Monday, October 15, 2007

Aviyal (Vegetables With Tamarind Coconut Sauce)

A few vegetables suitable for Aviyal

Mmmm... Aviyal! Just the mere sight of the cornucopia of vegetables set aside for the day's meal proclaimed without a doubt what was forthcoming and ensured that there would be no complaints or tears at meal time. The veggie basket was full to the brim with a large slice of winter melon (Chinese name), green unripe bananas or plantains, a type of true yam called 'chenai', carrots, green 'Opo' squash, big golden hued cucumbers, slender green or purple eggplants, long green stick-like moringa pods called 'drumsticks', Gavar or regular green beans and a green mango or two. Aviyal literally means 'this and that' and includes at least 5 to 7 mild veggies or more.

My mother would make a huge pot of aviyal to serve over hot steamed rice accompanied by lots of fried plain papadams; one of the perfectly jubilant meals of our childhood days! Amma loved making aviyal as much as we loved eating it since she could get us to eat lots of veggies, which prepared any other way guaranteed to bring on a spate of complaints and at times even a profuse waterfall of tears! With aviyal she did not have to worry about the children getting their 5 servings of veggies a day:).

Cut vegetables for Aviyal

Ingredients:

Tamarind Water:
1 Golf ball size Dried Tamarind Pulp
2 cups Water
1 teaspoon ground Turmeric
2 teaspoons Salt (or to taste)

Vegetables:
1/2 small Lauki (Opo Squash)
2 Zucchinis
2 Japanese or Chinese Eggplants
2 Carrots
1 green Plantain Banana
2 Drum Sticks (Indian Vegetables) Optional
2 Cups Green Beans or Gavar Beans
1 or 2 Potatoes
1 small green or yellow Bell Pepper
1 green unripened Mango, Optional

Masala (Spices)1 Tablespoon Cumin Seeds
1 cup Fresh or Frozen Grated Coconut
1 EACH, Fresh Green Chili and Dry Red Chili, seeds removed
1 teaspoon uncooked Rice

Seasoning:
2 Sprigs Fresh Curry Leaves
2 Tablespoons Coconut Oil

Method:

Make Tamarind water by soaking the tamarind in 1/2 cup of hot water. When softened and cool enough to handle, work with fingers kneading well, and remove and discard any seeds. Pour the tamarind pulp in the blender container with the remaining water and blend smooth. If this process is too much work, then one can buy the Tamarind Paste or Concentrate in a jar and dissolve a Tablespoon of paste or 2 tsp of the concentrate in 2 cups of water. Add turmeric and Salt.

Wash all the veggies, peel Opo squash, Plantains, mangoes and Carrots. The plantains don't need to be peeled like one would an eating banana; use the peeler to just peel the thin outer green skin. Plantains can stain your hands as well as the cutting board; you can use gloves to protect the hands and the cutting board can be cleaned with a mild bleach solution and rinsed well. Cut all the vegetables into julienne pieces about the size of your little finger.

Heat the Tamarind water in a large Dutch Oven. Add the Opo squash, eggplant and Plantains and bring to a boil; now add the rest of the vegetables and bring to a boil again. Reduce the heat and simmer covered, stirring very gently (so as not to crush the veggies) only as needed to keep the veggies from sticking to the bottom of the pot for about 15 minutes or until the vegetables are just tender.

Make the Masala while the veggies are cooking: grind together in the blender the cumin seeds, chilies, rice and the coconut to a smooth paste adding enough water to make blending feasible. When the veggies are tender but not mushy, stir in the Masala. Rinse the blender with a few Tablespoons of water to get all of the masala and pour this into the Aviyal. At this point check to see the consistency of the aviyal. We like the aviyal to have lots of gravy to eat with rice or roti. Add a little more water as desired. Bring to a good rolling boil and turn off the heat. Check for seasoning and add more salt if necessary.

Crush the fresh Curry leaves in your hand to release the flavors and place on top of the aviyal. Pour the Coconut Oil on top and cover the pot immediately. Let sit for 10 minutes for the flavors to meld. This step is very important for the Aviyal. Stir well and serve hot. Aviyal is even better the next day if there is any left ;)!

Aviyal with Roti and a Tangerine


Note: The bananas or plantains and the mangoes must be absolutely green and unripened; even the slightest ripening would change the flavor. For a spicier dish, leave the seeds in the chilies and/or use more chilies. For truly authentic taste, the fresh curry leaves are absolutely a must. Don't waste your money on the dried store bought curry leaves which have no flavor at all.

Here is a way to make your own flavorful dry curry leaves. Wash the fresh curry leaves; spin dry in a salad spinner or just gently towel dry and lay out on a clean, dry towel in a single layer on the counter until completely dry and store them in an airtight container.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Cauliflower with Carrots and Peas

Cauliflower with carrots and peas, Cherry tomato salad, Fresh yogurt, Simple Dal, Roti with ghee

Another everyday vegetable that cooks quickly and is a wonderful accompaniment with a myriad of other dishes! Serve with rice or roti (any whole grain flat bread such as chapati), some dal/bean dish and/or some plain yogurt to provide complete protein. It makes a wonderful veggie wrap rolled up in a Chapati or Whole Wheat Tortilla with a little Cheddar, Jack, Parmesan, or Goatmilk cheese.

Dals are split and skinned dry beans. In addition to being used as main ingredients in many dishes they are also used toasted in the Tadka/Talippu to add a nutty taste and slight crunch in South Indian Cuisine. Urad dal and Chana dal are the traditional dals used in Tadka. Urad dal is creamy white and looks a little like short grain rice; the Chana dal looks like yellow split peas. If these are unavailable, go ahead and make the dish without them since split peas do not make very satisfactory substitutes.

