Sunday, December 19, 2010

Homemade Macaroni & Cheese (Pasta With Cheese Sauce)

With all the boxed and frozen mac & cheese available these days, do we really need a recipe for it? Yes, we do! Especially with a cheese sauce that can come in handy in so many ways! This is not the ubiquitous orange-colored stuff - it is a grown-up version with great taste; nor is it going to be orange unless you use cheddar colored with annato. I have added only peas but you may add carrots, corn or other veggies. All you need to round out the meal is a colorful, crisp salad.

Roux (pronounced "roo"), the toasted shallot and flour mixture cooked in butter, is what contributes to the great taste of this sauce besides the other ingredients. It is fantastic served as a fondue for dipping crusty bread cubes or as a sauce over steamed veggies, rice and other pasta. Any leftover sauce can be chilled and reheated slowly over low heat.

To serve the sauce as a fondue, keep it warm in a traditional fondue pot or chafing dish and offer plenty of crusty bread cubes and an assortment of cooked veggies. Bon Appetit!!

Ingredients:

1 package Macaroni (14 oz) or other pasta shapes
1 package frozen peas

For the Cheese Sauce:

2 large Shallots, finely chopped
2 Tbsp Butter/Olive Oil
1 clove Fresh Garlic, minced
3 - 4 sprigs fresh Thyme, minced
3 Tbsp Unbleached flour
1/4 to 1/2 tsp Red Pepper Flakes
Freshly ground Black Pepper, to taste
1/2 cup dry White Wine
2 cups Milk
4 Tbsp Parmesan Cheese, grated
4 Tbsp Blue Cheese, crumbled
4 oz. Shredded Jack, Pepper Jack, Gruyere, or Cheddar Cheese
4 Tbsp Boursin Cheese (garlic & herb flavor)
1/2 cup Flat Leaf Parsley, finely chopped
2 Tbsp fresh Dill, chopped (optional)

Method:

Cook the pasta according to directions on the package until at dente - firm to the bite. Drain and mix with the peas if using frozen peas. If using fresh peas, add them to the pasta a couple of minutes before the pasta is done.

While the pasta is cooking make the sauce.

Prepare the roux: Heat the butter/oil in a large pan and cook the shallots, garlic, a tiny pinch of salt, red pepper flakes and a few grinds of the black pepper until they are soft and starting to color.

Stir in the flour and cook until lightly browned and fragrant; stir in the chopped thyme. Stir in the wine and cook until most of the liquid is evaporated.

Pour the milk slowly in a thin stream while whisking constantly to incorporate roux and the milk.

Cook whisking often until the sauce begins to simmer; reduce the heat and simmer until sauce thickens and is bubbly - about 5 minutes or so.

Turn off the heat and add the cheeses little by little while stirring vigorously until all the cheese is mixed in and the sauce is smooth. Don't be alarmed if at first the sauce is stringy; just keep stirring vigorously until it is smooth.

Add the warm drained pasta to the sauce along with the chopped herbs and mix well.

Serve hot with lots of freshly ground pepper. Enjoy!!

Idli (Steamed Savory Rice and Lentil Cakes)

Idli With Kadapa
Idlis rank highly in the South Indian breakfast repertoire; and well they should! - they are very wholesome with nary an empty calorie in them. The combination of cereal (rice) and legume (urad dal) produces an abundance of protein resulting in extremely nourishing food. Idlis also make wonderful picnic/journey food as they are delicious at room temperature. Amma often packaged them for our lunches during our school/college days and almost all of us enjoyed them except for one who chucked them out the school bus window when she was young - very nervy for one so young, don't you think?

Rice and skinless (decorticated) Urad dal are soaked and ground into a thick batter and fermented by leaving the batter at room temperature for several hours or overnight. Once the batter is prepared, steaming the idlis takes just minutes. Although it is nice to have a traditional idli mold, idlis can be made using custard cups, an egg poacher, cake pans, or any container that can be used in a steamer.

Typically the fermentation process is dependent upon wild yeast present in urad dal and warm temperatures. If the batter does not ferment well, you will end up with a heavy idli instead of a light, airy, spongy one.

Fermentation:  I find that cold weather conditions are not conducive for good fermentation; it can be achieved in two different ways. 1. Place the batter in a warm place (like an oven with the light on or a picnic chest with warm towels). OR 2.  Add a little active dry yeast; add 1/2 tsp of yeast to the batter as given in this recipe. If you are not going to use all of the batter promptly, divide the batter and add the yeast only to the portion you are going to use.

Both of the above methods have resulted in successful results every time. Just make sure that the container is large enough to allow room for the rising batter or it would overflow and you would end up with a big mess!!

Idlis are traditionally served with coconut chutney and/or mulagai podi (a dry chutney) mixed with oil; they can be served with sambar or other curries like Kadapa also. Young children (ahem, and some not so young ones I know) enjoy idlis with ghee or butter and sugar.

Note: Perfectly ground rice is available as "Idli Rava/rawa" in Indian stores - all you have to do is mix it with the dal batter with a little more water perhaps and proceed fermenting and cooking as follows.

Makes about 20 Idlis - allow 4-5 for each serving

Ingredients:

1 cup raw rice, any type
1/2 cup skinless Urad dal
1/2 tsp Sea Salt
1/2 tsp dry active yeast (optional)

Method:

Clean rice and dal to remove discolored grains, stones or other debris.

Wash and soak the rice and dal separately in plenty of fresh water to cover for 3-4 hours.

Grind the drained dal into a fine and airy paste using some of the soaking water as needed.

Add the rice and process into an almost smooth batter; the rice should be somewhat gritty. Remove the batter to a large container.

If the batter is very thick, add a little water to the blender to extract every bit of the batter and add to the container.

Stir in the salt. If the weather is cold, add the yeast to the batter.

Mix well, cover, and set aside in a warm place to ferment for several hours/overnight.

When the batter is well fermented and airy, gently stir and spoon into the oiled molds, about 2/3 full.

Steam the batter for about 10 minutes if using traditional idli molds. If other containers are used, you may need to steam longer depending on the thickness of the idlis and the size of the pan and the amount of batter. Turn off the heat and let rest uncovered for about five minutes.

Remove from the mold and serve hot or warm with Mulagai podi, coconut chutney, Sambar, etc. Enjoy!

Saag Paneer (Velvety Greens With Cheese/Tofu Cubes)

Saag Tofu

Emerald green Saag Paneer (pronounced "sahg puh-neer") is a classic Punjabi dish. It is a filling and nutritious dish which can be vegan if you substitute firm tofu for the paneer. Ginger is the predominant spice in this dish. The Punjabi cooks are very generous with butter but I add just enough to give it a bit of flavor.

Other leafy greens such as amaranth, kale, Swiss chard, mustard/turnip greens, etc will work very nicely in this dish - feel free to try them all. When using spinach or chard, I use the stems also - with spinach, the only part that is not used is the pink root end. Swiss chard stems will need cooking a bit longer so you might want to add them first and cook them until soft before adding the leaves.

Tip: To remove the seeds from a green chili, cut in half lengthwise and use a small teaspoon to scoop out the seeds along with the white pith. Use gloves when preparing chilies.

Ingredients:

1 lb Spinach or other greens, finely chopped
1 lb Paneer/Firm Tofu, cubed
2 Tbsp Oil
1/2 tsp Whole Cumin Seeds
1 large Onion, finely chopped
1 green chili (Serrano or Jalapeno), seeds removed and minced
2 to 4 Tbsp fresh Ginger, grated
1/4 to 1/2 tsp Red Pepper flakes
1/2 tsp Sea Salt
2 ripe Tomatoes, finely diced
1/2 tsp Turmeric
1 tsp Garam Masala
1/2 tsp Sugar
Butter or vegan alternative, to serve

Method:

Heat a little oil in a kadai or skillet and saute the tofu/paneer cubes until lightly browned. A well-seasoned cast iron skillet is great for this. Set aside.

