Thursday, April 30, 2009

Haiku to my best friend

sweet ceramic knife
i weep as you lie in two
snapped by metal knife




Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Cheater Cheater Pasta!

The other night, I had to throw something together quickly before Bren got home from improv class. Cue this delicious pasta which I'm calling "Cheater Cheater Pasta" because it involves using a jar of (gasp!) Classico pasta sauce. The one with caramelized onions and garlic if you must know.

I don't make a lot of pasta, but these days, with less to spend on food, I make it about once a fortnight. And I've been buying Classico sauce not because I like the sauce that much (I mean, jarred sauce isn't that great no matter what you get for under $10 right?), but because I love the mason jars! I'm collecting them so that I can put all my lentils and beans and whatever else in 'em.

I had a big bunch of swiss chard, a packet of Trader Joes Chicken-Mango sausage, some green garlic, the afore-mentioned pasta sauce and half a bag of whole wheat rotini. It all made me think of this awesome pasta dish my sister made for me when I visited her the other month. I was so surprised by how much I liked it that I couldn't stop talking about it.


So I quickly sauteed the green garlic in some olive oil until it had softened, gently browned the sausage which I sliced into thin rounds, then threw in the stalks of the swiss chard which I chopped into fine little chunks. I didn't let them cook too long, because I love their crunch and bright magenta colour, so I quickly dumped the leaves which I'd rolled up and sliced into thin ribbons. A sprinkling of salt, pepper and fresh nutmeg, throw the lid on for a few minutes to allow the leaves to wilt, a jar of sauce, and a slow simmer while I cooked the pasta, a quick grate of parmesan and a last-minute handful of pine nuts and... taa-daa! DINNER! The sauce took on a little sweetness, probably from the mango sausage and the chard makes you feel like you're eating something that's good for you.

Try it! It's EASY!



Facebook Fast

I am not looking at facebook again today. I looked at it once this morning, and that's it.

I don't have anything against Facebook. In fact that's the problem: I love it. Too much. In the mornings, when I'm catching up on emails and blogs and news headlines, I'll find that 40 whole minutes has drifted by, while I read everyone's quiz results, clicked through their photos and ready every blessed status update. And then, I'll check it at least 3 or 4 times again over the course of the day. In fact, any time I have something unpleasant to do (write a cover letter, look for a job etc), I'll find that I'll check Facebook first without thinking, as a sort of carrot BEFORE I've done the task at hand.

This is not productive!

In fact, at Bren's dad production company, Facebook has been blocked, because it was hurting productivity. On the first day of the new F'book-Free internet, Bren's uncle told us the site had logged somewhere in the region of 1000 hits... within the first three hours of the day! And there's no more than 15 people in that office!

Why oh why Facebook must you entice me so?!

And so, I declare today a drive-by Facebook day. I have checked it once. And now I'm done until tomorrow morning, when I will rinse and repeat.



Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Holy Warrior

Bren is such a conundrum: a fighter and a peace-maker. A warrior and a huggy-buggy. And this week, a Krav Maga specialist and a wedding officiant!

Bren went for his Level 3 belt test on Saturday, in Krav Maga (the martial art practiced by the Israeli special forces). This is a pretty bad-ass form of self-defense; you don't just defend against a blow... you defend, and then you go in for the kill, full-force. And you don't do it with gorgeous chi-inspired moves either. It's a whirlwind of ugly, masculine pows, crunches and whacks.

The tests are no joke either. I dropped Bren off at 2p on Saturday. He walked out of there at 1030pm. He had been fighting that entire time, with one 15-minute break. That's eight hours of full-out sparring, grappling, even headbutting! He smelled something awful, and his voice shook a little, but unlike previous years when he's walked into the house and collapsed on all fours, this time he was still surprisingly spry. He muscles started cramping once we got back to the house but his eyes were still strong and strangely exhilarated.

It is incredibly sexy. Heehee!

He has been sore for the past few days, limping and waddling his way around (not *as* sexy), but with a huge smile of pride and accomplishment. As usual, we took photos of his bruises. And as usual, the camera fails to convey how deep, wide and painful these bruises look in real life:

The day before the test, he married our friends Mike and Lira. They asked him to wear the kilt and it fit right in! I forgot my camera in my hurry, so here are some snaps I grabbed with my phone. Isn't he cute? (That's the groom on the right).

He was so nervous in the days leading up to this weekend, both about officiating the wedding, and about the belt test. After the wedding he said, "wow that was such a rush! Being up close to the action!".

Isn't he a geek?

