Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Win 2 FREE tickets to Wednesday’s Iron Fork!

Iron-Fork_V2 Bathroom


The Nashville Scene’s Iron Fork event is when Kitchen Stadium comes to Nashville. Five extremely talented chefs will battle over a yet to be disclosed secret ingredient. It is, without a doubt, one of my favorite events of the year.

In addition to seeing these chefs duke it out, attendees to the event will have a chance of sampling bites from a variety of restaurants. Those restaurants include: Germantown Cafe, Woodlands, Provence, Watermark, Nero’s, Chago’s Cantina, Caffe Nonna, Mere Bulles, Yellow Porch, Wild Iris, Amerigo, Kohana, Pub5, Salsa, Kayne Prime, Tavern, and Ginger Thai.

The event details are above and if you want to purchase tickets, please go here. Buy them soon because this event will sell out!

Lucky for you, I’m giving out two FREE tickets to this event so you can come enjoy in all the culinary revelry. Here’s how you can enter:

A winner will be selected randomly at 6 AM tomorrow morning (4/10/2013). Good luck!



1. Leave a comment on this blog telling me what you would pick as a secret ingredient for the chef’s challenge.

OPTIONAL ENTRIES: (These will give you two additional entries into the contest, for a bigger chance of winning)

2. Follow me on twitter, @VivekSurti, and tweet the following: “I just entered to win two tickets to @NashvilleScene’s Iron Fork from @VivekSurti, Enter here: http://wp.me/p2qiJ0-zT”. Come back to the blog and leave a comment telling me you’ve done so.

3. Like my page on Facebook and leave me a comment on the blog saying you did.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Food Bloggers Against Hunger


I remember taking a class about food culture back when I was in college. For any foodie, I thought it would be an easy summer class with a subject I was very much interested in. It was taught by Professor Beth Conklin at Vanderbilt and to be honest, this class changed my life.

At first, I thought maybe the class is about exploring different cuisines. I figured we’d take field trips to ethnic restaurants, talk about iconic dishes of different cultures, and perhaps even hear from a few guest lecturers from around the TN area. What we got, however, was an in-depth look at our food culture, right here, in Middle Tennessee. Without going to far in depth, we explored and learned about the following:

- Where our food comes from: We early on went to Bells Bend Farms (which later became my CSA) to learn about the history of a land that is an agricultural gold mine only 15 miles out of Nashville. Eric Woolridge was introduced to us as a young 24 year old, fresh from college, kid who had to take over this farm to help provide sustainably grown produce to the community. More importantly, Eric told us about the difficulties of farming. How long the days were, the lack of supplies, the inability to purchase necessary equipment to help make the farm efficient, and a transient group of farm help were all concerns of his. I remember asking myself, “should it really be this hard to make fresh food? I mean, food that basically grows without any extra help besides a hand, good soil, and sunlight should be easier, shouldn’t it?”

- Food politics is a very real game: One of the books we read was written by Michael Pollan, The Omnivore’s Dilemma. Pollan, who is a well recognized author and notable personality on the topic of food politics. In this book, Pollan talks about how government corn subsidies have led producers to sell cheaper and worse foods to the American people. Corn is cheap and a versatile ingredient. You can find it in the feed of McDonald’s Big Mac or as a sweetener in a glass of cola. And because of the massive subsidy, these foods all cost less, even though they are worse for you. A big part of Pollan’s critique is that the government is endorsing the wrong types of food. Instead of healthy, smart options, we rely on cheap, industrial methods to feed Americans.

- Our voice matters: This is certainly not a problem one can fix overnight. However, increasing your awareness is a very real possibility that can create real change. After I took this class, I’ve become someone who knows where every single thing in my fridge comes from. I joined a CSA, I buy meats, dairy, and cheese from people who I know directly and whose farms I have visited. I support businesses that take pride in using local and sustainably raised ingredients. In all of this, I have become part of a great community that values taking a stand and making a difference. I hope through it all, I have inspired more people to do the same. But at the very least, I have changed the way I eat, the way my family eats, and built relationships with those who produce quality foods.

A few weeks ago, there was a great movie out at The Belcourt Theater called, A Place at the Table. The movie documented three families and their struggles with food. It is still hard for me to imagine that hunger is a very real problem in America. I was blessed to be in a family where even though we’ve been through hard times, to always have food on the table. Unfortunately, that is not the case for many families. And worse so, when they do have the little money available to them to spend on food, it is often highly processed, sugar laden, and unhealthy.

