Thursday, August 30, 2007

Simple Lunches 7 - Gongura Chutney and Brijal Stir Fry - Kathrikkai Poriyal

Gongura leaves pickle have always a favorite but I have never cooked with fresh leaves. I got another batch of long green and white eggplants from my neighbor and also an invitation to get some fresh Gongura leaves. The Gongura leaves became a very tasty chutney paired with some Moong Dal and some eggplants (round purple and green from my plants) stir fry made an excellent meal.

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Gongura Chutney
1. 1/2 Medium Sized Onion
2. 2 Red Chillies
3. 3/4 tsp cumin seeds
4. 1/4 methi seeds
5. a pinch asfoetida
6. 2 Garlic cloves
7. Salt to taste

1. Dry roast 2,3,4,5 and set aside
2. Add a little bit of oil, saute the onions till translucent add the garlic and saute a few seconds more
3. Add the Gongural leaves and saute till they are wilted about 7-8 minutes

Cool and blend

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Brinjal Stir Fry (Kathirikkai poriyal)
1. 10-12 firm eggplants sliced
2. 1/2 Onion Sliced
3. Seasonings: mustard, curry leaves

To Powder
1. 2 Red Chillies
2. 1/2 Tbsp Corriander Seeds
3. 1/2 tsp Cumin Seeds
4. a few Peppercorns
5. 1 tbsp Split Urad Dal
6. 1 tsp Bengal Gram Dal
7. 1 pinch asfoetida
8. 2 Cloves Garlic

Dry roast all the above and powder

1. In a wide mouthed pan, heat oil and add mustard and curry leaves.
2. Add the onions and fry till translucent.
3. Add the brinjal slices and saute till they start to turn color, cover with a lid and cook till they are almost cooked.
4. Now add the powder and enough salt.
5. Saute for a few more minutes.

Without too much oil this is one fry that tastes fantastic every time and when made with fresh egpplants they are truly astonishing.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Bell Pepper Rice

"Fun in the Sun" was fun alright but surprise surprise we were pleasantly happy the sun hid in the clouds. This is our annual beach trip for and specially for the kids. Usually when we adults are enjoying other vacation spots the kids are just suffering through it most of the time, this time they were happy too. We had a kitchen in the hotel room so a quick lunch with a potato fry, chicken gravy or chickpeas was just 15 minutes, I learnt my lesson and now carry a electric rice cooker and a bottle of pickles if we are leaving home for even a few days. Few years ago we had taken a vacation to Montana and Wyoming by way of Yellow Stone National Park for about a week, though I was kind of surprised to see Veggie Burgers along with Ostrich and Bison Burgers in the menu there was no sign of rice. I craved for rice and pickles like I have never in my whole life. No Indian restaurant in sight, we finally found rice at a restaurant as a side but it was smothered in so much butter, even after I doused it with half a bottle hot sauce it still was not hot enough.

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Rice is as essential as water and air we breathe and it is rice we are celebrating as this month's JFI - Rice, brain child of Indira and hosted by Sharmi of Neivedyam.

When in doubt about what to make with a particular Veggie make a rice dish has been my motto. I had a few bell pepper fresh and bursting with flavor and so chose to make some flavored Bell Pepper Rice.

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1. 1 1/2 Cups of Basmati rice (wash and soak in water) (3 cups of water)
2. 4 Medium Sized Bell Peppers chopped into bit sized cubes(colorful would be good, I had only green ones)
3. a handful of black eyed peas (used frozen ones)
4. 2 small tomatoes chopped fine
5. 1/2 Red Onion chopped fine
6. 3 tbsp of Yogurt
7. Seasonings: cumin, curry leaves
8. Oil + a little bit of ghee

To Powder
1. 2 tsp cumin
2. 1 tbsp coriander seeds
3. 2 Red Chillies
4. 1 tsp Peppercorn
5. few methi seeds

Dry roast the above and powder in a coffee grinder and set aside.

