Monday, August 31, 2009

Falling leaf

Rusty autumn leaves hang on
To a miserable lifeless existance
Awaiting that cold wind
Which spiralling will bring them down.

Trapped inside a happy exterior
Humiliated, sometimes beaten into a mould
The model wife, an efficient homemaker.
Life of the content, shirtless beggar
She dreams-- subconcious escapism,
Longing those times
When being herself was enough.

Time will heal, never.
Like the fall leaf, she waits a-quiver,
The end of a meaningless life
A steep drop that will shatter an empty mould,
Shards of weird misery, a life noone will miss.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The perfect no-condiment-necessary Burger

When I used to live in Boston, directions revolved around the different T (metro) lines. You had to take the Red line to Davis Square which had a theater that played Indian movies, a trip there was never complete without ice cream from JP Licks. You would take the Blue line to and from the airport, a trip I'd make every other month or so to visit my parents in Maryland. A house hunting trip once took me on the orange line to Malden, a trip that wasnt worth making again.

I lived for a good portion of time on the Green B line, the Kenmore station stop to be exact, I've actually lived in different areas but for whatever reason this is where I have most memories from. Anyways, every few months (more frequently in the summer) I'd make my way down to Coolidge corner, which in case you're wondering is on the Green C line, to the Indian store to replenish my stock of masala, frozen parathas and such. They always had on display samosas (deep fried short crust pastry with a potato filling), chilli bhajjis (battered and fried chilies), dhoklas, curry puffs and kebabs. Samosas and Maaza (mango) juice were usually the choice of snacks for the weary trip back. On one such trip though, either out of want or necessity dont remember exactly, sad almost stale looking kebabs took the place of samosas as my ride home snack. The guy at the store heated the kebab up, threw that and some chutney into a white styrofoam container before bagging it up with the rest of the groceries. I think I managed only a few steps before stopping at a black metal bench to get a sampling of the kebab. Wow! Talk about surprises. The chicken kebab had a sprinkling of green from cilantro and mint, whole corriander seeds for a spicy crunch, tiny chunks of ginger and garlic and of course the hot POW of green chilies every now and again. That kebab was so good that it has become the base for all my kebab and burger recipes. Its just the kind of recipe to get us invited to BBQ's all over the place now, especially if we're bringing the meat! And since you're putting so much green into the meat already you really dont need anything else except maybe a sprinkling of blue cheese (you can never have too much cheese!).

You will need
1 1/2 lbs of 90% ground turkey/chicken (anything leaner is also fine)
1 slice of bread
1 tbsp of milk
1 inch chunk of ginger, chopped fine (or crush, if you prefer)
3 cloves of garlic chopped fine (or crush)
1 tsp corriander seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
2 green chilies (reduce quantity if too hot)
1 nice big bunch of cilantro (chopped)
1 little sprig of mint (chopped)
1/2 small red onion chopped fine
2 tsp salt


On medium-high, heat cumin and corriander seeds on a pan (without oil) tossing constantly till the smell of the spices is intense. Take off heat, cool for about a minute and then grind to a powder. Soak bread in milk and mush to form a paste. Transfer meat to a bowl. Add spice mixture, bread paste and all other ingredients to the meat. If the meat mixture seems too runny, add some breadcrumbs but you usually dont have to. Let rest in the fridge for half an hour (overnight if you can). Form patties with greased hands and throw on grill. We cook ours on medium heat for about 3 minutes on one side and 2 on the other.

Monday, August 24, 2009

A week in Europe

I cant remember the first time I've thought of visiting Europe. Must have been all those Indian movies I grew up watching-- none of them were simply complete unless there was a Switzerland-based song. I'd always wondered how the guy was allowed in a suit while the poor heroine had to wear skimpy mini skirts and flimsy tank tops and still be expected to prance around love struck.

In any case, after working a couple of years apres (note french preposition insert ;) ) grad school, I thought I'd saved up enough to afford backpacking across Europe. But that turned out to be the year I met "the" man, got married to said man, moved cross country to be with said man and then getting pregnant with said man's baby. None of which, especially the latter, very conducive to backpacking.

Nonetheless, hope never dies and early this month said man, implied baby and yours truly made our way to London, Paris and Switzerland. We even had a backpack, slightly different kind though-- one that you would lug a baby in!

Paris was simply wonderful. From food to the people to their lifestyle, awesome, awesome. I'm totally convinced that the stork misdelivered me to rural Andhra Pradesh instead of rural France. Here are a few pictures highlighting our most memorable trip yet and hopefully our home someday!

Vinodh to cheesy mom "We just spent 7 hours on a plane, what are you so happy about, Mom?" . Notice the green baby backpack on the luggage cart.