Food bloggers from around the country came together, through The Giving Table, to help raise awareness about the issue of hunger in America. If you have seen the movie, it is impossible not to feel pissed off and angry. Something needs to be done. Here in Nashville, local food writer, Jennifer Justus, sent an email out to area bloggers with an idea and a call for help. Our community instantly supported her in helping get the word out. But now, we need your help in order to make a difference. Here’s what you can do!

1. If you are in Nashville, I encourage you to attend a screening of A Place at the Table on Monday, April 29 at 6 pm. The screening will be held at Downtown Presbyterian (154 5th Avenue N, Nashville, TN 37219). Following the screening will be a food advocacy fair where you can find more ways to get involved through Hands on Nashville’s Urban Farm or talk with Community Food Advocates on how to protect the SNAP program.

If you aren’t in Nashville or are unable to come to the screening, check out the movie through the Apple Store or Amazon.

2. Alert your Congressional leaders. Share our Strength has provided an easy to use form on their website, which you can access, here.

Thank you all for listening and reading. My late grandfather always used to tell me, “We may never be able to move mountains, but all of us can cast a stone into the water to create many ripples.” Let us all cast a stone, for if we work together, we really can create great changes for ourselves, for those in need, and for the future.




Basmati Rice Salad

Rice has always been a staple in my home, ever since I can remember. For the Indian kitchen, it is made everyday. For this recipe, I add a few staple pantry ingredients and a few fresh ingredients to create a healthy and affordable meal.


1 cup long grain (basmati) rice (or any rice you prefer, such as brown rice, short grain rice, or even wild rice)
1 onion, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
.5 cups green peas (fresh or frozen and thawed)
2 cloves cardamom
1 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 lemon, juiced
1/4 cup fresh cilantro
1 T fresh butter


Wash the rice thoroughly and let drain. Get a pot over medium high heat and add a 1/2 tsp of oil. Add the onions and the carrots and season with salt and pepper. Cook until translucent, but not brown. Add the cardamom, cumin, and rice and stir well. Add two cups of water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and cover the pot. Cook for about 20 minutes until the rice is cooked through.

Add the fresh peas, lemon juice, cilantro, and butter to the rice and fold everything together. Season with salt and serve warm or at room temperature.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Charleston Food & Wine Festival Lambs and Clams – Part 4

*NOTE: This year I was one of eight lucky bloggers selected to take part in the Charleston Food & Wine Festival’s Lambs + Clams Original Recipe Contest. The idea is basically that each  month, selected bloggers will receive shipments of Border Springs Farm Lamb and Rappahannock River Oysters and be challenged to create recipes with the products. Each month there will be a winner picked by a judges panel and “fan votes” (so if you feel inclined to vote for my recipe on the Festival’s facebook page, please feel free to do so!), and the knowledge of being a badass when it comes to cooking lambs and clams. So with that, here’s the final installment – ground lamb and clams!


L&C Final Pic _ Vivek

This entire recipe contest has been an absolute blast. I must give thanks to Craig at Border Springs Farm and Travis at Rappahannock River Oysters for supplying us with incredible, seriously incredible product. Besides being extremely well cared for, delicious products, we would receive everything fresh in the mail the day after they shipped it.

For the final contest, we were given ground lamb and clams. As our weather here in Nashville has been fairly cold, I wanted to make a hearty dish. We’ve been dealing with colder temperatures than we were used to, and just last night a predicted “ice storm” which would have wrecked the roads. Luckily, we didn’t have either ice or storms! Alas, I was prepared either way as I had a big bowl of lamb and clams waiting for me.

The sweet potatoes I get from my favorite local farm, Bells Bend Neighborhood farms, are called “golden nuggets” and are the sweetest, tastiest potatoes I’ve ever eaten. I baked a few off and decided to make a simple gnocchi with them. For a sauce, I decided to make a loose merguez sausage with the ground lamb. Merguez is seasoned usually with coriander, cumin, roasted red bell peppers, garlic, oregano, and some red chile flakes. In addition to those ingredients, I also added a big pinch of aleppo pepper and smoked paprika. Cooked down with onions and tomato paste, the merguez made a great condiment to the gnocchi, as it’s spiciness helped balance the gnocchi’s sweetness. In the same pot that I made the merguez, I threw in clams at the last minute with some white wine to steam. The brininess of the clams, the gamey-ness and spice from the ragu, the sweetness of the gnocchi, with a little bit of parsley and a big squeeze of lemon juice made for a dish that I would eat anytime, rain, shine, or ice storm!



