Monday, November 20, 2006

Off to India- Your opinions needed!

I am leaving for a month-long trip to India in a week. I am looking forward to good times with family and good food, of course. Being a foodie, I usually get a few cookbooks without knowing about the success rate of its recipes.

But this year, I have you all to help me find good books. Any suggestions for Indian cookbooks focusing on some regional cooking? Absolutely any style is welcome but in specific I would appreciate help with good books on Andhra, Maharashtra, Kerala, Bengali, Gujarathi and/or Karnataka cooking (all written in english or tamil or may be in Hindi).

Also, if you have had some nifty kitchen tools/gadgets that is available in India, you can add that to your comment too. If you have a blog, a post would enable us all to view the tool and its value.

Your comments and emails are greatly appreciated.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Small batch chocolate chip cookies

chocolate chip cookie

Don't you just love chocolate chip cookies? My family loves it but most recipes make 30 or more large cookies. We get addicted to chocolate chippers when they are there... So this is from the same book (Small batch baking) as the White chocolate blondies, I made sometime back. This recipe just makes around 8-10 smallish cookies or 6 large cookies.

Now you want to know the texture- it is perfect, according to me. Crispy on the outside, soft-chewy on the inside.

Chocolate Chip Cookies - Adapted from Small Batch Baking.

2 T plus 2 t butter (room temp)
2 T brown sugar
2 T granulated sugar
2 T egg, well beaten
1/4 t vanilla
1/4 cup plus 2 T flour
scant 1/4 t baking soda
1/8 t salt
1/3 cup chocolate chips

Cream the butter and sugars, mix in the eggs and vanilla, stir in the dry ingredients, then the chips. Bake at 375 for 8-11 minutes.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Ragi Puttu

Ragi puttu

We make rice puttu for navaratri. Raagi puttu is vey famous too. I had purchased some raagi flour for making Ragi dosa. So I decided to try this also. One thing about ragi flour is it turns stale quickly. Since I got the flour in USA, it probably is already stale and not as tasty as the ones ground in India. Surprisingly, it tastes very close to the rice puttu I am used to and it is so much better for you.

I followed this recipe but like some other recipes, I slightly roasted the flour until aromatic. It drives away any stale odor your flour might have.

It stays for upto a week in the refrigerator. It tastes great with a little ghee on top.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Mysore rasam

A slightly complicated rasam, with all the goodness of arachuvitta sambar but as comforting as a nice, tangy rasam- that is what Mysore rasam is. Like I always wonder with Mysore bonda, I don't know if this is made in Mysore or what. But it totally suits tamilian taste-buds and everyone else's too...

Mysore rasam

2 Tbsp tur dal, cooked

1 lemon-sized tamarind
1/2 tsp Turmeric
1 tomato, finely chopped

For powder:

1 tbsp tur dal
2 red chilies
5-6 peppercorns
1 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp chana dal
1 .5 tsp coriander seeds
2 tbsp coconut
a pinch of Hing

Fry all this in a little ghee until reddish. Grind to a coarse powder (some people do make a coarse paste of it, that is fine).

Boil diluted tamarind water with tomatoes, turmeric and salt. Add the powder or paste and then the cooked tur dal. Bring to a boil. When a nice aroma emanates, it is done. Season with mustard, curry leaves and cumin using ghee.

A nice rasam for those days when you don't want to make sambar but paruppu rasam is far too simple (read boring) for you.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

A corny breakfast soup

You may wonder how soup figures in breakfast. I still do...

But my MIL being here, and she being used to eating this as part of a hearty breakfast, I don't argue. Would ya??

This is a light but hearty soup. It can be made in 15 min and you can make this a light, fall supper too. I liked this soup a whole lot and with so much corn, in season, I make it in summer.

Corn soup Indian style

2-3 ears fresh corn, kernels removed from cob
1 large onion, chopped
1 inch piece ginger, finely chopped
1 large tomato, kept whole
1 green chili, optional (depending on sweetness of corn)

Place all in a pressure pan with 1 cup water. Cook for 2 whistles. Open and remove skin from the whole tomato. Strain all the solids from the stock with slotted spoon (you don't have to be a perfectionist here). Grind all the solids including ginger, tomato etc. Grind solids into a smooth paste. Add the paste to the stock and add 2 cups of water. Adjust salt if needed and bring to a boil. It should be thinner than chowder. Serve with some black pepper and a sprinkling of kasoori methi on top.

Methi gives a very special taste to this soup. Do try to use it. Ginger is also a great flavor with the corn. The fresher your corn, the less sweet it will be. If you do not care for sweet corn type of soup like me, get fresh corn on the cobs for this. If you have some old corn in the fridge, then the starch would have turned into sugars and so it will be on the sweet side. So do use a chili or two.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Mixed vegetable chutney

My posts have been so sporadic recently mainly because of my new job. A lot of cooking has been going on since my MIL is here. Everyday dishes and special occasion dishes are being prepared but I have had very little time to photograph or write about it.

Mixed vegetable chutney is MIL's recipe. It is an excellent way to clean-up the refrigerator's contents. Although I am a big fan of coconut chutney, it tends to be heavy and we hardly get any coconuts here that can taste as great as the ones in South India. A little bit of this and that and there, you have made this tasty chutney.

Mixed vegetable chutney or thogaiyal

1/2 cup grated carrots
1 medium onion, diced
1 tomato or green tomato, chopped
2 red chilies
2 green chilies
4-5 chunks of green pepper, diced fine
1 small zucchini, peeled and diced
1 inch ginger, peeled and chopped
1 T Urad dal
2 T grated coconut or powdered coconut
1/2 tsp mustard seeds

Heat a tsp of oil. Add red chilies, urad dal and mustard seeds and let mustard pop. Now add the onions, ginger and all the vegetables except tomato and saute until carrot, zucchini and peppers soften. Now add the tomato and saute 1 min more. Lastly add coconut and turn off heat.

Grind with little tamarind paste (1/8 tsp) and salt into a thick paste. Season with urad dal and mustard.

This also goes great mixed with rice. Of course, it is a great combo with dosa and chappatis.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Biriyani vs Biryani

The tamilian Biriyani has a huge fan following. There is no spelling mistake here- it is biriyani for tamilians, quite different in taste from the North Indian Biryani. Biryani usually has several layers and then baked in an oven for 30 min or more. It is a very festive, expensive and of course, time consuming dish.

For tamilians, especially, those non-vegetarians who relish eating at Chettinad style joints (Ponnusamy hotel, Aachi's and the like), you know this style of biriyani. There is usually a vegetarian version available without the chicken but with a whole, boiled egg perched on top. This biriyani is very easy to make and it makes a delicious meal with onion raita. You could also go the entire mile by serving it with some South Indian kurma.

I got this recipe from my friend several years ago and this recipe has been a hit every time. Two ingredients are essential to this dish- Fennel seeds (or saunf) and a few mint leaves. They give the characteristic flavor of the dish.

Vegetable Bir(i)yani

1 cup long-grain rice (basmati is not required)
1 cup finely chopped carrots, beans, cauliflower and a handful of peas

1/2 a medium onion
3-4 garlic cloves
1 inch piece ginger
1/2 cup grated coconut
1 tsp cinnamon powder
1/4 tsp clove powder
4-5 green chilies

1 tsp fennel seeds
1 bay leaf
3-4 crushed cardamom
10-15 mint leaves, roughly chopped
2-3 slit green chilies

1. Heat oil or ghee in a pan. Add the whole spices in the seasonings, then add mint and green chilies. Now add the paste and saute for 2-3 min.
2. Add vegetables and saute for a minute. Now add rice, salt and stir well to mix. Add appropriate quantity water, cover tightly and cook until done.
3. Serve hot with onion raita and an optional boiled egg.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Jaggery dosa

This is one of my childhood favorite tiffins. My husband is not a big fan of it and so I really don't bother making it much. I like this dosa on the sweet side although the amount of jaggery in this recipe is for the lightly sweetened version. This tastes like appam made into a dosa. It contains a whole lotta wheat flour in proportion to rice flour.


