Kanchana's Gallery: Home

A few things from my home....hope you enjoy them as much as I do!
Below: Kanchana meets Shankar.
I fell in love with this Shiva Parvathi when I was in Madras, so my Dad bought if for me.
These are all over the place now, but I still like this Ganesha welcoming everyone into my home. The silver lamps and bowls were all gifts from our family friends at our wedding in Madras.
This lovely Ganesh is a wedding gift from Madras.

South Indian Spices 101

I love the anjaraipetti (box with 5 spaces) that my mom gave me. It's a really useful item in my kitchen set up. A lot of my friends look at the recipes that I post and say they look good but seem very complicated. The key to easy cooking is having a well stocked kitchen. Cooking is no fun if you have nothing at home and you have to start by making a long trip to multiple stores. If you really want to cook South Indian food, start with an anjaraipetti! That is get these basic spices. My version of the spice box has grown to include a few other key ingredients.

Look at the picture below, and start at 12:00.1. Venthaiyam, Fenugreek
2. Urad Daal, Skinned and split black lentils
3. Channa Daal, Chickpea Lentil
4. Milagai Vetral, Dried Red Chillis
5. Milagu, Whole Black Peppercorns
6. Dhania , Coriander Seeds
7. Kadugu, Mustard Seeds
8, Jeera, Cumin Seeds (centre)

The spices in bold would be the ones you'd find in the traditional anjaraipetti. If you keep these, a jar of asafetida and some curry leaves on hand, you'll be able to whip up many South Indian dishes easily.

Lazy Lunch: Grill Cheese and Tomato Soup

I get lazy a lot when it comes to cooking, and there are some busy days when all you have time and energy for is to assemble a quick lunch out of the refrigerator. The other day's lunch was one of these moments - Grilled cheese and vegetable soup. C'mon you foodies, even you can admit to one of these lazy thrown together affairs. I like to jazz up my grilled cheese a bit with herbs I have on hand, and keeping interesting sliced cheeses in the fridge. The last few days I've been updating a lot about the look of my site, and amidst all of this we had a few people over to eat. I didn't find time to take pictures of a lot of our cooking, as it got eaten up pretty quickly! Anyways, every post can't be gourmet.

Grilled Cheese, jazzed up
any bread on hand, sliced cheese ( I used jalapeno), sliced green peppers, cilantro, red onion (optional)

1. Layer the cheese, peppers, and cilantro between the bread.
2. Toast it on the grill in butter.

Sometimes I even add a magic ingredient to this -- Maggie Masala Tomato Chili Sauce!

Asian Eggplant Soup

Today my husband decided to make us a soup for lunch. Asian soups have been some of his best creations in the kitchen. As he was 'randomly' throwing things into the soup, he decided to call it Kaat Soup, which apparently alludes to something that has everything in it(sarcastically). Well his soup was really good, and I recommend you try it out! I hope we still have this much fun when both of us start working, I can't tell you how much fun it is to wake up and not have to go to work, and to top it off your husband cooks up a wicked good lunch. Man, this is the life, but I digress. I had a great time taking these pictures.
Asian Eggplant Soup
1 tsp ginger, 1 tsp minced green chili, freshly ground black pepper, thai basil, red onion sliced, eggplant and carrot julienned, thinly sliced mushrooms, cabbage shredded, knorr asian hot and spicy soup powder, 2-3 tsp soy sauce, 2 tsp szechuan sauce, 36 oz vegetable stock

1. Saute the ginger and green chili in butter. Add the black pepper, and thai basil.
2. Saute the onion, eggplant, cabbage and mushrooms until the onions become translucent.
3. Add the vegetable stock, and bring to a simmer.
4. Add the soy sauce, szechuan sauce, and the soup mix and continue to simmer for a few minutes until it thickens up.
5. Add the carrots and let them blanch in the soup.
6. Garnish with cilantro and serve hot.

*Shankar only used very ittle quantities of the vegetables. This is great for 2 people.

