Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Waiting by the Sea -- Black&White Wednesday

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Waiting by the Sea@Betsy's Provincetown
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To be rewarded with the creamiest Clam Chowder in town along with fried clam and fish 'n' chips 
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Talk of the island -- Nancy's @ Martha's Vineyard 
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Fried Shrimp and Calamari -- Nancy's @ Martha's Vineyard 
There were many lobster rolls and more chowder's that alas lost their chance at a photo session but have settled into a happy place in memory and yet I am very chuffed to say the Bong's very own Chingri Malaikari still retains its crown of glory.

The first picture and maybe also the 3rd goes to Susan's Black and White Wednesday hosted by a favorite blogger Sra.

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Thursday, May 24, 2012

Burrito Bowl -- speaks of Summer

I don't know if a Burrito Bowl has anything to do with summer at all. I just wrote that.

I wrote that because I love the seasons in the East Coast and I have come to deeply appreciate the earth's tilt at a current angle of 23.44 degrees.

I love seasons as much as I do the park system here.

And I am not even going into the National Park Service. Not even the Sate Parks. The mere county parks scattered all around with their abundant greenery, springing with life as soon as winter folds away its last London Fog jacket astounds me.

I almost go berserk and on weekends we walk along simple trails amidst trees which hover above us with familiar green canopies and unknown scents.

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The littlest one plonks down besides the lake dipping twigs and pebbles in the clear, sparkling water. "Is there someone down below shining a flashlight?", she asks, surprised by the tiny waves glittering in the sunlight.

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Then they grumble and are tired and want a park with slide and swings. And right in the trees is a clearing with tire swings and an ancient slide.


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We don't always plan a picnic and carry a small snack.This time it was only butter-jelly sandwiches, croissant from Dunkin', oranges and juice which though sparse and minimal seems to be just right for the setting.


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Later in the evening I make a Fish Burrito Bowl at home. A friend had recently introduced me to the Burrito Bowl at Chipotle and I am now a fan.Sadly the family is not big on Mexican food and my Chipotle Burrito Bowl craving is not shared by anyone else.

So I decide to make one with more Indian touches than Mexican spices and am inspired by Indosungod's Fish Burrito Bowl. I loosely follow this Copy Cat recipe but mostly do my own thing First is the Cilantro-Lime Rice. I cook Brown Rice with lots of Lime juice, Cilantro and salt. 


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Second is the Black Beans. instead of Black beans, I use Black Eyed peas which had been cooked and frozen the week before. I saute the cooked beans in Olive Oil with minced garlic, chopped rounds of green chili, cumin powder and ancho chili pepper powder. 


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Now instead of adobo chicken I add fish. Salmon. That has been rubbed with ginger-garlic paste, fish masala, salt, olive oil and baked at 400F. 

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I skip the corn salsa and stick with the pico de gallo, fresh with cherry tomatoes, red onion, crushed garlic and lime juice. I add a touch of rock salt and squeeze a bit of lime juice.

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Instead of the sour cream I strain greek yogurt and add a dollop.It is an easy meal to assemble and I am happy with the minimal work.


Tomorrow there will be more parks.

 I am taking a short break for the long weekend and will see you next week

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Thursday, May 17, 2012

Tel Koi -- tale of fish

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When the parents are here we eat a lot of fish. Almost everyday.

Mostly it is the sweet water familiar fish from back home which we get from our Bangladeshi grocers. Rui, Ilish, Koi, Pabda. The fish is rock solid, frozen and 12 years back I would have never believed it tastes nice in a halka jhol. If you are unsure about such stuff I would suggest you do your own evaluations and not make it a staple diet. My Indian doctor had suggested I fry it at high temperature before proceeding with the gravy. I guess she had meant the fish should be fully cooked which I do.

The fish feeds my nostalgia perfectly and makes my Mother think a six month stay in the US  is not exactly same as living in Mars. At least "maach paoa jaay". So a day before the flight lands and a couple of times in between we make our trips to the Fish Store. Having chosen the huge 7 lb fish we ask it to be cut. "Bengali Cut" we tell or "Double Bengali Cut" on days we are being thrifty. Believe me such terms do exist. The dull looking metallic blades starts off with a screeching sound chopping off perfect heart shaped pieces of fish. That sound makes me very queasy and I cover my ears. I try to muffle the sound; titillating my mind with images of an oil slick rui kalia and rice instead.

