Friday, April 30, 2010

U.S. to Prevent GMO Labelling worldwide!

We have just a few days to stop the United States government from preventing the world from properly labeling genetically modified foods (GMOs).

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have adopted a pro-corporate position that laughably claims labeling GM/GE foods creates the "false" impression that "that the labeled food is in some way different from other foods."

And next week, at the United Nations meeting in Canada, they will tell the world to adopt the same position, preventing other countries from rightly labeling GMOs as different from fresh, natural food. The implications of this position could further undermine organic food standards all over the world, especially organic labeling.

We know that GMO food created by the likes of Monsanto is not only "different" but unhealthy and unsustainable. Can you help us tell the USDA and FDA to wake up and drop this ridiculous position?

Click here to tell the USDA and FDA: the world should be free to label GMO foods as such.

While the rest of the world wants to be able to label unnatural GMOs, Barack Obama's USDA and FDA have adopted pro-corporate food positions GMOs. Unless we act now, the United States will go to this meeting telling the world that GMO foods are not different and should not be labeled.

GMO foods, by definition, are genetically different. By altering nature's design in order to withstand a barrage of chemicals and other poisons, humans are without question creating a new, different kind of food.

We need to tell the USDA and FDA to abandon its wrongheaded, corporate food position that GMOs are the same as non-GMO foods. Sign our petition now before the deadline on Monday.

Thank you for your support on this urgent petition - please share this with anyone you know who cares about their food.


Lisa Madison
Distribution & Outreach Coordinator

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Monday, April 26, 2010

Nimona the real deal

Goldman Sachs gave $100 million to Obama's campaign, four times more than they gave McCain. Technically this would not be considered a bribe, campaign contributions are legal and as such are an expression of a group's freedom of speech (at least this is my understanding). Individuals have limits on the amount of money they can give a political campaign. If you are curious here is the link to the limits set forth by the FEC. But these limits are routinely broken by various corporations and individuals through loop holes. US democracy is considered the oldest but is it a truly equal opportunity democracy?

Contrast this to India, there are limits on campaign contributions but none that are apparent enough and pressurizing political candidates to abide by them.

Someone said ( I forget who and would like to know), petty criminals are locked up in jails while the worst and the biggest criminal are made rulers in a democracy.  Confirmed by the fact that the majority in the Indian parliament have some sort of criminal record. I am not sure if such statistics are available for the US congress.

Rarely do politicians in either country go to jail for accepting these bribes contributions. The exception being if you are a lowly aide to a council member (in India this would be someone like a town councilor) and you accept a paltry money to sway a certain vote by your boss, you will be prosecuted and sent to jail(this happened recently in DC). But if you are a wealthy individual you can sway legislation by making campaign contributions and neither the aide or the boss
goes to jail.

In the US, the electoral process is so tilted towards those with wealth or access to wealth. The other way to effect change is to find like minded individuals and make a big enough voting block for the legislators to pay attention, these are called special interest groups. In legislation, this is where the process is controlled, once laws are passed there is little an individual can do to beat it. In India on the other hand no body cares what laws are passed meaning the laws are just for the books and very little is done to control the process itself. But once the laws are passed anybody with the money can circumvent those laws by paying off officials. Lets forget for am minute, the bad things about corruption and what it does to society. But IMO this in effect makes the process truly democratic meaning anyone with enough cash can pay off those responsible to get your work done. The process in not as time consuming as it is here in the US.

Lets say everything else being equal where would I prefer to do business? India of course. And it is fair to say for all practical purposes India truly is an equally opportunity democracy where access to power is concerned?.

The more I see the shenanigans of the rich , wealthy and well connected in the US the more I feel  that the system in India for all its faults, omissions and commissions may not be all that bad?  I can hear howls "why won't you say, you are not experiencing it, try being in the mercy of officials to get your water, telephone and electricity connections".  I am not advocating for either system just that in the analysis one seems better than the other where access is considered and I am sick and tired of self righteousness of the commentary from the USA regarding the rest of the world.

