Saturday, March 23, 2013

Indian Cooking Class - Recipes

It's been impossible to find delicious yet affordable restaurants in Zürich. Cheap and tasty staples like Indian, Mexican, & Asian food are (1) very expensive (2) gross - when compared to NYC, Berlin, and I'm sure many other large cities. Although our small fridge limits the amount of leftovers I can store or freeze, I have been cooking much more than I did in the US. 

Once a year the American Women's Club in Zürich has a Workshop Week which is open to non-members. The club is organized by and for women who do not work 9 - 5. This year I was only able to sign up for an Indian cooking class. It was worth the CHF 50. My belly is full of delicious food and the recipes are not overwhelming. 

Our teacher said in India you don't eat out. You cook at home. Restaurants are said to have gross food. After having eaten home cooked Indian food a few times, I agree there is no comparison.

This is the one Indian store in Zürich where you can buy curry leaves, fenugreek leaves, whole spices like cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, and vermicelli, plus more I'm sure.
Aggarwals Mirch masala AG - Kernstrasse 27 - 8004 Zürich

Butter Chicken
Mix & marinade overnight:
- 1 lb. skinless, boneless chicken pieces
- 3 tbsp. coriander powder
- 1.5 tbsp. turmeric powder
- 1.5 tbsp. chili powder (optional) 
- salt to taste

Use enough sunflower oil so it's 0.25 inches deep in the pan. When the oil is hot, add the chicken and fry it on medium heat, turning it over, for ca. 10 min. When it's done, put the chicken in a dish, saving the oil in the pan.

Add a chunk of butter (2 tbsp) to the chicken grease, as well as some more sunflower oil. Add the following crushed spices and fry them for 2 min.:
- cardamon pods 
- pepper
- cloves 
- nutmeg skin
- cinnamon stick
- whole bay leaves

Add 3 chopped red onions and salt and fry them till the onions are golden. Then add a 1 inch chopped ginger and 1 large garlic clove. Add a handful of crushed cashew nuts. When onion starts to brown, add and then fry for 1 min. with some extra oil:
- 2 tsp. coriander powder
- 0.5 tsp. turmeric
- 0.5 tsp. chili powder (optional)
- 0.5 tsp. garam masala
- 1 tsp. bombay curry mix (for meat)

Add 1 can of Longobordi (brand name) pureed tomatoes. You can also add ketchup for extra sweetness. Add 1 tsp. of crushed fenugreek leaves. You can crush them in your palms. 

* You can use the same sauce but add it to boiled eggs vs. meat.

Puree the sauce in a blender or with a soup blender until it's pearly smooth paste. Add 1 cup of water to the paste and mix over heat. Add salt to taste. Add the chicken and bring it to a boil on low heat, for 15 - 20 min. You can also keep the chicken in the sauce for 3 - 4 hours and reheat it before eating. 

Now add ca. 20 ml. of full fat cream. 

Spicy Dal Fry
Soak 500 gr. "gelbe linsen" (yellow lentils) for 3 - 5 hrs. or overnight. Boil them on low for 1 hour. (Look up amount of water). At the end you will want to have the consistency of a paste. 

To make the curry, heat up some sunflower oil. Add and fry 0.5 tsp. brown mustard seeds to get the aroma out. Add fresh curry leaves (2 tbsp cut up), 2 dried red chillies, and 2 cut red onions. Lower heat and fry with salt. When onions are golden, add cut/crushed garlic (2 cloves) and cut ginger (1 inch). Then add 0.5 tsp. turmeric, 1 tsp. chili powder, 1 tsp. coriander powder, 0.5 tsp. garam masala, 1 tsp. curry for vegetables. Add more oil and cook 2 min. You can also add some water so it doesn't burn. Then add cut tomatoes OR spinach OR red beans. Can also add green/red chillies. Cook until the tomatoes are mushed. Add 1 tsp. of dried fenugreek leaves which you mash in your palms. Add a bunch of fresh cut coriander. Now add the daal (lentils) and more fresh coriander. You can also pressure cook this recipe.

