Monday, November 20, 2017

Food Post #5: Nachos

It was only recently that I found out the history behind one of the most popular food items in America- Nachos. Quite intriguing, really, how something so simple, and tasty, actually has history attached to it. For starters, I had my own doubts about whether or not this dish was even truly Mexican. You know, like General Tso's Chicken, and Cauliflower Manchurian- that aren't actually Chinese. Or heck, the food served at most Indian restaurants here showcasing paneer tikka masala, tandoori chicken, chicken tikka masala, and naan (highly highly overrated) on their menus, as if these dishes encompass the entirety of *all* Indian cuisine. So not correct! 

Going back to Nachos- so apparently back in 1943, in Piedras Negras, Mexico, Ignacio "Nacho" Anaya, the headwaiter at the Victory Club, threw together this dish with some tortilla chips, cheese, and jalapeño poppers for a bunch of hungry army wives. He called it, Nachos Especiales. The hungry ladies were very thankful to Mr. Nacho, and started eating. The warm, crispy tortilla chips topped with ooey-gooey melted cheese, and spicy jalapeños totally made their day. They felt satiated at the end of the meal. When they asked him for the recipe, he was nice enough to give it to them. And then, you know how it goes- people talk, news travels, recipes travel too, and the nachos recipe somehow got into the hands of this one Frank Liberto in Texas. Mr. Liberto altered the recipe by coming up with cheese sauce, which in fact is supposedly not even cheese! Go figure! However, unlike good old Ignacio "Nacho" Anaya, who readily gave away the recipe to his innovation, this latter dude did not believe in divulging the recipe to the cheese sauce created by him. So that's a trade secret. He built a company, made money, and now his son runs the company. Meanwhile, when the original Mr. Nacho died in 1975, they built a bronze plaque in his memory, and declared October 21st as International Day of the Nacho. But then they call Mr. Liberto as "The Father of Nachos." I suppose they ought to call Mr. Nacho as the Grandfather of Nachos? Those hungry women who first tasted nachos, and spread the original recipe around- are they the Grandmothers of Nachos? Also, did someone build bronze plaques in their memory?    

Interesting read: History of Nachos. There's plenty more articles up there on the internet..... the only thing I haven't found is an image of that bronze plaque they made in memory of Ignacio Nacho. Guess that calls for a trip to Piedras Negras one of these days. I am truly curious to see if it actually exists. 


And now for my version: Spicy Chicken Nachos


Appi's Spicy Chicken Nachos



Ingredients: 

Note: Quantities will vary depending on the number of people you are cooking for, and/or how much you want (them) to eat! Gotta go the eyeball route...
 
*Your favorite tortilla chips

*Cooked chicken- taco style- i.e. with taco or fajita seasoning. I use onions and bell pepper when I cook chicken for tacos/fajitas

*Pepper jack cheese

*Sharp cheddar cheese

*Fresh jalapeños chopped your style (fine or discs or slit.... )

Method: 

1. In a lightly greased baking dish, layer all the ingredients, starting with the chips. On the chips goes the chicken. On the chicken goes some jalapeño. On that goes some grated cheese. You could layer that again with more chips, chicken, jalapeño, and cheese 

2. Bake the above in a 350 degree F oven for 10 minutes, or until the cheese melts 

3. Broil off for a couple minutes to brown the cheese 

4. Optional: Garnish with more jalapeño or some fresh pico de gallo or perhaps some guacamole or just plain chopped avocado. A dollop of sour cream will also go pretty well with these spicy nachos. 

5. Dig in, just like those hungry women did all those years ago when Ignacio "Nacho" Anaya served them that first ever plate of Nachos Especiales. Be sure to try this recipe, and spread the word. 

Maybe many years from now, somebody will build a bronze plaque in my memory too... and then some more years later, someone will write about me and call me the "Mother of Spicy Chicken Nachos!" Hey, I am allowed to fantasize a little bit!! Incidentally, the year this "Nacho" dude died, is the year I was born! Now that definitely adds to the intrigue! 






