Monday, October 16, 2017

Summery Corn Chowder (Light Lemongrass-Scented Corn Soup With Red Bell Pepper)

Lovely, luscious, yet a light soup, Summery Corn Chowder has a lemon grass scented broth enriched with a touch of coconut milk! This is perfect for late summer or early autumn when there is an abundance of tender sweet corn and succulent red bell peppers. Sunny yellow corn, bright red bell pepper, and green herbs makes the chowder beautiful to behold.

Notes:
It is very easy to make Vegetable Stock or broth. When prepping veggies and herbs, reserve all the clean scraps, keep them in a bag or container until you have enough. They can also be kept frozen adding more as you prep until you have a good amount. Any extra broth also may be frozen for longer storage.

If you fresh corn is not an option, use 14 - 16 oz frozen corn kernels. The lemongrass broth can be prepared without the corncobs; rest of the recipe is still the same.

Serves 4

INGREDIENTS:

3 ears fresh corn
1 quart Vegetable Stock or Water
1/4 tsp Turmeric
1 stalk fresh Lemongrass, crushed & coarsely chopped
1 bunch Stems from fresh Parsley and/or Coriander/Cilantro 
1 medium Potato, any type, scrubbed well
1 large Red Bell Pepper, seeded & diced small
1 small Onion, finely chopped    
Salt & freshly ground pepper to taste
1 cup Coconut Milk
2 Scallions (Green Onions), both white and green parts thinly sliced
2 Tbsp Italian parsley OR Fresh Coriander/Cilantro, chopped
2 Tbsp Cashew OR Coconut cream for garnish
Extra Parsley or Cilantro for garnishing

METHOD:

Cut off the lower portion of the stems from the coriander/cilantro; if using parsley, pull off tender stems and leaves. Reserve the leafy parts of both parsley and coriander for other uses. Wash the stems, and pinch into small pieces and put in a stock pot.

Cut kernels from cobs, then scrape the cobs with the edge of a knife to extract all the milky fluid from the base of the kernels. Reserve the corn kernels and the cobs separately.

Combine lemongrass, coriander/cilantro stems, the corn cobs, whole potato, turmeric, and stock/broth/water in the stock pot, bring to a good boil, reduce the heat and simmer 20 minutes. Cool and strain the stock and reserve the stock and potato, discarding the lemongrass and corn cobs.

Peel the potato if you wish (peeling is quick and easy while potato is still hot or warm), and cut into small dice; reserve.

Saute the onion in a little of the broth (or use a tiny bit of oil) until translucent in a soup pan for about 2 or 3 minutes.

Tip the the rest of the broth into the pan. Add salt and peppper to taste, the corn (and liquid from the cobs), and red pepper to stock, simmer until vegetables are tender - about 15 minutes.

Stir in coconut milk and the diced potato along with the scallions and simmer for another five minutes. Remove from heat.

Add parsley/cilantro, and salt or pepper to adjust seasoning.

Serve garnished with the cashew or coconut cream and a sprig of  parsley or cilantro. Enjoy!!

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Homemade Tandoori Masala (Indian Barbque Spice Mix)

I like to make homemade masalas so as to have them as fresh as possible as well as the proportions of spices best suited for our personal taste; also, some of the masalas have undesirable ingredients like food colors, flavor enhancers, and preservatives. The amount of ingredients may be adjusted to your preference.  Use this masala in any of the recipes that call for Tandoori Masala.

Note: Smoked paprika gives a nice smoky aroma to your dishes; if it is not available, no worries, the masala still is fabulous. Add a tablespoon or two of Kasoori Methi (dried fenugreek leaves) for incomparable taste; crush into a fine powder in the palm of your hands before addiding to marinade or at the end of cooking to finish the dish!

Ingredients:

½ cup dried Kashmiri chillies, break into 2-3 pieces
¼ cup whole Coriander seeds
1 tbsp whole Cumin seeds
½ tbsp whole Black Pepper
½ tbsp whole Cloves
½ tbsp whole green Cardamom pods
1 black Cardamom
1 tsp whole Fenugreek seeds Or 1 Tbsp Kasoori Methi
3 pieces, 2 inch sticks of Cinnamon or Cassia bark, coarsely broken up
2 tsp dried ground Ginger
1 tsp Garlic Powder
½ tsp grated Nutmeg
½ tsp Mace
½ tsp ground turmeric
1 Tbsp Smoked Paprika
3 - 4 Tbsp Paprika 

Method:

Toast all the whole spices one by one, in a medium hot, heavy skillet or pan, for about 30-60 seconds or so until fragrant. Pour into a wide plate or baking dish and let cool completely.

Transfer to a powerful blender or spice grinder, process into a fine powder. You can use a sieve to remove any large pieces that are not ground well and process again. Add the remaining ground spices; add enough of the paprika to get the color just the you would like.

Processs to combine well. Transfer to a clean, airtight spice jar, seal and store in a cool dark place.

This recipe makes around 1 cup of tandoori masala.

Checca - Indian-style OR Italian-style (Chopped Tomato Salad)

Checca

Fresh Tomato Salad is irresistible whether they are prepared the Indian or Italian way; the basics are the same - only the choice of oil and some herbs are slightly different. Which way to go? - a tough choice since both are delicious!

Indian Tomato Salaad is a delicious chopped salad redolent with lemony cilantro and perky hot green chiles. It is often served with pulavs and biriyanis (fragrant rice dishes) or with everyday meals of rice/roti, parathas, and curries. Coconut oil is optional; but great when there are lots of green chiles, especially hot ones!

Italian Checca ("Kekka"), a wonderful chopped salad/sauce full of fragrant basil is delicious served in so many ways: over pasta, crostini (toasts), or as a side salad .... in short, any way you like!

Whichever type you make, refreshing and delicious Checca should be prepared with flavorful fresh ripe tomatoes; sweet flavorful cherry tomatoes are particularly suited for making checca.Optional ingredients listed under the Indian or Italian style salads may be added as desired. The salad may be spicy or mild.
Indian Style Checca With Dal Paratha
I love using homegrown tomatoes, particularly the pear-shaped yellow ones; other types of cherry as well as regular tomatoes are good too.  

Note: Whether you choose Inidian or Italian style, do not refrigerate if possible and serve at room temperature for best flavor. Checca may be chopped finely to use as a sauce for pasta.

