Friday, June 28, 2013

Andhra Egg Roast

Recently, a very close friend invited me over for a casual lunch party. My friend cooks yummy Andhra dishes and her food has a great home-style flavor. The lunch table was decorated with matching table scape, silverware and linen. I was very much pleased and delighted for the time we were spending together. For lunch, she made delicious Andhra Egg Roast, the recipe for which comes from her Mom.

She informs me that this Andhra Egg Roast makes use of lots of garlic pods which are never peeled, plenty of caramelized onion bits with lots of green chillies. Another interesting thing about this dish is its supposed to be an accompaniment to a lentil based dish, the everyday Indian Dal. "The Andhra Egg Roast goes well with Dal," she added. I agreed completely with her. The heat comes from green chillies and she asked me not to add any red chilli powder as the powder affects the texture and alters the taste of the dish. I nodded and made notes and replicated the same in my kitchen.

The result was an out-of-world egg recipe that I'll be making often. I concluded that this recipe is a keeper. Use a non-stick if you are frugal about the amount of oil required to caramelize the onions. 

Andhra Egg Roast
Simple Egg Roast with caramelized onions and whole unpeeled garlic pods

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 30-45 minutes

Hard boiled eggs (boiled, peeled and long gashes made) - 4

Onions (finely chopped) - 3, medium
Green Chillies (finely chopped) - 2
Garlic pods (unpeeled, lightly crushed) - 8-10

Coriander powder - 2 tsp
Cumin powder - 1 tsp
Turmeric powder - 1/3 tsp


Hard boil the eggs. Cool, peel the shell, make four wide long gashes on each egg. Sprinkle salt and turmeric powder on the eggs. Give a good toss and keep aside.
In a skillet, heat some oil. Once the oil is smoking hot, add the chopped green chillies. Saute for a minute and add the onions. The idea here is to get a crispy texture for the green chillies. Caramelize the onions to a brown color. Add oil, if required. Add 1/2 teaspoon of sugar to aid the brown color of caramel. This process takes around 10-15 minutes.
Crush the garlic lightly with a pestle. Once the onions are partially brown, add the garlic pods and saute well. Lower the flame, add the spice powders, adjust salt. The onions and garlic will get an even coating of spice powders, also turning into crispy textured bits. Add the Eggs now, give a good toss. This will take another 15 minutes. 
Cook for couple of minutes and turn off flame. The dish goes well with home made Dal.

Black Jamun/ Java Plum (Jambul)

I am back after a brief hiatus.

A recent activity of fruit tasting prompted this post. The fruit in question here is, Jamun also known as Black Plum which I am very fond of. With that, I am back doing what I do best - writing and documenting about food, memories, people who influence the experiences and the tiny world that weaves stories around them. People who blog and write regularly will understand what I am referring to and why, writing as an occupation gives a different kind of joy to many writers who simply have to write. On a different note, I am pleased to announce that I've moved to India with family. For now, all is well and we are busy settling down. I look forward to my journey in my home base and have a lot of gratitude to the US, the land that adopted me and moulded me with lot of love and gave me some of the most cherished experiences of my life.

Black Jamun aka Jambul/ Java Plum is  a fruit native to Indian heritage and finds appearance in local markets, hawkers and street vendors between May-July. The berry of sorts, is unripe and once it turns ripe blossoms into a purple fruit which is a mix of sour, sweet and astringent flavors. A dash of salt is what Mom added to the fruits once they were thoroughly rinsed and drained in order to balance the flavors.

Growing up, my school had tiny hills which served as a great ground for our annual summer camps. Mom sent us for all the camps religiously, may be for a decade. The hardest part was waking up at the crack of dawn and learning Yoga at 5:30 in the morning. As much as I despised it, I went for the class because Yoga made me feel good about my body. All of a sudden, I could do cartwheels and spin like a top. The tiny hills were dotted with Cashew, Wild Berries and Black Jamun trees. I was gifted a wood and leather Catapult by one family friend. All my friends made good use of the Catapult to pelt the stones at the perfectly aimed trajectory to ensure that the fruits fall right into a cloth towel, which we balanced according to the location of the fruit. Our teachers used to get mighty annoyed with our adventurous pursuits, particularly because the forests were owned by private parties. 

That was the first time I actually saw Jamun berries happily perched on the tall, gigantic trees. The sight made me respect all the vendors who would sell the berries during sweltering hot summers, in a small leafy cone for a paltry sum. I think its experiences like these that help you connect the dots and enable you to respect Mother Nature all the more. The purple stains it left after it splashed on the hay and grass covered forest terrain was certainly a sight to behold. Adding to that the sweet scent of berries wafting around in the forest attracting birds of all kinds made it perfect ecological base for curious minds like ours.  

A tiny bit on the health benefits of Black Jamun -
- Its a great digestive aid and has cooling effect on the body.
- The fruit is a great medicine for Diabetics and is believed to be instrumental in reducing blood sugar levels.
- The seeds of the fruit also find use in ancient medicinal practices like Ayurveda and Unani.
- The bark of the tree is also used for many herbs and medicinal concoctions.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Mexican Black Bean Wrap with Pico De Gallo

Mexican cuisine is very dear to my heart for various reasons. One of the first cuisines I tasted, after I came to US was undoubtedly, Mexican. Since the food packs quite a punch with good level of heat and tangy flavors, it sings to my heart and appeals to my Indian palate. Be it the gooey Guacamole with rich buttery mashed Avocados dipped in Corn chips, the overloaded and stuffed Tacos which is a super cheap, quick meal if you are a student in US studying on a limited budget for food or the humble everyday dish of re-fried beans served with Mexican rice, the truth clearly stands out - they are all made with zesty and fresh ingredients, have a spicy edge and are very easy to fix.

One of the biggest blessing for the Roti lover in me is the unlimited options and varieties of Tortillas available at my local grocery. From the traditional Corn Tortillas made from Masa flour to the healthy variety of Tortillas made of Whole Wheat Flour and often even Spinach Tortillas, the options are endless and one can plan a decent meal with less than 15 minutes of prep work.

Days when I do not have the inclination to move a muscle, I happily opt for Black Bean Wraps made of Honey-Wheat Tortillas. They have a mild sweet taste and do not break easily when added with a stuffing. Pico De Gallo is the version made in many Mexican homes similar to what Kachumbar or Koshimbiri is to all Indians.  The wraps are very portable and great as outdoor foods.

