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Mixed Vegetable & Tofu Stew

Mixed Vegetable & Tofu Stew

Stew is typically slow-cooked, with chunky vegetables which steeps in the flavor. The last few weeks, stews/soups/salads have kept me company as I strive to eat more vegetables and limit grains. Stew comes particularly handy, if you are cooking for crowd with varying preference as it can be eaten like a soup, with or without a bread on the side or over rice or chappathi/roti. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on January 20, 2012 in Desi Chinese, Thai

 

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Crispy Kale

Yes, you heard that right! Kale can be made into awesome crisps and if you have not tried them so far, you should right away and I swear, you will be addicted to it. I didn’t know that crispy Kale was all the rage, till K told me about it, after having tried it in his cafeteria. I tried it too and loved it.

In my head, I went – “Well, it is crispy which means in all probability it is fried and anything that is fried tastes good” and right then, as if he was reading my thoughts, K interjected with a “You know, they are actually baked” quip. I had not the least clue as to how to make this but figured as always, Google will be my partner in crime. When I read the many links and the recipes, to say that I was surprised will be an under-statement. I never imagined that this will be so simple to make. Believe me, it takes all of 10 mins from start to finish and that includes about 7 mins of baking time. Go figure!

Few handfuls of clean & dry Kale leaves
2 Tbsp of EVOO

Set the temperature in the oven to 350 F.
Toss the Kale leaves with EVOO (just make sure that leaves are fairly well-coated in oil. You can use more or less based how big or small your hands are 🙂 ).
Spread it on a baking tray and bake for about 5-7 mins till the leaves look crispy but have’t started to brown (they should remain bright green).

I didn’t season this with anything and we loved it as is. You can season it with salt and/or red chilli flakes, if you prefer. You can also add minced garlic to the Kale while baking. I am sure it will taste equally delicious, however you chose to flavor it.

A healthy dish that can’t get easier to make and tastier than this. Enjoy!

 
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Posted by on January 17, 2012 in Cooking, Italian

 

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Dahi Bhalla


First off, wish you all a very good new year. I don’t think I can think of a better first post/recipe than the amazing Dahi bhalla. I am not sure how many of you have heard of Dahi bhalla, but I didn’t know of its existence till the new year’s eve of 2012 🙂 A few friends planned to meet and decided on a chaat-themed potluck. Pav-Bhaaji and Pani-Puri were taken and I was wondering what to make; was trying to decide between Aloo tiki-chole and Bhel puri when Google led me to Dahi vada and then, *drumroll*, Dahi bhalla. Now, I know Dahi vada, hindi for Thayir vadai (as far as I know). But, Dahi bhalla? Well, Google again came to my rescue – turns out that the main difference between the two is in the dahi; while for Dahi vada the curd is, well, just sour with some spices for Dahi bhalla the curd is sweet, almost like a lassi. I followed the recipe at Vahrehvah with some minor modifications and result was lip-smacking.

The first step in the preparation of Dahi bhallas is making the Bhallas. Making Bhalla is similar to making Vadai.

Urad dhal 1 cup
Green Chillies 1
Salt 1 tsp (more or less based on your taste)
Potato 1 (medium-size)
Cashew 30-40 broken pieces
Raisins 30-40 pieces
Cooking Oil

Soak urad dhal and green chillies in about 1.5 to 2 cups of water for a few hours (overnight is best, but I soaked it only for ~4 hrs and it did not notice any difference). Grind this to a thick paste adding as little water as possible. Add salt to this mix and beat this mix well with a spoon to aerate the mixture. I picked this tip from the Vahrehvah chef and the Vadas (or Bhallas :)) turned out soft and fluffy.

Boil potato; peel the skin and mash it well. Mix this with the aerated urad dhal mixture. This is the dough for Dahi bhalla.

Note: Instead of deep-frying the Bhallas, I used my Appam pan (looks similar to this). I picked this tip from the jugalbandits a while back; in addition to other benefits listed in the post, I noticed that it was less messy and resulted in uniform Bhallas.

To make the Bhallas, take a bit of the dough in your hand and make a rough ball with it. Now with your thumb, make a shallow hole. Place a piece of cashew and raisin in this hole and close it. Stuffing the Bhallas with cashew & raisin is purely optional, but I would highly recommend this as biting into a cashew/raisin as you are eating the Bhallas takes the taste and the experience to another level.

