My vegetarian friends and family have inspired me over the years to come up with tasty, satisfying alternatives to meat-centric dishes….
Feeding a crowd is as much about planning as it is about making delicious food. There’s fridge space, oven space and counter space to prioritize—along with food to keep warm, drinks to keep cold, and guests to keep happy.
In just a couple of weeks, many of you will be opening your homes to family and friends for Thanksgiving dinner. Even though I can’t help you keep your guests happy, I would love to lend a hand in getting organized for the big day.
[my Downloadable Thanksgiving Checklist enters the stage]
My dad and I made a plan last Thanksgiving to get together for an end-of-summer tomato canning adventure. Yes, you read that correctly: we were already thinking about preserving tomatoes before it was time to plant any….
Garam masala is an aromatic spice blend used for adding warmth and depth to Indian dishes. Every family has their own unique blend of spices and proportions, but most garam masalas will at least include cinnamon, cloves, cardamom and black pepper. It’s also not uncommon to find cumin, coriander, bay leaves, mace, and even saffron in a garam masala blend.
Though I’m still fairly new to the world of Indian cuisine, I’d like to introduce my own house blend that will hopefully stay in my family for many years to come. It’s warm with a little back-of-the-throat heat, and a gentle aroma that pairs equally well with meats, curries, and even desserts.
As an added bonus, this garam masala plays really nicely with fall flavors. So when sweater season hits, toss it with a little extra cinnamon into an apple pie, pumkin pie, or your next batch of banana bread.
My best advice for making a flavorful and long-lasting garam masala is to buy whole spices online or from an Indian market, and to spend $20 on a coffee grinder. Keeping the spices whole will contain their flavor, lending to a much more vibrant mixture (think freshly ground pepper vs. a pepper shaker on a restaurant table). If for any reason you’re not able to get your hands on whole spices, I’ve included measurements for using pre-ground spices. Store your garam masala in an airtight container.
makes about 1/2 cup
2 tbsp whole cloves (about 2 tbsp ground)
1 tbsp + 2 tsp whole black peppercorns (about 2 tbsp ground)
2 1/4 tsp cardamom seeds* (about 1 tbsp ground)
2 tsp whole fennel seeds (about 2 tsp ground)
1 1/2 tbsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground nutmeg
- Working in batches, if necessary, grind the cloves, peppercorns, cardamom seeds and fennel seeds in a coffee grinder until pulverized.
- Whisk in the ground cinnamon and ground nutmeg.
- Store the garam masala in an airtight container. It will keep for at least several months.
*1 1/2 tbsp whole green cardamom pods will yield about 2 1/4 tsp of seeds. To extract the seeds from the pods, crush the pods with the back of a knife to split them open. Collect the seeds in a small bowl prior to grinding.
Welcome to the second entry in my Remembering India series, where I share recipes, meals and adventures from my 2008 studies abroad. Today I share a recipe for ghee, which I first tasted after visiting with a group of kids on a construction site in Thane.
It took four weeks of studying in Mumbai for me to find myself face-to-face with a jar of ghee. I’m sure this had a lot to do with eating the majority of my meals in restaurants and my school cafeteria, where I never gave any thought to the fats and oils that cooked my food.
Instead I was busy familiarizing myself with bigger-picture items—like the names of breads, vegetables, spices and sweets. There was paneer, chicken, mutton, and lentils to be concerned with—all served with variations on the aforementioned breads, vegetables, spices and sweets. The possibilities were endless, leaving my brain about as full as my belly—with hardly any room to consider one of the simplest combinations of all: rice and ghee.
In the four weeks leading up to that revelatory dish of rice, I had no idea that a gentle flame and 30 minutes were all it took to transform sweet and creamy butter into a nutty, toasty and more mature version of itself. I also had no idea that this delicious staple was so widely used—both for cooking and for healing.
This all changed one hot June afternoon, thanks to a comforting home-cooked meal with my friends Aarti and Apurva. We were refueling after spending the morning with an unforgettable group of kids at a creche in Thane.
Preparing a cake pan is my least favorite cake-baking activity, mainly because it’s the first (and least edible) step in the process. It stands in the way of the middle and final steps when I could be licking batter and icing, or enjoying my first bite of cake alongside an ice-cold glass of milk.
But I’m a practical woman and I’ve come to understand that in order to get to the middle and end, I really do need to commit those three whole minutes to lining my cake pan with butter, flour and parchment paper. If I don’t, my cake will sit stubbornly in its pan as I prod it with knives and forks and throw a few forceful blows to the back of the pan (see photo above). It’s a messy and destructive process that takes a lot longer than three minutes.
There a few ways to cut a parchment circle, but since I can’t get my head around pencil lead in my food, I stay away from tracing a circle around my pan. Instead, I fold the parchment into a skinny triangle and make one single cut. I can’t remember who I learned this from (as they deserve a lot of credit for this post), but I picked it up in college and have not turned back since.
Once the parchment is cut, I
- grease the bottom and sides of the pan with butter
- secure my parchment circle
- add a bit more grease to the parchment, and
- dust the pan in flour
And though I drag my feet for those three agonizing minutes, I always remind myself that my future cake-eating self will be grateful to my forward-thinking, cake-pan-prepping self!
The following is an easy method for cutting a parchment circle by eyeballing your cake pan’s radius. It’s a neat trick, especially if you’re into geometry.
Thanksgiving is a combination of magic and madness. It’s a day when many of us pour our love into one of the most elaborate meals we are likely to make all year. The reward is a beautiful spread of brown, orange and yellow foods that are best eaten in piles. The risk is preparing that spread against the pressures of time, hungry guests and multitasking.
Since I want you to enjoy your meal as much as possible, I’ve put together a little guide on how to make Thanksgiving planning as easy as (pumpkin) pie.
Study your Recipes
Once you’ve figured out which dishes you’re responsible for, make sure to read up on them. The last thing you want is to realize midway through a recipe, that your butter was supposed to have been at room temperature. Or that you actually should have baked that pumpkin pie yesterday because it needs to chill overnight, and it’s 10 am on Thanksgiving morning. Though it can’t prevent mishaps altogether, having knowledge of your recipes makes things a lot easier, especially when recreational eating is involved….
My journey to consistent boiled eggs has been a tricky one. After years of peeling disasters, yolk-sinking disasters, and gnarly (but still delicious!) deviled eggs, I was surprised and relieved to find an infallible egg boiling technique in the Ramen chapter of Japanese Soul Cooking by Tadashi Ono and Harris Salat.
The keys to this technique are:
- cold eggs (for a soft and runny yolk)
- a small pinhole (for ease in peeling)
- spinning the eggs for the first two minutes of boiling (for setting the yolks at the center)
It’s that special time of year when we make room on our plates for the heavy hitters of the vegetable kingdom—the vegetables that come to harvest dressed in eveningware—the nightshades. After months of sprouting, flowering, and bathing in the hot summer sun, the tomato, the pepper, and the eggplant—dare I say, the most elegant of the bunch—are finally here! Having waited all year for this purple beauty, I am so excited to share my favorite way to prepare it. It is so humble, and yet with the right amount of love, heat, and olive oil, the eggplant’s raw, spongy flesh becomes so smooth and velvety that it nearly melts the moment you take a bite.…
Hello, friends! It’s been awhile since our last meal together! I’m a married woman now and I’m happy to report that summer has officially found its way to New England! Having survived such a cold and snowy winter, I am very appreciative of the ice cream, fresh berries, and beautiful green vegetables that are dressing up my plate these days—though let’s be honest—I ate a lot of ice cream this winter….