Gourmet’s cheese and scallion drop biscuits

Let’s face it. The Bay area weather hasn’t really been up to snuff lately. What’s worse is we’re talking rainy weekends here, people. Last week was no different. We got two glorious days of sunshine that turned into a gray, rainy weekend. To add insult to injury, now as I write this on Sunday evening, the sun is out.

My pre-Monday morning blues just got bluer.

I think I love winter and gray skies way more than the average person, but it is almost a month into spring. Really weather gods, could you get with the program already? Given that this is Northern California, those May flowers are inevitable, why the April storms? We’re also probably well stocked with the Hetch Hetchy for now, what with the intense winter. How about we get a break, huh? More importantly, a weekend truce. A break from this weird “will it, won’t it?” pro-con game you’ve got us playing. Because frankly, it’s getting on my nerves.

Yesterday, it rained when I was inside and stopped when I came out. The black clouds though, hovered with this pervading sense of threat. When you’re juggling a few odds-and-ends up certain hills, without any actual rain but with an umbrella that keeps knocking you in the shins every second step, all you want to do is hurl it at the sky in your very own Jay & Silent Bob “Damn yous all to hell” moment. Yet not carrying such protection leaves you at the mercy of the contrary elements, which you cannot risk. So there you are, feeling a complete fool for trying to be prepared. Not to mention feeling the pain in those very sore shins.

That same unreal pro-con feeling seeped through most of my weekend. On the pro side, I finally made it back to Omnivore Books as I’ve meaning to since my last trip. On the con side, I forgot to check updates and walked into a shop where Alice Waters sat signing copies of her books. Yes, I love getting my books signed. No, I did not have my copy of The Art of Simple Food. I couldn’t even make eye contact with the author, talk about a completely absurd sense of guilt! Omnivore Books is intimate enough that it is not easy to browse all the shelves when there’s a book signing set up. So with a quick perusal, we turned to head out.
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Jamie Oliver’s Lemon-Vanilla no bake Cheesecake with Blackberry sauce

With the perspective that comes with distance (and maturity, one can dare to hope), I realize that I was unbelievably lucky when I was growing up. Though I spent years wishing my mum worked at something else other than focusing her laser gaze and brains on us, a happy result of that was a varied and healthy diet. She cooked from fresh ingredients and rarely fed us the same thing two times in a row. We weren’t allowed to eat leftovers until we turned ten. Picky (read:annoying as hell) though I was, I was forced to eat everything on my plate. Childish resentment aside, as an adult, I have only a sense of gratitude for mandatory exposure to every vegetable possible.

The pace of life has changed incredibly in the span of the last twenty years. What was once choice has now become necessity as both mothers and fathers everywhere need to work to provide for their families. Fewer children (I’m sure even back in India) have all day access to their mothers. Enter other agencies that step in to plug the gaps. Frozen food has become a multi-million dollar industry. Fast food is reducing life expectancy everywhere. The food provided in schools to children in order to save parents the time is not much different from fast food.

Some people argue that those (like me) who would like an embargo on the daily consumption of fast food as a full meal should take a look at the calories that they are consuming out of the home-cooked fare. Home cooked meals, they argue, aren’t much that much less in calorie content. The thing is, it is not calories that are causing problems in the growth of children everywhere. It is the preservatives, processing and quality of ingredients that goes into the fast food that is the problem. That, along with portion sizes. Heck, don’t take my word for it. I don’t even have children. But if you do and you live in the United States, you may want to take a minute to hear from a man who does have kids, has done oodles of research and knows what he’s talking about. Jamie Oliver spearheaded the change in school lunches in the UK. Now he’s hoping to do the same in this country, one with the highest obesity rates in the world.

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Mom’s Sabudana Khichadi

As a transplant from another place, you reach a point in your life when you think you’ve gotten a handle on things, culinarily speaking. The cooking and consumption of foods from your original home strikes a somewhat fragile balance with foods you’ve grown to love in your adopted home. You’ve tried most of what is on offer here and have gathered together all the food you miss from there. Or you think you did.

