Tagged: stovetop

Pasta with Broccoli in an Orange-Cream Sauce

Between work and exams and one of my favourite pop stars dying (RIP MJ), I’ve been reading Julie Powell’s Julie and Julia (which by the way is a pretty wicked read!). Readers of her long-completed cooking project and blog must be familiar with her engaging style, which is very much what drew me to the book. Though I discovered the blog after the project was completed, I still haven’t managed to make my way through all of the postings and it’s really hard to wrap my head around her successful endeavour, which certainly isn’t for the faint-hearted. I know being a ‘sometimes meatatarian’ there is no way on earth I could have pulled that off. Plus being the aforementioned type of meat eater, just having read the passage about the bone marrow extraction made me want to sear the images my brain supplied permanently out of it. And there is no way in hell that I am plastering eggs all over my kitchen in order to learn to toss an omlette. Just the idea of an egg-plastered kitchen had me breaking out in hives.


While Ms. Powell and I certainly don’t see things the same way (I fervently hope the level of wastage she describes is artistic license and far from the truth, my mom would have various choice things to tell her about starving children) several passages of the book had me chortling in empathy. And what I am loving most about the book so far is how much a part of everything her husband is, actively or passively. That resonates so much with me because Amey is practically always part of my maddening (for him) ideas of the time, sometimes willingly, sometimes kicking and screaming. But he is always supportive of them, half-baked schemes though they may be. Like the time that I thought I could live through a no-sodium, no fat, no flavour (kill me now!) diet, telling him confidently that I could do it. In my zeal for the thing, I chose to ignore the fact that the diet included fish, something that I could never eat and no salt, something I can’t live without. After three days of scrabbling around, steaming, baking and boiling several veggies, meats and halibut (god, what was I thinking??), I enthusiastically started the diet on the fourth day. One bite of the prescribed morning breakfast of steamed, unsalted, peppered fish had me throwing up in the sink and simultaneously howling and babbling incoherently on the bathroom floor about all the fish in the fridge I was delusional enough to think I could eat. While Amey handed me a glass of orange juice to stop the gagging until I calmed down, he packed his lunch, two cautious little boiled halibut sandwiches with salt on the side. And that was his meal for two days until he gamely worked his way through the fish. I’ll bet he gagged through it, that stuff was vile! Amey isn’t even much of a fish eater. Truth be told, he must have eaten five fish dishes in his entire life. But that’s what he does when my plans get out of hand. *Sniffle* gotta love him! Julie Powell would understand exactly what I mean.


Life throws the guy many such curve balls since he has me for his wife. So he was understandably quite nervous when I eyed our gigantor pile of oranges and pronounced I was making pasta. I had wanted to bake a cake for a friend which required a couple of oranges but since a packet of six was on sale I’d happily bought the entire thing thinking I’d juice the rest or something. Well, in middle of a mercurial last two weeks, the cake didn’t get baked and there were oranges all over our tiny counter. Something had to be done and for no reason in particular I decided that I had to make a sauce out of the oranges. Not an orange sauce. But a sauce, a savoury sauce, using oranges. I’m sure it’s been done, there’s nothing new under the sun. But I’ve never done it before. All I had for instruction was something I’d read in one of the Jamie Oliver tomes about “Orange being best friends with (a couple of things).” Amey guardedly offered the wisdom that maybe this was not the best idea. Couldn’t I try a tested orange sauce recipe first? But the oranges were staring forlornly at me and had to be given a fitting send-off. They couldn’t all be juiced. So two of them met their timely end in this unctuous sauce.

Pasta and Broccoli with an Orange Cream Sauce

For the sauce:-
Red onion – 1/2 or Shallots -2, diced fine
Juice of two navel oranges
Zest of one orange
Cream or Half-and-half-
1 cup
Ancho Chilli Powder – 1.5 teaspoons
Cumin Powder – 1/2 tsp
Gruyere cheese –
1/2 cup grated
Vegetable stock – 1 cup
Ginger – 1 tsp, grated or minced
Corn Starch –
1/2 tsp
Habanero Chilli sauce – to taste (optional)
Salt & Pepper
to taste
Olive Oil – 1 tbsp

Pasta – we used 1 pack of rotini
Broccoli- one crown sliced into thin florets
Garlic – 3 cloves, sliced thin
Chilli flakes – 2 tsp
Olive Oil- 2 tsp

– Boil the pasta in plenty of salted water and drain when cooked al dente.
– While the pasta is boiling, in a skillet, heat the oil and add the garlic. When the garlic is gently browned, add the broccoli florets and saute for a minute or two, then add chilli flakes. Saute until the broccoli is cooked through.
– In a saucepan, heat the sauce portion of olive oil and add the shallots. Cook until translucent.
– Then add the ginger and stir for a minute. Add the orange juice. Turn up the heat to boil.
– Turn the heat down a bit to simmer. After a few minutes, add the orange zest and cream and turn the heat back to medium.
– Add the veggie stock and Ancho Chilli and cumin powders. Stir to incorporate. Add the cheese and stir until it melts into the liquid.
– Add the cornstarch and stir to incorporate completely. Let the sauce simmer for a while until it thickens slightly. Add the habanero chilli sauce at this point if using.
– Add salt and pepper to taste. The gruyere is already salty so you may want to taste it just a bit before you add salt.

