Search results for 'Madhur'

Have You Met Ms. Jones?

25 Oct

I was supposed to meet Judith Jones last night.

Empire State Building

It was dark and blustering as I trotted up the slick sidewalks of Fifth Avenue, ducking and weaving around tourists and construction sheds. It was only four blocks, and I covered them in an odd half run, half trot, holding my breath the whole time, checking my watch every few strides. I turned the corner onto 19th Street and my hope faded. I could tell that the event was over. I checked my watch again, 8:01pm. I had missed her.

I burst into the store and asked the proprietor, “Is she still here?” “No,” he said, “the event ended at 8.” “But it’s only just 8:01 now,” I pleaded. “I’m sorry, but you missed her, you should have gotten here earlier,” he snapped peevishly. “I couldn’t,” I blubbered, “work.” “Well, I’ve got a few signed books left I’d be happy to sell you,” he added in a kinder tone. “No, thank you, that’s not the point. I wanted to meet her.” And then I turned and walked away, thoroughly depressed.

Empire State Building

It’d been a truly cruddy day, and meeting Judith Jones was the light at the end of the tunnel. I knew I had a two hour window, I knew she was only four blocks away, and yet all the servers of creation kept me from her. Sometimes I hate computers.

So, who is this woman that I hold in such high regard? Judith Jones was (and still is) an editor at Alfred Knopf. As a young woman living in Paris she found and helped get published The Diary of A Young Girl by Anne Frank. She brought us Julia Child as an author and TV personality. She’s also worked with James Beard, Madhur Jaffrey, Lidia Bastianich, Marcella Hazan, Edna Lewis, Marion Cunningham, Joan Nathan and many, many others.

Empire State Building

But most importantly to me she discovered and edited two of my favorite cookbooks of all time: Roy Andries de Groot‘s Feasts For All Seasons and Claudia Roden‘s A Book Of Middle Eastern Food. I discovered all this a few months ago after I took a galley of Ms. Jones’ memoir, The Tenth Muse, that had been sent to someone in my office and set aside to be thrown out with the trash. The girly lavender cover threw me off, but I decided to take a closer look and there on the back was this quote:

Food is one of the greatest gifts of life… You should derive enormous pleasure from making it, eating it, enjoying it with family, and it should be honored.

Each chapter was a revelation, how she made her choices, the women she met, the lessons she learned. The Boy quickly grew tired of me coming home, bursting through the door and starting our conversation with, “Do you know what else Judith Jones did?” Finally he suggested I contact Knopf’s press office to let them know that I really wanted to meet Ms. Jones, to sit down with her and talk to her. I did, and all I got back was a terse email inviting me to the reading she did last night. But alas, I missed it.

Empire State Building

As I sit here typing at my desk, next to my bookshelf, I’m scanning the titles. So many of the cookbooks I love and trust were published by Knopf. Did she have a hand in all of them? Could one woman have shaped the way I cook so anonymously? It’s a delicious question, and one I’m afraid I’ll never get to ask.

When I finally made it home last night I was exhausted and famished, but too tired to cook. I tore off a hunk of focaccia and poured myself a glass of good red wine. I sat and munched and thought. Ms. Jones still cooks dinner for herself every night and all I could manage was a hunk of bread. It’s humbling and inspiring.

My Books

If I had had the energy I would have loved to have eaten my favorite quick and easy dinner last night. I didn’t have the energy then, but I’d love to give you the recipe now. The slaw (known around here as slawpy) is made a day in advance and goes much faster if you have a “chou chef” to help with the prep (the Boy’s term, not mine!).

Slawpy

All that is required upon arriving home is the caramelizing of onions and garlic and boiling the pierogis. It’s fast, healthy and delicious.

Pierogies with Caramelized Purple & Yellow Onions

I hope you enjoy it as much as I do, if you’ve got the time to make it.

Head below the jump for the recipe for Fluffy Dilly Slaw.

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Blue & Gold

17 Sep

Do you feel that?

Brooklyn Heights Mint Warehouse

It’s perfection. It’s September in New York.

Days are sparkling blue, shimmering gold, fluffy white clouds, incandescent air. Nights are snappy, chilly, perfect for curling up on the couch in my favorite fuzzy pants and sinking into the glory that is end of season baseball.

