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

Plum Vinaigrette and Summer Salad in tow

Between the husband and I, salads have become a much more frequent main dish of the dinner (and/or lunch) time. I have to give the boy some props for being open to trying new flavors and realizing the salad is so much more than just some lettuce tomato and cucumber tossed in lemon and olive oil. There aint nothin’ wrong with that, but… it’s boring. Thankfully he married a culinarily curious food lover who likes to try and learn new techniques, resulting in such beauties as the orange vinaigrette and soy ginger and chili lime dressings. We have discovered that he prefers the tangy and spicy versions more than the fruity but as I am the predominant cook I get to decide. And lately what I wanted was something that spoke of summer, of sun, of the fruits of the season.

As it happens, I have seen plums everywhere and naturally surmised the most obvious and pleasant route would be to endeavor a taste of the plum vinaigrette. I’d never tried anything like this, and while it wasn’t heard, it certainly took more labor than my dressings usually require, but I daresay for the eyes alone it was worth it. The colors I was left with took my breath away. I’m only disheartened I had to leave this beautiful concoction in Maryland when I moved this week. Did that come as a surprise? Yes I am currently in CA now, temporarily with la familia before I settle down in San Diego. It is with a heavy heart that I must bid adieu to all the great food and great people I encountered, along with the lush majesty of trees galore, but new adventures await! One cannot sit idly by and moan about the past whilst the present offers a smorgasbord of delights.

Anyway, here I am now reminiscing about the bright, sweet, and rich homemade vinaigrette which really was worth the effort! I am ready to explore with other fruits soon, now that the basic technique has revealed itself to me with delightful clarity. I implore you to do the same, lest the fruits of summer pass you by with nary a glance from your direction. What better than an ideal summer salad to live through this horridly hot days? 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

Crisp Cranberry Orange Marriage

Salad all mixed upNewsflash!  One unexpected Saturday afternoon recently, my husband came home from the gym, headed directly to the kitchen and served himself lunch.  Not a shock of course, food is his first second and third love (along with music and, I guess, me). And naturally he went straight for the chicken biryani I had made, but when I looked up to check on him, there was something green and leafy on his plate as well.  Could it be? The husband willingly chose, on his own volition, at no one’s request but his own hankering, to eat salad???

You must understand that this is a man who claims to be vegetarian at heart but only eats maybe five veggies at all with any gusto.  A man who cringes whenever I mention the S-word at a restaurant.  This same man sat there munching, happily proclaiming for all to hear (and by all, I mean me) that this was his favorite salad ever.  He not merely endured it, but relished the crisp sweet pleasure that I had concocted with fruitful flare!  Oh perhaps I exaggerate slightly but his proclamation was completely true.

I originally made this salad for Thanksgiving dinner, whereby all my friendly guests fell enamored with the simply powerful dressing that brought an exhilaration that greenery had never held in their lives.  Hyperbole?  I concede it.  But then I’ve also never seen my friend Tehniat drool over salad either, so you be the judge.  During that evening, the husband was prompted to give a name to this salad, and so that is what I present to thee: the Crisp Cranberry Orange Marriage. Continue reading

A Tale of Two Dressings

Why haven’t I been eating more salad at home? I wondered this for a while as I deliberated one day about what I could eat that would leave me feeling fresh and robust without weighed down.  Naturally I would veer towards a salad or veggie medley of some kind, and yet I stared longingly at my refrigerator and whimpered at the blatant lack of greenery, as if peering into an icy industrial factory town without a rolling green hill in sight!

That was immediately rectified by the welcoming of some heads of lettuce, hearts of romaine, and little spinach babies—I became a veritable Dr. Frankenstein of the Salads.  No green leaf is safe from my conniving palette!

However, something was now missing… Ah yes, my monstrously verdant creations were lacking clothes! So with a bit of thought and adventure, I stitched up some dressings for my salads, so they wouldn’t feel the bare cold before they befell their fate within my tickled-pink tummy.  Most of the time a simple olive oil-lemon combo is all one needs, with a dash of salt and pepper, but let’s face it, that gets boring.  So here I’m just sharing two of my quick fixes for a light pizzazz for salad (as I write this I’m already planning something else for tonight, a zesty spicy tang, but that’s for another post). Continue reading

Beyond the Blog: February 2011

Because I haven’t had time (or the longevity of a properly functioning memory) to write up posts for every single dish I have made, or at least the ones I photographed, I thought I might make a habit of sharing, every month, the missed opportunities that befell the four prior weeks.  In doing so, I get to share some of my other exploits with you simply for the joy of loving food.  And perhaps you may find inspiration in my simple endeavors.  Feel free to ask for recipes on any of them; I may or may not remember exactly, but I can share broadly my experiences at the very least.  And at the very most, you might hit the jackpot on a stellar super feasting idea.  Probably not though, I wouldn’t get my hopes up.

Soooooo… off we go into the Smoky tendrils of Alya’s kitchen…. Continue reading

Mandarin Chicken Salad

Comfort meals and warm, decadent dishes are a boon for these chilly days and wintry evenings.  And for someone who has lived only in California up to this point, it has been sinfully easy to fall into that track.  Who would refuse the seduction of so many comforting treats: the cakes, hot chocolate, biryani, pastas, and all else.  And yet, the healthnut in me screams for my West Coast lifestyle, the minimalization of carbohydrates, the salads, more natural sweets of fruits as opposed to cake, cake, and more cake!!

Not to mention I am on a mission to wean the husband off of his dependence on rice.  As such, imagine my disappointment when I realized I just kept making rice-supplemented dishes, not to mention full-fledged biryani, without any regard for what I promised my husband or myself.  And so I felt compelled to whip up a salad last week.  Nothing fancy, mind you, but it warrants sharing the amazing proclamation G bestowed upon me: that this was the first time he ever truly relished eating a salad. Ever.

I’m sure there was a slight touch of hyperbole to that, but it warmed my heart more than a huge slice of French apple pie could do.  So much so I could feel the calories melt off from the glow. Continue reading