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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2012 Wrap Up (and yes, I’m Still Here)

Oh my! How many months have gone by! Ay, I really did begin a few posts in October… and November… but fine, perhaps not in December. I just suppose my follow-through hinges were a tad rusty (*sigh* my old tennis coaches would be ashamed to hear that). I also had a bit of a balancing act to contend with. Oh but guess who survived her first semester of graduate school?? Sweet bubbly goblets of Martinelli’s! Oh wait, that’s my new year’s treat. Still, I did manage to trespass into the academic world once more and not only emerge unscathed, but with a banner of flying colors undulating behind me. Another time I’ll share details about some of my most interesting projects, but for now let’s just raise our voices in a collective “Huzzah!” that 2012 culminated in good vibes, despite all the heaviness of personal and national calamities that may and have befallen many. A new year emerges, not that I really buy into the “new year” mantra of resolutions and whatnot. I don’t deny that it’s an astronomical miracle of science to behold the world completing another revolution around the Sun, but… well, if it lends a sense of motivation and control over the limitless track of time and circularity for the greater population, then so be it. How about we all endeavor to make 2013 a wee bit more consistent in all our pursuits then? I for one have epic visions of “litereature” posts galore (since I basically read nonstop now, much to my glorious delight). Let’s see if I can maintain an evenly scheduled serving of these posts for you in general, sprinkled with recipes, stories, and reviews.

Now that 2013 is well upon us, I do want to move forward afresh and new, focusing on upcoming recipes and exploits, but I would also like to recap the last few months with a sampling of the goings on down here in San Diego. Admittedly I fell off the virtual map because of academic commitments and personal events that elicited monumental distraction and required a steely grasp on focus–occasionally the hand does slip from sweaty beads of nerves and anxiety, but so it goes. Amidst all that, I did remind myself to cook well, eat well, and try to live well. I wonder why that has to be such a struggle; for something that brings so much harmony, it is painfully difficult to maintain isn’t it?? Don’t digress, Alya! The point is, I did some fun little concoctions, culminating in a swirly cake of fruitastic proportions. So for now, let me hearken back to those simpler times, when the raw pulse of 2013 did not beat upon my weathered head with demands for more work, more stress, more pursuits, more projects, and hopefully more accomplishments! 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

Tamarind and Garlic Eggplant Fry

This week was not the most delightful as the kitchen arena was rendered out of commission for nearly the entire length of time. As a result of some stupid pest issues, eating healthy became a trying task as we were forced to eat out while trying not to eat expensively all the time. Food is one of those most beloved subjects that nigh on always has a carte blanche; frugality does not trump healthy and fresh nine times out of ten… unless you are really really reaaaaaaaaally trying to keep all spending down.  No we are not exorbitant spenders. Yes we have very legitimate reasons to want to save some moolah. No I will not be discussing that at the moment. All in good time—trust me, good times are just around the corner—but for now, let’s just leave it at my growing irritation of mounting receipts spent on dining out.

But huzzah! Summon the trumpets and adorn the skies with confetti! We can use our wonderful tiny kitchen once more! And to inaugurate that blissful fact, Mr. G himself decided to cook me up a special treat, incorporating three of my supremely favorite ingredients: Tamarind, Garlic, and Eggplant. Continue reading

French Onion Eggplant

Does this happen to you? Do you stare into the fridge thinking you’ll make some simply fun dish—Spanish rice maybe, or shrimp curry, maybe a sweet and spicy dressing for salad even—only to discover one key ingredient is missing? Just one! Not even two or three, but the one single item that means everything. You figure, Ok fine! I’ll just run to the store get that single item (and maybe a few other things, since of course I’m making the trip). And just as it happened before and will happen for the rest of time, you walk into the market with 4 things in mind and walk out with 40. There must be some law of physics for this type of phenomenon. You may happily name it after me, if you so choose, as I’ve lived it for years now.

