Saturday, October 25, 2008

Periamma's Mung Dal Kootu (Indian Stew With Assorted Vegetables)

Our Hyderabad Periamma (Periamma literally means 'elder mother') is credited with creating this delicious and nutritious one pot recipe. Apparently she used to make this dish when she needed a break from making the usual spread and served it over hot rice or rotis with lots of fried papadams. Amma made it sometimes as it incorporated all the odds and ends of vegetables left at the end of the week.

The vegetable assortment in the following recipe is only a suggestion; you can use whatever veggies are available in your fridge in any combination you like; the only constants are the onions and tomatoes; the rest is up to you. Use an assortment for their flavors and colors such as: Carrots, Green Beans, sprouted beans, Chayote squash (a pale green veggie), Zucchini, Opo Squash (lauki), Green Cabbage, Peas, etc. The more the number of different veggies, the better the taste!

Chayote and Opo are from the cucurbit family as are cucumbers, pumpkins, melons, etc.

8 Servings


1 cup Mung dal (skinless, split; looks yellow)
1/2 tsp Turmeric
1 tsp Salt or to taste
1 or 2 Tbsp Rasam Powder or Sambar Powder
1 large Red Onion
1 small Potato
2 large Ripe Tomatoes
1/2 small Green Cabbage
2 medium Carrots
2 small Zucchini

4 Tbsp Fresh Cilantro, chopped
Lemon or Lime wedges to serve (Optional)


2 Tbsp Ghee/Oil
1 tsp Brown Mustard Seeds
2 dry Red Chilies
1/2 tsp Cumin Seeds
1 pinch Asafoetida
1 sprig Curry Leaves


Pick over the mung dal and remove discolored dal, sticks and stones, etc. Wash with lots of fresh water and drain - a fine sieve is great for this.

Prepare the veggies: Remove ends, peel and chop the onion. Dice the other veggies as appropriate into small pieces.

Place the washed dal in a large pot and add 4 cups of water and bring to a boil.

Add the salt and turmeric and simmer for about 20 minutes or until dal is soft.

Stir in the sambar powder and the veggies except the onions and cook until they are tender.

Prepare thalippu: heat the ghee/oil and add all the seeds.

When the mustard finish popping, remove from heat, and add the asafoetida, onions and curry leaves carefully.

Cook, stirring until the onions are translucent and start to brown.

Stir the thalippu into the kootu.

Mix in the cilantro and cover and let sit for at least 10 minutes.

Serve hot with rice or chapati or other breads with a raita or plain yogurt and papadams.

Pass the lemon/lime wedges to squeeze over the kootu if desired.  


Rasam Powder (South Indian Spice Mix)

Rasam powder is a good spice mix to have on hand. Although it resembles Sambar Powder, it is slightly different and has its own unmistakable and unique flavor. Besides making rasams, it can be used to spice up veggie dishes, rice, dals, and soups too.


1 cup Coriander Seeds (Dhania)
1/3 cup Dry Red Chilies
1/4 cup Toor Dal
1/4 cup Chana Dal
1/4 cup Cumin Seeds (Jeera)
1/4 cup Black Peppercorns (Mulagu)


Dry roast the dals first for about 2 or 3 minutes; then add the coriander seeds and roast for 2 more minutes.

Stir in the red chilies and stir constantly for 2 more minutes. Remove from heat and pour into a bowl or plate to cool.

Alternately, roast the above spices (except pepper and cumin) by placing on a baking sheet and roast for 5 to 6 minutes in a moderately hot oven, at about 300-350 degrees F. Stir a couple of times, watch carefully, and remove promptly to prevent burning.

Add cumin seeds and pepper to the cooled spices.

Grind into a powder using a spice grinder.

Store in an airtight jar in a cool dark cupboard.

Use to make different types of rasams such as Kollu Rasam, Lemon-Lime or Everyday Rasam, vegetables, and other curries. Happy cooking!

