Thursday, December 28, 2006
A little more than a decade later, this CNN report changes everything. The FDA's concession with the involved Biotechs on the "indistinguishability" of milk and meat from normal and cloned cattle, brings in its wake nothing short of a shockwave among consumers. Add to this knowledge, that a decision on special labels for clone- based (if you will) foods is still pending, shoots the "yuck factor" to a whole different level. If I push aside the thought that maybe a couple of decades from now I can clone my own dinner (or my own baby for that matter, minus labor and epidural) and seriously think about it, a clone is an identical genetic replica of the original organism not even an improvement. Man- the horticulturist and animal breeder, from time immemorial has been obsessed with the hardiest, most productive...er...everything, mixing, matching and multiplying all sorts of plant and animal concoctions. So how different can this be? The FDA is taking precautions by allowing animal clones only for breeding and placing an informal ban by asking farmers and companies to keep cloned animals away from food supply. But considering that knowledge of the safety of food from cloned animals is still shaky at best ( a Pubmed search resulted in a cartload of conflicting peer reviewed articles) and that the FDA's final decision inspite of surety is only months away is enough to send chills down my spine (along with strong impulses to turn vegan)!
Thursday, December 21, 2006
Coming to terms with my being Telugu, I will spare you further confusion and get straight to the methodology behind this coastal delicacy. I'd never attempted making this before, because everything seemed so vague. All the measurements are adjusted after smelling, tasting and goodness knows what other sensory perception my mom uses. I found myself doing the same yesterday but attempted to quantitate it to some effect. Its very simple with 3 crucial ingredients: fish, onions and tamarind. The interesting thing about this "curry" is that the measurements are made by the pan (not quantity of fish). Now about the pan, you MUST IDEALLY use one that is about 5 inches deep and whose sides are perfectly perpendicular to the base. The one I'd used was perpendicular for the first 3 inches closest to the base and fanned out towards the rim but it worked fine. Something like this is perfect. Another detail, its crucial to adjust seasoning (salt and chilli) before cooking because this dish doesnt allow for stirring, in fact there is no stirring. No stirring, no spice adjustment, no accurate measurements, it almost seems daunting but really its not as bad as I make it out to be.
Oops, the light turned green, when did that happen? Whatever slipped from my being abruptly repositions as I hit the accelerator of my Lexus. I shake my head and wonder why the hell I keep doing that, as the car glides over the smooth, even tarred American road taking me home. And once again that lazy road and the green buses are buried within layers of subconciousness.
Wednesday, December 20, 2006
Heres moms hit cheesecake recipe (minus the oven overtime :) ):
You will need:
1 3/4 cup graham cracker crumbs
1/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup butter (melted)
Mix crumbs and sugar and then add in butter. Line mixture, pressing hard, on bottom and sides of a springform cake dish or (since I didnt have one, be warned of irregular slicing) just a regular cake pan. I used a 9X9 inch pan. Preheat oven to 350 F.
3 (8 oz) pkgs Philadelphia cream cheese
1 cup Breakstones or Knudson's sour cream(I used low fat)
1 cup sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
Beat cream cheese, sugar and vanilla together until creamy. Add eggs, beating each one individually till completely incorporated. Add sour cream, beat till smooth.
1 can cherry pie filling
Pour cheesecake filling into the prepared cake dish. Place in preheated oven. Cook for 1 hour or till a knife that passes through the middle of the cake comes out clean. Leave in oven with door ajar for about an hour. Cool completely and refrigerate for a few hours befor pouring the cherry topping and serving.
Monday, December 18, 2006
So earlier today I needed a quick and dirty way to transpose rows into columns. This is how I did it with Excel and surprisingly it wasnt as counterintuitive as expected.
1. Select row that contains data that needs to be transposed.
2. Copy data (Edit->Copy).
3. Select column which can accomodate copied row data. Right click and select paste special (or Edit->Paste special). Select Transpose from the box that opens.
Wednesday, December 13, 2006
You will need:
1 1/2 cup mixed mushrooms (I used oyster, shitake, button)
5 cloves garlic
A dash each of (dry) oregano, rosemary, thyme
1 red onion
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
1 cup sliced red and yellow peppers
1 tbsp Italian salad dressing
2 cups grated and packed Gruyere cheese
1 tomato sliced
Few leaves of fresh Sage for garnish (Optional)
1 frozen pie shell
Preheat oven to 400 F. Wrap 3 garlic cloves in aluminium foil. Drizzle red and yellow peppers with Italian salad dressing, wrap in alumninum foil. Toss both wrapped garlic and peppers into the oven while its preheating.
