Friday, March 30, 2018

Crunchy, Munchy Cabbage Salad

A simple yet wonderfully colorful cruncy and delicious salad! All the veggies plus the almonds and sesame provide ample fiber, vitamins, anthocyanins, and even a good amount of protein. Cabbages and Kale belong to the Brassica or commonly known as cruciferous vegetables family along with broccoli and cauliflower and other veggies. The benefits of the Brassicas are numerous; they not only provide nutrients but also are anticancer, anti-inflammatory as well as protection from other diseases.

All of the veggies and nut/seeds and dressing maybe prepared ahead and tossed together just before serving; a great one for the weekdays.

The salad maybe prepared with one type of cabbage alone; other veggies maybe added or omitted also. Brussels sprouts, Napa Cabbage, broccoli or cauliflower, etc make great additions. Oil maybe added to the dressing if desired.

4-6 servings

Ingredients:

Dressing:

2-3 Tbsp Apple Cider Vinegar
1-3 tsp Maple syrup, or to taste
Salt and Pepper to taste

Salad:

1/2 Each small Green and Red Cabbages, thinly sliced or coarsely shredded (about 8 cups)
1 Carrot, coarsely shredded
2 Kale leaves, finely sliced
4-5 Scallions/Green Onions, white and green parts, thinly sliced
1/2 cup shelled, cooked, Edamame (optional)
4 Tbsp Almonds, sliced 
1 Tbsp Sesame seeds (preferably black)
1 pinch Red Pepper flakes (optional)

Method:

Combine all the dressing ingredients in a small bowl and whisk well. Taste and adjust the seasonings. Cover and set aside or chill until needed.

Prepare the veggies - remove the tough rib from kale and reserve for another dish; finely slice the leafy parts with a shart knife. Shred the cabbages and carrot.

Combine the all the veggies in a large bowl; if prepared ahead, store in a covered container in the fridge until needed.

Toast the almonds and sesame until fragrant, about 2-3 minutes in a dry skillet; remove from heat. 

Stir in the red pepper if using; the residual heat will toast them just right. If making ahead, cool completely and store in a covered container in the fridge. The nut/seed mixture maybe stored at room temp if it is going to be used up in a couple of days.

Mix the nut mixture into the salad when ready to eat to keep them crunchy.

Toss the salad with the dressing so all the ingredients are coated well with the dressing just before serving. Taste and adjust seasonings and serve.

Enjoy!!

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Easy One-Pot Biryani (Indian Layered Rice Pilaf With Vegetables)

If you like biriyani, a rice and vegetable casserole, this recipe is a must try. Everything is done in one pot in layers; although it is easy, it is quite flavorful and great for company too. When cooked in a glass dish in the oven, it makes a pretty presentation. Very family friendly!

A simple and easy recipe, biriyani is awesome accompanied simply by Chopped Salad, and papadams and non-dairy yogurt; but could be served with Salna or Korma or other curries like Aviyal, Vegetable Kofta, or any bean dishes like Chole or Rajma.

Notes:

If peas are fresh, add them about 5 minutes sooner; but frozen peas do not need very much cooking time and will do fine as directed in the recipe.

A favorite curry powder maybe used instead of the Biriyani/Garam masala and Kashmiri chile powder. Feel free to adjust and change the spices according to your preference.

Alternately, after layering in an oven-safe pan with cover, the biriyani may be baked in the oven for 30 minutes at 350 F. After baking, sprinkle saffron water and peas on top, cover, and let rest for 10 minutes before serving.

After the biriyani is cooked, the whole spices like cardamom, cinnamon, and bay leaves, maybe fished out and discarded as they are not eaten; fennel seeds are fine and are not removed.

6 Servings

INGREDIENTS:

1½ cups Basmati Rice
3 cups boiling water
1 Tbsp Oil
½ tsp Fennel Seeds
3 Cloves
2-3 Cardamom Pods, slightly crushed
1-2 Brown Cardamoms, slightly crushed
1 one-inch piece Cinnamon
2 Bay leaves
½ tsp freshly ground Pepper
1 medium Onion, finely chopped
1-2 cloves garlic (optional)
½ inch piece ginger, finely grated
1-2 Green Chiles (Jalapeno or Serrano) cored and minced
1 medium Carrot, diced
1 Potato, diced
3-5 Cauliflorets, separated into small florets
½ cup Green Beans, cut into 1" pieces
1 cup Green Peas, fresh/frozen
2 Tbsp Mint leaves, finely sliced in a chiffonade
4 Tbsp Coriander/Cilantro, include stems and leaves, chopped
1 small pinch Saffron dissolved in 2 Tbsp warm water

Combine: Spices & Salt
½ tsp turmeric
1½ tsp Salt
1 tsp ground Coriander
½ - 1 tsp Kashmiri Chile Powder/Paprika
1-2 Tbsp Biriyani Masala/Garam Masala

Toppings:
4 Tbsp Each toasted, chopped Cashews & Almonds
Cilantro sprigs and Mint leaves for garnishing

METHOD:

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

Prepare all the veggies and herbs; place veggies in one bowl and the herbs in another.

