Sunday, September 9, 2012

Indian Style Chick Peas

Thanks to Stuti Jhunjhunwala for teaching me how to make this staple Indian food!  Stuti has such a simple method for cooking this recipe, and its packed with tons of flavor! 

For anyone trying to learn some basic Indian recipes, I'd say this is a pretty good one to start with.  It doesn't require too many different ingredients and though it takes some time, the method is straightforward.  All you aspiring Indian chefs - be brave and give this recipe a try!

This recipe can be served with some sort of Indian bread (chapati, naan, paratha, puris, baturas etc.) or rice.  I like to scoop up the chick peas with a chapati instead of eating them with rice.  But that's of course, my personal opinion!

Indian Style Chick Peas
Makes approximately 8 servings as part of a meal

2 and 1/4 cups of dried chick peas, washed and soaked for 24hrs in water OR 3 15oz/425g cans of chick peas, drained and rinsed
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp salt
1-2 tbsp canola or vegetable oil
1 tbsp cumin seeds
1 large onion
3 birds eye chilis (or some other medium hot chili, like a serrano pepper to taste)
6 cloves of garlic
2 tbsp grated ginger
3/4 can tomato paste (about 4.5oz)
2 tbsp MDH chana masala mix (available at most Indian supermarkets)
1/2 lemon or lime (optional)
More salt to taste

  1. After soaking the chick peas, cook them until tender with turmeric and salt (a pressure cooker is the fastest method if you have a pressure cooker that is safe for beans, or they can be simmered for 1-2hrs), OR, place drained and rinsed canned chick peas in a bowl with turmeric and salt. 
  2. Place onions, chilis and garlic into a chopper and process until they are very finely chopped.  If you don't have a chopper, use a large chef's knife to get to a finely chopped consistency.  
  3. Heat oil in a large non-stick pan.  Add cumin seeds and allow them to brown for a minute (they should sizzle a little and be fragrant).    

  1. Add the onions, chilis, garlic and ginger.  Allow them to cook until they are starting to brown and stick to the bottom of the pan (approximately 10-15 minutes on medium heat).  

  1. Add the tomato paste.  Continually stir for approximately 3-4 minutes. 

  1. Add the chick peas and the water they were cooked in, and the chana masala mix and stir well.  If you are using canned chick peas instead, add 2 cups of water to the pan.   

  1.  Simmer for approximately 30-45 minutes, until the sauce is nice and thick.  Adjust the spiciness with the lime or lemon juice, and adjust the salt according to taste.  

Monday, April 9, 2012

Kansas City's Best BBQ - Oklahoma Joe's

I know it's famous already, but I wanted to pay homage to Oklahoma Joe's.  I went there for my first time recently and it was a pretty unique experience.

The first thing to note about Oklahoma Joe's is that it's one of those places that is about the food, not the ambiance.
It's definitely a place where people come simply to chow down on delicious BBQ at a pretty reasonable price.  Oklahoma Joe's is self-serve, and plastic and paper plates all the way.  They do however give their customers real glasses to drink out of and real utensils to eat with.  Not that I needed utensils, but it's nice not to have to worry about prongs breaking off of a fork or  knife breaking in half.

The second thing to note about Oklahoma Joe's is that it is perhaps that most operationally efficient restaurant I have ever seen in my life.  Chipotle had previously earned that title with me, but after this experience everything changed.  There were perhaps 50 people in the line in front of us, 50 people behind us (who had all arrived there within 2 minutes of us), and we were served within 10 minutes!  I would not hesitate to compare the line with a symphony orchestra - once are order was taken at one end of the kitchen, we walked a few steps down the line to arrive at the end of the kitchen counter, to pick up our food and pay.  Everyone in the kitchen worked so harmoniously together that the food arrived at practically the exact moment we signed the credit card bill.  It was quite miraculous, and upon observing other people in the line it looked like they were continuously meeting this sparkling finale of exact precision.  Pretty awesome that not one customer had to wait around for their food! 

