May 27, 2023
A few days ago, I overheard a friend say that pho is his all-time favorite go to food, be it for celebration, comfort, or sickness. I can understand why, chicken soup is beloved around the world and the Vietnamese pho is particularly delicious with its rich broth and infusion of aromatic herbs. But it got me thinking that chicken soup is also like a blank canvas that can take on the flavors of all regions of the world from Tuscany to Chengdu to Kerala. India is not a country of soups however there are umpteen aromatic soup like lentil and vegetable stews and curries, usually eaten with rice or such.
Here is a soup inspired by the coast of Kerala using cardamom and black pepper native to that region. Like most curries, this soup tastes best a few hours later or the day after when all the flavors have had some time together and mellowed out. The most flavorful bones to use for soup are chicken feet, which until recently, were only available in Asian grocery stores. Coconut milk adds a touch of creaminess, and the ginger adds a sharp bite. If you have leftovers, freeze it and it will make for a wonderful meal a few months down the road.
May 17, 2023
Sugar free or gently sweetened sweets have become arguably one of the most requested things at bakeries and restaurants, at least in urban settings. I understand why. Sugar, practically a drug that many of us are addicted to, is something we all need less of. A touch of sweetness is also something we also crave, a quick muffin in the morning, a cupcake with an afternoon tea or a good piece of chocolate after dinner. Alternately, an element that we all do need more of is dietary fiber via grains like wheat bran, millet, and sorghum, which are abundant in fiber. There is also plenty of fiber in fruits and vegetables and given that local blueberries are in season, I incorporated both the elements, less sugar, and more fiber into a muffin. Maple syrup takes the place of sugar and wheat bran adds the fiber. They are super easy to make – whisk the wet ingredients, then add the dry, pour and bake. A sprinkle of sugar on top is a tiny indulgence but feel free to leave this out.
May 10, 2023
With cold weather in the rear view and balmy summers to look forward to, the edible joys of spring are all around us. From sugar snap peas to fennel to about a dozen varieties of greens, the farmer’s table stands at Urban Harvest farmer’s market are bursting with beautiful produce. Last weekend, I had my first local peach and blueberry sighting of the year. Lightsey Farms had arrived with their first spring harvest of local plums and peaches and there was another farmer with boxes and boxes of local wild blueberries. I brought them home and turned them into a lightly spiced lemonade of sorts. Growing up in a time and place when local was the only way we ate and drank, I remember my mother buying baskets of plums or apricots during peak summer season and making a variety of sweetened concentrated syrups, called sherbat. She’d puree the fruit at its ripest, sometimes cook it down or other times just strain and combine with sugar and other seasonings and store them in tall bottles. We would add water or club soda to turn them into drinks all year long. My parents would have adult versions with generous splashes of gin or vodka. Here is a gently spiced lemonade to welcome a Texas spring, it’s only lightly sweetened, adjust and spike as needed.