Friday, April 6, 2018

Ellu Sadam/Ellodarai (Rice With Toasted Sesame & Spices)

Ellu Sadam is traditionally made at home and in some Temples as offering particularly on certain Saturdays. At home, first the crows are fed some cooked rice in the mornings, then the freshly prepared sesame rice is blessed and usually shared with neighbors and friends before enjoying it.

Ellu Sadam/Ellodarai is delicious served with appalam (papadums), karuvadams or vadams (crisp rice noodles and papadams respectively). I like to pair it with a simple chopped tomato-cucumber salad.

Notes:

Black or white sesame seeds (unhulled) and black or white urid dal maybe used in any combination depending on how you want the resulting rice color; if you like lighter colored rice, use a combination of one white and one dark, and both white for a very light-colored results.

Sesame powder maybe prepared without black pepper also.

You can store the Sesame powder for a few days at room temperature or a few weeks in the fridge; for longer storage, keep in the freezer.

Peanuts maybe used instead of the cashews in the seasoning.

Seasoning with the mustards seeds, etc is not a must, as Sesame Rice is flavorful but it does add a bit more flavor and looks garnished.

If Indian sesame oil is not handy, use a mild oil; stir in 1/2 tsp of Chinese sesame oil at the end for the fantastic flavor.

6 Servings

Ingredients:

Sesame Powder:
4 Tbsp Black Sesame Seeds
2 Tbsp Black Urad Dal, (split kind)
1/8 - 1/2 tsp Whole Black Peppercorns
2-4 Dried Red Chiles
2 Stems Curry Leaves

Rice:
1 tsp Sesame oil (Indian)
1/2 tsp Mustard seeds
1Tbsp White Urad dal (skinless)
2-3 Tbsp raw Cashew pieces 
1 pinch Asafoetida (optional)
1 Stem Curry Leaves
1 tsp Salt
1 cup dry Rice, cooked and cooled

Method:

1. Heat a dry skillet or kadai add the seasme seeds; cook stirring over low-medium heat until they pop and dance and become fragrant. Cook on low-medium heat to prevent burning; as soon as they stop popping, remove from heat. Pour into a plate to cool.

2. In the same pan add red chillies, black pepper and urad dal; cook stirring untill dal turns light brown and fragrant. Stir in the curry leaves and cook stirring until they are almost dry. Pour into the plate with the sesame. Let cool completely.

3. When the sesame mixture is cool, grind to a coarse powder (a bit finer than cream of wheat or rava) using a spice grinder. Set aside until needed. The sesame powder maybe prepared in advance (see notes for storage ideas).

4. Fluff the cooked rice gently so as not to mash or break the grain; a sprinkle of water helps if the rice is dry. I find that breaking it up gently with wet fingers works very well. Set aside until ready to use.

5. Heat oil in a pan, when hot add mustard seeds. Let it start to pop.

6. Add urad dal and cook for 30 seconds.

7. Add cashews and stir-fry untill golden. Add asafetida if using; cook for 10 seconds.

8. Stir in the curry leaves, cook until they stop popping and become a bit dry.

9. Add the rice and salt to the pan along with the sesame powder; mix well to combine.

10. Serve warm or at room temperature. Enjoy!!


Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Coconut Rice With Cashews & Curry Leaves (South Indian Coconut Rice)

Coconut Rice evokes fond memories of the festival called Aadi or Pathinettam Perukku which is a festival celebrating the life-giving water and the bounty it brings to all life. This South Indian festival is celebrated on the 18th day of the Tamil month Aadi (hence the name "pathinettam") which falls somewhere at the end of July or beginning of August. It is a time of the Monsoons which bring water to the waterways and life to fields and streams. In thanksgiving and honor, women and girls go on a picnic by a water body whether it be a river, brook, pond or lake and enjoy Coconut Rice, Lemon Rice, Puliyodharai (Tamarind Rice), Yogurt Rice and other treats.

