Cooked Books: Where Earth Meets Water, by Pia Padukone

where earth meets water spread new york thali

Pia Padukone was one of the first friends I made in high school –the high school that later was used for emergency care for victims of the September 11th attacks– and she is now the author of Where Earth Meets Water, a novel that explores survivorship and everything that goes with it. Pia and her husband have a blog, where they make food to go with books (he does the cooking and she does the reading and writing), so it seemed only appropriate that I feature her first book here. The book takes place mostly in New York and in India. Most of my favorite scenes took place in the morning, describing waking up in different places, in often very intimate ways. I wanted to focus on morning and fusions — so here is my New York-Indian Brunch Thali.

Halwa Challah

The perfectly ripe bananas don’t escape Gita. She won’t eat a banana with even a spot of brown on it, and Ammama presumes this condition extends to Karom. But it irks Gita that each day, the only bananas that remain on the breakfast table are either the ones from the day before, which Ammama will eventually turn into halwa, or those that are still green and will leave a film on Gita’s tongue and a waxy taste in her mouth long after she’s eaten one. p13

Karom cut up another square of his French toast as Gita was chewing, layering it onto his fork into levels until he could no longer see the tines. p14 

Halwa Ingredients

  • 3 bananas
  • 1/2 cup silvered almonds
  • 1 TB cardamom
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 TB ghee

Halwa Preparation

  • Heat pot with water and sugar until dissolved
  • Chop the bananas into small pieces, add banana and almond to the simple syrup, stir and cook over high heat, stirring well
  • Add cardamom and ghee, and stir through
  • Reduce to simmer, continue cooking until homogenous, soft
  • a pinch of salt may help, season to taste

Challah Ingredients

  • 1/2 loaf Challah (I used the whole wheat Challah from
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 TB sugar
  • Ghee for frying
  • 1 stick neufchatel (low-fat extra-tangy cream cheese) for stuffing


  • Slice challah thickly, and slice down the center of each piece halfway to form a pocket
  • Scramble eggs and sugar together in a bowl, add milk and stir
  • Place Challah in the liquid for a few minutes on each side to absorb the liquid
  • Fry in ghee on both sides until golden brown
  • Stuff with neufchatel in the pocket
  • Serve with Halwa

Green Eggs and Tapioca

 She prepared his favorite foods: a cooling drink made of yogurt and fresh mango, tapioca with green chilies and lentil seeds, hard, flat pancakes of jackfruit and jaggery. p235

where egg meets curried tapioca pudding


  • 2 cups tapioca pearls
  • 3 cups milk (I used raw milk)
  • 2 cups chopped scallions, separated white and green
  • 1/2 cup peas
  • 2 TB sambar masala
  • 1 TB turmeric
  • 1 egg per person
  • 2 TB ghee
  • 2 TB coconut oil
  • 2 green chilies

green chilies and scallions


  • Just cover the tapioca in water and leave overnight
  • strain the tapioca
  • In a pot, add ghee, peas, and 1/2 the scallion whites, stirring until softening
  • Add the curry and turmeric, stir and cook 2 minutes
  • Add the milk, stir
  • Add the tapioca, give one gentle stir, bring to a boil and then turn down to simmer
  • When the liquid is absorbed, taste for seasoning and texture
  • Refrigerate the tapioca mix
  • To make the doubly green chili sauce, cook finely diced green peppers and the rest of the scallions in 3 TB coconut oil and 1 TB salt until wilted and bright green.
  • When ready to serve, use a baking circle to cut rounds of the tapioca mixture and sautee them in ghee, fry eggs in ghee, and serve eggs atop tapioca cakes with the green chili condiment on the side

Salty Sweet fruit and yogurt

salted fruit salad

I see you chuckle to yourself as you always do when you catch me eating fruit with salt, unable to abandon my ‘Indian ways.’ You also laugh when I put spicy pickle on spaghetti or massage my hair with coconut oil on the weekends….I wonder if one day, as your fork is traveling to your moth holding strands of noodles covered with achar, you will stop to realize what oyu are doing, if you will remember me, if you will consider yourself truly your mother’s son. p127


  • 2 cups Greek strained yogurt
  • 2 cups chopped mango
  • 1 chopped kiwi
  • 1 chopped persimmon
  • other fruit of your choice
  • 2 tsp salt


  • Chop fruit, add salt
  • Serve with yogurt

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