Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Lemony Aval (Beaten Rice or Poha With Lime/lemon)

Lemony Aval is another recipe that goes together rather quickly. Fresh or frozen corn kernels, chopped carrots, and/or peas are delicious additions to this dish. Although I prefer lime juice for its wonderful flavor, lemon works just as well.

To see information on aval and the types of aval, click here.

2 to 4 servings


1 cup dry Thick Aval
salt to taste
1 cup Cooked Potatoes, carrots, corn, or peas
2 to 4 Tbsp fresh lime/lemon juice or to taste
Toasted cashew nuts or peanuts for garnish


1 Tbsp Oil
1/2 tsp Brown Mustard Seeds
1 Tbsp EACH Urad and Chana dals
1 green or dry red hot chili
1 pinch asafoetida
1 sprig fresh curry leaves


Place the aval in a bowl and cover with water; pour off the water along with floating pieces of husk, etc. Add 1/4 cup of fresh water. Let soak for about 15 minutes.

Prepare thalippu: heat oil in a seasoned kadai (wok) and add the mustard, dals, and dry chili. When the mustard finishes popping and the dals have turned golden pink, add asafoetida and green chili if using and the curry leaves.

Stir in the turmeric, soaked aval and salt. Add the cooked vegetables of your choice. Cook covered over low heat until hot.

Add lime/lemon juice and mix well.

Serve hot, warm, or at room temperature garnished with the nuts.

Your favorite chutneys, Indian pickles, and/or a raita make nice accompaniments to Lemony Aval.

Puli Aval (Rice Flakes Or Poha With Tamarind)

Now that you have leftover package of Aval after making aval upma, you can make Puli Aval. Instead of going through the long process of making the tamarind sauce, we can take a shortcut by using the ready-to-use mix available in Indian markets called "Puliyogare Mix". Just use more or less of the mix according to your taste.

This is a lovely dish for a picnic.

For information on aval, click here.

4 - 6 Servings


2 cups dry Thick Aval
4 to 6 Tbsp roasted Peanuts or Cashews


1 Tbsp Oil
1/2 tsp Brown Mustard Seeds
1 Tbsp EACH Urad and Chana dals
1 or 2 dry red hot chili
1 pinch Asafoetida
1 sprig fresh curry leaves
Puliyogare Mix to taste


Place the aval in a bowl and cover with water; pour off the water along with floating pieces of husk, etc. Add 1/2 cup of fresh water. Let soak for about 15-20 minutes.

Prepare thalippu: heat oil in a seasoned kadai (wok) and add the mustard, dals, and dry chili. When the mustard finishes popping and the dals have turned golden pink, add asafoetida and the curry leaves.

Stir in the soaked aval and puliyogare mix. There is already salt in the puliyogare mix so taste test before adding any more salt. Cook covered over low heat until hot stirring once in a while. Taste and add salt if needed.

Sprinkle freshly roasted peanuts or cashews on top just before serving.

Serve hot, warm, or at room temperature with a chopped tomato salad and papadams.

Aval Upma (Basic Seasoned Poha or Rice Flakes)

Thick Aval

Aval Upma is another emergency dish that goes together rather quickly just like cream of wheat Upma. Aval is the Malayalam/Tamil word for flattened rice flakes (powa or poha in Hindi). It has been eaten in India since antiquity and is the Indian equivalent for oatmeal. It is a good staple to have on hand to make porridge to desserts which cook quickly. When we were growing up, Amma used to make aval soaked in hot milk with a little sugar called Pal Aval for a quick and simple after-school or afternoon snack. And if some raisins, nuts, and/or sliced bananas were added to Pal Aval, we felt we had Manna from Heaven!

There are two types of aval/poha - thick and thin. For preparing upma, I prefer the thick kind. The thin kind is good for porridge or payasams (puddings). If you are using "dessicated coconut" (dry and unsweetened) in place of the fresh or frozen coconut, use only half the given amount and reconstitute it with a little water for about five minutes before adding to the upma.

4-6 servings


2 cups dry Thick Aval
salt to taste
2 to 4 Tbsp grated coconut, fresh or frozen


1 Tbsp Oil
1/2 tsp Brown Mustard Seeds
1 Tbsp EACH Urad and Chana dals
1 green and/or dried red hot chili
1 pinch Asafoetida (Optional)
1 sprig fresh curry leaves


Place the aval in a bowl and cover with water; pour off the water along with floating pieces of husk, etc. Add 1/2 cup of fresh water. Let soak for about 15-20 minutes.