Combine all the ground spices and salt. Set aside.

Drain and rinse the rice.

Prepare boiling water and have it ready.

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, add fennel seeds, cardamoms, cloves, cinnamon, and bay leaf and let the spices sizzle for just a few seconds and become fragrant. Stir in the ground pepper and mix well.

Tip the onion, green chiles, ginger and garlic if using into the pan; cook covered over low heat until the onions are translucent.

Stir in the salt-spice mixture and cook for about a minute. 

Mix the rice into the onion spice mixture and combine well; remove half and reserve.

Spread the veggies except the peas over the rice in the pan.

Distribute the cilantro and mint evenly over the veggies.

Now spread the reserved rice on top and slowly and carefully add the boiling water.

Cover the pan with a well fitting lid and cook the pulav undisturbed for 10 minutes on low heat.

Sprinkle the saffron water and peas on top, cover again and let it cook for 5 more minutes.

Let rest for 10 minutes without uncovering the pot. Mix well if you like; if baking in a shallow pan, it can be served in slices so each slice has all the ingredients.

Sprinkle the nuts and herbs; serve hot. Enjoy!!

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Lentil Or Kollu Masala (Sprouted [Or Not!] Lentil Or Horsegram/Muthirai/Kulith Curry)

Horse gram or Macrotyloma uniflorum, also known as Kollu, Muthirai, Kulith etc in various regions of India, is a well-loved legume as are lentils known as whole Masoor. Kollu is called horse gram as it is fed to racehorses to make them strong. Horse gram is considered very hearty and health giving - supposed to make one strong as a horse!

Save excess cooking water from the kollu and use it for making Kollu Rasam - a delicious treat!

Note: Sprouting legumes is pretty easy; just takes a little planning and time. If you cannot wait to sprout the legumes, go ahead and make the curry without sprouting; but I do highly recommend a good soak overnight or a bit longer for kollu. Lentils on the other hand, cook pretty quickly even without a soaking.

4 Servings

INGREDIENTS:

1 cup dry Lentils or Kollu
1 tsp Oil
2 dried Red chiles
5 cloves
½ inch piece cinnamon
1 star anise
1 bay leaf
1 onion, finely chopped
1 tsp ground Coriander seeds
1-2 cloves fresh Garlic, minced (optional)
½ inch piece ginger, minced
1-2 Green Chiles, cored and minced (Jalapeno or Serrano)
2 Tbsp fresh Coriander/Cilantro, chopped
1 tomato, chopped
½ tsp Turmeric
1 tsp salt
¼ -½ cup Coconut Milk
½ - 1 tsp Garam Masala

Garnish
4 Tbsp fresh Coriander/Cilantro, chopped

METHOD:

Soak, sprout, & cook the Lentils or Kollu/Horse gram:

Pick over, wash, and soak the gram in plenty of water to cover for a few hours or overnight. Drain, rinse, and keep covered for a few hours until tiny sprouts begin to appear. Sprouting may take a day or two depending on the weather; warm weather speeds up sprouting. 

Drain the sprouts, wash well, and cook in enough fresh water to cover until soft - about 40 to 50 minutes, checking often to make sure it doesn't dry out or burn. Alternately use your pressure cooker to speed up cooking. This can be done a day ahead.  Mash the lentils/kollu while still hot so that it becomes a little creamy. If made ahead, cool and refrigerate.

Make the curry:

Heat oil in a 2-3 quart/liter saucepan. Add the dried red chiles, cloves, cinnamon, star anise, and bay leaf; let them sizzle, become fragrant, and slightly brown but not burned. 

Add the onions and cook covered until soft, about 4-5 minutes.

Add ground coriander and cook stirring for a few seconds.

Stir in ginger, chile, coriander/cilantro, and garlic if using and cook until they soften, about a minute.

Tip in the cooked lentils/horse gram with the cooking liquids along with the tomato, turmeric and the salt.

Cover, bring to a simmer and cook on low heat for about 10-15 minutes.

Stir in the coconut milk and garam masala; heat through. 

Remove from heat and let rest for 10 minutes. Fish out the chiles and discard.

Serve hot garnished with the coriander/cilantro with rice or roti. Enjoy!!

Monday, March 19, 2018

Masala Bruschetta (Indian Style Toast With Veggie Topping)

Masala Bruschetta is a lovely snack, starter, or even a healthy breakfast! It is similar to Pav Bhaji but a lot simpler and quick with fewer ingredients. Served with a cup or two of Masala Chai made with non-dairy milk; it fills the bill very nicely.

The masala itself is Gluten-Free; if you use gluten-free bread/wraps, crackers, sweet or regular potato slices, or lettuce leaves, you can have a gluten-free meal!

NOTES:

Go easy with salt as chaat masala is quite salty! More can be added at the end if needed.

Instead of the green chile, a pinch or two of red pepper flakes may be used; add it when adding the Cumin seeds to the oil.

Other veggies and/or cooked, crumbled sweet or regular potato may be added; if adding more veggies, adjust seasonings.