Heat the rest of the oil in the kadai; add the cumin seeds when hot and cook until lightly browned and fragrant.

Stir in the onion, green chili, ginger, spices, and salt; cook until soft.

Add the tomatoes and cook until soft and saucy.

Add the spinach, cover and cook until wilted. You can puree the saag at this point if it looks too chunky - an immersion/stick blender is very convenient for pureeing right in the pan. Also be careful not to puree too much; a bit of texture would be good rather than a smooth paste.

Stir in the paneer/tofu cubes and simmer for 10 minutes.

Sprinkle the garam masala on top and mix well.

Taste for seasonings; add the sugar, more salt etc. as needed.

Serve hot with a pat of butter or vegan substitute.

Saag Paneer is delicious served with any type of rice dishes or Indian breads. Enjoy!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Fresh Tomato & Kalamata Olive Bruschetta

Fresh tomato & olive bruschetta makes a wonderful quick meal or snack - one of Chellu's favorites. All you need are fresh ripe tomatoes and a few simple ingredients. The bread may be served simply sliced if it is fresh or toasted if it is a day old. This bruschetta makes a wonderful starter too.

About 6 - 8 Servings

Ingredients:


1 Tbsp Garlic Pesto
1 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Freshly ground Black Pepper
1/4 cup pitted Kalamata Olives, finely chopped
11/2 cups Cherry or 3 Ripe Tomatoes, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup Italian Parsley, finely chopped
1/4 cup Fresh Basil, cut into a chiffonade

1 loaf Regular or Sourdough baguette
2 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil for brushing on the bread
4 oz. Feta OR Goat Cheese (rennet-less)

Method:

Combine the garlic pesto, black pepper, and the olive oil thoroughly in a small bowl.

To make a chiffonade of the basil, stack the leaves together neatly and slice thinly using a sharp knife.

Add the olives, tomatoes, and the herbs. Mix well. This can be made up to two hours ahead. Chill until ready to serve. Bring to room temperature before serving.

Slice the bread thinly, about 1/4" thick.

If you are toasting the bread, brush lightly with the olive oil. Toast/grill or bake at 400 F until light gold.

Place a spoonful of the tomato-olive mixture on each slice of bread and add thin slices or crumbles of the cheese. If you are using goat cheese, it may be spread on the bread first and then pile the tomato mixture on top.

Serve immediately. Enjoy!!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Inji Kashayam (Ginger Tea)

Kashayams are strong herbal teas/brews. Our grandparents and parents had kashayams to suit every situation. Inji (ginger) kashayam is an ubiquitous one to combat indigestion, dyspepsia, nausea, cough, and cold. Although called inji kashayam, sometimes it includes other herbs or spices. And whether it cures cold or not, it is quite refreshing and restorative on a cold day or when you are under the weather!

Here is the basic inji kashayam. Dried ginger may be used (half as much as the fresh) to make this kashayam.

4 Servings

Ingredients:

2 Tbsp Fresh Ginger
1 tsp Whole Black Peppercorns
1 Tbsp Jaggery or Honey or more
Fresh Lime Juice (optional)

Method:

If using fresh ginger, chop coarsely and mash slightly. If you have dried ginger, crush into a coarse powder. Crush the peppercorns if you like a strong brew or leave whole for a mild one.

Bring 4 cups of fresh water to a boil; add the ginger, peppercorns, and jaggery and simmer gently for 10 minutes.

Turn off heat, cover, and let rest for 10 minutes.

Strain, add lime juice (and honey, if you are using it) and stir well.

Serve hot or warm. Enjoy!!

Bruschetta With Eggplant Spread & Herb Salad

Eggplant Spread & Herb Salad Topped Bruschettas are a wonderful addition to the open faced sandwich repertoire. This is an absolutely delicious as well as elegant brunch or lunch offering. Smaller portions can be offered as appetizers/starters also. You can prepare most of the components ahead of time and assemble it just before serving. It is easy to make thin shavings of cheese if you use a vegetable peeler or a very sharp knife.

For variation, use toasted pita bread, tostada shells or other flat breads as the base. You can also make roll ups or wraps using Lavash bread, Chapatis or whole wheat tortillas.

4 Servings

Ingredients:

Eggplant Spread, 1/2 recipe
4 large slices Sourdough bread
2 Tbsp Garlic Pesto
1 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 oz. Parmesan or Feta cheese, thinly shaved
Herb Salad & Dressing

Herb Salad:
1 bunch Arugula
1 bunch Watercress
1/2 small Fennel bulb, thinly sliced

Dressing:
1 tsp Honey
1 tsp prepared Mustard
1/4 tsp Sea Salt
2 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Tbsp White Wine Vinegar
1 small clove Garlic, minced
1 Shallot, minced
Freshly ground Black Pepper

Method:

Prepare the eggplant spread a day or two ahead.

The dressing also can be made a day or two ahead: Combine honey, mustard, salt, oil and vinegar and mix well. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well.

Use only the leaves and tender tips of the arugula sprigs and watercress; discard tough stems. Wash well in several changes of fresh water, drain thoroughly, and chill until needed. This can be done one day ahead.

On the day of serving, allow the eggplant spread and the dressing to come to room temperature.

Combine garlic pesto with the olive oil.

Spread the bread with the oil and garlic pesto mixture and grill or toast until golden.

While the bread is toasting, mix the salad with the dressing.

Place bread on plates and spread with the eggplant spread and top with the herb salad.

Garnish with the cheese slices.

Serve immediately.

Eat! Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Curtido (Salvadoran Cabbage Salad)

Here is a refreshingly crispy and crunchy cabbage salad from El Salvador. This colorful salad is of course wonderful traditionally served with pupusas (stuffed corn cakes); it is equally delicious served with Salsa Rice, Black Beans and/or Frijoles or as you wish. It is a healthy and delicious alternate for cole slaw drenched in fatty mayonnaise.

This is my version of curtido; I like to add a little red cabbage for the lovely color. It does make the salad pink upon standing though - I do not mind eating a pretty pink salad in the least :-).

4 - 6 Servings

Ingredients:

1/2 small head Green Cabbage
1 cup Red Cabbage
1 large Carrot
1 small Red Onion
1 small bunch Cilantro
1 Tbsp fresh or 1/4 to 1/2 tsp dry Oregano
1/4 to 1/2 tsp Ground Red Pepper (cayenne)
1/2 tsp Sea Salt
2 - 3 Tbsp fresh Lime juice OR Red Wine/Apple Cider Vinegar

Method:

Wash and trim all the veggies; shred the cabbages and carrots using a coarse grater or slice finely using a sharp knife. Thinly slice the onion. Chop the cilantro.

Combine all the veggies and herbs in a bowl and add salt and lime juice/vinegar.

Stir well to combine and let marinate for an hour or longer. Store any leftovers in the fridge.

Serve with pupusas, black beans, frijoles, Salsa Rice, etc.

Buen Provecho!!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Eggless Cheesecake With Raspberry Coulis

Egg-less Cheesecake is an adaptation of a recipe I received from my friend Theresa. It is very rich and incredibly delicious to behold and eat! It disappeared too quickly to take a picture.

The tartness of the berries is a perfect counterpoint to the rich and sweet cheesecake. You may use strawberries, blueberries, or other fresh fruit. I used evaporated cane juice for the sugar and organic dairy ingredients which have no additives such as gelatin, etc.