We'll find out this week I think, whether or not he passed his belt test. I can't imagine that he didn't. Next up: Level 4, whose test lasts... TWO DAYS.

I thank my stars to be married to a guy with such opposite facets of his personality: both macho and sensitive-o. Just one or the other would be awful!



Monday, April 27, 2009

Best. Brendan. Yet.

This is by far, my most favorite character that Bren has conjured up. He's a cross between Timothy Treadwell (of Werner Herzog's "Grizzly Man") and Grizzly Adams... a man who has decided that his true calling is to be with "the animals" because of his disdain for human kind. Only, this guy isn't really all that smart. Take a look.



The "Bring me my order" God

Feeling kinda pensive this morning, perhaps because the marine layer has returned (thank Goodness!) so it is grey outside. Lots of thoughts tumbling around the noggin.

Yesterday at church, Brad was preaching about faith (in Christ), love (for others) and hope (in God) as being the bastions of a liberated spirituality. But that wasn't the part of the sermon that hit me. It was when he talked about how living our lives in line with God's will doesn't mean that He furnishes us with a map... rather that He gives us a compass to help us choose which direction God would want us to go in. Therefore, God doesn't really care as much about us attaining successful careers, as He is about us attaining successful (honorable, loving, selfless) characters.

Hmph. No likey.

I would much rather have the map thank you very much Father.

It's not like that's the first time I've heard that. But I suppose that I had moulded it in my mind to mean that if I kept trying to do good work, in terms of being a good ambassador of Christ's love to all those around me, then somehow the dreams I have about my career would come true too. That sounds like I thought it was a barter process -- I didn't. But I certainly didn't consider that God may not care one bit about my career dreams... that I'm kind of on my own in that respect. Could that be true?

And then this morning, my assigned Bible reading was Psalm 49, and this verse struck me:

16 Do not be afraid when one becomes rich,

When the glory of his house is increased;

17 For when he dies he shall carry nothing away;

His glory shall not descend after him.

18 Though while he lives he blesses himself

(For men will praise you when you do well for yourself),

19 He shall go to the generation of his fathers;

They shall never see light.

20 A man who is in honor, yet does not understand,

Is like the beasts that perish.

It's not that I envy those who are prosperous. It's just that I assume that I'll be there one day -- that I'll have the ability to take care of those I love, to have and properly school my kids, to live a comfortable life in a house that isn't falling apart or surrounded by gangs and police choppers.

I mean, don't we all? Isn't that part of the programming of the society we live in? Isn't that part of the heartache of getting older, somehow not being in alignment with what this earthly kingdom says we should have attained by now? A husband, a house, a kid... on the outside, looking as if you've figured it all out, yet on the inside struggling with the same mess (if not worse) you've had since you were a kid.

I'm not sure. I know He gave me the talents I have, and that I should be putting them to good use, not wasting them. People often quote that verse about how He will give us the "desires of your heart". But I understand that to mean that He will put those desires in my heart... not that, like a genie or heck, like a waiter, He'll bring me my order.

And yet, Jesus, after uttering the famous Ask and you will receive, talked about how God would no more refuse our requests than a father would give his son a stone when asked for a piece of bread.

So, I suppose that He is somewhere between the two: the "bring me my order" God and the "take this stone because you're asking for the wrong thing" God. Perhaps He wants me to focus on His will and desire for my life (to be His servant first and foremost) so much that my desires for my life appear faded, and almost disappear, in comparison. Harder to put into practice though.

And so, I am repeating a verse that my friend Amy found today, that I am so very happy she shared. From 2 Chron, Verse 12:

“We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you.”



Saturday, April 25, 2009

Playing for Change

Found a great site called Playing for Change today, where sound recordists go around the world capturing different musicians playing the same song. What a wonderful result! They have a number of songs up, but this one is my favorite so far. Let it load completely before you hit play, so it doesn't stop and start.



Thursday, April 23, 2009

Keeping the Faith... in me!

I was excited about this time off from posting recipes, so that I could experiment. So far, the two things I've made have been a bust. Trying not to get discouraged. Ugh!



Wednesday, April 22, 2009

She's back!

Oh thank Goodness. The PMS has broken and I'm starting to feel like myself again. I know that phrase is over-used but I really did not feel like myself this time around. I was so pessimistic, so blue, so mentally/physically/emotionally tired all the time. Bren's excitement over seeing me smile again yesterday made me realise how rarely he'd seen a smile from me over the past few weeks. In fact, I probably looked a lot like this:

Well, maybe not.