8-10 Toasts

INGREDIENTS:

1 tsp oil
½ tsp Mustard seeds
½ tsp Cumin seeds
1 medium Onion, finely chopped
1 green chile, cored and finely minced (jalapeno or serrano)
1 Bell Pepper, finely chopped
1 large Carrot, coarsely grated
2 Tomatoes, deseeded and finely chopped
½ tsp Turmeric 
Salt (Hold off using too much salt as Chaat Masala has salt)
½ tsp ground Red Chile (cayenne)
1 tsp Chaat Masala
4 Tbsp fresh Coriander/Cilantro, finely chopped + extra for garnish

Toast triangles, Naan, Pita, or any flatbread wedges to serve
Gluten-free Breads or wraps
Romaine Lettuce or Endive leaves
Finely chopped nuts & seeds (optional)

METHOD:

Heat a tablespoon of oil in a pan.

Add  mustard and let it start popping; add cumin seeds and let them sizzle.

Stir in the onion, green chili, and a pinch of salt and cook for 3-4 minutes, until the onions soften.

Add bell pepper with turmeric, red chile powder, and cook stirring for 2-3 minutes until the spices are incorporated and bell pepper softens.

Mix in the grated carrots, cover and cook stirring often until the veggies become soft, about 3-4 minutes.

Add the tomatoes, cook for a couple of minutes until they are soft and blend in. Remove from heat.

Sprinkle chaat masala and mix well. Taste and add salt if needed.

Finally, add coriander/cilantro and mix well. 

Spread a little of veggie masala over the warm toasts/breads and sprinkle the nuts and seeds on top with additional cilantro if desired. Serve immediately.

Eat! Enjoy!!

Creamy Roasted Asparagus Soup

Creamy Roasted Asparagus Soup is a light and fresh-tasting soup that makes use of wonderful spring produce. Although quite creamy and luxurious, it is as guilt-free as it is gluten and dairy free!

At today's prices, I like to get every bit of the lovely asparagus into the soup - so the tough ends are used to enrich the broth. But if that sounds like too much work, proceed without that step.

The tender inner ribs of the celery along with the leaves add a nice flavor to the soup. The potato adds creaminess and body.

This delicate but sturdy soup can be made ahead and kept chilled for about 4-5 days. It can also be prepped in stages.

Note: Asparagus and the veggies maybe cooked in the broth instead of roasting and pureed to make the soup.

4 Servings

2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
1 pound fresh Asparagus 
1 Leek, coarsley chopped (or 1 Onion)
2 ribs Celery, chopped
1 medium Potato, keep whole
4-5 sprigs fresh Thyme or 1 tsp dried
1-2 Sprigs fresh Tarragon leaves or 1/2 teaspoon dried
4  cups Vegetable Broth
Salt and Pepper to taste

Method:

Heat the vegetable broth in a large pot.

Wash and drain the asparagus well. Break off bottom tough part of each asparagus stalk, and use it to enrich the broth.

As soon as the tough ends of the asparagus are snapped off, add them to the broth along with the whole potato and thyme sprigs, bring to a boil and cook for about 15 minutes. Let cool. Take out the potato, peel it if you wish while still quite warm and keep aside.

Preheat the oven to 400 F. Prepare a rimmed baking sheet by lining it with parchment paper.

Coarsely chop the stalks, reserving about a dozen or so of the tips in bigger pieces about 1-2 inches long to be used as garnish (so you have 3-4 tips per serving). 

Clean, rinse well, and coarsely chop the leek/onion.

Combine 1/2 teaspoon of the oil with the asparagus tips with a little pinch of salt and pepper; toss to coat well and place on one end of the prepared baking pan. 

Combine the rest of the oil, chopped asparagaus, celery, and leek/onion with a generous pinch each of salt and pepper and toss to coat well. Spread the veggies on the baking pan without mixing with the tips.

Roast the veggies for about 20 minutes or until tender and slightly browned.

Meanwhile process the cooked tough ends of asparagus in the broth with some of the broth in the blender and process until coarsely chopped. Strain through a fine strainer. Discard the solids. 

When the roasted veggies are ready, remove the asparagus tips and set aside for the garnish.

Puree the rest of the roasted veggies and the potato in the blender with some of the enriched broth and tarragon.

Heat the puree with all of the vegetable broth and cook, stirring occasionally, until hot - about 10 minutes. 

When soup is hot, taste and adjust seasoning.

To serve ladle the soup into 4 bowls and divide the reserved asparagus tips among them.

Serve hot immediately with more freshly ground pepper if desired. Enjoy!!

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Smoky Roasted Red Bell Pepper Hummus (Garbanzo Spread/Dip W/Roasted Red Bells)

Luscious, beautiful sunset colored Roasted Red Bell Hummus is delicious in so many ways: with veggies, with pita wedges, chips, and as a spread for sandwiches and wraps. We love to spread warm corn tortillas with this good and good for you hummus topped with slices of avocado for a lovely treat anytime. Hummus is great on salads when thinned out with a little water and a squeeze of lemon.

