Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Why Farmers Markets Rule

When I tell people about the bountiful Farmer's Market here, they just don't seem to understand. They nod, say something like, "oh yeah we have them here too" but, alas my friends, you don't know a farmers market until you've been to the one in Santa Monica.

LA may be a cursed town in many ways, but this is one of its redemptive qualities. In Dubai we have a MASSIVE market that Dad frequented every Friday morning, returning to the homestead with a crate of apricots from Iran, bags of those long Indian green beans and a few fish freshly plucked from the Gulf that morning. Cut to Chicago -- I couldn't believe that the only way you could get fresh produce was from the stale, anonymous bins at the Jewel-Osco. Noone to stand behind their oranges, no way to taste them, rubbery lettuce... it was so sad!

So that's why the farmers market is so important to me -- it reminds me of home! Even the history of the LA farmers markets is touching; it started as an effort to bring fresh fruit and veggies to the inner city, areas from which the local supermarkets had fled (nice, huh?). Now you can find at least one farmers market a day in some LA neighborhood or other. The Santa Monica one is the biggest I think, or at least the one with the most prestige, since this is the one that many of LA's famed chefs frequent, in search of the goods for their menus. Many chefs will take what they buy that day and collate a special Farmers Market menu based on what they find that day.

Anyway, here's some photographic evidence I took today of the resplendent Santa Monica Farmers Market. First off, FRESH chickpeas/garbanzo beans. Ever seen these before?

Artichoke flowers:

4 different kinds of cantaloupe! And this was just at one stall!

Piles of heirloom tomatoes:

And my favorite, banana flowers:

And to soothe the omnivore in all of us:


Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Repast from the Past

The summer after my sophomore year was marked by yet more adventures in independence. For the first time, I was living in an apartment with friends (Eli and Hillary). We sublet a place on Noyes, or at least that was the closest stop on the El station in Evanston. I was still dating Brendan. Eli started flirting with and then dating Jason Gross, a relationship that lasted until I left for New York in 2001!! I worked nights at Giordano's Pizza, and held two internships... it was a fun, busy summer.

But by far, the most memorable moment of the summer was when Hillary discovered this Cauliflower Pie recipe in the Moosewood Cookbook. Don't make a face... I know it doesn't sound all that appetizing. But holy crap, we couldn't get enough of it. Even though it was stinkin' hot, just like all summers in Chicago are, we still fired up that oven and baked this sucka because we loved it that much.

I re-discovered the recipe the other night, scribbled on a yellow piece of paper, so folded, unfolded and folded again that it's soft... and with a sweet little cauliflower crying out to me in the fridge, decided to make it. What I love about this recipe is its unfussy ingredients: the humble potato, the equally humble cauliflower, and the quintessential root veggie, the onion. And a few eggs. But my how it sings. Especially since the crust itself is made of potato -- it ends up kinda tasting like IHOP hash browns. And I must say that I make it a damn sight better now than we did in college. And that makes me feel good.

For you Weight Watchers folks, this apparently works out to 5 point for a quarter of the pie! DAAAAAMN! Whattah baaaahhhgin! (Oh, but you must use low-fat cheese)

Cauliflower Cheese Pie

2 cups packed, grated raw potato
1/2 tsp salt
1 egg, beaten
1/4 cup grated onion

1 heaping packed up, grated cheddar
I medium cauliflower, cut into SMALL florets
1 clove garlic, crushed
I cup onion, chopped
3 tbsp butter (or use a combo of oil and butter to lighten it up)
dash of thyme
1/2 tsp basil
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs and 1/4 cup milk beaten together
pepper and paprika

- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F
- Set potato in colander, sprinkle with salt and leave for 10 minutes. Squeeze out water well.
- Add egg and onion to grated potato, pat into well-oiled 9" pan, build up sides of crust.
- Bake 30 mins, and brush crust with oil. Bake another 10-15 minutes.

