September 22, 2008

Farmer's Market Fresh Lunch

On Sunday, Shankar and I spent some time at the farmer's market in Oshkosh. Though we have quite a bit of produce from our garden, I couldn't pass up a chance to try other vegetables that are farm fresh. So, here is what we had for lunch - long beans stir fried with coconut, Kohlrabi in a coconut - buttermilk gravy and mint & lentils chutney. Overall, a very green lunch :)

The coconut - buttermilk gravy works with a lot of vegetables and is very simple to make. A handful of shredded coconut, is pureed with some chili peppers (I used jalapenos in the above version), cumin, salt, curry leaves and buttermilk. Sour cream is a good alternative to buttermilk. This mixture is poured over the vegetable boiled with some salt, and cooked for a few minutes. A garnish with tempered mustard seeds, cumin and urad dal round up this few-ingredients dish.

September 16, 2008

Tamarind @ Chicago

Tamarind - an asian restaurant in the South Loop has become one of our favorite Chicago restaurants. They have a wide array of Japanese, Chinese, Vietnamese, Thai and now Indian cuisines in a beautiful setting. We had been there last November when Shankar attended the AME conference. We went to Chicago in August to show Shankar's parents the big city, and went to Tamarind after a long day downtown.

We stared the dinner with some Avocado rolls and deep-fried Tofu. This is the first time I had Tofu garnished with ginger and toasted Nori. Both of them were excellent.


Shankar loves his fruit drinks with bobo and Tamarind has a selection of fresh fruits, from which you can choose up to three for a blended drink. We had a Melon trifecta - with water melon, cantaloupe and honey dews.

Shankar's parents had vegetable fried rice and we had a Cashew and Vegetables in a brown sauce with Tofu. This was a perfect meal for us. We noticed that they add a slice of cucumber to their water jars - a refreshing touch!

The staff were very friendly and we also got to talk to the owner. She promised us dessert, but after such a big meal we just couldn't order anything more. Tamarind is very reasonably priced, actually I would venture to say they are in-expensive for the quallity of food and their location. A must-go to restaurant in Chicago!

August 19, 2008

Random: Bison

A Bison at the Konza Prairie Biological Station, near Manhattan, Kansas. This picture was taken in March 2004 when my friend Ramya was visiting us. Konza is a tall grass prairie biological station and it is also a long-term ecological research (LTER) site located in the flint hills region of Kansas. The Bison population on Konza is managed, and are studied for the role of grazing on the prairie. For more information, visit: Konza Prairie

August 15, 2008

Fancy Lunch

Today's lunch was Quinoa grains garnished with rosemary, sage and thyme in butter, and stir fried vegetables from our garden - Green peppers, Broccoli, Zucchini, Potatoes, and left-over Tempeh. Now that's what I call a gourmet meal :)

August 10, 2008

Fried Green Tomatoes

Tomatoes are a success in our garden this year and seeing so many of them, I decided to pluck some of the unripe ones to try some South Indian gravies. Fried Green Tomatoes have been on my mind since our South Trip, as we didn't get to eat them and they took precedence over South Indian dishes this time.

I sliced the tomatoes - a little thick, dredged them in flour seasoned with salt and pepper, dipped in a beaten egg, then dredged in cracker crumbs. I used olive-black pepper crackers. Then shallow fried them till brown and served with Maggi's Oriental Hot Sauce. Next time I think I will try deep-frying the tomatoes for more authenticity.

July 25, 2008

Grand Marais

Grand Marais is definitely one of the charming towns with a lot to offer. After a good lunch with a big slice of cake, we had to walk around to burn it off. Though the day was warm, it was a little chilly with all the wind from the lake.

We walked on the pebble beach and stopped at the Trading Post, a couple of gift shops, galleries, and a book store. We were on our feet for about a couple of hours exploring the town. We also went to the Coop store and got some hand-harvested, hand-parched wild rice.

Our next plan was to look for a wild Moose and before heading out, we stopped for coffee and of course check email :) @ Java Moose.

July 22, 2008

Spinach & Lentils

Spinach and lentils can be mixed in a variety of combination and is an easy dish to make. I love the version of "keerai kootu", which is more watery and goes well with rice and a dash of ghee. For the following recipe I typically use less lentils than spinach, but it can be varied by using more lentils, other leafy greens, adding sauteed onions and tomatoes. This can also be served as a soup by adding some lemon juice after removing from the heat.

