Sunday, September 27, 2009

Black Eyed Peas Sundal

Expectations - the act or state of expecting - is the literal dictionary meaning.
Thoughts of "expectations" and how it affects life having been making the rounds in my head recently. Expectations in relationships, at work, from children, from material possessions and everything else in life. Unreasonable expectations and misery are intertwined.

Disappointment and sadness when expectations in a particular relationship do not pan out. Work place becames a punishment when it does not stand up to expectations. The expectation about how life should be and when it does not meet those expectations depression and sadness ensues.

It takes a certain maturity to pack away expectations and embrace life as it happens as anticipation is half the pleasure or half the misery.

Lets take the example of a newly married couple. If the expectation on Valentine's day is a box of chocolates or a bouquet of flowers or whatever (I wouldn't know because I had no expectations of DH being the gift giving kind) and if it does not materialize all hell breaks loose. This is the most simplest case.

A slightly more complicated case if an example of an educated woman on a satisfactory and rewarding career track throttling back her ambition because of young children. Instead of bringing joy at the opportunity of having time to spend with her children the heart feels sad because the goals and expectations that were set either by herself or society(perhaps not necessarily in writing but because of other factors like education etc.,)become harder to achieve. Same is true for men when the career path they are steadfastly climbing gets wobbly.

Most importantly the expectation that life has to be lived a certain way with possessions and accomplishments is what keeps us anxious and looking for that elusive definition of success and happiness.

If on the other hand there were no expectations we are better able to tackle what life throws our way. There are no disappointments and sadness because there is no perception of failure.

Approaching any relationships with no expectations make them more meaningful and lasts longer. Approaching life in the same way helps keep interest in the mundane everyday things that have to be accomplished day in and day out. When there is no expectation about how the day is expected to pan out, all is needed for the day to be great is to live in the moment.

Al Gore our Vice President is a good example of how undue expectations can hurt. It is too much of a burden to carry around. We have all seen how even very young children wither under the burden of undue expectations from parents.

It is easier to talk about it then practise but gets easier over time I presume. As for me I am in the very beginning stage of the process where I can think clearly but practising has been shall we say taking its time.

Now on to less weighty matters,

Yeseterday we were treated to a vast array of halwa/poori on the event of Ashtami. We celebrated Saraswathi Pooja with a simple preparation of black eyed peas sundal. Having forgotten to soak chick peas the previous day, these black eyed peas came in handy. They require soaking time of less than an hour. I avoided pressure cooking the black eyed peas as they result in mush which works for curries but not very suitable for sundal.

Black Eyed Peas Sundal
1. 1 1/2 Cups of dried black eyed peas soaked for about an hour
2. 2 tbsp grated fresh or frozen coconut
3. 4 red chilies broken in half and the seeds shaken loose
4. seasonings: 2 tsp of split urad dal, 1/2 tsp cumin seeds, 1/2 tsp of cumin, seeds,curry leaves, a pinch of asfoetida
5. 1 tbsp of chopped corinader leaves
6. Salt to taste
7. 1 tsp of oil

1. In a sauce pan cook add water to cover the peas and let bring it to a boil. Let it cook till the peas are soft. Do not overcook. Takes about 10-15 minutes
2. In a wide mouthed pan heat oil and add the seasonings, the ural dal first followed by the cumin,asfoetida and mustard seeds followed by the curry leaves and red chilies.
3. Add the drained, cooked peas and give a good mix.
4.Mix in the coriander leaves and saute for 3-4 minutes. Add salt and mix, add the grated coconut and mix well. Turn off the heat.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Swiss Chard Challenge - Roundup 3

I opened the Home section of the Washington Post last Thursday and was pleasantly surprised to be reading about Malabar Spinach. It pleased the author with its hardiness and love of the sun. The sun loving Malabar Spinach plant might soon be visiting a nursery near you.

See here how Malabar Spinach has Sandeepa of the Bong Mom's Cookbook all happy because she was able to cook it and we thank D her better half for his hard work in the garden. That is the constant with Malabar Spinach, makes the gardeners and cooks who come in contact with it very happy.

1. Shhak er Ghonto - Pohi Greens/Pui Saag/Malabar Spinach

they sure are pretty and I am craving for some of that Ghonto. Malabar spinach in dal is also a delight to the tongue.

