Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Vermicilli idli

This is India's favorite pasta, just like the Italian vermicelli but in small bits. It is called semiya in Tamil and we use it mostly for kheer or payasam, like Nupur's delicious one here. Some less known uses for it is in upma and also in making spiced idlis. Think vermicilli bound by rava idli batter and flavored with nuts and curry leaves and green chilies. That is semiya or vermicelli idli. No fermentation is required because of the addition of yogurt and baking powder. If the yogurt is sour, I like to eliminate baking powder also.

Vermicilli idlis

Vermicilli – 1 ½ cups
Semolina- ¾ cup
Ghee- 2 tsp
Fresh yogurt- 2 cups
Water-approx 1/2 cup or less
Chopped green chillies- 1 tsp
Cumin seeds-1tsp
Asafoetida powder- 1 tsp (optional)
chana dal- 1 tsp
Curry leaves- a handful
Chopped cilantro-2tbsp
broken cashew- 3 tbsp
Baking powder- ½ tsp
salt as required

Fry the vermicilli and the semolina separately in the ghee to a light golden colour. Take away and let them to cool in a bowl. Heat oil. Add the cashew, cumin seeds, chana dal and asafoetida and fry for a few seconds until cashew is golden brown. Add the green chilli and curry leaves and fry for a few minutes. Add this to the vermicilli mixture. Add the beaten yogurt, cilantro and the baking powder with the water and enough salt. Mix well. You should have a batter with a rice idli consisitency. Keep this mixture covered for 15-20 minutes, then mix well and pour the batter into greased idli moulds. Steam them for about 12 min until tester comes clean.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Fridge clean-up: Maple blueberry whole-wheat braid

We will be relocating soon to California and moving out of this apartment that has been our home for six years. When you have lived for too long in a place, things pile up. My freezer has a huge stash of stuff that has to be used before we leave in a week or two. One such gem I found hidden in our freezer was some organic blueberries. I had to use them for this bread from the Bread Bible. This way I also used up the maple syrup can that was lying around in the fridge.

I was apprehensive about making bread from the book because of some bad reviews. But Nic, of Baking Sheet tested out a Cinnamon swirl bread from this book and it looked great on her blog. I am, by no means, as good as her in terms of baking. But my confidence in the book was renewed and I made two huge braids last weekend. It is a half-day affair. But the taste of the end product was great.

The recipe I made was the one in the book and since the link has the bread machine version, the proportions for the dough are different.

Whole wheat sweet yeast dough for mixing by hand

1 cup warm milk
1/4 cup warm water
pinch sugar
pinch of ground ginger
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/3 cup maple syrup
2 large eggs
Grated zest of 1 lemon
2 cups whole-wheat flour
2 1/2 to 3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 Tbsp instant yeast

Mix and knead as for a normal bread dough.

Make sure to have friends around for sharing because the bottom gets soggy if it lies around for more than two days. The bread is almost like a blueberry cobbler but with a lot of bread around. It is not too sweet even with so much maple syrup in it. It is great for breakfast.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

SHF/IMBB- Holiday cookie swap

Making cookies is a lovely tradition and I do it every year with my friends. Exchanging family cookie recipes along with some great pictures is exciting and this is what this SHF/IMBB is about. It is hosted by none other than the Domestic goddess, Jennifer and Alberto of Il Forno. From these creators of SHF and IMBB, this is a super-duper bloggers event.

My family does not share the cookie-making tradition since most families in India do not own an oven. I grew up on bakery cookies and packaged biscuits, most of them are eggless, catering to the predominantly vegetarian population. For this SHF, I recreated some of my childhood favorites.

cardamom sandwich cookies

Cardamom cream sandwich cookies- I love True Elaichi biscuits. This homemade version is based on Gale Gand's recipe. It has ground cardamom and some crushed saffron in the dough. The cream filling made with butter, powdered sugar and milk has ground cardamom and I also added a drop or two of cardamom extract from India. Truly exotic and I will have to make more for swapping.


Coconut macaroons- A common macaroon recipe that I baked to a perfect golden brown as those I get from Indian bakeries (not just pale on the edges). It is crispy on the outside and chewy inside.

