Sprouting ideas

Spring, gentle reader, has arrived in Rochester, NY. Everything is so beautiful it makes your teeth ache. The skies are blue, fluffy clouds float by, flirting with the sun. The searing cold of the winter that tickles your neck and makes you shiver has given way to gentle breezes that waft peacably. Everywhere you look there are flowers pushing themselves out of the ground. Unreasonably, overwhelmingly beautiful. Proof that god loves NY.

If I stood still long enough, I am sure something would bloom on my head! I have been spending my fair share of time outdoors. To alleviate the results of my somewhat enthusiastic exertions, I've turned to sprouted lentils. Full of protein and anti-oxidants, these little beans put the spring back in my step. Never hurts to add chaat masala! Just sprout the lentils, chuck in some chopped onion and add a generous squeeze of lemon juice.

Barbara of Winos and Foodies is hosting 'A Taste of Yellow' for LiveStrong Day. Much useful health info awaits at the round-up - see y'all threre!


Fudgy brownies

This is a good year, gentle reader! I know its only April, but I have had flowers on my desk. Twice. Yes, the year is off to a good start. The gods have been kind. Additional evidence for divine munificence comes from Nick Malgieri and David Jochim's Perfect Light Desserts: Fabulous Cakes, Cookies, Pies, and More Made with Real Butter, Sugar, Flour, and Eggs, All Under 300 Calories Per Generous Serving

I pored over the book, brows furrowed in concentration as I weighing the merits and possible demerits of many equally enticing choices. Many lusty sighs later, I had decided: fudgy brownies. At a 137 kcal, this delectable dessert is my favorite "combination of chocolate and virtue" (plagiarized from the book!) The recipe is frugal with butter and generous with sugar and cocoa. The result is an appropriately chewy brownie with deep mellow sweetness.

This is a brownie thats been on vacation to some exotic spa. Its come back, glowing and buff. All of its goodness and beauty intact, all its sins washed away. This is a good brownie. This is a brownie you'd like to bring home to your parents. In a nutshell, gentle reader, this is a brownie that will charm your socks off. Enjoy!

Myriam, it made my day to read about Brownie Babe of the Month. "A brownie a day" - now theres a wonderful concept!


Be Longing

Rolling stones sometimes miss moss. South Kanara Brahmin in Mumbai. Bombayite in the midwest. Trishanku in Upstate New York. Where is my moss?

Monroe County brings these questions to the fore. Recently, in the context of 'where are you from' someone asked me, hopefully, "You must be from somewhere originally?"


Serendipitiously, I came upon Simply Ming while ruminating over these thoughts. Aside from being completely attractive and asian, two equally distracting attributes, Ming Tsai is blessed with unique culinary chic. He has an intuitive understanding of ingredients and flavors. Perhaps more importantly, he understands his readers' palate. He is just as comfortable recalling fond memories of warm bistro salads from his experiences in France as he is reminiscing about Chinatown in Dayton!

While I have waxed eloquent on Ming's considerable culinary prowess, I was equally impressed by Arthur Boehm's writing. It would have been so easy to make this an exotic cookbook. Instead the tone and presentation remains scrupulously simple. Even though they're loaded with intriguing new flavors, the recipes are marvellously approachable. Here is a book with enough boyish charm to get away with "Its spiciness will leave you goofy with delight" and "This dish with umeboshi is super-tasty". Who can resist, and I quote "my down-home Asian version of barbecued chicken"!!

This week's highlights included Blue Ginger's signature crackers. Briefly, bread flour, yeast and olive oil come together with an unbeatable spice combination. The original recipe calls for cumin, coriander, fennel, black pepper and garlic. I used cumin, coriander, black pepper, dried pomegranate seed powder and juniper berries. I sprinkled onion seeds (kalonji), in addition to the reccommended sesame seeds.

Theres no other way to say this, the crackers are excellent! This is a fail-safe recipe, one that lends itself to experimentation. Cumin, coriander, black pepper and juniper berries provide a robust spicy background to the playful piquant contribution of the dried pomegranate seeds. I munched on them with some chai, enjoying their mathri-like savory taste. They held their own paired with New York sharp cheddar. Nothing like a little Blue Ginger to bring it all together :-)


Cabbage Pathrode

Say ‘Pathrode’ to someone from Mangalore and you will watch a miraculous transformation. The wrinkles and frowns will disappear, replaced by a faraway look of beatific contentment. Pathrode, made using Colocosia leaves, is a fond food memory for many of us from South Kanara. Pathrode is a classic example of how humble ingredients are elevated to godhood in South Kanara cooking with a little ingenuity and a lot of elbow grease.

Briefly, a paste of rice and spices is rolled up in colocosia leaves and steamed. The steamed rolls are cut into ½ inch thick slices, then sautéed to crispy perfection, served with a generous dollop of homemade butter. Pathrode is one of my father’s favorite foods. Never fails to make him feel special and in a moment, you will see why.

The making of pathrode is fraught with the possibility of disaster. For starters, the leaves could be tough or not tender enough. That means, when you eat the delectable end-product, your throat scratches. All that effort to naught! Next the rice paste has to be the ground just right, not too fine, not too coarse. Then of course, there is the matter of spices. It’s a fine balance between mellow coriander, fiery chilies, creamy coconut, tart tamarind and sweet jaggery. Not to mention all the effort involved in grinding, rolling, steaming, sautéing!!

