Sunday, June 29, 2008

Potato Podimas

Potatoes have saved me many a times in a crunch and they are always a few in my pantry. No matter how novice or experienced a cook, most disheswith potatoes in them turn out tasting great. Potatoes were the first vegetable I learnt to cook. The dish presented here is cooked with just a few spices they are a perfect accompaniment to any meal. Rolled into tortillas or as a filling for a sandwich they are many ways to enjoy the spud.

I had some new potatoes purchased from the Farmer's market which needed to be used, so I opted to use those but this dish turns out best with Russet or baking potatoes. Flakier the potatoes the better.

This common and very simple potato dish goes to the Weekend Wokking event hosted by White on Rice Couple. The event was started by Wandering Chopsticks.


Serves : 4
1. 6 Medium sized potatoes boiled and the skin removed and coarsely mashed
2. 2 Red chilies split in half and deseeded
3. a few curry leaves
4. 1 tsp urad dal (white lentil)
5. 2 tsp channa dal (yellow lentil)
6. 1/2 tsp mustard seeds
7. 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
8. salt to taste
9. 1 tsp turmeric powder
10. 1-2 tsp canola oil

1. In a pan heat the oil and add the channa dal, urad dal and cumin seeds when they start to turn brown add the cumin and mustard seeds. When the mustard starts to pop
2. add the curry leaves and chilis
3. Add the turmeric and salt and give a good mix
4. Add the Mashed potates and stir till the spices combine

Serve as side. We had them rolled into some chapathis.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Stir Fried Tofu

Who wouldn't be happy if we can exchange our good grades for cash? This is exactly what happened when Best Buy in our area offered money for every A earned in the final report card for a maximum of $25. DD's friend called to let her know and she bugged and bugged till we finally took her there. It was indeed true, no gimmick. The gift card was immediately spent on a game but atleast she earned it :)

Green Earth
Tip 1: Dried mint in cupboards keep bugs away. Healthy and safe way to keep those critters at bay.
Tip 2: A few cloves or/and a few pods of cardamom in rice or dal keeps most bugs away.

Tofu is not a big favorite and in the same category falls broccoli. If I had an option I would not pick either of them voluntarily. The kids like broccoli when it is roasted with some chili/sambhar powder and salt as for Tofu the best liked recipe is Sig's Tofu Scramble. But this recipe looked like something to try, tofu and broccoli not withstanding.

It made for an excellent light meal stuffed into some Pita bread or just by itself. The soft tofu with the crunchy vegetables and the spicy sweet peanuts made it an excellent pita sandwich.


Recipe Source: Caramelized Tofu Stir Fry
1. 1 Pack Extra firm Tofu
2. 1 Head of broccoli broken into florets
3. 1/2 Orange Bell Pepper, 1/2 Yellow bell pepper deseeded and cut into strips
4. 1 tbsp chopped peanuts
5. 3 cloves garlic chopped fine
6. 1 tsp red chili powder
7. 1/2 tbsp brown sugar
8. 2 -3 tsp Thai chili sauce
9. salt to taste
10. 3 tsp oil

1. Squeeze the excess water from the tofu and cut into strips
2. Heat oil in a pan and when hot and in medium heat, lay the tofu strips and let them brown for about 3-4 minutes.
3. Turn them around and let them on the other side for a minute.
4. Now add the chopped garlic and chopped peanuts and gently stir fry till the garlic is cooked.
5. Add the brown sugar and about a tsp of the chili sauce and toss them around gently to coat the tofu pieces. Set them aside and close with a lid
6. Now add a tsp more oil and when hot add the broccoli and bell pepper strips, salt and stir fry till they are cooked but maintain their crunch.
7. Add a bit more of the chili sauce and toss around.
8. Add the tofu, sprinkle the chili powder and more salt if required.
9. Remove from the heat.


Serve in Pita bread with some Greek Yogurt on the side or spread on the Pita. Sprinkle more of the Thai Chili sauce is desired.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Chickpeas, peanuts, green mango and apple - A Salad

Sometimes a shock is required to wake out of a slumber. Last couple of weeks have been Credit Card nightmares for us. I realized last week that I had missed paying my CC bill :( We dont' use cash for purchases and paying off the CC bill is a top priority and its usually my responsibility. I rarely if ever miss a payment. But all good things must come to an end - last week I goofed and was about 3-4 days late. The following week I realize someone has been using our CC. I received the recent CC bill and was shocked to see close to a $100 added as finance charge and late fee. All the more reason to payoff those CC bills on time. That is a $100 which can find better use somewhere. Anyway I called the CC company, they waived the late fee but refused to do anything about the finance charge. I have made a few resolutions. One is a reminder to check paying off the bill and another taking a leaf out of Asha's book and check the CC transactions every other week.