Basmati Rice
Soak it 1 hr. beforehand. For each cup of rice you need bet. 1.5 - 2 cups of water. 

Melt butter and vegetable oil in a pot. Add cut fresh coriander, cut fresh mint leaves, cumin seeds, and then add the rice. Don't cook the rice too long or it will become sticky. You cook it on low heat with the cover on. Check on it now and then. If you have too much liquid, you can drain the rice after it's cooked.

Add butter in another pot and sunflower oil. Fry a white onion cut in strips. Add 0.5 cups crushed cashews and salt. Add a cut up garlic clove. When the onions are brown, add the rice and mix. It's done. 

Mix 1 cut red onion, fresh ginger, 2 cut red chillies (spicy alert), and cut up fresh curry leaves. *You can buy and freeze the curry leaves. They're hard to find in Zürich. Add salt. If the onion acid bothers your tummy, add vinegar and salt to the cut up onion and then drain the juice. Use the remaining onion.  Add 500 gr. of yogurt. You can add cut up tomatoes OR cucumber OR carrots. Add fresh cut coriander at the end. 

You buy them pre-made. You cook them in very hot oil for less than 30 seconds. They will curl up and become golden. You can store them in an air tight container for a week. 

Payasam: Vermicelli Desert
Melt butter in a pot. Add cut up cashews and crushed cardamom (only the round seeds). Add 3 fist fulls of vermicelli that you crush in your hands. They should be 1 - 0.5 inches long. Stir over heat and add more butter. Now add 500 ml milk. You can also add the remaining full fat cream if you like. Add sugar to sweeten the milk. The milk should not float - if it does, add more vermicelli. Add safron. Cook 10 min. over low heat. 

You eat the desert warm. 

Friday, June 18, 2010

Spectacular Find #1

I've been quiet for a while, especially given my goal to write something every week. When I decided to keep an online journal about my new life in Switzerland, I made a vow not to turn this swissmeme into a dull, self centered diary where I bitch and moan every time I feel sad. Fact is, I've had a rough time adjusting to life abroad. I miss my mom, my friends, the food, the design community, and even the shopping in New York. I've thought about this so many times, I'm starting to bore myself. So, instead of harping on how frustrated and down I've been, let me tell you about a wonderful place just outside of Zürich.

The Bruno Weber Sculpture Park in Dietikon is... magical. I don't use this word lightly or often. We drove there on a rainy Saturday afternoon and almost had the place to ourselves. I spent the next hour remembering the wonderment of being a kid. The surrounding woods add to the mystery of this gem. I love the pissed off snails. Of course they're mad and belligerent. Just because they look tiny to us, doesn't mean they don't have a huge personality. If Alice in Wonderland was re-written today, the illustrations might look like Weber's park.

Check out more photos or better yet, go take some yourself. Next up on my spectacular list are the Emma Kunz Center and the new Tree Museum.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Expat Expo in Zug

The Expat Expo in Zug last weekend was fun. It was a relief to freely speak English. Eighty four booths were crowded together in a well lit basement. The highlights were...

A whisky tasting with Mark Chesterfield: I loved the Aberfeldy Single Malt. It was smooth, light, and a touch smoky at the end. The Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban was too sweet. It's matured in port pipes shipped from Portugal.

An incredible British cheese tasting with Michael: I should have taken Wallace & Gromit more seriously. I had no idea British cheese is so fantastic. It's like having an opera melt on your tongue. The rhapsody of flavors gently grounds you into the present and all that remains is the taste. I especially loved the Exmoor Blue and the Rachel Goat. If you're in the Zürich HB on Wednesdays, you can stop by Michael's booth and ask him to introduce you to the history and flavors of British cheeeeeeeeese.

