Archive for March, 2007

Pictured Rocks ~ A Magical Place

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is a magical place. Stretching over forty-plus miles along the southern shore of Lake Superior are sandstone cliffs, waterfalls, forests, rivers, beaches, and towering dunes. A couple of summers ago I was fortunate to visit and I tried to capture some of the beauty of the place. Photos don’t really do it justice though. You need to see it to believe it. If you go,
plan to stay at least a week. It’s a long way from the bridge, but worth every mile.
Much beauty awaits!


You can walk an interpretive trail out to the top of the dunes. Along the way, you might spy some beautiful wildflowers.

lady’s slipper
lady’s slipper

You can stand atop the dunes, looking out over Lake Superior, and marvel at the distance of the crashing waves below — if you can see them through the fog!

long way down
a very foggy day atop the Grand Sable dunes, looking way down into Lake Superior

A little further west, you get some idea of the size and scope of the dunes.

looking east toward Grand Sable Bank and dunes



The best way to view the “pictures” of Pictured Rocks is from the water. You could kayak in the freezing waters of Superior, or for the more faint-hearted like me, boat tours are offered. Best time to go is first thing in the morning, when the sun lights up the spectacular colors. These pictures were taken in the afternoon.

pools of pure green run right up to rocky ledges rising straight out of the lake

Fascinating geological features abound…

proof of the amazing power of wind and water

“Mineral stains give color to the famous cliffs of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. Red and orange colors are iron, black is manganese, white is limonite, and green is a trace of copper. There are no pictographs or petroglyphs on the Pictured Rocks cliffs (that we know of). ” — excerpted from Pictured Rocks for Kids copyright National Park Service.

pictured rocks mineral deposits
close up of mineral deposits

Ah yes, magical! 🙂


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Nupur’s A-Z of Indian Vegetables ~ I is for Irulli

onions and apple
sweet onions and tart apple

I am learning so much from Nupur’s idyllic A-Z of Indian Vegetables. I know the rules say the *dish* should begin with the letter of the week, but I like to try to find a veggie beginning with the appropriate letter — not always easy! In the process, I am learning alot about various languages of India. This week I came smack up against “I”. Let’s see…

Iceberg lettuce?? Goodness, no, awful stuff!

Inji? Well, I guess I could use ginger for just about anything, but still…

Then I came across a wonderful resource, and look what I found for “i” in the comprehensive dictionary of English and High and Low Tamil:

irulli, s. Onion, vengkaym, Allium cepa.

Oh ho! Onion! How easy is that 🙂

Fried Onions ‘n Apples

1 large sweet onion, sliced
1 large tart apple such as granny smith, cored and sliced

1 tsp butter or ghee (oil doesn’t give the best taste for this dish)
1 tsp panch phoron
1/4 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp chile powder, or to taste
salt to taste

Heat the butter or ghee and fry the panch phoron till fragrant. Add the sliced onion and saute till golden. Add apples and saute till just starting to soften, about 5 minutes. Stir in the turmeric, chile powder, and salt to taste.

That’s it! Serve hot or at room temperature and enjoy this Indian-spiced version of an old New England classic.

fried onions ‘n apples
fried onions ‘n apples – not photogenic, but tasty!

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GBP Update

methi, catnip, cilantro…. and….?

oh yes, spring has sprung! methi, catnip, cilantro and…..

Comments (4)

Warm Weather Watch

It’s 50 degrees out, the sun is shining, and there’s light at the end of the tunnel!

light at the end of the tunnel
Garden of the Gods ~ Colorado Springs

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Coffee’s MBP ~ Shammi’s Baked Methi Biscuits

Yum, yum! That’s the refrain on my tongue every time I head over to
Food, In The Main…, one of the first blogs I discovered, and one I always enjoy!