1 cup wheat flour
1/8 th cup rice flour
1/2-2/3 cup Jaggery
1/2 cup coconut grated
1/2 tsp Powdered cardamom
1/2-1 ripe banana

Take jaggery with a cup of water in a saucepan in stove and keep stirring till completely dissolved. Keep it down and when little warm add wheat flour, rice flour, mashed banana, coconut and elaichi powder. Mix everything very well. Let rest for 10 min until luke warm or even room temperature. Keep the tawa on medium heat and pour the batter like normal dosa and pour a little ghee on sides.Turn both sides till light red. Be slow when you turn.

Best served when hot or warm.

I like this with just ghee but I know people have this with milagai podi or chutney too (those are weird combos, IMHO).

Friday, June 23, 2006

Pickled vegetables

I love North Indian style pickles served in Punjabi food joints. The pickle is not spicy but it goes so well with curries, probably because of all the North Indian spices used. I found this recipe on a website and although, I do not like carrots, pickled carrots are so very tasty. Carrots form a large portion of this pickle but other vegetables like cauliflower, beans and beetroot can also be used.

I halved the original recipe and the halved recipe makes about 3 cups of pickle. It keeps in the refrigerator for upto a month.

Dhaba style pickled vegetables

2 large Carrots, cut into big dices
2 limes
6 green chillies
1/4 cup or less sliced ginger

dry spices:

1/8 cup coriander seeds (coarsely broken)
1 T saunf
1 -2 tsp chilli powder
1/2 tsp tumeric
1 tsp hing
8-10 peppercorns

1/2 cup lemon juice (or as needed based on sourness)
1 T salt or as needed
1/4 cup oil

Mix the cut vegetables with salt and tumeric and keep aside. Heat the oil till it starts to smoke. turn off the flame and allow it to cool for 2mins. Mix all the spices and mix it with the vegetables. Add the hot oil and lemon juice and mix well.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Yosemite trip highlights

Bridal veil falls

Amazing is too weak a word for how this park is. We have visited most of the important national parks in the US and some of the parks left us asking ourselves- "what is the big deal?". A friend warned us that since we had already seen Alaska's wilderness, this would be a let down. But it was almost as amazing with stark granite cliffs and waterfalls flowing down the rocky edges.

Water gushing down from the bridal veil falls

If you are in California, this should be the time for you to visit. Falls are in full force and mosquito season is just starting. But the only trouble is finding accomodations since everything is booked months ahead. We got to stay in the Housekeeping camp, and it is not so bad. It would be downright relaxing if you cooked there in the fire pit (that is if you are not freaked out by bear stories floating around the net).

View from glacier point

If you are just visiting the park as a day trip, consider carrying enough food for the day (and remember to use bear boxes while you look at the sights). Curry village (wonder who named it so) was way too crowded and food concessions close by 8 PM.

Lower Yosemite falls

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Meme-10 things I miss most about Mom's cooking

Garam Masala came up with a great meme to honor our mothers. We keep blogging about so many of mom's recipes yet when we are down we remember certain dishes that have not only touched our palates but also our hearts. When I miss my mom, I try to make dishes that she would make for me. I know I am trying to get closer to her through her recipes(which is not always possible being in USA). However much I write these recipes down and follow them to the T, how come they don't taste like hers?

Here are some of my favorite dishes and combos. They taste good only when she makes it but when another experienced cook makes it, it is never as good. Is it the love that goes into it...

10. Keerai masiyal, vatral kuzhambu and paruppu thogaiyal combo.
9. All her homemade juices- she has a huge food-mill and used to make juices from everything from orange to tomato. I sure did not appreciate them earlier but now when she has stopped making them (my parents have type 2 diabetes), I think of all the effort that went into making those juices and how much I chose to drink the craze of that time, Coke in PET bottles (**sigh**).
8. Ennai kathrikkai curry
7. Drumstick milagootal and milagai pachadi (yum)
6. Radish sambar
5. Mysore pak (so soft and delicious)
4. Sambar saadam- this is a sort of south Indian version of Bisi bela bath. It tastes great with her next speciality...
3. Urulai roast curry- she uses a lot of oil for this but even when I do the same thing, against all my better judgement, I never get the same yummy crust.
2. Green jackfruit curry- I love it so much that I have named my blog after it. I have never succeeded in making it properly, so I have never posted about it in this blog. When my mom makes it, I will sure write about it.
1. Chinna vengaya araichu-vitta sambar- This is her speciality. She makes the masala with ground coriander seeds, fenugreek, gram dal and coconut. It tastes especially yummy with any spicy curry.

Above all, I salute her for being so unrelenting in her efforts at cooking, never saying once that she was not well enough to cook for us and making tiffin everyday of the week at 3PM for us as growing kids. Even now, when we have the means to have a cook come in everyday, she chooses to do all this and more. Thanks amma for being an example of how a mother should be! Now following in your footsteps is the hard part.

Thanks Garam masala for coming up with this meme. It feels great to put down emotions on paper. If any of you want to write-up about your mom and her cooking, consider yourself tagged.

Monday, June 12, 2006

A traditional pair for adventurous taste-buds

Makai di roti & Sarson ka saag

Some combinations are well-known and popular in India- Idli-sambar, butter chicken-naan, carrot halwa-vanilla ice cream and of course, Makki di roti & sarson ka saag. This is probably the most famous food-pair in India (a Shahrukh- Kajol kind, if you will) and is sometimes a stereotype when we talk about authentic punjabi dishes.
Ironically, the saag that you get in restaurants as side for makai di roti is a dish wholly made with spinach. You can hardly appreciate the flavor of the roti with the bland palak saag. Saag made with mustard greens is slightly bitter and has much more flavor. This is a classic winter combo but this is the season of fresh sarson, here in California. The frozen mustard greens lack the pungency of fresh greens. So I prepared the traditional combination last week to experience the riches of Punjab's fields. I may not have achieved the taste of the fields (one reason being my use of cornmeal available here) but this was a tasty dinner, nevertheless.

Makki di roti

This is made with corn flour. You can get the flour in Indian stores in US but the age of the flour is suspect. I used cornmeal. You can also use masa from mexican markets. I followed this recipe but used atta instead of plain flour. Making rotis of this stick dough is the hard part. I seem to have got it righ this time (my previous trial was a dismal failure).

Sarson ka saag

Made with three different greens, this dish is very tasty. I have made some versions of this before and this was the most tasty and more similar to what I have had in India.

1 large bunch sarson or mustard leaves (should have 4 cups of leaves)
2 cups palak (spinach)
1/2 cup methi (fenugreek)
4 T makki ka atta (corn pounded into flour)
2 big onions finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 large tomatoes, finely chopped
1 inch ginger
4 green chilies, finely chopped

Pluck mustard leaves, palak and methi leaves from off the stalks. Wash them well in running water. Chop finely. Add finely chopped ginger, chilies and pressure cook it for 2 whistles.

Remove from the fire and pound the saag in the pressure cooker pan till it is well mixed. Put it back on a low flame and gradually add makki ka atta stirring constantly untill all flour is mixed in the saag. Before serving, heat ghee, and brown the garlic, then add onions, fry till they are golden brown. Add tomatoes and cook till a thick puree is formed. Add the saag to it and serve hot with dollops of butter.

This is an early post for Anthony's curry mela- a great round-up of tasty dishes of the week.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Maa ladoo

There is a link between tamil families and sweets. For every family, there is a traditional sweet that is made for every special occasion and is the gold standard for that family. When a guy in that family gets engaged, the bride's family has to prepare the sweet (or procure it from a good source) for the betrothal ceremony. The preparation will be subject to extensive critique at the end of the day (not usually in front of the bride's family, thankfully). The complicated part of this protocol is that the traditional sweet is never asked for openly in Indian 'arranged marriages'. One has to make assumptions based on whether the family is from Tanjore, Thirunelveli etc. For people, unfamiliar with tamil brahmin groups, most people originate from Tanjore, Thirunelveli and Palghat.

My marriage had this usual dilemma on what the guy's family sweet would be. S, being from Thirunelveli, it was decided that it should be Maa ladoo . It turned out to be a right guess, that my dad later confirmed with someone in S's family. My family is a rava ladoo family but our family sweet was boondi ladoos. Notice how complicated things are and how sweets are in-grained into life of Indians. My mom was not sure whether the ladoos were to be made with green gram, or dalia or yellow moong dal. We safely bought it from Krishna Sweets, who have the reputation for tasty sweets. Whether they lived upto S's family standards, is not known. Mainly because S feigns selective amnesia as to what happened when the sweet was tasted later on.

