Monday, March 28, 2011

Nothing but memories...

The last stroke of midnight dies.
All day in the one chair
From dream to dream and rhyme to rhyme I have ranged
In rambling talk with an image of air:
Vague memories, nothing but memories.
                                                                                                --William Butler Yeats

Fondness sometimes comes softly, you have memories of  dislike for a couple dishes...I was a tamil born confused oriya who absolutely adored her Dalmas, Kosha Mangsho, Thayir Sadam and Pickle, Mor Kolambu and Poriyals and the hot Indian Chinese (manchurians, american chopsuey and garlic chicken - how I miss you?)... being married to a Maharashtrian for a decade I  did not warm up to Marathi food initially but over time the simplicity of an amti, varan bhaat, radish koshimbir,simple potato fry and poha captured my affection. I couldn't still develop an affinity for Sabudana Khichadi, Thalipeeth and Pitle...however on my mil's recent trip to the US she has made me get over my animosity with Sabudana Khichidi and made me appreciate the flavors and nuances of this maharashtrian staple. We had Sabudana Khichadi as a part of our meal today  made with love by my mother in law.
What you need -
  1. 3 small vatis (125 grams) Sabudana (Tapioca ) - Soaked Overnight
  2. 1/2 vati  Crushed Peanut Powder - keep it coarse (25 grams)
  3. 1-2 Green Chillies
  4. 1 Boiled Potato
  5. Cilantro, Salt to taste, Lemon Juice to Taste
Step 1- Add the Sabudana to the Crushed Peanut Powder.
Step 2-  In the tempering - heat oil/ghee - add whole cumin seeds and then potato - fry till potatoes are nicely done.
Step 3 - Add the Mixture of the Step 1
Step 4 - Add Red Chilly Powder for the pretty red color (optional). Add Salt to taste and lemon juice to taste. Stir and cover till the khichadi is done
Step 4 - Add Cilantro for color and the flavor

Enjoy with a spectacular Cilantro- Fresh Garlic Leaves Chutney (recipe to follow in the next post) and plain yogurt. This recipe goes to PJ at Seduce your Tastebuds for the event which  was the brain child of Nayna - Flavors of Maharastra.

While I hibernate in my cave with a sick child (try 102/103 fever) and early morning calls ( try 5.00 AM)...the Sabudana Khichadi not only nourished my body but warmed up my soul...

Monday, March 21, 2011

Business Travel

I remove my MBT shoes and stretch my abused feet a little…after 15 hours of constant wear, my feet ache and without a wink of shut eye my eyes water involuntarily…Business Travel my friends is much hyped. It is wonderful to watch acquaintances go – Wow! You are going to xyz country how exciting!

Yet, in reality I look forward to business travel with as much enthusiasm as I look forward to a tooth extraction. Let me enlighten you on some personal travel facts –

(A) I almost always end up traveling Economy

(B) I always either get a body check or a luggage check

(C) At the gate, I see tonnes of people being asked to make their hand baggage lighter (8 kgs is the limit, no more, no less)

(D) They invariably seat me near people with kids. Don’t get me wrong, I love K2 to pieces, but I don’t really think I want to go googly eyed over someone else’s crying kid on a long flight

(E) They always mess up and forget my Indian Vegetarian meal and offer me a cold unappetizing pasta towards the end

(F) No sleep, no in-seat entertainment system = Disaster waiting to happen

(G) Did I mention the constant jostling, feet stamping and apologizing that happens every time some passes by the aisle seat

(H) Unappetizing Airport Food – My mind goes chi chink! as I pay 16 Euro for a sandwich, chips and a juice

However, I am in my hotel now, which overlooks a beautiful albeit frozen sea (it’s all white) lying down on a bed that I did not make myself, eating a sandwich I did not make looking forward to the next couple intense days and honestly it ain’t that bad and there are parts that are very satisfying…now if only I could hug my little K2 and tuck the comforter on him I will be a happy camper.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Color me Green...

It is a rainy, gloomy sort of a day. While I sit in front of the computer busy on a call, my mind wanders to a quarter of a century back…we were living in this secluded valley…surrounded by eucalyptus trees, majestic mountains (one of which was aptly named Bhalu (Bear) Pahad (Mountain) )and a variety of wild life – Bears, Deers, Cheetahs lived here aplenty…you must get me to tell you the story about the Cobra in our bedroom sink…the living was idyllic but the weather was extreme…the winter very cold and the summer scorching…yet after the summer we looked forward to the cooling down with the rains…we sat on our verandahs watching the rain hit the parched ground…the smell is something I wish I could bottle and keep with me forever…the smell of wet earth.
But I was human after all and a child…so the rains brought with them a desire to eat something chatpata…like Aloo Chop (if you are from the North East…you know what I am talking about). Piping hot Aloo Chops with tangy mint chutney was our succor on those wet lazy uncomplicated days. Fried food in these health conscious days is not something I indulge in, however the mint chutney I make with my handy dandy Magic Bullet time and again to add a little jazz to boring meals and take me back in time to those carefree days of the past.