Add oil to the pan, about a tsp or so in each hole, Place the bhallas and cook both sides by turning them.

Use up all the dough and finish making the bhallas. The yield for 1 cup of urad dhal was about 60 and I guess the number depends on the size/shape of the Bhallas that you make.

If you are not a dahi (curd) fan, you can stop at this point and enjoy the Bhallas with a cup of tea and/or mint & tamarind chutney. K can vouch for that 🙂 Of course, to kick it up a notch, you need to turn them into awesome Dahi bhallas.

Dahi (curd) 3 cups
Sugar 1/2 cup
Cumin powder 2 tsp
Coriander powder 2 tsp
Chaat masala 2 tsp
Sev couple of handful
boondi couple of handful
Coriander 2 tsp (for garnish)
Water few cups

Add water to a deep pan and bring it to a boil. Add the Bhallas in batches to the boiling water, leaving it in for a couple of minutes; take it out and with a napkin press on it gently to squeeze out as much water as you can. Once soaked in hot water the Bhallas become soft and absorbs dahi faster.

Whisk the curd with sugar (add a little water if it is too thick) and keep it ready.

In a wide bottomed container, make a bed with boondi. Place the Bhallas (soaked and squeezed) over this as a single layer. Now pour the sweetened curd and make sure to cover the Bhallas. Use more curd, if need be.

Sprinkle the coriander, cumin powders on top as well as the chaat masala. Complete the garnish with sev and coriander leaves.

May be a little bit more coriander…


Now, it is truly ready…

Dig in and enjoy!

 
15 Comments

Posted by on January 8, 2012 in Desi

 

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Fruit cake

But not the Christmas cake. I know it is not fair to post a fruit cake recipe as a teaser around this season. But I made this cake a few days back and it was almost as good as a Christmas cake and since I didn’t get to bake a good Christmas cake this season, this one will have to do. I heard about this recipe at a potluck dinner a few days back and a quick Google search landed me here which was an exact match to what I was looking for.

I made some slight changes but overall stayed true to the recipe and it is definitely a winner, if you overlook the use of a can of condensed milk that is. Anyway, without further ado, let me present the recipe

1 1/4 cup of All purpose flour (you can also use wheat or cake flour)
1 tsp Baking powder
1 1/2 tsp Baking soda
1 can condensed milk
1 stick Butter
1 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup warm milk
5 dried figs

Ideally, soak dried figs overnight in warm milk (gives a richer taste than plain water). If you forget to soak, don’t fret and soak it in slightly hot milk for about an hour. Grind it to a fine paste along with the milk. Use only as much milk as required as the paste should not be too runny.

Mix this paste with condensed milk and keep it aside. This is your wet ingredient.

Pre-heat your oven to 350 F.

Sieve and mix the dry ingredients including nuts together, as you normally do while baking. Cream the butter after bringing it to room temperature and add the dry/wet ingredients alternatively in batches incorporating it all together.

Bake for about 30 mins; test to see if an inserted tooth pick comes clean and bake more, if need be.

Dear Shy, Merry Christmas and this is for you.

The figs add a nutty taste and go very well with walnut. Given that it uses a can of condensed milk, I was worried if it will be overtly sweet but it was not. You can of course, add different nuts and even candied fruits to it to make it richer.

 
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Posted by on December 27, 2011 in Cake & Bake, General

 

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Basil Pesto


Pesto is one of the easiest sauces to make but I haven’t made it in over 3 years! I had planted Basil in the summer and after a big harvest just before fall, was left with cup-loads of the leaves. After using them in salads, soups and what not, I realized it was time to make pesto. I pretty much used the same recipe that I did last time using Basil instead of Coriander and the result was equally yummy.

This can be used not just as a pasta sauce, but also as a dip or even as a dressing for salad. Enjoy!

 
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Posted by on November 28, 2011 in Garden, Italian

 

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Dressing up dosas

Couple of weeks back, as I was reading my daily quota of news on Google, I came across this article on dosas. I was quite surprised to see our plain old dosas getting prime-time on WSJ. The article screamed “Move over tortillas, dosas are a-coming!”.