1. In a Pressure pan heat the oil and ghee when hot add the seasonings
2. Add the onions and saute till soft, now add the tomatoes and saute till become soft
3. In a sauce pan put enough water for the rice to boil.
4. Add the bell peppers and saute a little bit, add the black eyed peas and mix well.
5. Add the yogurt and spice powders and mix well. Cook till the raw smell goes for about 2 minutes.
6. Add the rice and salt and mix well.
7. Add the boiling water and check if there is enough salt.
8. Close the lid/place the weight when the rice is mostly cooked and most of the water is gone.
9. Reduce the heat to medium low and cook for 4 more minutes and switch off the heat.
10. When the pressure is gone fluff the rice up.

Serve with Onion/tomato raita
1. Chop the onion and tomato fine and a green chili split in half
2. Add a little bit of oil to the pan and saute the onion and tomato till soft.
3. Cool add salt and mix with yogurt.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Pigeon Peas and Brinjal

There is something about fresh brinjal that evokes this pleasurable sensation that nothing else can and if it comes from your own backyard it tastes that much more tastier.

In this week's Food Section of Washington Post they were talking about "terroir" which is short form of "gout du terroir" and translates to "taste to place". Vidalia Onions, Idaho Potatoes, Salem Mambalam(Salem Mangoes) all begin to make sense. The connection you make to taste when the place of origin is included with the food item is what "terroir" means. So Producers, Farmers and Food Artisans are all trying to terroirize their goods.

I am rocking away here with this award and am almost pink myself, thanks dear Sandeepa, lovely Sia and fantastic Suganya for passing these on. They made me happy, now I know why these actors/actresses blabber so much when they accept their awards (well isn't it sad I can't remember the reaction of Nobel prize winners because I have not watched them as much as Cinema awards pathetic) , it sure makes you feel giddy.

Everyone who takes time time and effort to write about food, about stuff and the many others who visit and read, comment and the family who puts up with this cyber obsession all rock. I bestow this award on each one of you. It is great this feeling of belonging to this lovely community.

Shaheen had asked aobut cooking Pigeon Peas some time ago. I am not sure if this is the way of cooking she was referring to but DH's aunt saw the packet of frozen Pigeon Peas and suggested I cook it this way. Add the Pigeon Peas after the brinjals start to turn color.

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I am off a few days of fun in the sun (if only the sun will come out). Enjoy the waning days of summer friends and Hugs to you all.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Cauliflower Subzi with Tandoori Roti

Saturdays mornings during summer, if it dawns bright and sunny or gloomy and dull means a visit to the Farmer's Market about a 6-8 mile ride from home. As I was getting ready to leave Poori aunty wanted to go along to see how Farmers Markets in our neck of the woods look, we found the irresistible freshest eggplants (though I have them growing in my backyard), okras, pears, water melons and even saw fresh cauliflower. Aunty asked me to pick one up so she can cook some cauliflower bhaji, she had already promised to tell me the trick to Tandoori roti. I was helping clean the cauliflower and was ready to throw away the outer green leafy stems she stopped me and asked to chop them and cooked an amazing subzi with them. I could not believe how tasty they turned out more tastier than the cauliflower themselves. I am never going to throw those stems away ever.

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Cauliflower Subzi
1. 1 Cauliflower and cut into florets
2. 4 Green Chillies chopped
3. 4 tomatoes chopped fine
4. 2 tsp amchur powder
5. 1 tsp turmeric powder
6. seasonings: mustard,cumin and curry leaves
7. 1/2 tbsp oil

To Blend
1. 1/2 Red Onion
2. 4 cloves garlic
3. 1 inch piece ginger

Blend the above into a smooth paste
1. Heat oil in a wide mouthed pan, when hot add cumin, curry leaves and mustard seeds.
2. When mustard seeds start to pop add the ground mixture and turmeric powder
3. Saute well till the raw smell is gone.
4. Add the green chillies and tomatoes and saute till the tomatoes are cooked
5. Add the cauliflower florets and salt and when it is 3/4th cooked add the amchur powder and remove from fire when the cauliflower is done to your liking.

