Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Aarti Party

I do love the cooking shows, some of them, particular shows like Top Chef and The Next Food Network Star. I like the competition and enjoy seeing what chefs can whip up on a moment's notice.

I was in a store once and saw a cookbook of recipes from The Next Food Network Star and I was tempted to buy it, but then realized that they rarely cook the way I would cook. Their ingredients are esoteric, and I'm just not at a time of my life where I am necessarily inspired to cook most of the foods that they serve, though I certainly wouldn't mind being on the tasting panel!

While I enjoy Top Chef, the contestants are already chefs and so it's just a battle to see who can outcook the other, but they already have their specialties and a certain "name."

The Next Food Network Star, on the other hand, pits a bunch of relatively unknown cooks against one another and tries to determine which has the "it" factor that will make them stars on the Food Network.

The Food Network is something that I often put on in the background when I'm doing something else. I sometimes am inspired by dishes I see, other times it goes way over my head. But I've come to realize that being a Food Network star doesn't guarantee great food.

The first Food Network star that drew me was Paula Deen (oh how I wish Diane were alive...because we discussed Paula Deen a lot over the years). How can someone who is a foodaholic not like someone whose principal ingredient is butter and who isn't concerned one whit about calorie content. Paula Deen has that southern charm and is someone who pulled herself up by the bootstraps.

I have tried several of Deen's recipes and have yet to try one that I actually liked. Oh they were OK, but nothing of the mouth-watering goodness that the salivating Ms. Deen promised. In time, I got tired of the fawning over her "boys" (though her sons seem like nice people) and I just lost interest in Paula Deen.

Rachael Ray's food, when I tried it, was always good and easy but her eternal perkiness wore me out so I stopped watching her too.

I like Giada deLaurentis and the Barefoot Contessa. Their foods are a bit more complex and things that I might make if I want to spend a little extra time for a special occasion.

The glutton in me loves Guy Fieri's Diners, Drive-ins and Dives. I remember when Fieri was one of the contestants on Food Network Star. With his bleached white spiked hair and unusual mannerisms, he was an unlikely winner, but I have to admit that he has taken his win and parlayed it into a real television persona (now with his own game show to host on one of the other networks). But Diners, Drive-ins and Dives is all the worst-for-you food that you could imagine, in huge proportions, dripping off Fieri's hands as he tastes it and you just know that it's gooood. The sort of food I wouldn't dare order in a restaurant, but I love living vicariously.

aarti.jpg  (50006 bytes)We're getting to the end of this round of Next Food Network Star and there are only five contestants left to battle it out. I have to admit that I've settled on Aarti Sequeira as my favorite of this season (I didn't even know she shared a last name with our son-in-law until Walt pointed it out to me).

From the beginning, Aarti had that sparkle that the camera loves and most of the time she's had a good on-camera presence. She would call her show, if she gets it, "Aarti Party."

She brings an Indian flair to everything she cooks and since I love Indian food, when the contestants cook from week to week it's Aarti's food that I most want to try. How does Ground Lamb Kofto Kebabs with Pomegranate glaze, Bengali spiced potatoes, and Persian Cucumber riata sound? Then there were the Indian spiced tri-tip tacos with caraway basmati rice and tangy tomato sauce, which reminds me of our Mexican daughter's restaurant, which serves Punjabi Pizza, my favorite thing on the menu (her husband is Indian).

Last week she made a "green chicken curry" that looked very good, so when Walt returned from his latest trip to Santa Barbara last night, I cooked it. I figured that with all that cilantro and all that mint, it had to be good. I also had a package of naan bread mix that I'd bought a long time ago, so I made that too. I will admit that it's been a long time since I'd cooked anything somewhat complicated and it was kind of fun, even if the sweat was running down my face and into my eyes as I tried to get everything done in the time required.

The end result was delicious

curry.jpg  (116163 bytes)

I do need a bit more practice making naan...I thought I had the dough thin enough, but it was heavy and tough, though tasty. However, the chicken, even though I'd forgotten to add the yogurt at the last minute, was very good.

Best of all, the dish gave me a chance to use the little bowls I bought for spices awhile ago,

bowls.jpg  (84882 bytes)

which made my mise en place more efficient. (That sounds like I know what I'm talking about--just means getting all the ingredients together before you start to cook. I'm usually the one rummaging wildly for the cinnamon when it's time to add it, only to discover that we are out of it! Even doing the pre-work that I did, I still forgot the yogurt!)

I don't know if Aarti will ultimately win The Next Food Network Star, but I'm hoping she will. My next favorite, Herb, who is a very likeable guy, just isn't unique enough for my tastes and I probably would not watch his show, if he were to win it all. But in the meantime, I may try more of Aarti's recipes while they are still on the Food Network site.


harrietv said...

I realized long ago that I would probably never cook most things someone else is teaching. But it's often wonderful to watch for techniques. I didn't make croissants, but Julia Child's methods helped me make excellent Danish pastry.

Aside from the irritating perkiness, Rachael Ray is misleading because she has so much help behind the scenes. Her "30 Minute Meals" are made with ingredients that are always right at the front of her cabinet or fridge. That's show biz, not cooking!

I watch the Barefoot Contessa because I knew her father 8) even though that has nothing to do with her cuisine.

Indigo said...

I always watch Top Chef, but this is my very first time watching The Next Netword Food Star -- snd I love it! I pegged Aarti from the beginning as having the best tv persona, she's really got it going on. I don't care for indian food though, so I'm not trying any of her recipes. My next favorite is Brad -- I think, whoever the one is that won at Frank Sinatra's house.

p.s. I want Cappy!!!! Send the pup to me!! Soooooooo adorable!

Bev Sykes said...

Yeah. Right. All you need is a new puppy!

Jack Welsh said...

Looks so delicious.. reminds of my mothers palak paneer...

Usually nowadays i order it online ready toe at curry from the Big Indian Store.

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