Good to know

 

TIPS TO KEEP IN MIND AS YOU FOLLOW MY RECIPES

I use STANDARD MEASURING SPOONS and CUPSso that is easy for people to replicate the portions of the dish and taste as much as possible. 

 

However, there is a lot of REGIONAL VARIATION in the taste of ingredients. As such, you may need to adjust the use of ingredients. For eg. I have tried ginger from different stores and different regions (East coast in US vs. West Coast in US, Ahmedabad vs Mumbai) and have realized that the flavor is stronger is some regions and lesser in other parts. And, don’t forget variations due to SOURCE OF PRODUCE – organic vs. pesticide-free farmer’s market /local produce vs. conventional produce. SEASONAL VARIATIONS also play an important role – produce can be less flavorful when its not in season.

DSC_0043

The size of vegetables and fruits suggested in most recipes is MEDIUM, unless specified.

 

You can substitute red chili powder (cayenne pepper) with paprika if you prefer a less hot variety. The red chili powder that I have used in my recipes is medium spicy, taste is closer to cayenne pepper.

spice box

HOW TO COOK YOUR VEGETABLES & BEANS

Plenty of tips on cooking legumes and vegetables in ways that will preserve or enhance their nutrient content and absorption are covered in my debut educational cookbook, LOVE THY LEGUMES. Grab your copy to empower yourself with the knowledge and tools to plan healthy, balanced meals for yourself and your family. Or, gift it to someone you care about.

 

brusel sprouts & kale salad 2

 

methi leaves

 

okra (4)

 

cherries

TASTE MATTERS

Taste reflects the quality and nutritional value of the food. If it tastes good then its very likely to have good amount of nutrients.

PRICE MATTERS

Buy ingredients that are reasonably priced for your family budget. 

If your diet is highly dependent on processed foods than whole foods, then it is time to evaluate your strategies for a better lifestyle.

Organic or not- choose what helps you eat healthy, whole foods within your budget. If the cost of organic foods deters you from eating them in amounts optimal for your health, then the decision to purchase organic produce will not serve the purpose.

Remember that whole foods are better than processed foods – just because something is organic that does not necessarily mean that it is healthy! For example, conventionally grown or organic carrots or homemade carrot soup are better than packaged organic carrot soup.

You can buy foods in bulk to get a good rate and store them properly. Or buy them in smaller amounts on a regular basis, to prevent them from going bad if purchased in large quantities and stored improperly.

Choose from a mix of organic and conventional foods. Some foods, especially those that are consumed raw, or animal proteins (dairy, poultry, meat, seafood), should be prefered in organic, or sustainably raised quality.

There are small local farms that cannot afford the “ORGANIC” CERTIFICATION. However, they do practice environment-friendly and sustainable agricultural methods.

Also, following healthy cooking practices and food pairings, as described in my book LOVE THEY LEGUMES, will help enhance the nutritional profile of your meal. The last thing you want to do is spend a lot on organic produce and then cook them incorrectly that

The last thing you want to do is expend generously on organic produce and then cook them incorrectly, in ways that dimish their nutritive values.

FIND YOUR STORE/MARKET

Find a store or local market that supplies fresh, tasty and flavorful produce. Try pesticide-free local produce to see if it caters to your budget and taste buds. The produce varies from market to market and region to region. If the fruit or vegetables in your salad taste good, then they are of good quality and are bound to be more nutritious than those purchased from another source where the produce does not have much flavor or taste. You need to figure out which source provides good produce in your neighborhood. You may even have to shop in a couple of places to get the best ingredients.

SEASONALITY

That goes without saying – anything in season tastes SO MUCH BETTER….only you can testify to that.

Stock up some of your favorite foods when they are available. Wash and freeze them for months and enjoy when you like.

TEMPERING

Indian cooking requires a few different cooking techniques which are quite easy to learn. Tempering of certain spices in oil is one such technique. It basically involves heating required amount of oil till it is hot enough to add the spices to crackle. In order to not let the oil reach its smoking point and break down, assess the temperature of the oil by moving your palm above the pan/ pot. If its not too hot, then you know it is the right time to add the spices. If it is very hot, then turn off the heat and let it cool a bit, otherwise it could burn off the spices giving an off flavor to your dish. After adding the spices, you can turn off the heat. Usually we add dry ingredients to the oil. However if you are adding rinsed curry leaves or chopped chili, anything that may have considerable moisture, pat dry them a bit before adding to the oil and then cover the pot/pan with a lid so as to prevent any rigorous splatter from reaching you, if you are trying for the first time. Don’t worry, soon you will get the hang of it.

Tempering

WHY USE A PRESSURE COOKER

In general, cooking with a pressure cooker is a very efficient method as the cooking time is shortened considerably, especially for hard grains and beans.