Sunday, November 19, 2017

Daily Food Post #4: Masala Omelette

The Sunday morning masala omelette for breakfast has become a ritual of sorts around here. I am usually a pretty no-fuss kinda person when it comes to food, but in case of an omelette, I have certain specifications:

Specification #1: I like mine with everything please. Everything includes at least four of these- onion/green onion, tomato, green chilli, mushroom, ham, cilantro, spinach, broccoli (you read that right), corn, red chilli powder, and grated cheese, preferably sharp cheddar or pepper jack. Salt and pepper are the default ingredients of course.

Specification #2: I like mine to be browned up a bit, no very french yellow fluffy omelette for me, thank you very much. I am not French.

Specification #3: I like mine to be cooked in oil, not butter.

Specification #4: I don't really care whether or not you incorporate milk in the eggs while beating them. I absolutely don't see how milk contributes anything to a masala omelette.

Specification #4: When you add that cheese, please crisp it up.

Specification #5: Give it to me nice and hot.

The above specifications have been finally understood by my husband. And he is now able to make a decent omelette for me pretty much every Sunday. He makes it lovingly, and gives it to me exactly the way I want, while I sit on the couch, watching the birds outside the window.

This morning's omelette had green onion, green chilli, tomato, spinach, and pepper jack cheese. It was delicious!


Yummy Masala Omelette
 




Saturday, November 18, 2017

Daily Food Post #3: Roots

I watched a short film on National Geographic- Scent of Geranium. It's about an Iranian girl who moves from Iran to America, and she talks about homesickness, and her struggle while being an immigrant in a brand new land. She remembers her mother's words: It takes time for damaged roots to settle into new soil..... and then over time, the plant establishes itself and grows and thrives and flowers. Fair enough, I thought. At the end of it, I felt mildly amused at myself. I realized that I still possess damaged roots! It will be twenty years in December this year since I was "uprooted" from the land where I was born. I think that I have managed to establish, grow and thrive, and flower in this "new" land..... and yet, somehow, the roots are a bit damaged. I have a home here, and yet, I miss being there. I have loved ones here, and I miss my loved ones there. All in all, it's quite a torn kinda situation.

I forwarded the link to the short film to my dear friend, Lara. She responded, and I quote: 

"Yes. Although, as a plant person, it's good to have damaged roots a bit. That's the point where growth happens most, and it anchors you strongly. When we transplant from containers, we scarify and loosen the roots at the bottom, so that they spread and settle in the soil. If we don't do that, the root(s) keep circling around itself (themselves) in the original container shape. Especially in trees- they can choke." 

I read and re-read, and realized the profundity of these words. Thanks, Lara!! I feel fortunate to have a friend like you!

So there, that's my food post for today- it's food for thought. :)

Here's that 4 minute short film: Scent of Geranium

Bee and Flower

Friday, November 17, 2017

Daily Food Post #2: Chicken and Waffles

The other day I suddenly got this unexplainable craving for some chicken and waffles. I opened the freezer and found an old frozen waffle package. There were exactly two waffles in there, hidden somewhere behind the thick ice that had formed over who-knows-how-many-months. But hey, after chipping off that ice, I found the waffles to be in perfect condition. Definitely 'toastworthy' and edible, whispered the foodie from within me. Now what about the fried chicken? No problem! I am one hecka smart person. And so I picked up the car keys, wore those dorky running shoes that I use for walking, sat in the minivan, ignited the minivan (okay, I just wanted to use the term ignite like that) and headed straight to the nearest McDonald's. Picked up a four piece crispy chicken tenders, and rushed back home. I was excited!! 

