Month: July 2011

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Dreamy Homemade Garam Masala

Makes about 3 Tbsp Take a deep breath. Close your eyes. Imagine you’re in India. Having trouble? I can help. Let’s make some Garam Masala. Garam Masala is possibly the most well known spice blend from India. Grandmas all over the northern region grind up fresh batches of this earthy goodness for dinner every day. They’ve got the right idea. Grinding whole spices as needed is the secret to bold, flavorful dishes. You, too, can fill your home with the warm, sweet smell of India. And then you’ll be able to visualize. To travel. With nothing more than your imagination. Ingredients: 1 Tbsp coriander seeds 1 Tbsp cumin seeds 1 tsp peppercorns 2 cinnamon sticks 10 seeds from green cardamom pods 10 whole cloves Method: Let’s take a stroll over to an Indian spice market. Forget the car. Parking isn’t really worth the trouble. But the spices are. While we’re there, let’s gather a bounty of spices. We’re going to make a ritual out of delicousness. Buy spices you recognize and spices you don’t. Breathe in the …

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The Amazing Sophie Herbert

“Me, me, me” is most certainly not Sophie Herbert’s mantra. Sophie’s passion for social activism on a global scale shines like a bright light. Everything she does is for the benefit of others – from yoga, to singing; from films, to writing. She’s been to India 8 times, spending a total of about 14 months there as a volunteer and yoga instructor.  She’s also taught yoga in Kazakhstan for 3 months. Sophie writes for Whole Living Magazine, is an ambassador for Yoga Gives Back, a charity dedicated to assisting India’s destitute women and children, and the co-director of celebrity chef Vikas Khanna’s next documentary. You can find more information on her web site and follow her blog on Whole Living. For anyone interested in making the world a better place, Sophie is someone not simply to know, but to study. Her positive energy is absolutely contagious. And now let’s hear her amazing story, in her own words. 1. You do the most incredible work as a social activist, yoga instructor, musician and advocate for children in India. How …

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Homemade Paneer Cheese

Makes 1 block of cheese Cheese lovers, come closer. I have a secret to tell you. I never thought I’d be able to do this. I thought it would be hard. I thought I’d just waste a bunch of milk. I didn’t. The truth is, the only thing standing between you and great cheese is a half gallon of milk, salt, and a little lemon juice. That’s pretty ridiculous. And empowering. Trust me. If you’ve never made homemade cheese before, you’ll delight in the simplicity of Indian Paneer. And it just might make you feel better if you’re having a rough day. Ingredients: 2 quarts (8 cups)  whole milk 1 1/2 tsp salt 4 Tbsp strained lemon juice Cheesecloth Method: Every once in a while life gets frustrating. Everything just… drags. Like you have too much on your shoulders. Maybe you feel a little bit lonely. Maybe you’re bored. Or maybe you’re just hungry. It’s hard to know for sure, sometimes. On days like this it’s nice to take a stroll in the desert – to …

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Menu: India

Somehow the stars aligned and Ava’s second birthday (July 4) fell on the weekend I cooked India. What does that mean? Ava’s second birthday party was definitely not the candy/pizza/ice cream fest that is standard in so many homes. Nope. Instead, my yard was dotted with tots running around with kulfi pops and adults sipping masala chai (which I served iced, thanks to Oklahoma’s outrageous 101F temperatures). It was really rather grand and quite possibly epic, as far as toddler birthday parties go. What would you try? Saag Paneer [recipe] with homemade Garam Masala [recipe] India’s answer to creamed spinach. Our version is mildly spiced with ginger, turmeric, homemade garam masala, and serrano chili peppers – finished with a touch of half and half. Homemade Paneer (cheese) [recipe] Whole milk naturally curdled with lemon juice and pressed into creamy, sliceable cheese. Masala Chai (Spiced Tea) [recipe] Black tea steeped with cinnamon, cardamom, fennel, and other spices until fragrant. Mixed with milk and sugar for an irresistible treat. Drink hot or break tradition and enjoy over ice. Kulfi Pops (Indian …

