Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Hope springs eternal ... in the garden

Gardening requires lots of water - most of it in the form of perspiration.
~Lou Erickson

It also requires a slew of expletives directed at those slugs and weeds and other obstacles standing in the way of my vegetables' happiness :)

In spite of the vagaries of the weather this year, the abysmal lack of spring and warmth, my veggies have managed to survive. Really well, I might add. And yes, it takes some work to build those beds, plant those starters and tend to them every couple of days. But none of this would've happened without those fabulous saplings to start off with! This year's crop comes with starters from these places:
  • Molbaks - the king of nurseries out here in the greater seattle area. Somewhat pricey, but their quality remains blemishless.
  • Seattle Tilth - a fabulous local non-profit dedicated to urban gardening. Their organic techniques, demonstrations and classes are truly fantastic!
  • Seattle area farmers' markets - Life doesn't quite function without the CSAs and organic gardeners who populate these markets - their seeds, starters and crops are the best, the very best!
So, without further ado, I present a partial snapshot of the vegetable garden as of this evening :)

Thai Chilli Pepper

A few of the zillion tomatoes (heirlooms, sweet million, cherry, plum, roma)

One of the veggie beds, the plants in front are chives, garlic, fennel and basil

Greens - radicchio, braising greens, arugula, butter lettuce ...

First snap pea of the season!

Broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts and other leafy green things!

Yellow squash


Italian Parsley

Rapini flower

These rapini flowers have been a fabulous discovery this season - we stumbled upon them at the Madrona farmers' market and have been hooked on them since. Fragile-looking, but intensely flavourful and refreshing - they remind me of Bri. The incredibly strong and resilient Bri - we're all thinking of you and rooting for you.

Hope does spring eternal.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Coming back from the dark side ...

Are we blogging again? Huh??

Wow! I was almost convinced this blog was a goner!!! Work, work, work. No time to breathe, let alone blog. Pretty tragic, huh? As much as I love my work, I doubt if even I can survive another bout of being slammed like this! Seriously, something is quite wrong when the pictures just keep piling up ... to the point where I randomly stare at them and begin to wonder "When did I make that?? And how the hell do I make it again?!"


But life is creeping back to normalcy again. And it seems like I don't quite have writer's block - *phew*! Such a relief! I was kind of freaked out about not knowing how to quite start writing again. Absolutely abhor this feeling of being left behind - like the rest of the food blog world has moved on, you know? And I'm sitting here with my (proverbial) pen in hand, slowly emerging from work insanity, struggling to phrase a sentence or three.

Well, over three sentences have been phrased. Yay! So, we can safely move onto a reasonably fit recipe to celebrate a safe return from the dark side :) - a simple, light and delicious banana-orange loaf. I just mentioned this recipe to Srivalli and she went "Oh man! Another dessert! Wow!" Well, she's right! Apparently, I hanker for breads and desserts a lot more than I realize! Yet, I don't seem to write about these as often as I'd like to ... wait! Guess that's probably because I'm not quite posting as often as I'd like to :)


Ok, back to this celebratory loaf - I based this on a pretty straight-forward recipe from Rosemary Wilkinson's The Ultimate Desserts Cookbook. Like always, I spent several minutes drooling over the pictures before embarking on baking it :)

Banana Orange Loaf
Light, simple, oozing banana and citrus flavours!

Serving size: 1 loaf

3/4 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 cup unbleached flour
1 t baking powder
1 t ground mixed spices (allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg)
2 large overripe bananas
1 egg
2 T sunflower oil
2 T clear honey
finely grated rind and juice of one small orange
4 orange slices - quartered
2 t icing sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Brush a loaf tin with sunflower oil and line the base with non-stick baking/wax paper.
Sift the flours with baking powder and the spices into a bowl.

Peel the bananas and mash them in a medium bowl. Beat in the egg, oil, honey, orange rind and orange juice. Fold this mixture into the dry ingredients.

Spoon this mixture into the baking tin and smooth the top. Bake for 40 minutes or till firm and golden brown on top, and an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Turn out and cool the cake on a wire rack.

Now comes the fun part :)

Sprinkle the orange slices with icing sugar and grill until golden and you get a funky baked citrus smell. Actually, I should amend the recipe here - grill double the number of slices mentioned in this recipe - only half the orange bits will end up on the cake. The other half? ... I guarantee those will go straight into your mouth :)

Decorate the cake with the orange slices (or whatever is left of them) :)



Yum! Perfect back-to-blogging celebration. This recipe is light on fat - all of 2 T of oil for the entire loaf! You could even skip the egg and use just egg whites - though I would throw in a spoon of applesauce to go with it.
The banana+orange flavours are delightful, I even doused my slice with a couple of spoons of orange juice before digging in. Also, the overripe bananas kicked ass - nothing like super moist banana flavour to warm the soul :)


More such recipes:

And now I'm off to catch up on the zillion blog posts that I've missed over the last couple of weeks! And yes, I need to start responding to all those emails too!




Don't forget to send in your Think Spice, Think Wasabi entries!

That's definitely my next post - a very offbeat nasal passage-scorching wasabi dish :)

And feel free to use this really neat logo that Sunita came up with. Sorry dear S, I meant to post about it earlier, but all this work mania threw me off kilter.

