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)

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 a complete 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 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