Monday, May 28, 2012

Sensational Stuffed Mushrooms

These mushrooms really are sensationally sumptuous; and how! Linda D. very kindly shared the recipe with me; I have adapted her recipe so that you can make a smaller quantity (the original served 60 people!). I like using medium sized mushrooms for appetizers; use large ones if you like - they are perfect with meals. It can be vegan if you omit the cheese.

Ingredients:

1 lb White Mushrooms
2 Tbsp Butter/oil for cooking and oiling
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 clove fresh Garlic
Sea Salt & Pepper to taste
1 pinch Red Pepper (cayenne)
1 small handful Parsley, finely chopped
1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
3 oz. Bread Crumbs

Method:

Lightly oil baking sheet(s) that can hold the mushrooms in a single layer.

Wash the mushrooms in cool water quickly and drain on absorbent towels.

Snap off the stems from the mushrooms and chop finely; reserve the caps for stuffing.

Heat 1 Tbsp oil/butter in a large skillet and cook the chopped mushroom stems, onions and garlic with a pinch of salt until soft; stir in the parsley and let cool.

Combine the breadcrumbs, cheese, red pepper, a little salt if needed, and freshly ground black pepper to taste with the onion mixture and mix well.

Firmly mold a little of the filling mixture into the cavity of each mushroom cap and place on the oiled baking sheet.

Bake at 350 F for about 20 to 25 minutes.

Serve hot or warm. Enjoy!!

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Chunky Chana Dal

This is a delicious but simple dal - great with rice or other grains, roti, and/or by itself.  We love the nutty taste of the chana dal which is really split and decorticated (skin removed) chick pea! I believe that it is made from the brown Indian chick pea rather than the golden type known as Kabuli chana or garbanzo bean. Chana dal (unlike mung or masoor dal) retains its shape and does not easily cook up mushy; hence the name 'chunky' :-).  I used a pressure cooker to cook this dal; it is a great tool to cook all dals, whole beans and grains quickly.

Notes: This is a versatile dal that changes its flavor based on the spices used - instead of the mustard and cumin seeds, substitute 1 tsp of panch phoron for a lively but different taste; or saute some leeks/onions after the thalippu is made and stir in some tomatoes before adding the dal.  Yellow or green split peas may be used instead of chana dal; one or the other dals may be omitted or used in any combination.  Any way you make it, it is delicious!



Ingredients:

1 cup Chana dal
1/4 cup Yellow Mung Dal
1/4 cup Red Lentils (Masoor Dal)
1/2 tsp Turmeric
1 tsp Sea Salt
2-4 Tbsp fresh Cilantro, chopped (optional)

Thalippu/Tadka:
2 tsp Oil
1/2 tsp Brown Mustard Seeds
1/2 tsp Cumin Seeds
1 pinch Asafetida
1-2 Hot Green chiles (Serrano or Jalapeno), cut into quarters lengthwise (for a mild dish, remove the core from the chiles) or minced
2 Tbsp Fresh Ginger, minced
1 Stem fresh Curry leaves

Method:

Sort, wash and cook the dals in fresh water to cover until soft; the other dals with be creamy but chana will retain its shape as long as it is not overcooked. 

Prepare the thalippu:  Heat the oil and add the seeds; when they pop and dance, reduce the heat a little and add the rest of the thalippu ingredients in the order given.

When the chiles soften a little, add the cooked dal, turmeric, salt, and additional water if necessary and bring to a boil. 

Remove from heat and cover and allow to rest until serving time.

Remove the chiles from the dal (if they are in big pieces) before serving so as to prevent anyone biting into them unawares! They do look like green beans to the unwary innocent! (We love the flavor and eat the chiles along with the dal.)

Serve hot sprinkled with the cilantro.  Enjoy!!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Arugula & Sweet Potato Curry

Imagine arugula in a curry! - I was amazed at how lovely this curry turned out; the peppery and pungent arugula became quite demure and mellow when cooked.  It is delicious served with rice, any rotis, or just dal if you are wanting to keep your caloric intake low; I served it with theplas and chana dal.  If you are not convinced to use arugula, other greens may be used instead.

Ingredients:

1 Tbsp Oil
1/2 tsp Mustard Seeds
1 Tbsp Urad Dal
1 pinch Hing/ Asafetida
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 small Onion, chopped
2 hot green (Serrano/jalapeno) chiles, minced
2 medium Sweet Potatoes, diced
1 medium Red or other colors Bell Pepper, diced
3-4 cups Arugula (~ 6 oz), coarsely chopped
1 Tbsp Sambar Powder

Method:

Heat the oil with the mustard seeds  and urad dal until mustard starts popping.

