Category Archives: Uncategorized

A Cook’s Best Friend

November 2019

For those of us cookbook lovers, a recipe book is an old and faithful friend with a million memories trapped between the stained pages.

Long before the internet, we “old” cooks depended on cookbooks for ideas, measurements and recipes.

Sometimes a (cook) book is a life-changer. The Laurel’s Kitchen cookbook was a pioneer in promoting vegetarian cooking. Even though it was first published over 40 years ago, the message and recipes never fail to inspire. In fact, I recently made homemade hummus and used the seasoning technique for “Soy Spread” from the book. The result was a totally addictive and tasty spread. Some things just never age!

Whenever friends or family see me in the kitchen, they always want to know whether I received professional training. The truth is I learned by watching some very talented cooks. Laurel, Gale, Sultana, Sarah, Sandra, Diane, Carol and many others taught me that cooking was more than just putting together ingredients.

Together we cooked with grace. We washed, chopped, diced, sautéed and boiled with one-pointed attention and mindfulness. I learned that healthy food prepared with love was a selfless act.

A person dear to all of us would gently remind us to “think globally, but act locally.” We followed his philosophy in the kitchen, making sure the vegetables, fruits and grains we used came from local farms and farmers’ markets.

So now whenever I see the familiar deep red-brown cover of Laurel’s Kitchen on my book shelf, it is a reminder that cooking is an act of love, a gift to share with friends and family. This is a timeless and important message to keep in mind during the holiday season.

The Joy IN Cooking:

My aunt (yes, that same one you have read about) gave me my first cookbook in 1986 when I was a young bride. The Joy of Cooking by Irma S. Rombauer and Marion Rombauer Becker became an indispensable part of my life. Those early days in Sacramento were lonely with my mother too far away for everyday advice. Phone calls to India were expensive and besides she had no access to a phone. My mother-in-law, Betty, was just a “long distance” phone call away, but at that time I was too shy to turn to her for advice. But Irma and Marion were right there in my kitchen, offering silent advice that I could follow as needed. Their advice came with no strings attached.

The Joy of Cooking was more than just recipes. I learned how to set a table and plan a menu.  Everything a new cook needed could be found in the 800-plus pages from boiling an egg to making puff paste (pate feuilletee) to creating the flakiest pie crusts.

Need a bittersweet chocolate frosting? Look no further than page 679. Recipes for cakes, icebox cookies and even cocktails could be found in this book.

The book is a little worn around the edges (like me) and the spine is held together with tape but that doesn’t really matter because the pale blue cookbook is as dear as an old friend. We have weathered a lot together.

Imagine my delight when I discovered that there was a new and updated edition of this beloved cookbook at a recent visit to the Rombauer Winery (The Joy of Wine). It was our thirty-third wedding anniversary and my husband wanted to buy the book for me and the saleswoman offered the book at a deep discount to as an anniversary gift. How could we refuse? An old companion has a new appearance and I look forward to getting to know this edition. I’m sure we’ll become best of friends soon.

A happy and nourishing Thanksgiving to all. I’m grateful to all my readers.

 

 

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Filed under Joy of Cooking, Laurel's Kitchen Cookbook, Rombauer Vineyards, Uncategorized, vegetarian cooking

A fairy tale (of sorts)

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Once upon a time there was a young girl who dreamed of adventures. She would look up at the bright blue sky imagining she was flying away in one of those rare airplanes she glimpsed from her hilltop home in the Nilgiris, the Blue Mountains of south India.

It took nearly 20 years but one day she found herself on a plane flying off to faraway California, leaving behind her mother and sister. Under the loving and watchful eyes of her uncle and aunt she thrived. She loved campus life and learning. But one day she met a boy and her life changed all over again.

He looked like he belonged on a beach with blond hair, tanned skin and bright blue eyes but he was actually from New Jersey.

With her uncle and aunt’s blessing, the young girl returned to south India and soon the young man joined her. They asked her mother if they could get married.

The mother was taken aback but quickly adjusted to the idea and soon set a date for the wedding. It was decided the ceremony would be held on September 14, the same day as Onam or the harvest festival. It was a simple ceremony in a humble home decorated with Nilgiri roses and fresh jasmine garlands.

