Recent Posts by Renu-Chhabra

Simple Sustenance: Roasted Red Onion, Fennel and White Bean Soup

Published by Thursday, October 4, 2012 Permalink 0

by Renu Chhabra

The essence of pleasure is spontaneity.–Germaine Greer

 


Spontaneity in the kitchen can be fun sometimes and a challenge at other times. But it does get our creative juices rolling, and pushes us to bring out our best. Often times, with no set plans, and working with what we’ve got produces great results. New recipes are born, and new talents are discovered. That’s the beauty of spontaneity. Who wouldn’t like that?

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Simple Sustenance: Chai Splendor, a food photography exhibit by Renu Chhabra

Published by Tuesday, October 2, 2012 Permalink 0

by Renu Chhabra

Drink your tea slowly and reverently, as if it is the axis on which the world earth revolves — slowly, evenly, without rushing toward the future.–Thich Nat Hahn

 

 

 

There is a great deal of poetry and fine sentiment in a chest of tea.–Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

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Simple Sustenance: Spud Love — Spiced Potatoes and Dill

Published by Wednesday, September 19, 2012 Permalink 0

by Renu Chhabra

If people take the trouble to cook, you should take the trouble to eat.–Robert Morley

It is hard to find someone who does not like potato.

From french fries, latkes, croquettes, gratins, fritters, hash browns, salads, to soups and stews — the list is endless. Most of us have our favorite potato dish or two.

This starchy tuber may seem like a very humble commodity, but is definitely celebrated in kitchens around the globe. Americans, Italians, Indians, French, or Irish — they all have their potato specialties making it difficult to ignore its place in the gastronomic arena.

My recent visit to India confirmed its importance even more.

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Simple Sustenance: MarketDay in a mid-September California farmers market with Renu Chhabra

Published by Wednesday, September 12, 2012 Permalink 0

by Renu Chhabra

 

Let us not forget that the cultivation of the earth is the most important labor of man. When tillage begins, other arts will follow. The farmers, therefore, are the founders of civilization.–Daniel Webster

These are the colors of California farms — rich and vibrant!

Summer vegetables are brimming with freshness, and the abundance!  Everywhere I set my eyes, there is something that draws me to it. I can’t control myself; I want to shoot every colorful heap I see. I guess it’s the temptation to enjoy them, visually, later? After all, it is a feast for the eyes.

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Simple Sustenance: In Season and Healthy — Peach and Spinach Salad

Published by Tuesday, September 4, 2012 Permalink 0

by Renu Chhabra

One should eat to live, not live to eat” –Benjamin Franklin

Peaches are synonymous with summer.

California being the largest peach-producing state, we are blessed with an abundance of them. Farmers markets are flooded with these fuzzy yellow beauties. So many of them. Different varieties with vibrant colors. Juicy, sweet, and simply delicious.

Farm-fresh peaches have flavor that can’t be found in supermarket ones. I have tasted a few California varieties that need no explanation. Instead, just close my eyes and bless the soil and the farmers who nurtured them. It’s nature’s bounty at its best.

These peaches are in season from May through September. Baking, grilling, roasting, and poaching are definitely a few ways to enjoy them. But nothing beats the joy of savoring them in their natural form. So, I made a salad with this seasonal fruit and paired it with baby spinach.

Another ingredient that gives this salad a little zing is the peach balsamic vinegar. My culinary find that is absolutely delicious. Drizzle a little on salads, grilled vegetables, toasted baguette, or ciabatta, with or without olive oil. It stands out on its own. Its peachy flavor is the star that shines through.

A few other ingredients that complete this salad are ginger, honey, almonds, raw sesame seeds, and roasted sunflower seeds. Ginger and honey, a classic combination goes well with peaches. Raw sesame seeds and roasted sunflower seeds add earthiness and texture. Finishing with a grind of good sea salt (I used pink salt) and pinch of red pepper flakes complements the sweet peaches and honey. All together it makes it a sweet, salty, and spicy experience.

Recipe

Dressing
 
2 tablespoons peach balsamic or white balsamic
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon juice of ginger
1 teaspoon honey or agave
Sea salt to taste
Red pepper flakes to taste (optional)
Salad
2 medium yellow peaches, sliced or diced, your choice
2 handfuls of baby spinach

Garnish

Sliced raw almonds
Raw sesame seeds
Roasted sunflower seeds

  1. Mix all the ingredients for the dressing in a mason jar. Set aside.
  2. In a bowl, gently toss spinach with light dressing.
  3. Place spinach on a serving dish.
  4. Drizzle some dressing on peaches and mix. Serve spinach carefully.
  5. To finish the salad, drizzle a little more dressing and sprinkle sea salt and pepper flakes on top, if needed. Garnish with almonds, sesame seeds, and sunflower seeds.
  6. Serve immediately.