Pour the sauce over the pasta and toss along with the sauteed broccoli. Serve hot with grated or shaved parmesan.

Cook’s notes:-
Sweet oranges do make a pretty decent savoury sauce. I admit I was a little worried when I saw swirls of orange once all the liquids had been mixed. I thought I might end up with orange juice floating on a stock and cream mixture. But once the cornstarch and cheese were added, everything came together pretty well. The sauce turned into a lovely kumquaty-yellow-orange. The pasta itself smelled citrusy yet earthy at the same time and the first bite broke into spiced orange flavours in the mouth. The sauce is light and just coats the pasta with none overflowing in the pot or plate. It worked well with this shape of pasta, though I’m pretty sure it would work with penne too.

What surprised us is was how well the garlic-sauteed broccoli worked with the background hints of orange and chilli. The ancho chilli powder isn’t very spicy, just adding a gentle heat to the proceedings. That’s why the habanero is optional; to be used if the chilli flavour is to be kicked up several notches. Use paprika if you don’t have ancho chilli powder. Fortunately, this mad scheme could be categorised under fairly successful. At least it’s not messy flaked fish for Amey to have to finish off. Maybe I should have had some anchovy paste on hand, that would have been nostalgic! Come to think of it, it probably would have worked real well in the sauce.

Pav Bhaji

There are probably very few cities in this country where I could live without pining for Bombay very often. In San Francisco, I know I have found one of them. The easy access to many things Indian is icing on top of the fabulous cake that life in these wonderful climes is. But then suddenly, a random fragrance or vivid colour will send my mind spiralling back to India. Especially where I grew up. Bombay. There is quite literally no other place like it. Hustle and bustle take on an entirely different meaning in this city that truly never sleeps. It was a big city even back then, the Bombay I knew, loved and grew up in. Though it was immense and teeming with life of all kinds, not for a second did I ever feel unsafe in it. It’s true we don’t have largely famous forts or gorgeous old temples, but we have our very own rich history, written and perpetuated by the people who lived there and carry a piece of it wherever they go, as I do. The attitude of Bombayites (or Mumbaikars as they are now known since the city was renamed Mumbai) is unique in India. There is at once a sense of openness with a strong background of tradition behind us. And it is the eternal dream city. So many people from all over the country aspire to live there. The city is always assimilating yet keeping true to itself. And the cultural influence has helped Bombay develop a cuisine in which you will recognise many things from many places It is a veritable melting pot.

It is ridiculous but also very cool, how food minded this city is. Throw a stone around from anywhere in it and you are liable to hit at least three food establishments. Granted, one of those ‘establishments’ may very well be a guy with a tokri (large woven basket) selling peanuts or raw mango laced with salt and chilli (slurp!!). But you will never, ever want for variety in food in this city. When I lived in it, there were enough food joints that you couldn’t try each and every one in your life time. Today, you could probably make that a few life times. Globalisation has brought with it all kinds of food and India as a whole is happily enjoying the boost to the palette. Thai, Japanese, Mexican, you name it, and you will find it there. You may not recognise it, because of course just as there is the adaptive General Tso’s chicken here, there is the Maharaja Mac and McAloo Tikki there. We’ve always been great at taking things and adapting them to make them our own. India’s history is filled with foreign elements vying for dominion. They didn’t last but the things they brought with them stayed with us, several of them in our food. It is hard to imagine that some four hundred years ago, the Indian foodscape would have looked very different in the absence of, among other things, the potato, the tomato and what so many people automatically associate Indian food with, the chilli peppers.

