Culinary, cuisines and me

Cooking had never been by forte, until the past few years. My only record of having ventured the kitchen was during my engineering days, at 2 am, when in the last minute preps for the semester exam, I would render a quick cheese sandwich (recipe courtesy Preethi). But for all those adventurous cook outs at divku’s and home alone parties, I was a mere connoisseur of food cooked around me!

Ousting this reflection of mine, I have indeed taken to cooking in the past two years of my life here; partially due to the lack of amma’s presence and partially due to my genuine likeness to eat sumptuously. It had begun with many unwarranted experiments during graduate years and accommodated to more intricate dishes as work life set in. And like an answer to the old me, last weekend I had, with N, prepared a challenging menu for eleven odd friends who had dined with us; I believe the food wasn’t half as bad.

With the proclivity to cook, comes a tendency to venture into many boundaries. And living in a city like Boston with variegated cuisines, there are many choices to make. On one such mission, we had dined at the Addis Red sea restaurant in south Boston on Sunday. The little diner in the basement on Tremont Street, speaks of the Ethiopian culture even in the cane made dining tables called moseb. We were in for a surprise, as our seats were nothing more than the uncomfortable ‘moda’ backless chairs centered on the circle topped ‘moseb’.

When our curiously named meals arrived, we were served a large plate to be shared among the four of us. Four ‘injera’s, the Ethiopian bread made of barley and wheat, which looked and felt like the ‘aapam’ from kerala, lined the plate, with the curries ordered dropped at its core. Unlike a western dinner, the food is a compulsory eat-with-hand, owing to the dosa like injera, which is too soft for a knife or fork. Yet, in all its novelty and traditional setup, the curry had not appealed to our well spruced spice loving Indian tongue. To me the food seemed healthy and bland, with a twist of creativity, adding up to a fat check. And if you are looking for an unconditional change of ambience and taste, this is definitely a place to try.

For the less ambitious, is another of my favorite restaurants ‘Helmand’ in Cambridge. And as the name suggests, it’s an afghan cuisine, with a friendlier menu. The very familiar spicy rice and jeera rice are intriguingly named pallow and challow. For the meat lovers, the place holds a wide range of ‘murgh’ and ‘ghosh’ dishes. But barring it all is the desserts of kheer, custards and icecream with a dash of awareness and attractive names. Nevertheless to say, we often haunt the place for birthday parties and order every dessert on the menu.

And as for the twist in taste to hold the Asian touch, is the ‘Brown Sugar’, a sundry street diner on Jersey Street near Fenway. Being a lover of egg and accustomed to a coconut flavor, the Thai omelet is definitely my favorite. But my luncheons there are never complete without the melting hot and cold fried icecream.

If I were to recommend a local gastronomy, it would be the veggie burgers and flat bread pizzas at Uno Chicago grill. The rustic American set up of the 70s and 80s combined with the sides of French fries and coleslaw, I have dined here one too many. But for that burning tongue feel, the jalapeños coasted food with the Mexican flavor, “on the border”’s ‘chimichanga is a must try!

It takes a food buff to make a good cook they say. I am not sure if that really holds, but I have definitely speculated and played with ingredients ever since I have learnt to understand their flavors. On one such undertaking, I ended up with an eggplant curry and recipe goes thus –

Ingredients –

  1. One or two large eggplants.
  2. cumin
  3. mustard
  4. curry leaves
  5. Ginger ( 2 cm cube )
  6. 2 small flakes of garlic
  7. green chilies ( 3 or 4 )
  8. 1 tblsp of coconut milk
  9. chilly powder according to taste
  10. Coriander powder, if available.
  11. Onion ( 2 )
  • Preheat the oven for 350 or more and bake the egg plants for half n hour, continuously pricking them with a knife.
  • Make a fresh coarse paste of ginger garlic and chilies.
  • Cut the onions long and fry them in olive oil, with popped cumin, mustard and curry leaves, until golden brown. Plop in the ginger garlic mix until the raw smell gives way to a smooth flavor.
  • Add chilly powder and fry until the dry pungency is lost.
  • To this brown mixture on fire, drop the coconut milk and let it simmer at a low flame, so that the unrefined coconut tang nullifies.
  • In the meanwhile, scoop the well baked egg plant, leaving the darkened violet skin. Cut it into smaller pieces if necessary.
  • To the well cooked, aroma emanating semi solid paste, add the eggplant pieces.
  • Now sprinkle coriander powder and salt as the eggplant cooks and blends with the gravy.
  • Let cook for 15 minutes. Serve hot with garnished coriander leaves. Very good for chapathis.

To each reading this, you are welcome to share your novel recipe. Till then happy cooking and happy eating!

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3 thoughts on “Culinary, cuisines and me

  1. Mithra says:

    It was Indeed an amazing dinner, truly delicious! When it comes to cooking, I guess necessity is the mother of invention, the desire to eat well does influence our cooking abilities!

  2. Mithra says:

    My own eggplant creation, inspired by Persian cuisine:1. Oven bake eggplants just as you described.2. In a blender, mix 2 tablespoons of cream, 2 sprigs of mint and a couple of green chillies.3. Cook onions in olive oil over low heat for 10 minutes, until they become soft and caramellized. Add Jeera, and saute.4. Add the thick blended paste to the mixture along with the eggplant pulp. Salt to taste and cook for 5 mins. 5. Top with deep fried onion slices and mint leaves.

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