Saute mushrooms in olive oil (1/2 tbsp) with 2 garlic cloves chopped. Add oregano, rosemary and thyme. Cook for about 10 minutes or till the mushrooms soften.
Saute onions in olive oil on medium heat. Cook till soft for about 10 minutes. Add balsamic vinegar, cook for another 10 minutes (avoid burning).
Poke holes into the pie shell using a fork (be careful not to crack shell). Bake in heated oven till light golden (10 mins approx.). Remove the "roasted" peppers and garlic from oven. Reduce the temperature of the oven to 350 F. Peel the skin off the garlic and spread (should be cooked well enough to spread) onto base of pie shell. Now layer the shell with cooked onions, mushrooms, peppers and cheese. Top off with tomato slices arranged around the tart. Garnish with sage leaves. Place the tart back into the oven (onto the topmost rack) and cook till the cheese is melted and the peeling on the tomato slices get wrinkly. Cool for 15 minutes before serving.
You will need:
2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 stick of unsalted butter (frozen)
2 tbsp sugar
A pinch of salt
Vegetable oil for frying
Mix together all the dry ingredients. Add butter to the dry ingredients and use your hand to incorporate it into the flour till it resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Add just enough water to make a pliable dough. Knead for about five minutes. Divide the dough into 4 equal parts and roll out into a sheet of about 1/2 cm thickness. Use a pizza cutter to make tiny (1cm x 1cm) square pieces. Repeat for all 4 portions. Pour oil into a small deep pan and fry as many dough squares as you can fit. Cook till golden brown, toss around pieces frequently to ensure even browning.
You will need:
2 cups of rava (cream of wheat)
2 cups of crushed pineapple (canned works fine)
1 1/2 cups of sugar
6 cups of water
Roasted cashewnuts and raisins for garnish
1tbsp ghee or butter
Make a syrup of the sugar and water. When the water just begins to bubble add the pineapple and bring to boil. In a seperate pan roast the rava with ghee (or butter) till light golden brown. Add rava to boiling syrup. Keep on medium to high heat till the rava absorbs the water and is mushy when pressed between fingers. Allow the mixture to thicken for about 5 minutes. I like it super mushy so avoid cooking for too long. Add cashewnuts and raisins, even some extra ghee if you feel indulgent. Serve warm.
Tuesday, December 12, 2006
Ranch Fried Chicken
You will need:
2 chicken breasts
1/2 cup ranch salad dressing
2 cloves of garlic
1 1/2 cups of bread crumbs
1/2 tsp of salt
1 tsp of pepper
Wrap the chicken breasts in plastic wrap and beat with blunt object (I usually use a round bottomed spoon) till about 1 cm thick. Rub both sides of each breast with half the salt and pepper and keep aside. Add ranch dressing and chopped garlic into a bowl, keep aside. Transfer breadcrumbs onto a plate. Now the most efficient way to do this is to place everything in this order once prepping is done: seasoned chicken breasts, ranch dressing +garlic, breadcrumbs. Take one chicken breast, dip into ranch dressing (make sure you dont leave behind the garlic bits), and then coat with breadcrumbs. Repeat for other breast. Place chicken in shallow pan with 1tbsp of vegetable oil. cook on low to medium heat, till golden brown on either side.
Monday, December 11, 2006
You will need:
1 medium onion
Monday, December 04, 2006
Above my head
Stinky, delivery food
By my bed
"Energy for tomorrow", you said,
Leaving for the night.
Devoid of strength,
On my bed
In this filthy room
I wait, I think.
I used to be loved,
Had a family that cared.
Now abandoned by all
We were in love,
Childish abandon, youthful rebellion.
Anxious to grow, curious to know
This wasn't supposed to happen
How did your affection dwindle?
Oh God, again.
Clutching the sides of the toilet
Spewing out burning bile.
Violently my body jerks
Wrenching out'f a starving gut
Every remaining fluid drop.
Dragging my feeble teen self
Onto the bed I fall, belly first.
The suffocation I ignore,
Turning around, I wait.
Wait for you, Wait for daybreak,
To suck out and shred this blob inside,
The life you and I made.
No, my baby.
Protective hand on belly
A lone, helpless tear escapes
As my eyes give in to numbing slumber.