Along with the smiles comes a rush of gratitude. I began the day grateful for my "bike gang", the accountability group consisting of Elena, Karen, Bren and myself that meets every week to plot our life, dreams and goals together. It began as four relative strangers talking about strategy and has morphed into a group where someone always gets a massage from three sets of hands when he or she is feeling sad or discouraged. I love my bike gang. Man, I wish I had a photo! Oh wait, I do! This is from the night when one of us needed some serious cheering up -- in the form of "Knocked Up" and face masks.

Later, I got very grateful for Zandy, my brother from another mother, who took us to his favorite ramen place downtown. I am not grateful for how full I still feel, but my tastebuds are doing cartwheels.

And now, I'm counting my blessings in the form of my farmers market booty: English peas (finally!), fresh fava beans, chiogga beets, green garlic, the most aromatic mint I've ever buried my nose in, knobbly sunchokes, fingerling potatoes that remind me of a mild-mannered giant's digits... I am so very lucky to live here in LA, and so very very lucky to be able to buy this stuff every now and then.



Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Phones and Uppityness

Last week, Bren and I were on a speakerphone chat with our friend Andy, using my cellphone. Resorting to the cellphone was actually the punchline to an hour-long joke, in which we tried to talk to Andy via ichat, ichat-video and skype, all to no avail. I was trying to talk him into getting Oovoo, when, frustrated with "modern" technology, Andy just called my cellphone and I put him on speaker. Ah video-phone, when will your day come?

Anyway, Andy was saying something very important I'm sure when...


I dropped my phone into the glass of water I had in my other hand. Andy's voice disappeared.

Cue a slurry of words I have been trying not to say, and a lot of Bren saying the most annoying thing someone can say in that situation: "why did you do that?"

Despite carefully wiping off every piece and drying it in the sunshine, the phone never came back to life. And so I went about replacing it, the irony heavy; I had recently insured Bren's phone because he tends to either break or lose his phone with alarming frequency. When the nice T-Mobile person asked if I wanted to insure *my* phone so that I could replace it for free, I puffed my chest and stuck my nose up in the air.

"Oh no," I said. "I take care of my phone."

Ha! Well now I have a new phone (free minus shipping, handling and taxes which isa travesty I tell you). It's nothing fancy, and it's pretty old. No iphone here. I realised that I don't need a phone with bluetooth capability, or the ability to play tons of songs, or the ability to fix me breakfast. It just needs to work, and withstand being knocked around a bit. Just like my husband. Heehee.

Oh but it does do this:


I'm going through the first thing I always do with a new phone: listen to all the programmed ring tones. I realised today that I get a little giddy about it. Do you? What could these new ring tones sound like?

They are so disappointing! And, to make matter worse, this phone doesn't even offer your generic "ring ring" kinda tone, or at least not that I've found. It's so weird! What have we come to?

For now, my ring tone is something you might hear at the end of a Japanese video game, or at least, that's what Bren said. I've lost some of your numbers by the way, so email me your digits please!!!



Monday, April 20, 2009

Red means stop.

I'm taking a break.

I realized with both sadness and fear this week, that writing recipes and shooting a video every week was starting to take its toll on me. Coming up with 2 new recipes every week might be easy for some folks, but for me, it was starting to become a struggle... I haven't felt very inspired, and as a result, I haven't been as proud of the recipes (except for the Lamb one. You have to try that one. That one ROCKS my bum off. Really).

Much much worse: I was starting to resent shooting the show -- the very thing that has been bringing me so much joy over the past months... the very thing that had made me realize what I wanted to do with my life.

This may have something to do with getting a little burnt out, but it could also have something to do with the fact that I have been PMS'ing for THREE WEEKS PEOPLE! Poor Bren has had to handle the brunt of my irritability, my fatigue and lethargy, my sudden collapses into tears, my enormous, enormous boobs...

Then, the other day, when I was talking to Bren's Uncle Brian, he asked me how many episodes I'd shot. I said "ten!". Then he said, "Great! That's a season!".

And then the chorus of angels started, as they say, singing.

I've shot a tv-length season?

Good Lord!

It's time for a break!!

And while the little monster in my heart is calling me a lazy so-and-so, I know that for my sanity, and for the sake of creating food I love, my brain needs a rest. And unlike the person I was a year ago, I have decided to give it to myself. I am looking forward to a little time to experiment in the kitchen.

In the meantime, I am going to tend to this little blog o' mine. I haven't been motivated to write in a while, and that's not right. So I'm going back to where it all began: writing on this site. Hearing from you. Making you laugh. Maybe that'll help me get the juices going again.