Note: Use dressing to your taste, but be careful not to drench the spinach with too much of it.

    1. Mix all the ingredients for the dressing in a mason jar. Set aside.
    2. In a bowl, gently toss spinach with light dressing.
    3. Place spinach on a serving dish.
    4. Drizzle some dressing on peaches and mix. Serve spinach carefully.
    5. To finish the salad, drizzle a little more dressing and sprinkle sea salt and pepper flakes on top, if needed. Garnish with almonds, sesame seeds, and sunflower seeds.
    6. Serve immediately.

    Note: Use dressing to your taste, but be careful not to drench the spinach with too much of it.

    • Simple Sustenance: Summer in a Bowl – Honey-Ginger Papaya Salad

      1. Mix all the ingredients for the dressing in a mason jar. Set aside.
      2. In a bowl, gently toss spinach with light dressing.
      3. Place spinach on a serving dish.
      4. Drizzle some dressing on peaches and mix. Serve spinach carefully.
      5. To finish the salad, drizzle a little more dressing and sprinkle sea salt and pepper flakes on top, if needed. Garnish with almonds, sesame seeds, and sunflower seeds.
      6. Serve immediately.

      Note: Use dressing to your taste, but be careful not to drench the spinach with too much of it.

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Food Art: Tomatoes Fresh off the Vine, a food photography exhibit by Renu Chhabra

Published by Thursday, August 9, 2012 Permalink 0

“It’s difficult to think anything but pleasant thoughts while eating a homegrown tomato.”–Lewis Grizzard

 

How would you like to eat them? Any ideas for dinner tonight?

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Simple Sustenance: Kale Power — Kale and Sunflower Seed Pesto

Published by Tuesday, August 7, 2012 Permalink 0

by Renu Chhabra

 

 

 

 

“Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” Michael Pollan

This one is for kale lovers. I know. I am one of them. Until not too long ago, I did not have the slightest idea of its existence; or let’s just say, it did not visit my produce bag. But once I tasted it, I was hooked on the amazing wonders of kale like most health enthusiasts.

Kale is known by several flattering names — Queen of Greens, Powerhouse of Nutrients, King of Greens. These days kale is one of the most talked about super foods. From soups and stews to salads and stir fries, it has found its way in every possible form of cooking. Kale juice anyone? How about kale chips for a healthy snack? And if that’s not enough, just puree these hearty leaves to transform them into pesto. Now that opens up several more ways to enjoy its versatility.  Stir it in pasta, spread it on breads and crackers, or thin it a little to make dressings. If none of those options are appealing to you, a few spoonfuls as is works for me.

Speaking of pesto, I made this recipe with sunflower seeds instead of nuts. Sunflower seeds provide fair share of good fats, and they also give it a rustic texture. I left cheese out making thus making it an option for vegans. But if you prefer a cheesy flavor, add some pecorino or parmigiano. Good olive oil, lemon, and garlic with a few grinds of sea salt make it absolutely delicious. Store in refrigerator and enjoy.

Recipe

1 medium bunch kale, stems removed
1 large clove of garlic
½ cup unsalted roasted sunflower seeds
Juice of one large lemon
Sea salt to taste
Freshly ground pepper (optional)
½ cup olive oil

Instructions

Put kale leaves in boiling water for 30 seconds. Drain in a colander, and run cold water over to stop the cooking process. Squeeze kale to remove water completely.

In a food processor, pulse garlic a couple times. Add sunflower seeds and pulse again 2-3 times. Add kale, lemon juice, salt, pepper and puree.  Drizzle oil while the machine is running. Puree it to desired consistency.

Adjust lemon and salt to taste. If the pesto is too thick for your taste, add a little water.

 

  • In a food processor, pulse garlic a couple times. Add sunflower seeds and pulse again 2-3 times. Add kale, lemon juice, salt, pepper and puree.  Drizzle oil while the machine is running. Puree it to desired consistency.

    Adjust lemon and salt to taste. If the pesto is too thick for your taste, add a little water.

     

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Simple Sustenance: Summer in a Bowl — Honey-Ginger Papaya Salad

Published by Thursday, August 2, 2012 Permalink 0

by Renu Chhabra

One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well. —Virginia Woolf

Sunshine and outdoors! Summer is in full swing. We have been experiencing beautiful warm days — some warmer than others. But that’s the beauty of this season.

Farmers markets are exploding with seasonal produce and an abundance of flower power. And local honey farms are showcasing their products with great pride. In fact, I recently attended a lecture about bee pollination at our local Whole Foods Market. It is amazing how these tiny bees create something so rewarding, one bit at a time. It definitely makes me respect every drop of honey I use. Especially at a time when there is quite a buzz about honey among health-conscious people like me who try to avoid refined sugars, and want to preserve this precious commodity. So I say, love our honey bees and respect their hard work.

