Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Israeli Couscous, Corn, Cucumber & Tomato Salad

Israeli Couscous Salad
This is a very versatile salad and you can use whatever vegetables you have on hand. Israeli couscous is very similar to regular couscous; both are a type of pasta! The regular is tiny whereas Israeli couscous is larger and look similar to tapioca pearls. This fresh tasting salad is similar to the regular Tabbouleh; it includes crunchy cucumbers and other refreshing veggies.

For a quick but delicious variation, stir in some Carrot Top Chimichurri instead of the green herbs.

Note: Any couscous may be used; cook according to manufacturer's directions. If Isreali couscous is already toasted, cook according to directions on the package; but make sure they are cooked until tender with additional water if needed. Other grains such as farro, barley, quinoa, etc or small pasta like orzo may be used as well instead of the couscous.

1 cup Israeli Couscous
2 T Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1-2 Lemons/Limes, juiced
2 Shallots, finely chopped
1 Carrot, coarsely grated
1 cup Corn kernels, fresh or frozen
1/2 cup cooked Garbanzos or other beans
1 large bunch Flat Leaf Parsley
3 young Scallions (aka green onions)
1 bunch Garlic Chives
1 small bunch fresh Mint
Salt to taste
Freshly Ground Black Pepper
Romaine hearts to serve

Heat a skillet and add 1 T of the oil and stir in the couscous; stir and cook over medium heat until lightly browned and fragrant, about 5 minutes. Add the salt and 2 cups of boiling water; bring to a boil, reduce heat so couscous is simmering. Cover slightly ajar, and cook until tender. Add corn whether fresh or frozen  to the couscous; stir well to mix; let cool slightly.

Prepare all the veggies and herbs while the couscous is cooling.

Finely slice the scallions and chives, mince the mint and parsley.

When the couscous has cooled to lukewarm, add all the ingredients and mix well. Taste and adjust salt, lemon/lime, and pepper. 

Separate the leaves of romaine hearts and wash and dry. Chill in bags until needed.

Serve the couscous surrounded by romaine leaves. Diners can scoop the salad into the romaine to eat like tacos. Enjoy!

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Carrot greens & Cilantro Chimichurri (Spicy Carrot Greens Pesto)

When you grow or purchase a nice bunch of garden fresh carrots, what do you do with all the lovely feathery carrot greens? Why, make Chimichurri of course! Carrot tops taste similar to parsley; which is no surprise, as they are from the same family! Next time you have carrot tops, don't chuck them in the compost or worse yet, throw them in the trash heap. The feathery greens can be used just like parsley. 

We love to spoon the chimicurri over a bowl of steaming quinoa, brown rice or root veggies. Delicious mixed with couscous and cucumbers for a quick Tabbouleh! 

Note: Save the stems for the stock pot - they add a lot of carroty goodness to the broth!


1 cup Carrot greens (only the leaves), packed
1 handful, Cilantro
1-2 Limes, juice
1/4 tsp Salt
1 clove Garlic
1 Serrano Chile
1/4 cup Shallots OR Red Onions, finely minced
2-3 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Place carrot greens, cilantro, salt, lime juice, garlic and Serrano chile in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until finely chopped; you may have to stop and scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.

Taste and add additional salt or lime juice if needed. Add the oil 1 Tbsp at a time and process until you have a nice mixture but not too smooth. Tip the onions in and pulse once or twice just to mix.

Scoop into a bowl and chill until needed. Serve over roasted or steamed veggies, cooked grains, pasta, as a spread for sandwiches, as topping for soups and salads, etc. Thin with more olive oil if needed. Will last in fridge for about 1 week or so.


Thursday, December 15, 2016

Pazha Nurukku (Stewed Plantain)

Pazha Nurukku is a simple and simply delicious traditional offering that is at home as everyday fare as well as part of major feasts in Keralite homes. They are best made with these special bananas known as plantains. Sometimes they are called "chendamurian" as they look like little drums. It is very easy to make and just as easy to disappear :-}! My grandmother used to make a huge pot of them especially during the Onam festival; pazha nurukku and pappadums are a must for an Onam feast!

Although traditionally they are made with a little jaggery, I often cook the plantain without any - they really are quite sweet enough. They can be steamed as well as roasted/cooked in a regular or a microwave oven. Amma often made this unsweetened kind as snacks for babies (of all ages) :D. Pazha Nurukku is wonderful served as a breakfast side just like stewed prunes!

