Saturday, August 30, 2008

Simple Ridge Gourd Stir Fry

Like Jack's Bean Stalk my ridge gourd plants are well on their way to the sky. Unlike Jack these seeds are not magical :) they were purchased by my dad on his trip to Thailand. The plants are 2 stories tall now and flowering like crazy. I would have terribly disappointed if they had stopped with doing just that but slowly but steadily I am seeing a few of them turn to beautiful gourds. The Ridge gourd plants produce both male and female flowers with the number of male flowers being atleast 5 times more than the female ones. The pollinated female flowers become these sweet succulent ridge gourds. Luckily the plant was growing close to a window of the bathroom in the second floor and was harvested by opening up the window.


When I was younger I was not a big fan of ridge gourd but slowly but surely I have come to appreciate the taste. Young ridge gourd is sweet and it can be used skin, seeds and all, just scrapping off the thick skin along the ridges should do. But in a bit more mature ridge gourd that has well formed seeds make sure the seeds are removed otherwise it makes the chutney, stir fry or whatever you plan to cook with it really bitter. I learned this the hard way. When we had guests over and it was getting to be way past breakfast and was planning on making some chutney, as I was scrapping out the seeds my friend who was watching me said that I could use the seeds as well. I did so and when the chutney finally landed on the table the weird looks on the faces spoke volumes. One of them asked if I had used some neem leaves instead of curry leaves by mistake, it sure tasted that way. Well anyway the Tomato Kuzhambu had to be cooked in a hurry. The story should have convinced you to watch those seeds carefully :)

While you are at it, save the peels they make delicious chutney too. This is a simple stir fry but one that brings out the taste of the ridge gourd without any distraction. Ridge gourd does not need to be cooked for too long. Depending on your taste you can just saute for a few minutes or for a bit longer. I like it either way.


Ridge Gourd Stir Fry
1. 2 Ridge Gourds - the thick ridges peeled
2. 1/2 Onion chopped fine
3. 3 Green chilies split
4. Seasonings: mustard, curry leaves

1. In a wide mouthed pan, heat the oil splutter the mustard seeds and saute a few curry leaves.
2. Add the green chilies and saute for a minute, add the onion and saute till translucent.
3.Now add the chopped ridge gourd and saute for a few minutes add salt and saute for a few more minutes
4. If you like it softer lower the heat and cooke for a bit more.

Serve with rice or even rotis.

Other Variations:
1. Ridge Gourd Kuzhambu
2. Ridge Gourd, Coriander Chutney

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Potato Bonda


Wait, Ahoy! Anita Wait! I am hoping I made it at last huffing and puffing. Well I assumed the date for the event is the last of the month so my entry counts right? If you are wondering what this is all about, here is the announcement where Anita exhorts us to celebrate deep fried goodies every now and then. When she says we listen ;) I do agree these days deep frying needs some added encouragement! I have never fried bondas ever, this is the very first time. So all the more reason to relish and enjoy them.

With a cloudy overcast sky it indeed was a good day to deep fry in the patio. Following the host's lead I squeezed some lime juice into the potato mixture and it made for a tangy tasty bonda.

potato balls ready

1. 5-6 medium sized potatoes boiled
2. 1 Medium Onion chopped fine
3. 3 green chilies sliced thin
4. about a handful coriander leaves chopped
5. 1/2 tsp mustard seeds
6. 1/4 inch piece of ginger grated
7. 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
8. half of a lime

For the Batter
1. 2 Cups besan flour
2. 2 tbsp rice flour
3. 1 tsp chili powder
4. salt to taste
5. 1 cup of water

Sift the flour and add the water and whisk together to make a smooth batter. If you like the shell thick keep the batter thick, if you prefer a thin covering make a slightly runny batter.