Foie gras on the *ferry* to Paris, yes this is the kind of food the French eat on ferries!

Apple Tarte Tatin for dessert, on the same ferry, of course!

Pistachio ice-cream for the little guy on ze ferry! No kid portions here!

Hot chocolate, coffee and brioche -- first morning in Paris

At the metro shortly after

Trust an Indian to leave a baby unattended at a fancy fountain! Oops, that's mine, never mind!

Creme brulee at Champs Elysees, hard to improve perfection!

Vinodh's reaction to Bistro diners

Duck breast with the most amazing fries!

Farmer's market in Switzerland, Vinodh walks by, not too impressed.

Indian clones in Switzerland

Friday, August 14, 2009

Perfect summer meal- Heirloom tomato salad

The past Tuesday was one of the hottest days this summer here in Baltimore. Temperatures were in the 90's and the humidity actually made it pretty uncomfortable for most but having grown up in Kuwait, I was finally happy for some actual summer heat! The grocery store had some gorgeous heirloom tomatoes which in their natural glory are really not that pretty to look at, well they are pretty but not in the perfect round, they look quite malformed actually and therein lies their beauty. I'm not really one for raw tomatoes but I love these heirloom varieties especially because they don't make my itch like the regular Roma or beefsteak tomatoes do. Too much information? Sorry! But back to the point, depending on the kind the tomatoes can be sweet, tart or really quite mellow. They are particularly delicious in this bruschetta style salad with toasted french bread slices. I usually serve the cheese (in this case mozzarella, but chevre is nice too) seperately but for whatever reason tossed it into the salad this time and I must say, I didn't really care for it. Ripping apart the cheese into half and then into strips and layering it atop of the tomato coated toast is waaaay better. But some people actually prefer to have the cheese in with the salad because they say it absorbs the seasoning better. To each their own, and you can do whatever your heart pleases :)
You will need:
2 medium heirloom tomatoes quartered (or rainbow colored grape ones halved would be beautiful too)
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 cloves of garlic chopped
2 tbsp of basil chopped
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground pepper
1 handful of the mini fresh mozzarella cheese (called chigline, I think)
Mix all ingredients except the tomatoes and cheese in a bowl. Add tomatoes, cheese and toss to coat evenly with dressing. Serve with warm toasted French baguette.

Lime Yogurt cake

Clotilde's cake was so simple to make and I found it the perfect use of whole plain yogurt that I lately have been overbuying for the little guy. I make at least one of different variants of this cake every week, its the perfect snack cake, moist, light and not too sweet.

The one I made this week was particularly good, the glaze had a sweet and sharp tang that went really well with the mellow cake. The only modification I made to the original recipe was to add the zest of 1 lime to the batter. And for the glaze, I mixed the juice of said lime with 1/3 cup of powdered sugar and brushed it over the cooked and cooled cake.

Lamb tagine

I'm always fascinated by how the slightest cooking technique variation makes all the difference from one cuisine to the other. Take this recipe for example, the ingredient list is pretty much what one would use for making lamb curry-- Indian ishhhtyle (style) but browning the meat first and cooking everything else in its fat makes it Moroccon and absolutely phenomenal!
So without much ado...Lamb Tagine!

You will need:

2 lbs of lamb meat (into big chunks if possible)
2 tsp paprika
1 tsp turmeric
2 tsp cumin
1 tbsp chilli powder (I like it hot, but reduce to taste)
1 tbsp ginger-garlic paste
1 stick of cinnamon (ground)
6 cloves (ground)
6 cardamom pods (ground)
2 medium onions chopped
1 tsp tomato paste
1 can garbanzo beans (optional, but was delicious)
1 tbsp sliced almonds (optional)
fistful of raisins (optional)
2 cups of beef stock
1 bunch of cilantro/parsley for garnish
1 tbsp of salt (or more as needed)


Depending on how lean your meat is, heat about 2 tbsp of vegetabl oil on a medium frying pan.

Salt one side of the meat, put that side down into oil. Salt the side that faces up. Flip the meat, browning all sides (I let mine get really really brown, I mean almost burnt brown). Fry the meat in batches. Once all the meat is cooked, add onions to the oil. Add about 1 tsp of salt to help onions soften faster, cook for about 3 minutes. Add ginger-garlic paste, tomato paste and all the spice powders. Cook on medium heat for about 5 minutes or till the onions, tomatoes and spices form a brown mass that doesnt stick to the edges. Dump the meat, spice mixture and broth into a slow cooker and cook for 4 hours on high. 1 hour before the end of the cooking cycle add the garbanzo beans. Garnish with almonds, raisins and cilantro/parsley before eating. Serve with pita bread, basmati rice or couscous.