What’s for supper?

In honor of our dear friends who left this morning on their way to move to India, we’re having Tandoori Chicken, salad, yogurt sauce and saffron rice tonight. I’ve never made Tandoori seasoning from scratch, but I’m willing to give it a try. Here’s the best recipe I found. Otherwise, I’d recommend finding a jar of Tandoori paste and following the mixing-it-with-yogurt easy recipe to marinate the chicken and give it that amazing orange color. (The Tandoori mixes in a jar that I’ve tried have been great. Highly recommend.)

If you haven’t tried Tandoori before and don’t know much about Indian food, give it a try. It’s Indian food for beginners and is fantabulous. Plan to serve it with a simple yogurt/cucumber sauce. They complement each other amazingly well. Enjoy. (We’ll only marinade ours about six hours.)

Classic tandoori chicken from India is marinated in yogurt, lemon juice, and plenty of spices, then grilled or broiled. Plan ahead. This recipe needs to marinate at least 8 hours or overnight.

Prep Time: 8 hours, 45 minutes

Cook Time: 45 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 (3-pound) chicken, cut into serving pieces, skinned and trimmed of all visible fat
  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice or malt vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon peeled and grated or crushed ginger root
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons salt, or to taste
  • Vegetable oil, for brushing
  • Fresh cilantro sprigs for garnish
  • Slices of cucumber, red (Spanish) onion, tomato and lemon, for garnish

Preparation:

Prick the flesh of the chicken all over with a fork. Then, using a sharp knife, cut slashes in the flesh to allow the marinade to penetrate. Place the chicken in a nonreactive large, shallow dish. 

In a nonreactive bowl, combine the yogurt, lemon juice or vinegar, garlic, ginger, cumin, ground coriander, cayenne pepper, cardamom, cloves, black pepper and salt. Stir until well-mixed, then pour the mixture over the chicken and rub it into the flesh, turning the chicken several times. Cover and refrigerate 8 hours or overnight. (Do not marinate for longer than 2 days.) Remove the chicken from the refrigerator at least 30 minutes before cooking. 

The chicken may be grilled or roasted. If using a charcoal grill, prepare a fire for direct-heat cooking. Position the grill rack 5 inches from the fire. Allow the coals to burn until white ash covers them and the heat is moderate. 

Remove the chicken from the marinade, pressing lightly to extract excess marinade, and brush with oil. Place the chicken pieces on a well-oiled grill rack and; grill, covered, with the vents open, turning 3 or 4 times, 45 minutes or until the juices run clear when a piece is pierced near the bone with a knife. 

If roasting, preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Place the chicken on a rack in a roasting pan, brush with oil, and cook, turning once, 25 to 30 minutes until the juices run clear when a piece is pierced near the bone with a knife. 

Serve with sprigs of cilantro and slices of cucumber, red onion, tomato and lemon. 

Yield: 4 servings 

Per serving (without cucumber, red onion, tomato or lemon, for garnish): 303 calories, 33 percent calories from fat, 45 grams protein, 3 grams carbohydrates, .54 gram total fiber, 11 grams total fat, 124 milligrams cholesterol, 707 milligrams sodium. 

Source: Savoring India by Julie Sahni (Williams-Sonoma/Oxmoor)
 

Cucumber Sauce
1/2 med. cucumber peeled, seeded & chopped fine
1/2 c. plain yogurt
1/4 tsp. minced garlic
1/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. cumin (optional)
1/8 tsp. ground pepper
 
Stir all ingredients together and serve.

 

LSS: Namaste

Nearly five years ago, on our way home from first grade one afternoon, my conversation with my then 7-year-old daughter went like this:

“You know, Mom, I’ve been friends with some of the girls in my class for a while. But there’s another girl who I think is going to become a really good friend,” Greer said.

So far. So good.

Greer continued, “At the beginning of the year, I wasn’t sure, because she’s really into learning about other cultures and stuff. But now I know, Charlotte and I will be good friends.”

I was happy to hear of the new friend but a little concerned about the possible budding xenophobic tendencies in my daughter.

“But Greer, you’re really into learning about other cultures and stuff, too,” I said (and hoped).

To which she replied, “It’s my life, Mom, and I’m into killer whales.”

Killer whales had recently replaced dinosaurs. Which had replaced Thomas. We’ve since gone through Hogwarts, Elphaba and vampires. But since that day and through a string of Greer’s preoccupations, Charlotte has remained a constant.

Charlotte is and has been Greer’s best friend. Anyone who knows Charlotte can vouch that a mother could search a thousand years or miles and not find a more gentle, kind, caring, level-headed, compassionate or wise friend.

By the time you read this, she and her family will be off to their new lives. In true Charlotte “into other cultures” style, they’re not loading up the U-Haul and moving to Houston. Or any U.S. city or state, for that matter.

