Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Post #78 - Olive Oil Crackers and Zhoug

What is zhoug, you ask? Anna at Morsels & Musings can tell you. What I can tell you is that it's delicious.

Here's Anna's picture:

I can also tell you that Heidi's Olive Oil Crackers are delicious.

Here's Heidi's picture:

But even delicious-er is dipping the crackers in the zhoug.

Goshdarnit, I need a camera! But for now, just imagine dipping picture #2 in picture #1.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Post #77 - My First Chunky of 2008

I committed myself to reading 4 chunky books this year (chunky being defined as at least 450 pages) by signing up for the Chunkster Challenge, hosted by Dana.

My first chunky is The Man Who Ate Everything by Jeffrey Steingarten. You know Jeffrey, the witty cynical judge on Iron Chef America? The guy you want to hate, but can't, because he's so articulate, and usually right?

The book, published in 1997, is as well-written as I had expected. His stories of eating his way through Kyoto, personally taste-testing 35 different ketchups, judging a barbecue contest in Memphis, and surviving various fad diets were entertaining and hunger-inducing. This man is passionate about food, and lets you know it on every page.

There are only 2 things I found amiss -
1. Since the book is over 10 years old, it's slightly outdated. Not Steingarten's fault, but mine for not reading it sooner.
2. In his discourse on achieving the perfect mashed potatoes, he advises "If the cookbook specifies neither potato type nor total weight, discard it immediately." However, later on in the book, in his recipe for choucroute garnie à l'Alsacienne, he writes "peel 4 medium potatoes". Now, I'm sure that his previous admonition applied only to mashed potatoes. But it was funny.

If you love food (which you most likely do, if you're visiting my blog), read this book.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Post #76 - Caldo de Res

We had caldo de res at Pacific Taco #1 in Escondido the other day. Pacific Taco #1 is my favorite local Mexican restaurant. But you have to order "real" Mexican food, not just a carne asada burrito or a chicken taco, which, in my mind, is geared towards Americans that think they're eating Mexican food.

Their shrimp cocktail is a mix of (I think) Clamato, shrimp, cilantro, chilies, cilantro, red onion, and cucumber - to die for. Their red snapper in garlic sauce is absolutely delicious, although really bad on the arteries. The siete mares is a seafood feast - pieces of fish, a crab leg, a few shrimp, baby calamari (affectionately known as monsters in my household). All of their soups have beautifully seasoned broths and perfectly cooked vegetables.

But this isn't meant to be a restaurant review.

Caldo de res is Mexican beef soup, typically made with oxtails, sometimes beef shanks (think osso buso). I've had it with any or all of the following vegetables: potato, zucchini, carrot, corn, chayote, cabbage.

After lunch at Pacific Taco, I decided that I, too, could make caldo de res. And so I did. While buying the requisite vegetables, I was trying to figure out what the mystery vegetable was in the caldo I just ate. It looked and felt like a potato, but tasted a little "greener" and had fibrous striations. Parsnip, I said, and bought one. Then when I got home and Google'd, I realized it was chayote. Final flavor was not affected by the mistaken substitution (hubby actually preferred parsnip over chayote).

I'm extremely fussy about my soups, the meat-scum and the fat that floats to the top that must be skimmed off, the consistency of the boiled parts, the degree of puree-ification, the amount of meat on and off the bone. I'm probably more OCD than most, so I've revised my directions for more normal people.

And as a last note before the recipe, caldo de res fits into my theory that Mexican cooking consists of overcooking meat to the point to where it re-tenderizes. I've learned from hubby to simmer my chicken breast absolutely forever when making enchiladas. Chili verde involves lean pork cooked so long that you'd think it would be leather, but after a certain point, it gets soft again. And you know how squid should only be cooked for a minute, and after that it's rubbery and chewy and, quite frankly, gross? If you stew it for an hour, it's delicious.

Caldo de Res

2-3 lb oxtails
1 onion, cut in wedges
3 cloves garlic, peeled
2 tomatoes, cut in wedges, seeded
1 bay leaf
2 white rose potatoes, cut into 1.5" chunks
1.5 carrots, cut into 1.5" long pieces, thick ends halved lengthwise
1 parsnip, cut like carrots
1 zucchini, cut in 3 pieces crosswise, then vertically thru the middle
1/2 small cabbage, cut into 3 wedges, then crosswise 3 times
1 ear corn, cut into 4 pieces
chopped cilantro
chopped parsley

Put the oxtails in a big soup pot, and cover with water by about 2 inches. Chuck in the tomato and onion wedges and the garlic and bay leaf. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for at least 2 hours. Skim the scum off the top at the beginning of cooking, then the fat later on.