Prepare thalippu: heat oil in a seasoned kadai (wok) and add the mustard, dals, and dry chili. When the mustard finishes popping and the dals have turned golden pink, add asafoetida, finely chopped green chili (remove the seeds and membranes to temper the heat) and the curry leaves.

Stir in the soaked aval and salt. Cook covered over low heat stirring occasionally until hot.

Add coconut and mix well.

Serve hot or warm with your favorite chutneys such as the coconut, green chili, red bell pepper, or coriander/mint or any Indian pickles. Enjoy!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Tangy Red Bell Pepper and Coconut Chutney With Tamarind

A Favorite Meal: Rice, Bell Pepper Chutney, Veggies

The sunset colored Bell Pepper Chutney is another of Amma's fantastic contributions to my culinary repertoire. Amma often made it to accompany Dosa, Adai, simple dal, Molakootal, or Molagushyam. Red bell chutney raises the taste quotient of an otherwise simple or bland meal.

Makes about 2 cups


1 Tbsp oil
3 Tbsp Urad dal
1 Tbsp Coriander seeds
1 or 2 red dry or fresh chilies (or more to taste)
1 pinch ground asafoetida (Hing)
2 large fresh red bell peppers
1 red or brown onion (optional)
A few curry leaves, about 12
½ cup fresh or thawed frozen grated coconut
1 tsp Sea Salt or to taste
A cherry sized ball, dry tamarind pulp or lemon juice to taste


Roast the whole bell peppers and the onions whole in a 425 F oven until the skins are charred. Cover them until cool, and peel the skins off. Remove the stems and seeds of the pepper and trim the onion. Alternately, the veggies can be chopped and added to the toasted ingredients and cooked until soft.

Heat oil in a small skillet and lightly brown the urad dal, coriander, and chilies. Turn off the heat and add the curry leaves and stir. Let cool.

Grind the bell peppers, onion and the rest of the ingredients with just enough water (add water a Tbsp at a time) into a smooth puree using a blender.

Taste for salt and add more if needed. Set aside or chill until needed.

This chutney will last for about a week or so in the refrigerator.

Serve with dosa or as a dip or condiment with sandwiches and snacks.

Gratin: Potatoes, Butternut Squash, And Sweet Potatoes With Leeks & Fennel

Gratin is a wonderful and absolutely delicious make-ahead dish perfect for pot-lucks and parties. The vegetables are layered like a lasagna with the fragrant leeks and fennel and some cheese strewn between each layer. It is even better reheated the next day; so do make some extra :). I love to make this particular combination of autumn veggies for our Thanksgiving or Holiday dinner. The hot gratin is lovely served over the greens - which wilt and add another dimension to the taste sensation. It can star as a great starter too. 

8 - 10 servings


1 large Potato
1 large Zucchini
1 large Sweet potato or Yam
1 small Butternut Squash


3 large Leeks
2 medium bulbs Fresh Fennel
2 cloves regular or 1 clove Elephant Garlic
2 Tbsp Each chopped fresh Parsley, Marjoram, and Thyme (+ extra for garnish)
1/2 tsp Salt
Freshly ground Black Pepper
2 oz. Vegetarian Provolone, Fontina, or Mozzarella Cheese
2 oz. grated Vegetarian Parmesan Cheese

Steeped Milk:

2 cups any type Milk
5 sprigs Italian Parsley, Thyme, and Marjoram
1 Tbsp Crushed Fennel Seeds
1/2 tsp Whole Black Pepper
1/4 tsp Salt
a few gratings of Nutmeg (about 1/8 tsp)

Arugula or spinach leaves to serve (Optional)


Wash all the veggies and drain well.

Trim root ends and the dark green tops off the leeks. Cut into halves lengthwise and wash well including between the layers where sand and soil tend to hide. Drain well and slice thinly.

Trim off root end and any discolored parts from the fennel bulbs and quarter them; slice thinly.

Heat the olive oil in a wide skillet and add the leeks with a pinch of salt. Cook for about 5 minutes stirring often.

Add the fennel, garlic, the rest of the salt and lots of freshly ground pepper and cook for about 5 more minutes.

Remove from heat and cool; stir in the chopped herbs.

