Sunday, October 8, 2017

Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann - A Review

The Lost City of Z by David Grann was one of those books that keeps you engrossed and on edge throughout and better yet was based on a real life true story. So when I heard about the new book that the same author had written about the Osage Indians I wanted to read it for 2 reasons. There were not many books that I have read about American Indians and how they were treated by the ruling European Whites who almost succeeded in wiping them out completely and exactly how much atrocities have been committed against them in the name of protecting them.

This book offered both. America which prides itself on being the beacon of democracy with an incorruptible judiciary was not always that way. Has it changed? Have to ask the countless innocent people who were sent to jail because of prosecutorial overreach.

This book reads better than any mystery novel but the events were culled meticulously from investigative records about the Osage murders. Murders that were committed for that ancient reason - greed and coveting for somebody's wealth. All made possible by the implicit and tacit support of the federal government. Because no one other than the white man is considered capable enough to take care of their own affairs. Each Indian with rights to oil in Osage County is appointed a caretaker and had to ask permission from them for spending any of the money. The murders and unexplained killings were the result. Why? the caretakers themselves wanted to control the money. But how can this be made possible? By getting rid of the wards obviously.

The corrupt local and state officials were all in the buy so the FBI team - the fledgling bureau that was being assembled by Edgar Hoover had to come in. But did they solve all of them?

Subtler subtext also explores the slow killing of a culture and the devastation that is being wrought on them by the settlers for whom the wealth is more important than an Indian life. I will not give the plot but if you want a good read and in the process learn something about the not so great past of this country you should be reading this book.

David Grann is a mastery story teller. His writing is evocative and clear minded. You will not be disappointed I promise.

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Saturday, September 30, 2017

Simple Cauliflower Masala with tomatoes

Cauliflower is one of those vegetables which tastes great when it is still slightly crunchy and not completely mushed up. During the summer months when tomatoes were plentiful I turned to the tried and tested recipe that I have seen in a lot of homes back home being made as a side dish for chapati. I initially started making this for and then realized that adding the cauliflower would make it even better.

Just the simplest of ingredients but really tasty and so quick to make. This works really well for a week night meal. Need to use ripe tomatoes and ones that are juicy. Heirloom tomatoes or sometimes called ugly tomatoes work really well here. The curry should not be dry but slightly loose, not by adding extra water but from the moisture from the tomatoes.

I got this Corningware Vision Dutch Oven which I have become quite fond of. Works for making curries, sauteing vegetables and cleaning is a breeze.

Simple Cauliflower Masala with tomatoes
Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 20 minutes
  1. 1 head of a medium sized cauliflower cut into small florets
  2. 1/2 cup of chopped red onions
  3. 4-6 tomatoes finely chopped
  4. 1 tsp of grated ginger (optional)
  5. 5-6 slit green chilies
  6. 1 garlic clove chopped fine
  7. a handful of chopped coriander leaves
  8. salt to taste
  9. 2 tsp of oil
  10. seasonings: mustard and cumin seeds

  1. In a wide mouthed pan, heat oil add the cumin and mustard seeds. When the mustard seeds starts to pop add the onions and green chilies and saute till the onions become translucent.
  2. Add in the garlic and ginger if using, saute for about 30 seconds making sure the ginger does not stick.
  3. Add the chopped tomatoes and saute till they become nice and mushy.
  4. Add in the cauliflower florets and salt and saute till the florets get cooked but barely.
  5. Add in the chopped coriander leaves.
  6. Serve with chapathis or soft phulkas.

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Sunday, September 17, 2017

Freezing Tomatoes and Peaches

For a person who did not care much for peaches I have truly become a convert. Nothing like farm fresh sun kissed peaches during the summer months. We are fortunate to have farms close and access to these superb summer time delights. I like peach smoothies the best during winter time but winter is not a time for peaches. So what is one to do? Freeze the summer abundance of course. I regretted not doing that last year but this year I was a bit more smart!.

The same can be said for tomatoes. The winter tomatoes taste like wet paper with absolutely no taste whatsoever. On the other hand the taste of summer tomatoes is hard to beat. So what is one to do to enjoy these delights during the dreary winter months? Freeze them of course. While I eat and juice a lot of raw tomatoes when they are fresh also use quite a bit in curries, chutneys, rice dishes and such which does not require fresh tomatoes. A great tasting frozen tomato works extremely well when all your going to do is cook with them.

Freezing tomatoes and peaches is literally a piece of cake. While I sometimes stew and freeze the tomatoes for making some pickles later or stew and blend the tomatoes for a quick tomato sauce the easiest and the most quickest way to preserve a tomato is to freeze it as is.

For both peaches and tomatoes, wash the produce well, dry it with a kitchen towel or air dry on the counter for a few hours. Slice into desired shapes, place them on a plate flash freeze over night or for 6-8 hours, separate them and place them in ziplock bags for use later.

Chop the peaches or tomatoes and place them in plates and put them in the freezer for freezing.

Remove and put in bags for storage.

If you cannot do all that work put whole tomatoes in bags and freeze them.

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Sunday, September 10, 2017

Fresh Tomato Juice

V8 used to be a popular drink around the work place at one point when the dangers of sugary drinks was being announced from everywhere. While I was blissfully enjoying the free V8 juice offered around the office I started to realize that the unusually good tasting vegetable juice had a whopping amount of sodium. A problem that lead to dry mouth and being constantly thirsty.

