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

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

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

Thai Basil Turkey Kabobs

20120729-230608.jpg

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

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

Sundried Tomato Hummus

The mission: empty out the pantry.  The challenge: don’t buy anything else to fuel the possible recipes gallivanting through your head. The struggle: but what the hecks do I do with cream of wheat, curry leaves, and light brown sugar? (answer: nothing… yet).

While certain combinations won’t see the light of existence, some other medleys worked out far better. Although every minute that I spend inside my apartment is overlaid with the mantra, I need to pack I need to pack I MUST NEEDS PACK, I find myself cooking instead.  Call it stress relief. Or denial.  Whatever. I need to get rid of my groceries too, okay? (technically it’s not that big of a deal, as we are moving into his sister’s place close by first, and then the ALL IMPORTANT MYSTERIOUS SHIFT SHALL OCCUR IN THE MIDST OF RAMADAN AND FASTING. Nevertheless, would rather clear it all out now.) Continue reading

Thai Basil Eggplant

Guys! I’m stressed! I have been secretly munching on chocolate all week at work, thanks to the stash displayed on my coworker’s desk. It’s true magic how my hand can reach 3 desks away and come back with limitless sugar and consequential sugar crashes all under a cloak of invisibility. Oh, and the magic happens a lot more when barbaric tons of stress weigh down my mind. Should I feel special? Or just disgusted with my lack of self control?

The fact is we are moving. And BOY what an eventful move it is going to be, considering we don’t actually have a home lined up yet. Heck, not even a clue what area we should move to. Yup, we like to do things backwards out in these parts. In my experience that’s where adventure, excitement, and overwhelming bouts of anxiety can sneak up behind you and knock your knucklebrain around until the fuzzy yellow birdies come dancing gleefully in your vision. Fun for everyone!

In all seriousness, we are cutting out of the apartment a bit early and staying with my sister-in-law for a few weeks. I’m telling you this now because: a) I AM OVERWHELMED and it is likely to come out in my posts, and b) the posts themselves may become few and far between for a tiny portion of the great expanse of time that encompasses the universe’s existence (that’s my way of saying a few weeks isn’t that long, right?). Fortunately, Beena has a brightly-lit, cheerful and spacious kitchen, so hopefully I can settle in there comfortably enough.  I’m not keen on being out of my own space so grant me my adjustment period please. Continue reading