Appi's Chicken and Waffles 

Here's how you satisfy that sudden out-of-the-blue craving for chicken and waffles: 

Ingredients: 

Frozen Waffles- 2 

Crispy chicken tenders from your nearest McDonald's- 4 piece 

Syrup of choice OR when they ask you what sauce you want at McD's, ask for honey! ;) 

Method: 

1. Toast the waffles 

2. Place a crispy chicken tender or two on each waffle

3. Drizzle some syrup, such as agave or maple or good old honey, all over the chicken and waffles

4. To fancy it up a bit, sprinkle some smoky chipotle pepper powder 

5. Eat, and enjoy! 

YUM! 


 

    

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Daily Food Post #1: Warm Yellow Corn

Considering the rather infrequent posts around here, the reason behind which is that I don't cook extravagantly every single day. I am not a famous chef in any snooty restaurant, or heck, in ANY restaurant, snooty or otherwise. I am just another regular home cook. Now that the disclaimer has been taken care of, I have decided to go the Instagram way. And so here is today's food post:

Warm Yellow Corn, a perfect quick meal for a cold rainy afternoon in Seattle  




Ingredients: 

Frozen yellow corn kernel 1 cup

Salt to taste

Freshly ground pepper 1/2 tsp

A pat of butter

Lemon juice- a squeeze

Method:

1. In a microwave safe bowl, pour in a cup of frozen yellow corn kernel straight out of the package.

2. Run it on high for a couple minutes, until it is nice and warmed up.

3. Add salt to taste, some freshly ground pepper, and a pat of butter. Mix it, and run it on high for another 30 seconds to a minute.

4. Mix, add a squeeze of lemon juice, and eat away!





Sunday, August 27, 2017

Green Smoothie

This is rather out-of-norm for me to be posting here- a smoothie recipe of all things!! I was quite surprised at how tasty it was, not to forget, feelings of "ooh-I-got-some-healthy-stuff-inside-of-me" gave me quite a high. 

Yield: Enough for 1 adult 

Best kitchen gadget for this: Vitamix. Any other blender should work, I suppose. 

Ingredients:  

Frozen Spinach (do not thaw)- 1 cup

Banana- 1 medium

Yogurt, plain- 1/4 cup

Water- 1 cup

Agave Nectar- 1 tbs

Method: 

Put all ingredients into the Vitamix. Blend on high for about a minute. Pour into glass and drink. Easy, super healthy, super delicious, and 100% guilt free! Yes, really!

Yummy Green Smoothie

Healthy Stuff! 
 

 




Monday, August 14, 2017

Bitter Gourd Gojju Feedback

I am pleased to inform you that the gojju recipe that I posted a couple days ago has been tried and tested with positive results. Yash, from Wisconsin followed the recipe and said that it was delicious! She even sent me a picture! It looked exactly like the picture I posted. She changed it up a bit in a couple places: instead of using bitter gourd (she is not a fan of this unfortunate bitter beauty like I am!), she used eggplant and bell pepper. Nice! And she reduced the quantity of the red chilies by half. Okay, yeah, I completely understand that not everybody likes their food screaming hot and spicy. ;)

Thanks, Yash! Glad you and your family liked the gojju!

Yash's Eggplant Bell Pepper Gojju

Just to show you how similar the above picture is to the picture I took:

Bitter gourd Gojju

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Kakarakaya Gojju- Hot, Sweet, Tangy Bitter Gourd

If you are thinking- what on earth is kakarakaya gojju, here, allow me to explain:

Kakarakaya is the Telugu name for bitter gourd, aka bitter melon, whilst Gojju is a Kannada word that means, and this is my interpretation- a mishmash of vegetables such as onions, tomatoes, okra, aubergine/eggplant, capsicum/bell pepper, etc, and of course, bitter melon. Fruits such as pineapples, apples, grapefruit, raisins, etc can also used to make gojju.  The final flavor profile is hot, sweet, and tangy. So I suppose one could call it ketchup or jam of sorts, or achaar or a chunky pickle or a chunky salsa. The optimum way of enjoying gojju is by mixing it up with some cooked rice, and adding a spoonful of ghee to it. YUM!