Then out of the blue, the balance shifts. A word, an image, a smell…and something stirs in your memories.

It is not like I had forgotten all about this dish. I came across the straightforward recipe often in my precious file of mom’s recipes. Yet I passed it over because of its simplicity, engrossed in the pursuit of the more flamboyant and vibrant ones. While my mind was engaged in chicken curries and palak paneers, this one sort of got lost in plain sight. Now, I realize that it has been ten years since I last ate this dish. How did I go that long without craving it?

The last time I enjoyed it, I was sitting in my mother’s kitchen. It was a day before I was about to leave for the other side of the world. It was also the day my mom finally told me how much she was going to miss me. All this time, for over a year, she had been brave about the decision her erstwhile stay-at-home middle daughter had made to leave. Videoconferencing wasn’t yet the norm and she wouldn’t see me for a long time. For a whole month leading up to the day, she had been cooking all my favourite things. There were so many last meals I requested because I love practically everything my mom makes and knew I would miss it all. I’d already made my way over the culinary map, home food and restaurants, as I knew it then. My bags were packed to bursting with mom’s pickles and snacks, my uncle’s veggie patties and chicken cutlets (he’d dropped them off just earlier that morning as he stopped by to wish me luck). These would extend the old-home experience a bit more in the new place I was to call home. I was excited and scared and sorry to leave all at the same time.
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Smitten Kitchen’s Snickerdoodles (and an anniversary giveaway)

There’s a lot to celebrate today if you are looking for that kind of thing. We sprung forward and practically everyone is cheering, especially since we’ve been greeted by a super gorgeous day. (I’m not. I mourn my lost hour of sleep but I’m odd that way.) We also celebrated Pi Day, a fact that I’m beginning to be more cognizant of in recent years than I was before. Not surprising, since it was born in San Francisco. In the light of changing seasons, I’ve been thinking about several things; from new flowers (aren’t they gorgeous?!) to bar stools (I’ve got to stop shovelling down breakfast standing at the kitchen counter). So preoccupied have I been that it almost passed me by. It would have been awful if I’d missed it. Really it would. For today, you see, is my first blogversary!

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CR | Tacolicious

Ladies and gents, we’ve found a new restaurant that we are completely and totally, head-over-heels in love with.

It was touch-and-go for a bit. This restaurant joins several good ones on Chestnut street, which are all plagued with the same problem. On a weekend, they are impossible to get into without a reservation or a long wait. Tacolicious is no different. It’s great for the restaurant but awful for the people who just spent forty-five minutes finding parking only to find that a table is another forty-five minutes away. This was in its second open week. San Franciscans sure know how to welcome restaurants with open arms and wallets.

The next time we got in through the door, but were nearly blasted right back out by the sheer wall of sound and people that greeted us. The music was intensely loud and I found myself screaming at the hostess about tables and the bar. Finally, we grabbed a couple of tacos, guacamole and some fried plantains to-go and blew out of the place. Conversation of any kind was impossible in there. Call me crazy, but I like discussing the food and other world events with my dinner companions as I eat. Not that I would have gotten to rest on even half a bar stool that night. Tacolicious was living the very high life.

It might have been a to-go order, but it was packed with the same care and precision that I was to later realize that they put into all their food. The fresh tortilla chips and salsa that arrive at your table for you to nibble on as you peruse the menu had been thoughtfully included. So were the three different kinds of salsa that arrive with the tacos. You can tell a lot about restaurants serving Mexican food from their salsa and guacamole. Tacolicious scores flashing high numbers in this regard. They have this tangy green tomatillo salsa and smoky brown chipotle salsa, along with a searing yellow habenero one that set the soul of this chilli lover ablaze. The guacamole was easily some of the best I’ve eaten in a restaurant, with a creamy consistency, sour but not too much. We were hooked.
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