Ingredients:

Crust: 1 3/4 cups Graham Cracker Crumbs
2 tsp Cinnamon
1 cube (1/2 cup) Butter, melted

Filling: 2 8 oz. Packages Cream Cheese
3 Cups Sour Cream
2 Tbsp Cornstarch
1 cup Sugar
1 Vanilla Bean
1/2 tsp Almond Extract
1/4 tsp Sea Salt

Coulis: 4 - 8 oz. fresh Raspberries

Method:

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Make crust: Mix together the cracker crumbs, cinnamon and butter; press onto the bottom and sides of a 9" spring-form cake pan. Put the pan in the freezer while you make the filling.

Have the sour cream and cream cheese at room temperature.

Process the cream cheese and sugar in the processor bowl fitted with a metal blade until well mixed.

Split the vanilla bean with the tip of a knife and scrape the pulp inside and add it to the cream cheese mixture; save the pod for another use (steep in hot milk and use it for the vanilla pudding).

Measure the sour cream and add to the cream cheese mixture with the salt and almond extract and process again until well combined.

Take out the cake pan and pour the cheese mixture carefully.

Bake for 35 minutes or until the cheesecake is no longer sticky when touched gently.

Cool the cake completely, cover and chill for a minimum of 5 hours.

Make the coulis just before serving: rinse the berries and drain well. Crush coarsely with the back of a spoon. That's it!

Top with the coulis and serve. Yum! Enjoy!!

Jeera Charu (Cumin & Pepper Rasam)

Jeera Charu with Lemon

Amma often made Jeera Charu or Saaru when a rasam was needed to round out a meal in a hurry. Whenever we had unexpected company at mealtimes (especially my grandfather who insisted on the rasam course for lunch), Amma would quickly signal us to get the masala ready for this rasam while she got everything else ready. By the time the guest was seated for the meal, steaming hot rasam fragrant with cumin and pepper was ready to serve!

It is very quick to make - in less time than it takes me to write about it! It is a delicious light soup perfect for a cold day or when one is under the weather. Paji loves his portion in a mug to sip regardless of the weather or health conditions with a couple of roasted papadams on the side :D.

Ingredients:

2 ripe Tomatoes, chopped coarsely
1/2 tsp Turmeric
A fistful of Toor dal, about 1/4 cup
1/2 tsp Whole Black Pepper
1 Tbsp whole Cumin seeds
1 tsp Sea Salt
1 tsp instant Tamarind paste or 1 Lime/Lemon
a few sprigs Coriander leaves (cilantro)

Thalippu/Tadka:

1 tsp oil
1/2 tsp Brown Mustard seeds
1/2 tsp Cumin seeds
1 sprig fresh Curry Leaves

Method:

Place the tomatoes in a 2 quart/liter pan with salt, turmeric and 2 cups of water. If you are using tamarind, add it now (if using lime/lemon, add the juice at the end). Cook until tomatoes are soft.

In the meantime, make the masala: finely powder the cumin, black pepper and toor dal together; they can also be ground in a blender with a little water.

Add the cumin-pepper masala to about 4 cups of water; stir the masala water into the tomatoes and cook until foamy but not boiling.

Turn off the heat; add cilantro and the crushed chopped curry leaves on top.

Prepare thalippu and pour carefully (hot oil coming into contact with hot liquid) over the curry leaves.

Cover and let rest for 10 minutes. Add lime/lemon juice if using and chopped cilantro if desired.

Serve piping hot in mugs or over soft plain rice. To your good health!!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Vegan Corn Chowder (Gluten & Dairy Free Corn Soup With Leeks)

Vegan Corn Chowder

Here is the vegan corn chowder I made for friends on a gluten- and dairy-free diet. It is just as delicious as the regular chowder. Using the corn cobs and leek trimmings make for a wonderfully flavorful broth. If fresh corn is out of season or not feasible to use, you will still have a fabulous chowder using frozen corn - just substitute 1 lb frozen total.

I made the soup with soy milk initially but it seemed too thin. As I was trying to figure out what would make it richer and more flavorful, I got the idea of adding coconut milk :-). The coconut milk turned what would have been a good soup into one that was absolutely scrumptious!

The amount of cilantro might seem like a lot, but you need that to bring out the sunny citrus-y flavor that a smaller amount cannot. For all its assertiveness when fresh, cilantro becomes quite mild when heated. Also, do use fresh thyme when you can; the flavor of fresh thyme is incomparable.

8 Servings

Ingredients:

6 large ears of fresh corn
3 Tablespoons Oil/vegan margarine
2 Leeks
1 large Red Bell Pepper, chopped
4 or 5 sprigs Fresh Thyme or 1 tsp dry thyme
1/2 tsp Turmeric
1 tsp Cumin Seeds, freshly ground
1 lb New Potatoes
3-4 cups Corn Cob broth/Water
Kosher or Sea Salt to taste
Freshly ground Black Pepper
1/2 tsp Red Pepper (Cayenne) or more to taste
2 Tablespoons Rice flour
2 cups Soy or other Milk
1 cup thick Coconut Milk
A generous handful Cilantro, chopped - about
1/2 cup
Garlic Chives OR Green Onions, chopped (for garnish)

Method:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

If using fresh corn, cut the kernels from the cob. Then carefully scrape against the cob with the blunt side of the knife to extract the milky juices. Set aside separately.

Trim and clean the leeks and finely chop the white and pale green parts; save the rest for the broth.

Wash the potatoes well and drain; it is not necessary to peel. Cut the potatoes into bite sized chunks.

Pour a tablespoon of the oil into a baking pan with rim. Toss together the corn kernels (fresh or frozen), 2 or 3 thyme sprigs, leeks, bell peppers, and the potatoes with 1 tsp coarse salt, red pepper, and thyme.

Roast the veggies until cooked and lightly browned, about 30 minutes. Stir the veggies 2 or 3 times during roasting to cook evenly.

While the veggies are roasting make the broth: Bring 4 cups of water to a boil with the corn cobs and leek trimmings with 1/2 tsp of salt. Simmer for 30 minutes. When cool enough to handle, strain and set aside until needed.

Heat the remaining oil in a 4 or 5 quart Dutch Oven or a large pot. Stir in the flour and cook until pale gold and fragrant. Stir in the hot broth slowly while whisking so that lumps do not form.

Stir in turmeric, cumin, roasted corn - potato mixture, corn juices if using fresh corn and milk.

Use 1/2 cup of water or broth to deglace the roasting pan (collect the baked on bits and juices) and add to the chowder. Bring to a boil again, reduce heat, and simmer for 30 minutes. Turn off the heat and let sit covered for 5 to 10 minutes.

Stir in the coconut milk and the cilantro. You may substitute parsley for the cilantro. Check the seasoning and add more salt or pepper as needed.

You might want to pick out the thyme stems before serving.

Serve hot with a little garlic chives or green onions sprinkled on top. Awesome served with warm corn muffins or fresh crusty rolls.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Salsa Pulav/Arroz Rojo (Salsa Rice)

Salsa Pulav is a dish worth making as I found out. I was just trying to find a way to use up some leftover salsa the other day and viola! - delicious Salsa Pulav/Rice was born. It has great flavor and is similar to Spanish rice served in restaurants; my friend Erika who hails from Mexico, calls it Arroz Rojo or Red Rice! You can make a lovely red rice with leftover tomato salad, chutney, or Checcha (Italian fresh tomato relish) also. Delish!

