Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Sujata's Recap

Make sure to check out Sujata's brilliant recaps of our amazing India journey with our pal Satya.

As she puts it on Bombay, "We roamed all over the city. One minute we were at a luxiourious lounge at the Taj, sipping fancy teas, then a half hour later we were at a dive bar drinking Kingfisher and listening to Metallica. Thinking back to all that we did, it's basically a lovely blur."

Plus, Satya took time to get on stage and sing at the Taj's lounge. It was quite a lovely blur.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

India Delivered

I've just returned from an amazing three weeks or so eating may way through India. Three sets of photos: one for food, another for bikes and transport, and finally scenes. Find these sets on my Flickr starting with "India 2007".

Here's the backstory (my amazing pals showed me around).


Thursday, March 08, 2007

Risotto: With Coriander. Cumin Confiscated.

Laura on Cardamom Frangrance.jpg
Laura on Risotto-3.jpg
Photos: Christopher Brunn
Laura and I cooked some rather creamy (from olive oil and starch) risotto tonight over a nicely chilled bottle of white Famega Vinho Verde (2006). I had been expecting more effervescence from the wine, but was quite pleased at how I tasted just a hint of sweetness, how easily it went down and how it made the cooking time pass seamlessly (really, conversing with Laura was really the key to the seamlessness). A quarter of the bottle went in the risotto.

Without any veg stock, I started a pot of water simmering. We could use some of the spices I just brought from India for flavor instead. My whole cumin seeds didn't make it. Still in sight of the baggage carousels in the international terminal at O'Hare aiprort, a gloved USDA agent delicately poured my bag of cumin onto a white tissue on top of a Customs inspection table. Among the cumin, they found the seed of another plant we don't want here.

Meanwhile, Laura and I sautéed as much Arborio rice as we thought four of us (thinking and hoping leftovers) could eat in enough olive oil to coat the pan, stirring. Crush up some coriander seeds and green cardamom in a mortar and toss in to the olive oil, too. (Better yet, sautée in yet another pan to top each serving with; you'll smell the amazing fragrance and it'll remind me of the sautéed oil and spice mix drizzled on top of homemade chutneys in India.) When the rice was well coated and began to become translucent, we added the wine and waited for it to absorb while crumbling in a handful of curry leaves. Risotto requires near constant stirring to keep from sticking and burning.

When only traces of liquid remained, we added hot water from the pot. Add enough so when it's stirred in, the rice is in a shallow amount. Mushrooms work well here, and we rehydrated a dried sliced variety in the simmering water - straining with a small hand-held sieve and adding them back to the pot when adding liquid to the rice (sautée fresh mushrooms if using instead of dried).

Repeat adding hot liquid many times, each time stirring and waiting for it to be absorbed until the rice is very tender and creamy. Stir in enough olive oil and plenty of salt (unless you're using a well-salted veg stock). Near the end, stir in the mushrooms with summer savory and basil - or whichever herbs you like, rubbing them between your fingers to bring out their aromas if they're dried. Finish with freshly ground black pepper. Serve in Bambu bowls if you're lucky enough to have some. (Thanks to Dan for them as my last birthday present; perhaps he'll sell them in his nice new store.)

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Chili con Pasta

casarecce pasta with veg chili.jpgPhoto: Christopher Brunn
A few days back, I returned very jetlagged from India. Now, it seems that I've reversed it, staying up late as if casting aside any lessons I might have learned on relaxing from my vacation. Tonight, I'm more interested in catching up on photos and writing than I am about actually eating (despite how it might seem from my Argo Tea post on muffins yesterday), so I've quickly made myself an 8-minute dinner. 8 minutes is just the time it takes to cook my casarecce pasta al dente. OK, add a few minutes to bring the water to boil and make it a 12-minute dinner.

Boil a pot of water. Meanwhile, bring a can of your favorite veg chili to simmer in another pot and stir it once in a while so it doesn't stick. When the water's hopping, add enough pasta to take up the chili, but not so much that you'll be eating dry pasta; guess it, and toss any extra in olive oil and save for later. When the pasta's hardness has given way to firmness, strain and toss with the chili. Add whatever you think the chili needs - salt, olive oil or more hot pepper. Enjoy with chilled tomato juice in a nice highball glass.