Tag Archives: indian food

Weekly Menus: Week of 8/19/2012

Gentle Readers, it can’t be that time again, but it is. Sunday is menu time, and this week’s list involved a bit more planning and strategery. Though I can scarcely believe it, school starts again soon. Naturally, that happens when I’m traveling for business. Small countries have been invaded with less planning.

Which means I’m keeping things simple, stocking up so that the week after this one will go smoothly, and generally trying to hang on to summer with two hands. It has been a great ride, and I’ve eaten some amazing food.

But enough waxing poetic, here are the menus for the week:

Weekly Menus: 8/19/2012

Weekly Menus: 8/19/2012

And the Four-Square Grocery Shopping List:

The Four-Square Grocery Shopping List: 8/19/2012

The Four-Square Grocery Shopping List: 8/19/2012

Which translates into:

Sunday: rotisserie chicken
The ultimate Sunday punt. They’re on special, I can make stock with the carcass and turn the leftovers into insta-lunch.

Monday: pork chops
I’m craving them, and I have apples and peaches that need to find a good home.

Tuesday: salad and soup
I’m committed to the idea that fall is here. Soup that is not gazpacho is my stake in the ground. Farewell summer heat, bring on soup.

Wednesday: pancakes
Life interrupted and we had to delay our pancake test run. Trying again this week, three courses, same as before! Plan on multitasking and making waffles at the same time to freeze.

Thursday: gnocchi
I haven’t broken these out in a while. I’m thinking potentially with a lemon tomato sauce. We shall see.

Friday: Indian!
Craving it, but haven’t had time to make dal in a while. Going to try to make enough to freeze in portions.

Saturday: dine out!
First I go to a spa, then I dine out in San Francisco. I’m pretty sure I’m winning Saturday.

Today’s question is in advance of Wednesday’s article. Tell me what your insta-lunches are–what do you grab to eat when you have no time. Post a comment below, email me, or Tweet it to the world. Look forward to hearing from you over the sound of the crickets.

Send your queries, questions, and quips to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today!)

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Coming up Wednesday, Fast Food at Home (like really fast).

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Weekly Menus: Summer Style, Week of 7/15/2012

Gentle Readers, The Practical Cook is once more happily ensconced in the test kitchen. The joy of summer is more gathering than hunting I think, so many vegetables, so little time. My philosophy of finding something good and interesting and getting out of the way still holds.

Tomato Watermelon Salad from Crook's Corner

Tomato Watermelon Salad from Crook’s Corner

My favorite moment with The Eldest Practical Cook Junior, when hearing that okra was one of the most loathed veggies,  she suggested we take it or another vegetable and prepare it multiple ways, then invite people over to see if we could convert them. Brilliant. I’m actually going to do that soon, a One Ingredient Three Ways thing. Please feel free to suggest the vegetable. I’ve taken on okra and Brussels sprouts, I’m not afraid.

Non-horsey Okra Pods

Non-horsey Okra Pods

But I digress, and there’s so much food to eat. Here are the Weekly Menus:

Weekly Menus: 7/15/2012

Weekly Menus: 7/15/2012

And the light-weight Four-Square Grocery List:

The Four-Square Grocery Shopping List: 7/15/2012

The Four-Square Grocery Shopping List: 7/15/2012

Because the CSA is tripled from my absences:

1 dozen eggs
1 pk bacon
1 regular bratwurst
1 cantaloupe
1 1 lb bag shelled butterbeans
lb filet beans
1 lb heirloom tomatoes
1 pt yellow cherry tomatoes

Which all translates into:

Sunday: Leftover fried rice
This was inspiration from yesterday. It was leftover plain rice with lots of egg, a stray piece of ham, ginger, ketchup, and soy sauce. Toss it with a few stir-fried veggies and go. I’m going to add edamame to the mix for round two.

Leftover Fried Rice

Leftover Fried Rice

Monday: Beans and Rice
This will probably be Indian food. I’ve been craving, and we haven’t made dal in a while. Nothing better than spicy vegetables in the summer. Seriously. (See Some Like It Hot for my diatribe.)

