This is not a finesse recipe. But the results are very tasty indeed. A variation on my usual “red curry” chicken that is a favourite of my children, this came about last month as part of a desperate attempt to use up the endless flood of tomatoes from my garden. It uses two pounds of tomatoes for one chicken. And the chicken cooks only in its own juices and the tomatoes as they cook down. That’s a lot of tomato flavour and so it is necessary to deploy a lot of masala to counter and balance it. I start by browning the onions to an almost dark brown, adding a healthy dose of fresh ginger-garlic paste and then a lightly toasted and powdered masala featuring cumin, coriander and pepper. A bit of jaggery and a few slit green chillies and the result is happiness, especially when eaten with rice. As you’ll see, the recipe also calls for a large chicken. We get our birds from a local small farm and the smallest from the last batch was the 6 lb’er I used to make this iteration of this curry. If the chickens you get are smaller you could either double ’em up or supplement one with a few drumsticks and thighs. I leave this decision to you. Continue reading
Bombay Pizza Kitchen opened late last summer in Eden Prairie. As their name indicates, their thing is Indian-style pizza, a genre with an established history in India. Indeed, on our family trips to Delhi the boys much enjoy eating Indian-style pizza at outlets of Domino’s or Pizza Hut in malls (take a look at Pizza Hut India’s options here). I would imagine the genre is already quite widespread in places in the US where large populations of Indians and other South Asians can be found. The Twin Cities is increasingly one of those places and so it’s not a surprise that it should be here too now. Of course, they’re not the first such place in the Twin Cities metro; they’re not even the first in Eden Prairie: Pizza Karma, which opened a year or so previous, is less than a 10 minute drive away. We had been planning to go eat at Pizza Karma before the pandemic began and it’s entirely by happenstance that we ended up at Bombay Pizza Kitchen first. We stopped in for lunch with friends this past Sunday, after a 3.5 mile walk around Rice Marsh Lake on the border of Eden Prairie and Chanhassen. We were hungry and got a fair bit of the menu. Here’s how it went. Continue reading
There is no dearth of gobi recipes on this blog. I’ve posted a recipe for shrimp curry with cauliflower. I’ve posted a recipe for rajma with cauliflower. I’ve posted a recipe for cauliflower-corn soup. I’ve posted four separate takes on alu-gobi (here, here, here and here). I’ve even posted a recipe for oven-roasted spicy cauliflower. But variety, as they say, is the masala of life and so here is yet another gobi recipe. I swear it’s not my “Alu-Gobi with Ajwain” with just the potatoes left out.
This is a very simple stir-fry on the face of it: it features very few ingredients and other than breaking/cutting the cauliflower into very small florets there’s nothing to the prep work. But looks can be deceiving. You have to handle the heat carefully at the outset because if you burn the spices or chillies there’s nothing else coming later to hide the evidence. The primary flavour here is that of ajwain (you might have to go to a desi store for this) but you only need a pinch. A little bit of ajwain goes a long way so resist the temptation to add more. Continue reading
For the second weekend in a row it seemed like our plans to eat an outdoor meal at a fancy restaurant would be spiked by the weather. You may recall that we tried to eat at Colita the weekend before last but the forecasted rain (which did show up) led to the reservations on their patio being cancelled that morning. (Don’t feel too bad for us: we ended up under the awning on Andale’s patio and ate very well.) Undaunted by this damp outcome I made reservations for the missus’ birthday dinner at Meritage, whose website lists a terrace. Now I couldn’t remember a terrace from the last time we ate there—it turns out they use the word “terrace” for what I would call “the sidewalk in front of the restaurant”. But this is not the season for semantics. Winter is coming