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Archive for International Foods

TIP OF THE DAY: Struffoli, An Italian Christmas Tradition

Struffoli Candied Fruit

Struffoli Wreath

Struffoli Cornucopia

Frying Stuffoli

Croque Em Bouche

1000 Italian Recipes Book

[1] A mound of struffoli, the traditional shape, from Linda’s Italian Table. It can be cut into slices, or for a party, put on the buffet so everyone can pick off what they like. [2] A loose wreath style from Il Cuori In Pentola. [3] A cornucopia shape, called Cornucopia di Sfoglia in Italian. It’s decorated with chocolate foil coins, by Oggi Cucino Cosi. [4] Frying the dough at My Spice Sage. If you can fry, you can make struffoli. [5] Croque em bouche, a special occasion treat in France, is often served instead of wedding cake. These smaller versions are decorated for the holidays by François Payard Bakery in New York City. [6] The recipes in this book include one for struffoli, reprinted below. You can see the recipes for any of these photos by clicking their links.

 

How about a holiday baking project for family and friends?

If you don’t have your own holiday baking tradition like Christmas cookies, gingerbread people or spritz cookies, how about struffoli?

Struffoli (STROO-fo-lee) are puffy balls of eggy fried dough coated in honey. They are a traditional Christmas sweet in Naples and other parts of central and southern Italy.

The fried dough is stacked into a cone-shape centerpiece or assembled into a wreath design. More ambitious cooks have the puffs spilling out a pastry horn of plenty. We like to present it with after-dinner coffee.

It’s actually quite easy: If you can fry, you can make struffoli.

Struffoli look like a smaller, flat croquembouche. Both have a crunchy outside and soft inside.

  • Croque Em Bouche is made from profiteroles—cream puffs—that are baked, filled and stacked into the shape of a large cone. The puffs are held together by caramelized (spun) sugar and finished with drizzled caramel. It is served for weddings and other celebrations.
  • Struffoli is made from deep-fried dough the size of marbles. There is no filling, but the balls are rolled in honey to stick together. They can be shaped into a cone or a wreath.
  • Stuffoli can be set on a cone base made from nougatine, a mixture of caramelized sugar and sliced almonds.
  • Croque em bouche is also traditionally served during baptisms and other special occasions. The name means “[it] cracks in the mouth,” which is what the caramelized sugar does!
  •  
    DECORATING THE STRUFFOLI

    While struffoli can be served plain, you can express your creativity with decorations.

  • The Italian preference is for pastel sprinkle mixes. We suggest red, green and white sugar holiday confetti or sprinkles.
  • For an old-fashioned approach: candied red and green cherries or other candied fruits.
  • You may want to avoid Jordan almonds or candied nuts, another traditional decoration, if any guest may be allergic.
  • Like to roll fondant? Drape a red “ribbon” around the pastry and top with a “bow.” You can use real ribbon if you prefer.
  • Want elegance? Get gold and silver edible dragées and pearls.
  • Our favorite: strips of candied orange peel or an assortment of all the citrus peels you can collect. Dipping the peels in chocolate is our own personal touch. Here’s a recipe.
  •  
    RECIPE: STRUFFOLI (NEAPOLITAN HONEY BALLS)

    This recipe, from 1,000 Italian Recipes by Michele Scicolone, can easily be doubled. It is © copyright Michele Scicolone.

    If you like the idea but not the labor, call the nearest Italian bakery and order one.

    Ingredients For 8 Servings

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour plus more for kneading the dough
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon or orange zest
  • Vegetable oil for frying
  • 1 cup honey (about 6 ounces)
  •  
    TIP: Use quality honey instead of the generic supermarket variety for a more elegant flavor.
     
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE the cup of flour and the salt in a large bowl. Add the eggs and lemon zest and stir until well blended.

    2. TURN OUT the dough out onto a lightly floured board and knead until smooth (about 5 minutes). Add a bit more flour if the dough seems sticky. Shape the dough into a ball and cover with an overturned bowl. Let the dough rest 30 minutes.

    3. CUT the dough into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Roll one slice between your palms into a 1/2-inch-thick rope. Cut the rope into 1/2-inch nuggets. If the dough feels sticky, use a teeny bit of flour to dust the board or your hands. (Excess flour will cause the oil to foam up when you fry the struffoli.)

