21 July 2008

Asafetida; Red lentils with asafetida recipe

I came across asafetida while searching for new recipes for red lentils. Ah, an herb I had never heard of or seen in stores. I'll try the recipe below when I find it. As for what asafetida is, a synopsis from Wikipedia:

"Asafoetida (Ferula assafoetida), alternative spelling asafetida, pronounced /æsəˈfɛtɪdə/ (also known as devil's dung, stinking gum, asant, food of the gods, Hing (Gujarati, Hindi), Ingua (Telugu), Hilteet, and giant fennel) is a species of Ferula native to Iran. It is an herbaceous perennial plant growing to 2 m tall, with stout, hollow, somewhat succulent stems 5-8 cm diameter at the base of the plant. The leaves are 30–40 cm long, tripinnate or even more finely divided, with a stout basal sheath clasping the stem. The flowers are yellow, produced in large compound umbels.

Asafoetida has a foul smell when raw, but in cooked dishes, it delivers a smooth flavor, reminiscent of leeks...

...This spice is used as a digestive aid, in food as a condiment and in pickles. Its odor is so strong that it must be stored in airtight containers; otherwise the aroma, which is nauseating in quantities, will contaminate other spices stored nearby. However, its odour and flavor become much milder and more pleasant upon heating in oil or ghee, acquiring a taste and aroma reminiscent of sautéed onion and garlic. In India, it is used especially by the merchant caste of the Hindus and by adherents of Jainism, who do not eat onions or garlic. It is used in most vegetarian and lentil dishes to both add flavor and aroma and reduce flatulence. It is mainly grown in Iran and Afghanistan. The Indian companies Laljee Godhoo, Laxmi Hing (R M Kanani & Co - Gujarat) are the world's largest producers of compounded asafoetida."


Red Lentils with Asafetida


2 cups red lentils

1 teaspoon ground turmeric

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 teaspoon ground asafetida

1 1/4 teaspoon cumin seeds

4 or 5 dried red hot chilies


Rinse the, then drain and place in a heavy saucepan.

Add 6 cups water and the turmeric. Stir and bring to a simmer (do not boil). Cover loosely, lower the heat and allow to simmer gently 35 to 40 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the salt and mix. Leave covered over very low heat.

Put the oil in a small frying pan and set over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, put in the asafetida. Then add the cumin seeds, allowing them to sizzle for a few seconds. Add the red chilies. As soon as they turn dark red (should be a few seconds), pour the frying pan's oil and spices into the lentil pan. Cover immediately to trap the aromas, then serve.

Servings: 7 to 9.

16 July 2008

Trends: Sliders; slyders

Photo: Evan Sung for The New York Times

THE new food trend is one you may have been a part of without knowing it.

If you have eaten White Castle hamburgers, aka "slyders", sliders, whatever you want to call them, you started this (in a way). Never heard of White Castle, visit Wikipedia to learn more.

As for sliders, a New York Times article, "In Manhattan, Sliders for All Tastes" by Florence Fabricant (Published: July 16, 2008), declares:

"Are they greasy but lovable little staples of down-market fast food? Or are they trendy, high-end bar food fussed over by chefs and served with fancy ketchup on miniature brioche buns? Right now, at restaurants in New York and elsewhere, they are both. Take your pick."


To read the whole article, visit The New York Times.

10 July 2008

Nine noteworthy foods

There have been many lists appearing recently touting the 'best' foods to eat for health and nutrition. The same foods appear on many of the lists -- with minor variations. A very nice, concise article in the Tennessean (Nashville) -- reprinted from 'Woman's Day', is as good as any:

"If you were stuck on a deserted island, what foods would you want with you? At first you might think about your favorite snacks, but ultimately you'd need nutrient-packed foods to keep you healthy for the long haul. To figure out what would make the cut, Woman's Day magazine analyzed dozens of foods. Points were awarded for the amount of key nutrients that each food contains, and any that had trans fats or high amounts of saturated fat or sodium were crossed off the list."

The foods included are almonds, avocados, broccoli, eggs, kale, quinoa, raspberries, sweet potatoes, plain non-fat yougurt.

Go to Tennessean to read the article.

