First blush of love with kohlrabi

Yes, you might say that for someone who cooks often, I’ve been living under a rock.  I had never tasted kohlrabi and while I had spotted it at farmers’ markets, I had never adventured to cook with it.  But all that changed with a recent discovery – that it is a versatile vegetable that is low in carbs.

“What does it taste like?”, I asked my favorite farmer.  She said it had the slight spiciness of a radish married with the crispness of a green apple.  I proceeded to buy a bunch and cautiously tasted a slice.  The taste and the texture translated into my aha moment – this might be a good low carb substitute for potatoes in any number of dishes, enabling my husband to indulge in a version of some of his favorite high carb foods.

The stew that I created is a favorite from my childhood days.  Dad and mom made this concoction of ginger, green chilies, potatoes, onions and coconut milk which was the perfect accompaniment to steamed rice or fresh bread.  Out went the potatoes and in came the kohlrabis to make their debut in this simple, yummy comfort food which turned out to be a big hit.

Ingredients:

3 medium-sized farm fresh kohlrabi, skin removed and chopped into cubes

1 large red onion chopped into pieces the same size as the kohlrabi

6 green chilies, 2 finely chopped and four sliced vertically (less if you can’t tolerate heat)

1.5-inch piece ginger finely chopped

1 tsp salt (or more to taste)

1 cup coconut milk

How To:

Place all the ingredients except the coconut milk in a pan, cover the vegetables with water and cook covered till the kohlrabi is firm but done – a fork inserted should slide in easily, but the vegetable should retain its shape (about 15-20 minutes).  At this point, there will be some water in the pan, but it will not be watery.

Add the coconut milk, mix gently and simmer the mixture for a few minutes.

Turn off the stove and wait 10 minutes before serving the stew with steamed rice or bread.

The result is super yum and a gift for those on a low carb diet.

Tip:  You could also puree this and serve it as a soup and it tastes amazing, the combination of chilies and coconut milk playing a tropical dance on your tongue!

If you cook kohlrabi frequently, I’d love to hear your suggestions!

“Keto” plays havoc in my life before some semblance of order is restored

Just as we approached the holiday season, my husband made a unilateral decision (he did not check in with me) to go on the keto diet to shed a few pounds.  I was horrified! Me…. the food lover whose life was filled with a kaleidoscope of textures and flavors was suddenly listening 24×7 to keto speak – high fat, low carb, not this vegetable, not that flour…..in other words enough to drive me mad!  Our Costco runs ended with huge blocks of cheese and more eggs than I had ever seen in my grocery basket and our Amazon deliveries now included almond flour, coconut flour, psyllium husk and shiratake noodles.  Oh and I was getting regular texts on how these ingredients could be magically converted into yummy meals in the keto universe.  My world was getting torpedoed and I needed to bring back some sanity.

After being the supportive spouse for a bit, trying out new keto recipes, I came to a decision (a unilateral one).  I would cook main stream meals and have a subset that was keto friendly rather than creating separate meals for all of us and taking away a source of constant joy in my life.   A new normal is settling in, a stage where if coconut noodles or rice is made for dinner, my husband’s portion gets made with shiratake noodles/rice.  Our favorite pesto pasta nights continue with one difference – his pasta is made with shiratake noodles.  Our Indian food with rotis and veggies continues, his rotis now get made with almond flour and the vegetables are more keto friendly.

Over the next few posts, I’ll share the recipes for some of these dishes, but for now I wanted to put up a few pictures of some of these “keto” approved dishes that have enabled us to live a new level of family normal!

I’d love to hear your stories and recipes on how you might have integrated special diets into your mainstream family meals.  And if you were able to do it with zero frustration, then I am even more in awe of you!

PS.  If you are curious, yes the diet has worked beautifully for my husband!

Oh dear carrots – you’ve warmed my heart on a cold winter day!

glThey sat there in the fridge looking expectantly at me on a cold winter day.  The little bag of baby carrots, waiting to be let out and begging me to unleash some creativity.

Hunger and not necessity is sometimes the mother of invention.  So, I took the carrots and blanched the entire contents of the little bag.  And then very simply tossed these warm carrots with tahini, olive oil, berbere, green chillies, fresh coriander, mint and lemon juice to create a salad that was the perfect, healthy lunch.  It really is as simple as mixing these ingredients, but if you need a more precise how-to, here it is.

Ingredients:

One small bag of baby carrots (One pound bag)

Two tbsps tahini

One tbsp olive oil

Two tbsps chopped coriander leaves

Two tbsps chopped mint leaves

Two tsps berbere (or paprika or one tsp chilly powder)

One hot green chilly finely chopped

Juice of half a lemon

How to:

Mix all the ingredients and serve hot or cold as a salad or side dish.  If you have a few pomegranate seeds, you can use these for a colorful garnish.