I stock this or another type of hummus in the fridge for those times of snack attacks so that it is easy to reach for something healthy. We often make it a main meal with lots of fresh veggies and a bit of warm breads for a very satisfying and nutrient rich repast.

If you have home-cooked chickpeas/garbanzos and roasted peppers, it takes just a few minutes to whiz a bowl of hummus. It is handy to cook a big batch of the chickpeas and allot portions for the various dishes including putting aside a portion or two in the freezer. You can roast a few peppers while making roasted veggies for other dishes. Canned roasted peppers and garbanzos may be used if homecooked ones are not handy.

Hummus will last for at least a week if kept chilled in a sprucelessly clean container with a well-fitting cover. When serving, remove what is needed, but do not put back unused portions back into the original container. 

Ingredients:

2 cups Chickpeas/Garbanzo beans, freshly cooked + 1/2 cup cooking broth
2 Red Bell Peppers, roasted whole, peeled and deseeded
2 Tbsp tahini (sesame seed butter)
3-4 Tbsp fresh Lemon juice, (or to taste)
1 garlic clove (or to taste)
1/4 - 1/2 tsp freshly ground Cumin
1/4 - 1/2 tsp Smoked Paprika
1/4 - 1/2 tsp ground Red Pepper (Cayenne)
Salt to taste

Garnish:
1 Tbsp fresh Parsley, finely chopped
Cayenne, Paprika, or Sumac for dusting the top

Method:

I like to use the garbanzos while they are still warm for a smooth and silky hummus. Combine all ingredients in the bowl of a food processor or a highspeed blender carafe. Process until completely smooth, about 2 minutes or so adding a little cooking broth or water if using canned beans as necessary to get the right consistency.

Taste and adjust seasonings. Don't worry if the hummus is a bit runny; upon chilling it thickens up.

Spoon into a clean container, cover and chill until ready to use.

Remove the needed amount of the hummus onto a serving dish with a clean spoon.

Serve garnished with the parsley and a dusting of paprika, cayenne or sumac.

Enjoy!!


Saturday, March 17, 2018

Pasta Primavera

Another family favorite! Pasta Primavera is a well-loved dish; with all the veggies, one doesn't need a side dish to complete the meal. Use your favorite combination of vegetables according to the seasonal availability or preference.

It is a bit of work to cook the veggies individually, but well worth it. If you get the family members to help with prepping the veggies or do it a day or two ahead, it goes very fast. Frozen veggies are another option if time/help is short.

NOTES:

I usually use penne, fusilli or angel hair pasta to make Pasta Primavera.

Any of your favorite grains may be substituted for the pasta! If opting for grains, use about 2 cups (dry) of your favorite grains, cooked according to package directions.

Other veggies maybe used instead of those given in the recipe to suit availability and preferences.

Canned crushed tomatoes maybe substituted if fresh ones are not handy.

One minced fresh hot red or green chile (or more if you like it spicy) maybe substituted for the red pepper flakes.

8 Servings

INGREDIENTS:

1  bunch Broccoli
1 Carrot
6-8 Asparagus spears
1 cups Green Beans
1 large or 2 small Zucchini
1  cup fresh Pea Pods, ends removed
½  cup Peas, fresh or frozen
 Salt as needed
1  tablespoon Oil, divided
1-2 cloves Garlic, minced
1 Red Bell Pepper, cut in strips
2  cups Mushrooms, thinly sliced
 Freshly ground Black pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried Red Pepper flakes
¼  cup Parsley, finely chopped
4 -6 Tomatoes, coarsely chopped
½ tsp Turmeric
¼  cup basil leaves, chopped
1  pound dried pasta, any kind
½ - ¾  cup pasta cooking liquid
⅓  cup toasted almonds or pine nuts

Extra Basil and Parsley for garnish

METHOD:

Trim broccoli and break into florets. Slice off ends of the zucchini. Cut into 1-inch long sticks; similar to french fries. Trim carrot and cut into 1-inch sticks. Snap off the tough ends of asparagus and cut into 1-inch pieces. Tip and tail beans and cut into 1-inch pieces. Keep the veggies separate as each one has different cooking times.

Bring a large pot of water with salt to a boil for cooking the veggies and the pasta.

While the water is coming to a boil, prepare a large bowl of iced water bath for dunking the veggies after cooking them.

Have a large bowl ready for placing the vegetables after cooking and chilling.

Cook each of the prepared veggies separately in boiling salted water to cover until crisp but just tender. Cook the fresh peas, pea pods, and zucchini for only about 1 minute. Drain well, then plunge in cold water bowl to stop cooking for just a couple of minutes; drain thoroughly. Combine the cooked vegetables in a bowl. Reserve the boiling water for cooking the pasta.

Defrost the peas if using frozen and add to the veggie bowl.

In a skillet over low-medium heat 1 tsp oil and add the garlic and bell pepper, cook until softened, about a couple of minutes. When done, add to the vegetable bowl.

