Thursday, November 29, 2007

Kathrikkai Kadaisal (Mashed Brinjal)

My post on weekdays are usually done at night, but sometimes I do them in the morning, just before running off to work. This dish like this post is quick and easy, perfect for a quick meal on a weekday night.

Don't be fooled by the looks of my picture, my photographic skills have not done justice to this tasty dish.

Winter time, we tend to watch a lot of movies and read a lot of books, the reason I love public libraries ? couple of months ago I was in a video store looking for the movie, they did not have it, but our public library did! It is our favorite haunt especially during these cold winter months. And the movie, "Mr Smith Goes to Washington", a good one to watch if you are a novice running for political office! :). Even otherwise it was fascinating to see how graft greases the wheels of the political machinery. Democracy in action! Nothing new but interesting just the same.

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Kathirkkai Kadaisal (Mashed Brinjal)
1. 2 long Eggplants chopped (any eggplant would do, I used the long ones)
2. 1/2 Red Onion chopped
3. 4 cloves garlic chopped
4. 2 Red Chilies split in half seeds removed
5. 1 Tomato Chopped (1 or 2 depending on how tomatoey you want it)
6. seasonings : curry leaves, cumin , mustard
7. 1 tsp oil

1. In a Pressure cooker heat a tsp of oil, add the seasonings, when the mustard starts to pop
2. add the onions and garlic and saute till translucent,
3. Add the red chilies, tomatoes and saute for a minute
4. Add the eggplant pieces and saute for a minute more
5. Add salt
6. Pressure cook for 2 whistles or 5-6 minutes

Let the steam escape, open and mash with a mathu or the back of a spoon.

Serve with idlis or rice.

Mathu as it is called in Tamil is used for mashing, this is also used to mash dal, greens etc., What is it called in other languages? Is it common in North Indian kitchens too? What would the English word be?

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Small one purchased in the US is called "Crack and Peel" - use it to pound garlic, ginger, spices etc. , the tool with the long handle called "mathu" in Tamil is used to mash dal, greens and the kitchens I have visited are never without it.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Spicy Burmese Potatoes

We were off to New England for a very delicious and fantastic Thanksgiving feast. Great food, wonderful company what more could anyone possibly ask for? The roads were a different story, we thought we were being smart driving on Thanksgiving day, looks like so were a million others :) But this getting caught in traffic is fast becoming a Thanksgiving tradition! Now that we are back and after the long holiday it is becoming a challenge to get back to work, thought I'd postpone that event a little bit more and do a blog post instead!

DD2's baby sitter 'V' cooks some amazing Burmese dishes, I assume they are because she is from Burma and I am not very familiar with Burmese cuisine. She cooks this amazing potato dish with almost the same ingredients that go into our regular Potato Masal but tastes very different. Can be made dry by reducing the onions and tomatoes by since this is going to Sra's Grindless Gravies event this had some extra onions and tomatoes. Sra the food processor was used to chop the onions and garlic so I will let you be the judge :) Oh nevermind I used a knife to chop the onions and garlic.

Grindless Gravies
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1. 6 Medium sized potatoes peeled and cut into cubes
2. 3/4 Red Onion and 4 garlic pods chopped in a food processor chopped fine using a knife
3. 2 tomatoes chopped
4. a handful of finely chopped corriander leaves
5. 1/2 tbsp chili powder
6. 1 tsp turmeric powder
7. Salt to taste
8. 2 tsp oil

1. In a wide mouthed pad heat the oil, add the chopped onions and saute till they are brown.
2. Add turmeric powder, chili powder and mix
3. Add the tomatoes and saute till they turn mushy
4. Add the potatoes, cover and cook
5. add corriander leaves and salt and cook for a minute or two.

Tastes great with rice or rotis.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Green Toor Dal (Pigeon Pea) with Chinese Potatoes

Me and food events are jinxed, either I can't find a good recipe for the event or I am too late to even get in the game. When Linda announced JFI-Toor Dal, made a mental note to "better not miss this event" So I am proud to announce that I am well in time and participating in the event.

One very good thing about commuting to work using public transportation is the amount of time I have in my hands. I devour newspapers for which I had to find time before and also end up reading a lot of mystery novels, my favorite kind of (pulp) fiction. I am going to keep a running count of the books I read and the authors as a way to keep track of them. I remember reading a novel a few months back about a author I thought wrote very well but can't remember either the name of the book or the author. By keeping track of them in this blog (no way I can't handle another one) I can refer to them whenever I want.