In a real fairy tale the story would end with “happily ever after.” But this is real life and so the young couple’s life was full of ups and downs, laughter and tears, joy and sorrow but 33 years later they are still together. To paraphrase Robert Browning “Grow old with me. The best is yet to be….”

Indian Fusion

We were married 33 years ago because we wanted to but it turned out we were trend setters of a sort. Our house has been a multi-cultural, blended home for decades. Our sons are beige-brown with Indian names. We celebrate Christmas along with Vishu and Onam. So it is natural that our dinner plates reflect our diverse background. We have channa dal on pizza with mozzarella and masala dosa with kale and cheddar cheese.

This pasta dish celebrates my husband’s Italian heritage and love of pasta and my south Indian roots. Sometimes a melting pot truly is a delicious meal.

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Pesto-fused Indian Uppma

This is a very forgiving recipe. You can increase or decrease the amount of pasta and veggies. Add a cup of cooked chickpeas for extra protein. Add thyme, oregano or other fresh herbs for flavor. Use a spoonful of nutritional yeast to make it savory.

1 pound pasta, any type, use chickpea pasta for GF version

4 tablespoons ghee (or vegetable oil), divided

1 tsp. brown/black mustard seeds

2 cups diced onions, white or yellow

1 cup diced pepper, any color

1 jalapeño, diced (optional but the heat is tasty!)

1 heaping tablespoon grated fresh ginger

¾ tsp salt, more as needed

2 tablespoons lemon juice

2 tablespoons prepared pesto (or ½ cup chopped basil, if you don’t have pesto)

1 tomato, chopped

4 cups veggies, any type. I used broccoli, carrots and potato. Turnips, peas, corn, zucchini, asparagus and eggplants are some choices. In winter use squash, sweet potato and root veggies

Optional toppings: fresh basil, dry roasted cashews

Method:

Cook pasta according to directions, drain, reserving ½ cup water and toss with 2 tablespoons ghee.

Meanwhile, heat remaining ghee in a skillet with a top. Add mustard seeds and allow them to pop and turn grey. Immediately add chopped onions, peppers, ginger and jalapeno. Sauté for about five minutes. Add chopped veggies, tomato and salt. Cook, covered, for about 5 to 8 minutes, depending on type of vegetables, just don’t overcook the vegetables.

Remove skillet from heat, add lemon juice and pesto or basil leaves, stir to combine. Use your fingers to separate pasta (if it is sticking together) and add in small batches to the vegetable mixture, mixing thoroughly each time. Taste for salt.

For a fantastic taste sensation, serve with banana raita. Or serve with spicy tomato chutney. Or just eat it plain!

 

 

 

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Filed under bride and groom, California cuisine, Celebrations, family, Indian food, Indian Fusion, Italian-Indian fusion, multi-cultural, my mother's kitche, My Mother's Kitchen: A Novel With Recipes, Nilgiris, Northern California, pasta, Personal experience, recipes, South India, Uncategorized, vegetables

Garden meditation

August 2019

“Everything that slows us down and forces patience; everything that sets us back into the slow circles of nature is a help. Gardening is an instrument of grace.” ~May Sarton.

Our tiny backyard garden is a year-round source of peace and produce.

Gardening is a form of meditation for my husband. He finds solace and joy in pulling weeds, preparing the soil, carefully planting the seeds, watering and nurturing the plants and then harvesting the fruits of his labor.

Harvesting cherry tomatoes or handfuls of fragrant herbs gives him immense pleasure. The fact his harvest ends up on his dinner plate makes the whole process even more satisfying.

I love fresh produce but I admit gardening is not my thing.  That doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy our backyard oasis. In the middle of the day, when the lawnmowers and leaf blowers are finally turned off, a warm stillness settles in the garden. The neighborhood children are in school and there is a profound silence all around me.

The warm sun, chirping birds, buzzing bees and an occasional butterfly are my only companions. Some days the peace is broken when a territorial fight breaks out between the mocking birds and the aggressive Scrub Jays. These tiny guardians are fiercely protective of their space.

The bees and butterflies pay no attention to the screeching birds. Gathering nectar from golden sunflowers and purple zinnias is much more important.

As the day warms and the sun’s heat wilts the green basil and the valiant tomato vines, I settle in the shade to enjoy the peace. For me the real harvest is not the produce but the serenity of growing things.