Mexican Black Bean Wrap with Pico De Gallo 
A quick and easy wrap made of Black Beans

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Processing Time: 10 minutes

For Pico De Gallo -
Tomatoes (ripe, finely chopped, pulp drained) - 1 cup
Shallots (finely chopped) - 1/4 cup
Jalapeno (seeds and membranes removed, finely chopped) - 2 tbsp
Lime juice -  1 tsp

Black Beans (soaked, pressure cooked with salt) - 2 cups
Cheese of choice (grated) [Monterey Jack Cheese with Jalapenos] - 1/2 cup
Coriander leaves (roughly chopped) - 3 tbsp
Crushed Black Pepper - 1/2 tsp

Tortillas (Honey-Wheat variety) [store bought] - 4-6

Remove the inner membrane of Jalapeno and finely chop into tiny bits. Mix with chopped Tomatoes, Shallots, lime juice and salt (remove the seeded pulp of Tomatoes as the water content will make the wrap soggy, just retain the outer thick skin).
Mix the cooked black bean with little salt and crushed black pepper powder and keep aside. Grate the cheese on box grater.
Warm both sides of a Tortilla on Tawa for a minute. Transfer to a work surface. Place a tbsp of Pico, add a tbsp black beans, garnish with a a tsp of grated cheese and coriander leaves. Add a dash of lime juice. Fold the sides and then wrap like a log. Too much stuffing and the wraps break, stuff with caution. Slice diagonally with a knife to divide into two portions. Transfer to a serving dish. The wraps are portable and great as appetizers. Warm for 30 seconds in MW just before serving for home style flavor.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Horsegram Side Dish - Konkani style (Kulith Upkari)

Horsegram also known as Kulith in Konkani is a popularly used pulse. I've earlier blogged about Kulith Saaru, a family favorite and Kulith Koddel, which is another personal favorite dish. Once cooked, Kulith beans pack a powerhouse of energy and are equally high in Calcium and Protein. In India, its also popularly cooked and offered to cows as cattle feed.

Kulith Upkari, a side dish made in many Konkani homes pairs well with Rotis. Strangely, it was not the most sought after dish in my parents home nor in my grandparents home. Guess, the default option was always a Koddel because it was a one pot meal and fed many mouths. Much respite and easier day for the home cook!

Kulith Upkari 
A Konkani style side dish made with Horsegram

Prep Time: 6-10 hours
Cook Time: 45 minutes

Horsegram (soaked, pressure cooked) - 3/4  cup

For Seasoning -
Mustard seeds - 1/2 tsp
Red Chillies (split into two) - 2
Green Chillies (slit lengthwise) - 1
Curry leaves - a sprig
Asafoetida - 1 pinch
Coconut oil

For Garnish -
Grated coconut - 2 tbsp

Clean the beans and remove any grime and dirt. Wash and rinse in multiple changes of water. Soak for 8-10 hours. Pressure cook for 4-5 whistles. Allow to cool. Save the stock of cooked beans for  making Kulith Saaru.
In a deep bottomed vessel, heat a few spoons of coconut oil. Once the oil is hot enough, season with mustard seeds. Once the seeds splutter, add the curry leaves and broken red chillies. Add the asafoetida now and give a good stir. Transfer the cooked beans to the seasoning, give a good mix. Season with salt, sprinkle 1/2 cup of warm water and cover with a lid. Cook for 5-10 minutes by bringing to boil and then simmer away. Once done, garnish with grated coconut. Fish out the chillies if required before serving. Serve with Rotis or as a side dish.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Pan roasted Asparagus in Za'atar with Orange Zest

Spring season implies the entry of few of my favorite vegetables and greens - Asparagus, Artichokes, Arugula and many versions of Chard greens. Asparagus - grilled, roasted or steamed is a favorite in my home. I've tried to doctor the vegetable with Indian spices, but they seemed too overpowering. 

A recent hot favorite in my home are two Middle Eastern spice powders - Za'atar and Sumac. I've been using Sumac in Indian food as well since it renders a nice tangy finish, much like lemons to a dish. Sumac is a much darker, brown colored spice blend with a deep, lemon like tangy flavor. Za'atar as a spice blend is like a silent soldier whose presence is felt yet is very understated and subtle. Za'atar spice blend comes in various combination of spices blended to a dry powder depending on various geographies of Middle East. For instance, a Lebanese version of Za'atar is very different from the ones used in Jordan. The one I use is a blend of Thyme, Oregano, Sumac, Sesame seeds and Marjoram. The usage of Za'atar is diverse and plenty - garnish a bowl of Hummus, season the Falafel sandwich, add as a topping on a Pizza or Bread or use it for a salad.

Za'atar spice blend - Sumac, Sesame seeds, Thyme, Oregano and Marjoram

The interesting things about Asparagus is, it retains the moisture and remains juicy even after cooking owing to high water content. We prefer the spears when they are a bit overcooked, but you could stop after 15 minutes and serve. 

Pan roasted Asaparagus in Za'atar and Orange Zest

Prep Time: 5 + 10 minutes
Cook Time: 15-25 minutes

Asaparagus (stem removed) - 5-10 spears

For the seasoning -
Za'atar spice blend - 1/2 tsp
Black Pepper Powder (crushed) - 1/3 tsp
Turmeric powder - just a pinch
Sea Salt
Extra Virgin Olive Oil 

For garnish -
Orange zest - 1/2 tsp

Cleaning Asparagus - The Asparagus spears you get at local markets here are cleaned, trimmed and banded together. Wash the spears under cool water, pat dry. Hold the bottom half and snap off from the top end. The trick here is it will snap at the point where the woody part separates from the tender part. Reserve the bottom pieces for soups, stocks. 

Make a marinade of the seasoning ingredients and add the spears. Give a good toss and leave aside for 10 minutes. Heat a cast iron pan to smoking high heat. No need to add oil. Add the spears side by side. Do not use a spatula. Cook on a high flame for 2-4 minutes and cook on low flame for 15-20 minutes. Frequently, give a good toss by gently shaking the pan. Once they are lightly charred, turn off flame and serve hot with a dash of orange zest.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Jackfruit Seed Saar (Bikand Saaru)

Few weeks back, I found a small portion of ripe Jackfruit at Indian grocery store. I was delighted and almost had the mind to buy the entire lot had it not been the cleaning process (which is a messy task) and that thought which promptly curbed my brimming enthusiasm. I had initially planned on making Gharayi, a sweet dish made of Jackfruits which Ma would often make for us when the ripe fruits were in season. I was happy to have found this fruit after ages. The Jackfruit kernels were super sweet and both of us finished the plate clean in no time. Left, were the seeds which I saved without a rhyme or reason. Everyday when I spotted the dozen seeds sitting on the counter, it filled me with memories of one women whom I owe a lot in my life in addition to my dear Ma. 

The Jackfruit seeds reminds me of my Ammama (my Grandma). She was one woman who was very fond of seasonal produce and more specifically - Mangoes and Jackfruits. I had earlier written about the Jackfruit tree in the backyard of my Grandparents house which I am obsessively fond of. I left the seeds on the counter in open air to dry off. After 5-7 days, the ash grey skin easily comes off. What remains is the brown seed which is suitable for this recipe.

When we were kids, Amamma had the official responsibility of feeding over a dozen mouths during our summer vacation. I dread to think how she pulled off the job with lot of grace and dignity. During hot blazing summer, when the sun would hit the zenith, she would save the seeds after cleaning the Jackfruit which was a communal task in my home. You want to eat the fruit - you contribute to the chore was the norm. She saved the seeds to simply air dry them. Once the skin was off, she would boil them in salt water and roast them on the warm ash laden hearth. Yes, we had two stoves in the home - one fueled by Gas and the other fueled by wood. The smoke coming from the wood stove left me teary eyed but the fragrance of the food cooked on this stove was simply divine and incomparable. She would pat dry the ash smeared seeds and present it to us. For me, it was close to a comical science experiment laced with excitement!