Anyway, this recipe comes from my MIL herself. I like rava ladoo but I have acquired a taste for Maa ladoo as well. And oh, the maa stands for 'maavu' made with powdered dalia.

Maa ladoo

1 cup puffed chana dal or dalia
1 cup sugar
4-5 T broken cashewnuts
5-6 elaichi

1/2 cup to 1 cup melted ghee , as needed

Dry roast dal until fragrant and warmed through. It should not change color. Add the dal, sugar and elaichi to a food processor and process until powdered fine. It would do good to pass it through a sieve once or twice. Heat 2 T of ghee and roast cashew until golden brown. Add to the powder. Add melted ghee as needed to make rounds from the powder but not so much to make it oily or soggy.

This sweet is especially nutritious for children since dalia is considered easy to digest and helps to increase bone density and promote weight gain.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Mor kaalan

mor kaalan with two types of sevai

This is a recipe from Kerala that is very similar to mor kuzhambu but very, very thick. It involves boiling the buttermilk for about 45 minutes and reducing it. Then you add a paste made of lots of coconut and green chilies and that is how you end up with this tasty dish. You have to use fresh coconut only. When my grandmom used to make butter at home, churning cream, she used the buttermilk by-product for this. The churned buttermilk is very pungent and smells too strong for drinking as such. Since she is from Kerala, she used it so.

This is a concentrated form of mor kuzhambu and so it is made quite spicy. According to my mother-in-law, this dish can be stored and used for upto a week. Of course, because of the coconut, that is a questionable point. Anyways, here is the recipe:

Mor kaalan

1 green plantain, white pumpkin or zucchini (cooked separately in water with some turmeric and salt)

1 cup Buttermilk
1 tsp or more ground pepper
3/4 cup grated coconut
4-5 green chilies

Heat buttermilk in a kadai on a high flame. It will split and boil. Don't worry. Continue to reduce till it reaches 1/4 th the original quantity. Add turmeric and pepper. Gring coconut with chilies into a thick paste. Add cooked vegetable and paste to reduced buttermilk. Add salt and bring to a boil. Remove from heat.

Season with mustard seeds, red chili and curry leaves preferably using coconut oil.

It is a spicy dish but you can reduce green chilies if you like. Normally, you should be able to taste the pepper.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Delicious Piadine


We had Piadine in Sunseri's tiny cafe in Pittsburgh's strip district. Piadine is an underbaked pizza like bread. It is usually filled with a hearty salad. All you have to do it is fold it over, Newyork Pizza style and eat it. It is a messy affair but it makes a hearty meal out of salad.

I loved the piadine we had and so tried Michael Chiarello's recipe. I love the kind of food he cooks, the ease with which he seems to entertain and also his gorgeous house (as shown on TV, of course). It is necessary to bake the dough until it just colors so that the bread will be soft and pliable to fold. You can also freeze a portion of this dough and make a pizza out of it.

Micheal smears a delicious red chili paste on the piadine before baking. I tried this in the piadine I made and it was totally delish. The bread was good enough to eat without any salad. If you decide to make this, consider making the chili paste too.

Calabrian chili paste

6 T evoo
1 clove garlic finely minced
1 T red chili flakes
1/2 tsp salt

Heat 2 T oil. Add the chili and garlic, and saute 30 sec until fragrant. Remove from heat. Add the remaining oil and the salt.

This can be stored in the fridge for upto a week. Before the bread is baked, a generous coating of this paste is smeared on top.

I like to make the piadine to hold a delicious mesclun salad with pears, gorgonzola and walnuts.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Jihva for Strawberries-Strawberry Buttermilk ice

strawberry buttermilk ice in a snow cone

I like to cook, bake or do pretty much everything with strawberries. Except eat them as such...

Strawberries are usually overrated in the flavor department, especially the super-market kind. There is a lot of sub-standard ones around that we forget how delicious, they will be when they are fresh-picked. I fell in love with cherries and peaches after eating them off the tree. I am yet to taste fresh-picked strawberries. Once I do, I am sure there will be a new respect for this ubiquitous fruit. But that will have to wait since the nearest patch from here is 30 miles north of LA.

My favorite way to use strawberries is in a sorbet with little sugar and lemon juice. Then it is churned in the ice cream maker.

This time I found this recipe and the use of buttermilk sounded very interesting and creamy. Besides, no ice cream maker required for this one. I increased the sugar a bit (always tasting it) and also added a drop of vanilla for flavor. The flavor of buttermilk subsides after a day and it tastes like an ice cream with more strawberry puree than milk. May be a cross of sorbet and ice cream. A great palate cleanser and not to mention it makes a great strawberry slush.

This is my contribution to Baking Fairy's JFI:Strawberries.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Paruppu podi

I am a big paruppu podi lover. To my mom's irritation, I would eat paruppu podi mixed with rice, even when she had made sambar, rasam and all the accompaniments. I still do it even when I am the cook. My most loved powder is from Ambika appalam, the store owned by Keralites. There are several branches all over Tamil Nadu and their appalams sell even in the Indian stores in US. I love their pappadam, jackfruit chips, sweet plantain chips and kai murukku. Above everything else, comes the humble paruppu podi. I get 2 Kg worth of it everytime I return from India.

What is so great about it? I don't know- may be it is the color, may be because they use dalia or puffed chana as the base or could be the the fact that they add a tadka of mustard seeds and curry leaves to the powder. I have tried making my own batch of it several times. I never reached that perfection.

But this time I got it! The secret was the addition of a little toasted coconut. Kerala and coconut are not hard to associate, right?

Paruppu podi

1 cup Dalia
6-8 red chilies (for the color I like to use Karnataka's Bedegi chiles)

3 T to 1/4 cup of coconut powder

Toast red chilies and dalia on a dry skillet until chilies crisp up and dalia gets aromatic. Add the coconut and fry until toasted slightly. If you use normal chilies, you will not get an orangey hue but more of a normal, buff color.

Powder very fine. Heat a little canola oil (a drop or so). Drop in 1 tsp mustard and then a couple of sprigs of curry leaves. When they splutter, mix with the powder. Believe me, they make a world of difference and give a great texture and bite when mixed with rice. The coconut adds complexity but you cannot taste it.

Bedegi chilies are the wrinkled, long chilies that you might find in Indian grocery stores in US. I like to use them in dishes where a great color is needed. Besides, they are not as spicy (but more fruity) as the normal ones.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Pita Sandwich with falafel

I felt like making something elaborate last week and it turned out to be some delicious falafel, crispy on the outside, moist & tasty inside. It was great, not at all dry like the bad restaurant ones. I also made the taratoor sauce in the recipe. It was a nice tangy addition.


The pitas did balloon up, yay! I made the whole-wheat version from 'The Bread bible' by Rose Levy Beranbaum. Of course, the product was chewier and not as billowy like those store-bought ones with refined flour. I have to try the same recipe with AP flour now. I loved this book with such extensive details, not to mention Rose's explanations about the chemistry between the ingredients. Go, get yourself the book (and her Cake bible too).

homemade pita

Thursday, May 25, 2006

White chocolate blondies

I have never had blondies and so I got my first taste with this recipe from 'Small-batch baking'. This book is an excellent resource if you like desserts. I have stopped making sweet things because they lie around tempting us to eat more. This books solves the problem. All recipes in the book make enough for 4 servings or less. Some serving sizes are big, though. Plus, it felt good when I used just a tablespoon of butter for this recipe.

The taste was very good, that is if you like butterscotchy things. Actually, despite the minimal amount of butter, the Ghiradelli white chocolate made it rich and sweet. That is something I have against white chocolate. I feel it makes the sweet a little greasy.

White Chocolate blondies (makes 4 large or 8 small pieces)

1/2 cup AP flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
3 T beaten egg
1 T butter, melted
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/3 cup white chocolate chips
1/3 cup coarsely chopped, toasted almonds (walnuts should be better to balance the sweetness)

1. Line the bottom of a 9 by 5 inch loaf pan with foil with some overhang. Grease. Mix first three ingredients.

2. Whisk brown sugar, egg, butter and vanilla. Add this to the flour mixture and whisk until blended. Stir in chocolate and almonds. Pour into pan and bake at 350 F until top is dry and golden, 22 minutes or so.