Simple Sambar ( Spicy Stew of Lentils With Vegetables)

Sambar is an ubiquitous every day lentil and vegetable stew eaten in homes of South Indian people everywhere. It is typically made with Toor dal (looks like yellow split peas) and vegetables. It is also a must at any and all South Indian feasts. The ever popular Dosa (rice-lentil pancakes), Idli (steamed savory rice-lentil cakes), and Vada (lentil fritters) are sure to be accompanied by Sambar in restaurants.

Here is a quick version made with Sambar Powder. Sambar is traditionally served over plain rice, or with any type of roti like chapati or nan (Indian flat-breads) and accompanied by dry vegetable dishes such as cauliflower upperi, any kind of thoran, or parikkai fry (bitter melon stir fry), a raita, plain yogurt, and toasted or fried papadams, etc.

A simple sambar can be made with one or more vegetables. Some favorites are shallots, moringa pods (Indian Drumsticks), onions, any type of winter or summer squash, eggplant, sweet or regular potatoes, okra, radish, etc.

4 Servings

Nutrition Information Per Serving (without vegetables): 110 Calories; 15 g Carbohydrates; 6 g Protein; 12.5 g Fiber; 3.25 g Fat. The exact nutrient values will depend on the vegetables used.


1/2 cup Toor dal (or Yellow split peas)
2 cups TOTAL assorted vegetables
2 tsp Tamarind paste concentrate
1/2 tsp ground Turmeric
1 tsp coarse Salt
1 Tbsp Sambar Powder
4 Tbsp Fresh Cilantro, chopped


1 Tbsp Ghee/Oil (use the ghee for an unforgettable taste if you can)
1/2 tsp Brown Mustard Seeds
1 pinch Fenugreek Seeds (Optional)
1 whole dry Red Chili
1 pinch Asafoetida
1 sprig Fresh Curry Leaves


Cook the dal until very soft and creamy.

Prepare the veggies; cut the vegetables into large chunks or cubes.

In a 2 or 3 quart/liter sauce pan combine the vegetables, tamarind paste, turmeric, sambar powder, salt, and 2 cups of water.

Bring the vegetable mixture to a boil and simmer until tender.

Stir in the cooked dal and bring to a boil; turn off the heat.

Prepare thalippu: heat the ghee/oil and cook the mustard seeds, fenugreek, and red chili.

When the mustard seeds finish popping, remove from heat and add asafoetida and then the curry leaves carefully.

Pour the thalippu into the sambar. Stir in the chopped cilantro.

Let sit covered for about 10 minutes.

Fish out and discard the red chili and curry leaves from the sambar if you wish.

Serve hot with rice, roti, dosa, etc.

Sambar Powder (South Indian Spice Mix)

No pantry is complete without a jar of sambar powder to spice up what is cooking. Sambar powder is very handy to have in the cupboard - ready to use in all sorts of dishes like rice casseroles, vegetables, beans and lentils of all types, soups, and of course Sambar


1/2 cup Chana Dal (split and skinless brown chick peas)
1/3 cup Fenugreek Seeds (Methi)
1 cup Coriander Seeds (Dhania)
1/2 cup Dry Red Chilies
1/4 cup Black Peppercorns


Dry roast the dals first for 2 or 3 minutes; then add the coriander seeds and chilies and roast for 2 more minutes. Remove from heat and pour into a bowl or plate to cool.
Alternately, roast everything except the black pepper by placing on a baking sheet and roast for about 5 to 6 minutes in a moderately hot oven, at about 300 degrees F.

Grind the roasted ingredients and the black pepper into a powder using a spice grinder.

Store in an airtight jar in a cool, dark cupboard.

Use as needed to make Mung soup, barley soup, Bisi bele Rice, Sambar, Kootu (vegetable curries), Spicy toast, etc.


Shobhaa's Mulagu Rasam (Pepper Rasam or Soup)

When Shobhaa heard that I was suffering a bit with a congested nose, she said this rasam would surely alleviate a lot of the discomfort. But you don't have to wait to have a stuffed nose to enjoy it :). Here is her recipe -- Enjoy this rasam just like the others such as Lemon-Lime or Everyday Rasam - in mugs by itself or mixed with plain soft-cooked rice.

