July 30, 2009

Raspberry Delight

I had been getting Raspberries almost every time I was at the Farmer's market in Oshkosh this year. Week one - I made a galette with them. Another week, it was the raspberry delight, inspired by The Budding Cook. This is basically a modified version of Shrikhand, with raspberries. The base was Greek Yogurt and Mascarpone cheese. The advantage of using Greek Yogurt or Lebna is that you can skip the step of straining regular yogurt. The raspberries were crushed with the yogurt mixture, and to it, I added sugar - enough to satisfy Shankar's sweet tooth, and lemon juice. I layered the bowl with the raspberry shrikand, some raspberries, topped with plain shrikand (yogurt, sugar, lemon juice, garnished with kesar pista). The dessert was finished with more raspberries and a little lemon ginger chocolate.

July 28, 2009

Rhesus Macaque

Rhesus Macacque (Macaca mulatta) mom and baby by the side of the road between Siliguri and Gorumara National Park, in Sikkim, India. One of my favorite primates - I hope to work with them some day!

July 23, 2009

Hot Thai Peppers

Last Summer, one of my friends from Stevens Point gave me a handful of these very hot Thai Peppers, that I turned into a very spicy Sambol. Sambol (or sometimes called sambal) is a Sri Lankan / Malay / Indonesian Condiment, also used as a side dish.

I made my Sambol by grinding together the following: Chili peppers, a few black peppers, one shallot, three cloves Garlic, cumin, coriander seeds, a small piece of ginger, one clove, a dash of cinnamon and cardamom, a few curry leaves, one teaspoon oil, a dash of sugar, and salt to taste. I stored this coarsely ground paste in the freezer, and used just a little to spice up a dish! I am waiting to find some more of these spicy peppers at the Farmer's market this year.

July 17, 2009

Vermilion Flycather

This picture of the Vermilion Flycatcher (Pyrocephalus rubinus) male was taken in the Galapagos Islands, when I was there on a study trip in June 2005. He is a little puffed up from the light drizzle and a bunch of people taking pictures.

July 15, 2009

Salt Pans @ Marakkanam

Marakkanam, a small village between Chennai and Pondicherry, on the East Coast Road, is one of the places in this region where we have salt pans. In salt pans, sea water is allowed to flow into small puddles and dried, and the crystallized salt is harvested by the workers. Some of these pans are now run by Women Self-help Groups after the Tsunami in 2004, and can produce about 75 Kgs of salt a week! These pictures were taken on my way back from Pondicherry.

Here is Google's view of the salt pans from up above

July 13, 2009

@ the Beach - Pondicherry

I had spent quite a bit of time during my Master's program on the beaches at Pondicherry. If I didn't get to go home for the weekend, I will try my best to go to the city on Friday evenings... one of the weekly magazines I used to read came out on Thursday evening and picking up a copy justifies the 12 km trip; in addition to visiting a temple in the city, walking along the rocky beach and getting a cone ice cream was part of the routine. I was glad to take a trip out there last month with a friend. We had lunch at a restaurant across from the beach with a good view and needless to say, it was Good Times :)

July 12, 2009

Experimenting with Dessert

I wanted to use the raspberries from our farmer's market to make dessert for tonight. I wasn't really impressed by some of the recipes I came across or didn't have all the ingredients for some of the impressive ones. Hence I decided to experiment on a Galette. Initially, I wanted to make smaller individual sized ones. Using puff pastry sheets (that was bought from Trader Joe's) on a muffin pan, my first filling was a mixture of raspberries and mascarpone cheese. The second filling was nutella and raspberries with some sugar and the third filling was raspberries, vanilla rum and cream cheese. All of them turned up pretty good. Hence for our finale, when our friends came over for dinner, I made a larger galette (~ 8 inches), with all the ingredients! This one had a layer of nutella, mixture of raspberries in mascarpone and a little cream cheese, a dash of vanilla rum and sprinkled with fine baking sugar, for a little more sweetness. I baked it for about 25 minutes at 400 degrees. When it came out of the oven, I shaved some lemon ginger dark chocolate (from Dagoba) on top! Yummy :)

Cooking with Cast Iron

As much as I love to cook, I have mostly preferred to use non-stick cookware. My ideal ware of choice would be Indalium - an aluminum alloy, which my mother uses. Since it is hard to find in the US, I have been happy with non-stick pans, like Calphalon. However, giving in to peer pressure, I picked up a cast iron skillet at a local thrift store yesterday for 15 bucks. This pan was made in Korea, had been well used and seasoned. I sauteed yellow beans from the farmer's market with my usual spices last night. Though I did not pick up any unique differences in using cast-iron, the heating may be faster. Anyways, we had the yellow beans with Chapathi, pickle and a creamy cauliflower-tofu curry.

July 10, 2009

Leopard at Sikkim Himalayan Zoological Park

When I was in Gangtok during my recent trip to India, one of our stops was the Sikkim Himalayan Zoological Park. The park is known for its conservation efforts for the Red Panda. One of the animals that seemed to be awake that morning was the Leopard. He was exhibiting stereotypic behavior and pacing when we neared his enclosure.
He seemed to get a little interested in climbing the branch...and we were waiting to see what he was getting to...
But what does a really bored leopard do?
Find a really comfortable spot and remain bored :-(

July 7, 2009

July 4 Fireworks

We were in Milwaukee last weekend, as our anniversary / July 4 getaway. After a wonderful dinner with our friends at Rock Bottom Restaurant and Brewery, we went to watch the fireworks by the lake. It was a long evening and the fireworks went on for almost an hour. We were pretty close to the action, by the Milwaukee Art Museum. Here are some of my favorite shots of the evening by Shankar, with the Burke Brise Soleil on the Quadracci pavillion in the front.

July 6, 2009

A night at the Marina Beach

Beaches are special places for me. I don't think I have ever missed an oppotunity to go stand in the waves. Growing up on the coast, Beach is right on top on the list of things I miss in Wisconsin. During this trip, I got to go to Marina Beach three times, and all my visits were when it was already dark! Having spent so much time on the beaches in Chennai, I can't recall being at the Marina late in the evening. Marina Beach, a must see place in Chennai, is an urban sandy beach, stretching for about 12 kms. These pictures were taken when I went there with my family one evening, much later than what we had planned. It was worth the delay to see the Bay of Bengal in moonlight :)

July 1, 2009

A Substitute for Amy

Blackie, adopted by my parents from the Blue Cross of India, was my substitute for Amy in India. I had the chance to thoroughly pamper this girl, and even got her to get down for a treat. Blackie cries (!!!) a lot when no one is home and contrary to a dog guarding the house, ours advertises when we are not there. She also has the weird habit of running around the house once when my mom or dad comes back home.. may be telling them that the house is still there?

Landing @ Chennai

I spent a month in India - mostly at Chennai, with one trip to Hyderabad and another to Calcutta & Gangtok. Missing my BA flight, due to the lack of a transit visa for changing planes in London, I managed to fly NorthWest, from Chicago to Amsterdam to Mumbai, and then to Chennai. Here's the landing!

Entering the city...

Race course at Guindy and the suburbs..

Touch Down! My house is on the other side of this hill...
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