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A cooking lesson

My aunt, Renu, visiting from India for the first time this summer taught me how to make chicken curry, above, while she was here.

I had two sets of aunts and uncles visiting the United States  from India – for the first time – over the summer. They landed in New York on Aug. 8, 2010 where they visited some cousins and my aunt who lives in a posh neighborhood in Glen Ridge, New Jersey. While they were there they toured Manhattan and trekked up to Niagara Falls while they were on the East Coast.

Then they arrived on the Best Coast, whoops I mean the West Coast, on on Aug. 14 and stayed until Sept. 17. While they were out here we took them out for their first view of the Pacific Ocean as seen from the golden shores of Huntington Beach, Little Saigon in nearby Westminster,  a jaunt to wild Las Vegas, then out to peaceful Ramkrishna Monastery in Trabuco Canyon, Huntington Beach Central Library which was a hit for my book-addicted uncle and aunt, Arun Saksena and Karuna Saxena, and of course shopping for clothes, perfume and tasty treats. Not to mention visiting several restaurants to taste ethnic and Western fare.

Ramkrishna Monastery which is open to the public from 9 to 11 a.m and 3 to 5 p.m. Mondays through Sundays. The monastery sits atop 40 acres of largely undeveloped rolling hills in Trabuco Canyon. The monks maintain the buildings and grounds of the monastery which include a shrine, a shrine trail honoring the world’s major religions, and a bookstore.

But I digress. while they were here my aunt, Renu Saksena, complained that I hadn’t eaten anything made by her. Seeing an opportunity, I asked her to make her famous chicken curry and to teach me how to make it while she was at it. She agreed.

My uncle and aunt, Arun and Renu Saksena, spent part of the summer visiting the West Coast. My aunt is the one who taught me how to make her delicious and simple chicken curry. It was a delight being able to show them around. They arrived back home in Lucknow, India on Sept. 19.

It tasted great. It was so tender and delicious that it tasted like it simmered over low heat for quite awhile. But it’s easy to make and we served it up 30 minutes after we heated up the pan. Definitely a crowd pleaser!

You want to make it yourself? Click here for the recipe.

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Celebrating Holi

Just part of the Holi spread: Aloo Tikkis (potato pancakes), Gujiya (delicious Indian pastries), Somosas and Kurma (both savory and sweet fried Indian snacks).

The Swaroop family came together on Sunday, Feb. 28, 2010 to celebrate Holi, the Indian Festival of Colors that is traditionally celebrated by splashing colored water and attacking each other with colored powder in a festive, fun celebration that includes a massive Indian spread. In our family, everyone gathered in Huntington Beach to celebrate.

However, we did not play colors. It was decided that nobody was up for the task of cleaning up the mess the colors leave. So sad, since it isn’t really Holi for me without the rambunctious glee of color but more of a food fest.

Nothing wrong with a food fest, though! Pictured above is our spread of the plethora of main courses: Hand-made sandwiches by Sujata; Fried Chicken, Chicken Soft Tacos and Potato Salad provided by Suki.

Fried Chicken

Here is a closer look at one of the staples of our Holi menu. It’s not exactly a traditional Indian item, but it is certainly a traditional Swaroop Holi item. The chicken and the potato salad behind it was picked up from a local deli. It looks good, doesn’t it? Well, you should’ve been there because the delicious aroma stayed in the house all day long tempting those of us there to devour some. We did.

And let’s not forget the massive chicken soft tacos. Above, Roshan enjoys a taco as he finishes up lunch. Actually, they were so good he had two!

The family: In this picture is Sunita, Ram, Karen, Shawn, Surabhi and Rita enjoy lunch in the California sunshine. There was a steady downpour the day before so we felt blessed for the balmy weather.