The idea that there are some foods you can always go back to, a meal that while not necessarily being uber healthy, still nourishes mind, body and spirit, a food that is at once comforting and replenishing....was quite alien to me when I first came to the US. I mean, all foods are replenishing, aren't they? One is supposed to enjoy all that's offered on your plate. If not enjoy, then at least respect and consume. That's what we were taught growing up in our middle class tambram homes.
Yes, there were dishes that we looked forward to, dishes that wouldn't be on offer everyday. Dishes that Amma would make when she was running out of options owing to a sudden deficit in the pantry or a sudden pesky illness or uninvited guests. So then, what would Amma make? Thakaali Vengayam, Uruali kizhangu roast, or some good ol' Upma!
So, yes, one could argue that while not called as such, we did indeed have comfort foods.
Having grown up and older now, and having experimented with many a recipe that Google spat up, I realize that there are some dishes that I make that even I can call comforting.
Pongal is one of those comfort foods. Ask any respecting tambram, and she would vehemently agree. Why is it comforting you ask? How can it not be, with oodles of freshly made ghee, cashews, fresh whole pepper, finely roasted cumin seeds, fresh curry leaves, rice and lentils?
And when accompanied by the tamarind infused Gotsu...bliss!
The recipe below is adapted of course, and not quite the traditional Ven Pongal recipe. Some might even call it Khichdi. But I tried this many a time, and its mighty close to the Pongal me mom makes, so Pongal it is!
Half cup rice, fourth of a cup moong dal, fourth of a cup masoor dal. Total of one cup.
Wash and let to sit.
Meanwhile heat ghee/butter, season with jeera, ginger, whole or powdered pepper, turmeric, asafoetida.
Add 3.5 cups water and let boil. Add the rice, dal, saute for a bit.
Stir in salt, cover and allow to simmer for 10-12 mts.
Can also add sauteed cashewnuts to the mixture, either with the rice and dal or after the Pongal is cooked.
Season mustard, asafoetida, channa dal, toor dal, turmeric, fenugreek seeds, then add 3 green chillies, one red chilly,some ginger, add one onion, saute, add 2 tomatoes (I added one fresh and 2-3 tbsps of canned tomato),saute, add tamarind water as is necessary, let it simmer and thicken.
Tamarind water: About 2 cups water, with one tea spoon tamarind paste.
Aug 27. The dal seems a little kadak.Flavorful though.
Oct 15. Made it with 2 cups- 1 cup rice and 1 cup of mixed daal. Also added maybe 6.5 cups of water. Turned out to be perfect Pongal consistency. Allowed to cook for probably 20 mts. Made it in the cooker.
Had also allowed the rice and daal to rest for atleast 3-4 hours.
Note: I looked high and low for this recipe's inspiration. Have not found the link yet. The gotsu is adapted from Gemini Mahadevan's "Samaikalaame"
The Asian veggie patty from Morningstar is really good. Great flavor & lots of protein. Grill it in a non-stick pan at medium heat for about 3 minutes on each side. You can use a paper towel to dab any excess grease that comes out of it.
Saute the onions until they turn brown followed by the tomatoes. Stick the bread in to the broiler for a couple of minutes. That should suffice. The Trader Joe's sourdough bread is ideal for this sandwich. It keeps well. Just stick the loaf in the freezer and use when needed.
Cut the bread in half. The TJ sourdough bread tends to come in large slices. One slice can be cut in half for the sandwich. Spread the bruschetta mix on one slice of bread and the wasabi mustard on the other. The Bruschetta spread & the Wasabi Mustard make the burger moist.
Assemble the sandwich.
The Pecorino cheese adds a nice finish.
Enjoy! With some curly potato chips on the side, of course!
Spent the last week in California with family and friends and boy was it fun! We drove up to the Sonoma vineyards one of those days, and visited Buena Vista, Benziger and Cohns'. Stopped for a quick bite at the Basque Cafe in downtown Sonoma. The sandwich was bland but tasty nevertheless-roasted eggplant, bellpeppers and some lettuce?
Also tried something called the Florentine, basically caramelized almond slices dipped in chocolate. Yum!
ஈயம் பூசிய ஒரு பாத்திரத்தில் கடுகு தாளித்து, சீரகத்தை போட்டுச் சிவந்ததும் பச்சைமிளகாய், இஞ்சி, தக்காளி எல்லாவற்றையும் போட்டு வதக்கி, உப்பு, மஞ்சள் பொடியைப் போட்டு, ௨00 மில்லி தண்ணீரையும் ஊற்றி வேக வைக்கவும். சுமார் 3 நிமிடங்கள்வரை கொதித்ததும், பொடி பண்ணிய உருளைக்கிழங்குகளைப போட்டுக் கிளறி, பாசிப்பருப்பையும் சேர்த்துக் கலந்து கீழே இறக்கி, காயம் ஊற்றவும். எலுமிச்சம் பழத்தைப் பிழிந்து கலக்கவும்.