This one is for Naghma & Carolyn

Spinach - chopped
Lentils (dal) - Moong Dal or chana (yellow split beans) dal
Coconut - shredded
Salt & Pepper
Turmeric - pinch
Mustard seeds - 1/2 tsp
Asafoetida (optional - found in Indian stores - use no more than a pinch)
Chilli - either red or green

The easiest way to make this dish is to use a pressure cooker - reduces the time it takes to cook dal. It is also faster to cook dal in the microwave than on stove top.
* Add the dal, a few drops of oil, salt, two pinches of turmeric powder, add the required amount of water (1:2 for chana dal and 1:1.5 for moong dal) and cook till the dal is soft and mash it.
* If using the pressure cooker, I would spread the spinach on top as a layer and let it cook in the steam. If not, wilt them in the microwave or blanch.
* Heat a small pan, add a little oil and fry the cumin, coriander, pepper, chilli (either green or red) and blend it with the coconut and salt. Watch the salt here as the lentils are already cooked with some.
* Add this paste to the spinach and Dal mixture, garnish with a tempering of mustard, a little chana dal, asafoetida. Add more water depending on required consistency and bring to a boil. I prefer the blended method to uniformly distribute the heat from the chillies.
* For a non-blending option, add cumin and coriander powder, black pepper, salt, mix in shredded coconut and chopped green chillies or half a peice of dried red chilli. Bring to a boil and top with tempering.

July 21, 2008

Angry Trout Cafe @ Grand marais

We were pretty hungry after our ~3 miles hike for more than a couple of hours and headed for Grand Marais for lunch. Our first stop was at the visitor's center, where in addition to a lot of good information, we were able to park our car for the next few hours.

We strolled along the beach to Angry Trout Cafe, which was recommended to us by two of our friends. Though they don't have a menu on their website, we were sure they had vegetarian fares. We were pleasantly surprised to find that they used mostly organic vegetables in their recipes and supported a variety of local producers and also artists.

The appetizer was Fried Eggplants with a very lemony aioli sauce.

It was followed by a Wild Mushrooms sandwich, served with chips and coleslaw

And of course, we had room for a big slice of Maple Butter Cream Cake that is from a local bakery (Lola's Sweet Life Bakery) that supplies to almost all the good restaurants in town. I really liked the idea of outsourcing the dessert department in a restaurant :) This is one of our top restaurants, with not only really good & healthy food, but an awesome view of the lake, good ambiance and great service.

July 19, 2008

Cascade Creek

The Cascade River State Park hiking trail joins with the Superior Hiking Trail and runs towards Lookout Mountain in Lutsen.

The best part of our trip was when the trail was near the Cascade Creek on the way back to the lodge, we were able to climb down and walk on the rocks in the creek bed. Just walking along the creek listening to the flow of water is an experience in itself.

And yes, we missed Amy a lot already, but that feeling only intensified into a regret for a while as the trip went on.

July 17, 2008

Cascade River State Park

Cascade River State Park is one of the most popular spots for hiking on the North Shore. We enjoyed walking through the Boreal Forest to the Falls which is about a mile from the restaurant. Warblers were abundant and so were chickadees. We were able to see the falls from a span bridge and also walk up to it further in on the trail.

After Gooseberry Falls, we know there will be quite a bit of water and the flow was pretty good. The gorge itself was beautiful, and it was fun to step on the boulders from quite a few places on the trail.

Root Beer colored Falls

July 16, 2008

Night at Cascade Lodge

After what seemed to be a long night, we reached Cascade Lodge in Lutsen, MN for the night. The staff were kind enough to leave our keys on the front desk, so we can check-in late. We woke up to a beautiful morning and an awesome view from our room. I got up at the first light to see the lake and went back to bed !

We had breakfast at the Cascade Restaurant next door. Our breakfast was a simple Swedish Pancakes & Blueberries. We also packed a Cinnamon Roll for the hike. Unfortunately the coffee was very disappointing.

The lodge has activities planned for the guests everyday and this day it was Alpine Trekking. However, they had to cancel it and instead let us borrow their new hiking poles for free for the day. This is the view of Lake Superior from the pine forests behind the restaurant as we started the hike.

July 15, 2008

Eggplant Parmesan

Due to popular demand (!!!), I am starting to post recipes to go with my Experiments with Food album. The recipes are either my own concoctions or adapted from various cook books, TV shows, food blogs, friends and family. I will try my best to provide references as much as possible. I cannot provide absolute quantities of any ingredients, as I usually eyeball them. I would appreciate any and all feedback!

This one is for my friend Sindhu

I made this most recent Eggplant Parmesan after watching the show Throw down with Bobby Flay on Food Network. Basically I combined ideas from both the chefs on the show.

