Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Indian Fusion and Wonderful Women


I first heard the salutation at a yoga class after I unhinged my legs from the lotus pose. (I'm as flexible as an old suitcase.) Namaste is a traditional Indian greeting which is far more profound than our western "Hello. How's it going?" Or "Bye. See ya later." 

Namaste means "I greet the light within you. I greet the sacred space which we share."

I shared the physical space of AK's Kitchen with a group of wonderful women. This weekend, 
we came together to enjoy some Indian fusion cuisine and to support a cause that is dear to my heart, the tiruchi seva sangam school for underprivileged and orphaned children in Tamil Nadu.

The women came from different cultural backgrounds (including Lebanese, Indian, Spanish, Scottish, French Canadian, Syrian), different generations and a diversity of interests. We all share an appreciation for good food. On a blustery autumn night, we craved comfort food.    
Spicy tomato soup with yogurt and coriander leaf, courtesy Paul Wing

Our Indian Fusion menu featured the best local ingredients from the fall harvest. We had carrots pickled in a sharp, sour brine. The tomatoes were the base of a light, yet complex peppery soup. The squash was slow roasted and tossed in coconut oil and aromatic spices. The apples were baked and stuffed with a fragrant kheer, or pudding.
Baked apple stuffed with kheer, garnished with toasted coconut, saffron syrup. 

My friend Chef Tara Rajan created the Indian-inspired menu. It was a huge hit with my 20 food aficionados. I have never seen a chef get a standing ovation by the diners. 

Pickled carrots, spiced squash, chickpea cumin flatbread with chicken tikka masala. 

Tara's Chicken Tikka with Masala Cream
Serves 4-6

1 ½ - 2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken 
1 ½ cups yogourt
1 ½ teaspoons crushed garlic
1 teaspoon minced ginger
2 teaspoons minced green chili or hot chili sauce (e.g. Sriracha)
1 ½ tablespoons canola oil
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon garam masala
1 recipe masala cream (recipe below)

Strain yogourt in cheesecloth for 2 hours and put aside the whey, retaining the milk solids.  Mix the strained yogourt with the seasonings.  Pour into a plastic bag and add the chicken pieces, covering completely with the marinade.  Refrigerate at least 2 hours.  Remove chicken from marinade and grill until fully cooked.  Let rest, then cut into slices and serve with warm masala cream.

Tara's Masala Cream
1 tablespoon canola oil
¾ teaspoon black mustard seeds
½ teaspoon nigella seeds (kalonji)
1 sprig of fresh or frozen curry leaves (8-10 leaves)
Pinch of asafoetida powder
1 teaspoon crushed garlic
¾ teaspoon minced ginger
¼ to ½ teaspoon cayenne
4 medium-sized ripe tomatoes, peeled and coarsely chopped
½ teaspoon turmeric powder
2 teaspoons jaggery, raw sugar or brown sugar
4 tablespoons 18% or 35% cream 
Salt to taste
Heat oil over medium heat in a medium saucepan.  Add mustard seeds, nigella seeds, curry leaves and asafoetida.  When the spices crackle, add the garlic, ginger, and cayenne and saut√© for about two minutes.  Add the tomatoes and simmer for 20 minute or until tomatoes turn pulpy.  Add remaining ingredients and heat thoroughly.  Serve warm over chicken tikka.

Serves 8
1/3 cup tapioca
1 cup water
2 cups coconut milk
2-3 green cardamom pods, bruised
2-3 saffron threads, soaked in a little hot water
1-inch cinnamon stick
3-4 tablespoons sugar or maple syrup
Put the tapioca, water and coconut milk in a medium saucepan.  Add the cardamom, cinnamon and saffron, bring to a boil and reduce to a gentle simmer.  Cover and cook until tapioca is softened, about 15 minutes.  Add the coconut cream and sugar and cook another 3-4 minutes.  Serve chilled or at room temperature with desired garnishes.



    Wow, this is a well rounded menu for any of us wanting to host an Indian cuisine dinner. Tantalizing to say the least.

  2. Hope you try it and let us know it turns out.