November 26, 2006
A Travel Recovery Lunch
It was a wonderful holiday week spent visiting family and friends in San Francisco, doing what families do best when they get together-talking all together and eating! We drove around the country side, taking in the vineyards, redwood forests, Coit Towers and hot footed through the San Francisco city of ups and downs, strolling through China town and waterfronts. The sights and smells of the water front may be yucky to some, but to me, it brought a whiff of good old Kerala. More on those photos later.
It feels a little empty to be just us again after being amidst so much conversation and laughter. My son is walking around a little lost, not ready to get back into the daily routine, and we both are still yawning, caught between time zones. The house felt silent and cold yesterday, but today after the cutting and cooking started up, I felt much more comfortably enconsed in my space.
We were craving some really light food and had not much to work with as the refirgertor has not been restocked as yet. No tomatoes or vegetables, just a couple of plantains I picked up from the Indian store along with milk. And hmm…the freezer had shrimps. So the menu consisted of plain steamed rice, lentil curry (Parippu/ Dal), plantain stir fry(Kaya Meyukkuperatti),Carrot thoran and spicy shrimps(Chemmeen Varatiyathu) to balance the blandness.
There is something therapeutic about a basic rice meal without any coconut, coconut milk, cream or any other rich ingredient. It soothes the travel weary stomach and sleep deprived mind. Comfort food at its best.
The Dal Recipe:
Tuvar Gram(Thuvaraparippu) - 1 ½ cup
Onion – 1/2 sliced finely
Turmeric Powder- 1/2 tsp
Red chili powder- 1/2 tsp
Green chillies - 4 nos (slit lengthwise)
Garlic-1 clove chopped
Mustard seeds - 1 tsp
Cumin seeds (Jeerakam)- 1/4 tsp
Asafoetida- A pinch
Curry leaves- One sprig
Salt - 1/2 tsp or to taste
Oil - 1 tbsp
Cook the lentils with the green chilies, turmeric, 2 cups water and salt till the lentils are cooked. You could pressure cook it for one whistle or slow cook it in a saute pan. Heat oil in a pan and lower the heat while adding the mustard seeds and cover. When they splutter, add the cumin seeds,curry leaves and then asafoetida, garlic and sliced onions and fry for a couple of minutes.
Add the red chili powder and stir once and then add the lentils and enough water for gravy. Let it simmer for at least 5-8 minutes to get rid of the boiled lentil taste. Adjust the seasoning as required. Add a dash of lemon juice and fresh cut cilantro leaves.
You will need:
Raw Green Plantains – 1
Shallots /Pearl Onions – 5
Whole red chilies-2
Turmeric powder- 1/2 tsp
Red chili powder- 1/4 tsp
Curry leaves- One sprig
Salt – to taste
Oil - 2 tbsp
1.Peel the green plantains with a peeler, removing only one layer. Cut into 4 chunk pieces and then further cut each piece into 8-10 thin long segments. Soak the pieces in a bowl of water with ¼ tsp turmeric for about 5 minutes and then rinse it well and drain. Cook the plantains in 1 ½ cup water (or enough to submerge it) with the rest of the turmeric, red chili powder and salt. This should take about 7-10 minutes.
2. When the plantains are almost cooked (it should not get fully cooked), drain the excess liquid and keep aside. Ideally, the plantains should be cooked in just enough water, but I use a little more to avoid it getting mushy. This nutrient rich liquid can be added to the lentils or any vegetable curry if you do not want to throw it.
3. Meanwhile, peel the shallots and tear the red chilies. Crush the shallots, red chilies, and garlic in a mortar-pestle till it is combined. Heat oil in a pan and lower the heat. Add the curry leaves, the shallot mixture and sauté for a couple of minutes.
4. Add the cooked plantains and stir fry on medium heat for about 8-10 minutes or till the pieces start looking slightly crisp. If you are using a non stick pan, you may not need any more oil, but add a little bit more oil if they start sticking. Adjust the seasoning as required.