While the leek mixture is cooling combine the milk, herb sprigs, whole black pepper, and crushed fennel seeds.

Warm the milk until very hot; steep for 10 minutes on low heat. Strain and discard the herbs and season with the salt and nutmeg.

Thinly slice the potatoes, zucchini, butternut squash, and the sweet potatoes and keep them separated.

Shred the cheeses and combine.


Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Coat a 9 by 13 inch baking pan with cooking spray, oil, or butter.

Layer # 1. Place the potato slices in an overlapping layer to cover the bottom of the baking pan. Sprinkle with salt and a generous amount of freshly ground pepper. Sprinkle with a third of the leek-fennel mixture and a quarter of the cheeses.

Layer # 2. Repeat layering with sweet potato slices; sprinkle the top with salt and a generous amount of fresh ground pepper. Sprinkle with a third of the leek-fennel mixture and a quarter of the cheeses.

Layer # 3. Layer the zucchini slices; sprinkle the top with salt and a generous amount of fresh ground pepper. Sprinkle with the last third of the leek-fennel mixture and a quarter of the cheeses.

Layer # 4. Make an overlapping layer of the butternut squash to completely cover.

Pour the hot steeped milk over the veggie layers carefully.

Cover and bake for 1 hour or until veggies are tender.

Sprinkle the last quarter of the cheese on top and bake uncovered for 15 more minutes or until the cheese melts and turns golden.

Remove from the oven and let rest for 15 minutes.

Sprinkle with chopped fresh herbs.

Cut into pieces and lift each piece with a spatula so that each serving includes all the layers intact.

Serve hot as is or over the greens.


Thursday, December 11, 2008

Valencian Gypsy Soup (Olla Gitana)

Olla Gitana (pronounced "oyya hitana") is practically a meal in a bowl! It is a lovely Spanish style soup redolent with saffron, perhaps the most expensive of all spices. The use of winter squash such as small sweet pumpkins, butter nut or kabocha squash produces a full flavored and filling soup. You can also use sweet potatoes or American yams instead of the winter squash. Citrus scented cilantro adds a warm sunny flavor to this soup but parsley is lovely as well. Serve it with the Beetroot Salad and corn muffins or a crusty bread with your favorite cheeses for a winter celebration.

6-8 Servings

1 cup dried chick peas (garbanzo beans), soak for 8 hours or overnight
¼ cup barley (Optional)
Picada: 1 Slice country style bread (like Italian), 12 raw almonds, 2 cloves garlic, 1 Tbsp apple-cider vinegar
1 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, diced
1 tbsp sweet paprika
1/4 to 1/2 tsp ground dry red chilies (Cayenne)
2 large tomatoes, diced
1 pinch of saffron threads
½ lb green beans cut in bite size pieces
11/2 cups winter squash, peeled and diced coarsely
Salt, freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup Fresh Parsley or Cilantro, chopped


Put soaked and drained chick peas, barley, and a little salt in a large pot and add 2 quarts of water.

Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer partially covered until tender. Set aside.

Prepare the picada: toast the bread; dry roast the almonds.

Heat the olive oil in a large pot and cook the garlic cloves until slightly golden; remove and add to the picada ingredients. Save the rest of the oil in the pot to proceed with making the soup.

Pulverize the bread, almonds, and the sauteed garlic clove using a blender or mortar and pestle into a fine paste with the vinegar and some broth from the soup.

In the rest of the oil in the pot, add onions with a pinch of salt and cook over medium heat stirring until onions are translucent.

Stir in paprika and ground red chili; stir and cook for 2 minutes.

Add the tomatoes and cook for 5 to 7 minutes.

Sir in saffron, chick peas with their cooking liquid, salt to taste and the picada; bring to a boil.

Add green beans, squash, boiling water to thin the soup to your desired consistency and simmer for 15 minutes or until the veggies are tender.

Turn off heat, stir in chopped cilantro or parsley and season to taste with more salt and freshly ground pepper. Allow to rest for 10 minutes.

Serve hot with corn muffins.

Beetroot Salad

The simple Beet Salad brightens up winter menus deliciously. It can be made with uncooked carrots and beets also. The crunchy, juicy, and sweet Asian pear or jicama (a Mexican root vegetable usually eaten raw) is great in this salad. Jicama (pronounced hee-ka-ma) tastes a bit like the Asian pear.

