Grapefruit salad/Batabi lebu makha

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I am going through that time of life when I am ever busy but nothing is getting done. It’s frustrating. Every week I’ll tell myself that this week I am going to finish everything on my to-do list, but then again the lazy bug bites me real hard and I end up doing very few things from the list. I have a long list of things to cook, upgrade my blog, go to the museums, but I don’t know what is preventing me from doing it. I think every winter is kind of like that. I don’t want to do anything, just sit on the couch, read books and eat steaming hot stews or soups.

Gradually the hibernating time is coming to an end I suppose. The days are getting longer and the buds are coming out of the trees. It’s always nice to see the fresh new leaves coming out of the branches. It gives me a positive feeling. Gives me hope and I look forward to the summer, the brighter days of my life.

Sometimes I wonder how much effort it takes for a plant to start almost all over again every year. They lose all the leaves during fall/winter and then start from the beginning in the spring. If I were a tree, I would have been very pissed off with that. It’s like setting up your house every year, from scratch and in few months everything will be taken from you and you have to start all over again. That’s tiring. I am so glad to be a human being. I can be lazy when I want to (most of the times), keep the kitchen messy if I want and order takeout food if I want and I am the master of my life (I love to believe that way).

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In India winter season was the season of citrus fruits. It was the season of bright orange komlalebu (tangerines) and plump batabilebu (grapefruits). It was a winter ritual to eat the citrusy fruit after lunch while soaking in the sun. Be it komlalebu or batabilebu, they always added a fresh zing to the chill.

 

Back in my childhood home, my mother made a grapefruit salad every winter. It’s a very simple salad with few ingredients. It’s so refreshing, combining the tang of the grapefruit with a touch of heat from the chili power or chopped green chilis. I could eat a whole bowl, as long as I didn’t have to peel all the grapefruit and make it myself.

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There is no recipe as such or a list of ingredients. All you do is, peel the grapefruit and remove as much of the bitter skin and white threads as possible. Separate the individual segments with your fingers. Add black salt (or regular salt), sugar and red chili powder (cayenne pepper will do as well) to taste. Add finely chopped cilantro and mix gently. You can add chopped green chilis or jalapeños instead of red chili powder or both. Finally – EAT!!!

 

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Stir fried carrot or shredded carrot salad?

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The food found in any Indian kitchen used to vary according to the season. All through summer we ate endless dishes made with potol (pointed gourd) and right when we got sick of them the fresh creamy white cauliflowers appeared. But then, these in turn overstayed their welcome. As the market got saturated with cauliflowers, I remember the vegetable vendors throwing them away or giving them away for free at the end of the day. BUT…we liked it that way. We had sudden cravings for something in one season but had to wait for months to get it (because it only grew in another season), but when it came, it was worth the wait, because Nature cannot be messed with. The only analogy I can think of is a fine wine in your cellar that you know will improve with aging in the bottle, so you just bite your teeth and drink a beer till the craving goes away. My Maa didn’t dump a handful of dhonepata (cilantro) in almost everything as we do in the US, simply because it wasn’t available all year long. The wonders of Nature made even the summer heat almost tolerable, as we knew that juicy, ripe mangoes would soon show up in the grocery bags. Eating plump, juicy komla lebu (tangerines/clementines) while soaking up the winter sunshine on our terrace was a ritual by itself. Like most other vegetables, carrots were seasonal as well. However, carrots never really found widespread acceptance in the kitchens of Bengal. The only thing my mother used them for was a winter salad prepared with finely chopped carrots, beets, cucumbers and onions. This tasted so refreshing and appetizing that even my father, who never entered the kitchen otherwise, would volunteer to chop the vegetables whenever he knew it was going to be made. Later my Maa started adding carrots to pnach mishali torkari (Bengali-style mixed vegetables) or daliar khichuri (cracked wheat porridge).

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The times they are a’ changin, and you can now find most vegetables throughout the year if you live in a city or even in a prosperous small town. They don’t taste as good, but at least your menu no longer need be restricted just because it is summer and you are craving for fulkopir dalna (cauliflower curry).

I love vegetables and am looking around for interesting vegetarian recipes. I’m learning how to cook vegetables I never grew up eating. Some of them I’ve never even seen before. Everything is on your finger tips now, just type in the name on Google, hit Enter and recipes with mouthwatering pictures will compete for your attention. A few years ago, one fine morning I was Googling something when I came across Harini’s blog. It’s a beautiful blog with vegan recipes and wonderful stories. She was hosting a monthly mingle for Meeta of What’s for lunch Honey, and the topic was “vegetarian soups”. I was very interested in participating but wasn’t sure if I could because I wasn’t a blogger back then. I wrote to Harini and she sent me a warm welcoming reply accepting my request. I got some appreciation for both the picture and the soup I had made and readers of Harini’s blog suggested that I should start my own. It took me three years to convince myself that I could do this, but now I’m enjoying it enormously.

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The reason I mentioned Harini’s name is because this carrot recipe is from her blog. It looked so refreshing and easy that I couldn’t stop myself from cooking it. This is one from a long list of things I want to cook from other people’s blogs. Hope to try many more in the future and share the results with you.

I am re-writing her recipe in terms of text but not content. You can see her post here and read the original recipe.

Ingredients:

Split, husked, mung beans (Mung daal): 1/4 cup, soaked for at least an hour, and drained
Carrots (Gaajar), fresh, plump and juicy: 6 large ones, grated in medium sized grater
Green chilies, slit vertically – 2, or more, if you like some heat **( I have added few more green chilis and it tasted really good. The sweetness of the carrot and the slight heat from the green chili married together nicely)
Coconut, freshly grated: 1/4 cup
Lemon, ripe, medium sized: 1, juiced (About a tbsp.)
Salt to taste

Seasoning (Tadka/baghar)

Mustard oil/any oil: 1 tsp.
Mustard seeds: 1 tsp.
Husked, black gram daal (urad daal): 1 tsp.
Curry leaves: 1 sprig
Sesame seeds, white: 1 tsp.

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Soaked mung daal in the front

Method:

  • Scrub lightly, wash and dry carrots.
  • Do not peel. Maximum sweetness in carrots is right under the skin and when you peel you discard the best portion.
  • Grate and set aside. Do not use a fine grater or cheese grater. We need the final dish to have a “bite” to it so use a medium sized grater.
  • Heat oil. When hot enough, add mustard seeds and black gram daal.
  • When the seeds splutter and daal turns pink add the curry leaves and slit green chilies.
  • As soon as the curry leaves are crisp, add the carrots. Stir fry to mix well.
  • Cover and cook for 4-8 minutes depending on how you like your carrots – 4 minutes for very crunchy).
  • Add the mung beans, sprinkle sesame seeds, and coconut and stir fry on low heat till mixed well. Take off the fire. Squeeze the lemon and stir to let the juice distribute.

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