September 7, 2011

The Eaten Path

Just had my second Thailand article published at The Eaten Path. This great website is run by my friend James Boo. Have a look and let me know what you think.

August 29, 2011

Seviche (or Ceviche)

I've always spelled it Ceviche, but this is a picture of my friend Omar's Seviche, and that's how he spells it.

I first heard about Omar's seviche when his wife Paola mentioned that they were going to a book party because Omar's seviche recipe had been published in this book.

(In the "small world" dept., also in this book are some recipes by the manager of the soccer monster's former soccer team, a man who was once unspeakably rude and mean and awful to us. Imagine my surprise when, looking through to find Omar's recipe, I came across this man's name and recipes. Oddly enough—or perhaps not so oddly—knowing he could cook improved my opinion of him.)

I've always had a funny relationship with ceviche (or seviche). I'm often not thrilled with the idea of eating it, and when I see it, it doesn't really look that appetizing to me. But then, when I take the first bite, it's usually unfailingly—and surprisingly—delicious. It's like rediscovering that I like ceviche, every single time.

Anyway, when I discovered that Omar's seviche was good enough to be in a cookbook, I was of course very intrigued and started dropping obvious hints about getting invited over for some waiting patiently to be invited over for some. I figured that a) it would be delicious and b) it would finally cure me of my ceviche problem.

But you know what? When I eventually did get invited to their lovely home to eat Omar's seviche, it was the same as ever. I looked at the seviche, all beautifully plated like this:

And I just thought, "Wow, I'm not going to like this much!"

Boy was I wrong!

Omar's seviche is, I can say fairly unequivocally, one of the best things I have ever put in my mouth.

It's just a totally harmonious combination of ingredients—the sourness of the lime and lemon juice, the bite of the raw ginger, the crunch of the celery, the smoky hotness of the roasted jalapenos. All of these combined with  the chewiness of the clams(he doesn't always put clams in, but he did this time) and the tenderness of the fish (he used tilapia) just made for amazingly happy mouthfuls. I couldn't stop eating it. We had the seviche on a gloomy, rainy sunday and the taste of it on my tongue just made the whole room seem bathed in sunshine. It's that good. Really.

As you can see from the picture above, he serves it with sweet potatoes and corn (and bread) which really turns it into a meal. And he also plates it beautifully on a piece of romaine lettuce. But you don't have to do either of those things. You can just make the seviche, leave it to marinate for a while (the longer the better) and then dig right into the bowl with a fork, transporting yourself directly to flavor heaven.

Not that I know anyone who would do such a thing.

Omar's Seviche
(serves 6)

2 pounds of tilapia or flounder
3 lemons
5 limes
salt to taste
2 stalks celery
1 2-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled
1 red onion
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
2 jalapeno peppers
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large can whole clams or 2 dozen shucked fresh raw clams or 3 dozen cooked and shelled Manila clams (optional)
3 sweet potatoes (optional)
3 ears of corn, (optional)

1) Slice the fish into 1/2 inch strips and put into a bowl. Add clams if using.
2) Squeeze the juice from the lemons and limes and pour over the fish.
3) Add some salt. (Go easy at first and add more later if you need it.) Let the fish "cook" 30 to 40 minutes in the refrigerator.
4) Finely dice the celery and red onion. Grate or finely dice the ginger.
5) Roast the jalapenos over a flame until the outer skins blacken and burst. Let sit 10 minutes, then slide the burnt skins off and thinly slice the peppers.
6) After the fish has marinated, add all the other prepped ingredients and mix. Let sit an additional 20 to 30 minutes before serving. The longer you wait, the richer the flavor gets.
7) If using sweet potatoes and corn, boil them while the fish "cooks." Cut the sweet potatoes and corn cobs in half and serve the seviche accompanied by half a sweet potato and half an ear of corn.

Eat and swoon!

July 25, 2011

Potato Parathas

It's hard to post if you don't cook. And I haven't been. But not because I've been worn out or disinterested. It's just that for the past few weeks I've been in the warm embrace of my family in Thailand. This means that I eat a lot of Thai food, either out at a restaurant, or brought in. Or that my mother cooks delicious meals for me. She loves to do it, and I, being a dutiful daughter, have to let her.

Or it means I eat delicious things like this:
These are vegetarian Burmese style noodles made by Goma, my parents' housekeeper, who is Burmese but  of Nepali descent, and a strict pure-veg Hindu. She's always making delicious things and leaving them on the stove for us. As you might imagine, the Vegetarian loves Goma and has been in heaven.

But I've been sitting on this post for a while. For one thing, I love the ladies whose recipe I'm showcasing and have been wanting to give them a shoutout on my blog. For another, this post is a total counterpoint to the one I did on bao in which I extoll the virtues of letting other people make things for you.

In this case, I did the opposite.

I made potato parathas instead of buying them.

But, before anyone points a "j'accuse!" finger of hypocrisy at me, I will confess that I do usually buy them, on my Indian shopping sprees to Patel Bros. in Jackson Heights—about a dozen bags at a time. You see, potato parathas are a staple in my house. The kids can't live without them, and if they go a few weeks and there aren't any around, the whining will begin.

This winter, it so happened that I didn't get to Patel Bros. for months. Our paratha supply ran dry. The wee ones went into withdrawal.

I had to do something. So, inspired by these lovely ladies, I decided to try making my own.

I had avoided making filled parathas for years. It just seemed so hard, encasing the filling in the dough and everything. But you know what?

It was easy. Really, really easy. Here's the link to the recipe. And, now that I've done it a few times, a couple of tips:

1) the potatoes need to be really dry. I usually microwave mine or use leftover baked. If you boil them, drain as soon as they are done and put them back on the stove in the empty pan and shake the pan over high heat until they dry a little. If the potatoes are too wet, the filling will be too wet and it will ooze out of the paratha, making it impossible to roll the bread out and also making a big big mess. Trust me. I speak from experience.

2) If you can't find chaat masala, you can use another spice blend, or make your own. I have used both chana masala mix and sambar powder. I also add a few whole toasted cumin seeds to the filling.

3) a cast iron griddle (I use my cast iron tawa, or indian griddle, that I inherited from my mom) works great. These breads don't stick, but a little oil brushed on them during cooking improves the flavor immensely. As does a little butter or ghee put on top before serving. And keep the heat at medium, so that they can cook through before the outsides get too brown.

4) The first time I made the parathas with atta, Indian chapati flour, but then I ran out and, since I couldn't get back to Patel Bros. to get more (if I had, I would have just bought the parathas), I had to find a substitute. White whole wheat flour works very very well. I would give atta a slight edge, but white whole wheat flour is a) available almost anywhere, unlike atta, and b) can be used for other things as well.

5) Stack the cooked parathas in a covered container like tortillas and they will keep at room temp for a few hours and in the fridge for a few days. They even freeze beautifully. (Reheat in a toaster oven. This is a breakfast/snack staple in our house.) I've been on the lookout for a stainless steel lidded container like my Indian aunties use, but so far no luck. Here they are stacked:

But honestly, the first time I made them, I was amazed at how good and easy they are. They're very forgiving. Plus, they're nutritious—what with the whole wheat flour and potatoes and all. 

I'm happy every time the soccer monster scarfs a couple up.