4 Servings


2 medium Beets
1 medium Carrot
1 small Onion
Sea Salt to taste
1 Lime/Lemon
Chopped fresh Cilantro for garnishing
Diced peeled Jicama OR Asian Pear for garnishing
Fresh Pomegranate arils for garnishing


Steam the beets and carrot lightly until barely tender but still retain their crunch; cool and cut into 1/2" cubes.

Cut the onion into small cubes while the beets are cooling. Place them in a colander and pour a cup of boiling water over them; drain well and let cool.

Place the onions in a bowl; sprinkle a pinch of salt over them and squeeze the lime/lemon juice. Let marinate for a few minutes.

Stir in the cubes of carrots and beets with a little more salt and mix well.

Taste; add more lime or salt as needed.

Sprinkle the cilantro, jicama, and the pomegranate arils on top and serve or chill until needed. Enjoy!!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Banana Bread

Here is a recipe for a delightful and rich tasting banana bread made without any eggs or dairy products. I have eliminated not only the eggs, but the butter as well :). No eggs/butter = no cholesterol! This is a tried and true recipe: Chellu loves it!

A wonderful use for those overripe bananas which are past their prime and on the way to the compost bin! Also, I like baking in a shallow pan rather than in a loaf pan since it cooks in less than half the time. If you however wish to make a loaf, bake at 350 degrees F for about 60 minutes.

16 pieces; Each piece contains about: 165 Calories; 2.8 g Protein; 24 g Carbohydrates; 7.3 g fat; 2 g Fiber.


1/3 cup Oil
1/2 cup Sugar
3 ripe Bananas, mashed
1 tsp Vanilla Essence
1/2 cup Oatmeal or multigrain flakes
11/2 cups Unbleached Flour
2 tsp Baking Powder
1 tsp Salt
1/2 cup Walnuts, chopped (optional)


Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Coat with oil or cooking spray an 8 by 8 square baking pan.

Cream the oil, sugar; then mix in the vanilla, mashed bananas and oatmeal.

Combine flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl.

Sift the flour mixture over the banana mixture; mix just enough to combine well.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan; sprinkle the walnuts evenly on top of the batter.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes; the bread should have browned around the edges and cooked through.

Cool for about 15 minutes before cutting.

Serve warm or at room temperature with hot Masala Chai.

Corn Muffins (Vegan Corn Muffins OR Cornbread)

Corn muffins are so perfect with a piping hot cup of tea, coffee, a bowl of hearty Chili or soup. The soup was ready - yummy leek-potato where broccoli was substituted for the zucchini. I was so set on making corn muffins to go with it, but alas! there was not a sign of either butter or buttermilk in the fridge. Determined not to be stymied by the absence of the dairy duo, I decided to try out some substitutions. And ........ the muffins turned out fantastic! So here is the amended recipe. Soy, rice, or nut milk may be used.

I am partial to muffins (rather than bread) as they are wonderfully crusty (no paper liners in the muffin tin), stay fresher longer, and no messy crumbly pieces to deal with either.

12 muffins or servings


1 cup Cornmeal
1 cup Unbleached flour
3 Tbsp Sugar
1 tsp Salt
1 Tbsp Baking Powder
1 cup Non-Dairy Milk, any type
3 Tbsp Oil
1 Tbsp Flax Seeds, ground fine
1/4 cup water


Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Coat a muffin pan or 8" square cake pan with oil or cooking spray.

Combine cornmeal, flour, sugar, salt and baking powder in a large bowl.

Combine the rest of the ingredients in another bowl.

Pour the liquid ingredients into the flour mixture and mix just until combined.

Spoon the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 15 minutes or the edges are lightly browned.

Remove from oven and cool slightly before serving.

Serve hot or warm.

Store any leftovers in an airtight container at room temperature for a couple of days and reheat just before serving. Freeze for longer storage. Enjoy!!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Basic Potato Curry With Carrots & Green Beans

Potato Curry with green beans and carrots
This multitasking potato curry is great as a side dish with any roti, rice, etc and as a stuffing for dosa, bondas, samosas or sandwiches. It is a delicious way to use up leftover boiled or baked potatoes. Feel free to leave out the other veggies or use more green chilies and chop them finely including the seeds and membranes for a spicier curry. I often take this colorful potato curry to picnics instead of the traditional potato salad.

Remove the green chiles before serving or removed seeds and mince for a mild dish.

