Did you see the film The Hundred Foot Journey? Do you remember the omelet-making scene? That omelet was the creation of Floyd Cardoz who was the consulting chef on the film. It’s also found in his new book, Flavorwalla, of which I received a review copy. In the book, he explains that a walla in India is someone who sells something specific or is particularly knowledgeable about a topic. A paowalla is someone who sells bread. Floyd Cardoz is the flavorwalla because he has “made his mark as a creator of bold, exciting food with balanced layers of flavors and textures that play off each other.” The recipes reflect his varied style of cooking with a mix of cultural influences. There are Mexican, Thai, Moroccan, and Portuguese influences in the dishes as well as Indian flavors. The common thread is the use of spices, herbs, and aromatic ingredients to punch up the results. There’s a Spiced Chicken Soup with Chickpea Noodles that sounds like it’s guaranteed to lift you from feeling under the weather. It’s made with cinnamon, cloves, cumin, scallions, ginger, fresh chiles, and homemade noodles with chickpea flour. I was intrigued by the Yellow Lentil “Dal” enriched with whisked eggs stirred in at the end. And, the Stewed Chicken with Fresh Tomatoes with chipotle, ginger, turmeric, and tamarind paste sounds great for late summer tomatoes. There are other egg dishes in addition to the omelet like Oven-Baked Eggs with Poblanos and Fingerling Potatoes and Coddled Eggs with Crab, Grits, and Leeks. There are quick meals for weeknights and dishes that are perfect for parties, and there are a few cocktails as well like the Tamarind Margarita. I fired up the grill for the Ground Chicken Kebabs because of the big flavors from ginger, garlic, mint, and serrano, and they were great served with the fresh, zesty Romaine Salad with Lime and Thai Chile.
Cardoz explains that in many places in the world “kebab” is anything grilled whether it’s a cut of meat or piece of sausage or something formed into a patty. It doesn’t always involve food on a stick. And so, these patties were not skewered, just grilled as is. Two cloves of garlic, an inch of ginger peeled and cut into coins, and half a serrano chile chopped were combined in a food processor and finely chopped. Two tablespoons of cilantro and two more of mint leaves were added and finely chopped. A half cup of finely chopped onion was added to the mixture along with salt, pepper, and a half teaspoon of Garam Masala. The mixture was worked into a pound of ground chicken by hand. Lately, I’ve been buying humanely-raised, pastured chicken from Smith and Smith Farm at the farmers’ market and have been completely avoiding industrially-raised chicken. Direct from the farm, they sell whole chickens, pieces, and even boneless breasts and packs of ground chicken. So, once mixed, the chicken was formed into small patties that were refrigerated while the grill was being prepped. I brushed each side of the patties with vegetable oil and seasoned them with salt and pepper before placing them on the grill. They only need about three minutes per side depending on the heat of the grill. The dressing for the salad was made with canola oil, lime juice, fish sauce, minced ginger, and a minced Thai chile. It was tossed with chopped romaine, sliced radishes, cilantro leaves, and mint leaves. I served the kebabs with lime wedges and the salad on the side.
The simplicity of little, grilled patties made the brightness of flavors even more unexpected. The squirt of lime on each kebab brought out the herbs, ginger, and chile within. A bite of kebab with a bite of fresh, crisp salad made an ideal mix. If you’re looking to add more spice and interesting flavors to your cooking, this book would be a great place to start.
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