Sunday, February 27, 2011

I am

I don't know why, but I'm feeling so incredibly nostalgic today.  As I was poring over old pictures from a couple of years ago when I was pregnant and starting Berkeley, I instantly felt compelled to post one of the poems I wrote around that time for this next blog posting.  I took the Poetry for the People class (a popular spoken word poetry class founded by the one and only June Jordan) at Berkeley in Fall 2008. Suffice to say, the class was phenomenal!  I am still not able to completely let go and perform in front of a real live audience, but I'd like to work toward that.  Hopefully, this blog can nudge me in the right direction. This was the first poem I wrote in this class. It is an "I am" poem. It's still a work in progress 2.5 years later. It would really help my editing process, if any of you out there were to please leave a comment or critique. 

I performed this poem in my class for my final and there aren't enough words to describe how empowering it felt. I was lucky to have Aya De Leon as my professor and she was not only inspiring but she trail blazed a path for us students that allowed us to truly let go and be free with our words.  Anyways here it is. Enjoy!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Silencing the Lamb

Hola peoples.  So maybe this wasn't best title choice, but I got the seal of approval from Fish who just nodded in agreement because he was too busy zoned in on his precious Warriors to give me a coherent response.  Do I need to mention that they were losing by like 20+ points? I guess I shouldn't rub it in :) I digress. So silencing the lamb it is. Or maybe I should have titled it slicing the lamb? Okay, I will stop there I promise. I made my first attempt at cooking lamb shanks today, so if you aren't interested in reading my escapades in the culinary world, it would be advisable to stop reading now!  :) 

My good friend Amina gave me a very mouthwatering recipe for Tandoori lamb shanks but unfortunately for me I was fresh out of Tandoori Masala, the key ingredient (sorry home slice). So instead I used a mashed up version of Munira's Aunty's Roasted Lamb shank with my own.  I took the liberty of taking a few iPhone photos for you.  My iPhone camera sucks, so bear with me please.  

Last night when I popped into my local Safeway to get milk, I walked by the meat section and was immediately drawn to the lamb display.  All the lamb at Safeway is from New Zealand which also makes it halal. Woo hoo! They had quite a variety, from boneless leg of lamb, to bone-in leg of lamb, lamb steaks, racks of lamb, lamb chops and lamb shanks. I prefer to cook the boneless leg of lamb or the rack but since I had never attempted lamb shanks before I figured it couldn't hurt to try.  I'm not one of those measuring type people, I prefer to approximate everything. So for all you people out there who need exact measurements, I tried my best to approximate the measurements but feel free to tweak it to your liking. That's what I always tend to do. I was once told by a very wise friend, that if you change 3 ingredients in a recipe, then it automatically becomes your very own recipe. Works for me! :) (I kid, I kid)

  • 2 pounds of Lamb shanks
  • 2 lemons (zest & juice)
  • 10 cloves of garlic (use less or more, I'm a garlic fiend so I probably used more)
  • 3 tablespoons of unripened minced papaya (you can find this pre-packaged now at the Halal Meat store)
  • 1/2 teaspoon of turmeric (supposedly takes away the gamey flavor)
  • 1 teaspoon of cumin powder
  • 1 teaspoon of coriander
  • 1 (or more) teaspoon of Cayenne
  • 1 tablespoon of chops/steak Masala (you can use Shan or whatever brand you prefer)
  • 1/3 cup of Greek Yogurt (Why Greek? Well that's all I had in my fridge, plus I like the taste. I don't think the type matters)
  • 1/4 cup of Olive oil
  • 1/2 of cilantro
  • 4/5 green onions
  • 1 small pear (I just threw this in because Munira Aunty mentioned using Green Chutney in her recipe and I thought it would add a little extra something) 
  • 1/2 cup of mint
  • 1 teaspoon of salt (you might need to adjust this. I tend to measure everything in the palm of my hand)
  • 1 beef cube
In a casserole dish I added the yogurt, all the spices (cayenne, cumin, coriander, salt, chops/steak Masala, turmeric), the minced papaya and the lemon zest/ juice and gave it a good whisk.  I took the liberty of taking of photograph of my handy dandy microplane (and yes that was a Dora reference) because I would be ever so lost without it.  I use it for everything. To zest/grind/mince any kind of citrus, garlic, ginger, onions, really anything.

In a food processor or a mini chopper put the garlic cloves, olive oil, green onions, cilantro, mint and the pear and mince everything up. 

Then add this mixture to the yogurt and spice mixture in the casserole dish and make sure it's all blended together nicely. Voila! The marinade is ready.

