August 30, 2006

Tomato and Cayenne Pepper Chutney

I first tried gardening last year. But it was the end of summer and I managed to get a few grape tomatoes. That sparked my interest in growing some summer vegetables this year. Since I live in an apartment, I got several pots and seeds and started my little vegetable garden project. Then, Ginger and Mango announced the Green Blog Project.

I have carrots, cayenne peppers, tomatoes, cilantro and basil growing on my porch. Before I knew, I saw tiny flowers blooming which took the shape of round tomatoes and long peppers. And they are finally ready to be harvested! (If you can call it so :))

In the past few months, I have seen some beautiful pictures of home-grown vegetables and read delicious recipes. That gave me the patience to wait for my porch vegetables to grow and ripen.

I plucked a few tomatoes and a couple of green cayenne peppers. After thinking of what to make I decided on tomato and pepper chutney. It's simple and I can taste the the tanginess of the tomato and the kick from pepper in the chutney. Here is how I made it.

Ingredients:
4-5 tomatoes
2 green cayenne peppers
1/4 tspoon red chilli powder
1/4 tspoon coriander powder
1/4 tspoon fresh ground black pepper
salt to taste

For Tempering
1 Curry Leaf
1/4 tspoon mustard seeds
1/4 tspoon fenugreek (methi) seeds
1 tspoon oil

Method:
Blanch the tomatoes. This is my first time trying it and it works! Heat some water and drop the tomatoes in the hot water for a minute.

Take them out and peel the skin. Mash the tomatoes into a pulp.
Cut the pepper into thin slices.
Heat a pan and pour the tomato and pepper mixture.
Once it starts boiling, add the red chilli, coriander and black pepper powder.


Cook it on low heat till the water disappears.
Heat the oil and temper with curry leaf, methi and mustard seeds.
Take it off the heat once the methi seeds turn golden brown and the mustard seeds stop crackling.
Add it to the tomato and pepper mix.
Mix it well and serve.

It goes well with parathas, idlis, dal and even as a spread for bread.
This is my entry for the Green Blog Project hosted by Inju Pennu at Ginger and Mango.
I plan on slow roasting my next batch of tomatoes. :)

August 27, 2006

Phirni Pie

Yes, I made phirni pie for for Improved Indian Dessert. It came out of days of contemplation :) Just kidding! When I first saw the announcement for From my Rasoi, I thought it would be easy to create an improved indian dessert. But as days went by, I kept thinking of ways to twist an Indian dessert into something different. For inspiration, I went through my archives and saw the buttermilk cherry pie.

I instantly thought of several milk based desserts which would be perfect for this combination. I decided on phirni with its rich creamy texture - milk cooked with rice flour and nuts - and the crusty, crispy base of the pie. Hmm, now that sounded interesting. Something I was willing to experiment with.

Here are some of my cooking notes - I got a readymade graham cracker pie crust. I also kept the sugar level low in phirni and it went well with the sweet crust. Since this pie does not have a binding agent like the other pies, its best to refrigerate the pie for a couple of hours before serving.

This is my first fusion experiment with an Indian sweet and I told Aswin that we may have a dessert for the evening or we may not depending on the outcome! We both just finished big pieces of pie and had to resist hard before reaching for the rest of the phirni pie.

Ingredients:
9 inch graham cracker pie crust
2 pints milk
1 pint cream
2 1/2 tbspoon rice flour
few strands of saffron
1/2 tspoon cardamom
pinch of cinnamom
1/2 cup sugar
3 tbspoon honey

Method:
For Phirni
Soak basmati rice for 30 min.
Make it into a coarse paste.
Bring the milk and cream to a boil in a heavy bottomed pot and add the rice flour.
The flour should not form any lumps.
Add the saffron strand and boil the milk on low for 30 min.
Put half of the nuts in the milk with the sugar and honey.
Continue stirring at regular intervals.
Simmer it for another 30 min till it becomes thick and creamy - similar to thick custard like constistency.
Add the rest of the nuts and let it cool down.

For Phirni Pie
Preheat the oven to 300deg F
Pour the phirni into the pie crust.
Bake it at 300 for 20 min. The phirni will get a golden layer on top.
Cool it to room temperature and then put it in the fridge for a couple of hours.


Slice and Serve.
This is my entry for FMR: Improved Indian Dessert being hosted by Katherine at ToastPoint.

