Thursday, June 28, 2018

Lemon Rice for Vegetable Lovers

Memorial Day- May 28 this year- is considered the official kick off to summer. Ours started memorably enough but not in a good way! We had the wettest May on record with 18 continuous days of rain. On May 28 at dawn, I awoke to a loud bang and in a half-asleep, dazed state, saw the ceiling fan going haywire with sparks flying out of it. No joke, and it was not a dream. It turns out that in the overnight storm, a large tree limb fell on our main power lines and sparked a dangerous electrical surge into our home.

The surge damaged our refrigerator, cooking range and microwave to the point of no repair. The refrigerator's water lines were damaged, causing the kitchen to flood, so the water mains had to be shut off. The surge caused the heating/cooling system to malfunction, and the power and internet cables had to be cut by the power company for safety reasons. In one fell swoop, we lost all the modern conveniences that we take for granted, during a holiday weekend. It took us almost 3 weeks to dig out of this mess. As expensive and aggravating as this month was, it could have been a lot worse and we are thankful that there was no fire and no one was harmed.

We were without a kitchen for several days. Friends came to the rescue in many ways. We were able to borrow fridge and freezer space from one friend to rescue some food. Others let us borrow a mini fridge, slow cooker and toaster oven so I had a makeshift kitchen until we were able to get new appliances installed. It was my first time using a slow cooker- I tried a few different things, including a tortellini (stuffed pasta) casserole, which turned out a bit mushy but edible, and rajma, which turned out a bit watery but also edible. The most successful was a simple red lentil dal with summer squash, Swiss chard and tomatoes.

Chantarelle mushrooms: The rain may have caused havoc in some cases (trees falling and all that) but it also caused a boom in chanterelle mushrooms. I wrote last year about foraging for chanterelles and this year this expert mushroom forager (and eater) Lila is at it again. We are enjoying them simply sautéed with garlic.

For a few weeks, lacking a functional kitchen, I gave my CSA vegetable boxes to friends. But here are some highlights from the veggies that I did end up using over the month.

Napa cabbage: For the first time, I bought some fresh Hong Kong style noodles from the Asian store. Not knowing any authentic way to cook these, I just pan-fried them, then topped them with roasted napa cabbage and mock chicken with a sweet and sour sauce. This impromptu dish was a hit.

Green garlic: I remember my aunt buying green garlic (they look like green onions but with a distinct, delicate garlic aroma and flavor) when it was available seasonally, and very rarely, in Mumbai. She would cook it in into simple scrambled eggs and it was such a delicacy. I was excited to get green garlic in the veggie box and that's exactly how I cooked it- into scrambled eggs. 

Tomatoes: For Father's day, we made a simple dinner of some of Daddy's favorite foods, including this deluxe bruschetta/caprese salad mash up with thin slices of baguette topped with tomato slices, mozzarella, fresh basil and chopped olives, all drizzled with garlic-infused olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

Collard greens: What else but collard greens wadi- the very best way to eat your greens. 

Shishito peppers: Last week we got some of these mild peppers in the box. I had never tasted them; V remembered eating them in a fancy restaurant a while ago. We cooked them in a searing hot cast iron pan and enjoyed them as in, with a yogurt dipping sauce. 

Lemon rice for vegetable lovers

There was a bumper crop of cabbage and green beans in the CSA box last week and I inaugurated my new oven with this twist on a classic South Indian dish- lemon rice, a light, tangy dish just perfect for summer.

This version is a hybrid of lemon rice and cabbage rice. It fits in with the way I like to eat- with vegetables front and center, and the recipe makes a big batch.

1. Make rice in a rice cooker or stovetop and let it cool down. I used Jasmine rice because that's the staple in my kitchen, and this dish uses about 3/4 cup (1 rice cooker measure) raw rice.

2. Roast 1 baking sheet worth of vegetables at 400F until slightly charred at the edges and tender throughout. I used cabbage and green beans. Carrots, zucchini and summer squash would work well in this recipe, and steamed green peas or black eyed peas would be a nice addition.

3. Juice a couple of lemons and set the juice aside. In a pan, heat some oil. Temper with mustard seeds, chana dal, urad dal, asafetida, turmeric, fresh ginger and fresh curry leaves. Turn off the heat and stir in the lemon juice.

4. In a large mixing bowl, toss together the cooked rice, roasted veggies and spice-lemon mixture. Serve warm or at room temperature.

*** Book chat ***

Appliances may have let me down last month, but books did not disappoint. Oh, it was a glorious reading month.