    4. LINE a tray with paper towels. Pour about 2 inches of oil into a wide heavy saucepan and heat to 370°F, or until a small bit of the dough dropped into the oil sizzles and turns brown in 1 minute.

    5. PLACE just enough struffoli in the pan to fit without crowding, taking care not to splash the hot oil. Cook, stirring once or twice with a slotted spoon, until the struffoli are crisp and evenly golden brown (1 to 2 minutes). Remove with a slotted spoon or skimmer and drain on paper towels. Repeat with the remaining dough. When all of the struffoli are fried…

     

    6. GENTLY HEAT the honey to just a simmer in a large, shallow saucepan. Remove from the heat, add the drained struffoli and toss well. Transfer the struffoli to a serving plate and shape into a mound or wreath. Decorate as desired.

    7. TO SERVE: For each person, break off a portion of the struffoli with two large spoons or a salad server. Or, pass the plate so people can take what they like.

    You can store struffoli at room temperature, covered with an overturned bowl, for up to 3 days.

    STRUFFOLI HISTORY

    The ancestor of struffoli dates back to ancient Greece. A similar dish is described by Archestratus, a Greek poet from Sicily.

    Called enkris, the dough balls were fried in olive oil (source).

    The name derives from the Greek word strongoulos, meaning “rounded in shape.”

    Fast forward to the early 17th century. The nuns of Naples were famous for their sweets, which they sold to the public. Each convent had a specialty. According to tradition, struffoli are considered good luck because the balls are a symbol of abundance.

    At Christmas, the nuns made struffoli as gifts for their aristocratic patrons, to thank them for their charity throughout the year. The tradition was copied by home cooks and became a Christmas tradition (source).

     
      

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    RECIPE: Pumpkin Tacos

    What kind of tacos are right for the season? Pumpkin tacos! Or at least, butternut squash tacos.

    PUMPKIN: AN ALL-AMERICAN

    Pumpkins and all other squash species originated in Central America more than 7,500 years ago. The oldest domesticated pumpkin seeds found to date are from the Oaxaca Highlands in southwest Mexico.

    The original pumpkins bore little resemblance to today’s large, bright orange, sweet variety. They were small and bitter.

    Domestication and breeding produced the pumpkins we know today. Brought to North America, pumpkins were a welcome food for the winter. Their thick skin and solid flesh were ideal for storing and consumption during months of scarcity.

    The Pilgrims (1620) and other Europeans immigrating to America were introduced to pumpkin by Native Americans. The first known pumpkin recipe they made was found in a book from the early 1670s: a side dish made from diced pumpkin, cooked down and blended with butter and spices (as acorn squash, butternut squash and sweet potatoes are prepared today).

    During the 17th century, housewives developed an inventory of pumpkin recipes, the most popular of which remains [drum roll…] pumpkin pie.

    In the 1800s it became stylish to serve sweetened pumpkin dishes during holiday dinners. The first proclamation for “national days of prayer, humiliation, and thanksgiving” led to an observance on November 28, 1782. Since 1863, Thanksgiving has been an official annual holiday, by proclamation of President Abraham Lincoln.

    BACK TO THE TACOS…

    RECIPE #1: CHICKEN-PUMPKIN TACOS

    This recipe was sent to us from Gilt City, which teamed up with Santa Monica-based Taco Teca to create something new for National Taco Day (October 4th). We’ve slightly adapted the recipe.
     
    Ingredients Per Taco

  • 3 ounces boneless chicken
  • 3 ounces sugar pumpkin or butternut squash
  • 2 ounces salsa mullato (recipe below)
  • 1/2 ounce queso fresco
  • Garnish: 3-4 sprigs cilantro
  • Optional condiment: cranberry sauce
  • Optional drink: pumpkin ale
  •  
    Preparation

    1. HEAT grill on medium/high heat for 10 minutes prior to grilling. Preheat the oven to 425°F.

     

    Pumpkin Tacos

    Pumpkin Sizes

    Arbol Chiles

    [1] Seasonal tacos: chicken with pumpkin or butternut squash. [2] A sugar pumpkin and a jack-o-lantern (photo courtesy Baking Bites). [3] Arbol chiles (photo courtesy Rancho Gordo).

