Sunday, July 31, 2005

Vegetarian Caviar

Inspired by a blog post at 101 Coobooks, I made Beluga Lentil Crostinis. I'd never heard about these little beans and was very intrigued by Heidi's post. So I bought a can yesterday at the grocery store and used it in her innovative recipe.

Beluga beans are tiny black lentils that look like caviar though I can't compare the taste between the two since I have never tasted caviar. The beans were delicious when heaped on top of a crostini with a goat cheese and chive spread. I've read that they are a great addition to soups and salads. I'm going to experiemnt with different fresh herbs to see which ones really enhance the flavour of these little jewels. Let me know if you have a favourite recipe.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Figs with attitude!

Manhattan makes me do things I may not do elsewhere in the world. Nothing here is plain Jane. Somehow it does not fit with the vibe of the city. It seems so wrong not to infuse just a little bit of attitude in everything one does. So that's how I ended up experimenting with chunks of blue cheese on ripe and juicy figs for dessert. Surprisingly, I was quite pleased with the combo - the sharpness of the cheese was a nice pairing with the bursting sweetenss of a just-halved fig. Figs and blue cheese, a glass of Muscat, streaming music from a French radio station over iTunes, a novel that I'm just getting into and I'm all set for a mellow Friday night...

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Istanbul Diary: Bosphorus

No description of Istanbul is complete without a mention of the Bosphorus, the strait between the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara. I find it so fascinating that one part of Istanbul is in Europe and the other is in Asia and that the Bosphorus sits in between. Despite its waters being jammed with ships, oil tankers, local ferries and speed boats, the Bosphorus is endlessly endearing to Istanbullus and tourists alike. For the locals, it is wonderful escape from the stifling city life. For visitors, it offers a glimpse into the past of one of the most important trading centers in the world. A cruise along the Bosphorus is also a fantastic way to learn about the history and culture of the city as the entire course is dotted with Ottoman boat houses, mosques, grand palaces and gardens. I was lucky to experience a night cruise along the Bosphorus - there are very few things in life that are as romantic. I'm hooked to Istanbul!

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Istanbul Diary: Porcelain

The most difficult part about shopping in Istanbul is that you feel like buying everything. This is especially true of Turkish porcelain ware. I was completely mesmerized by the colours and patterns of the housewares. From serving plates to rice bowls, mini tea cups to full dinner sets, I wanted to bring everything home and jazz up my dinner parties. Luckily, the handmade pieces were quite expensive and that put a natural control on my urge to splurge.

Istanbul Diary: Four Seasons rooftop

If you ever find yourself in Istanbul, be sure to swing by the Four Seasons Hotel Istanbul for some tea on the rooftop. This exquisite property has been converted from an old neoclassical Turkish prison. Located in the heart of the city in Sultanahmet, you are literally steps away from Topkapi Palace, the Blue Mosque and all the other architectural jewels in the neighbourhood. Talk about being steeped in the beauty of Istanbul while enjoying the conveniences of a moderm, luxury hotel. When I return to Istanbul, I'm coming back here for dinner when it's full moon!

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Istanbul Diary: Apple Tea

Shopping in Istanbul's bazaars is incomplete without a cup of apple tea that is served in seductive tea cups. The tea is served piping hot and you can burn your tongue if you are not careful. I loved drinking a cup of tea while I mentally calculated my starting price for the various exotic wares that I was covetting. It is easy to assume that you must buy from a shop that has taken the trouble to serve you tea, but remember that it's part of the shopping experience and you need not feel indebted at all.