Jackfruit Seeds - Freshly plucked from the fruit
I got this recipe from my Aunt who frequently cooks many Hayvaka style dishes including their crunchy Mung dal Koshimbiri and spicy Huli. She likes to dry different regional cuisines from Karnataka and the flavor of her food is spot on. Hayvaka cuisine is very popular in Udupi-Mangalore region and the food is very rich in color, texture and unique in taste. This was my Ammama's favorite cuisine after GSB Konkani cuisine.  The nutty flavor of jackfruit seeds is a welcome change for this recipe where otherwise a substantial amount of cooked lentils are used, serving the purpose of a base to many kinds of Saar/ Saaru recipes.

Jackfruit Seed Saar/ Bikand Saaru
Simple spicy Saaru cooked in Jackfruit seed paste

Prep Time: 5-7 days
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Yield: 3-4 Servings

Jackfruit Seeds (air-dried, skin removed) - 10
Tamarind pulp - 1/2 cup
Grated coconut (fresh or frozen) - 2 tbsp
Rasam powder - 2 tbsp
Turmeric powder - 1/2 tsp
Asafoetida - 1/4 tsp
Jaggery - 1/2 tsp
Coriander leaves (finely chopped) -  1/2 cup + 1/3 cup
Green Chillies (slit lengthwise) - 2
Coconut Oil
For Seasoning -
Mustard seeds - 1/2 tsp
Curry leaves - 1 sprig
Red Chillies (broken into pieces) - 1
Air-dry the Jackfruit seeds. After 5-7 days, peel off the ash grey skin and save the brown skinned seed. Pick the seeds which have a smooth finish, discard the rest. Bring 2 cups of salted water to boil and cook the seeds well in the water. Check if cooked completely, drain the water and allow to cool.
Make tiny pieces of the cooked seeds, grind to a smooth paste with strong Rasam powder and grated coconut with little water. Bring to boil the tamarind pulp, jaggery, green chillies and jackfruit seed paste. Once the raw flavor of the broth goes off, add turmeric, asafoetida and 1/2 cup of coriander leaves. Season with salt as per taste and bring the broth to boil. Turn off the flame.
In a small frying pan, heat a tbsp of coconut oil, season with mustard seeds. Once the seeds splutter, add curry leaves and broken red chillies. Turn off flame and pour this seasoning over the cooked broth. Garnish with 1/3 cup of chopped coriander leaves. Drizzle little coconut oil over the broth. Cover with a tight lid. Strain and serve to enjoy as a drink. Else, serve with warm rice.

Note: Use a very strong and potent Rasam powder for this recipe. Use a tad bit more coriander leaves to balance the  flavors.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Rice and Mung Dal Khichdi

These days I am besotted with Khichdi. Plain, nutritious yet tasty mushy mess full of goodness.

A dear friend asked me if I am into spring cleaning diet with a focus on cleanse. I explained that it was a sheer coincidence. Eat sensibly, be happy and take time out for exercise and activities you enjoy is my mantra. Many of my American friends follow a spring cleanse routine during the switch in weather from winter to spring. For those who are clueless, spring cleaning is an activity undertaken in US where a lot of cleaning activity happens on the home front. This is more applicable if you live in geographies that have a relatively colder climate. Much before I could even think of spring cleaning, there was a weird snowfall with freezing cold weather couple of days ago.

Pure home made Ghee is a must for Khichdi. In my opinion, its a match made in heaven. The Khichdi recipe has many variations with respect to Indian kitchens. I am very picky about my Khichdi and do not like too many spices, vegetables intervening in the recipe. Ma makes this Khichdi for us regularly and I adore the simplicity of this dish, although my Dad dislikes rice based foods unless its an authentic Konkani recipe. :-)

Rice and Mung Dal Khichdi
Simple mushy Rice and Mung Dal with ghee and spices 
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 20-30 minutes
Yield: 2 servings

Rice (Jeeraga Samba Rice) - 1 measure
Mung Dal (split variety) - 1/2 measure
Cumin seeds - 1/2 tsp
Black Pepper Corns (whole) - 1/2 tsp
Pure homemade Ghee - 1 tbsp
Sea Salt 

For Garnish -
Homemade Ghee - 1 tsp
Coarse Black Pepper powder - a pinch

Rinse the rice and mung dal in multiple changes of water, till the water is clear. Drain the water and keep aside.
In a non-stick pan, heat a tbsp of Ghee. Once the ghee melts and is hot enough, season with cumin seeds. Once the seeds bloom in ghee, add the pepper corns. Give a good stir and add the washed rice and lentils. Mix gently and add three times the quantity of warm water. Add sea salt to taste. Give a taste test. Bring to boil. Simmer away and let it cook for 20-25 minutes with the lid on. Check after 25 minutes, the rice and lentils will be mushy and cooked completely. The consistency will be like that of a porridge. Turn off flame and serve hot. Garnish with homemade ghee and coarsely crushed black pepper powder.

Note - Use good quality of rice which carries a nice aroma. I prefer not to use Basmati rice for Khichdi. Add three times the quantity of warm water to the rice and lentils ratio [3:1].

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Sabudana Khichdi

Khichdi is known as elixir of the gods in ancient hindu scriptures. Eaten piping hot, bit mushy with very simple flavors if you consider the everyday khichdi made in Indian homes comprising of lentils and rice. This is one dish where excess of any sort is omitted. No wonder for any great tasting khichdi everything needs to be in moderation. There are days when I like bold, pop flavors and there are days when I yearn for a warm bowl of khichdi. With festivals demanding long hours of fasting, its an Indian tradition to cook Khichdi and observe a Sattvik diet with no garlic and onion. A good warm bowl of Khichdi is also filling. Few regular khichdi recipes made at my home are Sabudana Khichdi, Rice and Mung Dal Khichdi which is my personal favorite served with a dollop of ghee dunked atop while its hot.

The Sabudana Khichdi made at my home is inspired by the easy and simple khichdi recipe followed in Marathi homes. I add Daanyachey Koot and few whole Peanuts for garnish, may be a little more than required because I like the crunch. It took me a while to master this dish because there are many failure modes (for lack of any word) possible in the process. Couple of things gone wrong and the whole dish can be messy. 

Sabudana Khichdi
Tapioca Pearls Khichdi with Peanuts and Peanut powder

Prep Time: 5-6 hours 
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Yield: 2 servings

Tapioca Pearls (Sabudana) - 1/2 cup
Potatoes (thinly sliced, MW par cooked) - 1/2 cup
Peanut powder (Daanyachey Koot) - 3/4 cup
Toasted Peanuts (whole or split) - 1/3 cup

For Seasoning -
Green Chillies (slit lengthwise) - 2 
Cumin seeds - 1/2 tsp
Curry leaves - 1 sprig

1. Soaking - Rinse the pearls in multiple changes of water. Soak in enough water to submerge the pearls for about 6-8 hours. The water will also get absorbed in the process. If the pearls look tad bit dry, sprinkle some water, fluff gently with a fork and cover again.After the time has elapsed, they will proliferate in size and you can easily squish them under the thumb and index finger. If its squishes well, its ready. The water will also get absorbed in the process. If the pearls look tad bit dry, sprinkle some water, fluff gently with a fork and cover again. If its squishes well, its ready. The pearls almost double up in volume once soaked and ready. Drain the water completely, ensure that Sabudana has no water content before you proceed. Typically, there is no need to drain the water as it gets absorbed.
2. Toast the Peanuts (about a cup) in a small frying pan. Save about 1/3 of the cup as reserve once toasted. Allow the rest to cool. Make Daanyachey Koot. MW peeled Potato with little water and cook for 2-4 minutes till its partially cooked.
3. In a non-stick pan, heat ghee. Once the ghee melts and the pan is hot enough, season with cumin seeds. Once the seeds splutter, add curry leaves and slit green chillies. Add the MW cooked potatoes and sear the potatoes for couple of minutes.
4. The Potatoes will get a light sear by now, add the soaked Tapioca Pearls. Give a good toss, follow with crushed peanut powder. Add salt and sugar. Balance the taste so that its neither salty nor sweet. Give a taste test. Cover with a lid. Lower the flame and let it cook for about 8-10 minutes.
5. Once cooked, the pearls will turn translucent to almost opaque shade of color. Give a gentle toss. Check if done, turn off flame and enjoy while its hot. Garnish with reserve toasted peanuts.

