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

Posted by Picasa

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.