MemeMeal and RCI Punjab

I’m late to the game for this one, I know. Thank you Bee, for tagging me.
You were right — it’s not easy!

This is eight random things, which may have begun as seven random things,
about oneself. I am so far behind reading that I’m not sure who has already
done this. I’ll tag ISG, SudhaV, and MT when she gets back.
Please don’t feel obliged — play along only if you want. πŸ™‚
Anyone else who would like to join in, come ahead!

paneer-vegetable butter masala
paneer-vegetable butter masala (see item #8)

Eight Random Things

1. Aside from a very few tricks at my mother’s and grandmother’s sleeve,
I learned nothing about cooking while growing up. When I left home at 19,
I bought a copy of James Beard’s Theory and Practice of Good Cooking
a book I can highly recommend, incidentally, to anyone who wants to learn the basics in a no-nonsense fashion.
I learned to cook with that book — read until it literally fell apart.
I still keep it carefully in a paper bag to hold it all in one place, and I do refer to it now and again.

2. (maybe obvious!) I am slightly obsessed with food. Some people read the classics — I read cookbooks. Most of mine are about the cuisine of a particular country, or region, rather than “soups” or “salads” etc. I like cookbooks that tell a story and I enjoy learning about culture and people through traditional cuisine. India is the third stop on my culinary tour through Asia; I prior years I have delved into China and Japan. I can also manage a few Thai and Korean dishes, though my foray into others has not yet been as extensive.
My favorite Chinese cookbook is The Taste of China by Ken Hom (ebay listing provided solely for photograph of this out-of-print edition – I am not affiliated in any way) and my favorite Japanese cookbook is Japanese Cooking: A Simple Art
by Shizuo Tsuji.

Interestingly, it is Indian food that I adopted as my own before I realised it. I am sure that has something to do with fate (sub-random thing: I believe in fate!) and something to do with people I have come to know here and the warmth and encouragement I have been fortunate to receive. My favorite Indian cookbooks so far are Cooking At Home With Pedatha, by Jigyasa Giri and Pratibha Jain, and Bapsi Nariman’s A Gourmet’s Handbook of Parsi Cuisine. Of course there are many others on my wish list.

3. I don’t live in Michigan (although I talk about it alot!). I was born there and left while I was too young to remember. I first went back about four years ago, and fell in love with my home state. I hope to relocate permanently in a few years.
Some of the best things about northern Michigan, in no particular order:

No Traffic! Well, at times they do have what could be called traffic, but that’s nothing compared to Cape Cod on a summer weekend πŸ˜‰

The Upper Peninsula, where you can find sandhill cranes, Lake Superior, and agates. Lake Superior agates are considered the oldest agates in the world.
I also think they are the most beautiful.

Ore carriers. Watching these giant freighters is unbelievably fun!

Loons πŸ™‚

4. I am an avid birdwatcher. That is one thing I can say I got from my parents; both are birdwatchers as well, and I kick myself when I think back to all the great opportunities I scoffed at as an ‘uninterested teenager’.
At least I finally came around; it is a joy to share with them now.

5. I am a chronic worrier. I don’t want to pass that trait on to my kids, so I am constantly working to overcome it. Sometimes that takes all my energy!

6. I enjoy most music — from country to folk, rock to classical, and everything in between. Song Of The Lakes is my current favorite.
Turn up the Sonific console in the sidebar ———- >
for a sample, or visit their website. Great stuff!

7. I still love to watch my kids while they’re sleeping. There’s nothing like a houseful of contented kiddies and kitties!

8. My *big dream* is to own my own business. I would love to have a little specialty shop/takeaway type place where I could sell homemade, small-batch foods.

One idea I’ve considered for such a venture concerns Indian food. Now that I cook and eat it regularly, I realise that most ready-meals, even frozen entrees available in Indian groceries and elsewhere are higher in fat than I can afford. Ditto for most restaurants.