 

 

 

Pinch me and tell me this is for real!

If I rattle off the following words in no particular order – lucky, amazing, beautiful, incredible, unbelievable, memorable, special – does it conjure a certain visual imagery for you? For me, it is these words along with the Hindi word  “kismat” that sum up how I felt last Saturday night walking out of the Metropolitan Museum of Art (the Met) in New York City.  It was almost a “Cinderellaesque” moment, except I wanted the night to linger on as I descended the steps of the Met and got into my cab to head back home.

So what was it that led me to this happy, blissful state?  First and foremost it was clearing a wait list to take part in an event.  Not just any event, but one that brought together Madhur Jaffrey, the prolific actress, chef, and writer with Yotam Ottolenghi, the man whose recipes I’ve been creating joyfully in my kitchen since discovering him during our time in the UK.  These two stalwarts were coming together with Floyd Cardoz, yet another luminary on the Indian food scene to host a “Feast of India” at the Met.  Tickets had been sold out since April and yet through some magnificent stroke of luck, I cleared the waiting list a few days before the event.   Not only did I come beaming ear to ear, but lady luck blessed me with front row seats where I sat within arm’s length of my beloved chefs and next to their families and the curators of the event.  And that was just the kick off to a brilliant evening that had me pinching myself in disbelief at every turn.

Since the lavish evening banquet was in conjunction with the brilliant photography exhibit Modernism on the Ganges: Raghubir Singh Photographs, the event was kicked off by the talented Mia Fineman, Associate Curator in the Department of Photographs at the Met who spoke eloquently about Raghubir Singh’s talents, a topic that was deftly woven into the discussion on vibrant  food and flavors throughout the evening.

As dishes from the north, south, east and west of India were brought out family style and the audience dug in, Yotam embarked on a Q&A with Madhur, asking questions about each dish and Madhur waxing eloquence in fluid prose with a little story and factoid on each dish followed by a video that demonstrated the dish being prepared.  Periods of audience silence were followed by animated chatter where each of us tried to pick our favorites.  Over the course of two hours, Yotam and Madhur paired up playfully to take the audience on a beautiful journey through the tastes of the Indian landscape. From bhelpuri to aloo parathas, pesarattu to jhalmuri, the food straddled the line between familiar and unfamiliar tastes.

As someone who can talk, eat, dream and cook food around the clock, I was just latching on to every word that came from Yotam and Madhur and truly had my fangirl moment when I got to speak to each of them and take pictures too! Floyd Cardoz who supervised the kitchen and was the vision behind the food served talked at the end about his experience creating bolder flavors for the American palate.  He affirmed that the world of bold, bright, deep flavors is here to stay and the world has shifted to a more adventurous mood in terms of food and eating habits.

It is incredibly hard to take a country like India with its kaleidoscope of colors, emotions, people, and flavors and bottle it into a two-hour experience, but the event curators at the Met really did a beautiful job of making the most of this enriching, informative, delicious event.

I’m still basking in the glow of happiness, recreating the evening in my head and trying to source the perfect green chickpeas that as a seasoned Indian and a decent cook I had never tasted in my life till the Met opened my eyes!

!

 

 

When a favorite Indian dessert gets converted into an exotic cake

We all have rituals that make us smile.  For my husband, it is the act of eating a single piece of the Indian sweet Rasmalai which never fails to put a smile on his face.  So when Melissa Clark from the New York Times converted this sweet into a cake for a good friend, I absolutely had to recreate it in my kitchen.

Just a quick primer on Rasmalai.  It literally translates into “Ras” meaning juice and “malai” meaning cream.  It’s a dessert made with homemade cheese and served in a milk-based syrup flavored with rosewater, cardamom and sometimes saffron.

What Melissa did is absolutely brilliant and I continue to learn and be inspired by the art and science of this creation.  Mirroring the inspiration is accomplished through the beautiful art of layering flavors.  The cakes are subtly flavored with cardamom and rose water, then get a soak of milk that is infused with cardamom, followed by a sandwiching process with rose water flavored ricotta filling and a final, stylish flourish of creamy, mascarpone frosting that has a subtle flavor of rose water.

And here’s the final end product staged with a topping of dried rose petals and pistachios.  A sight to behold and a beautiful treat to devour.

As you might have guessed by now, you’ve got to tell yourself the calories are not real and simply a figment of your imagination:)

If you’d like to recreate this, here’s the link to the recipe I followed.

PS.  I do want to thank all the readers/experimenters of the original recipe who generously shared their learnings.  This was instrumental in turning my creation out beautifully!

A few last dates between zucchinis and tomatoes before they are gone!

It’s October; that means if we are lucky, we have several more weeks of the best veggies that we can pick up at our local farm.  Yesterday, I picked up the juiciest cherry tomatoes and zucchinis that looked absolutely beautiful in the most exuberant shade of green.  So for lunch today, I created a salad for one with these two ingredients being the mainstay.  Not only was it delish, you’ve got to agree that it is just a beautiful sight to behold as well!

