Look mom… photos upload again!! At least from my work computer… hmm. 🙂
I was so happy to see the announcement of Jihva for Love at Jigyasa and Pratibha’s new blog, whose food we eat, their song we sing. I knew in an instant that I would make something from my grandmother’s kitchen.
My youthful palate was raised on plenty of tuna noodle casserole and dry, overcooked chicken, in a house where dad concocted scary-looking meals for himself from things like eggs mixed with cottage cheese and sour cream
(he baked this in a big black spider and called it an omelette!). There were other, tastier things of course, but the memories I have of my mother’s kitchen don’t involve her special cooking as much as they do her special caring. My mother is a nurse and her gifts and talent lie in a different realm. I could never muster the combination of patience, compassion and steel stomach necessary in her job — one she still performs with great aptitude at 72 years of age. I mention this so that you don’t mistake my less-than-enthusiatic remarks regarding the kitchen of ‘home’ for lack of pride, respect, and love for my dear mom! She still makes the best potato salad ever 🙂
So while my mother’s kitchen held, and still holds, warm conversation and hot tea late at night, the best food of my childhood was mostly to be had ‘down the cape’ at nana’s. Bluefish fresh from the sound, wrapped in newsprint and left on the front lawn by the neighbors to be grilled with mustard on the old charcoal grill out back. Portugese sweet bread, hot and fresh from the bakery uptown and munched in the old Ford Falcon on the way home. Spicy stuffed quahogs and fresh corn on the cob rolled in melted butter, dripping off the paper plates onto the weathered picnic table… and always at the last, rhubarb dipped in sugar! But those were summertime treats.
For Jihva, I wanted to make nana’s white sauce. This most basic of recipes, the first real sauce I learned to make, consists of flour cooked in butter — a roux — which acts as a thickener for hot milk poured over. Oh yes, I can hear the chorus of “ah ha! That’s just bechamel sauce!” swimming faintly through the ether. And bechamel sauce it was. But Nana sauteed green onions in her butter, before adding the flour, and that made it special. She served it over hot boiled potatoes. How perfect in its simplicity!
In the chill of winter, nana’s simple dish of potatoes in white sauce, cooked together with her guiding hand holding mine, was a gourmet delight. Served unpretentiously (as the best food is!) on her everyday stoneware with the green band around the rim, with a little dish of boiled cabbage in vinegar on the side, this homely meal seemed the stuff that dreams were made of.
Indeed, that dream of yesteryear is still fresh in my mind, taking me back to nana’s kitchen where we sat playing gin-rummy into the night, often over a glass of wine when I was older, talking of her childhood in Canada and the days when papa was alive, mom and my aunt and uncles were young, and their huge garden stretched all the way to where the church now sits two doors down.
Back to the slightly smaller yard where we spent our summers, where nana sat in the shade of an old crab-apple tree on a hot sunny day and watched us kids, chasing a wayward volleyball or badminton birdie into the vegetable patches, and called out in her trademark sing-song way … “out of the garden!!”
I can hear her now.
Thank you, dear Jigyasa and Pratibha, for this wonderful opportunity to relive some sweet memories 🙂
Asparagus is a spring-time treat I can’t resist. When I saw Happy Cook’s recipe for Asperges op z’n Vlaams, I immediately thought of my grandmother. She loved spring asparagus, and something in this simple recipe made me think of her. I thought to spice up nana’s white sauce in Indian fashion, and serve it over asparagus and eggs a la Happy Cook. What started out as bechamel ended up almost a kadhi, I think.
Since Jihva for Love is featuring vegan dishes, you may of course omit the eggs 🙂
Asparagus and Eggs with Spicy Yogurt Sauce
8-10 spears fresh asparagus
1-2 hard boiled eggs, chopped (use only the whites, if you prefer)
For the sauce:
2 TB butter or ghee
1 small onion, finely diced
2 TB besan
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 – 1 tsp tsp kashmiri chile powder
1 c yogurt, beaten smooth with 1/4 c water
salt to taste
fresh ground black pepper to garnish
Cook the asparagus: snap off the tough ends where they break naturally and save to use in vegetable stock — drop the tender spears into boiling water and cook 2-3 minutes. Rinse immediately in cold water to retain lovely green color. Drain well and hold aside.
In a saucepan, heat the butter or ghee over medium heat and add the chopped onion. Fry slowly until turning golden, then add the besan and cumin, chile powder and turmeric. Saute a moment to cook the besan, then remove from the heat and whisk in the beaten yogurt. Return to low heat and cook until slightly thickened. Do not boil. Add salt to taste and adjust the chile powder if needed.
Place the asparagus on a warm plate and sprinkle the chopped egg over. Cover with the warm yogurt sauce. Garnish with fresh ground black pepper, if desired, and for a spot of beautiful color and flavor, sprinkle some of ISG’s onion pickle over all.
And speaking of tributes — I want to wish Happy Blog-birthday to Daily Musings, that marvelous creation from which I have learned so much! There are few places I manage to visit daily, and Daily Musings is one. With her characteristic intelligence and dry wit, IndoSunGod keeps us informed and amused, not to mention swimming in spicy gravy when we’re not swimming virtually in the Cauvery River! Wishing you many more happy blogging days, dearest ISG 🙂