More than December 31 or January 1 or the spring Solstice, it’s the month of May that kicks my literal arse on the YOLO front (<a sentence I never thought I’d write). Throw into the equation that I’m turning 30 in 25 or something days, and i’m mentally clambering to sign up for every challenge, run every marathon and make my life the minimalist dream of Internet fame. Last one is a joke. I can’t imagine a life without small clutter piles….
Eggs all day
A woman was shopping with a girl in a cotton candy pink dress, the kind I would kill to have to wear to church as a kid. It flared and on her feet were white ballet flats. My church clothes were mostly embarrassing to myself. Hand-me-downs from my cousins, they looked fine but once I started noticing how awkward it was to be me, the clothes might as well have been a clown suit. “Mom,” she said from the cart where she sat, stretching out the one syllable, defining her main relationship, “can I have a gummy bear?”
I am so stupid….
This recipe wrote itself last week when after making the clam-salmon stew, I had a baby plate of parsley sitting on the kitchen counter all night. I should have put it away but even with the heat whirring on much too often, last week was a cold, cold one. The parsley was okay. It was so okay that I chopped up a tablespoon of garlic and plopped it over my eggs which I fried in olive oil and a rosemary stem the next morning. I proceeded to sprinkle it with seeds, lots of lemon and whatever powdered, flaked pepper I felt like that day. Eating from that plate reminded me of the days we would eat bhaji for breakfast. Bhaji simply means vegetable and in Goa it’s a common breakfast or tea-time snack. The baby plate of whatever bhaji you chose would come with a side of chopped onions, a chilli, lime and bread. You would sprinkle some onions over the bhaji and squeeze lime over it before scooping it into your mouth with the help of a spoon and bread. If you wanted a puri (deep-fried flat bread), you could have that instead. If you’re ever in Goa, skip the beach shacks and go get mixed bhaji and chao (tea) first….
*Eight-minute egg or what happens when you don’t pay attention to the timer.
Yesterday, I came *this* close to being in Goa again. Being near a package sent to me by my family through a friend visiting/working in Seattle for a week was my escape and even though I’m not literally there, I can breathe the curry patta (leaves) that grow from my neighbour’s compound to our top floor balcony and drop a red chilli in hot oil whenever I feel low. The homesickness has been on the uptick lately. This is the time of the year when I have a plane ticket and I’m all prepared to say “See you sucker,” to the winter. That’s not on the list this year and so, packages of dried food with amazing labels made my mother will do. They are so professional. Airport customs has nothing on her….
I was going to write this whole different story. I was going to say something about how I never order dal in a restaurant in America even though it’s all I always want. I can never get myself to pay the money they ask knowing that this is the food every class of Indian eats but it is a staple for those who can’t afford much more. I was also going to ramble about how annoyed I get when people talk about lentils like it’s a “trend” and I just. can’t. handle. it. when they put coconut milk in dal.
I can’t write about that in the long format because it doesn’t matter. People are going to do what they do to clean out their insides, like they do all over the world….
Every morning that I wake up (read: eyes open to an alarm sound) I try to reason with myself and the other half-asleep human next to me: Why? I question if I should get out of bed and wonder why I bother. Forget the fact that I have to partake in an insane morning ritual called a commute. I hate it. I never thought I would be the one doing it. Yet, here I am. Sitting in a bus and being annoyed at each and every person that steps through the door. Am I going crazy? Because I know it’s slightly…very…unhealthy to be angry at people you don’t know. Of this I am fully aware. Instead of making up stories in my head about the fun lives they lead, I find myself frowning at the ladies that “save seats” (the last time I saw this, voices were raised and somebody got slapped. Hello Mumbai. I miss your gall.) I cringe at the human that turns around and stink eyes conversations considered loud by her ears even though she carries ear plugs and all she requires silence for is shopping on an iPad. I wonder why they do this every. single. day. And there I am, sitting amidst them, telling myself I’m different. That I can float above it all and see it for its shamminess. I am so full of it.
Despite this slight shift in perspective, I am still proud of myself. I am reading more than I ever have, drawing more than my mind can contain and dreaming, always dreaming about a life that has those two things front and centre at all times. I am happy with the company I find myself in while I’m at home and the people that have been absolute gifts to me when I’m out in the world. I would have never been able to see all of this for what it is if I didn’t have to do that one thing I disliked – twice a day. I guess I am floating above it all.