Nope, they’re moving to India.

I understand why. They have family there. They have great opportunities there. Charlotte and her brother will attend a fantastic school. In many ways, their lives will be less complicated.

But, oh how we will miss them.

A few weeks ago, Kitty Clarke, a friend from my hometown, and I were talking about hometown memories. Kitty, always insightful, said, “I guess I think growing up is so very hard even in the best of circumstances. All of the emotions — good and bad — have so little context that they are all overwhelming.”

I needed to be reminded of that thought and am grateful for Kitty’s wisdom which has helped me be a better parent lately. Anyone who ever had a best childhood friend move away knows that there is a great deal of sadness involved. Greer has been shedding tears, writing poems and dreading this day for months. Even still, I’ve encouraged her to be supportive for Charlotte. Brave little Charlotte doesn’t show it, but the move has to be causing chaos in her head as well.

With the wonders of the Internet — e-mail, videos and Skype – they’ll be able to stay in touch. Plus, we plan to visit next year. The girls surely will remain a part of each other’s lives.

However, all the technology in the world does little to soften the blow of a best friend moving away.

Godspeed, dear Charlotte.

What’s for supper?

We’re going to a party tonight, so I won’t be cooking. Instead, I’ll post the recipe for the Slightly Curried Chicken Salad we’ll have for lunch. I tried it last week and can totally vouch for it. It’s simple and delicious. Makes you feel like you could start a lunch place.

Slightly Curried Chicken Salad

2 to 3 cups cooked chicken, deboned and pulled into bite-sized pieces (I like mine a variety of sizes)

1 cup grapes, each cut in half (Don’t fret. It doesn’t take long.)

1/2 cup chopped celery

1/2 cup slivered almonds (I only had whole almonds and chopped them up. They weren’t uniform, but it worked.)

1 cup mayonnaise

juice of a lemon

3/4 teaspoon curry powder

salt and pepper

Mix first four ingredients in large bowl. Mix mayonnaise, lemon juice, curry powder, salt and pepper in a smaller mixing bowl (I like to use a small whisk.) Pour dressing mixture over salad and toss. Serve with bread or crackers. Simply delicious! Enjoy.

 

What’s for supper?

In honor of my friend, Moon, we’re having Korean tonight. Truthfully, it’s just because Moon cooks such great food that I can’t get out of my head that we’re having Korean tonight, but we’ll go with “in honor” of her instead. If you’ve not tried these foods, don’t be afraid. They’re easy to prepare and delicious to eat. Serve with white rice and you’ve got a full meal.

Korean Scallion Pancakes

Ingredients:

  • 1 3/4 cups flour
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1.5 cups water
  • 1 bunch of scallions, halved and cut into 2-3 inch lengths
  • 1 tsp salt
  • Oil for cooking

Preparation:

  1. Mix all ingredients together and let sit for about 10 minutes. Check consistency before cooking – batter should be a little bit runnier than American pancake batter, so that the Pa Jun cooks quickly and evenly.
  2. Heat a saute pan over medium heat and coat with a thin layer of oil.
  3. Though you can make three larger pancakes, I prefer a dozen or so smaller ones (I like the crispy edges.) If you notice that your pancakes are too think, add more water to batter.
  4. Cook for 3-4 minutes until set and golden brown on bottom.
  5. Turn over with help of spatula or plate (or flip it in the air if you are good at that) and finish by cooking 1-2 more minutes, adding more oil if necessary.
  6. Serve with spicy dipping sauce (equal parts soy sauce, white vinegar and hot chili flakes to taste).
Ingredients:
1.5 to 2 lbs beef, tender cut
0.5 cup soy sauce
1 table spoon sesame oil
1 table spoon sugar
2-3 cloves minced garlic
2-3 chopped scallions
1 tea spoon black pepper
1 table spoon toasted sesame seeds  

Preparation:
Slice the beef into very thin strips across the grain. This will go better if the beef is partially frozen.
Mix all the other ingredients in a bowl and add the beef. Marinate for 1 hour minimum, best is to marinate it overnight.

Heat oven to high broil. Place meat in broiling pan. When oven is ready, place meat on top shelf for about eight to 12 minutes, turning once mid-way through. Serve the meat with lettuce and sesame leaves, hot red pepper sauce and some soy sauce. Take a leaf of lettuce in the palm of your hand. Put some meat and a little hot red pepper- or soy sauce on it and fold the leaf together before putting it in your mouth.

LSS: They’re naming her Linda

Last weekend, a Lafayette friend with Mississippi roots went home for a visit. Saturday evening he let the rest of us know that he “made it out of the Pearl Wal-Mart unscathed.”

