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Friday, February 11, 2011

Sanjeev Kapoor's Potato, Banana, and Pomegranate Chaat

I just came across a picture of a chaat I made a couple months ago and thought I'd share the recipe now. It's from Sanjeev Kapoor's first U.S.-published book, How to Cook Indian [Food], which I worked on a bit for STC in late summer. The book is well worth checking out when it's released in April—it's absolutely loaded with fun, authentic, but do-able dishes from all over India. I especially liked the chaats, of course.

Aloo Kachalu Chaat
Serves 4 to 6.

This is only slightly simplified from Sanjeev's version.

1 1/2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt, or more to taste
1 teaspoon tamarind concentrate
1 teaspoon chaat masala (see Note)
1 large ripe banana
2 potatoes, boiled, cooled, peeled, and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 sweet potato, boiled, cooled, peeled, and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 hot green chiles, minced
1/4 cup fresh pomegranate arils
Handful of fresh cilantro, chopped
1-inch piece fresh ginger, cut into thin julienne

In a large bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, salt, tamarind, and chaat masala. Add the banana, potatoes, sweet potato, chile, pomegranate, and cilantro and toss to coat. Taste and add more salt if necessary. Pile on a platter and scatter the ginger over the top. Serve at room temperature.

Note: The spice mix chaat masala can be purchased at Indian grocery stores, or you can mix up some of your own, or just sprinkle in a little coriander, cumin, and ground cayenne. Sanjeev's chaat masala: 1/4 cup coriander seeds, 2 teaspoons cumin seeds, 1 teaspoon ajwain, 2 or 3 dried red chiles, 3 tablespoons black salt (which I think is rather a lot), 1/2 teaspoon citric acid, 1 teaspoon amchur, 1 tablespoon regular salt, and 1 teaspoon ground black pepper—whole spices toasted and ground and then everything mixed together. Makes 1/2 cup.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Bulk Valentines

After last year's ill-advised adventure in elaborate preschool Valentines made weeks in advance (and the heartbreak that ensued when we found out that the class Valentines were not to be addressed to individual students, nor were they to contain any sweets), this year we made it easy on ourselves and did our anonymous cards assembly-line style.

I taped two sheets of 9-by-12-inch watercolor paper down on the table in front of the kid, and masked off six rectangles on each with tape, plus a border all around the edges. She just painted over the whole thing every which way (I painted some too), let it dry, then peeled off the tape and I cut them up into cards. Then I taped together some rubber letter stamps spelling out "THALI" and had her stamp each of them one night before bedtime; we untaped and added the final "A" at the end. Done.

She can write her name, of course, but I weighed the benefits to her of practicing her handwriting on twenty-eight cards against the possibility that it would make her mom go absolutely mad, and so she stamped.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

A Pretty Good Way to Hem Jeans

Not at all food related, but I thought I'd post this anyway, along the lines of my little invisible zipper tutorial from way back, on the assumption that perhaps not a lot of people know how to hem jeans. Hey, at least it's content.

Almost all of my jeans have needed to be hemmed—I'm just that kind of shape, I guess. That is, not willowy. This is how I do it so I don't lose the nicely frayed and washed-in factory hem.

1. Fold the hem to the outside so that if you were to fold just the hem back down toward the floor it would be the length you want. In this picture, the red line will be the final length of the pant leg. Press well.

2. Put a jeans needle in your machine if you have one, and an edge-stitching foot if you have one. I've recently started using the edge-stitching foot whenever I can—it just makes it easier to sew a straight line—but it's certainly not necessary here. I don't use any special kind of thread here, but you could use heavy-duty if you'd like. I used a dark blue in the needle and a dark gray in the bobbin. Using a slightly longer stitch than usual, sew right next to the turned-under edge of the original hem. Depending on the jeans and your machine, it may get tricky as you go over the side seam and inseam. Go slowly, and help it along by turning the wheel manually if necessary. If you can't get over the inseam, don't force it: cut the threads and continue by hand.

3. In this case, I did have to stop before I got to the inseam because it was too thick to fit under the presser foot, even when it was raised (these are men's jeans; I haven't had this issue with my own), so I sewed that part by hand with a doubled thread, a long needle, and a thimble.

4. Using a regular presser foot and switching the needle thread to light gray (if you want to be fussy about it), line up the left edge of the foot with the line of stitching you just made, and sew a line of zigzag stitching (scribbled in red here) all the way around the pant leg.

5. Cut off the folded edge as close to the zigzag stitching as you can, being careful not to cut the stitching and being extra careful as you cut through the thick side seam and inseam so your shears don't go where you don't want them to.

6. Sew another line of zigzag stitch that extends just over the cut edges to keep unraveling to a minimum; note that you're sewing through two layers of seam allowance here.

7. Turn the zigzagged edge up to the inside of the pant leg and the original hem to the bottom. Press the bejeezus out of it, using lots of steam.

7. By hand, tack the seam allowances up to the side seam and inseam to keep them from flopping out.

8. Press some more, and you should have a pretty good-looking hem that you'd have to look closely at to see wasn't the original. You may have to press them again after they go through the wash, you may not. You could also, I suppose, take them to a dry cleaner and ask them to hit the hems with the professional steam iron.