As quite an anti-thesis to the “follow your dreams” bs, I’m here to make you a new pitch. Don’t follow your dreams. Dream-pursuing require leaps of faith not all of us come equipped to make. If you’re doing something you dislike – that seems to sit in the way of that free-spinning beach feeling – do it anyway. At least for a little while more. Learn from it. Let it grow you. And then just like that new fingernail that grows just enough for you to spend your anxiety on, bite it off. A majority of us only ever read about successes and rarely ever see them play out in life. I can live many lives through my books but when the last page has turned, this existence is all I have. I can’t waste my time on click bait anymore. Yes I know A took B and jumped on a plane to the world and I won’t believe what they do next. I can’t believe because behind that headline is another person doing a job to make me want more. I already got that part covered.
When you are compelled to do life in the usual way, fill the tiny spaces with work you can be absolutely proud of. Fill it with people and moments. Fill it all. Little by little, you do realise that the work will lead you somewhere. All those dreams you had about standing bang in the middle of the Mongolian steppes, will manifest itself somehow. Maybe through a painting, maybe through a person…maybe even through a bowl of food. I am certain of the karmic effect of random doodles on the back of that history textbook. There is always a plan.
Yesterday I planted flowers, cooked from a new cookbook and ran to new places. Today I got back on that bus. I am more than halfway through a new book. Tomorrow I will change the world.
Baked eggs over a sweet potato and pepper hash
It’s been a long while since I’ve done an Eggs on a Sunday post. I’m not sure why considering I still eat the most eggs of all time on every day of the calendar year. It’s making a comeback, baby. Don’t you worry.
- 3 cups sweet potato, cut in 1 inch dice
- 2 tbsp coconut oil, melted and divided
- 1/2 tsp chili powder
- 1/2 tsp garlic powder
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 1 cup yellow onion, finely diced (about 1/2 a medium-sized onion)
- 1 tbsp garlic, finely chopped
- 2 cups red and yellow peppers, diced
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 4-8 corn tortillas, warmed
- 4 eggs
- Avocado and cilantro, to serve/garnish
Heat the oven to a temperature of 400 degrees F. Spread parchment paper on to a baking sheet and place the sweet potatoes on it. Spoon 1 tablespoon of coconut oil over the potatoes and mix well. Add the chili and garlic powder + salt over the sweet potatoes and mix until they are well coated with spice and seasoning. Spread the potatoes in an even layer on the baking sheet and place in the top half of the oven for 20-25 minutes. Cook until they are considerably soft and the edges lighten in colour. Set the potatoes aside in a bowl and leave the oven on.
Place a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat and add 1 tablespoon of coconut oil to it. Once the oil is sufficiently warmed, add the onions and garlic and saute until the onions soften, for about 3-4 minutes. Add the diced red and yellow pepper mixture to the skillet and cook for 5 minutes or until the peppers soften a bit. Add the roasted sweet potato to the pepper mixture, give it 2-3 big stirs until the contents of the skillet are in perfect harmony. Season with salt and pepper, according to your taste. Flatten the vegetables slightly with the back of a spatula once seasoned.
Crack the four eggs on top of the sweet potato and pepper mess. Pop the into the oven for 4-5 minutes or until the whites are set but the yolks are still runny. I like my yolks slightly cooked, yet runny. Go with how you enjoy it.
While the eggs are cooking, warm the tortillas on a frying pan on the stove, for about 30 seconds to a minute. Keep them warm by covering with a tea towel.
Pull the skillet out of the oven and crack more fresh pepper on top. Serve with fresh cilantro and slices of avocado on top of warm tortillas. I didn’t have it on hand but grated sharp cheddar would be so delicious sprinkled on top.
Enjoy this. It’s a good life.
My father’s name is Justos Eustace Francis D’Souza. Apparently, when the priest at the church was filling up his baptism certificate, he pulled Justos out of thin air and gave him this name that pissed off his father. The rest of my father’s six brothers (and only siblings) all have names that start with an “E”, except my dad. According to my Uncle Edwin, my Papa wanted to KILL the priest. This does not surprise me. My father is the youngest of his brothers and he is the main cook in our family. He loves entertaining and loves to cook new things until he can perfect it. He is a great partner to my mother, even though they are complete opposites (He can’t sit still, and she likes to take her time doing things).
I know I’m a day late writing this Father’s Day post but aren’t we the same people that say things like: “Why celebrate just one day?” If it was up to my dad, he wouldn’t give a shit. I don’t need to change my facebook photo, my face or my instagram – he’s a lot more important to us than that. He loves eating something sweet after lunch and dinner and he wakes up at 5am everyday, blasting the radio and then leaving it on while he goes off to play badminton with his friends. Muscle ache on one day? “I’m feeling better now,” he says the same day as if to convince my mother that he is not going to render himself immobile. He hasn’t done any bodily damage yet and like he rightfully corrected me, he’s 64 and looks nothing like it. He is a typical Asian father, (I’ve learnt that our continent produces very similar fatherly-types) and everything he does, he does for his family. Father’s Day 2014 is no big deal. But I feel it’s necessary to toast a man who jointly raised 3 daughters, and unknowingly taught them how to be badasses (This is not a negative thing, Mama and Dada). So here’s my interview #2 with my Dada, all the way from Goa, India.
