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The Joy of making Paneer ( Indian Pot Cheese)

Rosemary paneer!

On this beautiful Monday morning, I decided to make rosemary paneer to honor the friendship of my friend Ryan. Many moons ago he introduced me to rosemary infused milk. This one's for you Ryan!

  • 1  quart whole milk
  • 1 quart half and half
  • 2-3 Tablespoons lemon juice or vinegar
  • 3-4 sprigs of rosemary ( 4-5 inches length)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • cheesecloth
  1. Heat the milk and half and half in a saucepan. Frequently stir so that the milk solids do not burn at the bottom of the pan.
  2. Just before milk comes to a boil add the rosemary sprigs and salt. Lower the heat as soon as the mixture boils. Stir so that it does not boil over.Simmer a minute to infuse the milk and add the acid to curdle the milk. Allow the mixture to come to a boil for a minute.
  3. The whey should look clear and not milky. 
  4. Line a strainer with cheesecloth and strain. I saved the top part of the sprig . Now, lift and fold the cheesecloth around the paneer and place under a weight to drain more of the whey out. 
  5. I needed a disc like shape and kept the paneer under weight for about three hours.
  6. Peel the cheesecloth. Cut and use as desired.
  7. I was inspired to make a Caprese Salad with a twist. Rosemary paneer, tomatoes, mint and touch of chaat masala !!
This is the underbelly of the rosemary paneer!   

This is the underbelly of the rosemary paneer!

 

I don't have a label for this cooking . This is where I am . Many influences. Many adoptions. Many adaptations. Many moods. Many Tastes. Mostly progressing forward on the path into the journey!!!

Enjoy!

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Momopause!!

    Roses, brunches, chocolates, gifts ! Yes, it is the day to honor and thank the mothers! Let us pause on this day to think about the women that brought us into this world! 

I owe everything to my mum for being who I am today ! She guided me onto the path of discovering who I was . I remember her being there for me in all my tears, fears , scrapes, hurts, insecurities and joys. She taught me to be a good friend, a wife, a sister, a daughter , a mother and a strong woman. She taught me all of that by her living example. There was so much that I did not understand in my younger days but as I enter the fall of my life, I feel blessed, grateful  and thankful for my grandmother , my mum, my sister and my daughter! They are all truly my mother ! 

Technology has made it easier to stay connected  but I miss the actual touch and the real communication .The sitting together and having tea. But again, thankful for the lovely special tea memories at Flury's , Kolkata. The shopping trips at Dhangar Market, New Market  and Basak Stores . The very special shoe shopping memories at this Chinese shoe shop where my sister and I would get them custom made . Style, fashion, entertaining was all learnt by watching mom. 

A blog post will not do justice to all that I want to share about my mother but this is to remind all of us that we should go through " Momopause" everyday. Happy Mothers Day and pause each day to thank mom!

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Aaaaah! Valentine !!!

IMG_1653 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 !

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For the love of Spices !!!!!!

20140711-175426-64466337.jpg 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 !

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WTF !#*~

20140630-115518-42918640.jpg 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 !

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East meets West !

Three decades ago, I replanted my roots in the Bay Area. Having become deeply dual rooted over the years, it is no surprise that my food reflects this .These Poached Pears with Saffron Semolina ( Sooji ka halva ) are representing that dual rooted ness. Sooji ka Halva ( a sweet semolina polenta) is a very special dessert in North India. It is served on all auspicious occasions . I remember the way the house smelled when the semolina was being toasted in ghee. Many wonderful memories are attached to the halva.

So when the garden provided pears, pears and more pears, I decided to make these poached pears in raspberry, rose and hibiscus and pair it with saffron Sooji halva.

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Beat the heat !!

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Beat the heat !!

2013-06-27 13.17.54

2013-06-27 13.17.54Namaste Hello All! Nostalgic food! When the heat hits !  I crave for the salted lassi ! So, while I am walking down memory lane, I am also walking in my backyard gathering a few mint leaves .

This was my lassi today !

2 cups plain, low fat yogurt

5 cups water

2 cups ice cubes

10-12 large leaves mint

1 teaspoon salt

3/4 teaspoon ground, toasted cumin seeds

Blend all ingredients . Enjoy !!

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Tea Time at Memory Lane !!

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Tea Time at Memory Lane !!

2013-05-20 15.06.28

2013-05-20 15.06.28This post is inspired by the love of sisters!! Many moons ago Punita ( my sister) and Vinita took a Teapot Trail in the UK. It was about the Tea, the Teapots, the scones, dainty cucumber sandwiches and Love !! Love that creates memories of a lifetime ! Punita is an amazing person. She inspires me with her intensity! I miss her terribly and these scones have all the love of the Tea pot Trails and more.

Inspired Scones !

Makes 8 scones
2    cups whole wheat pastry flour
1    tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ,  cinnamon powder
2/3 of a medium size banana, mashed
1/8 teaspoon salt
5   Tablespoons butter, chilled, cubed
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
1/4 cup chia seeds
1/4 cup hemp seeds
1/2 cup milk, low fat
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F!
  • In a food processor, add flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon powder. Pulse a few seconds to mix the dry ingredients.
  • Add butter, a few chunks at a time and pulse till the mixture resembles cornmeal.
  • Add  banana and pulse about 4-5 times.
  • Add the chia and hemp seeds and lemon zest and pulse a few more times.
  • Add milk in a few batches, and pulse a few times.
  • Transfer the almost ball of dough to a floured surface.
  • Push it together and form a disk! Flatten it to about 1 1/2 inch thickness.
  • Cut disk into 8 pieces. Lay them in a sheet pan.
  • Bake in preheated oven for 15-18 minutes
Enjoy!!
Notes:
If you do not want to use a food processor, you can work the butter into the flour with fingertips or pastry blender.

