Down the rabbit hole we all went back in March. Just like Lewis Carroll's Alice, you could say that it has been an Adventure in Wonderland, with all it's complexities, dramas and strangeness. Back in March, I'm sure a lot of us were wary of mandatory sheltering. Then in April, if you didn't have to seek medical help, you might have felt gratitude for just being healthy. And now in May, dare we try to be cautiously optimistic? To some, it may feel too soon. To others, it may not be soon enough.
This "downtime" is difficult, but it doesn't come without feeling transformed somehow. It's been the little things during this time that feel like blessings. Little reflections. Little activities. Little lessons. We learn how to just "be" in the same space at the same time as our significant other. We can gain an appreciation for the things that the other person does throughout his or her daily life. We share their struggles and relish in their triumphs. Our thoughts become unlocked and free. We share them with each other. We listen to nature uninterrupted and think about our own influence on its cycle and heartbeat. Life is taken slower than before, because we don't have much of a choice, do we? It makes me wonder how many of these "little things" I will want to keep alive in my life after the height of this pandemic passes. Years from now, I suspect I'll look back at this time with a weird sort of nostalgia. I know I'll be forever changed by it and it's not necessarily a bad thing to have life interrupted only to value it more.
It seems like we're on the cusp of moving to Stage 3 of California's "Resilience Roadmap." We shall see. This last week, we've been discussing how to successfully and safely conduct wine tastings again. On Friday, we joined a Zoom call with around 250 of our peers to learn about where we stand when it comes to reopening. It feels imminent and we are preparing for the eventuality.
Finally, to everyone who has been ill or knows someone who has been affected by COVID-19, we wish you strength and hope that there are some little things that you, too, can hold onto at this time.
A WEEK OF NOSTALGIA
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This is no trick of the eye. There is more than one way to roast a chicken, but apparently, if you’re Varinder, you need to wear the same shirt on a different day to do it! What makes this homestyle dish just a tad bit elevated is the 3-day prep process. On Day 1 you prepare your chicken and brine. On Day 2, you start the “drying” process, something that V credits Chef Thomas Keller with. On Day 3, you’ll continue to dry and roast it off that evening. The results are well worth the time and nothing short of succulent! In terms of the brine and the specific vegetables you use, be easy and free. We pulled out whatever we had at the time and put it to great use. Enjoy this elegant homestyle meal! – Anita Sahi
This recipe was inspired by my family. In our travels to India, we would often head to local sweets shops and bakeries and find a to-die-for assortment of biscuits, milk cakes and savory rusks. We also welcomed anywhere from 2 to 20 people a day for tea at home (no joke). Each visit from a guest would have us excited over the prospect of snack pairing.
For Indians, tea time (or chai time, as we call it) is sacred. Our tea of choice is usually a Masala Chai, whose permutation differs from family to family and individual to individual. My specific chai includes influences from my own parents, from Varinder and from his family. In COVID lockdown, we’ve become even more self-reliant and I have started to bake again (one of my first jobs was baking in a professional restaurant). These Whole Wheat Tea Biscuits were dreamt up for three very specific qualities: 1) They had to be nutty and stand up to strong, aromatic masala chai (ginger, cardamom, cloves, black pepper), 2) They had to be thin and snackable all times of day and 3) They had to have an undeniable crumbliness (think of Biscoff cookies). For the latter, the use of a touch of gram flour did the trick. I mixed these cookies by hand because I love to judge a dough by how it feels, but they are super versatile and, for a less “messy” preparation, can be done in a standing mixer as well.
This recipe is one of my weeknight go-tos – you can dress it up, or dress it down! Paella is tradtionally made with Valencian rice, but I know most of us don’t have multiple rice varieties laying around. Any medium to short-grain rice will work. Arborio is my favorite and it’s found at most stores. This version of paella is finished in the oven, which it allows you to walk away to set the table or do the dishes and return to a finished meal. The most important trick to this recipe is to not stir! You want the rice to be tender, but not creamy or risotto-style. A perfectly cooked paella will develop a crisp, caramalized layer on the bottom called socarrat. Let the crispy layer happen. Serve with your favorite grenache or a grenache dominant G-S-M.
There are some recipes that just speak of home and this is one of them. Dal is a term in several Indian languages that refers to dried lentils, legumes and beans. It’s as staple as it gets when it comes to the Indian diet. This version uses husked and split yellow and red lentils. The texture of this dish is soupy, but with a creamier texture than that of a straight broth. We sometimes call it peeli dal – meaning yellow dal – for its obvious golden appearance when finished. Moong-masoor dal is a classic Punjabi comfort food and it can be paired with white basmati rice or fresh rotis (Indian flatbread). These lentils would be mild on their own, but with the tadka or tempering with aromatics, makes it anything but.
The buds are breaking on the vineyard because for the vines, the cycle continues as it always does. That's the thing about nature, isn't it? The sun rises each day and the plants soak it in. The birds are especially active. Quails rapidly walk in their funny line formation. The sparrows and finches are singing while they splash in the pool. The hawks feel a little more freedom in the air. But, then again, they always felt that freedom.
We are bearing witness to a time that forces reflection and makes you take notice: There is life out there that is seemingly unaffected by the ongoing crisis. Our vineyard tells us that spring is here. As a living, breathing space, it has its own pulse and we feel it. There is an inherent spiritual connection to nature. We breathe in its energy and breathe out gratitude for being allowed to take care of it.
We'll ask you again: How are all of you? Please feel free to drop us a line about anything at all.
Nature's balance and our connection to it has been our muse this past week. Here's what we cooked, drank, listened to and read to each other.
Indian Classical/Western Fusion Playlist
"Daffodils" by William Wordsworth
As always, if there is anything that you need, please reach out by replying or calling (805) 835-6094.
Anita and Varinder Sahi
"In every walk with nature, one receives far more than he seeks." - John Muir
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As a winemaker, he is always striving to strike a balance in wine acidity, alcohol, fruit concentration and tannins. When everything is in harmony, we’re all well-fed happy campers. A more classic version of beurre blanc uses white wine vinegar and cream with shallots at its base. We like a racy version that uses fresh lemon juice as the acid and rich grass-fed butter as the fat. These ingredients along with a dry white wine and aromatic saffron threads create an emulsification that is both luxurious and flavor-packed. We choose to bathe an oven-roasted halibut in this delicious sauce. Try it and you won’t regret it!