Chawlichi Aamti (Black-eyed pea curry)

My husband is from the Indian state of Maharashtra. If you are familiar with India, you may know that a lot of things are regional, like language, food, festivals, customs, clothing, etc. Friends or relatives will often come up to my husband or me and say something like 'I saw a program about India on TV and _________ happened' and my husband will have no idea what they're talking about. I often try to clarify by explaining to people unfamiliar with India that it is like many different countries in one. You can travel from one state to another and have no idea what the people around you are saying because the language can be THAT different - not a different dialect, a different language! You can also travel to a neighboring state and have completely different food.

When I found this out, I was so excited! Do you mean that there is a much larger variety of Indian dishes than the ones on the menu at the Indian restaurants in the United States??? That's it, I must find out more! So I started researching different regional cuisines of India. I was especially excited when I found a couple of bloggers from the same state as my husband because, let's be honest here, he was really not much help at all. He is good at tasting the food and telling me if that's how it's supposed to be, but when it comes to making the food, he is completely clueless.

One day, I found this recipe for chawlichi aamti (a maharashtrian-style black-eyed pea curry) and decided to surprise my husband by making it. It's good I didn't ask him first if he liked it because he later told me that when he was growing up, he didn't usually like aamtis because they were too sweet (some subgroups of maharashtrians add something called jaggery, which is like sugar, to aamtis). This recipe does not include sugar or jaggery so maybe that's how I lucked out. At any rate, he loved it! Success! But I loved it more! I think this is now my favorite food. I could not stop eating it - to the point where we ran out of chapatis (indian flatbread) and rice so I ravenously ransacked the kitchen until I spotted the tortilla chips. Best. Idea. Ever. This aamti tastes even better with the tortilla chips than the chapatis or rice (my opinion, of course)! And, like a chili, it tastes even better the next day.

Chavlichi Amti Indian Vegan Black eyed pea curry

This recipe is adapted from Aarti's recipe.

2 cans black eyed peas
1 can diced tomatoes (or 2 medium tomatoes, chopped)
1 large onion, chopped
10 curry leaves (available at an Indian grocery store)
1 tsp mustard seeds
pinch of hing (asafoetida)
1.5 tsp coriander powder
1.5 tsp cumin powder
3/4 tsp turmeric
cayenne powder, optional (this is only if you like really spicy food)
4 tsp garam masala (or to taste - start with less!!)
1 tsp salt (or to taste)
1 tsp oil
2 cups water (start with two cups and add more if you like - an aamti is supposed to be watery, but you may prefer it less watery so this is just a starting point)
Optional Garnish: fresh cilantro, more chopped onion, lemon wedges

1. Drain and rinse your black eyed peas to remove excess sodium.
2. Heat the oil on medium-high.
3. When the oil is hot, add mustard seeds, curry leaves and hing.
4. When the mustard seeds start to sputter or pop, add the onion.
5. When the onion is translucent, add coriander powder, cumin powder, turmeric, cayenne powder and half the garam masala.
6. Stir it and let it cook for a minute.
7. Add black eyed peas, tomatoes, water, and salt, and mix.
8. Bring it to a boil, then simmer until the flavors combine.
9. Mash some of the beans to get the bean flavor more infused in the gravy, if you wish.
10. Add more garam masala or salt if desired.
11. Drizzle with a little oil (optional) and garnish with fresh cilantro. Serve hot with tortilla chips, chapatis, rice, or bread.
Optional: I like to serve with chopped onion and lemon.


Goodbye Buddy Jr.

Thursday, April 11, 2013 , , , 2 Comments

We had a lot of great times with Buddy Jr. He was so confused when we got him. He didn't know where he was, what was going on, or maybe even if he'd take another long drive to a far-away destination (with much different weather) at any moment. The snow perplexed him. The other dogs scared him. The songs of the birds enchanted him. He was in a new and different world and often sought the comfort of his crate, the one thing connecting his new world with his old.

We watched him get comfortable with receiving affection. I loved the way he would bury his skinny head into my stomach face-down when I would kneel down to pet him. He loved when we gave him a massage. He wasn't one for sitting down, so he'd stand the whole time blinking his eyes because he was so tired and relaxed, until he just couldn't stand it anymore and he had to go lay on his bed before he fell over. By the end, he went from the dog who was scared of the neighbors to the dog who couldn't wait to meet a new person!

We watched him learn to give affection. It was shocking, but very cute the first time he stuck that long nose under our comforter and sniffed our faces trying to show his affection. My husband loved the way Buddy Jr would wag his tail and attempt to jump (just lifting his front paws about an inch at a time) in the air when he'd come home from work. And the way he'd cry in a soft, gentle voice when my husband and I came home together. Buddy Jr. even licked me a couple of times.

We had a lot of silly times too. Like the first time I turned on the TV (after he'd already been here for a week and a half). He could not figure out what was going on. He just kept staring at the TV, looking at it from different angles, and moving his ears around. I don't think he had ever been around a TV before. And, who could forget the time (before Buddy Jr was fully house trained) when he was pooping on our wood floor in the office. When he was almost done, my husband saw him and said a stern 'NO' making poor Buddy Jr try to pull the last piece of poop back into his butt. It went in and out as he tried to stop it while he watched Al with an ashamed look. Finally he got it all the way back in, my husband took him out and he just couldn't get the poop back out of him when he was outside. Poor guy.

The good times were good. Our time with Buddy Jr. was definitely rewarding, but it was also challenging. And, as I've learned all to well lately, everything must come to an end. Sometimes you just know when a relationship needs to end. The parties involved just aren't serving each other's higher good anymore. It can be painful (very painful sometimes), but you know it's for the best. This is what happened with Buddy Jr. He did not get adopted; he was moved to another foster home.

It's funny how these things work sometimes. Buddy Jr. was presenting us with some issues we hadn't dealt with before and, given that he was our first foster greyhound and we knew that they have unique needs (especially the ones right off the track like Buddy Jr.), we were constantly seeking advice on how to handle these situations. So the foster home coordinator was well aware of the struggles we faced (trying to eat off the kitchen table and counters, wanting to go outside all the time, extreme diarrhea, etc.) and she decided that this was a dog for a pro. Our little Buddy Jr. was kind of like the Marley of the greyhound community.

So, unbeknownst to us, the foster home coordinator was looking for more experienced foster homes to take in our pup, while we were simultaneously realizing that we were in over our heads with this dog. The last couple of days he was here, I realized that he was scaring me by his barking (abnormal for him) and that I was proceeding to do exactly what he wanted me to do (he had these big, sharp teeth and was basically bigger than me - no excuse, I know). I knew this was very bad for Buddy Jr. Our #1 job as foster parents was to mold Buddy Jr. into the ideal dog for his future home. Giving in to bad behavior is most definitely not the way to get any dog to be the perfect companion. Although we knew that it would be difficult, we knew that he had to move on. And when we told the foster coordinator and heard that she was already working on it, I knew that it was the right thing to do.

Buddy Jr. now resides at the home for sassy greyhounds (an unusual trait for the breed). Or maybe it's more like greyhound rehab. He lives with four other greyhounds and some humans who work miracles on turning the challenging dogs into adoptable best friends.

Buddy Jr. watching TV for the first time