Posts Tagged ‘indian spices’

Everything from Soup to Nuts – Spicy Foods in the Old World and Asia

June 22, 2012

Italian Pumpkin Soup

When I used to visit Aunt Adel, she used to prepare a six course Italian meal described by her as “Everything from Soup to Nuts.” Now any one of the courses could have been a meal unto itself but if you were really Italian, which I was not, you learned to pace yourself, which I did not. 

I never much thought about the purpose of each course and why some foods were alleged to go together until I first started thinking about the Inflammation Factor and healthy anti-inflammatory spices. Now as I mentioned before on the post on pumpkin soup, the addition of a chicken breast and some carrots makes this a hearty meal and since pumpkin is still on sale, I decided to check it out and find out how healthy it was.

I went to the Nutritionaldata site to check for the calories, protein, carbohydrates and Inflammation Factor for each ingredient including a chicken breast and carrots. I added up the totals for everything in the pot and was amazed at how healthy this soup really is and how high the anti -inflammatory qualities are. The results have been divided in two to reflect that the pot holds enough food for two people or two meals.

Calories 319
Protein 46
Carbohydrates 30
Inflammation Factor 709

Now this is a very impressive balanced low calorie anti-inflammatory meal, just the type I wanted to experiment with on my detox. Since I never do anything half way, I added fresh grated ginger, hot pepper and celery and more than doubled the anti-inflammatory properties without altering the other values by much.

I begin to see the concept of “Soup to Nuts” when I checked the anti-inflammatory properties of Almonds which Aunt Adel traditionally served at the end of the meal and found out they also had a positive influence. The concept would appear to be that if the meal started with and ended with foods high in anti-inflammatory properties, you could indulge in whatever you liked in the middle courses.

Pinto bean Curry

This new knowledge got me to thinking about other old world foods so I checked on some Indian Recipes while searching for a vegan recipe. The pinto bean recipe was also an original Indian recipe and unmodified by me as I don’t know enough about Indian Foods to alter the spice blends, but “I know what I like.” Once again I was utterly amazed at how high the anti-inflammatory properties are.

Calories 586
Protein 19
Carbohydrates 82
Inflammation Factor 1141

I guess in the old days, the people of the world did not have the luxury of picking and choosing what they were going to eat and just ate whatever was available to survive. To compensate for what might be the ill effects of refined flour and white rice, they just added spices and balance to the meals and got on with their lives. In many of these cultures, people live longer than Americans despite drinking too much wine and eating refined grains and starches so, I guess spices could be important.

In my mind, the jury on anti-inflammatory foods is still out but I intend to monitor what I naturally eat for the next year and make my decision after I go through a winter where my level of aches and pains traditionally increases.

Grilled Spicy Fish and Grilled Bok Choy

June 15, 2012

Grilled Spicy Fish and Bok Choy

Seems my daughter called a few weeks ago with a recipe for Tandoori Salmon which she got from a magazine called Cooking Light which promised a whole bunch of recipes involving 5 ingredients and 15 minutes. This is one of those slick magazines by the checkout counter in grocery stores published by the people at Coastal Living and Southern Living. The spice list was basic involving Ginger, Turmeric and Cumin.

I laughed and told my daughter I was starting to like and become a fairly decent Indian cook and was sure I had never cooked Tandoori because I didn’t have all the spices and this was so basic that it probably bore no resemblance to real Tandoori. She said she was OK with that because there were limits to what her daughters would eat. I checked Tandoori and I was correct, I didn’t have the spices on hand to cook that style but I could bring this basic recipe up a notch with spices traditionally used in Tandoori cooking. As a matter of fact, these spices are fairly traditional in all Asian Cooking. I used the rub with tilapia which is a fairly bland fish but could see it working with much stronger fishes like tuna.

My Spicy Fish Rub


1 oz ginger grated about 2 Tablespoons
1 T crushed garlic
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp garam masala
2 T Lemon Juice


1. The Ginger was grated and the spices and lemon juice mixed in a bowl.

Coated Bottom of Fish and Spice Mix

2. The spice mix was coated on one side of the fish.

Fish on Duck Rack with Both Sides Coated

3. The fish was placed on a duck rack for Grilling with the spicy side down. I use the duck rack because I don’t have to flip the fish or move it until it is over a platter. This prevents fish in the coals.

4. The spice mix was coated on the other side.

The Grill is set up for Bok Choy (top) and the Fish (bottom)

5. The grill is set up with areas to grill the Bok Choy and grill the fish.

Grilled Bok Choy

Grilling Bok Choy is simple and another nice and easy way to eat it. The Bok Choy is cut in half in the long direction, placed in a bowl and drizzled and tossed with Olive Oil.

The fish is placed on the grill and cooked for about 10 minutes. The Bok Choy is tossed on the vegetable area (top of grill picture) and cooked covered. Every couple of minutes toss it like stir frying. When done remove from grill and serve.

Spicy Fish and Garbanzo Beans

March 24, 2012

Spicy Fish and Garbanzo Beans

The major problem I have in cooking for one person is scaling recipes, especially those using unfamiliar spices or those that call for a pinch of something. I have both problems scaling Indian Foods which are new to me yet are well worth my interest when it comes to flavor. I have been inspired by Monica at the Spice Diary and have been a student of hers for almost two years. Some of the things I have noticed about her recipes are: Indian spices are unique and it is difficult to make substitutes; because of this, don’t even try a recipe unless you have all the ingredients; and don’t second guess the amount Monica uses until you are totally comfortable with the genera.