Mulagu Rasam is probably the precursor to Mulligatawny soup! "Mulagu" means black pepper and "tawni which is a corruption of thanni" means water. The simple "pepper water" has taken on a life of its own :)!


1 ½ tsp Whole Black pepper (mulagu)
3 tsp Cumin seeds (jeera)
½ tsp Turmeric powder
1 ball of tamarind pulp (a small lime size) OR 1 tsp of tamarind concentrate
Salt to taste
2 tbsp chopped coriander leaves (cilantro)

Thalippu/Tadka: ½ tsp cumin seed, 1 sprig curry leaves, and 1 tsp pure Ghee or oil (ghee or oil optional)


· Soak tamarind for some time (about 5-10 minutes or so) in lukewarm water and extract the juice (3  coffee cups).
· In a pan take the tamarind water and keep it on the stove. When water comes to boil add turmeric and let it boil for 2 minutes.
· Dry sauté (roast) cumin seeds and black pepper till cumin seeds become fragrant and turn a little brownish; cool and powder them
· Add the powdered cumin & pepper powder, and salt; let it boil for 2 minutes on low fire.
· Remove from fire keep it covered.
· Prepare the tadka: Heat the ghee/oil if using, in a small pan with the cumin seeds; when they pop remove from heat and add the curry leaves carefully.
· Add the tadka and the coriander leaves (cilantro) to the rasam and let it sit covered for a few minutes· 
 Mulagu rasam is ready!
Relish the rasam with chutta papadams (roasted papadams).

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Everyday Rasam (Spicy Lentil Tomato Soup)

I bet Rasam recipes were invented to be resourceful and avoid any waste. Our ancesters were amazingly resourceful and inventive. One of the mottos that they instilled in us from very early on was "Waste Not, Want Not"! They found a way to make use of even the humblest of ingredients and make them divinely delicious. Rasam is a wonderful example where the extra liquid from cooking dal is made into a lovely and luscious soup!

Rasams vary in complexity, from very simple (like Amma Rasam) to elaborate and are served at daily meals as well as at wedding banquets. The South Indian people believe in "feeding colds and fevers" with what else - Rasam of course! Our grandmas and moms made a huge variety of rasams suitable for every occasion and could recommend one for alleviating any ailment ;).

Rasam is part of the South Indian comfort food repertoire. It makes a nice change of pace to have a simple meal of rasam with rice and a veggie side dish (such as a thoran, upperi or paruppu usli) especially on cold or rainy days. I love a big mug of steaming hot rasam to sip on cold evenings to begin or end the meal.

Although usually one plans to save the excess liquid from Toor dal when cooking it for other dishes, one can certainly cook it specifically to make rasam. If so, cook about 1/4 cup Toor dal in about 2 cups of water with a pinch each of Turmeric and Salt until the dal completely disintegrates and is very soft and creamy.

Rasam powder, Toor Dal, Dried Tamarind pulp or concentrate, Pappadams, and Curry leaves are readily available in Indian grocery stores.

Tamarind pulp is the dried fruit with the shells and seeds removed and formed into bricks; the concentrate is just that - all ready to stir into whatever dish you are making. Although the concentrate is ever so user-friendly, the dried pulp has its own fresh and delicate flavor.

Notes: Tomatoes are the usual vegetables of choice for making rasams but rasam can be made without any tomatoes at all. If tomatoes are not used, you might wish to increase the amount of tamarind to balance the flavors.

Although rasam is most commonly made with toor dal, other split and skinless dals like mung, chana and masoor dal can also be used (but not typically from any whole beans).