Note - Cook in a non-stick pan. The pearls could at times stick to the pan. Avoid fiddling with it too much while its getting cooked, else it could turn mushy.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Wheat-Finger Millet Phulkas

The husband is fond of exotic grains like Quinoa and Couscous and he enjoys the flavor in light salads. I like to explore and dig deep into my Indian heritage to find gems which I might have missed or forgotten, for e.g Millets. I distinctly remember High School Geography class drill on Kharif crops and Rabi crops. Kharif crops are sown during monsoon time and harvested during autumn. Common ones being - Jowar (Sorgum), Bajra (Pearl Millet) and Nachni/ Ragi (Finger Millet). Rabi crops are sown during winter and harvested during summer season. Common ones are Wheat, Mustard and Barley. Phulkas have been part of regular diet for quite some time now. For past few days I have been wanting to fortify the Phulkas to enrich the flour.
One of our close friends family hails from Hosur village in Karnataka, India. This amazing lady whom I fondly call Kaaki is very simple, easy going and down to earth person. Kaaki is shy and abhors the city life. She comes to visit her kids in the city, complains of boredom, misses her friends and gossip from village. In her family, they grow their own vegetables and even the grains they consume. Most of all she misses her plants, creepers and massive fields. She loves the company of grasslands, nature and prefers pollution free life. She often tells me that village people have more heart, smile often and are more compassionate than city folks. I smile and patiently listen to her stories from the village, her friends and her farmland. She is an epitome of simplicity and her persona is devoid of any pretense.

At the crack of dawn after finishing her morning chores, she diligently draws rangoli made out of rice paste once a week after cleaning and mopping the floors, apparently a tradition in Hosur. Kaaki wears saree with large temple borders, a dozen of glass bangles always on her wrist, her hair is neatly adorned with colorful flowers and her nose gleams with multi-diamond nose studs, much like the famous Indian singer MS Subbalakshmi. A cute thing Kaaki does is when she is doing her household chores she sings songs which are folk based from her region. Most of them are stories about farmers, crops salvaged and joy of harvest. Her lunch wraps by 12:00 noon and dinner wraps even earlier by 7:00 in the evening. The preferred choice is mostly Ragi Mudde, a round steamed and cooked Ragi Ball served with vegetable and beans curry. Her family also enjoys Jonnada Rotti, a Roti made of Jowar and Bajri Roti, a roti made out of Bajri flour. Their food habits are well rooted to their region and they eat according to season and climatic changes. Often during cold winters in Hosur, they drink Ragi Malt and relish the taste. No wonder her kids do not enjoy modern branded drink mix and enjoy home made concoctions. They also consume lot of greens and vegetables.

I recall asking her the significance of Ragi and its relevance to their life in village. She informed me that people in her village own large farmland and often labor is a big issue. So more often than not, they end up tilling the fields, sowing and also harvesting the crop if labor is not available. Ragi also known as Finger Millet is high in Calcium and is a preferred food for her family because it strengthens the bones and keep the stomach full for a long time. The farms are vast and far off, so the energy from Millet keeps them going for long hours. The sugar release process is slower with Ragi hence one does not feel hungry for long hours.

I tried Ragi Mudde but did not like the flavor. I believe its an acquired taste. I stumped upon the idea of Wheat-Finger Millet Phulkas. Kneading the dough out of 100% Ragi is not easy and takes time to master. I made Phulkas with 4:1 of Wheat and Ragi proportion. If Finger Millet flour alone is used, then the Phulkas are gluten free and good option for people with gluten intolerance. The Phulkas puff well and one feels full for long hours. Good for office lunch box and very portable.

Wheat-Finger Millet Phulkas
Phulkas made of Wheat and Finger Millet flour

Prep Time: 10 Minutes
Cook Time: 20-30 minutes
Yield: 10-12 Phulkas

Wheat flour - measure of 4
Ragi (Nachni/ Finger Millet) flour - measure of 1
Warm Water - 3/4 to 1 cup
Oil/ Ghee
Salt - same as the amount of sugar
Sugar- same as the amount of salt

Warm water till its lukewarm. In a mixing bowl, add wheat flour and finger millet flour in 4:1 proportion. Measure here determines either your standard measuring cup or the regular Vaati which I use for measuring flour. Add salt and sugar in equal proportion. Mix the dry ingredients well. Make a hole in the centre of the flour. Add warm water and oil/ ghee. Slowly pull in the flour and knead well. Spend good 5-8 minutes kneading the dough. Let it rest for 10-15 minutes. Cover with a damp cloth.
Heat a Tava. Take a cup of wheat flour in a small plate (to dip the dough at regular intervals). Divide the dough into small portions, about the size of a tennis ball. Using the rolling pin, flatten the ball and dip in the dry wheat flour in the plate. Roll with a rolling pin to about 6" in diameter. The drier the dough, the easier it is to roll the Phulka.
The Tava will be hot by now. Slam the Phulka on Tava and let it cook on one side. The Phulka will be partly fried on one side. On another open flame place the part cooked Phulka with a pair of kitchen tongs and let it puff up. Tiny black spots will appear on either sides. Cook well on both sides. Transfer to a hot box and cover with a lid. Serve warm with Dal/ Sabzi of choice.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Sabudana Vada - A Popular Maharashtrian Snack

Mumbai - a name which spells nostalgia, home, Bollywood, glitz, glamour and cozy dreams to many. For various reasons, Mumbai is second home for me. I've spend countless holidays on this island exploring every alley and neighborhood. The Bombay I knew is far different from the Mumbai of today. People can call it by any name for me it will always be - Bombay. Its not a surprise that most of the foods cooked in my home represent Goa, Maharashtra apart from GSB Konkani food.

I love Maharashtrian cuisine because most of the foods are highly portable and stay well for a longer period when coconut is not added. The humble Vada Pav is the favorite on-the-go meal for majority of the working population, Pav Bhaji is my go-to recipe when the fridge is over stuffed with vegetables of all sorts, spicy and fiery broth of Usal is a regular at my home.