Most tropical countries have their own version of coconut rice; some are savory and others sweet. This savory South Indian version of coconut rice involves minimal preparation and easy to make. It uses freshly grated coconut which is toasted with other spices and added to cooked rice to make this aromatic rice. Traditionally this rice is served with karuvadams and pappadums, crispy rice noodles and lentil wafers respectively. Coconut rice maybe paired with a spicy vegetable stews and curries as well.

If using a fresh coconut, use about 1/2 of medium sized coconut. In a pinch, dried unsweetened coconut may be used as well; but first it should be hydrated well. Add about 1/2 cup dried coconut to a bowl with about 1/4 or so water and let soak until well hydrated. Discard any extra water if there is any before adding in step 4.

Ingredients:

1 cup dry Rice cooked and cooled to room temp
1 tsp oil
1/2 teaspoon Mustard seeds
1 Tbsp Urad dal
3 dry Red Chilies
3 Tbsp raw Cashew pieces
1 stem Curry leaves, finely sliced
1 cup fresh or frozen Coconut, grated
1/2 tsp Salt or to taste

Method:

1. Heat oil in a pan, when hot add mustard seeds. Let it pop.

2. Add black gram dal, dry red chilies, and cook until dal turns pinkish.

3. Add cashews and fry till it turns richly golden. 

4. Add curry leaves and grated coconut. Toast the coconut on low-medium heat till it begins to turn golden - about 3-4 minutes. The heat may need to be adjusted as the coconut is toasting; if it starts to turn dark too quickly in spots, reduce heat.

5. Fluff the cooked rice gently so as not to mash or break the grain; a sprinkle of water helps if the rice is dry. I find that breaking it up gently with wet fingers works very well.

6. Add the rice and salt to the coconut mixture; mix well to combine.

7. Serve warm or at room temperature. Enjoy!!

Friday, March 30, 2018

Crunchy, Munchy Cabbage Salad

A simple yet wonderfully colorful cruncy and delicious salad! All the veggies plus the almonds and sesame provide ample fiber, vitamins, anthocyanins, and even a good amount of protein. Cabbages and Kale belong to the Brassica or commonly known as cruciferous vegetables family along with broccoli and cauliflower and other veggies. The benefits of the Brassicas are numerous; they not only provide nutrients but also are anticancer, anti-inflammatory as well as protection from other diseases.

All of the veggies and nut/seeds and dressing maybe prepared ahead and tossed together just before serving; a great one for the weekdays.

The salad maybe prepared with one type of cabbage alone; other veggies maybe added or omitted also. Brussels sprouts, Napa Cabbage, broccoli or cauliflower, etc make great additions. Oil maybe added to the dressing if desired.

4-6 servings

Ingredients:

Dressing:

2-3 Tbsp Apple Cider Vinegar
1-3 tsp Maple syrup, or to taste
Salt and Pepper to taste

Salad:

1/2 Each small Green and Red Cabbages, thinly sliced or coarsely shredded (about 8 cups)
1 Carrot, coarsely shredded
2 Kale leaves, finely sliced
4-5 Scallions/Green Onions, white and green parts, thinly sliced
1/2 cup shelled, cooked, Edamame (optional)
4 Tbsp Almonds, sliced 
1 Tbsp Sesame seeds (preferably black)
1 pinch Red Pepper flakes (optional)

Method:

Combine all the dressing ingredients in a small bowl and whisk well. Taste and adjust the seasonings. Cover and set aside or chill until needed.

Prepare the veggies - remove the tough rib from kale and reserve for another dish; finely slice the leafy parts with a shart knife. Shred the cabbages and carrot.

Combine the all the veggies in a large bowl; if prepared ahead, store in a covered container in the fridge until needed.

Toast the almonds and sesame until fragrant, about 2-3 minutes in a dry skillet; remove from heat. 

Stir in the red pepper if using; the residual heat will toast them just right. If making ahead, cool completely and store in a covered container in the fridge. The nut/seed mixture maybe stored at room temp if it is going to be used up in a couple of days.

Mix the nut mixture into the salad when ready to eat to keep them crunchy.

Toss the salad with the dressing so all the ingredients are coated well with the dressing just before serving. Taste and adjust seasonings and serve.

Enjoy!!