Surrounded by verdant and lush bushes and plants, my breathing slows down. I can feel my muscles loosen and my aches and pains fading.

Northern California’s fierce heat melts away my cares and worries. As my body relaxes my mind calms down. Those annoying thoughts zapping around my brain slowly wind down.

I don’t usually call this meditation but sitting in my little green garden on a quiet weekday afternoon does feel like a moment of deep reflection. Now I understand what my husband finds so tranquil in the garden.

Recently we visited our son in his first apartment. His tiny patio is a little green oasis. I hope he discovers the restfulness of being surrounded by growing things, even if it is just one cherry tomato vine, a single pepper plant and a few herbs.

Making a place for quiet contemplation, a moment of mindfulness and meditation is essential in this busy world. I hope all of you find a minute or two to slow down and breathe deeply.

 

 

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Filed under garden, gardening, grandmother's wisdom, harmony, harvest, meditation, Mindful cooking, mindfulness, my mother's kitche, My Mother's Kitchen: A Novel With Recipes, Northern California, Personal experience, Summer, Uncategorized, vegetables

A Condiment Worthy of a Celebration

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May 2019

Recently instead of a birthday cake, my son requested a jar of his favorite condiment—injeepully.

For those who don’t know, injeepully is a tart and tangy combination of ginger and tamarind, and is a must-have accompaniment to holiday meals for the people of Kerala.

This condiment, a true Kerala invention, is said to bring taste buds to life. In fact, there is a saying in Malayalam (roughly translated) that even the simplest meal becomes a feast when injeepully is served.

Now this sauce is not without controversy! The name injee (ginger) and pully (tamarind) is what my mother’s family called the condiment but on my father’s side it was called pullyinjee. After all, what is in a name, especially if the ingredients are the same? Apparently a lot, if you believe my relatives.

But whatever you call it, injeepully is totally delicious and addictive. I remember my first taste of the spicy sauce which set my three-year-old tongue on fire. My father gave me a spoonful of creamy sweet cardamom pudding to dampen the heat in my mouth. So a new favorite flavor combination was born.

My son, now 27, has always had a bold palate. His favorite snack as a toddler was slices of fresh Asian pears smeared with a bit of ripe bleu cheese and topped off with a piece of raw walnut. No pretzels or Gold Fish for this kid.

Along with his favorite injeepully, I also made him fresh mango pickle. We used to call this dish “hurry-up pickle” in our family because my sister and I were always asking my mother to hurry up and finish tempering the mango so we could mix it with rice and yogurt and gobble it down.

Mango pickle is simple to prepare. Peel and dice a green (unripe) mango. Toss the mango with some red cayenne pepper and salt. Temper the pickle by heating a couple of tablespoons of vegetable oil and adding a teaspoon of black/brown mustard seeds. When the seeds pop and turn grey, add a sprig of fresh curry leaves and toss the mango/chili mixture in the warm oil. Hurry-up pickle is ready!

The injeepully recipe can be found in My Mother’s Kitchen: A Novel with Recipes. Or you can see my super simple easy version below.

Exciting News: Turns out the doors to My Mother’s Kitchen will once again be open. Look for news about the upcoming sequel in the coming weeks. Find out what happens to Meena and her family.

Simple Injeepully recipe: This is my version of the spicy condiment.

Use tamarind that comes in a block (available in Indian/Middle Eastern stores). Soak a generous knob, the size of a medium lemon, of tamarind in about 2 cups of hot water while you prep the ginger. Once the tamarind is soft, use your fingers to dissolve the pulp and strain the tamarind. You should have about 1½ cups or so of tamarind water. Meanwhile, peel and finely dice some ginger (about ¼ cup). Chop a green chili or two. Set aside. Heat oil in a pan, add brown/black mustard seeds and when they pop and turn grey, immediately add the diced ginger, chilies, a sprig of curry leaves and a generous spoonful of fenugreek seeds. Sauté for a minute or two and then add the tamarind water. Bring to a boil and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes. Season with ½ to 1 tsp salt and 4-8 tablespoons of brown sugar. Other additions: Fresh or dried turmeric, a pinch of hing or asafetida.

