Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Sunday at Srila's

What do tamarind, cumin seed and cilantro have in common?  All key ingredients to lucious Indian cooking, Srila style.

The Gourmet Girlfriends gathered at Srila's last Sunday.  After toasting the survival of the summer with Prosecco (somehow Prosecco has become our drink of choice), we began with a homamade (of course) pear chutney spiced with fennel and sweet paprika, slathered onto crisp crackers and topped with a slice of creamy brie or  rich Manchego while Srila whipped up a piquant potato chaat.  Chaat is a street food. This one consisted of sweet and Russet potatoes boiled, cubed and sauted then topped with a tamarind chutney yogurt and seasoningus including black salt.  We also nibbled on Bhel Puri, a crispy melange of lentil crackers, puffed rice and chrisp noodles tossed with garbanzo beans and tamarind and green chutney.

The first course was a tender salmon filet that had marinated for hours in a spicy bath then simmered gently in a flavorful curry broth.  Srila also made buttery (actually ghee -y) dal from yellow mung beans, which are sort of a mild lentil.  She served paneer, which is actually a mild cheesy milk curd, almost tofu in consistenc,y that she cubed and bathed in  a yogurt spice sauce then broiled.

The second course was butter chicken, which is actually tandoori chicken, marinated overnight served in a buttery spicy tomato sauce, and  Japanese eggplants braised with chilis, other spices and more tamarind chutney until they melted in our mouths. Since we live in LA and must represent, Srila reduced the butter in the butter chicken.

Now some people think Indian food is heavy or firey hot.  Srila's food was as light as the beautiful turquoise silk top she was wearing.  The spices were complex but not overwhelming.  I went back for thirds (shh!) and still had room for dessert!

Dessert was a rice pudding with slivered almonds, raisins and just the teeniest hint of cardomon, fresh canteloupe melon so sweet it squeaked, and fresh mint tea.  And because Jane's birthday was the day before, the GG's surprised her with a fudgy chocolate cake. 

Srila's Tips:

The most flavorful, tender and aromatic rice is Tilda rice. It comes in a huge blue and white plastic bag and you can buy it at most Indian or Middle Eastern stores.

About Srila:

I was born in Mumbai and raised mostly in Dehli.  In my family,  food was core to eating together, while having conversations, arguments, discussions or just idle chatter. There would always be room for more people at the table, in fact the more the merrier. We shared our parent's passion for good food whether it was the amazing variety of Indian cuisines or others from around the world. My family would sit together at every meal, starting with breakfast and ending with dinner, either at the dining table or the den, and in the cool evenings we would sit in the garden inhaling the fragrance of seasonal flowers along with tantalizing aromas wafting from the kitchen finally making its way to us. 
I never cooked Indian food, well for that matter I never cooked in India unless it was baking desserts, until I moved to Los Angeles with my husband. I recall the first time we longed to eat our comfort food, I went to the only Indian grocery store in West Los Angeles and with utter dismay I couldn’t figure out what our Indian spices looked like or their names. I called a friend who literally walked me through it and I was able to make our first Indian meal, which was sub-par. And so the gastronomical journey began for me and it has spread beyond just Indian cuisine to south-east Asian, Korean, Chinese, Moroccan, and Spanish.

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