Image: Goodreads
 For the Read Harder Task #5: A book set in or about one of the five BRICS countries, I read The Widows of Malabar Hill by Sujata Massey. BRICS is the acronym for an association of five major emerging national economies: Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa and of these countries, I chose a book based not only in India, the land of my birth, but set in Malabar Hill, a neighborhood in South Bombay only a mile or two away from the place where I was born.

This book is a historical mystery based in 1920s Bombay but so many of the neighborhoods, landmarks, bakeries and foods mentioned brought back my own memories from the Bombay of the 80s and 90s. I will refer you to Niranjana's excellent review of the Widows of Malabar Hill and add only that if you are looking for a solid summer read, this one is worth picking up.

Image: Goodreads
For the Read Harder Task #6:A book about nature, I read Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil deGrasse Tyson. Astrophysics- the science of nature at its biggest and most expansive. The book starts off with this quote:

"The Universe is under no obligation to make sense to you."
- Neil deGrasse Tyson

But after declaring this, Tyson takes on the personal responsibility of helping ordinary mortals make sense of the universe. This slender volume features 12 essays, each of them highlighting some delicious feature of astrophysics. It is only June, but I am pretty sure this is going to be my favorite book of the year.

For the Read Harder Task #14: A book of social science, I picked up Life Reimagined: The Science, Art, and Opportunity of Midlife by Barbara Bradley Hagerty. The author is an NPR reporter (religion beat) who interviews dozens of people going through midlife, and talks to many social scientists researching aspects of midlife, plus there is a memoir theme running through this book.

For all those who like me are staring midlife in the face (!!), some takeaways from the book.

Three themes to living richly in midlife:
1. Engage with verve.
2. Choose purpose over happiness- the concept of eudaimonia (flourishing).
3. Your thinking is your experience.

Two of the many suggestions from the author:
Aim for meaning and not happiness, and you will find both.
At every stage in life, you should be a rookie at something. 

They say not to judge a book by its cover, but sometimes I do just that- browsing in the library looking for covers that look interesting. That's how I picked up this book in the children's section. Frenemies in the Family: Famous Brothers and Sisters Who Butted Heads and Had Each Other's Backs by Kathleen Krull. This book is informative and delightful and very funny, a gossipy series of essays on famous sibling sets. It covers everyone from royalty, presidents, sports figures right down to the Gosselins. 

How was your month of June? Hopefully not as eventful as mine ;) 


  1. h gosh such a bummer about the rain situation! Glad you guys are safe and sound.
    Our June went by so quickly .. Getting back into routine after a month long vacation to Bay area was not easy! Add to that the start of school for our 5 year old and this month flew by.
    Green garlic tip .. Just bury individual garlic pods in soil and they sprout and will give you garlic greens. I do it in my balcony garden. It is quite easy to grow them.
    The book on Astrophysics just went on my reading list. I am currently reading Never split the difference. A book on effective negotiation. Such a cool read.

    1. Thanks Neha! I love your tip about growing garlic greens- we'll have to try that for sure. The book of effective negotiation might be useful in helping me deal with my 6 year old ;)

      I hope your boy has a great school year!

  2. Wow that fan experience sounds scary - I am glad you were all safe and that you coped without your appliances. I am impressed you seem to be back on track after 3 weeks - I think it is 3 weeks since our heater was decommissioned and it is slow going getting a new one sorted out. Partly due to the tradies and partly due to a lack of time and energy to chase them up. But I am really missing a decent heater. Your meals sounds really good and your books sound fascinating - makes me think I should dip into some non fiction - have been doing lots of comfort fiction reading to warm myself up.

    1. Johanna- Sometimes when there's one thing to fix, it is easy to procrastinate. When the whole house (sort of) falls apart, you drop everything and get it done! LOL I do hope your heater is fixed quickly- it must be deep winter there.

      I do love reading non-fiction but you are right, at times there is nothing like comfort fiction!

  3. Lost a beloved family friend to cancer on May 29th... She was just 51 and leaves behind 21 year old autistic twins and a 17 year old daughter..sigh May sucked !

    Glad the world head quarters of one hot stove is back up and running though :)

    1. Oh Janani- I am so sorry about your friend. Gone too soon and leaving behind these young kids- how tragic. Please accept my condolences and long distance hugs.

  4. Oh goodness Nupur, thank goodness you are all fine. I love the cheery and practical attitude with which you dealt with the situation. Are you fully back on track with your home and appliances?
    Thanks for all the book recommendations. Coincidentally, I am enjoying de Grasse Tyson's Astrophysics book as well! Will surely check out the Sujata Massey book. I'm a fan of Niranjana's reviews too so I'll take her and your words for it!
    Somebody gifted me a pocket-sized Kindle which I carry around in my bag. In that I have just started reading the unlikely sounding "Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows". I've just read a couple of pages and it seems like a nice light read. On my bedside is David Mitchell's Black Swan Green which is a coming-of-age story of a 13 year old boy. Just started that as well and am enjoying it!
    Hope you, your husband, kids and Duncan are doing well!