I am convinced there is a market for healthy, homestyle Indian food that you can’t get through most outlets. I think a line of fresh, conveniently packaged homemade Indian dishes that are low in fat and high in taste would be a huge hit in New England. Thanks again, Bee, for inviting me to play. Here’s my chance to display a prototype meal. πŸ˜‰

~~~

Paneer-Vegetable Butter Masala

I found this delicious, low-fat paneer at Spiceland
(Arjuna, are you still out there? πŸ™‚ ). I imagine it could be browned in Pam before adding to the curry — I tried it without browning.

I don’t get lowfat Indian yogurt here, and I can’t stand Dannon and the like.
I use Fage. All varieties are excellent and taste delicious — even the nonfat.

Almost any vegetable you like could be used here. I like the rich flavor that roasted eggplant brings. With the addition of yogurt, I don’t miss the extra butter or nuts.

~~~

Pam spray

1 small potato, roughly diced
1 long asian eggplant or 3-4 babies, diced (1 1/2 – 2 cups raw)
1/2 c button mushrooms, cleaned

2 oz fresh lowfat paneer, cubed

1 tsp butter

1 large onion, blanched and pureed
1 tsp fresh grated ginger
1 tsp fresh minced garlic
2-3 TB tomato paste

1 TB cumin-coriander powder
1 tsp kashmiri chile powder
1/2 tsp turmeric

1 tsp cornstarch
1/4 c lowfat yogurt

additional water as needed
salt to taste

garam masala to finish (optional)

~~~

Coat a non-stick skillet with Pam and heat over med-high heat. Add potatoes and brown, shaking the pan, for about 2-3 minutes. Add eggplant and mushrooms. Continue cooking, shaking the pan to keep the veggies from sticking, another 5 minutes or until well browned. Add a couple tablespoons water, lower the heat to medium, and cook until potatoes are tender and all the liquid is absorbed — another 5 minutes or so. Hold the cooked veggies aside while preparing the curry.

In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat and add the onion puree. Fry the onion, stirring frequently, until the moisture is gone and onion is starting to stick a little. Raise the heat to med-high and add ginger and garlic. Continue cooking, watching carefully, until the mixture catches a little — the idea is to carmelize it slightly. Don’t worry if there is a small amount that appears too brown — this will dissolve into the sauce when water is added. At this point, reduce heat back to medium and add 2-3 TB water. Scrape up all the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the tomato paste and spice powders, along with 1 cup water. Adjust the heat so the mixture is just simmering, cover and allow to cook 5-10 minutes.

Meanwhile, dissolve the cornstarch in a small amount of water, then add to the yogurt. Stir thoroughly and add to the simmering curry. Cook a few minutes to thicken, still stirring, adding water as necessary to reach the consistency you prefer. Finally, fold in the vegetables and paneer cubes and heat through.
Check the seasoning and add salt to taste, garam masala if desired.

Serve hot with rice, rotis, or for a dieter’s alternative, serve with pan-roasted cauliflower in place of starch. The bland taste and firm texture of cauliflower makes a great substitute. I have no self-control when it comes to starch, so I often make this switch. It’s a great way to cut some calories from a meal without sacrificing taste.

paneer-vegetable butter masala withΒ accompaniments

a light yet filling meal, counter-clockwise from top: paneer-vegetable butter masala, pan-roasted cauliflower, Manisha’s no-oil lime pickle (with garlic), cold boiled peanuts, low-fat yogurt, fresh radishes, and crispy papad

So what do you think? Theoretically, would a person buy something like that? Please don’t hesitate to offer an honest opinion; I am genuinely interested.

And now, paneer-vegetable butter masala is going to dear Richa, appropriately of As Dear As Salt, for her RCI Punjab. Thanks, Richa!

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26 Comments »

  1. Suganya said

    Slurp! Slurp! Gimme some of that..

    Two slurps up from you Suganya, can’t beat that! Thank you! πŸ™‚

  2. Coffee said

    That was so nice knowing about you Linda. πŸ™‚