Azen Arts by Lakshmi

My friend Lakshmi is a woman of many talents; she paints, she dances, she sings, she is a mother of two, and a full time homemaker. Plus she has a degree in Gerontology. As I said, MANY talents. Her latest endeavor is a new fine arts based company called Azen Arts, where she creates custom art pieces incorporating Asian styles of Meena Kari, Sand Painting, and Clay Molding.

Her stunning large scale pieces are all displayed in her home gallery. My sister Savithri and I went to visit Lakshmi, her husband Vijay and their two daughters Anya and Anika the other day. Upon entering the house we were literally like, 'Can't talk -- must see all your paintings first!'. They were so dramatic and captivating, it left us a bit speechless for a while. I am a fan of the home galleries, and I love to visit my friends who have put a lot of effort into decorating their homes. Its so much fun to see how people incorporate their own sense of style and aesthetic into home decorating. Lakshmi's house was no exception to this and we enjoyed our tour immensely.

Sitting down and talking to her we learned that she not only takes wonderful care of her two daughters (evident in the amazing playrooms built and decorated by her and Vijay), but she still makes time to create new art pieces in her lovely studio. Lakshmi has not let go of her dancing either, having recently performed a solo Bharatha Natyam piece for a show in Toronto last year. Lakshmi definitely is a friend who inspires me to look at work life balance. I think she has hit upon a successful formula!

You can see more of her paintings at her website www.azenarts.com. She is also available to create large scale pieces for company lobbies, and to show her work at art galleries.

South Indian Style

Not wanting to be outdone by my father, my mother made us an amazing lunch today. We decided to take pictures of it as it would traditionally be served in South India on a banana leaf. Luckily my mother is not only an amazing cook, but she also has a green thumb being a Masters in Botany! So her home is filled with beautiful plants that remind her of her childhood in Madras. It'll be -20C outside here in Toronto, and she'll have jasmine flowers blooming inside next to mini banana trees, tulasi plants, and of course her precious Karivepilai (curry leaf) plant.

Today's lunch was a consequence of our grocery shopping trip to our local China town. The 'GTA' (Greater Toronto Area!) is lucky to have such a large ethnic population that the downtown Chinatown is beginning to be dwarfed by the local variations that are popping up. Lucky for us we have our own just 20 minutes away, and you should see the varieties of vegetables and things they have there. I will do a post on that soon (wish I had taken my camera this time). Anyways we came away with gorgeous podalanga (snake gourd), kothavaranga (french cluster beans), chou chou (chayote squash), sorrakai (bottlegourd), baby bok choy, keerai (spinach), and vazhakai (green banana), and slender mulangi (daikon) all pictured here. On top of that we also bought fresh guava, bananas, grapefruit, and fresh peanuts!

So with that the menu ended up being as follows; podalanga curry, keerai masiyal, chou chou kootu, mulangi sambar accompanied by homemade vadam, lemon pickle, mango pickle, and sweet payasam. Amma also whipped up some of her crunchy vadai's.

Chou Chou Kootu (Chayote Squash Stew)
2 tbsp moong daal, 2 tbsp channa daal, 2 chayote squash peeled and diced, 1 tsp cumin seeds, 2 tbsp ground coconut, 1 medium green chili, 1 tsp mustard seeds,1 tsp urad daal, a pinch of asafetida, 5-6 curry leaves

1. Soak the daals in a little water for 1 hour.
2. Cook the daals in water (or pressure cook them).
3. Add the chou chou after about 5- 10 minutes of cooking the daal, with salt and a few curry leaves.
3. Add 2 tsp of cumin seeds to this.
4. Grind the coconut and green chili with some water and add this to the boiling mixture.
5. After this has all cooked together splutter the mustard seeds and then add the urad daal seeds, asafetida and curry leaves. Add this to the mixture and serve hot.

Podalanga Curry (Snake gourd curry)
1 snake gourd diced (with the ends cut and the insides scraped out), 1 tsp urad daal, 1 tsp mustard seeds, 2 dried red chillis (or 1 tsp chili flakes), a pinch of asafetida, and a few curry leaves

1. Splutter the mustard seeds, add the urad daal with the asafetida and curry leaves.
2. Add the podalanga and 1 tsp water. Steam this with the lid covered.
3. You can add 2 tsp of curry powder, or sambar powder for additional flavour to this.