Stir in the asafetida, turmeric, green chiles, and onions with a pinch of salt.

When the onions soften, add the sweet potatoes and mix well; add a little more salt and cook covered about 15 minutes.

Add the bell pepper, arugula, sprinkle the sambar powder on top and cook covered until veggies are done; mix well.

Let rest covered for about 5 minutes.

Serve hot with rice, rotis, etc. and a dal for a complete meal.  Enjoy!!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Thepla (Spicy Flat Bread with Herbs)

Methi (Fenugreek) Thepla

Theplas are spicy flat breads (rotis) made with herbs.  It is similar to a tortilla in that it is a flat bread; but there the similarity ends.  A thepla is much more than a vehicle for wrapping other foods; it is a lovely spicy snack on its own or may be part of a meal.  Usha J. was very gracious to show me how to make these and I have been making them ever since :).  I am told that the traditional way to eat them is accompanied by Kichdi (a rice and lentil risotto quite popular all over India), a vegetable (with potato) curry, fresh yogurt, papadams, and pickles.  I often serve them with Simple dal, Sweet Potato Curry, and Hot Lemon or Mango Pickles.  The leftover theplas are wonderful whether warmed up or at room temperature with a bit of Indian pickles and a cup of Chai.

Fenugreek (fresh methi) is the most popular herb for making these wonderful rotis; but dill, mint, cilantro, spinach or other favorite greens may be utilized as well.  I like to add sesame seeds for their lovely taste as well as nutrition even though they are not traditional.

Although the Indian whole wheat flour ground specifically for making flat breads (known as atta) is the best for making thepla as well as other types of roti, any whole wheat flour may be used.

Note:  The combination of coriander and cumin seeds ground together is a typical spice mix that is useful to have and easy to make; lightly dry-roast equal amounts of the two spices and grind them finely in a spice grinder when cool and store in air-tight jars.

Ingredients:

2 cups Whole Wheat Flour (Atta)
1/2 tsp Sea Salt
1 Tbsp brown sugar (optional)
1/2 tsp Turmeric
1/2 tsp or more ground hot red pepper (Cayenne)
1 pinch Asafetida
1 tbsp ground Coriander and Cumin Seeds
1/4 tsp Ajwain seeds
1 Tbsp white Sesame seeds (optional)
1 cup finely chopped fresh Fenugreek
2-3 Tbsp Cow's Milk or Soy Yogurt
1/2 cup whole wheat flour, for dusting while rolling out
About 2 Tbsp Oil for cooking

Method:


Snap off the tender portions or just the leaves and tender tips of the fenugreek.  Wash and dry well.  Chop finely.


Grind the coriander and cumin seeds together in a spice mill with the salt.

Combine the flour with the ground spices, turmeric, cayenne, ajwain seeds, and asafetida; whisk together.

Add the chopped herbs and the yogurt; stir well to mix.

Add water a few tbsp at a time to make a firm dough; it should still be pliable enough to roll out into circles; knead well until smooth and satiny.


 Thepla Dough Discs


Divide the dough into 16 smooth balls/discs; roll them out into moderately thin circles dusting with flour as necessary, about 7 inches in diameter.

                         
Thepla ready for cooking

Cook each thepla on a griddle/skillet; cook one side until the top changes color.  Flip over to cook the other side a little, until a few pale brown spots appear.

Brush lightly with a little oil and flip over; press down especially on the edges to allow the bread to puff up a bit and cook until brownish spots appear.  Brush the unoiled side with a little oil and cook a few seconds more.

Make sure that the theplas are not overcooked to dryness; they should stay soft speckled with a few brown spots.

Stack the theplas as you cook them over a folded paper towel or napkin; cover them loosely with another napkin until all are done.

Serve the theplas warm with Kichdi, pickles, etc. 

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Ancient Cole Slaw (Athenian Cabbage Salad)

Here is another easy, delicious (and healthy) recipe from the ancient times thanks to The Classical Cookbook (my inspiration for  Coriander-Crusted Eggplant and Cato's Lentils).  This fresh tasting slaw is a lovely dish that can be served as a starter or with a meal. The only ingredient I have left out is rue, an herb that is neither commonly used nor easily available (did not find any either fresh or dry in any of the markets).  If you are interested in replicating the ancient recipe, rue is available for purchase at most nurseries.

