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Spicy crab curry – in a pinch

17 Jul

When it rains, I craaaave crabs. Even when it’s quite dry, I pine for the spicy crab curry we ate at home in Calcutta on rainy afternoons especially during the monsoons. So I couldn’t resist the temptation when I found packs of rock crab claws being sold at Market Basket cheap. Dang it, I would make myself a crab curry. My treat.

It didn’t take long and it wasn’t complicated and despite it being the wrong kind of crabs and wrong kind of weather, it ended up being the right kind of taste. Here’s my vaguely remembered, slightly simplified recipe, step-by-step.

1. Buy crabs. These were the rock hard kind that I cracked in advance but thinner shells work better.

2. Add a spoonful each of salt, red chili powder and turmeric powder and mix well. More chili if you want it to be more spicy – I know I do.

3. Peel and dice a potato or two and toss in with the crabs and masala.

4. Grind up the ingredients you’ll need for the curry — red onions, ginger, garlic, green chilies.

5. Heat some oil in a wok and lightly toss the spice-coated crab and potatoes pieces on high heat for a couple minutes and put aside.

6. Add the ground paste to the oil with some whole garam masala – cardamoms, cloves, bay leaves and cinnamon stick – and toss until the paste is brown.

7. After oil separates, throw in the crabs and potatoes and toss well. Add a sprinkling of salt and sugar.

8. After it is fairly dry and beginning to stick, add a tumbler of hot water and cook on low heat. Throw in some split green chilies and frozen peas for taste and heat. Continue reading


Bao, BBQ jam, munchkins emerge winners at Boston Bacon Takedown

20 Jun

The Boston Bacon Takedown, hosted by Matt Timms at the Somerville Armory on Sunday, drew a sold out crowd of more than 200 attendees all full of bacon pride. Seventeen amateur chefs competed and the event was sold out before it started.

As one of four judges (sweet!), I was amazed at some of the creativity on display and wish there were more savory dishes as opposed to sweet ones. There were several kinds of bacon brownies, as well as bacon smores, bacon bourbon bark, cacao maple bacon bites, bacon crème brûlée and more. And there was a cute waffle pig display that won a prize.

One of my favorites, the Little Bao Wow – a Vietnamese sandwich using marinated bacon, homemade buns and veggies – won all-round. Aleks S. (who won first place in the Boston Lamb Takedown  last year) and Frank Chen made a version of Frank’s Mom’s recipe and took home with  a spatula trophy, a year’s supply of bacon, knives and other cookware.

I was also really impressed by Matt O’Shea’s BBQ bacon jam which won second place – he gets full points for creativity and uniqueness.The maple bacon munchkins and the bacon arancini were also delicious. As a huge meat fan, I must give extra points to Rob Primmer and Peter Sedlak for a delicious bacon confit that took much time and effort to make and wish I had space for another bite. But after tasting 18 dishes, I was pretty baconed out. Thanks Hormel for a pack to take home!

Here’s a list of the winners:

People’s Choice Awards:

  • 1st: Aleks S. & Frank Chen – The Little Bao-Wow Buns
  • 2nd: Matt O’Shea – BBQ Bacon Jam
  • 3rd: Aaron Tanaka – Bacon Ginger Crème Brulee

Judges Awards:

  • 1st: Zak & Erica Walstein –Maple Bacon Munchkins
  • 2nd: Rob Primmer & Peter Sedlak – Bacon Confit
  • 3rd: Laruen Lesser & Nate Wicksmith – Bacon Arancini w/ Garlic Bacon Aioli

Guten Appetit – all the way from Germany

24 Feb

Jennifer Brown sent in this delectable piece on German food after her final college semester abroad in Dresden as an exchange student. This is a photo of her with a German making spaetzle.

Germany is a country known for its beer, politics, eco-friendly ways, and its food. The general characteristics given to German food are “thick,” “buttery,” and “meaty”–words describing recipes that can date back to several generations within families. Food in Germany is prepared fresh and thoughtfully; minute-ready items are seldom preferred and refrigerators are smaller than American standards in order to promote the frequent, fresh buying of ingredients. Additionally, Germans seek out local meat, dairy, and baked goods–towns often have numerous local butchers, farms, and bakeries that daily serve their own delicacies.

Considering my experience with the country and its delectable edibles, the following is a series of specialties that I highly recommend (in alphabetical order):

Bretzel – Behold the famous bretzel! Bretzel is German for “pretzel.” Bretzels are eaten at all times of the day in Germany. People cut them in half and butter them for breakfast, or they pack them away to nibble on with lunch, or they have one while they’re eating a small dinner or at an evening beer garden. My German friends generally agree that the best bretzels are in Bayern (the south-eastern region of Germany). In Bayern, Germans eat a bretzel with a white sausage and mustard, alongside a tall hefeweizen in the morning. Venture to the prominent Viktualienmarkt on an early morning in Munich to make an order!

Gluehwein – A German version of mulled wine, gluehwein is a longstanding wintry tradition in Germany. It’s a main feature at Christmas markets throughout the country, and people make it in the warmth of their homes as well. Red wine is the traditional wine used for the recipes, but white wine has been substituted in recent years. The wine used is typically a cheaper wine that grants low prices for merchants and consumers alike. Spices like cinnamon and anise are added to the wine and mixed with sugar. Drinks like gluehwein make Germany’s brutal winters more bearable.