3. Remove foil from pan and cool completely on wire rack before slicing.

Now that I have tasted these, I know I prefer the dark brownies much better than blondies. Nothing against the recipe, but fudgy brownies are the best IMO. Now I will have to consider making small-batch brownies...

Monday, May 08, 2006

Some great recipes from fellow bloggers

This post is long due. I have not posted anything for long and I am still waiting for dear hubby to fix the memory card issue. This one is a perfect unphotogenic post anyway.

I have been trying a whole lotta recipes from some great Indian cooks (who happen to blog). I have neglected even posting a message to them (sorry for that!). So here are some recipes I highly recommend:

1. Mahanandi- Full marks to Indira for her authentic Andhra cooking. I have hardly eaten in any Andhra person's house and to think that I am actually cooking their food, I am amazed. Hurray for blogs! I tried her Ponganalu with peanut chutney, buggani, Ridge gourd dal and ridge gourd in tomato sauce. Ponganalu is similar in many ways to the vellai appam we make. But yet, the amount of oil is used is amazingly miniscule. Even if it takes a little longer to cook than your normal appam (fried in oil), it is worth the time it takes. Among the ridge gourd recipes I have tasted, I think the ridge gourd tomato gravy is my favorite now.

2. Sailu's food- I tried the pepper rice recipe last week and we are hooked. My husband does not like the heat from pepper (sort of hits your throat rather than your tongue)but he loved Sailu's recipe. The sesame tones down the heat of pepper without overpowering the delicious pepper flavor. The same evening I made Sailu's corn bhel - fresh, delicious and different.

3. Saffron hut- This is about the recipe so many people want to try and I did too- the Spinach cottage cheese Aloo paratha. The photo is so amazing and comforting, that you want to grab it from the plate. I felt the spinach-ricotta dough was hearty enough and omitted the stuffing. I added some kasoori methi to the dough, instead. It is indeed a nutritious meal for my toddler and a delicious one for the rest of us.

4. Shammi's Food, in the main- Shammi's cooking is mostly like what I make. Many of her dishes are tamilian. But as with different families, many of Shammi's recipes are different from what I make. I made the pulikaachal recipe 'coz it sounded close to what my mom makes. Mom does not use pepper and coconut, though. My mom, never gives me exact measures and I end up with something that is not quite there. Shammi's recipe was perfect in terms of heat and tanginess. It tasted very much like Iyengar puliodarai served in temples. Btw, iyengar puliodarai uses black pepper and sesame which makes it unique. I added a tbsp of sugar at the end to give a complex all-in-one flavor. It makes about 2 cups but the taste of it is so yum, it will last me a couple of days.

5. Salt and pepper- With that delicious pepper rasam photo, I did not wait for long to try. The fresh toasted, hand ground spices give it a unique and delicate flavor. I tried it as a soup the first day and with ghee and rice the next day. The flavors are stronger when the rasam sits for longer. Lovely and comforting.

6. Nupur, of course- My house is becoming a part Marathi and part Telugu household 'coz of Nupur and Indira. I hardly try anything from books when such great recipes are available online. I recently tried Cabbage zunka, Koshimbir and egg rassa. Nupur's measurements are spot-on and they come out perfect with no modifications. When I tried to get y'all links to the above recipes, I noticed that I have tried a whole lotta of recipes from her A-Z series. In no particular order, I have tried Amti, egg rassa, usal/missal, Zunka, Bhendi fry (made several times), bharli vaangi, Daalimbay bhaat, fanas bhaji, bhadang and koshimbir. Whew, so many Marati recipes and now do you agree with our household becoming partly Marathi? Here is the link to the series.

Thanks for posting such great recipes. Keep them coming!

Monday, May 01, 2006

Mango gazpacho for JFI

This entry for the new, exciting event kickstarted by Indira of Mahanandi. Jihva for Ingredients will focus on an interesting ingredient each month. This month it is my favorite, Mangoes. I am surprised that I could not come up with sweet recipes besides the usual mango lassi, shrikand and milkshake. That is 'coz I don't cook with ripe mangoes. I find them too perfect to need messing around with. In fact, I even like the stringy, ripe mangoes available here.

But, in all my desperation to eat mangoes, I may be softening them by pressing them everywhere. So I have to find uses for all the under-ripe mangoes, that I soften. I am sure some of you are over-enthusiastic like me. So here is how I use them up usually:

Mango Gazpacho (this is a classic fire and ice combo)- serves 2

1 medium under-ripe mango, peeled and diced (if you have good, ripe ones you can use it too)
2/3 cup orange juice
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 th of the long seedless Kirby cucumber, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch dice
1/3 small red bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1/4-inch dice
1/2 small onion, cut into 1/4-inch dice
1 medium garlic clove, minced
1 green chili or small jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
2 teaspoons parsley or cilantro
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Process mangoes, orange juice, green chili and oil in a blender or food processor until pureed. Transfer to a medium bowl, along with remaining ingredients. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

(Some photos will be uploaded soon as soon as I can fix by memory card reader.)

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

'Way too healthy' cookies

I am on the lookout for recipes that would be a healthy snack to eat for my toddler and even for us. I came across this recipe in the April issue of Cooking Light. I made a whole lot of changes but the result was very delicious and satisfactory. I have to let you know that this is a soft, cakey cookie. I find a lot of people's taste are for the other kind. But if you have a toddler, you won't go wrong with this soft cookie.

Banana-coconut cookies- 24 cookies

2/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
(the cookie is on the sweet side. The sugar can be reduced by 2T)

1/2 cup ripe mashed banana (I used 1 normal sized banana)
1/2 cup applesauce
1 T mayonnaise
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup AP flour
1 cup quick cooking oats
1/2 c sweetened coconut flakes
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts
1 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon (can use a mix of other spices too)

1. Beat sugar, mashed banana, applesauce, vanilla and mayo in a large bowl and beat until blended.
2. Combine all the rest of the ingredients in another bowl. Stir flour mixture into banana mixture until well-combined.
3. Use 2 T dough for each cookie. Drop dough into parchment lined baking sheet and bake at 350 F for 20 min or until golden brown. Cool on a wire rack. This has to be eaten within a couple of days since they soften too much after that.

I made so many changes to this recipe (I never modify recipes that are to be baked). I really thought I would screw-up. But they turned out very well.

Here are the changes I made:
1. I added 1/4 cup whole wheat flour while it was all refined flour in original recipe.
2. The original used 1/2 cup mayo and no applesauce.
3. The original was baked until very lightly colored but then they have the texture and color of muffins. I did not find that too appealing in a cookie.

For a not so healthy version, you can try this way too. If you find that they come out crisp, please let me know. There will definitely be repeat acts of this cookie.

Monday, April 24, 2006

10 minute sambar, really!

This is a very easy sambar for dosa and idli. It is very flavorful but there is no hassle of cooking dal separately. The sambar is thickened with dalia powder. The taste is at its best with pearl onions but any sweetish onion can be used.

Ten minute sambar

1/2 cup sliced onion or about 15-20 pearl onions, peeled and halved
3 large tomatoes, finely chopped
1 T coriander powder mixed with 1/2 tsp usual sambar powder
2 tsp red chili powder
1/2 tsp sugar or jaggery (optional)

Powder fine: 1 1/2 T dalia (pottukadalai)

Heat 1/2 tsp oil. Add 1 tsp mustard seeds and curry leaves and let splutter. Add the onions and saute until softened on medium-low heat (not browned). If the onions are not very soft, it will have an unpleasant texture since we don't simmer this as much as normal sambar. Add tomatoes, chili powder, sambar powder, coriander powder and saute till soft and saucy. Now add about 3-4 cups water, turmeric, salt and sugar and let it simmer on high for 5 min. Lastly, mix in dalia powder and let it go for a minute more. Turn off stove and serve garnished with cilantro.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Chakka pradhaman a.k.a Jackfruit payasam

This is a dish we make for naivedhyam for Vishu. Since my grandparents are from Palghat, my family has had a long-standing tradition of making a lot of keralite brahmin dishes.

