Sunday, July 15, 2018

SHUKTO (Mixed Vegetable Stew W/Coconut & Spices - BENGALI AVIYAL!)

Shukto
Shukto is a delicious Bengali mixed vegetable stew served with rice typically at the beginning of the meal. When I made it first, it was so reminiscent of the South Indian Aviyal, we called it the Bengali Aviyal!

I have adapted the recipe to make it dairy, gluten, and any added oil/fat free since the traditional milk, flour, and added fats are eliminated. The addition of sugar also is not needed as the sweet potato adds enough sweetness to the dish; but if you wish, a date or a teaspoon or two of maple syrup/jaggery maybe added. I added a little bit of coconut (yes, it adds a bit of fat) and rice to make the Shukto creamy; it is absolutely fabulous!

Although bitter melon is a traditional ingredient, it is an acquired taste; not even many Indian people like this bitter veggie! Besides, I did not have either fresh or frozen bitter melon or drumsticks. But even with all these omissions or perhaps because of them :D, the dish turned out quite delectable. 

NOTES:

Typically the veggies are cut lengthwise into wedges/julienne pieces equal in size and thickness. Some may need to be cut into 4, 6, or 8 wedges/julienne pieces depending on their size.

Turmeric is optional; however, I prefer to add it for all the medicinal value it brings to the table as well as its golden hue.

Coconut milk maybe substituted for the coconut; use about half a cup.

I leave the green chiles whole with just the barest slit at the blossom ends to make the dish mild as well as their removal easy. They maybe cored and finely minced also while still keeping the dish mild.

Panch Phodan, Phoran, or Foran is a spice mix means Five Spices with equal amounts of the following whole seeds - brown mustard, nigella, cumin, fenugreek and fennel; check this recipe for details - it is used in making Kadhi, Zucchini With Besan, etc.

Ajwain is closely related to celery so celery seeds maybe used instead if ajwain is unavilable. 

For a traditional Shukto, add 1 Bitter Melon, 2 Indian Drumsticks, fresh or frozen, 2 Taro roots, etc. Other vegetables such as Ridge gourd, Bottle gourd, and/or Zucchini maybe added also.

Another ingredient is vadis or boris prepared from mung or other beans; they are usually cooked in oil until lightly browned and added to the stew towards the end of cooking. 

Serves: 6

INGREDIENTS

Masala for grinding:
1 Tbsp White Poppy seeds (optional)
1 Tbsp Mustard Seeds
1 Tbsp fresh Ginger
1 tsp uncooked Rice
1/4 cup Fresh or 2 Tbsp Unsweetened dried Coconut

Stew:

1 Green Banana, plantain or regular
1 Potato
1-2 large Sweet Potatoes
1 smallish piece Daikon/Korean radish or a handful of the small red ones
1 Japanese/Chinese type Eggplant
1 handful any type Green Beans/Hyacinth Beans
1 tsp Panchphoran
2 pinchhes Ajwain seeds (optional)
1-2 Indian Bay Leaves
1/4 tsp Asafetida (optional)
1/2 tsp Turmeric
1-3 hot Green Chiles, ends slit OR cored and minced
Salt to taste
3-4 cups Boiling Water 
2-4 Tbsp Cilantro, coarsely chopped

METHOD:

1. Make the Masala:

Soak mustard, poppy seeds and coconut in a little water for 10 minutes.

Make a smooth paste of the soaked coconut mixture along with the ginger adding water as necessary using a good blender. Pour into a bowl; use a cup of water to sluice the blender to gather up all of the masala and add to the bowl. Set aside.

2. Prep the veggies:

Wash all the veggies, drain. Lightly peel the deep green skin of the banana/plantain - a peeler makes it an easy job. Regular and sweet potatoes need not be peeled if they are organic; just scrub them clean with a veggie brush. Trim stems and tips from radish, eggplant and green beans.

