a spring farm trip

cows

It's only seemed fitting that I shared a travel post with you while I'm driving cross country from one coast to the other. I've keep meaning to post these photographs from our spring trip to M's parents' farm in Grayson County, Virginia; that we took several weeks, ago so here they are! I didn't get to milk any goats this time but I did get to play with that cute little lamb Oliver, that M's mom is raising.  He follows her like a little puppy everywhere and I think Oliver is absolutely adorable but Snoopy did get a little jealous because he made it clear with his puppy whining every time I carried the lamb

farm fresh eggs

I've been posting photographs of our big road trip on Instagram so do check it out, if you get a moment! 
fields flowers and farm barns
goat portrait
oliver the lamb
wild mustard

Here are some of my favorite links that are making me miss not having a kitchen and I can't wait to try these recipes out!
  • Have you seen this delicious tomato rhubarb ketchup by Savory Simple, I need to make a few batches of this as soon as I get my kitchen back!
  • Lavender season is almost here in some places and these lavender cookies by My Blue and White Kitchen, smell and sound amazing.
  • This gorgeous chamomile honey and lemon baked Alaska by Twigg Studios looks beautiful!
  • I want to try this Edible Perspective's pizza crust, it has so many delicious types of flours in it and it's also gluten-free.
  • I've never made a Strawberry Eton Mess but this one by Hummingbird High looks really pretty! I need to change that asap.

yellow birds

Napa Valley

Napa

This is my final post of 2013 and like any year it had its moments of ups and downs. But all in all it has been a great year and I thank you for making it special.

I took a break from posting last week since we took a week long holiday and decided to spend Christmas in California. We visited the California wine country in Napa and Sonoma and also spent a few days visiting the Bay Area. The food was fantastic and the wine and brut every bit delicious. There is so much to see and so much to do and we really couldn't get everything done in the short time we were there but I'm glad to say that we definitely covered and checked off several items from our list. I must give a special shoutout to my friend Prerna of Indian Simmer for sharing some of her favorite restaurant recommendations, it made our food filled trip extra easy since she picked out some amazing eateries! Some of my personal top favorite food spots from this trip were, Chef Thomas Keller's Bouchon Bakery, the Tartine Bakery, the Farmstead Restaurant , and the Girl and the Fig. This was definitely one of my top favorite trips of the year and a great way to end it.

I hope that you have a great 2014 with many, many wonderful and happy moments! Here's to looking forward to the new year.
Cheers,

Nik

Napa 2
olives and citrus Champagne and olive trees chinatown sfo 2 chinatown tea sfo chinatown sfo SFO city

photo essay: a day at sullivan's island, charleston, south carolina

Charleston

Usually a few days before I leave for a holiday, my mind is filled with exciting thoughts of traveling adventures and new food but last week was different. My mind was completely preoccupied with the upcoming SCOTUS decisions on DOMA and Prop8. I remember walking into work on my last day when my friend Alex texted with "Win, win, win!".  At that moment, the months of anxiety and stress were no more and all I could feel was happiness and freedom. It really was a watershed moment. I received congratulatory messages from my family and friends and I felt wonderful but more than anything, thankful. Later that evening, I met up with a few of my closest friends to celebrate, since it was a Thursday neither of us really stayed out too late but it was still important for us to meet up and share our happiness in this historical moment.

Ocean grass

After all this amazing news, we were finally ready for our trip to Charleston, I've never visited the city but I have heard and read so many wonderful things from various people and several food bloggers. So of course, I was thrilled when we were asked to travel with our friends Tyler and John and spend a week enjoying the sights and sounds of this picturesque beach town but also partake in their wedding menu tastings. This is pretty much one culinary trip! Here are some of the photographs that I took at the beach at Sullivan's Island. The water was warm and wonderful and the beach clean and quiet.

beach way
Beach flag
Ocean sports

Travel Photo Essay: December at Mouth of Wilson, VA and Burnsville, NC

Sheep on the Hill

This trip made me realize how thankful I should be for having internet and cellphone access. We spent our Christmas at the farm at Mouth of Wilson, VA and then New Year's Eve at a cabin in Burnsville, NC. Both trips were so much fun but having limited internet access made it hard to post any of the photographs from my trips, so here is a very image-heavy post for you! I'm sharing some of my favorite moments with you that I think and hope you might like. Once you get used to certain technologies, it is appears to be so hard to break free or even deal with limited access but it is completely doable. In the end it was totally worth the time to get away, relax and enjoy nature.