My most memorable cup of apple tea in Istanbul was actually not at a shop but at an authentic cafe near the Blue Mosque. My Russian girlfriend and I were exhausted after a long day of continuous haggling. An outdoor Turkish cafe with comfortable couches and hookahs was just what we needed. We ordered apple tea and some pistachio ice cream. At a couch from where we had a stunning view of the mosque at sunset, we took off our shoes, sunk our feet in the cushions and set out to enjoy the ice cream and the tea one sip and spoon at a time. We wanted to see just how long how long we could stretch out the experience. We thoroughly went over the day's events and about thirty minutes later, we we scraping off pistachios and sipping the last drops of the tea. Wish I could transport myself back to this cafe in Istanbul so I can unwind in such a delicious fashion every time I'm exhausted!

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Istanbul Diary: Turkish Delight

It's soft, gooey and bursting with the goodness of sugar and nuts. One bite and you'll be craving more and more until your body screams "STOP."

Turkish Delight, or lokum, is nothing but a candy made from sugar, starch and a flavouring like rosewater that makes it pink. It is cut up into little cubes that are dusted with sugar to prevent sticking. Like all sweets, Turkish delight comes in many varieties with ingredients like hazelnut, almonds, pistachio, dates, coconut etc.

The Spice Bazaar in Istanbul has hundreds of shops selling Turkish Delight. Walking through this market is a real feast for the eyes. There's candy everywhere and you can even sample the different flavours before settling on your selection. It was too difficult for me to choose which shop to buy from. But the persistence, charm and humour of one of the shopkeepers won me over - he kept insisting I was Pakistani and literally dragged me into his store to show me pictures of his trip to Pakistan, apparently my homeland! After a lot of chit chat, I bought a big box of assorted flavours. I let the shopkeeper make the selections for me as each flavour tasted unbelievable delicious and I just couldn't make up my mind.

Lokum is one of the oldest sweets in the world - it was created in Turkey about 500 years ago but it was not until the early 1800s under the reign of Sultan Abdul Hamid 1 did the candy really become popular thanks to his appointment of a confectioner in his court. Lokum then made its way to Britain in the 19th century thanks to an unknown traveler who bought cases in Istanbul and shipped them to Britain under the name Turkish Delight.

The long name for the sweet is rahat lokum. It is a corruption of the Turanian word meaning morsel. Rahat is a Turkish word, meaning peace or contentment, therefore the correct translation is a morsel of contentment. What a delightful story!

Istanbul Diary: Aryan

I drank a lot of Aryan when I was in Turkey. It is a salted yogurt drink that tastes exactly like salted lassi. A cold glass of Aryan is perfect on a hot summer day, especially if you're dehydrated from a lot of alcohol consumption the previous night :)

Did you know that yogurt originated in Turkey? The nomadic tribes of Eastern Europe and Western Asia were tinkering around with defermentation and chanced upon this manna. The ancient Assyrian word for yogurt, lebeny, meant "life." The word yogurt also comes to us from the Turkish language. The root "yog" means roughly to condense.

I haven't been able to find a suitable answer for why this Turkish yogurt drink is called "Aryan." Any suggestions?

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Istanbul Diary: Gul Receli

I'm back in Manhattan after a full week in Istanbul. Although it feels good to be home, I miss waking up and eating a big breakfast in the mornings before embracing a beautiful vacation day.

I stayed at the Anemon Galata Hotel located in the Beyoglu area of Istanbul. It is near the famous Galata Tower which you may have heard of if you've read any of Orhan Pamuk's books. Orhan Pamuk is a wonderful authour, by the way. You should check him out if you haven't heard of him already. His most famous books are "Snow," "My name is Red," and "Istanbul."

I ate breafast every day at the rooftop terrace restaurant of the hotel. From 7:30 am to 10:30 am, they served a wonderful spread of breads, olives (interesting choice for breakfast, I thought, but the Turks are Mediterranean after all!), meats, cheeses, cereals, fruits and eggs. And then there were the jams and the honeys. Many delicious and unusual varities of them. I fell totally in love with gul receli or rose jam. I added generous spoonfuls of this wonderfully aromatic and intensely flavourful jam on my croissant every morning. With every bite, I imagined floating on a bed of light pink rose petals, ignorant to the world around me.

