Malabar Shrimp Curry (and hello again!)

Malabar Shrimp This might be an exercise in futility but here I am trying to start a new run at the food blog o’ mine. I have another blog in the works sort of, but that’s still in development and won’t be food-focused, so it would sure be nice to keep this one going, especially since I feel my technique and flavor palate has grown. This is due in large part to some appetizing projects the husband and I are embarking on; I’ll be excited to share those projects with you once they are blossom to a stage that is worth revealing to the world (or the tiny web of the wide world that still looks at this measly blog). At any rate, I can’t seem to escape food—cooking, writing, or even researching it.

So let’s give it a go, shall we? Back to the blog! Continue reading

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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

Summer Dragon Spritzer

watermelon summer dragonSummer snuck in quietly, carrying a battering ram. Within moments we were slammed by sudden warring heat. Then in all its capriciousness, Summer ebbed out and let the lingering clouds grant us reprieve. I’m no stranger to California weather though. I know the blanket will descend and try to smother us with heat once more. All too normal this cycle is, up and down, though it really shouldn’t be. Nevertheless, in those dried out sweltering days, nothing soothes me more than a cool room (or a great fan), a book (or 5 million), and a slushy delicious drink.

Okay scratch that, a pool is welcome too – currently thanking my lucky stars that I’ve become well acquainted with our complex’s pool.

But that swirly refreshing drink! Something that throbs the beat of summer: cool, relaxed, with a zing factor. We all need one I think, but I wouldn’t have discovered what is now my token drink of the summer without the enlightenment of my old roommate who visited me a few weeks ago. So thank you, LD, for opening my eyes to the Summer Dragon Spritzer. Not so many thanks though for introducing me to a most egregious song of the summer (in my opinion). I won’t name it, but let it be said that all my lines are in full focus. Especially with my new glasses! Hah.

trifecta of dragonssummer dragon spritzer

Anyway… It being summer, one would think I’d have more time to myself to read, and… well read. There are a thousand books and articles on my To-Do list—some for fun, some for research, and more for fun research. I also have plans to redesign this website, to actually contribute to it once more, to redefine who I am as a writing human being. Yet, it took all my mental power to drag myself out of the oblivion of “Unjournaling” just to work on this. More than a month of so-called “summer time” has flown by and all I have to show for it is a new children’s literature journal that has been the most rewarding headache of the year and a few books under my belt. Not to mention that Ramadan is less than a week away—a soul-refreshing, revitalizing, but (GAH!) oh so challenging time of the year. If I can establish a strong working routine I won’t lose too much concentration during the month, but still, it will be a struggle to get through all the tasks I set forth. As it must be for everyone. I welcome advice and encouraging thoughts on how to stay focused on so much reading while fasting…

So, it’s a feat that I have managed some free reading for myself. A lot has been MG and YA literature, which I find both a reprieve from the heaviness of life and a much more rewarding experience many times around. There’s a sense of inventiveness and challenge to status quo that opens up so authentically in some texts that I cherish and appreciate. So, at the behest of the lit agent I was interning for, I delved into Newbery Award winning The Higher Power of Lucky and its sequel, Lucky Breaks, by Susan Patron. I immediately felt a kinship with the young girl protagonist for her inquisitive, reflective, adventure-happy character, and felt a new awareness of life in California, because this is probably the first book I’ve read set in the CA desert (in Hard Pan, population 43). If not the first, then certainly the first through the lens of an impulsive and brave, kind and vulnerable child. The love of her terrain, its existence outside of Los Angeles but within its touch and grasp, is a great reminder that the spaces we inhabit are not static and merely historical, but an intertwining of stories that affect and shape our society as much as we choose to believe we shape the land.

Photo Jun 16, 11 05 54 AMRight. The point is not to share with you my ruminations of the desert qualities on Lucky Trimble and her tiny eclectic town (suddenly “heterotopia” comes to mind—thank you, Foucault), but instead tie it to my new summer drink. In the second book, Lucky’s adoptive mother, Brigitte, has started a weekend cafe in the “courtyard” of their three-trailer home. Brigitte, a connoisseur of French cuisine and other tastes that sit loftily above the desert-preference of chili and a simple burger, could very easily serve my fruity drink. At least symbolically, it melds into these novels with sultry ease. Despite the simplicity of the ingredients, it is textured and layered, sweet and spicy in a way that reflects Lucky’s character. Whether deciding to run away rather than face the consequence of her guardian leaving her for France, or tampering with her best friend’s knot tying project to keep him from winning an award to travel to England for two months, Lucky’s caring and thoughtful nature is constantly battling with her impulsive fiery, and shortsighted mind. Sounds simple enough but Patron’s writing makes you ache like she does, makes you angry with Lucky but feel so compassionately for her too. Because we have all been there. And we have all needed a watermelon to wash away our summer doldrums.

I’m rambling. But I do think this is the perfect thirst quencher for Brigitte’s Hard Pan Cafe, and I hope that if ever there were a 4th or 5th book, Patron would consider including the Summer Dragon Spritzer. It’s that awesome.

