Grilled Red Snapper

I have an ego the size of a dinosaur! And whenever my humongous egotistic self gets badly bruised, I would immediately dash off to my next door neighbor Sheila Brown, 70, a retired school teacher – the sweetest, loveliest, kindest soul ever. She always helps me crossing the stepping stones. She seems to know how to heal my injured ego when I’m pissed-off, ticked off. She knows how to wake me up when I sleep walk.

She would always listen to every single sinister revenge ideas that pop, hop and knock in my head !  She would nod her head in approval on my despicable plan about how to successfully gut my hater like a fish ! Or how to poke in the eye of that specimen from a remote distance!  She would smile when I describe her how to bury all the evidence after killing the rascal !  She would laugh her lungs out when I’d proclaim, “Farewell to kindness and humanity!”

“Step back- breathe a few deep breaths- reconnected to what has real value in life- and focus on something ‘worth obsessing over’ with a clear mind” – She would wink, “A Red Snapper sounds fun?” 🙂

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Then she would forcefully make herself comfortable in my garden where I’ve sown and grown some magic, marvels, miracles with all my heart & soul.

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She would ask me to feel the sunlight twinkling through the flowers.

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“Gardening is a stress-buster, therapeutic tool which generates positive energies in your soul. And it helps you forget the grudges that have consumed your heart”, her soft voice flew away in the wind caressing those petals.

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“Take a deep look at those softness, uplifting vivaciousness, the innocence. Aren’t you inspired now to release all your anger?” – she would put her kind hand on my shoulder.

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This woman totally has the ability to full-on blow my goddamn mind!

Then she would grill the fish. She knows I’m deeply, madly, truly in love with grilled Red Snapper! I adore biting in the chunks of garlicy ultra soft meat, salted crispy crimson skin, herb flavored moist flesh separating into flakes! I fancy digging around  gooey custardy brain, tearing apart the head with my fingers !

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She would use waaaaaaaaaaaaay too much fresh herbs which will make the grilling extra special.

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Ingredients:

1/2 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons chopped fresh Mint/Parsley/Thyme leaves
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 garlic clove, minced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 local whole fish (gutted and scaled. Washed. Pat dried). ‘Red Snapper’ worked for me very well.

Method:

Whisk first five ingredients in a bowl. Let the flavors of the herbs marry, lemon juices and pepper mingle, the garlic flakes dissolve into the oil. Brush and rub the mix generously all over the skin and cavity.

Place slices of lemon and some herbs inside the cavity.

Prepare the grill (medium-high heat).

Grill the fish until just cooked through, about 6 minutes per side (depending on thickness and size of fish)

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With every bite, when the flavor infused flakes melt away in my tongue, my palate thanks her. With every chance she gets, she would show me  that good food and good company make life intensely splendid.

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Before leaving Shiela would hug me tight saying, ” Move on. Forgive. Let go of the resentment. And concentrate on more important things in your life, like grilling fish. Thou shall not take revenge, for it is the most unproductive of all human activities. ” 🙂

Shrimp Malaikari (Shrimp in Creamy Coconut Gravy)

Grandma is getting old. I have lost touch with almost all of my cousins. My lost-soul-swimming-in-a-fish-bowl kept on adding bricks to the walls of my own cage. Sounds stupid but yes, I cry over, mourn over those long lost hang-outs and hullabaloos and soul-food at Grandma’s shrine.

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“There is no love sincerer than the love of food.”  ― George Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman

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‘The Living Legend’, my grandma, loves to feed us to death (out of love) in every single winter holiday bash at her place. The entire herd of us cousins (that would be 26 in number) would follow her throughout the week, as if, she is the pied piper of Hameln. Such is her mesmerizingly powerful presence. Such is the soul-soaring taste of her home-cooked food. Especially the creamy-pillowy-lovely-light Shrimp Malaikary shall live forever as a ‘Hall of Fame’ in our family 🙂

THE ‘Heartthrob’ of the party: Shrimp Malaikary. So real ! so rural ! So refined! So unpretentious ! Uncomplicated ! Look how creamy coconut, tangy lime and earthy spices doing waltz with those Shrimps !

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When the sun sets its last ruby-red hue on the talc-white flock of clouds in the azure December sky, she would tell some ‘so old yet so new’ fairy tales. We would sit in a circle on the well-worn concrete floor underneath those larger-than-life emerald brunches of her ancient mango orchard. She would ask us about our love life and the recent blunders we made at work. She would share her concern about technologically advanced but loveless, robotic outside world. When the soundtrack (chirping and tweeting of birds) fades away, a pale moon rises across the sky, she would serve dinner.

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For every well-known dish in our region, my Grandma has her own rock ‘n roll, divine version which is ruled by magic 🙂 Creating a flavorful bomb-dish by using minimum spices is an art that requires precision and skill (which I don’t have like my Grandma) and I guess, it would take me a light year to replicate her flavorful, tasty as well as visually appealing Shrimp Malaikary. Keeping in mind that it is humanly impossible to give it the exact same luscious texture, exact same not-scary-hot heat, exact same intense aroma, I give it a try pretty often.

