Culinaria: What's for dinner ?

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Culinaria: What's for dinner ?

Postby Darby on March 2nd, 2015, 2:49 pm 

Any fellow cooks out there ? A shot in the dark on a site like this I suppose, but everyone needs to eat, so who knows ... perhaps this topic might get a few nibbles ? (pun intended)

Context: One of my many ongoing hobbies over the years has been international cuisine. I used to run a culinary subfora some years back on one of my old sites, and I sorta miss it. I've explored many cuisines over the years, and it's always a pleasure to exchange recipes, and talk shop on tools, techniques and exotic ingredients.

Dinner last night was Sarson Saag Paneer, which is a hot & spicy curried spinach and mustard greens dish that originated in the Punjab region of India. I garnished it here with some diced raw onion and some pan seared paneer cheese. It's classically served with Naan, which I approximated with some homemade pizza dough that I thawed and rolled thin and seared off on my cast iron griddle plate.

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Re: Culinaria: What's for dinner ?

Postby BioWizard on March 2nd, 2015, 3:15 pm 

What are the odds that people who work in labs also enjoy cooking in a kitchen? Pretty high, I hear.
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Re: Culinaria: What's for dinner ?

Postby Darby on March 2nd, 2015, 3:21 pm 

Well, there is a lot of science in food, given the transformative techniques applied to biomatter, and there's a lot of elements extending into art, creativity, culture (including history and religion), gardening/farming and sustainability as well, so there grounds for broad appeal to many hobbies and professions, not just daily sustenance.
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Re: Culinaria: What's for dinner ?

Postby Darby on March 2nd, 2015, 3:30 pm 

Ugh, a 128k limit for pics ... kinda antiquated by current standards.

Depending on how close this site is to its monthly bandwidth cap, perhaps a modest expansion of photo size is feasible, if paired with an auto-purge after some fixed expiration period ? If so, that would enable the photo size cap to be brought up closer to parity with current cellphone pics sizes.

Just a thought.
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Re: Culinaria: What's for dinner ?

Postby Watson on March 2nd, 2015, 3:58 pm 

Yes I think it will be a topic of interest. In past years there have been a few threads in the lounge. I'll look for one in particular that comes to mind. I have become fascinated be what I learn from the various cooking shows. If I hear of a new ingredient or how to use it, I try it out. Some things I see in the store I pass, only because I have no idea what to do with it.
I would love to taste your hot and spicy dish. I'm not able to explore the wonderful world of foods and teas as much as I would like, at this time, but love to discuss.
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Re: Culinaria: What's for dinner ?

Postby Darby on March 2nd, 2015, 4:13 pm 

Some things I see in the store I pass, only because I have no idea what to do with it.

I routinely take pleasure in grabbing strange items that occasionally appear in the produce aisles of the ethnic markets I shop in, and then figuring out how to use them once I get home. I've done it enough that it's now fairly rare that I see something that stumps me. My most recent new item was a vegetable I fell in love with last year called bitter melon. Adore it, but definitely a rather uncommon and highly acquired taste for most here in the States (outside of indian, chinese and filipino communities that is). I already harvested a few seeds that I'm going to try to grow this summer, with a trellace.

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I'm not able to explore the wonderful world of foods and teas as much as I would like, at this time


Why not ? GI issues ?
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Re: Culinaria: What's for dinner ?

Postby Darby on March 2nd, 2015, 4:32 pm 

I would love to taste your hot and spicy dish.


The dish is easy to describe texturally (think pureed spinach enriched with butter and softened onions), but the flavor is harder to describe to people who are perhaps not familar to indian cuisine. The signature spice is garam masala (a blend of black pepper, cumin, coriander, green cardamon, black cardamon, bay leaves, cayenne, a little clove and a little cinnamon - I make my own since store bought examples are often not optimally fresh), paired with a healthy dose of ginger and garlic. The mustard greens give an addictive pungent mustardy counterpoint to the spinach, and additional heat is supplied by tiny green Thai "birdeye" chilies. The dish is usually enriched with ghee (clarified butter), sometimes with a little mustard oil for extra kick. The spices add a complex, but not overpowering harmonious warmth, and the chilies add heat and zest. Here's a restaurant secret: a lot of indian restaurants that make their own paneer will use the resulting whey (or the buttermilk from making their butter) not just as part of the liquid for making their naan but also to replace the water used in pureeing this dish, which adds a subtle milky backnote when present.

The diced raw onions add some crunch, and the seared paneer (a non-melting cheese) add another layer of flavor and texture as well as the protein element that enables it to become an entree rather than just a side. Hot flat bread is traditionally used as the eating utensil, and can be used to supplement or entirely replace rice when serving this. I'll take naan over rice almost every time.
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Re: Culinaria: What's for dinner ?