Swiss Chard is another green that keeps on giving. Linda had to wait nearly a good two decades to grow them again. But delighted she is now after the woolly caterpillar had been taken care of. I am saving some of my chard from the delicious rice she has cooked up.

2.“Thotakoora” Koora Rice with Swiss Chard

Beautiful aren't they?

3. Purslane flowers from Soma's e-curry

Soma has them growing wild in her yard.

They have succulent leaves and grow wild in a lot of places and around my garden and have been victims more often of my weeding zeal. Have not tasted or cooked with them yet.

The Chard Challenge is open for another month and I am more than eager to accept any entries. Thanks to all the participants for your enthusiasm.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Cooking for a party!

The big gathering of friends that we have been putting off forever finally happened. We had to pick an occasion and DD2's birthday presented itself at the opportune moment. We had a manageable sized crowd and for all the reasons I explained in this post I was not too keen to cater food.

I think with nostalgia of the early days of my life here in the US with not too many Indian restaurants (in our area) and prohibitive costs in the few made catering least likely. In most parties the food was cooked at home and it was actually fun to attend parties and see what the hostess had cooked up. Those were the times when the traditional and not so traditional items made it to the menu. I am in no way advocating the hosts break their back and cook forever but having eaten one too many catered food that tastes bad on top of being greasy I am starting to rebel.

To the credit of our guests most of them offered to bring a dish along but I resisted and wanted to give this cooking a try. When cooking for 10-20 people which is usually the size of our guest list I usually cook all on the day. No prep or cooking ahead of time.

Our house boasts of exactly one cook and one very eager helper who for his credit took care of the prep work rather well besides cleaning the house.

After giving the guests a good 2 week notice I sat to put together a menu. The guests list included both vegetarians and non-vegetarians.

Guests - 40 Adults, 5 Kids
For purposes of head count 10 and older got included in the adult count.

1. Chicken Biryani - 10 pounds + 7 cups of rice
2. Mutton Curry - 10 pounds
3. Channa Masala - 5 Cups dried channa
4. Drum stick and Mango Sambhar
5. Potato Poriyal - 15 pounds (?)
6. Idlis - 48
7. Onion Cucumber Raita
8. Rasam
9. White Rice
10. Chapathis - 100 (Order from a home chef)

Store brought appetizers
1. Spanakopita
2. Cheese Sticks

1. Payasam (Vermicelli pudding) 1 gallon milk and 3 cups of vermicelli and 1/2 cup of tapoica pearls
2. Store bought birthday cake

The prep work was the part that had always tripped me up, so this time planned to do the prep work ahead of time which amounted to work spread over 3 days, the prep work to be done 2 days ahead and the cooking to be done the day before and the day of the dinner.

A friend insisted hard enough and her offer for the rasam preparation was taken.

Day 1
1. Peel garlic about 40 cloves
2. Get the mint ready
3. Soak Channa - 5 cups of dried channa

Day 2
1. Cook Channa Masala - without any garlic
2. Cook Potato Stir Fry - about 10 pounds
3. Slice Onions for the biryani 4 medium sized red onions. Also peel about 4 onions and leave it whole to be used the next day
4. Wash and cut coriander leaves
5. Buy chicken precut and mutton (this saves a great deal of time for sure)
6. Make yogurt for the raita and for the rice

Day 3 - the day of the party
The oven was required for heating the spanakopita and the cheese stick to be ready by 6:00PM when everyone would start to arrive. It was also required to finish cooking the briyani and heating the potatoes. I timed it such that the biryani would get cooked followed by heating the potatoes and then the heating of the appetizers.

Morning DH got the ginger,green chilies and the rest of the coriander leaves prepped. I roasted the vermicelli, cashews and raisins and set them aside.

The sambhar was cooking as I got the gravy items (onions, tomato,etc.) sauteing done for the mutton curry. The mutton curry was completed in the pressure cooker just after the sambhar was finished. Took about an hour and a half.

Cut the cucumber and onions and set them aside in a bowl to be mixed later with the yogurt.

Started the chicken biryani, finished the sauteing of the onions,garlic,mint,coriander, tomatoes and once the chicken was cooked, mix in the rice and let it sit till it is ready to cook.

Finished cooking the payasam(vermicelli pudding)

Had lunch and took a nap for an hour or so

Added water to the biryani and let it cook while the oven was turned on to finish the biryani off. Once the biryani was done the potatoes were heated and by then it was time for the spanokopita so while the potatoes were getting heated the spankopita was popped in to finish the heating process.

