Friday, October 3, 2014

When Wisdom dawns, you bow to it! - The Last of the Nine nights.


I'm an ignoramus when it comes to the philosophical complexities of mythology, but the fact is that all these parables are completely applicable to social life as well as the laws of nature, provided you have the fortune of having it interpreted from various frames of reference. If not, all they will remain as, are tales to be amused by for an hour or two before dissipating from the cerebral cortex without ever having the fortune of getting registered as a memory. Even worse, if interpreted by someone with their own personal egoistic agenda, you're finished, what could have been a learning experience turns into a roiling puddle of fear that has the potential to turn into a cesspool of ignorance and hate.

And so it is with these nine days of 'Navratri'. To me it represents the spirit and valor of the feminine aspect of nature, the same force that drives a girl to defend herself tooth and nail against those who seek to strip her of her dignity, a mother who would go to any lengths to protect and nurture her offspring, a wife who willingly takes a back seat supporting her spouses career ambitions as well as those women who give it their all to 'lean in'.

As with every mission that ends in success (whether its a victory over demons, or simply a difficult Anatomy test ,  -- which was my Achilles heel, I just couldn't remember which muscle originated from / inserted into which bone, leave alone where it got its blood & nerve supply from! ), there needs to be a 'cooling off' to rest and recharge and the last day of Navratri represent just that. It is observed in Southern India as 'Saraswathy puja' where books and other 'tools of the trade' are worshiped and given a day of rest. As the saying goes.. 'Tomorrows another day', a day for new beginnings and endeavors that hopefully brings us success in whatever we're seeking.

Badam Kheer (Almond dessert soup with Saffron)

You need:

1 cup raw almonds
4 -5 cups reduced fat milk
3/4 -1 cup sugar
3 - 4 pods cardamom, seeds crushed
18 - 20 strands saffron
2 tablespoons pistachios crushed  (optional)

Blanch the almonds by dropping them in boiling water for about 5 minutes. Shock them by immersing in cold water and then proceed to squeeze out the loosened skin. Add 1/2 a cup of milk (or more, if you prefer)  to the almonds and blend them to a smooth puree. Warm up another 1/2 a cup of milk (until its acceptably warm to the finger tip) and soak the strands of saffron to release their color and flavor.


Whisk in the almond puree, the remaining milk, 3/4 cup sugar and the crushed cardamom together. In a large saucepan, heat the mixture on low heat until it begins to simmer, Add the saffron infused milk and taste it at this point to check if its sweet enough. If not add in as per your preference. If you prefer having s bit of crunchy texture, add in the crushed pistachios. They add a pleasant color contrast. Continue to simmer for another 10 minutes until the pistachios have softened slightly. Ladle into glasses, or bowls or goblets or mugs and sip away!

Not sure if I should repeat the recipe for my 10th consecutive Stir fry, but here goes

Peanut Stir Fry

You need:

1 cup skinned raw peanuts
1 tablespoon oil
1 teaspoon cumin
1 arbol chile, broken into 2 pieces
1 sprig curry leaves
Salt to taste,
1/4 teaspoon turmeric,
Lime juice for drizzling over


Boil the peanuts with the turmeric and salt until they soften and and have a yielding 'bite'. Drain and set aside. If you've added too much salt, rinse the peanuts and drain off the water thoroughly.
In a cast iron skillet, heat the oil (remember the peanut is oily, so cut down on the added stuff) and add the cumin, curry leaf and arbol chili pieces. Once the cumin pops and the arbol chile turns a deep reddish brown, add the peanuts and give it a good stir. Lower the heat and cover the skillet and allow the flavors to combine. Taste and adjust for seasoning. Transfer to a serving dish and add the lime juice just prior to serving. Serve warm.


Tomorrow is the day for new beginings, - Vijaya Dashami or the day of victory. Planning to serve up some Semolina pudding (Rava Kesari) and a Navy bean stir fry.







Bon Appetit!






Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Day 8 - The Penultimate stir fry


As the Festival of Navratri goes, this is the big day, the grand finale. Mythologically speaking, this was the day, the lascivious demons, Chanda, Munda & Mahishasura and the worlds first one man clone Raktabhija (from the sanskrit Rakta- blood, bija - seed. Legend has it that when each drop of his blood fell to the ground, an identical clone would rise. The goddess countered that by giving rise to Kali (the terrible one) who literally stuck her tongue out to drink every drop of Raktabija's blood before it hit the earth. Mahishasura put up quite a fight taking multiple forms before his final morph into a buffalo( Mahisha) at which point, the goddess pins him under the lion she is riding on and proceeds to eviscerate him. Who says Mythology is  dull?

