Quesa-dosai

Cheese Dosai & Masala Dosai
You read that correctly. It's a cross between a quesadilla and a dosai, and its really good. I usually make dosa dough every other week. It's a nice thing to have around when you don't want to cook something from scratch, but you want a hot meal. I also like to always keep boiled potatoes in my fridge, whenever I make something with potatoes I boil a few extra and keep them in the fridge for a few days later. Then it's easy to whip up the masala for your classic masala dosai. But I digress, back to madras-mex. The best part of this recipe is how my husband was eyeing me when I asked if he wanted one, "I'm not interested in having cheese on my dosa." Ok fine, so I made one for myself and of course he agreed to have a bite. Eh voila, now he is sold on it. I love when he disses something I make, and then he likes it. Its fun.

Dosai Batter:
7 parts rice, 2 parts urad daal, 1/4 tsp of fenugreek seeds, and tsp of channa daal

For the filling simply mix all the filling ingredients together. You may reserve some of the green onion and cilantro for garnish. To make the dosa batter, soak the rice with the fenugreek seeds and channa daal in water. Soak the urad daal separately in water. Soak for at least 16-18 hours. Grind the urad daal separately finely. Grind the rice slightly coarse and add to the ground urad daal. (Grind both in water). Let this rise overnight again. This is my dad's recipe, and I must admit he is the master of dosai and idly!

Cheese Dosai
cheddar cheese diced small pieces (you can use the shredded varieties, or any cheese works), 1 diced tomato, minced jalapeno, chopped cilantro (optional), scallions chopped (optional), a little red onion minced, a squeeze of lemon, and salt

Then you are ready to make the dosai. Using a ladle, pour 1 spoon of batter in the middle of a hot griddle and make it into a round circle by pressing the ladle into the dough and rotating it outwards. Drizzle a few drops of oil onto this. Flip this by first scraping the edges with a metal spatula to loosen the dosa. Cook both sides, and then place a heaping table spoon of the filling and spread around 1 half. Fold the dosai in two and let it crisp up. Cut it and serve with sour cream and green onions.
Watch as I make a few dosai's!




Masala Dosai
2 large potatoes boiled and diced, 1 medium tomato, 1 medium green chilli minced, 2 sq" piece of ginger diced or grated, a handful of frozen or fresh peas, 1 tsp mustard seeds, 1 tsp channa daal, a few curry leaves, a pinch of asafetida, a few cashewnuts, chopped cilantro, chopped onion or green onion (optional -- and if you add it do not add the asefetida), turmeric

Splutter the mustards seeds, then add the channa daal and roast, add the curry leaves and asefetida, add the ginger and chili and fry. Add the onions now and saute if you are adding them. Add the tomato, and peas (salt them) and cook them though. Add the potatoes (more salt) and mix with a little turmeric. Garnish with green onions and cilantro. My m-in-law made this for me and I love the taste.

Make the dosai following the same method outlined in cheese dosai, but this time place the potato masala along the middle and fold over the edges of the dosai. You can also serve this with coconut chutney.


Maharashtrian Brunch: Alu Poha, Moong Daal, Cucumber Raita



This morning I decided I wanted an indian meal that wasn't sambar or rasam, but not quite the opposite with the masala laden food. So I settled to make something I think is a good compromise, alu poha with moong daal and cucumber raita. It ended up being a great combination, and super easy to make. Luckily for me when I had made venpongal last week, I pressure cooked extra paasi parupu (moong daal) and froze part of it. All I did this morning was pull out the ziploc bag with 2 servings in it, put it in a bowl of hot water, and it defrosted nicely in about 15 minutes. I recommend making extra daal whenever pressure cooking and freeze it. It comes in handy when you want to whip up a 30 minute meal.

Alu Poha

2 potatoes boiled and diced, ginger, green chili, onion, mustard seeds, jeera seeds, turmeric, asafetida, fresh cilantro, lemon, salt, thick poha (about 2 - 3 cups), oil

1. Put the poha in a strainer, and run warm water over it until all the poha has absorbed water. Then let it sit in the strainer for about 10-15 minutes.
2. Splutter the mustard seeds in oil, once done add the jeera, and roast till it turns golden brown. Add the ginger and green chili and fry them. You can add the asafetida here too (optional).
3. Add the diced onion and fry it.
4. Add the boiled diced potatoes, and salt. Add the turmeric 1 tsp and mix through. Let the potatoes cook in the oil for a minute or two on low heat.
5. Turn off the heat, add the poha, squeeze half a lemon/lime, salt, and mix.
6. Mix in the fresh chopped cilantro before serving.

Moong Daal
moong daal 2 cups cooked, 1 tomato diced, mustard seeds, jeera seeds, ginger, green chili, turmeric, curry leaves, asafetida (a pinch), amchur, garam masala, chopped cilantro.

