Sunday, May 8, 2011

Amma's Favorite Appetizers & Nibbles

In addition to being the queen of hearts, Amma was the soul of hospitality. It was not that she was exuberant about it but very quietly in her own inimitable gentle style she made everyone feel cherished and welcome. Amma loved to make wonderful appetizers and nibbles for special occasions when we had guests. She also made sure to make some for no particular occasion for family too and prepared delicious daily munchies that were satisfying but not necessarily calorie laden. Here are a few of her favorite creations for your munching pleasure. Enjoy!!

Happy Mothers' Day and happy munching!

1. Roasted Chickpeas: A bowl of nutty roasted chickpeas or "chana" is just the thing to serve with steaming mugs of Chai or cool beverages. There are various ways of preparing chickpeas - baking, roasting, sauteing, and deep frying. Dry roasted and fried chickpeas are available in Indian as well as Middle Eastern markets. Amma also used chana dal, mung dal, or lentils (whole Masoor) to make crunchy snacks in a similar fashion.

2. Marinated Carrots: These were Amma's all time favorites! Peel 2 or 3 large carrots; slice on the diagonal into desired sized thick slices. Heat a small skillet with 1 tsp oil; add a pinch of brown mustard seeds. When the seeds begin to pop, add a few curry leaves, a sliced green chili and a tiny pinch of asafoetida and turn off the heat. Stir in the carrots, a couple of pinches of sea salt and the juice from 1/2 lime or lemon or more to taste. Mix well and let marinate for a few minutes. Serve chilled or at room temperature. Serves 2.

Note: If you make a larger quantity of these carrots, store the leftovers in the fridge for up to a week.

3. Vegetables with Lime Juice and Chili Powder: Another favorite :D. These are best prepared just before serving. Slice veggies such as cucumber, jicama, daikon or regular radish, fennel, carrots, tomatoes, etc into circles, sticks or wedges and arrange on a plate. Drizzle with fresh lime/lemon juice; sprinkle salt and plain red chili powder(cayenne). Serve immediately. Instead of the salt/chili powder combo, use Chat Masala (a mixture of herbs, spices, and salts available ready for purchase at Indian markets) for a nice change.

4. Roasted/Baked Plantain: Choose ripe plantains which are yellow with a few black/dark spots. Roast parchment-wrapped whole plantains in a 350 F oven until soft. Unwrap, cut into sections and serve warm or at room temperature. Roasted plantains do not need any embellishments but may be lightly sprinkled with salt and pepper, chat masala and lime juice, or brown sugar and ground cinnamon/cardamoms. Plantains may also be steamed or cooked in a microwave oven. In Kerala, roasted ripe plantains are considered a super food.

5. Roasted Sweet Potatoes: A wonderful super food! Whole or sliced, roasted sweet potatoes are delicious served hot or warm with salt/pepper or Chat Masala and fresh lime juice.

6. Chundal: Chundals make a healthy, satisfying and filling snack. Various beans, peas, corn kernels, etc may be prepared this way and served warm or at room temperature.

7. Salsa & Chips: Serve some tortilla chips with any of the fresh salsas such as Salsa I or Salsa II or the Avocado Salsa.

8. Plantain Chips: Although found in many cuisines, plantain chips are de rigueur Kerala snacks - we always had them especially at the Onam festival. An Onam feast is not complete without both the traditional salted and the thick sweet jaggery-coated plantain chips. Similar to potato chips, thick or thin slices of plantain are fried and salted; sometimes they may be prepared with spices also. All are delicious. Plantain chips flavored with salt are available in most markets nowadays.

9. Sweet Potato Chips: Thinly slice the sweet potatoes and fry in hot oil until crisp. Remove from the hot oil with a slotted spoon, drain on paper towels and sprinkle with a little salt. Serve.

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