    So shall we come to eat at your venture πŸ˜‰

    Agreed, Indian food is slightly more on oilier side, but not the everyday food. The forzen and instant meals are high in their oil content since it prolongs the freshness of that dish and adds to the longevity value.

    πŸ™‚ Hi Coffee — that’s just what I mean — what about a fresh product, kind of convenience food but as opposed to one made to last a long time on shelves. Please come to eat anytime. Could you bring swiss rosti?? πŸ™‚

  3. shammi said

    I’m very glad you did this meme, Linda. I’ve been wondering how you came to be so interested in Indian food… and I’ve seen that you make and enjoy ALL Indian food, not just the stock North Indian-style dishes that most restaurants offer up – I’m assuming it’s the same in the US as in the UK. Now I know, and it’s lovely to know you a little better πŸ™‚

    And as for your menu – my god, I’d buy it in a FLASH! If only such things were actually available…!

    Hi Shammi, you’re right about mostly North Indian cuisine in restaurants here — at least in New England. I understand other areas of the US have more variety. Thanks so much for your kind words πŸ™‚

  4. indosungod said

    Linda it was wonderful reading your meme and knowing more about you. Now you have answered my burning question regarding your love for Michigan. That Paneer Vegetable Butter Masala looks awesome. Blanching the onions as opposed to sauteing is a great idea too.

    Absolutely, and for the spread you have I would pay top dollar. I am convinced too that there is a huge market for healthy ethnic foods and you should pursue it.

    Thanks so much ISG, for your valued input! I appreciate your encouragement πŸ™‚
    Blanching the onions and then browning them is a trick I learned from Sudha V. — easy to do and makes rich sauces. Hope you have something fun planned for the weekend! πŸ™‚

  5. Srivalli said

    lovely looking plate…and your dish is a great entry for RCI: Punjab..

    This would be a great idea to implement based on what you have said…anyplace, getting good homemade food is most wanted. I do think its a great idea if you venture out with this plan. All the best in advance, am sure it will be successful.

    and its great reading about your random thought…what you said about sleeping kids is so true…I spend quite sometime looking at my kids sleeping…it gives such a content and protective feeling.

    Thanks for sharing with us.

    srivalli
    http://www.cooking4allseasons.blogspot.com

    Hi Srivalli, I really appreciate your encouraging words, thank you! You put it perfectly about watching kids sleep — contentment πŸ™‚

  6. Jyothsna said

    Linda, it was wonderful knowing you and your love for Indian food through your meme. Great entry for RCI.

    And if you ever start that venture, I’ll surely be your customer πŸ™‚

    Thanks so much Jyothsna! I will set up special mail order department first thing πŸ˜‰

  7. Asha said

    Hi Linda,great to read a little about you.I thought you are blogging from Michigan! I “read” cookbooks too!:D Great to read that MeMe.
    I agree with lack of good Indian take out,England has many take outs during lunch time around offices! You should start that ,you can take my recipes,no charge but free food once in a while!
    Paneer Makhani looks great along with other goodies on the plate too.Mine is coming next week.
    Left home at 19! You have done a good job so far,brave girl.We have to hang around at parents’ until we are married in India and that could take more than 30yrs sometimes!!;p (Cultural differences) I want my kids out as soon as they start earning enough to support themselves!:D

    Hi Asha, I am blogging from Michigan, in my heart! Thank you for your encouragement and I would love to use your recipes!
    Let’s see:

    Lunch special –“Asha’s Rajma with Parathas”
    “Asha’s Brinjal Corner”
    Ah yes, I can see it on the menu already πŸ™‚ And plenty of free food for all, a blogger-bash!

    As for the kids, I’m with you πŸ™‚

    Happy Blog B’day to you dear!

  8. bee said

