Places to Go

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

When You Miss Mumbai

There are few places I miss as much as my family's home in Alibag. The pandemic changed so much for everyone. For me, it took away my India. Bougainvillea blossoms and coconut trees. Walking along our yard's parapet and watching the sunset. 

And the food. The tiniest shrimps in thick masala. Fish smeared in green chutney and steamed in banana leaf. Chikoos, my unbeautiful favorite fruit. 

Flavor memories are strong. Thankfully, one can cook to bring them back to life. 

I am also lucky in my friends in this new home. Living in the bay area means being surrounded by gorgeous produce. One of my friends brought home farm fresh tomatoes, and I reaped the bounty. (It fits the original theme of this blog, written as a harried student, that my board prep materials background the photo below). 

Mumbai is home to Parsis, and many Parsi cafes. Sometime in my life there, Parsi tomato jam embedded itself in my sense memories. I cannot recall the last time I ate it, even in recent trips to the big city. Yet, it calls forth monsoon and late nights watching the Queen's necklace twinkle. 

Alive with ginger, garlic, chili, cloves, cinnamon and bright tomato, it is my summers in a jar. This recipe made me enough to gift two medium-sized jars, and keep a big one for myself. I miss it already. But while it was in my fridge, my home in India was just a lid-twist away. 

Parsi Tomato Jam 

Adapted from Niloufer Ichaporia King's Recipe 


1.5 lbs ripe tomatoes, rough chop  

¼ cup julienned ginger (about 1.5in long piece)

½ head sliced garlic (about ¼ cup)

¾ cup vinegar (I used a mix of red wine vinegar and apple cider because that’s what I had; the original recipe calls for cider or malt vinegar)

1 cup brown sugar

½ cup of raisins (optional; I had dried cranberries about, so in they went)

1 tablespoon chili powder (I had Korean gochugaru which gave a deep smoky spicy taste; the original recipe calls for cayenne pepper or hot ground chili. This amount lends tasteable hotness, if you want a milder version add ~1/2 tbsp)

1 small cinnamon stick

3 whole cloves

teaspoon salt

Grated peel of one lemon (optional; also original recipe called for orange)


Roughly chop the tomatoes. Put them in a heavy bottomed pan with the ginger, garlic, vinegar, raisins (optional), sugar, chili powder, cinnamon, cloves, and salt.


Stir to combine everything, and bring the mixture to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer uncovered. Stir occasionally. You want the chutney to reach the consistency of a soft jam,


Niloufer’s original recipe calls for double the tomatoes (and 4 hours of simmering), but my halved recipe still took about 3 hours over very low heat. Low and slow allows flavor development, so try not to rush. 


When you take the chutney off the stove, adjust the salt, sugar, and vinegar to your liking. You can also add more chili if you seek a kick. You want to do this while its still warm. Add the lemon (or orange) peel at this time.


Niloufer recommends letting the chutney sit for a day to fine-tune the balance and allow flavor merging. I let it sit out overnight with the lid on in my cool kitchen, and it did beautifully.


I end with her words because everyone should read them:


“Remember that this is a chutney—it should be forceful, declamatory. You want a chutney to light up your mouth, to have some punch. Sweet! Sour! Salty! Hot! The biggest mistake with chutney is to think of it as a spiced jam. Never leave out the salt or undersalt in the name of some diet deity. I tend to give the chutney away as soon as I make it, so I don’t go to great lengths with the bottling process. I just put the jars and tops through the dishwasher and give them an extra jolt of boiling water before I fill them.”


I don’t have a dishwasher, so I just swirled boiling water around my clean jars and left them upside down to dry. The jam was finished within 2 weeks so I cannot vouch for the longevity of this process. I can vouch for the immediate consumption of the jam.


Ways it was eaten:

·        With eggs on toast

·        Scooped up on chips

·        On crackers with many different cheeses

·        Sandwich spread (chicken sandwiches, yum)

·        Straight with a spoon

Home Again

Times change. 

I am a doctor. 

I got into medical school. I went to medical school. I matched for residency. I completed residency. I took my Pediatric Boards. I have a job as a primary care pediatrician. 

I live in my own home. 

All of this was unimaginable when I first started my blog. Medical school itself such a far away dream. 

I am surviving a pandemic, as are we all. 

Welcome back. 

I taught myself to cook with this blog. Now I cook often. 

This is not a recipe post because I didn't plan to return, I just sat down at my table and began. 

I hope to write again though. 

                            Welcome home. 