When the meat is almost-but-not-quite falling off the bones, remove it from the pot, and mash up the remaining veggies in the pot (removing the bay leaf first). Return the meat to the pot, and add the carrot, potato, corn and parsnip. Simmer about 15 minutes. Add zucchini, and simmer 10 minutes more. Finally add the cabbage, and simmer 5-10 minutes, or until everything is almost over-done.

If you're like me, when you mashed your veggies (see above), you cut off some of the meat from the oxtails, removed the gelatinous-cartilage-fat-skin-lining-stuff, and tossed the resulting meat back in the pot. The abused oxtails were also somewhat cleaned of cartilage-y stuff, and also returned to the pot. (To me, eating is about 50% textural, and I can't stand slimy cartilaginous tissue, even though it tastes really good.)

Stir in the cilantro and parsley, and salt to taste. Garnish with chopped red onion, cilantro, chiles de arbol, and lime juice. Traditionally, serve with tortillas, although as a white girl, I still can't figure out what to do with tortillas and soup. Give me a nice chunk of crusty bread instead, please.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Post #75 - Scrambled Egg with Avocado and Feta in Roti

My breakfast:

Beat an egg with some salt & pepper (and some milk, but mine spoiled). Scramble it over low heat, stirring constantly so it gets creamy and smooth.

Meanwhile, heat up your frozen roti in a 400 degree oven. I used this brand:

Spread the eggs over one half of the roti, top with feta, sliced avocado, hot sauce (El Pato), and kaju mixture:

Fold in half, and eat like a taco.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Post #73 - Most Pointless Post Ever

Dinner tonight:

Mollie Katzen's parmesan-crusted zucchini, via Serious Eats (we each had one half of a zucchini, recipe has been moved to keeper file)

quesadilla made with smoked turkey and feta cheese, dipped in El Pato hot sauce (hubby's creation, yum)

chocolate chip cookies made from store-bought dough (youngest's contribution)

grilled cheese (Kraft on sourdough) and a Cup o'Noodles (oldest's meal)

ham & cheese Hot Pocket (for me, I had a craving, I'm sorry)

I could have made mmm-yoso's chicken karaage (thanks for the link!) or Closet Cooking's ham and sauerkraut pierogi, or Desert Candy's fish in Persian sweet and sour sauce.

But I didn't.


Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Post #74 - I Need a New Cutting Board

My beautiful bamboo cutting board has a crack in it. It's slowly splitting between two layers, and I don't want to use it any more for fear of nasty bits growing and fermenting in the split.

I love bamboo, but I've heard end-grain maple is good too. But maybe this beautiful end-grain bamboo?

Anybody have any suggestions?

Post #72 - The Not-So-Great Pancit Experiment

Recently I bought some thin egg noodles labeled "pancit", so made up my mind to try making the Filipino dish of the same name. Like adobo, I know there are tons of variations out there, so I consulted my husband, who grew up eating his Filipino great-grandfather's cooking, and a Scotsman I work with that's married to a Filipino lady.

What I ended up with could have been very delicious. But I think my noodles had been sitting on the shelf for way too long. They got mealymushy when I added them to the veggies & sauce, and decided to share their mealiness with everything else.


Anyhow, get yourself some dried pancit noodles that haven't been sitting on the shelf since 19XX, and try this:

1/2 lb lean pork, sliced thin
1/2 lb shrimp, peeled, deveined, chopped
1 package (8 oz) pancit noodles
carrots, julienned (I used a handful of baby carrots)
cabbage, sliced/shredded, 1/2 to 1 cup
1 clove of garlic, minced
3 green onions, cut in 1/2 to 1" lengths
soy sauce, about 1T
chicken broth, about 1 to 1/2 cups

Marinate the pork briefly in soy sauce. Heat your wok on high, add some peanut oil, and cook pork until starting to brown. Remove from wok.