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Simple Sustenance: Simple and Refreshing — Cold Cucumber Yogurt Soup with Mint Oil

Published by Wednesday, July 11, 2012 Permalink 0

by Renu Chhabra

Let food be thy medicine, and let thy medicine be food.–Hippocrates

On warm days we crave cool and refreshing dishes; recipes that require minimum or no cooking to avoid heating up the kitchen seem most desirable. Salads, smoothies, cold soups, and sandwiches take center stage to make our lives a little easier.

One such recipe I enjoy a lot on warm days is cold yogurt soup. With the possibility of several variations, it is always a welcome relief to beat the heat. It is simple and refreshing with no cooking at all, which is always an added bonus when temperatures soar. Moreover, the health benefits of yogurt make it even more worthwhile. It’s good for digestion, and is a powerhouse of beneficial bacteria. But I say it is a “do-good” friend, and I enjoy it everyday.

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Sustainable Sustenance: Fragrant Comfort — Indian Chai

Published by Thursday, July 5, 2012 Permalink 0

by Renu Chhabra

“There is something in the nature of tea that leads us into a world of quiet contemplation of life.”― Yutang Lin, The Importance Of Living

Drinking chai is a way of life in India. Mornings start with a cup of chai, and it finds its way into people’s lives throughout the day. It is an expression to take a break, and calm your senses, one sip at a time — like punctuation is to pauses — and then move ahead.

Chai is the Hindi term for tea itself in India, where this wonderful beverage comes from. In fact, masala chai means the spiced tea that we know as chai tea or chai in the West. Masala means spice and chai means tea, hence “spiced tea”.

Chai, an everyday beverage in the East has gained enormous popularity in the West. From coffee shops to gourmet restaurants, it has found a trendy platform where it is star. We find this fragrant flavor in lattés, ice creams, truffles, cookies, brownies, and cakes. A basic Eastern spice blend has been given a very sophisticated Western face. Another Western twist is the addition of vanilla at times, which is not part of the traditional blend.

Aromatic spices give chai its distinct character. Their oils are extracted when cooked and steeped in hot water giving chai its fragrant foundation. Then black tea leaves, whole milk, and sugar are added to it. And you have a cup of warm comfort, perfect for any time of the day. Whole milk  gives it richness and body, and sweetener brings out the flavor of the spices even more.

Chai spices can be combined in so many different ways. Every family has its own recipe — just like chili recipes. Make it as simple or as complex as you like, depending on the number and types of spices you like or have on hand. The usual spices that are used in chai are cardamom, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, fennel, and black pepper. Some are warm and some are sweet, but they all lend a fragrant note. Try new combinations to discover your favorite.

I usually like to keep chai simple with just one or two spices. My favorite spice combination is sweet cardamom and ginger; they go well together. Sometimes too many spices overlap each other’s distinct flavors and lose their individual personalities — not a good thing, I say. My philosophy is to keep it simple and clean. Chai can be tea leaves with just one spice of your choice, which I often do, or it can be with as many as your heart desires. Make your own concoction. After all, it’s your cup of tea. Take a break and savor it.

The first cup moistens my lips and throat. The second cup breaks my loneliness. The third cup searches my barren entrails, but to find therein some thousand volumes of odd ideograms. The fourth cup raises a slight perspiration — all the wrongs of life seep out through my pores. At the fifth cup I am purified. The sixth cup calls me to the realms of the immortals. The seventh cup — ah, but I could take no more! I only feel the breath of the cool wind that raises in my sleeves. Where is Elysium? Let me ride on this sweet breeze and waft away thither.–Lu Tung, “Tea-Drinking

This recipe has three spices: cardamom, ginger, and fennel. Cardamom and fennel give sweetness, whereas ginger gives warmth to this chai. If you are craving spicy flavors, add a small cinnamon stick, 2-3 cloves, and 3-4 peppercorns.

Recipe

Ingredients

2 cups water
4 cardamom pods, crushed
1/2-inch piece of ginger, grated
1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds
2 teaspoon black tea leaves
1/3-1/2 cup whole milk
Raw sugar or honey to taste
 
Click here for metric converter.

 

Directions

  1. Combine first four ingredients, and bring to a boil on medium heat.
  2. Turn off the heat and let it steep covered for 5-7 minutes.
  3. Add tea leaves and cook for 2 minutes.
  4. Stir in milk and cook for another minute or until heated through.
  5. Strain in cups.
  6. Add sugar or honey to taste.

Makes 2 cups

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