Reading Toast, Nigel Slater's memoir. Funnily enough, found some familiar anecdotes. Like his hatred of the skin that surfaces on hot coffee, or chocolate or any milky beverage. God, I how I hated paal aadai! That's what we called it-dressed milk would be a rudimentary Tamil to English translation.
Why doesn't aadai form on my morning cuppa joe anymore?
Which brings me to the question of why people have kids. See, as you grow up, you forget more and more of your childhood and memories from childhood fade away at an increasing rate. You get nostalgic every time you attempt to recall those evanescent memories of paal aadai, band-aids, wonder bars, choppu saamaan, and thakaali vengaayam.
So, what do normal adults do? They recreate these memories, not for themselves, but for a fairly good approximation of themselves-their offspring. This way, you don't have the time for reminiscence or nostalgia. You simply recreate them.
There, my pop sociology for the day. Quite crass and unsophisticated. But these are my attempts at grappling with issues of parenthood and parenting and why people procreate.
Run by some members of a community called the Black Israelites, the Soul Vegetarian restaurant offers a unique experience in dining out. We went to their West Side branch on a Saturday afternoon after a visit to the Georgia Farmer's Market in Forest Park.
I walked in to the restaurant, not knowing what to expect. It seemed unusually quiet for a Saturday afternoon. There seemed to more employees than customers-just one in fact, and he was typing away on his laptop. Surreal as lap toppers are usually coffee shop fixtures, and not to be found in quirky, hole in the wall restaurants on the other side of town.
I was drawn to the several newspaper clippings decorating the walls of the main floor-all of them elucidating the history of black Israelities and their leader, Ben Carter.
We decided to the give the place a try.
The lunch buffet plate seemed a tad out of our price point at around 12$, so we decided to order individual items from the bar. Macaroni and cheese, veggie pizza and onion rings.
The mac n' cheese had no cheese or any other dairy product in it, so the fact that it turned out remarkably similar to the quintessential southern staple of unctuous creamy goodness that is mac n' cheese is a testimony to the chef's skill at innovating with vegan products. The veggie pizza was just as good and even had hints of turmeric in it.
And the onion rings? What can one say about those greasy, crisy onion rings except that were crispy, greasy and hog heaven!
Great flavorful, spicy food, large portions, dour decor, but exemplary service. Tofu stuffed with veggies. Tried it for the first time; seems like a nifty dish to have on the menu.The noodle soup (with mushrooms and tofu) was excellent, on par with my all-time fav at Doc Chey's.
.seasoning with mustard-the tadka or thaalichi that ruins your stove top every single time.
.roasting and then grinding masala
.the odor, oh the odor (notice how I carefully avoid qualifying the odor)
.the hours it takes to get the grease off the pans
Come to think of it, this list isn't really unique to Indian cooking. One has to chop vegetables for pasta too you know. Except maybe the seasoning with the mustards. To make that easier, you can now buy these little pans that come attached with gauzy lids that allow the splattering but only within the confines of the pan. Got to get me one of these soon.
Been in GA for a while now, but visited the farmer's market in Forest Park for the first time this weekend. Quite the cultural experience! Very reminiscent of the "sandais" or சந்தை back home. Not a lot people there, despite it being a Saturday morning. Probably because the market caters more to wholesalers than retailers. There was however a section devoted to local Georgian produce and prices were on average cheaper than at the supermarkets.
There were several Mexican stores dotted through out the market. Mexican stores selling genuine "Hecho en Mexico" merchandise, including food products, beverages, kitchenware and misc. tchotchke. That was surreal...walking into a store in GA, and not being able to communicate with the store keeper except through frantic hand waving and brow raising!
Although we were advised to haggle with the mostly Mexican store/stall keepers, we just couldn't muster up the chutzpah-this was South after all....people greet you from 2 miles away.
Well worth a visit...I would even chalk it down as a cultural tour stop.