Tuesday: Sammie Platter
Because I can eat my weight in tomato sandwiches, let’s just go ahead and call it dinner.

Sandwich Platter Piled High!

Sandwich Platter Piled High!

Wednesday: Breakfast for dinner
It’s biscuit time again, per the Juniors. We’re still hammering out our favorite recipe, having had a worthy contender at the Early Girl Eatery in Asheville, NC.

Fresh-Squeezed OJ for the win!

Fresh-Squeezed OJ for the win!

Thursday: Take me out to the ballgame.
Hot dogs, burritos, I say yes. We are stepping out this evening, and I expect an eating marathon.

Friday: Beef!
I’ve been craving it. Probably meatloaf. Though I am omnivorous, I lean toward my vegetarian roots (pun intended) in the summer. Sometimes I have to toss some iron into the mix.

Saturday: Dine Out!
I have to check some items off the growing recommendation list. If you haven’t, please check out the RTP Restaurants page and let me know what you think!

Have you stepped out of the kitchen this summer? Perhaps to the grill, or simply because you’re cutting things up and serving rather than turning on the stove? Share your summer cooking strategies in the comments below, or Tweet my way!

Send your heirloom tomatoes, questions, and kitchen challenges to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today!)

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Next on Wednesday, 5 Wines Under $10 from Trader Joe’s.

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Restaurant Review: Saffron (Times Two)

If you are new to this blog, or read it with your eyes shut, The Practical Cook will announce again, she loves Indian food. Every single time someone says they can’t stand it, I find myself shocked and compelled to start asking questions. For one thing, it’s an incredibly diverse cuisine to simply write off. This is as true between Indian restaurants as it is regions they represent, but I admit I have a favorite or two.

Hot Fresh Naan Delivered to the Table: Part of Saffron Morrisville's Buffet!

Hot Fresh Naan Delivered to the Table: Part of Saffron Morrisville's Buffet!

One of my favorites, times two, is Saffron. You see, according to rumor, the chef from the Morrisville, NC Saffron (which I dearly love for the lunch buffet that includes 70 percent veg dishes, diverse and unusual items, and hot naan, very nicely done) sold that branch to a  partner and started the Chapel Hill restaurant called Saffron.

Saffron Morrisville's Buffet Offerings Change Daily, and Vary Nicely

Saffron Morrisville's Buffet Offerings Change Daily, and Vary Nicely

The CH Saffron excels at high-end Indian, not your average over-creamy borderline bland fare. This is fresh spinach and homemade paneer, and wow, it shows. On a recent trip, we ordered the Bhindi (cut on the diagonal and fried crisp with spices, yes, Indian fried okra) and the Aloo Tikki Chana Chaat, which translates roughly into Indian nachos. It is deconstructed street food, and it tastes like spicy sunshine and happiness. Potato, with a clean cilantro tamarind undertone, and crunchy snacks crumbled atop. It’s a try to believe it dish.

Aloo Tikki Chana Chaat

Aloo Tikki Chana Chaat: Or Indian Nachos

For mains, Lamb Korma and Palak Paneer. The lamb was nicely done, perhaps a little too done for me, but the Palak Paneer I would walk on hot rocks to reach. Seriously, it’s just that good. Coupled with perfectly done rice and garlic naan (they have rosemary and jalepeño naan as well, but I like the classics here), it is fabulous.

Palak Paneer, Done Really Well by Saffron Chapel Hill

Palak Paneer, Done Really Well by Saffron Chapel Hill

A couple of things, the CH Saffron is not cheap, but the portions are large (if you’re not eating family style, you will have leftovers), and the quality is outstanding. It’s worth it.

Fresh and Light, Papadam with Three Sauces from Saffron Chapel Hill

Fresh and Light, Papadam with Three Sauces from Saffron Chapel Hill

The other item worth mentioning about CH Saffron is the spice level.  The wait staff is great, but they are obviously trained to give a papadam and chutney speech that assumes you’ve never eaten Indian food before, and may be a little slow. So the spiel is mildly annoying, but understandable if you think this place is catering to a more Americanized palate. But it isn’t: this food is spiced for realz. Not painfully fiery, but a number of the dishes mean business, and there’s not a scale or warning system. Just be prepared to eat good, flavorful food, and ask for more raita to cool it if need be.

