Sunday, October 30, 2005

Cleansing Sunday Dinner

Menu:

  1. Mixed Heirloom Tomato & Carrot Peel Chutney w/ Braised Tofu on Rice Crackers (Appetizer)
  2. Cauliflower and Garbanzo Bean Flour Kefta in Tomato and Onion Sauce (Main Course)

The Diet Direction: Cleansing

  • % Calories from Fat = 20%
  • % Calories from Carbohydrates = 63%
  • % Calories from Protein = 17%


The Experience:

Learning from last cooking experience, I decided to get an early start this time – and it really paid off well! I arranged to go to the grocery store in the early afternoon and get the shopping experience out of the way. That left me several hours to do a slow and careful “mise en place” preparation. Given that the main dish would require two separate preparations that would need to be combined later on, I started putting together all the kefta ingredients together in a bowl, while getting the sauce going on the stove as well. The idea was, I might as well get the sauce and other items done first and set them aside and warm, increasing the heat just slightly before serving.

I wanted to make kefta balls, but I didn’t want to use anything too heavy. So the sauce became the heavier part of the dish, and the keftas light and moist. I had some challenges getting the right consistency, but after some careful trial and error, and adding water slowly (that was the trick!), I got the consistency I wanted.

After preparing the sauce and chutney and setting it aside, I started putting the appetizer together. After that was plated, I went ahead and served that right away. The guests got to munch on something while I worked on the main dish.




Mixed Heirloom Tomato & Carrot Peel Chutney
w/ Braised Tofu on Rice Crackers




Often, I will get everything done and serve, but that means people have to wait, and sometimes feel hungry. This way, I make sure they’re not restless, and while they are milling about and munching, I get to escape and finish off the main item.

The keftas turned out very well. It was interesting that the sauce was not that well received – I actually thought it was good. But the feedback was they thought it was not the right kind of sauce or thickness for this dish.


Cauliflower and Garbanzo Bean Flour Kefta



Keftas in Tomato & Onion Sauce




Plated and Garnished w/
Cilantro & Dried Coconut Flakes


So it looks like I will have to experiment with another type of sauce, something lighter perhaps? Something with less spice? Maybe next time I will get the right balance for this dish!


Health Benefits

Asafoetida

The root of the word asafoetida, “asa” comes from the Persian “aza” which stands for “resin”. It is the sap or “resin” from the root of a giant fennel that dates back to before the 4th Century BC, when Alexander the Great was to have carried this westward to Rome. It carries a “vile odour” that has garnered English names such as “Devil’s Dung”, and “Devil’s Durt”.


Plated and Garnished w/
Cilantro & Dried Coconut Flakes


But in reality, it has some rather interesting and useful properties. For example, used primarily in South Indian vegetarian food, it reduces flatulence caused by beans and spicy foods, and overall, aids in the easy digestion of most foods. It is also known as one of the world’s best natural insect repellants --- mixed with garlic, it will repel mosquitoes, gnats, and most other insects without fail. During the Mughal era in India, it was used to improve singing voices – court singers were known to have eaten one spoonful with butter while practicing for their royal patrons on the banks of the Yamuna river! It serves as a critical release vehicle for rich flavours in South Indian food, acting as an enzyme for most ingredients that are mixed with it after a sauté process. It’s taste, although reviled, has magical qualities that have made it a staple of ancient Ayurvedic medicines for millennia! Clearly, sometimes taste is not the best indicator of quality or utility!


Cauliflower

This cruciferous vegetable in its most common form is white in colour – the large green leaves prevent it from getting any chlorophyll, which in this particular case is a good thing, because if it does, it doesn’t taste very good. It is high in Vitamin C and has a good source of Vitamin K.
Research has shown that eating Cauliflower, along with sibling vegetables cabbage, brocooli, mustard greens, etc., can prevent cancer of the colon, stomach, and possibly the breast. The high-levels of indoles are the positive culprit here! Eating these vegetables over time can also significantly reduce bladder and prostate cancers. Mark Twain summed it up when he said about cauliflower: “Cauliflower is nothing but cabbage with a college education”.