     
    2. SEASON the chicken with salt and pepper and place it on the grill until thoroughly crocked, 8-10 minutes per side, to an internal temperature 165°F. While the chicken is cooking…

    3. CHOP the butternut squash into cubes and place them on a roasting tray. Place in the oven and roast until golden brown, about 20 minutes.

    4. CHOP the cooked chicken into bite-size pieces and place them in a saute pan with the salsa. Simmer for 10 minutes.

    5. REMOVE the chicken from the saute pan directly onto the center of the tortilla. Top with the butternut squash and queso fresco and garnish with cilantro. Serve with a side of cranberry sauce and a pumpkin ale.

    RECIPE #2: SALSA MULATTO

    This recipe is from Mexican-Authentic-Recipes.com.

    Mulatto salsa takes just 5 minutes to make. It is quite hot because it is prepared with arbol chiles. If you’d like less heat, use an equivalent weight of aji amarillo or serrano chiles. Check out the heat levels of different chiles on the Scoville Scale.

    The texture of the mulatto salsa is soft and oily, unlike the condiment salsas most Americans know.

    Ingredients For 1 Cup

  • 10 arbol chiles
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1 cup of canola oil or other flavorless oil
  • 1/2 tablespoon salt
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PLACE the chiles on a griddle over medium heat and roast for about 40 seconds, turning regularly, until all sides are lightly roasted. Transfer to a blender.

    2. ADD the garlic, oil and salt. Blend well.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: ‘Nduja, Spreadable Hot Salami

    Nduja Spread On Bread

    Nduja Bruschetta

    Spaghetti With Ndjuja

    Artisan Nduja

    Nduja Jar

    [1] ‘Nduja is traditionally used as a bread spread (photo courtesy Real Food Toronto). [2] For a fancier presentation, turn it into bruschetta (photo courtesy Great British Chefs). [3] It melts into pasta sauce or on a pizza; or you can sprinkle it as a garnish (a cloud of ricotta tempers the heat; photo courtesy Bestia | LA). [4] Artisan ‘nduja looks like this (photo courtesy ‘Nduja Artisans). [5] You may find ‘nduja sold in jars (photo courtesy Just So Italian.

     

    ‘Nduja (pronounced in-doo-ya), is a spicy—some say fiery—pork spread from the Calabria region of Italy. Think of it as spreadable hot soppressata or pepperoni with the texture of pâté-like texture.

    It is typically made with pork shoulder, belly and jowl, as well as tripe, roasted chiles and spices. It is loosely based on the French andouille sausage, developed in the 13th century by the Angevins, from the area of Anjou in western France.

    It is typically made with parts of the pig such as the shoulder, belly and jowl, as well as roasted hot peppers and a mixture of spices. Nduja has a characteristic fiery taste. It is a Calabrian variation of salami, loosely based on the French andouille introduced in the 13th century by the Angevins.

    Finally, North American producers of Italian-style salume like La Quercia began to make it. ‘Nduja Artisans in Chicago, which sells online, is the latest American producer we know of.

    Over the last couple of years, creative chefs discovered it and found ways to use it. While ‘nduja still has limited distribution nationwide, you can find it in Italian specialty stores including Eataly, in some Whole Foods Markets, and of course, online.

    You can use ‘nduja in any meal of the day. We hope it turns into a foodie trend sooner rather than later.
     
    ‘NDUJA HISTORY

    Most historians believe that ‘nduja was created as a poor man’s version of andouille sausage, which arrived in the area at the time Napoleon conquered Naples in 1806.

    The folks in the town of Spilinga, in western Calabria (the toe of the boot of southern Italy), made a version with pork fat, ground lung, kidneys, scraps from the head, other trimmings and some skin, and spiced it with fiery local chilies.

    The ground meat was stuffed into a casing (pig intestine) and then smoked, yielding a very robust-flavored salume. Some ’nduja is aged, for even more flavor.

    What About The Name?

    It looks and sounds unusual (when we first saw it in print, we thought it was an African food).

    It’s actually derived from the French word, andouille (on-DWEE), which means sausage.
     