According to the Classical Cookbook, Romans of antiquity (and Greeks too as is evident from the title of this post) were very fond of cabbage and grew them avidly.  The doctors of the times recommended cabbage as a cure for headaches, arthritis, stomach problems and even as prevention for hangovers if it was eaten before indulging in alcoholic beverages. Whether or not cabbage was helpful in curing the various diseases, it was apparently only wishful thinking that it would prevent hangovers :D.

We do know that cabbage is an excellent source of Vitamins K and C (more than oranges!) and a very good source for various anti-oxidants, anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory compounds and B-vitamins.  It is also a good source of dietary fiber.  Cabbage  is low in calories and hence a wonderful addition to the diet of anyone trying to limit their caloric intake.  Mild, sweet, and crunchy, it is a great addition to salads, stir-fries, and soups.

The fresh cilantro and honey vinegar (oxymeli) are what makes this slaw special.  If you do not use honey, you may use agave syrup or another sweetener.

2 - 4 Servings 

Ingredients:

2 Tbsp Honey
4 Tbsp Apple Cider Vinegar
1/2 small green Cabbage, shredded
1 small bunch fresh Cilantro, finely chopped
1/2 tsp Sea Salt
1 tiny pinch Asafetida

Method:

Prepare the honey vinegar (Oxymeli):  Heat the honey in a small pan until it is boiling; stir in the vinegar and mix well.  Continue cooking until the raw honey flavor cooks out - a couple of minutes.  Remove from heat and let cool.

Combine the cabbage, cilantro, asafetida, and salt in a large bowl.

Add about 2-3 Tbsp of the honey vinegar and mix well; taste to check the seasonings.

Add more honey vinegar if desired and mix thoroughly.

Serve or chill until needed.  The slaw stays fresh for a day or two. Eat. Enjoy!!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Coriander-Crusted Eggplant - A Roman Feast

Coriander Crusted Eggplant, an adaptation of an Ancient Roman recipe from The Classical Cookbook, is absolutely delicious! I made it as a special treat for an avid fan of ancient Roman history!

I tweaked the recipe (just a tiny bit :D) by replacing the fish with eggplants; Roman chefs prided themselves on surprising their patrons by presenting them with dishes made to look and taste like something they were not.    Fish this was not - but simple though the recipe was, the eggplants tasted delicious. Despite the lack of fancier fare like honey-glaced dormice and roasted peacocks, the eggplant made for a splendid meal along with Cato's Lentils and Athenian Cabbage Salad - YUM!  Barley bread and some Globi for dessert (based on recipes from Meals and Recipes from Ancient Greece, Around the Roman Table, and The Classical Cookbook) would have made it a truly memorable meal - a veritable feast for the gods!  There is always next time!

4 Servings

Ingredients:


2 Tbsp Coriander Seeds
1 tsp Black Peppercorns
1/4 tsp Turmeric
1 tsp Sea Salt
4-6 long slender Asian OR 1 big Globe Eggplant
1 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil + a little more for the pan
2 Tbsp White Wine Vinegar/Lime Juice

Method:

Choose bright and glossy eggplants for the best results; dull/wrinkled ones are either too old or not very fresh.

Toast the coriander and black pepper in a small dry pan until fragrant and lightly toasted. Cool and grind coarsely.

Mix the ground spices with turmeric and salt.

Start heating the oven to 400 degrees F.

Prepare a baking pan by lightly oiling with olive oil; or line with parchment paper for easy clean-up.

Wash the vegetables and dry them. Peel them if you like - I do not.  If you have the Asian type, cut the eggplants in half; if they are the globe type cut them into thick slices.

Dredge the eggplants firmly in the spice mixture and place them on the baking pan in a single layer. Drizzle the oil evenly over the veggies.

Bake for about 30 to 45 minutes turning once (after about 20 minutes) until they are soft when tested with a fork.

Alternately, the eggplant slices may be cooked in a skillet over medium heat; when one side is  slightly roasted, turn over to cook the other side.

Remove from the oven/skillet, splash with the vinegar or lime juice and serve hot. Enjoy!!

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Broccoli With Peanut Sauce

A winner of a recipe! I wanted to use up the broccoli while it was still fresh. I served the broccoli with peanut sauce with brown rice and tofu curry for a fabulous meal. What little leftovers remained were sought after and eaten up the next day!

Although quite simple, the sauce is so delicious that it makes the dish. I bet I could serve this sauce over other veggies too :D.

