Once a month our mailbox is holding a magazine we enjoy receiving, Departures, and this October's issue was a treat for me. 'India Now' was the title and it was full of so many descriptions of what and where. My favorite was an article, 'Planet India'. The writer starts talking about how a friend of theirs hired a decorator and told them to "Just...go over the top".
After working for several Indian families here in my area, I know just what they mean. Like many of us they want all the newest in electronics, beautiful homes, and toys. What really makes me go crazy for India is their colorful history, endless bazaars you read about, and most of all the spice! Talk about getting this chef in the kitchen. I learned many things working in two ethnic restaurants with Ethiopian and Indian cuisine, but working right next to the real deal is my idea of foodie flavorama. When the family relatives, like NanaMa(grandmother) come over here to visit, I know I am in for a treat. I will never be as good as the countries familiar with their food and seasonings, but I do enjoy sharing knowledge. I have met people who disgust at the smell of curry, but when I go into my clients home, or visit the local Indian grocer, I cannot get enough!
One of the favorite parts of my job as a chef is when people ask me about my ethnic food training, or they mention a desire to try Indian food but it is too spicy. Right away they find out that I take people on Epicurean tours of local ethnic markets. Taking them through the market and explaining what the different ingredients are, and how they can use them in ordinary cooking as well. Afterward we go to a local Indian restaurant and we go over the menu, order a few things, and then I send them off with their purchased goodies to experiment. I check in with them a few weeks later to see if they have gotten their courage up to use them, finding out what they made (I might learn something) and invite myself over for dinner...no, no, just kidding. There are bountiful Indian grocers where I live, and I enjoy visiting all of them.
Close your ears my organic and buy local friends...When I need a surplus of produce, and want to explore some unique flavors in vegetables, I shop here...Why?...because they are usually so much cheaper, and I am surprised that secret is not out yet. In Dallas is was well known that in certain neighborhoods markets like Fiesta were also a bargain for spices, fruits and vegetables.
Many consumers may not be aware that when products like this are sold they are graded and the lower the grade, the cheaper the product (lower just means uglier). This may seem like way too much spice for one cook to use, but you can always co-op with other foodies like I do...oh, and they do sell seeds that can be toasted and ground up fresh...
There are endless isles of rice, flours, and dried lentils for making Dal, soups, and many vegetarian dishes.
These are two of the seasonings I began with- Tava Fry, I used for making Bhindi, a northern version of stuffed Okra with tomatoes, and Kitchen King, I used for just making simple dishes like stir fry tofu and cauliflower. Come on...take a chance and visit the store near you...there is a jar of pickle with your name on it!
NOTE: Today I picked up some goodies to make one of my favorite dishes, and my sister shipped me some fresh picked veggies from her garden...so tune in tomorrow... -E (aka: Southern Irish girl in an Indian kitchen)
"I experiment with Flavors"...
Elizabeth Stelling, hails from her home state of Texas and has been involved in the food industry via institutional, fast food, B&B's, ethnic eateries and other restaurants since she was fourteen. Now living n New Jersey she has ran her own cafe, teaches culinary classes, runs a small boutique catering and staffing business, restaurant consulting for NJWBO, is a personal chef and shares her love of cooking with local, organic, healthy, and natural ingredients with the community.
Chef E is a member of Slow Food and the American Wine Society, Princeton, New Jersey. She has published written works of poetry and media pieces, as well as ran Open Mics in the Princeton, NJ area.
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