Monday, January 28, 2013

Winter Wonderlands

     It was a beautiful weekend. It snowed in Philadelphia on Friday, and I don't see how anyone can dislike snow. This was the most perfect kind: sparkling and soft, and when you held it in your hands and looked into it you could see a kaleidoscope of the most gorgeous flakes. I was very happy, and even if it has mostly melted there are little reminiscings of it left still, and I have hope for more.

     Snow like this always makes me think of home. Of looking out my window after the first big snow and - being a very OCD little child - not wanting anyone to disturb the untouched wonderland before I had time to sit and admire it. Then we could tromp around and play and come in for hot chocolate and - hopefully - cookies.

     Cookie, other than being a wonderful word, is such a beautiful concept. One bowl of butter, sugar, flour all mixed together can yield glorious results in such short periods of time. I feel as though not enough has been said in praise of the humble cookie and so I am making do by celebrating it today in the form of - brace yourself - the humblest snickerdoodle (which is also a pretty lovely word).

     This recipe is actually inspired by my PennPal or little sister. She wanted to make sugar cookies - and I co-opted the idea into snickerdoodles because they are so much fun to make. Yes, there is the necessary creaming of butter and sugar, and the egg and vanilla, but then there is party time: rolling the dough into little balls and then running them through trails of cinnamon and (if you're me) sugar to coat them. Also, if you are me and my PennPal, you spend the time while the dough is chilling shaking around a plate of cinnamon/sugar and finding shapes in it. We are the coolest.

What do you see?
     So, I present to you the snickerdoodle. The ultimate source of sweet fragrances for cold and hungry comrades and family to come home to. The perfect little bit of crisp edges, soft cakey-inside cookie goodness. The best base for adding chocolate chips and almonds (if you are my PennPal), also any other goodies you want to add: walnuts, pecans, butterscotch chips - just stir them in before you chill the dough. So if you want to be me: sit inside and look out at the snow, sip on a cup of hot chocolate, and bite daintily on a snickerdoodle... i.e. gobble down three before you know what you are doing.

Makes about 20 cookies 

1 stick Butter (4 oz) 
1/2 cup Granulated Sugar
1 Egg
1/2 tsp Vanilla Extract 
3/4 cup All-Purpose Flour
1 tsp Baking Powder
1/4 tsp Salt 
2 tbsp Ground Cinnamon 
2 tbsp Brown Sugar 

In a large bowl, cream together the butter and the sugar. Next, beat in the egg and vanilla until well mixed. Add the flour, baking powder, and salt. Stir until just combined, making sure you get all the flour on the bottom of the bowl, and mix in any thing you would like (a cup of chocolate chips, nuts, etc.) at this time. Wrap the bowl in clingwrap and stick it in the fridge for at least half an hour (the dough is easier to work with chilled).

While it is chilling, butter your baking sheets and pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees. In a large flat plate or bowl, mix together the cinnamon and sugar. Once it is time to bake the cookies, take them out of the fridge. Roll balls of about half-tablespoons of dough and then roll them around in the cinnamon/sugar mixture to coat them. Place them 2'' apart on the baking sheets as they spread quite a lot. Bake for 12-14 minutes, until slightly brown at the edges and golden on top. Cool on the baking sheet for five minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Eat!

Note: This is the recipe I always use....I bet adapted from Nigella Lawson but, I don't have the book anymore to check so....credits will be given later?

Friday, January 18, 2013

Fresh Starts and Caramels


     I know. It's been a while doesn't even start to cover it. Let us leave it at - I never meant to stop blogging and I never ever imagined I would stop cooking. Sometimes, when life gives us lemons (or the MCAT and organic chemistry lab) documenting the lemonade-making process falls by the wayside. But oh - oh oh oh I'm so happy I'm back and that's all that matters now. Everyone who has asked me, "When are you going to post again?!" Thank you for believing - this one's for you. 

     But the apple cider caramels, I'm sorry but these caramels are going elsewhere. You may remember my obsession with care-package-sending (see here..and here)...but I'm not sure if we've talked about birthdays. I love birthdays. Anything that gives me an excuse to buy things or make things and wrap them - elaborately...bows included - and watch an unsuspecting person open troves of gifts makes me want to jump up and down. 

     So, when I told myself I had to blog This week, and found out it was my friend's birthday, and realized he would be back at college right about now and Need some homey food - everything came together. The what to make? Well, since I left off with Deb and Smitten Kitchen, it seems only fitting to return with her too. The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook came out, and a beautiful soul gave it to me for Christmas, and all I'm saying is that it actually Delivers on that constant cookbook promise of: "You'll want to make the recipe as soon as you see it!" Yes, I normally hate caramels. Yes, I don't own a candy thermometer. And yes, I saw this recipe and then I made it. 

