Thursday, May 26, 2011

Red Lentil- A restaurant review

Warning: I am no professional restaurant reviewer by any measure but I have come to learn "good food" in the past few years. I decided to do this now because I am leaving Cambridge to go to Houston, Texas and this is a tribute to all those foodie joints (good and not-so-good) that I visit often!

This one is yet another fave, an all vegetarian and vegan place in Watertown (now that is the only disadvantage since it is not on any T line)- The Red Lentil. Every dish that I have tried is actaully different from the other- unusual flavor combinations are a big draw (for me anyway). I will surely miss their Nirvana Delight and ooh the gobi manchurian. I also love their entire line of brunch menu (think I can safely brag that between the wise guy, my mom and me- we have tried most of what is on their menu).While their food is great- there are times when I have been frustrated with their wait staff.



In fact this year's Mother's day was celebrated at The Red Lentil. Well so was last year's and ma distinctly remembers because there was big group of people at the restaurant each giving gifts to their mom while me...all I did was take her to Red Lentil.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Paruppu thuvaiyal- MLLA 35 entry


My mom is visiting and one of the things I ask her to make every time she visits is some form of paruppu thuvaiyal (a kind of pesto that you eat with rice, similar to chutney except a lot more thicker)

This recipe uses yellow moong dal- skinned and split mung beans that are easy to digest.


Ingredients

1 cup yellow moong dal
1 clove garlic
2 dried red chillies *
a pinch of asaefotida (hing)
2 tbsp oil
salt to taste
water, minimal quantity for grinding

Method

Heat oil in a pan. Add the garlic, red chillies, asaefoetida- saute for about 30 seconds. Then add the yellow moong dal and roast till the dal is golden brown.

Cool it down and grind with minimal amount of water.

Serve with hot rice, ghee (clarified butter) and some fried papad!

Judgement

With the garlic and the heat from red chillies, it sort of warmed me up- exactly what I needed after kind of weather we have been put through here in the area. (I guess I cannot complain about it being cold when people down south have lost their lives, homes and livelihoods to the monstrous tornadoes- my hearts go out to them).

I am sending this simple, no-frill drill to MLLA 35 hosted by Smitha of Kanada Cuisine. This event was started by Susan of The Well Seasoned Cook and has been going on for a while now.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Four Burgers- a review

Warning: I am no professional restaurant reviewer by any measure but I have come to learn "good food" in the past few years. I decided to do this now because I am leaving Cambridge to go to Houston, Texas and this is a tribute to all those foodie joints (good and not-so-good) that I visit often!



Tucked away in a neat little spot in Central Square, Cambridge (MA) is this great burger joint- Four Burgers. I chanced upon it accidentally on my walk from Harvard square to Central square. There are not too many choices- basically they have an organic vegan black bean burger which is served with either salsa or guacamole (your choice).

So you go in- choose your bun (or not), the burger, toppings and fries if you want any that is (including cheese). The vegan burger in itself tastes really good- I had it with guac while the wise guy had it with salsa. Each of us had a couple of toppings and each of our burgers tasted different (and good!). Now that is a rarity even today- veggie burgers tasting like you want to take another bite out of it.

I remember when I first landed in the US- vegetarian food was pretty much unheard of and even if we did find something, it was usually nothing short of pathetic. On campus there was very limited choice. One of those choices was Taco Bell (well ....we had another name for it!)- most of our daily lunch consisted of a bean burrito or a bean chalupa. You can imagine our plight fresh from the land of good if not great food and we ended up eating ooey-gooey not very good bean burrittos (but hey there were super cheap).

And veggie burgers- I had given up all hope of finding a good one after repeated taste assaults with the King's veggie burger or subway's veggie sandwich on our road trips (they were not terrible and they did fill us up).

But now things are getting better and almost every burger/sandwich place here in Cambridge has at least one veggie burger on their menu (they range from things that taste like a BK veggie burger to fabulous burgers). I am on a mission to identify the best veggie burger-fries combo in town.

The vegan black bean burger and fries from Four Burgers is definitely one of them (though it is more pricier than your average burger joint). You can actually taste all the wonderful flavors coming from the burger itself and any veggies or toppings you might have. The fries- oh I could die eating them sistah, love them!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

What can you do in 20 minutes?



Plantains are something that I grew up with. Although, I never liked the ripened version much- my mom or grandma would eventually have to force it down my throat (well, I would eat it myself once they have uttered their few choice words :D). But the raw plantains, now that is a different story...

If you do use bananas and plantains interchangeably- then you would be wrong, because they are different. You can find the differences between these cousins here. The key difference is that plantains have more starch content than their sweet cousin (I read somewhere that you should think of bananas as the dessert wine). I remember my peeps telling me how everyone should have at least one of these herbs in their backyard (that is right, it is an herbaceous plant). My mom would tell us how every part of this plant is useful, it got compared to the kamadhenu (the cow that keeps giving)- you can eat the stem (வாழைத்தண்டு), the flower (வாழைபூ, I never liked this either except when cooked as a paruppu usili), the fruit of course (வாழைபழம்) and you can eat these out of the most organic plate - the leaf (வாழைஇலை). If you have never eaten out of the banana leaf- you are missing out on something divine. I can almost conjure up the image right now- hot food with some ghee (clarified butter) on the banana leaf- what divine smells, nothing else can beat it!

Anyway here is a simple snack recipe with raw plantains

Preheat the oven to 375 F. Line a sheet pan with aluminum foil and grease with some oil (I used canola oil spray)

Mix a teaspoon each of roasted cumin powder, coriander powder, caraway powder, salt, pepper and chilli powder with 3 tbsp coconut oil

Peel and slice two raw plantains (these are huge so adjust the seasonings as you want them) as thinly as possible (make sure to dunk them in a bowl of water until you are ready to use- to prevent it from blackening).

Mix the plantains in the oil mixture and let sit for 5 minutes or even more if you like

Arrange the slices on the prepared sheet tray, pour the left over oil evenly
Keep in oven for about 15 minutes (rotate the pan halfway through). Of course the timing will depend on the thinness of the slices.

Once they are nice and crisp, take it out the oven- let it cool a little (take the pieces out when they are slightly warm) and store them in an airtight container

Judgement- What can you not like about a simple snack like this especially when you think of the alternative heavily salted store bought version (really, so much so that I have stopped buying them). Except my container was not quite air tight :(