Living the Good Life…

My food blog & cookbook in progress

Sensory peeves

Being a regular watcher of food shows and a reader of the New York Times cooking pages among, I’ve found myself irritated on several occasions when I hear food and tastes described in ways that are, well, just plain WRONG! Tamarind for instance was described by one woman (who as a subcontinental should have known better) as sweet-bitter with nary a mention of its tang or sourness, which is after all it’s predominant taste–though I’ll admit to a certain fruity sweetness in most batches. Elsewhere, in a diametrically opposite note, someone kept describing a honey as imparting a tang, as though that rather than sweetness was the predominant taste.  Okay I get it.. you want to highlight something unusual about an ingredient. But when the ingredient itself is unsual, one should say something about its main properties.?

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South meets south

So the other day I was watching an episode from the current season of Top Chef, which is based in Charleston this year. The challenge was to make a creative brunch to serve a large number of people, that both celebrated the local ingredients and traditions, but also brought in the chef’s personal touch and experience. Here’s what I thought would have made for a cool South Indian spin on ingredients from the American South, using grits, green tomatoes, buttermilk and okra:

Upma korykotai (grit dumplings), something that Amma has done for decades. Will provide link when I include the recipe.

Green tomato chutney, using the gingery pacchidi recipe I posted a long time ago.

South Indian styled kadi (buttermilk broth) using deep fried okra as garnish.

To give yet another dairy punch, small pots of either bhapa-dohi with peaches, or chilled masala chai flavored baked custard.

Would have worked really well given the over-night prep time they allowed for this challenge. Could make and shaped dumplings night before and steam them in morning, before which would get chutney going. Time permitting prep the okra by washin, drying thoroughly and slitting the night before. Originally I thought to even deep frying ahead of time but to add them only shortly before serving would offer a better texture I think. Finally make the dessert and put in fridge also night before.

Turkey 2016

Happy Thanksgiving all. Despite some bleak things in my life lately– joblessness for 17 months and counting…, Trump as president elect, other fascists ruling elsewhere–the food and togetherness of this festival in the US never fails to remind me how MUCH I have to be grateful for. And here I offer some nifty ways to adapt the classic TxG staples–turkey, stuffing, roasted roots etc–in the days that follow. Well here’s one recipe and others will follow as I make and post em:

Stuffing soup

Squashamole/Squashomous

Turkey biryani (no links for this one, but mentioning it because I remember cooking this atop Shomik & Renu’s stove top in 2004. Don’t think it ever made it to the table but was consumed directly from the pot by all those of us who passed it by).

Hot cranberry pickle (thokku)

Muddled in migration

Here are two words related to food that I  have used without thinking until I heard them used differently in a way that made me think…” wait a minute… that makes more sense than what I’ve been saying all along.” I’m not about to go to war over it, but I’m just saying, don’t be surprised if one day when you order a spaghetti marinara as an an entrée, you get an appetizer of a small (starter) plate of spaghetti studded with seafood in an olive-oil-and-lemon base and nary a tomato in sight.

The reason for the disconnect between what you think you ordered and what you got lies in the original meanings of the words. Entrée is the French word for starter, which is how it’s used in France (I think), and even some English-speaking countries. But in the Americas and in India too (especially in those pretentious restaurants where the waitstaff speak to you in phony accents with noses held high), it has come to mean the main course. Why, I simply can’t fathom. After all, the word even sounds like what it is, something with which one “enters” a meal.

The marinara muddle also makes sense if you think about it, for the word derived from a common root with marine or mariner, i.e. having to do with the sea. Wikipedia tells me that the dish spaghetti alla marinara means a pasta dish cooked in the style of the mariners or seamen. I suppose these medieval mariners might have preferred the fruits of their New World discoveries to those from the sea, but am willing to believe that someone Down Under got it right, and marinara sauce should contain ingredients from the sea. Anyone have any alternative evidence for which one might be more correct? Or should we just go the Winnie-the-Pooh route not make a choice. Hey! I’d not say no to an plate of pasta two ways, regardless of whether it’s served as the starter or the main.

Foodie update

No I haven’t (despite admitted appearances to the contrary) abandoned either this or my other site. It’s just life’s been such a mad frenzy for such a long time that blogging is backlogged till kingdom come. Although on this site I do sporadically add recipes if not food encounters and so they make their way to individual pages instead of posts. And I recently have added a section which ought to increase the pages since it’s a section for contributions… specifically at first recipes I may or may not receive because of a recipe network (or rather chain mail) that I just got roped into joining. So check out the pages that will show up in under the chapter marked “From fellow foodies.” My own contribution will appear in the butterfruit page in twisting themes section .. it uses avocados in what I (and those served) thought was a delicious alternative.

Long time…

since I’ve visited these pages. Seoul life is taking its toll on me in many ways and leaving no enthusiasm for blogging. But I have updated a few pages with additional recipes and thought I should make a note of it. Check out the ‘more daal’ page for an addition there… coming soon: something with tofu & oranges, and a Thai-inspired eggplant dish that tickles taste buds you didn’t realize you had!

Kim Chee chapters

They are about to begin. Foodwise Korea promises to be very, very interesting indeed. Restaurants are inexpensive and bountiful, and already I’ve had my first dinner invitation to a Korean home and been treated to the ultimate in comfort food, and sent home with a heavy bag full of food. Some of which is going to be turned into soup in short order…

Weeks later…

I suppose the honeymoon had to end sometime. i.e. Sooner or later I would get tired to Korean food and start craving Indian (read my own) cooking. But I still don’t like cooking for a just myself. Have become so unused to  it in fact, that when a pot of stew (imitating Moon yi) didn’t “get over” within the next couple of days, I simply lost track of time, and ate it 3 weeks later only to give myself my first awful bout of food poisoning! I won’t go into details but I blame the ingredients and my forgetfulness, not the recipe which was fantastic!

Meanwhile,  kimchee doesn’t go bad – ever – but does after a while start to taste a but much in its cold state and so can be converted to soups and stews (and even pancakes) the first which was highly recommended by Emily’s sister as a way to reduce my coughing. A nice twist on the theme was to stew it with using leftover gravy (I would call it broth but it get’s quite solid in once it cools down) from a curry whose main contents were all gone. Said gravy has also been used to make a dalia (wheat porridge, North Indian style) and a very quick egg curry.

Well, as you may guess I have started my kitchen running again. Not with the frequency or Cairo or B-22 but better than at the outset. The setup of the apartment with its open kitchen is nice and conducive for a few visitors at a time. Guests sit around the counter – the only dining table actually – on barstools (folks living in the same building, as many of the UIC-ites have a request to bring their own since the management provides only two per household) and we eat, drink and make merry. Or we sit around the low coffee table in the living room, but the kitchen area works better because of easier access to food. A mini ritual of gathering here after Western Civ lectures on Tuesdays has been tentatively started with speaker (Kelly last week, Michael last night…) organizer and 1-2 others chosen at whim. Would be nice, because I’m getting real tired real fast of my own company and even that of my precious Kindle at mealtimes.