Now before Linda flings a book at me let me get to the recipe. Linda hope you are also accepting recipes with Green Toor dal.

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Update:What is Chinese Potato?
Chinese Potato is called Arrow Root : Cook's Thesaurus
It is called Koorka in Malayalam : InjiManga

1. 1/4 Cup Frozen Pigeon Peas
2. 1/4 - 1/2 Cup Cut Chinese Potatoes (I used the cooked frozen ones)
3. 1/4 onion chopped
4. 1 tsp grated ginger
5. 4-5 garlic cloves
6. 1/4 cup tamarind pulp
7. Seasonings : mustard, cumin seeds, methi seeds and curry leaves

1. 6-8 small onions + 1/4 red onion
2. 3 green chilies
3. cumin powder 1 tsp
4. 1/2 tbsp corriande powder
5. 1 tomato

Saute the above in the order listed and blend to a paste

1. In a pan heat oil and add the seasonings, when the mustard starts to splutter
2. add onion and saute till translucent, add the garlic and ginger and saute a minute
3. add the pigeon peas and potates and saute them a little bit
4. add the blended paste, salt and about 3-4 tbsp of water enough for the peas and potatoes are cooked
5. Add the tamarind juice and heat till the required conistency is reached.

Serve with rotis or rice. Goes well with both.

Mystery Novel
Magic Time - Doug Marlette
A Deeper Sleep - Dana Stabenow (Kate Shugak Novel)

Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Chicken Paella - Spanish Biryani?

Self Analysis of my blogging and cooking motives is something I want to keep away from. Why? Do I look forward to cooking new dishes so that I can post them on the blog or is it because I want to feed my family new and delightful goodies? I strongly suspect it is the former but like I said I don't want to over analyse. The family for quiet some time thinks that blogging is the only reason they get to taste new delicacies, not that they are offended, they are simple happy is what I would like to think of the fact.

But I confess, Paella is something I would not have tried if not for the pleasure of blogging about it. Besides the payback of enjoying this wonderful dish blogging gives the added pleasure of talking about the pleasure. Ever since I saw the dish being cooked at the DuPont Farmer's Market and having tasted it, is a wonder that it did not happen sooner. One main reason was not having the right pan, even toyed with the idea of buying the enchilada itself but I wanted to try the dish before buying the pan. Kind of a chicken and egg problem. I used a 16Qt stock pot which had a big flat surface.

Biryani - Paella
What is the commonality between Biryani and Paella? Both refer to the frying that is involved, one of the rice, meat and other ingredients and the other of the frying pan. In my opinion both are flavorful one pot dishes perfect for a party or just a relaxing weekend meal. There is nary a cuisine which does not have its own version of Biryani.

Recipe Source: Fine Cooking - Paella (Taunton)
Followed the general cooking guidelines from here but additions like chili powder and cilantro in place of rosemary was to suit the Indian palate. Added mushrooms because there were in the Paella I tasted. I did not have Saffron so had to leave that flavoring out, can't wait any longer. Could have added peas too.

To Note:
1. Use a rice that can hold its own after absorbing the liquid and the long cooking time. Read this article. So Basmati is not a suitable one. I chose Risotto rice and was perfect.

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1. 1 lb Chicken thighs with bones (cut into pieces of desired size).
2. 1 Medium red onion
3. 2 Tomatoes
4. 25 Green beans kind into desired size
5. 15 Crimini Mushrooms cleaned and cut into about 3 slices per mushroom
6. 6-8 stalks of coriander leaves
7. 1 tbsp chili powder
8. 1 1/2 Cups Risotto Rice
9. 3 3/4 Cups Chicken Stock (I used Vegetable Stock as I did not have Chicken stock on hand)
10. 1/2 head of garlic, remove the excess skin and make a slit on the outside + 5 cloves garlic sliced
11. 1 tsp pepper powder
12. 1 tbsp oil
13. salt to taste
14. 2 tbsp milk

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1. Sprinkle salt and pepper powder and let the chicken sit
2. Mince the onion in the food processor, set aside
3. Mince the tomatoes in the food processor

