Spice of life 

All those who love me know my devotion to heat. Not heat as in temperature, what I’m talking about is the burn of a good pepper. For most of my life I’ve ordered my pasta, curry, and Chinese food extra spicy. My go-to condiment is crushed red pepper. I almost cried when I realized that our pizza place offered fried hot peppers as a side. Anyway my point is… I like spicy. I like spicy very much. Well I’m not the only one! There’s more freaks like me.

Here’s the segment that came on the news tonight that proves it!  Apparently very spicy peppers have the power to lower cholesterol, keep blood cells healthy, and make you more interesting as a person. I may have made up that last one – but I believe it to be true. 

Guess what I was eating when the segment came on… I’m a genius!  Based on my pepper consumption amounts, my blood cells should be doing the mambo. So go out there and have a pepper people. Or don’t. I’m not the boss of you. 

The Dinner Bell

Sometimes nothing makes me happier than some hummus. And some pretzel chips. Do you know about pretzel chips? I was just introduced to them. It was love at first bite. Sorry. Hope your dinner made you this happy.

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Chaat. It’s what’s for dinner.

The other day I found myself alone at mealtime. No kids. No hubby. Just me.
Know what I had?
I had this.

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And this.

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Now, if you’re a normal Mexican/Chinese/Thai food enjoying kinda person – chances are you’ve had Indian food. Although I’m not saying that you’re abnormal if you don’t enjoy the ethnic aisle, no judgements (but you ARE missing out you big boring weirdo). Anyway, you recognize the chick peas and the bread – they are staples in any good Indian buffet. But it’s the dish in the first picture that gets me going.

In India, street food is called Chaat – it’s the fast food of my people. What I had is called Dhai Puri – which means yogurt bread. Except the little round bread is fried to a crisp, stuffed with other fried foods, and then drizzled with a yogurt sauce. There’s also a tamarind sauce and garlic chili sauce on top – and more fried bits for good measure.
Healthy? No! Delicious? Yes!
The end.

Fruit of my carb addiction

My kids requested grilled cheese and tomato soup for dinner.
They really are mine.

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How an Indian does Italian

Growing up, in my very Indian family, the only “American” food that was cooked in our house was spaghetti (which was strangely made on Saturday mornings) and a dish that we called – eggplant. No, not eggplant parm. I didn’t know what parmesan cheese was until my first year in college (also never had cream cheese, sour cream or mustard until then).  This is an entirely different thing. A bastardized version of caponata. I’m pretty sure my mother has never heard/seen/eaten anything called caponata.

I don’t know who came up with the recipe. I’m not sure how it all got started – but I do know that in my family and in my cousin’s families – this is what you get when they say,”we’re having eggplant for dinner”.

I make it now for my little tribe too. I’ve changed a few details. All the veggies in this dish were fried when my mom made it (and still makes it). I don’t fry anything – not because I’m so super healthy – but because I’m really bad at frying. Things burn. Stoves are covered in oil. I stink like burnt oil for hours – it’s not good. So I do a little saute/steam method. It works. I still use a bit of oil – but I use olive oil instead of the corn oil my mom uses to this day. I tried to talk her into canola once but it was a lost cause. Who am I to judge?

Here’s all you need. Please note: do not buy expensive sauce or make your own marinara or something. You need Ragu. Or some other cheap jarred sauce. Trust me. And don’t go trying to add fresh basil – hold yourself back. Pretend like this is the 80s and we haven’t all been watching The Food Network obsessively.

Olive oil, eggplant, peppers (red, green, yellow – whateva), sauce, cheese (again use what you have, cheddar, mozzarella, etc).

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First chop up your very pretty peppers and onion in a hearty julienne and throw them into a non-stick pan with about a tablespoon of oil. Cover and saute/steam for about 10 minutes until both are cooked through and soft.

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While the onions and peppers do their thing, cut the eggplant(s) in half and then in thick slices. Then think about the fact that literally nothing on earth smells better than onions and peppers cooking. I hear you all screaming at the computer now,”bacon does!”, “cookies baking do!”, “a baby’s head smells better!”. Calm down.

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Once the onions and peppers are done, pour them into a medium-sized pan. Add another tablespoon of oil, cover and cook the eggplant. I like to do this in batches. In the end you’ll use 2 to 3 tablespoons of oil to cook all the eggplant.