Winter Rain Drops
Frost and Rain in Winter

Oddly enough, we were hoping for a white Christmas in Virginia but ended up with rain, while back home in D.C. the news showed the roads and houses covered with plenty of snow. We did get a bit of  snow on our final day in Virginia and drove through it to North Carolina to my friend Alex's family's cabin where the trees and mountains were covered with snow and everything looked frosted and beautiful. Back in Virginia, I  visited a local antique store called Polly World located in Mouth of Wilson, where I found some interesting and fun items for sale. Sure enough, I ended up picking a few items that I fell in love with and of course "had" to have. We also got to see a little bit of wildlife on our trips, we ran into some deer and wild turkey our hikes on the hills. On a side note, I'll admit that I am always a little surprised to see how green some of the farms and pastures remain , even during a cold winter!

Wild Turkey Sighting

All in all this was a great holiday and a refreshing start to 2013. I shared some wonderful and amazing moments with my friends and I hope you too, spent a great holiday with your loved ones.

Cold and Wet Winter Days at the FarmHorses on a chilly daySnow and BootsEarly AM Snow Covered Trees atop the Mountains in NCSnow Covered Branches and Wild Turkey FootprintsA Bird House and Wild Deer

Travel: Weekend trip to New Orleans

New Orleans 6

I'm back from my awesome weekend vacation in New Orleans. The weather was fantastic and the food always delicious. Of course, we ate way too much food around the city but there are absolutely no regrets here. My only regret, I didn't pack any shorts on this trip. Still in some +70F weather, we managed to consume copious amounts of fried oyster and shrimp Po'boys, gumbos, and even taste an alligator cheesecake. I love grand southern mansions and old homes and the Garden District boasts some breathtaking houses. By the way if you look closely in the photograph with the ferns, you might notice an iguana basking above the leaves while he shed his skin. I didn't see this guy till I was back home in D.C. going through my photographs. How random is that, an iguana roaming the streets of NOLA ?

New Orleans 5

We revisited some of my favorite places including Jacques-Imo for a fantastic dinner (try the eggplant appetizer here, it is amazing!) and then stopped by the Oak Wine Bar for a drink. The brunch menu at Atchafalaya is also worth checking out. Heck, we even managed to squeeze in three to four food festivals in under six hours. Still the best part of the trip, was visiting my friend's mother who had painstakingly prepared a wonderful dinner for us. I'll admit that it is probably one of the biggest incentives of my many trips to NOLA, her food and company. For our final meal, we stuffed ourselves at Cafe Adelaide who host a 25 cent martini on their menu. What a fun way to end this trip until the next vacation!

New Orleans 2 New Orleans 4 New Orleans 1 New Orleans 3 New Orleans 7

tomato and tiger shrimp soup


After a fun and relaxing holiday, I am now back home trying to nurse a sick throat. When I am sick, I prefer simple and warm soups that are nourishing and wholesome. This could probably end up being the week of stocks and soups posts if I had my way. 


I had plans to check out the Waterfront at Main Avenue which is D.C.'s fresh fish market. On a chilly December afternoon, the market felt surprisingly warm but I think it was the sight of the fresh catch on the fisherman's boats that had my undivided attention. 



The Waterfront is not a large fish market by any means but it still has a decent variety of fresh seafood with a broad range including popular Cephalopods like squid and octopus. You can choose from a variety of cooked to raw seafood items at the market. I ended up leaving with a bag of fresh tiger shrimp that I intended to use for my soup.


