Thursday, May 13, 2010

Blueberry mousse with fresh berries

I came back from India, all happy and ready to be back. One wouldn't believe that, but I was. You see, when I was in India, I got some wonderful news. I'm going to move to Syracuse for a year to do my Masters in Media Management at Syracuse University. This one (little) thing has done so much to my mood, to my life in general that its not just random news anymore. Its a life event for me.


I came to the US after getting married to A with a work permit. Wall Street crashed the day I received my permit authorization and life hasn't been the same since. I turned from an active, bindaas, cool person to a whining, moaning, crying, depressed wreck. This food blog was supposed to give me a purpose, and it didn't. Nothing did. I hated going out, I hated meeting people (which was a shocker!), I put on obscene amounts of weight (It is like the movies) and spent day and night cribbing about this country, about how I'd given up everything. You know, its very easy to love a person if things are okay with you. When things go wrong, and when you, in your head, pinpoint the reason to one thing/person, you lose control. In my case, my marriage changed my life in more ways than one. A changed my life. While I can see that I've grown as a person, and become stronger after the two year crisis in my life, it wasn't always like this.

Amidst all the cakes we baked, he sat and watched me as I ate and plunged into a hell-hole. He stood here, baking for me, cleaning after me, taking all the jokes on him - just waiting for things to change. He is a man of faith. I'm the confused one. Still. And he won, partly. Through me. With his irreplacable faith. I changed some marvellous things about him. And it is not necessarily good for him. But we are picking up the pieces now.

Just as I kept thinking and finally reached a place where I figured I'd be okay if I don't have that financial independence, I'd be okay if I'm 'happy' doing fun stuff not necessarily work stuff, the news of the University offer trickled in. I didn't want to write the GRE. It involved Math. And I was terrified of failing. Lately, everything was a failure. From cooking Dal to just my whole life. Every time I spilled something, I cursed myself for being clumsy. It never struck me that, that is the kind of person I am. These two years didn't make me any extra clumsy. But then, who really thought in these two years. It plays like a bad movie in my head.

I know a lot of you may say, 'oh a job is nothing.' With due respect, its not about the job. Its about fulfillment. And it took me this crisis to figure out that a job is not necessarily the way I live my life fully. I needed this lesson. I needed this crisis to test me. I almost lost it. I almost gave up. Thanks to phone calls to my parents at the oddest of times, to good friends, online and offline, and thanks to A, I'm wiser. And calmer. And smarter.

Now, after all the gyaan :D, let me move to this super healthy dessert. A friend came over. We don't have too many friends, so any chance of making friends is welcomed and they are invited home to be our guinea pigs. Without warning. I just had this dessert in my head. As a picture. I had to, had to do this. Plus the blueberries we picked last year had to be finished, IMO. We are going picking again and I'm picky that way. Pun totally intended.

And I'm no dessert expert. I'm just an expert at bossing over and supervising and screaming when things don't work ;)



For the Blueberry syrup
1 cup blueberries
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
4 tbsp water
1/4 tsp cornstarch

For the 'mousse'
10 oz silken tofu
2 tbsp sugar
2-3 tbsp blueberry syrup.

For the whipped topping

1/3 c heavy whipping cream
1 tbsp sugar
1/4 tsp vanilla extract

For the strawberries
2 c strawberries, each cut into two pieces vertically.
Lemon zest, blueberries, chopped almonds for garnishing on top.

1. In a saucepan, put all the ingredients for the blueberry syrup and heat until the liquid starts to boil.

2. Lower the heat and reduce until you see the syrup thicken. Take care not to crush the berries.

3. Strain the mixture and retain the syrup. You could retain the berries and use them in pancakes etc. or in step 4.

4. Drain the silken tofu well. Then, in a blender, mix the tofu, syrup and sugar until it is a smooth paste. Take care not to turn this into a runny puree. It should be a jiggly mass. You could use the berries from step 3 if you like a more 'grainy' texture, but we skipped the berries. Let it set overnight. Or at least until it is not runny any more. It usually takes anywhere between 8 hours to overnight. It is pretty good-looking when you pour this into dessert bowls/glasses to let it set.

5. When ready to assemble the dessert, whip cream. In a bowl, take the whipping cream and add the vanilla extract. It helps if the bowl and the beater's blades have been refrigerated for an hour or so. Start beating until stiff peaks form while adding sugar as a continuous stream.

