July 30, 2008

Baby Spinach Salad with Cherry Tomatoes


I got into gardening a couple of years ago in Buffalo. Tomatoes, chillies, carrots, flowers - all in pots, gave me bountiful crop and I was hooked on to gardening. There is something about planting seeds, watching it grow and then harvesting the bounty. I even managed to grow some garlic greens and chillies in the Buffalo winter. So I grew more ambitious the next year and potted zucchini, pepper, along with tomatoes and chillies. But within a couple of months we moved to Ann Arbor. The potted plants got new homes with friends. :)

The new apartment did not have any gardening space, so all I had were a couple of herb pots near windows- basil and cilantro. My conversations with friends revolved around how I need to find new space for gardening.

We recently moved to a new house with a backyard and a frontyard. The first thing I did after I moved was make a trip to the farmer's market and buy some tomato and pepper plants. And I planted some lettuce, zucchini, and okra plants. It's late for the season, but I am hoping for a late bounty.


The cherry tomato plant is in full bloom and I just harvested the heirloom "camp joy" and used it in a fresh salad for tonight's dinner.

Ingredients (serves 4)
a bunch of baby spinach
6-8 cherry tomatoes
6-8 strawberries
1 small cucumber
4-5 radish
1 small onion

1/2 lime juice
1 tbspoon cranberry juice
dash of chilli vinaigrette
dash of brown sugar
2 tbspoon olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Chop all the vegetables and mix it with the baby spinach.

Pour the dressing just before serving.

I see my heirloom tomatoes and banana peppers are flowering. :)

spinach salad-1

This salad is going to Grow Your Own hosted by Bee and Jai at Jugalbandi. The event was started by Andrea at Andrea's Recipes.

July 28, 2008

Sappak Pitla: Inaugurating a series on thanjavur marathi cuisine


Marathi, Tamil, Kannada, Hindi. Madras (when it wasn't Chennai), Bangalore, and Allahabad. And to this, add Athens, Boston, Madison, Buffalo, and Ann Arbor. It's never easy to answer the "where are you from" question. Cliched as it may sound, in many ways it is like peeling the layers of an onion - depending on the place and who is posing the question, one makes quick decisions about how much to reveal. And while it is certainly wonderful to be able to draw on so many experiences and influences, there is no denying the value of rootedness either. For me, it is about belonging to a community of thanjavur maharashtrians (here's a wiki entry).

And like in any other community, food was central to the process of crafting identity. Poriyal with a little twist, is bhaji; vatha kuzhambu is modified a bit to make goddu pitla; poricha koottu becomes a sappak pitla; and there are many new dishes that emerged from the experimentation that went on in thanjavur-marathi kitchens across south India (present-day Tamilnadu, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, and Tamilnadu. My immediate family - across 3-4 generations - is from Coimbatore, Pudukkottai, and Madras). What's more, given that migration from the Maratha kingdom to different regions of south India dates back to the 1600s, who knows which Tamil dishes are a result of Marathi influence. As one story goes, sambhar was the result of a tanjore ruler (Sambhoji) substituting tamarind for kokum (a tart fruit native to the western coast of India)!

Anyhow, I've been meaning to start a series on Ahaar as a way to document this interesting food culture and, of course, indulge my cravings for what, to me, are the aromas and tastes of home. To kick things off, here is the recipe for sappak pitla (sappak: not spicy). As a kid, I always wondered why a dish that was quite spicy was called "sappak"...I still don't know why, and neither does my aji (grandmother).


1-1/2 cup moong dal
Grated coconut: a fistful
1 tbspoon chana dal
1 tbspoon urad dal
Red chillies: 2
Green chillies: 2
Cumin seeds: 1 tspoon
Black pepper: 3-4 corns
Ginger- small cube
Ridge gourd: 2 medium sized (cucumber or snake gourd work well too)
Oil: 2 tbspoon


Boil moong dal along with diced ridge gourd. You don't have to do this in a pressure cooker given that moong dal cooks quite fast on the stove.