8 - 12 Servings

Ingredients:

2 cups Parboiled Rice
2 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 medium Onion, finely chopped
1/2 tsp ground hot red pepper
1/2 tsp Turmeric
1 pinch Asafoetida or 1 clove minced Garlic
1 tsp Sea Salt
1 - 11/2 cups Salsa I or Salsa II
1/2 cup Cilantro or Parsley, chopped
Queso Fresco, for serving (optional)

Method:

Using a large fine strainer, rinse the rice well and let drain.

Heat the oil in a large pot and cook the onions with a pinch of salt until just beginning to color.

Stir in the red pepper and turmeric and cook for a minute.

Add the rice and stir-cook for a few minutes until rice is coated with the oil.

Pour in 3 cups of boiling water and the salsa and bring to a boil.

Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer the rice for 20 minutes, stirring a couple of times; add a little boiling water a tablespoon at a time if rice dries out.

Turn off the heat and leave it covered undisturbed for about 15 minutes.

Stir in the herbs and serve hot with frijoles, black beans, etc. garnished with a little crumbled queso fresco. Enjoy!!

Sweet Potato Pie (Crust/Egg/Gluten, Dairy, & Fat-free)

I have wanted to make Sweet Potato Pie ever since I read the book "The Yearling" a very long time ago. I was intrigued not only by the idea of a pie made with sweet potatoes, but also the character of the mother who gives up her share of pie! Wow! I remember Amma, my mother, holding back quietly, generously, and graciously so that everyone could enjoy more; I neither realized that nor even noticed until I was older. Mothers are amazing!

Scrumptious Sweet Potato Pie is a great alternative for pumpkin pie as sweet potatoes are available year around. Use the orange-fleshed sweets labeled "yams" for best color; bake/roast them whole for the best flavor. You can make it vegan by adding coconut, soy or other types of milk in the place of regular milk. Without a butter/shortening/oil-laden crust, it has minimal fat. Crust-free, gluten-free and fat-free, it is also guilt-free! I made it for the holiday weekend and it was gobbled up very quickly :-).

Notes: I used the ingredients I had on hand. I don't usually stock powdered spices as the fragrant oils in them are volatile and don't last long on the shelf. But if you have powdered spices, do go ahead and use them; you may want to use 1 tsp of ground dried ginger instead of the fresh, about 1/8 to 1/4 tsp of the allspice and cloves. Powdered tapioca, arrowroot, or cornstarch may be used instead of the tapioca pearls.

Sweet potatoes are one of the super foods that do not get the credit they deserve. For more information click here.

Ingredients:

2 cups mashed Sweet Potatoes (4 or 5 medium)
2 Tbsp Tapioca Pearls
1 1/2 cups Milk, any type
2 Tbsp fresh Ginger, chopped
3 berries Allspice
4 whole Cloves
2 tsp Cinnamon
1/4 tsp freshly grated/Ground Nutmeg
2 tsp Baking Powder
1/2 tsp Sea Salt
3/4 cup Brown Sugar, packed
1/2 cup Rice Flour

Raisin Sauce or Whipped Coconut Cream to serve (Optional)

Method:

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Roast the sweet potatoes until soft; cool slightly, peel and mash.

Coat a 9-inch deep dish pie pan (11/2 quart/liter capacity) with cooking spray, butter, or oil.

Place the first four ingredients, the tapioca, water, milk, and rice flour in a small bowl and let them soak for 20 minutes.

Blend the spices and the soaked ingredients until smooth.

Add the sweet potatoes to the blender container along with the remaining ingredients and blend gradually increasing the speed, stopping to scrape the sides as needed to make sure everything is thoroughly blended. This should take about 2 to 3 minutes. The pureeing may need to be done in batches; if so mix well before placing in the baking pan.

Pour the puree into the prepared pie pan.

Bake for 1 hour or the top and edges are browned and the pie pulls away a little from the sides.

Remove from the oven and place gently on a thick towel to cool slowly; the slower the pie cools, the less it shrinks or collapses.

Cool the pie completely, cover with cling wrap, and chill until ready to serve.

Serve with Raisin Sauce and/or lightly sweetened whipped coconut cream if desired.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Basic Black Beans

Black Beans are a treat typically served as part of meals in Mexican, Central & South American, and other cuisines. It is quite simple to make and costs just pennies. Similar to most beans, black beans have negligible amounts of fat. They are a good source of protein and thiamin. Black beans also contain good amounts of iron, calcium, magnesium, copper, phosphorous, manganese and folate.

Served with a bit of salsa and some warm corn tortillas, BBB makes a lovely meal. Besides being wonderful served simply, basic black beans are delicious in Black beans With Corn and Cheese, as fillings in pupusas and burritos, and topping for tostadas. The beauty of beans is that they freeze well also. Freeze completely cooled beans in freezer containers for up to 2 or 3 months.

12 servings

Each serving (without the cheese) contains about 110 calories; 7 g Protein; .5 g Fat, 20 g Carbohydrates and 5 g Dietary Fiber.

Ingredients:

2 cups Black Beans
2 whole dry hot Red or Green Chilies
1 sprig Oregano (optional)
1 clove Garlic (optional)
1 tsp Sea Salt
Queso Fresco or your favorite cheese, to serve (optional)

Method:

Sort the beans for debris; rinse well and soak in plenty of water to cover for a few hours. Soaking is not a prerequisite - soaked beans cook quicker than unsoaked beans; that is all.

Drain the soaked beans and place in a large pot with the chilies and the optional ingredients. Add water to cover them; bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer covered until very soft. Remove and discard the chilies and oregano stem.

Mash the beans with a potato masher and stir in the salt.

Serve hot with a sprinkle of the queso fresco or other cheese if desired.

Buen Provecho!!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Cabbage Kofte (Vegan Veggie Balls In Tomato Sauce)

Cabbage Kofte

Cabbage Kofte are quite easy to make and it never ceases to amaze me how much everyone loves them! Although I used cabbage here, you can use pretty much any vegetable(s) you like such as zucchini, opo (lauki), or other summer squashes, to make these. For ease of preparation, prepare the kofte as well as tomato sauce a day or two ahead and reheat before serving.

Cabbage Kofte are vegan and gluten-free (FYI: kofte - plural; kofta - singular). Besan (garbanzo bean flour) is the wonder flour to have on hand to make this dish. It contributes taste as well as nutrition to this dish and is indispensable for making many other dishes such as bajjis/pakodas, kadi, pancakes, veggie cutlets, and sweets.

Besan (gram/garbanzo flour) and the spices/herbs including Kasoori Methi are available in Indian Markets. Kasoori Methi is a very fragrant herb (dried fenugreek leaves) but it may be omitted if not available.

The kofte and the sauce can also be frozen; I like to freeze them separately. When you are ready to serve, let the kofte defrost while the sauce is heating and proceed as directed in the "assembly".

If I am preparing to serve the same day, I start with the grating of the veggies. After salting the veggies, I start the sauce. While the sauce is simmering, I proceed to make the kofte.

About 30 Kofte - allow 3-5 per serving

Kofte (Vegetable Balls):

1 medium Cabbage
2 carrots
Sea Salt
11/2 to 2 cups Gram flour (Besan)
1/2 cup Rice flour
1/2 tsp ground dry Red Pepper
1 pinch Asafoetida

Oil to Deep Fry

Grate the cabbage and carrots into a large bowl, sprinkle with 1/2 tsp salt and set aside for at least 15 to 20 minutes. Squeeze out the excess fluids from the vegetables (save the juices for the sauce); don't be afraid to squeeze firmly.

Mix the vegetables with 1/2 tsp salt, spices, rice flour, 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 (depending on the size of the frying pan) to avoid crowding.

