Oct 11, 2011

The Peanut affair

Peanuts and I go a long way back to my childhood days. I think the love affair started when my sister and I used to play Ghar-ghar or house-house. Our mother would give us a fistful of peanuts and some jaggery to use in our make believe pantry. Sometimes the peanuts would be replaced by a piece of khopra (dry coconut). Watching us play, my mom was sure I was going to be a spendthrift and my sister the one who was careful with her money.

It turns out that my fondness for gobbling up the peanuts was not matched by my ability to spend money. I did not turn out to be the spendthrift like my mom feared. If anything, my friends feel I am a little bit too careful with my money.
However, I digress from the peanut affair. Raw peanuts, roasted peanuts, peanut laddoos, potatoes cooked with crushed peanuts, peanut chikki (brittle), nothing was off limits when it came to my affair with the peanut. Eleven years ago, in the country of Lady Liberty, I discovered the joys of peanut butter and another chapter was added to my peanut affair. I found out I could eat it with chocolate, with apples, spread on a whole wheat tortilla with some jam and sometimes just dip a spoon and lick it straight off the jar.
Raw peanut pods for Susan's BWW

However, I still keep going back to my favorite way of eating peanuts since childhood. In Indore, where I grew up, mungfalliwalas (peanut sellers) would make the rounds of the dusty lanes in my town during peanut harvest. He would have pre-boiled the tender peanuts pods in salty water. They would then be slow roasted in woks, filled with hot sand, set atop a coal stove placed at the end of his thela (push cart).
Boiled, shelled and roasted for Susan's BWW

He would serve them by the kilo in paper cones and we would all sit on the floor, after dinner, and devour the peanuts, splitting the shell by applying pressure on the beak. Biting down on the crunchy, salty outer layer we would savor the sweet, soft meat inside. Fresh, green chickpea shells suffered a similar fate but that story is for another post.

Today, I give you salted, boiled and roasted peanuts of my childhood.

There is no real recipe to boiling peanuts. Fill a big stockpot or a pressure cooker with enough water to cover the peanuts. Add about a tablespoon of salt for every one and a half cup of peanut pods. Boil the peanuts till tender.

Let cool and shell the peanuts. In a heavy bottom pan or wok, roast on medium low flame till the peanuts change color from a tender, pink to a crusty, salty smoky red. Cool a little bit before digging in.

Note: I have, in the past, tried to roast the peanuts in their shells. It takes a long time and a lot of stirring to get the peanuts the right consistency. Shelling the peanuts and roasting them is faster and the texture is similar to the one the mungfalliwala sold.

Sep 27, 2011

A Clerihew tag roundup and a challenge

Last week, I learnt not one but two new words in a day. The first one was Luddite and the second was Clerihew. Both are nouns and are associated with the British. Loosely defined Luddite translates to anyone who is opposed to the industrial change or innovation in their daily life. The word was introduced to me by none other than the witty Ms SplitPearPersonality who has decided to merge her blogging self with the facebooking Ann. She reserves her wit now for her family, friends and co-workers on fb and blogs no more.

A couple of hours after I had excitedly twitted about the addition of a new word to my vocabulary, Richa Ma, another blogger who has abandoned her blog for reasons I do not know, introduced me to Clerihew. I penned one in haste and then tagged a couple of friends, who in turn tagged some more... you get the idea.  It was mayhem after that with everybody tagging everybody else.  This post is an attempt to compile some of them. If you have friends who put them up and I missed them, let me know and I will add them here.

For those of you who do not know who or what a Clerihew is, here is a true short story on its origins:
In the year 1928, a young lad of age sixteen named Edmund Clerhew Bentley sat in the back of his science class and day dreamed. His name was not unusual for his time and contrary to what you may think, no one made fun of it or him. On one particular rainy day, when the air in the classroom was muggy and his professor’s voice was droning, Edumund was thinking about Humphry Davy, that rare combination of poet and chemist. Not unlike the man he was thinking about, Edmund too had a lyrical bend of mind and he came up with this:

Sir Humphry Davy
Was not fond of gravy,
He lived in the odium
Of having discovered sodium.

Excited to have discovered a fun way to while away his time in tedious classrooms, Edmund got together with his friends, formally charted a few rudimentary rules and named his four line form of writing Clerihew.

Here are the rules as put down by Edmund Clerihew himself and followed to this day by those who are struck with inspiration to pen down rhyming quartet lines.

1. The first line contains the name of the person the Clerihew is about. It could be just the name or the name in a line, but it must contain a name.

2. The rhyming four lines need to rhyme and this requisite often times makes for humorous Clerihews.

3. It is usually biographical and shows a person from a different POV or in a funny, whimsical life.

With these basic, simple rules in mind, my fb friends, all of them talented bloggers in their own right, put on their rhyming caps and came up with amusing Clerihews that would have given the original Clerihew a run for his money, or maybe not. I haven’t read all of his works so I can’t say.

So here’s a roundup of the ones I could assemble from the new face of facebook:

Richa Ma, who used to blog at As Dear as Salt, came up with a whole bunch of them. I will put a couple of those down here:

There is this girl named Rich
For her blog all day she takes pictures of her sandwich
While the family waits impatiently for the goodies
She is busy photoshopping pictures for her blog buddies.

She then wrote two more with which we can all relate to:

Sep 24, 2011

Enuma Elish: The Babylonian Creation Myth

In the dark, primal world, Apsu and Tiamut decided to procreate gods. The first two of their offspring, born in the midst of heaven, they named Lahmu and Lahamu. After them Ansar, Anu and Nudimmud were born. The proud parents then established their progeny as the great gods.

While the great gods went about their business quietly, Tiamut continued to create many other gods in her vast body. However, Apsu could not bear the babble of his own sons. He called his trusted minister Mummu for a consult and together they went to Tiamut.

“I have not rested or lied down in peace since the day we have created these gods. They make too much noise and destroy my quiet,” Apsu complained. “But I have a plan,” he said. “I will destroy them and their noisy ways. Only then can we go back to the way we were, quiet and peaceful, enjoying our lives in all of eternity in each other’s arms.”

