Sunday, February 24, 2008

My Trip to India (kinda)

Well, not really. It was through my Herbal Society's Gourmet Group meeting yesterday. Our Herbal Society has officially reached it's limit for membership (50 - I was one of the last if not the last one) so for the time being it is closed. The Gourmet group meets mostly every other month (the opposite months of the official meetings of the Herbal Society with breaks during the summer months for vacations). This was the first one that my mom was able to attend, and of course the first one that I was able to attend. And there was at least 22 people there! Needless to say I don't remember everything that was there, and I'm afraid that I forgot to take a pen and paper. But they should be sending out the recipes with the newsletter and I can forward them on if y'all would like. I found out that the host(ess ) gets to choose the menu for the meeting. I'm afraid that with a chance of such a large turnout that I won't be able to host a meeting at my house. :( I would love to, but we just don't have the houses that most of these people do. Hosting my Easter dinners with 11 people makes it quite tight here as it is. I can say that most of the time I'm not jealous of what people have and we don't - but in this case, I guess I am. Between seeing some of these people's gardens and their houses I do feel a bit of the green monster. Anyway.... after we ate we gathered around and discussed our recipe and gave out copies if we had them, and gave at least one copy to the newsletter Editor so that it can be put into the newsletter. Oh, and I got some good news. Not only is there a Whole Foods AND a Trader Joes coming to Richmond - BUT there's a Penzey's is coming too! It's going to be opening up on Cary St! (Down near Ukrop's they said, near Grace maybe? I don't know that area as well as I used to) YAY!!!!! And some bad news. Buffalo Springs Herb Farm is closing. :(

I took Keema Matar (ground beef and peas) one of John's favorites- and actually what I consider a quick and easy recipe for us. I doubled the recipe and used half ground beef and half fake meat actually to lower the points and cholesterol. No one noticed and everyone liked it - but it's something that I've made like that before because the curry flavor hides any "fake" taste really well. I gave my mom a recipe for rice pudding from "Extending The Table" (another book from the same people that do the More with Less cookbook) since I knew she liked rice pudding. Someone else did a rice pudding too. It was a different one, and both were good I hear (I didn't try either since I'm not a good judge of rice puddings. There were quite a few chicken dishes that were yogurt based with the only differences being either the type of nuts used or a different spice. It was quite interesting how different yet the same things were. Everything was different enough that nothing was exactly the same, and no-one really knew what anyone else was bringing. I was glad that my mom was excited to try the foods, I've been wanting her to try Indian food for a while, and this was her first try at it. It wasn't really spicy, I know that I toned mine down, and I'm sure a lot of other people did, with some even putting the peppers as add-ons for their dishes.

While we waited to start we dined on pecans brought in by the hostesses daughters (her birthday is today so they were up from Ft. Worth, TX not only to help out with the meeting but to celebrate her birthday). The pecans were wonderful! There were 3 different kinds, one was a rosemary kinda that had just a hint of sweet but was more savory, one was a praline and the other was a cinnamon sugar. I tried to sit as far away from them as possible. Someone also brought Chai tea. One of her friends' father was stationed in India and her friend was sent to boarding school there, and sent her a book on Chai tea when she talked to her. She and I were talking during dinner and she was asking me about the Hindu people (my mother had told everyone how much I like to cook and such) and how do they make chai without milk? I told her all about soymilk and almond milk and cashew milk. Everyone thought that I knew all about Indian food, since I had told the hostess what I was thinking about making (either Aloo Gobi, Keema Matar or a Tomato Soup) and I knew the actual Indian names, and I had to tell them that I know some about Indian food, but not that much. I was a bit uncomfortable about it, but I guess since I knew more about it than them, I guess it did seem like I was an "expert" . I'm not so sure I enjoyed that experience part of it. I got to explain about tamarind too.

I do not have a recipe yet for a dish that consisted of black-eyed peas and potatoes, with tomatoes that was quite good, and I can't wait to make that one- but then again, I like bean dishes. There were quite a few from Madhur Jaffrey, including one (I think that is where it came from) that I do have a recipe for that I will post next message. It was for Caramelized Cardamom Apples with Pistachio Cream. I was going to make the samosas from The Moosewood cookbook (the original one) but I'm glad I didn't since someone else brought that. There was a very good recipe that was chunks of pineapple with some red onions, cilantro and garam masala. I think that would be great over some grilled chicken, pork or fish during the summer! There was a Lentil soup (I didn't try it since my plate and hands were already full and my stomach was full by the time I finished my plate). Someone laughed that her recipe prep consisted of getting in her car and driving to the Indian grocery store - hitting aisle 4 with the freezer section and picking out a package of bread (paranthas) since that's what her Indian friend said she does for breads. :) There was a Mushroom Curry out of a book that I already own that I will have to make. I've looked at it a few times, so it's definitely going on the rotation at some point. (I'd post the recipe but I can't get to the book so it'll have to wait for the newsletter.) There was a lot of chicken dishes that I can't remember what they were - I remember one was "Green sauce" one was "korma" and I know there were 2 or 3 others but I don't remember the names. There was a Spicy Chicken also from Madhur Jaffrey where the person used wing drumettes that was very good. There were also a few bowls of rice with either cilantro or spices mixed in to serve with the chickens too.

I was pretty full, even though I had taken pretty tiny little bits by that time, and I mean basically tablespoonfuls of stuff. I went back for a few more things. I got a bit of the above mentioned Caramelized Apples, and boy was I glad I did! I tried a bit of a Carrot Slaw with cashews that was good. She placed the chili on the side so those who wanted it could add it if they wanted it. There was a purple banana "Cheese" dessert. There was a funny story with that one. It came from an old cookbook they had forgotten they had. She said it was written funny, and must have been translated and by someone not well versed in English to translate. Anyway, the dessert recipes were all pretty involved so she chose this one because it was easy. It called for bananas, cream of wheat (and I can't remember what else, but not much else). It calls to mash 11 bananas so she decides to do it in her food processor. "I didn't think how much room 11 mashed bananas would take up in my Cuisinart!" and then, "It called for me to place the bananas and the cream of wheat in a double boiler so I did. I had to cook it for 3 hours. Well after about an hour I had to change double boilers because it got REALLY big and it turned purple!" (I do remember there was no acid in the recipe to keep the bananas from turning). It was very tasty, almost like a banana bread. She said it was listed as something good to feed to the sick or babies. All this was offered with coffee flavored with cardamom.

Next one (In June - there is a break because we have participate in a plant sale during April) I will definitely take a notebook with me so I can take notes! And mom has said that she is interested in trying more Indian foods. The only problem is that my stepdad isn't much into spicy foods- sometimes even black pepper is too much for him. So we'll have to kinda work around that.

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