Friday, March 26, 2010

Banana walnut bread

What is it in human nature that makes you crave precisely those things that you _know_ you shouldn't crave? Its like reverse psychology or something...

So, listen to this: the other day I took a day-off from work to finish my catch up packing (makes me wonder actually how a 2-bedroom apartment can even stock so much STUFF! but the stuff kept coming out and we kept packing!). I was in the midst of packing when it first happened:

Four sad looking over-ripe bananas were staring at me from over the fridge almost scolding me for letting them go to waste. I ignored their plea, see, I am quite fussy with bananas and won't eat an overripe one unless I am starving. A banana bread came to my mind, but I quickly stashed the thought in a deep furthermost inaccessible corner of my mind.

Few more boxes packed and its time to clean the fridge itself. Now a lone egg and a used stick of butter are staring from the egg basket, okay, now that's it, too many divine signs for me to make a banana bread. Look at the irony of the situation though: last time I baked a sweet bread was atleast 6 months ago and I never craved it until today when, as luck would have it, all my bakeware was packed as was the AP flour!

Afternoon arrived, and my craving for a banana bread and coffee kept increasing. Finally I gave in to the impulse, opened a couple of packed boxes until I found the one with my loaf pan. AP flour luckily was sitting on the top of a box. Quickly I packed everything back in, lest my husband should find out about my craziness! So as a result I ended up unpacking and repacking a couple of boxes, spending 15mins taking a photo.. but hey, atleast I enjoyed a warm bread slice with a nice hot cup of coffee which I so needed after a hard day's work :D

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Spiced lentils and mushroom rice and an update!

Everyone has a select list of kitchen appliances that they can't live without. These are the ones which occupy the very precious counter space in your kitchen. For me its my coffee maker and my rice cooker. A few years ago I was debating very heavily whether to invest in a rice cooker or not. Our old pressure cooker was working fine and buying a rice cooker on student budget seemed like a luxury. 

I bought my rice cooker when I was newly married and I must confess one of my main motivations for buying a rice cooker was that even simple things like making a perfect rice were not my domain then! To add to my misery, my husband would almost always churn out a perfectly cooked rice using our old pressure cooker and mine would always be a bit overcooked as I would start the pressure cooker and wander off in my own world forgetting to turn the cooker off at the right time. 

So, well, you can imagine, the allure of a perfectly cooked rice everytime without human intervention was oh so very tempting to a new-bride racing her husband for the perfect rice! I bought a modest 16C Black & Decker rice cooker. Whatever my motivations may be, today I can safely say that it was the best $30 (I think) I spent.

16C is enough to serve a party of 6-8 people and I have been generally happy with the quality of the rice cooker. Now I use it for all sorts of things like making khichadi, rice, pulav, masale-bhat etc. Another thing my rice cooker cooks beautifully is quinoa! So if you are wondering whether to buy it or not, I strongly recommend one! Its a good investment that will keep paying off.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Jerusalem artichokes (sunchokes)

You know, if there were to be a competition for the most oxymoron of a name of all the vegetables and fruits, I bet Jerusalem artichokes will win the first prize! No competition whatsoever! Why do I say that: well for one, no, they are not artichokes and for two, no they are not native of Jerusalem either. I mean why would something that is not Jerusalem native nor an artichoke be named Jerusalem artichokes?!

Jerusalem artichokes, or sunchokes, as they have been known recently, are tubers of a sunflower family tree. Sunchokes are native to the eastern side of the northern america. The tree produces bright yellow sunflower like flowers and these delicious tubers. The tubers to me look like ginger roots or the arbi found in India.

So whats with the name you ask? Well, the theory goes (sources: here and here) that sunchokes were being cultivated by native americans long before the Europeans came over. The great French traveler Samuel de Champlain brought back the sunchokes from america to Europe during one of his visits to the states. In his opinion they tasted more like artichokes; so he brings back to Europe the sort of potatoes that he feels are 'artichoke' testing which is what gave them that artichoke part of the name. From there on the sunchokes traveled to Italy where they are believed to be named 'girasole' meaning 'turning to sun' alluring to the fact of that these tubers come from the sunflower trees. The name 'girasole', it is widely believed, was later corrupted into 'Jerusalem'. So, there, now you know why something that wasn't from Jerusalem and isn't an artichoke is still called Jerusalem artichokes. As far as I go, I prefer the name sunchokes much better because every-time I say sunchokes I dream of a sunny day and vast ranging sunflower fields and happiness :)

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Sweet carrot dessert with saffron and orange zest and my first guest post!

Have you read the book 'Namesake' by Jhumpa Lahiri? I am sure some of you have probably seen the movie. The movie is very well done but like with any other good books I feel the movie is no match to the book. In a nutshell the book traces the story of a second generation Indian-American son's (named Gogol Ganguli) coming of age years.

