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Monthly Archives: November 2011

Basil Pesto


Pesto is one of the easiest sauces to make but I haven’t made it in over 3 years! I had planted Basil in the summer and after a big harvest just before fall, was left with cup-loads of the leaves. After using them in salads, soups and what not, I realized it was time to make pesto. I pretty much used the same recipe that I did last time using Basil instead of Coriander and the result was equally yummy.

This can be used not just as a pasta sauce, but also as a dip or even as a dressing for salad. Enjoy!

 
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Posted by on November 28, 2011 in Garden, Italian

 

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Suggestions for Swiss Chard?

My summer vegetable patch was a complete failure this year due to soil quality and the location of the patch; I have no one else to blame but myself for this as I picked the spot for the patch and failed to check the soil quality even though K cautioned me. So anyway, I decided to do a fall vegetable patch – one of the advantages of living in sunny California, I hoped – to redeem myself and my green thumb. So around September when my anna (tamil for elder brother) was visiting us, like the good sister that I am, made him and K sweat it out in our back-yard to get the patch going. After a good two months, I have something to show for all our efforts. Our first harvest – Swiss chard leaves.

They are so dainty and pretty that I don’t feel like chopping and cooking them 😦

For a change, I am going to ask for recipes instead of posting them. So, do you have any interesting recipes/ideas to cook chard?

 
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Posted by on November 18, 2011 in Garden

 

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Dressing up dosas

Couple of weeks back, as I was reading my daily quota of news on Google, I came across this article on dosas. I was quite surprised to see our plain old dosas getting prime-time on WSJ. The article screamed “Move over tortillas, dosas are a-coming!”.

Anyway, proud as I was of the attention our dosas were getting, I forwarded the link to friends and family. And this led to an email exchange with one of them on how the dosas morph in our kitchen. That gave me an idea and I decided to share the different avatars dosas take in my kitchen. Without counting the plain dosas with chutneys and milagai podi (although literally means chilli powder it isn’t quite that).

a) Use dosa as a wrap and stuff it with a dry roasted mixed vegetable sabji (called as “kari” – not the same as curry – by tamilians). The traditional one is, of course, made with potato and called “Masala Dosai”, but you can use any vegetable or combination of them, optionally with paneer, to make a dry sabji, with any spices of your choice, and use it as stuffing.
b) Make a mean paneer burji or even chilli paneer for a more protein filled meal.
c) Make a pizza or quesadilla out of dosa by adding cheese and jalapenos (or red chilli flakes). You can also add slightly roasted veggies to make it a complete veggie dosa-pizza. This can be either served open, like a pizza, or closed, like a quesadilla.
d) A trick that I picked from my MIL – when you have just a few ladles of batter left, add a handful or two of rava (semolina) to the batter, add chopped ginger, onion (optional), green chillies to make (onion) rava dosa. Of course, you can use this as a base and stuff veggies, paneer etc.
e) When the batter is fairly old and heavily fermented, make uthappams (thick dosas) with it. Add chopped tomatoes, chillies, onions on top for a colorful veggie uthappam.


So, now tell me, what shape and form does a dosa take in your kitchen?

 
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Posted by on November 13, 2011 in Cooking, Desi, Traditional cooking

 

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What we eat…

Growing up, some vegetables were a strict no-no almost always and some were forbidden on upvas(fasting) and other auspicious days, as my parents practiced a modified (modern?) form of saatvic diet. Of course, when there were strict rules about vegetables, the words eggs and meat were not even uttered. So, it is not very surprising that “we are what we eat” is ingrained in my psyche, though I didn’t give it too much thought until recently.

As cooking and food slowly piqued my interest, I wanted to know more about what I (and we as a family) are eating. That led me into looking for Farmers’ markets and local produce stores in my neighborhood where I could get vegetables and fruits instead of going to super-market chains. I started to shun even the organic super-markets as I got to know about food miles. That’s when I realized sometimes it is fine to eat the non-organic locally available in-season fruit, instead of an organic one transported all the way from Brazil or Australia. As with many other things in life, it is all about making the right choice.

Then, I got to read Michael Pollan and his many books but the one that I truly love is “Food Rules“. As the tagline says, it is truly an eater’s manual and every eater should read this book. It is one of those no-nonsense books that is not based on any new fancy studies which will be discredited 10 or 20 years on, but on centuries-old traditions from across the world. To make it easier for the reader, Michael lays out a set of rules that are easy to follow like:
a) Shop at the edges of the supermarket as fresh foods like vegetables, diary, meat are laid out here and not in the center aisles which are filled with processed junk
b) Avoid ingredients that you don’t understand or recognize – some are preservatives, some are stabilizers and you don’t know the long-term effect of these ingredients, so stay safe and avoid them. Better yet, if you don’t use them in your kitchen, why bother buying food with these ingredients?
c) Avoid any food your grand-mom (or great grand-mom) won’t recognize – as these are probably not from nature but from a food processing plant and better to avoid.
You get the drift. There are more rules in the list, which are also fairly easy to follow.

Reading all this made me realize, unless we grow our own food or live closer to where our food is grown, we will never really know what we eat and that is when I came across this talk by Joel Salatin of PolyFace Farms:
 

 

He has a very interesting story and an important message to say and he conveys that beautifully. I urge all you readers to listen to his talk and think about whether we are leaving the world as a better place than the one we inherited? For the last few generations, we probably did not but I don’t think we can continue like this for long…

 
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Posted by on November 6, 2011 in General