Making pathrode can be quite an undertaking. When someone makes pathrode for you, they like you! (My parents are probably giggling by now, but I digress!)

Last week, I was hit by a craving for the gentle yet robust, spicy yet mellow taste of pathrode. I marveled at the persistence of my South Kanara genes! No trace of colocosia leaves yet in Upstate New York, so I decided to make a humbler version, cabbage pathrode.

You can see the end product in the picture. The reason I don’t have more than a couple pieces in the photo is that by the time I get to the part when I can finally sauté the pathrode, the anticipation is killing me!

Pathrode brought back warm memories, of loving aunts slaving over skillets in hot kitchens, of my mother watching over us as little hands tried messily to roll up errant leaves, and of course, of the smile on my father’s face!

Indira, may I send this to you for JFI-WBB JFI-WBB: Green Leafy Vegetables? Amazing to see how JFI has grown in popularity and creativity!

1. Colocasia info for the botanically inclined
2. Mind boggling history about good old colocasia.
3. Shilpa of Aayi's Recipes has a recipe for the Konkani version here. Hands down the best pictures and tutorial!
4. Vee of Past, Present and me shares a recipe using collard greens - ingenious!
5. Also, a couple recipes from Baawarchi , and a website called Mangalore Delicacy


The arbitrary pursuit of perfection

By and large, I'm pretty easy going. When the fellow downstairs behaves like a caveman, I breathe deeply and visualize him travelling by local train in Bombay, preferably, the 5:42 Thana slow, suitably squelched between sweaty bodies, with a eunuch or two thrown in for good measure. At the four way stop by Wegman's, I let the silver Mercedes, the Chevy Surburban and even the 1988 Corolla zip past me. I have, on occasion, been known to forego the last m&m in the dispenser.

To summarize, gentle reader, there are times when I radiate easy-going-ness.

I can take life's little annoyances in my stride, but please god, every once in a while, show me something perfect. Show me something that makes me shrug the annoyances away. Yes, there are times, when nothing short of perfection is good enough.

It was in this notoriously nit-picky mood that I stumbled on The Sweet Life: Desserts from The Chanterelle by Kate Zuckerman. This is a book that means business. From the minute, you set eyes on it,you know this is one that has both, style and substance, with plenty to spare.

I glanced at the back flap which has a picture of Kate Zuckerman. Forgive me for meandering, but it is a very well-conceived picture. I tend to trust and respect women who wear very little make up far more than perfectly made up women!! Natural poise is vastly superior to contrived elegance. Their relaxed confidence says to me, "I don't need to dress to impress".

As I glanced at her recipe for Hazelnut shortbread, my capricious imagination did a quick fouetté and the idea for pistachio-cardamom shortbread was born. I will admit that this is not one of the recipes you can whip up on a whim. It was a fair bit of elbow grease. But then again, sometimes nothing short of perfection is good enough.

The results were gratifying. I bow my head in homage to Kate Zuckerman. The strength of this confection is its simplicity. The combination of pistachio and butter is rich. Holds its own and yet, will cavort gracefully with tea or coffee. What brown person can deny pistachio a little cardamom! I put just enough to make it intriguing. Cute little squares, appropriate for gifting and such festive endeavors.


In Between Tureens

Was walking along East Ave the other day and came across this (picture above). Reminded me of a tureen without a lid. Kinda. Maybe it was just my subconscious longing for soup on a winter afternoon.

One must go where the subconsious takes us and I found myself making Spiced Roast Parsnip Soup. I'd seen Fahara's post at Alanna's blog and it caught my eye. My first encounter with parsnips, many moons ago, involved butter and gentle sautéing. The warm parsnip rings were golden brown, their good-natured sweetness showcased in every bite.

Sweet and buttery, I could not imagine parsnips in a spiced soup. Even more intriguing, the spices Fahara used were ones I thought of as 'Indian'. Turmeric, coriander, cumin... (Time for the little frog to jump out of her well!) Fahara's recipe worked like a charm. Many many thanks for sharing!

Heres what I did:
1. Diced 2 parnsips and 1 carrot into 1/2 inch cubes. Tossed with olive oil, coriander, cumin, mustard, turmeric powder. Dash of salt and pepper.
- Confession: I have a deep distrust of tomatoes and tend to fret over them while cooking. So I left the tomatoes out for a stressfree soup experience.
2. Baked at 350 degrees F for about 30 mins.
3. In the meantime, browned half a red onion and a quarter bulb of fennel in a smidgen of butter.
4. Ground them all up to a puree.
5. Topped with a generous squeeze of lemon juice.

The soup is a delightful blend of flavors - subtle sweetness from the hearty parsnips balanced with the well-behaved coriander/cumin spice combination. In and of themselves, each flavor is one that we all know and are familiar with. They come together with natural unforced grace in this creative yet unfussy soup.

1. Original recipe from Soup Kitchen
2. All kinds of parsnip trivia. To summarize, parsnips are a good source of fiber and minerals and what not. Turns out turmeric, coriander and cumin are all good for ya!
3. In Between Tureens inspired by 'In Between Dreams' Its all an excuse to google Jack Johnson :-)

Anh, may I send this one to you for Weekend Herb Blogging # 77? Thank you for hosting and Happy Easter!