    1. Kamini- Thanks! Not much choice but to be practical and get on with it, right? Too many mouths to feed around here, so a functioning kitchen is a must. We are back on track with all the home stuff- but next week an electrician is coming to upgrade our electrical system (old house woes) and install a whole-house surge protector.

      It sounds like you are enjoying your summer reading! I must check out "erotic stories" for that intriguing title alone :)

    2. My suggestion would be to not bother with the Erotic Stories. After a somewhat promising start I found it to be sorely disappointing. Just my opinion :)

  5. Sorry to hear about your setback! I am glad you are guys are okay now.The Parsi food and baked goods got me googling for recipes! I am intrigued to try the Astrophysics book now.
    I am now reading Danielle Steele (I say cringing). I used to love her as a teen and thought I will give it a try again since I could not find anything I wanted. Although she is a good writer, I have now moved on from her genre. But makes for a mindless reading and to see the heroine always succeed easily!

    1. Sangeetha- Yes, we were shaken but fine! The Parsi food descriptions were great, weren't they? All of it was familiar to me except the sweet called dahitan- I have never heard of that one. Yup, I too read Danielle Steele as a teen- and yes, sometimes you just need a good mindless no matter what that might be. Cozy mysteries are usually it for me these days.

  6. So glad to hear you are all safe. Hopefully you were able to get some new appliances you like out of this disaster.

    Our garden is going gang busters now and I have been making pesto on a twice-weekly basis.

    I finished Widows of Malabar Hill - and liked the style and the protagonist and want more books with her. currently on my reading list is Lilac Girls and the latest Maisie Dobbs

    1. Vishakha- Thanks! My old appliances were exactly 10 years old, and they had served me well. I was so satisfied with them that I replaced them with basically the same appliances- so not much has changed.

      Hurray for your garden produce! I too would like more of Parveen Mistry (Mistry mystery- I wonder if the pun was intended by Massey) and Lilac Girls is on my TBR list.

  7. Hi Nupur, it was so scary what happened to your household after the power surge. Thank god that you all are at least safe. To be without all those appliances is something we can not think of unless it happens. Sometimes we have to shut off water main due to water leak somewhere and it is so inconvenient those few hours or one night until the plumber comes. Even when there is power outage, we have gas burners, so cooking did not suffer.
    Thanks for all the interesting recipes. Never roasted cabbages. So got the idea now for roasting one more veggie. We also had shishito peppers in a fancy restaurant in Montreal some years back. After that tried them at home, but never tasted as good as the restaurant.
    Thanks again for the wonderful book reviews. Checked that The Malabar Hill Widows is available at our local library.

    1. Amita- So true that we take all the appliances for granted until they are taken away all of a sudden! I don't have gas burners- the range is electric, so there was no way even to heat a cup of water.

      Roasted cabbage is wonderful- the edges crisp up and it is irresistible right out of the oven.

  8. My goodness! What a scary experience. I’m glad you all are safe. I hope you can get all the appliances replaced and with the ones you like.

    The vegetable twist in lemon rice is a good idea, I’d like to try this, would be a great lunch box option, the vegetables will keep the boys full, longer.

    I’m in India and enjoying the rains ( after a brutal Mumbai summer- I’ve been here a month). Overall June was a mixed bag, we got our work done as planned in India, that’s the good part. Am at my mother’s, the happy part. My son is having fun, the best part. The not so good part, janey do!

    1. Manasi- Thanks! I liked my old appliances just fine that I replaced them with the same exact thing (models were updated but brand and features were the same). Of course this happened during my busiest work week of the year and V was to travel so there was no time for careful appliance shopping. Why by the way is bewildering and not fun with too many choices and contradictory reviews for every appliance LOL.

      You will like the extra veggies in the lemon rice, they add a lot of flavor and nutrition, and as you said, keep you full and satisfied longer. Enjoy your India trip! Hope the good gets better and the not so good dissipates.

  9. Nupur what an ordeal, thank God you're all well, hugs to you, just returned from a wonderful trip to Spain, Portugal and Morocco, a tad eventful, some boys blocked our coach on the way to the port to catch ferry to Spain, they would have liked to go to Spain but the police got them off... one has to feel for the young ones who want to go to Europe....
    Lemon rice sounds scrumptious

    1. Shubha- your Mediterranean trip sounds like quite the adventure. It must be such a beautiful part of the world!

  10. Wow, what an adventurous month! We had one like that a few years ago, unfortunately it coincided right before my daughter's birth - but all in all, we look back at it and just laugh. We got a lot of things upgraded at home through all the chaos, so that was the good part :)

    June for us was a month of change. I started a new job which is keeping us all busy as a family as we are still adjusting to the new routine but I am super excited and love it so far which is the good part. The not so good part is my blog and reading both will take a backseat again for some time. But so is life - you prioritize and prioritize :)

    Here is wishing you a more calmer and fun filled July with many picnics and barbeques with friends and family!