Plantains are an important dietary staple in many countries around the world. They are very useful plants as every part is used: the fruits (ripe and green), the flower, the heart, the starchy roots, and even the leaves and outer fibers are utilized in many ways - from food to packaging.

2-4 Servings


2 Ripe Plantains
2 Tbsp Jaggery/Brown Sugar or to taste
Pappadums (fried) to serve (optional)


Bring half a cup of water to boil in a pan large enough to accommodate the plantain.

Add the jaggery and let it dissolve completely.

Cut the unpeeled plantains into three or four pieces crosswise.

Place the plantains into the jaggery water in the pan, cover and let it come to a boil.

Reduce the heat and let it simmer for 15 to 20 minutes or the plantain is tender and almost all of the water has evaporated.

Remove from heat and let cool a little.

Although typically served at room temperature, pazha nurukku may be served hot, warm, or cool with a meal or as a snack with some pappadums if you like. Enjoy!!

Monday, July 27, 2015

Instant Uthappam (Indian Pancakes With Veggies)

Uthappams are reminiscent of a pizza minus the cheese and no gluten since only rice and besan (garbanzo flour) are used. They are wonderfully flavorful pancakes; traditionally Uthappams are made with Dosa or Idli batter. So, what does one do if there is no leftover batter? I made these wonderful Uthappams with a fresh batter using flours which worked very well.

Rice flour, garbanzo flour, asafetida, etc are readily available in Indian markets.

Uthappam With Dal Chutney 
Uthappams are very popular for brunch. They may be eaten any time of day although not typically for breakfast. Serve them with one of more of your favorite chutneys - Dal, coconut, sweet potato, or bell pepperSambar and raitas are popular accompaniments also.


1 Carrot, shredded
1 small Onion, any color, finely chopped
1 small Bell Pepper,any color, finely diced
1 small Zucchini, shredded
1 ripe Tomato, thinly sliced
1-2 Hot green Chiles, minced
1 small bunch Cilantro, chopped

Veggies for Topping
Veggies mixed & ready 
1 cup Rice flour
1 cup Besan
1 pinch Asafetida
1 pinch Turmeric
1 tsp Kosher or Sea Salt
Oil for cooking


Mix the flours with salt and spices. Add enough water to make a not too thick or thin batter. If you have a little time, add a pinch of yeast to the batter, stir well, and set aside. If you need the batter right away, add a pinch of baking soda instead and stir well.

Prepare the veggies and combine in a bowl.

Now you have a choice to make: 1. mix everything together or 2. keep the veggies as topping. Either way, the pancakes are delicious.

Heat a skillet over medium heat; lightly coat a little oil with a paper towel (be careful to not burn your fingers).

Spread about 1/2 to 3/4 cup of the batter on the skillet, drizzle a few drops of oil all around it, and quickly sprinkle some of the toppings on top of the pancake. You may use a lid to make sure everything cooks well.

Flip the pancake carefully so as not to displace the toppings. Remove to a plate.

Proceed with the rest of the batter to make more uthappams. Any leftover batter may be saved in the fridge for a couple of days.

Serve hot off the griddle or warm with the suggested or your favorite chutneys and a raita if you like.

Cooking the Uthappam
Variation: If it is too much of a bother to keep the topping separate, just go ahead and combine the toppings with the batter and proceed with cooking the uthappams. They will be fine and taste great; just a different look :). I added red cabbage to the list of toppings here.

With the addition of veggies stirred into the batter, the uthappams are often thick; in order to cook better, I make a little hole in the middle and drizzle a little oil while cooking.

Batter with Toppings mixed in
Uthappam all ready to plate

Friday, July 24, 2015

Creamy Cilantro Dip & Dressing

Creamy Cilantro Dressing
Needless to say that we adore this dressing :-) ~ since I keep making quantities of it often! It goes well with green salads with lots of crunchy veggies; our favorite is with main salad meals - the Mexican themed Fiesta Salad for an example. I make a large jar of it and it lasts for a few days of pleasure. It is great as a dip for fresh veggies or as a topping for home-made nachos too.

Fiesta Salad with Frijoles De La Olla
I add a small piece of apple instead of the typical addition of sugar which mellows the bite as well as for a subtle sweetness. Remove and discard cores from chiles if you like the dressing to be mild; if you like it spicy, leave cores in or add more chiles - adjust as you like. The nuts not only give the dressing creaminess, they also add to the body. Feel free to adjust the various ingredients to suit your own taste and requirements; but do try making it.

