Friday, December 19, 2014

Food52's Secret Santa Swap 2014


I've been a member of Food52 almost as long as I've been blogging. Its a vibrant online community of home cooks, bloggers -- regular 'Joes' like myself as well as some really well known star bloggers, professional culinary experts and its almost like a daily tonic for me to log in and get my daily dose of all things culinary.
Every year, there is a secret Santa swap organized by a member, ENBE who co-ordinates hundreds of members from all over the world for this event. we wait with bated breaths till the email arrives with the name of our mystery giftee around the end of November and then get about 10 - 12 days until we ship out a package consisting of home made food items and other small hand picked gifts.

My giftee this year is a F52 er from Minnesota, Amy Clemensen. Even before the event kicked off, I already had started mentally picking out gifts that I wanted to assemble together in the first week of December.


My box included a 3 pack sampler set of single estate coffees from Blue Tokai Coffee, a small online artisan coffee store that specializes in curating coffees from small organic coffee plantations in South India. I got hooked on the coffees when I tried out a sample pack that they had gifted the attendee of the first Indian Food bloggers Meet (IFBM 2014) in August 2014 at Bangalore. My home made food gift was a box of chick pea fudge (Maa ladoo) spiced with cardamom and saffron, a little bag of Annaparabrahma's 'Gondhavle' Goda Masala, a tube of hand cream, and a box of lemongrass scented votives.


My own gift was waiting for me yesterday evening and as much as I was resolute in holding off and opening my gift on Christmas morning, my brain issued a 'resistance is futile' command and I caved in today.  And what a GLORIOUS package it was. My Secret Santa was a lovely lady named Sara Grimes from Portland, OR and she totally pampered me with the exquisite hand picked treats.
The first gift was a reusable market tote and below that the gifts kept unraveling beneat layers of carefully wrapped tissue,

  • A Sack cloth Kitchen towel
  • A tin of home made spiced hot chocolate (By the time I realized I needed to click a picture, I'd already finished most of the mug, it was divine!)
  • A tin of Silent Night Herbal tea from Smith Teamaker
  • A Weck jar of home made Chocolate Hazelnut spread, which really is 2 gifts, considering I have a weakness for Weck jars. Stay tuned for some more delicious pictures!
  • A tube of Organic locally made lip balm from Portland Bee Balm
This bag of masala popcorn really made my day and engulfed me in waves of nostalgia. Growing up, the popcorn in movie theatres were tinged in turmeric and a bit of spice that conferred a characteristic flavor that I no longer seem to find anywhere. This bag of artisan popcorn from Masala pop  just transported me back in time!




Saving the best for last.. These wonderful caramels that she made in two flavors, Garam Masala with Pistachios and caramels studded with crunchy popcorn kernels.  I kept popping one of each flavor in a  sequence trying to decide which I liked better, 1/2 a dozen caramels later, I was nowhere near an answer. they were bot simply divine!


In India we have a saying,  - 'Anna Daata Sukhi Bhava' (May the person who gives you food live well and prosper), Today I realized that the words need not be said aloud for the blessing to take effect. The sentiment wells up much before, a genuine gush of pure happiness  in a non verbal thought at the first bite of such delicious food.
 And this is my heartfelt expression of gratitude to you,  Sara, and your family. Wishing you a wonderful prosperous year ahead. Thank you for your wonderful gift.




Monday, December 15, 2014

Latkes on the Leonard Lopate Show - Vegan Sweet potato Latkes with fenugreek greens


As seems to be the norm these days, I was up last night uploading photographs of Latkes for my Hanukkah post, taking care to transfer some from my camera as needed and then, BAM!, Lady Lethargy struck accompanied by her little sloth of a sidekick, Polly Procrastination. And yet again,  I resigned myself to another session of writer's block when nothing ever seems to flow out of my fingertips to even call respectably call itself a head-note, leave alone a blog post.

And then it happened.. A routine run of errands and a  change of Radio stations, (My kids love to listen to the Christmas music when riding along and I cherish the opportunity to turn back to my staple NPR broadcasts whenever I can this season) and there I was headed to the grocery store and listening to Leonard Lopate interview Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen on Hanukkah dishes. T'was an extra twist of fortune that I was round the corner from the parking lot at Wegman's Grocery. I dialed in to the show and was fortunate enough to be let loose on the air despite my babbling away to the person who picked up the call. For all of you interested in listening to the segment, here is the link.

My latkes this year were made with traditional Indian ingredients that are not so well known in  mainstream American cooking. The first one was a sweet potato  latke with wilted fenugreek greens (called Methi and sold in Indian grocery stores right beside the spinach and cilantro) and the other one was a totally delightful surprise ingredient, Banana stem. Yep, found this treasure at the Indian store last weekend.



For those unfamiliar with Fenugreek greens, they are sold in bunches at many Indian stores. The leaves resemble those of clover but without the 'heart' shaped bifurcation. (In fact Fenugreek is a legume, not a spice and is related to clover and other leguminous plants such as mung). While the leaves  are tender and wilt easily, the stems - even the part that directly connects to the individual leaf are tough and unpleasantly chewy, take care to remove just the leaves and compost the rest of the twiggy stems & roots).