I'll leave you with photos of the first red velvet cake I've ever made (from scratch too! And no Crisco thankyou very much), commissioned by my friend Sheri for her friend, the comedienne B-Phlat. I didn't know how much I would LOVE making this cake. Red food dye sure is fun, especially when you use 1/2 a cup of it!!!!


Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Aarti Paarti Episode 10!

This week's episode is up! I riffed on Muhammara, the Syrian dip made from roasted red peppers, walnuts and pomegranate molasses... turning it into an easy, no-cook pasta sauce. Take a look and forward it to anyone you know who likes to cook! Or who's scared of cooking! Or who likes the ukulele! Or who likes Johnny Cash! Huh? Confused? Watch and it'll make sense. Make sure to hit the "hq" in the bottom left-hand corner to watch it in high quality!

Muhammara Pasta

2 cups dry whole wheat rotini pasta
6 roasted red peppers
3/4 cup toasted walnuts
2 tsp pomegranate molasses
2 tsp cumin powder
1/4 tsp smoked paprika
Juice of half a juicy lemon
4 garlic cloves, peeled
3 zucchini, sliced in half, then sliced into 1/2" half moons

1) Get a big pot o' water boiling. Make sure you salt it once it's at a roiling boil

2) Dump pasta in the water. Set your timer for about 2 minutes less than the instructions. In my case, about 8 minutes

3) In a food processor, grind red peppers, walnuts, spices, lemon juice, molasses, salt and pepper until mostly smooth. Taste and season.

4) Add zucchini and garlic cloves to the boiling pasta. Cook another 2 minutes until zucchini and pasta are cooked.

5) Drain. Add garlic cloves to the red pepper mixture and whiz up again until as smooth as you like it.

6) Toss pasta, zucchini and sauce. Sprinkle some chopped parsley over the top. Taste, season and serve!



Monday, April 13, 2009

Dead Air

Bren and I cancelled our cable last week. It ended last night, which happened to coincide with the first day I was allowed to watch daytime TV again, having given it up for Lent. I did alright for the first half of Lent, but by the time Holy Week rolled around, I started to feel a little... tense. Kinda like an over-filled balloon, that you need to pop. TV seemed to be the only way to zone out and stop thinking. I'm still feeling a little bit like that, but I'm taking refuge in playing the ukelele and the piano. Back in the day, I used to practice the piano for at least an hour a day. Doesn't that seem like a lot?! The only daily hourly practice I have these days is... eating?

I'm hoping for a return to the "good old days"!

The bizarrest part of the whole endeavour is that we still have the satellite dish until we're sent the boxes to mail it back. So while we aren't getting cable or local channels anymore, the home shopping network channels are still being piped in. I spent more than a few seconds mesmerized by what was called "Jessica Simpson uses ProActiv", morbidly cherishing the death of my brain cells in that short span of time. But then I came to my senses, turned it off and... put on my ProActiv refining mask. Hahahahahaaa!



Thursday, April 9, 2009

Aarti Cooks: Let My People Go Lamb!

I am grateful for all the delicious food God has provided mankind, but I don't think I am ever more grateful than at this time of year, when we celebrate Easter with... LAMB!

Oh man. Lamb! LAMB! Just the thought of it makes my mouth water. I'm sure that for vegetarians and vegans, lamb must be one of the hardest meats to stomach, second only to veal. I won't deny it. When you see a cute little baa-lamb, as my friend Emma Glynn used to call them, with their adorable little faces and delicate springy limbs and pristine white fleeces… oh! How hard it is to imagine what’s next!

When I imagine preparing an Easter feast, I build the menu around lamb, don’t you? And it occurred to me that it’s not just because it’s delicious, or because it’s traditionally a spring delicacy. For me, it’s also because lamb is a powerful symbol of what Easter (and Passover) commemorates.

In the Old Testament, the lowly lamb won the Jewish people their freedom. God promised to deliver the children of Israel from slavery to the Egyptians. They were told to slaughter a lamb, and mark their doorways with its blood so that the Angel of death would “pass over” their homes. In the morning, the first-born boy of every Egyptian family was found dead, and God’s message to the Pharoah, “Let my people go!” was finally heeded.

In the New Testament, Jesus becomes that lamb, whose whiter-than-white fleece is the key that unlocks our slavery to the earthly bullsh*t we endure everyday (I mean, the earthly “fiddle-faddle”): money, ego, greed, hatred, pride, war, self-sufficiency, self-worship.