I am very fond of Sabudana Vada, a yummy patty made of Tapioca Pearls also known as Sabudana. These white pearls are balls made out of cooked starch sourced from Cassava root and is gluten free. Sabudana Khichdi is also popular during Navratri and on days when long hours of fasting is observed. The biggest advantage of eating Sabudana is one feels full for a long time, hence more preferred as stomach filling foods. Whenever I visit Mumbai, I make it a point to visit the local restaurants selling these fried goodies. The first time I had them as a teenager I recall the waiter telling me that more often than not, only two patties are served along with Dahi (Yogurt). They go a long way in beating unexpected hunger pangs. 

If I were in India, I would probably never cook these patties. Why bother when the experts can make the best ones for you? Anyhow, I decided to take the plunge and made these on a chilly, snowy winter evening. Making these patties demands lot of patience and time, a rare treat but very tasty. Do not bother to make them in a hurry. The pearls ought to be soaked in water for atleast 6-8 hours and then mixed well with mashed potatoes and spices to make a firm patty. The fresher the quality of Sabudana, the better the Vada. There are two varieties of Pearls available in the market - the tiny ones and the large ones. I use the large ones and soak them for good 5-6 hours. If the patty is not forming well, there is a high chance that the patties will break open in oil ruining your hard work. Daanyachey Koot, a coarse nutty powder made of peanuts without skin also determines the binding and adds the extra crunch. I shallow fried them with more oil almost coating 1/2 of the vada at all times. 

On a different note, Konkani Foodie turned 6 last week. It feels good to have come this far. The blog combines two of my favorite activities - Writing and Food. When I look back, it feels good to have so many memories all born out of food, people I love and the strange situations under which a certain recipe was discovered. Sometimes its a long forgotten aroma, a taste I've longed for or simply put a desire to reach out to familiar tastes and aromas long lost in the alleys of a memorable childhood. 

Many of my family members are aware of my blog. The blog is accessed by my family - immediate, blood, extended. Friends, ex-friends, co-workers, acquaintances all read every line I write, every recipe I document. It feels great to have so much love coming for my Foodie blog. I've also made friends who are food lovers like me and make the learning process very easy. Many people know me more through my blog. At the same time, I write with my first name which comes with fair share of judgements, opinions and assumptions. Looking at the larger picture, I am glad to have traversed a journey for such a long period. The biggest high is when I receive emails from all over the world from people informing me that they found the content useful. Ah, the joys of writing world!A big thank you for all the love shown.

A small note from me - If you have a passion, make sure you nurture it and protect it. Stay positive and persevere. There is an ocean of like-minded people who will really know where you are coming from.

Sabudana Vada
Tapioca Pearls and mashed Potatoes patty 

Prep Time: 6-8 hours (including the soak time)
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Yield: 8 Large 1/2" Vadas

Sabudana (Tapioca Pearls, rinsed and soaked) - 1 cup
Potatoes (boiled, mashed) - 2 cups
Peanut powder (toasted, skin removed) - 3/4 cup
Green Chillies (paste) - 1 tsp
Coriander leaves (fine chiffonade) - 3 tbsp
Cumin seeds - 1 tsp
Lime juice - 2 tsp
Sugar - 1 tsp
Salt - to taste

1. Soaking - Rinse the pearls in multiple changes of water. Soak in enough water to submerge the pearls. After the time has elapsed, they will proliferate in size and you can easily squish them under the thumb and index finger. If its squishes well, its ready. Drain the water completely, ensure that Sabudana has no water content before you proceed.
2. Scrub the potatoes well. Boil in a pressure cooker. Remove soon to prevent water retention. Peel, mash to form a mushy paste. Avoid any lumps as this will cause the Vadas to break.
3. In a small frying pan, toast Peanuts lightly. Allow to cool. Gently roll them between the palm to remove the skin. Ensure all the skin is removed otherwise the bitter flavor will render itself into the Vada. In a coffee grinder, coarsely grind the peanuts to a powder. The powder should be grainy and should retain bits and pieces of peanut. This is called Daanyachey Koot.
4. In a mixing bowl, mix the soaked and drained Sabudana, mashed Potatoes. Add the green chillies paste, cumin seeds and lime juice. Add the salt and sugar. Toward the end, add chopped coriander leaves. Give a taste test - the Vadas are not salty but not sweet either. Balance the taste. Mix well to form a flat thick patty. The patty should remain firm and not break open, otherwise there is a high chance that the patties will break open in oil.
5. In a Kadhai, heat oil. Pinch a small portion of dough and drop in hot oil. In the ball rises, the oil is ready for frying. Deep fry or shallow fry depending on the size of the patty. Toggle between low-to-medium consistently while frying. Do not fry on high flame as the inner mass will remain uncooked. This process takes 5-8 minutes for each batch of 3-4 Vadas. Once crispy and golden red, transfer to a paper towel. Enjoy hot Vadas with Tomato Ketchup.

Note - The Vadas are very filling. I make a batch of large, thick vadas just the way they serve in Mumbai. The Sabudana and Potatoes should be considerably dry before mixing stage. Enjoy them while they are hot, they turn soggy fast. If making for the first time, make a small batch to start.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Fenugreek Leaves Saar (Methi Palle Saaru)

Ma makes a soupy broth (Saaru) out of almost any leafy green vegetable available in the season and it tastes sublime yet delicious. On a whim of being experimental, I tried this recipe inspired by that idea and it turned out great. I enjoy bitter flavor, found prominently in Fenugreek leaves and Bittergourds, so did not find it overwhelming. If you are not used to bitter flavor, then you could pass off this recipe. 

Fenugreek leaves are found in abundance and the best lot arrives during cold and crispy winters. From a culinary standpoint, the leaves get along fabulously with garlic. Use Ghee for seasoning, it adds a good, soothing and subtle flavor. The tangy tamarind extract camouflages the bitter flavor of the leaves and once cooked, the tangy and bitter flavors balance each other out. Add a little more extract than you would normally add for this broth.

~ Fenugreek Leaves Saar ~
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 20-25 minutes

Fenugreek Leaves (tightly packed) - 5 cups
Green Chillies (slit inserted) - 2
Turmeric powder - just a pinch

Coconut (fresh or frozen) - 2 tbsp
Tamarind pulp extract - 1/2 cup
Jaggery - 1/2 tsp

For Seasoning -
Mustard seeds - 1/2 tsp
Curry leaves - 1 sprig
Garlic (crushed) - 4 flakes
Red Chillies (split into two) - 2

Wash and rinse the leafy greens. Clean and pick only the fresh and tender leaves and leave out the stem. Chop the leafy greens in large shreds and keep aside. In a skillet, heat a tsp of ghee and lightly sear the green chillies. Add a small slit to allow the pressure to escape. Remove from heat and transfer to a plate. Add the leaves now, add a pinch of turmeric powder and allow them to sweat. The leaves will wilt in size leaving a bitter aroma. Turn off the flame and transfer to a plate, allow to cool. Once cooled partially, grind to a smooth paste with seared green chillies and coconut. Add little water to bring about a good consistency. Bring this paste to boil in an iron kadhai. Add the jaggery, once it melts and mellows, add the tamarind extract and add water if required. Adjust salt as per taste. Cover with lid on and cook for about 5-7 minutes. Once done, in a small frying pan, heat tad bit ghee and once hot enough, season with mustard seeds. Once the seeds splutter, add curry leaves, red chillies followed by garlic. Pour this seasoning on the cooked broth and cover with a tight lid. Serve warm with rice.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Baked Frittata - An Italian Omelette