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Ingredients:

Large prawns/shrimps 1lb (15-20 pieces)

Onion paste: 2tbsp

Garlic paste: 2 tsp

Ginger paste: 1 tbsp

Turmeric powder: ¼ tsp

Red chili paste: ½ tsp (use paprika, if chili doesn’t work for you)

Coconut milk: 1 cup

Lime/lemon juice: 2 tbsp

Oil/Ghee (clarified butter): 1 tsp

Salt and sugar to taste

Parsley for garnishing

Direction:

1. Wash, clean, peel and devein the prawns. Pat dry. Sprinkle a little salt and turmeric powder on prawns. In a pan, in hot oil add the prawns. Fry for 2-3min on high heat until they turn red. Keep them aside.

2. In the same pan add more oil. Pour the paste. Cook for 7 minutes in high heat, then add coconut milk.

4. As the gravy boils, add the fried prawns. Cover and cook on low-medium flame for 3-4min. Add salt and sugar. Sprinkle parsley.
5. Serve with rice.

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There’s something seductive, sensual about this slightly red, pleasantly hot Shrimp curry. An incredible mixture of subtle taste and majestic appearance. Un-overpowering but powerful and grand enough to win your heart; just like Grandma’s love. A delightful string to be attached with for the rest of your life ♥

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Curried Salmon

There were quite a few of them including my worthless self in my hit list. I wanted to shoot them all point blank to death. Bang! Bang! Bang!

I tried so hard to protect myself from being constantly harassed at workplace. Authorities didn’t wanna make it too big of a deal. (Misdemeanors at workplace go unnoticed and unpunished in some male chauvinist parts of the world. ‘Code of conduct’ gets screwed pretty often. Hard stuff to swallow but no big deal.) Finally I quit my dream job. What else was I supposed to do? Kill ’em all?!

Sick ‘n tired, frustrated, freaked-out, pissed, heartbroken, I locked myself in my room. And started yelling at the walls, throwing stuff in all six directions ( to regain my self-worth. To restore my confidence, I think.)

My Mom-in-law kept on knocking on my door diligently every ten fifteen minutes. “Leave me the hell alone! Can’t I vandalize my own property in my own territory in peace?! I am free to kill myself at any rate I choose!” – I screamed in my head. I ignored her and continued to mind my own business.

She continued to whine and knock for six hours straight. I opened the door to tell her to the face, “STOP driving me crazy!” – Her 75 years old, skinny, bony, worried sick fingers  were holding a plate full of rice and some fish curry. She – calm, collective and poised as ever- said,”Have some food and make my day”.

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How did she sense that I needed a friend right then, right there to fill in my emptiness? How did she figure my stone-cold soul, my shattered heart, my starving stomach needed some warm fish and rice?

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I haven’t got to see my Mom-in-law for the last five years. But Every time I cook curried fish, I think of that disastrous day. I think of her delightfully stubborn presence and the way she saved my soul. That simple food she made for me puffed away my depression and boosted my self-esteem right away 🙂

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Ingredients:

Tomato 1, medium

Onion 1, small sized

Garlic 4 cloves

Chili flakes 2 pinches

Olive oil 4 tbsp

Salt to taste

Dill, a  handful

Fish 1 lb ( Salmon did great for me but you’re welcome to pick your choice of fish)

Method:

Pat dry washed fish

Make a smooth paste out of first four ingredients

Heat oil in a pan. Saute the paste in medium heat for about ten minutes. Add 1/4 cup water. Let it simmer for 5 minutes.

Add fish flakes/stakes in the pan. Coat well with the mixture. Cook for 10 minutes in high heat with the lid on.

Sprinkle chopped herbs. Serve hot with steamed rice.

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Now I know, if you are blessed with good friends, you are all set. You are good to go to deal with life; as stress and depression can not exist in friends’ presence. .

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Fried Pomfret

How I wish to get back to the unthreatened days when I used to sleep under your wings and the warmth. The warmth that came straight from your kaleidoscopic heart, used to brighten up my dark, doomed days like a rainbow ! How I wish to make you feel loved, cared, cured, appreciated for you gave me wings and made my fly and lifted me all the way up to the sky ! How I wish to impress you for you are the most impressive person of my life. You have always been, Mom.

How I wish to pamper you with some home-cooked food on every single Day. For the rest of my life.

Your tom-boy, rebel, run away daughter can’t wait to display her crazy, silly, stupid cooking efforts to you ! You would be amazed to see how horrendous of a mess she can make in her kitchen !

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Long before I knew that the incredible Pomfret, all the way from the Indian, Pacific and Atlantic oceans, provides us with essential omega 3 fatty acids, amino acids, Vitamin D and other science-y stuff that’s good for our heart,  gleeful me used to fall in love over and over again with that shiny, sleek, smooth, silver  effect on the pretty flesh ! Thanks, Mom, for introducing me to this beauty agent. And they are low in calories and high in protein.

