ago I promised to make a surprise chutney for our friend Daria - she's the one of the walnut ranch fame, we're still living off her awesome Franquette and Hartley walnuts that she brought back from California a few months ago. Poking around 400 sauces, dips, dresssings, blaahhh, blaahh, blaahhhh ... unearthed a pear and walnut chutney recipe that I figured Daria would be pretty happy with :)

"There are only ten minutes in the life of a pear when it is perfect to eat."
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

The original recipe asked for firm windfall pears that I substituted with some firm, green D'Anjou pears. I also chose to throw in a gala apple and a handful of kumquats - the latter was a great substitute for the orange juice that the original recipe called for - not only did it add a refreshing citrus bent to the chutney, but totally added to the texture too.

Nutty Pear Kumquat Chutney
Chunky, funky and chockful of flavours! :)

Servings: Makes about 1 lb

3 firm D'Anjou pears
1 gala apple
1/2 sweet yellow onion
10-12 kumquats
1/2 cup white balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup dry sherry
1/2 cup cheap, old red wine :)
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup succanat (you could just use more brown sugar or go with demerara or muscovado instead)
1 cup walnuts - chopped
1 t ground cinnamon
1 t salt
1 guajillo chilli

Peel and core the fruit and chop them into 1" chunks. Peel and quarter the onions, then chop them up into 1cm bits.

Place the chopped onion and fruit in a preserving pan with the vinegar, sherry and wine.

Slowly bring the ingredients to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 30+ minutes, until the apples, pears and onions are tender, stirring the mixture occasionally.

Brown the guajillo chilli over open fire till blackened. Grind up the kumquats along with the chilli to a coarse puree.

Add this puree along with the sugar to the simmering mixture. Gently heat till the sugar is dissolved, then simmer for about 30 minutes till the chutney is thick and no excess liquid remains. Stir frequently towards the end of cooking to prevent the chutney from sticking to the bottom of the pan.

*sigh*! I know! Lots of simmering here, but trust me, it'll all work out well :)

Gently toast the walnuts for a few minutes until they get a warm brown colour. Stir the nuts into the chutney along with the cinnamon.

Spoon the chutney into warmed canning jars, cover and seal. Store in a cool, dark place and leave to mature for atleast a couple of weeks.

Hmm ... somehow, we decided a couple of hours was about as good as a couple of weeks and dug into this today itself :) Totally worth it!!!


Sweet, spicy, tart ... an awesome olio of flavours -felt like it hit every taste bud and exuded a great aroma too! Obviously, the chutney was great on crackers, but I can't wait to try this with some pilaf or tabbouleh.


Related posts and recipes:

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Enchilada heaven ...

... is such a happy place to be in. Warm, crispy-edged tortillas filled with all sorts of goodies, drizzled with pungent sauces, topped with cheese ... I could just pack up my bags and move there!

Atleast that's how I felt after experimenting with a couple of enchilada recipes from Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone. This book truly seems to have something for everyone - fresh, inviting salads, comforting soups, delicious stews and gratins, many a stir-fry ... the list goes on.

This is a recipe from yestermonth, I originally attempted to post it on June 5th, didn't quite happen. I tried to finish writing it on the 11th ... hmm, another failed attempt! And no, I don't really remember all my incomplete posts, just peeked into my drafts folder :)

So, here we are ... and I'm truly hoping I can remember how I reworked this recipe! The original recipe called for a variety of mushrooms and some squash. We were pretty low on mushrooms and loathe to head towards the store, so it was just time to improvise. Besides, we had a couple of acorn squashes waiting to be used up, can't quite go wrong with those! We finally settled on
a medley of lightly caramelized onions, mushrooms, diced acorn squash, crumbled home-made paneer and a slew of herbs from the garden. The paneer was actually more like chenna and not the usually firm kind, I chose to let it stay crumbled with a wee bit of extra moisture instead of forming a firm slab. Worked out perfect for this recipe.

The herbs that we threw into these enchiladas really kicked up the flavours - mildly sweet cinnamon basil, bergamot-scented orange mint, pungent chives, fennel - a whole bunch of goodness!

The metaphoric icing on the cake was the tomatillo sauce. We dithered a bit between a smoky adobo chilli sauce and a fresher green sauce, but finally settled on using a bunch of tomatillos that had been sitting in the fridge.


Squash'n'Paneer Enchiladas
With some sauteed mushrooms and caramelized onions to keep everyone happy!

Servings: 8-10

1 packet of whole grain tortillas (medium sized)
1 acorn squash - peeled and diced
1/2 red onion - chopped (not too fine)
3 cloves of garlic - minced
1.5 cups of crumbled paneer
1/2 cup of chopped crimini mushrooms
8-10 leaves of cinnamon basil
6-7 leaves of orange mint
a handful of chives leaves - chopped
4-5 sprigs of fennel leaves - chopped
a handful of italian parsley - chopped
1 T olive oil
1 t brown sugar
1 T cayenne pepper powder

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

Heat the oil in a wok and saute the onions till they start to get translucent.
Throw in the brown sugar and saute a bit more (4-5 minutes) till the onions are caramelized.
Add the squash and mushrooms and saute for about 3-4 minutes.
Add a few tablespoons of water and simmer covered for another 2-3 minutes till the squash is partially cooked.
Take off the stove before adding the paneer bits along with the herbs, cayenne powder and salt.

