Friday, December 4, 2009

Not Afraid Of Getting Wet

It's Friday night and I'm at home. Blogging. I believe I've graduated to a whole new level of cuckoo today. Because I'm not even perturbed by this. You're allowed to shake your head at me - go on, I probably deserve it.

However, if you're like me, then you won't dwell on my shame for long, and will quickly move on to the real reason you're here. The food! Now, in my previous post, I'd mentioned how the lovely people at POM Wonderful were kind enough to send me a generous sample of their 100% pure pomegranate juice. After chugging down the first couple of bottles (it tasted even better because it was
free!), I could almost feel myself getting healthier. All those antioxidants must have worked their magic on my clogged arteries. So with all that blood flowing more freely to my heart, and as a consequence, to my brain, I started thinking about what I could make with the rest of my precious POM.
I've never cooked with pomegranate juice before, so I really had to scour the web for something interesting enough for this first time. And savory - I knew I wanted savory, not sweet, because that would've been too obvious and easy (yes, I like to punish myself sometimes by setting lofty goals and torturing myself over them - but we'll come back to that in another therapy session). That's when I came across this
parsi recipe from Asha's blog Fork-Spoon-Knife. The flavor profiles were so unusual, but her pic was so appetizing, that I just had to try it out. I'd never made parsi food before, although had heard good things about it - so I dove right in.
Koresht-e-Fesenjan (find Asha's original recipe here)
Serves 4-6

Click here for printable recipe

Half a chicken, cut into pieces, skinless
1 large onion, sliced thin
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 lb walnuts, toasted and ground
2.5 cups POM Wonderful pomegranate juice
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp chilli powder or 2-3 green chillies, chopped (optional)
1-2 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp cardamom powder (or 4 cardamom, just bruised to open them up)
2 tbsp lime juice
Salt & pepper to taste
3 tbsp canola oil

Cilantro for garnish

1. Brown the chicken in 2 tbsp of oil in a heavy-bottomed pan. Then remove from the pan and set aside. Add in the remaining oil and saute the onions till golden. Add in the garlic and saute for another minute. Then sprinkle in the salt, pepper, cinnamon, nutmeg and chilli powder/green chillies (if using).

2. Mix the walnut paste into the onion mixture. Add the browned chicken pieces and toss to coat. Stir in all the pomegranate juice. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer for at least an hour - until the sauce has thickened, the walnuts have released their oil, and mixture has reduced to half its original volume.

3. Stir in lime juice and sugar according to taste. Adjust seasoning. Add the cardamom at this point and let it cook for a further 20 mins.

4. Let cool, then refrigerate overnight - this really does taste better the next day, and I'm not just saying that! Best served with hot basmati rice.

Verdict: Since I've never had any version of this dish before, I can only assume that it came out the way it was supposed to. I followed Asha's instructions to the tee, and felt lukewarm about the results. I initially didn't put any chillies in the dish, and I think my palate needs some heat in my savory dishes to feel satisfied, which is probably why I wasn't jumping up and down about this one. Still, that's an easy enough fix - and I've made a note of that in my instructions above. Other than that, the POM juice tastes really good with the chicken and walnuts - not to mention the color of the dish is so pretty! I'm glad I gave this dish a chance. I still have some POM juice left, even after this experiment, so my brain is already going into overdrive to figure out "what next?".

While we're on the subject of trying new things, let me tell you, I finally went to this art gallery exhibition that's been on my to-do list for months. In the past, something or the other always came in the way, but last week I just woke up one morning and decided "today is the day" - no matter how crappy the weather got. And it did. Very crappy. But I prevailed, and I'm glad I did, because the exhibition was in a part of Yale University that I'd never seen before - so saw something new right there. And the exhibition itself, called "Breaking The Veils: Women Artists Of The Islamic World" was really fascinating and impressive. C'mon ... let me give you a small tour.

The Addams Family house. Noooooo, I kid. It's Betts House, currently home to several Yale offices.

The Divinity Quadrangle at Yale, where the exhibition was displayed.

I'm a little obsessed with arches.

The Blue Paradise, by Suad al Attar, an Iraqi painter. My favorite of the lot.

Walls Of Gaza, a collection of photographs by Laila Shawa, of Palestine. Very powerful stuff.

Can't remember who did this - just that she was from Sudan.

This was great - like something out of the fantasy novels I adore. Called The Flying Horse, by Juliana Seraphim of Lebanon.

Another of my favorite paintings from the show - Choices, by Tina Ahmed, from Bangladesh.

