If you've followed my blog for awhile, you know that I love to have "theme" parties, as evidenced, here, here and here. Well, I couldn't have been more thrilled when Aarti Sequeira won The Next Foodnetwork Star this year. I've watched it for the last 3 or 4 seasons, and knew from the first episode that they haven't had talent like hers competing on that show for a long time. Thankfully they chose the right person (I feel like viewers were owed this after sitting through an entire season and having Aaron McCargo Jr. win a couples seasons ago).
I've really been wanting to expand my cooking horizons into different types of cuisines, and Aarti makes Indian food more approachable. Even more important - she embraces entertaining and an Aarti Paarti is such a fun way to entertain. To clarify, I suppose the definition would be having your girlfriends over and making some Aarti recipes, but I guess its a flexible definition - this is just what I did.
My friends (well, some of them) can be somewhat skeptical of my theme parties from time to time (my first Mamma Mia party confused people when they saw what it was all about) - so I just invited some friends over for a girls night, and didn't tell anyone what it was about. I also didn't want people to be skeptical of trying Indian food. The night was a success, the food was delicious, and I will definitely be throwing more Aarti Paartis!
First up, my only non-Aarti recipe, was a fig martini. I've been wanting to try this since I had one in London. But figs are used a lot in Indian cooking (right?) - so I figured - close enough....
I don't have the exact measurements so here is how I made them (this should give you 2 martinis):
- 2 spoonfuls fig puree
- Shot of vanilla vodka
- Cranberry juice (top off the rest of your cocktail mixer with this)
Next up was Aarti's "Friday night shrimp" which won oodles of praise during the Iron Chef challenge. These did not disappoint and were incredibly delicious and flavorful. This was really my first time cooking with Indian flavors so I was nervous I wouldn't like the tumeric and coriander - no need to worry - this will be one of my go-to party appetizers for some time!
Recipe - Foodnetwork.com
A word of warning - wear gloves when you are working with tumeric - at least if you have white nail polish on like I did - it will turn your nails yellow : )
Next up was the Naan Pizza Aarti made in her pilot episode. This was equally as delicious - the mango chutney used in the sauce really gives this pizza an interesting flavor. It was so easy to make, I used Trader Joe's frozen naan as the recipe suggested, and substituted queso fresco for paneer, as a lot of the FN reviewers suggested if you can't find it.
Recipe - Foodnetwork.com
All in all, my friends and I had a blast and enjoyed Aarti's recipes, I can't wait to try more of hers - I'm already planning on making the chicken and bread budding recipe from her lastest episode!
Oh yeah, and the geography lesson I mentioned - as we were discussing Indian cuisine, turns out some of my friends (and myself) were a little unclear on where India really is located. Thus ensued a ridiculous conversation about world geography that involved me pulling out a globe.
Even worse? I had invited a new friend over who is a colleague over from my company's London office. She grew up in Australia and is quite the world traveler so helpfully educated us on world geography. We wonder why Americans get the stereotype we do! How embarrassing.