Sunday, August 15, 2010

Bali Belly

I have no sisters. I am the related friend to 3 amazing brothers. But I have found many sisters in life already. I'm talking about those women you meet and instantly feel like youve already shared a life with them. Emily is my sister, my gypsy soul-sister. If we had past lives, then Emily and I were probably fellow Mayan Medicine women in Guatamala, or maybe we met skinning kangaroos as Aboriginals, or maybe we just ran in the same meerkat group. Whatever it was, that deep connection we have welcomed me to Bali last October. She strapped me to a motorbike for 3 days, with nothing but a bikini, cut offs, a sarong (which you really can wear 12 different ways- I tried em all) and an ipod on a Tom Petty repeat as we cruised through tiny villages in the hot Indo heat. After that tour of Bali beaches with my long lost friend, I arrived back to Ubud with a helmet head of salted dreadlocks, a very unique sunburn from sitting on a motorbike for 3 days, and a deep love for my sisters home on the island of Bali.

The film Eat Pray Love came out in theaters this week. An intriguing true story about a successful Manhattan woman in the post- divorced stage of her life. She chooses to flee her world as she knows it in search of self-discovery and awakening her hunger for life, spirit and love again.... In Italy, India and Bali.
Two things deeply affected me during this 2 1/2 hour movie- First of all, there is NO freaken way that she can fit all those clothes for a whole year in those 3 very different countries, into one duffle bag! (Welcome to the current anxiety of my 7 day countdown to packing my bag for the next ___ months of my life abroad...) And second, within the first image of Bali landscape on the big screen, I started to cry. Now this is nothing new, for I am fully equipped with a very sensitive emotional response mechanism for nostalgia, and beautiful things in general.

Last October I bought a ticket from Vientiane, Laos to Bali for one week...... I stayed for one month, and I cried as I flew away. Yes friends, food and familiar things are all left, but it's more about what that place had done for the spirit that brought on these kind of tears. The portal that it opened up deep inside me, and now leaving with no idea how to fill this exposed space. Bali is a very strong and intense place, known as an energy vortex on the planet where things just seem to happen, and they did. It opened up quite a lot that I had never allowed myself to feel, and it sent me away feeling raw, vulnerable, connected, and at peace. Bali is not known as a culinary haven, by any means, So I switched my normal focus from food, to that of the spirit and strength.

The island of Bali is so unique itself that it makes complete sense why it has this power to transform you. Bali is the one island in all of Indonesia that is not Muslim. The classic Hindu rituals are displayed openly- handmade baskets with offerings to the Gods containing rice, gold paper, flowers, banana slices, and coins, are placed on the ground with special prayers and a quick sprinkling of water off Plumeria petals. The papaya tastes like flowers there. All visible wood and stone is intricately carved and created. Monkeys live amongst the people. Sunsets resemble melted rainbow sherbet. The coffee tastes like dirt. The ginger tea tastes like heaven. And Nasi Goreng can cure a quizy Bali Belly or heal a Bintang hangover.

-Nasi Goreng-
Bali-style vegitable fried rice or noodles with prawn chips and a fried egg

1 shallot
1 garlic
1 red chili (seeded)
1/2 teaspoon shrimp paste (belacan)
1 teaspoon palm sugar
1/2 tablespoon soy sauce (kecap manis is ideal)
8 oz. overnight rice (or make the rice 2 to 3 hours before)
1 fried egg
2 tablespoons oil
Prawn chips

Break the overnight/leftover rice using the back of a spoon so they don’t clump together. In a wok, toast the shrimp paste on low heat until it becomes dry and aromatic. Toasted shrimp paste should be somewhat powdery and appear like tiny granules. Fry an egg and set aside. Using a mortar and pestle or a mini food processor, blend the shallot, garlic, red chili, and toasted shrimp paste. Transfer the blended flavoring paste into a small saucer. Heat up a wok and add oil. Add the flavoring paste and stir-fry until aromatic. Add the rice into the wok and stir well with the flavoring paste. Add soy sauce and palm sugar into the rice and continue to stir-fry and make sure that they are well blended with the rice. Dish out, top the nasi goreng with the fried egg and prawn chips, and serve immediately.

There have been many mixed reviews on the film Eat, Pray, Love so far. I liked it, personally. I tend to not have high expectations for films in general, but I did enjoy the movie. And frankly, if a Julia Roberts film about pasta, prayers, beautiful landscapes, and the greatest duffle bag on the planet, can all make more woman travel alone in the world- then I give the movie nothing but good reviews. And if nothing else, then the movie helped remind me how blessed I am to have a working passport, global sisters, and travel size tissues.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Love and Eggs

My first trip to Italy was 3 years ago. It was in the middle of summer, in a small town named Crosia. I had traveled for 12 hours from Tuscany to Calabria to attend a dear friends wedding. She-American, he-Italian, they- crazy in love.

The town was hot. The cars and doorways small. The wedding was breathtaking. And that panini of melon and salami that I enjoyed on the beach was irresistible. A wedding in Italy should be a "must" for all to experience. A gastronomic gathering of the senses. My memory is spotted from that evening- I remember wearing a black dress. I remember cramming into a tiny Fiat and chasing the scooting newlyweds down a spiraling hill from the chapel to the restaurant. I remember being seated for 12 courses but only making it to 8. I remember an Italian duo singing Hotel California at the reception. I remember wine....and grappa. But most of all, aside from the octopus salad (maybe course #5...?) that really had me succumbing to Italian powers, I retain pure blissful images of my friend's face that night. And the happiness that surrounded all of us there.

Well, my beautiful Italian-American fused couple are back in California. So we made lunch.

Peaches and Nectarines with Opal Basil.
Salad of Red Quinoa, Harrisa, and Fried Chickpeas.
Frittata of Sweet Onions and Cherry Tomatoes.

Frittata is a simple and beautiful way to enjoy a meal. Breakfast, lunch or dinner- frittata is acceptable. I tend to not get too crazy with my frittata combinations; one or two vegetables, a fresh herb, plenty of parmesan, and maybe some pancetta if I'm feeling sassy. Hot or cold, its one of my favorite ways to eat eggs.

Frittata with sweet onions, torn basil and cherry tomatoes

Salt and Pepper
12 Organic Eggs
2 ounces Parmesan, grated
1/2 a medium Brown Onion- or 1 torpedo onion (which I used), chopped
2 T Olive Oil
¼ cup Basil Leaves, torn
8 Cherry Tomatoes, cut in half

Preheat oven to 400 F.
Whisk the eggs, Parmesan cheese, and season with salt and pepper. Add olive oil to an oven-proof skillet. Heat over medium heat. Add onions and cook till just caramelized, about 3 minutes. Add egg mixture to the hot skillet. Stir eggs gently with wooden spoon. Continue cooking until eggs are starting to set on the edges. Place skillet in oven for 8 minutes, or until the center is set but not brown. Remove from oven. Remove frittata to warm plate. Cut into wedges and sprinkle with tomatoes, remaining basil and some fresh parmesan. Enjoy!

I'm planning to reconnect with Italy in many ways this next year. Renting a space and working at a restaurant in Florence for winter. Living on a Tuscan farm in early spring, consuming my weight in gelato...... and budgeting it all by eating only frittata for the next month.