Every time I read Shammi’s recipes, I get the feeling I could run into the kitchen and “whip that dish right up”. She leaves nothing to chance: easy-to-follow directions and great step-by-step photos are always there to pave the way, along with a healthy dose of dry humor.

methi biscuit dough
rolling out the biscuits and using my fancy cookie cutter 😉

When I needed a recipe for Coffee’s March MPB, complete with rolling pin,
I remembered Shammi’s healthy, yummy-looking methi biscuits. I’ve been meaning to try them, yet never seemed to have the time… you know how that goes. Well, the joke was on me, because these crunchy treats really do whip up in a flash, and they taste like you slaved all day over a hot stove. I followed the recipe exactly, with the exception of using ajwain seeds because I had no sesame. Kind of ironic since Shammi used sesame instead of ajwain! Next time I’ll try the sesame.

shammi’s baked methi biscuits
Shammi’s crunchy baked methi biscuits

Thanks Coffee, for the great theme, and thanks,Shammi, for the great biscuits — they were delicious! 🙂

Comments (16)

Nupur’s A-Z of Indian Vegetables ~ H is for Hyacinth Beans

nope, that isn’t the h veggie!
coquito nuts — about the size of a marble — aren’t they cute!

this is it!
hyacinth beans (val dal) with shallots and coquito nuts

ISG, you got it right! 😉

“H” is for hmm…

By now I have my resources bookmarked and cookbook references at the ready for Saturday’s fun, but this week I had all but given up on a good “H” veggie.

Horseradish? Hmm… that’d be a new twist indeed — horseradish pachadi — talk about burning hot!

I learned that Halim is gardencress in Hindi — gardencress? Maybe that’s watercress… hmm. Peppery, tangy, good in salads — but last night in the snow? Not exactly what I had in mind.

I did scout out one other “H” — and that was Hara pyaz, which Asha cooked to perfection and you can find at Aroma. Hmm… what a great idea! Of course, I promptly forgot about that one as soon as I hit the grocery store today.

What to do!? Hmm…

As often happens, while I was busily searching near and far for something unusual and exotic, the perfect food was awaiting me in my own cupboard. If only I would remember to stop and look around sometimes…

hyacinth beans (val dal, lablab, etc) — rinsed
pale hyacinth beans (val dal) don’t look like much — here they have been rinsed and are releasing their fresh fragrance

Hyacinth beans are also known as val dal, and under that name they may be purchased in Indian groceries, whole or split. Field beans, avarekai, and lablab are among their other names, and believe me it took many Hours researching just to find that out! You can read this interesting story about these beans.

Call them what you will — buttery, delicate hyacinth beans are a favorite of mine. Give them a pass under cool running water, and while you stir them up with your fingers, let their fresh springtime scent wash over you to chase away the dull winter blues.

I usually cook this dal simply with a little salt, turmeric, and asafoetida, then mix with a veggie for an easy supper. When purchased split, it doesn’t require overnight soaking; actually it can be cooked without any soaking at all. I still prefer to soak for a short time.

As for other recipes, well… long ago, busy Vaishali of Happy Burp cooked them up with snake gourd to a tasty end, and our lovely hostess Nupur recently made vaalache bhirde which I am dying to try (now do you think I could find the *whole* val dal when I am wanting them? No way!) Other than those, and Asha’s yummy-looking field beans masala, I haven’t found many recipes out there, so improv was the order of the day.

springtime colors on a snowy day

So finally I settled on the “H” I wanted — all I needed was some little thing to go into it.

This afternoon when the snow had been cleared, I ran out to pick up a few things. I came across some beautiful shallots and something that looked like nutmeg which I had never seen before. At least it looked like nutmeg at first glance — upon closer inspection I learned they were coquito nuts, and they look and taste remarkably similar to coconuts, especially inside. These little brown babies are already shelled, so you can crunch into one just as it is. It tastes something like a cross between coconut and brazil nut — not too sweet.

Coquitos are the product of a palm tree native to Chile, and that palm must live fifty (count’em, 50!) years before it begins to bear fruit. You can read about that, and everything else you ever wanted to know about edible palms and their use at this fascinating site.

And with apologies for rambling post, here is my “H” recipe. If you remember nothing else, remember the freshly cracked pepper. It makes the whole dish!