- Lower oven temp to 375 degrees F
- Saute onions and garlic in butter, 5 minutes
- Add herbs, cauliflower and salt. Cook, covered for about 10 minutes until tenderish. You can add a little water if you like so that the cauliflower doesn't burn while it's cooking.

- To assemble the pie: sprinkle 1/2 cup of cheese into crust, then pour over cauliflower, then rest of cheese.
- Pour egg/milk mixture over, dust with paprika and pepper.
- Bake 35-40 minutes until set. I found that the rim of the crust tends to burn a little after the first baking, so I covered it with a line of foil so it wouldn't burn more. Your oven may behave itself better.



Yippee! I found it!

Found the camera! Phew! It was hidden under a pile o' stuff as usual. Since Bren left for BM, I'm having to pick up all the piles of things that were sitting around for possibly transportation out to the desert. The house feels a lot airier thank goodness. It's hot out here this week.

Monday, August 27, 2007


I just read about this... a lunar eclipse tonight!

And what's more, as the post points out, this is the one thing LA'ers have over NY'ers; y'all can't see it! Nanny nanny boo-boo!

So I am going to try to stay up to see it. However, I cannot for the life of me find our camera. Bren called me last night from the road to Nevada, and he mentioned his one big bummer, that he hadn't taken the camera... but I can't find it here either. OH NO!!! So I'm not sure where it is, and that has left me quite handicapped.

I feel as if I can't really enjoy the eclipse without capturing it somehow, even though as I think about it, I realise that our camera probably wouldn't be able to capture the red moon all that well since it doesn't function well in the dark. Even so, it doesn't feel like it's enough ... doesn't feel like I will truly experience it without recording it somehow. Isn't that funny? I've only had the camera for a few months and I am so dependent on it to validate episodes in my life. Silly me.


Friday, August 24, 2007

Prepping for the Burn

Carnivale mask? Check.
EL wire to light up the bike? Check.
10 changes of underwear? Check.

What else could that list be for, but for Burning Man?!

Bren leaves for Burning Man on Sunday, so I have been helping him by running errands and also cooking a few batches of food for him to take. I was so flattered that he even asked!! For those of you interested, I am making a big batch of Kala Channa (which I wrote about in my Jai Hindh! post), and a big batch of quinoa salad. That should keep the vegetarians satisfied. :)

There is so much to prepare before he leaves -- it really is a massive undertaking. He is going with a camp of about 15 people, so imagine all the logistical planning: the water, the rental trucks, the food, the dry ice to keep the food from going bad, the shade structure (which is vital since Burning Man is held in the middle of the cloudless Nevada desert on a dried-out lakebed), transporting the shade structure (a 30-foot dome that they built from scratch, no kits, just pipe lengths!)... and then of course, your clothes, your tent, your bike... The list goes on and on. It is really something and if you can't tell from my boastful tone, I am so proud of him! I pray that he has a tremendous time, since his previous experience was so wonderful. As for me, I will be here alone for a week, which I am kinda dreading, kinda looking forward to. At least Kuv will be here for a couple of days to keep me company. Yeah Kuv!!!!


Tuesday, August 21, 2007

29 and counting...

It was my birthday on Sunday. One more of these and I'll have occupied this Earth for three decades! I can't believe it. The day before, as I was getting ready to celebrate with all my friends the next day, I realised that I have a lot to be be grateful about, and it would probably be good for me to write them all down. So, here is what I'm grateful for at the ripe ol' age of 29:

- God
- mum, dad, kuv and crish
- brendan brendan brendan brendan brendan
- brendan's family
- wonderful friends. really, WONDERFUL!!
- awesome, cool neighbours who have become part of the family too
- a roof over my head
- never having to worry where the next meal is coming from
- running water
- music
- lattes
- the weather: sunshine, breezes, storm clouds and rain
- trees
- that i'm healthy, my body works (mostly!) and i have all my limbs, fingers and toes
- that the people i care about are healthy
- food glorious food (and my ability to taste it)
- that i have been blessed with intellect
- that i got to go to good schools
- that i can make people laugh every now and then
- hugs

oh man, i could go on and on. but for now that's it. bren took the photo above using a technique that resembles that of a spastic ninja... if you've seen him do it, you know what i'm talking about. he uses a setting with a longer aperture, snaps a picture while spasming the camera around. i roll my eyes everytime he does it, but damn, does it take a good picture.


