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If I had to choose one technique of cooking meats- making tikkas (grilled meats) would be my all time favorite. The process includes marinating any kind of meat or fish and then cooking them on skewers in a tandoor. Usually the marinade consists of hung or greek style yogurt (I tend to use low fat sour cream more often), lemon juice, ginger, garlic and a variety of spices. I think if I had to give up meat- it would be very difficult knowing that I won’t be able to eat any tandoori preparations- my weakness (one amongst many!).
The one thing I still don’t think Indian restaurants make really well here in the US are the tandoori dishes. Somehow in India, the marinated meats taste a lot more tender and full of flavor than the ones we eat here- not sure why?? I do make them at home, and the outside grill does a decent job of replicating the taste-although it’s not really the same… The most important thing is the marinade – if there is not enough flavor in the concoction, the meat won’t have any either. If I have to pick one ingredient that makes the most difference, I would have to say it’s salt. If enough salt is not added to the marinade- they meat will be tasteless! I remember, growing up we used to walk to an open market near our house with lots of food vendors. One of them made the most spectacular mutton tikkas I have ever had. They were tiny bite sized pieces of meat that were marinated and then cooked in a tandoor to perfection- I can still picture and taste them as if it was yesterday. Tandoori dishes are first on my list whenever I make a trip to Delhi- no different from any other city I visit- food is generally the focus!
In this particular dish, I have used cardamom, nutmeg and saffron as the main flavor ingredients. It gives the chicken a very subtle floral flavor. The other ingredient that gives this dish a very different flavor is the cashew paste. The nutty and creamy flavor gives the tikkas a very authentic taste in my opinion. The chicken is especially delicious if you use the outside grill- although the oven broiler will do the job as well.
My daughter and husband loved this chicken. We also cooked it in the class I just taught and the response was good as well. It’s a great dish to make for the summer with a yummy salad and a nice chilled rose or beer!!!
I think of sitting in the sun on a winter day in India when I eat this dish… carrots and peas were in season only in the winter back then. My Mom would make this vegetable dish and I can still invision the sweet carrots married with the soft mushy potatoes and creamy peas. Somehow the carrots in India are colored red unlike the orange ones we get here- and they are extra sweet and have a more ‘carrot’ flavor! I can’t remember what spices my Mom added to the dish- I do remember the taste of the vegetables really well. She would make a fresh roti, dot some ghee on it and serve the vegetables on the fresh bread- it was delicious! I forget to make this very simple concoction- there isn’t much to it especially now since almost all vegetables are available year round. I always have potatoes in the pantry and peas in the freezer. I usually have baby carrots in the fridge to pack for my daughter’s lunch everyday. I decided to add a little bit of cumin seeds and ginger- I didn’t want a lot of very dominant flavors competing with each other, especially because I decided to add a new ingredient to the dish- dill… I love using this herb- in India it is used as a vegetable- so I decided to use it in here with fresh cilantro. The dish was completely different than the one I grew up with but this one was delicious as well. It tasted more suitable for the summer months- I guess the fresh herbs gave it that effect.
This dish would be a great accompaniment with store bought naan and some lentils. It would also go really well as a side dish with fish, chicken, pork or even steak! We had it with some brown lentils and home made rotis- it was simple and delicious!!
I am very proud of this dish. A friend was coming over with her kids and the initial plan was to order pizza and a salad and have some wine while the kids enjoy playing outside. I decided not to order in since kids eat pizza all the time- but the question was- what can I cook that would be appropriate for the kids as well as the adults??? My daughter is always asking me to make macaroni and cheese- the one from the box- and I do make it for her, I buy the healthy kind but it is still processed and that really bothers me. I try to make mac n cheese from scratch but am trying to get her out of out of the habit and don’t end up making it very often. I thought this would be a good opportunity to make it for her since her friends were coming over. I wanted to make a one-pot meal and didnt’ want to worry about serving vegetables on the side. I decided to make the regular cheese sauce for the dish and used the elbow pasta to make it look like the authentic macaroni and cheese. I chopped up chicken sausage and sauteed it with garlic and the frozen spinach. I then added the cooked pasta and poured the sauce and baked it. I made a salad for us grown ups as well as some garlic bread. Initially the kids were not happy to see the baked dish with the green stuff in it- but once they tasted it- I didn’t hear a peep. I think when they heard chocolate cupcakes were coming up next, they finished the pasta really quick- but seriously- they liked it!
