Last night, I dined at Sarava Bhavan, one of my favorite restaurants in New York City. Located on the northeast corner of 26th Street and Lexington, Saravana Bhavan is actually part of a global franchise. I’m cheesily proud to have dined at the original one in Chennai, Tamil Nadu back in 2007. My first introduction to Saravana Bhavan and South Indian cuisine all together was in 2005, when I ate at the New Delhi location on the outer ring of Connaught Circle. It was love at first bite. Since NYC’s “Curry Hill” restaurant opened in 2006, I’ve introduced many friends to dosa, idly, and parotta. This includes my dear friend Geoff Rosen-now-dosa-enthusiast, who my husband and I supped with last night.
Saravana Bhavan back in 2011. That’s me in the upper right corner.
My feelings for Saravana Bhavan stem from a complete love of South India. To be honest though what I eat at the restaurant in New York is scrumptious, it actually pales in comparison to the home cooked meals served up by my dear friends in Mysore, Bangalore, and at the Deenabandhu Trust Children’s Home in Chamarajanagar. These New York dosas fills me up with joy, however, as they remind me of a place that’s influenced me immensely. I’m so excited that we’re headed to South India in April for the first leg of our honeymoon.
In the meantime, I wanted to share a recipe for one of my favorite South Indian dishes, ragi roti, and a bit about the wonderful woman who taught me how to make them. Please read on:
Ragi Roti served with coconut chutney and an eggplant and pepper palia. One of my favorite breakfasts! I also make this for lunch and dinner in New York.
It wasn’t until last year that I first learned from my friend Mara Rosebloom that the yummy triangle shaped and jam filled cookies I’d seen over the years in Jewish bakeries are called hamantaschen. Mara had brought me a little batch of her delicious cookies and told me a bit about the story of Haman, the royal vizier of Purim who, according to the Book of Esther, sought to destroy the Jews of ancient Persia. Very briefly, Haman’s plot crumbled after King Ahasuerus’s new wife Esther Hadassa caught wind of it. Haman’s dark secret was made public and he was briskly hanged. In time, a holiday named Purim emerged to commemorate the deliverance of the Jewish people from Haman’s scheme and hamantaschen cookies were baked to symbolize his defeat.
I was reminded of hamantaschen this week when my dear friend Esther Hadassa, who is actually named after King Ahasuerus’s wife, invited my husband and me to celebrate the Purim holiday on Sunday. Regretfully, we weren’t able to attend as I had another commitment. I did, however, get to spend some time with Esther on Thursday and learned more about Purim. (btw – if you caught the first episode of Fannie Cohen and my podcast Doing It, you heard an interview with Esther. If you haven’t listened, tune in here: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/doing-it/id605177565) She also gave me a lovely recipe for hamentashen.
When it comes to cooking, there is one person for whom I am forever grateful: my mother, Laura Plimpton. She is one of my greatest cooking teachers and inspirations. She’s also my dial-up, completely invaluable culinary encyclopedia.
I’m infinitely thankful for the delicious, home cooked meals my mother laid on the table just about every night as I was growing up. And for the fact these creations, so infused with love, gave me a taste of the world as my mom always fearlessly tackles dishes from all over. I’m glad that’s rubbed off on me. During the hours and hours I’ve been lucky enough to cook by my mother’s side, I’ve learned not only how to follow recipes, but also how to confidently cook without a book. How blessed am I that these lessons continue on and on?
Today, I wanted to share my rendition of one of my favorite Asian-fusion dishes my mother makes so perfectly: Hoisin glazed salmon with cold sesame noodle.
$$$ The Cost $$$
Dinner for 2 plus plenty of noodles and fish for lunch the next day: $26.26
(Or, you can say that’s the cost of dinner for 4!)
My husband and I were happy to learn that the martial arts center very near to our home, Midwood Martial Arts and Family Fitness Center, offers a few nice yoga classes, including one taught by a dear friend of mine named Hunt Parr. What luck! Anyhow, after the 9:15 class this morning and before setting back to work we were looking forward to some good, warming grub.