Bitter gourd is called karela in Hindi, and haagalkaai in Kannada. According to yours truly, only the elite foodies like this bitter beauty. For reasons unknown to me, most people cringe at the mere mention of bitter gourd. 

Now that the meanings are out of the way, here's a recipe for kakarakaya gojju that I learned from my sweetie's grandma. It's easy, and tastes delicious.




Ingredients: 
Yield: Enough for 2 karela-lovers

1. Sesame seeds- 4 tbs
2. Cumin seeds- 1 tbs
3. Urad dal- 1 tbs
4. Red chilis- minimum 7 (If you don't  have red chilis, can use red chili powder- 4-5 tsp)
5. Black pepper powder- 1-2 tsp
6. Mustard seeds- 1-2 tsp

7. Bitter gourd from the Indian store- 4
8. Oil- 7-10 tsp (skip skimping!)
9. Turmeric powder- 1 tsp
10. Asafetida (hing)- 1/2 tsp
11. Salt to taste

Quantities of the following two ingredients depend more on your preference for sweet and tang, so adjust accordingly:

12. Jaggery powder- 4 tbs
13. Tamarind pulp- 4 tbs

14. Water- 1/4-1/2 cup, to adjust consistency of gojju according to your preference

Method: 

The gojju masala:

1. Dry roast ingredients 1 through 6 until the mixture turns fragrant, and the sesame seeds begin to "dance" in the pan (and may start jumping out of the pan too!), and the urad dal turns brown.

*If using red chilis, add them towards the end, else they will burn. If using red chili powder- it can be added directly to the bitter gourd.

2. Transfer to a food processor or a coffee grinder and pulse into a fine powder. Set aside.

The bitter gourd:

Note: I have become a hardcore bitter gourd fan, and so now I merely wash it, chop it, cook it, and eat it. I don't do the whole pre-prepping by soaking in turmeric and salt, and then squeezing the bitterness out. I mean, instead I might as well suck on a honey stick!

1. In a pan, add 7-10 tsp of oil, heat, add a pinch of asafetida (hing), splutter 1/2 tsp of mustard seeds, and then throw in chopped bitter gourd, as well as a pinch of turmeric, followed by salt to taste. Stir fry for 5 minutes on high flame, and then sprinkle some water, lower flame between medium and low, cover, and cook for another 10 minutes, until the bitter gourd is tender, and yet retains some crunch.

2. Uncover. Add gojju masala to the above and stir. Add some water to thin it out a bit. Now add tamarind pulp and jaggery. Stir. The sesame seeds act as thickening agent, so go ahead and add quarter to a half cup of water. Taste. Add salt and chili powder if required. Taste. Cover again and simmer for 5-7 minutes. Switch off.

Enjoy with hot rotis or rice.

Check out these other bitter gourd recipes that I posted a while ago:

Jalapeno and Bitter Melon

Stuffed Bitter Gourd

Karela Stir Fry









Monday, August 7, 2017

India 2017- Annual Report

Dal Chawal 101: 

It was exactly thirty years ago, around July-August, that I was officially introduced to the art of cooking by my first cooking teacher- my dear Dad. One morning, as I sat in my room, probably day dreaming and missing my Mom and baby brother, I was summoned to the kitchen. Dad was going to teach me how to cook the two basic foods a true Indian must know- dal chawal- lentils and rice, utilizing the most important cooking utensil that a real Indian must know how to operate- the pressure cooker. Once you know how to cook your dal and chawal in that noisy yet nifty pressure cooker, you are set for life in the cooking department. And so I stood beside him observing, as he showed me how to cook. I have come a long way since then!  

This time when I visited Wellington, when the car stopped in front of that old flat in Gorkha Hills, a strange mixture of pleasant and not so pleasant, mostly the latter, memories came flooding back. My most vivid memory is of that afternoon when Dad came back from the MH (Military Hospital), and headed straight to the guest bathroom. I quietly followed him and saw him cry for the first time in my life. He sobbed, and I just stood there watching him. There was only one thought that crept up in my twelve year old mind- is my brother dead? He splashed water on his face multiple times, and I still just stood there, watching. The next thing I knew, I was blankly staring at my six year old brother in delirium with IV drips poking his tiny body, while my mother sat beside him crying. I felt relieved at seeing my brother alive. That was the only thing that mattered to me- that he was alive. For the next entire year, that was how it was going to be. Dad and I in the house, Mom and brother in the hospital.

