BolderBoulder and Barbecued Shrimp

Memorial Day in Boulder County is very exciting, no matter which camp you belong to. For some it means the BolderBoulder 10K marathon which is the largest citizens' road race in the US. For others, it means peace and quiet as the crowds have all converged in downtown Boulder to run, jog, walk and even cartwheel the 6.2 mile race. For a change, we were with the crowds. We trained precisely 3 times. Once, we went into mountain lion activity zones, saw 5 deer leap past us and then wondered how far away the cats might be! The next time we went the opposite way into downtown Louisville and saw deer there, too. That session got wiped out by a freaky windstorm that had us scurrying into Old Louisville Inn for shelter. We ended up eating dinner instead of completing our training session! Another time, we just walked around the neighborhood and realized that there is a fairly large prairie dog preserve not too far from us. The most we walked must have been 4 miles in 2 hours. Most of the kids in the neighborhood usually run the race in 60-75 minutes. I wondered whether we would even complete half the course.

We were in the last few waves of walkers flagged off at just past 9:06 am. We had to reach the intersection of Walnut and Folsom by 10:45 am. That was 9 km or a little over 5.5 miles in 99 minutes - much less than 2 hours. If we didn't make it there, we would not be let into the CU Stadium for the celebrations. I figured we'd make a quick exit at that point - beat the crowd at getting out of Boulder. But, wait! We made it! Yes, we managed to stay ahead of the course cutoff guys and gals and we made it into the Stadium. We saw the parachuters come down and land safely on the turf. A big Phew!, especially if you know about the accidents from Memorial Day a few years ago.

I was so proud of my daughter! She walked the entire 10K! For someone who had barely managed to walk 4 miles in 2 hours, she did exceedingly well! My body is still aching but she played all day thereafter at the various neighborhood barbecues and I just wished I could crawl into bed and sleep forever!

There were two barbecues going on at the same time - both were at our immediate neighbors. I took turkey meatballs which I made using the same recipe as my Turkey Burgers. However nothing at the barbecues was quite like the barbecued shrimp we had on Friday to celebrate a friend's new job. What was mind-blowing was just how simple the recipe was.

Barbecued Shrimp

  • 2lbs of large shrimp, shell-on (about 25-30 count)
  • Wishbone Italian dressing

  1. Pour Italian dressing over the shrimp so that each shrimp gets a good coating of the dressing
  2. Marinate for about 60 to 90 minutes
  3. Sprinkle some pepper on the shrimp and skewer them
  4. Barbecue on hot coals until cooked - usually about 5 minutes each side

That's it! The shrimp was moist, tender and very delicious! This is my friend's recipe and this post is a huge shout out to her as she begins a new phase in her life on June 1 when she returns to working in an office (as opposed to from home) and that too, in clothes that are not pyjamas! Congrats and Best of Luck!

Lemon Pickle without oil (picture intensive step-by-step recipe)

I've always been afraid to make any sort of Indian pickle. Too much labor. Too much effort if they have to be cooked gently in the warmth of the sun. No instant gratification as they take months to pickle. One could just as well step out to the Indian grocery store and buy excellent pickles, as good as homemade ones. But the lemon pickles without oil are hard to find. So far I have only found Priya's Lime Pickle that has no oil. All other pickles have a thick layer of oil, which helps preserve the pickle but I like my lemon pickle without any oil.

I was forced to take the plunge when I ran out of the small bottles of two lemon pickles my sister sent me in February this year, both made without any oil. One with green chillies and the other with red chilli powder. I had a bunch of beautiful lemons that were sitting invitingly on the counter - so inviting that I ignored the fact that the peel is much thicker than the Indian lemon and decided to just go for it.

I used an old family recipe that has been passed down through several generations. The beauty of these pickles is enhanced by the "no-oil" factor.

