Indian food in India is just food.

I am so thankful for my recent trip to India, and really enjoyed the experience.  It was beautiful to see all of the rhetoric I hear, in action.  Not for credibility, not to be hip, but because it's a way of life and always has been.  Eating locally grown organic fruits and vegetables, seasonally, has never gone out of style.  Microwaves and preservatives are a strange concept, and don't play a part in their food culture. Lovely.

Fruits and Veggies, sold on the street in Mumbai, India
 Green Beans, headed to market, Mumbai, India
The daily catch, Fort Cochin, India
Flat bread I was preparing for a potluck dinner in Varkala, India
We also managed to find the most amazing chocolate cake in Mumbai.  Nothing Indian about it- it was in a western cafe.....but it was so tasty.  It made us swoon, really! We shamelessly went back for them a few times, in even fewer days.

Our first night in Varkala, Kerala we took a rickshaw across town Kumari's house.
Eating the meal she prepared for us in her back yard next to the cow, without napkins, silverware or drinks added to the experience.  Food was the focus.  She made at least 12 different items, and it cost us 150 Rupees, which is about $3.00.  It was a real life "supper club."
Kristi and I went back a few days later for a cooking lesson and lunch.
The meals Kumari prepared were the best we had in India, hands down.
I will always remember the experience.  She's a lovely woman, standing 5 feet tall but with the strength and energy to run the household.  Her house is small and humble, no fuss, no unnecessary items.  (Lesson number one!)
Her cow in the back yard and provides fresh milk for the family. 
She grows many of the ingredients she cooks with.  
Her husband helps cut vegetables, and she uses her experience and love to prepare amazing food.
Onions, garlic, ginger and okra, which she called "ladyfingers".
Curry leaves from her garden. She explained they are best fresh, and not good as a dried herb.  I had no idea there was such a thing, and am trying to find seeds to grow them here....something which I could get busted for, I'm sure.
Fresh Veggies!

I could share recipes with you, but the best thing is to share technique.
The dish starts with coconut oil on high heat.  I have only been able to find it at an India grocery store, or Whole Foods.  Whole foods is a bit pricier, and had a few additional choices.  Place black mustard seeds in hot pan and cover (unless you like oil, everywhere.)  A combination, depending on the dish, of garlic, onion, and ginger.  The fresh vegetables are next, , Add the remaining spices before closing lid.  Either keep on heat for a minute, which would give you a bright crunchy vegetable dish. Or, keep it on until you achieve what Kumari called the "roasted" look.  Certain dishes can be finished with freshly home made coconut milk, boiling it off until the cream thickens and the dish is deep and rich.  These are the things good curries are made of. 
The vegetables you use are interchangeable, and therefore the options are endless. 

Her foundation spices include:
Fresh curry leaves, black mustard seed, freshly ground chili powder, coriander, fennel, cumin, tumeric, cinnamon, cardamom and chicken Marsala spice (which is vegetarian). 
Fresh onion, garlic and ginger make an appearance as well.
She used ANNA pans, and I'm kicking myself for not bringing one home. I can't find them online...can you?   There will be a curry dinner in it for you!

Kumari's masterpieces

 I'm forever changed when it comes to not only curries, but good honest food, prepared with love. But mostly curries.  


Starting Seeds

Spring is coming, and it's a great time to start your seeds.
Typically I use peat pots, finding them in large packs at the 99cent store.  The hassle with large groups of small pots is keeping them organized, and upright.  
Try this instead-
You can start 12 sections, and they are easy to move from the sun to indoors, etc.
Your welcome.


Grilled Lemon & Rosemary Vinaigrette

Lemon trees all over the neighborhood are weighing down with fruit.  
Here is a great idea to use some citrus, in a surprising way.
Roasting or grilling lemons until there is a bit of char, deepens the flavor and makes a fantastic base for a vinaigrette.  Although the flavor is complex, it is very simple to achieve.
It's also a great way to bring a little sunshine into your kitchen when it's gloomy outside.
Preheat your broiler, or BBQ/grill, and cut 4 lemons in half.  
Roast and rotate the lemons until there is char on all sides.
Roast a sprig of rosemary, brushed with olive oil, for about 1 to 2 minutes.  You do not want the herb to burn.
Using a fine mesh strainer and wooden spoon, push the lemons through to get the juice and oils.  Discard the remains.  Remove the rosemary needs from the stick, and finely mince.  To the liquid add 1/2 to 1 cup good quality extra virgin oil olive.  The variance is based on the amount of liquid you get from the lemons.  Typically I like 2 to 1, but this recipe tastes great 50/50.  The best bet is to taste as you go.  Mix in the minced rosemary, about 1 tablespoon.  Add up to 1 tablespoon of salt, again tasting as you add,  a little at a time.  It was easily be over salted. 
Using Meyer lemons will bring a sweetness, but you can also add a teaspoon of honey if you find the vinaigrette too bitter.

Try using other citrus fruit or herbs to achieve a range of flavors.  
Blood oranges and tarragon would be lovely.  How about grapefruit and thyme on a fennel salad? Mixed citrus fruit with ginger sounds awesome too!

This is fantastic as a salad dressing, or amazing over grilled vegetables or chicken.


"The smell of good bread baking,
like the sound of lightly flowing water,
is indescribable in its evocation of innocence and delight ..."

– M.F.K. Fisher, The Art of Eating



always has good gifts with purchase, but this one is worth sharing!
8 Madagascar Vanilla Beans, free!
They typically run their promotions monthly, but I'd jump on it.
If you haven't visited their site yet, it's worth a look. There are so many spices- it's quite inspiring.
I have been using fresh vanilla either in place of (or in addition to) real vanilla extract.  
 Or, if you're feeling feisty, try your hand at homemade Kahlua.  

 4 cups brown sugar
2 cups water
2/3 cup instant coffee (Go for good flavor here. I like Whole Food's brand)
10 whole coffee beans
750 milliliters vodka (Cheap is OK!)
2  vanilla beans

Combine the water, sugar, and coffee in saucepan and bring to boil. Skim and allow to cool thoroughly. Pour into a large container, or divide between mason jars. Add vodka, coffee beans,  and vanilla bean. Store in a dark place for 3 weeks, and give it a shake every day. Strain through cheese cloth and filter through coffee filter into resealable bottles. Add a like cream or milk on ice, and enjoy!