Those houses are now abandoned, and some passersby told me that they were soon going to be demolished. It felt, for lack of a better word, strange. The next time I go there, the house will no longer exist.

The House where I learned to cook from Daddy


Annual Food Report: 

My annual trip to Bangalore this time was filled with food aplenty, with most of it being insanely delicious. My holiday always begins with my Mom's special preparation of either sabudana khichdi or poha. This time it was sabudana, and as always, before I put a spoonful into my mouth, she delivered her disclaimer of how enthusiastically she made it, but it didn't turn out as well as she wanted it to, and then the drill is that I taste it and say, are you kidding me? This is yummy, mummy!!! And then, as always, I gobble it all up, while she tries to hide her joy, and fails. Yep, it's the same every time! :)

Mom's sabudana khichdi 

Then come the benne masala dosas. I like to always begin with THE CTR benne masala dosa, followed by Vidyarthi Bhavan. Dad likes to take me to Hotel Janardhan too. Well, there's many more dosa places he wants to take me to, each of them somehow serving "the best" dosa ever. But then there's never enough time to do so. My favorite dosa by far is the one I eat at CTR. It is an attractive golden brown color, crisp on the outside, spongy on the inside. Delicious!

My favorite benne masala dosa at CTR

Vidyarthi Bhavan Masala Dosa

Hotel Janardhan's Masala Dosa

I am usually not into idlis, but this time I tried the "thatte" idli. Thatte in Kannada stands for plate. They pour the idli batter into small plates and steam it. At the end of the steaming process, what comes out is this extremely soft and spongy deliciousness. First I poke a hole in the center of the idli, pour some ghee into that, and then eat away with simple coconut chutney. Mm!

Other than the dosas, idlis, and vadas, I unabashedly over-indulged in umpteen plates of chilli fish, gobi, and chicken manchurian, chicken tikka, seekh kabab, and more chilli fish and chicken manchurian. Every time I ate, I cried a little inside. That's your Instagram hashtags- foodporn, foodgasm, foodcoma- all clubbed together. Literally!

RSI Dosa 

RSI Vada Sambar Chutney 


RSI Appam with Vegetable Stew

Rasovar food- ate and ate and ate....

Jilebi topped with Rabdi- Mmmmmmm! 


To Wrap Up: 

Overall this India trip was extremely pleasant and I thoroughly enjoyed myself. Somewhere along the trip, I realized that now there's only two things that take me back to India each time: My parents, and the food, in that order. Then again, the food is replaceable.

In case you are wondering what happened to my baby brother- he is a Dad of two now. And a mighty good one too, I must say! I have a feeling that he might be his kids' first cooking teacher too, just like our Dad. The only thing that causes him major delirium now is a restaurant menu!! ;)  











Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Sunset Dinner Cruise

Last weekend a few friends and I went on this dinner cruise called Sunset Dinner Cruise, run by  Waterways Cruises and it was quite a lovely experience. The weather was surprisingly good. It was overcast and cold, with intermittent drizzling. The sun had probably not even risen that day to really "set," BUT it was good weather. If you are a Seattleite, you'd understand!

The Meal: 

It was a four-course plated meal, which included corn chowder, salad, entrée and dessert. Also included was a complimentary glass of champagne or sparkling cider. I went with zero expectations. Because frankly, the menu sounded like a typical affair. The choices were steak, chicken, salmon, and vegetarian. I picked salmon because I like salmon. 