    thanks, linda. i thoroughly enjoyed reading your MeMe. you are a multi-facted and gifted person.

    lovely spread. except them radishes. lol.

    Thanks for the kind words Bee — I’m sorry you didn’t like the radishes, but I left their tails on so you could toss them out πŸ˜‰

  9. Mishmash! said

    Linda…good that you wrote this Meme….now I ‘understand’ your passion for indian food πŸ™‚ Let me know when and where you open the shop, I will drop by ur place whenever I come to New England area….:) By the way I still remember your new england pot ,so i knew you were from there πŸ˜›

    Shn

    Hi Shn, you have a great memory! Please do drop by, shop or no πŸ™‚

  10. revathi said

    I was reading with interest to know more about you πŸ˜‰ – Nice to know about u a little bit more.

    I have always wondered whether non-indian food eaters are overwhelmed with the oil that they serve in restaurants. My japanese friends lovesss indian food and I tell her its not all that oily made at home.

    You are absolutely right. Even with all the indian food here in BayArea I still feel something light & clean – Indian food will certainly be appreciated. I keep them running in my mind too πŸ™‚

    Your plate looks really light and simple. I would certainly loveee to visit your specialty store – All the best !!

    Thanks Revathi, I appreciate your input and kind words! Please do visit anytime πŸ™‚

    You’re right — for ex. with the regular recipes on most of the blogs, the fat content is *Far* lower than in restaurants. Are you going to start a biz too? I bet that would be a rousing success! πŸ™‚

  11. Swapna said

    I don’t know about others, but I would “defintely” buy that. Pursue your dream, dear!
    It was good reading about you. The Paneer masala looks mouth-watering.

    Thanks so much Swapna — and I’m happy you liked the dish πŸ™‚

  12. hema said

    Need a partner?;) Honest opinion about the plate….I would definitely buy it, but I would like a couple rotis along with it too:) If catering to an Indian crowd I think rotis. Rice will work well for non-Indians.

    Come on up Hema, anytime! Thanks for your input regarding rice vs rotis. That’s just the sort of ‘market research’ I’m going to need if I try this! πŸ™‚ I always wondered why it is that in Indian restaurants the rice is free but you pay for chappati. To me should be the other way around, maybe then we would eat more rotis yes? πŸ˜‰

  13. Lata said

    Looks good.

    Thank you, Lata πŸ™‚

  14. Nupur said

    That plate looks perfectly nourishing for both mind and body!! I think you would be tapping into a big market, Linda, if you were to serve home-style Indian food. One way that many good cooks in India turn their talent into a small business is: they start a “tiffin” service: delivering packed fresh home-made meals, mostly to offices during the week, and to homes during the evenings. Another idea: put food into small pint-size plastic containers and freeze it, then offer the frozen entrees as a heat-and-eat thing.
    Oh, and how do I apply to be your sous-chef? πŸ™‚

    I’m glad you liked the meal, Nupur — and apply, noway! I am saving an apron with your name on it. I will need lots of expert assistance! πŸ™‚

    Thanks for the information and input — I have read about the tiffin services and I know there are some on the west coast — don’t think I have seen any advertised here on the east coast, but perhaps in NY or DC. The “fresh-frozen” entree concept is something I have thought about too – I like both ideas!

  15. Richa said

    hey linda, was nice knowing u thru the meme πŸ™‚
    wud like to dine at ur restaurant for sure!
    paneer masala looks so tempting, thanks for this lovely contribution!

    Thanks for hosting Richa, and I will send you the proper info via email before your roundup deadline. Just so happened it fit in this post πŸ™‚ Saving you a seat anytime!

  16. sia said

    it was wonderful to read ur MeMe linda πŸ™‚ now i really got to know ur love and passion for indian food. one day when u r a proud owner of specialty shop/takeaway, i would love to come and taste ur homely cooked meal πŸ™‚ or better give me a call if u need any assistant helper/chef πŸ˜€