6. Top the set mousse with chopped strawberries. Then add a layer of whipped cream. We piped them. Garnish with fresh blueberries, lemon zest and some chopped roasted almonds.

When we finally got this right, I swear I could have cried and yelled like I won the Olympic Gold Medal or something. We started experimenting two days before the guest came. A, the resident fat-lover-since-he-doesn't-put-on-an-ounce decided to make blueberry cream. Can you believe it? Blueberry cream. Nothing I said stopped him from trying it out. So, a blueberry coulis was made, strained and the syrup was used to flavor cream and was whipped in all its glory. It was poured into serving glasses at 2 AM and left in the fridge for it to set. A had a not-so-brilliant idea of doing the same with ricotta. So, we slept at 3 AM that day dreaming of blueberries and mousses. We woke up on Saturday and found that the cream was beautiful. Heavenly. Well-set. Lovely colour and what not. The ricotta mixture wasn't the best. It was gritty - a texture I wanted to avoid with the mousse. We made pancakes out of those :P

I wanted to try a healthier option and silken tofu fit well in between the existing tires on my body. So, a silken tofu mousse was made with the coulis again. This was simpler than the cream. We let this set and in the arrogant confidence that silken tofu will work, we ate up all the cream sitting and watching an Agatha Christie movie.

The D-day dawned and we found the mousse had set and then, I stepped in to complete my vision :D I chopped strawberries and arranged them on top of the mousse, whipped some cream, piped them onto the glass and basically acted like I made the dessert myself and that A was only going to eat it :D


When the dessert was served, my guests were astounded by its beauty and craftsmanship (LOL!) and were amazed that it was low fat. Each person got about 1-2 tbsp of cream for their dessert and that certainly wasn't heavy! And this was the right time. It was cold, fresh with berries- summer's abundance and colourful.

What made it special for me was that we worked together again. We reminisced on all the fun we had picking berries and when you turn it into something as beautiful as this, you realize team work always works. In cooking great food and in life.

Thanks for listening to my yarn :)


Priti said...

I guess it happens to all..if not to most people...we do feel the same ...atleast I do, I feel so empty, hopeless, worthless, bored etc etc though am working ;) try to feel better...and sure u r not alone there..we do have our in-security too its just that everyone do not accept or show..inbtw the mousse looks delicious....bookmarked it

Nags said...

the mousse looks awesome N, and i couldn't be happier for you on the studies front :)

Cham said...

Glad that u chose to continue ur studies.
The mousse is very light and lovely presentation!

Indhu said...

lovely recipe... and I am so with you on the fulfillment thing..
am so happy for you on the studies thing.. You go girl :)

Priya said...

Wow thats a great news, all the best for ur studies...Delicious and fabulous mousse, looks amazing..

sra said...

Good for you, N! Best of luck! It's nice to have someone to blame and not be contested about that but I guess we all know it can't entirely be their fault - not that the financial crisis or the drought later or any of it was A's fault - but speaking from my own experience ...

Asha said...

Hi N, marriage is a life changing event! It takes few years of adjustment, what you felt is legitimate, specially living in a foreign country right after the wedding and I think A has done a great job with you. I felt the same way for the 2 yrs after marriage in Bangalore, traumatic times, in law problems, you name it. I even started working in PC company (I am a homebody but couldn't take "homely" problems anymore) but my FIL shouted about family honor and then dropped out of that work place too just like my law school.Then RAN to England like there is no tomorrow!! Life is good from then on. It will happen to you too. Don't expect too much out fo life, then everything will be counted as blessing! Nothing wrong with wanting a career or liked to be home maker. Everything involves stress and responsibility, just be proud of whatever you choose to do, part time jobs are great too.
Good luck with your studies, Health care jobs are the way to go now, may be that should help you get a job quickly as soon as qualify! :)

Mousse looks yum, love Strawberries.

Usha said...

Good luck with your studies !
The mousse looks lovely, great presentation...

Soma said...

I hear you completely. I was in the hell hole - 21, a streak of guilt followed me for abandoning my studies in india, did not know a soul here, and all i saw was white snow outside the window with no one to talk to, not even a chair to sit on. i called home at 2 at night and 4 in the morning, tried my culinary skills.. but for how long? A was no cook, no interest in food. I had to study, not for job, for myself to feel that sense of capability.. i did. classmates aired jokes on me that i did nothing my study and did not want to work.. why did i study? I guess only i knew ;-) and you know..