If you are interested in recipes from all the other bloggers in this contest, check out the links below (being updated as posts come in):

Lynda @ Taste Food Blog

Peter @ A Cook Blog

Olga @ Mango Tomato

David @ eat drink RI

Gwen @ Bunkycooks

Heather @ Farmgirl Gourmet

Cecilia @ One Vanilla Bean



Sweet Potato Gnocchi, Merguez Lamb, Steamed Clams


Sweet Potato Gnocchi:
2 lbs sweet potatoes
2 egg yolks
1/4 tsp. grated nutmeg
1/4 tsp. grated cardamom
3/4 lb. fresh ricotta
1 cup all-purpose flour, plus a couple of tablespoons
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 lbs. ground lamb
5 cloves of garlic, minced
2 roasted red bell peppers, diced
1 T cumin, toasted and ground
1 T coriander seed, toasted and ground
1 T aleppo pepper
1 T smoked paprika
1/4 cup freshly chopped parsley
1 T freshly chopped oregano
1/2 cup of diced onions
2 T tomato paste
1 cup chicken stock
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

For the clams:
2 dozen clams
2 cups of white wine


For the gnocchi:

Bake the potatoes in a 350 oven on a baking sheet until they are completely tender. Cut the potatoes in half and scoop out the flesh. Put the potatoes through a ricer and stick them in a warm place for 15 minutes (like the warm oven that you've now turned off) so they dry out a bit. Once dry, combin the gnocchi with the egg yolks, nutmeg, cardamom, and season with salt and pepper. Fold in the ricotta. And then add the flour. If the mixture is loose, add more flour until it becomes a dough that barely holds together. Take a big chunk of dough (about 1/4 of the total mixture) and start rolling it into a rope that is about 1 inch wide. Cut the rope into equal pieces to get your individual gnocchi.

Bring a large pot of water to boil and cook the gnocchi for about 3 minutes. Once they float they are done.

For the merguez:

Combine the ground lamb with the garlic, roasted red bell peppers, cumin, coriander seed, aleppo pepper, smoked paprika, parsley, and oregano. Season with salt and pepper. If you have a meat grinder, go ahead and run your meat through it with the big die. If you don't have one, no big deal, just combine everything together and leave it as is.

In a saute pan, heat a little bit of olive oil and sweat the diced onions. Add the tomato paste and cook for about 5 minutes. Add the merguez and brown it, another 7 or 8 minutes. Lastly, add the chicken stock and reduce the liquid until it has almost evaporated.

Remove the merguez ragu from the pan, keeping all the fond and fat in the pan.

For the clams:

In the same pot you cooked the ragu, add the clams and then add the white wine. Increase the heat to high and cover the pot. Once the clams open, they are done, about 5 minutes. Remove them from the pan and reduce the white wine mixture until it coats the back of a spoon.

To Assemble:

Heat a fry pan over medium high heat. Add a little oil or butter to the pan and sear the sweet potato gnocchi until it's brown on all side. Add the reduced white wine and the lamb ragu, enough to coat the gnocchi pieces you have. Then right before you are about to plate, toss in the clams, chopped parsley, and squeeze a little bit of lemon juice over the whole thing. Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Give Back This Holiday Season Through StreetSmart!



As the holiday season approaches, I am constantly looking for ways to give back. It might be sparing a couple bucks for the Salvation Army bucket or our family tradition of cooking and serving the homeless at soup kitchen. Regardless, the community spirit of the holidays seems to pervade the emotions of many.

StreetSmart, started in 1989 in the UK, aims to raise money for the homeless by allowing guests the option of adding $1 to your check at participating restaurants. In the first year of the Nashville program (launched in 2011), $4,500 was raised, which provided 22,885 meals for the homeless here in our very own backyard! The StreetSmart program benefits Room In the Inn which provides emergency relief, meal services, job placement, medical services, and job training for Nashville’s homeless.

Check out the list of restaurants participating in this program:

Anatolia Turkish Restaurant, Bella Napoli, Biscuit Love Truck,Chago’s Cantina, Dalts, Edley’s Bar-B-Que, Finezza, Firefly Grille, Flyte, Hoss’ Loaded Burgers, Marché, Margot Café & Bar, Merchants, Midtown Café, Noshville Midtown, Paddy Boy’s Q to U, The Silly Goose, Sunset Grill, The Wild Cow and The Wild Hare.

For updates on participating restaurants, check out their facebook page, here!

If you’re thinking about dining out this holiday season, between now and December 31, get yourself over to one of these great restaurants and help give back by adding a buck to your check. StreetSmart hopes to significantly increase their fundraising from last year, so let’s help them out!

And in the spirit of giving and to help get word out about this awesome program, you will have the chance to win:

1. A $25 gift certificate to Amerigo Italian Restaurant (which is about enough for a double order of the awesome hot chicken pasta!)

