Monday, June 17, 2013

Recap time - Austin TX, at the BlogHer Food 2013 conference

(Image Credit: Anu Rao)

Where do I begin? How do I begin? I had been waiting to attend the BlogHer Network 's Food Conference for almost a year, booked  my tickets and hotel over 3 months ahead. (I was hoping to trim down to a svelte shape as well, but that didn't happen). And before I knew it, I was on a flight BACK from Austin, TX, giddy with the memories and thanking my stars for meeting so many food blogger and making new friends. 

The work:

I was one of the select group of volunteers who had signed up to live blog for some of the informative discussion panels that are at the heart of the intellectual aspect of BlogHer conferences. This posse was 'rounded' up and organized by the bubbly & vivacious Tonya Sanders who is known in blogging circles as The Chatty Momma.  I was one of those fortunate ones who got to live blog for three sessions and the topics assigned to me, all I can say is that I couldn't have picked better sessions on my own. The wealth of information I acquired during those 90 minutes of frantic typing was priceless
Here's the link to the session that I live-blogged for.

Video Bootcamp #1: Equipment and Gear

Your Brand + your causes

Scale your small business

In addition to the sessions and Panel discussions, there was a live interview with David Leite of Leite's Culinaria, one of the pioneers of the blogosphere (he's been continuously been blogging since 1999). 

David Leite has a knack of infusing mega doses of motivation. I can't but help go back and read the live blog of his interview over & over again!

And of course, the privilege of meeting some super bloggers such as The Pioneer Woman, Ree Drummond, and Jaden Hair, the force behind 'The Steamy Kitchen', and my fellow blogger from New Jersey, the bubbly Allergy Foodie, Anu Rao, whose work you've been closely following and look up to, need I say more!

Panfusine, Steamy Kitchen, Show me the Curry & Allergy Foodie (Image credit: Anu Rao)

The 'Play'!

One thing the conference definitely was NOT was all work. The organizers had  scheduled so many outings & meet ups afterwards that we had to pick & choose the ones we wanted to sign up for,.

I'd signed up for the Vegan food trailer tour headed by Christy Morgan, a.k.a the Blissful Chef

We walked up the iconic 6th street down to the the twin set of food trailers, 

one immersed in Asian Fusion (Me so Hungry) & Arlos, dishing out the meatiest, juiciest VEGAN burgers! 

The adjoining cheer up Bar served up an AWESOME Kale lime & Ginger Margarita that was quite simply the best I've had ever.

and the food - Cucumber Sashimi drizzled with a peanut/galangal sauce and black sesame, and curried rice noodles with lemongrass marinaded tofu. 

That's the lot of us having a Whale of a time on the vegan food trailer trip!

The Exhibitors & Sponsors:

One of the most striking aspects was how the sponsors and exhibitors were so beautifully woven into the common interest that all we food bloggers share. All of them committed to achieving the noble aim of eating fresh, pure food free from the vile toxic tentacles of GMO tainted and chemical laden pseudo sustenance. The list was long and the swag bags were stuffed. (My kids pounced upon it the minute I got back last week, I should have photographed them before I left Austin - Lesson learnt!)

A little shout out of thanks to the sponsors!

Canadian Lentils: They had a fabulous sunny corner set up as a recharging area with comfy couches to relax between sessions (& yes, plenty of power strips to recharge mobile devices as well), I could not resist noticing the coincidental similarity between their lentil arrangement and my business card. Not only did they have a steady stream of hot lentil based bites, they gave away lovely Ipad cases as keepsakes.

Baileys Coffee Creamer & Keurig: Kept the bloggers plied with plenty of refreshing Iced coffee all day long and even supplied insulated beverage glasses to go with it!

Wisconsin Cheese: A myriad spread of amuse bouches showcasing various varieties of cheese - burrata, Gouda to name a few.

Ninja: Blazing into the market with some superb Kitchen appliance demonstrations, they had some wonderful samples of quick dishes that could be whipped up in a snap. In particular, some addictive roasted Pecans. They had also set up a fun photo booth with outsized props at the closing party and needless to say, It made for some unforgettable memories of both the experience and their products!

Two 'Desi' Ninja Gals - with Anu Rao, a.k.a the Allergy foodie

Bobs Red Mill  and Lundberg  Family Farms gave out lovely samples of grains to experiment with, while Wholesome Sweeteners had a whole box of samples crammed with various organic sweeteners and syrups, that I can't figure out what to try first. I love all their products and use them in all my recipes that call for these ingredients.

