Thursday, December 16, 2010

A trip to our local farmers' market

The Fremont (or should I say, tri-city) farmer’s market is open every Sunday at Newpark mall’s parking lot between 9.00 AM and 1.00 PM. Since it is a huge mall, finding a parking spot is no trouble. I also find it cheaper than the Sunnyvale and Mountain View farmers’ markets (my earlier residence). For us, a trip to the farmers’ market is not just a shopping experience, but also a Sunday morning outing!!  

My husband and son go around enjoying fruit samples and the sights and sounds of mid-morning urban farmers’ market while I go around shopping.

The Balloon guy who makes ghosts, aliens and swords for a tip, is fun to watch.

Fresh fruits and veggies at affordable prices - especially if you can wait until the closing time - between 12.30 and 1.00 PM.

My favourites - The greens
Mustard greens - great for Sarson ka Saag

The music man using a punched card music system and singing in French... may be German - not sure... 

The last few pieces of pumpkin

Interesting trinkets

Sometimes, we also find unique stuff like this ornamental 'Budha's hands' - At least that's what the guy behind the stand called it!! Amazing citrus aroma!!!

Beautiful flowers and orchid plants

My favourite persimon stand - $1 a pound. They are at their peak sweetness now and will be gone very soon. So, I grabbed 5 pounds for $4.

The dry fruits, nuts and chocolate stand from Rodin farms... They have an unbelievable variety of flavoured almonds - including corn chilly lime, wasabi etc... Here are the holiday cheer from them...

Some more holiday cheer!!!

Murali and Srihari ate lunch at the corn-on-the-cob stand... Thanks to California weather, some of us still roam around in half sleeves!!!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Channa Masala - The universal side dish

Channa masala is a very popular Indian side dish made using garbanzo beans. It goes well with rice, roti, poori, batura, bread etc. It also forms the base of many chaat preparations like samosa chaat and Kachori chaat.

Dried Garbanzo beans are always stocked up in my pantry. I generally soak them overnight and pressure cook with salt and one whole green chilly (which I remove later). It might seem easier to open a can, but there is a subtle difference in flavour and you can alter the way you cook it to achieve desired results.

This summer, we planted bell peppers in our small backyard. I love bell peppers, and when they are home grown, it becomes extra special and yummy. I dice them, saute them and add them to almost anything at the end of cooking process as a garnish. It brightens and freshens up any curry.

Garbanzo beans (dry) - 1 cup or 16 oz can
Onion - 1 large, diced
Tomato - 2 large, diced
Ginger - 1 inch piece, peeled and cut
Garlic - 5-6 cloves
Green chillies - 3 or to taste
Dried red Kashmiri chillies - 3 to 4 (optional)
Channa Masala powder or Garam masala (store bought)  - 1 tsp
Cinnamon stick - 1 inch piece
Cloves - 3 - 4
Bay leaf - 1 large
Green and /or red bell peppers - 1 to 2 (optional), diced
Salt to taste

If using dry garbanzo beans, soak in water overnight. Pressure cook with water and salt until soft.
If using canned beans, drain and rinse with water.
Heat little oil in a large skillet, saute ginger, garlic and onion. Add a little salt to let the onions sweat out. When the onion turns transparent and raw smell goes away, add diced tomatoes. When tomatoes are completely cooked, remove from heat, cool and grind into a smooth paste.
In the same skillet, saute the diced bell peppers for about a minute. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.
Add 2 tea spoons of oil to the skillet. When hot, add bay leaf, cinnamon and cloves. When they turn brown, add the cooked / canned beans and the ground paste. Add required amount of water so that the gravy just covers the beans. Add Channa masala powder and more salt to taste. Cook covered until it comes to a boil. Add sauteed bell peppers, mix well and serve with any accompaniment.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Ha Hawaii....

Just got back from a wonderful week-long Hawaiian vacation. Lots of unpacking, laundry and settling down to do... Will post soon :)

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Project POM dinner party - A recap

On Wednesday, the 10th of November, POM wonderland broke loose... My family and our guests had lots of fun during our POM dinner party. Throwing the party was relatively easy. Blogging about all of it (with recipes), is a different story... Together, it was a full two weeks long project.

First of all, thanks to POM Wonderful for selecting me to be one of the 100 hosts of POM dinner party. They were generous enough to send me two huge crates of pomegranates, a cutting board, a funny apron, free POM Wonderful juice coupons and gift bags for my guests to make my party a success.

Pomegranate is such a wonderful sweet-tart fruit,  packed with anti-oxidants. The arils (or more commonly seeds) can brighten up a salad or 'zing -up' a sauce or just be a simple great snack. These fruits have been incorporated in sweet and savory dishes in India for ages. Dried and ground pomegranate seeds, called anardana is used as a spice to make curries tangy.

Now that I'm done with the initial explanation and history, lets jump in and PARTY!!!!

When I received my 'POM package', I went 'Yippee'... The package was big! Really big!!

Now, It is time to get to work... The first step was to decide the menu and I themed it around Indian flavors.

I sent out evites to my guests stating the date and time of the party. Nitin, Priya, Radhika and Siva confirmed. Unfortunately, Smita, Neel and Sanvi could not make it :(

Then, we went about designing the decor. I searched online and also drew inspiration from POM Wonderful Decorations. Thanks to Murali (my hubby) who helped me shop and set up the displays. Our POM decor included 'The Lone Pome', 'A POM in a Cup', 'The Fall Pyramid' and the star of the night 'The POM fountain'. Read more about our decor story here.
Our POM decor

I started cooking for the party from the previous day. I wanted to finish all that can be done earlier (like granita, sorbet etc.), than toil till the end, on the party day (which I ended up doing anyways!!). I opened about 18 - 20 pomegranates over a period of two days... Yes!!! I did.