When life or in this case your local farm or garden throws tomatoes at you take up the offer and make fresh tomato juice. The best way to enjoy vegetable juices is to make your own. I do not like adding other vegetables besides tomatoes to my vegetable juice. I The refreshing and the naturally sweet tasting tomato juice can knock some of the highly sweet fruit juices to the wayside.

Tomato juice used to be popular in India when we were growing up. Some of you who were kids in the 80s should remember this. It seemed like the only juice besides lime juice that was served to guests. I am not really sure how people will react if you served guests tomato juice these days! Unlike now nobody bought juice and stocked them up. Yes! even concentrates. Most people made them fresh and when it was wanted. Good old days!!

Summer time when your garden gives you an overload of tomatoes you make tomato juice. These bright red tomatoes unlike the store bought ones looked like it was a crime not to juice them. While DH enjoys them with a dash of Tabasco/pepper and salt. I prefer them as they are. If you want add a tiny bit of sugar. Most days I just enjoy them unadulterated. Making the juice is not tough either.

I personally do not like using use a device like vitamix or a nutri bullet which pulverizes the skin and the seeds. But if that works for you by all means. I like to use my regular old blender. Pulp the tomato and strain the seeds and skin and just enjoy the pure juice. Bliss in a bottle.

Wash the tomatoes, dry them, cut them into smaller pieces and add to the blender. Blend for 1/2 a minute or so and strain using a fine mesh strainer.
Strained fresh juice.
To the serving glass add sugar if needed and mix it into the juice.

The color alone is enough to make you want to drink it.

Tomato Juice
Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Ingredients (for 16 oz of juice)
  1. 6-8 medium sized red juicy tomatoes
  2. 1-2 tsp of sugar or honey (optional)
  1. Wash and cut the tomatoes and take them in a blender.
  2. Let it whirl for about 30 seconds.
  3. Strain through a fine mesh strainer to take out the seeds and skin.
  4. Add the sugar to the serving glass, add in the tomato juice.
  5. Stir till the sugar dissolves. Add ice cubes if needed.

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Saturday, September 2, 2017

Freezing Coriander Leaves

Summer time around here is when we grow stuff, the rest of the year we just have to put up with the flavorless, tasteless and aromaless grocery store stuff. Some chains are trying but nothing like growing your own.

Coriander leaves became one of my projects in the growing area. With the store bought leaves I am always confused if I picked up a bunch of parsley or coriander. Coriander leaves are easy to grow if you find the right seeds. The ones you use for cooking are the not right ones to use in growing. Visit your local garden store or hardware store and find seed coriander. Find a medium sized flower pot, add some potting soil, throw some seeds in the dirt, water and leave it in a sunny spot and you will have fresh leaves through out the week.

Last year my FIL was visiting. He took a small area in the farm and seeded it with coriander leaves and we had more than we could handle. I did not want to waste it and that is when I tried freezing. It was perfect all through the winter. I read that freezing will make it lose its flavor and aroma. Believe me! (I know I know I hate the word too after hearing it said by you know who?) It did not lose the aroma or taste and it was perfect enough for me.

I do not use fresh coriander leaves for garnish and don't like it raw. Even if I want to garnish I add it to the hot food so it cooks. I use it for chutneys, gravies, briyanis and such. So it was not a problem for me. If you use coriander leaves only fresh or as a garnish it won't be good.

Wash the leaves.

Pick the leaves and discard the thicker stems if any.

Spread it on a kitchen towel to dry out a bit.

Spread it on a plate in a single layer and put it in the freezer to flash freeze overnight.

Place this in ziplock bags and leave in the freezer till ready to use.

What I have learned is to not to thaw before using, just add it directly to the hot pot for cooking and it is good :)

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Thursday, August 31, 2017

Refreshing Breakfast - Fresh Fruits and Vegetables with yogurt dressing

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day! Lots of us either give it scant respect or none at all. It sets up the tone for the rest of the day so eating something refreshing puts you on the right foot for the whole day at least in terms of food.

Summer time around here is when we get fruits and vegetables at their freshest. If you grow them even better. I was starting to tire of my usual weekday breakfast fare - oatmeal, avocado or egg on toast, bagels. Pretty pathetic really nothing that makes you want to jump and want to eat breakfast.

So wanting something quick but something refreshing I did this for a day and have been craving for it every day. I had fresh cucumber, tomato bursting with flavor obviously since it came off the plants I grew ;) and some farm fresh peaches one day and some store bought pineapple the next.

So the trick is a few crunchy vegetables and some fruits and the dressing does not have to be fancy. If you have yogurt or sour cream and some pickles or hot sauce you should be set. You can skip the dressing altogether for a vegan version. This is not so much of a recipe as an idea to keep away from the boring and the carb and sugar loaded stuff that passes off as breakfast.

Fresh Fruits and Vegetables with Yogurt Dressing
Preparation Time: 5 - 10 minutes
  1. 1 cucumber cubed into 1/2 inch pieces
  2. 2 ripe small tomatoes cubed
  3. a few basil leaves (optional)
  4. 1/2 -1 cup of pineapple / peach cubed
  5. 2 tbsp sour cream or yogurt
  6. 2 tsp of pickle of your choice - tomato thokku or mango thokku or some hot sauce any kind
  7. 2 tsp of honey
  1. Whisk the yogurt with the pickle or sauce till it is smooth. If you'd rather stick to something sweet use the honey instead of the spicy pickle or sauce.
  2. Julienne the basil leaves and
  3. Combine with all the fruits and vegetables.
  4. Pour the prepared dressing over the fruits and vegetables. Toss to combine.

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