Eggplants (# depends on how much you want to make)
Mozzarella cheese (fresh)
Pasta Sauce (I used the bottled one)
Red Peppers - roasted, peeled
Herbs - a combo of dried Italian herbs and Basil
Egg - 1, beaten
All purpose Flour
Bread Crumbs
Salt & Pepper
Olive Oil

* Peel the eggplants, slice them - about 1/2 inch thick, place them in a colander, sprinkle some salt and let sit for a little bit.
* I don't like to deep fry, but if you do, go for it!
* Add some oil (I used enough to cover the bottom) on a frying pan, take a slice of eggplant, dredge in flour, dip it in the beaten egg, coat with bread crumbs (I season mine with the Italian Herbs and Parmesan) and fry till brown on both sides.
* I blended the pasta sauce with the roasted peppers, with salt, a dash of crushed red peppers and basil.
* Spread some sauce on the pan in which you are going to bake, add a layer of the fried eggplants, top them with slices of fresh mozzarella cheese. Repeat these layers till you use all the eggplants or run out of room on the dish :) I don't like mine to have more than two layers.
* Finish with a layer of sauce, sprinkle Parmesan. I also add some bread crumbs to the top layer.
* Cover with foil and bake for about 20 minutes, remove the foil and bake for 10 more. It helps to spray some Pam (non stick spray) on the inside of the foil, to prevent the cheese layer to stick to it when bubbling.
* Wait a few minutes, slice it, grind some pepper on top and enjoy!

Here is a link to Bobby Flay's recipe

July 13, 2008

Split Rock Light House

As we drove North, our next brief stop was at Split Rock Lighthouse State Park. We had to get a vehicle permit here (that is valid for all state parks for the day) and wanted to take some pictures of the light house with the sun light falling on it. However, by the time we reached the Pebble Beach it was already getting dark. Though we didn't get to spend a lot of time here, the beach was beautiful, with few people and we are glad we stopped here.

We had reservations for the night and since it was already close to 9 pm by the time we left Split Rock, we had a quick dinner of Wild Rice Baguette loaded with roasted vegetables for dinner at Northern Lights Restaurant in Beaver Bay. Most of the restaurants have a good view of the lake and it makes the food (even a sandwich) taste so much better!

July 12, 2008

Gooseberry Falls State Park

Gooseberry Falls State Park was our next stop from Two Harbors. It was an easy walk to the falls and as soon as we hit the trails, we realized that may be it would have been nice to have brought Amy along. The parks allow dogs on leash and Amy would have loved to walk around and get her feet wet in the water. She was boarded in our local kennel in Owen.

The falls had more water than we expected at this time of the year, thanks to all the recent rains we had. We walked a little bit on the rocks, trying to burn off the calories gained from Betty's pies. Gooseberry Falls was very scenic and no wonder it is referred to as the gateway to the North Shore.

Shankar testing his photography skills :)

July 9, 2008

Betty's Pies - The Best Pies Ever

From Duluth, we took the North Shore Scenic Drive (instead of Hwy 61) to Two harbors. As the name says, the drive was really beautiful with such a splendid view of the Lake Superior.

Our first stop was at Betty's Pies, about 3 miles North of Two Harbors. Our friend Chris recommended we stop there and it is a popular tourist destination on the North Shore. Opened in the 1950's, they are a full service restaurant and have unusual dishes like a Pie-shake.

Though they did not have any pie with nuts in them when we went, their French Strawberry Banana Cream Pie was quite the pie.

A thin crust, a mixture of strawberries and bananas, a layer of banana cream, a layer of meringue and a layer of strawberry cream, served with whipped cream - that was the best and the richest pie I ever had!

Lake Superior - North Shore

Here is a map of our recent trip - the satellite view. We started from our home in Owen, went all the way up to Grand Portage State Park, on the US - Canada Border. The solid white line is the border and the dashed lines represent the borders of Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan. Point B is Duluth, Point C is Two Harbors, Point D is Gooseberry Falls, Point E is the Cascade Lodge, Point F is Grand Marais, Point G represents the Gun Flint Trail and Point H is Grand Portage.

July 8, 2008

Anniversary Trip to the Northshore

We took a drive to Minnesota's North Shore by the Lake Superior for our second anniversary. Duluth is about 3.5 hours from home and it was our first stop. We met our friend Jessica for lunch at the Taste of Saigon, a Vietnamese restaurant in Canal Park. They did not have much in terms of vegetarian appetizers, but the lunch selection was petty good and we had a wonderful lunch.

The day was beautiful, not too hot and a little windy as expected on a lake shore. We walked around Canal Park for a while, first to the aerial lift bridge - a very impressive and one-of-a-kind bridge. We watched as a couple of boats passed by. There are also schedules available when big ships would pass through which we will probably plan for next time.

After a little bit more of walking around, checking out Grandma's marketplace, a couple of galleries and coffee at Caribou's, we headed North on Highway 61 to Two Harbors.