'Nice' biscuits

Faux Nice biscuits- Nice biscuits are perfect for eating on their own or dunking in coffee. They have a lot of coconut and a crisp sugar sprinkle on top. This recipe tastes exactly the same though in a different shape.

80 gm Flour
40 gm Butter
1/4 tsp Baking powder
50 gm Powder sugar
40 gm unsweetend Desiccated coconut
about 4 T Water/Milk (this recipe has only approximate measurements to form a soft dough)
1/2 tsp Vanilla extract
1/4 tsp coconut extract (optional)
Coarse sugar for sprinkling

Sieve/sift flour and baking powder. Cream butter and sugar. Add flour and desiccated coconut, extracts and make a soft dough with milk/water. Roll into a cylinder and further roll the dough into a square butter paper. Chill it for 4-5 hours or till hard (Do not freeze). Bake at 350 F for 15 mins or till dark golden.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Pumpkin roll

This is a delicious and relatively low-fat pumpkin roll baked for a friend. The recipe is from cooking light and can also be found here. There is no need to beat egg whites separately, a big plus IMO. The cream cheese filling and spices in the cake remind me of carrot cake. The pecans on top give a great crunch.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Roasted soy beans

I recently purchased a huge frozen pack of soybeans for a bargain at Lotus, in the strip district. I wanted to experiment with the bean and try making roasted salted soybeans. The Trader Joe's version of it is really delicious but we do not have it in Pittsburgh yet. So the experiment was very successful and I made an onion flavored version too. They make one tasty snack and salad topper too.

Blanch 2 cups or so of frozen beans in salted boiling water and let them cook till they are soft enough to eat but quite firm (no splitting skins). Spread them on paper towels and dry them completely. Mix the beans in a bowl with 1 tsp oil, sprinkling of salt, some paprika and any other flavoring (like dried herbs, onion powder, garlic powder etc). Spread them in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake at 450 F (stirring every 5 min) until they are dry, crisp and browned slightly. It took me 20 min or so to crisp them. They will crisp a little more on cooling.

Tongs from an Indian Kitchen

Idukki Posted by Picasa

Indira has come up with a wonderful idea to showcase utensils and ingredients from Indian Kitchens. This is my must-have tool in the kitchen- 'idukki' or tongs. I have a lot of pots and pans purchased in India that are stainless steel and most of them do not have heat-proof handles. This pair of worn-out tongs are of great help moving hot pans, especially in and out of the pressure cooker. They are very sturdy too. Many of my Indian friends have tried and tested ones that are handed down by their mothers or mothers-in-law.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Blog party-Holiday edition

It is Stephanie's party and I am bringing some mushroom gratinate. It is one of those recipes that remind you of something else but yet you keep making it for its amazing taste. Could it be because it is Lidia Bastianich's recipe? It seems like a crostini with mushroom topping. But the longer baking time and lots of pressing makes it more like a mushroom pizza. I just used some button mushrooms. The best part is our 18 month old loved the topping (she does not like anything usually). Here are the mushroom fingers (as I like to call them) and my gal hanging around for the party to begin-).

Mushroom Gratinate
1 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
2 tbsp. butter
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 1/2 lbs. mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
1 tsp. fresh rosemary, chopped
1 tsp. salt
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Grana Padano

12 thick slices hearty wheat bread, lightly toasted
3 tbsp. soft butter
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Grana Padano

Preheat the oven to 375°.

Heat the olive oil in the skillet over medium heat and sauté the garlic, stirring, until it just begins to color. Add the butter and, when it melts, toss in the mushrooms, sprinkle on the thyme, sage, and salt, and cook, stirring now and then, until the water evaporates and the mushrooms start to caramelize. Remove from the heat, then stir in the grated cheese.

Lay the bread slices in one layer in the baking pan to cover the bottom completely. Spread the soft butter all over the bread and spoon the mushrooms evenly on top, pressing them down into the bread. Sprinkle the parsley on and top with grated cheese. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes until the cheese has browned and the edges of the bread are crisp. Let rest a few minutes, then cut into serving pieces. Makes 12 pieces.

