Hello everyone, Hope you had a good weekend. I am sorry for disappointing you last week by not sending my little weekly bits…I know some of you said you look forward to them. Thank you :). I was traveling too much to put my thoughts together to send out a decent email, but I made plenty of notes on the go, and took lots of pictures. I’m hoping to be able to easily share with you with my upcoming blog and website. It should probably be ready in two weeks. I am back at ‘home’ in Florence and happy to be in the kitchen trying out new recipes. I was in Athens, Greece when I partially wrote this. I thought the smells in the city of Athens were truly intoxicating from a flowering tree all over the city called Paskhalia. Apparently it blooms around Easter (Paskha in Greek) for a short time, I just got lucky to be there at this time. Come to think of it, the tree, flowers and the little fruity seeds that form after the flowers are all very similar to our neem tree except the flowers here are like lilacs. There are a lot of varieties of jasmines too, so felt right at home! Also, the city is lined with a type of orange trees that are quite sour and a little bitter. I know it from casually picking them from a tree and trying them. No wonder people didn’t seem to have any interest in picking them to eat. We had two people at different times warning us that they are “not edible”, so obviously I was curious to smell and taste them! First I asked some people if they are toxic, and realizing that they’re not harmful but merely considered, as unpleasant-tasting by the Greeks, I was free to taste, smell, etc. They are called Naranja. Once again similar to our naarinja. The peel had fabulous aroma; no wonder it’s used in making sweets, jams and even essential oils. Feta cheese in Athens, right from a barrel, that I got from a local store was nothing like I had ever tried before; it was very delicate and smooth. Oh, and there was something that I tried for the first time called Mastiha - a delicate and flavorful liqueur from Chios Islands (one of thousands of Greek islands). Later my dark-chocolate-crazy husband bought a 70% dark chocolate with Mastiha in it. Looks like Greeks use this liqueur in their desserts too, naturally. Gosh, can’t stop blabbering about food! I do a few other things outside of being obsessed with all the good food; you’ll have to take my word for it! 🙂 Traditional Greek yogurt is so heavenly that it’s very easy to overdo on it. There are yogurt bars everywhere offering different kinds of Greek yogurt, mainly the ones made with cow milk or with sheep milk with various jam-like toppings. My personal favorite was a jam made with rose petals. I got some Damask rose petals to make my own jelly with…why, of course organic, minimally processed cane sugar! I am a little afraid to go on and on about food that is not easily available to us in India. Sorry, I already confessed I have a need to blabber about food :). I casually looked up at a tree that I was standing under for shade, near Acropolis, and couldn’t contain my excitement as I realized what those pods were that were hanging are! They were my favorite carob pods that I covered a few weeks ago. I couldn’t pick them as they were still young and green. They need to mature and turn brown to develop sweetness and that unmistakable flavor of licorice and chocolate combined. In Athens, there is no shortage of ancient ruins and monuments but they’re limited so a few specific spots. Before coming to Athens, somehow I was imagining that ancient ruins cover the whole city. In fact, most of the city has a feel of a nice beach town. Although because of their current economic situation, I saw a lot of more shutters down than perhaps otherwise. The unemployment rate is pretty scary there, unofficially it is close to 35% while it 27% officially and 60% among young people under 30. It is very sad when young people have nothing to do, wasting their strength, knowledge and imagination! It is perhaps the first place I am travelling to, in a long time, where I do not understand a word of the local language and the script is not Latin. Japan was the last such place, 6 years ago. It feels strange to not even be able to read street names! Wondering around a new city and discovering amazing sights is probably my next favorite thing to do; I know I probably don’t have to say what my most favorite is! 🙂 I felt extra happy in Athens…not sure if it is because the idea of democracy and individualism was born there thousands of years ago (at least that is what Greeks claim) or because the sky is so blue and vast! Greeks are very proud of their heritage and it’s obvious when you speak to just about any Greek citizen. They seem to claim that everything good that has ever happened to mankind is because of the Greeks! Coming to something more practical for the summer in India, I would like to remind you the importance of hydrating your body. Please drink a lot of water, more than you do at other times. A squeeze of lemon does wonders to water and how it affects our body. Here’s the menu for the week of May 7 -11. All dishes, as usual, are made with fresh organic ingredients! Monday 7th May Yellow peas and coconut salad. This is a two salad meal one being yellow peas and sweet coconut and coriander. The other is a refreshing tomato salad with juicy cucumbers. These salads come with a side of spicy tomato sauce and a small jowar roti. Tuesday 8th May Cucuzza con pomodoro e basilico fresco 🙂 Bottle gourd stew with tomato and basil served with a side of chickpea salad. Bottle gourd is a cooling vegetable, well suited for summers. I made this dish for the first time many years ago in Toronto, Canada from a bottle gourd I grew in my back yard! It is fabulously satisfying and refreshing with a strong basil and tomato flavor to balance out the bland flavor of the gourd. It gives one a feeling of eating a nice pasta dish without consuming pasta! Wednesday 9th May Indian Jewel Salad. Tomatoes, cucumbers, pomegranate, semi-ripe mango and coconut together with yummy sprouts– Mung bean, moth beans, chenna, micro greens of sunflower and coriander. Sprouts are considered superfoods because of their high nutritional qualities. Loaded with protein, fiber, iron, calcium and other nutrients, sprouts are also high in bone-friendly and heart-healthy vitamin K. I am hoping you feel symphony of flavors while you chew on this salad, enjoy! As always, please chew well 🙂 Thursday 10th May Jamaican Ital stew with cabbage, coconut and root vegetables spiced with thyme and scotch bonnet peppers. This is a typical dish from the Rastafarian community of Jamaica which is purely vegetarian. It is served with a side of black eyed peas. Friday 11th May Roasted pumpkins and steamed beets in a rosemary lime vinaigrette topped with sprouted and dried almonds to add a nice crunch to the soft and sweet vegetables. This will come with a side of seed and nut crackers that are flavored with Mediterranean spices that are different from the crackers you usually get to accompany your meals which are Indian spiced. Speaking of which, know that you can order these crackers or any other snacks that I make by simply sending me a message as to what quantity you need. They come in the packs of ¼ kg. Prices range from 200 – 490 rupees. It will simply be billed to you at the end of the month. Bon appetite! Juices each evening are made with various combinations of organic carrots, beets, green mango, cucumbers, dosakais, various greens, ginger etc. Morning smoothies are all made with various difficult-to-obtain organic superfood berries, heart-healthy & protein-rich chia seeds and bananas to give the sweetness as well as the potassium that your body needs to balance out the sodium you eat through salt and other sodium rich foods. *Juices and smoothies are freshly-made and delivered on Saturdays also.