Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Quick-fried Okra

This fast and easy okra dish was a staple of my childhood, just like the recipe for Quick-fried Potatoes that I posted a few months ago, and there was always a plateful lying around in the kitchen from which I’d sneak a handful. In the original recipe, the okra was deep-fried in golden, fragrant mustard oil and finished off with a simple dusting of salt. I’ve tweaked it to suit our health-conscious age and while the pungency of the mustard oil cannot be replicated, my amended shallow-fried recipe is just as irresistibly crunchy and delicious served on its own or as a topping over steaming rice and daal.

4 tbsp Olive oil
6–8 whole dried, red chillis
3 lbs Okra, cut into quarters lengthwise
Salt (to taste)
  1. Heat oil in a large skillet or saucepan. Add chillis and sauté until they blacken. 
  2. Add okra and fry briskly for about 10-12 mins until golden and cooked through. The okra should cover the pan in one layer only. If the pan is not large enough to accommodate all the okra, then fry them in batches. 
  3. Remove okra to a serving dish. Sprinkle salt and toss well. Serve immediately.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Adventures in tiling

The first time I saw my apartment, I immediately knew that while the brand-new kitchen was more that sufficient, there were 3 things that were just not to my taste—the cabinets, the tiles in the backsplash and the overhead soffit beams. Changing the cabinets was not an option (given the expense, and that they were brand new), so I decided to address the backsplash and soffit eventually. Finally, 1½ years after moving in, and frustrated with trying to get turmeric stains off of the unglazed tiles for the umpteenth time, I started researching replacement tiles.

I wanted a high-glaze ceramic or glass tile that could withstand my cooking splatters and be easily wiped down. My initial thought was glass tiles in a chic monotone palette. But as I looked at the cold mushroom-coloured quartz countertop, stainless steel appliances and super-modern cherry cabinets, I realized that the space screamed for something tactile and hand-made to give it warmth. Also, given that the kitchen, dining room and living room are all in one large open space, I wanted to pull some of the colours I used in decorating the dining and living areas into the kitchen. The answer—mosaic tiles.

I researched mosaic tiles from all over the world for an authentic and practical solution before I decided on Moroccan zillij tiles. A lot of designer tile companies like Heath Ceramics, Ann Sacks and Country Floors have beautiful selections of zillij and Moroccan-inspired mosaic tiles but nothing that I fell completely in love with. All these companies had options to customise the patterns, but the price was exorbitant. They also didn’t make the tiles themselves, but sourced them from Morocco. I finally decided to go straight to the source and tracked down three manufacturers/dealers of Moroccan zillij tiles in New York. After getting quotes from all three, I selected Mosaic House. They offered the greatest flexibility in customising and pricing, and had the friendliest and most helpful staff.

The Mosaic House showroom on 22nd street is mind-boggling—every surface is covered in glorious mosaic tiles of every imaginable pattern and colour—some modern, but mostly traditional and historical. I short-listed a few patterns and brought Peter back to help me make the final decision. Once we picked the pattern and colour combination, the staff made simulation drawings showing how the tiles would look in our space. We signed off on the design and made the deposit in end-March. Given that our tiles were all to be custom-made, we had to wait 12 weeks for them. They arrived, on-the-dot, in mid-June, and our contractor installed them in just 3½ days, bang on time for the July 4th long weekend. Here is a slideshow of the tiling process.

I’m so enamoured with the zillij tiles, that I want to re-do one of the guest bathrooms with them. But hubby will rip off his hair if he sees another contractor any time soon. Maybe in another 1½ years . . . !

[Click here to see the pics in a larger size.]

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Maple-Mustard-Coriander-Crusted Pork Spare Ribs

Just in time for July 4, here is my signature spare ribs recipe, which can be cooked either in the oven or on an outdoor grill. Like most of my cooking, this recipe has been a result of experimentation over months and I still vary the marinade mix from time to time. But after the overwhelming reception this particular combination of flavours received at my holiday cocktail party last December (I’ve never seen 30lbs of ribs disappear so quickly!), I thought it best to codify it for future use. The best part of it is that you can prepare the spice mix and marinate the meat as far in advance as you like—the longer the better (I’ve even gone as long as 10 days)—and its easy to make large quantities.

5 lbs Pork Spare Ribs
4 tbsp dark Maple Syrup
4 tbsp English mustard (like Colman’s), or Dijon mustard
2 tbsp crushed Garlic
1 tbsp crushed Ginger
6 tbsp Coriander powder
1 tbsp Smoked Paprika
1 tsp Asafoetida powder
¼ cup Parsley, finely chopped
2 tsp Black Pepper
Salt (to taste)
Juice of 1 Lemon (reserve the leftover lemon—rind, pith, and pulp—cut into quarters, for use later in the recipe)
  1. Mix all the ingredients for the marinade together in a bowl, except the quartered lemon. 
  2. Wash and pat dry spare ribs. Thoroughly slather ribs on all sides with the marinade, lay flat and stack them in a large airtight container. Tuck in the quartered lemon pieces into the meat, cover the container will plastic wrap and seal tightly. Let meat marinate in the fridge for 1-7 days. 
  3. Preheat oven to 400ºF. Remove ribs from fridge and bring down to room temperature. Lay the ribs onto a large roasting pan with the fat side up and cook in the oven for 20 mins. Lower temperature to 325ºF and flip ribs over so the fat side faces down. Cook for 2 hrs, occasionally basting ribs with the pan juices. 
  4. Remove ribs from pan and rest on a cutting board, covered in foil, for 15-20 mins. Cut ribs in between each rib bone and serve immediately. 
[If you’re using a grill, then roast the ribs in the oven for 1 hr only, then cook the remaining time over indirect heat on a charcoal or gas grill.]

© Copyright 2012 Shubhani Sarkar