I can never get myself interested in cocktails or mocktails. I leave it to friends to supply them. So this recipe for pomegranate martini comes from my friend S who loves making cocktails. I think the color of it would be beautiful and festive. Shake together 3 oz citrus-infused vodka and 3 oz of POM juice with some ice. Shake,shake, shake and pour into chilled glasses. Serves two.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Cauliflower biryani with soy beans

A whole lot of cauliflower has landed here in the market in the strip district. I had bought a huge head of it a week back and forgotten about it until Indira made her delicious aloo gobi. I am just as reluctant as her to buy cauliflower but S is fond of it. I like to literally drown cauliflower in spices to cancel out the off-flavor. This is one of the ways I make gobi, besides my usual cauliflower korma (very similar to Indira's recipe). I added some frozen soy beans instead of peas. I never liked the salted edamame that is sold soaked in brine or something. But I loved this frozen version of the bean. A great way to add some protein (and quite a bit of good fat too) to our not too balanced vegetarian diet.

Cauliflower biryani with soybeans

1 cup Basmati or long-grain rice, washed and soaked for 15 min
2 cups medium size cauliflower florets
1 large onion, sliced thin
1/2 cup - 3/4 cup fresh or frozen soy beans or peas
1/4 cup yogurt
1 tsp coriander-cumin powder
1 tsp red chili powder
1-2tsp garam masala or pulao masala powder
salt, to taste
a few mint leaves, finely chopped
cilantro, chopped
2 tsp oil or ghee

Spice mix:
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 bay leaf
1 inch cinnamon bark
4 green cardamom pods, crushed
2-3 cloves

Drain rice.
Heat oil/ghee. Add spice mix and saute till cumin seeds turn slightly golden. Add the onion and saute until wilted. Add cauliflower and saute until slightly softened. Add rice and saute for a minute. Add soybeans and 2.25 cups water. Once it comes to a boil, add yogurt, salt, chili powder, coriander-cumin powder, garam masala and mint. Cover pan tightly and cook till rice and vegetables are done. Fluff up rice and garnish with cilantro.

It goes well with boondi raita.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Mint chutney- South-Indian style

Most South-indian hotels serve a green mint chutney with dosas. It is nothing but a thinned down version of Mint thogaiyal. Making large batches of chutney requires enormous quantities of the main ingredient. Thogaiyal is a type of chutney. The addition of lentils and coconut gives a lot of volume, an excellent way for restaurants to save on expensive herbs.

While chutney is made with mostly fresh ingredients and is paste-like, thogaiyal involves some sauteeing of the ingredients and grinding them into a thick and coarse mass. The sauteeing step gives a richer flavor and also increases the life of the thogaiyal to about 5-7 days. Fresh chutneys can keep for a maximum of 2 days only.

Thogaiyal can be made with any sauteed vegetable. Most tamilians, make versions of this with coconut, lentils, broiled eggplant, cilantro, curry leaves or mint as the predominant flavoring.

Base for thogaiyal

4-5 red chilis
1 tsp mustard seeds
3 tsp urad dal (or 2 tsp urad dal + 1 tsp chana dal)
1/4 tsp whole peppercorns(optional)
1/4 tsp tamarind paste or 1 inch piece tamarind
2 T or more grated fresh or dessicated coconut (this is a good place to use dessicated coconut)
1 inch ginger, peeled and finely chopped(optional)
1-2 green chilis(optional)

Saute red chilis, mustard, pepper, tamarind pod (if using) and dal until golden brown. Add coconut and saute until coconut turns golden brown. Remove to a bowl. Add ginger and green chilis and saute until slightly toasted. Add this to the bowl.

One of the following main ingredient is to be added:
1 small bunch mint (or a mix of cilantro and mint), sauteed until wilted and dry.
1 small bunch cilantro, sauteed until wilted and dry.
1/2 cup curry leaves, sauteed until wilted and dry.
1 cup grated coconut (Coconut thogaiyal), saute along with base ingredients until golden.
1/2 cup tur dal (paruppu thogaiyal), saute along with base ingredients until golden.
1 large eggplant, broiled until soft and skins removed

Grind the base mixture with the main ingredient, tamarind paste(if using) and salt into a coarse, thick mass. Season with mustard seeds and urad dal.

This is a great way to get a larger quantity of chutney when herbs or coconut is limited. It is excellent with dosa, yogurt rice or with the humble kanji (porridge).

