Tagged: vegetarian

Cherry-Orange Bread, adapted from Everyday Greens

It would be rare to see coffee in my hand. I reach for it only when I absolutely need a boost for an early morning or from a long and tiring day. It wasn’t always like this. While I never drank copious amounts, it used to be what I asked for often instead of tea. But either the beans or the processing here is different from India. And whatever the change is, it leaves me with a bitter taste, both literally and figuratively. The smell of some coffee beans brewing early in the morning can make me nauseous. I’m sorely disappointed that I can’t enjoy any and all varieties. I read somewhere that the palette changes every seven years. I do hope mine learns to like all coffee. Meanwhile I’ll stick to the tried and tested. I get my coffee from a jar bought in the Indian store.

Working where I do brings with it, among other good things, every other Friday off. Though most of my weekends these past months have involved wrestling with books filled with cost estimation, grades of soil, Modernism and the like, I’m nevertheless still thankful for these alternating long weekends. I wake up early in the morning, grab the requisite cup of coffee to help keep my eyes open and jog my brain, and hit the books with the fervent hope that they won’t hit back too hard. It’s difficult to put up much of a fight when I’m just about barely awake.

Today, the caffeine carried me through some part of the morning.Then I realized methods of project delivery were starting to leak out of my head. My early morning meant that I was hungry earlier than usual as well. Luckily, there was still some orange bread left over. While I would normally never advocate this for a meal; indeed, it’s original intention had been for an afternoon snack, I was glad to have it at hand. It meant I didn’t have to get up and futz around the stove, racking my already hurting brain about what to cook.

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Annie Somerville’s Green Gulch Special Scrambled Eggs

The rain is leaving us as spring waltzes in but it certainly isn’t leaving quietly. In the night, my little kitchen was flooded in moonlight but as I looked up, swift grey covers silently stole in and blocked her from my view. The next morning, formerly azure skies were swathed in threatening grays and mauves. People who had put away their winter wear were sent scrambling for their coats and spent the day wishing for the sun again. But despite the shocked gasps that I’m going to incite from that quarter, I’m not sure I’m ready for the rain to leave us just yet. I do like the sun but I’m going to miss winter’s quiet monochrome days this time around. It’s perfect for staying in and studying, which I’ve needed to do. Nevertheless, foodwise, I am looking forward to spring and summer’s bounty of fresh produce, which in the Bay Area is tremendous.

Before then, we continue to make the best of staples and our small pantry. Greens restaurant here in San Francisco always seems to have wonderful menus no matter what the season and their head chef Annie Sommerville’s cookbook Field of Greens is one of my favourite places to go looking when I want different flavours. This light and lovely scrambled egg breakfast is simple, with ingredients quite different from what I’d normally put in scrambled eggs. The sesame gives it varied smoky nuance and the ginger brings a lovely mild heat.

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Mom’s Batata Bharit with Rice and Yoghurt

For me, starting grad school was synonymous with starting a life in the United States. Everything was new, from trains inside airports that transported you around it to wide open spaces with not a sign of life. The latter was a novel and jarring experience. Almost anywhere in India, you always see people. In Texas, you can go miles and miles without seeing so much as an armadillo. I remember sitting at my window, jet-lagged and missing home on my first day in, hoping to see anything that moved. Even the trees wouldn’t stir. My room-mates were out and I don’t think I have ever felt so alone on a blazing, bright sunny day.

I missed Bombay a lot, including and importantly, the food. Everything with which I was familiar looked similar in the US, but was completely different. The sole Indian restaurant in College Station was a joke; everything was watered down to an extreme. Chinese food was unrecognizable, with hardly a dish on the menu being the same as the ones I knew at home. The nearest grocery store/market was over two miles away. And giving in to the urge to convert everything I bought into rupees made me freak out. (100 rupees for a mere pound of potatoes, are you *#@!! kidding me??) Also portions had my head spinning. A burrito joint called Free Bird, while serving some pretty decent burritos, had a regular size burrito that was humongous (and that was the smallest size!). A couple of days of eating out on such fare and the local McDonald’s and we were done. After scaring up various pots and pans and loading up on groceries, thanks to helpful college seniors, we began the task of organizing food at home.

Back in Bombay, I had loved the idea of cooking and had tried my hand at a decent share of stuff but had never needed to cook on a daily basis. The kitchen was really my mother’s domain. I’d never been more than a sous-chef at best, irregularly at that, playing chef on the rare occasions she was unwell. The sudden task of dealing with daily meals, paying bills and grad school was unbelievably trying. Quick food became a goal to strive for, with a strong concentration for familiar and cheap (we were, after all, foreign students in a foreign country, and it was 50 rupees to the dollar at the time).