Only starchy, root or tuber vegetables should be pressure cooked.

Grab a copy of my educational cookbook, LOVE THY LEGUMES, to learn good cooking practices, selection of pressure cookers, and efficient ways to use a pressure cooker.

HOW TO THICKEN GRAVIES

For thickening a gravy/sauce you can employ any of the following depending on what dish you are cooking and the ingredients would complement each other. I tend to prefer these alternatives over corn flour or all-purpose flour or white bread (which is just empty calories). These can be used as binding agents in place of egg while making meatballs, patties, etc.

whole grain wheat bread/ high fiber bread crumbs

powdered oats

chickpea flour, gram flour, cooked dals

mashed potato or other tubers

milk, yogurt

blenderized onion or tomato

coconut milk

dessicated or fresh/frozen coconut (in small amounts)

nut paste (walnut/cashew/almond/peanut)

ground seed paste – sesame seeds, poppy seeds

roasted and coarsely ground spices

WHY PAN-FRY PANEER, AND HOW TO DO IT THE RIGHT WAY

I prefer not to deep-fry paneer. Deep frying causes the paneer to absorb a lot of oil and makes it very unhealthy. Instead make home-made paneer or use store-bought panner, cut it into rectangles/ squares and pan-fry on a non-stick pan without any oil on medium to high heat. You will see the milk fat in the paneer melts and glazes the pieces which turns brown in a uniform manner. Turn the pieces once the bottom side has turned brown enough for your preference. Don’t pan fry on low heat or for a long time, as it can dry out the paneer and make it tough. Then transfer to paper towel/napkin to absorb some milk fat and then use it for cooking or freeze for future use. The interior of the paneer pieces should be soft.

HOW TO PURCHASE & COOK SEAFOOD

Seafood cooks in no time (5-7 minutes). Fish fillets/ shrimp rubbed with spices and pan-fried in oil and served with sauteed veggies or a bowl of salad and brown rice can make a quick meal on weeknights. And your dinner can be ready in ~15 minutes.

Mussels can be steamed till they open up and that also takes around 5 minutes or so and serve over a tomato bisque and it is awesome. However preparing the mussels takes time – removing the beard and cleaning them..but its a once in a while affair…so enjoy it! 🙂

Fish can also steamed in banana leaf and served with chutneys. Baking fish covered with aluminium foil is more of a western style of cooking. Both baking and steaming are good  ways of cooking fish in terms of retaining the flavor of the fish and moistness however, they  may take longer than pan-frying.

I don’t enjoy deep fried fish but it is quite common in India. I feel that most of the time the flavor of the fish is lost or it becomes tough & dry if over-fried.

Making curries or stews with or without fresh coconut/ coconut milk can take your seafood dish to another level – or to the sea level (literally) bringing you closer to the flavors of the coastal cities.

In the US, if you are concerned about Mercury content of fish, here are some ways that you can learn to make safe choices:

  1. National Resources Defense Council has compiled a guide based on data from FDA & EPA : click here.
  2. American Heart Association lists recommendations, benefits vs risks of consuming fish : click here.
  3. Monterey Bay Aquarium advises on what farmed or fished varieties of fish have less impact on the environment: Visit their website Seafood Watch or download their app, enter the name of the fish and you will see the recommendations. App comes in very handy at the time of grocery shopping.

Seafood Guide Phone

Fish is a very good source of protein, low in fat, and some varieties contain omega 3 fatty acids which are good for your heart. 

HOW TO CHOOSE NON-STICK & STEEL COOKWARE

Invest in good stainless steel cookware set and a few highest grade non-stick pans. Choose non-stick cookware that has Dupont Platinum Plus non-stick coating – you can find the seal of platinum plus quality on the back side of the cookware. This type of coating is most durable, resilient, and does not chip off easily.

Take good care of your cookware. A few tips will go a long way:

  • Use only wooden or plastic utensils with your non-stick cookware.
  • Do not wash non-stick cookware with wire wool as it will scrape the coating.
  • Replace your non-stick pots and pans when they develop scratches.
  • Do not put hot cookware (any material) under running cold water; they tend to warp. Let them cool down naturally in order to maintain their shape.
  • Do not overheat the pots and pans.

Ikea 365 series has a good collection of steel and non-stick cookware of Platinum plus quality. Cuisinart steel cookware is also great.

 

 

CAST IRON SKILLETS

Cast iron cookware can help increase your iron intake when you use it for cooking acidic foods. They require special care to avoid rusting.

Wash, pat dry and oil the cast iron cookware for longevity.

Coming up….Anodized cookware (Stay Tuned)

 

 

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