Keerai Masiyal (Spinach Stew)
1 bunch of spinach, 1 tsp cumin seeds, 1 tsp urad daal, a few whole black peppercorns, 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper, a pinch of asafetida, 2 dried red chillis (or 1 tsp of chili flakes), ground coconut

1. Splutter the cumin seeds. Add the urad daal, peppercorns, black pepper, asafetida and the red chillis.
2. Once they have roasted add the chopped spinach. Add a little water and cook this down with salt.
3. Once this has cooked, add the ground coconut.
* You can also add some ground skinned almonds if you would like to reduce the fat of the coconut, and my mother adds interesting things like roasted pumpkins seeds as well.
**Another variation on this would be to do 1/2 broccoli florets and 1/2 spinach.
*** You could also add 1 tsp of yogurt to this at the end for yet another version.

More pictures below including Amma's indoor garden.


Hello all,

Some new work going on with my website, most recently my own domain name! Welcome to "marriedtoadesi.com". Please bear with me as I will be updating this site and the links.

(www.kanchspot.blogspot.com will still forward to this site, but if you can please update your bookmarks!)

Also feel free to give me feedback on the name...so far both positive and negative, but hey I'm interested to hear what you all think! My main motivation was to choose something that was easy to remember, and interesting enough to invite someone to come visit while still telling something about the content of the site.

Thanks for coming to visit, and keep checking back to see the updates.


Fluffy snow white......IDLY!!

To counteract the freezing cold fluffy white snow outside my Dad made hot fluffy snow white idlies today! My Dad's idlies are really soft and perfect. We relished them with yennai milagai podi and sambar. There are a few things I really look forward to when visiting my parents in Toronto, and one of them is my Dad's oorakai (hot mango pickle), and another is his idly. Anyways, father and daughter have been having fun together. Yesterday we went to the local Saravana Bhavan and gorged on delicous Onion Rava Masala Dosai with coconut chutney and hot Madras coffee. Today was home cooked yumminess. I've been spoiled with my family competing with each other to feed me all these dishes. I think Savithri will be putting up a post soon with the recipe for her awesome Paneer Achari.

I seem to have problems with yogurt and idly/dosa batters rising in Michigan as my oven doesn't have a light, nor is my toaster oven big enough. But I make them anyways, they rise about a few centimetres and still taste good. In the summer they rise like crazy though! Any uselful tips are welcome!

1 part par boiled rice (puzhungal arisi), 2 parts urad daal, 6 parts patna rice

1. Soak the combined rices in a bowl. Soak the urad daal separately in water for appoximately 12 -16 hours. Do not strain the water afterwards. Just barely cover the rice and lentils with water at all times. Do not soak for too long or else it will STINK.
2. Very finely grind the urad daal separately into a fine paste.
3. Coarsely grind the rice.
4. Mix the ground rice and urad daal paste together. Add salt, and mix it thoroughly (like 40 times!) to incorporate the ingredients.
5. Place this into the oven with just the light on for 12 hours for the batter to rise.
6. As soon as it rise, remove from the oven, and stir the mixture.
5. Grease the idly molds and fill them with the batter.
6. Steam these in a rice cooker, or in a large pot with a some boiling water for 20-25 minutes.
7. You could also pressure cook them for about 10-12 minutes.
8. Unmold the idlies with a plastic knife and serve immediately.

Would you like fries with that?

Oven Roasted Potatoes are a good thing. We were in a lazy mood for lunch the other day, neither my husband nor I felt much like cooking anything. I always keep veggie burgers in the freezer, and all kinds of flavours like regular and black bean too. So I figured we'd jazz up the meal with some oven roasted 'fries'. It was somewhat of an experiment as I had never made these before.

The cooking time was approximately 30 minutes. So this isn't a quick dish, but it still fits in with the Rachel Ray 30 minute meal format!

