February 25, 2009

Cleaning the fridge with labra


You know how it happens, I buy a bunch of different vegetables, cook a few and there is just a little bit of it sitting in the fridge for the next few days. Before I know, there is a little bit of pumpkin, radish, potatoes, eggplant etc in different bags. I was in one of my cleaning moods and wanted to get rid of these little bags. So I decided to make labra.

Labra is a classic Bengali dish which is a mix of different vegetables delicately flavored with panch phoron, little bit of ginger and really brings out the flavor of the vegetable. I think it is a great way to use these leftover vegetables and if you ask me "you can make labra with anything you have in your fridge".

Ingredients: (serves 2-4)
1/4 pumpkin - chopped
2 potatoes - skinned and chopped
3-4 radish - chopped
1/2 eggplant - chopped
2 medium carrots - chopped
1/4 medium cauliflower - chopped in small florets
1 bay leaf
1 1/2 tspoon panch phoron (panch phoron is a mix of five spices: fenugreek, mustard, cumin, nigella and fennel seeds)
1 1/2 tspoon ginger - grated
1 green chilli
1 dry red chilli
1/4 tspoon turmeric powder
1/4 tspoon cumin seed powder
1/4 tspoon sugar
salt to taste
1 tbspoon oil
up to 1/4 cup water
bunch of cilantro - chopped for garnish (optional)

Take a deep bottomed ban in which all the vegetables will fit. Heat oil and temper it with panch phoron, ginger, bay leaf and the chillies. Then add all the vegetables one by one and saute it for 2-3 minutes.

Then add the turmeric powder, cumin seed powder, salt and water and let it cook on medium low heat on closed lid for 10-12 minutes. Add more water if needed. Keep mixing it every 3-4 minutes to check. The water should all evaporate and the vegetables should all mix together.


Garnish with cilantro and serve warm with rice, khichuri or rotis. You can also add boris for added crunch.

February 21, 2009

Squash, Pumpkin, Black Beans & Chicken Soup


After a week of melting snow and temperature in the 40s, my hopes were rising that spring was finally on its way. Then came today's storm. As I write this by the window, I can see the snow piling up the front porch, the car in the driveway and the trees.

I had plans of doing a takeout lunch, but after skidding all over the road on the way back from the gym, I refused to go out again. So I picked up what I had at home and make myself a quick soup. And it felt really comforting eating this soup by the window, being all warm and cozy, while the storm rages on outside.

2 carrots - cleaned and chopped
1/4 butternut squash - cut in cubes
1 medium onion - sliced thinly
1 big broccoli
1 chicken breast - cooked and shredded
4-6 cups chicken broth
1/2 tspoon cumin seeds
2 bay leaves
1 dry red chlli
2 cloves garlic - grated
1/2 can black beans - washed
1-2 cloves
1/2 tspoon fresh black pepper powder
1/2 tspoon coriander powder
1/4 tspoon turmeric powder
1 -2 tbspoon oil
Salt to taste
1-2 tbspoon shredded cheese - for garnish

Take a deep and thick bottomed pan. Heat the oil and temper it with cloves, bay leaves, cumin seeds, and dry red chilli.

Then add the vegetables and let it saute for a couple of minutes. Then add the spices, chicken broth and let it cook on low medium heat till the vegetables are almost cooked. It may be 15-25 minutes.

Then add in the shredded chicken and black beans. Let it simmer for a couple of minutes everything is cooked.


Serve it in bowl and top it with shredded cheese. Enjoy the creamy, spicy soup!

February 15, 2009

Tofu mixed rice


I still remember our first Valentine's Day. Aswin had made delicious dinner at home, I had picked up dessert from a French pastry store, we had flowers, music, candles and we were about to sit down for a romantic dinner when our friends started dropping by one by one and soon it became a roaring party! Since then, we celebrate Valentine's day with dinner outside. This year too we had dinner outside at a delicious Japanese restaurant.

I made this tofu mixed rice the night before and as we sat down to dinner, I lit some candles and it brought back the memories from all the years ago.

I used a mix of vegetables I had at home- cabbage, mushrooms, peppers, carrots, peas, chard, and onions. You can substitute it with your choice of vegetables. This is a one-pot meal and by now you know that I am a big fan!


Ingredients: (serves 2-3)
1/2 block tofu
1/4 cup cabbage shredded
1 -2 brad chard leaves
1/4 cup peas
1/4 cup frozen peppers
1 medium onion
4-5 grape tomatoes
1" grated ginger
1/4 cup carrots
1/2 cup mushrooms - chopped
2 eggs (optional)
1 1/2 cup brown rice
4-5 tbspoon soy sauce
1 -2 tbspon teriyaki sauce
1-2 tbspon chilli sauce
1/2 tspoon coriander powder
1 dry red chilli
1/2 tspoon cumin seeds
1/4 tspoon turmeric powder
1/4 tspoon red chilli powder
1 tbspoon oil
salt to taste
bunch of cilantro (chopped)

Like mole, this involves a few steps of preparing the different ingredients and it all come together.

