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!

Ingredients:

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

Method:

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.

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

Ingredients:

1 bag Cranberries (14 - 16 oz.)
2 Tbsp 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

Method:

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.

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

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

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

Ingredients:

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)

Method:

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 :}

Ingredients:

2 large Potatoes
Salt or to taste

Thalippu/Tadka:

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

Method:

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.

Ingredients:

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

Method:

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.

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Ishtu (Kerala Style Creamy Vegetable Stew With Coconut Milk)

Ishtu? or is it Olan - that is the question! Both are stews made with coconut milk and scented with fresh curry leaves and fragrant coconut oil; but Ishtu is typically made with potatoes and onions whereas Olan is made with pumpkins/winter squashes and black-eyed peas or karamani (called Red Chori in Hindi). Another difference is that Ishtu often includes ginger; olan does not. Both are delicious served with other tangy/spicy dishes such as Mor Kuzhambu, Sambar, etc.

Ishtu (perhaps a corruption of the word 'stew') a mild delicious stew, is often served with pancakes like Dosa or Aappam, or as a side dish. Ishtu with Idiappam (fresh Rice Noodles) is a traditional breakfast combo popular in Kerala.

This is one of my favorite versions of Ishtu with mild leeks (look like green onions on steroids :D) instead of the usual onions, and zucchinis to boost the nutrition, good looks and taste. Sometimes I like to add a pinch of ground Turmeric to make "Golden Ishtu".

4 - 6 Servings

Ingredients:


1 Medium Leek
2 medium Potatoes
2 medium Zucchinis
2 hot green chilies
1/2" piece fresh Ginger (Optional)
1/2 cup fresh or canned Coconut Milk
1 or 2 sprigs fresh Curry Leaves
1 Tbsp unrefined Coconut Oil

Method:

Prepare the veggies:

Trim the roots and the dark green and tough leaves from the leek. Cut in half lengthwise and agitate in a pan of fresh water to dislodge any soil or sand from between the layers. Rinse and drain well. Slice thinly - include all of the white and pale green parts.

Wash the other veggies and drain. Cut the potatoes into quarters and slice thinly; cut the zucchinis into halves or quarters lengthwise and slice thinly.

Trim the stem end of green chilies; cut in half lengthwise and remove seeds and membranes (wear gloves for this); slice thinly.

Slice the ginger thin or grind it into a paste with a little water using a blender.

Place all the veggies in a medium sized sauce pan with the chilies, ginger ( or ginger-water), and the salt.

Add 1 to 11/2 cups of water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer covered until tender.

Stir in the coconut milk and heat through.

Stir in the crushed curry leaves and coconut oil and cover.

Let rest for 10 minutes.

Serve hot with rice, roti or dosa, as you wish.

Quick Whole Wheat Dosa (Quick Indian Lacy Pancakes)

A friend gave me a bag of semolina flour for making pasta. I had never made fresh pasta. So what else can one do with a bag of pasta flour? Well, make Dosa of course!

This is a basic recipe that makes very good dosas. It is really quite easy and doesn't require planning ahead like the traditional dosa batter. You can make wonderful, light, lacy dosas with almost any flour such as whole wheat, corn, millet, etc.

Ingredients:


1 Cup Whole Wheat or other flour
1/2 cup Rice flour
1 tsp Salt or to taste
1/4 cup Plain Yogurt/Buttermilk (Optional)
11/2 cups Water
1/2 tsp whole Cumin seeds OR 1/2 small onion, finely chopped

Thalippu/Tadka:
1 or 2 tsp oil
1/2 tsp Brown Mustard Seeds
1 hot green chili, finely chopped
A few curry leaves, finely sliced


A few Tbsp Oil for cooking the Dosas

Method:

Mix the flours and salt. Add the yogurt/buttermilk if using and the water and mix thoroughly; let sit for about 30 minutes to hydrate the flours well.

The batter should be smooth and have the consistency of thick buttermilk. Add water as necessary.

Let the batter rest for about 15 to 30 minutes to allow the flours to hydrate.

Remove stems, seeds and membranes from the chili and chop finely.

Prepare thalippu: Heat the oil with the mustard seeds. When the mustard seeds slow down dancing and popping, add the chopped hot green chili and curry leaves and cook just until the chili softens. Let cool.

Stir in the cumin seeds/onions and the cooled thalippu just before making the dosas.

Heat a non-stick skillet or a seasoned cast iron griddle.

Scrunch up a sheet of paper towel into a thick wad and dip it lightly in a little oil and wipe the skillet or griddle to coat lightly with the oil.

If a drop of water flicked on the skillet sizzles and dries up within a few seconds, it is hot enough to start cooking.

The first dosa is a tester - for checking the heat of skillet and the consistency and seasoning of the batter.

Pour only a tablespoon of the batter in the center of the griddle and drizzle with a few drops of oil all around it - along the edges.

When you see bubbles forming and breaking and the edges change color, it is time to flip over to cook the other side.

Slide a thin spatula under the edges and loosen it. Then swiftly slide the spatula under the whole dosa and flip and cook for about a minute.