    WAYS TO SERVE ‘NDUJA

    ‘Nduja has been served traditionally with slices of bread or with hearty cheeses. It can spice up just about anything. Because of its high fat content, it melts into sauces and pizzas.

    Consider it:

  • As bruschetta topping.
  • Spread on crostini or crackers (the difference between bruschetta and crostini).
  • On toast, with the ‘nduja at room temperature or warmed.
  • With an antipasto.
  • In pasta sauce or as a garnish—start with adding some to marinara sauce (it will melt in), or sprinkled ‘nduja atop pasta or pizza. Use the enhanced sauce for linguine and clams and other favorite recipes.
  • With Italian cheeses that can stand up to the heat: aged grana padano, crescenza, fontina, montasio, pecorino crotonese, provolone picante, taleggio, etc. See if you can find Pecorino Crotonese.
  • As a sandwich or burger condiment; or as the main filling in a sandwich (add some giardiniera, lettuce and tomato).
  • As a garnish for hearty soups.
  • In a spicy, meaty vinaigrette: Melt 3 tablespoons ‘nduja with 3 tablespoons olive oil. Whisk into vinegar, 1/3 vinegar to 2/3 flavored oil. Let cool or use warm.
  • As a flavorful pan fat (augmented with oil as needed), whether to fry eggs or crab cakes, flavor brussels sprouts, sear meat.
  • Rubbed under the skin of a chicken before roasting.
  • With grilled, roasted or seared meat or fish (warm the ‘nduja and brush it on just before serving.
  • As a spicy accent to mild foods: burrata, polenta, ricotta, scrambled eggs, etc. Replace the ham in Eggs Benedict with a layer of ’nduja.
  • Anywhere your creativity takes you. How about your version of ‘nduja surf and turf? One Bay Area restaurant, Incanto, uses it in chocolate ice cream (we haven’t seen the recipe, but we immediately thought of a savory ice cream, something like frozen mole sauce).
  •  
    Check out these recipes from Great British Chefs: ‘nduja with clams and squid ink, with grilled salmon, Eggs In Purgatory, even ‘nduja fritters!

    Wrapped in plastic, ‘nduja lasts for months in the fridge. In our home, it need only last for a week.
     
    THE ‘NDUJA FESTIVAL

    Outside of Calabria, ‘nduja is perhaps the best-known food. Calabrians are so proud of it that they’ve been holding an annual ‘Nduja Festival since 1975. It takes place in Spilinga, on August 8th.

    Attendees can taste ‘nduja in numerous ways, surrounded by folk music and traditional entertainments around Monte Poro (Spilinga).

    If you decide that ‘nduja is your new favorite food, you may want to book a trip!
     
    ________________
    *There are different regional styles of soppressata. Here are the different varieties.

    †Salume has been Americanized to salami, the term for spiced ground meat, usually pork, stuffed into a casing and cured.

     
      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Quick Homemade Ramen Soup

    Ramen Bowl With Boiled Egg

    Different Ramen Soups

    Tofu Ramen Soup

    Tonkatsu Ramen

    Nona Lim Pho

    [1] This comfort food is ready in just 10 minutes with this recipe (photo courtesy Good Eggs | SF). [2] Three ramen options at Kabuki Japanese Restaurants: [3] Ramen soup with yuba, called “tofu skin” in English; a by-product of soy milk production (photo courtesy Hannah Kaminsky | Bittersweet Blog. [4] Tonkatsu ramen soup, with sliced roast pork. Here’s the recipe from Williams-Sonoma. [5] Buy ready-made soup base, like this pho from Nona Lim.

     

    America’s favorite soup is chicken noodle. Is that why so many people love ramen soup, Japanese noodle version? (Ramen is the name of the Chinese-style wheat noodles in the soup.) Both versions are comfort food and hearty main courses.

    Instant ramen soup is helpful in a pinch, but it’s laden with so much salt. There’s much more much salt in the little silver seasoning packets than is good for you.

    One label we checked had 1434mg of sodium which is 60% of your Daily Value of salt; and if you eat the whole package (two servings), you’ve exceeded your Daily Value.