4 Servings as a side dish or enough to fill 6 to 8 Dosas

1 Tbsp Canola oil
1/2 teaspoon brown mustard seeds
1 Tbsp Urad dal
1 Tbsp Chana dal
1 tiny pinch ground Asafoetida (Hing)
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 green chili, Jalapeno or Serrano, slit the blossom end
1 tsp grated fresh ginger
A few fresh curry leaves, minced
2 cups fresh veggies (carrots, peas, green beans, etc.)
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 tsp salt or to taste
2 large potatoes, cooked in their jackets, peeled and coarsely mashed
Juice of ½ lime/lemon or according to taste
3 or 4 Tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped

Clockwise from the top:
Curry leaves, Chana dal, Mustard seeds, and Urad dal
Heat the oil and add the mustard seeds, urad and chana dal. Cook covered until the mustard seeds pop and dals turn golden pink - this takes just a minute or so.

Add the asafoetida, onion, green chili, and curry leaves with a pinch of salt and cook until the onion pieces become translucent.

Stir in the chopped veggies and/or peas along with the turmeric and salt and sauté until tender. 

Add potatoes and stir well to mix. 

Remove from heat and stir in lime/lemon juice and chopped cilantro. 

Serve hot, warm, or at room temperature. Enjoy!!

Basic Potato Curry

Garden Vegetable Soup

This is a lovely soup to make anytime at all; the hydrated dried peas are absolutely delicious. I have seen them for sale in super markets but it is just as easy to soak them overnight. If you prefer, hydrated black-eyed peas can be used instead of the whole peas. Other kinds of beans may be used as well but cook them before adding to the soup as they will need more cooking time. Another fine addition is barley (about 1/2 cup); but since it needs a longer cooking time, barley should be cooked separately and added to the soup along with the veggies. Bon Appetit!

6-8 Servings


1 cup dried whole peas, hydrated (soaked overnight)

2 Tbsp Extra virgin olive oil

2 cups chopped leeks, use only the white and lighter green parts (approximately 3 medium leeks)
2 tablespoons finely minced garlic (regular or elephant)
Kosher salt, to taste

2 cups diced potatoes (not necessary to peel)

2 cups carrots, peeled and cut into rounds or half circles (approximately 2 medium)
2 cups fresh green beans, broken or cut into 3/4-inch pieces
2 quarts vegetable broth or water
4 cups peeled, seeded, and chopped tomatoes (use canned if you like)
2 ears corn, kernels removed (or use frozen)
1 Tbsp freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
1/4 cup Each, packed, torn Basil and chopped fresh Italian Parsley leaves
1 lime/lemon to serve


Heat the olive oil in large, heavy-bottomed stockpot over medium-low heat.

Add the leeks, garlic, and a pinch of salt and cook over medium heat until they begin to soften, approximately 5 to 7 minutes.

Add the potatoes, hydrated peas, 1 tsp salt, freshly ground pepper, and continue to cook for about 5 more minutes, stirring occasionally.

Stir in the stock or water, increase the heat to high, and bring to a good rolling boil.

Add the carrots, green beans, tomatoes, and corn kernels; bring to a boil again.

Reduce heat so that the soup is just simmering; cover and cook until the vegetables are tender, approximately 30 minutes.

Remove from heat and stir in the basil and parsley.

Taste and adjust seasonings, with kosher salt and additional freshly ground pepper.

Serve hot with corn muffins/bread or other accompaniments.

Pass the lime/lemon wedges to squeeze into the soup.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Roasted Taro Root or Potatoes (Spicy Arbi or Aloo Fry)

One of Paji's favorites! It is a guaranteed crowd-pleaser that no matter how much is made, just disappears in minutes. What's not to like? - deliciously crusty and spicy outside and tender and velvety inside.

Do remember that all parts of arbi must be cooked very well (until soft) to render harmless the oxalate crystals that they contain.

4 Servings; but may serve only 2!


1 lb Arbi (taro root) or Potatoes
1 Tbsp Oil
1/2 tsp Brown Mustard seeds
1 pinch Asafoetida
1 sprig fresh Curry Leaves
1 Tbsp Rasam Powder or Sambar Powder
1/2 tsp ground Turmeric
1 tsp Paprika
1 tsp Salt
1 tsp Aamchoor (dried mango powder), optional


Wash the arbi/potatoes well. Steam or pressure cook until soft. Peel when cool enough to handle. Set aside to cool thoroughly.