Thogaiyal with rice-green gram kanji  Posted by Picasa

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Stuffed red chili pickles

I saw small red cherry peppers in the farmers' market that screamed to be stuffed. This is my way of stuffing them- with lots of spices and pickling them in oil. This is a traditional pickle from Northern India made with long red chilis. I usually buy 'Mother's recipe' brand of this pickle from India. I am out of it and so this will be my substitute till my next trip to India (if it lasts so long). The Indian red chili is more fiery. Cherry peppers are very mild and so if you want it very spicy, you need to increase the red chili powder to suit your taste.

Stuffed red chili pickles

20 cherry peppers
1 cup oil
2 tbsps mustard seeds
3 tbsps cumin seeds
2 tbsps aniseed/fennelseeds
3-4 tbsp red chili powder or more to taste
1/4 cup coarse mustard powder (available in Indian store)
4 tbsps amchoor powder
about 8 tbsp salt, or more to taste
Juice of 3-5 limes
1 tsp asafoetida

Wash and thoroughly dry the chillies. Trim the stems. Remove the stem of chili and remove most of the seeds and membranes without breaking apart the chilies.

Roast cumin seeds, mustard seeds and aniseed/fennel seeds on a slow fire till mustard pops. Cool and grind very coarsely.

Mix this with the mustard powder, chili powder, raw mango powder and salt. Add just enough lime juice to this mix to make a thick paste. Taste the mixture before stuffing. It should be very salty, spicy and sour. Stuff each chilli well with the paste. Put the chillies in a dry, wide-mouthed glass pickling jar (the glass should be able to withstand hot tempratures).

Heat the oil (if you like the taste, mustard oil will be more authentic) in a pan and when very hot add the asafoetida and immediately turn off the fire. Pour the hot oil over the chillies in the jar. Keep jar open till oil cools. Seal the jar and keep it out in the sun for a week to ten days. In this wet and cold weather, this is not possible. So keep them in a cool place in your pantry. This just means that the chilis will take longer to marinate and soften. Shake gently each day to make sure the oil coats the chillies well.

It goes great with chappatis and parathas.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Eggplant subzi with dried wadi

Indian stores sell sun-dried lentil nuggets called wadi. They are delicious and they can turn even the most mundane vegetable into a spicier and special-tasting dish. There are two types of wadis that our local Indian grocer sells- one made with urad dal called punjabi wadi and the other is moong dal wadis that are smaller and less spicy. These wadis remind me of 'kuzhambu vadam' that my mom used to add to vathal kuzhambu as a flavoring agent and thickener.

wadi Posted by Picasa

I like to use the larger urad wadis and usually one or two large ones are enough for making a dish. Urad dal wadis contain coarsely broken dried chilis and peppercorns. Each bite sends a spice burst in your mouth. But when broken pieces are added to a subzi, they completely melt into it improving the overall flavor of the dish. All that needs to be done is to break the wadi coarsely and saute them in a tbsp of oil until golden brown. Then add the sauteed wadis along with the vegetable and cook till vegetable is done.

1 large eggplant
1-2 large Urad Dal Wadi, broken into medium to small pieces
a pinch of Asafoetida
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 inch piece Ginger (finely chopped)
4-5 Green chillies (finely chopped)
1 tsp Turmeric powder
2 large Tomatoes (finely chopped)
Salt to taste
1 tbsp Garam masala powder

Finely chop eggplant. Keep in sufficient water to prevent discolouration.
Heat oil in pan. Add urad dal wadi broken in small pieces. Cook till golden brown. Drain and keep aside. In the same oil, add mustard seeds, asafoetida, ginger, green chillies and turmeric powder. Stir well briefly and add tomatoes. Cook till oil separates. Add drained brinjal pieces, fried wadi, salt to taste and garam masala powder. Cover and cook on low heat for about ten minutes till meltingly tender. Garnish with chopped cilantro.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Gingerbread with blueberries

It is gingerbread season already. This is a light recipe from Cooking light. I love using blueberries in gingerbread; they are even better here than in muffins. The blueberries are a nice contrast to the sweet bread. So if you have a frozen stash of blueberries, this is a seasonally attractive option.


2 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup chopped crystallized ginger (this really makes it special)
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon (or you can use 1 tsp ground allspice)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
3/4 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup molasses
1/4 cup apple cider or 1% low-fat milk
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups frozen or fresh blueberries

Preheat oven to 350°.