Tandoori Roti
This method of cooking comes in handy when cooking rotis in large quantities and your are anxious to serve your guest hot rotis.

1. Wheat Flour 2 Cups
2. Salt to taste
3. Water or Milk to knead (milk makes the roti super soft)
4. 1/2 tbsp oil

Mix the salt and oil into the Wheat flour and add the liquid and knead the dough, the dough can have a slight moisturise texture as opposed to the dough for poori which has to be really stiff

1. take a small lime sized ball of dough
2. With a rolling pin roll out a circle with a diameter of 4"
3. Place it on a hot tava, cook well on one side. Turn to the other side but do not cook it through. Set aside.

When ready to server heat the over to 350 and set to broil setting.
4. Now take a roti brush with a little bit of water on the uncooked side.
5. Place the roti with the uncooked side facing the broiler. Place it in the rack nearest to the broiler heating element.
6. 4-5 minutes the rotis should puff up.
7. Brush with ghee.
8. Cook as many as can be placed on the tray.

Like the Oscar Awards that set Hollywood abuzz or the Filmfare awards that liven up Bollywood it is award time in the blogworld. Anita of Mad Tea Party is a very special blogger whose blog makes us think as well as party and thanks to her we have been having poori parties the last few days honoring India's 60th Independence Day Celebration and making it an unforgettable one. Thanks Anita it has been a great pleasure receiving these awards.

The Thoughtful Blogger Award is for “those who answer blog comments, emails, and make their visitors feel at home on their blogs. For the people who take others’ feelings into consideration before speaking out and who are kind and courteous. Also for those bloggers who spend so much of their time helping other bloggers design, improve, and fix their sites. This award is for those generous bloggers who think of others.”

The Power of Schmooze Award is for bloggers who “effortlessly weave their way in and out of the blogosphere, leaving friendly trails and smiles, happily making new friends along the way. They don’t limit their visits to only the rich and successful, but spend some time to say hello to new blogs as well. They are the ones who engage others in meaningful conversations, refusing to let it end at a mere hello - all the while fostering a sense of closeness and friendship.”

Even more pleasurable is being able to share these awards. This award is for every one who takes time to spend a few moments here but in keeping with tradition I would like to pass it on to

Linda of Out Of The Garden
Sandeepa of Bong Mom's CookBook
Shaheen of Malabar Spices
Kay of Towards a Better Tomorrow
Roopa of My Chow Chow Bhath

Thanks all.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Celebrating Poori Aloo

Providence and Poori Aloo
Providence, Fate or whatever we may call it, played a role in this celebration of Poori Aloo. We had Aunty & Uncle (Mrs. & Mr. V) visiting us from Louisiana, very dear to DH because he has known them from the time he came here for Graduate School and managed to keep in touch even after he moved away from LA. Whenever they come to the DC area they spend some time with us and it is always fun eventhough DH is their son and I am supposedly their DIL. Aunty and Uncle are from Delhi which means they are very fond of Idlis, Dosas and Sambhar and also since Uncle had spent some of his early years in Bangalore, and the first couple of days we had our fill of those dishes. Aunty wanted to cook Poori Aloo for us, I was reluctant to let guests who are visiting us for a short time cook but I could not just argue that away aunty wanted to aboultely cook something for us, so we settled ourselves on sunday brunch as the time to cook since saturday we had attend a function. Heat or no heat, sun or no sun, since deep frying happens on our patio and if it was going to be brunch it is going to be hot and toasty but a teeny weeny heat (oh only about 90F) is not going to stop any of us from some yummy Poori Aloo.

So you only imagine my delight (can you Anita?) when I saw her Party Time call to cook Poori Bhaji I was ready to jump up and down well I won't go into the details of if did or not. I am also happy that she has it for a week as opposed to just Aug 15. Poori Bhaji is truly a weekend or holiday dish because of not only the time taken to cook but also the time needed time to enjoy and perhaps time for a short nap from all the satiation. Here I present Aunty's version of Aloo which is different than the Potato Masaal that I generally cook, I add onions but no tomatoes and aunty's version has no onions but lot of tomatoes and to differentiate from mine I am calling it Delhi Aloo.