I got the raita ready and prepared one set of idlis ready to be steamed in time for dinner.

By the time the guest arrived the appetizers were heated and ready to go.

The idlis were started when the cake cutting and piniata playing was going on. 3 round of steaming was done in total.

I also at the right moment remembered to set the electric cooker to cook the rice.

Final Analysis
The cooking went off without a hitch. No stress which usually accompanies cooking large quantities of food. But having vastly overestimated the quantity ended up with enough food easily for 65 people. I was beyond pleased that all the items cooked tasted good. The advantage of paying attention and cooking one item at a time rather several at a time. I am glad I accepted the offer to bring rasam because that would have broken my back.

Who would have thought that Idlis were the star. Come to think of it, this item that I hated as a kid is usually the most sought after item in parties.

The beetroot rasam that my friend brought was a big hit. Another surprise item was a beetroot curry with yogurt. Beetroot is fast becoming the vegetable of the hour.

Would I do it again? Certainly. It was an enjoyable experience good for once a year or once in 2 years.

The only disappointment was my camera helper abdicated her responsibility and forgot to take pictures, to her credit though, she took a couple. Can't blame her she was excited and playing with her friends and she misunderstood what I had told her and all I got were a couple of pictures of the mutton curry. As for me I am still not comfortable taking pictures of food in front of a crowd most of whom have no idea about my hobby, moreover I was busy and had no idea that no pictures were taken. Oh Well!

Did I mention that it was totally worth it and very satisfying?

The Cleanup
No party is complete without the cleanup. I again resisted offers for a cleanup and decided to do it once all the guests were gone. You must be wondering by now why I am so eager for punishment but I had a reason ;)

I used 'use and throw' plates (I know, I know)along with the ceramic and steel plates. I am a little disappointed with the amount of trash collected. Next time this area will be better taken care of.

The last of the guests left at 11.30PM and the cleanup of the kitchen and putting away the chairs and loading up the dishwasher and washing of the bigger serving and cooking vessels took about an hour. We watched Saturday Night Live after that and went to sleep around 1.00PM. I hate to see a dirty kitchen the next morning so finishing it off before going to sleep works best.

I am usually beat by 9.00PM because of the unplanned cooking but planning ahead and spreading the work over 3 days helped immensely.

Guess Revealed! Finally!

I got impatient with the cantaloupe plant and harvested the fruit before it was time. But the tender fruit tasted crisp and sweet with the texture of a cucumber.

So a Cantaloupe it is!

Kudos to all of you who got it right.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Simple Lunches - 17 (Expressly cooked fit for a party)

We all get invited to parties or invite others for a party and get served or serve restaurant bought food. If the parties you go to are in a close geographic area the food and the menu gets boring pretty quick. The same palak paneer, malai kofta, vegetable pulav - all make it more of a punishment than enjoyment. I am talking here about my neck of the woods not the food paradise that is India.

Just like Honda and Toyota (maybe Lexus too,I see a lot of my desi compatriots enjoying their rides on that one) have been determined to be the best value a few restaurants (in our area it is 2) have been found to provide the best bang for the buck and it is that food that gets served most often and one I am for one am starting to develop a strong aversion to.

Any food that the hostess takes time to prepare even if it is the most simple of foods the pleasure and delight is immense. The recipe that follows today is going to Anita's Express Party just for that reason.

Tomato rice can be very simple or very complicated like a biryani. For everyday eating the simple tomato rice is what I like best. Add a few vegetable and a fancy raita you have a very delightful quick meal.

Beet is the vegetable that is all the rage now and the tomato rice will be served with beetroot raita. This is a purely Kongu Tamilian cuisine

Tomato Rice
1. 1 1/2 cups of seeraga samba rice or basmati rice (requires 4 cups of water)
2. 4-5 tomatoes chopped 1 1/2 cups worth
3. 1/2 Medium sized red onion sliced thin (1/2 a cup)
4. 4 cloves garlic chopped
5. seasonings: mustard, cumin seeds, curry leaves
6. coriander (1 tbsp) and cumin (2 tsp) roasted and powdered
7.1/2 cup each of peas and chopped carrots - optional
8. salt to taste
9. 2 tsp oil
10. 5 red chilies slit

1. In a pressure cooker heat oil, add the seasonings followed by the onions,green chilies and saute till translucent.
2. Now add the garlic, give a quick saute followed by tomatoes and salt and saute till the tomatoes turn mushy.
3. add the vegetables and give a good mix. Add the rice and saute for a minute or two followed by the powdered coriander/cumin powder.
4. Add enough water and let it come to a boil. Now close the lid and cook for 8 minutes.