1. Heat a little bit oil in the pan, add the head of garlic, brown the chicken and set it aside.
2. Add the green beans and mushroom, bit more oil if required and saute them till they are half cooked, set aside
3. Now add the rest of the oil onions, sliced garlic and saute till they turn brown, At at this point I fished out the head of garlic and removed the skin and added the whole cloves to the pot
4. Add the tomatoes, salt and let them cook till all the raw smell goes and the color is bright red
5.At step 2, set the pot of stock to boil, when boiling add the chili powder to it.
6. Now add the rice to the pan and make sure the bottom is covered.
7. Spread the green beans and mushroom evenly, add the chicken
8. Reserve about a 1/4 cup of the stock and add the boiling stock to the rice
9. Let it cook on medium heat for about 10-15 minutes till the rice starts to plump up and the liquid has all been absorbed. Test the doneness, at this stage I had to add the rest of stock and let it cook for 3-4 minutes more
10. Now cover the layer of rice with aluminum foil, since I was using a deep pot I also closed the lid and let it cook like that for about 3-4 minutes again.
11. Add the milk, mix the rice, place the foil back, turn the burner all the way down and cook for another 5 minutes.
12. Switch off the heat, Don't touch the foil yet, leave it as is for another 10 minutes

That was one super tasting rice dish, even the kiddies asked for seconds. I was excited with the results and now seriously considering buying a Paella pan. I am hooked.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Almond Chicken Curry

Fall day, a bowl of hot spicy chicken curry, parathas, a sunny window seat and a mystery novel, these are a few of my favorite things. Kind of getting carried away by the whole thing but for one minute snafu, fall is the not exactly my cup of tea, the shrinking daylight hours, gloomy days, chilly windy days all conspire to make me feel blue and any upliftment in the way of food is always welcome. That is where the Almond Chicken Curry comes in.

One day as I walk by the office kitchen this delicious aroma of wonderful chicken curry wafts where usually it is a smell that is a mixture of frozen dinners, pasta, chinese food, whcih makes me want to eat lunch too, but this was special and made me want to rush home and cook right away. Well my friend says her friend cooked it for her and she askes her friend and he text messages the recipe over to her and she to me. He had used cashews, I substituted with Almonds it being the Good Nut and all.

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1. 1 1/2 lb Thighs with bones cut into bite sized pieces and clean with some turmeric
2. 1 Red onion chopped fine
3. 6 garlic cloves
4. 1 1/2 inch ginger
5. 15 whole almonds
6. 1 tbsp red chili powder
7. 3 cloves
8. a small cinnamon piece
9. bay leaf
10. 1/2 tbsp oil

To Make a Paste
1. Saute the garlic and ginger
2. Soak the almonds in some hot water and remove the skin
3. Blend to a smooth paste

1. In a hard bottomed pan, heat oil and fry the chicken till they start to brown, set aside.
2.Add the remaning oil, add the clove, cinnamon and bay leaves, when they start to turn color, add the onions and saute till brown. (for a smoother creamier gravy chop the onion really fine or blend to a paste and then saute)
3. add the chili powder followed by the
4. almond paste, and about a cup of water and let it cook
5. now add the chicken and salt and cook till the chicken is cooked through and desired consistency is reached. I wanted mine slightly watery but if you want it thicker reduce the amount of water.

Serve hot with some parathas near a sunny window and a mystery novel

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Pumpkin Paratha

Yes seems I am not done with the pumpkin dishes just yet and is raining pumpkin around here, that was one big pumpkin,DD2 did good at the pumpkin patch :) Half turned into delicious halwa, the other half landed in the fridge. Parathas seemed like a great way to use them easy but for the grating, it is a great exercise while watching TV the more boring the show the more vigorous the grating gets. These pumpkins I know are not grown with cooking in mind, they are hollow inside and the flesh stringy and not very sutiable for curries or stir frys. But since the texture didn't seem to matter for the Halwa or the parathas they morphed into delicious dishes.

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1. 1 1/2 Cups grated Pumpkin
2. 2 Cups Whole Wheat Flour
3. 2 tsp red chili powder
4. salt to taste.

1. Combine all the ingredients amd make a pliable dough, add a little bit more
wheat flour if too moist. I did not squeeze the liquid out of the grated pumpkin.
2. Make small round balls, press and fry them.

Serve hot with curry of choice, family enjoyed with some Almond Chicken.

Rolling parathas, don't come as naturally as a dosai but no worries, our blog friends come to the rescue.