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup of jalapeño-&-orange infused simple syrup:
    • 1 cup water
    • 1 cup sugar
    • 1 jalapeño diced
    • zest of one orange Boil, cover, simmer, let cool.
  • 5-6 cups chopped watermelon
  • 1 cup peach lemonade (or any lemonade, I like Santa Cruz Farm’s Peach version)
  • 1 fresh jalapeño, sliced in circles (seeded or not)
  • Sparkling water
  • 1 lime (or leave out if you use lime-infused sparkling water)
  • “Orange” ice for a touch of pizzazz (details below)

To make a simple syrup, you just need equal parts of water and sugar, brought to a boil and then simmered until ever-so-slightly thickened and silky smooth. In this case, once the sugar/water begins to boil, add the diced jalapeño        and orange zest. Once it looks smooth and delicious, remove from heat. You can then either strain it or, if you’re me, leave the tidbit-goodies in for a bit of soft crunch and texture in your drink. Either way is cool.orange and jalapeñoorange ice

In a large blender, add the chopped watermelon. You might have to add it in parts, depending on your blender’s capacity, but eventually you’ll have a frothy watermelon puree. You could just stop here and it would be delicious cold, but where’s the fun in that?

Add the peach lemonade and about 1/3 cup of the syrup. You can add more for taste, but best to start off slowly. Blend and adjust the syrup as desired. It should be adding a touch of spice to the otherwise sweet drink. I felt that it wasn’t noticeable enough, but I didn’t want to add even more sugar, so that’s where the sliced jalapeño comes in. I added the slices and let it rest for a while. The longer Photo Jun 15, 5 37 24 PMyou let the jalapeños soak, the stronger that zing will be. It’s just fabulous!

When ready to serve, fill about 2/3 of the glass with the watermelon mix, then top off with sparkling water and a fresh squeeze of lime. Garnish with a sprig of mint and drop in a cube or two of frozen orange ice. We’ve been in a fruity-ice fix lately, and have been adding tiny wedges of lime, orange, strawberries, pineapple, etc to ice cube trays to freeze. It is soooo much better to drink a cold glass of water with this hint of fruit than to buy those flavored water drinks (which I’ve never done, but I can’t imagine they are good, or good for you in the long run).

Anyway, if you want an extra touch of subtle orange, go for it. Either way, get ready for a slushy, textured, sweet and spicy summer Dragon spritzer, ready to send flames through your tastebuds, softened with the delicate flavor of watermelon.Photo Jun 15, 9 37 34 PM

Cardamom Orange Yogurt Cake

Cardamom Yogurt Orange small cakeI promised to post this recipe eons ago (if you follow me on Facebook) and  I’m only now getting around to it. I think we have moved beyond the stage of apology at this point. One can only do as much as she can with the cards dealt to her, and mine include classes, research, interning, feeding the husband (hehe) and a growing number of extracurriculars as well. This is not to say I lay my excuses humbly at your feet, or my life has become monumentally more important than my blog. Nay, I cannot emphasize the degree to which I miss this blasted nook in my life, where I might seek escape and comfort amidst piles of books and heaps of spices.  I think grandly day and night about the possibilities that reside in this modest corner of the internet. Not even a corner, more like a floor pillow, or a footstool. A step to lead thoughts and tastes into hard-to-reach places.

Continue reading

Blueberry Spinach and Chocolate Cake… What?

What with books upon books upon articles upon blogging upon events upon books upon trying to drum up the courage to speak up more in class, it’s no wonder I’m under a wee bit o’ stress. Also hasn’t helped that the husband has been away but he shall return in the offing, so at least that bit is solved. Now, what to do with all the other stress… I know! Sweets! Sweets and cakes and cookies and fruits and ice cream and brownies galore! Well, it surely hasn’t been a dining extravaganza the likes of Willy Wonka around here, but I have had my fair share of comfort food in the guise of delectable goodies. But since my regular running regimen isn’t quite up to snuff yet (ok regular has become thrice weekly? That’s improvement from nil eh?), I figured I ought at least try to make something semi decent without a thousand pounds of sugar and other monstrosities for my health.

And so… I googled. Naturally. And sure enough came across a recipe that was easy (and easily adaptable) and which I already had all the ingredients. Don’t be alarmed by the … well, the blues and greens. Trust me, this cake is all chocolate by the end of it. If you like richer or sweeter cakes, you might not go for this. But it turned out perfect for me, fluffy but with the right amount of density to lend a rich factor, not overly sweet but that can be adjusted to your liking. And best of all, not a scant hint of spinach whatsoever. I might try just a berry mixture or something next time, just for kicks. But for now, if you or someone you love won’t eat his or her veggies, you might as well try this. No harm. And Really, it soothed my soul. Continue reading

Jamaican Stir Fried Eggplant

Oh my friends. Where do we begin? I promised myself I would get this out to you within the next hour so I could return to that most beloved of acts, reading. But the word and all its magic has taken quite the toll on me this past week, as I have never been so overwhelmed with such a deluge in recent years! the short of it: grad school is demanding! It dares to challenge my love affair with words (second only to that for my husband though it does fluctuate spots with food. Words or food? Food or words? I love them equally!). Of course, I am thoroughly enjoying myself, but at the same time I have never imbibed so much theoretical text coupled with philosophical writing along with a Thomas Hardy novel in so short a period of time! My brain, she hurts a wee bit.

So I purposely set myself to write this up for you, because my lovely little eggplant dish which I may have raved about at an earlier time has been pouting at me with forlorn eyes, wishing to be shared, desperate for worldwide web attention. I do have a Litereature post brewing in the works (Oh if I had a cauldron! I could actually brew something! Halloween approacheth, and there are plenty of awesome witchy stories…. alas, another lifetime perhaps. Unless you want to buy me a cauldron?). It helps that I am now working, at least for the semester, within the Center for the Study of Children’s Literature at school, and will be limitlessly exposed to all sorts of kids/Young Adult books! I dream of all the food/book connections I could come up with… 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