It seems like it’s finally raining in Goa! We’ve all got the summer talk covered in America blog-o-land so why not veer a bit off track? Allow me to switch to Indian weather. Right now, it’s “Thank God it’s not summer any more” season, our own season of plenty.
The old soul that I am, I feel sad about the way children had to go back to school last month. They had no need for a raincoat, or a brightly coloured umbrella. No new cheap rain shoes that bite the heck out of their tiny feet that grew 10 times over since school closed for the sweat bath that is West/ South Indian summer. Oh you kids, you don’t know what you missed. Those awkward first few days were the best. You wrapped your books in that brown paper and stuck a label on it because that’s what everybody did. You used to buy the non-plasticky kind, but then you saw this monsoon approaching and you still didn’t care. Your school bag would inevitably have a corner for water to seep in and water would inevitably seep in.
It was the best. Those rebel years.
It would rain and rain and rain and at some point, (meaning 10 minutes after they rang the “begin school” bell) they’d said, “Okay, go home.” To all those kids that took one for the team by coming to school drenched and giving us a wonderful Goan version of a “snow day”, thank you. I have no idea why we didn’t plan these things more often. Wet uniforms with kids in them are apparently dangerous to have around in a school building.
To my parents: I have no idea how we reached home on days of rain-cancelled school but I will never forget this one particular day. I think you dropped us home, mama and went back to work. You told us to change of our wet uniforms and you didn’t wait around too much to see if we did. But we did. We changed into dry home clothes (I love saying home clothes!!!).
And then we went right back out in the rain to play. We made paper boats and put them in the gushing water right outside the compound. Apart from the tragedy of your bicycle brakes failing (sorry, Jane), living on a slopey slope was the best. We jumped around, blocked the drain on the terrace and kicked water on each other. A little before we knew you were coming back home, we changed into other dry clothes and it was as if nothing ever happened.
At that moment in time, it was the best day ever. I’ve collected more than a few of those days since then.
Here in Washington, we complain about the rain. Rain means winter. Rain means “no sun”. Nobody really likes cold rain. As for me, some days I need that weather. Amidst slushy feet and frozen fingertips, I need it to remind me that seasons change. I need it for the introspection, the warm beverages, the comfort foods that feel extra comforting, but mostly I need it to begin again.
I won’t jinx it or rush it. Let these seasons be. Flourish you crazy things.
Simple summer vegetable salad with amaranth
The best thing you can do with fresh ingredients is let them be. A little salt, pepper, lemon juice here. Olive oil there. Why complicate such beautiful things? I learn this all the time I feel overwhelmed while looking in my vegetable drawer. This recipe is a non-recipe. It’s mellow, it’s easy and it can be your best friend every time you feel stumped. The best part is you can easily add more flavours as you feel your way around the dressing. If you’re unsure about cooking with amaranth, substitute with any grain that you’re familiar with.
For the salad
Chop the first 3 ingredients in 1/8 to 1/4 inch rounds
- 1 cup carrots
- 1 cup radish (Use a mandoline if you’d like since radishes are slightly trickier to cut by hand)
- 1.5 cups zucchini and summer squash mix
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1/4 cup fresh mint, cut in thin strips
- 1/4 cup red onion, chopped fine
For the dressing
- 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- Zest of 1 lemon
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- 2 tsp garlic, chopped fine
- 1/4 tsp kosher salt
- A healthy crack of fresh black pepper
For the cooked grain
- 1/2 cup amaranth (rajgira), soaked overnight or for up to 8 hours and drained
- 1 1/2 cups vegetable stock or lightly salted water
Cut the carrots, radishes, zucchini and summer squash and place in a collander. Mix in some salt to drain out the excess water from the vegetables. Let them sit in the collander for about 15 minutes. You can prepare the dressing in the meantime. Shake the collander and let the water drip out, then pat the vegetables dry with a paper towel. Move them to a medium-sized bowl.
Chop up the mint and the onions and add to the other vegetables. A quick tip (if you need it) to chopping the mint: Roll it up like a joi… just roll it up. and then chop horizontally.
For the dressing, whisk all the ingredients in a small bowl or a glass jar (like I usually do). Taste for salt and then add more if required.
To cook the amaranth. bring vegetable stock or water to a boil in a small saucepan. Add the amaranth to the water and cover the saucepan, turning down the heat till the water is simmering. Let it cook for 20 minutes. If you see that there’s still a lot of water in the pot, don’t fret. Use a strainer to get rid of the excess water. Carefully taste a bit of the grain (Caution: hot food..or something). It’s salad-ready when it’s in between soft and firm. Too mushy and you can turn it into porridge. But, it’s a matter of taste so make it work the way you like it.
Let it cool.
In a large bowl or serving dish, add the cooled amaranth on the bottom. Spread the salad over it and pour the dressing on top. Using your hands, mix the ingredients until they’re combined well. Serve with thin shaving of parmesan cheese. This as always, is optional.