     The English language fails when attempting to describe certain things: the appley-spicy-almost-pumpkin-pie fragrance that pervades the kitchen when apple cider is being boiled down to a bubbling syrup, the firm-yet-soft-and-melty nature of an apple cider caramel as you bite into it, and the perfect bit of autumn that you taste when it hits your tongue. Please make these. They are far easier than ordinary caramel because apple cider is being boiled down instead of that dangerous sugar/water combination, and they are so worth the reward for you - and your friends. 

Apple Cider Caramels 
Adapted (barely) from Smitten Kitchen

3 3/4 cups Apple Cider (not hard apple cider or apple juice - I bought mine from Trader Joe's)
1/4 cup Puerto Rican Rum
1 stick Unsalted Butter 
1/3 cup Heavy Cream
1/2 cup Light Brown Sugar
1 cup Granulated Sugar
1/2 tsp Ground Cinnamon
1 tsp Sea Salt (or 2 tsp if you use a flaky sea salt like Maldon)
Canola or Vegetable Oil to coat knife 

Note: My friend turned 21 and my theme (as you will notice over the next few posts) is that everything I send him should have some sort of alcohol in it...obviously. So, I substituted 1/4 cup of the cider with 1/4 cup of rum. However, its a tiny note and you can barely taste it, so if you have none or want it for other activities, I will never tell on you and no one will miss it at all - just use 4 cups of apple cider.  

In a 3 quart saucepan (or bigger) at high heat, boil the apple cider and rum until it reduces down to a thick, dark syrup that is from 1/3-1/2 cup in volume, stirring occasionally. 

While it is reducing (it can take up to 45 minutes), line an 8x8 square pan with two long crisscrossed sheets of parchment paper and set aside. Cut the stick of butter into chunks and collect your other ingredients. In a small dish, mix the ground cinnamon and sea salt. If you do Not own a candy or deep-fry thermometer, get one or two small bowls and fill them with water and some ice - this will allow you to check when the caramel is done. 

Once the apple cider is reduced, remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in the butter, both types of sugar, and cream - making sure the butter melts in completely. Return the saucepan to medium high heat and (if you have one) attach a candy/deep-fry thermometer to the side. Do not stir the caramel at all now for best results! Let it come to a boil, and then (within 5 minutes of coming to a boil) the temperature should rise to 252 degrees (not 225) and you should remove the saucepan from the heat. If you are not using a thermometer, drop a tiny spoonful of the caramel into the cold water and see if it is firm, chewy, and can be plied into a ball.* As soon as this is possible, remove the caramel from the heat. 

Next, pour in the cinnamon and salt mixture, stirring the caramel a few times to disperse it. Then, pour the caramel into the prepared 8x8 pan and let it sit until it is cool and firm - for about 2 hours, or slightly less time if cooled in the fridge. Once it is cool, transfer the parchment paper sling containing the caramel onto a cutting board. Coat a knife with a neutral oil and cut the block of caramel into 1'' by 1'' squares. Rubbing oil (I used a paper towel for this) over the knife between each cut is highly recommended. Wrap each square in a 4'' by 4'' piece of wax paper, placing it in the center and folding the top and bottom of the paper over the caramel, then twisting the sides. The caramels keep for 2 weeks in an airtight container. 

*Note: Two bowls are helpful because I was so paranoid about overcooking the caramel that I kept dropping little bits of caramel into the first bowl and it got cloudy and hard to tell which the newest pieces of caramel were. To tell if it is done, make sure the caramel is Firm and not so soft that it falls apart in your hands. 

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Star Struck


     I am a little star struck...or maybe a lot. Because what happened today was not just that Deb from Smittenkitchen responded to one of my comments on her was that I actually got to meet her! Isn't it funny how things you think are impossible can sometimes come true? How it helps you realize that if little things you thought could never happen can happen, then maybe those big impossible things looming ahead will happen too.

     Life is full of surprises and little blessings. Today I went to hear Deb talk on a panel, and I got to talk to her afterwards. And she is so sweet and so nice that she didn't even mind when we crazy star struck college girls mobbed her after the talk. Instead, she responded to all our questions! And talking to her and hearing her talk about her blog, I realized what a lovely thing a blog can be. Not just in that it can get one cookbook deals or panel invitations, but because it brings so many people together. Two girls I work with were at the talk today, and we got to discuss something non-work related! One person's writing did that for us.