Cut the arbi/potatoes into large chunks - 1" cubes would work well - or as desired.

Heat the oil in a seasoned kadai (wok) or a non-stick skillet; add mustard seeds and when the seeds finish popping, add asafoetida. Stir well.

Stir in the cooked veggies and sprinkle the rest of the spices.

Cook over low heat, turning the veggies once in a while until brown on all sides - about 15 or 20 minutes. One does not need to hover over them; just check and stir occasionally.

Serve hot with freshly cooked rice, Sambar and/or any type of Rasam.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Cranberry Thokku (Savory Cranberry Relish)

Cranberry Thokku
With Thanksgiving just around the corner, I remember this delicious Cranberry Thokku and how much we enjoyed Amma's ingenuity. Upon meeting this new fruit, Amma decided to make thokku, a spicy and savory condiment. The tart and gorgeous deep red berries cook up into this delicious and beautiful relish. Cranberry Thokku has become a traditional dish at our Thanksgiving!

Long after the Thanksgiving meal, we love using the thokku in many ways: in sandwiches; with Dosa, Adai, or other snacks; with everyday meals to spice them up a bit. Cranberry thokku lasts several weeks in the fridge; for longer storage pack in sterilized canning jars and process according to manufacturer's directions.

Use regular brown sugar if Jaggery is unavailable; also adjust the amount of chili powder and jaggery according to your preference.

Here is the original and cherished recipe from my mother. Happy Thanksgiving!!


1 bag Cranberries (14 - 16 oz.)
1 Tsp Canola oil
1/2 tsp Brown Mustard Seeds
1 pinch Fenugreek Seeds (Methi)
1 big pinch Asafoetida (Hing)
1 Tbsp ground Dry Hot Red Chilies (Cayenne), or to taste
2 Tbsp Jaggery (Indian Brown Sugar), or to taste
2 tsp Coarse Salt (Kosher) or Sea Salt
1/2 tsp ground Turmeric
1 tsp roasted Fenugreek Seeds, ground


Roast the fenugreek seeds in a dry skillet until golden and fragrant; cool.

Heat the oil in a stainless saucepan or skillet; add mustard and fenugreek seeds. When the seeds subside popping, stir in asafoetida, ground chilies, salt and the cranberries in that order.

Cover and cook on medium heat until the cranberries begin to soften and start to release their juices.

Add the turmeric and the crushed jaggery - more if you like a sweet thokku - and cook covered stirring occasionally until the cranberries are well cooked and the thokku thickens.

Grind the fenugreek seeds into a fine powder. Stir into the thokku and mix well.

Cover and let cool. Refrigerate until needed. Cranberry thokku lasts several weeks in the fridge; for longer storage pack in sterilized canning jars and process according to manufacturer's directions.

Serve warm, at room temperature, or cold. Enjoy!!

Cranberry Thokku

Roasted Broccoli Salad With Sun-Dried Tomatoes

When my little one asked for a second bowl of this salad for a snack, I knew it was a keeper! The crunchy broccoli, toasted nuts, sweet-chewy sun-dried tomatoes, and creamy cheese combine to make a very flavorful and tasty salad. It is a great salad to make year around especially when other salad veggies may be scarce.

It is a great vegan salad as well if you omit the cheese.

4 to 6 Servings


1 lb Broccoli
1/4 cup marinated Sun-dried tomatoes (2 to 4 pieces), drained
1 clove Garlic, minced finely
1 Tbsp + 1 tsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Tbsp Balsamic Vinegar
1 tsp of Lime juice
Freshly ground Black Pepper
salt to taste
2 Tbsp Pine nuts, Pecans, or Walnuts, toasted
2 oz. plain vegetarian Goat Cheese or Feta (Optional)


Toast the nuts by baking for about 7 or 8 minutes in a 350 degree F oven; cool.

Wash and cut the broccoli into bite size pieces. Peel and use the stems also. Pour 1 teaspoon of the Olive Oil in a baking pan and toss the Broccoli with a pinch of salt. Roast in a 375 degree F oven for 10 minutes stirring once or twice. Let cool.

Alternately, steam until just barely tender; plunge into ice-water, and drain thoroughly. Let cool.

Slice the sun-dried tomato pieces into thin strips.

Make the dressing: combine the rest of the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, garlic, pepper, and salt in a bowl. Add one squirt of fresh lime juice to sparkle the flavor.