Finally, I should of course mention the food.  The ribs were awesome - lovely smokey flavor, tender, juicy and falling off the bone.  The french fries were great too because they were super hot and seasoned with seasoning salt which I think makes fries taste delicious.  Their pulled pork was pretty tasty too.  The beans and gumbo were okay, but not my favorite.  It's really about the pork at this place I think, and I sure ate plenty of it... all for the bargain price of about $10 per person, and that's with a beer too.  

If you are passing through Kansas City, don't miss this operational marvel and superb ribs.  It's worth a little detour.  The only question I am left with is wondering how many people they serve in a day - I bet it could easily be over 1000...

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Shortcut Baingan Bharta (Indian Style Mashed Eggplant)

Thanks to my dad's patience and experimenting, he's come up with a way to make really good baingan bharta without all the fuss and effort usually required.  The only thing that is missing from this shortcut version is the smokey flavor that comes with roasting the eggplant over a flame, but to be honest, I actually like this version better because I think you can really taste all the delicious fresh ingredients that you can't in it's original form.

Baingan Bharta
Serves 3 people as a meal accompaniment 

1 eggplant
1/2 small onion, finely chopped
1 plum tomato, chopped
1 large handful of cilantro leaves, chopped
1 tbsp canola oil
1 tsp crushed garlic
1 tsp grated/ground ginger
3/4 tsp black mustard seeds
1 pinch hing (asafoetida) 
1/2 tsp cayenne powder (or more to desired spice level)
1/4 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp cumin powder
1/2 tsp coriander powder
salt to taste

1.  Wash eggplant, cut into 2 or 4 pieces.  Place in microwave safe container with a few teaspoons of water and a lid.  Microwave until cooked, for approximately 12 minutes (more or less time depending on the strength of your microwave).  Remove the eggplant from the cooking container, allow to cool, and then peel.  Discard the skin.  Chop/crush the eggplant flesh and set aside. 

2. In a non-stick pan, heat canola oil.  Add mustard seeds and wait until they start to sizzle and pop.  Then add the pinch of hing, followed by the onions.

3.  Saute the onions until soft.  Then add the garlic, ginger, and all of the remaining spices.  Stir for a minute or two to avoid burning.

4.  Add the tomatoes.  Allow to cook for a couple of minutes until they start to break down.

5.  Add the eggplant and make sure to combine all the ingredients together well.

6.  Add the cilantro.  Turn off the heat.  Stir the cilantro in well, and serve hot.  

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Food at the Oscars and Wolfgang Puck's Governors Ball

It was a once in a lifetime kind of occasion, that's for sure.  Unfortunately, it was a once in a lifetime occasion where cameras were prohibited.  I did however, have my phone with me, and managed to covertly snap a couple of not so excellent photos.  The light was dim throughout, so unfortunately I have not done any justice to the wonderful food.

Enjoying the red carpet
No longer the Kodak Theatre, but not enough time to change to it's new name before the ceremony day

Let me start by describing the ceremony itself.  All of us guests entered via the red carpet.  The only thing dividing us regular folk from the stars was a rope.  There was a lot of screaming from the grandstands when big stars entered, lots of networks doing interviews, and of course, lots of paparazzi.  The red carpet into the former Kodak Theater was pretty long, giving us a lot of time to soak in the atmosphere.  Upon ascending the sparkling staircase into the lobby of the theater, we were offered champagne.  There was champagne, more champagne, and seemingly more champagne, and yet interestingly a void of all other drinks, even water.

