Wednesday, November 17, 2010

November - Week 2

Let me just say, it was the best soup I had ever tasted!!!

Chilly fall night Clam Chowder

Cook time - 30 mins

You will need :

Onion - 1 medium, finely diced
Celery stalks - 2 trimmed and finely sliced
Butter - unsalted, 2 tbsp
All purpose flour - 3 tbsp
Vegetable Stock - 2 cups
Heavy cream - 1 cup
Yukon gold potatoes - 1 lb, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
Dried bay leaves - 2
Fresh sage leaves - 2
Chopped clams in juice - 4 (6oz) cans, juice separated and then rinsed
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Heat the butter in a thick bottomed, large pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion and celery and saute until softened, stirring often. Do not let it brown. Stir in the flour to distribute evenly. Mix well. Add the stock, clam juice, cream, bay leaves, sage leaves and potatoes and stir to combine. Bring to a simmer, stirring constantly. The mixture will thicken, then reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, partially covered for 20 minutes, stirring often until the potatoes are nice and tender. Add clams and cook just until clams are firm about 3 mins. Then season with salt and pepper. Serve steaming hot in deep soup bowls.

Makes 6 servings.

Sunday, November 14, 2010


Watched The Time Traveler’s Wife yesterday and have been t

hinking about it ever since. I have put off watching this movie for a while as I assumed it was a movie adaption of yet another love story with “Oprah book club”-ish sadness and torment and the pain of lost love. I was true to some extent but it was worth the tears.

The movie is a good adaptation of what I can only imagine must be a dark and intense book. Not having read the book itself, I feel like I cannot do justice to it, so I will stick to the movie version here. This is not so much of a review as a reflection on the ideas floated in the movie. Would I call it a science fiction movie? No, it is a love story though and through. A story about love intense yet flawed in a very human way. A story about loss and man’s instinctive need to live. The movie tries to delve into these deep issues but the restrictive nature of the medium itself stops it from doing justice to the theme. Exploring the need to love and live is the central theme of the story. What makes it the consummate romance story is that even though Henry travels back and forth through time, the story is not muddled by the presence of extra characters. It involves only the people and relationships that are central to his life and the story is explained and explored through them. The pivotal scene to me that captures the existential and nostalgic mood of the movie is when an adult Clare post two miscarriages, is visited by a Henry from the past, from the beginning of their relationship . This is right after she has found out that Henry has undergone a vasectomy in order to prevent any more children from being born as they may turn out to be time travelers. It is a very short but well executed scene where the intensity of her love for him, the earlier Henry, before life has taken its course, come shining through. She also acts on her primal need to continue life by having their child by making love to him in the care. It is a reflection of the sentiment everyone feels, yearning for a past when things were better, life was easier and the world was full of possibilities . Throughout the story the feeling of yearning for the past is a constant presence and given the fact that Henry can go through the past, reliving it, though totally out of his control, makes it even more unfair for Clare. The sense of loss – of love, of time, of life – is so intense that it begs the question, would you really want to travel in time, past or future if you knew there was nothing you could do to change it? Would you want to know how you die, when you die and would death then be any less painful for your loved ones? Would going back time and again to a point in the past that was pivotal and excruciatingly painful help you deal with it any better? The one thought that echoed through my mind while watching this movie and after too was to live every moment to the fullest, as if was your last. For you never know and even if you do, there is nothing you can do to change it.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Why do you read?

Why do you read?

I was asked this question once by someone very dear to me. As an instinctive reaction, I was upset but on further thought, I realized that I did not really have an answer to that question.

Reading like painting or sculpting or music is an art form. When you read a sentence, whether you realize it or not, it affects a part of your consciousness. Just as every person you meet leaves some impression on you, you cannot go through a single book without it making you pause and think even if for a tiny fraction of time. It doesn’t have to be a 150 page novel. An essay, a short story - anything that takes a strict course of introduction, body and conclusion has the capacity to draw you into itself, whether with admiration and anticipation or revulsion and disgust. When you read a story you are connecting with its author and in that space it is just the two of you, your imagination processing what the author has implied in the pages of the tome. Unadulterated by the images provided by a third party –like the television or the internet, you are free to roam around in the vast hinterlands of your own mind, processing what your brain is reading. It provides a sacred space, in which you can be yourself completely, without prejudice, without expectations and without being judged.

It is not necessary for reading to have a purpose other than reading itself. Sometimes, if it is a self-help book or something that proffers a solution or understanding of a subject matter, after reading it you may be able to explain something you didn’t know before. That is quite often the case with non-fiction. But fiction – that is a different story altogether - pun intended. What do you get from reading a “story book”? Do you read it to pass time? Glossy magazines help you pass time, at the doctor’s office, at the rental car lounge or at the salon. No, you do not read a fiction book to pass time. You read it to savor it. To go where the characters take you, maybe exploring relationships, maybe investigating past or future incidents, predicting where the story is going next. If this is done with an eloquent yet beautiful language which at once amazes and enthralls you, it is a pleasure like no other. Just as listening to an exquisite piece of music or marveling at a brilliant painting, reading a well written book can exercise your neurons to make them work at their best. It makes you think about the world around you, it may not change who you are in a big way but it will certainly leave an impression in your mind that you will carry for the rest of your life. It is not useful in any other way and as Jonathan Lethem put it, it is this “resistance to usefulness” that is so appealing about reading. You read because you can and because you want to.

