Starting Over

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“You know what’s funny? This is the first time in my life there’s no one waiting at home for me. I don’t even have a home to come back to.” -Liz Gilbert in Eat Pray Love

After re-watching that scene, I can’t help but feel the jolt of goosebumps travel from my shoulders, down to my toes, and back up again. The feeling is eerily familiar. I had just experienced my own similar Eat Pray Love journey not too long ago. Liz was leaving behind everyone she loved; everything she knew. I, too, left behind everyone I loved and everything I knew.

I had reached a point in my life back in California, where nothing felt right. 

I began to feel the pangs of every decision I had made up to that point. Wasn’t this the life I had procured for myself? I (just like Liz) actively participated in creating this life, so why wasn’t I happy? I began to accept something I knew deep down inside for a very long time–I needed to start over. I wanted to move somewhere where I could become inspired again. I wanted to go to a place where I didn’t know a single person. After telling my story to a well known astrologer/medium in the Bay Area, she agreed and told me (as Ketut Liyer prophesied to Liz in Bali) that I needed to move and start over somewhere new. Together we consulted the spirits, and of all the cities and countries we examined, they (we) chose Portland. That was the moment I decided that I would have to figure out a way to move out of Oakland, and then save up enough money to make my way up North.

I didn’t have any housing planned, nor job lined up. Just the sheer determination and faith in the process that I would make it work. The only thing that had kept me in Oakland for as long as it did, were the friends I made within the four years I lived there. Saying goodbye to those friends truly was the hardest part; my friends are an extension of my family. After four years, I guess you can say I fell out of love with Oakland, as Liz fell out of love in her marriage. So she ended it. And I did as well.

I admit, it wasn’t an easy process, but thanks to my willingness to never give up, and meeting a group of truly amazing people (the new friends I’ve made here have been such a blessing and have helped me get through the many obstacles I encountered) I managed to set out and do exactly what I intended to do: start a brand-new life. The rush of being inspired again gives me goosebumps. The good kind. So while my journey here is far from over, I believe that I’ve started a new chapter in my own Eat Pray Love story.

Because it’s February (with the Hallmark holiday of Valentine’s Day just a few away) I thought I’d partake in the festivities and create a menu of Eat Pray Love-inspired recipes, featuring cuisines from the countries Liz visited.

I hope my story (or Liz’s) inspires you to partake in your own Eat Pray Love journey.

MENU

ITALY:  Roasted Asparagus with Black Olives, Lemon Vinaigrette, Pecorino Romano and a Soft-Cooked Egg

INDIA: Butter Chicken with Rice and Homemade Naan

INDONESIA: Gemblong Sweet Rice Fritters with Coconut-Caramel Sauce

 

(Editor’s Note: All movie screenshots in this story are property of Columbia Pictures.)

Groceries

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The second part of Liz’s spiritual journey of self-discovery continued in an ashram in India, where she meets pivotal characters like Richard from Texas. The meals were simple, but I thought something as comforting as a big bowl of yummy butter chicken and rice with fresh homemade naan would be the perfect meal. (Especially right now, since it’s been cold and raining here in Portland for the past week.)

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Butter Chicken
Recipe slightly adapted from Foodess
Serves 2-4

INGREDIENTS
FOR THE MARINADE (do a day ahead)
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1- to 2-inch cubes
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon garam masala
1 tablespoon oil

FOR THE SAUCE
2 tablespoons vegetable or olive oil
1 cup small diced white onions
2 tablespoons garlic, minced
2 tablespoons garam masala
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 can diced (no salt added) tomatoes
1 cup milk
4 tablespoons unsalted butter

GARNISH
1/2 cup cilantro, finely chopped
3 cups cooked basmati, brown or jasmine rice

SERVE WITH
Homemade Naan (recipe HERE)

METHOD
FOR THE MARINADE
Place all ingredients in a medium-sized bowl and thoroughly combine with a spoon. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator overnight.

FOR THE SAUCE
Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat and add the onions, cooking till tender. About 20-25 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for about a minute. Add the spices and salt, tossing to coat the onions. Cook for five minutes. Add the tomatoes, milk and butter. Bring to a boil and then allow to simmer for 1 hour. Turn off the heat and allow to cool. Cover and place in the refrigerator overnight.

(Cook’s Note: I do this step overnight because I feel that the flavors develop even more after a day.)

The next day: Drain the excess oil from marinade and set aside. Return the sauce to the stove and reheat till boiling. Lower the heat to a gentle simmer and add the chicken, slowly stirring to cook. Add the cilantro. Cook for about 10 minutes (or until done). Turn off the heat and serve.

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(Editor’s Note: All movie screenshots in this story are property of Columbia Pictures.)

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This delicious bread is best served with THIS recipe for Indian Butter Chicken.

Homemade Naan
Recipe slightly adapted from Baking Steel
Yields 4 pieces

INGREDIENTS
3/4 cup lukewarm water
1 teaspoon active dry yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons plain yogurt
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt

METHOD
Preheat your oven to 425º F degrees. In a medium bowl sprinkle yeast over the lukewarm water, then sprinkle sugar on top. Let stand for 5 to 10 minutes or until foamy.

Whisk in the olive oil and yogurt. Add the flour and salt, mixing till combined.

(Cook’s note: Dough will be rather wet and sticky. That’s OK.)

Cover the bowl with a damp side towel or plastic wrap and place in a warm spot in your kitchen. Allow the dough to rise until doubled in size, about 1 to 2 hours, depending on how warm your kitchen is. About 30 minutes before baking, place a baking steel (if you have one) or cast-iron skillet into the oven to heat the pan.

Put some flour on your hands and turn dough out onto a well-floured work surface, sprinkling the dough with the flour as you work with it. Divide the dough into 4 equal-sized pieces. The dough will be rather sticky, so attempt to work the dough as minimally as possible, using as much flour as needed to keep it from sticking to your hands. Shape each section into a ball and let rest for about 20 minutes before shaping. Cover the dough balls with a damp towel.

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To shape the dough, use your hands to gently stretch the dough, lightly pulling the edges to stretch evenly, using all of your fingers to elongate it. Wet your fingers and lightly rub the surface of the dough with a bit of water. Using an oven mitt, remove your cast-iron skillet from the oven and then gently place the dough (water rubbed side down) onto it. Bake for 3-4 minutes. Using a pair of tongs, check to see if the side has gotten golden brown, if so, flip it over and bake for another 2 minutes. Remove from the oven and repeat the process with remaining pieces of dough.

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