2. Two tickets to the Nashville Symphony

Sounds like a fun time, don’t you think?!  Here’s how you enter:

*NOTE: Winner will be picked on Thursday at 5:00 PM CDT.


Mandatory Entry:

Leave me a comment telling me your favorite dish or experience at one of the participating StreetSmart restaurants.

Optional Entries: These are not mandatory, but will increase your chances of winning! Please leave a separate comment for each additional entry.

1.  Follow Room in the Inn on Twitter (@roomintheinn) and tweet “Give back while dining out for the holidays. Win a night out from @viveksurti & @roomintheinn! http://wp.me/p2qiJ0-zi ”

2.  Like Room In The Inn on Facebook

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Charleston Food & Wine Festival Lamb + Clams Recipe Contest – Part 3, Lamb Shoulder


I was extremely excited to receive the 3rd item for the Charleston Food & Wine Lambs and Clams contest, which was a beautiful whole shoulder of lamb from Border Springs Farm. When I opened the package, I was surprised and elated to find that in addition to the shoulder, the meat included the first 3 ribs, with the tail end of the loin attached. While I was contemplating what to do with the shoulder, I cut off the loin and seared it in a pan very simply with salt, pepper, rosemary, and butter. The lamb, of course, was exquisite – extremely tender, with a rich flavor. The quality of ingredients we’ve got for these challenges are top notch, and this lamb was certainly some of the best I’ve had.


So, after I finished eating this piece of loin (and drank a few glasses of wine!), I got to thinking about the shoulder. Although it’s a very flavorful cut of meat, it’s also incredibly tough. This isn’t a cut to sear and eat medium rare. I’ve cooked with shoulder several times, and have always de-boned the shoulder, cut it into cubes, and put it through the meat grinder to make my favorite sausage of all time  merguez. Alas, that didn’t seem like the best plan as it was around 8:30 PM (especially after all that wine).

After some contemplation, I decided to rub down the shoulder in a flavorful wet rub and roast it in the oven at 180 degrees for the better part of a day. In my fridge, I had a bunch of chipotle and cilantro stems, and subsequently went into a Mexican version. Because, who doesn’t love tacos, especially when made with spicy lamb? In addition to chipotle and cilantro, I added cumin seeds, coriander seeds, lime zest and juice, olive oil, a little bit of cinnamon, and tons of fresh garlic. Then, I stuck that baby in the oven around 10 PM and cooked it until about 4-5 PM the next day. At 180 degrees, the fat slowly melted out of the lamb and basted the delicious meat – I think I ate half a pound just as I was carving it up!


To assemble into tacos, I simply served up with lamb with a little bit of lettuce, queso fresco, and pickled carrots and radish. My favorite part of this recipe is that you can put this in the oven before you go to bed, and by the time you wake up in the morning, your house will smell phenomenal. Check on it and add some chicken stock to the bottom of the pan if you’d like, go to work, come back, and your lamb will be beautifully done.




If you are interested in recipes from all the other bloggers in this contest, check out the links below (being updated as posts come in):

Lynda @ Taste Food Blog

Peter @ A Cook Blog

Olga @ Mango Tomato

David @ eat drink RI

Gwen @ Bunkycooks

Heather @ Farmgirl Gourmet

Cecilia @ One Vanilla Bean


Spicy Lamb Tacos


1 whole lamb shoulderl
4 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce,
10 cloves of garlic, peeled
1 bunch of cilantro, stems only
2 limes, zested and juiced
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
1 teaspoon cinnamon (or canela if you have it)
Kosher salt, to taste

For taco assembly:
Warm corn tortillas
Queso fresco
Fresh sliced carrots, coated in lime juice
Fresh sliced radish
Lettuce, sliced


For the rub, combine the chipotle, garlic, cilantro stems, lime zest, lime juice, olive oil, cumin seeds, coriander seeds, and cinnamon in a food processor and combine until a uniform paste is formed.

Prick the lamb shoulder with a small knife all over the meat to allow the wet rub to flavor it throughout. Season the lamb all around with salt and then apply the wet rub so that every surface of the lamb is coated with it.

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees and cook the lamb for at least 10 hours (it's great to put in right before you go to bed!), in a roasting pan. Feel free to add 3 or 4 cups of chicken stock, white wine, or water to the bottom of the pan to add extra moisture.

Once the lamb is cooked, remove it from the oven and let rest for 30 minutes. Then, take a knife or fork and slice all the meat off. Then feel free to assemble tacos with the suggested toppings or with toppings of your choice!