Ingredients:

Basic Checca:
1 Pint ripe tomatoes (about 12 oz), diced
1 or 2 large Shallots, finely chopped
1 large clove Garlic, minced (optional)
2 Tbsp Flatleaf Parsley, finely chopped
1/2 tsp Sea Salt
Freshly ground Black Pepper, to taste

Indian-style:
2-3 mild/hot Green Chiles, minced
1 Stem Curry Leaves, minced
1 small Lime/Lemon, juice
1/3 - 1/2 cup fresh Cilantro, chopped + extra for garnish
2-3 tsp melted cool Coconut Oil (optional)
1-2 small slices, Lemon from  Lemon Pickles, very finely chopped (optional)
1 Handful, Brown or Tan Chana (optional)

Italian-style:
1/3 - 1/2 cup fresh Basil, chopped + extra for garnish
2-3 tsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/4 tsp hot Red Pepper flakes (optional)
1 Handful Olives, sliced (optional)
1-3 Pepperoncini, chopped (optional)
2 oz Vegan Mozzarella (optional)

Method:

Combine the tomatoes, shallots, and herbs in a bowl.

Decide whether to make Indian or Italian style; have your choice of ingredients ready. Add the other ingredients based on Indian or Italian, including any optional ones to the tomato bowl. One or more of the optional ingredients may be added.

Sprinkle with the salt and pepper, oil.

Mix well and let rest at room temperature for a few minutes to develop flavors.

Stir well and serve.  Enjoy!!

Indian Style Checca With Dal Paratha


Monday, September 11, 2017

Beet Thepla (Spiced Beet Chapati OR Flatbread)


These bright red theplas or spicy flat breads (rotis) are as beautiful as they are delicious! Theplas are traditionally served with Kichdi (a rice and lentil risotto quite popular all over India), a vegetable curry with potatoes, a raitas or fresh plain yogurt, papadams, and pickles; they make a very filling and nutritious meal. But they can be served as part of a simpler meal with pickles, sliced veggies and plain yogurt. We love theplas with Hot Lemon or Mango pickles and a cup of Chai as a simple meal or snack.

Although fresh Methi (Fenugreek) Theplas are the most popular, they may be made with other herbs and veggies too; but the veggie ones are not as long lasting. Refrigerate any extras and freeze for longer storage.

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.

Makes 12 Theplas

Ingredients:

2 tsp Oil
2 cups fresh coarsely shredded Beets
1/2 tsp Turmeric
1/2 tsp or more ground hot red pepper (Cayenne)
1 pinch Asafetida
1 tsp Cumin Seeds
1/4 tsp Ajwain seeds
1 Tbsp white Sesame seeds (optional)
1/2 tsp Sea Salt
1 Tbsp brown sugar (optional)
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh Cilantro
1-2 Tbsp Fresh Lemon/Lime Juice

2 cups Whole Wheat Flour (Atta) +1/2 cup, for dusting while rolling out
About 2 Tbsp Oil for cooking

Method:

Heat a pan with the oil; add the cumin seeds. When they begin to pop, add ajwain seeds, sesame seeds and asafetida; stir quickly to mix well but do not let them burn.

Immediately stir in the beets with the turmeric, cayenne, salt and optional brown sugar. Cover and cook stirring often for about 10 minutes or until the beets are just tender. Open the cover and let cool completely. Stir in lenon/lime and cilantro.

Combine the flour with the cooked beet mixture and stir well.

Add water a teaspoon at a time if needed to make a firm dough; it should still be pliable enough to roll out into circles. Knead well until smooth and satiny.

Divide the dough into 12 smooth balls/discs; roll them out into moderately thin circles dusting with flour as necessary, about 7 inches in diameter.

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 gently but firmly 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 but speckled with just a few brown spots.

As you cook, stack the theplas in a towel or napkin lined basket or container; cover them loosely with another napkin until all are done.

Serve the theplas hot/warm with Kichdi, raita, pickles, etc. Enjoy!!


Saturday, September 9, 2017

Falafel With Fixings (Crisp Chickpea Balls, Crunchy Salad, & Tahini Sauce)

We love having fresh falafel! Making falafel from scratch can seem intimidating; but not if the stepwise directions are followed. When you have all the prep done ahead, all that remains on the day you want to eat is cooking the Falafels! Planning your prep really pays off when making Falafel.

Prepare Tahini Sauce and chop the Salad ingredients but keep them unseasoned and unsalted until ready to serve.

Falafel makes a great starter or snack in smaller quantities.

About 6-8 Servings

INGREDIENTS:

Falafel:

2 cups Dry Chick Peas, soaked 
2 Cloves fresh Garlic
2-3 Hot Green Chile (Serrano or Jalapeno), or to taste
1 small bunch Fresh Parsley, coarsely chopped
1 small bunch Fresh Cilantro, coarsely chopped
1 small Onion, finely chopped
1 tbsp ground Cumin seeds
1 tbsp ground Coriander seeds
1/4 tsp ground Cardamom seeds
1 1/2 tsp Kosher Salt
1 pinch Turmeric
1/2 tsp Baking Soda
3 T Besan (chickpea flour)
Oil for Deep-frying (neutral tasting oil)

6-8 Pita Bread to serve

Tahini Sauce:

1/2 cup Tahini
1/4 cup fresh Lime or Lemon Juice
3/4 cup Fresh Parsley
3/4 cup Fresh Cilantro
1-2 Cloves fresh Garlic
2-3 Hot Green Chiles, or to taste
2 tsp ground Cumin
1/2 tsp ground Fenugreek Seeds
2 tsp Kosher Salt
1 pinch Cayenne

Salad:

1 small or 1/2 Each Green and Purple Cabbage, finely shredded
1 small or 1/2 large Red Onion, thinly sliced
1/2 cup EACH Cilantro, Spear Mint, Flat Leaf Parsley, chopped
1 Persian Cucumber, thinly sliced
1 cup Cherry Tomatoes, halved Or 2 regular Tomatoes, diced
1/2 tsp Kosher Salt
1 pinch Sugar (optional)

METHOD:

Tahini Sauce:
Place all the ingredients in the carafe of a blender, and blitz until smooth. Add water as needed and to make a nice smooth pourable creamy sauce. The sauce thickens a bit upon standing; add water a teaspoon at a time to get desired consistency. Taste and adjust seasonings.