For the Chutney you need –

1. 1 Bunch of Mint Leaves

2. 1 Bunch of Cilantro Leaves

3. 1 Lemon

4. 1 Small piece of Jaggery

5. Salt to taste (I use sea salt)

6. 1 Serrano Chile (feel free to use Habenaro if you so please)

My little trick is I use Vinegar instead of water (to make it grind easier in the mixer). Grind the mixture to a fine paste. If I am in a mood for a different flavor profile, I sometimes add in a knob of ginger…if I am making this as an accompaniment for dosas I add in frozen coconut (MTR) and sometimes if I feel adventurous I actually add in a handful of peanuts (call it the influence of a Maharashtrian husband)

Herbs liven up one’s palate. I use a lot of Cilantro, Mint, Basil, Rosemary and Parsley in my cooking. The fresher the herbs, the livelier they make the dish – it makes going vegetarian exciting. My humble chutney goes to PJ for the event “Herbs and Flowers in my platter”

A long short story....

It was a glorious day in June, 4 years back when the Super 6 who were supposed to save the Magic Kingdom met at a fancy palace called the Ritz …A and B were old dogs and A was the ruler of the Magic Kingdom, and B was his right hand man managing finances (ouch! The coffers were dry and the subjects impatient). C had been travelling for long and needed a place to land; D was a savvy sales person, who agreed to wheel and deal for the Magic Kingdom. E had a loosely goosey title – developing and fostering relationships and not to forget F who was very skeptical of the going ons but decided to tag on for the ride

Month 1 – The first meeting with the supreme council proved that the coffers were indeed dry and the super 6 needed to beg, borrow or steal to fill it. They decided to beg and borrow…F created the Market Segmentation, Value Proposition and Roadmap while C said there were no resources to implement the above created roadmap. D was trying to hire some guys while E did some purposeless wheeling and dealing. Clearly, the Magic Kingdom was being ruled amidst “Absence of Trust”.

Month 3 – The 2nd meeting with the supreme council, D had an absent sales funnel and was the butt of all cruel comments. He wanted to speak out about the mismanagement by A & B but clearly did not due to “Fear of Conflict”. A and B meanwhile were subtly engaging in backstabbing of C through F behind their backs.

Month 5 – F was trying to close some partnerships which would help the Magic Kingdom produce additional stars and wands which would help D sell. However, A did not empower F to close those deals, instead throwing forth artificial barriers. There was a “lack of commitment” on his part to take risk and increase the gain. F grew frustrated and stopped trying to make a difference.

Month 8 – D threw in the shovel, when he realized there would be no wheeling and dealing in the magic kingdom and due to veiled conflict with E…he took a more lucrative opportunity and moved on. A happily took on the role of wheeling and dealing, which he was pretty bad at – remember the reason he hired D was because he couldn’t wheel and deal for 2 years (and blamed the failure on everyone else but himself)…which my dear friends was clear “Avoidance of Accountability”.

Month 10 – There was open conflict between C and F with E with no clear path forward – the supreme council pointed at the empty coffers. During yet another long team hugs, the Super Six which was now the fabulous (or not so) five realized that the pipeline was empty, and so were the coffers. A clear “inattention to results” had let to the Magic Kingdom to a worse state in Month 10 than it had been before…E and F soon had terminated contracts (there was no money to pay their high salaries and I guess they were heaving secret sighs of relief to be leaving). This was when the supreme council decided that they needed to shake up the power structure and old dog A needed to go…

This Cinderella story does not have a happily ever after – of a successful IPO or buyout…it is the story of a company that could have had a happily ever after but after a long painful existence went down the death spiral despite having a product with all the pre-requisite buzzwords (cloud, SaaS, enterprise…), a nascent/growing market and a fabulous set of customers…what could have worked for this company was if the Super Six had put the needs of the company before their individual teams & needs, set clear targets and executed vs. all the internal guerilla warfare which led to a dysfunctional team. I wish someone had given the Super Six this… Food for thought – isn’t it?

Friday, March 11, 2011

Fish Cakes and finding balance in my kitchen...