Sweet Potato Latkes with wilted Fenugreek greens (Makes 8-9 Latkes)

You need:

2 medium sized Sweet potatoes / Yams, peeled and shredded
1 bunch fresh fenugreek greens (Methi)
2 tablespoons tomato powder OR 1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 tablespoons olive oil + extra for Pan frying
1 teaspoon  bishops weed (Ajwain)
4 tablespoons garbanzo/chickpea flour
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Salt, and Paprika to taste.

Heat 2 tablespoons of oil and add the bishops weed once the oil gets shimmery hot (The same way that Cumin is tempered in other Indian dishes). Once the seeds 'pop' and emit  their characteristic thyme-like aroma, toss in the fenugreek leaves along with the tomato powder /paste. Season with Salt and Paprika, and allow to cook at low heat until the leaves completely wilt. Set aside while you prep the sweet potatoes.


Combine the shredded sweet potatoes with the wilted fenugreek greens and lemon juice and toss to disperse throughout.



Sprinkle in the Garbanzo flour so that it coats the mixture enough to bring it together into a mass. Taste and adjust for seasoning with salt and paprika. Divide into 8 - 9 portions




Heat a cast iron skillet and add about a tablespoon or two of oil per latke. Pat each portion of the sweet potato/ fenugreek mix into a disk and gently place it into the hot pan (I prefer  to cook not more than three at a time). Cook each side at a medium heat for about 5-6 minutes on each side until the sides are cooked and crisped up. transfer onto a tray lined with kitchen paper to absorb any excess oil.

Serve hot with any sweet or tangy chutney of your choice or with plain Labneh as I did.



Wishing everyone who celebrates a joyous & happy Hanukkah!

& yes, I promise to upload the recipe for the banana stem latke ASAP.

Bon Appetit!












Saturday, November 29, 2014

Thanksgiving 2014 - A Delicious Recap


The Holiday season is officially upon us. As the manic 'shopping' season get underway, I just got over clearing out all the dishes from my food coma inducing Thanksgiving feast.
Thanksgiving must be the most festive non-denominational holiday in the US, irrespective of religion, social status, geographic location, Everyone gathers around as a family to celebrate and eat. and eat, and then fill up on dessert and coffee!
 For me, Its an opportunity to shift to high gear and get cracking on experimenting with the flavors of Fall ingredients - Pumpkins, cranberries, apples.

This year, I volunteered to test a 10 cup stack n'snap food processor from Hamilton Beach and I received a package last Monday. While my kids had a little spat over what the packaging carton would be converted into, (a cloning machine vs. a car), I took the opportunity to explore the new gadget.. 


My first food processor was a Hamilton Beach which was a perfect workhorse until a little piece of the jar snapped off. Turns out that piece was crucial in completing the safety circuit so the gadget would not work without it.

One of the first things that I noticed about the new machine was that there was no sliding  or any king of shearing action required  to lock the jar onto the part housing the motor. the jar slides down on the motor and the spindle on which the blade is fitted is airtight (other brands have a doughnut hole shaped design which can leak). The machine is simple and uncomplicated, One disc that is used for both shredding and slicing, and a large S blade that handles all crushing and pureeing jobs with ease. The best part ? the blade stays put & doesn't drop out when pouring the food out.

I ran the machine for almost every dish I made for thanksgiving and it executed the tasks smoothly. You know, the way it amazes you that you take the entire process for granted without going through the anxiety that comes with trying something for the first time. I definitely look forward to have this appliance by my side for my culinary adventures.
The Stack n' Snap food processor retails at $59.99 at retailers in the US of A and from the Hamilton Beach's site.

My thanksgiving table this year had more dishes than I have photographs for. That's what happens when mother Nature decides to literally 'rain on the parade'. Ambient natural light is practically non existent for taking good photographs, not to mention that the sun bids adieu by 5:00 pm. other than the sweet potato salad and the roasted brussels sprouts, the new food processor was indispensable in making them,

The dishes:

Cranberry Orange Zest Rasam (A clear soup for my 5 year old daughter)

A Roasted Pumpkin Biryani spiced with Vadouvan, a French spice blend that traces its origin to the Southern Indian state of Pondicherry.


Diced and baked sweet potatoes tossed into a salad with pomegranates, Vidalia onions and Pomegranates, a hint of jalapenos and a drizzle of lime.


Brussels Sprouts, roasted to perfection after being marinaded briefly with Annaparabrahma's Malvani Masala.


and not one but two pies, an egg-less, chai spiced pumpkin pie baked with a gingersnap crust, topped with home made spun sugar 'sculptures'.


And lastly, an Apple Pecan tart spiced with ginger, cinnamon & cloves.



It makes no sense to cram five recipes into one blog post, so I plan to share those in the next five post.

Bon Appetit!
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