Kartoffeln mit Quark – A long-time money saver in Germany: potatoes and curd cheese. The potatoes are boiled and usually skinned, and the cheese can be mixed with various herbs. The result is most similar to the American baked potato, however Americans don’t really have quark in their diet; the thick, milky cheese is hard to describe, with a slight sour-cream taste that melts with the hot potatoes. While trying this dish, be sure to mash up the potatoes with a fork so they can really blend with the quark. Continue reading

When it’s cold outside, make soup

11 Jan

Tuesdays are always bad days for me as I am on deadline. They get worse when a giant snowstorm is expected at night and I have a to work late. All of that angst fades when a reporter with a culinary touch hands out a hot bowl of a sweet-spicy concoction made with smoked pork neck bones, PBR and jalapeno peppers. Deliciousness.

Here is the secret recipe for the Smoked Pork Neck Stew straight from Andy Metzger:

1. I bought two packages of smoked pork neck from the Beacon Street Star Market and made a dry rub out of red pepper, crushed black pepper, salt and mustard powder.
2. I covered the pork necks with the rub and then seared them in a cast iron for a minute before dumping them in a crock pot.
3.  I sauteed two finely diced shallots and some garlic cloves. I added two whole jalapenos and two poblanos with both ends cut off, so the broth could pass through.
4. Then in batches of about seven I cooked down about 20 tomatoes – one of the big packs from Market Basket – in the little saucepan, adding pours of PBR along the way if the broth started looking too chunky. In all I used two 16 oz. PBRs.
5. As the broth in the sauce pan looked soupy, I poured it into the crock pot, which I turned on high.
6. After I had my last batch of broth in the pan, I mashed everything up, smooshing the peppers and the tomatoes. Then I added maple syrup until it was sweet and hot.
7. I kept cooking the end of the broth on low while the necks and broth stewed in the crock pot.
8. About two hours in, I deboned the necks as best I could, and added the last bit of broth for the final hour or so of cooking.

Shaarodiyaa Shubhechha and delicious bhog

20 Oct

Once a year Maa Durga comes down to earth to remind Bengalees of the power of Shakti and the triumph of good over evil.

Myths aside, Durga Puja is a great time to celebrate a new season and share yummy traditional food with family and friends.

Bhog, a tasty mix of rice and lentils cooked together with ghee and spice is offered first to the goddess and then to the devotees. Entire neighborhoods cook and serve giant vats of it at the pujo pandals in Calcutta this time of the year. It is most often paired with a mixed vegetable dish, fried eggplants or begun bhaja, crunchy papar and sweet tomato chutney.

My favorite version is a moist, almost runny, spicy khichuri bhog (the one shown here is what I ate at the Boston pujo this year – a drier version):

•    1 cup Gobindobhog rice ( or any small-grained rice)
•    2 tbsp ghee
•    ½ cup Moong dal (split green gram)
•    ¼ cup green peas (optional)
•    1 tbsp ginger paste
•    1 stick cinnamon
•    1 cardamom pod
•    2-3 cloves
•    1 tsp red chili powder
•    1-2 bay leaves
•    1/2 tsp panch phoron ( a mixed spice found in Indian stores)
•    2 green chilis (sliced if you like it hot)
•    1 tomatoes
•    Salt to taste
•    1 pinch sugar
•    1 tsp turmeric powder

•    Dry roast the moong dal till it emits a roasted aroma. Add rice and wash both thoroughly.
•    Pour some ghee (or vegetable oil) in a wok
•    Add cinnamon, cardamom, bay leaves, cloves, panch-phoron and fry
•    Add green chili, ginger paste, red chili powder, salt, turmeric and stir
•    Add peas, tomatoes and stir
•    Add the washed rice and moong dal to the vegetables, pour sufficient water and let cook till the rice and lentils become soft.
•    It should have a porridge-like consistency so add more water if required.
•    Serve hot with some ghee on top.

Home cooked Lebanese delicacies to die for

24 Sep

I tend to avoid Middle Eastern food because I’ve had really bad experiences with dry kababs and chewy falafal. That won’t be a problem at Cafe Barada, a cozy Lebanese restaurant on Mass. Ave. that will make you wait for the freshly fried ‘falafil’.

We were really taken by the labany bil toum, an appetizer made with a creamy homemade yogurt cheese, garlic, mint and olive oil and made sure we didn’t leave a speck of it behind.

The lunch sandwiches were gigantic, fresh and mouthwatering — we tried the falafil and the kibby (minced beef). The rest of the menu looks delicious too.

The Salameh family from Haouch-Barada, a small village in Lebanon, first opened it in Arlington in 1985, and credits it to grandmother Afifi Salameh. Today it is still family-owned and run. They continue to believe in fresh ingredients and freshly cooked food, which really is the secret to the perfect falafil, said son Charbel Salameh. His mother Claude, always busy in the kitchen, continues to prepare food exactly the way she served the family as he was growing up.

I have passed by it countless times, seen rave reviews on yelp and was finally was tempted to try it thanks to a friend who swore by it. Now I do too. Try it, you won’t be disappointed. Whatever you order, don’t forget the yummy yogurt dip!

Our hosts left us with a sweet surprise at the end, just as fresh and yummy as the rest of the meal.

Cafe Barada
2269 Massachusetts Avenue, N. Cambridge
Ph: 617-354-2112

Parade, friends and cake

8 Jul

Hope you guys had a happy 4th!

I had a blast watching America’s oldest parade at Bristol, RI with a delicious potluck at my friend Karen’s historic home, smack on the parade route.

Imust give a shout out to her fabulous coffee cake littered with nuts and cranberries and the very patriotic cake her friend brought to the party.