1. Splutter the mustard seeds in oil, then add the jeera seeds and roast them. Add the ginger, and green chili, and curry leaves (ripped), and the pinch of asafetida.
2. Add the tomatoes and cook on medium high heat until they are cooked through.
3. Add the cooked daal and mix through.
4. Add a pinch of amchur, and a teaspoon of garam masala.
5. Garnish with chopped cilantro.

Cucumber Raita

1/2 small cucumber peeled and grated, 1/2 cup yogurt, 1/2 cup buttermilk. (If you don't have buttermilk add water), ground pepper, chat masala, jeera seeds, chopped cilantro to garnish.

1. Combine the grated cucumber, yogurt, and buttermilk together.
2. Add salt and mix.
3. Add fresh ground black pepper, a pinch of chat masala, and crushed roasted jeera seeds.
4. Garnish with chopped cilantro.






An apple a day...

Apple Cake
The other day my friend Krisha came over and brought the most delicious apple cake from a local Ann Arbor bakery next to her house. For the last few days I've been craving this cake, but it's been snowing and it's so cold outside that I was too lazy and cheap to go buy it from the bakery. Anyways, to make a long story short I decided to look up a random recipe on the net and bake my own cake. I had two apples at home too, so I was all set. The internet is an amazing tool for recipe searching! I love that I can look up various recipes, and make my own up from them. (Click here for the recipe.)

The apple cake turned out very well, I decided to make them into apple muffins instead of a cake which worked out great, except I would fill the cups a little more evenly next time to ensure my muffins end up more uniform. I baked them in silicone muffin trays (bought for me by my sister), and they unmolded quite easily as a result. I found this recipe to be a bit too sweet for my taste, as it calls for 1 cup of sugar, and 1 cup of brown sugar. So I'd modify that the next time.
It's a very light and airy batter. I made up a batch, and I am going to send a whole bunch of them with my husband to share with his starving friends at the business school.

One day I overheard my husband decline meeting his friend at our complex property managment's free breakfast, due to the reason that 'he had a wife who makes him breakfast'. And the next day his friend came up to me and asked just what exactly I made at home for breakfast that was so amazing and could he come over too. My husband better enjoy it while he gets it, because there is no telling how I am going to turn the tables on him when I start working. Good thing he doesn't read this blog.
Let me know if you make the cake, and how it turns out for you!

Tango in Paris

Paris
Maybe I'm partial to the French because I'm Canadian, but it really is a beautiful place full of so much history. I find the language so beautiful to listen to. My friends Geetanjali, Monica and I made a trip to the Fashion Capitals of the World; NY, London, Paris, and Milan. Geeta and I made the trip to Paris ourselves from London via the Eurostar. We reached Paris and immediately began mastering the Metro. Our hotel was in an area habited by musicians with music and instrument shops lining the street. Our concierge was Algerian, and got a great kick out of the two Indian girls who stayed at his hotel.

Day 1: We went to the Museum of Modern art, and were disappointed to find out that it was closed. But we got some cool pictures of kids skateboarding in front of it. We headed to the Eiffel tower and enjoyed a nice lunch there. Next stop was the Louvre where we fell in love with the paintings of the renaissance and of the 17th & 18th century. We ended up getting the audio tour, where you walk around the museum with a pair of headphones provided by the Museum. The museum is huge, packed with people, and very well maintained. We decided to go to the Latin Quarter after hearing that there was a great nightlife scene there with a lot of ethnic communities, as we talked about it on the Metro ride over we ran into two American girls who were living in France studying French. They decided to make a stop with us and take us to a very unusual Jazz bar. The first thing you notice entering the establishment is that the floor is planted with grass. We then headed into the area with the band, which led us down stone steps at the back of the bar into an actual dungeon complete with rusted chains and handcuffs. It was filled with tables and chairs, and the room quickly became packed. I think it was some of the best music Geeta and I have ever heard! We topped off the night at a great Indian restaurant because everything else was closed.



Day 2: We woke up early and had breakfast at a nearby cafe. Les ouefs of course, in the form of an omlette. Then we headed onto the Metro and navigated our way by train to Versailles. This palace is so steeped in France's history. It's so fascinating to see the bed that King Louis slept in and the gardens are spectacular. There were a lot of Japanese tourists there. After we came back from Versaille, we headed over to Notre Dame and payed homage to the awesome gargoyled cathedral, and finally we took the metro to MonteMarte. This was shocking experience for Geeta and I when her wallet was stolen. There is even a picture where you can see her backpack open. It was such a violation. We spent the rest of the night cancelling her credit cards, but poor thing had just gotten her first gucci wallet. Luckily my friend is such a good sport, and didn't let it ruin her trip. In fact she vowed to own a better wallet, and I think she has succeeded many times over now! The night was not completely wasted as we settled to a little pub at the top of the mountain and sampled some lovely wine and cheeses.