Sep 21, 2011

B2B roundup, finally

This time around I broke one of my cardinal rules about hosting an event on DSM. I have been late, very late, in posting the roundup. When I made that promise a year and some months ago, I did not realize that the roundup would coincide with me writing a pneumatic brief on Enuma Elish and cramming for a geology test on minerals. But that is what happened and hence my deepest apologies for being way beyond tardy.

Now, for the roundup:
Spandana made Sambhar Powder and blogged about it after her husband’s attempt at making sambhar resulted in a stew of vegetables, tamarind and powder sans the dal.

Divya gives us the secret to spice up even the simplest of recipes using this curry powder.

Straight from her mom’s secret arsenal, Minoti reveals the intense process that goes in the making of garam masala.

Vaishali shares a sweet, tangy and spicy peanut chutney called Chataaka.

Krithi makes a curry leaf powder with freshly picked leaves from her garden and in the process also shares her grandma’s organic hair oil recipe.

It took a while for Vardhini to warm up to the idea of eating podis with rice but now that she has, this coriander seed podi can always be found in her pantry.

Settling down in India has been an adventure for Siri and she celebrated it last month with Vara Lakshmi Vratham. Her parents came over for a visit during the time and her “awesome-a-cook” mom made this spice powder for her to sprinkle on dry curries.

Just five ingredients, a whiz in the grinder and Usha’s coconut-garlic powder is ready for those lazy days when one doesn’t want to sweat in the kitchen.

A big fan of bisi bele bhath, Denny started making this comfort food at home with store bought powder and then switched to grinding his spice powder at home to enhance the flavors. He has not looked back since.

Harini-Jaya found this balti masala in Raghavan Iyer’s 660 curries and she is so impressed with the masala that it has now replaced the store bought garam masala in her pantry.

Mom Chef sent me not one but three spice powders – a curry leaf powder, idli dosa molagapudi and paruppu podi. There is a reason her kids call her a chef.

PJ always manages to seduce my taste buds. This time, she decided to do it with homemade channa masala powder and a dried neem flower spice mix.

Richa got some secret ingredients from a fellow blogger and made a flaxseed sesame powder. She also sent a recipe for a basic Indian curry powder that her mom made in the cool winter months.

Sreevalli found some gongura leaves in the Indian store and she had to make this chili garlic powder to season the gongura dal with.

Kalyani makes this rasam powder in enough quantity to last her for a couple of months.

DSM made the dhana-jeera powder after much deliberation on fb about its proportions which everyone except I seemed to have it right. She was also going to post a chole masala she made last month but the same reasons that delayed the roundup, delayed the post. It is for another day.

If I have missed any entrees, please let me know and I will do the needful with a contrite apology.

Siri is hosting the next B2B with wet chutneys as the theme. Do visit her blog and check out the rules. She will also be more prompt in posting the roundup.

Sep 7, 2011

A tale of Ganesha

I start feeling nostalgic and missing homeland during festival time and this year has been no exception. A phone call to my brother for Rakshabandhan or Bhau-Beej, a video chat with my parents during Diwali leaves me teary eyed and wanting to jump on a flight to India. I try to compensate feelings of alienation by making corresponding festival fare and gorging myself on it. Two years ago, I attempted modaks for Ganesh Chaturthi. The crust came out chewy and rubbery but the filling of jaggery and coconut, infused with cardamom, was still worth it.

This year I could hear the beating of drums in the background as I talked to my sister back home. It was hard to hear much over the din but I gathered from her that the youngsters in her housing complex were practicing for Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations. How could I not attempt to make modaks again sitting in the quiet surroundings of my suburban home? My mother gave me her usual helpful but ambiguous tips “a little bit of rava (semolina) to maida (APF) and roll the poori thin before filling and shaping the modak”.
Making of a modak for Susan's B&WW

Based on those thin guidelines, I fiddled with the proportions and had the foresight to take notes while I made the modaks. I was delighted to bite into the crispy crust (after offering the Prasad to Ganesh first, of course) that would have made the pot-bellied god a happy camper.

Modaks for the pot-bellied one
Once fried, they are off to Susan's B&WW
It transported me back to the days when my mom would fast once a month for chaturthi and break her fast with twenty one modaks. One of those modaks was a salty one and once mother ate that she had to stop. We three kids sat close to her, watching as the modak count dwindled. We would heave a sigh of relief as she finally came across and ate the salty one. Then the three of us would divvy the modaks and send a silent prayer to Ganesha for helping her find the salty one short of ten.

Now, all grown up, I do not even think about observing the strict fast my mom kept.  However, Ganesha still has a strong presence in my household.  I have pictures and statues of him scattered all over my house.  My husband reads tales of Ganesha and other gods to our son. We, like parents of my generation, are forever grateful to Uncle Pai and his Amar Chitra Katha. Those tales (katha) are indeed immortal (amar). As much as we read those tales, when a poojari (priest) asked us the names of Ganesha’s sons we were thrown for a loop. We knew the names of his wives, Riddhi and Siddhi. But we didn’t even know he had sons let alone what their names were. The answer, when he told us, was so simple, we almost smacked ourselves in the head.

After I had my fill of the modaks I posed the same question on fb. A lot of friends chimed in and like all Indian myths, they had slightly different versions and names of Ganesha’s wives and sons. Manisha was most helpful, quoting from a book on tales of Ganesha and her tidbits made for a fun discussion. From that discussion, this tale is woven.

Disclaimer: Based on myths and tales of Ganesha and written in jest. Not intended to offend any Ganesha devotees. I am one myself and have nothing but the highest reverence, regard and love for the Remover of all obstacles.

Aug 24, 2011

Kindergarten Chronicles and Sprouting Arbi Fry

Past few days have been an emotional roller coaster for me. My five and a half year old started kindergarten yesterday and last week was spent preparing for school, buying school supplies, going to meet the teacher, going to buy new clothes… Every day was a reminder that my baby is growing up, fast.