I searched high and low for a good, ripe jackfruit in San Jose. I did not succeed. For the payasam, the jackfruit should be at the peak of ripeness. I was forced to use canned slices. The recipe is slightly more work because the chakka varatti or jam has to be made at least one day before. But this microwave version is a lot easier than sauteeing it on stove-top. If you choose to make it in the MW, that means I have saved you from lot of splattering on your hands and stove.

Part 1: Make varatti or jackfruit jam

2 cans jackfruit or 10 slices (pressure cook until very soft)
Powdered jaggery
1 -2 T fresh grated coconut
1 tsp cardamom
2 tsp ghee

Grind the jackfruit with no water into a very smooth paste. Measure the paste. Take equal quantity of powdered jaggery in a saucepan. Add 2-3 T water and let jaggery melt. Filter scum in jaggery. Mix paste with jaggery. Now transfer to a ceramic mw-safe container that has been greased with ghee. Microwave for about 8-10 min on high, stirring every 2 min. You should get the consistency of wheat halwa. When it is just shy of reaching that stage, add coconut and ghee. Mix and let it cook until done. Lastly, mix in ground cardamom. You can cool this paste and store it in refrigerator for 2 weeks. If you do not add coconut, it can be frozen and stored longer. You can also make this into a drier paste. Then it can be used only for payasam. This makes about 2 cups varatti.

Uses of varatti: We eat it like jam with adai and bread. Besides payasam, we use it to make elai adai. We also eat it like a halwa (you have to reduce jaggery if you want to eat as is).

Chakka payasam

1/2 cup chakka varatti
2 T jaggery
1/4 cup water
2 cups thick coconut milk
1 tsp ground cardamom
2 T coconut bits, fried in ghee (can also add cashew)

Melt jaggery in water and remove scum. Add varatti and let it soften into a sauce. When this mixture comes to a boil, reduce heat to low and add coconut milk. Let it come to a simmer. This requires constant stirring to prevent coconut milk from curdling. Turn off heat, add cardamom and coconut bits.

This is a decadent dish for jackfruit lovers. For an easier jackfruit payasam, try this other recipe posted last year.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Coriander powder or thokku

This is a family recipe, invented/learned by my mom and perfected under my dad's guidance (he is an arm-chair cook). We use the name 'sambaara puli' but it is actually a version of coriander powder/thokku. I have been eating this for years and it is a part of the care package when someone comes here from India. According to mom, this is a kerala dish. However, I am not sure about its origins. Anyway, the recipe yields 2 cups of dried powder-like chutney/thokku. It is ideal with yogurt rice, dosas or for making coriander rice.

I am so happy that cilantro is selling for $0.29 here. I can make this as often as I want. Unlike coriander thokku, this can stay for upto a month in the refrigerator. This is because all the water has been removed. You can also make it paste-like for a more moist texture.

Coriander thokku

2 bunches fresh cilantro, cleaned and dried completely
1 small piece tamarind, soaked in a tsp of water to soften a little
15 red chillies
2 T gram dal
2 T urad dal
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
pinch of hing


2 T oil
1 ts mustard seeds

1. The cilantro has to be cleaned and dried very well. For this, I leave the cleaned leaves outside overnight, exposed to air. That does it. Heat a skillet and dry roast red chilies, dals, hing and mustard seeds until mustard pops and dals are reddish. Powder coarsely.
2. Grind cilantro with tamarind until smooth.
3. Heat 2 T oil in a skillet, add mustard seeds and let them pop. Add the cilantro paste and saute until it turns a dark green. Now add the powder and saute, saute and saute some more until most of the water is eliminated. The mixture will now be on the way to becoming a brownish-green.
4. I recommend adding salt at this stage, since we can get a better idea of how much salt is required. Keep sauteeing on low heat, until oil sizzles around edges and mixture is dry paste/powder-like. You can decide at this stage when to remove from heat based on what consistency you want.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Happy Tamil New Year and Vishu!

Tomorrow is a busy day for me 'coz there is a lot of cooking to be done. Besides, we will be leaving Lake Tahoe in the afternoon.

For our new year lunch, this is the usual menu- we make chakka payasam, dal vadai, usual sambar, rasam, vegetable and a neem pachadi and/or neem rasam. So my advance tamil new year and vishu wishes to you all.

See you soon with a related recipe.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Mango rice

This one is for you Shammi! When I made this I remembered that you had asked for the recipe, which I truly forgot about. This recipe is a slight departure from what my mom makes. This is more in the style of kannada mango rice.

Mango rice

Cook 1 cup rice so that it is well-cooked but not mushy.

Grind the following into a paste:

1 large green mango, grated
4 green chilies
1 red chili (optional)
1 -2 tsp mustard seeds (I like more mustard flavor)
about 3/4 c grated coconut

Heat a pan with 1-2 T oil. Add cashewnuts or peanuts and toast slightly. Remove. Now add 1 tsp jeera, 1/2 tsp mustard seeds, 1 tsp chana dal, a good dash of asafoetida and some curry leaves. After mustard splutters, add the paste, 1/2 tsp turmeric and salt as required. Fry for a couple of minutes. You don't want the paste to lose its potency (mango must taste fresh and you should get a little raw mustard taste).

Lastly add rice, mix and turn off stove. Mix in the roasted nuts.

So that's it. The only difference here compared to my mom's recipe is that she does not add mustard seeds to the paste. That gives quite a different taste. If you don't use the mustard, then the ground paste can be sauteed as mentioned above till oil floats on top. This can be served as mango thogaiyal with dosa.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Avakkai- The king of all pickles

In my opinion, there is no better pickle than avakkai. True to the name pickle or urugai, it is very spicy, oily and potent. But I have never been able to recreate it on my own. My mom and grand mom are great pickle makers. They follow all the rules of pickle-making and their creations will last at room temperature for at least a year. But I am too bored of sticking to rules. Besides, I am the only one in our small family here who eats pickles. So I make avakkai with just two green mangoes. You should have about 3 cups of chopped mango bits with 2 large mangoes.

Avakkai is a tasty mix of sour mango pieces, mustard powder, salt, chili powder and sesame oil. This recipe is small enough for you to test your pickling skills but large enough to last at least a month. There is no cooking involved but just a marination time of at least 15 days. The longer the pickle sits the better the flavor.

2 large green, sour Mangoes
1 cup or more Sesame oil
1/2 cup coarse Mustard powder
1/2 cup to 2/3 cup Chili powder
Salt, as required (you will have to add at least 1/2 cup)
2 tsp fenugreek powder
Asafoetida, a good couple of pinches

One good quality plastic or glass container.

Wash and cut mangoes into small bits with the kernel inside. Wipe and dry under the fan for some time until all the moisture is completely evaporated. Mix spices with half the amount of oil. Add mango bits and mix well. Store in a jar or container.Add remaining oil and mix well. Give it a taste. The pickle should be on the salty, hot side.

Oil should be enough to immerse pickle completely.Close the lid properly. Give the container a shake or two everyday. Start using after 15 days. You can choose to add some sauteed garlic pods also though this is not traditional in tamil avakkai.

There should be a layer of oil floating on top if the pickle should last long.

Store this pickle in refrigerator if pickling and sterilization rules are not followed.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Deconstructed Gutti Vankaaya kura

This is a Rachel Ray-like take on my favorite, Andhra classic Gutti Vankayaa kura, a delicious stuffed eggplant curry. It not only takes a lot of time but it relies on the availability of tiny, round brinjals at the local market. Good, small, round fresh eggplants that look like these are hard to come by. So this recipe recreates all the flavors and is also very quick-cooking dish.

Adding channa to eggplant dishes is my mom's tradition. I like the protein component. You can always leave it out.


Tender, medium sized Indian eggplants or the Japanese ones- you should get about 4 cups, when they are quartered

1/4 cup finely chopped onions
1/4 cup chopped tomatoes
1/2 tsp turmeric
3/4 tsp tamarind paste
1 tsp red chili powder
2 tsp grated jaggery
2 tsp ginger-garlic paste
1 cup cooked channa

Dry roast and powder the following:

1 T sesame seeds
2 T roasted peanuts
1 T coriander seeds

Heat 1 T oil and saute the onions and ginger garlic paste until onions turn golden. Add tomatoes and turmeric and fry till pulpy and mashed. Add eggplant slices and salt. Sprinkle some water and cover and cook on medium-low heat till eggplant is 3/4 th cooked. Add tamarind paste, sesame powder, red chili powder and saute for another minute. Now add 1.5 cups of water, channa and the tamarind paste and let it come to a boil. The sauce will thicken quite a bit. If you want a watery gravy, you can add about 2 cups water. Garnish with cilantro.