Heat the oil and roast the coconut, jeera, green chillies, red chillies, pepper, chana dal, and urad dal. Grind the dry ingredients separately, and add to a paste of coconut and green chillies (ground with a little water). Add this mixture to the dal and ridge gourd and cook on low flame till it comes to a boil.


Garnish with cilantro, and serve hot with rice.

July 27, 2008

A-2 Farmer's Market #5

The Farmer's Market is in full swing now, as you may have seen from the previous posts. I did go to the Saturday Farmer's Market a couple more times with my parents, but forgot to click pictures of the veggies later on.

So this time, I had my camera ready as soon I came home. Now a days I pick up the week's veggies from there along with some delicious berries and fruits. I even saw some fresh tart apples in a couple of vendors tables.


This week I picked up fresh tomatoes, potatoes, onions, zucchini, cucumbers, radish, cabbage, green peppers along with Traverse City Cherries, and fresh blueberries.

The cherries were devoured in a few hours and I have kept the blueberries aside for homemade preserve. I made aloo zucchini sabzi with the zucchini.

The tomato plants are also doing well, and there are small tomatoes ripening fast in the sun :) I may be able to make it to your event Bee!

July 24, 2008

Celebration with Badaam Halwa!


The last month has been busy with traveling to India, catching up with work, and then spending time with parents in the US. In this celebration and traveling, I missed a milestone of Ahaar. My blog turned TWO-years last month! This calls for a sweet celebration, doubly sweet for the belated blog anniversary :)

What started as an experiment has become a passion over the years. Part diary of what I cook at home, part exploration of other food-related interests, the blog has contributed to our better eating habits. And over the years, I have blogged about the unexplored, the elaborate traditional and the simple everyday food.

It would not be possible without the support of the blogging community and Indian food lovers. So THANK YOU for reading Ahaar, trying my recipes and for your enthusiastic, and informative comments. You make it worth every minute!

So to make it extra special, I made some Badaam Halwa, the same Halwa I sent Asha of Foodie's Hope, and she talks about in her post.

It turns out fabulous every time I make it.

2 cups almonds
1 1/2 cup sugar (adjust it to taste)
1/2 tspoon saffron
1 tbspoon MTR Badam Halwa mix
1 cup milk (I use 1%)
1 tspoon ghee
1/2 tspoon cardamom powder - for garnish

Crush the Almonds in a food processor to a fine powder. I like to leave it a little chunky as it gives texture to the halwa. Soak the saffron in milk and keep it aside.

Heat the ghee in a deep bottomed pan and then add the almond powder. Saute it for a couple of minutes till you start getting the nutty aroma.

Then add sugar and milk and let it cook on medium heat. Once the mix has come to a boil, add a tbspoon of MTR Badam Halwa mix and let it simmer on medium low heat on closed lid for 5- 6 min. Add about half of the saffron to the Halwa and let it cook for another 8-10 min. It should become a thick mix, but not completely dry. Add the rest of the saffron, mix and take it off the heat.


Garnish with cardamom, some crushed almonds. Let it cool and serve.

Since saffron is part of a flower, this is going to Soul Food who is hosting JFI:Flower Power this month.

July 16, 2008

Panch Mishali Tarkari (Five Vegetable Medley)


I have had a busy week! You see, my parents came last week and I have been showing them around town. They are enjoying visiting the Farmer's Market, different cuisines, walking around the University, parks and other local stores.

While I am enjoying their company and having them around, the best part of the visit is definitely the cooking. It's that invisible touch which makes each meal that much more delicious. Whether it is Chingri Malai Curry (Shrimp in coconut-garlic sauce), or labra tarkari (vegetable medley) So for the next few months, I will be cooking less while my parents whip up various goodies. And I promise to share these recipes :)

I want to start with Panch Mishali Tarkari, which literally means Five Vegetable Medley. Five vegetables (this had radish and radish greens, green beans, eggplant, potatoes, carrots) are cooked with panch-phoron, ginger and chillies and tastes delicious with some rice and simple dal. It's usually eatan as the first course of a Bengali meal. Here is how they made it.