Are you wondering if I am getting ready to pay some bribes to get something done? Of course not, just saying that's all. Your comments and opinions are as always very welcome.

With that said and out of the system lets move on to tasty matters and one with a name as attractive as Nimona it will make poets out of even those who can hardly write two sentences that rhyme like yours truly. The last time I had fresh peas and no potatoes but plenty of spinach so a spinach peas dish was born with a taste that is as far away from Nimona as possible. With potatoes and peas involved there was no way the original is going to be left untried for long.

Recipe Source: Nimona from Asan Khana and Nimona from Mahanandi

Nimona - Peas and Potatoes
1. 2 Cups fresh green peas
2. 3 Potatoes cubed
3. 3/4 cup onion chopped (about 1/2 big red onion)
4. 1/2 cup tomatoes (2 tomatoes, I used half ugly ripe)
5. 4 garlic cloves
6. 1 inch piece of ginger
7. 3 green chilies
8. a small piece of cinamon 1/2 inch
9. 3-4 cloves
10. 1 tsp cumin seeds
11. a few pepper corns
12.  1/2 tbsp red chili powder(adjust to taste, mine was spicy)
13. 3 tsp turmeric powder (a bit much adjust)
14. coriander leaves a handful
15. salt to taste
16. 3 tsp oil

1. Take 1/2 cup of peas and chop coarsely in a food processor
2.In a pan add a tsp of oil and saute the onions, garlic, green chilies and ginger till they are brown and then add the cinnamon,cumin, pepper and cloves and fry for a minute. Cool and blend to a paste
3. Saute the chopped tomatoes and in the food processor blend the tomatoes coarsely and set aside
4. To a heavy bottomed pan add a tsp of oil and saute the potatoes for a few minutes and set aside
5.Add the rest of the oil and when hot add the 1/2 cup of coarsely chopped peas and saute them for about 4-5 minutes.
6. To this add the chili and turmeric powder and the blended onion paste and saute for 2-3 minutes.
7. Add the tomato mixture and salt and let it come to a boil. Now add the potatoes and let it cook.
8. When the potatoes are half cooked add the peas and chopped coriander leaves and let it cook for 8-10 minutes till the gravy comes together and both the peas and potatoes are well cooked.

This is an absolute delight of a gravy with some soft chapatis.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Tomato chutney revisited

DD was reading the newspaper this morning and proclaimed - "one Earth day in a year is just not enough, everyday should be Earth day so we can do the right thing every single day". Yes indeed. Maybe her generation over burdened with a fast deteriorating planet, debt and vanishing diversity in species will be the ones to take better stewardship of the planet with an urgency. Did you do anything special for Earth Day?

Read here how Vada Pav unites Mumbai. If only good food could solve all problems.

Remember the tomato chutney I tried to recreate after tasting at a potluck? I was way off. I caught up with the friend the next week and she gave me the recipe. No coconut was involved. I added curry leaves because I thought I saw flecks of green. The main ingredient in the chutney beside the tomatoes were green and red bell pepper. huh huh I thought to myself. But of course I could not rest till I had tried it out. I also added some sun tried tomatoes(I had soaked them earlier for making pasta but did not use them) and it gives a vibrant red color.