Chop all the fresh vegetables and thaw the frozen ones. Then, cut the tofu in cubes and saute them lightly with a pinch of red chilli powder, salt and turmeric powder. Keep them aside.

Cook the rice till it is cooked. Drain the excess water (if cooking it outside) and set it aside.

Heat oil in a deep pan and temper it with cumin seeds and dry red chilli. Then add the grated ginger and onions and let it saute for 2-3 minutes. Add in the tomatoes, cabbage, peppers, mushrooms, carrots, peas, and chard and let it all cook together for 2-3 minutes. Then add in the soy sauce, teriyaki sauce, chilli sauce, coriander powder, rest of turmeric powder, chili powder, and salt. Once the liquid is drying up and the vegetables are almost cooked, add in the tofu and let it all cook together for 3-4 minutes.

Then add in the rice little at a time and stirring it in and mixing it well together.

In another pan, scramble the eggs with salt and pepper and then mix it in the tofu rice. Let it all cook together for a minute. Then take it off the heat.


Serve warm garnished with fresh cilantro.

The theme for Click this month is Tofu/Cheese. So one of the pictures is headed to Jugalbandi (as soon as I decide...)

February 11, 2009

Chicken mole with beans & rice

I have been missing for almost two weeks. It's the same reasons all over again- work, busy, nasty cold that refuses to go away. But I have also been spending my evenings mostly watching film and docs, making comments and comparing notes with fellow screeners. Finally, having watched the last batch, I emerge from my hibernation!

In the midst of all this, we celebrated our anniversary. We went to Zingerman's Roadhouse for this year's dinner. For those who don't know, Zingermans is a legend around here with a deli, creamery, and bakery along with the restaurant. The story goes that whenever Mario Batali is going to his Michigan lakeside house, he stops at Zingerman's deli to stock up. Coming back to our anniversary dinner, we had some fabulous crabcakes for starters. Aswin opted for grilled fish and I got some gumbo for our entrees. The food was fantastic, but the highlight was donut sundae, which we licked clean.


For our special dinner at home, I decided to make chicken mole. Pretty adventurous your say! It probably was, considering it was a weeknight, but I did some prep work before. Still I took some shortcuts (didn't leave the seeds out of all chilies) and then paid for it by adding more brown sugar. I also left it little chunky, not pureeing the sauce completely.

Inspite of all the shortcuts, and omitted steps, the result was unlike anything I have eaten before. It's bitter, sweet, hot, smoky, almost velvety all at once, and absolutely fabulous! We had ours with beans, rice and cucumber salad.

This is probably one of the most complex recipes I have ever tried. I used the recipe by Rick Bayless and modified it to our quantities.

(Source: Turkey mole by Rick Bayless, jugalbandi's recommendation)

The chilies:
4 chilies mulatos
2 medium dried chilies anchos
2 pasilla

The nuts, seeds:
2 tbspoon cup sesame seeds
1/2 tspoon coriander seeds
1/3 cup unskinned almonds
1/2 medium onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic, peeled and grated
1 can of chopped tomatoes, well drained

The spices:
1/2 tablet 100% chocolate, roughly chopped
4-5 peppercorns
2 cloves
1/2 teaspoon aniseed
1 inch cinnamon stick

5-6 cups chicken broth
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 pack chicken thighs and breasts
(cumin seed and chillie powder to season the chicken pieces)
Salt to taste
1/3 cup sugar

The key to making this recipe is following the steps, grouping the ingredients and proceeding with it step by step.

Season the chicken with salt, dry red chilli powder and cumin powder. Saute it till it turns brown. Drain and keep it aside.

Then stem and deseed the chilies. I omitted the step and as a result the sauce was much hotter. Fry the chilli , soak it in hot water bowl for 30 minutes, then take the chillies an add it to a mixer. Puree it and keep it aside.

Next toast the almonds, coriander and seasame seeds, then add it to the tomato mixture. Fry the garlic, onions, till they are starting to brown and raisins till they are plump. Add it to the blender. To this, add the chocolate which is already roughly chopped. I omitted the bread/tortilla from the recipe and didn't miss it either. But I think it would have soaked some of the heat from the chillies!

Puree it together adding chicken broth if necessary.

Pour the tomato and chocolate mixture to a thick bottomed pan. Add the chilies puree to this and simmer it on medium low heat. Once the sauce starts to come together, mix in 4-5 cups of chicken broth, salt and simmer on medium low heat. Finally season it with jaggery or brown sugar. If the sauce is thicker than heavy cream, thin it with a little broth. I added the chicken pieces and let it cook together for the last 20-25 minutes.


Serve with rice and beans.


I had the added incentive of making this great dish because a friend (N.A.) gifted me some authentic Peruvian chocolate. Thanks N, next time you are in town, we have to make this together!

Previous anniversary dinners:
Fish Biryani
Poached Seabass an Quinoa Pilaf


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