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Easy One-Pot Biryani (Indian Layered Rice Pilaf With Vegetables)

If you like biriyani, a rice and vegetable casserole, this recipe is a must try. Everything is done in one pot in layers; although it is easy, it is quite flavorful and great for company too. When cooked in a glass dish in the oven, it makes a pretty presentation. Very family friendly!

A simple and easy recipe, biriyani is awesome accompanied simply by Chopped Salad, and papadams and non-dairy yogurt; but could be served with Salna or Korma or other curries like Aviyal, Vegetable Kofta, or any bean dishes like Chole or Rajma.

Notes:

If peas are fresh, add them about 5 minutes sooner; but frozen peas do not need very much cooking time and will do fine as directed in the recipe.

A favorite curry powder maybe used instead of the Biriyani/Garam masala and Kashmiri chile powder. Feel free to adjust and change the spices according to your preference.

Alternately, after layering in an oven-safe pan with cover, the biriyani may be baked in the oven for 30 minutes at 350 F. After baking, sprinkle saffron water and peas on top, cover, and let rest for 10 minutes before serving.

After the biriyani is cooked, the whole spices like cardamom, cinnamon, and bay leaves, maybe fished out and discarded as they are not eaten; fennel seeds are fine and are not removed.

6 Servings

INGREDIENTS:

1½ cups Basmati Rice
3 cups boiling water
1 Tbsp Oil
½ tsp Fennel Seeds
3 Cloves
2-3 Cardamom Pods, slightly crushed
1-2 Brown Cardamoms, slightly crushed
1 one-inch piece Cinnamon
2 Bay leaves
½ tsp freshly ground Pepper
1 medium Onion, finely chopped
1-2 cloves garlic (optional)
½ inch piece ginger, finely grated
1-2 Green Chiles (Jalapeno or Serrano) cored and minced
1 medium Carrot, diced
1 Potato, diced
3-5 Cauliflorets, separated into small florets
½ cup Green Beans, cut into 1" pieces
1 cup Green Peas, fresh/frozen
2 Tbsp Mint leaves, finely sliced in a chiffonade
4 Tbsp Coriander/Cilantro, include stems and leaves, chopped
1 small pinch Saffron dissolved in 2 Tbsp warm water

Combine: Spices & Salt
½ tsp turmeric
1½ tsp Salt
1 tsp ground Coriander
½ - 1 tsp Kashmiri Chile Powder/Paprika
1-2 Tbsp Biriyani Masala/Garam Masala

Toppings:
4 Tbsp Each toasted, chopped Cashews & Almonds
Cilantro sprigs and Mint leaves for garnishing

METHOD:

Wash and soak the rice in plenty of fresh water for 30 minutes. 

Prepare all the veggies and herbs; place veggies in one bowl and the herbs in another.

Combine all the ground spices and salt. Set aside.

Drain and rinse the rice.

Prepare boiling water and have it ready.

Heat the oil in a large pan with a lid (a 3-4 quart/liter size will work nicely); swirl to coat the bottom of the pan with oil. When the oil is hot, add fennel seeds, cardamoms, cloves, cinnamon, and bay leaf and let the spices sizzle for just a few seconds and become fragrant. Stir in the ground pepper and mix well.

Tip the onion, green chiles, ginger and garlic if using into the pan; cook covered over low heat until the onions are translucent.

Stir in the salt-spice mixture and cook for about a minute. 

Mix the rice into the onion spice mixture and combine well; remove half and reserve.

Spread the veggies except the peas over the rice in the pan.

Distribute the cilantro and mint evenly over the veggies.

Now spread the reserved rice on top and slowly and carefully add the boiling water.

Cover the pan with a well fitting lid and cook the pulav undisturbed for 10 minutes on low heat.

Sprinkle the saffron water and peas on top, cover again and let it cook for 5 more minutes.

Let rest for 10 minutes without uncovering the pot. Mix well if you like; if baking in a shallow pan, it can be served in slices so each slice has all the ingredients.

Sprinkle the nuts and herbs; serve hot. Enjoy!!

