Monday, November 28, 2011

Quick Weekday Soup with Vegetables and Premade Dumplings

Here is another book suggestion for Middle or High School age kids and why not I liked the book a lot so adults go for it. If you are worried that your book worm is devouring too many fiction books here is your answer. It is a fast paced and as interesting as a crime fiction novel but it is a true story. Some of you might have heard of the name of the lady about whom the book is about. If you have not heard of her should still be thankful to her because without her cell research on diseases might not have been possible.

I heard of the book on a show on NPR where book recommendations for summer were given out. I put a hold on the book at the library for DD. I was 158th on the waiting list and it took almost a year for my turn. Once DD got hold of the book she could not put the book down. She was fascinated and told me it was as fast paced very interesting but a bit sad as well. I read the book in one sitting.

Without further adieu the book is 'The Immortal life of Henrietta Lacks'.

For the recipe of the day, most of the ingredients are store bought. It is one for those cold windy days where the brain fails to work but the stomach does not understand and the scratchy throat (the entire household had) needed something hot and watery.

Soup with Vegetables and Premade Dumplings
1. 1 32oz carton of Chicken Stock
2. 1/2 onions sliced
3. 4 garlic cloves minced + 1tbsp ginger grated
4. 1 tbsp or more pepper powder
5. 1 pack of Knorr Sweet and Sour Soup Mix (optional, can skip this if you do not want it, see Note:)
6. 1 head of broccoli separated into florets
7. 3 carrots peeled and cut into strips
8. about 2 cups of mini wantons (Annie Chun's brand) optional substitute with cooked chicken or tofu
9. salt to taste
10. 2 tsp of oil

1. In a soup pot heat oil and saute the onions, garlic and ginger till onions start to turn slightly brown.
2. Add in the soup mix and saute for a minute. Add the carrots and saute for a couple of minutes.
3. Pour the chicken stock and let it come to a boil
4. Now add the wantons and let it boil for 3-4 more minutes.
5. Now add the broccoli and boil for 2 minutes more and turn off the heat.
1. In place of the soup mix add a bit of red chili powder, chilli garlic sauce for some extra taste.

Friday, November 25, 2011

An American Apple and Peach Pie

Hello readers hope all of you had time to say thanks and have yourself a fabulous meal with family/friends. We did. Our host had prepared so many dishes that by the time the appetizers were done I was stuffed already. That did not stop me from enjoying the main meal if you are curious to know.

I am especially happy for the holiday. Long commutes can do that you I guess. My commute itself is not long necessarily, it is the sitting in traffic. But my long commute is not without its benefits. I have refound the pleasures of listening to NPR. Last week had one of those dreary days with rain during the rush hour commute. Rain means a snarled traffic and the dealys twice as longer than usual.

On this particular day what made me forget the traffic for a bit was the news about the arrival of the newest Bachaan into the world. To be discussing the birth of a child of two Indian cinema actors on NPR should be news on its own. What endeared me to the story was the tiny slip that the dad wanted a girl child. In movie crazy India what these actors do has cachet with their fans. Maybe the news will do a tiny bit to alleviate the gender gap. Link to the NPR story if you are inclined.

I had not until I saw Nupur's Cherry Pie Post called my host to offer to bring something to the Thanksgiving party. Once I saw the post I made a phone call and an offer to bring Apple Pie. I got slightly nervous after that. I eat pie but I am not particularly fond of pies which have a very thick and doughy crust. I love warm pies with Vanilla ice cream. That probably explains why I don't try to make them and we also have our trusted Dutch market which sells some amazing Amish home style pies.

I had watched a Jacques Pepin show a couple of weeks ago where he made caramel apple pie in a skillet. He explained the importance of the consistency of the filling and how long it should be cooked. How much the filling is cooked is important for the pie to stay intact and not fall apart with liquidy filling.

I wanted to make apple apricot pie but apricots tinned or otherwise was hard to find. I could have used soaked dried apricots but it did not occur to me at that time so I settled for tinned peach. I made the filling all at once but made the dough separately for two 8 1/2 inch pies.