1. In a wide mouthed pan, heat 2 tsp of oil and splutter the mustard seeds.
2. Add the green chilies and saute for a minute
3. Add the onions and saute till translucent.
4. Add the turmeric powder, salt, coriander leaves and mix.
5. Set aside to cool and squeeze half a lemon into the mixture.
6. Add to the potato mixture, mix and make small lime sized balls and set aside.
7. Now heat a sauce pan with oil, when hot
8. Dip the potato balls in the batter and drop them in the oil one by one.
9. Let them start to turn a slight shade of brown
10. Remove them to a plate lined with a paper towel.

Enjoy with some chili garlic sauce and relish the indulgence.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Frittata with mushroom and potatoes

Every Olympics throws up heroes and villains. I am sure everyone has a pick of their favorites during the course of the Olympic games. My favorites are Dara Tores for her sheer will power and being an inspiration for everybody on the wrong side of the age scale. Usain Bolt the other, the joy with which he participates in his events and his celebration afterward. Swimming is also one of my favorites but the over the top coverage and focus on the Phelps phenomenon was just nauseating to say the least. Don't get me wrong his achievement is phenomenal alright and has to be held in awe but...

We had fun,

at the beach!

Now we are ready to,
head home!

Frittata is one of those things that I have been wanting to cook for a long time but never got around to it. Had half a dozen eggs sitting in the fridge a box of mushrooms and a potato which all needed to be finished up before vacating the beach rental. Frittata seemed the best way to use up all of them and also make a dish that everyone would like it. It has eggs and everybody around here loves eggs. We had it for dinner with some crusty garlic bread.


Serves: 4
1. 4 Eggs
2. 1 Large Russet Potato, cleaned peeled and cut into tiny cubes
3. 1 box of mushrooms (used Cremini Mushrooms) cleaned and cut into small pieces
4. 1/2 Medium sized red onion chopped fine
5. 2 -3 tsp black freshly ground pepper
6. 1 tbsp parmesan cheese
7. salt to taste
8. 4-5 tsp oil

1. In a pan heat 2 tsp of oil and when hot add the potatoes and saute till they start to turn golden brown. Half way through add salt and some pepper powder. Set it aside to cool
2. In the same add another tsp of oil, saute the onions till translucent. Add the chopped mushrooms and cook till soft, add salt and pepper amd make sure there is no moisture. Set it aside
3. Beat the 4 eggs with some salt and pepper. Add the cheese and mix.
4. Grease a baking dish, transfer the potatoes and mushroom mixture into the dish.
5. Pour the egg mixture into the dish and mix with the fork.
6. Heat the oven to 350F and cook for 35 minutes.

Serve with some tomato pickle and any bread of choice.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Semiya Upma (Vermicelli stir fry) by the Sea


I am glad we are here at the beach than on a site seeing trip. Trips with a packed schedule usually leaves us tired and wanting to take off another week to sleep off the tiredness. After going back and forth we settled on the beach when DD put her foot down. Ocean City which does not require too much driving is what works out best, but this year we decided to travel a bit farther which meant we will be here for a week. The beaches around here have only a fraction of the crowd. No huge hotels, no over the top entertainment not many restaurants which means I have to improvise with the few supplies that I brought along. With just onions, tomatoes, some garlic and the ginger I threw in at the last minute to save it from getting rotten has been coming in really handy. Nothing makes you hungry like a dip in the Ocean. A good hearty breakfast is a must.


Serves: 4 -5 Ingredients
  1. 3 Cups Vermicelli
  2. 1/2 Medium Sized Red Onion
  3. 2 Jalapeno pepper de-seeded and chopped fine or any green chili peppers slit
  4. 2 Cups vegetables (carrots, beans,peas, bell pepper)
  5. seasoning: mustard seeds, curry leaves, cumin seeds
  6. optional- broken cashews roasted
  7. Salt to taste
  8. 1 tsp oil

Prepare Vermicelli
  1. In a pan roast the vermicelli till it turns slightly brown. I dry roasted them but a drop of oil or butter works too. Set aside and cool. (follow the steps below if you want to precook the vermicelli).
  2. Heat a sauce pan with water and when boiling add the roasted vermicelli.
  3. Let it cook (3-5 minutes) till it starts getting translucent.
  4. Drain the water and run cold water through it. Set aside to drain completely.