Take a dollop of this veggie mixture and roll it in a tortilla. Make sure that you roll it really tight and fold the edges in if needed.
Place this in a greased baking tray.
Roll and fill the rest of the tortillas and stack them alongside one another in the baking tray.


Tomatillo-Cilantro Sauce

Servings: 2 cups

5-6 chubby tomatillos - husks removed and quartered
1/2 vidalia onion - chopped
1 cup cilantro leaves
1 t grated lime zest
1 jalapeno pepper - chopped

Bring a couple of cups of water to boil in a saucepan.
Add the onions, tomatillo and jalapeno to the saucepan.
Simmer for 10-15 minutes, until you basically kill the bright green colour of the tomatillos.
Transfer the vegetables to a food processor or blender, add the cilantro and puree.
Stir in the lime zest and season with salt.

Pour the sauce over the rolled enchiladas.
Sprinkle any remaining veggie filling over the enchiladas.
Set the baking pan in the oven for about 8-10 minutes.


Watch out! It is hot! Don't scald your tongue trying to gobble up the enchiladas! :)



Fabulous. Truly. I think I dreamed of attending Deborah Madison's cooking classes the night I made these! Yummy squash'n'paneer filling, delicate herb flavours, tangy-spicy tomatillo sauce, what more could one ask for?


Similar recipes here and beyond

* Spicy Nutty Enchiladas
* Bean-Chilli Enchiladas @ One Hot Stove
* Paneer and Mushroom Enchiladas @ Sunita's World


Off this goes to Andrea for her awesome Grow Your Own event - every herb that went into this recipe came from my garden. W00t!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Squash parathas to celebrate ...

a return to blogging?

a manic work life finally easing up?

a fabulous weekend?

summer finally coming to life?

life, in general?

All of the above, I guess! And here's hoping to get through the mountains of recipes waiting to make it out here!

Tonight warranted simple comfort food - something healthy, quick to throw together? Something with desi flavours ... After poking around a bit, I settled on making some parathas. It has been a while since I handled that rolling pin, and I've been missing the cathartic experience of kneading the dough, making those balls, patting them out, rolling them, folding them, rolling them ... *so* relaxing!

Experimenting with stuffings in parathas is always exciting, we often play around with a variety of greens, cheese curds, tomatoes, onions, the works. But a squash variant was a first. I initially contemplated stuffing the parathas with a squash filling, but finally settled for just kneading it into the dough - definitely easier to work with, plus the bread turned out much softer! Also, instead of boiling/cooking the vegetables, I chose to grate the squash, mix it up with some spices and knead it into the dough instead.

I also wanted to play around with the dough a bit - so I threw in some coarse whole wheat pastry flour along with a 1/4 cup of corn flour add some earthiness and texture to the dough - always fun to get that chewy undertone!

“If thou tastest a crust of bread, thou tastest all the stars and all the heavens.”
Robert Browning (1812-1889) English poet

Squash Parathas
Moist, chewy goodness!

Servings: 8-10 parathas

2 cups fine whole wheat flour
1/2 cup coarse whole wheat pastry flour
1/4 cup corn flour
2 T olive oil
1/2 cup buttermilk
warm water as needed for kneading the dough
2 yellow squashes - grated (medium)
salt to taste
1 T ancho chilli powder
1 T sumac powder

Mix the flours in a bowl along with the buttermilk, salt, spices and grated squash.
Start kneading it, adding warm water as needed.
Knead it.
Knead it some more.
And when you think you're done, add the olive oil.
And knead for a few more minutes or till your arm is ready to fall off :)

Cover the bowl with a wet towel and let it sit for atleast 20 minutes.

When your arm has recovered and you're ready to roll out some rotis ...

Take a large ball of dough (about enough to fill your palm), pat it down and roll it out using flour as needed.
Fold the circular roti into a quarter and roll it out again in case you want some funky triangular parathas.

[NOTE]: Every once in a while, I get a hole in my head and forget to complete my thoughts :) Guess that's why I forgot to finish talking about how to make these parathas! Thanks for all the comments remind me to finish my damn sentences :)

Once you've rolled the paratha out, put it onto a greased pan and cook. Once the bottom is mostly cooked, rub the surface with either a bit of butter or some oil (I tend to use grapeseed or sesame oil) and flip over. Grease the other side and cook till somewhat crispy and browned/blackened.

[I tend to store the cooked parathas covered till they're ready to be noshed on.]

Serve with homemade yoghurt and pickles - my choice for tonight was a spicy tomato pickle.

Simple, flavourful, chewy, earthy, very very happy! Adding the corn flour was a killer idea!



I know, I know, I'm super late in posting the roundup for Think Spice - Think Wasabi. What can I say, I'm a super lame duck :( But the dust from a manic work life is finally settling, so hopefully I can do justice to this in the next day or two.


Whhoooaaaaa!!! Serious thunder and lightning out here! Very exciting :)