Monday, April 18, 2011

A [very] long post, a pretty salad, and... awards!

For one glorious day, all kinds of weight-watching, calorie-counting, gymming, non-snacking and salad-chomping was put on hold.

It was the Malayali New Year, Vishu, my favourite festival of the year!

Come April, and the whole of Kerala wears a festive look in anticipation of Vishu and Easter. The schools are closed for summer, mango and jackfruit trees are laden with fruit, and most importantly, every garden, backyard and bend in the road greets you with an explosion of sunshine yellow: the konna flowers that bloom only during this time of the year. You see the konna tree laden with festoons of brilliant yellow, and you know Vishu is just around the corner!

So, last Friday, P and I switched off our alarms at the crack of dawn, and stumbled out of the bedroom, our eyes still tightly shut, across to our puja corner, so that we might open our eyes to this:

An auspicious sight to begin the New Year, in the hope that the rest of the year turns out equally good. Figurines of all our favourite gods for divine presence throughout the year, fresh fruit and rice (denoting fresh produce of the harvest) for prosperity, new clothes, gold and money for good fortune and riches. All these in the ethereal glow of a traditional lamp lit with ghee. Of course, had we been back home, this tableau would have included a giant jack-fruit and ripe mangoes from our backyard, and an excess of the konna flowers, which we didn't have here in the US. 

After breakfast, cooking ensued. The house was filled with the smell of coconut oil and curry leaves. Coconut in all its glory- freshly ground with green chillies and cumin for avial, dry-roasted and ground with other spices for sambhar, fried with mustard seeds and curry leaves for elissery, and coconut milk for payasam… you get the drift! (Sorry, no photographs, I was too busy cooking and eating!)

Vishu was indeed a grand affair. But now that it has come and gone, and the excesses of the day are threatening to form a fresh layer of fat around my waist, it is time to detox! And what better way to detox but to go back to chomping down some crunchy veggies again?!

I call it my Ultimate Summer Veggies Ribbon Salad. I know, complicated name, huh? Thankfully, the salad itself isn't as complicated- all you need is some fresh, colorful summer vegetables, and a peeler.

(Wasn't the best photo I took, but i somehow like how the light from the window falls on the veggies- sort of like the vegetables lined up like a prisoners' drill and the peeler hovering over them like a jailer!)

May I take the opportunity to introduce you to my trusty peeler, Mr Spuds? A little cockeyed, but still my hero, nevertheless! ;)

Of course, you could do this in one-tenth of the time using your food processor, but I just happen to luurve hangin’ out with ol’ Mr Spuds!

UH, dunno if I can say the same about Spuddy here, though! :P  

Anyways, job done, and you have a bowl of colourful ribbons that attack your eyes with all the subtlety of a brilliantly-hued rainbow.

Now, for the dressing. Many a lovely salad has been brought down by the wrong dressing. It would be a crime to use something heavy like mayonnaise or sour cream for a salad that so great in its own right. What you need is just the right amount of tart and spice that will lift the natural flavours of the vegetables without bogging them down with gloopy dressing. So, I went with a vinaigrette of lemon juice and olive oil, with salt, pepper and just a hint of cumin at the end. Why cumin? Because that was the one ingredient that went well with all the veggies I had. If you make this with a completely different set of vegetables, go ahead n change the ingredients in your dressing too! 

Summer Veggies Ribbon Salad with Lemon-Cumin Vinaigrette

3 cups of vegetables of your choice, in thin long ribbons. (I used green, red and yellow peppers, carrots, asparagus and cucumber)
3 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
½ teaspoon cumin powder
Salt and pepper to taste
  1. Mix the lemon juice, salt, pepper and cumin together in a bowl, and drizzle in the olive oil slowly while stirring the mixture with a whisk/fork until an emulsion is formed. 
  2. Toss the festooned vegetables together, and pour just enough dressing onto it to cover all the vegetables lightly. 
  3. If making the salad in advance, prepare the vegetables and vinaigrette separately and toss together just before serving 
  4. Garnish with some whole cumin (for crunch) and serve. Enjoy!  