Taste. Add salt and also additional water if the batter is too thick.

Stir the batter well each time before making new dosas since the flours tend to settle to the bottom.

Pour about 1/3 to 1/2 cup of batter into the of skillet/griddle; quickly swirl the batter to make a thin pancake about 7 or 8 inches or in accordance with the size of your pan. The whole wheat batter is delicate; so it is better not to spread the batter in the traditional manner with the back of the spoon.

Drizzle a few drops of oil all around the edges of the dosa.

Dosa cooks pretty quickly; when the top looks dry, it is time to flip the dosa to cook the other side.

Loosen the edges and the bottom; quickly flip over to cook the top side. Altogether it should only take about 2 minutes at the most to cook one dosa. Adjust the heat as necessary so that the dosa cooks but does not burn.

If the dosas are thick and heavy, thin the batter with a little water. With practice one will be able to turn out very thin and delicious dosas.

Wipe the griddle with the oily paper towel wad every once in a while to prevent the dosas from sticking.

Serve these dosas hot off the griddle; they are best when fresh.

Whole wheat dosas are especially delicious served with green chili chutney; they may also be served with podi (a dry lentil-spice chutney), Indian pickles, plain Yogurt, etc.

Quick Rice Flour Dosa (Light and Lacy Indian Rice Flour Crepes)

The rice dosa is a gluten free treat (and casein free too if you omit the yogurt/buttermilk).

This is a basic recipe that makes very good dosas pretty quickly when you don't have time to make the freshly ground traditional dosa batter.

Rice flour, Urid flour (urid is a type of lentil), podi, pickles, etc are readily available at Indian markets. If urid flour is difficult to find, soy flour or soy milk may be used instead.

Ingredients:


1 Cups Rice flour (white or brown)
1/4 cup Urid flour
1 tsp Salt or to taste
1/4 cup Plain Yogurt or Buttermilk (Optional)
11/2 to 2 cups Water

2 or 3 Tbsp Oil for cooking

Method:

Mix the flours and salt. Add the yogurt/buttermilk if using and the water and mix thoroughly. The batter should be smooth and have the consistency of thick buttermilk. Add water as necessary.

Let sit for about 30 minutes to hydrate the flours well. The resting also eliminates any lumps.

The batter can also be left to ferment for a few hours or overnight -- if so make sure the batter container has plenty of room for the batter to rise.

Heat a non-stick skillet or a seasoned cast iron griddle.

Scrunch up a sheet of paper towel into a thick wad and dip it lightly in a little oil and wipe the skillet or griddle to coat lightly with the oil.

If a drop of water flicked on the skillet sizzles and dries up within a few seconds, it is hot enough to start cooking.

The first dosa is a tester - for checking the heat of skillet and the consistency and seasoning of the batter.

Pour only a tablespoon of the batter in the center of the griddle and drizzle with a few drops of oil all around it - along the edges.

When you see bubbles forming and breaking and the dosa looks a little dry, it is time to flip over to cook the other side.

Slide a thin spatula under the edges and loosen it. Then swiftly slide the spatula under the whole dosa and flip and cook for about a minute.

If the dosa is thick and heavy, thin the batter with a little water. Taste. Add salt if needed.

Stir the batter well each time before making new dosas since the flours tend to settle to the bottom.

Pour about 1/3 to 1/2 cup of batter in the middle of skillet/griddle; quickly spread the batter with the back of the spoon in a circular motion to make a thin pancake about 7 or 8 inches or in accordance with the size of your pan. With practice one will be able to turn out very thin and delicious dosas.

Drizzle a few drops of oil all around the edges of the dosa.

Dosa cooks pretty quickly.

When the top looks dry, loosen the edges and the bottom with a thin spatula; quickly flip over to cook the top side. Altogether it should only take about 2 minutes at the most to cook one dosa.

Wipe the griddle with the oily paper towel wad every once in a while to prevent the dosas from sticking.

Fold the dosas in half and stack them as you continue to cook.

Serve hot with sambar, coconut chutney, podi (a dry lentil-spice chutney), potato curry, aviyal, green chili chutney, any type of hot Indian pickles, and plain Yogurt, etc.

Any leftover batter can be refrigerated for later use.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Green Chili Chutney (Green Chili Relish)

This is another one of Amma's recipes. It is a lovely pale green chutney and is delicious served with Whole Wheat Dosa, Bajji, Kunukku, Adai, Grilled Cheese Sandwich/Quesadilla, etc or any dish that would benefit a bit of spicing it up!

Ingredients:

4 Hot Green Chilies
1 Small Onion
2 sprigs Fresh Curry Leaves and/or 1/2 cup Cilantro
Salt to taste
1 Lime or lemon

Method:

Wash well, remove the stems from the chilies; cut in half lengthwise.

Remove seeds and membranes if you like a mild chutney. Or leave them in a couple of the chilies or all according to your heat preference.

Peel and cut the onion into large chunks; cook them if you do not care for raw onion taste - saute, microwave/steam, or roast and let cool.