My friend and I enjoyed the pasta and the salad with a great bottle of a Malbec Rose. We finished the entire bottle- well almost- I saved a few sips for my husband.
Overall I was very happy with the dish- everyone is searching for recipes of one-pot meals that are kid friendly as well as good for the adults. I will definitely making this one again- who knows maybe I will change it around a bit to get another new recipe!!
Sia and her friends enjoying the pasta in the backyard….
When I think of summer, Sangria comes to mind- so when Memorial Day quickly came our way, it was time to make some! I have been thinking/talking about Sangria for a few weeks now. During a street fair in our town, a local wine store was having a Sangria tasting. A new product was being launched- I was quite skeptical about what was about to come out of the red wine like bottle. I tasted it and was pleasantly surprised! It was very good- the nice man told me about the mixed drink and how it only had red wine and fruit puree. I wanted to buy it thinking how easy it would be to open a bottle of sangria in a moments notice but of course the mixologist in our family- my husband wouldn’t hear of it! He wanted to make his own, even though he admitted the bottled one was pretty good. I had looked up several recipes including one with passion fruit puree- which jumped out at me immediately since passion fruit is my all time favorite fruit. I don’t get to eat it too often around here and when I do, it’s very expensive but it is SO worth every penny- if you have never tasted a real passion fruit you have to try it- it is kind of a mix between a mango, guava and a peach but a lot better and intense! Anyway, I suggested the recipes to my husband but he refused and wanted to do research himself and come up with his own concoction. We went out to the ironbound section of Newark for a fabulous Portuguese/Spanish meal on Saturday and had a great tasting sangria there- it was not very intense in alcohol but was delicious. It reminded me of the sangria we had in Barcelona- it was our first day there and we had just unpacked and settled into our apartment. To keep awake we decided to walk to the popular area of Las Rambla. After a while we sat down in the median at a cafe and indulged in the biggest glasses of sangria I had ever seen! It was the most delicious sangria I have ever had. While in the Newark restaurant, I asked the waiter for the ingredients and they were quite standard- wine, simple syrup and fruit- quite easy to replicate at home.
My husband’s concoction was extremely delicious- it was tangy and sweet and the alcohol was apparent as well. A very well balanced drink that went really well with salsa and guacamole and chorizo burgers- recipes to come in the next week or so. I predict a lot of sangria in our future this summer!
As you have probably guessed by now or maybe not… that most Indian dishes include onions, cilantro, chilies, etc… this includes breakfast as well. A very popular way to make scrambled eggs in India is to saute chopped onions, green chilies and tomatoes. The egg mixture includes salt, lots of cayenne pepper and tons of chopped cilantro. Once the egg mixture is combined with the onions, etc- a perfect breakfast dish is created. It is usually served with soft white bread on the streets but can be eaten with a roti or parantha as well. I remember eating this mostly for breakfast growing up- but once in a while, if I was lucky, my Mom would make it for dinner! She would make us individual portions in a small metal bowl – she would cook the eggs right in there on the stove and place it in our plates with a parantha! It was delicious! You should try it with a tortilla in case you can’t get your hands on an Indian flat bread.. the combination is great. Although it’s very delicious with sliced bread or even a fresh baguette. I made this particular dish with green onions- no real reason except that I like the color of green onions and they are milder in taste and flavor- any kind of onion will do. Tomatoes are optional- some people don’t like the soft tomato texture in this dish, but I love the tang and color they provide. Cilantro, to me is the key in this dish- although I love it in any and every thing I make. I go through tons of cilantro and absolutely love the very mild leafy onion taste it imparts- some people don’t care for it, in which case, parsley can be substituted. I also like to top the egg dish with garam masala- it gives every bite a very distinctively Indian flavor. Garam masala being a combination of a number of dry spices ground together to form a powder used to cook and garnish. It can be purchased at the grocery stores now but if you are able to make it yourself or know someone who makes it- do try the homemade one- there is no comparison in taste, aroma and flavor! I do make my own in bulk and freeze it to keep fresh. The aroma reminds me of childhood- I remember my Mom mixing the spices together in a large circular metal tray before she would grind them up- every time I mix the spices myself, the smell takes me back…