Ready to kick off the 2012 Oscars

After two hours of perusing the red carpet, brushing elbows with various celebrities, and enjoying the general hubbub of the paparazzi, we entered the theater and took our dress circle seats.  The show was run with ease and the atmosphere was generally relaxed - minus the few people always running back to their seats when the production announcer said, "Less than 30 seconds to air, ladies and gentleman PPPLLEEAASSEE take your seats!" 
Empty popcorn box from the ceremony and gold chocolate Oscar

About 2/3's of the way through the show they came around with little containers of popcorn.  Cute idea, but would have been nice if we would have also been offered some water!  Nevertheless it was a welcome treat after not having had anything to eat for hours.

The moment the show was over, everyone jumped out of their seats to either exit, or, if they were lucky enough to have a ticket, enter directly into the Governors Ball.  I was excited to attend the Governors Ball because my favorite kind of celebrity, the famous chef, Wolfgang Puck, was catering the party.

The Governors Ball

It turns out, that I didn't even get to sample all of the huge variety of items on offer.  Mini-dinner plates were served to us like appetizers.  There was lots of caviar, and lots of truffle flavored items.  There was comfort food (like chicken pot pie) and luxurious lobster.  There were adorable plates of beautifully presented mixed mini appetizers - mini potato latkes, crostini with prosciutto, miniature one-bite tacos and super tiny baby vegetables.  Baked potatoes were wrapped in gold foil and topped with mounds of sour cream and caviar.  Single racks of lamb were served with a delicate mint sauce and pea puree.  There were short ribs, pot stickers, sliders, and smoked salmon pizza too.  In the back of the room, there was a chocolate lovers dream; chocolate fountains, truffles, cookies etc.  And in the middle of the room, there was a giant, revolving band, led by Tony Bennett belting his heart out.

The thing that fascinated me most was how this event was made feasible.  Somehow, Wolfgang Puck managed to serve every dish warm to each of the 1500 guests.  To top that off, the food kept on coming, round after round, and hour after hour.  I'd loved to have viewed the behind the scenes kitchen to see they were operationally managing to make all this magic happen! 

One small section of the chocolate fountain bar
Passed mini-dessert plates, mini chocolate strobe light (on the left) included
Red beet pasta, delicious!
Mac and Cheese topped with a giant piece of truffle

Memorable; yes.  Exciting; yes.  Once in a lifetime; yes.  Cross it off the bucket list; yes!

My apologies again for the terrible photo quality!!! I defer you all to Google Images (search: food at the Governors Ball) to see some really fantastic photos. 

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Aunt Thackray's Easy French Style Chicken Thighs

Home but don't want to spend time in the kitchen?  Try these easy to make chicken thighs.  I had these at our good family friends', the Seznec's, one summer evening with salad, crab cakes, asparagus and fresh bread.  Everything was seasoned delicately and was delicious!  Aunt Thackray's a native of the Maryland seashore, and her husband Uncle Jean-Francois, well, you guessed it, he's French.  Needless to say there was both Maryland seaside and French inspiration in our meal.  I enjoyed the entire meal, and later asked for a few of Aunt Thackray's recipes.  This chicken recipe seemed like the easiest one to try, and sure enough, it was a cinch.  My husband and I ate this chicken with a big salad with homemade vinaigrette dressing, but it would go nicely with other things such as zucchini and roast potatoes, or haricot verts and rice pilaf. 

French Style Chicken Thighs

Boneless, skinless chicken thighs
Olive oil
Herbes de Provence (make sure there is thyme in the mixture you have or buy)

1.  Line a shallow baking dish with foil and pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit
2.  Season the inside of the chicken thigh with salt, pepper and herbs
3.  Flip over and fold the ends in so that the (would be) skin side is facing up
4.  Drizzle olive oil over the top of the chicken
5.  Season top side with salt, pepper and herbs
6.  Place in baking dish, making sure there is space in between each chicken thigh
6.  Place in the oven, and cook for 1:45-2hrs, basting about every 20 minutes (cooking time will vary depending on reliability of your oven! You might only need to cook the chicken for 1hr and 15min, so please use your best judgement!)
7.  Chicken is ready when most of the chicken juice is gone and the chicken pieces are golden brown in color

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Classic Chicken Curry

Well, I finally learned how to make my Dad's beloved chicken curry.  A typical dish that my family would make, I've been enjoying this dish since as long as I can remember.  This is the real deal, no yucky "curry powder" (curry powder as most Americans and Brits know it has absolutely nothing to do with chicken curry by the way) and no shortcuts.  My Dad claims that the key to this recipe is browning the onions - if they are not browned properly, over a low heat and in plenty of oil for about 30 or 40 minutes, the dish won't have the same flavor depth.