Ingredients:

One small zucchini converted into ribbons with a vegetable peeler

8-10 cherry tomatoes halved

8-10 pistachios (or any nut for crunch)

One tsp extra virgin olive oil

One tsp lemon juice

Half a tsp of berbere, paprika or chili powder

Salt to taste

 

How to:

Put the zucchini ribbons at the center of a plate.

Arrange the sliced tomatoes, cut side up, in a circle around the zucchini.

Sprinkle salt to taste and berbere (or paprika or chili powder) on the zucchini ribbons and tomatoes.

Pour the olive oil and lemon juice over the salad.

Garnish with pistachios (or other nuts) and dig in!

Easy, breezy green papaya salad

I’m so so grateful that the world of salads is where it is today…..throw in any combination of pulses, greens, fruits, nuts or more and create a new concoction each day.

True to that spirit, I took my love for the yummy green papaya salad served at Thai restaurants and created my own.

Ingredients:

Half a green papaya shredded (green papayas are readily available at Asian Food Stores)

Two medium sized or plum tomatoes thinly sliced

Two hot green chilies thinly sliced

One lime zested and juiced

A few tbsps of cilantro (I use more since I love the flavor)

Two tbsps soy sauce

A tsp of sugar

Two tbsps peanuts crushed (I used the spiced kind, you can use plain as well)

Salt to taste

 

IMG_1402
Ingredients for green papaya salad

 

How to:

In a bowl, mix the shredded papaya, tomatoes and green chilies.

Mix the soy sauce, salt, sugar, lime zest and lime juice to make the dressing.

Add the dressing to the veggies and toss.

Sprinkle the cilantro and crushed nuts on the salad.

Serve with a slice of lime and a chilly on the side.

Enjoy!

Simply put, this cake is magical!

I’ve expressed this form of love before and here I go at it again.  Yes, it is Yotam Ottolenghi yet again along with his baking partner Helen Goh who have me in raptures. Well, it is not really them, but their “Pistachio and Rose Water Semolina Cake” that was just featured in the New York Times that has me all excited.

Just reading the list of ingredients (pistachio, rose-water, lemon juice, almond meal and more) had me in the car on an assembly spree.

And this afternoon, as the pistachios whirred in the food processor and the smell of rose-water wafted in my kitchen, I almost felt like I had been blessed with a virtual visit from the talented powerhouse of Goh and Ottolenghi.

If one could describe the ideal dessert as one where beauty makes a connection with the soul, this has got to be it.

Just a few words of warning!

This does not follow my penchant for light dishes.

True to its middle eastern origin, the cake is sweet and blends in many an exotic flavor. So if you want to get on a magic carpet and take a ride with a subliminal blend of tastes, here’s the way to get on this trip.

Pistachio and Rose Water Semolina Cake

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Meet my Beets!

It’s one of those moments again.  I have a half a bag of baby spinach, a few beets and some freshly grated coconut.  Can I convert it into a healthy side dish or a modern salad?

Taking my inspiration from the traditional south indian “thoran” a dish with veggies and coconut, I created this quickly in my kitchen.

Ingredients:

Two or three fresh beets, washed, peeled and cut into small pieces

A half a bag of spinach or any smaller greens, washed

Four tbsps freshly grated coconut or two tbsps coconut milk

A tsp of mustard seeds

A tbsp of oil

One or two dried red chilly pods broken

1 tsp turmeric powder

Salt to taste

How to:

Heat oil in a pan.  Add the mustard seeds and dried chilly pods.  When the mustard seeds start popping, add the beets, salt and turmeric powder.  Cover and cook till the beets are cooked, yet crunchy (about 10-15 minutes).

Add the spinach, fresh coconut or coconut milk and toss a few times.

Enjoy!

 

 

Climbing Skirrid Fawr in Abergavenny – A photo essay on the beauty that greets you

By Lakshmi:

On my last birthday, I wanted to hike up the other mountain that we saw every time we walked about town in Abergavenny – Skirrid Fawr.  According to legend, part of the mountain is said to have been broken off at the moment of the crucifixion of Jesus.  So, early on my birthday, armed with a couple of water bottles, we parked our car at the bottom of the mountain and began our climb.  There were just a handful of cars in the parking lot and throughout our hike, we just saw a few hikers ascending or descending the summit.

The hike is neither easy nor difficult.  But there are definitely a lot of steep inclines and steps along the way.  So, be prepared to take your time and rest up along the way if you need to.  We simply followed the signs to the top.  The information from National Trust on How to climb Skirrid Fawr provides a good how-to as well.

And here is a photo essay of our climb!

 

 

 

With Food, Travel and Experiences

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