One final note of caution, I wouldn’t order seafood in any form, as it’s not a kitchen strength. The special last time was Chilean Sea Bass. Most of us know this is on the overfished list, but try dining with DrSharky, who you might guess is an expert in this area, and risk getting forked if you order it. Additionally, when I’ve ordered fish (once) it was overdone, by a lot. I’ve just never heard someone say that they’ve enjoyed their seafood there, but have actively heard people say they haven’t enjoyed their fish dishes.

Picky People Okra: Bhindi at Saffron Chapel Hill

Picky People Okra: Bhindi at Saffron Chapel Hill

In case you think this is a snootie-foodie kind of place, I’ll also out Dr. Particular, who was with us. She is picky, as the name implies, and she loves CH Saffron above all other Indian restaurants. In fact, she ordered the Bhindi, and it’s one of the only green things she’ll eat. Ponder that one.

Do you love Indian food, or hate it? Post a comment or join the Twitter conversation.

Questions, pictures, fan mail? Send to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today!)

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Tomorrow, as always, Weekly Menus, On the Road Again.

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Kitchen Tool Talk: Three (More) of My Favorite Things, Spicy Edition

Gentle Readers, as you know, The Practical Cook enjoys making Indian food, and other dishes with some kick. One of the key elements is measuring out the ingredients and having them ready to toss into the recipe at a moment’s notice (read, mise en place). But how to accomplish this without growing extra arms?

Kitchen Tool Talk: Spicy Edition

Spice Jars, Pinch Bowls, Metal Spoons

Spice Jars, Pinch Bowls, Metal Spoons

1. Metal Measuring Spoons. Accept no imitations. If you use turmeric, ever, you’ll understand why I specify. I love that my measuring spoons are still attached by the ring they came on. Easy to find, like my own set of culinary Allen wrenches.

2. Glass Spice Jars with Labels. Years ago, I bought spices in the grocery store, like everyone else. I never used that much cayenne (well, I do now), and it would fade into nothingness. Now, I save the jars of yesteryear, and fill them with the far cheaper and fresher bulk spices from Whole Foods or the local Indian store. Commit to replacing your worthless spices with half as much fresh stuff. You’ll be shocked at the difference.

3. Metal Pinch Bowls. Though in a proper Indian kitchen one would have a multi-welled tray designed for holding various spices, I use this set of 6 small metal bowls I picked up at Macy’s years and years ago (thanks NYC) for well, almost everything. They wash, they’re easy to use, and they are perfect to line up next to the stove to grab and season in the approved order.

It’s not just Indian food that makes this items favorites, this picture is from yesterday’s Veggie Chili. If you season your food ever, the above tips can make your life simpler, and spicier. What’s not to love?

How do you manage your seasoning needs? Comment, Tweet, Facebook me.  I’m waiting to hear from you.

Send your pinch bowls and queries to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today!)

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Up next, Cheese Bread Recipe or Improving the Canned Crescent.

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Buttermilk Okra, Indian Style (aka Bhindi Kadhi)

Gentle Readers, The Practical Cook embraces cooking traditions from around the world, though her Southern roots are often showing. I first encountered Indian food in college, when I was a vegetarian, and it was love at first bite. I took a few swings at cooking it, from the standard chana masala to the more adventurous samosas and naan. But I never had the keys to the kingdom.

Sunday Dinner: Indian Edition (Dal, Black-Eyed Peas and Corn, Rice, Buttermilk Okra)

Sunday Dinner: Indian Edition (Dal, Black-Eyed Peas and Corn, Rice, Buttermilk Okra)

Enter Raghavan Iyer, the brilliant mastermind and excellent teacher behind 660 Curries. Full disclosure, I worked for the publisher on this book, but I also read it and took Raghavan’s class when I had the opportunity. I can now say, with confidence, that I can cook Indian food. I’m not at the same level of competence that I’m at with my scratch-made chicken and dumplings (training since I was a tween on that one), but it tastes like Indian food, recognizably so, and I have favorite recipes.