Day 3: We got up, packed up, checked out and headed out to the Champs Elysee to have breakfast and do some shopping. Girls, shopping, and keeping track of the time are a few things that don't work together. A few hours later after eating yummy panini's and yogurt Geeta and I are lost in NafNaf trying on clothes. When we finally woke up to the time, it was a race back to the hotel on the Metro, we grabbed our bags headed back on the Metro to go to the bus station where we casually figured there would be a bus to the airport. Not de Gaulle, some other Buffalo type airport in the middle of nowhere. Of course there is no bus, and we end up negotiating with a cabbie to drive us out to the middle of nowhere, for 100 euros. And we end up in a traffic jam, by some miracle the ticketing window is almost closed for our flight, we manage to check a huge bag each, and board the plane. It was a harrowing experience. And it cost us! A 20 euro flight to milan, ended up costing us an extra 50 euros each.

France is such a beautiful country, and Paris is so architecturally beautiful. We were so enamored with art that we ended up taking pictures of the advertising in the metro because we were so fascinated. Granted as soon as we get off the train in Paris, the first ad we see is for a Bharatha Natyam performance in Paris by Mallavika Sarukai. How apt. I don't think Geeta and I will ever forget that trip.

See our slideshow - Click the picture below!

South Indian Breakfast! Rava Idly

I decided to make rava idly today. It's an easy way to make idly on the spot, as the regular version requires two days of soaking and fermenting. My mom gave me this recipe, and I love it. I found out today (after making the idly of course) that my South Indian food loving husband apparently 'hates' rava idly. But he claims he'll still eat it since he loves the green pepper sambar that is accompanying the idlys. Ah well, you can't please them all the time. Besides -- I like rava idly and I just really enjoyed my lunch. You can make coconut chutney to go with this, but since I love thakkali thokku with it I had that! Now all I need is a good cup of coffee...hmmmm....

Rava Idly

1 cup rava, 1.5 cups buttermilk, 1 tsp eno fruit salt, mustard seeds, urad dal, channa dal, curry leaves, asafoetida, 1 green chili, ginger, cashewnuts

1. Roast rava (sooji) in a pan over low heat. I recommend #4. Otherwise it will burn very quickly.
2. In a small fry pan, splutter the mustard seeds, then add a little urad dal, and channa dal, asafoetida ( a pinch), curry leaves, chopped green chili, finely diced ginger, and cashew nuts. (You can omit this completely if you want plain rava idly)
3. Once the rava is nicely roasted to a fine brown colour (it all doesn't have to turn brown, just till it smells nice), add the mustard seeds etc. Mix it up.
4. Add buttermilk (or mix water with yogurt) in the porportion of rava: buttermilk, 1 : 1.5
5. Add 1 tsp of Eno (fruit salt) (or more to froth it up, depending on quantity). It will froth up as you mix it. If it doesn't you can add a pinch of baking soda.
6. Spray the idly pans with veggie spray, and put a little water in either a pressure cooker or a rice cooker, and cook the idlies for 30 minutes.

2. Sambar
toor dal, tamarind, mustard seeds, fenugreek, asafoetida, curry leaves, veggies (You can put green pepper, carrot, okra, potato, onion, beans anything!), salt

1. Pressure cook 3/4 a cup of toor dal with water covering by at least 1 inch. 4 whistles.
2. Soak about a 1 inch cube of tamarind in about 1.5 cups of hot water.
3. In some oil, splutter mustard seeds, a little fenugreek, asafoetida (pinch) , and curry leaves. (do the mustard seeds first, then add the rest)
4. Add the veggies.
5. Add 2 heaping spoons (regular spoon) of sambar powder.
6. Add salt and mix
7. Mash the tamarind to relase the juices into the hot water, and strain out the seeds/pulp. Add the remaining tamarind water to the sambar. You may need to add more water here. Judge by the colour of the sambar and taste.
8. Boil the veggies. Add more salt if necessary.
9. When the pressure has dropped, take out the dal. Add the dal to the sambar (again judge the consistency, you may not use all the dal). Turn off the heat and mix. Add salt again if necessary.
Some people do #3 at the end , some do it at the beginning. Doing it at the end means you need to dirty another pan. But the aroma's of the spluttered spices might be more stronger and add to the over all deliciousness of the dish. I think they both taste the same.

3. Chutney
This recipe is from my dad who is also an awesome cook!

coconut, green chilis, split peas dal (pottu kadalai), dry red chilis, ginger, yogurt, salt, mustard seeds, urad daal, channa dal, asafoetida

1. grind coconut, coriander, green chilis, split peas dal (http://www.indiatastes.com/glossary/88.shtml), dry red chilis (if you want more heat), and water together. You can also add ginger if you want.
2. Add salt to taste
3. You can add yogurt to this as well.
4. You can garnish with the spluttered mustard seeds, urad dal, channa dal combo.