Friday, August 17, 2007


It's been about a year I think since I got my hair cut last. The ends of hair looked FAKE, they were so brittle and split. I had even tried rubbing some hot oil into my hair like we used to do when we were kids (coconut oil ladies... awesome!), and it had a temporary softening effect, but it still felt like a horse's tail. So, without further ado, here's my new, um, do!!!

For the first time, I went in there with no plans, and just went with the flow. And while I was scared at first, I am loving it now. I feel so much more sassy... it might be the beginning of a new attitude for me!!


Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Branded for Life

The other day I showed you Brendan's bare arm, which I said would never be bare again. And I wasn't kidding. Sweet sweet Bren is branded for life!

Yes indeed, that is my name in Hindi, in screaming red ink. Sigh. That's MY Brendan Michael McNamara!



I couldn't sleep a couple of nights ago, so I started taking photos of Bren, deep in slumber. Like, a TON of photos. Bren thinks I'm stalking him. Which I thought he'd find enjoyable being my husband and all.


Jai Hindh!

Photo from the Washington Post

India celebrates 60 years of independence today. Whee! Viva India! It's hard to believe that a country as ancient as India has only been free from colonial power, running on her own steam, for 60 years. I mean, my dad is older than 60. I'm sure a bunch of you have parents who are 60+!

That concept of time made me think. We so often only think of right NOW, or dream of our future. But when you look back, that sense of perspective is so shocking! For example, African-Americans only earned the right to vote 40 years ago. WHAT? We think that we are such a different people now, that we've progressed so much, that we're in such a different place, where that kind of discrimination doesn't happen, where cries of "that's racist!" are brushed under the carpet and labelled inflammatory... FOURTY YEARS people. I'm nearly thirty for goodness' sake. And then Don Imus gets his radio show back, and people wonder why other people are pissed about it. "Progress".

Here's a list of things that were happening around the same time as India was fighting for her independence (according to Wiki. Sorry, I am a laaazy historian):

- Pearl Harbor (1941)
- World War II ending (1945)
- The United Nations established (1945)
- The Arab-Israeli war (1948)
- The republic of Ireland came into being (1948)
- The Soviets tested their first nuclear bomb, which some see as the beginning of the Cold War (1949)

Ugh. The 40s sound fun, huh?

Anyway, back to a hopefully happier future! In addition to India's independence day, today also marks Elizabeth's 4th wedding anniversary (yeah Eli and Thomas!), and the Assumption of Mary into Heaven, a Catholic Day of Obligation. It's a big day in the Sequeira household!

To celebrate, I tackled a down-home favorite that I have dreaded trying: Whole dried chickpeas with coconut, jaggery and tamarind.

This one is a bit of a doozy because you have to buy these special chickpeas (Kala Channa, literally black chickpeas) from the Indian market, in addition to the jaggery (hardened cane sugar or palm sugar), the tamarind and the coconut. You have to soak the channa overnight, then boil it... you have to extract the pulp from the tamarind, and you have to figure out how sweet the jaggery is.

That last part I must admit was the easiest and most enjoyable because, um, you just eat it. And I haven't had jaggery in years... it made me feel like a little fat kid again, sneaking into the kitchen in search of something sweet around 4 in the afternoon while everyone was sleeping. Mum didn't buy any biscuits/cookies for us, because I was such a fattie so I would snack on the jaggery and get a wonderful smile on my face. :) PURE SUGAR GOODNESS!! Take that ma! ;)

Just kidding... I know she meant well. And whenever she DID buy biscuits, ooh boy did I inhale those suckas quick.