    So here’s an easy solution: Make your own ramen soup. It’s easy, and you can make as large a batch as you like. It’s also a great catch-all for leftover pasta, meats and veggies. Just follow this recipe template: Choose Your Base Buy beef, chicken or vegetable broth or stock, preferably low sodium. If you like to make your own stock, by all means, use it. If you find yourself with pork bones, make pork stock.
     
    RECIPE: 10 MINUTE RAMEN SOUP

    Ingredients For 2-3 Servings

  • 12 ounces Nona Lim pho broth, spicy Szechuan broth, or miso ramen broth
  • 5 ounces ramen noodles (one packet)
  • 1 head bok choy or ½ head chard or kale, sliced into ½” ribbons
  • 3 scallions, green and white parts chopped roughly
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup of fresh cilantro, chopped roughly (substitute basil, chervil, mint, parsley)
  •  
    Optional Toppings

    This recipe specifies green onions and soft boiled eggs, but you can switch them out or add other toppings. Look in the fridge, look in the cupboards.

  • Asian vegetables: baby corn, bean sprouts, water chestnuts
  • Frozen, canned or leftover cooked vegetables
  • Leftover proteins: beef, fish/seafood, poultry, pork, tofu (shred and toss into the bowl)
  • Seasonings: nori chips (the dried seaweed used to make sushi rolls, now a popular snack) other seaweed seaweed, sesame seeds or, Japanese 7-spice (shichimi togarashi)*
  •  
    Preparation

    1. HEAT the broth, adding 1 cup water to dilute slightly. When it boils, add the noodles and cook for 2-3 minutes. Then add the greens and scallions and simmer for another 3-5 minutes, until greens are bright and tender but still have texture.

    2. BOIL a small pot of water, then add the eggs and simmer for 7 minutes and 20 seconds. Remove from the water and place in an ice bath; peel when cold.

    3. LADLE out bowls of noodles and broth. Halve the eggs and add two halves to each bowl. Top with a handful of fresh herbs and serve.
     
    MORE RAMEN SOUP RECIPES

  • Homemade Ramen Soup
  • Homemade Pork Ramen Soup
  • Modern Ramen Toppings
  •  
    NONA LIM SOUPS

    We were heartbroken when our beloved pho soup starters—beer, chicken and vegetable—were discontinued by Pacific Natural Foods.

    Thank goodness Nona Lim stepped in to create fine Asian broths (and soup cups, too).

    Beyond fabulous flavor, Nona, a former professional athlete who ate whole, clean foods to gain a competitive advantage; I discovered the power of food as functional medicine. I observed how inflammatory foods would hurt my performance: my body and brain would only function at peak performance or recover faster when fueled with whole, clean foods.

    She developed the line as a healing, nutrient-dense, non-inflammatory meal program made with fresh, plant-rich, whole food ingredients and clean preparations made from scratch. We’re happy to be eating food that is all of these things; and even happier that the flavors are fabulous.

    Check out the website and find the retailer nearest to you.

     
    THE HISTORY OF RAMEN NOODLES

    Although we think of it as Japanese, ramen soup is a dish of Chinese wheat noodles in meat broth—chicken or pork—with toppings that originated in China. It is believed that “ramen” is the Japanese pronunciation of the Chinese word “lamian,” meaning “hand-pulled noodles” (as opposed to noodles that are sliced with a knife).

    It differs from native Japanese noodle soup dishes, in that until ramen appeared, Japanese broth was based on either vegetables or seafood (and these broths continue to be used as a base for ramen soup).

    While some ramen dishes began to appear in Japan in the late 1600s, they didn’t become widespread until the Meiji Era (1868 through 1912), when Japan moved from being an isolated feudal society to a modern nation.

    Foreign relations and the introduction of meat-based American and European cuisines led to increased production of meat, and played a large role in the growing popularity of ramen.

    The growth of ramen dishes continued after World War II, but remained a special-occasion meal that required going out to a restaurant. The broth could take days of simmering, requiring time beyond what most housewives could spare.

    Restaurant ramen is considered fine cuisine; soup recipes and methods of preparation are closely-guarded secrets.

    Almost every locality or prefecture in Japan created its own variation of the dish, served at restaurants (the different types of ramen by region).

