Sep 15, 2010

A guessing game for the tea party

My heartfelt thanks to all you lovely people who took the time to pause and read this post and then give you precious comments. I have had fun making this for Anita’s Tea Party. It was my first time attending and it was a blast. However, amidst all the fun was the backdrop of plagiarism and blatant lifting of copy and pictures, not just by fellow bloggers but by long standing institutions (?) like TOI. (Read her powerful post here.)

It is easy to stamp your feet and proclaim that a recipe does not have a copyright, especially if it is specific to a particular region or cuisine. However, there is copyright infringement when ingredients and sometimes the method of preparation is lifted blatantly and passed off as their own. I have never had the misfortune of my copy being lifted, and frankly I don’t know whether to breathe a sigh of relief or to feel slighted at the insignificance of my blog.

But ask a blogger whose content was stolen and she will tell you it is like slaving over a ten-course meal the whole day and then have the mother-in-law take the credit for your hard work. I sure would not want to be in either of their shoes, which is why I try my best to give credit where it is due. And if you, my dear readers, have ever felt tempted to pass off on giving credit, be aware. It is a small knit community and sooner or later you will be caught and exposed for it. So, go ahead and copy past that link you have been debating about. Link Karma is a powerful thing and it will come back to bite you or reward you, depending on how you treat it.
Now, back to the tea party...


“Hey, I’m leaving work now. Will be home in another 45 minutes,” he said over the phone. “Got another surprise for me?”

“Well, it wouldn’t be a surprise if I told you, would it?” she asked with a smile in her voice. “Drive safe,” she said and hung up the phone.

A few weeks ago, when she started their little game of “guess what’s for tea?” she didn’t think it would come back to haunt her so soon. It had started out of a desire to connect with a man she barely knew. She would call him when he was driving home in his car and they would play the guessing game till he reached home.

The first time they played it, she had found a neat trick, while surfing the net, to make batata vadas without getting her hands dirty.  He wasn’t much of a tea person and he didn’t care much for the fried stuff either. She, from the land of kachori and poha, missed the fare and the company. She would sit in the cold apartment and think back on the days when relatives and friends mingled and chatted over cups of hot tea in her parent’s two bed room home.

He, from the same land but without her attachments, was happy with some dal-chawal-sabzi-roti. But he had gradually got used to her waiting with the tea. “Now,” she thought happily, “he craves that cup of chai as much as I do.”

The batata vadas were a gamble, but she couldn’t have chosen a more opportune time to make them. It had been raining the whole day and by evening the clouds had ceased their pitter-patter. A cool breeze had picked up and the air smelled of wet earth. He had come home to find the apartment smelling of fried vadas and ginger infused chai. He had guessed right on the third try that she was making something deep fried.

Him, “Is it round or clumpy?”

Her, “It is round.”

“Is it yellow in color?”

“Yes.”

“Is it batata vada?”

It was almost too easy that first time. After that, she had to get creative each time, if not with the snack then with the hint. Like the time she told him it was something baked.

He had guessed everything from cakes to muffins to scones. “Well,” she had said when he looked at the chutney sandwich, “I meant the bread was baked. I didn’t say I baked it!” He had started laughing at her guile and she was happy and emboldened.

Today, she was in trouble. He was expecting a Q&A and she had zilch. She opened the fridge and spotted the cilantro-mint chutney from two days ago. “Nah, we had sandwiches yesterday.” There was half an onion wrapped in saran wrap. She was still getting used to the supersized onions of this land. She missed the small, red bulbs of her homeland that tasted sweet and sharp and pungent at the same time.

She banged the door of the fridge a bit harder than she wanted to and started rooting around the various cabinets. Her eyes lighted up as she saw the red and gold packet sitting forlorn in an upper shelf. “How did I miss this?” she said out loud.

She was transported back to her mother’s kitchen, trying to decipher the chatter from the hallway beyond and keeping an eye on the pot of boiling tea. Her mom was calling out to her to bring out the big kadhai where she and her sisters were sitting around gossiping. The smell of onions and cilantro and something else she couldn’t remember. The laughter and the talk as someone tossed and mixed everything in the big kadhai. Her mom scooping out the spicy goodness in stainless steel bowls. An aunt straining the tea into the mismatched tea cups.

She jumped when she heard the phone ringing. She had been clutching the red and gold packet for ten minutes. “Hello,” she said into the phone.

“It’s me. I am fifteen minutes away. Sorry couldn’t call you before for the Q&A,” he said on the other end.

“That’s ok, just come on home. I haven’t decided what I am making. We can just have toast and biscuits,” even as she said the words she realized she knew what she was going to make for this tea party.

She put a small kadai on the cook top and started dry roasting the puffed rice. The onion was unwrapped and chopped. A few sprigs of cilantro floated in a glass of water as she put the tea to boil in a saucepan. She reached for her Aaji’s dabbas and quickly added the sugar and tea leaves to the water.

She found a small tomato that she deseeded and chopped. Half a cucumber was stripped of its dark green coating, deseeded and cut into fine cubes. She almost reached for a sharp green chili but decided against it.

She took the now crispy puffed rice off the flames and mixed it in with the Haldiram’s khatta mitha, some bhujia and a handful of neylon sev. She looked up at the watch before reaching for the mint chutney in the fridge. “Five more minutes,” she thought as she started mixing the onions, tomatoes and cucumbers in the kadhai.

She looked over to see the water boiling, changing from a light tan to a dark brown color. She quickly added a splash of 1% milk and grated some ginger with the tiny grater her mother-in-law had given her.

The cilantro was demanding attention. She lifted the sprigs from their water bath and patted them in between two paper towels. As she chopped the cilantro over the mix, she smelled the heady smell of onions, cilantro and the salty-sugary-spicy aroma of the mixture.

“Almost like that day,” she wondered aloud and then remembered that there was something still missing. “It is not the mint chutney,” she thought. That was her addition; just like the dried cranberries she had found hiding behind the packet of raisins. What was it her mom had added that day? It was there, she knew, at the tip of her tongue. She could almost taste it, smell it, but it remained elusive.

“Ah well,” she shrugged as she took the tea off the heat. She heard the front door open as she started to strain the tea into the two mugs. And then it hit her, chat masala. How could she not remember chat masala for chat?!

The two sat down on the balcony with the tea and the big bowl of bhel. He popped a spoonful in his mouth and chewed it slowly, letting the flavors mingle and sing on his tongue. As he reached for some more, he said, “You know, this is what you should take to Anita’s tea party. It is perfect.”

Sep 10, 2010

Of Chalks and Chopsticks roundup

Here they are, a dozen plus one pieces of food fiction that will make you laugh, cry, wonder and enthrall. Above all, these stories will make you salivate and hunger for the rich fare they serve on the side.