Tomato chutney with red and green bell peppers
1. 1 (1/4 cup) juicy red tomato chopped
2. 1 cup red and green bell pepper chopped
3. 1/2 inch piece of ginger (optional)
4. 4 green chilies + 2 red chilies
5. 2 sun dried tomatoes soaked in water (add another half fresh tomato if not using)
6. 1/2 tbsp channa dal
7. 1/4 tsp coriander seeds + a few cumin seeds
8. a small piece of tamarind
9. curry leaves a few
10. salt to taste
11. 1 -2 tsp oil for sauteing

1. In a pan heat oil and saute the dals and as they start to turn brown add the coriander seeds, cumin and chilies. Set aside.
1. To the same pan add the bell peppers and saute till they are fully roasted (depends I am not fond of uncooked bell peppers so I saute a little longer)
2. Add the ginger, tomatoes (fresh and sundried), tamarind, curry leaves and salt, saute till the tomatoes are starting to turn mushy.
3. Cool and blend to a slightly coarse paste or smooth (again depends on taste) without adding water (a few sprinkles if your blender absolutely refuses to move)

Goes well with pretty much anything.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Whole moong with brinjals cooked with tamarind and coconut

Research says physical activity improves student performance. We pay much more attention when research validates something that we intutively know. Outdoors and exposure to fresh air provides the stimulation that not only the body but the mind also craves. I read somewhere that getting out and just staring at a tree does a whole deal of good than doing nothing at all.

Over the weekend we did our annual spring cleanup. The pond was teeming with tadpoles and turtles and provided great learning opportunity for the kids who participated. The pond area also attracts a lot of birds, ducks, cranes and hawks. The physical activity of bending up and down gives the body a total workout with the muscles protesting painfully the next day but the satisfication to see the area clean is well worth the discomfort.

Now on to the recipe,
Green is good applies to the food we eat. Tasty whole moong paired with some green beans with some coconut, green chili paste was what I was planning. The few leftover green beans were not suitable for consumption and all I had were a few brinjals. Nothing pairs well like brinjals and tamarind and this curry was born. Pairs well with rice or chapatis.

Whole moong with brinjals cooked with tamarind and coconut
1. 1 cup whole moong beans cooked (take care not to turn them to mush)
2. 5-6 brinjal chopped into small pieces
3. 4-5 shallots chopped fine
4. garlic cloves a few chopped
5. 1/2 cup of tamarind pulp from a small grape sized piece
6. 1/2 tbsp sambhar powder + 2 tsp tamrind powder
7. seasonings: mustard seeds 1/2 tsp , methi seeds a few, cumin seeds and curry leaves
8. 1 tsp ghee or oil

For the paste
1. 1 1/2 tbsp grated coconut
2. 3 green chilies
3. 1 tsp cumin seeds

Blend to a paste with a bit of water

1. Heat the ghee in a heavy bottomed pan, add the seasonings and when the mustard starts to pop
2. add the chopped shallots,garlic and saute for a few minutes followed by the chopped brinjal and saute for a few more minutes.
3. Add the sambhar powder,turmeric powder and give it a good mix. Add the tamarind water and let it come to a boil and let it cook till the brinjal is soft.
4. Add the cooked moong dal, salt and let it boil for 5-6 minutes.

Serve with rice or chapatis.

Off this goes to MLLA-22 hosted by dear Sowjanya of the tasteful Ruchika Cooks, an event originally started by Susan - Well Seasoned Cook.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Ruth Reichl's Last Minute Chocolate Cake

1. The Indus Valley Civilization as we all know was the original model for urban planning and development besides being purveyors of arts and crafts and being intelligent in the sciences. I doubt anyone with a secondary education missed learning about the their elaborate urban sanitation systems and their bath houses while their contemporaries in Egypt and Mesopotamia were building huge monuments, palaces or temples . The civilization disappeared around 1700 BC. Wiki.

2. Angkor the Khmer capital of present day Cambodia was the largest pre-industrial city in the world. In addition to the ornate Buddhist temples the city was known for its waterways, dikes and holding ponds. Around 1431 city declined in prosperity and made itself vulnerable to invasion. What happened at Angkor Wat

3. In a much smaller scale, contrast it to present day farmers abandoning their farms and moving to the cities in search of jobs and better opportunities. I have intimate knowledge of this phenomenon, from a farming way of life to practically no farmers in one generation and in most cases lands subdivided and sold off making it impossible to return to the old way of life.

