Dale and I had a little adventure last Sunday. I was taking him down for an early-morning walk at 6.30 am when the elevator sunk a foot below ground-floor level in the shaft and the doors would not open. After 45 minutes of ringing a feeble "alarm" bell, a kind neighbor finally heard us, then called the fire department. They sent THREE fire trucks, complete with blaring sirens (to my utter embarrassment) and we were extracted from the elevator a short while later. Throughout the hour-long wait, Dale sat down patiently, with not a single whine. AND demonstrated superior bladder control, I might add! Anyway, when I related this incident to my parents, my mother had the last word as usual: "I have always thought elevators are nothing but trouble and this incident only proves it". OK, then :D
******* ******* *******
A few weeks ago, I got an e-mail from Anjali, the owner of Supreme Spice (a small business dealing in premium spice extracts) asking if I would like to try out some of her products. Now, the concept of using a spice extract instead of the spice itself was a little alien to me and I hesistated, and then finally requested some ginger, cardamom and tea masala extracts, thinking that I could try all of these in my morning cup of tea.
Well, I am *so* glad that I got over my initial hesitation and decided to give these spice extracts a try, because in the last few weeks, I have thoroughly enjoying using them in a dozen different ways. For starters, I am amazed at the potent and "fresh" fragrance of the extracts. Each extract comes in a little bottle with a dropper for convenient use, and is thick and concentrated. 1-2 drops are more than enough to infuse a dish with incredible flavor. Indian-style Tea (chai), of course, is a wonderful way to use these three extracts that I have- I have been drinking ginger tea as a wake-me-up in the morning, cardamom tea as a relaxing after-work treat, and tea with spicy (yes, it is potent and spicy!) tea masala as an accompaniment to a good book on the weekends.
But the other wonderful use of these spice extracts is in baking and cooking. I used the ginger extract in many different ways- including some ice-cold refreshing ginger lemonade (Indian-style nimbu pani with a drop of ginger extract in each glass), gingery dal, and in some Asian-inspired food: ginger-scallion fried rice (to use up some left-over rice), in dipping sauce for Chinese-style dumplings (recipe coming up next week). In each case, I was amazed at the freshness and potency of the ginger flavor.
I used the cardamom extract in banana-cardamom pancakes and in a mango-soymilk smoothie, making it an instant dessert treat. It is excellent for use in drinks, where powdered cardamom may not dissolve and end up giving a gritty texture to the drink. I know I will be using this extract in all my Indian desserts, certainly.
I used some of the tea masala extract in place of vanilla extract in carrot cake (vanilla can get so "vanilla" sometimes, isn't it?) and it gave the cake a subtle exotic "spicy" taste. I am looking forward to using these extracts in other ways. Thank you for letting me try them, Anjali!
My suggestions for other spice extracts: I would love to see lemongrass extract, to add to tea, and to Thai curries and stir-fries. Fresh lemongrass is not very easy to find. Also, curry leaf extract would be wonderful for adding some extra fresh curry leaf flavor to my favorite Southern Indian dishes. For use in desserts and baking, rose extract would be unusual and delicious. The rose extracts on the market smell so "artificial" and I would be delighted to find a pure additive-free rose extract from a trusted source.
******* ******* ********
Updated post: For an all-vegetable version of korma, scroll down to the bottom of this post.
I'll be back on Sunday, with a bowl of soup to share. Enjoy your weekend!