1. Chow chow! Really? I can’t believe you used it in a salad, and I can’t believe it doesn’t taste crappy; The sweet potatoes don’t really do it for me, though, maybe you didn’t roast them well enough; That’s grated egg? I thought it was coconut!; I love shrimp, but I dislike the smell of fish; You’d have made a great chef, Amar, maybe you should write a cookbook one day! She ate the last of the chocolate cake and the bread pudding, lapping up every crumb, licking the spoon clean as he looked on fondly.

2. Fresh sliced bread was obtained from the town's only bakery. Amul butter was set out to soften. Cheese cubes were grated into a snowy white mound. Finally, the stage was set and four warm ripe tomatoes were harvested with great care, sliced and tucked into sandwiches. An old blackened sandwich toaster was pulled out to make golden toasts, oozing with melted cheese and fragrant tomatoes. The two best friends sat down to a lunch that had been months in the making.

3. She remembered the potful of idli batter chilling in the fridge. While the idli batter had to be undoubtedly exhausted, the reality was that children would stage a mass exodus from the house whenever they saw those white balls of steamed batter. They despised the mere look of greased idli plates as they knew what lay ahead. They would frown, make a fuss and succeed in inveigling bowlfuls of maggi noodles from Rajni.

4. 'Come children, let's go and have some coconut kheer, amma's [Mother] favorite'. All those gathered hurried to the dining room to savor amma's favorite kheer that Leela aunty had prepared.

5. The sweet rasgullas excited temptation that Temptation, herself, couldn't resist. Vividh gulped another gulla and went to the next Raag on her list. She sang Malhaar, and it rained a monsoon. She ate one more and sang Raag Des. The whole country, nay, the whole WORLD, was united in a patriotic blaze. Another rasgulla, another song.. now Raag Multani was in tune, and every woman's pimpled acne cleared up before you could say, "So soon!?"

6. His mother made puran polis like no one else could, with whisper-soft, flaky layers of poli sandwiching a core of buttery, melting-sweet puran. His mother’s puran polis were the talk of the town, and neighbors often asked her to make them some when they had special guests coming that they wanted to impress.

7. She went to kitchen and started marinating the keema.  She was not at all in a mood to deep fry the masala paste and then deep fry it with keema for that would have taken at least an hour. And she just wanted to get out of the kitchen as soon as it was possible.

8. She thought of all the sadyas that she had enjoyed and smiling, moved to pick up a little plastic packet that she'd bought on her last shopping trip. The smile became wider as she added milk and sugar to it and put it into the pressure cooker. By the time she was done with the rest of her cooking, the whole house was filled with a heady, sweet aroma.

9. She would preen secretly and patiently answer. Her voice glided from dull to sensuous while explaining the onion's color and shape. With a sparkle in her eye, she could go into details about how exactly the oil separating from the masala look and what it meant to beat an egg white to stiffness.

10. On the left side he wrote butter, cheese, eggs, steak, fries, doughnuts, sugar, pie. On the right, he wrote coffee, cream, cake. His pen hung over the “e” in cake as if pondering the magnitude of the work.

11. People of all shapes and sizes and ages in groups or alone wondering what to eat – dosas, egg bhurji, vada pavs, chaat or Chinese food – they were spoilt for choice. The hissing of the stoves and clanging of spoons on the huge woks. The air redolent with the smell of food and more food.

12.  After few days of tasting her uncooked food, more salty food, very spicy food, stone like idly, more oiled chapattis, burnt halwa.... he was very upset.

13. She had been thinking about the pav bhaji her cousin’s cook was going to make for dinner; tomatoes and potatoes, sweet peas and mushy green bell peppers, a hint of cauliflower, simmering with spices, sparkles of finely chopped onions and garnished with finely chopped fragrant cilantro and a slice of lemon.

I am pretty sure I covered everyone who sent an entry. But I am human after all, and if I did miss out anyone, do drop me a line and you will be added pronto.

Sep 8, 2010

Guernesy literary potato peel and pie society and

a dash of cilanto-mint chutney

It is 1946. World War II has ended. London is trying to resurrect itself from the ashes of destruction and Juliet is trying to get her writer’s mojo back. A successful columnist during the war, she is now on a publicity tour of her book, a compilation of her war-time columns.

Juliet is a liberated woman for her times, who dumps her fiancé the day before their wedding. His offense, you ask? Emptying her bookshelf and boxing up her books to make room for his hunting and sports trophies. So this then is our liberated heroine, a lover of books, who is searching for a subject that will inspire her to take up writing again.

Enter The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. A group of mismatched citizens of Chanel Island who inadvertently end up forming a book club and lifelong friendships in order to hide their roast pig dinner from the occupying Germans. Her interest piqued by a certain Mr. Dawsey Adams of the aforementioned club, Juliet starts corresponding with the various members of the club. Her correspondence with the literature loving simple folks inspires her to sail down to the island and find the inspiration for her book and a treasure trove of war time stories – of children separated from their parents for the duration of war, of famine and hunger, of the German’s cruelty and generosity, of the islanders’ struggle of survival in the midst of eating nothing but potatoes and turnips.

If this isn’t enough of a gist, savor the fact that this is Mary Ann Shaffer’s first and last book. Written as a series of sometimes witty, often times poignant and almost always revealing letters between Juliet and various characters in the book, it takes a few letters to grasp all the characters. Once you do, you can’t stop reading till you have read them all. It is almost like a guilty pleasure to read someone’s private letters but at the same time, the book makes you want to pick up a pen and paper and write a letter back home instead of shooting off an email.

The rava idlis that accompany the chutney were made from a box, and not from scratch.

For our book club, This Book Makes me Cook, I decided to go the way of our ancestors and tried to think up how they came up with green chutney made by grinding some abundantly growing cilantro and mint in their backyard. To be honest, I was stuck by the islander’s use of sea water in their cooking as a substitute to salt. This led me to think that maybe one of the older women pottering in the yard chanced upon some cilantro or mint and thought, “Hmm, this smells nice. Maybe if I grind it with some green chili and some garlic, it will spice up the bland rice?” In the same spirit of honesty I will also admit that the chutney is what I made in the morning and got a decent photo of it.


The recipe for this green cilantro-mint chutney is simple, really, but you can adjust it according to your taste. Increase the amount of mint to cilantro ratio or make it spicier by adding more chilies or creamier by increasing the crushed peanuts. This essential condiment in every North Indian kitchen requires the basic skill of pressing down the blender button. For this reason, the chutney goes to Aqua, who is hosting B2B this month for me. If you would like to host it for me for the coming months, send me an email here.

