Meaty Mushroom Pasta

mushroom pastaWarning: the foodstuffs here do not look at all like their components. This is a wonderful little guise for those who rabidly desire meat but venture into a tepidly omnivore household that leans toward herbivoraciousness. It’s an entirely mushroom-based pasta sauce, but with the right ingredients becomes rich, succulent, and fulfilling.

So, Ramadan came and went, and I surprised myself by how enthusiastically my body responded to the call. Like a horse fresh out of the gates, I galloped full stride into the blazing long days of fasting, somehow procuring during my first week alone at least 4 new recipes for dinner meals. Let us not discuss how the subsequent three weeks unfolded, with root canals and illnesses. But that first week was glorious! (and the last week, pretty good too.) For the unfamiliar, breaking fast during Ramadan consists of iftar, followed by the evening prayer, and then dinner. Traditional iftars vary from culture to culture, but are usually filled with much fanfare. I tried to change that for the husband and myself this year, especially since the fasting was so long (15+ hours) and the feasting so short. So we usually broke fast with a few dates and water (or Rooh Afza, a rose-water syrup which is sublime when mixed with water and a generous squeeze of lime). Dinner as such became the exciting mealtime (which typically included some fruit chaat because how can I deny myself the quintessential dish of my Ramadan experience). Continue reading

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LiterEature 101: The Scorpions of Zahir

coverThis particular book has been on my agenda for months. I’ve read tons of books in the past few months, but I desired to craft this one into something tasty simply because it takes place in Morocco. Hence a chance to delve into Moroccan flavors! Something new for everyone. And yet, upon completing The Scorpions of Zahir by Christine Brodien-Jones, I had a deflated sense of excitement. I couldn’t quite pin it down; certainly there was mention of the aromatic marketplaces, and phyllo-wrapped chicken with almonds and spicy roasted plums. But, the title should indicate there were some unpleasantries as well. Like a plethora of scorpions. And an abandoned soul in the desert feasting on fried purple locusts. *sigh* Nevertheless,I fought against the insects to bring you this new post. Please enjoy. With a side of spotted lizard if you desire (I assure you, I do not). (FYI scroll to the bottom if you just want the recipes) Continue reading

Sweet Habanero Tofu Salad

The journey begins. She rolls forward without hesitation, a new experience lying in wait, a prowling tiger ready to pounce and capture her in the thrilling jaws of the new, the unknown. Daunting though it is, there’s definitely excitement and joy in setting up a new home in a new locality with new resources and a new pursuit. But then the cavalry arrives, charging past like a drove of raving dogs. If she looks hard enough she can see the saliva dripping from the growls of each unnecessarily raging engine. Sigh. Perhaps this is a generalization (a very loose one) but the typical San Diego driver is INSANE. These astounding people blow the speed limit out of the galaxy everywhere I go, and then come to screeching halts at the very obviously looming red lights beyond. Maybe I just like to save my gas, my sanity, my life, but I can’t understand why everyone has to fly on wheels, especially when the roads are splattered with cracks, potholes, unevenness, and just about every bane of your tires’ existence. Why torture your car? Why? tell me. Why, why do it?

Ok my rant of the day is done, I can move on now having relieved my mind of that. I’m sure there are San Diegans who will revolt to this assessment but I speak with my eyes and my nerves. I know you aren’t all bad, just … a lot of you. But I’m done.

As you can see, I’ve set up the home base now, and am actually acclimating myself to the experience of graduate school at this moment (meaning I’m sitting outside with my laptop counting down the minutes until my next class commences while looking ruefully at my Literary Theory text and worrying about when I have to decide between writing a thesis or developing a portfolio). It’s only the first day! Yikes!

So instead, I return to my beloved baby, my comfort, my responsibility and my joy and am writing up this blog post for you all. It’s been a bit of a culture shock moving here, I won’t lie, and if it weren’t for the awesome program and all its promises, and the cool breeze that juuuust hit me as a blessing amidst the sun-spitting heat, I’d high-tail it back to MD, back into my uber-sheltered cocoon. But life is unfolding in an exquisite array of colors, the myriad of which I will enjoy witnessing. And despite feeling a bit out of place and more than a little overwhelmed, the husband and I are carving out the paths (least-trafficky ones at that) which lead to good living and of course good food. Case in point, organic markets and farmers markets abound here. In fact, if I wanted to drive, I could come across at least four farmers markets every day within a 30 minute radius of my home. Naturally I’ll stick to the one closest to home but the existence of such possibilities warms me. So for the first week I scoured food sources ad nauseum, and came across gorgeous produce like the largest and softest okra I had ever seen as well as the silkiest super firm tofu my eyes and mouth ever tasted. Not to mention the freshly ground and richly aromatic spices at my fingertips. And the SPICIEST jam ever. Good stuff. I’m happy. Continue reading

