Thursday, September 27, 2007

Cilantro Pesto With Cashews

This beautiful emerald green cilantro pesto is fabulous stirred into hot/cold pasta or soups, spread on sandwiches and wraps, as a dip for warm bread, or diluted with more olive oil and some lemon juice to make a delicious salad dressing. It makes a great appetizer too: Swirl a spoonful or two into Hummus or place a spoonful in a small saucer of extra virgin olive oil to serve with any kind of good crusty bread. This beautiful pesto, which is very similar to the Indian chutneys, has a little kick to it because of the red or Jalapeño chili!

This pesto can be made without the cheese or nuts for vegans/people with allergies.

Cilantro, Parmesan cheese, Olive Oil, Salt, Garlic,
Toasted Pumpkin seeds and Dry Red Chili


2 large bunches of Cilantro
5 cloves fresh Garlic
1/3 cup extra virgin Olive Oil (plus a little more for covering the top)
1/2 tsp Salt
1/3 cup grated Parmesan Cheese, (Optional)
1/4 cup Cashews or other nuts or seeds (Optional)
1 dry red chili or 1 green Jalapeño chili
1 tsp dry roasted Whole Cumin Seeds, ground


Roast the nuts/seeds you are using in a dry skillet without any oil to a pale gold. Remove from heat. Break the red chili if using, into two pieces and shake out and discard the seeds and stir into the warm nuts/seeds. Place the whole thing on a heat-resistant plate or bowl and set aside to cool.

Sort the cilantro to remove weeds and yellow or spoiled leaves. Wash thoroughly in several changes of fresh water. Drain well and trim off the stems about an inch below the leaves.

Peel garlic and trim the stem end. Cut Jalapeño if using, into two (remove the seeds and membranes for a milder pesto).

Place cilantro, cumin, garlic, nuts and the salt and process in a food processor container fitted with the metal blade or a blender until finely minced. You may have to scrape the sides to push all the ingredients into the blades a few times. Pour the olive oil in a thin stream through the chute while the machine is running and process to a smooth puree. Add Parmesan cheese and pulse until mixed thoroughly. Remove to a clean, dry glass jar; add a thin layer of olive oil to cover the top and keep refrigerated until needed.

Variations: Almonds, pistachios, or pumpkin seeds (pepitas) could be substituted for the cashews. One can also make the pesto with one bunch each of cilantro and Italian parsley (flat leaf type).

Makes about 8 to 10 ounces

Hummus with Cilantro Pesto

Here is a lovely version of hummus with a little cilantro pesto and roasted cumin seeds for an Indian touch! Serve with the traditional pita triangles, toasted bread, or crisp vegetables including Romaine Lettuce hearts.


Cooked Chick Peas, Lemon, Tahini, Garlic, Cumin, Cayenne & Salt


1 cup dry Chick peas (garbanzo beans)
4 or 5 cloves of fresh Garlic
1 large Lemon, or to taste
1 tsp Cumin seeds
1/8 tsp ground Dry Red Chili (Cayenne) or to taste
1 tsp Salt
1/4 cup Tahini (Sesame Butter)
Chopped fresh Cilantro, for garnish
Extra virgin olive oil, Paprika or Cayenne for sprinkling on top (optional)


Sort the chick peas to remove discolored peas or other organic matter such as little rocks. Rinse the chick peas well and soak in plenty of water to cover overnight or at least 5 or 6 hours. If you are in a hurry, pour boiling water over the chick peas and let them soak for 2 hours. Drain the soaked chick peas by either method and cook in water to cover (about four cups) with a pinch of salt until they are very soft; this might take at least an hour or a little more. A pressure cooker greatly shortens the time of cooking as well as conserving fuel. Let cool.

Peel garlic and trim off the stem ends. Toast the cumin seeds in a dry skillet until fragrant. Transfer immediately to a saucer to cool. Cumin seeds may be used without toasting as well. Finely grind the cumin seeds using a mortar and pestle or a spice grinder. Grinding the cumin can be omitted if you are using a blender for making the hummus; the seeds don't get pulverized enough in a food processor. Squeeze the Lemon and discard the seeds and rinds.