None of us have a white fleece. Mine is stained beyond stained. Can you imagine going to see someone of God’s stature with a stained coat? Heck no! But because Jesus died for us, because His blood is metaphorically over our doorways, it’s as if the angel of death passes over us all, and washes our collective fleeces clean. Now we can all go hang out in God’s court, learn from Him, live fulfilling lives that force us to look not within our selves for enlightenment, but to look up (love God) and look out (love your friends and enemies). Now, the God-shaped hole in our hearts, which we usually fill with stuff -- money, sex, accomplishments, acclaim etc -- has been filled.

Interestingly, Jesus went on to inspire some of the greatest freedom fighters in history: William Wilberforce, Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Mandela…

Jesus’ death is brutal, I know. In all honesty, I struggle with having such a bloody act at the crux of my faith. But I am trying to come to peace with it. It’s kinda like looking at that perfect lamb I mentioned at the beginning, and then imagining its impending death. It hurts. It doesn't seem fair. Knowing that Christ rose again is the only thing that makes it better. And for some reason, this Easter, I have wept every time I hear the Passion (the story of Jesus’ last days). I can’t stand it!

So yeah, I can’t look at lamb the same way this year. But being the fat kid that I am, it doesn’t mean I didn’t relish making a small plate of it yesterday! Yum yum! Bren grew up with lamb and mint jelly, but my mum fed us lamb roasted in a sweet, tangy tomato marinade. Mum’s secret ingredient was ketchup, which makes total sense: it’s a masterful mix of molasses and vinegar (in addition to tomatoes), the basis of most barbecue sauces. This week, I tried to re-create the lamb of my childhood without the ketchup and, yippee-kazoo! I think I came darned close. It was so good, that this was what is left of it:

All gone! The marinade results in a tangy, sweet, gorgeously greasy and sticky lamb chop. This might be my favorite recipe so far. It’s on par with the Giddy-Up Steak people. Seriously. It’s that good. Try it.

I served it with some simple sides: a minty fresh fava bean mash, some garlicky fingerling potatoes. If you want to know how to make those, let me know!

Live on in freedom people! He is risen indeed!

"Let My People Go" Lamb Chops!
Tangy Sweet Roasted Lamb Chops in tomato, coriander, fennel and brown sugar

You'll need this stuff:

3/4 tsp coriander seeds
3/4 tsp fennel seeds

5 lamb loin chops
2 tbsp low-fat plain yogurt
1 1/2 tbsp tomato paste
1 1/2 tsp ginger, grated on a microplane
1 1/2 tsp minced garlic
1/4 tsp Sriracha hot sauce (or as much hot sauce as you like. I like it mild, so you may want more)
1 tsp brown sugar
3/4 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp apple cider vinegar
2 tsp vegetable/canola oil

1) Toast coriander and fennel seeds in small pan over a medium flame, shaking every 30 seconds, so they don't burn. Once they're giving off a lovely aroma, and have turned a darker tone, remove from the hot pan, and cool completely on a plate. Then throw them into your spice/coffee grinder or your mortar & pestle. Grind to a fine powder.

2) Mix spices with yogurt, tomato paste, ginger, garlic, Sriracha, brown sugar, salt, a healthy few grinds of freshly ground black pepper, apple cider vinegar and oil. Taste and season according to your palate.

3) Cover each chop with the marinade, rubbing into meat and fat. Cover and marinate a few hours or overnight.

4) The next day, preheat your oven to 475 degrees fahrenheit/240 degrees celsius. (I warmed mine to 500 degrees because it's a cold oven). Place your chops, with marinade in a baking dish. Don't let them touch and leave a little room between each chop. Drizzle a little oil over each one.

5) Bake in the middle of the oven for 20 minutes, until lightly browned. Turn the oven down to 350 degrees fahrenheit/180 degrees fahrenheit. Bake for another 5-10 minutes until lamb is cooked to your liking. Sprinkle with a little fresh mint of you have it. Eat, enjoy and give thanks for sweet, sweet lamb!


Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Aarti Paarti Episode 9: South Indian Coconut Quinoa

Y'all know I love quinoa. Remember oh so long ago I made that sage-y version? This one is even more delicious, with the lovely mother grain cooked in coconut milk and tomatoes, flavoured with mustard, cumin and fenugreek seeds.

Oh, and Bren's dad let me borrow his ukulele this weekend, and I learned how to play a song already! You'll be able to hear it in the video.

