Ever since I took the Wonders of Wonton class at San Francisco’s pop-up school The Civic Kitchen I’ve been on a bit of wonton bender. I had made two big batches of 2 types of wontons few weeks ago and I think I had them in the freezer but they seem to have disappeared, and they took some of the chili oil with them.
I had no option but to make more. Figured I would use leeks from my farm stand haul, with some tofu for bulk. I added some store bought lemongrass paste but it was quite intense, and a bit synthetic in flavor – the wontons tasted alright overall but not how I imagined they would. I guess I’ll need to try to a different brand or try to make my own – stay tuned! I’m not suggesting the paste in the recipe below but feel free to add 1-1 1/2 teaspoon of your favorite brand if you’d like to experiment (just adjust the salt and spice level accordingly)!
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.
Please don’t click away because you read the words “vegan” and “whole wheat”! This bread isn’t the horrendous, overly healthy kind of bread. It’s a delicious Chocolate Banana Bread that just happens to be vegan and whole grain.
I have a regular go-to breakfast banana bread but sometimes, you need to indulge in chocolate to navigate through piles of winter greens, and there’s just no other way out. The whole wheat pastry flour works wonderfully here cup for cup, and by replacing the butter with coconut oil and egg with an additional large banana, the bread gets the “vegan” title in addition to being “whole wheat”, placing it squarely in the breakfast category (just with obscene amounts of chocolate).
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).
Few years ago, I used to watch Top Chef and Top Chef Masters on Bravo TV very religiously. I may or may not have bought several Top Chef Masters episodes on Amazon Instant Video. One of the finalists was Rick Bayless, an American chef who has mastered Mexican Cooking. Something about his mild demeanor, warmth and the fact that he went to Mexico as a young man and ended up living there for several years, enchanted by authentic Mexican cooking, just stayed with me. He ended up winning the Top Chef Masters title that season because he stayed true to his humble, warm self and made some delicious Mexican food. I can’t wait to eat at his restaurant, Frontera Grill, the next time I’m in Chicago!
Since then I’ve been following his recipes, and their simplicity and deliciousness can’t be beat. One of the most underrated salsas out there, “salsa verde”, is usually the “medium” in the trio of “mild, medium and hot” salsas in typical Mexican restaurants. Most of the times its watered down, pale and dull. This “medium” salsa recipe below by Rick Bayless is the highest calling of the humble tomatillo, and literally takes 15 minutes to whip up! Perfect for sprucing up a bowl of cooked quinoa, roasted vegetables, scrambled eggs or the tip of your tortilla chip, this Tomatillo Salsa will always be at the ready.