I had some green mango sititng in the fridge, a bag of Granny Smith apples that DD2 insisted we buy at the grocey store and some soaked chickpeas and raw peanuts. After a very heavy lunch none of us were ready for carbs during dinner time. A salad with all these and some corn kernels seemed a good idea.


Sourness from the mango, sweetness from the apple, crunchiness of the nuts and a slight trace of heat from the chilli sauce, all provided a medley of flavors, making a simple salad into a tasty delight.

1. 1 Cup of Chickpeas soaked overnight
2. 1/4 Cup of dried raw peanuts soaked overnight
3. 1/4 Cup raw green mango chopped
4. 2 Small Granny smith apples chopped
5. 1/2 Cup of frozen corn cooked with some salt.
6. Chilli sauce (optional)
7. 1 lime
8. 1 Tomato chopped (did not add it for fear of raw tomatoes but it would added color and extra flavor)

1. Cook the chickpeas and peanut in some salted water, drain.
2. Mix the rest of the ingredients, squeeze the lime
3. Mix, drizzle with some chilli sauce

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Semiya Kesari

We usually invite people over for lunch or dinner, this gives a lot of time for cooking and get the house ready but the side effect is the whole day is spent for just that. Recently we invitied a few of our friends who were visiting from India for breakfast as that was the only time they had free amongst the shopping and site seeing trips. This gave me a pause and made me think a bit to come up with a menu, but it turned out to be a splending idea. Once the breakfast was over we had the whole day ahead to do several different chores making us wonder if we should stick to breakfast and brunch parties!!

Last week we had to cancel our Credit card because it was compromised :( This forced me to start using cash and I was rudely shocked about the rate at which cash seems to disappear. I had to visit the bank 3 times in the space of 5 days. Every grocery visit literally forced a visit to the bank and I could really really see how the rising prices of grocery items is hurting the wallet. Using a CC shields you a lot from this glaring reality. Though I know using cash would force me to shop smarter, I can't wait for my CC to come to me. I want to be an Ostrich again and bury my heads in the sand :)

I was not too worried about the main menu but the sweet dish was what I was pondering over for quiet some time. I did not want to make Rava Kesari or Halwa because I make it often, settled on Semiya Kesari which is just as easy to make but a bit out of the ordinary as well.

    Green Earth I have an easy and very effective way to deal with removing cooking odors from the house that is especially useful during winter time when the windows are all closed and the heater is on and also true when the airconditioning is on. I saw this tip on a TV program on HGTV a long time ago and have used it effectively ever since. The lady suggested using a towel dipped with distilled white vinegar and to twirl it around above the head. I have arrived at a much easier way to do this. Heat a pot of water to boiling and add the vinegar, a tbsp for a gallon of water, let it remain on the stove for a few more minutes. Then carry it to each room. Its amazing the speed with which it removes odors. No need to use any sprays or chemicals.


1. 1 cup vermicelli
2. 1/2 cup sugar
3. 1/2 tsp cardamom powder
4. 1/4 cup of raisins and broken cashews
5. 1 1/4 cup water
6. 2 pinches of kesari powder (for color, optional)
7. 1-2 tbsp of ghee (clarified butter)

1. In a saute pan, dry roast the vermicelli and remove when it just starts to brown. Set aside.
2. Roast the raisins and nuts in ghee and set it aside.
3. In a wide mouthed pan heat water, add the kesari powder if using and sugar. Let the sugar melt and let the water come to a boil.
4. Add in the roasted vermicelli and cook in medium low heat till all the water is evaporated.
5. Add the ghee, nuts and the cardamom powder, mix turn off the heat and close it with a lid and let sit for 15-20 minutes.
6.Fluff with a fork when ready to serve.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Chola Paniyaram (Savory Danish style Indian pancakes with sorghum)

Cholam - in Tamil this refers to both Maize(commonly referred to as corn and used in bio fuel these days) and sorghum. Sorghum grown as a dry area crop, being hardy and not requiring too much water and was a staple before rice became popular. As people got affluent, sorghum was replaced with rice so much so that today it is mainly used in fodder. More information here.


I first tasted Sorghum Paniyaram, in high school from a friend's lunch box. Soft and fluffy those paniyarams tasted great is all I remember. Got a chance to make them and the taste did not disappoint at all. It was well worth the wait. The rustic taste is fantastic.

