SIMPLY BEING | SIMPLE BEING

Tag: food (page 2 of 4)

Food, Life, Family – what else?

Beach_SantaMonica

Beachy Feet, Santa Monica

Earlier, when I wrote on Live Journal, there would be long periods of silence and then I’d return with a post that always opened with “I know it’s been a while…” This time, I decided to forgo that standard opening line (did I?). Anyway, life has been chugging along, fairly predictable and regular and busy and leisurely and contented and itching-for-something, all at once. Is that how it is for everyone?

Food updates? Well, we eat at home most of the time and no, I am not cooking anything exciting. In fact, most of what I cook these days contains very little spice. Me and P, I have realized, are prone to Pitta aggravation, so salt-spice-sour is best avoided. That being said, every once in a while, we will sneak off for a healthy dose of Indian chaat or Kari Sayur Campur or South Indian tiffin. Sushi has been on my mind lately, so hopefully we will find a time to go eat some. I was wondering some weeks back why the baking itch was so dormant. Well, I baked a couple of items – baked oatmeal, cocoa-almond breakfast cookies, banana-oats-coconut cookies. The cocoa-almond cookies were spectacular. Friends loved it. I only tasted a couple before giving them away. Baked oatmeal? Strictly okay. Or not. Banana oat cookies? Absymal, depressing, soggy masquerading as soft. What a letdown of a recipe, what a waste of three organic bananas… sigh. This is the third time I am trying this recipe out. When I made these cookies earlier, they were sad specimens but I kept thinking that I was the one who had messed up somewhere. Hmm, I need to find a better recipe to use overripe bananas.

Life is lovely although there is a definite itch within that keeps me wondering what’s going on and where I am headed. You keep feeling like you are on the brink of something, a breakthrough, a gigantic A-Ha moment or experience. Actually, I feel like I want to go away someplace. Get rid of everything I own (okay, not everything), hunker down for some dedicated work, keep the world and its denizens OUT. I guess it is a theme that many of us entertain in our humdrum lives. Well… that’s all I am going to say for now.

Culturing Food Impressions

 

Growing up in India so many years ago, we didn’t go out to eat much. Mostly, we ate at home.

My Mom is a wonderful cook. She doesn’t take herself (or cooking) so seriously and I mean that in a good, no, great, way. To put it better, she takes herself (and cooking and life) lightly, so she lands easy. Anyway, the point I am making is that Mom is an effortless cook. She throws together seemingly opposite ingredients, adds a dash or two of various spices, moves the ladle around, turns the heat off… and voila, you have a delicious dish ready.

As kids, we hardly ever got an opportunity to complain about food. Mom made the most heavenly petal-soft idlis, served with piping hot sambar and steaming hot coffee. Her rotis were light and delicious, the curries fresh and flavorful. She asked friends for recipes, experimented with old favorites, and came up with new concoctions with fearless abandon. And Daddy, G and I were the happy beneficiaries.

Today, I understand that her food was laced with love and caring, and that is what elevated her cooking to divine heights. Maybe she wasn’t an accomplished cook at all but there was no missing the sweet tenderness that pervaded the dishes. Now take the case of Dad who cooked for us when Mom visited my grandmother. He didn’t make anything fancy but everything he cooked was delicious. Simple flavors, lightly spiced, fresh and nourishing… Oh yum.

The result of those happy food years is that today I have an amazing set of taste buds. Rather, I learned fairly early to discriminate between bad food and the best kind. Meditation has only added to the sense of refinement.

It is like priming. When your senses are trained to consume the very best that is on offer, then what develops is discrimination. You learn to recognize what is good for you and what isn’t. You actively begin making changes about what you consume and what you avoid.

Once you have tasted nectar, how can you settle for carbonated water?

Interview with Sucheta Rawal, Founder of Go Eat Give

Go Eat Give is a non-profit organization based in Atlanta that connects three favorite interests of people: traveling, food and volunteering. When I first heard of Go Eat Give, I marveled at the ingenuity of the founder Sucheta Rawal who had alighted on this winning combination. I wonder if a better way exists that can bring people together in a spirit of service, curiosity and adventure. Also, my inner wordsmith loves Go Eat Give’s tagline – Connecting People, Places and Palates!

Sucheta is an avid traveler herself who dreams of visiting every country on the planet. She is also an accomplished cook who holds classes and demonstrations around Atlanta. Here is her story.

Sucheta Rawal, Spain

Sucheta Rawal, Spain

When and how did you get bitten by the travel bug?
My first international trip was to USA when I was 16. Up until I graduated with my masters and started working, I really did not have any money to travel. But once I was earning a decent living at an investment bank, I started taking 4 big trips every year. The more I traveled, the more I got addicted to it. The bug of seeing the whole world bit me about 8 years ago!

Love the concept of combining volunteerism, traveling and food! How did you hit on this deadly combination? 🙂
After visiting 30 countries for leisure, I felt the experience was getting rather repetitive. I would stay in a hotel, eat at restaurants recommended by guide books & get photos of attractions that everyone else had. Even the souvenirs began to look all the same! I chanced upon an organization that offered volunteer vacation packages & went with them to Russia & Morocco. I loved the fact that I got to eat home cooked meals, interacted with the locals, learned so much about the culture & also gave back to the community. I have always been involved in community service all my life, and writing about food & teaching cooking classes since 2003. All those 3 aspects – travel, food & service were so close to my heart, the combination seemed very natural.