No-Oil Lemon Pickle
Limbacha loncha

  1. Wash and dry 6 lemons thoroughly. (12 lemons if you are in India as they are much smaller than the lemons in the US.) There should be no water on the lemons or in your jar. This is very important.
  2. Slice off the stalk scar as shown below.
  3. Cut the lemon into quarters and then cut each quarter into a half along the length. Then cut each resulting piece into quarters or thirds.
  4. Fill the glass jar as you go along. Your jar will soon look like it will overflow. Don't worry. Everything will settle down and there will be tons of space in the jar.
  5. Add 1/2 cup salt.
  6. Add 1/4 cup chilli powder.
  7. Add 1/2 cup sugar.

  8. Add 3 tsp of turmeric powder and shake the jar about to help the powders get to as many lemons as possible.

  9. Next you need 1 tsp methi seeds.
  10. And 1 tsp black mustard seeds
  11. And 1/4 tsp asafoetida or hing powder.
  12. Roast these three ingredients on medium flame for about 4-5 minutes till there is a mouth-watering aroma in your kitchen and the methi seeds look a little tanned. They should not look sun-burnt, just nicely tanned.

  13. Grind these in your coffee grinder. What? You think your coffee will smell of methi and hing from here onwards? Tch! Tch! You mean you actually grind coffee beans in your coffee grinder? Never do that. Repeat after me: Coffee grinders are for grinding spices! Well done! Now add this powdered mix to the jar. The lemons should have started oozing juice already.
  14. Add the juice of 1 lemon. If necessary, use a dry palette knife or a dry table knife to stir the contents of the jar. See how the lemons have become limp and there is so much space in the jar?
  15. The jar must be placed in the sun to cook slowly in its warmth.
  16. Give it a good shake as you put it out and bring it in each day. Your pickle should be ready in about 2 months when the peel has softened and is no longer crisp.

See what I mean about labor intensive? Putting it together takes less than 20 minutes. But after that, it's a lot of effort! Nevertheless I am very excited about it. Here is what my pickle looks like after 1 whole day in the sun. My home is in the East-West direction so I just follow the sun as it moves over from the backyard to the front and leave it out till just before sunset. It's nice and warm when I bring it in. I am really looking forward to this pickle. I hope after all this effort, it works out!!

A lot of people cook it gently on the stove. But in my family, we've always followed this procedure and all of us prefer this taste.

For those of you looking for the ingredients in a concise list, here it is:
  • 6 lemons (12 Indian lemons as they are much smaller)
  • 1/2 cup salt
  • 1/4 cup red chilli powder
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp methi seeds
  • 1 tsp black mustard seeds
  • 1/4 tsp hing powder
  • Juice of 1 lemon (2-3 lemons in India)
  • Large glass jar, approx 2 liters in volume

Think you want to join me in trying this out? Go ahead! And if you do, be sure to let me know how it's doing. Or just wait to see how mine does before you try yours out. After all we have the whole summer ahead of us! I'll be posting an update every week or so. The juices will start thickening as it cooks in the sun.


Update Feb 11, 2007: I made lemon pickle from 3lb of Sunkist lemons on the stove today. After the low temperatures ruined so much of California's citrus crop, I gave up hope of seeing Meyer lemons in the stores here. I decided not to wait any longer and purchased a 3lb bag of citron lemons. They are the best looking lemons I could find. The organic ones at Whole Foods and Wild Oats looked really sad. Anyway, I cooked it on low, uncovered for 5 hours, stirring every so often until the juices thickened. The final consistency should be similar to that of thick pancake batter. The only thing to watch out for: ensure that the juices don't start sticking to the bottom of the pan and charring. The juices will start burning and the pickle will get a strange taste.

I made one mistake: I added 1/2 cup of red chilli powder instead of 1/4 cup. I was trying to do too many things all at once and while this level of heat may be fine for many folks, it's way too much for us. I added 1/4 cup sugar to balance it out but it's still too fiery. I am planning to buy another 3 lb bag and make more pickle on the stove, but without any red chilli powder and mix the two.

Which one is better? The one cooked in the sun has far more flavor. Slow-cooking in the sun rules!

Mountain Lion Alert & Paneer Jhalfrezi

Never a dull moment since we moved to Louisville. The current excitement is about the mountain lion sightings. There was one at dusk in January in the 'Blue Park' in the North Open Space that our neighborhood juts into. But no-one took that seriously. We just made sure that the kids did not play at the Blue Park by themselves and that they did not take the shortcut through the Open Space to get there. Life pretty much went back to normal. A lot of the potential hysteria died down because mountain lion attacks are very rare.