That may seem insignificant to some, but the Pearl Wal-Mart holds a special place somewhere in the general vicinity of my heart.

I doubted my friend remembered that significance, but when I read his wife’s Facebook update, I realized I was wrong. They both remembered the story.

Somewhere in the early 90’s, I flew home to Mississippi for Christmas. On the way home from the airport, my mother or sister-in-law or someone needed to make an urgent stop at the Wal-Mart store.

I only remember one thing from that shopping sojourn. As my little brother and I rounded the corner of an aisle, we passed a lady talking to a younger couple. They were all smiles.

The lady was nodding her head and said to the couple, “They’re naming her Linda, and they’re spelling it with a Z.”

We know nothing more about the situation, but we’ve got plenty of questions, speculations and theories. The incident has entertained my family at many a gathering. Sometimes I wish I had just stopped the strangers in mid-conversation and said, “What?”

But mostly, I’ve wondered: Where did they put the Z? What do they call her? Why was the Z necessary?

We’ve found ways to work the line into various conversations. But always, when someone asks, “What are they naming her?” There is only one answer in our house.

“They’re naming her Linda, and they’re spelling it with a Z.”

And we laugh every time.

When I realized my friends (who heard the story several years ago) considered the Pearl Wal-Mart to be the stuff of legends because of its “Linda with a Z” association, I started thinking about the value of one-liners that stay.

Surely, every family has them. We have many:

When the English ice cream man handing over two double scoops of butter pecan told my overly enthusiastic husband, “Easy, ti-ga,” I knew that one would stay. It has.

Anytime a door opens and we don’t know who’s coming in a room, my entire family quotes my brother’s speech-impaired high school math teacher said on the last day of class before the Christmas break. For some reason, a drunken man dressed as Santa was walking the halls of the school. (This was before campuses were secure.) The inebriated Santa peeked around the corner of the classroom door, but none of the students could see him. The teacher looked up, saw Santa and said, “Tum on in, Tanny Taws.”

These words, all uttered in sincerity, long ago outlived their original intentions. Why do some silly little sayings have staying power? After all, we don’t even know or remember the people who first said them. 

Maybe it’s not just about the words themselves. Maybe it’s rhythm or intonation, or setting. Something about those moments sticks.

Certain words become verbal keepsakes.

LSS: Mrs. Norma Ruth’s words of wisdom

By the time you read this, the students and teachers around you will be counting the time left in the school year by the hour, as opposed to the number of days.

The joy I feel about school nearly being out for summer is difficult to quantify. This will be my first summer off in more than twenty years. Sadly, most of the rest of the workaday world doesn’t honor the tradition of a mid-year break. Considering how different life would be if they did boggles the mind. Certainly, there have been times in my professional life when much could have been improved with a two-month hiatus for one and all. (Let’s face it; August is no longer considered a part of the school break. Teachers in Lafayette Parish report to duty for the 2009-2010 school year on Aug. 4.)

Two months to go our own ways and live life at a different pace would likely have served us all well — such are the dreams of a romantic.

However, the last few weeks have been a slap-in-the-face reminder that there is a high price to pay for that break. The end of school is a whirlwind. Everyone — students, teachers, parents and lunchroom ladies — it seems, is a tat bit wilder than usual.  A portion of the Amazon has been lost to the reams and reams of paper used for end of the year forms, projects, tests and reports.

While I’m still too much in the thick of end-of-year madness to have time for melancholy, I do remember a fleeting, but certain wistfulness when classes I loved dismissed. Granted, there was a definite prompt for that feeling. When I was in the seventh grade, Mrs. Norma Ruth Lee was my speech teacher. We were about at this same point in the school year when one day I casually remarked, “I wish school were over.”

Mrs. Norma Ruth didn’t miss a beat.

“You’re wishing your life away,” she said, as she smiled and shook her head.

In that moment, I don’t remember if I even acknowledged what she said.

But in the years since, her wisdom has stuck with me and led me to recognize the degree of sadness in things ending, whether they be special classes or not. It’s the realizing that this group of people, in these same circumstances, will likely never gather again that does it to me every time. In a classroom setting that melancholy is intensified on the rare occasion when real magic occurs — when the stars align and the foundation is set for a teacher and students to build extraordinary relationships that go far beyond shared knowledge.

Nope, in the rare classroom peopled with the right teacher and the right students at the right time, they all share their wisdom, their secrets, their wishes and their dreams.  In my experience, those have been the classrooms that stick like glue to a student’s consciousness for the long haul, long after the final bell has rung.

Long Story Short: Ursula to Ariel: It’s body language.

Ursula may have said it best when she was explaining to Ariel the lack of need for a voice.

“It’s body language,” said the gravely voiced not-so-nice multi-armed lady who shares Neptune’s sea in “The Little Mermaid.”