Initially, I decided to make her recipes using the recommended amounts for the spice blends (masala), marinades and sauces and just reduce the amount of meat and potatoes. Even though I hate to waste anything, I figured if I were to never use the spices again, making too much sauce was really not much of a waste. Eventually, I figured out that I was a real fan of Monica’s cooking and beginning to be a fan of her style of Indian cooking, but still, I was not familiar enough with the spices she used to know where I could scale back. I didn’t want to cook a pound of Chicken for three meals instead of 5 ounces of meat so there was always sauce left over.

Eventually the same solution evolved for all of the Italian, Caribbean and Indian Meals I make and that is rebuilding the sauce into an entirely different meal. Over the next few posts, I will present an example of each type of meal being rebuilt into something entirely different without voiding the concept of portion control or being tempted by leftovers.

The Spicy Fish and Garbanzo Beans is a remake of Monica’s Spicy Chicken Previously Published on February 27. Now I know that that meal was prepared about February 10th because of the flowers with this meal pictured above. I had purchased a dozen carnations on February 13, and gave away half to women I knew in semi random acts of kindness. A couple of nights before, I had a grilled fish and ate half. If you check the Spicy Chicken Recipe closely, you will find about 12 ounces of seasoning and sauce for the two small thighs I ate.

Recipe (if you want to call it that):

I saved the sauce left over from Monica’s Spicy Chicken. I added the deboaned half of the fish to the sauce. I cooked a half cup of garbanzo beans (1 drained can) and added that to the fish and the sauce. Warm in the coffeepot for two hours, serve with flowers and enjoy.

The next day was Valentines and I gave away half of the flowers I had left  to friends at the Palms Resort and kept the rest.

Take note, the bottle to the left of the wine glass is local West Indian Hot Sauce. Talk about cross cultural confusion? Even though I added hot pepper to the original recipe, I wanted just a little more heat with this meal.

Monica’s Spicy Indian Chicken

February 27, 2012

Monica's Spicy Indian Chicken

It’s far easier to cook creativity when you are “born to” a family of spices. While my mother was not a creative cook and used only minimal spices, I learned to cook Italian at the same time my wife did and because of her heritage and the foods her family and extended family cooked for us, we had a very high standard of excellence. We began to experiment and expand our knowledge of Italian Spices. Of course there are many family tricks, like if the sauce scorches slightly, add a small amount of sugar, or if the new batch of oregano is bitter, use more basil.

I had the chance to be born again into the family of Puerto Rican Spices as I cooked with my good friend Chino. So I just naturally stuck with BBQ, Caribbean and Italian foods as my staples in life until I stumbled on Monica’s Blog of Indian Foods. I don’t know what possessed me to try a new genera, except I was probably bored with the same old flavors. The hardest problem in cooking good Indian Food is finding all the spices and from experience I hate to alter a recipe before I have tried the real deal.

Over time, I have managed to assemble quite a collection of Indian spices and the only one I am not quite sure if I like the flavor is star anise, and it seems I may have figured out the reason why when I was delayed from eating this meal on the day I cooked it and ate it the day after. When you cook Indian Food at low temperatures the first flavor which develops is the star anise and it has a strong Sambuca like flavor which is OK to drink but I am not sure I want it in my food. Since I ate out even though I had prepared the food in my coffeepot, I decided to eat it the next day.

It was fantastic as all the flavors merged together to become one.

Monica’s Spicy Indian Chicken

For the marinade
6 oz chicken (I used thighs with bone. The original recipe calls for up to a pound)
1tsp salt
1tsp black pepper
1T grated garlic (More than the original but I like it.)
1 T fresh grated ginger (More than the original but I like it.)
1/2tsp paprika
1/2tsp garam masala
1 T dried coriander (No fresh available.)
2 T yoghurt

For the masala (Sauce Blend):
3 T olive oil
1 tsp cumin seeds
4 cloves
1 bay leaf
1 star anise
Pinch of cinnamon powder
1 onion, diced
1 slice 1/8 inche hot pepper
1 T grated garlic
1 T grated ginger
salt (according to taste)
1tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1/2 tsp paprika powder
1 T coriander
4 oz crushed Tomatoes


1.Mix the marinade in a bowl until uniform, add the chicken pieces.
2.Leave to marinate for one hour in the fridge
3.While waiting, add oil to coffeepot and when hot add cumin, cloves, hot pepper, cinnamon powder, bay leaf and star anise.
4.Once the seeds start to sizzle, add the onion and cook until glazed over about 1 hour
5.Add garlic and ginger and stir into pot
6.Next add the garam masala, turmeric powder, coriander, and paprika. Mix until uniform
7.Add the crushed tomatoes, stir and let cook 1 hour
8.Add the marinaded Chicken and stir until uniform
9.Cover with foil and cook 2 to 4 hours until separates with fork
10.Serve wih brown rice.

In my case I had to refrigerate over night and reheat it the next day. It still amazes me that someone can create a fantastic meal using more than a dozen spices and half a dozen additional flavors and have it come out excellent.

Congratulations Monica.