So I take you back to my childhood... enjoy!

Chicken Curry
4 Dinner Servings

1 chicken, cut into ten pieces, and skin removed
4 medium onions, or 3 large onions
3 peeled and diced plum tomatoes, or one 14.5oz can of petite diced tomatoes, rinsed and squeezed dry
3 whole cloves
3 whole cardamon, broken open
1 inch of cinnamon stick
2 tbsp crushed/grated ginger
2 tbsp crushed garlic
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp coriander powder
1 tsp cayenne pepper (or to taste)
Salt to taste
Canola or vegetable oil
Boiling water
1-2 Peeled and quartered medium potatoes

1.  Heat canola oil in a non-stick pan.
2.  Add cloves, cardamon and cinnamon stick.  Allow to sizzle in the oil until the cloves double in size (about 1 minute).
3.  Add the onions.  Cook for low for approximately 30 minutes, stirring often.  If it seems like the onions are sticking and burning, add more canola oil.  Onions are ready when they are golden brown and separated from oil.

4.  Add the tomatoes.  Cook until the oil separates from the tomato and onion mixture.

5.  Add the garlic, ginger, turmeric, coriander, cumin and cayenne powders.  Stir well.

6.  Turn the heat up.  Add the chicken, allow the meat to seal on all sides (until no pink is showing).

7.  Add enough boiling water to just cover the chicken.  Bring to a boil and turn down to a low simmer.  Cover with lid. 
8.  Cook on low using one of two methods - cook the chicken breast until just cooked, removing from the pan and adding back when the legs are cooked - about 1.5hrs, or, cook all the chicken on low for 2-3hrs until the meat is falling off the bone.  Add the potatoes approximately 45 minutes before cooking time is completed. 

9.  Serve with basmati rice. 

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Giada's Savory Tomato Pasta Sauce

I've found that in Europe you can often find jarred pasta sauce that resembles something you would get in Italy.  But in the US, I've found that almost everything is full of sugar and has a very different taste than the authentic stuff.  Maybe what one gets in the USA is from some regional part of Italy, however, from the places I have been there, I have never tasted anything similar.  Or maybe Americans just love things that are full of sugar (take a look at the bread aisle for example... everything is so much sweeter than what you would get anywhere else in the world!).  Who knows exactly what the deal is.

Regardless of how much I don't like the run of the mill sauces in the US, I for some reason have been on an eternal quest to find something that will be a good enough substitute for homemade sauce.  I finally think I may have found it.  

Target does all those designer exclusives, and apparently, they also do chef exclusives.  Giada De Laurentiis - who has the Food Network show and is on the Today Show quite often - has an exclusive line of Italian sauces at Target.

I was in Target and noticed them on a random evening as I roamed the grocery section.  As I looked them over with a dubious eye, I saw that one was called SAVORY tomato sauce.  So, I decided to give it a go.  The fact that it said savory really gave me hope, since so many of the US tomato sauces are so sweet.

I cooked it up one night recently when I was tired and didn't feel like making something from scratch.  I was so delighted when I found myself, my mom and my husband all gobbling it down!  It was pretty darn tasty and I was quite pleased.

If you are in a Target with grocery sometime soon, I encourage you to give the sauce a try.  I'm not sure what Giada's other sauces are like, but I am going to give another type a try the next time I shop at Target.  Kudos to Giada for sticking to her roots and creating something pretty authentic and very yummy.