” Lauki ” or Opo squash summer stew!


We can all relate to Comfort Foods ! The need at times for cooking and tasting a bowl of memories that soothes the body and heart. I have many such moments especially when I am homesick. Lately , I have been satisfying myself with several comforting dishes. It is not just the taste of them but the entire process of cooking that is ” comforting”. While I have added many dishes to my comfort foods list, there are some that belong to the many moons ago times of growing up in India.

One such dish is a simple , rustic style squash stew.  The squash is ” lauki” in Punjabi language and best known as ” opo” squash in the American markets.

1 medium sized squash , washed, peeled, cut into medium dice( 5-7 cups approximately)

1 large yellow onion, sliced

2 -3 large tomatoes, cored and diced

1 inch piece fresh ginger, chopped fine

2 tablespoons ghee or oil of choice

1 tablespoon turmeric powder

1 teaspoon coriander powder

1 jalapeño , whole, ( optional)

Salt to taste

  • Heat a pan. Add ghee.
  • Add onions and sweat for 3-4 minutes, till translucent
  • Add the ginger and cook for a minute.
  • Add the squash, turmeric, coriander and jalapeño
  • Stir well to evenly coat all pieces with the dry spices
  • Add the tomatoes ,salt and a 1/4 cup water.
  • Bring to a boil. Then lower heat and let simmer, covered for about 15-20 minutes

Comforting when accompanied by stormed rice.

NOTE : I did not peel the squash as it was very fresh and tender at the Farmer’s market .

As I enjoy my bowl of ” lauki”, I also think of hot summer afternoons in Calcutta more than half a century ago!!!! A simple lunch of the stew over a bowl of hot rice , accompanied by lemon pickle and plain yogurt.

For those of us who moved far away from home and have become dual rooted in adopting another home, these comfort food memories are very special.

Kitchen and Life intersect in my dirty Chai !!!

   
 
It was my day to set yogurt. The milk was set on the stove, fired up and the spatula ready for stirring. Milk needs to be first boiled and then cooled a bit. The starter culture added and then set in a warm place for this to transform into yogurt. Today, it’s a gallon of milk which means it will take about 15-18 minutes to come to a boil and all that stirring creates a beautiful froth. I love brewing a cup of tea so that I can savor it with a head of frothy milkiness! A treat , a ritual, a time to ponder on life and kitchen wisdom. Yogurt setting days usually mean focusing on Transformation……milk into yogurt! 

So, a lovely rhythm sets to the stirring of the milk in a stainless steel pot. This is an important step or the milk  solids will scorch at the bottom and that burnt taste  ruins both milk and yogurt. I am one with this process. I even notice that I tend to stir clockwise three times and anti clockwise twice. I just notice that I do that ..no analysis to why ? Life lesson : I’m practicing just witnessing! Ten minutes or so into this milk boiling a nutty, hot milky aroma begins to pervade my nose and kitchen . I grew up with this smell and it brings back memories. It also reminds me that my daughter dislikes this smell and gets nauseated . Life lesson: not everyone likes the same things and it is ok. 

There is a lovely foam about an inch thick that has formed on the top of the milk pot. I see the small bubbles that come through and pop. And finally the milk is bubbling and rushes up to the top of the pot and I turn off the heat at the perfect moment and no boiling over. A strong cup of tea has brewed too. 

I am ready for my treat.  I pour the tea into my mug and DARN it makes it to the two thirds mark. My husband made some extra coffee and so my mug is now full. A dash of sugar and  a couple of ladles of the milky froth and I have my Dirty Chai. Life lesson: be innovative .

The sipping of that mug of tea was priceless. 

Aaaaah! Valentine !!!

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Sad that so much of the real Valentine gets wrapped up in the hype of material ….the roses, the diamonds, the chocolate, dinners, and so much more.
For more than a decade , my husband who is a yoga teacher, shares these chocolate covered strawberries with his students. And yes , I make them.

The whole experience is one of love and the joyous results!
Blending the different chocolates to make a perfect balance of sweet and bitter ! Love !
The strawberries ….each one wiped down with a damp towel! Love!
Dipping them in the melted chocolate! Love !
Laying each one on the Silpat mat ! Love
Arranging them on plate when cooled ! Love !
Sharing ! Love !
The thanks and enjoyment of the strawberries by students ! Love !
Teacher student relationship ! Love !
Joy of doing for loved one ! Love !

Happy Valentine !
Just Love !

Realize the Value not just the price !

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This creamy Cauliflower soup is made from the cast off trimmings that typically end up in the compost ! In cooking mindfully and Divinising the food , the cauliflowers encompassed so much more! I am filled with gratitude in recognizing it always !