1. Asha's version of Radish parathas
2. Musical has another neat way, stuffed parathas.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Yellow (Halloween) Pumpkin Halwa

The food blog world has been agog with Deepavali celebration for about two weeks now but for some inexplicable reason I forgot about Deepavali on Deepavali day, lame excuse for not cooking any sweets for the festival. The pumpkin that DD2 brought home from the pumpkin patch has been sitting on the counter top for a couple of weeks now. We are not big time or small time for that matter pumpkin carvers so after a brief visit outside the house for Halloween night it has been sitting on the counter top. It seemed criminal to throw away a perfectly good pumpkin in the trash. Pumpkin Halwa with the Halloween Pumpking for Deepavali seemed like a grand idea.
When I suggested cooking with it, DD2 was not too pleased with her kumpkin (that is how she calls it) being broken and cooked. So I did the unthinkable when she was sleeping and removed all traces of it. Cracking open the pumpkin is the hard part, once open removing the skin is an easy process.

The Halloween Pumpking thus became Pumpkin Halwa, it did turn out delicious. Add sugar, milk, honey to anything and delicious it has to be by default. But do people cook with the Halloween pumpkins or is it just for carving? Taste wise it did taste perfectly pumpkinish like it should.

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The recipe is pretty simple and comes from this website, followed the exact instructions.
Recipe Source: Easy Indian Food

1. 3 Cups grated pumpkin, skin and seeds removed (the food processor worked beautifully)
2. 1 Cup Milk
3. 1 cup sugar
4. 1/2 cup honey
5. 15 Cashews broken
6. 3 Cardamoms powdered
7. Ghee - 2 1/2 tbsp

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1. In a wide mouthed pan heat about a tsp of ghee and roast the cashews and set aside
2. Add another couple of tsps of ghee and the grated pumpkin and saute till the raw smell goes (about 15 mts)
3. Add the milk cover and cook till the pumpkin turns soft (another 10 minutes).
4. Add the sugar, cardamom powder and honey, mix and cook till all the moisture evaporates.
5. Add the remaining ghee and cook till the ghee starts to separate (another 8-10minutes)
6. Add the cashews and turn off the heat

There lovely Pumpkin Halwa is ready. Hope everyone had a great Deepavali celebration.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Vendaikkai Puli Kuzhambu (Okra in tamarind sauce)

November 3rd 2007, National Day of Climate Action - Visit Step it Up 2007 for more information and events planned in your area.

Growing Greens
I am absolutely glad I planted Swiss Chard, every week they have provided us with their bounty, just a few pots with about 10 plants. A quick green addition to any dal. So if you want greens make sure you plant a few come spring :)

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Lady's Finger aka Okra
I would consider Okra to be a perfect vegetable! Why and what exactly is a perfect Vegetable? Well in my humble opinion a vegetable that can be cooked in several different forms and tastes absolutely delicious without loosing its form. Well now we are cooking. Be it in a stir fry, sambhar, Puli Kuzhambu, Kaara Kuzhambu it still maitains its crunchiness and taste. When it is fresh it can even be eaten raw like a carrot.

The older the vegetable the slimier it gets. The slime is directly proportional to the number of days it sat in the fridge. Slime is perhaps the only thing that I don't like about the vegetable. We can't have it all can we?

Of all the different vegetables that taste good in a Puli Kuzhambu okra has to be my absolute favorite. Few precautions can help keep the slime at bay. If the okras are not fresh, wash them ahead of time and dry them in the sun a little bit. Trying to cut while still wet makes them slimier so make sure they are dry.

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1. 20 Okra ends removed and cut into about 1/2" pieces
2. 3 Green chilies slit
3. 1 -2 Red chilies slit
4. 1/2 medium red onion chopped
5. 1 -2 garlic cloves whole (optional)
6. 1 tsp sambhar powder (optional)
7. 1 tsp turmeric powder.
8. Seasonings - cumin, urad dal, methi seeds, curry leaves a few of each
9. 1 1/2 of tamarind pulp from a small lemon size ball.

1. In a wide mouthed pad heat a tsp of oil and fry the okra, saute till they turn black and brown and the slime is gone. Set aside
2. Add 2 tsp of oil to the same pan, add the seasonings, add ural dal first when slightly brown follow with the other seasonings.
3. Add the green chilies and red chilies and then the onions and saute till translucent
4. Add the garlic cloves and the okra pieces
5. Add the turmeric powder and sambhar powder, mix
6. Add the tamarind pulp, cover and cook till the okra is the required texture (about 8-10 minutes)
7. Add salt cook for a minute more and turn of the heat

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Serve with some keerai paruppu (dal with greens) and rice.