Tuesday, August 28, 2012

A little outing and 2 restaurant reviews

Last week, we made plans to take a small vacation. Finally. 
M gets 3 weeks vacation, like most slaves ;). This, if not claimed, is washed down the drain ( which has happened) without any compensation. Smart people ( and those like us, who learn things the hard way), therefore, take leave, when opportunity arises.
Since he is about to start a new project, come September, last 2 weeks of August seemed like a good time. 

We plan things quickly, make bookings quickly, pack minimally and set out. Our destination this time was Houston. It was a matter of minutes before we booked our hotel ( we prefer Marriott Group, simply because they have a kitchenette), booked the car  and we traveled during the week. 
For the first time in 4 years, I traveled without my kitchen! Let me explain, traveling with little S meant cooking food,  I was not too happy about restaurant cooked food for him and preferred making a simple khichadi for him, this ensures no unpleasant shocks with sickness. It did mean carrying my rice cooker and a pre-made khichadi mix from home. 
Now that Little S is 4 and enjoys eating out, we decided to drop the extra baggage of carrying 'the kitchen'! 
But wait, it is still not that easy! When I say eating out, it does become difficult with an antsy 4 year old, fresh from a long-long drive and I do not like spending my time trying to get him to eat or behave, my solution ? Take everything to-go. Sitting in my hotel room and eating peacefully! Ah! Luxury :)

The first night out, we ate at Cuisine India ( read: to- go dinner) 

Tired after a long drive we just wanted to fill our belly and so we did not  do the appetizer, entree, dessert courses. We  ordered only what we needed and therefore, I am giving our opinion only based on what we ate. 
M ordered chicken in Ceylon Curry, a curry redolent with green chilies and heat!  he enjoyed the taste and the serving size was generous. The curry came with Basmati rice and a small salad on the side.
I ordered Paneer Makahani and Naan, keeping it simple as paneer is a good source of protein for little S and for me as well.


The naan was soft  and light, the paneer was soft and fresh, the gravy was mild and creamy,  S enjoyed the combination! I liked the over all taste, however the gravy was on the sweetish side and a strong cardamom scented one. Not offensive, but a bit overwhelming for my taste. But I liked that they were generous with the quantity of paneer pieces and gravy.

The entire meal cost us ~$25, reasonably priced and generous quantities!
For those dining in, the restaurant menu has a good selection  has a pleasant ambiance, and the wait staff is knowledgeable and quick.
Location:
1212 Nasa Parkway

Nassau Bay, Texas 77058
281-333-4343
www.cuisineofindiaclearlake.com
Overall Rating:  4/5

Our outings are child-centric ( no surprises there) and at a pace and time he can handle. 



Day 1: We spent an enjoyable day at the NASA Space Center, marveling at everything, firing the little one's imagination!

We headed back to the hotel in the evening, tired and hungry. That night we got dinner to-go from Mogul.
Here is what we ordered.

M tried the Reshmi Kebab. And for all of us, I ordered, Navratan Subzi, Veg. Biryani, Naan and Zaiq-e-shahi (dessert)
Again, generous helpings. Food taste and quality, very disappointing.

M declared the kebabs were, strange. 
The naan was good, the navratan subzi was a disaster. The vegetables used were probably frozen vegetables, at least the beans were, they were limp, rubbery and inedible. The vegetables were not well spiced, I do not mean hot/ spicy, I like mildly spiced, but there has to be some flavor. 
The biryani was another disappointment, it tasted like biryani rice had been added to  the navratan subzi and a few cashews, fried and sprinkled on top.
The dessert was Gulab jamun in basundi, not too bad, but cloyingly sweet.
The entire meal cost us around $28-30
The restaurant has large capacity with a banquet hall. Reasonably priced, but the taste was just not up to the mark.
My Rating: 2/5
Location:
1055, Bay Area Blvd., Houston, TX 77058
Tel:  281-40 3097