Oven Roasted Fries
1 large potato cut into wedges, olive oil, oregano, basil, salt, black pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 450 C.
2. Coat the potatoes with the oil and spices.
3. Lay them flat on a baking sheet with cooking spray.
4. Bake on the top rack for 30 minutes. (I did not need to flip them actually.)

Verdict: These were best eaten hot out of the oven! Have the burgers ready and then pull these out and toss onto the plate ready to eat. My husband ate most of them right off the baking tray. I ate them even when they were cold.

Alpha Cooks

This morning I read an article in the New York Times entitled "He Cooks. She Stews. It’s Love." that rung very true to me. It's about the recent phenomenon of 'alpha cooks'. I'm always endlessly fascinated with human psychology and the different ways that the genders interact with each other. The article talks about women in the kitchen who have become intimidated to cook by their alpha cook husbands. It's an interesting topic given that traditionally (in a lot of cultures), the role of the cook has fallen to the woman of the house. Seems like now with the advent of people developing gourmet tastes and learning all kinds of culinary skills from FoodTV, even men are into cooking.

The cooking is usually done by the women in both my husband's family and mine but the interesting thing is despite their resemblance to certain male stereotypes all the men are incredible cooks. My father, my father-in-law, my husband, his brothers, and his uncles all cook very well, and of course demand good food to be served to them. I think they learned to cook from eating the amazing food our grandmothers would prepare, and they learned from seeing food preparation around them and hearing people talk about it. I think it ultimately comes down to their highly developed palates for Indian food. When one eligible suitor came to visit me for the first time, I cooked some dishes to 'impress' him and try to show of my Indian bride-to-be skills. I made chole, mattar paneer, and rasamalai. I think the chole and rasamalai turned out pretty well, and the mattar paneer - lets just say I was on a health kick and decided that baking the paneer would be a good idea. Little did I know you are supposed to soak that in water afterwards, or some such technique, so it doesn't get rubbery. I still haven't lived that down.

After getting married (yes, he still proposed to me after eating the baked paneer) I was so scared to enter the kitchen, because my husband has a reputation in his family for being an amazing cook. He IS a great cook, so is my brother in law, and my sister in law is too. Don't even ask about my mother in law and their aunts, or my mother and my aunts. This was too much for me, little Kanch from Canada who never grew up in India, who couldn't possibly be expected to make a decent sambar let alone a full South Indian meal. Yes my friends, against the cultural expectations of a new Indian bride my husband would make me rasam sadham and bring it to me in a bowl. What service! Those were the days (lowered expectations really pay off!).

So anyhow after all of these humiliations and failings at cooking (there were many more such baking paneer experiments gone awry) I found my secret weapon. A 3 week cooking boot camp from my mother-in-law. And now my husband cannot complain as the recipes are just the way his mother makes them, and boy has being unemployed allowed me to practice a lot! Now I can whip up sambar and rasam like the rest of them. Having an alpha cook husband has actually been a real asset to me. In the beginning I would take serious offense to any 'criticism' of my skills (yes, i would go off and have a little cry every now and then). Now that I have accepted my role as student I really try to learn a lot from those who have some skills. And having a husband who can tell me what can be improved in a dish is a plus in developing great recipes and technique. Especially when I have never even eaten some of these dishes before!

Check out the NY Times article if you can. I really feel that learning to cook has given me a lot of confidence, and it is a great life skill. One of the greatest in fact. The confidence is probably more from my husband regularly asking me to prepare meals for him and requesting items too. Here's to cooking a nice meal for your alpha mate on Valentines Day, Cheers!

ps. Yes my husband is cutting bread he made himself, from scratch.

Soup's On!

My husband makes great soups, and the secret to them is in the stock. He makes a batch of stock every now and then, so when we feel like it we pull it out of the freezer and make quick and delicious soups. Stocks are fairly easy things to make, its a question of remembering to pick up those ingredients at the grocery store. Last night we made up some stock, and then Shankar made another variation on his classic Corn Soup. It was pretty good, and we rounded out the night with a nice fresh French baguette dipped in olive oil with crushed red flakes, and some salad topped with Parmesan shavings. This is another great tip for your kitchen, make stock and keep it on hand. You can do all kinds of things with it; cook rice in it, use as a flavouring agent in any dish, and of course make soups.

