New Flavors

I confess that my attitude towards white chocolate has been that of a cruel stepmother. Dark chocolate has been the "blue-eyed boy". For the longest time, I regarded white chocolate with a mix of disdain and pity. And then, on a cold february afternoon, as nippy gusts scurried about Canandaigua lake, I got to know Callier...

A couple weekends ago, I found myself at a 'Chocolate Workshop', surreptiously introducing vast amounts of chocolate into my caffeine-stream. In this happy state of chocolate induced euphoria, I heard the words 'White Chocolate Bark'. I zoned out... expecting the ghastly abomination that I have come to associate with those fearsome words. In front of my very eyes, a gleaming, creamy vision made of melted Callier white chocolate chips was deftly smoothed onto cookie trays lined with parchment paper. Minutes ticked by. We added a few caramel and dark chocolate highlights. It was purdy and all, but I remained dubious and I planned to use it for 'gifting' ;)

And then, unable to resist, I tasted it. From the first morsel to the last lingering sumptuous aftertaste, it was lavishly luscious. Unabashedly satisfying. Forgive me white chocolate, I kneel before thee in humble apology. You have shown me bliss!

Speaking of delightful, new flavors, I had the good fortune to attend a recent concert by the Kronos Quartet. They've been making music for over thirty years now. And what splendid music it is! To be sure, it was an eclectic repertoire but it was worth every minute.

The concert was set in Eastman Theater, a visual treat in itself. Very much enjoyed, among other things, a rendition of Pandit Ram Narayan's Mishra Bhairavi on the viola. The cello stood in for the tanpura! They had some wonderful folksy Iraqi stuff as well as some very funky new music. True to their creative credo, their music was energetic, and alive, and not afraid to kick ass!

On their first encore, the hair on the back of my neck stood on end. They brought alive a piece played at Woodstock - Jimi Hendrix' version of the Star Spangled Banner. The wizards at Eastman played with the lighting effects. Like flames smouldering on the magnificent walls, light and shadow, in tune with man and string, moved with frenetic energy.

The second encore, in delightful counterpoint, was their version of Mehbooba Mehbooba from Sholay! Pancham da's booming voice and the palpably bootilicious rhythm of Mehbooba Mehbooba took on a surprisingly playful yearning in Kronos' version titled 'Beloved, O Beloved'. If you're shaking your head in disbelief, listen to it on Amazon. Its the quartet's fourth most downloaded song on iTunes and you'll immediately know why!!

Quick hugs to all my friends who shared in these adventures :)



By day, I sit a desk, dutifully engaged in the pursuit of knowledge. After work, my secret superhero side emerges. I love exploring this brooding hunk of a city and discovering its faded glory.

I confess that Park Ave, East Ave and Downtown Rochester are my favorite haunting grounds. But every once in a while, I drive past my 'comfort zone', beyond the streets I know like the back of my hand. To the north, even their names are unfamiliar, Lyell... Dewey... Having gotten lost innumerable times, I use the Kodak Building as a beacon to find my way back. The roads wind around and bring me back to 'my Rochester'. Mysteriously we merge on to 490 - the inevitable confluence! Snaky yet steadfast, 490 encircles downtown Rochester. Overjoyed, my little Civic hugs the curves triumphantly. Woo!! Troup Howell Bridge, here we come! And so we make our way home.

Nothing like a bowl of soup to recharge the batteries after adventures on a cold winter evening! This week's highlight is a Lentil Soup - inspired by various versions of Moroccon lentil soup.

Heres what I did:
- Cooked yellow lentils / white beans till soft.
- Added ras-el-hanout simulators to hot olive oil ;) Cinnamon, bay leaf, cumin, garlic and ginger. Chopped an onion and sauteed till it turned transluscent.
- Added lentil-bean mixture and chucked in more spices: turmeric, black pepper, red chili powder, parsley and salt to taste.
- Simmered for about 15 minutes.
- Turned the heat off and topped with a generous squeeze of lemon juice.

Voice of experience:
1. IMHO - the last lemon juice step goes a LONG way.
2. Flavors intensify the next day.

The end result is a tangy yet robust, low-fat soup, with a gingery/peppery bite to revive winter wanderers!

Moroccon lentil soup inspiration:
1. Food Network has a recipe here. Unfortunately it didn't get favorable reviews :-(
2. Allrecipes has a recipe with the 'usual suspects' - tomatoes and chickpeas and the like.
3. Manjula of Dalitoy posted a delightful soup here. Excellent ideas - thank you for sharing!

I'd like to share this post with Alanna of A Veggie Venture for "Soup, Glorious Soup!" Perfect way to banish any lingering winter blues!


Time to flex

At the ripe old age of #@ (rhymes with flirty), I find myself willing to loosen up. I know my old roommates just snorted and I beg forgiveness. I'm (finally) ready to let go of that white-knuckled grip. Just a little bit.