When I could not find clothes for him in the toddler section, I ventured into the ‘big boy’ section. No more cute T-shirts with “Mommy’s Boy” written on them. From now on it was all solids, stripes and plaids. I almost cried on the floor of the shop except I remembered that he still liked his Toy Story backpack and I had to go look for a matching lunch box.

Fortunately, I found the TS lunch box while shopping for school supplies. Once the mile long list of markers, pencils, erasers, folders and notebooks was done, I was back at home preparing for his first day of school. Lunch was agreed upon, a PB&J sandwich, pencil box filled according to the teacher’s specification and clean socks and clothes were ironed and ready for next day.
Sprouting Taro: my entry to Susan's B&W Wednesdays

Amidst the weak long running around, I totally overlooked the arbi (taro root) lying in the pantry. It is a vegetable reserved for the kid's dad, just like this one is. In Maharashtrian households, arbi is called alu and the stir fry alu chi bhaji.  The picky eater that I was, I never did take to it.  My mom would cook it with some potatoes thrown in to camaflouge the arbi.

As an adult, my fondness for arbi stops at the musty, earthy smell that emanates from it. Unlike bhindi (okra), it is not a sticky vegetable when raw. But boil the little spuds and the starch oozes out and seeps into the water it is boiled in.  From there, it is all downhill – peeling, chopping, stir frying is a big sticky mess. The good news is that with enough frying, the stickiness goes away and the vegetable turns crispy with a meaty bite to it, not unlike crispy, stir fried boiled potatoes.

To avoid the stickiness of the arbi, you can do one of the following two things:

1. Peel, chop and stir fry the raw arbi roots. It will take longer to cook through but you will avoid a sticky mess on the chopping board and the knife.
2. Do what I do and par-boil the arbi. It will still be sticky but not as much, plus it will cook faster.

Alu chi bhaji / Arbi Stiry Fry

5-6 arbi roots
1 tsp turmeric powder
1/2 tsp ajwain seeds (carom seeds)
1/2 tsp asafetida powder
1 tsp red chili powder
Salt to taste
Wash and remove as much outer fibers as possible. In a microwave proof shallow container cover the arbi roots with enough water. On high power, zap for five to six minutes. Let cool and peel the skin. Cut into thin half moons or quarter moons.

Heat a non-stick pan with a tablespoon of oil. Turn the heat to medium low and add the turmeric powder, carom seeds and asafetida powder. Give it a quick stir, taking care not to burn the carom seeds. Add the red chili powder and the cut quarter moons. Mix in the arbi with spices so that the arbi is coated evenly with turmeric powder. Add salt and cook till done through and crispy.

Serve with whole wheat tortillas or as a side with rice.

Aug 17, 2011

Roasted and ground 2:1

It is the middle of August and I have yet to post something for my own event, B2B – Spice Powders. So here is my first entry to my own event, a simple, basic spice used in almost every Indian kitchen.

Ever since I can remember, one day of the year in our house, my mother devotes an entire afternoon to making dhana-jeera powder and garam masala. Breakfast is a hurried affair of make-your-own-omelet, as is lunch (khichdi, a spiced porridge of rice and lentils). Once the mundane morning chores are over, the measuring, roasting and grinding of spices starts.

Aromas of gently roasting cumin, cinnamon sticks, bay leaves, peppercorns, cardamom and cloves gradually rise from the cast iron karahi, envelop the tiny kitchen, waft through the door to fill our entire house and gradually make their way to the front door to descend the stairs and into the street. The neighborhood auntyji drops by, taking in the whole spices and trying to gauge the recipe. She is too proud to ask for a recipe, the acclaimed cook that she is. My mother is too modest and unpretentious to turn her down but clever enough not to volunteer unless asked. So, the recipe remains a family secret or rather my mom’s secret.

Aug 15, 2011

Mile Sur Mera Tumhara

On the occasion of India’s Independence Day, here is a video which always makes my eyes tear up even as a smile plays on my lips.

Aug 14, 2011

Of Chalks & Chopsticks roundup

Jealous sisters, cheating husbands, ailing mothers and lonely septuagenarians are just some of the central characters of this edition of Of Chalks and Chopsticks.  Hope you enjoy reading these and some other gems of food fiction.
1. But suddenly she felt it gnawing away at her – she felt like eating patrani machhi – just the way it to used be made in the Khambatta home while growing up – a special occasion treat; not a bhonu but at least a "90 in English". It wasn’t even difficult to make as compared to the paturi – just a different marinade and to suit her liking she used to retain the mustard from the paturi and omit the coriander from the machhi. She decided then she wasn’t going to allow herself to be slotted like this... Miri of Peppermill.
2. Once spinach leaves were chopped,she washed and drained the leaves and started with the preparation of  dal but mentally she was still at her parents place.Anjali was so busy frying onion that she didnt realise that the  door bell was ringing... Notyet100 of Asan Khana.
3. While she was away from the kitchen, Ypea and gang silently jumped from the vessel, tip-toed their way through the kitchen backdoor and on to the wild weeds. Last heard that some one has tipped the carrot police about the disappearance of Gpeas. Ypeas are still absconding…Sukanya of Saffron Streaks
4. ...their kitchen here in the United States was so different. For one it looked too stark, too clean. There were no piles of just-washed vegetables dripping water on soapstone platforms, waiting to be cut before being added to sizzling kadhais sputtering with mustard seeds. No open shelves stacked with shiny, hand-scrubbed steel plates and steel tumblers. No large, round aluminum tins of rice and flour and lentils stacked on the floor, against the walls. -- Vaishali of Holy Cow, Vegan Recipes 
5. While the unflavored gelatin bloomed in the lukewarm water, I whisked the egg yolks in a small saucepan and slowly added the lime juice, sugar and zest. So far so good! Then I placed the saucepan on a pot of rolling boiling water as my makeshift double boiler and started to whisk. The dessert was doomed from that point on... Swapna of My Taki