Walnut size ball dried Tamarind pulp plus 2 cups water
2 tsp Concentrated Tamarind Paste dissolved in 2 cups water

2 large ripe Tomatoes, chopped
1 Tablespoon Rasam Powder
1/2 tsp ground Turmeric (Haldi)
2 tsp Salt, or to taste
1 tsp Indian brown sugar (Jaggery), Optional
2 cups Toor dal water (with a little of the dal is good too)
4 Tbsp fresh Cilantro, chopped


1 Tsp Ghee or Oil
1/2 tsp brown Mustard Seeds
1/2 tsp Cumin Seeds (Jeera)
1 pinch Asafoetida
1 sprig fresh Curry Leaves


If using tamarind pulp, soak it in 1 cup of hot water. When cool enough to handle, work with fingers to squeeze and mash the pulp to extract thick tamarind juice. Pour out just the juice into a 2 or 3 quart saucepan. Add 1 cup more water to the pulp and mash the fibers with fingers. Strain out the fibers and discard; combine the juice with the first extract.

Add the chopped tomatoes , turmeric, salt, the jaggery if using, and the rasam powder to the tamarind water. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer until tomatoes are soft.

Stir in the dal water and heat until very hot and foamy. Traditionally, rasam is not boiled. Turn off the heat.

Prepare tadka/thalippu: heat the oil with mustard and cumin seeds. When they slow down dancing and popping, add asafoetida. Quickly put in curry leaves and cover immediately to avoid hot oil splashing on you as the moist curry leaves sputter and dance quite a bit when they come in contact with the hot oil. Pour over the rasam carefully.

Stir in chopped cilantro leaves, cover and let rest for 5 minutes before serving. Serve hot in a mug to sip before or along with the meal or over soft rice.

One of my favorite ways of serving rasam is to mash hot soft cooked rice with a potato masher with plenty of the rasam and serving it in wide soup bowls accompanied by roasted or fried Pappadams (lentil wafers) and vegetable dishes.


Apple-Ginger Coffee Cake With Streusel Topping

Apple-Ginger Coffee Cake is very flavorful and satisfying whether served with a fresh pot of coffee, Pudina Chai or Masala Chai. It is one of my favorites to bake for a birthday celebration. Enjoy!

Use any kind of baking/cooking apple such a Granny Smith, Pippin, Golden Delicious, or McIntosh.

24 pieces

Nutrition Information: Each piece (1/24th of the recipe) contains: 125 Calories; 17.9 g Carbohydrates; 2.6 g Protein; 12.2 g Fat; 2 g Dietary Fiber


2 cups Whole Wheat Flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp Salt
1/2 cup Brown Sugar
1/4 cup oil
2 Tbsp ground Flax Seeds + 6 Tbsp water
1 tsp Vanilla
1 cup plain Yogurt
2 medium apples
2 Tbsp finely grated Fresh Ginger (Optional)
1/2 Lemon
1 tsp Cinnamon
1/8 tsp freshly grated Nutmeg

Streusel Topping:

1/4 cup Whole Wheat Flour
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp Cinnamon
1/2 cup dry Oatmeal
2 Tbsp Butter
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped


Preheat oven to 350 F.

Oil or coat with oil spray a 9" x 13" baking pan. Sprinkle lightly with flour to coat evenly and shake off the excess flour.

Wash, peel and remove the cores from the apples. Chop coarsely. Combine the apples, ginger, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Squeeze the lemon over the apple mixture and mix well.

Stir together the flour, baking powder, soda, and salt in a mixing bowl.

Beat together the ground flax seeds, water, sugar and oil together in a large bowl until fluffy; mix in the vanilla.

Stir in about half the flour mixture along with half the yogurt into the creamed sugar.

Stir in the rest of the flour mixture and yogurt.

Fold in the apples and spread evenly into the prepared baking pan.

Make topping: Combine the flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, and oatmeal. Cut the butter into this flour mixture with a pastry blender or two knives until coarse crumbs (about the size of tiny peas) form. Stir in the nuts.

Spread the topping over the batter evenly.