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Lentil Or Kollu Masala (Sprouted [Or Not!] Lentil Or Horsegram/Muthirai/Kulith Curry)

Horse gram or Macrotyloma uniflorum, also known as Kollu, Muthirai, Kulith etc in various regions of India, is a well-loved legume as are lentils known as whole Masoor. Kollu is called horse gram as it is fed to racehorses to make them strong. Horse gram is considered very hearty and health giving - supposed to make one strong as a horse!

Save excess cooking water from the kollu and use it for making Kollu Rasam - a delicious treat!

Note: Sprouting legumes is pretty easy; just takes a little planning and time. If you cannot wait to sprout the legumes, go ahead and make the curry without sprouting; but I do highly recommend a good soak overnight or a bit longer for kollu. Lentils on the other hand, cook pretty quickly even without a soaking.

4 Servings

INGREDIENTS:

1 cup dry Lentils or Kollu
1 tsp Oil
2 dried Red chiles
5 cloves
½ inch piece cinnamon
1 star anise
1 bay leaf
1 onion, finely chopped
1 tsp ground Coriander seeds
1-2 cloves fresh Garlic, minced (optional)
½ inch piece ginger, minced
1-2 Green Chiles, cored and minced (Jalapeno or Serrano)
2 Tbsp fresh Coriander/Cilantro, chopped
1 tomato, chopped
½ tsp Turmeric
1 tsp salt
¼ -½ cup Coconut Milk
½ - 1 tsp Garam Masala

Garnish
4 Tbsp fresh Coriander/Cilantro, chopped

METHOD:

Soak, sprout, & cook the Lentils or Kollu/Horse gram:

Pick over, wash, and soak the gram in plenty of water to cover for a few hours or overnight. Drain, rinse, and keep covered for a few hours until tiny sprouts begin to appear. Sprouting may take a day or two depending on the weather; warm weather speeds up sprouting. 

Drain the sprouts, wash well, and cook in enough fresh water to cover until soft - about 40 to 50 minutes, checking often to make sure it doesn't dry out or burn. Alternately use your pressure cooker to speed up cooking. This can be done a day ahead.  Mash the lentils/kollu while still hot so that it becomes a little creamy. If made ahead, cool and refrigerate.

Make the curry:

Heat oil in a 2-3 quart/liter saucepan. Add the dried red chiles, cloves, cinnamon, star anise, and bay leaf; let them sizzle, become fragrant, and slightly brown but not burned. 

Add the onions and cook covered until soft, about 4-5 minutes.

Add ground coriander and cook stirring for a few seconds.

Stir in ginger, chile, coriander/cilantro, and garlic if using and cook until they soften, about a minute.

Tip in the cooked lentils/horse gram with the cooking liquids along with the tomato, turmeric and the salt.

Cover, bring to a simmer and cook on low heat for about 10-15 minutes.

Stir in the coconut milk and garam masala; heat through. 

Remove from heat and let rest for 10 minutes. Fish out the chiles and discard.

Serve hot garnished with the coriander/cilantro with rice or roti. Enjoy!!

Monday, March 19, 2018

Masala Bruschetta (Indian Style Toast With Veggie Topping)

Masala Bruschetta is a lovely snack, starter, or even a healthy breakfast! It is similar to Pav Bhaji but a lot simpler and quick with fewer ingredients. Served with a cup or two of Masala Chai, it fills the bill very nicely.

NOTES:

Go easy with salt as chaat masala is quite salty! More can be added at the end if needed.

Instead of the green chile, a pinch or two of red pepper flakes may be used; add it when adding the Cumin seeds to the oil.

Other veggies and/or cooked, crumbled sweet or regular potato may be added; if adding more veggies, adjust seasonings.

8-10 Toasts

INGREDIENTS

1 tsp oil
½ tsp Mustard seeds
½ tsp Cumin seeds
1 medium Onion, finely chopped
1 green chile, cored and finely minced (jalapeno or serrano)
1 Bell Pepper, finely chopped
1 large Carrot, coarsely grated
2 Tomatoes, deseeded and finely chopped
½ tsp Turmeric 
Salt (Hold off using too much salt as Chaat Masala has salt)
½ tsp ground Red Chile (cayenne)
1 tsp Chaat Masala
4 Tbsp fresh Coriander/Cilantro, finely chopped + extra for garnish

Toast triangles or Naan or any flatbread wedges to serve
Finely chopped nuts & seeds (optional)

METHOD:

Heat a tablespoon of oil in a pan.

