Sunday, October 16, 2005

Spicy & Hearty Sunday Meal


  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.

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.


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