     And not just one person's writing, but one person's cooking. Making food is such a communal experience. I feel like even if you are cooking for one, the process of buying the food from somewhere, transporting it, picking a recipe from cookbooks or blogs - everything turns it into a social experience. Listening to Deb talk about how she is constantly thinking critically about how food can be improved reminded me of how much food can mean. It can mean sharing, it can mean thinking critically and analyzing, it can mean traveling or scavenging to find ingredients (generally the latter if you're me).

     All this inspired me again, to create my own recipe. I love adapting recipes, and I often don't have the time to tweak them and give them my own spin as much as I would like. But Deb's idea of thinking of things You want to eat and then going on to create those really struck me. Enough that as soon as I got home, I made this flatbread. I love goat cheese, I love peaches, and in my mind they sing together. My go-to Trader Joe's crust stretched thin topped with drizzles of honey, peaches, goat cheese, a little black pepper and basil was thus born. I can imagine this as a lovely summer treat, when there are real peaches and not the frozen ones I have. Crispy and light and refreshing but with the melting creaminess of warm goat cheese, it was the perfect lunch (maybe not my most balanced meal...but that's OK). And above all, it reminded me of what I can do and come up with, and what blogging and being here lets me do. So thank you.

Peach and Goat Cheese Flatbread

1/2 Trader Joe's Pizza Dough (or enough dough for an 8'' Diameter Thin Crust Pizza)
1/2 Cup Sliced Peaches (I defrosted sliced, frozen peaches - I'm sure fresh would be better)
1 tsp Olive Oil
2 tsp Honey (You could use less if you have really sweet peaches)
3 tbsp Goat Cheese
1/4 tsp Black Pepper (This is to taste: just a few grinds is what you want)
1/4 tsp Basil (Ditto)

Pre-heat the oven to 425 degrees F. Drizzle a little olive oil on an 8'' by 10'' baking tray and stretch or roll out your pizza dough until it covers the pan, i.e. it is as thin as possible without tearing (or roll it into an 8'' diameter pizza and use a pizza stone). Next, slice your peaches thinly. If you use pre-sliced peaches like me, just slice them each in half again lengthwise. Drizzle your pizza dough with a little bit of olive oil and 1 tsp of honey, making sure to cover the whole surface. Lay your slices of peach out on the dough trying not to overlap them. Then, put the tray in the oven and let it bake for 10 minutes until the crust is golden and crispy. Take the tray out and dollop the goat cheese all over the flatbread and around the peach slices. Place it back into the oven for 2 minutes, and then take out. Sprinkle it with black pepper and basil, and drizzle the remaining teaspoon of honey all over. Let it cool on the tray for 5 minutes, put it onto a cutting board, and serve!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Spring Time!


     Good God, has it actually been a month? I missed all you lovely people. I missed cooking and I missed photographing, but most of all I missed writing. Writing English essays is one thing, writing endless reactions over and over again (organic chemistry anyone?) is something entirely different, but writing these blog posts keeps me sane. Oh the joy of writing what I Want to write! Of spilling out what I really and truly feel. Thank you for being here to read my ramblings, thank you oh so much.

     And here with my ramblings I am back to present...another cake! I seem to be on some kind of cake-roll, but when I am stressed beyond belief, cake is my savior. Cake makes me happy, baking cake gives me an opportunity to blast music and sing and run around the kitchen while its in the oven...and end up with such a delicious product! I know its not the healthiest option, but my sweet tooth will never understand.

     This cake is also so seasonal. The sun is shining almost too brightly, I'm wearing a skirt and a tank top, and I bought a whole pineapple from Trader Joe's on Friday! I have never bought a pineapple before. I'm not sure if or when I've even eaten fresh pineapple before. Let me tell you, I was intimidated when it came down to cutting and peeling and coring this thing, but thankfully I just followed Deb at Smittenkitchen's step by step pictures.


     I also came up with this cake recipe (almost) all by myself! I based most of the ratios off of Deb's recipe but the effect is entirely different. Oh my this cake was so good. I wanted something light, something I could eat for breakfast and with tea, after lunch and after dinner, and never get tired of. Boy, did I succeed. (Did I really just say Boy? Writing again makes me overly euphoric..) Bursting with pineapple chunks, moist beyond belief, and just barely sweet, this cake keeps you coming back for more and more and more. Just like writing is going to bring me back again so soon!

    Happy Spring time!

