Last week we had an office picnic challenge. We provided the brats, hot dogs and hamburgers and asked everyone to bring a side dish. We gave them all foil pans so they had a clue as to the amount but what they brought was up to them. I asked them not to discuss it with each other so they would not know what anyone else was bringing. It did not have to be home-made (or as idiotic restaurant servers now say “house-made.” Christ).
I brought greek salad. No one ate it. They went for the traditional stuff. Regular old potato salad, baked beans, deviled eggs. I’m all for that. I got to eat my salad the next day. God I love left-over smushy lettuce salads.
I made grilled vegetables. I’m not sure what prompted this but I love grilled peppers and onions. I made an oil to marinate them and grill them in. I slowly cooked garlic in oil and then infused it with cumin and curry powder. Let it sit overnight and then strained it. I tossed yellow squash with the peppers and onions in the oil and it was a hit.
I also made tandoori chicken. Again with the elaborate spice mix, the marinade with yogurt. I thought I was doing a good thing by buying greek style yogurt (full fat and thicker than sour cream) but Ashish tells me that Indian yogurt is runny because they do not remove the whey. Good to know. This thick paste was hard to deal with and when I make it again, I’ll be prepared. I didn’t use dye either. Too bad. I like how that red/orange chicken looks. But I like how mine tasted anyway.
Chicken tikka masala may be an American thing. Ashish is unfamiliar with it but then, he was raised a strict vegetarian, being a Brahmin, and just may never have concerned himself with it in India. I read that tikka means skewer and he has never heard of this either. (and he speaks fluent Hindi, Urdu and his native language Telegu). Masala, but the way, means spice.
But I decided to make it so I got a recipe off the internet. In general, I do not like to use recipes for various reasons but the main reason is that it doesn’t feel like cooking, it feels like a science experiment, as is often is.
As directed I marinated the chicken in yogurt and spices and then threaded them on to skewers (ick) and then grilled them. Soaking your skewers in water in advance is not a guarantee that the skewers won’t burn up, FYI.
I made a sauce with tomato sauce and cream and yet another elaborate spice blend into which the grilled chicken tikka goes. It was excellent.
Biryani is the specialty of Ashish’s hometown, Hyderabad. I have made it many times and I really love it. But Ashish, while he eats it, and says that it’s good, has a way of letting me know it’s not at all the way an Indian would make it. Nonetheless, I try. This time I think it was right at least it seemed right and without him here to sneer at it, I’m going with perfect. This was vegetable and paneer biryani. Potatoes, paneer, carrots, onions, tomatoes and peas were marinated in a spice mix with yogurt. That vegetable mix then goes into an oiled pot (that has a tight lid – I have the feeling that in India tight lids do not exist since most recipes suggest many various forms of making sure the lid is secure, including using towels and aluminum foil.) and then on top of the vegetables, a mixture of rice with caramelized onions and spices is layered with raisins, almonds and cashews. This cooks on medium low for an hour. When it is done you mix it all up and serve it with raita.
My niece who just came back from a semester in India said it was the best raita she’d ever had.
For my sister Mary Kay’s 60th birthday she asked me to make an Indian meal for her. I don’t know if I realized what that might mean or how it would call come about but I said sure. As it happened her birthday was on last Sunday and she/we invited her family and our mom, siblings, their kids, and my aunt and uncle, my uncle is her godfather (not that this makes any difference, we’d have invited any aunts or uncles if they were alive), to our cottages.
I planned on making biryani, tandoori chicken, chicken tikka masala, a citrus and watermelon salad (salads in general are not Indian), raita and grilled vegetables. I also made a pink lemonade cake (really not Indian) since they are delicious and I have a boatload of pink lemonade powder. And I really cannot get behind any Indian desserts. Ugh.
Making food in my cottage is hard since I do not have much in the way of counter space. OK, like 2 square feet. And the stove is an apartment sized stove. I don’t use it much since it makes the place hot. It’s a small, old cottage and grilling works well anyway.
What I did though, was A LOT of prep. I had all my spice mixes ready, measured, and labeled in jars. All my produce and rice measured out. I took the extra bowls (totally not enough), zesters, graters, juicers, and had recipes queued up on my iPad as well as print outs of the recipes in case I couldn’t connect to the internet. Here are my spice mixes, there are 2 for each dish. One for the marinade and another for the sauce, essentially. It was nightmare.
On Saturdays in Hyeres the entire town is a market. Farmers come from all over and bring their produce. There are many cheese purveyors, wagons with open bins of hard candies (I have no idea how this can work since it is fairly humid and they must stick together. It’s pretty but disgusting.) There is honey, olive wood, fabrics, olives, sausage and then there is the horse meat vendor. As you can see. There is a line.
I actually bought, cooked and ate horse meat once. In Guadeloupe. A long time ago. I didn’t tell my sister and brother in law or my boyfriend at the time what it was they had no idea what chevaline meant. It looked like beef. We ate it. We were less squeamish then I imagine.
When I was a kid our neighbor fed her cat horse meat. It came in blue and white wax paper boxes.
I bought these tomatoes yesterday at Metro Market. They are “kumatoes” whatever that means. They are good though, and taste like real tomatoes. I like it that they come in cardboard (but not the plastic sleeve part).
What do you do when you get produce that’s moldy? There is no way in hell I am gonna save it and take it back.
I really like this restaurant. It’s nice inside, the service is good and the food is good. Ashish and I eat there regularly. Well, we did when he still lived in the US. Anyway, I’m not using superlatives. It’s just plain good. Except sometimes, when it is great. Yesterday Dan and I took Jeff there for lunch (he has been working for me for 25 years). Both Dan, who eats with gusto and is a great cook, as well as an Italian who goes to Italy to eat with some regularity, and I had the sausage ravioli in sage brown butter. Just fabulous.
I see these mentioned occasionally and think they look interesting. I’m not the biggest fan of garlic, though I do like it. These are supposed to be a mild version of garlic but there aren’t a lot of recipes for them on the internet. Today I picked up the first load of food from my CSA. It was mostly onions and garlic related things.
I like the idea of the CSA but really, how much garlic and onions can you eat at one time while the food is still fresh (and not offend all your neighbors)?
What I saw of scape recipes was pretty dull. But there was one that suggested grilling them. I can do that. I threw in some peppers and onions. And grilled a chicken breast (I am on a diet after all). It was pretty good. I completely burned one scape. It tasted oddly like marshmallow. The others didn’t really have much in the way of taste. I was worried they’d be woody. But they weren’t, they were very tender. But green beans have more flavor. The chicken breast was perfectly grilled.