 

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Filed under Celebrations, cooking, family, Indian condiment, Indian food, Kerala, my mother's kitche, My Mother's Kitchen: A Novel With Recipes, recipes, Shopping, South Indian, Uncategorized, writing

Duke’s legacy

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March 2019

The fidelity of a dog is a precious gift demanding no less binding moral responsibilities than the friendship of a human being. – Konrad Lorenz

A year has passed since we lost our pet Duke to cancer and the past few days have been filled with bittersweet furry memories.

Death seems to have a way of playing tricks on my mind and some days I think Duke has been gone a long time and other times I think I can hear his soft snoring. There seems to be an ebb and flow to grief. This month, so far, has been an emotional time for me.

But even in his absence Duke has found a way to be part of our lives. It all started on that first weekend after Duke died and my husband and I found ourselves with an empty Saturday afternoon ahead of us. We missed Duke and our daily walks with him. So we decided to drive to a state park and go for a walk. On that hike the fresh air, the warm sun and gentle breeze soothed our grieving hearts. We shared Duke stories and shed a few sad tears.  At the end of the five-mile hike our sorrow was a little less and our hearts a little lighter. But on that cool windy afternoon we had a sort of epiphany when we realized we liked, no loved, spending time together. So a new hobby was born.

Since then we have walked many miles and trails. Rockville Park in Fairfield continues to be a favorite with the stately oaks and winding paths. We challenged ourselves on the Stebbins Cold Canyon Trail with breathtaking views of Lake Berryessa. We hiked the rocky Pacific Crest Trail near Truckee. We found refuge from the summer heat at China Camp State Park and the Coastal Trail near Muir Beach.

The 12 mile hike in mid-September on the Appalachian Trail near Harpers Ferry in West Virginia was one the highlights of our trip back east for a family wedding.

Our hikes were cut short for a few weeks when I developed tendinitis in my right ankle but we are slowly resuming our walking “dates.” The route that works best for me now is, ironically, the one that we used to take Duke on.  For practical reasons, we rarely walked Duke together; instead we took turns with morning and evening walks.

We still miss Duke and his eccentricities. But in our grief we found something enduring and worthwhile to commemorate.  Our nest is still empty, especially without Duke, but now we have a way to honor his memory and celebrate the wonder of us. What a legacy Duke has left us! We lost a pet but re-discovered each other. Our walking journey has come full circle.

Thank you Duke.

 

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Ammalu and the Jackfruit

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February 2019

Over time a family story can become a folktale of epic proportion, a true inspiration to all who hear it. This one is about my great-aunt Ammalu.

The story begins in a sleepy little village deep in south India.  Here Ammalu and her sister Pearl grew up surrounded by countless cousins, aunts and uncles. Ammalu was the older sister, the one with a sense of adventure. She loved going on outings to visit neighbors and relatives. She had a knack for storytelling and an easy going nature. Pearl was shy and more at home in the kitchen with a flair for pastry making.

Little Ammalu was rumored to have a sweet tooth. In those days there was no candy or chocolate bars and so she indulged in what grew in her backyard from large juicy mangoes, tasty papayas to bananas in all sizes, but her favorite was the jackfruit.

The jackfruits from our family orchards were legendary in their size and flavor. It would take two men to cut down the gigantic fruit and lug it into the family courtyard. The fresh fruit would be placed on an old cotton sari and one of the men would use an enormous knife to cut into the tough skin. As the jackfruit was cut open the entire courtyard would be filled with its fruity fragrance. The milky fluid from the jackfruit would flow onto the sari and children would be held back so that they wouldn’t get any of the sticky sap on their fingers. The women would be waiting, ready to dip oily fingers into the cut fruit. The coconut oil was necessary to keep the sap from sticking onto fingers and eager hands. The tiny strands would be pushed aside to get into the thick pods of creamy yellow fruit. Each pod contained one large seed, which would be cleaned and saved for later use. The seed had a sweet nutty taste, very similar to roasted chestnuts.

The best jackfruit was sweet and juicy with a hint of tartness and a pleasing crunch. Overripe jackfruit was sometimes stringy and too sweet. Ammalu loved this unique and delicious fruit. When everyone had enough of the fresh fruit, the leftovers were cooked down with jaggery sugar and stored in crock pots. In the cool pantry, the jackfruit jam fermented into caramel-like goo with a pungent odor that was pleasant only to the true fan of jackfruit. Ammalu must have had a discerning palate because she loved eating scoops of this odoriferous jam. It was also made into special puddings.