You may have to make the hummus in small batches depending on the blender/food processor. Place the garlic, cumin, salt and tahini into the food processor container fitted with the metal blade or a blender container. Transfer the cool chick peas with a slotted spoon to the blender/processor container; set aside the cooking liquid to use as needed during processing. Add the lemon juice and process to a smooth puree scraping down the sides occasionally. Add the cooking liquid from the chick peas or cold water as needed to moisten the hummus to desired consistency and process until smooth.

Combine the batches of hummus and adjust salt and lemon to your taste. Do not be concerned if the hummus is a bit runny; it thickens upon standing. Chill until ready to serve.

Place the hummus in a serving dish (if it is too thick, thin to desired consistency with a little of the cooking liquid or cold water). Swirl a spoonful or two of the cilantro pesto into the hummus for a marbled effect. If desired, drizzle with a little extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle a little paprika or cayenne and chopped cilantro.

Serve at room temperature with fresh warm pita bread, naan or chapati triangles, tortilla chips or your favorite raw vegetables including Romaine lettuce hearts.

Serves 6 to 8

Variations: Roasted vegetables such as carrots or red bell pepper are good processed along with the chick peas. Adjust the amount of chick peas used depending on the amount of roasted veggies. Also adjust the seasoning to your taste. The traditional pesto with basil could be substituted for the cilantro pesto.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Fragrant Barley-Mung Dal Soup With Winter Squash and Carrots

Mung dal cooks up so luxuriously velvety, one has to experience it! Mung Dal used here is skinless and split, is a lovely yellow color, and cooks very quickly in about 20 minutes compared to regular split peas (they are good too) which can take as much as an hour or more to reach creaminess. I make this soup often for family and friends who just can't get enough of it! It is full of the goodness of squash and carrots and redolent with the fragrant spices.

The only problem was that our family did not care for the veggies that become mushy when cooked. Pureed veggies were alright at first but kind of boring and pasty without the texture.

So one day I had the grand inspiration to grate the veggies for the soup! It was absolutely amazing; the veggies cooked very fast and and enriched the soup beyond imagination:)! Although the grated veggies practically vanished, they still retained their texture and worked their flavor magic too. The soup was wonderfully creamy and fragrant with the veggies distributed throughout!! And it looked absolutely GORGEOUS! Did I say we love this soup :)?

6 - 8 Servings


2 cups split, skinless Mung dal
1/4 cup Barley
1/2 small Kabocha or Butternut squash (Optional)
2 large zucchinis
2 large carrots
1 Tbsp Oil
1 tsp Cumin seeds
1 large red onion, finely chopped
1 Tablespoon fresh Ginger, finely grated
1 green Jalapeno chili, deseeded and minced
1 sprig fresh Curry Leaves, minced
2 tsp Sambar Powder
1 tsp ground Turmeric
2 tsp Salt
Freshly ground Pepper, to taste
1/2 cup chopped cilantro leaves
1 Tablespoon Oil OR Ghee (Indian clarified butter) or unsalted butter
1 tsp Whole Cumin Seeds
1 pinch Asafetida


Check the dal and remove discolored beans, stones and other debris. Wash the dal and barley in plenty of water two or three times and cook in water to cover until very soft and creamy. Dal and barley can be pressure cooked as well.

Wash and grate carrots and zucchini (lightly peel the carrots if you wish). Dice the Kabocha or Butternut Squash into tiny cubes if using. Mince the Jalapeno chili. Finely chop the onion.

Heat the oil with the cumin seeds. When they dance and brown slightly, add the chopped onion, curry leaves, chili, ginger and a pinch of salt. Cook stirring until the onions are soft. Stir in all the spices, salt and then the grated and chopped veggies. Cook and stir for about 2 or 3 minutes. Add enough water to just cover the veggies, about 2 or 3 cups. Let the soup come to a boil, turn heat down, and add the cooked dal. Stir well to mix thoroughly and simmer for 5 minutes. Add boiling water to the desired consistency. Check and add salt and freshly ground pepper to taste if necessary.