I could go on and on about the priceless memories that my maiden Food blogger conference had to offer, but then, as with most delicious food, it should be stopped just when you crave for a bit more. Looking forward to the next years conference already.

Coming up in my next post: The Last dish I made before my kitchen went under the remodel 'scalpel', A delicious split pea & broccoli chowder adapted from Ree Drummonds recipe.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Validations, and a recipe for Berbere flavored Peas Pulao

 I've often been asked why I chose  into food blogging with a niche idea of redesigning and tweaking Indian dishes instead of plunging full fledged into classic recipes that I had grown up with. I had serendipitous stumble upon the best possible answer I'll probably ever get, thanks to Chef Marcus Samuelsson's new memoir 'Yes Chef'.

There was one paragraph that practically leaped out of the book searing itself into my mind :

" Who lied? Who started the lie that France had the greatest food in the world? That question ran through my head every time I bit into something new and that changed my notions of what “good food” is. Then that question was replaced by a second: Who’s going to make the people realize that food dismissed as “ethnic” by the fine-dining world could be produced at the same level as their sacred bouillabaisses and veloutes" - Marcus Samuelsson, Yes, Chef!

I could not ask for a better validation beyond this paragraph. In time, I've come to realize that my kitchen truly represents 'Panfusine' a space where spices & ingredients from all over the world are crammed next to each other, giving me the absolute freedom to pick and choose, without the limitations that cultural biases impose. This freedom has also given me an increased appreciation for the classic dishes and ingredients I grew up with, whether it is to lovingly prepare a 'Pongal' the traditional slow cooked way (albeit in a Le Creuset Risotto pan), savoring the burst of aroma emitted by the crushed curry leaves, ginger, Cumin & Pepper tempered in ghee, or savor the musky heady aroma emanating from an old box that I use to store my blocks of asafetida.

Speaking of asafetida, One of the most spectacular dishes I've seen this pungent spice used in was in a pineapple salsa,  Ammini Ramachandran's recipe in Zester Daily. Simply follow the link and give this a try, you'll love it!

Sweet & Spicy Pineapple Salsa

The only hitch most people have with pineapples is the prepping. The cutting through the scaly peel and then scooping out all the 'eyes'. Well, discovered that OXO has an answer to that. A nifty ratcheting pineapple slicer, As  someone who loves prepping difficult fruits, I was initially skeptical about how this implement was going to take care of peeling, coring AND slicing in one shot, but believe me, it does, and beautifully so. 

and if you still want further proof, just watch the video!

I paired the Salsa with a spiced rice that I put together a casual weekend dinner. The intention was to make a simple spiced Peas Pulao spiced with garam masala, but as is usually the case, I always end up including a spice blend from almost anywhere else in the world, and the result is always delighful. This time it was Berbere (bayr - beray) , the Ethiopian spice blend, an amalgam of over a dozen spices according to Marcus Samuelsson,  (Coriander, Cumin, cardamom, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, chile pepper, salt, peppercorn, allspice, garlic, cinnamon, fenugreek and ajwain).

 I deliberately kept the vegetable list confined to peas, in order to keep the dish simple.

Berbere flavored Peas Pulao:

You need:
2 cups fresh cooked Basmati rice
2 tablespoons Clarified butter (Ghee)
1 tablespoon Cumin seeds
4 whole cardamoms
6-8 cloves
1 2 inch stick cinnamon
1 bay leaf
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 -2 tablespoon Berbere spice blend (depending upon how spicy you like it)
1 cup frozen peas
Salt to taste
Chopped cilantro or Dill for garnishing

  • Add the cooked rice into a large mixing bowl and fluff to separate the grains.
  • In a skillet, heat the ghee until almost smoking and add the Cumin, cloves, cardamom, cinnamon and bay leaf. 
  • When the Cumin seeds split, add the garlic and saute until it turns limp (you may choose to remove the garlic if you want a milder flavor at this point or let it be for a more pronounced garlic flavor).
  •  Turn the heat to medium low and introduce the Berbere spice blend to this mixture. allow the blend to 'bloom' in the oil until the aroma is released.
  • Add the peas along with the salt, cover and cook on low  until the peas are soft. 
  • Remove from heat and add this mix to the rice. 
  • Fold gently from the edges of the bowl to the center, taking care to coat each grain. 
  • Garnish with chopped Dill or cilantro and serve along with the Pineapple Salsa and toasted Papad.

 A big Thank You goes to OXO for letting me try their wonderful Pineapple slicer. I've had readers buying it even before I wrote up this post.

Bon appetit!


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