Beetroot Raita
1. 2 cups of grated beets
2. 1/4 cup of chopped onions
3. 4 green chilies slit.
4. mustard and curry leaves
5. 1 tsp oil
6. salt to taste
7. 2 cups of beaten curd

1. In a pan heat oil and add the mustard and curry leaves
2. Saute the onions and green chilies
3. Add the grates beets and a cup of water, salt - close with a lid and let cook till the beets are soft and all water has evaporated. (If there is moisture remove the lid and let cook for a few more minutes)
4. Cool and mix with the yogurt.

Both the dishes are done in less than 1/2 hour.
Serve with potato chips for a grand lunch.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Simple Potato Masaal

When I posted the 'Guess' I had no idea what the fruit was. Sorry guys if I mislead you into thinking I knew the identity of the fruit. I guess the seeds got there from my composting. I eat take back what I said last week. The fruit might in fact be cantaloupe. What do I know?

Fall is making its presence felt and it is the time of the year when it is easy to get depressed just by peeking outside. It is amazing the positive energy and potential the sun has and how a cloudy sky can sap all of it. But this rain as we all know is a life giver! hmmmm. I read a story in the Washington Post about how the writer of the article overcame severe depression by taking to long distance running. Physical activity has this amazing ability to put you in a positive frame of mind. I am not a serious walker and prefer swimming. The days I wake up with the mild case of unease or like today the sun has taken a vacation I grab my swim bag and head to our indoor swimming pool. An hour later all is well with the world.

My neighbor a friend owns a dog, which means she is out and walking every day rain or shine. Her belief is not to spend money on what is available for free, namely exercising. She is right, walking besides giving your body a workout also gives you an opportunity to get out and get some fresh air all for free just by stepping out the door.

I cannot stress the importance of physical activity be it walking, biking, running, hiking, swimming or yoga. This does more for my soul's well being like nothing else. It has for me. This is the time where you are one with yourself and find the time for quiet contemplation. Many an idea or solution has come to me during these times. Seriously. In the warmer months it is easier to exercise because the weather is conducive for activity. But for me it is more during the cold, dark winter months that these activites take on even more significance. It is great if you have a friend or partner to do it with else give it a start and pretty soon you will be hooked. Next thing is the interaction with like minded folks that these activities help bring on.

Sra's comment brings an important point. All of us do not live in areas conducive to exercising outdoors. Overcrowded roads, fast moving traffic, pollution are all to be dealt with. While some of us are lucky enough to live in areas that are suitable for these activities some of us don't. Here in the US, public school grounds are open and free for the public to use during non-school hours. I am not sure if this is a possibility in India. But there are signs of encouragement even there. For instance, the land in front of my in-laws home that was zoned for a park and lying vacant for close to 30 years had a park built on it recently for the explicit purpose of walking. It has a pet nick name of seniors' park for the reason that playground for little children was not allowed to be built inside it. The park is being put to excellent use. Same happenened near my parents' home. A vacant land has been converted to a park. People and politicians(goes without saying they built the parks and got reelected) are realizing the benefits of open spaces.

This does not address the concern for the lack of safe places to walk or exercise. If you have overcome such a problem wherever in the world you live in, please do share.

In a country like the US (I see in India too that life in big cities is heading that way) people live largely isolated lives and outside of the workplace or a formal setting there is not much chance for human interaction.(Don't even get me started about all the missing kids outside.) This results in lot of adults and growing number of kids who are not sure how to react in casual settings, my kids included. Remember when growing up, your parents dragged you to meet and greet people who were visiting, they all had a purpose. Now I realize it, though back then I was kind of perpetually angry with my parents for doing that. All these largely help shape our interactions with the outside world.

Community and physical activity I believe will help people be more healthier and happier han anything money can buy.

And ofcourse, simple healthy wholesome food. Potatoes I know have a bad reputation but they have resulted quick, easy dishes far more time than I can count. When I was growing up, potato masaal was always partnered with poori. Masaal dosai was not a very common item and was usually the item of choice while eating outside. But me on the other hand I make poori masaal maybe once in a blue moon but masaal dosai every other week or so. The ease with which it can be cooked is the biggest motivator.