By the way if you have extra filling there are delicious with some whipped cream or as a spread for toast or pancakes. The pie crust was just as like it crumbly and falling apart and not doughy. But this was an unexpected side effect not what I was looking for. I was expecting the dough to roll out nicely which did not happen. The dough crumbled a bit at the edges as I was rolling which is a good thing I later realized when I went to search for a reason. I did not add water to the dough because it came together nicely without it. I liked the end result and the texture of the baked pie though. A bit more flour would have made it ideal for rolling out the dough I am guessing. I might have had a tad bit more butter and fat.

Another recipe I consulted was from Williams Sonoma website.

Apple and Peach Pie
For the Pie Crust - for one 9.5 inch pan
1. 2 Cups of flour (I used 2 cups but 2 1/2 might have been ideal)
2. 1 stick of butter or 8 tbsp
3. 8 tbsp of Vegetable shortening (or substitute with butter)
4. 1 tsp salt
5. 2 tbsp of sugar

For the filling (for 2 9.5 inch pies)
1. 4 Granny smith apples (peeled and cored)
2. 1 15oz and 1 8oz cans of sliced peaches (about 2 cups in total)
3. 1 cup of raw sugar or brown sugar
4. 1/4 tsp cinnamon (I used a tiny bit not being very fond of cinnamon in sweets, see Note:)
5. 1 tbsp of lemon juice
6. 4 tsp of corn starch
7. 1/4 tsp of salt
8. 1 tbsp of water

For the Filling
1. Peel core and quarter the apple and then slice the apples about 1/4 inch thick.
2. Drain the peach slices free of syrup. If using fresh slice the peaches
3. In a dutch over or thick bottomed pan add in the apples, sugar, corn starch, salt and cinnamon and mix them together.
4. Now add a tbsp of water so as to prevent the sugar from burning, cover and let cook for about 20 minutes. Open and let it cook for another 7-10 minutes till there is liquid flowing and the look is glossy and shiny.
5. Turn of the heat, add in the lemon juice and set aside for 30 minutes.

For the Crust
1. Sift together the flour, salt and sugar.
2. Add in the shortening, cut the butter into tiny piece and work into the dough. I used a flat stainless stell spatula to cut the butter into the dough.
3. Once most of the butter has been incorporated. If still very dry add a tbsp of ice water. Mine did not require any. Bring the dough together into a ball and cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1/2 hour to 1 hour.

Assembling the Pie
1. Preheat the oven to 400F.
2. Separate the dough into two equal portions. Dust the board with dry flour roll out the dough from the center out (do not roll over the center again)to about 9 1/2 inches in diameter (I used a 8 1/2 inch pan). Do this for the second portion also.
3.Now roll it over the rolling pin and spread it over the pie pan. Tap the pie crust on the sides and break off the he extra from the sides.
4. Now add the filling and cover with the second rolled out dough. And bring both the edges together.
5.Make a few slits in the center and on top.
6. Bake for 1 hour till the crust is golden brown and nice.

Serve with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

1. I rarely use cinnamon powder in sweet dishes. That is a matter of preference. 1 tsp of cinnamon powder can be added to the filling for some good aroma and flavor.

The pie was much appreciated but the crumbly crust is a matter of preference. DDs, DH and me liked it a lot. Since we shared it with a lot of friends we each got just a slice. We are all set to make it again with a different filling.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Simplicity - Tindora Stir Fry and Cabbage with Channa Dal

We took a trip yesterday to bolster some civic lessons for DD. Living as we do in the shadow of the nation's capital there are many opportunities for civic lessons but we don't take part in them as often as we'd like.

So on the day we visisted the encampents of the Occupy DC. They looked messy, smoky but had an energy and openness about them. There is a website which clearly lists the agenda for the day. A different group in support of Occupy DC was trying to occupy an abandoned building.

Numerous police cars with a fire truck came zooming by and the occupiers kept at it for over an hour. We had to leave because our time on the parking meter was running out. We could not not run after watching a parking attendant give out parking tickets(parking tickets over the weekend?).

There was also drama when the fire truck started moving and the occupiers lay in front of the truck to block it. At that moment a spectator yelled out to the occupiers calling them an embarassment and asking the anarchists to pack up and go home.

I am with the occupiers but it would make more sense to occupy Congress or the Supreme Court (their fantastic decision which made buisnesses same as people).

From civic lesson to recipes that come in handy for a quick meal.

Tindora is DD2s favorite vegetable. Unlike DD who is not very vocal about these things DD2 speaks her mind. So I am finding ways to cook up this vegetable which is suddenly a regular on my grocery list. I also made cabbage with channa dal which is delightful in its simplicity and thought I should share it.

