Category Archives: dinner

Giving Thanks for Thanksgiving Day!

November 2020

My first Thanksgiving meal was more than 38 years ago with extended family in the Bay Area. It was a magical day filled with foods I’d never tasted before. There was wild rice (not really rice!), stuffing made with bread, mounds of mashed potatoes (different from south Indian masala potatoes), savory vegetarian gravy, baked squash with a sprinkle of cinnamon, fresh rolls, green leafy vegetables with cream sauce  and loads of desserts, including pumpkin pie made by the kids in our family. It was a day filled with easy camaraderie, stories and affection.

I loved this new holiday so much that when we got married a few years later, it seemed natural to continue the celebration. The day was a perfect combination of good food, family and gratitude.

Now I was brought up on ritual and decorum. Feasts in India are based on centuries-old beliefs. You always served tangy Aviyal stew for an Onam feast or sweet and savory rice balls were mandatory on Ganesha Chaturthi.

But there was no south Indian game plan for celebrating Thanksgiving and my husband’s childhood traditions didn’t quite fit our vegetarian lifestyle.

Over the years I have cooked all kinds of food for Thanksgiving. One meal was all Indian with masala dosas, Indian flat breads and vegetable stews. Another time, it was a huge lasagna with homemade noodles and sauce.

It took time to find that perfect meal to reflect my cooking and our own rituals. My mother-in-law shared her creamed onion recipe (years later it would be modified to include a light herbaceous béchamel sauce and roasted pearl onions). I remembered mashed potatoes from my first Thanksgiving feast. I experimented with adding roasted garlic, cauliflower and even malt vinegar for that salt and vinegar flavor. I tweaked gravy recipes until I found a hearty caramelized onion gravy we all liked.

Wild rice was mandatory and included chunks of succulent roasted squash and toasted nuts.

Herb-flecked asparagus timbales with béchamel sauce and parmesan-spiked bread crumbs became a family favorite, even a son who disliked asparagus managed to eat a timbale or two.

We had to have cranberry sauce. My friend Sandra had the perfect recipe which included fresh cranberries, a whole orange and plenty of finely chopped toasted walnuts.

For dessert, along with traditional pumpkin pie, we added different baked goods such as black forest cake, apple pie, cherry pie or chocolate pecan pie with a touch of bourbon.

A funny thing happened over the years, my boys and husband loved all the foods but we discovered we liked being together even more. We found that gratitude and giving thanks was almost as satisfying as the savory appetizer or slice of tart cherry pie with vanilla ice cream.

This year we are counting our blessings over spinach crepes with roasted red pepper sauce, roasted cabbage with walnuts and lemon and wild rice with pomegranates and pistachios.

The meal will be simple and a little untraditional but the sentiment behind it will be the same.

Here’s to next year when we’ll be back to eating all the foods we love with family we cherish.

Giving thanks never goes out of style.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Filed under Celebrations, cooking, Delicious desserts, dinner, harvest, Uncategorized

Recipe? What recipe?

March 2017

Cups, teaspoons and tablespoons are the bane of my life.   Who needs measurements anyway? As I try to write down exact measurements and directions for my recipes, I find I don’t like it one bit. For this I blame my mother.  Every little cook learns by observing. It seemed to me that my mother would throw random spices in random amounts into a pot to create a tasty dish. Her recipes for family favorites were safely tucked away in her head. Nothing was ever recorded or written down.  Cooking was an art form for my mother but that doesn’t help me now as I try to re-create childhood favorites. I have to rely on my memory and my palate.

So what would have happened if I had insisted that my mother share a recipe? I imagined her poetic and cryptic answer to my question.

What Recipe?

Where is the recipe, I ask my mother

What recipe, she replies?

Just take a small onion

A pinch of hing

A hint of turmeric

A splash of golden ghee

Some diced onion and mustard seeds

A few okra

A couple of tomatoes

A handful of shredded coconut

Just a little coriander powder

A bit of cooked lentils

Two fiery peppers

Salt, pepper and tamarind

Mix, cook, and serve

The tangy smoky sauce perfect with steaming rice

How did she do it?

Give me a recipe, I plead.

What recipe, she asks?

Just add a handful…

You get the idea.

THE END

 

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Filed under cooking, dinner, food poems, Indian food, meatless, mother's kitchen, my mother's kitche, Nilgiris, Personal experience, poetry, recipes, South India, Uncategorized, vegetables

This Kitchen Does Not Discriminate

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Meatless Meal in Minutes

January 2017

Welcome to a new year!

Our household is a melting pot, a microcosm of America. Here East meets West in harmony (mostly).

This fusion and mingling of cultures is most evident in my cooking. My kitchen does not discriminate. Mustard seeds co-mingle with Italian pasta. Monterey Jack Cheese melts in homemade Indian Chapatti bread. Kale and eggplant simmer in coconut milk. Feta cheese adds a tangy bite to warm potato salad.

Take tonight’s dinner for example. The menu consisted of angel hair pasta with an Indian twist and cauliflower and chard tossed with toasted almond slices. The entire meal took less than 20 minutes to cook and was tasty as it was colorful. Can harmony in the kitchen translate into world peace? Perhaps not. But I like to think it is a step in the right direction and that I’m bringing people together, one plate at a time.

So here’s my recipe for world harmony!

South Indian Pasta

1 package De Cecco Angel Hair pasta, cook for barely 2 minutes and then drain and soak in cold water.

Meanwhile…

You will need:

1 large onion chopped

1 sprig curry leaf

2-4 tablespoons channa dal (Indian yellow split peas)

2-4 tablespoons coconut oil

1 can of beans, any kind, drained. I used white beans

1-2 tsp. turmeric powder

¼ cup chopped coriander leaves

1-2 tsp. Himalayan Pink Salt

Juice of one lemon

Heat a large pot, add desired amount of oil.  Warm. Add mustard seeds and allow the seeds to pop. Immediately add chopped onion, sprig of curry leaf and sauté until the onions are translucent. Add channa dal and continue cooking until the dal is brown and toasty. Stir in turmeric powder. Add beans and coriander leaves. Stir. Drain pasta and add to the pot. Sprinkle Himalayan Pink Salt. Stir. Add lemon juice. Stir and taste for salt.

Cauliflower Almandine

I head cauliflower, cut into florets

I bunch chard, rinsed and chopped roughly into pieces, stem and all

Steam the vegetables for about 5 minutes, don’t overcook.

While vegetables are steaming…heat a tablespoon of butter plus one tablespoon olive oil. Add generous half cup sliced almonds. Stir and cook the almonds until they are golden brown. Be careful not to burn them. Add steamed vegetables to the almonds. Stir. Add 1 tsp. Himalayan Pink Salt. If you want you can squeeze some lemon juice over the vegetables but they taste fine without the juice.

Dinner is served. Sit in quiet peace and enjoy.

 

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Filed under Book clubs, Celebrations, cooking, dinner, harmony, Himalayan Pink Salt, Indian food, meatless, my mother's kitche, pasta, Personal experience, pots and pans, South India, Uncategorized, vegetables, world peace