     

    Beyond regional variations, innovative Japanese chefs continue to push the boundaries of ramen cuisine. Innovation is the name of the game. Curry ramen, invented in the Hokkaido region, became a national favorite, as has ramen based on the Chinese dish of shrimp in chili sauce.

    Non-Japanese ingredients such as black pepper and butter have also found their way into recipes. What’s next is anyone’s guess—or what your creative thinking adds to the bowl. (BLT? Jalapeño?)

    Instant Ramen

    In 1958, instant noodles† were invented by Momofuku Ando, founder and chairman of Nissin Foods. Named the greatest Japanese invention of the 20th century in a Japanese poll, instant ramen allowed anyone to make this dish simply by adding boiling water.

    Of course, the instant version is a pale shadow of laboriously-made restaurant ramen soup. But exported, Ando’s ramen soup packages soon became a pop culture sensation across the globe.

    Cheap, flavorful and filling, they were salvation to people with limited funds, including college students.

    To avoid the sodium overload, toss the seasoning packet and add your own seasonings: red pepper flakes, curry, herbs, whatever.

    Instead of salt, use low sodium soy sauce.
     
     
    ________________
    *Japanese 7 Spice, shichimi togarashi, is a popular seasoning for soup, rice and other dishes. It’s a blend of black and/or white sesame seeds, dried nori seaweed, hot red pepper, ginger, orange peel and other ingredients such as hemp seed, poppyseed and white pepper. You can blend your own or buy it.

    †The first instant noodles were ramen, but now include soba, udon, etc.
    ________________

     

    Restaurant Ramen Soup

    Nissin Ramen Package

    [1] Restaurant ramen soup, simmered for many hours to get an elegant broth (photo courtesy Hannah Kaminsky). [2] The ramen that captivated America: “oodles of noodles” (photo courtesy Nissin).

     

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Celebrate Diwali With Indian Food

    Tandoor Chef Chicken Tikka Masala

    Tandoor Chef Chicken Tikka Masala

    Amira Rice

    Diwali Rangoli

    You don’t know how to cook Indian cuisine to enjoy a quality dinner at home. [1] and [2] A family favorite, Tandoor Chef Chicken Tikka Masala (photos courtesy Tandoor Chef). [3] Amira rice, an authentic Indian brand (photo courtesy Amira Foods). [4] A relatively simple rangoli made by college students. Some designs are very elaborate (photo courtesy VanityApologies.com).

     

    This coming Sunday, instead of brunch at home, we’re headed to a buffet at a neighborhood Indian restaurant. It’s Diwali.

    WHAT IS DIWALI?

    Diwali or Deepavali is one of the most prominent Hindu festivals of India, a five-day festival of lights that celebrates the triumph of good over evil. Indians of all religions celebrate.

    The date, based on the Hindu calendar, varies in countries that use other calendars (the U.S. uses the Gregorian calendar).

    This year, Diwali begins on October 30th and continues through November 3rd. Here’s more from DiwaliFestival.org.

    In India, families make vibrant rangolis, an art form in which patterns are created on the floor in living rooms or courtyards brightly-colored rice, dry flour, colored sand or flower petals. lighting diyas, traditional oil lamps made from clay, sharing sweets and exchanging gifts with friends and family.

    Another tradition is lighting crackers—rocket shaped firecrackers or sparklers.

    Here, in New York City, we eat!

    You can have a joint holiday this year: Diwali on the 30th and Halloween on the 31st. Dia de los Muertos also begins on the eve of the 31st, through November 1st.

    WHAT CAN YOU DO FOR DIWALI?

    Cook an Indian dish, or go to an Indian restaurant.

    While we have an easy rice recipe below, those with no time to cook have lots of heat-and-eat options.

    that we always have on hand.