Cliantro-Mint Chutney

Ingredients
1 cup washed and clean cilantro/ coriander
1-2 sprigs of mint
1 green chili
1 clove of garlic
1 tsp of cumin seeds
1 tbsp of roasted, crushed peanuts
Salt to taste

Method:
Grind everything to a smooth paste, adding water as necessary.

Coming up in the next few posts: The roundup of Of Chalks and Chopsticks and the second part of my story, It takes two to err… marry.

Sep 4, 2010

Global Kadai -- Indianize Tofu roundup

It is time for another roundup of the monthly Global Kadai, envisioned by Cilantro and hosted by me for the month of August. For all intents and purposes, this blog will not host another event for some time. Without further ado, I present the GK roundup, showcasing numerous ways to use tofu in Indian dishes.

PJ at Seduce Your Taste Buds, lives in the land of tofu. Was it a surprise she sent not one but three ways to Indianize this bland but nutritious hunk of vegan meat. Check out her Tofu Peas Pulao, Tofu Bhurji and Southwest Tofu Scramble.

Sangeetha of Sangi’s Food World sent in these delicious tofu spring rolls and spicy tofu masala.

Priya of Priya’s EasynTasty Recipes will show you four different ways to cook tofu. Microwave Tandoori Tofu, Tomato Tofu Pulao, Capsicum Tofu Zunka and Tandoori Tofu Kababs.

Denise of Oh Taste and See used the humble tofu to not only make a tofu bread kofta curry but also added it to whole wheat flour to make these lauki tofu parathas.

If you haven’t visited Soma at eCurry, I suggest you do so immediately and check out her delicious recipes and cool clicks, especially of the Tandoori Tofu.

Aparna at Apycooking decided to stuff multi colored bell peppers with a spicy tofu mix and bake it.

Satya at Satya’s Super Yummy recipes sent in a Chili Tofu Wrap that looked so yummy I wanted to make one for myself. In addition, she also made an Indian style tofu hotdog and some yummy stuffed tofu parathas.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is the end of the roundup. I know it is on the lean side but it is the nutrients content that counts. The above entrees Indianized tofu and then some! So, if you thought tofu wasn't for you, check out these entrees and try some of them. I am positive you will be a convert or you get a free link on this blog.

Coming up this month will be another short but wonderful roundup of Of Chalks and Chopsticks and I will try to post it by the middle of next week. So if you have an idea percolating or have a food fiction on your blog, send it in.

As to my resolve of not hosting another event for a while, it still stands but Sra has graciously agreed to host Back to Basics for the month of Sept. It is being hosted at Aqua’s as we speak and the deadline is still a couple of days away. On a parting note, if you would like to host B2B, send me a mail here.

PS: If you are wondering what happened to the second part of my fiction, It takes two to err... marry, I am at a roadblock. But I am trying my best to finish it and post it as soon as possible.

Aug 22, 2010

It takes two to err… marry

This story is not a work of fiction but the names and identities of people, to some extent, have been changed. If you would like to read more of the story, mention it in the comment section and I will try to post the next part of the story as soon as possible. Due to my bed rest, there is no recipe this time with the story which is written for Of Chalks and Chopsticks, a food fiction event started by Aqua and currently being hosted on this blog.  

Raj and his parents looked at each other incredulously. They didn’t know what to think of Naina. Every few minutes she would excuse herself and go behind the curtain. Having lived in a small flat like this one all his life, Raj could guess that the curtain shielded a narrow hallway which probably led to a bedroom on one side, bathrooms on the other and a small kitchen at the back. They could clearly hear the girl blowing her nose in the sink. From the amount of noise she made, they could deduce safely that the sink was just outside the bathroom, a few feet away from the curtain.

She came back in the hallway again, wiping her hands on her duppatta. Her nose was a beetroot red but she didn’t seem to care. “She is so nonchalant,” Raj thought. “Doesn’t she care who we are? Aai (mother) is certainly not going to be happy,” he thought with dismay.

The nose blowing girl could feel the disapproving glare of the boy’s mother sitting across from her. Naina had to pinch herself hard to stop from laughing out loud. She couldn’t get the image of the woman, all prim and proper in her starched sari, with a band aid on her nose, out of her mind. She knew she had been making excessively loud noises blowing her nose but she didn’t care. The unwritten rules of the matchmaking ritual demanded that she be presented as a docile, homely and sweet natured girl. Ever the rebel, Naina was determined to break every rule. Blowing her nose loudly was a minor infraction in her long list of penalties.

Two years ago, since she had been deemed of marriageable age by her parents, Naina had refused to carry the mandatory tray laden with tea and biscuits or to wear a sari and strings of necklaces to impress the visiting “dignitaries”.

In India, the ubiquitous tea and biscuits are almost always offered to guests.

Her defiance had increased when she found a job working for a major newspaper in Bombay. She was staying with her cousin sister, Priti tai, at the time and was falling in love with the fast pace of the city. Her new job and the financial independence were too exciting and tempting to give up for a life of matrimony. Every time she went through one of the “viewing” sessions, her resolve to resist grew stronger, her violations more severe.

Aug 13, 2010

Chole Palak, not an authentic Punjabi recipe

This is an old post, that almost got lost in the archives of my word documents. It was written in response to Supriya's query if I had the recipe for chole palak on the blog. The chole palak in question were the pairing for the Tibetan bread that he had made. This then, is the old write up with some new reference added in for freshness.

What kind of chole masala do you use? If it is the store bought, then what brand do you prefer? I prefer Sanjeev Kapoor’s Chole Masala. It doesn’t have too much salt and the spices smell fresh. If you make your chole masala at home by roasting and grinding spices, then please share and send it to Aqua, who is hosting this month’s B2B for me. Interested to host it, email me here.

In the past, my attempts at making authentic Punjabi chole, the kind that are immersed in thick, black gravy and the garbanzo beans so soft you could break them with the touch of your tooth, have failed miserably. Before you ask or venture, yes, I have tried Anita’s recipe and mine didn’t even come close to what hers looked like and I am pretty sure they didn’t taste like hers either. I will chalk it to my inability to follow a recipe to a T or the lack of patience with the bhunoeing of the spices.

Recently, Manisha wondered here why the chole gravy needed to be black?  I have not the faintest clue. For me, it brings back memories of lunches I have had as a teenager at Pujabi friend’s homes. The chole were almost always served with white bread and I have to admit the combination was awesome. To this day, if I am eating chole by myself, I toast two pieces of thick sourdough bread to eat with it.

But I digress. A few months ago, in an attempt to finish off a bunch of spinach leaves in danger of wilting in the fridge, I added them to the boiling chole gravy. To my delight, the pinkish/ yellowish gravy started turning black and by the time the spinach was cooked through I had the chole of my dreams or at least the color I desired. Though they did not taste like the authentic version, they looked every bit as good. And since then, I make sure I have spinach on hand before I soak garbanzo beans.