6. She dropped some pasta into the water and chopped some onions and bell pepper. Just as she was done draining the pasta the phone rang. The silence of the house was shattered and she came back from her reverie. It was the doctor calling... Supriya of Red Chilies

7. If Nimit closed his eyes, he could see and smell Malini's perfectly cooked rice, delicately spiced daal, her spicy hot chutneys and light as air phulkas. And to think that he'd given up all of that in favor of a slice of pizza last night. Malini had been so upset....he just didn't see it then. She'd gone to bed early - and she hadn't eaten pizza either. And this morning....she'd thrown him out of bed, and out of the home with that chilling verdict... Deepika of My Life and Spice

8. She washed the Toor Dal in several changes of water and pulled out the packet of MTR sambhar powder from the recess of her spice drawer.The okra she washed and chopped, not noticing its slimy strings drawing lines on the chopping board. She heated oil in her big stock pot.Lost in herself she threw in the mustard seeds which danced and fizzed, grumbling loudly.Next went the curry leaves, all dried and limp on their stalk. She didn't care.Once she had the okra sambhar going on the stove she juiced each of the limes carefully in a big bowl. The lime was sour and her lips puckered up with their severe tart-ness. -- Sandeepa of BongMom'sCookbook

9. Tell me, who needs marmalade? She is fat. I don't touch the stuff. Neither does anyone else. But it allows her to write stuff like: "Yoga done, showered and ready to face the world, I come down to see the rays of dawn illuminate the pantry with a warming glow. The pantry, the kitchen, this is where I bond with my loved ones, these rooms that have so much soul... Sra of WhenMySoupCame Alive

10. …from the moment I knew Vani existed my body craved lime – like Kali assuaged the darkness with sour and pungent – Lime Rice, Lime Pickle, Lime Juice became a part of my existence for the next ten months. In fact, the meal I had the night I delivered Vani was Lime Rice and a spicy Lime Pickle. --- Meenakshi of Random Ponderings of a working mom

11. I had just put the vegetable tray on the counter-top to retrieve my chargers when mama let out a scream. “Snakes, snakes,” she shouted, her eyes staring straight at the cables coiled around some sundry fruits and veggies... Aqua of Served with love

12. One morning I spotted her sitting in the window, reading a book and drinking from a cup of tea. She looked Indian with a comely face, unlike the stern, thin lipped face of Taal. "She probably eats whole grains as well as fruits and milk and eggs... Jaya of Desisoccermom

The final entry is not so much a story but a comment from SSblogshere. She had penned some hilarious pieces for earlier editions of OC&C and I had asked her if she had time to participate this time around. She came up with a brief potential story, which she posted on the spot in my comments section. If she had the time I am pretty sure it would have turned into another rib-tickler. 

The tray could have a secret sliding slot which contains a will. The limes/citrus juice would be used as invisible ink to write a map to a secret treasure.. her top-secret RECIPE BOOK! The tray and iphone charger would be the only things the lady will actually pass on to her daughter.. The charger is her clue.. it would charge an iphone that can capture an infrared image of the invisible ink.. the bhindi for her unscrupulous lawyers is just the lady's way of giving them the..

Aug 10, 2011

The invisible man

I am an invisible man in a foreign land. When I say invisible, I don't mean the invisible man from H G Well's story of the same name or even the unnamed hero of Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man.  I am not complicated like that, nor do I have existential issues. No, my dilemma is simple one. The people I live with are my son, Suresh and daughter-in-law, Tulsi. I do not care much for them but I am stuck living with them. I don’t like their museum like house with its modern furniture made of angular lines and hard surfaces, the dark brown walls and white crockery that reminds me of a hospital.

I know my son asked me to stay with him out of a sense of obligation after my wife died. I agreed because I had no other option. He was always close to his mother than he was to me, not that I blame him. I was never the ‘involved father’ like these younger generation boys with their fancy strollers and carriers.

In my time, it would have been considered outright laughable if not ridiculous to be so involved with your kids. My wife took care of the house and the kid; I went and earned a living. Life was simple, with clear demarcations, not like the hodgepodge of today. Our fruit basket had only fruits in them.  My son's otherwise neat house has this one big bowl on the kitchen counter that catches everything from stray fruit to phone and iPad chargers. Just looking at it drives me nuts but I restrain myself.  "It is none of my business how they want to lead their lives," I try to reason.
The photo cue

My son is nothing like me. He helps his wife in the kitchen, they clean the house together and I am sure when they have a kid, he will get up in the middle of the night to bottle-feed the crying infant. I mean what do you expect when they call each other Sur and Taal (Rhythm and Beat)? What is wrong with calling each other by their full names, Suresh and Tulsi? How hard is it to pronounce two more syllabels?

Sur is the proud owner of a fancy camera that he carries with him everywhere. Taal encourages him, pointing to all manners of objects to be photographed. He twists his body into uncomfortable positions to make her happy but I suspect he doesn’t much care for the things he shoots. I just don’t know what the big deal is in shooting a clump of fresh pulled garlic or a zuchini. If you have seen one, you have seen them all. Why go around taking pictures and wasting film?

Apparently, the two of them have a food blog and all this photography is for that purpose. Taal also spends a lot of time in front of the computer researching food and re evaluating her diet. When I first arrived here from India, there was not a drop of milk to be found in the fridge. “Pappa, Taal is a vegan,” Sur had explained when I had asked for some milk.

“I thought vegetarians drink milk,” I had asked, confused.

“No Pappa, there is a difference between vegetarians and vegans. Vegans don’t eat any animal product, including milk,” he had said with a faint irritation in his voice. He had explained how Taal was against exploiting animals for their milk, eggs or meat. It was the strangest thing I had ever heard but I kept my mouth shut. It was a good thing too because I soon realized that Sur and Taal experimented a lot with their diets.