What precipitated all of these events - the lack of precipitation literally and lack of that precious resource called Water.

Historians believe that the Indus valley civilization which was built around rich agricultural lands with copious waters from the rivers around it finally collapsed because of failed monsoons. Angkor became weakened by 30 years of drought leading to social, political and civil unrest and exposing itself to invasion.

Why do most farmers abandon their farmland? you guessed it, lack of water aggravated by failure of monsoon and bad land usage. The wells and rivers that were once full now run dry every year. Farmers at least in my ancestral village are at the mercy of the state up north for water. It is a joyful occasion when the water is finally released. Mistrust among states (one who is in control of water and the other at their mercy), clashes, protests in the states and violence against people of the other state are expressions of frustration arising out of the need to share this precious resource. This further escalates the moves to the cities.

This situation is by no means unique to one corner of the world. Here in the US desert lands of California, Arizona were populated with expectation of excess water from the mighty Colorado river flowing down south as it carves marvelous canyons along the way. Today the treaties written long ago are being rewritten to accommodate this diminishing resource with an ever increasing need.

Will this demand for water change our civilization?

This century truly will be about water than that other precious liquid. Petroleum is no longer the liquid gold. Wars in this century unfortunately will be fought over water. Well of course you knew that already.

--- to be continued.

Nupur and Sandeepa have a lot to do with this cake, they after all introduced me to Ruth Reichl and her wonderful books. I have devoured 2 of them.

Seriously that is it for the ingredients just coffee missing

This recipe is from her Garlic and Sapphires, a memoir about her life as a food critic for the New York Times. A delightful read interspersed with some delightful recipes.

double boiler setup
combine coffee, chocolate and butter, let it melt
let cool and mix the chocolate together to smooth along with orange juice,sugar,egg and vanilla extract with a spatula

Baking seriously does not fit my cooking style. I am a free spirit in my kitchen, recipes and especially measurements are not to be taken seriously. This is fine for cooking but does not bode well for a bake, an airy light cake in my hands will turn into a dense moist mound. Not a failure really when sugar, butter and flour come together it takes a lot of effort to make it truly inedible. But ...

add the flour, salt and soda and mix them together, pour into loaf pan (dusting on the outside of loaf pan-not required)

I had promised to bake a cake for DD during her spring break, a week of warm weather was an easy excuse for turning on the oven, so on the last minute this last minute chocolate just made itself. Ingredients that can be counted with the fingers on your hand and none that I needed a dictionary or a speciality store for. One of the easiest and very satisfying cakes that I have made so far. Things like double boiler did not faze me which is a success in itself.

baked and ready to be sliced

I made one substitution, used orange juice for Grand Marnier. Orange liquor or concentrated orange juices are recommended as substitutes. I did not have both but had fresh oranges. The almonds are not part of the original recipe. The contrast of white on brown was too hard to resist, chocolate and nuts are made for each other. We cut the cake as soon as it came out of the oven, with no patience for it to cool and it crumbled a bit. Wait for it to cool and you will get perfect slices.

Recipe Source: As in Ruth Reichl's Garlic and Sapphires book

Last Minute Chocolate Cake
1. 4 ounces fine quality unsweetened chocolate
2. 3/4 stick (6tbsp) butter
3. 3/4 cup brewed strong coffee (I used 3/4 tbsp Folgers coffee with 3/4 cup water)
4. 2 tbsp Grand Marnier (I used 2 tbsp freshly squeezed orange juice)
5. 3/4 cup sugar
6. 1 egg
7. 1 tsp vanilla extract
8. 1 cup unbleached all purpose flour
9. 1/2 tsp baking soda
10. 1/4 tsp salt
11. 2 tbsp slivered almonds