Pick the key limes that are a little golden (indication of maturity - I think the mature limes are more flavorful than the hard green ones) and heavy for their size; the heavier they are, the more juicier they will be!

Although not a requirement, a high speed blender makes it a breeze; traditional or hand blenders will work fine too. 

Makes about 1 cup (Dressing will stay fresh for about a week)


1 bunch Fresh Cilantro/Coriander
1-3 Fresh Serrano/Jalapeno chiles, stemmed and cored
1-2 cloves fresh Garlic
1 slice fresh Onion
1/2 small apple, cored
1/4 cup Pumpkin Seeds, Cashews, Almonds, or Peanuts
1 tsp Sea Salt
Freshly ground Black Pepper
2 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil

2-3 Key Limes, juiced
Water, as required


If the seeds or nuts are raw, the two options are to use them raw or toasted. If raw, soaking them for a couple of hours or up to overnight will be beneficial. They may be purchased already roasted or roasted at home in the oven or in a dry skillet - either way it should take a few minutes.

Wash and drain the herbs, chiles, garlic, etc. Trim chiles, peel garlic; keep most of the stems of cilantro - just trim the stem ends.

Place the first nine of the ingredients in the carafe of a blender; add half the lime juice and just a couple of tablespoons of water.

Process the dressing until finely pureed and pulverized into a smooth dressing. Scrape down the sides of the carafe with a rubber spatula. Add a little more water as required to facilitate blending.

Taste; adjust the taste with more lime juice, salt, etc.

Pour dressing into a clean glass jar; swirl the carafe with a couple of tablespoons of water to gather up every bit of the dressing and pour into the jar.

Stir well, and thin more with water if necessary.

Taste and adjust with more lime juice or salt as needed.

Drizzle on the salad and mix well.

Eat and Enjoy!!

Creamy Cilantro Dressing With Salad

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Multi-Grain Spiced Kichdi (Multi-Grain Risotto With Indian Spices)

I love this well-spiced Masala Kichdi with assorted grains and lentils - it is hearty as it is delicious and I could eat it every day! It is fragrantly spiced but not hot and is suitable for children as well. When serving you may want to remove the chiles to avoid a child or someone unfamiliar with Indian food getting an unpleasant surprise! Although the chiles give a wonderful aroma to the food, they are not meant to be eaten.

Obviously you don't absolutely have to have so many different kinds of grains and lentils to make it wonderful; just a couple each will do just fine; the basic proportions are 1 part grain to 1, 2, or 3 parts legumes (dals) - use whatever combinations beguile you. I wanted to see how many different kinds I could put in; Red, Black, or Arborio rice and Amaranth are a couple of more possible additions.

I prepare the Kichdi in the pressure cooker. Prepare the seasonings and add to the cooker and proceed according to manufacturer's directions on using the pressure cooker. I always make this amount or more as kichdi stays fresh for about a week and freezes well. It thickens upon cooling; add a little hot water to thin as required.
Multigrain Kichdi

Kichdi Mix: Combine the following grains and legumes and keep them in a jar. When you want to make kichdi, you just have to measure it out! 1/8 cup each Assorted Grains: Barley, Brown Rice, Quinoa, Steel cut Oats, Cracked Wheat, Farro, etc. 1/8 cup each Assorted Lentils/Legumes: yellow Toor Dal or split peas, split Mung Dal  (with/without skin), Chana Dal, Masoor Dal (red lentils), Red Chori/Black-eyed Peas, etc. You may use as few or as many types of the grains and beans. There should be either 1:1, 1:2, or 1:3 ratio of lentils/beans to grains - I tend to use a 1:1 or 1:2 ratio, our family likes the taste and texture that more legumes add to the kichdi!

Kichdi Mix With Assorted Grains and Dals
 2 cups Kichdi Mix
1 Tbsp Coconut Oil
1 piece 2" Cinnamon Stick
7-8 Cloves
2 Cardamoms (optional)
5 Dry Red Chiles
1/2 tsp EACH - Cumin and Fennel Seeds
2 Tbsp grated fresh Ginger
1 pinch Asafetida/Hing
1 stem fresh Curry Leaves
1/2 tsp Turmeric
1-2 tsp Sea Salt
Earth Balance (vegan Butter substitute) to serve
Raita,  Beet Salad, Chutneys, Pickles, Papadams, etc to serve


Soak the kichdi mix in a bowl with plenty of water to cover; let soak for half an hour. If you prefer to cook right away, soaking is not absolutely necessary - although soaking may have the benefit of hydrating, ridding any undesirable elements like arsenic and phytic acid as well as helping to cook  a little faster.)