This shrimp/prawn soup is one of my favorite Portuguese soups, it has simple savory flavors that are fresh and vibrant but also healthy. I love exploring Portuguese cuisine due to its strong influence on Goan history, culture and food. Portuguese food relies on fresh herbs and vegetables are to complement seafood dishes because they can accent the taste in different ways depending on the combination and types of fresh produce used. This is a highly modified version of the popular Tomatado soup of southern Portugal that is normally served without any inclusion of seafood. This soup is simple and delicate and definitely worth a try for any occasion. Bread is often used as a thickening ingredient in many Portuguese soups and here too the addition of chunks of bread make this soup a wholesome and tasty dish for a cold wintry day.


tomato and tiger shrimp soup

ingredients

1lb fresh tiger shrimp, unpeeled 
2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika
1/2 cup chopped shallots
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon chili flakes
2 cups grape tomatoes, halved
3 sprigs of fresh oregano
1/4 cup fresh cilantro/flat-leaf parsley, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup Pinot Grigio white wine
1 cup vegetable stock
2 cups dry white bread of any kind
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper 

1. Bring a pot of water and the salt to a boil and add the whole shrimp. Let them cook till the color changes to pink which should take about 2 minutes. Drain the shrimp and transfer to chilled ice-cold water to stop the cooking. Once cooled, peel and devein the shrimp and leave only the shell on the tail behind. Discard the rest of the shells.
2. Heat the olive oil in a stockpot on a medium flame, add the shrimp and paprika and sear the shrimp on each side taking care to coat the shrimp with the paprika. This will take about 3 minutes till the shrimp get brown on each side. Remove the shrimp from the pot and keep aside. 
3. To the same stockpot, add the shallots, garlic, and chili and cook till softened. Add the tomatoes and oregano and cook for 3 minutes. Pour the wine in to deglaze the pot followed by the vegetable stock. Bring the contents to a boil and then reduce the flame to a gentle simmer. 
4. Rip or chop the bread coarsely into small 1/2 inch cubes. Add the bread and the shrimp to the contents of the stockpot and stir for about 3 minutes. Let the soup thicken for about 5 minutes. Season with the salt and pepper, taste and adjust if necessary. Add the fresh cilantro/parsley before serving to the soup. Serve warm or hot with toasted bread.

heading back


Time flies by too fast, especially when you are having a wonderful time. We are on our way back from our last day at the farm and I am already feeling a bit sad to go back home. Nothing can compare to waking up in the morning to fresh homemade feta cheese from the goats at the farm in your omelets accompanied by a cup of hot coffee. I will miss all of this and more.


We played, ate and laughed all week during this trip and created special memories that bring us all closer together. That is what the holidays are all about. I've walked around the farm exploring the streams and stumbling on deer hoof marks in the wet soil and a hornet's nest. I finally got to go up to Mt. Rogers and even stumbled across some wild ponies. I had secretly hoped to run across a bear but thankfully according to some, that did not happen.





The only part about coming back from a good vacation is getting back into the regular grind at the home front. Perhaps some comfort food like a berry or apple pie might be in the making this week.

pumpkin galore


I sneaked away to write a little. Since midterms begin this week, I have not had any time to post any recipes. The week before midterms is always a tense period and generally stress and excessive cramming take over my life. Surprisingly this time, I did something new. We took a weekend trip to Rehoboth Beach in Delaware with our friends Ali and Shannon who live next door and brought our dogs along.


I was able to get out a little and also get plenty of geographic information memorized for my exam (I am taking a course on Geographic Information Systems). I can finally recall my high school geography classes and once again distinguish between latitudes and longitudes in more than one way. The ocean was a bit cold and windy but with the sun out we were fortunate to have some great warm temperatures.