Hotlanta

Atlanta, GA


I went to Atlanta a few years ago when my friend Monica was working for Home Depot there. She was really sweet and invited our friend Geeta as well. The weekend was rounded out by her roomate Susmita's friend Iana visiting from NY. Atlanta was so much fun, a great friendly WARM place to visit. I felt that Atlanta had a really nice restaurant scene, and a lot of great shopping. Plus we just had good fun hanging out with each other. I've only been to Atlanta twice, the first time was for my friend Suneel's wedding at the Hyatt in Buckhead. That was another crazy weekend. We ended up going to two really nices places in the evening. One was a latin place with people salsa dancing everywhere, and the other was a very modern trendy lounge. Both were a lot of fun.

Restaurants:
Mitra : A great Mexican fusion place. The food was very good.
Dante's down the Hatch: A fondue restaurant on a boat with a moat full of crocodiles. This was an interesting place to go to, we had just finished seeing a clip of the restaurant on the FoodTV show 'The Best of Atlanta', so our excitement was palpable. We land up there, and are served the various fondues we've ordered. The cheese fondue was OK, but how much bread dipped in cheese can one eat? I mean I am a cheese lover, but even I have my limit. We also ordered fondue where they give you a bunch of veggies, and a little pot of oil with a tiny burner. If you've ever made bujees you know how long it takes to cook these things. I felt like they needed bujee dough to taste better. Plus they gave us chili sauce, soy sauce, and tamarind sauce for dipping. I prefer the Indian version. Period. It was an experience though, and the crocodiles were neat.

Nightlife:
I need Monica to help me remember the names of these places!

Shopping:
Galleria Atlanta

Click the picture to see a slideshow of our trip!

Lopa gets her groove on


Introducing my good friend Lopa Sarkar, dancer extraordinaire. I remember meeting this beautiful Toronto Bengali girl in dance class when we were just kids. Those were some fun times. Now she's all grown up with an MBA, lived in London for a few years, and if she hasn't already done it all now she's got her own company. Bollywood Grooves, a Toronto based dance company that specializes in classes, workshops, choreography, and of course performing! Lopa's latest gig is a job she's heading off to the Bahama's to be the choreographer at Club Med!

I love it when I can search up my friends on Google, and all kinds of cool things show up. For instance this article written by Marilyn Linton of the Toronto Sun talks about all of Lopa's endeavours. Read on....

Toronto's Lopa Sarkar, a 31-year-old dancer whose family hails from India, runs Bollywood Grooves, a unique program that promises some smile with that sweat. When a friend of mine said it was tops on her fun and fitness list, I had to see for myself and joined in a class a few months back. What I discovered was that Bollywood Grooves combines fitness moves with simple Indian dance techniques in an hour-long workout that is hotter than curry.

Bollywood, a combination of Bombay (now called Mumbai) and Hollywood, refers to the thriving Indian film industry which produces more than 800 Hindi-language films annually -- most of which are chock-a-block with song-and-dance numbers. Sarkar, who has studied classical Indian and Bengali folk dance for the past 25 years, lived for a while in London, England, where she danced with a series of Bollywood-type dance troupes.

"It's high-energy, something different, something fun," she says, describing her classes. "There's always a drum beat in the music and it's uplifting, happy, upbeat. When you think Bollywood, you think colour, enthusiasm, lots of people and lots of fun."

Now, thanks to Sarkar's talent and hard work, you can also think fitness. Fall classes (held at The National Ballet School at 400 Jarvis St. each Sunday afternoon) begin Oct. 1. The four-week courses for kids cost $60 and $75 for adults. For more information, visit bollywoodgrooves.ca or call Sarkar at 416-624-9021.

Better yet, check out Lopa's dancing and choroegraphy in this Music Video!

Gourmet Snack

Bruschetta Toasts

These snacks look and taste so gourmet, but they are the simplest thing to make. The key is good ingredients. They should be eaten right away, and the toasts should be fresh and crisp. I make them every now and then, especially for parties.

topping: tomato diced, a little red onion minced, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper, and fresh OR dried basil.
rest:
bagel OR melba toasts, black pepper goat cheese OR any other soft spreadable cheese, frisee OR sprouts.

Mix the ingredients together for the topping. Spread the goat cheese onto the crackers, a spoonful of the topping, and garnish each one with some green frisee or sprouts. I like to use sesame toasts as they have an interesting taste.

We've eaten quite a bit of Indian food this week, that yesterday and today I felt I needed a change to some other kinds of flavours. At lunch we headed out to a Mexican restaurant on campus called Panchero's. The burrito was ok, but it was no Freebirds. So tonight I made a simple spaghetti with my 'emergency' bottle of store bought pasta sauce for days when I'm too lazy to make my own. Seriously, it is SO much cheaper to make your own pasta sauce, as the really cheap ones are not very tasty and anything decent costs at least 3 dollars. A can of tomatoes is 99 cents and all you need are some dried herbs, onion, garlic, chili flakes all in olive oil to jazz it up! So spaghetti it was, and of course we made yesterday's salad to go with it. I bought some nice herb demi-baguettes from this very cute grocery store next door called 'The Produce Station', where there is amazing ambience like a local whole foods but the food is really a rip off. Some things are good there like cheese, and yes they have tastings, and yes i tasted them. mmmmn. Anyways, I picked up a great domestic parmesan there for tonight and they have ones made with no rennet! Yup, they're made with good old bacterial culture. We'll probably be back to Indian food tomorrow.