Heat the Ghee/oil (or the butter) in a small pan until very hot. Add Cumin seeds and when they brown a little, add the asafetida. Stir in this spicy Ghee and the chopped cilantro into the soup; let sit for 5 minutes or for the flavors to meld. Serve hot.

The leftover soup can be cooled and frozen for up to a three months. Enjoy!!

Carrot Salad With Lime Juice and Mustard Seeds

Carrot Salad is a wonderful crunchy and colorful accompaniment to any meal or snack. It is very simple and quick - if you use a food processor to grate the carrots, it takes next to no time at all:). This recipe is dedicated to all my friends who just adore it! For best results use absolutely fresh carrots and ripe limes which are more yellow than bright green! Don't be alarmed by the term "Tadka/Thalippu" ! It is nothing but a little oil heated with the seasonings to heighten the flavor of the dish.


4 large fresh carrots
1/2 tsp Salt
1 Lime


2 tsp Canola oil
1/2 tsp brown Mustard seeds
1 pinch Asafoetida
2 small Green Chilis, ends slit
1 Sprig Curry leaves


Scrape carrots lightly and cut off the ends. Grate them coarsely. Place the grated carrots in a bowl, sprinkle the salt and squeeze the lime over them. Heat the oil for tadka/thalippu. Add mustard seeds, cover and cook until they pop. Add green chilis, asafoetida and the curry leaves and cook about 30 seconds. Pour the tadka over the carrots and mix well. Serve immediately or cover and chill until needed. The carrot salad will keep in the refrigerator for a few days.


A juicy Meyer lemon or a regular lemon may be substituted for the lime. For a spicier version, deseed (or not!) the green chilies and chop them and proceed as above.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Lemon or Lime Rasam

Lemon/Lime Rasam is a delicate soup with a bright citrus flavor. A rasam of one kind or another was always a must in our grandparents' home. Rasams are part of the everyday meals as well as banquets in South India. They make a fabulous beginning or end to a meal or a light meal with rice.

Rice mixed with Lemon/Lime Rasam, carrot salad, cabbage thoran,
roasted papadams, and homemade yogurt.


1/8 cup Toor Dal
1 pinch salt
1 pinch ground Turmeric

2 medium Tomatoes, coarsely chopped
1/4 tsp ground Turmeric
1/2 tsp Salt
1 Tbsp Rasam Powder
1 large Lime or Meyer Lemon (or a regular lemon)


2 tsp Ghee or oil
1/2 tsp Mustard seeds
1/2 tsp Cumin (Jeera) seeds
1 dry whole Red Chili
1 pinch Asafoetida (Hing)
1 sprig fresh Curry leaves
2 Tbsp chopped fresh Coriander/Cilantro (Dhania/Kothumalli)


Cook Toor dal with the pinch of turmeric and salt in 2 cups of water until very soft and creamy; set aside.

Place the chopped tomatoes in a 2 qt saucepan with turmeric, salt, rasam powder and 1 cup of water. Bring to a boil and simmer until tomatoes are very soft. Mash the dal thoroughly and add enough water to make 3 cups altogether. Add to the tomatoes in the pan. Simmer on medium to low heat until foamy; do not allow it to boil. Turn off heat.

In a small pan prepare the tadka/talippu: heat the ghee or oil and add mustard seeds, cumin seeds and red chili. Cover and cook until the seeds pop and finish their dance; turn off the heat. Quickly add asafoetida and the curry leaves and cover again to avoid the hot oil splashing as fresh curry leaves pop and sputter in the hot oil. Add the whole thing carefully to the rasam. Add the chopped cilantro and let rest for about 5 minutes.

Cut the lime or lemon in half and squeeze the juice. Discard any seeds and the rinds. Stir in the juice, mix well and serve hot in mugs/bowls by itself or mixed with softly cooked rice. Enjoy!


Pappadums (fried or roasted) and simple vegetable curries make wonderful companions for rasam.

If fresh tomatoes are unavailable one can still make this rasam with canned or dried tomatoes or even none at all. If tomatoes are not used, then increase the amount of lime/lemon juice to taste.