Aug 7, 2011

Reviving Back to Basics

If you are a fan of food fiction then you are aware that between Sra, Sandeepa and yours truly, Aqua’s brilliant brainchild, Of Chalks and Chopsticks has been revived (currently being hosted here). Keeping in line with that spirit of renewal and the end of summer solstice, I hereby announce the new avatar of Back to Basics. If you are new to blogging or to this blog, B2B is an event that I started last year and which fizzled out as my priorities changed and DSM took a back seat in more ways than one.

This event is as much an attempt to keep me current with blogging as well as to collate some basic kitchen tips, tricks and recipes. However, unlike the previous version, this time I am attempting to stay more focused with a theme for each month. I am also looking for bloggers to host the event for a few months. If you are interested, drop me a line at jayawagle AT gmail DOT com and I will add your name to the host line-up below.

For the month of August, the theme will be dry spice powders/ dry chutneys or podis. Here are the rules:

1. Send in your recipe/ tips for making and storing dry spice powders/ podis/ dry (not wet) chutney powders. Think garam masala, coconut chutney, chana masala, milagaipodis, dry rubs for grilling veggies and meats.

2. Older postings qualify as long as you link them to this post.

3. Do specify what recipe or dishes you would use your spice powder in and if possible include that recipe in the post.

4. Send in your entry by September 7 with the subject line B2B – Spice Powder at jayawagle AT gmail DOT com.

5. Link your entry to this event announcement.

6. If your recipe is inspired/ copied from another blog, please give credit and if needed ask permission.

7. Recommended but not required: If you have a story or anecdote behind how you arrived at the recipe, include it in your post. For example, it could be your grandmother’s recipe passed down the family line or you could have chanced upon the spice powder combination when you added fennel seeds instead of cumin seeds.

8. Attach a photo 400 pixels wide.

9. If you don’t have a blog, you can still send an entry on the email address above. I will include it in the roundup.

10. I will do a random drawing before the roundup and the winner will get three links to their blog on DSM.

Themes for the coming months and a quest for future hosts:

September: Basic chutneys  
Host: Siri of Cooking with Siri
In this month we will explore recipes for chutneys (cilantro, mint, mango, tamrind, dates, etc), salad dressings, salsas, katchumer/ koshimbir/ kosambari and the like.

October: Basics breads
Host: PJ of Seduce your tastebuds
October will give us insights into tips or step by step instructions on making rotis, parantha, pooris, artisan breads, pasta, etc.

November: Basic desserts
Host: Aqua of Served with love 
A spoonful of jam on a cracker, a roti smeared with ghee and powdered sugar, these are the simple basic desserts I am talking about, easy to make and ready to satisfy your sweet tooth in a jiffy. Send in your recipes for that favorite jam, jelly or preserve.

December: Basic Beverages
Host: Harini-Jaya of Tamalapaku 
December is the perfect month to learn the basics of making tea, instant coffee and hot cocoa to warm the soul and ward off the cold.

January: Basic kitchen prep tools
Do you use all the gadgets you pick up and bring home from that fancy kitchen store? Or do you keep reaching for that tea pot with the broken handle and the peeler with the wobbly blade while the shiny, more expensive tools lie neglected in the kitchen drawer. I want to see them all. The over used and the under used.

February: Basic batters
Host: Denny of OhTastenSee
Everyone has a basic recipe they fall back on, be it for dosa, idli or cake. What is yours?

March: Basic how-to
I make my own yogurt, buttermilk and ghee at home. Do you? If yes, send me your tips, ratios and recipes. Don’t limit yourselves. Explore making clotted cream, cheese, paneer or tofu.

April: Basic kitchen essentials
If you had to strip down your kitchen to five appliances, what would they be?

May: Basics of freezing, canning and pickling
Need I say more?

June: Basic leftover makeovers
Left over breads, tortillas and rice can be transformed into delectable dishes. What do you do with your leftovers?

July: Basic tips and tricks of the trade
Do you season your cast iron pan or use a fork to make your batata vadas? Send in a tip that makes your job easier in the kitchen.

August: Basic spice rack
Do you keep a masala dabba or a spice rack near your stove? Show me what is in it?

Go on, start roasting and grinding those spices for this month and if you want to host, get in touch with me via email or on my fb page, Desisoccermom.

A final tip before I take leave for the day. If you are hosting an event, whether B2B or any other, don't forget to let Jacqueline of The Food Blog Diary know about it.  It is one of the must read blogs to know about all the food events going on in the blogosphere.

Aug 2, 2011

Last minute Brown Rice Bisibelebath with mixed beans for Susan

Lately, my follower count on the blog has been going up and down by a couple, or in other words, stayed constant. I welcome new followers and wonder about the ones who are unfollowing (leaving). Maybe it is because I haven’t been very regular with my posts for almost a year now. There is also the contentious issue of not visiting a bunch of other blogs and leaving comments, which, let’s face it, generates traffic.

I have been for a long time ambivalent about blogging because I simply can’t bring myself to blog-hop all the time. It drains away a lot of my time and energy not to mention distracts me from family matters. I still visit my friend’s blogs, not only for the content and writing but also to catch up with them. There are times when I visit an often-visited-in-the-past but not forgotten blog because I see a link on fb and it sounds interesting.

Siri’s roundup of Wholesome Whole Grain – Brown Rice was one such event that got a quick click on the link. I have never been much of a brown rice eater but her bisibelebath made with brown rice, lentils and loads of veggies screamed, “Cook me”. So I did, with much success. I fed it to my Tamilian friends and they loved it. I have since made it a bunch of times and it tastes good every time. The secret of course is the spice powder that I roasted and grinded based on Siri’s recipe.

I have professed my inability to follow a recipe to a T on this blog before. However, this one time, I did not waver from the original version except for the quantity, which I cut in half. Not only was this an easy one pot meal, it was filling and nutritious and hit the spot just right every time I made it.

Of course, it is human nature, or may be my nature, to fix something that isn’t broken. So the fourth time I made bisibelebath, I decided to make it even more nutritious by adding whole beans instead of just toor dal (split pigeon peas). It turned out pretty good but the spouse and I both agreed the original tasted better. I am listing just the changes that I made to the recipe. Click on Siri’s Bisibelebath to see the original recipe.