Saturday, December 02, 2006
Friday, December 01, 2006
So yesterday, gallant hubby ever so cooperative bared his flu, stomped out into frigid AZ temperatures (~37F, snort!) and hauled in a 7 foot Douglas fir. I'd have preferred a Colorado Spruce myself but since at the time, I was too busy fighting traffic in a shady gas station (yes, a gas station), I was advised to save my preferences for the following year. Next decoration. Promptly dismissing his proud booty of plastic (shoe, star, pine cone, pears, there was something that looked like a genetically mutated Santa too) decoration amassed from Christmas-es past, I now also have the duty to shop for appropriate tree tinsel! Not like I mind, I love Christmas.
Growing up in Kuwait, our tree (artificial, natural pine exports to the middle east not particularly profitable I hear) would be up and decorated the first of the month. Dashing home everyday after school, I'd run straight into the kitchen to see what goodies my mom had made in preparation, which she did around the same time. There always was fruit cake, doughnuts, mixture (a savory mix of indian crunchies and nuts), traditional Indian sweets called (unfortunately I only know their Telugu names) Kajalu, Kajikailu, finally ladoos! My mom always made loads of these because tradition was to visit family and friends on Christmas day with homemade sweets.
This being our first Christmas as a married couple, I just want to recreate a bit of that magic, to make it a tradition for our little family as well. Lets see how well that goes-- preparation begins today!
Monday, November 20, 2006
I love to try out new cuisine, just about anything at least once. But today was one of those days where I just wanted something homecooked, Indian, and super spicy. Considering we are leaving for the holidays in a couple of days, I had to make do with whatever was lying around. So, I decided to use methi to make a Gujarati flatbread and traditional Telugu potato curry. Simple but oh so, delicious, in fact the methi even adds a nutritious element to the meal.
2 cups of whole wheat flour
1/2 cup of finely chopped fresh methi leaves
2 green chillies chopped
1 tsp red chilli powder
1/2 tsp cumin powder
1/2 tsp corriander powder
1 tsp vegetable oil
1 tbsp ginger-garlic paste
2 tbsp roasted sesame seeds
1/2 tsp turmeric
salt to taste
Mix all dry ingredients together. Then add ginger-garlic paste and oil and form a pliable dough with water. If the dough gets sticky just add more flour. Let dough set for 15 minutes. Make walnut size balls out of the dough and roll out into flat discs. Place discs on a hot griddle and fry till both sides of disc are golden brown. Dot with butter and serve hot.
Telugu Potato curry
4 medium size potatoes chopped
2 medium sized onions chopped
2 medium tomatoes chopped
1 tsp mustard seeds
2 tsp chilli powder
1 tbsp ginger-garlic paste
Cilantro and curry leaves for garnish
Salt to taste
Heat oil in a saucepan. Add mustard seeds and wait till they finish popping. Add onions and tomatoes. Add chilli powder and ginger-garlic paste and cook till tomatoes seperate from their skins. Add potatoes and add enough water to just submerge the potatoes (~2 cups). Cook covered till gravy is thickened and potatoes are cooked completely (test by taking a potato piece and squishing with the back of a spoon, potato is cooked if completely mashed under pressure). Serve garnished with curry leaves and cilantro.
Sunday, November 19, 2006
Mexican food, as is sushi, is slowly creeping up on my list of favorites. I'm not confident enough yet to serve raw fish but mexican cuisine doesnt intimidate me too much. I got the inspiration for this dish from Food network's Rachel Ray. I love her simple dishes, with flexible measurements AND ingredients. I couldn't watch the entire episode but got enough of an idea to try this. Such a variety of textures and flavors that can all be mooshed up into a single bite... definitely one of our current favorites. It's also great to get rid of lots of singlet vegetables in the fridge.
For Corn bread
1 package jiffy cornbread mix
1/3 cup milk
4 tbsp frozen corn kernels
Pretty much follow package instructions, mixing in egg, milk and cornbread mix. Add corn kernels and follow package baking instructions.
1/2 lb ground beef/turkey ( more if you like it extra meaty)
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp chopped garlic
2 tbsp taco seasoning
salt to taste
1 tbsp vegetable oil
Heat oil in a pan and add cumin seeds and garlic and fry till garlic turns golden brown. Add meat, salt and taco seasoning. Cook till meat browns, adjust spices according to taste.
1 cup canned kidney beans
1 small onion chopped
salt to taste
1tbsp vegetable oil
Drain and wash kidney beans. Fry onions till soft. Add kidney beans and salt and cook for a few minutes.