1) White chocolate, milk chocolate or dark chocolate?
2) Do you like having such a long and complicated name?
It is not complicated. In the old days babies were always given a minimum of 3 names.
3) Why do you sleep so early?
I believe in the early to bed and early to rise philosophy. Also it gives you a head start to do things instead of trying to hurry.
4) What’s your favourite food to cook in a hurry in the morning when you’re trying to get your wife to get ready for work?
Rice, fish curry, some veggies and marinate fish to fry later.
5) Who taught you to cook? What’s the first thing you cooked by yourself?
I learnt myself (mainly the basics) at home in Mumbai and later in Saudi Arabia when I went to meet friends at their place of residence.
5) Name your three favourite ingredients?
Garam masala, ginger-garlic paste and chillies
7) How does it make you feel when see how well you and mama have provided for your family?
I think it is our duty to look after the children when you have them. This is what has been done for years by all parents. I do not know if this system will survive in the future.
8) What made you realise you wanted to marry your wife/our mother?
I liked her the moment I saw her and all the rest fell into place.
9) What is one of the best things you learnt from your father?
To respect others, listen more than talk, and do good (if you can) to others.
10) Were you a mama’s boy?
Maybe being the youngest. But I think later Edgar was the favourite as he did not get married.
11) Who is your favourite brother?
I don’t have any favourite
12) How do you manage to look 10 years younger than 63?
I am 64 and not 63. My principle of hardwork, exercise and “early to bed” has helped.
13) What are your best memories from your childhood?
Very little as we grew up the hard way, like most of the Goans in Mumbai. Although we had other sorts of entertainment and there was a lot of love among people. Unlike now people only spend their time on computers and watching TV.
14) Is there anything you regret in your life?
Nothing! I think God has blessed me and given me more than I deserve.
15) Why do you think Bidli likes you so much? (Editor’s note: Bidli is my cat)
It is not Bidli liking or disliking me. I feed her which no one does. Surely she will like me.
16) Who’s your favourite daughter? (Mama didn’t answer this one and Jane thinks it’s me, just so you know)
I don’t have any favourites. To me I will give and do the same for all
17) When are you coming to visit me?
If your mother would be able to travel I could come to the US every year. Tough luck. Anyway, I may see if I can come someday. First you move into to your new house.
18) Do you care about Father’s Day or not?
To me it is just another day as I have to go about doing my daily chores.
Happy Father’s Day to my dad and yours, your father figures and mothers/dads who do it all on their own, with devotion and love.
Eggs with herb-y baked beans on a polenta cake
What better way to celebrate my dad with a meal I most remember him cooking for our family on Sunday. I cooked this for myself today to remember his Sunday breakfasts for us when we were younger (and even now, except we wake up too late on Sunday for him to wait around for us). I always ate what I called a “yolk egg”. I loved the white cooked and the yolk raw as a sunny day. The baked beans and polenta cake is an updated take on what I consider comfort food. Thanks to the runny “yolk egg” that my father made me (“You want one egg or 2?”), I will always have eggs on a Sunday.
Herb-y baked beans
You’re about to notice that I used canned, diced tomatoes to make these baked beans. I know I wanted a thicker baked bean situation, which I wasn’t able to get from natural ripe tomatoes. It requires some of the canning juices to form the body that makes it breakfast-y, which is why I recommend it. You can make this a day before and store it in the fridge.
- 1 tbsp cooking olive oil
- 3 cloves garlic, chopped fine
- 1/2 cup leeks, white and light green parts chopped
- 411 gms/14.5 oz (1 can) diced tomatoes
- 1 tsp chopped fresh rosemary
- 1 tsp fresh thyme
- 425 gm (1 3/4 cups)/15 oz or 1 can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed (if they’re from a can)
- pat (about 1/2 tbsp) unsalted butter
- Salt to taste
Preheat your oven to 300 degrees F
Heat up some olive oil on medium heat in a skillet and to it add the chopped garlic. Stir around for about a minute, making sure it does not brown. Once you begin to smell the garlic, add the leeks and stir for another minute or until the leeks are slightly softened.
Add the diced tomatoes, juices and all and let it simmer, stirring from time to time. Once the tomato juices have reduced and slightly thickened, add the herbs to it. Mix well and add the cannellini beans, stir around for about a minute and then take it off the stove. Using the back of a spatula, flatten the contents so they are evenly-spread in the skillet.