Postby Darby on March 2nd, 2015, 4:38 pm 

If anyone shows an interest in spices, I'll be happy to post recipes for several classic blends I've reverse engineered over the years, including garam masala, cajun blackening spice, english 'green' curry powder, etc.
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Re: Culinaria: What's for dinner ?

Postby Watson on March 2nd, 2015, 4:55 pm 

What does it taste like, other than bitter? I have ventured to try fennel, celery root, dragon fruit, avocado to name a few. I asked the staff what stuff is and how to use it, but they don't know much other than the what.

I have a store bought Masala / Rasam Powder and it smells great.

No I live rural, and so I don't have reason to get into the big city as often this time of year.
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Re: Culinaria: What's for dinner ?

Postby Darby on March 2nd, 2015, 5:05 pm 

The term "Masala" doesnt really mean anything by itself, since it's synonymous with "blend". There are many masala blends ... rasam, for example, is a blend that's high in (if I recall) turmeric, coriander and fenugeek, and is the signature spice in rasam soup. Garam masala is THE signature blend used is a lot of northern indian cuisine. Rasam is lighter and is southern indian if I recall. If I remember, rasam is a light brothy and refreshing soup featuring squash and tomato in a turmeric-tinted broth featuring the rasam masala blend.
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Re: Culinaria: What's for dinner ?

Postby Darby on March 2nd, 2015, 5:17 pm 

As for the flavor of bitter melon: texturally and flavor wise, to me, it's somewhat like a cross between zucchini or chayote and heart of artichoke, but that's not quite it. It is what it is, and there is no direct comparison.

The intense bitterness softens to a point with extended cooking, but never fully dissipates, and it's extremely addictive to people whose tastes have an affinity for it. I'm more sensitive to bitterness than average, so I have to cook it out more fully to enjoy it properly, rather than eat it al dente.

My favorite dish with bitter melon is an ethnic chinese version where it's sauteed with medallions of beef in a blend of black-bean garlic sauce and oyster sauce. Done properly, with really good tender beef, it's stupefyingly awesome. To me, anyway.
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Re: Culinaria: What's for dinner ?

Postby BioWizard on March 2nd, 2015, 5:27 pm 

Darby » 02 Mar 2015 02:30 pm wrote:Ugh, a 128k limit for pics ... kinda antiquated by current standards.

Depending on how close this site is to its monthly bandwidth cap, perhaps a modest expansion of photo size is feasible, if paired with an auto-purge after some fixed expiration period ? If so, that would enable the photo size cap to be brought up closer to parity with current cellphone pics sizes.

Just a thought.


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Re: Culinaria: What's for dinner ?

Postby Darby on March 4th, 2015, 8:43 am 

Dinner tonite will be one of my favorite Filipino dishs called Callos, which is a slow-cooked stew of honeycomb beef tripe & diced rind-on cured pork belly, with chorizo, chickpeas, some tomato, paprika, and a few other odds and ends. Freezes well too, so (assuming if I can find enough tripe somewhere nearby) I'll probably make 5-6 quarts and freeze most of it.

It's traditionally served with rice, but I like it with either baguette (either as crostini or torn untoasted chunks), or just some crushed saltines.

I'll have to see if I have a pic someplace on my cellphone - if I find one, I'll post it.
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Re: Culinaria: What's for dinner ?

Postby BadgerJelly on March 4th, 2015, 9:20 am 

Filipino Adobo is SO good. Bitter Melon is just that! I hate the soup the make with it ... too bitter an after taste for me.

Adobo - pork/chicken (on the bone) stewed in vinegar, soy sauce with black pepper corns and bay leaf ... MMmmmmm!!

Have you ever tried Qwek Qwek (street snack)?
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Re: Culinaria: What's for dinner ?

Postby Darby on March 4th, 2015, 9:50 am 

In most cuisines that use it at all, bitter melon is nearly always usually used in stirfry rather than soup for the very reasons you cite ... too bitter.

I've had adobo and like it.

Never had Qwek Qwek, but would LOVE to try it. None of the local filipino restaurants I've been to thus far have it on their menu, and I suspect the reason is because here in the states quail is sadly hard to find and not commonplace in our food culture (I keep hoping that will change someday). That, and peeling quail eggs is a bit tedious.
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Re: Culinaria: What's for dinner ?