Bowl # 1. Cut the radish, green banana, potato, and sweet potato into 2 inch long wedges/juliennes and keep together; these take a little longer to cook.

Bowl # 2. Cut eggplant and green beans (and other tender veggies that do not need much cooking time) into same size wedges/juliennes as the other veggies.

3. Make Shukto:

Heat a large wok or Dutch oven over medium heat and add panchphoron and ajwain. When the seeds start to pop, add the bay leaves and stir for a few seconds.

Add turmeric, asafetida (if using), green chiles, salt and the ground masala. 

Add the contents of Bowl # 1 (radish, green banana, etc) to the pot along with enough of the boiling water to cover the veggies; bring to a boil, reduce heat, and cover the with a lid. Cook for about 7 -8 minutes on low heat.

If using bitter melon and drumsticks, add them after bowl # 1 has cooked for 3-4 minutes.

Stir in the contents of Bowl # 2 (eggplant), add more boiling water if needed and simmer until the veggies are cooked, about 7-10 minutes or so.

Check the stew and add a little more boiling water as needed since Shukto should have plenty of sauce and not be too thick. Taste and adjust seasonings. Stir in the cilantro and let rest for 10 minutes.

Fish out the green chiles (if they have been left whole) from Shukto and discard or offer to those who like to add a little extra spice to their plate.

Serve hot with steamed rice. Enjoy!!

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Mangai Vellarikai Kootan (Green Mango & Cucumber Stew)

Kerala Red Rice, Mangai Vellarikai Kootan, Cauli-Carrot Curry, Papadams
Mangai Vellarikai  Kootan is a Kerala stew flavored with the traditional masala of coconut, chiles, and cumin seeds. It is another one of our family favorite kuzhambus. Mangai Vellarikai  Kootan over plain rice, a simple vegetable stir-fry and papadams - make a delicious combination!

Green Mangoes and big Indian cucumbers are the usual veggies; since Indian cooking cukes are not always available, regular, Persian, and greenhouse cucumbers all work well - peel if they are waxed.

Besides the green unripe mango, other veggies maybe used instead of the cucumber such as winter melon (aka ash gourd or elavan), okra, moqua/chayote/opo squash, taro root, Jack fruit seeds, zucchini, or other mild summer squash. Dependig on the sourness of the mangoes, adjust the lime/lemon for the right amount of tanginess.

Tofu - about 1/2 block - maybe added to the coconut masala if you like to get a Mor Kootan effect.

About 6 Servings

Ingredients:

1 Green Mango, peeled and cut into big chunks
1-2 Cucumbers
1/2 tsp Turmeric
1 tsp Salt, or to taste
1 Lemon/Lime

Masala - Grind Together:
1/2 cup Grated Coconut, fresh or frozen OR 1/3 cup dried Unsweetened
1 tsp whole Cumin Seeds
1 or 2 Hot Green or Red Chile, core removed for a milder dish
1 Stem Curry Leaves
1 tsp uncooked rice

Thalippu/Tadka:

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

Method:

Prepare the veggies: wash well, trim or peel as needed; cut into large chunks.

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

While the veggies are cooking, place  the masala ingredients in the blender carafe, process into a nice smooth puree with a little water (1/4 cup or so).

When the veggies are tender, add the coconut puree; add a few tablespoons of water to the blender to gather all the remaining puree and add to the pan. Add a little more water if the kuzhambu is thick.

Simmer uncovered gently until Kootan comes to a boil and thickens slightly. Remove from heat.

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

Stir in lemon/lime juice to taste before serving; Mangai Vellarikai Kootan should be tangy.

Serve hot with rice or other grains; the usual favorite sides are some kind of thoran or dry veggie dish like Stir-fried Okra, Cabbage Thoran, Paruppu Usli, Parikkai Fry, Potato Roast, and/or papadams. Mangai Vellarikai Kuzhambu will last a week to ten days in the refrigerator.

Enjoy!!
Kerala Red Rice, Mangai Vellarikai Kootan

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Fresh Fruit Salad With Custard

Fruit Salad W/Custard, Almonds, Hemp Hearts
I remember eating Fresh Fruit Salad with Vanilla Custard for the first time; tiny cubes of succulent tropical fruit nestled in a cool bed of smooth custard - Perfection! Although I don't recall all of the fabulous fruits except perhaps the mango, pineapple and grapes, my 13-year-old self was completely mesmerized by the lovely delight!
  
Fresh Fruit Salad is fabulous when there is an abundance of ripe fruit. Choose a variety of  fruits for their flavors, color and texture. Cut all large fruits into small dice; most small berries maybe left whole. It is a truly luxurious experience to enjoy a well prepared treat. Just like the chopped veggie salads - Cucumber-Tomato and Kale Bhel - everyone at our house adores a chopped fruit salad also - a labor or love, well worth the effort! 

Besides mango, pineapple, banana, and strawberries, also include watermelon, canteloupe, honeydew, papaya, pomegranate, kiwi, grapes, pineapple, orange segments, peaches, apricots, cherries, blueberries, blackberries, and/or other beauties in season. Most fruits will work well - have fun with the many delicious choices.

Serve it as a breakfast, snack, or dessert. I love a big bowl for breakfast with plain unsweetened non-dairy yogurt instead of the custard and/or gluten-free granola on top. Leave out the custard and it can even be a starter! Most extra fruits maybe frozen and/or any leftovers maybe made into a smoothie!

I have not given amounts for the ingredients since the fruits vary according to seasonal availability, selection, and the number of servings one may wish to make. Allow about a cup of fruit (or more) per person; start with a few favorite fruits adding more as you go along to get the quantity as well as color, flavor, and texture you want.

Custard maybe made with other flavorings besides vanilla; we love almond too.

Fruit Salad pictured here is made with only 5 fruits as it was just for 2 servings; it can be quite simple or elaborate with many kinds.

Ingredients:

Assorted fruits
Vanilla Custard to serve - 1 Recipe, warm or cold
Toasted Almond slices for garnish (optional)
Other Nuts or Seeds
Extra fruit for garnish
Mint sprigs for garnish

Method:

Prepare the vanilla custard; it maybe served warm or cold. Use unflavored non-dairy milk and add your own flavorings like vanilla and/or almond for best results. If serving it cold, allow enough time for cooling the custard.

Spoon a little of the cold custard into the dishes and then place fruit on top. Warm custard maybe spooned over when ready to serve.

Dice the fruit into uniformly small cubes. Although it is fine to make a big bowl of fruit salad, I find that placing the fruit directly into individual bowl avoids crushing them. Divy up equal amounts of the fruit into the bowls as you go. 

Serve garnished with the almonds and mint sprigs. Enjoy!!
Fruit Salad W/Custard

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Cauliflower Tabbouleh (Grain-free Vegetable Salad)

Cauliflower Tabbouleh 
Cauliflower Tabbouleh is a refreshing salad for the warm sunny days of summer with the abundance of fresh veggies. This colorful and healthy salad is a makeover of the traditional Tabbouleh from the Mediterranean region. Using riced cauliflower (cauliflower florets that have been finely chopped) instead of the usual grains makes it gluten free! 

Although the regular white cauliflower is fine, have fun using the the show-stopping rainbow-hued cauliflowers as well as other veggies available at your local farmers markets or favorite grocers. I love to use the multi-colored sweet mini peppers and radishes in this salad.

If there is any leftover salad, I add it to Adai batter to make Vegetable Adais (veggie panckes) or Salsa Pulav towards the end of cooking. Waste not ..... :D

NOTES:

A good knife or the food processor makes short work of chopping all the veggies; pulse them if using a food processor so you don't end up with mush!

If Sweet Mini Peppers are not handy, use red, orange and yellow bell peppers (capsicums).

A little sprinkle of Chaat Masala adds a lovely piquant pop; it is readily available in Indian Markets.

Although I don't use any oils, a little (~ 1 Tbsp or so) Extra Virgin Oil maybe used.

Use your favorite veggies make this uniquely your own!

6-8 Servings

Ingredients:

1 pound Cauliflower, any color, riced (4 cups)
1 clove fresh Garlic, mashed finely (optional)
¼ Red Onion, finely diced
1 green Chile, JalapeƱo or Serrano, cored and finely minced (optional)
1 Carrot, any color, finely diced
8-12 Sweet Mini Peppers, red, yellow and orange, diced small (1 cup)
1 cup Corn kernels, fresh or thawed frozen
¼ cup fresh Cilantro/Parsley, finely chopped
¼ cup fresh Mint, finely chopped
2-3 Limes/Lemons
1-2 pinches Salt
Freshly ground Black Pepper

Optional Garnishes:
Pomegranate arils
Toasted Nuts/Seeds
Mint, Parsley, and Cilantro

Method:

Riced cauliflower is available in most markets. If not, it is quite easy to rice: chop portions of the veggie using a good knife or separate the florets and pulse in a food processor bowl fitted with the metal S blade.

In a large bowl, combine all the prepared vegetables and herbs. Add a little salt and lime/lemon juice to taste; mix well. Season with more lime/lemon juice, salt, and pepper as needed. 

Chill if not serving right away. Although best eaten freshly made, Cauliflower Tabbouleh will stay fresh for 2-3 days.

Enjoy!!



Friday, July 6, 2018

Spinach Salad With Strawberries, Blueberries, & Pecans

I love this Spinach Salad bursting with the irresistible colors and flavors of fresh veggies and luscious berries! The simple balsamic dressing makes it absolutely delicious. One of our go to recipes on week nights :D as it is very easy and quick to prepare.

The Balsamic Vinaigrette is light yet flavorful. This recipe makes more dressing than needed for a serving; I save the extra in a squeeze bottle ready for the next time. 

Other nuts/seeds and/or berries maybe added to the salad instead of the pecans, strawberries and blueberries.

1 Serving

Ingredients:

Salad:
2-3 large handfuls fresh spinach, torn or chopped
4 large strawberries, sliced 
1 small handful of fresh Blueberries, washed
1/2 small Cucumber, thinly sliced
1/4 fresh Beet, thinly sliced
1 small Carrot, thinly sliced
2-3 thin slices Red Onions, separated into rings or half-moons
1/4 small avocado, pitted and cubed
2 Tbsp Pecans, toasted

Balsamic Vinaigrette:
1/4 cup Water + 1/4 tsp Cornstarch
1 clove fresh Garlic, peeled and trimmed
1-2 tsp Dijon-style Mustard
1/2 tsp Maple Syrup
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
Salt and Freshly ground Black Pepper, to taste

Method:

Prepare dressing and toast the pecans; both maybe done ahead and reserved.

Combine the water and cornstarch in a small pan, mix well to form a slurry, and heat until boiling; cook for a couple of minutes until the starch is cooked and the mixture is almost translucent. Let cool completely. The cornstarch mixture makes a fabulous oil substitute!

In a small blender, combine all the ingredients for the Balsamic Vinaigrette, process until smooth. Taste and correct the seasonings, pour into a clean jar, and set aside. Chill the vinaigrette if made ahead. The dressing will stay fresh for a week.

Toast the pecans without any oil in a dry skillet or at 375 degrees for 5-6 minutes, until lightly brown. Watch carefully as the nuts burn very quickly! Remove from oven and let cool. Pecans maybe toasted ahead of time and reserved in a zip-top bag or other container in the fridge until needed.

Make the salad just before serving. The veggies maybe prepped ahead and reserved in the fridge.

Place the spinach on a plate/bowl and top with the rest of the veggies.

Top the salad with the berries and pecans. 

Serve immediately drizzled with the Balsamic Vinaigrette! Bon appettit!

Enjoy!!