Mix the broccoli with the dressing just before serving (the acid in the vinegar changes the broccoli's color if mixed too far in advance).

Place the dressed broccoli on a serving platter; top with the sun-dried tomato pieces, crumbled cheese, and the nuts on top.

Serve immediately with additional freshly ground black pepper.

Potato Podimas (Mashed Potatoes Indian Style)

Here is India's equivalent of the mashed potatoes - tasty without any butter or cream! It is a lovely gluten-free and dairy-free treat for a vegan meal as well.

Podimas is a family favorite especially with children and is typically served with plain rice, sambar and/or any type of rasam, and papadams.

Also, here is one of the few veggie dishes where turmeric is not used!

Baking potatoes (like russet) are the best choice for this dish. Mature green plantains and/or bananas work well also to make podimas; just make sure that they are green and are without even a hint of ripeness in them at all.

4 Portions; But may only serve two people :}


2 large Potatoes
Salt or to taste


2 tsp Oil
1/2 tsp Brown Mustard Seeds
1 Tbsp EACH Urad Dal and Chana Dal
1 dry hot Red Chili
1 pinch Asafoetida (Optional)
1 Sprig fresh Curry Leaves


Steam, pressure-cook or bake the potatoes. Cool well. Peel if desired (I usually leave the peel on) and break up the potatoes well being careful not to make them squishy.

Prepare thalippu in a kadai (Indian wok) or a skillet: heat the oil with mustard seeds, dal, and the chili. When the mustard seeds finish popping, add asafoetida and curry leaves.

Stir in the potatoes and salt and cook until heated through over low heat.

Serve hot.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Olan (Coconut milk & Curry Leaves Scented Vegetable Stew)

Olan is perhaps the simplest of all Kerala recipes. The unique combination of the ingredients contributes to producing an amazingly delicious taste sensation leaving one longing for more!

Olan is traditionally made with mathan (pumpkin), elavan or kumbalanga (winter melon or ash gourd), and fresh or dry cowpeas or karamani (Red Chori in Hindi) or dry black-eyed peas. No important feast is complete in Kerala without Olan - especially one served during the Onam festival.

An important fact to note here is that Olan is one of the very few dishes where turmeric is not used!! That is indeed rare for an Indian vegetable dish!

Olan with Kabocha squash and Red Chori Beans
Olan can be made with a combination of the pumpkin and winter melon along with the karamani or black-eyed peas. At our home it was made using either the pumpkin or the winter melon but not both at once.

I was very fortunate to have a volunteer pumpkin (Kabocha) plant growing (thanks to a little bit of pit composting) in the garden which graciously bestowed a couple of fruits on us. {Science Fact: Did you know that pumpkins are considered to be berries!} Guess what I did with them? Why, make olan of course! Kabocha squash makes an awesome olan :P - Utterly Delicious even without the coconut milk!

My grandmother, Chelli Thathi, used to make Olan with immature pumpkins and fresh and dry karamani - I can still remember how wonderful it used to taste! If you come by an immature pumpkin, invest it in making the olan; you would be glad you did.


1/2 cup dried karamani (Red Chori Beans) or black eyed peas 
1 small pumpkin or elavan (winter melon, ash gourd) OR 1/2 Each
1 or 2 hot green chilies
Salt to taste
1/2 cup fresh or canned Coconut Milk
2 sprigs Fresh Curry leaves
1 or 2 Tbsp unrefined Coconut Oil


Sort the peas/karamani for debris, wash, and soak in fresh water overnight.

Drain well, rinse, and cook in enough fresh water to cover until soft. Set aside.

Wash the pumpkin or elavan and cut in half; remove pith and seeds. Peel as necessary - winter melon definitely; kabocha does not need peeling - it has a very thin, soft skin. Cut into about 1" wide strips and then slice thinly into squarish pieces.

Cut stems off the chilies, remove seeds and membranes, and slice thinly. The chilies are used just to impart their flavor; not heat.

Combine pumpkin/elavan and chilies and cover with about 1/2 cup of water; add salt and cook until just tender.

Stir in the cooked peas and bring to a boil.

Add coconut milk and heat through but not boil.

Remove from heat and add the crushed curry leaves and pour coconut oil on top.

Cover and let sit for 10 minutes for the flavors to develop.

Serve with rice, curries, and fresh chapatis.