Saturday, April 16, 2011

Save the Planet: Deep-Fry Dinner

I realized as I started working on my food today that a lot of it was green. Should have saved this menu for Earth Day.

Started with the ice cream, raita and the batter for the candy bars. By now, I'm used to the heat-and-stir method for the ice cream, but ran into a snag here: bits of pistachio stuck to the back of the spoon, making it hard to tell whether the ice cream was ready to hit the water-bath or whether it was just nuttier than a fruitcake. (Fruitcake ice cream: one flavor I will *not* be trying.) I finally went for a time estimate.

Not much to talk about with the raita - a quick and easy preparation - except that I used my spice grinder to get freshly ground cumin seed and it is still spitting out almond paste. So there was probably the faintest trace of almond in my raita.

Final verdict (ice cream):
Taste is spot on; texture was ... off. I'm not sure whether it's the recipe (it calls for somewhere between 1 - 2 cups of pistachio, which is a lot of variance), I didn't blend it long enough, or I didn't cook it long enough. Good enough I'll try it again, but if it fails me a second time, I will banish it to the Wastebasket of No Return.

Final verdict (raita):
This is a very pleasant variant on a typical raita - the green grapes work very well against the sweetness of the banana - but the chunks are large enough as written that it doesn't really function *as* a raita. It's more of a hip Indian version of an ambrosia salad.

Started the mise en place for the two dinner dishes and decided spur of the moment to cut out one of the four chillis, since the first time I made one of these dishes with chillis, it darn near burned my mouth off. (The fact that I was sick of cutting by that point had nothing to do with it. Honest.) Insert standard disclaimer about reduction of onion application here.

Then came the cilantro. Wow ... I had no idea what a ridiculous amount two cups of chopped cilantro was. I'm going to be finding small pieces of chopped cilantro everywhere. I wouldn't be surprised if there's some under my pillow. You can't clean up the stuff: it goes everywhere. Dust has nothing on chopped cilantro. I'm afraid I might have caused problems with the koftas because I got sick of the cilantro and didn't chop it as finely as I might. Of course, starting to form the meatballs, then realizing I'd managed to miss that ridiculous amount of cilantro and having to re-clump them to start fresh ... that might have had something to do with it.
In my defense, this was a matter of misreading, not simple forgetfulness.

At this point, I should mention that I have a new kitchen gadget. It's a massive grater that has seven different sides and sizes, from extra fine grate to slice. Already having a Lesser Grater - which is the standard cheese grater - and a Greater Grater - which is the restaurant-style winding cheese grater - this one is, perforce, the Uber Grater. The Uber Grater was used to grate the potato for the koftas.

Once in motion, all went smoothly. I put the chilli into the soup too early, but that didn't seem to do much to the flavor. Discovered when I went to blend it that I had too much soup for my blender. Started to use the immersion blender, decided that would take too long, and poured part of the soup into a standard bowl to do it in two batches. Five minutes solid of improvisational madness.

I really should get the cosmic message that I wasn't meant to fry food. Every time I try, something goes awry. In this case, the koftas weren't particularly enthuiastic about holding together, but I whipped them into shape in time to finish the lot.

Final verdict (koftas):
Decent, but not worth the effort. They were kind of flavorless, and I don't think cutting back on the chillis was the problem.

Final verdict (soup):
Same kind of thing - not much flavor. I was really surprised, considering the fact that the soup involves steeping a piece of ginger root ...

After dinner, I got out my candy bar batter. Only comment here is I got the impression from watching Five Ingredient Fix that this was a fairly runny batter. Not so: I had to practically paint the batter onto the candy bars. My dog was intensely interested in this whole process.

I really needed more peanut oil, but I squeaked by, adding just a splash of extra-virgin olive oil ... a real waste of the stuff, but I needed the quantity. They fried up like a dream. I had purchased an assortment, so it was a wide variety of mini-bars. Watching the batter form in the hot oil was a bit like watching one of those science shows with pictures of amoeba. I ended up with some fried candy bars that had delusions of funnel cake.

Final verdict (candy bars):
All right, so maybe I am not completely hopeless at frying - I rather liked this. I might try to thin the batter in the future, just for ease of use. It's quick, easy and worth trying.

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