Add more oil if necessary, and stirfry the carrots and garlic, then add the cabbage and green onion, and cook a little longer. Mix in the soy sauce and broth, and bring to a boil. Mix in the shrimp, then the noodles.

Stir everything around gently, moving the mass of dried noodles around so they eventually all get softened. (It looks like that'll never happen at the beginning, but trust me, it does.)

Stir the pork back in when the noodles are done, and serve (with Sriracha of course!).

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Post #71 - Split Pea Soup

A while back, I made pea soup out of whole dried peas for the first time.

This time, as part of my clean-out-the-pantry project, I used the more standard split peas. And instead of diced ham like last time, I used smoked hamhocks. Mmm...hamhocks.

1 bag split peas
a hamhock or two
olive oil
onion, diced
garlic, minced
carrot, diced
celery, diced
salt and pepper

Sauté onion, garlic, carrot and celery in olive oil. When soft, add the peas, hamhocks and broth. The broth should be about double the height of the stuff in the pot. Bring to a boil, cover, and let simmer gently for about an hour. Remove the hamhocks (keep simmering the soup), and when cool enough to handle, remove the yummy meaty parts, dice them up, and return them to the soup. I throw away the skin and fat, and toss the bones back into the soup. Continue simmering for another 30-60 minutes, until the peas are done to your liking. Season with salt and pepper.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Post #70 - Adobo

I found free-range antibiotic-free chicken legs and thighs for a ridiculous price at Sprouts. That means adobo.

Now, this adobo recipe comes from my husband, from his Filipino great-grandfather. However, it has tomato sauce and ginger in it, which I have never seen in any "traditional" adobo recipe. But it's scrumptious. So don't be mad.

I apologize in advance for the lack of proportions. Hubby's always (and therefore so have I) gone simply by look and smell to determine the correct amounts of vinegar and soy sauce.

chicken legs and thighs (this time, 6 legs and 6 thighs)
ground pepper
veggie oil
white vinegar
soy sauce
minced garlic
minced ginger
tomato sauce
pickling spice

Put about 2 tablespoons of pickling spice in a tea ball (or cheesecloth).

Season the chicken pieces with pepper. Brown over medium-high in a very small amount of hot oil in a very large pot, in batches if necessary. Return all the chicken to the pot, and mix in the garlic and ginger. Lower the heat to medium-low.

Stir in some vinegar, maybe about 1/4 cup, and some soy sauce, also 1/4 cup. Let simmer, tossing the chicken occasionally, until the liquid is slightly reduced.

Add half of a small can of tomato sauce, and toss around. Add water to come about 2/3 of the way up the chicken. (No, it doesn't seem like enough, but it really is.) Place the tea ball of pickling spice in the pot, submerging it as much as possible. Bring to a boil, cover, and lower the heat.

Simmer about an hour, shaking the pan every now and then. Don't worry about moving the chicken around, it'll be fully cooked since the pot's covered and the steam is all over the place. Add a little more soy sauce if you think it needs it.

Serve chicken with rice, with some of the sauce ladled on top.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Post #68 - Ashkenazic Coffee Cake

I had some yogurt in the fridge that was rapidly approaching it's expiration date, so I popped over to Epicurious and found this recipe for Ashkenazic Sour Cream Coffee Cake.

My streusel topping & filling was pecans, no fruit. Optional glaze didn't happen because I'm lazy and don't need extra sugar calories.

Hubby and both kids loved it, so it's a keeper.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Post #67 - Sustainabletable.org

Do you like hormones in your milk? Do you like carbon monoxide in your beef to keep that fresh-looking red color? Do you like the fact that cows can be fed blood from dead cows, increasing the chance of infecting thousands of cattle with mad cow disease?

Didn't think so.

Go to www.sustainabletable.org, and check out the various things you can do to promote awareness of ways to raise animals humanely, how to fight inhumane and unhealthy treatment of animals and your food products, and where to shop for sustainable and healthy products.

Post #69 - Sausage & Sauerkraut

Three lovely Polish sausages in my freezer and a bag of fermented cabbage. What a wonderful combination (appeals to my Eastern Euro heritage, I guess).

1 lb Polish sausage (uncooked, uncured)
1 bag/jar sauerkraut
some onion
some garlic
one apple
broth / wine

Poke your sausages, cover with water, simmer until cooked through. Drain, remove casings if desired (I desired), cut in half crosswise and lengthwise. Brown them on both sides, remove from the pan.