The games finally mean something. Each at bat counts. Fans (and the squirrel) stay until the final pitch. And if I’m a very lucky girl, by the end, I’ll be happy enough to sing along with Frank. God, I love September!

Urban Sailing

But, no matter how sustaining baseball may be, you can’t eat it. Which brings us to the other very best thing about September in New York. It’s finally cool enough to add a little heat to all the glorious produce still bursting forth from the Upstate farms. It’s a best of all worlds scenario. The summer produce is at it’s peak, but “putting up” vegetables are beginning to appear and can actually be a welcome change from all the tomatoes and squashes of the last few months.

Brooklyn Bridge

Last week the Boy went to the greenmarket over by the UN. It’s a good excuse for him to take a walk and get in on the produce procuring fun. He brought home some wonderful lettuces and two slightly mangy looking, but tiny, cute orange cauliflower. The greens went fast, but the chou were sent to malinger in the damp, disgusting pits that masquerade as our refrigerator’s produce bins.

Manhattan Bridge

Sunday, we settled on taking a long walk (I know, you’re all shocked) and using the cauliflower in a curry. We took the subway to downtown Brooklyn, wandered over to the Heights, had brunch at Jack The Horse Tavern (highly recommended), saw someone famous (I really wish I’d had this book in my pocket) and then headed to the Brooklyn Book Festival.

Manhattan

The festival was a total wash. It was full of cranky jostling people and I was really hoping someone from St. Martin’s Press would be there so I could excoriate them for publishing an absolutely awful piece of fiction. Alas, they were not. Seriously though. If you ever see this book in a store, walk away. Do not be seduced by the cover, or the nice blurbs on the back. Don’t listen to them when they tell you it’s the heir to The Alienist‘s throne. Just put the book down, even if it’s only $1, and walk away. There’s a reason it’s so cheap. The reason? It’s unreadable. The writing is awful, but the editing (or lack thereof) is even worse. It’s embarrassing. There, I feel better now.

Manhattan Bridge

We then carried on with an amble through Dumbo, a jaunt over the Manhattan Bridge, and a dash for the Lower East Side and nirvana, the annual Pickle Festival. But alas, as the Boy put it, “You sure know how to find the crowds today don’t you?” I could smell the brine, I could see the cornucopia of pickled delights, but no, it was not to be. Not one pickle passed my lips. And so we wandered up to d.b.a. so I could drown my sorrows in a pint of cask-conditioned ale.

Mmm... Beer

And then it was home to make this very complicated but oh-so-worth-it curry while listening to the Yankees play the Red Sox on the radio (the only way baseball should be enjoyed, honestly).

Chinatown

There’s quite a few steps to this meal, but if you’ve got some homemade yogurt sitting in you fridge begging for a noble end, this is it. The depth of flavor and aroma are spectacular. The recipe is supposed to be made with potatoes, but I’m here to say it works perfectly with cauliflower. It’s one of those, “I can’t believe I made this!” meals that would seem more at home at Tabla than in a humble kitchen in Bay Ridge.

Slow-Cooked Cauliflower Curry

I feel really bad that I let the Boy’s cauliflowers get moldy. I had to toss them and send him out for a new, non-greenmarket, flown-in-from-California version, but I think between the excellent feast and Jeter’s heroic efforts in beating Boston, all is forgotten and forgiven. God I love September!

Head below the jump for the recipes for Slow-Cooked Cauliflower Curry and Perfect Masoor Dal.

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On A Cloud

26 Apr

I’ve conquered my fear of couscous.

I thought you’d all be excited to hear that.

And who was holding my hand throughout the entire harrowing affair?

Well, Claudia Roden, of course.

She has quickly risen to the highest level of my pantheon of cooking gods. She’s joined Nigel and Bert and Roy and Madhur at the apex of my culinary esteem.

Claudia Roden

First she helped me conquer my fear of rice. Then she introduced me to a new way to pickle cauliflower. Now couscous? The decision to deify her was a snap.

So why should any grown woman have a fear of couscous? I blame the ’80s.