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Welcoming Mother's Day !

20130506-202058.jpgSagging boobs, miles of wrinkles and stretch marks are my testament to years of nurturing and learning!  With THANKS to my mother, and her mother before her, and her mother before her and all the mothers before them, for this true gift. She is my source ! With utter surety her hand guided me on this path and journey. With love and grateful humbleness I wish all A Happy Mother's Day !

I dedicate the basic food of Punjab.....the roti, an unleavened flatbread, to this Mother's day. My mum still enjoys this with a dollop of freshly churned butter, a pinch of salt and a few chili flakes !

Whole wheat rotis

2 cups whole wheat flour ( my favorite is from Community Grains communitygrains.com )

1/4 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup water ( or more) for a smooth but wet dough

  • Knead the dough. Cover and let sit for at least 30 minutes.
  • Portion the dough into 6 to 8 balls and roll them into medium to thin circles ( about 6 inches circle)
  • Place a griddle on medium high heat. When hot place a rolled out roti on the griddle.
  • Let cook for a minute or so, then flip to the other side. Lift after about 2 minutes to see tiny brown spots.
  • Now turn over and with a wadded tea towel, gently press to puff up the roti.
  • Remove from heat , smear with a touch of butter or ghee and eat ! ENJOY !

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Lemon Pickle

In the last few months, our lemon tree has been generous and given us a basketful of lovely fruit. They looked so beautiful that they inspired me to make an Indian pickle. A lot of people ask me what the difference is between "Western" pickles and "Indian" pickles. Western pickles, like dill pickles, are submerged in a brining solution made up of water, vinegar and spices. Indian pickle, or "achaar", on the other hand, is made up of traditional spices and vegetables in oil. You can delve into a jar a mere week after you've prepared it.

Preparing my achaar brought back memories from more than 40 years ago of me in the Northern India city of Lucknow. My maternal grandparents had their home there and all of our family gathered there for both summer and winter vacations.

Winters were lovely outdoors in the afternoons. The women would gather and some food activity would always be going on. Making massive amounts of pickles was what I remember the most: Large amounts of vegetables, spices and big huge cooking pots to prepare everything. One very popular North Indian pickle was a mixture of cauliflower, carrots and turnip. The spices with these particular vegetables create a slightly sweet and spicy flavor.

Our grandmothers and great aunts would sit and give directions to the daughters and daughter-in-laws and kids. All the women and girls in the family would be a part of the pickle process. It's amazing how some actions force you to recall memories, as if you were right back where you were all those years ago. Last Monday, I once again felt the cool on my skin and the warmth of the sun. I smell the  prepped vegetables and the warm love of generations of wonderful women.

Picture a beautiful courtyard with a patch of velvet lawn. Sheets are spread on the lawn and blanched veggies are drying on it. Mounds of deep red carrots, white cauliflower and turnips with a shy shade of purple. Portable stoves have huge pots, oil gets heated, and spices are toasted. The pungent and spicy smells fill the air, eyes watering at times with the pure mustard oil. I remember an aunt who smoked the hookah, shouting instructions while seated on the "charpai," a simple woven bed. And then I return -  back in my kitchen in California thousands of miles away from Lucknow. It's a different time but a familiar and wonderful sense of continuity.

My kitchen fills with aromas, memories and a lot of love that will be shared both through the recipes and little samples with family, friends and students.

Pickle can be enjoyed with so many things - an Indian meal of curried lentils and rice - or think outside the jar - try alongside grilled pork chops or topped on pita chips. So many possibilities!

Lemon Pickle ("Nimbu Achaar")

Prep Time: 20 minutes Cook Time: 15 minutes Yields: 2.5 cups

Vegetarian/Vegan/Low-sodium

Ingredients:

2 cups lemons with peel, diced into quarter inch pieces 6 chilies, jalapeno or Serrano 1/2 cup vegetable oil 1/4 cup fenugreek seeds 1/4 cup whole mustard seeds (yellow or black are fine) 2 tbsp ground cumin 2 tbsp ground coriander 2 tbsp ground sesame seed 2 tbsp garam masala 2 tbsp ground paprika 4 tbsp red wine vinegar Juice from three large lemons 1 tbsp salt Optional: 12 curry leaves

Method:

1. Heat the vegetable oil in a large saucepan; add fenugreek and mustard seeds. Heat until the seeds start to pop!

2. Add the curry leaves, cumin, coriander, sesame seed, garam masala and parika. Stir this mixture over medium heat for about 4-5 minutes - you should really start to smell the toasted spices coming together.

3. While the spices are toasting, wash the chilies and pat dry with a towel

4. Once the spices are toasted, add the chilies and lemon to the saucepan. Stir so that all the lemons are coated with the mixture.

5. Add the lemon juice, vinegar and salt. Lower the heat and stir frequently for about 8-10 minutes. Constant stirring will prevent the spices from burning at the bottom of the pan.

6. Transfer to a glass bowl and tightly cover with plastic wrap or an air tight lid. Leave out of the refrigerator to sit for at least a week. Stir twice a day during the first week.

7. After a week, transfer the pickle to mason jar/jars, making sure that the pickle is packed down, ensuring that oil covers the jar. This will help preserve the pickle for up to a month. If you can't cover each jar with the oil, put it in your refrigerator. It will keep for up to three months there.

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