Sunday, May 13, 2018

Smoky Lentil Soup With Picada

We love all things lentil and this Spanish-style lentil soup is a favorite! Lentil soup can serve as a main dish, light meal or as a starter. 

The soup begins with preparing a flavorful base called sofrito, common to most soups, an aromatic combination of onion, celery, and carrots (love to add lots of carrots which add color, texture, and sweetness) plus garlic, tomato and smoky roasted peppers. The soup is finished with a nutty picada, a thick pesto-like sauce made of toasted bread, almonds, garlic, parsley, and a bit of olive oil. Typically the bread is fried in oil; but in order to keep the oil to a minimum, I opted to toast it instead. The soup is delicious just as it is, but the picada takes it to the next level. Picada is usually added towards the end of cooking.


Leftovers are fabulous for about a week or maybe frozen for up to 3 months. Or, turn the delicious leftovers into a yummy casserole: stir the soup into cooked grains and bake under a light blanket of your favorite vegan cheese and a sprinkle of seasoned regular/gluten-free bread or cracker crumbs until heated through and the crumbs are golden and crisp. 


Notes: 

The picada and sofrito maybe made ahead and kept in the fridge for a few days or frozen for longer storage. If you prepare extra sofrito, it can be added to boost the flavor of sauces, soups, stews, etc.


Parsnips maybe subbed for some or all of the carrots with great results. 

Instead of all almonds in the picada, half almonds and half hazel nuts maybe used.


Roasted piquillo peppers (available already roasted in jars/cans in the Latin Foods section of markets), maybe used instead of the roasted red bell peppers; use about 1/2 cup.

Servings

Picada

Ingredients:

2 slices day-old baguette or 1 slice Italian bread (about 1/2-inch thick)

2 tsp extra-virgin olive oil, plus more if needed
1 Garlic clove, thinly sliced
4 Tbsp whole or slivered Almonds, skinless
4 Tbsp flat-leaf or Italian Parsley, coarsely chopped
Kosher salt, to taste

Method:

Trim off the crust 
 from the bread slices if you like. Toast the bread using a toaster until just golden; but not too browned. Cool and cut or break up the bread into small cubes or pieces.


Toast the almonds in a dry skillet until light gold and fragrant; or use purchased toasted unsalted almonds. Pour into a plate and let cool.


Alternatively, the bread cut into cubes and almonds maybe toasted together for about 7-8 minutes or until light gold on a cookie sheet in a 350 degree F oven. Remove promptly, pour into a cool plate and let cool.


Cook the garlic in one teaspoon of the olive oil in a small skillet over low-medium heat stirring frequently until just beginning to turn golden, about 2 - 3 minutes or so. 


Remove the pan from heat and let cool. 


Transfer the bread and the almonds to the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade and process until finely chopped.


Tip in the garlic with any oil remaining in the skillet, rest of the oil, and the parsley to the food processor bowl with the almond mixture. 


Pulse until finely chopped and well mixed for a coarse picada, or a few more times for a smooth paste (you may add a bit more olive oil a little at a time if you like to obtain a more sauce-like consistency). Alternatively, use a mortar and pestle to pound the picada into a coarse or smooth paste.


Spoon into a bowl or jar with a well-fitting lid.


If made ahead, keep the picada in the fridge for a week or in the freezer for up to six months.


Lentil Soup

Ingredients:

2 cups Lentils, soaked for 30 minutes and rinsed
1-3 tsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 large Onion, finely diced
1-2 Celery ribs, finely diced
large Carrot, finely diced
2-3 cloves Garlic, minced
Kosher Salt and freshly ground Black Pepper, to taste
2 large Red Bell Peppers (freshly roasted/purchased), coarsely chopped
1 (28-oz) can whole Tomatoes, divided
1 Tbsp fresh Thyme, finely chopped (or 1 tsp dried)
1/2 tsp Turmeric
1-2 tsp Smoked Paprika
1/4 - 1/2 tsp Cayenne (optional)
2 Bay Leaves
3-4 cups Vegetable Broth or water
1 to 3 Tbsp Picada, or to taste 
4 Tbsp Flatleaf Parsley, finely chopped

Method:

Soak the lentils in lots of water to cover for 30 to 60 minutes. Drain, rinse, and place in a pot.


Cook the lentils until quite tender in water to cover. Cooking maybe done using a regular pot, a pressure cooker or an instant pot. Set aside until needed.


Drain the tomatoes over a bowl to catch all the juices; crush the tomatoes coarsely with your hand or use a blender and keep them and the juices separate.