In my home, breakfast dishes are often enjoyed as part of quiet, sombre twilight meals instead of rushed and busy mornings. Over the weekend, we stocked up lot of fresh produce, milk and eggs as a precautionary measure to tackle any  unforseen situation of food shortage. The panic caused by the travel advisory issued to public, resulted in my local grocery running out of bread, 2% milk and white meats of all kinds. Last time I witnessed this scene of panic induced shopping during Hurricane Irene in 2011. Both of us were excited about Nemo (in a fun and anticipatory way) because it had been a while since we had witnessed a humongous pile of fresh powder. While I prepped the grocery, lugged home extra supplies of emergency items, the husband took charge of the dinner and the eggy aroma of warm and spicy, oven cooked Frittata welcomed me home. When it comes to our cooking style, I prefer to go with measurements for any recipe; his interpretation of a recipe is oh-its-easy-put-this-and-that-together-and-bake kind of a thing. Either ways, I was glad to be entertained (than to be entertaining) and was very happy with the way the Frittata turned out. The husband finds its easier to use the oven and prefers baking his lunch or dinner with quick roasted and seasoned meats and vegetables while I reach out to the warm stove for my long-winding traditional Konkani and Indian recipes.

Frittata is an Italian Omelette cooked with eggs, vegetables, meat and cheese. The ingredients are bunged in a cast iron pan and slow cooked on gas stove if one follows the traditional route. For this Frittata, we used spicy Chicken sausages which packs a punch and satisfies the need for spicy and hot flavor in our food without strong, overpowering heat. We used Habanero and Green Chilli flavored sausage, which is the spiciest among all available at our local store. This is the kind of dish where you can put everything together and continue with rest of your chores and then come back to say "hello" to your dinner all done and ready for a chow. How easy can it get? The dish used to cook the Frittata was my non-stick round 8" cake pan. Once cooked, make wedges and serve with buttered and toasted bread.

~ Baked Frittata ~
An Italian Omelette
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes

Eggs - 4
Spicy Chicken Sausage - Habanero and Green Chilli (sliced into roundels) - 2
Onions (finely chopped) - 3/4 cup
Mushrooms (sliced into thick chunks) - 3/4 cup
Green Chillies (seeds removed, finely chopped) - 1
Coarse Black Pepper powder - 1/2 tsp
Cheese (grated) [optional] - 4 tbsp
Paprika - 1/2 tsp
Olive Oil

For Garnish -
Cilantro or Flat leaf Parsley - 1 tbsp

Preheat Oven at 385 F for 10 minutes. In a skillet, saute finely chopped onions in olive oil till they are soft and translucent. Lightly season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a plate and set aside. Increase the flame and saute the thick chunks of mushrooms in the same skillet. Season with salt and pepper and once the mushrooms change color and become firmer in texture, transfer to a plate. Add oil if required. Sear the sausage pieces till they have light brown spots on them. No need to season the sausage as its pre-seasoned. In a mixing bowl, lightly beat 4 eggs and season with salt, pepper powder and paprika. Add the sauted onions, mushroom chunks and seared sausage roundels. Give a good gentle stir.  Spray cooking spray on the baking dish. Transfer to the 8" round cake tin or an equivalent baking dish or casserole. 
The oven will be ready to bake now.
Bake uncovered at 385 F for 15-20 minutes. Once done, let cool for couple of minutes. Turn off the oven. Garnish with flat leaf Parsley or Cilantro. Slice into wedges and serve with toasted bread and hot sauce or ketchup.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Quinoa Mediterranean Salad

The husband has a good knack of fixing quick salads and light meals. He prefers not to go by the book, likes quick and fast meals preferably with Chicken/ Seafood, etc. We cook together whenever opportunity strikes and more often than not I am amazed at the way he puts together a Salad with all the good stuff or a light dish comprising of vegetables and chicken/ shrimps/ fish, etc. 

I got the motivation to try different approaches to light meals from him. It takes a lot of discipline especially if you are a foodie like me. But hey, nothing ever came easy to anyone especially when your goals were tough! He has an adventurous palate and the flavors range anywhere from spicy, sour to bit sweet which is very unlike my preferred flavors of savory and spicy. He has a soft corner for Mediterranean ingredients like Olives, Chickpeas, Dates, Couscous, Laban. Its not odd that his favorite dishes include salads like Fattoush and Tabbouleh, light overstuffed Pita bread sandwiches with Falafel chunks laced with Tahini and Hummus, grilled meats like spicy chunks of Shish Tawook cooked with lot of Taoum and finally, royal and rich desserts laden with nuts, dry fruits like Umm Ali, Mouhalabieh and silky, smooth tasting Cream Caramel served with a dollop of whipped cream. Here's a salad he dished out some time back and I was very pleased. :-)

If we are eating out and there is a food joint/ food truck/ restaurant selling Middle Eastern fare, there is a high probability that both of us will gladly nod our heads and attack the food with an unsaid decision taken in unison. Much to our relief, most of the Middle Eastern places serve a salad made either with Couscous or Quinoa an an appetizer. That being one of the reasons why we piqued a stealth but sure love for grains which we would not have tried otherwise. Access to a variety of food choices, willingness to shift gears and an open mind plays a large role in remoulding your food habits in the long run. 

Few of my friends cook Quinoa in pressure cooker which I have not tried as yet. I used Sumac, a Middle Eastern spice powder which has a subtle lemon like flavor. The variety of Quinoa which we used here was pre-flavored with Mushrooms and Parsley which does not force one to use vegetable or chicken stock, which also implies that you can cook the grains with water and it would still turn out tasty.  I was running out of Cucumber and Feta, but a must if this Salad is your main and only meal. The taste takes a bit of getting used to but once you like it, there's no looking back.

~ Quinoa Mediterranean Salad ~
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes

Quinoa (cooked as per instructions on the packet) - 2 cups

Mixed Olives (Chopped and pitted - Salt cured) - 4 tbsp
Chickpeas (cooked and lightly salted) - 1/2 cup
Cucumber (peeled, seeds removed and chopped) - 1/4 cup
Shallots (finely chopped) - 2 tbsp
Sumac - 1/2 tsp
Goji Berries - 1 tsp
Feta Cheese (cold, cubed) - 3 tbsp
Coriander leaves (finely chopped) - 2 tbsp
Sea Salt

Wash Quinoa in multiple changes of water. Cook as per instruction on the packet (I used a variety which was flavored with Mushroom and Parsley). It took me approx. 20 minutes to cook the tiny grains on the stove in plain water. Upon cooking, tiny pigtails like thing sprout out from each of them. Fluff the grains with a fork and add Sumac powder, Shallots, Chickpeas, Olives, Cucumber, Feta and give a gentle toss. Adjust salt as desired. Garnish with Goji Berries and Coriander leaves. Serve warm or as a side dish. If serving cold, chill in the fridge for 30 minutes before serving.