Bake for 40 to 50 minutes or until done.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Red, White, And Green Pasta With Pine Nuts (Pasta With Broccoli, Cauliflower, Cherry Tomatoes)

Here is a simple, quick, and delicious pasta dish my whole family enjoys. Vegans can boost the protein by adding any kind of dark leafy greens, cooked beans and more roasted nuts/seeds instead of the cheese. Almonds provide more protein (and fewer calories) than pine nuts.

12 Servings

Nutrition Information Per Serving (using pine nuts): 245 calories; 11.58 g Protein; 32.88 g Carbohydrates; 8.84 g Fat; 6.65 g Fiber


1 lb dry pasta, any type
1 small Cauliflower, about 1 lb
1 bunch Broccoli, about 1 lb
1 cup Cherry Tomatoes
1 clove Garlic or to taste
1 Red Onion
1 sprig each, Fresh Sage and Marjoram
Salt and Freshly ground Black Pepper to taste
1/4 cup Fresh Basil leaves
2 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/2 tsp crushed Red Chili Flakes (Optional)
2 oz. toasted Pine Nuts or Slivered Almonds
4 oz. grated rennetless Parmesan Cheese 


To toast the nuts, stir-cook them in a dry skillet over medium heat until very lightly browned; pour out onto a small plate. Set aside to cool. If made ahead, keep them in an air-tight container until ready to use.

Cook pasta according to manufacturer's directions until just cooked but still firm to the bite. Drain and toss with 2 tsp olive oil. Reserve about a cup of the cooking liquid.

Wash and dry all the vegetables and herbs.

Separate the cauliflower and broccoli into bite-sized florets; peel and chop the stems also.

Cut cherry tomatoes in half.

Strip the leaves from the herb sprigs and chop coarsely. Tear basil leaves into small pieces. Keep the basil separately.

Peel the Onions and garlic and slice thinly.

Heat the rest of the olive oil in a large wok or skillet and add the crushed red chilies, onions, garlic, the salt and pepper to taste. Cook stirring until softened.

Add the sage and marjoram and cook for 30 seconds - just until wilted.

Stir in broccoli and cauliflower and cook until softened slightly; about 8 - 10 minutes.

Mix in the cherry tomatoes and cook to heat through.

Add the hot pasta and add some/all of the cooking liquid as you wish.

Stir in the basil and more salt or pepper if needed.

Serve hot.

Sprinkle individual servings with the cheese, nuts, and more freshly ground pepper to taste.


Saturday, October 11, 2008

Broccoli Chowder (Creamy Broccoli Soup With Potatoes And Corn)

Broccoli Chowder is a delicious green and gold soup hearty enough to serve as a meal! It becomes a veritable feast especially if accompanied by corn cakes, corn muffins, quesadillas, spicy toast, and/or a salad.

8 Servings


2 lbs Broccoli
1/2 lb Potatoes (any type), diced
2 medium green or golden Zucchini, or other mild summer squash, finely diced
1 lb Corn Kernels, fresh or frozen
2 T Unsalted Butter or oil
1 Onion, diced
3 ribs Celery (including leaves), finely sliced
4 sprigs Fresh Thyme
Sea Salt to taste
1/2 tsp Turmeric
1/4 tsp Cayenne (Optional)
3 c water
2 c milk
3 Tbsp Unbleached flour dissolved in 1/2 cup water
1 Tbsp Cumin Seeds
1/2 tsp Whole Black Pepper
1/2 cup Fresh Parsley, finely chopped
1/2 cup Cilantro, finely chopped
2 Tbsp Fresh or Sour Cream (Optional), to serve
Paprika, to serve


Separate the florets from the stems of the broccoli. Peel and chop the stems. Cut the florets into bite size pieces. Keep them separate.

Place the onions, a pinch of salt, and the thyme sprigs in a large stainless steel pot with the butter and cook until onions are translucent.

Add celery and stir cook for about 2 or 3 minutes.

Add water, turmeric, rest of the salt, cayenne, corn kernels, broccoli stems, and potatoes.

Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes.

