Saturday, July 28, 2012

Spicy Potato & Coriander Samosas

I love Indian food, but I hardly ever order it out at a restaurant because it's very hard to know which entrees use ghee and which use vegetable oil.  There is a small Indian market near my house and I sometimes will drop by on my way home from work and order their Chana Masala and Vegetable Biryani (both are made fresh daily and use vegetable oil), along with a couple of their potato and pea samosas.  Now, I normally don't eat fried food, but every now and then, I can't pass up a good samosa.

I learned how to make samosas while working as a Chef in 2008.  We had a 200 person dinner party and they requested 25 platters of samosas as one of their appetizers.  I only had about three days before the party to make 500 samosas and so I was panicked to say the least.  But the wife of my husband's co-worker came to my rescue and gave me a quick lesson, along with her delicious recipe and I have been happily making samosas ever since.  And they were such a hit that we placed them on the menu permanently.   

Making the dough couldn't be easier (it includes, a/p flour, vegetable oil, water and salt) and once you get the hang of rolling and stuffing the samosas, it goes by very quickly.  A good samosa dough should puff up with little bubbles when fried and be crispy out the outside--never greasy or soggy, even after sitting out at room temperature.

The filling for the samosa should be fluffy, spicy and flavorful.  I have never tasted a filling that compares to the recipe that she shared with me.  I use russet potatoes, green chilies, ginger root, garlic, amchur powder, turmeric powder, red chili powder, garam masala, crushed coriander seeds, chopped fresh coriander (cilantro) and sea salt.  And I always serve my samosas with a cilantro-mint sauce and tamarind-date chutney.  Both sauces provide a nice contrast (sweet and cooling) to the spicy samosas.  

Too bad that samosas are deep fried or I would probably eat them everyday!  But once or twice a year seems to satisfy my craving and all is good in the world, or at least in my kitchen! 


Sunday, July 15, 2012

My Margaritaville

In 2008 I attended a six month professional wine course to become a Certified Sommelier with the Court of Master Sommeliers.  I did this because I wanted to learn more about viniculture (the growing and harvesting of grapes) and vinification (turning grapes into wine).  But most importantly, I wanted to be able to identify all the flavor nuances in wine and how to pair wine with food.

The course was really intense and covered every wine growing region in the world (old and new), along with tasting and identifying over 3,000 wines.  Once the course was finished I had to take a six hour exam to become certified.   During the exam I had to blind-taste three wines and identify the grape varietal, the country they were from, and the approximate vintage year.   Following the blind tasting, I had to take a 100 question exam, which included two essays and then I was judged on restaurant service and presentation.  Needless to say at the end of the day when they called my name and said that I passed and I was now a Certified Sommelier, I almost cried...well I kinda did...I was exhausted!

So what does a margarita have to do with wine...nothing really, except that my favorite poison of choice during the summer months is tequila, really good tequila.  The bottles alone are beautiful and make you want to purchase them for decoration only.  Yes, I still enjoy going out to dinner and reading over the wine list and choosing the perfect wine to pair with our meal, but nothing is more refreshing to me than a good margarita!

So here are my tips of "Do's" and "Dont's" for purchasing a great tequila and making the perfect margarita...whether it is served blended or on the rocks.
  • DO purchase a 100% pure blue agave tequila (read the label carefully).
  • DON'T purchase a cheap tequila (no matter how tempting).  A good silver or blanco tequila should cost you between $20 and $30 for a 750ml bottle, and a good reposado (slightly aged) tequila should cost you between $30 and $40.  I do not drink anejo tequila which can be aged for up to a year or more and is a bit more expensive.
  • DO drink a margarita "on the rocks" as an aperitif when going out to dinner at a nice restaurant.  
  • DO use a reposado tequila when drinking a margarita on the rocks.
  • DO drink a "blended" margarita when eating at a casual restaurant consuming mass quantities of chips and salsa...:-) or on a warm summer's day hanging out by the pool. 
  • DO use a blanco or silver tequila when blending a margarita.
  • DON'T purchase a pre-made margarita mix, ever!
  • DO spend the time juicing your own fresh limes, lemons, oranges, grapefruit or a combination thereof to make your own margarita mix.
  • DON'T make a simple syrup using refined sugar to make your margarita.
  • DO use "blue agave syrup", from the agave plant to make your simple syrup.
  • DON'T use idolized salt or purchase margarita salt to rim your margarita glass.
  • DO use a course natural sea salt and grind it to your liking to rim your margarita glass.
  • DON'T use Triple Sec or Cointreau in your margaritas, use Grand Marnier instead.  Triple Sec and Cointreau have bitter undertones, while Grand Marnier is fruity and smooth.  
  • DO use fresh fruit juices to flavor your margaritas.  Some of my favorites are watermelon, mango, pomegranate, cactus pear, tangerine or pineapple.
  • DON'T use banana in your margaritas.  Bananas are good with rum, not tequila.
  • DO use crushed ice when making a blended margarita.
But most importantly, DO have fun when making your margaritas...whether you serve them blended or on the is the perfect summer drink!  Enjoy!     

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Thai Braised Tofu with Spicy Peanut Sauce

Thai food is one of my favorite cuisines.  I just love combining the flavors of spicy, sweet, sour and salty together to create a dish.  This dish is simple to prepare and light to enough to eat on a warm summer's evening.

For the tofu I marinated it with lemongrass, ginger, garlic, tamari, lime juice, and sriracha and braised it for a short period of time.  For the rice, I steamed brown basmati and tossed it with cilantro, toasted sesame seeds and lime juice.  To finish the dish, I topped it with a salad of shaved carrots, red bell pepper, green cabbage, green onions and tossed it with a spicy peanut-tamarind dressing.  Finally, I garnished the dish with toasted peanuts, and Thai basil.  

So beautiful and so delicious! 

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Summer Melon Fruit Salad

Wow, it has been so long since my last post--four months to be exact!  I've just been really busy working.  I'm a chef at a vegan cafe and I love cooking and being around vegan food everyday!  I am really very fortunate that I get to do something that I love for a living!

Anyway, last year for the 4th of July I made an elaborate spread, but this year since I only have a few days off I wanted to keep it simple.  Hubby and I are just grilling some vegan dogs and I made this really delicious melon salad that I wanted to share with you.  

You can use any type of melons--just make sure that you add all the other ingredients to give it lots of crunch and plenty of spice.  I guarantee that if you take this to your next BBQ, or picnic that people will devour it in no time.  Plus it's really beautiful to look at!

For my salad I used a combination of:  cantaloupe, watermelon, jicama, English cucumber, white corn, jalapeno, mint, lime juice, cayenne pepper and salt and pepper.  Cilantro would be a good addition too.  Just so fresh--I could eat this everyday during the summer months! 

Until my next post--Happy 4th everyone!