Sauté onion and garlic for a bit, then the apple. Deglaze with wine/broth. Add the sauerkraut, salt & pepper. Nestle your happy pork products in amongst the cabbage, and add broth until it just doesn't cover the contents. Bring to a boil, cover, lower the heat, and simmer for however long you want.

Enjoy, on a plate, or in a roll, with some mustard.

Post #66 - Foglie d'Autunno

I so wish my camera was working. Not because this dish was particularly photogenic (actually, it most definitely was not). But because then I could show you a picture of the pasta I used, rather than using this photo I took from MSN's shopping site:

I used a different brand, whose name I forget, but it was the same multi-colored happiness. I had some pasta left over, so you may want to increase the amounts of everything else. The pasta itself was texturally pleasing, and although I didn't notice any flavor imparted by the different colors, they were still nice to look at.

Foglie d'Autunno with Zucchini

1 package foglie d'autunno pasta
2 zucchini, cut in sticks about 2" by 1/4-1/2"
1 tomato rescued from the back of your veggie drawer, seeded and chopped
some diced onion
minced garlic clove
some broth
grated parmesan or romano or whatever
red pepper flakes

Set water to boil. Boil your pasta until done, saving some of the starchy water.

Meanwhile, sauté onion, then garlic, then tomato. Throw in the zucchini, some hot pepper flakes, salt and pepper. Cook it until the zucchini's almost where you want it, and the tomato isn't recognizable.

Add a cup or so of pasta water and some broth, and the grated cheese. At this point I also added some spinach leaves I had torn up. OK, but I'm not sure I'd do it again. Cook & stir until the sauce reduces & gets absorbed by the pasta.

Serve with more grated cheese and hot pepper flakes.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Post #65 - Spam Fried Rice!

Jaden over at Steamy Kitchen reminded me of Spam's existence a couple weeks ago. Rather than be the object of everyone's ridicule at my normal grocery store, I donned dark glasses and a trench coat, and drove across town where no one knows me, and purchased a can of Spam.

In my defense, it was the less-calorie, less-fat version, so that means there's less overall Spam in it, right?

Anyway - Spam Fried Rice:

leftover cooked rice
frozen peas
julienned carrots
dried hot chili pepper
sliced green onion
ginger (powdered this time, meh)
soy sauce

Cook and crumble bacon. Dice Spam, and dry-fry in a skillet. Make an omelet and chop it up.

Heat canola oil in a wok, add in your carrots, fry a bit, then your green onion, bacon, Spam and dried chili. Mix it around, add ginger & some soy sauce. Let it sit for a bit to crisp up the rice, toss it around. Repeat the sitting and tossing a few times. Add some more soy, dump in your peas, and toss. Taste. Done? Then add the egg, mix, and serve with sriracha.

Oh, and don't eat the dried chili. Unless you like the feeling that you're going to die.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Post #64 - General Tso's Chicken

I made General Tso's Chicken last night, using Blazing Hot Wok's recipe, served with spicy braised baby bok choy, and white rice.

I kind of forgot about the sauce on the back of the stove for a while, so it almost bubbled over reduced a little too much, and I thought the final dish was a little too salty because of it.

And you should've seen my kitchen when I was done - pots, bowls, cutting boards and spoons everywhere, dribbles of batter and sauce and oil on almost every surface.

But overall, it was a success, and I'm definitely going to make it again.

Hubby said "I want you to make this every night." I said "Sure, if you wash the dishes."

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Post #63 - Red Lentil Soup

I've decided that I have to clean out my pantry. Which means that I have to make a lot of pastas, noodles and lentils.

Red Lentil Soup

olive oil
finely minced carrot
finely minced celery
finely minced garlic
finely minced onion
red lentils
coriander, turmeric, cayenne, paprika, black pepper, bay leaf

Saute the veggies in olive oil until soft. Stir in lentils, broth to cover by about an inch, and spices. Simmer until lentils are done, adding more broth if necessary, or conversely, leaving the cover off and raising the heat to evaporate some liquid if it's too thick. Mash the lentils a little with the back of a spoon, and season with salt.