4 Servings

Ingredients:

11/2 lbs Broccoli, cut into large florets
2 large Carrots, slice diagonally
1 Red Onion, cut into vertical slivers
1 Tbsp Oil
1 big pinch Turmeric
Sea Salt to taste
2 Tbsp Kecap Manis (sweet Soy sauce)
2-3 Tbsp Soy Sauce
2 Tbsp Peanut Butter
1-2 Tbsp Rice Vinegar
1- 3 Tbsp Sambal Oelek
2 Tbsp Chopped roasted peanuts to serve

Method:

Heat a wok/kadai and swirl the oil to coat; stir in the onion and cook with a pinch of salt over medium heat until lightly caramelized.

Stir in the broccoli and carrots pieces with the turmeric and a pinch of salt, cover, and cook until just tender but still brightly colored; keep warm.

Combine kecap, soy sauce, peanut butter, rice vinegar and sambal in a small pan and cook stirring until smooth and hot; add a little water - a tablespoon or two at a time - if the sauce becomes too thick.

Pour the peanut sauce over the cooked veggies, sprinkle with the chopped peanuts, and serve hot.

This sauce  is a delicious served over other steamed/stir fried veggies, noodles, Roasted Tofu etc.  Enjoy!!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Green Smoothie!

I thought all my clothes had shrunk!  Could it be that the laundry was done with hot water inadvertently? But really - all of them?  The realization dawned and that it was not the clothes which had shrunk but my size had expanded :D! - and well it might - with all the cooking, tasting, and.... most importantly EATING.

My physician told me that the easiest way to reduce the weight would be to take a medication; the meds suppress appetite and soon the the weight would come down.  So how long did I have to take them, I asked. He told me that once I stopped them, the weight would come back - albeit slowly. He then recommended that I could follow a meal replacement plan since I did not want to take any medications - there were different types of shakes available just for this purpose!  Wow, it sounded so easy to replace just one meal with a shake.  But when I checked out the shake (I read labels of everything),  I was appalled at what I saw on the label. I could not bring myself to purchase even one to try - it was full of so many ingredients that I could not even pronounce!  I was not up to drinking chemical cocktails even for the pursuit of better health.  So, back to the drawing board - what was I going to do?

A friend to the rescue - Pat gave me a copy of Green For Life by Victoria Boutenko - a very timely gift indeed!  When I read this book, I realized that the green smoothie was exactly what I needed.  When I explained about the green smoothie to my physician, he gave me the green :) light to go ahead with the smoothie - "it can't hurt", he said.


I joined the green smoothie revolution! :D  I diligently made my smoothie every morning with healthful fruits and greens; it kept me feeling full and quite content. The green color of the smoothie was not a detriment to me - I actually enjoyed it.  It is truly delicious - even the little ones tried my smoothie, loved it, and wanted more.  


Oh, and one more thing:  my physician also recommended 30 minutes of walking everyday; she said to think of it as a prescription!  I started slowly; 10-15 minutes at first and gradually increased to 30 - 40 minutes. It did wonders not only for weight reduction, but also for overall stamina and well-being.  It feels marvelous to be in control of one's health!  Need I say more :-}?


For smoothies I use really ripe bananas past their prime for eating fresh.  I freeze what cannot be used quickly; they are handy for making smoothies and shakes - not just green ones :}.  Other favorite fruits may be used also - if using other fruits, I still like to include a banana for the sweetness and smooth mouth feel.  For the greens I used spinach at first and then all other kinds: like various dark green lettuces, Swiss chard, kale, radish greens, collards, parsley, basil, mint, etc.  Use herbs like mint, basil, and cilantro in small quantities or sparingly at first - you can always add more if you like them.  I use organic produce for the smoothies.  When I cannot get organic produce, I wash them thoroughly with a little vinegar (check this post on cleaning produce) to remove as much of the residues as possible. 


Here is a guideline for my basic smoothie:  Makes about 1 quart/liter

Ingredients:

2 - 3 medium Ripe Bananas, fresh or frozen (the ones with brown spots are perfect for this)
2 - 4 large handfuls Greens (start with 2 initially)
1 knob fresh Ginger (optional)
1-2 cups Water (or use juice/nondairy milk)

Method:


Combine bananas, ginger if using, and the fluid of your choice in the container of a good high speed liquidizer (I use Vita Mix) and process until liquefied.

Add the greens and process until smooth.  Taste and adjust fruit and fluids to get it just right.

Pour into glasses and serve.  (Or, save the extra in a covered container and refrigerate; the smoothie stays fresh for up to 2 days.)

Bottoms up!  Enjoy!!