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.