In the same skillet over medium-high heat, heat 2 tsp of the oil and add the mushrooms and chile. Season to taste with a pinch of salt and freshly ground pepper. Cook about 2-3 minutes, shaking the skillet and stirring. Stir in the parsley and remove from heat.

Add the mushrooms to the bowl of vegetables.

Cook the pasta in the boiling salted water until just tender, drain well reserving about a cup of the pasta cooking liquid.

While the pasta is cooking, add the tomatoes, turmeric, salt and pepper to a large pot or wok (large enough to hold the pasta and vegetables. Cook about 5 minutes. 

Add the basil and the vegetable mixture to the large pot. Cook, stirring gently, until heated through.

Add the cooked pasta along with 1/2 cup of the liquid from cooking the pasta and mix well but without mashing the veggies tossing over very low heat.

If the sauce seems dry, add a couple of tablespoons or more pasta liquid and give it a final toss. Taste and adjust seasonings.

Serve the pasta primavera in warmed wide soup or pasta bowls. Sprinkle the nuts over each serving.

Serve immediately with the garnish of basil and parsley. Enjoy!!

Split Pea Soup (Almost Andersen's Famous Pea Soup)

Split Pea Soup was introduced to me at Pea Soup Andersen's Restaurant near Solvang, California many years ago by dear friends P & C. I have been an avid fan ever since. Many were the bowls of delicious, naturally vegan, and gluten free all-you-can-eat soup that we have happily eaten then and in subsequent visits there and at their other locations.

We loved the soup so much, I recreated the recipe at home based on taste and was delighted with the results. Not only family members but lots of friends too have been the happy recipients of this amazing soup. Until recently I did not know that Andersen's has their famous recipe printed on the bags of split peas they sell and was quite happy to see that my recipe is very close!

Although I love the smooth and creamy soup just fine, my homemade version includes a few more ingredients like barley, turmeric and ginger for their health benefits as well as lovely taste and texture. This recipe is almost fat free; I add a little oil to the soup pot just to start the veggies from sticking to the pot - the oil maybe omitted if desired. It is Vegan and Gluten Free if barley is omitted; quinoa, millet, or another gluten free grain may be substituted if desired for a gluten free soup.

Notes:

I prefer to cook the peas separately to ensure they cook well; this also prevents the veggies from cooking too long.

Vegetable broth maybe used instead of  water to bring the soup to desired consistency.

The soup maybe passed through a strainer or sieve to get a smooth soup like the famous soup; or processed using a regular or immersion blender. I don't as the soup is quite creamy and I like a bit of texture.

Cool and store leftover soup in the fridge for 3-5 days; for longer storage, this soup freezes well. When reheating, a small amount of water or broth may be needed to thin the soup.

8-10 Servings

INGREDIENTS:

2 cups green split peas
1/2 cup Barley (optional)
1 tsp Oil (optional)
1 Onion, peeled and chopped
4 ribs Celery, chopped
1 large Carrot, chopped
1/2 tsp Turmeric
1 clove Garlic, minced
3-5 sprigs Fresh Thyme  Or 1 tsp dried
2 Bay Leaves
1-3 tsp freshly grated Ginger (optional)
Pinch or two cayenne pepper
1 tsp salt, or to taste
1/2-1 tsp freshly ground Pepper, or to taste

METHOD:

Sort, wash and soak the split peas and barley if using in plenty of water for 2 hours. Split peas and barley may be cooked without soaking also; soaking shortens cooking time.

Drain the soaked split peas and barley, add fresh water to cover, and cook conventionally or using a pressure cooker until soft. If made ahead, cool, and refrigerate until needed.

Heat a large soup pot with the oil; swirl the oil to coat the bottom of the pan.

Add onion, celery, and carrot with a pinch of salt and the turmeric. 

Cook covered over low heat, stirring often until the onion mixture begins to turn golden and caramelized; add a sprinkle or two of water if needed to keep the veggies from burning. 

Stir in the garlic, thyme, bay leaves, ginger if using, cayenne, salt and pepper. Stir and cook for about a minute.

Tip in the cooked split peas and barley; add enough boiling water to get the right consistency.

Simmer the soup for about 10-15 minutes stirring often; stirring is essential as after peas are added, the soup tends to settle to the bottom of the pot and burn.

Let rest for 10 minutes; taste and adjust the seasonings.

Serve hot.

Enjoy!!

Friday, March 16, 2018

Vegetable Salna (Vegetable Stew With Vadouvan/Vadakam)

Vegetable Salna is a popular soupy stew that accompanies parotta, a South Indian version of the paratha, a  wholewheat flatbread. It is also quite delicious served with other Indian breads, Idli, Dosa, Upma, rice or other grains. I make a big batch as the flavors meld and taste better the next day.

NOTES:

1. Vadakam/Vadouvan is not widely available even in Indian markets outside India; here is the recipe for making vadakam. Until you can make/purchase vadouvan/vadakam, this Substitute will work quite satisfactorily: coarsely crush and combine - 1/4 tsp Fennel seeds, 1/8 tsp Fenugreek, 1/4 tsp Cumin seeds, and 1 tsp Urad dal + 1/2 tsp Mustard seeds + 1 pinch crushed red pepper flakes + 1 small shallot and 1 clove garlic, minced finely. Add this to the hot oil and proceed as called for in the recipe.

