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Posts Tagged ‘Indian’

I recently had really good food on an airplane.

Really.

Well, to be honest, I bought it at the airport, and ate it on the airplane.  Unless you fly first class, you don’t get real meals from the airlines anymore.  Which is just as well, when you can buy yummy things like this and eat them in flight.  I remember what they used to serve, and, believe me, this is a big, big improvement.  In fact, I liked it so much, I tried to memorize the list of ingredients to recreate the dish at home.  Here’s my best approximation…

It starts with couscous, but you could up the nutritional content and make this with quinoa or millet or even brown rice, and it would be higher in fiber and virtue.  But the original was made with couscous, so I started there.  Cook the couscous as you normally would (1 cup dry couscous to 1 1/2 cups boiling water), but add curry powder or curry paste (my favorite) to the water.  Add chopped vegetables, diced dried apricots, drained and rinsed garbanzo beans and chopped fresh herbs.  Drizzle with lemon juice and olive oil.  Toss a few cashews on top for crunch.  And sit down to a fabulous light lunch, with plenty of leg room to spare.

Curried Couscous Salad with Apricots and Garbanzo Beans

Ingredients:

3 cups dry couscous

4 1/2 cups water, brought to a boil

1 tsp salt

1 Tbsp olive oil

1 Tbsp curry paste, or curry powder, to taste

2 stalks celery, diced

1/2 cup dried apricots, diced

1/2 red bell pepper, diced

1 large shallot, minced

1/2 cup cilantro, chopped

1/4 cup fresh mint, chopped

Zest of one lemon

Juice of 1-2 lemons

Olive oil for drizzling on top

Directions:

Place dry couscous in a shallow casserole or 9 x 13 pan.  Cover with boiling water, which you have added the salt, oil and curry paste (or powder).  Cover and let sit for 15 minutes.  Uncover and fluff with a fork.  While you allow this to come to room temperature, diced and chop the celery, pepper, apricots, shallots and herbs.  Add these and garbanzo beans to the cooled couscous, tossing gently to combine.  Drizzle with lemon juice and olive oil.

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Being known as a good cook is sometimes embarrassing. In this day and age, when chefs are celebrities and a home cooked meal is often warmed-up takeout, people can put good cooks on a pedestal. They seem to think that cooking regularly involves hard work, complicated techniques, or some sort of secret knowledge. I think that being a good cook is more about practice and a willingness to try and fail and learn from mistakes. It also helps to have found a few good recipes, and maybe to have stumbled into some products that add flavor without adding any extra work.

The secret to this great chicken salad recipe rests in two wonderful products: seasoned rice vinegar and curry paste. The seasoned vinegar has a perfect balance of sweet and sour, provides another subtle layer of flavor, and, very importantly, thins the mayonnaise out so the sauce just coats the chicken.  The curry paste adds terrific complex flavor to what is often a bland dish. The addition of juicy sweet grapes and crunchy toasted cashews adds texture, making this a lovely balanced salad overall.

Serve it over greens or as a sandwich filling.  I know you’ll love it.  But, beware, you might get a reputation as being a good cook…

Ingredients:

1 1/2 lb. chicken, cooked and diced

1/2 cup Celery, diced

1/2 cup Red Bell Pepper, diced

1/4 Sweet Onion, minced

1/2 cup Red Grapes, halved

1/2 cup Toasted and salted cashews

1/2 cup Mayonnaise (light mayo works great)

1/4 cup Seasoned Rice Vinegar

1 Tbsp. Patak’s Mild Curry Paste, more or less to taste

Handful of chopped cilantro

Salt & Pepper to taste

Directions:

Mix mayonnaise, vinegar and curry paste in small bowl.  Pour over chicken, celery, pepper and onion in larger bowl, tossing to coat.  Shortly before serving, add grapes and cashews and gently combine.  Can be served as a sandwich filling or on a bed of dressed greens for a delicious light lunch.

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Chai (spiced tea)

It’s a cold snowy morning, and I’m feeling a little under the weather.  Nothing warms up  my insides like a cup of spicy, soothing chai. I’ve always loved the combination of sweet hot and spicy. This chai hits all those notes, with a little caffeine boost to top it all off.

I was first introduced to Masala Chai in little Indian restaurants tucked away in Central Square in Cambridge.  I would go to these places with my friend, Rubina, who enjoyed turning her blonde Germanic friend onto all the great foods and flavors of her childhood.  She would order so much food that the waiters had to stack plates on top of one another to fit everything on our table.  In those days, chai wasn’t on the menu, but she knew to ask for it, and it was a perfect ending to our feast.

Today, of course, you can find chai in many coffeeshops, including the ubiquitous Starbucks.  To me, these versions are often overly sweet and Americanized (i.e. ruined) with shots of vanilla and caramel.   I will search out an Indian grocery or some locally-made Bhakti chai, if I need a fix when I’m out and about.  But nothing beats brewing a cup in your own warm kitchen on a snowy morning.

Adapted from Madhur Jaffrey

Serves 2

Ingredients:

1 ¼ cup water

1” stick of cinnamon

8 cardamom pods

8 whole cloves

4 whole peppercorns

2 slices fresh ginger root

1 cup milk (I use 2 %)

2 Tbsp. sugar

3 tsp. unperfumed, loose black tea (I use Assam or Ceylon)

Directions:

Put water in a saucepan.  Add the cinnamon, cardamom, peppercorns, ginger, and cloves and bring to a boil.  Cover, turn heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes.  Add the milk and sugar and bring to a simmer again.  Throw in the tealeaves, cover, and turn off the heat.  After 3-5 minutes, strain the tea into two cups and serve immediately.

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