Salad:
Prep all the veggies and herbs; do not add the salt or sugar if making ahead. When ready, combine, toss to mix well and serve.

Falafel Dough:
Soak the chickpeas in plenty of water at least 8 hours or upto 24 hours; if the weather is hot, keep the chickpeas in the fridge. Discard the soaking water and rinse the chickpeas. Drain thoroughly and set aside. Place the galic and chiles in the bowl of a food processor and process until chopped; add the drained chickpeas and the herbs and process by pulsing until very coarsely ground. You want to retain some texture for crisp falafel. Add the remaining ingredients except the chickpea flour; pulse to mix and scoop into a large bowl. Add just enough of the chickpea flour and mix well; the mixture should hold together when you squeeze the dough into a ball. If needed, add a little more chickpea flour. Chill until ready for frying.

Frying Falafel:
Heat a oil for deep-frying 3-4 inches on medium heat. Form heaping soupspoons of dough into small round or oval balls or patties about  1" in diameter, not more. When a pinch of the dough sizzles upon dropping into the oil, it is ready. Slip the balls/patties carefully into the hot oil without crowding and cook until golden-brown turning as needed. It should take about 5-6 minutes total for the falafels to cook. Remove from oil and drian briefly on paper towels before serving. Continue with the rest of the dough. Serve hot.

Assembly:
Have the salad, tahini, and falafel ready and let everyone help themselves. Allow about 4-6 falafels per serving. Enjoy!!

Friday, September 8, 2017

Kaalan (Kerala Non-Dairy Coconut Curry - Onam Special)

Kaalan is a classic Kerala stew similar to Mor Kuzhambu. It is a must for the elaborate banquets during Onam celebrations; since there are a whole smorgasbord or dishes, usually a small amout of each is served as part of the banquet called "sadya". I have made it vegan so no-one has to miss having it for Onam or any other time that one has a hankering for it. The addition of tofu gives it the traditional look and mouth feel of regular yogurt.

Kaalan tastes better after having time to meld all the flavors.  It will last for a couple of weeks in the refrigerator. So I make a large pot since leftover Kaalan lasts for days and is also delicious served with Dosa, Idli, Upma, etc.

Traditional Kaalan vegetables are the original Indian Yam called Chenai and green, unripe plantains. It may be prepared with green mango, Taro root, winter melon (ash gourd), Indian drumsticks (moringa pods) etc also; when made with many veggies, it is called Rasa Kaalan or tasty Kaalan.

If you like to avoid soy, omit the tofu and increase the amount of coconut to 1 cup plus add 1 cup of Coconut Milk.

About 8-10 Servings

Ingredients:

1 large Firm Green Plantain And/Or 2 cups Indian True Yam (Chenai)
1/2 tsp Turmeric
1 tsp Salt, or to taste
1 Stem Curry leaves
1-2 Lemons/Limes

Grind Together:
1 block (14 oz) Tofu
1/2 cup Grated Coconut, fresh or frozen
1 tsp Black pepper
1 pinch Fenugreek Seeds
1 tsp whole Cumin Seeds
1 stem Curry Leaves, including the stem
1 or 2 Hot Green Chile, core removed for a milder dish
1 Red Chile
1 tsp uncooked rice

Thalippu/Tadka:

1-2 tsp Oil
1 tsp Brown Mustard Seeds
1/4 tsp Fenugreek (Methi) Seeds
2 Dry Red Chilies, broken into two
1 stalk Fresh Curry Leaves, minced

Method:

Choose your favorite vegetables from the suggestions above.

Prepare the veggies: wash well, trim or peel as needed; cut the plantain into half or quarters lengthwise and then crosswise into large chunks. Cut chenai into 1" chunks.

Place the prepared vegetables in a large non-reactive pot (stainless steel, ceramic, etc) with 1/2 cup of water, curry leaves, the salt, and turmeric. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until tender.

While the veggies are cooking, tip the drained tofu into the blender carafe along with the coconut, pepper, cumin, chiles, curry leaves, and rice; process into a nice smooth puree with a little water (up to 1/2 cup).

Tip the coconut puree into the cooked veggies; add a few tablespoons of water to the blender to gather all the remaining puree and add to the pan. Add just enough water to get a pretty thick stew; Kaalan should be thick but not solid.

Simmer gently without covering, for about 15-20 minutes; it should thicken and slightly reduce in volume. Remove from heat.

Heat the oil in a small pan and do the thalippu: add mustard and the red chilies. When the seeds start to pop, add fenugreek seeds, then the curry leaves carefully and cover quickly. When all is calm, pour the thalippu into the Kaalan. Let rest for 5 to 10 minutes.

Stir in lemon/lime juice to taste before serving; Kaalan should be tangy but not too sour.

Serve hot/warm or at room temperature with rice. Enjoy!!

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Kaima/Kothu Idli, Podi Idli, Idli Upma & Idli Chaat (Leftover Idli Makeovers)

Leftover idlis got a fabulous make-over by reinventing them as Kaima Idli, Idli Chaat, Podi Idli, and Idli Upma, etc.  Although typically made from leftover idlis, they are amazingly tasty and make great starters, snacks, or even meals. My family loves Kaima, Chaat, Podi, and Upma variations and make a meal of them!

Kaima Idli was apparently popularized in a South Indian restaurant; now they are not only made and served in many Southern as well as Northern Indian restaurants everywhere in various avatars including Idli Chaat. I have eaten different versions and all were delicious.

Notes: Make the tomato suace first and when ready to serve, you can fry the idlis and mix with sauce.
The tomato sauce is absolutely delicious and may be served as a sidedish with any meal; I like to make double or triple the amount to have extra.

Kaima Idli
Cold idlis are best for frying/baking. When there are lots of leftover idlis, one of these recipes can come in very handy! Idli Upma/Usli is the quickest and easiest and does not require much effort; the others require a little more prep. Except for the Idli upma/usli, the other recipes all start with either pan or deep fried idlis; the idlis may be baked as well.

The spices may be changed as a variation or to suit one's needs or preferences; instead of Sambar powder given in the recipe, you may wish to use Rasam Powder, Biriyani Masala or another spice mix.