Toss berries with 2 tsp flour.
Combine remaining flour with all other ingredients through cloves in a large bowl, stirring well with a whisk; make a well in center of mixture.

Combine buttermilk through eggs; stir well with a whisk. Add buttermilk mixture to flour mixture, stirring just until moist. Fold in blueberries. Spoon batter into an 11 x 7-inch baking dish or 9-inch square baking pan coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350° for 45 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center of cake comes out clean. The cake is very moist 'coz of the berries. So it can stick to the pan.

It is better served from the pan with a dusting of powdered sugar.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

A shallow souffle with a height complex

This one was almost an entry for IMBB event that was hosted by Kitchen Chick last month. But these did not look like souffles that have huffed and puffed. So I had written up a post and ignored it. But when I was going through my posts today, I came across it. The idea of making a jalapeno souffle based on a bechamel sauce seemed a delicious idea. The dismal look of this souffle happened 'coz I tried to convert the recipe for 12 mini- muffin sized hors'doeuvres into two normal souffles in 4 oz ramekins. But this recipe just made enough for one generous souffle. Since I needed two individual servings, I decided to tempt fate and get on with it. The unbaked souffle batter came to about 1/3 rd of the ramekins, not a good sign at all. Anyway, they did rise to almost the top of the ramekins. I decided to post this anyway because the taste of these souffles are amazing and I think they would make great little bites too.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Quinoa with roasted root vegetables

I came across Quinoa in Jennifer's previous blog. After some research, I found that this was one protein-rich grain and has several health benefits. Quinoa has a resinous, soapy coating that is bitter. So it needs to be washed thoroughly. But the quinoa available in US, does not have the coating and so it takes much less rinsing. I like to rinse it once and roast till the grain makes popping noise (although this is not neccessary). The taste of toasted quinoa is much better and I love the chewiness of its white tail. We had it with roasted root vegetables that were drizzled with a touch of balsamic vinegar. Truly, a delicious and feel-good meal.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Sugar cookies

In the spirit of Halloween, I made some sugar cookies. I wanted to try my hand at icing them in beautiful colors and decorate them to my heart's content. I have never had much success with cut-out cookies since many recipes I have tried in the past did not roll out well. The scraps were impossible to roll out even if they were chilled. I guess now I have found the right recipe. This recipe comes from Alton Brown and if you have seen his show Good Eats, you will know why his recipes can be trusted a great deal. It was with this faith that I used his recipe.

Needless to say, this is a beautiful dough. It rolls out well, without becoming sticky and soft. You can use the dough till the last ounce without any change in the cookies' texture. These cookies are buttery, slightly crisp and not too sweet (even when I increased the sugar by 1/4 cup). They tasted so great plain that we felt that icing it spoiled the flavor.

Alton's sugar cookies (adapted slightly)

3 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1- 1.25 cup sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 tablespoon milk
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
Powdered sugar, for rolling out dough

Cinnamon sugar or colored sugar for sprinkling on top, optional

Sift together flour, baking powder, nutmeg and salt. Set aside. Place butter and sugar in large bowl of electric stand mixer and beat until light in color. Add egg, vanilla and milk and beat to combine. Put mixer on low speed, gradually add flour, and beat until mixture pulls away from the side of the bowl. Divide the dough in half, wrap in waxed paper, and refrigerate for 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Sprinkle surface where you will roll out dough with powdered sugar. Remove 1 wrapped pack of dough from refrigerator at a time, sprinkle rolling pin with powdered sugar, and roll out dough to 1/4-inch thick. Cut into desired shape, place on baking sheet lined with parchment, or silicone baking mat. Sprinkle cinnamon or colored sugar on top or leave it plain. Bake for 7 to 9 minutes or until cookies are just beginning to turn brown around the edges. Let sit on baking sheet for 2 minutes after removal from oven and then move to complete cooling on wire rack.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Happy Diwali!

courtesy: 123greetings.com

This is the first Diwali that this blog is celebrating. Diwali, especially the first (thalai) Diwali is a very special occasion. A baby's first diwali, a newly wed couple's first Diwali, first Diwali in a newly bought house and even this blog's first has a special significance.

Dear readers, Happy Diwali to you. My best wishes to those bloggers, who are celebrating their 'thalai' diwali in blogging.