With Halloween around the corner, pumpkin patches are in full swing all over the place and we were able to see throngs of pumpkin sales on our drive down and on our way back. In India, pumpkins are generally less sweeter than here in the United States and are normally consumed as a vegetable. I think except for "Petha" or the candied white pumpkin I can't think of an Indian pumpkin dessert. No complaints here though, I love pumpkin pie even more than pecan pie. The wide variety in shape, size and textures of this "magical" orange squash make it one of my favorite fall highlights.


squash yogurt soup with panko crusted chicken


How did I end up celebrating my extra Monday holiday, courtesy Columbus Day? Well, I popped onto the subway at the green line and then switched to the red line on the metro to visit the Smithsonian National Zoo in the Adam's Morgan neighborhood. I think our zoo is one of the best treasures at the Capitol more so than the monuments. The joy and satisfaction that these animals give people and kids every time I walk through there brings a smile to my face. However, as much as I love that our city gets tourists from all over the country and the world, it is kind of nice to have a slow day without having to traverse and find my way through a crowded place such as the zoo and enjoy watching the animals relaxing and doze off in the sun. Oddly enough, I also realized that it is normally quite a walk through the zoo (for me) but this time it turned out to be a nice and evenly spaced stroll and I didn't have to stand up on my toes or sift my way through people to get a glimpse of the animals. Yes, it is true that I am at a bit of a disadvantage when it comes to height.


This week's soup was inspired by Marc Matsumoto of [No Recipes]. Not only are his recipes easy to prepare and delicious but his skills with the camera make his blog an alluring treat. His most recent post on the Katsudon gave me a bit of inspiration on creating a Far-East fusion recipe for a chicken and squash yogurt soup. By using Panko crumbs, I was able to create a perfect crispy layer to my chicken that went along great with my creamy (without any added cream) yogurt based squash soup. Since our C.S.A sends us a mix of different squashes every Wednesday, soups tend to be one of the fastest ways for me to get "rid" of them. This week's soup used 2 delicata squashes, 1 acorn squash and 1 carnival squash. I followed Chef Matsumoto's recipe for his Tonkatsu pork chops but made a couple of changes for the chicken used in my recipe. Sambal olek, a type of chili paste that can be found at almost any store these days gives the soup a bit of heat.


squash yogurt soup with panko crusted chicken

servings: 4 individuals

ingredients

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 clove of garlic, minced 
4 cups of peeled and chopped mixed squash (butternut, pumpkin)
2 cups of peeled and chopped granny smith apples 
2 cups chicken or vegetable stock, low -sodium
3 cups water
2 cups fat free greek yogurt
1 tablespoon low sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon sambal olek 
salt and pepper for seasoning the soup
4 lean chicken breasts
1 beaten egg
1/2 cup plain flour
1 cup Panko crumbs
1 /2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
vegetable oil for frying
chopped scallions for garnishing

1. In a large stockpot, heat up the olive oil on a high flame. Add the garlic and cook for about 40 seconds before adding in the chopped squash and apples. Saute for about 10 minutes on a medium flame. Now, pour in the stock and bring the entire contents of the pot to boil. Reduce the flame to a simmer and let the squash cook till tender. Let the contents cool and then blend to a smooth consistency either in a food processor or blender. You can add some water in to the mixture during blending to get a smoother texture. 
2. Add the processed squash back to the stockpot and stir in the yogurt. Now add the remaining water, soy sauce, and the sambal olek. Season with salt and pepper (You can add as much water as you want to adjust the consistency of the soup, I prefer this soup to be a bit creamier so I added less water).
3. Set up a dredging station. Put the flour in a tray that will be easy to dredge the chicken in. Place the beaten egg in another bowl and the Panko crumbs in another tray. Place the chicken breasts between two strips of cling film. Using a meat tenderizer, pound the chicken till it spreads out evenly into a thin layer just like a cutlet. Remove the chicken and absorb any excess liquid with paper towels. Season each side of the breast with cayenne pepper, salt and pepper. 
4. Heat the oil up in a shallow frying pan. The level of oil in the pan should be about 0.5" or less. The chicken will cook fast since it has been pounded into an even thin layer. When the oil heats up, start to prepare the chicken. Dredge the seasoned chicken in the flour and dust of any excess and then dip it into the beaten egg. Then coat the chicken with Panko crumbs and press it gently to seal the crumbs on the chicken in an even layer. 
5. Fry the chicken in the oil, till golden brown on both sides. This should take about 10-15 minutes, depending on the thickness of your chicken breast. Drain the excess oil from the fried chicken on paper towels. Pour some soup into a shallow soup bowl and put the sliced chicken on top. Serve immediately garnished with chopped scallions.