I pulled out my measuring cups... All along my little one, Srihari, was watching me work, and he decided to make mama some flowers with measuring cups and spoons. He came to me and said 'You like flower? Here you go amma.' and gave these to me!! Isn't he a sweetheart?
Flowers from my son!!!

After hours of cooking, the food was ready, just before it was time for the guests to arrive.

Welcome Drink: Pomegranate Juice-Shake

Appetizer/ Snack: Pomegranate Bhel.

Salad: Couscous - Black bean - Pomegranate salad

Main Course 1: Oatmeal crusted Veggie Masala Cutlet served with Pomegranate Chutney and POMyo! sauce.

Main Course 2: Yogurt Rice with Pomegranates

Dessert: Pomegranate Granita and Parfait

The guests arrived one by one. I had the dinner set up buffet style and we chatted along as we enjoyed our food.

Now comes my demo, on how to open a pomegranate. Murali shot and re-shot this video until it was okay. Srihari (patiently) helped me with the presentation. It goes without saying, that my techie hubby did all the editing and production.

Then we played a game of 'Passing the Pomegranate'. We (except me - I was the moderator) pass a pomegranate around while music plays. Whoever is holding it, when the music stops, is the victim. They need to 'perform' whatever the group wants them to and then leave the game. The person left out finally would win a grand prize...

Radhika was out first and had to dance. Then it was Priya who mimicked her husband Nitin. When it was Nitin's turn to 'perform', he told us one of his signature jokes. Next Murali was out and he had to propose to me all over again... Finally, the winner Siva had to relate his most recent "argument" with his newly-wed wife Radhika. He received a coupon for a free bottle of POM Wonderful 100% Pomegranate Juice as his 'grand' prize.

Then we had our dessert and said goodbyes, after an evening of enjoyment. The guests went home with the goody bags sent by POM Wonderful. I added a couple of pomegranates in each bag to let the guests try their hand in opening it.
My family and our guests with POM goody bags

The fun did not end there for me... My son and I did some fun POM crafts rest of the week.
We enjoyed POM printing, POM finger painting and POM tie-n-dye.
POM crafts
Overall Project POM Dinner party was a grand success. Thanks to POM Wonderful for throwing this challenge at me which forced me to get creative, try new things, like shooting a video and of course have fun all along. Lets all say POM POM POM!!!
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The POM Decor

The second thing, that I was working on for the POM dinner party was the POM decor (of course, the menu comes first, right??). This is the first time we are working on such decors. Thanks to Murali (my hubby) who helped me a lot with it.

The simplest of all was the 'Lone Pome' (inspired by Lone Cypress along the 17 mile drive, in Carmel). A single red POM Wonderful pomegranate sitting on a jewelery hanger. It adorned the center of my dining table during our party.
The Lone Pome

Next comes 'A POM in a cup' over the fireplace. We picked up these cute wooden cups (set of 4) from Goodwill for just 99 cents :-) I put one pomegranate on each cup and placed them with gourds, flowers and cones on top of the fireplace.
A POM in a Cup

We assembled the 'Fall Pyramid' with pomegranates and pumpkins.
Fall Pyramid
We put some 'Fall elixir' on a tray and arranged pomegranates and pumpkins to form a pyramid. We held them together using bamboo skewers. Then we placed berry branches to finish off.. This arrangement decorated the side table in our living room.

Now, for the highlight of all displays... Murali designed a table top 'POM fountain' that sat at our entrance welcoming our guests.
POM Fountain

We made a small fountain using a large bowl of water and a fish tank pump that we bought at Petsmart. We arranged pomegranates on a cupcake holder. The top-most pomegranate was held in place by bamboo skewers. We used green vines from the front yard between each tier. We placed the whole assembly in the bowl over the fountain. You plug it in... and the water gushes through the fruits, splashes and flows over!! Isn't that awesome!!! 

We had fun making these and learnt a lot about decorations all the way along. These displays impressed our guests during our POM dinner party. Check out the recap here.

Its dessert time with Pome!!!

Pomegranate for dessert?? what's better than a sorbet or granita??? Sorbet requires a ice cream machine to obtain that smooth texture... Since I didn't own one, I decided to go with granita.

This amazing ice reminds us (Murali and I) of the gola ice, from the street vendors of India. It is crushed ice formed into a popsicle and flavored sugar syrup poured on the top. It can be multi flavored, by poring different syrups on each part of the popsicle.

Next thought was, how can I improvise more on the dessert.... So, decided to make POM parfait, a layered dessert.


For granita:
Juice from 5 POM Wonderful pomegranates or POM Wonderful 100% pomegranate juice - 650 ml
Water - 650 ml
Sugar - 1 1/2 cups
Zest and juice of 1 lime

For parfait:
Roasted almond slices -1 tsp
Honey - 2 tbsp
Yogurt tinted pink with pomegranate juice - 1/4 cup
Pomegranate arils - 4 tbsp
Chocolate syrup - 1 - 2 tbsp
Pomegranate granita - as required.

To prepare granita, boil water with lime zest. When it comes to rolling boil, add sugar and stir until dissolved. Remove from heat and let it cool. Add pomegranate juice and lime juice, mix well and freeze in a tray in the freezer. When completely frozen, remove and break up the ice with a fork. When it turns slushy, return to the freezer and freeze completely before serving.

To assemble a parfait, in a tall glass, pour honey at the bottom and add half of the almond pieces. Add a layer of pomegranate granita, then a layer of pink yogurt, a layer of pomegranate arils, a layer of pink yogurt again and a layer of granita again. Top off with chocolate syrup and garnish with the remaining pomegranate arils and almonds.
The parfait need to be arranged fast as the granita would melt quickly.

This was dessert during the POM dinner party I recently hosted. Check out the recap here