Rinse and drain well; have 5 to 7 cups of water ready; adding more water makes for a soft kichdi (like that pictured) .

Heat the oil over medium heat in a large dutch oven or pot and add cinnamon stick, cloves, cardamoms, and red chiles; reduce the heat to low, add the cumin and fennel and stir well and cook until spices brown a little and are fragrant.

Stir in ginger, curry leaves and asafetida carefully; cook for a few seconds.

Tip the grains in and then the water carefully into the pot.

Add turmeric and salt; stir well and bring to a boil.

Reduce heat and simmer slightly covered stirring occasionally until all the lentils are soft (about 40 minutes) adding a little hot water as necessary. Let rest covered for 10 minutes.

The kichdi should be soft and creamy but not soupy.

Serve hot with a pat of Earth Balance if you like. Kichdi is traditionally served with raita, pickles and papadams. A chopped salad may be served instead of the raita.

Masala Kichdi

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Frijoles De La Olla (Flavorful Bean Stew)

This simple but rib-sticking stew, is made with various beans in different parts of Mexico; although different, they are seriously yummy. We often think of pinto beans as the traditional frijoles; but other beans such as black, kidney, and Peruano are also used; I have seen some cooks mix pinto and kidney beans for a colorful dish. Whichever beans you use, it is sure to become a favorite!

Onions, a bit of garlic, fresh or dried chiles, a splash of oil or a pat of butter, etc may be added to the olla (cooking pot) depending on the individual cook. Some people cook the beans with the chopped onions and garlic which cook and melt into the beans without a trace. One woman told me that she cooks the onions in oil until they are practically black, strains out the onions, and adds the oil to the beans for the best flavored beans! Though I have tried the various recipes (not the blackened onion though) and enjoyed them all,  from the simplest - which is just plain beans cooked with a chile or two, and a little salt, to beans cooked with onions and garlic sauteed in a little splash of oil.

Frijoles De La Olla is very useful to have on hand; I like to cook a great big batch of beans to use in various recipes during the week as well as freeze a few portions for a 'rainy' day! Besides being delicious on their own, Seven Layer Dip, Mexican Lasagna, Tortilla soup, and Enfrijoladas are just a few of the recipes that could be prepared utilizing these beans. If you mash up the beans, you will have something like  Frijoles Mexicana or soft beans perfect for heaping on Tostadas or rolling up in burritos. I often serve them as part of a "one-plate meal" salad.

The way these beans disappear, it is probably good to make a double or triple batch to make sure everybody gets their fair share :)! This recipe may be doubled or tripled - just make sure you use a large enough cooking pan to accommodate the larger amount of beans. Soaking is not strictly necessary but cuts down on cooking time and may aid digestibility. As always, pressure cooking the beans significantly helps to cut down on cooking time as well as fuel.

Black Bean Frijoles With Salad
8 Servings


2 cups Pinto, Black or Peruano Beans
1 - 2 Dried/fresh hot chile
1 Onion, finely chopped
1-2 cloves fresh Garlic, minced
1 - 2 Tbsp good Olive Oil
1/2 tsp Turmeric
1 tsp Smoked Paprika (optional)
1 tsp Sea Salt or to taste

Toppings for serving:
Salsa of your choice
Avocado cubes
Non-dairy Sour Cream
Non-dairy Cheese
Chopped onions
Romaine lettuce
Pickled Vegetables


Clean and sort the beans, rinse, cover with plenty of fresh water and let soak overnight.

Drain the beans, rinse and add enough fresh water to cover the beans by about an inch. Add the whole chiles on top.

Bring to a boil and reduce heat so the beans are simmering gently; cook until soft stirring occasionally. Add boiling water as necessary if the beans dry out. The beans may be pressure cooked also. When the beans are done, fish out the chiles and discard.

While the beans are cooking, prepare the onion and garlic.

Heat the oil in a large pan and cook the onions and garlic with a pinch of salt and turmeric stirring often until golden.

Stir in the paprika, and cook for another minute.

Tip the spice-onion mix into the beans and simmer for at least 30 minutes; they could be simmered up to 1 hour or so. Just make sure to stir occasionally and add hot water as necessary.

Serve hot or warm with your favorite toppings.

Any leftovers may be stored in the fridge or in the freezer for longer storage.