Indian Food in China

An interesting story I came across in The Hindu's Sunday Magazine:

WHEN 25-year-old Munuswamy Gnanavelu landed in the Portuguese colony of Macao in 1977, he had little save 250 Hong Kong dollars in his pocket, a yen for Bruce Lee movies and a hearty appetite for adventure. In the years that followed, his multiple avatars included English teacher, sweater knitter, and manual labourer. Today, 29 years after he first left the aromatic environs of his parents' wholesale spice shop in Chennai, Antony Munuswamy (as he is now known), rules over a sprawling empire of 22 Indian restaurants in 10 different Chinese provinces. Indian Kitchen, as the restaurants are called, is possibly the most recognisable Indian brand in China.

More Here.

August 24, 2006

Pesto & Tomato Pasta

Summer is a wonderful time to try new pasta recipes. Fresh herbs are easy to come by, you can buy vegetables from local farmer's markets. I have been trying different vegtable and pasta combinations for the past few months. Asparagus, mushrooms, broccoli, zucchini and beans, they all taste good with pasta.

In pasta, I have tried angel hair, spagetti, linguine and some shell pastas. I was recently introduced to rainbow rotini and they taste great and add a dash of color to the dish.

Usually pastas are either tomato based or served with pesto. I decided to mix tomato and pesto together in the pasta sauce and have to report that it turned out good. Sauted vegetables in pasta sauce served over colorful rotini brightened the dinner.

Here is a recipe I recently made for our simple midweek dinner.

Ingredients: (serves 2-3)
For Pasta
1 pack rotini

For Pasta sauce
1 zucchini
1/2 bell pepper
1 broccoli crown
1 medium onion
pinch of rosemary
1 tspoon tomato paste
1 tspoon basil pesto
1 cube ginger - paste
2 red chillis
1/4 cup water
1tbspoon olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Method:
For Pasta sauce
Cut vegetables in small pieces.
Heat oil and add red chillis, ginger paste and rosemary
Add onions and saute till onions turn translucent.
Stir in the tomato and pesto paste. Add water to make it a thick sauce.
Let it simmer in medium low heat and add the rest of the vegetables.
Let it cook on low heat for 7-8 minutes. The vegetables retain their crunchiness.

For Pasta
While the sauce is cooking, boil a large pot of salted water.
Add rainbow rotini and cook for 7-8 minutes.
Drain rotini in a colander.

Serve the pasta with a good helping of the sauce on top. It tastes the best when served warm.

August 22, 2006

Baked Fish and Vegetables


We were at the grocery store browsing the fresh fish section as we usually do when I saw the long, juicy fillet of Cod. It was calling out 'pick me, pick me', and so I did. When I came home, I instantly wanted to make something with it. But nothing fried with this fillet, I thought. After contemplating between grilling and baking, I decided to bake it. For more information about cod fish, click here.

I am just learning to make baked fish, so I worry about the marinate, the time to put the fish in the oven, what to serve with it. But this fish put all my worries to rest. I baked it with cilantro, mint and garlic marinate. They are strong flavors but they went well together. Along with baked fresh vegetables it was lip-smacking good. Not to forget healthy.

Here is an interesting article with information about cilantro. I didn't know cilantro was mentioned as an aphrodisiac in The Tales of Arabian Nights!

Ingredients: (serves 2-3)
1 lb Cod Fillet
1 sprig cilantro - finely chopped
1 sprig mint - finely chopped
2 cloves garlic - paste
1/4 tspoon turmeric
1/2 tspoon lemon juice
salt and fresh pepper to taste

1 zuchhini - chopped
6-8 grape tomatoes - chopped
10 -12 shitake mushrooms - chopped
1 tspoon soy sauce
salt and fresh ground pepper to taste


Method:
Rub turmeric, salt and pepper on the fillet.
Add garlic, mint, cilantro and lemon juice and marinate the fish for 1-1 1/2 hours.
Marinate the vegetables with soy sauce, salt and pepper for 30-45 min.
Heat the oven to 300 deg F. Bake the fish at 300 deg F for 35-40 minutes.
The vegtables don't have to be baked for so long. They can be added in the oven after 20 minutes.
Let it cool and serve.

This is my entry for Weekend Herb Blogging hosted by Kalyn at Kalyn's Kitchen. She has some delicious salad recipes. I trieed the garbanzo, tomato and cilantro salad and it was delicious.

August 17, 2006

Vangi Bhath (eggplant rice)

I had never tasted Vangi Bhath until Aswin made it once, and I have always wanted to try it myself. My mother-in-law sent some fresh vangi bhath powder from Bangalore and I decided to take a crack at it. It's easy and quick to make and goes well with a side of raita and chips.