My mother has been a lifelong subscriber to Aramco World. For those unfamiliar, it’s a free magazine published by the Saudi oil consortium to further understanding of the Arab world and the Muslim religion. I was never interested in it as a child unless they had a feature on Arabian horses. I was obsessed with them, and I mean, who wouldn’t be. They’re gorgeous. They look so fragile and yet they’re some of the most sturdy equines in the world. They’re intelligent, loving and did I mention beautiful?

But I digress…

The magazine is also a wonderful resource for people interested in the Arabic kitchen (oh and look, Claudia Roden wrote for them). I figure this is how my mother was first introduced to couscous. I have this vision of her scouring the shelves of the local co-op and the Grand Onion for years and years hoping to spot couscous, until one glorious day in the ’80s when it finally appears. And, not only has it appeared, but it’s instant! Cooks up in 5 minutes! Comes pre-flavored! Serve alongside your favorite chicken recipe!

Oh, Near East foods… Thank you for introducing the world to couscous. But curse you for making that couscous so unlike the real stuff. You’re cheating people out of one of the greatest culinary experiences ever!

Couscous, The Right Way

It was only recently, during a lunch at La Maison du Couscous, that I discovered what a culinary hoodwink has been pulled on the children of America. Couscous is not supposed to be soggy. It’s not supposed to be flavorless. It’s not supposed to be gummy. It’s not supposed to be hard and crunchy. It’s not supposed to be lumpy.

It’s supposed to be airy, ethereal, toothsome, silky and so light that if you inhale wrong it can easily go straight up your nose. In short, it is supposed to be exactly everything instant couscous is not.

Vaguely Middle Easter Stew

Of course, cooking couscous the proper way is not nearly as simple as emptying a bag, adding one cup of water and one tablespoon of butter to a pot and allowing to simmer for 5 minutes. Yes, it takes an hour, but dear god, it’s so easy and downright enjoyable to make it fills me with sadness that this method has fallen out of favor.

Here’s what you do:

  • Take a large colander (big holes are okay) and place it in a pot that it will fit snugly in. Take the colander out and put a shallow layer of water into the pot. It must not touch the bottom of the colander. Place the colander back in, place on the stove and bring to a simmer.
  • Pour as much couscous as you want into a bowl. Sprinkle it lightly with cold water. It will cause little lumps, that’s okay. Use your hands to rub the lumps out and to distribute the water evenly amongst the couscous. I found this to be a great pleasure. It was so tactile and earthy. And it made my fingers feel really cool!
  • Once the water is simmering, gently pour the couscous into the colander. There will be some collateral damage, you will lose a few, but it’ll be alright. Do not cover. Allow the couscous to steam, uncovered, for 30 minutes.
  • Using a pot holder remove the colander from the pot and pour the couscous back into the bowl. Some will most likely be stuck to the bottom and really sticky, scoop them out too. Lightly sprinkle the couscous with cold water again and season with salt. Rub the grains again to distribute the moisture, break up lumps and make the grains airy. Return to the colander and allow to steam, uncovered, an additional 30 minutes.
  • When the time’s up, return the couscous to the bowl and rub a nubbin of butter into the grains and toss them about to make them airy. Serve and enjoy!

That’s it. That’s all the work that goes into making a perfect bowl of couscous. I served mine with harissa marinated lamb, a vaguely Middle Eastern stew and a classic cucumber and yogurt salad.

Kirbys In Yogurt

Claudia says that traditionally the grains are steamed over a stew that’s been cooking for hours. I’m sure it adds flavor but might be a bit awkward if you, like me, do not have a couscouserie lurking about in your cabinets.

And so, yet again, culinary superhero Claudia Roden has righted another egregious culinary wrong. First rice, now couscous.

What culinary fear will she help me conquer next? Might it be okra? Dates? Tahini? Stay tuned to find out!

Head below the jump for the recipe for Vaguely Middle Eastern Stew.

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A Curry To Call My Own (And The World’s Easiest Side Dish)

12 Dec

I’ve only ever met one curry I didn’t like. It was Malaysian, and to me, it tasted like dirt.

One of the best curries I’ve ever had was in London, it was a balti and tasted like heaven.

London’s curries might be better and more authentic than New York’s, but I’d bet we’d win a curry-off based on variety alone. Yes, London has wonderful curries from every part of India and the sub-continent, but we’ve got curries from everywhere else.