Life in our tiny ancestral village was simple. There was not much in the way of entertainment and so everyone looked forward to visits from roaming troupes of actors. These troupes of mostly men would enact scenes from Indian myths and legends. Perhaps it was one of these actors who told Ammalu about the wonders of travel and of a special city dedicated to Lord Shiva.

This holy place was called Benares (or Varanasi or Kashi) and situated near the Bihar border in the faraway state of Uttar Pradesh. Visiting this holy city and bathing in the even holier Ganges became an obsession with Ammalu. Perhaps one of the actors or someone in the family pointed out that after visiting Benares the pilgrim would have to give up a favorite food. Ammalu knew what she would give up.

She was in her early forties when she finally had an opportunity to take her dream trip. In the years after her pilgrimage when relatives offered her a piece of fresh jackfruit, she would shake her head and say, “I just returned from Kashi,” and everyone immediately understood why she said no to her favorite snack. She died at the age of 88 and never tasted jackfruit again.

A decade or so ago my family and I visited Benares to scatter my uncle’s ashes. We found the city to be a study in contrasts. The grime and dirt didn’t deter from the city’s beauty and timeless quality. The Ganges was a lazy ribbon of water with a lot of floating debris but as I watched the orange glow of the tropical sunset, I couldn’t help feeling a deep sense of peace and calm. A holy city will do that to you. I imagined Ammalu must have experienced that same serenity as she bathed in the Ganges and vowed never to eat jackfruit again.

She would have never dreamed that her pilgrimage and personal sacrifice would inspire the next generation. Recently I decided to challenge myself by giving up sugar for a few months and great-aunt Ammalu’s uplifting story has been a marvelous example for me.

The least tangible (and material) legacy we leave behind will endure the longest. Perhaps the next generation will remember you for your kindness, your grace under pressure or your selfless love. That is a legacy worth striving for!

 

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Filed under Aunts and other relatives, Benares, Celebrations, cooking, Delicious desserts, family, Fresh fruit, Fresh produce, Ganges River, harmony, harvest, Holy City, jackfruit, Lord Shiva, meatless, my mother's kitche, Personal experience, pilgrimage, remembering our ancestors, South India, Uncategorized

Aunty with a capital A

On Becoming an Aunt

New Year Post

Recently I had the fun pleasure of hosting my niece for her very first Thanksgiving in America. After her week-long stay, when I was dropping her off at the train station, she turned to me and said, “Thank you aunty for everything. I felt like I was royalty.”

I wanted to tell her that she shouldn’t thank me. She should be grateful to the woman who taught me how to be a good aunt.

There are plenty of aunties in my life. Anyone who is from India knows we call family friends, neighbors and relatives “aunty” as a sign of respect. But I have one Aunty who stands out.  I’ve known her for most of my life (we met when I was six months old) and I’m the only person in California who has had the honor to be at her wedding day.

Even though I have known her a long time, our friendship/relationship really blossomed when I came over in the 1980s to attend college.

I was an insulated young girl (okay, maybe a little spoiled) but my Aunty C and I took to each other as if we were long-lost friends. We spent hours together.

“I’m bored, Aunty,” I would say and she would whisk me away to one of our favorite haunts– the local public library, Dillon Beach, the Goodwill store (her favorite shopping place) or somewhere for a sweet treat. One summer we discovered a hole-in-the-wall bakery that produced the most delicious fresh strawberry pies. Both of us loved these pies so much, she gladly bought the ingredients so I could try making my own pie. That is how I learned how to perfect my pie crust and work with mascarpone cheese. We ate a lot of pie that summer.

From Aunty I learned to love Southern literature and to make the perfect cup of strong tea. Together we navigated the college catalog, choosing the best classes and professors. We enjoyed our bittersweet chocolate, especially the truffles from Cocolat.

But mostly,  I learned by observing her in action and the way she interacted with people. She taught me how to give my one-pointed attention to everyone, to listen with both ears. She never boasted or dominated a conversation. Now at 97, she is still the same–kind, gentle and still humble.

So, being a good aunty is easy for me because I learned from the best!

Happy New Year to all my readers! May 2019 be filled with books, laughter and peace.