Here goes my submission to Anita's Party for Celebrating Poori Aloo or Independence Day Party Celebration with Poori Aloo.

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Serves: 6-8 Adults
Delhi Aloo
1.8 Potatoes Scurbbed and cooked in a Pressure Cooker
2.4 Tomatoes chopped fine
3.5 Green Chillies
4.Curry leaves
5. 2 tsp toasted and coarsely powdered methi seeds
6. 1 tsp cumin seeds
7. 1 tsp turmeric powder
8. 1 tsp amchur powder
9. 1 tsp mustard seeds
10. 2 tbsp Yogurt
11. 1/2 tbsp oil

1. Rough chop the potatoes and set aside
2. Take a deep wide mouthed pan and heat the oil
3. Add the methi powder, cumin seeds and mustard seeds and curry leaves and when the mustard seeds starts to pop
4. Add the tomatoes and saute, close the lid and let it cook for 4-5 minutes till the tomatoes is completely roasted.
5. Add the curd and mix.
6. Now add the chillies saute, followed by the potatoes and about 2 cups of water.
7. Add the amchur powder, mix well and cover the lid and cook till there is just enough water because we need it to be slighly on the watery side to scoop up with the pooris.

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1. 2 Cups Whole Wheat Flour
2. Enough Salt
3. Milk to prepare the dough
4. 1 tbsp oil

Mix the flour with salt and oil, add the milk a little at a time and mix it in the dough but be careful we want a stiff dough(watery the dough the more oil it is going to soak) Let it rest

1.Take some dough into balls about 1 1/2 inch in diameter use a little bit of oil on the palm to keep it smooth
2. Roll out the poori to about 5 inches in diameter
3. Heat Oil in a Kadai, the oil has to be hot or the pooris don't puff up (DH was in too much of a hurry and dropped them in so we had some flat poories) and put the rolled poori in the oil, press them gently with the slotted spoon, so they puff up, flip and cook for a few more seconds. Drain on paper towels.

Other than the oil glistening on top there should not any oil in the poori itself.

The Delhi Aloo and the Poori were just fantastic and a great celebration it was. Perfect to make any guest happy and here since it was the guest who cooked they were only happy that the hosts enjoyed it. So happiness all around, Anita are you?. Kids ate under a beach umbrella in the patio but I was too busy running inside and out trying to get the rolled pooris, aunty was rolling them indoors and mom was cooking them outside that I failed to take a snap.

We all learnt a little Poori Aloo every now and then, does much to elevate your sense of happiness. I had as much fun writing this as I had eating it.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Chicken Fry fit for a Burrito

I like eating at Chipotle especially while at work when I don't pack lunch. Of all the fast food places this is by far my favorite and particularly their concept of Burrito Bowl be it Veggie or any meat of choice. I have been trying to cook a chicken fry that could be used in a Burrito bowl and I think I have it now but on this particular day I did not make the Burrito Bowl but the post cannot wait if it has to make it to the Express Cooking Event. I prefer chicken meat with bones in them especially the thighs because it seems to have more taste but boneless chicken breast or thighs would work fine too (much less work).

If we are counting the time to cook this dish, it takes less than 20 minutes from start to finish. So this would be perfect for Mallugirl's Express Cooking Event

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For 2 Kids 2 Adults
1. 1 lb chicken thighs (with bones) chopped into bits sized pieces.
2. 1/2 red onion chopped
3. 6-8 garlic cloves chopped
4. 1/2 inch piece ginger grated
5. 2-4 Green chillies slit (as per heat requirements)
6. 2 tsp corriander powder
7. 1 tsp cumin powder
8. 1 tsp of Garam Masala or Chicken Masala Powder (optional)
9. few curry leaves and a few fennel seeds
10. 2 tbsp Yogurt
11. 1 tbsp of lemon juice
12. 1 tsp oil
13. 1 tsp chilli powder