Arugula


Arugula is actually a cruciferous vegetable as well (surprise!), and it contains large amounts of folate and calcium. In fact, it contains more than eight times as much calcium as iceberg lettuce (which is odd for a salad green). The dark green colour and bitter-tasting flavour come from the high levels of beta-carotene and Vitamin C (no other salad green has much Vitamin C as does arugula).
An interesting historical anecdote about Arugula --- the Romans treasured it for its apparent aphrodisiac properties, and used it in such concoctions as early as the 1 century AD! A typical Roman meal apparently contained a salad made from greens, Arugola (Arugula), romaine lettuce, chicory, mallow and lavender, with some seasoning. Those Romans, I tell you.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Spicy & Hearty Sunday Meal

Menu:

  1. Avocado & Tomato Chutney on Rice Crackers (Appetizer)
  2. Nutty, Wild Rice Stuffed Cabbage Rolls (Main Course)

The Experience:
This week’s Sunday dinner was a rushed affair, and unfortunately, I think it came across in the cooking. I was originally planning to host the dinner out our current home, where I have access to my ingredients, pots, pans, etc. But at the last minute, the venue moved to our friend’s home in Menlo Park, and I was thrust into the spotlight of a personal chef in-waiting – oh boy!
I managed to remember “most” of my ingredients and working items – but not everything. I forgot the capers for the wild rice pilaf, so it had to be purged from the menu. I forgot to pick up leeks, so I improvised and used part of an onion instead. In the end, it worked out OK, but I was not in my element and it showed.

The appetizer came off to a great start. I prepared the chutney as I usually do, creating an appropriate mise en place of my ingredients first, and then combining them like a jubilant magician, hands waving and all. The good thing is, I didn’t forget the order, and remembered to bring the, oh so important, fenugreek seeds. Without that the chutney would have been quite flavorless!In the end the appetizer turned out OK, and seemed to overwhelmingly taste better on rice crackers than with wheat wafers (a healthier organic option to the “triscuit”).

Here are some comments from the diner’s themselves:

  • “..too spicy for me, and not a fan of nori . But a lovely texture, especially on the rice cracker”, AR
  • “I would have liked tomato and avocado to make more of an appearance. I wasn’t crazy about the nori on this dish.”, JK
  • “Didn’t like the nori. It was better on rice crackers, most definitely!”, MH


I removed the Nori, and tried serving it just with the chutney and toasted almond flakes, and presto!, people loved it! Funny how such a small thing can change an entire dish (note to self: leave out the nori, or try something milder next time, like dulse!). People complained at first, but actually, the ended up finishing every single one of them, so I think they were more influenced by the nori than anything else. I thought the avocado and tomato combination was absolutely splendid!

The main course was created by modifying a recipe from class that I liked – the wild rice pilaf with orange zest and hazelnuts – yum! I added some spice to this dish to perk it up a little, and I think it wasn’t too bad. The rice came out a little mushier than I wanted so I think I need to use less water next time. It was hard to make this for more people – I couldn’t estimate how much rice I needed because it was so dense. I probably could have made less rice as well.
I experimented with blanching the cabbage leaves, and I was surprised at how well it came out! They rolled perfectly, and kept form. When I baked them, they crisped on the outside edges, and curled up a little, to give a nice effect. It served a sizeable amount, and provided a hearty complement to the entire meal.


I liked the wild rice, and people commented on the wonderful flavour from the orange zest. But something wasn’t completely right for me in this dish. It needed some more spunk, some key flavour that seemed missing. I will have to try this dish again, and see what I can do to give it some more depth. Maybe the avocado and tomato chutney on top of the cabbage leaves would work – or maybe not (it might be too spicy).

Health Benefits

Fenugreek Seeds
This is an important ingredient in chutney, no only because it provides a great flavour when sautéed in the initial preparation stages, but also because of it’s interesting health benefits.


Fenugreek Seeds

Fenugreek seeds are high in iron and fiber for such a small ingredient. They also contain nearly every single of the 21 common amino acids required by the human body to function normally. An interesting point about fenugreek is that it can increase the production of breast milk in women, so it is highly recommended for pregnant women (although some can have allergies to it as well, so one should check with their physician to be sure).


Curry Leaf
The curry leaf (marruaya koenigii) is used in south Indian cooking as commonly as olives are used in Italy. They are extremely flavorful and have wonderful health benefits.


Curry Leaf (Murraya koenigii)

The most interesting of them is that it apparently is known to have hypoglycemic properties, thereby helping to lower blood pressure. In ayurvedic medicine, curry leaf is used to cure ailments such as piles, leucoderma, blood disorders, and allaying body heat.


Avocado
Avocados are high in saturated fat, but are even higher in fiber. In general they are highly nutritious and I think it has the dual-property of being both tasty and pleasant to look at in a meal. They also provide an extremely sizeable amount of folate, Vitamin B6, Vitamin K, and Pantothenic acid. They are also high in minerals, particularly Potassium, Copper, Manganese, Magnesium, and zinc. 1 cup of pureed avocado provides 63% of one’s daily fiber needs.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Diet Direction Meal

My first Culinary Arts assignment was to create recipes for one chosen full meal: breakfast, lunch, or dinner. The important thing was that the meal should be tailored towards one of 5 main diet directions (the last two are really one's you probably want to avoid): Cleansing, Balancing, Building, Clogging, and Irritaing. I thought about doing the irritating diet, but when my cousin decided he needed to drive back to San Diego and would miss the meal entirely, I decided to "sans" it, since it would no longer be any fun. *8)

Instead, I chose mainly a building meal (high protein, high fat, low-carb) with some balancing elements in it as well (balance of proteins, carbs,and fats).

