Friday, July 20, 2012

Gujarati Bento

For whatever reason I'm having a hard time getting this post writen. As always life is busy and finding time to cook is just as hard, but whatever reason the last two bentos made a slow appearance into a post and this one seems to be just as difficult. Once I start it goes quickly, but my brain has been put into procrastination mode. Anyhow enough excuses.

If you remember, a friend suggested that I go through the various regions of India as a "set" of themes. A fabulous idea, Indian food is really diverse, each region makes use of different ingredients from spices to vegetables and proteins. This time we land in the west Indian state of Gujarat. Gujarati cuisine is heavily vegetarian based focusing on complex flavor profiles of being sweet, sour, and spicy (often all at the same time).

I realize I said that the majority of the dishes from Gujarat is vegetarian, but I usually get feedback that the bento tends to be less "satisfying" when I produce an all vegetarian bento. So after a little searching I did find a nice looking dish. My first dish is Achari Murgh, which is a braised chicken in pickling spices. The list of spices were pretty epic weighing in on eight with one spice completely foreign to me (and not quite easy to find). Nigella seed, also known as black onion seed, I don't know how to describe it, it's kinda of bitter. Anyhow, I managed to find a bit of it. The dish itself is very fragrant, my house still smells like Indian curry. I went with cutting up skinless boneless chicken breast and thigh even though it called for whole chicken pieces (whole pieces don't fit the bento box very well.) I've noticed from the recipes that I looked into all have a "thin" gravy as compared to the Punjabi bento which I attribute to the greater use of dairy in the northern state compared to Gujarati cuisine.

The second dish is Ringan Bateta Nu Shak: Eggplant and Potato curry. This is a very popular and traditional dish. The potatoes and eggplant are cooked in a tomato based "gravy". I think I over cooked the eggplant, I should have par cooked the potatoes before adding in the eggplant. This dish is traditionally served with Roti. My friend, the mastermind behind this theme was kind enough to hand make me a batch of Roti to go with the dish. Although a bit mushy on the eggplant side it was still a very flavorful dish and despite being visually similar to the Achari Murgh the flavors were very distinct.

Finally dessert is a cardamom and saffron greek yogurt called Shrik Hand. This turned out to be very popular with everyone. The flavor reminds me of Kheer, an Indian rice pudding. The saffron added a nice color and a very subtle background flavor scent addition (much like how rose water plays into Kheer)

I'm still doing more research into my next Indian state maybe something down South where there's a greater use of seafood. I'll have to consult my friend. Stay tuned!

Box Content:

  • Achari Murgh
  • Ringan Bateta Nu Shak
  • Shrik Hand
  • Basmati Rice

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Ideal Protein Bento

So i've been on this diet for a few weeks now. There's just some stubborn pounds I can't seem to lose and since I work out nearly every day it has to come down to diet. My doctor suggested I try out this diet called the Ideal Protein diet. It comes in four phases and phase one (which i'm in) has me eating their food with only my own cooking once per day. This happens until I lose 90% of my stated goal, which feels like an eternity from now. So to "celebrate" I decided to create a bento that has a *loose* interpretation of my diet. Half of the bento I'm eating now the other half would be allowable in future phases.

This is has been what I called a technically delicious lunch. I say that because sous vide italian marinaded pork with a yellow, zucchini squash sauteed with portabella mushrooms is indeed a wonderful lunch to have... Unless you've been eating it for about three weeks straight. Why did I select this golden manacle for lunch? Well it's possibly the fastest thing I could produce if I had to in the middle of the week. I purchase this pre-marinade pork tenderloin, it was nicely vacuum sealed so the procedure for this pork is literally: set sous vide supreme at 134 F, bring to temp, dump in tenderloin, wait four hours open package sear. Done! The pork is pink in the center but it's been pasteurized due to the length of time at 134F. I believe the FDA pasteurization tables say at least 45 mins at 134F, since it's an asymptotic curve to get to 134F that's why we put it in for four hours.

Even though I bought the squash and mushrooms, the local grocery store they have a prepackaged diced zucchini yellow portabella mushroom mix. I blanch the squash and cook the mushrooms down with some garlic and toss the squash in to get some browning. I tossed in a bit of dried oregano, basil and thyme voila done.

This next dish is something that I can technically eat if I chose to include it in my lunch plans. My only issue with the plan is how things are laid out. The diet is basically a high lean protein low/no carb diet. So there's four "meals". In the morning you get one of their protein packs (a shake, soup, bar, etc) for lunch you get "unlimited" salad (but it has to be romaine or iceberg lettuce, spinach and arugula are inexplicably counted as "vegetables") two cups of vegetables and one protein pack. Then dinner you get 5-8oz of lean protein and two cups of vegetables and again unlimited salad. Finally you get a "snack" which consist of one of their protein packs.  I suppose this works fine for the people that are use to eating three square meals a day, but I'm already a grazer. The first few days of the diet I was burning all the glycogen out of my muscles and liver and felt like I was dying during my work out (bonking, hitting the wall) I re-worked the diet a bit, I moved my "dinner" to lunch and started my "unlimited" salad at 11 and finish my lunch by normal lunch time with only consuming half of my protein. I then finish all of the protein at around 3pm. Leaving me with my swapped "lunch" to right after my workout and then accomodating my snack. This kind of created six total meals and evened out my energy burn it seems to do the trick. So back to this dish, I could indeed eat this dish as part of my dinner. My problem is two eggs count as my 5-8 ounces of protein and I would much rather have 8 ounces pork than two puny eggs. So what's in it? I sauteed some green onions and bean sprouts and used a cookie cutter to form my "mini omlettes" and topped it with some sriracha sauce. How simple is that?

Finally, there's a "recipe" out there from folks that have "hacked" the diet and created new stuff using their packets. Basically they took the vanilla shake and added some stuff to thicken it into a espresso vanilla pudding. I simply took sugar free vanilla pudding substituted in a shot of espresso topped off the rest of the liquid component with fat free milk and then topped it with some dark chocolate shavings. The very little chocolate doesn't amount to much but it gives you a bit of sweetness. Most people really ended up liking the pudding.

Will I tough out the diet? I'm trying my best but it's getting hard. I've stared adding some new proteins and begun critically analyzing restaurant menus for things I can eat, but basically it's pretty miserable socializing around food when I only get one meal to have any variety with. On the days I have to go out with folks for lunch or meet up for half day of activities I basically end up starving because I cannot eat anything. I've also taken to challenging some restrictions of the diet. (what's up with calling arugula a vegetable and not part of my unlimited salad) I've pulled up nutritional statements and made comparisons with my coach. I also had to call her on the statement that "salt actually has sugar in it". You can't make statements like that to an developer and not have it picked apart. It turns out iodized salt does contain .04% dextrose in order to stabilize the iodine but basically to get one gram of sugar you have to consume 500 grams of iodized salt and if you do that this diet is the least of your problems. Anyhow I can go on a whole topic about salt (now that i've done research) but you get the idea, some of the rules of the diet don't seem to make much sense. I've also seen a huge outcropping of these diets recently, most of them follow a similar paleo diet principle and sell you a lot of packaged foods and supplements. We'll gut this out for at least a full month and evaluate my results. I do admit some of my clothes are starting to fit better.

Box Contents

  • Italian marinaded pork tenderloin prepared sous vide
  • Sauteed yellow and zucchini squash with portabella mushrooms
  • Asian bean sprout omelette
  • Vanilla Espresso pudding with dark chocolate shavings.