2. It is tasty to have a mixture of veggies rather than just one or two; I usually end up using about five or more. Carrot, green beans, peas, cauliflower, regular potato, sweet potato, Lima beans/edamame, etc work well. If you like to add zucchini, add it at the end of cooking just before removing from heat so it doesn't get mushy. A handful (about 1/2 cup) of cooked chickpeas/garbanzo beans either tan or brown, may be added also as part of the veggies.

3. If coconut is not available for the masala, 1/2 cup of coconut milk may be added at the end.

4. Salna served in the local restaurants is usually served on the thin side; if you like it more soupy, add a little boiling water to reach desired consistency at the end of cooking and adjust the seasonings.

5. Adjust the amount of chile powder - reduce or add more - according to your taste.

About 6 - 8 Servings

INGREDIENTS:

Masala for roasting and grinding:

1 tsp Oil
1 stick Cinnamon, 1" piece
5 whole Cloves
2 pods, green Cardamom
1 tsp Fennel seeds
1/2 tsp Cumin seeds
1 Onion, coarsely chopped
2-3 slices fresh Ginger
1-2 cloves Garlic, peeled
1 Tomato, cut into 4 pieces
3 tbsp Grated coconut (See Notes)
1 tsp Poppy seeds (Khus khus)
5 raw or toasted Cashews

Salna

1/4 - 1/2 tsp Red chile powder
2 tsp ground Coriander seeds
1/4 tsp Turmeric
1 tsp Salt, or as needed
1 tsp Oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1/2 Bell Pepper, chopped
1 Tomato, coarsely chopped 
5-7 Mint leaves, fresh or dried (use Spearmint)
3-4 Tbsp fresh Cilantro, chopped
2 cups Assorted Vegetables (see notes above), cut in 1/2" cubes

Finishing:

1 tsp Oil
1/2 - 1 Tbsp Vadouvan/Vadakam OR see Notes* above
1 stem fresh Curry Leaves, finely sliced

METHOD:

Prepare Masala:

Heat the oil in a kadai/skillet, add cinnamon stick, cloves, cardamom, fennel, and cumin; cook until spices are lightly toasted and fragrant - about 30 seconds or so. 

Stir in onion, ginger and garlic; cover and cook over low-medium heat stirring often until onion is softened and slightly golden. 

Tip in the tomato, cook until tomato softens and remove from heat and allow it to cool.

Place the cooled masala ingredients in a blender carafe; add the grated coconut, cashews, and poppy seeds.

Grind the masala into a smooth paste adding a few spoonfuls of water as necessary to facilitate grinding. Set aside.

Prepare the Salna:

Combine the coriander, turmeric, red chile powder and salt in a small bowl.

Heat the oil in a dutch oven or large pan; swirl the oil to coat the bottom of the pan.

Add onions with a pinch of salt and cook covered over low heat until soft and beginning to color.

Stir in the torn mint leaves, bell pepper, and tomato; cover and cook stirring ocassionally until tomato is soft.

Add the spice-salt mixture and mix well.

Tip in the vegetables and the ground masala paste.

Add a cup of water to the blender carafe to gather all the masala and pour into the pan. Add a little more water as necessary so the veggies are just covered.

Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for about 15 minutes or until the veggies are tender. Add enough boiling water if the salna is too thick until desired consistency is reached.

Remove from heat and let rest for 10 minutes. Taste and add salt if needed.

Finishing:

Heat oil for finishing in a small pan; add the crushed Vadakam or the *substitute and cook until fragrant and golden brown; be careful not to let it burn. Stir in curry leaves carefully. Remove from heat and add to Salna.

Cover the salna and let rest for 10 minutes.

Serve hot in bowls and garnish with chopped cilantro/coriander.

Enjoy!!

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Vadouvan/Thalippu Vadakam (Tamil Nadu (South India) Spice Mix W/Assorted Spices, Shallots & Garlic)

Vadouvan/Vadakam, a traditional spice mix from Tamil Nadu area of South India, is prized as the crowning finale of fragrant Thalippu for finishing the tangy, spicy, local curries. Vadakam is a sundried mixture of shallots, garlic, legumes and spices. Sho introduced me to vadakam when she lived in Chennai and I have been a fan ever since!

Vadakams and other sundried goodies are made during the summertime and stored to use all year long. Since it is a summer activity, usually all the children participate too; their job is to keep birds and other opportunists away from the drying food. Large quantities are made to share with daughters and sons near and far. 

Since sundrying is not always an option, the oven can be put to use in drying vadakams. Traditionally they are formed into balls but I dry them without making balls - they are going to be broken up anyway to use in the curries; so why go through so much trouble when one can save time and effort!

Every family has their own formula for these; so add or subtract the different spices and adjust their quantities especially the amount of chiles according to your preference. For example, if you aren't a garlic fan, use less or omit them altogether.  