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Filed under Aunts and other relatives, family, Happy New Year! 2019, harmony, mindfulness, my mother's kitche, Nieces, Personal experience, remembering our ancestors, Shopping, South India, Strawberry pie, Uncategorized

Feliks Krupa: The Heart and Soul of Patwin

November 2018

A life in purple, and service

“Feliks is the heart and soul of Patwin. A most remarkable man with a remarkable history, he will be missed by many and loved by all.”  ~~Kate Bowen, former Patwin teacher.

We met him on a hot August morning in 1999. My son, then a seven-year-old, and I were on an informal tour of Patwin Elementary School in west Davis. We had just moved to Davis and my son was intimidated by the size of his new school. We stood near the lunch tables, looking a little lost. Just then we heard a heavily accented voice singing, “Happy Friday to you! Happy Friday to you!”

My son looked up at me, “Doesn’t he know it’s Thursday?”

I shrugged and turned around and there he was, a neatly dressed man wearing a white hat.  He noticed us right away and came over. He held out a large meaty hand to my son, “Hello, my brother.”

He then turned to me, “Hello, my princess. You are new to Patwin?”

I nodded and said we were looking for the library. (The most important building in my mind).

“Let me show you. I’m Feliks. Come brother.”

And just like that I saw the tension go out of my son’s body. He stood up a little taller and with a bright look in his brown eyes, he followed Feliks down the steps to the library (which was the most beautiful welcoming room I had ever seen).

“Is he the principal?” my son asked me.

It was only much later I learned Feliks Krupa was the custodian at our school. This may have been his official job title but his unofficial one should have been “master of all.” He took care of everyone and everything. Need the MPR for sixth-grade Grad night? Talk to Feliks. Need help with moving a desk? Need a cleanup in a classroom? Call Feliks!

Former principal Mike Parker put it best, “Fortunately when I became principal of Patwin I was experienced enough to know who really runs the school… the secretaries and the custodian. It didn’t take me long to realize the school had a custodian extraordinaire!  Felix’s “ hello my darlings” amazing whistled, morning greetings and ability to make all kids feel special and noticed helped me start each day with a smile knowing we were in good hands. Thanks Feliks- you will always be my favorite custodian.”

Over the next few years I watched Feliks interact with staff and students and he was a one-man welcome party. Scared little boys and girls shook off their parents’ hands and ran to greet Feliks, forgetting to be nervous. He brought his unique brand of humor to every situation.

Perhaps it was his upbringing in Poland or the fact he spent time in a prison for his support of the Solidarity labor unions along with the charismatic Polish activist Lech Walesa that was partly responsible for making Feliks so perfect for his job at Patwin.

Current Patwin principal, Gay Bourguignon added, “Feliks has always been more than a custodian. He had made students and families feel welcome at Patwin. He has brightened all our days with his cheerful greetings and caring ways. Feliks is our eyes and ears keeping our campus safe. He knows when a student or staff member is struggling and gives them a little extra TLC. By my count, he has touched the lives of over 10,000 students during his tenure at Patwin. He has trained at least seven principals! I have so appreciated all he has done to help me and take care of our school community.”

Keeping Patwinners safe was his primary objective. With that in mind, Feliks was responsible for setting up the “peanut-free” table at lunch and I have no doubt this was one of the reasons my son never had an allergic reaction while attending Patwin.

There are probably 10,000 stories about Feliks floating around the Patwin community. Here’s one from teacher Sarbjit Nahal, “Our Thursday morning coffee dates discussing politics, telling jokes and teaching Feliks about filtering what he says are priceless moments I will always cherish in my life. If I was ever late for our Thursday morning coffee date, Feliks would send out an APB! I mean literally, I would get a phone call or text from my colleagues Tyshawn or Linda wondering where I was.”

Just as he has celebrated or commiserated with many of the staff and students, Patwin community has shared many celebrations with Feliks. There was his yearly birthday celebration in November where staff members (Kate Bowen and Suzanne Fortin Morgan) outdid themselves each year decorating the staff room in unique and colorful ways. We all waved the American flag when Feliks became a US citizen in 2000 and we were all worried when he was ill.