KAIMA/KOTHU IDLI 
Note: The following recipe makes delectable Kaima idli. But if making the onion-tomato sauce sounds like too much trouble, flavorful leftover curries like Kurma or your favorite may be used instead; just reheat the curry and mix the prepared idli pieces in it and you will have Kothu Idli!

Kaima Idli
4 Servings, but may only serve 2!

Ingredients:
6-8 Idlies, chilled
Oil for pan/deep frying

2-3 tsp oil
½ tsp Mustard seeds
½ tsp Fennel seeds (optional)
2 stems curry leaves, thinly sliced
1 onion, diced
1-3 Hot green chiles, cored and minced
½ Green Bell Pepper, diced
½ tsp salt
½ - 1 tsp Sambar powder
½ tsp turmeric
2 large tomatoes, pureed coarsely
4 Green Onions, thinly sliced
2 Tbsp Coriander leaves/Cilantro, chopped

Method:

Start making the sauce first. Heat the 2 teaspoons of oil in a kadai/skillet/pan and add the mustard & fennel seeds; when they subside popping, add the curry leaves; cover quickly as curry leaves will spatter violently when meeting hot oil. Wait for a few seconds for the curry leaves to change color and become crisp.

Add the green chiles, diced onions and bell pepper. Saute until the onions are soft. Add the turmeric and the sambar powder along with the salt. Cook for a minute.

Tip the tomato puree and cook till the tomatoes are cooked, about 5 minutes or so. Toss the fried idlies, spring onions and coriander leaves; gently fold to combine.

Remove from heat and serve hot. When eaten immediately, the idlies are a little crisp; but if served a little later, idlies soften and absorb more of the sauce. Both are delicious. Enjoy!

Prepare the idlis: Cold idlis are best for this; warm or room temp idlis stick and crumbly while frying. Cut each idli into half and halve them crosswise again for a total of 4 wedges.

If pan-frying, heat a seasoned cast iron or non-stick skillet with a little oil - about 1 teaspoon - and cook the idli pieces until golden brown on each side. Let the pieces cook on one side without disturbing until they are browned; then turn over gently and cook on the other sides adding a tiny drizzle of oil as necessary. I used about 1 to 2 teaspoons of oil.

If deepfrying, heat oil sufficient for deep frying; add the idlies to the hot oil. Do not try to turn or otherwise disturb the idli pieces; they will stick to the spoon and fall apart. When they are golden brown, only then flip to cook the other side. Remove and drain on paper towels. Add to the sauce and serve.

Kaima Idli With Non-Dairy Yogurt
IDLI CHAAT
Idli chaat starts out the same as Kaima/Kothu Idli - cold ildis are cut and either pan or deep fried. Once you have the idli ready, this is easy peasy!

Idli Chaat with Green & Sweet Chutneys
4 Servings

Ingredients:
6-8 Idlies, chilled
Oil for pan/deep frying

Toppings
1 cup Plain Non-Dairy Yogurt
2-3 Tbsp Green Chutney
2-3 Sweet Chutney
2-3 Sev OR Bhujia (Crisp Indian Noodle Snack)
1 Tbsp Red Onions/Green Onions, finely chopped
2 Tbsp Coriander/Cilantro, finely chopped

Method:
Prepare the idlis: pan or deep fry them until browned; drain on paper towels.

Divide the yogurt among 4 small plates or bowls.

Plate the prepared idli pieces, drizzle with the chutneys, sprinkle the rest of toppings of green/red onions, cilantro, sev or bhujia etc, and voila! the Idli Chaat is ready!

                           Idli Chaat                                   
Serve and eat immediately! Enjoy!

PODI IDLI
For Podi Idli, make pararell cuts into each cold idli to get 4 long pieces, similar to french fries. They are so delicious on their own and do not need any embellishments. I pan-toasted these pictured here.

Podil Idli
4 Servings

Ingredients:
6-8 Idlies, chilled
Oil for pan/deep frying
3-4 Tbsp Mulagai Podi

Coconut Chutney or Ketchup to serve (optional)

Method:

I pan fried the idlis here; deepfried are fine also. If pan-frying, heat a seasoned cast iron or non-stick skillet with a little oil - about 1 teaspoon - and cook the idli pieces until golden brown on each side. Let the pieces cook on one side without disturbing until they are browned; then turn over gently and cook on the other sides adding a tiny drizzle of oil as necessary. I used about 1 to 2 teaspoons of oil.

While the idli pieces are hot after browning, sprinkle the mulagai podi and toss and stir to coat completely. Serve warm or at room temperature. Accompany with coconut chutney or ketchup if desired. Enjoy!
Podi Idli
IDLI UPMA/USLI
This is easiest of all idli make-overs that does not require any cooking at all. Simple and perfect for children or cooking challenged :-). At its simplest form it has only 3 ingredients; but if one is inclined to fancy it up a bit, some sauteed onions, peppers, peas, etc may be added and served garnished with some green onions or cilantro or both.

4 Servings

Ingredients:
6-8 Leftover Idlies, reheated, cooled, and crumbled
1-2 Tbsp Oil, Indian Sesame preferably
1-3 Tbsp Mulagai Podi

Method:
Chop or crumble the cold idlis. The idlis should be reheated well if they are cold; when cold, the starch in the idlis become shrunk, grainy or tuff.

Sprinkle them with a little water and either steam them or reheat them in the microwave oven. Let cool a little so they are no longer hot and sticky; hot idlies would turn to mush if they are handled too much.

Drizzle the oil over the idlies and sprinkle the molaga podi on top; toss and mix until combined thoroughly.  That's it! Eat! Enjoy!

Friday, August 4, 2017

Mysore Rasam (Curry Leaf & Coconut-Scented Tomato Soup With Spices)

Here is another Rasam recipe! Mysore Rasam is another delicious rasam but with the fragrance of roasted coconut. Rasams are typically served clear after letting it settle a bit ending up with a thick sediment at the end from the dal and spices called "Mandi"; don't discard it - it is absolutely delicious mixed with plain rice or served with Yogurt Rice!

Mysore Rasam
Rasams are usually served along with rice in most homes for the second round after another dish like Sambar, Mor Kuzhambu, etc; but others serve it first with rice and then move on to the rest of the meal. Serve this rasam as you would the other types with rice and other accompanying simple vegetable curries, and Papadams. Enjoy it any way you like!