Hyacinth Beans (Val Dal) with Shallots and Coquito Nuts

1/2 c hyacinth beans (val dal — I used split val)
1 1/2 c water
pinch salt

1 TB ghee
1 tsp mustard
1 green chile, slit
few curry leaves
1/2 c shallots minced (or enough baby red onions to make about 1/2 cup, say 10-12)
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 tsp cumin-coriander powder
pinch asafoetida
2 TB coquito nuts, chopped fine

salt and freshly cracked pepper to taste


Rinse and pick over the hyacinth beans. Soak them 1 hr for split, longer for whole. When ready to cook, rinse well and add them to a small saucepan with about 1 1/2c water and a pinch each of turmeric and salt. Cook over medium heat, about 30-40 minutes, till most of the water is absorbed and beans are tender. Drain, rinse, and let them stand in the strainer.

Heat the ghee on medium-high, and splutter the mustard. Add the curry leaves and shallots and saute 5 min, till the shallots are wilted. Add the coquito nuts, turmeric, cumin-coriander powder, and asafoetida. Stir well and cook 5 minutes more — add a TB of water if it looks like it might burn. Now stir in the cooked val dal and add TB or 2 of water to thin. Cover and warm the dal without mashing.

This is a thick dal, one to be eaten on its own or alongside rice. Serve hot with fresh steamed green veggies. If you like your dal spicy-hot, be generous with the freshly cracked pepper — it brings out the taste like no green or red chile can.

Enjoy the delicate springtime taste of hyacinth beans, and thank you once more, Nupur, for inviting me 🙂

simple supper of hyacinth beans dal, steamed rice and steamed asparagus with salt and freshly cracked pepper

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Brrr… blizzard!

blustery blizzardy backyard
little woods in snow

Just a few days ago it was nearly 70… now it’s freezing and the cold wind is whipping up into a genuine nor’easter. It’s hard to capture in a photo, but snow is whirling everywhere. Of course, this is only a temporary setback. It’s really spring, right?

If you’re in New England, New York, PA, etc, I hope you’re happily warm inside with something good simmering on the stove. It’s a perfect night for a hot pot of bean soup!

Time enough to dig out tomorrow.

h is for…

h is for…

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Kitty Break

Expensive kitty toys 😉

big kitty in big box
pinkie surveying the scene

little kitty in little box
daisy playing hide-and-seek with pinkie

sleepy kitties
best friends

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Good Things Come To Those Who Wait ~ Indira’s Amma Mudda

Once upon a time, I perused the internet for “authentic dal recipes” and came across a recipe on a website called Mahanandi. Eagerly, I read that recipe, then another and another. I found links, and more links, to other great websites devoted to authentic Indian food. I spent hours gazing and absorbing and dreaming of all the wonderful dishes I could try.

Fortunately, I knew just where to shop. Soon I found myself carting home bags filled with various pulses, grains, fresh vegetables and and intriguing spices.
I bought a pressue cooker, dove in and made my first attempt. It was that
toor dal with methi, and oh, how I savored the aroma, the tastes — the whole experience of that delicious day.

It’s difficult to describe the feeling it gave me, and it may sound strange. It was as though I had found something I’d been missing for a long time.
I felt a sense of contentment and completion — like the comfortable joy that envelops you when you are finally reunited with someone dear to your heart,
from whom you’ve long been separated.

It was like coming home.

All that from a simple pot of dal. I told you it sounds strange 🙂

Needless to say, I was hooked, and what a delightful journey it is!

Not long after I made the first dal, Indira posted this photo,
used here by her kind permission.

Indira’s green mango dal mudda on sabudana papad
photo copyright I. Singari — wouldn’t you just love a bite!

I think this is one of the most beautiful examples of food photography I have ever seen. From the moment I laid eyes on it, I wanted to recreate that little ball of dal and rice. Correct that — I didn’t just want it — I yearned for it! Being somewhat obsessive when it comes to insisting on authenticity, I got stuck on that precise combination; it had to be mango dal, it had to be a sabudana papad, and I wasn’t going to make it till I could have it exactly as I saw it in the photo.

Alas, I had no hopes of finding green mangoes, so the beautiful mudda on the crispy light papad reluctantly retreated to the recesses of my mind — gone but not forgotten.