A few weeks ago, with no spinach or any other green to turn my chole black, I resorted to the original tea leaves method. Lurking in an overlooked corner of the kitchen I had found a half empty box of tea bags. I popped one in the cooker with the soaked chana and eight whistles later the beans were all black and soft and ready to eat as is.

Encouraged, I followed Anita’s tip and roasted the onions and ginger garlic paste with the chole masala (store-bought) till everything was a luscious black color. Added some fresh tomato puree which did nothing to change the color of the gravy and then added the darkened chana to it. The result was exactly what I wanted and it looked and felt like what Anita would have made, I think. We had it again with the Tibetan bread and it was good to the last bite.

Here’s my Indian pairing for his Tibetan bread.

Serves 2

Ingredients:
1 can garbanzo beans or 1/2 cup of dry beans soaked in plenty of water overnight
1 tea bag (black tea)
1 small onion, chopped fine
1 small tomato, chopped or pureed
1 tbsp ginger garlic paste
1 tsp chole masala/ garam masala
1/2 tsp dhana jeera powder (cumin-coriander powder)
1/2 red chili powder
1 bunch of chopped spinach (optional)

Method:
Pressure cook the garbanzo beans with the tea bag for 6-8 whistles or whatever it takes for your cooker to get them cooked through.

Heat a tablespoon of oil. Add the onions and sauté till almost brown and fragrant.

Mix in the ginger garlic paste and the dry spices (chana masala, dhana jeera and red chili powder).

Cook on medium low heat till the raw smell of ginger garlic and the dry spices turns fragrant. Continue cooking till everything starts looking dark and mysterious.

Add the chopped/ pureed tomato and cook for another five minutes. Do not under any duress add canned tomato puree. It is way too tomatoey and will change the color of your gravy from a dark black to a muddy pink.

Mash a couple of tablespoons of chickpeas in the cooking mix and stir. Add the cooked chana and the liquid it was cooking in to the onion-tomato mix and boil on medium till the gravy turns thick, about 20 minutes more.

If using spinach, add at this point. They will turn the gravy even darker. Serve with roti, naan, bread or rice.

Manisha made Rest of the World Chhole.

The chole palak go to Simona of Briciole who is hosting Susan's MLLA #26. 

Before I leave, here's a shout out to Sra, who is there for me via email when I need to bitch about another blogger trend I am not happy with. Check out her blog for some "humor" and some amazing fiction, if you are feeling down and low.

Another shout out to Jacqueline who has started The Food Blog Diary to chronicle the numerous events and giveaways happening in the blogosphere. She graciously put both my events on the blog within hours of receiving my email.

Aug 10, 2010

Tales of a female Nomad

There is no greater irony or joy than to read tales of wanderlust and cooking when confined to bed. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, reading Rita G Gelman’s tales of travelling like a nomad transports you from the cozy comfort of your bed to the pulsating rhythm of a Zepotac village in South America. Not your idea of a vacation? Try renting in Mexico with its vibrant colors and stucco houses. It inspired Gelman to write a children’s book. It just might inspire you to paint or sing or may be wear a bright green blouse. Anything can happen when a nomad follows her instincts, trusts strangers and goes with the flow.

Did I mention, she is almost fifty years old when she embarks on her wanderlust, travelling from one country to another, visiting remote tribes untouched by modern civilization and cooking at communal fires with local women? The nomad falls in love with Bali, Indonesia, and settles down for four years. But the death of her spiritual father and master, prompts her to travel again. She settles again, for a year, in New Zealand, but a nomad isn’t a nomad unless she is moving.

As I write this review, Gelman is still out, travelling, making friends, connecting with locals and living the life of a nomad. Gelman receives kindness and friendship of strangers and gives back in her own unique way; teaching English, writing catalogues for an art gallery or reading her children’s books to kids all over the world.

Forget Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love, which starts out as an adventure in self discovery and ends in an exercise in self-indulgence. Gelman’s Tales of a female nomad shows that self-discovery is about living in someone else’s shoes and discovering your $250 shoes are nothing better than leather and hide.

I wanted to cook the Thai red curry or the coconut fish mousse Gelman learns to make while living in Thailand. My confinement limits me to where I can’t even whip up a salad of tomatoes, cucumbers and onions that she makes for a visiting German couple. So I will leave you with our book club founder, Simran, who made Nasi Goreng.

Still not in a mood to read Tales of a Female Nomad, head on over to Sra's for the third edition roundup of Of Chalks and Chopsticks. It is still food fiction, but not as long as a novel and available online.

There are more book reviews at Food for Thought, hosted by Jain.

Aug 8, 2010

Back to Basics roundup

An idea born out of an impulse turned into a Basic event. I was honored to receive so many entrees and due to personal health problems couldn’t post the roundup earlier. Here it is at last, clubbed into categories. But first, a special mention:

PJ, who likes to seduce our taste buds with her delectable dishes, gets the top billing for sending not one, not two but eight kitchen basics. Her basics are enough to get a novice started on Indian cooking and then some more. So taking a cue from her first entry, we will kick off with

Podis and Chutneys:

PJ’s Kootu Podi is a spice mix for Kootu, and the recipe is her mom’s.

A staple in every South Indian kitchen, PJ’s Milagai Podi is loved by her family and eaten with everything from idlis and dosas to rice.

Another spice mix from PJ, this time a multipurpose mix for those times when the regular podis are out of stock and there is no time to cook a side dish.

A fresh coconut brought back memories of her mom’s chammanthi podi. Swathi tried to recreate it with a recipe from Vanitha magazine and came out a winner.

RC’s talent for cooking appetizing food and clicking gorgeous pictures is surpassed by her generosity. She took time out of her busy schedule to share an old family recipe passed down from her husband’s grandmother. This traditional recipe of Chitranna Gojju, mixed with some warm rice will transport you back to simpler times.

She goes by the letter J and swears by her mom’s green chutney. It is a staple in her kitchen and she pairs it with everything from chaats to dal bhaat.

I have to mention Soma’s radish, cilantro, mint chutney which she entrusted to me before going on vacation. If you haven’t checked this creative lady’s recipes and clicks, you are missing out on a delicious culinary feast she offers every week on her beautiful blog.

Freezing and canning:

If you get an abundance of peas every summer Pari will teach you how to freeze fresh peas so you can enjoy them long after the season is gone.

Her food really rocks and so do her adventures in the mountains. But then she mixed up dates and sent me her tip a month early. Little did she know that her early entry saved me some limes and pennies going down the drain? Check out Manisha’s tip on what to do with sad looking lemons and an awesome margarita recipe.

If blueberries or any other kind of fruits are a scarcity in your part of the world, you may want to freeze some when they go on sale. That’s what Aqua does when she scores a stash. Check out her tips and a delicious recipe for blueberry pancakes.

