Monday, January 31, 2011

Harissa Sauce (North African Chili-Garlic Sauce)

Harissa is a fiery and fabulous North African sauce essential for flavoring delicious Couscous but also has lots of other uses. Stirred into pasta, stews, or sauces, Harissa instantly enlivens whatever it is added to; but do be cautious - a little of the heady sauce goes a long, long way :D! Once you try it, you will find that it is indispensable and would want to keep a jar of it handy to spice up an otherwise bland dish. The diluted sauce can also be used as a table condiment for individual diners to stir into their food - try as a dip for Pakodas, Bajjis, Fritters, and French fries!


1 Bulb fresh Garlic
8 - 12 Dry Red Chilies or 2 - 4 Tbsp ground
1 Tbsp Cumin seeds
2 Tbsp Coriander Seeds
1 Tbsp Sea Salt
about 1/2 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil


Separate the garlic cloves and peel them; trim the stem ends. Process in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade until finely minced.

Stem the chilies, break in halves and shake out all the seeds if a mild sauce is preferred.

Grind the cumin, coriander, and the chilies with a couple of pinches of salt in a spice grinder into a fine powder.

Heat a couple of spoons of olive oil in a skillet or small pan and add the garlic with a couple of pinches of salt. Cook until the garlic becomes pale gold.

Add the spices and the rest of the salt and cook for a couple of minutes. Cool a little.

Spoon the sauce into a clean, sterile, dry jar.

Cover with a generous layer of olive oil.

To serve, remove a tablespoon or two as needed and dilute with more oil to taste. Enjoy!!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Pizza Peperonata (Pizza With Roasted Bell Peppers)

Pizza Peperonata

I had a bit of leftover pizza dough and some roasted peperonata to use up. So ........ Pizza Peperonata it was! It turned out so good that I made it again for a potluck. Before I could finish saying "Mangia, Mangia!", the pizza disappeared very quickly ;P!

You can use either of the pizza doughs - the overnight cold-rising Pizza Dough or the quicker Pizza Dough II. Use your own favorite veggie combination instead of the peperonata if you like. I added a lone zucchini that was lurking in the bottom of the fridge.

4 - 6 Servings


1/2 recipe Pizza Dough or 1 recipe Pizza Dough II
1 recipe Peperonata (without tomatoes)
1 cup Cherry Tomatoes, halved (optional)
2 Tbsp Fresh Oregano leaves, chopped
1/2 tsp Red Pepper flakes or to taste
1 pinch coarse Sea Salt
1 cup shredded Parmesan Cheese
2 cups shredded Mozzarella Cheese

1/2 cup Coarsely torn Fresh Basil and/or Arugula Leaves
A few Kalamata or other Olives for garnishing


Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Lightly oil a 15" x 10" baking sheet.

Bring the pizza dough to room temp by leaving it on the kitchen counter for about half an hour or so. On a lightly floured surface pull and stretch the dough to fit baking sheet. (Use less dough for a thinner, crispier crust.)

Lightly brush the pizza dough with a little olive oil. Bake for about 10 minutes.

Spread the cheeses evenly on the pizza, distribute the veggies, and sprinkle salt, oregano, and chili flakes on top.

Bake for an additional 10 minutes or so until the crust is golden and toppings are bubbly.

Remove from oven and let cool for 5 minutes.

Slice into desired size pieces and sprinkle with the basil, arugula and olives.

Serve hot. Enjoy!
Buon Appetito!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Poricha Kuzhambu II (Black-eyed Peas & Veggie Stew With Coconut)

Here is a wonderful Poricha Kuzhambu for the New Year with the lucky and delicious black eyed peas! I felt very lucky to have a stash of black-eyed peas in my pantry as I love their flavor and wanted to make something new for the New Year with them. The young pods as well as the freshly shelled black-eyed peas make a wonderful addition if you are lucky to find them. Here's to a very Happy and Healthy New Year, everyone!

Use a combination from the following list of vegetables for best taste as well as nutrition - green bananas, zucchini, carrots, green beans, green Lima beans, Edamame, Opo/Chayote squash, Sprouted beans or peas, other mild flavored veggies, etc. Other beans such as val, red chori, white or brown chick peas, etc may be used in place of/in addition to the black-eyed peas. Click here for more information on poricha kuzhambus and a traditional time-tested version with roasted ingredients.

4 - 6 Servings


1 cup Black Eyed Peas
4 cups Assorted Vegetables
11/2 tsp Sea Salt or to taste
1/2 tsp Turmeric

2 or 3 dry Red Peppers (to taste)
1 Tbsp Whole Cumin Seeds
1/2 cup fresh coconut (1/3 cup dry unsweetened)
1 tsp uncooked rice

2 tsp Oil
1/2 tsp Brown Mustard Seeds
1 Tbsp Urad dal
1 or 2 dry red pepper
1 Tbsp grated Coconut (optional)
1 stalk Fresh Curry Leaves, stripped off the stems and chopped


1. Sort the peas for stones or debris. Wash well and soak for a few hours. Cook the peas in fresh water to cover until very soft. Decant the broth from them to use for cooking the veggies.

2. Make the masala while peas are cooking: Finely grind together the coconut, cumin seeds, chilies and rice using a blender using a little of water as needed to make blending feasible.

3. Prepare the veggies: Wash and dry them. Peel the green banana with a potato peeler - only the top green layer of the skin need be peeled. Remove stem and blossom ends of zucchini, cucumber and beans and trim both ends of bananas, carrots, and parsnips. Cut all the veggies into 1/2" cubes; they should all be approximately of the same size so that they all cook evenly.

4. Place the bananas in about 1 cup of water/pea broth with the salt and turmeric and bring to a boil. Add the rest of the veggies, bring to a boil again and simmer until veggies are just tender.

5. Turn up the heat and stir in the ground masala into the veggies - rinse the blender container with a few tablespoons of water to extract all of the masala and pour into the veggies. Bring to a good rolling boil.

6. Stir in the cooked peas; this is the time to check the consistency of the kuzhambu and add hot water as necessary. Bring to a boil again and adjust the salt if you are adding extra water and turn off the heat.

7. Prepare tadka: heat the oil in a small pan and add chilies, mustard seeds, and urad dal; when the mustard seeds pop and the dal turns pink, stir in the coconut and cook until golden. Place the curry leaves on top of the kuzhambu and pour the hot tadka over the curry leaves.

8. Stir gently but thoroughly, cover and let rest for a few minutes for the flavors to mingle.

9. Serve hot or warm. Delicious served over rice or with breads and accompanied by piquant bitter melon and okra pachadi, Tamarind, Tomato, or Bell pepper chutney or Lemon pickles. Enjoy!