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.

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