Sunday, March 3, 2013

Serene Sunday - Skype, Sun, Snow and Salad

*This post is part of The Chennai Bloggers Club's Serene Sunday series initiated to keep the spirit of blogging alive and challenging.*

My Sundays mostly would start of 4:55 AM to jump off the bed only to have my 5 AM alarm going off looooouud when I am in the middle of some active morning business in the washroom. I had been part of some physically active social life getting off for my early morning bicycle ride with my fellow buddies all the way to Mahabs, Kalpakkam or Pondy. Will be back home around noon for a cold shower (Do you even get to have cold shower at noon in Chennai??)  and then blow off some Sunday special like veg pulav or bisibele bath from my mom's kitchen to refill all the lost calories. The late evening is mostly filled with some beach bajji or Express Avenue window shopping or a Sathyam movie followed by Onion Rava dosa and Kasi halwa in ID!!.

As I dream of all that rolled under my blanket back here in Detroit, my phone goes off ringing as my sister calls from India at 9 AM on my Sunday morning today. Took some time off for the regular duties and logged on for some Skype video chatting with my sister and my entertaining niece, Shrutheka. With little talking to my sister, played some hide seek in the webcam with the little one as I still struggle to sort her character who is a sweet devil in action and an angel when still.

As the hunger starts mooting at around 11 AM, made some dosa and emptied the last spoon of vathakuzhambu that I got from India (rolling tears..). Spent some time window shopping on Amazon as the day gets better with some bright Sun out there. The still suggested cold temperature (-6 C) that I got myself out spending over 10 mins to dress up with 3 layers above the waist and 3 layers below.

Just that the day was sunny, but still had chill winds and uncleared pedestrians' pathway that had turned icy. Was thinking of a short run, but chose to walk crushing the snow instead of skidding on the ice. Picked some groceries from the Indian stores and a veggie delite salad from Subway walking back home thinking of what would I write here today. A late afternoon salad lunch and a short nap with Illayaraja music, I am awake again to write the post of my Serene Sunday.

Good morning India. Miss my Chennai Sunday.

Friday, March 1, 2013

6 stove toppers in 66 days

A non resident in India and an alien in America - where do I belong to?

Counting down 66 days of American life was very challenging when I have a tug of war against the watch and calendar that were slowed down like the Michigan traffic on a snowy day. Being naturally an outdoor person, felt very frustrated being locked in the house on every snowy day that I walk out on every opportunity of little sun. Still, the Sun loses to the clouds and snow most of the days. Food being my next big love, started exploring some cooking including that of operating a pressure cooker for the first time.

Gained some confidence after few experiments that at one point I spent most of my day at work reading cookery blogs and got kicked with some inspiration as a great foodie friend of mine, Kamalika won the SuperChef contest in Chennai! My status messages on GTalk went on to become my menu card for the day reading:
    "Steamed rice with lentil and spices", 
    "Flattened wheat bread with lentil soup",
    "Semolina boiled to thicken with vegetables and spices"

If you are wondering what they are: Pongal, Roti - Dhal and Rava Upma!! :-)

I had been trying almost 1 or 2 new items every week and keeping my heart and tummy contented unlike my previous visits to US. Down here, I am just rating the top 6 of what ever turned out well for me in my cooking in the last 66 days.

No. 6: Mushroom pepper fry

Have never even touched mushroom in my life though I order a mushroom soup or a mushroom fry every time I go to eat out in a restaurant. Initially picked a can of cut mushrooms in the groceries store and later replaced that with a small bag of raw mushroom that was double the quantity in half the price. The best part was that I was all cut and ready to 'boil' cook the mushroom in a saucepan until I heard from my cooking guide Deepa warning me to be careful while cooking mushroom!. Puzzled and went on to refer some recipe online for directions and ended having a spicy hot Mushroom pepper fry on a chill evening watching 'Chennai-600028' all alone on Youtube.

Recipe here.

No. 5: Kathirikai Gothsu

In every Brahmin wedding, while all the women in the family sing and play around the long "Oonjal" ceremony, the men just take refugee in the dining hall going on the rounds of Pongal and Gothsu in the morning tiffin. So when I decided to make Pongal, obvious to make some Gothsu when there is some Brinjal.

Recipe here

Story on the Pongal and the pic coming later..

No. 4: Bhindi masala

When I made some Aalo-Bhindi fry and was telling about that, Deepa referred to her Bhindi masala recipe and wanted to me to try that. I followed her recipe though I had to compromise with ordinary onions against shallots and skipped curd as I always do. But when I tasted it with my Chapati, it just flew me away to my college days where we used to have excellent chapatis with super subjis including Bhindi masala at the Bombay chapati corner near Central Bus stand in Trichy. (WTH- ??? Only if you have eaten there, you can relish what I meant to say here.)

No. 3: Chunky Chapati

Have always loved Chapati, Roti, Naan, Phulka and all its related brothers and sisters except for the ones that were made in our college hostel. When I circled around looking at the chapati board and roller 5 times at the Indian stores the other day, I decided to buy it spending a whooping 15$ because I did not want to eat frozen chapatis for all my time in US. Having never made chapati, remember watching my mom kneading the dough in my young days. Did not go to any recipe and started kneading the dough on my own and decided to have it with my best known subji - Dhal. Got better in flattening in the first few chapatis and was very happy to see the third one bulging up promising that I do not have test my teeth on some flying saucers.

No. 2: Chakarai Pongal

Every one away from home, misses home every day. Just that it gets doubled on festivals and occasions when you miss your mom's food. Decided to make some Chakarai Pongal for the occasion of Pongal. While I was confused across many complicated recipes, got a simple one emailed by Deepa and followed that making my debut chakara Pongal. More story here.

No. 1: Ven Pongal

Most days affected by snow, I choose to work from home. But most of these had been less productive on my laptop as I was more productive in the kitchen. Following that list, the latest that happened this week was the Ven Pongal + Katharikai Gothsu. Had some basic knowledge of the Pongal after all that early morning temple prasadam in school days and the Pongal - sambhar vada combo that I have tasted every day at the Brilliant tutorials Kayendhi for many years until they disappeared. Again, no recipe reference for this one. Just the years of experience of eating!

The most important reason to rate this No 1 is not just the taste it retained even after 24 hours in the fridge but the funny incident when I took that for lunch the next day to office. I reheated the Pongal in microwave and got it to my desk to start eating my lunch. Another Tamil colleague sitting in the other side of my cubicle with no little view of my desk pinged me on the intranet messenger and asked "Pongal-a?? Vaasanai thookudhu". I was laughing all alone for a while.

I am determined to pursue my new found passion with the help of my whole big list of cooking expert friends and try 100 new recipes for the year. It is always easy to start from 0 to go to 100 you see :-P.

PS: In the above ratings, I have rated only the items that I was cooking for the first time and ignored my old specialties like Rava Upma, Dhal, Jeera rice, etc. I also ignored items that were too good to taste but most of the ingredients were ready made like Dosa, Idly and Pesto Pasta.