Squeeze the juice from the lime/lemon; discard the rinds.

Combine all the ingredients in a blender container with a few Tablespoons of water and blend until smooth.

Pour into a container; rinse the blender with a few tablespoons of water to extract all of the chutney and add to the container.

Stir well, check for salt and lime. Add salt and lime juice if necessary.

Serve right away or chill until needed.

Makes about 1 cup of chutney.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Fresh Coconut Chutney (Coconut Relish)

Coconut chutney is the traditional accompaniment to Adai, Dosa, Idli (steamed rice and lentil cakes), Bajji, etc. Amma gave me this recipe along with a few others as I was getting ready to embark on a new phase of life as a wife. Those hastily written recipes were ever so helpful and now I am happy to rediscover them and pass on to a new generation to enjoy.

Frozen grated or dessicated (dried unsweetened) coconut may be used instead of the fresh.

Ingredients:

1/2 medium coconut, grated
1 tsp oil
2 Tbsp Chana Dal
1 tiny pea sized piece (1 pinch powdered) Asafoetida
2 fresh hot Green Chilies (Serrano/Jalapeno)
1 spring fresh Curry leaves
1 marble size ball of dry Tamarind pulp
Salt to taste

Thalippu/Tadka:
2 tsp oil
1/2 tsp Brown Mustard Seeds
1 Tbsp Chana Dal
1 dry hot Red Chili
1 sprig fresh Curry Leaves

Method:

Heat the 1 tsp oil in a small pan and roast the chana dal until lightly browned. Stir in asafoetida, sliced green chilies, and curry leaves. Cook until chilies are softened, about 2 minutes. Cool.

Combine the coconut, roasted ingredients, tamarind (make sure there are no seeds in it), and the salt in a blender container. Add about 1/3 cut water and blend until smooth adding more water by tablespoonfuls as necessary to make blending feasible.

Pour into a serving dish; rinse the blender container with a few tablespoons of water and add to the chutney. Stir well; if you prefer a thinner chutney add a little more water.

Prepare thalippu: heat the oil in a small pan and add the chana dal, mustard seeds and red chili. When the mustard seeds finish popping, remove from heat and stir in the curry leaves carefully.

Pour the thalippu into the chutney. Mix well.

Serve right away or refrigerate until needed.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Parikkai Pitla (Bittermelon and Lentil Stew With Coconut and Tamarind)

Parikkai Pitla is a classic South Indian stew which is a gentle and delicious introduction to Bitter Melon. Although we were not fans of bitter melon as young children, we loved the Pitla where the bitter melon flavor was quite mild. Initially we used to pick out every piece of the bitter melon; but as we got used to the taste eventually, grew to love the bitter melon for itself. This is another recipe from Amma.

You can also use an equal mixture of toor dal and yellow mung dal; or use red lentils also known as skinless masoor dal.

4 Servings

Ingredients:

1 tsp Oil for sauteing
1 medium bitter melon (parikkai)
1/2 cup Toor dal
1/2 tsp Turmeric
2 tsp Tamarind concentrate
Salt to taste
1 Tbsp Jaggery (Brown Sugar) (Optional)

Spices for grinding:

1/2 tsp Oil
1/2 tsp whole Black Pepper
1 Tbsp Chana Dal
2 tsp Urad Dal
2 tsp Coriander Seeds
1 small pea size chunk asafetida or 1 big pinch powdered asafetida
1/3 cup grated fresh Coconut or 3 Tbsp dry unsweetened
1 Sprig fresh Curry Leaves

Thalippu/Tadka:
1 tsp Ghee/Oil
1/2 tsp Brown Mustard Seeds
1 Sprig fresh Curry Leaves

Method:



Sort dal to remove any debris. Cook the dal in about 1 to 2 cups of water until very soft, about 30 to 40 minutes. Dal can be cooked in a pressure cooker to speed up the cooking process.

Roast all spices for grinding in a tiny bit of oil, add coconut and the curry leaves last and cook until coconut is golden. Cool and grind using a blender into a fine paste with about 1/2 cup of water.

Wash and dry the bitter melon. Remove ends, cut in half lengthwise, remove the seeds if they are mature and slice thinly into semicircles.

Saute the bitter melon slices with 1 tsp oil, a pinch each of turmeric and salt for 5 minutes.

Combine bitter melon, tamarind, 1 cup of water and salt to taste. Add jaggery if using; it adds a nice balance of flavors. Bring to a boil and cook until veggies are tender.

Stir in the ground paste and the dal into the bitter melon; swish the blender container with about 1/3 cup of water to get all of the spices and pour into the pot and bring to a boil.

Remove from heat, cover, and set aside.

Prepare thalippu: Heat the ghee/oil, add the mustard seeds. When the mustard finishes dancing and popping, remove from heat and stir in the curry leaves carefully.

Pour thalippu into the pitla. Cover and let rest for 10 minutes.

Serve hot over plain hot rice or roti with papadams or other vegetable side dishes and plain yogurt.