Spring Salad

Delicious. Refreshing. Burst of flavors. 'nuff said.

Refreshing spring salad

Shyama, this is a Kraft recipe.
  • 1 bag (8oz) spring greens
  • 1 can mandarin oranges
  • 1 can beets, cut into thin slivers (or use fresh boiled beets)
  • 1/4 cup red onion, thin sliced
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds
  • 1/2 cup Kraft's Light Raspberry Vinaigrette
  1. Drain the mandarin oranges, reserve 2-3 tbsp of the juice to add to the dressing
  2. Toss all the ingredients together
  3. Mix in the dressing
  4. Fill an extra large salad bowl with this salad, kick off those shoes or sandals, sit back and crunch into this colorful salad.

I like to add fresh crushed black pepper before I dig in. Mmmmm!

Opposites and Zippy Cheese Balls

I remember my first attempts at teaching my daughter the concept of opposites. She was barely three.

Me: Tall is the opposite of short. Short is the opposite of Tall. If you are not short, then you are tall. So...if you are not tall, then you are...??
She (loudly and with much exuberance): FAT!!!

Fat may not be the opposite of tall but short and fat may just be the most apt description for me right now. I am reading a book about detoxifying your whole life: from your body to your mind to your house to your relationship. It reads like a fairy tale to me. While the detox foods are not an issue, where am I going to get peace and quiet? A luxurious soak or aromatherapy in the bath? Sleep early? Meditate? Relax? Quiet music? Without having a little body jump on mine and chatter incessantly. Sigh. The book says weekend detox with friends is an excellent idea. I don't know anyone who isn't in the same boat. Perhaps there is some magic to the weekends in Sedona, after all. Sedona! Now that's a thought!

Anti-thesis to all that is my longing for an easy to make snack or appetizer. I had a tub of cream cheese with onion and chives and I also had some pepper jack cheese. It reminded me of cheese balls that I had eaten with great relish at a friend's party. Why not?

Zippy Cheese Balls

Zesty Cheese Balls

  • 1 tub (8 oz) Philadelphia Chive & Onion Cream Cheese Spread
  • 8 oz Pepper Jack Cheese, grated
  • 1/3 cup toasted walnuts, crushed coarsely
  1. Mix the cream cheese and the grated Pepper Jack cheese until well blended.
  2. Shape into balls about the size of a dollar coin. I usually get about 50 cheeseballs from this mixture.
  3. Roll in the crushed walnuts
  4. Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour so that the cheese balls recover from the warmth generated by the blending of the cheeses, the shaping and rolling.
  5. When they have firmed up enough, stick a toothpick into them and serve as appetizers or with crackers as snacks.
We love to have these with Tostitos chips. There are times when I've added finely chopped green chillies to this cheesy mixture. Oh! The zing is incredible!

Indeed, why not...

New connections and no-fuss Ras malai

Blogs, like online discussion forums, are a wonderful beast. Your horizons expand beyond your physical vicinity and you make new friends of every color and creed. Most remain online or virtual friends. Some, we have the pleasure to meet in person. And so it happened to me, yet again. I made a new friend, this time through my blog, and I had the pleasure of meeting up with her over lunch last week. She was everything and more than I thought she would be. We are planning to meet often and get up to some girl-fun together. Yay!!

Good things happening to me always make me long for something sweet. Something milky. Something spongy. Something quick and easy. Can't be Ras malai?

No-fuss Ras malai

ras malai up-close

  • 2 tins of Haldiram's rasgullas
  • 1 quart milk
  • 8-10 pistachios
  • 2-3 almonds
  • pinch cardamom powder
  1. Hygiene tip:Wash your hands really well in hot water cos you're going to be handling the food and it's not going to be cooked once you're done playing with it. Alternately, use sterile food gloves.
  2. Empty milk into your dessert bowl.
  3. Take a rasgulla and squeeze as much sugar syrup out from it as possible without letting the rasgulla crumble.
  4. Dunk the squished rasgulla completely in the milk and hold for a couple of seconds and then release slowly, allowing the rasgulla to assume it's original shape and size. As it does this, it absorbs the milk into every spongy air-pocket.
  5. Repeat this for each rasgulla until you have all the rasgullas floating in a bed of milk and perhaps, a couple that didn't make it to your dessert bowl, settling comfortably in your tummy.
  6. Add 6-8 tablespoons of the sugar syrup to the milk and mix well. Taste it and adjust the sweetness to your please your sweet tooth.
  7. Lightly toast the pistachios and almonds. Allow to cool and then pound or grind into a coarse powder.
  8. Mix the cardamom powder with the powdered nuts and garnish the rasmalai.
  9. Chill for an hour, if you have the patience, or eat right away!
I usually maintain a stock of couple of tins of Haldiram's rasgulla's. This ras malai takes all of 10 minutes to put together. There is no need to soak the rasgullas in milk overnight to get that ras malai kind of taste. I've made this as late as a few minutes before my guests arrived. And it never fails to enthrall or please. Furthermore, it's a task that can be allocated to the ever faithful, devoted and helpful husband, as it's something that is really difficult to mess up. Even kids can partake in making this dessert.
ras malai

If you're not like me - not lazy and not interested in quick fixes - then there have been more elaborate recipes of ras malai posted before:
- AF's recipe that uses ricotta cheese. Where are you these days, AF?
- RP's step-by-step ras malai

If you're like me - never have enough hours in the day - dunking is the answer!