Anyway, proud as I was of the attention our dosas were getting, I forwarded the link to friends and family. And this led to an email exchange with one of them on how the dosas morph in our kitchen. That gave me an idea and I decided to share the different avatars dosas take in my kitchen. Without counting the plain dosas with chutneys and milagai podi (although literally means chilli powder it isn’t quite that).

a) Use dosa as a wrap and stuff it with a dry roasted mixed vegetable sabji (called as “kari” – not the same as curry – by tamilians). The traditional one is, of course, made with potato and called “Masala Dosai”, but you can use any vegetable or combination of them, optionally with paneer, to make a dry sabji, with any spices of your choice, and use it as stuffing.
b) Make a mean paneer burji or even chilli paneer for a more protein filled meal.
c) Make a pizza or quesadilla out of dosa by adding cheese and jalapenos (or red chilli flakes). You can also add slightly roasted veggies to make it a complete veggie dosa-pizza. This can be either served open, like a pizza, or closed, like a quesadilla.
d) A trick that I picked from my MIL – when you have just a few ladles of batter left, add a handful or two of rava (semolina) to the batter, add chopped ginger, onion (optional), green chillies to make (onion) rava dosa. Of course, you can use this as a base and stuff veggies, paneer etc.
e) When the batter is fairly old and heavily fermented, make uthappams (thick dosas) with it. Add chopped tomatoes, chillies, onions on top for a colorful veggie uthappam.


So, now tell me, what shape and form does a dosa take in your kitchen?

 
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Posted by on November 13, 2011 in Cooking, Desi, Traditional cooking

 

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Dried Fruit & Nut Halwa

My love affair with dried fruits and nuts started when I tasted the dried fruit and nut milk-shake at a restaurant (which I vaguely remember was called Mac) on MG Road in Bangalore. This shake was fit enough to be a meal both in taste and satiation. I remember drooling over this shake and although I have had this shake several times after that at many different places (including chez moi) none measured up to the lofty standard set by the original one. Anyway, I digressed and this post, although is about dried fruits and nuts, is definitely not about shakes but about halwas – the ubiquitous dessert found in almost all cultures and cuisines. Of course, in India, we make halwa with everything ranging from moong dhal to wheat to carrot/potato to pumpkin – looks like we are capable of turning everything to a halwa. “When in doubt, turn it to a halwa” should be a national tagline!

The base template for all halwas is the same – basically, throw in the ingredients in a heavy-bottomed vessel, cook it over low-medium flame for about 30-45 minutes and slowly, in front of your eyes, what was a sticky-icky blob turn will turn into a still lumpy ball that importantly, moves easily when guided with the spoon leaving the sides of the vessel.

The template will have to be tweaked a little bit based on the kind of halwa at hand. For this one,


20 dried figs
20 dried dates
1 cup milk
handful of roasted and chopped nuts (almonds, walnuts, pecans, cashew)
1-2 tsp of butter

Start with about 20 pieces of figs and dates soaked over-night in a cup of warm milk. Blend it into a find paste with the milk that was used for soaking.

Add this to a thick-bottomed vessel (I used the cast-iron pot from here) and cook it in a low to medium flame with a tsp of butter.

While the mixture is cooking, coat a clean plate with a tsp of butter and keep it aside.

After about 30-40 minutes of slow cooking, during which time it needs very little attention except for the occasional stir to make sure the mixture cooks evenly, add the chopped nuts and cook for a couple of more minutes making sure the nuts are mixed and incorporated well.

Turn the stove off and transfer the mixture to the butter-coated plate.

Let sit for a few minutes and then cut it in diamond-shaped pieces.

The dried fruit halwa was inspired by Soma’s version here, after I drooled many days over those pictures.

 
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Posted by on October 31, 2011 in Desi

 

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Spicy Indonesian Peanut Soup

For the longest time, soups (and salads for that matter too) were synonymous with diet food, to me.  I never truly enjoyed them and didn’t care much for them.  I could never have them for a meal; I tolerated them enough to have them soups as an appetizer before a big buffet lunch.  I could have never foreseen that I would be making soups regularly at home for dinner and ENJOY eating them.  Oh!  how we all change with time 🙂

When I was perusing the cooking section @ my local library, this book – Love Soup – seemed interesting enough to pick.  I glanced through this book and found quite  a few interesting recipes – some old, some new and some wild.  I have earmarked quite a few of them to try and this was the first one that I made.  If I can make a judgment call on 160 recipes based  on just 1, then this book is a keeper.  There are some recipes that sounds really exotic but you know it won’t work for various reasons and some that sounds exotic and plausible but doesn’t turn out as good.  This one sounds exotic (the soup is named “Indonesian”, for crying out loud 🙂 ), downright practical, comes together in a jiffy and tastes delicious.  So, now tell me, whats not to like about this soup and this book?