Gently turn the kofte to brown evenly on all sides.

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

Sauce:

6 large ripe Tomatoes
1 Tbsp White Poppy Seeds (optional)
1/4 cup raw Almonds (optional)
1 green chili, Serrano/Jalapeno
2 Tbsp fresh Ginger, chopped
1 tsp oil
1 tsp Cumin seeds
1 large Onion
1/2 tsp ground Turmeric
1 Tbsp ground Coriander seeds
1/2 tsp ground Dry Red Chilies (Cayenne)
1 Bay Leaf
1 tsp Sea Salt
1 tsp Garam Masala
1 Tbsp Kasoori Methi (dry fenugreek leaves)
1/4 cup Fresh Cilantro, chopped

Chop the onion finely.

Puree the green chili, ginger, poppy seeds and almonds with a couple of the cored tomatoes and blend until smooth; add the rest of the tomatoes and process into a fine puree.

Heat the oil in a Dutch Oven (4 or 5 quart pot) and lightly brown the cumin seeds. Add the onions and cook until soft.

Turn heat down and add the rest of the spices. Stir well and cook for a couple of minutes.

Add the tomato puree and the juice saved from the grated veggies. Mix well and add about 1 cup of water to thin the sauce, bring to a boil, and simmer covered for 20 minutes stirring occasionally.

If the sauce is too chunky in appearance, it can be pureed; an immersion blender is great for this job.

If you are making the sauce ahead of time, cool and store until ready to use.

Do not be concerned if the sauce is thin; it will thicken when you add the kofte - the kofte absorb a lot of the moisture.

Assembly:

Gently put the kofta into the simmering sauce and turn them to coat. Turn off heat and sprinkle the crumbled kasoori methi on top. Let the kofte marinate for at least 30 minutes, preferably 1 hour.

Check to make sure that the koftas are soft and have absorbed some of the sauce. If you are using frozen kofte/sauce, it might take a little longer to heat up.

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

Kofte nestled in Pulav

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Cranberry Pulav (Basmati Rice With Cranberries and Fragrant Spices)

Cranberry Pulav With Cabbage Kofte

Colorful Cranberry Rice is quite a versatile dish. It is delicious served with couscous or curries; it is particularly fabulous with Vegetable or Malai Kofte.

6 - 8 Servings

Ingredients:

2 cups Basmati Rice
4 Tbsp Ghee/Butter
2 cups Cranberries
1 pinch whole Saffron
1/4 tsp Turmeric
3 Cardamom Pods
1 Tbsp freshly grated Ginger
1/3 to 1/2 cup Organic Sugar
11/2 tsp Sea Salt

Method:

Wash the rice and let it soak in fresh water for half an hour.

Pick over the cranberries, rinse and drain.

Drain the water from the rice.

Crush the seeds from the cardamom finely with the saffron and the salt.

Heat half the ghee in a large pot.

Place half the rice in the pot and sprinkle half of the cranberries over them.

Sprinkle half the spices and sugar over the rice.

Cover with the remaining rice and sprinkle the rest of the cranberries on top.

Carefully add 3 cups of water without disturbing the rice and berries.

Sprinkle the remaining spices and sugar over the rice; drizzle the rest of the ghee on top.

Bring to a boil without stirring, turn down heat, cover and let it cook on the lowest heat setting for 15 minutes.

Turn off the heat and let it sit undisturbed for 15 minutes.

Stir gently and serve hot. Enjoy!!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Mixed Vegetable Ishtu (Vegetable Stew In Coconut Milk)

Mixed Vegetable Ishtu
Here is a delicious variation on the wonderfully fragrant stew from Kerala. It is as flavorful a combination of veggies to please the palate as it is a colorful delight for the eyes! Feel free to experiment and find your own special combination of veggies according to the season or your family's preference. The corn on the cob is a very tasty addition when you have a chance to get them fresh.

Ingredients:

1 medium Onion
4 - 8 slices Fresh Ginger
2 - 4 hot Green Chilies
1 medium Potato or a handful of tiny New Potatoes
1 fresh corn on the cob
2 Parsnips
2 Carrots
A handful of Green Beans
1 Large Red Bell Pepper
2 slender Zucchini
1 cup Peas, fresh or frozen
1 tsp Sea Salt
Freshly ground Black Pepper
1 can Coconut Milk
3 Sprigs Fresh Curry Leaves
1 Tbsp Virgin Coconut Oil

Method:

Wash all the veggies and drain. Peel carrots, parsnips and potato; cut the potato into quarters; thinly slice all the veggies (if using new potatoes, cut in half). Cut the bell pepper into halves and discard stems, ribs and seeds; cut into quarters; slice crosswise into thin strips. Snap off the ends from the green beans and snap into bite size pieces. Cut the corn on the cob into chunks without removing the core.

Leave the green chilies whole (for easy removal) or cut in half lengthwise and remove seeds and membranes (you might want to wear gloves for this); slice thinly.

Mash the ginger into a paste using a mortar and pestle.

Place the onions in a large pot with the chilies, ginger, and the salt; add 1 cup of water and bring to a boil; cook for 5 minutes or until the onions are softened.

Add all the veggies (except the zucchini and peas) and the coconut milk; bring to a boil again; reduce heat and simmer covered until almost tender - about 15 minutes.

Stir in the zucchini and peas and cook for about 5 minutes or until just tender.

Turn off the heat, sprinkle the black pepper, place the crushed curry leaves on top of the stew and drizzle the coconut oil over the curry leaves; cover and let rest for 10 minutes.

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

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Homegrown Greens: Taro Leaves (Colocasia esculenta)

Taro Plant - 2010
Taro has been grown for human consumption since antiquity - some estimates say that it was in cultivation in tropical India before 5000 B.C.E. Taro is grown and eaten in many countries around the world. It was a popular food in Europe during the Roman Empire and many ways of preparing them are found in the ancient Roman cookbook Apicius. These "tropical potatoes" are known as Chembu in Malayalam, Cheppankizhangu in Tamil, Arbi in Hindi, Satoimo in Japanese, dasheen/eddo/callalloo etc. in the Caribbean/Polynesian islands and other parts of the world.

Taro is more nutritious than the regular potato; comparatively taro contains more protein and higher amounts of calcium and phosphorous in addition to goodly amounts of Vitamins A, B6, C and E. It is easily digestible and so good for people with delicate digestive systems.

Although the corms (modified stems) are the most prized parts, the leaves and stems are also eaten. I grow taro for the leaves and stems as the they are not readily available in markets. The leaves are even more nutritious than the corms with a lot more protein. But as with the roots, all parts of taro must be cooked well in order to make them edible - they contain calcium oxalate crystals and other compounds which cause irritation and itching that are rendered harmless by cooking. For more information on taro click here.

The leaves and stems are cooked together or separately to make different dishes. In southern India, the leaves are wrapped around a lentil filling, steamed, and seasoned to make a delicious dish called Chembilai Palaharam or Patravade. People from western India make a similar dish called Patra. My grandmother used to make a delicious stew with the stems flavored with coconut and spices.

Here are a couple of recipes for a start: Taro Leaf and Red Lentil Stew; use taro leaves and stems in the following recipes instead of the radish leaves or Malabar spinach - Radish leaves Thoran, Malabar Spinach Stew.

Taro Root (Corms)
How to grow:

Choose firm, hairy, unwrinkled corms. They should feel heavy and not light. Place one or more of the taro corms in slightly damp (but not wet) soil with the wide end up in a sunny spot. The plants will grow after a few days. To speed up rooting, taro corms may be loosely wrapped in a plastic bag and kept in a dark cupboard; after a few days, you will notice them sprouting. Once they start growing, plant them in the ground or in a pot.