Ok, anyway, so I made the channa... and I must say that I am quite impressed with myself! Especially for figuring out a lot of the techniques on my own! I followed mum's recipe, but as my sisters can attest, mum's not very specific in her recipe-writing. There's a lot of "just boil the channa until it's cooked", and "take a small ball of tamarind" (small by whose standards?!)... and of course there's the joy of the surprise ingredient showing up in the instructions but not the ingredient list. It's funny though because I find myself falling into that same pattern now when I recite recipes... right Kuv?

I think it turned out deliciously, almost as good as mum makes it. Almost. Sigh.


Friday, August 10, 2007

More Big Sur for ya...

Now for the promised post on the Big Sur music festival Bren and I drove to last weekend.

Big Sur is about 5 hours north of Los Angeles, one of the most beautiful, surreal drives I have ever done. Bren and I did this drive for our honeymoon too, so that only adds to the serenity I feel when I'm there. Even Bren mellows out -- he gets very quiet and a peaceful, prayerful look washes over his face (or at least I prefer to think he's feeling like that, rather than pissed about driving!!)

We were told, quite enigmatically, to drive to a "pullout on the right after the Shell Station" -- it was all very secret brotherhood-y!! It reminded me of that episode of 90210, where Brandon and Brenda try to get to a rave by presenting an egg at a liquor store. Do you guys remember that one?!!!! hahahahaa

Anyway, we parked at the pull out, loaded our stuff into the back of a van, met a handful of other people and then drove up a nearby hill. Modern patio-wrapped cabins dotted the landscape on our way up, with spectacular views of the fog rolling in and kissing the tree-carpeted hillsides.

Finally, we got to the location, a cool collective of modern wooden cabins clearly DESIGNED, you know what I mean? Hippie-types abounded, some of whom were friendly, some of whom were annoyingly not. We found a small piece under the trees and pitched our tent. It's the first time Bren and I had camped together! Bren took this wicked creepy photo of me in the tent!!

There was a nice whimsical touch outside our tent though... someone had run an extension cord from one of the homes, and plugged in a happy lamp right outside our tent.

After some dinner, we headed into the "barn", a big, clean beautiful space with a wide sloping wooden ceiling that looked like the bottom of an Indonesian gamelan. First, the hostess of the evening (and Bren's friend) Alana staged a frightening yet alluring dance piece: she played a wild spirit creature who is both spurned and loved by her frilly, tightly-laced circle of women.

Bren's friend Jolene sang a pair of wonderful, soul-y rocky tunes...

And it wouldn't be a gathering of Burning Man folks, without some fire dancing. (There were some tribal bellydance poseurs too, but I didn't think much of them. Yes you can call me a snob. Tribal bellydancing can be beautiful, but you cannot get up there and do it if you haven't mastered it yet or else you look like a complete tosser).

Bren took all those awesome pics! Thanks ba!

By far though, the most touching and exquisite performance was from a gal named Marie Sioux -- an unassuming girl with a guitar who knocked me over with her voice and her lyrics. She is on Grassroots Records, run by a super-cool guy named Mark who I befriended because he was addicted to the chocolate-covered espresso beans that I was passing around! Go to the website and listen to her stuff. She's lovely and I predict will soon have quite a following.

well this post is long enough. there's actually more to come! standby!

oh and Bren is getting a tattoo today! aieeee! Here is the last time we'll see a clean forearm on my beloved BMM.


Fresh take on Tuna Salad

I made this earlier this week and it was really good, much better than I thought it would be. Recipe comes from Food and Wine. I splurged and bought italian canned tuna, preserved in oil, and I highly recommend doing the same. I can't imagine this being as good with the regular watery kind. I stuffed the finished product into a wholewheat pita, with a small salad for dinner. All I needed was a glass of white wine!! For you Weightwatchers folks, this comes out to about 5 points per cup. I THINK!