Tindora can be chopped into slice across or cut into thin strip lengthwise. The first is easy to do but the second method is what makes this vegetable taste really good.

Tindora Stir fry
1. 1 lb of Tindora or kovakkai
2. 1/2 tbsp of sambhar powder
3. salt to taste
4. 3 tsp of oil

1. Wash and cut the end of the tindora and cut vertically into 4 slices per vegetable
2. In a flat bottomed pan heat the oil and add the cut tindora.
3. Saute them (about 20-25 minutes) till they start to turn brown and cripsy.
4. Add in the salt and the sambhar powder and toss them for another 5-10 minutes.

Serve them with rice and dal or mix the vegetable with steamed rice with some ghee or as a side for chapatis.

Cabbage with Channa Dal
1. 1 cabbage shredded into thin strips(about 2 cups)
2. 1/2 cup of channa dal ( bengal gram) - toor dal or moon dal can also be used
3. 1 tsp of turmeric powder
4. 1/4 cup of onions chopped
5. 7-10 green chilies slit
6. salt to taste
7. 1 tsp of oil
8. seasonings: 1/2 tsp of split urad dal, cumin seeds, mustard seeds and curry leaves
9. 1 tbsp of grated coconut (optional)

1. Wash and cook the channa dal with lots of water, turmerice powder and a tsp of sesame oil. I cooked in a sauce so the dal does not fall apart.
2. In a wide mouthed pan heat oil add the seasonings one by one. Urad dal and when it starts to turn brown add the cumin seeds, mustard seeds and the curry leaves.
3. Add the onions and green chilies and saute till the onions turns slightly brown.
4. Now add the cabbage and let them cook completely, add in salt and the cooked channa dal drained of water completely. Mix and cook for 5-8 minutes till there is no moisture left.
5. If adding coconut sprinkle on top and turn off the heat.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Srilankan Milk Toffee

Remember the Rick Perry brain freeze the other day during one of those annoying (to me anyway) Republican debates? For those of you who are not tuned into American politics and the Presidential election and the endless debates let me explain.

Each party, there are only 2 here in the US namely Republican and Democrat- has its set of debates to help narrow down the field candidates to have a showdown with the chosen candidate from the other party. These debates are supposed to be eye openers for folks voting in the primaries. Only people registered to the particular party can vote in the primaries. Since President Obama can run again and he is the president there won't be any primary challenge for the Democrats.

Well anyway during one of those debates Rick Perry awkwardly forgot the name of the government agency he wanted to abolish. He wanted to abolish three but remembered only two and the pause was painful for anyone watching. It was me just listening to him on the radio. He is being laughed at and mocked at ever since. I am no closet Conservative nor a Rick Perry sympathizer. But I sure understand the moment and the awkwardness that followed.

It happened to me recently at a job interview. I hate job interviews but that is besides the point. During the interview I suddenly froze on the word that I am supposed to know because I had just waxed eloquent that I knew the topic. Luckily the word came out in the form of a question from the interviewer and I was able to salvage the situation. This incident being fresh in my memory I could identify with the awkwardness of Rick Perry's situation. But alas he had to suffer on national television.

So why is it such a big deal really? Doesn't it happen to most people? We freeze on the names of the people we meet often. We forget the name of the dish we loved as young children but just when we meet the aunt who used to cook the favorite dish the name escapes. Have any awkward brain freezes to share?

Now on to the recipe,
I tasted this sweet milk toffee at my friend's house. She packed quite a few for the kids but I ended up eating most of them. I must have mentioned oh only a few hundred that I have a sweet addiction. Back home when ammayee invariably sent these yummy gulab jamuns every few months I ate them right after I brushed my teeth in the morning. That addicted. So I could not wait to make this toffee what with a can of condensed milk sitting in the pantry. It took me 4 months to make it.

I used palm sugar and that is what gave it the dark brown color. A table spoon of cocoa powder will do the trick if you want the darker color. Using regular white sugar will give it a light caramel color.

