Tuesday, March 30, 2010

When St. Louis Food Bloggers Gather (A Taste of Indian Street Food)

This was our first course--a "dosa" crepe made to perfection with a lentil and eggplant sauce. This had such wonderful flavor and texture--the dosa/crepe itself tasted like "air" with a touch of crunch and the eggplant sauce was the perfect match--flavored to perfection with the likes of coriander, coconut, curry leaves and funugreek seeds. This dosa did not get flipped over a second time--cooked only on one side. It is made from a fermented mixture of ground rice and lentils. We were all agog at this and asked "How were you able to grind to such a smooth consistency?" Lucky girl owns a contraption that is fairly common in India for just such work--grinding into fine powder lentils and rice. I imagine this sitting in her kitchen just awaiting it's next assignment. (*We all thought about using a Vita Mixer--of which I do not own yet--to make it accessible to our own kitchens. For now, I really think our best bet is to go to the global food store and purchase the pre-ground items separately and follow her instruction.)   

This is a mound of yukon gold potatoes (aka, potato cake)-- that were peeled and put through a ricer, then shaped and fried. That's it. A little salt was added. We had these with a chickpea curry!

This is Nupur, our wonderful instructor of all things Indian Street Food--cooking us up some amazing food!

Okay, I had to have four of these. I could have easily eaten six, maybe even eight. After all, it is only potato and chickpeas! But the amazing-tasting chickpea curry was topped with a tamarind chutney (she mashes up her own tamarind, but said it would be okay to use the jar kind--which would have been my only option since I've never seen tamarind in person). The chutney was made with "jaggery"--an unrefined sugar made right in Nupur's own home state in India. She extoled the sugar's fine quality and nutrient value given it's origin and lack of processing. (I must get my hands on some of this!) The dish is then topped off with noodles that were fried--made from chickpeas! Who knew?

First, last night's gathering with fellow St. Louis food bloggers was filled with some darn fine food coordinated by a wonderful host and wonderful instructor. It was so fun to see the faces of folks and learn what blogs they run and what their passions are. (Mostly food, or else why would we be there?)


This was only my second cooking class I'd ever attended. Being vegan has its limits in terms of "cooking class" options, especially in the heart of the Midwest. The first class I took was in pre-vegan days (I was vegetarian then) and mostly consisted of people out for a good meal and cheap wine. I learned a thing or two--like I don't care much for cream puffs and that more than cooking, some people just like to be fed.

No sense in beating around the bush, I had to take my beta-blocker to make it to this soiree. And, I didn't think I'd even make it out the door--I never do until about an hour before my TOD (time of departure). I noticed my body sweating as that started to creep in as I began to talk a bit more as the evening wore on--and maybe my beta-blocker wore off, (and no, this was not a hot flash--just nerves)! And talking more is my way of compensating for my nervousness. So, I tried to keep my plate full, and busy with eating the insanely good Indian food stuffs we had cooked for us--I could have eaten, and eaten and eaten!

If you've ever seen the movie, Charlie And The Chocolate Factory with Gene Wilder, then you know what a candy store can do to a kid. Kitchen Conservatory here in St. Louis is my "chocolate factory"! This is where our class took place. First things first, I had to shop and came armed with my "needed items" list in my purse: a tart pan--never owned one before. . . a wooden gnocchi board thingy--which when I showed to Mr. Thyme he was like, Uh, I could have picked you up one of these in the spackling department at Home Depot--whatever!. . . then, I got a brioche bread mold because darn it, I will make Peter Reinhart's brioche from Bread Baker's Apprentice if it kills me. . . and some pie weights (I've always wanted some) vs. using old, coppery pennies. . . and finally, some little 8 oz. cups for making savory dishes--which the name always escapes me--but you know what I'm talking about!)

The store's proprietor, Anne, is the writer of the food blog, What's Stirring. The coordinator of the "food blog" fest was Alanna from A Veggie Venture. (Be warned, her website has a mighty pull--one could get lost in the goodness of her cooking passions!) Finally, our wonderful instructor/fellow food blogger was Nupur of One Hot Stove. (Another food portal with so many "feast" ideas--schedule some time there, you won't be sorry!) And another treat and surprise for me was meeting Lisa from Show Me Vegan! Lisa shares my love for animals and especially rescued dogs. Here's a little known fact: I was first inspired by the idea of blogging "vegan" through Lisa's blog--so many thanks goes to her for giving me the courage to "get-out-there-and-blog-already"!