Serve with rice or chapathis.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Sandwich with delicious yogurt spread

You are going whaat, aren't you? But this yogurt cheese spread is delicious. It is even better when made like a toasted cheese sandwich. I had eaten something of this type several years back. I recreated this using a few versions found here and there. The yogurt does not disintegrate, if you are worried. It is almost like cream cheese and of course, so good for you.

Sandwiches with yogurt spread-6 sandwiches

1 cup low-fat yogurt, strained well for several hours
1/2 a medium onion, finely chopped
1-2 T cilantro or herbs of your choice
2-3 green chilies, finely chopped
salt, pepper
1-2 tsp mint chutney(optional)
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp paprika

Mix all the above. Prepare a tadka of 1 tsp cumin seeds and 1/2 tsp mustard seeds in 1/4 tsp oil. Add to the yogurt mixture.

12 slices of bread (normal sliced bread is fine)
Butter, for toasting (optional)

Spread the yogurt mixture on six slices and cover with the remaining slices. Butter the sandwiches on the outside, if needed. Toast in a skillet or in a sandwich maker.

The spread is full of Indian flavors. But you can almost add any flavors to it. It is a light, delicious snack.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Happy Birthday, Green Jackfruit!

Today is my blog's first birthday. I **gulp** remembered about my first post only when Nupur wrote about her blog's birthday about two months back. My first post seems ages away and I could have almost forgot... Work and the move has kept me from concentrating too much on this blog and even from reading some of my other favorite blogs. For the occasion, I baked a Devil's food cake with Chocolate butter frosting (recipe from Lisa Yockelson's new book 'Chocolate chocolate'). Layer cakes are quite challenging for me but it came out wonderful. More on that later...

My fascination with blogs started with the blog legends-101 cookbooks, Orangette, Chocolate and Zucchini, The Amateur Gourmet and other great forerunners in food blogging. I never thought for a moment that I could do it myself. But I was motivated and encouraged by bloggers from Mahanandi, From the Pantry, The Cooks cottage and One hot stove. For me, they were the predecessors for Indian food blogs. That is how 'The Green Jackfruit' evolved. By the way the name came from my love for green jackfruit or kathal subzi made Kerala style.

Thank you readers for all your support, opinion and suggestions. Looking forward to more years of fun-filled, informative blogging about cooking and eating.

Friday, March 10, 2006

A delicious mesclun salad with goat cheese medallions

I am a goat cheese addict- mainly the soft, creamy Chevre. I know there are some stinky varieties of goat cheese too. But, I think I will pass those...

I have been waiting to make a salad with goat cheese medallions on top. But either there are no greens in the house, no vinegar or no goat cheese. This time everything came together and I am so happy that the results were delicious! I have several recipes 'coz this salad is quite common in most cookbooks but this recipe seemed very promising and simple too. We have never had a salad as an entree and this was our first. This salad is a meal by itself. The goat cheese is warm and melty-soft. Every bite is different and interesting. This is not your common 'house salad'.

Mesclun salad with goat cheese medallions

4 cups mixed greens
1/2 large ripe pear, diced into 1 inch cubes
a handful of walnuts, toasted

1 cup breadcrumbs, panko is great
1 tsp dried oregano
salt and pepper

1 egg, beaten with 1 T water

Soft goat cheese, cut into 4 1-inch thick rounds
Oil, to shallow fry

2 tablespoons plus 3/4 teaspoon white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons olive oil
salt, pepper

I made a dressing with the above, as mentioned in the link. This makes more than what is needed for the salad.

Goat cheese medallions: Dip the goat cheese rounds in egg. Mix bread crumbs with oregano, salt and pepper. Dip the eggy goat cheese rounds into bread crumbs and coat very well. Chill the coated goat cheese at least for 1 hr.

Toss the greens with walnuts, pears and the dressing. I used only around 1/4-1/2 of the dressing.

Heat 2-3T oil in a saute pan. Add the goat cheese rounds and shallow fry until both sides are golden brown (You will not have a gooey blob, as I doubted). Keep the medallions on top of the salad and savor immediately.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Vegetable kurma-1

Veggie Kurma Posted by Picasa

Vegetable kurma is a beloved dish among South Indians. It is similar to the mughal influenced korma. South Indian hole-in-the wall restaurants serve kurma as an accompaniment for chappathis. There is no cream in the dish but it is enriched with ground coconut and coconut milk. It is also spicier and in my opinion, more flavorful. To make coconut milk at home, check out Mahanandi .

There are quite a few versions I know. But this version is ideal for people who don't eat garlic. I made it for a dinner party this weekend. When I am not sure if everyone eats garlic, I make this version. There is no compromise here, taste-wise.

Vegetable kurma- Variation 1

2 large onions, finely chopped
3-4 tomatoes, finely chopped
3 cups frozen mixed vegetables (you can use a mixture of diced carrots, potatoes, cauliflower florets, peas and green beans)
1/2 cup thick coconut milk
1 tsp garam masala

For seasoning:
Ghee or oil
2-3 cardamom, crushed
1 bay leaf
1 inch cinnamon
2-3 cloves

Cilantro, for garnish

Make a smooth paste of the following:
1/2 cup grated coconut (fresh preferably)
1 T poppy seeds
10 cashewnuts
1 1/2 T roasted gram (pottu kadalai)
3 green chilies
2-3 red chilies
1 T ground coriander seeds
1/2 tsp turmeric

If you are using fresh cut vegetables, pressure cook them with salt and turmeric . Heat 1 T oil or ghee in a saute pan. Add the seasoning spices and let them color slightly. Add onions and fry till golden. Add chopped tomatoes and stir until it turns pulpy. Add the paste and stir for a few minutes, till it no longer smells raw. Add enough salt.

Strain and any water in the cooked vegetables. Reserve for another use. Now add the vegetables (fresh cooked or frozen) to the saute pan and stir for a few minutes. Dilute the mixture with little stock.

If you are using frozen vegetables, cover and cook for 2-3 min. Add the garam masala and coconut milk and simmer on medium-low heat for another 2-3 min. Garnish with cilantro and serve.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Paneer marinated in lemon pickle (Paneer achari)

The thought of using a pickle as a marinade is new to me. I came across a recipe similar to this one in Neelam Batra's '1000 Indian recipes'. I have got hooked onto this book. Ms.Batra has a lot of homestyle recipes and since she lives in USA, she uses readily available ingredients too. Her collection of chickpea recipes in itself is worth getting the book for.

I make a lot of 'achari' this and that. But I usually use pickle spices like kalonji, fennel, ajwain etc. but not pickle itself. I tried this last night and it was fantastic. The paneer is marinated in lime pickle so that it has a light coating. Just let it marinate for an hour but if you let it sit for longer, it will be better.

Paneer achaari- serves 4

8 oz block of paneer- cut into small cubes
1-2 tsp lemon pickle (or rather any kind)

1 onion, finely chopped
1/2 large green pepper
2-3 green chilies, slit
1 inch ginger, cut into thin match sticks
1/4 tsp amchur or a dash of lemon juice (optional)

for tadka:

a pinch of ajwain
1/2 tsp kalonji (nigella seeds)

Marinate the paneer cubes. You need to really use your hands to coat the paneer. Heat 1 tsp oil, add ajwain and kalonji. When they sizzle, add onion, ginger and green chilies. When onion turns golden brown, add pepper and let it cook till it becomes slightly soft. Add salt and paneer. Thoroughly mix. Cover and cook for 2 min or so. The dish is quite dry. Taste and add amchur or lemon juice if needed (I did not need more sourness).

Today, I served the left-overs on a bed of baby greens for an Indian style salad. Yum!

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Welcoming Spring with Raw Zucchini Salad

Spring is almost here. Now what better way to know that than by visiting farmers' markets. The delicious veggies artichokes, asparagus, spring peas are already showing up. Not to mention baby vegetables...