Monday, June 2, 2008

A whole new Click for life!

Carolina Jasmine (Gelsemium sempervirens)

Anyone who reads this blog probably knows how much I love Click - that crazy photo event started by those crazy Jugalbandits. It makes for entertaining posts, fabulous eye candy, last-minute photos and maybe even some improved photography (on my end!) :)

This month, Click comes with a whole new cause.

YELLOW for Bri.

To put it simply, Bri (Briana Brownlow) rocks. She's the personality behind FigsWithBri - a fabulous vegetarian food blog. I've spent many hours drooling over her fabulous green tea icecream and homemade truffles!

And Bri is one of the 5% of women diagnosed with breast cancer under the age of 30.

She was 28 and diagnosed with breast cancer two and a half years ago. After a round of intense treatment (mastectomy and chemotherapy), she bounced back and seemed to be doing pretty well over the last couple of years. Unfortunately, the cancer is back and metastasized to her lungs, lymph nodes and several regions of her bones. More about it here.

In addition to the emotional rollercoaster that a battle with cancer entails, the practical ramifications are enormous. The choice of treatment, the rote of dealing with it, the staggering medical bills .. all these are just pieces of the battle. This time around, Bri is choosing to fight the cancer from a holistic perspective, with a combination of herbs, extracts, an organic diet and more.

To help Bri and Mark deal with the financial implications of this battle, the June edition of Click has been set up as a fundraiser for Bri. A slew of bloggers have offered a variety of prizes that will be raffled off as part of this fundraiser.

You can make your donation HERE or by using the Chip-In button below.

[If the updated amount does not show on your screen, you may need to clear your cache.]

Check out the image gallery of the prizes to pick the items that you are interested in bidding on. You can enter your bid information on this Donation Page.

Your donation can be made securely through credit card or Pay Pal and goes directly to Bri’s account.

This month’s photo contest also has some prizes. Details HERE.

You can support this campaign by donating to the fundraiser, by participating in CLICK: the photo event, and by publicising this campaign.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Start Thinking ... now!

Remember that insanely irritating Budweiser ad? Well, apparently, I'm bent on bringing that sticky memory back! :)

Sunita was crazy enough to let me host Think Spice this month. And I warned her that the theme would probably be non-traditional. And it is ... *drumroll* please ...


And yes, it is a spice. Atleast the root is. In terms of the traditional definition of a spice!

A spice is a dried seed, fruit, root, bark or vegetative substance used in nutritionally insignificant quantities as a food additive for the purpose of flavouring, and indirectly for the purpose of killing and preventing growth of pathogenic bacteria.

licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 License

Ever since I got hooked on sushi, life has been a wasabi romance all along. Until I *just* discovered some vital facts:

Rude Shock #1:
Often, wasabi that we encounter in restaurants is not the real thing! And the stuff that comes in tubes is horseradish+mustard+food colouring.

Rude Shock #2:
What?! So, horseradish is not wasabi? *sigh*
Oh well, whatever. I'll eat it anyway. And I insist on calling it wasabi. Maybe wa-sah-bih. Maybe even wa-saaaab-beeeeee.

[This is what I love about Think Spice - it is often a botany-lesson-in-session. By the end of the month, I often feel like I could write a couple of essays about the spice of the month! :)]

From that fabulous Wikipedia:

Wasabi (Japanese: わさび,ワサビ , 山葵 (originally written 和佐比); Wasabia japonica, Cochlearia wasabi, or Eutrema japonica) is a member of the Brassicaceae family, which includes cabbages, horseradish and mustard. Known as "Japanese horseradish", its root is used as a spice and has an extremely strong flavor. Its hotness is more akin to that of a hot mustard than the capsaicin in a chili pepper, producing vapors that irritate the nasal passages more than the tongue. The plant grows naturally along stream beds in mountain river valleys in Japan. There are also other species used, such as W. koreana, and W. tetsuigi. The two main cultivars in the marketplace are W. japonica var. Daruma and Mazuma, but there are many others.

So, time to dig through those cookbooks, surf the web, ping your friends and neighbours ... we need some wasabi recipes and we need them now! :)

Rules of the month:
Hit those asian stores, buy up all the wasabi you can lay your hands on and whip up some insanely pungent recipes that'll set the food blogosphere afire!

Obviously, you can go all gourmet and buy the wasabi root, grate it and work your mojo! Or you can buy the stuff in a tube or a bottle or a jar (even the not-so-authentic version) and whip up your recipes. Whatever works, as long as you have fun doing it :)

Share your nuggets of knowledge with the rest of us, any crazy wasabi stories? Or do you have video to share - maybe you snorted some wasabi sometime? Or ate a whole ball of it without knowing what it was?

Include a link back to this post in your write-up, a logo should be available here later today in case you want to use that along with your post.

Email the following information with your entry on or before June 25th to
cookingfromatoz [at] gmail [dot] com:

* Use the subject 'Think Spice - Think Wasabi'
* Your name
* Name and Url of your blog
* Name of your recipe
* Url of the post on your blog
* A pic of your dish (250 px wide, height does not matter) if any

Non-bloggers are welcome too, email your recipe (and a pic, if applicable) to me and I'll post it as part of the round-up.

Weeeee! Now I'm excited thinking about all the crazy experimenting that this theme is going to induce!