June 30, 2008

Small Town, Big events

Life in our small town (officially it is a city, with an official population of 900) has always been uneventful and ordinary. That changed officially two weeks back, when we started to have a mini-series of break-ins. First, cars parked on the Main street were broken in to and valuables stolen. Most people do not lock their cars and actually the city police put out a Crime Bulletin that was posted on the local banks, stores and the library warning people about the thefts and to lock the cars!

In what were unrelated incidents, the public library was broken in and a whole bag of DVDs were stolen. The next day, cigarettes were stolen from the food liner and a work area was also vandalized. Though the car incidents were regarded to be carried out by bored out of high-school students, the library, being a federal property as altogether a different issue. There was nothing else to talk about in the town other than these crimes. The culprit was caught within a week with all the stolen DVDs on him (?) and apparently he was not from our town (just someone staying with family in town for a while). What a sigh of relief from everyone that it is not one of our own! By the way, this is the first crime we know of in our town in the last (almost) two years.

June 27, 2008

Back with the Grand Isle Bananas

The spring semester went by faster than I expected and being at home in the summer, there is so much going on and a post has been long overdue on this blog. Before continuing on with our South Trip, I thought I will ease into writing with recent excitements.

Shankar and I went to Eau Claire (city about 55 miles from where we live), to get the car's oil changed - yes, we have to go that far to get the car serviced and for everything else. We also had plans to get groceries, get Amy groomed professionally and have a nice dinner. There is a local dining guide for the Chippewa Valley and I have noticed that one of the best desserts to get in town is the Grand Isle Bananas from Stella Blues. Stella Blues is a Cajun restaurant & we haven't been there before. I had called once to ask how late they are open to go for dessert, but never made it that far. We always end up in the Mall part of town and hardly make it to Down town, Eau Claire.

The place was a pleasant surprise. On the bar counter was a huge metal 'Ganesh' statue - quite unexpected. We were seated immediately and since we went pretty early (~5.45 pm) and had a whole lot of things to take care in town, we skipped the drinks. We had Sweet Potato Fries, with a chipotle mayo that had the kick of habenaro, a simple Cajun Pasta - vegetables and fettucine in a creamy cajun sauce and ofcourse, the Grand isle Bananas. The Sweet Potato Fries was really good, the pasta was nothing unusual, but twe liked the spices. The dessert was awesome :) Bananas were fried in a cinnamonny - buttery - rum sauce, with a huge portion of what I am going to call a Banana Nut Bread, Vanilla Ice Cream, Whipped cream and caramel drizzled on top. Need I say more!

April 2, 2008

More in Montgomery

The Dexter Avenue Church in which Dr. King served as a pastor, is on the same street as the Capitol Building in Montgomery, Alabama.

We saw the capitol from outside, and then drove to the First White House of the Confederacy, on Washington Avenue. This was ho
me to the President Jefferson Davis, in 1861. The building was moved to its current location in 1921 and is currently closed for renovation. We were able to see the building only from the outside.

Our next stop was the Dexter Parsonage Museum. This is the house in which Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. lived when he was in Montg
omery, and was part of the Civil Rights Movement. We were able to take a tour of the house, and also see some of the damage to the porch caused when the house was bombed after the Montgomery Bus Boycott. The house was restored in 2003, and it was really interesting to see the homes and get a glimpse of life in the 1950's.

Next we drove through Old Alabama Town, a restoration of authentic old houses, extending over 6 blocks in a historic village. We stopped in a coffee shop that is run by a couple, who serve awesome gourmet coffees, and were very welcoming when we stopped by just before close time. They answered all our questions and gave us recent weather updates :) The Old Alabama Town is like an area out of an old movie, completely different from the surrounding town.

Our last stop was at the Civil Rights Memorial Center, before heading over to our friend's place for a great dinner and a lovely time. A place with so much history is a must see for everyone!

March 4, 2008

Historical Landmarks

After a wonderful dinner at the Dosa Camp in Alpharetta and a long night chatting with Ramsi and Nasa, we left the next day to Montgomery, Alabama. I have been to Montgomery before in 2003, and knew the places that Shankar had to visit. Our first stop was at the Rosa Parks Museum. The Rosa Parks Museum, a tribute to the "Mother of the Civil Rights Movement", is part of the Troy State University.

The museum is a must see if you are in the area. It is a great place to learn more about the Civil Rights Movement and the dramatic events that took place in Montgomery during segregation and all the great souls that fought for the equality of men. The feelings one goes through as you walk along the exhibits is something that cannot be simply described by words. Montgomery is a place that you need to experience personally than read about.

Our next stop was the Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church in which Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. served as a pastor and during which he started leading the National Civil Rights Movement. Though we made it during their open hours, the caretaker was not available and we couldn't go inside. It was a bummer, but we were able to go to the Parsonage and take a tour. Details in the next post!
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