I mixed this into some rice, so I guess it would classify as a dal. I liked it. Hubby hated it so much he rinsed his mouth out.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Post #62 - Home-made Chili Sauce

My husband's grandmother would never speak to me again if she knew I was sharing this recipe. But she doesn't have a computer, so...

Toast 2 unpeeled cloves of garlic over medium heat in a dry skillet. Let cool, then peel and toss the cloves in a blender.

Toast 4 dried guajillo chilies in the same dry skillet over medium-high heat, about 15 seconds on a side, pressing down with a spatula. You'll see the pepper skin get shinier, and a little redder. After each pepper is toasted, transfer to a pot of almost-boiling water. Cover the pot and let sit for 20-30 minutes.

Remove the peppers from the water, drain, stem and seed. Add the pepper flesh to the blender, along with an 8-oz can of tomato sauce. Add a few tablespoons of the soaking water to rinse out the can, and add to the blender. (But taste the water first - if it's bitter, just use un-chilied water.) Buzz until pureed. Stir in a little Mexican oregano, salt to taste, and more water if you want the sauce thinner.

This is good on everything - meat, eggs, fish, potatoes, chips, beans, etc. (Though probably not good on marshmallows...)

Post #61 - Twice-Baked Potato with Ham, Caramelized Onions, and Swiss Cheese

I had one sad russet potato in the cabinet that was looking like it wanted to start sprouting. So I did this:

Coat potato with a thin film of olive oil, and sprinkle with salt. Bake at 400 degrees, directly on the oven rack, turning occasionally, for 1 hour. Remove from the oven and let cool slightly. Reduce oven temperature to 350.

Meanwhile, chop some thin deli-sliced ham, and dry-fry in a skillet until it dries out.

Cut the potato in half lengthwise, and scoop out most of the insides, leaving a shell about 1/4" thick. Mix in the ham, some caramelized onions, and some shredded Swiss (Gruyere, Emmenthaler, etc.) Season with salt and pepper.

Place the shells on a baking dish coated with a think film of olive oil. Scoop the stuffing back into the shells, and sprinkle with a little more Swiss (or parmesan). Bake for 30 minutes, or until the top starts to get a little crunchy.

Served with some home-made chili sauce, this made a perfect Saturday lunch.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Post #60 - Hacienda de Vega, Escondido CA

Hubby & I went to Hacienda de Vega last week for a late lunch. They've been nominated for, and won, a bunch of awards, including (I believe) best Mexican restaurant in San Diego for 2007. (Sorry for the lack of documented evidence, have to go by memory here.) Check out reviews here and here.

The atmosphere / ambience is great. Big courtyard, outdoor seating, bar outside, a fountain, private cabanas off on one side, etc. And since we were there at an off-time, there were only 2 other tables, so we had the chance to absorb the intended surroundings, rather than contend with other patrons, frazzled servers, and the like.

When you're first seated, you get a basket of chips (not the best, but good), and four salsas. One was tomatillo, cilantro & chile, easily the best of the four. Second best was an orange one that I swear was made from chiles de arbol and pepitas (pumpkin seeds). There was a tomato-based one, a little sweet. And a smoky one, chipotles most likely.

For my entree, I had the lomo en cerveza. Amazing. Like nothing I've ever had before. Like nothing I'd even remotely consider Mexican (but being white, and never having visited the various states of Mexico, what do I know?). The pork tenderloin cut easily with a fork, the beer-sauce on top was incredible. The sauteed greens (spinach?) were delectable, and the fried potatoes (er, patatas fritas) stayed crunchy even after sitting in the sauce for a while.

Hubby had the parrilla ranchera, a skillet-mix of beef, bacon, onions, and red & green bell peppers, covered with cheese. Good, but...er...really greasy. (But what do you expect with beef, bacon and cheese? They have a chicken option too, which may lighten it a little.) We took the leftovers home, and drained them well on paper towels. The children proclaimed them acceptable.

Would I go again? Heck, yes.

Hacienda de Vega
2608 S. Escondido Blvd.
Escondido, CA 92025

Post #59 - Spanakopita Galette

I made spanakopita for the first time yesterday - loved 'em. This not-having-a-camera-thing is really going to tick me off. I could've had some lovely pictures...but anyway...