Pineapple Chunk Cake
Very loosely adapted from Smittenkitchen

1 Medium Pineapple
1 1/2 cups Water
3/4 cup Granulated Sugar
2 tbsp Rum (I had light, but I bet dark would be good)
2 cups All-Purpose Flour
1 tsp Baking Powder
3/4 tsp Baking Soda
1/2 tsp Salt
1 stick Unsalted Butter (or Margarine)
2 Large Eggs

First, cut off the top of the pineapple and quarter it lengthwise. Then, core it by cutting out the middle section, and peel off the skin making sure no knobs are remaining. I then cut the pineapple quarters lengthwise in half again, and just chopped those up. If you would like smaller chunks of pineapple in your cake, dice more finely, it is up to you!

In a large saucepan, heat the water, 1/4 cup of the sugar, and the rum at medium heat. Once it is boiling, stir to make sure all the sugar is dissolved. Then, add in your pineapple chunks. Reduce the heat to medium low, and allow the pineapples to simmer in the syrup for 15 minutes. Then, turn off the heat and transfer the pineapple chunks to one bowl and the syrup to another. Let them cool.

Meanwhile, pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees and butter a 9-in cake pan. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. In another large bowl, cream together the butter (softened first in the microwave) and the remaining 1/2 cup of sugar. Add to this one egg at a time, beating thoroughly after each addition. Next, stir in 1/2 cup of the syrup, then fold in 1/2 of the flour mixture. Repeat this once more so you have incorporated 1 cup of syrup total, stirring just until everything is incorporated. Last of all, fold the drained pineapple chunks into the batter (the remaining syrup will be used as a glaze). Bake the cake for 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick stuck into the middle comes out clean. Take it out and allow it to cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Then, turn it out onto the rack. Place a large plate or cutting board under the rack, and pour the remaining (I know its super watery) syrup carefully all over the cake - you want as much to soak in as possible. Once that is done...try to wait for it to cool at least 5 minutes longer. Then eat! Or let it cool all the way if you can.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Banana-Zucchini Bread


     Today, I decided to do the laundry. I decided to wash all my sheets and all my towels. I decided to reorganize my closet. I have piled up all the dishes, and I will do them All. Because my parents are visiting. Not just my parents, but my parents and my little brother. (My little sister having decided to go to school on the West Coast she cannot join the reunion, but I will see her soon so all is well.)

     Struggling to get my comforter back into its newly washed duvet cover a little while ago, I felt a strange kind of vertigo. My family is visiting so I'm cleaning my apartment. Wasn't it just yesterday that I was sitting on the couch folding the laundry with my mom? That I was complaining about the sandwiches she'd made me to take to school? That I could come home and there would be fresh baked bread stored, as always, in the slow cooker? Yes, I get it back for a little while over vacation. But is this, this living in an apartment and making my own meals and folding my own little store of laundry, is this real life now?

     If it is, its a good thing my parents are visiting. I want to be pampered for a little while. I don't want to cook my own meals. I want to be driven around in the car, in the back seat with my little brother. One of my very wise friends the other day commented on our lives at college, how we are constantly running around. No two hours are spent in the same place between different classes and meetings and studying. Its true, and now I need a respite, a little haven. And that is what parents are for, right?

     Just like this bread. I know I gravitate towards banana bread and zucchini bread, so it seems inevitable that a banana-zucchini bread is making its way onto my page. But, when one has half a zucchini in the fridge and wants comforting food, this does seem the way to go. This bread is dense and moist, full of banana flavor and the heartwarming knowledge that one is eating a vegetable. But most importantly, with its cinnamon and nutmeg goodness, this bread made my apartment smell like home. A home my parents and brother can come visit and fill full of home-like memories.

Banana Zucchini Bread
Adapted from Joy the Baker

2 large Ripe Bananas
3/4 cup Granulated Sugar
1/4 cup Vegetable Oil
2 tsp Vanilla
1/4 cup Milk (or use Soy Milk to stay vegan)
2 cups All-Purpose Flour
1 tsp Baking Soda
1/2 tsp Salt
1 tsp Cinnamon
1/8 tsp Nutmeg
1 cup Shredded Zucchini

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees and grease an 8 by 4 (or 9 by 5) loaf pan.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt, and set aside. Next, in a separate mixing bowl, thoroughly mash your bananas. To your bananas, add the sugar, oil, vanilla extract, and milk. Whisk everything together until incorporated. Using a wooden spoon, mix these wet ingredients into your dry ones until just combined. Fold in your shredded zucchini, and scrape the batter into the loaf pan. Bake for 45-50 minutes, testing with a toothpick to make sure it comes out clean and the bread is ready. Once it is done, take it out on the oven and cool it on a wire rack for ten minutes in the pan. Then, upturn the cake onto the pan, and leave it to cool completely - or slice and eat right away.