The movie is named namesake because Gogol is named after the memory of a rare near-death accident that occurred in his father's life before his father moved to America. Name 'Gogol' for his father resonates with a new beginning, the fact that he survived, the fact that he moved to US and made a new home for his family, a start of all good things! Gogol though is confused and awkward about his identity and heritage. He quite can not have the same feeling of 'home' towards India but at the same time feels a deep void and a disconnect with the western world surrounding him - even his name does not seem his own to him. 

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Moroccan fish stew over couscous (with a vegetarian alternative)

What is your favorite memory of a lazy Sunday morning? When I was a kid every other Sunday my mom  would make her special anda-curry or paatvadyachi bhaji (Marathi curry delicacy - I'll post sometime). It was a reward for working hard over the past week. My favorite memory of a lazy Sunday was sitting in front of TV watching Chhayageet (a songs video show which used to air at 1pm on Sunday) while smacking on the awesome curry with rice and lime wedges!

Now ofcourse all the fun is in starting my own lazy Sunday morning traditions! The idea is that you get up late, drool over coffee for another hour, then stroll to the fridge and make an otherwise not so quick cooking dish as a treat for the craziness of the week left behind. Today I had some salmon fish fillets and some olives that I picked up on sale yesterday. Some sort of moroccan fish stew sprang to my mind. A little bit of Googling and I settled on adapting this wonderful recipe. The stew was perfect over some whole wheat couscous.. except may be just one thing was missing: no Chhayageet TV show :)

Monday, March 1, 2010

Red chard daal and an interesting grocery smackdown article!

Recently I came across this very interesting article Walmart Vs. Whole Foods (link courtesy Mark Bittman's bitten blog). When it comes to my food shopping I am not a fan of either of these grocery chains. I like to buy my fruits and vegetables local, seasonal, organics (when feasible) and direct from the source as much as possible. Bulk of my produce shopping happens at my local farmer's market. For the rest of the pantry staples (like onions, potatoes, milk, eggs, bread etc.) I rely on Trader Joe's (yes, I am a big fan of TJ!). I have shopped Whole Foods multiple times before but the place is a bit costly and beyond my budget for most part. For the not-so-common items (like quinoa, teff etc) that only Whole Foods stocks, I instead buy them online from a local grain producer farm (Bob's red mills). 

Coming back to the article: the two company's images could not be more different. Walmart's impression as a corporate super-power who mercilessly destroys local economies and relies on cheap bulk manufactured goods from faraway places to reduce consumer cost is wide-spread (read The Walmart Effect for further). On the other hand Whole Foods is known as a high-end fancy grocery chain stocking healthy, local, organic ingredients albeit at a much higher price. So when the article announced a grocery smackdown between Walmart vs. Whole Foods I was all eager ears!

Read the article for the whole story but in essence it covers Walmart's foray into organic healthy foods by subsidizing local farmer's whose farms are in vicinity of one of its supercenters. The reviewer buys identical produce and meats from both the chains and a few experts are called upon to taste test and compare the local/seasonal line from Walmart to that of Whole Foods. I won't disclose here but the results would surprise anyone for sure!

Now, I don't believe for a moment that Walmart is investing in local and organics out of consciousness or for greater good so to say. They are a corporation who want to make profits. We also know that when they set a target they execute extremely well. As they see that the local organics/healthy food movement is growing and as they also see that the number of customers opting to shell higher for local/seasonal is steadily climbing, they sure want a share of that growing market segment which I believe must have spurred this organics/local line. In any case though, I am happy to see these changes.

I strongly believe that each and every one of us makes a choice everytime we buy local or buy organic (albeit shelling few cents extra) and all of these choices together can contribute to something large and has potential to change the market direction for good. I am happy to see Walmart making a priority to stock local, seasonal and fresh produce based on the consumer demand. It will be monumental in making fresh organic and healthy accessible to each and everyone who wishes to eat healthy. It is surely a small step in the right direction and looking forward to many more :) I am definitely looking forward to visiting one of its supercenters to explore this myself.

Many fellow bloggers like Indo from Daily Musings are doing an excellent job of covering organics movement, local farming issues and many such topics near and dear to me. I was happy after reading the article and so thought I'll share it with all of you today. I would love to hear from you what you think about this article and the local/organics movement in general.
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Okay, now coming back to the recipe: today on menu I have a simple daal with red chard. I just love the deep red color that the chard imparts to this daal. Take a look for yourself!
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This page and all of its contents is copyright of Prajakta Gudadhe. All rights reserved.

This is a web catalog of the recipes that I have tried and tasted in my kitchen. While these recipes and instructions have worked well for me, please use all the information and the recipes from Ginger and Garlic at your own risk.