Here's the recipe in case you need it:

You'll need:
1 cup quinoa, rinsed
2 tbsp vegetable/canola oil
1 tsp black mustard seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 fenugreek seeds
6 dried or fresh curry leaves
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1 15oz can whole tomatoes, chopped, juices reserved
1/3 cup fresh coconut (you can get frozen shredded stuff at the Indian shops)
1 15oz can lite coconut milk
1/2 cup tomato juice (from the canned tomatoes)
Handful cashews
2 cups broccoli florets
salt and pepper

1) Warm oil in a saucepan until shimmering
2) Add cumin and mustard seeds. They should sizzle upon contact. Cook for 30 seconds or so, until they're done spluttering.
3) Add turmeric, fenugreek and curry leaves. Cook 30 seconds
4) Add chopped tomatoes and shredded coconut. Cook 5 minutes, until tomatoes break down a bit.
5) Add tomato juice and coconut milk. Season, and bring to a boil.
6) Add quinoa and cashews. Stir, then turn heat down to a simmer, cover and cook about 10 minutes until nearly almost cooked, but still soupy.
7) Add broccoli in one layer over the top of the quinoa. Add more water if it's too dry. Cover and cook 5 minutes until broccoli is tender. Serve!


Can't Get You Out of My Head

Heard this the other day on the radio and it is totally my guilty pleasure at the moment; Bren turns his nose up at it. But I LOVE IT!!!! Lalalalalaaaaaa!

What do you think of it?



Monday, April 6, 2009

The Freezer

I'm feeling much better today. Thanks guys! We had a wonderful weekend, surrounded by the loving arms of friends and family. Whoopee!

In order to keep costs down this week, I have been trying to think of cheap, simple yet tasty meals. In fact, you'll see two of the fruits of my labor this week, both on the cooking show, and on the Wednesday recipe. I'm actually enjoying it more than I thought I would, snaking my arms through the cans and boxes of food I've hoarded over the past few months, for inspiration. For once, it seems my inexplicable need to keep extra food in the house is paying off! I'm seeing the cans of chickpeas and tomatoes, boxes of quinoa and a packet of cinnamon-raisin bread mix in a new light, as little treasures.

Today, Bren opened the freezer and said, "Wow ba! We have tons of food!".

A little suspicious of his enthusiasm (!), I decided to investigate. And so we do! Here's what we have:

Some chicken breasts. Not one, but two Prime (oh man!) flank steaks that we got for free from our friend Larry at church, who tried the Yee-haw steak recipe and loved it so much, dear heart, that he felt moved to give us free meat from his workplace! Yee-haw indeed!

2 bags of shredded coconut...

Multiple baggies of minced ginger...

Lots and lots of bags of nuts: cashews, pinenuts, walnuts, pecans, almonds (whole and sliced) and peanuts. In the background, a box of Trader Joe's potato latkes. Have you had those by the way? They're fantastic.

What else?
Skinny dippers (low fat chocolate-covered ice-cream thingies): 4 vanilla, 1 chocolate
Someone needs to come over and eat these because we're never going to eat them given our scheduled dessert-consumption
6 ice-lollies: 2 orange, 4 grape
And these.
3 chicken taquitos
2 veggie burgers
1 box of chocolate-covered sunflower seeds
A few slices of pancetta
1/2 bag of strawberries
1/2 bag of mango
1 onion bagel
1 naan
1 big jar of yeast
1 round of homemade pizza dough

Phew! I gotta get eating!



Friday, April 3, 2009

Me right now.

Friday night. Rose-scented candle (called "hope" quite fittingly!) burning. Bren editing this week's edition of The News, hosted by yours truly. Spoon's last record playing on the stereo. Looking up quinoa recipes for Aarti Paarti inspiration. Answering gorgeously encouraging text messages from Laura ("Do not fret. God is your friend and like all good friends... is looking out for you. Don't fret."). Thinking of turnip cake and salad for dinner. Proud of myself for cancelling cable today (gulp!). Contemplating Jamie Oliver's new baby, and his penchant for incredibly hippie names: Petal Blossom Rainbow Oliver.

Liking the name Rainbow. Liking Jamie Oliver.

Really loving this Spoon song right now.

Thinking back to a couple of hours ago when I was sitting in the sunshine in tears even though this morning I woke up in comforted, encouraged and even grateful for the valleys. Feeling better now that my rock of a husby (I'm stealing that from you Karen Keenan!) is home. Feeling very sorry for him having to duck out at the last second from his best friend's bachelor party this weekend in Vegas, which he had been looking forward to for the last few months, which he actually shed a tear over last night, all because of stupid money. Thinking very grateful thoughts for all the amazing people in my life who are encouraging me and praying for us, for my family (blood-related and not), for the people trying to hook me up with people who might have job contacts. Thanking someone in my heart for their cake order. Getting a lump in my throat over how grateful I am for Laura McLaughlin.

