Tuesday, June 26, 2007

A (Quick) Beginner's Guide to Indian Food

It seems like every time I turn around, there's a new Indian restaurant opening in the towns that surround mine. I'd like to try out these restaurants, partly to throw their owners some business, partly to change up my routine, and partly because I'm told the Indians do a wonderful job on vegetarian cooking. But I have yet to do so. Why? I know nothing about Indian food and my friends, who rarely even go to Chinese restaurants, know even less than that.

So I threw a challenge to our friend Rhonda in Australia to write a "quick start guide" to Indian food. The goal was to give folks like me something that would allow us to walk into an Indian restaurant and place our first order without going too far out on a limb (e.g., ordering something too spicy). I knew if anyone could do it, it would be Rhonda, who frequents a local Indian restaurant in her town.

She's given us great advice as well as a list of helpful links. Her advice? Start with anything with the words "korma" or "rogan josh" in the dish's title. Korma dishes, the mildest, get their creaminess from yogurt; rogan josh, while containing a smidge more spice than "korma" dishes, is still on the mild side. "Spicy" in Indian dishes may prove to be spicier than you'd counted on, even if you're accustomed to fiery Mexican or Szechuan food. Your best bet may be to start slow and give your palate a chance to get used to the heat.

You can read the full posting at Indian food: A quick guide.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Summer Whites

With hot summer days upon us, we're all looking for ways to change up our routines. Lighter meals with fresh fruits and veggies. Iced coffee instead of a hot latte. Tea in an icy cold glass instead of a warm steamy mug.

Perhaps, though, you'd like a little variety in your iced tea. Milder flavor. Less caffeine. Maybe not the floral, fruity flavor of herbal iced teas.

Have you considered white tea?

I recently got hooked on Adagio's line of white teas, which don't disappoint hot or iced. Nearly every night I'm making two batches of white iced tea: one to take to work and one to have ready in the fridge for dinner the next night. Fortunately, Adagio sells several varieties of flavored white tea. So far I've tried white pear (my favorite), white peach (a very close second), white tangerine, and white tropics (a blend of pineapple and coconut).

If you like just a touch of sweetness in iced tea -- but not the heavy sweetness that comes from sugar -- stir about a teaspoon of honey (max: a teaspoon and a half) in 12 ounces of white tea while it's still hot. Then pour in 12 ounces of cold water and throw the tea in the fridge.

Both the flavored and unflavored white teas are great for sipping any time of day. Low in caffeine (about 5 to 15 mg per serving, says Adagio), you can drink them late into the evening without the risk of making yourself too wired to sleep. They make wonderful accompaniments for any meal, especially salads, fruit plates, and Asian meals.

For an unflavored white tea with less fuss, Adagio sells bottles of unsweetened white iced tea. Available in 16.9-ounce bottles, you can even buy a case of 15 bottles if you really get hooked. For more variety and convenience, check out their bottles of green tea, black tea, and jasmine tea!

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Cooking In A Crunch: Marinade Shortcut

It happens a lot when you have a busy schedule -- you come home from work, all geared up to fix yourself a decent dinner (for a change), marinate a bit of meat or poultry, and throw it on the grill or under the broiler.

Except the marinade recipe in the cookbook says you should marinate at least four hours -- but preferably overnight -- in the fridge.

Except the bottle of marinade on the pantry shelf says that you should marinate at least 30 minutes.

Either way, your schedule and your growling stomach don't allow for a wait tonight. Maybe you settle for something else for dinner. Maybe you order takeout. Maybe you try to "shortcut" the marinade and let things sit for 10 minutes -- only to taste your final meal and realize that 10 minutes didn't do the job.

Sure, you can get one of the 10-minute marinades (I've grown fond of the ones from
Mrs. Dash). But it seems your store only ever carries the same three flavors, and everyone's diet needs more variety than that. The best flavor and the best variety, though, comes from making your own marinades.

So how do you manage? Do what a former co-worker of mine does. When you come back from the grocery store with new trays of beef, pork, chicken, or fish:

1. Separate the contents of the trays into freezer bags (however many pieces you need for a meal for you alone or for your entire family).

2. Make your marinades.

3. Measure the marinades accordingly and pour them into the freezer bags with the meat, poultry, or fish.

4. Label the freezer bag with the date and a description of the contents.

5. Toss everything into the freezer.

Then, whenever you want, pull out a bag to thaw overnight or while you're at work. By the time you pull the bag out of the fridge, the contents will have been marinading for hours. No matter how little time you have, you'll still be able to whip up a tasty entree on the grill or under the broiler!

—Post by Whitney