3 chopped spring onions
1 small tomato chopped
1 green pepper chopped
1/4 cup chopped olives
1/2 cup shredded cheddar/american cheese
1/2 cup salsa
1/2 cup light sour cream
For Cornbread mexicana
Remove the cooked cornbread from the oven. Layer the prepared meat, beans, spring onions, tomato, green pepper, salsa, olives and cheese on the cornbread. Reserve some spring onions and olives for garnish. Put the cornbread back in the oven for a few minutes till the cheese melts. Remove from oven and let stand for 10 minutes. Spread a layer of sour cream and garnish with chopped spring onions and olives.
Saturday, November 18, 2006
1/2 cup packed very fine vermicelli (wheat noodles)
4 tbsps sugar
3 cups whole milk
2 tbsp unsweetened grated coconut
3 pods of cardamom (slightly opened) or generous pinch powdered cardamom
1 generous tbsp of ghee (clarified butter) or butter
In a pan saute cashewnuts and raisins in ghee till cashews are golden brown. Remove the raisins and nuts and in the same pan add the vermicelli and roast for 10 mins on medium heat or till the noodles turn a golden brown. Meanwhile in another saucepan boil milk with sugar, coconut and cardamom. Once the milk is boiled, add the vermicelli and cook for 15 mins on medium heat. I like my semiya a bit thick, so I boil it for 15 mins but if you prefer it more watery then stop cooking immediately after you notice the noodles soften. Serve garnished with cashewnuts and raisins.
Variation: You can use rice instead of the vermicelli, just skip the initial roasting step. You may also have to boil the rice in milk for longer (~20 mins) -- one way to test is to take a grain of rice and squish it between your fingers, if cooked completely you should not feel anything crumble, just a smooth smoosh.
Creme sans Brulee
2 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
8 large egg yolks
Beat egg yolks and sugar until sugar is completely dissolved and egg yolks turn a paler yellow. Heat cream in a sauce pan for 5 minutes or until tiny bubbles form all around, avoid boiling, if you think you have boiled it let stand for a couple of minutes before proceeding. Add one tablespoon of the warm cream to the egg yolk mixture and mix until fully incorporated. Repeat process one tablespoon of cream at a time till all of the cream is used up. Add vanilla extract to this mixture (custard). Spoon this custard into oven proof ramekins. Place all ramekins in an oven proof pan (maybe even a cake pan would work). Pour boiling water into the oven proof pan till water reaches half the level of the ramekins, take care not to spill water into ramekins. Place the oven proof pan with ramekins into a 250 F preheated oven for about an hour. The custard is done if it is set around the edges and only a small portion in the middle jiggles. For darker top layer place the ovenproof pan closer to the top of the oven for maybe 3 minutes (watch carefully to prevent burning). Remove the pan from the oven, remove the ramekins and let sit at room temperature till cool. Wrap with foil or plastic wrap and refrigerate till time to serve.
Habanero Salsa Tomato rice3 cups cooked rice
1 medium onion (sliced)
1 small tomato chopped
1 cup habanero salsa
1 tbsp ginger-garlic paste
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp ghee (clarified butter)- optional
1/2 tsp cumin seeds (jeera)
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1/2 tsp chana dal (split dried chick peas)- optional
1 tsp chilli powder (or to taste)
4-cloves, 1/2 inch piece cinnamon stick, 4- cardamom pods: powdered together or use 1 tsp garam masala
1 tsp garam masala for garnish
8-10 curry leaves (Helichrysum italicum), available in all Indian stores-- just ask
2-3 green chillies
2 large green peppers
1 tsp lemon juice
salt to taste
Heat oil in saucepan. Add chana dal, cumin and mustard seeds and heat till the mustard seeds are done popping. Immediately add onion and tomato, ginger-garlic paste, salt, green chillies and chilli powder. Fry till tomatoes seperate from their skins (sounds sick i know but you get my point). Now add the habanero salsa and cinnamon-clove-cardamom (or garam masala) spice powder fry for a few more minutes. Add the curry leaves and stir a few times. Add the cooked rice to the sauce, tomato rice is now ready.
Dunk whole green peppers in hot water and let soak for 5 minutes. Remove peppers from water and cut off the stems carefully and deseed. Stuff the peppers with the tomato rice. Place stuffed peppers in oven proof dish, spray with pam or dot with butter. Sprinkle garam masala and lemon juice over the peppers and bake in preheated oven at 350 F for 15 mins or till the peppers get wrinkly.
Possible variation: 1. layer seasoned and cooked ground meat and cheese along with rice when stuffing peppers.
2. Omit the peppers altogether and just serve tomato rice with mint chutney.
Thursday, November 09, 2006
After a rare late day at work, I found myself stuck in sickeningly slow traffic that lengthened my commute three fold. Ever since the move to Phoenix, I have only explored surface streets and the remarks that follow are based on close observation of the same and are not affected by any predisposed misconception of desert folk (well, at least not too much).