Tough question coming up… What are the top 3 favorite places you have visited?
Yes, that’s tough, like having to choose your favorite kid! I love the rich art, culture and architecture of Vienna; the never ending bazaars in Morocco; and the unbelievable landscapes of Iceland.

Friends Abroad!

Friends Abroad!

Can you share a memorable experience from a trip abroad?

There are so many! Last year when visiting Rio de Janeiro, I stayed with a Brazilian lady (a complete stranger) at her home. She was extremely sweet and showed me her favorite spots in the city from beaches and rain forests to neighborhoods and restaurants. She drove me around town and even introduced me to her friends. We became very close and still talk regularly. I will never forget her kindness and sweet smile. I plan to visit her again this year.

So many trips, a long list of countries… what are the lessons you have brought home to yourself?
The biggest lesson I have learned is that no matter what the race, religion or belief, people everywhere are generally very nice. I have learned to put prejudices and stereotypes away and accept the differences among cultures. I have also first hand witnessed how people live and how little they can get by with, which has helped me appreciate everything I have. When you see people in the poorest of conditions being calm and happy all the time, you realize what is really important in life.

Around the World with Go Eat Give

Around the World with Go Eat Give

What are your favorite foods?
I love to try ethnic foods. Anything made using fresh ingredients where you can still taste the real food is very appealing to me. However, if I was stranded on an island, I could live on wine, bread and chocolate. I can never resist a good gelato!

Can you share a favorite recipe?
Here is the easiest molten chocolate cake aka chocolate soufflé I have made. When I want to spend little time in the kitchen & yet wow my guests, I make this recipe. See Easter Chocolate Leftovers.

 

Questions for the Resident Chef (Ahem, me)

Refinery29 is one of the sites on my oft-visited list. It is a fashion/lifestyle website that features trends, street style, interviews, beauty DIY tutorials, nifty recipes… all that is hip and happening. It so happened that I was trawling the website last night and I chanced on a slideshow featuring an interview of six top chefs from San Francisco. The questions looked interesting and I thought – hey, I am the chef in my home AND I would like to answer these questions too! So here we go. Aparna, Parita, Ganga, Tea – consider yourself tagged!

Chillies!

What are the three fave things in your fridge right now?
Freshly ground almond butter (from Harry’s Farmers Market), Earth Balance soy-free spread, Mom’s Chai Masala.

What’s the one thing you always have on hand?
Fresh ginger, it goes into almost everything I cook.

What’s one thing you’d never have?
Soda/pop. Been years since I have had an aerated drink.

If you had an unlimited supply of anything, what would that be?
Organic dried fruit and nuts! For a long while now, they have been serving as breakfast. I soak a couple of dried dates, apricots, figs and 10-12 almonds and some walnuts overnight in water. Drain the water in the morning, peel the almonds, eat.

What’s your go-to market and what do you get there?
I adore Sandy Springs Farmers Market but they are only open 7-8 months in the year. The other times, I make a round of Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, Dekalb Farmers Market and my local Indian store. I enjoy shopping for groceries, I totally do.

What ingredient are you currently loving?
Can I mention a couple? Jowar and Bajri flour. Both are forms of millet flour, available at the Indian store, inexpensive, gluten-free and healthy. Plus you can cook up a host of healthy goodies with them!

What’s your favorite thing to whip up at home?
Cashew Sesame Spice curry. I make it with all manner of root/hardy vegetables namely beets, sweet potatoes, cauliflower, carrots, radish, etc. The original recipe uses peanuts but I prefer cashews or almonds. An easy recipe that tastes better with time, this one is a keeper.

Roasted Spice Mix

Roasted Spice Mix

Any songs you like cooking to?
Indian classical (Pt. Bhimsen Joshi’s melodies are often heard in the kitchen), South Indian film music, Indian-Western classical music fusion.

What are the best items to have on hand for a quick and easy dinner?
Rice noodles, toasted sesame oil, carrots, Bragg’s liquid aminos, zucchini, tofu… Noodle Soup!

Rice Noodle Soup with Vegetables and Tofu

Rice Noodle Soup with Vegetables and Tofu

What are your favorite kind of leftovers?
Cashew Sesame Spice Curry, Chhole, Biryani, Chili.

Fill in the blank: If I’m cooking to impress, I make….
Haven’t ever cooked to impress (who’d I impress, duh) but if I had to, I’d make Peppermint Olive Oil Brownies. Or Maria Speck‘s Date-Apricot-Anise Muffins.

What’s your condiment of choice?
So many… Toasted sesame oil, dried ginger, Garam Masala, etc.

What’s the strangest thing in your fridge at the moment?
Dry yeast. It is probably six years old. I got it for my mother-in-law who wanted to make jalebis. She made a batch but we didn’t use up the yeast entirely. So it remains in the fridge, to this day.

When a midnight snack attack strikes, what’s the plan?
Bajri Khakra, perhaps? Frankly, midnight is no time to eat anything, so I’d stave off the snack attack as best as I could.