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Vegetarian

Before I share this blog I wrote on my way home from NYC on Sunday, I’d like to send thoughts, energy, prayers, and love to all those affected by yesterday’s tragedy in Boston.

The blog:

It’s a stunning April Sunday here in the New York area and I’m cruising back to Connecticut on one of the sweet new MTA trains after spending last night and this morning with my Doing It co-host Fannie Cohen in Queens. These trains are great – there’s even a power outlet next to my seat!

The reason for my visit to NYC’s most diverse borough (actually, Queens is possibly the most diverse location on the planet) was to conduct an interview for our upcoming Doing It podcast episode about the stuff we get rid of, a.k.a. waste. This morning, Fannie and I trekked out to the picturesque neighborhood of Forest Hills to speak with a leading member of the Freegan movement at a Stop n’ Swap organized by GrowNYC. Stay-tuned for the show and you’ll learn all about what the Freeganism movement is and much more.

The main reason for this blog today is to share the recipe for the delicious vegetarian Shepherd’s pie Fannie served up last night. Fannie’s crust-less, hearty, yet healthy creation definitely hit the spot after a full day of running around NYC! It’s also really easy and cheap to make.

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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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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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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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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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