If pancakes are not up your alley, her hearty mushroom stock certainly is. Find out how Aqua makes a big batch and freezes it for future use.

If you thought freezing stops at stocks, fruits and juices, think again.

Nivedita will show you how to make tomato rasam and freeze it.

Radha asked me if a guest post by her sister-in-law would qualify. It not only qualified but passed with flying colors. Homemade salsa, canned at home and available all year round with the twist of a lid. You bet!

Butters, vegan and non-vegan:

The very first entry, received hours after the event was announced, was sent by the very creative and talented Sunshinemom. Here are her instructions for making coconut butter and cream from scratch. If you don’t have the patience for the extraction process, still head on over to her blog and check out her beautiful clicks.

This second post of Nivedita's goes to show what happens when I make a snarky comment (name one Indie blog that hasn’t posted a recipe on how to make ghee?). She not only made the ghee, she made it from scratch. If, like me, you have been making ghee from butter, you are taking the easy way out. Witness how to collect the cream for a number of days, churn it, make butter, wash it, heat it and reap the rewards of a pot of pure gold goodness that even the gods can’t refuse.

Then PJ sent me her much simpler but fragrant version of making ghee and I had to eat my ghee words. She adds a special touch to her ghee by adding a curry leaf and a few fenugreek seeds. And now I do it too.


Lemons, jackfruits, poppy seeds and filter coffee:

She literally made lemonade when life gave her lemons. With this basic lemonade concentrate, RV relives memories of her childhood vacations at her grandparent’s home and serves a chilled glass of nostalgia in the harsh summer heat.

This master of words didn’t think she had anything to contribute. Then Sra remembered and sent me the instructions for ‘Operation Jackfruit’.

When the master chef and expert event organizer, Srivalli, checks your rules twice before sending an entry you can’t help but feel flattered. Check out her tips for roasting, grinding and storing poppy seeds paste.

Everyone’s favorite Bong Mom, with a song in her heart and magic in her fingers, spins a telling tale of childhood rebellion, ritual and poppy seed fritters. Can you ask for more on a rainy day?

I was in love with filter coffee on the sip. If you are like me, check out Nivedita’s step by step clicks to make the decoction and then prepare a cup of Joe that will give Starbucks a run for its money.


Basic recipes and preps for the Indian kitchen:

Just when my idli batter was refusing to ferment, Niloufer sent this basic idli batter recipe. Check out her creative soccer idlis she made inspired by the world cup.

Diyva’s grandma taught her this basic masoor dal and passed on the secret ingredient to give it that special touch. Head on over to her blog to find out what it is.

She decided to chronicle her basic recipes for her kids when they were no longer content with staying on the other side of the kitchen counter. The Cooker, shares with them how to make rice on the stove top and in the cooker.

If you like bananas but didn't know you could eat their blossoms too, PJ will tell you how to prepare banana blossoms.


Did you know you could also cook the banana stems? Again, PJ will enlighten you how.

Need to blanch tomatoes in a jiffy? PJ will show you her trick. All you need is a microwave, water and some tomatoes.

I almost missed my own event but managed at the last minute with a vegetable stock flavored with fennel, cinammon and cloves, made by him every weekend.

If I have missed one or misplaced an entry, please accept my apology and reach me here or leave a comment below. I will promptly add you to the roundup.

An excellent roundup, already up for a couple of days, is at Sra’s. Pop on over to read some appetizing food fiction Of Chalks and Chopsticks.

Aug 3, 2010

Vegetable Stock for the soul and of Chalks and Chopsticks

If you missed me talking about my tale of tardy and of begging hosts for a couple of days past the deadline, here’s another one for the record. I have been late for my own event. I had grandiose plans of posting not only how to make a basic vegetable stock but how to make pasta at home and toss it with pesto made from home grown basil.

All I have managed before the grace period (Aug 5th) expires is to post this robust vegetable stock which has the distinction of being made by him. It is a part of his weekend ritual to chop and dice carrots, celery, onions and any other veggies that may have been left over from the week. He will then proceed to make a simple stock that will last us a week. 

Unlike store bought stocks, you can adjust the amount of salt you put in and this is a fat-free version of the more buttery stocks, where the veggies are first sautéed in butter before being boiled in water.

I have never frozen the stock because it gets added to soups, dals, risottos, curries, khichdis and pulaos I make for the family over the week. The picky eater is unaware that the khichdi he is eating has concentrates from carrots, celery, mushrooms and onions.

Here’s his (not the kid but the spouse) simple but delicious vegetable stock that adds a layer of flavor to everything it gets added to.

Vegetable Stock (adapted from the book, Zuppe, Risotti, Polenta!)

Ingredients:
1 medium onion, chopped in big pieces
1 carrot or 8-10 baby carrots (chop the big carrots in 3-4 pieces)
2 celery stalks, chopped in fours
A few stalks of cilantro (optional)
Leftover veggies like spinach, greens of every kind, broccoli, mushrooms, peas and cabbage.*

Whole spices: (add more of the following for a spicier version)
4-6 black peppercorns
1-2 cloves
1/2 stick of cinnamon
1 tsp of fennel seeds
1 bay leaf (optional)
Salt

Method:
Put all the ingredients together in 4 ½ pints of lightly salted water. Bring to a gentle boil, lower the heat and simmer for an hour. The stock will reduce and get a dark tinge brown to tan, depending on the veggies used.

Let cool, before straining and transferring to air tight containers. Keep in the refrigerator for up to ten days. I always use up the stock by the then so I can’t vouch for the stocks fridge shelf life. If you do not have immediate plans to use it all up, freeze it in ice cube trays. Once frozen, remove and transfer to a freezer container or Ziploc bag.

*Avoid starchy vegetables like potatoes and do not overdo the broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower, for obvious reasons.

Other vegetable stock recipes:

Aqua’s Mushroom Stock
Sunshinemom’s Vegetable Stock

*******************

Of Chalks and Chopsticks

If you are wondering why I am announcing two events in the same month, in back to back posts, I chalk it to my obsession with multi-tasking and my inability to be organized. I had committed to hosting Global Kadai at the beginning of the year and promptly forgot about it. And how could I not get obsessed with Chalks and Chopsticks? I was itching to host it since it started and so I begged the trio who started it all. The three gracious ladies,  Aqua, Sra and Bong Mom , agreed to pass the baton on to me and there was no way I was going to pass it up. Since the announcement is three days into the month, I will take some self-imposed liberty and make the deadline three days late, or better still five days, just so it is easy to remember.


