Saturday, May 21, 2011

Recipe: Sweet & Savory Turkey Curry

A creative twist on curry, this colorful recipe from my friend Megan has it all--a lean meat, fruit, and veggies.

1.25 lbs. boneless turkey breast tenderloins (like the kind by Jennie-O)
2 Tbsp. plain yogurt
3 tsp. curry powder
1 tsp. coarse salt
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
2 peppers (1 green, 1 orange)
1 shallot
3 roma tomatoes
2 cloves of garlic
1 in. slice of fresh ginger
2 Tbsp. creamy peanut butter
7 fl. oz. light coconut milk
1 cup fresh pineapple
1 cup raisins
nonstick spray for the skillet
(optional accompaniment) 2 cups brown basmati rise (like Trader Joe's Brown Basmati Rice)

You'll Also Need:
a zippered food storage bag or a bowl to marinate the turkey, a nonstick deep skillet

1. Cut the turkey into bitesize pieces, then marinate it (in the refrigerator) in the yogurt, curry powder, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and red pepper flakes for 2 to 3 hours.
2.  After you pull the turkey back out of the refrigerator, spray the skillet with nonstick spray, then slice and saute the peppers and the shallot for a few minutes. Pull the peanut butter out of the fridge so it starts to soften.
3. Add the turkey and saute until cooked through.
4. Chunk the tomatoes, garlic, and pineapple, then add all three to the skillet. Grate the fresh ginger directly into the skillet. Add the peanut butter, raisins, and the coconut milk. Cook through for 10 to 20 minutes.
6. (Optional) Serve over a bed of brown basmati rice.
Serves 4.
The AHH Factor: My friend Megan and I have been exchanging recipes since our undergrad days at The University of Georgia (Go Dawgs!). One of my most-prized possessions is a gorgeously-styled blank notebook I received as a birthday gift in college, which I turned into a de facto recipe book full of handwritten recipes from family and friends and printed typed recipes from the web. I still have it with me, and there are several recipes from Megan in there, including Megan's Gingersnap Chicken (chicken rolled in honey, then crushed gingersnaps, and baked) and a Pumpkin Pie Smoothie (1 pkt. of Alba Snack Shake Mix in Vanilla, plus 1/2 cup of 100% pure pumpkin, plus sweetener and skim milk to taste).

Our cooking talents have grown throughout the years, and even with the physical distance between us (she's in Florida now, and I'm in California), I'm thankful for sites like Facebook that let us keep in touch. When I saw her Facebook post about a turkey curry that smelled amazing, I asked her for the recipe. It's "kind of a mishmash," she said, and I love that. (I prefer to fancy it up and call it "fusion"--ha!). It includes several Indian elements, and I feel like the peanut butter and the coconut milk give it sort of a Thai touch (though Indian recipes do sometimes call for coconut milk as well).

One thing to note with this recipe is that the turkey breast tenderloins can be hard to find in California, though they are here. Megan got hers at Southern grocery store chain Publix, and I eventually found mine at a Ralph's. (FYI, it's only the larger-format Ralph's stores that carry it. Some Stater Brothers have it. Vons doesn't at all.) I'd actually recommend calling the store before you make a special trip.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Restaurant: Electric Karma, Los Angeles

A unique atmosphere, creative cocktails, and delicious food make Electric Karma a must-try Indian restaurant.
 9 out of 10 Peppers = Extra Spicy
The Details: As we walked into Electric Karma, Nick commented, "This is the best smelling Indian restaurant I've ever been in." The great ambiance wasn't limited to just the smell. The restaurant interior is designed to look like a home interior, full of colorful murals, artsy tablecloths, and Indian chotskies. Outside, there's a patio with low-lying tables (you sit on pillows on the floor) that's good for groups. We sat inside, where there were Bollywood music videos playing at just the right volume.

When I saw the menu, I instantly loved the creativity. Even if it doesn't exactly turn out right, I always give props to a creative chef or mixologist. The cocktail menu at Electric Karma includes a Mango Martini, Indian Sangria, and an Indian Mojito (which the server confided isn't really Indian-influenced, though those other two drinks are.)

I got the Indian Sangria, which was mango juice and white wine. It was OK at first, but after the first few sips it tasted medicinal. It would taste better with better wine and with some fruit in the glass (mango chunks, in this case), like a typical sangria. Still, I'm thankful for the inspiration, as it's a good starting point to come up with my own Indian-inspired sangria drink at home. Next time I'm at Electric Karma though, I'll get a different beverage.

We got complimentary Papadam, which came with two chutneys. It was fine, but the appetizer and main course is where Electric Karma truly shines.

Nick and I frequently debate on white v. brown rice, and Nick won out with the white this time, as the server sided with him. C'est la vie.

We both agreed on the Cheese Naan order. This was such good cheese naan too. It tasted like an Indian grilled cheese. I just love how mozzarella gets all stringy when it melts.

