Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Not My Grandma's Indian Food - But Close

I’ve been craving some real home cooked Indian food like you wouldn’t believe. Since my mom isn’t coming to visit until March, and the local Indian restaurants are only good for your token idli sambar and dosa (b/t/w Udupi Palace in Takoma Park is great for this token food), I figured I would have to prepare a decent Indian meal myself. So, I made some chicken biryani and tomato chutney. Bibi’s chicken biryani recipe would have taken me all day to prepare and since I’m much too impatient when I’m hungry to spend more than one hour cooking, I found a quickie biryani recipe on the BBC Foods website. I have to say, it wasn’t half bad.

Quickie Chicken Biryani

1 boneless, skinless chicken breast
½ onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
2 tbsp olive oil
½ tsp turmeric
½ tsp cardamon pods
½ tsp coriander seeds
½ tsp ground cumin
2oz butter
7oz rice
1 chicken stock cube
Cilantro to garnish

1. Slice the chicken into pieces about 1.5cm/¼in thick.
2. Heat the olive oil in a pan and add the onion. Cook until it softens.
3. Add the chicken slices to the pan along with the garlic and cook gently for 3 minutes.
4. Into the pan add the turmeric, cardamon pods, coriander seeds and ground cumin.
5. Add the butter, let it melt then add the rice.
6. Coat the rice in the butter and spices then cover with boiling water.
7. Add the stock cube, bring to the boil and simmer for 12 minutes or until the rice is cooked.
8. Garnish with cilantro.

Most people accompany raita (yogurt dish) with biryani, but I like tomato chutney. It’s spicy and so tasty.

Tomato Chutney

2 cans of diced tomatoes

1 tsp. cayenne pepper

½ tsp. salt

Handful of chopped cilantro

3 T. cooking oil

1 tsp cumin seeds

1 tsp. mustard seeds

1/2 tsp. caraway seeds

2 to 3 dried red chilies

4 or 5 curry leaves

1. Heat oil in a pot.

2. Add all the seeds and red chilies in the pot. Let the seeds brown.

3. Once the seeds start to brown, add the rest of the ingredients in the pot, cover the lid, and simmer for approximately 20 to 30 minutes.

4. You’ll know it’s done when it has a chutney consistency – most of the liquid has evaporated.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

I Heart Wegmans

What is Wegmans? Oh you poor souls that don’t know….You really are missing out. Wegmans is a foodie’s paradise. It is Whole Foods/Trader Joe’s/Safeway/Balducci’s wrapped into one. It is beautiful…masterful…sumptuous….ahhhh….

It’s also a market that I can only visit a few times a year since it is 70 miles away! I recall reading in the Washington Post, many months ago, that a new Wegman’s was opening in Hunt Valley, near Baltimore, Maryland. Hundreds of customers started to line up outside the doors at 5:30 am on the day of the grand opening, as if they were attending a rock concert with general seating. They just wanted to be the first ones to step inside the brand new Wegmans.

Anyways, I recently found out that a Wegmans will be opening near me sometime in the near future. I can’t wait! In my college days, I would stand in line at 5 am just to get concert tickets – now, I may stand in line at 5 am to get into a fantastic grocery store…woohoo!

Ah, how times have changed.

Check out the Wegman's website for some tasty recipes -

C-Flower Dilemma

I think that coming up with a tasty vegetable side dish is hard. I mean, you want to keep the healthy part of the vegetable involved in the recipe (i.e., no deep-frying, cheese toppings, etc.), but you also want it to be more than edible, right?

So, yesterday, I had to work with some leftover cauliflower. There are only a couple of things that you can do with cauliflower: steam it or puree it. In my opinion, both of those options stink. So, I opted for roasting –with some turmeric, ginger, and tomatoes. Not great, but not bad either.

Roasted Gobi

1 T olive oil

Handful of grape tomatoes or 2 tomatoes, diced

Jalapeno, seeded and minced

1 T mustard seed

1 tsp. minced ginger

½ tsp ground turmeric

1 head of cauliflower, broken into florets

1. Preheat the oven to 425.
2. Mix all of the ingredients in a large bowl.
3. Place on baking sheet in a single layer.
4. Roast for 30 to 4o minutes; stir occasionally.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007


Tuesdays are my work-at-home days. This would, theoretically, allow me to spend more than a half-hour preparing dinner, since there is no commute time to contend with or any real fatigue resulting from a long day at the office. So, instead of boiling up some pasta and having that for dinner, I could, theoretically of course, roast a tenderloin, or something of the sort. Well, yesterday I worked at home, and this is what I made….

I know…I know…but at least I made my own sauce. I could lie and say that the sauce took a couple of hours to make, but it really only took 20 minutes.