TakeIN

Feel like takeout?

My antidote to the expensive habit of ordering takeout once a week is to stock my freezer with delectable goodies that fill the craving for that high fat takeout. My latest find is California Pizza Kitchen's frozen pizza. The pizza's are thin crust so they cook very nicely in the oven. We were surprised at how good they were. Its comparable to ordering pizza in many restaurants. My husband and I have done the margharita pizza and salad combo a few times now, and it's a very inexpensive alternative to ordering that pizza. CPK frozen pizza's go for about $5.00 US and we split the pizza and make a salad to go with it. I recommend stocking your freezer with a few of them so instead of ordering that $20.00 pizza, pop one of these in the oven and trust me the 12 minute cooking time will beat a delivery guy anyday!

Shankar's Salad Dressing
red wine vinegar OR balsamic vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, salt, pepper, dried oregano, and dried italian seasoning.


Whisk the ingredients together until the oil and vinegar emulsify. Toss this with any mixed greens, tomatoes, cucumbers (or if you have apples or hard pears instead). We like to add any kind of cheese we have like shaved parmesan, or in this case peppered goat cheese. I'm a fan of nuts in my salad so I like walnuts as well.

Oooooooralakazhangu

The yummiest potato curry













My mother makes this all the time. I have to say it is one of my favourite comfort foods! So good with anything, we'd make potato curry sandwiches out of this with bread and butter, or just enjoy it with yogurt rice.

3 potatoes, peeled, diced, and cooked.
2 tsp turmeric
2 tsp red chilli powder
1 tbsp mustard seeds
oil, generous.
a pinch of asafoetida
3 tablespoons of chickpea flour

In a bowl, mix the potatoes with the chickpea flour, turmeric, and red chilli powder. Coat the potatoes like a shake'n bake. In a large pan, splutter the mustard seeds in oil and then add the pinch of asafoetida. Put in the coated potatoes and mix this thoroughly to ensure all the chickpea flour gets cooked. Mix on high heat for a few minutes, once the flour is cooked reduce the heat to low and leave the potatoes to roast and brown nicely for at least 30 minutes. Enjoy the crunchy potatoes!

The switch up below: Potato curry sandwiched in a nice kaiser roll with american cheese, toasted of course!

Mrs.Monica Gogate

In honour of our newlywed friend, this first post will be about Monica's wedding! Below is Mon's letter to us about her wedding and it sounded so good! Read on...

Hey Guys!
The wedding and the hall and everything was really nice, it was a very typical Marathi wedding but apparently more upscale than is typically expected by our community there.The hotel itself was a 3 star but because it was really new it looked very nice. and since it was on the outskirts of the city, it was quite cheap. The food and everything was typical maharashtrian/guju, and yeah i got a really nice simple mangal sutra.

Bali as you said was amazing, really nice weather. I think the actual Westin hotel was the best part. We got upgraded to a suite and everyone there was European and gorgeous. It's not like they were all 20, these women were in their 30's, had babies and looked like supermodels. We noticed that they ate tons of fruit every day and it's pretty obvious they don't really exercise. that's really more of an american craze. I actually felt like a fat American next to all of them. I have become seriously motivated to lose my stomach now and i've been pretty good since i came back, and I'm going to start taking yoga classes.
I really loved those 4 weeks i was away. Bombay as crazy as it is is somehow really addictive. You kind of hate it and love it at the same time and want to leave but then miss it once you leave. The service is always amazing and they are always sincere. I miss getting free shev puri and chai at all the clothing stores i went to.

So for the 2 weeks prior to the wedding, I was staying at my aji's place (mom's mom) in Dadar and my dad was in Mulund which is about 30 min away. Every morning he would come to Dadar to pick me up and take me shopping the whole day and then we would come home for meals which were always home made and just wonderful. My grandmother (Shashi aji) and her sister (Pammi aji) waited on me hand and foot and i hardly had to do anything. Every few minutes the doorbell would ring and there would be the maid or cook or laundry or vegetable guy. I stayed vegetarian the whole time so i didn't get sick.
In Bali, we spent a lot of time at the beach but we also ventured out and saw temples, hung out in the clubbing (Kuta) which was really gross and sketchy. We also went white water rafting and biking around the villages and country side. and we went to an Elephant Zoo and took a safari ride. Indonesian food is amazing and they absolutely love Indian people there and they watch Indian movies and know who Shah Rukh Khan is. It was pretty funny.