A delightful and delicious wine tasting with Peter Beaty: I found the quintessential white and red wine. The New Zealand 2008 Wild Rock Sauvignon Blanc “Infamous Goose” is smooth, fruity but not sweet and very refreshing. The Australian 2008 Angus The Bull Cabernet Sauvignon is strong and honest. I can't wait to enjoy our 4 bottles (2 each) with food. Peter is planning to move to Zürich this summer. This is great news as this town needs a neighborhood wine shop with friendly, expert advice that won't break the piggybank.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Getting married in Zürich

On April 6th, 2010 at 11:43 AM, Fabian and I signed our marriage certificate. The year plus three months leading up to this moment was full of challenges and delays. Since I agreed to move to Zürich, we decided to legally marry in Switzerland. We did exchange emotional vows in NYC on June 20th, 2009, surrounded by most of my closest friends. It was a wonderful night whose memory gives me strength and peace.

Once we began the legal process for my move overseas, we made the mistake of not consulting an immigration lawyer and instead dealt directly with the Swiss consulate in NYC and the Zürich registry office. The Swiss were polite, responsive, answered phone calls in person, but they did not go out of their way to be helpful. Unless you know exactly what question to ask, you will not get the information you need. Since we were dealing with two different offices, we would sometimes hear two different answers. The poor communication translated into a six month delay while I waited for my fiancé (L) visa to be processed. On my 38th birthday, my paperwork came through.

After some research, we chose to exchange our Swiss vows in the Werd Pavilion, a small modern glass cube. We asked for an English and Swiss German ceremony and had only ten guests, all from Fabian's side. If you marry in Zürich you currently have four site options: the Werd Pavilion (it has a lot of natural light and is free), the Weinschenke (this 17th century wine cellar costs 250 CHF to reserve), the Zunfthaus zur Waag (this 1287 house costs between 150 - 350 CHF), or the Zürich Zoo (this bizarre and depressing venue for a wedding costs 635+ CHF).

When we arrived at the Pavilion I felt I was on a "new wife" assembly line. I must have seen three other brides during a one hour period. The party before us was very late and we were asked if we'd mind having our ceremony 3 minutes early. No problem. Once we went inside the main room, Fabian and I sat down at a large triangle shaped wooden table. Our two witnesses were on one side, with our guests facing us in chairs lined up along the wall. The officiant sat in front of us. She seemed young, nervous, and spoke English with a heavy Swiss accent.

Agnes severely mispronounced my first and last name and then took the liberty to read two poems that neither one of us had heard before. The English poem could work as lyrics to a Mariah Carey song. The writer is anonymous. Maybe Agnes composed this ditty for her high school English club. The German poem by Herman Hesse is much better, but I would not have chosen it for us. It focuses on how different we are (like the sun and moon) and while this has a lot of truth to it, I find it too negative a fact to focus on during a wedding. I remember saying "Yes" but I don't remember what I said "Yes" to. After we signed the marriage certificate, our officiant proudly smiled and told us we could keep the pen we used, as a gift from the city of Zürich.

Fabian and I did tear up once we were pronounced married. I actually had to hold back a flood of tears, or else I would have started bawling and I don't know what our officiant would have done. Ok, big confession... the horrendous English poem made me want to cry and this embarrasses and infuriates me. I held it in but still feel I was emotionally manipulated by mediocre drivel surrounded by dreadful clip art.

Maybe the other wedding sites are packaged with better ceremonies. Maybe we didn't ask the right questions before our wedding day. Maybe I should focus on the fact that I am finally married and overlook the details. Plus I will always remember the beautiful ceremony we had in NYC. (Thank you Reverend Adam and everyone who witnessed our union.)

I do wonder about other justice of the peace weddings. Did you get legally married or witness a wedding at City Hall or an equivalent place, and if so, what was it like?

Thursday, April 1, 2010

NYC vs. Züri

I've lived in Zürich for the past 3 months. This winter has been harder than I expected, which is why I've decided to withhold judgment and keep an open mind for one year. In March I traveled to NYC, my home of 14 years. It was strange to be back knowing I would leave again. The filth in the subway and on some streets is mind numbing. I'm surprised there hasn't been an outbreak of the Plague. Sadly, there seems to be more homelessness than I remember.