Ingredients:
2 cups rice
1 large eggplant, diced

1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1 1/2 tsp vangi bhath powder
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
2 red chilis
1 tsp oil
Pinch of asafoetida
Salt to taste


Method:
Cook the rice and keep it aside.
Temper the oil with mustard seeds, jeera, and asafoetida.
Add the diced eggplant with a little water and cook on low flame with a closed lid for about 8 minutes.
Make sure that the eggplant is cooked but doesn't turn soft.
Add the vangi bhath powder, mix well and cook it for 1-2 minutes.
Mix it with steamed rice and serve.

If you want to make your own vangi bhath powder, here are the ingredients.

Vangi Bhath Powder
Ingredients:

8 cloves
4 small sticks of cinnamon
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 tsp chana dal
2 tsp urad dal
1 tsp fenugreek
1 tsp jeera
4 tsp dhania (coriander seeds)
6 red chilis
1 tsp curry leaves powder

Method:
In a small skillet, heat 2 tspoons of ghee.
When the ghee has melted, add the cloves and the cinnamon and roast for 1-2 minutes.
Set aside and let cool.
Now mix all the ingredients and grind to a coarse powder in a mixie/food processor.

August 14, 2006

Food Parade - Rasmalai

I wanted to make something special for the Independence Day Food Parade at Mahanandi. No celebration is complete without sweets. So, mishti was an obvious choice. While looking up more about sweets and West Bengal, I came across couple of interesting links. Did you know that Nabinchandra Roy of Bagbazar, Kolkata created the first Rasagulla in 1868? Or that different districts in West Bengal are famous for different kinds of sweets? "Krishnanagar is famous for sarbhaja, Burdwan for mihidana, Midnapore for babarshah, Birbhum for morabba, Maldah for raskadamba and Jalpaiguri for chhanchi dai." More information here and here.

I have to admit I have never made rasmalai at home so I was a little hesitant. I didn't make it from scratch, instead using readymade rasgullas as cheese ball substitute. It turned out great. Not only did I learn to make something new, I also learnt little bit more about the sweets I enjoy. I am really encouraged by this experience and am going to make it from scratch the next time.

Ingredients:
1 tin rasagulla (8-10 pieces)
1 quart whole milk
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup chopped pistachios & walnuts (you can substitute walnuts with almonds & cashews)
1/2 tspoon cardamom powder
1 tspoon rose water

Method:
Pour the milk in a deep and wide pan (not non-stick) and bring it to boil.
Squeeze the rasgullas for excess syrup and drop them in boiling milk. Boil it for 5-7 minutes till they turn soft and flat. Take them out on a plate and cool.
Add sugar, 1/4 cup pistachios, walnuts, cardamom powder and rose water in the milk.
Boil the milk in low heat stirring every 10-15 minutes.
Boil till you have 1/4 of the milk left. It took me 1 hour 15 minutes.
Cool to room temperature. Add the cheese balls in the milk.
Garnish with pistachios and cardamom powder.

This is my float for the Independence Day Food Parade hosted by Indira at Mahanandi. Happy Independence Day!

August 13, 2006

Weekend Lunch with Friends-1

We catch up with friends mostly over the weekend and food is always a part of these get-togethers. Be it leisurely lunch or dinner, quick chai, going out for a picnic, watching a movie or plain old gupshup. I will blog about food with friends from time to time and also share recipes. Here is the first in the series.

We recently had lunch with our friends Lynne, Emme and their twins - Eli and Ellie. The most exciting part of the lunch for me was the fact that both kids loved our food.


We made:
Palak Tofu
Mushroom matar
Grilled fish
Steamed Rice
Roti
Iced Tea
Chocolate Covered Strawberries
Local Wine

They brought:
Grilled Mushrooms
Fresh Baked Bread
Pesto
Roasted Red Peppers
Tofu & Spring Onion dip to go with Potato chips

August 11, 2006

Tomato Rasam & Beans Bhaji (Guest Post)

This is a guest post by Aswin. Let me introduce it by just this one sentence - He made this for me when we were dating. I am now married to him. :) Here goes Aswin.


I can't think of anything else that would beat piping hot tomato rasam with a simple yet delicious bhaji (beans, potato, and ladiesfinger are my favorites) when it comes to comfort food. A couple of days back, I decided this would be the best way to unwind (esp. when diss-writing doesn't go as planned!) - a simple dinner of rice, rasam, and beans bhaji. Here's my recipe for a really quick tomato rasam - it takes just over 15 minutes if the dal is already boiled.

Update: Here is the recipe for the rasam powder I use.

