Recently, through the miracle of facebook, I reconnected with my best friend from 5th and 6th grade!!! She left the school in 7th grade and we lost touch after that. But, there is something to be said for old friendships. We met after almost forty years and as soon as we got going, there was no stopping us. It’s like no time had gone by. Despite the gap of four decades, where we have gone from being little girls, to being grown women, to professionals, to mothers kids (I have two in college and she has one in middle school), we both picked up the friendship exactly where we had left off so long ago. We were both surprised that at the similar trajectories our lives had taken. In Delhi, we used to be in grade school together and years later we both came to the US as graduate students and settled down here as immigrants. She lives in Houston and is a professor at a university there and I live in Washington DC. I am absolutely thrilled to find this friendship again and the best part is that she comes to DC quite often (for conferences and meetings) and that means that I will get to see her frequently.
Last week we met up in Georgetown and had a long leisurely dinner at an Indian restaurant called Rasika. This restaurant has two branches. The original one is quite small and is located in the heart of downtown DC. Usually, I don’t like Indian restaurants in the US because all their dishes taste the same (made in the same-ol’-same-ol’ heavy buttery tomato-paste based mother-sauce) but I do love Rasika. The chef here is trained at one of the best hotels in Bombay (and yes, I still can’t get myself to say Mumbai) and he is really the best of the best! He makes the traditional recipes really well and does not resort to short cuts (whereby the same base sauce is used in most of the dishes) and also he is quite innovative with new flavor combinations and experimentation. One of my patent gripes is that people in the US think that the spicier Indian food, the better it is. However, good Indian food requires very judicious and subtle use of spices. The executive chef at Rasika is the master of using spices very deftly. The only problem is that it is a small restaurant and being very popular with the glitterati of DC (even the Obamas eat there), it is hard to get one’s foot in the door here. Their second location in Georgetown is much bigger (and newer) and their menu is a blend of a little traditional and a little fusion.
So my friend and I ate an absolutely outstanding dinner at the second location. The tall glasses of IPA on tap went down really well with the dishes. We started the meal with Beet-Aloo-tikki and Spinach Chaat for appetizers (can’t say enough good things about BOTH the dishes). For the main course we ordered a Lamb biryani, a smoked daal (lentil) and a curried butternut squash. The biryani was traditional and good. The daal/lentil dish was quite innovative with its use of smoked flavoring (I don’t know if they placed a smoking piece of coal next to it to infuse the smokey flavor or they used liquid smoke – but either way, I have to say that I loved the daal). I was just a little iffy about the butternut squash because I could detect raw turmeric in it and that was a bit off-putting. The desserts however were REALLY good – not too sweet and packed with flavor. We had a strawberry Rasmalai and a Mango Ice-cream dome (which had layers of raspberry and blackberry). All in all it was a great meal and it hit the absolute right spot with us! Needless to say, the company of my old-and-newly-re-found-friend made the evening perfect!!!
Of course, I came home and raved about my meal and the result is that I have to now try to recreate it for my family. So today’s experiment was the Beet-aloo-tikki/croquette with Goat cheese stuffing and if I may say so myself, it came out quite close to the original. I served it with a fresh mint-cilantro chutney and ready-made sweet mango chutney (I bought a bottle of it at the local Indian store – it’s called Chundo).
1. 1 beet
2. 1.5 lbs of potatoes
3. 2 tablespoons of freshly ground coriander
4. 2 teaspoons of Chaat Masala (available at Indian stores)
5. 1 teaspoon of ground green cardamom
6. Salt to taste
7. A pinch of red pepper flakes
8. 5-6 ounces of goat cheese
9. 2-3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil for shallow frying.
1. Boil the beet till it is tender.
2. Also boil all the potatoes till they are soft.
9. Take add about 1-2 ounces of fresh goat cheese inside the potato cup and using your right hand, cover the cup up with the mashed potato mixture. This way the goat cheese gets stuffed inside the potato croquette. Do the same with the remaining mashed potato mixture (stuffing goat cheese inside each croquette). The shape of these should be similar to those of hamburger patties.
11. Serve with any kind of sweet and spicy fruity chutney. I loved it with Mango chutney and a fresh Mint-Cilantro Chutney. These were an outstanding success with my family! The traditional Indian style Allo-tikkis are good but these were beautiful to look at (the beets gave it a beautiful color) and flavorful because of the addition of cardamom powder (quite an innovative idea on the part of the Rasika chef! – my compliments to him!!!) and the goat cheese gave it a great tang and texture.