On the Subject of Subjis

In Hindi, subji (सब्जी) literally means "vegetable dish." Like many words transliterated into English, it can be spelled in a variety of ways (Subzi, Subzee, Subjee, Sabji, Sabzi, and Sabzee), and it can be used in connection with any vegetable (Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, okra and, as in today's recipe, eggplant).

I am a big fan of Indian food - it is a cuisine to which I turn when I am happy and celebrating, and one I seek when I need comfort and solace. To say one is a fan of Indian food is like saying that one likes people. I think there are as many regional varieties in Indian cuisine as there are different peoples of the world. 

One day when driving several of our University of Arizona Honors College students to a presentation in Phoenix, we got onto the subject of food.  I know... you didn't see that coming! One of the students, Kunal, is Indian and we talked about the differences in Indian cuisine - northern versus southern, ingredients used - and not used - depending on one's religious beliefs, and restaurant cooking versus home cooking. Kunal loves his mother's cooking and said that when you eat in an Indian restaurant you aren't getting what is eaten at home.  So, naturally, I asked if his mother would share any of her favorite recipes with me for a future post.

A couple of weeks passed and I received an e-mail from Kunal with three subji recipes from his mother.  I had no idea what a subji was but I knew I was in for a treat.


Went to a Garden Party

Yes, like Ricky Nelson, I went to a garden party - but I know it was quite a different affair from the one he attended!  This garden party was at 'Lagunita Heaven' - the beautiful and well-appointed home of dear friends Heather and Harvey, and it was held to celebrate their mutual birthdays. Harvey's birthday is only five days after Heather's; his was a "speed limit" birthday and hers?  Well, it was her "39th."  (I know the true number but, like any true friend, I will never tell!)

Heather is owner of Lenkin Design, a premiere landscape architecture and design firm in Pasadena.  So, you can only imagine that her own garden is, as the name of their home implies, heaven.  There are 21 separate gardens on the property - themed perfectly to entice you to enter and spend languorous hours in each.  Lavender Hill.  Mahogany.  Heaven (of course). Italian Garden. Four Seasons. 

As you enter each space, your imagination runs wild with ideas of the book you will read as you site there in repose, or the romantic walk you will take along the path that leads to... to... Heaven! Or maybe just a nap to take the edge off your day.


A Crêpes Shoot

It is time again for a bi-coastal blog post. Friends Susan and Towny, who rent their home in Provence and write the blog entitled “The Modern Trobadors,” have suggested a theme for this week - sweet and savory crêpes. I am all for it and am happy to be bringing you a rolled savory crêpe filled with chicken, mushrooms and cheese sauce based on a Julia Child recipe.  They will be posting on dessert crêpes.

We are both using the same basic recipe for the batter, with slight tweaks depending on whether your crêpes will hold sweet or savory fillings. But the thing that makes this bi-coastal posting extra special is that they had the opportunity to be given a lesson in crêpe-making from their friend and French teacher Madame Janine Kolb, who hails from Saint-Gaultier, France. They videotaped the lesson (en français with subtitles) and have posted it on their site. Click here to see how easy it is to make the batter and flip the crêpes!


It Takes a Village

It all started when I agreed to chaperon a group of 18 Flinn Scholars from the UA Honors College and ASU to Mexico for the weekend. Our destination: El Centro de Estudios de Desierto y Oceanos - a biological institute in Las Conchas, just southeast of the fishing village of Puerto Peñasco. I was told by the students who had attended this community-building weekend in the past that I would love the food. And they were right.

A few words about the Flinn Scholars - these students are amazing. They all have double and triple majors, and most have several minors. They speak multiple languages, study hard, travel often and even know how to have fun. The Flinn Foundation in Phoenix, Arizona, provides the scholarships for them to attend one of three Arizona Universities. Most Flinns choose the UA Honors College or Barrett at ASU.  While these two schools are major rivals in almost every arena, the relationship the students have as Flinn Scholars bridges all differences, squelches rivalry and the result is a true community of scholars. In the end, the Flinn Foundation gives so much more than scholarship funding. They teach these young women and men how to communicate, how to think critically and - best of all - the importance of community.

Okay - back to FlinnFest 2011. I was in the lead van which was abuzz with friends reconnecting, sharing stories of prior gatherings; the other two vans reported napping and studying. The roadside wildflowers were sparse due to the infrequent winter rains this year in the desert, and we saw only a few flying critters of any note - the occasional buzzard and a single crested caracara just as we neared the border. We found our way to Las Conchas without incident just as the sun was setting. Dinner was waiting for us.