Fork Spoon Knife is the personal blog of Asha where she chronicles her journeys in food through stories, recipes and photographs. She can also be found doodling and sharing her experiences as below.

 
                        

VSCO + Boozy Slushie

Vodka Berry Slushie

Hmmm.. I have been racking my brains for some clever way of telling a story that links those two items in the title. But I can't. So, let me just plunge into it. I have two things to share with you today. Actually, three things.

1. I just got a VSCO portfolio. This one is going to have more travel photos, and some iPhone stuff that I don't post on Instagram. Check it out and tell me what you think.

Shoreline Bay, Mountain View

2. I am in sunny California at the moment and in Mountain View for the first time. I am totally taken by the stunning beauty here that is so accessible. Quite the opposite of living in NYC. I am loving it. Look at that blue. How can I not?!

Vodka Berry Slushie

3. The most important stuff. The recipe. Nay, the cocktail that will set you up for the weekend. I am talking this Vodka Berry Basil Slushie. Somewhere between a margarita (no tequila) and a shaken cocktail. But, it's sweet as Summer and has a kick that you just need to get the party rolling. In this case, it went on for 8 hours. Ummm.. these things happen!

So, well, that's it from me today. Short and sweet. I am traveling for the next few weeks but I plan to keep this space running with inspirations while I am on the road or the air.

Shoreline Bay, Mountain View

Parting thought: WIFI on flight is awesome! Now, they need to work on making it free!


NOURISHED SUMMER 2014 ISSUE NOW ON SALE

NOURISHED Mag - Issue #2 - Summer 2014

I am thrilled to announce that the second edition of the NOURISHED magazine is now available for download.

This edition contains 52 pages of beautiful photographs with 21 recipes (13 gluten free) and 3 stories that capture the essence of Summer. The magazine has been designed to look beautiful on both screen and in print with large format captures of ingredients and full dishes!

Blurb -

To simply give in to the luxury of an un-fussed Summer life.

In this Summer issue, we dwell on The Shift in both palate and mind as we gravitate towards lighter and fresher meals. The dishes are intentionally convenient allowing more time to enjoy the season. This issue focuses on simplifying and lightening our plate and life.

In our feature articles, we explore the different tastes of Summer and delve into the dichotic worlds of corn and ice cream, two of the most evocatively Summer-y foods with story and recipe inspirations.


Take a peak and learn more about the issue here.

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I am also changing a couple of logistical things, to make the magazine accessible to more people. At the end of the day my interest and that of FOODLY is to make food inspirations affordable, so more people can believe that cooking and eating well is entirely approachable and budget friendly.

1. Pricing: The new issue is priced at $2 for the digital version! I will give a disclaimer, that I receive only half that amount after taxes and fees and request you to please spread the word and encourage your friends to buy their own copy.

2. Format: Going forward the issue will be primarily digital based as it is then easily portable into your kitchen, on your tablet, without the worry of spills. However, print copies will still be available through a third party printer, here. I have to be honest in saying that printing and shipping costs are prohibitively expensive and the pricing appears skewed due to that. However, I am offering a free online version with every print purchase to sweeten the purchase. Full disclosure, I make no additional margin on the print copies.

Thank you for your continued support! I look forward to your feedback on the magazine.

Enjoy Summer!
Far Rockaway

Oh Wheat!

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That is a photo from not so long ago. One of my favorite lunches while working from home was a crispy sourdough sandwich stuffed a lot of goodness. I would assemble it the night before and simple toast it in the afternoon. It was a wonderful break from the routine. I sat and read for a bit and life was usually good after that.

Ok, it was kind of good :). In my mind I was relaxed and happy for the break. But, actually, within me at a molecular level, all was not well. Cells fought each other, got angry and basically gave me the middle finger. They let me have it. But, in the post-lunch bliss, I did not perceive these cellular frictions much. Sometimes it took a few hours before I became cognizant of any struggle. And, then as the battle went on for a few days, I always wondered what I had done wrong.