Sorghum Paniyaram

A reader of this blog had enquired on this post about making paniyarams. I took a few more pictures to give an idea of how they are made, hoping it will help.

Knowing how to make idli batter and having the paniyaram pan handy is all that is required. If you don't know how to make idli batter try an Indian grocery store, a few of them carry ready made batter. The idli rice is different than the rice used for making rice. Most stores label them as such.

If you are interested in buying the pan in the US, search for Aebleskiver Pans.
Link to Amazon through Mahanandi Selections

Idli batter - Traditional
The main ingredients for the batter are rice, urad dal and methi seeds.
1. Idli Rice 6 Cups (depending on the rice the rice to urad dal ratio might change, you arrive at the correct proportion in the second or third usage of the rice)
2. Urad dal 1 Cup
3. 1/2 tbsp methi seeds
4.Salt to taste.

1. Soak overnight and grind to pouring consistency but not watery.
2. Start with methi and urad, grind till it becomes atleast 3 to 4 times in volume, remove to a container. Now grind the rice to cream of wheat consistency.
3. Add salt and mix well.
4. Let it ferment, this will cause the batter to rise.
5. Mix and set it aside for use.

Sorghum paniyaram batter

Sorghum Paniyaram
1. 2 Cups Cholam (sorghum)
2. 1 Cup Idli Rice (not required)
3. 1 tbsp Urad dal
Soak the above overnight
4. 3 Red chilies
5. 1 tsp cumin seeds
Grind to idli batter consistency. Add salt and let it ferment for 3-4 hours.

Update: Mom says there is no need to add rice for this recipe


1. Heat the paniyaram pan, add a bit of oil in each hole.

2. Now add batter to fill it to 3/4th.

3. Cover with a lid. Let cook for about 2-3 minutes.

4. Now flip so that it cooks on the other side.

5. Remove when it turns golden brown.

Served with tomato/coriander chutney. Coconut chutney works too.

Paniyarams taste best with these chutneys:
1. Carrot Tomato Chutney
2.Tomato Chutney
3.Onion Chutney
4.Coconut Chutney

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Avial (Mixed Vegetables in Spiced Yogurt)

There is a wedding/engagement party going on in our neighborhood. It felt happy just watching all the well dressed people walk in and out and the house all lit up. It might be considered rude to stand and watch but that didn't stop us, stood and watched every chance we got. The bride and groom were Indian, no horses but there was a limousine. Thinking back, the numerous weddings and ceremonies were more a chore to attend than anything else, but now even catching a glimpse of them makes one happy. Companionship and camaraderie is also a big part of these occasions, to catch up, find out what is going in every body's life, gossip a bit, check out what is cool and trendy and generally be alive. I never in my wildest dream thought I would go all nostalgic about a wedding ceremony hmmmm. Such is the travails of life as an immigrant.

Food is another matter altogether, I can recreate those nostalgic inducing food items right here in my kitchen. Thanks to the ready availability of much needed ingredients. I love Avial but for some reason it is not a regular in my kitchen. So the last time I picked up some green banana it was with 100% certainty that it was going to be made into Avial. Just the dish for the hot summer months.

Vegetables are added to yogurt to make a cooling side for spiced rice dishes. Sour
curds are spiced and vegetables added to them to make curries. They make excellent sides or a main dish by themselves.

    Green Earth
    Orange, Grape Fruit and Lemon peels make for great bug repellents. Scattered around plant beds or in the pots they keep most bugs away. Next time you get ready to throw away a few, don't, the plants need them more :)


1. 2 Cups of Vegetables (raw bananas chopped to cubes, beans, carrots, broad beans, cluster beans all cut lengthwise) cooked in a bit of tamarind soaked water till soft (add the banana first followed by the rest). If cooking in a pressure cooker cook only till the steam starts, don't wait for the whistle.
2. seasonings: 2 red chilies, curry leaves, mustard seeds

For the paste
1. 3 tbsp grated fresh coconut
2. 1 tsp cumin seeds
3. 5 green chilies
4. 1/4 - 1/2 cup curds (yogurt)

Blend the above to a paste with a bit of water.

1. Cook the vegetables, add the ground paste and salt and cook for a few minutes till the raw smell leaves.
2. In a separate pan, heat bit of oil, add the seasoning ingredients and pour over the vegetables.
3. Switch of the heat.
4. Now whisk the curds and add to the cooked vegetables and mix

Serve as a side for paruppu dosai or with rice.