See, I would be a little more understanding if I was stuck in back to back traffic that I've learnt to accept in Boston and Maryland, but no, there are miles and miles of practically empty sand banked road but grandpa (not literally, but he might as well be) in front of me moves at 20 mph in a 45 mph zone (this is probably East Indian conversion but to me, 45 equates to 65--very least). Now I don't know if its just me, but when I leave home for work, every microsecond counts-- the sooner I get from A to B the better. But here in Phoenix, it seems like people actually freaking ENJOY their commute!! I mean seriously, I will forgive the occasional goody-two-shoe driver but EVERYDAY I encounter at least 20 puritans. The worst is if you have 2 of them side by side-- grandpa Vs. grandpa. So thats what happened today, with the added complexity of the roads actually being crowded (in surface street standards that means you see 5 cars within a radius of 200 feet), with these commute-happy drivers cruising below speed limit for no apparent reason.
Finally get home and just begin to unwind when mother-in-law calls enquiring about my nagging toothache. Of course she has to ask what I'd made for dinner and lucky for me today I had a valid excuse, told her we were going to the gym and would probably grab something after. She seemed satisfied with that. All would have been fine if Selvin didnt tell me, after I hung up of course, that he' d told his mother about the delicious dinner he'd prepared when I was down after a root canal, just 2 days ago. Now of course, I felt like a slacker wife. To make things worse, after our work out my man wants to pull into a Wendy's drive thru because he said we didnt have any groceries at home, yeah he was right but given the events prior there was no way we would eat anything except something, anything I made. So we got home and I finalized on the only veggie that still looked semi edible. Chinese Eggplant-- the elongated, narrow kind. And this is what I did for a 15 minute stir fry with House of Tsang's Saigon stir fry sauce. Warm white rice was a great side.
Chinese Eggplant stir fry
3 medium Chinese eggplants
4 cloves of garlic
1/2 cup sliced onions
1/2 cup chopped tomatoes
2 tbsp sesame seed oil
3 tbsp (or more to taste) House of Tsang's Saigon stir fry sauce **
Cilantro for garnish
Slice the eggplants into halves *lengthwise* and then into 1 inch long pieces.
Pour sesame seed oil into a nonstick saucepan. Add chopped garlic and fry for a few seconds to impart flavor. Add eggplants and fry on medium-high heat till soft but not mushy (around 3 mins), you may have to cook covered for 2 mins. Add onions and tomatoes and stir a few times being careful not to mash eggplant. Now add the sauce, toss around for a minute or so. Serve garnished with cilantro.
**Just looking at the ingredients on the label I think this can easily substituted with a little sugar mixed with dark soy sauce, garlic powder, chopped cilantro, crushed red peppers, dried anchovies crushed to a powder.
Wednesday, November 08, 2006
Caramelized onion and cherry tomato tart
1 frozen pie crust (I used Marie Callander's 9 inch)
1.5 lbs yellow onions
1.5 cups of grated gruyere cheese
2 cups cherry tomatoes chopped into halves
1tbsp vegetable oil
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar (optional)
Heat butter and oil in saucepan and add sliced onions. Cook on low-medium heat stirring occasionally till the onions seem light golden brown (~ 45 mins). At this point, preheat oven to 475 F. To the saucepan with onions, add balsamic vinegar, continue cooking till onions turn nutty brown (~10 minutes) and then keep aside.
Poke holes into the pie crust with a fork -- curb that aggression and keep it sporadic. This step is important otherwise the crust will puff up in the middle and wont contain its shape. Place the pie crust in the oven for 10 minutes or till light brown. Then remove from the oven and add the caramelized onions, grated cheese and arrange halved tomatoes in concentric circles around the tart. Reduce the temperature of the oven to 325 F and place again in the oven for 10 minutes. Now move the tart to the highest rack in the oven and bake till the tomatoes get more or less evenly wrinkly. Let cool for 15 minutes before serving.
Autumn Pear Candied Pecan Salad (Not shown in picture)
1 bag Mixed greens
1 Pear (sliced thin lengthwise)
1/2 cup candied pecans (readily available in stores)
1/2 small yellow onion (chopped fine)
2 handfuls feta cheese (crumbled)
1/4 cup dried cranberries
5-6 cherry tomatoes
2 tbsp Italian dressing
Method: Combine all ingredients except dressing. Pour on dressing a couple of minutes before serving.