Srilankan Milk Toffee
1. 12 oz sweetened condensed milk
2. 1 block of palm sugar (about 3 tbsp) powdered
3. 3/4 cups of sugar (I added raw sugar)
4. 6 tbsp of butter
6. 1/4 cup of coarsely powdered roasted cashews

1. In a sauce pan (I used a non-stick pan) melt the butter and add the condensed milk and sugar.
2. In a low flame stir the mixture till it comes together. When it comes together in a mass turn off the heat (25-30 minutes). The longer it is in the heat the chewy and harder it is going to get.
3. Towards the very end add in the cashews and pour the mixture in a buttered pan.
4. Make slices with a knife while still hot.
5. Let cool and break into individual pieces.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Khichadi - Mixed VegetableMasala Upma - Savory Cream of Wheat with vegetables

In the northern part of India Khichdi usually means a rice and lentils in a one pot rice dish. In my neck of the woods in TamilNadu the southern most state in India, khichadi is a savory dish made with cream of wheat, vegetables and seasoned with turmeric for the tell tale yellow color. Similar to upma but with added masala khichadi can be called a masala upma if you will. Khichidi- Kichadi similar sounding dishes but totally different.

This recipe was what I decided to make for a potluck at a friend's house. She had decided on theme for the event - chaats (snacks). For my contribution she helpfully suggested gol goppa, other than hearing the name a few times I wasn't sure what it was. She translated it to as pani puri which I have tasted and enjoyed a few times but making it was a different story all together. Doubtful about my pani puri making abilities I was debating on taking the easy route and buying the pani and the puri. Maybe that came through on the phone call. Anyway we finally decided on Upma in a second phone call when she felt that there were too many fried items on the menu. I am glad she did and saved me the embarrassment of a failed pani puri.

Khichadi has to be fluffy to be liked, soggy pasty khichadis is what made me run away from them for a long time. Khichadi was much appreciated and everyone wanted to know how it was fluffy and soft. People had to part with a valuable for me to giveaway that little secret. Kidding guys the answer is simple - the rava has to be roasted.

Khichadi - Mixed Vegetables Masala Upma
1. 2 Cups of cream of wheat (I use 1 : 2 1/4 ratio cream of wheat : water) (see Note)
2. 1 1/2 cups of mixed vegetables (I used carrots,beans and peas)
3. 6-8 green chilies slit
4. 1 tbsp of finely chopped mint + 1 tbsp of finely chopped coriander
5. 1/2 -3/4 cup of chopped shallots or red onion
6. 1 tbsp grated ginger
7. 1 tomato chopped fine
8. 2 tsp turmeric powder
9. 1 tsp red chili powder (optional)
10. seasonings: curry leaves, mustard, cumin
11. salt to taste
12. 4 1/2 cups of water
13. 2 tsp of oil
14. roasted broken cashews (optional)

1. Roast the cream of wheat till it turns a slightly brown color about (10-15 minutes). Set aside to cool. In the meantime put the required amount of water in a sauce pan to boil.
2. In a large sauce pan or kadai heat oil and add the seasonings cumin first, mustard and when it starts to pop the curry leaves.
3. Add the slit green chilies and onion and saute till the onions are starting to get translucent.
4. Add in the ginger and saute for a few more minutes.
5. Add in the turmeric powder and salt. Mix well.
6. Add the tomatoes and saute till it becomes mushy and soft.
7. Add the green beans and carrots and saute for a couple of minutes. Mix in the chili powder if using. Add a 1/2 cup of the boiling water and cover and let cook till the vegetables are soft.
8. Now add the remaining water and the peas (I used frozen peas hence added them here otherwise add them along with the other vegetables).
9. Let the water come to a rolling boil. Turn the flame all the way to low.
10. Now add in the cream of wheat, all the while stirring to avoid any lumps.
11. Place the lid and let it be in the heat (do not turn up the flame) for 4-5 minutes.
12. Turn of the heat, add the cashews and fluff with a spoon.

Serve with coconut chutney or a spicy onion chutney.
Note: I use the Quaker Cream of Wheat and not the Indian sooji and the proportion of water is for that.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

What do you think ...

of this picture?

Courtesy: The Washington Post

The picture was taken during the floods in Thailand. What is the first thing that strikes you when you see this picture?

Think a little deeper more in the angle of renunciation, possession.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Uzhundhu paniyaram (Vegetable Lentil Fritters) - Savory Dutch pancakes

I am not really sure what magic my mom has in her hands.Bear with me I'll explain. When she soaks urad dal for making idli batter, the measurement is the one I generally use.