Feliks and I shared a love of good food. He always requested samosas for his birthdays. So teacher Sarbjit Nahal and I took turns bringing in the spicy Indian snack. Two years ago I made some Pierogis for his birthday. “They are just like what my mother used to make,” he told me, a kind and wonderful compliment. He was always giving me large jars of his favorite sauerkraut and so when I made a batch of the fermented cabbage dish, I of course had to share some with him.

We are the lucky to have had Feliks in our lives and I’m sorry generations of new Patwinners will never get to know him.

As former Patwin principal Michelle Flowers puts it, “Feliks was my protector. I knew he always had my back and that he deeply cared for ALL kids. He has a big voice and even bigger heart. Feliks is part of the heart of Patwin and while he will be deeply missed, I bet there will be lot of Feliks sightings. Love you Feliks!”

When I told my now-grown son that Feliks was retiring, he said, “Oh, that’s too bad. Patwin will never be the same.”

Perhaps.

But I like to think years from now, a little boy or girl will sit on Feliks’ commemorative bench and run their fingers over his name and for a moment they will hear “hey brother or hi princess” in the soft breeze and feel an invisible hug from Feliks. The boy or girl will feel welcome and safe on that special black bench. Because after all you really can’t take Feliks out of Patwin, his booming voice and kindness are entrenched in those pale pastel walls.

Happy Retirement Brother Feliks!

 

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Filed under Careers, Celebrations, Davis Schools, DJUSD, Patwin Elementary School, Patwin Hawks, Patwin Purple, Uncategorized

Cooking with an open mind

 

October 2018

“You know, cooks should have open minds. Otherwise how can they learn new things?” ~Tarika K.

My niece is so smart! And she’s right too. A good cook is willing to experiment and learn. The reward of an open mind (and kitchen) is a delicious and wonderful meal or dish.

Cooking is also an opportunity to slow down and be mindful. Chatting while chopping can lead to bleeding, so be one-pointed. Give your undivided attention to the meal preparation and you will be rewarded with a tasty dish as well as a calmer mind.

I love mixing and matching cuisines and my cooking is heavily influenced by California fresh produce and my south Indian upbringing. At a recent meal I set out to impress out-of-country guests with an array of dishes that showcases produce from our Farmers Market as well as my cooking skills.

Here is one recipe that wowed the crowd and was as tasty as it was pretty.

Samosa Bites.

These Samosa Bites are a flavor explosion in your mouth. There is the buttery, flaky filo crust, the savory potato/pea filling and the two or three toppings that add that a certain type of  deliciousness. First there was a tangy sauce from Kerala called inchipully which features bits of fresh ginger in a sweet and sour tamarind sauce. Then a small drop of super spicy fresh-tasting coriander gave a hot bite to the dish. Finally the dish was finished off with some Greek yogurt, flecked with fresh mint, dill and parsley. One bite, so many sensations!

Recipe:

1 package mini Fillo pastry shells, thawed. (You can easily make these with sheets of Phyllo dough but I opted for the easier pre-made version for this recipe)

Potato filling

1 large potato, cooked, peeled and mashed lightly

½ cup frozen or fresh peas

1 small onion

¼ cup chopped red, yellow or green pepper

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 tsp. mustard seeds

½ tsp cumin seeds

1 tsp. turmeric

A few fresh curry leaves (optional)

Salt and fresh pepper

Heat oil in a small saucepan, add mustard seeds and cover with lid. When the seeds have popped, add onions, pepper and curry leaves, if using. Sauté until vegetables are tender, about five minutes. Add cumin seeds, turmeric and stir and then add peas. Cook for about 2 to 3 minutes and then add mashed potato and mix thoroughly. Add salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.

Coriander Chutney

1 large bunch coriander leaves. You can use stems. Wash thoroughly

½ cup raw walnuts

½ cup unsweetened finely shredded coconut

4-5 jalapeno peppers

1 small shallot or onion, peeled and cut into quarters

½ cup or more hot water to blend

2-4 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 tsp. mustard seeds

Curry leaves

Use a blender or food processor and process or blend all ingredients except oil, mustard seeds and curry leaves. Heat oil in a sauce pan, add oil and mustard seeds and wait for the seeds to pop and turn grey. Add curry leaves and prepared chutney. Turn off heat and stir thoroughly. Taste for salt. It will be spicy but will mellow out when refrigerated for a couple of hours. This chutney can be made a day in advance.

