Wednesday, August 25, 2010

All-New Food Adventures Part 1

I love to cook. But more than that, I love to watch TV. For someone like me, what's better than the Food Network? I watch it all the time. The current season of "The Next Food Network Star" recently finished. For those of you who haven't figured that one out yet, it's a reality show competition where the prize is your own show on the Food Network. I was rooting for Aarti the whole way, and she won. This last Sunday, her new show aired for the first time. I decided I wanted to make everything that she made.

Aarti is Indian (that's from India, not Native American), so naturally she cooks with a lot of Indian flavors. Something she does well is to take typical American dishes and recreates them with Indian flair. In the first episode of her show, she made Sloppy Bombay Joes, and I decided that I just had to give them a try. I also wanted to try the other things she made in her debut: Massaged Kale Salad and Creamy Pistachio Pops.

Monday I went to the store. Because my roommate works for Target, we always do our grocery shopping at Super Target. There's a longer story in there, but I don't want to get into it now. I was afraid that Super Target wouldn't have all the crazy ingredients I needed. I needed kale. Ginger. Cardamom and garam masala. A Serrano pepper - I didn't even know what one of those looked like, and I couldn't remember what it was from when Aarti cooked the recipe on TV. I needed cumin seeds, when I only had powdered cumin. I needed shelled pistachios and pumpkin seeds. I wasn't even sure if they'd have a mango.

Monday night is apparently not a good night to go shopping for exotic (for suburban Minnesota) produce. The label underneath a bunch of leafy greens said "kale," so I picked up a bunch. I didn't bother to check the label that wrapped up the bunch. When I got to the checkout counter, I noticed that the lady rang it up as collard greens. I figured she just had the wrong item number. Turns out it said "collard greens" right on the little label that held the leaves together. I bought the wrong main ingredient for my salad. Never mind. I'd make it anyway.

They were out of cilantro. Completely out. I even asked the produce guy. They were also out of Serrano peppers. I picked up a jalapeno instead. Knowing absolutely nothing about Serrano peppers, I had no idea if the jalapeno was even close to the intensity of a Serrano, but I was familiar with a jalapeno. Looking at this chart, I wasn't too terribly far off, and I erred on the weaker side. Considering my Minnesota taste buds, this was probably a good thing. I also couldn't find pumpkin seeds, shelled pistachios, or cumin seeds. In the end, I decided to leave out the pumpkin seeds, shell my own pistachios, and use the cumin powder instead of seeds. "It'll be fine," I told myself.

I also couldn't find Popsicle molds for the Creamy Pistachio Pops. I decided I'd just make it in a bowl and eat it like ice cream. The recipe even says I can do that.

My roommate also bought a set of knives for me - it's an early birthday present. The reason she bought them now ties into the reason we shopped at Super Target on Monday, and - again - not worth getting into it now. Let's just say that I got some new knives and I'm really excited about them.

Tuesday was cooking adventures day. It was also laundry day. I probably should have just stuck to one domestic endeavor, especially considering the experimental nature of the first domestic task, but laundry needed to be done. I got the first load of laundry into the wash, then started preparing my kitchen for the adventure ahead of me. I had to unpack and wash all the knives since they were new. I also had to clean a few dishes and put the weekend's dishes in the dishwasher. The Creamy Pistachio Pops had to freeze overnight, so I decided against cooking them - I'll make it another night. Instead, I washed the collard greens and removed their stems. By the time I was done slicing the collard greens, my laundry was ready to be moved to the dryer. Took care of that and got back to the salad.

The first thing after chopping the greens was to "massage" them with lemon juice, olive oil, and salt. I've never massaged a vegetable before, so this was a new experience for me. I gently caressed the greens, taking care not to tear them or break them. On TV, Aarti said it would start smelling like bananas after a minute or so. I never smelled bananas - it must be something to do with the kale.

Have you ever tried to dice a mango? It's not easy. Those buggers are slippery once the peel has been removed.

I've never made my own salad dressing before. This one consists mainly of lemon juice, olive oil, and honey. Now, I have a confession to make. I'm not really a big fan of olive oil. I hate the way it smells. The taste is all right, but I can't eat it without smelling it. This dressing has a lot of olive oil in it. A lot. I think that if (when?) I make this salad again, I won't use quite so much oil. It was too much for me.

Overall, the salad was quite tasty (except for the whole olive oil thing), and it would have been nice to get a little crunch from the pumpkin seeds that were supposed to be in there, but it wasn't bad. I'd really like to try it again with kale.

Here is a picture:

Since this post is now the length of a short novel, I'm going to make you wait for the next installment.

To be continued!

Next time, on "Things You Really Didn't Want to Know:" Becky learns about the usefulness of sharp knives and the wonders of ginger. Find out what happens when disaster strikes and Becky realizes that the entire recipe didn't print out. What will she do???


  1. I just bought sunflower oil last night, and I'm using it on a salad today - it seems to have a more mild taste than olive oil - might be worth trying! it also has a higher heat rating... you can stir-fry w/ it, etc. It's a little more spendy than olive oil, but really good for you. - Mandi

  2. Ooh, that's a good idea. I might have to give that one a shot.

  3. Lots of comments:

    I can't speak for the food selection at Super Target, but if you're going to get serious about doing some cooking, you should go to a real grocery store. Or two. We have a fancy-shmancy organic place we go for certain ingredients and then a Cub-like big box store for the rest. I'm curious about the reasons why you do Super Target -- hopefully you'll follow up on that.

    Do a Google image search on ingredients you aren't familiar with so you can get an idea of what they look like before you go to the store.

    Collard greens is a good substitute for kale, so that's not huge deal. Although kale is better for you than collard.

    I myself can't understand not liking the taste of olive oil -- we go through it by the gallon in our house. But here's a tip -- make sure you go with extra virgin olive oil. I find that it tastes better.

  4. You know, I actually have a lot of reasons for shopping at Super Target. One of the reasons is that I can do all my shopping in one trip - even if I need to buy some new shoes or a DVD or something. Also, it's where my roommate chooses to shop and since I don't have a car, I can't easily get anywhere else on my own.

    I also really like the Target-branded items, especially Market Pantry. I can't get my favorite granola bars (which I eat every morning for breakfast) anywhere but Target.

    There is a Cub a few blocks from my house, but I'm mad at them. Their produce is awful. I can't buy onions there anymore because I bought one once that turned out to be bad - rotten right down to the center. Now I'm afraid that all of their ugly onions are going to be the same way.

    There's a Kowalski's not far from my house, either, but I'm not willing to pay their prices. And Trader Joe's and Whole Foods are just too far away. Super Target it is.

    As for the olive oil, I do use the extra virgin olive oil. There's just something about it that I don't like. I'm weird.