The tiny potatoes, baby artichokes and tender zucchini are things I look forward to buying. They are available now in farmers' markets in the west coast. It is better not to mess around with these guys. I like to leave them alone and steam or braise them. They should be even better raw. With this thought I made this zucchini carpaccio salad. The basic recipe is from Tyler Florence's 'Eat This'.

Raw Zucchini salad- serves 2

2 small and tender zucchini, cut into paper-thin rounds
1/2 lemon
EVOO for drizzling on top
2-3 T finely chopped dill, chives or any herb of your choice
1 T finely chopped red or green onion (Tyler suggested using leek)
salt and pepper
2 T crumbled ricotta or goat cheese
a few sprigs of mint

Arrange zucchini on a plate. Add salt and pepper. Squeeze lemon juice over slices and also drizzle with EVOO. Scatter onion and chopped herbs on top.

Refrigerate at least 15 min. Before serving, crumble cheese on top and also tear up the mint and add to the salad.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Moong dal in a Maharashtrian way-Moong usal

We prepare dal in a million ways (almost-) but this idea came to my notice when I was searching for Marathi recipes to make use of Nupur's tasty Kolhapuri chutney. I had made usal a couple of weeks back. I have almost 1.5 cups of the potent chutney leftover. This dal is an easier version of usal since it requires no sprouting. I substituted 1T of the kolhapuri chutney for the Maharashtrian masala. Moong dal is fried a little in this recipe before it is cooked. This is done to keep the dal intact and not turn mushy. As you can see, although I pressure-cooked the dal, it is still whole and not a pasty mixture. It turned out very flavorful and tasted quite Maharashtrian (the masala powders give each region's dals and subzis a unique identity).

Do you know any other Maharashtrian recipes that use the chutney?

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Mashed potatoes- Bihari style

I love egullet's cooking classes. They have a few threads on Indian cooking with excellent photos. I found the photos of Bihari aloo ka bharta very tempting and had to try it. I am a sucker for mashed potatoes and everytime I go to some breakfast place (for dinner, usually!) like Eat 'n' Park or Denny's, I have to get some mashed potatoes on the side.

I would have to say that this version is tastier than the common mashed potatoes and goes great with chappathi or puri. Mustard oil adds a lot of flavor but you can add pickle oil as I had mentioned in my earlier post. Hand crushing the chilies will give a few uneven pieces but the surprise of biting into a large piece is what you desire in an otherwise bland dish such as this one.

Bihari Aloo ka bharta (Courtesy: Monica Bhide)

3 medium potatoes, boiled and peeled
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 inch ginger root, peeled and chopped
1-2 teaspoon uncooked mustard oil or pickle oil
2-3 whole dried red chili
Salt to taste

In a bowl mash the potatoes and set aside. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a saucepan.
Add the cumin seeds and let it sputter. Add onion, ginger and garlic and saute till onion is slightly browned. Transfer the contents to the mashed potatoes.

Roast the dried red chilly on a dry pan until blackened. Crush the roasted dry chilly onto the mashed potato. Add salt and taste- the lack of salt can totally ruin this dish. Add uncooked mustard oil to the potato mix. Mix well. Garnish with cilantro leaves before serving.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Blog party #7- Red & Hot

It is Stephanie's blog party. She has come up with a naughty theme when everyone is thinking Chocolate. It is time to make something - hot, spicy and oh, maybe red. Stephanie, I never say no to spicy things. This is a hot tapas recipe from Mark Bittman's 'Best recipes in the World'. I never knew anyone who ate fried, green chilis without any breading. As our farewell dinner, we had been to Tasca Navarre (Pittsburgh), a new Spanish restaurant in Strip district. They served fried jalapenos with some delicious garlic aioli. It was awesome!

The chilis have no bread coating or anything. If you are frying up whole chilis, slit them a little and remove the seeds. They are great for a tapas party because nobody can eat more than 2-3 of these fiesty bites.

Fried Jalapenos with Roasted red pepper aioli- serves 4

10 Jalapenos, slit and seeds removed
Coarse salt

Deep fry the chilies in very hot oil until their skin crisps up and they turn brown in places. They don't brown very evenly. Drain and sprinkle coarse salt as needed. Serve with aioli.

To keep up with the party's theme, I made some roasted red pepper aioli based on Giada De Laurentiis' recipe:

1 garlic clove
1 roasted red bell pepper,peeled
1/3 cup mayonnaise
a pinch of paprika
olive oil to thin out, if required

To make the aioli: Finely chop the garlic in the food processor. Add the peppers, paprika and blend until almost smooth. Mix this paste into the mayonnaise. Season the aioli, to taste, with salt and pepper. Transfer the aioli to a small bowl.

Tagged: blog party, tapas

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Rose milk for my Valentine

Lindor truffles and Rose milk-our sweet indulgences Posted by Picasa

Love is in the air and roses symbolize it perfectly. Any culinary creation with roses is romantic. We are celebrating this year with some rose milk.

Rose milk is a famous drink in South India. Most south Indian restaurants or hotels in the pre-cola era (which is less than a decade ago) served this and some still do. In the summer months (which is always!), it is a cool treat. The dark pink hued drink is almost as popular as 'filter coffee'. Alas, today in India, these good, cold drinks and juices have all been replaced with Fanta, Coke, Pepsi and even Mountain Dew.

I like to make the rose syrup at home or better yet, get my mom to make it whenever she visits us. There are commercial rose sherbet such as Roohafza and the like readily available at all Indian grocery stores. But these products have an aftertaste of chemicals and I believe they also contain 'kewra extract' that overpowers the rose flavor.

Rose syrup

2 cups sugar
1.5 cups water
1 T lemon juice
1/4 cup rose water or 2 tsp rose extract
(Rose extract may contain artifical flavors. So use natural rose water, as far as possible).
4-6 drops of red food coloring or pomegranate juice

Stir together the sugar, water and lemon juice in a heavy saucepan. Bring to a boil, lower the heat and simmer for 10-12 minutes, until the syrup coats a cold spoon. You should be able to draw a line on the coated spoon. Add the pomegranate juice or food coloring and stir well. You should have a dark red color. Remove from the heat and stir in the rosewater or extract. Let the syrup cool completely and store in a clean Mason jar. This makes 2-3 cups of syrup.

To 8 oz milk, start with addition of 2 T of syrup and add more, for a stronger flavor or sweetness. Serve cold with lots of ice.

The food color may make you flinch. But the drink has to be literally rose-colored. Otherwise, it is not much fun, is it? I added only 2 drops of FDA approved red color since I wanted to introduce my daughter with this new flavor. So my version is quite light-colored. You can forego the color altogether, it is up to you or use Pom as a coloring agent.

Happy Valentines day, everyone!

Thursday, February 09, 2006

My must-try list- An ongoing project in cooking

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I have been following many of your blogs and sure enough I am learning a lot from you. But strangely, until now, I copy them to my 'must-try document' and forget about the great recipes. But no more of that- I have decided to add a must-try list here. It is my weekly list, of lovely things to eat. My must-try list is longer than the few recipes here, but this is what I can get done in a week. I am doing a sort of cooking project scheduling since I have been sticking to very routine, repetitive meals after my move to CA. To break from my lethargy, I hope my must-try list will be a constant encouragement and reminder.

So as for this list that has been hanging out in my blog- I am very happy to be eating delicious things this week. I did stumble with the recipe for jowar roti. As Deccanheffalump had warned, my store-bought jowar flour was not fresh enough and it started cracking. This is one project that would require an expert's presence, I guess.

I made Indira's brinjal-ginger curry this sunday. This way of combining brinjal and ginger was very new to me and again, I am very much interested in cooking from other Indian states. It was delightfully gingery and the sweetness of the cooked eggplant was perfect. I used the small, Indian round eggplants. Thanks Indira for a great, unique recipe.

Last night, our dinner consisted of Nupur's usal/misal. I made half the quantity of kolhapuri chutney and substituted moong sprouts for moth bean sprouts. Boy, the spiciness of the juicy usal, went very well with toasted bread. I also added some sweet chutney and boondi on top. There were some leftovers that was enjoyed by us today. We have had this dish at Chaat Paradise, MV but we were disappointed because I think they had added pav bhaji masala for the kolhapuri chutney. Nupur, you are doing a great job spreading your region's cooking and hope you will start another series to showcase Marathi recipes.