Vegetable Stock
You can put any vegetables in here that are hard. Do not use soft mushy vegetables as they will do bad things to your stock. Here are a few examples of veggies we put into our stock:
1 leek, 1/2 a bunch of celery, 2 carrots, 1 large onion, outer cabbage leaves, fennel, broccoli stalks, cauliflower stalks. Here are a few examples of seasoning you can add: parsley, basil, lemongrass stalks, coriander, ginger, thai basil, mint (in a small quantity).

1. Simmer a large pot of water on the stove.
2. Add the whole vegetables to the stock pot. You may want to put them in large pieces, so they fit easily. Add the seasoning
3. Simmer for a few hours and you will smell a lovely fragrance when it is done.
4. Strain the vegetables and any dirt out using a cheesecloth.
5. Reserve the liquid, I recommend freezing it in portions.

Corn Soup
2 cups of soup stock, 2 cups of frozen corn, 1 small onion, handful of grated carrot, handful of chopped tomatoes, parsely, basil, salt and pepper.

1. Saute the onion in butter, and add the tomato and carrot and cracked black pepper.
2. Add the stock and simmer for about 5 minutes.
3. Microwave the corn, blend it finely, and add it to the stock.
4. Cook the soup for another few minutes until it thickens nicely, constantly stirring.
5. Salt the soup. You could add a little cream if you wanted.
6. Serve garnished with parsley.
Verdict: Having a husband who is a good cook helps a lot.

Cutlet of Goodness

I love browsing the net in search of recipes. I rarely buy cookbooks since there is such a plethora of information about cooking on the internet. Besides, I love looking at two or three recipes and adopting my own based on what's in my pantry. The other day I found a delicious sounding recipe for Vegetable Cutlets on Mumbai Masala. As per one of my tips, I did have a boiled diced potato waiting to be used in my fridge, and of course I always have frozen mixed vegetables on hand. So today after volunteering, I came home and found my husband sitting in the living room when I thought he was at school. A perfect opportunity to test out this recipe. His friend Sachin came over just as we were frying them up, so I had two hungry guinea pigs. Below is the verdit, but first the recipe. This amount was perfect for a quick snack, 3-4 cutlets a person. But I think I could have made more....

Vegetable Cutlets * adapted from Mumbai Masala
1 large boiled diced potato, 1/2 cup frozen mixed vegetables (carrots, beans, peas, corn), 1/2 cup shredded diced cabbage, a few tbsp of minced red onion, 1 large green chili chopped, 1 tbsp grated ginger, 1 tsp garam masala, 1 tsp dhania jeera powder, a dash of amchur, a dash of anardhana, chopped cilantro, a few tbsp of all purpose flour, a few tablespoons of cornmeal or breadcrumbs.

1. Microwave the vegetables for a few minutes until cooked.
2. Mash vegetables with the potatoes and a little all purpose flower for binding.
3. The recipe calls to grind the ginger, chili, (and I would add the cilantro here too). I forgot to do this step and just threw them into the mixture chopped which was perfectly fine too.
4. Add the masala powders, salt, and mix together.
5. Make a paste out of the all purpose flour and water.
6. Rub some oil on your hands, then roll the potato mixture into balls and flatten them in the palm of your hand.
7. Dip this into the flour paste, and then roll the cutlet in the cornmeal or breadcrumbs.
8. Fry them in oil on medium temperature on both sides.

We found these were best served with Maggie Masala Chili Sauce!
Verdict: Sachin loved them, Shankar said they were 'bloody good', and they both wanted more but I had eaten the rest.

More Veggies!

