February 22, 2010

Latest Handiwork

Here is one other thing I got to do when I was in St. Louis last week. It sure does make me happy to make things, and more happy when shared :) Last but one on the right made a wonderful gift to someone who ispired me in her own little way. And I am sure one of my friends back home is gonna be glad she doesn't have to go shopping for earrings with me in 3 weeks!

February 20, 2010

Nasi Goreng from Indonesia

Rice is one of the staples in SE Asia and I made the famous fried rice (Nasi Goreng) without meat, adapted from We Heart Food's recipe. I did not have all the ingredients listed and so improvised quite a bit. I used my spicy hot sauce instead of sambal, and mixed it with a little bit of maggi oriental sauce (we don't use ketchup). I pressure cooked two cups of rice, just before making this dish. Generally for fried rice, you want the rice grains to not stick, hence cooking the rice the previous day and refrigerating is recommended. However if you add a little lemon juice or oil when cooking the rice, it doesn't get sticky.

So basically it was a lot of cooking on the wok. First heat some peanut oil, add the cubed tofu and cook till the tofu is brown. I also season at every stage of cooking, so the tofu got some salt. Remove it and keep it aside. Then add the chopped scallions, julienned carrots, peas, garlic, red and green bell peppers. Cook till the veggies are soft, add the tofu back, then the sauce mix. Cook for a few more minutes, adjust the spice level and add the cooked rice. Toss till everything is combined well. Beat a couple of eggs, and make a thin omelet on a girdle, cut it into smaller pieces and spread on the fried rice. I used a mixture of cilantro, mint and sweet basil for garnish. The rice was not spicy and went well with the spicy Bicol Express.

February 19, 2010

Pepper & Crocheting

After a long break, I went back to work on my Afghan a little bit yesterday afternoon. This is a project in the making for a while, since I learned how to Crochet. One of my friend's mom taught me the skill during 2002 Christmas break. I have however failed to produce much albeit starting on a few projects, including this Afghan. Anyways, yesterday Pepper decided that I was having way too much fun with all the yarn and the pretty Afghan (yes, it is a rippled 3-color Afghan being made with really good yarn and is pretty). Hence she climbed down from her cage, on to the sofa, took a closer look at what I had and jumped right in. She was not very happy when I chased her back on the cage. She would go back, tear up some paper and in a couple of minutes be right back to play with the yarn. And I would have totally let her have some fun, if not for her sharp beak that cuts the yarn. I am sure she had shredding on her mind too!

The low quality pics are from my iphone :(

February 18, 2010

Burmese Spicy Sweet Potatoes

Here is another dish from my SE Asia night: Spicy Sweet Potatoes in coconut milk. This was Shankar's favorite dish of the day, and a friend asked for the recipe! I adapted this from AsiaRecipe.

I used a pressure cooker which fastened the cooking process, but the sweet potatoes got a little mushed for my taste. Basically I sauteed one chopped onion, 2 chopped cloves of garlic, couple of red hot Thai chilies (sliced), and grated ginger till the onions were soft. Then I added some turmeric, salt and pepper, a tbsp of soy sauce and a tbsp of lemon juice. After cooking for a minute, about a cup of coconut cream and a cup of water were added. Finally sliced regular and Japanese sweet potatoes were added to this mix and I cooked it for about 3 whistles. I think it would be better to cook them in a pan till the potatoes are just tender. I used three sweet potatoes and it was good for about 9 servings.

February 17, 2010

Kolam on a Kolam

This is one of my kolams to which the picture doesn't do any justice at all. And thats because I used a metallic / pearly lavender coat on top of the first kolam before starting the second one in white. Trust me - this piece looks so good in person, and I have actually gotten some compliments on it too! I am liking how the smaller kolams in the corner accentuates the middle piece. I also like the idea of a background kolam, but I think when I try this next, instead of a full kolam in the background, I will have a partial but bigger one in the background without the dots and a more intricate foreground. Any thoughts?

February 16, 2010

Prata - Singapore Style!

One of the dishes on SE Asia night was the Roti Prata. It is adapted from the South Indian Parota. Watching the dough get kneaded by my Kitchen Aid stand mixer for this dish was pure pleasure! And I am so glad my life is a lot easier with my kitchen appliances.

Basically I added 2 cups of flour in the mixer bowl, a pinch of baking soda, a 1/4 tsp of salt, 1/4 cup of ghee and started kneading. As the dough got crumbly, I added a little bit of milk to bring in to the doughy stage, then let the machine knead for about 8 minutes. Then I let it stand for a couple of hours.

