Forever Green

First published on Whole Foods Cooking on October 17, 2012

I've been obsessed with tomatoes this year -- growing them, eating them, and canning them. I canned 30 pounds of organic tomatoes from my local farmers' market using three different methods: raw packed with added liquid, raw packed with no added liquid, and hot packed. I also canned several pints of spicy salsa with 5 pounds of tomatoes and jalapeños from my backyard. It's a great feeling to have summer preserved in a jar and to know that I won't be worrying about BPA leaching into our food through the lining of some aluminum cans.

This summer was the first year that I truly tried my hand at growing anything in my backyard. My neighbor helped me plot and plant my herb patch as well as a small vegetable patch. When he saw the number of earthworms in my soil, he was hopeful that the seedlings we were transplanting into a harsh environment might actually flourish. And they did. We ate fresh-off-the-vine tomatoes all summer, but only in small batches. It was only when the weather turned cold that my vines started producing tomatoes like there was no tomorrow. In a way, that was quite true! Frost, combined with a hard freeze over the first weekend of October, signaled the end of summer and, therefore, the end of tomato season.

I plucked a large bounty of green tomatoes and knew exactly what I was going to do with them: make Green Tomatoes Bhaji! Bhaji (bhah-gee) has a two-fold meaning, determined by the context in which it is used. It can mean fresh produce or it can mean a side dish made from vegetables.

Hawaii Hangover

I seem to have a Hawaii Hangover. It's a malaise that afflicts every soul that visits this curious archipelago of eight major islands and many more uninhabited islets. Given that we only visited two of those spectacular islands, I am afraid to think of what might have happened had we visited the others.

In Kauai, we attempted to hike the treacherous Kalalau Trail. Our goal was short, the first two miles of the 11 mile hike, to Hankapiai Beach. It should not have been a big deal. We typically hike trails that are 5-6 miles round trip, between 6,000-10,000 feet in elevation. This was at sea-level and a mere 4 mile round trip. How difficult could it be?

Kalalau Trail

It was very difficult. The conditions made it dangerous. It was muddy and slippery from the incessant winter rain. If there is one thing we drop a fair amount of money on, it's hiking boots. Despite wearing hiking boots with excellent traction, we decided to turn back after barely 3/4 mile. There's a reason why it is considered one of the 10 most dangerous trails in the US! The views of Kauai's Na Pali Coast, though, were unbelievable!

Na Pali Coast

It's Not Too Late

It's not too late to share good wishes for the New Year! In my opinions, it's never ever too late to share good wishes for anything.

Our New Year's Card
May the banyan tree of life bring you peace, comfort, and joy, with a healthy dose of excitement and intrigue in 2016! Happy New Year to you, my friends!

We spent eight days of our winter break in Hawaii. All of us had vacation or leave scheduled but we didn't know where we were going until 10 days before our time off from being slaves to schedules started. I wanted to go to Machu Picchu. D wanted to go to Costa Rica. Medha wanted to go somewhere, anywhere. Hawaii just sort of happened. After polling friends and family, we zeroed in on Kauai and the Big Island of Hawaii. We had reservations for our stay and tickets to a island-hopper flight, and that was it. It sounds kind of crazy to those who need to schedule every minute of their vacation but we like our vacations to be laid-back, without the need for yet another vacation to recover from our vacation. I always need downtime to recover from hurtling through the air in a metal tube and, this time, I had built that into my time off from work.

Sunrise at Nukolii Beach
A Kauai sunrise

How to Make Ghee From Store-Bought Butter

First published on The Whole Foods Blog, Jan 9 2013

Ghee, solid at room temperature

In India, ghee is an essential part of our lives. It is used in cooking, to fuel oil lamps, and to pour into the fire during all manner of ceremonies. It is often treated as a symbol of purity.

Making homemade ghee was as much a part of our daily lives as was making homemade cultured butter. We had raw milk delivered to us every morning. Almost immediately, it was heated gently until it boiled. As it cooled, there was this magical layer of thick cream that floated to the top of the milk. It thickened as the milk cooled. Refrigeration made this layer almost solid and easier to scoop out into a special ceramic pot. Once that ceramic pot was full, a yogurt culture was stirred into it, and it was allowed to sit overnight on the counter.

Happy Mother's Day!

Thank you, Mom, for those breakfasts every single weekday that I never appreciated.

c. 1980