Notes: 
It is easier to make this and other rasams if you save a little dal when making other dishes like one of the Authentic or Simple Sambars, Pitla, Simple Dal, Molakootal, etc; usually about 1/3 to 1/2 cup of the cooked dal would be plenty for one recipe. If you are not planning to use the dal within a couple of days, reserve in the freezer until needed. 
Byadagi or Kashmiri chiles are red as well as a bit milder and make a nice red-colored masala; if they are not readily available, use regular hot dried red chiles.
Canned or dried tomatoes work well when fresh tomatoes are not available.

Makes about 6 cups 

Ingredients:

Fresh Masala - Roast and Grind:
1 tbsp Coriander Seeds
1 tbsp Channa dhal
1 tsp Cumin seeds
1/2 tsp Peppercorns
1-2 Red chiles
2 tbsp Dried Grated Coconut

Rasam:
1/4 cup Toor dal 
1-2 Tomatoes, chopped
1 stems Fresh Curry Leaves, torn and crushed by hand
3 tbsp Fresh Coriander/Cilantro, finely chopped 
2 tbsp dried Tamarind OR 1 Tbsp paste + 1 cup of water
1 tsp Salt, or to taste
1/2 tsp Turmeric
1 tsp Jaggery

Thalippu/Tadka:
1 tsp Oil
1-2 Red chiles
1/2 tsp Mustard seeds
1/2 tsp Cumin Seeds
1 big pinch Asafetida
1 stems Fresh Curry Leaves, finely sliced

Garnish:
A handful of fresh Coriander/Cilantro

Method:

Pick over, wash and soak the dal for about 30 minutes. Drain, rinse, and cook the dal with 1 1/2 cups of water. Pressure cooking the dal makes it go fast. Let it cool and mash it well adding a little water to make it 2 cups total.

Meanwhile dry roast the ingredients given under to roast and let it cool. Add 1/2 cup of water and grind it into smooth paste.

If using dried tamarind, soak the tamarind in about 1/2 cup of warm water for 10-15 minutes, knead well and extract the juice, repeat kneading and extracting 2 more times with 1/4 cup of water each time for a total of 1 cup of tamarind extract; discard solids. If using paste, add it directly to the pan with the water. Alternately, remove any seeds and tough fibers from the soaked tamarind and add to the roasted spices and grind together.

Use a 2-3 quart/liter saucepan, add the tamarind water, turmeric, salt, chopped tomatoes and the curry leaves. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer for 5 minutes.

Stir in the ground paste; add a small amount of water to the blender to gather up the spice mixture and add to the pan. When it begins to boil, reduce heat and simmer for another 5 minutes or so.

Add the mashed dal along with 2 more cups of water and the jaggery. Simmer uncovered until it is foamy on top. Remove from heat.

Prepare the aromatic Thalippu: In a small pan/kadai heat oil; when hot, add mustard seeds, red chiles, and cumin seeds. When the mustard seeds finish popping, stir in asafetida and carefully add curry leaves; cover quickly to avoid hot oil spashing. Turn off the heat immediately, let cool for about a minute, and carefully add to the rasam.

Twist and pinch the cleaned cilantro into small pieces and add to the rasam, cover, and let rest for 5 minutes.

Serve hot with rice or by itself in mugs with papadams. Enjoy!!

Monday, July 31, 2017

Karela (Parikkai) Atho (Burmese Style Bittermelon With Onions, Tomatoes, Peanuts & Sesame)

Karela Atho, Ready to eat!
Given a bag of fresh karelas/parikkai, I wanted to make something new and different with them; thus Karela Atho was created! If you love bitter melons, this is a fabulous recipe.

Karela (Parikkai) Atho is packed with protein from the peanuts and the aromatic sesame. The combination of the sweet caramelized onions, smoky tomatoes and the rest of the ingredients combine to minimize the bitterness of bittermelons/karelas and produce an amazingly delectable dish. Tried, tested, and terrific!

Note: Almonds/cashews may be substituted for the peanuts if you have a peanut alergy. If karela is not your thing, try making this with zucchini; Zucchini Atho makes fabulous eats! If making Zucchini Atho, cook the zucchini briefly so they do not get mushy.

4 to 6 Servings

Ingredients:

1 lb Bittermelons, about 2 or 3
2 large ripe Tomatoes (12 oz)
2 - 3 Tbsp Oil
1 large Red Onion (8 oz)
1 tsp Jaggery/Organic Coconut or Brown Sugar or to taste
1/2 - 1 tsp red chili powder/flakes
1 tsp ground Coriander Seeds
1/4 tsp Turmeric
1 pinch Asafetida
1/2 tsp Sea Salt, or to taste
2 Tbsp fresh Cilantro, chopped
1/3 cup white Sesame Seeds, toasted
1/3 cup roasted Peanuts

Method:

Toast the sesame in a dry skillet until golden and let cool. Roast the peanuts also if they are raw. Cool completely. Pound the sesame seeds first using a mortar and pestle until they are crushed well; add the peanuts and crush them coarsely. If made ahead, keep in an airtight container until needed. 

Wash all the veggies; thinly slice the onion, mince the garlic, and thinly slice the karelas.

Broil, roast or grill the tomatoes until their skins char and blister. When cool enough to handle, peel and strain out the seeds. Coarsely chop the tomatoes and reserve along with the juices until needed.

Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in the kadai/skillet and add the onions with a pinch of salt and cook until caramelized and golden brown - they should be on the crispy side; watch carefully as they burn easily at the last stage. Stir in the red pepper and coriander, cook stirring for a minute, and remove from heat. Remove the onions to a bowl and set aside; leave any extra oil in the pan.

In the same kadai/skillet and add the rest of the oil and heat. Tip in the karela with the turmeric, salt, asafetida, and the jaggery/sugar; cook until tender stirring occasionally adding a tiny sprinkle of water only if necessary.

When karela is tender, tip the onion mixture, tomatoes and half of the cilantro into the kadai/skillet and mix well and turn off the heat. Mix well.

Stir in the nuts and sesame into the karela reserving a pinch or two of the nuts and seeds for garnish.

Let the Karela Atho rest for at least 15 to 30 minutes to let all the flavors meld and marry; it is actually tastier the next day!

Serve hot or warm garnished with the rest of the cilantro, nuts and seeds with rice/roti and dal. 