For making the roti, I followed ChefinYou's method of basically taking a small portion of the dough (I made 8 rotis with 2 cups of flour), flattening it a little, roll it out, then pleated it, then folded the dough in a spiral. Again flatten the dough and roll it into desired size. Check out her site for detailed instructions on the rolling. The roti was cooked on my cast iron girdle to perfection. The roti came out really well, except that I had exactly one piece for each person. Wish I had the time to have made more.

Black Beauty in Hi-Res

Of course, I can never stop with posting a picture of just one baby! Here is Amy looking out the window, wondering if it is too soon to ask mommy to let her out again.

February 15, 2010

Loving my Baby!

Its been 3.5 months since we brought this big baby home and loving every minute of it! (ok, except when he chewed my laptop cord).... isn't he so handsome?

February 14, 2010

A New Experience!

For the first time in my life, I got to taste Durian this weekend! I have read and heard so much about the King of Fruits and was really excited to taste it. I bought frozen durian during my last visit to St. Louis and was actually surprised to find fresh ones in Madison. Alfred Russell Wallace said "to eat Durians is a new sensation worth a voyage to the East to experience", though I am glad that I didnt have to travel all the way to Indonesia / Malaysia to eat them, the experience has been wonderful nonetheless! And no, my kitchen nor my fridge is stinking.

I have been holding the durian for a while now, waiting for a good recipe, in which I can cook the durian, instead of having it raw and have issues of odor. Finally this week I decided to go for a jelly instead of a pastry cream on my first attempt. I am saving the pastry cream recipe for the second durian still in the freezer. Here is my recipe for the jelly: Defrost the durian in a plastic bag, mash it to a smooth paste in the food processor along with coconut cream and a little milk. In a separate pan, bring to boil - water, milk, powdered sugar and agar (proportions will vary with amount of durian used). Once the mixture starts to thicken, add the durian paste, bring to a boil and simmer for a few minutes. Then, either whisk the mixture over an ice-bath for a couple of minutes before pouring into a mold or pour directly into a wet mold. Let it set in the fridge, and serve the next day! I sprinkled a lot of shredded coconut in one of the molds.

For the first serving, I made a watermelon jelly and poured it one top of the durian jelly after it had set a bit. And for tonight's dessert, I tossed together strawberries, walnuts, almonds, raisins, cranberries in ginger honey & agave nectar and plated this along with the durian jelly. It was so yummy!

I am total durian fan now. And I love that my Cooking the World challenge is motivitaing me for a lot more new experiences with food, right from the comfort of my kitchen.

February 13, 2010

@ the Dog Park

Yesterday was a really nice warm day here in Wisconsin and we took the doggies to the dog park in Verona as soon as Shankar got home. They had already played quite a bit during the day, and were super tired by the time we got back from the park. In fact Kalki was exhausted to a point where he slept in the car when we stopped at a store - he is usually anxious in the car and can't wait for us to get back. They both had a great time at the park, with the only wish that other dogs that grab their ball come back to play with it and not run away.

February 12, 2010

Aappam & Kadalai Curry

Weekend brunches are always a favorite for me, as we get to sleep in and have a good meal. Its also a chance to try some recipes from home that are a little heavy for just breakfast, and may not be good for dinner time. Aappam with coconut milk and kadalai (chickpeas) curry is one such once-in-a-while hearty brunch. I made this last Sunday and Shankar loved it!

Here is the quick recipe for kadalai curry: I soaked the black chickpeas for about 30 minutes in hot water, then pressure cooked it with a pinch of turmeric, salt and a paste made by blending together 2 green chilies, a slice of ginger, a tsp of cumin & toasted coriander seeds, coconut milk or cream, and more salt adjusted for taste and two cups of water (for each cup of kadalai). You might want to thicken the curry with a little rice flour. In this instance, I just added a spoonful of the aappam batter for the same effect. Garnish with shredded coconut.

February 10, 2010

Brrrr... Its Cold!

Mocking Bird in the rain in Galapagos, June 2005. It was no where near as cold as it is in Wisconsin now.

February 9, 2010

Filipino Bicol Express

I made this vegetarian version of the famous Bicol Express for SE Asia night, inspired from our meal at Kuya's Asian Cuisine in San Bruno, CA. I made use of the hot sauce from my Laotian curry (Peanuts, peanut butter, some tamarind paste, few shreds of coconut, the hot chili, some sugar, lemon grass and kafir lime leaves ground together).