Monday, November 8, 2010

One down-three to go!

The November challenge has started! My challenge to me, that is. Happy to report that i did accomplish the first part of the challenge last week. Thanks to Jane and Indrani for their suggestions. I will try those too. My pumpkin dish is a take on my favorite dessert growing up - carrot wadi or squares. The smell of carrots cooking in milk and caramelizing into these orange-brown heavenly bites is still fresh in my memory.
So for the pumpkin challenge, I decided to make:

Spiced pumpkin squares - Pumpkin Wadi

The key to this dish is constant stirring and a close watch to make sure the mixture doesn't burn at the bottom of the pan.

Time to cook : 2hrs
Inactive prep time : 5 mins

Red Pumpkin 1lb shredded (makes 7 cups)\
Unsweetened condensed milk 1 (12oz) can
Whole milk 4 cups
Molasses 1/3 cup
Sugar 1/3 cup
Cardamom powder 1/2 tsp
Cinnamon powder 1/2 tsp

Lots of patience

In a heavy bottomed dutch oven, mix the pumpkin, condensed milk and whole milk and bring to a boil on medium-high heat. Once the mixture reaches boi
ling stage, reduce the heat down to medium and continue stirring.

In 30 mins, the mixture will be reduced to about 2 inches less.At this stage add the molasses and sugar. Mix well and continue heating. Around 1 and 1/2 hours into the cooking, the mixture starts to look semi-solid. Here, the stirring becomes even more important as this can burn very easily.

Around 2 hours into the cooking, the remaining milk mixture
starts to bubble over to the surface. Add the cardamom and cinnamom and cook another 15 mins. Now the mixture is ready to be taken off the heat.

Prep a steel plate or pie pan by rubbing with butter and spoon the warm mixture in. Spread it into a 1 inch thick layer. Cover and let cool completely before cutting into squares.

I must confess that it did not come out exactly as I wanted it to and I think there are two reasons for that.
1. It needed more sugar
2. It should have cooked another 30 mins at least.
It didnot solidify enough to give me firm squares or pieces. I give it 8 out of 10! It tastes like pumpkin and the spices were very fragrant and just enough. So thats it! My frist challenge recipe. Till next week, so long....

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

New month, new goals.

I was going through the settings for this blog and realized that I had almost a quarter of posts that were still "drafts". Unformed paragraphs, unfinished sentences, waiting for that finishing touch that will make them "official posts". I think that is reflective of my state of mind in general. There are so many thoughts that start in my mind, so many things I want to write about, but I find reasons (maybe excuses) for never bringing them to fruition. For the umpteenth time, I have made a resolution to myself. This time I have a good feeling about my goals. So here's the plan..for the month of November, i am going to pick 4 ingredients that i have never cooked with and try out one recipe with that ingredient every week. also, i will pick one technique or style of cooking and try one recipe with it for the month. I will chronicle my efforts on the blog, within 24 hours.

Week 1 - pumpkin or any kind of orange squash.
For November
Week 2 - clams as in Clam chowder
Week 3- Collard greens
Week 4 - bread pudding (yes its not an ingredient, but it's my thanksgiving dessert, preferably with rum or bourbon sauce.

The technique i will try out this month is brining. I will try to do that for the thanksgiving day meal maybe with cornish hens/broiler hens as we all hate turkey!

So there you have it. my goals for the new month as far as food is concerned. there are a lot of other things going on in different aspects of daily living which if interesting enough will find their way to the blog. for example, when her father or I get angry at A, she starts to cry saying "You make me upset....I love you, you make me upset"!!!!
So till the next post, here's wishing me luck!!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

The beginning.

And that day is here. Bright morning sunshine streaks through the blinds, nudging you awake. In that sweet subconscious spot where you are neither asleep nor awake, you are jolted to full awareness by the the thought that today is the big day.You get up and wake up the rest of the sleepy heads. Looking at the tousled hairs and dreamy eyes and you cannot believe how fast time has flown! The house address and phone numbers have been memorized and repeated, the bag is packed, the excitement of the last few days has been replaced by a slight trepidation. You get everybody in the car, yelling instructions at every step, trying to appear calm though you are past hyperventilating inside. Then you reach the destination. You turn back in your seat and see a nervous smile on his face, the look that says "I'm confused. Should I be happy or anxious?" You walk to that door, beyond which you are not allowed, beyond which a whole new world beckons him, a world where you will not be able to hold his hand, or give him a hug to comfort your own fears or go over all instructions twice to make sure he remembers.

