I remember when M visited India and stayed with me in my apartment for the first time, her reaction to doing housework was one of absolute horror.
“I’m in India! I can’t wash dishes and I will not cook’
I found this amusing mostly because she does everything by herself at home and hardly complains about it. Housework in India was apparently a completely different chore. Because of the availability of help/ labor in India, it’s relatively inexpensive and common to have household help–a maid/cook/driver/whatever else you don’t want to do yourself. Coming India meant sitting back and relaxing while someone else did the heavy lifting. I think of M’s reaction when I’m rinsing out my morning cup of tea or dare to experiment with cooking in my lovely large and well-stocked kitchen….
The last month has been one of flirting with recipes-Indian and non-Indian. Jaya (my maid/cook/Jane of a million trades) has recently caught the ‘recipe’ bug. When she’s finished with her work, she sits downs in front of the television and watches Sanjeev Kapoor famously work his magic in a kadai( an indian wok), conjuring up delicious subzis and Indian meals. I watch with her—there’s a heavy punjab sikh man with a chinstrap beard who seems to specialize in cooking fried foods and readily gobbling up his creations; another channel shows an Indian woman who seems, well, bored. Its clear a show on the cooking channel is certainly a job more than a passion. I can tell Jaya genuienly enjoys what she does, one of the many qualities I admire about her. She’s always sports a smile and knowing that she’s interesting in upping-the-ante when it comes to her skills makes me think she’s a smart, smart women. She’s investing time in jazzing up her talents. I silently acknowledged her business acumen, excited for new yummy dishes.
On Holi (spring festival or festival of colors) I did not celebrate color at all. I stayed indoors and cooked and cooked and cooked. I cooked the most I’m sure I’ve ever cooked in my life, for myself. It was more out of curiosity rather than hunger– I wanted to see whether or not I could actually last that long in the kitchen, a great, productive and creative way to test my stamina. I want to take as much advantage as I can of having fresh market greens and produce available so very easily. Going to Pali Market to pick up groceries is way better than standing in line at Shoprite, that’s for sure. Also, it’s been a pain in the ass trying to find good salad dressing around here (I asked a friend from NY back in Dec to bring a bottle or two with her when she was visiting that month, but the ‘great moving crisis of Jan’ prevented us from refrigerating certain items and so the dressing had to go. I grew tired of my standard olive oil and balsamic mix. It was time for some experimentation in the the kitchen.
The menu of Holi included:
-mini minced chicken burgers with chopped vegetables
-fresh broccoli and cheese soup
-arugula salad with walnuts
-veg sandwich with pesto sauce
-pesto pasta with sundried tomatoes and broccoli
and last but certainly not least,
-roasted red pepper dressing
Okay so, clearly this was also done in an effort to get rid of some of the crap that’s accumulated in my fridge. Roasting the red pepper was especially hard work, not to mention extremely extremely satisfying. It took 2 hours to properly roast the peppers on the stove grill before I could peel back the tinfoil and begin stripping the skins from the peppers. It was intense. It reminded me of Michael Pollen’s book “Cooked’ which I started last summer and only halfway got through. In it was a chapter on the chemistry of cooking–what happens when something is caramelized or roasted, barbecued or fried. The chemistry and makeup of the pepper completely changed in the time I roasted on the fire, double and triple wrapped in tinfoil. What was once a sharp, crisp and juicy red bell pepper turned slimey, smooth and sweet. It was amazing. The heat changed everything. I left the pepper in the foil for about 15 mins after I roasted them because the steam was supposed to set in and lock in some of those juices, at least thats what the recipe said. INCREDIBLE. Yes, I realize the drama here but c’mon, I just did some scientist type shit in the kitchen! Of course I’ve had red bell peppers before and OF COURSE I’ve had roasted red peppers, but I’ve never actually MADE RRPS! I’ve only ever bought them bottled at the store, the way I’m sure most of us have.
Needless to say this ain’t no Julie and Julia but it’s still been fun, this whole cooking thing. It’s a nice pastime and a healthy habit. Jaya watches cooking shows at home and recently made a new type of muttar-paneer, (i think she added clove?) but it was simply delicious. This week we are experimenting with channa (chole, or chickpea dishes) and veg pizzas.
A few fun pictures below and above.
Whilst steaming en foil: