Saturday, November 27, 2010

Garlic and Rosemary Foccacia

Recipe source: Enchanted Broccoli Forest by Mollie Katzen.

1 C Water
3 C All purpose Flour
1.5 tsp active dry yeast
1 T salt
2 T dried rosemary
3 small cloves finely minced garlic
3 T olive oil
3 T parsley

Warm the water slightly and add the yeast. Let sit for 10 min until foamy. Add the salt and olive oil. Next add the flour, in batches, stirring well to incorporate. Add the dried rosemary and knead well. Place in a well oiled bowl, and smear the surface of the dough with oil. Cover loosely and keep in a warm place, until doubled in size. It took about an hour and a half in my kitchen. You can even leave it in the oven with the pilot light on, in winter.

Once doubled in size, punch the dough to release all the air built up due to the yeast, and transfer on to a floured surface. Allow the dough to rest for about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, heat 1 T olive oil in a saute pan and add the minced garlic. Maintain a low heat, and allow the garlic to brown very slightly. Be careful since the garlic can burn very easily. Knead the dough for about two minutes and transfer onto a greased sheet pan, 13 x 9 inches size. Poke the dough in several places, without tearing into it. The holes will be depressions on the surface of the dough, giving it a dimpled appearance. Brush the top of the dough evenly with the garlic olive oil mixture. Sprinkle coarse salt on the surface of the dough, if desired.  Sprinkle with parsley. Bake at 400 F for 20 - 30 minutes, until browned slightly.

The foccacia was quite good, but dry. The dough may need to be kneaded a little more, or need a little more moisture. Also, I left it in the oven for a little too long, so I should take it out sooner the next time. I will experiment with Olives, sun-dried tomatoes and onions the next time.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Thattai for Deepavali

Among all the festivals celebrated in India, Deepavali - the festival of lights is more of a social event rather than a ritualistic tradition. Friends and families exchange sweets and snacks and greet each other on Deepavali day, making this a cherished occasion. While there are sweet shops aplenty, selling boxed sweets and snacks, packaged conveniently for gifting, homemade comestibles add that special personal touch to any gift.

Anyway, this year for Deepavali, I decided to make Thattais at home. Thattai(Tamil) literally translates to "flat". These are savory flat discs that are deep fried and have a tremendous crunch. They are a really tasty afternoon snack! R is particularly fond of them, and among all the traditional savories prepared for Deepavali, Thattai is one that does not require great mastery and skill (like Kai Murukku), or a mechanical press(like Ribbon Pakoda, Thenkuzhal etc). So, this was the perfect project for me to embark on.

2 C Rice Flour
1/4 C Urad Dhal (roasted and powdered finely)
1/4 C Chana Dhal(or Moong Dhal), soaked in hot water for 15-20 minutes
2 T Butter, melted
1 T Curry leaves, torn
1/4 t Asafoetida
Salt, Chilli Powder and(or) ground black pepper (to taste)

I used freshly made rice flour by grinding rice. The finer the grind, the better. Roast the Urad Dhal and powder finely after cooling. Combine all the ingredients into a dough, adding as little water as possible, until the dough can be pinched off into balls without crumbling.

Pinch off lemon sized balls of the dough and flatten into thin discs and place on greased waxed paper or a cotton cloth(preferred). Perforate each Thattai with a fork 2 or 3 times, to allow even cooking in the center and prevent puffing. Allow to dry for at least 10 minutes. If the discs crack, add a little more water to the dough to bind better.

Fry in hot oil. The Thattais will sink on dropping into the oil, but will rise up after cooking. Flip and cook on both sides. Drain on paper towels and store in an air-tight container after cooling.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Plum Jam

Toast with butter and jam.


1.5 lbs Plums ( about 10 )
3/4 - 1 C sugar
Juice of 1 lemon

I used organic plums, so I just chopped them finely with the skin on. The skin gives a wonderful red color to the jam which was completely unexpected. The plums had dark purple-black skin to start with but it completely morphed into this beautiful red on cooking.

Taste the fruit, if they are mostly tart add 1 cup sugar. If the are ripe and sweet, then the sugar can be reduced to 3/4 cup. Add chopped plums, sugar and lemon juice into a saucepan and bring to a boil over medium high heat. Then reduce to medium and stir once every couple of minutes. As it starts to thicken, test over a cold spoon to see if jam is still runny or if it sets. Stir more frequently as it thickens and remove from heat when it passes the cold spoon test. Delicious plum jam is ready.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Ammini Kozhakattai

This Saturday morning at my house was filled with hectic activity for Vinayaka Chathurthi celebrations - for the revered elephant headed Hindu god Ganesha, symbolizing prosperity and removing all obstacles to success. This was my maiden attempt at making Ganesha's favorite food - the "Modaka" or "Kozhakattai".

Kozhakattai is a steamed dumpling : a cute little package with a rice flour wrapper and a little something inside. They are stuffed with "Poornam" - a sweet filling made of coconut and jaggery, or sesame and jaggery, or a savory lentil mixture. They all taste delicious, in my opinion.

Now making Kozhakattais is no walk in the park.. I'm sure everyone has had their share of doughy kozhakattais, or ones that develop an unsightly crack after steaming and oozing the stuffing. Anyone who has tried making Kozhakattais will tell you that the trick lies in making soft and pliable dough. I'm far from perfecting the kozhakattai dough, so I'll steer clear of blogging about it for now. What I wanted to write about today(finally!) was actually a tasty by-product of Ganesh chathurthi. Usually families are left with extra kozhakattai dough and end up making Ammini Kozhakattai that evening for that forgotten meal : "tiffin".

The dough is shaped into little balls, steamed, then sauteed with seasoning. It isn't everyone's cup of tea - my significant other R doesn't seem to enjoy it very much, but I like it. It reminds me of my childhood. I was left with a whole lot of leftover dough, so made some Ammini Kozhakattai. I combined some of the leftover filling of the "Uppu Kozhakattai"(the savory kind) with the steamed rice balls and that added some crunch and extra flavor. Making the "Ammini Kozhakattais" is a fun activity, and the entire family can be involved in rolling out these tiny balls. Also, it is much easier to roll out these "Collateral Kozhakattais" as R calls them, compared to making the regular kozhakattais, so I might make more of these than the regular ones!

Rice flour dough balls, ready to be steamed
Steamed balls, sauteed with mustard, green chillis, asafoetida, curry leaves and the lentil mixture(optional).

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Coffee Banana Icecream

A couple of years ago, when my dear friend H gifted me an ice-cream maker as a wedding present I was thrilled with the possibilities... home-made ice-cream during the summer, philadelphia-style, without nasty preservatives. Since then, I've experimented with simple ice-creams, adding fruits on hand with cream, milk and sugar. I've tried coffee ice cream before.. it was simple enough - mix cream/milk/half-and-half with instant coffee and sugar, and churn away. The last time I went for a mocha flavor and added chocolate shavings toward the end of the freezing process.

An unusual combination struck me this time . I love bananas (Ahem! Is there a monkey gene somewhere trying to express itself?)  - I love most fruits and all the unique flavors but the banana is my comfort fruit, if you know what I mean. Anyway, I decided to throw in a mashed ripe banana with the coffee and I loved it. I can see people going "yuck!" at this combination, but if you like bananas or have an adventurous palate, I'd say this is worth trying.


3 C Half-and-half (or any combination of milk and cream you prefer)
3/4 C Sugar (Will reduce this to 1/2 C next time, and yes, there will be a next time!)
4 T Instant Coffee
1 large Banana, mashed
1 T Honey

Chill the half-and-half thoroughly. Mix together the sugar, coffee and one cup half-and-half, until the sugar and coffee dissolve completely. Add the rest of the half-and-half, and stir until thoroughly combined. Freeze, following the ice cream maker's instructions. Meanwhile, mash one large banana with the honey and add in the final stages of churning. Freeze at least for an hour before serving. I can see toasted almonds being a nice garnish for this ice cream.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Gourmet Pizza at home!

Roasted Vegetable Pesto Pizza

Yes, it is possible! Even in my home.While we still eat pizza from the giant take-out chains in a pinch, I always prefer pizza at the local Italian restaurants/pizzerias - non-greasy pizzas that aren't loaded with cheese and "non-traditional" toppings. I've always salivated at the pictures in various food blogs, but never mustered up the courage to try it myself. Well, all that changed today.

The dough resting on the counter.

I made pizza dough using the recipe from Nupur's wonderful blog, modified from Mark Bittman's original recipe. I found the dough extremely simple to work with and it resulted in a wonderfully crisp crust and airy interior. A trip to a few kitchen supply stores, home improvement stores and one tile supply store later, the bottom rack of the oven was layered with unglazed red quarry tiles and I had my baking stone. It was easy on the pocket, and I'm looking forward to baking bread on it.

Unglazed quarry tiles - available at tile supply stores.

The challenge was making pizzas without a pizza peel or a cutter. I'm definitely the wiser for the experience today, and want to invest in these two items as well. This time, I ended up baking the pizzas on a sheet of foil. With a big stash of basil pesto from our home-grown potted basil plant, I decided to make pesto pizzas. One pizza with roasted red bell pepper and zucchini, and another with tomatoes and onions.

Zucchini, Onions and Red Pepper - ready for roasting.

Pizza #1

Pizza #2

This crust is definitely a winner. I might experiment a little to increase the proportion of whole wheat flour, or replace the all-purpose flour with whole wheat pastry flour.. but it is great as is. I'm looking forward to many more home made pizzas. Since the recipe for the crust is from One Hot Stove, I'm submitting this to the Blog Bites #6 event.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Hot Avakkai Pickle

One can wax eloquent about Avakkai - the Andhra-style mango pickle. I got inspired when I saw it here and here.. I found baby green mangoes at the Indian grocery store this weekend, and decided it was time to try my hand at making this traditional pickle.

The mangoes were not as sour as I would have liked. I'm not sure if this is going to impact the taste a lot - I will update the post after tasting it in a week's time.

Traditionally, the mango pieces are cut with the seed wall - I have no idea why - but this requires slicing right through the seed and then pulling out the hard seed and chopping the mangoes with the seed wall. Back in India, the vendors carry special apparatus to do precisely that. My kitchen knife was not sharp enough to cut through the seed, so I ended up chopping the mango flesh alone.

The rest of the procedure is easy - powder mustard seeds, fenugreek seeds and mix with chilli powder, pickling salt and turmeric. Mix with the mango pieces, combine with sesame oil and stir well to combine.


4 C Green mangoes, cut into approx 1 inch sized pieces
3/4 C Pickling salt
1 C Red Chilli powder (I used a little more, since the chilli powder was not too spicy)
3/4 C Mustard seeds (powdered)
1/4 C Fenugreek seeds
250 ml Gingelly oil
2 T Turmeric

Clean and wipe the mangoes thoroughly. Cut with the seed wall intact, if possible. Let dry for about an hour under the fan/in the sun. Combine powdered mustard seeds, fenugreek, turmeric, salt and chilli powder and stir well. In a dry bowl, add the cut mangoes and the pickle powder and mix well. Next, add the gingelly oil. Mix well and transfer to clean glass bottles/pickle jars. The pickle needs to be stirred thoroughly using a wooden spoon for about a week, or until the mangoes have absorbed the flavour from the pickle base. The oil will separate from the pickle and collect on top. In case the mangoes were a little ripe to start with, or the seed wall was not used, store in the refrigerator to maximize shelf life. Enjoy with curd rice!!

 Update : After tasting, I feel there is something missing from the taste of the mangoes. It is important to pick sour mangoes for making Avakkai, as I feel it makes a lot of difference to the end product.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Weekend Breakfast

Hearty wheat waffles (Recipe source : King Arthur website)

A delicious blueberry compote to go with it ..


Friday, July 2, 2010

Caramelized Onion Pepper Bread

I first came across this bread at the One Hot Stove, one of the first food blogs I started reading. While the recipe seemed easy enough, and  the description and pictures tantalizing as always, this bread was relegated to the must-try list for a long long time. Well, now that I have a little bit of time on my hands, I decided to make it. What an awesome bread this is! I love savoury breads - wait - I love savoury anything. Also, caramelized onions are a revelation to me - the resulting intensity of onion flavour is worth the 30 minutes of time spent, stirring the onions constantly to prevent burning. The slow cooked browned onions taste like Onion Pakodas..
I followed the original recipe from Baking Bites, with a few modifications which I will not be making the next time. I did not have bread flour at hand, so I made the recipe with All Purpose flour instead, which resulted in a drier bread with a crust that was chewier than I would have preferred. All the same, the bread tasted fantastic. Next time though, I will definitely use bread flour. Also, I had just 1 tsp of yeast on hand, so the first rise took a much longer time. So why am I blogging about this? I think this bread is so good that I want the handful of readers this blog has to know about this.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Paruppu urundai Kuzhambu

Want a protein boost to your diet? Run out of vegetables and looking for something satisfying to cook up? It was the latter that prompted me to make this. A traditional Tamil kuzhambu(spicy soup) that is usually served with rice and ghee and a simple vegetable curry on the side. Soul food for me. I loosely followed the recipe from Samaithu Paar by Meenakshi Ammal, my go-to book for traditional South Indian food.

The basic idea is to grind up lentils with some seasoning, make ping-pong sized balls and drop them into a boiling tamarind soup and cook them. It turns out that this requires some practice and careful monitoring of the consistency of said lentil batter, else the balls disintegrate and create a complete mess. So I followed a trick to ensure that the balls don't fall apart - steam them. Yes, it is one extra step. Yes, the lentil balls don't taste as good as when they are cooked in the tamarind soup. However, I'm willing to make the compromise to ensure they retain their shape.


Paruppu Urundai (Lentil Balls)
1C Toor Dal
5 Red Chillis
1/8 t Asafoetida
1 t Salt

Kuzhambu (Soup)
1 T Sesame oil (Canola/Sunflower/Vegetable ok)
1 T Tamarind paste
1 T Sambhar powder
2.5 C Water
1 T Urad Dal
2 Red Chillis
1/4 t Fenugreek seeds
1/2 t Mustard seeds
8-10 Curry leaves
1 T Rice flour (optional)
Asafoetida, a pinch

Soak the Toor Dal in water for 1-2 hours. Grind with the red chillis, asafoetida and salt, adding as little water as possible. Shape the Dal paste into lemon sized balls, as best as possible and steam them for 15 minutes. I steamed them in my Idli stand.

Mix the tamarind paste with water to make up 2.5 cups of tamarind juice. Heat oil and add mustard, urad dal, red chillis, fenugreek seeds and curry leaves. Once the mustard pops, add asafoetida and the sambhar powder. Fry for a few seconds, stirring quickly to prevent burning. Add the tamarind juice and bring to a rolling boil. After 10 minutes, add the urundais, a few at a time, making sure that they have enough room to move around. I had 16 urundais. Allow this to simmer gently for 15 minutes, then make a slurry with the rice flour. Add the slurry to the Kuzhambu, and allow it to boil for 2 minutes before turning off the heat. Serve with hot rice and ghee.

The Kuzhambu was delicious and I will definitely be making this again. Next time, I might be bold enough to cook the urundais in the Kuzhambu itself. It is filling and almost feels like eating Paruppu-usili with Kuzhambu.

Monday, April 19, 2010

I love Ratatouille!

Ratatouille.. Ratatouille.. I love how it sounds and how it tastes! A simple dish from the south of France, which really allows the flavors of the vegetables to shine through. There are a million recipes for Ratatouille out there - the vegetables are either cooked together, or baked or cooked individually and then combined so that they retain their shape. I followed a recipe from Jacques Pepin's show. I love watching cookery shows on PBS and Pepin's show in particular. He demystifies French cuisine for novices like me and presents many simple dishes in his quiet and unpretentious style. Anyway, Ratatouille tastes fantastic at room temperature, or slightly warm. It can be served with bread, pasta or couscous. To me, this was the obvious choice for It's a Vegan World : France.

2 Japanese Eggplants, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
3 Medium Zucchini/Yellow Squash, diced
2 Bell Peppers (any kind), diced
2 C tomatoes, chopped
2 cloves Garlic, smashed
1 medium Onion, sliced
1 T Olive oil
1/2 t dried basil
1/4 t dried thyme
1/8 t dried rosemary
1/2 t Cayenne pepper
1/2 t black pepper
2 T black olives (optional)
Salt to taste

Heat olive oil in a wide bottomed pan and add the onions and garlic. When the onions turn translucent, add the bell peppers and saute for a few minutes. Add the diced eggplant and squash, salt and herbs. After about 5 minutes, add the tomatoes, salt, pepper and cayenne. Let cook on low heat for about 20 minutes. Garnish with black olives if desired.

Creamy Potato Leek Soup

While it is hardly soup weather here in Atlanta, I wanted to try and make this soup for the No Croutons Required event this month over at the Tinned Tomatoes. Ever since I made a home made bouillon after reading about it here and here, I have been dying to make quick soups using it. Quick is exactly what this soup is - at least in terms of hands-on time.

While the Potato-leek soup idea fit the Allium theme at No Croutons Required very well, there was another inspiration. We first tried this soup at our favourite soup-and-salad buffet and loved it. It was mild and yet full of flavour, and particularly soothing during fall/winter. When I found a recipe for this soup in Mollie Katzen's Enchanted Broccoli Forest (one of my favourite cookbooks), I decided that hot weather should not stop me. I modified her recipe slightly to suit my tastes.


2 large potatoes, scrubbed and diced
3 leeks, cleaned and sliced
4 C vegetable stock (with home made bouillon)
1/4 t dried thyme
1 C milk
1 t pepper, fresh ground
Salt to taste

Start by boiling the stock in a large soup pot. Add diced potatoes and sliced leeks. I peeled the potatoes, but I imagine with new red potatoes, one can leave the skins on. I discarded most of the dark green portions of the leeks since they were too tough. Boil the vegetables in the stock for about 30-40 min on medium heat, until they are tender. Allow it to cool and then puree. Add the thyme, pepper and the milk and reheat gently, not allowing it to boil. I didn't add salt since the bouillon base had plenty.

This soup was very quick and is completely oil/butter free! It tasted very similar to the one in the restaurant and that pleased me quite a bit.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Pal Payasam

Pal Payasam is traditionally served at Tamil wedding feasts. It is quite a challenge to drink up every single drop of this divine dessert when it is running all over the banana leaf! The taste of Pal Payasam is elevated to exquisite, in my opinion due to the simplicity of the ingredients. Milk, Sugar and Rice. No added flavours - no Cardamom, Saffron, Raisins, Nuts etc - typical components of Indian desserts.

I followed the recipe from Ammupatti's blog. She has provided detailed instructions for making quick Pal Payasam in a Pressure Cooker, and has some interesting stories about the Kerala-style Pal Payasam. Since this dish was cooked entirely in a pressure cooker, I am submitting this to the Blog Bites: Cookers event at the One Hot Stove.

Since I followed Ammupatti's detailed instructions, exactly, I am not repeating them here. If you are fond of simple desserts, this one is for you.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

My Thai Green Curry

I love to recreate dishes I try at restaurants at home.. it is the challenge of working with new ingredients, learning something about a completely different cuisine and also most importantly, being absolutely sure of what goes into your food. The last reason motivated my spin on the wonderful Thai Green Curry. I wanted a version without too much coconut milk or oil, and also skip the fish sauce. At this point, I'd like to make the disclaimer that this is completely my adaptation of the Thai dish and may not be authentic at all. Jugalbandi has a detailed recipe and some useful links to other versions of Green Curry. One thing that I've found with Thai curries is that it involves several specialty ingredients.. galangal, kafir lime leaves, lemon grass etc. If you live near an Asian market, use some other recipe that calls for all these ingredients since I suspect they all contribute to the explosion of flavours you get in traditional Thai curry.

Ingredients : My Green Curry Paste
1 C Thai Basil leaves, packed
1 C Cilantro (leaves and stems), packed
1/2 medium Red Onion, chopped (or 3-4 shallots )
10-12 Thai Green Chillis
3 cloves Garlic, smashed
1 inch piece of Ginger, chopped
1 T lime zest
1 T Coriander seeds, toasted
1 t Cumin seeds, toasted
1 stalk Lemon Grass ( use juicy portions at its base, discarding the dry woody parts )

Green Curry
1 T oil
4 T Curry paste
1 C Broccoli florets

1/2 C Carrots, sliced
1 C mixed peppers ( green, red etc )
handful of green beans
1/2 block of tofu
1 small Can Coconut Milk 
1 T Soy Sauce
1-2 Thai Green Chillis, slit

Grind the ingredients for the paste coarsely. This paste freezes very well. For the curry, fry the curry paste in the oil until the raw smell from the onions and garlic disappears ( or for about 5 minutes on medium heat ). Add the carrots, beans and peppers and cook for about 10 minutes. Add the soy sauce, green chillis, tofu, broccoli and coconut milk and let simmer for about 10 minutes. Garnish with a few fresh torn basil leaves, if desired. Serve with fresh cooked jasmine rice.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Spicy Cornbread

I don't usually look forward to Cornbread. To my palate it has always seemed a little bland and the one time I made it, it turned out a little dry and heavy. Recently, to go with a hearty chickpea stew, I decided to give it another go. I loosely followed Mark Bittman' s recipe and added a few things to liven it up. This time the cornbread turned out moist and delicious and didn't need copious amounts of butter. I even had a bit for breakfast a couple of days later and it was still good!


2 T Oil
1.5 C medium grind Cornmeal
0.5 C All purpose Flour
1.5 t Baking Powder
1 t Salt
1 T Sugar
1 Egg
1.25 C Milk
1 t Black Pepper
1 t Red pepper flakes
0.5 C Green Bell Pepper, diced
0.5 C Red Bell Pepper, diced

Combine dry ingredients in a bowl. Whisk together oil, egg, sugar and milk. Add to the bowl with the dry ingredients and mix well. Stir in diced bell pepper and red pepper flakes. Add a little more milk if the mixture seems too dense. Bake in 375F oven for 30 minutes or until the sides have pulled away from the pan.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Quick Parangikkai Koottu (Pumpkin Lentil Stew)

Being a big fan of Koottu, I'm always looking for ways to make it quickly. Koottu is a wonderful Tamilian stew that is nutritious, low-fat and filling. A good introduction to some of the ways to make Koottu can be found here. While I love the Pal koottus, Mor Koottus and Araichuvitta varieties(ones involving grinding), I'd settle for an easy short cut Koottu on a busy day.


1 C Pumpkin, cut into small cubes
1/2 C Chana Dhal(Bengal Gram Dhal)
2 Green Chillies
1 Red Chilli
1/2 t Turmeric
1 T Sambhar Powder
1 T Coconut, grated
10-12 Curry leaves
1 T Cilantro, minced
1 t Mustard seeds
1 t Urad Dhal
Asafoetida, a pinch
Salt, to taste

Start out by washing the Chana Dhal and boiling it in a pot with 2C water. While the Dhal is boiling, peel and dice the pumpkin, slit the green chillies. After 20 min, when the Dhal still retains the shape, but is mostly cooked, add the pumpkin pieces and the green chillies. Cover and let it cook for 10 more minutes, adding water as needed. Add Sambhar powder, salt and turmeric and cook for 5 more minutes. Prepare a tempering by heating the oil, sputtering mustard seeds, Urad Dhal, Red Chilli, Asafoetida and Curry leaves. Add to the cooked Dhal and pumpkin mixture and remove from the heat. Add the grated coconut(frozen works okay) and the cilantro.

This koottu tastes delicious with Rice/Chapattis. Using a pressure cooker would make the cooking process even faster and more energy-efficient.

Katthirikkai Thogayal ( Brinjal Chutney )

Though this recipe is nearly the same as what appears in Meenakshi Ammal's priceless gem, I thought I'd post about this thogayal anyway. I enjoyed it so much and it was so delicious, that it really does deserve a post! People who aren't fans of brinjal seem to like it as well. This is usually made with the Indian brinjal, roasted on a flame but I tried it with a big eggplant. While it doesnt taste the same as with the brinjal, it is pretty good.


1 large Eggplant
1 T Urad Dhal
2 Red Chillis, Dried
1 t Mustard seeds
1 t Tamarind paste
1 T Oil
Curry leaves, a sprig
Salt, to taste

Smear the eggplant with a little oil and roast in the oven for about 30 min at 375F, or until the skin gets blistered and dark. Let the eggplant cool, and peel the skin. Meanwhile, heat the oil and add the mustard seeds, Urad Dhal and red chillies. Once the seeds pop and the dhal turns reddish brown, add the curry leaves, asafoetida and tamarind and remove from the heat. Add the peeled eggplant to this and grind to a coarse paste with salt. Check for sourness and add more tamarind as desired.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Roasted Butternut Squash Red Pepper Soup

This soup reminds me of fall.. it uses butternut squash (which is a winter squash, usually harvested in September - October). Also, with the addition of roasted red pepper, the soup is a gorgeous reddish orange, reminiscent of the beautiful crimson and gold leaves on trees in fall. I tried a new technique on an old recipe and it turned out to be quicker and tastier.


1 Butternut Squash
1 Onion
1 Red Bell Pepper
1-2 stalks Celery, chopped
1/4 tsp Rosemary
1-2 Bay leaves
1 tbsp + 1tsp Olive oil
1/4 tsp Cinnamon
1/8 tsp Nutmeg
1/4 tsp Garam Masala( I used Kitchen King)
3 C water

Halve the Butternut squash, Red Bell Pepper and quarter the Onion. Toss in 1 T Olive oil and roast in an oven at 375F for about 30-45 min. Place the Squash with the skin side facing up. The red pepper and onions get roasted much faster than the squash (in about half the time), so watch carefully to avoid burning. The red pepper is done when the skin gets charred. The squash is done when it is fork-tender. Place the roasted red pepper in a covered bowl, letting it sweat for about 10 minutes. After that, the skin slips off easily. Peel the Squash skin as well and cut into large chunks.

Heat 1 tsp olive oil in a soup pot and add the bay leaves and celery. After about 3 minutes, add the roasted squash, peppers and onions, cinnamon, rosemary, nutmeg, Garam Masala and water. Let simmer for about 5 minutes. Cool and puree to desired consistency. Serve with a dollop of yoghurt, or a swirl of cream, a topping of toasted sunflower/pumpkin seeds or just as is.

The sweetness of squash and red bell pepper, intensified by roasting, worked really well in a soup that is alive with flavors. A great meal starter.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Spicy Chinese-Inspired Stew

OK, that was such a lame title. However, it does accurately describe my dinner tonight. I wanted something spicy and soupy, yet substantial for dinner. I had no recipe in mind, just worked with what was in the fridge..

1/2 C Millet
1 Onion, diced
3 fresh Green Chillies
1 stalk Celery, finely chopped
1" piece Ginger, cut into thin strips
2 cloves Garlic, finely chopped
1 large Carrot, diced
1 Zucchini, diced
1/2 head Broccoli, cut into florets with stems (peeled)
1/2 C tofu chopped
4 C water
1 tbsp Soy sauce
1 tsp Chilli sauce ( I used Sambal Oelek)
handful fresh coriander leaves (cilantro)
Salt, to taste
few grinds Black Pepper

First, wash millet and place in a pressure cooker with 1 C water. It took about 2 whistles to cook in mine. Alternatively, one could cook millet on a stove top. While the millet cooks, chop onions, garlic, ginger, celery and green chillies. Saute in oil until onions are translucent and the garlic no longer smells raw. Add diced carrots and zucchini and saute for 3-4 minutes. Add the water and let it boil with the broccoli and tofu for about 5 minutes. I had some left over baked tofu, so I decided to throw that in. Add the cooked millet, soy sauce, chilli sauce, salt and pepper and let simmer for about 2-3 minutes. Finally garnish with fresh torn coriander leaves.

This was my first recipe with millet and it was such a success! The millet added body and thickened on heating, making it more like a stew. The green chillies, soy sauce and chilli sauce make this Chinese-inspired. The tofu was a good protein boost to the stew. Also, the ingredients can be easily modified to use what is available. This stew/soup would taste great with corn, cabbage, bok choy etc. I think quinoa would also be a great addition instead of millet. This ended up clearing my sinus, aromatic and warming me from the inside.

Sarson da Saag

Trying new greens is a tricky business, but some times the results surprise you and you are so glad you dared to experiment. For me, using Sarson (mustard greens) was one such experience. Even though I used the frozen kind, available in Indian stores, the taste of mustard greens shone in this dish. I now look forward to trying this with the fresh variety. I was inspired by this and this, but tweaked the recipe to simplify it and suit my needs.

1 pack Frozen Sarson ( Mustard Greens )
1 pack Frozen Spinach
1 large Onion, sliced
2 tsp oil
2 cloves Garlic
1" piece Ginger
3-4 Green Chillies
1 Bay Leaf
1/2 tsp Cumin
2 tsp Coriander-Cumin powder
1/2 tsp Garam Masala
1/2 tsp Turmeric
1/2 C water
2 tbsp Evaporated Milk
Salt, to taste

Heat oil and add the bay leaf and the cumin seeds. Saute onion, garlic, ginger and green chillies in the oil until translucent. Add coriander-cumin powder, turmeric and stir well. Add frozen greens and the water and cook covered for about 10 min on low heat until the greens are cooked. Stir in the garam masala and the evaporated milk and cook for about a minute. Let cool completely. Then remove the bay leaf and partially puree.

This entire dish was a breeze, especially using my hand blender, resulting in a creamy dark green curry. The evaporated milk makes it even more creamy. I would imagine that adding Paneer (Indian Cheese) would make this a very rich and special dish. The Saag goes great with Rotis.