    1. PJ- I have to say that home-related and other misadventures during the time of a baby's birth would be an absolute nightmare! Our electrical fiasco happened during my project's annual meeting (my busiest week of the whole year) so it was awful timing but not as bad as that :D and yes, I will be chuckling about this in a few years.

      Congrats on your new job and hope it is fun, challenging and not stressful! That is life indeed, we just take one day at a time and juggle our priorities. We just got back from a beach vacation so July is off to a better start.

  11. Thanks for the kind words, Nupur! so glad you liked The Widows...
    Your kitchen adventures sound very traumatic! I don't think I could have faced such a situation with even a tenth of your equanimity and good cheer.
    And kudos on finding the time and energy to keep up with a reading challenge! I read a lot but run out of blogging steam very rapidly.

    1. Niranjana- Believe me, there was no good cheer anywhere in sight when this actually happened! It was terrible timing work-wise but heck, life can throw much worse at you so it was not so bad in the grand scheme of things! I always enjoy your reviews and will be here patiently whenever you feel the urge to blog. I do understand about losing blogging steam though.

  12. So sorry to hear about your ordeal. Glad it's behind you guys for the most part.

    My kids' summer vacation started June 1st and we went on vacation right away to the Grand Canyon. Apart from that, it has been uneventful. I just finished reading Trumpet of the Swan to my kids. I've always read picture books to them, this was our first long chapter book. It was a good read. Started our second pick last night. During normal school year, life gets busy and I don't get to read aloud everyday. Hoping this summer habit continues.


    1. Anu- Yes, I think we have most things fixed and upgraded and surge protectors in place and all that good stuff- LOL. The Grand Canyon must have been fabulous- was it everything you expected it to be? It is on our bucket list for when the kids are a little older. I'll have to find Trumpet of the Swan! We haven't even read Charlotte's Web yet. Enjoy the summer reading and other adventures :)

    2. My kids are 9 and 5, to give you some context. The Grand Canyon was kinda underwhelming to be honest. We have done one national or state park every year in the past 7 years except the year our son was born. So far our most favorite has been Yosemite. At Grand Canyon, we did just the South Rim of the Canyon. We had our in-laws with us who cannot walk long distances. So we didn't do any hikes, just covered all the scenic points by car. From every point, the view was kinda similar. Could also be that I had very high expectations since the GC is considered such an iconic place in America.
      Anyway, the kids had a good time, learned a lot in the process of getting their junior ranger badges and we can now say we've seen the GC and check if off our bucket list.
      We also visited Antelope Canyon on this trip and I do highly recommend it.

      - Anu

  13. That's a scary experience to have Nupur. I'm glad everyone is safe.
    We've been extremely busy past 4-5 months due to house renovations and end of school year and now summer school and swim meets for my son. I've missed so many of your posts; time to catch up now. :-)
    We've never tried green garlic, will have to try your recipe sometime this summer. A close friend shared Shishito peppers curry recently and it was awesome. Just chop them into big pieces, add oil, and then throw in these peppers and season with chili powder, peanut powder, hing, ajwain, salt, yellow mustard powder and cumin powder and close the lid and simmer for few mins until they're soft. Taste test and adjust and turn off. OMG it was so good !!
    I'm struggling to find time to read.I'm still recovering from stress fracture in my right foot, and cannot move well enough to get back to my gym routine, I'm now learning to swim. Work has been very hectic and with summer schools and swim keeping my son (and us busy as we've to drive them around) all day, I've no energy left at the end of the day.
    I've plans to read some financial literacy books over summer as part of my learning and hope to teach my son who's 15 now. And I'm book marking your summer reading challenge posts so I can get those books and read them as I find time.

    Enjoy rest of your summer and stay safe :-)

    1. Meena- Thanks! Yes, we are grateful that everyone is safe. House renovations can be exciting but stressful :) Good luck to your son- I've been working on my freestyle technique this summer so I am watching expert swimmers with interest, trying to learn from them. I have to try that shishito pepper curry! Enjoy your busy busy summer and hope that foot gets to healing soon.

  14. Glad to hear you guys survived the epic rain disruption ok! Green garlic also makes amazing pesto (lightly sautéed first)


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