1. Preheat oven to 375F. Butter and flour a 9" by 5" loaf pan. Mix in the coffee powder with the water and heat it in a pan to boiling.
2. Combine chocolate, butter and coffee in the top of a double boiler (alternately use a heavy bottomed pan) till they are melted. (about 4-5 minutes)
3. Let the mixture cool for 15 minutes. To this add the egg, orange juice, sugar and vanilla extract and stir well.
5. Sift the flour and add it to the chocolate mixture with the baking soda and salt, mix to incorporate.
6. Pour the batter into the loaf pan, sprinkle the almonds on top and bake for 45 minutes or until the tooth pick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Savor with a scoop of ice cream.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Spicy Tomato chutney II

We have by now at least read or heard about the mine disaster in W.Va which killed many miners. I felt sad and thought to myself that it is impossible to even imagine the loss and suffering the family is going through and that is probably how much thought I gave for the issue. It hit me real hard when in a radio program one of the commentators said and I am paraphrasing "how many Americans understand or even think about the lives of the miners when they turn on their lights everyday".

In the same vein how many of us think about the trials and tribulations of inventors before they get their inventions into the market. We were watching a movie "Flash of genius" based on the life of inventor Bob Kearns. What is his invention? You are driving in heavy rain and it is raining heavily and you can't see a thing, you extend your hand and turn on the windshield wiper, that's when you should think of him. Credit for his invention did not come easily. The big auto used his invention without giving him credit and the cases were in the court for many many years.

We have all seen the high emotions that we bloggers go through when we suspect someone has copied our recipes or pictures without giving due credit. I am not condoning the practice but a little perspective will go a long way.

I am sorry if I have wrecked your moods but will make it up with this spicy tomato chutney. This chutney is my attempt to recreate the taste from memory after tasting it at a potluck and not being able to locate the maker. When DH asked if I had made the same chutney, my mind screamed Yes! I might have said it aloud too but don't remember. I was glad there was acknowledgment for my invention ;)

Spicy Tomato Chutney
1. 1 cup chopped tomatoes
2. 1/4 cup chopped red onion
3. 2 tbsp grated coconut (or even 3 tbsp)
4. 1/2 tbsp channa dal
5. 1 tsp urad dal
6. 4 red chilies
7. a few pepper corns
8. a few coriander seeds
9. a few cumin seeds
10. 10-15 curry leaves
11. a small 1 inch piece of tamarind
12. salt to taste

1. In a pan heat a tsp of oil, saute the 4-9 and set aside (the dals should get a golden color)
2. Add the onions and saute till they are brown.
3. add the curry leaves and tamarind and saute for a minute.
4. Add the tomatoes and saute till they are soft and mushy.
5. Add the coconut and give a good mix, add the salt and let it cool.
6. Blend the dals first but not to a smooth powder but a bit coarse for texture.
7. Add the rest of the ingredients (avoid adding any water) and blend till the tomatoes and onions are completely blended. (The texture does not have to be very smooth but if you want it smooth that is fine too.)

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Nimona (sort of) - Fresh peas in a spicy sauce

I had watched bits and pieces of the documentary Food Inc. at a friend's house and also a program on PBS about the documentary and wanting to see it fully in the comforts of my couch. My local library has a copy but I have been on hold for more than 4 months and about 40th in the list. Despair not, the documentary will be on PBS, April 21.

It seems like not too long ago the talk was about our record snow fall and now it is the record heat. How hot? The idli batter fermented without putting in the oven. That hot.

Meera's Blog Bites recipe for Nimona was the inspiration for this dish. I had green peas, fresh spinach, radish but no potatoes. Nimona does not have spinach, I decided to use it in place of the minced peas.

No potatoes can you believe that? So a nimona, sort of was made with the ingredients on hand. It is not as attractive as it would have been if you had stuck to the recipe and DD asked me correctly if I had made a healthy curry.