Thinking incredibly wonderful thoughts about the guy I talked to at UCLA today who put me in contact with the right person when it wasn't in his department. Smiling when I remember how he told me my resume was "dynamite" (whoopee!). Swelling with pride when I remember how my mentor read a cover letter of mine and didn't change a thing.

Trying to remember that things could always be much much much worse. Being grateful for not living in an IDP camp.

Grateful to God for his unabating faithfulness. Having faith that He will bless us with patience, joy, safety and provision. Amen.



Thursday, April 2, 2009

Words of Comfort

Today has been a trying day. But in retrospect, it's as if God was preparing me for it. I've been dog-tired and a little inexplicably fearful for the past two days. I didn't know why, I couldn't put my finger on a cause. But this morning, when I read my assigned Bible passages (1 Psalm, 1 chapter from Acts, 2 chapters from Exodus; don't worry, this used to be painfully hard for me to read. I can't believe how fast I read all this now, and how much I enjoy it! It's so bizarre! I don't even recognize myself!), I stumbled upon two verses that gave my heart comfort, especially later in the day when I really started to fear.

Psalm 42:11
"Why are you cast down, O my soul?
And why are you disquieted within me?
Hope in God;
For I shall yet praise Him,
The help of my countenance and my God."

Exodus 33:11
"So the Lord spoke to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend."

I'm still scared, and still not sure what to expect or what to do, but remembering that God thinks of me as His FRIEND blows my mind, and gives me a bit of comfort. Pray for me. Thanks.


Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Aarti Cooks: New Love, Old Love Fish

Green garlic. The name alone is onamatopeic, isn't it? You have to say it slowly, savoring every syllable, the long "eeeee", the long "aaaaaah" ending in a playful "lick", a lazy, warm, gently spicy companion to the gorgeous days and delightful spring vegetables at the market. This is a garlic only spring could bring, with its delicate, lapping sunshine, the cool breezes and the youthful, almost naive promise that everything's going to be alright because winter is over.

I'm in love! Can you tell? Green garlic is what happens when you pluck garlic out of the ground before it forms a bulb. It looks very much like a scallion, except that the white bulb looks like it's been splattered with purple paint. You can find them at the farmers market. I also found it at the Persian/Jewish store, Elat Market.

So why do I love green garlic? Well, I love garlic. But this is a milder, sweeter, greener version of its older brother, which is often marked by that distinctive sharp spicyness. It doesn't make your hands stink for days. It probably can't stand up in a curry, but sauteed with some delicate fresh peas, it's bliss. And, unlike regular garlic, you can't use too much of it! I literally put about 1/2 cup of green garlic in a gratin last week, and once I tasted it, I realised I still could have used more.

I'll tell you what I have not been in love with in the past: fish!

Every Friday, like the good Catholic family that we were, we had fish. Dad would go to the outdoor fish market in Dubai, where fishmongers displayed every fish and shellfish imagineable, fish that just been plucked out of the Indian ocean or the Arabian Gulf. After you'd bought your fish, you could get it cleaned, de-veined, de-scaled, de-whatever you like, for just a few fils more.

From someone's Picasa page.

I dreaded Fridays. It was our day off, when you would normally look forward to eating your most favorite thing. Alas, we had fish, in a yellow curry my Nanny would make with green mangos. I hated the texture, the flavour, the way it looked and smelled...

But for some reason, as I got older, I started to love fish. I couldn't tell you when or why. Maybe it was sushi that did it. Whatever it was, I am now hooked. In fact, thinking back on Nanny's curry right now is making both my eyes and my mouth water. What is it about "maturing" tastebuds? I hate that phenomenon! I hate thinking about all those wasted years not enjoying fish! (Imagine me shaking my fists at the heavens here). Bren used to hate mushrooms. Now he loves them. What? WHY?! Isn't that so weird?

Anyway, today's recipe is a combination of an old love and a new love: whole fish and green garlic.

If you can't get your hands on a whole fish, or you don't want one, I think this would work with fillets too. This is a very flexible recipe, so you don't even have to use the same kind of fish I used, which was Branzino. Just make sure your fish is fresh: clear, glassy eyes (not opaque, smoky ones), red gills, and a lack of odour. If it smells fishy, then something is, um, fishy about it. So don't buy it. It should smell like the ocean. Go ahead and get a 2lb fish though, even if you're not going to eat it all for dinner. It's easier to flavour the fish when there's more flesh to play with.