And now, for my favourite part of this post, which I've saved for the last….the AWARDs! I was thrilled to bits when I read Ankita’s comment in my last post saying that she had a bunch of awards waiting for me in her blog! Thank you SO much, Ankita! Being such a newbie-foodblogger, every comment, every follow and every award, means the world to me! :)

So, as per tradition, I need to spell out 7 facts about me. Here goes:
  • I love experimenting in the kitchen but I have a mental block against randomly bringing two different cuisines together- you would never find me making/posting stuff like macaroni upma, or Thai-style lasagna. I feel like each cuisine has a definite allure of its own, and arm-twisting it to fit flavors from a completely different style just kills its spirit altogether!
  • I’m a baker at heart. If I had it my way, I would be up to my earlobes in flour, eggs, butter and sugar from dawn to dusk, and spend the rest of the day eating what I made! Cakes, cookies, cupcakes, scones, crumbles, crisps, pies: these are the stuff my dreams are made of! But sadly, now that I’m in weight-watching mode, I’ve kept the baker in me on a tight leash. No more baking till I reach my weight loss goals!
  • I heart potatoes. If the world was coming to an end, I’d lug home a sack of potatoes and roast them with garlic and rosemary for breakfast, lunch, dinner and all meals in between until judgement day. 
  • Oh, actually, scratch the last one out- I’d probably save at least one meal a day to have my favourite dish in the whole wide world – Olan. It’s a keralite vegetarian dish in which beans and pumpkin are stewed together in spicy coconut milk gravy.! Gives me goosebumps to even think about it!
  • Some women have shoe fetishes, some are crazy about bags. Me-I’m crazy about stationery. Drop me at a Staples outlet and I’d be like a kid in a candy store! Colourful post-its, felt pens, marker pens, fancy notebooks, clip boards, white boards, magnetic boards, I drool over them all! :)
  • I’m a hopeless romantic when it comes to movies! Chick-flicks and Bollywood love stories rule my DVD collection and Netflix queue!
  • Phew! Last one. This is much harder than I thought. Okay. I’m a HUUUGE Harry Potter fan. Way more than you can possibly imagine. I’ve read the entire collection at least ten times, and still read it religiously at least once a year. Hate the movies, though!
I’d like to pass on this award to some of my favourite food bloggers…

Rules to claim and share these awards:
  • Thank and Link the blogger who has given you the award.
  • Copy and paste the Logos in your blog.
  • Pass these on to 15 other Great Blogger friends
  • Comment on the most recent post and let the nominated blogger know of the award
Phewww! That was such a long post! Till next time then, and bon appetit!


  1. Congrats on your awards..thanks for passing me the award...

    Salad looks very colorful and yummy

  2. Beautiful vishukani. salad looks awesome delicious. Congrats on your award,wishing many more to come . Happy blogging. Thanks for sharing the award with me.

  3. Thank you for the whole bunch of awards, I'm truly honored! Your ribbon salad looks so deliciously awesome...Mr Spuds did really well but he may need a rest after this. Thanks for swinging by my site, and well done on the 8 lbs!

  4. Hey thanks a lot for sharing :-)The salad looks so yum and colorful. Thanks for dropping by and so cool that u lost 8 pounds. Even I am in the same boat. I have 40 pounds to lose, my post pregnancy weight :-(
    Share some tips lady! pls :-)

  5. Congrats on your awards Jyothi..Thanks a lot for sharing the awards..This is the first time someone is sharing the awards with me...Thanx a lot dear, I'm honoured :) The salad looks so healthy and lovely.!!

  6. congrats on ur awards and many thanks for sharing them with me.. hugs :)
    salad is colorful.. yummy n healthy..

  7. Thanks a ton for the awards. I loved your post. You write so well. Please do write long posts, I love reading them.

    I love your recipes as well. Good going Jyothi.

    Lots of love to you.



  8. wow...enjoyed reading ur post..thanku so much for the salad recipe...and congrats on ur awards.. and THANKU so much for remembering me!! I LOVE AWARDS!!!

  9. Hey! Happy Vishu! Guess what...I am from God's own country too :)

  10. Congrats on your awards n thank you so much for sharing with me. I am really happy to have got the awards from you :) Big hug to you :)
    The salad looks delightful and Mr. spuds is super adorable :))

    US Masala

  11. A very happy new year to you and your husband Jyothi. And thank you so much for the award.

    That salad looks so refreshing.

  12. Happy New Year!!
    And I love to read more about you :)

  13. Vishukani looks simply beautiful. The salad looks fabulous. Congrats on your awards.

  14. Healthy and colourful salad which makes me feel so fresh. Congratulations on all your awards.

  15. Super colorful salad - love it! hearty congrats on all your awards and wish you many more...

  16. Nice write-up..good luck with your goal..colorful salad..

  17. Congratulations on ur awards sweety.. Thanks a lot for passing them to me,, And I am sorry.. For not noticing.. Actually, We lost touch.. and today I thought so hard to find ur blog and was trying couple of names on google and here I am .. :) Love ur blog.. U can see that .. right ?

  18. Oye, you were one of the first to acknowledge the awards! But how sweet of you to come hunting for the blog again! It is comments like these that make my efforts worthwhile! Luv ya!

  19. Adi Paavi.. After u mentioned, I scrolled a little up to notice my earlier comment :) Nothing more :) wink