Simple Potato Masaal
1. 5-6 medium sized potatoes scrubbed clean and pressure cooked, or cooked till soft
2. 1 Medium sized Red onion sliced thin
3. 6-8 green chilies
4. 2 garlic cloves chopped
5. 2 inch piece of ginger grated
6. 1 Cup of green peas fresh or frozen (optional)
7. 1 tomato chopped
8. 1 tsp of chili powder or sambhar powder (optional)
9. seasonings: curry leaves, mustard, cumin

1. Heat oil in a wide mouthed pan, add oil and when hot add the seasonings.
2. Add the green chilies and onion and saute till onion is transparent, add the garlic cloves and saute for a minute or so
3. Add the chopped tomato and saute till mushy. Add salt and green peas.
4. Now peel the potatoes and cut them roughly and add with 2 cups of water.
5. Add chili powder if doing so.
6. Cook till the desired conistency is reached (about 8-10 minutes), some like it a bit watery, some like it more thicker.

Serve with dosai.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Hot and Sour Shrimp Curry

Guessing Game
Thanks everyone for your guesses. I am waiting for the revelation too. I have a strong suspicion that the fruit is water melon but am not completely sure. The fruit will be ready for harvest in a few days. The skin is not coarse so I am guessing it is not cantaloupe. Will keep you posted.

Green Earth
Have you heard of Mulch Volcanoes? I had not till I read the Washington Post a few days ago. Every fall and spring gardeners start applying layers of mulch to the around plants and trees in their garden. The mulch is usually piled around the trees or plants very close to the trunk. This is another one of those truly American rituals carried out during fall and spring. But efforts to spread information that so much mulch application is excessive and is harmful to the tree and hurts it more than helping has not been successful. If you are considering mulching your tree this Fall consider reading this article you will be glad you did it.

The article helped us a lot. I have to confess been applying mulch exactly how we are not supposed to. The only saving grace being we do it once every 2 or 3 years.

This recipe on What you having for your tea was the inspiration for this recipe. I did not have fish but had frozen shrimp on hand.

Hot and Sour Shrimp Curry
1. 15 - 20 Shrimp clean and mix with turmeric powder, salt and chili powder and set aside for 30 minutes
2. 1 Medium sized red onion minced in the food processor (about 1/2 cup)
3. 8 garlic cloves and 1 1/2 inches of ginger minced in the food processor
4. 2-3 tsp chili powder (be careful here since the shrimp are also marinated in chili powder)
5. 3-5 Campari tomatoes or 2 roma tomatoes chopped fine
6. tamarind juice from a small grape sized ball of tamarind (3 tbsp of pulp)
7. 4 green chilies for garnish
8. handful of chopped coriander leaves
9.seasonings: mustard, cumin, curry leaves - 10, fenugreek seeds all about a pinch or two.
10. salt to taste
11. 2 tsp of oil

1. In a pressure cooker heat oil and add the seasonings and when the mustard pops.
2. Add the onion and saute till they turn brown. Add the ginger garlic and let them heat through as well.
3. Now add the minced tomatoes, tamarind pulp and about 1/4 cup ow water.
4. Now place the lid on the cooker and cook for a whistle. If not using a pressure cooker cook in low heat for 10-12 minutes till the onions and tomatoes are all mushy.
5. Let the steam subside, open the cooker, add the shrimp and in a low medium cook till the shrimp are cooked (about 5-6 minutes). Do not overcook, the shrimp will turn hard.
6. Garnish with the green chilies a squeeze of lime.

Serve over rice.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009


Does TLC help the garden grow better? I certainly think so. I am not sure if it was the weather or my absence that made the garden suffer! (I sure have high confidence in my abilities as a gardener don't you'll think?) The yeild has been much lower than usual and I have chalked it up to DH not giving the plants the TLC they deserved.

the flower

This plant is one that had started flowering early June but the bunnies that have multiplied exponentially kept chopping them off before they could turn into fruit. But surprise I notice a fruit hidden among the leaves of the eggplant plant.
Can you guess what vegetable or fruit this is?

the fruit

While you guess I am off getting a delicious seafood recipe ready.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Kids Special - Stuffed Chapatis

"Prevention is better than Cure", "A Stitch in time save Nine" are all sayings we have heard and have repeated in several contexts. These may be true for a lot of things but not for health care says a recent study. Unless you are relatively young (24-30) preventive care doesn't bring about cost savings or prevent the occurrence of chronic diseases. Article here. I hate visiting the doctors office for a regular health checkup. This study is the just the fillip I needed to continue avoiding the doctor's office unless I absolutely have to.