Stalks and leaves of 4 medium sized cauliflowers
1 large potato, peeled, quartered
Smoked salt for seasoning to taste( 1.5 – 2 teaspoons)
1/2 gallon( approximately, )water
1/4 teaspoon saffron strands or one large pinch( optional)
1 lemon

In a large Dutch oven, bring all ingredients to a boil.
Simmer for at least 35-40 minutes.
Blend till smooth . Add more liquid to get soup consistency of choice.
Finish with a splash of lemon juice.

Find a sunny corner. Ladle into bowl. Be grateful! Savour!!

For the love of Spices !!!!!!

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Namaste !

Spices inspire my life !
We roast them and toast them
We pound them
We grind them
and selflessly they give their fragrance, taste and themselves to our food and our health!
A spoon of cumin seeds rubbed together between my palms is a connection to the beautiful women on the farm who have toiled hard to harvest the seeds.
Crack the peppercorns and you spike the dish with stories, travel and long forgotten history!
Spices keep me totally mindful when cooking a dish. It could be the simplicity of one spice or the complex layers of flavors of many, many spices. Jeera Aloo , a simple rustic dish of potatoes and cumin seeds. The complexity of food of the royal Courts of India ….more than 20 different spices in one dish.
Spices are wrapped around traditions . The Masala Dabba….. A common spice box in every Indian household. Picture the continuity of blessing when the mother packs the spice box for her daughter when she gets married.
I moved far away from home after marriage and everyday when I used the spices from my box, I was connected to family .
This deep connection to the spices for so many decades resulted in The Spice Whsiperer. Just recognizing the gift of people and connections on the path of self discovery.

Namaste all !

WTF!#* Turnip Tapas

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These began with pure inspiration and creativity. A by product of Mindfulness in the kitchen!

6 medium turnips, peeled and sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons mustard seeds, yellow , brown or black
A pinch of saffron…6-8 strands
1 level tablespoon of paprika
2 tablespoons of sherry vinegar
Salt to taste

Heat olive oil in a pan on medium heat.
Add the mustard seeds and toast them a couple of minutes till they snap, crackle and pop in sound and release a nutty aroma.
Add the saffron and toast a minute.
Now add the turnips , paprika and salt. Stir well. Cover and cook for about 5-7 minutes till turnips are tender.
Finish off with the vinegar and cook another minute or so to dry off the liquid.

Serve garnished with cilantro or parsley!
Here they were served with a plum grilling jam and spiced amaranth!

WTF !#*~

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World Through Food !!! WTF !
The turnips were cradled and peeled with a paring knife. The goal was not to not break the peel , but just to use peeling turnips as my MINDFUL EXERCISE !
I felt the hands hugging the turnip!
I saw the hand , the thumb and the fingers, move the knife to create a strip of peel, and turn and turn again!
I heard the slice and peel sound. A gentle whoosh whoosh whoosh !
The turnips lay together having shed their outer layer. They gave up their splashes of purple.
The peels curled in joy as though rejoicing in the knowledge of the karmic Wheel of action !
This MINDFULNESS resulted in unbroken peels of all the turnips.
This MINDFULNESS resulted in a heightened sense of awareness !
This MINDFULNESS resulted in a burst of creativity to combine saffron, mustard, smoked paprika and sherry vinegar to make Turnip Tapas !

ABUNDANT SELF of the plum trees!

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The plum tree in our backyard is following its true selfless nature of bearing fruit. It provides the foragers, the birds and squirrels and yes, us!
Thankful for the Abundant tree a plum , vanilla, honey butter is born.
Cooking the plums for hours over a medium low heat is an amazing experience if you let it BE !
The whole house was fragrant with tones of plums and vanilla and then honey. There was a heightened sense of awareness especially for the nose and the eyes. As the plums cooked their color and smell changed. The added caramelization and reduction added a richness .
A truly MiNDFUL exercise.
Here is the intuitive recipe:

8-10 cups plums ( 7-8 pounds approximately ), washed well
2-3 cups honey depending on the sweetness desired
4 vanilla beans slit

Place plums in a large pot. Add 1/2 cup water and bring to a boil on medium heat.
Lower heat and keep on simmer for about an hour and a half, gently stirring every 20 minutes or so.
The plums were truly mushy and falling apart. Let them cool and fish out the pits that had sort of settled at the bottom.
To get a smooth texture , put the plums through the food mill.
They , then went back into the pot with the vanilla beans in. Once again, simmering on a low heat and this time being stirred every 10-15 minutes. You don’t want them to be charred at the bottom.
I enjoyed the stirring as i am a follower of the traditional principle of transferring the cook’ s energy and intention to the food. This was my loving energy in the plum butter in the making. If you don’t have the time this can be done in the slow cooker/ crock .
After several hours( almost 5 hours for me ) the mush had thickened and it was time to sweeten it. Whether you add honey or sugar , you will need to cook again on low heat for 15-20 minutes at least.
Cool and Jar!
Share and Enjoy!

Yield :1/2 to 3/4 gallon depending on the consistency!