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At other times we buy our fish from the Asian Stores; the one with the aquariums and strange fish names. Bass, Carp, Trout, Smelt, Whiting, Tilapia -- Tilapia the familiar one -- the one Baba would actually ignore in the bustling fish markets back home and the one which looks a very distant cousin of Tilapia from those days. Here no one understands "Bengali Cut". I choose a fish and then in extremely ridiculous sign language tell the fish monger to cut the fish in steak pieces , an inch or more thick. "Wanna head?", he asks in passable English. I nod vigorously. My parents are happy with this fish too. They like the Bass, the Rainbow Trout, the Tilapia. The Buffalo Carp is almost like a Katla, my friend says.

Once my parents have gone back to their own surround where they can buy fresh fish everyday and watch Star Jalsa, my daughters and husband revert back in auto-pilot to filet of Tilapia and Salmon from the American Superstores. None of them care for the fish my parents and I had happily devoured. A name dropping of Rui, Ilish or Koi does not light up their eyes or palate. I try to live in the past waiting for next year when I can utter phrases like "Double Bengali Cut" without flinching a single eye lash.

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This time when my Ma was here, which is around February, we got Koi maach. Not the ornamental "Koi" that you would keep as a pet and call "Hey Fishy Fishy". Oh and I must tell you when I first saw a Koi pond in one of the nurseries here I was naively happy thinking that they raise our dear old Koi maach.

The Koi I am talking about is also known as climbing perch and belongs to a family of carps.It is a sturdy little fella and can live without water for quiet a few hours. I am usually pretty scared of Koi with its hook like sharp bone and have cooked it only a couple of times. The Koi in packets that I get here is fully cleaned and that gives me much confidence. I made a Tel Koi this time and though Ma was here I picked the recipe from Bela De's Bengali cookbook and cooked it myself. It was pretty good. I repeated a similar curry with a fish called whiting later and with enough Mustard Oil that tasted good too.

Honestly I am confused. Is it the fish or a surfeit of Mustard Oil that I fell in love with in this dish? Guess one complemented the other.



Tel Koi -- Koi Fish in Mustard Oil 
Wash and clean koi maach(about 4 small ones). This can get tricky and I suggest you ask the fish seller to do the bulk of this so that all you need to do at home is give a good rinse.

Rub the fish with salt and turmeric powder and keep aside for 20 mins.

Heat enough Mustard oil for frying the fish in a kadhai. Fry the fish till it is golden brown on both sides. remove and keep aside.

Now temper the oil with two Bay leaves and 3 slit green chili.

Make a wet paste with
1/2 tsp of turmeric Powder
1 tsp of fresh ginger paste
1/2 tsp of red chili powder

Add this to the fry pan and saute at low heat till oil seeps out of the masala.

Now remove the pan from heat and add 2 tbsp of yogurt (the yogurt should not be lumpy and beat with a fork before adding). Mix well with the masala.

After a minute put the pan back on low heat and cook for a minute.

Add a cup of water, 3 more green chili slit through, salt to taste and let the gravy simmer to a boil.

Once the gravy is boiling add the fish pieces. Cook till you see the oil surfacing. Drizzle a little mustard oil on top and serve with white rice.

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Monday, May 14, 2012

Piya's Orange Chocolate Cupcakes on Mother's Day

Yesterday was Mother's Day. I am sure you had a nice one if you are one or made it nice for some Mother if you are not one.

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Mine started on Friday itself with a Mother's Day Tea at Little Sis's school. I am very excited about these pre-school activities as I get to see the child in a different scenario than I am used to and this time I was going back to the same school where I had attended many such teas for Big Sis.

I took along Big Sis and we had a nice half hour in the school. The teacher had helped make the kids pretty flower cards with their picture and then she took our hand prints to make a laminated card later. It is a relief to see Li'l Sis finally settled in her school and besotted with her teachers. The little mite even has the gals to tell me "Today I don't love you. I love Miss K and Miss L.Tomorrow I will love you." Never knew such a statement could make me so happy.

