My kind of overdose

After a marathon meeting on Wednesday that was also exceptionally productive, we dined on the patio of Street and Company, by the cobblestone roads of Portland, Maine. We had oysters for the first time and I have no words to describe the flavors or the texture!

We also had Lobster Daviolo (I think!) - lobster, squid and mussels on a bed on pasta in spicy garlic sauce. Heaven.

And some pan-fried sole in a lemony tangy sauce.

It's been seafood, seafood, and more seafood since then!

Mainely Vacation

It's Feet Up time for me! Finally!! Yup, we're on vacation. Currently in Maine.

We hiked along the Otter Cliffs of Acadia National Park.

Marvelled at the vistas of Maine's small islands and smashing shores.

And this morning at 4:30 a.m., we drove like those possessed to be one of the first on the East Coast of the United States to view the sunrise from Cadillac Mountain, the tallest mountain along the eastern coast. They say that sun's rays first hit Cadillac mountain on the East Coast from October to March. It's almost July. But who cares? It was spectacular!

I will be on a blogging break as we are on vacation. I may pop back in if I have had a chance to upload more pictures either here or ad nauseam on my Flickr account.

Till then, enjoy yourselves! I will be!

Under the spell in Chinatown

You can see from the top of the hill
Tangled streets and the mystery there
Painted lanterns hang from balconies
People running everywhere

Chinatown, with all your dark mystery
Chinatown, Chinatown
Your spell is capturing me

Lovely ladies with almond eyes
Dressed in silk and laces
Twilight falls and the shadows move
Silently in secret places

Chinatown, with all your dark mystery
Chinatown, Chinatown
Your spell is capturing me

You've got me under your spell
You've got me under your spell
You've got me under your spell
You've got me under your spell

by the Doobie Brothers

The who?, you say.
Not The Who. The Doobie Brothers.

I took a short trip to San Francisco with my sister last month. It was the very first time that I went on a non-work related trip without my husband and Medha. She was crushed and still hasn't forgiven me completely. But, I have to tell you! It's a must-do! Leave the grinch behind. Walk into every store you feel like. Eat wherever you want, whenever you want. There are no endless questions: where are we going? do we have to go there? when will we get there? I need to go pee-pee really bad. None of that! We went to meet our youngest maushi and bhaoji whom we had last met over 7 years ago. We spent a day with them and then took off on sister-to-sister quality time in the heart of San Francisco.

I didn't take nearly as many pictures this year as I did last year. I wanted to see things with my own eyes instead of through the lens. And one place I wanted to experience, smell and taste was Chinatown.

We took the cable car from Market Street and hopped off at one of the Chinatown stops. We had no clue where we were, where we were headed, or what we were going to do. The first thing we noticed was that everything was written in Chinese. And then we came across this beautiful Chinese Hospital.

I spied some fresh produce in open boxes along the wall of a corner store in the building ahead.

It was very difficult to not buy any of this stuff!

Just then the delivery van arrived and Chinese people of all sizes and shapes swarmed to the store.

Everyone stopped politely and waited for me to take my picture. I tried to tell them to go about their business and buy all those fresh veggies but they were far too polite. They continued to wait. So I moved on...and came upon this store that sold dried seafood.

I recognized only a couple of the dried seafood in this inviting array. Once I started looking at it at close quarters, it wasn't all that attractive anymore. The smell? Let me just say that there were no incense sticks readily available nearby.

We wandered through the streets. Was this what China is like, I wondered! I looked for matching baby doll shoes to go with Medha's Qui Pao dress but they were either out of the color or the size. I made up for it by buying myself a simple but elegant pair of pumps.

We walked by a store that sold herbs and all kinds of exotic dried roots. Some of the roots looked like they could be an insect or a small animal. But roots they were.

There were times when I felt like I was back in India. There were "everything under the sun is sold here" stores. From sweets to shoes to clothing to toys. And they displayed their wares outside the store and hung from the doorways, just like the little shops in India.

Since my sister hadn't had dim sum before, we asked around for a good restaurant in the area. Everyone told us to go to Ray Eestuhn. We walked down this street, looking for Ray Eestuhn ...

...till someone told us exactly where it was. We would have never found it on our own.

There was a wait. We didn't mind as we had much to talk about. We had been talking non-stop since we met at Denver Airport and it didn't seem like that tide was going to ebb any time soon. Great Eastern was filled with the locals and there were very few non-Chinese in the restaurant. I was thrilled at the thought of authentic dim sum and a little apprehensive at the thought of biting into some of the dried stuff that we had seen earlier.

We figured out how to order dim sum over cups of delicious hot jasmine tea.

We had several different types of dim sum. The most interesting was fish wrapped in seaweed and deep fried. We also had sticky rice wrapped in lotus leaves. And steamed rolls. The meal cost us only about $15 and we were quite full!

I wanted to explore Chinatown some more but Lombard Street and Fisherman's Wharf beckoned. Maybe next time.

Chinatown, with all your dark mystery
Chinatown, Chinatown
Your spell has captured me

Bitter Haak My Words

Last spring was memorable for many reasons. One of my favorite persons turned 50 and we wanted to be part of the celebrations, so we flew out to Massachusetts for the party. It soon turned into a working vacation and the intense hours at work were balanced by food, fun, friends and family. We returned home a couple of weeks later, late at night, feeling very content. I turned on the lights in the yard to peek outside and everything was a lush green. I went to sleep very happy that night.

