Tagged: side dish

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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Scrambled Paneer with peas, potatoes and mushrooms

Some things are created out of necessity.

I set out to make some form of an egg dish today. Some scrambled eggs with toast would make a nice, light dinner. But then I figured I’d make something more substantial that would also make a good lunch tomorrow. That’s when I thought of egg bhurji, a wonderful masala scrambled egg that is a great way to stretch what eggs you may have.

Unfortunately, things didn’t quite work out the way I wanted.

I started out chopping onions, musing on the fact that most Indian recipes seem to start there. Then I looked for a couple of tomatoes to chop in, but then remembered that I had used the last of them up on Sunday. No matter, I told myself, tomatoes aren’t a requirement, so get on with it. I imagined Tim Gunn in my kitchen telling me to “Make it work”. Sure I could do this. There was nothing to it.

I made short work of the mandatory potatoes for this dish. Mandatory for me, that is. I like the one-skillet egg and potato combination. I proceeded to pull out the carton of eggs from the fridge and found it to be much lighter than I’d hoped. Opening it up, I found it to be as empty as Old Mother Hubbard’s cupboard was bare. My absent-minded husband had struck again, using up the eggs and sticking the empty box in the refrigerator.

Since I already had the onion base in the pan, I checked for alternatives. I located a block of paneer, some leftover mushrooms, frozen peas and not much else. Since by this point I had my heart set on the one thing I couldn’t have, the eggs, I decided to make the dish I wanted but with paneer instead, turning back to my pantry for help.


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Mushrooms with Parsley and Garlic

It was back to work after a five-day break over Thanksgiving. Time off like that can really mess with your everyday routine. I found it hard to galvanize into any kind of action this morning. Of course, the fact that I ended yesterday with a raging attack of sinusitis didn’t help. I woke up this morning wanting to shy completely away from any sort of light. The fact that most of my job keeps me in front of a computer screen made most of today agonizing.

With the aid of alternating applications of soothing cups of hot herbal tea and medication, I managed to make it through a good part of the day. Then I had to get home, draw the curtains and tumble into bed. When I woke up, the light had already faded and the impending threat of an exploding head had receded slightly into the background. My stomach reminded me that I had missed lunch. I was ravenous, but disinclined to set foot in the kitchen. Luckily, that was when Amey got home.

The long but fairly busy weekend kept us from doing some critical grocery shopping, so all we had little in the fridge, aside from some mushrooms and a bunch of curly leaf parsley. It is days like this when I am very thankful for my obsession with spices and flavoured salts. They are more than worth their weight in gold.

With just those ingredients, Amey put together a dinner that we often have on other rushed or lean supply nights. It involved roughly chopping the aforementioned mushrooms, then massacring the whole bunch of parsley. He then minced a few cloves of garlic and was ready to cook.

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Broccoli romanesco & Broccoli stir-fry

This year was the first time we enrolled for a CSA box every two weeks. Community Supported Agriculture is a great way to get a selection of fresh, local produce straight from the farm. The consumer has the benefit of saving some grocery shopping time yet getting as-fresh-as-can-be produce from the source. The money you pay upfront helps the farmer have a buyer before having things to sell, money he can put straight into his farm, enabling him to get the best out of his land.

Since we began living in California and learned of the concept, we have been fully supportive of it and all it stood for, at least in theory. We didn’t think it would work for us and our two person household. A CSA box holds a plethora of wonderful and exciting things, most of which are fresh and/or ripe. That also means that not everything in the box will hold up for too long. With our erratic work schedules, we were certain that we couldn’t get through a box before we started to lose them to spoilage. We were safer heading out to the Farmer’s Market when we needed to shop, so we thought. Also, there are great Asian markets in the city that have beautiful, fresh produce at very reasonable prices. Having lived close to Chinatown in the past, and with Clement Street fairly accessible now, we figured we had the voracious need for vegetables in this household covered.

One of our favourite farm stands at the Ferry Building Farmer’s Market is Eatwell Farm. It’s one that has been part of the market for a long time and is one we assiduously seek out when we visit. Aside from some amazing produce, they also have great products like flavoured oils, sugars & salts for sale (including the world’s best smoked chilli salt that I’ve been infatuated with since its introduction). No visit to the Farmer’s Market is complete for us without stopping by to see what Eatwell has on offer.
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