But seriously I do not want to sound flip while talking about health and lifestyle. I love food, good food, fatty foods, junk food, healthy foods and unhealthy foods. I love food period. The key is to maximize good foods(by this I mean natural foods cooked in the kitchen) and reduce the quantity of bad foods that we consume. It is getting harder and harder because the alternative is just too easy but it can be done with a bit of planning.

Breakfast and packing lunch for the kids are the 2 things that include a lot of premade foods. Bagels and cereals are food that have become part of life and hard to avoid. For lunch DD loves finger foods and premade foods provide an easy way to pack her lunches. So I am on the lookout for ideas that provide a good alternative to premade foods. I have a self imposed once a week limit on premade food for lunch packings.

rolled out chapati with the filling

When I saw these lovely paratha packets on Nirmala's Amma's Special I knew I had just discovered an idea that is good for couple of days a week. If the filling and dough are prepared the night before whipping up lunch should be a quick and easy affair.

with cheese on top

DD2 loves mushrooms and I cannot resist buying fresh shelled green peas whenever I see them. A quick side dish of mushroom and peas was made and I also had dough ready for making chapatis. Chapatis with a side of mushroom and peas seemed boring but the minute I thought of Nirmala's chapati pockets the mundane became special. The cheese made it specialer. DD2 finished her lunch in record time without complaints and a pint of yogurt. These were also perfect lunch box items for DD.

It was an all day team building at a local park for them that day and DD says on the hot day the lunch was the highlight. She forgot to take the 2 bottles of water as instructed by her teachers and instead. She is a middle schooler now and I can't be expected to do everything for her can I? But lunch I take full responsibility :).

cooked and pricked open to expose the cheese and let out the steam

Recipe Source: Stuffed Veggie Paratha

For the Chapati
1. 2 cups of whole wheat flour
2. 1 tbsp of curd
3. salt to taste
4. 1/2 cup of water

Mix 1-3 and by adding water a little at a time make a pliable dough.

For the Filling
1. 2 cups of crimini mushrooms sliced
2. 1/2 cup of fresh green peas
3. 1/2 onion chopped
4. 1/2 tbsp sambhar powder
5. 1 tsp of oil
6. salt to taste

1. In a pan heat oil and saute the onions till translucent
2. Now add the peas and let them cook for a few minutes
3. Add the sliced mushrooms and sprinkle salt
4. Cook till the water evaporates and the mushrooms are cooked through.

For making the packets
1. ghee or oil
2. cheese slices (optional)

1. Take a small lime sized ball of dough, dusting with some dry flour roll it out like you would a regular chapati.
2. On one side apply a few drops of ghee and place a tbsp of the filling
3. Place a slice of cheese on top
4. fold the opposite first 2 ends first and then fold over the other 2 sides. press slightly to seal.
5. Heat a tava, preferably one which has edges (I had rolled the parathas thick and when folded the packets had thick sides which required cooking and the edges of the hot pan helped do that) and place 2 or 3 packets depending on the size of the pan.
6. Drizzle ghee or oil on the sides and in medium heat let them cook first on one side and then on the other. Push the packets against the sides to let them cook on the side. Cook for atleast 5-6 minutes till the dough is completely cooked.

Enjoy, no sides required.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Shahi Baingan in a pressure cooker

If a sentence is prefaced with "In this country" it usually means the person is
about to give me a lesson on how stuff works in this country. Even after living here all my adult life I am considered a good candidate for some teaching moments. Sometimes it gets my blood pressure up, few times that I have the presence of mind I give them my own lecture and most times I shrug and move on but not without several "in this country" questions of my own. Here are a few that I would like to know the answer to.

My initial shock after purchasing an ice cream for the first time here (though it has been a long while ago) has not completely worn off. The huge quantity of ice cream was enough to last me through dinner and breakfast the next day and literally off ice creams for a while. I got wiser and started looking for the smallest size available and sometimes the smallest ice cream with 2 spoons so more than one can dig in. What is marketed as kids size is enough for at least 2-3 kids. I kick myself whenever we buy 2 kids sizes and a sizable portion ends up in the trash. Why oh why should these ice cream servings be so enormous? Is it because it is easier to charge a higher price if the quantity is huge? We are all losers and end up paying with our health.