03 July 2008

Beyond the Great Wall: Recipes and Travels in the Other China

Are you a Summer Olympics fan (or fanatic)? Or just appreciate the multitude of Chinese cuisines? Or both? Then, this book is for you: Beyond the Great Wall: Recipes and Travels in the Other China, by Jeffrey Alford, and Naomi Duguid.

The description, from Jessica's Biscuit:

"A bold and eye-opening new cookbook with magnificent photos and unforgettable stories.

In the West, when we think about food in China, what usually comes to mind are the signature dishes of Beijing, Hong Kong, Shanghai. But beyond the urbanized eastern third of China lie the high open spaces and sacred places of Tibet, the Silk Road oases of Xinjiang, the steppelands of Inner Mongolia, and the steeply terraced hills of Yunnan and Guizhou. The peoples who live in these regions are culturally distinct, with their own history and their own unique culinary traditions. In Beyond the Great Wall, the inimitable duo of Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid--who first met as young travelers in Tibet--bring home the enticing flavors of this other China.

For more than twenty-five years, both separately and together, Duguid and Alford have journeyed all over the outlying regions of China, sampling local home cooking and street food, making friends and taking lustrous photographs. Beyond the Great Wall shares the experience in a rich mosaic of recipes--from Central Asian cumin-scented kebabs and flatbreads to Tibetan stews and Mongolian hot pots--photos, and stories. A must-have for every food lover, and an inspiration for cooks and armchair travelers alike."

Beyond the Great Wall: Recipes and Travels in the Other China
by Jeffrey Alford, and Naomi Duguid
HC: 384 Pages
Publisher: Artisan
Pub. Date: Apr 01, 2008
Photos: Color Photographs

Available online at Jessica's Biscuit and Barnes and Noble.

Ham Biscuits, Hostess Gowns and Other Southern Specialties, by Julia Reed

A new notable "cookbook" is on the shelf that appears to go beyond just recipes (which I like): Ham Biscuits, Hostess Gowns, and Other Southern Specialties An Entertaining Life (with Recipes), by Julia Reed. Jessica's Biscuit says:

"Julia Reed spends a lot of time thinking about ham biscuits. And cornbread and casseroles and the surprisingly modern ease of donning a hostess gown for one’s own party. In Ham Biscuits, Hostess Gowns and Other Southern Specialties Julia Reed collects her thoughts on good cooking and the lessons of gracious entertaining that pass from one woman to another, and takes the reader on a lively and very personal tour of the culinary—and social—South. In essays on everything from pork chops to the perfect picnic Julia Reed revels in the simple good qualities that make the Southern table the best possible place to pull up a chair. She expounds on: the Southerner’s relentless penchant for using gelatin; why most things taste better with homemade mayonnaise; the necessity of a holiday milk punch (and, possibly, a Santa hat); how best to “cook for compliments” (at least one squash casserole and Lee Bailey’s barbequed veal are key). She provides recipes for some of the region’s best-loved dishes (cheese straws, red velvet cake, breakfast shrimp), along with her own variations on the classics, including Fried Oysters Rockefeller Salad and Creole Crab Soup. She also elaborates on worthwhile information every hostess would do well to learn: the icebreaking qualities of a Ramos gin fizz and a hot crabmeat canapé, for example; the “wow factor” intrinsic in a platter of devilled eggs or a giant silver punchbowl filled with scoops of homemade ice cream. There is guidance on everything from the best possible way to “eat” your luck on New Year’s Day to composing a menu in honor of someone you love. Grace and hilarity under gastronomic pressure suffuse these essays, along with remembrances of her gastronomic heroes including Richard Olney, Mary Cantwell, and M.F.K. Fisher. Ham Biscuits, Hostess Gowns and Other Southern Specialties is another great book about the South from Julia Reed, a writer who makes her experiences in—and out of—the kitchen a joy to read."

Ham Biscuits, Hostess Gowns, and Other Southern Specialties An Entertaining Life (with Recipes)
by Julia Reed

Publisher: St. Martin'S Press
Pub. Date: Jul 08, 2008

Available online at Jessica's Biscuit and Barnes and Noble.