We also went to Singapore for a day to visit Dev's sister and it is just about the cleanest city i have ever been to.It is extremely safe, its warm, and really new and pretty. They have a street just like 5th avenue and it is very multicultural with lots of Indians and Europeans...I would totally live there if we had the opportunity. Anyway I think that should give you a pretty good idea of the trip! I'll send the pics on soon.

Monica


MONICA'S BRIDAL SHOWER BELOW -- CLICK it!


Ahhh Austin!

Austin, TXTransportation:
Southwest

Restaurants:
Freebirds
Chuy's
Malaga Tapas Bar
The GingerMan

Live Music:

The Elephant Room
The Saxon Pub

Movies:

The Alamo Drafthouse

Ahhhh Austin. Live Music Capital of America. I like Austin a lot, I visited my husband a few times when he lived there. I dont' recommend it in July (WARNING: HOT) when the evenings are beautiful but stay indoors during the day! My favourite part (note Canadian spelling) of Austin is the Tex-Mex food. My all time list topper is Freebirds where I have had the best burrito EVER. And it's only 7 bucks for EVERYTHING. They have several different kinds of salsa, and beans, and tortillas, and on and on. Plus they have cool motorocycles hanging from the ceiling. Must go there if you are in Austin. Next on the list is Chuy's, its second to Freebirds because it is not as cheap (it's still cheap generally speaking though). It is also a sit down and get served type place as opposed to Freebirds fast food atmosphere. Chuy's has a crazy diner filled with vintage elvis era memorabilia, and they have the BEST salsa (WARNING: HOT). The food is so good, but I recommend their Texas Martini. Yup, its a margarita, the best margarita you will every have, with an olive in it. Or two. And there is a limit of two Texas Martini's per customer because they are that POTENT. And we're talking about Texas where they sell beer at the gas station.

Another great spot is the Alamo Drafthouse Theatre, where you can order beer and food and watch a movie at the same time. Its great they come and serve you while the movie is going on.
Loved it. Plus there is a lot of nice sight seeing in Texas. Honestly one of the most enjoyable excursions I was taken on in Austin was to Whole Foods (they are actually an Austin based company). It is quite the experience there - maybe I'm biased because my husband took me there and we had fun buying all kinds of different ingredients and then he made me dinner. OK, i hope you get the same treatment from your significant other when you go to Whole Foods.

I had a great time listening to live music in Austin, of course. We caught some amazing bluegrass at a place called the Saxon Pub. I'd never seen anything quite like it, especially the people who get up and dance. It's a true hoedown in every sense. I especially like the fiddle players, they were truly good musicians. In general, places in Texas are far apart from each other. They love their land there. So be prepared to drive a lot. Enjoy!

I will post some pictures of my Austin trip here soon.

Montreal


Montreal
Transportation:
VIA Rail

Accomodations:

The Fairmont Queen Elizabeth

Restaurants:
Crepe Suzette
L'Academie: 4051, rue Saint-Denis Montreal, QC
H2W 2M7
(514) 849-2249
Queue de Cheval

Museums:

Montreal Museum of Fine Art

Maps:

The Underground City & Metro

I've always enjoyed sharing information on places that I've traveled to with my friends, especially restaurants, clubs, and sightseeing. So here it is, live and in colour, my travel blog. With pictures of course. (Note the Canadian spelling of colour.)

Recently my husband Shankar and I went to Montreal, Quebec to celebrate his transition to the era of responsibility aka his 30th birthday. Having already driven from Ann Arbor to Cleveland for Christmas and then to Toronto we decided to take the train straight into downtown Montreal and save ourselves another drive. What a relaxing way to travel. The highlight of our trip was staying at the Fairmont Queen Elizabeth, I called ahead and reserved the Bell Canada corporate rate of $129/night (they didn't ask for id during checkin!). The hotel is beautiful, and connected to the VIA station very similar to the Royal York in Toronto. We went for three days and two nights, which was just enough time to see a few places and have a good time.

Day 1: Despite heading to Montreal in the dead of winter we still forayed all over the city by means of the amazing undergound PATH system. Its much better than Toronto's. The first day we spent walking to Old Montreal (which we did above ground so as to take pictures and froze in the process!) We crossed Notre Dame, landed up in Old Montreal, and just wandered around until we found a restaurant with a menu that suited our mood. Crepes Suzette! A great place with fantastic crepes, and decently priced menu. We enjoyed a very leisurely meal as we listened to the sounds of people chattering away in french all around us. We then headed back to our hotel in a taxi, of course making a stop at the local SAQ. The highlight of the afternoon was a church next door to our hotel that is simply beautiful, La Marie Riene du Monde. Very peaceful, and totally took me back to Paris and Italy where my girlfriend Geeta and I went to some spectacular churches.