I liked it so much that I even brought a few bottles home. I'm hoping that Kalustyans carries gul receli so I won't ever run out. Even though I have the bottles at home now, I am scared to open it and try the jam. I feel that the commercial version won't be half as good as the one seen in the picture. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Off to Istanbul

I'm off to Istanbul tomorrow for Aylin and Max's wedding. Aylin and I were in undergrad together in North Carolina and we've kept in touch over the years. She even made it to my wedding in Bombay many years back.

I'm really excited about visiting Turkey as it will be my first time. I've been hearing so much about what an exotic city Istanbul is. How lucky to be there for a wedding - I can't think of a better excuse to visit a country and a better way to get to know the people, the food and the culture. I'm not taking my laptop so I won't be able to post regularly and share my experiences with you but I'll see if I can find an Internet cafe from where I can blog.

Please do let me know if you have any suggestions for what to see and where to eat

I'll back back mid next week.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Chinese Mirch on the Web

Just to let you know that one of my favourite restaurants, Chinese Mirch, finally has an online menu (or has always had it and I only now discovered it) which makes it so much easier to order from home. Hope you are lucky enough to live in the delivery zone so you can enjoy sweet corn vegetable soup, fried baby corn, chili garlic noodles and chili paneer in your pyjamas! A glass of ice-cold lychee juice would be perfect, if handy.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Akuri for brunch at home

Saturday brunch always seems to involve eggs. I woke up in a mood for akuri today. Akuri is spicy scrambled eggs, Parsi style. I first learnt the recipe from my friend Daljeet in California. I pair akuri with lightly buttered toast and a glass of fresh orange juice - a sumptious way to start Saturday, don't you think?

I attempted a visual recipe for you this time. Ingredients include 1 small red onion (to give the eggs an extra kick), 1 inch ginger, 2 cloves garlic, 4 green chilis, some fresh coriander, tomatoes, 1 tsp garam masala or dhania-jeera powder, 1 tsp cumin, 4 eggs beaten well with a few tsps of milk, a little butter.

Happy Saturday!

My first video

I just discovered this very cool digital video repository called YouTube that I'm quite psyched about. I used the video function on my beloved Canon PowerShot S200 (yes, I sorely need a new camera!) and voila, here is my first attempt:

Sixth Avenue by day from a Chelsea apartment

I hope to bring you many more interesting snippets of Manhattan life through this medium. I'll also experiment with some cooking videos. How exciting!

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Red curry when it rains

I crave spicy food when it rains heavily and I start missing the monsoon in Bombay. But Indian food can take a while to cook so I dish out a quick Thai curry to satisfy my soul while it pours outside.

I usually make green curry paste from scratch a few times a year and freeze it. But I haven't gotten around to making red curry paste ever so I just use a concentrate from Thai Kitchen which I really like because it does not contain fish sauce like some other brands do. Green curry is for happy times when I'm in an easgoing, lighthearted mood. Red curry is for when my spirits are down, my muscles are tense and I need the comfort of a robust curry to calm me down.

I combine 1 tbsp of red curry paste with a 14oz can of light cocount milk and simmer for about five minutes. I then add a handful of fresh basil leaves and a packet of frozen Thai stir-fry vegetable mix that I keep on stock. The secret ingredients are brown sugar (2 tbsps) and vegetable stock (1/3 cup). I also add a small can of baby corn if available. I leave it to simmer for about 15 minutes before taking off the flame.

Red curry is usually best enjoyed over a bed of cooked jasmine rice. I prefer my red curry mixed with Annie Chung's Thai Basil noodles, easily made from the ready made packet I buy from Whole Foods.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Blueberry Dazzler

Tis the season for blueberries and I find myself buying some every time I pop into Whole Foods. The deep blue colour satisfies my daily need for antioxidants while the delectable flavour is just perfect for my sweet cravings, especially around 4 p.m.

