Sunday, June 26, 2011

Victory for marriage equality in NY!!!

Lemongrass-Scented Seafood Stew with Summer Vegetables

This dish screams summer. It came together in a completely ad-hoc manner after an afternoon spent meandering through the Union Square farmer’s market. I let the market’s offerings of the day inspire the ingredients and ended up with a selection of black sea bass, porgy and mussels in the seafood side, and an assortment of summer squash and sugar snap peas on the veggie front.

You can vary the main ingredients easily with whatever is available locally. Try and include at least one firm white fish and one shellfish or mollusk. For the vegetables, any combination of fresh produce or greens will do, as long as it is fresh!

2 tbsp Vegetable Oil
3 Shallots, finely sliced
2-inch piece Ginger, peeled and thinly slivered
6 cloves Garlic, finely sliced
1 stalk Lemongrass, finely sliced
6–8 fresh Green Chillis, minced
1 tbsp Red Chilli powder, made into paste with a little water
2 cups Coconut Milk
3 cups Chicken Stock (or Vegetable Stock)
1 tbsp Rice Wine Vinegar
2 tbsp Fish Sauce (or Soy sauce)
Juice of ½ Lime
6 Lime leaves
½ cup Basil, roughly chopped
1½ lbs [750 gms] assorted Summer Squash, cut into 2-inch pieces
1 lb [½ kg] Sugar Snap Peas
2 ½ lbs [1½ kg] Seafood—combination of firm white fish such as snapper or sea bass, cut into 1-inch pieces, and shellfish of choice
Salt (to taste)
1/3 cup fresh Cilantro, roughly chopped
  1. Heat vegetable oil in a large, deep pot over high heat. Add shallots, ginger, garlic, lemongrass and green chillis, and stir for about 3 mins until the shallots are wilted and translucent. Add chilli paste and stir for another 2 mins. 
  2. Gently add coconut milk, stock, vinegar, fish sauce and limejuice, and bring to a brisk boil. Add lime leaves, basil, and squash, lower heat to medium, and cook for 7–10 mins, until the squash is fork tender. 
  3. Add sugar snap peas, seafood and salt, stir, and continue cooking with the lid on for another 7 mins, until the white fish is cooked through, and the mollusks have opened-up. Turn off heat, add cilantro and stir. Serve immediately over rice.

Friday, June 24, 2011

A Mild Obsession

A lot of you know of my somewhat “mild,” all together healthy obsession with Le Creusets. How and why can a piece of enamelled, cast-iron cookware give so much joy and delight? By being super durable, eternally dependable, and gorgeous to boot. These are pricey puppies, but worth saving all your pennies for.

In fact, I scrounged for months to buy my first mini set of three in 2001. I was then recently out of college, working and living the single-gal life in New York, and just starting to putter about the kitchen. I had the requisite miniscule Manhattan studio apartment, equipped with an equally miniature kitchenette with only two cabinets. So I needed basic, versatile cookware, which could go from stovetop to table, and withstand plenty of wear-and-tear. Le Creuset was the perfect answer and came in a glamourous selection of colours. I, of course, settled on flame—the original and signature colour—a gorgeous mandarin orange hue, which graded down to a vibrant red at the base.

[click image to enlarge]

I’m not one for anything matchy-matchy at all; in fact matching sets are an aberration to my aesthetic sensibilities. But it seems as though I cannot have enough of these orange lovelies! My first three pieces were a 10-3/4” skillet, a 2¼ qt saucepan, and 3¼ qt round French oven. Over the years, I’ve slowly added to those starter pieces and have now accumulated quite a bounty. They range in size from the oft-used, behemoth 13¼ qt round French oven (dubbed “Big Bertha” by Tastey Boy), which was a wedding gift from my dear friend Nicola, to the 1/3 qt mini cocotte which is perfect for melting butter and sputtering spices. I can safely say that they are my best friends in the kitchen—I use them all, and I use them daily. In fact, the more you use them, the more naturally non-stick they become. And they are a breeze to clean with simple dish soap and hot water.