Then place the shanks in the marinade and score the the lamb.  Cover it and let it marinade overnight or as long as you can. I'm all about marinading forever. I like my food with lots of flavor. Who doesn't?

Score both sides of the meat

Marinade Bath

The shanks will need to cook in the oven for about two hours. Heat a grill pan on medium to high heat so that you can sear the shanks before you bake them. Bring two cups of water to a soft rolling boil and plop the beef cube in and make sure it properly dissolves.  Make sure to preheat the oven to 300 degrees.

Shake off all excess marinade (really shake it off, or it won't get a pretty brown crust) and sear the shanks on all sides. Meanwhile, take the beef stock and pour it all in a new casserole dish with one cup of the remaining lamb marinade. After the shanks are seared place them in the casserole dish with the cooking liquid, cover them tightly with foil and bake the shanks for about two hours.

As you can see that I went a little too sear happy. Maybe a little less char would be better.

After the two hours are over, crank the broiler and broil the shanks for about five minutes tops, also making sure you turn the them so the meat caramelizes all around. Take the shanks out of the oven and now go get your grub on! 

According to Fish, it was extremely delicious (he's not the most accurate judge because he says that about everything I cook. He's sweet but biased). The shanks were tasty, but they were missing a spicy kick to it. I loved that the meat fell off the bone and that it had a nice green chutneyish crust to it. I will definitely cook this again but making sure to increase the spice factorial.

My plated glory: Roasted lamb shank, goat cheese mashed potatoes, sauteed green beans and quinoa.

Well that's about it for now. :) Enjoy, we sure did.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Bring Daughter to Berkeley Day

My 8 year old daughter Leila had a whole week off from school for mid-winter break and I had pleasure of taking my precocious child with me to Berkeley.  So as we got dressed that morning, she meticulously packed her panda backpack with her ipod, her DSi and her Ramona the Pest book along with a good variety of snacks (in case I get the munchies she snickered).  She flashed me her radiant smile and said, "Let's go, Mom.  I can't wait to be a Golden Bear today!" Yes, all you Golden Bears out there rejoice, the brainwashing as begun! :)
Standing outside of Wheeler

So as Leila walked around Berkeley in wonder and awe and kept firing questions like what does she have to do to go to Berkeley, will she be able to play soccer there, can she drive everyday from home school etc. I couldn't help wondering as I responded if I was already planting the seeds on how to become an overachiever in this overly competitive world.  My responses consisted of keywords like, work hard, excellent grades, being active, being involved in the community.  As we people watched from Sproul and I had a chance to digest my words, I immediately retracted my first responses and told her that right now she need not worry about things like that and that she should focus on having fun, learning new things in school and just being a kid. She then looked up at me and said, "But Mom, I want to be like you." Oh goodness talk about mush overload. It made me realize that these past five to seven years of desperately trying to complete my undergraduate degree was because I wanted my then 2 year old to have a good role model to look up to, were not all in vain.  My mission was accomplished.  I sometimes get so lost in my own insecurities and self-doubt that I missed where my child actually absorbed the message I was trying to send through my educational pursuits. So thank you, Leila for always bringing me to reality.

My Golden Bear

Moving on, we walked into my first class, she was immediately greeted with warm welcomes and hellos, while I was greeted with the usual "OMG YOU have a kid/How OLD are you?" looks.  Suffice to say I'm quite used to these sorts of questions and politely informed my classmates of my hideous old age of 32 and that Leila was indeed not my only child.  My teacher asked Leila her name and what she wanted to do when she got older and her response was, "I'm going to a Golden Bear, then I will be a Pediatrician or a Cook!"  When probed further about what kind of cook she would like to be, she said, "The type of cook that cooks on TV."  Well go figure, all my obsessive Food Network watching has totally paid off! She quietly sat in class, read, played with her DSi and iPod. The only time we heard her during the 90 minutes of class, was when she starting singing along to Katy Perry's Firework while playing on her ipod. It definitely provided our Racial Othering lecture  with some much needed comic relief.

Tell-tale Telegraph

Eating "heavenly" cookies from C.R.E.A.M.
As we perused the latter part of our day on Telegraph where we both devoured some Blondie's pizza and C.R.E.A.M.'s freshly baked cookies, she was overcome with gratitude (and a sugar high) for bringing her to school with me. When I asked her what was the coolest thing about today, she immediately answered, "To be a Berkeley student for one day. Oh yeah and to eat warm cookies!"  Yes, as much I have had a love/hate relationship with attending Berkeley, at this moment I couldn't agree with her more!