and we will take whatever opportunities for outdoor dining as present themselves. As the week went on I checked the forecast every day. Wouldn’t you know it, by Thursday there was rain predicted for the exact time of our reservation. Not wanting a last minute cancellation, I called the restaurant on Friday to see what kind of shelter they might have on their “terrace” and was reassured to be told that our table was under an awning and it would probably take a major thunderstorm for there to be any issues. To be safe, I moved our reservation from 8 pm to 7.15 pm. I am happy to say that there was no cancellation call on Saturday morning. Here is how the evening went. Continue reading
A week later than usual, here is my round-up of some of our favourite dishes eaten at/from Twin Cities restaurants in the last quarter of the year (see here for the April 1-June 30 round-up and here for the Jan 1-Mar 31 round-up). At the start of July we expected we’d be back to in-person dining on a regular basis very soon. Indeed, two of the July meals here (at Tenant and Estelle) saw the missus and I dining indoors. But then the Delta numbers began to look worrying and given our not-fully vaccinated family we decided to return to a more cautious posture—which we continue to exhibit now. But that’s not to say that all the rest of our restaurant meals were takeout. There are a number of those, yes, but of late we’ve been eating more and more at places that have dedicated outdoor seating. Winter is coming but it has been a quite warm fall so far. Hopefully the younger boy will get his shots soon and hopefully the Delta numbers will go down soon as well. If that happens you can expect the next edition to feature more in-person dining. Continue reading
You may have seen—or missed—my post last week about the booklet of bean recipes I recently wrote for Rancho Gordo. This recipe is not in the booklet—which you can download directly here if you’re so interested (don’t worry, it’s free). It features Rancho Gordo’s black-eyed peas or as they’re known in North India, lobia. Lobia is eaten elsewhere in India as well—in Maharashtra, for example, where it is known as chawli—but growing up I only knew it as a Punjabi ingredient/dish. Unlike rajma it wasn’t made in our house but I always looked forward to eating it in the homes of Punjabi friends. This recipe is not a traditional Punjabi recipe per se, though it does broadly resemble Punjabi preparations. I tend to cook lobia in much the same way in which I prepare rajma, with a robust blend of spices that complements its more vegetal character. Which is to say if you don’t have black-eyed peas handy this recipe, which is how I most recently cooked it, will work well with many other beans as well. Give it a go. Continue reading
We were scheduled for Mexican dinner with friends on Saturday night but not this Mexican dinner. We had reservations at Colita for a four-top on their patio. Alas, as the day approached the weather forecast turned ever dire. We woke up with hope on Saturday as the meteorologists predicted that the rain would end before dinner time. But the meteorologists are dirty liars and as the evening approached the threat of rain remained constant and the restaurant cancelled all patio reservations. We could, of course, have chosen to stay at home but I put it to our friends that we could go somewhere else for a Mexican meal and they were up for it. And so we drove to Richfield and ate dinner on Andale’s patio. It was not the fine dining meal we’d planned but it was a very fine meal. Continue reading
We ate lunch on the patio at El Burrito Mercado last weekend and after the meal I browsed the mercado itself. The meal was fine but the mercado is truly special. The first incarnation opened in 1979—though not at this location—and as the business has grown over the years it has become a very impressive one-stop shop for Mexican foods (or so I assume anyway). From vegetables to a carniceria to spices to canned foods to prepared foods to pastries they’ve pretty much got you covered for all but the most esoteric needs. If you haven’t been—or haven’t been in a while—go take a look and buy a little—or, even better, a lot. Continue reading