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Jamie Oliver’s Apparagus, Mint & Lemon Risotto

There was a time right in the beginning when I wasn’t as enamoured of San Francisco. While you stifle shocked gasps, allow me to explain. I arrived here from the bright sunshine and scorching heat of Texas in the month of June. Right away it felt like the world as I knew it had turned topsy-turvy. It was bleak and gray and cold….brrr..warm jacket cold, in summer! My first glimpse of the city was Tenderloin, which as anyone can tell you is an acquired taste, and certainly shouldn’t be the first thing you see in San Francisco. As I shivered in a friend’s tiny studio apartment and wondered where the sun had gone, the weather seemed to mirror the greyness in the soul of my then just graduated jobless self. It was the last recession. Another friend Viral was very surprised to learn that I didn’t like San Francisco right away. Having lived here a couple of years, he already loved it. And as I found a job, stayed here and learned to love it very quickly, his quiet confidence that I’d been mistaken in my first assessment stuck with me.

Viral is at once a charming and easy person to like. He’s an architect who is a study in contrasts. While he loves to meet people, he also enjoys being on his own. While we have a lot in common, like where we grew up, our profession and college, that is one thing I have in common with him that I don’t often have with many people. He’s a good friend and a good guy, kind and helpful. And its been a long year for him too, like it has been for so many of us. So I was thrilled for him when he got a chance to take a vacation in Europe last month. It is fun living vicariously sometimes and couldn’t wait for his stories when he got back. But he did me one better by sending me this charming postcard on my birthday. With his birthday wishes was a brief glimpse at his Italian experience. Gazing at the beautiful Piazza Navone and the fascination of Rome got me thinking about the beautiful country of Italy and invariably, its food. I went through my cookbooks book-marking all kinds of Italian-base recipes. But last night Amey beat me to the punch, by very neatly adapting a risotto recipe from Jamie Oliver’s book.

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Aloo and Onion Bhajjis

I woke up with a start today, completely disoriented, something that hasn’t happened in a long time. Today was like coming out of a mental fog. There was no clarity of day or time. Was I late for work? Had I missed a test? (Yes, it must be only me who deliberately picks eight o’clock for all her exams when she could pick absolutely any time. This way it gets over and done with faster, you see.) But then, just as suddenly, the eerie-ness of it all faded. It was my Friday off. My next test is at the end of a month. There was a moment of quiet calm. And then it was effectively shattered by a sharp and precise thwack-thwack-thwack of a hammer. Construction workers don’t have Fridays off.

The renovation of my apartment building continues merrily on. It inevitably figures in my conversation because these days it is over on my side of the building. And at times, it is cacophonic. There is a strange desperation that claims your life when your home is no longer your refuge, when the simple act of reading a book or listening to music could be summarily interrupted at any time by loud noises and vibrations that has utensils bouncing off the dish rack. The situation also has the odd air about it of bringing my work home with me. The noise doesn’t consciously bother me unless it’s very close, but every time there is a new, different noise, part of my brain automatically engages in trying to figure out what machine it is, what phase of work is going on. Probably normal given my profession, but certainly not something I want to do on an off-day. Fortunately this is San Francisco. There is no dearth of places to be. So we packed some snacks and decided we’d be somewhere else.

There is an amazing array of food that could pass as snacks in Indian cuisine. Some of them just as easily become a side dish in a meal. Bhajjis (or bhajiyas or pakoras) are one such snack. They are the Indian version of fritters. They just use a different flour for batter and are principally made of vegetables. The flour here is chickpea flour, way tastier than most flours are. There is a basic and very simple ‘no yoghurt or buttermilk’ batter with a one time dipping given to the veggies. The veggies can be practically anything large enough to hold, dip and fry.

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Semi-homemade Lavash Veggie Wrap with Burrata and Tomato-basil Hummus

Life’s been so busy since  some time before my birthday that there’s barely been any time to cook, let alone write about it. It’s like being caught between a multitude of rocks and hard places and having to move around with them slowly squeezing my breath out of me. Only today do I feel like I could come up for air. And I’m taking it in, giant large gulps of it.

 

I wasn’t certain I’d talk about recipes involving ready store-bought ingredients as relative stars of the meal. Not because I’m a ‘you-gotta-do-everything-from-scratch’ snob, but because to tell anyone about it seems a bit like claiming credit for something you didn’t really do. And that can’t be any good, can it? But then sometimes, a combination of stuff bought at the store, a tired brain and a soul desperate for nourishment that doesn’t taste like cardboard can create a good thing.

 

This combination turned out to be too easy, simple and relatively healthy to keep to myself. And there isn’t anything too difficult about obtaining its ingredients. I had bought some lavash with some vague memories of a recipe I’d read some time earlier. And then, original recipe forgotten, I scrambled to come up with a way to use it before it got past its prime. I’d also run into a sublime Tomato and Basil Hummus in the ready-eats aisle of Trader Joe’s, happily nestled next to the cheese section in which was a little tin of burrata (a fresh Italian cheese made from mozzarella and cream) both of which made it into my fridge and had been barely used.

There couldn’t have been a better way to use all of these things.

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