Ingredients: (serves 4-5)
2 carrots - chopped
2 potatoes- chopped
1 small eggplant - chopped
4-6 radish with radish greens - chopped
bunch of green beans - chopped
1 tspoon panch phoron
2 bay leaves
2 dry red chilli
1" ginger
2 green chillies
1 medium tomato- chopped
pinch of turmeric powder
pinch of asafoetida
salt to taste
1 tbspoon oil

Grind the ginger and green chilli paste. Keep it aside.

Now heat oil and temper it with asafoetida, panch phoron, bay leaves and red chilli. Then add the turmeric powder to the oil. Then add the chopped tomato and saute for 2-3 minutes.

Next add all the chopped vegetables and let it cook for 7-8 minutes on low medium heat on closed lid. One the vegetables are semi-cooked, ad the ginger and green chilli paste and cook it all together for another 5-6 minutes till the vegetables are cooked and the water has disappeared.

Take it off the heat and garnish with chopped cilantro. Serve with dal, rice or even with chapati.


This delicious vegetable medley is going to Weekend Herb Blogging being hosted this week by Archana at Archana's Kitchen. WHB was started by Kalyn of Kalyn's Kitchen.

July 05, 2008

A-2 Farmer's Market #4

After using the last of the strawberries from Farmer's Market, I was ready for my next trip. The weather was great and the market was bustling with people and shoppers. There was a lot too choose from the vegetables, flowers and plants along with fresh-baked goodies.

AA Farmer's Market #4

I was enthused by the energy of the shoppers and the variety of fresh goodies on display, and decided to take full advantage of that. I bought some freshly dug potatoes, big bag of beans, bunch of radish (they are so juicy, yes I've already had some), cucumbers, snowpeas (the last of this season, I think), a big bunch of cilantro and garlic. And then I decided to buy some organic, free range eggs. I bought half a dozen and will be making some garden omelet for tomorrow's breakfast!

I also bought two tomato plants - both heirloom varieties - one medium size and one cherry tomato and got into an interesting discussion with the seller on gardening, local food and Barbara Kingsolver's book. I will have the plant pics soon :)

July 04, 2008

Strawberry Jam

strawberry jam-2

Remember the strawberries from the Farmer's Market? After I had my fill of fresh strawberries, I still had a good bunch left. And after dreaming about strawberry shortcake and other pies and tarts, I decided on trying something different, something I have never tried before. "How about jam?," the little voice inside me egged me on, so I looked around and found a simple and delicious-looking recipe on Arabic Bites.

I adjusted it to my two cups strawberries (which is what I had left) and added some ingredients of my own -- lemon zest and pinch of clove powder. It came out fabulous! I wanted to eat the entire bottle as it came out of the stove, but am saving some for weekend breakfast :)

Here is how I made it.

strawberry jam

2 cups Strawberries cleaned and sliced
1 cup sugar
Juice of 1/4 lemon
zest of 1/2 lemon
pinch of clove powder

Boil the sliced strawberries on a thick-bottomed pan.

Once it starts boiling add the sugar, lemon juice and 3/4 cup water. Let it cook over medium low heat and closed lid.

When the mixture starts to thicken, add the lemon zest and clove powder and let it cook for another 10-15 minutes on medium low heat without the lid.

Keep checking till you feel the consistency is right. Take it off the heat and let it cool. Then pour it in sterilized bottles.

strawberry jam-3

Serve with butter and bread (my favorite combination) or make up your own.

This is going to MBP:Less is More being hosted by Nupur at One Hot Stove. Great Idea Nupur! Monthly Blog Patrol was started by Coffee at The Spice Cafe

With the rest of the ingredients, I made

radish raita
radish & onion raita, and

collard dal
chard dal.

It made one delicious lunch.

Happy Fourth of July everyone!


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