Sunday, February 1, 2009

Dining for Women

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I was invited to a Dining for Women event, but had never heard of it before. Once I discovered just what it was, I was absolutely thrilled to take part in it. For anyone not familiar with DFW, here's what it is:

Dining for Women (DFW) is a dinner giving circle. We "dine in" together, each bringing a dish to share, and our "dining out" dollars are sent to international programs empowering women (we give what we might have spent to eat dinner out that night). Plenty of useful resources are provided to anyone who wants to hold their own event. Our dollars for this event are being sent to The Hunger Project.

According to the DFW website, the Mission of The Hunger Project is: the sustainable end of world hunger and poverty in Africa, Asia and Latin America, by empowering people at the grassroots level to lead lives of self-reliance, meet their own basic needs and build better futures for their children.

Because we're all adventurous and like to experience other cultures, our dinner theme was Indian, which is the country where our donation dollars will be used. Here was our covered dish menu:
  • Indian-style Chicken with Rice
  • Samosas with Chutney dipping sauce (my contribution)
  • Cilantro Rice
  • Chickpea & Tomato Curry
  • Saag Panir (that terrific spinach dish w/ Indian cheese)
  • Naan
  • Chili Lime Brownies
  • There were also a few non-Indian dishes for those who were feeling less rambunctious

Making the Samosa's was definitely an adventure...

Chutney Dipping Sauce

The key ingredient in this delectable dip is tamarind, which I've never used before. It comes in a squishy, dark (almost black), flat brick; I pulled a little taste off the brick when I opened the package, and discovered that it has a tangy, sweet, sour flavor. The tamarind cooks for about an hour along with a pound of whole dates, sugar and water. When everything is good and gooey, and the tamarind has dissolved, the mixture goes into the food processor to be thoroughly chopped up.

Then comes the straining to remove the skins - for me, this was the messiest part of the process. It's difficult to work the thick mixture through a strainer and the goo seems to get on everything. I suppose when you've been making it a while, you develop a smooth process, but I was a very messy newbie. I was literally wiping this off the walls - the simple act of tapping the rubber spatula against the edge of the bowl sends dark blobs everywhere!

Finally, the strained thick mixture goes back on the stove along with more sugar and water and simmers for a few hours until nicely thickened.

Samosas

The basis of these little bundles is baked potato! Additional ingredients, all sauteed in ghee (pungent clarified butter), are peas, onions, garlic, jalapeno (I reduced the amount by 1/2 - not a fan of really spicy), and cilantro, along with the aromatic spices.

Next, the potato mixture gets folded up into little wonton wrappers. The wrappers are made and packaged so nicely - each perfect piece is floured so none of them stick to each other. A spoonful of potato mix goes in the center and the edges are brushed with an egg mixture and everything is folded up. I was supposed to make a cone shape but found this next to impossible! I settled for an envelope fold, which seemed to work just fine. Then, they're fried in hot oil - each one takes only a few minutes to turn nicely brown.

And there we have it - a heaping platter of samosas and a LARGE bowl of dipping sauce (the sauce recipe could easily be cut in 1/2 and there would still be plenty.) They were a huge hit, and made a nice addition to our delicious dinner. In fact, some people ended up eating the sauce all by itself by the spoonful - it's that tasty.

All in all, we raised nearly $200 to send to The Hunger Project and enjoyed a pleasant evening of socializing and eating. Everyone wins with the Dining for Women concept.

Photo Key:
#1 - photo courtesy of the DFW website (I forgot to take pictures until the night was almost over! So, no shots of our actual loaded buffet table.)
#2 - a box of spice mix I found at the World Food Market, made just for Samosas.
#3 - trying not to make too much of a mess as I strain the Chutney dipping sauce
#4 - the Samosa stuffing mix
#5 - trying to make neat little bundles; absolutely love the wonton wrappers
#6 - frying the Samosas
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5 comments:

tundratantrum said...

I thought I would answer your question about pilot bread/crackers here. Check out these two posts and it will explain....

http://tundratantrum.blogspot.com/2007/11/sailor-boy.html

http://tundratantrum.blogspot.com/2008/01/sailor-boy-blues.html

Loveanewidea said...

Tundratantrum-
Thank you so much for the info on the Sailor Boy Pilot Bread, which I'd never heard of before! Loved reading your older posts.

Alaskan Dave Down Under said...

Oh I coulda brought some killer Indian dishes. Although, I guess I'dve had to go in drag, eh?

Alaskan Dave Down Under said...

Almost forgot: an easy way to strain stuff is to use your hand instead of a spatula. I'M SERIOUS! Just use a large strainer, put your fingers into whatever is to be strained, and start swirling it around with your fingertips just slightly brushing against the strainer. This is a chinese technique and you'd be amazed at how fast it works and how little mess it makes.

Loveanewidea said...

Alaskan Dave-
I think it would have been extra fun if you came in drag! (I'm not sure why this group is just for women, though???). Have you made samosa's? These are a Wolfgang Puck recipe and are quite exceptional.

Hmmmm...on the straining. I will definitely give that a try. I'm not at all averse to getting my hands right into my cooking! Thanks for the tip :)

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