Saturday, March 23, 2013

Crowdsourcing What to Serve

In our informal dinner parties, I tend to whip up some dishes. But inevitably, I get asked why I didn't serve a dish I've blogged about. Of course, each person has their personal favorite, but I'd love to hear from you. Which of the following do you think I should make at my next dinner party? Click on the poll to the right - choose up to two dishes.

Here are the links to the dishes I'm referring to in the poll:
  • Uppumma: Made famous by our friend Chef Floyd Cardoz when he won the Top Chef Masters, this is my version of a South Indian favorite not usually available in any restaurants. 
  • Easy Peasy Garbanzo Curry: You'll see this described as Channa Masala in restaurant menus, and I've found that it's a staple in our home for those easy weekend dinners when you'd like to dawdle over the food and conversation.
  • Chicken Biriyani: An aromatic rice and chicken dish that can serve as an elegant centerpiece to a stylish meal or hardy complete meal for a family on the run.
  • Cutlets, Indian-style: Chicken or turkey patties, spiced just right. I'll make them the low-fat way.
  • Vegetable Korma: A savory medley of vegetables in a rich sauce, with a rather royal heritage since the dish was first served in royal dining rooms
Thanks for being part of my party planning, folks!


Saturday, March 2, 2013

Ginger Achar (Indian Pickle): What to do with leftover gari (Japanese pickled ginger)



Last weekend, we invited a few friends over for a Japanese meal, and while the sushi was all gone, we were left with a rather large bowl of gari, the accompanying sliced ginger. 

My husband, Sree Sreenivasan, asked his Facebook and Twitter friends what we should do with it, and received 38 suggestions on FB and a few via tweets. These included recommendations to: freeze it, put it in salads, spice Bloody Mary drinks, add to tea, snack as is, turn into a flu remedy, candy it, make into a chutney, use as sandwich spread, spice soba noodles, drop it in smoothies, make injikari (a traditional Kerala dish), to puree and turn into ice cubes. 

All great suggestions, and I really liked the last idea of frozen spices to use as needed in the future. However, I went with the advice from Aarti Virani, Shakthi Girish and Nivedita Chandrappa, to make the ginger into an oorga or achar or Indian pickle since I know how much Sree loves Indian pickles. My kids are starting to like the piquant side-dish as well, so that made the achar a natural choice. My mom and my father-in-law are both pickle fanatics, but I doubt this batch will still be around for their next visits over the summer.

Ingredients:
2 cups of Japanese gari or sliced vinegared ginger
3/4 cup of coconut oil
6 cloves of garlic
3 tablespoon mustard seeds
1 tablespoon fennel seeds
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
1/4 inch of compounded asafetida (roughly one tablespoon of powdered asafetida)
1/4 cup of red chilli powder
3 tablespoons turmeric
2 tablespoons coriander powder
3 tablespoons salt
  • Mix all the dry powders - salt, chilli powder, turmeric and coriander - in a bowl and set aside
  • Soak the asafetida in hot water and mix it around till it becomes a smooth paste
  • Start by heating the oil in a shallow frying pan, on a medium flame
  • Test the heat of the oil with a mustard seed or two. When they pop, toss in the rest of the mustard seeds
  • When a large proportion of the mustard seeds are done popping, pour in the fennel and coriander seeds and also the garlic cloves. They should get nicely browned
  • Once they are done, lower the flame, gently lower the ginger into the pan. Be careful, since the liquid in the ginger will sizzle, and can cause the fire to leap up and grab hold of the oil in the pan - hence the lowered flame
  • Once the ginger is generally coated with the oil and seeds, add in the asafetida paste, and then sprinkle the salt and spice powder mix, folding it all into the cooking ginger until it's all uniformly mixed in
  • Let the achar simmer on a low flame for about 20 minutes, stirring periodically
  • Cool and put into an airtight container or jar. Ideally, you should set this aside for a week or so, since that will allow the spices to seep into the ginger and mature a little
The orginal leftovers
Serving suggestions: 
  • While achars go with pretty much any Indian entree, a great little summertime meal is yogurt-rice (thayir saadam) served with a side of achar and paapads
  • Also, try this in a sandwich made with focaccia bread and mild brie. Very interesting combo!