I don't think I would eat that much broccoli or okra if I didn't know these South Indian recipes. Incorporating vegetables into a regular meal plan is so much easier with the South Indian Meal formula:
2 vegetable curry (eg. spinach, broccoli, okra, beans, cabbage, cauliflower, vazhakkai, potato)
1 salad (eg. carrot, cucumber, tomato, radish, celery, lettuce, fruit)
1 lentil stew dish (e.g. rasam, sambar, vetral kuzhambu, more kuzhambu, poricha kuzhambu, kootu)
yogurt or buttermilk
hot pickle
Its so easy to prepare meals when you have this formula to go by. I mean what I have written above is for an ideal lunch, but you can reduce it if only 1 or 2 people are eating. We usually have 1 curry, sometimes a salad, a sambar or rasam, rice, and buttermilk. I always keep hot pickles like vadu mangai or avvakai in the fridge.
This morning I decided I wanted to finish yesterday's rasam and so I made 2 curries to go along with it (in accordance with my theory that leftover food tastes better with something fresh). This afternoon's lunch was rasam, broccoli curry, okra curry, and buttermilk, with some sambar on the side and avakkai pickle. It was pretty good.

Broccoli Curry
1 ziploc bag of frozen chopped broccoli florets, 1 tsp mustard seeds, 1 tsp urad daal, 2 dried red chillis, a pinch of asafetida.

1. Splutter the mustard seeds, and then roast the urad daal, red chillis, and asafetida.
2. Add the broccoli, mix on medium heat, and then cover and steam over a lower heat.

Okra Curry
1 cup frozen okra chopped, 1 tsp mustard seeds, 1/4 tsp fenugreek seeds, curry leaves, a pinch of asafetida, turmeric, 1 dried red chili, 1 split green chili, 1 tbsp of yogurt.

1. Splutter the mustard seeds in oil, add the fenugreek seeds, curry leaves, and asafetida.
2. Add the okra and after a few minutes add the yogurt mixed with turmeric.
3. Cook this through.

Verdict: My husband commented that the broccoli could be a better quality, and the vendakkai though gooey still tasted great. Supposedly the yogurt can help the okra from becoming gooey. If anyone has any other suggestions please post them for vendakkai!

Garden Vegetable

Yesterday morning I had a hankering for garden vegetable cream cheese on my bagel. Of course I only had plain cream cheese, so I made my own (and I think its better than the store bought version!)

Veggie Garden Cream Cheese
plain cream cheese, minced carrot, diced tomato, diced cucumber, sliced green onion, chopped parsely, salt and pepper to taste.

Mix all the ingredients together, and enjoy!

Leftover Lunch

Lunch is such a wonderful meal when one is unemployed and staying home. Last night we went to the MBA Happy Hour and had a great time with our friends. Thursday evenings are a highlight in my week. Anyways it was filled with lots of yummy junk food that we ate outside like steak fries (no mom, there is no steak in it, they are just thick cut fries), battered and fried mozzarella sticks, and pizza from NYPD. So this morning for me required a bit of detox, with a laaaate lunch. I volunteered this morning (Working with an Austistic Child in the Son-Rise Program. I will write more on that later in my friends section. Stay tuned). Of course I came back around noon and wanted a nice hot meal but didn't want to cook it all from scratch.
What to do but scrounge around in the fridge for leftovers. Ever done that? Opened the fridge and just stared inside, not liked anything and closed it up without taking anything out. Glass refrigerator doors are a good thing, when I grow up I am going to get one. Anyways, back to my lunch.
So lo and behold, I had some edible leftovers. Enough for two people to eat very well; cabbage curry, beans curry, cauliflower curry, carrot salad, and green pepper sambar.

Well I've come up with a theory that leftover foods taste better when there is one fresh dish. So I whipped up a piping hot rasam, using of course toor daal that I had cooked and diligently kept in my freezer, in ziploc bag servings for such lazy occasions. Lunch was served. I didn't take pictures of the second course; buttermilk and rice, green pepper sambar on the side, and of course my dad's avakkai pickle. By then my hand was messy from eating and I wasn't about to interrupt my degustation to take pictures.

Beans Curry
1 cup thinly diced beans, 1 tsp mustard seeds, 1 tsp urad daal, 2 dried red chillies, curry leaves, asafetida a pinch, a pinch of sugar.