Speaking of happy, Mothers and Mother's Day have any of you watched this new TV show called Satyamev Jayate ? I do not get the channel but discussions about the first episode regarding female foeticide  made me go to their website and watch a part of the episode in which Aamir Khan talks to two mothers. As much as we know that such things happen, since I have personally not known anyone pressured to abort a girl child, it was a thing which I complacently believed happened only in few remote corners of India. As a result it was very hard to watch these women speak and I was amazed at their courage and spunk as much as I was disgusted by the act of the Fathers. The show claimed that according to 2011 Census, the rate at which the unborn female child is killed amounts to killing off 10,00,000 girls a year. In a modern India shining with multiplexes, snazzy malls and booming economy it is a shame to know that there are multitude of families both educated and not who think killing of a girl is road to good karma.

After watching that episode any Mother's Day celebration seemed kind of frivolous and shallow but then again I decided it is an occasion to celebrate Motherhood and life and applaud Mothers, more those who have fought an adverse society to raise and protect daughters.

Yesterday after the usual morning routine of breakfast which I made sure the Dad made and loads of hand made cards gifted by the girls, Big Sis wanted to make cup cakes for Mother's Day. They also wanted to decorate it courtesy a "Cookbook", R Mashi had given to Big Sis. After having promised them frosting and sprinkles and having watched videos of "how to frost a cup cake" for the whole of last week I had no energy to get into such hard task. Big Sis wanted to make pretty cup cakes like Sunita's. "Tough luck kiddo", I said.

After much negotiations we zeroed in on orange flavored cup cakes with chocolate chips, colored with food colors and then slathered with Nutella. What is not to love here, tell me.

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Now to the cake recipe which some months back Shreya's Mom, Piya, had sent me. In her exact own words.
"All purpose flour – 2 Cups
Baking Powder – 2 ½ Tsp(Tea spoon)
Eggs – 4
Sugar – 2 Cups
Vanilla Essence – Few Drops
Vegetable Oil – 2 Cups
1/2 Tsp salt.
In a mixing bowl, mix the sugar and the vegetable oil. I use a spatula first to get it all together and then I use the hand beater. It will not rise as much as it does with butter.

When mixed well, add the egg one at a time. Add Vanilla drops.Beat this mix for long to get a nice consistency.
In a separate bowl, mix the all purpose flour, a pinch of salt and the baking powder together. Mix it well.
Now add the flour slowly into the egg-sugar-oil mixture. I alternate between my spatula and hand beater. You can do it all in the food processor if you are using one. You will know when the batter is all ready and done. If it is too thick, I sometimes add a splash of milk(sorry this is the "aandaj" part)
Bake it at 350F for 35 mins or so, varies by oven. Bake it till the knife comes out clean from the center of the cake.
I usually like to add on flavors to the cake – Like a layer of chocolate for the marble cake, orange rind and cinnamon gives a nice flavor too or simple add whatever nuts/raisins the kids are fond of.
Try it and let me know if it comes out well for you. I do not use Baking soda, some folks do. I personally think it makes the cake a bit crumbly. Also, you can do half butter and half oil if you do not want to do it with just oil. Half butter and half oil makes the cake more moist. "
It is a simple recipe, no frills, no stand mixer and not even butter. That suits me. The whole "beating the butter" thing bothers me terribly.

In the course of the last few months her cake recipe has become my "go-to-cake-recipe". We add something or the other to her base recipe and always make cup cakes. They turn out to be soft, fluffy, moist and everything a cup cake should. 

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This time it was fresh orange juice, orange zest and chocolate chips.
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Then the kids went wild and there was color.
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After which there was gooey Nutella. Those cake could not help but be good. could they ?


Orange Chocolate Cup Cakes

I reduced the recipe to make only 6 cup cakes

All purpose flour – 1/2 Cups 
Baking Powder – 1/2 + 1/8Tsp(Tea spoon) 
Eggs – 1 
Sugar – 1/2 Cups 
Vanilla Essence – Few Drops
Vegetable Oil – 1/2 Cups 
1/8 Tsp salt 
Orange Juice -- Juice of half an orange 
Orange Zest -- 1/2 tbsp 
Whole Milk -- 2 tbsp (if needed) 


 How I Did It 

In a bowl mix the dry ingredients -- flour, baking powder and salt. 

