masala chai

Masala Chai | A Brown Table

I decided to get an orchid from the Mountain View Farmer's market. It's not like I've had a lot of luck with them in the past but they are so beautiful that I find it hard to resist. Let's just hope this one lasts and after all the flowers are gone, this plant will sprout some new buds. Here's to some wishful thinking! If you have any orchid tips, do let me know, I need all the help I can get.

Orchids | A Brown TableMasala Chai | A Brown Table

This weekend, my buddies, Alanna of The Bojon Gourmet and Phi of Princess Tofu came over to spend a day. If you follow us on Instagram you might have noticed all the insane amount of eating, cooking and photographing that happened. I took the girls out to try some Indian street food at one of my favorite chaat houses in South Bay, followed by a trip to an Indian grocery store, some pumpkin picking, some cooking, more eating, photography and a whole lot of chatting. And there was chai, we had lots of it, I could think of no better way than to spend my day with these two extremely talented people. 

Masala Chai | A Brown Table

Chai is a ritual habit for some and Indian houses make masala chai in several different ways. Here are some of my tips on making chai at home,

  • I buy loose black tea (tea bags are good) and I generally use the Assam black tea variety at home.
  • Chai (tea) with no spices (masala), is simply called chai in Hindi. There are several different types and combinations of spices that can be added to tea. Some people prefer some more to others. Personally, I prefer green cardamom and ginger in my masala chai, I use them individually or together depending on what I have in the house. Either way of all the spices I've listed in my recipe here, green cardamom and ginger are my top choices. (I haven't shown cloves and peppercorns in the photograph but they are good additions to the masala (spice) blend.
  • Adding the ingredients at the right temperature to the water is important because it helps in infusing the flavors correctly. 
  • When crushing the spices, just crush them once or twice with a mortar and pestle to release the seeds, do not over grind or pound them excessively into a powder. 
  • For sweeteners, you can use sugar, honey or even raw Indian sugar - jaggery. 
  • Milk or any other non-dairy milk is completely optional. 
Masala Chai | A Brown Table

masala chai

yields : 4 cups

ingredients

4 cups water

1 inch piece ginger root

4 whole green cardamom pods, crushed

1 black cardamom pod, crushed (optional)

1 inch piece cinnamon stick (optional)

6-8 black peppercorns, crushed (optional)

4 whole cloves, crushed (optional)

1 1/2 teaspoons black tea leaves  (Assam tea)

around 1 /2 cup hot milk or what ever kind of vegetarian milk you prefer (rice, soy or nut based) (amount used might be more or less depending  upon your personal preference on how dark or light you want the tea)

sugar to sweeten as needed 

1. Place the water in medium saucepan. Bring to a boil on medium high and add the spices immediately.Bo (I always add either ginger and/or green cardamom, the rest are all optional). 

2. Remove the saucepan from the stove and allow to the spices to infuse for about 4-5 minutes. Place the saucepan back on the stove and bring to a boil on medium high. As soon as the water begins to boil, add the tea leaves and reduce the flame to low. Allow the liquid to boil for about 30 seconds and remove from stove. Cover with a lid and allow to sit for 1 minute. 

4. To serve, pass the hot tea through a tea strainer to get rid of the tea leaves and spices into a teapot or teacup (as needed). Add enough milk to get a light brown color (depends on how dark or light you like your tea) and sweeten as needed. Serve hot with cookies or pastries. 

okra with lemon and onions

Okra with Lemon and Onions |A Brown Table

One of my favorite dishes from New Orleans is gumbo, it's a hearty dish with a lot of spice and flavor and it has okra. Another Southern dish, that is close to my heart is fried okra, that's pure crispy goodness. Okra is popular in Indian food too and we prepare it in several different ways and I'm sharing one of my favorite ways to eat this vegetable.

Okra with Lemons and Onions |A Brown Table

If there ever was a vegetable known for its sliminess, it would have to be okra (lady-fingers). The slimy texture doesn't become an issue in soups, stew or curries but when stir-fried or cooked dry it can be a little unpleasant to some. 

There are a few tricks to avoid the slime when cooking okra dry and using the slime to your advantage. This is what I do.

  • Wash and rinse the uncut okra under running cold tap water and drain the excess water.
  • Place the okra on a dry clean kitchen towel and dry completely before cutting through them.
  • Cut the okra with a dry knife on a dry cutting board. Basically keep the water away, it activates the production of the slime.
  • Avoid adding water to the okra while it's cooking.
Okra with Lemon and Onions | A Brown Table

This is how we ate okra often as kids. The okra is lightly spiced and has a little chili for heat. There's a generous helping of red onions, freshly ground fenugreek seeds, a little garlic and a splash of fresh lemon juice to brighten up the flavors. 