Cut about half a tbsp of unsalted butter or more (if you like) and put it on the contents of the skillet. If you have an oven-safe cast iron skillet, pop it into the oven for 5 minutes. Pull it out at the 5 minute mark, give it one stir and once again spread the contents evenly in the skillet. Put it back in the oven for 5 more minutes. The tomato-y flavours will have settled perfectly with the beans and you will smell the herbs from a mile away, as they bring this dish together. Season with salt.
The original recipe serves a lot more people and can be made with the help of a 9×9 inch cake tin. I didn’t want leftovers (crazy, I know) so I halved the recipe and “cuted” it up with ramekins. I used 2 ramekins, which were about 3.5 inches in diameter. They made polenta cakes that were about 1.5″ in height. Next time I try this, I might add something more to the cornmeal (CHEESE+GREENS!). For now, these did well.
Adapted from Food52
(makes two 3.5″ polenta cakes)
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1 cup water
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup stone-ground cornmeal (I used a medium grind)
- Butter or cooking spray, for greasing
- 1 tbsp olive oil
In a medium-sized pot, add milk, water and salt and bring it to a boil on medium-high heat. When the liquid starts to bubble, start adding the cornmeal, a little by little, stirring as you go. Once you’ve added all the cornmeal, keep stirring the mixture for about 5 minutes until it’s thick, smooth and creamy. Apart from creating a smooth texture, the stirring also helps prevent the cornmeal from sticking to the pot.
Grease 2 ramekins with butter or cooking spray. Add half and half of the cornmeal mix to them until they are about 1/2 full. Let them cool completely for 15-30 minutes and set. This cooling process helps the polenta cakes take the shape of the container (the ramekins, in this case).
Add 1 tbsp of olive oil in a non-stick (preferably) skillet on a medium-high flame. Overturn the ramekins and the polenta cakes should slip out easily. If they aren’t doing so, you can try loosening them up with a butter knife.
Put the polenta cakes on the skillet and cook them for 2 minutes on one side. Flip the cake and cook for 2 more minutes. Once they have that even brown colour, they are done.
Serve them up on a plate. Top with warm herb-y baked beans.
Lastly, don’t forget the egg! Cook an egg, over easy and put it on the very top of this delicious breakfast-brunch pyramid.
These eggs on a Sunday. Damn.
I don’t know what I was thinking when I made them. Probably about a cocktail and how this would make quite a kick-ass hangover breakfast, a la Jane’s 10/5 Hendre Building community floor egg spread. Sadly I was never hungover. I was too busy thinking “I hate these people. They don’t have to work tomorrow.” I had to. On Sunday, which was fine. I got to revel on Monday – my weekend. Ah!
But since I brought up Bombay, I might as well wonder out loud. None of us have ever taken a photo of those breakfasts. Yet, I can picture them as I type this. One of us (me) always had to wake up early to open the door for the house help. Everybody in middle class (entitled?) India has help, even though their flats are a teeny tiny square. I would have to give her my apologetic acknowledgement that “Yes, there are people spread all over the floor, on pillows and makeshift mattresses, but please don’t judge us. I have to go to work. Judge me for that.” She’d do her work in 10 minutes and pretend to work for the other 20. Then she would leave. She was awesome.
I’m glad we didn’t take any photos. Jane, who was still a photographer-in-training was always busy making the breakfast and shoving the pot of tea on the stove to even think of a photo. Those are the memories. I know I’ve written about this before. It just seems to keep coming back to me. It feels like such a longggggg time ago! GEEEZUS. But it’s right there. In the back of my mind, whenever I want to think about it.
It’s there right now.
Soft scrambled egg toasts
- 4 eggs
- Oil, to grease the pan
- 2 slices of toast (you can have more depending on what bread you use)
- 1 ripe avocado
- Fresh mozzarella
- 2 tbsp fresh chives, chopped
- Salt and pepper, to taste
Beat the eggs in a bowl very vigorously, until they look frothy, and have small bubbles all over. You can do this with a hand blender as well. I never want to do extra dishes.
Put a frying pan on the stove, on low heat and add the oil. Wait for it to heat just a tad. It’s important to keep the heat low as this is what makes the eggs creamy. Pour the eggs in the pan and let them settle in for about a minute or 2. Next, keep stirring (scrambling) them, until they are cooked, but still have the creamy texture. Take the pan off the heat, a little before they’re done.
To prepare however many toasts you plan on eating, spread the avocado on (like you’ve seen on Instagram 1,000 billion times) and add the eggs on the top. Top with bits of torn mozzarella and chopped chives. Season with salt and pepper and serve hot.
Ahh. You need this.