If you haven’t heard of (and I can’t imagine you not having heard of it by now) Of Chalks and Chopsticks, let me clue you in. This is a monthly event, conceived by Aqua and calls for food inspired fiction or fiction inspired by food, whichever way you want to looks at it, from bloggers and non-bloggers alike. Here are the rules:

Send in your entries at this address by September 5th.

The subject line should say: Of Chalks and Chopsticks – 4

The email should provide:

The Blogger’s name

Title and URL of the post

Some information, borrowed from earlier editions

The writing should be original, i.e. yours.

There is no word limit or theme – you can write on anything as long as the story has food as a centerpiece. That is, a food related/ themed story.

The story could be based on real life, just make it sound like a story and not a regular post.

Old posts are accepted but a new one is always more exciting.

These posts can be shared with other events.

Link you post to this and Aqua’s post.

PS: This is not a part of the original rules but I will make one anyway. Try to pen an intelligent, cogent piece of writing, even if it is just a paragraph. If you have a great story idea but are not sure of your writing skills or coherence of the story, send it to me or one of the writers for a look over. We can give you suggestions and help you out the best we can. And please, keep the use of excessive exclamations out!

For inspiration and some excellent stories, stay tuned for Sra's roundup.

Aug 1, 2010

A tale of independence, Baingan Bharta and Global Kadai

Mrs. Mohini Kamath was chopping a mountain of onions while the two big eggplants cooked in the oven. She brushed away the tears trickling down her face and started on the garlic. She always liked to mince the garlic with some chopped onions mixed in. With the heat of the oven, the tiny apartment had become cozy and she started humming a Bollywood tune as she washed the tomatoes and started chopping them.

Aren’t we in a good mood?” she said to herself as she peeked into the oven to see if the eggplants were charred. She decided to give it a few more minutes before she turned off the oven. “They won’t have the same smoky flavor as back home but it is better than cooking it in the microwave,” she had explained to Naina the first time she oiled and put the eggplants in the oven.

Naina didn’t know how to cook. All she managed in the mornings, before Mrs. Kamath arrived at her apartment was a weak cup of tea. “I have to give it to that girl. She listens when I tell her something which is more than I can say of my own flesh and blood.”  She remembered how she had told Naina to grate some ginger in the tea and boil it a little longer. Now, stepping in from the harsh winter outside, Mrs. Kamath arrived to a hot, steaming cup of adrak wali chai (ginger tea).

My own daughter-in-law never offered me a glass of water,” she thought as she took some wheat flour and started kneading it with water. She did not realize she had stopped humming and was kneading the dough with a ferocity that would have surprised her if she could have seen herself.

It was ironic, she thought, how a cup of tea offered by stranger could make her feel appreciated. “Is that what happens when your family disappoints you?” she wondered.


“Aunty, this is so yummy!” Naina had come looking for her in her room. “How did she know I made the food?” She could overhear the guests appreciating the food she had slaved over all day, crispy Aloo Tikkis, spicy Baingan Bharta, creamy Aloo Dum, hearty Palak Paneer, subtly flavored jeera rice, Vegetable Pulao and cardamom infused Shikhand.

She waited for her son or his wife (that’s how she thought of her nowadays) to tell everyone that she had made the food. But all she heard was her daughter-in-laws’ “Thank you,” in that exaggerated accent she put on in front of company, as if she was the one who made all that food.

“Why are you in your room Aunty? Come out and meet everybody,” Naina had implored her. How could Mrs. Kamath tell her that she had been instructed by her son to stay in her room till the party was over and all his friend’s had gone home? She wanted to believe it was “his wife’s” instructions he was following, but she knew that it was as much her son’s wish as hers.

“Ma, you must be tired after all the cooking. Why don’t you rest in your room while the party is on? You will get bored anyways,” he had said but she knew what it really meant: “You are good enough to cook the food but not meet my friends.” She had been banished with a movie to watch on the small television in her room. Now, this strange girl had strolled into her room with a knock and was asking her to come out.

Na beti (daughter), I am tired. I want to watch this movie and then go to bed,” she had tried to muster a smile but her lips failed her.

“That’s ok aunty, I understand,” Naina had said with a knowing look and went away.

She had come back a few days later, when Mrs. Kamath was alone in the afternoon. “Aunty, I was in the neighborhood and thought I will check on you. May I come in?” she had asked.

Eager for company and a friendly voice she had let her in. Over a cup of tea Naina told her what she had come for.

“I know I am asking you this behind your son’s back but if I asked him, he would just turn me down. I was wondering if you would cook for me and my husband. We both work long hours and we love your cooking. We will pay you $600 a month,” Naina had said.


Mrs. Kamath had never in her life thought she would cook for other people for a living. She had lived a comfortable, middle class life in India, taking care of the house and raising a son while her husband worked. She had never felt the need to work the way some of her friends did, delegating cooking and household chores to maids. Then, she had looked down her nose at them. “That is karma for you,” she thought. If two years ago someone had told her she would be living in this foreign land and considering cooking for young couples who did not have the time or know-how to cook, she would have scoffed.

After her husband’s death, she had started to feel lonely and when her son asked her to move to US with his family, Mrs. Kamath accepted immediately. It took her all of six month to convert her savings to dollars, sell off the house and move into her son’s house.

“What a mistake that was,” she muttered as she remembered how her status in her son’s house had been reduced to that of a maid who cooked, cleaned and laundered. If only her son had more time to sometimes sit with her and chat. Or if the grandkids would gather around her and hear the stories she had wanted to share. Instead, they would go from school, to different activities and in their free time watch TV rather than spend time with their “old” grandma.

“What do you think, Aunty?” Naina’s voice had brought her back from her reverie. “Like you said beti, I don’t think my son would like that,” she had replied with a tight smile.

“Will you at least think about it?” Naina had asked her before leaving.



It had taken several months for Mrs. Kamath to finally decide to leave her son’s house. In the end, she figured she might as well get paid and appreciated for what she did for free every day.

But before she could leave, she had to learn how to drive. Mrs. Kamath smiled as she thought of the day she had asked her son to teach her how to drive. “Beta (son), then you or bahu won’t have to bother with groceries and supplies,” she had reasoned. She had surprised herself with her guile. Once she had her driver’s license her independence would be complete.

Naina and her husband, Ajit, had helped her get a cheap apartment and a few of their friends had hired her as a cook. She brought Ajit’s ten year old reliable car and she was all set to embark on her new journey.

She had figured out that with her savings and her income from cooking for a few families, she could live comfortably. On weekends, she had started babysitting, not only to supplement her income but also to while away her time.

Her son and daughter-in-law were not happy at what they perceived was her desertion. “What will people think?” was her daughter-in-law’s concern. Her son tried to dissuade her in his own way. “How are you going to manage by yourself? You don’t know enough English to get by. Why do you want to leave?”

