Okra Curry

(45 minutes, serves 6)

For those afraid of okra, I promise you that this will not be slimy at all. A tender vegetable dish, with a nice toothsome chew to it.

1 lb. okra, washed and dried
1/2 t. turmeric
1/2 t. salt
vegetable oil for frying
2 T ghee or oil
1 onion, sliced thin
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 t. black mustard seed
1/2 t. cumin seed
1/2 t. fenugreek seed
3-4 dried red chili pods, crumbled
1/2 t. Sri Lankan roasted curry powder
1/2 can coconut milk

1. Slice okra on the diagonal, and mix with turmeric and salt.

2. Heat oil and in a small frying pan, deep-fry okra in batches, removing to drain on paper towels. (At this point, okra may be served as is, for a yummy snack.)

 

3. In a small saucepan, heat ghee / oil and sauté onion, garlic, mustard, cumin, fenugreek, and chili pods until onions is soft and golden.

4. Add curry powder and coconut milk; simmer for a few minutes, stirring, until well blended.

5. Add okra to the pot and stir for a few minutes more on low, until well-blended. Serve hot with rice.

NOTE: This recipe is a little fussy, because it’s designed to make sure the okra is quite dry before cooking — alternatively, you could skip step #2, and add the okra at the end of step #3, before adding curry powder and coconut milk. That would involve just one pan, so easier and faster — about thirty minutes total.

Papadums (Three Ways)

Papadums are little lentil crisps, high-protein and good for you; they’re typically eaten with a rice and curry meal and lend a delightful crisp texture and flavor. Traditionally, they were fried, but many of us avoid frying these days, so I decided to make them three different ways to compare the results.
 
I’m afraid that the frying method was notably tastier (and prettier, I think) than the gas fire and microwave methods; if I were going to eat them straight up, I’d definitely go for frying. But that said, as an accompaniment with other flavorful curries, the fire and microwave methods will still provide worthwhile results.
 
1. Buy a package of pre-made papadums. (Available online, in Indian stores, and sometimes in the Indian section of regular grocery stores.)
 
2a. Heat oil for deep-frying in a small saucepan and fry one at a time; remove to a plate lined with paper towels. Keep oil from getting too hot, or papadum will overcook and not be as tasty — usually I start at high heat, but then turn it down to medium-high a few papadum into the process. Alternatively,
 
2b. Using tongs, heat papadum one at a time over a gas fire, trying to avoid having them actually catch on fire. Alternatively,
 
 
2c. Place papadums on a microwave-safe plate and microwave or approximately one minute, until papadums are puffed up and crisp.
 
Enjoy! 

Tomorrow and Tomorrow

Delighted to announce that my XPrize story, “Tomorrow and Tomorrow,” is live, featuring gorgeous art by Keren Katz. I love it when artists take my scenes and bring them to life. This one’s going out to my fellow English professors and fellow cancer survivors!
 
 “Anu huddled over her lecture notes in the airplane seat, a thousand regrets gnawing at her chest. She’d given her last lecture. Her oncologist hadn’t even wanted her to fly out for it, with the chemo compromising her immune system, but they’d given her such a small chance of survival regardless, Anu didn’t really see the point of missing one last opportunity to make her mark….”

Assistant?

How does one determine that one has enough work to justify hiring an assistant?

I feel like I’m in this weird professional space, where I don’t actually make that much money from my writing — but when I do manage to carve away enough time to write something, it generally sells, and at a pretty good hourly rate. Which seems to indicate that I should be spending a lot more time on my writing. (I’m sure my agent would agree.)

I’ve been doing a combo of hiring more students to help with yard work and paying for space rental to get me out of the house and into mental writing space, both of which do help. But more and more, I’m feeling like an actual assistant (quarter-time? half-time?) would be what I really need.

If I had someone local who could come for 2-3 hours every morning, that would be kind of amazing. Surely there’s an Oak Park mom with an interest in literature who could use a part-time job like that…? There’s so much stuff I would like to do with the SLF and DesiLit and Maram Arts too, if I could download the ideas in my brain and get someone working on them…if I could send all the arts administrator stuff off to the side, that would be so helpful.

But it feels like such a gamble, if I’m not sure if I can actually earn enough extra to justify it. Despite living in a very nice house, we don’t actually have a lot of extra cash floating around; we put most of our money directly into the house.

I’d had interns before, and I could do that again, and give them course credit, but they generally need enough supervision that it’s really not as helpful as one would like. Interns also shift by semester, so you’re training a new one every three months. That eats up a *lot* of time.

Also, with interns getting course credit, I feel like I need to stick to strictly literary work, the kind of thing that actually builds up skills they can put on a resume, whereas with an assistant, I can have them do things like go pick up my sick kid from camp so I can keep writing.

If I had an assistant that ran SLF / DesiLit programming on the other hand, I could have *them* train and supervise interns, which would potentially really extend our reach.

Sigh. This is really a conversation to have with Kevin. But posting it here, in the interests of writerly transparency about the business of it all. I am not at the point of actually being committed to hiring an assistant, so don’t send me your resumes, please!

Purses and popularity

Kavya now has more close friends than I do (we counted last night). They are vying for her attention via FaceTime chats after camp, and inviting her out for ice creams, block parties, even zip-lining. When I try to say no, we should just get home, I am offered the most pathetic puppy eyes and beggings of “Please, can Kavya come? PLEASE?”