Tuna Salad with Fennel, Cucumber and Tarragon

1 small shallot, finely chopped
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1 tablespoon chopped tarragon
1 small fennel bulb—cored and cut into 1/4-inch dice
1/2 English cucumber—peeled, seeded and diced
Two 6-ounce cans olive oil–packed tuna, drained
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
Lettuce leaves or pita bread, for serving

In a bowl, whisk the shallot, vinegar, oil, sugar and tarragon. Add the fennel and cucumber and toss. Let stand for 5 minutes.
Add the tuna to the salad and season with salt and pepper. Spoon the salad into lettuce leaves or pita bread and serve.



Thursday, August 9, 2007

Fat Kid Mentality Part 2

Conversation between Bren and myself yesterday:

B: "Did you go to the grocery store today?"
A: "Yup."
B: "Did you get... oh nevermind."
A: "What?"
B: "Nope, I already know the answer."
A: "What? How is that possible? There are literally hundreds of things I could have bought, and I haven't said...."
B: "When we get home, I'll point at it and you'll laugh."
A: "Oh reeeally? Ok..."

Cut to: I follow Bren up the stairs to our humble abode.

Bren walks directly toward the freezer, opens it up and points... at the three boxes of ice-cream treats I bought at the store today.

I start to laugh, because I can't believe Bren read my mind.

A: "How did you know? How could you POSSIBLY know?"
B: Shrugs. "Fat Kids."


I love Mandi!

I just wanted to mention that my friend Mandi, who I've known since my sophomore year in college, called me today just to say, "YOU LOOK HOT!"

Isn't that a good friend? Possibly the best?!!

I guess Mandi has been reading the blog and just HAD to call and let me know how hot I am. Little did sweet Mandi know how much I needed to hear something like that today.

Thankyou Mandi! YOU'RE HOT TOO!


Tuesday, August 7, 2007

HBO announces...

As I may have told you, I helped produce a documentary about the crisis in Darfur. It's called "Sand and Sorrow", and it's directed by Peabody Award-winning director, Paul Freedman, and narrated by George Clooney. I can now announce that HBO BOUGHT IT! What a blessing!

The Hollywood Reporter has the story.

It doesn't mention an air date (which we've heard is mid-december). I am so thankful for the potential this offers -- hopefully it'll keep the momentum going to find a lasting solution to the Darfur crisis. I hope you all will be able to watch it. It's not an easy film to watch, because it is such a sad and frustrating story, but it's important. Please spread the word. I know the whole "Let's save Africa!" thing is both condescending and tiring... but it is shameful that we have allowed the first genocide of the 21st century to play out, UNCHECKED.

For more on the film, check out designed by old friend and roommate of 3 years, Andrew Swindler! Thanks Andy!

Even though the UN is making progress in terms of gathering more than 20,000 peacekeeping troops to send to the region,
(a) who knows what kind of MANDATE those troops will have (ie, will they only be able to OBSERVE what is going on? or act to stop it?)

(b) most of the troops have been volunteered by African nations, which is great... except that those guys will comprise the majority of the infantry division. The UN needs richer member states to voluteer highly-trained soldiers (who can pilot attack helicopters etc) to round out these forces so that they can actually make a deeper impact. Let's see if that happens.

By the way, God bless Bangladesh; they volunteered troops for Darfur. That country has very little and yet always gives a lot. Remember Katrina? They pledged $1m to Katrina victims. This from a country whose citizens earn an average of $2000 a YEAR. (via CIA Factbook)

There's a lesson in there for all of us.


Monday, August 6, 2007

Back from Big Sur

Bren and I drove up to Big Sur on Saturday, for a small outdoor music/art festival organized by a woman he met at Burning Man last year. I will post more on that a little later -- I have so much to do today! The building inspector is coming tomorrow so I have to clear all the extraneous crap off the patio. But here's a few pics of the beautiful Big Sur... it's like God tipping his hand, saying, "here kids. This is just a little taste of what heaven looks like..."