How could she tell this son of hers why she wanted to leave and be on her own? All her life she had always put the interests of others before her and she had been happy to do it, or so she thought. Here, in this land, away from relatives and friends, she finally had a chance to try it out on her own. She wanted to do what she liked doing best but with dignity and respect. Mrs. Kamath knew her son wouldn’t understand. She could only hope that one day he would. Till then, she had the baingan bharta to finish.
(End of fiction)

This piece of fiction, written for Of Chalks and Chopsticks, conceived by Aqua and hosted by Sra, is based on some of the older women I have come across in the US. They work here as cooks and nannies. For many of them, food is the only tie that connects them to their roots back home.


Mrs. Kamath’s Baingan Bharta (eggplant mash)

Ingredients:
1 large eggplant
1 tsp of cumin seeds
1 tsp of turmeric powder
1 big onion, chopped fine
1 green chili, chopped fine
5-6 cloves of garlic, minced fine
1/2 tablespoon of ginger-garlic paste
2 medium sized tomatoes, chopped fine
1 tsp of dhana-jeera powder (cumin-coriander)
1 tsp of garam masala
A handful of peas (optional)
Cilantro for garnish

Method:
Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Oil the eggplant, put it on a cookie sheet lined with foil and bake it in the oven for 20-25 minutes. Turn off the oven and leave the eggplant in the cooling oven.

Heat a couple of tablespoon of oil in a heavy skillet. On medium heat, add the cumin and turmeric, stir for a minute till the turmeric starts smelling fragrant.

Add the green chili and chopped onions. Cook till onions turn translucent, about 5-8 minutes on medium heat. Halfway through, add the chopped garlic and the ginger-garlic paste.

Toss in the garam masala and dhana jeera powder as the ginger-garlic paste starts giving off a delicious aroma. Stir for a few minutes before adding the peas and the tomatoes. Cover and cook till the tomatoes are mushy and the peas are tender.

Meanwhile, take the eggplants out of the oven and gently peel off the charred skin. The oil should make it easy to peel. Chop the skinless eggplant, making it as mushy as possible.

Add this to the cooking tomato-onion-peas mix. Add salt and cook for another ten minutes before turning off the heat.

Garnish with chopped cilantro and some lime. Serve with chapattis or rice.

*********

July has not only been one of the hottest months in our neck of the woods, it also has been a busy month for me. I have been constantly falling behind in my posts. This story should have been up and running by 31st of July but since I was running late, Sra graciously let me submit it before she did the roundup. If you liked my story and want to read an excellent piece of fiction on first love, head on over to her blog.

Speaking of which, my roundup for the B2B event will be up after the 5th of this month. So, if you have any last minute entrees, send them in.

Is it against the protocol to announce another event before the roundup? I don’t know, but Cilantro’s Global Kadai rules stipulate that I announce it on the first of August. So sticking to the rules of the host, I would like to challenge you to Indianize tofu. There is a wide array of possibilities here, for example, substituting paneer with tofu to make palak tofu or making tofu stuffed paranthas instead of aloo paranthas. If you live in a part of the world where access to tofu is limited or nil, try making your own, like this. With so much creativity out there, I am pretty sure there will be some great recipes. Here are the simple rules:

1. Make an Indian recipe using tofu as the main or one of the ingedients.

2. Include a link back to this post and to Cilantro's original post.

3. Make sure the recipe is an original one. If it is adapted from another blog or a recipe book, give it its due credit and link.

4. The last date for submission is September 1st. If you are late by a couple of days, email me at this address. If I haven't posted the roundup, I will accept and include your entry.

5. Older posts are welcome as long as you link them to this event announcement and Cilantro's. No need to repost them.

6. Don't have a blog, but have a great recipe to share? Email it on the above address with your name, location and the name of the dish. You will get your name on the blog and we will get another recipe for our collection.

Jul 28, 2010

A tale of tofu and tardy – II

Tofu Steak

In case you missed how to make tofu at home (and step by step clicks to go with it! The exclaimation because I don't do it often), check it out here. My first task with the Velveteers is not over until I make something sweet or savory with the tofu that I made at home, from scratch (I can’t mention enough that I made tofu at home, from scratch). But I am patting myself too much on the back, which is uncharacteristic of me and honestly, making me gag, which is the last thing you want to see on a food blog. So, I will quickly move on to the recipe, that I found at La Fuji Mama, while going through her tofu making tutorial. It is called tofu steak and is much easier than cooking or eating steak.
Pat dry the block of tofu with paper towels.

Cut into thick wedges or chunks and dry it furthermore.
Salt and pepper both sides.
Cover both sides with finely minced or grated garlic. Make sure there are no big chunks of garlic.
Lightly sprinkle flour on both sides.

Heat a non-stick or cast iron skillet. Drizzle a couple of tablespoons of sesasme oil in a hot skillet and cook the pieces on two sides till brown and crispy, approximately 2-3 minutes. Do this on medium to low heat to prevent the garlic from burning.

Take them off the skillet and line them on some paper towels to drain any excess oil.

Serve with duck sauce, soy sauce or any other sauce of your choice.

Jul 27, 2010

A tale of tofu and tardy

Punctuality has never been my forte. I have talked about it here before and I have been working on getting there, in time. However, working on something and achieving it are two different things, as is evident by this post for the cool group of Veleveeters, started by Aparna, Asha, Pamela and Alessio, which is late by almost a week.

I was thrilled when they accepted me in their cool circle only to find out that my very first challenge would be making tofu at home and then making a savory or sweet dish out of it. The latter is not that tough but the former! I didn’t even know you could make tofu at home. I mean doesn’t it need industrial sized vats and people scurrying around in surgical gloves and masks? Wrong! Turns out, making tofu at home is as easy as making paneer except you have to make the soy milk first and need to engage two big pots, an assortment of bowls for soaking and straining and a couple of strainers.

I did what everyone who is in a bind does these days. GOOGLE! After that it was just a matter of following links from Pamela’s to fellow newbie Ken to his link to here. I was ready to make soy milk, tofu and a tofu turkey. Ok, I didn’t make the turkey but I made the tofu and it took me a total of 2 hours, not including soybean soaking time. Here’s what I did.


Soak one and a half cup of soybeans in a lot of water. The soak time depends on the weather, anywhere from 8 hours in the summer to 24 hours in the winters. I soaked mine for about 18 hours.


Once soaked, grind them in batches till smooth. I did not know what it meant so I just used my idli/ dosa batter consistency measure. In my trusty Breville, it took me all of three minutes for each batch.

Boil about 5-6 cups of water in a big pot (and I mean the biggest pot you have). Add the pureed soybeans to the boiling water and at medium heat keep stirring till the mix starts to foam and froth. Sprinkle a few drops of cold water if it is threatening to spill over and it will threaten to spill over.