I actually made use of a few hours that Shankar needed to fiinish some school work by going to the excellent gym facilities at the hotel. A workout and a few glasses of wine later my good friend Anand Pavamani stopped by. Anand is a childhood friend of mine who decided to make the move from good old Toronto to Montreal, and he is loving it. It shows, he looks great! He took us to this fantastic restaurant called L'academie. The ambience was very NY, but better since there people were all french and very friendly. Our appetizers were very good. Again an SAQ right next door and you can bring your own bottles of wine to the restaurant, where they charge you a small corking fee. Amazing! After dinner Anand took us to the Middle Eastern quarter of Montreal, which really reminded me of the Latin Quarter in Paris. One of the crazes that has taken over Montreal is the sheesha cafe. They don't serve liquor, but you can get these incredible tea's that are very savory along with a whole variety of sheesha's. We tried the ultimate combo, and it was very good. The cool thing about this place is they have flat screens all over the place playing Middle Eastern music video's that are totally addictive to watch! This place rocked.

Day 2: We headed out to the Museum of Fine Arts, walking to the subway underground and grabbing panini's on the way. The underground is full of these amazing european bistro's and cafe's with amazing food. The museums in Montreal are so much better than those in Toronto. The collections are better, we saw a lot of really nice Renaissance paintings (some as old as 1100 AD), and my favourite modern masters like Picasso and Monet. Their contemporary art collection is pretty interesting too, most impressive being the size of some of the works. I mean you need a Museum to house it! We headed back onto the metro, and walked through the underground again doing a little shopping. They even have an Eaton Centre in Montreal!

Back to our hotel, a few more glasses of wine and we were ready to go out for Shankar's birthday dinner. I took him to a restaurant that was recommended to me by three friends, and it lived up to the expectations. If you are in the mood for a hearty meal with exceptional service and ambiance try Queue de Cheval in downtown Montreal. Again it was down the street from our hotel (great location!).

Day 3: We got up late, checked out and left our bags with the concierge. After grabbing a nice lunch at one of the cafe's in the train station, we headed outside since it was actually pleasant and sunny! We walked around town, mailed out a few postcards and headed up to McGill University. It totally reminded me of UofT, being smack in the middle of downtown Montreal with the older type of architecture. It was a pleasant walk and we grabbed some hot drinks on our way back. Grabbed our bags, and a few slices of pizza for the train ride home. My ultimate relaxation could really be described as some good munchies, a good book, and a comfortable quiet place to read! A great way to end our trip.

Click below to see a slide show of our trip!

Montreal

Pongal: Part Deux



During the final day, Kaanum Pongal — the word kaanum means 'to view' — people, especially storekeepers, visit beaches and theme parks. During the Pongal season, people also chew sugar cane and decorate the houses with kolam. (Taken from Wikipedia.) For Kannu, my m-in-law told me to make mixed rices, roll them into balls to offer to the birds.
The key ingredients for the following recipes are for the seasoning of the rice. You'll only need a teaspoon or so of each.

Urad Daal
Channa Daal
Dried Red Chillies
Curry Leaves
just a pinch of asafoetida (very strong flavour, a little goes a looooong way).
fenugreek (again about half a teaspoon might be enough depending on the quantity of rice).
Here are the five types of rice!

1. Puliodharai, Tamarind Rice














1. Splutter mustard seeds, urad daal, channa daal, asafoetida, red dried chillis, a few fenugreek seeds, curry leaves and peanuts.
2. Add tamarind paste and cook.
3. Add the puliodharai spice mixture (recipe to follow) and cook.
4. Add the cooked rice with salt and mix.

2. Sakkarai Sadham, Sugar Rice













1. Melt a few tablespoons of jaggery in a little water.
2. Add a few tablespoons of grated coconut. Let the sauce thicken.
3. Add coooked rice, and mix. Let cook a little.
4. Top with roasted cashewnuts in ghee.

3. Theynga Sadham, Coconut Rice













1. Soak a handful of urad daal in water, until they become soft.
2. Splutter mustard seets, and sautee the urad daal. Add dried red chillis, large pieces of green chili, a few curry leaves, and a pinch of asafoetida.
3. Add a handful of roasted, grated coconut.
4. Add cooked rice and mix with salt.

4. Thayir Sadham, Yogurt Rice













1. Mix rice with a tablespoon of diced ginger, salt and chopped coriander.
2. Splutter mustard seeds in oil, and add chopped green chili. Add to the rice.
3. Mix with yogurt, a quarter cup of hot milk, and buttermilk if available.
4. Garnish with coriander, or grapes.

5. Thakali Sadham, Tomato Rice -- This is one that I added myself because I thought it added a nice red colour to all my rice balls!













1. Splutter mustard seeds, urad daal, channa daal, fenugreek seeds, curry leaves, a few dried red chillies, and a pinch of asafoetida.
2. Add rice and a few tablespoons of Thakali Thokku.
3. Mix and add salt to taste.

A portion of the rices should be rolled into individual balls, and placed outside for the birds to enjoy. All part of Thanksgiving, and I remember my mother doing this with us as children! Well, my riceballs have been out there for a day, and it looks like Michigan birds do NOT like rice. But it could be because the balls are completely frozen now!