Ursula’s message was reinforced here in Lafayette this week by international mime sensation, Guérassim Dichliev. Maybe you were lucky enough to attend one of the shows he performed Friday in Lafayette Middle School’s auditorium.

My introduction to Dichliev came through an unexpected connection. I was driving home from work Thursday afternoon when my friend, Debra Taghehchian, called.

“Hey, Jan. Do you guys want to come over for dinner tonight? I’m cooking Persian – your favorite. It’s lamb and eggplant.”

Before I could say yes or jump for joy, she added, “Oh, and a French mime will be joining us for dinner.”

That might be have been a strange call for some, but I didn’t bat an eye.

First of all, Debra Taghehchian’s Persian lamb and eggplant is food fit for royalty. As selfish as it may seem after a long day of teaching with no time for lunch, at that point, I really didn’t care who was coming to dinner – except me.

Coming from Debra, I wasn’t surprised in the least. Her home is sort of like a Cajun United Nations.

We’ve celebrated holidays with her family that I had never heard of until I got there. We’ve jumped over small fires (to welcome the Persian New Year) and yelled, “My yellow is yours. Your red is mine.” (In Farsi, mind you). We’ve tried to dance the Azerbaijani folk dance. And once, we sang to the tunes of a Japanese guitarist playing zydeco.

Debra is as Cajun as is possible to be. In fact, her father used to be president of the Broussard family, (can their be a more legitimate heir to Cajundomness?) But, Debra’s husband, Saeed, is as proud of his Persian heritage as she is of hers. Many of their friends come from around the globe. 

So, when she told me a French mime would be there for dinner, I didn’t bat an eye. (I’ll admit, though, I wondered if he would be talkative.)

Come to find out, Dichliev is not French. Yes, he lives in Paris and trained there with Marcel Marceau, but originally, Dichliev is from Bulgaria. He’s on an American tour performing for Alliance Francaise in a number of cities. If you haven’t noticed, Alliance Francaise de Lafayette has been on a roll lately with the quality of speakers and performers they’re bringing to Lafayette to celebrate the French heritage.

Earlier this spring, they brought a Parisian chocolatier to discuss the nuances of chocolate. On May 14, they will present a lecture by Frenchparfumier Christophe Laudamiel. (If you would like more information about it, check out aflafayette.org.)

Sadly, I don’t speak French, but that hasn’t stopped me from appreciating what the organization has to offer. As my new friend, Dichliev, pointed out, words aren’t always necessary to communicate.

Long Story Short: Recognizing seasons

Learning has been as big a part of this semester for me as it has been for the students I teach.

After many years away from high school students, teaching has opened my eyes on some levels – and reinforced old beliefs on others.

Sometimes I’m shocked at things they don’t know. Last week, we started reviewing for the Spanish I final.

“Write the days of the week, the months of the year. Be sure you know which months are in each season,” I told the class.

They started working. A student raised her hand and whispered, “How do I know which months are in which seasons?”

She’s a smart girl. I was surprised at the question, but took the opportunity to connect our calendar with the ancient Aztec stone calendar we were also discussing.

If you asked her, she’d probably tell you that I went overboard in explaining, but she eventually got it.

A minute later, another student asked the same question. I began to wonder.

“Who knows which months are in which seasons?” I asked.

Not a single student raised his or her hand.

Turns out that of the 168 primarily 16 and 17-year-olds I teach, less than five could identify which months were in which seasons.

How could they not know this?

The fact that we live in a temperate climate plays a role. Even still, the majority of my students have agrarian roots. The seasons controlled the lives of their ancestors. Few plant and harvest these days, but their lack of seasonal insights goes beyond that fact.

Could the disconnect be related to the inward focus of their lifestyles? Are we rearing a generation in such a temperature controlled environment that they’re less aware of the passage of time — hot to cool to cold to warm and back again? Maybe they notice but simply fail to connect the dots.

I drew a timeline and explained vernal equinox and summer solstice and how the days we call March 21, June 21, September 21 and December 21 play pivotal roles in our calendars and the ones created by the ancient Aztecs.

“Like on page 17 in your book,” I said, bringing the lesson back to the review for their final exam.

How much of it stuck? I don’t know, but we had to move on.

Then, last weekend I chaperoned the prom. There were things at this prom I had never seen before — namely the long line of teens dressed to the nines waiting to enter but first stopping to take a Breathalyzer test.

Seniors were easy to spot. They wore white.

Throughout the evening, I watched these kids, especially the guys in white, give each other great big bear hugs. They seemed to recognize the present-tense nostalgia of the situation.

They embraced each other in a way that demonstrated a kind of insight beyond springs and summers. Their eyes, full of a blend of emotions, indicated that they recognized that this season of their lives was passing.