Day 2 we visited Moody Gardens and loved every minute of it.
Everything worked out well for us!  Maybe because it was a week  day. It wasn't too crowded, there was no waiting in lines etc. and the weather was amazing!
There is plenty for little kids and adults to enjoy. There is a fun ride ( height restriction for kids), 3D ( we opted for the Coral Reef 3d movie, there are choices ex: there is one about Sharks, Polar Bears etc)  and 4D movies ( Dora and Diego Adventure, up to 12:00 noon and The wizard of Oz thereafter) 

There are 3 pyramids with exhibits, there is the Rain forest Pyramid, which is so, so beautiful! It abounds with flora and fauna found it rain forests and is fascinating, even to children.

The second pyramid has a Science Exhibit, they have the 'Bodies Revealed' exhibit ( camera usage not allowed) at this time. Though fascinating for older children and adults, young ones are likely to be bored and sensitive children may get scared. 


The third pyramid is the Aquarium and has a large variety of fish and turtles and penguins etc. 


There is a water park and a small beach, which brought back beautiful memories of our time spent in Los Angeles and made us long to go back! 
There is a lot to do on Galveston Island for those who wish to explore more. We restricted ourselves to just Moody Gardens.


Day 3 was spent at the Children's Museum , a wonderful world made just for children, but one that is fun for adults who want to refresh or even discover some facts! Little S had a great time and had to be dragged back to the hotel, he played a lot in the water zone. I did not do my homework and did not carry extra clothing for him, my bad! 
We spent about 4-4 1/2 hours playing and then ventured out in the water zone, so his fun was not cut short, but yes, we left some part unexplored :(

 We came back home on Sunday, happy and tired. I want to 'fess up here. I had a lot of fun in these 4 days but like Little S, I wanted to fret and complain, " I want to go hoooooooooome", just because I wanted home cooked food! I kept thinking of piping hot rice with Daal and pickles. regular chapati/ fulka with a simple stir-fry of vegetables, yogurt-rice.......... oh! 
The first thing I did on returning ( apart from the cleaning up and all those rotten, boring chores) was to make  a simple Gujarati Daal ( recipe coming up) with Rice and scarf it down! 
Does that happen to you as well? Do you long for home cooked meals when on vacation? What do you crave?
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Sunday, August 19, 2012

Scallion Parathas

To me, parathas, came in 2 varieties Plain or Stuffed (with potato), there wasn't anything else, the restaurant menu said so.
When we went to restaurants, my mother would opt for a plain paratha, my father liked plain tandoori roti and glutton that I was, I wanted butter Naan. I could never finish one and eventually I would grudgingly share 2 quartered pieces with them.

Then of course I graduated to stuffed paranthas and what a discovery that was! Good bye boring poli-bhaji! I wanted parathas and with Aloo stuffing ( that was the only one I knew). Of course now, thanks to a variety of restaurants  opening  in every nook of the city, we are exposed to cuisine from all corners of India and can sample so many varieties that can satisfy the taste buds and  also leave us wanting more.

While I love my Aloo, Gobhi, Paneer etc. parathas, every now and then, I  go on a fridge cleaning spree and finds small ziplocks of cut vegetables that I had quite forgotten or  something I had picked up at the Indian store meaning to try out a certain recipe but never got to it. does that happen to you, as well?

On such days, I mix and match ingredients to make my lunch / dinner as the case might be.
Last week, I got 3 bunches of scallions, meaning to try out some Asian inspired Noodles, Of course I  had every intention of trying  that recipe,  then I got caught up in routine activities around home and day to day cooking, used 2 bunches ( with  every intention of using the 3rd. bunch fr the noodles, or so I kept telling myself), which never happened  and that is how this recipe was born..


This is a forgiving recipe and you can eyeball the ingredients in the stuffing, within reason of course. 


I used Roti dough for the outer cover.

For the stuffing :

1 bunch Scallions, chopped ( whites and greens)
1/2 tsp. Red Chili powder ( more if you want it spicy)
1 tsp. Coriander powder
Hefty Pinch Kasuri Methi
Salt to taste
2 tsp finely chopped Cilantro

Set the griddle / tawa to heat on medium- medium high.

