Friday, October 29, 2010

Curry in a Hurry

When craving comfort food, my mind often turns to curries. I believe that there is a misconception in thinking that curries are difficult to make. However, I do believe that the difficulty lies on the fact that most people do not have the required spices readily available. Once you build-up your spice rack, with a few simple spices, India will be at your fingertips.

Here is my take on a curry using okra (a.k.a. lady's fingers).

I begin with rinsing/washing some okra.

You may use fresh, frozen or canned okra for this recipe. In this case, I used a canned variety by Phoenicia. I think this product is great, as it doesn't contain any harsh preservatives.

You will also want to keep aside approximately 1 cup chopped carrots. I find that carrots compliment the okra very well, mainly due to their sweetness. As an alternative, you may want to use potatoes or even sweet potatoes.

Now you will begin to create the base for your curry. You will need approximately 1 teaspoon of black mustard seeds.

Place the mustard seeds in a pot with approximately 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Cover the lid and set the temperature to high. You will begin to hear the mustard seeds pop like popcorn. This process ensures that their magnificent flavour is released.

Once you hear the popping stop, remove the pot from the heat and open the lid.

Now place inside some puréed tomatoes.

Note: You can use any type of tomato for this dish (e.g., fresh tomatoes, crushed tomatoes or even tomato paste). If you decide to use alternatives, you will have to adjust the amount of water added.

Here come the spices. In a small bowl, I set aside the following:
- 2 teaspoons turmeric
- 2 teaspoons cumin
- 2 teaspoons coriander
- 2 teaspoons paprika
- 2 teaspoons minced garlic
- chili flakes to taste (this ingredient can be omitted)

Literally dump the spices into the tomato purée. Add salt to taste.

Give it a bit of a whirl, cover and let it sputter away on the stove, for approximately 2-5 minutes.

You have now created a base for your curry.

Mix in the pieces of okra and carrot.

Top off the mixture with a little water, so that you have enough moisture to cook the vegetables well. Cover and simmer until your carrots ready (approximately 20 minutes).

This hearty and spicy dish will leave you wanting more. Enjoy it with bread, roti, or on a bed of basmati rice.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

I bet you can't eat just the one!

On the healthiness scale, potato chips and green leafy vegetables seem to be on opposite ends of the spectrum. Although potato chips are very tasty, I have discovered a healthier alternative by using kale.

Kale is a dark green vegetable related to cabbage. It has an incredibly high nutritious value and is available in most supermarkets.

Begin with removing the leaves from the stalks. Also remove any large veins. You may keep the bare stalks aside for use in making stock or broth.

Wash the kale leaves and dry them well using a salad spinner.

Sidebar: You are probably wondering how a salad-like leaf can become crunchy by cooking them. Well, the trick is to use dry kale. Otherwise, you will end up with steamed vegetables. (A few beads of water are okay.)

Proceed with placing the kale in a mixing bowl.

Now, pretend you're making a salad. Add some olive oil and sea salt, and toss well. Other flavours may be added at this time. For example, in this batch, I added some chili powder.

Place the coated leaves on an aluminum foil-lined baking tray. Be sure to space them out well.

Bake them in a 350° F oven for approximately 10 minutes, or when the edges have become brown.

Your chips are ready. They are extremely crunchy and have an addictive taste. Serve alone or with your favourite dip.

For some suggestions for creating different flavours, try these:

I made this batch with sea salt and sesame seeds.

This batch was created using sea salt, cracked black pepper and Indian limbu na phool or cirtric acid crystals. (It is used as a spice in Indian cooking.)

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

A 1000 Times the Gratitude

Quanto Basta has hit over 1000 page views!

Thank you all from the bottom of my heart. It is great to know that so many of you are interested in reading about my view on good food.

This blog has touched many countries, some of which include:
- Canada
- United States
- Portugal
- Germany
- South Korea
- United Kingdom
- Russia
- Sweden
- Qatar
- Brazil
- Philippines

As this day brings me something a little sweet, I thought I would feature something else that is little and sweet.

Presenting Pocket Coffee.

This little chocolate is made by Ferrero, the same company that brings us Ferrero Rocher and Nutella. This particular product is filled with a sweet liquid center of espresso that is encased in dark chocolate. Two addictions in one little package!

They are so good that I keep a small stash for myself. These little wonders are so difficult to find, that I request them from anyone I know who is going to be visiting Europe.

Look out for these goodies. You'll be hooked for sure!

Thank you again. Keep reading and keep eating well!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Have I got a fresh date for you!

I have already described my love for dried dates in a previous entry (You can click here to read it). A few times each year, another type of date is available; the fresh date. Now is the time. I found these in a great grocery store called Highland Farms in North York, Ontario.

