American Upama

On most weekday mornings I have to drag myself out of the bed to get ready for work. I stumble like a drunkard missing a step or two, desperately seeking a drink, which in my case is a steaming cup of Indian tea. Only after a few divine sips, I start focusing on the banal tasks that lay ahead of me. I brush off any thought of a hearty breakfast, rush to work and nibble on a bowl of cold cereal while going through scores of emails.
I have yet to meet a person who jumps out of his bed with utter joy at or before the first wail of his alarm, fixes himself a satisfying platter to welcome the new day, tidies the kitchen and prances into his workplace to face the exciting challenges. I believe that existence of such a person in an urban myth, although I do have a friend who defies routine and routinely spices up her breakfast and spoils my mornings with her creativity. Both her head and the breakfast creation that she had dictated the cafeteria staff to whip up for her, held high, she passes my cube. With a victorious smile, she casts a contemptuous glass at my cold breakfast. I abandon my work and sneak into her cube to partake the tasty treat. She generously shares the recipe with me and the creation then makes regular appearance in my lunch box. One of her simple yet satisfying fusion dish is what she calls an American Upama – cooked cream of wheat cereal topped with grilled vegetables and jalapenos. This friend also brings for lunch mouth-watering Andhra chutneys and curries that look dangerously spicy and are daringly hot. I am currently listing down excuses to camp at her house for a month or two to note down all the recipes, but in the meantime you will have to be happy with the following two.

American Upama

2 cups cooked cream of wheat cereal
2 cups total chopped green bell peppers, onions. You can add mushrooms for an earthy flavor.
1 small tomato chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
Pickled Jalapenos
1 or 2 tbsp olive oil
1. Heat oil in a cast iron skillet .
2. Sauté vegetables till they start losing their crunch adding salt and pepper halfway through. Do not overcook them.
3. Stir in chopped tomato and cook for a minute or two.
4. Warm the cereal and mix in vegetables.
5. Garnish with jalapenos.

Pumpkin Chutney

Andhra vegetable chutneys are part of everyday meal and they sure add zing to any meal. They can be eaten with paratha, chapatti or rice. I made couple of changes to my friend’s recipe by adding toor dal and cooking garlic with pumpkin. She always uses raw garlic for extra flavor.

1 Tsp Toor Dal
5 green chilies
6 garlic cloves
1 ½ cups chopped pumpkin
2 tbsp cilantro leaves. You could use mint leaves instead for a different taste.
1 tbsp tamarind pulp
Salt to taste
Mustard seeds
Pinch of Asafoetida
Sprig of curry leaves

1. Heat 2 tbsp oil in a pan.
2. Sauté toor dal, chilles and garlic cloves for 1 minute.
3. Stir pumpkin pieces and salt, and cover and cook till tender.
4. Let cool, add cilantro leaves and grind to a coarse paste.
5. Heat 1 tsp oil in a sauce pan, add mustard seeds and curry leaves.
6. Add asafetida when mustards seeds start popping and stir in the paste from step 4.
7. Add tamarind pulp, salt and cook for 3-5 minutes on low heat till the flavors blend.
8. Serve chutney with parathas, chapatti or rice. This will be a great spread for sandwiches too.

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