So below is what I created for a Sunday Comfort Dinner.

The Appetizer:

Tofu, Yogurt, Natto Dip w/Ume Vinegar,
Tamari, Olive Oil & Cilantro
served with Whole Wheat Pita Slices.


The Main Course (2 Parts):

Channa Curry w/Dulse, Tomato, Zucchini in Sambar Masala (I)
served on Quinoa w/Black Sesame & Sea Salt (II).


The appetizer was meant to be an intro to the main dish -- like a "building" foundation. The tofu provided some heartiness and protein, and the fresh yogurt softened it somewhat. It actually tasted a little like cottage cheese! The whole wheat pieces provided some carbs which balanced this dish out a little.

Cilantro Garnish for the Appetizer

The main course was an experiment on a channa dish that I have always made as a hearty, high-protein kind of food. But the real surprise was what the dulse did to it! It tasted even better the next day after the dulse and channa intermingled with one another over night. The result was spectacular the next day! (And that was straight from Jasmin's mouth --- not mine!).

Main Course topped w/Dry Pan-Roasted
Pumpkin Seeds & Sliced Almonds
Garnished with Cilantro

Well, this is my first posting concering the food that I have prepared over the last few days. It's exciting to be on this awesome food journey -- I'm so pumped!!

Tomato Chutney Sandwich with Tofu,
Green Pepper, Dulse on Toasted Flax Seed Bread

It started with a surprise visit by my cousin, Srikanth, who now lives in San Diego (Qualcomm geek). In his honour, I decided to make a scrumptuous tomato chutney sandwich with remnants of a sun gold cherry tomato soup we made in class (the pulp left over from using a chinoise to press-puree the tomatoes that were cooked in miso, amongst other things!).

I created this cool sandwich with tomato chutney, tofu, green pepper, and dulse (seaweed) on flax seed bread. It actually turned out better than I thought, and I personally loved the mixture of textures it created as it melted in your mouth:

Dulse added some unique flavour to the dish.



Curry Leaf Garnish

The curry leaf acted like a small "amuse bouche" just before biting into the sandwich. I encouraged my cousin to bite into it first before consuming the meal.



Yum!

I need to work on the presentation. Especially when you toast bread it crumbles all over the plate. But then again, it was for my cousin, and I don't think he noticed. Anyways...let's see what he says about the food, more importantly!

We finished the sandwich off with a cold glass of soybean milk, which helped to soften the impact of the spice in the tomato chutney.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

taste-dance, as usual with patanjali. eye-pleasure.

appetizer, a bacony tofu veggie dip with torn toasted whole wheat pita. delicious.

main course, spicy mix of mushrooms, tomatoes, chickpeas, zucchini, topped with perfectly roasted almond slivers and pumpkin seeds, on top of quinoa cooked with black sesame seeds which turned them blackish. perfect save for the quinoa was too wet. but when it sat, second course was heavenly.

I didn't like the food but it was very nicely made. I didnt like the foodcause I don't like baked nuts and it was pretty spicy. The dessert was great though.

Jaron

The appetizer was light and refreshing. It was substantial enough to be satisfying, yet leaving space for the main course.

Main course: yummy. A few suggestions to balance the textures and tastes: the button mushrooms have a subtle aroma which was "drowned" by the chickpeas and the spices. If the slices were bigger their presence would be more noticeable. Maybe one or two more tomatoes because they added some juicy sourness. The dulse was a bold break with convention: very successful, though! Just the right amount. Looking forward to more culinary adventures.

Monika

Well, I was just minding my own business, when all of a sudden, several humans appeared out of no where! I mean --- what were they thinking?

My name is Ren-Ren, and I am severely perturbed:

All I can say is, my Daddy was up to something as usual. I was not amused. But then, after he fed me some of that wonderful tartare, I was smitten with love and joy that I seemed to have forgotten all about the prior incident. In any case, I have several sources that will keep me abreast of any covert operations that might inflict some risk to my hunger pangs. Next time, I will introduce you to Agent Max, and Agent Larry --- two compatriots whose loyalty is unquestionable.

And oh -- the food smelt good. That's all I have to say for now.

Bye Bye,

Ren-Ren

Nuts!Nuts! Nuts! loved the nuts. roasted to purrrrrrrrrrfection.

The main was delightful. Base needed to stand up to the curry.a more delicate preparation of the masala would have been interesting.

Chickpeas stole the show. a shared stage for the mushrooms and tomatoes would have been ideal.

The dip was floral and bouncy. The plum wine inegar lifted the starter.

Nice.

love.
Piglet a.k.a. jasminder