Burrito Ingredients
1. 1 Cup of Rice Cooked (Set the rice to cook when you start to cook the chicken)
2. 1/4 cup cooked (frozen corn to be heated in the microwave and water drained)
3. 1/4 Black or Pinto Cooked (canned works, rinse and drain the water)
4. 1/4 onion and a tomato chopped
5. 5 Tbsp Sour Cream
6. 4 tsp Chilli garlic sauce

1. Wash the Chicken clean with some turmeric powder, drain the water completely.
2. Add the yogurt, lemon juice, oil and chilli powder to the chicken, mix well and set aside for 1 hour (well this is not included in the cooking time.

1. Heat a Wok or a wide mouthed pan, add oil when hot add the fennel seeds and curry leaves.
2. Add the onions, green chillies, garlic and ginger and when they are just about soft add the powders and mix well and the chicken and saute till it starts to let water out.
3. Now cover the pan and cook till the chicken is fully cooked.
4. Open the lid, add salt and fry till all the liquid has evaporated.

For the Burrito Bowl
1. Remove the bones from the chicken and tear the chicken a little bit
2. Take a bowl add about 1/4 cup rice, 2-3 tbsp corn, 2-3 tbsp beans
3. Required amount of chicken
4. 1 tsp chilli garlic sauce
5. 1 tbsp sour cream

Mix and dinner is ready in 30 minutes

Off it goes to Mallugirl

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

A Workable Breakfast (Oatmeal with Yogurt and Pickles)

"Breakfast is the most important meal of the day" We hear it all the time but when you have hundreds of myriad things to do in the morning working this is not always easy. I find eating a good breakfast is most important to the body and soul. It keeps me energetic and also slightly upbeat about the work that I can accomplish that day. It took me a long time to get warmed up to Oatmeal because of the notion that oatmeal has to be eaten with Milk. I do not like eating sugary things as breakfast so milk hence cereal is ruled, I like to crunch on them as snack but crunching a bowlful in the morning does not seem to be prudent. Would love to eat Idlys and Dosais but on work days this is too time consuming. I am not averse to Oatmeal when it is eaten with Yogurt and Pickles and now it is almost become my favorite provided there is a good pickle to go with it. It is the perfect breakfast on days I have to start work early. Especially summer months when finishing early in the evenings means more time to spend outside in the heat and humidity.

Update on the book:

In Spite of the Gods is really interesting read on how India works. Sometimes hilarious and sometimes deeply disturbing this is a must read. It is as interesting or more if you want to compare it to reading fiction(if fiction is your cup of tea).

Now on to the Oatmeal,

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Oatmeal mixed in Yogurt with Tomato Pickle

It also easy to make it a 2 in 1 dish, DH and DDs like theirs with milk and fruits and nuts and of course some brown sugar. Recipe for this is here

Oatmeal with Yogurt and Pickles
For 2 adults and 2 kids
1. Baby Oat Meal 1 Cup
2. 2 Cups of Water
3. 1/4 Cup Yogurt
4. 1 tbsp pickle

1. Heat the water in a sauce till it starts to boil
2. Add the oatmeal while you keep stirring. reduce the heat to low medium
3. Keep stirring till the oatmeal plumps up.

Take the portion to eat with yogurt and proceed with the recipe given in the link above if you are so inclined.
Cool. Mix with Yogurt and serve with the best tasting pickle in your pantry.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Simple Lunches - 6

A friend of mine suggested I read the book In Spite of the Gods written by Edward Luce and while looking for it on noticed in the 'Customer who bought this item also bought' section Planet India, written by Mira Kamdar. On second thoughts before buying either of them thought I'd check the Public Library, they had both the books while for In Spite of the Gods I had to place a Hold, Planet India was readily available. It was a pretty interesting read about the economic fortunes of India and by extenstion the rest of the world. One particular catch phrase caught my attention "As Goes India, So Goes the World".