A friend who has lived up in the mountains for over 15 years has never seen one even though his property falls within mountain lion territory. So we went back to living life as normal. Then a 7 year old was attacked by a mountain lion on the Flagstaff Trail in Boulder. No, he had not wandered away from his family; he was right with them when he was dragged away by the cougar. Luckily his family did all the right things and the child is supposed to be making a great recovery. Come May 11 and the cougars were seen in the Tamarisk Open Space, less than a quarter mile from my daughter's elementary school. While the City's web site says that most of the sightings were at dawn or dusk, the Daily Camera reports that the last sighting was at 5:30 pm on May 11.

Up went the signs at the Blue Park (taken with a shaky hand on a phone camera):

and my daughter came home with a flyer made by the father of her classmate who works in the Open Space Department for the City of Louisville.
mountain lion flyer

The City of Louisville is going to hold a meeting on May 24 to discuss these sightings.

Mountain lions weigh between 80lbs to 180 lbs. They can jump over 15 feet high. They prefer smaller prey but will kill deer and even elk. I am not a happy camper. Even so, I was aghast to find out that the State of Colorado actually gives out hunting licences for mountain lions. That there is a hunting season for mountain lions. That their meat is made available for human consumption. Enough to make me not want to eat any meat for the next few weeks. Hey! At least I am honest! I will eat meat but just not for the next three or two or one week.

So in my quest to turn vegetarian for the next few meals, what better than to have Paneer Jhalfrezi.

Paneer Jhalfrezi

  • 3 tbsps oil
  • 1 tsp jeera
  • 2 Kashmiri red chillies
  • 1 medium size onion, sliced thick
  • 1 1/2 inch long piece of ginger, julienned
  • 4 plum tomatoes
  • 2 large green bell peppers
  • 400g block of paneer
  • 1 1/2 tbsp vinegar
  • 1/8 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp garam masalaoptional
  • 1 tsp red chilli powder
  • salt to taste

  1. Deseed the tomatoes and cut lengthwise into slices about 1 centimeter wide.
  2. Do the same with the green bell peppers
  3. Separate the onions slices into individual layers
  4. Cut the paneer into long slices about the height of the block of paneer and 1 centimeter thick
  5. Heat oil in a large saucepan
  6. Add the cumin seeds. When they change color, add the red chillies broken into 2 pieces each
  7. Add the julienned ginger and sliced onions and sauté for about a minute or two
  8. Add the turmeric powder and red chilli powder and mix well
  9. Add the green bell pepper slices and cook for about 3-4 minutes
  10. Add paneer slices and sauté for another couple of minutes, taking care that the paneer slices do not break
  11. Add vinegar and salt and cook for another couple of minutes
  12. Add tomato slices and the garam masala and mix well. Cook for another couple of minutes and your paneer jhalfrazi is ready to serve!

Enjoy this with naan. It's a colorful stir-fried dish that is very easy to put together. Here are some more pictures to tickle the palate:

Update (Oct 2006): The friend I got this recipe from tells me that this is originally a Sanjeev Kapoor recipe. She added some twists and I added some more.

Mother's Day and Kashmiri Lamb Rogan josh

Today was a day much like any other Sunday. Some cooking, some cleaning, some lazing under the clear Colorado sky, soaking in the sun. And, yes, it was Mother's Day. I had already been treated to a beautiful butterfly stake on Friday. She had covered hers with a grocery bag so she could smuggle it into the house as a surprise for me on Sunday. Unfortunately for her, the her two little friends decided to fly theirs home from the bus stop despite her pleas. She's learning to deal with events over which she has no control and instead of whining about it, she gave me the butterfly stake as soon as we got home. I showed her how proud I was by promptly driving it into the ground in my garden.

The butterfly card, I got this morning.

And for most of us, that was Mother's Day. A day spent with our children, basking in the warmth of their attention.