Other Spiced Yogurt recipes:
1. Neer Poosanikai Thayir Kuzhambu (White Pumpkin in Spiced Yogurt)
2. Kathrikkai Mor Kozhambu (Brinjal in Spiced Buttermilk sauce)

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Butter Beans Varuval (fry)

Salmonella in tomatoes! That is a scary proposition but then this one of those times I am truly happy about the Indian way of cooking everything to death. As long as we don't eat raw tomatoes, I guess we should be OK. I heard an FDA sepcialist or maybe she was from the CDC, discuss how they detect the kinds of tomatoes are affected. Interviewing each infected person and by process of elimintation focus on the foods they ate most recently and arrive at the one that was consumed by all of them and then zero in on the coomon suspect. Similar to old fashioned shoe leather hard detective work. So wash them tomatoes thoroughly and cook them before eating.

Now to the star of the recipe - Butter beans.
Loved eating fresh Butter Beans every now and then back home in India. Lucky Valli over at Cooking 4 all Seasons enjoyed them just recently, wish I could get hold of some. I can hardly remember the taste of those, since its been a while I have eaten them, other than the fact that I really really liked them. But not to despair, Lima Beans, the Butter Beans around here are just as good. Unlike mine, onion based gravies from my mothers's kitchen is rare but for a tiny bit of onion she uses, like in this delicious varuval.


1. 1 1/2 Cups of large Lima Beans soaked overnight
2. 2 Green Chilis slit
3. Curry Leaves
4. 1/2 tsp fennel seeds
5. 1/2 inch piece of ginger pounded
6. 1 tsp oil

For the Paste
1. 2 Red chilis
2. 1/2 tomato chopped
3. 2 tbsp chopped onion
4. 3/4 tbsp coriander seeds
5. 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
6. 1/2 tsp mustard seeds
saute the onion and tomato in just a bit of oil and dry roast the rest and make a paste using only about 1/2 tbsp of water

1. Boil the soaked butter beans in a pan with the pounded ginger till just soft and discard the ginger. (Pressure cooker is fine but be careful not to turn it into mush, cooks really quick)
2. Heat a tsp of oil in a pan, add the curry leaves, green chilis and fennel seeds
3. Add the ground masala and saute till raw smell goes.
4. Add the cooked butter beans and salt.
5. Saute till the masala is well coated and dry.

Serve as a side dish with sambhar/rice/curd rice.

Summer Treat
chopped, sliced or juiced - simply the best.

Other Butter Bean Recipes:
1. Cauliflower and Butter Beans Gravy

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Simple Thayir Pachadi (Spiced Yogurt)

Subscribe to Daily Musings Feed:

We are in the midst of a heat wave with temperature over 90F with some oppresive humidity, makes it feel like 105F, expected to continue till mid week. Slaving in front of the stove for a long time is not appealing. A quick dal rice (arism paruppu saatham) with a side of some cooling yogurt is the perfect meal. It always comes in handy to have a few recipes of spiced yogurt. This is one such recipe that my mom makes every now and then. It goes well with any spiced rice or even dosai and chapathi even.

Also realized once again, how technology is involved in every bit of our lives. This was brought to sharp focus when we have a bad storm and lost power for about 8 hours. Inability to blog and check emails was what hurt me most. What did I do? Went for a walk around the neighborhood, had dinner by the candle light which thrilled the kids to bits but sadly there was precious little that could be done without power. But the realization was a jolt. I grew up in a time when there was no 24 hrs TV and no internet. I shudder to think about the lives of the kids growing up now sorrounded by all this technology. I also spent some time pondering over the deeper meaning of life. It might be a good thing to do this voluntarily perhaps.

    Green Earth
    Mulching heralds the arrival of Spring with a bevy of activity - covering up every available area of exposed dirt. What was done to protect the roots of hardy plants for the winter is now an activity done without a second thought. Mulching the right amount makes for healthier plants but reapplication as soon as the sun bleaches the old mulch results in excessive mulch layers that harms plants. The best mulch is yard waste - partially rotted leaves.

