Spicing things up

May 19, 2010

I have been a very conventional cook.

Partly because I learned cooking very late in life (the only way to eat “familiar” food in Iowa City was to cook it) and partly because living in the Bay Area allows me the freedom to go on culinary adventures without spending time and energy in my kitchen.

I’ve prided myself in being a foodie — my definition of it being someone who will try anything (as long as it’s vegetarian) at least once before judging it.

I relish food.

Love the aroma, the presentation, the juxtaposition of the crunchy with the mushy, the sweet with the sour, the spicy with the cold.

From five course meals to one-dish dinners, I enjoy eating. Period.

But cooking expeditions in my kitchen have remained restricted to that which is known.

Indian masalas, rotis, pulaao, dal, sabzi (Hindi for any vegetable). If I felt like being “unconventional” I’d make pav bhaji or cheela.

Perhaps some papri chaat. Or chowmein.

But it would always be Indian food.

Until recently.

A couple of months ago, I decided that our dinners don’t have to go the traditional Indian route.

Nor do our breakfasts (for the most part restricted to parathas, cereal, or poha).

So far, I’ve tried my hand at buttered asparagus, sauteed mushroom and brussel sprouts, eggplant parmesan, purple potatoes, and Thai red curry — most recipes from Epicurious, a handy iPad app.

All recipes that steer clear of acid-reflex-inducing spices.

And yet spice up the variety of my offerings.

I’ve even tried my hand at baking — something I didn’t grow up seeing or doing — with “crookies” being my signature recipe (leftover cereal, pumpkin seeds, granola, and flax powder folded into Ghirardelli brownie mix).

My office mates have been known to refer to it as chocolate nirvana.

Crookies — a crunchy, healthy, delectable snack

As with the crookies, I’ve adapted online recipes — just to add that extra flair to the enterprise.

Made eggplant parmesan with mozarella, for example. Or added ginger to the purple potatoes.

Little tweaks here and there that make the dish my own.

Seventy percent of my home-cooked meals still constitute Indian food, but the other 30 percent is getting a tad audacious.

A little bit like me, I guess.

Mostly conventional. But then again, not.

16081BD1A60533E0F1173D28DE4F0D3F Spicing things up

dp seal trans 16x16 Spicing things upCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2010 Mansi Bhatia

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10 Responses to Spicing things up

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Mansi. Mansi said: Lately, I have been experimenting with myself (nose piercing, red hair). Now I’m spicing things up in my kitchen. http://bit.ly/b0bsQd […]

  2. BinzyNo Gravatar on May 19, 2010 at 4:11 pm

    All recipes look delicious; but it’s ‘purple potatoes’ which has stirred up my curiousity. I shall give it a try. Nice blog, Mansi !!

    • MansiNo Gravatar on May 20, 2010 at 10:07 am

      Thanks, Binzy. They tasted yummy, too — very distinct flavor.

  3. JeannieNo Gravatar on May 19, 2010 at 8:10 pm

    Could you please let us know the Crookie recipe? Those sound great!!

    Thanks :-D

    • MansiNo Gravatar on May 20, 2010 at 10:07 am

      It really is as simple as I detail in the blog post, Jeannie. Just get some brownie mix, add eggs, water, oil (per the instructions on the back cover) and then scrape out whatever leftover crushed cereal you have (usually the part no one wants to eat); dunk it in. Add raisins, nuts, flax, granola, pumpkin seeds, and flax and mix it all together. Take dollop-fulls and drop them on a cookie sheet. The chocolate will spread so remember to spread them out. Bake at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes (depending on your oven). Scrumptious crookies are ready for devouring. :-)

  4. BillNo Gravatar on May 20, 2010 at 3:31 am

    Oh I love to cook. I love to take a recipe & adapt it to something even better. I love spices & I’ve been known to add several to different things I cook. Cooking to me is very artistic, it allows us to play & see how things turn out. I do nearly all the cooking here & even when I don’t cook I’m often called in to help make something taste better…it’s fun!!

    Thanks for sharing your favorites.



    • MansiNo Gravatar on May 20, 2010 at 5:04 pm

      It’s therapeutic in some ways — cooking, that is. And innovation’s part of the game. I’ve never followed any recipe to the T — guess I just have to do my own thing (much like you) :-)
      Thanks for sharing, Bill.

  5. AjayNo Gravatar on May 20, 2010 at 5:50 am

    Masala Omelette looks delicious. Recipe please! :)

    • MansiNo Gravatar on May 20, 2010 at 10:03 am

      Thanks, Ajay. I mix all the Indian spices in my spice rack (garam masala, red chilli powder, jeera powder, haldi, dhania powder, heeng and some chat masala) with the eggs. Add salt and pepper. Whisk the eggs and add finely chopped onions, tomatoes, mushrooms, peppers (capsicum), asparagus, and peas. Mix well and pour in a pan. Then I add some grated cheese and cilantro (coriander leaves), cover and cook till the eggs are done. Voila!

  6. […] that I’ve started cooking, I can choose which veggies not to make, and which ones to experiment with, so they taste better. But along with that, I’ve also learned to open my world to new […]


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