Blend the sugar + oil. You can use the hand mixer. I simply use my blender. 

In a mixing bowl put the wet ingredients -- oil + sugar, egg, orange juice. Beat the eggs into the mix and with  a whisk beat for about 3 minutes. Add the vanilla essence and orange zest. Mix. 

Next add the dry ingredients to the wet. Do it in steps mixing with a spatula. After you have mixed all the dry into the wet, add milk if you think the batter is too thick. I added about 2 tbsp 

Mix in the chocolate chips. Pour in greased cup cake liners. Bake for 30-35 mins at 350F.
Cool and then decorate.

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Thursday, May 10, 2012

No crust Quiche or Baked Frittata ?

Now that the writing for my book is towards the end and is at a point-- where I am having the I-want-to-scratch-the-whole-thing-and-start-all-over-again-but-even-then-I-am-going-to-write-the-same-thing-so-we-will-wait-for-the-editor syndrome -- I find myself with some time after 9:30 at night .

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Since I keep referring to the book as my third child I must tell you this was kind of similar to the sentiments that swept over me when I was second time pregnant. My first pregnancy was a difficult one and most people in their sane minds who knew me did not think that I would go in for a second haul."Are you crazy?" they suggested in unsaid words. But I dearly, dearly wanted another child. And then the moment I knew it was going to happen--I was dead scared. But eventually everything fell into place and I am very very grateful for my daughters. If I had to do it again I would do it the exact same.


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So anyway instead of doing anything worthwhile after 9:30 at night like cooking,tidying up the kids' clothes dresser, making healthy lunches etc. etc. I watch television.I watched reruns of Everybody Loves Raymond and then I watched The Big Bang Theory every day last week and in the process I also managed to watch two Bangla movies back to back.

The movies were courtesy a friend and probably we would have never watched if she hadn't insisted, logged into her movie account and started us off on the whole thing. The movies were brilliant. There was a time when Bangla movies were gorgeous in Black&White, Uttam Kumar, Suchitra, Bhanu Bandopadhyay, Madhabi Mukherjee and the works.Then came a brief period where the general situation was pretty bad and it was sheer blasphemy if you watched anything other than Satyajit Ray, Mrinal Sen or Ritwik Ghatak. Then for the last decade or so I watched only movies made by Rituparno Ghose or Aparna Sen.


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In the last two years however things seemed to have improved immensely in the Tollygunje studios or wherever they shoot Bangla movies. I have watched a number of pretty decent movies lately and "Bhooter Bhobishyot" that I watched recently took the cake. Thanks R for finally making us watch it. The dialogues were hilarious, the acting impeccable and the movie was really perfectly funny. The movie comes with subtitles and though the essence of the dialogs may be lost in that try to see if you like it.



The other movie that I watched was Royal Bengal Rahoshyo based on Ray's very popular Feluda series and directed by his son. I had not watched a Feluda movie since the originals(Joi Baba Felunath and Shonar Kella) and was a bit apprehensive but the movie at times reminded me of the master with similar music scores and certain touches. Of course no one can replace the original Lalmohan Ganguly but we make do.


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And now to the food which this blog is apparently about. If you have been reading me for a while you know how much I love the egg muffins that I learned from Kalyn's blog. I also love a frittata and many days it makes a nice dinner for us. Now combining the two I have started making a baked Frittata kind of thing or say a crustless quiche kinda dish. Since it is super easy and cooks itself in the oven, leaving me time to do what I please I am hooked onto it and try to make it at least once a week. It is really one of those wholesome, healthy and easy dish which you desperately need to bail you out mid-week. The dish is also very flexible and you can add/subtract your own spices/vegetables/what-have-you to make it your own special dish.


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Here is how I do it.

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Baked Frittata or Crustless Quiche ?


Grease a oven proof baking dish with olive oil. Add some sliced onions and halved grape tomatoes. Sprinkle some salt. Toss the onion-tomatoes around so the they have a fine sheen of olive oil.

Put this dish in the oven turned on to 400F. This is my toaster oven setting and will vary for your larger oven. In 10 mins or so the onions will start softening and browning a little as will the tomatoes.