I think I always knew it. But, I didn't want to know it. It has been confirmed.

I am allergic to Wheat.

Yes, I know! WTF!

Ok, I have to be thankful that I am not celiac, or generic gluten intolerant, just wheat. Right now, I am still mulling over what I can eat. There are tons and tons of other grains and stuff. But, there are also an amazing array of stuff that goes into normal eating that carry wheat. I just found out that soy sauce has wheat in it. Why? How? What?! So, yes, no soy sauce obviously. Lol.

I am bit stunned at the moment. But, I know that it is not going to be that limiting. The only thing is I have to be more careful what I eat outside. Oh! And, cook more because that is the best way I can control.

When my doctor gave me the prognosis and asked if I was ok, because I was sitting there looking seemingly vacuous. Oddly, I was already thinking of all the experiments I was going to do with other grains and dishes that I could make. For about five minutes, I couldn't even think of anything I would not be able to eat other than bread and pasta (the latter is fine, the former I am struggling with). Perhaps, a coping mechanism?

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Anyway, so you are going to see a fair phasing out of wheat products on this blog and a lot more of other grains and possibly some funky experiments. I like gluten free food anyway. This is simply a good reason to explore more! :)

On that positive note, I bid you a wonderful weekend with some inspirations from the web.

I can't eat it but I can still ogle, right?! Gorgeous croissants.

Such a simple, glorious cake.

A lot of talk about Kombucha these days. Have you tried making it? I am curious about this book by Emma Christenson.

Starbucks in Colombia looks nothing like Starbucks!

A really cool homage to Handsome Coffee Roasters that was bought by Blue Bottle Coffee.

Those boots! I want.

I would love to stay here, some day.

Reading this book now. I am a sucker for History. Her first, was very good.

This is my weekend!! Yay1

Gluten free experiments with Psyllium + Rice and Millet Poached Pear Cake

GF Pear loaf

My new love is psyllium husk. I have been experimenting a lot with it. The husk is actually native to India and yet, I had only heard of it a year ago. It has for time immemorial been used, as a home remedy, to treat a sticky gut issue, otherwise called constipation. Due to its high fiber content, it is recommended as a everyday supplement (sometimes in the form of metamucil) for those with dietary issues and diseases of the gut.

More recently, it has becoming more the talk of the town in gluten free cooking, as its ability to soak high volume of liquid and bind the solids around it is being leveraged for the lack of gluten in the cooking. It all makes sense and you would think it would be easy to incorporate it. By all accounts, it should have been the darling of this culinary niche.

GF Pear loaf

Yet, when you search for what people have already done with the husk, there is precious little variety. This made me very curious. Why has there been limited use in traditional baking or otherwise? Xantham gum, a processed product from corn, works as a thickener and is more commonly used. I would have thought there would be a greater demand for an entirely natural product such as psyllium, at least within the GF community.

So, as you would, I decided I must fill the void. I have always been sort of a chemistry geek and this idea reeked off novelty and a lot of fun; irresistible combination for me. The science behind how the husk works is simple. Husk (or ground) absorbs water, expands and binds to neighboring molecule. But, as I worked with the additive, I realized that it was not all that straightforward.

Reality Check #1: Psyllium is available as the whole husk or in powdered form. It has pale beige color, like wet sand. Either can be used but the choice is sometimes aesthetic. For bread, it does not matter but try making panna cotta and it can look quite off putting. In its whole form, it is a obviously visible and makes a textural difference if used with smooth liquids. A powdered form, possibly, works better for such preparation but I have not tried that yet.

GF Pear loaf

The real issue is that the husk and powder are NOT a one to one substitute. Although I am not entirely sure of the chemistry behind it, I would speculate that the larger surface area of the husk allows for multiple molecular binds while the powder form breaks down some of that efficiency.

Nevertheless, this plays a big role considering Reality Check #2.

Psyllium does not bind the same way to different agents. So, this means it is not a simple x gram of psyllium to y ml of liquid. The amount you need also depends on the what other ingredients are going into the mixture. For example, you may need a certain quantity of it with whole oats and a completely different amount with oat flour for the same amount of liquid. I know this because, I had a few learnings along the way.