[click image to enlarge]

So take a deep breath and go forth and get yourself one of these beauties. I guarantee that it will be your best investment in the kitchen and will last you a lifetime. And I’m always happy to accompany you on your sojourn!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Seared Ginger Prawns with Jicama-Mango Salad

This dish exemplifies, probably more than anything else that I’ve posted, the hybrid, culinary experimentation that I’m so fond of. Some of you may recognise Vietnamese influences in the pairing of lime and ginger, while others might point out the Latin overtones of the salsa-like jicama-mango salad. In fact, all these are commonly found Indian ingredients that fuse together into an easy, pan-continental style.

For my Indian readers—jicama is the Spanish name for the lowly root vegetable that we call shankhaloo in Bengali. It’s crunchy freshness, coupled with the sweetness of mango, unexpectedly balances the briny-ness of the prawns. Together, they are a perfect dish for a warm and muggy summer evening.


1¼ lbs [½ kg] Prawns, peeled, de-veined, and washed
1-inch piece Ginger, peeled and finely minced
1 tsp Garlic, finely minced
½ tsp Sriracha chilli sauce (or any Asian chilli sauce of choice)
2 tbsp Ponzu sauce (or Soy sauce)
1/8 tsp freshly ground Black Pepper
Pinch of Salt
2 tbsp Vegetable Oil

For the Salad: 
½ lb [225 gms] Jicama, peeled and diced
½ lb [225 gms] Mango, peeled and diced
2 Shallots, finely sliced
3–4 fresh Green Chillis, finely minced
½ cup Cilantro, finely chopped
Juice of 1 Lime
Salt (to taste)
  1. Mix the prawns with ginger, garlic, chilli sauce, ponzu sauce, black pepper and salt in a bowl. Cover with plastic-wrap and let marinate in the fridge for 30 mins. 
  2. Mix all the salad ingredients together in a large bowl and set aside for 15 mins to let the flavours steep. 
  3. Remove prawns from fridge. Heat oil in a large skillet or frying pan over high heat until it is smoking. Add prawns to the skillet and sear on one side for 2 mins. Then flip the prawns and sear on the other side for another 2 mins until golden brown. [Alternately, you can cook the prawns on a gas or charcoal grill over indirect heat.] 
  4. Serve warm, plated with the jicama-mango salad.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Lemon-Parsley Potato Pie

Full disclosure—this is an accidental recipe; albeit an utterly delish one, but accidental nonetheless. It started off life as my regular skillet fried potato hash, which I serve more regularly as a side dish than for breakfast. Two summers ago, I absent-mindedly left the potato sitting in the skillet for an extra 5 minutes or so, and it started sticking to the bottom of the pan. In an effort to rescue the only starch I was serving at that meal, I spread out the potato evenly across the skillet surface, and pressed down. Lo and behold, it morphed from an unappetizing pile of overdone ‘taters, into a golden, wholly formed pie fit for a king!

5 lbs [2-1/4 kgs] Potatoes, peeled and cut in half
Salt (to taste)
4 tbsp Olive oil
2 tbsp Butter
Grated rind of ½ lemon
Juice of ½ Lemon
1 cup Parsley, finely chopped
1 tbsp freshly ground Black Pepper
  1. Boil potatoes in a large pot of water over high heat. Drain the water and transfer potatoes to a storage container. Sprinkle with salt, gently toss to incorporate, and let cool thoroughly. You can prepare the potatoes up this point a day ahead and store in the fridge. 
  2. Heat olive oil in a large, heavy-bottomed skillet or frying pan, over high heat. Using your hands, roughly crumble the potatoes directly into the pan, and stir briskly for 5 mins. Spread the potatoes out evenly to cover the entire surface of the pan, and press down with the back of your spoon. Let the potatoes sit untouched for about 3 mins, then stir, scraping all the brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Then spread the potatoes out again, and continue to repeat the scraping-spreading-pressing down process, until the potatoes are a deep golden yellow, generously flecked with dark brown bits. 
  3. Add butter, lemon rind, lemon juice, parsley and black pepper and stir to mix well. Spread out the potatoes one final time to form a solid round pie. Remove skillet from heat.  
  4. Invert skillet onto a large platter, garnish with any extra scrapings from the bottom of the skillet, and serve immediately.


© Copyright 2012 Shubhani Sarkar