stuffed eggplant (andhra style)

As a child I did not like eggplant/brinjal or vankaya. Mom used to say I was an insult to my roots. The Telugu roots. Maybe, I couldn’t care. I found the cooked thing, slimy, tasteless, resembled the inside of a fish and the skin chewy. So I stubbornly refused to eat it, unless I was threatened, and then I’d scoop it out, hide whatever taste is left with some spicy dish and gulp it down. I would leave the skin out. So it would start with a juicy plump thing reduced to its skeleton. I still occasionally do that.

When you move to a country at a time when the nearest grocery store with familiar vegetables is a good 40 miles away, the adaptation part of our existence kicks in, strongly. You adapt by growing new taste buds to incorporate the new vegetables/cuisines, and then just to bring back the familiarity of home and mom’s cooking, we start looking at the dishes (albeit grudgingly) that remind us of home.

Stubbornness or being picky about refusing to try narrows down our choices on our plate, and at the end of the day and how much ever we want to eat for that 6 inch tongue, the body wins the battle. Nourishment cannot be denied and our functionality is on line.

So we shut up and adapt.

I did the same, with eggplant, with cabbage, cauliflower, beans and even bittergourd. It may look like I was a picky finicky eater growing up, and you would be right. In India, one can afford to be picky with our foods. Things change when we cross oceans where the weather, environment and culture force us to rethink our choices.

Here is a recipe that I have grown to love, and I hope I lived up to my mom’s expectations of a hearty Teluginti adapaduchu *meaning – a girl from the telugu household*

So, after loving it, I decided I needed to find a better, low-fat option, coz the taste depended heavily on slow roasting in some fair amount of oil. here is what I came up with and I’d say it’s close to 80% as the original oily version. I can live with that.

Gutthi Vankaya:

Meaning – stuffed eggplant.

1. Choose small round/oblong eggplants. Try to keep them all similar size as they’d cook evenly. (I learnt it the hard way)

2. Wash and slit them lengthwise in a cross, like so. The stalk part should remain intact.

3. Shallow roast in 2 tsp oil and coarsely grind the stuffing *** (scroll down for a couple other kinds)

  • 4 tsp channa dal
  • 4. tsp dhania (coriander seeds)
  • 1 dried red chilli for each eggplant – may seem like a lot, but you’ll need it.
  • 1/2 tsp jeera
  • Salt

4. Add the stuffing into cut pieces

 

5. Here is the fun part!

Layer the eggplants in a glass or plastic dish, drizzle 2 tsp of oil over the eggplants MICROWAVE the entire batch. Cover with saline wrap so they get cooked. Leaving them open will dry them up completely. So if you had say 6 eggplants, I’d nuke them for 6 minutes, stick a fork and test. They should be al dente. Firm on the outside and not shriveled, and soft on the inside. I usually add in another 2 minutes to make sure they cooked through.

Beats the time taken to prep this dish too!

6. When cooled, scoop the insides out and mix with hot rice and eat. If the eggplants are tender, the skin would be good too, as they are meant to be eaten, but I have my reservations, so do what makes you happy. The insides is where the juice is.

 

***

Stuffing 1 – original Channa Dal version

Stuffing 2 – Add garlic to the above mix

Stuffing 3 – Make a paste of green chilli and coriander leaves (not cooked)

Stuffing 4 – Add a few leaves of mint to the above stuffing 3

Enjoy!

 

sibling rivalry

I see two pairs of eyes restlessly watching me as I fix dinner in a bit of a rush. The dishes needed to be loaded, and the kitchen needed to be cleaned within 27 minutes. Folks were dropping in for a short while and the house was to look lived in, not perfect.

Both are hungry and I tilt my head down to look at them.

Hungry?

I get an affirmative silent cocking of the head and a vehement ‘yes’.

I open the fridge and see 1 large carrot in the bin. I wash it and snap it into two and extend my hands out to each. Both eye each other’s pieces.

Munchkin exclaims “Hey, no fair, why does she get the bigger piece!”
Zephie is already halfway to the couch to chew on her prize.

Munchkin grumbles her way to her side of the couch.
“No fair mom, I am even older than her!” ..as she takes a bite off the carrot end and glares at Zephie.

I chuckle my way back to the stove.

sound of summer

What I like about where I live is that I could and still to a large extent experience all the four seasons as we know them.

Though since a few years it’s become increasingly difficult to settle into the season. It’s like Mother Nature is bipolar or just can’t really make up her mind. We’ve had some crazy 90 degree temps in April, when it shouldn’t cross 60’s and there was one really cold day August. Yet one thing that has remained constant thankfully has been that the summers can be counted on to be hot, with evening showers (read thunderstorms, not tropical rains) and the winters to be well, bitterly cold.

Along with the insanity that summer brings, topsy turved schedules, random mealtimes, gardening with a vengeance that recedes as quickly once schools start, book clubs, and guzzling ice creams, milkshakes and popsicles by the gallons, there is a constant that I love and is very special just for the summer alone.

It’s the sprinklers.

Sure, there are more, but this closely resembles the rains of Madras, and hence very special to me.

Everyone has their sprinklers set to go off between 6-7 am, and a good soaking lawn needs an hour at least. A childhood habit of waking up much earlier than when school is on continues. Vacations and weekends,  am up earlier than when I had to go to school, and in today’s case when the kids go. Lunches have to be packed and the trauma that follows on what to pack for three different kids of different tastebuds and belly sizes requires some project planning and spreadsheet drama.

So now that the worry is off my head, I can make my lovely hot cup of coffee, and have a pleasant silent one-sided conversation with my Zephie (hello people, meet our new member of the family!) out on the deck. The air is still cool, the birds chirp every now and then and I can see the sun, but am not in it, and I laze back into a chair and breathe deep and close my eyes.