One of the first things Indian babies are fed is rice, first in the form of a soft paste, eventually graduating to rice with milk. The adult and significantly more flavourful version of this is dahi-bhat (curd & rice) which some, like my husband, possess the capacity to consume daily basis. It is supremely easy, quick and cheap to throw together. The yoghurt gets tempered with various ingredients, depending on where you from in India, but any of the combinations result in a lovely, mildly spiced rice dish. Pair this with a batata bharit (potato mash), the kind that my mom put together, and you could be forgiven for feeling like a small child having a grown-uppish meal. It was a little slice of heaven between classes and we were home in a brand new world!

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Whole wheat Pasta with Walnuts in a Gorgonzola sauce

One of the (many!) enjoyable things about living in San Francisco is the easy access to a great variety of cheese. I don’t mean the stuff near the deli at the supermarket, though that’s fine in a pinch. I mean the lovely varieties of artisan cheeses that are available here. One of my favourite ones is Cowgirl Creamery’s Pepato, a wonderful peppery sheep’s milk cheese which is mmmyummmmy all by itself. I can wax lyrical for volumes just about this cheese, but that would mean digressing, so…. putting dream cheese away in fantasy fridge to focus back on the topic at hand.

I like to shop for food like some women like to shop for shoes. I can spend hours wandering around food, gawking at all the wares. I think dogs who stare dolefully at dining tables must be more subtle than I am. Fanatical about hygiene though I may be, I have no problem shmushing my face into cheese counters and such to get a better look at what’s inside. The more expensive the store, the longer I will linger, since the thrifty part of me will engage in long arguments with the part that wants to buy half the store.  The compromise is Greedy Guts get an eyeful of everything she’s not going to have. If you see someone with vacant eyes, staring supposedly aimlessly at the counter while you try to get at the clotted cream around her, forgive me for being in your way, but now you know why.

Sometimes though, the staring brings with it inspiration. On a particularly late night grocery shopping trip, where my thoughts were also on the night’s dinner, I sampled a wonderful gorgonzola. It has been ages since I ate some and wondered if I could put it into a salad. But the cold night demanded something warm and so gorgonzola pasta was born.


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French Yoghurt Cake from Epicurious

There are days when grey skies and rainy days are fine by me. I love them when I’m sitting at home and don’t have anywhere to be.  These are the days that things at home that have been clamouring for my attention for a while, but haven’t been critical enough to actually get it, get done. Stuff like sorting out books, reorganizing a closet or shelf. But there is also a lovely indolent element to these times. They are the best days for curling up on the couch and doing nothing other than reading a good book or watching a bad movie. Amey and I love to sleep in when we have such weather. But that Sunday I was up uncharacteristically bright and early. I sat by the window and watch the rain come down while a steaming cup of cocoa warmed my hands. As strains of Reo Speedwagon‘s Can’t Fight this feeling filled the room (I always get a bit nostalgic and retro when it rains and I don’t know what it is about this song and the rain, they just fit), I watched the rain falling down my window, tracing the drops as they formed briefly-lived lines on the pane. Rains in San Francisco aren’t like ones in Bombay where the terrifyingly dark skies open and a deluge of water pours down. This is gentle pattering down of water from slate skies. I could still see the traffic on Bay street clearly enough to read license plates, something that would never happen in Bombay rains. Nevertheless, rain it was, rhythmically falling and bringing the calming feeling of facetious isolation that it brings for me. The same feeling I get when I am by myself in a crowd.

Draining my cup of cocoa left me me suddenly bereft of the warm cup in my hands. It also turned my thoughts to the week ahead, as Sunday mornings inevitably do. I used to groan at the thought of that early Monday morning. Monday blues used to hit me a whole day earlier.  Don’t get me wrong, I love my job and my workplace, working as I do with fun people. It is Mondays that are the problem. Like the kid sticking his fingers in his ears and singing to drown out words he doesn’t want to hear, early on in my career I would shut my mind to the thought of Monday and try to push it far back as much as possible, thereby ensuring a full fledged gloom attack by Sunday night. These days I deal with it a lot better (cue in peals of hysterical laughter from my husband).This time though the thought of Monday brightened me considerably as it came with thoughts of cake.


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