Most of you who are a) related to me b) whom I call “friend” c) have read this blog casually since the beginning of time, may or may not know that I have two sisters and the younger one of them works as a pastry chef at a restaurant somewhere in posh London. Although, she’s far from posh (we are a basic people), she makes deceptive pastries and desserts as part of her job. She meringues and quenelles and other French things dessert-eaters give way too much importance to when seeking “the best”. No, I will not stop. She knows it too. #hotjalebi4life…
Food is a funny thing. I used Peruvian anchovies in an Italian style recipe made by an Indian with cooking skills strongly influenced by Indo-Portuguese traditions from the state of Goa. We are diverse, but there is something that ties us traditional coastal dwellers together. We eat fish – lots of it – and we shut shop for afternoon siesta. This isn’t an invitation to stereotype. Just observe. We love fresh, briny, vinegar-y things with spice. Sometimes all together, sometimes not. We all have a “person”, from whom we get the best fish and that will be our person for life. We sunbathe our seafood on the side of hot asphalt village roads and we pickle it in jars to eat all through the monsoon. I’m going to make this my own someday but for now, here’s a close second of all those flavours that sit on my palate and hit all the right notes in my amygdala. It reminds me of my longing for the ocean and the balmy days I was close to it. One bite and I can’t help but cry….
Here’s what I have to tell you as a blogger who loves food enough to make photos of it and write down a recipe for a post exactly like the one you’re reading right now. Ready? Okay. You don’t need props or the latest wooden utensils. You don’t need to learn Snap Chat. Really. I tried it for a week this year and a week last year and while I had a blast using all the filters (mostly being SIA), I think it’s okay to have a one or zero-dimensional social media presence….
I came this close to asking you to vote for me in the big blog awards thing that sweeps America this time of the year. This close. I thought about when I was in Goa, on one of my walks. I psyched myself up and said I would do it. I said I would list the things that would make me an ideal candidate for “Best whatever”. Of course, I would not be the best. There is no such thing. But for the sake of getting past these inner demons that tell us we’re inadequate, I’d do it anyway….
You see that deck in the photo above? It needs sanding. There are a few beams that have seen better days and I worry about falling through. To the right and not pictured is a door that leads you into the kitchen. I have gone from having only one door open, to no doors open to both doors open while I’m in there. There is no clearer sign for me to stop what I’m doing and notice that I don’t feel the weather. That really is the best feeling. I portion out blog/other eating tasks like they were their own ingredients. I break it down so that I don’t have to miss out on other things. Mostly, I just want to stand near the door eating cherries and spitting the seeds as far as I can, in the hope that I’ll have a surprise tree next year.
You see that dog in the photo? Say hi to Chevy. He sees nothing beyond food. He and the brother that he didn’t choose are having the best time chasing squirrels. It’s their only job and they do it well. They are the happiest when that door knob clicks signalling that the yard is theirs. They can chase to their hearts content and then track all the insects, trees branches, those things that fall out of pine trees and dirt into the kitchen. I won’t be mad.
You see me sitting behind this computer screen? Of course you don’t. I’m hammering at the keys trying to think of exciting things to say. I may or may not want to swim in the lake on Saturday. I may go on a hike or 5. I may not go camping for the first time this year. Whatever. I grew peas. I ate them. They were so sweet. I made an ice-cream sandwich and ate it outside so it would get melty. I won’t see my family until December. I’m going to volunteer at Rock Camp! I will be IN Rock Camp. I haven’t decided between bass and drums. I have countless plans of feeling, truly feeling summer breezes. This is not a list. I realise that I can’t measure my life in list form. I would only put climb mountains if I could.
Maybe that’s what I need to do. That and try not to fall through the deck.
Strawberries and cream crostini
The best part about this recipe is that it’s not really a recipe. I like taking basic ingredients and elevating them with the most minor albeit delicious adjustments. That’s how we should all cook in peak growing season – do more with less. This crostini (little toast) breaks up the tasks required to put it together. So if you feel like doing this all on one day, you can. But if you feel like going at your own pace, that’s also acceptable.
The creme fraiche will need to be made 2-3 days ahead. If you want to skip this step, you can just whip a cup of heavy whipping cream together with a teaspoon of lemon juice until it form stiff peaks. You can also buy packaged creme fraiche in some stores.
For the creme fraiche
- 1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
- 1/2 cup buttermilk
Whisk the ingredients together in a bowl until combined. Cover the bowl with 2 layers or cheesecloth/muslin cloth and let it sit on your kitchen counter at room temperature for 2-3 days. When it’s ready, stir it gently and spoon it into a jar. Place the jar into the fridge until it’s ready to use. The creme fraiche should keep in the fridge for a week.