How did we end up raising a popular girl???

Kavya is also a purse-carrying girl. She got a sparkly watermelon purse for her birthday from my Canada cousins, and she has been carrying it to camp every day in addition to her backpack. I don’t know what she has in it, and I am more than a little bewildered by her desire to carry it daily.

I’m the sort of person who carries as little as possible (for this current four-day trip, I have all my clothes, laptop, and drawing supplies in my backpack). And while I think I also got my first purse around this age, I hated it, and carried it as little as possible.

I still almost never carry a purse — I look for formalwear with pockets, and if I can’t find that, have a tendency to stick phones and credit cards in bras, or in the pockets of my nearest male escort (who generally have capacious pockets).

But Kavya *loves* her purse, and while it bewilders me, I also kind of figure if she can develop girl skills at an early age, so they’re second nature to her, it will probably serve her well in this world of ours. I suppose make-up is next. (I have packed none for this trip, unless you count face lotion and lip balm.)

Shed

At O’Hare, headed to Minnesota. I’ll have some free time in the airport there from about 12 – 4, which I’m planning to spend writing (I owe Valya and Stephen a story revision), then meeting friends for dinner (yay, Sugi and Haddayr!), then headed to writing workshop.

It’s held in the countryside a ways out from the Twin Cities, in an old house which features a little writing shed in the woods in back, which I’m hoping to snag for a few hours at some point. Some wonderful stories were written there, and I could use a little contagious magic.

I’ve mostly given up on the ideas of converting the garage into a coachhouse (too expensive), or adding a conservatory to the living room (also too expensive), but I still occasionally ponder the utility of a little writing shed in the backyard. I’d have to move the lilacs I planted last year, but if I did that, I could maybe squeeze a tiny one in the back corner. Just big enough for table & chair? Maybe.

Something to ponder…anything to get me away from my household chores.

Homesick

Homesick

The problem with going deep
is that you can fall in.
You find yourself reheating
frozen food, a pale imitation
of the real thing. Making
other dishes over and over
trying to remember
decades-old cinnamon
in the nose, lime on the tongue,
chili heat lingering on your lips —
a pain that you seek out repeatedly.

Sometimes you think your heart
can’t take it; it would be easier
to order pizza instead. Who
doesn’t love melted cheese?

Yet here you are, microwaving
frozen hoppers that you keep
stashed in the basement
deep freeze. Hoarded for
those days when you need
them, even if it hurts.

Sri Lanka Trip

I have multiple friends in Sri Lanka right now, posting photos, and it’s VERY FRUSTRATING that I am not also there. I haven’t been since…2005? When Karina and I went together. Too long.

The anniversary party basically took all our extra money and then some, and I don’t regret it, but Kevin and the kids still haven’t been to Sri Lanka, and I think if I don’t prioritize that happening soon, I’m going to regret that.

We’ve been waiting in part because Anand doesn’t handle long plane flights all that well (ADHD makes it very hard for him to sit still that long), and even the California flight last year was a little torturous for the poor kid. But we’re going to do California again soon, so a little more acclimating for him, and then either next summer or next Christmas, I think the Sri Lanka trip is a family priority. Summer we could go for longer (two months as opposed to three weeks), but Christmas will have better weather.

Must start saving pennies — four airfares will not be cheap. It would be really nice if any of our friends also wanted to visit Sri Lanka when we’ll be there — it’d be fun to take people to go feed the baby elephants, try Ayurvedic massages in spice gardens, climb Sigiriya & Adam’s Peak, etc. (I have not yet climbed Sigiriya & Adam’s Peak myself, because I totally pooped out on the somewhat arduous climbs in 2005 with Karina, which I regret, but I am in much better shape now than I was then…)

Green Mango Curry

This dish can be traced as far back as the fifth century, when it was served at the court of King Kasyapa of Sigiriya (famed for his luxurious Sky Palace).

1 T ghee or oil
3 small onions, minced
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 T ginger, chopped
3 t. mustard seeds
2 stalks curry leaves
3 Thai green chilies, chopped
3 T vinegar
3 t. roasted Sri Lankan curry powder
1 t. cinnamon
1 t. salt
3 large green mangoes, peeled and cut into long, thick pieces
1 can coconut milk
½ c. water
1 T sugar

1. Heat the oil in a pan and sauté the onion, garlic, ginger, mustard seeds, curry leaves, and chilies until the onions are soft.

2. Add the vinegar, curry powder, cinnamon, salt, and half a can of coconut milk with ½ c. water – stir to combine.

3. Add the mango slices, bring to a boil, and simmer until the mango is just tender, about ten minutes.

4. Add the rest of the coconut milk and sugar to the curry; bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer for about five minutes. The gravy should be thick enough to thoroughly coat the mango. Serve hot.

Door

Door without numbers.
Door with numbers.
Numbers pretty.
Door happy.
 
Thanks to my in-laws for the lovely Christmas gift. It took me a while to have time to get it made, but very happy with the result. And now it should be much easier for people to find our door at night (it was something of a problem, the last eight years, because the number was only on the stair post, and was hard to see at night).
 
Artwork by John Curran, of Curran Art Glass. A pleasure to work with him, as always.