1. 1 1/2 cups of fresh green peas
2. 1 cup of chopped red radishes (10) - (use potatoes instead)
3. 1 bag of spinach - 6 cup loosely packed, chopped (optional)
4. 1 onion chopped
5. 3 tomatoes - 1 1/2 cups chopped
6. 5 garlic cloves
7. 1 1/2 inch knob of ginger
8. 3/4 tbsp red chili powder
9. 3 tsp cumin powder
10. 2 tsp turmeric powder
9. seasonings - cloves, cinnamon and asfoetida
10. salt to taste
11. 1 tsp oil
12. 2 tsp ghee

1. In a pressure pan heat the oil and saute the onion, ginger and garlic till brown. Set aside.
2. In the same pan saute the tomatoes for a minute or two.
3. In a food processor blitz the onions,ginger and garlic till coarsely chopped. Remove.
4. Puree the tomatoes, set aside
5. Now add the ghee to the pan and add the seasonings.
6. Add the radish and saute till they start to brown.
7. Add the onion mixture and saute for a few minutes
8. Add all the powders and give a good mix
9. Add the chopped spinach and let it cook on high heat till they wilt.
10. Add the tomatoes and if required 1 cup of water and salt.
11. Let it boil together for 8-10 minutes.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Fusilli with Zucchini and Onion (sans the red or white sauce)

Was there a reason for my tomato question? A tiny bit of curiosity combined with wanting to know of the thousands of varieties of tomatoes what most of us were buying. It seems just a few. Seriously don't those tomatoes readily available in the supermarkets feel like squishy blobs with absolutely no taste? Something happened recently, my local supermarket starting carrying those ugly looking shapeless but expensive tomatoes. I bought some and seriously those heirloom tomatoes are darn tasty compared to the ones I regularly buy.

Red - what we are buying
Green - what we want to buy

When we were kids, tomato juice was not a vegetable juice but in the same league as most fruit juices. Tangy and slightly sweet from the added sugar and with their beautiful color was a sought after drink. These days I rarely see anybody drinking tomato juice.

The informal survey confirmed that most of us are buying those very same tasteless roma, beefsteak, big boy and cherry tomatoes. They ooze red juice but that is just about the tomato characteristic they seem to have. But sadly they are the only ones that are healthy for our wallets. But our heart is in the right place, we'd all buy real tomatoes if only we could. Number one the availability, number two affordability. The most recent purchase of heirloom set me back by $6.00 for 2 tomatoes though for the taste it was worth it. Seriously though I cannot afford to buy them every time.

On to the pasta,
A friend made pasta with olive oil, pepper and lemon juice still tasted so very good and way better than the saucey pasta.

Apparently pasta by default did not need the mandatory red sauce to taste good and the food section in the Washington Post had a recipe for just such a pasta with zucchini and onions.
I was planning on using chopped up veg. burger pieces in place of the sausage in the recipe but I used chicken instead. For a vegetarian option use sauteed veg. burger pieces.

Fusilli pasta with zucchini and onions
1. 1 1/2 cup fusilli pasta
2. 6 baby zucchinis chopped
3. 1 cup onions sliced thin
4. 1 cup chicken, cubed and marinated in chili powder and salt (substitute with veg burger pieces)
5. 1/2 tbsp black pepper
6. 2 tbsp lemon juice
7. 2 tbsp chopped coriander leaves or basil leaves
8. salt to taste
9. 1 cup of chopped (heirloom) tomatoes
10. 1 tbsp olive oil
11. freshly grated Parmesan cheese as required

1. In a flat wide mouthed pan, heat the oil and saute the chicken pieces till they are cooked and set aside. Cook the pasta as per package directions.
2. In the same oil add the onions and cook till brown
3. Add the zucchini, salt and pepper and cook till soft.
4. Add the chicken pieces and give a good mix.
5. Add the coriander leaves or basil and the cooked pasta.
6. Squeeze in the lemon juice and add more salt and pepper if required.
7. Remove from heat add grated Parmesan cheese and top with tomatoes and serve hot.