Thursday, October 01, 2015

Home made Marinara Sauce and a Pasta with Peppers and Greens

My relation with Pasta is not something that goes back to my grandmother's or even my Mother's kitchen. My grandmother had no idea about it and my Mother didn't care about it.

It wasn't a food that we even craved for. As a middle class Bengali, way back in the 90's, I don't think we had much idea about Italy beyond Roberto Baggio,Salvatore Schillaci, Michelangelo and Pope John Paul 2, in that order. We weren't bothered about what Italians ate.

Though Pizza had found its way in middle class Indian homes in the early nineties and was described as a kind of "ruti" with ketchup and Amul cheese on it, it was embraced as a food which the rich Americans with poor eating habits, survived on. Very few of us deemed it as food from Italian kitchen. In those days, Domino's and Pizza Hut were not familiar names and Mongini's was where we got our pizza from. Mini round thick crusts with onion, pepper and cheese on them. I think they also sold pizza bases there which I remember getting a few times.

My Mother had this round electric oven, shaped like an UFO. It had a glass porthole at the top of the aluminum lid and couple of times a year, she used this contraption to bake a cake. On all other days it rested on the top of our Godrej almirah, wrapped in sheaths of plastic. I remember the few times that I made pizza in that oven. Squirting ketchup on the pizza base, shredding Amul cheese on it and then watching the cheese melt through the porthole, I am sure I felt like a pioneer ushering in a new cuisine at our modest dining table.

But did we ever try eating or cooking Pasta ? Nope. Never.

Until that is I started working in Bangalore in the late nineties and had a first taste of Casa Picola's delicious Pasta. I have no idea what kind it was but was in a creamy white sauce which was so subtle that it just tickled your senses without over powering it.It had capers and olives and was utterly delicious. That is what I thought was Pasta and loved it.

And then we came to the US. My first encounter with Pasta here was a disaster. At one of those "American-Italian" restaurants that are so popular here, I was served a plate of squiggly spaghetti drowned in a scarlet red colored marinara sauce, which was so bad that I sweared to stay off Pasta all my life. I never really tried eating or cooking pasta there after, except at a Bengali friend's home, who made elbow macaroni with onion, eggs, vegetables and soy sauce, in a similar manner that we make stir-fried noodles. It was so good and for a long time that was the only kind of Pasta I would eat.

But after Big Sis was born and started going to pre-school, pasta re-entered our home. It seemed like a lunch which a 3 year old could easily eat by herself at school. Even as I tried to come to terms with the wonder of pasta, elbow shaped Macaroni or "Macu" climbed the charts in Big Sis's favorite foods list.

Thursday, September 03, 2015

Fish Kofta Curry -- and the summer that was

We are in the last leg, rather finger of the summer holidays. Four more days to go and school opens on Tuesday. It has been a long vacation and a surprisingly fun one. I think that is what happens when you set out with very low expectations. With our holidays(to Yellowstone, which I need to write about soon) done at the very beginning of July and no excitement of grandparents visiting, when we had looked upon the stretch of two months lying ahead of us back in July 9th, it seemed like barren two months of little fun. A lot of our and the kids' friends were also away in India for the summer and the prospect looked really bleak.

As is my habit, I am filled with utter remorse if  summer vacation is not "fun" enough and so I even had a panic attack or two and had I been born in the West I would have a shrink who could have profited by my state. The husband-man who looks down upon my attempt at concocting "summer fun" with utter disdain and thinks I am getting sucked in by Western ideas of "must-have-fun-in-summer" had his own set of panic at the prospect of getting dragged out in the heat instead of zoning out in front of X-files on Amazon prime.

All this panic and absence of "shrink" led to marital discords and two absolutely exciting summer months. Okay, not exactly exciting because of the discord but because we had so little expectations.

So what happened ?

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Swai or Basa Fish in a Curry Leaves and Tomato gravy

The Swai Fish or Basa has become recently very popular here. They are from the catfish family and are mostly farmed in Vietnam. There are plenty of debates about fish like Basa and Tilapia as the "catfish war" goes on and it is up to you to decide whether you want to eat these farmed fishes or go for the more expensive wild salmon.

When I first had this fish at a friend's home, I really liked it as I felt that the Swai/Basa has a texture which complements the Indian gravy very well. It goes well with a mustard based curry, a coconut based one or the regular onion-ginger-garlic curry. My girls however did not take to this fish but me and D would enjoy it now and then.

And then one day I made this fish with tomatoes and curry leaves. Big Sis is a huge curry leaves fan and she liked it so much that she will now have Swai/Basa when cooked in this particular gravy. Now this gravy has nothing to do with Swai in particular and tastes as well if you are using filet of salmon or even any other white fish. Try it and I am sure you will like it.

For 3 filet of swai/basa in standard size. You can also use salmon or any other white fish like cod.

Wash the fish filet and pat them dry. Now cut the fish filet in cubes ~ 2" x 3". I think I had about 8-9 pieces

Dust the fish with turmeric powder, salt and then add 1 tbsp of olive oil and toss the fish pieces gently.

Now ideally the fish should have been fried but I don't do that. Too much work. Instead do this.

Put all the fish pieces in a single layer on a baking tray and put in the oven to "Broil". Now depending on your oven the time to broil the fish until it is golden will vary. It takes about 20-25 minutes in my toaster oven while in the conventional oven it is done in 10-15 minutes.
Note: With swai a lot of water is releases on baking so make sure that the fish is spaced out in a single layer on the baking tray.

For making the gravy, the most important thing you need is Tomato Paste. It gives a great color to the gravy. While the fish cooks in the oven, you can actually proceed with the gravy.

Make a paste of
1 large red juicy tomato
2 green chilli
1/2" ginger

Now heat Mustard Oil in a wok. I have also done this gravy in Olive Oil and sunflower oil.

Temper the oil with
5-6 Curry Leaves(Kari Patta),
1/4th tsp of Whole Methi seeds
1 Dry Red Chilli

When the seeds pop add
1/2 tsp of garlic paste
1 tbsp of Tomato Paste from can (like this one)
the tomato-chilli paste you made

Fry for a minute or so.

Now add
1 tsp of Kashmiri Mirch
a pinch of Turmeric powder

Fry the tomato paste until the raw smell is gone and you see the oil seeping around the edges. Around 6-7 minutes.

1 tsp of Coriander powder
1/2 tsp of sugar

Sprinkle a little water and fry for a minute

Now add about 1 Cup of water, salt to taste and let the gravy simmer to a boil

When the gravy is simmering, taste and see if everything is right. If sugar or salt is needed adjust at this point.

Now add the broiled pieces of fish to the gravy and let it simmer for couple more minutes.

Garnish with few curry leaves and serve with rice

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