I picked this soup out of the scores of others that I had earmarked as I had all the ingredients needed for this soup handy – yes, I am cheap and lazy 🙂  But don’t ask me, why I bought parsnip, for the first time, during my previous grocery run – I have no clue either.  It was there, sitting fresh and pretty in a parsnip-y way and I couldn’t resist buying it.  Most often, I buy things out of a whim and scurry around for a recipe to use them but this time somehow, everything came together ever so correctly.

Not sure how many of you out there are true recipe followers but I am not.  Almost always, I cannot stay 100% true to a recipe, I always add a little something of my own to it, and in a weird way, feel that it completes my cooking experience.  The little twist that I added to the recipe makes it mine and personal.  This recipe has my twist as well and I have made a note of it, so that you can omit it, if you are not upto it.

Spicy Indonesian Peanut Soup

1 Parsnip – peeled & cubed
2 Sweet potato – peeled & cubed
1 Carrot – peeled & cubed
1/2 radish – peeled & cubed (this is my addition, omit it if you are not a radish fan)
1 onion – chopped finely
4-5 Garlic cloves – chopped finely
3-4″ ginger piece – chopped finely
2 green chillies
1 Tbsp – Tamarind paste
1 tsp coriander-cumin-red chillies powder (original recipe called for curry powder, and I don’t use this, just like most Indians)
A handful of curry leaves (original recipe called for coriander, since I didn’t have it @ home, substituted with curry leaves)
2 tsp – Peanut Butter
2 Tbsp – Lemon Juice

In a saucepan, combine all the ingredients except peanut butter & lemon juice, add sufficient quantity of water, close the lid and let it cook for about 30 mins.  Alternatively, you can pressure cook this too.  (Note:  as per the original recipe, you have to boil the vegetables & saute onion, garlic, ginger, tamarind & the curry powder and then add the sauteed mixture to the vegetables.  I just boiled everything together so I can make it in a single pot.)

Once the veggies are fork tender, blend them well, preferably using a hand-blender.

Now add the peanut butter & lemon juice and let it simmer for about 5-10 mins. Believe it or not, that’s it and the soup is ready to devour!

Optionally, you can toast some peanuts and use it for garnishing the soup.

 
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Posted by on November 15, 2010 in Cooking, One-pot Dish, Soup

 

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Fall Soup

We are well into November and there is no doubt that Fall has arrived unlike the hide-and-seek that Summer played, at least in this part of the world. The evenings are dark and gloomy, especially so after the time change. It is so cold, even inside the house, that I don’t feel like spending long hours in the kitchen to cook. Time for one pot dishes (are you listening?) and more specifically, soups. Nothing feels more comfortable than snuggling over a warm bowl of soup and to make it more luxurious, some garlic bread.

Fall is the season for squashes and melon, and my local produce store has an abundance of these. These beauties look very tempting; it takes a lot of self-control to not splurge and buy lot more than the two of us can possibly consume. Over the years, I have devised a system whereby I don’t buy more than one variety of squash every week, lest I end up wasting them. Anyway, it was time to buy butternut squash last week, which, to me, is easily the best among equals. They have a vibrant orange color with a deep nutty, sweet taste that is amplified when roasted. I have made pasta with these occasionally but the soups are easily the best.

Roasted Butternut Squash – Apple Soup

1/2 Butter nut squash (cut vertically)
1 Apple – cored and cubed
1/2 Onion – chopped coarsely
1 Tomato – quartered
2 Green Chillies – split length-wise
1/2 cup Black (kala) Channa – soaked for about 8 hrs
Seeds from 1 Pomegranate
1 Tbsp Almond Butter
1 Tsp Tamarind paste
1 Tsp Sugar
1/2 Tsp Salt (more or less, based on your taste buds)
1 Tbsp – roasted and powedered coriander, cumin & redchillies
2 Tsp Oil

Chop the butternut squash into 4 big pieces, brush them with oil and roast them till they are fork-tender. Scoop the roasted squash using a spoon, while leaving the skin intact. Alternatively, you can peel the skin before roasting the squash.