How do you react to the news of complete destruction and morning it is business as usual and you wake up in the morning, tired and ready for your morning chai and suddenly you hear whispers along the corridor of a Tsunami in in the Bay Area, the probability of earth quakes is high and one pathetic feeling one is left with is - this could have been us (magnified by the fact that I had watched 2012 just this weekend). My prayers are with the people in Japan.
One way to distract myself from the myriad events happening around me is by immersing myself in things that relax kitchen is a constant source of solace for me. I am not a heavy-duty cook and even though I have my "dream" kitchen, I don't spend hours and hours prepping, cooking and baking...I focus on getting quick healthy meals on the table fast. A lot of my dishes depend on Trader Joes and Whole Foods for their base ingredients. Being a lazy albeit  health conscious cook, one easy and nutritious meal I make for my son is Fish Cakes. We had been down to Mistral's one evening and he wolfed down their Fish Cakes and I designed my Fish Cakes around that concept with a couple healthy tweaks. You will need -
  1. 1 can 365 White albacore tuna (packed in Spring Water)
  2. 1 Boiled Sweet Potato
  3. 1/2 Cup Finely Grated Vegetables (Broccoli, Cauliflower, Carrot)
  4. 1/4 cup finely grated Onion
  5. Handful of finely diced Cilantro leaves
  6. Salt, Roasted Cumin Powder, Chaat Masala to Taste
  7. 1/2 Cup Egg Wash
  8. Almond Flour for Binding
In a mixing bowl mix the Boiled Sweet Potato, the tuna, grated vegetables, onions, cilantro and the spices. Add Salt ( I usually don't add any chili powder as this is a dish I make primarily for my little boy). I make round patties. Dip in Egg wash, Roll in Almond Powder and Shallow Fry in Canola or Olive Oil. Serve with Ketchup. I usually serve this with Alexia's Sweet Potato Fries and a yogurt cucumber dip to make it a complete balanced meal.This is one of K2's go to meal most weeks. He is happy because he gets something Fish, that is crunchy and yummy and I am really happy because he is getting healthy proteins, some hard hitting carbs ( from Sweet Potato) and a myriad of nutrients including beta carotene's, Omega-3 etc.

This dish goes to Akila's Kitchen where she is hosting -

The vegetarian version of this goes to  Versatile Kitchen who is hosting the Kid's Delight : Restaurant Creation, an idea concepted by Srivalli .
 For the vegetarian version, I simply omit the Fish and it is a vegetable cutlet that my son absolutely adores. I do try and add Red Beets when I am making the vegetarian version for the beautiful red colored cutlets. I use this mix in my semi-famous Bread Rolls that I make for my son.

The past 4 weeks have been blissful with my MIL feeding K2 all kinds of  great meals like vegetable parathas, Egg Dosas, Bread Rolls stuffed with beets, carrots and broccoli, vegetable cutlets. K2 is becoming very sophisticated (read : demanding) in terms of dinner requirements nowadays.
What have you been cooking for your family this week?

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Rendezvous with the T-Rex

This weekend has been quick to pass by...I spent Friday evening reading a pretty interesting book "Five Dysfunctions of a Team"...more on the book later but when I glanced up at the watch it was 2.00 AM and definitely time to call it a night. A Yoga class later we ventured out to Berkley to check out the exhibits in the department of paleontology.

The T-Rex was especially awe-inspiring.We had lunch at a quaint Crepes place called "Crepes A Go Go". I had the spinach, sun-dried tomatoes and artichoke crepe while K2 had a yummy Nutella crepe.

A few moments spent with a friendly chipmunk and then we were on our way to Treasure Island.
Blown away by the views, we proceeded to China Town where we feasted our eyes on Chinese Antiques. K2 had a little tête-à-tête with a little chinese girl with a puppy.
We feasted  on some tasty chinese dimsum at " Eastern Bakery" and called it a night. Too quick I was on a plane and the weekend floated away like a forgotten dream...
How is your week shaping up?

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Of Maha Sivaratri, Mudita and Inversions

I am not an intensely religious or spiritual person though I believe in "a higher being" and good actions reaping good results. Of course, theory is always easier than even Good Karma on some days is hard. Today is Maha Sivaratri - it is especially auspicious for married women to pray for the well being of their husbands and sons - so I fasted. I won't say it was hard or easy but I have spent the last 20 hours on no more than 2 hot cups of water with lemon and honey and a cup of tea. Remember that feeling you get when you aced a presentation, or completed an assignment well ahead of time - well, that is how I feel now. A little hungry but very grateful to be given this opportunity.

The mind has been restless the past few days - stuck in circular thoughts of no value. It is so easy in the Silicon Valley to develop silicon dreams - aspiring for more, never getting satisfied and never taking a moment to rest, relax and  enjoy...what I needed was to get back the stillness in my mind was a yoga class - I have only attended Nicole's yoga classes a couple times but always come back to ground the mind and acheive a sense of peace. She talked about Mudita today in class - an interesting proposition called "sympathetic joy" - the pleasure that comes from delighting in other people's well-being rather than begrudging it. The traditional paradigmatic example of this mind-state is the attitude of a parent observing a growing child's accomplishments and successes. Our society is an internally focused one - very individualistic, driven and success oriented - yet when you add in the layer of Mudita, there comes the sense of oneness, the joy in the success and happiness of others besides you.

I practised inversions today - anyone who knows me knows I absolutely detest inversions...the sense of being upside down - not in control is singularly unpleasant to me - I know inversions do miracles for the immune, respiratory and circulatory systems -- yet trusting one's body to the vagaries of gravity is as I said before unpleasant. Yet in the past couple practices I haven't been rolling up my mat and leaving the class when it is time for inversions but tried to practise and stretch myself a little bit more in that area...
This week is whizzing past fast and soon it will be next week, time for me to board a has your week been thus far?