Just started reading Chitrita Banerji's Eating India. She travels to Calcutta, Goa, Karnataka and a few other places to sample local cuisine. Love the little snippets about the origins of certain ingredients (e.g. paneer). Cringed a tad though when she equated the Indian South with the American South for its unique historical and cultural underpinnings. So here's the deal-am south Indian and us south Indians, while grudgingly acknowledging the northerners' sense of sophistication, take great pride in our intellect, intelligence and general all-round smarts. Now, one can't say the same of the American south, atleast the popular (mis)-conceptions of it that is. Americans in general consider, American southerners, well, slow.
Does she mean to imply that she/other north Indians consider us darker skinned brethren , well, slow?
Also a tad intrigued by her choice of southern cuisine. I understand she possibly couldn't sample all regional cuisine (although, I would ask, why not?), but under constraints, I would have chosen either Keralite or Tamil Nadu cuisine. I would argue that Kannad cuisine is very similar to Tamil cuisine, and also that the latter is more expansive than the former.
Heck what do I know. I'm just a south indian.
Here's some trivia that I found interesting:
1. Chillies were introduced by the Portuguese. Now though, there is such a variety of chillies grown in India that only Mexico rivals India in its varieties of chillies. Incidentally, the Indian state of Assam produces the hottest chilly known to mankind-the bhut jolokia.
2. Jilebi, that yummy gujarati breakfast/dessert has its origins in the Arabia zalabiya.
3. Paneer, its origins in the Farsi Peynir. It was introduced to the Indians by the mughals.
So, the only cookbook my mom ever gave me was the "Samaikalaame" by Gemini Mahadevan. I know for a fact that my grandma has a copy, and that my mom too has a copy. Am sure she gave me sister one. So, is this the ultimate tambram cookbook? How come nobody knows about this. How come there ain't no glowing references to this book on any blog.
May be Gemini was merely related to my family and tried in vain to peddle some copies to his relatives. Or, may be, I am in possession of a true gem in cook bookery. An original Julia Child or James Beard.
Anyways, as soon as I realized Blogger had a Tamil transliteration tool, I knew I had to play with it.
So, here's an homage to the cook book that's helped my grandmom and mom weather storms in the kitchen.
The following a recipe for a type of kuzhambu-parruppu urundai kuzhambu. Briefly, you make the kuzhambu/sambar the usual way, but add some semi-cooked lentil balls to it. Not a very visually appealing dish, but tastes great. Well, let me qualify that. I would argue that it tastes great because I'm familiar with its specific flavor. Am not so sure if it would appeal to a spaghetti chomping sicilian or a kimchi crunching korean.
"பருப்பு உருண்டைக் குழம்பு:
150 மில்லி துவரம்பர்ருபை ஒரு மணி நேரம் உறப்போட்டு வடிகட்டி நான்கு மிளகாய் வற்றல், முக்கால் டீஸ்பூன் உப்புப்போட்டு கெட்டியாக அரைத்து உரூட்டி வைத்துக்கொளவும்.
புளி கரைத்துவிட்டு, உப்பு, மஞ்சள் பொடி, 2 டீஸ்பூன் சாம்பார் பொடி சேர்த்துக் கொதிக்க வைக்கவும். நன்றாகக் கொதித்துப் புரண்டு வந்ததும் ஒவ்வோர் உருண்டையாகப் போடவும். கோதி அடங்குமுன் எல்லா உருண்டைகளையும் போடவும். அடுப்பை நன்றாக எரியவிடவும். இடையில் கிளர வேண்டியதில்லை. சிறிது நேரம் கொதி வந்ததும் உருண்டைகள் வெந்து மிதப்பாக வரும்போது, கீழே இறக்கிக் கடுகு, கறிவேப்பிலை தாளித்து காயம் கரைத்து விடவும்.
கூறிப்பு: இந்த முறைப்படி செய்தால் உருண்டைகள் கரையா. பருப்பை அதிக நேரம் ஊரவைககூடாது. தவிர, உருண்டைகள் நெகிழ்ந்து இருக்காமல் கெட்டியாக அரைக்கவும். ஒரு டீஸ்பூன் அரிசிமாவை அரைத்த பருப்பில் கலந்து உருட்டிகொண்டால் கரையாது. இந்தக் குழம்பிற்கு மாவு விட வேண்டியதில்லை."
I found this out the hard way when I was trying out this goan-style curry recipe. So, every thing's going fine.The curry looks great, the aromas are just right. But wait, when did I miss the class on salts? Apparently, it turns out that when one substitutes regular salt for kosher, one has to adjust the measures:approximately by half, that is 1 tsp regular for every 2 tsps kosher. This was a rude awakening for a person that always thought kosher meant good, clean, pure, like pure salt,or clean salt, or good salt. Ok, I figured, so the Times had high standards for food ingredients.
Now, I know.