Okra with Lemon and Onions |A Brown Table

okra with lemon and onions

yields: 2-4 servings

ingredients 

2 tablespoons olive oil/ghee

1 teaspoon black mustard seeds

1 cup red onions, thinly sliced

1 garlic clove, minced 

1/2 teaspoon red chili powder (you can use less if you like it less hot, I used Kashmiri chili powder)

1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder

1/2 teaspoon fenugreek powder

1 lb medium-sized okra, cut lengthwise 

1 teaspoon kosher sea salt

1 lemon

1 tablespoon fresh cilantro leaves, chopped for garnish

1. In a large wok with a lid, heat the oil on a medium-high flame. When the oil is hot add the mustard seeds and allow them to cook for about 20 seconds until they begin to sputter.

2. Immediately add the onions and cook the onions with occasional stirring for about 4-5 minutes or until they turn golden brown.

2. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Add the chili, turmeric, and fenugreek, cook for another 30 seconds. Add the okra, followed by the salt. Stir to coat the okra and then cover with a lid. Cook until the okra is tender, this will take about 8-10 minutes. As soon as the okra is tender, cut and squeeze the lemon juice over the okra. Garnish with cilantro and serve hot with rice or Indian flat breads such as roti or naan.

 

thai and vietnamese inspired coffee granita

thai vietnamese coffee granita #food #glutenfree #dessert #asian #vegan #vegetarian #coffee #granita
thai vietnamese coffee granita #food #glutenfree #dessert #asian #vegan #vegetarian #coffee #granita

Labor day might officially mark the end of summer but I really don't want to give two hoots about the start of fall yet. It always seems too soon, especially when you love one season more than the others. It also really doesn't help that some of the television channels are running Christmas movies right now (what happened to Halloween and Thanksgiving?). Thankfully, the warm weather and I are on the same wavelength with neither of us wanting summer to leave, I know summer will put up a decent fight. So until autumn boots summer away, I'm going to happily chill out with these coffee granitas and think about all things . 

thai vietnamese coffee granita #food #glutenfree #dessert #asian #vegan #vegetarian #coffee #granita

I love Thai and Vietnamese iced coffees, each of them unique in their own special ways, one flavored with spices such as green cardamom while the other, sweetened with condensed milk. You can't go wrong with either of them, at least that's what I think. Since, it's hard for me to pick a favorite, I decided that the best thing to do, would be to create a granita, that represented the personalities of both of drinks. Double the inspiration and double the dose of flavor as the name suggests! 

Since this is a double granita, let's start with the first one, the coffee! I recommend using a chicory type of coffee but if you have a personal favorite, feel free to try that out in this recipe. The coffee granita is mixed with a sugar syrup infused with freshly crushed green cardamom pods that makes this simply amazing! The second granita is a little different, instead of using condensed milk, I decided to use sweetened coconut milk that is infused with vanilla, I find that it freezes well and tastes great. Condensed milk would give a more ice cream like texture that I didn't want for this dessert.

This coffee granita is going to be my buddy this weekend while I enjoy the long holiday. Have a great weekend!

thai vietnamese coffee granita #food #glutenfree #dessert #asian #vegan #vegetarian #coffee #granita
thai vietnamese coffee granita #food #glutenfree #dessert #asian #vegan #vegetarian #coffee #granita

thai & vietnamese inspired coffee granita

yields: 6 servings

ingredients

6 green cardamom pods

1 cup water

2 cups brown sugar 

3 cups of double strength (brewed) coffee (preferably chicory, I used Community Coffee but Cafe du Monde is good too)

4 cups full-fat coconut milk

1  vanilla bean (or 1 tablespoon madagascar bourbon vanilla extract)

1. Using a mortar and pestle, crush the green cardamom pods to release the seeds and crush the seeds. Add the crushed cardamom (the green shell with the crushed seeds) to a medium sized saucepan with the water and 1 cup of the sugar. Bring the contents to a boil on a medium-high flame. Once it begins to boil, remove and stir in the coffee. Remove from stove and keep aside. Allow to cool to room temperature.

2. Add the remaining 1 cup of sugar to the coconut milk in a medium-sized saucepan. Using a sharp knife slit the vanilla bean across its length. Scrape the seeds and add the seeds and the bean to the coconut milk. Heat the mixture over a medium-low flame for about 10 minutes until the sugar is completely dissolved and the milk just begins to boil. Remove from stove and allow to cool temperature. (If you're using vanilla extract, then add the extract after the liquid is removed from the stove).

3. Once the coffee mixture is completely cooled, stir and pass it through a tea strainer to get rid of the cardamom. Pour the liquid into a flat pan that is freezer-proof (I used a cake pan). Cover with cling film and place in the freezer. 

4. If you used a vanilla bean in the coconut milk, remove the bean and discard. Pour the rest of the coconut  is freezer-proof (I used a cake pan). Cover with cling film and place in the freezer. 

5. After 1  1/2- 2 hours remove both pans from the freezer. The mixture in each pan should resemble a frozen slush. Crush any large frozen chunks that might have formed and stir the contents. Cover each pan with cling film and place back in the freezer. After 30 minutes crush any large chunks and stir the contents, cover and place back in the freezer. After 1 1/2 to 2 hours, the mixture in each pan will be frozen, remove the cling film and scrape the surface with a fork to create flaky crystals. At this point the granita is ready to serve. Serve in chilled glasses filled generously with half of the coffee granita and half of the coconut milk granita.