Add  mustard and let it start popping; add cumin seeds and let them sizzle.

Stir in the onion, green chili, and a big pinch of salt and cook for 3-4 minutes, until the onions soften.

Add bell pepper with turmeric, red chile powder, and cook stirring for 2-3 minutes until the spices are incorporated and bell pepper softens.

Mix in the grated carrots, cover and cook stirring often until the veggies become soft, about 3-4 minutes.

Add the tomatoes, cook for a couple of minutes until they are soft and blend in. Remove from heat.

Sprinkle chaat masala and mix well. Taste and add salt if needed.

Finally, add coriander/cilantro and mix well. 

Spread a little of veggie masala over the warm toasts/breads and sprinkle the nuts and seeds on top with additional cilantro if desired. Serve immediately.

Eat! Enjoy!!

Creamy Roasted Asparagus Soup

Creamy Roasted Asparagus Soup is a light and fresh-tasting soup that makes use of wonderful spring produce. Although quite creamy and luxurious, it is as guilt-free as it is gluten and dairy free!

At today's prices, I like to get every bit of the lovely asparagus into the soup - so the tough ends are used to enrich the broth. But if that sounds like too much work, proceed without that step.

The tender inner ribs of the celery along with the leaves add a nice flavor to the soup. The potato adds creaminess and body.

This delicate but sturdy soup can be made ahead and kept chilled for about 4-5 days. It can also be prepped in stages.

Note: Asparagus and the veggies maybe cooked in the broth instead of roasting and pureed to make the soup.

4 Servings

2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
1 pound fresh Asparagus 
1 Leek, coarsley chopped (or 1 Onion)
2 ribs Celery, chopped
1 medium Potato, keep whole
4-5 sprigs fresh Thyme or 1 tsp dried
1-2 Sprigs fresh Tarragon leaves or 1/2 teaspoon dried
4  cups Vegetable Broth
Salt and Pepper to taste

Method:

Heat the vegetable broth in a large pot.

Wash and drain the asparagus well. Break off bottom tough part of each asparagus stalk, and use it to enrich the broth.

As soon as the tough ends of the asparagus are snapped off, add them to the broth along with the whole potato and thyme sprigs, bring to a boil and cook for about 15 minutes. Let cool. Take out the potato, peel it if you wish while still quite warm and keep aside.

Preheat the oven to 400 F. Prepare a rimmed baking sheet by lining it with parchment paper.

Coarsely chop the stalks, reserving about a dozen or so of the tips in bigger pieces about 1-2 inches long to be used as garnish (so you have 3-4 tips per serving). 

Clean, rinse well, and coarsely chop the leek/onion.

Combine 1/2 teaspoon of the oil with the asparagus tips with a little pinch of salt and pepper; toss to coat well and place on one end of the prepared baking pan. 

Combine the rest of the oil, chopped asparagaus, celery, and leek/onion with a generous pinch each of salt and pepper and toss to coat well. Spread the veggies on the baking pan without mixing with the tips.

Roast the veggies for about 20 minutes or until tender and slightly browned.

Meanwhile process the cooked tough ends of asparagus in the broth with some of the broth in the blender and process until coarsely chopped. Strain through a fine strainer. Discard the solids. 

When the roasted veggies are ready, remove the asparagus tips and set aside for the garnish.

Puree the rest of the roasted veggies and the potato in the blender with some of the enriched broth and tarragon.

Heat the puree with all of the vegetable broth and cook, stirring occasionally, until hot - about 10 minutes. 

When soup is hot, taste and adjust seasoning.

To serve ladle the soup into 4 bowls and divide the reserved asparagus tips among them.

Serve hot immediately with more freshly ground pepper if desired. Enjoy!!