Months passed. I learned alot. Eventually I found and learned (thanks to patient instructions from Indira, see comment section here to read them) to fry the sago papads. Eventually I came across that green mango in brine, the closest thing to an Indian green mango I’d seen. And then, last Wednesday, I sat down to peruse the blogs. Lo and behold, dear Indira had posted step-by-step instructions for making mudda! Back from the recesses the memory came marching.
I was so excited! It took nearly a year, but armed now with my green mango, my papads, the proper dal recipe and instructions, I finally got to have my mudda, and eat it too 😉

rice and dal with pickled green mango ~ amma mudda
at long last, my own amma mudda ~ rice, ghee, and dal with pickled green mango
thank you, Indira!!

amma mudda
amma mudda in springtime sunshine ~ methi growing in the background

And *that* is the special way you can serve dal with green mango 🙂

This post is a big thanks to you, Indira; your unfailing kindness and generosity
are most gratefully appreciated!

Comments (28)

Nupur’s A-Z of Indian Vegetables ~ G is for Green Mango

G is for Great Guesses! Greens, gourds, smashed gobi!! Thanks everyone, for playing… I still love a good guessing game 🙂

upo mango
upo mango ~ green mango in brine ~ straight from India via Indus Valley

I had several thoughts in mind for “G” week, the next installment in
lovely Nupur’s “A to Z of Indian Vegetables”. Ginger, garlic, greens?

Arjuna made a beautiful rice dish
I could experiment with gooseberries…

Gobi, green moong? Or…

I recently discovered a small enclave of Indian stores about a half hour’s drive from me. They had a huge selection of fresh produce the one time I passed by — perhaps there, I might finally find gongura. Yes, lots of choices for “G”.

Then I remembered the upo mango — green mango in brine that I happened upon at Indus Valley west of Boston. It was carefully stashed away in the fridge. I have seen many recipes for green mango dal, but I don’t have much chance of finding a real green mango here. Nevermind…green mango in brine would do.

For this dish, I mostly followed Indira’s recipe — reducing the amount of chili powder, as the mangoes are packed with loads of tiny hot chiles.
I did not use a pressure cooker, so I had to watch the pot carefully, but the dal came out perfect — a little dry which was my intent — thick and delicious; spicy and extra-tangy from the brine with chili peppers.

My quest for a real green mango continues this spring.

ingredients for a memorable dal!
washed toor dal, chopped upo mango (green mango in brine) and red onion

Green Mango (in brine) Dal
heavily based on Indira’s Maamidikaya Pappu (green mango dal)

for the dal:

3/4 c toor dal
1/4 -1/3 c green mango in brine (upo mango), chopped fine
1/2 cup red onions, chopped fine
1/2 tsp kashmiri chili powder
2 c water plus additional as necessary
salt to taste

for the tempering/tadka:

1 TB ghee
1 TB fresh garlic, minced
1 dried red chili, keep or discard seeds as preferred
few curry leaves
1 tsp urad dal
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp mustard seeds


If pressure cooking, cook the dal with mango and onions, chili powder, and a little salt in 1 1/2c water, following Indira’s recipe.

If using a pot on the stove, take all the dal ingredients and 2c water to begin. Invert a lid over the pot and weight it with a can of soup or beans — this creates a pressure-cooker simulator. Be sure to use a potholder and long-handled spoon when moving the inverted lid. You will need to add more water, up to 2 additional cups, to get a good thick consistency without burning.

When the dal is nearly done, heat the ghee in a small pan. Add the garlic, dried chilis, and curry leaves. Saute a few minutes, then add the urad dal, cumin, and mustard. When the cumin sizzles and the mustard pops, add this tempering to the dal and mix well.

Serve hot with a dollop of softened ghee and enjoy all alone, or with rice on the side.

Click here for another special way to serve this dal 🙂

green mango (in brine) dal
rich and hearty ~ green mango (in brine) dal

Thank you again, Nupur, for inviting us along on your “A-Z” journey! I can’t wait to see what everyone else has cooked up for “G”!

Comments (10)

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