The nightmare began the next morning when I realized that we had no grass. The green that I had seen was dandelions, more dandelions and even more dandelions. Our neighbors weren't particularly thrilled either. We bought weed pullers and yanked away till we only had holes for a yard. I bore the brunt of refusing to consider townhomes when we were house-hunting but I was so done with sharing walls and second-hand smoke. After a while we gave up doing things the Boulder way and I went and bought Weed-B-Gone and started spraying every dandelion cluster I saw.

Did I mention that I hate dandelions?

Yet, a couple of months later I ate dandelion greens sautéed in olive oil with some garlic at a friend's place and really enjoyed them. Ever since then I have been looking for a recipe that would work really well with dandelion greens. I knew I had found it when I saw this. And when I found a pretty bunch of red dandelions at Wild Oats yesterday, I knew the time had come to try it out.

Since Anita is still keeping some secrets when it comes to haakh and sharing only with some others who are subsequently getting their revenge by pulling out the asparagus card, I figured I would follow Chandramukhi Ganju's recipe for munji haakh. I took some hints from Bee's method because unfortunately, Ms. Ganju forgets to tell us when to add asafetida as well as the garam masala.

Before I go any further, I must tell you a little bit more about dandelion greens. Regular dandelion greens are only slightly bitter and have a flavor rather like mulyachi bhaji made with the greens of white radish. Red dandelions? If you hate karela, you will detest red dandelion greens with a vengeance. They surpass bitter melon or bitter gourd in the bitter department.

Oh, and, I loved these dandelions.

Haak, with dandelion greens

  • 1 bunch organic dandelion greens
  • 2 tbsp mustard oil
  • a pinch hing
  • 3-4 dry red chillies, broken into two pieces each
  • 1/2 tsp Kashmiri garam masala (scroll down towards the bottom of the post)
  • 1 cup water
  • Salt to taste

  1. Wash and clean the dandelion greens
  2. Slice the leaves into thin long strips and chop the stems fine

  3. Heat mustard oil in the pressure cooker or skillet till a smoking point
  4. Add hing and red chillies
  5. Add the greens and stir well till the greens wilt a bit
  6. Add water and salt
  7. Cook in the pressure cooker under pressure for at least 7-8 minutes or in your skillet until the greens are tender
  8. Release the pressure as quickly as possible, keeping your safety in mind, and open the pressure cooker.
  9. Add Kashmiri garam masala and mix well.
  10. Cook for another minute or so and serve hot with naan or, to appease Anita, have it with starchy short-grained rice.

What can I say? It was bitter personified but I loved it. Medha wanted it off her plate as soon as possible but she did taste it. My husband and I relished it over the next few days.

There is a side effect that we weren't quite aware of the first night we ate these: dandelion greens clean out your system better than spinach. Uh huh!

More about dandelions and dandelion greens:
Why we should like dandelions
Healing properties of Dandelion Greens
Growing and harvesting dandelion greens

Black Pearls

Late last night I read Indira's post on Bloggers and Beans and it brought to mind a very special friendship that developed because of my lemon pickle. We met, we shopped together, we cooked together and we have a very wonderful relationship that we are all very comfortable with. Sometimes we don't talk or correspond for several weeks, only to pick up the phone to ask for a recipe or to ask for directions to that store that one of us mentioned fleetingly in a conversation months ago. Or to simply catch up. Sometimes we pick up things that we remember the other wanted, even when we are on a business trip thousand miles away from home. Lee brought me these wonderful black pearls from Dallas because she remembered...

Thank you, Lee!

I also have some very  vocal how could I not post this recipe again? Just for them?

Chitkya ani Kalya Vatanyachi Bhaji

Cluster Beans with Dried Black Peas

  • Have a dear friend lug you a packet of kale vatane from a thousand miles away
  • Look at them longingly, touch them, enjoy their color and texture
  • When you have had enough of visual pleasure and gustation becomes imminent, soak 1/4 cup kale vatane overnight, in at least twice the amount of water
  • Wash the kale vatane and cook them in a pressure cooker with at least 1/2 cup water for 2-3 whistles. If you skip soaking them, you need to cook them in the pressure cooker for at least 8-10 whistles. I recommend the former as you will be doing your bit for our overheated planet
  • Make Chitkyachi Bhaji, a bhaji that is always on the menu on auspicious occasions in our family, including shraddha.

How can I not send this to Nupur for her RCI - Maharashtrian Cuisine? I have to!

If you're still grumbling about recipe redux, consider this: how could a post about friends not be about nostalgia? Even Indira's recipe was revisited. So there!

Shout Out: Pickle time!

Last year I had promised to post a reminder when it was time to make lemon and lime pickle in the sun (in the US). The sun is out, the days are long and the time is right.

If you can get hold of organic limes and lemons, more power to you! I looked high and low (ok! just in Sunnyvale Farmers' Market) for Meyer lemons but found none. I saw organic Eureka lemons and I am kicking myself for not bringing some home with me. I had to settle for Citrons and Persian limes. Don't forget to wash them well to get rid of the coating made of bees-wax.

Time to go solar!

Lemon pickle with no oil, cooked in the sun
Lime pickle with no oil, cooked in the sun