Processed food contains chemicals. Even vegetables and fruits have wax and other preservatives. It’s healthy to cook food and vegetables with special care to minimize chemicals and preservatives. Cooking is a pleasure, especially with the addition of spices for flavor. As noted in last month’s article, the following spices not only add flavor to recipes but also contain anti-oxidants and are healthy additions to your diet: turmeric, cumin, coriander, cloves, cinnamon, dry red chili (preferably whole), mustard, cardamom. Here are a few ways you can incorporate these spices into your family’s meals.
STIR FRY MUSHROOMS
6-8 ounces of fresh mushroom
5-6 pinches of turmeric
salt to taste
2 pinches of ground mustard (optional)
3-4 tablespoons of oil or butter
Buy fresh white mushrooms. Slice mushrooms thin (3-4 slices). Wash mushrooms well in cold water to clean black dirt if any. Add turmeric, salt, and mustard if using and mix real well.
Heat oil or butter in a pan in medium or low heat, and stir fry chopped mushrooms. Within seconds water will come out of mushrooms. Continue stirring. Let the water dry to a point where oil takes over and frying begins. Fry for about 3-4 minutes until mushrooms are light brown. As soon as the mushrooms turn light brown, take pan off stove, stir for a while, serve warm with rice or noodle. Leftovers can be stored in refrigerator for 2 days.
STIR FRY EGGPLANT
Follow the steps in the recipe above except substitute eggplant for the mushrooms. Buy tender eggplants with minimum seeds. A rule of thumb is while buying at the store, guess the weight of the eggplant. In general, the lighter the weight relative to volume, the fewer seeds it’s likely to have. Chop eggplant 1/2-inch thick and about 2 to 2½ inches long and wash it in cold water thoroughly. Add turmeric, mustard (if using), and salt to taste.
Heat oil or butter in a frying pan over medium heat. When oil is hot, carefully place eggplant pieces one by one and reduce heat to medium. Watch until each side is light brown. When both sides are golden brown, it’s done. Remember all pieces may not be ready at the same time even though all were placed at the same time in pan. Watch constantly for light brown color, turn over or take out those already cooked. Place fried pieces on a paper towel to soak excess oil or butter. Serve warm.
Chop 1/4 pound of potatoes into pieces about an inch long like French fries in size. You may peel the skin if you like. Wash potatoes well in cold water at least two times, and drain water. Add salt and turmeric to taste, mix well, and check all pieces are stained with turmeric and salt.
Use medium heat. Heat 4-6 tablespoons of oil or butter and fry chopped potatoes until golden brown. Sometimes, you may have to add more oil or butter as needed. The trick is to make sure the pan has just enough oil or butter and potatoes are not sticking. Since it is not a deep fry method, you need to watch and stir for about 5-8 minutes until tender and ready. When potatoes are light brown, check to see if the pieces are tender and ready as you like. Place cooked potatoes on a paper towel to soak excess oil or butter. Serve warm. Do not store leftovers.
STIR FRY BONELSESS BEEF OR CHICKEN
1/4 pound of thin-sliced boneless beef (or chicken)
1 medium onion chopped into eight pieces each.
4 to 6 pinches of turmeric
2 pinches of cumin powder
3 - 4 pinches of cinnamon
One pinch of clove powder (optional)
3 pinches of paprika
2 cubes of chopped garlic
One-half pinches of red chili powder (optional to suit taste)
Salt to taste
Keep chopped onions and garlic separate. Mix all other ingredients together and then spread over meat evenly. Next, pour 2 tablespoons of oil or melted butter into the meat and mix everything well to spread oil over every piece of chopped meat. Let mixture sit for 30 minutes.
In a pan, heat 6-8 table spoons of oil or butter on low heat. Low heat is important for this stir fry. When oil or butter is hot, slowly drop meat in oil. Start stirring immediately to spread hot oil over every piece of meat as quickly as possible. Do not stop stirring meat until all pieces have hot oil or butter. Meat will change color when each has hot oil on it. Continue stirring constantly, or meat may get stuck in the pan. The trick is to use less oil or butter and yet get the cooking done. When all pieces have hot oil or butter, they change color. Pour chopped onions and garlic in pan and continue stirring for about 6 to 8 minutes until meat is tender and ready to eat. Continue stirring with low heat to avoid being overdone or sticking in pan. As soon as meat is tender to your taste, take pan off stove and continue stirring for another 2-3 minutes to prevent meat or onions get struck in pan. Serve warm with rice, noodles, or bread.
If you like vegetables, add small pieces of chopped broccoli, cauliflower, or bell pepper and stir fry with the meat. Note if the vegetables are not small enough in size, they may not get tender by the time meat is cooked and ready.
1 cup peeled and chopped cucumber
1 medium size onion, peeled and minced
3-4 pinches of ground cumin
1 cup plain yogurt
Add salt and ground black pepper to taste and stir in a bowl to ensure ingredients are blended properly. Leftovers can be stored for 2 to 3 days.
Chop medium size potatoes with skins into four pieces each. Wash in cold water well 2 to 3 times. Boil chopped potatoes for 10 to 12 minutes until soft and tender. Check with a fork. Turn off heat, drain hot water, put some cold water, and let boiled potatoes cool. Peel skins, or leave the skins on if you like skins.
Peel and chop one medium size onion for every ½ pound of boiled potato. Now heat two tablespoons of butter in a pan and heat the minced onions for a minute or two. The trick is to heat onions to absorb the flavor of the butter. Do not fry onions. After about two minutes the onions will look light brown. Pour the melted butter and onions on boiled potatoes. Add salt (and black pepper if you like), to taste. Wait a few minutes for melted butter to cool. Mash boiled potatoes with all ingredients. Serve warm. Do not store left-overs. It will not taste the same.
Santosh Choudhury, Ph.D. is a freelance writer and lives in Virginia Beach.