Unlike September, October will not be focused on a single main ingredient. My garden is still giving me eggplant, courtesy our warmer than usual September, but it’s now a manageable trickle rather than a flood. Two of the recipes on this list of candidates were very good too, as it happens, for using up a glut of other garden produce this summer and early fall, namely hot peppers and tomatoes. And though my cauliflower harvest was no more bountiful than it has been in the past (i.e not very bountiful) the cauliflower recipe is also inspired by my own crop of white, yellow and (so far, one) purple cauliflower. But it’s not all vegetables. If after 4 weeks of vegetarian recipes some of you are hoping for some meat, there are two chicken recipes (one curry with lots of tomatoes and one roast with zero tomatoes) and one with pork. Cast your votes for up to four of these recipes below. Continue reading
I said while setting up the poll to select this month’s recipes that this was currently my favourite way of cooking and eating eggplant. This is still true. It hurt me to say it then and hurts me more to repeat it now. This because the recipe comes to me from a Tamil nationalist who persecutes me on a near-daily basis: Aparna Balachandran (who you may remember from this piece last year on reading Agatha Christie during lockdown in Delhi). In August I had a brief flood of long green eggplant from my garden (I really recommend planting the Thai Long Green varietal if you can find it) and she suggested I make some of it this way. Normally, I would have discounted this as “make it in a Tamil style” is her answer to everything (her other favourite occupation is claiming that anything that is good about other South Indian cuisines is basically due to Tamil derivation); but I had a lot of eggplant and I needed new ways to cook it. And wouldn’t you know it, this is in fact a great recipe. Continue reading
1979 appears to have been an important year in the history of Twin Cities dining. It is the year in which Saji-Ya opened in St. Paul and it is also the year in which El Burrito Mercado—perhaps the Twin Cities’ most iconic Hispanic business—opened. It opened however entirely as a mercado/market; it wasn’t until 1983 that they started serving food. And it was in 1995 that they moved into the massive space they currently occupy on Cesar Chavez avenue and which they have added to steadily over the years. This expansion has largely taken the form of ever-greater dining space. The complex now contains a large market (with prepared foods and a butcher shop), a counter-service cafe, and a bar/restaurant space with two dining rooms and a large adjoining patio which features live music and so forth. We ate lunch on this patio this past Saturday with the same crew that had joined us at Mañana two weeks prior. Here’s how it went. Continue reading
And so I finally come to the end of my meal reports from our trip to Madison in August. I know it will be hard for you all to face the coming weekends without the succour of these brief reviews but somehow you will have to manage.
As I’ve noted in my other reports, we experienced variable weather in our three days in Madison, ranging from the sunny and extremely hot to the extremely rainy. Somehow, this only impacted one of our meals (we ate breakfasts in our hotel room). We managed outdoor dinner on the first night (at Strings Ramen), outdoor lunch and dinner on the second day (at Bandung and Ian’s Pizza) and lunch on the third day (at Settle Down) but there was no hope of eating out on the third evening. The rain was torrential and it was unrelenting. As we were unwilling to eat in with an unvaccinated child in tow it had to be takeout then. How did it end up being sushi and what was it like? Read on. Continue reading
God, I hated the sight of baingan bharta as a kid! I had, as I’ve said before, a huge aversion to eggplant that continued into adulthood and indeed only ended a few years ago. And no preparation of the vegetable was more repulsive to me than this dish: the mashed baingan, replete with seeds, looking like the insides of some disgusting squashed creature.