Mix all the ingredients ( except the salt)  for the stuffing and set aside.

Roll out a small ball of dough ( lemon sized ball of dough), spoon the stuffing in the middle, pull up the sides and seal to make a ball.**

Dust with flour and roll evenly into a circular shape.

Place on the ht griddle and drizzle with ghee/ oil, cook on both sides till golden brown with spots that are a shade darker.

These parathas can be eaten by themselves. As an accompaniment, make a raita ( peel and grate a cucumber, add yogurt, salt to taste, sprinkle with black pepper powder and you are done - this is the-most-basic-raita- recipe and works well with the paratha). You can also pair it with Aloo Gobhi or Rajma

NOTES:

Add salt to the stuffing, just before making parathas. Salt will release water in the onions and make it difficult to roll. 

** If you find it difficult to to stuff the filling and seal to roll, make it easy, roll out 2 thin rounds/ tortillas/ rotis of the dough, spoon the mixture on one round, top  with the other, seal the ends  by pressing together, dust with flour and apply gentle pressure with the rolling pin to spread the filling evenly. 

These are best served right off the griddle.

I had the opportunity of writing another article for the New Indian Express and was published  over the weekend, please take a few minutes to read it. The Right measures get the dish rightThank You.
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Tuesday, August 07, 2012

4 Ingredient, Creamy Mango Ice cream

I am cross and fidgety when I go out these days. No points for guessing why. The normal temperature here in Dallas has made up it's mind to keep at a loony 3 digit. Only at night, around midnight does it come down to 2 digits, fat lot of good that is! I cannot wake  Little S at that ungodly hour to go for a special walk, can I?   huh! 
To top that, who knows what creature may be roaming free? Don't raise your eyebrows at me! Did I tell you, dear readers, of the time when we had recently moved to this apartment, when one night, around midnight or a quarter to, when M and I were talking to our family in India, glancing out of the window, we spotted 2 coyotes loping on the path right outside!? Yikes! My curly, frizzy hair  stood up in silent shock! Good God! To think, that just the day before,we had gone out and returned home late, real late, gulp!  and walked home, unsuspecting, slowly, carrying a sleeping toddler in our arms, not knowing, not even guessing! 

So now, I  try not to stay out after dark, unless I have lots of company. Better safe than sorry, what! 
What does this have to do with a food post? Why everything! You see, going out in the daytime is pure insanity, for me at least. If I do, the end result is cross and cranky, migraine-y and an antsy 4 year old... what a combination!  Safer option, stay indoors, crank up the air conditioning and invent ways to keep a 4 year old engaged. 
I draw atrocious pictures for him to paint ( he likes them, his, good job Mommy! with a pat on my back makes me feel like some great artist) and watch with pride as he colors his lady bug a violent yellow or pink, his stegosaurus in 4 different body colors and  a varied colors for the plates on his back.
After that is done, we turn to the kitchen, painting (and drawing) are tiring and make us hungry. We churn up something edible and spend time.
Last week, the temperature stayed steady at an oppressive 108F. Foul weather like this demands making ice cream at home. 
If you have 4 ingredients at home, you can make it! 
Interested? Read on........

I could capture just this one shot before we ate most of it! 

You need:

3/4  Cup Mango Pulp ( I got Alphonso Pulp, nothing close to the real thing, but such as it is)
1 Cup Powdered Sugar ( 1 1/2 cups, for those who like it very sweet)
2 Cups Heavy Cream
Juice of 1/2 Lemon

If using granulated sugar, blitz it in the spice mill / coffee grinder (only if the spice mill is free of any smell of spices etc.) / mixer attachment.

Add the sugar and lemon juice to the mango pulp and combine ( I use my hand mixer)

Add the heavy cream and whisk until soft peaks form ( do not over do it)

Transfer the contents to a sturdy plastic container with a tight fitting lid and freeze  ( I left it overnight)

Optional, Top with chopped mango bits to serve or serve plain, either way, you have a wonderful treat for blistering hot days! 