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Well the bitter gourd plant had 3 bitter gourds and the very first purple egg plant from the eggplant plant. It was the weekend and time for a Simple Lunch Menu and something with dal. I have never really cooked bitter gourd with dal. My mother suggested to use Thatta Payar because the sweetness of this dal would balance out the bitterness of the gourd, I was considering Toor Dal so we compromised on Split Thatta Payar. It turned out pretty taste and the bitterness hardly recogonizable.

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Split ThattaPayir with Bitter Gourd
1. 3 Bitter Gourds pits removed and chopped into small pieces
2. 1 Eggplant split in four
3. 3/4 Cup Thattapayir cooked till soft
4. 1/4 Cup Tamarind juice from a cherry tomato sized tamarind ball
5. 2 tbsp chopped onions
6. 4 cloves of garlic chopped
7. 2 tsp jaggery (optional)
8. seasonings: mustard, curry leaves

To Grind
1. 1/2 tbsp freshly grated coconut
2. 2-3 Red Chillies
3. 1/2 Tbsp Channa Dal
4. 1/2 tsp asfoetida

Dry roast the red chillies, channa dal and asfoetida and with the coconut blend to a paste with a little bit of water.

1. In a pan heat oil and saute the bitter gourd pieces and saute till they just start to turn black on the edges set aside
2. In a pan heat a little bit of oil, add the curry leaves and mustard and when it starts to splutter add the onions and saute till translucent, add the garlic and saute a few more minutes.
3. Add the eggplant and saute till the skin starts to wrinkle about 2-3 minutes and add the bitter gourd pieces, saute a minute or two
4. Add the tamarind juice and about 1/2 cup water and let the mixture boil till the bitter gourd starts to turn soft.
5. Now add the thattapayir, blended paste,jaggery and salt and cover and cook for about 5-8 minutes till they are mixed together.

Serve with Chapatis or rice with some roasted Taro root fry on the side.

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Thursday, August 2, 2007

Kambu Saatham (Cooked Bajra)

No summer meal lunch or dinner in my grandparents house was complete without a earthenware pot holding some Kambu saatham balls swimming in water. It was a favorite of my grandfather and the ritual involved breaking one of the balls and mixing with some freshly churned buttermilk and a pickle on the side. I have to confess though, even having watched this countless times I never ventured out to try. It simply did not occur to me to take a taste. The reason perhaps was its plain looking appearance and lack of pretense. Oh the fool that I was.

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This is a quintessentially Kongu preparation, especially during the summer moths because of its cooling effects. Kongus being a farming community and long before rice became a staple, Kambu was part of the daily diet, cultivated primarily during the drier months and rich in minerals and fiber, which as we all know is what we need more than carbs. A diet rich in these cereals is essential for a healthy diet and a rice free meal was not uncommon in a lot of Kongu homes. I hear doctors in India are advising increasing the use of these cereals and reducing the rice consumption especially for people who have diabetes or gluten allergy. Our fore fathers were much smarter than we give credit for.

Kambu Saatham is also one of my recent interests. I love the Kambu dosai MIL made once with the Kambu she found lying around my pantry. I have been hooked and try to bring some whenever I visit India. Nothing fancy, cooked just like rice and primarily eaten with yogurt and pickle on the side, I got reintroduced a few summers ago. Especially on hot and humid summer days there is nothing cooling and at the same time comforting. I have seen Kambu sold as bird feed in the US.

Kambu that my mother brought here was already pounded and the outer skin removed.

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Kambu Saatham

1. 1 Cup Kambu
2. 3 3/4 cups water

1. Pick out the stones and break the cumbu coarsely in a blender
2. Heat the water in a pressure cooker, mix the cumbu and cook for 5 whistles. When the pressure is gone open the lid and if slightly watery, keep the heat in a low flame and mix it, till it thickens a bit.
3. Make them into balls and drop them in water.

Serve with yogurt or buttermilk with a favorite pickle on the side.