660 Curries

660 Curries

Chief among my favorites, anything involving the word “Kadhi.” The creamy yellow sauce is a siren song for me. Sweet yet tart, and redolent with curry leaves, to which I have an unhealthy addiction. If you’ve been on the fence for a while, leap over, get this cookbook, and start cooking Indian at home today.

Non-horsey Okra Pods

Non-horsey Okra Pods

Buttermilk Okra, Indian Style (aka Bhindi Kadhi)

Adapted from 660 Curries by Raghavan Iyer. Toned down in terms of heat for The Practical Cooks Junior, and served with plain yogurt at the table to further mute as needed. There are a couple of things here that will require a trip to the Indian grocery store. Worth the trip. For building your spice war chest, I recommend Whole Foods bulk bins. It’s the best deal in the store: you can get small amounts (just remember to write the spice name on the label, and not just the PLU#).

1 to 1 1/2 pounds fresh okra (small, not the horsey pods), rinsed, dried, capped, and sliced into 1-inch lengths
1 quart buttermilk
2 tablespoons chickpea flour (or if you have a freezer #fail, you can sub cornstarch, but try the chickpea flour first)
2 heaping teaspoons white sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
up to 1 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper (if your pepper is fresh, and you go full bore, it will have bite)
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
2 to 3 Tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves and tender stems
12 to 15 medium to large size fresh curry leaves (get thee to the Indian grocery, they’re like a dollar a bag, and they smell amazing)
2 Tablespoons melted butter
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds

1. Whisk the buttermilk, chickpea flour, sugar, salt, cayenne, and turmeric together in medium-size bowl until all lumps are gone. Stir in cilantro and curry leaves.

2. Heat the butter in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. This is an important step. Make sure the butter and pan are hot, but not smoking, and have your ingredients ready. Sprinkle the cumin and fenugreek seeds into the pan and sizzle them (they’ll turn reddish brown and fragrant), about 10 seconds.

Stir-fry the okra to brown it but not burn the spices.

Stir-fry the okra to brown it but not burn the spices.

3. Immediately add the okra and stir-fry until it browns a bit, 8 to 10 minutes. Stirring thoroughly will prevent spice mixture from burning!!

Bhindi Kadhi turning ever more yellow as it cooks. (Thanks turmeric!)

Bhindi Kadhi turning ever more yellow as it cooks. (Thanks turmeric!)

4. Pour in the buttermilk mixture and stir to deglaze the pan. Lower the heat to medium and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the okra is fork-tender and the sauce has thickened slightly, 10 to 14 minutes. The coolest part is that the sauce becomes more vibrantly yellow as you cook it.

Serve over rice (don’t feel compelled to eat the curry leaves).

This one goes out to my colleagues who continue to be pleasantly surprised that someone as, how can I put this, totally pale as me, actually knows and loves Indian food. (Who knew that okra would be the vegetable that connects cultures?)

Are you a fan of Indian food? Have you attempted cooking it at home? Post a comment, send a Tweet.

Send your samosa recipes and suggestions to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today!)

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Up next, Salad Bar Secrets: Don’t Hate the Green Leafy.

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Weekly Menus: Week of 9/4/2011

Clearly, The Practical Cook is still not fully present in a single time zone. In yesterday’s post, I forgot what day of the week it was. And this morning, the best intentions of getting up to work out, shop, blog, etc. went awry. In a word, I slept in. But better late than never, as I’m sure the one Gentle Reader who expects to read this missive over coffee will forgive me. (Sorry Mom.)

Now, to the business of the week. Let me further say that I’m working away in the test kitchen on a top secret project that will reveal itself shortly. Also, I am now done with summer. I’m done with mosquitoes, I’ve eaten my fill of tomatoes (sacrilege, but true), and I’m ready for delicata squash, heartier stews, and possibly even some simple loaf breads.

