Saturday, October 22, 2011

Unsolicited Advice And A Rice Dish

Hiya folks! It is time for some recipe posts instead of excuses. But first things first...

Salt is slowly re-entering our diet which of course is a welcome situation as I was sharing the 100% no-salt diet in solidarity with my BP sufferer of a husband. It was an eye-opener in many ways. Without the all-encompassing taste of salt we tasted food in its natural form. The main diff was when tasting roasted unsalted nuts and unsalted canned items. Once when we had visitors I made salted and unsalted canned tuna cutlets. After they left, the salted version sat with no takers for a while because we were busy devouring the unsalted beauties! Only caveat is that the unsalted version is a tad bit more expensive. Papadams are the one vice I can't do without and I hear it is loaded with salt. My husband's weakness fortunately is the mackerel which is endowed with ample salt in its natural form! Sure enough we baked quite a few mackerels and now have graduated to frying them gently. Always after marinating them salt free.

We also developed a habit of reading the fine-print for sodium intake and measuring our salt carefully when cooking. It does make a world of difference both in taste and health. As we get older our taste buds need
a burst of flavor to feel anything (see our parents for living examples) and if we are already using a fair amount of salt, this will only go up as time passes since our tongue is aspiring for the same taste as before.  So from now on instead of 'salt to taste' I am going for 'only as needed':-) Always use sea salt if available since that contains less amount of sodium. Potatoes are a good source of potassium which gets lowered when sodium levels skyrocket. If possible do not take any vitamin supplements in tablet form, natural or not. Natural fish oil tablets could be an exception but then  it has to be low in Mercury. All of these are big concerns here in the US because people have been consuming processed food for a long time now. It is slowly changing but healthier means more expensive and could be a while till the good old habits take root again.

Our dish today is very similar to this vermicelly pulau and way easier since you can turn plain leftover rice into a bonafide dinner in no time. Having exhausted our tasty but loaded biriyani dinners I was looking for an alternative lately. That is when the thought bubbled up. Why not fancy up our simple mixed veggie with rice concoction to a pulau/fried rice format? From then on it was smooth sail. Small cooked shrimp and eggs are effortless and well used additions to give taste and flavor.

 The real beauty is that you don't have to watch out for exact measurements in this dish and  you will still achieve fairly good results. Except of course for the salt, which you better watch out and don't say I didn't tell you when you or a family member succumbs to BP, diabets or cholesterol. They are all connected in a way and when you battle one you are battling all. In my brother's words "you have to treat the whole body and mind of the patient regardless of the disease". Did you know that some BP meds can cause sugar levels to go high? How many of you knew that sugar gets converted to triglycerides, spiking up those cholesterol levels? Keep away from refined sugar and go back to the good old brown sugar if you dare:-) I have dared and now can't really tolerate the pure white refined sugar in my coffee or tea.

Once you start watching out for one thing the rest will follow and life will be good. Of course I am not a doc and the only advice I can give that is worth its salt is to do whatever it is that you need to keep stress levels down in your life. Regardless of what it is that you do, be content with it. This is the secret to true happiness
and a healthier life. Think Sidhartha and what he discovered at the end.

Before you raise eyebrows at all the unsolicited dictum that I am churning out today, let us safely ride back to today's recipe. Remember Galileo Galilee who muttered under his breath "but it is really round", after confessing loudly that the earth is flat to avoid excommunication from the Church? I stop here but I hope you hear me muttering "if not for the sake of health, then for the sake of taste start watching what you eat". OKKK? Now here is the dish on the dish in the picture.

In The Mix

cooked rice - from 5 cups of raw rice
green beans - cut into small circles (1 or 2 cups)
              why is this easy? because i got fresh cut beans from the nearby indian store!
cauliflower - 1 small head, peeled of leaves, separated and sliced to smaller pieces
carrots     - 2 or 3, peeled and sliced into thin pieces similar to the thickness of the beans.
serano chillies - 3 or 4 or less - cut into thin discs
red onion - 1 medium sized, peeled and diced into small pieces
egg - 2 beaten mildly
small cooked shrimp - 1 cup
curry leaves - 1 or 2 sprigs (this one you can splurge without any worries)

How To Do
Cook the rice as you would cook for biriyani. If you have a japanese rice cooker then just follow
the directions as that always seem to get us the correct state of rice for biriyani. If you have leftover rice, that will do just fine.

In a sauce pan add 1 tsp of oil and add beans, cauliflower and carrots. Sprinkle less than 1/4 tsp of
salt or no salt at all and mix together. Now turn stove to high heat, close the lid and cook for 5-6 minutes. Check once in between and add a tbsp of water or less if it looks like it might burn. Shaking the lifted pan with lid closed is a good way to prevent burning and not to lose the built-up steam inside. Once cooked and still crisp, remove from heat and set aside.
Heat oil in another pan, add rice and urad dal making sure nothing gets burnt. Add green chillies and saute well, and then add the marinated shrimp and saute to a good color. Now add onion and curry leaves and mix all together for a while.

Add in the veggies and mix well. Clear a space in the middle of the pan, add the beaten eggs and cook it scrambled right there. You can do this in a separate pan instead and add back once rice is added if you prefer that. Again mix well together, add the cooked rice and add salt only if you must. Cover and cook on medium heat for 2 minutes so all the flavors combine into the dish. Serve warm with the aforementioned goodiesand you will never know what hit you! Depending on your refrigeration, this dish will stay tasty for quite a few days esp if served with a smacking good raita which we had. I'll elaborate on our raita dish in another post as I think it has its own place. So next time you make a dish and reach for that salt container give it a pause, will ya? Replace salt by adding flavors is what will help you to make the change. Add lemon drops, tomato, cilantro etc to bring out the flavor.

Serve with the awesomely flavorful fish pappas and to the accompaniment of raita and papad and voila, you have a winner! Add some flowers to the table and you are all set. Gerbera daisies rule the world as far as I am concerned and when a beam of the evening sun fell straight on to the vase through our windows I just couldn't resist clicking. Enjoy!