First the chowder arrived. Took one spoonful of it and I thought, hmm, okay, at least it was hot temperature-wise. I like my food not just hot, as in spicy hot, but also hot, as in temperature hot. It was just low on salt, and my Indian taste buds were crying out for some kick. Thankfully they had kept salt and pepper on the table, which I added in ample amount to the chowder. 

Next came the salad. It looked unassuming in the form of a bed of standard greens. But as I dug that fork into the salad, I found underneath the bed of greens tiny bits of sweet pear, gorgonzola cheese, candied pecans, and the star ingredient was this light and refreshing vinaigrette dressing. It was simply delicious! 

And then came the main dish- a good portion of grilled salmon drizzled with a beautiful mustard sauce, garnished with micro greens, a side of pearl couscous, and sautéed veggies. The presentation was inviting. I took one bite of the salmon, and was impressed! Very delicious! The couscous, with capers mixed in, was cooked to perfection. The sautéed veggies added a nice bite to the dish. The salt was perfect, and surprisingly my spice-loving Indian taste buds actually were happy- the flavors were on the spot. And well, the food was chomped down in no time.


Salmon drizzled with mustard vinaigrette, pearl couscous, and sautéed veggies


Finally dessert arrived. Looked okay- you know, strawberry over whipped cream, a wafer stuck on top. Didn't look very crème brûlée-ee to me, really. But one spoonful into my mouth, and I couldn't stop until everything was gone! Super delicious end to the four-course dinner!


Crème Brûlée

I thoroughly enjoyed the dinner cruise. I went there with no expectations, and came out feeling very content. It sounded like a typical affair in the beginning, but it sure was a tasty one! *SLURP*

Aparna's Quote: 

Never judge a salad by it's greens, for underneath that modesty you might find candied pecans! 





Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Raw Mango Relish

Not sure what the real name of this dish is, because some call it aam ki sabzi, some aam ki chutney, some aam ka achaar, and therefore I'll just call it raw mango relish. I mean, I could possibly call it A's Amazing Aout Auf Azis Aworld.... okay, okay, let's just stick with raw mango relish. It's easy, quick, tasty, and has a decent shelf life of about 7-10 days in the refrigerator. It can be eaten with rotis, chapatis, parathas, bread, or even on the side with some rice and lentils. It is hot, sweet, as well as sour, and perfect for these still-chilly January days.  

Ingredients: 

1. Unripe (raw) mango (available in Indian Store): 2, chopped into bite sized pieces. 

Note: Some recipes call for the mango be peeled. I think that's such a waste of the beautiful fruit. I also save the mango pits for later. I use them in rasam.   

2. Cumin Seeds: 1-2 tsp

3. Fennel Seeds: 1-2 tsp

4. Mustard Seeds: 1 tsp

5. Nigella Seeds: 1 tsp

6. Fenugreek Seeds: 1 tsp 

Note: Can use the Bengali panch-phoron if you happen to have it in your pantry

7. Red Chili powder: 2-4 tsp (or according to your liking)

8. Turmeric powder: a pinch

9. Salt to taste

10. Jaggery (grated): 2-4 tsp. Again, this is more of a personal taste. So adjust accordingly. 

Alternatives to jaggery: Sugar, brown sugar, or agave syrup 

11. Cooking oil: 2 tsp 

12. Water: Just enough to cover the mango

Method: 

1. Splutter cumin, fennel, mustard, nigella, and fenugreek seeds in oil, and throw in the chopped raw mango, followed by salt to taste, turmeric powder, red chili powder, and jaggery. Stir for about a minute or so. Then add water just enough to cover the mango. Bring it to a boil, cover, simmer for 7-10 minutes. 



Unripe Mango

Mango, Spices and Water


2. At the end of 10 minutes, uncover. The mango will have softened up nicely, and the sauce will have thickened up a bit. Gently smash some of the cooked mango with a spoon, so that there's whole pieces, as well as smushed up mango. Garnish with fresh cilantro, and the hot, sweet, and sour mango relish is ready to be err, relished. Come on now, that's chuckle-worthy!! ;)  


Ready! 

Delicious!