In my neighborhood alone we have Vietnamese curry stew, French curried mussels, Chinese curry congee, Thai curry tapas, Japanese curry comfort foods, Pan-Asian curry hot pots, Hipster chicken curry wraps and yes, finally, Indian chicken curry.

I’ve sampled most of these dishes and many others, all variations on the humble garam masala. So when I woke up a few Saturdays ago craving a homemade Indian-spiced cauliflower curry, I was a bit daunted. Do I use a curry paste? A curry powder? Do I adhere authentically to the curry of one region? Or, do I go it alone, combining all those strong, single-minded spices into one harmonious, aromatic stew of my own invention?

Of course I chose the last option, but I needed help. I began with a Google search that returned 682,000 choices, the majority of them rather run-of-the-mill. I wanted something with a bit more pizzaz, so I turned to Madhur.

I knew I wanted to use curry leaves, green cardamom, black mustard seeds, kalonji, ginger, hot peppers and paneer so I looked for a recipe that was close, I knew I wouldn’t get all of them. I settled on “Spiced Buttermilk with Coconut and Scallions” as my skeleton recipe. Why? I had no intention of using buttermilk (I’ve done that before), or coconut, or even scallions, but it had most of the right spices, and I liked the method.

Cauliflower Curry

So, how was it? Awesome! The spices were well integrated, the heat pleasantly piquant, the texture was a little mooshie, next time I’ll add the cauliflower a little later in the process so it doesn’t break down quite so much, but other than that I’d happily serve this to my friend Ruth from Kerala. (Hi Ruth if you’re reading!)

And what of this world’s easiest side dish?

Head below the jump for the dish and the recipe for Cauliflower Curry.

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Who Knew…

4 Dec

That the Iranians love dill?

I love dill too. Perhaps I could help broker a more perfect peace, based totally and utterly on a mutual appreciation for the beautifully feathery, horribly misunderstood herb.

Iranian Pickled  Cauliflower With Dill

And how is that I know that Iran has a love affair with dill? I woke up on Saturday with a powerful craving for cauliflower curry. I looked on the Internet for a recipe, but gosh darnit, if cauliflower curry isn’t popular! There were so many recipes, all so similar… I wanted something more, well, unique, a curry to call my own (more on that later).

So I stepped away from the computer and looked to my bookshelves, and wouldn’t you know, but I only own one cookbook with curry recipes, and not only that, it’s a relic from my misguided days spent as a vege; Madhur Jaffrey’s World-Of-The-East Vegetarian Cooking.

Sunshine On Fifth Ave.

And you know what else? Rascally Madhur that she is, doesn’t call any of the dishes in this muti-culti book curries! Like, she actually makes you read the recipes and stuff, and thumb through and goggle at all the amazing variety of the cuisines of Asia, the sub-continent and the Middle East!

So there I sat thumbing, putting together a recipe for curry in my head when I stumbled upon a recipe called “Cauliflower Pickled With Dill” from Iran. Pickled? Cauliflower? Can we get a “Hell yeah!” in the blogosphere? I sure got one in my living room. Trying to convince the boy to let me make pickled cauliflower is like trying to get Homer to eat a donut. In other words, not that hard.

Giraffes On Gramercy Park

We tromped to Kalustyan’s for supplies, then tromped to the greenmarket for some cruciforms, and here I must issue a warning. People. Fresh cauliflower season seems to be on the wane! Get out there and grab a head! Make this recipe now!

Okay, thanks for letting me get that off my chest. So make the pickles I did. Hands down, easiest pickles ever. No noxious fumes, no processing, no sealing. The hardest part is waiting the 12 hours before eating them. But it was totally worth it! They’re slightly hot, lusciously garlicky, pleasing, puckeringly vinegary and of course utterly dilly.

Iranian Pickled  Cauliflower With Dill

So, to the IAEA, the UN and all other concerned parties I say: Let there be peace through pickles. Go on, give it a go, what can it hurt? Nothing else’s worked so far.

I think I’m going to make up some bumper stickers.

Head below the jump for the recipe for Iranian Cauliflower Pickles With Dill.

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