1. Steam the beans for 3-4 minutes in the microwave.
2. Splutter the mustard seeds in oil, then roast the urad daal, asafetida, curry leaves, and dried red chillies.
3. Add the beans and mix with salt. My Lalli periamma gave me a secret to add a pinch of sugar to the beans if you are not adding the traditional grated coconut.
4. Let this steam on low heat until the beans are nice and tender.

1.5 cups water, tomatoes diced, 1/4 cup of tamarind juice, 1 tbsp rasam powder, salt, curry leaves, 1/2 cup cooked toor daal, asafetida, mustards seeds, cumin seeds, cilantro to garnish.

1. Boil the tomatoes in the tamarind juice, with rasam powder, salt, curry leaves and water.
2. Once the powder has cooked and smells lovely, add the cooked daal. Turn off the heat at this point.
3. Splutter the mustard seeds in ghee, add the cumin seeds, asafetida, and curry leaves until the ghee foams. Add to the rasam, and garnish with chopped cilantro.

I recommend not keeping food for more than a week in the fridge, simply because after a week you begin to forget when you made it and it will start to go bad! But I am always impressed when my mother in law puts together things from my fridge and never wastes anything! And yes guys, even the rice was reheated! (I know blasphemy in some circles).

Verdict: Thumbs up from my husband.

The Amazing Asma Arshad

Asma and I met while we were on the board for Toronto's Masala!Mehndi!Masti! Festival. I noticed her because well, she is strikingly beautiful with an outgoing elegant personality to compliment her looks. We got along very well, and have traipsed all over the city together organizing events for MMM, which gave us ample time to really get to know each other. The thing that strikes me the most about Asma, is not the fact that she is an incredibly accomplished artist/painter/sculpture, or that she is community leader with several successful social enterprise ventures, but that she is an amazing mother and friend. The woman looks not a day over 35 and she is the mother of teenage twin girls. Asma has such a warm presence about her, that it is hard not to be welcomed into her fold.

An artist by nature, Asma's paintings line the walls of her personal gallery in her Mississauga home. What a wonderful feeling it is to walk into the home of a painter and see their personal touches all around you. HGTV has nothing on Asma. Last year she ran the first MOSAIC Festival in Mississauga which received critical acclaim and was featured as far as newspapers in Chicago. I know, I was in Chicago and picked up an Indian newspaper and found myself looking my dear friend Asma!

The MOSAIC Festival aims to reach out to the mainstream community and share with them the wonders of South Asian Art, Music, Dance, and Theatre. What could be more fabulous? That is what I really love about Asma, her work has always been focused on educating youth and the next generation, and sharing her experience and expertise with the community. She is true social entrepreneur.

Drop by her website www.asmaarshad.ca and check out her gallery. You can also read more about her community outreach with art, and check upcoming events for the MOSAIC Festival at http://www.cre8iv80studio.com/.

The Dancer by Asma Arshad
(image copied with artist's permission)

Sourdough bread, Michigan Madrasi Style - Uthappam

After making all kinds of cheese dosai and masala dosai, today I decided to make uthappam for lunch. Some days I just don't feel like making anything for myself (especially if it's only me at home for lunch), and I'll just warm up soup and eat endless amounts of toast and cheese. And of course let's not forget my personal obsession with potato chips. But I digress. This post has been aptly named sourdough bread because that is really what uthappam is, a very sour thick bread-like dosai. I love how a little bit of effort in making dosai batter can be stretched out in so many different ways. Basically the longer the dosai batter sits around in your fridge the more sour it becomes. So use dosai batter a week old for this.

Today's uthappam is kind of an experiment, as I don't have any formal recipe or method from the goddesses of cooking (my mom or mil). Here it is!

Sour dosai batter, cumin seeds, mustard seeds, green chili sliced (or jalapeno's as I have used), ginger (optional), tomatoes diced, green pepper diced, onion minced, curry leaves or cilantro chopped.