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Over the years novice me figured , the easiest-quickest-healthiest-freshest-yummiest and fuss-fry way of eating Pomfret is lightly pan frying them, just the way you used to make for us. Moist. Flavorful. Beautiful. Addictive.

 

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When I copycat your recipe, I feel safe 🙂

Ingredients

2 tbsp finely chopped Rosemary, parsley (optional)

1 medium sized Pomfret  (about 1 lb)

2 tbsp lemon juice

2 tbsp olive oil/ vegetable oil

pinch of turmeric powder and red chili flakes/powder

salt to taste

Method

Clean the fish properly. Pat dry.

Make slits on either side of the fish.

Add lemon juice, salt, chili, turmeric, rosemary and oil. Apply the mixture all over the fish. Fill  in the slits as well. Keep it aside for half an hour.

In a fry pan/skillet fry the fish in hot oil till it turns lightly golden.

Some fresh garden Salad and a scoop of steamed rice keep the meal’s simplicity unspoiled but adds pleasant hue to the table. Simple things are always uplifting and beautiful. Just like you.

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How I wish you were here with me in this spring evening, warm and gentle, filled with the scent of peace and bliss….

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How I wish, with my soul uncovered, face unmasked to tell you, “Thank you for being YOU. And I love you.”

Iced Tea

We live in an age that holds our mind in a cage. This age calls darkness ‘Light’. We no longer hold the key. Our spirit never gets to set free.

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TV turned our minds into a black mirror; black mirror knows no reflection. It is wrapped around with endless needs, wants, greed, pride, vanity, backstabbing, propaganda, bombarding, politics, hide-‘n-seek with the truth.

Life becomes a curse.

To break the curse, I’ve stopped watching TV. It’s been a year. Friends, books, prayers and gardening replaced TV and LIFE is going as GOOD as it gets.

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A serene, peaceful life has a lot to do with Iced Tea. .

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This eye-catchingly tall pitcher, my Spring pitcher has more to offer than some Iced Tea. It demonstrate about catching the colors and the beauty of nature, hunting down some sunshine and gently drinking life to the fullest. This pitcher celebrates an uncomplicated bind of sweet, tart, woody, earthy adoration of all natural ingredients. A healthy dose of fresh fruits into the smooth, chilled texture of the beverage wraps up the whole thing with love and joy.

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Ingredients:

6 cups water

2 regular individual sized tea bag

6 tbsp honey/sugar

1 stick cinnamon ( which gives it just the right amount of zing)

Freshly squeezed lemon juice  of 2 lemons

Slices of Orange, Lemon, Lime. Or Cucumber.

Direction:

  1. In a large saucepan, heat water (with cinnamon and sugar, if you’re using any) to a rapid boil. Remove from heat and drop in the tea bags. Cover and let it rest for 1 hour.
  2. In a large pitcher, pour tea and honey(if you’re not using sugar). Discard cinnamon stick. Stir until honey is dissolved, then stir in lemon juice. Add sliced fruits. Refrigerate overnight or until chilled. Add ice cubes before serving.

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All those terrific fruity flavors mingle and waltz in the tea overnight which makes your sip extra special and distinctive ! And the sweet-tart taste goes beautifully with sweet as well as savory food. Enjoy the drink year-round indoor as well as outdoor. This lovely, satisfying beverage guarantees to win your heart.

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Nothing lasts forever; that’s the way it is. The ocean is shaking under your feet. But you can cross the ocean, you can make it through, if you hold the key of your soul. Don’t let TV, the Demon, be your key-holder, torch-bearer.

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Roast Chicken

Go crazy. Grow some vivacious flowers in your front yard and backyard and balcony.

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And then eat some chicken 🙂 Stay healthy.

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Roast chicken can be soft, soothing, dark, action-packed, sweet, spicy …just like a poem. Like a song.

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Does anybody ever regret preparing-cooking-presenting-eating-blogging- critiquing ‘Chicken’ ? 🙂

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2lb roasting chicken

salt and pepper to taste

1/2 tbsp fresh garlic paste

4tbsp honey

2 tbsp olive oil

Juice of 1 lemon + 2 for stuffing

1 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary, thyme and oregano for rubbing and stuffing (dried herbs will work too)

To bring a dramatic effect, add some Orange/Blood orange juice with the marinade

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Marinate chicken with all the above ingredients.

Now bake/roast chicken at 350° for about 45 minutes, then cranke the heat up to 450° for the last few minutes. The chicken will brown beautifully.

Tip: Wedges of aromatic fruit such as lemons or oranges will perfume the bird as it roasts, infusing the meat with extra flavor.

To add another level of freshness serve chicken with some fresh salad. Feel the flavor explosion into your mouth.

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