Thai Basil Turkey Kabobs

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Technology, she laughs at me.  In spite of the heavy week I have had, and the ridiculous struggle between  stomach bugs and long fasts, this tempestuous maiden of the modern world prefers to kick me where it hurts and completely erase an entire draft of this post, nearly finished but evidently not backed up.  Alas. I had this brilliant post marveling in the magnificence of human athleticism that is the Olympics, leading to the trials of fasting through Olympics, and if you can believe it I had some kind of delicate turn oh phrase that led quite seamlessly to these kabobs.
Humph.  You don’t get to read that now. But that’s okay, what does it compare to the mind-blowing skills of the amazing US women’s 4×200 m Medley.  Olympic records being broken left and right.  Wow!  I guess you could say my personal Olympic challenge would be in the realm of cooking–that is, trying to make the tastiest kabob out of the medley of ingredients found in my sister-in-law’s kitchen with nary a taste to guide me! (Not quite as seamless, but good enough) Continue reading

Fennel Spiced Daal and Brussel Sprouts

The perils of fasting: exhaustion, wonky sleep schedules, possible indigestion from eating so early and so late, abnormally delusional behavior at work, Charlie horses, massive stomach aches and unseemly consequences that render one unable to fast for a day or two…

Oh, those last two aren’t very common, at least not to the level of severity that keeps one from completing her fasts. Ohh but life ain’t a bike ride through the park. More like a merry go round, without the merry and more of an abundance of ups and downs to make your inner self disoriented at best, nauseated at worst. My inner self let my outer self feel that too closely today, which is why I stayed home to weather the after effects. Finding time to rejuvenate my strength, replenish my stomach’s acceptance of food, and banish the pain from a stupid charlie horse (or muscle spasm in the calf for the unawares) that had to hit at the same time. Continue reading

Ginger Soy Sunrise Salad

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Greetings and the best wishes for a fruitful and blessed Ramadan to you all!  So begins the holy month of Islam, whereupon lengthy days of fasting (yes that does mean no water either) are coupled with nights of prayer, gratitude and reflection (and some eating as well). At first glance you might say this comes at the most inopportune of moments, while I am in the midst of transporting my self and my worldly belongings to the opposite coast, a time that would by general consensus require a great deal of energy. Oh but how can we find energy when we can’t have a morsel of sustenance throughout the day?? As exhausting as it is (and as grumpy, curmudgeonly, demonesque, slightly irritable as I get), this is the time for utmost reflection and strenghtening of what lies within, and that type of strength far outreaches the mere physical variety (well, it should, at least). In other words, I’m hoping to be blessed with more peace of mind and a heart full of gratitude and calmness, the better to attend to the next few weeks of encroaching madness. In the process I also hope to extend that level of gratitude in sharing with those less fortunate. What better place than a food blog then to share the hopefully eventual food-giving exploits of charitability?  I do hope I have the chance to write up on something of that nature when the time comes.

But I digress. We begin Ramadan, so I begin with a recent salad the husband dubbed something along the lines of Ginger Soy Sunrise Salad (Unfortunately the full cheesy title escapes me now, but you catch the drift).  Because we get up to eat before the sun rises, this thematically falls in line with that. However if you’re to enjoy it in the evening, you might choose to dub it a Sunset salad, since that’s when the breaking of the fast commences. No matter the title, the salad is refreshing and sharp with just the right crunch and kick of spice. And it truly is a wake up call for your energy, with the hint of ginger and the morning-esque value of boiled eggs.  Plus, sunflower seeds just kind of fit the title all the more. I’ve made it a few times since, each with variations which I will include below.  And so, Ramadan Mubarak and consider this salad for a protein rich but light dinner piece. 20120716-211331.jpg

Continue reading

Zucchini Tofu Wraps

It lies in wait. The hunger, the ferocity.  Burrowing further into my core, sinking but a flashing beacon, only growing, only stronger, the longer it must abide the passage of time.

Thaaaaaat’s how I feel.  The hunger to create. To write. To read. To share.  Pulsating, chiming stringent chords, repeated reminders that the best is yet to come. Yet to come. Yet to come…

I went to California this weekend, and my reasons were three fold.  First, tremendous huzzahs to my dear friend Waheeda and her newly wedded bliss! Second, how does one venture to the motherland without visiting… her mother… and the rest of the family? if only for a day.  Three, to acquaint myself with the general hubbub, surroundings, goings on and climate (both physical and theoretical) of the San Diego region, a locality only once ever equated with “Sea World” and “Wild Animal Park” and even “Raving Seals ans the loonies who swim with them in La Jolla”.  Whilst these are brilliant facets which make the soul of SD glow like a Columbian summer firefly, I need to delve further because I can’t really live with animals. Continue reading