A few weeks ago, we drove up couple hours north of San Francisco to check out some new places, early-Spring scenery and eat some oysters. We came back inspired, relaxed, and rejuvenated, already drawing up the schedule for a summer visit.
We went all the way north up to Cazadero and drove our way back south, visiting Tomales Bay, Inverness, Pierce Point (hello Elks!), Point Reyes, Bolinas and Stinson Beach, taking in the beautiful pastures, crisp air and grazing cows, as Northern California showed itself off preparing for an early Spring.
Think “Color Run 5K”. Now multiply by 50,000 and replace “run” with dancing, giggling and frolic. And that’s Holi in India for you! “Holi Hai!” translates to “It’s Holi!” and is the warcry of one of the funnest Indian festivals, usually around the beginning of March, to celebrate the arrival of spring and the triumph of good over evil. Part 1 of Holi is celebrated late in the evening with huge bonfires, where people burn statues of a demon princess. The only “ritual” on the following day (Part 2) is to have fun and lots of it: friends and family visit each other and throw colors on each other, hose each other down with colored water, and other such activities.
Music, dancing and good food is involved, as with most Indian festivals.
You can’t let February pass by without making something with blood oranges! Although this recipe can be made with any type of orange, or a combination of oranges, the blood orange makes it truly gorgeous: contrasting well in color and flavor with a meaty mild, white fish, such as cod, sole or sea bass.
When it comes to Indian Food, the term “Indian” is too generic. There are so many regions in India (and sub-regions, and sub- sub-regions, and so on), each with its own list of ingredients, spice palette and flavor profile, not even everyone in India knows what’s cooking elsewhere within India. Within Indian food, the cuisine I’m most comfortable with is Maharashtrian – the food from the western state of Maharashtra (that’s where the big cities like Mumbai [Bombay to some] and Pune [Poona to some] are located). Sometimes referred to as “Marathi” food (Marathi is the language spoken in Maharashtra), it has many, many sub-types. Each region brings its own style, and each family adds a flavor of its own, to complicate matters further in the most delicious way possible.
Growing up, the various men and women in my family had different cooking styles and preferences, so I got to sample lots of different kinds of food and everything [Indian] that I cook today is influenced by my mom, dad, grandmother, aunts, and more recently, the sibling unit that makes its own spice mixes from scratch, just because. My husband’s and mother-in-law‘s cooking style has also influenced my cooking in the last couple of years since they are both amazing cooks, hailing from a different sub-region! When I make “Upma” (a semolina porridge with ginger, green chillies and green peas), I make it like my grandmother’s – I don’t like anything brown too much, and the end result is a soft, white, comforting bowl of heaven. I also copy her garnish, which, like most people who grew up in the coastal regions, is a generous heap of freshly grated coconut! Well, when I indulge, anyway. On a more regular basis I make Upma with quick cooking (1-minute) oatmeal or steel-cut oatmeal because its lighter and healthier. But when it comes to one of my Dad’s trademark preparations, even my mom, who’s the best cook I know, defers to him for instructions and so do I. I hope to post about his “Dal Fry” (spiced Lentil Stew) on the blog soon!
I almost didn’t write this post. I was planning to just cop out and post a few pictures on Instagram about this truly simple yet delicious salad and be done with it (terribly long week!), but there is so much to be said about the star ingredients of this salad – I decided to properly introduce them to ya’ll.
This salad features the seasonal Raw Mango (technically it’s “Unripe Mango”, although it sounds far less glamorous), known as “Kairi” in India and is on the farm stands a lot longer than its more celebrated incarnation, the Mango (riper, sweet version). Sure, the Mango is eaten many different ways (mostly as dessert) but the Raw (Unripe) Mango is extremely versatile and used in a lot of savory preparations in India. More on the subject to come your way on this blog, as we make our way through summer.
In North America, Raw Mangoes are available in regular grocery stores periodically in the spring and summer. I picked some up at the Indian grocery store few weeks ago to snack on (cut into thin wedges, with some salt and red chilli powder sprinkled on top), and figured that their tartness would pair really well with the richness of avocados! When picking these, be sure to choose Mangoes that are slightly pale green and softer to the touch (the harder ones can be bitter sometimes).
I missed most of Fall last year. Between training for a half marathon I didn’t end up completing, to getting 2 wisdom teeth pulled out (also see: uncompleted half marathon), to traveling for almost 8 weeks – it was a crazy few months there. I didn’t get to roast as many types of squash as I normally would. So when I was back to my home base around Christmas time, I was eager to get to it. But then things like a terrible viral throat infection and a move got in the way, and that pretty much brings us up to now.
Now, when most people are all squashed out. But not me!
When I was visiting Sri Lanka this past November, I had this really smooth, creamy Mixed Squash Soup which had the most wonderful citrus notes and fragrance (here’s an article where I went on and on about it), and I figured winter/fall time squashes and oranges do go together really well! But in our minds, they don’t coexist because of the seasons in which they are most popular. Enter February: the month where the squashes slowly start changing their outfits from brown to yellow and orange to green, and in come the Blood Oranges (just for a few weeks, sadly), ready to mingle with their sweet juices and ruby red flesh.
Thanks to the unrelenting (!), ever-changing Bay Area weather (hey! we all need to find something to complain about), I was out of commission for most of last week, and unable to do the things I had set out to do – at work, at home and of course, in the kitchen. Since the weather improved a bit on Sunday, and thanks to the husband, I had my meal prep for the week (detailed post on that coming soon!) in the bag, I actually had the time, energy and freedom to make something new. Also, ingredients. And writing this up while holding my breath watching Beyonce do this at the Grammys was a nice end to a week-long illness.
Sometimes you need to put together a meal that scores on all accounts:
Relatively healthy but not dull
A li’l indulgent but not over the top
Easily adaptable with ingredients available on hand
Doesn’t require dirtying all the pots/pans you own