In a thick-bottomed vessel or a cast iron pot, add a tsp of oil, followed by onion, tomato, green chillies, apple and salt; close the lid and let it sweat for a while.

After about 10 minutes, add the roasted squash, kala channa, tamarind and the coriander-cumin-red chilly powder. Let this cook for another 10-15 minutes. Do *not* add any water.

Add a cup of water and puree this concoction either in a blender or using a hand-held blender. Add the almond butter and pomegrante seeds, not before saving a couple of spoonfuls for garnishing, and let it simmer for a few minutes.

Ladle it into soup bowls, garnish with the reserved seeds and serve. Perfect meal for Fall evenings.

For those of you who are wondering at the unconventional list of ingredients: I did not follow any recipe for this soup, that I made yesterday and improvised as I went along. I craved for something that is spicy but sweet, nutty and tangy, which resulted in this soup. So, be creative and feel free to add or omit ingredients that you prefer (or not) and believe me, you will not go wrong 🙂

More Thursday Challenge pictures.

 
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Posted by on November 10, 2010 in Cooking, General, Soup

 

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Paucity makes the heart grow fonder

Ah! Curry leaves!  I grew up in an independent house(single-family home for those in the U.S.) in Chennai and where we lived coconut & mango trees are common sight.  And so was it in our house. In addition, the house also has a curry tree – yes it is a tree, over 9 feet tall and thriving.  We picked the leaves when we needed it – for tempering (thalippu) or thogayal –  and it couldn’t have gotten fresher than that.  May be it was the easy availability or abundance or the ignorance of youth, I never quite liked these greenies.  I never understood why the elders went gaga over its flavor and was also not taken in by its medicinal value.  The only use (thanks to my mom!) I had for these leaves was when they were boiled with good old coconut oil and massaged onto my hair.  The first time I missed (or rather longed) for these leaves where when I couldn’t find them.  Yes, we always miss what we can’t have and when something gets harder to get, fonder does our heart grow. Such is human nature, I guess!

When SacramentoSpice posted her curry leaf chicken recipe (yes, you read that right!) and linked Manisha’s version, I remembered that I had bookmarked Manisha’s Kadipatta Chicken a while back.  I wanted to try a vegetarian version of this and was toying with the idea of doing it with either cauliflower or potato (paneer would work well too, now that I think of it).  When a dear friend gave me a ziploc full of curry leaves, picked fresh from her parents’ home, the timing could not have been more perfect 🙂  My recipe is very close to Manisha’s version, but am posting it again to record the minor tweaks that I did. Thanks, Manisha! Onto the Kariveppilai potato-cauliflower fry (I couldn’t make up mind I decided to use both potato & cauliflower)!

Spices

1 Tsp oil
1 Tsp black pepper
1 Tsp cinnamon powder
5 cloves
2 red chillies

1 cup Curry leaves, washed & dried
1 Tbsp Tamarind Paste (1/2 golf ball sized piece, if you are using fresh)
1 Tsp turmeric powder
1 onion, chopped fine
1 small tomato, quartered
1/2 cauliflower – chopped into florets
2 medium sized potatos – cubed into 1″ pieces
1 Tsp salt

Saute the spices in a tsp of oil till they are well roasted but not burnt in a saute pan (or kadai). Add the kariveppilai to the spice mixture and saute till the leaves are fried well. Add the chopped onion, quartered tomato and salt, wait for the onion to become translucent.

Let it cool and grind it to a paste along with the tamarind. (Tip: If you want, you can stop right at this stage and use this is a chutney / thogayal to mix with rice or use as a side dish to idli / dosai. If you want to attain kariveppilai nirvana, continue).

Add the cauliflower – potato mixture to the same pot (to keep shy happy), close it with a lid and cook till the veggies are semi-tender.

At this point, add the ground paste and cook till the veggies are fork-tender.  If you want a watery dish, you can add a cup of water at this stage.  But if you are like me and prefer a dry dish, hold the water.

This is a perfect side dish with rice & dhal or with rotis.

 
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Posted by on October 24, 2010 in Cooking, Desi, Traditional cooking

 

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