Enjoy!!
Karela cooking

Karela with cooked Onions and Roasted Tomatoes

Karela Atho With Sesame & Peanuts

Karela Atho, Ready to eat!

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Kollu Rasam (Horse Gram Rasam - Soup With Tamarind & Tomatoes)

Kollu Rasam
Kollu Rasam is a delicious light soup often served during cold and cough season for its power in assuaging the winter blahs. Kollu is considered very strength-giving and helpful in cold and cough relief as well as maintaining fitness. It is not surprising that kollu is recommended for maintaining fitness; as with other beans, kollu is rich is proteins and fiber and keeps one feeling full longer.

Kollu Rasam is a bonus dish when making other kollu dishes like Kollu Thoran or Puzhukku; decant the excess broth from cooking the kollu and voila! you have the magic ingredient for a lovely new recipe! Kollu Rasam is similar to other rasams like Jeera Charu, Lemongrass Rasam, Everyday RasamAmma Rasam, and Lemon-Lime Rasam.

NOTE: Tamarind gives the rasam a lovely tang; if tamarind is not available, add lime or lemon juice to taste. If using lime or lemon, do use the optional jaggery as it mellows the acidity. If fresh tomatoes are not an option, canned or dried tomatoes work well.

INGREDIENTS:

1 cup dry Kollu OR Reserved Broth from cooking Kollu (Horse Gram)
1 tsp Tamarind Concentrate OR 1 Tbsp dried Tamarind (about half the size of a ping-pong ball)
1 tsp Oil
1/2 tsp Mustard Seeds
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp black pepper, freshly ground
1-2 tsp Rasam Powder
1 Tomato, chopped
1 tsp Salt, or to taste
1 sprig Curry Leaves, sliced finely
1 tsp Jaggery/Coconut or Brown Sugar (optional)
2 Tbsp fresh Coriander/Cilantro, chopped

METHOD:

Click here for soaking and cooking the kollu. Cook the kollu/horsegram with 3 cups of water in a pan or pressure cooker. Decant the cooking broth and set aside; reserve the kollu for Thoran or Puzhukku.

If using dried tamarind, soak tamarind in 1/2 cup of warm water for 15 minutes. Knead and discard any shell pieces, seeds and fiber; make a puree using a blender and set aside. 

Heat oil in a pan and add mustard seeds, cumin and cook untill it starts to pop; and the curry leaves.

Add in one medium chopped tomato. Add in the salt. Add in the tamarind puree, pepper, jaggery and rasam powder.

Let it simmer on low flame for 10 minutes or untill the  tomatoes are soft.

Add in the kollu/horsegram broth. Add enough fresh water to make the total quantity of rasam one quart or litre. Cook for a few minutes on low-medium heat until rasam begins to foam. Sprinkle the coriander leaves. Remove off heat. Cover and let rest for a few minutes.

Serve hot with rice, serve in a cup or mug as part of the meal, as a starter/appetizer, or at the end of the meal!

Enjoy!!

Kollu Thoran/Sundal/Chundal (Horsegram With Coconut)

Kollu Thoran/Sundal
Kollu Thoran/Sundal/Chundal is a delicious and delightful dish. This homey chundal is an everyday recipe and not served for festivals or special occasions. 

I love savory chundals any time of the day; as snacks or part of a meal. Most whole beans or split legumes may also be used to make chundals, like one of my all time favorite brown chick pea chundal. Dried peas and split legume chundals taste great with a squeeze of lime/lemon.

Although traditionally chundals are made with unsprouted dried legumes, I like to make them with sprouts also. If you have sprouts on hand, it takes just a few minutes to make nutritious and delicious chundal. 

NOTE: Do reserve the cooking broth for making delicious Kollu Rasam; it is an awesome treat and so worth the few minutes it takes to make it! 

4 to 6 Servings of about 1/2 cup each

Ingredients:

1 cup dried Kollu (Horsegram), soaked and/or Sprouted
1/2 tsp salt or to taste
1 pinch Turmeric

Thalippu/Tadka:
1 Tbsp Oil
2 dry Hot Red Chiles, broken in half
1 Tbsp Urad Dal (Optional)
1 sprig Fresh Curry Leaves, finely sliced
1 pinch Asafoetida
2 Tbsp Fresh Coconut, cut into small pieces about the size of corn kernels or shredded

Method:

Sort to pick out foreign objects such as stones and debris, wash, and soak for about 6 hours or overnight in plenty of fresh water in a large bowl or container. Drain, rinse and add fresh water to cover. Bring to a boil, and simmer until soft but not mushy. A pressure cooker makes the cooking very quick. Drain and cool; do reserve the broth for Kollu Rasam or other soups - it is a rich source of soluble fiber, vitamins, and minerals.

If using sprouted beans, cook them in water as mentioned above or steam or just use raw with the seasonings and cook for a few minutes longer until done.

Heat oil in a large kadai (Indian wok) or skillet and add the mustard seeds, urad dal and red chiles. When the mustard starts to pop and the dal is turning pink, stir in asafoetida. Quickly add the coconut pieces, the curry leaves, and the cooked kollu or the raw sprouts along with the salt. Heat stirring for a few minutes until dry and well mixed. (Add a pinch of turmeric if using raw sprouts and cook until tender with a sprinkle of two of water).

Remove the chiles before serving so no one chews on them inadvertently; chiles, other whole spices, or even curry leaves are not generally eaten unless the diner specifically wishes to do so.

Serve hot, warm or at room temperature with rice, breads, curries, etc or as a snack. Enjoy!!



Thursday, July 27, 2017

Mattar Pulav (Fragrant Basmati Rice Pilaf With Fresh Peas)

Matar Pulav With Minty Chopped Salad
Fresh peas are showcased in this saffron-scented mild pulav! A simple and easy recipe, awesome accompanied by succulent Chopped Salad, roasted papadums, chutneys or pickles. Most saucy curries are delicious served alongside -  try Okra (Bindi)-Capsicum Salaan, Aviyal, Korma, any bean dishes like Chole or Rajma, etc. If fresh ones are not an option, use frozen or cooked rehydrated dried peas.