Precooked Vermicelli - Method-1
Method - 1
  1. Heat a wide mouthed pan and heat the oil. Add the seasonings.
  2. Add the onions and jalapeno peppers and saute till the onions turn translucent. Add the turmeric powder if using and mix it in.
  3. Now add the vegetables, salt and saute for a few minutes, sprinkle about 1 tbsp of water and cover and cook.
  4. When the vegetables are completely cooked add the cooked vermicelli.
  5. Adjust salt and fluff with a fork.
  6. Cover and let sit for about five minutes.

Direct Vermicelli - Method-2
  1. Heat a wide mouthed pan and heat the oil. Add the seasonings.
  2. Add the onions and jalapeno peppers and saute till the onions turn translucent. Add the turmeric powder if using and mix it in.
  3. Now add the vegetables, salt and saute for a few minutes, sprinkle about 1 tbsp of water and cover and cook.
  4. When the vegetables are half way cooked add water in the ratio of 1:2 vermicelli to water and let it come to a boil. Add salt and check for the spice level.
  5. Add the roasted vermicelli while constantly stirring (else the vermicelli will lump up). Cover the lid and cook for 5-6 minutes in a low medium heat till the vermicelli is completely cooked.
  6. Cover and let sit for about five minutes.
Delicious breakfast ready. I did not have the seasoning items nor enough vegetables, just carrots and bell pepper.

Serve with some Tomato Pickle or even spicy sambhar.

For a Sweet Version:
Semiya Kesari

Monday, August 18, 2008

Tomato Pickle

August 15, we celebrated 61 years of India's independence. A coincidence that gives me goosebumps. It is also anniversary of another event not the 61st ofcourse. It has a lot to do with freedom and independence but don't know if I would have the guts to grow through with it. Though nothing do with my personal life it has a lot to do with which way I want to take my professional life. Well the story is for another day when I am truly free :)

Srivalli, our dear friend over at Cooking 4 all Seasons is organizing a fundraiser-Donate for a Heart ~ A Campaign to Heal! Lakshmi a mother of two is waging a battle with heart disease. Every little bit would surely help.

Nothing says summer in like vine ripened tomatoes and the joy of eating home made fresh tasting tomato pickles. The store brought ones, whatever the brand does not even come close. With the addition of some garden fresh green chilies makes it taste even better. Spread on bread, dosai or chapathi or with rice it is delignt. Hoping to make another batch before the summer is out.


Roma of Roma's Space is holding a Long Live Shelf event and she thinks this would be a good entry so off it goes.

Shelf Life: 2-3 weeks - Refrigerated : About 5 weeks
A lot depends on how much moisture is left. If the moisture is completely gone the pickle can stay without being refrigerated for a month or more.

Total Cooking Time: 2 hours
Tomato Pickle / Tomato Thokku
1. 8-10 Large tomatoes, washed, wiped clean of any moisture and chopped (approx 10 cups of chopped tomatoes)
2. 12 Green Chiles chopped fine (a food processor works for this)
3. 2 tbsp of chili powder (this to tast so adjust accordingly)
4. 2 tsp fenugeek powder, roast and powder
5. 1/4 tsp asfoetida roast and powder
6. 1 cup sesame oil (Indian kind not roasted sesame oil)
7. small lime sized ball of tamarind
8. 1 tsp mustard seeds

1. Heat about half of the oil in a wide mouthed thick bottomed vessel
2. Add the chopped chilies, mix it around
3. add the chopped tomatoes and let it cook till the tomato looses shape and becomes mushy. (45 minutes)
4. At this point add the tamarind and salt and let it continue to cook
5. Add the powdered methi and asfoetida.
6. When the oil starts to pool on the sides a bit add the chili powder
7. Heat the other half of the oil, splutter the mustard seeds and add to the pickle.
8. Continue to cook till the oil separtes and the tomato mixture does not bubble anymore. This is the stage when there is no more moisture.