1. Spread a tsp of oil onto a hot griddle. I usually keep a little bowl of oil infused with cumin seeds for making these uthappams. So this way the cumin seeds can be roasted up on the griddle and added to the uthappam in the process.
2. Add 1 ladle of the dosai batter and spread it out, similar to dosai but not as smoothly, it should be quite thick.
3. The veggies should be mixed up ahead of time, and at this point you can sprinkle them onto the dough, so they can adhere to the wet batter.
4. I also sprinkled a few mustard seeds onto the dough, and drizzled some more of the cumin seeds in oil on top.
5. Flip the uthappam and make sure both sides are quite cooked with a light golden brown tint.
6. Enjoy this with milagai podi or sambar.

Below you can see that I have put big slices of jalapeno on my uthappam because I like mine spicy. I have also seen people putting grated carrot in their uthappam. You could add cilantro if you wanted as well in stead of curry leaves. Green onions would be a great garnish as well.

Michigan Winter Formal 2007

We had an amazing time at the 2007 Michigan Winter Formal. This year's party was sponsored by Deloitte, and was held at the Henry Ford Museum. The venue was certainly one of the most interesting of all parties that I have been to. To be honest I wasn't really expecting anything spectacular in Detroit given all that I had heard about the city, but it was worth every penny to go see it. The whole campus is full of Ford buildings, and the museum is done up in the classic American colonial style on the outside. On the inside, it is a HUGE space that is filled with Ford cars and memorabilia. From JFK's car (with the caption on the sign reading "Yes, this is the car that JFK was shot in."), to a wiener mobile - they had it all. The main hall was filled with open bars, tables laden with appetizers, and chocolate fondue stations. They also had a professional photographer that you could take pictures with.

I had an amazing time, and I can't wait for next year's party! It was great to see all our friends get really dressed up for the event. I saw several people wearing tuxedo's and pretty much all the women were decked to the nines. A fabulous night for pictures of beautiful people.

Check out the slideshow below!

Michigan Winter Formal 2007

Due South

South indian meal; sambar, two vegetable curries, salad, and a pickle!

Well as I said my brother in law is in town so of course I had to make him something decent to eat. He is a very good cook as are many people in my husband's family which makes cooking an intimidating task for me. I'm guessing I passed the test from the seconds that both he and my husband had. Or else they were really hungry....(secret to getting everyone to love your food, serve them when they are really hungry).

The combo was:

Green Pepper Sambar
Cabbage and Peas curry
Cauliflower curry
Carrot salad
My dad's really good mango pickle

The green pepper sambar recipe I got from my bro-in-law's recipes that he got from his mother, the cabbage and peas curry is from Shakar's cousin Ramya, and its a nice variation to plain cabbage and peas. The cauliflower curry was one I learned from our friend Radhika, and the salad 'recipe' is in the classic style of my mother-in-law. The pickle, a close guarded secret of my fathers which I just brought a batch of with me from Toronto.

Cabbage Curry
A small handful of cilantro, 1 medium green chili, 1 tbsp grated coconut, 1 tbsp ginger, 1/4 head of cabbage, handful of peas, 1 tsp mustard seeds, 1 tsp urad daal, a pinch of asafetida, 2 red chilis

1. Grind together the cilantro, green chili, and coconut with a little water.
2. Splutter the mustard seeds in oil, then roast the urad daal. Add the asafetida and red chilis.
3. Add the cilantro gravy and cook for a few seconds.
4. Add the cabbage and peas and mix with salt.
5. Steam till cooked.

Cauliflower Curry
2 cups of cauliflower florets (frozen or fresh), 1 tbsp cumin seeds, 1 tsp turmeric, 1 tsp chili powder, a pinch of asafetida

1. Roast the cumin seeds in oil, add the asafetida.
2. Microwave the cauliflower until it is cooked.
3. Add the cauliflower, turmeric, chili powder, salt and mix.
4. Cook for a few minutes on medium heat.

Carrot Salad
carrots, tomatoes, cucumber, cilantro, lime or lemon juice

1. Mince the vegetables and chop the herbs.
2. Mix with salt, pepper, and lime juice.

You can add pretty much any fruit to this salad! My mother-in-law adds pomegranate, and I had some so I put it in as a garnish.

Here are some pictures of our snowy weekend!