Ingredients I changed:
Mixed lentils and beans: 3/4 cup (I used a combination of black eyed peas, whole masoor dal, whole mung beans and toor dal)

Vegetables I used:
Vegetables: 2 cups (a mix of sweet potato, celery, onions, carrots and spinach)

Spice Powder:
Since I roughly halved the recipe, I used about 2 tbsp of the spice powder

This delicious and nutritious bisibelebath goes to Susan who is celebrating and hosting the third anniversary of her popular event MLLA- 37 . Thank you, Susan for accepting my very late entry. This post also goes to Jacqueline's Bookmarked Recipes event created by Ruth of Ruth's Kitchen Experiments.

Is there a recipe from this blog that has become your personal favorite or a recipe you have tweaked to your liking? Let me know.

And if you haven't liked my fb page yet, click on Desisoccermom and do it.

Jul 20, 2011

Black and White Wednesday with Elephant Garlic

Another Wednesday, another b&w photograph. Thanks to Susan's weekly event, I am at least keeping this blog current.
These giant elephant garlic were a regular offering at our local CSA farm till the crops gave in to relentless over 100 degrees heat and some unexpected rain showers. Despite their size, the elephant garic is milder in taste to the regular garlic and actually are a varient to the species that belongs to the leek family. It was still fun to use these giant pods for cooking and as a substitute for garlic they made for interesting flavor.

Size matters

Elephant garlic (for Susan)

Jul 13, 2011

Black and White Wednesday with Turkish coffee

A few months ago, Manisha snagged a bargain at her neighborhood garage sale and bragged about it on facebook. The Turkish cups, also called ibrik or cezve, she had managed to lay her hands on were so gorgeous that enough though I have never had Turkish coffee in my life, I just had to have them. Two more of her friends wanted them too, so she graciously agreed to go back to her neighbor and see if she could buy some for us too. A month later, I am the proud owner of three of those fabulous cups and what better way to show them off then for Susan’s new event, Black and White Wednesday.

ibrik 1 (goes to Susan's event)

ibrik 2

If you are intrigued and want to know how to make Turkish coffee with these, check out this link that Susan pointed me to on fb or this youtube video that I found. One thing is sure. My ibriks are not going anywhere near a gas flame so Turkish coffee will have to wait. 

Jul 10, 2011

Put on your chalks and chopsticks!

Ok, I was going to title it ‘put on your writing caps’ but putting on chalks and chopsticks sounds so much more interesting. Aqua’s brilliant conception deserves no less. Now if I was only more respecting of deadlines the last two times when Sra and Sandeepa hosted the event. Nevertheless, once I managed to post my overdue fiction, I was overwhelmed at the kind, encouraging and appreciative response to it from some of you. I couldn’t ask for better friends and visitors of DSM.

After the still pending part 2 of 'It takes two to marry...' I had vowed to finish all future stories in one single post. I am proud to say I have managed to stick to that resolve. However, two of the above mentioned supportive friends, namely Sandeepa and Harini, wanted a part 2 to ‘To stalk a brinji’. I insisted that I was done with the brinji and Sandeepa duly conceded and I quote her here, “...I know there won't be a second part because this is how the author wants it to end but since I know the author personally I can always demand my kinda endings, can't I ;-) Not that the author has to listen or anything!!!”

Well, the author listened not because of her nagging but because Harini’s idea of writing the story from ‘Uncle’s’ point of view appealed to her. There still will be no part 2 to the brinji but the author is working on Harini's above mentioned idea. This also brings the said author, me, to announce the third edition of the revived  'Of Chalks and Chopsticks' event which is being hosted this month here at DSM. If you are new to this blog or not aware of ‘OC&C’, it is all about combining your writing chops with your eating chops. To put it simply, OC&C is about writing an interesting piece of food fiction. It may or may not have a recipe but it has to reference food. For examples check out my food fiction page or a previous roundup of the event on Sra’s blog.

The revived event also has a photo cue for you to get inspired and fire up your imagination or get you stuck on the photo and leave you totally uninspired to come up with anything (whichever way you choose to look at it).  But if the above photo sparks the writer in you, here are some basic rules, penned by Sra, with one additional rule by me, to follow before sending in your entry.

1. Spin us a yarn - an original one, based on the above photo cue. It could either be based on a real incident or could be something completely imaginary. Explore any genre: humor, romance, mystery, paranormal etc.

2. The story you write has to have some food - it doesn't have to be a recipe.

3. There is no word limit on the story you write, but it has to be written in one single post.

4. Posts written for this event CAN be shared with other events.

5. Please link to this post and Aqua's original post mentioned above.

6. It is recomended but not required that you add the above photo to your post. If you do, mention this link in the caption since I own the copyright to the photo that I took.

7. Post your story and the recipe between now and August 10 and mail it to me at: jayawagle@gmail.com

Include the following details in your mail:

1. Name and URL of your blog

2. Title and URL of your post

So, grab that chalk, or pen or laptop or desktop and start writing.

At the expense of shameless self promotion, if you haven't already clicked 'like' on the DSM page on facebook, please do so and stroke my ego.  The badge is right there on the top left hand corner or here is the link to DSM on fb.

Jul 6, 2011

To stalk a brinji

Naina woke up to the insistent ringing of the morning alarm. She considered hitting the snooze button but decided to get up anyways. It was going to be a busy day and she needed a head start. She walked bleary eyed into the kitchen and turned on the tap. She drank a glass of water and then poured two cups of water in a pan, added some sugar, tea leaves and milk. By the time she had finished her morning ablutions, the tea was boiling. A little bit of grated ginger, a final boil and she turned off the heat.

Picture Cue: Bong Mom Cookbook

It was still dark outside as Naina strained the two cups of tea and walked towards the picture window.  She loved this time of the day, sitting by the window, reading a book and sipping her cup of tea. It was calm and peaceful, no jarring sounds of the television and no hustle bustle of daily chores. There was hardly anyone on the sidewalk except an occasional runner jogging past or an early riser walking the dogs.