My cousin’s former nanny taught me this oh-so-simple sauce recipe. I did tweak it, of course, since the one she made was for two toddlers – hence, no real seasoning. Anyways, I figured I should give credit where it is due – so, thanks Lydia (wherever you are).

Oh-So Simple Pasta Sauce
Serves 2

2 T olive oil
12 oz. or 1 small carton grape tomatoes – sliced in half
2 cloves garlic, pressed
Crushed red pepper (optional)
Fresh torn basil
Fresh torn parsley
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Heat olive oil in medium-sized sauce pan on medium-high heat.
2. Add garlic and cook until it is golden, but not brown or black (that is bad). Then, add the tomatoes. Let them cook down. It should take about 5-7 minutes. Keep stirring during this time. 3. Add crushed red pepper. Stir.
4. Add parsley and basil and salt and pepper to taste.
5. Serve over any kind of pasta you want (I prefer spaghetti – the sauce sticks better).

* By the way, if you notice from the pasta picture above, I added chicken to the pasta. It was just some leftover cooked chicken, but it tasted yummy.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Cube Steak with Sauteed Mushrooms

I don’t often eat steak. I mean sometimes I love to go to a Steakhouse and eat a nice juicy NY Strip, but it doesn’t happen a lot – not only because it can be costly, but also because it doesn’t do as much for me as I would like. That being said, there are times when I do crave a steak at home, but don’t feel like fussing with a big ol’ piece of meat. That’s when I grill a cube steak, and pair it with some sautéed button mushrooms. Cube steak isn’t a popular piece of meat. I don’t know why exactly. It’s simply a cut of beef that is tenderized in a big way. Cube steak is also fairly cheap and you can even buy Kosher cube steak, if you are so inclined (I prefer to do so because the meat looks prettier).

Cube Steak with Sautéed Mushrooms Recipe
Serves 2
2 4-6 ounces pieces of cube steak
2 T olive oil or 2 T butter (butter is better, but olive oil is healthier – you decide)
2 cloves garlic, pressed
8 ounces button mushrooms, sliced
1 small shallot, finely chopped
¼ cup white wine
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
Handful of chopped fresh parsley
Salt and pepper to taste
Mushroom Sautee:
1. In a medium-size sauté pan, heat the olive oil on medium-high heat. Add garlic and shallot and cook until the shallots soften – about 4 minutes.
2. Add the mushrooms to the pan. Let the mushrooms cook down a bit.
3. Once the mushrooms have slightly softened, add the white wine. Lower the heat and let the mushrooms simmer in the wine for about 5 minutes.
4. Add lemon juice, parsley, and salt and pepper to taste.
5. Serve over cube steak.
Cube Steak:
1. Heat grill on medium-high heat or heat broiler.
2. Place the steaks on the grill or in the broiler (if using broiler – keep steaks at least 3 to 4 inches from heat source).
3. Cook the steaks to the desired doneness – beware: cube steak cooks much faster than a Strip or Filet Mignon. If you want rare or medium, cooks the steaks for no more than 2 minutes per side.
4. When done, sprinkle with salt and pepper and serve with mushrooms.
By the way, you'll notice from the photograph that I added a nuked sweet potato to my meal. It is so easy to make. Just puncture a sweet potato several times with a fork or knife, wrap it in a paper towel, and nuke it for 6 minutes on high. Afterwards, you can add whatever toppings you like. It's good stuff.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Welcome to Garam Masala Foods

I’ve decided to start this food blog as a means of sharing my favorite recipes. I love to cook and experiment with different foods, but it is rare that I get to share my food accomplishments …and disasters too. Many of these recipes come from my grandmother, Bibi’s, collection. She was an amazing person, and an amazing cook to boot. Before she passed, she shared with me many of her Indian recipes. I used to sit on her bed and write all of the mouth-watering recipes down on a notepad. She would often say, “you have to put a pinch of cayenne in the pot” – ummmm, how much is a “pinch” exactly??? Eventually, I figured out what to do – don’t get me wrong, it usually took me a few go arounds before I got it right. So, if you try these recipes and it doesn’t work on the first try, DON'T GIVE UP!!!

These days I not only cook Indian food, but all kinds of dishes. Most of my recipes are for savory items. While I love to eat sweets, I am, frankly, a terrible baker. The precise measuring of baking drives me nuts! It’s so much better when you can add a “palmful” of this, or a “sprinkling” of that. I guess Bibi rubbed off on me that way.

I’ll try and post a few times each week. I’ll put up my old standards and some new recipes that I try. And if all goes well, I’ll add some food pictures to the fray. Please feel free to add comments, or send me some of your favorite recipes.

Good eating!