I’m trying to rein in my spending habits, though I’m no frenzied shopper to be sure. I don’t care about shoes, I don’t get carried away with clothes, I have a decent amount of self discipline with accessories. I’m working on the books addiction I have, but aside from that I’m a good girl. Except for food. New spices, fresh veggies, yummy breads breads breads galore! I love food! But like I said, trying to quell the spending. We needs to be savin’ some money yo, we gots plans, big plans! If such plans come to fruition, then you get to hear about it. For now, we continue to dream our illustrious dreams (I mean, this is Coriander Dreams, so that’s fitting). Continue reading

If Bangkok lived in the suburbs…

… it would probably cry itself to sleep with this as its last meal. Don’t be fooled—the amalgamation of flavors are quite honestly delicious, and I would make this multiple times, especially considering the speed with which it is concocted. That said, I can barely even whisper the connection between this would be-faux-heretical-absurd rendition of pad thai. Hardly even a reimagining, if you will. Nay, I honestly can only call it the pseudo-pad thai of the suburbs.

And why do I say this? Because we are missing: fish sauce, palm sugar, scallions, flat rice noodles (ugh! I’m ashamed to even be sharing this!), to name the key ingredients at least. Nevertheless, I had been craving craving craaaaaaving thai food for ages, but we are on a staunch mission to only eat out once a week as a means of 1) keeping to a stricter healthy regimen and 2) to stimulate smarter economical habits so that I may spend more frivolously should I actually obtain my travel visa in time to visit India with the husband in March. While that is as yet unconfirmed, alas, it doesn’t mean I can’t try to be more wary of spending habits. And thus, the suburban pad thai was born from my kitchen.

But these experiences always remind me that while authentic cuisine is vital to understanding and respecting a culture, playing hickety-spicket with the ingredients is the breeding ground for such classic genres as “Asian fusion,” “Indo-chinese” and “Whatchamacallit” (a personal favorite and frequent guest of our abode).

In truth, I just winged this out of the left side of heaven, and thankfully was blessed with a lovely dinner dish. Continue reading

Mushroom Tibs

Pardon me while I gloss over what is considered the biggest meal in American culture to focus on… fungus. Oh sure, said like that one might cry rivers of misery at the thought of eating mushrooms (but in a psychedelic twist, you might consider swimming down that river in a rainbow colored wetsuit—that is, if you were delving into those mushrooms, which I do not advocate). But in recent times I have turned to the remarkable assortment of questionable vegetation to get my husband to eat something that isn’t rice.

I certainly am not knocking the grand tradition that is our Thanksgiving Rituals (distrustful as I am about the origins of such appreciative holidays). I could eat sage-onion stuffing (recipe courtesy of my friend Z) for eons, and never let us forget the accolades I bestow on the greatest gourd of all, the pumpkin! And let it be known, I did confront and beat into submission a Thanksgiving dinner fit for 6 hungry palates (Alya cooked a turkey ALL-BY-HER-SELF… her FIRST-TURKEY-EVER, mind you! Nerves were scattered like spilt salt by the end of it all). But that will have to wait until another post, another time, hopefully in the month of December because I know I have been egregiously lagging with my posts.

And that is another Reason why I share with you my mushroom exploits—I have reverted to them multiple times in the past few weeks, it felt wrong not to share. It all began with a country called Ethiopia… and the fabulous culinary establishments in DC whose purpose is to bring this great cuisine to my salivating tongue all the curious society.

On our anniversary weekend we made n excursion to an Ethiopian restaurant, and during that experience fell absolutely in love with the divine gift that is Mushroom tibs. Naturally, once I returned home I had to do some research on it, and while I am sorely lacking in the department of traditional Ethiopian spices, I did find a recipe that called for a fair substitution/alteration of flavor, coming remarkably close to the glory of the sautéed delicacy. And so the Mushroom has become a fairly regular guest at our dinner table—which is no problem for me since he’s such a fun guy (Ohhh insert catcalls for lame jokes here). Continue reading