Of late, she had been noticing an elderly desi ‘uncle’ strolling past the house around the same time. She knew from her parent’s visit last year how these routine walks sometimes became the only respite for the elderly parents. They went stir crazy in the house but couldn’t go anywhere for the lack of public transport. The weather was usually too extreme to take a stroll in the middle of the day. Early mornings or cool evenings was the only time one would see them strolling around the community. The men almost always wore pants pulled above their waists, full sleeved shirt, a cap and shiny new sneakers. If their wives came along, they too would sport matching sneakers under their saris or salwar suits. This man could have been a clone to the other seniors.

As the sun came up over the horizon, Naina put the book down with a sigh. They had invited a few close friends for dinner and she had a lot of cooking ahead of her. She carried the empty cup back to the sink and started preparing for dinner. Her husband, Ajay, and daughter, Nita, were still sleeping and she decided to do all the non-noisy chores first. Out came the whole wheat flour for the chapattis which she quickly and deftly kneaded into a big ball of dough. She rinsed and soaked a combination of toor and masoor dal with plenty of water.

Naina had decided to make brinji for the evening, an exotic south Indian pulao cooked in coconut milk. She decided to turn on the computer and check the recipe once more, “just to make sure I have everything,” she said to herself. The truth was Naina had studiously avoided turning on the computer since morning. She knew once she got on it, a couple of hours would easily go by before she got back to cooking.

“I’ll just check the bookmarked recipe and turn it off,” she reassured her doubting self and logged on. To her credit, she did go straight to the recipe. It called for loads of veggies, a spice paste of cilantro, mint, ginger, garlic and coconut. She decided to jot the recipe down so she wouldn’t have to come back to the computer. “I’ll leave a comment later,” she silently promised herself and the author of the blog.
For the spice paste

Naina stepped out in the backyard to get some mint leaves, marveled a few minutes at the beautiful morning sky that was soon going to turn hot and scorching. She picked a handful of mint leaves and came back in. She pulled out the browning, slimy-at-the-bottom bunch of cilantro from the fridge and dumped the whole thing in a colander. She ran water over it in the sink and started separating the good parts. There was barely half a cup of green leaves left after she was done with the bunch. “He’ll have to run to the grocery store to get some,” she thought with a wince. Just two days ago Ajay had asked her if she had everything she needed for the dinner party.

“Of course I do,” she had said with a confidence that defied the truth. He just looked at her with a resigned look that said, “I know I will have to run to the store at the last minute but I hope this time you are right and I won’t have to.” Naina hadn’t been lying. She just hadn’t bet on the cilantro turning bad so fast. Or rather, she had ignored to check on the cilantro because picking and cleaning cilantro was her least favorite things to do, as was picking and cleaning green beans, podding peas, cutting arbi and bhindi (okra). Coming to the US had changed all that. She got frozen green beans and sweet peas all ready to use. She had tried the frozen arbi and bhindi, all cut up and frozen. Those had been major slim-fest disasters.

It was eight o’clock by the time Naina had all the ingredients for the spice paste. She considered holding off on starting the magic bullet to grind the paste and then decided to go ahead. “Maybe today they can wake up to the whirring of the blender,” she smiled at the thought and plugged it in. The sharp aromas of ginger, garlic jostled with the fragrant mint and the nutty coconut as Naina opened the jar. Even then she knew that the brinji would be the highlight of the dinner.

She spent the rest of the day chopping, sautéing, stirring and frying. Two hours to dinner and she still had to clean the kitchen counter tops, load the dishwasher and clean the bathroom. The brinji was to be served hot, but she had prepared everything else. She sped up on the chores and remembered at the last minute to soak the rice in water before hitting the shower. She looked back appreciatively at the island counter. Steaming palak paneer, aromatic mattar paneer, pipping hot dal and warm rotis has been carefully transferred to white serving platters and covered with cellophane. Ajay was working on the salad and reading the instructions on the frozen pizza box he was planning to cook for the kids. The house looked clean, the toddler’s toys were under control. “Now, only if the guests would come on time,” even as she said it, she knew it was not something one expected of one’s desi friends.

All dewy from the shower, Naina went into the closet to pick out a t-shirt and at the last minute decided to wear something ethnic. She looked over her collection of sarees and salwar suits and chose a mauve salwar kameez she hadn’t had a chance to wear in a long time. A pair of small earring, a touch of mascara and she was ready.

“Naina, are you done?” Ajay asked from the door.

“Yes, I am coming. What’s the matter?” she asked with a hint of irritation in her voice. He was always harping on her about her long showers.

“There is a desi uncle in our living room,” he whispered.

“What? Do we know him,” she asked perplexed. They weren’t expecting any uncles or aunties for that matter.

“Come out, I’ll tell you later,” he said as he turned around.

Naina walked into the living room to find the desi uncle she had been observing taking a walk in the morning sitting on the couch, reading a Time magazine.

“Namaste uncle,” she said politely. She was too puzzled to say anything else.

“Namaste beti. I see you reading in the window every morning when I go for my morning walks. Today, I thought I will stop by,” he said.

Now that she could see him up close, Naina noticed he had beady eyes under his thick glasses and wispy, grey hair. He seemed to be in his late 70s.

“No problem uncle,” she said politely. “Good of you to stop by but today is not a good time. We are expecting guests over for dinner anytime…”

Before she could finish he clapped excitedly. “Desi friends? Good, I haven’t met a lot of desi people since I came here. It will be good to meet them. I’ll stick around. Don’t worry, do what you need to do. I will read this magazine till they come,” he said as he proceeded to settle himself comfortably on the couch.

Naina looked at Ajay who shrugged and motioned her to come to the kitchen.

“Why is he staying around? Who is he? Do you know him?” she blasted him with a flurry of questions.

“Calm down,” he said. “I don’t know him but it looks like he is lonely. He was telling me before that he stays all by himself the whole day while his son and daughter-in-law go to work.”