GF Pear loaf

Now, imagine the degree of complexity of working with psyllium in real food. Every dish needs multiple iterations and a lot of trial and error. It is no wonder now that there are few actual recipes out there using it. It is far easier to use anthem gum, starches and other stuff that are more predictable and less eccentric.

However, after the effort I have already put into it, I feel that there is real potential in finding ways of using this natural ingredient in our diet. I prefer to use as little processed as I can, even with such additives. That in of itself is incentive enough to keep me going. As an added benefit, even though the amount of it I was taking it was marginal, on days I consumed an item with psyllium, I did notice a beneficial impact on my system.

My heart bleeds blue...

Blue skies, blue seas, crisp corn, luscious berries... That's what I am thinking of this Summer! :)

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NOURISHED Summer Issue - CornNOURISHED Summer Issue - Berries

Today is just a quick stop with some photos from the weekend. I also wanted to give a sneak peak at the theme of the next NOURISHED issue. It is all about enjoying the different tastes of Summer and taking time to relax, enjoy the good things in your life and share the laughter and fun with friends and family! :)

Issue will be out in 1 WEEK!! Wow! I running to wrap things up.

Meanwhile, I will let you bask in how gorgeous and colorful I think Summer can be! :)

Happy Monday! What are your weekend stories?

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Local Seasonal much?

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You know what is a sneaky staple in my house? Avocado. I go through at least two a week. Sometimes, it is as many as five.

Ostensibly, this post is not about that Southern import. It is about a savory galette that I made sometime ago with the vestiges of winter squash that I unearthed at the farmers' market. But, it is also about that luscious green fruit.

Since this blog is about being honest and real, I am going to admit it. No, I do not always eat what is "in season" or "local", as you can clearly see. Sometimes, I want to eat food that is nostalgic, like winter squash and okra. Food that is good for me and/or I like, even though it is not from the region, like avocados or quinoa. Food that makes no sense for the season, like a hearty 6 hour stew in Summer or a crisp bright salad in Winter.

Avocado on Kale

And, guess what, I am ok with it. I am ok with my food cravings that need imports from distant countries expending several gallons of fossil fuel. I am ok because I am human, I love food and I respect the fact that there was a lot of energy that went to bringing it to my plate.

Food is an emotional thing, people! It may seem schizophrenic given my last post, but, the reality is this. I am a migrant to this city. Most people in NYC are immigrants of some sort. Which means we may have grown up (I certainly did) on a different diet and different variety of produce than is available even in NYC. So, we all learn to adapt to what we have here. But, once in a while, when we find something that was shackled only in memory and restricted to those few and far between times when you visit homeland, it is an guttural desire to have it. Thinking has no say. It is an emotional call.

Kale & Roasted Squash Tart
Avocado on KaleKale & Roasted Squash Tart

Then there are other reasons. Health. A lot of us have abused our bodies for work or pleasure or mere indifference or even despair. But, we are becoming conscious now. Sometimes, what it takes to get back to normalcy cannot necessarily be captured by the buzz words. Recently, a blogger friend had a nasty accident that resulted in a broken femur. Recovery meant enabling the bone to heal through food that are good for that, at the cost of every jargon you have heard associated with food - seasonal, local, fair trade, organic, etc. No. The focus is on getting better and using available resources to do that.

Now, the avocado. It is not indigenous to the USA, even though it may be industrially grown in California now. Avocado trees were first planted in Florida in 1833 and then in California in 1856. It has been touted as the perfectly balanced fruit, rich in all the good stuff on USDA guidelines. So, its consumption has been on the uptrend especially after the restrictions for importing it were lifted in 1999. Yet, despite domestic production, the US is a net importer of the fruit from Central and South America due to increasing demand. So, bottom-line, if you eat avocados, you have no right to cry locavore! Even if you are from California, you have little idea where the fruit sold in your supermarket comes from.

Kale & Roasted Squash Tart

Stuffed Courgettes in Meat Sauce

Courgettes
The general assumption is that the Tropics, across the board, have more variety of vegetables than regions of four seasons. This I have found to be largely true and lamented several times since moving to the US. Coming from India and then Japan (where I found fruits and vegetables I had never seen before) I felt like I had suddenly landed in a desert of sorts. While, once upon a time, I could have greens for every meal for a week and not have to repeat any or eat salad, I found myself wanting for inspiration of using the same 4 varietals in different ways and thus succumbing to the easier choice of using meat!

There, I'll say it. Being a vegetarian requires far more creativity especially in the 'Western' world than cooking with meat. It is not often that a single vegetable plays star, even in Indian cuisine. It is more a set supporting characters that come together as greater than the sum of parts.

Stuffed Courgettes in Meat Sauce
But, yet, there is one variety of vegetable that the West completely trumps the Tropics on. Squash - Summer and Winter varieties. Let's stack them up.

Growing up in India we had a fair few for sure - 2 varieties of pumpkins (yellow and white flesh) and about 4 to 5 varieties of gourds, which, are like summer squash. And, well, you get all of them sort of year around given the climate. However, the thing is, they are get cooked pretty much the same few ways - in a curry or stir fried with some coconut and chana dal. I am not considering fusion cuisines. Also, ovens are not very common in India, even today. I definitely grew up with only a stove on top of a counter, not a range but just the burners!

Here, however, they are a bounty. They are also a riot of colors! oh my! The hues! The textures! Stripes, solids, speckled! Zucchini, yellow squash, patty pan squash, courgettes, funky ballon shaped squash that I don't know the name of. This is just Summer. Then Fall comes along and we are over run by another vibrant color palette from pumpkins to kuru squash, butter nut squash, spaghetti squash, acorn squash to name only a few. I read there are at least 15 Fall/Winter varietals!!! Wow!

I love Squash! Seriously! You can do so much with it. Cook it in curry or stir fry of course. But also, stuff it, pickle it, eat it raw, roast it, risotto it, soup it, pie it and other things I haven't even explored yet! Really, you can make it the star of the plate.

Stuffed Courgettes
These days, I buy my vegetables as they come into the season, conveniently from the Sunday market in front of my apartment. I find vegetables there that I have never seen in a store or super market. It brings such joy to me. I go bouncing around with a huge smile and usually the vendor/farmer has this amused look on his face when I come to the till, arms overloaded and a beatific look on my face. haha. Recently, I found gorgeous patty pan squash that I stuffed with its own flesh sautéed lightly with some fennel and peas, seasoned simply with salt and pepper and topped with melty cheese. It was divine! So much so, that I didn't take any photos. Simply devoured!

This Sunday, I picked up gorgeous courgettes. They are also called globe or round zucchini. Although, I have seen them around on the web, I had never ever before set y eyes on them in reality. So, you can well imagine how thrilled I was to see the lovely produce looking so well and in its prime.

The thing about these squash aside from their aesthetic beauty is their versatility and ability to take the stage with aplomb. They are so well proportioned for a meal and give in nicely to pretty much any stuffing you fancy. Yet, they will still be the lead actor on the plate. Such a delight to work with really!

Celebrate without guilt


For those in the US and Americans around the world, have a fantastic weekend! Whether you do something or not to celebrate July 4, I hope you have fabulous plans for the long weekend and that you take sometime to spend with yourself and those whom you love and celebrate the fabulous warm weather!

Me? I am looking forward to the cooking demo I am doing tomorrow, a trip to a part of NYC I have never visited before in all my years and finishing off the Summer Issue of NOURISHED.


Oh, just a quick call out. The Spring and Summer issues are on a special sale for this weekend! $1 for the Spring issue and the Summer one is on Pre-sale for $5 with 20 luscious summery delights! Go get your copy now, or gift one to someone you care about. :)

Today is just a quick stop. I wanted to leave you with a couple of fun recipes to celebrate any day with and especially hot Summer days! Head on over to FOODLY for the recipe of Raw and Vegan Chocolate Truffles (a recipe from the Spring Issue of Nourished) and a refreshing Gin and Berry Fizz.

Salut!!! Happy Weekend!

Here is to another week!

Rice, Sausage, pesto, Berries
Last week was an interesting one! Between cooking with Chef Elizabeth Falkner and attending my first ever weekend hackathon focused on using technology to solve the issues in food servicing, I thought I had enough adrenalin pushing things on the menu. So, when Sunday evening rolled in, I was hardly expecting any more excitement. Yet, at about 6pm you would have seen me smiling like a mad scientist and running about with camera to capture what I was sure to be illusionary.

Well, it all started rather peacefully. Wait, let me backtrack. I have a history of being a black thumb. I have a strong propensity to kill plants. Over the last few years, I have sporadically attempted to grow herbs and other small plants in my kitchen sill. Every single one of them promptly left for a better place. I never knew why. Originally, it was not watering and then it was too much of water. Anyway, this Summer when I decided I would try again, it was only with cautious hope but abundant optimism that a new surrounding would make a difference. So, very very slowly I started populating the fire escape landing outside the window. This is urban gardening! Any 'outdoor' space is game for it.

Herbs
Squash and peas

I bought seedlings of basil, thyme and parsley and replanted them into a long pot; rosemary into another. Seeds of squash and pea in another long pot, left patiently to germinate. I did make a mistake here, which, I will tell you about shortly. Everyday in the morning, I would pull back the curtain and peek nervously to make sure, they look alive and with look longingly at the pot with the seeds to tell me they were ok. Then the basil started growing and I learned to trim and keep it growing and not let it prematurely flower. Then one day, tiny little seedling started emerging in the squash and pea pots. I was super excited. All was going well in the world!

Then came the torrential rains here. As the winds and rains lashed against my window in the night, I barely slept in trepidation of the carnage I expected to find in the balcony the next morning. As soon as dawn broke, I peeked out. Imagine my surprise, when I found that my plants were still rooted, bravely defying the forces and courageously instilling faith in me. I was absolutely gratified. That emotion is hard to describe really. After years of not being successful in the green stuff, I had not expected this much success. I am getting used to nipping to the balcony, plucking some fresh leaves and deeply inhaling their aroma before perfuming my food with their divine flavor. They even seem to taste better than the store ones.

Rice, Sausage, pesto, Berries
Basil + ThymeSeedlings and Rosemary

I did have a tiny issue. The seedlings and herbs were planted in the wrong pot. In my inexperience, I choose a long container that is typically used for overhang for window sills and for pot to sit within. So, it not have drainage. My pots with plants were water logged and bloated. So, I went in with a screw driver and punched some holes. It was a shoddy job that somewhat helped I think. The soil had been loosened by the water and it was easier to stick my hand through it. Yet, I wasn't able to do much with the herb pot because the soil had been bound more with the roots of the plant. I did what I could and let it be.

Over the next few days, the excess water dried out but so was my parsley plant. It had been abundant and thriving before the storm. It was turning yellow very fast now though. Google gardeners said that was possibly water logging. I accepted my mistake and took responsibility for my idiotic choice of planter. I left it to fate to see if it could be salvaged at all or it would simply die away. I had made peace. Except, over the last two days, I saw fresh green leaves peeking through. My heart skipped and I let it be.

Yesterday, I was spending some quiet time with myself in the garden, repotting this, fixing some anchors for the peas to creep on, water the pots after yet another parching day. Whatever they say about gardening is true. It is very, very, very relaxing. Somehow, the mind shuts off. It takes you to a different zone. I didn't think it would do this and I wrote off people who said that. Last evening was the first I let myself realize how much space the activity creates within me.

Black Swallowtail CaterpillarBlack Swallowtail Caterpillar
So, there I was looking at the fruits of the labor, quietly contemplating about nothing, and, in general, just being, when it struck me that I should trim the dead leaves off the parsley. In I went with my mini-shears, snipping away the brown stems when I stopped suddenly as I spied some creepy crawly things clinging to the plant, three of them with bands of yellow, green and black. I was really annoyed and ran back to my desk to find out what to do with the pesky pests. What a surprise, when I found that they were actually butterfly caterpillars of the Black Swallowtail family. Ok, it is still theoretically a pest. It is going to eat my parsley. But, the way I see it. It is another harmless and gorgeous life form I am sustaining in my tiny garden. It is validation for me. That's all. Where I thought the experiment would bear me nothing, I have two different life forms thriving!!!

I am so so so so delighted! Thats all! I just wanted to share that energy and happiness with you as we start the week!

Millet and Collard Green Enchiladas

Millet and Collard Green Enchiladas

I have self-diagnosed myself to be mildly gluten intolerant. Or, yeast intolerant.

I don't know which. Whenever I eat yeasted bread I suffer through a few days of feeling 'fat', read bloated. Sourdough seems to be fine. But, even then, if I go mad on eating sourdough, my system gets cross. Yet, I am able to handle cakes, biscuits and other stuff. Obviously, I rarely overload on those. So, perhaps, it has to do with the quantity of gluten consumption compounded by the presence of yeast. Incidentally, beer, other than stout, does not sit well with me either. But, I abjectly did not want to think about it because I LOVE bread!

My friend recently convinced me to try an elimination diet. So, for the last nearly 3 weeks I have removed all bread, most gluten products (save the occasional croissant or brownie, ok 4 in all this time!) and lentils (which, also I consumed a fair bit). If you follow my Instagram feed, lately you would have seen more gluten free stuff on it and this is the reason.

Millet and Collard Green EnchiladasMillet and Collard Green Enchiladas

I have to say, I feel like an idiot for not doing this sooner. Because, I feel great. Possibly a touch more tired from the reduced intake of carbs that are a major source of energy and I burn a lot of it naturally. But, as far as the gut is concerned, I have not had a single incident, while in the past I would spend at least a couple of nights not feeling the greatest. Since, I am learning to listen to my body and naturally understand what works, this is going to be a slow process. Besides, I eliminated several items at the same time viz. lentils and gluten. So, I still have to break down which one is culprit within those two grain categories.

At the same time, I added a few positive influences. While, I surprised myself in not actually craving bread (I love the damn thing! That is how I got into this mess, in the first place), there is a functional aspect of bread, that as a carrying medium. I found a recipe for a gluten free bread and played with it and I think I have new favorite bread + tar tine + snack made entirely without yeast or flour. I also switched to eating a more vegetarian lifestyle with a fair dose of fish. One, it works because I want lighter meals with the warmer weather. But, more importantly, I think for the first time in 10 years, that is since I left India, I am eating in a way close to how I ate growing up.

Millet and Collard Green Enchiladas

I, as we all do, have a certain eating history. But, when we are exposed to newer foods and lose access to several old ones, things tend go for a tumble. Especially, when living in vastly different countries. I have tweaked, ignored, experimented with my system as I discovered newer and more exciting foods. Some of it was utter crap and some was good to taste but did not work so great for me. To wit, I did not grow up with a lot of meat or yeasted food. So, my system simply is not capable of being constantly overloaded with them. That's it. I have to respect that and work with it. I can cajole it with a few fun outings and it will happily oblige but if I run amok then, understandably, it takes offense.

Incidentally, I did eat a fair bit of lentils growing up. So, that should be fine. But, I have been making a classic error in working with dry lentils. I very often do not soak them for a few hours. I have recently realized that this is imperative for several reasons. Soaking removes the outer coating of the grain which carries a certain protein related to albumin that some people are allergic too. Equally important, if you have any form digestive system disorder, this step is mandatory to enable the release of enzymes that will enable the digestive process. Skipping this step basically short circuits the process and the poor gut is left without help to break them down which is not an easy task and in the process releases a lot of gas. If you have neither issue, then you can possibly get away without soaking lentils but is definitely recommended.