It's a White Pongal















Pongal
(Tamil: பொங்கல்) is a Hindu festival to give thanks for the harvest. Pongal in Tamil means 'boiling over'. Traditionally celebrated at harvest time, it is a celebration of the prosperity associated with the event. (Taken from Wikipedia.) I got my 'Happy Pongal' phonecall the other day from my dear m-in-law, along with the prerequisite recipes that I was to prepare for celebrating Pongal in Michigan. Pongal is a three day festival, but I only did two days of it minus any religious pooja's. The first day required making two kinds of pongal; sakkarai pongal and venpongal. To go along with that I made a green pepper sambar, and also another important element - the vadai. Deep fried lentil goodness. Recipes to follow, first here are the pictures.














Venpongal

Moong daal, patna rice, water, ginger, whole peppercorns, slt, turmeric, asafoetida, jeera, cashewnuts, ghee.

1:2, Paasi parupu: Arisi rice
1: 1.5, Paasi : Water
1: 2, Arisi : Water
1. Roast the Paasi parupu.
2. Place the paasi and arisi into a cooker along with the water, 2 tbsp crushed ginger, 1 tbsp ground pepper, salt, 1 tsp turmeric, and a dash of asafoetida. Pressure cook for 5-6 whistles. An alternative is to cook it in a rice cooker. You may need to add water and keep cooking the venpongal until the paasi is fully cooked and can be incorporated into the rice.
3. Splutter 1 tbsp jeeragam, 1 tsp whole peppercorns, and cashewnuts in ghee, add to the rice mixture.

Sambar
The combination for venpongal is traditionally gotsu (recipe to follow later), but since I did not have an egglplant I simply made sambar which is also ok. Check out the sambar recipe on my bro-in-law's website.

Sakkarai Pongal
Written by my Mother in Law!! This is authentic.

Raw rice , moong dhal (paasi paruppu), vellam/Gud (jaggery), cardamom, cashews, raisins, saffron-1 pinch, ghee, pacha kalpooram (edible camphor)

(Rice 1 cup, dhal 1/8 cup)
1. Take a skillet & on med heat dry roast the dhal to light brown.
2. Roast the rice till the rice turns solid white!
3. Take a dish which can hold up to 6 cups of liquid. Place the rice& dhal into that & add 2 1/2 cups of milk & 1 1/2 cup of water and pressure cook it say 4 whistles or after the weight starts spinning (in the presto cookers) keep the cooker for 5mts on med heat heat!
4. After the pressure subsides...remove the pot & mix the cooked rice well
5. Add 1 1/8 cup jaggery& put it on low to med heat let the jaggery melt completely. Add the saffron now
6. Let it boil for some time [let the whole thing come to idly maavu consistency]
7. Take a shallow skillet add 2 tbsp of ghee& put it on med heat. Add the cashews(break them in to half) when it starts to roast add the raisins also. Let the cashews become golden brown & the raisins turn in to balls! Pour the whole thing in to the pongal. Add the powdered cardamom & just very little [like a vendayam (fenugreek) size] of the pacha kalpooram. If you put too much the pongal can become bitter, so be care full adding this stuff.


Vadai
1:1:1/2:1/4, green split peas: channa dal: toor daal: urad daal
dried red chillis, asafoetida, salt, curry leaves

1. Soak the daals in quite a bit of water for at least 1 hour, then drain.
2. Grind the daals coarsely with very little water, dried red chillis, salt, and asafoetida.
3. Add a few ripped curry leaves.
4. Deep fry balls of these in hot oil. There is a method to this, you should flatten little balls of this dough in your palm and slide it into the oil.
5. Brown them nicely.
I didn't know how to do this so I used the two spoon method, where you scoop the dough out of one spoon with the other until it forms a little roll and slide it into the oil. The trick is to make sure the dough doesn't have too much water, because excess water will splash and splutter out of the oil and CAN BURN YOU BADLY. Be careful when deep frying!!!

See the final product! I am proud to say I got an A+ on this meal from my husband. I think he was just very hungry, but I'll take it whenever I get it!!! See our glorious feast below. (Ok glorious for two newlyweds!)

Thakali Thokku


Tomato Chutney is such a wonderful thing. I especially love the South Indian version that my m-in-law taught me.

mustard seeds, asafoetida, curry leaves, tomatoes (1 can or fresh equivalent chopped), turmeric, chili powder, tamarind, fenugreek, oil.

1. Splutter mustard seeds, a pinch of asafoetida, and curry leaves in oil.
2. Add tomatoes (either fresh or canned diced), 2 tsp of turmeric, and 2 tsp of red chili powder.
3. Add the strained juice of a 1" ball of tamarind soaked in water.
4. Add ground, roasted fenugreek seeds.
5. Cook this until the oil separates from the tomatoes.

My husband introduced me to this combination - Thakali Thokku and COTTAGE CHEESE! I kid you not, it is soooo good!