P.S.: The curry was great, despite the overabundance of salt.
-Soulful. -Part food memoir, part general amble down memory lane. -When I grow up,I'd like to write like Abe. -Little vignettes, Paris here, Jerusalem there, and then some Tijuana. -Does it make you wanna don your stained apron, sharpen your knives and saute? Not quite.But it does make you wanna cuddle up in your lazy boy with a cuppa joe and brood, not that that's a bad thing.
* About a cup of red lentils or masoor. * 1 tsp ground jeera (cumin), pinch each of dhania (coriander) powder, pepper flakes,regular pepper, sea-salt, turmeric. * 2-3 cloves chopped garlic, 1 tsp chopped ginger. * 3/4-1 cup chopped onion. * 3-4 baby carrots, chopped. * 4 cups water. * 2.5 tbsps olive oil. * 1 tbsp tomato sauce/paste. * 1cup coconut milk.
Heat oil, saute garlic, onions, ginger. Add carrots. Then add the tomato sauce. Later add all the spices, including salt.
Saute, then add 3 cups water and let boil. Add the washed lentils. Bring water to boil then cook on low-medium heat.
Cooks in about 20 minutes or even less. I added about a cup of water again, as the consistency was too thick. Then I pureed all of it. Tasted great, but could have cut back a bit on the heat. May be fewer ginger pieces or pepper flakes.
Then heat again, adding coconut milk. Bring to rolling boil, simmer and turn it off in a couple minutes.
turns out a tad coconutty. Don't know if its because the milk was added when hot. But not overpowering. Transferred to bowl, garnished with cilantro and few drops of lemon juice.
Tastes really good!
Ought to be healthy too. Hopefully the lentils are good enough to compensate for the coconut milk and olive oil. Ala the Amateur Gourmet's food negation theory.
Note: Pardon the tenses. Result of experimenting with live spoon by spoon blogging. Also, recipe adapted from here and here.
At what point does your blog piece sink into mediocrity and when do you stop? I don't know about you, but this might be mine. Parle G PBJ is what you make when all you've consumed all day is garlic toast, and a spoonful of PB.
Take 2 twice baked Parle G's. (Biscuit=twice baked, so. I shouldn't try too hard to impress. This blog has a huge fan following. Check the comments) (not)
Slather a spoonful of any jam/jelly/preserve of your choice on one Parle G.
Slather a spoonful of PBJ on the other Parle G.
Press the two together.
Can be served with a dose of insanity and lot of boredom.
If you've exhausted all your chaat possibilities in the ATL and cannot for the life of you imagine doling out this much for bhelpuri or ragda, may I suggest the chaat at Rajbhog? I've had their bhelpuri, dahi papdi, samosa channa, and then some. Very tasty, right amount of condiments and large portions too.
Went to Rosa for the first time yesterday. The guacamole prepared at the table side was great. But the good food ended there. Also, the guacamole was a bit overpriced at 12$. For the entrees we had peppers stuffed with goat cheese, mushrooms and spinach, and two soft tortillas stuffed with spinach and mushrooms. Both dishes were served in a bed of mexican tomato sauce. What really got to me was not that the food was mediocre (which it definitely was) but that we were paying a heck of a lot of money for it. The entrees were about 15$ each.
The spinach in both the dishes was too dense and under cooked. The stuffed peppers were too hot and not adequately compensated for by the flavors of the stuffing. The tomato sauce was the only redeeming factor. I pretty much dunked every morsel in the sauce.
The pomegranate margaritas were good, but really, when one goes to restaurants such as this one, you expect good food, not great cocktails.
Many of the smaller , less fancy mexican restaurants in Atlanta serve far better food, and more importantly purse friendly food.
Its possible that their meat based dishes are better, but then again an upscale restaurant cannot throw in vegetarian dishes into their menu purely as an after thought.
I would have considered going back there, if the prices were reasonable.
Reading Mimi Sheraton memoir about her years as a travel/food writer and critic for the Times.
Why is that writers use their memoirs as opportunities for settling old scores with their nemesis?
Ruth Reichl did that in one of her memoirs, probably Garlic and Sapphires. Its been a while since I read that one, but I do recall her taking a swipe at the critic who preceded her. Apparently he vanished into oblivion after he stepped down as the Times' critic, which to Reichl was sweet revenge, as he hadn't been nice to her.
Childish? Yes. And Mimi does the same. Well, I suppose a memoir is the only way you could record such sentiments so they last well beyond posterity, but must you?
I think not. As a reader, my attention to the center piece of the book-in Mimi's case, her foodie experiences-gets distracted by these little potshots.
