Chipotle style bowl

Chipotle inspired chicken bowl

I was walking to the T station in Boston, after Happy hour, feeling friendly with the world. I saw the people at the traffic light waiting to cross the road looking straight ahead, the old man in the wheelchair who seemed to be talking to everybody passing by, the office goers briskly walking by, joggers and tourists in hats. I was smiling, humming a Tamil song softly. Nobody seemed to know that I was new, that I wasn’t from here. I kind of fit in. “Chipotle, Hey Chipotle!” a young man called to me as he walked past me, laughing loudly. I turned to look if he was referring to someone else. He wasn’t. I felt my cheeks flush. I realized he meant to insult me but I didn’t understand. I liked Chipotle. Why was Chipotle funny or low? And I wasn’t Chipotle. I was idli, sambar, biryani, idiyappam, maanga oorukai, adhirasam, upma, full meals, molaga bajji!   “Who you? Sandwich? ” – I didn’t ask. I sat in the train wondering. Back home, people were more informed. They’d learn your caste, sub-caste, sect and division and then call you that – “ Iyer $%&*, mudaliar $%^#, &*@# Nadar …” This guy had mixed up entire countries. I realized that these guys didn’t know and didn’t care if I was Mexican or Indian or Pakistani or Egyptian. They knew they were white. Black and all shades of brown were lower. I checked myself in the train window. I thought I looked exotic among my fellow passengers – brown skin, long hair, kohl lined eyes, kurta and salwar. It could have been the alcohol. I plugged in my i-pod and chose the most Tamil song I could think of. I made a mental note to eat at Chipotle the next day. I made a Chipotle inspired rice bowl a couple of days back. This is to the guy who thought he insulted me by calling me “Chipotle”. I am not insulted.  It is super easy, if you skip most of the toppings you find at Chipotle. I dare say we loved the simple version. No Guacamole, no sour cream, no lettuce and no chips. If you have all of these, by all means pile them on. I had some leftover grilled chicken I cut up and sautéed with onions and spices. I cooked some basmati rice and made the simplest beans...

Karamani Usili – Yard Long Beans & spiced Lentil stir-fry

Karamani Usili features quite often in our office canteen menu and I quite like Usili with rice and Rasam or rice and ground coconut Kuzhambu. Usili is a light, charming stir-fry that is usually made with green beans or yard long beans. You can make Usili with even cabbage or Fenugreek leaves (Methi). In making Usili, soaked dal (red gram) and whole dry red chillies are ground and then fried to a crisp crumbly golden mixture. This mixture is then combined with cooked beans to make the Usili. This Karamani Usili is pleasantly fresh and tasty – the tender crunchy beans pair beautifully well with the crumbly fried dal which adds lovely texture and flavour to the stir fry. Usili is not part of our usual menu at home, this was a first. I made this for lunch today. My joint family doesn’t take kindly to changes and experimentation. My kids don’t take to vegetables at all. I braved all this for the Usili and I hope the Usili manages to win their hearts. Else I’ll have to eat Usili for dinner, lunch and again dinner to finish it up. Prep time: 15 minsCooking time: 15 minsServes: 4-5 Ingredients Yard Long Beans – ½ kilo chopped fineToor dal/Red gram – ½ cup soaked for 2 hours or overnightWhole dry Red chillies – 4 soaked along with the dalSalt to tasteOil – 3 tbsp + 1 tbspMustard seeds – 1 tspAsafoetida – a pinch Method 1.      Rinse Toor dal well in 2-3 changes of water till the water runs clear. Then soak the dal and whole dry red chillies together for 2 hours or overnight if you can’t afford 2 hours soaking time during busy mornings. 2.      Drain the water, and grind together the dal, chillies and a little salt adding very little water to a thick paste. 3.      In a kadai/skillet, add 2 tablespoons of oil and when hot add the ground dal paste and fry. Keep stirring and scraping as the dal tends to stick to the bottom. Add one more tablespoon of oil and continue frying till the paste turns crumbly and is quite dry (like bread crumbs) but not hard – about 7-8 minutes. Remove on to a plate. 4.      In the same skillet, add 1 tablespoon oil and when hot add mustard seeds and let splutter. Then throw in the curry leaves and asafoetida and sauté...
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