  • TastyBite is an inexpensive, shelf-stable brand in pouches. You can gather them all and have your own mini-buffet at home.
  • Saffron Road and Tandoor Chef, two top-quality frozen brands, have just about anything you could want. We often have the entrées and the crisp samosas.
  • Maya Kaimal makes authentic Indian simmer sauces. Add your own protein, and simmer away to a fragrant and delicious dinner.
  • Stonefire naan is a moist and flavorful flatbread we eat year-round, in original, whole grain and garlic (our current favorite). We serve it with breakfast eggs, make sandwiches with it, as well as serve it with Indian cuisine.
  • Swad coriander and tamarind chutneys are must-trys. Like hot sauces and salsas, they can be used with any grilled, fried or roasted foods, potatoes, grains and vegetables. Most Americans only know Major Grey’s chutney, a mango chutney sweetened for British palates. We like it, but the savory chutneys are dynamite.
  •  
     
    HERE’S HOW TO PAIR INDIAN FOOD WITH WINE & BEER.

     
    RECIPE: VEGETABLE PULAO (PILAF)

    The reason America’s home cooks don’t prepare more Indian food from scratch, is that it takes lots of specialty ingredients.

    Unless one cook it regularly, it’s more practical to enjoy the prepared food brands or head to your favorite Indian restaurant. Otherwise, find other ways to use the spices in your regular recipes, from dips to sides to mains.

    Here’s a classic rice recipe that goes with everything, from Sharmilee Jayaprakash, a food blogger who lives in the city of Coimbatore, near the western border of the state of the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. Follow her cooking at SharmisPassions.com.

    See complete cooking photos for this recipe at SharmisPassions.com.

     

    Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup basmati rice
  • 3 cups water
  • Spices for pot: 1 bay leaf, 1 cardamom pod, 2 whole cloves, 1 small star anise
  • Dry-roasted spices (list below)
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • Rice spices (listed below)
  • 1/2 cup mixed carrots and peas
  • 1 teaspoon cooking oil for jeera (cumin) powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon roasted jeera powder (roasted, ground cumin seeds—more information)
  • Fresh mint and cilantro leaves to taste
  • 2 teaspoons ghee, divided (substitute unsalted butter)
  • 1 teaspoon ginger garlic paste
  • 1/8 teaspoon garam masala powder
  • =

  • 10 cashews
  • Salt to taste
  •  
    To Make The Jeera

  • 1/2 tablespoon oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds*
  •  
    For The Dry-Roasted Spices

  • 1/4-inch piece cinnamon stick
  • 2 whole cloves
  • 1 cardamom pod
  • 1/2 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
  • 1 small star anise
  •  
    ________________
    *If you have ground cumin and don’t want to buy the seeds, you can quickly toast ground cumin in a pan (how to toast spices). It will be lesss flavorful, but it’s a hack.
    ________________
     
    Preparation

    1. SOAK the rice for 15 minutes; then cook, adding the rice spices to the pot: bay leaf, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, peppercorns and star anise. As the rice cooks…

    2. DRY ROAST (a.k.a. pan-toast) the spices for 3 minutes in a nonstick pan (how to roast spices) until the aroma wafts up. Then grind them to a semi-coarse powder with a mortar and pestle. You may not use all the powder; Shari reserved 1/2 teaspoon for another use. Set aside until Step 5.

     

    Indian Pilaf - Pulao

    Indian Pilaf - Pulao

    Amira Rice

    [5] Ingredients for vegetable pulao (pilaf) and [6] the finished dish, from SharmisPassions. [7] Amira, a brand of authentic Indian rices (photo courtesy Amira Foods).

     
    3. STRAIN any water from the cooked rice, spread the rice on a plate, fluff it up with a fork and let it cool.

    4. STEAM-cook the vegetables until they are slightly soft yet toothsome. (Or, thaw frozen carrots and peas). Set aside. Use the pan to sauté the onion.

    5. MAKE the jeera powder: Heat the oil in a small nonstick pan; add the cumin seeds and wait for them to crackle. Add the ginger garlic paste and onion and fry for a minute. Add the spice mixture along with roasted jeera powder and garam masala powder. Add salt to taste, and give the mixture a quick sauté. While the onions fry…

    6. FRY the cashews in ghee until golden brown and set aside.

    7. ADD the steamed vegetables to the pan and sauté for 2 minutes. Add the cooked rice, cover and cook for 2 minutes. Garnish with the coriander and mint leaves and mix well until the leaves slightly shrink. Finally, add the ghee and fried cashews.

    9. REMOVE from the heat, give it a quick stir and place in a serving bowl. Serve warm.

      

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