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!!