Summer is here, with hot afternoons, bright colors and happy faces. Parties are in full swing with grilled food and chilled drinks. Memorial Day at the end of May is the start of the grilling season.
Grilling is an All-American tradition. It is a method of cooking food at high heat over direct flames. Grilling is different from bar-b-que. Bar-b-que is cooking marinated foods at temperatures between 200 and 300 degrees F. Grilling is about cooking foods at very high heat, well above 400 degrees F. Most barbeque sauces are tomato and sugar based and will burn if they are used for grilling.
I have fond memories of my early years in Kanpur, India. Situated on the banks of the Ganges, Kanpur was as fertile as it could be.Our home had crisp green lawns with roses of every hue. My favorite pastime in the summer months was counting the number of tomatoes on the vine, which stretched on to the side walls of the house. I remember admiring the red plump fruit against the faded brown wall. While my dad brought home red juicy apples and healthy bunches of grapes, mom would cut a bowl of fresh tomatoes and sprinkle a little sugar, for us to eat. This was when I fell in love with fruits.
I looked outside through my kitchen window at the cloudy cold day. I remembered the vegetable sandwiches mom would make for us, she would smear 2 slices of bread with butter and add the vegetable of the day – spicy beans or hot chole, or potato fry in between and toasted it on a hot skillet. It tasted awesome.
“Want to get a Hot sandwich break” I said my husband.
He jumped at the offer. As we were driving trying to figure out the best places that made a good sandwich – TOGOs, nah! Quiznos –like it but been there too many times. I asked him what he wants, he said “your chutney sandwich” – toasted warm wheat bread spread with spicy homemade tomato chutney, layered with pepper jack cheese, warm sautéed onions and bell peppers, a layer of grilled chicken…
One Friday evening we went out to try a new restaurant with a friend. Our friend was curious about the cuisine. I told her they had some interesting dishes and she exclaimed, “Please don’t say Fusion – it feels like the chef has a hand in all the pots, and does not have a clue where he belongs!” That sparked an interesting conversation.
Fusion marries 2 or more ingredients, from 2 different cuisines, and creates a new dish that compliments the individual flavors and ingredients. Many centuries ago when the Chinese came to America, the Africans moved to Europe and the East Indians and French learned to dine together, fusion was born.
Today, this blending of cuisines has gained momentum. This is the new trend in many metropolitan cities around the world. This New World Cuisine requires a great deal of creativity and knowledge on the part of the chef, to come up with a dish that incorporates entirely different cuisines. The world is truly flat, when it comes to Fusion food.
We hosted a party for about twenty guests, where I decided to create a fusion of classic Thai and other Asian flavors. Here is a sampling of the dishes of that evening:
Crispy Lettuce Cups
This dish was a last minute concoction. I had julienne (long strips) of fresh ginger, carrots, and green papaya left over. I tore up lettuce leaves into bite size pieces, heaped a teaspoonful of the vegetables, along with crushed peanuts into these lettuce cups with a dash of lime juice. I served it with peanut sauce and sweet chilli sauce.