After a ritual bath in Amritsar, India. Photo by Paul Rudd

About the food of India

Need a smile? Want to stretch it from ear to ear? Spin the globe and point your finger. Dream of going wherever your finger lands – then go. Just promise me this – when you get there, try the Indian food. Chances are good that they’ll have some. From England to Guyana, Fiji to the United States – Indian food has made it’s way around the globe.  And not just Tikka Masala, the famed “butter chicken” dish from North India, but an entire arsenal of delicious treats. Here’s the deal. If the food of India was categorized on one menu, you’d have at least four sections. Each of those sections would be further subdivided with even more regional specialties (via 28 states and 7 territories). And the menu would be about ten thousand pages. Bottom line? India is huge. She’s a prism of cultural and religious diversity. She’s a haven of deliciousness. My advice? When in doubt, order it all. While there’s no way to cover it all, here’s a cheat sheet: 1. North India The food of …

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Monday Meal Review: Iceland

THE SCENE Careful, Sasha. Let’s get this right. I quietly dropped the blueberries into the measuring cup, then into the pot. The first time I made the ice cream, I’d accidentally doubled the amount of blueberries required, thinking a “clamshell” container of blueberries equaled two cups. Turns out a clamshell actually holds closer to four cups. The result? Icy, icy ice cream all over the counters. Not pleasant. This time I’d get it right. The scent of cardamom wafted up from the bubbling pot, mixing with the sweet blueberries. Intoxicating. If fairies wore perfume, this would be their signature scent. A few hours later the syrupy goodness was chilled and ready to go. I looked at the clock. So was Ava. Naptime. “Hold on sweetie. I just need to get the ice cream churning.” Her eyes got big.  “Ice cream?” “Yes, honey. You can have some after your nap.” I smiled, trying to sound convincing. I poured the milk and heavy cream into the machine but, before I could add the chilled blueberries, a sharp …

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Sweet Rye Bread Soup | Brauðsúpa

Serves 6 This is the strangest soup I’ve ever sipped, and I owe it all to Iceland. Actually, “sip” isn’t really the right word. It’s actually somewhere between chew and sip – this soup is thick and hearty. The sugar and raisins give it a sweet, desserty feel, but still it feels like comfort food. Add rhubarb “raisins” if desired. Ingredients: 4 slices light rye bread, chopped (5 cups) 3 slices whole/dark rye bread, chopped (3 cups) 1/2 cup lingdonberry or sour cherry jam 1/4 cup sugar, or more to taste 1/2 cup homemade rhubarb raisins water, as needed Method: Icelanders love rye bread. The love it in the morning. They love it in the night. The love it on the “road”… and they love it chopped up for soup. Let’s create a little Icelandic comfort. Add the cubed bread to a pot and cover with water. Then stir in the jam and bring to a simmer. Puree with an immersion blender until smooth. Add raisins and sugar, to taste. Continue simmering until the bread …

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Tart Rhubarb Soup (chilled)

Serves 2-4 Friends, when rhubarb season calls, you must answer. This cold rhubarb soup from Iceland is like a big sip of sunshine. It tastes like lemonade. It tastes like rhubarb. It tastes like “good.” We only have a little more time in rhubarb land until next spring, so hop over to the grocery store and get some! Ingredients: 4 cups chopped rhubarb (cut into 1″ pieces) – about 1 bunch 2 cups water 3/4 cup sugar, more as needed 2 tsp lemon juice Method: Rhubarb, rhubarb, rhubarb. It makes me happy. Almost as happy as these pictures make me… just look at his mane. It’s enough to make any pony jealous Once you chop up the rhubarb, there’s almost nothing left to do. Toss everything in a pot, let simmer for 15 minutes and puree. Chill for a few hours, until cold. Crumble on some zwieback biscuits, or you could serve it up with a dollop of something sweet, if you’d like. But I prefer to eat it with someone sweet. Sip slowly and let …

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DIY Rhubarb Raisins

So you feel like something unsual for lunch… but you just don’t feel like you’re up to Iceland’s famed putrefied shark flesh called Hákarl? You know… the dish made up of poisonous shark flesh that’s been fermented and hung to dry so that it’s no longer poisonous? The one that was traditionally buried and exposed to several freeze/thaw cycles until naturally fermented? The one that tastes like cheesy ammonia? Yeah. Let’s try something simpler. A little more tame. Perhaps something you could bake with? How about rhubarb “raisins”? This is one of those ingenious, resourceful Icelandic dishes that anyone can make at home. All you need is a very hot day (95-100F), or a barely warm oven (150F). Chop up a pile of rhubarb and set it out in the sun (or in the oven), until dried up and shriveled. If you leave it outside, you might cover it lightly with a thin cloth to keep dust and gunk away. Once the rhubarb dries up, pack it in sugar until needed. They get really small, so …