When the plants have a few leaves, the outer leaves can be harvested while still young and green; carefully cut the stem at the base without injuring the inner stalks or leaves. I like to leave a couple of leaves so that the plants can keep growing. Taro also makes a beautiful container plant with its elephant ear shaped leaves - in fact it is called "elephant ears" when grown as an ornamental plant!

 Taro plants Then and Now

Taro in 2013
I had planted about 5 or 6 corms of taro (arbi) in 2010 and have left them in the pot - only harvesting the leaves and stems.  Every year I add compost and soil - that is it.  Water and abundant sunshine helps them grow!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Sago Payasam (Tapioca {"Bubble"} Pudding)

Sago Payasam on a plate of uncooked sago pearls

Sago Payasam is really the familiar tapioca pudding made slightly different with the added cardamom, saffron, nuts and raisins. It is delicious served hot, warm or cold. A homey dessert made for informal occasions in our home, children adore this lovely pudding full of the cooked sago "bubbles"!

Sago is also known as Sabudana (Hindi) or Jawwarisi (Tamil) and is made from the starch of sago palms, Metroxylon sagu. Tapioca pearls are made from the starch of yuca or cassava root (Manihot esculenta). Since both sago and tapioca are composed of predominantly odorless and colorless pure starch, they can be used interchangeably in recipes calling for one or the other - I have used both types with good results.

Sago, saffron, cardamom, and raw cashews are available in Indian markets; tapioca is available in most grocery stores as well as Latino markets.

Ingredients:

1/2 cup Sago or Tapioca Pearls
2 Tbsp Ghee or unsalted butter
1/4 cup raw Cashews, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup Raisins

1 quart (1 liter) milk, any type
1/2 cup sugar
5 Cardamom pods
1 tiny pinch Saffron (optional)
A couple of pinches Sugar

Method:

Bring the milk and sugar to a boil over medium heat; reduce heat and simmer gently stirring occasionally.

Heat the ghee in a large, heavy bottomed, pot and saute the cashews until golden. Stir in the raisins and cook until puffy. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.

In the same pot add the sago pearls to the remaining ghee and cook until pale gold. Remove from heat and cool slightly.

Stir in the toasted sago into the simmering milk and cook stirring often until cooked through - the individual pearls will become transparent when cooked completely. Remove from heat and keep covered.

Crush the cardamom pods slightly and extract the seeds. Combine cardamom seeds and saffron with a pinch or two of sugar in a mortar and grind finely.

Stir in the spice mixture into the payasam and mix well.

Cover and set aside until ready to serve.

Serve warm or chilled garnished with the sauteed nuts and raisins. Enjoy!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Fresh Apple Ginger Cake (Vegan)

Fresh Apple Ginger Cake

Wholesome Fresh Apple Ginger Cake is very easy to make - simply combine all the ingredients and bake! You don't even peel the apples, they just disappear into this moist and delicious cake. At first glance the amount of ginger given in the recipe might seem too much; but it is essential and not overpowering at all. This amazingly aromatic cake is perfect for a chilly autumn day with a mug of steaming spiced cider or chai.

Ingredients:

2 cups Whole Wheat Flour
1 cup regular dry Oatmeal
11/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp Salt
3/4 cup Brown Sugar
1/4 cup oil OR applesauce
1 Tbsp Cornstarch
1 tsp Vanilla
1 cup milk, any type
2 Tbsp Apple Cider Vinegar
3 medium apples
3 Tbsp finely grated Fresh Ginger
1 Tbsp Cinnamon
1/2 tsp freshly grated Nutmeg

Topping:
1/2 cup Walnut pieces
2 Tbsp dry Oatmeal
2 Tbsp Brown Sugar

Raisin sauce, Plain yogurt, Whipped cream, or vanilla ice cream to serve

Method:

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Oil or coat with oil spray a 9" x 13" baking pan.

Wash well and remove the cores from the apples. Do not peel. Chop coarsely.

Combine the apples with all the other cake ingredients in a large bowl and mix well.

Spoon the batter into the prepared pan; sprinkle the nuts, oats and sugar on top.

Bake for 45 to 50 minutes or until done.

Serve the cake warm or at room temperature with one (or more) of the optional toppings. Enjoy!

Jam Bars (Buttery Cookie Bars With Fruity Filling)

Jam Bar With Persimmon Preserves

Jam Bars are quick and easy to make especially if you use a food processor. Although you can use any jam, a bit tart one such as raspberry tastes best. If you do use very sweet jams, then I would reduce the sugar a little so that there will be a nice contrast between the crust and the filling - very sweet filling + very sweet crust = cloyingly sweet bar. You can vary the citrus zests - orange, lemon, tangerine, etc. - depending on the jams you use.

I used the homemade Persimmon-Apple Preserves (the only one I had) and added orange zest which complimented the persimmon preserves quite well. On another occasion I used lemon zest with the persimmon-apples preserves and again it turned out to be a perfectly delectable dessert! For a super-rich dessert, I am planning to serve it next time with creme fraiche or vanilla ice cream and fresh berries. So go forth and try it any way you like :D.

24 bars

Ingredients:

2 cups Whole Wheat Flour
3/4 cups (1 1/2 sticks) Unsalted Butter
1 cup Brown Sugar, loosely packed
1/2 tsp Sea Salt
1/2 tsp Baking Soda
Zest from 1 Orange Or Lemon
1 1/2 cups Oats (old fashioned; not quick)
1 1/2 to 2 cups - your favorite Jam

Method:

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

Butter or coat with an oil spray a 9" x 13" baking pan with rim.

Place flour, sugar, salt and soda in the food processor container fitted with the metal blade.

Pulse once quickly to mix the ingredients; add butter cut in chunks and process until well mixed.

Add the zest and oats and pulse 2 or 3 times quickly just to combine.

Pour about 3/4 of the mixture into the prepared baking pan and press down firmly.

Spread the jam evenly over the flour mixture in the pan.

Sprinkle the remaining flour mixture over the jam.

Bake for 25 minutes or until golden brown.

Cool before cutting.

Serve warm or cool.

Store in airtight container after the bars have completely cooled. Delicious!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Aloo Tikki ( Golden Potato Patties)


Chole Tikki

Aloo Tikki are a favorite snack all over India. Eaten with a little chutney or with protein-rich pea or bean curries, they make a filling meal. As evening approaches, snack vendors get ready with their array of patties sizzling on the griddles waiting for the crowds of people stopping for a late afternoon snack and offer combos such as Ragada-Patties in Western India and as Chole - or Chana -Tikki in the North.

12 Tikki - Allow 2-3 tikki per serving.

Ingredients:

1 lb Potatoes (2 medium to large)
1 Tbsp fresh ginger, finely grated
1/2 tsp Cayenne or Serrano/Jalapeno chile, minced
1/2 Onion, finely chopped
1 cup Peas, fresh or frozen
4 tbsp Cilantro, finely chopped
1 tsp Amchoor Or Lime/Lemon juice to taste
1 tsp Sea Salt
1/4 cup Rice Flour

About 1/2 cup Rice flour for coating the patties
About 2 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil for cooking

1/4 cup Green Chutney to serve
1/4 cup Sweet Chutney to serve
Chole/Ragada to serve (optional)

Method:

Make shallow cuts around the middle of each potato (this helps to peel them quickly); cook them whole in water to cover or in a pressure cooker until done.

Peel the potatoes while still hot. Mash them coarsely, stir in the onions and peas; let cool.

Add ginger, chili, cilantro, salt, rice flour and lime juice to taste to the potatoes and mix well.