At dinner tonight, I found out that Mother's Day is not just a marketing ploy, created by the greeting card and gift companies. That it has origins much deeper. That, over a century ago, a woman named Julia Ward Howe introduced the idea of a special day for mothers so that they could work together against war.
"While the war was still in progress," she wrote, she keenly felt the "cruel and unnecessary character of the contest." She believed, as any woman might, that it could have been settled without bloodshed. And, she wondered, "Why do not the mothers of mankind interfere in these matters to prevent the waste of that human life of which they alone bear and know the cost?"

Unfortunately, Howe's version disappeared before WWI. Mother Jarvis and Anna Jarvis gave it new life in 1907. Read more about how Mother's Day endured and how there is more to it than the card and the gifts.

I feel truly honored.

War, fatherless children, displaced families remind me of the strife-stricken region of Kashmir. I have special memories of Kashmir that date back to the late 70s. It was a treat for me to be reminded of its simple yet varied cuisine by suman and her version of Kashmiri Rogan josh. I took the liberty to adjust suman's recipe to our taste.

Kashmiri Rogan josh

  • 2 lb boneless lamb, diced
  • 1/8 cup vegetable oil
  • 7-8 cloves
  • 1 stick cinnamon, broken into several pieces
  • 1 large black cardamom
  • 3 tamalpatra small bay leaves
  • 1/4 tsp hing (asafotida)
  • 3 tsp fennel seeds, roasted and powdered
  • 1 1/2 tsp dry ginger powder
  • 1 tsp red chilli powder
  • 1/2 tsp cardamom powder
  • 1 cup fat-free yogurt, whisked
  • Few strands of saffron
  • salt to taste
  1. Heat oil in a pan
  2. Add cloves, cinnamon, black cardamom and bay leaves. Stir these about or toss them around in the pan until they release their fragrance, taking care not burn to the whole spices
  3. Add the diced lamb and sprinkle the hing over it. Fry on medium-high heat until the lamb is browned, about 5 minutes.
  4. Add the powdered fennel seeds, dried ginger powder, red chilli powder, and salt on medium-high heat for a couple of minutes
  5. Lower the heat and add the whisked yogurt and powdered cardamom. Stir till it starts to simmer. Cover and cook until the lamb is cooked thoroughly.
  6. Add the saffron strands and simmer for a couple of minutes.
  7. Serve hot over steamed basmati rice.
The subtle flavors of dried ginger and cardamom make this Kashmiri Rogan josh unlike any other!

SafeSearch and Roasted Garlic

Last week, my daughter came home from school with this look of indignation, tinged with forbidden excitement. She tripped over her words as her mind raced ahead of her vocal chords.

She: Mumma! Someone typed an unappropriate word into Google and ...
Me (absent-mindedly): It's inappropriate, not unappropriate.
Her bag was wet because 'someone had poured water all over the seat in the bus' and I was busy pulling soggy papers, books, jacket, stones, leaves and other things from the bag, horrified at what my hand touched next.
She: ...inappropriate word and when Maggie and I came back from our reading group, we went to the computer for insect research and there were all these unappropriate pictures...
Me: Inappropriate!
I found the culprit. That someone who poured water all over her seat was her! The cap of her water bottle was loose. Inappropriate pictures?! Whoa! What was she talking about?!
Me: What inappropriate word? What pictures?
She: Mumma, we know it was a boy. He typed in this inappropriate word and did an image search on Google. So there were pictures on the monitor and you know what else? He even sent them to the printer. He printed them, Mumma!
My alarm level was now really high because I didn't know what she had seen.
Me (as calmly as is possible in situations like this): So what was the word, sweetie?
She: It's un...I mean inappropriate. I cannot say it. It's a girl's body part that's why we know it was a boy!

It was b**bs. It could have been worse. Much much worse. All the kids were banned from touching the computers till the person who did this owned up to it. No-one did so the girls developed their own theories about the boy - better still the group of boys - that did this. She was very indignant about it because she couldn't get onto the Internet to do her research because of that unappropriate - I mean inappropriate - thing that those silly boys did. First they break chairs, now they do this. What next?