Note: Add very less salt if using salt-cured Olives. Salads take very less salt as compared to main meals like curries. The Salad can be served cold or warm.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Mesir Wat - Ethiopian Lentil Stew

Aeons ago, on a crisp autumn evening, the husband and I treated ourselves to a soul-pleasing and delicious Ethiopian dinner. We went along with a friend who was a strict vegetarian and was super kicked at the idea of trying a new cuisine. I was all excited because I'd heard so much about Ethiopian cuisine and adding to the fact that the food is spicy just like Indian cuisine. Luckily, the husband had tried the cuisine before, so we knew what to expect.

For Appetizers, we ordered Sambusa, sort of an Ethiopian spin on the Indian snack - Samosa. A delicate pastry shell filled with spiced vegetables of different varieties and Fitfit, which is pasty and spiced split peas mash served with Injera - a spongy, soft and lacey pancake folded like a roll made out of Teff flour. We got a plateful of Injera rolls stacked over one another. The first time I tasted Injera, I felt it bore a significant resemblance to my humble Indian staple - Dosa. We willingly used our hands to devour our food, the friend waited ruefully for his silverware. "You are supposed to eat with your hands," the husband said. He chimed in and enjoyed his all vegetarian fare.

Our Main Course platter was a gigantic one with Injera lining it from end to end. On the Injera were three different types of curries dunked along with a Collard Greens vegetable known as Gomen. The curries were Doro Wat - a spicy Chicken stew cooked with onions and tomatoes and the famous Berbere spice mix, Mesir Wat - a lentil stew cooked with Berbere spice mix and Shiro Wat - a curry made of Chickpeas and spices. The striking thing about their eating style is the food is meant to be shared in a for-the-table way and not eaten alone which explains the large platter brimming with food. By the end of the meal, we were full and satiated. 

We discussed at length, of the possible similarity between Indian and Ethiopian cuisine and somewhere I felt they were similar yet different. Indian food has a bold flavor with practices from different region adding to the diversity of dishes. In Ethiopian food, there was a stark complexity and layering of flavors which undoubtedly, has me hooked completely and I plan to cook more to enhance my repertoire of Ethiopian inspired dishes.

It took me a while to replicate the flavors in my kitchen, but better late than never. Wat (pronounced as Wot) is a curry in Ethiopian parlance. I used Butter instead of Oil to create the base as is the case in most Ethiopian dishes. This recipe does not make use of Berbere spice mix but I made use of whatever I had in my pantry. I stole the idea of pairing Mesir Wat with Dosa as Nupur did. Thank you for the idea Nupur - it was a unique combination!

~ Mesir Wat ~
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 20 minutes
Recipe Source: Minimally adapted from Whats4Eats 

Red Lentils (Masoor Dal, split variety) - 1 cup

Garam Masala powder - 1 heaping tsp
Turmeric powder - 1/2 tsp
Red Chilli powder - 1/3 tsp
Paprika - 1/2 tsp
Onion paste - 3/4 cup
Ginger paste - 1 tsp
Garlic paste - 1 tsp
Sea Salt
Canola/ Veg. Oil

Rinse the lentils till the water is clear. Make a paste of Onions, keep it aside. Mince Ginger and Garlic and keep it aside. In a sauce pan, heat a pat of butter and add just a tsp of oil to prevent butter form burning away. Once the butter-oil melts and meshes together, add the Garam Masala followed by Turmeric powder and Red Chilli powder. Reduce the flame else you risk burning the spice mix. Mix it well for couple of minutes till it becomes an even consistency. 
Add the Ginger and Garlic paste now and saute till the raw flavor goes off. Add the Onion paste now and saute for good 10-12 minutes. The paste needs to be completely cooked before you move ahead. Once done, add the rinsed Lentils now and adjust salt as per taste. Add little water to add bulk. Bring to a boil and simmer away for 8-10 minutes. Once completely cooked, turn off the flame. Serve hot with Injera or Dosa.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Romaine Lettuce Salad with Goji Berries and Roasted Edamame in Honey-Lime Dressing

Come winters, I gravitate to comfort foods like Pizza and Noodles, soups of different kinds, hot bowl of Khichdi and often a mug of hot chocolate to bring in the evenings which are super chilly. With more time indoors, there is a greater tendency to snack on food that is easily accessible. I enjoy nibbling on roasted Soya beans also known as Edamame.

From L to R - Goji Berries, Danish Havarti Cheese and Roasted Edamame

This Salad is one of my personal favorites owing to different combination of textures and flavors. Goji Berries, one of the super foods can be sprinkled on salads, thereby making the bowl more gourmet. Its got a touch of honey and the acidity from the lemon juice which adds a fresh angle to the lettuce. A Salad is boring for me without Cheese and Beans, which I liberally add. While the husband is very fond of Arugula (also known as Rocket), I prefer Romaine lettuce for the crunch and freshness.

~ Romaine Lettuce Salad with Goji Berries and Roasted Edamame ~
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Processing Time: 5 minutes

Romaine Lettuce (leaves roughly chopped) - 6 cups
Chickpeas (cooked and lightly salted) - 1 cup
Cucumber (peeled, quartered) - 1/2 cup
Goji Berries - 2 tbsp
Roasted Edamame - 2 tbsp
Carrots (chopped into bits) - 1/3 cup
Danish Havarti Cheese with Jalapenos (cold, cubed into tiny bits) - 2 tbsp

Lime-Honey Dressing -
Extra Virgin/ Light Olive Oil - 1/3 cup
Black Whole Pepper corns (crushed) - 1/2 tsp
Sea Salt
Lime juice - 1 tbsp
Orange zest - 1 tsp
Honey - 1/2 tsp
** Whisk together all ingredients to emulsify **

Rinse and peel individual salad leaves. Remove the white core and shred the leaves into bite sized pieces. Chop the carrots into tiny bits, cube the cheese block into tiny cubes, chop the cucumber into quarters or half-moon. In a large mixing bowl, mix all the ingredients except bread croutons. Allow to chill for at least 30 minutes. Whisk the dressing and keep it ready. Just before serving, add the dressing to the salad. Toss the salad well. Serve immediately.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Spicy Idli Fingers

Its sort of a ritualistic and soppy end to every episode when Anthony Bourdain, one of my favorite food and travel writer asks many of the connoisseurs and gourmands on his show, No Reservations - What is the last meal you would have if it were your last day on the earth? I laugh when I think of my impromptu response. I'll probably respond with, "Will my meal be breakfast, lunch or dinner?"

Idli-Sambhar is my favorite breakfast item of all times. A heavenly marriage of lentil cakes and lentil soup and you wonder if there is anything more delicious than this motley dish which has fed many South Indian kids since times immemorial. Growing up, Idli-Sambhar and Dosa-Chutney were a staple at my home. A hot and spicy concoction of fiery lentil broth cooked with seasonal vegetables, happily dunked over freshly steamed Idlis. 

I like to use leftover Idlis from previous day for Idli Roast and Spicy Idli Fingers. A co-worker and a friend often makes these as part of Tea time snacks for her brood. She adds all the spice powders and deep fries the fingers. I roasted the Idli fingers in my old and beaten cast iron pan which gives them a good crispy finish.