Fresh dates have completely different qualities compared to their aged partners. Fresh dates have the crunch of an apple and the sweetness of a persimmon. One thing they have in common is the great dietary fiber they provide. This hard-to-find fruit is derived from date palms and is a staple throughout the Middle East.

To prepare, simply wash them under water. You will find that there is a stone inside that looks exactly like the type found in dried dates.

If you have decided that you do not want to eat them whole, you can slice them or dice them in any way that pleasures you.

Here are some ideas for you to add a crunch by using fresh dates in your diet:
- incorporate them to a fruit salad
- mix them with nuts or berries
- stir them in yoghurt
- add to a fresh green salad
- top off your morning cereal

Monday, October 25, 2010


The persimmon, also known as Sharon fruit or kaki, truly is the fruit of the gods. They come in many different varieties, but always look somewhat like a tomato. They have a high level of sugar and can have an alum-like taste. In other words, fruit is astringent (it makes your mouth pucker).

Persimmon pudding is an American dessert which is traditionally made in Indiana. It is an English-style pudding, meaning it has a dense texture, similar to Christmas pudding.

Over the last few years, I have perfected my recipe.

Begin with some over-ripened persimmons. These ugly fruit look like they should be thrown out, but they are packed full of sugary goodness. In this state, they are quite easily peeled by hand.

Remove the leaves and the skin and collect approximately 1 cup of the sweet pulp.

In a blender, mix together the pulp with 1/2 cup of sugar, 1 teaspoon of vanilla and one large egg. After a few pulses, your mixture should look like the picture below:

Now add 2 cups of milk and blend it for another minute.

In a bowl, prepare your dry ingredients; 2 cups of all-purpose flour mixed with 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda.

Combine your dry ingredients with the pulp mixture by alternating between the two, so that there are no lumps created. For this part, I find it using a whisk or egg beater useful. The combined batter should look like this:

Pour the mixture into a greased baking mold. (With this amount of batter, I was able to fill three 2-cup molds.)

Bake the mold on a tray and in an oven, preheated to 350° F, for approximately one hour. The cooking time will vary depending on the size of your molds and your individual oven. Your finished product should look like the one below:

Note that the pudding will deflate quite rapidly after being removed from the oven. Allow your persimmon pudding to cool before flipping it out of the mold. 

Enjoy your persimmon pudding warm or cold. Serve by itself or with either a sprinkling of icing sugar or a topping of freshly-whipped cream.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Nature's Mayonnaise

Avocados are a truly amazing fruit. They are considered to have a high fat content, but this type of fat is the good stuff that keeps you healthy. When ripe, they can be squeezed gently with a little pressure. At that time, it can be sliced, diced or even smashed into the consistency of a creamy mayonnaise.

When presented with ripe avocados, you have the perfect opportunity to make fresh guacamole. Of course, the best guacamole comes from a Mexican abuela, slowly creating it with a mortar and pestle. Since most of us do not have a Mexican grandmother, I will show you how to prepare the next best thing.

There are many recipes to make this dip. However, as always, I find that simple is better.

Also, it is not just the ingredients that make the dish; it is the process.

Begin with some finely chopped onion.

If you are like me, you like the taste of onion, but you don't want to taste it for the next three days. For this reason, I soak the minced onion in the lemon juice. The acid in the lemon juice cooks the onion and removes its offensive properties.

Substitution: You may use lime juice for this process. However, I prefer the relative sweetness and fresh flavour of the lemon.

Soak the onion in the liquid for a minimum of 10 minutes.

Next comes the star ingredient; avocados.

I have witnessed many people struggle when handling this fruit. So, here are some easy steps:

Begin with cutting your avocado with a knife, from top to bottom and around the circumference. You will hit a hard pit in the middle.

Gently twist the two sides, in opposite directions, to separate the halves.

The inner meat can be removed easily by scooping it out with a spoon.

The remaining skin and pit can be discarded.

Place the scooped avocado directly on top of your onion-lemon mixture.

Continue this process until you have enough avocados as required. (I used five.)

For me, a very important ingredient in the recipe is tomato. Most guacamole recipes do not call for it, but I find that tomatoes add an amazing freshness and texture. I have tried creating the dip without the use of tomato and it just does not taste right.

First, dice your tomato.

Proceeded to smash the pieces using a spoon or fork.

Place the smashed tomato directly on top of the avocados.

Now, you can go to town! Combine all of the ingredients together using a spoon or fork. You can leave the mixture as chunky or as smooth as you prefer.

Add salt to taste.

This dip will be the talk of any party or gathering!

Feel free to incorporate some additional ingredients, such as:
- garlic
- cilantro
- fresh parsley
- freshly ground black pepper
- sour cream

Here are some ways you can enjoy your guacamole:
- with potato or tortilla chips
- as a spread
- as a dressing for salads
- in sandwiches
- as a dip for vegetables