Once the mix boils, turn the heat down and let it simmer for about ten minutes before turning off the heat.

Strain in a colander lined with a cheese cloth. I just used a thin cotton towel from India. Make sure there is a big pot to catch the strained liquid, which is your soymilk.


The stuff you catch in the top is called okara and supposed to be very nutritious and full of protein and other good stuff. I don’t know any use for it at the moment. If I do, will let you know.


pparently, the strained soymilk can be kept in the refrigerator for a couple of days and used like regular store bought store milk. I did not have the time or patience to find out, so I proceeded to make tofu out of it.

The coagulant: Lime Juice
Wash the big pot you boiled the bean paste in and transfer the soymilk in it. Bring to a gentle simmer and then turn off the heat. While the milk is reaching its simmer point, squeeze juice of five to six limes and mix it with a glass of water. I had approximately 1/4 cup of lime juice. This will be your coagulant.


Take the soymilk off the heat and add the watered down lime juice to the cooling soymilk. Stir till it starts to separate into curds and whey. Cover and leave the kitchen for 15 minutes. I vacuumed the living room.
Come back and line the biggest strainer you have with another thin cotton towel/ napkin. Place it on the kitchen sink and dump the coagulated contents in it.

Let as much liquid drain as you can. Carefully lift the towel by the edges and wrap is tightly around its contents. Try to squeeze as much water out as you can.


Place it on the above mentioned colander, with a lid and some weights on top. I used a big can of garbanzo beans.
Depending on how soft or firm you like your tofu, keep the weights anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes.

Take the weights off and rinse the tofu in a big bowl under running water, taking care not to hit the tofu directly.
To store, cover tofu with water and store in an air tight container.


Between completing my assignments for school, a doctor visit and carting the four year old to and fro to his activities, I did not have enough time to cook the tofu I made. The recipe will be coming soon, I promise.

This post was perfect for my B2B event, but the Velveteers’ code forbids me to enter it for any other event, including my own. And after being late for my first task, I dare not break another rule, because I intend to stick around for a while.

If you have stuck around till the end of this post, do pop on over to Sra, who won the title contest and is thus entitled to eight more links from me.

Jul 16, 2010

Garlic and sapphires, and Reichl’s chocolate cake

                                               
If you have ever wondered how you will be treated in a snooty, fancy restaurant, Ruth Reichl will tell you in Garlic and Sapphires. It is Reichl’s candid memoire of her stint as a restaurant critic for New York Times, which turns out is one of the most powerful positions a newspaper critic in New York could have.

Besides transitioning from the laidback LA Times to the more staid and rigidly structured NY Times, Reichl has to go through the pains of getting used to the wrath of readers faithful to her predecessor not to mention donning disguises to review restaurants incognito (apparently, every restaurant in NY has her photo tacked in the kitchen).

The disguises turn out to be the most fun part of her job till she finds herself competing with one of her assumed identities, an elegant blond named Chloe, with whom everyone including her husband and son seem taken with. She even gets hit on by a middle aged rich guy and agrees to a date with him at a restaurant she has to review.

Reichl narrates her adventures with a sense of humor and total honesty that makes you want to befriend her. She is generous in her praise and brutally honest with her criticism. Like the time she gets treated differently at a high end restaurant when she dines dressed as a middle class housewife (longer wait, bad table and horrible service) and later as the critic of NYTimes (the King of Spain waits in the bar but her table is ready even when she shows up early!).

However, all good things must end as they do for Reichl when she realizes she no longer likes the person she is disguised as, a bitter, sarcastic *itch. With the realization comes the offer to edit Gourmet, where she has continued to break culinary ground with the same enthusiasm for good food that etched her name as one of the finest food critics of NYTimes. Check out her new PBS series, Gourmet Adventures with Ruth that she sums it up in these words: There’s no better way to experience a culture than to stand at the stove with a wonderful cook.

Jul 11, 2010

Anatomy of an onion and the contest winner

                

Breakfast on weekdays is a staid affair in our house. He eats his at work (eggs), I eat oatmeal with raisins and the kid loves his cheerios with raisins and milk. Weekends are pretty much the same except on the days when the house doesn’t need cleaning, the laundry is done and folded away and the lawn has been mowed the day before. Then, I like to make the ubiquitous Maharashtrian breakfast of kanda poha, except I make the pimped up version, Indori kanda poha, complete with all the fixings of sev and onions and pomegranate seeds.

Last weekend, while prepping for the aforementioned poha, as I chopped in two the unnaturally big onion, I was struck by the even concentric ridges and the smooth, shiny, beautiful red of the onion. I cradled the half cut onion in my palms and admired the beauty of its contours. This is what I captured with my humble point and shoot digital. Hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

My favorite!

On a parting note, the Coming Clean call for entrees received a total of one entry from M who blogs at Eating Matters. I am not the least bit insulted by this obvious rejection of the simple call for clicks by the foodie community. For now, I will just assume that none of you had a corner in your kitchen or pantry worthy enough to be photographed and put up on the blog. Except of course M, who gets a second link for being the only participant and for having a smashing, minimalist pantry.

The neat ridges and the smooth texture
On the subject of links and entrees, I was touched by how many of you liked my piece of fiction and suggested a title for it. I stand corrected on my assumption that I was being ignored. There were more suggestions that I expected and I had a tough time deciding the winner. Here are the nominees:

Nupur’s Coming Home, a title liked by a lot of you.

Srivalli's suggestions were in sync with Nupur's: Homecoming and Healed Heart.

The spin offs on curd rice with Fresh curds for a fresh start, rice plate with a clean slate and curd rice for the soul, the first two suggested by SS, and the last one by Sweet Artichoke.

Some titles suggested and inspired by Scarlett O’Hara and the positive ending of the story: Tomorrow is another day, A positive Attitude and Hope, suggested by Vaishali , Bangalore Baker and PJ, in  that order.

Two along the lines of fire and rebirth: Rise of the phoenix and Coming back to life, suggested by Cool Lassie and Aqua respectively.

And the lone category of witty title: Links that matter, because it highlights the bond between mother and daugheter as well as the prize of the contest, suggested by who else but the witty and word wise Sra.

A vote on fb yielded no majority votes so I picked a title that tickled me with its tongue-in-cheek intent. Without further ado, ladies and gentlemen, the winner is Sra whose Soup came alive is redolent with much more tongue-in-cheek sentences and titles like The links that matter. In keeping with my promise, starting from this post, Sra’s blog gets linked for the next nine posts I write.

Speaking of which, the next post is my review of Ruth Reichl’s Garlic and Sapphires, which was due on the first of this month and by the time gets posted will be late by two weeks.

Don't forget to send in your entrees for the Back to Basics event.

A parting shot

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