I also wanted to share something with all of you! A few weeks ago, the Executive Editor of The New Indian express contacted me and asked me if I was interested in writing an article for the paper. Of course I was thrilled and agreed. The article was published in the Sunday edition. I am glad I got this opportunity!!
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Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Green Noodles

An Indian on foreign turf, makes a beeline for the Indian grocery store, like a homing pigeon. He/she will fill the cart with all familiars like beans, legumes, rice and flours, chai biscuits et al. The bachelor will head to the ready-to-eat section, and unerringly stash his basket with frozen vegetable entrees and rotis/naan  and  then order his meal in the store-cum-restaurant, eat his fill.
The 'family' people stagger out with grocery and walk purposefully to pizza hut and stuff their hungry kids to the brim with pizza and heave a sigh of relief. A newly married couple will pick up items that are a mix of ready-to-eat and some 'experiment on spouse' items and then in all probability head out to a restaurant to try something 'different'. They walk in, uncertainly, into a fast food joint or restaurant and gaze at the menu with curious intensity. This uncertain couple are reflections of my former self, a good 6 years ago. I liked eating out as much as at home, the only hitch being, I was a vegetarian in a meat lovers land! What can I order without lengthy explanations of how I prefer my 'vegetarian' soup without it's chicken/beef stock? In a menu where egg or fish were considered vegetarian, I was treated like an oddball, chafing at the limited options I had, or so it seemed.
Sound familiar?

I haunted the local library for cookbooks, much like a family spectre, vanishing at closing time. I read them like novels, gazing lustily at the glossy pictures. Slowly, I stepped into the world of blogging to showcase my love for food and experimenting with flavors and try to replicate international recipes using Indian spices.  I was thrilled to discover, that using staples in my pantry, but with different proportions and technique, I had a completely new dish to serve up. Mexican, Caribbean, Thai food was suddenly an option and I was lovin’ it.  I discovered that we may be worlds apart, but many of these International cuisines used standard stuff I used in my Indian kitchen! What a thrill that was!


My focus was and still is, on simple recipes that do not require me to buy expensive or difficult-to-pronounce-and- procure ingredients, but mixing and matching what was in the fridge to a couple of store bought items, like the recipe I have for you today.


In fact, I have another sauce that can be used with the noodles and that is coming up soon!  Flat rice noodles, 2 ways. 


I like this sort of thing , two ways with one ingredient, when I bring in one packet of noodles, I can never finish it off at one go and  I do not want to repeat the same  recipe and so having an alternative is great.


Green Noodles
Recipe Courtesy:  Cara Hobday’s Noodles Asian Style. 

1 Garlic clove
1 Tsp. Salt
1 Tbsp. Black Peppercorns
2 oz. Fresh cilantro (leaves and stems)
2 Tbsp.  fresh Parsley, chopped
2 Scallions, chopped
1 fresh Red Chili, sliced (add more if you want the noodles to be HOT)
3 Tbsp. Fresh Lemon juice
2/3 cup Coconut Milk

2 Tbsp. Peanut butter
8 oz. Flat Rice Noodles
Lemon Quarters to serve

Make the sauce: Grind Garlic, salt, peppercorn and cilantro together. Add parsley, scallions and red chili and make a rough paste.

In a saucepan, add the above paste, lemon juice, coconut milk and peanut butter, mix well and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally.


Meanwhile, boil water in another pan, switch off the heat and add noodles, cover and let it stand for 5 minutes or as per directions. Drain well.

Final assembly: Toss the noodles in the sauce until evenly coated. Serve immediately with lemon quarters.


Notes: 

·        The noodles are mild, if you want, amp up the heat by adding another red chili. Lemon juice is a must to add a burst of fresh flavor.

·      Leftovers make a great lunchbox option. The flavors soak into the noodles and taste great. Gently re-heat  before serving.

·         This is not a complete meal, add a protein on the side.
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