I hear it slow at first. The swoosh as my neighbor’s sprinkler comes close to our deck, and the wave as it fans away. Right on cue, the other wave comes in from another angle, sometimes in sync, sometimes out, as they go through the motions. In the distance I see the jet stream angled towards the rose bushes, the strong current in a steady path, unwavering. The little froggy sprinkler that my neighbor’s toddler placed fires up too. It’s cute, when it spurts out its own little crescendo. Like the small most forgotten Sruti box or the metronome in an orchestra.

The soil gets moist, and the grass glistens, fresh, new and inviting. I step into the grass with my bare feet and it’s a feeling that cannot be replicated. I sniff the air above the soil every single time, trying to match it with the memory of when I was a child. Every time I am disappointed. The smell is different. It’s not the same, yet this is home, I must get used to this.

Zephie enjoys the mist, taunting the direction, swallowing a drop here and there, continuously fascinated with the fan going back and forth.

Visions of my then toddlers running across the sprinklers laughing, squealing, sometimes dodging, sometimes attacking the sprays flash past me. It’s bittersweet. Now they stand on the deck, watching with a detached mind, the sprinkler was really just doing what it was meant to.

One day, they will make their own memories of what that stream of water over the lush green summer lawns means to them. This here is my memory of a summer favorite in Virginia.

..and we turn 5

In all the rush that has been my life the past one month, this little day got completely forgotten. Feel a trifle guilty, but I suppose it’s okay considering all.

So it’s FIVE full years since I opened a blog (started at blogger) and started pouring my thoughts out. The good, bad and everything in between.

It’s been a  journey, a cliche nevertheless, but an applicable one. Journeys are what happens when you start at a point and reach another point. It’s a changing course when you look back and the traveler as fundamentally unchanged, will and must adapt, morph and grow as they experience new territories, situations as they encounter new interactions.

My blog and all of the 581 posts within are testimonials to the person that I am and have been, the crusades I raged within and without, the joys and the pinnacles (however small) that I have scaled. It has been an interesting five years and I can attest looking back (and I don’t even have to read any archives) that this has been my most rapidly growing stage. Like those growth spurts that kids go through, and one Spring you see them in their shorts and geeky glasses and the Fall later they turn into these gorgeous elegant young ladies in pretty little dresses off to the prom. The analogy may seem off, as am talking more on the physical aspect of the change, but in my case it has been literally a phase in my life that I have grown as an adult the most.

As much as I enjoy being online, and have made some friends who mean a lot more to me than some of my family, it has also shown me that the world isn’t really all that a nice place. One does get beaten and tricked and used. Lessons are learned, some to be forgotten coz our (my) heart is incapable of becoming cynical, to want to believe that there is still goodness out there and that Karma exists. A hope that keeps us going. Some lessons will remain with me to my grave.

At the end of it all, am thankful for the fact that as much as I have changed and become hardened (comparatively) I have retained the zeal that defines me. It has not been easy, yet it hasn’t been all that conscious an effort. I suppose, there is truth to the saying that what we gather as we go along are layers we add to our real self, the one that we are born with and the one that shapes us before we become adults and are let loose into this world.

My writing.

I’ve always been a scribbler. Putting thoughts onto paper has come naturally to me since a kid. During those god-awful rough teen years, I remember writing to my father on various issues, from apologies to outbursts to explaining my actions. I was a shy, painfully shy introverted kid who had just a grand total of one friend through the school years. Speech and speaking up were drowned deep within, my lips sealed shut by an invisible block in my throat. The words formed in my head, they crowded me from within, and they struggled to be released, but nothing much happened to my own frustration and parents’ annoyance. Writing was my salvation. So I wrote. Plain, blunt, and spilling it all as quickly as possible. I didn’t think twice on what came out, but they did. I also imagine a teenager’s thoughts are most likely as clear as mud, considering the rules, restrictions and the society we lived in. I didn’t care and maybe just maybe writing down without inhibitions has made me radical in my thoughts translating to behavior. Coz I imagine when a thought is expressed (no matter the medium) it releases the person from the prison that holds the thought. It’s free, it takes shape and it forms a vision in all clarity for us to see. Whether anyone else sees it the way we do or not is really irrelevant at that point. So, we skip around happily, in the secure knowledge that the thought is what it is. At least I do.

I see that blogging’s different from writing. There was a time when I could open this page, start writing, publish it and go to bed. That’s personal blogging for you. There is no thought, no expectation, no planning, no vision. It’s words and they spill.

Writing is a lot sterner, even if you do humor. It forces one to sit up and read, edit and re-edit your lines. To make sure you crossed your t’s and dotted your i’s and that the subject agrees with the object and that there are no typos that the Word overlooked. Stuff like that simply occasionally kills the complete joy one gets in rambling. It’s a necessary evil. Just like social networks have become. Like the elephant in the room that no one concedes to being a pain, but have to squeeze around it and be careful not to ruffle it in fear of being crushed.

I best enjoyed 2008 and to an extent 2009. Those were the years when I grew for the words I typed here.

I can’t wait for 2010 to get over. It’s been a mess in a few different ways. Mess not in the “o crap I have a mess on my hands” kinda mess, but “gosh, my closet’s a mess” kind of mess. Tons to unravel, clear, unwind and untangle. Sort through, to discard and hold onto the ones that matter the most. The ones that my heart says and the ones that my mind says too. Coz, as much as I believe I should listen to my head, I am fond of my heart, and I can’t just ignore it.

Happy birthday to my blog, to the time we have spent together, and for being there for me. It’s been a cathartic and an eye-opening experience and if I had to do it all over again, I most certainly will.

Love,

Rads