So on this week’s menu:

Weekly Menus: 9/4/2011

Weekly Menus: 9/4/2011

And the Four-Square Grocery List:

Four-Square Grocery List: 9/4/2011

Four-Square Grocery List: 9/4/2011

The CSA from Brinkley Farms (Doubled from Last Week’s Skip):

1 pk regular bratwurst
1 bag spicy greens mix
1 lb squash
2 lbs zucchini
1 lb mixed colored bell peppers
2 lbs acorn squash
2 lbs delicata squash

(I almost passed out with glee when I saw the selections from Brinkley Farms this week. Heaven!)

Which translates into:

Sunday: Indian
Dal, rice, okra in buttermilk, possibly some saag, roti

Monday: Leftovers/fish
This depends on the amount leftover and the looks of the fish at the store.

Tuesday: Braised Chicken
I have some chicken that needs to be consumed, and I’m deciding how it will be served. To be determined.

Wednesday: Polenta with Black Beans
Working on a product review here, and want to pair the polenta with something I need to make anyway, a large pot of black beans.

Thursday: Breakfast for Dinner
I predict French Toast, possibly with fried chicken of some stripe.

Friday: Pizza and Salad
Punt! I plan on being exhausted from the week’s lineup, and punting with frozen pizza and salad.

Saturday: Dine Out
Watch out food trucks, we’re coming to find you.

Okay, now it’s time to walk the hound dog, finish the grocery shopping, make the fig preserves, and drink some coffee, not necessarily in that order. Onward and upward!

Are you ready to change seasons culinarily speaking? What are you craving on the fall menus? Post a comment (I can hear you lurking) or Tweet!

Suggest a future taste test or blog post by writing to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today!)

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Up tomorrow (which I know is Monday) An Ode to Road Oatmeal.

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Some Like It Hot: Spicy Hot Food for Summer?

Gentle readers, today we are talking not just spice, but heat. Not to point fingers squarely at my British roots, but English, the language, struggles to capture the subtle differences with the word “hot.” One must distinguish between spicy hot and temperature hot, instead of just saying caliente or calor. The Practical Cook does not back down from either, within the bounds of reason.

Molcajete with Pork Shank

Molcajete with Pork Shank

Why am I blathering on about word choice? Because I’ve come to truly enjoy spicy and temperature hot food in the summer. Sure, I love ice-cold watermelon and popsicles, but just a few days ago, I wanted bubbling hot soup. Strange? Perhaps, but maybe there’s a reason.

Cue the music. (Yes, I’ve used this before, but welcome to the soundtrack that is my head.)

Now, in the interest of science, I did some research (quick) on this topic. Here’s the hard-hitting ABC News piece on the topic of the cooling effect of hot and spicy food. Basically, millions of people can’t be completely wrong. I did stay well-hydrated, as the soup is a liquid (Veggie Dumpling Tofu Soup, medium spicy please), and I did feel cooler after eating it.

Bubbling Hot Tofu Soup from Vit Goal

Bubbling Hot Tofu Soup from Vit Goal

As referenced in the post on the Pork Shank Molcajete, I’m a fan of the bubbling hot soups of Korea. Since I don’t have a kevlar throat, I do let it cool a bit before diving in. But while it’s cooling, I’m eating the Korean answer to bread and butter pickles, which are spicy!

Pickles and Kimchi at Vit Goal

Pickles and Kimchi at Vit Goal

This week, more heat, more humidity, complete Indian buffet craving. Perhaps I am seeking balance to my summer rolls and cold fried chicken. Perhaps I crave vegetables more than meat in the heat (I tend to eat vegetarian at both my Korean and Indian haunts).

Is it just me? Where do you stand in the spicy/hot in summertime debate?

(And for the NC natives, the Korean restaurant I adore is Vit Goal in Durham, NC. If you go with me, she will know my order before I give it. Not that I have a problem, I can quit any time . . .)

What’s on the table for you this summer? Send your pictures and blog requests to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Like, like, like! Press “like” on Facebook today!)

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Tomorrow, Kitchen Tool Talk: Cookbook Edition.

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