The "super size me" of anything and everything. The medium size drink in a restaurant is enough for the whole family. The drink in a kids meal is more than enough for an adult. I am not going to talk about meal portions here. The minute we are outside of the US, the sizes drastically reduce, the medium size drink in Europe is smaller than the small here. Why?

We have handed over our health and self control to giant corporations and fast food chains. We let them dictate our life style. Why?

Readers you are welcome to add your "In this country" questions in the comment section. Go for it!

DH had invited his cousin on reaching his 'Four O' to a treat at an Indian restaurant. The food was really good. One of the dishes we ordered was Shahi Baigan, it won over Baingan Bharta - which we seem to order every time. This was a big hit and the first time we had tasted the dish. So later one night when I was gtalking with Linda, she was wondering what to cook up with her freshly harvested eggplants and it reminded me of the shahi baingan we had tasted. I tell Linda about it. She asks me if it had a tomato cream sauce. So there, Linda knew it and here I was thinking I had discovered a brand new dish.

I had a few fresh eggplants from the garden and eager to recreate the dish at home. I google for recipes found none for Shahi Baingan that sounded like the one I had tasted but several for Shahi Paneer. I based mine off this recipe from Sunanda's Kitchen.

The eggplants were left whole, I had only a few and slightly bigger size to be left whole so I added a few green black eyed peas and couple of potatoes.

1. 8-10 small sized purple brinjals split into four but held intact at the stem (I used brinjals, potatoes and some whole green black eyed peas)
2. 1 tbsp of chopped shallots or red onion
3. 1 tbsp red chili powder (adjust to taste)
4. 2-3 tbsp of Greek yogurt or curds whisked
5. 2 tsp coriander powder
6. 1/2 tsp of cumin powder
7. a pinch of fenugreek powder
8. seasonings - curry leaves and cumin seeds
9. 1 tbsp chopped coriander leaves
10. salt to taste
11. 2 tsp of oil

Paste 1
1. 1/2 red onion chopped roughly
2. 6-8 garlic cloves
3. 1 inch piece of ginger
4. 8 campari tomatoes (3 campari = 1 roma tomato)

Saute the onion,garlic and ginger and then blend together with the tomatoes.

Paste 2
1. 2 tbsp of almonds and cashews
Soak in water for about 30 minutes and blend to a paste

1. In a pressure cooker heat the oil and add the seasonings.
2. Add the onions and saute till translucent.
3. Add the brinjals(, potatoes and beans) and saute till they start to turn color
4. Add the chili,coriander and cumin powders and mix well.
5. Add Paste1 mix and 1 1/2 cups of water, close the lid and cook for 1 whistle, if not using cooker, cook for approximately 10-12 minutes till the vegetables are completely cooked and soft. Let the cooker cool
6. add salt, check for heat and add more chili powder if desired, now add paste 2 and let cook for 2-3 minutes. Turn off heat. Let cool a bit (curd with curdle otherwise)
7. Add the whisked yogurt and let cook for a couple of minutes more.
8. Garnish with the chopped coriander leaves

Serve with any bread.

Though mine did not get the bright orange color, but we did eat like Shahs :)

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Swiss Chard Challenge Roundup - 2

If I have a dream (which I often do) of how my garden should look like, here it is. Partners in Paradise is the article about the couple who live and have their garden in Vermont, in Washington Post if you are interested. I am not sure if in my lifetime I would get there but I sure would like to give it a shot. First I need to save money to buy myself some serious land to start the project ;)

The Chard Challenge was a call to gardeners to test their green thumb. Here is the second installment of the roundup.

Soma from the lovely eCurry blog has sent me 2 entries. I adore both of them. Tada the first one, beautiful red and green Amaranth.

1. Soma's Shak Bhaja: Amaranth Stir Fry

Green Amaranth

Red Amaranth

Gorgeous aren't they?

Second is the stunning Methi green also from Soma's garden.

2. Soma's Methi Dal (Lentil Soup with Fenugreek)


Rinku of Cooking in Winchester sends me her beet greens from the garden cooked up with some white lentils.

3. White lentils with beetgreens

beet greens

Thanks Soma and Rinku.

Chard Challenge is still on and I would be very pleased to get a few(lot) more entries. The event goes on till the end of October.