The Vadakams need to be cooked in a little oil to release their fragrance. I love to add these in the thalippu (final finish with a little oil) when making dals, vegetable sautes, as well as tamarind or tomato-laced kuzhambus and curries. Once you try it, you'll have your own favorite way to use Vadakam.

INGREDIENTS

1 cups Shallots, chopped
1/2 cup Garlic cloves, chopped
5 Stems Curry leaves, chopped
1/4 cup White urad dal ( soak in water for 30 minutes)
1 tbsp Mustard seeds
1 tbsp Cumin seeds
1 tbsp Methi seeds
1 tbsp Fennel seeds
10 - 12 Red chiles
1/2 tsp Asafetida (optional)
1 tspTurmeric powder
1 tsp Salt 

METHOD

Wash and soak the urad dal for 30 minutes.

Peel, wash, and chop the shallots and garlic cloves coarsely. 

Wash and drain curry leaves; remove from the stems and discard the stems. 

Pinch/chop the red chiles into small pieces.

Drain and rinse the soaked dal; place in a food processor with the chiles and process until coarsely ground without adding any water. 

Next, add the curry leaves, and the rest of the spices, and process with a few pulses until combined.

Tip in the shallots and garlic and pulse a few times just until well mixed. 

Prepare a large baking sheet with rims: 

Spread the mixture on a parchment lined baking pan and dry them at the lowest heat setting. Ovens vary but it is important not to dry in a too hot one. I usually preheat the oven, place the pan in the middle of the oven and let dry for a half an hour. Turn off the heat and let dry for a couple of hours in the warm oven. I repeat this process a couple of times until the vadakam is dry. The vadakam pan should not be in the oven while the oven is heating, as it has a tendency to burn.

When completely dry, let cool, and place in a clean jar with a tight-fitting lid.

For adding this to a curry, take one teaspoon of the vadakam and fry in a small amount of oil just until golden brown and fragrant. Add to recipes where you would like garlic and onion flavors.

Enjoy!! Happy cooking!



Sunday, March 4, 2018

Easy, Tasty, Simple Chole (Simplest Chickpeas/Garbanzo Beans Curry)

So easy, so tasty! This delicious Chickpea/Garbanzo curry needs minimal effort especially if you have cooked Chickpea/Garbanzos on hand; you can use home-cooked or canned. Check this post for cooking beans at home - a very easy as well as economical project!

Reserve and use cooking liquid if homemade; drain and rinse if using canned beans.

Variation: A chopped tomato may be added after the shallot mixture has softened. If a spicier dish is required, add more hot green chiles or a little red pepper.

4 Servings

Ingredients:

2 cups cooked Chickpea/Garbanzos
1 tsp Oil
1 dried Red Chile
1/2 tsp Cumin Seeds
1-3 tsp fresh Ginger, grated
1 Shallot, coarsely chopped
1 hot green chile, coarsely chopped (remove core for a mild dish)
1/2 tsp Turmeric
1 tsp Salt
1 pinch Asafetida (optional)
3-4 Tbsp Cilantro, chopped

Method:

Heat the oil in a kadai or skillet; add red chile and cumin and let the cumin sizzle and become fragrant; the chile will darken but should not burn. 

Stir in ginger, shallot, and green chile. Cook until they are softened.

Stir in the turmeric, asafetida if using and salt.

Tip in the homemade chickpeas with 1 cup cooking liquid; if using canned beans, add 1 cup water.

Bring to a boil and cook for about 5 minutes mashing the beans a little with the back of the spoon so the curry thickens a bit. 

Remove from heat and stir in cilantro.

Serve hot with roti, tortillas, rice or other grains.

Enjoy!!

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Smoky Sweet Potato Hash With Tofu

A delicious dish to serve at breakfast, lunch, snack, or dinner! Wonderful served with/over spinach or arugula salad, cooked greens, or grains.

The colorful mini peppers may be used instead of  bell pepper; any type of sweet or regular potatoes may be used.

Drain the tofu well and wrap in paper towels to remove as much of the water as possible for best results. Adjust the spices according to your taste.

Smoky Sweet Potato Hash With Tofu
6 Servings

Ingredients:

1 block Tofu drained well and diced in 1/2" cubes
1 pinch crushed Red Pepper
1 Tbsp + 1 tsp  Oil, divided
3 Large Sweet Potatoes, cut in 1/2" cubes (about 5 cups)
1 large Red Onion, diced (about 1 1/2 cups)
1 large Red Bell Pepper, diced (about 1 1/2 cups)
1/2 tsp Turmeric
1 tsp Smoked Paprika
5 Sprigs fresh Thyme
Salt and freshly ground Pepper to taste
1/4 - 1/2 tsp ground Red Pepper (cayenne) - optional
4 Tbsp Parsley. Cilantro, and/or Green Onions, finely chopped

Optional for serving
Sriracha sauce
Hot Sauce

Method:

In a large skillet heat 1 Tbsp of the oil with the crushed red pepper over medium heat; when the pepper is slightly browned carefully add the tofu with a pinch of salt and pepper and cook until lightly browned on all sides. A well seasoned cast iron or a non-stick skillet works well. Remove to a bowl and set aside.