I wondered what the school IT department was up to. I thought that SafeSearch would be the most basic standard in any school. Obviously not. Before I opened my big mouth and made suggestions, I thought I'd try it out and sure enough, it worked on most sexual slang that a 2nd grader might come across. It didn't work for an interesting male body part though. There were very explicit pictures in the results. Who decides these things at Google and other search engines, I wonder. But then again the word is not sexual slang; it's a proper biological term.

I decided to report it to Google using their 'Dissatisfied? Help us improve' link at the bottom of their seach results. And it showed me: You searched for <male body part> above the textbox where I was going to write a strong complaint. I felt a tinge of embarassment but then I hoped my story would convince Google that I was not some sort of a pervert. That is, if anyone ever reads the feedback.

My general paranoia which had been on the rise, is now at its peak. I have found my daughter on strange web sites because she clicked on an ad for IQ testing while checking weather online. The site itself was fine but the ads displayed were not. Once off the weather web site, there is no guarantee where she will end up and what she will read or see. According to some stats my husband read up on, children end up on not-so-enchanting web sites in less than 6 clicks. She will be 8 next month and usually she is closely monitored when she is on the computer but when I have my hands deep in soapy dishes and she needs to know the weather right away, I let her do it because I don't expect her to click on anything else besides weather. There's no giving guarantees for what she will and will not do as curiosity is but natural and anything IQ or quiz-like is something she cannot resist. And, the big bad world out there is beckoning...

I don't want to install NetNanny or its ilk. I do use the AdBlock plugin for Firefox to block as many ads as possible, but it's not enough. My husband has been talking of setting up a tracking system that will display on his computer, the web sites she is accessing on hers. He lives at his computer so maybe it will work.

With that, let's move on to something more titillating to another type of gland, the salivary gland...

Roasted Garlic

Roasted Garlic

  • 5-6 bunches of garlic
  • 10-12 tsp olive oil
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  1. Pre-heat oven to 400F
  2. Take off as much of the dry skin around the garlic bulbs, leaving the bulbs intact.
  3. Slice about 1/4 inch off the top of the bulb with a very sharp knife to expose the individual cloves
  4. Place the garlic bulbs, cut side up, in a shallow baking dish
  5. Drizzle about 2 teaspoons olive oil over each bulb, making sure that it gets a good coating
  6. Sprinkle salt and pepper
  7. Cover loosely with foil and bake between 30-35 minutes till the cloves feel soft when pressed

The aroma that will pervade your home will drive you nuts and you will want to dig into the garlic right away! But, allow the garlic to cool first as it will be very hot.

This roasted garlic will last at least a couple of weeks in an air-tight container in the refrigerator. That's only if it isn't all gone much before then! I like to:
- eat it as is, use a fork to get the garlic out of its skin and pop it into my mouth. Delicious!
- as a spread on toast, mash it with a fork and spread it
- in spreads and appetizers, when you want the flavor of garlic without the overpowering smell of raw garlic
- on a pizza as an additional topping
- in salads, sliced
- in pastas, and so much more!


Simple pulao.
Comfort food.
Wonderful with yogurt.


Because you asked, Vaishali...

This is a very simple pulao with no whole spices or garam masala. The main flavor is that of ginger. It's great detox food.
  • 1/2 cup oil
  • 1 med. white onion, sliced
  • 1 cup chopped fresh cauliflower
  • 1 cup chopped fresh broccoli
  • 1 cup fresh baby carrots
  • 2 tbsp juice of grated ginger
  • 1 tbsp vinegar
  • 3 cups basmati rice
  • 6 cups water
  • salt to taste
  1. Heat the oil in a large chef's pan
  2. Add the onions and sautée on medium heat until they are translucent
  3. Add the vinegar, juice of the ginger, all the vegetables and sautée for 5 minutes
  4. Wash the rice, drain all the water, and sautée for another couple of minutes on low heat
  5. Add the water and salt to taste. Mix everything well.
  6. Cook uncovered on medium-high to high heat until there is no water visible from the top. Usually between 10-20 minutes - longer for me cos I am a mile high in altitude.
  7. Cover, turn the heat to medium-low and cook till the rice has cooked, usually another 20-25 minutes.
  8. Enjoy with a plain yogurt or a raita of your choice.