Category: Vegetables

Vegetables as star ingredient

Pea, Corn and Shiso Soup

A peak season ingredient such as a tomato is a thing of beauty, exquisite to behold and taste. To be sure, it doesn’t hold a candle to the highly travelled shadows of their former selves that you can find in the dead of winter. That, however, matters less if you were going to add it to other ingredients, or make a sauce or a soup. With perhaps a little spice, or some well-placed sauces, even the most out-of-season ingredients become delicious elements of an ensemble dish, creating a sum of parts far more enjoyable than individual ingredients. Either on merit of pure addition, or on how it is cooked, an ingredient can go far in adding flavour to a dish of ingredients.

Indian cooks know this to be true better than most, as can be seen by the many Indian recipes that ask for a combination of ingredients. Can one reduce that list of ingredients and still make a tasty dish? Of course, but when it comes to the traditional ones, it is the combination of those exact ingredients that makes a dish taste the way you remember it. Anything else could leave you yearning for what is in your memory.

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Bean and Grain Salad Bar

Earlier this year, I decided to attend The Big Traveling Potluck in southern California. I knew absolutely no one else who was attending. It took place in way more sunshine than my foggy San Francisco existence can now handle. I prefer solitude in my personal life. When it comes to interacting with people I would rather have one-to-one interactions or small groups of friends. Given that even at events where I know people, I’m likely to hang out at the periphery, this endeavor did not have the makings of a good idea. It was altogether so far out of my comfort zone, I would need a map to navigate my way back. But the event itself promised to be a good one to, focused on community, learning things others have to teach and I have to learn, and sharing a few meals in the process. I thought I might try it.

Our opportunities for self-assessment go down as we get older and are often tied to our jobs or our families, with little reflection on ourselves. This, for me, was a step in a series of attempts to do something that I didn’t have to do or wasn’t pushed along to try because of the time I am at in my life. To shake things up. There was no deliberation on what I hoped to achieve from it, except that I would be committing to doing something that I would normally shy away from.

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Creamless ‘Cream’ of Avocado Soup

He came home to a dark flat. He paused at the threshold for a moment, straining to hear sounds of the television, of her laughter at said television, of any signs of life. He could hear the electronic wheeze of the 31-Muni opening its doors at the corner of the street. He could hear the washing machine running in the upstairs apartment. The street lamp cast long shadows through the open windows, silent and animated. There was, however, no other noise inside.

He stepped in, letting the door close behind him as he reached for his phone. He punched play on the voice-mail wondering if he had gotten her message wrong, but there was her voice telling him she’d be going home early. The past two weeks had been filled with busy days and exhausted nights for the both of them. All they had been able to do as they crawled home was stop at the small cafe on the way home. It was open late and made Vietnamese sandwiches, which they would gratefully devour standing in the kitchen at home with paper towels held under to sop up any spills. They were entirely too tired to have dishes to clean. There in that kitchen, the aroma of the smoky vegetables would help blot out some of the tiring day while the layers of avocado provided much needed comfort. At any rate, he was glad that those weeks were now behind them. Any sandwich, no matter how delicious, was tiresome after a third straight night. He preferred home-cooked food anyway, eating out only under duress or because she loved to try new places. He had been looking forward in anticipation to dinner all afternoon.

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Squash, Sweet potato & Chickpea Stew

I love flying in the rain. That may sound like an odd thing to like. Most people have a problem with this, but not me. Sure, these flights can be tedious before take-off but in the rain, there is a slowing down of things. The little window shows you a shiny tarmac in a world washed clean. People in cheery neon raincoats scurry about their jobs working to get your flight going on its way, hardly minding the dull weather. The bright orange cones and yellow leader signs dot the grey landscape, firmly guiding the planes. They lie scattered amidst the large gleaming tubes that lugubriously lumber about like lounging whales. It seems impossible that any of them could get moving with any amount of haste, let alone take off the ground and into the air. I love the unfolding choreographed drama of it all.

The drops of rain steadily trickle down the  window reminding me as they always do now of the title sequence of the movie The Matrix. I turn to check my IPad to see if I have a copy of it on there. I don’t, so I continue to watch the rain. It will be time to turn off electronic devices soon anyway.

Despite having been on numerous flights, I still have that breathless moment at take-off when it feels like this tin can I am in is straining every nerve and will likely never manage to pull off the take off. But, slowly, then with growing urgency, it always does. The ground falls away along with all of the roads, buildings and people on it.

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A new year and Russian Salad

Happy new year, you guys! Hope everyone had a wonderful couple of weeks.

Last year slipped away quickly from me at the end there. There was some traveling for work and wrapping up of projects. And then, when I was ready to find relaxation, the universe decided I wasn’t quite ready yet. I got hit by a nasty bug between Xmas and the new year that was quite tenacious in its hold on me. It was like nothing I’ve seen before and with my propensity for colds and coughs, that’s saying something. As I lay under my inadequately warm comforter, I imagined pumpkin bread pudding and strengthening stews to make when I got better, things you would find useful in this winter weather. But when I did get better, my stove decided to go on the fritz.

I can’t say the new year has started in the best possible fashion for me.

There are only two good things that came out of my stove throwing a tantrum. One is that I got to use ‘on the fritz’, a phrase that make me think of malfunctioning wires releasing sparks and makes me happy all out of proportion. The other is, I get to tell you about this salad.

One story about this salad is that it was developed in Russia by a restaurant chef who was basically robbing the owner blind. Well, they don’t say that exactly, but the story is tantamount to the same thing. It is said they gave him a kitchen allowance for supplies and told him that he could keep what was left at the end of the month. So he came up with this salad that is rich in taste but doesn’t need a lot of ingredients, thereby being able to pocket more of the money. There’s another story that says this chef developed the salad for his restaurant and it was a huge hit. It consisted of expensive ingredients like seafood and good cuts of meat and its recipe was a closely guarded secret. Then, one of the chef’s employees stole the recipe, became the chef at a competing restaurant and started serving a version of this salad, albeit with less expensive ingredients. It is said the exact original recipe died with its creator but copycat versions of the salad are still known as Salad Olivier in his honour. In India, we knew it simply as Russian Salad.

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