This makes approx 2 cups of pickle.

We are off catching the Waves...


Monday, August 11, 2008

Butternut Squash Parathas and the River Love

Happiness during childhood for me is usually associated with certain activities that we loved doing and it is a comforting feeling revisiting them. Rivers are one such special place. Rives have this amazing soothing quality that brings the happiness any time I visit. Swimming, playing, fishing - we did it all of this on our trips to the Cauvery river. Not to say we don't have a river around where we live now. Of course we do, the beautiful Potomac river provides all of them and more. Over the weekend, with the weather beautiful, breezy with absolutely no hint of humidity we had the best few days of the summer and made an impromptu trip to the Potomac river. The kids had fun splashing around, getting wet, throwing stones and having fun. We failed to pack a picnic basket and hence had to leave early, all the splashing and running in the water made everyone hungry.


I never thought fishing was an interesting activity but also realize most of the folks who fish are sloppy too. They leave their reels,wires,soda cans and candy wrappers lying around :( I bet it is not just the fishing folks that leave stuff behind but the wires are probably most dangerous to the wildlife. We did our small little bit to clean a small area around the place we were visiting.

The postman brought a surprise last week and I was happy to see this lovely package from dear Sandeepa. She knew exactly what would bring smiles of joy. Lovely gifts for both DD and DD2. Notice Little S's artwork?


As for the recipe, this came about because of my unplanned purchases from the grocery store result, one too many butternut squash sitting in the fridge. Now that mom is in charge of the kitchen, if she is not with me during grocery shopping I guess what we might need. I guessed we might need butternut squash again this week when there was already an acorn squash and butternut squash. To tell you the truth I could not resist the tiny butternut squash I saw instead of the usual giant ones that I find there. I was not looking forward to grating half a squash, decided to steam them instead. Baking or grilling the squash will work great too. Soft and fluffy and absolutely delicious parathas were the end result. The dough was pretty loose and soggy. This would have been an absolutely perfect for a picnic near the river.


Serves:4 Makes:15 Medium Sized parathas
1. 1/2 of a fairly big Butternut Squash steam cooked
2. 2 1/2 cups Wheat flour
3. 1/2 tbsp of red chili powder (optional)
4. salt to taste

1. Mash the steamed squash (ours was pretty watery, best if this is not very watery)
2. Add the Wheat flour, salt and chili powder and bring together to form a dough.
3. Add a bit more wheat flour if too soggy.
4. Set it aside in the refrigerator for about 2hours or so to harden a bit
5. Roll into lime sized balls, roll, dust generously with dry flour
6. Fry on a tava (girdle) first on one side and then on the other.
7. Baste with some oil on the sides.

Absolutely soft and fluffy parathas ready.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Simple Potato Fry

Rant Alert!
*Rant Begins*
Olympics has been on my mind and it is time for me to lighten my load. Beijing was offered the Olympics with the hope that the political and human rights situation would improve turned to be only that a fond hope. The smog filled and polluted Beijing is hosting or at least hoping to host the most awesome Olympics ever. The millions of ordinary Chinese lives disrupted, livelihoods destroyed is what came to my mind while watching the spectacular opening ceremony. Looks like the normally vocal American athletes were warned to keep their tongues in check while in Beijing. The cancellation of visa for Olympian Joey Cheek and controls on expression of speech for both athletes and journalists is just one more sample of Chinese arrogance that it could do what it pleases. China is resembling a run away freight train, the destruction that happens in its wake is what the world is going to suffer through. And for the companies that are salivating at the prospect of a billion and odd customers, its business as usual.
*Rant Ends*

There now that my load is lighter lets move on to more happier and tastier fare. The versatile potato is tasty whatever way it is cooked. Presented here is a simplest of recipes but is a great as a side for rice or even with chapathis. The combination of rasam rice/sambhar rice and potato fry is the classic of them all.