Well, now that I’ve got your appetite stimulated, here’s the general way in which I’ve been making the dish since I suddenly started eating eggplant. You have to understand, as I always say about dishes from the vast Indian home cooking repertoire, that baingan bharta is a genre more than a specific dish. It involves mashed eggplant, ideally first charred, and then cooked with onions and spices. In its simplest form it can be nothing more than roasted eggplant mashed with chopped onion and chillies and salt. More involved iterations bring in different combinations of spices. It’s very common to add tomatoes as well. But in most versions the goal is to let the smoky flavour of the charred and peeled eggplant remain the star of the show. This is the case in this recipe as well. I use a mix of black peppercorn and fresh green chillies for heat and balsamic vinegar rather than tomatoes as the souring agent. Give it a go and see what you think. Continue reading
My last dine-in meal before the pandemic closures first hit Minnesota in March 2020 was eaten at the sushi bar at Sakura in St. Paul. That meal surprised me by being completely decent—my history with sushi in the Twin Cities, you see, has been less than inspiring (see my accounts of meals at places like Kado no Mise, Sushi Fix and Origami which have all been or are local critical darlings). It wasn’t the case that I found the sushi at Sakura to be of a very high quality but that it was all fine! Fine is good. At the time a number of people told me I needed to also get to Saji-Ya. And then the plague intervened. A year and a half later, I’ve finally made it there. We had a family dinner on their patio last Saturday and once again the experience was far better than I’d feared it would be. I know this sounds like damning with very faint praise but we enjoyed the meal on the whole. Continue reading
Alright, we’re almost at the end of the meal reports from our Madison trip in August. This was lunch on our second and last full day in the city. We’d spent the morning on a lake and once it got nice and hot—like really hot—we ventured forth in search of another restaurant with outdoor seating. Settle Down had been on the list—thanks to another recommendation in the comments from Todd who’d also recommended Ian’s Pizza—but after the non-appearance of the advertised outdoor seating at the Old Fashioned the previous evening we were taking nothing for granted, Thankfully, a phone call to Settle Down confirmed the existence of a lot of outdoor seating and on arrival we saw that it was indeed so. The entire street in front of the restaurant was closed to traffic and strewn with tables and chairs. We picked one and then another and then another before finally finding one that was completely out of the blazing sun. And then we ordered some food and got down to the eating of a pleasurable lunch. Herewith the details. Continue reading
As with my ongoing onslaught of eggplant recipes this chutney has its origin in a need to use up excess produce from my vegetable garden: in this case, green/unripe tomatoes that fell off the vines while I was picking ripe ones and many, many peppers, hot and sweet. The first version was made entirely by the seat of my pants, with nothing measured. I filled three jars, kept one for us and gave the other two away. That would have been the end of it except that the recipients raved about it and two of them in particular have been persecuting me endlessly for the last couple of weeks to replicate it and post the recipe. Well, I have some good news and I have some bad news. You want the bad news first? Well, I wasn’t able to replicate it exactly. The good news? This is pretty close anyway and very good in its own right. Will it get Ben and Lisa off my back? That remains to be seen. In the meantime, they and our friends Aaron and Kip are the only ones other than us who ever tasted the original so that shouldn’t matter very much to the rest of you. Continue reading
Marcella Hazan’s Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking, the compendium volume that brings her first two cookbooks together, is one of the two most stained cookbooks in my collection (Mrs. K.M Mathew’s Flavours of the Spice Coast is the other). I have been cooking from it for almost 25 years and many of her recipes have become family staples over the years. But since it’s only been a few years since I began eating baingan/eggplant, I’d never really paid much attention to her eggplant recipes. This summer, however, the eggplants in my community garden plot went off like a bomb and in desperate search of more and more ways to cook them I finally came to Marcella’s recipe for Eggplant Sauce with Tomato and Red Chilli Pepper. I made it with spaghetti and it was dynamite. I made it again and it was dynamite again. Since it needed no amendment, leave alone improvement, I obviously immediately began to think of ways to tinker with it. This led in short order to this fusiony variation that we might possibly now like even more. Continue reading
As I’ve noted before, the Twin Cities metro has a much larger Hispanic population—and by extension, a much larger Hispanic food scene—than a lot of people outside Minnesota realize—and, for that matter, probably a much larger population than a lot of people inside Minnesota realize. Certainly, the Twin Cities food media only fitfully remembers that there are Mexican restaurants outside the few relatively recent high-end places that are part of the pr-driven ecosystem. And if the established Mexican places outside that ecosystem don’t get very much attention non-Mexican Hispanic places seem to get even less attention. Well, to be honest, I’ve not done such a great job myself either of seeking out and covering these places over the years (though to also be fair to myself I’m a one-man operation here). But I hope to be doing more of that in the next year or two, especially in the major Hispanic neighbourhoods of St. Paul. This week’s review comes from one of those neighbourhood, on 7th St., and from what is probably the standard bearer of Salvadoran food in the Twin Cities; Mañana. We ate a very good lunch indeed there this Sunday. Continue reading