The prasad (offering) that I'm posting today is an edamame sundal. Edamame, like fresh green chickpeas has a delicate buttery texture that makes it ideal for South Indian stir fries. Its unlikely that you will easily stumble upon fresh edamame, although I did see some in Union square market two weeks back selling for the price of an arm & a leg. No worries, the ones from the freezer section are perfect for this purpose.

Edamame (Green Soy beans) Sundal

You need:

1 pack (12 oz / 340 gms)  Frozen edamame, thawed
2 tablespoons oil
1 teaspoon cumin
1 serrano chile cut into 3-4 pieces
1 teaspoon finely julienned ginger root
1 sprig curry leaves, torn
1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
salt to taste
2 tablespoons fresh shredded coconut
Wedges of lime for drizzling.


Heat the oil in  cast iron skillet and add the cumin once the oil begins to shimmer. when the cumin seeds 'split' add the chiles, ginger and the curry leaves and give the mixture a stir and allow the flavors to bloom. Add the edamame along with the turmeric and salt, stir to combine. Lower the heat, cover and allow to cook for ~ 5 minutes. Taste and adjust for seasoning and add the shredded coconut. Transfer to a serving dish and serve warm with wedges of lime on the side.

Tomorrow marks the last day of Navratri when all 'weapons' (euphemism that includes the tools of every trade) are laid down to be blessed by Saraswathy, the goddess of knowledge (As kids, this had to be an all time favorite day of the year when parents would not insist that we sit down to study, and in extreme cases actually dissuade us ever so gently!). So, even as I wonder if I should plonk my new set of Weck canning jars from Provisions at Food52, I'll sign off for today with a sneek peek at tomorrow's offerings.. Peanut sundal and an Almond payasam (kheer )





Bon appetit!

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

A week of stir fries - Sweet corn sundal



And before you know it, Navratri is almost over. Just 2 more days (or three, if you want to include the 10th day Vijaya Dashami) of celebrations, after which the festival season is officially open. The next three days are the most significant of Navratri. Ashtami (8th day) is regarded as especially auspicious, especially in the Eastern Indian states such as West Bengal. The last day of the festival, the ninth is regarded as a rest day when all implements & tools of the trade are worshiped as Saraswathy, the goddess of wisdom & knowledge. This was a favorite day for us as kids. It was one day when parents would actually tell us to skip studying!
The last day is known as Vijaya Dashami (Vijaya means victory in Sanskrit), and is regarded as a favorable day to commence any new endeavor in life, be it music / dance lessons, or a new business, basically anything new endeavor in life.. Kind of puts a positive spin to life doesn't it

Although religious in spirit, the extended festivals such as Durga puja (in the eastern part of India) and Ganesh Chaturthi (in the western parts of the country) were made popular for socio-political reasons during the days of the British Raj. These large scale celebrations were perfect for social reformists and freedom fighters to gather without raising suspicions from the British authorities.

From a culinary POV, I try to include as many locally sourced ingredients as possible and Sweet corn is in season. Today's stir fry is  seasoned with  smoky Pimenton pepper.




Sweet Corn Sundal with smoky Pimenton:

You need:

2 cobs of corn, Kernels stripped off
2 tablespoons oil
1 teaspoon Cumin seeds
1 sprig curry leaves, torn
pinch of turmeric
1 Serrano chile diced into 3-4 pieces
1/2 teaspoon Smoked Pimenton chile powder or paprika
Salt to taste
Lime juice as per taste

Heat oil in a skillet and and add the cumin when the oil begins to shimmer. Once the cumin seeds sputter and split, stir in the curry leaves and serrano chile. Toss in the corn kernels and the turmeric, and saute on high heat until tiny dark spots appear on the kernels.Sprinkle the pimenton/paprika and the salt (as per taste). Lower heat, cover and allow the corn to incorporate the flavors of the spice (~ 5 minutes). Transfer to a serving dish and drizzle with the lime juice. Serve warm.

Tomorrow's stir fry ingredient was sourced from the freezer - Frozen shelled edamame. Its been the favorite one thus far, I barely got a taste while the other half & my 8 year old eagerly scarfed it down!



Bon appetit!
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