Part of my zen comes from living in this gorgeous old house that creaks and shudders and slopes to the middle. I am fortunate that the only other apartment on my story has an extraordinarily non-intrusive tenant. I bumped into her and her parents once this summer and we exchanged pleasantries. The two downstairs are a different story (pun unintended). I will be the first to admit that they are extraordinarily good looking. They are also incredibly social. And yes, they're Thanks to my new-found zen, I am capable of looking at them indulgently. Its a good way to dissipate any maternal hankerings without needing to go into labor and push and all, but I digress.

The fellow downstairs is either in a band or has a music system that is powered by PMS. To be honest the vibrations are probably good for the wood floor as well as my skin. Whats funny is that the house is old and there is a grate in my bathroom where I can hear his music quite well. I hope he does not hear me in the bathroom (aaargh!)

Anyhoo, I must confess that his parties are usually around my deadlines and so I'm burning the midnight oil when the young ones are breaking into a sweat. Keeps my foot tapping. and the heating bills down. When they quiet down, I stomp and shake my fist, "Keep it going, you feckless hedonists". I wish they wouldn't sing though! I pretty much plan my sleep schedule around his party schedule.

Sometimes, you just have to take it as it comes.

Along the same lines, this week's creation is mulled wine. It was a fortuitous invention. Aspiring alcoholics such as myself are often confronted with what to do with cheap wine. I toyed with wine jelly but it seemed like way too much work and sugar. I have a simpler solution. Chuck in some cinnamon, cloves, cardamom and orange peel. Add sugar, orange juice and/or brandy as desired and warm. Do not boil. You've just made mulled wine! Really, thats all there is to it. Enjoy warm, perhaps with a little dark chocolate...

(Turns out this is another away post - will share tales of courageous driving and much gastronomic happiness in metropoli of the northeast soon. In the meantime, xoxo to you, gentle reader :)


The Art of Seduction

Rochesterians around the world will acknowledge that Wegman's is a force to be reckoned with. Most days it is a godsend because it eases some of the gastronomic strain of being single or in a relationship. Single and trudging home to an unimaginative refrigerator? No problem, have your petits gateaux and eat it too at Wegman's! Newly married and don't know how to cook? No problem, pick up his/her favorites at Wegmans. He likes sushi, she likes risotto? No problem, find both at Wegman's!

The tremendous convenience of shopping at Wegman's can be a mixed blessing though... Even before I have articulated my innermost craving, the elves at Wegman's have already created, packaged and set it up invitingly. Low fat feta? Spinach Parmesan Rounds? Multi grain pita chips? Organic whole wheat mini-baguette? I ran my finger along the tempting loaf, and whispered tremulously, "How did you know?"

(sigh) I could get used to this ever-solicitous seduction.

What then?! The rest of one's life is a barren wasteland of phone calls to Time Warner Cable, angry posts on RnR on Craigslist (honey, no one writes letters to the editor anymore!), futile fumbling around the interminable aisles (rearranged yet again) at Target... Enough, I say! Wegman's, its time you take over the world! Else, stop being so completely seductive and turn into a slob, like the rest of them!

Picture: Organic whole wheat baguette (sliced into rounds by aforementioned elves), Yancey's Fancy Champagne Cheddar and Habanero & Jalapeno Pepper Cheddar!

PS. I know you really didn't need all those links. Just a friendly distraction ;)

PPS. Happy Anti-Valentine ;)


Be Krishna

Like a snow globe thats just been shaken, my head is swirling with thoughts... I've grappled with them, with varying degrees of success. I am fortunate in that I found not just one answer but many. This is what it feels like, I thought to myself, to have the counsel of many Krishnas...

Arjuna, mighty warrior and chick magnet, is one of my favorite characters from Hindu mythology. Famed for his marksmanship, archery was THE thing that defined him. As a child, he was known as an outstanding and diligent student of archery. His skill with a bow and arrow won him a wife, the gorgeous Draupadi. He gets into all kinds of super-interesting adventures. Really, he is the coolest of the Pandavas. Is there anything he cannot do?

And yet, faced with the prospect of going to war, he falters. Overwhelmed. Undone by the potential consequences of his actions. Despondent, despairing, he turns to his charioteer, the Lord, and tells him, "Krishna, I don't want to fight, this is not my battle to fight".

Image Credit: The Little Book of Hindu Deities by Sanjay Patel

What follows is the ultimate story of the nourishing of the human spirit and the Lord helps Arjuna make his decision.

I've found myself at cross roads often and have been fortunate to find sage counsel. Arjuna had one Krishna and found direction. I am grateful for the outstanding mentors I have had. This is what it feels like to have many Krishnas. Thank you for sharing. Someday, I hope I will be as tremendously generous as you have been.

Speaking of nourishing, heres a picture from this weekend: vermicelli kheer, gentle, sweet and full of innate goodness. Affectionately referred to as 'kaddi payasa' (stick payasa) by cousins :-)