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I’ve tried doing the above steps in different ways through the years. In a crockpot. Roasted in the oven. Grilled. I like this way the best. Once the eggplant is done – add to your assembly pan. Don’t worry if there are still firm pieces – it’ll spend a ton of time in the oven and cook through.

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Add the bottle of sauce, stir, cover with foil and put into a 350 degree oven for atleast an hour and a half.

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Use this time to work, mother, wife, clean the house, clean the car, or…if you’re me, have a cup of coffee and a piece of last night’s dessert (raspberry cobbler).

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After about an hour and 1/2 – check your dish. Does it look like this? If yes, it’s done!

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Add the cheese. I ended up using half cheddar/half colby jack. It’ll go back in the oven for about 5 minutes and then, done!

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Like a caponata – eat this with some good, crusty bread. Add salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper to taste.

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Now, if you come of my mother’s house and she says we’re having eggplant for dinner, you’ll be ready.

 

 

Benign Masochism

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Most Sunday mornings start the same way for me. If we don’t have anywhere to go I wake up to the sounds of CBS Sunday Morning.  It’s usually my husband to my left and Charles Osgood and his bow tie to my right. Cozy.

It’s the perfect show. A little smart. A little silly. Lots of pictures. Perfect. I don’t remember a Sunday without it (or without 60 minutes for that matter).

This morning’s episode featured a Yale psychologist named Paul Bloom talking about a human’s need for pleasure.  Pleasure through all sorts of things. At the end of that segment they talked about people who love spicy foods. So spicy that the experience borders on pain. This need to push pleasure onto the realm of mild pain is called “benign masochism”.

I perked right up. My husband perked right up. You see, he’s been married to a benign masochist for a long time, and now we finally have a name to my disease. I love…no adore…no need super spicy food. If there’s a mild sweat developing while I have my penne arrabiata – awesome. If the name of the food has the word Habanero in it – it’s for me! Do you know how many times my daughter has said,” why? Mom, why?” This is why!

I blame my upbringing. I blame my Indian heritage. I blame….how delicious everything spicy really is.

My family and friends have been so supportive – they’ve always hidden their horror.

They don’t laugh when I order Chinese food (vegetable fried rice, no eggs, no mushrooms, extra spicy).

They didn’t laugh when I, at 6 months pregnant with my son, asked the cafeteria worker in our conservative financial firm to remove the jalapeno decorations during a Mexican themed lunch so I could actually eat them.  I had to.

They love me so much that when we go out for lunch or dinner or even breakfast, they never forget to ask for the crushed red pepper or hot sauce.

I’m surrounded by love. And hot peppers.

 

 

 

 

You had me at cilantro

It’s hot here. It feels like a 100 degrees in the shade.

Yesterday we were invited to a BBQ in our neighborhood by this adorable couple (second relationship for both. They met while she was on vacation with her daughter in Italy. He came over to be with her. An amazing love story).

I met her through a book club that I joined (although I haven’t actually made it to any of  the meetings, ahem.)

Anyway. We were invited. We went. We had enough sangria to fill a pool. Good times were had by all.

Here’s a perfect salad to bring to a BBQ – especially on a hot, sunny day. No mayo. No diary. And it only gets better as it sits on the buffet (and you drink the sangria).

Here’s all you need  – black beans, whole kernel corn, cilantro, jalapeno, 2 peppers the color of your choice, an English cucumber, lemons, limes and some kosher salt.

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It’s all about the prep and dice. Drain the beans and rinse. Add the corn.

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Dice the peppers about the same size as the corn and beans. The jalapeno should be seeded and diced even smaller. I thought I would need 2 but these were lethal so I only used 1.

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Next, seed the cucumber with a spoon. Dice and add to your other stuff. I know English cucumbers are “seedless” but there are still some watery seeds that I like to get out. You can skip this part if you think I’m nuts. Which I am.

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Now comes the good stuff. My world could be made of cilantro and I’d be a happy camper. If you don’t like cilantro, made another salad. This one’s not for you. And neither am I. Just kidding. Not really.

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Add lemon and lime and some salt and you are done baby! If you are organized and have your shit together, make this the night before and let it sit. If you are like me, make this frantically right before you have to take it/serve it and smell like cilantro and corn for the party.

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A smaller quantity of this with red onions added can also be a spectacular salsa. Add diced avocado and top a taco or fill a burrito.

Happy hot Sunday.

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