So if you're in the area, I highly recommend taking a look at this exhibition. It's completely free, and houses many other poignant pieces of art from a whole range of female artists - from Jordan to Pakistan to Saudi Arabia. I love seeing a woman's point of view celebrated like this.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Learning And Teaching

We've barely emerged from Thanksgiving, and it feels like we're smack in the middle of Christmas already! Did you know that it was Franklin D. Roosevelt who changed the date of Thanksgiving from the last Thursday of November to the second-last Thursday of this month, simply because he wanted to create a longer Christmas shopping period? Well, he did. Just some food for thought, dear readers.

Speaking of food (and aren't I always?), have you seen the first round-up of PW recipes over at the new blog - Foodie Fans of The Pioneer Woman? It was a really good turnout, and we had a wide variety of fun comments from all of you. From all the people who left their comments on our blog, we chose two lucky-ducky winners of Ree's new cookbook. So go on over there to check if it was

Apart from Thanksgiving, DH and I also celebrated
Eid-ul-Adha, a holiday that celebrates the end of the Hajj (annual pilgrimage of Muslims to Mecca). It's the Festival of Sacrifice, which honors and symbolizes the act of ultimate sacrifice performed by the Prophet Abraham, when God told him to sacrifice his only son. Of course, as it turned out, God was testing Abraham's faith and at the last minute, replaced the son with a sheep. To this day, millions of Muslims around the world sacrifice some form of livestock to honor that memory. The meat from the sacrifice is then distributed to the poor within the community. We also give a lot to charity during this time, since the idea is to make sure that everyone around us is taken care of and doesn't go hungry. And as usual, it's a great excuse to get together with family and friends, put on our best finery and party-hardy!

One of the traditional sweets that is made in almost every Pakistani/Indian household during this festival is some version of a vermicelli pudding, called
sheer korma. I make it on the first morning of Eid, since it only takes a few minutes, then DH and I savor it for days, because it's one of those comfort foods. Warm, filling, flavorful and fragrant. Oh man ... I'm craving a bowl of it right now!
Here's the vermicelli. There's Ozzy trying to open my balcony door.

My Vermicelli Pudding or Sheer Korma
Serves 8-10

Click here for printable recipe

1 package of vermicelli (found in any Indo-Pak grocery store)
1/4 cup ghee or canola oil
6 cups whole milk (could be more or less, depending on how thick you like it)
1.5 - 2 cups sugar
Handful of slivered almonds
Handful of chopped pistachios
6 cardamom, opened
Large pinch of saffron

1. Take the package of vermicelli and smush it! Basically, you want to crush the long strands into pieces about an inch or half an inch long.

2. Warm up the ghee/oil on medium heat, in a large saucepan. Throw in the cardamom and give them a minute to flavor the ghee/oil.

3. Add in all the crushed vermicelli, and toast in the ghee/oil. Keep stirring for about 3-5 mins.

4. Pour in all the milk at once, stir. Put in the saffron. Turn the heat down and let the whole thing simmer away for 10-15 mins. The vermicelli should be completely softened, and the milk should thicken to your liking. (I prefer mine on the thicker side, not too milky. You could even be naughty and add a generous dollop of heavy cream - ahem, erm, I may have done that)

5. When the consistency is where you want it to be, add in the sugar, in half-cup parts, tasting as you go. When you think it's sweet enough, stop. That's how I do it! Finally, sprinkle the nuts into it. You could add chopped dates if you wish. Let it cool off a bit, but serve warm. Keeps well in the fridge for 5-6 days - just zap it in the microwave, in individual bowls, before you enjoy it. It actually tastes even better the next day!
Verdict: Seems silly to even pass judgement on this dessert. It's something that I've grown up eating, and so has DH. I'm biased. I can't help but love this! I could swap my morning cereal for this any damn day. And it's a kick-ass afternoon snack. It's not a light dessert, by any means, but it's perfect for cooling down your palate after a spicy meal. And by serving it warm, it's ideal during the chilly winter nights. Goes down smooth and warms you up from the inside. Ahhhhhhh ... bliss.

I'll tell you what else goes down smooth - these POM Wonderful juices. DH and I have been chugging these down everyday. The kind people from POM Wonderful sent me these delicious juices, and I've really been enjoying them! I even made a new dish with them. It was really fascinating with 100% pure pomegranate juice, because I'd never done it before. Definitely a learning process. Now I'm scouring the net to find more recipes to use it in. You'll see the results in my upcoming post!
Deep, dark, mysterious pomegranate juice. Eh, not really, we all know this stuff is great for ya!