Sunday, March 27, 2011

Eat Your Travel Memories

A couple weekends ago, our little Santa Cruz vegan crewe got together for a "Make Something From a Country You've Visited" Potluck. It was awesome!

Having recently returned from India, I decided to try my hand at a classic South Indian dish: idli sambar. Idlis are little dumpling-type goodies made of fermented rice and dal, and are classically served with sambar, a thin well-spiced soup full of veggies. I've eaten my fair share of idli, but I had never attempted making them before. I found this recipe video online and pretty much followed it. It's very helpful! You cook some rice, you soak some dal, you mix it all together, & then you you let it stand overnight (or longer) to ferment. It's quite exciting!

Lucky for me, my aunt Sara lived in Tamil Nadu many years ago, and happens to own an idli steamer, which I was able to borrow. She also gave me the top notch tip that she learned while there, which was to use a little bit of cheesecloth between the tray and the batter. Here you can see, the next morning, when my batter was all poured into the tray, and the tray was ready to pop in the pot for steaming.

Presto magic! Here they are, fresh out of the steamer... I was really excited about how nicely they came out - pretty and delicious! It turns out that there was absolutely nowhere in this hippie town to get the right kind of dal for idli. I had brought some home with me, but not quite enough, so I also used some adzuki beans. The adzukis gave the idli a slight pinkish hue, and a slightly sweet flavor - both non-traditional, but also both very nice!

Along with the idli, I made a very nice, thick sambar soup - using one of the South Indian recipe books that I brought home with me from India. Idli and sambar are a traditional South Indian breakfast item... so even though it might seem more lunchy or dinnery to us, it's actually a perfect dish for brunch!

The Coldandsleepy family brought along this wonderful loaf of Bara Brith, a fruit bread from Wales. It was sort of reminiscent of a brioche or pannetone - a not-too-sweet dough full of sweet dried fruits. It was so totally delicious, and it wasn't long before it was also so totally gone.

Fancy Sophia has been to Senegal and she brought this lovely dish called Yassa Niebe. Evidently, this dish is usually made with chicken, but Sophia used black eyed peas instead. It was so delicious! The beans had a wonderful lemony flavor, which was quite a surprise and quite lovely.

Her pal Max, who has been to Martinique, made some amazing Avocado Aperitif - which was pretty much a super-green avocado smoothie with avos, cukes, and lime juice. It was great... everyone had a little juice glass of this beautiful green yumminess (along with coffee or tea and OJ, all the proper brunch beverages!).

Miss Alana brought lots of goodies - including this amazing Skordalia - a garlicky potato dip from Greece. I loved the warning she wrote on the pot luck tag: "Not for the faint of heart!" - ha! It had a lot of garlic, but nowhere near my threshold. I got some serious garlic tolerance, my friends. Serious.

Lucky her, she's also been to Indonesia, thus entitling her to bring some Gado-Gado peanut sauce to the party. I loved this stuff! It was thick and creamy and full of 5-star flavor... and served with crudite and sauteed tempeh squares. Seriously, those tempehs were gone in minutes! Sooo good, and a great potluck idea.

Most importantly, Alana has also been to Austria, so she made this Sachertorte - a chocolate cake with a layer of apricot jam inside. How is it possible that we had an entire vegan potluck with only one dessert??!! It's like some crazy vortex worm-hole of sugary baking madness was activated and sucked most of us into a stupor of savory foods. Thank god that creepy phenomena didn't affect Alana, or we wouldn't have enjoyed this delicious cake after our feast.

Here is our festive brunch spread!

Incidentally, our potluck was also held on Stevie Wonder Day - that is, the anniversary of the day we adopted our wonderful dog Stevie Wonder. Stevie is the most awesomest little sweet pea and she was really happy that we had a party on her special day. She got to enjoy all the company and attention. She loves to hang out in the backyard, but she especially loves it if she's got company. To show her appreciation and joy, she had a long freak-out of crazed squeaking on her favorite squeaky ball.

Not to be undone, Mr. Snuggles (aka Snoopy Snoppy) got up on Max's lap for some scritches and cuddles. I love how Sophia is looking so jealous... ha ha! Actually, Sophia is a Snoopy fan too, but maybe I captured her secret hidden emotions! :)

Lastly, here is a super cute picture of Stevie Wonder getting some lap snugs with Alana. I love this picture because Stevie looks so peaceful, and because you can see her super cute little pig belly. Pig Belly!


  1. It all looks so good! Thanks for sharing.
    Blessings, Debra
    Raw Vegan Diet

  2. i'm not jealous! there are enough scritches and cuddles for everyone! :-)

    your idli were so mind-blowing.

  3. This makes me want to find friends for a pot luck! What a great idea for a brunch, will definitely try to remember it.

  4. What an awesome idea for a potluck, I might have to steal it!

  5. So sad that I didn't make it! Everything looks amazing.

  6. Pig belly! I want to rub the pig belly! Aww, what a cutie patootie! She looks so happy with her little squeaky ball. <3

    What an awesome potluck theme! I love it! So much goodness. I'm loving the Welsh bread, mainly because lately I've been obsessed with a BBC TV show called Gavin and Stacey, and I can't stop talking with a (very bad) Welsh accent.

    "Crazy vortex worm-hole of sugary baking madness" - that made me LOL! :D

  7. That is such a fun theme idea for a potluck! Plus, it's a great conversation piece for people to talk about the countries they've visited, why they were there, what they saw... I love hearing about other people's travels, but tasting them? Even better! :)

  8. That is such a fun theme idea for a potluck! Plus, it's a great conversation piece for people to talk about the countries they've visited, why they were there, what they saw... I love hearing about other people's travels, but tasting them? Even better! :)

  9. Super yummy looking food! I haven't tried any of the dishes mentioned, but I'm craving all of them right now - how can that be? I wish I had that spread of food for breakfast right now.

  10. The food looks so great and I love the doggle pictures, especially the one featuring Stevie's pink tummy! Cute!

  11. You made idli! That's always seemed like one of those impossible-to-make foods that I would never even contemplate attempting.

    Great idea for a potluck, too!


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