Food Blogger's Meme

Our trip to New England via Chicago was all about "re" - reconnecting with friends, reunion with family, repairs (dental work) and lots and lots of reflection. Hmmm! Mercury went retrograde on March 2, turned direct on March 25 and everything finally straightened out only on April 14. Do I really believe in this? When it's convenient, yes! I know just enough astrology to be dangerous but it sure seems to fit into our experiences on this trip!

We returned to what we thought was a green lawn. Turns out it is just gazillion dandelions and lots and lots of other weeds. One of my flower beds has been invaded by a weed that smells like mint. Initially I was delighted because while it smells like mint, it tastes almost like tulas or tulsi. But it's a quickly spreading weed and if I don't break my back yanking it out, it will suffocate all the other plants that are straining to make their first spring appearance. But beautiful things are also occuring. My big maple tree went from bare to green in just a day. I discovered that two of the younger trees in my yard are Bradford pears. And they, too, went from bare twigs to white flowers instantaneously. Spring has truly sprung!

Bradford Flowering Pear, Pyrus calleryana

Also sprung was a tag for a Food Blogger's Meme by Sumi. I am usually quite happy doing my own thing and not one for a meme but since deviating from the norm is equally exciting, I decided to participate.
  1. Please list three recipes you have recently bookmarked from foodblogs to try.
    1. The aroma of freshly cooked basmati rice sends me into a trance. It takes me back to days of yore when I was a really picky eater. My mother tried all kinds of tricks to get me to eat. She would put a small amount of veggies in a separate bowl and present it to me with a big flourish, telling me that Parande-Aunty sent it 'just for me.' It used to work rather well but I soon found out that the Parandes didn't really have what I had for dinner. My mother soon gave up in sheer frustration. On the other hand, she never got a complaint from me about methkut-bhath. The heavenly smell of steaming hot rice, no matter which kitchen it originated from, was sure way to draw me to the table. Yes, methkut-bhath with tup (ghee) and lots of lemon juice was a hot favorite and also perhaps the only food I subsisted on!

      I wanted to share some of my childhood favorites with my daughter and bought Bedekar's Methkut on my last trip to India. The poor thing spat it out as it was just too spicy for her. I've been on the lookout for a recipe ever since and I think I found it on Vaishali's Happy Burp.

    2. I miss my Malaysian neighbor and friend. I've moved over a 1000 miles from her. I miss the delicious smells that wafted towards me when I entered her home. Sometimes it would be fried fish, other times it would be coconut curry. Even fried plaintain smelled good when it was made in her home! I hope to recreate some of those memories with what seems to be the perfect prawn sambal recipe from Pusiva's Culinary Studio.

    3. I love kiwi fruit. I've only eaten it in these forms: not yet ripe, ripe and ready to eat and over-ripe. No matter what, I love it! So it was a treat to read about kiwi jam on Luv2cook's Cooking Medley. The kiwi jam has me enthralled!

  2. A Food Blog in your vicinity.
    I haven’t come across any food bloggers in my geographical area. Virtually, I think most of us are hosted in the US and that would make most of the food bloggers, especially those on Blogger.com, within my area!

    If we hadn’t moved from Chicagoland, I would have been able to say that Sumi’s Kitchen was in my vicinity. She’s in Illinois but I am not sure where. Ashwini’s Food for Thought was also a Chicago blog but no longer.

    Well, if you’re a blogger in Colorado, be sure to let me know!

  3. A Food Blog (or more) located far away from you.
    Shyamala's Food, In the Main and Ammani's Chai Pani are two UK based blogs that are a must-read. I also look forward to educational and inspirational posts from Jyotsna Shahane aka deccanheffalump at thecookscottage

  4. A FoodBlog (or several) you have recently found.
    There are new blogs and then there are blogs that are new to me. I love and enjoy so many blogs that I would be here till the end of eternity just mentioning them. There are two, however, that I think deserve a special mention:
    Eating Asia is a blog that is new to me. I can stay immersed in this blog for hours. It captivates me with the visuals, the culture and the travel that are mixed into the food. I am fascinated by the new vistas that I reach through this blog.
    Saffron Hut’s beautiful work of art is an Indian Food Blog that is new and it is one that can’t be praised enough. Not only are her posts well-written, her presentation is extremely creative.

    Every day I encounter yet another set of new Indian food blogs. I once wondered whether this was a fallout of the H4 syndrome. Whatever it is, it’s wonderful. It’s bringing together an entire community of women (and some dashing young men, too – like Anthony) who are sharing not just recipes and tidbits of their lives, but also creating bonds through information about their own take on their culture and heritage.

