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Lunch

While I was on a lovely walk in the woods of Easton yesterday afternoon, I randomly decided I’d make chicken cacciatore for supper.  I’m not sure what sparked my desire to cook this rustic Italian dish whose contents I only vaguely knew of.  I was confident I’d have the needed ingredients and after a brief phone call with my mother and a glance at some recipes realized this was indeed the case.  Well, almost… I had to run to the nearby package store for some white wine.

Chicken cacciatore, which means “hunter’s chicken” in Italian, is a wonderful dinner for a cool, early spring night.  It’s hearty yet not too heavy and very easy to make.  The dish’s stewed tomatoes deliver a nice pump of the cancer-fighting anti-oxidant lycopene, too.

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The cacciatore recipe below is for omnivores. I’m sure, however, that you could omit the chicken and have a beautiful meal.  I also prepared braised carrots and basmati rice.

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One of the good things about the time when your fridge and pantry are stocked so low that you shouldn’t put off going to the grocery store much longer is the fact that it can inspire a little trial and error kitchen creativity. Such was the case in my house around lunchtime yesterday. I had a spaghetti squash and really wanted to make the best of it. I threw it in my Breville oven to roast (well, I first washed it and poked some holes through it with a knife) and figured I’d come up with something to serve it with.

I scanned the fridge, counter, and pantry and ended up with a can of artichoke hearts, a little tomato, some onion, garlic, capers, a little parmesan cheese, and parsley from my little plant. Though I didn’t have green olives or anchoives, I figured, why not create a puttanesca style sauce?

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The translation of spaghetti alla puttanesca is quite interesting. Basically, it means “spaghetti the way a whore would make it” or “whore’s style pasta”. The exact reason why is up for debate. As puttanesca is a very easy and quick sauce to make, some say the prostitutes would just throw the ingredients together between sessions. Others suggest the pungent and tangy ingredients used, like anchovies and capers, are reminiscent of a whore. Rumor also has it that the powerful and tempting aroma exuded from a pot of simmering puttanesca would lure customers into the brothels. Well, whatever the reason, it’s a delicious dish of Southern Italian cuisine typically inclusive of tomatoes, olive oil, capers, olives, and garlic.

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If you read this blog regularly, you might be well aware that my mother is my culinary encyclopedia and lifelong cooking teacher.  She ceaselessly inspires me to be a more skilled and curious cook.  Since moving back to Connecticut almost 2 weeks ago, I’ve been trying to persuade my mother, who lives relatively close to our new home, to be my co-blogger.  I’m happy to announce that she’s definitely interested. We just have to carve out some time to sit down and get organized.

In the meantime, I thought I’d share this delicious, very simple, and light meal my mother sent me photos of a few weeks back. What is it?

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Eggs in a vegetable nest. Here are the eggs sizzling away in their chard and kale nest.

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This is officially my first blog from our new home in Easton, CT.  It’s very quiet in this neck of the woods; we mainly hear peepers, birds, and the incredibly active bullfrogs that live in the bog across the way.  In brief, I’m thrilled to be surrounded by nature once more.  I actually grew up about 8 miles from this cottage, in the neighboring town of Weston.  While I didn’t necessarily take nature for granted during my upbringing, 10½ years of New York City living (well, subtract a couple years in the middle when I was staying in India, Paris, and Kazakhstan) completely deepened my appreciation of it… the power of opposition, I suppose.  Anyway, here we are.

There are some amazing luxuries added back into our lives after years of apartment dwelling.  Just to name a few:

  • The use of our own WASHER and DRYER
  • The ability to step outside of our own home BAREFOOT and feel healthy about it
  • The fact we can temporarily put objects outside of our house if we need to make extra space to clean or organize (very good after a move)
  • The ability to buy groceries… LOTS OF GROCERIES and other essentials like kitty litter… I can get FAR more than I could ever lug on the subway!
  • The ability to GARDEN
  • The eventual acquisition of a basic WEBBER GRILL

There is one culinary adjustment that’s less ideal for an avid cook: the switch from gas to an electric coil stove.  We will eventually switch over again but in the meantime, I’m seeking to master my electric cooking skills.  After all, Julia Child cooked amazing meals on one for part of her career.  That’s the motivation I need.  It’s a bit of an abstract experience to not be able to see the flame or know how long it takes for the coil to cool down and heat up, but I’ll get used to it.  For small baking projects, we also have our beautiful Breville oven next to the stove. These things are stellar!

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I was actually pretty pleased with my first supper cooked over electric coils and would like to share it.  It was very simple: Pan-seared cod served with roasted balsamic Portobello mushrooms, caramelized onions, and wilted baby spinach.

Note: I am still teaching at Park Slope Yoga Center Friday and Saturday afternoons. Fannie and I are also charging ahead with the Doing It podcast.  Check out episode 6!

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Finally, spring is arriving here in the Northeast, and crocuses are certainly a welcomed sight! I’m also so excited to experience the first of spring outside of NYC – Dan and I are moving to Connecticut tomorrow. This is what I wish I could make for supper tonight: Daikon and butternut squash soup, an excellent fix for any spring allergies settling in or winter colds still floating around.  Instead, however, I’ll be scrubbing away at the stove.

Last year, yoga practitioner, fellow life coach, acupuncturist, and Chinese herbalist Esther Hadasa suggested this excellent remedy for my pollen irritated, scratchy throat. I cooked up a batch that evening and must say, it was soothing, voice clearing, and delicious! As Esther told me, daikon releases mucus from the body and therefore helps the lymph system flow more efficiently, making it a great fix for allergies, colds, and gall bladder issues. I also added onion, ginger, garlic, bok choy, miso, a bay leaf, and thai red chili paste.
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On Thursday night, I made my favorite hoisin glazed salmon steaks with beautiful wild fish I found at Ruskin’s Fish Market in Crown Heights.  I underestimated how much I bought and was blessed with a bounty of leftovers.  I’m not sure why it works out like this, but my husband and I often find ourselves wandering to the Laundromat every other Friday (This probably wouldn’t be the case if we had our own washing machine).  As a result, I like to make tasty suppers that don’t require too much time over the stove (it’s a great night for baking, too).

Last night’s solution was turning the salmon into a nice chilled salad with scallions and serving it up with a ginger-hoisin-butternut squash dish and a mango, avocado, baby arugula salad with miso dressing.  This dish is almost gluten free, too.  You can make it so by using gluten free soy and hoisin sauce (I used the latter).

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$$$ The Cost $$$

Dinner for 2 cost about $13.50 or so (it’ll vary depending on the price of fish)

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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.

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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:

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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.

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