Ingredients:

1 Small Cauliflower
2 Carrots
1 cup Peas, fresh or frozen
1 tsp Salt or to taste
1/2 tsp ground Turmeric

Tadka/Thalippu:

1 or 2 Tbsp Oil
1/2 tsp Brown Mustard Seeds
1 Tbsp Urad dal
1 dry Red Chili
1 pinch Asafoetida
1 sprig Fresh Curry Leaves

Wash the cauliflower and carrots and cut into bite sized pieces.

Heat the oil in a skillet or wok with the mustard seeds, urad dal and red chile. Cover and cook until the mustard seeds finish dancing. Stir in asafoetida and add the curry leaves and cover quickly to avoid hot oil from splashing. Add the cauliflower and carrots and cook covered stirring occasionally until the veggies are just tender (15 to 20 minutes at most). Stir in the peas and cook stirring until warmed through. Serve hot or at room temperature with rice, roti and a dal dish such as simple dal.


Variations: Cumin seeds (1/2 tsp whole or crushed) make a fine addition to the Tadka. A hot green chili can be used instead of the dry red chili. If using a green chili add it along with the onions or veggies. A finely chopped onion may be stirred into the tadka and cooked until onions are soft before adding the veggies. Potato cubes are a great addition and should be added first and cooked for 10 minutes before adding the rest of the veggies. When adding onions and potatoes the salt and chilies may be increased to suit your taste.

Simple Dal (Yellow Split Peas Stew) With Mustard Seeds

Simple Toor Dal

This is a very simple and delicious dish made with skinless Toor dal that can be served alone as a soup or with any kind of rice or breads. Toor dal looks a little like yellow split peas and either the yellow or green split peas can be substituted for the toor dal. The use of a pressure cooker to cook the dal speeds up the process considerably. All one needs to complete the meal is a side vegetable or salad, rice or any kind of bread and a bowl of yogurt.

Ingredients:

1 cup Toor Dal
1/2 tsp ground Turmeric
1 tsp Salt or to taste

Tadka/Thalippu

1 Tbsp Ghee or Oil
1/2 tsp brown Mustard seeds
1/2 tsp Cumin Seeds
1 or 2 pinches Asafoetida
1 green Chili, such as Serrano or Jalapeno
1 sprig Curry Leaves
4 Tbsp Fresh Cilantro Leaves (Dhania/Kothumalli)

Method:

Check for stones then wash the dal. Cook in water to cover with the salt and turmeric until very soft and creamy. Thin the dal with boiling water if a thinner dish is preferred. Set aside.

Prepare tadka: Heat the ghee or oil in a small pan, add the seeds and cover. When the seeds slow down popping, quickly add asafoetida, stir then add the chili and curry leaves. Cover quickly to avoid hot oil splashing as the fresh chili and curry leaves hit the hot oil. Cook for a few seconds and then remove from heat.

Stir the tadka into the dal and mix well.

Stir in the chopped cilantro leaves and serve hot with any type of flat breads like chapati, naan, etc or over hot rice.

Serve with lime or lemon wedges to squeeze over individual servings according to taste. Enjoy!

Variations:

A small chopped onion may be stirred in with a pinch of salt at the same time as the green chili, etc. You may need to increase the amount of ghee or oil to 2 Tbsp to keep the onions from sticking. One large coarsely chopped tomato may be added to the soft onions and cooked until they are soft before adding to the dal.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Jaya Thathi's Apple Carrot Chutney


This fabulous Apple Carrot Chutney is not just pretty on the plate, it is pretty delicious on the palate too! When my mother started making this recipe on a crisp yet sunny fall day many years ago, I was very skeptical about the apple-carrot combination; but Amma just smiled and told me to wait and see. The rest is history!

Autumn with its bounty of fresh apples is the perfect time to make this chutney. The bubbling pot of the apple carrot chutney fills the home with a wonderful aroma and warmth on cool crisp days. A jar of Apple Carrot Chutney makes a wonderful gift for any occasion.

Ingredients:

5 lbs McIntosh Apples
2 lbs Carrots
2.5 lbs Sugar
1 tsp Salt
1 tsp Ground Dry Red Chili
3 Tbsp grated Fresh Ginger
2 Lemons
1/2 tsp freshly ground Cardamom (about 12 pods)
1/4 tsp freshly grated Nutmeg

Method:

Wash the apples, peel, core and dice. Wash, peel and finely dice or shred the carrots. Place apples and salt in a large stock pot with the sugar. Heat, stirring constantly until the sugar draws out the fluid from the apples. Now add the carrots. Stir every few minutes and cook until apples and carrots are soft and the syrup has thickened. Turn off the heat and stir in the ginger, lemon juice and spices. Cool and serve with any meal or bread, toast, cottage cheese or plain yogurt and even ice cream!

For a wonderful appetizer for company, serve the chutney spooned over a mound of cream cheese and sprinkled with coarsely chopped roasted and salted nuts like almonds, pistachios or cashews with whole grain breads, crackers and roasted papadams.

This chutney will last for a few weeks in the refrigerator. Fill sterilized canning jars and process according to manufacturers directions for longer storage.

Note: If McIntosh apples are unavailable, other apples such as Rome beauty, Golden Delicious, Granny Smith, etc. could be substituted alone or in any combination you like. I have made this chutney with Granny Smith alone or with a medley of apples; all were delicious.

This recipe makes enough for about a dozen pint size jars; enough to give a few away to family and friends.

Apple carrot chutney on cinnamon raisin bagel
with cream cheese