Nick wanted Shrimp Pakoras. I don't usually like pakoras as they're usually just balls of fried batter, but these pakoras were excellent. They had just the right amount of batter to where I could still taste the delicious shrimp. It made me think that this is what popcorn shrimp would taste like if it was an Indian dish. It's weird that I keep comparing the menu here to an American fast-food menu, what with "grilled cheese" and "popcorn shrimp," but doing these items well really makes Indian food accessible to a larger audience. (Plus, I live in walking distance of not one, but two, Jack-in-the-Boxes, so sadly I become too familiar with their menu about once a month when I don't have time to get to the grocery store. I mean, Jack-in-the-Box grilled cheese works in a pinch, I'm not gonna lie, but it's miles off the pace of the cheese naan at Electric Karma.)

I've seen Nirvana Chicken on Indian restaurant menus occasionally, but I'd never ordered it. I've definitely been missing out. I could eat this chili-coconut sauce all day! The restaurant menu describes this dish as grilled chicken in a coconut masala curry with chili, and I'd add that it's a must-try.

We also ordered the Lamb Curry. This was a solid curry dish. It was a more traditional Indian preparation than the other dishes.

Oh, we didn't get dessert, but there was an "icing on the cake" (at least for Nick). We were seated one booth over from a famous porn star. Woo! You know Nick will be back!

We got good service, and I'd have this place as a borderline 10 Pepper restaurant, except I'm a stickler for free restaurant parking. So Nick and I actually only had to pay like a quarter to park, because the meters stop being enforced at 8 p.m. and we showed up at 7:45 p.m. on a Sunday so there was plenty of parking that was about to be free. But normally (on Friday and Saturday nights, at least), you'll need to pay for valet. I noticed that the meters (which do take credit cards, which is nice) only let you park for two hours, so I question if that's long enough for dinner, especially with a big group.

All in all, a really great experience and I'd love to go back. Oh, and a cute touch is on the way out we got an Electric Karma music CD -- I guess it's mixes they play in the restaurant? I'm not really sure as I popped it in my computer once and it was all techno, so I wasn't paying much attention. But it's a cute little party favor.

Electric Karma, 8222 1/2 W 3rd St. Los Angeles 90048. (323) 653-2121.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Restaurant: Saffron Spot, Artesia

Brightly colored exotic ice cream to brighten up your day awaits you on Pioneer Boulevard in L.A.'s unofficial Little India.

10 out of 10 Peppers = Extra Spicy
The Details: This exotic little ice cream shop is the perfect place to tuck into your back pocket and pull out at the end of a date, a group dinner, or even after an exhausting day of haggling with store owners in L.A.'s unofficial Little India. I've used it on all of these occasions, including most recently after an agonizing day of trying to find matching bridesmaid saris (which I finally purchased, after making five separate trips to Artesia), and every time, Saffron Spot hits my personal "saffron spot" (which scientific experts insist does indeed exist.)

Saffron Spot is a small store (many times you'll see people eating outside at a little table instead), with a brightly-colored interior that is the perfect complement to its brightly colored ice cream. It does offer a few non-ice cream snacky things (including samosas and a chutney sandwich), but the ice cream is so exceptional that I haven't managed to move past that yet. It also offers exotic milks (like rose), shaved ice, and hot drinks (like masala milk).

There are typically 16 flavors available and on display. I love how colorful the display is. It's like edible Play-Doh. The restaurant has more than 25 ice cream recipes in total, so be sure to go back more than once to see what new flavors are in the case. Plus, there are also slices of kulfi (a super rich Indian ice cream) available, which I've been meaning to try. I also just found out the restaurant can make you a milkshake of any of its flavors. Hmm...we've been having 90-degree weather recently, right? Surely, a milkshake is justified.

My personal favorite flavor so far is Saffron Silk, saffron ice cream blended with rose and pistachios (shown on the bottom of this two-scoop cup). I remember the first time I tasted it I felt like I'd tasted everything good about India in one bite. It's so delicious. My second favorite so far is Rose (shown on the top of this cup). I love that delicate smell and taste. On this occasion one of my bridesmaids, Melanie, was with me (in response to a frantic call regarding the saris), and she too thought Saffron Silk slightly edged out Rose. (If you want to try both, you can get two scoops for $4.50; one is $2.95.)

In addition to milkshakes, the restaurant can make you something called a falooda, which I'm intrigued by but so far scared to try. (I'm usually super adventurous with food, but at certain places, I get scared to mess up a good thing.) Basically, it's four mini scoops of ice cream on a bed of rice noodles and topped with rose syrup and basil seeds.

Parking is easy. It's part of the Little India Village, and so shares a private lot with the neighboring businesses in this two-story Indian mini-mall. However, beware the parking nazi. He once literally chased me out of the Little India Village parking lot, yelling "move your car." Except that my car wasn't parked in that lot...yeahh, awkward. I was actually walking back to my car at the time. I almost always park on the street (there's a lot of free street parking around), because I'm just the type of person who actually likes to walk in L.A. Plus, in this particular neighborhood, it's fun to window-shop.

Have you been to Saffron Spot? What's your favorite flavor? Anyone tried the falooda?

Saffron Spot, 18744 Pioneer Blvd., Artesia 90701. (562) 809-4554.
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