At this point add the vegetables. Here I have added some baby spinach. At other times I have added finely chopped bell peppers or steamed broccoli florets. For the pepper and broccoli you can saute them in a fry pan and then add them to the dish too. Oh, and if you get the bag of onion-peppers from the frozen veggies section it works very well in this dish.

Next tear up a single slice of bread and add it randomly. You can totally skip this step though.

Add some grated Parmesan. And then pour in the eggs. I used a 16oz carton of egg white and it made a thick frittata. You can use whole eggs beaten too.

To spice it up I added garlic powder, red pepper flakes and salt. You use your imagination.

Bake at 400F for 25-30 mins. Again this is my toaster oven setting and will vary for your larger oven. Once done check with a toothpick to see that it is cooked through. Now put your oven on broil and broil for about 10 mins to get a crisp surface,

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Friday, May 04, 2012

Paneer Korma -- in a spiced yogurt sauce

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Yesterday Little A chopped off her hair. Not all of it. Few strands. She took the pair of scissors from the kitchen drawer which she uses to cut paper. She said she wants to cut paper. But did she cut paper ? No. Instead she cut off some of her own hair.

I told her never to repeat the act again and at that she cried so much that Big Sis had to volunteer two dolls from her collection to get hair chopped off by Little A.

D, the Dad, says I am too lenient with the little one. Believe me I am not. I mean yes I have changed as a Mother since I have had Big Sis and I try to pick my battles or maybe I just give up on certain areas that can involve a lot of bawling from a 3 yr old but lenient I am not. It is the kid who is different. And she is not even that naughty. It is just that she is different from Big Sis who was more obedient and conforming. And I think in some areas I have changed for the better. Better for rowdy mankind.

Before I was this woman hyper about everything being in place, the cushion just so, the walls pristine and I wouldn't let friends put up their feet on my cream sofa even if the said feet was beautifully pedicured. Now, honestly, I do not care. My painted walls have scribbles in unseen corners and I just avert my eyes, the sofa is jumped on, the cushions never in place. The friends are surprised. The husband repeats the "lenient dialog" and then he says I have become the "Bhalo Kakima", the "good aunt" (or so they decided) in their neighborhood who would let them ransack the house. The "Baje Kakima" (bad aunt) no doubt had a prettier home, disciplined kids and an orderly life.

I shudder.


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And then I make Paneer Korma. In blog language it was "a beautiful dish with soft pieces of paneer nestled in creamy yogurt sauce perfumed with mint and coriander and then garnished with purple hued fried onions". In my everyday language it was a darn simple dish to cook and really good to eat which Big Sis loved like she loves Paneer.

The dish was inspired by this dish by Sanjeev Kappor and my Madhur Jaffrey Chicken Korma. The fried onion was a nice touch. Do add them.


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Paneer Korma 

Chop about 200gm of Paneer in small cubes. I buy Nanak brand which is really soft. If yours is not like that try lightly frying and dunking in warm salted water.

Soak 2 tbsp of cashew or blanched almond in water to soften.

In a blender add
1/3 Cup of thick yogurt 
2 tbsp cashew 
3 hot green chili 
Make a smooth paste adding water if necessary.
To this add 1 tsp of flour and mix well. The flour will prevent the yogurt from curdling if you live in that fear.

Heat Oil for cooking.

Fry 1 small onion chopped in thin slices with a sprinkle of sugar. The onion should turn a pretty purple-pink and become soft and translucent. Remove and keep aside.

Now temper the oil with the following whole garam masala
2 small green elaichi slightly bruised 
4 clove 
a 2" thin stick of cinnamon 
10 whole black peppercorns

When the spices pop add 1 tsp of ginger-garlic paste. 

Saute for a minute and add the paneer pieces. Sprinkle some turmeric powder. Lightly saute till the paneer cubes turn light golden.

Next reduce the heat to low and add the yogurt mix that you had made earlier. At low heat cook for couple of minutes stirring in between.

Add about 1 cup of lukewarm water and mix well. Raise the heat.

Sprinkle around 1/4 tsp of dried mint, and 1 tbsp of chopped coriander leaves. Add salt and some sugar to taste.

Let the gravy come to a boil and then simmer till the gravy becomes thick. Now add the fried onions and cook for a minute.

Serve with Roti, Naan or a Pulao.

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