Inchipully

There are many versions of this exceptional sauce. This is the simplest (and tastiest, in my opinion) version.

1 generous knob, size of large lemon, tamarind from a block of tamarind (see note)

2 cups hot water. Plus extra ½ cup

½ cup fresh ginger, peeled and chopped fine

1 green chili

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 tsp. mustard seeds

1 sprig curry leaves

1 tsp. fenugreek seeds

½ tsp turmeric powder

2-6 tablespoons brown sugar

1 tsp. salt or to taste

Soak the tamarind in hot water for 15 minutes. Using your fingers crush the tamarind and extract as much pulp and juice.  Use a sieve to separate out the pulp from seeds and fiber. Use an additional half cup of water to extract as much pulp from the tamarind paste. Set aside.

Heat oil in a pan, add mustard seeds and cover with a lid. Once the seeds have popped and turn grey, add fenugreek seeds, chopped ginger and curry leaves. Let it toast for a minute. Don’t let the seeds burn! Add tamarind water, turmeric powder, salt, 2 tablespoons sugar and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer and cook for about 30 minutes. The sauce should be fairly thick. It will thicken more after it cools. Taste for salt and sugar and add more if needed. The sauce should be sour and sweet with a bite of fresh ginger.

Yogurt Topping

1 cup Greek Full-fat yogurt

½ tsp. salt

½ cup fresh parsley and/or mint, finely chopped. Dill can also be added

½ cup finely chopped fresh cucumber

Squeeze of fresh lemon juice, about a teaspoon

Stir all ingredients together. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Putting It All Together!

Bake Filo pastry cups according to direction. Cool. Add a generous spoonful of potato filling to the pastry cup. Now add a drop of Inchipully or Coriander Chutney or a dab of both. Finish off with a spoonful of yogurt topping. For best flavor sensation, pop the entire thing into your mouth at once. Close your eyes and savor!

 

NOTE: For best results use tamarind that comes in a block and that has no sugar or salt added. Indian and Middle Eastern stores carry this item. Of course there is always Amazon too.

 

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Filed under California cuisine, cooking, Davis Farmers Market, family, Fillo pastry cups, Fresh produce, harmony, Indian food, meatless, Mindful cooking, mother's kitchen, my mother's kitche, new traditions, Personal experience, recipes, Samosa, South India, Uncategorized

Duke taught me a thing or two (or ten)!

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My life is better because Duke was part of it.

Ten things Duke taught me:

10. Live in the moment. Seize each day and live well. Duke was the master of living in the moment. He was very mindful of everything and everyone around him

9. Napping is important. Duke loved his naps. He took short naps and then a long nap to recover from the short ones. He knew a short snooze in the middle of the day was just the thing to keep you going.

8. Routines are essential. Healthy habits are good for you and the environment. Duke loved the excitement of going out but he really was a creature of habit. He loved his bed, his backyard and his stuffed toys. He was always glad to be home.

7. Be excited about the little things in life! Duke knew how to greet the unexpected visitor (think UPS man or raccoon) as well as a loved one.

6. Be patient. Duke knew the value of patience and the patient dog always got that last crumb!

5. Exercise every day. Walk everywhere! Even when he was hurting, Duke was always ready for a walk, albeit a short one. Miss those walks so much!

4. Go outside and enjoy the fresh air. Even during the summer heat, Duke loved being outside and the best part was coming inside to cool off on the tile floor. Ah, the small things

3. Sun bathe daily, in moderation, of course! A perfect spring day or a sunny fall morning was Duke’s favorite times to be outside. Like Goldilocks he didn’t like it too warm or too cold.

2. Be one-pointed. Give your one-pointed attention to every task, whether cooking, cleaning or looking at your Facebook page! Duke gave his full attention to whatever he was doing whether sniffing a blade of grass or eating his Parmesan-laced dog food.

1. Death is part of life. This was the most important lesson Duke taught me through his own personal example. Even when he suspected the end was near, he had only affection and trust for all of us. We were his family and he was happy to be in our company. His death has left me heart-broken but I admired the way he approached the end of his life with such dignity and grace. He lived his life with honor and died with canine elegance and poise.

 

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Filed under Death, Death of a pet, dog's life, dogs and pups, Dogs are family, final journey, harmony, losing a pet, Personal experience, pet therapy, Uncategorized