Postby Darby on March 4th, 2015, 9:59 am 

Some of my other favorite filipino dishes include:

> Kare Kare (oxtails braised with red onion and anatto in jus reduction, mounted with a little creamy peanut butter and a touch of palm sugar)

> Ginisang Ampalya (sauteed bitter melon with ginger and garlic, finished with chopped tomato, beaten eggs, some optional brine shrimp, and a dash of fish sauce)

> Pinkabet (from memory - mixed vegetables including but not limited to jack fruit, okra, kabocha squash, green beans, eggplant, a little shrimp paste, and sometimes some rehydrated cubes of salt-cured fish).

I've made the first two, but I haven't tried my hand at the last one yet.
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Re: Culinaria: What's for dinner ?

Postby BadgerJelly on March 4th, 2015, 11:09 am 

you tried Balut ?
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Re: Culinaria: What's for dinner ?

Postby Darby on March 4th, 2015, 11:27 am 

I'm known among friends for being a relatively fearless gastronaut, but I think I'd probably decline balut.

You ?
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Re: Culinaria: What's for dinner ?

Postby BadgerJelly on March 4th, 2015, 11:44 am 

Once ... but it wasn't a "proper" one. Very small embryo.

I've had crickets, beetles etc. They are okay.
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Re: Culinaria: What's for dinner ?

Postby Braininvat on March 4th, 2015, 12:02 pm 

Thanks, finding this thread was making me hungry for lunch 2 hours past breakfast, but the last couple posts fixed that. Up to age 50, I was a human garbage pail, could eat anything. Am pickier now, but still like Asian dishes if not too salty. Tinnitus - have to moderate my sodium. I can cook (was good chemist in college), which becomes essential when you lower salt - if you want things low salt, you have to prepare them from scratch yourself. It's surprising me how low you can go and it's still tasting ok, e.g. go from 900 mg/serving down to 300mg and it's still good.
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Re: Culinaria: What's for dinner ?

Postby Darby on March 4th, 2015, 12:15 pm 

Not to get off topic, but I didn't know tinnitus was related to sodium levels. If electrolytics are relevant to the nerve misfirings, I wonder if there might not be some off-label use for say anti-parkinson meds. The latter have been helping with my RLS, but I dunno if they'd help with something like Tinnitus. That's pretty far outside my wheelhouse though, so I'll stop there.
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Re: Culinaria: What's for dinner ?

Postby BadgerJelly on March 4th, 2015, 12:58 pm 

I miss proper bacon :(
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Re: Culinaria: What's for dinner ?

Postby mtbturtle on March 4th, 2015, 1:08 pm 

Tonight will be beef bourguignon
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Re: Culinaria: What's for dinner ?

Postby Darby on March 4th, 2015, 2:34 pm 

Ah, beef burgundy. Always welcome. Works great with lamb too, and other reds that arent overly tannic or too acidic.

Just grabbed the tripe I was looking for, and some ox tail for the freezer.
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Re: Culinaria: What's for dinner ?

Postby Darby on March 4th, 2015, 4:55 pm 

I promised my wife I'd run off a loaf of Irish Soda Bread (she's Irish). I'll probably do the callos and kare kare tomorrow (all but 1-2 quarts of each will be frozen for my own use, since my wife's not a big fan of either dish). I've got plenty of photos on my phone of past versions of all of the above, but they'll have to wait a bit until I can debug an issue with photo uploading.
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Re: Culinaria: What's for dinner ?

Postby Darby on March 4th, 2015, 6:46 pm 

Hmm, photo went poof again.
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Re: Culinaria: What's for dinner ?

Postby Watson on March 4th, 2015, 8:33 pm 

I always had trouble with uploading photos because they exceeded some limit.
Just back from the store with some bitter melon, kale and baby egg plants among other things. Looks like a stir-fry tonight.
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Re: Culinaria: What's for dinner ?

Postby mtbturtle on March 4th, 2015, 9:48 pm 

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Re: Culinaria: What's for dinner ?

Postby Darby on March 5th, 2015, 3:16 am 

The beef burgundy looks awesome. I like how you cut it into large medallions, instead of cubes, and plated it over noodles (like Stroganoff ... another favorite braised beef dish).

I'll post a pic or two tomorrow, if/when I do the kare kare and/or callos.
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Re: Culinaria: What's for dinner ?

Postby BadgerJelly on March 5th, 2015, 3:29 am 

Something I used to cook back in England a lot.

Smoked Haddock with paprika, brown rice and greek salad with anchovies!! Mmmmmm... My friend told me this was similar to the standard breakfast of troop in colonial India.

btw don't hold back on the balsamic !! Very refreshing meal. The salt & vinegar combo makes it familiar to the English palate (Fish n Chips).
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