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.)