    Thanks so much Supriya, for your sweet comments – made me smile! And I will need all sorts of help! Please come over ASAP πŸ™‚

  17. sharmi said

    lovely meme and a beautiful thali.

    Thank you so much, Sharmi! πŸ™‚

  18. bhags said

    hey first time here….wonderful blog….and amazed at your liking for Indian food…..love the music u have put on here

    Hi Bhags, happy you stopped by and thanks! Glad you liked Song Of The Lakes. I just checked out your blog too πŸ™‚

  19. kimmo said

    Hi,

    I work with Sonific and bumped into your blog via my Google Alerts. Nice one! Thanks for the great looking receipt, I shall try it some time. And, of course, thanks for using the Soundspot, much appreciated!
    Kimmo

    Songspots are great Kimmo, would like to see more older artists featured along with the new ones. Glad you enjoyed the recipe, come back for more anytime πŸ™‚

  20. Lera said

    OMG! Linda ,Beena while since I checked your post ,I must say your paneer dish is stunning!!!! If you do have plans to open a Restaurant lemme know, I would be a regular patron for sure..:) Loved reading your Meme ,it’s so much in sync with my thoughts..hope your wish list gets fullfilled…:) Lovely picture!

    Hi Lera, you’re always so generous with your compliments, thank you! I will certainly save you a special plate. Happy to have you back blogging! πŸ™‚

  21. MeltingWok said

    Hey Linda, thanks for your well wishes. I’m so looking forward to go home and eat some reallyyyyy great home cooked Indian food, like yours :)) Was thinking of this Banana Leaf restaurant chain, one near my parents place. Can’t wait. Masala, butter and veges..what’s not to love yea ? *grins* πŸ™‚ Have a pleasant weekend now, cheers !:)

    I hope you have a fabulous trip, S! Glad you liked the dish… have a great weekend yourself! πŸ™‚

  22. Diane said

    Looks lovely! I think I have to do this for Sunday’s dinner.

    I too am non-Indian but LOVE Indian food, and cook it for almost every meal. It is such an enormously rich and diverse cuisine – even if one considers only one region of India. And of course there are so many regions to explore. I feel it is an inexhaustable bag of treasures. Especially if one eats mostly veg, like I do. I think it is sad that only mediocre Punjabi food is known here in the US (although dosas seem to be making inroads).

    Nice music. Have you ever heard Newfoundland’s “Great Big Sea”? – it reminds me of them a bit.

    Hi Diane, thanks for stopping, and for your kind words. I agree, it’s alot of mediocre restaurant food at least around me — all the more reason to cook at home! Have not heard Great Big Sea — will check them out, thanks! πŸ™‚

  23. musical said

    I really enjoyed reading your meme. and i agree, sometimes we fall in love with places…..thats where we lurk in our minds :).

    yummy sabzi πŸ™‚ i love paneer, and feel like having some of this sabzi right now!

    Oh, Musical, that is exactly how I feel! We lurk there in our minds… thank you!! Come by for paneer anytime πŸ™‚

  24. prema said

    Nice to read abt u Linda…. Paneer butter masal is one among my favourite andwith vegetables it sure looks delicious.

    Thank you Prema, I’m glad you liked it! πŸ™‚

  25. roopa said

    Hi Linda, nice knowing your better. i was always wondering how your were so much fascinated about indian food. But what fasinates me more is your kids do enjoy the food too right? the oil part is true we too don’t prefer the packed food which rather very oily. takeways good idea. good luck to you Linda πŸ™‚

    Thank you Roopa! My kids are not very adventurous eaters I’m afraid — typical teenagers they like pizza best! Sometimes they’ll try, though πŸ™‚

  26. Kanchana said

    Are you Indian?!!!! You are more Indian than a lot of people I know cooking all these things!

    Way to go lady! I am impressed.

    Kanchana

    Hi Kanchana, thanks for your kind encouragement. I’m not Indian by birth, but am fortunate enough to have a taste for and appreciation of the lovely cuisine and culture πŸ™‚

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