Since we're on that topic, I wonder whether one of the reasons I didn't like fish was that, of all the animal proteins available, it is the only one you buy in its original form. You can see its face, its tail, its insides. Today, when I was massaging oil and salt into its skin, I found myself whispering to the fish under my breath: "thankyou sweet fishy for giving up your life for me."

I know, it's silly. The fish didn't give up its life, so much as it was taken from him. But there's something very intimate about rubbing salt and marinade into a fish's inner cavity, slicing into its body, rubbing salt into those new wounds... all while its glassy eye stares up at you.

It's enough to make this carnivorous zealot pause for a second. Would my passion for beef be any different if I had to buy a whole cow at the store, peer into its gorgeous dark eyes and then skin it, slice it and bbq it?

Probably not now I think about it. Beef trumps fish any day of the week, hahahahahaahaha!

Anyway, back to the recipe. If you don't have green garlic, go ahead and use a couple of cloves of its older brother, the regular kind. And hey, if you happen to have a bulb of fennel in the fridge, or a few potatoes lying around, throw those in the bottom of the roasting pan too. This is a flexible recipe. This was also a great opportunity to finally use the wonderful gift Sara and Alex got me! Thanks again you guys! I love this thing!

This recipe makes a ton of marinade. I've been using the rest of in a ton of ways; diluted with a little oil and vinegar, it makes a stellar dressing. You can also toss it on freshly steamed vegetables, or grilled meat.

So without further ado:

New Love, Old Love Fish

Roasted whole fish, with green garlic and tamarind, with roasted vegetables.

You'll need this stuff:

1 2lb whole fish, such as branzino, scaled and gutted
1/2 cup green garlic, white and tender green stems, chopped roughly
1 spring onion, white and green parts, chopped
3/4 cup cilantro, chopped roughly
1tsp tamarind concentrate
1/8 cup grapeseed or canola oil
1 large onion, peeled and sliced into 1/4" rounds
2 large carrots, peeled and sliced into 1/2" rounds
Salt and pepper
Wedges of lime, to finish

1) Preheat oven to 425 degrees fahrenheit/220 degrees celsius

2) Wash your fish and dry with paper towels. Make sure all the scales have been removed. Slice 5 3" into each flank (side) of the fish. Don't slice all the way down to the bone. Stop just before it. Rub oil and and a sprinkle of salt all over the fish.

2) Grab your food processor. Throw in green garlic, spring onion, cilantro, tamarind paste, oil, salt and pepper. Process until it's a smooth-ish paste. Taste and adjust seasoning to your liking.

3) Rub the marinade into the slices you made in the fish's body. Rub a little over the skin too. You'll have a ton of marinade left. No worries. Allow to marinate for 30 minutes.

4) Meanwhile, throw onions and carrots in a roasting pan big enough for your fish. Toss with a little oil, salt, pepper and a dollop of the green garlic marinade. Throw into the oven for 30 minutes, until starting to brown around the edges.

5) Pull pan out of the oven. Turn it up to 450 degrees f/230 degrees c. Stir veggies, and shape into a narrow enough bed, in which to lay the fish, belly-side down. Prop the tail on the edge of the roasting pan, or make a small bowl out of aluminium foil and rest the tail on it. It should look as if the fish is about to swim through your kitchen! If you like the skin crispy, turn your oven up to 500 degrees f/240 degrees c, remove the veggies from the pan so that they don't burn and put the fish back in the oven for 10 minutes.

6) Roast it for another 30 minutes, until the flesh is flaky and cooked. Pull fillets off the bone and serve over a mound of veggies. Smear a little leftover marinade on the fish's skin, and finish with a squeeze of lime. Serve immediately!


Aarti Paarti 8: Indian Pizza

I am so tired for some reason. Everything is so hard to do! In the meantime, watch this week's episode of my cooking show! This week: Indian Pizza. Grab a frozen naan, some Major Grey's mango chutney, tikka some paneer cheese, and you're good to go. Oh and Joo and Elizabeth make an appearance!

Aarti Paarti Episode 8: Indian Pizza! from aarti on Vimeo.

Indian Pizza!

You'll need:
1 small block paneer cheese, about 1 cup, chopped into small pieces
3/4 cup plain yogurt
1/2 tsp tandoori paste or powder
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tsp ginger, minced
1/2 lime, juiced
1/2 cup pizza sauce
1/4 cup mango chutney (major grey's)
4 frozen naans/1 prebaked pizza crust
1 cup mozzarella, shredded
Handful cilantro, chopped
Lime wedges to finish

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