Saturday, October 06, 2007

Food, Friends, and Fun

Saturday was devoted to a dinner party with Ben, Baker, Justin (taking the photo), and Casey, along with Baker's friends Daniel and Mark.

I went for a full Indian dinner, combining dishes of North and South India. Representing the North were Vegetarian Murgh Makhani (butter chicken), Palak Pakora, and Zucchini Pepper Pulao. For the South, I prepared Sweet Potato Sambar and Potato & Eggplant Poriyal.

Since most of the guys aren't vegetarian, I opted for one faux meat dish, a rarity in Indian vegetarian cuisine compared to most other vegetarian cuisines. I chose seitan, since most non-vegetarians prefer the texture of it over tofu. My favorite type is Taiwanese mock duck, but I didn't have time to visit Chinatown before the weekend. Luckily, it's pretty easy to make seitan at home.

The raw materials - vital wheat gluten flour (the protein of wheat left behind after the fiber and starch have been rinsed away) and nutritional yeast. This yeast is NOT related to the yeast used for bread. It's used to impart a richer flavor to the seitan, not to make it rise.

The great thing about making seitan at home is that you can add dry seasonings directly to the mix. It's tough to infuse flavor more directly than that!

Murgh Makhani is definitely not a dish for those watching their fat intake. A whole stick of butter went into the seitan.

Once the liquid and fat are added, the gluten is easily kneaded into a big ball.

It's then simmered for an hour. Unlike the simmering liquid for seitan bulgogi, this required an Indian approach, with tomato juice, cinnamon, and clove.

The finished faux chicken, ready for the chopping block!

To make things easier for the big cooking spree the next day, I made the pakoras at home. My fave pakora are palak (spinach) pakoras.

I added fresh basil leaves and carrots to this batch.

I'm so glad I finally got a wok. It's a perfect replacement for an Indian kadhai.

I usually roast pappadom, but since the dinner was going to be really rich in fat anyway, I deep-fried them.

Amazingly, only two broke on the way to the party.

Baker. Is. Awesome. The usual deal when I cook for friends is that they buy all the produce and I prepare everything myself. However, Baker was in the kitchen with me the whole time and took care of all the chopping. He's a culinary school grad, and it really showed. Everything was chopped so quickly and uniformly. He made dinner a total breeze. Plus, he made a date nut torte for dessert! Thank you, Baker!

Ginger, garlic, cumin, coriander, and bay leaves frying in ghee.

The finished veggie murgh makhani.

The pulao, just before boiling.

From Left to Right: Mango Chutney, Eggplant Chutney, Sweet Potato Sambar, Garlic Pappadom, Veggie Murgh Makhani, Zucchini Pepper Pulao, Potato & Eggplant Poriyal, Palak Pakoras.

Baker arranged everything beautifully. Oh, and I also made Cucumber Raita (right under my chin).

Ben approves of Baker's kickass date nut torte.


Justin said...

The date nut torte was mine, dear.

It's the recipe I never ever make for Baker ever.

Out of spite.

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