1. 4 Large Potatoes scrubbed and boiled to 3/4th cooked.
2. 1/2 Onion Chopped fine
3. 2-3 Garlic cloves chopped fine
4. 1 tbsp sambhar powder
5. 1/2 tbsp powdered dalia (Pottu Kadalai, roasted split chick peas)
6. salt to taste
7. 1 - 2 tsp Canola oil (or as required)

1. In a wide mouthed pan heat oil, saute the onion and garlic.
2. Add the cubed potatoes saute till they start turning brown.
3. Add the sambhar powder and salt.
4. Keep sauteing and towards the end add the dahlia powder.

If using very less oil the potatoes tend to stick to the bottom, so keep the lid covered for a few minutes to loosen the tasty bits stuck to the bottom.

Serve with paruppu/puzhi kuzhambu rice.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Bittergourd Stir Fry

Familiarity breeds contempt is proving to be true in the ongoing presidential race. The more I see of both the candidates the more I don't like either one of them. A couple or three months ago I would have voted for McCain as any other candidate in equal probability but not any more. That is saying a lot because I am pretty sure you know I am donkey or a elephant person by now. Can't resist one last attempt at projecting my candidate. Clinton would have made a great candidate just for this reason, there is nothing much unknown about her to cause any great ripples midway through the election. The next president will have a lot to do with the state of the world! We do have a big responsibility on our hands.

But the story of bitter gourds is a lot different. The more I taste this vegetable the more I like it. The upside to growing fresh bittergourd I get super fresh produce but the downside is I can't get myself to buy them from the grocery store during the other nine months of the year and end up missing them dearly. The soggy dried up bitter gourd at the grocery store, makes me run away from them as quickly as possible.

I also added some young green chilies from the garden. The chilies when cooked in a stir fry acquire the taste of the spices and turn tasty themselves.

This stir fry might be one dish for people who are not fond of bittergourd. With the onions and amchur powder added to the crunchiness of the bitter gourd is a beginner's treat. Bitter gourd is ofcourse an acquired taste so getting used to takes some time.

Bitter gourd

Green chilies

This recipe goes to Jessica of Finny Knits who is hosting this fortnight's GYO 2008, started by Andrea of Andreas Recipes.
    Green Earth Does handwashing consume more water or a fully loaded dishwasher? A fully loaded dishwasher consumes far less water and the quantity of soap used compared to washing the same load by hand. Running a fully loaded dish washer and turning of the heated drying might be the best of both worlds. The dishwasher is a life saver when you have a sink full of dirty dishes and not much time to tackle them. Knowing that running your dishwasher does not make you a environmentally irresponsibile slob is nice to know right? Here are a couple of blog articles that talk about it, Treehugger - Dishwasher vs Handwashing: the Winner Green Living - Ask the Eco Geek: Dishwasher vs. Handwashing

Bitter gourd is a natural cure for diabetics. Drinking the juice of bitter gourds is supposed to lower blood sugar.

Serves: 2-3
1. 3 Bitter gourds, seeds removed and chopped fine
2. 1 Medium sized Vidalia onion chopped fine
3. 2 young green chilies sliced into thin rounds
4. 2 garlic cloves chopped fine
5. 1/4 tsp cumin powder
6. 2 tsp coriander powder
7. 1 tsp of garlic chutney powder (this was very spicy, if using chili powder adjust accordingly)
8. 1 tsp amchur powder
9. 1 tsp jaggery (optional, I did not add it)
10. salt to taste.
11. 2 tsp of oil


1. In a wok or a wide mouthed pan, heat oil.
2. Add the garlic saute for a few seconds, add the chopped chilies and then add the chopped onions and saute for a few minutes.
3.Add the chopped bitter gourd tossing now and then. Don't stir too much.
4. When the bitter gourd is half cooked add the powders(except cumin) and salt. If adding jaggery don't add it yet. Stir to let the powders coat.
5. Keep stirring till they are cooked and reached the required roastedness (15-20mts)
6. Add the jaggery if doing so and mix well and remove from the heat.

Serve as a side.