Stir the broccoli florets, diced zucchini, flour-water slurry, and the milk into the soup and allow it to come to a boil. Add boiling water if the soup is too thick.

Reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes.

Dry roast the black pepper and the cumin seeds until fragrant; grind using a mortar and pestle or in a spice grinder.

Turn off the heat and add the herbs and the ground spices to the soup. Mix well.

Let the soup rest for about 10 minutes.

Serve hot topped with a little cream lightly dusted with paprika.

Note: The vegetables may be roasted if desired just as in corn chowder. Instead of zucchini, other mild squashes or gourds like the Indian tori or lauki (Opo squash), chayote squash, etc may be used.

Malai Kofta (Vegetables Balls in Roasted Tomato-Pepper Sauce)

Malai Kofta is a sure hit whenever I serve them! They are pretty easy to make - just need a bit of time to prepare the kofta and sauce. Other summer squashes, gourds such as tori, and eggplants can be used to make koftas.

The kofta are quite delicious on their own as a snack or appetizer too with a little Green chutney and/or Date-Tamarind chutney.

8-12 Servings

4 large ripe Tomatoes
2 large Red Bell Pepper
1 large Red Onion
salt and freshly ground pepper
1 tsp oil
1 tsp Cumin seeds
1 Tbsp fresh Ginger
1/2 tsp ground Turmeric
1 Tbsp ground Coriander seeds
1/4 tsp ground Dry Red Chilies (Cayenne)
1 tsp Salt
1 Tbsp Sambar Powder
1/4 cup Fresh Cilantro, chopped for garnish

Wash and dry all the veggies. Remove the stem end and halve the tomatoes; cut the peppers in half and remove seeds and membranes; peel and cut the onions into chunks. Place them in a single layer in an oiled baking pan and sprinkle lightly with salt and freshly ground pepper. Bake at 400 degrees F for 35 to 40 minutes or until the vegetables are lightly browned. Cool, then remove the skins from peppers and tomatoes.

Puree the roasted vegetables with the ginger.

Heat the oil in a Dutch Oven (4 or 5 quart pot) and lightly brown the cumin seeds. Turn heat down and add the rest of the spices. Stir well.

Add the tomato-pepper puree and the vegetable juice saved from the kofta veggies. Mix well.

Add about 1 cup of water to thin the sauce and simmer covered for 15 minutes stirring occasionally. The sauce will thicken when you add the koftas - the koftas absorb a lot of the moisture.

The kofta and the sauce can be made ahead, cooled and frozen. When you are ready to serve, let the kofta defrost while the sauce is heating and proceed as directed in the "assembly".

Kofta (Vegetable Balls):

1 small Opo Squash or 5 medium zucchini
1 medium Carrot
1 Tbsp fresh Ginger, grated
1/2 Block (about 7-8 oz) Firm Tofu OR Paneer cheese, grated (Optional)
11/2 to 2 cups Gram flour (Besan)
1 tsp Salt
1 Tbsp Sambar Powder
1 pinch Asafoetida

Oil to Deep Fry

Grate the vegetables into a large bowl, sprinkle with 1/2 tsp salt and set aside for 10 minutes. Gently squeeze out the vegetables (save the juices for the sauce).

Mix the vegetables with the ginger, tofu/cheese,1 tsp salt, spices and enough of the gram flour to form a soft dough.

Heat oil in a suitable pan to deep fry.

Form the veggie mixture into small balls about the size of a walnut (about 1" in diameter) and carefully slip into the hot oil.

Put in only a few balls into the oil at a time to avoid crowding.

Gently turn the kofta to brown evenly on all sides.

Remove the koftas with a slotted spoon when they are a rich deep golden brown and drain on absorbent paper towels.


Gently put the kofta into the simmering sauce and turn them to coat. Turn off heat and let them marinate for at least 15 to 20 minutes.

Check to see if the koftas are soft and have absorbed some of the sauce.

Sprinkle the cilantro and serve hot with your favorite rice dishes or Indian breads with any kind of raita and/or plain yogurt.