Divide into twelve portions and form the potato mixture into patties.

Dredge each patty in the flour and shake off any excess. If made ahead, chill up to 2 days.

Cook the patties slowly with a bit of oil on a griddle or skillet until golden brown on both sides.

Serve hot with green and sweet chutneys or Chole/Ragada.

Golden Aloo Tikki

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Homegrown Greens/Herbs: Garlic Chives


Garlic Chives (Allium tuberosum) is a gorgeous member of the onion family. Similar in flavor to chives, garlic chives have a mild garlic flavor and is often used as a vegetable in Asian cuisines. Known as Gau Choy, Chinese chives, Nira, etc, both the leaves and the young flower stalks with the buds and the flowers can be used in cooking in place of green onions or regular chives.

Garlic chives can be easily grown from seeds or plant divisions. It is a perennial plant that does not require a lot of care. Once planted, it slowly spreads and self seeds also. Harvest the grass like leaves and flower stalks by cutting close to the base. The seeds can be collected to make delicious tasting sprouts during winter months when the chives themselves slow down.

Garlic chives make wonderful border plants in regular as well as the herb gardens with the fragrant and attractive white star-shaped flowers. I have used them in bouquets in high summer when there aren't a lot of other flowers in the garden. The nectar-rich blossoms attract humming birds and beneficial insects like bees.

Use garlic chives as garnish, flavoring, or as veggies in all your recipes in place of regular chives or green onions/scallions. They are delicious in soups and salads too. Here are a few suggestions of recipes: Corn Chowder, Spinach Raita, Fried Rice, and East-West Tofu Toast.

Potato Bonda (Spiced Potato Fritters)

Potato Bonda with Sweet and Green Chutneys

Potato Bonda is probably Paji's all time favorite snack. It is a traditional afternoon tea-time treat all over Southern and Western India. In Mumbai area it is called "Batata Vada" and is a very popular street snack. Seasoned potato and vegetable balls are dipped in batter and fried to make Potato or Aloo Bonda. If you prepare the potatoes a day ahead, bonda making goes together pretty quickly.

Ingredients:

Potato Filling:
1 recipe Basic Potato Curry
1 recipe Bajji Batter
Oil for deep frying
Assorted Chutneys, ketchup, etc. to serve

Method:

Prepare the Potato Curry; make into 1 inch balls and set aside. Chill if made ahead.

Potato Balls

Prepare the batter: Mix the ingredients to make a fairly thick batter. The batter should form a thick coat for the potato balls.

Heat oil for deep frying. When hot, slip in batter coated potato balls carefully without splashing the hot oil or crowding.
Bondas are almost ready!
Bits of Boondi cooking on the edges.


Turn the bondas gently and carefully to cook well browned on all sides; don't break off the little irregular bits dangling off the bondas - they add character and crunch!!

When golden brown, remove from the oil with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.

Bondas Ready to Eat!

Serve hot with your favorite chutneys - basic green, sweet and sour date-tamarind, fresh coconut, and/or green chili. Chili-tomato Chutney or tomato ketchup are also delicious options.

If there is any of the batter left at the end, dribble little bits through your fingers or through a slotted spoon into the hot oil. Cook until golden brown and drain on paper towels.

Boondi

These little bits known as Boondi are crisp and crunchy and make a lovely snack. They can also be used as a garnish for raita and other dishes.

Aloo Chana Chat (Potato, Chick Peas, & Veggie Salad Meal)

Aloo Chana Chat

Chats are piquantly spiced snack dishes often laced with lime juice prepared with readily available ingredients. Aloo Chana Chat (Ah-loo Chanah Chah-t) is more than a simple snack of seasoned potatoes and chick peas. It is another dish based on the ubiquitous snacks offered by snack vendors all over India. With the protein- and fiber-rich chick peas or garbanzos, crisp veggies, crunchy sev, and a sweet and sour dressing made with chutneys, it can double as a filling and nutritious meal. Served with a side of cooling plain Yogurt or the yogurt based beverage Lassi, it makes a delicious repast especially during summertime.

Clockwise from the top: Carrots, Lemon, Cucumber, Red Onion,
Green Chili, Chick Peas, Potato, Cilantro; Sev in the center

I used sprouted chick peas here but un-sprouted or canned may be used as well. The chutneys can be homemade or store-bought. Other crisp fresh veggies and fresh or steamed sprouts may be added. This is a basic blueprint recipe and you are welcome to vary the ingredients and their amounts as you wish. Sprinkle more chilies or ground hot red pepper (cayenne) on individual servings if you like it spicy.

Sweet and Green Chutneys

Chat Masala is a handy spice-mix great for sprinkling on baked regular or sweet potatoes, corn on the cob, sliced fruit, salads, or other veggies. Sev is ready to eat fried noodles made of garbanzo flour and spices. All these ingredients including the chutneys are readily available at Indian markets.

4 Servings

Ingredients:

1 medium potato, cooked in its jacket
1 cup cooked (sprouted) Chick Peas (click here for directions)
1 small Red Onion, chopped
1 small Carrot, finely grated
1 Persian or 1/2 an English Cucumber, chopped
1 small bunch Cilantro, chopped
1 or 2 Serrano/Jalapeno Chili, finely chopped (optional)
1 cup Romaine Lettuce, chopped
1/2 to 1 cup Fine Sev
1/2 tsp Chat Masala or Sea Salt
1 Lime/Lemon, juiced
1/4 cup Green Chutney or to taste
1/4 cup Sweet Chutney or to taste

Method:

Prepare freshly cooked chick peas or garbanzos; if using canned, drain and rinse well.

Peel the potato while still warm; chop into small cubes.

Combine all the veggies and chick peas in a large bowl.

Mix the chutneys with the lime/lemon and chat masala.

Drizzle the chutney mixture on top of veggies and mix well.

Mix in the sev just before serving. Serve immediately.

Aloo Chat should be eaten right away so the sev does not get soggy. Enjoy!!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Roasted Eggplant Spread

Roasted eggplant spread is wonderful to have on hand to make quick snacks, elegant meals and appetizers. Use it as a sandwich spread or sauce/topping for pasta or rice - Delicious!
Eggplant Spread Ready to Serve
Using a food processor to slice all the veggies make it a snap to prepare this dish.

Chopped Veggies
Ingredients:

1 large Globe Eggplant
1 Red Bell Pepper
1 large Red Onion
1 clove Garlic
1/2 tsp Red Pepper flakes (to taste)
2 Tbsp fresh Thyme or 2 tsp dry
1 tsp Sea Salt
1 pinch Turmeric
2 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 Tbsp fresh basil, chopped

Ready for roasting

Garnishes:
Toasted Almonds
Sliced Green or Black Olives
2 oz. Feta or Goat cheese
2 Tbsp Fresh Parsley, finely chopped
2 Tbsp Fresh Basil leaves

Method:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Wash all the veggies and herbs.

If you are using a food processor, cut the eggplants and peppers into long pieces that will fit the chute. Use the slicing plate to process. Or chop using a knife into small bite size pieces.

Coarsely chop onion. Mince the garlic. Chop the herbs.

Place all the veggies in a large rimmed baking pan coated with the olive oil.

Add salt, rest of the oil, garlic, thyme, chili flakes; shake/stir well to coat.

Place pan on the bottom rack of the oven and roast the veggies for about 40 to 45 minutes or until soft and lightly browned. Stir once every 15 minutes or so during baking so that all the veggies cook evenly.

Remove from the oven, stir in the basil, cool and mash slightly or process in a food processor into a coarse puree. Chill until ready to serve.

