It's pretty hard to believe that I'm due to be a mommy in 13 days! Even though I think that our little chipmunk might be a little late, I'm officially on maternity leave and enjoying all those pre-baby moments... watching Luis put together our cute, jungle-themed nursery, packing my hospital bag (this I should have done before!) and enjoying time with my mom who is spending several months in Bangkok to help us with the baby (thank heavens!). Yesterday, she and my friends here threw me a most amazing baby shower at our place. The theme was Alice in Wonderland, but they managed to merge that with the Tamil valaikaapu tradition and lots of other fun and cute touches to make for a truly wonderful afternoon. Here are some of the highlights:
The valaikaapu, by the way, is a typical tradition of the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu from which my family hails. It cuts across the different religious communities and is meant to bless the pregnant woman and to pray for a safe birth. Traditionally the woman wears a black saree (supposedly to ward off the "evil eye"), though I opted for a beautiful purple and green one chosen and sent to me by my aunts in India. The guests at the valaikaapu take turns putting sandalwood paste and vermilion on the mommy-to-be and load up her wrists with glass bangles (also dispatched from India by my aunts). Typical valaikaapu dishes include an odd number of rice dishes (made by my mom, who made coriander, tomato, lemon and coconut rices as well as sweet pongal) and fried snacks such as vada (think Indian-style falafel). It was lovely to combine these Indian traditions with the American baby shower concept!
So even though everyone insisted that I not cook or do anything at all, I couldn't help but want to throw a little something simple together. I guess it was hard to imagine having people over at our place without contributing at least one little dish! After seeing the big bags of potato chips that my mom picked up, I remembered Alton Brown's delicious "onion dip from scratch" that we made for Thanksgiving 2011 when we were still in Paris and recalled how simple and yummy it was...perfect for a party! So I quickly made it the night before the shower...only to have it totally forgotten in the fridge the day of! There was so much amazing food (my mom's 5 rices and vada, mushoom pate, tomato/mozzarella/basil skewers, tea sandwiches, a cheese plate, fruit skewers and an assortment of amazing desserts) that it totally wasn't necessary. However the recipe is so simple and delicious that I would be remiss if I didn't share!
I really didn't tweak Alton's recipe (don't mess with a winning formula!) except to add a bit of sugar and balsamic vinegar to help bring out the sweetness of the onions as they caramelize. Once you try this, you'll never buy onion dip from the store ever again! Try this for your Halloween parties and Thanksgiving dinners (or baby showers), you'll be glad you did!
THE BEST ONION DIP
Makes 1 generous batch
Adapted from Alton Brown
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 cups chopped onion (any kind is fine)
Dash of sugar
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 cups sour cream (low-fat is fine though full-fat is obviously tastier!)
3/4 cup mayonnaise (low-fat is also fine)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1. Heat the oil over medium heat in a small saucepan. Add the onions and saute, stirring well from time to time. After about 10 minutes, add the sugar and balsamic vinegar. Saute for another 10-15 minutes until the onions are caramelized. Remove the onions from heat and let them completely cool down.
2. Mix all of the remaining ingredients in a medium bowl.
3. Add the onions once they've cooled down and mix well. Refrigerate before serving. This is even better made the day before!