    One clear result of the demand for mulch is the clear cutting of Louisian's coastal baldcypress forests. Mulch Mania if left unchecked in addition to harming plants would destroy our forests.
    Source: Washington Post

1. 1 1/2 Cups of Yogurt (whisk and add a bit of water if too thick)
2. 1/4 Medium red onion chopped
3. 1 green chili chopped (optional)
4. 1/2 cucumber chopped
5. 1/2 tomato chopped fine
6. a few beet leaves (any green works here, spinach, chard)
7. 1/2 carrot grated
8. few mustard seeds
9. a pinch cumin powder


1. Heat oil, pop mustard seeds and saute the onion, green chilies, tomatoes and the beet leaves.
2. When ready to turn of the heat add the cumin powder
3. Cool the mixture add the yogurt, cucumber and carrot
4. Season with salt mix and serve

Other Spiced Yogurt recipes:
Bell Pepper and Zucchini Raita

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Simple Lunches - 13 Snake Gourd Kootu

Yellow for Bri

I feel a sense of hope as I see the scale in Chip-In moving towards the right. I am extremely proud of the blogging community that has made this possible and ofcourse all the generous donors bloggers and non bloggers. Bri Good Luck and Best Wishes. Please visit Jugalbandi for the info and opportunity to participate in the June Click - Special Edition.

I am all for simplicity these days. In my simple world 1=1 but the Democratic primary has my head spinning where 1 is not equal to one, it is more like one equals 2, 1 1/2, 1/2 and so forth. A simple voter is not expected to know these nuances right? But no doubt it voters fired up involved in the process. The Millenlial generation is expected to play a big role in the elections this year, unlike the apathetic Gen Xers who gave up hope in the whole thing. This is a history making election, no matter how you look at it. The hope express has come far and the straight talking express has taken shortcuts and twists and turns.

Simple is all I wanted after all this complication.


Snake Gourd Kootu
1. 2 Snake Medium sized Gourds the outside skin scraped and cut into small pieces
2. 3/4 Cup Moong Dal pressure cooked with a bit of oil and turmeric powder
3. 1/4 Red onion chopped
4. 2 Red chilies - split
5. Seasonings: mustard,cumin and curry leaves
6. Oil
7. Salt to taste

For the Paste
1. 2 Red Chilies
2. 3 Green chilies
3. 1 1/2 tsp urad dal
4. 1 tsp coriander seeds
5. 1/2 tsp cumin
6. 1/4 tsp asfoetida
6. a few roasted chana dal (to aid in the blending process)
Make a paste with a bit of water

1. In a pan heat some oil and season with mustard, cumin and curry leaves followed by the split red chilies
2. Saute the onions till translucent
3. Add the chopped snake gourd and saute till the raw smell goes
4. Add the paste and a cup of water and let the snake gourd cook completely.
5. Add cooked moong dal and salt. Mix, bring it to a boil and turn off the heat.

Serve with rice and a poriyal or varuval. We had it with chapathis and banana fry (roasted with just sambhar powder and salt. Recipe here for another version.

Other posts in the Simple Lunches series: here

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Raw Mango Paratha

Ha! you say. You knew I was going to get there soon didn't you :) I have been to the store a few times already after I spotted those sour green mangoes. Thokku was made, sambhar was made and now it is paratha time. If sour and spicy is something that interests you then this paratha is a must try. We had a few left over and they tasted even better the next day.

The kids are eagerly looking forward to the summer, so am I. Hopefully will be able to take some vacation time and enjoy the heat and humidity in leisure, cook some dishes which have been postponed for want of time, relax in the garden and generally enjoy life. What are your plans for the summer?

    Green Earth
    Every good action has good and bad outcomes. There is no point obsessing about anything. Here are a few examples.

    1. Like me if you think leaving the windows open saves gas compared to turning on the AC think again. AC according to Consumer Reports and burns about 1 gallon per mile but burns more if windows are open due to air resistance.

    2. Organic Farming uses far more land than Conventional Farming to produce the same amount of food. This takes away land from forests which absorb carbon dioxide and leaves less for wilderness area.
    Source: Readers Digest


Don't you think I should have remembered to send this to Roti Mela. I am doing it now after a gentle nudge from Valli. Off it goes.

1. 1 Mango (skin removed if too thick) and grated
2. 1/2 Meduim sized red onion grated
3. 2 tsp of grated ginger
4. 1/2 tbsp red chili powder or 2 tsp grated green chilies
5. 2 tsp cumin powder
6. 3 cups wheat flour
7. 3 tbsp yogurt (I did not add but it would make the parathas soft)
7. salt to taste

1. Mix together to form a pliable dough.
2. Add the grated mango and onion without removing any of the liquid.
3. Add the yougurt if doing so
3. Sprinkle water only if the moisture is not sufficient

Set aside for about 20-30 minutes
Roll out and fry with a bit of oil on both sides.

Served with some yogurt flavored with onions and tomatoes and Mint chutney.


Other Parathas:
1. Pumpkin Paratha
2. Masala Chapathi