So in this company, I felt like a kid at the grown-up table. (After you've visited these blogs, you'll understand why!) I am a mere babe in the woods out here in vegan food blogging.

As for our Indian Street food: Yum! I am a sucker for all things curry. I had my first taste of Indian food maybe nine years ago. That's a darn shame, too. Oh the foods I have missed. I would recommend--and even make myself--any one of the lovely samples of Indian foods Nupur served up last night. I have Indian cookbooks, at least six of them. I want to be a good Indian curry cook, I really do--but I overwhelm easily! (Especially my one cookbook: 660 Curries--why did I buy that?) I am way too attention-deficit for a cookbook with this many options (and few pictures to accompany).

The photos speak for themselves, really! In the middle and end courses we had the following: An Indian Street food sandwich made of a swipe of vegan butter, then a swipe of this incredibly easy cilantro, spearment, lemon and salt chutney put through the, again, Vita Mixer (that's on my wish list now)--giving it this velvety smooth texture, topped with slices of cucumber, tomatoes and, thinly sliced beets. I have to be honest, when I saw the beets come out, I was like, gulp--not a fan of the beet. But I gotta say--they were wonderful tucked in between my real bread and seasoned with the finely ground fresh chutney! Someone asked, "You have bread in India?" It's a good question, really. I would not imagine their bread to be Wonder or anything white and starchy like that--we were all assured, Yes, they have bread in India.

For dessert--carrot pudding--and I loved it--and have never tasted anything like it before. Mind you, I have run across the recipe for this dish, but was like, ewww. I never would have given this a second thought until now. My taste buds were delighted!

Now, I have to head out to get a run in and to plant some seeds today!

8 comments:

  1. That sounds like so much fun. I will check out those blogs you recommend. BTW, if your thinking of getting a blender might I suggest you check out the Blendtec. They are shorter so they fit underneath the kitchen cabinets(which is VERY important to me). I know this sounds shallow but the Blendtec is just prettier than the Vitamix. I love the square jar too. I bought mine at costco so I have a 7 year warranty just like the other. Sorry, I know I sound just like a commercial but I love my Blendtec. Have you ever seen the videos on youtube called Will It Blend? That is them. Okay, I'm done ranting, have a great run and happy seed planting.

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  2. It was so great to meet you, Kelly! Congrats for making your way into a brand-new group of people, lured by -- what else?!! -- good food! I'm still working out that VitaMix idea, my $20 blender seems awfully pedestrian right now.

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  3. Kelly- hugs to you for such a sweet write-up! It makes me so happy that you enjoyed the food yesterday.

    It was so much fun to meet you, and anytime you want to eat home-cooked vegan Indian food, you have an open invitation to my home.

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  4. To my veganhomemaker friend! Oh, we had so much fun and too much good food, I was so pleased! And I will toally will check out that blender! I am all about size and space issues because my house was built for people a lot smaller than me "way back when"! So thanks so much for the head's up on that--I've never been to Costco--hmmmm, perhaps very soon!

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  5. Alanna--thank you again! What a wonderful night and such lovely people. As you gathered from my post, new groups and "new" things of that nature are not something I take lightly--so I was lucky you all were so very kind! I was seriously nervous but you all made it so much better--the food helped a lot!

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  6. Hi Nupur! Your cooking was the best and thank you! I raved about it when I got home, too! OMG--I will SO take you up on the offer of home cooked Indian food sometime, so I hope you were serious! Plus that rice/lentil grinder boggles my mind!

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  7. Oh man, I may have already mentioned, but we desperately need a new blender, too! Neither of our yard sale tools are working and I'm contemplating making the jump after hearing so many raves about Vitamixes and Blendtecs.

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  8. Just found this blog! This post brought a smile to my face :), especially the dosas! Yae! They are vegan, and very healthy if made without oil.

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