Saturday, October 6, 2007

Mouth Orgasm

When you undertake an intense cooking project, you tend to smell like your cooking. For example, after chopping onions and garlic and cilantro for salsa, you hands will smell of onion, garlic, and cilantro for days afterwards, even after repeated washings. Yesterday, I toasted some spices that Jesse bought for me in India and created my own Garam Masala. The aromatic toasting of spices penetrates your skin, your clothes, your hair. I awoke this morning smelling of fresh Indian seasonings. It was beautiful.

Yesterday, the Blue Plate Spectaculars witnessed miracles in the kitchen. I believe we should drop out of college and open an Indian restaurant. Who knew we had the mastery of Indian cooking deep within ourselves, waiting to be released?

Amy. Oh Miss Amy. How you outdid yourself. She made 3
delightful appetizers. The first was fried plantains, drenched in liquid caramel and spotted with chocolate. Second there was a deep orange mash of beans, spices, and mango, tantalizing our taste buds. And finally, Amy's own concoction of Mango, spices, and Tamarind Chutney. Lorenzo exclaimed, "This is the best thing I have put in my mouth in a long time." Had I been wearing socks, I'm sure they would have been knocked off.

Lorenzo whipped up some mojitos to keep us cool in the heat of the kitchen. He muddled sugar and mint, topped it off with rum, and added a splash of club soda.

Mike and I collaborated on the main courses. Mike made an outstanding (and delightfully spicy) curry dish with baked eggplant, lots of garlic and ginger, and yogurt. It was creamy and packed a kick. When preparing eggplant, be sure to lightly salt it before placing it in the oven. The salt draws out the bitter juices from the vegetable, making it mellow and perfect for drawing in the flavors of spices.

He also made Batsmati rice, following a recipe given to him by a real-life Indian grandmother! Grandmothers know there stuff. The rice gets cooked with lots of cumin, peas, red bell pepper, and onion. It was perfect for soaking up all of the pungent sauces.

Because I enjoy a good challenge, I decided to make Navratan Korma, featuring a homemade Garam Masala spice mix and homemade Paneer. Making cheese is an empowering experience. Watching milk and lemon juice transform into an Indian staple right before your eyes is incredible, and to k
now that you did it with your very own hands...mmmm-hmm.

I hate to toot my own horn, but it was AMAZING! Mostly because I followed an awesome recipe, but I followed it well my friends, I followed it well. If you would like to follow it too, here is the link for Garam Masala and Navratan Korma. I did not use Saffron in my Garam. Also, for the Korma, I could not find a Bottle-neck Gourd or Cluster beans. I tried out some funny Asian squash that looks like an Indian Bottle-neck Gourd, but it was very plain tasting,
so next time I make the dish, I'll leave it out. Also, instead of sauteing the dry fruits in ghee and then re-incorporating them into the dish later, I just continued sauteing them with the onions, which gave the nuts a nice, roasted flavor. And don't garnish with cream, it simply melds with the sauce and is unnecessary.

My recipe for Paneer is as follows:
  • 1/2 gallon whole milk
  • 2 1/2 tbsp. lemon juice
Heat the milk in a large dutch oven over medium-high heat. You want it to come to a boil. When it starts to boil, it will foam and quickly rise to the top of the pot. Remove from heat before you have a great big mess on your hands. Mix in the lemon juice and stir for a couple of minutes. Curds will begin to form (chunks). Let sit for 10 minutes to further curdle. Line a colander with a fine hand towel or several layer of cheese cloth. Pour the milk into the colander. When it's cool enough to handle, tie the ends of the cloth together and squeeze out the excess milk. Leaving it in the towel, place it on a plate and place another plate on top of it, weighted down by something (be creative). Let sit for 20 minutes. Move to the refrigerator. Stays good for 4 days.


San said...

Love your description of how the aroma of spices lingers on a cook. Last night we watched a wonderful film that was based on a wonderful story by Alice Munro. In one scene the husband is reading to his wife. One passage stayed with me, and it's much after your own heart: "I am the cinnamon peeler's wife. Smell me."

I deliberately skimmed over your "how to" details regarding this particular feast's preparation. Since you've shared the excellent news that you will be preparing a similar feast for us, I want to be surprised!

b2 said...

I'm lost in a dream of good smells reading about your feast. For the lingering bad smells: one friend swears by simply rubbing smelly fingers on a stainless steel spoon. You could use a fork or knife I suppose, but there are inherent difficulties. Spoon's safer. I know this works for garlic. Lemon seems to me to just add the smell of lemon to the garlic rather than removing the garlic. Moist salt or sugar have never done anything for me as far as removing odors, but make nice exfoliants! Or would that be exfoliators?
You can also reduce eggplant bitterness by sprinkling salt over slices, let stand, then sqeeze and rinse as you would for cucumbers (keeps the cukes from getting watery in a dish).
Thanks for the GF Goddess link. She actually has GF recipes that don't depend on potato starch--hooray (pesky potatoes are in the same family as those pesky peppers and eggplant)!

b2 said...

Don't have your email address, Flan, but wanted to say Happy Birthday! You were a gorgeous baby (you had the most beautiful baby hands I've ever seen), and you grew up smart, good-hearted, AND gorgeous. Good luck with the med school apps!

Sujata said...

Pictures of Navratan korma look very amazing and delectable!