Heat the 1 tsp of oil in the same skillet and add onions and sweet potatoes; cook covered stirring as needed until veggies are just tender - about 10 minutes or so.

Stir in the rest of the ingredients and the tofu and cook covered for about 5-7 minutes or all the veggies are tender. Sprinkle a tablespoon or two of water as needed if the veggies dry out.

Serve hot; pass Sriracha or your favorite hot sauce. Enjoy!!

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Garlic Chutney Topping (Amma's Garlic Relish for Pizza, Pasta, and Everything Else)

Amma made this delicious garlic chutney topping that we use on everything from pasta to pizzas - in fact  pizza or pasta without it is unthinkable! Once we tasted pizza with it, there was no going back to eating without the Garlic Topping!

Another must for every pantry! Delicious sprinkled over any dish, we love it on salads, soups, pizza, pasta and more. Amma (my mom) received requests for care packages of this from everyone who tasted it :). Many were the jars of garlic topping that Amma prepared for care packages as no one left the house empty-handed. She used to peel and chop all the garlic by hand meticulously but as the demand and requests increased, the food processor was put to good use!

This is such a simple recipe; use your tastebuds as your guide to add salt and chile powder to suit your needs. Make a little for a meal or make a lot and keep a stock ready to use or give away.

Notes:

The cooking needs to be done over low heat so that garlic does not burn. Burned garlic = bitter  taste; so be warned!

Be judicious with the hot chile powder - if you want the lovely red color but a mild taste, use a little Kashmiri chile powder and/or Paprika. Kashmiri Chile Powder is a bit milder than regular chile powder or cayenne.

All the chile powders mentioned here are ground dried red peppers; not a mixture of spices and peppers to make the dish Chili!

Garlic Topping will last for a few days at room temperature. It will last 3 months or more if kept in the refrigerator. Also, as with any preserves, pickles or chutneys, use a clean dry spoon to take out the required amount; do not return unsused portion back to the original jar.

Variation: For a little Chinese twist, add 2 tablespoons of Soy Sauce after the chutney topping has cooled a bit. 

Ingredients:

1/4 - 1/2 cup Oil
2 Big heads Fresh Garlic, peeled and trimmed
1- 2 tsp Salt (to taste)
1 Tbsp Hot Chile Flakes
1- 4 Tbsp Hot Chile Powder/Kashmiri Chile Powder/Paprika

Method:

Place peeled garlic cloves in the bowl of the food processor and pulse quickly on and off until garlic is chopped but not mashed.

Heat a wok, skillet or a small pan and add the oil; heat over low-medium heat until a little piece of garlic sizzles when dropped into the oil. 

Tip the garlic into the wok/pan along with a pinche of salt and cook over low heat stirring regularly so as to cook evenly without burning. Adjust the heat up or down as necessary to keep the garlic cooking but not burning.

When garlic is golden and crisp, add the rest of the salt and the spices and cook for about 2 minutes. Let cool in the pan.

Store in a clean dry jar with a tight lid.

Garlic Topping will last for a few days at room temperature. It will last 3 months or more if kept in the refrigerator. See note above.

Serve the Garlic Chutney Topping on pasta, pizza, bread, wraps, in any food you want to spice up. Enjoy!!

Almond-Sunflower Seed Sandwich Spread Or Dip

A quarter of a cup of this spread has a goodly amount to protein - 7g! and of course plenty of other good nutrients. Similar to the Green Seed Butter and the Chickpea Spread, it is a lovely dip or spread with an abundance of nutrition and great taste.

Variation: Use 1/2 cup each of sunflower and pumpkin seeds. A pinch of cayenne is great in the spread. 2 or 3 tablespoons of vegan mayo maybe used also instead of the lemon juice and mape syrup.

About 5- 10 servings
Ingredients:
1 cup raw sunflower seeds
1 cup raw almonds
1/3 cup finely chopped celery
1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
2 tablespoons chopped fresh Dill or Parsley
1-2 tablespoons maple syrup or agave nectar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon sea salt

Optional Ingredients
1/3 cup finely chopped pickles
1/3 cup finely chopped/grated Carrots
1 teaspoon kelp granules

Method:
Put sunflower seeds and almonds into a large bowl, add plenty of with water, cover and set aside at room temperature to let soak for 10 to 12 hours. If temperatures are hot, the soaking may be done in the fridge.

Drain the soak water, rinse thoroughly, and drain well again.

Pulse sunflower seeds and almonds in a food processor until very finely chopped, scraping down the sides of the bowl as you go.

Tip in the maple syrup and lemon juice; process to combine.

Add the celery, onions, dill, kelp if using, pepper and salt; pulse a couple of times or so until combined. 

Scoop into a container, taste and adjust the seasonings. 

Serve immediately, or cover and chill until ready to serve. The spread will stay fresh about 3-4 days.

Serve on toast, lettuce leaves, tortillas, etc. or as a dip with fresh sliced veggies.

Enjoy!!