Today our dinner would be, idli and Shilpa's Konkani sambar. I usually use some tamarind in my sambar and so added extracted tamarind juice to the vegetables and cooked them all together. The sambar tastes so much like the Pittsburgh SV temple's sambar (mixed with rice). This is really a wonderful treat for us since we have been missing Pitt for the last two weeks. For fans of SV temple's food, this is a must-try.

Thanks all for your recipes and great pics. So this list did give me a boost and my sleeping palate has awakened to new flavors.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

ARF/5-a day #6- Beet halwa

Sweetnicks has a good thing going here. Nutritionally unaware people like me get a chance to review their diet (for the past, two weeks, I have been searching for antioxidants in my food) thinking about antioxidant-rich foods. Stephanie of Dispensing Happiness will be the guest host for ARF #6.

Beets are a great source of antioxidants, although they do not figure in the top 10 popular ones. To me, beets are so underused. It is a pity that most people only use the canned version of them in salads. Their staining can be a problem but that is easily solved by rubbing your hands with lemon juice and salt mixture.

I love the Indian way of making beets- a spicy curry with beets plays well with its sweet and spicy combination. Sweet veggies are also used in India in desserts, be it green peas kheer, bottlegourd halwa, carrot halwa or this beet halwa. The sweetness in beets allows you to get away with adding about 4T extra sugar or so. Believe me, other Indian sweets take as much as a cup.

I like to pressure cook the beets till they are not too soft. This is quicker than cooking them raw in milk.

Beet halwa (4-5 servings)

2 large beets, cooked partially
4 T to 1/4 cup sugar
Milk to cover beets
1 -2 tsp ghee
3/4 tsp ground cardamom
6-7 cashewnuts, chopped and roasted in ghee

1. Peel and grate the beets. Heat ghee in a saute pan and add the beets. Saute for 2 minutes.
2. Add milk to completely cover the beets. Cook on medium-low heat, until beets are mushy and milk is almost absorbed. Add the sugar and mix well. Cook till dry.
3. Mix in cardamon. You can also toast some cashewnuts in ghee and add them at the end.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Moroccan Roasted Vegetable Stew

I roast veggies in the oven frequently to just munch on. Oddly, vegetables like asparagus, peppers, broccoli and brussel sprouts are the first ones to disappear in the roasted vegetable platter. Carrots are not a favorite in my house and they just remain unwanted along with the onions. This stew from Mollie Katzen's 'Vegetable Heaven' made me overcome my dislike towards certain vegetables. The veggies cook together and flavors come through as one in this stew. You can roast more veggies than required for this stew and have the extra ones as a snack.

The recipe calls for adding cumin and mustard seeds to the vegetables before roasting them. Although I was concerned about burnt cumin seeds and mustard seeds, that did not occur. Try not to omit these; they do add a lot of flavor.

Moroccan Roasted Vegetable stew- 4 servings

1-2 T olive oil
10-15 pearl onions, with skin or 1 medium onion, cut into 1 inch chunks
1 large carrot, diced into large cubes or a handful baby carrots
1 medium zucchini, diced into large cubes
a handful of button mushrooms, roughly chopped
Salt to taste

1 tablespoon cumin seeds
1 tablespoon mustard seeds
8 cloves of garlic, skins left on
4 -6 ripe tomatoes, halved and cored
2 large red peppers
1 cinnamon stick
1 can 15 oz fava beans or chick peas, rinsed and drained
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 375ยบ Line two large baking trays with foil, brush with olive oil.
Scatter onions, garlic, zucchini, mushrooms and carrots onto one tray, drizzle with oil and sprinkle cumin, mustard seeds and pinch of salt. Place on bottom rack of oven. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until tender. Let cool.

I prefer to broil the peppers to get their smoky flavor. I baked tomatoes along with other veggies in a separate baking sheet for 15 min until slightly blistered and skin comes off easily. I did not want to dry out tomatoes too much. The tomatoes will give the liquid component in this stew. If you prefer a lot of liquid, you can add a small can of diced tomatoes instead. Peel peppers, roughly chop and add them to a bowl along with tomatoes. Place cinnamon stick in bowl. Remove skins from onion and garlic. Squeeze out roasted garlic & add to bowl. Add remaining veggies to the bowl, beans and add to taste salt and black pepper.

Let the veggies mingle for a couple of hours. Just before serving, remove cinnamon, cover bowl and heat stew in microwave for 5-10 min. Add the lemon juice liberally.

I served this on some couscous flavored with orange juice and pistachios.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Dining around the Silicon Valley- Thirupathi Bhimas

We were loitering in the Milpitas area and we saw Thirupathi Bhimas, a restaurant in a non-descript mall. It was closed that day but we were attracted by the name 'Sri Krishna Sweets' that was before its name (Every Chennaite must know that Krishna Sweets mysore pa are delectable treats oozing with ghee). Now I also know that, it is a branch of Bhimas hotel in Thirupathi, AP. This is a place where we dine every time we visit the Lord Balaji temple.

So expecting to find them selling mysore pa, we walked in one Saturday afternoon. There were around 20 people waiting to be seated and that is always a good sign, isn't it? It was like a mini-Tamil Nadu in there. It felt good being there and hearing our language being spoken all around. Even the restaurant manager spoke in tamil.

We were disappointed that they just used the Krishna sweets name and they did not sell mysore pa. But, nevertheless we decided to have our meals there. And we did a good thing. They have a spicy Andhra thali (a four course meal served in a plate) that comes with Kara kuzhambu, a kurma and a kara curry. So being the spice lover, I chose it. My husband had their non-spicy thali (check out their site). All the dishes were of tamilian origin, it seemed. Even their Andhra thali... But for an array of condiments like paruppu podi, gongura pickle and avakkai pickle, you could not say there was anything related to AP. I was sort of disappointed by this because I was expecting some authentic Andhra food.

Andhra or tamil, the food was great. If you are used to a medium level of spiciness, you can order any of these two versions of thali. If you are looking for good tamil or rather south Indian food experience, you have to try this place out. In the evenings, they also serve dosa, vada and other south Indian tiffin items.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Weekend Cookbook challenge- Dal paratha

I have been waiting to participate in the Weekend cookbook challenge hosted by Sara and Alicat because the project involves something that is close to my heart-cookbooks and this month's theme is winter comfort foods. I am an arm-chair cook and I read more recipes than I ever cook. I own almost thirty cookbooks but my most used book is the 'Net' itself. I am glad to be taking part this month.

I grew up in the southern India where there is no winter. Winter brings with it some rare, foggy mornings but thats about it. But a bigger indication that winter is around is the availability of cauliflower, red carrots (also called Delhi carrots) and English peas. Pittsburgh winter was a big surprise (should I say shock?) to me when I came to the US.

Somehow, I always have a craving for parathas in winter. This recipe is from an Indian cookbook 'Roz ka khana' (translates to Everyday Food) by Tarla Dalal I have had for a couple of years.

Dal Paratha (makes 6)

For dough:
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp oil
1/2 tsp salt
enough water

Knead the above well into a smooth, soft dough. Let rest for 30 min. Divide into six portions.

1/2 cup moong dal, soaked for 20 min
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp chili powder
a pinch of asafoetida (optional)
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 tsp garam masala
salt, to taste
1 T finely chopped cilantro

Cook moongdal in 1 cup water and turmeric until very tender and most of the water has been absorbed. Strain the dal and save the water for making the dough. Heat a saute pan. Add 1 tsp oil. Add cumin seeds and asafoetida. When cumin changes to a golden brown, add dal, chili powder, salt and garam masala. Saute till mixture dries up completely. Mix in cilantro. Divide into six portions.

To make parathas- Roll out one portion of dough into a small 4-inch disc. Place one portion of filling in center and bring in the corners of the disc and seal tightly. Dust lightly with flour and roll into a circle of 6 inches or so. The rolled paratha will be thicker than the usual chappathi. Cook on a medium-hot tava with some ghee or butter until both sides are golden brown.

I like to make a big batch of parathas and store it for a couple of days. It does not dry out like chappathis and it becomes soft and tasty when nuked.

Along with some yogurt and achaar, it is a great, balanced meal.

Tagged:Weekend cookbook challenge