The only difference being she soaks the urad dal for 20-30 minutes before grinding while I soaked it overnight. The batter which results is one and half times more than what I get usually. Now I follow her advice but still the end result is no where close to hers.

Well anyway when there is a lot more urad dal batter in proportion to the rice she saves some of it in the fridge for later use. The thing with urad batter is that it does not need to be fermented to make goodies. Mix and use is how it goes. Urad batter in the fridge meant some yummy goodies for the kids for after school snack and by extension us. I just soak a bit extra and keep it aside.

So when evening there were these tasty yummy urad vegetable fritters and they were delicious. Not deep fried, she had used the paniyaram pan or if you want to go Dutch use the aebleskiver pans to make them. No need for a dipping sauce. Tasted great all by itself.

If you want a quick but tasty and not the usual run of the mill paniyarams these are the way to go. I was listening to a program called Splendid table on NPR and I heard an interview with this person called Indiana Jones of Ginger. I learned a lot about the different varieties of ginger and decided the fritters to be made needed a good dose of them.

Black Lentil Vegetable dutch pancakes(Uzhundhu paniyaram)
1. 2 cups of urad batter (soak for 20 minutes about 1/4 cup of urad and blend to a smooth paste without adding too much water)
2. 1/2 cup of rice flour
3. 1/2 - 3/4 cup of besan flour
4. 2 cups of shredded vegetables (broccoli, carrots, green beans, cabbage) - see note
5. 4-5 green chilies shredded along with the vegetables
6. 1 tbsp of grated ginger
7. handful of coriander leaves chopped
8. salt to taste

1. Add the urad dal to the shredded vegetables and mix it in. Add in the rice flour and chick pea flour and mix without any lumps.
2. Add salt, ginger, coriander leaves and just enough water to form a that can be poured into the paniyaram pan.
3. Heat the paniyaram pan, spray oil pour the batter into the holes. Let cook on one side, turn and cook on the other side. Spray more oil if required.

Can be served with any chutney of choice (Coconut works best) or even ketchup.

1. If using broccoli shred the florets with a knife and for the stems just peel the outer skin
and shred them with the carrots and beans.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Channa dal with Bottle gourd curry (sorakkai - kadalai paruppu kuzhambu)

From literally zero commute to an hour commute even if the distance is a paltry 12 miles is what happened. I hereby once again join the woes of the DC metro residents who are unfortunate enough to get on any major highway in the area. It has been more than a decade (has it been that long?) since I did any serious commute. Just to warn that I shall crib and complain till I get used to sitting and stewing in traffic. New place, new faces, new idiosyncrasies all add to the wonder that is life! Kidding guys. It is a job after all.

Anyway now on to more tastier things in life. DD loves this cookbook (Taste of the East) I have. She flips through the pages admires each one of the pictures and inquiring when I'd cook them. I usually stay quiet for fear of being called on it, till I see something that can be quickly and easily accomplished.

This was actually 2 recipes in the book, one for the dal rice and other for the curry to go with it. I combined both to make one simply curry to eat with rice. Don't I deserve the MacArthur Genius award? I was just kidding again but I like the sound of it so why not!

Channa dal with bottle gourd curry
1. 1 cup channa dal
2. 1 bottle gourd peeled cut in 4s lengthwise and just cut across about 1/2 inch thick
3. 1/2 tbsp ground coriander
4. 2 tsp cumin powder
5. 2 tsp chili powder + 2 tsp turmeric powder
6. 2-3 garlic crushed and chopped
7. 2 tomatoes pureed
8. 1/4 cup of tamarind pulp from a small piece of tamarind or 2 tbsp lemon juice (the recipe called for kokum, I did not have any)
9. a handful of coriander leaves chopped (or fresh/ dried fenugreek leaves )
10. salt to taste

1.Cook the channa dal in plenty of water with a bit of turmeric and a tsp of oil. I cooked it on the stove top to avoid getting mushy.
2. In a saute pan heat oil and add the garlic. When soft add the chopped gourd and let it cook for a few minutes.
3. Add in the powders and give a good mix. Add in the tomato puree and cook till it comes to a boil.
4. Add the cooked dal along with the cooking water.
5. Let it cook till the gourd gets soft. Add in the tamarind and salt and let cook for another 4-5 minutes. Sprinkle the coriander leaves before turning off the heat.
6. Turn off heat when desired consistency is reached.

Serve with rice.