When I got bored with rolling up little pouches, I decided to take the rest of the phyllo and filling and make a galette. A galette is like a pie with no top crust, but with an oversized bottom crust that folds up & over the filling part way. Apple is typical. Check out Smitten Kitchen for a butternut squash and caramelized onion one.

So instead of apples or butternut squashes, I used my spanakopita filling, and phyllo instead of pie crust.


My husband refused to eat it because "it's a galette and I want spanakopita".

Can I slap him?

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Post #58 - Electronic Nightmare

In the last 24 hours, both my laptop and my digital camera have taken a dump.

So, no more pictures for a while.

What's more frustrating is that (since I'm dumb and haven't backed up in a year and a half) all of my recipes and wish-list-books are gone. I must have had at least 200 recipes that I took the time to convert to a Word document, formatted the way I like it, inserted a picture or 2...everything organized according to vegetarian or non, subdivided into baked goods, soups, etc. All gone.

And my last backup disk (from June of 2006!) got corrupted, and the recipe folder is empty. At least I have most of my pictures. My husband's brother is going to try to retrieve the files from the hard drive (which Mr. Dead-Laptop cannot detect), but I'm not holding my breath. I'm starting to think that the days of pen & paper weren't so bad after all.


Thursday, January 3, 2008

Post #57 - Vegetable Broth

I was out of broth in my freezer.

So this afternoon I took my freezer bag of almost-dead celery, onion ends, parsley stems, etc., and made veggie broth.

Recipes for vegetable broth make me laugh. "1 onion, 1 carrot, 1 stalk of celery, 8 peppercorns, 1 bay leaf". You should see what I put in mine - literally half of the jars in my spice cabinet come out for the party. Not too much of anything, no more than 1/2 teaspoon of any ingredient, but I think it makes a difference. So here's my veggie broth "recipe":

limp celery
a handful of baby carrots that are starting to look dried out
onion ends
few cloves of garlic
parsley stems
whatever pieces of onion are in the veggie drawer in the fridge
parsley root or parsnip if I have it (which I usually don't)

and now for the fun stuff from the cabinet:
basil, oregano, parsley, tarragon, sage, thyme, rosemary, bay leaf, peppercorns, yellow and brown mustard seeds, celery seeds, dill seeds, caraway seeds, cumin seeds, coriander seeds, a few cloves. The only seedy things I didn't add were fenugreek and ajwain, because I wasn't sure what they'd do to the flavor, and fennel, because I refuse to have that evil spice in my house.

Boil it all up, let it simmer for who-knows-how-long, then strain. Sometimes I go through the trouble of straining through a paper towel or coffee filter, but more often than not, I just dump it into a fine-mesh strainer, making sure to push on the veggies to get the yummy stuff out. Let it cool for a while, then transfer into tupperwares for freezing. Don't stir it when transferring to containers, because any gritty stuff your strainer didn't catch will have settled to the bottom.

What I ended up with this time (excuse the poor grammar, please) was a stunning amber color, like a strong tea, most likely imparted by the red onion skins.

Now, off to make some soup.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Post #56 - Cauliflower & Chard Gratin

I've decided to make a concerted effort to try some of the many recipes I've bookmarked from other blogs.

Here's one, and what a winner it is!

You can find the recipe at The Expatriate's Kitchen. My modifications were to use all milk instead of cream, and instead of Grana Padano in the sauce and Parmesan on top, I used a mix of mostly Parmesan and some Gruyere, both in the sauce and on top.

My youngest said that I took two of the things she hates most (cauliflower and leeks) and made them taste good. She had two servings. High praise, indeed.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Post #55 - Curry Conundrum & Dal Dilemma


I've pulled a gazillion recipes for all sorts of curries and dals from the web, and they never turn out like they're supposed to. I could chalk it up to the fact that I'm white-white-white, but most of the recipes are from people who know what they're doing.

Sometimes my curry sauce turns out a little gritty - I can fix that by grinding my spices finer.

I don't have a pressure cooker, but cooking on the stovetop can't make that much of a difference, right?

I use Shah's mild curry powder and Rani brand garam masala, both bought at an Indian grocery, so I figure they're good enough to use.

Other than that, I can't put a finger on it, it just doesn't taste like it should.

Can anybody help with any obvious-to-an-Indian-but-not-to-a-white-girl suggestions?