I first heard about the Earth Hour from the monthly schedule my daughter's school sends out beginning of each month. I loved the way the school took initiative and even had a lights out at 10:00 toady morning.
I had also received a mail from Anna of Morsels and Musings. She said
" I would like to throw a challenge out to all bloggers to take part in an Earth Hour food blogging event and cook a recipe that
- you can enjoy by candle light and
- has a low carbon footprint (ie made from locally sourced ingredients and minimal packaging)"
I wanted to make my tiny contribution by participating in the event. Switch off your lights and vote. More here
Now the second part of this blogging event does throw a small challenge because often times ingredients I buy is not necessary locally produced which I need to overcome but the first one is not even close to a challenge.
You see I have grown up in a country where Power shortage is a part of the culture and so candles are more of a necessity than an aromatic tool for any romantic experience.
When I was small, very small maybe a kindergartner we lived in a beautiful mountain town in India. It has grown to be a holiday destination now but eons back it was just a pretty mountain town with a breathtaking view of the Kanchenjunga, beautiful orchids, fresh air and best catholic schools.
But come dusk and the sun plunged behind the snow peaked Himalayas it wasn't the best place to be. The power situation was so bad that on most days all you could see on lighting a lamp was the thin red filament of the bulb. The voltage would be back to normal only after 9:00 in the night. Studying by the light of the Kerosene lamp or lantern had become the norm and most days we would have dinner by this light.
Later we moved to the plains of Bihar (India). Scenery changed but the power scenario remained same. Instead of low voltages there were power cuts now. It could be a scheduled outage, a random one, a teaser where lights would go on & off in 10 min intervals, anything that could titillate the minds of electric supply guy
Power cuts or loadshedding as we called it were not very welcome on hot summer afternoons but the evening loadshedding was very much enjoyed by us kids. Soon after sun down the smoking hot terrace would be soaked with buckets of cool water preparing it for the hot night. As son as the neighborhood plunged in darkness me, my cousins and some of our neighbor friends would run to the wet terrace for hours of made up games.
The upturned indigo sky with its bright canopy of stars looked brighter in the dark. The house across the street with flickering candle flames and shifting silhouettes looked mysterious. The ordinary became enchanting and the evening magical.
The mothers and the aunts chatted across balconies, news was exchanged and gossips whirled in the thick humid air of darkness. When I look back I see how the small neighborhood connected and bonded over those power cuts
If the power still refused to come back late in the night we would have dinner by the smoky lights of darkening lanterns. Later mattresses would be rolled out on the now cool terrace, the mosquito net set up and we would go to sleep to the strains of whatever played on the local radio station and beneath the deep indigo sky
Courtesy Wiki: India is the most energy efficient country ?
Gradually we grew up and the loadshedding lost its charm. We grumbled about the heat, the mosquitoes, the TV show missed and in all hated the prospect of a power cut. Global warming was then not a reality and we didn't realize the limited power that we were consuming was actually benefiting the earth.
An hour of Lights Out will be a shocker for my little girl this Saturday and I am sure she is going to complain some. But hopefully by the end of it she will see the fun that comes along with it and the impact we made
Now to the food. For this event I chose my much loved once every other week Pasta Dish. I am not a huge Pasta fan and have it mostly for convenience. This particular dish is quick, can be done with limited locally grown(and a few not) ingredients, can be had lukewarm(so no need to use the microwave) and not much mess so you can safely have it in the dark.
I do not like my Pasta drenched in sauce either. When I found this sun-dried tomato sauce recipe in NY Times, I tweaked it around a lot and that resulted in this delicious Pasta dish which has since been a family favorite and given that the family rarely unanimously agree it is a big deal.
So here is my Whole Wheat Penne in a home made Sun-dried Tomato Sauce for the Earth Hour 2009: blogging event
Pasta in homemade Sun-Dried Tomato Sauce
To Make the Sauce
Soak 1 cup of Sun Dried Tomatoes in 1-2 cups of hot water for 15-20 minutes
Heat Olive Oil in a pan
Add 2 - 3 fat cloves of garlic coarsely chopped and 2 cracked Dry Red Chili, saute till you get a nice smell. Careful don't burn the garlic
Take the soaked sun dried tomatoes out of water and add them to the pan
Saute for a minute and add roughly chopped 1 Roma tomato and fry for a minute or two
Add half of the water in which the sun-dried tomatoes were soaked and cook till the tomato softens and the water almost dries up
Cool the above mix and puree in a blender. You may need to add rest of the soaked sun-dried tomato water to make a smooth thick paste
This is the sauce which you will use for the pasta. You can also store this sauce upto a week which I often do.
Cook 1 packet of Barilla Plus Multi Grain Penne according to package direction. Add 4-5 sun dried tomatoes chopped or minced to the pasta water while cooking.
Do not throw away the pasta water(the cooking liquid) after draining, store for use in next step. Leave pasta wet
Bring everything together
Heat some more Olive Oil in a heavy bottomed deep pan
Add 1/2 red onion chopped and saute till onion turns a nice pink color and is soft
Add 2 green chillies finely chopped(optional), 1/4 tsp or less of ground nutmeg and then 1 cup of thinly sliced mushroom. Saute for a couple of minutes
Add 1 cup of soy granules and mix well.((You can also add minced meat instead. With minced meat you may need to fry for a little more time) Note: I used the Indian brand of soy granules. Soy granules are made from non-genetically modified soybeans
Add a little of the reserved pasta water and let it cook till the soy granules soften
Add the tomato sauce that you have made and mix well. If your sauce is like a thick paste you need to add a little of the pasta water at this point. Add required amount of salt and let it simmer till the sauce has reduced and is moist but no longer in liquid state
Add 1 tsp of paprika
Add the cooked pasta and mix well. You may need to drizzle a little olive oil at this point to bring everything together. Saute the pasta for 2-3 minutes till the sauce is beautifully amalgamated with the pasta
Serve garnished with parsley. Light a candle and enjoy it with lights out