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Saturday, September 11, 2010

Ganesh Chaturthi


Today (September 11 of all days) starts the eleven day festival to Lord Ganesha, for it is at this time Hindus celebrate his birth. Ganesha may be the most recognizable of all Hindu deities.

The story of Ganesha is somewhat complex and I feel if I give you all the information you will not feel the need to look it up yourselves. But none the less, Ganesh is the god of good luck, fortune and wisdom. His mount of all things is humble, for it is a mouse. Ganesh is the most common and widely spread deity worshipped, even at my temple he is the main shrine.

The festival of his birth is not set on a singular day every year, rather it goes by the phases of the moon. It starts on the fourth day of the waxing moon between late August to early September.
Statues are placed in special homes and venues at the beginning of Ganesh Chaturthi. A priest comes around and gives the 16 offerings (tributes) to bring life into the statue. Through the ceremonies many mantras are chanted.
For 10 days the statue is worshipped, and on the 11th it makes its way to go back to his home. A huge procession usually follows the statues as they make their way to bodies of water. The statues of Ganesha are then immersed in the water, a goodbye to Ganesha as he takes his worshippers ill-fortunes with him.

Ganesh Chaturthi is something I am determined to experience when I finally make a trip to India, seeing as he is on a chain around my neck. He is definitely good luck.

~Aum Shri Ganeshaya Nama~
              Dekhthe Hai

Music Abroad #1


This is my first section of my 'Music Abroad' series.
Enjoy :)

~First on the list is a band called Niyaz.

Niyaz is a trio of Iranian musicians who blend Middle Age Persian poetry (among other things) to make the dynamic sound that is taking the world by storm. It has a very modern feel, yet its sounds are sometimes sung in Urdu (an almost 900 year old language).

Azam Ali is the singer, you may have heard her voice before. Unmistakeable it has been in many award winning cinema soundtracks (if any of you have seen the SciFi Series 'Children of the Dune' and know what I mean when I mention Inama Nushif. She also did the theme song for Prision Break as well as being the lead vocals in the soundtrack for 300). Loga Ramin Torkian is the second member of the group coming from the New Age of the 90's and 2000's band Axiom of Choice. The programmer and remixer and last member of the group is Carmen Rizzo.

Niyaz actually got off to a very quick start and has built themselves up quickly over the course of a few years, with a large collective fan base. Their fusion of World, Folk and Electronica makes you feel as if you are in a very modernized hookah lounge or cafe. Well worth buying the CD 'Nine Heavens' or their self titled earlier date 'Niyaz'.

~Long Live Music~
  Dekhthe Hai

Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Stoning of Soraya M.

My understanding of stoning as a form of captial punishment were somewhat hazy before this movie.
Since I have done much research and found out all is not what it seems.

The Stoning of Soraya M is a movie I wish for anyone with enough will for enlightenment to watch.
Then study as I have.
Can be found on Netflix.

Introducing Eastern food to Western tastebuds


As a lover of foreign foods -especially Middle Eastern foods- I find the transition of Americanized food to true traditional foods of the area to be a slow one.

Take my boyfriend for an example. He has never had Indian food. Since that is my favorite to cook I find I feel very uncomfortable and unprofessional giving him Indian food as a first meal for the spices if you are not used to them can terribly upset ones' stomach. So I devised a plan. Introduce him from West to East, so his stomach will be used to the spices.

First on my planned list was Morocco.
Morocco has a lot of influences over its years to make what we call now "Moroccan cuisine".
Berber may be what first influenced it. Though Berber cannot be generalized as one cuisine since it is widely spread across North Africa. Arabs influenced it as well with Moorish and Mediterranean.

So the trip to find a decent Eastern food store started.
Hala Cafe always had good food but it was higher priced. Low and behold I have discovered a haven for my Eastern food indulgences. M&M Imported Foods off San Jose is a chefs hidden pantry. Brimming with spices imported from overseas, tahini, chickpeas, lentils and huge bags of couscous (among other things), all at decent prices...its a place to fall in love with.
Gail is the wife of the owner and she is a godsend.

For that night of me cooking for David and his brother Nick I had the idea of preparing something elaborate and well frankly, costly. It was going to consist of chicken marinated in olive brine etc, etc, etc.
Upon talking to Gail my mind changed. With her thick accent not everyone can understand her but she does talk a lot about cooking so her love for it is apparent.

She gave me this recipe and now I pass it to you. I cannot for the life of me remember the name of it, but I shall keep searching.

Moroccan Cuisine Night
~3 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts quartered
~1 sweet onion, sliced
~Olive Oil
~Dried Mint Leaves
~Syrian Spices  (if you can't find it at your local spice store here is a comparable recipe)
~Sumac (a tangy ground up berry spice, usually light to dark red)
~Khobz  (I ended up buying it from Gail for since it was short notice. I normally make my own bread but here is again a good recipe to go by if you cant find it anywhere.) *note: make the khobz bigger than normal, more like the size f a small pizza

Prepare the chicken, sprinkle with Syrian spices and pepper. Bake in the oven at 350 for roughly 10-15, checking as needed or until done. Meanwhile saute the onions in olive oil until golden brown. After both the onions and the chicken are done take the khobz and put it on a baking sheet. Pat the khobz down with water and then olive oil, covering the surface lightly. Cover the khobz in a decent layer of sumac then lay the onions and chicken over its surface evenly. Lightly sprinkle dried mint leaves, lemon and Tabasco sauce (if desired)
Place the khobz in the oven at 350 for a few mins until the dough feels crisp.
Cut in squares. Serve hot with lemon slices on the side.

Side dish:
~Moroccan Couscous with Squash and Zucchini
  Buy couscous (be in it a bag or box, neither matters though make sure you know if you have traditional or instant for traditional is like rice, it takes more time)
boil the appropriate amount of water with in ratio to the couscous, after boiling add couscous and let sit for 5 mins off the burner, covered. After 5 mins check and fluff with fork. Take a can of tomato paste *the small can* and mix half gently into couscous.
Take two of each squash and zucchini, cut lengthwise and then quarter. Cook in olive oil over a stove with onion spices and garlic, salt and pepper to taste. Arrange on top of couscous before serving.

~Dolmasi (stuffed grape leaves) *not really authentic Moroccan but its been there before*
 I ended up buying the dolmasi in the can for I was not ready to tackle it on short notice.(I will tackle it on Turkish Cuisine Night)
Arrange in circular like shape with parsley and lemon slices.

~Moroccan Mint Tea
You can choose the way you want to make this. I chose the way that's authentic. I had bought a huge bag of dried mint from Gail that she said was imported from Egypt. You can taste it, its the best I have had.
I just brought the water in a 5 qt pot to a boil, added a handful of the mint leaves and let it seep off burner for a good 5 min, added a pinch of sugar then served it making sure to add a leaf into the cup.


The opinions of my meal were astounding. David went back the next day to get some more mint leaves for himself. Gail was ecstatic and impressed I was able to make all that just by her telling me what I needed not how to do it. What can I say? I love to cook.

Until next time.
Dekhthe Hai