Notes:
Keep the chiles whole for a mild pulav and fish them out and discard before serving; another option is to core and mince the chiles, or use a bell pepper. Keep the core and seeds for a spicy dish.
Do add the mint and cilantro for a delicious pulav; when cooked, mint imparts a lovely mellow flavor.
If you wish the peas to remain bright green, saute them in a tiny bit of oil and a sprinkling of water if needed; cook stirring and shaking uncovered for just a couple of minutes or until done to your taste. Season with a pinch of salt and add to the rice before serving.

6-8 Servings

INGREDIENTS:

1½ cups Basmati Rice
3 cups boiling water
2 Tbsp Oil
½ tsp Fennel Seeds
½ tsp Cumin Seeds
3 Cloves
2-3 Cardamom Pods
1" piece Cinnamon
2-3 Bay leaves
A few of turns of the Pepper mill for freshly ground Pepper
1 medium Onion, finely chopped
3-5 young Green chiles OR 1 small Green Bell Pepper, diced
1 tsp Freshly grated Ginger
1½ tsp Salt
1 tsp ground Coriander
1 tsp Garam Masala
½ tsp ground Kashmiri Chile OR Paprika
3-4 Tbsp Mint leaves, finely sliced in a chiffonade
4 Tbsp fresh Coriander/Cilantro, include stems and leaves, chopped
1 pinch Saffron
2 cups Green Peas, freshly shelled

Garnish:
4 Tbsp toasted, chopped Cashews OR Almonds
A few sprigs Mint & Cilantro

METHOD:

Wash and soak the rice in plenty of fresh water for 30 minutes. 

Drain and rinse the rice.

Soak the saffron in a little warm water - about 2 tablespoons - in a small bowl. 

Heat the oil in a large pan with a lid (a 3-4 quart/liter size will work nicely); swirl to coat the bottom of the pan with oil. When the oil is hot, stir in fennel & cumin seeds, cardamoms, cloves, cinnamon, and bay leaf and let the spices sizzle for about 30 seconds. Stir in the ground pepper.

Tip the onion into the pan and cook until onions are translucent and soft.

Add the green chiles/bell pepper, ginger and cook for about one or two minutes.

Stir in the ground coriander, garam masala and salt and carefully add the boiling water. 

Add the rice, stir to mix well, and bring back to a boil.

Distribute the cilantro and mint evenly over the rice on top.

Turn the heat down to low, cover the pan with a well fitting lid and cook the pulav undisturbed for 10 minutes.

Turn off the heat, drizzle saffron water along with any strands of saffron, sprinkle the peas on top, cover again and let rest for 10 minutes.

Gently fluff the rice. Garnish with the nuts and herbs, serve hot with your favorite accompaniments. Enjoy!!

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Chembu Thal Kadalai Kootu (Taro Leaves & Stems Stew With Chickpeas)

Chembu Thal Kadalai Kootu
Taro leaves and stems are tasty cooked with chickpeas; the coconut and tamarind turn the homey ingredients into this delicious curry! In this photo of the curry, there are both brown and tan chickpeas; they were delicious - one tender but firm and the other very soft.

Although one can get the corms (potato-like parts of the plant), leaves and stems are not usually available for purchase; I grow taro just so I can have leaves and stems for cooking. Choose young stalks and leaves without any yellow telltale signs of age; carefully cut at the base of the plant without injuring the new growth in the center.

It is lovely to have greens from your own garden to make a meal any time. I love collecting various greens and veggies from the garden instead of running to the store especially after being away from home for a few days. I usually keep a stash of cooked chickpeas in the freezer; so it is a breeze to have a yummy homemade curry after eating out for a few days! Check here for information on home-cooked tasty chickpeas as well as various other beans at a fraction of the cost of store-bought ones.

Taro Plant
Notes: Tamarind paste and concentrate are usually available in Indian markets; check to see which kind you have as there is a big difference in the amount used. Blackeyed peas may be used instead of the chickpeas. Fresh or canned tomatoes - about 2 - may be added if you like. For a more or less spicy dish adjust the spices according to your preference.

Chembu Thal Kootu may be prepared thick or thin as you prefer; just increase the water content - with rice it is great to have more liquid whereas with rotis it is great either way. When adding more water, a little more salt and spices may be needed.

As always when cooking with chiles, you may wish to leave them whole so it is easy to fish out and discard at the end of cooking to avoid unpleasant surprises to unwary diners who may be unaware that chiles may be present and typically not eaten.

INGREDIENTS:

12-14 Taro leaves with stems (about 12-14 oz)
1 Tbsp oil
½ tsp Mustard seeds
1-2 dried red chiles, broken into two or left whole
1 tiny pinch Fenugreek seeds
1 stem fresh Curry Leaves, leaves finely sliced
1 large shallot or ½ small onion (optional)
1 tsp Salt
2 tsp tamarind paste OR ½ tsp Tamarind concentrate
1 cup cooked Brown or Tan chickpeas + cooking liquid

Freshly ground Masala (Spice Mix)
½ tsp cumin seeds
1-2 dried Red Chiles
1 tsp uncooked rice
½ cup grated Coconut, fresh/frozen

METHOD:

Prepare the spices and coconut: Grind together the coconut, cumin, rice and chiles using a blender with just enough water to make grinding feasible.

Caveat: Taro leaves and stems may cause skin irritation if you have sensitive skin; you may wish to wear rubber gloves while preparing the them. 

Prepare the taro leaves and stems: Wash the leaves and stems thoroughly. Separate the leaves from the stems by cutting them at the base of the leaf. Keep the leaves and stem separated; they will be added to the pot at different times.

Peel and slice the stems finely; the outer fibers peel off easily sort of like celery. If the stems are young and tender, I do not peel them.

Stack a few of the leaves, then cut in half lengthwise. Roll each half into a cylinder and cut across into a fine chiffonade - very thin ribbons. 

In a large pot (about 2-3 liter or quart) on medium-high, add the oil. When oil is hot, add mustard seeds and dried chile.

Add the fenugreek seeds along with the curry leaves and the onions if using. Reduce heat to low and saute for about a couple of minutes. Add a little water if the onions are dry and sticking to the pan.
Next toss the stems into the pot, stir, add a little water, cover and cook for about 10 minutes over low heat.

Tip in the leaves and a pinch or two of salt. Add a little water or the cooking liquid from the chickpeas, stir and then cover. Reduce the heat to low and cook for about 30-40 minutes. A pressure cooker may be used to shorten cooking time.