Friday, August 3, 2007

Posting Fiend

I have not one, but TWO post on LAist today. One on the local city hall scandal: LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa was having an affair with a local Telemundo newscaster, who was also reporting on the political beat. She just got suspended for 2 months without pay, which to me, is the most ridiculously light sentence ever. Anyway, click here for that post which I wrote last night.

I also wrote about a new arm of local wine emporium, the Winehouse, which will soon be opening "Taste"... and sort of test-drive vending machine thing, where you stock up a little credit card with money, then slide it through a reader and you can taste as much wine as you want! I don't think I've seen this on any other blogs so I'm excited that I beat them to the punch. Woo-hoo! Click here for that one.


The Fat Kid Mentality

If any of you have hung around Bren and I enough, you know that we were fat kids. And that fat kid mentality still runs our lives, eg. being unbelievably excited when we moved in that In'n'Out Burger is only 2 blocks from our place and subsequently hitting it about twice a week, running out the door in our pyjamas to beat the 10p closing time at Coldstone Creamery, me working out extra hard this morning to justify that sweet, flaky chocolate croissant and creamy latte from my favorite coffee place ever, Conservatory coffee, driving 45 minutes to Gardena just to get the most delicious sushi... oh fat kid mentality, we love and hate you simultaneously.

Well, our hands-down favorite place to get a burger is called Father's Office. It's a small pub in Santa Monica with a cult following, due to its insane on-tap beer collection, and of course, the Office Burger. This thing is a work of art: the perfect mix of lean and fatty meat, a bun that is doesn't scrape the roof of your mouth, but isn't the consistency of Wonder Bread, a handful of fresh arugula, a smattering of blue cheese and the best part, a remarkable onion/bacon compote slathered lovingly atop the patty... oh man, I can taste it now. And there's no changes here, you picky eaters. All you can control is how well-done you want your meat cooked. No substitutions and NO KETCHUP! This place is so popular that a line forms down the block before opening time at 3p on the weekends, so that people can grab a seat (there's no reservations). This is also the palce that introduced Brendan to the love of his life brew-wise: Unibroue's Terrible.

So, I'm not sure how best to convey our frickin' excitement that Father's Office TWO is coming to FRICKIN' CULVER CITY!!!! 2 blocks from our house!!!!!!! We could literally walk there in 5 minutes. FIVE FRICKIN' MINUTES!!!!!!! YAAAAHAHAHAYAHAYGHGASHGLKAJDSHFKAJSDHAFLKGAV!!!!

Today, Bren took me to see the sign and the spot:

In the last picture, if you look closely, you can see how the damn local gang, the Westside Locos tagged up the sign. WTF?! Clearly they haven't had the Office Burger... had they tasted it, they wouldn't have committed this kind of sacrilege!!


Thursday, August 2, 2007

Which plague is it?

The bugs continue to be attracted to the Sequeira-McNamara abode. First it was the ants. Now some their bigger, nastier cousins are following suite.

The other morning, I swear I saw a 4-inch locust or grasshopper thing. I heard it before I saw it... it was getting ready to flutter away... that papery, pulsing buzzing. yaaaaah! scary! It bounced away before I could take a photo though.

However, I did manage to snap a shot of this fellow. These prehistoric, rainforest looking beetles have already flown in the house twice. Each time they've landed on their backs, silently wriggling their spiny legs in the air. They are the most amazing emerald green, and look quite fierce except that when they're on their backs, they're completely helpless. I managed to tip this guy back on his feet multiple times, but I think he had hurt his wings, because he couldn't take off. So I had to leave him outside on an envelope and hope that he would figure it out while I was away. By the time I got back home, he had disappeared.

I'm not sure which one of the plagues these guys would fit into but let's hope this is the end of it!

all text and photographs on aartilla the fun © 2005-2009 Aarti Sequeira unless otherwise indicated. All rights reserved.