I find myself skimming chapters as I reach the end of the book. Her writing style is not very engaging.
The bit about the restaurants and their decor and menu design gets a tad pedantic.
I liked the book. It was engaging, entertaining and just how I imagined it would be.
I must mention here that I tend to get influenced by reviews of the books I read. Sometimes I read reviews before I read the book and sometimes as am reading the book.
I understand that reviews are meant to influence your take on the book and let you judge if you want to read the book.
With Julie and Julia, I read a few reviews when I was 3/4th done with the book. I felt a tad let down. I mean, the reviews were spot on for the most part-Julie Powell seems to represent the quintessential New Yorker at least the one that I have been reading about (funnily enough as food writers or quasi food writers, such as Phoebe Damrosch or Elizabeth Gilbert or the Perfect Manhattan authors)-neurotic, edgy, irritable, quirkily funny, self-loathing, ivy leaguer, articulate when you don't expect it and more importantly gifted with the uncanny ability to convert their life's sagas into a moderately well-selling book, with a possible shot at hollywood-dom.
The reviews also correctly pointed out Powell is unnecessarily elucidative on her friends' supposedly prurient sex lives, attention which have been diverted to her interpretation of Julia Child's recipes.
I would agree with all of them. Julie Powell is a 20-going on 30 something with a dead end job at a govt. agency who is at pains to reconcile with her sub-optimal life when she chances upon a idea-cook all of Julia Child's recipes from her Mastering the Art of French Cooking tome.
She sets upon with great gusto and starts up a blog to chronicle her advances. This when blogging was a still unheard of phenomenon in the cyber-world. As is the case with such projects, the blog quickly garners a fan following. It even gets to a point where her bleaders (blog readers, her portmanteau, not mine) send her donations to keep her project going-after all, cooking the recipes that require butter, choiciest pieces of meat and wine does require some bolstering of the secretary income.
Right, so the coconut burfi experiment. I did get around to it. But in following or attempting to follow the recipe to the T, I managed to overdo the sugar syrup, such that it would've been just right for coconut candy, not burfi. But, I made the coconut burfi nevertheless. It tastes great, just the way mom's did, but is a lot more brittle.
That's two indian sweets in my repertoire-semiya payasam and coconut burfi (am still gonna claim it. Its the taste that matters...).
I shouldn't be too proud..at my age my mother was probably cooking for 20.
I'm so caught up with foodie literature. I've read so much, I've almost beguiled myself into thinking I too could write.
Who am I kidding? I've been cooking for less than 3 years now, and regularly for less than a year. I never thought highly of cooking as a kid, never a foodie when growing up. I thought yogurt rice was ultimate food nirvana. (I still do, actually). And now, the most creative I get is when I compare blogs and pick the best recipe. So, who am I kidding?
Having just read Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, I have now worked myself up into a tizzy about making something local, authentic and season appropriate for the Tamil harvest festival, Pongal.
Here's why I shouldn't bother:
1. Harvest festivals are seasonally specific.
2. I live in the US and its winter here.
3. I don't harvest. My family doesn't harvest. I come from a family where at least 3 generations have been removed from agriculture or farming and more importantly, harvesting (although the more astute amongst you readers would argue that one needn't be a farmer to celebrate the harvest festival).
4. I searched and searched, and still draw a blank on authentic,seasonal south Indian dishes for Pongal.
5. Let me qualify point 4. Us tamils do make chakkara pongal, ven pongal and may be some variant of payasam for the harvest festival. Chakkara pongal is jaggery infused cooked rice, ven pongal is a savory rice dish and payasam is a porridge of sorts. But I've been eating that atleast 20 pongal festivals. I'm sure there must've been other goodies lined up for the hard working farmers out there.
So am in a fix. Would Barbara Kingsolver approve if I made coconut barfi for Pongal? Granted, there is nothing local about it. I'll be using frozen shredded coconut for crying out loud. Yet, coconut is almost a staple in south Indian cuisine, and coconut barfi a well-liked sweet (back home anything sweet is called a sweet, not dessert, coz labeling it dessert relegates it to the very tail end of a meal, whereas as a sweet, you can consume it anytime, all the time).
But its still not seasonal, or local. Oh well, for all you know, BK is probably chowing down on some KFC chicken wings in her farm house right now.
At least I'm trying, you know. Again, I write this before my attempts at making the burfi.
For all you know, a couple hours later, I'd still be sprawled out on my couch, eating out of the ice cream box, watching Oprah and cursing BK for spawning all this new agey, eat right,do good philosophy in me.