  5. Any People or Bloggers you want to tag with this meme.
    I think almost everyone has been tagged with this meme. If you are reading this and have not been tagged, please consider yourself tagged. What is wonderful about this meme is that it is not so much about 'me' as it is about all the other bloggers who work hard on their blogs and together weave an online community of food bloggers.

What could be more perfect than to kick off spring with this meme!

Cape Ann Delights

And, delight it does in more ways than one! Cape Ann is made up of Essex, Rockport, Gloucester and Manchester-by-the-Sea (not to be mistaken with Manchester, NH). I was working out of Manchester-by-the-Sea recently, which is famous for its Singing Beach which has never sung for me no matter what I did and will soon be famous for one of the best restaurants to dine at in the New England area.

I worked to this glorious sea view and the sound of waves crashing on the beach 10 feet away.

An amazing sunset like the one below usually signaled the end of yet another productive day and time to hit the town in search of great meals.

My drink of choice was martinis simply because the two restaurants that I am going to rave about made smashing martinis. Dinner one night was had at Alchemy Bistro in Gloucester. Crispy Eggplant Napoleon with a Mango Martini. A delicious dinner in a tastefully decorated bistro setting. My girlfriend and I let our hair down and had a blast!

A green-apple martini...

Dinner on another night was had at Cala's. My meal at Cala's was one of the best meals I have had in a restaurant in the U.S. to date, second in taste only to Charlie Trotter's. There was a 5 minute wait even on a Tuesday evening and Cala's does not take reservations. Red lampshades add a warmth to the comfortable atmosphere. I got a tour of the kitchen à la Charlie Trotter style and our dinner was supervised by Chef Geoff Cala. And what a treat it was!

I ordered fire roasted Alaskan halibut with clams, king crab meat, whipped potatoes, braised spinach and beurre blanc.

I love potatoes and whipped potatoes have never tasted better. The braised spinach was to die for. When the bed for the halibut was so mind-blowing, could the fish itself be any less? It certainly did not disappoint. However what was even more difficult to believe was that my meal was not the best on the table!

Two specials that night were ostrich and orange roughy. The orange roughy took the prize as the best tasting meal. The ostrich took the honors as being exotic meat, wonderfully moist. I surprised myself by trying it. My memories of ostrich are linked closely to beady eyes supported by a long neck craning over a fence to peck at me. I remember the horror and fright I suffered even today! Was this payback time, I wondered?! I expected the meat to be stringy, smelly and tough.

Ostrich meat as presented to us that night at Cala's was none of those. It was not like chicken or duck or lamb. It was less like poultry and more like a red meat. It was simply delicious. The ostrich was topped by crispy turnip!

So while not much Indian food was had, my tastebuds were exposed to a range of culinary delights thanks to Geoff Cala. Cala is the mastermind behind both restaurants, Alchemy Bistro as well as Cala's. If you're ever in the Boston area, it's well worth the drive of about an hour or so north to Cape Ann on Route 128 to experience 'coastal cuisine at its best!'

Balto and Adä in NYC

We went to NYC last week on a mission. Not to shop or go to any of the museums. Nope. We wanted to see the statue of Balto the Dog in Central Park.

Balto the Dog

When my daughter found out that we were going to spend more than a couple of days in New Jersey, she insisted on making a trip to NYC to see Balto. Prior acquaintance had been made with Balto as she was studying Alaska as part of her Language and Social Studies classes. She had written an article to complement the headline "Dog delivers vaccine through ice and blizzard". The Iditarod had consumed us through March and Balto had proved himself on this very trail. Balto was the lead dog for one of the teams that helped deliver the diptheria vaccine to Nome from Anchorage and avert a health crisis in 1925.

Before Balto, we lunched at an Indian restaurant called Adä, le maison de l'Inde. It's on 58th Street between 2nd Ave and 3rd Ave. And I experienced the meaning of the word froufrou for the first time in the context of Indian food.

Adä normally does not present customers with an amuse gueule at lunch. But such was the charm of my older sister that we were soon looking at tiny Bhel Baskets.
Bhel Basket

The light was low and the flash always mars the true colors so these pictures appear dull. The dark colored sauce is tamarind chutney and the orange sauce is mango puree.

We opted for the 'fixed price' lunch menu which is simply great value for the price. The vegetarian meal costs $12, non-vegetarian $15 and seafood $20. Each comes with a choice of an appetizer, choice of an entreé, served with butter naan, dal and rice, followed by a dessert (choice between mango kulfi and NY style cheesecake). Between the three of us adults, we decided to try 2 non-veg meals and 1 seafood. My appetizer was kali mirch shrimp, seen below, served with a sald of fresh spring greens in a delectable vinaigrette dressing like none other.
Kali Mirch Shrimp

The portions weren't large but each mouthful was a burst of flavor. The food was very tasty without being too spicy or hot. We did find out the hard way that it's a good idea to stay with the fixed price menu and not stray into à la carte territory. It was an excellent meal followed by even more satiation and satisfaction at having been to Central Park and met Balto in person.