For the vegetables, I used long beans, red and green bell peppers, half a mango, zucchini, and squash. Sauté one chopped onion, a clove of chopped garlic in peanut oil, add the vegetables when the onions are soft, and cook for a few minutes. Then add the hot paste (this can be a simple chili & garlic sauce, instead of my elaborate one), salt according to taste and simmer for a few minutes. Finally, add a can of coconut milk or cream, bring to a boil and simmer for a few more minutes. Garnish with sweet basil and mint. The Bicol Express has to have a bite to it from the heat of the chili sauce, though coconut cream is added. It was great with Nasi Goreng and Prata.

Dwarfed Amy!

On Shankar's birthday a couple of years back, one of our friends brought his Great Dane over to our house in Owen. This was the second time Amy has been around a really big dog, the first time being with my house mate's Bouvier in California. Anyways, this Great Dane, Kitty, was also very terrified of being out of her comfort zone and in our house, in the presence of Amy! Look at how she has her tail tucked under her. Amy on the other hand was very excited about having company, but was kind of disappointed that Kitty didn't want to play. but they did have a great time with all the treats :)

February 8, 2010

Cotopaxi in the Andes

Cotopaxi, one of the highest active (strato) volcanoes, as seen from the road to Yanococha from Quito in 2005. We were able to get out of the van and take pictures, though the volcano was a little ways away from where we were. We also saw Andean Condors the same day, also from a little far away. May be one day Shankar and I will get to climb it :)

February 7, 2010

Chinese Eggplant & Tofu in Chili Sauce

For China night, I made the eggplant and tofu in chili sauce with fried rice. The Japanese eggplants (thin and long), were cubed, along with tofu. In a wok, I added peanut oil, sauteed 2 cloves of chopped garlic, a tsp of grated ginger. Then I added a tbsp of chili sauce (maggi oriental sauce), a tsp of tamari soy sauce, a tbsp of rice wine vinegar. Then went the eggplants and tofu, and cooked on high heat for a few minutes with the sauce completely coating them. The eggplants have to be cooked, but not turn mushy. Garnish with chopped scallions.

February 5, 2010

A Simple Dal

One of the comfort foods while we were growing up is the simple 'parupu sadam' (Dal Rice). I have had it a lot either as breakfast before rushing to school or for lunch. Its one of those stand-by's if mom is running late in making a sambar. But we love it, plain lentils cooked with salt and a pinch of turmeric mixed with rice, with a side of sauteed vegetables. These days, when I make dal, I either add tomatoes / spinach / onions to it, and generally have a side of pickle too to appease the spice taste buds.

Toor Dal (yellow split peas) is cooked in water with a little salt and turmeric, with the ratio of dal to water being 1:2. In a separate pan, temper the mustard seeds with cumin, fenugreek seeds, a tsp of urad dal and add chopped onion, garlic, ginger and green chilies. Season with salt, add to the dal and mix. Garnish with chopped cilantro and serve with rice or bread!

February 4, 2010

More of my Kolams

These are two mini 5x5 canvases and I am playing around a little bit more, by filling the inside of the kolam. The fillers are metallic paints and hence the bright reflection on the pictures. The blue one also has beads for the dots.

February 3, 2010

Nikko hiding in the towel

We haven't had one of these days - Nikko being very playful in a while, but when he was, it was a lot of fun :) These days, he thinks being with Pepper & Shankar are about all the fun in the world (and may be trying to bite mommy!)

February 1, 2010

Another Kolam, with embellishments

My latest Kolam on Canvas (6x6). This time I played around a little bit with more colors, beads and double lines. And instead of a brush, I am using a tip for the lines too. No where near perfect, but practicing. I have sent this piece for my friend Sujatha Prakash and hoping she will like it. 

Paneer Butter Masala

For today's lunch, we made Chappathi and a side of Paneer Butter Masala. Contrary to its name, it did not have a lot of butter. I kind of worked my way on the recipe after looking at a few, and not having all the ingredients required by any of them.

I had frozen cubed paneer, which I sauteed in butter, till the paneer turned brown. Keeping the paneer aside, I added cumin (both regular and black), one chopped onion, an inch of diced ginger and let it cook for a few minutes. Then I added salt, a tsp of garam masala and a tsp of kitchen king masala, a dash of red chili powder. Once the onion was soft, I added a couple tablespoons of tomato sauce, about 10 oz of water, let cook for a few more minutes. After adjusting the seasoning, I added the paneer to this mixture, and thickened the sauce with a couple of teaspoons of almond butter. Garnished with dried methi and chopped coriander, the dish was delish!
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