Spoon the eggplant spread on a serving dish and garnish as desired. Coarsely crush the almonds with a pestle or rolling pin to use as a topping.

Serve warm, cold, or at room temperature with any crusty bread, crackers, and/or crisp veggies including Romaine lettuce hearts. Enjoy!

Thyme-Scented Toasted Almond Nibbles

Thyme-scented Almonds are a wonderful snack or starter. They also make a delicious and different garnish for all types of dishes including salads and spreads. Herb scented almonds are very easy to make and can be made up to one week ahead.

Ingredients:

2 tsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 cup Almonds
2 or 3 sprigs fresh Thyme
1/4 tsp Red pepper flakes or more
1/4 tsp Sea Salt

Method:

Heat olive oil in a wok or skillet.

Add the almonds and stir for a 3 or 4 minutes.

Sprinkle pepper flakes and chopped thyme with the salt.

Cook stirring until almonds are toasted and golden.

Cool and store in an airtight container until ready to serve. Enjoy!

Freeze the almonds for longer storage.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Tostada (Beans & Salsa Topped Crispy Corn Tortillas)

Tostadas are the Mexican version of Indian "chat" dishes - quick and flavorful melange of crispy bread bases with cooked or fresh veggies, beans, and piquant chutneys, etc. For tostadas, crispy, crunchy corn tortillas form the base for any number of toppings which typically include Frijoles (beans), cheese, and salsas. They are fun to serve - and eat ;P - for informal family as well as company meals as each person can tailor the meal according to individual needs/taste. Children particularly love making their own.

Everything can be prepared ahead with minimal last minute fuss - a great plus for the host/hostess! I love serving tostadas for large groups as there is no need for any other dishes - all the food groups are represented. Just place everything in bowls and baskets and let the guests/diners assemble their own. Provide knives and forks to eat the tostadas even though they can be eaten without any utensils if we don't get carried away and pile them mile-high with all the toppings :-).

Note: Although there is no comparison, purchased canned beans (nonfat re-fried beans) and salsas can be used instead of the homemade if you are short on time. Tostadas can also be made as snacks or starters; use round or other shapes of tortilla chips instead of the tostada shells for these if you wish.

8 Servings

Ingredients:

1 recipe Frijoles or Black Beans
1 head Romaine lettuce, thinly sliced
1 recipe Salsa I or Salsa II or Avocado Salsa
1 package Mexican style or other cheese, shredded
1 cup Sour Cream
1 red onion, sliced thinly
1 Lime, juiced
1 cup each sliced Radishes, green onions (scallions), and chopped Cilantro
1or 2 ripe Avocados, peeled and cut into small cubes
Lime wedges to serve
1 package Tostada Shells (allow 2 shells per person)

Method:

Prepare Frijoles and one or more your favorite Salsas; these can be made up to two days ahead.

Place the onions in a bowl and sprinkle with salt and half of the lime juice; let marinate at least for one hour or up to one day ahead.

On the day of serving, warm the frijoles until hot. Warm the tostada shells if you wish.

Place all the other ingredients in individual serving bowls.

Cut the avocado just before serving and sprinkle with some lime juice.

Invite everyone to assemble their own tostada. Pass the lime wedges to squeeze on top.

Eat!! Enjoy! Buen Provecho!

Sprouts II (Micro-Greens)

Now that making various bean Sprouts have been mastered, here are some more sprouts that are just as delicious and easy to make. You can follow the same method for bean sprouts; do plan ahead as these sprouts take a few days to become ready for eating.

Typically these micro-greens are not cooked but added to salads and sandwiches for their flavorful crunch or used as a topping or garnish. They are not just good-tasting but also packed with easily digestible protein, vitamins, and minerals. They are great sources of dietary fiber and many have sizable amounts of trace minerals vital for good health.

Seeds of all kinds such as Sunflower, Alfalfa, Chia, Clover, Fenugreek, Garlic Chives, Mustard, Radish, etc. all make wonderful sprouts. [Grain and vegetable seeds such as wheat, cabbage and broccoli can also be sprouted; but I have not tried them yet.] These seeds (specifically for sprouting) can be purchased in larger quantities from a health food store or an internet source.

You might want to start with just a Tablespoon of the seeds as some grow to make a good amount. Use separate jars for different seeds as they sprout at different rates. I like using glass jars for sprouting as these allow one to see how the sprouting is progressing and allow light in to enrich the sprouts with chlorophyll.

Ingredients:

1 Tbsp seeds
Glass jars (1 quart/liter size)
Muslin cloth or fine strainers

Method:

Place the seeds of your choice in a clean jar and soak in plenty of fresh water for several hours or overnight.

Drain and rinse thoroughly; a small clean muslin cloth or a fine strainer can be of help in draining and prevent the loss of the precious seeds down the drain.

Cover with a clean cloth loosely and let sit undisturbed on a well lit counter next to a window (but not in direct sun).

Rinse with fresh water and drain thoroughly twice daily. Too much moisture will cause them to spoil.

When seeds have sprouted and grown to your liking, rinse and drain well and store covered in the fridge until ready to use. Rinse and drain once daily.

The sprouts will last about a week.

Serve the sprouts in salads, sandwiches, etc. as you wish. Enjoy!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Keerai Masiyal (Velvety Spinach Puree)

Another classic South Indian veggie dish - it is very simple but very delicious and healthful too! Keerai Masiyal (literally Spinach Puree) appears regularly for daily meals in South Indian homes as it is considered very healthy since spinach and other dark green leafy veggies contain good amounts of protein and fiber. Luxuriously velvety, good tasting, and mild, I adored it even as a child; what's not to love?

Mild Keerai and some type of spicy Kuzhambu is a classic combination; in fact, Keerai Masiyal is traditionally served along with sambar or other sour and spicy kuzhambus flavored with tamarind. It is a much loved combo in our household. Other greens such as watercress, chard, etc may be used alone or in combination to make masiyal. Young and tender greens make the best tasting masiyal.

And, as far I know, this is the only dish where whole toasted rice is used as a seasoning!!

Nutritional Data per 1/6 of the recipe: Approximately - 23 Calories, 1.4 g Protein, 2.6 g Carbohydrates, 1.3 g Fiber, .8 g Fat, and 220 mg Sodium.

4 - 6 Servings

Ingredients:

12 oz. cleaned and washed baby Spinach
1 hot green chili (optional)
1 pinch Turmeric
1/2 tsp Sea Salt or to taste
1 pinch Sugar (optional)

Thalippu/Tadka:
1 tsp Coconut Oil
1 tsp uncooked rice
1 dry hot red chili, broken in half and seeds removed
1 tsp Urad Dal
1 small sprig Curry Leaves, finely chopped

Method:

Finely chop the spinach.

Cut a slit in the green chili.

Place the green chili in the bottom of a pan and add a little water (about 1/4 cup) - you don't need too much but just enough to steam the spinach.

Add the spinach on top of the chili and cook until very hot and steamy and the spinach wilts.

Stir well and remove the chili before mashing if you like the dish to be mild.

Add the turmeric, , salt and sugar. Mash with the back of a spoon and cook until spinach is soft and has a creamy consistency - a few minutes more.

Remove from heat and set aside.

Heat the oil and add the rice; cook stirring until rice starts to puff.

Add the chili and urad dal and continue cooking and shaking/stirring until rice and dal are golden.

Stir in the curry leaves carefully as they might sputter and spatter as they come in contact with the hot oil.

Stir the curry leaf mixture into the masiyal immediately and keep covered for a few minutes.

Serve hot with any Kuzhambu or Sambar and rice or roti. Enjoy!!