“So he decides to drop by our house and then stay for dinner!” she exclaimed.

“Well, we can’t do much about it now. At least it will make for an interesting evening,” he said with a chuckle.

“Leave you to find humor in a party crasher,” she found herself smiling as well.

Then there was the brinji to be made still. She set the big pan on the gas burner and took out the whole spices and the chopped onions. In went the spices in the sizzling oil, followed by the onions. She lowered the heat and let the onions caramelize. The green spice paste went in the browned onions. As the paste sizzled, Naina smelled the mint, coconut and the whole spices coming together in harmony. For a while she even forgot about the septuagenarian sitting in her living room reading Time magazine.

Jun 20, 2011

Quinoa, barley and wild rice salad

another light lunch for Red Chilies

My five year old loves going to the museum and can spend hours roaming the corridors. Before you get any ideas about his artistic abilities, let me explain. It is a children’s museum which allows him and kids like him to play and experiment with things one doesn’t normally get to do at home. There are basins of water with toy boats to study water flow and mechanics of water dams. There are rooms filled with crayons and scissors and balloons and wooden blocks to build lofty buildings and break them down.
Water fun at the museum

For once, the parents trail behind the kids while they lead the way from one room to another. I have to admit sometimes we too get sucked into the excitement of building a castle with disposable plastic glasses. What kid would not like to spend hours in a museum built just for him and his friends?  We make a trip down to the museum at least once a month if not more.
Quinoa, wild rice salad with curly fries

For all the good things our city’s children’s museum offers, it lacks sorely on the good eats front. The café offers greasy cheese pizzas and sad looking macaroni and cheese for the kids, both of which my kid refuses to eat (not that I am complaining). For the adults, especially if one is vegetarian, there is very limited offering and what there is of is loaded with grease and salt. They do make excellent curly fries and the kid will eat them happily with ketchup. To supplement the fries, I carry a healthy snack for him and he eats that with the fries. For the adults, I make a quinoa salad with lots of fruits, veggies and nuts. I vary the salad ingredients, sometimes adding wild rice to it, sometimes barely and other times, all three of them.

With strawberries

Jun 14, 2011

Gajar Mooli paranthas (Carrot, radish flatbreads)

First of light lunches for Red Chilies

So paranthas, those Indian flatbreads made by shallow frying them in oil, are not what you would call a light lunch, especially if it is paired by chole or a similar kind of gravy. But in my house, we like to eat them with a light sabzi of aloo mattar (potatoes and peas) or even with some yogurt or lassi. I am sure Supriya of Red Chilies will agree that this one qualifies for a light lunch.

Now, if you are a fan of  Red Chilies you must be aware of the month long event featuring light lunches being showcased there. If you are a regular of my blog you must be aware of my blog's irregular postings. Anyways, a couple of months ago when Supriya did her first event, Dosa Month at RC, I almost smacked myself in the head. I had been thinking of an idea along similar lines to increase my involvement with DSM but never got around to execute it.

The gracious host that she is, Supriya said I could do it with her. So here I am following her lead to announce that I too will be posting light lunches this whole month. If you have a recipe for a light lunch, anything from sandwiches, salads to rice preparation and anything in between, post it and link it to Supriya's announcement. Head on over to her blog to check for rules. She will do the roundup at the end of the month. Not only that, she has a Taste of Home cookbook giveaway for one lucky winner in the US or Canada.

With mango pickle

I grew up taking these paranthas to school in my lunch box and eating them rolled up and dunked in tea for an evening snack. You can make them in a big stack, wrap in foil and they will keep in the refrigerator for a week. I made these after a long time because of a radish, carrot surplus from our local organic farm. We have started buying produce from an organic farm in our area. Every Sat morning we go up to the farm to fill our grocery bag with produce the owner has picked up that morning. We never know what we will get and this time around he went and got a whole bunch of radishes along with red kale, broccoli, carrots, onions, turnips and a big bunch of herbs.

Plucked off the ground
American radishes do not have the sharp, almost pungent taste that the Indian mooli has but it comes very close to it. However, kneaded in the dough with carrots, cilantro and green chilies, they transform the humble parantha into a delicious, almost gourmet tortilla.

Gajar Mooli Paranthas

2 cups whole wheat flour
2 cups grated radishes and carrots
1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro (add more if you like)
3-4 green chilies, chopped fine
1 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp red chili powder
1 tsp ajwain (caraway seeds)
2 tsp sesame seeds
Salt to taste
Oil for shallow frying

Grate the radishes and carrots, add a little salt and keep aside. Radishes have some water content which is released if you salt them and keep aside for some time.

Meanwhile, finely chop the green chilies and the cilantro. Heap the whole wheat flour in a large, shallow, plate. Add salt, turmeric powder, sesame seeds, ajwain and red chili powder. Mix well.
Red, Yellow, Orange, Green of the kneaded dough

Add the cilantro, green chilies and grated carrot-radish. Use the rendered water from the radishes to knead the dough. If need be, add some more water to make a stiff but pliable dough. Cover and keep aside for 10-15 minutes.

Heat a cast iron skillet. Make slightly larger than golf sized balls from the dough, flatten with your palms and dredge it in some flour. Roll out to about 1/4 inch thickness.

Slap the rolled out disc on to the hot griddle. Wait for a minute and then turn over. Spread about a teaspoon of oil on the cooked side, flip it over and spread another teaspoon on the other side. Press it down and cook till red spots appear on both sides.

Repeat with the rest of the doug and stack the paranthas like above. Once cooled, store in an airtight container or foil. They will keep in the refrigerator for up to a week and can be warmed up in the microwave or skillet as needed.

If you are not familiar with the art of making paranthas, here is a video which should give you a pretty good idea of how to make it.

Note: The videos of gajar mooli parantha I found were all for stuffed paranthas. I find stuffing and rolling out paranthas this way too tedious. I prefer to knead the flour very much the same way one makes a methi thepla. This video, which is for methi theplas, should give you an idea of what I am talking about. Just substitute the fenugreek for radishes and carrots.

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