~ Spicy Idli Fingers ~
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 8-10 minutes

Idli (sliced into fingers) - 4 Idlis ~ 12 Fingers

Spicy Oil -
Red Chilli powder - 1/3 tsp
Turmeric powder - 1/3 tsp
Crushed Black Pepper - 1/3 tsp
Canola Oil
*** Mix everything together ***

Thaw the Idlis and bring them to room temperature. Slice each Idli vertically to form three fingers which are 1/2" thick. Pour the spicy oil over the fingers and give a gentle toss. Let the spicy oil coat all the fingers. Heat the cast iron pan and spread the fingers side by side. Roast well and flip over after 3-5 minutes. Once roasted on both sides, turn off flame and serve hot with Filter Coffee.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Romaine Lettuce Salad with Olive Oil Dressing

Note: A new year deserves a fresh start. It took a while to shake and wake up the writer in me, specially when the stupor is dictated by grief, shock and sadness. First came the devastation caused by Sandy. I tried to do my bit by donating a bag of non-perishable food to the local Food Bank which has been actively collecting food and supplies for the families displaced owing to Sandy's mayhem. If anything, my soul felt happy. Just when we were about to enjoy the holidays came the sad news of two incidents - one in Newtown, US and the other in Delhi, India. Both painful and agonizing to the point where you ponder over the direction taken by humanity and wonder what is happening to the world? Those two weeks left me sad, angry and frustrated. My heart goes out to the families of the kids and the parents of the brave girl who fought a valiant fight till the end. Helping hands is better than praying lips, they say. I want to hug the kids in my family and tell them they are okay. I try to shut the door of the feminist out pour seething inside me like a pot of boiling water, but in vain. May all children enjoy the joys of a happy childhood. May all women have their little space under the sun which they should be able to enjoy freely without any fear. 


Romaine Lettuce Salad with Olive Oil Dressing
The New Year began on a positive note for me and I promised myself - this ought to be a fresh and a very promising start. A renewed approach and perseverance to see things through goals set for the new year. Last year I may not have posted a lot of recipes, but I found my work-life balance with lesser posts and plan to focus more on writing quality material this year. Food, Literature, Writing, Hand-made artsy work has always been my passion and will be for years to come.

The husband kick-started his journey for good health during Spring time last year and has lost a lot of weight. He is one disciplined person and is following a regimented approach. Our fridge is full of fresh produce, fresh fruits, healthy nuts and I am not complaining. The new entrants in my kitchen are Quinoa, Couscous, Goji Berries, Acai, Greek Yogurt and Middle Eastern spice powders comprising of Za'tar and Sumac. We rarely eat outside and meals are carefully planned at home. I truly love my Desi khana! The change is not easy for me but looking at him, I get my inspiration to have a healthy relation with my food choices.  I do not deprive myself of my favorite foods -- Chakri, Chocolate and Cheese but I certainly give a thought to what I eat and how I eat. I do enjoy my Green Tea with honey but also relish my milky Chai with Cardamom and Ginger. I am slowly moving to low carb and high protein diet. I plan to post many of his recipes this year for every one's benefit.

Coming to the recipe, most of my American friends religiously eat Salads for dinner. When I say religiously, I mean everyday. My understanding of Salad has been the plain jane combination of onion, cucumber and tomatoes inspired by Desi style Koshimbir. A dear friend literally pushed me into the Salad trap last year and I thank her from the bottom of my heart. She is a Zumba freak, loves her gym sessions and is a loving, doting mother to her daughter. She visited me for a day spend during summer and taught me various cool ways of putting together different types of Salads.

I always go with minimum 5 ingredients rule and with little practice have learned to put together a good tasty bowl of salad. On few days, a yummy bowl of salad doubles up as my lunch/dinner. As I was leisurely tossing the salad in the dressing, she stopped me abruptly, "Chill it for a while, it will taste awesome!" So we enjoyed a chilled salad as an  appetizer while her kid was busy watching Dora and Diego on TV. I dig on the Salad served at Italian joints and always wondered why my Salads taste awful. The secret is out - Chill your Salad for at least 30 minutes in the chiller of the fridge and mix the dressing just before serving. You will have a nice crispy bowl of Salad, ready to be enjoyed.

Many months from that day, I love to out together a good salad with good amount of carb and protein element. Don't deprive yourself while adding the ingredients. After all, its a complete meal. Go all out and make your favorite salad. Here's a simple one with no protein but just greens good as a meal when paired with some protein element of choice.

Few pointers which I've learned along which might be useful to any person desirous of learning how to build a good Salad bowl -
From l to r - Romaine Lettuce, Carrots, Cherry Tomatoes, Cucumber, Salt-cured Green Olives
1. Choose a Salad leaf you love, dark greens and tender ones are better - Iceberg Lettuce, Butter Lettuce, Romaine Lettuce, Baby Spinach, Dark Spring Greens, Micro Greens and Arugula (Rocket)
2. Add two other vegetables, fruits of choice - Halved Cherry Tomatoes, half moon or quartered Cucumbers, grated or shredded Carrots, shredded Radicchio, salt-cured Green and Black Olives (Whole Foods Olive Bar has good selection), pickled Cucumbers and Gherkins. Even pitted Cherries and Watermelon cubes hold well. Vegetarians can add cooked beans of choice - Chickpeas, Cannelini, Red Kidney Beans. The choices are many.
3. Add a protein component - Grilled Shrimps in Indian spices, shredded Tandoori chicken, grilled fish cubes like Salmon or Tilapia, lightly spiced and halved boiled eggs if you are an egg eating vegetarian. We also like sliced and seared spicy Chicken sausages mixed with the Salad.
4. Add cubed cold Cheese (optional) - Blue Cheese, Goat Cheese and Parmigiano are universal favorites. Danish Havarti, Monterrey Jack and Feta are my favorites.
5. Add Nuts of choice - Almonds (chopped), Pecans, Pistachios and Walnuts are our favorites.
6. Croutons for low carbs - Home made or store bought.
7. Light or Extra Virgin Olive Oil - Serves as a good base.
8. Dressing choice -  Simple Olive Oil, Ranch, Blue Cheese, Honey-Lime Vinaigrette.

~ Romaine Lettuce Salad with Olive Oil Dressing ~
Prep Time: 10 Minutes
Processing Time: 5 minutes

Romaine Lettuce (leaves shredded, core removed) - 6 cups
Cherry Tomatoes (halved) - 6
Green and Black salt-cured Olives (halved) - 1/2 cup
Carrots (grated) - 1
Bread Croutons - 1/2 cup
Cucumber (peeled, half moon cut or quartered) - 1 cup

Simple Olive Oil Dressing -
Extra Virgin/ Light Olive Oil - 1/3 cup
Black Whole Pepper corns (crushed) - 1/2 tsp
Sea Salt
Lime juice - 1 tbsp
Lime zest - 1 tsp
** Whisk together all ingredients to emulsify **

Rinse and peel individual salad leaves. Remove the white core and shred the leaves into bite sized pieces. Halve the cherry tomatoes, olives, grate the carrot, chop the cucumber into quarters. In a large mixing bowl, mix all the ingredients except carrot and tomatoes. Allow to chill for at least 30 minutes. Chill the tomatoes and carrots separately. Whisk the dressing and keep it ready. Just before serving, add the dressing to the salad. Toss the salad well. Serve immediately. 

Note - The salad is very portable. Carry for work lunch in a spill proof, air tight container and store in a refrigerator if your workplace has one. If adding Olives, I skip salt totally since the Olives are salt-cured.