For the roasted strawberries
- 1 pint strawberries, tops removed and halved
- 1 tsp cane sugar (add more or less depending on how sweet or tart the strawberries are)
- A pinch of sea salt
- 1/4 cup of fresh mint leaves, whole or coarsley chopped
Heat the oven to 375F. Line a cake tin with foil.
Place the strawberries into the foil and toss with the sugar and a pinch of salt. Put them in the oven for 30-40 minutes until the juices have thickened. Take the cake tin out of the oven and let the strawberries cool. Pour the strawberries – juices and all – into a small bowl. Sprinkle the fresh mint on top.
To assemble crostini
- 1 french baguette, toasted until crisp and sliced 1/4 inch thick
- Creme fraiche
- Roasted strawberries
- Fresh pepper
- More fresh mint (optional)
Spread the creme fraiche on top of the bread. Spoon some of the roasted strawberries on top. Drizzle the top of the bread with honey. Sprinkle a little fresh pepper on top and add more fresh mint leaves, if you’d like.
Before I put myself in social situations, I like to imagine myself in them. I think about what I’d say more than I bother about what I’d wear. I try to figure out what I would say should certain subjects come up and never once do I give myself credit for my ability to actually hold my own in a conversation.
Truth is, I’m so good at it. I know things…so many things. Sure, not all the things I know are on a scholarly level but I can talk without once saying the phrase “that documentary on Netflix”. For all the things I don’t trust myself with, food isn’t one of them.
YES! I can talk about food, say all my favourite foods in order of importance (idli-sambar is #1, just so you know) and talk about the things I’d like to make if only those magically-appearing dishes would do me a favour and not show themselves for a while. I love food, I love eating and I love reading about food while eating it. In short, it’s right up my alley. And guess what?! There are so many who are just like me.
Yay. #Soletspigout. A crazy creative food blogger duo (her and her) decided that it’s summer and what the heck?! Margaritas! But once that was done, they put together a virtual potluck, where we sort of don’t hangout in person but we pretend that we do and make fooooods that we want to stuff our gobs with.
Which makes me wish I could be sitting around with a bunch of food-loving hippy dippys in the summer at a giant potluck. Now see, I could find a million things to talk to them about.
PS: I still miss my baby cat very, very much. If you knew her, you’d know she’d run right away from (un)complicated cat-situations. For example: Touching, approaching her, touching and other human behavioural tendencies we impose on our pet cats. This post is me letting her be. She was always her own cat. They usually are…but she was me and I will be fine.
In Goa we wait for it to be mango season but we don’t very much care for the humidity that accompanies it. Fruit of every colour exists just to cool us all off. For every second we step out of our homes, there exists the sweetest watermelon just for us. Grapes, yes please. I thought, what better homage to summer with Washington’s fruit trees being oh so generous right now. Peaches (and you might see a few more varieties of stone fruit in my pictures) were my fruit of choice and again, I wanted to simplify this dessert so I wouldn’t have to waste the beautiful day outside. These long hours of light are precious, it would be silly not to bask in them.
For the whipped ricotta
Adapted from Bon Appetit
- 1 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
- 85 gms (3 oz) cream cheese, softened and at room temperature
- 3 tbsp honey
Using a whisk or a hand blender, mix together all the ingredients in a small bowl until smooth. Store in the refrigerator until ready to serve with the peaches.
For the poached peaches
- 4 large ripe peaches
- 1 3/4 cups semi-sweet apple cider (I used this brand but you can sub Moscato or any other sweet white wine)
- 2 tbsp honey
- 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
- Fresh bluberries, to garnish
- Powdered cane sugar, to sprinkle on top
First, you will need to peel the skin off the peaches. Fill a pot with water that would submerge the peaches. Prepare an ice bath while the water is heating. Once the water has boiled, take it off the flame and place side-by-side near the ice bath. Dip one peach at a time into the hot water with the help of a slotted spoon, taking care not to burn yourself. Let them sit in the hot water for 10-15 seconds and then spoon them into the ice bath to cool off. Remove from the ice and at this point, the skin should peel off easily. Set peaches aside on a plate.
Place a large skillet on medium heat. Pout the cider, honey and vanilla extract into it. Heat gently until all the honey dissolves. Once it’s all combined, spoon the peaches into the liquid, with the heat still on low. Put a lid on the skillet and let the liquid simmer for 15 minutes. During the process, keep turning the peaches and spoon the liquid over them to keep them constantly absorbing the flavours. After about 15 minutes, take the peaches out of the liquid and place them on a plate.
Keep cooking the liquid, now on higher heat until it reduces and turns into a syrup. Pour the cider syrup into a small bowl.
You can serve the peaches cold or warm. On a dessert plate, spoon some of the whipped ricotta and place the peach on top. Drizzle with cider syrup and sift powdered sugar on top. Serve with other fresh fruit.