I've been tossing in a handful of blueberries in my cereal (Kashi Honeypuffed) and eating them as a snack in the afternoons, but it wasn't until yesterday that I used these sweet little sugarpops in an intersting way - I made a smoothie! You may wonder why I'm all excited about it so I have to shamefully declare that I've never made smoothies so this was embarassingly momentous for me. It was so brainless that I've been kicking myself for not having made such nutritious, delicious, filling drinks earlier in life. I suppose there's always a first time for everything!

Blueberry Dazzler

3/4 cup mango juice (or use any juice you have)
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1 banana, sliced and forzen
Two handfuls of fresh or frozen blueberries

Pour the juice into a blender or food processor. Add the yogurt and process until smooth.

Add the banana and half of the bluberries and process well, then add the remaining blueberries and process until smooth. Pour the mixtuer into a tall glasses and decorate with whole fresh blueberries and serve.

I can' wait to make blueberry pancakes next. Maybe this weekend...

Monday, July 04, 2005

Khaled plays at Central Park

The free concert series at Central Park's Summerstage is one of the most interesting summer events in Manhattan. Just imagine how relaxing it is to be enjoying the lushness of the park while listening to fabulous music by some of the world's most famous musicians.

I went to the park yesterday with a group of friends to hear Khaled sing. Khaled, for those of you who may not have heard of him, is an Algerian Rai star who made a big name for himself in Paris and then worldwide with his Arabic/French music with highly controversial lyrics. It was the now famous song "Didi" that really rocketed Khaled to international stardom. His other famous song is "Aicha" which I'm sure you may have heard. It's H's favourite song in the world but I was really sad that he could not come to the concert as he was stuck at work - agh!

We waited in line for about thirty minutes before getting in but it was totally worth it. The warm-up singers were belting out Latin jazz tunes which set the mood for the afternoon. The crowd waited impatiently for Khaled to take center stage and when he finally came on stage, everyone went crazy. I loved his deep voice, exuberant energy and exotic music. I recognized many of the songs from his first few albums but also enjoyed the tunes from his latest album which was just released a few weeks back. Khaled didn't play his hit songs till much later into the performance but it was a lovely payoff for those of us who lingered on. Right at the end, his teenage daughter came on stage, and they jointly sang "Imagine." He seems very proud of his duaghter's talents - it was nice to see Khaled give her so much importance and exposure.

What I loved most about being at the park was people-watching. Manhattan is truly a melting pot more than any other city in America. There was such a amazing diversity of pepople - Indians, Arabs, Jews, Chinese, French, Americans mingling freely, drinking, eating, laughing, dancing - thoroughly enjoying the moment. Maybe it was Khaled, maybe it was the spirit that binds Manhattan. It was certainly wonderfully intoxicating.

Saturday, July 02, 2005


I saw Parineeta today and totally loved it. It's the first Hindi movie I've seen in Manhattan. From the days of QSQT (Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak) when I first started understanding Hindi movies, Bollywood has come a long, long way. I was so amazed by the spectacular cinematography, brilliant acting, decent plot and of course, the songs. It was nice to get a taste of Calcutta in the 1960s though I wish they had shown more of the city. I should also add that the love scene between Saif and Vidya was very tastefully done and really beautiful.

Saif is my new favourite now - he has dethroned Shahrukh in my books. And Vidya Balan looks gorgeous in all the scenes. She is such a breath of fresh air in Hindi cinema. Also, I'm secretly glad to see increasing numbers of South Indian women make it big in Bollywood.

You can watch Parineeta at Loewes Theatre on Broadway and 46th. It's located inside the Virgin Megastore.The movie is screened with English subtitles which is helpful, especially when the dialogue gets pretty heavy. Get ready to cry lots though. I was sniffing the entire time.

If you go this weekend, check out the incredible sales at the Virgin store. Lots of fabulous CDs from all genres are available for less than $10!