Still, it was wonderful to meet some of my closest friends and share incredible meals while catching up. I had the absolute best cocktails at RYE. The food was spectacular as well. Sushi Nanase again delivered a sublime night. One of my girlfriends fed me the best home cooked Chinese food I've inhaled. Red Hook Lobster provided outstanding lobster rolls and my first giant whoopie pie. I also stuffed myself at Vatan, the best Indian restaurant.

Besides exquisite dining, NYC holds an endless amount of opportunities for your professional, spiritual, physical, and emotional growth. Whether rich or poor, shy or extroverted, you can lead an exciting life 24/7. I regret taking a lot for granted. At the same time, I do remember how hard it was to feel at peace. Life was sucked out of me by the fast pace, the competitive dating scene, and the pollution. I remember walking down the streets on hot summer nights, terrified of giant roaches scurrying along. Areas close to overflowing garbage bags were especially ripe with pests and a dizzying stench. NYC is a drug, constructed by extremes.

However, instead of launching on a personal comparison of Zürich and NYC, I decided to stick to the facts. As you will see, there is no comparison. Click on the chart for a legible view.

Have you made big geographical moves in your life? What did you learn and what advice can you give this expat?

Monday, March 15, 2010

Would you like a straw with your wine?

My taste buds awoke to the many wonders of wine after a long weekend in Sonoma, California, almost a decade ago. I still remember my first vineyard, Kunde. It was horrible and almost as bad as Long Island wines. My friends and I more than made up for our unpalatable beginning and discovered the amazing Rafanelli (they offer dark chocolate with their tasting), the delicious Acorn, the classic Simi (my dad's favorite), and a few others I can't recall. After my awakening, I started paying attention to the wine I bought or ordered. I also decided that spending $15 - $35 on one bottle was OK, depending on the occasion. In New York City and Brooklyn it's very common to go to your local friendly wine store and ask for recommendations. I grew to love and most importantly trust UVA Wines. So far I have not been able to find anything like it in Zürich. Tips are very much appreciated.

COOP, a supermarket chain, is good because they do have descriptions of types of food their wines complement. They also carry excellent bottles in the medium range of 15 CHF - 20 CHF. I haven't tried their expensive varieties yet, but did stumble across a small Tetra Pak of French Cabernet Sauvignon. At 1.90 CHF for 25 dl, it's not a bargain, but it comes with a straw so Fabian and I had to try it. The container has French instructions which loosely translate to: "This Cabernet Sauvignon, an intense and fruity wine of a sustained color is ideal for picnics and parties among friends. Serve at 8 degrees Celcius." I could not find a date anywhere but there is a seal proclaiming it to be a "Fine Wine from the South of France". I can imagine U.S. authorities freaking out about presenting alcohol in a package typically used for school lunch box fruit juices.

We decided to do a blind taste test and compare the Tetra Pak with a 7.99 CHF bottle of Spanish red table wine. I wanted to go for the full experience so I first drank the wine with the straw, from the original container. I was impressed to find 4 holes around the tip of the straw. This must help the wine breathe as you drink. Unfortunately the texture of the straw is not user friendly (it hurt my lips and tongue) and interferes with the act of sipping. The taste of the wine was not as awful as I expected. It was harsh and probably very young, but drinkable. Next, I poured the Tetra Pak wine in two glasses and the blind taste test began. We also had a couple of glasses of the Spanish red. Fabian went first and upon sniffing what was the Tetra Pak said "Oh yeah, this is how it smells". He thought it resembles airport wine and tastes better than it smells. After trying the Spanish wine, Fabian declared that it wasn't really good either. Now it was my turn. The first glass I picked smelled like a toilet in NYC. After tasting the second glass, I correctly identified the Tetra Pak. It's clear why you should only drink it out of its container. It stinks with the harshness of nail polish remover and the aroma of a slightly dirty, wet, mangy dog. Throughout dinner we sipped from both wines. With each mouthful, the Tetra wine became worse. I had to hold my breath when drinking it and finally gave up for fear of developing an aversion to all red wine. In conclusion, there is no reason to ever buy the Tetra Pak wine. Ever.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