LOL enough! 15 years later, I am satisfied, "fulfilled".

A's cousin moved to Atlanta. If we ever go, I want this blueberry cream.

Savithri said...

Thanks for sharing such an honest post.
Congrats on getting into your program!

Jaya Wagle said...

That was some soul baring yarn. I can totally empathize. I went through the same phase a few months ago, with nothing to do but take care of my toddler and the house. The blog gave some relief in the beginning but that was short lived, till I started school again. Now, I am so busy, have no time to blame, brood or sulk. Plus, that is the great thing about this country, the opportunities don't have an age, gender or race limit. I can't imagine me going back to school in India in my late 30s. :)
Congratulations on your Univ admission and good luck with your studies. Have a happy married life with your wonderful husband, who is supportive and a believer. Sounds like my husband and that kind is the BEST. :) said...

Good Luck with the new adventure -- and be assured you are not alone in the journey. Thanks for visiting my site and your warm comments!

Cakelaw said...

Congratulations on the offer! That's great. Life is often hard - I have just moved states and changed jobs and am feeling pretty sore and sorry at present. Good on you for rising above it and succeeding. Beautiful mousse too.

Aparna said...

I'll say congrats, once again, on the direction your future is taking.

Time and experiences will help you figure things out evetually. It has to be about what you both want, not what others want for you. There's no right or wrong about a choice of career (or not). Its just what is right for you and you'll find that out.

I've had any number of people wonder why I chose to give up working and become a full time housewife (or homemaker or whatever!) I did it because that's what made me happy and I was lucky to be able to make that choice and have my husband support me.

Life will always be full of ups and downs, but if you can come out of everything and laugh (or weep)together, then you've got it made. :)

End of long speech! LOL

Maria♥ said...


Unfortunately I have some sad news about Rosie from Baking Cakes Galore, Rosie passed away yesterday. I have written up a tribute to her on my blog and I am asking everyone who knew her if they would please take some time to leave a comment. I will be printing off all the comments to pass onto her husband.


Ingrid said...

Hi, guys! Glad to see you back and with a delish and healthy dessert to boot.

Sorry N that things were not good. Glad to hear that they are better and congrats on Syracuse!

Red Chillies said...

very well written A. For someone who has undergone similar travails a year after marriage (ok, that was almost 11 years ago and yes I am old :-)) I can feel every bit of it and can imagine what you went through.
But so glad that it is all behind you. Good luck with your university, studies and everything else. Hugs!

A_and_N said...

@RC: Thanks :) it was me, N who wrote it ;) But A takes all the credit always :D You are a strong woman to have survived this 11 years ago. Thanks for understanding :)

@ Ingrid: Thank you! The bread pudding at your space looks great.

@ Maria: I'm so sorry to hear that, Maria. We will surely write there.

@ Aparna: That speech was appreciated. Really. To have taken a decision like that needs guts and I admire you, Aparna. Like I've said before, you are so efficient and to add to it, so calm and at peace always!

@ Cakelaw, Married to a desi : Thank you. It means a lot to hear from you guys :)

@ Jaya: Congrats on the school. I'm amazed you are still blogging! Kudos on that. And yes, A can be good sometimes ;)

@ Savithri: Thank you :)

@ Soma: At 21! You are one brave woman! That takes a lot of courage, Soma. Hats off to you. I'd have died if I were you!

That said, COME to Atlanta! or even better, Syracuse now ;)

@ Usha: Thanks!

@ Sra: Trust you to put it that way :) Thanks Sra. You are so right.

@ Indhu: Thanks man. You've been there, watching, haven't you? :)

@ Priti: Thank you, Priti. It means a lot to me.

@ Nags: Babe, you have listened to me day and night! so, thanks :)

@ Asha: Thank you for that! yes, I agree it can be tough and staying true to yourself through out it all is most important. And wow, all you people who've struggled with this and are sane, I bow to you!

@ Priya, Cham: Thanks :)

Bong Mom said...

Yehhhhhhh N, CONGRATS :) I am so happy for you. Lucky girl, a MS in just one year is another reason to be happy about ;-)

Jaime said...

the perfect summer treat! now you just have to try it w/blackberries :)