I’ll be honest, I had a not so sattvic desire for eggs-over-easy served up with these all natural turkey breakfast links I bought at the local food co-op yesterday. What better way to round out this meal than with a lovely slice of artisanal whole-wheat sourdough or rye bread? I realized, however, I hadn’t gotten any from the farmers market this weekend. Breadless, I decided to take matters into my own hands and prepare Tibetan skillet bread.
In 2005, I spent about 3 months living, teaching English to Tibetan refugees, and studying yoga in McLeod Ganj, Dharamsala, Himachal Pradesh, North India. Every morning, as this very small city was waking up, I’d stroll up to the bus station and buy the “Times of India”. One day, while walking back down Jogiwara Road, I noticed a tiny shack with an open door and smoke billowing out of a tiny chimney. Inside this structure that must have been no more than 6 by 8 feet was a woman with a kind and weathered face cooking something over a wood-burning stove. Then, a Tibetan man walked up the little plank that spanned the gutter between the road and the shack. He gave the woman a few rupees and, in exchange, received a stack of fresh flatbreads, which the woman delicately wrapped in newspaper.
I managed to catch a nasty cold that’s been circling around New York City. And, I think I would have beat it sooner had I not ran all over town with wet socks on Monday. If you are a New Yorker, you probably know all too well the mighty puddles that can pool up on street corners in the days after a hefty snowfall. Add some rain and not quite waterproof shoes and you chances of keeping your feet dry are next to none. Some might say getting sick from cold, damp feet it’s an old wife’s tale, but I’m not so certain. The result for me: the cold I had almost kicked got worse, I had an awful headache, and I nearly lost my voice by Tuesday evening.
Of course, I should invest in a pair good pair of rain boats as a future preventative measure. Right now, however, I wanted to share a few relieving fixes I like.
First and foremost is one that’s very self-explanatory and cannot be substituted EVER. What? REST.
Secondly, here’s a cold-fighting tonic I’m fond of that I learned my friend and Chinese medicine practitioner Frances Boswell: hot water with ginger, garlic, lemon, and honey. You can also add a little fresh horseradish or scallion for an added kick.
The wind is starting to whip outside, the rain is turning back to snow, and I’m hoping my dream to cross-country ski from Avenue H to Prospect Park and back will be fulfilled. I also hope all of you on the Northeast are staying safe and sound.
I was in the mood for a hearty lunch after trekking out to Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn in the cold to teach and then doing my own practice. I wanted something warming and flavorful… My solution was an adzuki (aka aduki and azuki) bean cassoulet kind of dish with collard greens. (Ok – I also added some sausage from Brooklyn’s famous Los Paisanos that my husband had defrosted and needed to be used.) Lunch was satisfying but not swell enough to blog about. It did inspire the following thoughts, however:
- One day soon, I’ll make a real cassoulet. A dish originally from the South of France, a cassoulet is a rich, slow-cooked casserole that usually contains meat, pork skin, and white haricot beans. I’d like to invent a vegetarian version, too.
- I was reminded how delicious, nutritious, and versatile adzuki beans are! These small beans have been eaten for thousands of years. In fact, it’s believed they were first cultivated during Japan’s Jomon period around 4000BC. Though we are most familiar with red adzuki beans, white, black, gray, and mottled varieties also exist.
I’ll be honest – I’ve been cooking far more food than I’ve been writing about lately! The dishes I’ve made over the past week have included white bean and Swiss chard soup, fragrant red lentils, and French style chicken roasted in a Dutch oven pot. While I hope to share some of these recipes soon, I’ve had my hand in a few other pots. I just completed and launched my new website www.CoachwithSophie.com. (Feel free to check it out!) I’ve also been helping my husband with promotional materials for his new book, Love in the Time of Algorithms, which just hit the shelves on January 24. Learn more about it at www.bydanslater.com. And, Fannie Cohen and I are getting ready to roll out the first few episodes of our new podcast about modern faith and spirituality called “Doing It”. Stay tuned!
So, instead of sharing a recipe today, I wanted to repost a little thing I wrote on ghee and why I LOVE it so… especially when the weather is cold.
Here you go: