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One Amazing Pie

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Chitra Divakaruni is probably best known for the fluffy story Mistress of Spices, made into a movie starring Ashwarya Rai. This book, One Amazing Thing, is not fluff. When an earthquake hits, nine people are trapped in an Indian visa office. The situation quickly becomes dire- parts of the building keep collapsing, water is coming in, there is almost no food. (Yeah, I know. I’ll get to that.)

The book begins with Uma, a grad student in Literature, ignoring her Chaucer to make up stories about the people in the waiting room. After the quake, when people are beginning to understand the very real possibility that they will die here together, Uma makes a suggestion. Each person will tell a story from their life, about one amazing thing, Canterbury Tales-style.

Each person’s amazing thing is somehow linked to sadness. Each story explains what brought them to the office, to the dream of India. One woman, Mrs. Pritchett, recalls the beginning of her story several times. It starts with a peach pie, flaky and sweet.

This pie is as good as any memory. Perfectly sweet, with a hint of Indian spices, you won’t want to stop eating.

One Amazing Pie

2 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1 Tb sugar
2 sticks of butter, cold and cubed
1/2 cup cold water

7 large peaches
1/2 cup sugar
Juice of 1/2 lime
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp cinnamon
3 Tb cornstarch

Cinnamon-sugar

First, the crust! Put the flour, sugar, and salt in the food processor and whaz it. Add the butter cubes and pulse them in. Finally, add the water and watch the dough form a ball. You know, most pastry chefs will tell you that you should grate in frozen butter and use ice water. I totally don’t do that. Its a hassle. Your dough will be fine. Wrap it up in Saran wrap and stick it in the fridge. Let it chill for at least 15 minutes.

Preheat your oven to 350. While that’s heating up, peel your peaches. Again, you could blanch them to slip off the skins, but I didn’t feel like it. A vegetable peeler works fine. Halve the peaches, take out the pits, and thinly slice them. Combine them in a bowl with the other filling ingredients.

Divide the dough in half. I chose to roll mine thin and just use a single crust folded over like a galette. You could use your second half to make a normal top crust, or even a lattice. Or, freeze it and make another pie later like I am. Whatever you decide, get a crust in a pie pan! Dump the filling into your crust. Brush the top crust with water and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. Bake for an hour, or until golden and bubbly.

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Posted by on September 3, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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The Sambar in the Garden

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I grew up adoring, like so many little girls, The Secret Garden. No matter that I killed plants by merely glancing at them, or that my mother was alive and well just up the stairs (hi mom!); there’s something about that story that just feels possible. All children know that grownups keep secrets and behave entirely irrationally. Why couldn’t there be a hidden paradise, just beyond the boundary you are allowed to wander? Kamala Nair feels the same way. In The Girl in the Garden, she spins the classic tale into a modern story for grownups. Rakhee Singh is an unhappy Minnesotan daughter of Indian immigrants. When her mother whisks her suddenly off to the mysterious ancestral home in India, Rakhee is culture-shocked. Giant spiders, spotty electricity, and bathing in a bucket aren’t exactly par for the course in Minnesota. But as she explores the lush jungle around the crumbling mansion, Rakhee finds both her confidence and the key to unlocking her Mother’s hidden past. Naturally, the food descriptions have had me in a curry fit since I picked the book up. On her eleventh birthday, Rakhee requests her favorite lentil stew, sambar, for dinner. Please note that this will be a beautiful dish for you- mine is quite ugly because I had to substitute the stiff green lentils for the soft, supple red ones. I also use hibiscus instead of the traditional tamarind in this dish as a tribute to the flowers in Rakhee’s garden. Find at any Latin grocer, or substitute pomegranate juice for a similar flavor.

The Sambar in the Garden

2 Tb dried hibiscus flowers
3 cups water
1 onion, chopped
1 zucchini, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
8 new potatoes, chopped
3/4 cup RED lentils (dal)
1/4 cup unsweetened coconut
1 Tb mustard seed
1/2 tsp coriander seed
1 tsp cayenne (less if you’re wimpy)
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp cumin seed

In a large skillet, heat a couple tablespoons of oil and sauté all the vegetables until softened- about 10 minutes. While those are going, bring your water to a boil in a separate saucepan. Remove it from the heat and toss in the hibiscus. Let that steep while the veggies finish up. Grind the coconut and the spices together, either in a mortar and pestle or an old coffee grinder. Feeling lazy? Just replace the spice blend with 1 1/2 Tb of curry powder and toss the coconut in as-is. Sauté one minute longer, add the lentils, and the hibiscus water (flowers and all! They’re yummy.) Simmer for 20-30 minutes, or until the lentils are disintegrating into a mushy purée. If you’d like, you can mash your veggies as well with a potato masher.

Serves 4-6. Add rice or naan and a side of mango for a full meal.

 
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Posted by on July 17, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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