Ingredients:
1 cup mustard
2 cups jeera
250 gm coriander seeds (dhania)
1 cup black pepper
1/2 cup fenugreek
2-1/2 cup red chili powder

Method: Roast each one of these ingredients separately, and grind to a smooth powder in a mixer. Store in an airtight container (I refrigerate the powder, and keep a small quantity outside).


Tomato Rasam


Ingredients:
2 tbspoons tomato paste

1 cup toor dal - boiled
2 tspoons rasam powder
1 tspoon cumin seeds
pinch of asafoetida (hing)
2-6 curry leaves
sprig of cilantro - chopped
1 tspoon oil
salt to taste

Method:
Boil water, and add the tomato paste. Boil for 3-4 minutes.
Add the rasam powder and boil for 3-4 minutes.
Add the boiled dal, mix well, reduce heat to low-medium.
let it cook for 4-5 minutes.

Add salt.
Heat oil and season with cumin, hing, and curry leaves.

Add this to the rasam mixture.


Beans Bhaji

Ingredients:
1 lb green beans - washed and chopped
2 cloves- paste
2 dry red chillis
1/2 tspoon cumin seeds
1/2 tspoon urad dal
pinch of asafoetida (hing)
1/2 tspoon cumin powder
1/2 tspoon coriander powder
1 tspoon oil
salt to taste

Method:
Heat oil and temper with mustard seeds, cumin seeds, urad dal, asafoetida, and red chilis.

Add the chopped green beans.

Mix well, add the jeera and cumin powder, a little water, and cook on low heat (closed lid).

August 09, 2006

Celebrating Rakhi with Suji Halwa

Today is Rakhi. Thanks to Indian sites for online shopping, the rakhi and sweets have already been delivered to my brothers. But I could'nt resist making something sweet for myself to savor the ocassion.

When I came home, I made some suji (cream of wheat) halwa. Simple dessert which satisfied my sweet craving and reminded me of the days I would look for the biggest and brightest rakhis (yep, one won't do) for my brothers. This is my mother's recipe. She usually made this for us as an evening snack.

Ingredients:
1 cup suji
1 cup sugar
2 cups milk
1/2 tspoon cardamom powder
2 cloves
handful raisins, almonds, cashews

Method:
Heat a thick bottomed wide pan and toast suji until the raw smell goes away. You can also add 1 tspoon ghee in the pan and toast the suji in it.
Add the milk and sugar in the pan and cook over low heat till it comes to a boil.
Add the cardamom powder and cloves.
Now add the suji in the pan little at a time with constant stirring.
Cook it over low heat till the water disappears.
Toast the raisins, almonds and casews in litte ghee and add it to the halwa.

Cool it to room temperature and serve.

August 07, 2006

Mexican Burrito, Indian Twist

Due to the heat last week, I was cooking in stages. I was thinking of recipes I could cook without spending much time in the kitchen. The vegetarian Mexican burrito with a Desi twist was an outcome of that plan. I cooked the beans first, then made salsa and guacomole, cut salad and did the chapatis next. I had some leftover rice which came in handy too. Putting it all together was the easy part.

We were so hungry by the end of the process, this is the only picture I have of the finished burrito! You can add meat or chili to the beans and that would taste good as well.

Here is what you'll need.

For Chapatis
2 cups wheat flour
1 tspoon oil
1/2 tspoon salt
Warm Water

Make a dough and set aside for 30 minutes.
Roll out thin, big chapatis.
Heat a tava, make the chapatis.

For Salsa
2 medium tomatoes
1 Medium onion
2 green chillis
few sprigs of cilantro
2 tbspoon lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste

Make thin slices of the tomatoes, onions, and chillis. Chop cilantro.
Mix it all together and set aside for 30-45 minutes so that everything mixes together.

For Guacamole
1 ripe Avacado - should not be too soft
1 clove garlic
1 tspoon lemon juice
salt to taste

Cut the Avacado and make it into a paste. I don't use a processor, instead use a fork to mash it together.
Add garlic paste, lemon juice, salt and keep aside.


For Black Beans
1 can black beans
1/2 onion - chopped
cube of ginger- paste
1 red chilli
1 tspoon cumin seeds
1/2 tspoon coriander powder
1/2 tspoon oil
Salt to taste

Wash the black beans to take out the excess salt.
Heat oil and temper with cumin seeds and chilli.
Add ginger and onion. Saute for a 2-3 minutes.
Add black beans, coriander powder and salt.
Cook on low heat for 7-8 minutes till the water disappears and the beans are cooked.

For Salad
1 cucumber
1/2 onion
salt and pepper to taste
Cut the cucumber and onion into small pieces.
Add salt and pepper and keep it aside.