No, all you can do is let go. And watch as he joins the sea of other anxiously smiling faces.
...ah!yes, school has started.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

A Treatise on Tenacity

So, today is the big day. Days and months of planning, of separation, of anxiety and pain come to a crowning end. And today, the only thing I can think of is tenacity.
I am sure it is written in self help books under the title of how to succeed in life, but to me the most important requisite to success is tenacity. Here is a man who has achieved what he wanted. He may not always have known exactly what it was that he was after, but he knew he had to make it big. It was not for him to lead a normal, comfortable, good life. He wanted the best in life. And he had the determination to stay the course in spite of the setbacks that he faced.By the force of sheer ambition and tenacity and sharp intellect, he set himself up to where he is graduating from Harvard, today. When I started out on this journey with him, many moons ago, I knew he was going to make it big. I don not think either one of us realised what that was going to be. But by keeping his eye on the goal, he has achieved it. Today marks the end of a long and arduous path, one that took him from his home in central India to this bastion of education, far away from home. It also marks the beginning of a new journey, one that is sure to take him to the heights of success he yearns for and deserves.
This reads like a motivational speech, but it is absolutely true
This man is my husband, Partha and I congratulate him on this awesome achievement.

Monday, April 26, 2010

I don't like Sunday evenings.

I don't like Sunday evenings. It is that time of the day when, after a good nap you wake up to find out that you have lost an hour (or two) of the last day of your weekend. Then, you walk around moping and realize that there are still chores that need to be done before Monday morning. You head out to the grocery store and the gloom seems to have spread outside, too. The strip mall is deserted, all the store fronts are shuttered, Closed" signs hang limply on the doors. The curio shops are still and dark. The restaurants seem to be abuzz with activity but that too is subdued as if those out for an early supper are feeling guilty about enjoying this last part of the holiday, this last stretch of calm before the storm of the week takes over.
Then, you come back home and get busy with winding down. You are not tired enough but feel like you have to sleep early, lest your Monday morning turn into a mad rush. So you forget about your earlier misgivings and retire, ending another day, hopefully with a kiss and a smile.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Heavenly Hawaii

We are at Maui, in Kihue to be precise. The lobster is done and the rice is cooking in the microwave. Akka just fell asleep and eeshan is ready to eat. went in for a while in to the gorgeous water and have had a vodka and coke and finished a glass of red wine. The fingers are dancing the salsa all over the keyboard and it is registering very slightly in my cortical centers. there is the gorgeous din of massive waves dashing on the shore right outside my back door mixed with the really discordant din of a stupid cartoon that eesh is watching. i am feeling the beautiful effects of the alcohol and had the awesome idea of this here goes.....

The anatomy of the perfect buzz....

It is said that one of the effects alcohol has on your brain is that it inhibits the inhibitory neurotransmitter acetylcholine which in fact makes you a maverick, someone who doesn't care about dotting the i's and crossing the t's or doing the right things at the right moment. Well, right now i am at that precise moment and thought it would be a wonderful opportunity to jot down this feeling when i am there but not quite...when i am....

buzzed enough to feel the pins and needles creeping up my calves but conscious enough that i can load the whole dishwasher and turn it on,
buzzed enough to not give a damn about dipping the lobster tail (a million calories) into clarified butter (a zillion calories) but conscious enough to write about it
buzzed enough to enjoy the solitude of the afternoon, but conscious enough to realize that my most precious creation is sleeping soundly in the bedroom and that is why i am indoors instead of toasting in the gorgeous sun, like my son and my honey.
buzzed enough to enjoy the warm sensation that is passing through my throat and chest as i sip my red wine but conscious enough to realize that this glass is going to take me over the edge
buzzed enough to want to put down a lot of other things in this post but conscious enough to delete them all.....

Hell,maybe am not buzzed at all. what is the point of getting drunk if you are your most sensible and rational self, your most honest alter ego, when you are drunk. i thought the whole point of being under the influence was the you are under the influence of something other than your own thoughts, your own fears, your own monsters. there is no bigger downer than the knowledge that you are thinking so clearly that you have figured our what you want to do in your life in this haze that is surrounding your rational thought. Things that you only imagined yourself doing when you were "sober" suddenly feel like the most natural things that you were supposed to do. Is that why all artists at one point or the other are said to have made their best creations when they were not "sober"? No, i am not advocating the abdication of responsibility and getting high all your life just so that you can realize what your true potential know what that makes you...a COWARD! someone who cannot do what they really want to do unless they lose control of the world around them.,..nah!!! not for me....i am just enjoying my vacation and this awesome state of not being there when i am really there.......(in fact writing all this has had an incredibly potent cleansing effect on my brain that i think i will need another glass of the really nice Cabernet to take me to my new post)...until then.....cheerio!!!!!