White Cross

Long before I moved to Switzerland I was intrigued with the Swiss flag. I love the simple boldness of a white cross on a bright red background. The Spanish bull is the other symbol I love, although I do feel slightly embarrassed by his large testicle(s). I appreciate the “I Heart NY” logo and I’ll probably buy a tank top and mug when I’m back in The City.

Let’s return to the cross. According to Wikipedia, the cross is one of the most ancient human symbols, used by many religions. It’s frequently a representation of the division of the world into four elements (Earth, Water, Air, Fire) or cardinal points (N, S, E, W). The cross also combines the concepts of divinity (the vertical line), and the world (the horizontal line). The word cross was introduced to English in the 10th century as the term for the instrument of the torturous execution of Christ. It stems from the Latin crux, via the Old Irish cros. Previously, a cross was called a rood.

The history of Switzerland as a nation began in 1291, when three cantons in central Switzerland decided to help each other in defending their rights against the counts of Habsburg. They formed the Old Swiss Confederacy (1291 – 1515), a loose federation of autonomous regions, with no common field sign, uniforms, or high commander during most of its history. When Swiss troops went to war they carried the flags of their region with them. It was very difficult for the Swiss to recognize their allies on the battlefield. In the battle of Laupen (1339), white stripes forming crosses were fastened on the confederate soldier's breast, back, shoulders, arms, leg, hats or weapons. In the middle of the 15th century, the white cross was integrated into the flags of the member states of the confederacy. Today, Switzerland consists of 26 federal states called Cantons. Each canton still has its own coat of arms or flag.

The Swiss flag was officially introduced on December 12th, 1889 through the Swiss Federal Council. At the same time the dimensions of the cross were formally established, describing the horizontal arms as one sixth longer than the width of the vertical lines. The size of the cross in relation to the red field is not formally established but comes close to the ratio of 5:8. The exact hue of red in the Swiss flag is not defined by law. Various shades of red have been used over time. In 2007, the federal authorities defined “Swiss Red” to be Pantone's PMS 485 (100% magenta and 100% yellow). For web use, this color translates to the hexadecimal value of #F00000. The web safe equivalent is #FF0000. The Vatican City is the only other sovereign-state with a square flag.

Destruction, removal or desecration of a Swiss, cantonal or municipal flag or coat of arms that has been installed by a public authority is punishable by a monetary penalty or imprisonment of up to three years. The destruction or desecration of privately owned flags is legal. The use of the Swiss flag or coat of arms on merchandise is technically prohibited by the 1931 Federal Act for the protection of public coats of arms and other public insignia. This prohibition is not enforced. Zürich is overflowing with logos, clothing, home goods, and advertisements using the Swiss flag.

The Red Cross symbol is a reversal of the Swiss national flag. In 1863, the Red Cross was founded by the Swiss merchant Henri Dunant and the Swiss General Dufour. National Red Cross organizations in non-christian countries interpreted the Red Cross as a Christian symbol and replaced it by their own religious symbols. The color red on white background was retained. Today, three official Red Cross symbols are in use: the red cross, the red crescent, and a red crystal which is devoid of any national, political or religious connotation.

What do you think of the Swiss flag? Would you wear it? Would you eat it? Do you have a close tie to the flag of your birth country?

Sources used:
Wikipedia - Cross
Wikipedia - Rood
Wikipedia - Swiss Federal Council
Wikipedia - Swiss flag
Wikipedia - Fahne und Wappen der Schweiz
History of Switzerland's Flag
Red Cross - The history of the emblems