Stir occasionally and add water or chickpea cooking liquid as needed so that the greens do not dry out. You may mash the leaves with the back of a spoon or use the immersion blender to obtain a little soft, creamy texture but not into a paste. I like to mash with a spoon to preserve some texture.

Add the tamarind, chickpeas and the ground masala. Stir, cover, and let cook for another 10 minutes. Mash a few of the chickpeas too with the back of the spoon to get a nice and creamy kootu.

Turn off the heat, taste and adjust the salt if necessary.

Serve with rice or roti accompanied by any kind of dry vegetable curry, dal or dried bean curry and chutneys or pickles and papadums. Enjoy!!

Friday, June 30, 2017

Poori (Whole Wheat Fried Puffed Breads)

As delicious as they are, I am usually reticent about making Poori as they are deep fried. But when I do make them, the trick to keeping them from being too oily is to keep the oil hot enough (but not smoking) to cook them quickly so they don't sit in the oil and absorb much of it.

Although Pooris are eaten all over India, they are paired with saucy potato curry, chana/chole (garbanzos cooked with spices), Halwa, Aamras (Ripe Mango puree), etc depending on the region. The usual family favorite at our house was the potato curry. Try pooris with a drizzle of honey or maple syrup too for satisfying a sweet tooth!

Makes 16 Pooris - About 4 Servings

Ingredients:

2 cups Whole Wheat Flour
1 Pinch of Salt
Water, about 1/2 cup

Method:

Mix the flour and salt in a large bowl; add water carefully to form a stiff dough. Flour tends to dry up or absorb water so when making the dough add about 3/4 of the water at first and then add more if needed by teaspoons until just enough. Knead well until smooth and elastic.

Roll the dough by hand into a cylinder and pinch off or cut into 16 pieces. Knead the dough briefly and shape into small balls; keep them covered so they do not dry out.

Roll out each ball into a thin circle - about 4 - 5 inches - with a lightly oiled rolling pin on a lightly oiled surface. Don't worry if the circle isn't exactly a circle - it could look like America, Australia or any other continent or island - all good fun!

Start heating the oil  for deep frying half way through rolling out the dough; add a small pinch of the dough to see if it is hot. If the dough sizzles, and rises to the surface, it is ready.

Gently slide the circles into the hot oil avoiding splashing.

Immerse the edges of the poori into the oil gently with a metal skimmer (a shallow spoon with holes for the oil to drain); it will puff up.

When the bottom is golden brown, flip to cook the other side.

When golden brown on second side, remove and drain on paper towels. Stack the pooris standing on edge to drain well.

Pooris are best eaten while still warm although they are still good at room temperature.

Serve with traditional Saucy Potatoes or any dal (dried bean) dish like Chole, Rajma, Simple Dal, any vegetable dish such as Basic Potato Curry, or Winter Squash & Sweet Potato curry, pickles, a raita, etc.

Enjoy!!

Monday, June 26, 2017

Mushroom Methi Malai Do Pyaza (Mushrooms In Tomato Onion Sauce)

Mushroom Methi Malai is pretty easy and quick once you have the masala ready, see note below. It is quite mild but can be spiced up - a little more red chile or a tiny - and I do mean TINY - smidgen of ground Bhut Jolokia or Ghost Pepper will do the trick; start with 1/16 teaspoon or less! Be careful when handling Bhut - it is a very potent pepper albeit tasty. Earthy succulent mushrooms brighten up with a little touch of chile heat!

Kasuri Methi is dried fenugreek (methi) leaves which add an amazing aroma to this curry; in fact it would only be Mushroom Malai without it! Fresh chopped methi leaves may be added instead of the dried if available. 

NOTES: Biriyani Masala may be used instead of the freshly ground spices. If fresh tomatoes are not an option, canned will work very well. Use about half of a 14 1/2 oz can. Canned tomatoes are great when good fresh ones are unavailable. Any type of mushrooms may be used; I have used button type - white or cremini or baby Portobello. For a richer tasting curry, 1/4 - 1/2 cup of coconut cream may be stirred in at the end of cooking.
Mushroom Methi Malai
2 - 4 Servings

INGREDIENTS:

Fresh spices: roast and grind:
1 dried red pepper, broken into two, discard seeds
1/2 t Cumin seeds
1 pod cardamom
1/2" stick Cinnamon, Indian type if available
3-4 whole Cloves
1 tsp Coriander seeds
5-7 Black Peppercorns

Curry:

8 oz Mushrooms, thickly sliced or quartered
2 Tbsp Oil
2 Red Onions, 1 finely chopped, 1 thinly sliced
1-2 Green Chiles, blossom ends slit
2 tsp Ginger, finely minced
1-2 cloves Garlic (optional)
1 Bay Leaf
1 pinch Asafetida
1/2 tsp Turmeric
1/2 tsp  Kashmiri Chile Powder/Paprika
1- 2 Tomatoes, finely chopped
1/2 cup Coconut Milk
1 T Kasoori Methi (Dried Fenugreek leaves)
1 tsp Salt
Fresh Coriander/Cilantro for garnishing

METHOD:

Dry roast all the spices lightly until fragrant, pour into a plate to cool completely. Grind into a fine powder. Reserve.

Prepare all the ingredients and have them ready. Keep the green chiles whole and intact; slit only about 1/2 an inch on the blossom end.

Heat oil and cook the sliced onion with a pinch or two of salt slowly until golden and slightly caramelized.

Tip in the chopped onion, green chiles, ginger, and garlic if using with a couple of pinches of salt on low heat until soft; sprinkle a few drops of water if needed to keep from burning.

Add the asafetida, turmeric, chile powder/paprika; stir and cook until fragrant - about 1 minute.

Stir in chopped tomatatoes along with the bay leaf and cook until softened and a thick sauce forms.

Add the mushrooms, strring to coat with the sauce and cook over low-medium heat for about 5 minutes.

Sprinkle the ground spices and mix well. Simmer for another 3-5 minutes.

Remove from heat, sprinkle with Kasoori Methi, and let rest for about 5 minutes.

Fish out the green chiles so no one gets an unpleasant surprise of biting into one accidentally. Garnish with the coriander/cilantro.

Serve hot or warm with your favorite grains or breads. Enjoy!