Heat a soup pot over medium heat. 

Add  the oil, 
bay leaves, and onion with a pinch of salt, and cook covered until soft but not browned, stirring occasionally, about 7 to 8 minutes over low-medium heat. Sprinkle a little water if the onions dry out.

Tip in the celery and carrot and cook covered, stirring occasionally, until softened - about 7 minutes or so. 

Stir in the garlic and cook for about another minute until garlic is softened.


Tip the crushed tomato pieces into the onion mixture and cook for a minute or two, stirring well until hot and well mixed.


Add the tomato juices, bell peppers, thyme, turmeric, smoked paprika, cayenne if using, cooked lentils with the cooking broth, salt, and freshly ground pepper.


Stir in some or all of the vegetable broth as needed to get the right consistency.

Add boiling water to thin the soup, if needed. B
ring the soup to a boil. 

When the soup comes a boil, lower the heat, and simmer partially covered for about 15 to 20 minutes stirring occasionally. 


Stir in enough of the picada to flavor the soup to your taste and continue to simmer for a couple of minutes. 


Turn off the heat, stir in the parsley, cover, and let rest for 5-10 minutes. 


Remove the bay leaves and discard them. Taste the soup and add more picada or seasonings if needed.


Serve hot and pass the rest of the picada at the table.

Enjoy!!

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Non-Dairy Sambharam Or Namkin Lassi (Savory Spiced Lime/Lemon Mojito)

Non-Dairy Sambharam or Namkin (savory or salted) Lassi is a savory summertime mojito! It is a very popular cooling yogurt-based beverage all over India; Southern Indians call it Sambharam, Neer Mor, or Karacha Mor whereas in the North it is Namkin Lassi, Chaas, etc. This wonderful thirst-quenching beverage is also enjoyed in other areas of the world; my Armenian friends call it Tahn and Turkish call it Ayran! Some of the ingredients may vary, but the basics are the same - yogurt and water.

In India this beverage is made with cultured buttermilk; first the milk is cultured and set, then it is churned to remove the butter. What is left is low-fat buttermilk and it is consumed as is or in recipes.

Regular Sambharam was prepared especially in the summer to offer to pilgrims; my grandparents offered it to the yearly pilgrims who came by the house as well as the workers toiling in the hot tropical sun on their farm. We also enjoyed sambharam with the noon meal. If one wanted to go very light for an evening meal, one would take a small amount of cooked, mashed rice and make a kanji-like concoction with lots of the sambharam for "karacha mor sadam".

Sambharam was prepared simply with crushed lime leaves or curry leaves and a little salt in our homes. In lassi other ingredients such as roasted and ground cumin, black salt, black pepper or mint leaves maybe used. Although we mostly keep it simple at home, we do enjoy all the variations.

When we wanted to make it non-dairy, first I made it when I was making Cashew Cream/Yogurt; I added water and seasonings to the remnants left in the blender jar and voila! I had a delicious sambharam-like beverage. Shobhaa made the delicious lassai at home with coconut milk. We were at a restaurant in Delhi and the whole group wanted Namkin Lassi; not to leave me out, ingenious Shobhaa quickly went out to purchase a small carton of coconut milk and had the kitchen make the lassi for me! 

Coconut milk, plain coconut, cahew or almond yogurt, etc may be used to make Non-Dairy Sambharam/Namkin Lassi. Other unflavored non-dairy milks maybe used as well. The amount of coconut milk or yogurt and lime/lemon juice maybe adjusted to suit your preferences.

2 Servings

Ingredients:

1/2 cup Coconut Milk/Yogurt
2 cups Cool or Cold Water
1/2 tsp Salt
1/2 small Hot Green Chile (any kind)
1 stem Fresh Curry Leaves
1 Lime/Lemon, juiced (start with 1/2 the amount)
1 Tbsp fresh Cilantro/Coriander
Ice cubes

Optional Garnishes:
Finely chopped Cilantro/Coriander
A sprig of Mint
A pinch of Roasted and ground Cumin
A little sprinkle of cayenne
A slice of Lime/Lemon
A thin slice of Green Chile

Method:

I like to chill regular coconut milk to let the cream rise to the top and keep the cream for other uses.Then use the skimmed milk part to make the sambharam/lassi.

Place all the ingredients in the carafe of a blender; add only half the lime/lemon juice at first. Whirl until liquified. Taste and add more lime/lemon, salt, etc to taste. If you like it super cold, a few ice cubes maybe added to the blender with the ingredients or pour the sambharam/lassi over some. Add some of the garnishes if you like. Enjoy!!

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!!