Building the Burrito
Put 1 heaped tbspoon black beans on the chapati.
Then add 1 tbspoon of rice.
Add a nice helping (about 11/2 tbspoon) of salad.
Then add 1 big tspoon of salsa.
Top it off with a tspoon of guacamole.
Roll the chapati. (I usually roll it in a napkin and secure it with a toothpick. It avoids the messiness.)
Serve with tortilla chips.

August 03, 2006

Mango Tofu Curry

Summers are about mangoes in India. From hep mango martinis to inexpensive but delicious maaza, it is mango mania for kids and adults in every part of the country. Men and women are always on the lookout for that perfect mango in sabzi mandis, kids sharpen their catapult skills to get a raw mango tempting them from a tree, while moms prepare mango pickles for the coming year.

It reminds me of my childhood. Growing up, summers were about picking a lush ripe mango after lunch or dinner (sometimes both) and eating it whole, with juices dribbling down my chin and hands.

Here, it reminds me of my favorite Thai place and mango tofu curry I first tasted there. Since then I have made mango tofu curry several times at home. You can make the curry using mango puree as well. I personally like the mango cubes. Biting into the succulent pieces with the sweet, slightly tangy taste makes me drool every time. Here is how I make it.


Ingredients:
1 ripe mango - peeled and cubed
1 small pack of firm tofu - chopped
1 crown of broccoli - chopped
1/2 pack of mushroom - cleaned and chopped (I used shitake mushrooms)

1/2 cup coconut milk
1 medium onion - chopped
1 cube ginger - paste
2 cloves garlic - paste

2 green chillis - slit
few sprigs of basil - chopped
1/4 tspoon - cinnamon and clove powder
1 bay leaf
1 tspoon soy sauce
1 tspoon lemon juice
1/2 tspoon sugar
1tbspoon olive oil
salt and fresh black pepper to taste



Method:
Saute the tofu pieces until they turn golden
Heat the rest of the oil and temper with bay leaf, basil leaves, green chillis, ginger and garlic paste. Saute for a couple of minutes.
Add the onion and stir fry till it turns translucent.
Add the broccoli and mushrooms and saute it together for a few minutes.

Add the mango pieces and cook on a low flame till the pieces turn tender.
Add coconut milk, soy sauce, lemon juice, sugar, salt and pepper and cook on low for for 5 -6 minutes.
Put tofu and cook for another 7-8 minutes till they all mix together.
Garnish with fresh basil and serve with rice.
It was during JFI- Mango that I first considered starting my own food blog. When Indira read that, she had graciously asked if I wanted to submit an entry for JFI-Mango. Even though it is a few months late, I couldn't resist it. So here is my entry for JFI-Mango. Thank you Indira!

August 01, 2006

JFI-Alugadde Akki Roti

It is that time of the month again when we refresh our relationship with an ingredient. It was flour this time. After thinking a lot, I decided to make a special snack that was introduced to me by my in-laws. I will let Aswin introduce this dish!

My parents loved Madison, WI. They stayed with me for nearly a month, right after I had moved to Madison from Boston. I lived off-campus, but on a bus line, and they loved being able to take the bus and explore the city - the arboretum, farmer's market, going to lake mendota where I'd join them for an afternoon picnic, and so on. Needless to say, I didn't do much cooking that month! It was almost as good as being home in Bangalore, especially those afternoons when they would whip up tiffin! Its been so long, even the word "tiffin" sounds a bit quaint to me now.

So here's a tiffin item they made one rainy afternoon. For some reason, no one in my family took to akki roti - we always felt it was too heavy for tiffin. So amma and anna made a few changes and here it is: alugadde akki roti.



Ingredients:
2 cups rice flour
3 medium-sized potatoes
1/2 cup cilantro leaves
1 green chilli
1 cube ginger
1/4 tspoon curry leaves powder
1/4 tspoon red chilli powder
4 tbspoon oil
pinch of turmeric
salt to taste

Method:
Boil the potatoes, and mash it together with a little salt, turmeric, chilli powder and curry leaves powder.
In a mixer, grind the cilantro, ginger and chilli to a coarse paste (avoid adding water).
Mix the paste and the mashed potatoes with the rice flour, adding 2 tspoons of oil and water as required.
Mix till you have a firm dough.
Make a small ball and pat it out on a ziploc (or any plastic sheet) with your fingers.
Heat it on a griddle with a little oil. Turn over and cook till it is golden brown.
Serve with chutney, pickles or tomato ketchup.

This is my entry for JFI-Flour hosted by Santhi at Me and my Kitchen.

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